Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The view from School Gardens

(DISCLAIMER: As an overall nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence 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. )

People are like nipples. Some of them make a pretty good point!

A lot of people, upon discovering that I have a developmental disorder called Dyspraxia, make the good point that climbing up buildings is perhaps the wrong sport for me. For those of you who don't know, dyspraxia typically unleashes its wrath on my physical co-ordination, balance, dexterity, rhythm, and all that. So when I dance it looks more like I'm having a tonic clonic seizure, and it takes me a year to tie a tie. Dyspraxia also has the added effect of making my train of thought somewhat polyrailed. This isn't an issue for me, but it can be frustrating for others.

In regards to climbing buildings dyspraxia is surprisingly not usually that much of an issue. While someone with perfect balance might feel out of their comfort zone, it doesn't matter to me because even when my feet are flat on the ground, I'm still off balance. So the physical comfort zone just isn't there.
But still, there are a few places that I do struggle with, often the climbs that require some degree of dexterity. The Rat Run, the flag tower and the KFC roof spring to mind instantly. I've been to these places hundreds of times and each time by body feels like it's doing it for the first time. But I've blogged about these places. There's another chunk of rooftop territory that is always a brand new challenge, and that's the School Gardens rooftops.

School Gardens is a little stretch of road that leads from Castle Street to the library, and provides wheelchair access to the library too, since the direct route to the library from Castle Street is up some stairs.

There is no actual school here. The name probably derives from the library, which was a school back in the day. There are apparently underground jail cells, but so far I've not seen any and I don't know why they'd be here. Victorian schools were brutal by todays standards but they weren't that bad!

Upon scaling these buildings, my dyspraxia decided to playfully remind me of its existence and I lost balance for no apparent reason, in spite of standing reasonably still on my perch. But I did not fall! I sure ripped my shoes to shreds on the tile surfing, but otherwise I came out unharmed, the adventure continues and here are the photos!

We start with this shot of the library, with Shrewsburys shrine to our Lord and Master, Charlie D who died for our sins, or something like that. Back when this place was a school, the area that contained the Darwin statue was a playground and the pointy roofed bit at the end, on the castle side of the librarys tower, you might notice clashes with rest of the librarys design, and that's because it was the schools chapel. One wonders how Darwin would feel knowing that there's a statue in front of his former school. The people of Shrewsbury are patiently awaiting the second coming of Charles and as such they want to give him a warm welcome by depicting him seated on a throne with his books, in front of the very place he recieved his early education. This was cause for great debate prior to the statues construction. Some people wanted to depict him clutching his chest in the midst of a heart attack, as this was the cause of his death. However it was then pointed out that if we truly want a second coming, then it's probably quite silly to make a holy icon of our messiah suffering the very thing which ended his life. We in Shrewsbury want our saviours to feel welcome, after all!

From a lower vantage point, one can see the library, not in its entirety, what with surrounding houses, but with that chimney out of the way we can see the castle and Castle Carpets in the background.

I mean, sorry for repetition, but I couldn't decide which of these two photos I should put on the blog. One has the castle in it, but fails to catch the entirety of the library, and the other has the whole library but not the castle, so here's both pictures.

Worth mentioning, since people love it, beneath Castle Carpets is some really nifty evidence of underground tunnels beneath Castle Street, possibly having connected to the castle itself at some point. The castle does have some stairs to nowhere. That is, their destination has been blocked off but the stairs remain, and they turn a sharp left underground down a passage that is bricked up, but that's all there is there. And just visible in this picture on the right hand side (click to see it big) is a bench on the side of the street. Look closely at the wall behind it and you'll see a bricked up doorway. This used to be a bomb shelter during World War II.

I'm not 100% happy with these photos, but it's very hard to mount a tripod on slanted tiles. I'm very happy to say that my reader donations have recently been used to get a gorilla-pod. That's a small tripod with bendy legs, and it's already coming in useful. But I climbed School Gardens before I got this, and so I had to lug a full sized tripod up here with me.

 Here's a view of the castle gardens, which the air raid shelter goes beneath.

 Above is a house that I explored when it was derelict a few years ago. I did blog about it but I only had a mobile phone to take pictures of back then. But still, it's an excellent testament to how far this blog has come, thanks to reader donations.

 Here we have St Nics church. It's actually now a cafe, bar and spa, but back in 1880 was a presbyterian chapel with a seating capacity of 500 people. Although I have yet to actually visit. The photo is a little fat around the middle because it's actually a panorama. I couldn't get the entire building in one shot!

I love this tower, although I've never been able to climb up to it. I didn't initially know anything about this building, but it has this interesting plaque on the wall, above ground level and obscured by a ledge. I could conceivably go and sit next to it and probably will do if I can establish that those aren't flats.

 The plagues crest depicts two hands holding in a heart, and reads "This building stands on the site of Thornes Hall, a mansion erected about 1620 by Francis Thornes, an ardent supporter of the king during the civil war. Members of the Thornes family sat in parliament and were bailiffs or mayors of Shrewsbury many times between 1357 and 1675."

