Runwell Hospital

Author sophos9 - Last updated: 31.05.2010

Had an excellent day out on Sunday with Shando and Superiwan, Where we visited Runwell hospital.

I had seen some pictures of it back in 2005 when some of the wards had started to close but as the last of the staff and occupants were moved out at the end of last month i thought it was time to pay a trip to this.

Runwell has a high security isolation wing which was great fun trying to get in although the bloody building is designed not to let you out…. Luckily security is your friend and had wrote the access code for all the electronic door opening systems on site and also a manual overide key (Those in engineering will know what i mean )

Anyway, on with the history and photos.


Following the ending of contracts accommodating patients at the Essex county’s Brentwood mental hospital, joint facilities were developed between East Ham and Southend-on-sea boroughs. A site was chosen at Runwell Hall farm, to the east of the town of Wickford and the firm of Elcock and Sutcliffe were chosen as architects to the site, the former having previously designed the new Bethlem Royal hospital at Monks orchard. Elcock and Sutcliffe were at the forefront of institutional design and when completed, Runwell was seen as being pioneering development in mental hospital compared to its contemporaries.

The hospital was divided into specific zones according to purpose and type of patient. Staff housing was located close to or outside of the main entrance, with the most senior residences and nurse’s home located on the main drive. The chapel, dedicated to St. Luke was placed at the principal junction at the top of the drive – to its east lay admission, research, treatment convalescence and neurosis blocks. The main buildings were laid out to the west comprising of villas for working patients, and pavilions for the infirm, administrative buildings, recreation hall, kitchens and stores blocks providing segregation of male and female blocks. Workshops were provided on either side for the employment of capable patients. To the rear a combined power house and water tower provided a central focal point, with the laundry constructed on the female side. Parole villas were built at the northermost areas behind the main ranges, providing a degree of freedom to suitable occupants. A large sick hospital was provided directly opposite the administrative block, combining wards for physically sick patients, those with tuberculosis, an operating theatre and staff sick bay. Finally, farthest west, boundary house, a large block for disruptive chronic patients was built, providing two male wards, four female wards and a separate dining hall. The former farm was relocated to the north of the main site.

Unlike others of its kind, Runwell utilised names for all villas and wards from the start, instead of numbers and letters used elsewhere until the 1960s and 70’s, giving each structure a more homely identity. White with grey brick banding, rendering and variation between flat and pitched rooves were used to identify buildings and prevent a bland functional appearance overall by providing variety.

Following World War II, Runwell came under the control of the National health service who continued pioneering research work at the hospital. New developments included the Strom Olsen ward, adjacent to the female admission unit, and named after the former Superintendent and a combined occupational therapy and research laboratory block. Investigations under Professor Corsellis led to the development of a ‘brain bank’, the largest of its kind and instrumental in researching changes to the brain in mental illness and subnormality.

Under sectorisation and realignment of catchment areas, Runwell’s historical role in providing for East Ham diminished and services were became concentrated on the south east Essex area, resulting in strong links with mental health services at Southend municipal hospital, later Rochford hospital. With the threat of closure and development of care in the community, services were streamlined between Runwell and Rochford sites, the laboratories and peripheral buildings closing.

Ward Names of the 1970’s

Ambleside – Female Admissions
Boleyn One – Female
Boleyn Two – Female
Brookside Ward – Female Long Stay
Chalkwell One – Female Elderly
Chalkwell Two – Female Elderly
Elizabeth Ward – Female Geriatric
Elm House – Male Geriatric
Glendale Ward – Male Admissions
Grangewood One – Male
Grangewood Two – Male
Female Harper One
Female Harper Two
Male Harper One
Male Harper Two
Harper Unit – Theatre’s, Dentist etc
Hillview Ward – Female
Laburnum Ward – Female Geriatric
Leigh House – Female
Margaret Ward – Female Geriatric
Nightingale Ward – Female Geriatric
Oakfield Ward – Male
Plashet One – Male Geriatric
Plashet Two – Female Locked Ward
Rettendon Ward – Male
Sandringham Ward – Male Long Stay
Sherrington Ward – Female Locked Ward
Strom Olsen – Female
Sunnyside Ward – Female Long Stay
Westcliff Ward – Female Admissions
Windsor Ward – Male Long Stay
Woodside Ward – Male Long Stay

Ward Names of the 2000’s

Ashingdon Ward – Demountable Building opened in 2004 closed in 2008
Belfairs Ward – Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (Closed 2007)
Belfairs Ward – Medium Secure Female Admissions and Rehab
Boleyn One – Acute Mental Health
Chalkwell One – Acute Mental Health
Dove Ward – Rehab (Opened 2005 – Closed 2009)
Elm House – Elderly
Fairview Ward – Medim Secure Forensic Male Rehab (Admitted Females Until 2007)
Harman Ward – Medium Secure Forensic Pre Discharge
Heron Ward – Continuing Care (Closed 2005)
Hullbridge Ward – Medium Secure Forensic Male Admissions (admitted females until 2007)
Laburnum Ward – Acute Mental Health (Closed 2006)
Oakview Ward – Low Secure Male Admissions (Opened 2005)
Plashet Ward – Medium Secure Forensic Male Rehab (Admitted Females Until 2007)
Steepleview Ward – Low Secure Male and Female Rehab
Westlcliff Ward – Continuing Care (Closed 2005)
Wren Ward – Continuing Care (Closed 2005)

Ward Moves and Renames

Female Harper One amalgamated with Female Harper Two and renamed Wren Ward then, renamed Steepleview Ward
Male Harper One amalgamated with Male Harper Two and renamed Heron Ward then again Dove Ward
Harper Unit offices converted to Newham Ward then renamed Harman Ward then again renamed Oakview Ward
Grangewood One – Renamed Steepleview Ward then again renamed Fairview Ward
Grangewood Two – Renamed Plashet Three then again renamed Belfairs Ward
Plashet Two – Renamed Hullbridge Ward
Westcliff Ward – Renamed Harman Ward

Phew!!!!!!!!!!! Enough of that, now the pictures





















Thanks for looking


#1judyApril 5, 2014, 12:58 pm

hi, I worked at Runwell in the 70’s plashet 2 was a locked male ward not female.Rettendon was also male admission. I worked on them. It was a great place to work by the way.

#2SchenkyDecember 6, 2016, 4:57 pm

How tight is security on site?

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