Wasn't April a busy week?
Well it was for me anyway. I mean, I went the entire month without posting a blog. I don't think this has happened in the entire history of the blog. And there is no excuse, except that I have just been very busy. Also my internet might have gone down.
Did anyone see that photo of the Muslim woman on her phone, walking by someone lying on the floor after that terrorist attack in London, with the caption designed to make it look like the Muslim was completely apathetic to the situation because, you know, shes a Muslim and the terrorists are Muslims too so obviously she doesn't care?
Wasn't that exciting! It sure surprised absolutely nobody intelligent when we found out we'd been lied to. The woman in question had actually helped out at the scene, and she was phoning her family to let them know that she was okay, and a photographer took advantage of the situation.
What we have seen is that a photo, without context, can be made to say anything. We are not experiencing news anymore. What we are experiencing is perception management. But there is hope.
You see, had this story come out a few decades earlier, this woman would be fucked. Everyone would hate her and nobody but those in her personal circle would hear her side of it. But she spoke up and her voice was heard because of the internet. The internet might seemingly just be for putting up photos of yourself with a dog face, but it has the power to save us all.
It hasn't saved this blog post. I explored the place on manual focus without realising until it was too late, and as such have barely any good photos. I'm an insult to everyone with a camera. And sadly a return visit was not possible due to raised security. Although I'll be honest, it took them long enough to finally clamp down! Security actually caught us in there the first time, but it took them several months to finally secure the place. And it's not as if the way in was hard to find! The window we used to enter strongly resembled a mans ego after a woman politely tells him "No." Why was it not boarded up straight away?
So the majority of my photos are awful. I can see the Urban explorers now at their keyboards ready to type "Real urban explorers don't leave the camera on manual focus" before heading off to steal cheap lager from the local off license. But I asked my fans and the majority want to see the blog post anyway, because apparently I do a good narrative. I guess I could throw some story together about time travel again, but then maybe now is the time to not gamble with the narrative while I've got ya'll complimenting it. So here it is. Today we're exploring Bourne House.
Bourne House is this big boarded up office block near Radbrook College. I first became aware of it during the months that I scouted Radbrook, figuring out a way in while my hand mended. The building was originally part of the Radbrook College campus, although the original college predates it massively, dating back to 1898, when it was called the Shropshire Technical School For Girls. Bourne House came along much later, when Shropshire Technical School For Girls was given a rename to Shropshire College of Domestic Science and Dairy Work, where young ladies went to learn how to be teachers or dairy farmers. There was actually a dairy farm on Radbrook campus but it has since been demolished. The college received a big modern extension in the 1960s. Bourne House, however, predates this ever so slightly, being built around the 1950s and originally being called Wakeman Hostel. The name is remarkably similar to Wakeman School, in Abbey Foregate. In fact if you look really closely, you'll see that they have the exact same letters in both names. This is not a coincidence! The name derives from Offley Wakeman, who was a chairman of the Governors of the college in 1949.
And thanks to a member of the Memories of Shropshire group, I have photos of Bourne House when it was known as the Wakeman Hostel. Let's see whats changed!
So what was Wakeman Hostel?
Well, it was actually student accommodation. Female students used to live here.
There are four main buildings at the Radbrook complex, although there's still a gatehouse, and a few small outbuildings around the college itself. Of the four main buildings, the college itself has been explored. Another house, named Walker House, appears to still be in use and might even be the headquarters of the on-site security. Two remained- Bourne House and Winston Churchill House. Both of which were impenetrable.
That is until last winter. Having grumbled publicly about my inability to get in, less than a week after my last scouting mission I was informed online that it was now open and explorable. Not wasting any time, I took Raptor, and together we snuck into Bourne House.
Looking at the exterior of the building, it does have a few external features.
This sign identifies Bourne House by its eventual purpose. At some point it ceased being student accommodation and became a psychological service for children.
However, I'm a little confused by this little single-floor protrusion labeled on the door as "Gareths Room." Allegedly in the 1960s the single floor protrusion was the sick bay, and also the home of the college matron. Was this Gareth? Did he stay here long after the building ceased being student accommodation?
As you can see, the floors of Bourne House are not aligned. The ground floor on one half of the building is slightly higher than the ground floor of the other half. And to add to the mix, I later learned that Bourne House had a variety of uses, far beyond a child psychological services. Some of it was used by West Mercia Energy, some of it was used as an IT training provider. And some of it was an adoption service. The dates of which all of these services were there vary, but they did share the same building.
