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, 19 October 2012

A Call For More Tales

I would love to hear more stories of Hellingly. There must be a wealth of information still to be recorded.
Please send any tales, no matter how small to glebidior@hotmail.co.uk
You could re-establish that link to the past you've been looking for.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Rag Doll

As a baby, I lived in Hailsham and last week attended the funeral of a former neighbour, who was friends with my parents 50 years ago. Whilst we were there, we tried to locate our old house but spent ages driving round. As we passed the sign for Hellingly, my mum told me about the hospital - I was intrigued as she'd never mentioned it before.

My mum worked at Hellingly for a short while in 1962. My sister was about 2 and a half and I was to follow sometime the following year. She was taken to and from the hospital by minibus. She worked part-time in the cafe and recalls the counter being very tall, so that nobody could reach over it - this particularly amused me as she is only 5' 1 and a bit!

One of the patients, an elderly lady, made a rag doll for my sister. My sister adored the doll and it went everywhere with her until one day it fell out of the pushchair and its hat came off. The doll's hair was grey and it transpired that the hair belonged to the old lady. My mum was horrified and in the way that only mothers can, disposed of the doll.

Friday, 18 February 2011

A happy place

My grandmother, Emily Stapley, died in East Sussex Mental Hospital, Hellingly on 21 January 1940 aged 73.
I knew nothing about the hospital until I found this site as a link from RootsChat (family history). The Superintendent whose name is on Emily's death certificate is B Reid.

I don't suppose there is anyone out there whose memory goes back that far but I have found the messages posted quite moving, especially those which refer to Hellingly being a happy place, well run, and in such lovely surroundings.

Great site. Thanks Chris Brown

The maze of corridors

I trained and worked at Hellingly from Sept '68 to Dec '78. Reading some of the memories there's clearly an awful lot about the Hospital that I didn't know, and even more that I remember differently.

In 1968 the hospital hosted an experiment in student nurse training and 8 of us started on the Regional Collegiate Scheme sometimes called RCS (sometimes called a lot worse by the other students). I and 4 other male students were put into Hughenden, and eventually those who still lived in were moved to Bow Hill.
My early recollections after starting at the hospital include the Barbadian independence celebrations in about late Sept '68. I remember when I arrived at Hellingly, it was like and Indian summer and the grounds were wonderful. {when I left 10 years later and began seeing the Psychiatric Hospitals in Lancashire, Cheshire and Merseyside I realised just how special Hellingly was] .

I remember Matron Bradley's 1968 Christmas Day visit to the ward (and getting told off for wearing a very pale blue shirt not the regulation white). My first Hospital Suit! What can you say. They were Hardy Ames and other well know labels, but they must have mixed up the measurements. They certainly rarely fitted properly.

I remember that shortly before I arrived the HMC had decided that naming the wards was more conducive to recovery and normal life than A1, G2 etc. This was confusing, not only did I have to learn all the new names based on local villages, also cope with some of the 'old lags' referring to them by their old names. I also remember some helpful sole telling me that the key to the maze of corridors was the colour of the floor tiles. Blue, green and brown. I'm not sure of the sequence, but these corresponded with male side, female side and admin, dining rooms, hall etc. The change list told what ward you went on AND what days off you were allocated - for three months at a time.

As a Staff Nurse I worked amongst other wards on East Dean, Cuckfield, Arlington, Guestling, Chailey, Horam, Amberstone and Park House West, latterly split into Westfield - where I became Charge Nurse, and Beckley.

In about '74 as part of the Halsbury campaign, I began to get involved with COHSE and remember marching round the local lanes ( and round Hailsham the following week with much greater impact)

I remember trying to campaign to stop the Hospital Farm closing - without success, and being taken aback when one of the farm labourers firmly pointed out that I was misguided if I thought he didn't want an inside job as a porter. He said something like " When you're up a 6 to pick Brussels sprouts on a frosty morning, old kiddie, then wouldn't you want a porter's job?"

