Going straight in without checking anything out was fun, but I wanted to know more about the place. There were plenty of options available to me:

  • My parents. They know a lot about the place, but I expect they wouldn't approve of my channing stuff going on, so any questions are subtle and not like "What's in the water tower, because I broke in last weekend?"
  • The library. They're bound to have lots about the place.
  • The council. Planning and building people should have the plans, and all planning applications.
  • Old employees. Old people like talking about when they were younger. Not much good after they are dead though, and they are dropping like flies.
  • Old nuts. Nuff said.
  • The redevelopment people. They want to knock it down, but they might know something at least.

To get background information, I started at the library.

The Box

Croydon library is one of the largest libraries around, and they have an archives section to rival most. It should contain everything I need to know - plans, planning applications, records, newspaper articles. They store this information in "boxes", cardboard boxes with bits of paper in them, unsurprisingly. Requesting the Cane Hill box, a kind lady went to retrieve it. After a short wait, we were presented with an A4 box folder.


Well, we started to look through it. The first thing that seemed interesting was a spiral bound folder, "Redevelopment of Cane Hill Hospital Planning Brief".

Cover Of The Plan

Over the years, there have been many ideas about what do do with Cane Hill. These include a science park, flats, conversion to a village etc. but all have come to nothing. There is to be a Coulsdon Bypass running through the front area of the hospital. But because of possible redevelopment, a planning brief was drawn up. Reading through this report lead to several findings which I found interesting, but much of it was about local residents, farmers, and stuff that doesn't really apply to my research:

  • The aerials/transmitters are owned by Cellnet and the BBC (well, the company that deals with transmission). Further research, on the internet, leads me to believe that the Cellnet station is the bog standard. I also found out that The TV transmitter at Cane Hill is a 30W vertically polarised transmitter, 169m above sea level, at TQ291588 (exactly on the tower). Quite high then. Good coverage. Nice for pirate transmissions I think....
  • However, they wish to demolish the tower, as it is an "eyesore on the skyline", relocating the transmitters to the nearby drying ground, an expanse of land in the middle of the hospital. So if anything needs to be channed, it needs to happen soon.
  • There are several sites of contamination - the water tower, drying ground, boiler house, sewage works (?) and bunker (???). It doesn't say what the contamination is. I assume it is chlorine, bleach or some cleaning chemical at the first two. The boiler house is obviously an asbestos and oil nightmare. The sewage works (although I can't find this anywhere on the site) probably has excrement etc. there. But the bunker? Radiation? Chemicals? Maybe they just don't want us going in there.
  • Bunker? What bunker? There is a bunker somewhere on the site, to the south east of the secure unit, near the A23. Using the 1975 OS map, which shows more detail than the more recent copies, it can be seen that there is a pit in the south east of the land. It seems the most likely place to but a bunker. More on this later.

The square on the left shows the secure unit area, the blow up shows the pit.

  • Mentions of the tunnels under the hospital with pipes in them. I have seen parts of the hospital with walkable tunnels, but I know nothing of the rest.
  • Archeological remains have been found there. It is a very important site, in this respect. I'm not very interested in this, I mean I see it's importance, it's just not something I find interesting. But it was built on Saxon burial mounds. Bad idea in my books. Scary ghosties and things. Not good. Anyway, no worries, ghosts don't exist, do they?

Looking through the rest of the box, there was lots about the treatment of workers and patients. People were beaten, and a lot of people have died there. And there have been a lot of crack pots there. More stuff that spooks me out a bit. There's newspaper articles about it's closure, and press releases on it's redevelopment. A lot of it isn't really that interesting. At last, there is something good. A brief history of the hospital - stories about women patients boiling a supervisor in the laudry, bodies in the tunnels, hauntings, more reasons to be scared when at the hospital. Most of it is about the original building, how many it could house etc. Not very informative. On to the rest. I found a few other things of interest - a few aerial photos of unknown dates, and a ground and first floor map, even though they are photcopies of photocopies of photocopies. These are shown below in low res, I can show better if anyone wants them.

A recent aerial photo from the NE

An old photo from the NE

An old photo from the SW

The huge chapel at the front of the hospital

Close up of the tower in the good old days

The boiler house is in the square

The following plans are very low quality, and I have done my best to enhance them. Parts are missing because these are 19th century plans, and much has been added since (boiler room, more wards, swimming pool).

Ground floor plan

First floor plan

Tower Area
Blue dot - post mortem room.
Yellow dot - 6 foot gate.
Red dot - transmitter equipment rough location (the cooling gear is here).
Purple dot - the water tower.
Green dot - the operating substation.

Now, the library should have the planning applications and the blue prints in full. But guess what? Someone has walked off with them. Neither the library nor the council seem to be able to find them. Until they do, I have found out as much as I can from them.

the parent units

Now that I knew something about the hospital, it was back to the parents. General discussions about the layout, what buildings were used for, etc. I learnt a bit about the layout, but not too much. But I did find out something out about the bunker. My dad lived in the area during the war, and he knows about the bunker. It appears to have been part of the Canadian Army's bases over here. It was used to store things - paintings, whiskey (hmm...), treasures, and the like. It had an entrance from the A23, and is supposedly big enough to drive a car into. My dad also remembers there being an entrance very close to the hospital.

ex employees/nuts

Well, most of both groups are gone forever, if they are old enough to remember anything good. It's difficult finding old nuts and even harder talking to them, so I thought maybe not to bother. But there is one employee who I want to get hold of. He works as a watchman of the place, and he used to work there. His names Joe, and I keep on going up there to look for him but he's not there. I will get round to finding him sometime and asking about the hospital.

the bunker

Out of all the research, this seems to be the most interesting thing. Knowing the rough area which it was in, we set off yet again to the site of the hospital, this time with the intention of finding the bunker. Parking on the side of the A23, we crossed the busy road, not really knowing where to look. Heading along the road, towards the south, climbing over fences and through farmland, we came to a small copse. It seemed the most promising place to look for it.

