We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here

Secrets from the Asylum

S1-E1 Best Laid Plans

S1-E1 Best Laid Plans

not currently available
Add this to your watchlist to find out when it is available via broadcast or catch-up.


Reading that one of your Victorian ancestors was classified as a lunatic who should be confined in an asylum is clearly very distressing, but at the turn of the last century it was a common diagnosis. People with late-stage syphilis, senile dementia or postnatal depression were often locked away, and although the Victorians believed in “moral treatment” for them – a disciplined stress-free daily routine – there was still a stigma attached to being in an asylum so the family members left outside often struggled to survive.

Ray Winstone, Claire Sweeney and Al Murray run the gamut of emotions when they discover how their relatives fared when they were categorised as lunatics.


The first of two programmes in which celebrities embark on an emotional journey to discover how their ancestors coped in Victorian asylums. Hollywood hardman Ray Winstone visits Colney Hatch Asylum in north London, where his great-great-grandmother's first husband was committed in 1875. Comedian Al Murray follows in the footsteps of one of his forebears, Vanity Fair author William Makepeace Thackeray, to discover the measures he took to save his suicidal wife from the horrors of institutionalisation. Plus, actress and singer Claire Sweeney finds out how senile dementia and old-age mental health was treated in the 19th century.

Cast & Crew

Contributor Ray Winstone
Contributor Claire Sweeney
Contributor Al Murray
Director Caroline Miller
Executive Producer Jonathan Hewes
Series Producer Helen Williamson
see more


Have Your Say What did you think of Best Laid Plans?

view all comments (0)