Also in '74 I got married and our first son was born. We were lucky enough to get a Hospital House. The smaller portion of the divided Hospital Farm Bailiff’s House. Apart from having the bath in the kitchen - not a tin bath, the real thing - it was a great place. The summer of '76, opposite the piggery, our son, who was just crawling, loved nothing better than going round picking up the dead bluebottles brought down by the fly killer. We lived happily at the Hospital until we left in late '78 as I took up a full time position with COHSE, which became part of UNISON in '93 and is still my work now. Jo continued her nursing as she does even now.

We've been back to the area just once, in about '90. The hospital was already overgrown and many buildings derelict. Such a shame. It was interesting that the old broken down oast house on the back track, had been renovated as a classy house. Even more interesting was that the old pig sties seemed to have become old folks' accommodation. We decided then that another return was probably too painful.

I recently learned of the 30 year celebration at the club, and the fire. Still there are the memories. To all the people I met, I'm glad I did. I've resisted naming names, but I look back with a good deal of fondness on those ten years. I'm glad also that I found your site.

Andy Gill.

Alarmed as an infant!

I live locally to Hellingly Hospital and have always found it completely fascinating. As a child in the seventies and early eighties I was a pupil at Hellingly Primary School. Several of my friends were children of doctors and nurses who worked at the hospital and I remember attending birthday parties up there in their hospital accommodation. I always remember peering around a curtain at one end of the house to find a window looking straight down a corridor actually into the hospital and being rather alarmed as an infant! Also we played amongst some large conifers in a pebbly area.

From the school we occasionally sang for the patients in the Hellingly Hospital Social club and I remember feeling a bit scared when we went up there. Patients could often be seen walking down the old railway line and the surrounding area and I always remember a friend's neighbour coming across a patient who had hung himself from an ash tree near the Golden Martlet.

I also attended the local Sunday School and was in the grounds with Mr Rose who ran it then, and a gentleman, who I remember being certain was from the hospital, made converstaion with us. I remember he wanted me to show him around the churchyard but Mr Rose said I had to stay put.

I was very interested to hear the tales of high profile celebrities being brought to the hospital via the link railway under the cover of darkness. I Would be intrigued to know more about that!


Percy Cook - D.O.B 1895

Could anyone who has worked in Hellingly help me to trace details of an uncle of mine who was a patient. His name was Percy Cook d.o.b 1895 and it is believed that his death was between 1953 - 1955. I am unsure of the year that he would have been placed at Hellingly.

I would also like to know where he was buried and are there burial grounds within Hellingly institution, or does anyone know which record offices I would have to contact to obtain the information.

My thanks to anyone who can help in this matter.
Thank you


A mass of wild hair and a pint

I worked at the Hospital in the early to mid seventies as an Auxiliary - on Kingston Ward (which isn't shown on your diagram - but I can't remember where it was, other than that it was on the first floor of the main building).
It was a Resocialisation and Rehabilitation ward. Patients had been long-term prior to coming here and were taken off the majority of their drugs to review their status and potential.

Apart from losing some poor chap (who hung himself in the Hospital creche one summer's afternoon) it was an eventful, but fun, experience. One chap ran away one evening down to the Golden Martlet pub in the village. A striking chap; he was about 6' 8" tall with a mass of wild hair. He turned up at the pub demanding a pint of guinness and a packet of crisps. The problem was that he was dressed only in a pyjama top.
The pub rang the hospital, got through to us and requested our advice. We informed them that it would be 10-15 minutes before we could get to them so suggested, for the sake of keeping things quiet, that they provide the gent with his beer and crisps, ask him to sit in the corner, await us and, forever after, think of it as a wonderful talking point for locals et al!

On another occasion we took our patients to the seaside at Eastbourne. One enterprising soul, we learnt later, added to his pocket money, quite considerably, by approaching elderly ladies and offering to remove his kit unless they paid him not to. I seem to remember when we set out that he had about 50p to his name. On our return he had at least £3!

I was only there for the summer before disappearing to do my nurse training elsewhere. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Hellingly. I learnt some wonderful lessons in life from some splendid colleagues and, frequently, memorable patients.


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

Life was simple then.

