west park history and background

West Park Lunatic Asylum is a large, abandoned psychiatric hospital in Epsom, Surrey and was designed by William C. Clifford-Smith. The hospital had been in planning since 1906, and by 1917 it was largely complete but due to the outbreak of the First World War, it was not formally opened until 1923.

The hospital was home  for to roughly 2,300 patients and as a result, the site was a self contained community, very similar in design to Hellingly in Sussex. The site has extensive boiler houses and plant rooms, an enormous laundry (plus some very handy laundry chutes - helped us bypass a few boarded up doors etc) and a huge water tower, which dominates the skyline . There were enormous kitchens located behind the canteen, and in turn this was behind the main hall/ballroom, which sadly suffered an arson attack on September 30th 2003 and is now little more than a burnt out shell - but no less beautiful and evocative for it.

Like Hellingly Asylum, West Park also boasted its own railway as part of the Horton Light Railway, but the junction was removed in 1950, and there are no hints of this except around the central engineering block. The remaining visible track routes are now walking and riding paths in the Horton Country Park. The main stores and sewing rooms were also located in this area but other services such as the mortuary and chapel were located by the entrance road, along with the matrons lodges and a large manor for the superintendent.

The hospital was gradually run down from 1994 and by 2003 the majority of the site was closed and derelict. A few wards and villas on the edges of the site remain open today and are still used for psychiatric treatment.  There are many hospital and personal items still in situ, such as beds, kitchen equipment and suitcases of clothes owned by the inmates. A row of padded cells is also of interest, although over time, these have been gradually stripped out.

West Park was the last of the great London asylums and the last to be built as part of the Epsom Cluster, a group of 5 mental institutes (the others being Horton, Manor, Long Grove and St Ebba's.) The asylum follows the compact arrow design, with external villas - in a layout which is remarkably similar to Hellingly's. There are some spectacularly long corridors on the site and a huge network of service tunnels underneath.

In the present day, the whole of the west Park site is earmarked for development, but since this announcement was made, little progress in this direction has been forthcoming and the whole site is gloriously empty save for the occasional patrolling of security guards (although the only ones we saw were sat in a car having a quite smoke on the main road into the site...)