Filming Starts on an Exclusive Severalls Hospital Documentary

Posted: December 19, 2015 by BTP Joe in Event Review, News, Up-Coming Event, Website Update
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

For those who haven’t visited Beyond the Point before, we are an award winning organisation dedicated to revealing the unseen history of Essex and beyond. Ranging from everything from Medieval castles to nuclear bunkers, we follow our goal to enlighten you on the usually skimmed-over parts of local history. Read more about us…

Howdy BTP readers! As Christmas day quickly approaches, so does the new year which means another year of exploring a vast variety of site along with a hefty collection of photographs and video clips. Our latest documentary for BTP is something quite different…

Beyond the Point has been given exclusive access to film a documentary on the derelict Severalls Hospital site in Colchester. This documentary is particularly special as the NHS has declined every single filming request (except ours) for those wanting to film on the site, even to major broadcasters such as the Discovery Channel. Therefore, Beyond the Point will be the only organisaation to have filmed legally on the site, both to date and probably in the entire time that the hospital is standing. The site was opened in 1913 as ‘Severalls Asylum’, a psychiatric hospital, and provided psychiatric care for North Essex until it closed in 1997. The massive 300 acre site was built to house up to 2,000 patients and the site was built based on the ‘Echelon plan’ where staff and patients could move around the site without going outside. If you have memories of Severalls Hospital, why not post them in our new Facebook Group, dedicated entirely to the hospital?

When asylums were first built in the late 1800’s, they were placed away from towns although they were a community in their own right as asylums were built with farms, laundry facilities, staff housing, shops and everything needed to live on the site. Mental health had quite a stigma attached to it at the time and little was known about curing it. Women could be admitted for struggling with a large family or for even being raped. This led to some scientists and doctors to experiment with treatments including electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and the use of frontal lobotomy.

Paul Lindup flying his drone

Our documentary will explore the history from when Severalls opened up until it closed and will show what the site is currently like. We’ve pulled out all the stops for this documentary and have teamed up with Airbourne Imagery who are providing us with some amazing drone shots of the site. We also have helicopter footage from ITV News. In the new year we’ll be speaking with former staff members about their time at the site and will publishing our documentary around mid 2016.

To find out more about this project and to see early production photos visit our production website, You can also get regular updates about the documentary by liking Globlue on Facebook. We’ll be posting an article focussing on the history of the site, alongside our current photos, in the new year. If you have any photos or memories of the site, then please don’t hesitate to Contact Us. You can watch a teaser below:


Press Features:

Daily Gazette Feature | East Anglian Daily Times | Maldon Standard | Chelmsford Weekley News

  1. […] The documentary will feature a number of voices providing accounts of life at the site; including former staff members and nurses who trained at the site. Filming of these interviews will commence in the New Year. The documentary ‘Secrets of Severalls’ is set for release in mid-2016. Find out more over at Beyond the Point. […]

    • Linda Carter (nee Sibley) says:

      My Father died in Severalls hospital in 1994/95. I knew it well as I lived in Clacton at that time. I will be very interested in seeing the programme.

    • Vicky says:

      This will be really interesting to see, my mum worked there for years circa 1977 until it closed , she then worked on the Lakes next to Colchester general hospital, mum and her colleagues used to put on Christmas plays on her ward for the patients and their families my dad made the scenery and I would make the costumes.

    • Hi Joe,

      I am a recent film graduate from Colchester and I am eager to work on documentaries. After reading your article I have become obsessed and would love love to have the opportunity to work with you on this documentary. Here is a link to my work and other projects I have worked on. Please do take the time to have a look. I am extremely enthusiastic and love hard

      Kind Regards,

      Sabrina Aylward-Tarten

  2. Dennis Hall says:

    My wife lived in the nursing home and also did some training at Severalls I also knew it well

  3. Gary says:

    We tried to have authorisation to fly a drone over the site and even that was declined. We didn’t even need access. We wanted to complete some shots obtaining overlapping photos to create a 3D model of the site as it was before it was demolished for housing. We’re certified for aerial work and fully insured and legal. If you need aerial shots for the documentary let me know.

