Harperbury Hospital, Aug-2009

Posted by thirtyfootscrew On August - 26 - 2009

Corridor in New BuildingI’ve been hankering after a proper wide-angle lens for a while and after ages of trying to decide between the Sigma 10mm and the Sigma 10-20mm, I’d kind-of settled on the zoom because you get a little more flexibility and it’s cheaper but I’d read that the 10-20 had quite poor build quality.  On a pay-day whim I ended up buying the Tamron 10-24mm (which had favourable comparisons to the Sigma 10-20) and tonight I popped out to give it a quick test – the weather was turning out rubbish so I needed somewhere indoors and Harperbury seemed ideal.

The place was in an even worse state than the last time which one would expect to be the case in a derelict building but the bulk of the new damage is human and one of the previously sealed buildings was open on three sides, I even saw the remnants of what would’ve been a padded cell but only the floor was intact as the walls had been stripped bare.

It was interesting to explore a couple of new rooms but they all looked essentially the same as the others anyway – pretty mashed up…

Needs Redecorating

It’s often difficult to find inspiration in a site you’ve visited before and I really struggled to find anything to do that I’d not done before, despite the new lens – it didn’t help much that I was knackered after a long day at work either.  

37I guess this is a lesson really, that the fun and interesting part of Urban Exploration really is the ‘exploration’ component – finding something new and interesting as opposed to covering the same ground over and over again. Just because it’s probably the most diverse building on the site, I spent the longest amount of time in the swimming pool block doing a couple of long exposures but I really didn’t get anything I hadn’t done before and I didn’t have the patience to do time consuming work such as light painting, which is a pity as it’s quite a cool spot to do it.

I achieved the lighting in these shots through a combination of the light from my head torch and the external flash unit being handheld off-camera…

Oxford Dipper

Swimming Pool

Top 10 Abandoned Asylums

Posted by sickbritain On August - 19 - 2009

All over the UK dotted throughout countryside and city alike lie abandoned asylums, relics of a bygone era of mental health where the aim was to isolate patients in a secure facility rather than integrating them with the community. Here I have selected a top ten list based on the number of Flickr photos I found for each asylum in a single search, doubtlessly I will have missed important sites and got the ranking wrong but please feel free to point them out by leaving a comment. All of the photos used below were taken by other photographers and are used under a Creative Commons license (click through to Flickr for attribution), if you think you’ve got a better photo and it’s not CC – get your licensing sorted!


1. Hellingly
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2. Cane Hill

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3. West Park

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4. Whittingham

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5. Severalls

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6. Denbigh

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7. Deva

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8. St Mary’s

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9. Talgarth

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10. St John’s

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West Park Asylum, Jul-2009

Posted by thirtyfootscrew On July - 26 - 2009

The fact that there’s so many abandoned asylums across the country mystifies me, why did they all close? Where are all the former and/or expected residents? Are we all collectively more well-adjusted these days to the point where asylums are no longer needed? I think this mystery along with the general mystery of the mind and its maladies is what makes exploring abandoned asylums a particular favourite of mine, they have odd layouts and structures – nothing quite like an industrial or commercial site.  West Park has been on my ‘to do’ list for a while, it’s one of the more popular destinations on the urbex ‘circuit’ and I assumed that because of this and the wealth of Flickr photos of the place that it was completely uninhabited and extremely easy to get into but only one of my assumptions was true. On arrival I followed my sat-nav right up into the complex, right past the security/construction hut and up to a place with at least 20-odd cars dotted about – not the abandoned site I was expecting! Whilst I was driving up the main internal road I did spot what appeared to be a derelict area in the background so I knew I was in the right place but I just hadn’t approached it in the best way, as it goes I’d have probably gotten away with parking amongst (what I assume are) the staff cars because there were enough of them that I probably wouldn’t have looked out of place.  Instead I just stuck the car around the corner in a less obtrusive place though I did park it on its own so perhaps it would’ve stood out more. Rather than walking right back through the main gate I wandered up a footpath alongside the complex and came across one of several holes in the fence that was a doddle to step through, still I ended up behind a building that looked like it might be in use so I was getting a little concerned but a short walk around the back of this building (and the accompanying van parked outside) led to an area that was clearly abandoned and a massive area it is! I wasn’t really limited by time during my explore at West Park but I knew that I’d only be there a few hours, I find that explores lasting much longer are more likely to result in detection so I don’t like to push my luck, with that in mind I treated the day as extended reconnaissance and tried to get a good feel for the place with a view to returning in the future. Once into the derelict area of the site I came across building after building, most of them sealed which I presume were wards though I couldn’t get into them to see what the layout was like, each of the buildings had an accompanying green hut that was half way between a summer house and a bus shelter. After coming across so many sealed buildings I eventually got to an area where there were lots of smashed windows, this allowed me to grab a couple of shots by putting the camera through the window and shooting with the flash on, the photos didn’t always turn out but it’s interesting to see what was in there. After the smashed-window building I found a door that had been sealed but subequently ripped open, I clambered in and found what is probably the grubbiest and most rotten room I’ve ever seen during an explore…

