Leather belt with keys, used by State Registered Mental Nurse

1940-1970 in England

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Leather belt, with keyring attached, used by State Registered Mental Nurse, England, mid 20th century

Security and practicality are behind the design of this sturdy leather belt with keyring. It was used on a psychiatric ward at Farnborough Hospital, now the Princess Royal University Hospital, in Kent, England. The key ring consists of a soldered metal bracket. This cannot be taken off the belt. There is also a metal loop in the middle of the belt over which the keyring cannot pass. This ensured the keys could not be snatched from or slip off the belt. The belt and keys were used between 1940 and 1970. They represent the large public mental hospitals that defined psychiatric care after the Second World War and the rise of the National Health Service. We know these keys were used by a State Registered Mental Nurse. This further highlights the fact such mental hospitals were government-regulated organisations rather than old-fashioned asylums. The staff had to meet professional standards. However, controversial medical treatments such as insulin coma therapy, electroshock and frontal lobotomy were common. They were seen as inhumane and brutal institutions, more like prisons than hospitals.

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Science Museum: Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries

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Related people


Psychology, Psychiatry & Anthropometry
Object Number:
belt, leather, belt, steel and keys, steel
overall (belted): 60 mm x 360 mm .42 kg
  • furnishing and equipment
  • costume
  • component - object
  • hardware - component
Farnborough Hospital

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