Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Knights Templar Caves

 Edit from 2017- Since this post, my readers kindly donated money for me to get an actual camera, so click here for my better photo quality visit.

Out in the wildnerness of South Shropshire, we made a startling discovery.

Decent Graffiti!

I've lived in Shropshire for most of my life and the majority of wall scribbling has been idiotic name tagging. But this is actually artistic. It's a shame it's out in the middle of nowhere where few people will see it. But that wasn't why we were here.
We were on the trail of a quiet, inconspicuous hole in the ground that to the casual observer looks like a slightly large badger set, which is probably exactly what the people who dug it intended.

This was allegedly dug in the 17th Century by followers of the Knights Templar in order to have a secret place to worship. It's also been described as a grotto, and rumour has it a land owner hid his slaves down there when slavery became outlawed. During the 1980s it was apparently used as a worshiping place for a black magic cult. 

According to the local media, the land owners then found the place completely vandalized and full of alcohol bottles, and discarded robes, which some cult members with their faces painted red later came to retrieve. The owners then installed CCTV and sealed the entrance.

Of course, the lack of CCTV and the blatantly open entrance would indicate that the media is telling porkies again, and that would indicate that the story of this caves origins and subsequent mis-use at the hands of red faced robed cult worshippers is dubious too, no doubt designed to hype it up.

But regardless, lets take a look inside... (please remember, we don't vandalize, steal, or force entry.)

Wow. Of course I might be wrong with my doubts. A lot of effort went into making this place, thats for sure. It was very cavernous, and completely pitch black. The candles were a modern addition placed there by previous visitors, although the ledges in the walls seemed purpose built for candle placement, which would of course be the only means of lighting this place before electricity. And while we were here, something delightful happened- other people also came to see the cave! This was a family of five, the father of which said that he'd come here when he was younger. And we had a delightful moment of mutual fright as we heard their voices outside the cave and panicked, and they heard us inside the cave and similarly panicked.

But we got along, and set about lighting the candles just to get the full experience, and also to help us see!

Here is an Easter Island style head carved into a pillar, with a stone placed in its mouth. 

One of the others accidentally photobombed this but as you can see my camera had trouble focusing in the darkness, and this is actually the best photo of this passageway.

This face seems a lot more amateur than the rest of the caves design and was likely put there by visitors at a later date.

This eye wall sculpt is particularly nice.

As you can see, the place has fallen victim to all kinds of vandalism and so it can be hard to discern what was originally carved into these walls and what was added later.


We joked that this one might be a self portrait of the mysterious "Steve."

Here's a little arachnid resident of the cave. The cave was actually full of spiders, leading us to joke about it being a shrine to the Spider God.

Getting onto some of the more notable  features of the cave, this silver splodge with circular indentations really caught our attention, as the circles are completely smooth, and this made us suspect that at some point in the past it may have been used to hold stones in various rituals, perhaps even rune stones. Rune stones are frequently laid out in formation during the readings, and this being on eye level would provide an adequate place for rune stones to be placed since the low light would make placing them flat on the ground in such a confined space tedious. What I didn't notice at the time was the K-shaped symbol above it. Luckily, I also snapped a shot from a little further back so we can see it better.

At the furthermost point of the cave was a circular chamber with a single chair opposite the chamber entrance. I found it strange that a place where people gathered in numbers would have only one seat, but for religious ceremonies it could possibly be for the leader or maybe even a percieved deity.

This four leaf clover carving was prevailant throughout the complex, which to me suggests it's symbolic of something. Of course, since numerous cults have apparently used this for various different purposes, this could mean anything to some and nothing to others.I've been unable to find any significance behind it.

The real beauty is coming up. 


This is apparently a sacrificial stone, and would have been the focal point of many a ceremony or ritual. It was right next to the runestone layout.

I'm actually really disappointed by how badly the camera focused on this one, as there is something there between the two pillars. But we took this shortly before departing and I stupidly didn't check the camera. But there appears to be a symbol on the wall of three circles surrounded by a faint ring above further indentations reminiscent of a fireplace.

And again, this was the circular cavern, but my camera didn't focus. Luckily there isn't much being missed by the lack of focus on this particular piece. 

But in conclusion, only the makers could possibly know what the purpose of this cavern was. While I'm definitely inclined to believe it was used for some religious ritual purposes, I have no doubt that the media over hyped the story. The cavern itself has a very calming atmosphere, which is exactly the opposite of what you'd expect from any places of negative intent such as, for example, devil worshipping. Its origins are perhaps more questionable than the usage, because while sacrificial stones are unquestionably indicative of rituals, the question remains, who put it here?

Who went through all that effort to dig this place? Was it really followers of the Knights Templar? Or something else entirely?
And what of even further implications? If this place is hidden in a discreet hole in the ground in the middle of woodland, only a few miles from where I live, how many others are out there, centuries old and waiting for discovery?
If anyone out there knows any significance behind the symbols, particularly the four leaf clover, please get in touch.
I will be returning when I have a better camera, thats for sure.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Calcott Hall

Before we get to the photographs, I want to just say a few things. Firstly, in January of this year a friend of mine who took a very keen interest in my adventures passed away. She found what I do to be so interesting that she actually interviewed me for a publication, although it was really more of a "come over for coffee and excuse me while I write down what you say" than an interview. And I don't know if there's a connection, but around the same time as the publication I was told to check the view count on this blog, because aparently it had been linked several times on Facebook by people I didn't know. So I checked the view count, and spat out my coffee. At the time it was around 6000+ and that was breathtaking enough, but over the following months it passed the 13,000 mark.

