It is not completely clear as to why this hospital is known as "HH 2" but I understand from conversations with other urban explorers that the HH initials in the title stand for "Heilig Hart" which translates as Holy Heart from the Dutch/Vlaamsch. I was also told that the church was originally involved in some way with this hospital but again I cannot comment with complete certainty other than to say that the suffix 2 pertains to the fact that in Belgium there are several of these HH hospitals - for example HH 1 is situated close to the Dutch border up in the north east of the country - we have as yet to explore it so watch this space as they say!

To the layman it would appear at first glance that HH2 was formerly a general hospital - this is not the case. The presence on the ground floor of several delivery rooms in a large maternity suite indicates its main purpose however the hospital also specialised in paediatrics. We found at least one conventional operating theatre, and we saw signage indicating a physiotherapy department  - known as Ergotherapie in Dutch and Vlaamsch. From past explorer's reports too it is clear that there was once a mortuary complete with fridges however these have now been removed. On one of the upper floors we also found a laboratory suite complete with an isolation cabinet for working on tissue samples without exposing the technician to any risk of infection or to toxic chemicals.

As far back as 1273 a hospital of sorts, though perhaps not as we now might now define the word, existed close to where HH2 stands forlorn and empty today. The town of Menen sat firmly astride the pilgrim's over land route from the channel coast to Rome and on to Jerusalem, and a document dated 1408 mentions the "Passanten lieden gasthuis van minheere Sint Jooris" - a shelter or guest house provided by charitable persons and operated by Augustine nuns from the adjacent convent.  Although it was primarily a place of rest and succour for religious travellers the nuns also treated sick pilgrims so this may be regarded as the beginning of the hospital. By the time of the French Revolution - Belgium did not exist as a country until 1830 so this area was part of France at the time - Heilig Hart Hospital was recognised as a civil hospital. The next major landmark was in 1936 when a dedicated maternity clinic was built and then in 1952 the current hospital buildings were erected. Since then there have been constant changes  - in 1967 a separate non-profit making organisation was established for the operation of the hospital and in 1980 a new wing was inaugurated, finally being designated "maternity and paediatric" in 1982. But by the early years of the 21st century the writing was on the wall for HH2 as a progressive merging of the hospital with a second more modern one further into town began. Finally in 2009 HH2 closed its doors for the last time.

A rather unusual feature of HH2 is that contrary to expectation the main entrance is situated on the first floor accessed by a long ramp curving around the building from the west side  - RIGHT . The ground upon which the hospital is built is completely flat as is the norm pretty much everywhere in Flanders, therefore a ground floor entrance suite would have been far simpler and much less expensive to build - I don't doubt there was some logic in the architect's design though  I have to say that exactly what logic he applied totally defeats me!

Getting inside to explore this hospital was interesting to say the least and we had actually made two visits before we managed to gain access. On the first occasion we spotted a gaping hole about 6 feet up a wall where a large section of double glazing had been smashed but any form of visual screening from prying eyes at this entry point was none existent, recent comprehensive pollarding of a row of trees leaving this aspect of the hospital completely open to view from a row of houses close by. Erring on the side of extreme discretion as always we decided it was a no no in daylight so we left feeling rather disappointed. A few weeks later we decided a  re-visit was on the cards but during our preliminary circuit of the building we noticed that the previous access point was now securely boarded, so we were left considering the only alternative - someone had recently smashed some glass bricks out of a wall on the opposite side of the main building in an area that was not overlooked. The question now was whether or not I would be able to squeeze my not inconsiderable bulk through a vertical gap at waist height barely 12 inches wide by three bricks high, the problem exacerbated by the fact that I would have to shimmy my way in, twisting from the standing position on to my side without support because my feet were off the ground!!! Needless to say, with a helping hand under my right boot providing sufficient support I managed it but I was not terrifically pleased to find what appeared to be human excreta smeared all over sheets of broken glass and an old office table immediately behind the hole. Of course with my feet still firmly resident in the outside world at this point I had little option but to put my hands down precisely where my common sense, my eyes, and above all my nose, told me I really would be better off avoiding. Thankfully neither of us urb-ex without some form of serious hand protection but I was still amazed when I gingerly sniffed my gloves to find there was nothing worse on them than a bit of mortar dust - result! Due to her petite build TJ had rather less trouble getting in and thankfully with me on the inside we were able to keep her clear of hazards, both biological and material.

 ABOVE LEFT -  a glass brick wall exactly the same as the one through which we eventually gained entry.

