In the depths of winter, sometimes one feels like running a nice warm bath and never getting out, but eventually you gotta make some money, so we did it the old fashioned way. We started a war in Iraq.
That was a joke.
Welcome to the final month of 2016. Everyone thinks that the world is ending. I've been of this opinion ever since I realised that in fifty years my generation would be the last humans who remembered life before the internet. But on a personal level, 2016 has been a good year.
"Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not" has grown now. We've come far from the days when I would just get a bus or a train to the closest possible point and then walk, a solo adventurer with no supporting cast apart from a few leave-behinders huddled under their overhead clouds who I could at least convince to buy me a drink if I showed up at the pub in a short skirt and low cut top. We've now set up a group on the hub of all evil, Facebook. It's private so dont go looking for it. It's purely for organising adventures, and thereby expanding my reach. In it are drivers I trust, people who could potentially model for me on photoshoots, other local adventurers who I occasionally team up with, plus my usual operatives and other familiar folks who have contributed to the blog over the past two years. And as such, my days off are all fully booked! I feel truly alive, to not be doing nothing! The group will grow, and more people who can benefit the blog will be added. We've recently added a former resident of a building I have yet to blog about, so that I can organise an adventure and get the nostalgia tour.
So these are exciting times for the blog! It definitely feels more like a team effort now.
Before I get to todays adventure, I want to say thanks to a friendly police officer. My operative, Sunshine Girl, and I were at Waitrose when we noticed it had free wi-fi. I said something along the lines of "Thats useful information for next time I'm chilling on the roof." Sunshine Girl looked concerned. This was understandable, there was a police officer nearby and loose lips sink ships. But he just said "Fine by me, I like the blog." And then he walked off.
See, thats the kind of relationship I want to have with the police. They know who I am. They know I might be an annoying, brain addled and absurdly conflicted individual, but they know that I am nice guy too, and that I mean no harm. I guess living in a small town helps. Would this happen in London? Very doubtful. In Shropshire I personally think that the transparency helps me. Some people wonder why I dont use anything to conceal my identity. The truth is, if people see a trespasser and can't see their face because of a mask, they will call the police! This happens anyway and the police usually show up and say "Oh it's just you. Come down from there now (and btw love your blog)." If this happens and I'm wearing something to conceal my identity, the police will say "If you dont mean any harm, why do you wear a mask?" Look at Spider-Man. In the teary doe-eyed Tobey Maguire movies, J Jonah Jameson puts the question out there- "If he's a hero, why does he wear a mask? What's he got to hide?" Now the viewers know the truth. Spider-Man wears a mask so that his enemies dont find out who he is and target his loved ones. I'm a rooftopper. I don't have those kind of enemies. My enemies are Gravity, Pigeons, Asbestos,
Of course, I should express that my personal code of ethics doesn't extend to other rooftoppers in my local area, so I'm not accountable for them. Nor does it necessarily extend to my supporting cast. What I can promise is that when they're on adventures with ME, I will do everything in my power to make them adhere to my moral compass. But if they happen to be doing something themselves, I'm not accountable for their actions. Just because Rushworth or Benbow come with me on adventures, that does not mean I control them as individuals. For all I know they're climbing buildings right now to urinate on people off the roofs. I don't condone that. I sure don't think they would do that. But if they do, that doesn't speak for me or the blog. Supporting cast or not, this blog is still my baby.
It sucks that I need to say this but in Shrewsbury, according to the local newspaper, the closest thing we have to terrorists are rooftoppers.
So for todays adventure, we're driving out to rural Shropshire with my favourite acomplice and newish member of my supporting cast, Raptor. I say newish because she's gone from being a recurring character to a romantic interest, thus disproving once and for all the rumours that I've been making the best kind of sausage sandwiches with my accomplice, Tree Surgeon. It also proves wrong that crazy Twitter lady who claims to be my mother when she says that I'm asexual. I'm not. I just dont waste my time with the wrong people. Pay no attention to the crazy lady on Twitter.
I can reproduce asexually though. But it isn't pretty. Imagine the squid from Watchmen making the sound of Tom Waits played backwards.
While not having quite the same track record as me for lurking around forgotten and secret places, Raptor is familiar with one of my favourite places and few blogged locations beyond Shropshire, Drakelow, and over the last few months has come rooftopping with me, and so she was totally cool when I gave her the opportunity to come and nose around a familiar building for me, the House that Nobody Wants to Talk About.
Long time readers of this blog will recognise this place. I wrote about it ages ago back when I was still photographing things with a cheap mobile phone. When I got the camera, I did return to the likes of Calcott Hall, Vanity House, and others to redocument them with superior technology. I did try to redo this house but I had found that it had been padlocked. This was disappointing but unsurprising. My blog post on it was one of my most viewed at the time and also the most controversial. The former occupants of this house were very dear to the locals, and there was a great big mysterious sad story behind why the house was in its current condition. And while the people of this village were overall lovely, and happy to talk about everything, from whether isabelline was prettier than jacinthe, to war on Finland, they would not talk about this place!
When my blog went live last time, I didn't disclose the location but I still suffered quite a lot of backlash in the comments. I was also interviewed on BBC Radio Shropshire shortly after, and the radio guy actually said "Surely by making such a fuss they are the ones pointing an arrow at the location of this house."
And I guess he was right, because recently photos of this place are popping up all over Instagram. Indeed the padlocks and boards used to keep people out had now been broken down by less ethical trespassers, and the place was accessible again. It was time to grab Raptor, slide down our fireman poles to the Raptormobile, and drive out to rural Shropshire to return to this gorgeous death trap.
Take a look at those stairs! Last time I was here those stairs were intact, but I do recall looking at the underside from the cellar and thinking "these stairs won't last long." In fact I pointed it out in the blog last time I wrote about this.
This house is showing signs of being Calcott-Halled. That is, ruined by a steady stream of visitors. Little things have changed, and things have gone missing. But I have a camera now, and this place is still beautiful.
Intriguingly, this cabinet and its contents are exactly as they were last time I was here.
It's a hard place for me to write about because I really want to get things factually accurate, out of respect of the former occupants. But the information is pretty difficult to come by, and anything I do get is pretty vague or just gossip. But unlike more malevolent sources of information like, say, newspapers, I don't want to rub anyone the wrong way for the sake of a story. I do, however, know a lot more than what I used to. I've managed to trace the house back as far as 1859, when it was lived in by a reverend, and his family. He was, however, in pretty bad health and died in 1862. His wife, Jane, remained at the house with their daughter, Sarah, but they had moved out by 1898. The house was then occupied until 1902 by another Shropshire reverend. His activities are mostly non-Shropshire based. He was born in 1866, and was ordained in 1897. He moved into this house, and wrote an architectural account on the churches of Shropshire, became the Dean of Norwich in 1938 and died in 1957.
The architecture shows former refinery. Back in its day this place would have been stunning. The presence of toys indicates that in its most recent days kids lived here, and the presence of horse related books indicates that the former occupier liked horses.
This little green/red thing really got my attention, because I had the exact same toy when I was little! It's part of a toy garage, where the little toy cars could be wheeled up onto the red platform, which could be raised and lowered by utilizing the little red handle. It was quite a nostalgic find!
There are a lot less toys than I remember though.
From what I can gather from very basic snippets of story and local rumour, there was allegedly a family who owned a lot of farm land living here in the 20th Century. Some say that during the 1940s there was a nurse here who worked as a codebreaker during the war before joining a nunnery. But this is where things get murky. You see, I have conflicting accounts. Some allege that the codebreaker nurse actually lived next door, and some place the residence of a nurse at this place much later.
