warley hospital
Last update: 24|10|10

"... was left in splendid isolation as a relic of the past and one cannot help hoping that future generations may perhaps be sufficiently sentimental to regard it as an "ancient monument" and resist the temptation to sweep it away in the sacred name of "progress."

Warley Hospital (also known as the Essex County Lunatic Asylum and Brentwood Mental Hospital) was never a popular destination during the burgeoning urban exploration scene. I have never been able to determine why this was the case. Some sites, such as Severalls and Cane Hill, gripped the common consciousness and were inundated with trespassers and the curious whilst other, equally impressive locations, such as Rauceby and Warley, remained largely ignored.

The hospital (or the remaining original "main block") remained in pristine condition, thanks to a network of PIRs, external cameras and an ever vigilant security guard ensconced in the Administration Block. The buildingís owners also supplemented their income by renting Warley as a prime location for filming. It was a perfect model for the safe mothballing of a building, but, alas remains an exception. (English Partnerships could learn some important lessons here).

I made two visits to the former hospital and was able to take over two hundred pictures of its exteriors and interiors. Whatís published here gives a flavour of the buildings before they were converted into luxury flats.

I am indebted to Mechanised for organising the second trip and providing much of the archival information.


The first history of Warley Hospital was written by Dr. G. S. Nightingale (the Medical Superintendent) in 1953 as part of the celebrations surrounding the institutionís centenary. The small pamphlet (produced by the Male Occupational Therapy Department) proved popular and the initial print run quickly sold out.

Nightingale updated his narrative in 1969, bringing the hospitalís history up-to-date, with the addition of several new chapters. Again, the booklet was produced in limited numbers, and copies were swiftly sold.

It isnít known if Nightingale produced any further versions of his history nor if anyone else picked up the gauntlet and continued the hospitalís story. But given its rarity, I decided to reproduce it fully here. It provides a solid account of the expansion and problems faced by the hospital (and places the asylum in context with its neighbours of Severalls, Runwell and Goodmayes), but the prose becomes formulaic and, at times, is difficult to read.

This section also includes the first description of the asylum, as written by its first Medical Superintendent, D. C. Campbell, M.D, and published in The Asylum Journal.

The Essex County Lunatic Asylum by D. C. Campbell, M.D. (published 1853)
The First Hundred Years 1853-1953 by Dr. Nightingale (published 1953)
Into The Second Century 1953-1969 by Dr. Nightingale (published 1969)
The Patient's Diet from 1865 (as published in The First Hundred Years)


The majority of these photographs were taken on the second, and final, visit to the hospital in April 2005. Some select photographs were published at the time whilst the vast majority weren't published until October 2010.

Administration (33 pictures)
Hall and Side Corridors (16 pictures)
Original Water Tower (8 pictures)
Curved Corridors (6 pictures)
Northern Airing Courts (6 pictures)
Chapel #1 (19 pictures)
Chapel #2 (4 pictures)
Chapel #3 (2 pictures)
Basement #1 (2 pictures)
Basement #2 (4 pictures)
Corridor (3 pictures)
ECT (4 pictures)
Canteen (6 pictures)
Ward #1 Ground Floor (6 pictures)
Ward #1 First Floor (2 pictures)
Ward #2 Ground Floor (3 pictures)
Ward #2 First Floor (10 pictures)
Ward #3 Ground Floor (12 pictures)
Ward #3 First Floor (8 pictures)
Ward #4 First Floor (7 pictures)
Ward #5 Exteriors (2 pictures)
Ward #6 Ground Floor (7 pictures)
Ward #6 First Floor (5 pictures)


Accounts of my two visits to Warley, a comparison with Severalls (which was built around sixty years later) and a brief account of the three main chapels on the site. Hopefully a comparison with Runwell (which was partially explored in 2010) will be included in this section at some point in the future and will compare and constrast the three Essex asylums.

Wonderings (18|10|02)
Wonderings (Part Two) (04|05)
Severalls, Warley: Comparisons (03|12|05)
Chapels Of Warley


Most of the ancillary buildings of Warley have been demolished and replaced by housing. The large Chapel and original asylum building survive mostly intact and have been developed into contemporary apartments and houses. Like many large conversions of this type, and susceptible to the superstitions of some potential purchasers, the asylum's history has been completely air-brushed from the record by the developers and the whole estate had been rechristened Clements Park.

Conversion of Main Building in 2006
St. Raphael's Place: The Conversion of the Chapel
Feature From Essex Life Magazine November 2003


The initial corridor-style asylum building is shown here thanks to Kendal and Popeís original flowery plans. Also included is a diagram showing how sprawling and uncontrolled the building became; this ultimately necessitated the construction of two more Essex asylums. The vast majority of these extra buildings have now been demolished.

Kendal And Pope's original plans [Circa 1853/1 Sheet]
Plan Of Hospital Buildings [Post 1940s]


Aerial shots from post-war fly-overs show the whole sprawling complex whilst some rare Polaroids pick out individual buildings.

Aerial Pictures Historial and modern aerial pictures.
Exterior Pictures Historial shots of the hospital and grounds.


Gerald Foreman


Harold Court was purchased by the asylumís committee to overcome the chronic overcrowding in the main asylum complex. It was bought for £3000 in 1891 and became an annexe to Warley for the next seventy years.

Harold Court