Welcome to the incredible,

beautiful and frequently

unsettling world of

Hellingly Mental Asylum.



In 1894, East Sussex County Council undertook an exercise to ascertain various suitable sites with a view to building a new Lunatic asylum to expand upon outdated and insufficient facilities at Haywards Heath.


The village of Hellingly was chosen as a suitable location due to its idyllic location surrounded on all sides by rolling Sussex Countryside. At this time, it was common practise to site such places so that they afforded commanding views over pleasant landscapes, because they had a therapeutic quality that was deemed highly beneficial and would speed up recovery.


The renowned architect George Thomas Hine was appointed to design the building as he was a leading authority on the layout and construction of such buildings. The building was designed not just as an asylum, but as a whole self-contained community and had everything necessary to achieve this on a huge scale. Construction commenced in 1897.


The site, which forms part of Park Farm is located to the north-east of Lower Horsebridge near Hailsham, a short distance from Hellingly village and railway station. The site slopes to the south and the northern side is bordered by very pretty woodland. A minor road was re-routed away from the site to maintain security, seclusion and privacy.

The layout of the main asylum buildings is to an “arrowhead” design, characterised by the way the corridors radiate out in a kind of “zig-zag” fashion from the central nucleus. This also handily ensured that there was only one way in and out of any area of the site and meant that the poor and unfortunate inmates where quickly rounded up before they could get a head start!

The main building comprises of the usual core facilities. The administrative block to the north of the site is followed by a large central store, kitchens, the theatre hall and assistant medical officer's residence at the southern-most tip. To the west stands the male wards, workshops, boiler house, water tower and maintenance department as well as a goods shed and engine shed for the hospital tramway. The east side of the main building is mostly female wards, but there is also alaundry, sewing room and a nurse's block. All theses areas were linked by an extensive corridor network.

Hellingly Asylum had its own railway station which was used to bring in visitors, new admissions and supplies to the complex. This service ceased in the 1950's and the nearby Hellingly station is now a privately owned house.

The hospital electric tramway, which ran parallel to the main drive and had provided a passenger service from the railway station: Hellingly was almost unique amongst hospitals in doing so. The tramway was closed in the 1930's except for goods services to the hospital and the passenger car was subsequently used as a sports pavilion. The carriage of goods on the tramway lasted until the hospital was converted from coal-fired power generation to oil  in 1959 and the former engine shed was adapted as a maintenance department store.

Later changes to the site included conversion of the Superintendent's residence to a nurse's home, closure of the farm, construction of Tennyson house and the staff social club. During the mid 1980's Hellingly was selected as one of five mental hospital sites in south east England to accommodate a medium secure unit, in this case known as Ashen Hill and located east of the main buildings and villas. 

The first patients where admitted to Hellingly in 1903 and for many years the Asylum provided all manner of innovative treatment for mental disorders. Hellingly was one of many asylums in the south east to accommodate the West Sussex patients displaced from Graylingwell during World War I, causing some overcrowding. 

Sadly, the building was deemed too costly and was closed down in phases over a period of about 6 years in the 1990's. At this time, the government decided to close the majority of the asylums in Britain and instigate the Care in the Community programme as being more beneficial to the long-term care of the afflicted. To a greater or lesser degree, the flux of “care in the community” entailed turfing “nutters” onto the streets to as good as fend for themselves and has resulted in a marked increase in violent or frenzied attacks since then.


During abandonment, Hellingly was fenced off, patrolled periodically by security guards and was slowly decaying. It had been the target of vandals and taggers on numerous occasions and there were a lot of areas of the premises which had been subject to arson (particularly the admin block,central stores,kitchen stores and assistant medical officer's rsidences); others strewn with broken glass and porcelain. But there were parts of it which offered an eerie and unspeakable beauty: the peeling paint and fusion of indoor and outdoor elements, combined with thought-provolking and (remarkably sympathetic) professional graffiti offer some breathtaking views. In the present day (2015), the entire site is now populated by an enormous housing estate called Roebuck Park. The tunnels, villas and all associated structures of the hospital have long since gone and there are no reminders of what this place once was. Here on in, this project serves as a historical reminder of an intriguing and important chapter in social history that should not be forgotten.


[CLICK HERE] to see an account of our visits to Hellingly

[CLICK HERE] for Agent Holmbush's account of the visit to Hellingly

[CLICK HERE] for Kaptainklutz's account of an encounter with the Water Tower

[CLICK HERE] to view just photos of Hellingly

[CLICK HERE] to see what may be ghosties!

[CLICK HERE] for an aerial view of Hellingly & to identify specific parts of the campus

[CLICK HERE] to return to the ghost-of Home page

[CLICK HERE] to return to the ghost-trains Home page

[CLICK HERE] to get in contact with us

[CLICK HERE] to view other links about Hellingly

[CLICK HERE] to find stuff using Keywords