Retro post from : February 2011
After not getting out exploring properly for a year or two, when some meetings got cancelled at the last moment and I found myself with a couple of days vacation to use up just before the end of my holiday year, I decided to take a day off and make a solo visit to Graylingwell Hospital. For years it’d had been very well secured, with sensible regular security, some exterior sensors and the simplest of security techniques – screw every door and window down tightly with angle iron from the inside.
Originally called The West Sussex County Lunatic Asylum, a pinched bit of history reads “The hospital was built between 1894 and 1901 as a lunatic asylum for the pauper agricultural population of rural West Sussex. Since then it has been a prominent part of Chichester’s rural (and later suburban) landscape, particularly its tall brick keep-like water tower.” It was the real deal, and some friends had recently discovered the stripped padded panels and cell door from a padded cell in the tunnels.
The site had just started being redeveloped/converted with work on the admin building and water tower when I visited, and this is why it was suddenly explorable. Sure you had to avoid the builders, but when they started work they had to undo a lot of the original internal physical security.
It was seriously pissing with rain, and so wasting 15+ mins looking for entry wasn’t perfect. I’d had a chat with a friend who’d been there a while back, but the way he’d used was sealed. I almost gave up; then I just got bold and found something in plain view of the fence and was in.
It’s was funny old place. In many ways it was awesome to have a fully formed and increasingly derelict asylum to explore but, where it’d been broadly modernized and stripped of the more personal stuff when they cleaned out, in the end it did feel a bit samey. However, it did have a particular stand out area!
I knew the hall was good, but didn’t realize just how good!
Behind the stage curtain, the stage was ace with almost a full fly and left with all its equipment and lighting! Being on my own I resisted the urge to climb all the way to the top though!
And then down the back, in keeping with most large asylum halls, there was the all important projection room, again with everything still in it including various films! Awesome stuff!
At some point they’d clearly divided off part of the hospital as some sort of admin/training/IT unit, with plasterboard walls across the original corridors. Elsewhere there were things like the patient bank and library, a pharmacy, very pigeony but empty kitchens, the stores which had a bit more left about, and finally something which more directly showed the hospital’s history – an ECT suite, with rooms nearby that better fitted the pattern of classic small exclusion rooms.
When I explored Cane Hill a few years previously it was a very rainy day, and my friend I did it with was really spooked by it. Graylingwell was much much noisier with water pissing in all over! At times it was daft inside, because even though the roofs were complete, it was pouring in. Indeed I took a load of video and on play back I don’t need a sound track because the rain is ever present and so loud! When I’m exploring on my own I’m very quiet (and enjoy the solitude), and whilst rain masks sound even more, it does make for an edgy explore since you likewise can’t hear other people! Thus ever corner had to be taken with that bit more care. Still an awesome way to spend a day on my own, quietly find my way about!
Want to see how it all turned out once converted and more? Take a look.