Severalls Hospital in Colchester, Essex, United Kingdom was a psychiatric hospital built in 1910 to the design of architect Frank Whitmore. It opened in May 1913.
The 300-acre site housed some 2000 patients and was based on the "Echelon plan" - a specific arrangement of wards, offices and services within easy reach of each other by a network of interconnecting corridors. This meant that staff were able to operate around the site without the need to go outside in bad weather. Unlike modern British hospitals, patients in Severalls were separated according to their gender. Villas were constructed around the main hospital building as accommodation blocks between 1910 and 1935. Most of the buildings are in the Queen Anne style, with few architectural embellishments, typical of the Edwardian period. The most ornate buildings are the Administration Building, Larch House and Severalls House (originally the Medical Superintendent's residence).
Psychiatrists were free to experiment with new treatments on patients seemingly at will, using practices now considered unsuitable such as the use of frontal lobotomy. The use of these treatments peaked in the 1950s. In her book Madness in Its Place: Narratives of Severalls Hospital, 1913-1997, Diana Gittins notes that often women were admitted by their own family, sometimes as the result of bearing illegitimate children or because they had been raped. As they would not always (or were unable to) carry out daily tasks, they were considered to be insane and some were even subjected to electroconvulsive therapy and lobotomy. A change in management and social acceptance during the 1960s, saw reforms introduced including the creation of art and music therapy programs and the widespread use of drugs and medication.
The hospital closed as a Psychiatric Hospital in the early 1990s following the closure of other Psychiatric Institutions, as part of the change in approach to Psychiatric "Care in the Community". However, a small section remained open until 20th. of March, 1997 for the treatment of elderly patients suffering from the effects of serious stroke, as a temporary building for nearby Colchester General Hospital.
Since 1997 the remaining structures have changed little. Architecturally, the site remains an excellent example of a specific Asylum plan ("Echelon"). However, the buildings have suffered greatly from vandalism. In 2005, the Main Hall was subjected to a suspected arson attack, and in 2007 the charred building was demolished for safety reasons. The five boilers were removed from the Central Boiler House in 2007/2008.
In 2008, the sale of the hospital site, including its extensive grounds, collapsed due to the slow-down in the building industry and as of 2016 the asylum is facing significant demolishment to make way for housing.