Monday, 11 June 2018

McDonalds again

(DISCLAIMER:  I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offense rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. I do not condone breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do. I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model )

In February 2017, McDonalds in Shrewsbury closed its doors, seemingly for the last time. They might have reopened again about an hour later to throw me out, since I was hiding in their cellar taking pictures. But then they closed their doors for the last time again! And luckily I'd managed to have a last-day creep around, and obtain enough photos of the McDonalds cellar to make a blog post about it.

And people loved it, because they loved this McDonalds. It was unique for a McDonalds because it lets its customers eat in a medieval themed cellar, which was a damn sexy cavern, of huge historic significance, incorporating the old town walls and dating back to 1220, making this the oldest building to have ever had a McDonalds in it. Seriously, everybody who came here loved that cellar, and there was no shortage of sad faces when people dragged all of their food down a flight of stairs just to find that all of the seats were taken, because it was so popular.
I felt the need to photograph it, for nostalgic purposes, and to document it for the people of Shropshire, and also for the fact that this was one last glimpse at something historic.

And it should have satisfied me. I got some damn good shots capturing it as it was for many years but would never be again. But as I left, the staff of McDonalds made mention of another cellar, one which was not made publically accessible. One which not even they had explored in its entirety.
I begged them to let me see it, but they said no, due to health and safety.

They didn't know it, but they had guaranteed my eventual return.


Today, in the absence of any business operating out of it, the buildings exterior has got a few features designed to make it look less bleak, including a quote from our Lord and Master, Charles Darwin, who was born here. That fact is somehow the only interesting fact about Shrewsbury that anyone thinks to milk. Nevermind the town being the film set of a Christmas Carol, the home of the guy who draws the Walking Dead, the site of the worlds first skyscraper and the home of the only adventurer in Shropshire who looks good naked (Me). Darwin is why the tourists come here! And it annoys me because we have so much more to offer. I have come to roll my eyes at every Darwin reference in Shrewsbury, knowing that if Charles Darwin references were a drinking game we'd all be dead. But in this case, I'm a fan of this quote. I'm a fan of this quote being on this particular building. I feel like Darwin is attempting to justify my crazy actions from beyond the grave.
Thanks, Charlie D. I hope you're enjoying Heaven, and God isn't too mad at you for ruining the book of Genesis.

I had to come back to McDonalds at night, but as I mentioned in my Haygate blog, another urban explorer has recently broken my camera. and while it still functions, the flash no longer does, so I had to get creative. My shots in low light are all taken on a several-second exposure on a tripod with me waving a torch around to saturate the environment with an equal quantity of photons for my camera lens to suck up.
So we can take from this a lesson that we already knew- A lot of urban explorers are unpleasant people, but this is a mixed blessing in the sense that it's forcing me out of my comfort zone, and making me less lazy with how I take shots in the dark. I'm not so easily defeated, as I explained in my Cobweb Cottage blog. Now, these photos will probably turn out pretty shit, but hopefully we'll see some improvement by the time Tree Surgeon repairs my camera. 


 We're starting in the attic, where I assure you the floor is level, but for some reason the shot isn't. I could have straightened it, but I sort of took a weird liking to the shot of a slanted attic. But check out these support beams! Here the building really shows its age. This building was originally called Pride Hill Chambers, built on the remains of the old town walls and named after the street, Pride Hill, which was in turn named after the Pride family in 1378, prior to which was named Altus Victus.

The Pride Family were huge, recorded in 1279 as having 47 houses to the family name, 25 of which belonged to Roger Pride, who was the towns bailiff in 1302 and 1303. In 1398, his descendant, Thomas Pride, became the towns bailiff, but brought shame to the family name when he was caught embezzling money for repairs after a huge fire. But it didn't matter, he'd already had the most notable street in town named after him.

Presumably the Pride Family owned Pride Hill Chambers, centuries ago.



 This door actually leads into the building next to McDonalds, a stationary shop called The Works. It's clear to see from the outside that Pride Hill Chambers was once made up of both these establishments, and that is not at all unusual to see, when one large building gets split. However in most cases the connecting doorways are bricked up. These were simply locked, but were to be used to exit each establishment in the event of a fire. The staff at The Works could happily venture into the old Maccies building, which made me pretty jealous.
I love the sign on the door though, purely because it requests that the doorway is not obstructed, but ends in this pseudo-threatening "You have been warned." It's hilariously indicative of some kind of punishment. Or maybe in the event of a fire, should anyone be burned alive due to fire exit clutter, the looming figure of the sign-writer would appear in a puff of told-you-so, point their finger and and say in a big booming voice "You were warned!!"


 The toilets up here are absent, but still in better condition than the toilets in some pubs and clubs.




 This staff area also had a door on this floor, also leading into The Works. The fire evacuation protocol was simple- invade the neighbours.



