Since the resurgence of the London property boom derelict and abandoned spaces in the capital seem to be increasingly becoming a rarity.
Any scrap of available land is now a potential goldmine to the big city developers so most spaces that would probably sit empty and fall into ruin anywhere else tend to be snapped up and meet a swift demise at the business end of the wrecking ball these days.
Even the old Victorian hospitals and asylums that have previously sat empty for years have become prime real estate and many have been flattened, completely stripped or totally redeveloped with only a token facade remaining if you’re lucky.
Although there has recently been a slew of comparatively newer hospitals shutting their doors throughout the capital (who says the NHS is slowly dying?) none seem to really hold the same character, charm and sheer presence of the old Victorian relics.
Admittedly I missed the boat on alot of the big London hospitals. Many have heard tales of Cane Hill, arguably the best know of the London psychiatric hospitals and something of a mecca for explorers in it’s heyday. Sadly now long gone, I would have loved to have seen it and it’s counterparts before they fell victim to the bulldozers. It seems what made these places all the more appealing was the sheer amount of fixtures, equipment and interesting odd’s and ends that were left behind, something not often found these days.
So when a friend randomly sent out a few shots to our group from inside an abandoned London hospital along with excited talk of underground tunnels, big cages and “some other really weird shit” still inside it definitely had to be checked out. This wasn’t something that cropped up every day.
The hospital in question was St Thomas’s Medical School in central London, pretty much directly opposite the Houses of Parliament on the other side of the river. It was a strange one as this was seemingly a whole abandoned section attached to the live St Thomas hospital. Stranger still, a bit of further research by one of the guys turned up Go-Pro videos on Youtube of free-runners navigating the rooftops of the abandoned part of the hospital and even venturing inside so we certainly wouldn’t be the first to get in there by any means. It seemed very strange that this had gone somewhat unnoticed (or at least unreported) by the exploring community up to that point.
Anyhow, on a rainy afternoon we met another couple of London explorers and after a bit of camera dodging we found ourselves inside.
At first glance it looked very much like any other abandoned hospital with nondescript rooms, corridors, peeling paint and not much else however it was all about to get rather more interesting.
We came across a small side room filled with all kinds of weirdness. Old medical supplies, notes and equipment surrounded by a ridiculous amount of sample pots and vials containing everything from rat livers and spleens to bird thyroids. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill derp hospital.
After checking out all the oddities we’d found we then ventured further into the hospital. There was a central main corridor which had various different wings and rooms branching off from it, most being fairly empty and in a bad state but some still had some interesting features dotted about.
From there on the place just kept giving up the goods. We came across a storage room full of old equipment, glassware, medical samples and other medical bits and pieces that I couldn’t even name. All fascinating stuff that appeared to have sat relatively untouched and forgotten for years.
With loads still to see we eventually continued on, finding a lecture auditorium and old dissection theatre, something I’d never seen first hand before. These would have likely been used by the lecturers for live practical demonstrations in front of the students.
There were some nice ornate staircases throughout the whole place, with intricate ironwork patterns you just don’t see anymore in modern hospitals.
Like most hospitals there were the typical maze-like corridors although they were quite varied here.
By this time we were wondering where these huge cages were that we’d initially heard about from our friend who’d first made it inside. After a bit of backtracking we managed to find what he was talking about close to where we came in. We were initially baffled as to why a hospital would contain large caged areas but after finding what we had earlier and piecing it together we came to quite a sobering realisation.
As St Thomas’s was a medical school the students undoubtedly needed to practice their skills and, as is usually the case in these circumstances, animals were used as test subjects. There was a whole corridor of rooms presumably for housing animals and a larger area with animal pens right at the end. A side room also contained a large machine presumably for loading and cleaning the smaller cages. I’m not an overly sentimental type and don’t know the full extent of what it was like there but to imagine this was a place were many animals spent their whole lives and quite likely their final days and hours was quite a depressing thought. Not many places have such a lasting impact on me but that one stayed with me for quite a while.
We pressed on in search of access to the water tower that you just couldn’t miss from the outside. Despite hunting around and finding what first appeared a huge stairwell leading up it eventually only led to modern offices, locked doors and some evidently live PIR sensors. With light fading we decided to call it a day and return again.
We were far more successful on the return visit. Access to the tower was far simpler than we first thought and provided some nice view of the Thames. Plenty of signatures and tags plastered the outside of the tower, some dating back many years, so it seems quite a few others had enjoyed the views over the years.
It also turned out that the huge stairwell we initially thought led up to the tower actually did lead down to something quite interesting. Some really nice old Victorian horseshoe shaped tunnels running under the hospital. One end was locked off and the other, strangely, led right into the live section of the hospital.
On our way out one of the guys found another storage loft packed with all kinds of interesting bits and pieces, some dating back to the late 50’s. There were full sets of microscope samples and projector slides along with other medical instruments and glassware.
By this point we’d pretty much covered the vast majority of the site and said our farewells. Despite being lucky enough to have seen so much I’m sure there were probably other surprises tucked away somewhere that we missed.
In the weeks that followed St Thomas’s Medical School went the way of most of the other old derelict London hospitals, it was fully gutted ready for whatever fate awaits it next. Six months later and the building itself is still there so I’m not quite sure what that might be but I was grateful to be able experience it when we did.
It was certainly no Cane Hill but I’m glad I got a chance to experience at least a little piece of London hospital dereliction with remnants of the site’s history still left behind. Sadly, It seems to be getting increasingly harder to find in the capital.
These old institutions have stood the test of time, some for over a century, becoming a part of London’s history and having a lasting impact on those who have spent time within their walls.
As for the sterile and lifeless new buildings that look increasingly set to replace them I can’t imagine the same will be said.
Props to Oakley for the heads up on this one.
All images ©whogoesthere.net 2016