St Thomas Hospital, Stockport
St Thomas will always be fondly remembered as it was my first time inside an abandoned building to actually photograph it properly and not just look around as previously. Entering the extensively decayed building there was a feeling of trepadation as to what exactly I would find. It was 6am on a warm July Sunday morning and all I could hear were strange sounds from within the walls of the building which unnerved me. Was it a person in there? Maybe pigeons? There was also the feeling of being alone, very alone almost as if I'd removed myself from the outside world.
A quick wander around allowed me to desensitise my senses which were on overdrive to every sound along with the heavy humid atmosphere inside. Fighting the beads of sweat running off my forehead I began the tentative job of figuring out just how to photograph this decaying old building. It proved to be the start of a long learning curve. Photographing not only what is physically present [the easy bit] but also capturing the unique and strange atmosphere of the place [the tricky bit]. Time soon became lost. Once the photographing started I became focused on every detail from the peeling walls to the shattered glass to the decaying staircase and what that would lead to.
Four hours later I left. Ventured back into the light, the strong sunshine a shock to the system after hours of bleak low light. Whilst driving off, I looked back at this place that had captivated me, kept me occupied for so long and realised a kind of bond had developed. A personal relationship built out of a respect for the dangers inside such a derelict building along with the beauty within. And so my fascination into the hidden world, the beautiful world of abandoned and derelict buildings was confirmed.
Opening up the images on the computer, watching each one come to life with a little editing was like opening each toy on Christmas morning as a child. A second visit was done the following week. I was hooked and the need to capture the past and the departed of every location had started.
As for the history; St Thomas Hospital was originally opened as a work house on Christmas Day 1841. The Victorian workhouse – known locally as ‘The Grubber’ – was once home to scores of Stockport’s poor and unemployed throughout the Victorian period.
In 1948 the site became Shaw Heath Hospital and then later renamed St Thomas's with some of the older workhouse inmates remaining on the site. The hospital, in Shaw Heath, has treated thousands of older people and psychiatric patients on the NHS.
The hospital finally closed in 2004 and the site has now been acquired by Stockport College as part of their campus expansion. The main workhouse building and some other blocks are planned to be retained and refurbished.
This specific building photographed here was built in 1905 as a new office and board-room block and was erected at the west of the workhouse site. From research and items left inside whilst visiting it was used by Edge Hill University as a Faculty of Health for teaching prior to its' closure. It was also used by Stockport Community Alcohol Team as a drop in centre and needle exchange. Additionally it was a drop in centre for victims of domestic violence.
In all my documentation of these buildings I strive to capture the essence of its former use and show it in its present beauty. Planning for the next location was already underway.........