South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) can trace
its roots back to 1247 when the Priory of St Mary of Bethlehem was
established in Bishopsgate - on the site which is now home to
Liverpool Street Station.
Alderman Simon FitzMary, a former sheriff of the City of London,
provided both funding and land for the priory which was linked to a
religious order. The priory is the earliest form of what eventually
became Bethlem Hospital. The names 'Bethlem" and 'Bedlam', by which
it became known, are variants of Bethlehem.
By the mid-14th century the priory was being used as a refuge
for the sick and infirm and possibly being used as a hospice for
travellers. By the 1360s, conditions at the hospital began to
improve, when a new church and other buildings were built. Towards
the end of the 14th century, people with mental illness were
accommodated in the hospital for the first time. 'Instruments of
restraint' are said to have been in use from around 1398.
It was in 1403 that Bethlem was first referred to as a hospital
for 'insane' patients and since then Bethlem Hospital has had a
continuous history of caring for people with mental health issues.
Records from 1403 show that, among others, the hospital housed six
mentally disturbed men.