cane hill | the strange case of the mysterious basement

My self imposed exile from Cane Hill in late 2003 didnít result in a total excommunication with the site itself. I received an ongoing reappraisal of the hospital, its condition, and the ever increasing security, via a new generation of urban explorers who were regularly transgressing its perimeter fence and exploring the buildings.

One of these visitors was Keith Boucher. A film producer, he was looking for a subject for his seminal documentary and happened upon Cane Hill. After drawn out meetings with incumbent NHS Estates, and future owner English Partnerships, he managed to wangle an official visit within its crumbling walls for a recce.

He sent me a few shots from his hurried tour around the buildings, newly exposed after the severe undergrowth removal which began in 2005. He pointed out one in particular, a shot taken looking down at some subterranean windows, firmly shut, and looking out towards a sheer vertical wall. Surely this was a basement window near Administration?

It turned out to be a basement window at the back of Browning/Blake, in a small enclosed courtyard obliquely fenced in by the crazily angled corridors and ward walls. I was stumped and poured over the maps. Unfortunately Keith was vague about the location, so definitively pin-pointing the basement was going to be difficult.

English Partnerships were quick to embellish the tale, relating to Keith how there was a basement at Cane Hill still intact and full of historical records, arcane medical equipment and vintage ECT machines. Had Keith chanced upon a treasure trove at Cane Hill? Did these windows conceal Cane Hillís final secret? Keith was fired up and anxious to discover the truth, but a change of management at English Partnerships lead to a blanket refusal to let him enter the buildings and his film looked scuppered.

Five years after I literally ran out of Cane Hill, I was back within its decaying walls. The objectives of the day were to climb the interior of the water tower, photograph as many of the wards as possible, and visit the Chapel and Administration. But, also in the back of my mind (as it had been during the intervening years) was that mysterious basement. Given Keithís rough description of its location would we be able to find it?

As it turned out, we did.

(Note: larger sized pictures are available. E-mail me if you require them.)