Saturday, 21 June 2014

A bridge

There is a bridge in Shrewsbury that was recently covered in scaffolding. Were it climbed, I would be awarded a unique vantage point over the railway tracks- always an area of interest. In fact as an explorer, train stations and anything railway related infuriate me with their teasers. Look around your local train station- Shrewsbury is a small train station but even that has an abandoned platform hidden behind a wall, and a semi-hidden ladder upwards to places unknown. Yet it operates 24/7 and the fines are gigantic.

But I figured the view from this bridge would at least be something. And also curious to see the view was a professional photographer I'd recently met. Now, I would like to link her stuff to this page but she's asked me not to for legal reasons, and besides, it's vastly different to her usual style.
The scaffolding didn't allow us access to a view of the train tracks, but it was pretty maze-like and eerie and did allow us a vantage point over the river. A unique one since we were effectively on the underside of a railway bridge. This isn't just Shrewsbury from where you're not, it's Shrewsbury from where you'll never be.

Unless of course you're one of the builders or one of the people who left their dirty underwear up here after what I hope was a romantic evening.

Note about myself and the people I explore with- we don't force entry, we don't vandalize, we don't steal, and we don't explore residential properties.

Click a picture to see it big.

Ultimately the bridge proved to be a unique little find, with no long lasting exploring value. It's not much to boast about, as now when one walks along the river and points to where we were, they're pointing at thin air. This scaffolding was under the bridge. What this proves is that adventures are everywhere, and accessible for anyone. If you think your town is boring, you're wrong. You are.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Castle Street, Shrewsbury, and underground tunnels.

Shrewsbury is full of legends of underground tunnels and to believe all of them would mean Shrewsburys underground is just as expansive as the Paris catacombs.

I first became aware of this when a rumour floated my way about an underground tunnel that connected the train station, the castle and the library, and consequentially numerous other cellars and businesses on that street.

Shortly after while researching the Music Hall in the days up to exploring that, I became aware, through the Shropshire Star of an underground tunnel leading from the cellar of the music hall to a nuclear bunker beneath the square. But this proved to be a fabrication.

Yet another rumour showed up, of an underground tunnel leading from the bottom of Pride Hill to Shrewsbury Abbey. But there's a river in the way!
Am I really to believe that an underground tunnel created hundreds of years ago stretched under the river?

To the casual observer, it would seem that the underground tunnels are just a myth.
But as I kept exploring, the evidence piled up. The Rat Run, Barclays, Burger King, all revealed evidence of underground sections spreading out beyond the foundation of the actual building. But still, this doesn't mean they're art of any underground tunnel network.
I did further research and found that an underground tunnel DID exist in Shrewsbury, although its purpose was lost to history. Nobody knew what it was there for but it headed off towards the Square from the river, but was apparently bricked up several meters in.

Overwhelmed with curiosity, I went looking for this tunnel and in an odd twist, actually found something. And to my delight, it wasn't exactly where my source had said it was. So was the source slightly off, or did the source tunnel still exist out there and I'd found something new?
It seemed as though parts had been bricked up, and even collapsed, making it incredibly dangerous.

Doesn't this look intriguing? Well I have some unfortunate news- complete exploration of this area is impossible due to a big metal gate with a padlock. Where does it possibly lead? It seems to head in the direction of the square but who knows?

Abandoning this particular tunnel, I decided to follow yet another lead on Castle Street.
Castle Street allegedly had an underground system linking the castle to the library and to the train station, and that the tunnel remains can be found in various cellars throughout Castle Street. I was intrigued. Shrewsbury Castle dates back at least as far as the 1100s, whereas Shrewsbury Library was built in 1550 to be a boys school. Shrewsbury Train Station was built in 1848. So with the buildings origins centuries apart, when was this alleged tunnel constructed?

Interestingly about the Shrewsbury library, the graffiti of former school children still remains upstairs. And I have to say, it is a huge leap in quality from graffiti of today.

To my knowledge, no evidence of underground tunnels exist around the library itself, although it does have some rather funky chunks of history around it, and an odd sundial feature built into the wall, reminiscent of a similar one in Shrewsbury Square, that upon questioning, a heartbreaking majority of Shrewsbury folk admitted to not ever noticing.

Above- the sundials on the corners of the library. Below- the same thing on the building in the Square.

Back to Castle Street, I ended up poking around in the cellars beneath local shops, and to be delight I struck gold first time. The cellar of Castle Carpets was vast and cavernous, and quite obviously once part of something larger, with numerous archways with brickwork younger than the actual surrounding architecture. It was also filled with rolls of carpets, preventing further exploration.

The owner informed me of an identical basement beneath the Castle, and he was sure that these were connected at some point. Indeed, this particular cellar did spread under the pathway called the Dana, which runs directly between this place and the Castle. Castle Carpets itself is directly between the library and the castle.