  4. Joanne Ashley says:

    I used to visit there to see my uncle who had psyzhophrenia with my mum and my gran when I was 4. I remember running up and down a corridor. I remember the speed bumps in the road. The trees were so big you could put your arms around them and your hands wouldn’t met. I remember seeing my uncle in the community when I was about 6 and being petrified of him. I was told when I was older by my mum and gran that my mum had visited him at severals and he was upset and wanted to hug my mum the doctor said it would be ok and left the room he then proceeded to hug my mum until she stopped breathing!!! The doctor had to tell my uncle when he was well that he almost killed my mum. I assume I was there but can’t remember I’m now seeing a neurologist for non epileptic attack disorder which looks like an absences seizure but is linked to trauma.

  5. Linda Camper says:

    I have a memory of Severalls hospital in 1969 when I was 16. I went to the girls’ high school and we all did some voluntary work that year. We had a choice and I probably chose Severalls as nearest to my house! I worked on the geriatric ward, serving food and drinks and doing other non-nursing basic jobs. In fact I had a bit of a fling with one of the male nurses, who came from Mauritius! The corridor in your photo certainly brings back memories, it was indeed a warren of corridors interrupted by wards.

  6. Annette Matthews says:

    Worked here in 1989 when it had general wards . Also in school of nursing. Before then I worked in a residential home where I nursed a lady who was a resident of several hospital. Found a news footage of her in 1963 where she had just been rehomed from severalls. See link. Her name was Emily Porter.

  7. Pippa Nicholass says:

    My dad worked at severalls and tells me all these stories of his time there. I’m excited to properly see inside, it completely fascinates me.

  8. Julie taylor says:

    Sadly my nan spent a lot of time in this facility .she had many treatments but sadly did not know enough about mental conditions to treat her properly

  9. Carol Giuliano.....née Hoy says:

    Severalls Hospital has been an interest of mine for a long time, as a 14 yr old in 1976 I was in the cardiac unit or St Micheals ward as I believe renovations were being undertaken anda move at that time to the current hospital….the time on the ward left a huge impact on my life. In 1992 as a then 30 yr old I underwent trying to become a registered nurse and just walking through those corridors again brought back so many memories some happy and remembering the then junior nurses and doctors whom cared for me when I was ill but also the terrifying images of the mentally ill walking about the corridors aimlessly (remember I was 14 with a vivid imagination and had heard stories about the looney bin!!)
    Any way I look forward to your production.

  10. lacey noellen says:

    My mum used to work there so did my nan creepy place

  11. Steve says:

    Interesting seeing this post as I had a stay in Severalls in the 80’s and later had to visit the hospital in my line of work.
    Most people associate the hospital with mental health care but there was a dedicated chest care ward, upstairs and I spent 9 days there with a collapsed lung. Most of the patients on the ward were elderly but I was only 17 and I was told that the doors were locked to keep us in and others out. It was a frightening but interesting 9 days.
    Later I had to return regularly to the patient cafe as a van salesman and this was, at times a difficult and worrying series of visits.
    Well done on revisiting and documenting this beautiful old building.

  12. Rob Dack says:

    There was a group of nurses that performed variety shows for the patients of Severalls. That show grew and evolved and the Severalls Concertt Group will be celebrating 55 years this year. Would you have any interest in featuring them or their story in your documentary?

  13. Wendy Cross says:

    I spent 3 years there when it held the School of Nursing training to be a nurse and did my mental health modules on one of the cottages. Amazed that one or two of the residents had been born there because their mothers had been pregnant, single and deemed ” not right in the head”. I always found it to be a very atmospheric place. Can’t wait for this documentary.

  14. Jacky Johnson says:

    I worked at Severalls on night shifts and I remember a 27 bed acute surgical ward. All patients were in the first three days of their surgery so quite acute, needing wound, dressing, analgesia and IV fluids and drugs care overnight. It was incredibly busy. Hectic. J J

  15. Luke says:

    My sisters dad still works next door in the part that’s open still for mental health. I used to wonder the tunnels and different buildings when I was younger with mates. Go to the padded cells sit in there and turn out any lighting. I can garentee you won’t ever have an experience like it EVER!!

