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Posts Tagged ‘abandoned’

Below are a few more underground bits and pieces in the area. They all share in common, the fact that they are, as it says in the title, underground spaces beneath country houses and religious places. Country houses as well as religious institutions had the money, influence and power to do things on a grander scale than farms. So it makes sense that the artificial underground spaces are more spectacular and substantial.

So below are the candidates, followed by some likely candidates. For purposes of the post and the series, I´m just focusing on their underground nature and some I´ll be coming back to in later posts with different approaches. I suppose it´s all about how you approach material things, even the most mundane things can become interesting, so much so that sometimes you have to take a step back!

Polesworth vicarage

According to the  historic landscape survey on Polesworth the existing cellar in the 16th century vicarage, I quote, possibly occupies part of the former undercroft of a north-south monastic building to the west of the cloister(Palmer 2000). It looks very possible that part of the cellar dates back to the monastic period. Considering that very little of the once powerful and well-known Polesworth abbey survives, (apart from church and gatehouse) this makes this possible medieval underground space all the more important.

Above photo of  privately owned Vicarage, click on photo to see original flickr source

The cellars of Packington Hall

Packington hallis an intriguing 18th century country estate just outside Hopwas to the west which I´m going to almost totally ignore to go straight into details of it´s dark underbelly. A  structural survey commissioned by the new owners who want to turn the place into flats reveals that the 18th century country house has two cellar areas beneath the main building and rear wing which are in ´sound condition.´Packington hall was designed by famous  18th century architect James Wyatt so maybe those cellars are all the more worth having a look at. By the way no interior inspection by English Heritage people!

In the grounds there was an Icehouse, is it still around? They were common feature in country houses and used for food storage. Icehouses could qualify for an underground feature and icehouse entrances in out of the way places  and forested areas have probably been influential in creating more than one  secret tunnel story.

Comberford Hall

Click the link above to go to the Comerford Family History site, where the plan of the basement and storage room of the late 18th century Comberford hall is taken from. Underground spaces under private residences are enveloped in a double wall of secrecy. What´s underneath we might never know unless Mr Comerford decides upload some photos to his site.

Likely candidates

Deanery

Between the 14th century ragstone walls surviving from  the deanery, immediately to the east of St Editha´s, Tamworth  must lie the soil  infilled vaulted medieval deep cellar belonging to the deanery mentioned in Charles Ferrer´s  history of  town and castle.  Future archaeology studies enjoy!

Site of Fisherwick Hall

This was the site of the very bling bling  but ephemeral Marquess of Donegall´s rebuilt Fisherwick Hall. It was demolished in the early 19th century leaving the coach house and stables. What if the demolishing wasn´t that rigorous and the housekeeper’s room, the servants’ hall, the kitchen, and other offices mentioned in the history of the county of Stafford as located in the basement partly survived.

Above is a  photo taken over summer  in Fisherwick wood. It´s a bridge of expensive stonework hidden in the undergrowth, part of Capability Brown´s landscaped estate. Although not strictly underground, it offers a tantalising glimpse into the potential black  marbled,richly moulded, opulent underworld of Fisherwick Hall

Lastly on the mentioned county of Stafford link there´s a mention of I quote, “access to the house from the lawn in front was by a tunnel under the carriage road. “

What happened to this tunnel? Here´s Welbeck Abbey a  well-known and extensive, somewhat crazy example of tunnels built at the whim of aristocrats beneath a country estate.


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The Woodhouse is back as the dignified representative of this latest underground themed post! UKurbex put the   pictures below on their website showing the pictures they bravely took of the cellars of the now probably flattened Woodhouse, Hopwas(see earlier posts for more details) These photos are an invaluable  testament as far as I know there was no interior inspection by English Heritage people. Without putting my neck out too much they must be the same 18th century´Ale cellars´  mentioned in 1770. It’s a double cellar with barrel vaulting complete with alcoves.

The cellars below the Woodhouse got me thinking about the fate of cellars below demolished buildings. What happened to the Woodhouse cellar? the woodhouse is probably now flattened, what I wonder happens to the cellars of these building when demolished?After having a look around at demolition procedures it seems that most are backfilled. Is this a thorough process?. I imagine that modern building regulations are pretty strict nowadays about not leaving any empty spaces below but you never know. Following this line of thought the older the demolition the more chances that the cellar hasn´t been thoroughly backfilled and erased and maybe some pitch black part of the cellars lies preserved below like an egyptian burial chamber.

Abe and Ernst entering a sealed abandoned farm cellar Tutankarmun style.

 

The chances of partly preserved cellars opens up a world of underground possibilities. Farm building where cellars were commonplace dating from the 18th and 19th centuries dot the landscape and many have disappeared for various reasons. Below is one case, Ashlands Farm  in the Tamworth timehikes area situated in the eastern part of the Blog´s area above the River Anker.Its an area that has many abandoned sites, a post apocalyptic  landscape below idyllic meadows!.

