In England during the 17th and 18th centuries, one of the most terrifying places in which one could find themselves trapped was Bethlem Royal Hospital. This place has gained a sinister reputation which has cast a pall over asylums and mental institutions almost to this day. But what exactly was so memorable about the infamous institute that came to be known as Bedlam? How long has it really been around? Find out the answers to these questions and more below.

42. Quite a Mouthful

Bethlem was founded in 1247 in the city of London. It was originally named the Priory of the New Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem. We can see why it isn’t known by its original name!

41. Ancient Institution

Bethlem is the “oldest extant ” in European history—it has been open on a continuous basis for more than six centuries!

40. Let’s Try Doing Some Good

As the 13th century continued on, Bethlem became a hospital in all but name, providing care to poor people. It was also an institution of hospitality for visiting bishops and monks belonging to the order of Bethlehem.

39. Please Accept this Gift

The land upon which Bethlem originally stood was given as a donation by Simon FitzMary. FitzMary had been the Sheriff of London and also served as an alderman (a public official). After a career in politics had left him wealthy, FitzMary wanted to give some of that wealth to the Church. We shudder to think how he would have reacted to how his gift of property was used!

38. An Asylum by Any Other Name

The word “Bethlem” originated from the original name being shortened by the London population. It would also be pronounced “Bedlam,” which is how it is most often named within the zeitgeist.

37. It was Utter Bedlam!

The nickname “Bedlam” began being used as early as the Middle Ages. By the Jacobean era (the late 16th century to the early 17th century), the word “bedlam” was also being used colloquially to describe chaos or an uproar.

36. Recycling Settings

The original location of the hospital is now occupied by Liverpool Street Station.

35. Gross…

By the 17th century, the original building of Bethlem Hospital was falling apart. To make matters worse, the building stood over a sewer which frequently overflowed (we won’t elaborate on that any further). This building was replaced by the more iconic structure that is associated with Bethlem.

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