Mental disorder has always had its share of fear and stigma which is still evident in the walls of many asylums. The abandoned buildings have their tales of being haunted by the ghosts of their past. More so when we realise that the once inhabitants had been declared to be clinically insane by the society. Having been inhabited by the mentally challenged, their bad memories magnifies within the walls of the architecture. Yet asylums stand still to great character, rare solace, and irresistible magnetism for urban explorers. The era of old lunatic asylums is over as many of the modern psychiatric hospitals were closed down during the late 20th century, as the British society shunned the practice of isolating people suffering from mentally illness in secure institutions. The Care in the Community Act of 1980 has marked the transition in the way these people are being treated. We are showing you the ten creepiest yet most fascinating abandoned asylums in the UK.
1. Deva Asylum
Deva Asylum lies in the grounds of the still-in-use Countess of Chester Hospital but now it is abandoned. It started operations in 1829 and was originally designed by William Cole Jr. to house 500 patients and expanded with new annexes until it could finally hold over 1,500. It officially shut its doors in 2005 and since then it has been exposed to the forces of nature. Some sections look like they are still in use.
Deva has been beautifully preserved though not in use anymore. Many parts have their power and water supply still intact and even the cramped rooms, labs and pharmacy is in good condition. The asylum also housed the legendary hazard room painted as an art piece a few years back. The high security seclusion cells and an intact dentist’s chair tucked away deep inside the bowels of the service tunnels gives the illusion of the asylum’s functioning.
2. Whittingham Asylum
One of the largest asylums in the United Kingdom it was built in 1869 on the designs of Henry Littler in the woody grounds of Lancashire. During its heyday the asylum's main building and annexes housed 3533 patients and 548 staff. It had its own farms, telephone exchange, post office, reservoirs, gas works, orchestra, brass band, butchers and brewery and even a railway station. It was a model of a self-contained asylum. It pioneered the use of EEG, the recording of the brain’s electrical activity.
The military had taken over the asylum during World War I and II but this giant institution decayed as large institutions fell out of favour with the Mental Health Act of 1960. It had its fair share of controversies as allegations of abuse against patients led to a public inquiry and many of the staff members were dismissed. Patients were given new therapies and relocated during the ’70s and ’80s and the final curtain was pulled in 1995. Since then this site has been in a bad state of disrepair and one section has been flattened but there are plans for redevelopment.
3. St. Mary’s Asylum
St. Mary’s Asylum in Northumberland lies in an isolated location whose decay hasn’t erased its past. The chapel, superintendent’s residence and main entrance remain almost intact. GT Hine had designed the asylum which draws inspiration from Hellingly and opened its gates to patients in 1914. It was soon taken over by the army during World War I. The isolation hospital was modified to form a sanatorium for TB patients and again it was taken over by the forces during World War II.
There have been proposals to redevelop St. Mary’s but the buildings narrate the story of a bygone era which are on the lips of a few occupied staff residences. The Grade II listed buildings have remained in remarkably good condition, probably because of their remote location. The boiler house chimney has collapsed due to structural failure and its emergency medical huts were demolished prior to the hospital’s closure in 1995. The equipment from inside the hospital is missing.
4. St. John’s Asylum
One of the main attractions in the St. John’s Asylum is the imposing water tower. The Lincolnshire asylum built by John R. Hamilton welcomed patients in 1852. It also features a freshly restored façade but the interiors have a different story to tell altogether. It was initially built to accommodate 250 inmates but was later extended to house more. The inmates had to cultivate the grounds, provide vegetables and dispose sewage. Ironically they were called visitors.
The asylum was shut down in 1989 and fell into the hands of the developers who have converted half of the site into houses. The main building survived owing to its Grade II which protects it from demolition. Most of the rooms in the building have been stripped bare but the Y-shaped stairwell still attracts attention so do extremely cramped cells lining the long, barren corridors. St. John’s formerly had its own cemetery together with chapel and mortuary but all the three don’t exist anymore now.
5. Hellingly Asylum
The name has a hell in it to make you feel scary about the place. The asylum is on top of a hill overlooking the East Sussex countryside and reminds visitors of a grand psychiatric hospital that stood there once. The asylum was built by GT Hine, who was one of the most esteemed asylum architects of his time and opened its doors in 1903. The building epitomised splendid isolation philosophy which was evident in its design. It boasted of its own tram and railway.