Bethlem Royal Hospital is a hospital for the treatment of mental illness located in London. From the fourteenth century, Bethlem had been referred to colloquially as “Bedleheem”, “Bedleem” or “Bedlam”. “Bedlam” has long been synonymous with madness itself meaning uproar and confusion, is derived from the hospital’s name. Bethlem’s modest origins are traced to its foundation in 1247, during the reign Henry III, as the Priory of the New Order of St Mary of Bethlem in the city of London. It was established by the Bishop-elect of Bethlehem, the Italian Goffredo de Prefetti, following a donation of personal property by the London Alderman and former Sheriff, Simon fitzMary.
The original location of the priory was in the parish of St Botolph, Bishopsgate’s ward, just beyond London’s wall and where the south-east corner of Liverpool Street station now stands. The Hospital moved a couple of times during its 750 year existence. A decision was taken to move the hospital in the 19th Century to St. George’s Fields in Southwark, south of the river Thames. In 1930, the hospital was moved to an outer suburb of London old hospital. The hospital’s grounds were bought by Lord Rothermere and presented to the London County Council for use as a park; the central part of the building was retained and became home to the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in 1936.
The Imperial War Museum was Originally housed in the Crystal Palace at Sydenham Hill when it opened to the public in 1920. In 1924, the museum moved to space in the Imperial Institute in South Kensington. The final move in 1936 led to what is now called the Imperial War Museum London, which serves as the organisation’s corporate headquarters. The name Imperial War Museum London is due to the museum’s acquiring other satellite properties beginning in 1976 with IWM Duxford (formerly RAF Duxford).
The Imperial War Museum was intended to record the civil and military war effort and sacrifice of Britain and its Empire during the First World War. Most wars are insane, but the slaughter of the First was particularly horrific. That said, I find it amusing that there is the Bedlam-IWM connection. I once made a comment about the Bedlam-Imperial War Museum to a staff member who said: “Yes, but at least we now go home at night.”