It's the day after Easter Sunday, which fell appropriately on April Fools Day. I say appropriate because I can think of no greater April Fools joke than Jesus turning out to not actually be dead. Faking death is one thing, but old JC took it one step further and died for our sins. What kind of shenanigans did his disciples get up to that weekend? Totally relieved of accountability, since Jesus was covering it, they might have taken Good Friday as an excuse to sin mercilessly, up until Jesus showed up and said "By the way, I'm not actually dead, and you're totally accountable for what you did with that goat, Peter."
Well, sucks to be Peter.
Anyway, on with the blog.
A little while ago my friend Laura got in touch to tell me about a big boarded up building in Shrewsbury. Naturally I was intrigued, and since it was only a short walk from my house, I decided to check it out.
The house itself is called Chaddeslode House. It's hidden away from the public eye by a lengthy driveway and a load of trees, and completely missable unless one knows that its there. But it's still pretty close to the town centre, and as far as buildings go, I find it very visually appealing. I was determined to find a way in.
Chaddeslode House was built in the early 1800s and its most recent use was as a mental health clinic, and day centre. Back in the day it dealt with clients struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Personally, I think it's a massive shame to see it shut. If anything, we need more places like this! Mental health is actually a subject of importance to me, and to be honest it should be a subject of importance to everyone. We all know someone who suffers with it. Show me someone who doesn't and I'll show you someone who's good at hiding stuff.
Talking about mental health is hard. People don't know how to react, and often talking about it just alienates a person further because the person being confided in, even if they care, doesn't have a clue what to say and would rather step back and let someone else try. As such it becomes easier to just zip up and pretend nothings wrong than talk about ones problems, and as such a lot of people suffer silently and alone.
While I do think we need more professional help for mental health, it's not entirely down to the professionals to do it. I mean sure, if someones suicidal, then yes, the professionals are probably the best people for the job, but a person suffering can be saved from ever reaching that point if the people around them are attentive. If someones down, you don't need a psychology degree. Just go for a walk with them and get a coffee, or stay in and play on the goddamn X-Box, or order a fucking pizza. Sometimes people just need a friend.
This is actually the third boarded up mental health clinic I've explored in Shrewsbury, but luckily upon researching it, I found out that it hasn't closed down, but the service has moved. Shrewsburys mental health facilities all amalgamated in one location, in Sundorne. It's a pretty good idea, focusing the help in one place, and it's just left a lot of boarded up buildings behind it for me to poke around in. Which incidentally is great for my mental health! This is my drug, right here.
So included in the amalgamation was Bourne House and Winston Churchill House, which I've blogged about previously. They're up near Radbrook College, which is quite a trek from here, so it does make sense to merge it all, and stick it all into one place.
Before we check out the interior of Chaddeslode, I want to poke around the outside of this building.
There are a few signs of modification over the years.
For example, this was clearly a door once, and a small footpath can just be made out through the weeds pointing at another brick wall.
Very odd. The house had an exterior pathway that led from itself to itself, and they blocked the doors but didn't remove the original path.
There's this building too, which was smaller but inaccessible, and still part of the same complex. Its most modern feature is the wheelchair access ramp, but it's equally as old as Chaddeslode House, and also shows up on maps from 1888.
The sign on the wall calls this building "The Stables" which is probably what it was back in the 1800s.
As far as other external features go, we have a few.
This bench is completely smashed.
And this is a rat trap. These were dotted around the garden. They basically poison whatever poor rodent happens to slip inside for a nibble.
Chaddeslode did have one major external feature that was pretty cool, and I actually did see a rat down there briefly before it scurried away. It's an external cellar!
The stairs down to this cellar were protected by this big metal grate, which someone had knocked loose so that it could be accessed. And who could blame the local kids for doing that? They get to have a big cellar to hang out in!
It's not that big though. It leads to two rooms, which likely had access to the interior of the main building once, but not anymore.
There appears to be an old coal shute there.
The cellar is a dumping ground for old furniture, and stuff. There's a few chairs, a leaflet rack, and some bricks for some reason.
But this cellar provided me with no means of accessing the interior of the main building. It was actually disapointing. However, while there is something attractive about the idea of slipping into a building via an underground tunnel, my usual spider-man style methods are often more fun.
