The Silent Halls of Severalls: Inside an Abandoned Mental Hospital

Atlas Obscura
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May 30 2014 12:47 PM

The Silent Halls of Severalls: Inside an Abandoned Mental Hospital

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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.

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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.

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