The family that lived here in the mid-late 20th Century allegedly owned horses. The father of this family was also a keen hunter, but this was the death of him, as he died in a riding accident during such a hunt. Shortly after another family purchased the property and facts get murkier still. From what I can gather there was a very long winded and stressful dispute over the property by the owners and the local council. The houses level of rot is deceptive, making me think initially that it had been abandoned for a lot longer than it was. But the owners were allegedly living here while the place was falling apart! Due to the cost of maintaining such a massive house, they allegedly sought planning permission from the local council to build a smaller property on the grounds which they could rent out to fund repairs of this house.
The house, as you can see, is a thing of beauty. Who wouldn't want to see it restored?
Allegedly the dispute with the council dragged on and on, stress levels allegedly skyrocketed, someone I spoke to did say something along the lines of there being alcoholism and some sort of abusive relationship thrown into the mix, but those are pretty hefty accusations, so you can see why I'm using the word "Allegedly" a lot, can't you? In fact if you've taken a shot every time I've said "Allegedly" you should be delightfully tipsy by this point.
This little room gave me a creepy vibe. I wonder, with so many rooms downstairs, what could they all have been? Dining area perhaps?
Onto the downstairs bathroom...
The downstairs bathroom has seen better days. For some reason I found the glass still in its little container above the sink to be particularly eerie. Perhaps it was the fact that everything else is just strewn around either by vandals or an attempt at moving out, whereas this is left exactly where the owner last put it. Some parts of the kitchen were the same. I mean how has this survived?
Allegedly the house was passed down by roughly three generations, but since stories are conflicting I can't say for sure. The owner eventually gave up and left it all to rot, seemingly due to not having the funds to fix the place up. Allegedly it was then squatted in by the daughter of the owners, and her partner. Conflicting accounts say she was a barmaid and a nurse, but thats not a particularly bad plothole. I know some nurses who were once barmaids. I know some barmaids who were once nurses too. It's not what I would call going backwards although career-minded people might think so. But being a nurse is stressful, circumstances change and a jobs a job.
Allegedly the lady who squatted here died. Some have said that it was suicide, although that is just another allegation. Nothing is set in stone. And since the death, regardless of its cause, happened relatively recently in the late nineties or early naughties, its no wonder that the people of this village refuse to elaborate. But on the downside, that also leaves me open to getting things wrong, so I'm treading on eggshells and I apologise if I have got anything factually inaccurate or downright incorrect.
Onto the cellar!!!
The date on the meter is the third of November, 2003.
On my last blog, the last piece of factual information I'd had on the place was the year that the council had boarded up the windows, which was 2001. This was confirmed by reading the minutes of a meeting. And this house seemingly stood empty, save for the occasional cheeky trespasser, until my old blog post went up in June 2015, but the story of this house actually continues beyond that. Unknown to me, local newspapers published an article warning against trespassers going into this house! It was too soon after I published my blog post to be a coincidence, although they did not name me. And of course, I didn't know about it for over a year because I don't read the newspapers, because my life is happy and I've learned from experience that it's very difficult to be happy AND read a newspaper. I only found out about this newspaper article while researching this blog post.
Following the publication of my blog post, a Shropshire Councillor did write online that the owner, who apparently is still alive and well in the same village, has been asked by Shropshire Council to at least make the house look nice in keeping with its surroundings, such as fixing the windows and wiping out the jungle that has formed in the garden.
But given that so much of the places history is speculation, I did contact the councillor asking if he knew anything, and he actually did reply with "As regards its recent history I'm firmly in the "allegedly" camp, so I'm saying nothing."
Which is fair. To me that translates to "I've heard gossip, but it is just gossip."
Returning to the building, it was time to check out the upstairs.
Now, this part I definitely DO NOT condone. You saw the stairs in the hallway. There is another stairway but it's steep and curved, and as you can tell, the bottom stairs are falling away.This place is in danger of complete collapse. Soon the upper floors will be completely cut off, and the contents will remain closed off from the world until the day comes that the floorboards collapse and the piano lands on some trespassers head.
As you can see these narrow stairs used to have a railing.Now it's kinda dangerous, given that this place is pitch black.
Over there by the window is the piano I mentioned. The trick is getting to it when the floorboards feel like they're made out of paper.
