Posts Tagged 'Bethlem Royal Hospital'

Hospital Snapshots 10

Observable evidence was thought to be crucial in documenting changes and determining recovery so drawings and later photographs could be valuable tools. The case of Eliza Ash provides a good example of the type of noticeable change that might suggest progress. There are three drawings of her, made when she was a patient at Bethlem in the 1840s suffering from mania, with brief comments added by Alexander Morison. (see previous month)

Eliza Ash pic. 1

Though some details are similar, she does not look at the artist in any of the drawings for example, some change in Eliza is visible. On her admission she was said to be ‘violent and mischievous, with incoherence of speech’ and the first drawing was made when she was in this state. We have a clear view of her face; her head held at a slight angle so that she is looking down and off to the side. Her mouth is closed but her lips are not pressed together to denote any tension. Her oval face looks longer due to the cropped hair which sits close to her head, well off her forehead, cut round her ears so that both are visible. The overall impression is perhaps of someone lost in their own thoughts.

It is not clear if Eliza is standing or sitting but she has her arms raised and clasped loosely at chest height. Much of her dress is visible but, as is typical with the drawings, it is merely sketched in. It has a high scooped neck unadorned with any type of collar, quite a full skirt and full sleeves which are narrowed to a cuff at her wrist.

Eliza Ash pic. 2

In the second, Eliza is seen in a three-quarters profile. She appears at some distance from us. Her face is rounded and well filled out though the chin is quite defined. Both eyes are visible. She has short styled hair that partially covers the ear. Some, at the rear, appears to be longer or to have come loose and is trailing down her neck. Her mouth is closed. She appears open and relaxed, almost as if she is inwardly smiling, though perhaps at something only she is privy to.

Eliza is wearing a loose fitting dress, not much more than the scooped neckline visible. The impression is of someone sitting rather than standing, perhaps with her hands in her lap. Her posture betrays some tension, the shoulders a little hunched.

Eliza Ash, pic. 3

In the final picture, Eliza appears to be nearer to us, we see her more clearly. The three quarter profile is sharper; on the right only the eye lid and lashes are visible. Everything about the image is more defined; the face has lost some of its roundness, the eyes wider and clearer, the nose more shapely. Once again, the mouth is closed. Her hair, though similar to the first picture, is slightly shorter, revealing the whole ear. It is styled more elegantly, the line perfect.

Eliza’s dress appears more fitted, darts at the front are hinted at. It is trimmed with a narrow white band at the neck. Her body language gives her more of a dynamic air and the impression is one of someone standing with arms at their sides or perhaps loosely clasped in front. This final picture lends her more personality than the first, though arguably she conforms to the nineteenth century ideal of female normality. Everything in it seems to be pushing us towards the conclusion that we only have to look at her to see that she is convalescent.

UPDATE: If you want to help us to bring our photography collection into the 21st century then help us win the chance to work with acclaimed photographer, Rankin by voting here:  We want to use this as a chance to show that you cannot tell if someone has a mental health issue by their appearance.


Richard Dadd: An Artist Abroad Opens This Week

A new exhibition on Richard Dadd, focusing on his early work and career, opens this week in the Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives & Museum. On Saturday 11 February, Nicholas Tromans (author of Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum, available in the Museum shop) will officially open the exhibition with a talk and book signing. The exhibition focuses on Dadd’s early work, often eclipsed by his later period in Bethlem and Broadmoor Hospitals during which time he painted some of his most famous works. Yet, prior to this, Dadd had already established a reputation as an artist.

Richard Dadd began to exhibit his work in 1837, at the age of twenty, and soon began to make a reputation. He was considered to be one of the most promising young artists of his generation. At the age of twenty-five he was employed to travel with Sir Thomas Phillips through Europe and the Middle East, and make drawings of the places they visited. The Bethlem Art Collection contains paintings, sketchbooks and letters from this period of Dadd’s life, and the exhibition (running until 27 April 2012) will focus on this ten month period of Dadd’s life, towards the end of which the artist developed symptoms of severe mental disturbance, resulting in his hospitalisation in 1843.

Tromans has carried out extensive research on Dadd’s life, as well as his art. Indeed, his research on Dadd’s later paintings suggests that the travels of 1842-3 remained a strong influence on the artist in later life. Despite being best known for his fairy paintings (the most famous of which, The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke (1855-64) was painted at Bethlem), after his transfer to the newly-opened Broadmoor Hospital in 1864, Tromans indicates that Dadd almost entirely left behind his fairy iconography, instead focusing on the landscapes he had travelled through with Phillips. The topic of this exhibition is therefore a pivotal period in Dadd’s life.

