Friday, 27 May 2016

Abandoned Natwest

(DISCLAIMER: As an overall nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. 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. )

The positive feedback for Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not has been enormous lately, and I've responded awfully by just sitting back with this crippling writers block, trying to regain the ability to sit down and type something. Usually writers block isn't an issue, because 75% of this blog involves getting out and doing stuff. But if you follow me on social media or know me in real life, you'll know that a certain hand injury has put a hiatus on the physical side of the adventure. I can still type, but slowly. I can still climb stuff but clumsily and dangerously, and likely to do more damage to my good hand because it has to take additonal weight. So apart from work, and the odd trip down to London., I've been sat at home chilling. And it's been infuriating because this blog post needs to happen. Todays subject is so overdue, it's making British public transport look good. It's an itch I've finally got around to scratching. So why can't I write about it? Why is it that every time I sit down to type, all that goes through my head is how awesome it would be if every character ever portrayed by Tim Curry could be a villain on the 1960s Batman show??? If only my time traveler friend hadn't paradoxed himself out of existence!!! But writers blocks do pass, evidently or else you wouldn't be reading this.

The feedback for the blog keeps pouring in, I've met some great people because of this blog, and I can't help but feel a sense of pride. Oooooh, not that sneaky Pride! Prides a sin, apparently. And that used to baffle me. Why is it so bad to be proud? Sure, the other sins I understand. Wrath, gluttony and whatnot. But Pride?
Religion aside, it's a very consistent idealogy. Confident people are often attacked for their confidence. Words like "Arrogance" and "Narcisistic" get thrown around like swear words on a sinking ship. And a lot of non-confident people get their own confidence from perpetrating these attacks.
Do you want to know why Pride is a sin? I know exactly why!

It's all about control.
Pride is a sin because when you love yourself and when you are proud of who you are, then when someone else comes along and tries to put you down, or tells you that you're wrong and that you have to be a follower of their ideology, you can just say "Naaah." And in that, you ascend to another level of existence. Your soul has become invincible, and that scares some people. It's not so much about being in control of you, but also of their own lives. Encountering people who have achieved this higher level can make someone question their own success in life, and feel inferior, and with that comes defensiveness even if the person they're behaving defensive towards hasn't done anything wrong apart from enjoy their excellent life.

This is why words like "Arrogant" and "ego" get used with such derogatory. But what really is the harm in loving yourself? If you look at the human race, all the people treating other people badly are the ones who secretly hate themselves, and they're either projecting their insecurities or distracting themselves or trying to feel powerful because they're not, and what ego they do get comes at another persons expense. The person who truly loves themselves wants simply to carry on doing what they do, and to be around other positive minds. Who would you rather  be? The self loathing bully who will meander through misery until the day they die, or the self loving, world loving architects of awesomness?
It's a great place to be, mentally. So if anything we should be helping our fellow humans learn to love themselves. We need to get out of this mindset of "I'm not good enough" and "This person is better than me." We're never not good enough! We're never on a heirachy of worth with the rest of our species! We've all got the right to be here, we're all the same species, indigenous to this world. People sometimes say I'm arrogant because I will happily compliment myself with wild abandon, but have I ever done it at someone elses expense? I want to be able to say "I am awesome" and see those around me reply "I'm awesome too," and then we can have a huge celebratory group hug, raise a glass to existence, and party like we don't have work in the morning. Everything would be awesome, life would only get better and this thrill I get just from living could be experienced by many.
 So anyway, when you finish reading todays adventure, or before you read it if you're feeling eager, compliment someone today. It doesn't matter who. You get bonus points if they hug you.

But onto the adventure- this does all wrap up nicely because when one does love themselves, anythings possible. The world is yours. The world has been our playground throughout our lives. We just need to relearn how to play. And that is exactly what I'm doing.

And enough digressing. I said I get positive feedback but hold your praise for a moment, because I've been terribly, terribly mean. For five years, this baby has been my secret:

A long time ago one of my old rooftopping posse, the one who moved away, was loitering around with me, trying to find an alternative means onto the roof of Barclays. Back then, this was no easy feat! Over-ease of access had led to EVERYONE going up there, and as such Barclays had responded with locked gates, razor wire, and the like. We started climbing the buildings further down the street, intending on getting to Barclays that way.
As I was scaling one particular building, my colleague kept watch down below, and then called my name quickly and gestured for me to look behind me. One of the windows of the building I was climbing was open, and I happened to be sat on the ledge right outside it. There was an instant rush of fear, as my mind instantly jumped to the conclusion that the building was occupied and that I was in danger of startling a poor innocent human being who might casually look out of the window and see someone sitting where no member of the public should be able to get to.

But on closer inspection I realised that the window had actually been smashed, and someone had reached in to open it properly. The building was abandoned. And like the Abandoned Gym, I kept the secret to protect it from being smashed, scribbled and piddled on.

