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Bethlem’s Boardroom: Part One

21 September 2016

1. The Committee Room at St. George’s Fields, c. 1910 (photograph)

The photograph of the committee room at this period shows, in the middle of the ceiling, the chandelier. The chandelier was made in about 1757, of brass and gilt. It would originally have had candles to provide the lighting, and at some time – probably towards the end of the nineteenth century, electrical wiring has been added. The chandelier has  twenty-four lights with semi fluted stems, with a leafy corona ring and pendant finial, which are fitted with two tiers of twelve s-scroll branches, each with a scrolled knuckle, centre boss and shallow drip-pan (for the candle grease). The chandelier is engraved with an inscription and two contemporary that is eighteenth century, roccoco arms, spaced by a flower basket device. The chandelier is attributed to John Giles.  It was a gift from the Reverend Moses Wight M.D. to Bridewell Hospital in 1785. He was the Chaplain to Bridewell Hospital for 34 years during the 18th century.  

On the walls of the committee room are a number of portraits. The portrait of Henry VIII is attributed to the circle of Hans Holbein, and was hanging first in the Boardroom of the Hospital at Moorfields and subsequently at St. George’s Fields and later at Monks Orchard.The portraits of Edward Barkham and his wife, Mary, commemorate the fact that he left to the Hospital a large Lincolnshire estate for ‘the further and better Support Reliefe and Maintenance of poor Incurable Lunaticks.’ From 1733, the year of Barkham’s death, until early in the twentieth century, the income from this estate was the mainstay of the ‘incurable department’ for patients, so-called, which was initially housed in two designated wings of the Hospital on the Moorfields site.

In between the portraits of Edward Barkham and his wife, Mary, is the watercolour of the hospital by Sidney Smirke (1798-1877). He was an architect who designed the extensions to the St. George’s Fields building including the dome, between 1835 and 1846. He was also a painter who had been trained at the Royal Academy Schools.

You can read part two here! 

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