Exploring Graylingwell (Chichester Asylum)

Author sophos9 - Last updated: 01.09.2010

Yesterday saw myself and Mr Marsh hit another Asylum. This time in Chichester. Was an excellent explore, and although some parts seem to be quite new with not much decay other parts were actually really painty peely

Demolition is under way so if any of you want to go here id advise to go soon, there wont be much left .

On with the History…..

Graylingwell Hospital opened in 1897 on Graylingwell Farm, former home of novelist Anna Sewell of ‘Black Beauty’ fame and located to the north of Chichester.

It was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield, in what was to be his sole asylum design. The farmhouse stood next to the ‘Grayling Well’ which supplied the hospital. It comprised large main buildings with a water tower, an Isolation Hospital, administration blocks, wards, a Chapel, and two farms (later three), detached superintendents residence and compact arrow plan main asylum building.

The original farmhouse was retained and converted to accommodate private patients, the whole amounting to three hundred and seventy acres.

The theatre was constructed in the centre of the site surrounded on three sides with long corridors. Most of the buildings including the theatre were constructed in soft red brick with reconstituted stonework ornamentation in classical Queen Anne style. Like nearly all Asylums that were built with a theatre it doubled up as a multi-purpose hall, in this case mainly a gym and a dinner hall.

The hall has attractive ornamentation including wooden panelled architraves, skirtings and dado rail. The proscenium arch is framed by two Ionic pilasters decorated with an egg & dart architrave within the entablature. It also has a plaster-coffered ceiling, infilled with tong-and-grove timber. Small balcony supported by pillars, and transomed mullioned windows, curtained for performances.

Today it seats c.400. The proscenium stage has understage with central trap and dressing rooms, limited flying facilities and galleries on either side. The orchestra pit is slightly sunken.

The theatre was later equipped with projection facilities and was much used as a cinema.


Title: Radiator Corridor by D-Kay2009, on Flickr
Link: Flickr Source


Title: Ladder In Corridor by D-Kay2009, on Flickr
Link: Flickr Source


Title: ETC Suite by D-Kay2009, on Flickr
Link: Flickr Source


Title: Nature Reclaiming by D-Kay2009, on Flickr
Link: Flickr Source


Title: Ramp Corridor by D-Kay2009, on Flickr
Link: Flickr Source


Title: Main Hall by D-Kay2009, on Flickr
Link: Flickr Source


Title: Main Hall 3 by D-Kay2009, on Flickr
Link: Flickr Source


Title: Fawcett 2 Ward by D-Kay2009, on Flickr
Link: Flickr Source


Title: Waiting For Time To Pass by D-Kay2009, on Flickr
Link: Flickr Source


Title: Fawcett 2 Ward Crew Shot by D-Kay2009, on Flickr
Link: Flickr Source

Hope you enjoy!


#1sophos9September 1, 2010, 10:40 pm

Dude, how much of this has been demo’d? Good work on capturing it 🙂

    #2TylerJune 12, 2011, 1:17 am

    This Place Looks Really Scary and creepy one day i wil make a ghost hunting team to invesgate there

    #3ConorSeptember 5, 2011, 5:07 pm

    ive been there myslef mate a couple times in the dead of night and in the day, after about 5 mins it get pretty comfortable, not alot demoed sooo much to see still theyve got loads of old patient files left behind aswell

#4MunichPhotoBlogSeptember 3, 2010, 9:29 am

Great shots and very professional website – keep up the good work!

    #5sophos9September 3, 2010, 9:30 am

    Thanks for your comment, much appreciated 🙂

#6Viveca KohDecember 7, 2010, 5:14 pm

Nice set of shots here, very dreamy atmosphere.

#7MartaDecember 30, 2010, 10:32 pm

I used to work in Graylingwell hospital in 1974. Fawcett 2
also. I like these photos and i feel kind of homesick. Great

    #8sarahOctober 18, 2011, 11:11 pm

    can you please tell me about what the patiants were like. thank you sarah

#9MartaDecember 30, 2010, 10:38 pm

Why wouldn’t they save the building and change it into museum or gallery or something like that? Greetings from Slovenia!

#10MiffyApril 11, 2011, 4:05 pm

Really nice photos – used to work at Graylingwell bout 20 years ago now (Barnfield House). Seeing Fawcett ward brings back memories (as well as Eastergate 1 & 2 and Anderson 1 which held the more challenging patients). A real experience for a 19 year old. Met some amazing characters walking the corridors (staff and patients)…..notoriously haunted, it had an eerie atmosphere even when it was in working use. These photos capture that eeriness perfectly!