Above the location of Ashlands farm. Ploughing has left alone  the mound of rubble, leaving the disturbed ground idyll for brambles and blackberries to the delight of my hunter-gatherer father below.

Above the rubble from Ashlands farm. The driveway with it´s  soon to be fossilised trackways  still connect the farm rubble with Ashby road. From looking at old ordnance maps the farm dates back to at least the late 18th century and looked quite substantial. It became a mound of rubble in the 70´s/ 80´s for reasons unknown, maybe something to do with the economic downturn.  It´s a good candidate for an old cellar. Does it remain below partly intact, blackest black, a pocket of 1970´s air, with an assortment of antiquated farm equipment or maybe overfermented ciders in the dormant cellars? I´d like to think that’s the case! I can´t find any  literature on investigating old cellars in the UK, although in eastern USA there are people who look for dips showing where root cellars were located dating back to colonial rural houses. In the absence of any literature on investigating cellars below demolished farm houses maybe could develop a manual. Locate the cellar entrance on old plans,maps or the best location for cellars, and start digging through bricks, concrete. Sounds like hard work maybe best to leave it a couple of hundred of years until they become valuable enough or futuristic archaeological tools are developed to see below ground !

On another note I´d just to write a big heartfelt thanks for all the support and bigupping from Bob from blog of local legend Brownhillsbob. It gets a bit lonely sometimes marooned on the island of Tamworth timehikes with just a couple of made up characters(Abe and Ernst) to keep me company so much appreciated!!

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The demolishing of the Woodhouse is happening right now(see comment on post, woodhouse 1730-2010) , so thought it was time to post the authorities decision to allow demolition.

Below English Heritage have kindly allowed me to share the  English Heritage advice report in response to my application  and the reasons for it being denied. It’s quite detailed and has some fascinating new information on it´s possible use in WWII as a look out post and that maybe the remodelling of  the tower dates from this period. For me this at least was not a reason to demolish it, but actually added historic value to the place. I understand that it was difficult case and that it was a difficult one to preserve and renovate, but if only the authorities had reacted earlier and were more open-minded in their criteria(it´s not all country houses!).

The Ministry of Culture didn´t think it was relevant to protect. I disagree, it was an impressive, highly interesting and unusual historic house, badly managed  in the middle of an ancient wood. A little piece of magic and mystery has been taken away, I repeat  this was an old historic house in middle of ancient wood= that´s special. It was a hidden treasure on Tamworth´s footstep for so many reasons .

At times it feels like some sort of Chairman Mao cultural revolution policy is in place in the area in terms of   it´s past.

Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for the views held in Abe and Ernst´s protest.

Here´s a link to UKurbanex´s photo archive on the woodhouse, many of them interior photos. There´s some great pictures there, those photos are now historic! There´s even photos of the Woodhouse cellar. Ok the place needed tidying up and there was some really dodgy paintwork  but with some imagination…..

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Below are the two reasons  the woodhouse has been given a demolition order and my counterarguments:

1st reason:The buildings are a focus for vandalism and ‘goings on’ and are in a state of disrepair.

Speaking with former members of ‘friends of Hopwas Woods’ who know a lot more history about the site than me, they  have given me some interesting information about its history of vandalism and  abandonment, with Bob Geldoff and badgers included!

The source is reliable as the person is a  lifelong supporter of Hopwas Woods, I’ve received the news second hand and a lot of the information is cloudy and I take all responsibility for the information given but it does gives the general gist. The entrepeneur George Bryant sold the property to Tarmac at a date interdetermined date probably 80′s/90′s. It was then used by an employee of Tarmac for a time, after which time it was abandoned although still under the ownership of Tarmac. The buildings were brought to local attention by the report by a local person that badgers had entered and were in the  cellars of building. This reached the attention of Tamworth’s newspaper, The Tamworth Herald. After this brief media exposure the buildings were more known in the area and people entered the grounds(abandoned atmospheric buildings in atmospheric woods:it’s going to happen!) This came to a head when news reached local authorities that  a ´suspicious person´  was staying there, and there was a response by police.  Since then people from around the country have visited the site and it has appeared on some exploration forums. Apparently, this is crazy but I’m just reporting what I was told by a reliable source, Bob Geldoff, sorry Sir Bob Geldoff visited the site!!! I know crazy. Looking at the current state of the exterior buildings it has suffered from vandalism, ( hole put through back wall) and equally damaging  counter measures, bricking up of windows and doors. Apart from that the building survives surprisingly  well in its integrity(the interior state is unknown) and has not had any graffiti or major damage. The outbuildings present little interference.