Whilst I was positioning my camera to take shots of this room I did have a feeling that there was someone nearby, I even saw a shadow (of what looked like a man) flick across one of the windows at the far end of the building which got my heart pumping a little bit! After staying still for a while I carried on taking photos but for at least fifteen minutes I had a definite sense that I wasn’t alone and sure enough when I clambered back out of the doorway I was confronted by a deer, yes – a deer! There seemed to be quite a lot of them in this area of the complex and whilst they were a bit jumpy they were very curious and in some cases approached me for a better look, only the babies ran away through fear – the adults just stood there stating at me. After the ‘Caution Wet Floor’ room I came across a boarded up prefab right next to what looked like an entrance to the site next to a large car parking area, I think this may be one of the boundaries between the derelict site and the live site, there was a van parked in the near distance as well but I couldn’t see any signs of activity so I carried on. The prefab’s lock was smashed off so I had a look around, the place was completely boarded up so it was pitch black inside but with my trusty head torch I could see that the place was in a derelict but not completely ruined state, I managed to get the chair shot below on a 30s exposure, at f/14 on ISO 1000 and that was with the aid of the head torch! Other than having a couple more face-offs with the local wildlife I didn’t stick around too much longer, I identified a few areas that warrant further exploration so no doubt I’ll be back at some point. I’m not sure exactly how to get into the main corridor network but judging by Flickr plenty have done so – if anyone who knows the place can offer some pointers please let me know.

Harperbury Hospital, Mar-2009

Posted by thirtyfootscrew On April - 27 - 2009

tfs_hh_001Almost a year on from my initial visit, this is the third installment of my Harperbury series bringing us up to date (see Harperbury in April 2008, Harperbury in October 2008), a productive visit albeit a short one. I recently decided to upgrade my camera from the Canon 400D to the more robust and richly featured 50D (lord knows I’d love a 5D MKII but the cost is staggering) and I needed somewhere to test it out, it wasn’t the prettiest of days and I felt like a drive so I headed over to Harperbury Hospital. On arrival I didn’t notice much that had changed externally, although there’s a couple more buildings across the site that have been sealed.

tfs_hh_002As usual I gravitated towards the swimming pool and found a whole load of new graffiti (but thankfully no hornets). The paint peeling room is in a glorious state, pretty much the essence of urbex and the “Dark Dark Room” is still as mouldy as ever, despite the mask I could still smell some of the Harperbury stench too – makes me consider using a non-disposable mask. I was on a tight timescale for this visit so I just toured through a few favourite spots and ignored some of the less interesting bits though you never know, they might have become interesting since my last visit – that’s one of the cool things about urban exploration.

