Sunday, June 29, 2014

Old Bethlehem Hospital aka Bedlam

Chameleon by Jillian KentI've been employed as a social worker for thirty four years. I've worked in the mental health and medical fields for all of that time. If you read my books you'll find an interesting social and psychological thread. When I revised CHAMELEON, my second book which takes you into Bedlam in the year 1818 you'll have an idea of the horrors related to mental illness at that time in history. I located this article Archaeology Find and was fascinated. This was really an old burial ground. Still it's hard to know what actually happened until more information comes to light.

"It's interesting on the archaeological side because the 16th century is a time of immense poverty really in the outer areas of the city of London. Sites of this type haven't always been fully investigated," Carver said.

In the picture within the article it appears to be more of a mass grave. I can't help but wonder if this was used for the patients who died, or perhaps bodies from an epidemic like the plague. The The Great Fire of London occurred in 1666 so I wonder how that may have effected this grave site. About ten years later Bethlehem hospital moved to Moorfields. It's moved twice since that time and still provides help for those who suffer from mental illness. Thankfully, there are more options for the mentally ill today.

This blog post from one of my favorite sites sheds more light on what is being reported. Bethlem in the News

Many people don't know that Bethlehem Hospital, also known at Bethlem and Bedlam opened it's doors to the mentally ill in the 14th century. In the above picture on the right you can see well dressed women in the background. The rich came to Bedlam and used it as a zoo to see those tortured by mental illness.

What intrigues you about this history? Is there something that surprised you?

 Jillian Kent loves England's Regency era. In 2013 her second book in The Ravensmoore Chronicles, Chameleon, finaled in both the Selah at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in romance fiction and in Romance Writers of America's prestigious Daphne du Maurier for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Jillian is employed as a counselor for nursing students in Cincinnati, Ohio and possesses a masters degree in social work. She is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and passionate about mental health, wellness, and stomping out the stigma of mental illness. You can reach her at and explore further at her website can also find her on Twitter @JillKentAuthor and Facebook


  1. I am surprised and taken aback that the rich would make such a spectacle of viewing the mental patients at Bedlam. How dreadful!

    1. Hi Melanie,
      Ignorance about mental illness was rampant but using other human beings for entertainment due to their illness was cruel.

  2. Incredible the evolution of treatment for the mentally ill. Today they are released onto our streets and neighborhoods. Interesting post. never heard of that hospital. sharon, CA wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com