Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Return to Calcott Hall

Another day, another giggle at the irony that the sound of a house settling is actually the most unsettling sound a house can make. We're talking today about Calcott Hall.

I was joined on my return here by the tree surgeon, and by a shapeshifting member of the Illuminati, in frog form. They kinda snuck up on us. In fact they weren't even invited. But understand, you can't just tell the Illuminati to go away. I did, however, ask that it put a good word in for me with Margaret Thatchers grand daughter.

Calcott Hall was previously documented on this blog back in the days when I had the mobile phone, and not my current camera. So I'm not going to bother with the many out buildings, because if you've seen one barn, you've seen them all. I doubt Calcott Halls have changed that much. It was the main building we wanted to get into, and we spent a good deal of our time sneaking around to find a way in.

It's a place of mystery. The owner, a lady with a red dress, allegedly died in the 1970s and the place was left as an eerie time capsule of the past, until the newspapers ran a story on it, sensationalising it with the placement of a red dress, and naming the house "Red Dress Manor."
Thanks to the media attention, a plethora of explorers and curious sightseers descended on Shropshire to check out Calcott Hall, and it's been pillaged, vandalized and re-arranged. But it still retains a very creepy vibe. And this is saying something, given the number of abandoned places I've been to. This is one of the few places I feel like I'm truly tresspassing, because it feels like a home.

Due to its fame, the neighbours are very defensive of the place, eager to keep people out. I've heard stories of people who were caught and arrested, and indeed, Tree Surgeon and I were stopped and questioned by a suspicious passerby. I provided my fast talk in an eccentrified tone. Take note- If someone wants to have a sensible conversation with you and you act like a weirdo, they generally want the conversation to be over as soon as possible. It's an excellent tactic for avoiding situations that I will use again and again. Nevertheless, in spite of accepting what I said and quickly ducking out of conversation, our guard neighbour continued to lurk, and we had to get creative with our entry.

And then of course there were bovine! Horned bovine!
Now, a common myth is that only bulls have horns. This is false. Cows can have horns too. But bulls are more likely to charge, so we had to be careful. The bovine were between us and the house, and we had to get close enough to ascertain their gender, while still maintaining a safe distance should they choose to impail us on their horns.
Luckily they were female and we pressed on...

There was one out building I had to snap, purely because I didn't last time...

But getting into the house was the main priority. Lurking around the out buildings was too risky, what with the lurking neighbours. The cows were also our enemy, because even though they did not charge, they reacted to us, and watched us throughout. Anyone watching the cows would figure out that we were scurrying around.

I found that the entire internal layout of Calcott Hall had been altered since my visit in February. The door was now barricaded but to preserve the means of entry, we'll start there anyway. Tree Surgeon said to me "Who puts a TV in the middle of a hallway?" to which I replied "Photographers."

 And yes, the layout did seem to have been changed purely to make things photogenic for certain tastes, as if the place wasn't eerie enough as it is!

There are two front lounges, each in a pretty poor state, but still displaying the former refinery of the place.

Somehow these two lounges were more decayed than a third, smaller lounge area that was just creepy in its ever-changing but oddly pristine layout.

The kitchen had also been re-arranged and was much less cluttered. Like Vanity House, the sewiung machine had been stolen.

Is there a mysterious Shropshire Sewing Machine Burglar?

There's a very cluttered pantry just beyond that.

Beyond this is the mysterious back room, which appears to have been used to treat animals at some point. It's very dark and grim back there and looks like the set of a horror movie.

To add to the horror movie setting, the cellar can be accessed through this backroom.

Oddly enough, I have a theory based on the architecture that quite possibly the backroom was not part of the original house layout, but was added as an extension later on. Of course, this doesn't mean it's not horribly old, given that Calcott Hall was built in 1725. Above the backroom are the bathrooms, and prior to adequate flushing mechanisms, the toilet facilities would have been in outbuildings.
So it seems completely feasable to me that this little back room and the above bathrooms could have been added later on. This would have meant the cellar was accessible via the exterior of the building, but given the layout of the cellar it also seems completely feasable to me that there may have been another way up that would have been taken out when the extension was built.

But of course, I'm just speculating.

Upstairs in Calcott Hall, things are still creepy.

There  are three bathrooms, the largest of which had another set of stairs leading down into the room below. But it didn't seem at all safe to be in.

Some razors hung in a bag on the bathroom door.

Onto the bedrooms...

The bedrooms are pretty trashed, and nature is clawing its way back in. I don't know how many people lived here by the time it was abandoned, but it had five bedrooms and must have been lived in by a large family originally.

In my opinion, the creepiest bedroom is the one that seems to have once belonged to two girls. There were two beds, items of clothing and bits of school uniform, and a load of old schoolbooks.

One could potentially spend a whole day flicking through these old books and sorting out their belongings that are strewn everywhere. And this is the part of abandoned houses that really gets to me. Here we have an entire chunk of someones life immortalized in this wreckage. But where are they now? Allegedly it was a lady with a red dress who lived here and died, leaving the place abandoned. But clearly there was an entire family here once.

This document is stamped 1961. 

Another bedroom had a double bed, and there was a very telling sight here. The way the torn curtain had been pinned back to the dressing table meant that anyone in this room was visible from the road. It was far too deliberate, a clever plan that the guard neighbours and their bovine companions.

