The Elder Stain
“This dreadful place has got on my nerves and I cannot rest day or night…….. It is this place with its awful intrigues that has driven me mad. No honest man can live amongst it all” – George Evans, in his suicide note, Christmas 1920
A large Victorian Gothic building, the hospital was originally destined for Chelmsford but opened in Brentwood in 1853 (believed to be on 23 September) as the Essex County Lunatic Asylum. Built using red and black bricks with stone mullion windows and octagonal towers the complex displays a true Victorian Gothic style with aspects of the medieval in its appearance.
It served the whole county – by 1858 it had 450 patients. In 1920 it became known as Brentwood Mental Hospital, and was renamed again in 1953, Warley Hospital. It was used as a long-stay psychiatric hospital, but in its later years most patients seemed to be ordinary people who had suffered breakdowns. It was reportedly closed in 2001, with the patients and staff moving to other areas (see below).
Much of the area has now been redeveloped as ‘the Galleries’; a residential area with 300 homes, although some of the wonderful architecture of the original asylum still stands. Many of the houses on the estate are vetted and approved for occupation by Laundry Employees.
It is an ubran myth that in order to provide discreet access to and from the hospital the builders included an underground tunnel from the town’s railway station up the hill to the hospital; this tunnel was alleged to be accessible to hospital staff as recently as 1990 although the railway end had long been closed down. In truth, no such tunnel ever existed.