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Hidden Rooms Frozen in Time

THEY are sights which could have been frozen in time.

Hidden away at York's historic psychiatric hospital, The Retreat, are rooms which have fallen out of use and have barely been touched ever since.

A huge coal driven boiler room and cobweb covered Victorian mortuary lie just a stone's throw away from the bright modern facilities of the mental health care charity.

They offer an insight into the history of the pioneering Quaker hospital which was set up off Heslington Road in 1796 by William Tuke for people with mental health difficulties to recover in a caring environment.

Peter Gorbert, communications and engagement officer at The Retreat, said: "Over the years there have been lots of different buildings in use.  When they stopped being required there was a habit of closing the doors and leaving them as they were."

The listed status of the buildings can make renovating certain areas more complicated and expensive, Mr Gorbert said.

A walk down some stone steps into a dark basement by the main building reveals the incredible old Victorian boiler room.

Believed to have been originally built in 1827, the room houses the old coal boilers used to heat the building - a mass of cogs and pipes stretching into the roof - which are understood to have been completely out of use for at least 30 years.

A pin board around the corner, which is dated 1915, holds clues to the boiler room's former workers with a poem and another note reading 'Into this boiler room have walked the best people in the world, my friends.'

A walk down the hill into the grounds takes you to the former morgue, which was built in the Victorian era and fell out of use in the 1960s. The cobweb-covered room houses the original marble slab for bodies and its dusty cupboards house the old tools, aprons and boots, used by workers who would have carried out autopsies.

Nearby an empty former building which housed students in the 1940s and 1950s - and would suit a remake of The Shining - still holds exam books dated from 1954.

Meanwhile, in the cellars beneath the main building, is a trolley full of film reels which would have been shown to patients in the last century. Other treasures to be found in the cellars are a cannon ball fired from Lamel Hill in the civil war, and a vase found on the site in an excavation in the 1800s.

Article from The York Press - 17 October 2014