Close
Explore more Centres, Projects and Groups
Welcome
Welcome Banner
Headed paper with ‘The Court of Protection (formerly Management and Administration Department), London,’ dated 17 March 1949

Power and Protection

Power and Protection is home to original films, archival material, and resources about the history of the Court of Protection in England and Wales, and the evaluation of ‘mental capacity’.

Bottom Content
About

This is the public engagement strand of the research project ‘Managing mental capacity: a history’. Assessments of capacity evaluate whether adults can make their own decisions regarding their personal and financial lives, usually prompted by mental illness, learning disability, or dementia. For centuries, these assessments have been undertaken in England & Wales by the Court of Protection: this research explores this history.

Case studies

Jean Carr and Beatrice Alexander were both found incapable in law of managing their own affairs in the 1930s, as a result of ‘mental infirmity’. Our two short films introduce their stories. You can also browse some of the archival documents that inspired the films, find out what happened next to Miss Carr and Miss Alexander, and learn about the Court of Protection today.

About
About Power and Protection 2 columns
About Power and Protection 2 columns left paragraph
Paragraph

This project is part of the ‘Measuring mental capacity’ research study at the Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

It was funded by the Wellcome Trust, research enrichment grant number 209884/Z/17/A.

The films were produced by Dead Earnest Theatre in 2021, and screened as part of interactive online events during the Being Human Festival that year. These events aimed to introduce the history of the Court of Protection to a wider audience, and to encourage reflection and discussion about how decisions regarding capacity, vulnerability, and protection should be made.

Case studies
Case studies Power and Protection 2 columns
Case studies Power and Protection 2 columns left paragraph
Paragraph

Today, formal assessments of capacity evaluate whether adults can make their own decisions regarding their personal and financial lives, and are usually prompted by dementia, learning disability, traumatic brain injuries, or severe mental illness.  

For centuries, these assessments were undertaken in England and Wales by an office of the court, usually known as the ‘Lunacy Office’. In 1947, it was renamed the Court of Protection.

Archives from this office are stored at the National Archives in London. Our research into the history of the Court of Protection gave some insight into how law and practice around mental capacity has developed. It also introduced us to some of the people whose lives it changed.

Watch the trailers for our short films about two of these people, Jean Carr and Beatrice Alexander.

Jean Carr

Miss Jean Carr was assessed and found incapable of managing her own affairs in 1934, shortly after her 21st birthday. Her mother had applied to the Lunacy Office, and was then appointed as Miss Carr’s ‘receiver’: the person who would look after her finances on her behalf. Miss Carr was often unhappy about this, and tried several times to have the receivership brought to an end.

Watch this short film dramatizing some of her story:

Find out more about Miss Carr’s case.

Beatrice Alexander

Miss Beatrice Alexander was found incapable of managing her own affairs in 1939, when she was 59. A retired housekeeper, she had inherited a large house and income a few years earlier. Her neighbours became worried when a local family with a bad reputation moved in with her, and seemed to be exploiting her gentle nature and taking control of her home and money. Was she incapable of managing her own affairs?

Watch this short film dramatizing some of her story:

Find out more about Miss Alexander’s case.

 

Resources
Resources Power and Protection 2 columns
Resources Power and Protection 2 columns left paragraph
Paragraph

Miss Alexander

Miss Alexander remained legally incapable for the rest of her life. Her nurse-companion, Miss Wortt, lived with her at her home for twenty-five years, until Miss Alexander had to move to a nursing home providing round-the-clock care. The two women became very fond of each other: Miss Wortt visited Miss Alexander regularly until her death in 1969. They did not see the Humphries family again.

Miss Carr

Miss Carr was relieved to be found capable of managing her own affairs, but remained unhappy about how she had been treated. She went on to live a long but somewhat reclusive life. She did not marry, and does not seem to have fallen into the hands of unscrupulous persons. She died in 1992, leaving her home to charity to benefit artists.

Further reading

 

Updates
Power and Protection Updates
Interactive screenings at Being Human Festival

Interactive screenings of these films were presented as part of the Being Human Festival in November 2021.

If you would like to host a screening and discussion, please get in touch.