In 2015, a planning application was placed on the door, and the building was soon wrapped in scaffolding. So it was only a matter of time before the place would no longer be accessible and I could finally write about it. So what was it? Well, the planning application indicates that the above levels were offices, and the ground floor is still active as the Carmar Teas Rooms and Toni & Guy. It is a listed building and this gives me something to work with. It actually dates back to 1723, and from an unknown point up until the 1990s it was Natwest. It's also said to have an impressive cellar. This is a point of intrigue for me, being on Castle Street, which has a lot of stuff underground. But with the ground floor still being used, I wasn't able to get down there.

She building wrapped in scaffolding reminds me, as did St Chads when it was the same, of an old Lemmings level for some reason.

Uh... it helps if you squint...

Damn, I loved Lemmings.
Of course, young me had a pirated version of Lemmings on a floppy disk that allowed infinite gadgets for my little lemming buddies so as a child I was actually spoiled in that aspect. Nowadays nobody has any clue what Lemmings even was, so I guess I truly was lucky.

Anyway, less digressing. (As if there was ever such thing as a digression in my world. All roads lead to happiness!)
Here's the old Natwest, starting with the view from the top. Click a picture to see it big.

That archway in the above picture is an old chunk of the town walls, at the bottom of the water lane. The area is known as Traitors Gate because when Shrewsbury fell during the Civil War, it was because the enemy were let in through that route. I wrote a detailed history of it here

The day / night contrast is because I made multiple visits. While cover of darkness did serve me well, on quiet weekends it was possible to get up there during the day.

Look closely and you can see Orions belt next to the spire of St Mary's Church.

At the point when these pictures were taken, the roof was open to the outdoors, but as the scaffolding eventually covered the entire thing the roof effectively became "indoors." It's a very surreal feeling to be on a roof indoors. I only experienced it once before, and that was on the Music Hall.

I mean look at it! It looks like a studio, like the chimneys are just props and a big gigantic greenscreen is going to be hung up in the background so that the cast of some TV show can do some fake stargazing because actual rooftops are reserved for us explorer miscreants and their builder buddies who, if any know I exist, probably think I'm a massive nuissance.

 When my friend and I first found this place, the door and window leading to the roof had been smashed, although the door had been boarded up. The builders, however, have since changed the entire layout of the building. So take a good long look at this quaint doorway and window. It doesn't exist anymore.

Back in the day, however, it led to this stairway that led down to the floor below.

On the inside, the building is labyrinthian and contains some little quirks that are quite mysterious. In spite of its history as a bank, the upper floor had tidbits aluding to residential as well as commercial use.

In regards to a sign of commercial use, the upper floor had gender-segregated toilets. However one of the first things the builders did was remove the toilets and hide them in this cupboard.

An old towel rack.

But if this was Natwest, why is there a bath here? Is that one of the perks of being a banker?

I personally love this vintage toilet roll holder. 

 If any of you have ever seen my mobile shots of this place, you'll remember that there was a toilet next to this little door. The little door itself mystifies me, because one can crawl along there if they don't mind spiders, and it will bring them out in the coridor.

About here. 

Why??? Why does a bathroom require a secret exit??? Why, more importantly, does a Natwest bathroom have it? Is it so that bankers can make a speedy escape if they're caught on the loo during the revolution???

I joke! Clearly the architecture predates its use as a bank, but that still doesn't explain the secret crawlspace. We also have a contrastingly modern cupboard for hanging coats.

There were some signs warning of the dangers of asbestos, which I should probably be paying attention to but I seem to be afflicted with the inability to take existence seriously. Besides, my arch nemesis positions are currently filled by Gravity and pigeons. Regardless, I did some research into precisely how much asbestos will kill me, and learned unsurprisingly that it varies depending on whether an employer wants you to work with asbestos or if authority figures want you to stay away. I'm sure there's asbestos in my lungs now, and it's probably been there for years, but I'm still here.

This little kitchen was of interest to me. The pantry of which led under the stairs that led to the roof. 

Just look at this thing! What era does this come from?

What an awesome find! Does anyone remember this little guy?

There was a very peculiar little room, peculiar in the fact that it was so little. In both the two photographs below I am literally as far back as I can go. You could maybe fit an armchair in there and still be comfortable. Maybe two if you don't mind being a bit crammed. It has the size of a store room, but it has a fireplace.

I'm not sure what this is either. It looks like a coal shute but it leads to the roof and comes out in the corridor. 

I fell in love with this room. The architecture is so indicative of a time of refinery. It has a more mansion vibe than a bank, and one can almost imagine a family chilling in here back when it was fully furnished.

Asbestos again. Oh dear.

 At the back of this floor was a final room, which really interested me. It had an unusual window design... and an unsual shape for that matter. Just look at it.

It's a large expanse with a tiny little bit protruding to at the side of the fireplace where windows look out at the hallway. The windows facing the hallway are indicative of some kind of office.

I don't know what this raised platform is. It didn't open or anything.