Soon I was inside the main building, and it was pretty amazing.
Architecturally, this building is gorgeous.
The reception desk is directly across from the front door, but looking at it compared to the door on the left, it seems pretty likely that the reception window was a doorway once, but has since been modified.
There are two doors to the left of the reception, each leading to offices. The rest of the house sprawls out on the right.
There's a notice here which announces the closure of Chaddeslode, due to its services moving to Sundorne in December 2015. It sure is strange to think that this place has stood empty in Shrewsbury for all that time!
The house was likely once quite a refined home.
The door to the left of reception seemed the most inviting, purely because it had "Staff Only" written on it in big friendly letters.
There's a little security notice on the interior of the door. The office itself is quite big, with a desk by the door, and a random segregatory wall which really divided the room. For a "staff only" room, it still seemed to have a territorial quality to it. Those entering were here to see whoever sat behind the desk, but they themselves were not to come back here.
An admin department, maybe?
This black box is a network panel, likely for the computer network, although possibly for the phones too.
There's a sink in the corner for some reason. Onto the next room... This one is labeled "Group Room 1" and it's pretty spacious.
For starters, there's a prettier fireplace.
It's pretty spacious for a reception area. I'm trying to imagine how I'd furnish such a large space for a reception purpose, but quite frankly, I don't know. Surely a reception functionality could be achieved in a room half the size.
There's a lot of paperwork back here, but nothing incriminating. Any confidential information has been long removed, which is great.
In the past I've explored places that served a similar purpose and found some disturbing things left behind, and I've calmly sat on this potential storm while the media badgered me. Ultimately the documents were retrieved, and I told the media that this was all that mattered, and I didn't think it needed coverage, and when they found me non-compliant, they gave the drama a two-second mention on the radio at 7am, and called it a day. Storm averted. The local paper totally ignored me when I asked for coverage when I had my hair chopped off for the Little Princess Trust though. But they'll e-mail me for every abandoned cottage. I guess it's only newsworthy if it's drama, but I digress.
The staff at Chaddeslode avoided any potential storm by getting it right first time, and making sure all confidential information is secure. Go Team Chaddeslode!
But what I did find was this adorable key, which is labeled with "I live in reception. If you found me, I am probably lost. Please return me. I like it there and get lonely on my own."
The key is here at reception, which is completely boarded up and pitch black now. How ironic.
There's a report here on the Rat situation, which mentions that there is no longer any pest activity. Of course, I saw one in the external cellar, but given that this place has stood empty since 2015, it's not surprising that after the initial purge, the rats came back.
And here's a repair log, for all the maintenance that the building had.
Nearby is the copy room...
While all the photocopy equipment is long gone, the room is still decorated with signs giving instructions on what not to do. These always make me chuckle, because they tend to get printed in response to incidents, and it gives an insight into the old workplace dynamic, and all the stories that can be told. Apparently one time the photocopier melted.
I love this sign though, just for its cynical tone. Apparently the photocopier broke so often that the "out of order" sign specifies "Again."
I'm not sure what PTG research entails.
Here's a friendly warning that anything photocopied but just left here would get shredded.
"Group room 3" is for staff only, and was pretty small, with a bunch of shelves. But so far Group Room 2 has eluded me. The layout is not ordered numerically even though it's labeled as such.
I find the toilet sign oddly creepy. Perhaps it's the picture of a silhouette of a peeping tom leaning into doorway.
The waiting room is signposted, but relatively far from the reception desk.
I dug a little deeper into the history and discovered that there is a darker side to Chaddeslode prior to its time as a mental health clinic.
In 1913, it opened as a hostel for unmarried pregnant women. That actually doesn't sound too dark, but you'd be surprised. Back in the day, women who got pregnant outside of marriage were judged and treated horrendously.
Chaddeslode provided a home for these ladies from six weeks before the due date. Some similar establishments had their own maternity ward, but Chaddeslode House did not. Instead it referred the women to nearby hospitals.
