barrow Gurney hospital
On Friday 2nd November 2013, Twilight Shadows Paranormal had the enormous
privilege to be invited by BUS to join them in investigating the now
abandoned site of Barrow Gurney Mental Hospital.
Barrow Hospital (sometimes referred to as Barrow Gurney Hospital)
was a psychiatric hospital in Barrow Gurney, Somerset, United
In the mid-1920s, the existing City of Bristol Mental Hospital at
Stapleton was suffering from serious overcrowding. In addition, the
Victorian hospital buildings were now considered too old-fashioned,
having been built 'like large barracks' connected by corridors which
allowed easy access for staff but provided 'little relief' to
patients sensitive to their environment. Extensions added to the
buildings helped to alleviate the problem to some extent, but it was
still crystal clear that a second hospital would soon be needed. The
Bristol Corporation's preferred site was on the nearby Oldbury Court
Estate, but when sale negotiations broke down in 1928 the Corporation
was forced to look elsewhere and instead purchased 260 acres of
woodland called The Wild Country near Barrow Gurney for £20,000.
The new hospital was designed by Sir George Oatley of Bristol to
the then-innovative colony plan based on detached 'villas' centred
around a central cluster of service buildings. The plan called for 25
villas to house 1,200 patients, treatment centres for local authority
and private patients, a chapel, recreation hall, laundry and central
The buildings were austerely constructed of red brick with
pantiled mansard roofs and were situated so as to give a sense of
community and privacy as well as to take advantage of the wooded
surroundings which were retained and enhanced by tree-thinning and
Construction began in 1934 and although the hospital was not
officially opened until 3 May 1939, Barrow Hospital received its
first patients in May 1938 with the complex still only half-built. It
was intended that the rest of the planned buildings should be
gradually added over the following years as funds allowed, but the
outbreak of war in September 1939 halted all work on the site and the
architect's full vision was never realised.
At the outbreak of the Second World War the hospital was
commandeered by the Royal Navy and became the Royal Naval Auxiliary
Hospital, Barrow Gurney. The hospital treated seamen who had been
injured during conflicts or who were suffering from psychological
distress, brought in through the nearby Port of Bristol. In 1940, the
daily average number of patients under treatment was 356 and the
medical and nursing staff numbered 215. The Naval Hospital was
decommissioned and returned to civilian use in 1946.
In 1960 the hospital's population reached a peak of 453. At this
time it was predicted that new community-based care initiatives would
lead to a decline in patient numbers to 200 by 1975 but in the event,
this target was not met. However, there was a noticeable decline in
numbers during the 1970s and some residential wards were replaced
with out-patient and community support services.
In 2003 the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
announced its intention to close Barrow Hospital by 2008. By 2004
only three residential wards remained open. A report published by
Mind in 2003 found that on the issue of the hospital's closure,
opinion among patients was divided with groups of patients having
strong feelings both for and against. In 2005 a national survey of
hospital cleanliness named Barrow as the dirtiest in Britain after
inspectors found cigarette burns on floors, graffiti on walls, urine
stains around a toilet and stains from bodily fluids on the bottom of
a hoist chair. The report, combined with the collapse of part of the
ceiling onto the head of a patient the same year saw the closure plan
brought forward and the last ward closed the following year.
After closure, the hospital buildings were largely neglected and
began to decay. The site suffered extensively from looting, vandalism
and graffiti and attracted urban explorers who documented its steady
decay. In 2008 planning permission was granted to build 18 luxury
homes and 405,000sq ft of office space on the southern part of the
site. The following year saw the demolition of four villas, the
former day hospital, mortuary, boilerhouse and a modern secure unit
on the southern part of the site but the central and northern
buildings were left standing. In 2009, redevelopment was called to a
halt due to the discovery of nesting bats. A number of 'bathouses'
have been constructed in an attempt to entice them out of the
remaining buildings, but this has yet to happen. In 2010, plans were
amended to include a 220 bed care home 'village' on the northern part
of the site, more housing and fewer offices. In March 2013,
approximately half of the original hospital buildings were standing,
albeit in a derelict state. The buildings left standing included
Woodside (Nurses' Home), Molitor House, the Mother and Baby unit,
East Villa, Alexandria Unit and the main reception. (History taken
After a brief chat with BUS and also Ghost Hunt Experience Bristol
(who were also present at this investigation), we decided to
investigate the Mother and Baby Unit. This we were told is one of
the paranormal hotspots on the site and we just couldn’t wait to
get started. We tentatively looked around the ground floor of the
building first and I cannot describe just how derelict the site has
become. You can tell it is a demolition site. The walls and ceiling
are all crumbling and I was very concerned about the integrity of the
building we were in.
We found some stairs at the far end of this building and Dave
bravely went up the stairs first. I was surprised to see they were
made of concrete which made me feel a bit safer. Just as we reached
the top, Andrew and I heard a loud noise that sounded a bit like a
hiss. It definitely spooked me as I was at the back of the group.
Unfortunately I had not started any of my recording equipment at this
time so I did not capture it though if I had, I am sure it would have
been picked up as it was very loud. We returned downstairs and
decided to try calling out to see if we could encourage any activity.
