Bridewell and Bethlehem Hospitals

The Bridewell and Bethlehem Hospitals were two charitable foundations that were independently put into the charge of the City of London. They were brought under joint administration in 1557.

The Bethlehem HospitalEdit

The Bethlem Royal Hospital was founded in 1247 as the Priory of the New Order of our Lady of Bethlehem in the city of London during the reign of Henry III. It was established by the Bishop-elect of Bethlehem, the Italian Goffredo de Prefetti, following a donation of personal property by the London alderman and former sheriff, Simon FitzMary. The original location was in the parish of St Botolph, Bishopsgate's ward.[1] In 1546 the Lord Mayor of London, Sir John Gresham, petitioned the crown to grant Bethlem to the city. This petition was partially successful and Henry VIII reluctantly ceded to the City of London "the custody, order and governance" of the hospital and of its "occupants and revenues". This charter came into effect in 1547. The crown retained possession of the hospital while its administration fell to the city authorities.[2] Following a brief interval when it was placed under the management of the governors of Christ's Hospital, from 1557 Bethlem was administered by the governors of Bridewell.[3]

The Bridewell HospitalEdit

Edward VI grants a charter in 1553 to Bridewell Hospital

In 1553, Edward VI gave Bridewell Palace to the City of London for the housing of homeless children and for the punishment of "disorderly women". The City took full possession in 1556 and turned the site into a prison, hospital and workrooms.

Joint AdministrationEdit

In 1557 the administration of Bethlem Royal Hospital became the responsibility of the Bridewell Governors. The post of President was established, with first occupant being Sir Rowland Hill in 1557. [4]

List of Presidents of the Bridewell and Bethlehem HospitalsEdit

"The Prospect of Bridewell" from John Strype's, An Accurate Edition of Stow's "A Survey of London


  1. ^ Andrews, Jonathan; Briggs, Asa; Porter, Roy; Tucker, Penny; Waddington, Keir. The History of Bethlem. London & New York: Routledge; 1997. ISBN 0415017734.
  2. ^ Allderidge 1979a, p. 148
  3. ^ Allderidge, Patricia (1979a), "Management and Mismanagement at Bedlam, 1547-1633", in Charles Webster (ed.), Health, Medicine and Mortality in the Sixteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 141–164 [149], ISBN 9780521226431
  4. ^ Copeland, Alfred James (1888). Bridewell Royal Hospital, past and present; a short account of it as palace, hospital, prison, and school; with a collection of enteresting [sic] memoranda hitherto unpublished. Retrieved 26 December 2018.