The Sutton Coldfield Court of March 28th 1552 ordered Ralph Gibbons to place himself in a convent, and told him he would be punished if he was caught wandering or molesting the brothers or anyone else - an early example of how society dealt with insanity. Ralph had been before the Court earlier - keeping a gaming table in 1548 and selling illegal sheepskins in Sutton Market in 1549 - and he was fined for fighting in 1553, 1555 and 1564. But his insanity must have been temporary, as he served as a juror in 1558 and 1562, and was elected Constable in 1565. His last appearance, in 1569, was for an insane act - he lay in wait for the Town Clerk and assaulted him on the Queen’s highway.
Another case of insanity is mentioned in the Parish Register in February 1668. When Jane Bayley, a servant of Mr. Thomas Addyes of Maney was buried, the cause of death was given - her head had been cut off by the son, William Addyes, described as a lunatic person. Thomas Addyes was a wealthy man, who could afford to keep his insane son at home under constant care or restraint; a famous fictional example of this practice is Mr. Rochester’s first wife in Jane Eyre.
Things were different by 1839, when the Warden and Society of Sutton decreed that “George Bodington of the Driffold is licensed to keep a house …for the reception of insane persons”. His license was for a year, and cost £15, but the relatives of the insane persons no doubt paid a high fee. The license entitled him to a maximum of 25 inmates, male and female, “whereof five are to be Parish Pauper Patients”, showing that insanity struck the poor as well as the wealthy. Driffold House Lunatic Asylum appears in the census records for 1851 and 1861 - in 1861 there were thirteen patients, six men and seven women; also living there were the 61-year old Doctor Bodington with his wife and two daughters, a head attendant, a matron, an assistant attendant and an under attendant, a cook, a housemaid and a kitchen maid.