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!


  1. The kiddies area used to be my mums pantry back in the 60's when mum and dad had a flat in Pride Hill Chambers!

  2. I really hope that they keep it open to the public in some way. It would be a shame for people not to be able to see such wonderful stuff in our town

  3. Great post dude, I always remember having a birthday party down there when I was 5, and even then being mesmerised by the olde world feel of the place - I kept imagining ghosts and all sorts.

  4. Nothing has kept me that interested for a long time �� I must follow u

  5. That is absolutely fascinating!! Amazing photos and history.

  6. I started a discussion on this building on a Shrews Facebook site a little while back and have a couple of other photos you might like?

  7. I hope that this will open again one day. It rediculas that it shut up now. I'm assuming it still is as I no longer live in Shropshire. I dread to think what the rent was. And McDonald's couldn't make it worth while.

  8. So sad to hear it closed up. I'm not a fan of MacDonalds but this particular restaurant was a special place in my youth and I was thinking of visiting recently...oh well. I just hope whatever it turns into treats it with respect.