The room in which the red dress was allegedly found is the smallest bedroom in the building, with only a single bed. And allegedly the lady in the red dress was the home owner, the big cheese and the grand poohbah of Red Dress Manager slept here, rather than in the larger bedrooms with double beds. It's just another reason why I think that the red dress hype was largely fictionalized. But why was it so? I happen to find more fascination in the house as a whole than the media did. Calcott Hall needs no sensationalisation. It is amazing.

On my last visit the dolls house set was on the floor in the attic and I'm pretty happy someone brought it all down from there and put it on display where everyone could see it.Because not everybody is going to want to go to the attic...

Here's the famous wardrobe, missing its famous red dress. 

Above us was the attic, which is getting increasingly more dangerous.

The attic floor was very unsafe and I did have a minor scare when my foot almost went right through a floorboard. It is here that the true damage and decay to Calcott Hall can be seen. The attic is on the brink of total collapse and will someday be impossible to get to.

There was quite the clutter of old games and comics up here. 

As you can see, there is rooftop access but there was no way I was going to tempt it, what with the guard neighbours.
And the fact that I'd probably die.

There is an upper attic that I glanced at...

And that was Calcott Hall, ready to see if another winter won't reduce it to rubble.

I love this place!

Sure, it's authenticity is brought to question by a plethora of intruders and visitors since the media coverage exposed it to the world, and a lot of stuff has been pillaged, and what hasn't been stolen has been rearranged countless times, but the atmosphere is still there! It still feels like a home. It still has the eerie sad quality of a home simply left and abandoned.

In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed all the sneaking and evasion that went into this re-adventure of Calcott Hall, since I started all this exploring by rooftopping in plain sight in Shrewsbury. The fear of getting caught is far less prevalent when exploring locations out in rural Shropshire.

And of course I love the mystery behind Calcott Hall, although later I recieved a testimony from someone from the area who wanted to clarify a few matters, what with the Daily Mail sensationalising the place with their silly article on "Red Dress Manor" and alerting the world to an abandoned home ripe for plundering. This contact sent the information to me via another, so it reads like it's speaking to someone who isn't me. I don't, to my knowledge, have an Aunt Clo.
It says-

"'When we moved there in 1988, Calcott was in much the same condition as it is now, albeit with not so many broken windows (but there was a tree growing through the front porch into the house). I assume the woman in red the 'writer' talks about was the mother, as there was a brother and sister living there - both middle aged and, shall we say, 'naive' rather than brick short of the pile. The son's name was Bill and your aunt Clo thinks his sister's was Louise. The locals told us they had enjoyed a very privileged childhood - old fashioned, but everything money could buy. They were driven around in a pony carriage, clad in velvet suits. Both parents died within a short time of each other, meaning the two siblings were left with absolutely no clue as to how to run the farm; it just fell into disrepair. Both had diabetes - untreated despite my pleas to see a doctor regularly and diet, etc. They had a hoard of poor cats with everything from cat 'flu to cat AIDS, which they gave to one of ours as they were only just down the lane from The Elms. The first Christmas after we bought The Elms, I put a card through their door (literally, as it never closed! ha ha) and Bill came up to bring us one in return - dressed in his Sunday best, all shiny with hat in hand. Bless him! They lived more or less in the back kitchen. She died first, not long after we sold the place. The brother didn't tell anyone for couple of days. It was so very sad. He eventually lost a leg with the diabetes, went into a home and that's the last I heard. Neither sibling married and I've no idea who legally owns it now. Maybe it's been put in Chancery, but it's a wicked shame. People thought we'd go back and do it up but it had already gone too far downhill. there was a little turret on top of the house, where the original owner used to watch his workers and check where they were in the fields! I think part of it flooded as it's right by the river (I know the yard did). The siblings were certainly there until the mid '90s, so all this crap about the 'woman in Red' who died in the '70s and was the last there is rubbish -- as any local would have told him.' 

I personally love the way this person writes. I love hearing from my readers about places of mystery so if you do have any information about anywhere featured at Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not, please get in touch. I had long suspected that the red dress had been used to sensationalise the place for the media, and since it was found in a smaller bedroom and not the larger master bedroom, it made no sense that it would belong to someone living there alone. I went back over some of the letters I had photographed for names, to find any evidence that Bill and Louise did live there. Keeping in mind that Louise may not actually be the girls name. The "Mr W.T Jones" that appears on a letter dated 1968 could easily be the father of the two.
There was "T.E Jones" on a letter dated 1938. One of the school books was named W.T Jones, but lets face it, if the same family had it as far back as 1938, there could indeed be a plethora of personal belongings dating back over several lives and nothing found there necessarily has to be recent. The school books for Welshpool Girls Grammar School correspond with the picture in the lounge of all the students, but that is dated 1952. A diary entry dated 1950 also mentions attending this school.

But I was starting to think I'd not find anything recent enough to be attributed to Bill and Louise. But then I found amongst my photos a schoolbook with William Jones on the front. And next to that, Billy Jones. Dated in the 1980s. Jackpot. Back in the day, and because the English language is weird, William was commonly shortened to Bill. There was also an out-of-place Mary Rogers. Hmm.
But without going back and sifting through it all personally, I can't elaborate any more on the subject. But what little evidence I do have does more to support my contacts story than contradict it, and this is the story that makes the most sense so far, so I'm happy. Thank you.

If anyone has any additional information regarding Calcott Hall, or anywhere else featured on this blog, please get in touch. And you can also follow me on Twitter for regular updates and Instagram for an image feed. And if you share a link to this blog I will love you forever.

Thanks for reading! Stay awesome!

1 comment:

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