The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 36 Lambeth and Battersea

Bethlem Hospital

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From Lambeth Bridge Lambeth Road runs east to St. George's Circus, passing Bethlem Royal Hospital, once popularly known as Bedlam, the oldest hospital in the world for the treatment of persons of unsound mind. It is descended from a hospital of the Order of the Star of Jerusalem, founded in Bishopsgate in 1247 by Sheriff Simon FitzMary. The first mention of lunatics being confined there is in 1377. In 1547 the hospital received a charter from Henry VIII. In 1675 it was removed from Bishopsgate to Moorfields, where the lunatics chained to the walls were one of the public sights of London. The present building, built by James Lewis, was opened in 1815; the dome by Smirke is later (1846). It stands on the site of the old 'Dog and Duck' pleasure-gardens, which acquired an evil reputation in the 18th century; the old stone sign (1716) is preserved under glass, on the inner brick wall, about 50 yards to the right of the main entrance. In 1926 the whole site was purchased by Lord Rothermere to be converted into a public park in memory of his mother, Mrs. Harmsworth; and the Hospital is about to remove to new premises at Monk's Orchard, near Shirley, Croydon. Bethlem is now a charitable institution for the better-class insane, especially for curable cases (over 50% are dismissed as cured). There is accommodation for 300 patients. Professional men are admitted on application to the Medical Superintendent. In the grounds of Bethlem Hospital, at the corner of Lambeth Road and St. George's Road, stands an Obelisk, originally erected at St. George's Circus in 1771, in honour of Lord Mayor Crosby, and removed hither in 1907.