Report - - Graylingwell Hospital, Chichester - April 2014 | Asylums and Hospitals | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Graylingwell Hospital, Chichester - April 2014


A life backwards
28DL Full Member

The Local Government Act, 1888 created the administrative county of West Sussex, with its own county council, from the three western rapes of the ancient county of Sussex, that is the rapes of Chichester, Arundel and Bramber. The newly formed West Sussex County Council took over the provision of public services not provided by the local boroughs and boards of guardians, including the care of the insane. Initially, the county continued to use the Sussex County Asylum at Haywards Heath by agreement with East Sussex County Council, but in 1893 following problems with overcrowding, left the union and purchased the Graylingwell Farm estate on the outskirts of Chichester for the purpose of building a new Asylum.

Design and construction
Construction of the asylum began in 1894 and was completed in 1897. The asylum was built of soft red brick with reconstituted stonework ornamentation roofed with slate in a classical Queen Anne style. Lodges and other outbuildings differed in their use of rendered upper storeys and the chapel was built in local flint and reconstituted stone with a red clay tiled roof.

The buildings followed the compact arrow design with wards and corridors radiating from a central service area containing offices, kitchens, a large hall, laundry, stores, water tower and a central power and heating plant. As was standard practice at the time, the asylum employed strict segregation of the sexes, with females confined to the east side of the site and males to the west. The hospital's extensive landscaped grounds also contained an isolation hospital, a chapel and several residences for staff.

The hospital was almost entirely self-sufficient until the end of the 1950s, with 60-acre market gardens and two farms (Graylingwell and St. Martin's). These were worked by able-bodied patients in return for tokens which could be redeemed against purchases in the hospital shop. The farm estate and stock were auctioned off on 25 March 1957 at which time there were 100 head of dairy shorthorns, pigs, sheep and poultry.

As a relief from the demanding manual labour required of physically able inmates, patients were allowed a wide range of social and leisure activities including sports, dances and fetes. The Main Hall provided a focus for these activities, having a proscenium stage, orchestra pit and two Gaumont-Kazee cinema projectors with Rank audio visual rectifiers.

War Hospital
At the outbreak of the First World War, the asylum was requisitioned to serve as a Military Hospital and the inmates were relocated to other asylums in the area. Casualties began arriving on 24 March 1915 directly from the Western Front, via train from Dover. The hospital was returned to civilian use in 1919 following a solemn ceremony during which the last patients left to the sound of the Last Post.

During the Second World War the hospital was not requisitioned but the Summersdale block was commandeered to serve as an acute battle neurosis unit for front-line casualties.

Further development
Following the return to civilian use in 1919, the asylum became known as Graylingwell Mental Hospital, the term 'asylum' having fallen out of general use by the 1920s (the term was later legally abolished by the Mental Treatment Act, 1930). Between 1930 and 1933 the hospital was extended to include an admission hospital (Summersdale), nurses' home, female tuberculosis ward and two female villas.

After 1948
In 1948, the hospital transferred to the National Health Service. At this time, the patient population exceeded 1000 and expansion was urgently needed. During the 1950s and 60s the hospital saw the extension of day rooms in acute wards, the addition of an occupational therapy department next to the chapel and a new block to the south west of the site.

Later extensions included outpatient clinics, a social club and changing rooms for the sports ground.

During the 1960s, The Observer reported that "Patients have every convenience at hand for night requirements, even down to carpet slippers. Blinds and curtains give a home-like comfort to the windows. Books, papers and magazines are liberally provided, while dominoes, cards and games of many kinds serve to cheer and lighten the evenings. Patients are encouraged to take part in outdoor sports, a good cricket and football field being provided. In the winter, dances, theatrical entertainments and concerts in the commodious theatre will continue treatment of the highest curative value."

Decline and closure
Graylingwell Hospital celebrated its centenary in 1997 with the publication of various books and pamphlets and an exhibition in the Chichester District Museum featuring original plans and drawings. By this time, patient numbers had declined significantly, with the emphasis having moved away from long stays in psychiatric wards to community-based care.