  16. Julie says:

    I was impatient when I was 16 .in the 80s Found it very scary but fascinating at the same time . I had depression.the first night I slept in a ward with lots of old woman i was terrified .

  17. Conrad penn says:

    My wife worked at Severalls from 1981 to 1994 first in the school of nursing and then on to wards as a RMN she followed in the footsteps of her father who had also worked there from the 1970’s to 1990’s as an RMN having the record of being one of the oldest men to train in the hospital

    • Betty says:

      I WORKED THERE IN THE 70s on nights it was fine in the main blulding but very scrary in the out buildings ,but all very interesting hearing story’s about why the residents were in there

  18. Dom says:

    My mother worked there in the late 70’s as a secretary. She would happily be interviewed and is good on camera too.

  19. Iworked there from 2nd anuary1979 till late 1995 when i worked in the community houses prior to severalls closure. i retired from the service in 2011 32 years there 3 years at Bridge Hospital Witham.
    i can remember walking the corridors at night very very eerie as your foot steps would echo around the long corridors of the main building. i have many happy memories & friendships formed over the years.
    i no longer live in the UK but will look forward to streaming the documentary when it is released.

  20. Michelle Woods says:

    I remember visiting my Nan several times there. She had the electric treatment. It didn’t make any difference:(

  21. Sara Callen says:

    Several members of my in law family worked at Severalls covering the years from 60s to when it closed (including me). My brother in law was Jim Callen, a much respected nurse, Charge Nurse and then tutor. My mother in law, Doris Callen was matron’s maid, and then when no matron, Doris looked after the nurses sick bay. My sister in law, Jim’s wife, Rita, worked as an Occupational therapist. (I think on the general side) and I worked I. The EEG department, from 1969 .. and until 1999 (last part in the CGH). Started as a student in 1969, left for 4 years from 1973-1977, then returned, becoming Chief Technician in 1979, after the sudden death of Tony Barritt. Much more I can tell… and I hope the EEG department’s history won’t be missed out of the documentary. The department started in 1950, when psychosurgery was being done at Severalls.

  22. Claire says:

    OMG can’t wait to see this documentary, I have been fortunate to see this stunning place. But I feel so drawn to anything to do with severalls. Good luck with the production. Sending warmest wishes

  23. harry ashbrook says:

    my wife worked there as a staff nurse( RMN)with adults and then children,late seventy early eighty.

  24. Jane Healy says:

    Part of it is still used (Chestnut Villa) as pathology labs by Colchester Hospital. I worked there for a while until about 2 years ago.
    Thought is was a lovely building, would make lovely spacious flats/apartments, such a shame its all going to be flattened. It was wonderful to work in the labs and have rabbits and muntjac deer’s come up to the windows and watch the birds & foxes too.
    Some of the people I worked with had been there years & remembered some of the shops etc that used to be on sight.

  25. Liz bennett says:

    My aunt worked for nearly 20 years at severalls foght up till 3 months before she died.

  26. Georgia Sutton says:

    My dad use to work in severals, when he was about 16. he used to work in the cafe area and remembers a lot of information about it still to this very day. i didnt know much about it but my dad has told me so many story about the place.

  27. Deidre says:

    My mother was incarcerated there as late on as the 80’s simply for having Alzheimer’s. I believe she was given different drugs to test but have no idea what they were.

  28. Carol Rose says:

    I would love to see this film when it is made, please let me know by email, when & where I can see it. Thank you.

  29. Trish Hale says:

    I worked at Severalls from 89 to 99, quite a roller coaster of a ride.

  30. Ruth Wadey says:

    Brings back memories from years ago when I worked sometimes in the x-ray dept there. Patients on the two general wards often preferred ‘Sevs’ to the Colchester General Hospital, there seems to be something about the atmosphere of an older building people prefer.

  31. Jane Jones says:

    My Mum was in there in the early 1960s and we were never allowed to visit her. We were told not to talk about it and led to believe that her breakdown was something to be ashamed of. Only in her later years did admit to having been there, because by then mental health was more acceptable,

    Doing family history research I also found my greatx2 aunt had been admitted during WWII, probably suffering under the strains of war, only to be killed by a bomb while she was in there.

