By Alex Jones
SINISTER photos of an abandoned Catholic College – where two boarders were brutally and routinely molested by their school priest in the 1970s and 80s – have emerged uncovering a haunted, eerie complex full of “dark energy”.
Chilling shots of St Joseph’s Seminary in Upholland, Lancashire, include a spooky photo of an abandoned, deconsecrated church complete with imposing organ; the wireframe beds where terrified pupils would attempt to console themselves during the dead of night; and a drone shot showing the massive 153-acre religious site where the horrendous crimes took place.
The school opened in 1883, enjoyed its heyday in the mid-20th century before dwindling pupil numbers and an increased secularisation saw the school despatch its last pupils in 1992 – with the imposing building remaining empty ever since.
In July of this year, after years of accusations and rebuttals, father Michael Higginbottom, 76, was convicted at Burnley Crown Court of “systematically and horrifically” sexually abusing schoolboys at the Catholic seminary in the 1970s and 1980s. Although the pervert priest denied all charges, the court saw fit to jail him for 18 years.
To this day, echoes of the terrible acts which occurred in the seminary ring around the dilapidated dormitories, classrooms, and chapels of the school. Having lain dormant for nearly 30 years, a daredevil urban explorer, who has decided to remain anonymous, said investigating the massive facility was an “unnerving experience”.
“At the time of going I had not seen any news articles about the sexual abuse that had gone on here,” explained the urban photographer, who visited the creepy site In August.
“Going into the sleeping areas, seeing rows upon rows of rusty iron beds surrounding a large station where the priest would be you could feel a really dark energy, it was easy to imagine what might have gone on in this building. Little did I know that only three days before visiting the site Higginbottom received his sentence. Looking back, one of the most shocking sights was the eerie looking metal bed frame deep in the basement of the building.
“The building is full of items untouched from the seminary being open which make it easy to envisage what life here would have been like. Large jars of calcium oxide in the physics classrooms, industrial size jars of tomato sauce out of date from the 60s in the kitchen, bed frames lined up in the dorms and much more takes you back in time.
“The property itself is incredible and by far the best place I have had chance to explore, we spent six hours of constant walking and still failed to see every part of this huge building. The building retains countless items from decades ago, untouched and unchanged.”
Now a great deal of what remains of the derelict catholic college is mould, mildew, cracked paint and peeling wallpapers. The floors are now covered with greenery as opposed to carpets, and ceilings and walls throughout the facility have collapsed. However, a range of assorted items hint at the school’s religious and educational heritage – a decaying sewing machine, discarded dirty plates, water-damaged desks, fractured lab equipment.
“Unsurprisingly over the decades the building has suffered badly from water ingress, the only thing keeping the building up being the quality solid woodwork and the marble and stone structures,” added the mystery photographer.
“Some sections have had complete areas of the floor fall through leaving narrow ledge of unknown strength to shimmy across – not for the faint of heart!
“The building is so grand, filled with details from detailed craftsman carved out of expensive materials. It is hard to believe how so much can be forgotten about and left to decay. The building is so huge I can’t imagine where anyone would start restoring it, I suppose starting with very deep pockets.”
When in service, St Joseph’s, referred by its students simply as Upholland, was divided into a junior and senior seminary.
The junior half provided a semi-monastic education to boys aged 11-18 whilst the senior half trained 18-24-year-olds in philosophy and theology.
The documented legacy of the disgraced Catholic College serves as a good reminder that despite some commonly espoused views, not all urban photographers are up to no good.
“Urban exposers often get a bad name being mistaken as vandals or thieves. We have no interest in damaging the properties we explore or taking things, we actually care more than most that they remain untouched for others to enjoy,” concluded the photographer.