Bethlehem Hospital was one of the four Royal hospital in London, founded or administered by the Crown.  It was variously identified as Royal Hospital Bethelem, Bedlam Hospital or Bethlem Hospital.  The other Royals hospitals in London were Chelsea Hospital, Christ's Hospital, Saint Bartholomew's Hospital, and Saint Thomas's Hospital.  Bethelem Hospital was founded at another site in 1247 and firmly established as a lunatic asylum in 1547-57 by King Henry VIII.  The mental hospital was moved in 1815 to the Southwark area, occupying a new building that housed 122 patients.  The following year, the government requested that criminal lunatics be added to the hospital, which immediately occurred.  

The King Edwards School established a long-term lease with the Bethlehem Hospital in 1806 and built its school in 1830.  The school served as a reformatory institution for boys and girls, with the name House of Occupations. In 1835, additional blocks were built at the Bethlehem Hospital to contain more patients.   By 1844 the hospital had created padded rooms to contain aggressive patients. This was followed in 1845 by the construction of an enlarged dome over the central block.  

Problems occurred in 1851 when the lunacy commissioners visited the hospital to inquire about the treatment of certain patients by their nurses.  On finding many problems, the lunacy commissioners by 1853 subjected the hospital each year to periodic inspections, making sure that problems were addressed.  Charles Dickens was a close observer of Bethlehem Hospital and wrote of it and insanity in 1850-57 (see below). Criminal patients were finally removed from Bethlehem Hospital in 1864.  The end of Bethlehem Hospital at the old site occurred in 1936, when the central block of the former hospital became the Imperial War Museum.   


(Quarter Mile Section - P 18)


O'Donoghue EG. The Story of the Bethlehem Hospital from its Foundation in 1247, 1914. Porter R. London - A Social History, 1994.

Saunders H S-G. The Middlesex Hospital, 1745-1948, 1949. 

Weinreb B, Hibbert C (eds). The London Encyclopaedia, 1993.

Bethlehem Hospital between 1815 and 1838

Click here to see image 21-46 years earlier


New Dome of Bethlehem Hospital in 1846

Click here to see image 13 years earlier


Bethlehem Hospital in Cruchley's Map of 1846

Click here to see more details 13 years earlier


Charles Dickens on Bethlehem Hospital

Click here to see writings in 1850-57


Female Ward of Bethlehem Hospital in 1860 

Click here to see image one year later


Old Ordnance Survey Map of 1872

Click here to see more details 13 years later