1700 - 1800


"Raving and Melancholy Madness"

By 1770, unrestricted public visiting was a thing of the past and only those with a ticket signed by one of the hospital's Governors were allowed to enter. By 1799, a report described the Moorfields Bethlem building as "low and melancholy" and the hospital's foundations were unstable.

At the time of its move to Moorfields, Bethlem was the only public institution for those with mental disorders. The only alternatives were private madhouses which flourished up to the eighteenth century. These were not restricted to wealthy patients but often built their business on paupers sent by parish authorities.

Throughout most of its history, Bethlem has been an acute hospital for short stay patients. Those who had not recovered at the end of a 12 month period were generally discharged. From the 1730s, however, an incurable wing was added for a small number of those discharged uncured from the main hospital and for whom no alternative existed. Admissions to this department ended in 1919.

Image: The life-size statues of "Raving and Melancholy Madness" that were displayed at the entrance to Bethlem Hospital from 1676 to 1815 are the most famous works of the Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber, and were significant London landmarks of their time. These reclining figures dramatise the binary opposition between manic and melancholic symptoms which lay at the heart of pre-medieval and early modern understandings of mental ill-health. Raving Madness is depicted in furious agony (and in hospital chains) whereas Melancholy is free of restraint, but expressionless and unengaged.

Raving and Melancholy


Hogarth paints 'Bedlam'

In 1733 Hogarth paints 'Bedlam' the last scene in his 'Rake's Progress'

A Rake's Progress is a series of eight paintings by 18th century English artist William Hogarth. The canvases were produced in 1732-33 then engraved and published in print form in 1735. The series shows the decline and fall of Tom Rakewell, the spendthrift son and heir of a rich merchant, who comes to London, wastes all his money on luxurious living, prostitution and gambling, and as a consequence is imprisoned in the Fleet Prison and ultimately Bedlam.The original paintings are currently in the collection of the Soane Museum in London.


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