Finally, we have a couple shots up and down Castle Street, pointing up towards the town centre, and Barclays, Waitrose and the more commonly accessed rooftops. 

 And that's School Gardens. There isn't much but it's a very awesome little climb, a very real physical challenge and it does provide a nice view.

I might return up there now that I have a gorilla-pod to see if I can get better images.
 But on the subject of the gorilla-pod, thank you to everyone who did donate. I do have a backlog of blogs but gorilla-pod adventures are on the horizon, and if anyone can spare pennies, please click the donate button on the top corner. All donations will go to equipment for the blog. If all my readers donated like 50p, I'd end up with several hundred pounds, which is an amazing thing to be able to say, but obviously, no pressure. Just follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and compliment people. (Bonus points if you get a hug.)

Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Underground tunnels at The Cave

I've blogged about underground tunnels in Shrewsbury before. I even wrote about the rumours of them in blog posts before I had anything conclusive to go by, and recieved a lot of criticism stating that it was all a myth and a stupid thing to want to research, and to be fair, they had a point. I don't know why it fascinated me like it did.

But then I produced photographs of subterranean chunks of Shrewsbury that spanned beneath numerous streets and local businesses that claimed to not have cellars, wrote several unbelievably popular blog posts on the subject, and then suddenly the criticism transformed into people getting in touch with leads, and by far the coolest correspondence with someone who saw me talk about underground tunnels on Facebook and then messaged me saying "Here's a website that knows a lot about them", linking me to my own blog!
And then finally I started getting questions, as if I was some kind of authority on the subject.

I'm not, by the way. Although that is flattering. I don't actually have much knowledge of the architectural history of Shrewsbury. I have, however, an unbelievably detailed map of Shrewsbury from 1880, and because I'm somewhat addicted and obsessed I've also (on modern maps) mapped out locations of known tunnel entrances, and their trajectories prior to the inevitable bricked up doorway, which has aided me in finding more.
But I stress, so much of this is still speculation. Short of a sledgehammer spree beneath the streets of Shrewsbury, it will probably always be speculation.

I've got conflicting opinions. Some of the rumours are pretty preposterous. But on the other hand, I've scurried around these things personally, and people don't build doorways to nowhere. Although in Shrewsbury even walking around above ground, you'll see plenty of those. But they all went somewhere once! And if we look back at the Prince Rupert Hotel, that cellar with its doorways pointing all over the place wasn't uncovered until they ripped up some floorboards in 2001. So what else is out there?

So far I'm not 100% convinced that there's an expansive sprawling network beneath Shrewsbury, but I'm fairly certain there are two smaller networks, one being the Abbey and the other being around the square. Regarding the Abbey, I've got three examples of evidence, although I've yet to compile it all into a blog post (But I will). Regarding the ones around the square, I'll get to that. But first I want to talk about a local shop that I love, called The Cave.

The Cave started out in Ludlow in 2010 as a place called "Realm to Realm" but had moved to Milk Street in Shrewsbury by the time I discovered it while heading down there to check out a cafe called C Sons, which I heard had an underground tunnel pointing right at St Julians church. When I got there, I found that the tunnel had been bricked up, although I still enjoyed a coffee in their very lovely garden before checking out The Cave next door. The Cave is a store for the more spiritually inclined. Inside you'll find books, crystals, incense, soaps, jewelry, clothes, among much, much more. It's very much a world I've only really paddled in, but keep meaning to go back to for a headfirst dive. The shop smelled nice, and they made me chuckle with a playful sign hanging on the display reading "Thieves will be cursed."

More recently, The Cave has moved from Milk Street onto High Street. That's the one that connects Wyle Cop to the Square. I decided recently to go and check out the new store, and found that it also has a subterranean relaxation chamber!

Now, I'm no expert in these sorts of things, so I don't know the symbolism behind the pyramid or the floor. My sister was very spiritually inclined back in the day. I tried to follow but things didn't work out. My Mother was occasionally into matters of the post-physical universe but only if other people were and she wanted to 1up them by claming that she was more into it than them, and even then it tended to be along the lines of claiming to be reincarnated from whichever famous person she was a fan of at the time. One only needs to read about my milk phobia to understand that the mind of the womb bearer isn't the most healthy. It wasn't the sort of mind I wanted galloping through my interests in this topic, and so I dumbed those interests down, and as events progressed I stopped venturing into that world entirey.

But then, one only needs an open mind to step into the world that The Cave lives in, and the staff are very inviting. This relaxation pyramid sure looks inviting too. I haven't actually tried it. I'm sure even for the non-spiritually inclined, this chair could really be a hit. Especially that lucky minority who get ASMR (triggerable Scalp Tingles for no apparent reason, it's very relaxing).

To my delight, the cellar was very expansive, and the staff at The Cave have really made something out of it. There wasn't an archway that wasn't spoken for. And this place was sure not lacking in archways. Almost immediately on descent I spotted a huge bust of Hermes in what was clearly once a doorway.

Now, this is actually pretty far from the actual street, so as far as I'm concerned, while this is clearly a doorway, all it's really proof of is that The Cave and the shop next door used to be connected via cellar.

