On this day in 1669, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:
“I to the office, while the young people went to see Bedlam”.
The Priory of St Mary of Bethlehem (“Bedlam”) was originally founded just outside Bishopsgate in 1247, becoming a hospital in 1329, a mental hospital of a sort in 1403, and infamous for the shameful ill-treatment of its inmates by all and sundry thereafter. It survived the Great Fire of 1666, but nonetheless required to be rebuilt by Robert Hooke in Moorfields in 1675. It was subsequently rebuilt again at the junction of Kennington Road and Lambeth Road in the Borough of Southwark in 1815, and finally relocated to the site of a former country house estate in Beckenham in the Borough of Bromley in Kent in 1930. Corporation “Blue Plaques” mark the two former City sites of the hospital (the Southwark also site survives to this day, and has housed the Imperial War Museum since 1936). The Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber’s (1630-1700) extraordinary statues of figures representing “Raving and Melancholy Madness”, that used to stand outside the old hospital in Moorfields, may now be seen inside the museum of the new one in Beckenham.
Archaeological excavation work is currently ongoing on the associated burial ground just outside Bishopsgate, originally established in 1569. Among the 20000 or so Londoners known from surviving records to have been laid to rest here are Robert Lockyer, a Leveller executed by firing squad during the Civil War, in 1649; and a number of people killed in Thomas Venner’s rebellion, in 1661. Also a large number who died in the Great Plague in 1665 (including one Mary Godfree, whose gravestone has recently been found).