Experiencing stories of a former First World War military hospital


Arts & Culture

Digital Placemaking

image shot from a low angle, showing part of the outside architecture of the Seale Hayne hospital, with ivy growing up the wall

Executive Summary

The Safe Haven App transports visitors back in time to historic house, Seale-Hayne. It tells the story of this former military hospital, during the First World War. Collect your kit bag from reception and take a journey that follows the recovery of shell shock patients, in Arthur Hurst’s unconventional hospital.

Safe Haven uses visually augmented reality, coupled with an immersive soundscape that leads visitors around the grounds, using archive footage to retell the stories of post-war recovery.

We see an old black and white image of a British military soldier stood outside the hospital on the digital screen of a tablet. The tablet is held up to the hospital, photographed in colour, in present day.
Enhancing reality at Seal Hayne. Photo Credit: Mercurial Wrestler


Mercurial Wrestler create live, interactive events that use digital technology and electronics; they enhance the audience experience and create new ways of communicating stories. In 2015, they were commissioned to create an experience that explored the history of Seale-Hayne, a Grade II listed Historic House in Devon that was granted a Heritage Lottery Fund. Calvium collaborated with them on this exciting project.

Mercurial Wrestler were keen to create a linear narrative around the physical location, triggered by iBeacons. Calvium tested the experience with user groups at different stages, allowing the story to be developed in response to feedback. To support this, we designed an interface that gave Mercurial Wrestler the freedom to edit content as the project progressed, making iteration simple.

As with any hardware technology, there were difficulties to overcome with the iBeacon installation such as devices shutting down and triggering unexpectedly. Calvium resolved any issues quickly and efficiently with our knowledge of locative technology and iterative testing, both on- and off-site.

Mock ups of the Safe Haven app on white ipads. The sepia images are translucent and the copy font is red.

How Calvium Helped

As part of our collaborative workflow, we took time to understand the process and team that Mercurial Wrestler were working with and designed a UI and testing system that allowed them flexibility to experiment with the experience.

Our Experience Design Researcher, Cristina Mosconi, visited the site to conduct user observation studies and gather feedback. This research helped the whole team understand the user perspective better – and led to script and location alterations, creating a more fluid narrative through the experience.


Safe Haven is a fantastic app that manages to beautifully illustrate the recovery stories of soldiers in the First World War. It is a fantastic example of how augmented reality can be effectively integrated into a building, bringing Seale-Hayne to life.

What’s more, the Safe Haven app is a permanent installation that can be experienced by visitors at any time; allowing for a low maintenance and an effective permanent exhibition.

The technology used in the interactive tour around the military hospital is so intricate, yet so easy to use, that it felt like you were there at the same time as the war veterans - the footsteps you hear, the stories you are told and the videos that you watch all have such great effect that it makes you want to do it again.r

User Comment from Safe Haven

Calvium are always evolving our knowledge and skills with digital technologies. If you have a project in mind, get in touch with us to discuss solutions that could work best for you. 

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