hellingly redevelopment visit, june 2010

Hellingly Redevelopment visit,

June 2010.

As has been mentioned before, the ghost-of crew vowed to keep regular tabs on the redevelopment and conversion of the former Hellingly Lunatic Asylum whilst it undergoes its transformation into a housing estate...

"Old Hand" Agents present: Ghost & Skyframe

New Agents: Analepsis and BadWabbit

A big welcome to the 2 new field operatives on this trek! It was lovely to meet you, chaps and hope to see you for a few of the future treks.... 

A lot of organisation went into this trip as we had 2 new members joining us following various communications on 28 Days Later (a similar forum). We met up with Analepsis at Brighton Station around midday and set off to the hallowed turf. Another new member BadWabbit was due to meet us en-route. However, due to silly delays with trains, we were all a little held up as various connections didn't work out. The end result was that we arrived at our usual LZ to find Mr. Wabbit's car, but a distinct lack of any Wodent activity nearby.

Naturally, we assumed that he must be on-site already and made our way in by the usual route, opting to contact him once safely out of reach of builders and prying eyes. It turned out that Mr. Wabbit had gotten a bit lost in the woods nearby and so, via a few well known way points, we managed to guide him to the perimeter fence whilst watching from the top floor overlooking the access point.

After a couple of whispered phone calls and a bit of waving and cloak & dagger sneaking about, we connected with BadWabbit  on the ground floor. As both the new members were not fully conversant with the site, and we knew exactly what we had come to see (and how to get there directly), Analepsis decided that he would like to get some shots of the place, so armed with a map, he went off to find some good photos. We found him at several points throughout the day, frequently scaring the life out of us all, as we were still a little jumpy about security. Mr. Wabbit on the other hand, stayed with us and opted for something of a guided tour as we only had the one map available!  

So... What's changed?

On the last visit, we had determined that the site was indeed being split up into the component blocks in line with the redevelopment plan we had found online (link TBA here). To this end, quite a large proportion of the corridors have been remove where they would have adjoined the blocks. This is gradually making progress around the site a little more challenging, as invariably the corridors now open onto the central area of the site which has now been cleared, meaning that they open into brilliant sunlight and direct visibility by demolition operatives! A fair bit of Ninja sneaking was required to gain some of the shots we did.

A lot of the service tunnels have now been filled with rubble as the buildings above them have been razed, which is a great shame, but makes perfect sense, really. What good would a housing estate be that was riddled with underground tunnels? It would be the ultimate playground, though! It is quite distressing seeing the stripes across the site, which represent the rooves of the service tunnels, or the floors of the corridors (they usually follow the same route) and the occasional grille in the ground leading to the service tunnels - looking from outside in, which was quite sad.

In the main, the area around the base of the water tower has been cleared, as we have it on good authority that the water tower will be demolished using dynamite, sometime around August 2010. The tower stands, at the present time, completely severed from the rest of the site due to the removal of various ancillary buildings in the viscinity and also the removal of the corridors around it. For the moment, is is still just about possible to gain access to the tower from the service tunnels, although the route is now far more convoluted and nowhere near as undetectable or direct as before.

More dishearteningly, work has now begun on the dismantling of the beautiful hall at the very heart of the site. The redevelopment plans are totally void of anything that even resembles the hall, so it too will be demolished: a great shame. This will not be an overnight thing, though, as the hall is an enormous structure. We were well able on previous visits to walk in the roof void some 30ft above the floor of the hall. There are several tonnes of slate on the roof, a huge iron frame holding the roof up, the flys to dismantle, not to mention the maze of walkways in the roof and the enormous stained glass windows.

However, they have moved in and the stripping out has begun: the wonderful wooden panelling and the floor have been removed and the brick floor supports have been taken down and, in short, the hall is now a bit of a sorry mess. A lot of the panelling we found smashed up in the areas around the hall and the floorboards piled in the doorways leading into the hall, frustratingly negating easy access for us!

In short, Hellingly is now an ever changing construction landscape and we are guessing that a lot of the well worn paths will be severed in the next few months, making our future treks a lot more challenging and requiring a lot more thought to obtain pictures of the locations that we have.

What follows, then, is a pictoral record of our findings on this occasion, along with comments on the particular locations we found. As an addition, a link to BadWabbit's excellent report on 28 Days Later is shown at the end of this report - his photographs are something to behold. I have tried to include links back to past shots of some locations where we have been there before, in order to try and portray a gradual errosion of the view or progress of the demolition, depending on how viewers would wish to perceive it!


