Devon County Lunatic Asylum Exminster


This index was compiled from the admission registers of the Devon County Lunatic Asylum Exminster, in the sub series 3769A/H3 & H4, deposited at the Devon Heritage Centre at Exeter. The index is set out in strict alphabetical order, by surname, then first, & second christian name, then by admission date. I have recorded only sufficient detail to enable researchers to identify a likely patient; although the admission registers do contain sensitive information, (i.e. form & cause of insanity & medical conditions) this is not included in the index. Patients with an alias have been indexed under both or in some cases multiple surnames. With the exception of burial registers there is a 100 year closure order on all the asylum patient records, therefore the index ends at December 31st 1916.  However, you can apply to the Devon Heritage Centre for research on cases that are currently closed.

Jeff Ellis. Newton Abbot. April 2017.


Having identified a patient, and noted the patients admission number & admission date, you will then be able to access their surviving records in the groups of records listed below, which usually contain the following information:


This is the order committing the patient into the asylum by a Justice of the Peace & a medical certificate & a statement by the examining Doctor. They will usually contain name; age; address; next of kin; brief details of the case and supposed cause of insanity. The majority of the admission papers have survived.  H2/80 to H2/95 are duplicates of some of the admissions from 3403 to 15699 but may contain additional documents.


Each patient was registered on arrival at the asylum under the next consecutive number. The admission registers 3769A/H/3/1 to H/3/15 usually document:

Date of Previous Admission (if any); Admission Number; Admission Date; Name; Sex; Age; Marital Status; Occupation; Previous Abode; To Which Union Chargeable; By Whose Authority Sent; Date of Medical Certificate; Form of Mental Disorder; Supposed Cause of Insanity; Bodily Condition & Name of Disease (if any); Whether Epileptic; Whether Condition is Congenital; Duration of Existing Attack; Number of Previous Attacks; Age on First Attack; Date of Discharge or Death; Discharged/Recovered/Relieved/Not Improved; Died; Observations. From 3769A/6b Date of Continuation of Reception Order is added for chronic case patients.

The admission registers 3769A/H/3/7 & 3/8 are of patients admitted between 1845 & 1889, & still in care 1891. They generally duplicate the information in previous registers, & because they are duplicates these registers are not included in the index, but may have information discovered after admission.

Admission register 3769A/H3/9 overlaps part of 6a & all of 6b. Admission numbers do not run consecutively until late November 1889. It appears that those listed are still in the Asylum at this date, whilst those missing have been discharged or died.

The admission registers 3769A/H/4/1 to H/4/5 record similar details to 3769A/H3/1 - H3/15, but with the following variations; Additions are; Date of last Continuation Of Reception Order; Direct Admission or Transfer; Whence Brought & Religion. Age & Occupation are now omitted & Usual Abode replaces Previous Abode.

The annotations in all registers in red ink indicate; CP = criminal patient & PP = private patient. The run of admission registers is complete from 1845 to 1916 (and beyond).


The Patient Case Books record the progress & treatment of each case in full detail. Each patient was examined shortly after admission, then weekly during the first month, then monthly "in curable cases", & quarterly in "chronic cases". They have printed boxes for the following; Admission Date; Admission Number; Name; Occupation; Age; Marital Status; Religion; Attack; Epileptic; Suicidal; Dangerous; Duration Of Illness; Alleged Causes; Form Of Disease. There then follows a medical assessment of the patient under the following headings; History Of The Case; Present Mental State; External Appearance; Temperature; State Of Tongue; Function Of Stomach, Bowels & Kidneys; Pulse & Circulation; Voice & Respiration; Sleeps; Appetite; & (in the case of females) Function Of The Uterus. Finally under the heading "Progress Of The Case After Admission" the Medical Officers ongoing examination & assessment of the patients progress is documented, and where the patient died in the asylum, in relevant cases Post Mortem findings are included. Some cases may include attachments relating to the patient such as temperature charts, newspaper cuttings, letters written or received, or where death in the asylum has occurred a notification form to the Coroner. In the latter years in some, but a very few cases, there may be a photograph of the patient.

Prior to 1885 not all of the Patient Case Books survive & the sub series ends at August 1910 for Males & April 1909 for Females, but is continued for Males in 3769A/20 or 3769A/22; & for Females in 3769A/21 or 3769A/24. Case Book notes carried over from H9 series to the H20's series usually carry the footnote "Transferred to Kalamazoo" in the H9 Case Book.

From around the turn of the century the case numbers in the casebooks H9 (for an undiscovered reason) cease to correspond with admission numbers in the admission registers sub series H3 & H4. In this case use the admission date to locate the patients case notes in sub series H9.


The Chronic Case Books are a continuation of the Patient Case Books where the patient has made insufficient progress to be discharged, & in the majority of cases the patient is likely to have remained in the asylum until death. The phrase "Transferred to Chronic Case Book" usually appears at the end of the notes in sub series H9 Patient Case Books in these instances.

There is one surviving Chronic Case Book for females & two for males.


