So I finally ventured out on my first explore to East Fortune Hospital in East Lothian.
I always intended to get involved in urbexing myself as part of my research. It was the excitement and thrill of ‘having a go’ which drew me to this research topic in the first place. Participating in urban exploration will help me build authenticity and credibility as a researcher, as well as giving me a better understanding of the emotional and visceral experiences the practice entails. Embodied fieldwork is particularly important in this case, as Garrett explains
“Claiming to be able to write knowledgeably about urban exploration having never gone out and done it just seems wholly disingenuous to me. If you don’t get involved, it’s just idle speculation and academic wankerism.”
East Fortune originally opened as a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1922 with 210 beds for men and women and special wards for children. The site had first been developed as a naval air station during WWI , and during peace time it was adopted for Sanatorium use. During WWII the Sanatorium was taken over by the RAF as an airfield. In the post-war years the hospital was re-purposed as a psychiatric facility, East Fortune hospital closed in 1997 and has been derelict ever since.
East Fortune is typical of early 20th century hospitals in that it looks more like a collection of barracks at an army camp, rather than an actual hospital. There is a main “street” lined with single storey wards and other buildings. The ward buildings are fronted with open air verandas, as “fresh air” treatment for TB was very much in vogue. Having been closed for almost 2 decades the place has been properly stripped and decay has set in well, although the buildings all seem structurally sound. The main problem for ‘visitors’ is asbestos, and there are plenty of warning signs about.
My exploring buddies and I found our way into the site very easily, and wandered about for several hours. The place has a very eerie, post-apocalyptic feel to it, like an abandoned town from a zombie film.
We visited the Superintendent’s house, which had been completely stripped except the toilet, an old pram and half a bed. As well as the wards there are several larger building including some sort of recreation room or waiting room. A pool table and other furniture lay in pieces on the floor, as well as the slightly creepy remains of several prams.
So with my first explore under my belt I’m looking forward to getting out to some more sites nearby, the list of possible destinations seems to be growing by the day!