I'm absolutely mortified to discover today that Bangour Village Hospital in Scotland could be forced to close its public access due to a recent high spate of thefts.
I became interested in Bangour after visiting Urban Explorer website 28 Days Later, which had a vast number of photographs of this old abandoned hospital both inside and out.
Last February (2010) we paid a visit to Bangour to take photographs, all of which can be found here, it was an interesting day, mainly held back by the horrendous weather. But all i can say is that the experience was a totally rewarding one, to see this "village" abandoned and to be able to walk externally round all of the buildings was incredibly interesting. You can read my account of our visit below the next picture.
Sadly as stated at the start access to the public may now be restricted as thieves have been flooding onto the old site and stealing copper, medical supplies, and even manhole covers, making the site not only a terrible mess, but incredibly dangerous too.
If you have the opportunity to visit this great location, do it soon as I suspect time is running out.
I’m not going to give you a breakdown of Bangour Village Hospital’s history, to be honest that’s what Wikipedia is for. And I’m hoping you’ll read this as a discovery piece, and find out about this unique little location yourself, and if like me you are tempted by what you’ll read then maybe you’ll pay this place a visit while you can.
Bangour Village Hospital is located in Dechmont approximately 10-12 miles from Edinburgh. It was a revolutionary idea based on the Alt Scherbitz Asylum in Germany. The idea was that not only would Bangour be a hospital for (at the time of opening) the insane, but also a community. It had a shop/Café, Library, Church, School, and even its own industry and train station. Bangour opened in 1906 and closed in 2004 although patients resided there both before and after on an informal basis giving Bangour an operational time of 100 years. While originally opened for the insane, it soon took in older and infirm patients, and young teenage mothers. Some of the most respected doctors served time at Bangour, and lots of revolutionary procedures began their lives there.
I first stumbled upon Bangour when I became fascinated by Urban Exploration websites, Bangour was a popular place for Urban Explorers to enter (obviously without permission) and archive the things that the general public no longer get to see. Bangour struck me cold from the offset and to be honest I don’t know why, I think its because I could not understand how this community had existed and effectively become extinct (due to NHS cutbacks), but it was more than that, it was the haunting nature of its buildings, and the fact that despite being closed for 6 years it still just sat there, telling its tales without a audience to tell.
The more I looked into Bangour, the more it intrigued me… And then I started discovering things a little more dark about the location. For during its hundred years there was a large period of time in which Bangour was open and when its residents died, if there was nobody to contact as next of kin, nobody really knew where its residents bodies had gone. One lady launched a campaign to discover the whereabouts of her relatives and discovered that there bodies had been buried in unmarked graves across a number of nearby churchyards. Some however believe that many of the patient’s bodies were buried in the grounds of Bangour. To add fuel to this several explorers of the night visits are reporting sinister, and sometimes horrific things happening during there visits.
- I also discovered that Bangour had been used for a George Clooney produced movie called The Jacket starring Adrien Brody and Keira Knightly, which used Bangour as both its Hospital, but as an incredible double for North America. The film features a lot of the location, and makes a visit to Bangour all the more inviting. More recently the site was used as a location for a terrorist attack drill, to see if Scotland was ready for terrorist activity.
Having driven past Edinburgh (our destination for that evening) we drove through several small villages and suburbs until we arrived in Dechmont. When you get halfway through the village you can start to see parts of Bangour across the buildings, in particular the tall spire of the church in the grounds of Bangour. Having read and seen a lot about Bangour it was a mixed feeling of enthusiasm and dread as we approached the location. You park outside the grounds behind a cordoned off bit of road, in Scotland there are no trespass laws in respect of visiting buildings externally, so you can walk around the site at your leisure although there is a strong security presence with patrols circling approximately every twenty minutes.
As you enter Bangour you head down a line past two houses, one of which is now used as a base for the security guards. Straight in front of you is the shop/café (obviously long closed) to the left is a long walk round several wards known as Villa’s. To the right similar taking you round a circuit till you return to the start, and also a small segregated area for the industrial aspects of the site.
Some of the villa’s are still numbered (as of February 2010) so you’re easily able to identify the notorious villa’s much reported about online; while others you need to figure out on your own. The buildings you encounter for the most part are like immense Victorian mansions, yes you can sense the hospital aspect to them, but this could easily have been a Victorian version of Sandbanks or Wynyard Park, it has that feel like it could be an estate for the rich and famous (taking into account plans for development this could turn out to be the case). These buildings however are grey, gloomy and to be honest menacing in many ways; they are very much still pretty together, solid structurally, although bits of guttering and roof tiles surround many of the buildings and peering through the windows you can see in some that the floors have collapsed.