The Cave, having been opened only recently at this spot, doesn't yet show up on Google Street View. Street view was last updated in October 2015, and as such shows The Cave as a big empty building covered in scaffolding that I didn't climb at the time because I was pretty sure it's all flats above it, and I know I'd be pissed off if my block of flats was covered in scaffolding and I was chilling in my lounge when some weirdo climbed past my window, so I don't do it to other people. Although I did do it to my neighbours when my own block of flats was wrapped in scaffolding, but they were cool with it. They've been living above me for five years. They're used to me.
The Cave on street view appears to be a former Wace Morgan solicitors, and according to staff at The Cave, they had the cellar painted very plain. Whereas now, and this amazed me because it must have taken forever, the brickwork beneath The Cave is painted to look like brickwork naked of paint. So really, when we look at these archways what we're looking at is a clever artistic illusion of what these walls used to look like.

Beyond this sign was a rather spacious room, filled with artefacts and an amazing atmosphere. The Cave had truly taken advantage of the space and created a museum of positive vibes right below everyones feet.
I'm really loving this angel statue.

 Facing towards Wyle Copp were these two doorways. At first glance one could assume that they probably led to the exact same place as the Hermes doorway back in the day, which doesn't sound very exciting at first glance, but then I suppose one of these doors could have led to stairways going up into the next building, like that building next to the Hole in the Wall, or seeing as these are pointing down Wyle Copp, which is a downhill slope, it makes sense to think that maybe one door led to a downward staircase. So none of these doorways necessarily have to have led to the same place.
Also chronologically speaking, while these two look the same age, they could be decades apart in their time of usefulness, and that applies to the Hermes arch too.

 The above photo was taken with the flash, but that really takes away the atmosphere of the place.

The Cave apparently have a source of knowledge, who has a lot more knowledge of underground tunnels than I do, who has confirmed these doorways to actually be doorways and not just arches for sarcophagi and other decorations. The sarcophagus actually opens up to reveal shelves, which is pretty awesome.

Looking in the exact opposite direction towards the square, The Cave have their prayer tree, where people hang their hopes in a congregation of positive vibes.

I almost missed the gigantic arch way behind the prayer tree. As mentioned, the brickwork down here is painted on, but all the artist has done is add detail to what's there in order to bring it back to some resemblance to what it once was. The arched brickwork was very real, and as we all agreed, people don't build that kind of archway for no reason. This was something, long ago, and its contrast to the other doorways wasn't unnoticed, but if anything it strongly resembles the Prince Rupert tunnel remains.

And again, it begs the question, why were the tunnels here in the first place? Why are some of them wider and some of them simple passages? And why do they transition from this one, from doorways at one end to wide arches at the other?

But perhaps most intriguing was the water feature, facing Old St Chads, and protruding beneath the street. What was this? Footsteps and traffic could be heard above, as I examined the statue and the archway. This was under the street. There were people over my head going about their days none the wiser.

Contrary to what the sign says, I did ask if I could not only approach the fountain but poke my camera around it. You see, Miss Water Goddess happens to be guarding  a T shaped tunnel protrusion beneath the road that really blows the idea that underground tunnels are a myth right out of the water.

Brickwork on the walls, stone work on the doorway. That in itself is also telling. But also, feel free to scroll back to the picture of The Cave from the exterior. It's right on the curve of the road, so in terms of trajectory, this passage isn't pointing to the building next door at all, but rather across the street, right at the Old Post Office. But thinking back to C Sons which allegedly had a tunnel that stretched from their location on Milk Street to St Alkmunds church,  this place is right between them both, and so must have been connected to that, and that strongly implies that it was part of The Squares tunnel network (I said I'd get to it).

I don't officially know for certain that it is actually a tunnel network. As I said, it's mostly speculation and logic. But C Sons is close to the one historically official tunnel, which was from the Golden Cross pub to the crypt of Old St Chads, which isn't very far, admittedly, but then throw into the mix that Old St Chads crypt had three arched doorways leading away from the church and nobody knows where the other two went, and we have ourselves imagination candy. Princess Street then comes along with an underground tunnel running almost the length of it. I've seen very large chunks of that one personally. Carluccios restaurant claims to have tunnel remains but doesn't let people see them due to Health & Safety. Two words I have come to loath. But then just down from that, you've got the Music Hall, which I've documented, and recently learned that there is written documentation of the tunnels stemming from that, although it's referred to as Vaughans Mansion.

And nearby you've got Jaeger which evidence suggests was once connected to the Hole in the Wall, right behind it. Rumour has it that before Jaeger was fixed up the way it is now, a tunnel went from there under the square to what is now Princess House. What was where Princess House is now? Only Shire Hall.

And then, a little while ago when a building in the square that I failed to get access to (at least subterranean) was being renovated, this picture was posted by one of the workers on Facebook.

I'm truly annoyed that I didn't get to photograph all this personally. It allegedly points underneath The Square.