In the 1930's I lived at Shawpitts Farm not far from the hospital. Bob Feast from Polegate had a lady friend in the hospital and every once in a while he would take us kids who lived in the cottage on the left going up Shawpitts lane (as we knew) to pictures in the hospitatl cinema - a rather fancy that must be the Great Hall mentioned.

It was a magnificent place that held us country kids in awe. Ocassionally we would raid the orchard that was on the southern side of the hospital. Proceeding up Cowbeeach Road (would that be Grove Hill Rd?) to a small group of fir trees on the left an go into the wooded area to the right. The wood was a beautiful tranquil place especially in Autumn and Spring - we would gather chestnuts and horse chestnuts (conkers) there, in autumn of course. A game of conkers (a horse chestnut on a string trying to swing it at your opponents conker and breaking it counting up the number of opponents conkers that were broken - games and life was simple then).

The lovely drive into the hospital was lost on us I'm afraid but from what I can from 70 years ago the lawns and gardens were a picture and we had to be on our very best behaviour - oh how sad to see what the pictures show today.

Shawpitts Farm, possibly leased firstly by the Ganders and then Ticehurst looking back it is almost like the Garden of Eden, only almost because trying to feed seven children in the depression years was a 'trying' experience

regards and thanks for the memory ..... Arthur W.Carter (ex Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy)

Still beautiful theatre hall

I have never worked in Hellingly. When I came to Eastbourne as a junior doctor in 1996 the hospital was well closed, although its memories were still alive. Coincidently or not I met a lot of people who were telling me about the hospital with a lot of sentiment.

Twice I was taken inside by the nurses from Highmore. It was so sad to look at those empty corridors, still beautiful theatre hall and wards. I would give a lot of money to spend a week there.

This reflection comes to mine mind each time when I see out patients accommodated in bedsits, purposely wandering without any sense of belonging or connections exemplifying the achievements of community psychiatry.

P.S. Your website is a wonderful idea.

The House - Anybody recognise it?

This house in the grounds of Hellingly Hospital and was occupied by my grandfather, Alfred Ashley, and his family. I think they moved there from Dartford Asylum and my mother was born there in 1906. Alfred Ashley was the Secretary Steward for many years.

I last saw the house about fifty years ago but was unable to find it on a recent visit. The poor state of the main buildings was quite a shock - although I was surprised to see so many people around.

Perhaps somebody knows something about the house (I believe it was just called "The House".

Part of something larger

I was a student nurse and staff nurse at Hellingly Hospital from 1977-1981 and for 2 years I lived in staff accomodation on the hospital site. Because of the village-like quality of the hospital it felt like being part of a very large family - with the different generations living side by side.
I note that there are references to 'institutionalised staff' however there were some very good, kind, dedicated and skilled staff at Hellingly. I still feel there is a lot to be said for the idea of an institution and the experience of being part of something larger was something both staff and patients shared.

I understand the philosophy of care in the community, though from my experience, once the idea that this huge building was 'an asylum' was overcome, I believe the environment was more therapeutic than any smaller inpatient psychiatric units I have since come across - these are far more disturbed and disturbing.

I have very fond memories of my time at Hellingly Hospital and am pleased to have come across this site - thankyou.
Debbie Smith

I learned, spoon, fork, feed

Memories, how such lovely ones! I worked at the hospital from 1962 until 1968 and I consider it the best time of my life!
I was "green", knew nothing about psychiatry, but decided with a friend of mine to go to England from Belgium, to learn english.
I tell you it was not easy in the beginning, when you did not know the language; but with help from my english co-workers, I learned, spoon, fork, feed, etc...the rudiment of caring for the patients.
Three months later, I felt quite comfortable. I worked in all the wards because in those days, we had a schedule of 3 months stints in each ward, and that made you know every staff and patient. I still think it was a good system. We worked hard, but in our breaks, the sister would let us watch Coronation street, while having a cup of tea.
I remember also that the hospital had a bus picking you up from Hailsham and beyond and after your shift, would take you home. How about that for service? I lived in for a while and then above a grocery store on High street in Hailsham.
I still think very often and fondly of Hellingly.