The child psychologist service dates back at least as far as the 1980s, and is best known in Shropshire as CAMHS, an acronym for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Basically, it's counselling for youngsters. When this service stopped being at Bourne House, it moved to a place in Shrewsbury called Coral House, which was actually named in a competition by one of Bourne Houses former clients, who I happen to be friends with.
Because people who are friends with me do tend to need counselling afterwards...
Bourne House also had a specialist speech and language team up until the summer of 2015. But now, alongside Radbrook College and Winston Churchill House, it's big, empty and boarded up. Let's slip inside and see whats left!
So this is apparently the reception area that led to the adoption service. It has seen better days. While stripped of all of its furniture, computers and whatnot, it still has a few clues of its former use. But whoever broke into this place has smashed pretty much every pane of glass they could find.
An old training application form.
And here, written on the wall, is the tag of the young bubble of anger who has to smash windows as soon as they realise that the cameras cant see them anymore. Fear! Wait, that looks familiar! Isn't this written all over Shrewsbury? Like, right where cameras can see who wrote it and consequentially pin the break in of Bourne House on them?
I guess it's fair to say that Fear isn't that bright.
But lets not be too hard on them. Other graffiti folks hate them too. Check this out! This is in Castle Fields.
It's addressed to "All taggers" and says "Meet me on the 10th May 2016. I'll give you loads of graffiti supplies. Meet me in Frankwell." It then adds "Tag here if interested."
Fear has written their tag twice, and the first time they were crossed out and the second time, someone else wrote "Death" next to their name. So I guess you could say they aren't that popular.
But let's be honest, what is the logic behind writing "Fear" everywhere? I mean how are people supposed to react? "He has a marker pen! AAAAAAHHHHHH"
The hallways of this building are very samey, with offices on either side. I hoped as I explored that at least one of the offices would have something interesting, and I wouldn't rest until I'd seen them all.
There's actually a lot of police tape around here, but I'm not sure if this is actual police tape left over from an earlier crime scene, or if Fear somehow got their hands on some and threw it everywhere to try to be edgy.
I sure am making fun of Fear in this blog. I hope it doesn't turn out to be someone important like Donald Trump, Amanda Thatcher or my girlfriends dad or something. That could be awkward.
As you can see, the offices are remarkably samey. They're mostly stripped of all former detail. I wasn't ruling out the possibilities of finding something interesting though.
In the corner of one room was a dead frog, covered in spider webs.
Here, our friend, Fear has written a swastika. I can tell it's them! The pen is the same! I think I'm starting to understand this person. Perhaps it's some kind of low-budget attempt at turning an abandoned office block into a scare attraction. Written everywhere is the word Fear just in case you're unsure about what emotion you should be feeling when you see a teeny swastika scribbled on the door of an empty office.
I have to say, and please Fear, take this as constructive criticism, but I have been to scarier scare attractions. Such as Disney Land, and Hoo Farm.
The room with the swastika had a ladder in there.
Room 3 is apparently engaged.
But once inside, it was pretty bleak, except...
Wow! Fear has struck again! We're a step above swastikas now, folks. What can possibly stand up to the needle-sharp wit of Fear?
The meeting/Training room requests that I do not disturb, but it's still completely empty.
Well, not completely. It has various pieces of office debris.
I did find a timetable of appointments in here, dated 2015.
One of the offices here still had a box full of keys, next to a leaflet rack.
Here we have a certificate for Managing Health and Safety, earned by Terrence David Mann, who likely did the training in this building. Maybe even in this room, assuming that Fear was too busy thinking of mean things to write on the walls to rearrange things.
Poor Terrence though, having done this training, put it on his CV and now unable to find his certificate. Here it is, Terrence! Just print off this photo! No trespass required.
Here's a schedule for more training throughout 2015.
And here's a telephone number list.
And look! Vintage sanitary towels!
Oddly enough this isn't the first time I've found one. There was one at the Cherry Tree Hotel! But that's surely coincidental. This one here at Bourne House must have been for... You know what, I can't actually think of a service alleged to have been at Bourne House that would have required them to have these in stock. I guess they could be used for counselling if you have a young girl who has no clue whats happening down under and her parents are Jeremy Kyle people, and she just needs someone competent to explain it all to her. I guess that makes sense.