Following childbirth, the baby would often be given up for adoption, often without the mother having a say in the matter. In a few cases where the mother had a strong family support network, the child would be quietly absorbed into the family, but due to the embarassment it would cause if the world knew the truth, the baby would not necessarily be raised by their biological mother. One notable example of this, although not specifically Chaddeslode related, was Eric Clapton, who grew up thinking that his mother was his older sister.
It all sounds terribly outdated. Nowadays, a woman becoming pregnant but raising the child alone isn't at all unusual, but back in the days this was frowned upon. These kind of establishments were often ran by strict religious organisations, and would allow entry to women during their first pregnancy, but would often turn away "repeat offenders" or "the prostitute type" or ladies with sexually transmitted diseases. One historical account was from a girl who alleged that she was told by staff that the home was for "good girls", and that if this happened again she wouldn't be allowed back.
Some of these women had been raped, and some of them had just had the unfortunate luck to fall for someone who then buggered off after getting his dick wet. It didn't matter, the women were judged as whores anyway.
It's pretty horrific.
This was, of course, the attitude towards marriage and families at the time, and while it does sound awfully old fashioned, it's worth pointing out that Chaddeslode served this purpose until as recent as 1973. While I was researching it, I found people on the internet still trying to find their biological mothers to this day! There are hundreds of people out there today who are still suffering from this kind of "service."
Today, the whole practice is regarded as immoral. It was traumatic for those involved, and has spawned entire generations who may never know where they came from. There's also a book called Chaddeslode, by a woman named Felicity Davies. I haven't read it, so I could be wrong, but I think it's about this house. The books description says it's "about the effects of forced adoption and the scars and damage of the people surrounding it. The story is also of the massive shift in perception that has happened over the last fifty years, so as well as the story of my (the authors) experiences in the system, this book may serve as a social history of the treatment of unmarried mothers."
That's a pretty big coincidence. It's not as if "Chaddeslode" is a common name, so for it to appear as a title of a book about the exact same service Chaddeslode House used to provide, I'm assuming, without even reading the book yet, that it's set in Shrewsbury, and is about this exact house.
It's a massive plus that society has progressed as quickly as it has in a more open minded direction, where these sort of establishments have become obsolete, and if a woman gets pregnant and the daddy isn't around to help, it's not such a big deal. I think that's a thought worth holding on to. The world has slowly gotten better.
It's kinda cool to see this much progress in just a few decades.
But on the other hand it's saddening that after such a good developmental period, nowadays we just get the likes of Buzzfeed battling against the species-wide conspiracy of men sitting with their legs open to deprive women of space on public transport. How demoralising. That's like Joan of Arc traveling to the future and discovering that her descendant is gonorrhea. It's just a massive kick to the clit. But I digress.
So I've finally found the waiting room, and it has quite a peaceful vibe here.
Chaddeslode House ceased being a home for unmarried mothers in 1973, and probably served some other purpose before it became a mental health clinic. I'm not sure when it opened its doors as it's more recent incarnation, but in contrast to its darker past, people who came here for help with their mental health have said that it had a positive impact on their lives. Good work was done here. People were saved. The history of the house is somewhat redeemed.
Of course the layout could be completely different to how it was prior to 1973. There's evidence all over of former doorways and windows. There's probably nothing too familiar about it for any of its earliest "clients."
So I'm exiting the waiting room through the second door, and given that all the signs point back to the waiting room saying that it's the way out, I assume that this particular little area probably comes to a dead end or wasn't accessed by the clients.
There are drawers full of cups back here though!
Now this room gave me pause, because the lights are on. I'm the only person in the building. Trust me, having wandered around hundreds of places now I can safely say that one KNOWS when one is alone in a big empty house, and I was 100% alone in Chaddeslode. It seems odd that this one room would still have the light on. It's serving no purpose, and has no notable features other than a noticeboard on the wall.
But otherwise, there's nothing here. I thought maybe the light had been left on to put off trespassers by tricking them into thinking that the house is occupied, but really it's impossible to see the light on from the outside because the windows on the ground floor are so tenaciously boarded up. And in addition to that, the window is facing the back of the building. Nobody approaching the building from the front is going to see it.
At the back, there are a few old office chairs that no doubt would have been in the waiting room once. This particular part has a tiled floor, and is right at the back of the building, pointing at the stables.