If anyone remembers me, feel free to write. YvetteKremer@videotron.ca

A Heavy Atmosphere

I worked at hellingly 1984-1986 and met my husband there.
The staff were as institutionalised as some of the patients and many senior nurses were seen to never leave the social club! We visited several times once it had closed down and before it had been wrecked by vandals. It holds many stories and a heavy atmosphere. I'd like to know what happened to all of the museum artefacts(straight jackets, old ECT equipment,patients clogs, work equipment, wash bowls etc.) all of which shortly before the hospital closed down were on display next to the old hairdressers shop. i remember that one of the nurse tutors was involved in setting it up.
Where did it all go?

The hairdressers was a real time warp with a lovely display of plastic flowers and pictures of haircuts from the 6o's and 70's on display.
When we visited many staff records were left behind and proved to be interesting reading!!!!

Hellingly has a 'certain feeling'

I lived in hellingly for all of my childhood, went to hellingly primary school I have yet to explore it and hope i will before it gets demolished.
My familyand me used go for sunday walks through the grounds and what i can remember is was very picturesque.(I was very young at the time)

I used to be frightened to walk there even though it was beautiful and I was with my parents it had a "certain feeling about it", the tallness of the building seemed very intimidating to a 6 year old!
Even now when me and husband drive up there is that "feeling".

I had an encounter with of the patients and it remains in my mind as clear as day!
I'd just finished school and my sister came to pick me up on her pedal bike, and i had mine. my sister decided it would be nice to go the other way home instead of past crem and post office in Horsebridge. being a typical youg child I was eager to race ahead, zooming past Hellingly church,past the golden martlet over the bridge the to the cross roads where i waited for my sister so we could cross the road and turn right.
Once we had crossed i raced of once again going right heading to the main road. On my way I was peddling without a care in the world untill I lost sight of my sister, so I decided to wait for her. While I was waiting I noticed a strange man ahead (still no sign of my sister) the man was getting closer, he aproached me in a child like way clutching a my "little pony" and was trying to offer it to me. I knew he was from the hospis I ignored him and started walking and he followed, so I got faster and started to run so panicked and started screaming, though he looked more scared then me. I was in fits of tears , waitin for my sis it seemed like forever then I saw her in the distance. She sped towards me and said get on your bike and go, so I did!
I've never peddled as fast in my life. but boy did i get told off for going to far in front!

Looking back now I can still see his child like face. I think he just wanted to make friends by offering me the pony. I felt really sorry for him.
From then I never raced off and still saw him occassionaly on the way home walking the same stretch of road.

My sister inlaw has been into the hospis and has taken pictures of the landury room, and the boiler house (I think). the pictures are good.
when she went in there was still hospis cover molding hanging over pipes and gowns and other dated items of clothing.

i find the hospital fascinating.
thankyou for all your hard work to providing such brilliant and amazing info and pics.


Institutionalised Staff

Saw your web page and found it fascinating.
I did my training at Hellingly Hospital from 1965-68 and it was a Triving Community. The hospital staff structure was extreamily hierarchical but the system worked well both for patients and staff. Everyone seemed to know where they fitted into this Community. Some of the staff had been there all their lives and were as Institutionalised as some of the long term patients.

The Nurse training was headed up by a Mr Gutheridge, Principal Tutor and the Chief Male Nurse was at that time a Mr Harding. My memories of the Hospital are very positive. There was a good atmosphere amongst patients and staff alike. Amongst the Nursing staff there were two large communities of French & Barbadians who came to the UK to train & or learn English.
The surrounding countryside was stunning and had fantastic walks. The local town of Hailsham was a small town but very friendly where many of the married staff lived. To see the photos you have on your web site makes me very sad. I so hope that the large estate of Hellingly Hospital will not be destroyed by over building and that all the mature trees will not be felled.

Thanks for putting that site on the web as it brought so many memories back to me.
Yours sincerely,
Ray Stephen Brooksbank

Living & Thriving.

