Cane Hill is a psychiatric hospital in Coulsdon in the London Borough of Croydon. (grid reference TQ291587) It opened in 1882 as the Third Surrey County Lunatic Asylum and, following a gradual winding down of operations, closed all but its secure unit in 1991. It formerly housed up to 2,000 patients, but with Care in the Community and modern medication and sectioning rules, it was heavily underused by the time of its closure. The secure unit moved into what had been the Coulsdon Cottage Hospital building run by asylum. This is still open as of 2006, holding 23 patients and run by the South London and Maudsely NHS Trust (SLaM).
The main buildings on the site were designed by Charles Henry Howell and opened in two phases, in 1882 and in 1888. Due to their immense size, and relatively undamaged state, they became extremely popular among urban explorers in the 1990s. Fire and bomb damage as well as increased security have reduced its importance in the UK urban exploration scene recently, however. In recent years the interior of the buildings has declined greatly. Damage and lack of maintenance has caused rot and water damage to the wooden floors, causing collapse in many of the out-lying buildings. The water tower of the asylum still houses a low-power analogue television repeater belonging to National Grid Wireless. This is powered by a diesel generator, since there is no longer any mains power supplied to the site because of fire damage to the switchgear following an arson attack.
There have been plans to re-develop the site as a housing estate or a business or science park, as well as plans to convert some of the buildings into a modern medium-security hospital. However, the hospital is in the middle of the London green belt, so there have been lengthy delays and discussions about the exact nature of any re-development plans. This problem afflicts many former pychiatric hospitals in the UK, as they were often sited on land on the edge of towns in semi-rural areas that are now protected against unrestricted development. West Park hospital in Epsom is still derelict for the same reason.
During its lengthy operation, a number of notable patients passed through the hospital, including the mother of Charlie Chaplin, and the brothers of Michael Caine and David Bowie. The original cover of The Man Who Sold The World by Bowie features the administration block of the hospital.
The hospital buildings are not listed. English Heritage first considered the buildings as part of their Thematic Review of Hospital Buildings in the 1990s, but listing was not granted. Croydon's Planning Brief for Cane Hill of March 1998 suggested the retention and re-use of the Administration Block and Chapel but the buildings were not on the local list nor was any part of the site considered a Conservation Area. An attempt to list the buildings again in 2006 failed; it did have local interest (in particular the Administration Block and the Chapel) but better examples of early echelon asylums exist. Which is inaccurate as Cane Hill is not an early echelon asylum; it's an unique example of a transitional type, best described as "Radiating Pavillion".