The last psychiatric patients left in May 2001, although the outpatient clinics and Summersdale unit remained open. The remaining valuable contents of the hospital were sold at auction on 7 June 2001. Some of the empty buildings were put to use as administrative offices of the Weald and Downs NHS Trust but others were left unoccupied and allowed to become derelict. In 2009 the last NHS services moved out of the buildings leaving them empty.

Following the vacation of the hospital buildings, the site was sold to developer Linden Homes and following planning consultation, demolition and conversion work began in 2010 to turn the site into a carbon-neutral community called Graylingwell Park. As of December 2012 the central block (with the exception of the administration block and water tower) had been demolished and the ward blocks were being readied for conversion to apartments. The chapel had been repurposed by a religious group while the isolation hospital, Graylingwell Farmhouse and Richmond Villa remained derelict.

There is a well produced and very informative twenty nine minute film about Graylingwell, which begins with a history of patient care in Chichester before the asylum was opened. The author, Barone Hopper worked at the hospital for a good number of years from the 1960's and has produced several books on the subject including 'One Hundred Years of Sanctuary'. It can all be found at Social History Author, Barone Hopper, at PerseVerance Publications.

The explore
I first came to Graylingwell in 2011, when work had begun on converting admin into fashionable housing. Whilst i was trying hard to mentally convince myself that the entry point was not much smaller than my frame, a workman suddenly appeared. As we approached a gate, he apologised for forgetting his keys and asked: 'would i mind climbing over the gate'. Oh the irony!! :rolleyes:

I had not seen much said of this place for sometime, so i thought a re-mooch would be a good plan, after all it takes a good number of years to transform a site as large as this. Whilst half of the main site has been redeveloped and the rest in various states of progress, there is more here than i thought....






3. Note, the two arches towards the right, looking towards the day room during the 1950's.


4. The same ward (or layout at least) looking the other way from the day room towards the ward.














11. Looking for moi? :D. Pleasant window to watch him from :cool.




13. One for you HT ;)


14. Nice bit of wallpaper stripping in the isolation hospital.


15. Drugs cabinet (sorry for the flash, tripod lazyness).


16. Richmond Villa, one of three additional villas built during the 1930's.


17. Graylingwell farm, built in the 18th century and grade 2 listed, was home to Anna Sewell, authoress of 'Black Beauty'. This substantial farm house, separate cottage and court yard buildings are all still standing. The site of the 'Grayling Well' that supplied the farm is nearby, but was filled in during the 1960's.


18. Dial 'N' for...


19. The cricket pavilion, still displaying an almost illegible notice board.



Thanks for looking :)


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Mate that's a really fantastic report you've put together there, well impressed, top marks on all fronts! Hadn't heard of this place before, looks well worth a visit and especially liking the farmhouse and it's intriguing history. Good work :thumbs


off the wall
Regular User
Been a while since I saw anything from this place.. couple of years perhaps? (surprised it is still there!) very interesting report there, cheers :)


Bally up!
Regular User
Was literally wandering about this place only the other day! Cheers for this report mate, nicely done.


Reckless & irresponsible
28DL Full Member
Nice one :thumb
I didnt think there was anything left to see here since the building work had been going on for so long


A Predisposed Tourist
Regular User
nice to see there is still some left to explore.good images mate ;)


Flaxenation of the G!!!
Regular User
good effort mate and well done for making the effort to go back. I had heard that there was nothing left of the place now, glad to see theres still some bits left untouched. I loved this place when we visited years back.


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Love the before and after shot and that decaying farmhouse is really beautiful. Good effort!


28DL Regular User
Regular User
The mortuary was stripped of its slabs.... So probably nothing missed there


A life backwards
28DL Full Member
Thanks one and all for your kind comments :)
Graylingwell is certainly unique in retaining its farm buildings, usually these are the first to disappear, bearing in mind the majority of asylums closed their farms during the 1950's. One wonders what the fate of these will be (farmhouse, stables/courtyard and seperate cottage), as they are outside the current redevelopment.

Tumbles: I have shamefully only clocked up around thirteen asylums, but for some reason have got the bug for them, particularly this year. Perhaps its because they are on borrowed time or I just like scrapping the urbex barrel!

Hamtagger: Thought you'd like that one fella. Surprised it has not been used, the secca are rather desperate! :)