Originally called the County Lunatic Asylum, Hellingly Hospital was built on 400 acres of woodland at Park Farm and opened on July 20 1903 at a total cost of £353,400 for 1,260 patients.
In its formative years the hospital had two padded cells and one half pad, mainly for confused patients. They were not in use after the 1950s.
The hospital later became the East Sussex County Mental Hospital but with the formation of the NHS in 1948 was renamed Hellingly Hospital.
In 1956 there were 1,493 patients and it was overcrowded. A Dr David Rice took over and he set about reducing the number of beds, and making the wards more colourful and attractive.
In 1957 the Staff Social Club was opened and in 1959 Amberstone Hospital opened within the grounds for acutely–ill patients with a “good outlook who would have no contact with patients whose illness was of long standing or who were seriously disturbing”.
During the mid 1980s, Hellingly was chosen as one of five mental hospital sites in the south east of England to accommodate a medium secure unit, known as Ashen Hill, and located to the east of the main buildings.
Despite these developments, patient numbers were already declining and the entire main building was vacated and closed in 1994.
After closure, most of the buildings fell into rapid decline, suffering from arson, vandalism and theft.
By 2003 the site had become popular with urban explorers who came to document the vast abandoned complex.
In mid 2010, work began to clear the site for new housing. Only a few of the original buildings now remain, although the Ashen Hill secure unit continued to operate on site until early 2012.
Another low secure unit is on the site known as Southview which was opened in 1995.
The new medium secure unit, known as the Hellingly Centre, opened in April 2012, with 46 beds split between three wards at a cost of £17.5 million.