Severalls Hospital, Colchester

(Also known as Second Essex County Asylum)

The hospital was designed by Frank Whitmore and William Town using an echelon formation layout. The foundation stone was laid by Sir Thomas Barrett-Lennard in June 1910 and it opened as the Second Essex County Asylum in May 1913. Villas were constructed around the main hospital building as accommodation blocks and there was a detached building for the medical superintendent. The nurses’ home was extended and the whole facility was renamed the Essex and Colchester Mental Hospital in the 1930s.

In August 1942 the hospital was subjected to a bombing by the Luftwaffe. Three 500lb bombs were dropped on the west wing of the hospital and 38 patients were killed, many of which were buried in nearby Colchester Crematorium. Immediately after the bombing a 21-year-old nurse of the hospital, Murial Jackson, attempted to save patients and was able to direct doctors to the injured using just a torch.

In the 1950s psychiatrists experimented with new treatments on patients using practices now considered unsuitable such as the use of frontal lobotomy. A project was subsequently initiated by the North East Essex Mental Health Trust to research this. Joan Busfield, Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex, proposed a former research student of hers, Diana Gittins. Funding was secured by the Trust and the study commenced in May 1995 for a two-year period.

In her book Madness in Its Place: Narratives of Severalls Hospital, 1913–1997, Gittins, summarised her research, noting that often women were admitted by their own family, sometimes as the result of bearing illegitimate children or because they had been raped. As they would not always (or were unable to) carry out daily tasks, they were considered to be insane and some were even subjected to electroconvulsive therapy and lobotomy.

The hospital joined the National Health Service in 1948.[1] After the introduction of Care in the Community in the early 1980s the hospital went into a period of decline and eventually closed in March 1997.[1] The North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust announced the sale of the site to a consortium of Bellway, Taylor Wimpey and Bloor Homes in February 2016. The consortium submitted plans to redevelop the site for residential use in July 2018.

When it was sold, it was the largest piece of NHS land to ever be put on the market!

These photos were taken over a number of visits – the first of which also provided some snow around which made it that bit more special. There really was something special about Severalls. The name alone brings back memories to the majority of faces on the exploring scene – it was such a popular tourist destination even until construction on the new housing on site started.

The white balance (amongst other things) was a bit off in some of these photos as this was in my earlier stages of learning the basics of photography; please excuse that. Whilst I have many more photos, I haven’t gotten around to editing any more yet, even now. No amount of photos can do this place justice – it was just so vast that there were little details in almost every room. If you want to see some more good photos, I urge you to have a look on 28 Days Later (forum) as there are hundreds of them there from photographers much more talented than myself! (see links page)

As of mid 2019, some buildings still remain such as the administration building. It is believed that these buildings will be preserved due to their listed status.

As of early 2019, this is what the site looked like from above. Note outer wings that hadn’t been demolished, along with the admin building and the tower:

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