Harperbury Hospital Green Padded Cell - Jan 2011


I first visited Harperbury back in 2006 with a few other like minded people. It was my second ever explore and armed with a cheap compact and the spare torch pilfered from the car glove compartment off I went, eager to sup deeply from cup of urban exploration.

Well, what I thought was good then was, in retrospect, pretty crap. These days, if you did visit Harperbury to see the whole hospital, I think you would end up with a one picture report, and I think it would look not too dissimilar to this...

Inside a typical block, Fuji Superia, f4


It's all much the same; a waterlogged, graffed, stinking ruin of a place.

Swing in children’s area, Fuji Superia, f4



However, it does have one interesting feature. Before it was closed Harperbury looked after patients with learning difficulties and those with severe epilepsy. To this end it was kitted out with several "exclusion cells", very similar to “padded cells”, for use when a patient was fitting really badly.

I only ever saw the "green" padded cell once, on my very first visit, but, of course a tiny compact and crappy torch does not for good pictures make. At the time I felt like a tourist, a very quick look at the cell and back out, no appreciation of its history or function. I was, however, grateful that my guides had taken the time to show me the room.

But it did have an influence on me and I always wanted to see this cell again, so, with a view to taking some better pictures, I went back again in 2008 armed with my brand new DSLR and Searchblaster only to find the block with the cell had been well and truly boarded up. Harperbury then came off the "to-do" list and went on the "forget it" list.

High security block - note the recent removal of the surrounding vegetation has revealed the security fence around the compound. It has an angled top facing the wrong "way", I guess to keep the patients in rather than the public out. Fuji Superia, f4

Fast forward another three years and a couple of weeks back someone put up a few pictures on Harperbury on one of the urbex forums I post on, one of which is the green cell; this prompts me to get it together for another lookse.

The remains of a ripped out cell, Fuji Superia, f4

When I first got there I was amazed at the amount of devastation since my last visit. Practically every roof tile had gone and graf is everywhere. I should have worn wellies such was the water damage. I was not getting my hopes up to find a relatively undamaged padded cell…

I finally arrive at the right block and stepped in…

This "room" is next to the padded cell and my guess would be that the patient in the cell would be monitored from here. Note the intercom and other electrics on the wall along with the map (fire alarm?) of the block and the extractor fan ducting leading from the padded cell.

Now for the cell itself. It has suffered some damage but it’s no where near as bad as I expected. The door has come off its hinges but is propped up outside the cell and amazingly the glass in the observation window is still intact.

And behind the door...I was expecting another West Park but there is zero graf.

Looking back the other way...it’s worth noting that in most “padded cells” the walls next to the door are angled away from the door so the patient can’t hide behind them. Here there are no such walls but instead a big mirror has been fitted at the end of the cell to provide a 360 degree view of the patient when looking through the observation window.

...and if you were a patient this is the view you (probably) wouldn't want to see...

Mold growth on the wall. It seems to me as if the very walls are sweating, like a patient would whilst waiting for the dizzying experience of a fit to pass...

I take a final shot on film. It's a long 30 second exposure and I'm guessing the f stop, about f8 I wonder, fiddling in the dark. By accident I set it to f22. I flick on my searchblaster and focus the camera. As I take the picture the silence is almost oppressive counting down the seconds. Though it's cold outside it's hot in the cell and I want to get this picture over with.

Fuji Superia, f22

I bought along a tiger mask as a prop for a few stupid pictures of me in cell for fun. I've been in for about 45 minutes now, and, well I don't believe in God (though I go through hell daily) or ghosts, the afterlife or anything like that but here, in this room, it feels uncomfortable, oppressive and menacing. Maybe it's the room, maybe it's the years of history that go with it. Maybe it's something else. The rain starts, big fat drops that sound like people walking around as they fall. I think the rain is a metaphor for my tears and I laugh out loud at my own pretension.

I have to fight the urge to leave as I line up the shot and set the timer. The picture is taken, I chimp it and it's shit. I try one more. Another shit one. Mindfull of the room I am in, I wonder, is this for “fun”?

Enough is enough and I'm gone, the cell now well documented.