warley hospital | the essex county lunatic asylum
Last update: 23|08|10
Warley Hospital

general orientation

General view of the administration block

The administration block from the 1853 plan (coloured)

detailed pictures

admin: exterior: view north
The imposing Administration Block at Warley was far larger than the designs that succeeded it in the late 19th century. Whilst it housed the reception, meeting and committee rooms common to all asylums, it also doubled up as the residence for the Medical Superintendent, the Assistant Medical Officer, the Steward, Matron and other key members of staff. The first floor was well ordered, but the ground floor was occupied by a clutter of smaller rooms, revealing the multifunctional tasks this building space had to perform.

admin: exterior: view north-west
Influenced by the ongoing gothic revival, architect Kendall opted for a Tudor style for the buildings. The red brick construction (originally pointed with blue mortar), stone mullion windows, bay windows, finials, stone dressings, black brick decorations and niche created an imposing, decorated building; such embellishments being actively discouraged by the Commissionaires Of Lunacy in later years.

admin: exterior: view west
Whilst the Administration Block is mostly symmetrical, the eye is drawn to the imposing clock and bell tower which is offset to the left side of the front bay. The high pitched roofs and faux battlements add further Tudor character; all thatís missing are a Tudor-styled chimney or two.

admin: exterior: view north-west
The Administration Block was mostly two levels with an additional second storey room beneath the bell tower (which housed the imposing pendulum for the clock mechanism) and a third storey for the clock mechanism itself. A vertical ladder then led onto the roof for access to the bell.

admin: exterior: view west
A niche was also added to the clock tower, placed in the wall at the second storey level. Whatever statue or figure it once held has long gone.

admin: exterior: view south-east
The architectural exuberance (particularly for a building constructed from the public purse) continued around the wings of the Administration Block. Architect Kendall (and his assistant Pope) executed Victorian promotional zeal by ensuring their initials were proudly rendered in black bricks on the northern and southern flanks of the building.

admin: exterior: view east
The back of the Administration Building (as seen here from the original water tower) was much plainer with only simple stone mullion windows looking out onto the bulk of the asylum buildings. (The modern roof is the main all which had been rebuilt just before the asylum closed).

admin: exterior: view west
Detail of the most imposing bay window housed in the centre of the Administration Block. Itís assumed by this roomís position and prestige that it was occupied by the Medical Superintendent.

admin: exterior: view west: crest detail
Detail of crest below centre mullion window which was presumably a nod to the Queen: the Royal Cypher "Victoria Regina."

admin: exterior: view west: foundation stone
The foundation stone can be found at head-height on the left side of the entrance porch complete with hood mould, head stops and impressive Essex County crest. Unlike later headstones which noted many of the key instigators of the asylum, the Warley stone only mentions the Chairman of the Visiting Committee. (No wonder the architect decided to add his initials into the actual fabric of the building).

admin: interior: view east: reception
After walking through the entrance porch, you came into the main reception room. Small and pokey, it included doors to various side rooms, and a main doorway into the heart of the asylum.

admin: interior: view south-east: reception
The open timbered ceiling (originally mentioned by the Medical Superintendent, Donald Campbell, when he wrote about his new asylum) still exists and hasnít been covered by the scourge of 1970s interior design: the lowered tiled ceiling. Unfortunately the Minton tiles originally laid on the floor have disappeared.

Architectural motifs continued within Administration itself with decorated mouldings around the doors, head stops and carvings.

admin: interior: view north: fireplace
An elegant fireplace stood in the north wall. Carved from stone, it was surmounted by two angels holding the Essex County crest, with two Tudor roses reinforcing the buildingís borrowed architectural style. A brass plaque listed the building dates, members of the Committee of Visitors, clerk, architect and builder.

admin: interior: view north: fireplace plaque
Detail of the brass plaque.

admin: interior: view east: staircase
The main staircase was tucked away along a corridor to the north. It was made from carved and decorated wood, supported by carved stone.

admin: interior: view north-west: staircase
This view from the top of the staircase shows the turn in the steps and the decorated banisters.

admin: interior: view south: first floor corridor
The first floor was much plainer. Not seen by the public, and used exclusively by asylum staff, it was considerably plainer. This corridor lead along the back of the Administration Block and gave access to all the rooms at the front; itís assumed these were living quarters for the asylumís administration and head nursing staff.

admin: interior: view east: empty room
The front rooms were plain and lacking in any original decoration. Even the original fireplace had long gone, replaced by a tiled monstrosity.

admin: interior: view east: empty room
This room was lit by the central bay window and itís assumed this was once the Medical Superintendentís quarters.

admin: interior: view east: stairs to second floor
The next doorway along the corridor revealed an extremely steep, narrow staircase leading up to the second floor of the Administration Block.

admin: interior: view north-east: second floor
The small room in the second floor formed the base of the clock and bell tower. The clock mechanisms huge pendulum was protected by wood shuttering in one corner of the room. Another extremely steep staircase continued to the bell tower itself.

admin: interior: stairs to bell tower
These are the stairs from the bell tower looking down to the second floor pendulum room. These rooms lacked any plastering.

admin: interior: view east: bell tower
The original brass clock mechanism was still in-situ, partitioned from the rest of the room by wooden doors (which have been opened for this shot). To the right can be seen the ladder which lead up onto the roof.

admin: interior: view east: bell tower, clock mechanism
Detail of the clock mechanism.

admin: interior: view east: bell tower, clock mechanism detail
Detail of the clock mechanism.

admin: interior: view from bell tower down to pendulum
Behind the clock mechanism was a hole in the floor where the pendulum in the room below was connected.

admin: exterior: view east: bell tower
A short ladder led upwards to a covered door which jutted out onto the roof of the bell tower. The door can be seen in this shot, along with another clock face which looked out towards the main asylum buildings.

admin: exterior: view east: bell tower roof
The covered door (left) gave access to a short, unprotected walkway across the roof of the bell tower. This allowed access to the bells which were originally hung in this stone arch.

admin: exterior: view north: bell tower looking up
Detail of the bell tower looking up.

admin: exterior: view south: bell tower looking down
And looking down to the same spot.

admin: interior: view west: doors to main asylum
The main asylum was accessed via doors in the reception. Unlike any other doors in the building, this doorway featured painted head stops of a Tudor king and queen. Also note the "Do Not Cross This Line" across the floor which clearly delineated the Administration and visiting rooms from the patientís areas of the main asylum itself.

admin: interior: view west: detail of head stop
Detail of the Tudor King head stop.

admin: interior: view west: corridor to east-west corridor
Once through the doors, all the architectural embellishments of Administration ceased. The short passageway led to the north-south corridor which ran behind Admin. You turned left for the female half of the hospital, and right for the male side. But you were still a long way from any of the wards.

    Return to: Warley Hospital