Saturday, 10 October 2020

Chapel in the woods

 (Disclaimer: Joking aside, I fully understand the risks/dangers involved in these adventures and do so in the full knowledge of what could happen. I don't encourage or condone and I accept no responsibility for anyone else following in my footsteps. Under UK law, trespass without force is a civil offence. I never break into a place, I never photograph a place that is currently occupied, as this would be morally wrong and intrusive, I never take any items and I never cause any damage, as such no criminal offences have been committed in the making of this blog. I will not disclose location or means of entryI leave the building as I find it and only enter to take photographs for my own pleasure and to document the building. 


Following our visit to the stone circle, Tamsin and I went off into the wilderness to find this cute little chapel lost and forgotten in some woods. The building itself is pretty cool, albeit in some state of disrepair, but there's also a very peaceful atmosphere around the entire area. I couldn't help but think that this was a bloody weird place for a chapel though. I can't imagine the local villagers traipsing through woodland to hear about how God loved them and how they'd dodge eternal damnation if they loved him back.

Victorian maps seemed to reflect the lack of easy accessibility, by referring to the chapel as "Disused." How long had it been disused for?

It turned out that even though it was built like a chapel, and it even has "chapel" in its name, it was never actually consecrated, and therefore never an official place of worship. Ironically according to the bible, this means that Jesus probably would have liked it more than all other chapels and churches. See, Jesus hated churches. Jesus said that you should pray alone at home, and that the people who go to church only do so because they want to be seen to be going to church.

A bit like all that clapping for the NHS hoohah we had during lockdown. A nice gesture in a time of woe, until it became a dick measuring contest and a witch hunt for anyone who was on the toilet or something at 8pm on a Thursday. But that's a rant for another day!

So allegedly this chapel was really only used as a little picnic spot on a wealthy estate. And to be honest, it's a nice place for it.

There's a couple of cupboards on either side. This one still has shelves in it, and rather curiously, a wreath. The other cupboard was empty. I'm not sure what purpose they would have served.

The chapel was built in 1753 on the request of an Earl called Harry who was super keen on making his 750 acres of land all fancy. Some sources refer to Earl Harry as Henry, so I did a quick Google to clarify it, and it turned out that the name "Harry" actually originates as an informal use for "Henry" back in medieval times. A bit like Bill can be short for William or Dick can be used for Piers Morgan. I always thought Harry was short for Harrison but apparently this isn't always the case.

Old maps do show the surrounding land decorated with amazing gardens and fishing lakes, but the estate seems to have decreased in size since then, leaving things like this chapel forgotten. There's probably more hints of the estates former glory lost in the woods.

It was Earl Harry's father, also called Harry, who first moved into the prominent estate on which this chapel was built. He inherited the land from a distant cousin, but I'm not sure how distant because this particular family tree is quite the rabbit hole. The lineage can be traced back to a Norman chevalier who fought alongside William during the Battle of Hastings, and his direct male lineage contains no less than eighteen peerages, including eleven Baronies, a Viscount, four Earldoms, two Dukes, and a couple of Marquis. The female lineage was a little harder to trace because they all changed their names when they got married, but they all married other Barons, Dukes, and whatnot. And I'm happy to say that there is a mild flimsy relation to the Harlechs of Brogyntyn too, and therefore the folks of the Cyclops Cavern. But that link is in the 1530s, so it's fair to assume they won't be invited to any family gatherings any time soon.

I assume this is one of the old doors to the exterior cupboards. It's quite cool that it's still here. Evidently it's been broken off at some point over the years and someone moved it inside to preserve it.

Check it out. This place is cute. Sadly it's stripped of all its seating and any interior decor. I assume it had some once, presumably in an attempt to make a replica chapel, because if it was always this empty then it wouldn't have been named a chapel, even though it's not actually a chapel.

I do wonder if any internal shots exist that show it fully furnished back before it was derelict. So far I've not found any.

Earl Harrys numerous progeny all grew up in the big hall on the estate, and probably all hung out at this chapel at some point. With each generation of Earldom, the gardens were improved on. They were also open to the public, so it's fair to assume that this spot once had quite a lot of guests. In 1855 the estates gardens were estimated to be recieving about 6000 visitors a week. They remained open up until 1895, when some vandalism resulted in their closure to the public. Damn those pesky kids...

