the return of hellingly: external redevelopment


The Return of Hellingly 


If you have any kind of interest in UrbEx, you've probably read or heard about the dire warnings surrounding this huge and enigmatic building.

You may also have seen some of the sporadic reports giving details of what has changed on the site in the course of its redevelopment into a massive housing estate by Persimmon Construction Group.

However, here at ghost-of, we have an unquenchable thirst to see these things with our own eyes. 


It was only a matter of time and a return trip was always on the cards due to the sheer frustration of not knowing what was happening with the place coupled with an incredible afinity with the place. For me personally, this was my first major explore and the pinnacle of our conquests to date. On 6th April, agents Ghost and Skyframe bit the bullet and went for a sneak around.

We had both heard all kinds of horror stories about rooves being dismantled, but the only major change that we had been able to verify was that the Acute Hospital (Park House) had been demolished. There were other stories about the roof being gradually removed from parts of the main building, huge areas of trees felled and many other dreadful attrocities due to the (sometimes totally undeserved) reputation of developers.

I'm glad to say that what we saw wasn't quite as bad as we were expecting. There were the expected levels of damage caused by contractors: Most of the upper floor windows had been removed and on the ground floor most of the floorboards had been removed. However, this was only at the end of the building adjacent to the former Acute Hospital. In reality, we believe that at this stage of redevelopment (April 2010), less than a quarter of the main building is subject to any changes. Most of the activity we encountered was centred around the rear of the site between The Drive (main access road into the site) and the Engineering & Maintenance Department, which is around the base of the Water Tower.

It still appears possible to gain access to the building at several points around the perimeter, but Ghost was due to go to work that same afternoon, so we didn't want to get caught anywhere we shouldn't have been. We are hoping to infiltrate the site on a future visit (watch this space).

This report contains both pictoral and video footage (TBA), along with commentary where necessary.


ABOVE: We approached the site using our usual access method and despite the distant and very disturbing sound of creaking and excavators, this side of the site appeared to still be intact and there were no signs of redevelopment here at least... 

ABOVE: Well, I say we went in using our usual route - but I don't remember seeing this before. It appears to be a small incinerator. We are guessing this would have originally been for either burning clinical waste or trimmings from the extensive grounds. We don't think it has been moved here from inside one of the main buildings because the concrete surround suggests that it was placed here on purpose. We are guessing that it would originally have been enclosed. 

ABOVE: Front view. We couldn't work out why there were 2 counterweights on the top hatch. We will be making enquiries about this device. Intriguing. 

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ABOVE: There have been no changes or disturbances to the "live" part of the site. The main hospital building can be seen peeping through the trees, dead centre of the photo, just beyond the lights. 

Find this location on a map of Hellingly

ABOVE: I make no apologies for the size of some of the images on this page - okay, so they're slow, but go and make a cup of tea then come back and enjoy them properly! Gah I don't know - everything's just rush rush rush nowerdays.

This was our first proper glimpse of the place on this occasion (obviously we've been here before) but it looks as though even though the place is being redeveloped, not much has changed and the work is only really centred around one corner of the block and the area around the water tower and former maintenance section. the only real sign of activity from this side of the site takes the shape of the removal of some of the upstairs windows and large stacks of floorboards outside. I'm guessing they may be treated in some way then put back in. Some places they were just slung out of the windows (often without opening them first - bastards) but in some places were carefully stacked on pallet-like thingies.

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ABOVE & BELOW LEFT + RIGHT: We were very pleased to see that the Medical Superintendent's Residence hasn't been removed. We hope that it will be kept, because whilst it is currently nothing more than a brick shell, it has been very cleanly gutted by fire and appears to be pretty stable. This is probably one of the most romantic and eerie looking parts of Hellingly. 

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Find this location on a map of Hellingly 

ABOVE: What a bloody mess!! As previously mentioned, a lot of debris has been thrown out of the top floor and a lot of the windows have been removed (the more so the closer we got to the area of the site being worked on). This little leant-to greenhouse used to be the way into the building for most groups of explorers. I wouldn't recommend it now due to the sheer weight of all that stuff piled up on top of it.

