Hellingly Hospital - The East Sussex Mental Institution.

Hellingly Hospital - The East Sussex Mental Institution.
Hellingly, a Victorian hospital on a grand scale. Conceived in 1897, with landscaped surroundings high on a hill with therapeutic views across the countryside. An enclosed community, providing for itself...patients and staff lives exisiting in familiar corridors and buildings.
Closed down in the eary 1990's and left decaying ever since.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Cockroaches in the kitchens

Having lived and worked at Hellingly Hospital from 1981 through to 1989, I could navigate through the main building by remembering that it was basically arrow-shaped. Each spur of the arrow had a ground and first floor ward.

The wards were all named after East Sussex villages. They were pairs of wards to each side/spur of the arrow, the upper of each alphabetic pair referring to the 1st floor ward, the lower to the corresponding ground floor ward.

As far as I can recall, the names of the wards below are right but I am open to correction.


There were other wards located in Park House down the Drive but I can only recall Camber Ward. No doubt others can help here.

In 1981, there were four sets of nurses accommodation: the female only Nurses Home located in the main block; male-only Tennyson House (I recall the cockroaches scuttling in the kitchen in 1981!); male-only Bowhill (many a debauched party was held there) and finally Farmstead, the only mixed nurses home at the time, located at the end of the back track.

Of course, such gender related restrictions were generally ignored – the days when a nurse had to seek the approval of Matron to marry were long gone by then! Many who are very senior nurses now had their grounding in these nurses homes.

The picture of the bath actually shows one of the general baths that were installed in the mid-1980s into one of the geriatric wards. It was not a Hydrotherapy bath as one of your previous correspondents thought but one that was hydraulically operated. The advantage was that one could fill the bath, pop the patient in and then the bath could be set to rise to the height of the nurse who would not have to bend whilst attending to the patient. This type of hi-lo bath was a boon to the nurses and saved many a back problem!

At that time, the Senior Nursing Officer for the Elderly was David Spilsted and he was keen to ensure that all the patients on the wards he was responsible for, and the staff who worked for him, had the best equipment available. As a result, morale soared and care improved.

It is a shame the buildings have been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent. Undoubtedly it was the best maintained NHS psychiatric hospital in the South East and was a lovely place to work.

Simon Woollard

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