Report - - Runwell Mental Hospital (Chapel of St Luke) - Runwell, Essex - Jan 2015 | Asylums and Hospitals | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Runwell Mental Hospital (Chapel of St Luke) - Runwell, Essex - Jan 2015


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member

Pretty much everyone knows about Runwell or has at least heard of it so history probably isn’t really required but for parity’s sake…

Runwell Hospital was a hospital in Essex operated by South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust until its final closure on 23 April 2010. From February 2008 until its closure, Runwell Hospital provided solely forensic mental health services in line with the trust's reprovision programme. The closure has led to some services being reprovided at Rochford Hospital.
Runwell Hospital was approximately 30 miles (50 km) east of London and could be reached via the road network, or by train (taking about 40 minutes). Runwell Hospital fell within the District of Chelmsford along with Springfield and South Woodham Ferrers

Following the ending of contracts accommodating patients at the Essex County Council's Brentwood mental hospital, joint facilities were developed between East Ham and Southend-on-Sea boroughs. A site was chosen at Runwell Hall Farm, to the east of the town of Wickford and the firm of Elcock and Sutcliffe were chosen as architects to the site, the former having previously designed the new Bethlem Royal Hospital at Monks Orchard. Elcock and Sutcliffe were at the forefront of institutional design and when completed, Runwell was seen as being pioneering development in mental hospital compared to its contemporaries. The hospital opened in June 1937.

The hospital was divided into specific zones according to purpose and type of patient. Staff housing was located close to or outside of the main entrance, with the most senior residences and nurse's home located on the main drive. The chapel, dedicated to St. Luke was placed at the principal junction at the top of the drive - to its east lay admission, research, treatment convalescence and neurosis blocks.

The main buildings were laid out to the west: villas for working patients, pavilions for the infirm, administrative buildings, recreation hall, kitchens, and stores blocks providing segregation of male and female blocks. Workshops were provided on either side for the employment of capable patients. To the rear a combined power house and water tower provided a central focal point, with the laundry constructed on the female side. Parole villas were built at the northernmost areas behind the main ranges, providing a degree of freedom to suitable occupants. A large sick hospital was provided directly opposite the administrative block, combining wards for physically sick patients, those with tuberculosis, an operating theatre and staff sick bay. Finally, farthest west, Boundary House, a large block for disruptive chronic patients was built, providing two male wards, four female wards and a separate dining hall. The former farm was relocated to the north of the main site.

Unlike others of its kind, Runwell utilised names for all villas and wards from the start, instead of numbers and letters used elsewhere until the 1960s and 70's, giving each structure a more homely identity. White with grey brick banding, rendering and variation between flat and pitched roofs were used to identify buildings and prevent a bland functional appearance overall by providing variety.

Following World War II, Runwell came under the control of the National Health Service, who continued pioneering research work at the hospital. New developments included the Strom Olsen ward, adjacent to the female admission unit, and named after a former superintendent, and a combined occupational therapy and research laboratory block. Investigations under Professor Corsellis led to the development of a 'brain bank', the largest of its kind and instrumental in researching changes to the brain in mental illness and subnormality.

Under sectorisation and realignment of catchment areas, Runwell's historical role in providing for East Ham diminished and services became concentrated on the south east Essex area, resulting in strong links with mental health services at Southend Municipal Hospital, later Rochford Hospital. With the threat of closure and development of Care in the Community, services were streamlined between Runwell and Rochford sites, the laboratories and peripheral buildings closing.

It was announced on Tuesday 27 April 2009 in Parliament by the Jack Straw, Ministry of Justice, that the Runwell Hospital site had been earmarked for a new 1,500-inmate male prison but the plan was formally withdrawn following a Ministry of Justice spending review in December 2010.

In February 2012, the Homes & Communities Agency (H.C.A.) announced plans to construct around 600 new homes on the site.

Demolition started in July 2012 and the only buildings that presently remain are the administration building (front part with clock tower), the water tower, and the Grade 2 Listed Chapel of Saint Luke.

The Explore

A solo explore. I missed the boat on Runwell (much to my disappointment) as most of it had long gone before I started getting into this exploring lark properly and I was always under the impression that nothing really remained any longer. However after seeing a couple of posts on here mentioning that there were still a few buildings left standing and, in particular, that the chapel was now accessible again (thanks for the heads up guys) I decided to pop over one chilly morning during the new year break with little else on the cards.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting much at all but the Chapel of St Luke, although in the midst of being used for storing various bits and pieces, was actually a really pleasant surprise with loads of interesting stuff still intact.

It has an interesting Mediterranean style to it and feels like you could be inside some latin chapel somewhere with all the pastel yellows, brown and cream colours. It was also incredibly peaceful and quiet over there (when the contractors aren't there anyway) and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours undisturbed. A really nice photogenic place with some beautiful light.

It just goes to show that sometimes the smallest places that you least expect to offer anything end up giving the most.

Speed already posted up some great shots of the best stuff from here so I've tried to post something different where at all possible…



















I also popped over to the admin block which despite being impressive from the outside was actually quite dull in comparison on the inside and pretty trashed. I didn’t bother getting my camera out.


Finally was the boiler house which was interesting and, again, mightily impressive from outside. Inside was carpeted in pigeon crap and carcasses. I took a wander up top to the roof access ladder but with the aging wooden platform creaking and groaning underneath my feet and the final ladder being less than sturdy I didn’t fancy a 30ft fall whilst on my own and potentially dying amongst the pigeons I’d encountered on the way up so gave it a miss.


I also shot some video on my SJCAM which shows the chapel, inside admin and some of the water tower. Will upload it if anyone’s interested as I know a few people were asking about the SJCAM recently.

Thanks for looking. :thumb


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Nice ones mate & nice PP :thumb

I was expecting you to say the climb was too risky and then Monkey appeared ;)


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Cracking shots mate! Nice one. Good history too.
Thanks mate :thumb

Nice ones mate & nice PP :thumb

I was expecting you to say the climb was too risky and then Monkey appeared ;)
Thanks mate :thumb

I suspect that would be far too low for Monkey! Although I now do tend to look UP for people a bit more than I used too after that experience, certainly took me by surpise. :D

The Lone Ranger

Safety is paramount!
Staff member
Very nice :thumb

Good to see bits I missed myself.