Regarding the Cave, I decided to consult my map of Shrewsbury from 1880 to see what that said about the buildings history. To my shock and amazement, (one which saw my arch nemesis, Gravity, give my jaw a good downwards yank), what was in The Caves spot was frustratingly wonderful. You see, my map of 1880 Shrewsbury is so detailed, one has to zoom in if one is to read any text. So I've never actually studied the entire map, only the parts that I'm researching at any given moment.

Marked on top of The Cave was not any specific building name, but it did have, in italics, the word "Und." Leading from The Cave in both the direction of the square and St Alkmunds, was a dotted line marked "Und" frequently along it. Had I had a map of subterranean Shrewsbury in my posession all this time?

My heart sank somewhat when I found out that "Und" on old maps actually means “undefined boundary," meaning one where there was no real-world feature to align the boundary to when it was surveyed. Well that's somewhat less exciting.

Still, the dotted line does follow a few of the rumoured underground tunnel paths, and does match the t-shaped tunnel that protrudes from The Cave, so maybe there is a connection. It doesn't touch the Music Hall or anywhere around the square though. But keep in mind, the map is of 1880 so presumably, even if it did refer to underground tunnels, it would only refer to those accessible in 1880. A lot of what I've seen is far older.

But again, is there even a connection to underground tunnels? I'm trying to marry two lots of speculation with no architectural or historic knowledge so it would be a miracle if anything coherent did emerge.

In fact it would scare the willies out of me.

But let's be honest, look at the Music Hall. Look at the Prince Rupert Hotel. Look at todays photos of The Cave. Look at any other thing I've written about regarding underground tunnels. These things are real. Once, long ago, one could cross chunks of Shrewsbury underground. Of this I am certain. So if anyone in Shrewsbury who owns or has access to a place that's standing over some remains of ancient tunnels, please get in touch. I'd love to see.

But to bring this back to The Cave, if I've done an inadequate job of describing the store, please check out their website, http://www.thecaveshrewsbury.co.uk or better yet, check out the store. The Cave is a great little store, and the staff are friendly and welcoming. The relaxation pyramid is definitely something I intend on returning for.And to repeat, please get in touch if you do have any additional info regarding the tunnels. It's something I have legitimate fascination in.

In the mean time, check out The Cave. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram so that you can get regular updates, and also if you haven't made anyone smile today, go out and compliment someone because that stuff can never happen too often. Bonus points if you get a hug. I'll love your forever if you share the blog, and the blog will get even better if you donate to the adventure fund (button in top right corner). All donated money will go towards equipment that will only make Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not better.

Thanks for reading. Stay Awesome!

Monday, 8 February 2016

The View From Lauras Tower, and other stories of the past week

I've recently enjoyed a surprise week off work. My deputy manager simply told me that I hadn't used up all of my annual leave, so here's a week off. That's quite nice, I think. My job does have its flaws but when it does have its perks, they're usually awesome. And this week has been packed with awesomeness! More so than I was expecting! I mean, one of the drawbacks to a surprise week off, is having nothing planned. So there was no holiday. No random blog post about some place that isn't Shropshire, although I might have one coming up, sadly on the same upcoming day the Shropshire Bloggers are having a walk around Ironbridge. But for this there is no other option. It's now or never for this subject matter. But I don't want to get anyones hopes up, so let's just say I'm going somewhere for something, and leave it at that until I update you.

Meanwhile, my week off has not been eventless. I can pull an adventure out of anything. I don't often write about the ones that are anticlimactic, but for consistency as it's a recurring topic here, I did have a stroll into the Shropshire countryside to find yet another ROC post. For those of you who don't know, a ROC post is a fifteen foot ladder hidden beneath an innocent looking trap door, that leads down into a small bunker-like installation used to monitor nuclear usage during the cold war. At least, in theory. They communicated with the main HQ (For Shropshire that's the vets in Abbey Forgate) via telegraph pole, which would have been wiped out in the event of a nuclear strike. The ventilation meant that the people stationed there weren't safe from a nuclear strike, and the technology used to monitor nuclear strikes were crude and barely worked

But you know, the government had to look like it was doing something in a time when the world was panicking and the government didn't really know what to do. So thanks for dotting the countryside with candy for the happy-go-lucky adventurer.

More than a thousand of these things exist in the UK, some in plain sight, some out in the countryside. Some are as immaculate as the day they were decommissioned in the late 1960s, and some are trashed beyond recognition. Some are still open since closure, and some are padlocked, welded shut or even demolished.

This one was padlocked. Dammit.

You see, I don't force entry.  
 Nor do I vandalize, steal, or disclose locations or means of access to other people.
Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence, not 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 commit or condone any acts of breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do either as it's very dangerous and I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model. Anybody seeking to use the photos from this blog, must do so with permission.

In this case, I'm overwhelmed with curiosity. The ROC posts that are locked up tend to be the ones that are immaculate. The ones open to the public often look like there actually was nuclear war. A fantastic example is the one in Church Stretton. Below this innocent patch of land are desks, chairs, bunk beds, a toilet, possibly some primitive nuclear radiation detecting equipment, telecommunications equipment, a few rats maybe, and the public probably stroll by on a regular basis without ever knowing.
I returned to Shrewsbury. My ROC post score now is five visited, three actually entered.

