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Cherry Knowle Asylum, Sunderland

Sunderland County Borough began construction of its own asylum during 1893, completed in 1895. The site chosen consisted of sloping land outside the village of Ryhope, with views across to the North Sea. George Hine was chosen as Architect and produced a compact arrow layout consisting of six blocks of wards and the usual facilities including combined recreation hall and chapel in the centre of the south elevations.

Other accomodation included a nurse’s block to the west, lodge cottage, terraced cottages for married attendants, a Superintendents residence, Isolation Hospital, and a villa block which was added in 1902. The administration block is notable for it’s unusual triangular plan. The building was designed on a compact arrow plan and constructed from red brick with stone dressings and slate roofs with distinctive caps over the bay windows, characteristic of Hine’s early commissions.

The main bulidings of the hospital closed in 1998 but some exterior buildings remain. The site was completely cleared by mid/late 2010.

 

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52 comments

  1. I did my RMN training at Cherry Knowle from 1985-1988, then worked as a staff nurse in the main Laurels building from 1988-1990.
    My Grandad who was born in 1904 always called it the Asylum and talked about serving Mass in the hospital chapel when he was a boy.
    I never heard anyone talk about secret tunnels or anything underground. I always found it a good place to work and felt most staff were kind to the patients.

  2. Just been up to St Mary’s today. You can have a good walk around but most of it has gone, two old houses which were on the farm type site have also been knocked down too. Did manage to get in one part next to the old building. A bat flew past us so not sure if this is why that part hasn’t gone yet. Such a shame to see it this way tho, would much rather have it as it was than the new gastro pub!

  3. where abouts is St Mary’s? like Newcastle Gateshead Sunderland ect..

  4. No, it’s bulldozed.

  5. Hi,

    Is it possible to still visit this place? Is it still abandoned?

    Natasha

  6. Thanks tumbles just wondered as i lived in ryhope 34 years and often wondered where the name originated

  7. Not entirely sure but possibly just down to nearby trees. A lot of the buildings were named that way as well.

  8. why or how did cherry knowles hospital name originate from

  9. Hello Megan, Yes there is an abandoned Asylum in Morpeth Northumberland. It is called St georges, But if you go you will have to be careful as the new asylum is built right next to it, so there is a lot of staff driving around, Each building is surrounded by a green fence, When me and my friends went we were lucky because the gate was open and one of the boards was broken on the window so it wasn’t too hard to get in.

  10. I was actually born here and lived here for the first year of my life while my dad was training to be a doctor. my parents lived in one of the cottages on site and would take me for walks around the site. apparently all the patients loved me. looking back on this place now is so eerie…

  11. I used to date a nurse who worked at the hospital, sad now when I think of my youthful romance and feelings towards her and the lack of understanding I had for the reality of the peoples lives incarcerated in these Victorian institutions. I am glad they have gone but thatcher’s care in the community is very very lacking, with mental health services under immense pressure to provide services to vulnerable people in the ‘community’. We should not maybe romanticise these building’s too much, my sister in law was sectioned a few times in Northumberland and it was not good to say the least!

  12. There was never any fence at St Mary’s, there still isn’t now..

  13. Gutted it’s gone, I went in 2008 and it was awesome but when I went back in 2009 it was fenced off with security. St. Mary’s was fenced off too and the security guard hit me for standing too close to the fence….

  14. St Mary’s is probably still part derelict I guess.

  15. Hi, I have just read all of these comments as I was thinking of going to cherry knowles asylum. However you have said it has all been demolished, could you possibly tell me if there is any places around newcastle/ Gateshead/ Sunderland that me and my friends could visit. Thank you

  16. Afraid it’s long gone.

  17. Hiya can anyone tell me if this is still standing plz

  18. Tucker Thompson

    Hi tumbles
    My great aunt Kathleen Thompson admitted herself to cherry knowledge & died in 1969. George doward above trained as a nurse there in 1961. Could you please pass on my e-mail address to him, I would like to know if he knew her.
    Many thanks
    Tucker

  19. It’s not haunted. There is no paranormal activity here OR ANYWHERE.

    ..and it was all bulldozed about 4 years ago

  20. Hi I love stuff like this thing about spooky buildings and the paranormal even tho I live next to the place I’ve never went to visit but heard lots of storys in the past even my family member has been a resident there I Deffo need to go and check this place out once and for All 🙂 by the way love your story’s.

  21. Not only did my great,great grandfather,hang himself in the grounds..my great great grandmother,then threw herslf from sunderland bridge..many years later ,my teenage uncle( i was not born ,or thought of) had electric therapy treatment there….to…40 years later ,also hang himself…but weirdly,as a trainee SEN…i worked at Ryhope general..and Cherry Knowles…only finding out,my family history….when working there..it was very strange….i almost became an inmate myself…when work notes,and patient notes some how..became mixed up…i was on duty,whilst seen as a patient..by mistake….i almost became the third generation,to be incarcerated in Cherry Knowles…..it was a close call….and a very bizzare time for me..i then refused to go back to the Asylum..but often treated inmates..on ward 19 ,the geriatric unit..of Ryhope hospital…….some time,in the future..i need to visit again….lay some ghosts…and maybe visit family ghosts..?

