By Alex Jones
DAREDEVIL urban explorers have spent 2019 uncovering the remarkable – often sinister – histories of Britain’s abandoned buildings – including a haunted care home, a creepy mental asylum, and a Catholic College where a shamed priest abused children in the 70s and 80s.
Derelict properties have long been a source of fascination, as crumbling walls and forsaken equipment fade away with the passage of time. Fortunately, British urban explorers such as FreakyD and The Elusive, who prefer to keep themselves anonymous, travel far and wide across the UK seeking out the long-forgotten homes, factories and properties which each have an intriguing story to tell.
We have collated the best of British abandoned properties, which also include a fire-ravaged NHS hospital on the point of collapse; a prime minister’s home which has been reclaimed by nature; and Fred West’s former haunt which is supposedly still occupied by the tormented souls of its ex-inmates.
Here are the UK’s top ten:
Abandoned Mental Asylum In Wales
In March, eerie images revealed the abandoned remains of a Welsh hospital originally opened as a mental asylum that was taken over by the military during World War Two.
The haunting pictures show an aerial view of the sprawling facility, the long, snaking corridors and an empty dentist’s chair waiting on its next patient.
The striking shots were taken at Whitby Hospital in Cardiff by photographer Antony Meadley. The hospital was opened in 1908 and was at the forefront of mental health research and treatment. Over the years it served as a military hospital before it was finally closed in 2010 as mental health services were centralised elsewhere.
“Being alone in a building which is abandoned is almost like a form of meditation,” Meadley said.
“Studying it to decide which parts will make the best image. I am also fascinated at seeing how nature starts to reclaim buildings and the stages of decay they pass through.
“I want people to realise how transient humans and our buildings are and to record and share some of the history which will soon be lost.”
Birmingham’s Abandoned Public Baths
Incredible images show the enormous room inside with tiled floors and walls, the striped pattern along the walls and the ornately designed ceilings.
The remarkable photographs were taken at Public Baths, Moseley in Birmingham, UK by the urban explorer The Elusive.
The baths were opened in 1907 and there is currently an long-running battle to reopen the building to public use.
“This is my favourite type of place to explore as it gives you a chance to see something you would never normally get to see and how it works,” said The Elusive.
“The baths, which is joined a library, would have been one the places the community would have gone socially. Many people wouldn’t have had their own baths or drying facilities so they would have gone to places like this.”
Britain’s ‘Most Haunted’ Care Home
Eerie images show the huge mansion from outside, a curtain separating the room with feet underneath it and the large, empty living areas.
The striking shots were taken at Standon Hall in Staffordshire by urban explorer The Elusive.
Standon Hall, a Grade II Listed mansion, was originally built as a family home in 1910 before being used as a hospital from 1925 to 1983 and a care facility until 2016.
The former care home featured on Most Haunted across three episodes in June 2017 after residents and staff claimed to have heard doors opening and closing on their own, the sound of crashing cries and moans.
“One of the weirder things to happen while I was there was in the main hall. The staircase lights were only on downstairs when I went upstairs and photographed the left-hand side of the house,” said The Elusive.
“When I came back through the stairway the lights were on. Very strange. I don’t mind saying that confused me and put me a little more on edge than I usually am.”
Fred West’s Haunted Prison
Chilling images of the 200-year-old HM Prison Gloucester show the cold, impersonal cells where prisoners would serve their sentences or await their fate; shadowy corridors where the footsteps of former inmates can be heard late at night; and ancient graffiti etched into bricks by an unhappy convict.
The controversial prison, which shut down in 2013 after years of complaints of inhumane conditions and overcrowding, was built in 1791 on the site of a castle dating back to the 13th century. Over the years, 123 people were hanged on the site between 1792 and 1939. Many of them were then buried there in unmarked graves. Reports of paranormal activity are common.
The compelling photos were captured by The Elusive.
““It was cold, with the temperature even lower because of the thick stone walls,” explained the urban photographer.
“The lights buzzed there was a damp smell throughout most the corridors. You could go inside the dark disgusting cells and shut the door listening to the footsteps echoing around the prison and imagining how dire it must have been to be incarcerated there.”
Prime Minister’s Destroyed Home
Dramatic shots show the once grand Nocton Hall reduced to a ramshackle shell of a building, propped up by a series of crumbling, charred walls. Other striking shots show the internal devastation the property has suffered due to decades of neglect and arson attacks, and medical paraphernalia and signage from the property’s history as a military hospital.
The Grade II listed property, in Lincolnshire, has experienced a remarkable history – housing some of the UK’s top politicians and playing a significant role during a series of major conflicts, including both world wars. But now the complex, one that cared for civilians and soldiers from World War I up until the First Gulf War, has become a constant target for vandals, arsonists and ghosthunters.