Meanwhile in Shrewsbury, people were getting irate. Another human named Roosh V (implying that he's the fifth Roosh and hopefully the last), said by the Daily Mail to be a blogger in his mothers basement, had infuriated the world with talk of legalising rape and reinstating men as the dominant gender, claiming that equality of the sexes has resulted in feminine, weaker men. He's also said that he and his followers should move to third world countries where women are easier to manipulate, which is ironic given that he's allegedly a "pick-up artist." He was organising meetings around the world for his followers, who are also presumably pro-rape. Only masculine, straight men were allowed at these meetings, and one happened to be organised in Shrewsbury. The people of Shrewsbury, well aware that it's the 21st Century in spite of our architecture suggesting otherwise, were naturally outraged, and decided to have a peaceful protest on the bridge where Team Roosh were meant to be meeting. It was a protest that I attended and got to enjoy a rare but very warm feeling of unity. About two hundred people congregated, myself among them, to show that the human race is simply not going to stand for this persons outrageous views. And it was a great thing to see. I mean obviously, most people in the 21st Century know that rape is wrong, but it's very awesome to actually see a good, unified congregation of complete strangers unite to stop the spread of evil ideology.

In the end, Rooshie cancelled his meeting anyway, out of fear that his followers would get hurt.
Yes, that's right, the people who are pro-rape, and consider themselves all-things-masculine are playing the victim card. It was a sweet, sweet victory for Shrewsbury, and the human race in general.

I have asked permission to use this photo, and while they've not yet gotten back to me, I'm a person who often works with the logic that unless someones getting hurt by my antics, it's better to be told off than told no. If I wasn't like that, lets face it, this blog would be boring. But credit where credits due, this photo of the protest was taken by someone called Mark Salmon.

Earlier that day, I was participating in my photographer friend Giselles project that was somewhat fitting for the vibe of the day, in the sense that Rooshie baby would most certainly not approve. This time I'm one of the models, and it's a very interesting project that I'm super enthusiastic about. Basically it's challenging gender roles, or percieved views on gender. It's avoiding topics like crossdressing though, and instead shows the model in a way that their anatomical gender isn't clear, and also provokes a double take as the observer may instantly place the model into a box, only to realise that there's something there that's making them wonder. It's definitely a project that has my support, purely because when it comes to the topic of gender, the world does need to grow up. A lot. One time a photo of me got leaked at my workplace. It was an innocent head shot a few years old, but in the photo I wearing make up, with my hair done, good camera angle, contouring and everything else required to make me look like an attractive lady, and I was treated worse than Hitler for it. Although this doesn't speak for all of my colleagues, but it certainly spoke for enough to make work very uncomfortable. So yes, this project is something that has my support.

In a perfect world, I think we'd see the abolition of boxes and categories. This might sound mad to some but at the very least what we're starting to see is a remarkable and inspiring case of people not being villainised for non-conformity anymore. Regarding sexuality, refering to someone as a homosexual has gone from being a taboo or an insult to "I don't care" territory, all within my own lifetime, and gender identity is following.

The photoshoot itself will be viewable at some point in the future, further along in the projects lifetime, and I'll put a link to it when it is. Meantime, the recent shoot took place at the awesome "Laura's Tower" up at Shrewsbury Castle, which results in the project corresponding well with this blog, since the interior of Laura's Tower is closed to the general public but very much loved by the people of Shrewsbury. So naturally I brought my own camera along to snap the place up.

I also have an older photo of Laura's Tower, what with being friends with a time traveler, that shows it in a much more floral state.

And rumour has it that another photo exists of a former incarnation of Laura's Tower at a time when it had a chimney. I haven't seen this photo but the top floor does have a fireplace, and the lower floor does have the imprint of where one used to be, on the opposite wall. So it's gone through quite a few changes over the years.

The lower floor is currently being used for storage, whereas the upper floor has a much greater display of refinery. The tower itself was built by Thomas Telford in 1790 for Laura Pulteney (born Henrietta Laura Johnstone), the daughter of Sir William Pulteney. In this case, the Johnstones changed their name to Pulteney as it was Williams wifes maiden name, and she inherited the Pulteney estate. Laura herself was 24 when the tower in Shrewsbury was built, and had inherited the Pulteney estate following her mothers death in 1782. This tower was to serve as a summer house, although she frequented Sudborough in Northamptonshire and also Clewer in Berkshire. I'm not entirely sure how often she visited Shrewsbury or for how long. It would be logical that maybe there would be a means of going between the top and bottom floor internally, unlike today when the floors are unconnected and have two exterior doors. Given the refined interior, I imagine this place would have looked great fully furnished.
Laura first became Baroness Bath in 1792, she married in 1794, and was elevated to Countess of Bath in 1803. Her father died in 1805, and she inherited two thirds of his property, the rest going to his second wife. Laura herself died of consumption in 1808. A painting of her can be found at The Holburne Museum on Great Pulteney Street in Bath.

