From Severalls Hospital to Cuckoo Farm, 2016

I was curious about the route patients at Severalls Hospital took to make their way to Cuckoo Farm, where they helped work the land. Using old maps and documents I discovered a road that I believe to be the route they used. Over 8 weeks I proceeded to uncover as much as I could.

Having spent many hours digging, sweeping, uncovering, cleaning, documenting, I have felt a mix of emotions. These range from feeling like an archaeologist, using research and labour to uncover a part of the Farm's past and imagining how it would have looked some 50 years ago, before the A12 was re-routed around Colchester; to sensing a little of the a patients’ working life, doing very physical, manual labour, digging the earth and doing an ‘honest day's work.’ Looking back, this work will always be a work in progress, because no matter how much concrete and tarmac I expose, there will always be more buried, part of it lost forever to the A12, part of it fenced off near the hospital, due for redevelopment.

I have marked the road like a footpath is marked on a map. It is a memory. Patients were never truly ‘outside’ as this road was behind the hospital boundaries, separating them from the general public.  Although, I hope it was somewhat liberating, being let out from the confines of the hospital, into the yards and fields of Cuckoo Farm.


"A spur leads north off the main drive 30m east of the main entrance, running through woodland flanked by rhododendrons. The spur then turns north-east 80m north of the main drive. An arm of this spur formerly led north from this point alongside Boxted Road giving direct access within the asylum estate for the patients working at Cuckoo Farm. The path was separated from the road to the west by a belt of trees. The spur continues north-east along the north front of Myland Court and on past Chestnut Villa, before turning south past Ivy Villa and two nurses' homes to rejoin the main drive 150m north-east of the entrance to the main hospital building."

Paragraph from Historic Gardens document for Severalls Hospital. List entry Number: 1001599