 This door leads through into the old stockroom, which was actually in a state of semi-demolition. It was actually a more modern addition to the building, and not part of the original Pride Hill Chambers, which is probably why they're allowed to rip it down. The older parts of the building are now protected.




The elevator shaft led down to the ground floor.




 So here's the "Staff Only" sign at the bottom of the stairs, which means we should be entering areas familiar to the public. The toilets, actually. However the toilet area has been completely removed, and it appears that the floor has been replaced too, because there's absolutely no sign that toilets were ever here.



 But over there is an actual blocked up door leading into The Works, which, even without the table there, has been blocked in a manner which would indicate it wasn't to be used, but could be made to be functional again should someone ever come along and remove the entirety of the ladies toilets. Which is exactly what's happened.


These stairs should be familiar to anyone who came here as a customer. They're mostly unchanged, and led to the toilets from the main restaurant area.

Now, I really don't like touching on this subject, but paranormal enthusiasts will love this. As I descended this building I started to feel very uneasy. In fact at numerous points I felt that I was not alone. In addition to that I kept catching snippets of conversation, and each time I would stop in my tracks, or investigate, and find that I was in fact completely alone. I was expecting to find squatters or other trespassers, but I found nothing.


 As you can see, the familiar McDonalds restaurant looks like it was slapped with a Michael Bay movie.


 All of the familiar seating has been removed.



 Here was the main entrance, in the form of a wheelchair ramp. To the left were tables in the window. One interesting feature that I never noticed when this building was McDonalds was the sign over the door that actually says the buildings true name, "Pride Hill Chambers."


Over there towards the stairs would have been the kitchen area back in the day. The stairs leading upwards weren't actually there and are a recent addition, although I don't know if they're temporary for the builders, or a permanent feature of whatever they make this place next.

McDonalds opening here in 1983, meaning that this area has been familiar to the people of Shrewsbury for just over three decades. Prior to that, Pride Hill Chambers was home to many local businesses, including the Conservatives Club, Lloyds Finances, a hairdressers called Helen Veres and a solicitors named Graham Withers. In the 1940s the cellar was used as a boys club for St Marys School. It does make one wonder what the cellar looked like back then, because it's huge and cavernous, and it's difficult to imagine a small business having much use for it. McDonalds, being a huge wealthy corporation, made it into a medieval themed eating area.


And here's the bottom of the elevator shaft, next to what was once the disabled toilets.
But while work on the upper floors is clearly well underway, transforming the once-vibrant fast food restaurant into its future incarnation, it is the cellars that I really wanted to see.


These stairs will be familiar to loads of people, as they led down to the incredibly popular, publically accessible cellars.


 As mentioned, the cellar of McDonalds had a medieval theme, and this area under the stairs was actually designed to resemble a medieval jail, with bars going down, and some wooden stocks in there. Theres an old coal shute right at the back that likely predates the construction of the above building. In fact the walls of this cellar predate the above building by a few hundred years.


 The "childrens area" still has a sign above the door specifying its purpose. The tables and chairs in there were smaller, for children, and the room itself had a cavernous vibe.


 And here's what it used to look like-


 Historically the "childrens area" was a pantry, and prior to that it was a gardevoir, which is a fancy medieval term for toilet.


 How many children throughout the last thirty years ate McDonalds food in the same small room where hundreds of people have emptied their bowels over the centuries?
I could make a joke about that, but let's face it, you've already made it in your heads.


Here's a before and after of this particular balcony area.


Paranormal enthusiasts will be delighted to know that the atmosphere was at its heaviest around this area. Immediately on descension I was stopped in my tracks by a childs giggle. And you have to remember, in spite of the photos, the only light source was my torch, so the sound caught me completely by surprise. I've always been very open minded to the supernatural, and I've experienced a few momentary events which I cannot explain. But you see, it happens, and it's sudden, and then it doesn't happen again. That's my experience of the supernatural. It's a sudden occurence that catches people off guard, and then they spend the rest of the evening mulling it over in their head thinking "Did that actually happen?"

McDonalds was very different in that it was continuous. Just as I was starting to ask myself "Did that actually happen?" something else would happen! I didn't feel like I was alone down there at all, and the occasional snippets of conversation were frequent enough to make me wonder if maybe I wasn't.
However, I was. I never at any moment came across other human beings. At least not the fleshy kind.

In particular as I descended further down the stairs, I kept hearing male voices from the top, and I wondered if maybe I had been discovered by authorities. However when I called out to them, I heard no response, which in itself makes no sense when dealing with fleshlings. A human sharing this building with me would have reacted somehow, whether they were meant to be here or not. Whatever I was experiencing, whether audio hallucination or otherwise, it was sufficient to make me wonder if other people were here.