Right at the back of this bit, the walls are suddenly yellow, and there are some stairs leading up. But before I check out the upstairs, there's still more to see down here!
In a far corner of the building is a small stairway, which leads to a couple of small offices, but then continues downwards.
As expected, they're mostly featureless.
There's a note on the floor, which indicates that one of the staff members, whose surname I've censored, wanted one of the cabinets back when the place closed down.
I think I may actually know this persons daughter, but that's just how Shrewsbury works. It's a small town. Everyone has links to everyone else.
There's a robin coaster on the floor too.
And there's this booklet on depression, which I stopped to have a quick read of.
Onto the cellar!
It looks deliciously eerie!
In fact it looks a lot like a dungeon.
The cellar is cavernous, and it's being supported by these metal poles, which is indicative that the buildings structure isn't as strong and stable as it appears. Sounds familiar.
There's old broken furniture down here, and in all likelihood it'll probably stay down here.
There are loads of old filing cabinets down in the cellar, which raises the question, did Lucinda get the one she wanted?
As you can probably guess from the labeling, all of the cabinets were empty.
There's this big hatch built into the wall. I assume this was something mundane like a coal shute, but my imagination went wild with the possibility of it being a secret tunnel. It probably isn't.
Anyway, with the ground floor and cellar done, let's head upstairs!
This is back at the reception area, with the big posh staircase spiraling upwards. It must have been amazing to live here back when it was a house.
Whoever did live here was probably rich, but so many of these big old houses lose their personality when they get converted into flats, so it's refreshing to see one that's still whole, and retaining its former vibe, in spite of all the changes.
The windows up here aren't boarded up, so we have some natural light coming in, which makes the house look a lot more friendly and less cavernous.
The first office up here has a picture of a cat on the door, and the room itself is decorated with shelves and posters.
There's an old file left here, but the documents inside are long gone.
And there's various bits of office clutter.
There's old documents still pinned to the boards.
There's a list of GP surgeries that have their own counsellor.
So far the upper floors retain a lot more of their old personality. It feels very welcoming up here.
So here's Group Room 2, directly above Group Room 1, which means I should take back what I said before about the numerical room system not being numerically laid out. It actually makes sense now.
At the back of Group Room 2 is this old door frame, which would suggest that this room once connected to the one next to it.
There's a mental health form left behind, thankfully not filled out and then abandoned.
There's a book borrower card here, which is largely indicative that Chaddeslode House had some kind of library-like system in place, although on a lesser extent to actual libraries, in that it probably didn't have a vast computer system of members, and whatnot. It seemed that they at least let people borrow their books though.
This is the room next to Group Room 2.
And check it out! While the other room had the remains of a doorframe, the corresponding room has an actual DOOR still there, behind the shelves. It kinda reminds me of one of the doors in Chaos Manor, which was walled over but still functioning if one cared to detroy part of the wall, or even the bookcase door in Brogyntyn Hall, although that was a fully functioning door disguised as a fake bookcase, whereas this is a door blocked by actual shelves.
According to this note, this shelf is Raid.
There's a small stairway leading down. Often in these old buildings, the upstairs floors aren't completely level.
The doors have got these little sliding panels to indicate if someone is using it. This was probably to ensure privacy during counselling sessions.
The rooms are pretty samey.
There's an attic panel, but nothing to stand on to reach it. How infuriating! I love attics!
Pictures still hang on the walls, which is cool. But they are generic impersonal pictures, and nothing too spectacular.
There's a leaflet here for adoption services. It's probably from the more modern usage, with more modern attitudes towards adoption, rather than a leftover relic from the days of forced adoption.
This room is particularly interesting. It has a lot left behind, and a comfy bench which folds out from the wall. Currently it's folded up, and someone has hung a childs artwork on it.
So here's the interesting thing about the collapsable bench. It can't fold down! There's a light switch on the wall which gets in the way. The only way to sit on this seat is to completely remove the light switch from the wall.
To me that's just bizarrely intriguing. How many decades has this been hidden away? When was the last time someone sat on this? But also, why was its use removed? Installing the light switch a few inches further along would have retained the benches funtionality. Someone actively chose to prevent it from folding down, but why?
