Extracts from Daniel Defoe’s Account of London

Selected by Pat Rogers
Introduction and Contents


The hospitals in and about the city of London, deserve a little further observation, especially those more remarkable for their magnitude, as,

I. Bethlem or Bedlam: This and Bridewell, indeed, go together, for though they are two several houses, yet they are incorporated together, and have the same governors; also the president, treasurer, clerk, physician and apothecary are the same; but the stewards and the revenue are different, and so are the benefactions; but to both very great.

The orders for the government of the hospital of Bethlem are exceeding good, and a remarkable instance of the good disposition of the gentlemen concerned in it, especially these that follow;

1. That no person, except the proper officers who tend them, be allowed to see the lunaticks of a Sunday.

2. That no person be allowed to give the lunaticks strong drink, wine, tobacco or spirits, or to sell any such thing in the hospital.

3. That no servant of the house shall take any money given to any of the lunaticks to their own use; but that it shall be carefully kept for them till they are recovered, or laid out for them in such things as the committee approves.

4. That no officer or servant shall beat or abuse, or offer any force to any lunatick; but on absolute necessity. The rest of the orders are for the good government of the house.

This hospital was formerly in the street now called Old Bedlam, and was very ancient and ruinous: The new building was erected at the charge of the city in 1676, and is the most beautiful structure for such a use that is in the world, and was finished from its foundation in fifteen months; it was said to be taken ill at the Court of France, that it was built after the fashion of one of the King of France’s palaces.

The number of people who are generally under cure in this hospital, is from 130 to 150 at a time.

There are great additions now making to this hospital, particularly for the relief and subsistence of incurables, of which no full account can be given, because they are not yet finished, or the full revenue ascertained: The first benefactor and author of this design itself, was Sir William Withers late alderman, and who had been lord mayor, who left 500l . to begin it with.

II. The hospital of Bridewell, as it is an hospital, so it is also a house of correction. The house was formerly the king’s city palace; but granted to the city to be in the nature of what is now called a work-house, and has been so employed, ever since the year 1555.

As idle persons, vagrants, &c. are committed to this house for correction, so there are every year, several poor lads brought up to handicraft trades, as apprentices, and of these the care is in the governors, who maintain them out of the standing revenues of the house.

There are two other Bridewells, properly so called, that is to say, houses of correction; one at Clarkenwell, called New Prison, being the particular Bridewell for the county of Middlesex, and another in Tuttle-fields, for the city of Westminster.

The other city hospitals, are the Blue-coat Hospital for poor freemens orphan children, and the two hospitals for sick and maimed people, as St. Bartholomew’s and St. Thomas’s: These three are so well known by all people that have seen the city of London, and so universally mention’d by all who have written of it, that little can be needful to add; however I shall say something as an abridgment.

III. Christ’s Hospital was originally constituted by King Edward VI. who has the honour of being the founder of it, as also of Bridewell; but the original design was, and is owing to the lord mayor and aldermen of London, and the Christian endeavours of that glorious martyr, Dr. Ridley then Bishop of London, who never ceased moving his charitable master, the king, till he brought him to join in the foundation. The design is for entertaining, educating, nourishing and bringing up the poor children of the citizens, such as, their parents being dead, or fathers, at least, have no way to be supported, but are reduced to poverty.

Of these, the hospital is now so far increased in substance, by the benefactions of worthy gentlemen contributors, they now maintain near a thousand, who have food, cloathing and instruction, useful and sufficient learning, and exceeding good discipline; and at the proper times they are put out to trades, suitable to their several genius’s and capacities, and near five thousand pounds a year are expended on this charity.

IV. St. Bartholomew’s Hospital adjoyns to Christ Church, and St. Thomas’s is in Southwark, both which, however, being the same in kind, their description may come under one head, tho’ they are, indeed, two foundations, and differently incorporated: The first founder is esteem’d to be King Henry VIII. whose statue in stone and very well done, is, for that very reason, lately erected in the new front, over the entrance to the Cloyster in West-Smithfield: The king gave 500 marks a year, towards the support of the house, which was then founded for an hundred poor sick, and the city was obliged to add 500 marks a year more to it.

