(contraction of Bethlehem)
Famous asylum, London, originally on the site of the present Liverpool Street railway station; founded, 1247, by Simon FitzMary, sheriff of London, for the Order of Saint Mary of Bethlehem, as a general hospital for the poor, with the special duty of entertaining the bishops and canons of Saint Mary of Bethlehem, as often as they might come to England.
About 1405 it began to be used as an insane asylum; in 1674 it was moved to Finsbury Circus, to a site still called Old Bedlam; the present building in Saint George's Fields, Southwark, was erected in 1815.
Formerly managed, by religious who made every effort to cure their patients, Bedlam later became a center of cruel abuses; in the 18th century, raving maniacs were exhibited to visitors at a charge of one penny for admission.
Bedlam is now famous for successful treatment of the insane.
New Catholic Dictionary