Friday, 19 May 2017

Underneath McDonalds

I have some exciting news!

For fourteen years now, I have had epic long hair. And it's what a lot of people use as a key descriptive feature. Whenever the police in Shrewsbury receive a call that someone is on a roof, they ask the caller if that person is tall, and has the hair of a goddess and the legs of a gazelle. And if the caller says yes, the police say "Don't worry, we know about them."
But no more! You see, my hair and I have not been getting along. It's slowly receding and in a matter of years I will just look silly. Its time to rid my iconic look in a blaze of glory. As of early June, all of my hair will be given to the Little Princess Trust so that it can become a wig for a cancer victim.

In addition to that, I think I should be using social media to raise money for it too. I mean, I've had this blog for a few years now and I've got a good following. I want to do something good with that. So if you would like to sponsor my chop, click here to go to the fundraising page. The page has set an automated target of £340 but lets try to exceed it. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Share this blog. Make it huge. Together we can make a real positive impact on peoples lives.

As a treat today, as you've probably seen by the blogs title, I'll be showing the interior of the old McDonalds building on Pride Hill!

(Picture stolen from Trip Advisor. I doubt they'll be needing it anymore)

 (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 offense 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 )

While the media did recently say that Shrewsbury has the oldest McDonalds in the world, this was poor choice in phrasing as it makes it sound like this is the longest-serving McDonalds. What they should have specified was that Shrewsbury had the oldest building in the world to ever have a McDonalds in it. Upon closure, Shrewsbury is now the largest town in Britain to not have a McDonalds in the town centre.

McDonalds announced early in 2017 that it would be closing in February. Already aware of its gorgeous interior, having eaten many a Big Mac in its dungeon, I was instantly fascinated. Once McDonalds closed its doors, its dungeon would be inaccessible to the public and therefore exactly the sort of thing I blog about.

But as closing date loomed, the media grabbed hold of it, and floods of people started going to McDonalds to check out its epic cellars before closing. I went in for a legitimate photoshoot only to find that every angle possible had a person in it. I had to get creative. The dungeons were only busy when they were open to the public, after all, and because of their cavernous nature they were usually closed at certain times of the day.

Raptor and I spent a good chunk of February in McDonalds, seemingly racing each other to get double chins. But when staff attention was elsewhere, I nimbly stepped over their little railing and snuck down into the depths.

 The theme down here is very medieval in keeping with the ancient architecture. It's a very vast area that any history lover would find intriguing.

The children's area is a tiny little cave with teeny benches in it, which my friends and I would occupy long into our teenage years.

These windows in this little area are really ancient. This kids area is apparently in what was called a garderobe. This is a medieval term for a store room but can also include extensions, private rooms, privy and more commonly, a toilet.

How many children ate in a room where people over the centuries have released their bowels?
I'd make a joke about eating McDonalds food in a place people used to shit, but lets face it, you've already made it in your heads.

The building was originally called Pride Hill Chambers, due to being on Pride Hill. Pride Hill, up until around 1378, was called Altus Vicus (High Town) until it was changed to reflect that the Pride Family lived there. But from what I can tell, there cant have been much of Shrewsbury where the Pride Family didn't live! In 1279 they were recorded as having 47 houses to the family name, 25 of which belonged to one man! No wonder they ended up with an entire street named after them! The Pride family were primarily merchants in the wool trade, but Roger Pride with his 25 houses was actually a bailiff from 1302 to 1303. In 1398 his ancestor, Thomas Pride, was also a bailiff but he was found to be embezzling money for repairs after the great fire of 1393. But the street was already named after him by that point so it didn't really matter if he ruined the families good name.

Pride Hill Chambers is a listed building, as you can probably guess, and it retains a lot of its medieval heritage in its interior design. But as I explored the cellar, I was in for a shock.

You see, I distinctly recall there being some medieval stocks under the stairs, to make some form of medieval-prison themed play area. They've since been removed.

This old coal chute sure is a wonderful feature though, and I'm glad it's still there.

These balcony's overlook a much larger area further downstairs.

And down here the medieval aesthetic continues. Although as with the stocks upstairs, I remember there being a suit of armour down here which I was really looking forward to photograph. It has, however, vanished.