These are alphabetical indexes used by the asylum clerks to access other records. They contain similar information to admission registers in 3769A/H/3 & /H/4, but also have an additional column, "Friends Address", usually the next of kin. The run of Registers of Patients is continuous until 1906 but incomplete in the latter years of the index.


Burials in the Asylum Cemetery began in late 1846 or early 1847 but no records of patient burials survive before 1868. The sub series 3769A/18/1 & 2, Registers Of Discharges, Removals & Deaths 1868-1895 record in the observation column in relevant instances, "Buried in the Asylum Cemetery". The sub series 3769A/HR/5-7 are Registers of Grave Spaces 1878-1944 (these do not record age at death). 3769A/HR/1-4 record burials 1900-1964 (on microfiche at DHC, see Exminster Devon County Asylum Cemetery). Burials 1900-1915 are also online at Find My Past (enter Exminster in burial place & click "Devon County Asylum Cemetery" in the pop up).

Asylum patient burials are also recorded from Aug 1845 to Sept 1934, in 3114A/PR/1/20 & 21, St Martin's Exminster burial registers (on microfiche, & also online at Find My Past to 1915, (enter Exminster in burial place & click "St Martin in the pop up); & in 5902A/PX/4/1 Exminster Parish Cemetery, Register of burials 1958-1982.


Two volumes from c 1856 - c 1867 containing similar information to Registers of Patients in 3769A/ADD 4.


Similar in format to admission registers but has age & occupation columns not present in the H4 admission registers.


These are typed discharge papers covering the years 1910 - 1915. They contain no Patient details other than the name.


Details of to where discharged or transferred, & date of death. In relevant cases dates of escape & recapture.


Contains date the of trial & absolute discharge; place discharged to (addresses become more specific in later years), or name of asylum transferred to.


Details the cause of death; form of insanity at time of death & the observation column records if body removed by friends or buried in the asylum cemetery.


Although titled Discharges, these are a continuation of the Case Books for patients that were eventually discharged. Similar in format to H/9 Case Books & following the date sequence. Like the H/9 Case Books they include medical history & detailed patient case notes. They are bound alphabetically with an index for each surname letter. In some cases there are photographs of the patient.

3769A/H/22 & H/24 MALE DEATHS (H/20) FEMALE DEATHS (H/24)

Although titled Deaths, these are a continuation of the Case Books for patients that died in the Asylum. Similar in format to the H/9 Case Books & following the date sequence. Like the H/9 Case Books they include medical history & patient case notes. They are bound alphabetically with an index for each surname letter. Forms specifying cause of death are included in most cases. A few have photographs of the patient.


3769A/H/3/1 1 - 1675 22nd July 1845-27th May 1857  
3769A/H/3/2 1676 - 3033 3rd June 1857-18th Apr 1865  
3769A/H/3/3 3034 - 3933 18th Apr 1865-3rd May 1870  
3769A/H/3/4 3934 - 5289 6th May 1870-8th Aug 1878  
3769A/H/3/5 5290 - 6705 8th Aug 1878-16th Feb 1887  
3769A/H/3/6a 6706 - 7229 23rd Feb 1887-30th Apr 1890  
3769A/H/3/6b 7230 - 7401 7th May 1890-19th Jan 1891  
3769A/H/3/9 7155 - 7658 28th Dec 1889-22nd Apr 1892 (Overlaps part of 6a & all of 6b)
3769A/H/3/10 7659 - 8075 22nd Apr 1892-7th Feb 1894  
3769A/H/3/11 8076 - 8416 7th Feb 1894-29th Aug 1895  
3769A/H/3/12 8417 - 9090 2nd Sept 1895-10th Mar 1899  
3769A/H/3/13 9091 - 9753 10th Mar 1899-18th Dec 1901  
3769A/H/3/14 9754 - 10426 18th Dec 1901-27th July 1904  
3769A/H/3/15 10427 - 11039 28th July 1904-29th Dec 1906  
3769A/H/4/1 11040 - 11709 1st Jan 1907-13th May 1909 (Register format changes)
3769A/H/4/2 11710 - 12349 14th May 1909-30th Dec 1911 (Age added intermittently)
3769A/H/4/3 12350 - 13021 1st Jan 1912-1st May 1914 (Age added intermittently)
3769A/H/4/4 13022 - 13686 21st May 1914-27th Nov 1916  
3769A/H/4/5 13687 - 13710 29th Nov 1916-31st Dec 1916  

For admission registers 3769A/H/3/7 & 3769A/3/8 see above "Admission Registers".


For researchers at the South West Heritage Trust Centre at Exeter, details of the documents are listed in the search room catalogue 3750 - 3800, under the title Exe Vale Hospital Exminster. To view the catalogue online visit https://swheritage.org.uk/ Click on "Devon Archive Catalogue", Enter "Devon County Lunatic Asylum Exminster" in the search box & scroll down to 3769A on the results page. All the above documents are listed in the 1st deposit except 3769A/add 4, which are in the 4th deposit.

To locate the burial registers in the online catalogue enter "Burial Register" in the search box & scroll down to 3769A/HR on the results page.


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