The Abandoned Gym above Bodycare, Future Physique, became inaccessible around the time I wrote the original article here on Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not. In fact it's lack of accessibility is why I wrote the article. It was the third blog post I ever did and up until then I actually tried my hardest to make sure nobody knew where it was, although that didn't stop me turning it into a chillout spot, where I'd visit regularly with the old exploring posse, and even filmed a low budget zombie movie there with my ex, that I never saw (the movie, not the ex). The secrecy was because we'd lost Burger King. That is, we'd lost the labyrinthian five-storey abandoned building that had once been a Burger King. Burger King was my first ever explore, and in my excitement and youthful naivete I didn't take as many photos or explore it to its fullest potential. But it was known to too many people. In fact I discovered it by overhearing some teenagers talking about it. So it was always doomed to be a short-lived explorable site, and it taught me a valuable lesson- when people find out where places are, they get wrecked. And that is why I don't disclose means of access. It's also another reason why I'm somewhat reluctant to call myself an "urban explorer." To join their community, at least in England, is to sacrifice these places to a mob of looters and vandals. No, urban explorers are a petty collection of humans who seem to think that they're the only people in the world who can go to abandoned places and put photos of them on the internet, and thanks to my refusal to join their community, and my decision to keep a lid on my discoveries, the abandoned gym remained an explorable site for years, completely unchanged. It was accessible only by some rickety wooden stairs behind Argos, which in turn were only accessible by scrambling around a construction site. Once construction was finished, the only means of access came from going through a residential property, and that honour belongs solely to the resident.
But in 2015 when the scaffolding went up, it all became fair game! Let's see what's changed!
Naughty? Definitely. I wrestled for ages with my curiosity, as the scaffolding looked particularly tricky in its design and given the wet weather of Winter 2015 this was particularly dangerous. But rooftopping and exploration, as well as being great fun, are really therapeutic activities, and I just needed to get out and do it. Therapeutic how? Well sometimes I do feel quite glum. The only bad side to being eccentric is that one isn't always accepted by the general population.
I know, right? The only thing bad about being weird is in someone elses version of reality! How cool is that??? Being weird is awesome!
Although it doesn't always seem so at the time because people project their fears and insecurities to make themselves feel powerful, and us weirdos get their baggage in disguise as our own baggage, and sometimes we forget that it's not actually our baggage. So yes, I find what I do to be therapeutic when I'm feeling down because when I am high up with a fresh perspective of this beautiful world we live in, doing the things that make me different, I'm always reminded that being eccentric and different, while putting oneself at risk of the flaming torches and pitchforks of the unenlightened, is also the very thing that is making my life fantastic.
Be proud of yourselves, readers. Sometimes you will be treated like a witch in the 1600s, but whatever it is about you that makes you different is also what makes you an extraordinary and special human being. Never be afraid to cut out toxic people if you feel they aren't benefiting your own mental wellbeing. A friend once spelled it out in a brilliant metaphor- if you stop to wipe dog crap off your shoe, it doesn't mean the dog crap won. It means you're smart enough to wipe dog crap off your shoe.
But moving on.
Heading straight to the roof, I was immediately overjoyed to pass an open window on the second floor. The place was open and explorable! I don't force entry, after all, and trespass without forcing entry is a civil offence, not a criminal one. It does become a criminal offence if you vandalise, or steal. Luckily I don't do that either. The scaffolding went higher than I'd previously been. In days gone by, one could only get as high as the roof of Argos, which was level with the upper floor of the gym. It was through an open window that we'd scramble to get access back in the day.
Although that wasn't always the case... we opened the window onto the Argos roof from the inside, and left it open to make getting in easier in the future. But originally we accessed this place through such more amazing methods which I'll get to. Meanwhile in the present, the scaffolding took me right to the highest point, and gave me a pretty good view.
Doesn't St Chads look amazing, looming over those trees?
Keep in mind, this was before your wonderful donations got me a gorilla-pod so my long exposures are from pretty standard angles.
To my delight, there was an additional structure that took me even higher, and I managed to obtain a greater view of a wider area.
The big grey smudge on the left is a chunk of diagonal scaffolding. You see, this was impossible to climb with a standard tripod so I had to get creative with camera placement.
But just to give you some perspective, this is what I was sat on. The structure was slanted, flimsy iron, with a drop straight to ground level on both sides should I slip.The horizontal bars running along the top were the only things saving me from a splattery end. But I didn't even know if this bizarre structure could hold my weight, and I had no idea what awaited me beneath it should it fall.
Luckily this didn't happen, and the great adventure that is existence continues.
Making my way inside I was shocked by how much had changed. You can check out the original article to see what this room once looked like.
Work was underway, and a lot of dangerous and expensive equipment was just lying around, which was worrying given the fact that the window onto the scaffolding was wide open, and yet another reason why I waited for it to come down before I blogged about it.
And also another reason why I do not disclose locations or means of entry.
I was surprised to see that the back wall of the upper floor, where we originally left a window open, was now gone, and extended into what would become flats, presumably. Parts of the roof that were once out doors were becoming indoors.
It was very strange to think that parts of the old rooftop where my friends and I had relaxed and watched the sunset and the stars were now indoors. And look at the upper portions of these rooms. There's a safety net! Having just been on top of this on the flimsy iron slanted roof, I was relieved to see that had it not held my weight, I would have had a rather fun landing.
From this place I could get out onto what remained of the roof space for another perspective.
Without a tripod this was the best long exposure of the towers I was able to get.
And now it's time for something a little different. I'll not be making a habit of this, but it's an irrelevant detail now. Here is the story of the original means of access back in 2010!