Intriguingly, given that these modern light switches have been used for decades now, it's entirely possible that this old bench is a relic from the houses old days as a shelter for unmarried women, or even before then, which probably makes it an antique. It has a cushioned seat too, and it's a nice little feature one doesn't see often, and it's gone completely to waste.
I found this one document on the wall which had the full names and contact details of the Chaddeslode House staff. Obviously I censored their surnames, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. I think it's important to give these people some privacy.
Although it has to be said, while I did find confidential information in some of the past places I've explored, they were further incriminated by the ease in which one could get in. Every kid in the Radbrook area could scurry around Bourne House, whereas Chaddeslode House is like a fortress. Even if anything had been left behind, it was probably safe. I'm sure not the first person to come in here, but I'm also pretty sure the numbers are small.
There's an old Irish blessing framed on the wall too.
There's an old calendar and another depression leaflet.
Here's some shower soap for some reason.
So here's the staff kitchen, which probably also served as a break room back in the day. It's certainly spacious enough.
The cooker is still here.
An old tank for a water dispenser.
This purple room is decorated with patterned tiles.
It's actually pretty sad to see it this way. I mean, I never came here or even knew it existed back when it was open, but it's obvious that a lot of effort went into making it homely and friendly for the clients and staff, but it's now going unnoticed.
Here's a toilet with a broken seat, and rubbish littering it, and a fine layer of dirt.
It's still in better condition than the toilets in some pubs and clubs.
This small office has an old fireplace and a whiteboard.
It's an old work rota, but on the last day somebody wrote "Goodbye Chads, and thank you." I'm sure whoever wrote this, and the former staff, would be surprised to know this is still here after all these years.
Here's an inspirational quote by Mark Twain.
And I love it because it's true. One does regret what one doesn't do. Explore, dream, discover. It's almost like he's completely validating me sneaking into disused buildings. Thanks Mark Twain!
There's a speech bubble on the window, saying "Let me out." I assume something else was stuck to the window for the speech bubble to refer to.
This note says "Cleared of confidential info. Rest can stay." It was likely scrawled during the clear out, when everything was moved to the new premises.
There's a mug next to this toilet, as if on the last day someone had one last coffee, used the toilet, and then just left.
This toilet has a chair next to it for some reason, and a smashed picture.
It's a poem. Was this smashed by earlier trespassers, or was it just accidentally knocked off the wall when people were clearing out?
There's a list of telephone extension numbers.
Another inspiration quote. It's a little sad that these are the things considered most expendable and worth leaving behind when the clear out happened, but it does mean I'm looking at more than just a series of empty rooms.
After a couple of samey offices, the hallway becomes that same familiar bright yellow that I found at the back of the ground floor.
This picture actually depicts the front door of Chaddeslode House as it appeared many years ago, decorated with flowers, and looking a lot more vibrant that it does today.
The yellow hallway ends with some stairs leading down to that fire exit behind the waiting room. So that seems to be all Chaddeslode House has to offer.
On a final note, Chaddeslode House has a gigantic back garden which seems to be going to waste.
Someones been trimming the grass, at least. But beyond this flatter, grassy area, steps lead down to a much less-tended to garden.
And there is stops. This particular little area is quite well hidden from the house, but still part of the property. To me such space seems like wasted potential. Build a playground here or something!
Interestingly, when I looked at Chaddeslode House on old maps of Shrewsbury, I discovered that there was another building standing in this grassy expanse, as far back as 1888, and also appearing on maps of Chaddeslode House from as recent as 1961. So whatever was back here was still standing when this place was a home for unmarried mothers, and there will be clients who knew it who are still alive today. I wonder if the book "Chaddeslode" will have any clues. It's probably something really mundane but the mystery has intrigued me.
But short of any former staff or clients getting in touch to tell me that a shed stood here once, that's all I have on Chaddeslode House. More recent observations show that minor changes have happened, such as the external cellar being sealed tight. Someone clearly has plans for it. Hopefully they'll be good ones!
Next blog post, I'm looking at one of the many abandoned pubs in rural Shropshire, so it'll be pretty cool. In the meantime, follow my Instagram, my Twitter and like my Facebook.
That's all I got. Have a great day, and thanks for reading!