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Report - Severalls Asylum, Colchester, September 2013

Discussion in 'Asylums and Hospitals' started by 12318, Sep 30, 2013.

  1. 12318

    12318 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

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    One beautiful September day, Whitelighter and I decided that we didn’t need any sleep between our night shifts, so headed over to Colchester for the day. The target - Severalls Asylum. Having wanted to visit here since my first day on 28dl, I was more than a little excited on the drive over.

    Being rather unprepared for our first tête-à-tête with palisade fencing, it did take us a little while to defeat it, but a short time and lots of improvisation later I was inside and proceeding into the first building with a massive grin on my face, followed promptly by my companion.

    Five and a half hours later, with less than half the site covered and our endurance rapidly waning, we made it 2-0 vs the palisade guardian and headed home.

    So - history for those who have managed to miss it so far. A large hat tip to Wikipedia for it:

    Severalls Hospital in Colchester was a psychiatric hospital built in 1910 to the design of architect Frank Whitmore. It opened in May 1913.
    The 300-acre site housed around 2000 patients and the design was such that the 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.
    Psychiatrists were free to experiment with new treatments on patients seemingly at will, using practices now considered unsuitable such as electro-convulsive therapy and the use of frontal lobotomy.

    In her book ‘Madness in Its Place: Narratives of Severalls Hospital, 1913-1997’ 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 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 as part of care in the community, although a small section remained open until March 1997 for the treatment of elderly patients suffering from the effects of serious stroke etc. A few of the satellite villas as of 2013 are still operational as research facilities on the edge of the site.

    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.

    May 2011 - Colchester Borough Council's Planning Committee gives their approval for the erection of 248 new homes.
    Early 2012 - Phase 1 "Rosewood" (248 new homes) begins in the former Asylum's Farmland to the east of the main Hospital Buildings
    September 2013 - 1500 more homes approved for Severalls land


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    There is fire damage in a number of the buildings. This is why we can’t have nice things...
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    A great explore for lovers of peely paint
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    Isolation cell perhaps? The door had a small verticle rectangular window whereas the other small rooms (cells?) did not. Note the caged off radiator - this was also not the case in the other cells.
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    Note the small windows mentioned above
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    A number of doors had these signs, obviously they would have spent the majority of their time locked from the outside...
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    What we came for. Time started to run out so we had to pick up the pace, really glad I researched where this place was prior to our trip
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    Under the water tower - boiler pipes presumably?
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    The wonderful tower. Shame it was tight, would have loved to see the view from the top
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    This report is rather photo heavy, blame that on unbridled enthusiasm for the material. Managed to avoid Michael while we were there, which was a little disappointing to be brutally honest.

    Although multiple times we heard distant or whispered voices along with footsteps in the building with the solitary cells (inside which was a really horrible, oppressive atmosphere) Thing is - there was no-one there. There was never anyone there...

    One time that really sticks out, the whispers were at the bottom of the stairs we’d just ascended, right behind us. Another time footsteps were clear as anything in the room we’d just left and, having reached a dead end, we had to go back that way, only to be greeted with empty rooms. Doors banged, and other - more distant - voices were heard. Security? Fellow explorers? Past residents (in this life or the next)? Who knows...

    Hope you enjoyed the report - thanks for looking

    As always, full set available on my flickr page Severalls Asylum, Colchester, September 2013 - a set on Flickr
     

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