Here we finally get around to Gareths Room internally. And as we discovered, it's not really a room. It's more of a hallway with offices in, just like the other hallway. It's mostly featureless and the only defining feature of it is the fact that it is labeled "Gareths Room."
Did he live here?
Aha, here we are. A barely focused sign that tells us what the building was for. According to this the south part, the single-floor bit named "Gareths Room" was used by West Mercia Energy. It also confirms that the block I was just in, prior to venturing into Gareths Room, was a Community Services Training provider, which explains the certificate on the floor. The adoption service was upstairs, and those stairs could be accessed through the smashed up doorway.
Heading up the stairs, I saw that just in case I wasn't already afraid, the person who broke in was on hand to tell me what emotion I should be feeling.
At the top of the stairs, I found something both infuriating but intriguing. An office that was locked! Beyond this point, I found that there were even more offices, preceded by a sign that I couldn't help but chuckle at.
In the upper floors, a lot of the signs still hung on doors, confirming that it was an adoption support service, and naming the staff who worked here.
Among the office clutter are business cards and stationary.
This room had a "Do not disturb" notice on the wall, and a key in the lock, which means it's probably ideal to hide in, should one get suspected by security of being in the building. Did anyone think of that? I sure didn't.
This door was also locked, but it seems that Fear decided to draw a penis on it. Because everyones afraid of the male reproductive organ right? Nothing scarier than a few inches of flesh used to facilitate the removal of body waste. And shoot DNA into people to grow more people.
Actually, that is pretty terrifying!
The second family room had this really cool wall decoration of bears trying not to drown.
Uh oh... it seems we have some more graffiti from Fear coming up. Prepare yourselves! The marker pen of Fear is not to be taken lightly!
Whoa! I have nothing for this. I'm gobsmacked. Fear is writing on the walls things of an adult nature that some people enjoy partaking in. Next they'll be writing "Have a nice warm bath" or "Smoke a cigarette" or "Try some cake."
Fears articulation and profound dominance of the English language has me quivering. What will they write next?
Here's a polite notice about what to do if there's an incident.
Some of these offices had books and such in that had absolutely nothing to do with adoption. Personal posessions, maybe?
This book was definitely used by the adoption service but on the cover was a post-it notifying anyone that this book is no longer being printed.
I did find a surprisingly stocked kitchen. It no longer had any appliances in it, but the drawers were still full of mugs and plates.
Another office had another floor plan.
This sign tells of the location of the photocopier. It has gone to space.
Here's a stationary cupboard, now lacking in stationary.
Aha, the toilets. These are always rivetting in abandoned places.
But these ones are oddly clean. In fact, one would almost believe that these toilets were still in use.
Well, I've made it into the ladies and I havent been slapped, so either they actually are abandoned or I am just that pretty.
An intriguing door sign.
You see, the adoption service is just the top floor of the southern part of the building. Beyond this point are stairs back down to ground level, to what is apparently the IT Wing, used by the Pre-school Learning Alliance. Or if one chose to remain on the same floor, they'd find the Social Care and Housing Applications Training, ran by Carefirst. But back when this building was operational, even though it was all connected, each service was only to be accessed via their own front foor rather than internally.
Pressing on into the part of the building ran by Carefirst, it became apparent that this room was used for speech and language therapy. Littering the floor are loads of pictures used to help children with their speech and pronounciation, and also for communicating with non-verbal children, although we're venturing into the realm of learning disabilities there and I'm not sure if this place did anything of that sort.
In the main hallway by the stairs, I did find some folders and application forms for Barnados. The folder is apparently for Autistic Supporters newsletters.
Meanwhile, the stairs remained to be searched. As mentioned, the ground floors of two different portions of this building are not level with each other, so even now, one must go down some stairs to get to the top floor of the buildings north wing, which I think may be ran by Carefirst. But before that, I was intrigued by an aspect of this building that wasn't on the floor plan. The attic.
Aside from having a series of labeled tanks, the attic also had a chair just in case anyone wanted to sit and look at them, and also a traffic cone just in case anyone got sick of looking at them but couldn't be bothered to stand up and look at something downstairs.
There was also access to the roof.
Hey, look, an abandoned plant.
From up here we have a view overlooking the Radbrook college, with its CCTV cameras looking in every direction except at their current intruder.