"It was lovely finding your site,brought back so many memories of the days, Hellingly was a living thriving community"

Hellingly - For the community

"I have lived close to Hellingly hospital for over 20 years since the early 1980's and during the 80s remember it still functioning. At home, we would have patients walking past our house and sometimes I have to admit they gave us cause for amusement, such as the time that one lady had problems with her knicker elastic and had to keep pulling her knickers up from round her knees and ankles as she tried to walk down the road.

Some of the patients became a very familiar sight. During those final years of the hospital, it was also providing support services for the local NHS. I recall my wife going there for an X-ray as it was closer than the DGH in Eastbourne. The corridors and waiting rooms were just as I remembered them from 30 years before!
The reason I had memories of Hellingly from the 1950s was that long before my wife and I came to live in Hellingly, we had both grown up in Mid-Sussex, some 25 miles away.
I was born in 1943 and was adopted as a baby. My adoptive mother had a son who was in Hellingly and had been for his whole adult life. In the early 1950's Jack was in his 30's. Every other Sunday or so, my parents would travel to see him, sometimes taking me with them.
Southdown buses ran special coach services to the hospital, ours coming from the Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks area. The coach would stop for the adults to have refreshment at The Golden Cross pub and eventually we alighted opposite the hospital main entrance.

I well remember the railway lines alongside the drive and the coal trucks lined up in a siding. Unfortunately I don't remember ever seeing the locomotive, which I now know would have been the electric loco taking power from the overhead cable.
In the hospital, as visitors, we were shown to the ward where Jack would meet us. In my memory it would we spent most of the time sitting in the garden on bent wood chairs.

The grounds were immaculate with groups of chairs for patients and visitors. Jack would tell us of life in the hospital, and even as a 9 or 10 year old child, I was aware that it was a world of it's own.
Thirty years later, after living in other parts of England, it was an accident of life that I came to live in Hellingly, and I did find the memories of my Mum visiting her mentally handicapped son as very sad in retrospect.
But as a local resident I soon came to appreciate the role of the hospital in the community.
As well as its role as a hospital, Hellingly was a social and sports centre. Especially entertaining was the annual fireworks display in the grounds organsised by members of the staff social club.
ASs to the hospital itself, many people would agree that it was a misguided policy that saw institutions such as Hellingly closed down. After the closure, the grounds continued to be an open space for the locals, even when the Health Authority briefly tried to discourage people with security guards.

However, well guarded, the grounds and buildings soon became a playground for local children and for teenagers and I have no doubt that my own boys, as they were growing up close to the hospital, know the buildings far better than they ever would have admitted to me".

Union Corner, Hellingly.

Drunken nights of debauchery

"I lived in the lodge for over 10 years, did my nurse training there during the seventies.The head tutor then was Ron Lucas, he was replaced by a miserable old fart by the name of Jock Faulds. I also learnt to drive in the grounds, my father was the district ground supervisor (ivor luscombe)
I often think of my days in Hellingly. I remember the drunken nights of debauchery in the nurse home where i lived (Bowe hill).
It really was a blast from the past seeing your web site. Thanks!"


Gone to dust

"Interesting site. My great-grandmother died in this asylum in 1907 of dementia and general paralysis whatever that was ! Seems hard to imagine they would just walk off and leave patient records to go to dust. You don't say what your interest was in visiting the place but I am glad you did."

Cheers, David Kilner, Adelaide, South Australia.

The colour 'Green' relaxes you

" I worked at Hellingly for about six months in 1987 or thereabouts. Unfortunately, I don't have much information about the hospital. I was given an office in one of the old houses on the left of the main drive (as you go in facing the hospital), which was then the Department of Clinical Psychology.

This was my first "serious" job, which I only got because nobody else turned up for the interview; there was a postal strike, and the letters telling people they had an interview didn't arrive.
I was moved later to the main building, where I was housed in an open plan office. I never spent a great deal of time actually in the hospital, although I did visit the wards a couple of times, including a high security ward, which was a bit disturbing. I had never heard of the great hall, those photos were very interesting. The main thing I remember is the long corridors, they all looked the same and I was always getting lost. I remember also how attractive the grounds were, so many big trees.