Here's a before-and-after of the stairs.


Here we are in the very bottom of the publically accessible portion of the cellar, which was once a thriving eatery. There used to be a knights suit of armour down here years ago but that was removed. What remains, however, are the windows.



And here's another cavernous childrens area, directly beneath the other one, and part of the same gardevoir. I have an old shot of that too, to show how it used to look.



As mentioned, this cellar is built into the old town walls, which means parts of it date back to 1220, making it phenominally old.


I'm a little upset by these panes of glass because it seems indicative that the windows down here are going to be replaced, and that is a shame. They are quite cool, and it would be great if they were retained somehow, or even taken somewhere else.


Here's what this huge window used to look like-



One of the windows, of course, depicts our Lord and Master, Charles Darwin.


At the very back of the cellar is this massive door which leads to the old fire exit.


Back here, untouched by the need to be modernised, the stairs are actually worn down by the centuries of people walking up and down them. The door into the McDonalds cellar is actually in the middle, but the stairs lead up into the Works, where they provide a fire escape for the staff of the stationary store.


Oddly enough, one last McDonalds table has been left up here. Most of them were removed shortly after the building closed down.


And with this being the exit, that would ordinarily be the end of the adventure. But I was here with one major primary objective- To find the other cellar. This one was never open to the public. This one didn't even have stairs leading down to it. Did it ever? Or did someone just put a hole in the floor and lower a ladder in?  And if that is the case, when did this cellar originate? Was it part of Pride Hill Chambers or was it something else?


The staff at McDonalds told me that even they had not ventured down here completely, and yet it did show signs of modernisation, with these pillars of brick supporting a pipe, and the ladder itself being far more recent than its surroundings.


Behind the ladder was a tiny room that sadly didn't go very far, and was probably a pantry or something.


One intriguing feature is that slab, because it makes me think that maybe there was a door there once. However this wall does face The Works, which we've established was once connected. If this cellar was part of Pride Hill Chambers, then this makes sense.


By far the coolest feature is this totally ancient oven, which has somehow been forgotten down here where nobody will see it. It's got quite a lot of filth and clutter, but in my opinion this thing should be restored and preserved, and maybe somehow put on display.


Also down here is also the electric meter room, which I assume was accessed by the relevant people. When McDonalds moved in, this cellar space must have been opened up and fitted with a ladder just for them, since there's no actual stairs. The McDonalds logo is actually on the electrical cupboard and everything!



For an area that the McDonalds staff supposedly found creepy, there's actually some staff graffiti down here.




I should also point out, for paranormal enthusiasts out there, that this cellar was actually the calmest part of the entire building. It was only when I was down here that I felt like I wasn't being watched or followed. As a result I actually dreaded climbing back up that ladder.


Theres an archway here, but this also points at The Works, and was definitely once a connecting doorway. It hasn't even been blocked off properly! It just has a wooden panel. Every floor of McDonalds has a way into the neighbours. Even when it has been blocked, it's not been on any permanent basis. It's almost as if someone is prepared for the possibility that they could one day be one building again.

That seems unlikely to me. If a huge corporation like McDonalds couldn't afford this building, it seems preposterous to think someone could someday unite the two split portions into one.

The blocked archway was disappointing, mainly because I was led to believe that this cellar was far bigger than it actually is, what with the staff being too afraid to explore it fully, but it actually being quite tiny.

With my mission completed I headed to the surface.


 Exiting from the McDonalds building, one finds that the original steps have been long removed and replaced by these wooden ones. Back here, one can see the remnants of the old town walls.

Shrewsburys sloped terrain means that even though this is the cellar of McDonalds on street level, the fire exit actually brings me out beneath the cellar.



This particular door has no stairs leading from it, but it actually connects to the childens area, the former gardevoir. The stacks of stone on the right once formed some decorative archways that can still be seen in old photos.


I actually have no idea what the future holds for the old McDonalds building. Clearly some work is being done to it, and many people are hopeful that the cellars remain accessible to the public.

For supernatural enthusiasts, you'll be delighted to know that as I was leaving, a male voice said "Cheerio!" right behind me. It was so clear that I actually concluded in that moment that I was in fact subject to some kind of prank. I didn't know how they were doing it, but someone absolutely had to be in there with me. I actually went back in, to seek out whoever was in there, and found absolutely nobody. I was still the only fleshling in the building.
And quite frankly that spooked the hell out of me.

Now obviously it sounds preposterous and you're welcome to disbelieve everything that I say. It is not my place to tell you what to think, merely to tell you what I experiened. I'm completely open to the possibility that I'm actually sat in a padded cell, wanking in front of my loved ones.

And on that sticky note, that's all I've got for McDonalds. Next I'm heading out to a derelict pub in the Shropshire countryside. Those are always fun.
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