Series 1 - Episode 1

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The first episode begins with a portrait of Broadmoor – and its most famous patients – today. This hospital, surrounded by barbed wire and subject to high-level security, houses some of the most dangerous and deranged minds in the country. Broadmoor has become a byword for the very worst in human nature and is perceived by some as a kind of bin into which we throw the people who scare us the most. But what is Broadmoor really for?

In 1863, Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum was born out of Victorian compassion and Christian principles as the law declared it immoral to blame the insane for their crimes and send them to the gallows. Instead, this unique institution, the first of its kind in the world, would provide a refuge for the criminally insane across all social divides. This episode also takes a look at some of the hospital’s first residents, including Richard Dadd, a famous artist who, believing himself to be controlled by an Egyptian god, killed his father, and Edward Oxford, who tried to assassinate Queen Victoria.

We hear about the first head of Broadmoor, ex-military surgeon John Meyer, who implemented ‘moral treatment’ – a wholesome routine of exercise, work, plain food and fresh air. This unshakeable belief in the healing powers of virtuous living – a healthy mind in a healthy body – meant that psychiatric care at Broadmoor remained basic and unchanged throughout the Victorian period.

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