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Report - - Some of Whitchurch Psychiatric Hospital's Finer Details (circa March 2018) | Asylums and Hospitals | 28DaysLater.co.uk
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Report - Some of Whitchurch Psychiatric Hospital's Finer Details (circa March 2018)

Olkka

National Crust Curator
28DL Full Member
#1
Whitchurch is particularly interesting from an UE perspective, I think, because it hasn't really been abandoned yet. Its still in its infancy of disuse.

I don't really know what the future holds for it either.

Undoubtedly it could go several different trajectories over the next decade.
Stringent security and little damage/decay,
or systematic looting and vandalism...
Redevelopment into flats whilst retaining some listed features,
or demolition altogether...

Either way, when the bulk of the classic asylums were only a couple of years into their disuse, urban exploring hadn't formed an online community or reached the popularity it has now.
For instance, I'm skeptical a photo exists of Cane Hill in 1993 (but if it does, I'd love to see)?

Whitchurch will surely be visited a lot by the new generation, but it's almost too big of a site to take in all in one go.

Whether the sum of its parts seems like epic or not, there is a wealth of discrete curiosities hidden away in cubby holes around Whitchurch; paperwork, medical equipment, historical relics and so forth, that will I'm sure be slowly documented piece by piece as time goes by.

In this report I wanted to show some of the smaller features and objects I came across on several, that I haven't seen photographed in other reports thus far (as well as a sort of 2018 status update for the bigger features that are hard to miss).
And obviously, I will have missed many that others didn't...
But such a place like this needs several needle-threaders to sew its full tapestry together, just as the OG explorers did for the bygone asylums.

Whitchurch isn't quite the same kettle of fish as Cane or High Royds etc, because it didn't finish its life;
1. In the same era of healthcare practice,
2. Carrying the title of 'asylum'.

It's been very remodeled a lot over the years to meet the needs of 21st century healthcare, albeit in an elderly kind of fashion. But it's a sort of... I don't quite know...
Maybe, serene middle ground, between what we would call the barbaric healthcare practices of Victorian era asylum healthcare, and the super-liberal and non-institutional era of mental health today.

A few written status updates before the photos;
If one looks at Whitchurch on Google Maps satellite, the western side of the hospital is where the older wards are, most used for consultancies (Tom correct me if I'm wrong). The far North-West corner ward is currently locked off (I believe it was the first to close down), and most of the rest of the Western wards are alarmed. I didn't mooch around here much.
The middle portion of the hospital from above is where the communal areas lie; recreation hall, canteen, kitchen, industrial infrastructure, even a clothing shop.
And on the Eastern side are the newer wards and secure units. Not much locking up done here.

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The day of this particular visit was probably the snowiest I've seen Britain in many years, the untouched powder in the usually grassy courtyards on the day of visit almost came up to my knees.
The pictures are only from a point-and-shoot by the way, not a DSLR, so apologies about the grain on some of the snaps.


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The first thing a visitor to this museum would hopefully appreciate is the signposting.
The way the white and blue, English and Welsh plaques are suspended ever so symmetrically put a smile on my face at least.

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The recreation hall is an obvious highlight.
Pristine condition and some top-tier intricate heraldry make the show (oh, and the absolutely glorious Union Jacks too, of course, god save the queen)
Rooms on the left are the remaining setting of a public exhibition on the history of the hospital by the Whitchurch Historical Society.
The still in-tune Italian grand piano is another well-known treat (having learnt piano growing up I did have a little tinkle of Chopin's Op9 No1 on it, and it's a beaut to play).

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Despite closing in 2016, a year where almost every professional in his/her field carries a personal iPad and a business Mac or something, a vintage PC like this is strangely humbling.

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Below is essentially what the bulk of the Whitchurch experience looks like: miles of trademark 19th century county/city asylum corridor.
All are echoey, eerie, and immaculately clean.
Not pictured in this report in the interest of keeping the photos to 30,
but recurrent Whitchurch features I want to discuss are the flappy, almost quarantine style doors, which feel more cut out for an anthrax lab than a dated psychiatric hospital.
One can see them in most other Whitchurch reports.
They're everywhere also, and many have some quite ominous markings on them.
Any other visitors know what they were for? I'm out of ideas.

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Another distinctive Whitchurch feature: circular convex mirrors.
They're everywhere.
Again, why? I can't quite work it out. @tumbles , could the boss inform an beginner asylum-seeker?

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The canteen was a surprise - I didn't notice it on my previous visit.
Impressive stacking and not a speck of dirt left on the dishes, despite a somehow not mouldy half eaten tart lying on the table (wasn't me, either).

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Plaques demonstrating heartfelt community values of bygone decades reward the curious...

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There are countless opportunities for literature/paperwork pit stops in Whitchurch.
Here's just one of many for those fond of the legal sector.

