Broadmoor Hospital is a high-security psychiatric hospital in Crowthorne, housing some of Britain’s most dangerous and disturbed criminals. Its current inmates include Michael Adebowale, an Islamic terrorist who was one of two men convicted for the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013.

Broadmoor is the oldest of three such facilities still operating in England – the other two are Rampton Secure Hospital in Nottinghamshire (opened 1899) and Ashworth Hospital near Liverpool (opened 1989). Its macabre history has seen serial killers, assassins, armed robbers, poisoners and terrorists housed there – including Edward Oxford, who tried to assassinate Queen Victoria, and Peter Sutcliffe, otherwise known as the Yorkshire Ripper.

Another, less well-known inmate was Eliza Blanche Bastable, a young woman born at East Orchard, Dorset in 1852. Her father was a dairy farmer named George while her mother was Elizabeth, who worked as a dressmaker before marriage.

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One of eight children, her parents saved enough money to send her to a small private boarding school in Shaftesbury aged ten, in the hope that she might make a better life for herself than they had. After receiving a good education, Eliza became a teacher.

Her life was set to be relatively prosperous until, in 1870, her sister Mary Jane died of tuberculosis. Eliza, then aged 20, began experiencing mental disturbances after losing her close friend and confidant for which she was admitted to a mental asylum in Bristol called Brislington House.

She received “moral therapies” at the Quaker-run institution, taking part in activities like gardening and music in an effort to restore balance to her disturbed mind. After one year she was able to return home – but her parents became concerned when she started exhibiting signs of both depression and mania.

They hired a man named William Lodge to look after Eliza, but his companionship could not stop her slipping further into mental illness. Doctors advised that Eliza be moved back into a medical facility, proposing Fisherton House Asylum in Salisbury.

On November 6, 1877 William went to help George on the farm, leaving Eliza sewing at home. Elizabeth had been baking and went out to find George, to offer him a cup of tea.

Eliza’s brother James had just arrived home from hunting and placed his loaded gun on the kitchen table, before going to wash his hands. Eliza saw the gun and picked it up, following her 56-year-old mother out into the garden.

Walking up behind Elizabeth, she blasted her mother in the head, killing her instantly. Eliza’s sister Emma heard the gunshot and went to see what had happened.

She passed Eliza as she left the crime scene, later recalling that her sister had passed without speaking and gone straight to her bedroom. William arrived at the scene soon afterwards, when Eliza was calling to her mother from her bedroom window, urging her to get up.

“Let me lift her up – she is not dead, she only sleepeth. She will rise again,” Eliza was heard to say, quoting the Bible’s Gospel of Luke. James also ran back to the house and found her mother dead, sending a labourer to fetch the village policeman.

Eliza was still calling to Elizabeth – it appeared she did not understand what she had done. But, when quizzed by the doctor, she said she had killed her mother because “all the wicked shall be abolished off the Earth”.

A jury at Elizabeth’s inquest found that the incident was murder, but Eliza would never have her day in court. She was remanded at Dorchester Prison, but the Secretary of State intervened and had her sent to Charminster Lunatic Asylum instead.

Dorchester Prison is the site of the last execution in Dorset. The site was closed in January 2014
(Image: Copyright Unknown)

Eliza remained there for several months before she was moved to Broadmoor, where she would live out the rest of her tragically short life. Records show that her insanity remained undiagnosed, other than that “she believes herself called on by God to destroy some person or persons”.

Like her Mary Jane, Eliza soon contracted tuberculosis and fell gravely ill. A hospital record from 1879 states that the patient was “spitting blood” – a common symptom of the respiratory disease which killed her sister.

By January of the following year Eliza had died, aged just 27. It is unknown whether any relatives attended her burial at St John’s Church in Crowthorne, but her father George did not arrange the removal of her body from Broadmoor.

George died in 1897, aged 77, followed by another of Eliza’s sisters named Georgina in 1883, aged 27. While both are named on the family tombstone in the graveyard at St Thomas’s Church in East Orchard, along with Mary Jane and Elizabeth, Eliza is not.

Her story is a complicated one of wilful violence, personal tragedy and unfortunate medical circumstances – making her just the kind of patient Broadmoor was built to house.

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