The only contemporary urban exploration reports of climbing the water tower were published in Andrew Tierney’s seminal The One website.
He related two instances: the initial climb of 1999 and a second visit the same year to observe the eclipse. His description
included details of various floors, tanks and chlorination equipment but photographs of the climb, and the internal structure
of the water tower, were scarce.
For some reason, my initial forays into Cane Hill hardly featured the water tower. In retrospect, this was somewhat understandable. The groundbreaking Grand Tour featured many of the hospital’s iconic areas for the first time (such as the Chapel and Administration block) and there was little time for the water tower itself. With so much potential within the buildings, it was perhaps wasteful to simply view them from above.
That said, I can’t believe I wouldn’t have given the base of the tower a cursory look. During the Grand Tour and the Spooks And Structural Failure expeditions, we walked past the inviting door at the base of the tower, and yet I was quiet on the subject. I can only assume the door was firmly locked shut on both occasions and I neglected to mention it.
Such silence was short-lived as I photographed the ground floor of the water tower during the Syringes On Sunday tour. The initial intention was to cover new ground and further push the boundaries at Cane Hill, and the water tower would’ve been high on the list. I mentioned the door to the tower being completely removed, thus suggesting earlier access had been blocked. However, the stairs were ruined; either rotten or smashed out on the turn.
My visits to Cane Hill ceased and the water tower was rendered inaccessible by rude steel shuttering. As I visited other asylums, and climbed their water towers, I became ever more interested in the water tower at Cane Hill; not to climb it nor photograph the hospital from its parapet, but primarily to photograph and document its interiors. Tierney’s description of rooms, machines and dangerous crawls became ever more tempting, intriguing and frustrating.
Finally an opportunity arose for a return to Cane Hill. Not only could I finish off what I’d started, but I knew the water tower was open. It was now or never.