Exhibition details:

Exhibition open: 2nd February – 27th April

Opening Event: 11 February, 2pm (Museum open 11am – 5pm)

Opening times: Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 4.30pm

& Saturdays 11 February, 10 March & 14 April, 11am – 5pm

Dadd Portrait of Thomas Phillips

A Clearer, Bluer Sky: Exhibition Opens Next Week

For almost 700 years, Bethlem Royal Hospital was situated in the heart of London; first of all in the City, at Bishopsgate and Moorfields, and finally just south of the River Thames at St George’s Fields.

In the early 1920s, the Governors decided to move the hospital to its present location on the Kent / Surrey borders, and purchased the Monks Orchard Estate. The hospital chaplain, Edward O’Donoghue, paid several visits to the site prior to the move and wrote about his visits for Bethlem’s magazine Under the Dome. He wrote: It was on a solitary day of sunshine in the midst of a week of rain that I adventured forth to catch a glimpse of the park, in Kent, upon which the fourth Bethlehem Hospital is to rise into a clearer, bluer sky.

This exhibition explores the conversion of the site from country estate to modern hospital through maps, archive photographs and art from the reserve collection of Bethlem’s Archives and Museum.

Exhibition details:

Opening Event (all welcome): 11 January 2012, 3 – 6pm
Exhibition continues: 12 January – 3 February
Opening times: Wed, Thurs, Friday, 11am – 6pm
Gallery & Museum open Saturday 14 January, 11am – 5pm

Address: The Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3BX
Nearest British Rail: Eden Park / East Croydon

Mansion and Lake 1 (2)

First Person Narratives 4: ‘One Good Year’ Part 2

The remainder of Jackie Hopson’s account, One Good Year: Being an in-patient in the Charles Hood Unit, Bethlem Royal Hospital, 1974 -1975 follows (to read part one, click here):

Something new for me, after the long, inactive days in county asylums, was occupational therapy, of which there were four sessions each week, one of them being entitled, “Social Skills”.  I particularly remember the well-equipped pottery workshop (I still have a dish I made at Bethlem by my bedside, 35 years later).  There were two gruelling but productive afternoon sessions on Wednesdays and Thursdays: these were Psychodrama (role-play, improvisation, reading dramatic texts and dance), led by the inspirational Miriam Plummer, and Art Therapy.  On Fridays, there was a large meeting of all patients and staff (medical, OT and social work) together in the big room.  We who were patients were involved in decision-making.  On one evening each week, one or two patients would collaborate to cook an evening meal for all patients and those staff who could come, which often included the consultant psychiatrist.  All of this was very different from the “them and us” set-up of the county asylums, where the staff members were, on the whole, more like prison wardens, who most certainly didn’t fraternise with patients or relate to us in any way that wasn’t disciplinary.

Because we lived in a hostel, slightly apart from the main hospital, I didn’t feel like an in-patient.  We went out to the supermarket, the pub (sometimes meeting escapee alcoholics from another Bethlem ward) and to the shops in Croydon.  Friends visited us in the hostel, sometimes staying overnight (though I never discovered the official policy on guests, if indeed there was one.)  All of this normality within our hospital experience made the transition to post-discharge life outside much easier.  We were in charge of much of our own lives, within the safe and tolerant setting of the hospital.

I remember several noteworthy events, some terrifying and others positively joyful.  The freedom and lack of hierarchy could be scary.  After one of us being permanently thrown out of the unit for violent behaviour, the rest of us, alone in the big room, smashed the entire supply of dinner plates against a brick wall.  This was both liberating and very frightening: the nurses left us alone in the ward.  We felt both powerful and scarily uncontained.  Another, more positive, day saw the whole group of eight patients (no staff!) setting off to London to celebrate the 21st birthday of one of our number.  We went to a great restaurant in Greek Street and had enormous fun on the way home, encouraging everyone on the tube train to sing, “Smile, though your heart is breaking.”  (Not many passengers joined in – they clearly thought we were bonkers!)  We were high on normal life and it was wonderful.

Sometimes we behaved like unruly children.  One day in the pottery workshop, the OT potter having left briefly, we had fun throwing lumps of clay at each other and the ceiling.  The OT leader returned to shout, “It’s bloody bedlam in here!” which, of course, increased the hilarity.