Even if the buildings are a focus for ‘goings on’ this is not a reason to demolish buildings of potential  great historic and architectural interest. If you apply that same logic to say an abandoned Stonehenge. Does that mean we should demolish it if it had been abandoned for 20 years and had become a focus of ‘goings on’(pagan rituals, swinger parties, raves, the mind boggles!) Also and more important than my counter-argument is point 16 in English Heritage’s principles of selection for listed buildings ” the state of repair of a building is not a relevant is not a relevant consideration when deciding whether a building meets the test of special interest.” pretty conclusive I think

2nd reason: The buildings have been altered, there is a lot of modern brickwork and they are of not sufficient interest.

Although I’ve worked within archaeology abroad I’m no expert on 18th century architecture and brickwork in Staffordshire but I think I can make a sufficient case for it to be worthy of at least re-examining by the competent authorities. The sources available are sparse but based on what there is and local knowledge as well as my own analysis I can make a number of statements. As mentioned in previous post, the buildings were probably built on orders of the Marquess of Donegal around 1750 for use as a hunting lodge and retreat, being close to his Fisherwick estate. Local hearsay reports that there was a site here as far back as 1540, from the wife of the earl of Comberford, I cannot confirm any of this but its worth investigating. Also Fisherwick estate and buildings were designed by the infamous ‘Capability Brown’ As the woodhouse was commissioned by the Marquess of Donegal, did Capability Brown have a hand in its design? It’s pure conjecture but I think it’s more than worth investigating.

There is a watercolour of the woodhouse, called painting of Hopwas Hayes Lodge, done by J. Spyers in 1786. I’ve compared  the painting and a modern photo in the previous Woodhouse post and its undeniably very similar (I´ve included it again below). At least the integrity of the building set are still there. The two attached cottages, the two porches and unique tower structure are all still there, as well as side wall, with entrance(not in photos) It can be seen that the main roofing has been altered and there’s been tinkering with  the tower. I haven’t personally seen a building type quite like it and wonder if it conforms to a type of 18th century hunting lodge or is it unique?

There is not much available information on subsequent use of the Woodhouse, apart from what I have in my original post. The building was used throughout the 19th century as a gamekeepers lodge and was  remarkable enough  to be included in William Pitt’s topographical history of Staffordshire 1817 with the following description:´ Hopwas is a small hamlet situated at the bottom of a hill, the most remarkable object on which is a house on the summit, environed by a wood called Hopwas Hayes´ Thankyou William Pitt for putting the case for the Woodhouse so eloquently!

As mentioned the building was in the hands of George Bryant  from around the 1950′s. He apparently was responsible for some landscaping and may have been responsible for alterations to the property as there is brickwork present from the 1950′s.

Present state of buildings

There is aforementioned watercolouring showing the integrity of the original form of the present building but the question is how much is original? As said before I’m no expert but there is a presence of brickwork which I consider could perfectly be 18th century brickwork, the percentage is at least 50% The roof has been changed at what date I don’t know and the tower, at least the top part has been altered. Are any of the alterations reversible?

The best evidence are photos so I’ve provided a few photos below with arrows pointing out what I consider different types of brickwork. brick type 1 looks the best candidate for 18th century brickwork. The porches on the front of the building  appear to have slate roofing. Also there is number  of blocked 18th/19th century windows, but the window arches(sorry about terminology) are still there( altering of windows is very common in old buildings) It´s a rough guide and hopefully not too confusing but  I believe demonstrates that there is at least 50% possible 18th century brickwork(brick type 1) and is worthy of further investigation.

Front of building, with rough indication of different brick types

right hand side of front of building

southern side of building,

back of building, with detail on right

tower from the back

Interior

The interior is an unknown quantity and understand that there has been no inspection of the interior. Information from the reliable source from Friends of Hopwas apparently states that there is a well inside!(common in buildings before modern water supply), the survival of a double cellar,  fireplace and wooden cladding.I think anyone would agree that the interior warrants inspection.

Outbuildings.

There are a number of outbuildings 3-4 ranging in types and age. In front of the main woodhouse is a barn-like structure converted into a garage of undetermined age(probably pre-20th century) it has attached a sidebuilding with the evidence of an old laundry(see first posts comments)

Well there are my counterarguments, I hope I’ve put across the historical and architectural value of the place and a valid counter counter argument to the often used reason of abandonment and vandalism. What has to be concluded by the experts is the level of altering  to the exterior and INTERIOR of buildings and if it´s reversible. So I will be putting the case forward to the relevant authorities and english heritage. What I don’t think can be denied is that it’s worthy of further investigation before potentially making the tragic mistake of  demolishing it. I hope it’s not too late!