Above- Library is the big building on the left, the Castle can be seen on the right. Castle Carpets is actually situated right in the middle. Therefore, if there is any truth to the rumour that the castle and library were once connected, the cellar of Castle Carpets provides the best evidence so far.
I decided to investigate the castle.

Most of the castle is open to the public, as a war museum. There is a lot behind the scenes though, and I was told that if one was to rip up the floorboards there probably would be some hidden secrets but unfortunately we're not allowed to do that. However I found that the Castles secrets would be far more than simple underground bits.

While I was there, I decided to check out Laura's Tower, an enigmatic building nearby.

The tower was built around 1790 by famous historic architect Thomas Telford, to be a summer house for Laura, the daughter of Sir William Pulteney. There is a stairway-path that loops up to the tower, and local Shrewsbury legend tells that the ghost of Laura can sometimes be seen and heard running down this slope while screaming like a banshee.

Of course, this can be disproved simply because this stairway didn't exist in Laura's time. It's modern. Not only that but by peering through the bushes, one can see where the stairs used to be, against the castle walls and they exist in a complete 90 degree angle from the stairs that are now there. If Laura's spirit was to run down these stairs, she'd be several feet above the ground!

The evidence of alterations to historic buildings always makes me sad, as I'll never see the building as it once was hundreds of years ago. But no such place makes me as sad as Laura's tower. Look at it now. Pretty, right?

But I've also seen old photographs of this place, and I have to say, the present day is a sad reflection of what once was.

The interior is two floors, and neither are connected, although they might once have been. Adding to the hints at alterations made to Laura's Tower over the years are the hints of two fireplaces in the tower itself, on two different floors, on opposite walls, yet not a single chimney visible from the exterior. I am told it did have a chimney once but I haven't found any photographs.

The bottom floor of Laura's Tower is used for storage now.

As you can see, some of the windows were bricked up, and the fireplace is just an outline on the wall. The upper floor was a lot prettier.

And check out the ceiling-

In addition, Laura's Tower had a huge Ladybird infestation, with the little insects literally everywhere.

And the view was okay too, even though it does gaze over the river at less-prettier areas of Shrewsbury.


 Turning my attention to the castle itself, I did indeed find it had a cellar. It wasn't identical to the one at Castle Carpets, as I was told. In fact it was much smaller. But what it had crammed into that small area was intriguing.

Old stairs, leading to up to nowhere, due to modern ceiling. But back in ancient times when one was heading down these stairs, where would they lead? To this tiny room?

That's right, there was the entrance to a passageway at the bottom of these stairs, and looking at it, the brick work at the end is definitely more recent than the surrounding stone. The ceiling itself was modern and belonging to the floor above, so presumably the original was higher up to make this passageway walkable. Who knew what lay beyond that fascinating brick wall?

Also in the cellar was a few other features including an old door, presumably belonging to the entrance to the tunnel.

Further exploration of the castle revealed more curiosities. A vast amount of it is no longer open to the public, and a lot, including an entire floor containing bedrooms, had been removed.
A lot of what was accessible was still used for storage but even looking beyond that was a whole heap of history, including unfinished modifications.

In particular, this lump of rock was intriguing. It was apparently part of a statue but nobody knows what statue, or where the rest of it is. 

Here above one stairway is evidence of another- the floor above. In old days it would have been possible to get to this staircase, but not here. Access had long since gone and because the building as a historic site is protected, nobody is allowed to make a way of getting there.

But in the towers, there was rooftop access, and the view was amazing.

I never noticed that the protruding triangular piece of the castle walls was actually part of the old town walls, of which only fragments remain due to Shrewsbury not being a medieval fortress as it was when the castle was built. The view from the top gave me a unique vantage point though. The archway over the footpath is the only part of the town wall still remaining in this part of town.

A little bit of leaning and I could see into the beer garden at The Vaults too.

And to my delight I finally uncovered some truth. Apparently a "H" shaped tunnel connecting the library, castle and train station was planned in the 1920s but closed up before completion and its purpose is lost to history.
As for the cellar of Castle Carpets? It might be part of that, or it might be a 1940s bomb shelter. Apparently one of those existed on Castle Street too.

In the 1940s there were some houses on the castle grounds, which were demolished, and their cellars converted into a bomb shelter, whose entrance can still be seen bricked up next to a bench and a bin. Shropshire council want to do something with it but don't know if it's been filled in, or just bricked up, and are arguing over that rather than doing anything. Allegedly someone did try to destroy one of the bricks and shine a light inside but was arrested due to the historic value, but this is right next to Castle Carpets so it would make sense if it was connected.

We might never know.