Sunday, 5 March 2017

Days Out In London: The Museum of the Mind

Now I love a little lie on a Saturday and Sunday.  I'm not like the teenager who sleeps in the loft.  He'd probably stay in bed until mid afternoon if I let him on the weekends that he spends with me. Sitting about propped up by pillows, drinking from my vat of tea until about 9am is more my bag.  That's what I'm planning to do this morning.

But yesterday I was up at the crack of dawn. 5am to be precise.  I was on a mission to catch the  6:20am  Paddington bound train at Newton Abbot.   For it was about time that I caught up with my fellow blogger Aril from Gnat Bottomed Towers.  It looks like she's beaten me to it in blogging about our little trip.

Aril and I have formed a firm friendship that started out from our shared habit of writing about all things random.  Twice yearly visits to London with her to  museums that are off the beaten track have now become firmly entrenched in my social calendar.  Previous trips have led us to explore the Hunterian, Geffrye and the Horniman (snigger!)  museums.   This time we hauled up at the Museum of the Mind at the Bethlem Hospital, more familiarly known in the past as Bedlam, the oldest psychiatrist hospital in the world.  If I tempt you to follow in our footsteps please be aware that opening times are limited and weekend access is restricted to the first and last Saturday of the month.

The loveliest friendly volunteers greeted us when we arrived.  We started our visit with coffee and cake  sitting in wonderful surroundings that housed a gorgeously gleeful textile exhibition. In contrast the  statues by Caius Gabriel Cibber entitled 'Raving' and 'Madness' either side of the stairway nearly moved me to tears, especially the man in chains.  He is a reminder of a past where poorly people were ill treated in this country.  Sadly this type of treatment still goes on around the world today.

Using lots of art that has been produced by people that have needed to be there over the years, the museum explores the history of the hospital and themes around mental health and illness.  Much of the work is quite disturbing, like this but  it arises from dark places in the soul.  They give us a privileged insight into suffering.
You can buy a version of the Inkblot test in the shop and this wallpaper adorns one of the walls. Your interpretation of what the splodges represent are meant to give clues about your underlying personality.  Aril and I came out completely different and probably should be sworn enemies.   Let's include the Wikipedia link that tells more, mainly because its inventor Rorshach was a bit of a honey!

There's art with happier themes as well as the melancholy including lots of cats by Louis Wain who was a patient at the hospital in the 1920s and '30s.  Maybe he was inspired by feline visitors to the grounds of the hospital.  Today there are parakeets in the trees surrounding the building.  I was quite excited but Aril was non plussed.  Apparently they're quite common in the area now.

I only took a picture of these bottles to be a bit arty and it came out quite well!

Here's another exhibit from that textile exhibition.

Until June the museum houses a temporary exhibition of the work of Stanley Lench,  another patient at the hospital.  He went on to study at the Royal College of Art and gained an international reputation.  More evidence that, from adversity something quite wonderful can be spawned.  This was my favourite piece but I must include one of his more typical colourful paintings as well.


I cannot recommend the Museum of the Mind more highly. It is such a though provoking place that is a feast for the sense and invokes emotion in all its forms. If you don't believe me, that darling Grayson Perry is a big fan too.

So where will Aril and I's trips to 'the middle of no-one' in the Big Smoke take us next.  During our debrief in the pub we've already identified somewhere wonderful.  Look out for another show and tell post from our shared travels in the autumn.


  1. The art mental health connection is fascinating. When government conservatives want to shut down funding the arts while also under funding mental health, the ignorance astounds me. I bet you two have fascinating conversations on your trips out.

    1. Oh we do. We are both chatterboxes. xx