I am aware that we were a very privileged group, specially selected and given a most unusual opportunity to receive a rather experimental form of treatment.  My overwhelming memory is that we were considered as human beings with futures that we might realise, rather than psychiatric dregs to be confined, drugged and, at all costs, to be kept away from the “healthy” population outside.  The Charles Hood Unit at Bethlem set me off on a path to believing it might be possible to live.  When I left (I discharged myself, having become impatient with my life being on hold), I felt I was leaving a safe home, better able to cope in the outside world.

First Person Narratives 3: ‘One Good Year’ Part 1

Following on from two recent pieces on first person narratives (here and here), we are extremely grateful to the author of Through the Wasteland, Jackie Hopson, who has written us an account of her experiences at Bethlem’s Charles Hood Unit, entitled One Good Year: Being an in-patient in the Charles Hood Unit, Bethlem Royal Hospital, 1974 -1975, to be posted in two parts. She writes:

Winning a place in the Charles Hood Unit at Bethlem Hospital in 1974 was harder than getting into university and felt to me like a greater achievement.  There were two long and demanding interviews, each time with a roomful of doctors, nurses and social workers.  After the first interview, they sent me away with what seemed an insuperable task: to finish university, get a job and survive for a few months.  I sat down on the platform at King’s Cross Station and cried.  Some months and the second interview later, I was given a place.

Bethlem was very different from the county asylums where I had earlier spent many months.  I felt safe and settled at Bethlem: in other psychiatric hospitals I had felt punished, a prisoner, alert for possibilities of escape, fearful of ever-worsening, harsh, physical treatment and drugged into stupor.  Our time-table at the Charles Hood Unit was demanding but, with a small, supportive group of patients and a very informal, non-hierarchical atmosphere (all staff and patients were known by their first names), life was pleasant and felt pretty normal.  Some eight or so patients lived in a “hostel”, a large, comfortable house called “Winchelsea”, which was, I believe, the former Hospital Governor’s residence.*  We were all roughly between 20 and 35 years old and, almost without exception, well-educated, though some members had dropped out of higher education because of illness.  Every morning, we walked across the field to the Charles Hood Unit, where most of our activities (it didn’t feel like treatment) took place in a huge, light, high, wood-ceilinged room, comfortably furnished and with an adjoining kitchen.  We had lunch provided here by the hospital; breakfast and supper we made for ourselves at the hostel from an in-patient stipend of £4 per week.  This meant we had to shop in the local area and cook, together or individually.  We did our own cleaning and laundry in the house – and had to deal with the tensions that arose among the “tenants”.  We were given no psychotropic medication whatsoever.

As members of this therapeutic community, we had a full, five-day timetable, which ran from 0915 to 1600, except for Fridays, when we finished at 1400.  Many patients then went away for the weekend to friends or family.   Three times each week we sat on the floor in a circle in a small room for a ninety-minute group therapy session which was tape-recorded.  Normally a registrar and a senior nurse were present with the patients, sometimes two nurses; and these staff members might interject personal material, as well as helping us along with frequently very painful issues.  In addition, there were two one-hour hostel group meetings each week to deal with domestic problems, again with staff present: the small group of patients was together pretty much round the clock, so there were difficulties sometimes.  Each of us then had a 45-minute session of individual psychotherapy every week.

*Actually the former residence of the Hospital Steward

Eternal Maternal: New Exhibition at the Bethlem Gallery

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Perinatal Unit at the Bethlem Gallery, the new Gallery exhibition will consist of paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography exploring the theme of motherhood. Experiencing mental health problems during motherhood, or as a result of it, can still invoke stifling social taboos and stigmas. The trail-blazing service was designed to treat mothers whilst accommodating their babies at the same time rather than separating them. It has helped many families to recover and live fulfilling lives. The artworks have been made by artists, past and present, who have used the services of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Among the large-scale oil paintings and intimate sketches, the exhibition also features photography by patients from the Perinatal Unit, who have used the medium as a therapeutic tool.

Denise, a former patient of the unit, recounts her experiences of Bi-polar disorder and post partum psychosis, and the time she spent on the unit: “I think the mother and baby unit saved my life. At the Bethlem it was wonderful to be surrounded by people with such great experience… I was under 24-hour care and my daughter was with me from the start, which was a huge thing… You know, it would have been such a different experience without my daughter there with me. With her, I felt people trusted me. I wasn’t so barmy, and it was a reality check because my child needed me…. I was involved in occupational therapy sessions like digital photography, baby massage – which was lovely – and, oh yes, taking walks around the garden in the morning…. It’s so good when you see the medication working. Chemically, there’s a big difference between being ill and getting better. Your thoughts are paranoid and jumbled and then slowly you start to come out of the fog. All the time, there’s a net around you – people you can turn to; people who can see when you’re having a bad day.”