It's quite amazing that over 13,000 people have read this blog. I can't even name 100 friends. I love the fact that the blog has reached these heights, and this popularity no doubt contributes to the many wonderful people here in Shrewsbury allowing me access to their underground tunnels, and I hope that having such a large number of readers helps your businesses out when I talk about how lovely you all are here on the blog. It really makes it worthwhile. I've been doing this lawfully ambiguous hobby for around five years now, and the rules I go by- don't vandalize, don't steal, don't disclose means of access, and never force entry- have contributed to the success of the blog. If I was breaking in and smashing things you'd all hate me right? And rightfully so. I do get a lot of people asking me how I've gotten to the places I've gotten to, but I've also had horrible incidents where the minute people get off the grid they start pissing up walls and smashing windows, and that is not only being disrespectful to the location, but also to me. Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints, and all that.

So I want to say that I'm seriously considering publishing "Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not" as an actual book, which I would dedicate to my departed friend who gave me that support and boost. And I'd also like to thank everyone who has ever said something nice about this blog, expressed an interest and continues to read. And a massive apology to those who request meet ups to see some of these underground tunnels. Some of you definitely have pure intentions, and it sucks to have to keep these experiences to myself.

But today I have a real treat. Shropshire happens to be the home of a few places of urban exploring fame, and lately I've been treking out to find them. This blog has never had anything quite like this place.

The place is Calcott Hall, better known as Red Dress Manor after the media ran a story on it and made note that the deceased owner of the building was pictured all over the place wearing a red dress that was also hung up in the wardrobe.

But upon inspection, this dress and any photos of it, are absent. But thats okay. The dress is really not what makes Calcott Hall so amazing. Part of me even suspects its presence here may have been faked to build hype for the place, but there may be people out there who disagree. Calcott Hall has been abandoned for decades due to the owners allegedly dying. The interior seems to have been ransacked multiple times over the years, but it still remains an eerie museum of someones life. It still retains that homely vibe. In fact, after five years of exploring, this was the first time I've ever felt like I'm really tresspassing. This was someones home, and to see it as it is now is actually quite sad.

But tomorrow it could get ransacked again or burned to the ground, and at some point in the future it will most certainly collapse on itself, so I took my time and snapped it all. I actually made the trip twice because my phone ran out of battery and I couldn't photograph it all in one visit.

But enough prattling. Here's Calcott Hall!

(Click a picture to see it big, and remember, we don't force access, vandalize, or steal.)

On the outside, this place looks to be a lot sturdier than it actually is. Some of the floorboards are on the way out, primarily on the bathroom, which we suspect may actually be a more recent addition to an older building. Looking at it from the side, one can see that originally this was a square building but that a smaller part was added on later. This part also has more modern light switches on the interior, and contains the bathrooms and toilet. Of course, when the house was first built in 1725, there would have been a separate out house rather than a bathroom on the actual building. 

Here you can see that there was a lower back entrance, judging by the archway, which is of course indicative of changes to the buildings layout over the years.

But as you can see, nature is slowly taking Calcott Hall back. 

Outside were a few log sheds, which had wheels on the back so that they could be moved around.

But we'll come back to the exterior. Calcott Hall was a dairy farm so there was plenty to explore. But knowing that we were visibly trespassing as long as we were outdoors, we decided to save the barns for last, and entered the actual building.

From this hallway there were doors left and right, and also the continuation of the hallway ahead of us. Already we were spoiled for choice.


This was one of the messiest rooms, and I trod very carefully while in here, due to not being able to see the quality of the floorboards, and suspecting that the place might have a cellar just waiting for me to fall into. It seems that someone once set fire to the armchair.



While it's not obvious from the pictures due to the light streaming in from the window, this room is about to collapse. There are massive gaps in the floorboards by the window, where nature reaches inside the building. The red carpet and walls makes it easy to imagine what this room used to look like. There is a white rose above the fireplace, which is a lovely added touch.

Back in the hallway we found even more furniture, and some coats hanging up. Sadly those pictures were abysmal, but the coats are slightly visible here.

But then we found one of the eeriest rooms in the whole place.


There were some stairs heading upwards from the hallway, and a second set of stairs accessible via the kitchen, but I'm going to focus on the downstairs first.



On the backdoor of the building, which was boarded up, one could still see the sign that somebody once put up in a futile attempt to keep people away, and nearby was a darkened room, the contents of which seemed very much work related. There were syringes in here but going by the labels on nearby bottles, these were used for vetinary purposes.

There were two lots of stairs in this room- one lot going upwards as a bizarre back entrance to the bathroom, and the other going downwards to the cellar.


