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Mad Alice

Lund's Court is a 'snickelway' (particular to York, the name given to a narrow lane or passageway) that links Swinegate and Low Petergate. However, the thoroughfare was formerly known as 'Mad Alice Lane' and it is said that the restless spirit of Mad Alice still haunts the environs...

Mad Alice Lane, York
Mad Alice Lane

Alice Smith lived in the lane until 1825, as she was allegedly hung that year, guilty of the crime of insanity. But if Mad Alice really did exist she wouldn't have been executed for a weakness in her mental faculty as even if she had committed an offence, the confirmed insane were not hung, and in York, in Mad Alice's time, she would have been confined in the notorious York Lunatic Asylum, now the Bootham Park Hospital.

Set back from the road in its own grounds, the former asylum could be mistaken for a country house. Completed in 1777, the extravagant design, fashionably pedimented and decorated with Tuscan columns, the new hospital was thought by some to be a waste of public money and described as 'a lunatic hotel'. This grandiose exterior however belied the appalling conditions that the patients were held in, and the abuses at the York Asylum were later the centre of a great controversy.

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