Change Minds Poetry

Enjoy reading some of the poems created by members of Change Minds at The Belfry Arts Centre last term, inspired by the 19th Century Norfolk County Asylum case studies that they have been researching.


George Kellow#1Set your suffering free George Henry
Let us pray for light George Henry
Let us pray for sleep.

Let us dream of Methodist bells
Of dinners on the stove
The heat of ironmongery

Let us pray George Henry
For the quiet intelligence
Of waking, for talk.


The Village

We come from a small village
Hellos and how you doing
It turned over-night
To chatter and back-stabbing.

The lies and the whispers
The Protecting your own.
Our community shrunk to our quiet home
with the curtains drawn.

The case it ended
The village was decided
The whispers, no more how are you,
The victims stand alone.

The time has gone on
The son grows strong and tall,
With looks of Great Grandad
In a photo of the war.

His life moves on for the better,
Child in his arms
Protective and whispering
Of good thing in his land.

By Georgina Marie Archer


The Dressmaker

Flora Cooper#2There is much to be said
about the way a woman
can earn her bread;
by service or by needle.

Each has difficulties and advantages.

In service she is separated
by the back stairs to her little
attic room, has no chance
of making much more than a crust.

Such a chance the dressmaker has
if she chooses to be over-done with work;
her occupation not favourable
to health, to fingers and eyes.

By Janice Hubbard


A padded Cell

Robert Watson#2Horse hungry
the still omnibus

no sea air
no blue sea


taking habitually
more stimulants
than was his


a little grey cell
for a big man

eating little
for a big man

three men to hold him down
big man

tongue tied
tongue furred
and tremulous

An expression
to his wife
a mouth somewhat to one side
before he spoke


he speaks of the horse
and his waiting omnibus

takes nourishment well
with half a pint of beer

his natural state

is now perfectly natural

By Jason Laver


George Noble#2He is now disposed to striking
persons without warnings

saying the Lord prompted
him to do it.

He sang hymns in the street
making himself very conspicuous by his gestures.

This morning he unceremoniously
pitched his wife out of bed.

He accused several ministers
of having intercourse with his wife.

He is improved by a mixture of soda
and bismuth.

By Jonathan Yull


Taken to wandering, unsettled
Matthew Greenwood#2in his mind – eventually lost.
People watched his movements.
Showing violence when opposed
Jumping into a pit and not succeeding.
Wakeful at night watching
the cross of the window frame,
the shadow on the wall.

Quiet conversations, somewhat
more cheerful, alters day to day,
appreciates food, taking his fill daily.
He continues to go to work, helps
on the female side of the garden,
is industrious and well conducted.



Am I here
am I there
sorting wool
trapped in yarn
Thomas Butler#2I need to set sail
horizons prevail

Find me a ship
I need to leave quick
Approaching the harbour
She stares at me
with her book and torch
New York, New York

Here am I, is it here I stay
Begging, bartering, selling, shouting
Was I a fool to escape the wool
hustling, gangs and guns
I am scared I need to run

Fenian gangs suck me in
Babbling Irish, making the rules
Go here, go there
Find me a ship
I feel sick
Am I crazy let me in
I have a gun, a knife
I’m scared for my life

There is a bounty
They chase me
They chase me
Take me home to Norfolk county
Asylum, Asylum, Asylum

By Paula Vann



Honor Chatton#2Wicked being tired of life
wicked not wanting to die

Too wicked to lie
too wicked to die

I sold myself to Satan

Too wicked to eat
Too wicked to sleep

I sit and stare
I used to hope
I sit and stare

God giveth and he taketh away
He gives you a soul
and then breaks it apart

I’m told it’s his to take
It isn’t mine to sell


By U.T


She is very spiteful and intractable

Elizabeth Woods#2You are going the same way
as your uncle, my mother yells

at night she talks, shouts and sings

Close my eyes to switch off
the bells

she is quite unable to attend to her house or herself

There’s no escape
it’s in the genes

can with a little persuasion, can with attention be kept clean

Just lock me away
until I know what it means

she is rather inclined to be destructive

A hand with the children
a cup of tea

she only talks in the most rambling and incoherent way

my brash unhelpful mother
no love or emotion, no hug

she sleeps with her clothes on

A break, some space, maybe
run a bath for me

it has been necessary to prescribe sedative medicine

And whether it will happen
with the next child

She still wanders about all day, talking in a voluble
and incoherent way

Back to Bungay
no time, no space

She is rather less excited than she was

when I shout and swear
will anybody ever hear

Her Husband is very anxious indeed, to give her a trial at home.

then there are children
with their constant needs

after each confinement, she has been more or less excited

what about me
how my heart bleeds

Continuous attention and ‘I want’

She has been discharged today, on a months probation.

Barely time to fix
their socks and their vests.

By R.B