There's this big block missing from the wall. I have no idea what it is. However what I do know is that the back wall of the McDonalds cellar is part of the original town walls of Shrewsbury. This means that part of this building dates back to 1220, although I think at least one newspaper who covered this dated it back to the 1100s. Since the town walls were originally part of Shrewsburys fortification, the building that currently sits on top of it, Pride Hill Chambers, was built much later.

Most stained-glass windows have biblical depictions, such as Jesus or other important religious figures. Not Shrewsburys McDonalds. We have our very own Lord and Master, Charles Darwin.

One thing I did love was this reflective pillar which tells the history of Shrewsbury in nice medieval font. It actually makes me laugh that any tourists looking to learn the history of Shrewsbury could find it downstairs in McDonalds. This also clarifies that while the town walls did date back to 1100, that only includes the portions of it around the castle. The parts of the wall beyond that, such as the one that Pride Hill Chambers was built on, dates back to 1220.

I cant help but laugh at the Daily Mail. I'm not sure how they managed to date this building wrong when the facts are literally written here in the building itself.

Underneath the upper kids area is another one.

This one has a door. I have no idea how I ever missed this when I came here as a child. The kids area has an actual door to nowhere in it. And it's not a fire exit either. It literally leads to nowhere.

Here's what it looks like on the other side!

But I'll return to the exterior of McDonalds. First I want to focus some more on the interior.

The real fire exit is here, at the back of the main chamber. I really wanted to sneak back there but I was afraid of setting off an alarm.
Eventually I realised that it didn't matter. If I backed out now, I'd be forever wondering what was beyond this door. Luckily the alarm didn't go off.

Apparently when this place was Pride Hill Chambers, this passage was used to access a boys club that was held in this building in the 1940s as part of St Marys School. The host of this club was reportedly, although my source might be joking, named Miss Mac.

What a McCoincidence.

But from what I can gather, Pride Hill Chambers in the 1960s was home to various offices and businesses over the years, including the Conservative Club, Lloyds Finances, a hairdressers called Helen Veres, and a solicitors named Graham Withers. It became McDonalds in 1983. Absolutely nothing downstairs was changed since it became McDonalds, although it's obviously been modified at points over the years.

This fire exit intrigues me. It doesn't just go down to Raven Meadows from the main eating area. No, it also goes up. But up to where?

These stairs are gloriously ancient compared to the other stairs in the building. They're even worn in the middle from centuries of people coming up and down them.

I followed the passage upwards and came to this door. The door is modern and featureless. I have no idea what is on the other side of it, but it truly confuses me. In spite of going upstairs, I don't think we're level with the ground floor yet, so this must lead to a deeper cellar.

But more intriguingly, this doorway is far more modern than the passage itself. Where did these stairs lead up to originally?

I'm very much open to more underground tunnel speculation but my map of Shrewsbury from 1880 does display a passageway here from Raven Meadows to Pride Hill, so maybe this is the remains of that. Maybe a long time ago this led up to the street like Seventy Steps. 

Exiting out through the fire exit, one finds that this door isn't ground level either. In fact it's the same height as the door from the medieval toilet. However it has some stairs down to ground floor.

Outside, the history of this is even more obvious, contrasting sharply with the neighbouring Pride Hill Shopping Centre.

In the walls are the faint outlines of archways. Older photos of this building do show that there were actual stone archways complimenting the windows once, but all that is left of them are those two stacks of blocks next to the black support pillar.

See, this is what it used to look like. Suffice to say this photo is not mine. Credits go to various Shropshire groups on Facebook. The photo shows the fire exit doorway, lacking its stairway, on the right, and the archways that no longer exist.

An older photo still shows it as a relatively tiny portion of the original Pride Hill Chambers building, only really identifiable by the archways. Anything further right than those archways has since been destroyed during the construction of the Pride Hill Shopping Centre. The toilet extension was black and white timber framed, and anything further left than that has now been modified to make way for the Darwin Shopping Centre. So sandwiched between two modern retail giants, we're quite lucky to have what we have in terms of McDonalds. Whether you like McDonalds or not, its presence in Shrewsbury has served to preserve a chunk of history.

I don't know what will be going here next but luckily, given the buildings listed status, the downstairs will be preserved. However it might not be publically accessible ever again.

