Cherry Knowle Lunatic Asylum, Ryhope

Click on the thumbnails to view larger images:

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)



  • Margaret Charles September 6, 2014   Reply

    Hi is there anywhere that one can view records of patients who were in cherry knowle

  • Ann Watson September 6, 2014   Reply

    What a beautiful website and what stunning photographs – congratulations. I was born and raised in Sunderland but have lived in Cambridge for nearly 40 years. My mother died in Cherry Knowle in 2001 and received excellent care from the staff there. Instead of referring to the Hospital as “Cherry Knowle ‘Lunatic Asylum’ (Psychiatric or Mental Hospital as may be more appropriate nowadays)..” I feel it would read less emotively, I’m sure not only to me, if referred to as “Cherry Knowle Hospital” which is how it is referred to on several websites if Googled and how it was known latterly. It is, of course, very important to remind people that it was originally built as an asylum in the 1890s.

  • michael english February 21, 2016   Reply

    Does pals at cherry knowle hospital have an email address

  • Christina alessi August 25, 2018   Reply

    They knocked it down? It was a listed buiding. I trained there. I can’t believe that.

  • Mrs Pat Doherty May 20, 2019   Reply

    My mother worked there when I was growing up. She worked on Poplars ward which she always referred to as Pops 1 or Pops 2 depending on which side of the ward her shift was. She wore a sage green dress with a starched white collar which she starched herself at home – I used to steep them in a bowl with her. She loved working there. I went to a Christmas party there in the big hall with the stage and went to see a panto there. Happy memories.

    • WILLIAM JAMES SCOTT June 23, 2020   Reply

      i used to work on the poplars ward to my name is william scott can you remember how the chargnurse was

      • Bill November 19, 2021   Reply

        Dose eny one have a diagram of how the wards was set out

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