The Silent Halls of Severalls: Inside an Abandoned Mental Hospital

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
May 30 2014 12:47 PM

The Silent Halls of Severalls: Inside an Abandoned Mental Hospital

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

These dilapidated halls are part of Severalls Hospital, a psychiatric institution in Colchester, England, that opened in 1913.

Up to 2,000 patients at a time lived at Severalls. During the hospital's early days, the intake criteria were rather warped: some women ended up confined to the wards for being raped or having an illegitimate child.

Advertisement

Severalls was also a place for experiments in mental health treatment. Electro-convulsive therapy gained favor in the late 1940s, with lobotomies following in the early '50s.

World War II had a marked impact on the hospital—in the early hours of August 11, 1942, bombing from a German air raid killed 38 patients in the women's ward.

The '60s saw dramatic changes to the hospital's policies and procedures in the wake of new attitudes toward mental health. Drugs replaced straitjackets and patients were allowed to participate in arts, crafts, and industrial programs.

Declining admission numbers over the following decades spelled the end for Severalls. The last psychiatric patients left the hospital in the mid-'90s. After briefly housing elderly patients from Colchester General Hospital, Severalls shut its doors for good in 1997.

Some of the Severalls buildings have since been demolished. Others have succumbed to arson attacks. But many of the structures remain intact behind the fences and "No Trespassing" signs. Their peeling paint, encroaching vines, and heavy history are a tantalizing combination for urban explorers.

Other abandoned psychiatric hospitals:


View Severalls Hospital in a larger map

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Global Marches Demand Action on Climate Change

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Americans' Inexplicable Aversion to the 1990s
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.