The cellar had the most stable flooring in the entire building, but that didn't make it any safer because all of the unstable flooring was now directly over our heads. It was quite expansive down there, with multiple rooms, some of which were in complete darkness. I have no idea whats in the barrels down there, but on the lids of one was a massive hive of spider egg sacks, each egg sack filled with hundreds of unborn bundles of eight-legged joy. So any arachnophobic explorers out there may want to avoid Calcott Halls cellar. I personally didn't want to leave.

But we still had the upstairs to explore...

As one goes up through Callcott Hall the floors become progressively more unsteady. There were five bedrooms up ahead though, which really just adds to the mystery of the owners. Did they all just die? Are some still out there somewhere? Why is this place so abandoned?

The first bedroom had a double bed, situated beneath a light switch pull cord, while another clearly belonged to children, another was completely trashed, and the remaining two were actually connected in such a way that one could only get to one by going through the other, which is a peculiarity that should be looked into. The connecting bedroom was the famous red dress room, missing its famous red dress. It clearly belonged to a female, and yet the double bed in the light cord room would suggest that the home owners stayed there, which kind of kicks dirt on the story that the red dress lady was the owner. Maybe she was a grandmother, and her married offspring, and grandchildren, stayed in the other rooms. But that still leads to some mystery concerning the connected bedroom. Who wants a bedroom where someone has to routinely come through to get to their own bedroom?


I thought the toy blocks were one of the rooms coolest features, also one of the saddest, indicative that I was standing in the remains of someones family. The suitcases present on the bed are also odd. It indicates that someone was about to pack, but then chose not to.
But then we are exploring somewhere thats been heavily explored for several decades so it's impossible to make assumptions of the original owners based on the layout of their posessions.


This room had two beds, and was littered with old school books and writings.

Remember when hand cream only cost 33p? Me neither!

Amongst the paper we found old school books, and letters, indicating basic child levels of education. These also offered insights into the owners, due to dates and names.


This bedroom had a bed frame, and a load of litter. Amongst which I found a single red cushion.
Let's just call the place Red Cushion Manor!


This is the room in which the famous red dress was photographed. It wasn't here, and has either been stolen or was always just placed here for publicity when the media ran their story. But in the week between my two visits of Calcott Hall, a red scarve found its way onto the wardrobe door- the only indicator that someone had been here since my first exploration.


Only through the "red dress bedroom" could one access the connecting room, which was strewn with old clothing, none of which was the famous red dress.

Ah, there we go. We can just name the place Red Lampshade Manor.


The attics floorboards were seriously derelict. In fact, my friends spent considerably less time up there than I did, due to my addiction to the adventure. I'd never be able to leave without being sure I'd seen all that I could. Often those I explore with take on the role of my common sense. I seem to have a lot of luck instead of an actual survival instinct. But abandoned and unsafe as it was, the attic was not without its treasures.

 Hmm... with the floor so unsafe, it's kinda worrying that the attic is full of potential containers for accumulated rainwater. Assuming rain water can get in. 

Which it can! Turns out the roof is falling apart too.

My favourite feature of the attic was definitely this dollhouse furniture set, collected here with some glasses.

But what's this? A rickety stairway to an even higher point? Well I'd already come this far, so against my better judgement I decided that a little more danger wasn't so bad.

As you can see, there wasn't much, but there was a view from the roof of the surrounding countryside.


We checked the bathrooms out on the way down. As I mentioned, we suspected this was originally an added extension, due to the layout, and the presence of more modern lightswitches. The door to the bathroom area was on the main stairs, but it also had a second stairway heading down towards the kitchen/backdoor area. The largest bathroom was also impossible at first to enter due to the floorboards rotting away, but a third stairway from the syringe room gave us access.

But that's about it for the main building. However, there was still a lot waiting for us outside.

The archways are indicative that these may have been stables at some point.

As you can see, some of the barns are safer than others. The rubble barn has an entire metal ladder lying across the floor where it collapsed. But I did find some rotting stairs and I was 100% alone in my urge to go up them.

I didn't venture too far around the upstairs but I did photograph some of the things that had been left up there.

Back down on stable ground, we found something I've never actually found while urban exploring before- a corpse.

I have no idea what animal this belonged to, but we suspect it was either a calf or a large dog.

One final building containeda few more bits and bobs.

And beyond the barns there was little else worth poking around.

But to sumarize, the famous Red Lampshade Manor, or Calcott Hall as it was originally called, is a wonderful place to visit. But it's very temporary, in spite of its tenacity. Nature is slowly tearing it down, and the fact that some visitors can't just leave things as they are means that it may never be as awesome as it is now. I wish I'd explored it years ago, purely because I know that even now it's not as awesome as it was then.

It's a place of mystery and intrigue. I really would like to know what happened to the family that lived here that caused them to just leave everything in a way similar to the famous Mary Celeste. Had the newspapers not ran a story on this place years ago and gone on about the dress that isn't there, maybe it never would have risen to such fame, which always raises the question of how many other places like this are out there? Geographically this place is practically on my doorstep, but hidden in the countryside. It's a museum of an entire life that is now over, and definitely the eeriest and saddest place I've ever explored.