#11GibberdMay 22, 2011, 1:19 am

I live down the road from here and i’ve often wandered around the perimeter of the hospital. How did you guys get in there without setting off the PIR’s or alerting the security guards? me and my friend are thinking of visiting there just have a look around before it gets demolished. any tips?

#12DaveJune 6, 2011, 6:05 pm

I used to visit quite often in the 70’s to see my girlfriend who was a nurse there, later my wife. I always felt a bit awkward and nervous about the place, probably completely unfounded, but looking at the pics now still makes me uneasy.

#13RyanJuly 20, 2011, 12:27 am

I’ve walked past graylingwell but never inside it, it’s interesting seeing the photos (which are very good) but what’s inside that tower?

#14JoSeptember 14, 2011, 1:37 pm

How easy is it to get into?

#15TinaApril 29, 2012, 2:11 am

I was The General Services Manager at Graylingwell from 1980-1990..of Domestic Services, porters, Laundry, Switchboard etc. I moved to the U.S in 1990 but still miss that place. It is so sad to see it in ruins. I remember going up in the tower one day. The views from the top were wonderful. I could see for miles. I think Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty in The Farmhouse. I agree with Marta, I too feel kind of homesick when I think of Graylingwell. Sometimes I’d be working late in my office at night and would feel so many presences. It wasn’t scary though..It was kind of comforting. Wish I could remember the name of the old man who roamed the corridors. Some days he was a vicious bastard who tried to attack you and on other days, when he’d taken his medication, he was wonderful and so interesting with his talks of the war. It was the same thing with a very old lady in Eastergate 2 who had been in there since she was 14 🙁 Her mother was in service and her dad was a carriage driver in the 1800’s. One poor old lady would sneak into the kitchen and fill cups with sugar and a little water and she would drink it down really fast. She had been in a concentration camp where she received hardly any food. Despite all the sad stories I really loved working there.

#16DSeptember 11, 2012, 9:48 pm

I was an inpatient at Graylingwell back in the 90’s, i spent 2 and half years at the hospital so it became a home for me in my teens. through the years i spent there i had no feelings that the hospital was haunted as many of the websites that claim that it is even when walking though the corridors on my own at night when all the staff had gone home and patients were on there wards and had no uneasy feelings about the hostpital. Its been over 10 years since i was discharged from Graylingwell and returned recently to see how the place had changed and it made me very sad to see all the old wards and buildings boarded and fenced up. As i was an inpatient for a long time me the other patients and staff became like a family and i got to know all of these people on first name terms, there were a-lot of interesting characters at the hospital and obviously a-lot of very ill people (me being one) and disturbed souls and can imagine that if these souls could have remained at Graylingwell. My memories although not all good will remain with me for the rest of my life and find the photographs of the hospital very interesting although cant recall were all of the wards, corridors and rooms were. Such a shame now that its not the place i remember but hope that all the patients there that i knew (Which was all ) are leading happy lives

#17rosOctober 21, 2012, 2:49 pm

My brother was a patient at Graylingwell back in the 60s i dont remeber going there as I was only 5 at the time , he was a patient there for nearly 6 mths along with his school mates maybe someone remembers them , they would have been teenagers at the time.

sadly my brother died before I ever got to ask him about his time there as I didnt know he was there until he had died

#18Arabella mortimer hendryOctober 28, 2012, 11:20 am

Hi im thinking of exploring graylingwell, i live in the town bit of chichester, and just wondered is it easy to walk to from the centre of town in chichester, some people say its on the otherside of the university. im new to chichester so any help directions wise would be good. thank you. xx

#19BADApril 11, 2013, 6:23 pm

As a patient the initial experience was one of all-consuming `fear`. However, as the illness decreased (through E.C.T.) and `staff ` ceased to be regarded as `The Enemy` with `intent to kill` one could increasingly `rationalise` and form more positive relationship with the medical staff. It took time. There is no `shame` attached as once was the case.
Would love the opportunity to re-visit the interiors and check the `memory bank` at the same time.

#20CHaRLieOctober 1, 2013, 11:40 pm

My Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather, John Barton Hack, owned Graylingwell farm before selling it to the Sewell family. He and his family left England and came to Australia. Did you take any photos of the original farmhouse?