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The room below had little clues as to its past life remaining, but its decor was probably the most early-20th-century of all the dozens of rooms I dropped into.
That carpet is just splendid.

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The kitchen is a good one, spread out over several big rooms.
I'm no buff for industrial scale equipment but the huge hoods were my favourite feature here.

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Colour schemes of corridors subtly change whichever way one turns;
Red-white, blue-cream, etc etc....

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The superintendents during Whitchurch's life were notably forward-thinking, so I've read.
I assume they generally didn't subscribe to lobotomy padded cell-style pauper lunatic asylum practices that add a chill-factor to asylums as we know them best.
Hence, there's a large amount of occupational therapy infrastructure lurking around, such as this bathing aparatus for the physically frail.

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Not quite Browning Ward @ Cane Hill circa 2006...
But hospital beds are still hospital beds.
All their aesthetic glory is available with a pinch of sunlight.

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Loading bays and non-patient areas are mostly now storage units for a wide variety of tat from back in day.

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Clothes... There're heaps of them lying around, everywhere. Here's just one of many.
A bit sad.
They're not even gowns or scrubs or coats, they all seem to be casual wear.
Why left I wonder?

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This shot seems to be the staple fixture for a Whitchurch visit.
The very aesthetic sprawling ivy doesn't seem to be growing as fast as ivy should, though...
I'm fine with that.
Reminds me of those arts-and-crafts lizards covered in multicoloured mock-jewels, you know?
Located in the older West Wards, one of the few rooms not currently alarmed or locked. Watch your step!

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I didn't even move the cane here, but this scene got me.
I would say a few 'helping hands' can be counted in the entire scene and context of this image.

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Again, in the Eastern Wards and secure units, no padded-cell style practice can be traced of late.
They have a much more homely feel than 70s-90s closing asylums.
This room in particular stood out.
Bike, ironing board, and a double mirror... What was the real deal for patients spending time in here, I wonder?

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Ooh we love these.
Pucker blast from the past.
Not available for heavy late night seshes though ;)

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Orderlies' locker areas in Whitchurch are full of curiosities.
Stickers of topless broads, orange/banana stickers...
I found The World According to Clarkson Volume 4 in one of them too, hehe

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The nice seasonal touches have been stowed away tidily.
Would have been more adequate for that particular day's weather!

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The next section is arguably the 'treasure chest'.
A closer look in the Eastern Wards is where one can find Whitchurch delivering the authentic medical goods.

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The missus' is a medical student and was quick to identify the utensils on these trays.
They're mainly catheters, blood pressure measuring devices, inhalers, anesthetics and such, not much heavy stuff.
Not pictured here, but on the lowest tray in this particular room was a bullet shell, I believe from police raid training exercises that happen in Whitchurch nowadays.
Don't know how it got to this tray though?

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Even the secure unit wards in Whitchurch have quite a homely and civilised vibe.
In the Eastern Wards alone I counted at least 5 pool tables.
I tried to have a whirl with it but they wouldn't accept the new £1 coins, damn treasury.

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With that said, the rooms themselves were not homely at all.

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Any visitors who want to wash their hair in this museum need only bring their own towel.

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The main corridor walls are also splattered with very interesting and informative posters about the hospital's twilight years.
There's even some arts therapy around; a collage of a rainbow, creative writing pieces, and more.

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But at the end of the day,
as with evolution on this planet and in the farthest reaches of the cosmos,
progress will slowly reclaim and bury frail and outdated ideas about how to live life as a communal species...

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That's about it for 30 photos, don't want to overdo it.
Many many curiosities are missing from this report, including;
The clothes shop,
Much more reading material,
Much more interesting signposting,
The washers and dryers (not that big though),
The chapel,
Stair lifts,
More hoarded old tat...
But they'll be documented very thoroughly in time I'm sure.

One remark I want to make though, is that I am a bit miffed about the security situation. Never thought I'd say this, but I don't think it's stringent enough. From what I thought was once an impenetrable array of locked windows from head to toe of the entire building, it has become more colander-like each time I visited. This will not only speed up entropic decay, but attract more little shits to ruin what quite frankly must be the most pristine and massive hospital nationwide right now. I hope security pick up the slack again.