I set up my camcorder and digi voice recorder and Andrew used his
*K2 meter and *Ghost Box. Dave was also recording.
We started to call out and asked if any spirit people could
communicate with us through either the ghost box, digital voice
recorder or show themselves in light form. During this experiment we
did get the names, Edmond and Owen very clearly through the Ghost
Box. We also got distinct answers to some of our questions such as
“Did you work here?” Yes was the answer. “Are you sad to see
the building as it is now?” Yes was the answer again. I also had a
personal experience during this experiment which I did not capture on
camera. While we were calling out, I saw something through the
window which looked like fingers. I asked Dave to shine his torch in
that direction and I was expecting to see a shrub like a Buddleia
which has long leaves out by the white wall. However, there was
nothing there at all. I was amazed and couldn’t believe what I had
seen. Nicci and Caz got a simultaneous answer on their audio
equipment. One said 'Look' and the other one said 'There.' We all
looked out of the window but didn’t see anything. We felt that the
spirit was male and may have worked in the building but whoever it
was, did not really want to communicate with us. We had just decided
to move to a different location when another group joined us. We
stayed for a bit and assisted in their glass divination and table
tipping experiment and then decided to move to the large Woodlands
We had to have a short break as a gang of youths had broken onto
the site and we had to wait for the Key Holder to remove them. Once
it was safe we tentatively entered the building. This building is
massive. It is a warren of long corridors and endless rooms and the
building is 3 stories high. After I got over the shock of the
immenseness of the building, I actually started to feel quite
comfortable here, unlike in the mother and baby unit. We explored
the ground floor and like before decided to investigate further
upstairs once we had reached a stairwell. I was relieved to find
that these stairs were also made of concrete and not wood.
We climbed to the 1st floor and crept along the first corridor.
We were halfway along when Caz explained she felt that she was being
herded along and we all agreed. I also noticed that we had stayed in
a little huddle and no one had actually started to call out. We
walked down through more corridors calling out to spirit people to
see if we could get a response and even though on this level there
was a bit of the corridor that felt a bit threatening, we did not get
anything significant, not until we went up to the top level. We
climbed the steps again and it is here on the video, there is a sigh.
I did not hear this at the time. We picked our way long the
corridors until we reached a section that everyone seemed to stop
what they were doing and seemed reluctant to move any further. There
was a definite sense of foreboding here and all the hair on the back
of my neck stood up. I asked if there were any spirit people here
with us and Nicci added that she could feel that they are there. On
the video footage you can hear 2 sighs very clearly. There is also a
sound like something has been thrown. We moved along a little but
the feeling seemed to go so I walked back to where we were and the
feeling was still there. We called out again and heard thuds
downstairs. I suggested that it may be another team in the building
so we dismissed it but after we finished investigating the top floor,
we descended to the ground floor expecting to find another team but
there was no one there. (I have video footage of this on the
Facebook page). We explored the ground floor a little more. However,
nothing else happened so we decided to move on.
We discovered another building and start to investigate this.
However, there were a few teams in the building so we decided to walk
further up the road to the next building. This one was called Last
Villas. I thought the buildings we had been in, were in poor shape
but nothing compared to this one. The floor had quite a lot of it
missing and we decided not to venture upstairs as it didn’t look
safe. We didn’t get much from this building at all so we ventured
on back down the road to the previous building that had all the teams
The other teams were just about to move on so we went into what
may have been a communal room and started to call out to see if we
could get any communication going. On the video footage I captured a
small noise when I asked out. However, the wind seems to pick up from
nowhere and it made investigating very hard. We moved down the
corridor which felt threatening and we heard knocks and taps but
again with the wind being so fierce all of a sudden, it made it very
hard to know if this was paranormal or just down to the high wind.
We traveled upstairs which was a little bit more sheltered and we
called out. On the video footage I can hear a sigh and whisper and
also a male audible which is indecipherable. This footage can be
seen on the Facebook page.
After a brief break to warm up a little, we headed back to the
mother and baby unit. However, there was another team already in
there. We also noticed another building that may have been a
reception area which we hadn’t noticed before and it appeared to be
empty. We headed over to this building but only to investigate the
ground floor. At the time I didn’t sense anything in there.
However, Nicci felt that a cupboard under the stairs may have had
children either locked or hiding in there at one time. As she was
saying this, I captured 2 light anomalies on camera. These are the
only anomalies I can say are definitely not dust, water or bugs from
the entire investigation.
Reviewing the footage, I was surprised to find I had captured
quite a lot of EVP and responses through the Ghost Box. I also
captured a shadow person in one of the corridors in the Woodlands
building. At the time I suddenly felt threatened and decided to take
a photo. The shadow person appears to be crouched and imitating me
in holding something out in front of it like a camera. This could
not be my shadow as the corridor was very long. If it were my shadow
it would have stretched all the way down the wall which it does not.
Also I was in the lead so it cannot be a shadow cast by any of the
team. We were also alone at the time the picture was taken.
I would like to thank BUS for inviting us along to take part in
this brilliant investigation and also Martin for allowing us
permission to access the site.
Written by: Jacky Wicheard.
*K2 Meter Measures Electromagnetic fields or EMF’s.
*Ghost Box A device that scans radio waves creating white noise.