I hope you people enjoyed this final look at the McDonalds dungeon. The new Burger King on Castle Street is no doubt profitting from the sudden lack of McDonalds. In fact its return to the town centre seems remarkably coincidental.

But onwards to the future. As promised earlier, early in June I plan on having my hair cut so that it can be turned into a wig for a cancer patient. Any sponsors and donations for the Little Princess Trust will be greatly appreciated. Spread the word, and share this blog post on social media of your choice. Let's use the internet for something other than looking at cats and putting dog faces on our selfies.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. But as always far more important to me is that you go out and make someones day better. There's too much misery and we each have it in ourselves to make the world a better place.

Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Oaklands School

 (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 offense 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 )

A curious addition to my "message request" portion of my inbox, buried among the "How did you get there" questions from people, and the "You're not a real explorer" comments from annoyed urban explorers, is the curious question of where I went to school. And of course I ignore these questions because they're always from complete strangers and always disturbingly blunt. Like "Hi. Did you go to Priory School in 89?"

Weird, right? I mean who does that? Who writes to complete strangers with "Did you attend this school?" Why does anyone care? Stop fixating on my jailbait self. I'm above the age of consent now. That makes it okay to fancy me. Have you seen my arse? I haven't, but I'm told it's glorious.

So how does this wrap up? You've seen the title. Am I finally going to tell you, and show you, where I went to school?
No I'm not. I'll show you exactly where I didn't go to school. Here's Oaklands!

Raptor and I paid Oaklands a visit on a particularly gloomy day. With abandoned playgrounds being creepy enough without help, visiting on a gloomy day should have made it much creepier. but I'm well aware that if I'm in a creepy abandoned playground, the creepiest thing in that playground is me. So while trudging around in the wet, rather than being creeped out, it just made me reconsider my choices in footwear.

 These steps are eerily reminiscent of steps in the playground where I did go to school, but thats a very obscure connection. The only reason it takes me back down memory lane is because when I was in Primary School, around the age of six or seven, a girl died on big stone steps very much like these. She was a year younger than me, and we weren't close because at that age, girls are icky. And I hadn't given her much thought in recent years until I saw these steps. It's strange how the mind works. I wonder what she'd be like today.
I guess we're all sandcastles. You, me, the places I explore. It's all very temporary. And that's precisely why I do what I do.

 We're right in the view of residential properties, so I had to be stealthy. This is a challenge for me because I look like some sort of magician.Unfortunately appearances are where my similarities with magicians end. I cannot disappear.

 These poles likely supported a climbing frame or something back in the day.

To muddy my initial research of the place, an exterior noticeboard reads "Friends of Oakmeadow."
I believed at first that this school was Oakmeadow, but it turned out that the schools closure was due to merging with another school, Longmeadow. The names Oaklands and Longmeadow were imaginably amalgamated into Oakmeadow, with plans to close Oaklands and move all of the students to the Longmeadow campus. However, while Longmeadow was being prepared for the additional student influx, Oaklands briefly changed its name to Oakmeadow and remained open, presumably to not confuse anybody. It finally ceased to function as an educational facility in 2009, although this noticeboard makes mention of time tables in September 2011. Maybe I was misinformed of the date it closed, or maybe the noticeboard was keeping parents updated on the times to be at the new primises at the beginning of the school year.

 Slipping inside, I felt very uneasy and paranoid, being in a residential area and in a school, where the doors are mostly glass and the windows are huge. An innocent dog walker could walk by and spot me, and then it's all over. I rely heavily on a marvelous side effect of society called the someone-elses-problem effect. If anyone did see me lurking around, they probably assumed that I was meant to be there and as such I vanished from their perception in a puff of apathy.
So I guess I can disappear. I just don't do the magic myself. 

Here is the headteachers office, immediately to the right hand side after entering the school, along with the toilets.

As a nice added touch, the alphabet decorates the walls of the children's toilets. A child is at school to learn, after all, even while they pee.

The children attending Oaklands would have been between 4 and 10, so I felt a little bit like a giant, with sinks below waist level.

This is a very unusual urinal, in the middle of the toilet room, and pretty much just a little raised box.