Safesafe
 

Baggy trousers

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#3
Belting report that.
They have the same mirrors in Cheadle royal, every corridor corner has them just in case of an escape attempt, or if something goes down with a patient.. that's what I was told anyways.
Really enjoyed that, lets hope there is some sort of future for it as it would be a shame to waste.
 

tumbles

Trip Hopping
Regular User
#4
Nice work. With regards to Cane Hill you can find some of the earliest stuff online on Simon Cornwell's cult of cane hill site - http://www.simoncornwell.com/urbex/projects/ch/index.htm

The other earliest pics I've seen are on Cybergibbons Flickr some of which are pre millenium - sadly his flickr is no more which is a shame as he had some shots from the tower that showed the hall in situ. Sadly never seen any other shots of it and definately none internally which remains undocumented other than one black and white image at the croydon archives which you are unable to republish. The one thing we're slack on CA is sorting out internals. Whitchurch might be the most complete page on the entire website (give or take a post ww1 history to add in at somepoint soon)

West 5/5A closed in early 1980s and was the only wards to not be in some sort of use prior to full closure in 2016 - even then some wards were used as drug rehab and other local sevices through into early 2017. The wards retain their original layout unlike the rest that have been modernised. This was also the ward that had the canabis farm in it of which evidence can still be seen (bags of fertaliser etc). Some of the staff there told me that 5/5a was closed due to subsidence but it seemed to be more that it was going to be turned into a high security ward but never transpired.

With regards to padded cells and so forth yes you are right the Super Intendant was very forward thinking and there is no evidence of padded cells being used. There are some on the design plans but its possible they were never used or ripped out a long time ago. Down the road in Swansea at Cefn the first Super Intendant thanked the manufacturer(Pocock Brothers) for the supply but stated that they were making rather expensive cleaning cupboards - thus never used and quite possible the same at Whitty. I can tell you the clothes shop is empty - that was used by the historical society as a store of artifacts collected before closure but now removed off the site. The chapel is also empty other than a lot of pigeon shit.
 
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Olkka

National Crust Curator
28DL Full Member
#7
Safe Tumbles, yeah I heard about this Cannabis farm. Crazy.
Really nice that the historical society gave Snack and Jack a swan song use.
Do you know anything about the flappy doors in Whitty?
And also, another question, is there a complete birds-eye map of the whole place from back in the day, with labels and names of wards etc? Need to get my ward name knowledge of here stronger.
 

tumbles

Trip Hopping
Regular User
#8
Safe Tumbles, yeah I heard about this Cannabis farm. Crazy.
Really nice that the historical society gave Snack and Jack a swan song use.
Do you know anything about the flappy doors in Whitty?
And also, another question, is there a complete birds-eye map of the whole place from back in the day, with labels and names of wards etc? Need to get my ward name knowledge of here stronger.
The flappy doors are just between maintence areas so trolleys etc could easily pass through them.

I don't have a copy of a map to hand but the numbering of the wards etc was simple really - Female Wards 1-5 and Male Wards 1-5 - they didn't have any names like places like Cane Hill. These then became East 1-5 and West 1-5.. and then split into east 1/east 1 a and so forth. You also had the day wards in the now demolished buliding by the hospice (along with the super intendants residence which also met its fate) - it total it was 26 wards during its full capacity years etc. There are some photos of the day ward & Velindre Grange on CA - http://www.countyasylums.co.uk/whitchurch-hospital-whitchurch/
 

dweeb

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
#10
Do we know if the historical stuff stored in the clothes shop was any good? Is it on display anywhere?
 

ASOM

One-Man Urbex Art Army
28DL Full Member
#13
Very interesting stuff.
The mirrors are often there in psychiatric hospitals (and prisons, and even a few hostels and children's homes) to ensure no-one can jump you from around a corner, or creep up behind you in vulnerable areas. Having not seen the placement of the ones here, it's hard to be certain, but that's definitely a common reason to install them.
 

mookster

grumpy sod
Regular User
#14
Nice work. With regards to Cane Hill you can find some of the earliest stuff online on Simon Cornwell's cult of cane hill site - http://www.simoncornwell.com/urbex/projects/ch/index.htm

The other earliest pics I've seen are on Cybergibbons Flickr some of which are pre millenium - sadly his flickr is no more which is a shame as he had some shots from the tower that showed the hall in situ. Sadly never seen any other shots of it and definately none internally which remains undocumented other than one black and white image at the croydon archives which you are unable to republish.
This is going to break your heart me saying this - as it broke mine when my friend told me - but my friend of many years who took me on my first ever explores way back when had been doing this for years beforehand - and him and his friend were exploring Cane Hill back in the late 90s and somewhere, in some mystical safe place he's never been able to find he has a huge stash of 35mm photos from Cane Hill explores in the late 1990s. I've been desperate urging him to find them at times, it might be worth another shot.
 

tumbles

Trip Hopping
Regular User
#15
This is going to break your heart me saying this - as it broke mine when my friend told me - but my friend of many years who took me on my first ever explores way back when had been doing this for years beforehand - and him and his friend were exploring Cane Hill back in the late 90s and somewhere, in some mystical safe place he's never been able to find he has a huge stash of 35mm photos from Cane Hill explores in the late 1990s. I've been desperate urging him to find them at times, it might be worth another shot.
Nag them till they won't speak to you anymore ;)