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Lillie Agnes Cantwell 1887 – 1904 : I84557

Bracebridge Heath Lunative Asylum

Bracebridge Heath Lunatic Asylum

Lillie Agnes Cantwell was one of the twelve children of John Cantwell and Rebecca Hancock, who resided in Boston, Lincolnshire, England.

At age seventeen Lillie was committed to the Bracebridge Heath lunatic asylum, built in 1852.1The Asylum has also been known over the years as Lincolnshire County Pauper Lunatic Asylum and Bracebridge Heath Asylum. Finally it was given the ...continue Lillie died three months later of what was called  tuberculosis. No mention was made of multiple psychiatric symptoms noted in her records, which included more than one suicide attempt.

Two of Lillie’s brothers would spend time in the same asylum, and  both of them would die there of complications from end-stage syphilis. Of these two brothers, William Henry was twice tried and convicted of violent crimes.

St. John's Bracebridge Heath, abandonedLillie’s story is known to us because of a website called Lincs to the Past,  a hub “for research and local information and covers items held in Lincolnshire’s Archives, Libraries, Museums and Tennyson Research Centre. Its search engine provides a single place from which to search through a wide range of cultural collections from across Lincolnshire.” Lincs to the Past has made records from a number of hospitals available to the public, including records from (what is now known as) St. John’s Hospital, Bracebridge, where Lillie died. The images of the pages from her medical chart can be seen here.

The chart notes do not mention family visits or support. Her mother is mentioned once, because she gave a statement to the asylum about her daughter’s behavior.  This bleak story is made poignant by the appearance of her friends, who wanted to take her away from the asylum but came too late; she suffered an seizure and had to be returned to her cell.


Name: Lillie Agnes Cantwell
Age: 17
Married, Single, or Widower: Single
No. Attack of Attacks: First
Admitted: 8th August 1904 No. 8887
Former occupation: nil
Religion: Church of England.

Apparent of Alleged Causes: Hereditary

Brother, William Cantwell is now in Bracebridge Asylum. Family History {Epilepsy: No {Intemperance: No {Phthisis: No Information derived from the Medical Certificate of Admission.

Refuses to speak, and is continually trying to get away from persons addressing her, and occasionally spits at them. Seems dominated mentally by feeling of terror, especially with regard to strangers; otherwise her mind is a blank.

Rebecca Cantwell [mother] 10 Frieston Rd,
Skirbeck, Boston,  Shopkeeper, says:

Can only be persuaded to take food with great difficulty. Has threatened to jump out of bedroom window, and taken up carving knife to cut her throat, and has also attempted to strike people with a poker. (Signed).

J.W.Mason. Additional Particulars:

Is suicidal. Has attempted to cut her throat + to jump out of a window.

Form and Character of Mental Disorder, and accompanying Bodily Disease, if any on Admission and Records of Medical and Moral Treatment, and progress of the Patient after Admission.

Mentally: Is confused dull + depressed, refuses to speak, is very resistive, is constantly weeping, is quiet unable to interpret her surroundings.
Physically: well nourished, anoemic, hearts action feeble.

(Sgd) [Y}.L.Johnston Brown …-

 13th August. Expression, dull. Is very resistive. She begins to weep if anyone talks to her or if she is urged to do anything. If left alone she would stand or sit for hours gazing fixedly into space. She seems much frightened if anyone approaches her. She never speaks of her own accord, nor does she answer when addressed.

Physical state. Is well nourished. Is very anaemic.
Chest:- Lungs nothing abnormal detected.
Heart:- Apex in 5th space, outside nipple line. Impulse not felt nor seen. Heartbeats are regular, but the action is feeble. No murmurs.
Abdomen. Nothing abnormal detected.
Reflexes. Knee jerks: – Left knee jerk more brisk than the right.
Too resistive for the examination of pupil reflexes.
Both feet and legs are oedematous

26th August. [?] food badly. Sleeps well. Never attempts to employ [?]… Seems depressed. J.H.Bain. J.B

27th August [?]…, depressed + resistive. J.H.Bain. J.B. [?] …. state. J.H.Bain. J.B.

6th Sept. Has been [purged?] twice today + has vomited once, Temperature is [?] In the bed in the sick-rooms. J.B. 13th Sept. [Purging?] + vomiting still continues. Temperature varies from 101-[103.4]. [?] appears very ill. J.B.

20th Sept. Has had from one to two watery motions a day for the past week, [?] [?] nor mucus in the motions.
Temperature [?] [?} 101 – 102.6. pt coughs a little, but is not expectorate at all. – Physical signs of consolidation [?] tight in the [open] of the right lung.

[29th] Sept. Temperature has dropped today to 99.6. Has had no diarrhoea for [?] [?]. She vomits after food – She seems much [?] mental. Is bright and pleasant. J.B.

7th Oct. Temperature has been 100 – 103 during the past ten days. Cough is very troublesome. pt. has no appetite. J.B.

21st Oct. Is very feeble. – She has again started vomiting after her food. No diarrhoea. – Cough is troublesome. J.B.

21st Nov. Temperature remains high. – Coughs a great deal. Sleeps badly at night. Is sometimes restless during the day. – Is bright + cheerful. J.B.

14th Dec. Pt. was discharged yesterday morning, at the urgent request of her friends. She was carried down by six nurses on a mattress. As soon as she was put into the cab she had an epileptiform convulsion. She was removed from the cab when the fit had ceased, + brought back into the wards, where she remained for a few hours. She was taken back to the sick room during the course of the afternoon. – Is very feeble today. J.B.

Dec. 23rd. Died today.


Name: Lillie Agnes Cantwell
Sex and age: Female 17 years
Married, single or widowed: Single
Profession or occupation: nil
Place of abode immediately before being placed under care and treatment (if known): 10 Frieston Road, Skirbeck, Boston
Apparent cause of death: Phthisis [tuberculosis] Whether or not ascertained by post-mortem examination: No Time and any unusual circumstanced attending the death; also a description of any injuries known to exist a time of death or found subsequently on body of deceased:

No unusual circumstances and no injuries.

3.25am. (23 Dec 04) Duration of disease of which patient died} 3 months hospitalised.
Names and description of persons present at the death} Ellen Gates Nurse. Whether or not mechanical restraint was applied to deceased within 7 days previously to death, with its character and duration if so applied…} No.

Signed. G [?] [?]

Notes   [ + ]

1. The Asylum has also been known over the years as Lincolnshire County Pauper Lunatic Asylum and Bracebridge Heath Asylum. Finally it was given the name St John’s during the early 1960’s.

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