Whitchurch Hospital in Cardiff, Wales, has been on my list of places to explore for many years. It is an immense and formidable site, with many hundreds of meters of corridors and many rpsrawling wards and buildings. In 2022, I got the chance to explore it!
Whitchurch Hospital was built between 1902 and 1908 – the official opening date was the 15th of April 1908. It was designed by architects Oatley and Skinner of Bristol, and was envisaged to accommodate the most modern methods of treatment in the early 1900s. This guided by its first medical director, Dr Edwin Goodall, who was a pioneering psychiatrist and had trained alongside Dr Alois Alzheimer. One of his first acts was to drop the word ‘asylum’ in the building’s original title (Cardiff Lunatic Asylum) and rename it the ‘Cardiff City Mental Hospital’. Goodall became a national figure in UK psychiatry. He established a very strong research team and also initiated the training and practice of mental health nursing at Whitchurch, placing the hospital in the forefront of mental health care practice. The hospital was handed over to the military during WWI between 1914 and 1919 and was known as the “Welsh Metropolitan War Hospital” and pioneering treatments for soldiers with shellshock/post traumatic stress disorder were developed. The hospital was returned to mental health use in 1919 but during WWII it was again requisitioned by the War Office to be used this time as the “Whitchurch Emergency Hospital”. After the war, the hospital was taken over by the newly formed NHS in 1948. The hospital declined steadily after the “Care in the Community” act was passed before finally closing in April of 2016, almost exactly 108 years after it opened. The buildings have sat derelict since, at the mercy of vandals and metal thieves.
The hospital’s buildings were amongst most modern of their period, having provision for latest treatment methods. The buildings comprised of the following: many wards, a large recreation hall, bakery, kitchen, boiler house and its own fire station. Perhaps the most prominent section of the hospital is its water tower whose tower was also designed to accommodate the chimney of the boiler house.
In May of 2022, myself and two friends rocked up at the hospital not quite knowing what to expect – a tall palisade surrounds the whole place, which is inhabited by security guards and dogs. We knew this wouldn’t be a walk in the park, but nevertheless we readied ourselves. We set off from the car and walked around the perimeter, eyeballing security guards, CCTV cameras, security dog vans and security dogs. What a lovely welcome party… we had to hope they wouldn’t see us! We found an access point into the site and then I began scouting for an entry. I found one and went in ahead to find a means of helping my two friends in. Within a short while, we were all inside. We began setting up our tripods and cameras and then began the explore. We were there for a good six hours or so, but even that was not enough. I would love to go back another time and spend more time there. Enjoy the photos: