Thursday, 3 May 2018

Sundorne Castle

(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 )

This proved to be a controversial visit, which is interesting because the ruins of this once fantastic building are as open as the ruins of Tilstock Airfield. There's no "fancy way in" like so many abandoned mansions I've checked out in the past. Rather it's all simply there wide open to wander around, and people visit reasonably often, out of curiosity. 
Another little shock is that a lot of people don't know that this place even exists. Few people in Shrewsbury would ever put the words "Sundorne" and "Castle" together. The first time I found out about Sundorne was when I saw some graffiti from a local gang called the Sundorne Bad Boys, and I laughed because it sounds like Justin Beiber if he was from Shrewsbury and formed a rap group with the cast of The Room. 

We are, of course, playing the Long Game on this whole "existence" thing. Sundorne Castle is a big pile of intrigue prodding my brain, demanding that I take notice. I grabbed Tree Surgeon, and his brother, because occasionally the Tree Surgeon family guest star in my excellent life, and we hit the road.
Not literally though, because that would hurt my hand.

So on the outskirts of Shrewsbury once stood Sundorne Castle. More accurately it was referred to as a "castellated mansion," and it was epic. Let's see whats left!


The first sight of this gatehouse is satisfying all by itself. That's some sexy architecture right there!
The gatehouse is definitely worth some of my time before I get to the rest of the remains.


 Looking up in the gate house, one can see that all of this would have once had an upper floor, accessible by the corner doorway. There's a little fireplace up there and everything.



 The one door which might still lead up there has been barricaded. The remaining accessible doors no longer lead to any stairways.



 It's possible to see up one of the towers, which is pretty cool.


 And there appears to be an exterior toilet, but it looks more of a recent addition.

The remaining buildings look far more grand on the outside than they do on the inside. The main mansion itself has been demolished, and only the connecting fragments remain.


 Sundorne Castle dates back to the Georgian era, and was built as a country house in 1766 for a chap called John Corbet. At the time it was just called Sundorne House. However in 1830 John Corbets son, also called John Corbet, had it extended and redesigned to look like a castle, and the name Sundorne Castle caught on.




Just look at this place! I usually prefer the interior of a building, but this place is photogenic from just about every angle.


This particular view would once have been taken from one the mansions gardens, of which nothing remains today except old photographs.


(Obviously I didn't take that picture)
 
The grounds of Sundorne Castle, according to maps from the 1800s, included fish ponds, a lakeside boat house, and the Corbets also inherited the nearby Haughmond Abbey estate in 1741. Adverts from the time boasted 3162 acres, which incorporated twelve dairy farms, the Corbet Arms Hotel in Uffington, and residential properties. So the estate was huge! It's a shame that it's all just been lost.

The chapel is of particular interest.


It's all boarded up and inaccessible. As any long term readers will know, I don't force entry, therefore if a means of access isn't obvious and open, then I'll just have to make do without. The church being so well boarded up intrigues me. I've heard that someone used it as a cattle shed for a little while, so I imagine the interior is probably now below Daddy G's usual standard for his worship sites, but as for me, I take it as I find it.

Take a good look at the church wall, and you can see that it did once connect to the rest of the building. The door would have led to the actual mansion itself, and one can see horizontal holes where the beams would have gone, and also a faint outline of the roof of the connecting building.

A few old photos exist which show the full set up.


As you can see, the church here joins on to a collossal mansion. Sweet Judas Christ, that thing looks amazing! But sadly it was blown up in 1955, allegedly due to insufficient wealth, at the orders of Mrs Hugh Drydon Corbet. She was apparently quite a formidable woman in her day, the kind of woman who, if she orders you to blow up her castle, you do it without question.
 I've heard a few stories about her, from her Great Grand Daughter. Allegedly once had all of the water supply to a Shropshire village cut off just so that she could run a bath, and on a trip to Scotland she allegedly took a car, but made her servant take the train, not wanting to travel with him. She's also a published author, having written three books. Her descendants are still local to Shropshire.

I'm a little shocked that she ordered the destruction of this place though, but apparently blowing up country homes was happening all the time back then, due to being too costly to run.


So this door, leading into the church, was once interior. Now, however, it has quite a bit of graffiti around it.


I'm a lover of vintage graffiti, so this little scrawl written by Alan in 1970 is pretty appealing. It sure is bizarre to think that this building has sat derelict for so many decades that generations of kids have come by.


"Matt, Tom and Jim" came here in 2017. That's somewhat less exciting.


The one bit of graffiti that did make me chuckle was this doodle. Someone has reimagined the pattern of the wood as a cats arse, and drawn a cat around it, standing with its arse facing the camera, looking back over its shoulder. Brilliant!



The wall stretches off to the north. According to my old maps, the fish ponds would have been up there, within the confines of the wall. However it's now all residential properties up there, and personal gardens, none of which I have any interest in. While I'm sure there are perhaps architectural tidbits up there that would be of interest, it's pretty disrespectful to just show up at someones home and start photographing it. I did have an urban explorer friend once, who argued in defence of the trespassing of residential properties with the flimsy excuse that even walking down the street we were in fact trespassing on the homes of homeless people, so why stop there? I assure you I don't associate with those with such weak justifications for stupid morals anymore, but it is a reason why I don't refer to myself as an urban explorer. I'd rather not be seen in a group with people like that. But of course that's mostly because it leaves me open to being generalised, and it would be hypocritical to do the same. It's silly to say that all urban explorers are imbeciles. I actually hung out with some nice ones recently when we checked out the Shawbury School.