#21AndyJune 21, 2015, 11:31 pm

I could tell you some stories about that place!
I was apprenticed there as an electrician. Started in 1976, and finished around 1999. Fantastic people, buildings, and grounds, and the best time of my life.
The male wards were on one side of the hospital with female wards the other, staff working on male wards got a ‘male’ key and staff working on female wards got a ‘female’ key. Other areas had yale type locks.

As an engineer, I had a male/female master key, a yale master, and an engineers key, to access engineering areas. Over the 12 odd years I was there, I explored everywhere, ‘Andy was here’ must still exist in some of the remaining buildings. I still have on my lounge wall one of the original engraved glass clock faces from the clock tower, I also still have the receipt to show I paid for ’scrap materials’. It was my job to remove the three glass faces and replace them with plastic ones, with 240volt synchronous movements, when the master clock was turned off. Before this all areas had slave clocks that were sent an electrical pulse every 30 seconds from the master clock. So we went from a system where every single clock in the entire hospital was showing the same time, to a system where the 3 faces on the clock tower maybe showing different times, this was about the time the accountants took over the asylum.

When I started work there, the boiler house produced steam, for heating and hot water, to St. Richards hospital next door, and also, through a pipe running across Bishop Otter college field, now University of Chichester, then, under Oaklands Park, to the Royal West Sussex Hospital on Broyle Road, and to Chichester Festival theatre.
The main D shaped corridor that connected the wards, and the main corridor under each ward was duplicated underground in what we called ‘the subway’. This contained a miriad of pipe and electrical cables, you learnt when to bob left, duck or hop over stuff to avoid cracking your head. When all this ‘elf & safety stuff started coming in, we were told to wear hard hats when we went down there, until our foreman hit his hard hat on a high crossing pipe and nearly gave himself whiplash, see, we told you hard hats give your head height, and all the pipes you learned how to avoid, now hit your hat 🙂
That subway was a special place to be, pipes everywhere, minimal lighting throwing long shadows, pumps starting and stopping automatically and the steam traps clanging and hissing steam all over the place, never felt uncomfortable once though!

The electricians also used to run the projectors showing films to the patients in the main hall, every Tuesday evening. 2 Gaumont Kalee projectors, not as spelt wrongly on another website. Their light source was an electric arc across 2 carbon electrodes, it got very warm sitting next to these, you had to sit close, with one hand on the light gate lever, to stop the arc burning the film if the transport mechanism failed. We also had a diascope, a stills projector with opening time for the WRVS shop, and the Naunton Pavillion, this had the same carbon arc light source as the Kallees, but the carbon rods had to be fed into the arc at the same speed the arc was consuming then, or the light sputtered, or went out!
That place, or rather, the people that worked there, taught me everything I know about how to do things properly.

Hi Tina,
George, was the name of the old guy that used to wander the corridors, nice as pie one time, loud swearing the next.
As I said, best time of my life.

#22MartaDecember 3, 2016, 11:51 am

Tina, you’ve opened quite a lot of my memories…thank you! I must admit that Graylingwell had somehow determined my further career.. After I returned to my country which was Yugoslavia in that time, I had continued with my study in pedagogical fields and have been later working in psychiatric institution, day care facilities, nursing homes etc. until my retirement two years ago. I have never forgotten Graylingwell and I sincerely hope that England will find a way to preserve it somehow, the way that only England could find.
I remember a man from Anderson 2, who had looked like Leonardo da Vinci with his beard and long hair. He used to be standing by the window and humming “It’s now or never…” and then he stopped humming and he murmured :”Those horrible birds…” referring to the number of craws living on the trees around the hospital.
I think I could write a book about. So many memories. I wish I could visit Graylingwell once again…maybe I will. I couldn’t recall anything bad just kind working people caring about others in need. I appreciate for this photos, thank you!

#23JonathanDecember 2, 2017, 7:24 pm

Hi there,

I have a few photos of Graylingwell from last year and this year, still adding so bare with, I remember this place as a kid : used to get my mum to drive through the grounds as I found it so interesting: so sad to see it gone: though compared to most mental hospitals that close over the last 20 years this place faired pretty well and most Ward buildings kept, I had a peek in the old Farm yard today, was a interesting explore, I believe the farm yard is to be kept and turned into light commercial space

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