The truly unusual part is a cupboard in the hallway, just by the door to this room. It's unusual because the back wall of this cupboard is actually another door!

Very reminiscent of those two abandoned mansions I explored, Pitchford and Brogyntyn. It seems I'm not the only person in the world who would have secret passages built into their dwelling, purely for the sake of it.

Behind this secret door were some truly ancient looking stairs that spiraled upwards into an attic. Quite why this attic needed to be hidden by a secret cupboard door is anyones guess! But beyond this point, the modern upgrades that this building has gone through slipped away. Why renovate a secret attic?

The attic itself is pretty spooky, with a fireplace at one end and a teeny additional room at the other. In the middle is a protruding wall which actually contains the previously seen stairs to the roof.

And look at this! There quite obviously was a doorway onto the main stairs from this attic at some point that was blocked off. So this attic wasn't always secret. Now that's interesting. At some point someone blocked this door off, and had a staircase installed that led to a cupboard on the floor below. Was any of this used or even known about when Natwest was here?

And check out this ancient peeling wallpaper. I think of all the rooms in the place the attic was the spookiest because it was the one that truly showed the age of the place. While the rest of the building had been utilized into fairly recent modern times, the attic had been hidden away.

And in addition the attic contained other things. A fireplace, which looked reasonably ancient.

There was also a tiny room at the back of the attic with an ancient-looking window.

The small room contained this odd box, but also look at the brickwork above it. It looks like this was once the roof, and then it was modified to be indoors.

And there was this mysterious trap door to the lower floor. I had completely missed this when I was on the lower floor.

Moving out of the attic, the main top floor did have some stairs leading down. They don't look at all like stairs you'd find in a residential property, so they probably date back to the place being a bank. This floor had a much more office feel to it.

One room in particular was quickly turned into the "base of operations" for the builders.

 This room had a lovely marble fireplace that I hope survives the redevelopment.

 We found another shute on this floor, leading to the roof. Next to it was a circular opening which we discovered was blocked with rolled up newspaper. Jackpot!

Unraveling the balls of newspapers was very difficult, as it was old and fragile, but there's the date "1967" on it, which gave us a hypothetical idea of when this place was used.

I'm not sure what this cupboards purpose was. It led to a shaft in the floor. 

The curious thing about this reception desk was that it seemed to be facing away from the entrance.

As you can see by the architecture, this place must have looked amazing back in its glory days. As the builder work continued, I snuck inside again to see how things were coming along. This proved to be a mistake. I love this building, and to see it undone didn't make me happy. Take a look-

 The secret attic is no longer secret, and it's no longer small. It's been expanded over much of the roof. There's barely any trace of its former ancientness.

It still has a trap door though! But no floorboards!

The lower floors had been stripped of walls. It was only the fireplaces and a few other remnants that gave it any familiarity.

 And there in the rafters... my arch nemesis.

 Make no mistake, this place was dangerous. Some parts were completely lacking a floor. Don't take what I do lightly. I'm a terrible role model.

But how was I to make it to the lower floor?

 That's some drop, and the ladder wasn't even secure. But here's a little lesson in thinking outside of the box!

 I was able to get between the two floors by squeezing down this window. Obviously the window ledge was higher up than the floor, so it wasn't a drop. It sure was a squeeze though!

 And that's really all I've got. At the time of writing, I have no idea what the building will look like when the renovations finish and we're left with a lovely new apartment complex. The interior walls were taken out, so really it can be redesigned completely differently. So I'm glad I had a chance to photograph this place as it was before it was changed, as this is how the place was for decades, and it could even be nostalgic for those who used to work there.

It's a shame my former exploring colleague is missing out on this place, but last time we spoke he said that he got to do a stage performance in Budapest where he had a mask and a flaming sword, so it's not as if he's deprived of anything too epic.

 If anyone has any stories or knowledge about this place, please get in touch and let me know. Please share this blog post if you like it,  and don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram. And if you can spare some pennies, click donate in the top corner. Currently all donations are going to a Go Pro. I was inspired by Michael of Moments with Mike and also Tree Surgeon who filmed a short piece during Calcott Hall, to maybe think about doing a Youtube channel. Do you want to see this blog brought to life through video? I would probably do something along the lines of Adam The Woo, who if you've never seen on Youtube, check him out. I'd probably end up following typical vlogger fashion and interact with my readers/viewers by doing an old fashioned Q&A too if I ever get any questions other than "How do you get to (insert underground, rooftop, abandoned place here)." I mean there's a disclaimer on the blog. I won't answer you. And this is why I stopped linking Facebook on the blog too. If we're friends on Facebook and I seem too eager to make conversation it's only because I so very rarely get it! Honestly, if you look at my inbox, you'd think I was a sat nav, not a human being.

But that aside, I hope you enjoyed the blog.
Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!


  1. A fascinating collection of pics on your exploration of this main street building. I would be interested on any further info. Maybe Shropshire Archives have some info on this building! Congrats on the article!

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