Earl Harry's Great-Great Grandson George had inherited the estate and the Earl title, but he died in 1883 without managing to procreate, and the Earl title was inherited by a distant cousin in Africa. I'm not sure when the chapel fell out of use as an eccentric garden feature, but what I do know is that Georges death resulted in the estate shrinking somewhat as his assets were divided among three different family lines, the hall eventually falling into the ownership of his second wifes neice, Katherine, and eventually to her granddaughter Eileen, who lived there until 1999. 

I think the main hall is still in the family, but the chapel doesn't appear to be. The halls immediate surrounding land is all still fantastically maintained, but this chapel is rotting away. Old Victorian maps seem to indicate that there's quite a few things dotted around the surrounding woodland, so much like I do with Brogyntyn, I'll probably be making a few return visits when the weather is less annoying.

Here is where the altar would have been, if there ever was one.

Despite being empty, the walls of the chapel had some excellent wall scrawlings.

It's faint, but "Andy" here has excellent calligraphy.

The wall has fallen away in some places, but here it's just possible to make out a signiature dated 1966.

This signiature has been erased. Someone  didn't want everyone to know who had been here or when, for some reason. But it was in the 20th Century, at the start of a decade.

Someone has written their name in pencil, dated 1964.

And there's this cute pencil drawing of a gnome too. I'm not sure why, but it does remind me of the famous Georgian-era hermits, which the garden gnomes are derived from. Back in the day, rich folk used to actually pay raggedy old men to live in little huts on their estates, often given bizarre contractural obligations such as never trimming their facial hair or cutting their fingernails. It sounds very bizarre, but it actually happened! Cute innocent ornamental garden gnomes derive from using scruffy poor people as a garden ornament in some odd fascination in the contrast between the rich and the poor. 

It's a longshot, but given that this chapel is essentially a folly, another form of eccentric garden featture, perhaps whoever drew it is making a reference to that.

For us, as much as I loved this place, it was time to go. 

One last curiosity could be found in the nearby field though...

Look closely, and you'll notice that there's a baby deer mingling with the sheep. They wouldn't let us get anywhere near them, but the deer was inseparable from the flock. I think the mother might be dead, and the young one has sought protection by joining the sheep. It's quite adorable. But we all know where the sheep will end up, so it's quite sad too.

That's all I've got from this awesome little place. Next time I'll be checking out an old asylum on my other blog, and then I'm blogging about a cool little ROC bunker. Until then, don't forget to follow me on Instagram, Reddit, Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Clone Henge

This is something a little different from my usual content, but I happen to love follys, and this is certainly one of Shropshires hidden gems. I actually knew about this place for years, due to growing up in the area, and my occasional rooftopping sidekick (before he shot his DNA into a woman and produced crotchfruit) Damien is quite fond of stone circles too, so he had also pointed out its existence to me during the early years of this blog. 

It was Tamsin of the Tunnel blog who said we should go check it out on our next adventure, so off we went. 

What's the story of this stone circle? Well, it's no secret that the folks of the 1800s liked their unusual garden features, and we've covered some bizarre ones in my blogs before. A stone circle is fairly simplistic by comparison. One day someone simply decided that they wanted a half-scale replica of Stone Henge on their estate, which I've nicknamed Clone Henge. However it does have an "official" title. Old Victorian maps refer to it as The Temple.

It's partially ruinous, but some speculate that this was an intentional part of its design, to make it look ancient.  

And while a stone circle doesn't seem particularly interesting, this actually has some surprising historic connections.

It's all fields and farmland now, but this was once the garden of a large estate called Quinta, which is a rather unusual name for something on the border of England and Wales. Quinta means "Fifth," deriving from the Latin "quintus."

Quinta is also used in Spain and Portugal to describe a country house, so some think that the Quinta Estate of Shropshire was named by someone who had traveled to the UK from Portugal.

Others speculate that it had something to do with the Roman presence on the border back in the day. There was apparently a Roman fort about a mile to the west that monitored multiple routes into Wales from England. "Quinta" is said to derive from a point where five roads met or something.

Clone Henge looks ancient, but on a closer look, you can see things like these rusty metal bolts that once held the stones together, indicative of a more recent creation. The stones aren't balanced above each other, but held in place.