I am only guessing, but I think the place you have labelled as an "entry hall" was probably a ward. Bear in mind that the wards were not just rows of beds, they had open areas with chairs and tables where the patients would pass the day. There were many different wards, some large and some quite small and homey. Some of the original wards were later converted into offices or for other uses.

The "unusual bath" may have been used for hydrotherapy, it was a treatment for psychiatric illness that is now obsolete. The green corridor - as I recall, many of the interiors were green (it's a relaxing color). Some of the corridors sloped, they probably had steps once, but were sloped for wheelchairs.
The restaurant was most likely the staff canteen, I don't recall a restaurant for patients - they were probably served meals in the wards.

Anyway, I packed the job in after six months and left England (still living abroad). I never really thought about Hellingly much again, but it was great to see your photos. Thanks a lot (and sorry to have rambled on)!"

Mark Phillips
Tokyo, Japan

Strange people, especially at night

"....I came across your site..thought I'd chip in my bit on what I know about the Hospital. I live 2 minutes from the site and have been in the buildings and the grounds several times. Its an awesome site, but it is also the source of many local (and very disturbing) rumours. For example, as you approach the main compound, you may have noticed a set of twin garages with big wooden doors. These are actually the old engine sheds which housed the narrow-guage locos and rolling stock which ran on the private railway linking the hospital with the main line, in order to bring in medical supplies etc.

Now this is well documented, but there is also a rumour that during the early part of the 20th century, several big celebrities sought treatment at the hospital and the railway was used to bring in these guys under the cover of darkness in order to avoid the media getting hold of the story.

Futhermore, I have heard many rumours that there is a sub-terrain passage which links the engine sheds to the subway section of the main complex, to move the famous from the train to the hospital without being seen. I'm still to discover for myself if this is true or not.

One interesting thing is that in Lewes County Records Library, the building plans remain open for public access, and very interesting they are too. However, there are no plans or records of any underground sections of the complex whatsoever...in fact ask around the appropriate authorities and they will simply say that to their knowledge no underground stucture exists at the site. Bit odd??

I hope on your trip you got to see several other interesting things. The Morgue is a chilling sight - the fridges are still in place (thankfully empty!) and there is also a corridor with several cells which are completely padded, with big prision-style doors.
By day this a disturbing sight, but the one trip I took to the hospital at night still gives me bad dreams!! As we went in through the conservatory at the back, we found the first corridor to be totally covered in fresh, still dripping white paint. It was everywhere, but there was no paint cans, footprints or anything else to be seen. Spooked, we bolted back outside, as as we walked round the building, we passed three guys walking the other way, all wearing white.
As we got to the main access road three police cars and two dog units pulled up and asked our business. We simply said we had been to the social club and they sped off in the direction of the main complex...god knows what they were after. The problem is, as amazing as the buildings are at Hellingly, they see a large amount of drug dealers and criminals pass through.

There are some really strange people that visit the hospital, especially at night, and there is talk that it is often used by a local voodoo-type cult group...dont know what for although on one trip we found a room which contained the remains of some sort of bird. It had been dismembered and parts of it nailed into the walls. It was seriously bad, but whether it was just some sickos messing about, or something more sinnister remains a mystery.

On our next trip, there was no sign of it whatsoever, only the nail marks remain. Im still drawn to Hellingly for some reason, I think because there are so many rumours surrounding the hospital that need to be proven/disproven. I am certain that in its early years, some very horrible cruel things happened at Hellingly that are not public knowledge. I dont believe in ghosts, i dont think...but there is a 'feeling' at Hellingly that isnt quite right.
Maybe some things should be left alone".


Self sufficient water supply

"The tower consisted of 3 large water tanks and one boiler chimney.
Water was pumped from the water treatment plant which contained a well and settling beds.
Water was pumped into the top tank which overflowed into the second tank and then into the third tank from which it was used. The hospital was about 2 thirds self sufficient in water and the laundry used rain water for the initial washes of clothes

The top tank also served as a fire water tank in case of fire
I was employed as an electrician and had many happy years at the hospital".

Richard parkins.

