Hellingly: The tiny East Sussex village home to a strangely abandoned asylum


Tucked off the A22 near Hailsham is the small but spooky village of Hellingly.

At first you might think it looks like the other charming villages nearby, but take a closer look and you will discover its mysterious past.

In the village is the empty Hellingly Hospital, formerly known as the Sussex County Asylum.

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The abandoned asylum building has been explored by many curious revelers, including Sussex YouTube star Joe Weller.

The village is also home to boutique hotels, excellent cuisine and even a vineyard.

An escape room has also been set up in Hellingly, continuing the mysterious theme defined by the abandoned hospital.

The abandoned asylum

Hellingly Hospital, originally called the County Lunatic Asylum, was built on 400 acres of forest in 1903.

The East Sussex Psychiatric Service remained abandoned for 26 years after it closed definitively in 1994.

Horror stories from around the world have sprung up from asylums of the past, with tales of subhuman conditions, sadistic personnel, and medieval apparatuses.

Hellingly, however, seemed to be modern in her belief that kindness and caring aids in rehabilitation.

According to sources, photographs shared from the facility show a clean and calm environment, which appears to be safe with properly trained staff.

In its early days, the hospital had two padded cells where confused patients were locked, but these were closed in the 1950s.

Hellingly often organized dances and events to help rehabilitate their patients.

Dance therapy was popular and the NHS had an approved list of dances for patients in asylums to participate in during their therapy.



What appears to be a training session at Hellingly – where doctors and nurses “heal” what looks like a ventriloquist doll

Line dancing was the approved style, with the NHS officially advising sick patients to line dance for their health.

Other non-formal styles of dancing included – modern jive, ballet, contemporary dance, salsa dance, ballroom dance, flamenco dance, tap dance and modern jazz dance.

The dances gave hospital patients something to look forward to – a way to express themselves physically in a very controlled environment.

Kindness and comfort were now considered the most effective therapy for the mentally ill.



The hospital had amenities such as a hairdressing salon
The hospital had amenities such as a hairdressing salon

Hellingly’s patients even had access to amenities such as a hair salon, giving patients a sense of normalcy and a chance to feel relaxed.

The hospital was very firm in its rules of conduct regarding staff behavior and patient protection.

Nurses and attendants were summarily dismissed or asked to resign, most often because they were drunk or sound asleep during the shift.

Strict view was taken of any harsh treatment of patients, and hitting a patient was not tolerated.



One of Hellingly's
One of Hellingly’s “day rooms”

The facility never had a wall around it, and short-lived breakouts have been reported almost every year.

In 1905, a patient at the facility escaped by climbing the fence. He knocked down the hospital worker who was chasing him and walked over to his father’s house in Battle.

The following year, a woman managed to escape during the hustle and bustle of the annual costume ball and made it to Eastbourne before being caught.



He had an electrified railroad, unlike other asylums which had steam trains
He had an electrified railroad, unlike other asylums which had steam trains

Transportation to and from the hospital was less than conventional – patients, staff and visitors were transported to the site by train.

Passengers were to travel alongside coal and other cargo, boarding the Asylum Line from Hellingly Station.

Nice places to eat and drink

Hellingly is now a quaint little village, and like most pretty villages it has some cool places to eat and drink.

King’s Head is a popular place to visit, located a short distance outside the village.

The pub / restaurant is rated 4.5 stars out of 5 and serves delicious gourmet food to the people of Hellingly.

The King’s Head received a TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice award, a testament to the food and drink available.

Just down the road is the White Hart, a pub with hearty British food.

Next to that, there’s the Jasmine Tea Room, a quaint little establishment that serves traditional tea and cakes.

Highly rated hotels and B & Bs

The Old Forge Hotel is close to the village and is an ideal base for all visitors to Hellingly.

The hotel is warm and traditional, perfectly located in the countryside and rated 4.5 / 5 stars.

The Old Forge is ranked number one of all hotels in the area, an indicator of what the hotels in the village have to offer.

Another great choice for travelers is the Boship Lions Hotel, just one mile from the village.

Boship has a superb outdoor swimming pool and is close to the nearby town of Hailsham.


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