After heading back into the real world I was just about to leave and thought that since it’d been such a quick trip and I still had a bit of time spare I might try and get down to part of the facility near the road. It looks as though some of it is still in use but there’s definitely a huge cluster of derelict buildings down there, I’ve just never worked out the best way to get down there without raising the alarm or spooking the residents. Well, this time I thought I’d try going round the back along the edge of the field and it worked a treat! I was still on a whistle-stop tour because of time pressures but I could clearly see that there are quite a few abandoned buildings down there, most of them looked sealed but I didn’t have the time to probe closely.

tfs_hh_003The buildings over here (maybe 10 in total) are arranged around a central ‘playing field’, after a little wander I found one open and accessible building (front door wide open) so naturally I had a look in, unlike a lot of the others over the road many of the buildings down the bottom are two-storey – the stairs seemed solid in my one so I had a proper look around. Architecturally it’s not too different from the others and inside the walls are painted (mostly peeling) either the cream or turquoise-blue that appears to be common across the site. It’s worth noting that in this area there are a couple of diggers so it looks like someone has been working here, that might make it difficult to do anything but weekend or out-of-hours exploration but I suspect that’s what most of us do anyway.

I’m sure I’ll be back at some point, there are still whole areas that I’ve not been into and that somehow gets to me, like an unsolved mystery or when Sky+ buggers up recording the end of an episode of The Apprentice!


Harperbury Hospital, Oct-2008

Posted by thirtyfootscrew On April - 18 - 2009

Having made an initial visit to Harperbury in April 2008 I went back in October 2008 with a friend of mine, also a photographer. He’d been intrigued by the shots I’d posted on Flickr and fancied a look around the place so we headed over, it was cool to have two of us there to bounce ideas off of each other and also to act as models / props / light stands for each-other. On arrival I found a couple of previously open buildings had now been sealed but otherwise access and the site as a whole remained relatively unchanged.

On entry into one of the first open buildings (the one with the swimming pool) we took a few photos then headed into the main hall, there we could hear a very low-level buzzing sound. As soon as I realised what it was ‘the fear’ rushed over me: it was a hornet’s nest and I’m scared to death of bees and wasps let alone their giant evil cousins! They were very dopey and zig-zagged around the hall very slowly and crawled in and out of roof tiles and all over the floor (I’m itching just thinking about it). Luckily they were dopey enough that when they’d landed they were ignorable and when they were airborne the buzzing was plenty loud enough that you knew to get the hell out of the way!

After a little poke around the swimming pool area and a brief stab at light painting we moved on to what I assume must have been the wards of Harperbury – large (but not massive) rooms, all with high ceilings. It’s in here where you find some of the cooler graffiti, as well as some of the most dangerous and sodden flooring so please pay equal attention to both the walls and the floors. After light painting at some of the graffiti spots we headed down to a room with severe paint peeling at the end of the block, most noteworthy as it’s the only place I’ve ever seen stalactites having formed indoors (in this case on a light fitting).

On the way out we spotted a windowless room with an intact door so we went in to do some light painting and shut the door behind us, inside it was pitch black and very quiet (aside from the two of us chatting and flailing Maglites around). As we were timing an exposure I thought I heard a noise outside the door, I turned around to see the door move slightly and I knew that it wasn’t the wind as it’s a heavy old door. With no hesitation whatsoever I walked over to the door and pulled it wide open to find myself face-to-face with a terrified guy who panicked and ran away, I stepped out of the room in time to see him fall on the floor as he ran and then spotted his friends also looking mildly panicked. As I pulled my mask off and said “Hi” they realised I wasn’t a threat (neither maniac nor security) and we stopped to chat for a bit, they were just exploring as well so I apologised for causing any alarm and we went our separate ways.

The rest of the explore was less eventful, we covered some of the lower buildings and got a couple of good shots in the padded playpen, usually I find when I visit Harperbury there’s not a great deal of variation once you’re past the main buildings so we sped through a lot of them finding nothing unusual save for the decomposing corpse of a bird (still pretty well preserved). We finished off the day with a good set of shots between us but I always come away from that place feeling a little grubby, even though I wear a mask, gloves, wellies, etc. – it’s nothing a good shower can’t fix though!



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About Me

If youre into Urbex or youre trying to find out what its all about you may find yourself needing some help finding out about the art of Urban Exploration.  Here at Sick Britain Im planning to put up original content like my What is Urbex? and Urbex Safety articles as well as posting links to other community sites such as 28 Days Later or Derelicte.

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