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Berkshire Family Historian
June 2003

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, June 2003 Contents

Letter to the Editor

Marian Lanham, Sussex

Broadmoor Hospital

I was very interested to read the article on Broadmoor Hospital written by John Heritage in the June 2002 issue of Berkshire Family Historian. My husband’s great great grandfather, George Lanham, was sent to Broadmoor in 1875 from Cambridge, after he attempted to poison himself and four children in 1874. One boy, also named George died but the other boys survived. I found the details of the case after 18 months of research. I had the parents’ names — George Lanham and Lucy Oliver — who were married at Cambridge in 1869. I also had the births of the boys but very little else. A census search of the 1881 index enabled me to locate three of the boys in the workhouse at Cambridge and I searched for their parents’ death, assuming that would give me the answer. It was the receipt of the death certificate for George Lanham aged three which stated that he was ‘killed by his father’ that enabled me to track down his father. He was sent to Broadmoor, having been found criminally insane in 1875. I contacted Broadmoor in August 1998 to ask for further information but all they would do was to confirm that George Lanham was a prisoner and died in 1881 at the hospital. I wrote to them again, to ask whether they had a photograph of George, having seen that Cambridge Gaol photographed their prisoners. I wrote again asking about a photograph but once again I had the same refusal to help.

Feeling disappointed I decided to press the issue and wrote to the Home Secretary at the time asking to see the records but received no response. I then wrote to my MP quoting ‘freedom of information’ which was banded around at the time, and to my delight received a letter back from the Health Department, via my MP, which gave me permission to view the records. I wasted no time in contacting Broadmoor but they said they would provide copies of the information only — and guess what, on a proper search of the file, they found a photograph. I have since been to Broadmoor to see where George was buried. Trevor the chaplain showed both my husband and me the burial ground and with the aid of a plot plan, we were able to roughly ascertain the spot. I would be more than pleased to see a museum for Broadmoor in the area, such as the one for Dartmoor prison. I understand that the archived documents may be in the Public Record Office soon. I am not sure how I feel about ‘sharing’ George’s documents, but I guess that is the price of freedom and I can live with that.

Just for the record, George was a deeply religious man and said he was taking his children out of a world of sin and to a better place.

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