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Find this location on a map of Hellingly 

ABOVE: a little further around the block, we found that the water Tower was thankfully still in one piece. The discarded bricks trampled into the mire outside are worrying and a little sickening - we were left wondering which part of the old girl they had been smashed or torn from...

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ABOVE: The Water Tower peeps enticingly through the saplings around the place. "Climb me!" it cries, "Climb me!"

From what I have been able to gather from various forums about Hellingly, it is proposed to blow the Water Tower up towards the back end of 2010. Very sad indeed, but it isn't at all safe structurally and wouldn't be much use for anything other than a landmark. Imagine if it were made into flats? What a fantastic place to live in! We can only dream now....

Find this location on a map of Hellingly 

ABOVE: There are a few little glitches in this panoramic shot, sadly. If this is what happens with redevelopment, I much preferred it before.

The builders were hard at work in this area and occasionally we could look through the window frames and see people knocking the mortar off of bricks: it is (I suppose) a good thing that the developers have agreed that any alterations or parts built onto existing structures will be done with matched brickwork and it appears to be the case that a fair amount of the original materials will be recycled or pressed into new uses.

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Find this location on a map of Hellingly 

ABOVE: We thought we might have been rumbled when we saw this chap and expected to be thrown out or presented to the "Old Bill", but he paid us very little attention at all and even wished us a good morning in passing. He was just one of the builders, though and I'm guessing that security would be patrolling the less occupied parts of the site, nearer to the live section.

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Find this location on a map of Hellingly 

ABOVE: The main crux of the development work seems to be in the area around the water tower and former maintenance section as I mentioned before. We didn't venture into this are, but went further around to where the Acute Building (Park House) used to stand.

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ABOVE: We hadn't been to this location before - this was the rear of the former Acute Block and these little buildings caught our curiosity. They both appeared to be toilet blocks originally. This area is largely populated by mature trees and has a path running through the middle of it which acts as a boundary for the redevelopment work. Having scrutinised plans of the proposed works, it appears that as much of the woodland as possible will be kept intact.  

ABOVE LEFT & RIGHT: evidence of scrub clearence at the rear of the Acute Block. We couldn't work out why these particular patches had been cleared, as they bore no correlation to any access ways. 

ABOVE: Having followed the groaning noises, sounds of tortured wood and reversing alarms, we finally broke through the trees and found the busiest part of the redevelopment - the new build. This location is on the patch of land between the 2 buildings ie: between the Acute Block and the main building. In the duration of the period the site was derelict, this was little more than a large area of scrub and I don't think anything significant stood here. The confines of the area of new Build Housing are shown in the map link under the next picture.

Find this location on a map of Hellingly 

ABOVE: The end of the road for the Acute Block. This huge pile of bricks is all that is left to prove that Park House ever stood here.

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Find this location on a map of Hellingly 

ABOVE & BELOW: Having worked our way round as far as we could in this direction, we doubled back and headed for the opposite end of the site. I'm glad to say that it appears less than a quarter of the site appears to be in the course of reconstruction at this time (April 2010) and this end of the site appears to be relatively untouched. There were also a great many tantalising gaps in the fences, so there is a very good chance that we may be able to infiltrate the place again in the future.

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Find this location on a map of Hellingly 

ABOVE: on the way back to the car, we found a point where we could get through the trees at the rear of the Admin Building and Maintenance Depot, the area of which is seen above (the Admin Block can be just about seen far left) This, as I have mentioned, was the main focus of the builders attention and the busiest part of the site. Sadly, we weren't really able to ascertain what had changed around this area: nothing looked any different here from how it had on previous visits.

We couldn't leave without a quick trip up and down The Drive in the car for a closer look. The video below shows what we found. Apologies for the wind noise in places, this was filmed from the window of the car, so please watch the volume on your speakers on playback. There is also a certain amount of larking about and bad language, us being uncouth heathen types...

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