One of the cubicle doors was chopped off at the top and given a little out-of-order label. Consequentially the chopped door allowed me to get my camera in there and see just how Out-of-Order the toilet was.

Consequentially to being out of order, this particular toilet is the cleanest one in the entire school, and most certainly cleaner than the toilets in some pubs and clubs, and still with a full roll of toilet paper.

In a few years time, once the British public wise up, and use  their new waterproof unrippable £5 notes to put toilet paper companies out of business, this cubicle will be like a museum.

Across from the childrens toilets was the so-called repro room. Now, I had no idea what this was when I first started writing it, and I still dont. I assumed "repro" was short for "reprogramming" and this was where they sent all of the children to be indoctrinated if they were non-conformists or right-hemisphere dominant kids. "Keep to the footpaths, kids, it's easier to walk on." "But no flowers grow on the footpath, Miss." "Right, Brian, we've warned you about lateral thought processes! For that metaphor, go to the reprogramming room!"

Poor Brian. So young and unaware that his whole life has already been mapped out. Get spewed forth from the education system, get a job, and work for a corporation until he's too old to work anymore, and reprogrammed to think that all his bigger dreams are childish and foolish. Luckily for him, I don't think that this "repro" room is for reprogramming kids. There's a big sign on the door forbidding unauthorized access. I googled, in an attempt to find out what a repro room could be, and google seems to think it means "Reproduction."

Is this where the teachers came to shoot their DNA into each other???

Hmm... cosy.

The hallway had these little benches with coat hooks, They were reminiscent of that other school I explored that one time, although that school was for older kids.

So this would have been where the students left their coats and bags before commencing to the classrooms for their indoctrination education.

All of the classrooms are connected via this central hall which also looks like it serves as a gym. It's very unusual to have a central gym that leads to classrooms rather than standard hallways.

A sign on a nearby door states that what was once the dining hall is now a temporary place of worship. I did a little research into this curiosity and found out that after the school closed, the Methodists used this area as a church while their own building underwent some work. The dining hall became the house of God for roughly a year.

Presumably then this sink produces holy water.

The dining hall connects directly onto the kitchen.

Moving widdershins around the main hallway, the first classroom belonged to Mrs Brooks.

The majority of the furniture has gone but the students work remains.

Next up is the classroom of Mrs Doyle.

As a nice added touch, every classroom had decorative tiles around the sink.

The students had apparently made a display on Peter the Penquin but all that had been taken down.

There's some student artwork on the floor.

The next room apparently belonged to Mrs Derry, and it's mostly featureless.

There is, however, a letter on the inside of the cupboard which gives Mrs Derrys class their own code to access the new photocopier. I've actually never heard of a school requiring each classroom have their own personal photocopier code. Presumably its to regulate the use of the photocopier so that if things get photocopied that shouldn't be, such as posters advertizing a Hitler Youth meeting, the offending student or teacher can be found.

The next room belonged to Miss Bywood, and the door had seen better days.

So had the room. It seemed a bit strange that Bywoods room was so trashed in comparison to the other rooms.

On the door was a map of the school. And it was through this that I learned about who taught in which classrooms, and of the mysterious Repro room. According to this map only two rooms remain at the end of this eerie hallway.

The hallway is lined with numbered hooks. Numbered hooks are an important part of our countries education system. They remind youngsters early on that they are just a number.

Decorating this hallway is loads of old school work, including a reading tree that once again refers to this place as Oakmeadow.

Up here, the school was a bit more untidy. A lot of the students work has been ripped off the walls.

Curiously there used to be a sink here, but this has been removed. It's the only sink to have been removed in the entire school.

There are some toilets for nursery students.They have these weird dipped cubicle walls, perhaps to ensure privacy while still ensuring that the child can be rescued if they accidentally lock themselves in.

The presence of toilet paper is an ongoing one in abandoned places. It's the one thing guaranteed to always be left behind. People like me will be in for a treat once everyone starts using £5 notes. I just hope they leave the water running.

Shortly before one makes it to the nursery rooms, there is a staff room which is perhaps the most immaculate room in the building.

I assumed that the classrooms would be trashed by former students, but if thats the case, why was the staff room spared?

All this computer equipment was an interesting find.