From this small beginning, this hospital rose to the greatness we now see it arrived at, of which take the following account for one year, viz. 1718.


Cur’d and discharg’d, of sick, maimed and wounded, from all parts } 088
Buried at the expence of the house   198
Remaining under cure   513


V. St. Thomas’s Hospital in Southwark, has a different foundation, but to the same purpose; it is under the same government, viz. the lord mayor, aldermen and commonalty of the city of London, and had a revenue of about 2000l. per annum, about 100 years ago.

This hospital has received greater benefactions than St. Bartholomew’s; but then ’tis also said to have suffered greater losses, especially by several great fires in Southwark and elsewhere, as by the necessity of expensive buildings, which, notwithstanding the charitable gifts of divers great benefactors, has cost the hospital great sums. The state of this hospital is so advanced at this time, that in the same year as above, viz. 1718, the state of the house was as follows;


Cur’d and discharg’d, of sick, wounded and maimed, from all parts } 608
Buried at the expence of the house   216
Remaining under cure   566


Adjoining to this of St. Thomas’s, is lately laid a noble foundation of a new hospital, by the charitable gift and single endowment of one person, and, perhaps, the greatest of its kind, next to that of Button’s Hospital, that ever was founded in this nation by one person, whether private or publick, not excepting the kings themselves.

This will, I suppose, be called Guy’s Hospital, being to be built and endowed at the sole charge of one Mr. Thomas Guy, formerly a bookseller in Lombard Street, who lived to see the said hospital not only design’d, the ground purchased and cleared, but the building begun, and a considerable progress made in it, and died while these sheets were in the press.

It was not till this gentleman died, that the world were told it was to be a separate hospital; but it was generally understood to have been intended for a ward, or an addition to the old hospital of St. Thomas’s, for the reception of such as were accounted incurable.

But when Mr. Guy died, his will being made publick, it appeared, that it was really a separate, independent and distinct hospital, under distinct governors, and for a separate purpose, to wit, for receiving such poor persons as have been dismissed from other hospitals as incurable.

Nor are these restrained to the patients of the adjoining hospital of St. Thomas only; but they are allowed to receive such from St. Bartholomew’s also, and also from Bethlehem, only with this restriction as to the latter, That the number of incurable lunaticks shall never exceed twenty at a time. This hospital is, by Mr. Guy’s will, to consist of two great squares of buildings, in which, besides the offices and accommodation for necessary servants and overseers, who must be lodg’d in the house, such as stewards, treasurer, masters, matrons, nurses, &c. are to be beds and appartments furnished for four hundred patients, who are all to be supplied with lodging and attendance, food and physick.

What the revenue, when settled, will be; what the building will amount to when finished; what the purchase of the land, and what the expence of finishing and furnishing it, cannot be estimated, ‘till it be further look’d into; but we are told without doors, that besides all the expence of purchase, building, furnishing and finishing as above; there will be left more than two hundred thousand pounds for endowing the hospital with a settled revenue, for maintaining the said poor, and yet the charitable founder was so immensely rich, that besides leaving four hundred pounds a year to the Blue-coat Hospital of London, and besides building an hospital for fourteen poor people at Tamworth in Staffordshire, where he was chosen representative; and besides several considerable charities which he had given in his life-time; He also gave away, in legacies, to his relations and others, above a hundred thousand pound more, among which ’tis observable, That there is a thousand pounds a piece given to near eighty several persons, most of them of his own relations; so that he cannot, as has been said by some, be said to give a great charity to the poor, and forget his own family.

How Mr. Guy amass’d all this wealth, having been himself in no publick employment or office of trust, or profit, and only carrying on the trade of a bookseller, till within a few years of his death, that is not the business of this book; ’tis enough to say, he was a thriving, frugal man, who God was pleased exceedingly to bless, in whatever he set his hand to, knowing to what good purposes he laid up his gains: He was never married, and lived to be above eighty years old; so that the natural improvements of this money, by common interest, after it was first grown to a considerable bulk, greatly increased the sum.

This hospital is left to the immediate direction of his executors, and the governors, named in his will, who are at present most of them, if not all, governors of St. Thomas’s Hospital, and he has appointed them to apply to his majesty and the Parliament to have them incorporated.