Barrow Gurney Mental Hospital

…the name that’s been on WPI’s lips for a very long time now and finally we are heading off to investigate this coming Saturday. I cannot express how excited we are! For those of you that don’t know Barrow Gurney is an abandoned mental asylum just outside the city of Bristol near the Airport. In among the debris and decay of this derelict property lay many stories and an interesting yet unfortunate history.


The hospital was erected in 1937, first built to try and resolve the growing issues with overcrowding in surrounding mental hospitals. The asylum’s doors officially opened and the first group of patients stepped on its floors in May 1938.

It was before the hospital had even established a patient base when the storm clouds of the Second World War approached; as such, it was immediately snatched from its initial purpose and requisitioned by the Royal Navy as a Royal Navy Auxiliary Hospital. The hospital treated Navy recruits who had been injured or suffering from psychological illnesses.

The Royal Navy did not relinquish control of the destined Barrow Gurney Mental Hospital until 1948; with Bristol’s Main and already established Mental Hospital straining at the seams with patients of their own, the building quickly began to share the weight of that load.

The asylum was constructed very much to a common design concept of that era; many buildings were built in an army barrack fashion to create Barrow Gurney. Every area of the asylum was connected together with a series of corridors laid out in a linear fashion; the advantage of such a system meant that intertwined departments and buildings could be accessed without having to venture outside the buildings walls; the disadvantage being that the patients in turn would have felt very isolated within the corridors that seemed to stretch on for miles.

In the 1960’s the hospital started to see an increase in its patients. It was then that the hospital reached a pinnacle of 453 patients, but unfortunately Barrow Gurney’s facilities and standards were declining. Patients complained of boredom, a bleak environment and urine-stained furniture – The buildings were in dire need of sanitation. The hospital struggled with day to day running for many years and finally in 2003 unable to cope with the patients or keep up with lawful cleanliness standards, Barrow Gurney announced its plans for closure by 2008.

In 2005, a national survey named Barrow Gurney Britain’s filthiest Mental Hospital reported numerous sanitation and safety misdemeanors, the report filed that part of the ceiling in one of the buildings had crumbled away, falling onto the head of a patient. This brought the Hospital closure plan forward and Barrow Gurney’s doors were officially closed for business in 2006. 2009 year saw the demolition of four villas: the former day hospital, mortuary, boiler house and a modern secure unit. In 2008, redevelopment of the structures was brought to a close due to a discovery of nesting bats. As a resolution, ‘Bathouses’ were built in an attempt to entice them out of the remaining buildings. Some of these bat families still remain today and have yet to vacate their make shift home.

Sadly early 2014, the East Villa, Alexandria Unit, Leigh Assessment Unit and the Main Reception were all demolished.


In August 2014, Barrow Gurney no longer houses Medical Equipment or hosts clinical conferences of a questionable health and safety standard; the buildings have well over halved the original number and are very much neglected with not much to keep them company, other than the odd curious human being, graffiti artist, or vandal. The buildings now left standing are the Mother and Baby Unit, Woodside Unit, and part of the Main Building.

Reported experiences

There have been a number of reports given by various types of visitors to the Barrow Gurney ruins. Such as rumors ranging from shadows roaming the grounds to disembodied voices heard within its crumbled walls, and even figures seen as well as heard in the courtyard of the Woodside unit, where the former nursing staff used to reside. Visitors even report strong smells of disinfectant filling the air with no known cause before mysteriously disappearing.

Spectral faces in the windows have been caught on camera, and there are whispers that a tall hooded figure has been spotted roaming the halls. As well as this, it has been reported that images taken on site have revealed ghostly figures that have been interrupted as a man holding a cross and even felines skulking around the buildings.

The real question on our lips is will the WPI team have similar experiences? And should these experiences be filed under Explained or Paranormal?

There is only one way to find out!

Thank you so much for reading, please follow us and watch this space to find out how the team got on in answering these questions.

~W.P.I – Truth is both a passion and a science~