Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Llanforda House

At some point in 2012 my life took a sudden turn down an unattractive route and to take my mind off things, my fellow explorer invited me to Oswestry, to meet someone from his posse of explorers. What they had in mind was a long, challenging day out in Oswestry's history, and to be honest I think they planned on it being quite chilled search for the ruins of a mansion, but once I got exploring, nothing was going to stop me taking absurd risks to get to places. As I said waaay back on this blogs first post, I am addicted.

Please note that we don't vandalize, force entry, or steal. And any pictures here can be seen larger if you click on it.

Llanforda House was built in the early 16th Century by an influential Oswestry family, the Llwyds, whose pronunciation will be butchered by any readers unfamiliar with the Welsh language. By the 17th Century, the mansion had expanded into a large park estate with boating lakes, fishing ponds, and a large botanical garden created by the Oswestrian botanist Edward Morris.
Over the years the mansion was expanded but by the early 20th Century it was abandoned, and finally suffered an arson attack that reduced it to ruins in 1949.

My friends wanted to find these ruins...

We walked through miles of countryside and our guide was under the impression that these craters were the remnants of fishing ponds. But for photo purposes I was hoping we'd find more concrete evidence of the mansion.

And it took some time but we did find something artificial... Ruined walls could be seen protruding from a fenced off piece of woodland. Of course being fenced off was just a temporary setback.

Entering the woods, we found this curious ruined entrance, two parallel pillars, and the ruins of an archway nearby, presumably lying where it fell from these pillars many years ago and remaining undisturbed.

And as we searched we found other clues too- A fireplace, some pottery, and remnants of doorways. This was definitely the mansions ruins but nature had completely obliterated it.

We exited the woods and found what appeared to be the remnants of the garden. It was then that we met our adventures antagonist...

Shortly after we got to this point we encountered an angry man on a golf cart, who informed us that we were trespassing.  This seemed suspiciously unusual since a public footpath was only a short walk away, even visible across the field, but Golf Cart Man was hearing none of our strayed-from-the-path crap, and instructed us to get back on it asap, before riding off into the distance, in the direction of the footpath. As soon as he was out of sight, my friends and I decided to run back into the woods. And the Golf Cart Man figured it out pretty quickly and we spent copious amounts of time ducking and hiding every time we heard the familiar hum of the golf cart engine. And this worked to our favour because we found a ruined road, deep in the woods.

Following this road up into the hills, we found a lake. In fact the road led directly from the mansions ruins to this lake, leading us to conclude that it was the boating lake. There was even an old, broken rowing boat on the side, but how old this was, and when it was last used, I have no idea.

Heading back towards Oswestry, content with our discovery but still with hours left of the day, we decided to look for the famous ruins of Castell Brogyntyn, of the Kingdom of Powys. This place was built around 1291 so we expected to find even less than there was of Llanforda House.
I'm pretty sure Castell Brogyntyn remained occupied though, and eventually may have been occupied by the Harlechs, another famous local dynasty. I may be wrong though.

Curiously, the fifth Baron Harlech was a conservative MP and envoy to the USA. This led to a friendship between the Harlech's and the Kennedy's and as such, a lot of suspicious deaths for all you conspiracy theorists. Lady Harlech died in a car accident in 1969, her son and heir Julien shot himself in 1974, and Baron Harlech himself died in a car crash in 1985. His remaining son couldn't cope with the responsibilities and sold the entire estate to Pitstock, who demolished everything, including nearby woodland.

But in a peculiar twist of fate, this revolting deforestation actually led to us finding the remains of the castle, realizing that we'd actually walked past it, and over it, millions of times back when it was woodland and never realized. There was not much left, save for the old raised piece of land surrounded by the remains of the moat. From the top, one can see ruins and a lovely display of mankind smearing itself across nature.

But what's this? Under the remains was a lovely find- an underground passage!

Honestly, it's marvelous to see it so well preserved. It went straight under the castle and out through the other side with no apparent purpose. Sadly, it'll probably be destroyed as Pitstock continues his rampage.

We continued our trek back towards Oswestry, and found a small collective of buildings that didn't seem used anymore. That's not to say they were 100% abandoned- a few buildings nearby seemed occupied, so we had to be very stealthy as we explored the abandoned ones. To give credit to my colleagues, they were pretty much following me at this point, and seemed to be providing much needed common sense to my excited demeanor.

Amongst the buildings was an old chapel-

Beyond this church, another building lay in a similar condition, with a metal pillar holding up the upper floor. It would be foolish to venture upstairs, right?
But it would also eat away at me if I didn't check it out. The only part of this house I didn't venture to was the attic, accessible via a ladder placed precariously over the hole in the floor, but not fixed down.

Moving beyond this, we found another building, a much larger one, with obvious multiple stories but plenty of locked doors. Sadly this building would remain closed off to us. But we did photograph everything that we could access.

Looking at this brickwork next to the drain pipe, I'm quite glad we didn't find a way upstairs...

But we did find an intriguing little window into some sort of cellar... And that in itself was particularly exciting. The stairs we saw down there led directly to a door we had found to be locked, and seeing that it led underground... such a shame, really.

But sure enough we found a way down there! Or rather, I did. My colleagues were a little on the short side, and so they were unable to make the stretch. It was delicious, because in many adventures prior to this, my taller body had led to considerable inconvenience, their smaller frames enabling ease of access and more footholds. Finally it was my time, and I found this to be one of the most amazing cellars I had ever been in. And I got down there by scrambling down a water wheel found behind a disused shed.

And of all my urban exploring adventures it remains one of my favourite finds to date/

On the way back into Oswestry, time was getting late but we decided we had time to scale a barbed wire fence and take some photographs at the old water works too... It was abandoned and rat infested, yet eerily clean.

Following this we returned to Oswestry, feeling pleased. It was a darn good haul, and nice to get out into the countryside and hunt down forgotten history.

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