After shredding ourselves on a nice barbed wire fence, we started walking through the woods. There are very few paths, but we came across clearings where people had dumped car batteries, car seats, and made a lovely bonfire. Probably not a good place to be at night, so we carried on. Not finding much evidence of anything, we were going to go back. We expected there to be evidence of a road leading to it, which we didn't find. Just as we reached the other side of the copse, we saw that there was a earth ramp leading down in a little valley. Far more promising.

Walking down this valley for a short distance, it reached a depth of 30 feet or so, and then turned right. A long valley stretched before us.The regular shape and structure of the valley suggested that it was man made. A short distance down the valley, there was a large concrete block, about 3 feet high, in the ground, stretching into left hand side of the valley. It looked much like an entrance. About halfway down this valley, there was another similar concrete block, wider this time, with a bent and rusted guard rail around it. 20 feet above this, another concrete block protruded from the earth of the valley. This definately was an entrance. Unfortunately, it has been blocked by many tonnes of earth.

At the other end of the valley, there is another simple block in the ground, before the valley turns right and returns to ground level. The valley formed a U shape, to allow access yet make the bunker far less visible. On the way back, we took a closer look. There was a small rounded lump of cement on the ground, about the size of a manhole cover. Jumping on it made a hollow echo noise, suggesting that the bunker hadn't been filled in, but simply blocked off. We noted that a pick axe and crow bar would move the cement quite quickly.

There is evidence of kids being around - tyres, rope swings, a load of telephone multicore used as rope. They haven't found a way in yet, and normally kids do. This means that it might not be possible but it's worth a try. How old these swings and things are, I don't know, as getting to the site involves crossing the busy A23 and there are few nearby houses. Using one of the "ropes" we climbed the steep side of the valley, away from the A23. Walking up the hill, we found very little. A path up to the hospital runs along side the bunker, so it can't be that secret really, but the path is now overgrown and impassible without ripping clothes and cutting yourself up.

Looking for the entrance higher up the hill, all we found was several concrete drainage systems with pipes running from the fields presumably. Too open to be sewage and too far away from any buildings to be much else. But it is on a steep hill, so why have extra drainage? It suggests that the bunker comes this far up the hill, and that they wanted the extra drainage to stop flooding. Once at the top we reached the secure unit. No abnormal drain lids or buildings. Otherwise there is no extra entrance or we missed it.

After going back down, we noticed that there are drain lids in the middle of the fields, in concrete blocks, padlocked shut. They looked a bit more promising, but the rusted state of the padlocks means we'd need boltcutters and it would have to be done in the middle of the night - far too many police cars go down the A23.

the caves

Well, I got home, and had a look round on the web for more info. There is nothing directly about Cane Hill, but there is a lot about the caves underneath the area. There are many miles of tunnels stretching from Godstone to Caterham and Coulsdon. There are also caverns described as, well, cavernous. The bunkers were probably adapted caves then, since there are so many in the area. A good place to begin is a map of these caves then, as it will have entrances and exits marked, as well as the bunker possibly.

So, I've ended up joining Subterranea Brittanica and Croydon Caving Club, both of which will help in this research, and are also part of the whole urban exploration thing, except maybe a tiny bit more legal than currently.

further research

Several new things have come up since putting up this site (thanks to Tim Tyler):

  • Evidence of aerials suggests a command bunker, and no aerials means a storage bunker. Well, up by the exercise yard of the secure unit, there are several large concrete blocks, with four threaded rods protruding, although they are badly rusted. They could quite easily be mast mountings. However, they could just as easily be for basketball hoops (the spacing would give a clue, but I can't remember exactly). Evidence of trunking, cables etc. may prove them to be masts. There may be aerials in the copse surrounding the area, but I haven't had time to look yet.
  • Why would the Canadians have a storage bunker over here? It seems strange, as although they did become part of the war, they weren't active enough in this country to build large storage bunkers. Maybe someone can put me right on this.
  • Finding an old Royal Canadian Legion could be promising as they might know of the bunker, although if it isn't Canadian it won't help at all. If anyone knows of any I could contact, help would be appreciated.
More information, this time thanks to Nigel Callaghan. I'm quoting a message sent to me from him:

Whilst having lunch down there, I had an interesting conversation with two, old fellows who new the Cane Hill site and told me they had got into the shelters you referred to. Exactly when I'm not sure, or they may not have told me the date. Anyway I've no reason to doubt what they told me and they seemed the sort of people who would have the padlock, steel door, or manhole cover off of anything! I would further add they seemed very experienced explorers and must have spent a lot of their spare time exploring the sort of places we are both interested in. I recall one of them told me he lived in Swanley.

The bunkers you were enquiring about, were built as air raid shelters. This seems totally feasible bearing in mind the people the hospital was built to house. Apparently many of the older and larger hospitals had reasonably large shelters for evacuation of patients during air raids.

I don't remember them saying there was anything particularly special about the shelters, except they found many strange items stored in there. Firstly there was some rather horrific looking electronic medical apparatus which looked somewhat outdated. Probably the type that mental patients might be wired up to for electro therapy. They told me there were many motor cycle frames of German manufacture, a railway semaphore signal arm or post, and various bits of motor or tractor parts

Taking all this as true, a lot of what has been said before is untrue. However, I will continue to research until I find out all I need to know. So, some new things to go on. It looks as if the hospital is going to be knocked down, but we still should have a couple of years entertainment out of it :). The research and exploration continues. If anyone knows anymore, then mail me!

Onto next page!!!!
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© Andrew Tierney 1998-2002