Bedchambers at St. Jørgen’s Hospital

Surrounding the common areas in the main and small wards were many small bedchambers for the hospital’s residents. Around the main ward there were 40 such chambers and around the small ward there were 16. The rooms were barely four square metres and each room was supposed to accommodate two people. As the number of leprosy patients declined in the late 19th century, each resident got their own room. At that time, numerous people applied to be transferred from Pleiestiftelsen Hospital to St. Jørgen’s. One reason for this was that you could have your own room at St. Jørgen’s, while you had to share a room with six others at Pleiestiftelsen Hospital.

Each room had a door facing the common area and a window on the opposite wall. In the 1840s, Danielssen described there being eight rooms with no windows at all that were completely dark. The rooms were simply furnished and barely had enough space for anything other than the two beds. Two of the patient rooms in the hospital are presently furnished with two beds and a small table under the window, which is how they may once have looked when residents lived there.

Danielssen describes these ‘cells’ in his report to the ministry in 1841. They almost never aired them out and often kept the door shut, so the air in the small rooms was very oppressive. The residents also kept food in the rooms, such as butter, cheese, milk and fish, and the smell of the sick patients and the food created an ‘atmosphere’ that he could barely tolerate: ‘(…) it is impossible for me to spend even a short time there, before I have to let in more fresh air.’

Two bed chambers in St. Jørgen's Hospital. Photo: Bergen University Library.
Some of the bedchambers in the main ward sometime after 1900. In the room to the left are elaborate tablecloths and pillows, a mirror and lace curtains. In the room to the left, there are potted plants in the window.
Photo: University of Bergen Library.
From the hospital's main ward in the 1930's. Photo: Olav Espevoll © University Museum of Bergen. CC BY-SA 4.0
The first floor of the main ward in the 1930s, with a row of small bedchambers along the gallery on both sides of the ward. There were a total of 20 small rooms along the galleries.
Photo: Olav Espevoll © University Museum of Bergen. CC BY-SA 4.0
Bed chamber in the 1930's. Cropped photo: Olav Espevoll © University Museum in Bergen. CC BY-SA 4.0
One of the bedrooms in the 1930s, when there were so few residents that they no longer had to share rooms. It appears that a woman lives here, and she has an embroidered tablecloth and many family photographs, pictures with religious themes, and a mirror.
Photo: Olav Espevoll © University Museum of Bergen. CC BY-SA 4.0
Drawing signed by Harald Namtvedt i 1942. Architects' Association, ArkiVest.
Illustration of a furnished room signed Harald Namtvedt in 1942.
The archive of the National Association of Norwegian Architects, ArkiVest.

Bed chamber. Photo: Bergen City Museum.
Two of the bedrooms in the main ward are now furnished with beds and interiors to illustrate how they may have looked in the late 19th or early 20th century. When the museum opened in 1979, bedspreads, tablecloths and numerous other items were loaned from Old Bergen Museum, as no personal belongings remained from the last residents.
Photo: Bergen City Museum.
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