What became of the tower after she died is not known to me. Since she had no children, Laura's personal estate was inherited by her cousin, Elizabeth Fawcett, but since her landed estates were passed to the 3rd Earl of Darlington, William Vane, it is likely that the tower was inherited by him, but I'm not certain. It's undergone modifications over the years, but inside is very much a time capsule to an earlier era.

For the shoot, we moved the chair to the area with peeling paint, to work with a more derelict looking backdrop. Originally it was across from the fireplace, next to a plug socket, which is why it varies locations between shots. Next to the door is a lightswitch. However, in spite of these features, the tower doesn't have electricity, and the castle staff cannot find the means to turn it on.

Today, Thomas Telford is considered more a vandal than an architect. He is the one who had the castles interior largely altered and he also had the majority of Shrewsbury Abbey demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass the A5 road. But Laura's Tower is proof that he did do some good for the town. The domed ceiling is a great example of his work.

From the tower windows there's also a view of Shrewsbury, in all directions. Looking out over the river, one can see the Abbey. It's interesting to compare Shrewsbury now to the Shrewsbury that Laura would have seen. Since the Abbey wasn't demolished to make way for a road until 1836, Laura would have been able to see it in its entirety in the distance.

The English Bridge that crosses the river wasn't built in its current incarnation until 1926, although a bridge has stood there as early in history as Norman times, the original records of it refering to it as Stone Bridge. Stone Bridge had a tower on the east side which connected to a gate and drawbridge. The bridge also had houses and shops along it. Laura would not have seen that version. In her time, the bridge was in its second incarnation, which consisted of a much wider central arch to allow boats safer passage beneath it. This version was built in 1769, but its central arch actually made it quite steep for those crossing it, and so it was made into its current version. It was also only half as wide as it is today.

The Parade Shopping Centre is visible but it wasn't there until 1826. The churches, however, have been there for much longer.

So that was Laura's Tower. I'd like to give a big, huge thank you to the staff at Shrewsbury Castle for letting us shoot here. The building is amazing, and perhaps one of my favourite places in Shrewsbury, and brilliant for photography projects. This particular photography project is also something I support.

Sexuality and gender tend to be things I avoid writing about here on the blog. It's difficult to talk about the difficulties these areas of society face without looking heterophobic. For the record, I'm not heterophobic. Some of my friends are straight. I just don't want it shoved in my face with you holding hands and making out right where I can see. Don't you know that's how you catch babies?

When someone from the 1600s like Roosh V decides to flaunt his outtdated fascist ideology, it is an honour to not only stand against him among a legion of good people, but also be part of a creative project that challenges outdated ways of thinking. Because all the Roosh V's of the world ARE the minority. They just happen to speak really loud, which is why good people get victimised, and bullied, and end up with low self esteem, depression, anxiety and the lot. If good people stop being silent when Roosh V's get mouthy, and we all stand together, the world can become an even more amazing place, and people who do feel shy and isolated and bullied, regardless of the quality thats making them a bully magnet, can finally be themselves and let their freaky colours out. Just being around open minded, accepting people can make a lot of difference.
As mentioned, some of my work colleagues aren't the most open minded.  I genuinely fear for any people who come to my workplace who don't conform to their societal comfort zones. But these people simply have yet to join us in the 21st Century.

And I think that's the main thing to remember if you are different, or considered a weirdo by those around you, whether you're of a different gender or sexual orientation or if you're just odd compared to the people around you. Get into the habit of replacing negative thoughts such as "I'm weird" or "I'm unlikable" or "they're twats" with "They just haven't reached the 21st Century yet." Because that's actually a lot more positive. It reassures that there is actually nothing wrong with what you're doing, and relieves the emotional pain without simply turning it into anger against the attacker, because they themselves are simply behind the times, and could still catch up. And best of all, it reinforces the fact that the 21st Century is still young, and will only continue to improve, if we make it improve by being the awesome people I know we all are. As a final look at Roosh V, his views were considered societal norms hundreds of years ago and now in 2016 they merely exist in the minds of a few thousand people in internet chatrooms, so while people like this do exist, we're still making loads of progress as a species.

So this blog post was slightly different. But thanks for reading. As always, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, to make sure you stay updated. And be nice to each other, because we're all in the same boat. Or at least, on the same gas-coated ball of dirt and water hurtling round a giant nuclear fireball. Is existence really for taking seriously? I don't think so.

Stay awesome.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Sweyney Cliff, or that time the world ended

Disclaimer: The following contains the ingredient "Metaphor." Metaphor is one of a group of problem-solving medicines used to treat Literal Thinking and other diseases. Metaphor takes two or more unrelated topics in a way that stimulates lateral thought processes and creativity. This product is to be consumed optically. If accidentally swallowed, consult a psychiatrist.

I knew a guy once, who used to take photos of abandoned houses in the Shropshire area. His name was... uh... Sylvester. Yes, that will do. Sylvester Pookyprootches!

