Closed for 16 years prior to demolition, Cane Hill stood tall in leafy Coulsdon, enticing in explorers, vandals, arsonists and other curious parties. At closure, it was simply left to rot, and in the first 11 years of its afterlife, it was apparently rarely infiltrated – least not by those with cameras. After a spate of fires in 2002, a 9 foot fence with barbed wire was erected, and the security stepped up from a man in the front building, to a team of 8 men with dogs, working with a minimum of 4 men on site at all time.
It was pointed out to me by a guard that if the palisade fence and increased security measures had been implemented in 1991 when the hospital closed, there wouldn’t have been the level of vandalism and arson that was eventually present. However, 16 years of rain, high winds, neglect and rot will take their toll regardless of its visitors, and that is what has happened here. The decay varied hugely, from wards that look as if they could be re-used with a lick of paint, to those with holes in the floor and immense decay, pigeons having been living in for years.
Neglect of the buildings at Cane Hill was not about a lack of maintenance of the facilities; it was a lack of initiative of how to use the site, a lack of attention paid to security in the first 10 years of closure, and the more significant lack of anybody influential that cared enough to take steps to preserve the buildings.
Demolition was inevitable, and in July 2008, Squibb and Davis Demolition appeared on site to tear down all but the administration block, the Chapel and the water tower
This section explores the afterlife of Cane Hill, from 1992 onwards.