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Report - Severalls Asylum, Colchester - November 2013

Discussion in 'Asylums and Hospitals' started by Adam X, Dec 1, 2013.

  1. Adam X

    Adam X It's a derpy job...
    Regular User

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    The big one.

    El gordo.

    The site that I had promised myself that I would explore before the end of 2013.

    An ambition fulfilled – and then some.

    When Unexposed Exploration kindly offered to lead on what would be his 20th visit to Sevs, Kubix_UK and I needed no persuading. Apparently his first two visits to Sevs lasted 24 and 28 minutes respectively due to the prowess of Michael.

    We got lucky. It’s was one of Michael’s rare days off, and as a result we explored from (almost) dawn until (almost) dusk for 7 1/2 hours until exhaustion and a burning desire for McDonalds finally got the better of us.

    Not only did Sevs live up to and exceed my expectations, but the whole day was also just a fantastic laugh, and definitely up there as one of the most enjoyable explores so far. It was also the first time that I had no option but to tackle the evil that is palisade fencing.

    By way of (fairly obvious) disclosure you will see that quite a few of the shots are tonemapped. I know the general view on 28 about HDR, and it's not something I usually indulge in. I've done so here because the lighting conditions of the corridors of Sevs are (I think) one of the few places where if it's done with some restraint it actually produces a far more accurate representation of what they looked like to the naked eye than the substantially over or underexposed compromise that my compact camera would otherwise have produced. Each of the photos below are taken from a single RAW file - there was no multi-shot bracketing. I promise that such photographic quasi-blasphemy is therefore committed only with the very noblest of intentions, and that future reports will continue to remain as HDR-free as my previous reports.

    A brief background, courtesy of the ubiquitous wiki:

    Severalls Hospital in Colchester, Essex, United Kingdom was a psychiatric hospital built in 1910 to the design of architect Frank Whitmore. It opened in May 1913.
    The 300-acre (1.2 km2) site housed some 2000 patients and was based on the “Echelon plan†– a specific arrangement of wards, offices and services within easy reach of each other by a network of interconnecting corridors. This meant that staff were able to operate around the site without the need to go outside in bad weather. Unlike modern British hospitals, patients in Severalls were separated according to their gender. Villas were constructed around the main hospital building as accommodation blocks between 1910 and 1935. Most of the buildings are in the Queen Anne style, with few architectural embellishments, typical of the Edwardian period.

    Psychiatrists were free to experiment with new treatments on patients seemingly at will, using practices now considered unsuitable such as electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and the use of frontal lobotomy. The use of these treatments peaked in the 1950s. In her book Madness in Its Place: Narratives of Severalls Hospital, 1913-1997,[1] Diana Gittins notes that often women were admitted by their own family, sometimes as the result of bearing illegitimate children or because they had been raped. As they would not always (or were unable to) carry out daily tasks, they were considered to be insane and some were even subjected to ECT and lobotomy. A change in management during the 1960s (and likely a change in social acceptance) saw reforms introduced including the creation of art and music therapy programs and the widespread use of drugs and medication.

    The hospital closed as a psychiatric hospital in the early 1990s following the closure of other psychiatric institutions. However, a small section remained open until 20 March 1997 for the treatment of elderly patients suffering from the effects of serious stroke, etc., as a temporary building for nearby Colchester General Hospital which was in the process of building an entire new building for these patients. A few of the satellite villas as of 2013 are still operational as research facilities on the edge of the site. This includes “Chestnut Villa†(originally Children’s Villa), which provides laboratory services, and “Willow House†(originally Male Acute Ward), and Severalls House (originally the Medical Superintendent’s residence). “Rivendellâ€, a more modern building is still in use at the entrance to the site. Apart from Chestnut Villa, all remaining Buildings still in use are owned and run by North Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust (NEPFT).

    Since 1997 the remaining structures have changed little. Architecturally, the site remains an excellent example of a specific asylum plan. However, the buildings have suffered greatly from vandalism. In 2005 the main hall was subjected to an arson attack and in 2007 the charred building was demolished for safety reasons. The five boilers were removed from the Central Boiler House in 2007. In 2008, the sale of the hospital site, including its extensive grounds, collapsed due to the slow-down in the building industry.


    In the past few weeks there has been news of a new bid by a builder to purchase and redevelop the site. Whenever such development finally does go ahead the vast majority of the remaining buildings will be demolished, with only a handful of listed ones being preserved. Whilst Sevs isn’t going to disappear overnight, it looks as if the end might finally be approaching for this amazing place.

    Anyway, on with the photos...

    It was an early start after a particularly fitful half night’s sleep – I have trouble sleeping the night before an explore at the best of times, and this time even more so…

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    We thought we’d get a group shot in early doors in case Michael nabbed us.

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    And without further ado, on to the CORRIDOR PORN! :D

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    The world-famous Squirrels Boutique…

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    …and the not exactly unfamous bed.

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    A cheeky little panorama of one of the courtyards…

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    By now we were pretty much at the centre of the site.

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    The vast kitchen...
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    Adam X and Unexposed Exploration having a little rest in the mortuary…
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    The Admin building is a listed building, and as such is also one of the most secure on the site. However after some top secret manoeuvring we were in. The beautiful ornate carved staircase is by far the highlight of what remains…

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    We then ventured up into the attic…
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    This is the view looking back through a tiny hole in some boarding to where Admin is sealed off from the connecting corridors.
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    A couple more shots of those beautiful stairs…
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    Back into the main labyrinth of buildings…
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    We were the fortunate enough to come across a newly-created commemorative wall, signed with many moving comments by former patients and staff who we later found out had taken a special farewell tour only a few days before our visit.
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    The Water Tower and boiler room.
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    And with energy finally waning we walked back past Admin and headed home…
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    Epilogue
    I happened to revisit Sevs the following weekend with Unexposed Exploration and some other explorers – we got nabbed by Michael within minutes! :eek:

    [EDIT][photo removed as per Michael's request at Santa Sevs - sorry Michael, no offence intended as you are a true legend. I hope you enjoy your Xmas present from us all!][/EDIT]

    As always, thanks for looking.

    A slightly extended report is on my blog.
     

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