Ilford Polish Camp – (Ilford Park), Newton Abbot, Devon

A crisp November morning saw us getting up super early and head to Ilford Polish Camp in Newton Abbot. Part of the grounds are live so we had to choose our access route carefully. After about ten minutes, as is most often the case, we found a hole in a fence. And so we were in.

Luckily we had entered the site at it’s most interesting part – the accommodation. Room upon room filled with war memorabilia, journals, letters, newspapers – some of these things should be in a museum!

We managed to see quite a lot of the site before we bumped in to the care taker! Absolutely shit ourselves as we turned a corner right in to him! He was a really nice person, and gave us a little whirlwind tour before booting us out!

Ilford Polish Camp opened in September 1948 – one of 45 hostels across Britain set up to house the 200,000 exiled Poles who had fought alongside the Allies.

Built 60 years ago, at its peak the site was home to 600 exiled Polish people. Sadly, Ilford Polish Camp, and I assume all the personal belongings with it, has been demolished.

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Important, noteworthy & interesting comments are highlighted below

  1. JasonL says:

    Hi I’ve got pictures from a visit here in Nov 2009 a long time before they knocked it all down. Admin if you like them I’m happy to share – I’ve also got pictures of Sandhill park Hospital tanker March 2011, 8 months before the fire there – again I’m happy to share, just need a way of doing so!!

    1. Malcolm Brook says:

      Hi! There was an old Polish priest living there with ‘spiritual gifts’ after he died he communicated with Cynthia Sandys… and the ‘letters’ were published by Neville Spearman called ‘The Awakening Letters’ he was called Father Andrew.

  2. caroline nicholson says:

    I tried to salvage as much as I could ahead of the bulldozers. A lot of the papers and letters are now with the Sikorski Institute in London.

    1. Ellie says:

      I’d love to see or hear your story! I’ve just read your page it sounds amazing! So pleased you saved it.

      1. caroline nicholson says:

        Hi Ellie, I am hoping to deposit all remaining documents I found with the Newton Abbot museum. I am on facebook. Feel free to message me; I’d be happy to reply.

    2. Joanna says:

      Thank you for what you did. I was born here to young parents in 1953 who escaped Stalins ethnic cleansing in what is now Ukraine. I have a photo of my sister and I sitting on the grass in front of what was our temporary home. My parents and extended family left Stover in 1958 to come to Canada and Australia. Have few memories, but going to Newton Abbott for our passport documents and walking near the Lake. It was our families refuge from hell of war. Appreciate what you have done so very much. Joanna

      1. caroline nicholson says:

        Hi Joanna, I am hoping to deposit all remaining documents I found with the Newton Abbot museum. I am on facebook. Feel free to message me and I’d be happy to reply.

    3. Jerzy (George) ZDANKO says:

      I love your actions Caroline, as future historians will wish to know more! – and I suspect that you already know the Polish Resettlement Camps in UK site composed by Zosia & Jurek Biegus
      So much information is provided there on Polish exiled people who arrived in UK after WW2..
      A look at another site:
      tells the story of a Polish band, who featured regularly at Polish Dances at Ilford Park in the sixties, eighties & nineties. I was there, it was pure nostalgia and I loved every minute of it.
      Jurek Zdanko

  3. Juna says:

    Hello, is this site still accessible? I would like to take some photos there :)

    1. Ben says:

      Everything has gone, all that is left is a modern block that is used as a care home.

    2. Kieran says:

      The site is still accessible. The main school/community building still stands. Unfortunately it is wrecked. All of the wiring has been ripped from the walls and it’s full of graffiti. Part of the roof in the assembly hall has collapsed so be careful. If you go up the field at the back and turn left there are also two of the dormitories, accessible through a gap in the silver fence. It’s very dark so bring a torch. Looks like a clear up crew has been through as nothing but rubble now. There is also another building on the left, just past the occupied houses as soon as you come off the roundabout. It is pretty cool. Nice old fireplace and stuff inside.

    3. caroline nicholson says:

      not everything has gone. The foundations of all the buildings remain and there are a few remaining buildings left near the Veteran’s home. Not certain about their purpose except maybe to help protect any remaining bats! The old building that was used for the Saturday School I think also still remains. But yes, the majority of the site has been levelled and not used for mobile homes. I’ve had a mooch around. It looks sad, but archaeologists years from now will have enough remains to reconstruct what was once there. And hopefully with personal stories and some of the documents I was able to salvage there will be a story left to tell. xx

  4. Adam Kopinski says:

    Nice snaps. My nan was a resident at Illford Park before she sadly passed away in 2009. My Dad was raised there with his brother, sister and mother. I’m 31 and can remember visiting the old building before they moved into the new buildings. Dad was also a member of the snooker team they had there. I’ve got some great memories from there and feel proud of my Polish roots.

    1. Jess says:

      Does anyone know whether this is still standing and can be accessed?

      1. The Urban Explorer says:

        Jess, if you read the report it clearly says it’s been demolished.

        1. Jess says:

          The information would not load so needed to ask, thanks

      2. Mike says:

        There are still 2 buildings left Jess, for some reason they haven’t been demolished :)

        1. The Urban Explorer says:

          I believe that’s down to bats. Law dictates developers & especially demolition crews can’t go anywhere near a bat population.

          1. Josh Lygo says:

            Hello, I live a mile away from there, definitely not worth a visit anymore, like you said all demolished now.

    2. Joe Palmer says:

      Adam, I remember Joe. We were at Fawley Court in the 60s

      1. Adam says:

        I’ll mention it when I next see him.

    3. sofia smith says:

      Hello Adam, my Grandmother lived here in this place. I did visit once when we were young, though I remember more of an impression rather than the place. We lived at the other end of the country and so could not go often. Her name was Zofia Galka. I wonder if you or anyone you know would have known her at all?

