MORE than a century of history vanished in a matter of seconds yesterday when powerful explosives ripped through an iconic East Sussex landmark.
Part of the former Hellingly Mental Asylum, Hellingly Hospital Water Tower has formed part of the town’s skyline for 112 years.
But the historic red brick tower was demolished in a controlled explosion set off by developer Persimmon Homes yesterday morning (December 7) to make way for 400 new homes at the former Hellingly Hospital site.
More than 100 people including councillor Gill Hesselgrave from Hellingly Parish Council, gathered to witness the blast, which sent a number of explosive charges through the Water Tower in a matter of seconds.
The blast took a week to plan and used 40 kilograms of nitroglycerin explosives.
Contracts manager Darren Eagle of Persimmon Homes said, “It took between two and three seconds from pushing the button to getting to the floor.”
News of the plans to demolish the tower had sparked opposition from the community, with campaigners setting up a Facebook group called ‘Save Hellingly Hospital Water Tower’.
Messages posted on the site, which has 17 members, read, “Very soon we will see the end to a famous East Sussex landmark. The water tower at Hellingly Lunatic Asylum is being knocked down.
“Whoever decided to knock down these beautiful buildings and the water tower should be in a padded cell.”
Councillor David White, Chairman of Hellingly Parish Council, said, “I think it is regrettable that we couldn’t save it. We did everything we could. We went to English Heritage and tried to get it listed and also tried to get it included in our local list.
“At the end of the day it was in the path of the development and Wealden District Council thought it was more important to build the development than to retain the historic structure.”
The demolition is part of extensive works at Hellingly Hospital which include a 25-acre country park and a number of children’s play areas.
In addition the former cricket pitch and pavilion will be returned to their former glory and a new community hall will be created from the social club on site.