There's still plenty to see in the derelict portions of this castle.


The gates and doorways really play on the imagination. This looks like the set of a fantasy novel.



The main interior courtyard contains buildings that had been converted into barns, although they were no longer being used as such. Clues around the interior hinted that perhaps they weren't originally barns, so I presume they served that purpose sometime after 1955 before these buildings fell into decay.


There's an old water pump still here.



The tower looks very appealing. I bet there's a great view from the top of that!


At the base of the tower is a small out house.


Still cleaner and in better condition than the toilets found in some pubs and clubs.



So with the external features covered, it's time to slip inside!


As you can see, this portion has been heavily barnified. That's to say, they made it into a barn, not a purple dinosaur.


As you can see, the ceiling is slowly collapsing.


Someone has propped a sheep spine up on the railing, quite morbidly.


There's a ladder at one end, leading to the upper floors. However I wouldn't be taking that if I could find an alternative means of ascension. This place is falling apart, and the ladder looks pretty ancient.



At the very end of the building is this room, and this is what leads me to believe that this wasn't always a barn. Of course, a big mansion from the 1700s must have had stables and such, but this building has windows indicative of previous refinery, and the remains of a fireplace, among other things. It's worth repeating that the church was used to store cattle prior to it being boarded up, so whoever kept cattle here must have just stuck them in whatever buildings were still standing. The fact that the church is boarded up but this building isn't gives me hope that maybe the church is in a nicer condition.


There's a sheep skull down there, perhaps the one once attached to the spine.



Stairs lead upwards, and again, there's something un-barnlike about them.



However while the stairs took us up to another floor I was disappointed to find that access to the tower, if it ever existed, was nowhere to be found. It's possible that it collapsed, or that it was just decorative.


The floor up here is not safe, so we were treading very carefully.


The danger was further exacerbated by all of this hay. It didn't make sense for it to be up here. I mean sure, use the downstairs as a barn, but what kind of cattle could one keep up here? The danger came in the fact that we could no longer see the floor. Every footstep came with the possibility that we could be stepping on hay covering holes in the floor.


And anti climactically, it led to the previous ladder. But while this building was connected to the others, there was no internal way of getting to them. We had to go back through the courtyard.


Again, this barn has an old fireplace, indicative of a more residential purpose once.





But more curiously was all this clutter that we found, including old cassette tapes.


This time the dodgy-looking ladder was the only means of accessing the upper floor. I took the risk for the sake of completion, but there wasn't much up there.




There was one other staircase, uncommonly steep, which led up to a pretty small room. However it would not be without its surprises.



There's some old vintage clutter, more vintager than cassette tapes.



But most intriguing was this hole smashed in the wall, from the other side. Someone had bashed the wall down to get here.


But as we passed through, we realised that this had once been a doorway, and that steps actually led up to it. So the doorway had been walled up at some point in the buildings history, but the stairs leading to it had remained, presumably leading to a blank wall for many years, until someone, presumably a trespasser, had bashed the wall down, in a crude manner of restoring it to its original use.
The curious part was that beyond this hole in the wall there was no other means of entry. This part of the building was previously blocked off. For me, this part of the building was the most fun, due to the mystery..



There's an old bed there, indicative of some residential history.





There are some stairs leading back down to the ground level. They look about as safe as a Jewish kid at a Hitler Youth meeting.


There's a boarded up door at the bottom, so it was once accessible from outside. There's one doorway leading left from the bottom of the stairs. However, should the stairs collapse I would be trapped. Only an idiot would go down there.


Oops.


It leads into this tiny room, eerily peaceful, with shelves and a general feeling that this was once lived in. And given that it's quite a battle to get to, I imagine someone could live here, undisturbed.


But that's really it. As I said, Sundorne Castle looks prettier on the outside than it does on the inside. Of the main mansion, nothing remains. But there are a few old interior shots on the internet, which show it to be quite an epic place.



 I think it goes without saying that these old photos aren't mine! But the one that really intrigued me depicts Sundorne Castle during a period prior to its destruction, but after it had been emptied and was apparently quite derelict and in need of some TLC.


TLC came in the form of dynamite. I guess it was cheaper than fixing it up. But what I love about this shot is that it's evidence of urban explorers existing before the internet age. I think humans have always had the occasional adventurous sorts driven by curiosity, and today this picture is a treasure, depicting the past for those who love their local history. I think if anything can be gained from this it's that a little innocent trespass, while frowned upon, is victimless, and only gets more worthwhile in the long run, as time and nature take everything from us, and people lament what they have lost. It's important to document things as they are. In a hundred years, nobody will care that someone snuck in here, but they will care that the photos were taken.

I have, however, heard down the grapevine that there are plans for what's left of Sundorne Castle, and that its deterioration is to be halted. I personally would love to see new life given to this place. It seems like a tragic loss to Shrewsbury.


As I said before, the architecture is gorgeous, and I would love it if something could be done with it.
But that's all I got today!
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On my next blog I'll be visiting Telford, and I'm super happy about it because Telford is a largely untapped resource. There's so much to see there!

Thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. Fantastic!! What a cool place. Shame part of was blown up.

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  2. I've often seen this when walking in Abbey Wood. Nice article. Very informative.

    ReplyDelete