I didn't go right to the edge because security vehicles are literally right in front of Bourne House, but the view was still great. I didn't stick around up there for too long though, being in view from the entire neighbourhood.
Over in the distance, the 1960s extension of Radbrook college clashes mightily with the original Victorian building. On my last visit, some demolition machinery was present so I'm not sure how much is still standing. Not daring to get a view of Winston Churchill House, what with having to get right in the view of the still-occupied Walker House, I snuck back inside, and down the stairs.
So as mentioned this hallway is the upper north wing, and it was for social care and housing applications training, for Carefirst. This clunky looking device at the bottom of the stairs is a stairlift.
Now for a bit of architectural mystery. Here's a door halfway up the wall. What was its purpose? Why are there no stairs leading up to it? Architecturally speaking, this building is less than a century old, and has remained virtually unchanged. This sort of random failure is something you'd see in an ancient building that has been modified, but not a big modern office block.
Also for a big modern office block, there are a lot of signs telling people not to do things that would be common sense not to do.
I can't quite make out the words on this door but it looks like it once said "Common Room."
The hallway is remarkably samey.
Quite intriguingly, this office is locked, and no intruder has broken the window, which means that this office is perhaps the most preserved area of the building. It still has chairs and tables, all of which are visible through the window. And to my delight it still has a whiteboard with writing on it.
The locked door perfectly preserves this whiteboard from the likes of Fear. In fact maybe its inaccessibility was the trigger behind their graffiti tantrum throughout the building. The writing on this whiteboard appears to be written by the original occupants prior to this place closing, with "We will miss you" being one final message to the people who worked here.
One wall has a post-it with a website address on it.
As you can tell from the door signs, the majority of these rooms were used for training purposes.
At the back of this hallway was another stairway leading to the ground floor of the north wing. It has police tape on it but by this point I think it's fair to say that it's not legitimate police tape. If this was a true crime scene, I would not have been able to scurry around it unaided for so long.
Apparently this floor is for the Pre-School Learning Alliance, but it had very little evidence of that.
In fact signs like this suggest it's something else entirely. Of course, it's possible that the use of the building changed but nobody updated the poster. So this part of the building was used by West Mercia Womens Aid.
It may also have been for IT Training.
The hallway looks much the same as any other hallway in this building.
A store cupboard contained the Communications Cabinet Change Management Log.
It's an awfully long winded title for something which is basically about documenting change in a cupboard.
There's a bizarre cardboard cut-out of a child in one of the windows.
So in regards to West Mercia Womens Aid, I can't tell if what they did here was face-to-face interaction like the CAHMS area or if it was just a call centre. These desks scream "IT Training" at me in all their unfocused glory (Damn you, manual focus!) but if this was just a cell centre then this room easily could have housed that.
This room was stripped of furniture but the floor was littered with domestic violence leaflets, and it had a few items left over on a shelf.
And the cupboard in this room is very interesting.
I'm in a ranty mood, so I'm going to say it's kinda annoying how all these leaflets are "Men supporting women who suffer from men." Why do these organisations act like women are the only people who can be abused? I was a victim of domestic violence once. It's really annoying. You can't hit them back because then everyone will think you're an abuser, and you can't tell anyone because then everyone will think you're a wuss. All you can do is spread a rumour that you're dead and then refuse to answer the door until you can save a deposit and move to another town. Abuse is tragic until it happens to a man. Then it's hilarious.
Okay, I apologise. I don't want to turn this into a gender war. But this entire situation has made me want to rant and rant and rant.
But in regards to the paperwork left behind with personal information, that's definitely not okay.
Among the paper on the shelf are a few security codes to other buildings. I did try a few of them in some of the locked office keypads but they didn't work.
There are some nice posters which talk about correct office posture. Also pictured is my hand, which still has the scar on the knuckle from Radbrook College.
Much of the remaining offices were a little less featureless than some of the other offices.
Oh look, the building had a shredder. Why was that paperwork just left here???
The store room is pretty generic, no longer really storing anything.
There's still toilet paper and cleaning products on the shelves.
Moving through the main doors, we came to the main hallway. This being the ground floor, slightly lower than the ground floor of the south wing, we had only one flight of stairs to get us back to Bourne Houses main entrance.
Of course, while the likes of Facebook provide the human race with a medium to carry out their fight for relevance with mundane updates about their grocery shopping, some people take this fight for relevance to the walls of abandoned office blocks. And luckily, should you be midway through one such mundane Facebook update and feeling kinda foolish, here's Fear written on the walls again, to make even the most mundane among us feel good about ourselves. Thank you, Fear.
