Cherry Knowle Lunatic Asylum, Ryhope
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Cherry Knowle ‘Lunatic Asylum’ (Psychiatric or Mental Hospital as may be more appropriate nowadays) stood on the outskirts of Sunderland, just off the coast at Ryhope. The old part, seen in this gallery, was designed by George Thomas Hine and opened in 1895. By the late 20th Century, most of the original facilities had been replaced with newer buildings nearby and the iconic Victorian architecture stood empty for a number of years. It was occasionally used by the Police and Fire Brigade for training exercises but I believe this was stopped as the building (and floors) deteriorated rapidly to the point of being a bit perilous…
Some of my earliest memories are visiting a family member with Alzheimers at Cherry Knowle and as a 3 or 4 year old I found its imposing Gothic brickwork pretty terrifying. It always seemed to be extremely windy whenever I visited too, I suppose being high up on the coast would be the reason for that. Trivia: Sunderland band Leatherface named their excellent 1989 classic punk album after the Hospital. So there.
After the original ‘Cherry Knocker’ closed fully in 1998, the site was readily accessible with no fences and a photographically encouraging set of security guards who were happy to show the way around! These photos in the gallery were taken in the early 2000s. Whilst most are not particularly great technically or visually, they serve as an important record of the building before it was finally demolished in 2012.
I made a number of evening visits, as this was around the time I was just starting out with night photography and there was definitely a unique atmosphere around the place. Especially once you got inside. The chapel, theatre and swimming pool in particular. I was sad to see it finally demolished, especially the Chapel and other listed structures. It’ll be interesting to see how future developments turn out…
PS – it’s Cherry KNOWLE, not Cherry KNOWLES. (pet hate)