Cane Hill
Cane Hill was a psychiatric hospital in Coulsdon in the London Borough of Croydon. ( grid reference TQ291587 ) Built to care for patients in the eastern part of Surrey, remote from the Springfield and Brookwood Asylums, it opened in 1882 as the Third Surrey County Lunatic Asylum. Following a gradual winding down of operations, it closed all but its secure unit by late 1991. It formerly housed up to 2,000 patients, but with Care in the Community, modern medication and the 1983 Mental Health legislation, it was almost empty by the time of its closure. The secure unit moved into what had been the Coulsdon Cottage Hospital. In 2006 it held 23 patients and was run by the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM). It closed in February 2008, with the patients and staff being transferred to the new Medium Secure Unit, River House at Bethlem Royal Hospital.

Historical Notes on Cane Hill
The main buildings at Cane Hill were designed by Charles Henry Howell and built on a hill-top site overlooking Coulsdon and Farthing Downs. It opened in two phases, in 1882 and in 1888. The first superintendent, James Moody, was knighted for his work and, following his death in 1915, was succeeded by Dr George Lilly who retired in 1949. In the post-war period, Cane Hill's superintendent for twenty-three years was the eminent psychiatrist Dr Alexander Walk (1901-1982). Walk was renowned for his scholarship and was an authority on the history of psychiatry. During its lengthy period of operation, many notable patients passed through the doors of Cane Hill - these include Charlie Chaplin's mother, and the brothers of Michael Caine and David Bowie. Bowie's album The Man Who Sold The World featured the administration block of Cane Hill on its sleeve.

Urban Exploration and the Afterlife of Cane Hill
Because of its immense size and relatively undamaged state, Cane Hill became extremely popular among urban explorers in the 1990s. On his extensive website, Simon Cornwell has described the complex nature of the Cane Hill Cult. However, fire and structural damage, as well as increased security, reduced its popularity on the UK urban exploration scene. Cornwell's contribution to the post-modern literature of urban exploration has featured Cane Hill as the focal point of personal and psychological recovery. Styling himself as a "guerilla historian", Cornwell has presented his compulsive "invasions" of the asylum in their historical context in an institution of compulsory detention. Cane Hill, for decades the home for the abandoned and the dispossessed, is itself now "abandoned" and in his many expeditions to its interior, Cornwell has recorded the experience physically, emotionally and photographically. The work of these urban explorers is akin to that of psychotherapists who explore the psychological structures of emotional trauma and bereavement. In later years the interior of the buildings deteriorated greatly. Damage and lack of maintenance caused rot and water damage to the wooden floors, causing collapse in many of the out-lying buildings. The water tower of the asylum housed a low-power analogue television repeater belonging to National Grid Wireless. This was powered by a diesel generator, since there was no mains power supplied to the site after the switchgear was destroyed following an arson attack. There were many proposals to re-develop the site as a housing estate or a business or science park, and plans to convert some of the buildings into a modern medium-security hospital. However, the hospital was in the middle of the London green belt, so there were lengthy delays and discussions about the exact nature of any re-development plans. This problem afflicts many former psychiatric hospitals in the UK, as they are often sited on land on the edge of towns in semi-rural areas that are now protected against unrestricted development.

The Fate of Cane Hill
The hospital buildings were not listed. English Heritage first considered the buildings as part of their Thematic Review of Hospital Buildings in the 1990s, but listing was not granted. Croydon's Planning Brief for Cane Hill of March 1998 suggested the retention and re-use of the Administration Block and Chapel but the buildings were not on the local list nor was any part of the site considered a Conservation Area. An attempt to list the buildings again in 2006 failed; it " did have local interest (in particular the Administration Block and the Chapel)" but "better examples of early echelon asylums exist". However, Cane Hill was not an early echelon asylum; it was a unique example of a transitional type, best described as "Radiating Pavilion". In 2006, Hipposcope Films started planning to film a documentary about the history of the asylum. The site's owners, English Partnerships, who purchased the site in April 2007, apparently gave permission for Hipposcope to access Cane Hill. Filming inside the asylum was due to start according to the project's site in late 2007/early 2008 but there had since been no new news updates and the site has now been taken down. Demolition of Cane Hill started in March 2008 and was completed by the end of 2010. Only the Chapel, Administration building and Water Tower remained. A few buildings outside of the main fence remained, most notably the cottage hospital/secure unit. On the 13th November 2010 a fire took hold in the administration block and went on to destroy all but the front facade of the building. The fire also destroyed the iconic clock tower. At about midnight, firefighters saw the clocktower crash to the ground in the blaze. The fire been started in the basement of the building, draughting its way up through the ground and first floors before finally torching the roof. Along with the clock tower, the fire destroyed many of the exterior masonry walls, rendering the building in a state of imminent collapse. The inferno has left the hospital in a dangerous state, and it will be demolished soon.