An urbex walkthrough of Silverlands Orphanage

Author sophos9 - Last updated: 04.01.2010

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.


#1WinchJanuary 6, 2010, 2:08 pm

Great report, I remember hitting this a few years back now – looks like its deteriorated a bit. Did you go to Longcross Barracks while you were there, it’s a mile or so down the road?

#2shandoJanuary 7, 2010, 12:08 pm

Nah mate, but I was down that way yesterday and done Longcross (nothing exciting) and St Peter’s Mortuary (awesome). The most noticeable decay from previously is in the grand hall where more of the plaster work has fallen from the cealing.

#3Jon MorrisJanuary 20, 2010, 2:04 pm

Thanks for these latest pics, however, I believe you are off a little on your description…
I grew up at Silverlands, Actor’s Orphanage and researched the history of the building for a recent reunion:
R. Porter, Esq. a local brewer, first purchased the land in 1805 from Fan Grove estate and built the original mansion, I found no record of him actually living there.
Later, Vice Admiral Sir Henry Hotham (who escorted Napoleon to exile at St. Helena in 1815) took it over and added the great hall (our old rec room) and the front foyer (where we used to hide to smoke ‘fags’ made from oak leaves!)
Sir John Brunner (co-founder of company that would become ICI) later added the outer courtyard, with chemistry lab, office and garage. He died at Silverlands in 1919. We think it is either his ghost, or Porter’s that still visits…supposedly looking for something hidden, or lost there.

Sad that the latest owners are allowing the building to go to ruin…probably want to demolish it and build some high density, high value homes and make a fortune.

#4shandoJanuary 22, 2010, 2:10 pm

Hi Jon, thanks for the correction and adding a little more to the history. It’s very sad indeed that such places are bought over then just left to fall into disrepair and worse being knocked down to make way for hideous modern structures, more so Silverlands given it’s beauty and the 3M spent on refurb in the past.

The great hall appears to be degrading quickly as I checked some other pics from other Urbexers which had been taken months prior to my last visit, more of the decorative plasterwork had fallen down due to damp/water I assume.

Did you ever experience any ghostly going ons whilst there?

    #5Jon MorrisJuly 18, 2011, 12:52 am

    Hi Shando,
    No, never saw or heard ghosts while I lived there…but late at night there were often sounds of us boys sneaking over to the girls dormitories…even if we weren’t too sure what to do when we got there!!
    You are right about the degrading in the Great Hall. I suspect someone has been up on the roof removing the Lead flashing which would allow more water through to the ceiling plaster and wood flooring below (Was nice hardwood flooring when i lived there).
    What a pity…hope someone takes responsibility soon.

#6RobinMarch 25, 2010, 8:14 pm

I was looking for images of old elevators and ran across your photos in Google images. Thank you for making a pictorial record of this beautiful building. Your photos are lovely. Wish I had thought to do likewise when I was younger and more able to climb walls and fences! Being an American, and no stranger to wholesale demolition of historic and/or just plain beautiful buildings, I very much appreciate the significance of your efforts. Thank you! Will enjoy exploring this new area of photography I knew nothing about! Best of luck to you in your future endeavors!

#7JamesApril 16, 2010, 3:58 pm

Security has tightened up here and the police are taking a very dim view of people going there. You’ll stand a good chance of getting arrested for trespassing!

#8JonOctober 6, 2010, 2:38 pm

I work in the estate next to this place… I literally went over there today to check it out as i’ve been curious about it since i started working here 2 years ago…

I originally thought it was an old testing place as the ‘European Institute of human and medical sciences’ sign outside… But after going online i found this website!

I’m glad i have managed to find the history out!

I’ve never seen any security near by in the 2 years i’ve been here, although i did spot tracks round the perimeter of the boundary gate and a bit of wood clearly used to gain entry over the fence… Was that you ‘Shando’? haha…

But yeah good find! Glad you got in… I think these pics will deter me from risking myself to go in! Having already one trespassing caution on my record from the old cinema in Staines I don’t fancy getting another!