Comedian Jo Brand - ex employee

"i just looked at your tour and it brings back memories when i was living in hailsham me and a few mates use to go in there searching it and looking around.
I'd also like to say that i saw it when it was still in working order as my mum and dad both worked there . I can kinda remember stuff like having barbeques in the observatories and stuff ...we still have one of the signs of the name of a ward there its on a brown background with white writing in block caps "ARLINGTON".
Also when i was younger my dad has told us about patients getting lost in the underground tunnels under the hospital ..in your tour you was actually quite close to one of the entrances ...in the main hall near the stage on the right there is a ladder going down ..well that starts the tunnels from the main hall . my dad saids they went on for miles and stuff ..also did u know the famous comedian Jo Brand ..use to work at hellingly hopsital !!...yeah theres a turn up for the books lol.

The burnt down social club , i had some great memories of that place as there was many disco's there when i was younger.
I've been In the water tower ..LOVELY views from the top u get the sense of being free yet wairy of falling ..My friend was kinda into putting a mark to prove he was up there ..so should have A S or somethink on one of the sides of the roof of the water tower.

...Also in the building which u said had white paint on the outside looked like it coulda had a obseravtory but been taken down ..well yes it did have one and also if you actually explorer that building there is padding cells ..most of the leather pads have been ripped down but u can still get the main idea . i hope what little i know helped you to get a broader picture of hellingly hospital."

Once again nice tour !!!

Hellingly during WW2

"Just saw your WEB site , brilliant!
A few things come to mind though , throughout both world wars the site played an important role in treating the wounded with Canadian Troops in WW2 being sent to Park House the smaller complex . Interestingly a large secret ammo dump was built in the woods around the grounds for Saboteurs in case of an invasion in 1939. My uncle as a lad found the dump but was too scared to say anything at the time . The dump was blown up by sappers after the war but a huge crater is still present .

In the Engine shed you will find the only remants of track from the light -railway which once went all the way to Hellingly station."

Nurse remembers

The Staff and patients at Hellingly
1988-90 Student Psychiatric Nurse

"great time of my life, spent mostly in an old mental hospital in a tiny Sussex village. The highlights from this period were the friends I made, as we were all in the same boat (stuck in the middle of no-where with no money!). Most nights spent getting drunk in the staff socail club. Hellingly hospital has closed down now (it was in the process of closing down through out my training there), but in it's time was one of the more innovative psychiatric hospitals. I learned to drive in the vast grounds which saved a fortune in driving lessons"

Bad Memories

"I was in a bad state, in a locked ward, even in a locked room. A few years ago I found the room I was in and it brought back bad memories."

– Taken from The Asylums: Gone But Not Forgotten


Admiration: (from a Yahoo message board)

"The gentle decaying bin is Hellingly hospital......it is a classic red brick Victorian asylum, on a grand scale. It is laid out along the mile long drive down to Ashen Hill like toad spawn. All the buildings face towards the sea 5 miles to the south. I think they probably look more beautiful now than they did when occupied because it is possible to romaticise them now."

Therapeutic Grounds

"If it was a nice day, you could go out to the patients club. It was possible to sit there all day with your tea. The extensive grounds were therapeutic – some days, it was possible to disappear with a packet of cigarettes into the grounds, then return for lunch, then off again."
– Terry’s story

The flower beds have gone

"I saw that the flower beds had gone, which was a great shame. Vandals had been at work up at the main block was where I had spent most of my time at Hellingly. I looked at the dominating water tower and remembered that I used to think there was something in the water to make you ill".
– Taken from The Asylums: Gone But Not Forgotten

Missing man mystery solved

Missing man mystery solved -

A gruesome find by a local resident, out walking close to the former Hellingly Hospital on 6 April, finally solved a 14-year mystery. As she made a detour from the main footpath, she came across what appeared to be a human skull in the undergrowth. Police were called and forensic examination found that the remains were those of a 71 year-old man reported missing in August 1988.

He had lived in Eastbourne but attended Hellingly Hospital for more than thirty years. His identification was confirmed by the presence of two small holes in the skull. These were the result of a rarely performed brain operation carried out on the man half a century ago to treat his mental health condition. An inquest can now, at long last, take place