These are the stairs leading to the raised "ground floor" of the South Wing. But before we leave this building for good, there appears to be a cellar.
The cellar has a truly eerie vibe to it. Apparently back when the building was constructed this was the laundry area of the college dorms. But now it appears to have been used for generic storage.
Bus seats. Who knows how they ended up here?
This storage area was for an organisation called SITSS, which is an acronym for School IT Support Service. So this adds another angle to the IT training here. Apparently a lot of it was for students.
This big heavy door had police tape on the handle, and without being able to explain why, and without going into any detail or big long debate, both Raptor and I agreed that it felt very wrong in there. It is intriguing that its signed that it must be kept locked shut. I wonder what it was for.
There's nothing in there now, except a really odd atmosphere.
Finally at the back of the cellar was a tiny office.
There's a pretty ancient computer in here. I haven't seen one of these since the early naughties.
There's a floppy disk under the desk.
And a map of the building.
And here is where Fear practiced drawing the swastika, or tried to be edgy and come up with their own version.
There's an old phone exchange, very reminiscent of the one we found in Tilstock Barracks, albeit not quite as ancient.
This store room reminds me of Level 3 of Lemmings.
Does anyone remember Lemmings?
The labels on the shelves indicate that this area would have been used by the speech and language therapists.
And this paperwork is indicative of some kind of IT Complaints department, which would explain the office. Perhaps the IT department was in the cellar, much like that sit-com, the IT Crowd. The paperwork describes issues with staff computers in the building.
And here's another blast from the past! That's an original Playstation memory card! I wonder what games are saved on it.
By the time Raptor and I left the building, it was dark. We were met instantly by a man shining a torch at us, presumably security. He must have seen us in there, what with the camera flashes no doubt being visible from the exterior, and waited by our means of exit instead of the more complex task of coming in after us. We were compliant, because he was just doing his job after all, and I explained to him that it was not us who broke the window. He said he knew that, but we had to go.
And so we left.
I did return to see if I could get some better photos, since my camera was on manual for a lot of the adventure, and I found that the window was still smashed, but security have since placed these motion sensors around the premises. However, some later explorers had the ridiculously clever idea of putting small cardboard boxes over them.
Genius move, lets be honest.
However, security presence at the Radbrook Complex has stepped up a notch. Perhaps thats my own fault for publishing my blog on Radbrook College, which the same security team is responsible for. In which case this is the second time I've pulled the wool over their eyes. I'd feel sorry for them, but the window is still open for anyone to get in, the building contains confidential information about domestic abuse victims, and the most security can do about it is put a pole in the ground with motion sensors on it.
Get dogs or something!
But in regards to the domestic abuse forms, it's an ethical pickle for me. Since I don't own the property, in the eyes of the law, to destroy the forms would be vandalism, and to remove them would be theft. As always, I observe, I photograph and I document. But it would be unethical to do nothing in this case, so I hid them. They're still in the building, but now to find them, one has to have a little imagination. Assuming the place hasn't been explored by others and the forms discovered and moved, I know exactly where they are, and in keeping with confidentiality laws I am willing to show their location to the relevant person, should they reach out to me.
But I'm not happy. And it genuinely annoys me that as soon as I hit "Publish" I'll be releasing a blog post that could potentially terrify domestic abuse victims all over Shropshire, and make it very difficult to reach out to organisations again. Hopefully West Mercia Womens Aid will see it as a learning curve and improve. And I hope security clamp down even more.
In regards for the abandoned buildings at the Radbrook complex, that's two down. Winston Churchill House remains, and it's very much on my to-do list, and protected by the same security team.
I hope that when I get to it, I don't find any confidential documents there.
Anyway, apologies for the delay in the blog. Please share this on the social media of your choice and follow me on Instagram and Twitter. If you can donate money to the blog, please do so just in case my computer explodes or my camera breaks or something. But if you really want to make me happy, just make someone else has a good day too! Every single one of us has the power to make someone else smile. Go out and do it. Throw a compliment at someone. Give someone a hug. Cheer up someone who looks miserable.
And look for me outside random shops next time the local paper drones on about rooftoppers. Buy a paper, bring it to me, and I'll give you an autograph. I promise!
Thanks for reading! Stay awesome!