#9shandoOctober 9, 2010, 10:36 am

Hi Jon, thanks for the comments bro. Looking isn’t a criminal offence, just don’t break anything and you’ll be fine. Pop in for a look dude, you know you want to 😉 Whilst here have you checked out the Talk Urbex forum? If not then pop in and register, say hi and join an ever expanding community of like minded people in addition to having any questions on urban exploration answered, from the basics through to some of the more involved issues etc

#10janineOctober 31, 2010, 7:59 pm

Hi just to let everybody know silverlands does not need secuirty guards there anymore because there is cctv which is linked to a control room, by the way guys did you find the secert rooms the building , if you want to know where they are just drop me a line .

    #11NickFebruary 18, 2011, 2:14 pm

    Hi Jannine, you say secert rooms? Could you let me know please?

    Many thanks

    #12Jon MorrisJuly 17, 2011, 8:03 am

    I lived at Silverlands for many years and only know of the extra room in the basement which connects to the tunnel. Are there more?
    Please advise,

#13PaulDecember 3, 2010, 2:52 pm

hi everyone,
Many thanks for the posts and the pics.
I (and 3 partners) am interested in buying it to use as a school. Does anyone know the owner? (I heard it’s a Dr Chung who was going to start a clinic…? )

    #14MJFebruary 1, 2011, 1:02 pm

    Hi Paul, did you ever discover ho the owner was? If so, have you looked further into purchasing the building? I’d be very interested to know the owner also.


#15Greg HumphreyFebruary 2, 2011, 1:49 am

Thought there may be some interest in a photo I found amongst an old family album brought from England by my grandparents. We started to examine the photos in preparation for a 90th birthday party for my father, and thought I would google the name on the photo. See photo at
Thought to be taken circa 1914, just before my grandparents immigrated to Canada.

    #16sophos9February 2, 2011, 10:39 am

    Wow, great photo of this place – thanks for sharing it

    #17Jon MorrisJuly 17, 2011, 8:10 am

    Just saw your photo. I believe there is a complete set taken around the same time while the building was a private residence (either Lady Hotham or John Brunner)…the set includes some great interior shots…which are now stored at the Chertsey Museum.

#18Greg HumphreyFebruary 3, 2011, 2:11 am

Your Welcome. It is astonishing how much it has changed in 100 years or so.

    #19AnnFebruary 12, 2011, 11:28 am

    Yes, a lovely photo, but the place really hasn’t changed much at all. I lived there during the 1950’s (one of the many Actor’s Orphans), and have visited several times since. Last visit was in 2000, and it looked exactly the same, maybe not in quite such perfect condition as the photo from 1914, but instantly recognisable.
    Funny reading other peoples descriptions and perceptions of the old place when you can remember every nook and cranny!

#20ROBINJuly 1, 2011, 1:31 am


Are your Jonny Morris Brother of David Morris?

If so you where there the same time as i was.

    #21Ritika JainJuly 9, 2011, 12:58 pm

    Dear Sir,
    My name is Ritika and I wish to do a project on the Silverlands Orphanage. I am looking for former residents of the orphanage, particularly those still in the Uk. I was wondering if I could send you an email detailing my project and I was also wondering if you could help me out.

      #22Jon MorrisJuly 17, 2011, 7:51 am

      Hello Ritika,
      I think you have made contact with Liz…Let me know if there is anything we can do to help your project further.
      Kind regards,
      Jon Morris

    #23Jon MorrisJuly 17, 2011, 7:31 am

    Hello Robin, Just saw your earlier message…which Robin are you; Whan? or Simpson?
    Please email me at

    #24Jon MorrisJuly 17, 2011, 7:49 am

    Dear Robin,
    I am Jon (Jonny) Morris…My brother David passed a few years ago. I now have contact with many other Silverlands children including Ray Carroll, Terry Watt, Lally Ingram, Pauline Spurling, Judy and Susannah White/Moore, Elizabeth and Caroline Eastham.
    Quite recently I learnt that Norma was my half sister (Father Michael Gough) but we have not found where she now lives…Do you know?
    I do have many old photo’s including one of you with Marlene Dietrich which I would love top pass on.


