Bedlam, Broadmoor and Bed and Breakfast


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I don’t think I have ever mentioned before – ever – that I live on the edge of a volcano.

A metaphorical one, that is, not a great hulking crater two miles away or anything.

By volcano, I mean this: remember the farmers who farmed the slopes of Vesuvius , and the city of Pompeii whch sprawled beneath the sleeping giant?

Around here, we Β live close to a source of power and danger off a very different sort. For we live across the forest from Broadmoor Hospital.

Does the name ring a bell? Broadmoor is a high security hospital. Home to notorious killers and psychopaths, from Richard Dadd to Ronnie Kray.

Hospitals like this never existed until James Hadfield tried to shoot George III at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in 1800. Hadfield was traumatised after the Battle of Tourcoing, against the French. He was hit eight times on the head with a sabre before being captured by the French, they said.Post traumatic stress.

And after he had taken a pot-shot at England’s monarch he addressed him.

“God bless your royal highness;” he said to him. ” I like you very well; you are a good fellow.”

Hadfield was tried and found guilty but insane.

Until then, those acquitted by reason of insanity had been released back to their families; but one couldn’t have him coming back for another shot at his Majesty.

So they passed a new law, and made a couple of wings at Bedlam to contain those who were criminally insane.

But the wings were soon bursting at the seams. So they built a new hospital, far from anywhere, but close to London. And they sent those who needed secure detainment and medical care there. To Broadmoor Hospital.

It’s a grade II listed building these days: a staunch red fortress. And now, Anywhere has come quite close, so that a village nestles there and a dual carriageway snakes past, and boys play football in its shadow, on the edge of this particular volcano.

There is rarely an escape. The last one was when I was about to get married in the early nineties.

And recently, the old Victorian building has failed its inmates somewhat. It is no longer fit for purpose.

So what to you think the beleaguered West London Health Authority proposes to do about this dilapidated Gormenghast?

There is rather a lot of talk about turning the old building into a luxury hotel.

I kid you not. Its former residents are the stuff of modern-day folklore, and developers are of the mind to create a strange tourist atraction indeed.

Work has already begun on building a state of the art modern hospital, though the hotel is still just a proposal. Our favourite fast road now has average speed cameras all along it, prior to the beginning of the construction of an access road to Broadmoor for all the trucks, bringing bricks and mortar and change for some of our most dangerous members of society.

And the old place?

If they made it into a hotel, would you pay to stay there?

The BBC new article on the possibility of a hotal at Broadmoor can be found here


49 thoughts on “Bedlam, Broadmoor and Bed and Breakfast

  1. as I suspect I am usually batty enough for them to have wanted me there in the bad old days, maybe I’d give it a pass. Thank you all the same.

  2. I’d give it a wide berth. “Health Spa, Gymnasium, 3 Michelen Star Restaurants and Electric Shock Therapy are all availalbe in our weekend break gold package (why not upgrade to the padded cell for real peace and quiet?”)

  3. I might stay there if they hung Richard Dadd originals on the walls…

    Thinking about it, is there a Shrewsday musing about Dadd? If there isn’t, isn’t it about time?

    (If I were partial to emoticons I would place a smiley face here. But as I’m not, instead favouring a series of dots to express a obvious thought which doesn’t need expressing… )

  4. Was there really a place for the criminally insane named Bedlam? Is that where “bedlam” comes from? Oh, off I go for a visit with Mr. Google, and, oh, I’m not sure I whether I would stay there or not, Kate. I have stayed at B & B’s reputedly harboring ghosts, so . . .

    1. Bedlam was Bethlem Hospital, Penny; and two wings were, later in its chequered history, set aside for the criminally insane. Bedlam was the world’s oldest psychiatric hospital, and has been around for 600 years or so; but it was the 1800 Criminal Lunatics Act which meant psychiatric patients with criminal tendencies were put in a separate area. And yes: the name became synonymous with madness.

  5. At least the building would continue to be used. Given some of our crazy adaptive reuses over here, nothing surprises me. And yes, if you locked the door when I showed up and asked to stay with you, I would probably fit in a former loony bin.

  6. I would have to pass on this. Locally we have a former mental institute that has been converted into apartments(?). Supposedly there’s a lot of crazy stuff that goes on. But even without that I wouldn’t want to stay in any such place.

  7. We do indeed see the strangest of bedfellows when it comes to re-inventing buildings. Perhaps each room will display a plaque describing the crimes of previous occupants, that should make for a few sleepless nights.

  8. There’s something very frightening about the concept of hospitals for the criminally insane. I sometimes think that the treatment meted out to the prisoners by their overseers may well have been as mad and cruel as the crimes for which they had been committed..

    1. I agree, The vulnerable are always just that, however psychopathic they might be. There are always those who believe in a treatment to the detriment of the patient; or will take advantage of the power accorded to them. As Saville showed.

  9. Does this mean you’re hiring out as a bed and breakfast or are you putting up a lemonade stand to catch the tourists on they way to their night’s rest? We have a hotel here that used to be an old school in the 40s. It still gives some of us nightmares to think of Mrs. Garner, the 4th grade teacher.

  10. Fascinating. As it happens the famous Broadmoor Hotel and Resort is located just south of here in Colorado Springs. I doubt it was named after an old mental hospital in England, but it’s interesting that now that hospital might become a hotel. And no, I think I’d find accommodations elsewhere.

  11. Interesting post. Personally, I’d find it a bit creepy and would pass on staying there – though I suspect it could do quite well. I’m just thinking of how some people seek out places that are reputedly haunted or the scene of horrors. No matter how much it’s “prettied” up, this building will always retain its history – for good and ill.

    1. Hi, Shelley! Thank you for dropping by to read and comment. I agree – Broadmoor’s notoriety will probably guarantee it a bright future. And the walls will tell their stories, as they always have.

  12. Yes, I would – indeedy πŸ™‚ They are doing a similar thing to Brisbane (capital city of the State of Queensland which I live in – the State not the city) to the notorious Boggo Road Jail – turning it into a luxurious, trendy apartment and shopping precinct πŸ˜‰ – may the ghosts haunt all capitalists who venture near – haha

  13. I love your reference to living on the edge of a volcano, Kate. That’s a brilliant image. I would have a lot of trouble sleeping in a “retired” mental hospital. I know I would be too sensitive to the stories I’d either recall or the ones I’d end up imagining!

    1. martin, I remember your post on Colney Hatch very well. Intriguing. They are beautiful old buildings, when all is said and done. But having the present incumbents living just down the road would be a slight turn off for me!

  14. After reading Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island” and seeing photos of places like this, I would find it too unsettling to rest easy in such a place. By the way, what did they do with the former inhabitants?

      1. Sorry, Kate. I realized you did answer that in your post. “Our favourite fast road now has average speed cameras all along it, prior to the beginning of the construction of an access road to Broadmoor for all the trucks, bringing bricks and mortar and change for some of our most dangerous members of society.” It’s nearly 3 a.m. here and I guess I’m ready for bed. πŸ™‚

  15. I have so many of your posts to catch up on, Kate…. I am just demented enough that I would absolutely stay at Broadmoor if they turn it into a hotel. It’s a creepy looking building and it’s very evocative of its past. I would also have stayed at the old Bedlam but since they turned it into the Imperial War Museum, I probably won’t. I’ve been to the IWM, though. It was wild, walking through the exhibition of WWI trenches, also knowing that the building once housed so many patients of varying stages of mental illness. Sad, too.

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