Through an examination of previously unseen archival records, including patients’ letters, this article examines the treatment and experiences of patients in late Victorian Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum and stakes the place of this institution within the broader history of therapeutic regimes in British asylums. Two main arguments are put forth. The first relates to the evolution of treatment in Victorian asylums. Historians tend to agree that in the 1860s and 1870s ‘psychiatric pessimism’ took hold, as the optimism that had accompanied the growth of moral treatment, along with its promise of a cure for insanity, abated. It has hitherto been taken for granted that all asylums reflected this change. I question this assumption by showing that Broadmoor did not sit neatly within this framework. Rather, the continued emphasis on work, leisure and kindness privileged at this institution into the late Victorian period was often welcomed positively by patients and physicians alike. Second, I show that, in Broadmoor’s case, moral treatment was determined not so much by the distinction between the sexes as the two different classes of patients – Queen’s pleasure patients and insane convicts – in the asylum. This distinction between patients not only led to different modes of treatment within Broadmoor, but had an impact on patients’ asylum experiences. The privileged access to patients’ letters that the Broadmoor records provide not only offers a new perspective on the evolution of treatment in Victorian asylums, but also reveals the rarely accessible views of asylum patients and their families on asylum care.