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Bethlem’s Boardroom: Part Three

The chairs are dining chairs, which were made in about 1816, during the Regency period. The wooden parts are made of mahogany and stained and varnisheda, and the chairs are 860 mm high. There is one so-called elbow chair, which is at what one assumes is the head of the table. They are described as having moulded broad cresting with “tablet” panels to the horizontal rails, and they have turned and ringed legs. They are almost certainly the “twenty-six Mahogany Chairs with Leather Bottoms and Brass Beads” which, with two elbow chairs, first appeared in the 1816 inventory.

The figure standing in the corner may be Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred James Copeland, F.S.A., who was Treasurer of the Hospital from 1885 to 1896, and again from 1900 to 1920. He was also one of the historians of Bridewell and Bethlem. One of his chosen tasks had been to extract from the Hospital Court Minutes from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, matters of continuing value and interest.

Lieutenant-Colonel Copeland retired following a period of ill health in 1996. During his tenure he wrote many articles for the quarterly magazine ‘Under the Dome,’ which was edited by the Reverend O’Donoghue, the Hospital Chaplain, between 1892 and 1930, and which contained historical articles, news items about the doings of hospital staff and patients, and other items of general interest especially during the periods of the Boer War and the First World War. Lieutenant-Colonel Copeland came into the Hospital on Wednesdays. One of his especial concerns was the happiness of the Hospital’s patients.

After Lieutenant-Colonel Copeland retired as Treasurer in 1895, another Treasurer was appointed. He resigned in 1900 and (now entitled Colonel) Copeland resumed the role.

In June, 1901, Colonel Copeland lent to the Hospital two drawings of the

King Edward Schools. In December, 1902, Mrs. Copeland donated to the Hospital a portrait of her husband, which had been painted by H. T. Schafer. In 1903 and again in 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1913, Colonel Copeland donated books to the Hospital Library.

At Christmas, 1910, Colonel Copeland presented the Hospital with ‘a magnificent present of hares and pheasants’ which had ‘fallen to his own gun on some of the Bethlem Estates in Lincolnshire, and were sufficient to keep the Hospital for one day.’ (Quotation from ‘Under the Dome.’)

On the other hand, the figure in the corner could be the hall porter, William Gare, who was photographed in about 1910, wearing ceremonial robes and holding the porter’s staff with chased silver head, which was made in 1682. Mr Gare worked for the Hospital from 1876 until 1912, when he retired because of ill health. His robes and the porter’s staff continued to be used on Founder’s Days until the early 1980s.