While the exact date of its creation varies depending on what you read, it's generally said to be between 1840 and 1850. The mastermind behind its creation was a chap called Fred West. But not THAT Fred West. 

Hilariously, as a quick digression, there is a European urbex page that names its locations after serial killers and murderers, and some of those locations are notorious. Other explorers have gone there, researched it, and believed that this urbex page is providing the real name, which they in turn regurgitate on their own social media. It's even spread to the extent that legitimate media articles have shared the photos and falsely claimed that these places are the former homes, workplaces, or schools of the folks they've been nicknamed after, which is hilarious. I love it when the mainstream media gets bamboozled. It also threw me for a while! I was trying to add a gorgeous villa to my map, and I ended up spending the night trying to find out where some Victorian cannibal from Italy grew up. So it tickles me somewhat that I now have a location that I could easily, and legitimately, name after a serial killer.

Fred Wests Temple. It's a good thing I like wordplay or I'd be getting sued for plagiarism by those Europe explorers.

But this Fred West was not a serial killer. At least, if he was then nobody knows about it. He was born in 1767 and his brothers, William and John, were the third and fourth Earl de la Warr. Had John died without leaving an heir, I assume Fred would have become the fifth Earl, and we'd see some epic synchronicity when he ended up owning the Quinta. However, John reproduced.

The Earl de la Warr lineage is also quite fascinating, in that it can be traced back to the 1200s. By the late 1300s, the 4th Baron died without children, and his brother became the 5th Baron, and then he also died without children. The responsibility of the lineage fell to their sister, Joan, who married a guy called Thomas West and spawned young Reginald West, who became the Sixth Baron de la Warr.

Confusing me slightly, the first earl (Freds grandfather) was in fact the seventh Baron, a few centuries after Reginald West became the sixth, but I realised that this was because the Baron lineage recieved something of a reboot in the 1500s. Freds Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather William, the "first" Baron de la Warr was actually all set to be the 10th Baron, but he went and tried to poison his uncle (another) Thomas to get that inheritance early. It failed, and he was thrown in the tower in 1548 and disinherited. Uncle Thomas forgave him though, and was going to reinstate him as the heir, but then in 1554 he died, and all the legalese got in the way. I guess Williams plot to kill Uncle Thomas for that inheritance couldn't possibly have gone any worse. William then got involved with a chap called Henry Dudley and his notorious plot to de-throne Queen Mary. It failed, but it was such a huge plot that it actually took the monarchy three months to arrest and interrogate everyone involved. William West was convicted of treason, but he was pardoned in 1557 by Queen Mary, dodging the death sentence, and surviving into the reign of Queen Elizabeth, who knighted him and rebooted his Baron title in 1570. While he was the "first" Baron de la Warr on paper, it seems that his lineage typically ignored this as time went on. His son Thomas, legally the second baron, would often refer to himself as the eleventh. The third/twelth Baron, also called Thomas because nobody had any fucking imagination, was historically significant because he was quite high ranking in the Virginia colony, one of the earliest English colonys in North America. The state of Delaware (and the river) is derived from De La Warr and everything.

Hows that for a bizarre Shropshire connection? The Great-Great-Great-Great grandson of the namesake of an entire US state came to Shropshire and built a minature stone henge for no reason.

But there might have been some political motivation that led to the creation of this stone circle. See, Fred West had other properties. The Quinta wasn't his primary residence... but then he got married. His wife, Maria Myddleton, was one of three sisters whose family had owned Chirk Castle. The sole male heir had died in 1796, and the three sisters had a bit of a legal battle over the estate. Maria was a bit pissed that she didn't get Chirk Castle, and who can blame her? It's a great castle. Maria married Fred in 1798, and then somehow all three Myddleton spouses, Fred and the husbands of Maria's sisters, ended up competing to becoming MPs in Denbigh.

The fact that these three were actively competing when all they had in common was their sister-in-laws seems a bit suspicious to me, and given that the ladies had competed bitterly for assets before, it wouldn't surprise me if they were pulling the strings. In preparation for his victory, Fred West put all his effort into the Quinta estate, planning on turning it into his permanent home so that he was closer to Denbigh. 

And what better way to make his new primary residence homely? Have a half-scale replica of stone henge built on the grounds, and name it The Temple, of course.

