THE life of a forgotten pioneer of the treatment of mental health will be celebrated later this month.

To mark the national heritage weekend, Cairo Street Chapel will open its doors from 10am until 4pm, on Saturday, September 14 and between noon and 2pm on the Sunday.

On the Sunday, a special talk will be held at 3pm on Samuel Gaskell.

The chapel has many monuments to past members of the chapel including many members of the Gaskell family and Ray Beecham, a member of the congregation, will deliver a talk on the life of Mr Gaskell who was a pioneer in the treatment of mental health.

Born in January 1807 in Warrington, one of six siblings to William and Margaret Gaskell, he was baptised in the Chapel in February 1807. The case can be put forward very strongly that Samuel Gaskell’s eventual power and status was the joint product of his intellect, his belief system nurtured in Cairo Street Chapel and his unremitting effort.

In 1832 after studying at Edinburgh University, he became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons and he was appointed Residential Medical Officer at Stockport Cholera Hospital. In 1834 he was appointed House Apothecary to Manchester Royal Infirmary and Lunatic Asylum. Samuel Gaskell’s experience in the lunatic wards at Manchester had much to do with his choice of career. Equally important were his religious convictions. Unitarians were anxious to work for social and moral improvement in ways which were law abiding and respectable.

In 1840 Samuel was appointed residential superintendent of the Lancashire County Asylum. This was the second largest asylum in England and in 1844, it had 611 patients, all paupers. Samuel’s pay at Lancaster was £400 per annum including a house and his food

Samuel started to create a more humane caring environment. On his appointment he found that many inmates were chained all day to a open chair over a running sewer. This method, he discontinued.

The humane management he brought was soon realised and in 1844, the Commissioners Report on Lancaster recorded: ‘that by every expression of kindness, by appearing to sympathise in the patient’s imaginary sufferings and by taking a deep interest in all his concerns to soothe irrational irritation and thus allow an opportunity of restoring the healthy action of the mind.’

In 1849, at 42, Samuel Gaskell was appointed Medical Commissioner for Lunacy providing him with national control of Asylums.