Yesterday I went to Hellingly Asylum.

I’d heard that it was in the process of demo so decided to go for one last look to see the state of things and how work was progressing. It took me a bit of time to get in as I managed to get lost in the woods which was not an ideal start to the day. None the less I finally found what I was looking for and made my way into the building. Fom where I had approached the destruction seemed to be limited to windows being frame-less and glassless.

I entered a very dark room and was unsure of the floor, my daylight eyes hadn’t yet adjusted themselves to the dark interior. Luckily the floor seemed to be pretty solid, so jumped in. Torch out, ears wide open, listening for footsteps or tell-tale signs of others in the building. I wasn’t expecting to bump into anyone., the demo and new security put paid to it being the tourist destination it once was.

I was unsure of what to expect once inside, and my entrance was somewhere that I had only briefly been before having avoided the area because it was so smashed up. As soon as I was comfortable I made my way upstairs. The ground floor seemed to have suffered a fire recently and was well boarded up. I made for the light and  the first floor.

I was shocked to see how much more was smashed in a seemingly random manner. on closer inspection though I think that the pre -demo crew have been around and cleared any remaining asbestos from radiator pipes. Most of the windows and their lovely sash frames have been literally pushed out to the ground

I got the camera out and started to take the record that I had come for. Most of my shots bracketed with nine exposures for HDR or overblown recovery. All was going well until I heard the unmistakable sound of distant footsteps. I had made sure that I wasn’t seen entering, so got slightly concerned . . . was it another explorer – there were no voicesand only a single pair of feet. or was it security? I am sure that security should not enter the building for H+S reasons. Either way I made a hasty move for some cover for a few minutes and heard no more.

I’m a fairly nervous solo explorer always wanting to err on the safe side, so became extra alert after this little scare. It doesn’t help that my camera has the loudest shutter known to man making the whole object of my trip a liability. I carried on regardless.

I had three objectives for the trip -firstly to see the Req graf, The Bath Lady and The Twins. Second a nd thbird on the list were te main hall and the corridor beside the hall with more interesting art.

The closer I came to my first objective the more depressed I was at the state of the place.Yet more racist graf had sprung up, more walls kicked in and general mashed-ness. Finally I came to the room with the view that I was looking for. I wasn’t surprised to see The Bath Lady had been defaced in a rather un-intillegent manner, Charpentier Twins were de-faced as well as  Julie Manet.

Regardless I setup for my shot to cover what I had seen. The task complete I made for The Great Hall.

As I made my way down to the ground floor and entrance to the hall I was shocked to see daylight where there had once been corridors – the demo appeared to be up to the end of the collapsed corridor bordering the salon.The hall itself appeared to be intact though.

Upon entering the hall I was greeted with the only high of my visit – it was the same as the last visit. the faded grandure of day gone by, muted blues ogf the ceiling and light fitting still aloft. There didn’t seem to be any more shit graf, or defacing of the good graf that remains. I quickly got the three shots that I wanted and left.

My final task was to go up to the first floor and check the state of the Eyesaw / DanK work – to see if that was still there, and if soto see if it too had been victim of the mindless spraycans.

As soon as I was at the top of the stairs, looking at the first piece of art I heard the footsteps again, they were close. I hid. they stopped, I carried on my work.I was glad to find that once again everything was as it should be.

However looking out of the window I was shocked to see that the laundry and cafe area were no more. the area where we used to enter now gone and surrounded by palisade.

I decided that it was time to leave having spent around an hour inside, a very short time by normal standards, unnerved I headed straight for the area where I had entered. Once again I heard footsteps, so hastened my escape.

My overall feeling on leaving was on of wishing that I had spent more time there,.My photography and processing are far better than they were a year ago so it would be nice to do a better job of the work that I had previously done. That said – a lot of the wards that I had visited and wanted to see again are no more, this will be the same for the rest of the site soon.The same fate no doubt awaits West Park, another place very close to my heart.

Although the area is being flattened, I’m glad to see that the land is being reclaimed and  houses are being built rather than a Tesco distribution centre (Pyestock), so its being put to good use. One can only feel regret that the owners didn’t board up the place properly and look after it. The whole site could have been reused immediately after it was vacated, the wonderful building that had stood for over a century could have lived on.