    4. Jurek Zdanko says:

      Great memories! The Polish Band “Rycerze” from Stratford on Avon of which I was a member, used to play several times at Polish Dances at The Community Hall at Ilford Park Polish Home back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It seemed that all the Polish people from South Devon used to congregate there on these occassions. Adam, your father and your uncle were there too, and on occassions your Aunt Halina from London would come up. As my Mum, Rozalia Zdanko, and your Nan (pani Kopinska) were good friends going back to Polish Camps in UK (late 1940’s and 1950’s) in Maghull, Fairford, Springhill and Northwick Park, I do wonder if the Kopinski’s would commit to a meeting or reunion for old time’s sake? Jurek Zdanko
      You can contact me by e-mail: or Tel. 01527 584000

  5. K.R says:

    My Mother grew up in the Polish settlement as my Grandmother and Grandfather were settled there. I was lucky enough to spend many years exploring the abandoned site and looking around my Grandparents old barrack, although I was surprised to find a poster of Adam Ant in there! Such a shame it was knocked down, was a very interesting place filled with loads of memories and would have been the perfect location for a horror film with all those creepy wheelchairs sitting in abandoned corridors. I believe the last building is standing due to bat conservation.

  6. Jade says:

    Myself and my partner visited this site on Monday, evidently most of it is completely gutted, and no signs of any sort of real history remains, but still an interesting area.
    I was wondering if you had gotten access to the last standing building (I mean standing as in not completely holed by a sledge hammer) surrounded by fencing closest to the still operating nursing home.

    Of course I’m not asking for direct access points but am intrigued into if it is even possible.
    Thanks for your time :)

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      It was a long time ago, Jade. I honestly can’t remember which buildings we got in to before being discovered by the caretaker.

  7. Kat says:


    I recently visited the abandoned Dairy Crest Factory or Creamery in Torrington with a friend (we’re both photography students!), but unfortunately we bumped into a man seemingly working there who told us we shouldn’t be on private property.. oops!
    We didn’t manage to get the look around the inside like we hoped, but we are planning to return there soon to take some better images.
    I was wondering how you got inside the creamery and to the lift? The images you took are great!

    Thanks for the help,

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      I suppose the best piece of advice would be to not go in through the front door…

      1. Kat says:

        Haha I would imagine you’re right. I think some of the metal fencing was loose so we will try that :)

  8. Darren says:

    Hi, I’ve been exploring for years but have only found out it’s a “sport”!

    I’m based in Plymouth and have found some interesting buildings that are worth a look. They’re not on the scale as some of yours but just walking around an old pub or station house I find amazing. I do love the term urban explorer, it sums me up really!
    Hope to speak soon,

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      Good to have you on board, Darren! Likewise, I had been an “urban explorer” for years before I even knew the term existed or there was a massive online community.

      1. Darren says:

        Hi thanks for replying, what’s the next step then? Do you guys meet up or anything ?

    2. Holly says:

      Hey Darren!
      I’m around the Plymouth area too and your comment piqued my interest! If you have any locations you could give me a heads up about, it’d be awesome as I mostly do my thing out in the sticks but am looking for some good spots in Plymouth :)
      Thanks and happy exploring!

      1. Holly says:

        Forgot to add, I’m not after any access details. Just good areas of Plymouth to find decent buildings… I like researching history and things about the building and finding access points for myself :)
        Cheers :)

      2. andreas says:

        Hi, I am in Ivybridge at the moment, I am looking for lost places. Can you help me to find or join with me together? Would be nice to hear from you. Andreas

    3. andreas says:

      Hi, I am in Ivybridge at the moment, I am looking for lost places. Can you help me to find or join with me together? Would be nice to hear from you. Andreas

  9. Tony says:

    Hi, great website – I found it doing some research on the underground hospital on Portland. That was 2 hours ago and I’ve become happily distracted reading through your site.

    This particular exploration caught my eye. My Grandad was a Polish WW2 vet who ended up in England after the war and met his wife, my Nan, in Devon. It could have even been Newton Abbot as I know they settled down nearby. I wonder if he could have ever stayed here?!

    Of course I don’t expect you have the answer, but how fascinating none-the-less.

    Anyway, loving the site. Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Tony, thanks for the comment.

      At the bottom of the BBC article on Ilford Park, there’s contact information for Caroline Nicholson who was collecting stories and salvaging some of the personal artefacts left behind. She might be able to help you?

    2. Adam says:

      Good morning, I am looking for information about my great-grandfather who fought with General Anders and died in Newton Abbot, I know exactly where he lived and where he was buried, but all his documents are in England. Please give me a hint where I could start my search, the documents were to be handed over to the museum, but I don’t know if that happened. I would like to know the fate of my great-grandfather during and after the war

  10. J.Hartog says:

    I am looking for Jadzka Symanska se is maybe 67 year old

    1. cbd says:

      There is an elderly care home next door to where Ilford park was standing, best try there!

    2. lil says:


      Unfortunately Jadka passed away some years ago, I am a good friend of her brother.

      Take care

      1. sofia smith says:

        Hello, I am looking into family history and the journey of the deportees to Siberia in particular. My Mother and Grandmother survived and my Grandmother lived in this camp. She has since passed though I would love to hear any news of her from anyone who knew her, Zofia Galka. Thanks.

        1. Jurek Zdanko says:

          There is a good site on Polish Resettlement Camps in UK where you can trace the heartbreaking story of exiled Polish people and their arrival in the UK at various camps like Stover/Ilford Park, Northwick Park in Gloucesteshire, etc.
          Also do look up the site of Our Story RYCERZE who played at dances at Ilford Park in the 1960’s, rght up until 1980’s to 1990’s.

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