  22. ” You can still walk around those parts but be weary because a lot of the patients are just allowed to walk about. ”

    You make them sound like wild animals. The mentally ill are just that – ill. Don’t ostracise them more than they already have been.

  23. Great comment Laura,

    Sadly the buildings are now completely knocked down – demolition went on during most of last year. The patient records thing isn’t uncommon, in fact it’s very common. I’ve been to, in total, 26 derelict asylums over the last 5-6 years and can say that at least 10 had patient records lying around. The trouble is when these places closed it was a new occurrence and they simply didn’t know what do with the contents of the building – in some cases 100 years worth of history. Thankfully in most places where evidence of records were found the local archives/library took possession of them and they’ll be stored for future reference.

    In a 100 years time a generation will look back and wonder why we knocked down such wonderfully constructed buildings and then perhaps look at the horror stories of what happened inside of those walls.

  24. Me and my friends used to go up there almost all of the time. (Not long ago). We loved going up there, I don’t know the reason why my friends went up but I wanted to go up to see what it was actually like. My father used to tell me about him and his friends sneaking into Cherry when they were younger and watching the films with the patients and playing pool with them. I wanted to see if half the stuff was still there. I was appalled when I went in the first time, the first thing I saw on the floor were wet patient records. I think I recall one saying, ”Cause of death, epileptic seizure.” At that moment I was thinking, well shouldn’t these have been destroyed? Any Tom, Dick or Harry could have taken these. There’s loads of artwork upstairs in the hospital. Beautiful at that. I’ve been in every part of the hospital except the morgue. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the hospital was scary but I could never bring myself to go down there. It was dark and wet, I don’t think any of us went down there. Cherry Knowles is a very eery place. I think it was only right they closed it off with the metal fences. (Even though it was painful for us not being able to go in anymore). My friend was walking around in the room above us, next thing we knew, he was half way through the ceiling. The floors were very damp and soft and you had to watch where you were walking because no doubt you would fall through. There was a high count of asbestos in the buildings too which was also dangerous. Some of the area was still active, (not in the old buildings – new buildings). When I was little me and my father were walking the dog up Cherry because it was right next to the dene and a patient asked him for a cigarette, he said he didn’t smoke and the woman went ballistic so the nurses had to bring her back inside. You can still walk around those parts but be weary because a lot of the patients are just allowed to walk about. If they haven’t knocked the whole asylum down, it’s still a beautiful building to look at. Oh any you probably wont be able to get patient records because they’ll probably still be in there ( I found some ) or they’ll have been destroyed, because the documents would’ve been so old, they wouldn’t have been any use to anyone. Except for the more recent ones.

  25. Many stories become folklore, be careful for what you believe.

    Fire? Well the place was, until 2008, wide open with no fence or security. It simply got vandalised through the years.

  26. Me and my friend went there a couple of years ago, we hid in the grass going right next to the metal fence, I looked up and seen a man, old, navy blue fleece on and grey hair, he was walking in a straight line coming down FROM the old building, the only entrance to that building was nowhere near to where he was heading. I told my friend, he looked up and seen noone. It could have just been the security guard we don’t know. My great great grandfather got put in there by his wife, he wasn’t insane at all but he died in there. I know the staff treated the patients awful, experimenting on them, making them worse. Another thing I have to say, a young man died in Cherry Knowles through strangling himself? Surely when you pass out it is an automatic reaction of the human body to breathe…

    Someone please answer this question for me, how was the fire started?

  27. hi i met some folks who were patients a long time back and reported that they had an awful time at cherry knowle… from my experience though it was the same in St Mary’s and other similar hospitals… probably down to lack of understanding and lack of staff though… it scares me to think the government cut backs will affect the lives of people with mental health problems as there are some extremely vulnerable people and when staffing is cut it results in short cuts…

  28. Hi am just wondering where abouts cherry knowles is I would love to go and have a look I just cant find anywhere on th internet that will tell me where it is x

  29. Anthony Devlin

    my father, Kenneth Devlin, was kept in the so called cells, I cant remember too much about it but basically came out a hundred per cent worse than when he went in. After reading all the stories on this log i believe that there is still information about past patients undercovered on this site. In the near future i will be investigating and retrieving any relevant information possible…..watch this space !!!

  30. Access was before the fence went up and security arrived. It’s much, much harder now.

  31. some fab pics- How did u get access- Im gonna have a go. I grew up in Ryhope and remember cherry knockers very well. We used to sneak into the pictures, (they had film screenings on friday nights for the patients), I remember seeing psycho and Easy Rider there! we used to walk/sneak through the grounds regularly when we played in the dene, or going up to burden, often stopping to antagonise the pigs on the patients farm.

  32. My Great Grandfather was a master stone mason.

    I have a walking cane presented to him “By the Masons of Ryhope Asylum” in 1905. Could anyone throw any light on this?

