This paper analyses the buildings, spaces and interiors of Bangour Village public asylum for the insane, near Edinburgh, and compares these with an English asylum, Whalley, near Preston, of similar early-twentieth-century date. The village asylum, which developed from a European tradition of rendering the poor productive through ‘colonisation’, was more enthusiastically and completely adopted in Scotland than in England, perhaps due to differences in asylum culture within the two jurisdictions. ‘Liberty’ and ‘individuality’, in particular, were highly valued within Scottish asylum discourses, arguably shaping material provision for the insane poor from the scale of the buildings to the quality of the furnishings. The English example shows, by contrast, a greater concern with security and hygiene. These two differing interpretations show a degree of flexibility within the internationalized asylum model which is seldom recognized in the literature.