Typhoid Victims ‘Locked Up For Life In Mental Institution’

More than 40 typhoid carriers were locked up for life in a mental asylum to prevent them spreading the disease, according to nurses.

The patients, all women, were held at Long Grove asylum in Epsom, Surrey, between 1907 and its closure in 1992.

Although they had recovered from typhoid they still secreted the bacterium and were considered a public health risk.

Nursing staff said that some of the women may have been sane when they were admitted but went mad as a result of their incarceration.

Most of the institution’s records were destroyed after it closed but researchers at the Surrey History Centre in Woking found two volumes of records in the ruins.

At least 43 women were admitted, all from the London area. Three were admitted each year between 1944 and 1957.

Even after the advent of antibiotic treatments in the 1950s the women continued to be detained because of their mental health.

Former nurses said the asylum was run more like a prison.

Jeanie Kennett, a ward manager at Long Grove for 40 years, told a BBC investigation: “They’re somebody’s loved ones, they’re somebody’s mother, or sister. Everybody had forgotten about them – they were just locked away.

“Life was pretty tough; they were seen as objects. It was prison-like – everything was lock and key.”

Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said the women would have posed little threat unless they had poor hygiene and were preparing food.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said there had never been a “policy of incarcerating” anyone in this context.