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Mr Edward Long Fox

Edward Long Fox (26 April 1761 – 1835) was an English psychiatrist. He established an insane asylum at Brislington House, near Bristol, England, and classified the patients according to social class as well as behavioural presentation.[1]

He was a member of the Fox family of Falmouth, one of the 11 children of Joseph Fox (1729–1784) and Elizabeth Hingston, his wife. He graduated and MD from the University of Edinburgh in 1784. Following the death of John Till Adams in 1786 he cared for many of Till Adams patients in the local Quaker community.[2] Around the same time he joined Bristol Infirmary as a physician. He worked there for 30 years.[3]

In 1830, he purchased Knightstone Island in Weston-super-Mare to create a therapeutic spa with a range of hot, cold and chemical baths.[1]

Edward Long Fox was born in Falmouth, Cornwall and was the son of Joseph Fox, a Quaker surgeon. He was educated at Edinburgh University, where he studied medicine and graduated as M. D. in January 1784. Within two years he was elected as a junior physician at Bristol Infirmary, a prestigious institution founded in 1737. He remained in his role for thirty years, retiring in February 1816 having attended several times a week, treating both in- and out-patients.

Having left the infirmary, Fox moved to Cleve Hill, a ‘madhouse' located just outside Bristol that had previously been run by a fellow non-conformist Richard Henderson, recently deceased. Fox invested great sums improving the conditions of the building and enlarging the structure. He soon was able to provide care for ‘incurable' persons in one of the best facilities in the country. Despite this advancement, Fox became increasingly aware of the inadequacies of the institution and looked to start his own project at the Brislington Estate.

In 1799 Edward Long Fox purchased the Estate for £4000; capital that had been gathered through private medical practice and his work at Cleve Hill. The purchase was to be followed up with an expensive construction and fitting up of a state-of-the-art lunatic asylum. By equipping Brislington House in a lavish style using modern and fashionable furnishings the total cost came to £35,000, a sum equivalent to that used at St Luke's Hospital in London. The reason for such a cost was to attract an affluent clientele who were willing to pay handsomely for care and treatment.

Fox retired from Brislington in 1829, moving to the newly built Heath House located on the estate. At Fox's death in 1835, care of the asylum was passed jointly to his sons Francis and Charles Fox with Francis taking up residence. The asylum remained in the Fox family for another century until around 1950.


Leonard Smith, L (2008) ‘Gentleman's mad-doctor in Georgian England: Edward Long Fox and Brislington House' in History of Psychiatry Volume 19, no. 163 pp. 163-184