The next room was apparently taught in by Mrs Clode. It seems to have some of the old gymnastics equipment in here.

In one corner of the room, some of the classrooms rules were still hanging on the wall, regarding the manner in which the students spoke to each other.

The last one "Use good words" is particularly amusing.

The final room was listed on the map but didn't have a teachers name to it. It was simply titled Hillside Nursery, and it presumably was for the youngest students.

As a child I was very confused about why Winnie the Pooh had the same voice as the snake from Robin Hood. Whereas Tigger just terrifies me.There's always been something creepy about him.

On the floor there's some photos of the students working.
But really, thats it for Oaklands school.

As mentioned, it was briefly renamed Oakmeadow, while Longmeadow was prepared for the merge. Longmeadow was then renamed Oakmeadow and all of the students, and presumably the staff, were moved to the new premises. The fact that the church later used the school but seemingly touched none of the work on the walls is indicative that there are perhaps plans for the building, and someone presumably still has ownership of the keys.

I'm not sure when Oaklands opened but I do know adults who went there as children. Ultimately, as with most educational establishments, there will be some sad nostalgia from the former students and staff to see the condition it is in now. But as a regular trespasser and poke-around-er of the unwanted and unused, sometimes repetitively to see just how much things have deteriorated, I've come to terms with the temporary nature of just about everything. We're all just sandcastles. And that is why life is for enjoying, and dispensing with the useless priorities that make us take things too seriously.

The human race has long had its concerns of complete obliteration at your enemy-of-the-year and it's long had its science fiction stories of robot uprisings. Let me tell you exactly whats going to happen.

The human race is obsessed with customizing itself. Whether this is simply shaving certain parts of your body, dying your hair, getting tattoos, or having plastic surgery to look more like a cat. It's a trait present, minor and large, in every human being. In addition to that our technological breakthroughs continue to happen. Prosthetic limbs. Prosthetic organs. Head transplants. The first animal grown in an artificial womb. It's all happening right now. And with the internet existing as this big data cloud around us, the human race is becoming more and more dependant on technology. What's the next step?
Humans are unique among other animals in that we are the only thing, apart from micro-organic life forms, that destroys the world we live in. We continually contaminate our water, poison our air and over-process our food so that we're literally consuming garbage. Surely if we had any intelligence we'd be using this as a clue to question the universe. After all, a virus doesn't know that the world it is destroying is a living body. The body to them is the universe. So what is our universe? At face value, humans are either a virus of some colossal organism or we're completely unnatural. And I don't believe we're unnatural. The other thing to consider is that we're an evolutionary stepping stone towards electronic life, and that what we're doing is all just part of the plan. The human race continually creates without first asking if it should. But what its creating is an environment where the only thing that will be fit to survive is a machine.
Humans, with our biology, are flawed. We get sick. A strong enough blow to our heads can cause irreparable brain damage or death. And of course our need for sleep is detrimental to whatever corporation employs us, since they can't make us work for too long. And then of course, sometimes we can't work for them anymore because we simply get too old. How selfish of us.

The transcending of biology is not something that I want to see happen. I love nature. But in a sense I see this as a natural step for humanity over the next few hundred years. All we need to do now is figure out how to upload the human mind onto a computer, design a body for it, and away we go. And I'm sure that the powers that be will see this as a perfect opportunity to create worker drones. Now you can work for 24 hours without rest, at minimum wage. Vote Tory.
But it's more than that. This is our upgrade. We can avoid injury and death by backing ourselves up. Our default programming of Consume, Reproduce and Destroy will become obsolete. We'll all be designing our own bodies and from there the possibilities are endless. Everything that you can imagine will be possible.

Thats if we don't blow ourselves up first.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and I've recently set up a Facebook page too! Please share this blog post on the social media of your choice. If you can donate to the blog, please do via the donate button in the top corner. Seriously, even if you donate 2p it all adds up. But far more important to me is that you all go out and inject some happiness into someone elses life. There's too much misery, and we each have the ability to make that somewhat less so. Compliment a stranger. Give someone a hug. Confiscate their newspapers.
And look for me outside shops with my pen, next time our local rag tells us that rooftoppers will bring about the end of humanity. I will sign the paper for you.

Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!