#25SjeffieMay 18, 2012, 9:51 am

Dear everybody,

my Mother-in- Law was once a student in Silverlands during 1938-1940 until the children were evacuated to America. She is suffering from Alzheimer and her life is coming to an end. I made a documentary on het life and i wanted to film in the Silverlands Building. After some inquiries, a nice lady from security gave me a phonenumber from Dr. Brian Chung, the new owner.
When i finally got hold of him he was very rude and yelled over the phone never to contact him again. So no videotaping in Silverlands.

    #26sophos9May 18, 2012, 11:14 am

    Thanks for the heads up, shame he was unwilling to help…

#27SjeffieMay 24, 2012, 4:49 pm

Dear everybody,

i just read the book Silverlands by Judy Staber.
You should do it. It is fantastic!
No more Mr. Chung for me.

#28JasJune 26, 2012, 1:52 pm

I used to visit silverlands when I was a child I was around 6-8 at the time (around 2001-2003) as my parents used to do security there and I felt many presences there, I had someone blowing in my hair, putting pressure on my shoulders and one time I heard a voice in my ear. one one occasion we took one of the training guard dogs around the house, we were upstairs along the corridor after going up the grand staircase in the main foyer and I think it was the third or forth room on the right that the dog refused to go in, whimpering and backing away. That always freaked me out. But the one room I hated was the “ballroom” as I called it. I believe it was originally the main entrance before the extensions were added. Now it’s the first room you come to on the left after leaving the foyer. There was always a horrible feel about that room that I never liked and still can’t put my finger on it.

#29JudyJuly 19, 2012, 4:22 pm

Hi Shando
A friend just sent me this posting and your photos. I am Judy (formerly White) Staber who wrote the book: Silverlands growing up at the Actors Orphanage. It is available on Amazon or through Kindle. I did a lot of research about Silverlands when writing the book, and it has received some interesting reviews and comments. See my website. I was at the Orphanage from 1947 until 1959, when it closed. I believe I was there the longest of anyone. It is a wonderful house and I hope that someone buys it. They are letting it sit there and slowly fall apart. Thanks for your interest.

#30CordieJuly 28, 2012, 2:32 pm

Have just found this site as was googling place I used to live …My mother worked at Silverlands – I was born in 1954 – my first memories are of being at Silverlands – when the orphanage closed I too went to the home in Watford – would love to see photos as seem to have more memories of the outside than I do the inside ..Will check out the book too –

    #31JudyJuly 29, 2012, 9:13 pm

    Hi Cordie,
    I remember you. I have photos of you with Becky and Lulu and Sally and Fran. You may not remember me, I was one of the bigger girls when you were there. I remember your Mum very fondly. She was a lovely lady
    and a good friend to me when I was down. I would love to have a way to get in touch with you. Are you in Australia? Do you remember Ray Carroll (Beefy)? he lives in Tasmania. Stay well. I hope your life has been good and eventful.
    Love Judy

#32CordieJuly 30, 2012, 1:56 am

Hi Judy, Thanks so much for your reply,.. – alas my memories are very minimal though do remember Lulu as I think about the same age. Actually after finding this site I bought your book…I would love to get in touch my email address is – I have lived in Australia since 1982 – do not remember Ray – as in the name but may remember the face….so to speak …please send me an email as would really love to keep in touch …Cordie

#33Terry WattApril 2, 2013, 10:55 pm

It is great to hear all your comments.I was there from 1952-58 and have many memories, most of which are good especially in the later years under David Slater. I think that the Robin was Robin Whan who I do remember.

#34PhilAugust 6, 2013, 4:19 pm

hi there, me and a friend are trying to find out some more information on how to get to the tunnel? anyone who has any information please email me on

also are there any secret rooms or anything interesting? also looking for information on the history, thanks

#35ChrisNovember 13, 2013, 3:40 pm

Hi i was wondering if anyone new the current owner if so please email me at thanks

#36GrinApril 12, 2014, 2:26 pm

Hi Terry Watt, I remember you.

#37GrinApril 12, 2014, 2:38 pm

Had a great time at Silverlands

#38LisaJuly 1, 2014, 7:31 pm

If anyone has details of the owner or who to get in touch with about the building I would be most grateful. My email addess is

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