Mansions in the Orchard: Bare Bones of the Museum
In the last two months, work has begun in earnest on the Museum of the Mind in the administration building at Monks Orchard. Features and fittings added over the past eighty years have been slowly removed, leaving the skeleton of the 1930s building behind. As part of our Mansions in the Orchard project, artist Max Reeves has been documenting the building, capturing the continuity as well as the changes.
This building still retains something of the people who have lived and worked in it over the years. An office chair waits patiently for its occupant to return, while a blue-tiled bathroom is still visible amid the rubble.
At a talk at Bromley Library earlier this month, we explored the Hospital's move to Beckenham in the 1920s. The site has certainly changed considerably since that time, although remnants of the stately home on the Monks Orchard estate, and especially its former gatehouses, can still be found. Similarly, the administration block retains the features of the hospital: not least its style, based as the new Bethlem was on a villa system of self-contained units. Unlike Bethlem's former home in St George's Fields (now the Imperial War Museum), the admin block does not form the centre-point of the wings of various wards, but is a separate space.
The next stage of our project will explore this shifting architecture. How have Bethlem's buildings reflected or shaped psychiatry of the twentieth century? And what role do these walls still play in the experiences of those who use them?