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Written by JulieW
(3/7/2007 6:35 a.m.)
...as mad as Bedlam.
Bedlam was, of course better known as , The Bethlem Royal Hospital of London, and in the eighteenth century was situated in Moorfields, London. It was an ancient foundation, having "cared" for people with mental disorders since 1247.
This print shows the building as it was in the 18th century. It was designed by Robert Hooke and was the second home for the institution . The current Bedlam building is at Southwark and part of it houses the Imperial War Museum. The institution moved there in 1828.
Of course we also know of Bedlam for its appearance in Hogarthís works.
Below is the final print in his series The Rake's Progress, which shows the now destitute and mad rake in distress at Bedlam , along the aristocratic visitors watching the inmates.
Visiting Bedlam was part of the culture in the 18th century. As Christine Stevenson in her book Medicine and Magnificence writes:
Bethlem was open to people with no personal or official relation to the lunatics, as it had been at its former site near Bishopsgate.
Casual visiting also remained common at other residential charities in London during the eighteenth century including Bedlamís sister institution, Bridewell.
Bethlem at Moorfields was unique in the extent to which the visiting determined its regulation, though active exploitation of its distinctive asset, the sight of the insane, may have begun much earlier.
In 1598 a visiting committee of governors complained about the filth there in terms suggesting that it was the casual visitors reaction they were concerned about; the first recorded reference to the " shew of Bethlem" came twelve years later.
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