Explore the incredible Bethlem records
Bethlam hospital is nearly 800 years old, and was the first institution in Europe to specialise in mental illness. Infamously nicknamed 'Bedlam', thousands of patients have passed - or been forced - through its doors over the centuries. Discover whether your ancestor was among their number, or even part of the staff who administered the bizarre treatments inside its walls.
About the Bethlem records
Was your ancestor admitted to Bethlem? Or maybe your relative helped to treat the patients in the infamous mental hospital? Explore thousands of historic records from admission registers, staff books, governors’ minutes and even patients’ casebooks, available online for the first time.
This fascinating collection contains descriptions of your ancestor’s behavior, physicians’ notes and medical histories, and includes the criminally insane, plus a few famous assassins. Discover where and when your ancestor was convicted and the duration of his or her stay in Bethlem. The records include the name of James Norris, the American seaman who spent ten years in confinement and restraint in Bethlem in appalling conditions. His story led to a government inquiry and the passing of England’s Mad House Act of 1828.
“A Church of Our Lady that is named Bedlam. And in that place be found many men that be fallen out of their wit. And full honestly they be kept in that place; and some be restored onto their wit and health again. And some be abiding therein for ever, for they be fallen so much out of themselves that it is incurable unto man”William Gregory, Lord Mayor of London, 1450
Casebooks and admission registers from Bethlem
Explore thousands more hospital records in our collections
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This incredible collection, spanning 1683-1932 goes into detail about each patient, in many cases documenting their mental state and including photographs of the inmates once photography became available. The Bethlem records also detail the reasons that patients had been deemed insane, with first-hand accounts of the behaviour of both the inmates and their families.
The corrupt Monro family governed Bethlem hospital for 125 years, leaving chaos in their wake. Their callous and violent attitude towards patients in their care earned the institution its tragic nickname, Bedlam. The family were responsible for employing some of the hospital's most notorious apothecaries and physicians, famous for their brutal treatments.