Mid Sussex Greats
The Mid Sussex Times reports that ' A virtual unknown has swept to victory in our poll to find the Mid Sussex Great.
When the votes were totalled on Tuesday (10.12.02), Charles Lockhart Robertson was a decisive winner.
He pioneered the humane treatment of mental health treatment at what was to become St Francis Hospital in Haywards Heath.
His caring nature obviously struck a chord with people in Mid Sussex.
During polling,Charles Lockhart Robertson and Sir Freddie Laker were in close competition but a surge of votes for the eventual winner tipped the balance.
Sir Freddie, who lived at Chailey, and pioneered cheap air travel was runner-up with Ditchling's Dame Vera Lynn in third place.
The competition , which was sponsored by the Market Place Shopping Centre, Burgess Hill, was run after the BBC launched its search to find the greatest Briton.
Reporter Diane Jones tells the story of Charles Lockhart Robertson:
He was a man of vision and compassion with a moral and social stature on a par with William Wilberforce or Florence Nightingale.
Before the Sussex County Lunatic Asylum (St Francis Hospital) was opened in Haywards Heath in 1859, 'lunatics' were frequently treated like animals.
At Bethlem hospital in London -'Bedlam' - people took pleasure in gawping at the inmates who were frequently chained and shackled.
When Robertson became the first superintendent of the new asylum in Haywards Heath, he sent a strong signal to society - the mentally ill are not sub-human, they need help and above all respect.
He discouraged the use of leg irons and advocated fresh air and work as the 'cure'. A farm and market garden were established in the grounds and male patients were encouraged to learn a trade.
Wards were brightened with flowers, and weekly dances were arranged for the patients who brewed their own beer on the premises.
Robertson's institution became a model for others to follow and his enlightened attitude helped to save mentally ill people from a life of humiliation and wretchedness.'
THE KEEPERS OF ROBERTSON'S FLAME
Chief Executive LIZA RODRIGUEZ,of the West Sussex Health and Social Care Trust, which now runs mental health services across Sussex says ' An important part of our work today is to get rid of the stigma that still surrounds mental health. In that respect we're the keepers of the flame that Robertson lit all those years ago. This is a fantastic recognition of a great and enlightened man.'
PADDY HENRY, former Assistant Director of Nursing Services said,' I'm thrilled with the 'Mid Sussex Greats' result. Charles Lockhart Robertson treated the mentally ill as human beings and raised people's awareness. Setting up a garden and farm was absolutely therapeutic and his asylum became a sanctuary against harsh laws, which aimed to get rid of them and incarcerate them.'
The last word should go to the great man himself who, in an address to the 8th International Medical Conference in 1881 said,'Further reform in the treatment of the insane is not merely a question of whether and how they shall be retained in public or private asylums, but rather whether they should be placed in asylums at all, and when and how they shall be liberated from their imprisonment.'
*James Gardner writes extensively about Charles Lockhart Robertson in his book on the history of St Francis entitled 'Sweet Bells Jangled Out of Tune' which forms the backbone of the Middy research and is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the history of mental illness and particularly those with any interest in St Francis Hospital. Joe Hughes