These old photos are quite sad. If the owner is still out there, why do these photos share cupboard time with spider carcass?
The hallway at the back led to a few small steps to a tiny room above the kitchen. The floor in there felt particularly weak.
There's an upstairs bathroom that has seen better days, and connects directly onto a bedroom as well as onto the hallway.
But the whole bathroom thing baffles me about this house. I'll show you why!
Here's the rocking chair room, complete with sink.
Action Man has made his way up here too since my last visit. I have no idea why someone would come here to rearrange a load of toys but I have long since given up on understanding the urbex community.
As you can see, the floorboards here havent fallen away, but have been ripped up in order to steal piping.
A very telling piece of evidence in this room is the presence of this cup holder, almost as if this room was a bathroom too.
But wait, there's more. Check out this room. It has a mattress, a fireplace, the remains of a foot rest... and a sink.
But it's a spacious room and sure doesn't look like a bathroom. And besides, it connects onto another bathroom. This one doesn't look like a bathroom either but it at least has a bath in it. And a wardrobe.
The toilet is blocked with the former occupants clothes. But that's still better than the toilets in some active pubs and clubs in Shrewsbury.
But again, what bathroom has a fireplace in it?
Frocking Hell, thats a nice dress. It's a shame to see it go to waste, gathering mold in an abandoned house.
So what's one to make of the over abundance of bathroom sinks? If we take that evidence then what we've got is a one bedroomed Victorian house with five bathrooms, only two of which actually look like bathrooms in spite of their contents.
My guess is that the bedrooms were, at some point, fitted with bathroom appliances for some reason. Maybe for guest accomodation. Maybe some of the former occupants, elderly or young, were often unable to make it to the toilet if they woke up and needed to go in a hurry. Did the owners or occupants have toilet facilities installed so that they didnt wake each other in the night? It's confusing! But wouldn't this be an ideal house for Air Bnb? Bedrooms with bathroom appliances. You could host several guests and never be in any doubt over who blocked the loo.
There was one bedroom that led onto a bathroom rather than having the bathroom facilities in it. And let me tell you, the vibe in this room was a lot different to the rest of the house.
I don't talk about ghosts too much in this blog because quite frankly it's a can of worms, a lot of debate, someone always claims to be an expert and I get a headache. I just like to have my rants to a backdrop of the places I visit, and leave it at that. But this room was very unsettling.
On my earlier visit a year ago, the word "Hey" could clearly be read, written here with wallpaper paint, the tubs of which still littered the room. Someone has since ripped the wallpaper on the letter Y. Clearly someone in the urbex community had a problem with friendly greetings on walls. "No, no, we must draw genitalia! What sort of penis is this? I can't get an intimidating masked selfie with my finger up at the camera if the background looks friendly!!! Destroy that wall!!!!"
This wall is actually opposite the word "Hey" and was clearly written with the same paint. Whats really intriguing is that paperwork from the job centre is stuck to the wall with the same paint. So to me this is an expression of stress at the hands of the job centre, who are ironically known for making job hunting as stressful and tedious as possible. I mean who here has been or is on the dole? We all agree, the hardest part of it isn't the financial struggle, it isn't the waking up each morning with nothing to do. No, it's having to make the bi-weekly stroll to an office where you're treated like shit. Luckily I havent had to set foot in that place for years but I still shudder at the thought of it.
But it has me wondering in regards to this graffiti. Who did this? What trespasser would feel so stressed about life on job seekers allowance that they'd take their paperwork and several tubs of wallpaper paint to an abandoned house to express their rage silently where the world couldn't see it?
Maybe, and quite horrifyingly, if the rumours are right that the occupier squatting here did kill themselves then what we could be seeing here could be the expression of desperation in a time when the occupants mental health was at rock bottom.
And if that's the case then it sure is sad to see.
Finally looking at the overgrown garden there are signs of former garden furniture as well as former household furniture that had been moved outside.
It's almost as if they were moving things out of the house and then just gave up.