Women who experience difficulties often feel afraid of seeking help in case their parenting ability is questioned, and they risk losing their child. These days, wherever possible, mental health services try to help families to stay together, and to provide specialist support to keep people in their lives. The exhibition celebrates the remarkable achievements of the people involved and shows a wide variety of mediums, styles and perspectives. This moving subject matter encompasses tenderness, distress and jubilation in equal measure, all told from personal viewpoints whilst carrying messages which have universal resonance.

The exhibition opens on Wednesday 31 August, 3 – 6pm.

Exhibition continues: 1 – 23 September, Wednesday – Friday 11am – 6pm

Museum & Gallery open Saturday 3rd Sept, 11am – 5pm

Free Entry – All Welcome!

Address: Bethlem Royal Hospital | Monks Orchard Road | Beckenham | Kent | BR3 3BX

Travel: Nearest British Rail: Eden Park / East Croydon


In the Spotlight: Relatives 1

We are about halfway through our 2011 series of blog posts that put former patients of note In the Spotlight. This month and next we are taking a slight detour from the original rationale of the series in order to highlight a number of Bethlem patients who are rather less well known than one or more of their relatives. Their ‘celebrity’, such as it was, was unsought, and theirs was a reflected glory. This month we focus on relatives of four people associated with Bethlem or the Maudsley; next month we turn our attention to relatives of people who were otherwise in the public eye.

George William Dadd was admitted to Bethlem in the same year (1843) as his artist brother Richard, Richard being of course one of Bethlem’s most notable patients, the subject of an ongoing exhibition at Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham and a new book by Nicholas Tromans. Like his brother, George spent the remainder of his life in hospital, dying in 1868; unlike him, he had committed no crime and was not confined in Bethlem’s Criminal Lunatic Department. Security was such in this ward that it is unlikely that the brothers ever met in hospital, despite being under the one roof.

Anna Maria Haydon was admitted as a Hospital patient in 1866 and, like the younger Dadd, stayed there until her death in 1899. She was the sister of George Henry Haydon, long-serving Bethlem Steward, one-time colonial explorer and author of Five Years in Australia Felix (London, 1846). Anna’s thirty-three year stay in an institution that divested itself of most of its uncured patients on after twelve months is probably an index of the esteem in which her brother was held throughout the Hospital. There is more about Haydon (George, that is) in the Australian Dictionary of National Biography.

Frances Ada Hood, daughter-in-law to Dr W. Charles Hood, Bethlem’s reforming Resident Physician of the 1850s, was brought for admission to the Hospital by her husband Basil Hood on 31 December 1887. Like Anna Haydon, she did not recover at Bethlem. Unlike her, however, she did not remain there. Despite representations made by the Lunacy Commissioners for an extension to her stay in consideration of the services her father-in-law had rendered to the Hospital, she was discharged uncured after twelve months, and transferred to Berry Wood Asylum in Northamptonshire, staying there 26 years before a further transfer to Coton Hill Hospital in Stafford.

Mary Mapother was a Bethlem patient for two months at the age of thirty-five in 1908, and for a later three-year period. She also had periods of residence in Burgess Hill Hospital in Sussex and Coton Hill Hospital in Stafford. Her 1908 admission papers were signed by her younger brother Edward, then a medical student at University College Hospital. Later that year, Edward joined the staff of Long Grove Asylum, where he worked until the outbreak of the First World War. After distinguished service in the Royal Army Medical Corps, Edward was appointed by the Ministry of Pensions to run the Maudsley Hospital, which had been requisitioned by the military. Then, when the Maudsley was turned over to civilian use in the early 1920s, he was re-appointed by London County Council as the Maudsley’s medical superintendent, a post which he held throughout the remainder of that decade and the entirety of the one that followed. Edward Mapother is generally credited with setting the new hospital on a course which led to an international reputation for excellence in psychiatric research and teaching as well as clinical practice. The fact of his sister Mary’s admission to Bethlem in the closing months of his medical training raises the intriguing possibility that the experience of mental distress within Edward’s own family had some bearing upon the trajectory of his eminent medical career.

Charles Hood

Photograph of Sir William Charles Hood

Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives & Museum