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Bethlem Hospital And St Luke's
The chief point of interest in the subject to which this chapter has
reference, centres in the questions where and what was the provision
made for the insane in England at the earliest period in which we can
discover traces or their custody?
Many, I suppose, are familiar with the fact of the original foundation
in 1247 of a Priory in Bishopsgate Street, for the Order of St. Mary of
Bethlem, but few are aware at what period it was used for the care or
confinement of lunatics, and still fewer have any knowledge of the form
of the building of the first Bethlem Hospital--the word "Bethlem" soon
degenerating into Bedlam.
Before entering upon the less known facts, I would observe that an
alderman and sheriff of London, Simon FitzMary, gave in the thirty-first
year of the reign of Henry III., 1247, to the Bishop and Church of
Bethlem, in Holyland, all his houses and grounds in the parish of St.
Botolph without Bishopsgate, that there might be thereupon built a
Hospital or Priory for a prior, canons, brethren, and sisters of the
Order of Bethlem or the Star of Bethlem, wherein the Bishop of Bethlem
was to be entertained when he came to England, and to whose visitation
and correction all the members of the house were subjected.
The following is the wording of the original grant, slightly
abridged:--"To all the children of our Mother holy Church, to whom this
present writing shall come, Simon, the Son of Mary, sendeth greeting in
our Lord, ... having special and singular devotion to the Church of the
glorious Virgin at Bethelem, where the same Virgin brought forth our
Saviour incarnate, and lying in the Cratch, and with her own milk
nourished; and where the same child to us being born, the Chivalry of
the Heavenly Company sange the new hymne, Gloria in excelsis Deo ... a
new Starre going before them. In the Honour and Reverence of the same
child, and his most meek mother, and to the exaltation of my most noble
Lord, Henry King of England, ... and to the manifold increase of this
City of London, in which I was born: and also for the health of my soul,
and the souls of my predecessors and successors, my father, mother and
my friends, I have given, and by this my present Charter, here, have
confirmed to God, and to the Church of St. Mary of Bethelem, all my
Lands which I have in the Parish of St. Buttolph, without Bishopsgate of
London, ... in houses, gardens, pools, ponds, ditches, and pits, and all
their appurtenances as they be closed in by their bounds, which now
extend in length from the King's high street, East, to the great Ditch,
in the West, the which is called Depeditch; and in breadth to the lands
of Ralph Dunnyng, in the North; and to the land of the Church of St.
Buttolph in the South; ... to make there a Priory, and to ordain a Prior
and Canons, brothers and also sisters, who in the same place, the Rule
and Order of the said Church of Bethelem solemnly professing, shall bear
the Token of a Starre openly in their Coapes and Mantles of profession,
and for to say Divine Service there, for the souls aforesaid, and all
Christian souls, and specially to receive there, the Bishop of Bethelem,
Canons, brothers, and messengers of the Church of Bethelem for ever
more, as often as they shall come thither. And that a Church or Oratory
there shall be builded, as soon as our Lord shall enlarge his grace,
under such form, that the Order, institution of Priors, &c. to the
Bishop of Bethelem and his successors shall pertain for evermore.... And
Lord Godfrey, Bishop of Bethelem, into bodily possession, I have
indented and given to his possession all the aforesaid Lands; which
possession he hath received, and entered in form aforesaid.
"And in token of subjection and reverence, the said place in London
shall pay yearly a mark sterling at Easter to the Bishop of Bethelem.
"This gift and confirmation of my Deed, & the putting to of my Seal for
me and mine heirs, I have steadfastly made strong, the year of our Lord
God, 1247, the Wednesday after the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist."