Posts Tagged 'W. Charles Hood'

Hospital Snapshots 1

This series will focus on the collection of photographs taken at Bethlem in the late 1850s by Victorian photographer Henry Hering.  Hering was a noted photographer of his day with his own studio at 137 Regent Street, good society connections and royal patronage.  Photographing patients of Bethlem would appear to be something of a departure.

Bethlem in the 1850s was changing under the reforming leadership of the new superintendent physician, Charles Hood.  It is Hood himself, rather than the hospital, who appears to have commissioned Hering; perhaps in part to document patients under his new enlightened regime.  It is likely that Hering was also attempting to document what was then known as the ‘physiognomy of insanity’; the idea that the face could reveal the essential nature within. Medicine at this point was attempting to classify mental illness and doctors saw the potential of the image for diagnosis.

John Conolly, the superintendent physician at Hanwell Asylum believed that those trained to observe patients’ physiognomy were better able to recognise and respond to signs of mental disorder.  He thought that melancholy for example would show the external signs of ‘a dusky and partially flushed complexion, …the head well formed anteriorly; forehead broad, but usually deficient in height.’

Examining this photograph of Eliza Josolyne he commented ‘The eyebrows are seen drawn into puckers expressive of inward suffering; and the upper lids droop over the downcast eyes.  Beneath the lower lids are furrows….The lower lip is depressed by the prevalent sorrowful thoughts; and the body and head droop in opposite directions.

Eliza was first admitted to Bethlem in 1851 aged 18 in an agitated and delusional state from which she recovered and was discharged.  Her two subsequent hospital admissions in 1856 and 1857, when this photograph was taken, describe her as having low mood.  Her illness is ascribed to anxiety at work and an inability to cope with being responsible for 16 rooms in a house where she was the only domestic.

We will return to Eliza’s story next month.


This research is being supported by a bursary from the Understanding British Portraits subject network.

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.


Just Visiting: Henry Morley

If Charlotte Brontë did visit Bethlem, as she anticipated, in 1853, what would she have seen there? It is impossible to say for certain, since no account of her visit survives. But a sense of the Hospital’s environs is given in an account written just four years later by a lesser literary figure of the Victorian era, Henry Morley.

In 1857 Morley was commissioned by his friend Charles Dickens to write an account of a visit to Bethlem for Household Words, Dickens himself having reported on a visit to Bethlem’s rival St Luke’s Hospital in 1852. Morley’s account is of an institution transformed in the early 1850s by the appointment of Bethlem’s first Resident Physician.

“We went over the hospital a week or two ago,” he wrote. “Within the entrance gates, as we went round the lawn towards the building, glancing aside, we saw several groups of patients quietly sunning themselves in the garden, some playing on a grass-plot with two or three happy little children. We found afterwards that these were the children of the Resident Physician and Superintendent, Dr. Hood. They are trusted freely among the patients, and the patients take great pleasure in their presence among them. The sufferers feel that surely they are not cut off from fellowship with man, not objects of a harsh distrust, when even little children come to play with them, and prattle confidently in their ears. There are no chains nor strait waistcoats now in Bethlehem; yet, upon the staircase of a ward occupied by men the greater number of whom would, in the old time, have been beheld by strong-nerved adults with a shudder, there stood a noble little boy, another fragment of the Resident Physician’s family, with a bright smile upon his face, who looked like an embodiment of the good spirit that had found its way into the hospital, and chased out all the gloom.”

Morley’s conclusion, after a review of Bethlem’s chequered history? That “thousands of middle class homes contain nothing so pretty as a ward in Bedlam” and that “as to all the small comforts of life, patients in Bethlehem are as much at liberty to make provision for themselves as they would be at home”.1

1 H Morley, ‘The Star of Bethlehem’, Household Words, 15 August 1857.

Henry Morley

Henry Morley, c. 1888

Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum at Tate Britain

Bethlem and its collections came under the spotlight in a discussion event hosted by Tate Britain on 1 December. Mike Jay (author of The Air Loom Gang, a study of famous Bethlem patient James Tilly Matthews) talked to Nicholas Tromans about his recently published work, Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum.

The conversation outlined Dadd’s life and work, and posed some interesting (if unanswerable) questions: was his illness the result of heatstroke and the stress of his travels or did heredity play a part (two of Richard Dadd’s siblings also became mentally unwell)? Does the crowded and often chaotic composition of works such as Contradiction (painted at Bethlem) serve as a sign of Dadd’s ‘madness’ or, having been removed from the world at large, was he simply free to pursue whatever style he chose without concern for prevailing fashions and commercial considerations?

The key place of Bethlem in relation to Dadd’s life and subsequent reputation was discussed at length, with particular reference to two physicians at the hospital who amassed collections of his work: Dr Alexander Morison and Dr William Charles Hood. The appointment of Patricia Allderidge as Bethlem’s first Archivist in 1967 was noted as an important milestone as it allowed for an alternative view of Dadd’s life to be presented, based on the careful consideration of archival evidence rather than political theory. Patricia’s catalogue for the Tate’s groundbreaking Richard Dadd retrospective in 1974 was for many years the only serious academic study of the artist.

Nicholas Tromans’ book, The Artist and the Asylum can be purchased from the Bethlem Archives & Museum shop for the discounted price of £20. He will also be formally opening the forthcoming exhibition, ‘An Artist Abroad’, in the Bethlem Archives and Museum on Saturday 11 February. The exhibition, focusing on Dadd’s early work, will run until 27 April. Visit our website for details.


Photograph of Richard Dadd painting Oberon and Titania at Bethlem Hospital

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