Sylvester had a hard time. There was an incident involving an alsatian, a time machine, skydiving and some chicken wire. I didn't ask for the gory details but Sylvester now only has half a knee. And that half a knee is kept in his belly button. He says if he takes it out, the world will end. He happens to have photographic evidence that a house caught fire the world did indeed once end, around 2011. The Mayans got it a year off, it seems. Or the folks who changed the Julian Calendar for the Gregorian Calendar in 1582 messed up somewhere, but lets not go there.
Luckily, Sylvester had a time machine, unended the world and learned his lesson never to pull out half a knee through his belly button ever again. And he's lent me the photos he took of the post-apocalypse to run an article here on Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not. I told Sylvester "Dude, these are great, and they totally prove that the world did indeed end! Your photography skills are amazing, far greater than mine and also far better than the skills of any other people I know who I could concievably pay to take pictures for me. Mind if I use them for an article?"

Sylvester said yes. Here's Sweyney Cliff House!

 Hmm... how morbid. But I doubt that could hold anyone.

Sylvester wants to make it clear that he does NOT force entry when he explores these places. Nor does he vandalize, steal, or disclose locations or means of access to other people.
Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence, not a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. Sylvester simply photographs and leave everything as I find it. Sylvester and I do not commit or condone any acts of breaking and entering, and we do not condone what he does either as it's very dangerous and he's a danger to himself and a terrible role model. But lets be honest, in the post-apocalypse, who was there to stop him? He also wants to make it clear that nobody other than me has permission to use these pictures.

Now I was initially skeptical. When I googled Sweyney Cliff House I found out that it was in fact abandoned for around six months before a suspicious fire broke out amidst reports of naughty squatters in 2011. Thankfully allegedly nobody was hurt, but putting that fire out took a lot of effort.

Sylvester informs me that the media lied to cover up the fact that the world ended and then unended thanks to time travel. I raised an eyebrow and sipped my wine (we were having this conversation at a pub). I said: "Do you mean to tell me that the media occasionally twists facts to suit their own agenda? Sylvester, that's preposterous!"
And Sylvester said "Ah, but I have nice photos. And as long as you write about my undoing the end of the world via time travel, and show my nice photos as proof, people will believe it."

I looked at the photos. It sure does look like the world ended...

Over here we have a garage with a little room above it. The room surprised Sylvester as it contained a fireplace, meaning that the room above the garage was for more than just storage. It also had some scribblings, some last words from the pre-apocalypse civilisation.

As you can see, when the world ended, weather patterns got apocalyptic and flooding ensued.

Sylvester has no idea why there is what looks like a nappy underwater.

From this little room, one can see the main house.

But what actually was the little room above the garage?

Looking at the history, I found out that this place was originally called The Rock. It was built in 1805 on the site of a pottery and watermill, and had eight acres of land. Sylvester did wonder if maybe the space above the garage was part of a servants quarters of a groundskeeper. That does make sense. It's also possible that it was one of many other outbuildings that were taken down. I pointed out to Sylvester- he did not notice this- that while the garage building had a fireplace, it did not have a chimney so it had indeed been modified over the years, much like Lauras Tower back in Shrewsbury. Sylvester informed me that Laura's Tower didn't exist in the post-apocalypse timeline, at which I unleashed an Episode III Darth Vader style "NO!!!!!!" I love Laura's Tower, and went through all the stages of grief, including denial. I said to Sylvester "Prove it." He responded- "Well I haven't got any photos of it, so it can't have been present at all, Duh!"

Oh that logic.

Back to Sweyney Cliff House...

Sylvester later revealed to me that he had been inside the house itself. Inside a fire damaged house??? Sylvester must be insane! I don't condone this. Remember, fire damaged houses are probably the most dangerous things anyone can explore.

But damn, this is one gorgeous building. Back in its glory days it must have been epic.

 As you can see, the post-acpocalypse lavatorys are still in better shape than some of the toilets in pre-apocalypse pubs.

There was a room on the ground floor with a collapsed ceiling and numerous signs of fire damage, including a melted plastic alarm on the wall. I wondered if this was the room in which the arson attack had been carried out, but Sylvester gently reminded me that I was thinking down some pretty silly tangents. The world had ended, that was all. Nevertheless in spite of the damage, it still showed signs of earlier refinery.

There was something that resembled a ruined balcony overlooking the river severn. It probably would have had a lovely view, before the apocalypse turned the river a strange brown colour. 

There was a vast room, which resembled Moreton Corbet Castle near Shawbury, but Sylvester assures me this isn't that place. This room was vast because it had several floors missing entirely, to the point that Sylvester had a nice view of the cellar. Sylvester had seen the cellar steps and didn't really fancy his chances of getting down there, what with only having half a knee. Nevertheless, graffiti was down there so he reasoned it must be possible.

At least thats what he told me.

There are still logs in the fireplace.

Down in the cellar is a water pump. But how to get to the cellar? I suggested that Sylvester just enlist the help of my arch nemesis, Gravity. He admitted, he hadn't thought of that.

There were some more ground floor photos, including a rather spacious kitchen. 

I was instantly jealous of Sylvester! I've been exploring for a long time and I've never found a Ouija board! Not even one drawn on some torn up cardboard! Sylvester says that amongst survivors of the apolcalypse, contacting the dead is a common sport.

