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A Clearer, Bluer Sky: Exhibition in Bromley 24 Feb - 17 April

Until 17 April 2014, you can visit our exhibition in the Bromley Local Studies Archive to explore the changing landscape of the Monks Orchard Estate in West Wickham. In the 1920s, the site was converted from country estate to modern hospital, depicted here in maps, archive photographs and ephemera from the collections of the Bethlem Royal Hospital’s Archives and Museum (a version of the previous exhibition in the Bethlem Gallery). These historical items sit alongside new images of the contemporary site by photographer Max Reeves, taken as part of the Mansions in the Orchard project, supported by a Wellcome Trust People Award.

One strand of Mansions in the Orchard explores the impact of the Hospital’s relocation on the local area, following the move to the Bromley/Croydon border in 1930. For almost 700 years previously, Bethlem Royal Hospital had been situated in the heart of London. In the early 1920s, the Governors decided to move the hospital to its present location on the Kent and Surrey borders, and purchased the Monks Orchard Estate.

The Hospital Chaplain, Edward O’Donoghue, wrote of his various ‘pilgrimages’ to the developing site in the hospital magazine, Under the Dome, in the 1920s. He described surrounding Spring Park, West Wickham Common and the Shirley hills and woods as a ‘delightful pleasure ground’ for the growing neighbourhood. By 1926, there were also ‘handsome red brick houses springing up with magical celerity on both sides of the Wickham Road. Roofed to-day, and “Sold” to-morrow!’

Alongside the exhibition, the museum is also gathering local residents’ stories. Oral histories of long-term residents will be added to our collections, and we will further explore people’s current ideas about and associations with the hospital in a focus group at West Wickham Library on April 23. A talk and collections day at Bromley Central Library on 11 March offers another opportunity to get involved in the project. Local residents can hear about the history of the hospital in an illustrated talk, following which we are inviting them to bring along their own material on the hospital to share with us. Photographs, articles, press cuttings, objects or letters: we are interested in seeing anything relating to the Bethlem Royal Hospital. We are particularly keen on material concerning the social and working life of the hospital, including the onsite entertainment hall and farm (both since demolished).

If you are a local resident and are interested in being interviewed or attending the focus group, please contact us or phone the Museum on .

Exhibition details: 24 February – 17 April 2014

Opening times: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9.30am – 6pm; Tuesday & Thursday, 9.30am – 8pm; Saturday 9.30am – 5pm (closed Sundays)

Address: Bromley Local Studies Library & Archives, Second Floor, Bromley Central Library, High Street, Bromley, BR1 1EX

Travel: Nearest British Rail: Bromley South

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Photograph by Max Reeves (2013)