Written by shando
Happy New Year all! I popped my 2010 urbex cherry yesterday with a little trip to Silverlands the former Actor’s Orphanage in Chertsey. After behaving myself with respect to alcohol consumption on New Year’s eve I woke up on New Year’s day feeling good, itching to get out and explore with my new cam. Hangover free I hit the road for an easy drive from London to Chertsey on nice empty roads. Conveniently there is a hospital nearby to park in, also not too far to crawl to should the unmentionable happen
Having researched Silverlands online I came across posts on forums by former security guards who had worked there reminiscing over how they reckoned it to be haunted with all agreeing it was ‘fine’ during daylight but come nightfall it was ‘not a place you’d want to be on your own’.
Convincing myself that ‘I don’t believe in ghosts’ I put any thoughts of hauntings to the back of my mind whilst concentrating on more important matters, namely how to scale the fence, albeit a short one it has a double row of sharp(ish) pointy metal on top and also finding the blind spot between CCTV cameras.
This building has cctv cameras on almost every corner paired up with motion activated spotlights, as I was to find out later!
After negotiating my way around the building perimeter I eventually came across a possible entry which hopefully would keep me out of view from the cameras.
Once in I realised that I was not yet aware if security were on, or indeed, off site, was this going to be an explore or an infiltration? Had I been seen entering by someone on a CCTV monitor? Were the police on their way? These questions increased my adrenalin
Creeping as quietly as I could trying desperately not to cough/sneeze/breath too loudly I entered the main hallway and was completely mesmerised at how untouched it was. When UXing we become accustomed to, almost expecting, decay and dereliction be it by the unhindered intrusive actions of nature or at the hands of the thieving copper stripping pikey scumbags or even just plain vandalism by misguided youths as is usually ‘par for the course’. Not Silverlands, the apparent security seems to have worked well in deterring those who seek to destroy and thieve from such beautiful places.
After making my way from the first room I came across with a huge mirror and chandelier I wandered down the hallway towards what appeared to be the entrance/reception hall resplendant in dark, expensive looking hardwood with columns, high ceilings and again another massive chandelier.
Before entering the reception hall I noticed small rectangular boxes with flashing l.e.d lights attached to the walls adjacent to the doorways. Were these part of the security system, by walking past one of these contraptions was I going to set an audible alarm and flashing lights off, or worse, a silent alarm which would send the police? Having gotten this far I wasn’t about to give up and decided to crawl under them (those of you who know what these are are perfectly entitled to laugh at my ignorance driven crawling
After taking a few pics and trying out Auto Bracketing Exposures the daylight was fading fast. Whilst adjusting the settings on my cam a bright light flashed outside, someone, or something, had set off one of the motion activated spotlights. Was it security or the police finally arriving? Time to get out, sharpish. After making my way back out it was now dark, creeping as fast as I could retracing my entry in reverse I managed to set off about 3 spotlights, all I will say is that I got over that fence in a fraction of the time it took me coming in!
Moving swiftly on, a little history:
The exact date Silverlands was built is unknown, however it is thought to be between 1818-1825, the first owner being Vice-Admiral the Rt. Hon Sir Frederick Hotham. Silverlands was used as the Hotham family home until approximately 1887.
The Actors Orphanage was started in 1896 and was both a home and school to approx 60 children. The home and school was moved to Silverlands, Chertsey in 1938 where it remained until 1940.
In 1941 it became a female nurse’s school for the nearby Botley Park Asylum and St Peter’s Hospital.
In 1990 Silverlands Nursing School amalgamated with other schools of nursing in Surrey and Hampshire to become the Francis Harrison College of nursing and midwifery.
At some point in the late 1990’s Silverlands ceased it’s role as a nursing school and the National Probation Service was looking for a new site for the ‘residential assessment and intervention programmes for adult males with allegations of, or convictions for, sexual offences involving children’. Silverlands in Chertsey was considered the most appropriate.
The proposal was met with strong opposition from local people who organised a candlelit vigil to protest about the site being used for such a purpose and were concerned about the impact of the 7000 children attending the 25 schools within a 2.5 mile radius of Silverlands. After a lot of debating and protests on 4th July, 2002, it was confirmed by the Home Office Minister that Silverlands will not become the home of the Wolvercote paedophile clinic.
However during this time, the Grade 2 listed building had already had £3.7 million pounds spent on its refurbishment. It remains empty. Its future uncertain.
Without further ado, here are the pics, be warned these are the best of a very bad bunch as I was on edge the entire visit due to it being a solo explore and the security measures both external and internal.
All pics were shot with my new Canon EOS 500D with the kit lens (EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS) using AV mode, ISO 100 with exposure dictated by aperture on a 2 second delay.