Melancholy (right) and Raving (left)
On arrival at the recently re-opened Bethlem Museum of the Mind I was met by Raving and Melancholy Madness. These two iconic, 7 foot tall, reclining figures depict two different forms of mental ill health. They were made by Caius Gabriel Cibber, who also made the bas relief at the base of The Monument, and the sculptures were originally on display at the hospital’s entrance in Moorgate, from 1676 to 1815. When the hospital moved, into the building which is now the Imperial War Museum London, the statutes were moved to the entrance hall but kept behind curtains. Today once again they welcome visitors to Bethlem Royal Hospital as they grace either side of the beautiful, art deco staircase.
Today these sculptures remain a dramatic depiction of mental illness. They are also in remarkably in good condition despite spending many years outside.
Melancholy, depicting a depressive state, looks calm and expressionless as he reclines on a mattress.
In contrast opposite is Raving, depicting a manic state, restless and shackled.
I found both statues very striking but in particuarly I found Raving's look of anguish very moving.
The video clip above features Melancholy and Raving Madness in their former museum gallery.
The Bethlem Royal Hospital is the oldest mental health institution in the UK, dating from 1247. Today the hospital is in Beckenham, South London, its forth location, with the first two being in the City of London. The hospital was nick named Bedlam, a term we use today to mean confusion.
The Musuem of the Mind explores the history of mental heath and its treatment with artefacts and intereactive displays, covering such topics as labeling and diagnosis, treatment and recovery. The adjacent art gallery showcases the creative artwork of people who have mental health difficulties. Despite the prevalence of mental illness, there is still so much stigma around, and the museum's display is thought provoking and challenges us about our ways of thinking about mental ill health.
This blog post is dedicated to the 1 in 4 British adults who experience some form of mental health difficulties every year.
Address: Bethlem Museum of the Mind, Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent, BR3 3BX
Nearest Train Station: East Croydon Station, followed by 119 bus (towards Bromley) or 198 (towards Shrublands) or Eden Park Station, followed by a 15 min walk or 356 bus (towards Shirley).Both train stations are in Travelcard Zone 5. (Personally, I travelled there via East Croydon, I would say if you're travelling from central London I think going via East Croydon is more convenient, as the trains are more frequent and journey time are faster).
Opening Hours: Wednesday – Friday and the first and last Saturday of the month, from 10am - 5pm. Check website for details.
Price: Free admission, donations appreciated.
Refreshments: Restaurant, Costa Coffee, Community Centre.
If you enjoyed this blog post you might like to read about my visit to the Royal London Hospital Museum.
The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds.