The Commissioners in Lunacy or Lunacy Commission were a public body established by the Lunacy Act 1845 to oversee asylums and the welfare of mentally ill people in England and Wales.
It succeeded the Metropolitan Commissioners in Lunacy.
Refer to Chronology of UK Mental Health Legislation, Commissioners in Lunacy for Scotland, and Commissioners in Lunacy for Ireland.
The predecessors of the Commissioners in Lunacy were the Metropolitan Commissioners in Lunacy, dating back to the Madhouses Act 1774, and established as such by the Madhouses Act 1828.
By 1842 their remit had been extended from London to cover the whole country.
The Lord Chancellor’s jurisdiction over lunatics so found by writ of De Lunatico Inquirendo had been delegated to two Masters-in-Chancery.
By the Lunacy Act 1842 (5&6 Vict. c.64), these were established as the Commissioners in Lunacy and after 1845 they were retitled Masters in Lunacy.
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury was the head of the Commission from its founding in 1845 until his death in 1885. The Lunacy Commission was made up of eleven Metropolitan Commissioners: three medical, three legal and five laymen.
The Commission was monumental as it was not only a full-time commission, but it was also salaried for six of its members. The six members of the commission who were full-time and salaried were the three members of the legal system and the three members of the medical community. The other five lay members of the commission were all honorary members who simply had to attend board meetings.
The duty of the Commission was to carry out the provisions of the Act, reporting to the Poor Law Commissioners (in the case of workhouses) and to the Lord Chancellor. The first Secretary to the Commissioners was Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge, a barrister and uncle of Lewis Carroll. He had previously been one of the Metropolitan Commissioners, and later become an Inspector of the Commission.
A Master in Lunacy ranked next after a Master in Chancery in the order of precedence.
The following asylums were commissioned under the auspices of the Commissioners in Lunacy (or their predecessors):
English County Asylums
- First Bedford County Asylum (Bedford), 1812.
- Second Bedfordshire County Asylum (Fairfield), 1860.
- Berkshire County Asylum (Moulsford), 1870.
- Buckinghamshire County Asylum (Stone), 1853.
- Cambridgeshire County Asylum (Fulbourn), 1858.
- First Cheshire County Asylum (Chester), 1829.
- Second Cheshire County Asylum (Macclesfield), 1871.
- Cornwall County Asylum (Bodmin), 1818.
- Cumberland and Westmorland County Asylum (Carleton), 1862.
- Derbyshire County Asylum (Mickleover), 1851.
- Devon County Asylum (Exminster), 1845.
- Dorset County Asylum (Charminster), 1863.
- Durham County Asylum (Sedgefield), 1858.
- East Riding County Asylum (Walkington), 1871.
- East Sussex County Asylum (Hellingly), 1898.
- First Essex County Asylum (Brentwood), 1853.
- Second Essex County Asylum (Colchester), 1913.
- First Gloucestershire County Asylum (Gloucester), 1823.
- Second Gloucestershire County Asylum (Gloucester), 1883.
- First Hampshire County Asylum (Knowle), 1852.
- Second Hampshire County Asylum (Basingstoke), 1917.
- Herefordshire County Asylum (Burghill), 1868.
- Hertfordshire County Asylum (St Albans), 1899.
- Isle of Wight County Asylum (Gatcombe), 1896.
- First Kent County Asylum (Barming Heath), 1833.
- Second Kent County Asylum (Chartham), 1875.
- Kesteven County Asylum (Quarrington, 1897.
- First Lancashire County Asylum (Lancaster), 1816.
- Second Lancashire County Asylum (Prestwich), 1851.
- Third Lancashire County Asylum (Rainhill), 1851.
- Fourth Lancashire County Asylum (Whittingham), 1873.
- Fifth Lancashire County Asylum (Winwick), 1897.
- Sixth Lancashire County Asylum (Whalley), 1915.
- Leicestershire County Asylum (Leicester), 1837.
- Lincolnshire County Asylum (Bracebridge Heath), 1852.
- First London County Asylum (Hanwell), 1831.
- Second London County Asylum (Colney Hatch), 1849.
- Third London County Asylum (Belmont), 1877.
- Fourth London County Asylum (Coulsdon), 1882.
- Fifth London County Asylum (Woodford Bridge), 1893.
- Sixth London County Asylum (Epsom), 1899.
- Seventh London County Asylum (Dartford Heath), 1898.
- Eighth London County Asylum (Epsom), 1902.
- Ninth London County Asylum (Epsom), 1904.
- Tenth London County Asylum (Epsom), 1907.
- Eleventh London County Asylum (Epsom), 1921.
- Norfolk County Asylum (Norwich), 1814.
- Northamptonshire County Asylum (Duston), 1876.
- Northumberland County Asylum (Morpeth), 1859.
- North Riding County Asylum (Clifton), 1847.
- First Nottinghamshire County Asylum (Sneinton), 1812.
- Second Nottinghamshire County Asylum (Radcliffe-on-Trent), 1902.
- Oxfordshire County Asylum (Littlemore), 1846.
- Shropshire County Asylum (Shelton), 1845.
- First Somerset County Asylum (Horrington), 1848.
- Second Somerset County Asylum (Norton Fitzwarren), 1897.
- First Staffordshire County Asylum (Stafford), 1818.
- Second Staffordshire County Asylum (Cheddleton), 1892.
- Suffolk County Asylum (Melton), 1827.
- First Surrey County Asylum (Tooting), 1840.
- Second Surrey County Asylum (Woking), 1867.
- Third Surrey County Asylum (Hooley), 1905.
- Sussex County Asylum (Haywards Heath), 1859.
- Warwickshire County Asylum (Hatton), 1852.
- First West Riding County Asylum (Wakefield), 1818.
- Second West Riding County Asylum (Middlewood), 1872.
- Third West Riding County Asylum (Menston), 1885.
- Fourth West Riding County Asylum (Storthes Hall), 1904.
- Fifth West Riding County Asylum (Burley in Wharfedale), 1902.
- West Sussex County Asylum (Chichester), 1894.
- Wiltshire County Asylum (Devizes), 1849.
- First Worcestershire County Asylum (Powick), 1847.
- Second Worcestershire County Asylum (Bromsgrove), 1907.
“New” Mental Hospitals Established Later by Middlesex County Council
- First Middlesex County Mental Hospital.
- The First Surrey County Asylum at Tooting (see above) was transferred to Middlesex County Council in 1888 and became the First Middlesex County Mental Hospital in the early 20th century.
- Second Middlesex County Mental Hospital (London Colney), 1905.
- Third Middlesex County Mental Hospital (Shenley), 1934.
English Borough Asylums
- Croydon Borough Asylum, 1903.
- First Birmingham City Asylum, 1850.
- Second Birmingham City Asylum, 1882.
- Third Birmingham City Asylum, 1905.
- Bristol City Asylum, 1861.
- Canterbury Borough Asylum, 1902.
- Derby Borough Asylum, 1888.
- East Ham Borough Asylum, 1937.
- Exeter City Asylum, 1886.
- Gateshead Borough Asylum, 1914.
- Ipswich Borough Asylum, 1870.
- Kingston upon Hull Borough Asylum, 1883.
- Leicester Borough Asylum, 1869.
- Lincoln Borough Asylum, 1817.
- Middlesbrough Borough Asylum, 1898.
- Newcastle upon Tyne Borough Asylum, 1869.
- City of London Asylum, 1866.
- Norwich Borough Asylum, 1828.
- Nottingham Borough Asylum, 1880.
- Plymouth Borough Asylum, 1891.
- Portsmouth Borough Asylum, 1879.
- Sunderland Borough Asylum, 1895.
- West Ham Borough Asylum, 1901.
- York Borough Asylum, 1906.
Metropolitan Asylums Board Asylums (Established for Chronic Cases)
- Caterham Asylum, 1870.
- Darenth Asylum, 1878.
- Leavesden Asylum, 1870.
- Tooting Bec Asylum, 1903.
Welsh County Asylums
- Brecon and Radnor County Asylum (Talgarth), 1903.
- Carmarthenshire, Cardigan and Pembrokeshire County Asylum (Carmarthen), 1865.
- Denbighshire County Asylum (Denbigh), 1844.
- First Glamorgan County Asylum (Pen-y-fai), 1864.
- Second Glamorgan County Asylum (Bridgend), 1886.
- Monmouthshire County Asylum (Abergavenny), 1851.
Welsh Borough Asylums
- Cardiff City Asylum, 1908.
- Newport Borough Asylum, 1906.
- Swansea Borough Mental Hospital, 1932.
The Mental Deficiency Act 1913 replaced the Commission with the Board of Control for Lunacy and Mental Deficiency.