The Central Redevelopment Core 

ABOVE: This is the view looking across the site from the Nurses Accomodation Block. The huge pile of rubble in the foreground used to be an exercise and airing court, which has now been torn up. The rooves with the slates stacked up are the central nucleus of the Laundry and ancillary buildings: kitchens, canteen etc. The contractors have an obligation to recycle materials in the course of demolition, so slate roofing tiles and bricks need to be salvaged and recycled. It is also one of the conditions of the site redevelopment that any newbuild items must match the original building in character and materials, so a lot of the original materials are pressed into new usage.

ABOVE: It is difficult to gauge the scale of this place until it is seen from an elevated position. Beyond the roof that runs across the centre of the photo here, the ground has been cleared, a huge area. 

ABOVE: This photo is taken looking in the opposite direction to the previous one, from the other end of the site, within the "live" part of the site - ie: the blocks that have been fully stripped ready for redevelopment. The square recess in the ground slightly to the left of the centre here was where the reservoir once was. It has been pressed into an alternative use here as a flame pit! It was shocking to see huge stock trees piled up in the middle of the site awaiting burning. Also of note here is the white band that runs diagonally across the photo: this is where a corridor has been removed between the blocks. The service tunnel runs directly underneath it, evidenced by the little hole where a grating would have been, just to the bottom right of the photo, near the point of the shadow. The Hall can be seen on the right, thankfully untouched for the moment, although the demolition is creeping closer!

ABOVE: Not an incredible photo on first appearences, but very necessary. The windowless grating of the service tunnel can be clearly seen in the centre of this photo. Directly above it, another corridor would have run along to the building on the extreme right. This was one of our main thoroughfares in previous explores and it was a little awkward walking round a corner into brilliant daylight, in full view of the demolition crew!! Sadly, the demolition of the corridors and tunnels is necessary to split the site into individual buildings and central to the redevelopment plans.

ABOVE: Another service tunnel and corridor removed: this is the clearest we have seen so far and illustrates beautifully how easy it originally was to gain access to the vast majority of the site. At the time of writing, the majority of the service tunnels were still easily navigable, with only a few filled in - I would guess only a few hundred metres of the total distance of tunnel.

ABOVE: The Morgue and Engineering Maintenance department bites the dust...

ABOVE: Whilst a massive space is being cleared in the centre of the site, there have, thankfully, been no attempts thus far to demolish the Admin Building. Despite being badly damaged by fire, the outer walls and frontage look quite sound and we are guessing that this will be retained.

ABOVE LEFT & RIGHT: More service tunnels peep out of the destruction at us. It is quite sad seeing them from above ground in such a state, made even more noticeable by the tracks created by the tiled floors of the corridors above them and (as detailed previously) the occasional light or grating as seen in the left hand photo.

The Water Tower

ABOVE: On many of our early trips to Hellingly, we were in awe of how wildlife (and more specifically trees) had started to reclaim the site in the 15 years it had been closed down and abandoned. Everywhere we looked there were saplings in abundence and even small forests had sprung up in some places. It wasn't very pretty to see, them all piled up ready to be burnt and the buildings around them gradually demolished or dismantled....

ABOVE: All of the corridors around the base of the Water Tower have been removed. At the time of writing this, the Tower was still accessible from the service tunnels underneath, along with the spiral steps up into the Economiser Room at the base of the tower. We would have been in full view of site operatives, so didn't venture up these steps at this point.

ABOVE: "How do we get over there now?" The path of a corridor can be clearly seen running from the doorway of the building on the left, all the way to the foot of the Water Tower. A junction in the corridors stood where the stack of bricks is in the foreground. 

BELOW: I wasn't prepared for just how much the work had progressed until I saw the site from this direction. The Water Tower is totally severed from the rest of the buildings. We are guessing that the area around the base of the Water Tower is being cleared to such an extent due to the proposed demolition of the Tower using explosives.

ABOVE: The last 20ft of the Main Corridor can be seen on the right of this photo. That little door at the base of the Tower looks so inviting...

ABOVE LEFT & RIGHT: A couple of arty shots of the Tower - the conditions were absolutely perfect and this is, I think, a fair tribute to the Tower. Just in case it's not there next time we get back!