    Many Thanks

    Paul.

  33. it is true there is a underground passage underneath cherry knowles it was bluffed by staff as a service tunnel when i went down doing work on gas pipes in the late 80s every hair on the back of my neck stood up when i realised i was looking at a old types of cells i heard the real disturbed inmates were kept underground

  34. in 1961 trained as a psych nurse at cherry knowles, and i,m pretty disappointed to the the remarks that the place was evil. i have nothing but fond memories of the patients there. i have worked in psych.hosps all round the world and have seen good and bad things,but at cherry i saw nothing but kindness and compassion.
    George.

  35. Hi,

    im just enquireing about how you went baout getting permission to take your wonderful photos as i am having difficulty getting that information as this hospital is a wonderful place to take some Alt. shots.

    please e-mail me thank you

    nikki

  36. The likely hood of a tour is next to zero. HSE for starters and secondly the whole derelict section is boarded/steal plated up.

  37. I am very intrigued in the whole history of this institution and my curiousity is eager to be satisfied. I tried to go and visit the grounds yesterday and found that I could only go a fraction of the way in before getting restricted and having to turn back. As soon as I neared it though, I definately felt malicious eyes on me and, also, I heard whistling that I first presumed to be the wind, but as soon as I left, the whistling disappated as well. Whether Cherry Knowle is haunted or not is open to subjective interpretation, but I would love to have a tour of the remaining parts that are opened to make that interpretation for myself. Can anybody enlighten me as to whether a tour is possible? It will help in my Psychology course a lot. Thanks.

  38. I live not far from the hospital and until the fence went up it was our favourite blackberry picking place. I know the grounds well and know members of staff who previously worked there at different times in the past; a secutity guard, an audery and a groundsman. They all say that they believe the place to have an attmosphere but that may be more due to the assosiations people make with old institutions and with what went on there. There are some ghost stories and there have been (fairly recently, since the close of the hospital) suicides in the grounds but there are a large amount of local kids who have been in and still find their way in (kind of a rite of passage round here) and no evidence or proof of any hauntings has really come to light. They do like to scare the bejesus out of each other though!
    Jackie swift: as I remember there were a lot of records left at the hospital when it closed. I remember seeing them still in filling cabinets but that was a long time ago. Maybe if you contact the authority in charge of the hospital they may be able to help, however, there are strict rules on confidentiality and I’m not sure what the time limit is on opening medical files. Hope you find what you need.
    If anyone wants to hear the stories I can put on the ones I know.

  39. anthony sowerby

    i visited there today, i didnt get in but it was quite foreboding, it looked haunted to me

  40. to steve preece I wonder if you could help me ? i want to know if anyone can tell me how to get hold of records of patients of cherryknowles in the early 1900s i believe my grandfather dingwell bailry tate spent some time there you have scared me now if it was bad whenyou where a boy what was it like then ?

  41. i remember cherry knowles . for the most as a young boy i use to visit my mother there ,who sufferd from bouts of mental illness most of her life , i remmember playing in the grounds as i was only around 8 years old at the time collecting acorns from the trees . if only i had known then what i know now about this evil place ,not that i could of done much about it at the age i was but now a grown man i fully understand what whent on there , my mother passed away 3 years ago now from cancer , carnt say this place did her any good at all . i understand some of the staff still practice the doctors and so called specalists if you can call them that you should all be shot , for what you did in that place , but at least my mother is at rest now god bless her .. .. {{ rest all you whant now mother }}

  42. It’s just an empty building, like many other I explore. I don’t subscribe to the theory of buildings being haunted. It has a certain feel to it, but no more than any other building I’ve been in.

  43. kathryn collings

    i have been told this place now is haunted i just want to know if it is or not will anyone tell mee pleasee??? x

  44. I am currently writing a screenplay to put to a UK studio in the new year and was hoping to get in contact with anyone who has been staff or a resident (of the asylum part of the hospital).

    I would massivly appreciate anyones help, my email is forthecraicproductions@live.co.uk

    Thanks
    Davey

  45. hi suzanne
    i was a patient and used to attend the old farmhouse in cherry knowle where you were based.
    Derick harland will be a familiar name to you.
    Some of the artwork that was done in your care still hangs on the walls of what is left of the hospital(willows etc)
    I remember you saying you were leaving for new york and i hope good things happened and are happening for you 22 years on.
    for others reading this ,if you think cherry knowle looks spooky
    it was an evil place where staff caused much suffering to patients.i would say it was a concentration camp.

  46. Lived in male nurses home from 1964 to 68 which was in the centre of the main block above office of CMO Robson.sad to it it so delapidated now.

  47. hi suzanne, do you have any pics from when you were there. many thanks.

  48. Thanks for the comments Suzanne, I have some more shots of the murals which I’ll send across to you.

  49. suzanne montgomery

    I did the church and swimming pool murals in 1985-6 when i was artist in residence, i am now in the US since 1991, I had no idea the hospital had closed, these are great photos especially for me as i didn’t have a record until now,
    Suzanne

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