1600 - 1700


The new Bethlem

Bethlem Hospital has occupied various sites across the centuries. By the late seventeenth century, the hospital needed new premises, partly to cater for increased numbers but also because the existing building was 'very old, weak and ruinous'. From Bishopsgate, Bethlem was first re-sited in 1676 to a magnificent baroque building in Moorfields, designed by Robert Hooke. It was the first purpose-built hospital for the 'insane' in the country.

The new Bethlem had a grand façade but the inside was described as "plainly a madhouse" in Scenes from Bedlam (Russell, D 1997). On each of the two main floors, huge galleries ran the length of the building and acted as the dayrooms for those who were fit enough to move about. This was also where patients saw their visitors and where sightseers were allowed to view the inmates. Individual cells or bedrooms opened off the gallery. High walled 'airing courts' were provided at either end of the building

"The galleries were like long corridors with individual cells down one side. In the middle, iron gates divided the men from the women. The place quickly became overcrowded so that extensions were needed and then built." Scenes from Bedlam (Russell, D 1997)

Once at the Moorfields site, rules were set out for the 'good government' of Bethlem, whilst on the Moorfields site. They included Rule Eight, which stated that "no Officer or Servant shall beat or abuse any Lunatick, nor offer any Force to them, but upon absolute Necessity, for the better governing of them". Rule Five stated that "no Person should give the Lunaticks Strong Drink, Wine, Tobacco, or Spirits: Nor to be permitted to sell any such thing in the Hospital".



The great fire of London

The Great Fire of London swept through the city of London, from Sunday 2 September to Wednesday 5 September 1666. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman City Wall.

The great fire of 1666 did not reach Bishopsgate but destroyed most of Bridewell. Soon after Bridewell had been restored it was decided that Bethlem too should be rebuilt about half a mile to the west at Moorfields.




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