Nocton Hall dates back to the early 16th century but was majorly overhauled in the 1800s by Frederick John Robinson, 1st Earl of Ripon, who briefly served as British prime minster between 1827-1828.
Urban explorer FreakyD investigated the former hall and the old RAF hospital attached to it.
““The RAF Hospital itself has a very creepy feeling, and seeing room names such as surgery gave you a real sense of what used to happen here – it was very ‘RAF’ and the remaining hospital features were fascinating to see,” said FreakyD.
“The main thing that stands out for the RAF hospital is its size, with endless corridors it feels like a set from a horror movie, trapped inside the never-ending rooms.”
Fully Intact Abandoned Mansion
Fascinating photographs of the derelict family home, located in Lincolnshire, include an old wooden TV set with a hastily sprayed swastika and the bizarre message, ‘It’s a Jew’ on the wall behind it; a fully furnished sitting room with boarded up windows; and a creepy nursery with stuffed animals tucked away into a stained cradle.
The remarkable property, which cannot be specifically named or located for fear of further vandalism or theft, was recently visited by an urban explorer known as FreakyD who was amazed to find the property in such a relatively untouched state.
“When we found this building it looked so overgrown and abandoned we fully expected the inside to be the same but peeking through the shutters we couldn’t believe the lights were still on,” said the explorer.
“Having a quick look around the building it was obvious from dated items that the house had been untouched since 2008. Walking into the little girl’s room, beds were made, lights were on and the sunlight was shielded by the ivy growing over the windows, you felt a very eerie atmosphere. The whole house appears like the family had just vanished without a trace, a family home full of life had, in the blink of an eye, been frozen in time.”
Child Abuse Catholic College
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.
“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,” said urban explorer FreakyD.
“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.”
70s Time Capsule Cottage
Remarkable photos of a forgotten house buried deep in rural Wales show a charming stone cottage being slowly reclaimed by nature. Inside the property is a time capsule of mid-20th century fashions – including a turquoise green bathroom suite, peeling brown and orange patterned wallpaper, and a fascinating array of trinkets and oddities that are sure to spark memories of a visit to your grandparent’s house.
Urban explorer and photographer The Elusive stumbled across the dilapidated property by mistake whilst trekking the Denbigh Moors in North Wales.
After investigating a little used track, The Elusive was stunned to find a compact detached cottage, after expecting to find some long-forgotten farm buildings. The house had clearly been empty for some time, and the photographer was mystified by the ‘sad and stale’ home.
“I don’t normally do that many residential properties but as I stumbled on this one, I thought it would be rude not to take a look around,” the urban explorer explained.
“The front door was locked so I walked around the back of the property and the back door was open. I stepped in and I was suddenly inside a rural time capsule, with every room sporting a different décor and various states of decay. The piano was incredibly mouldy I suspect that this place has been either abandoned for a very long time or the last person living here led a very impoverished existence – which is more common than we like to think.”
Nazi-Scrawled RAF Base
Eerie photos of RAF Church Fenton, the base which defended some of England’s biggest cities during the war, show the desperate level of decay on site – with Nazi propaganda sprayed on the wall of an old mess room where fearless RAF pilots would once unwind after stoically defending these shores; a derelict bar where airmen would’ve drank away their woes and toasted their fallen comrades; and a rotting assembly hall, where the floors and ceilings have all but crumbled away.
The base, located near Tadcaster in North Yorkshire, was established in 1937 as the menace of Hitler and his expanding Third Reich cast a shadow over Europe. It proved a pivotal role in the defence of the nation during the war years and hosted a number of significant squadrons – including the first RAF “Eagle” Squadron of American volunteers, the first all-Canadian RAF Squadron, and the first all-Polish RAF Squadron. It also played a crucial role protecting the Allied troops during the D-Day landings.
The disheartening photographs were captured recently by urban explorer FreakyD who said the dilapidated base has an unsettling atmosphere.
“Having so many buildings to explore makes this site feel a bit like a ghost town, walking through long grass to get between each building gives you a feeling of being the last man on earth,” admitted the photographer.
Fire-Ravaged NHS Hospital
Unsettling images show the burnt-out husk of the defunct hospital’s basement; the overgrown but still stately façade of the once grand building; and a former resident’s room which has been completely trashed by both vandals and the passage of time.
Remarkably little history remains of Batley General Hospital near Leeds, UK, which shut 31 years ago in 1988, considering it would have served thousands of patients during its lifetime.
Subject to a huge fire in 2017, urban explorer and photographer FreakyD was keen to visit the site and catalogue what little heritage remains before the building degrades completely. The daredevil photographer also has a personal connection with the derelict property.
“My favourite aspect of the site, although I only found out after I had been, is the fact that my mother used to work here as a nurse as a young woman,” explained FreakyD.
“It’s nice to be able to see a part of your parent’s history and feel a connection through an exploration to those close to you.”