Royal Hospital Haslar – Undergoing Renovation

I’m always told patience and perseverence are virtues. I can’t say I agree more…! Three times I have attempted Haslar and only on the last one did I properly succeed. So! On with the report and photos.

Brief Potted History:

The Royal Hospital Haslar in Gosport, Hampshire, is an enormous former royal naval hospital, standing on the shore of the Solent Channel between the UK mainland and the Isle of Wight, opposite Portsmouth. The hospital was opened in 1753, eight years after the Admiralty acquired Haslar Farm for the site. The building was designed by merchant and architect Theodore Jacobsen in a rigidly austere Georgian style. At the time of completion, it was the largest brick building in Europe…! The site for the hospital was chosen at Haslar Farm, which stood on an island. The reason behind the enormous brick walls, guard towers and island setting was because the majority of sailors had been press ganged into the navy, and the setting and security was in place to stop sailors leaving the navy without consent. The NHS took over control of the site from the MOD in 2007, and two years later, the Royal Hospital Haslar was closed down and services relocated elsewhere. The site was sold to developers for £3 million, and they are currently embarking on a £152 million development of the site into houses and flats. Goodrich House (the building with the padded cell) has been converted, along with Canada House. The morgue is now fully stripped out – I’ve heard on the grapevine it’s to become a cafe. People now live inside Goodrich House and Canada House.

Out of what remains of the main hospital, the 18th century block by Theodore Jacobsen still stands. A lot of the modern structures have been demolished now, leaving the listed structures still standing – the entirety of the 80s structures within the large courtyard of the older Jacobsen buildings have been demolished. What remains however is absolutely fascinating! I’ve attempted this site three times over two years now, and only succeeded on my third attempt. I’ve got to say, I wouldn’t bother trying this place – security are really, really on it and will almost definitely catch you before you get anywhere near the buildings as they patrol very regularly. The whole site is covered by absolutely masses of cameras, even more so since there’s loads of construction equipment present now. It’s a miracle I wasn’t caught. Haslar is probably one of the hardest sites I’ve ever explored, bar some power stations.

The Explores:

September 2019: The day before I started university, I went with a friend down to Portsmouth to attempt various sites, including Haslar. What we were not expecting was that a heritage open day tour of the exterior of the hospital was going on. So once over the fence and in the grounds, we were confronted by various tour guides! A quick dash and we hid inside what I can only assume was mental health wards due to the similarity in design to asylum architecture – the hospital site formerly included an asylum for sailors with mental health disorders. Those were rather interesting and clearly early 20th century. They were partly boarded up, but that didn’t matter too much. Thanks to the really high security, not many vandals have got on site so the decay is mostly natural which is lovely. Soon after we exited the outlying wards, we were clocked by security who had been alerted to our presence by the bloody tour guides! We were then caught and promptly turfed off site. Well. I say “we”. I was caught and my exploring buddy legged it and left me! But the silver lining was, after an attempt at intimidation and threats by an acid tongued security woman who rode around on a bike with a wicker basket, that I was given a lift around the front to see the lovely stone frieze on the pediment of the older building and then given a lift back to where my exploring buddy and I had parked the car! My photos of the mental health wards are below.

July 2020: This was another attempt at Haslar, the same day I did the Molson-Coors brewery in Alton. This attempt was very short lived. So, over the fence, a quick brisk walk towards the buildings and then boom, security caught us after being just minutes inside the fence line! We were then turfed off site once more. In a bad temper, we mooched off to do The Care Home and the Molson-Coors Brewery in Alton which is now demolished.

August 2021: Now this time we had a lot more success. So, the same process as before – over the fence, onto the site but this time instead of a brisk walk, we absolutely pelted it to the main hospital and squeezed under the security fencing. It wasn’t easy as I am not the thinnest! When my friend was halfway under, I looked around to check the coast and at the far end of the massive building, I could see a car and torch beam bobbling along at quite a quick pace in our direction – security! We then ran over to the structure and piled inside after finding access, which was pretty hard to do without any torchlight in the middle of the night. By that time, security was outside and looking round, torch flashing inside the windows. About ten seconds after accessing the building, security rounded the corner on foot and came right up into the building and searched for us for a while. We had hidden and stayed hidden for a good hour or so. After the coast had cleared enough for us to move from our hiding spot, we began the explore. It was definitely a case of “we got here just in time” because some of the 18th century section is under conversion as we speak. However, around about three quarters of the hospital remains still. The scanners are still there as well which made for a fantastic surprise! Enjoy the photographs. I had a lot of fun shooting them. This was the first time I had shot in RAW as opposed to JPG, which was a new experience for me. The quality is so much better. I think I will stick with shooting in RAW files from now on. Enjoy the photos! Excuse the liberal use of flash for some of the photos – I was tripodless as my 25 year old tripod that my dad gave me broke a few weeks ago, and I didn’t have a backup, so sadly all photos taken were hand held in pitch black darkness. 😦

Photos from September 2019 – first visit; Mental Health Wards: