Posts Tagged 'Bedlam Bones'

The Bedlam Bones: Excavation, History and Myth

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that we’ve long been pointing out the holes in stories claiming the skeletons unearthed at Bishopsgate as part of the Crossrail project were former patients of the Hospital. We even drew attention to the efforts of turn-of-the-twentieth-century chaplain, Edward Geoffrey O’Donoghue, to trace any references to the first Bethlem Hospital in local parish registers, which included the surprising revelation that “old Bedlam” (as he put it) “was not without its amusements, for on July 25th 1618, the burial is recorded of William Marshall, who died suddenly in the Bowling Alley in Bedlam.”1

Yet the ‘Bedlam Bones’ tag seems to have caught the attention of the media, and is now apparently well nigh unshakeable. This coming Saturday, however, visitors to the Museum will be able to hear the Bethlem Archivist explain the real history of the “New Churchyard by Bethlem”. The free talk starts at 2pm, and visitors will also be able to see a new exhibition in the space: Back From Holiday. In the last few years, many of our paintings have been out on loan around the world. This display features some of these temporary absentees, now back home in Beckenham, including work by Vaslav Nijinsky, Jonathan Martin, Richard Dadd and Louis Wain.

Other events coming up will focus on some of the works recently returned to the Museum. On 2 November, a free talk on James Tilly Matthews explores his sketch of the “Air Loom Gang” that he believed were persecuting him, while December’s Saturday talk (on 7 December) will focus on Nijinsky, whose drawing A Mask, is on display. For full details of upcoming events, visit our website: or join the mailing list.

 photo Masksmallc1919b_zpsa8fbd3a9.jpg

1 Under the Dome, vol. 3 no. 11 (30 September 1894), pp. 107-108.


Those Bedlam Bones Again 2

The early history of Bethlem featured in a well attended talk given at the Crossrail Visitor Information Centre on Wednesday evening. Project archaeologist Mike Court described some of the discoveries made at Liverpool Street, where excavations are taking place close to the original site of the hospital. Finds have included a Roman key and medieval bone skates dating from a period where the ‘Moorfields Marsh’ regularly froze over in winter.

Mike went on to describe the key find on the site: human remains removed from a burial ground adjacent to the hospital, which have received considerable press coverage in the past year (as we have already reported), some of it quite sensational in nature. Fortunately sensationalism was not the order of the day at this event, and the focus was instead on the different types of burial discovered and the discovery that local people also used the area as a dumping ground for industrial waste!

There will be two further talks at 6.30pm today, Wednesday 17 October and Wednesday 24 October. The exhibition Bison to Bedlam: Crossrail’s Archaeology Story So Far continues until 27 October.

Venue: Crossrail Visitor Information Centre
16-18 St Giles High Street
London WC2H 8LN

Exhibition open 11am – 7pm Tuesday – Thursday and 10am – 5pm Saturday

Admission free.