Each vertical stone has a series of smooth horizontal gashes, which I think are from the process of breaking larger stones up, but I don't know for sure, because I've never built a stone circle.

Alas, Fred West didn't become MP of Denbigh. He lost to his brother-in-law, Robert Myddleton-Bidulph, and all the effort put into the Quinta had been for nothing. After his death in 1852, his son, Fred West Again, sold the estate. Rumour has it that Fred West Again had debts and drinking problems, and the sale of the Quinta was because of that, but it's purely speculation. Interestingly, as a final nugget of random trivia, Fred West Agains grandson, George, was the second husband to Winston Churchills mother.

The Quinta was scooped up, including the stone henge, by a chap called Thomas Barnes. Thomas was an MP up in Bolton, and when it came to business he had his fingers in a lot of pies. Not only was he big in the cotton industry, but he was a chairman of a railway company, and owned a Welsh slate quarry too along with numerous coal mines and farms. He was also an absolute saint. After seeing children playing in the street, he donated eleven acres of his land to become a park, and in 1862 he purchased 200 acres of land in Jamaica to set up a cotton plantation, just to prove that it was possible to produce cotton without slave labour.

Upon his purchase of the Quinta in 1855, he had the original hall of Fred West demolished and had his own stately home built in its place. He kept the stone circle, as you can see. He also gave a lot to his local community which still exists today, establishing a chapel in 1862, where he'd also preach if no preacher was available, and also establishing the Quinta Congregational School in 1882.

I'm often pretty critical of religion, not so finding fault in the concept itself so much as loathing the "do as I do or you're going to Hell" attitude of some religious folks. They could learn a lot from Thomas Barnes, who clearly had a Christian faith and also actively used his wealth to improve the world around him. He died in 1897, and I think the Quinta may now be a Christian conference centre. The stone circle, however, sits in a field that had once been the park land of the Wests stately home.

I'm not sure what the stone circle would have been used for, if anything. Fred West had it built, and called it the temple, but did they sit here and enjoy the sun? Did they have parties here? Did they sacrifice virgins? Is it, like the real Stone Henge, secretly a means of parking a flying saucer so that the mechanic can get at the undercarriage when it needs repairs? Nothing is mentioned. It's just here.

Curiously there is a wooden post in the middle of the stone circle.

It looks like an electrical post that has been removed, so at some point someone decided to run power lines over the stone circle, and then later it was decided to remove them.

Look at these. Now I know what it's like to be a dentist in Rhyl. 

We noticed this unusual circle, and wondered if maybe the stones were at least partially decorated with shells as some point, as this was popular folly decor at the time. But it's not consistent enough to give that theory much weight.

Overall though, it's very peaceful here and has a pretty pleasant vibe. There was nothing much to do but at the same time I was reluctant to leave. But we had another place to visit, so off we went. 

I'll end on the grumpiest photo of Tamsin ever taken. It was raining.

That's it for the Fred West Stonehenge. It's a nice little gem hidden away in Shropshire, with some surprising historic connections. My next blog will be about this awesome little abandoned chapel, and then I'm doing one on an abandoned asylum, which is pretty exciting.

In the meantime, follow me on Instagram, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Reddit, and Like my Facebook. Their algorithms are fucked, and don't always show updates to the people who follow them, but try anyway. 

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

The Pink Bunker

(Disclaimer: Joking aside, I fully understand the risks/dangers involved in these adventures and do so in the full knowledge of what could happen. I don't encourage or condone and I accept no responsibility for anyone else following in my footsteps. Under UK law, trespass without force is a civil offence. I never break into a place, I never photograph a place that is currently occupied, as this would be morally wrong and intrusive, I never take any items and I never cause any damage, as such no criminal offences have been committed in the making of this blog. I will not disclose location or means of entryI leave the building as I find it and only enter to take photographs for my own pleasure and to document the building.

If you live in the UK, there's a good chance that you live within ten miles of an old nuclear monitoring bunker. It doesn't sound plausible, and if you don't believe such a bold statement then that's fine. Nevertheless, here's a blog about one. These little nuggets of history are scattered all over the country, and owe their existence to the Cold War. The Cold War wasn't really a war at all, but an era of tension between  various countries after they all got their hands on nuclear weapons and nobody felt particularly safe.