Once we were in, and after the usual silent pause to listen for evidence of undesirable company, we were able to proceed with relative ease, there being few barriers to progress. At this time the building was still water tight and hence there was little in the way of internal decay. There has inevitably been some vandalism and tagging however it is minimal when compared with what we find when exploring abandoned buildings in the UK. Sadly though there is not much to see in the way of artefacts as anything with much value is inevitably long since gone - only a few beds and assorted bits and bobs remain with the exception of the tissue handling cabinet in the lab area, and even that was little more than a shell.

However the basement level was a totally different matter altogether - we found the plant room very quickly, and it appeared to be complete and undisturbed. Considering that the standby generators are down here together with the boilers, compressors et all - precisely the kind of stuff pykeys inevitably target - it is likely that the removal of the equipment most readily associated with a hospital must have been carried out at the time of closure. Whilst down in the plant room we heard voices outside through the louvered air vents in the wall. Given the obvious attitude to security at this site we immediately wondered if we had been spotted getting in and that this might be the police, the time elapsed being about right for a jam-jar full of le dibble to arrive, so we froze and waited with our hearts thumping. But whoever it was soon disappeared and we were left to continue our exploration in peace.

So... our overall impressions?

Well to be perfectly honest it's an OK explore - and yet paradoxically it's not brilliant despite the fact that it is obviously kept extremely secure and therefore offers little or no opportunity to metal thieves and pykeys. I have never seen a site where previously open points of entry are so rapidly re-sealed and I am 99% certain that our route in will no longer be open. Add to which, when we were over in February 2013, just eight months later, we could not visually locate the hospital as we drove past which may mean it has now been demolished - that or we weren't looking in the right place of course, but that's very doubtful quite frankly. In view then of the secure nature of the building and its relatively intact state it ought to have been a super explore, and so it's still rather hard to pin down why we remained so under-whelmed throughout our visit. I think this site can best be summed up by saying that if you enjoy wandering along endless corridors in a charm less, utilitarian building where the only remaining furniture is MDF/chip board cupboards and cabinets bolted to the walls, then this is for you. But if you prefer something a little more visually stimulating then perhaps this is one to bypass - and that's easy enough because it is situated literally 30 seconds from a major motorway!


Below is a selection of the photographs we took in and around Heilig Hart II Hospital in June 2012.


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The building cannot be called pretty in any sense - the words, "concrete", "glass" and "functionality" come to mind.

Not our route in - it would have been really lovely if this door had actually been unlocked!

"Entrance to the Saint Joris Clinic is via the car park".


On the way up.


Despite the lack of light it was relatively bright pretty much everywhere inside the building.

The hospital's main reception desk immediately behind the main entrance doors on the first floor..

Some tagging but I suspect the removal of ceiling tiles has more to do with reclamation work than theft.

The main staircase.


One of several abandoned bed frames we saw, about the only "hospitally" artefacts left behind.

Just one of many wards.

Ward facilities.


A bathroom/toilet attached to a ward.

To her credit TJ created this artistic shot!


After visiting reception and the first floor wards we realised that the ground floor must have something of interest to see so we headed back down again.

Standing on the controller's platform in the plant room.


The plant room main control panel.


Another view down the length of the plant room.


A very large boiler.


The standby generator for use in case of power cuts.

Two air compressors with attached air banks.

A workshop associated with the plant room.

Also in the basement is the maternity suite...

...and an operating theatre.


The theatre medical gas delivery panel operated by an anaesthetist's assistant. Note that one of the gauges still shows pressure in the system!

"This door must be kept closed" - presumably an X-ray examination room or a radiation therapy suite?


This appears to be a diagnostic report. In brief it translates:

1. Research should be done with short cantijd (exposure ?) which reduces the resolution.
2. Important
(to avoid ?) disturbing
motion artefacts.
3. Possible calcified vertebral atheromatosis derteria
(tion ?).
4. No intracranial haemorrhage suspected or visualized.


The title of this reference book translates as "Feast Days".


Back off upstairs again now.

More seemingly endless corridors...

...and yet another ward room.

A somewhat dated bedside entertainment system.



But then don't we all!


Judging by the gadgetry panel to the right of the photo this was probably a bit more than a ward - I'm guessing it was a treatment room of some sort.

Not the prettiest view ever!


To me this has the look of a pharmacy perhaps?

This was part of what looked like a laboratory...

....complete with what looks like a tissue handling cabinet.

Ever upwards - to the top floor.

Through the damaged wall is what looks like a staff canteen.

What's on the board for lunch today?
This is the closest we ever get to tagging.
This area looked like it was never completed.
Top of the shop now and it's the lift motor room.


A little bit of roof-topping Flanders style!

Best to stay away from the edge me thinx!


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