  32. Neil says:

    My mum worked there for many years and also I worked there in the houses along the roadside with clients before they were put back into the community. I have many memory’s growing up as a child while my mother worked I would play in the grounds etc. Also worked for a short ime in the bridge hospital in Witham.

  33. Nicky Cole says:

    I was a young pupil nurse at the Severalls School of Nursing and also worked on the Chest Ward. I remember the high risk locked wards and being escorted through them when there was a temporary theatre installed back in the seventies. It was a lovely community, having the Mental Health patients wandering the grounds. We all had our favourites carrying packets of sweeties and ciggies to give to those who asked.

  34. Vicky says:

    My mum worked there circa 1977 until it closed, at Christmas her and her colleagues used to put on a Christmas panto for the patients and their families, I made the costumes and my dad made the scenery.

  35. Ellen says:

    In the 80s my best friend’s Mum worked there. She caught TB (I think she must have been on the chest care ward?) and family and friends had to have the skin prick test and innoculation in case it spread.

  36. tan says:

    did they use shock treatment

  37. Lee says:

    Back then my mum was in there herself unfortunately she tried killing my sister through pd (postnatal depression) she met a man that was so convincing that she believed after he told her he was there to visit and she booked him a hotel to stay but turnt out differently he was a resident also a women that tried to kill my sister but that’s another story along with many more… My mum is now stronger than ever but has many story’s from there proud of what she’s seen and also been through

  38. Jenny Jemison says:

    I have memories of Severalls as my grandmother was there from 1942?- till she died aged 90 in June 1958. I was never allowed to go inside, but waited in the car with my father. We used to pick her up to bring her home for Christmas. I have always wondered what her life was like in there. As far as I am aware she suffered from being in London during the blitz.

  39. Pat says:

    Our Mum was in several times over a 30 year span.Very traumatic times she was so ill ,diagnosed with schizophrenia eventually…..had shock treatment and all sorts of drugs.We used to go and visit mum on a regular basis. She was in locked ward for a time. Eden vale too I remember. Mum got better over the years……but not many people understood her condition and we were all a bit shunned by a lot of people. Notva happy time for me and my 3 brothers and Dad. I was only 5/8 at the time Mum first was ill……am now 60.Beautiful gardens surrounding the many buildings. I will be intrigued to see how this programme realistically portrays real life at this establishment.

  40. Wendy Boobier / Churchman says:

    I worked at Severalls hospital fro m1983 to 1994. Loved it. Went to the Lindon Centre when services got moved to Chelmsford. I liked the whole community and freedom of movement that the patients had. Some right characters.

  41. Lee says:

    Please. Contact me my mum was in there and has many stories more than you can imagine [REMOVED] not sure how I go about this but please ring she tried killing her child and met many few inside that she could tell a lot about

  42. Gina gregory says:

    My grandma s husband worked there in the early 1900s. When we visited her there was a photo of severally asylum football team on her dressing table. He must have been one of the first generation of male psychiatric nurses as we found medical books with strange pictures which fascinated us as children. Sadly he died in the First World War but I would love to know more about his life there

    • Sara Callen says:

      I worked at Severalls from 1969-1973, then 1977-1997, in the EEG Department, which was set up in 1950 to record the effects of psychosurgery. This part of Severalls history has been neglected in the past. The Department Chief Technician (when I started as a student technician) was Tony Barritt, Senior Technician was Christine Slack, and Consultant Neurophysiologist was Dr June Dickson. Mr Barritt mentioned Ralph Derbyshire (who I think was Chief tech before him).. Anna Ridsdale, who still works in EEG/Neurophysiology at the CGH also trained and worked in the department at Severalls..

  43. paul keys says:

    I was a patient here in willow house locked ward.i was given very heavy drugs and they basically ruined my whole life in 2 months.

  44. danielle says:

    my mum worked hear when i was a kid, me and my sister used to play hide and seek waiting for my mum to finish work, this place used to creep me out. my mum used to tell me story’s about the ladys that she used to look after , my dad was a porter as well. all the kids used to play hear.

  45. Susan Greaves says:

    The cohort of 1994 APU was the last nursing group to live learn and play at Severalls Hospital. Fabulous site it was our home for 3-years.

  46. Henry says:

    When is it due to be broadcasted ??

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