The Hall 

ABOVE & BELOW LEFT: We at ghost-trains were terrified by a Post left on the 28 Days Later Urbex website, saying that the demolition crew had got to the Hall and it terrified us enough to propel us to the site the next day. Thankfully, the building was still there and thanks to a bit of Ninja stealth, we got in and had a quick shufty. A lot of the lovely panelling had been ripped off the walls and the floor had been cleared, along with the brick piers that it would have been elevated on. Stupidly, the floor and panelling have been demolished, but not removed: Just thrown aside and strewn around the area. 

ABOVE: The Hall, as viewed from the south side of the site. Thankfully, this side of the hall was untouched at the time of writing and made it reasonably easy to get to.

ABOVE LEFT & RIGHT: As previously mentioned, the interior of the Hall is being stripped out prior to the eventual demolition of the Hall. It wouldn't be so much of a kick in the teeth and a whole lot easier to bear if they had taken the spoil away after stripping out. However, the demolition team appear to have just ripped it up and thrown it unceremoniously through door and windows in the surrounding corridors and open areas. A fantastically grafittied section of panelwork can be seen above right and some more can be glimpsed on the left, at the foot of the wood pile. This link shows how they looked beforehand (TBA)


ABOVE LEFT & BELOW LEFT: At the time of this report, a large proportion was, thankfully, navigable using The Service Tunnels. However, their gradual demolition did pose a few challenges for us: In places they were blocked by rubble, which we had to very carefully and quietly navigate our way over or around; in other places, what had been a complete corridor up until a few weeks ago suddenly bust into brilliant daylight, as seen above!

ABOVE: There were still some fantastic and very strange bits of pipework hiding in some of the murkier stretches of tunnel. I haven't a clue what this was all about but it did look very impressive and photogenic. Doubtless it will just be buried once the demolition of the tunnels is complete....


ABOVE: Another dead end... Not quite in full view of prying eyes this time, but we had to be cautious. Agent Skyframe checks the coast is clear.

ABOVE: Upstairs, it is a lot easier to navigate the site undetected. This is in one of the "ready" parts of the "live" part of the site. All the windows and doors have been removed, all frames and woodwork, all electrics eventually, just leaving an empty shell to work with. Despite being stripped bare, this corridor still oozes character.

Graffitti & General Weirdness

IN THIS SECTION (RADIATING FROM THIS TEXT): As there are a huge number of doors and windows on the site now very easily accessible, anyone can get in if they are sneaky enough. This has given rise to some dazzling examples of graffitti in recent months, some of which is shown here. We can't decipher what it all says, but it looks quite good.

Rooms & Wards 

ABOVE: BadWabbit puts his best paw forward.

ABOVE: Lunch time!

ABOVE: More of the stripped out "live" part of the site, on the South-western frontage. The rooms are huge all around the frontage on the southern side and it is impossible at this stage to find any hints of how they will be divided into houses or flats.

ABOVE: Stripping out is gradually starting to spread around the Southern facade of the building and head gradually eastward. Some of the rooms on the ground floor have just the joists in place, others present unwary explorers with a 3 foot drop just inside the door. Take extreme care.

ABOVE: This particular part of the site is totally stripped out and there are signs of recent preparation (the fireplace has been blocked up - I would have thought an open fireplace would be a bonus? maybe that's just me! Ed.)  Just the electrics remain to be removed. I think this will probably be one of the first blocks to be completed. Due to the shape of the room, I think this will probably be an arrangement of 2 bedroom flats at this point. It does however remain totally in the hands of the developers.

ABOVE & BELOW: There are still parts of the site, even to this day, that have escaped the ravages of redevelopment. One such place is seen here. The combination of decay and wildlife taking control is stunning as ever.

Exterior & Frontage 

ABOVE & BELOW: Now the work has commenced on clearing the scrub and brambles from around the frontage of the site, it is a lot more visible just how imposing and strong this place is. Mr. Hine's architecture oozes strength and quality. The building looks far more imposing without the green skirt surrounding it.

ABOVE: Many old hands at Urbex will recognise this Greenhouse as one of the original access points. Sadly, it has been "got at" by the demolition crew and looked so much better when we first went!

ABOVE: Agent Skyframe surveys the "live" part of the redevelopment.

ABOVE & BELOW: More scrub clearence around the site frontage, this time around the South-Western corner of the site, just a short way along from the "live" part of the site.