It's truly mysterious, that it's been left the way it is even though the owner lives in the village. The story of the deceased occupant remains a matter of intrigue. The sad thing is that now this place is becoming well known to the urbex community, it has the risk of being Calcott-Halled. That is, being plundered and trashed. But that is also why I'm not disclosing the location even though it's all over the internet now. But as long as you don't hear it from me, thats the main bit. Because things will get stolen, walls will be decorated with pictures of willys and some unlucky person is going to fall through the floor. And none of that will be on my head.
Unless they land on my head. But my presence there will be coincidental.
Interestingly, Raptor and I continued our drive across Shropshire, causing me to return to that place I just love to blog about, Ironbridge!
Now this place is completely unrelated to the house but I wanted to touch on it anyway since we went there on the same day and because I don't see it as being able to sustain a blog post on its own.
On a casual walk around Ironbridge, you will no doubt notice various blocked up archways and chunks of history protruding from nowhere. One such tunnel is neatly tucked away from public view. What was it for? I havent a clue, but it's Ironbridge, Shropshires hub of the industrial revolution, so it's probably something to do with that.
This is painted onto the wall of the tunnel and was either a legitimate marker from back when this place was being used or as Raptor suggested, some urbexer /graffiti
The tunnel meets a dead end where it's collapsed on itself. I guess being in an underground tunnel thats already started collapsing is only slightly more dangerous than my usual underground antics.
So that would be it for todays blog post. Apologies for the delay. I did get a few concerned comments and messages asking where I was, and the truth is I've been too busy living to sit down and write.
I said once that a golden age requires hindsight. I retract that statement although I do think hindsight adds to the flavour. But having had my life on a sometimes slow but definitely unmissable ascension ever since the social reboot, I can honestly say that I think I'm living in a golden age. Technically I suppose I have been for a while. I am, of course, sat here typing away on a blog that my readers actually helped me with, by donating the money for the camera that I currently use, and a blog that has given me amazing friends who in turn have contributed to this blog by becoming operatives of the blog. Because that group I mentioned earlier? I didn't know most of them before I started doing this! I met them through this! So many amazing things are happening to me now. And this is why I tell people every blog post to go out and make someone happy. If you frown at the world, the world will frown back. The only way it will ever smile back is if you smile at it first. And then cool things start happening.
The best thing is, I am just going with the flow. I dont have a plan. I set a ball rolling and just let myself go, and reacted accordingly That's important. As the saying goes, life is only 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I respond to it. I owe my happiness largely to my own shift in mindset. I took responsibility for my own misery, and then did something about it.
I live firmly in an altered state of mind. It is the land of "I might as well, they'll judge me anyway."
You see, so many people are worried about being judged by other people and ridiculed or villainized. Little do they know that the kind of people who do judge and ridicule are actively looking for something to judge and ridicule. You can't escape. And if people want a villain in their lives they will find one. You could single handedly rescue every baby from a burning maternity ward and someone will grumble that you didn't put socks on their feet. So let them grumble! Embrace the care free, go-with-the-flow mindset. It's Fuck It, without being an arse. If there's something you want to do, but you're afraid of ridicule, you might as well do it because they will judge you anyway.
This is the key to happiness.The people grumbling and judging, if they stopped looking down their noses at weirdos for five minutes maybe they'd learn something. They might learn that the people letting their freaky colours show are the ones who are actually enjoying life. If you feel you're weird and don't belong in this world, that's because you're here to create more of it, to add to it, and to make your own world and force the rest to accept it. Cut out the cynics and users. We end up with what we're willing to put up with. And if we're proud of our own weirdness and the things that set us apart then the right people will come to us.
That's it from me. If you use Twitter and Instagram you can follow me by clicking those links there. But as always it's far more important to me that you make each other happy. Compliment strangers, cheer people up, turn someones day around, defrown a miserable git, slap someone with happiness. Bonus points if you get a hug out of it.
And get some fresh air too.
Have a clue for the next blog post-
Thanks for reading. Stay awesome.