Back in the days when myself and the others first started rooftopping, we were blown away by the sudden potential we saw everywhere. Our minds had opened to the fact that everything was a ladder. We saw the world very differently in such a short space of time. We didn't know our own strengths and weaknesses, and as such we felt suddenly capable of anything.
In the photo below, on the roof of Argos, the brickwork there was once open, and while all the windows level with us were closed, there was a window down there on the floor below that was open.
My colleague and I went home and we constructed a rope ladder, and tied one end to the white cylinder in the photo below and dangled the rest over the brickwork and down into this hole. To date I have not done anything quite as stupid. The rope ended up flayed on the sharp corners of the brickwork, and it was a completely ludicrous scenario. But we made it inside the lower floor, and were able to open a window on the upper floor so that access was easier in the future.
Back indoors, here are the stairs down to the lower floor.
The trap door next to the stairway, now only visible from the ceiling, used to have a giant hook, which presumably was used to lift equipment between floors. It was a pretty strong hook.
Disapointingly the elevator shaft has gone. Curiously it had never gone anywhere anyway, since the upper floor had no lift, and the lower floor was Bodycare.
It sure was strange to see this place. On my earlier visits, there were still walls that separated little rooms, including offices, a tanning room, a shower room and kitchen, but all that was gone now. It was odd to feel nostalgic about a place I had only known only as an abandoned place.
When I recently asked people, loads of people fondly remembered Future Physique, with an approximation of around 25 years ago. People seemed to remember coming down an alleyway next to Bodycare, and then up some stairs. This would mean that the area that my posse and I originally hung our rope ladder down to would have originally been open to this alleyway but fortunately for us, they'd since covered it, allowing us to stand on something to access the gym instead of falling to our splattery end. My map of 1880 Shrewsbury also supports that this alleyway once actually led right between what was Argos and what is still Bodycare, and carried on to a yard behind it that no longer exists. Of course, this building is far too modern and must have replaced an older building, while retaining the alleyway feature.
Speaking of which, one of my readers has found a photo of what used to stand where Bodycare now stands...
So at some point this alleyway was blocked off at the end and incorporated into the building itself, providing stairs up to the above floors. The building itself was demolished and replaced in 1961. Initially the new building probably consisted of one business, which would explain the elevator. It may even had had an alternative stairway other than the one in the alleyway, which seems more like a fire exit than a main stairway. However when the building was divided between businesses, the elevator was blocked on the ground floor.
As of 1980 the ground floor was a dry cleaners, and the upper floors were occupied by MP Discount, a catalogue clearance warehouse. I even have a picture of the premises at the time thanks to one of my readers.
People seem to recall going through the alleyway by the dry cleaners to get to the gym so it's fair to say that Future Physique opened before the dry cleaners closed down. As of 1999, the dry cleaners was replaced by Toymaster, and thanks to my awesome reader, I have a photo of that too, with Future Physique written in the windows, although lacking in the lettering on one window.
I remember this being Toymaster when I first started visiting Shrewsbury around 2004/2005, but according to Google streetviews time sliding feature, it was already Bodycare by 2009, which was when the earliest Streetview images of this street were taken. The above gym already looks abandoned by this point, and I moved into Shrewsbury and began my escapades in 2010.
And from then until they put the scaffolding up, the layout has remained untouched. Here are some of my photos taken from these earlier explores. Keep in mind, I took them with a phone.
The door next to the lift was the stairway down into the "alleyway" and this lift has now been blocked up but according to recent floor plans of the apartments to be, the lift is still there, hidden beneath the floorboards.
So some future occupier of one of these apartments could one day be doing a little DIY and discover an elevator shaft. If that was me I'd be pretty thrilled.
But I guess this completes the story of Shrewsbury's Abandoned Gym. Future Physique has a Facebook page that has a comment dated 2012 stating "Good luck with you new Facebook page." The last post was in 2014, so clearly the business continued at a different premises.
Years ago, when I first started doing this, I was frequently asked "Where is the abandoned gym???" and I refused to disclose, keeping is safe from intrusion and ultimately made it an explorable location in Shrewsbury for the entirety of its existence up until the powers that be decided to do something with it, and give it a new purpose. So it's a happy story, really.
Nowadays I still get asked where things are, usually underground tunnels, and I'm still not disclosing, and I keep on saying I won't disclose, but the questions keep coming, and I guess that's life. But you see, everythings temporary. The abandoned gym was temporary. The abandoned Burger King that started this all was temporary, but rushed in its temporarity due to discovery. It's like building a great big sandcastle, knowing full well that the sea will claim it by the end of the day, but that's only if the other kids don't jump on it first. These things are just temporary, and I have to enjoy them while they last. I remember when I first heard about Camelot theme park and thinking how awesome it would be to go to, if only it wasn't such a faf to get to for one who doesn't drive. And then one day I realised that the only thing stopping me was me. And so I went to Camelot. Twice. And on the second visit I saw firsthand how lucky I was to get there on the earlier visit because that place is being demolished, and it will be the end of an era when it happens.
But you see, the world will not wait for us to decide to get off our arses and experience it. We have to get it while it's still there. And in this case I'm feeling quite proud. My only regret, for this and for Camelot, is that I didn't have the camera when I saw it at its best.
But the adventure that is existence continues and thanks to you lovely people I'm now armed and ready. Of course I could only get better so if any of you want to donate to the adventure fund, please click the donate button up in the corner. All donations will go to making this blog better, but no pressure.
In the mean time, feel free to follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and share this blog on whatever social media platform you fancy.Most importantly, go out and compliment someone. Put a smile on someones face. Turn a bad day around. That will make me really, really happy.
Thanks for reading! Stay Awesome!