Nine years ago this weekend I ventured in to the former North Wales Hospital, the first of what would be four visits in the intervening decade. I’d always been curious about places like this and it wasn’t the first derelict or abandoned place I’d visited for a covert explore, but it was first major one and the tipping point that would lead to many, many more. I write about it now for the first time, purely to mark the fact that on the anniversary of my first visit the local authority has finally taken over the site – whose history post-closure has been far more chequered and controversial than it ever was when it was open.

Everyone’s been to Denbigh. It might have become one of the most derided places in urban exploration circles but everyone’s been, and those of us that have been every few years have watched a derelict site descend in to the most ruinous, fire-damaged shell that’s almost gone beyond salvation. But it’s hung on. Just…

The North Wales Counties Lunatic Asylum was built between 1844 and 1848, a belated response to the County Asylums Act of several decades prior. Over the years it expanded exponentially until the post-war years when the threat of closure loomed large. It finally closed in 1995 and there followed a quick cheap sale, some failed plans, asset stripping and abandonment. Widespread vandalism, three major fires and several smaller ones have brought the decaying building to the brink, and the temporary roof that now sits atop the grand administration block (main picture) was the council’s response to the very real danger of fire or collapse. To be fair, it probably saved it. The rest of the site hasn’t been quite so lucky.

What becomes of the building now we shall wait and see. A planning application is expected in the coming months that will determine just how much will be demolished and how much beyond the most important and striking piece of architecture – the admin block – survives. One thing is for sure though, and that’s the fact that Denbigh’s days as an urban explorers’ playground are almost over.

This isn’t a full report by any means – you can find hundreds of peoples’ takes on it online, but following my last wander round in the late summer sunshine a couple of months back, here are a few photographic highlights…

The chapel at the back of the site blending in to the autumnal trees, taken November 2013:

View from an upstairs window, November 2013:

View from the silos, August 2018:

Isolation ward, August 2018:

Fire damaged wing, August 2018:

There’s been many a cat-and-mouse game played here, reports of unsavoury confrontations in the grounds, and the drawn out Compulsory Purchase Order that finally saw ownership transfer yesterday. It’s all dragged on for years, and one senses there will be more to this saga going forward before it’s all restored and put to bed…

My last visit to what had arguably become North Wales’ most visited tourist attraction was easily the most relaxed, and with the bright shot of the frontage I’d wanted for years in the can I feel I’m finally done with it.

You never know what might happen next though…