Bird’s eye view: Cane Hill Mental Asylum
What is it about disused hospitals that’s so interesting? I mean, I’m assuming it’s not just me who gets a strange sort of thrill out of nosing through old hospital records and inspecting questionable machinery?
Well, thanks to the wonders of the internet, it is no longer necessary for you and I to go sneaking around boarded up buildings whilst attempting to dodge security guards wielding angry Alsatians because… you can always find someone who’s already done all the dangerous stuff for you – urban explorers are worth their weight in gold! (Health & Safety bit – I am in no way suggesting that you all go out and invade your nearest derelict hospital armed with torches and ski masks. Urban Exploration can be a very hazardous turnout and is best left to the experts… No, really, it is.)
One place that grabs my undivided attention with both hands is Cane Hill, an old psychiatric hospital in Coulsdon. It opened in 1882 and was capable of holding over 2,000 patients (apparently in 1953 they had about 2,400 people stuffed in there). Cane Hill finally shut up shop in 1991. Sadly, once it closed, the hospital suffered terribly at the hands of arsonists and a general lack of maintenance, so many of the floors soon fell through or were so spongy you took your life in your hands if you walked on them but Cane Hill still remained an incredible place. Sadly, demolition of the vast hospital began in March 2008 and was due to have been completed in January 2010, leaving only a couple of the original buildings standing. I guess all good things have to come to an end.
Urban Decay: A ward at Cane Hill
Both Michael Caine and David Bowie had half brothers who attended Cane Hill and Charlie Chaplin’s mother also went there until Charlie could afford private care for her. Treatments dished out at Cane Hill varied from electroshock therapy to hydrotherapy and as time passed they even cracked out some light and art therapy, too. I know which ones I would opt for…
The dentist will see you now…
Cane Hill was, of course, a ghost hunter magnet. How could it not be with its deserted corridors and spooky old chapel. There are stories of security men patrolling the site with their hard-as-nails dogs, only to have the animals run away whimpering from a figure seen wandering amongst the trees. Upon further investigation, the grave of Cane Hill’s first superintendent was discovered amongst the undergrowth.
My favourite urban explorer, Simon Cornwell, documented Cane Hill over the years so I highly recommend a visit to his website to see the photos (link below). During a visit to the enormous chapel they have on site, Simon came away with some interesting ‘spectral mist’ photos, one of which I have cheekily added here:
A strange mist plagues Urban Explorers at the Cane Hill chapel
To be honest, I don’t think Cane Hill needs reams of ghost stories to enforce the fact it was a brilliant place. As you will see from the photos on this post, and if you visit other Urban Explorer websites (from whence these photos came, thanks guys), it’s clear just how enigmatic and intriguing the place was.
The Effects of Arson and Bad Weather
Cane Hill Asylum – you will be missed…
©Nicola Kirk and http://www.nicolakirk.wordpress.com 2010
Photos used on this post are linked to their original sources.