Sylvester was brave enough to try the stairs to the upper floors. Well done, Sylvester.

It seems that of the original eight bedrooms, only three were accessible. The ones that Sylvester showed me were very telling, one having a football ceiling light. 


A solitary marble on the bedroom floor. 

In the blue room, a ceiling light was dangling with a chunk of ceiling. The room was covered in pictures of Pixar Cars.

There was also a study...

A nice view from the balcony.

Sylvester also photographed the stairs to the cellar, from the cellar, having already travelled down them somehow. He definitely doesn't condone this!

Interestingly Sylvester tells me that there were more stairs in the wall, pointing at these stairs from a ninety degree angle, but didn't touch anything because there were walls in the way. Was this more evidence that the buildings layout had been modified over the years? He failed to photograph this oddity though so he might be talking hogwash.

And yet the cellar, so he tells me, was vast and cavernous, and oddly maze-like.

This would make an excellent wine cellar. It actually led to a small little room with fancy wall tiles, and flooring, and a solitary workstation.

The cellar also had a number of toys and smaller rooms as well as a ruined stair railing from the ground floor stairs.

And a cat flap!

There seems to be a boiler room leading to another cavern that had a blocked up trap door back to the ground floor. 

But eventually, it seems, Sylvester found the large room with the open ceiling that he'd seen from the ground floor. Among the ruins were coal shutes and water pumps.

The final cellar room had the remnants of reflective walls, and actually came out on a lower tiered garden, due to the sloped terrain. There, Sylvester saw some gym equipment and concluded that this cellar room was a subterranean gym.

And then, Sylvester showed me his final photo, that of a secret passageway that allegedly led from the cellars garden off the premises through the buildings foundations. He told me that he had initially been a bit miffed that there had been a secret alternate means of cellar entry, and he didn't have to risk his life on those stairs. But how was he to know? This passage emerged considerable distance away from the house itself.

And that's Sweyney Cliff House.

Sylvester had shown me all his photos. I looked up and said "I can probably run an article with these."
"Make sure you get the story right," said Sylvester.
I sighed and said, "You mean the story that you caused the world to end by removing a chunk of knee from your belly button, and then used time travel to undo it?"
"Yes, that's exactly what happened," Sylvester insisted with a remarkably straight face.
"Are you sure you're not just taking some photos and fashioning a story around them to suit the one you want to tell?" I asked skeptically.
"Well who cares if I am. Doesn't that happen in the world all the time?" he responded.
"Yes," I said. "And 90% of the people know that. But I'm just a blogger, with a few thousand readers, some of which I've met and befriended. I pride myself on my relationship between my readers and myself, and I don't want to jeopardise that by showing a complete lack of respect for their intelligence."

Sylvester looked at me long and hard, very analytically. 
"So what you're saying," he said, "Is that you're offended by having your intelligence insulted by the media. But Why? You said yourself, 90% of the people know the truth, so surely we're in an age where the world is laughing at the media for thinking that it's insulting the intelligence of the masses."

I didn't answer. I knew where he was going. I messed up. But what's really changed? I'm still here, the blogs still here. I have made loads of new friends. For what seems feels like an eternity now I've been recognised on the street and greeted by readers. I've been offered fantastic new opportunities in photography in completely different topics. Because you know what? My world is bigger than this blog, and the topics this blog covers. I'm not saying it's going to stop any time soon, but who knows what my life will be like five years from now? That's the wonderful thing about life. It's chaotic. I love the thrill of not knowing what's going to happen. While so many people are said to be change resistant, I welcome the changes because I want to see what happens next. I'm an adventurer, not just of derelict and forgotten places, but of existence. Life truly baffles and intrigues me because it didn't have to happen. As Dr Manhattan says in Watchmen, "Mars gets along perfectly without so much as a micro organism."
If you really think about it the universe, without life, would really just be a bunch of waves and vibrations pinging off each other. But somehow life has come along and managed to evolve sensory organs that can take these waves and vibrations and construct an entire world from them. Not only that but humans have the ability to create more, from scratch. We've created amazing cities, and a thousand forms of art. And ultimately the one thing that keeps repeating in my head is "This didn't have to happen. The universe would have just kept on going without us in it." And that's why in spite of everything said or done, I can't help but enjoy life. It's a goddamn miracle but so commonplace we take it for granted, but it's still a miracle. I don't even care why we're here or how we came to be here. The point is we are here. And I say it all the time, the world is my playground.

It will always be my playground, even when everything gets a bit crazy.

I asked Sylvester what he planned on doing next.

"Well," he said, "I want to see about creating a temporal paradox."

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a condom and said "I'm going to go back in time to the night of my conception and give this to my dad."

And then he vanished in a puff of logic.

In the meantime, while I'm still on a higher-than-average hit count, I'd like to take the opportunity to promote other creative people. Check out my friend Joeys website. He's a film producer. And also please check out one of my favourite vloggers, Krystal Bella Shaw. She vlogs about dyspraxia a lot, which is very personal to me since I have it and the world still doesn't really understand it. And of course, follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!