Even though it was February it was a reasonably day in Scotland, there was a little snow and rain and it was fairly cool, but not cold…. I say this about outside Bangour, inside its grounds due to its rising hillside location it felt cold, wet and miserable; here you are in what feels like a valley and everything is being thrown down at us. More interesting though is the silence, its so quite, yet less than ten minutes walk is a busy dual carriageway, and three minutes walk a busy road, yet you hear nothing, no traffic whatsoever except for the occasional patrol vehicles that pass by. Maybe I was looking for something eerie or supernatural, and I found it I guess.
As you walk around the site you get a real feeling for the size of the place, disused bus stops litter the site, in one place two bus stops on either side of the road going in different directions, this was not just a small village hospital, this was obviously a thriving location, after all we’ve all been to places that have one way traffic when it’s a little more rural, but this had a flow of traffic going in both directions, and as thus obviously a large volume of passengers to go with this. Bangour has about 30 buildings some of which are large others of which are small, the scale of the site is probably about 2 miles including grounds.
As you stand outside what I refer to as the main building, this is a incredibly large building, I have seen smaller hospitals in a number of places I have lived, even here in Cheltenham (where I reside at the time of writing) the main block is smaller than this, and we are talking about a thriving town, not just a village hospital. Looking opposite you see the church, again not a small hospital church, a large sturdy looking church easily capable of taking several hundred attendees. Interestingly the church is the most well preserved of all the buildings on site, but I gather this is occasionally used for ceremonies.
It’s a fascinating experience walking round Bangour, looking at what it used to be, passing the x-ray department, dentists, and location of the old mortuary. And I should point out that we stayed within the law and only visited the external areas, you’ll find a lot of websites with pictures where the people visiting venture in. Even though we stayed within the law we still found that there was plenty to see and do, lots of windows to look through, secret side paths, fields that were once used for football, cricket and bowling. And to be fair, we never got to finish our visit, and here things get if you like a little supernatural.
As we approached what is lovingly referred to as the Villa Of Doom the weather really laid in on us, the rain went almost to hail and was hard and heavy as it hit our faces, suddenly my camera no longer wanted to take pictures due to a flat battery (although charged only that morning) and my video-camera seemed to film everything bar the villa. We were for want of a better word forced away, but promised we would return the following day. You’ll final a lot written about this Villa online, a location where apparently a resident stepped straight out of the bath and fell through the floor breaking their neck, a location where urban explorers stumbled across a suitcase full of possessions and were scared off by a wailing shriek. I’m probably putting too much menace on this, but this is the experience of both me, and others that have been here before me.
Returning to Malmaison in Leith, we enjoyed the beautiful although chilly sunny afternoon as we ate by the dock area, and talked about our return visit. The weather was nothing like we had encountered in Bangour, yes it rained a bit but not to the extent that we were forced back to our room. The following day we headed towards Bangour, the weather was good and clear, but as we left Edinburgh the snow poured down thick and fast literally out of nowhere, and by the time we reached Bangour it was almost knee deep on pavements, and way over ankle deep on the roads. So our return was thwarted, but not before we passed by on the dual carriageway looking down upon the vast site that is Bangour, which dominated the backdrop. You may say I’m dramatic, but it felt like it was laughing at us as it kept teasing us jutting above trees and buildings, reminding us that it was there, but there was no way on this earth we could get to it. And as we left the area heading for Manchester the snow stopped almost as soon as we were ten miles on.
Despite the drama that I think is more of a personal curse as I wanted to visit and document the site as well as I could, Bangour is a location you can visit (as of the date of posting) whenever you like, weather dependant obviously. And in spite of things I have said, and things you’ll read I thoroughly recommend a visit, because while for now its safe from development that date I feel is soon approaching, and what could be one of your most memorable experiences could be lost forever.
On a final note, when looking at video footage, despite what was missing on the bottom of one of the videos ran a border collie dog from one side of the road to the other, yet neither of us actually saw the dog and were both surprised to see it on the screen.
Its sad that we missed so much, we never got to see the bridge that crosses the river or follow many of the paths I hope I get the opportunity to revisit soon, as it really was quite fascinating, but more so I hope you get the opportunity too.