In the UK, over a thousand identical subterranean bunkers were built for the purpose of monitoring nuclear activity and communicating their findings across a network, and also ensuring the safety and survival of those working here by doubling up as living quarters. I'll add a diagram that I found online so that you can get an idea of it.

(Picture not mine, obviously.)

So they were basically a defensive precaution, and most of them can still be found to this day. Some have been demolished, and a lot of them are locked, so they're a gamble to travel out to. The ones that are open are seldom in good condition, but occasionally I do get lucky. But I'm easily pleased. I'll document it regardless of how awful it is or isn't.

Check out this bunker!

The only means of entry is a fifteen foot ladder. As you've probably gathered, the hatch itself wasn't connected to the hinges and could literally be lifted off and propped next to the external features. It's also worth noting that most of these things have an external step to facilitate access to the hatch for people who aren't that tall, but in this case it's been removed for some reason. You can even see where it would have been on the top photo. For me personally, this wasn't an issue. I'm a giant. I can be halfway down this thing and you'll still be able to see my forehead. It's really annoying in public toilet cubicles because when I stand up from the throne, the person in the cubicle next to me can just see my head and I end up on Crime Watch. But that's another story.

Obviously when dealing with an underground facility that hasn't been maintained in over a decade, one might have second thoughts about descending. Unfortunately my curiousity is seldom overidden by my survival instinct. Nevertheless, it's probably a good idea to tell someone before you go into one of these. There's not going to be any phone signal down there.

This particular bunker was built in 1961, and it was one of the longer lasting of its kind. Many were decomissioned in 1968, but this one was still in use right up until 1991. Following which it became derelict, and then at some point somebody decided to paint it pink.

It has a weird balance of pastels and grunge. Kinda like a Poppy video. But truthfully, I love this bunker. In fact, such an unexpected colour scheme sums up exactly why I love them. In spite of being built identical, history has given them all different stories.

I do wonder what the agenda was with painting this pink though. I doubt any landowner thought "I'll paint this pink to make it original for imbeciles on the internet." No, there was clearly a plan for this, but it's not been fulfilled.

Of the bunkers original features, the hand pump at the bottom of the shaft can still be seen, although it's in bad shape. The triangle on the wall is where a sign would have adhered to the wall, warning people to mind their head as they ascended the ladder.

Of the non-original features, we have this mattress. Now, if you've been following my blogs for a while you'll have seen a bed in one of these things before. This isn't what they typically look like! This bed was clearly moved down here after the bunkers closure in 1991, and the big giveaway is, of course, the fact that it's pink and white, just like the walls. This looks like a little girls bedroom, albeit trashed, and fifteen feet underground in a field, exactly the opposite location that you'd expect to find a little girls bedroom, unless she was related to Josef Fritzl.

Also, it seems that there was a fire down here at some point, although it's not been as bad as some. I've been to a few of these places that are little more than burnt out husks.

The ceiling tube would have been for inserting a "fixed survey meter," which would have been entered into the hole via a telescopic rod. It would come out on the surface, where it was protected by a polycarbonate dome, and it was basically for counting the particles produced by radioactive decay.

There's some childrens shoes down here. This is getting creepier.

Now onto the best part of any abandoned or derelict building, the toilet.

In a nuclear monitoring bunker, the toilet is basically a bucket with a seat in a cupboard, which would probably be loads of fun to lug up the ladder to empty out. It's still in better condition than the toilets in some pubs and clubs.

But let's take a moment to appreciate those who worked here. It was a defensive precaution in a scary time, when people were seriously planning what to do in the event of a nuclear apocalypse.
The living quarters in these bunkers genuinely disturbs me, because it's a rather cramped space to share with another human, and in the event of a nuclear blast, one would be stuck here with them and a bucket toilet. It doesn't exactly sound fun. But even though the cold war never escalated to the point of actual war, these people still stepped up and fulfilled their role.

It's just a shame that these relics are rotting away in fields when they should be preserved and appreciated.

That's all I've got for today. Next blog will be a pub. An actual abandoned one, not a closed-for-lockdown one. It's been hard to tell lately! In the meantime, follow my Instagram, Like my Facebook and Follow my Twitter!

Thanks for reading!