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Gallery – New documentary to chart history of Severalls Hospital in Colchester

29 December, 2015 - 15:16
The former Severalls Hospital

The former Severalls Hospital


A student film-maker has been given almost unprecedented access to a former mental health hospital in Colchester to chart the site’s history through a documentary.

Joe Mander, 19, was granted permission by the North Essex Partnership University Foundation NHS Trust (NEP) to film in the grounds of Severalls Hospital in Boxted Road.

Since it closed down in 1997 the hospital – formerly a psychiatric asylum – has been the target of paranormal investigators, including almost weekly requests from ghost show producers.

The trust even had to beef up security and issue a public warning threatening prosecutions after a spate of people trespassing on the site searching for spooky goings-on and a picturesque picnic spot.

Joe, an apprentice cameraman, said he was delighted to be allowed access to the hospital with his photographer and history student friend Liam Heatherson, also 19.

The pair took in the whole hospital, including the morgue, and were also able to shoot some aerial footage after drone firm Airbourne Imagery provided their services for free.

Joe, who set up local history project Beyond the Point with Liam in 2011, said: “We had seen a number of photos of Severalls online and wanted to make the documentary, but were not that hopeful of going in having read articles about the trespassers.

“We have been to a number of historic places before and I don’t really believe in ghosts but the thing that really got to us at Severalls was the scale of the site, it was just massive.

“Looking back at old photos you can imagine what it was like, but it is hard when you are actually there as it is abandoned.

Joe Mander filming in the morgue of the former Severalls HospitalJoe Mander filming in the morgue of the former Severalls Hospital

“It was strange to see it in person.”

Although built as an asylum in 1913, the 300 acre site was a self-contained village with villas, a church and even a grand ballroom, home to around 2,000 patients.

The administration building is Grade II-listed, and many of the buildings are linked by corridors.

A NEP spokesman said: “We rarely give permission for anyone to film Severalls Hospital for health and safety reasons.

“However, we made an exception on this occasion as the film was about documenting the history of Severalls which is an important part of local history.

“When the students approached us we considered their request carefully and took steps to ensure that the safety of all involved was paramount.

“As we have said many times in the past trespassing on our Severalls site is illegal and the trust takes a strong stance on prosecuting trespassers.”

Filming on location has been completed for the documentary, and now Joe hopes to interview a number of former staff – and possible patients – in the New Year to recount their memories of the hospital.

It is hoped the documentary will be published in June, and Joe hopes it may then get picked up by a broadcaster.

The site has been earmarked for housing development, and has outline planning permission for an estate of up to 730 homes. The already built Olympic estate, on the south side of the new Via Urbis Romanae, was also on former hospital land as it the new road.

A NEP spokesman said: “We are still in talks with developers who have expressed an interest in developing the site. These talks are still ongoing and we hope to conclude them in the New Year.”

Watch a video trailer of the Secrets of Severalls documentary at

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