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I’m momentarily going to turn the blog into a campaign to save the 18th century historic Woodhouse, Hopwas. It’s historic significance can be seen in this earlier post. I’ve recently heard that the Woodhouse has had a demolition order go ahead, so it’s demolition could happen any day now! Here’s the post below :

Hello all ,I have just joined this forum as I was looking into the History of Wood House and came across you all.

This evening (Sunday 15 August 2010) my wife and I and our 2 border collie dogs went for a walk in Hopwas woods as we have done now for 30 years . When we got to the gate for Wood House we were suprised to see that the barbed wire that covers the gate (along with some very oily sticky black crud) had been cut on the right side giving  access to the drive to the house . What an amazing place it is . The building is in a sorry state now even the Opel Manta car has been burnt out by some scum chav shits. Such a shame that this very historical house and out buildings are to be demolished. Tarmac who own the building and land have been granted a demolition order by Lichfield District Council on 25/06/2010. The work has already started as the rhoderdendrons that used to encrouch onto the drive have been cut back using a brush cutter .This has happened very recently and I presume work will now progress at a swifter pace. So if you want to see this house in all its glory, I would do it very soon as I am sure when the demolition boys get in ,the access will definately be closed off forever.I just thought I would update you all regarding Wood House .I am sure we will become regulars on these forums now we have found them . I am just sorry that my first post should be so gloomy.

Regards  Snooper/ her indoors/ Finn& Pogue ( the woof woofs)

Midlandsheritage forum

I’ve confirmed this with Lichfield council and I’d like to make  a case to save if it’s not too late. I urge anyone reading this who cares about our shared heritage to make as much NOISE as possible about this. It’s a unique set of buildings, I don’t know how many 18th century gamekeepers lodges in their original settings exist in the UK but I’m guessing you can count them on one hand.

I will be putting the case forward for it’s defence, applying for listed status with english heritage, etc over the next few days so I will be putting updates and info on the blog over the coming days.

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HOPWAS HAYES WOODHOUSE

Hopwas is an ancient, alluring wood near to the coton part of Tamworth, one of its mysteries is the woodhouse. It’s a group of red brick buildings right in the middle of the spooky wood on one of the highest points. As a kid I remember getting to a well-kept path, but no closer. There were dogs or either I imagined them. Anyway it was probably inhabited at that time, talking about 20 years ago. My interest was reignited after seeing it in the midlands heritage forum, boarded up and blatantly abandoned. After a bit of armchair exploring on the internet(I was in Valencia at the time) found some very interesting info about it. it´s mentioned in William Pitt´s topographical history of staffordshire 1817´ Hopwas is a small hamlet situated at the bottom of a hill, the most remarkable object on which is a house on the summit, environed by a wood called Hopwas Hayes´

Going further back a building in the same location appears in William Yate’s map of Staffordshire, 1775(building at end of track on the lower part of the wood).

taken from http://www.staffspasttrack.org.uk

I’m saving the best to last. Looking at a sketch of a place called hopwas hayes lodge dated to 1786 from the William salt library and then comparing the sketch and a modern photo(see below, bit small) you can see it´s pretty much the same group of buildings!! What was the tower used for(I know looking out of but are there any other examples? )

It’s amazing the integral survival of a unique group of buildings  in such a special place and it’s recording in a sketch from 1786! What’s more the details on the etching state the buildings go back to around 1750 and the artist behind it was J. Spyer who recorded many of   Capability Brown’s projects. He has watercolors of Capability Brown’s landscaping  at the  nearby ephermeral  Fisherwick estate, who’s owner the Marquiss of Donegall commissioned the above sketch of the woodhouse.

The group of buildings has almost no information on the internet or in print and it’s difficult to know much more about the place.  From Julian Woodward at The Hopwas appreciation society/ facebook I’ve gleaned that it was probably a hunting lodge built by the ostentatious Marquess of Donegall ( 1739-1799) resident at the bling Fisherwick Hall. After falling into debt it was sold to John Levett(1721-1799). At this time Mr John Wood was living at the house working as a gamekeeper. Hopwas wood was passed to his nephew Thomas Levett  and from my own finding I can afirm that  it was inhabited by Joseph Tomlinson, the woodsman  and his family in 1834(source, history, gazetteer, and directory of Staffordshire,W, White) . So we can surmise it was the lodging of the woodsman/ gamekeeper.  We know that Hopwas Hayes dates back a thousand years to Anglo saxon times, it’s status was royal and it was a number of Hayes in the area so  it would likely have had woodsmen, is the woodhouse a continuation of earlier dwellings?

In recent times(probably talking from around the 60′s-90′s) it was inhabited by entrepeuner and founder of Drayton Manor themepark George Bryan. He had a number of properties but this was one of his favourites. He was responsible for a number of modifications, he extended the tower and landscaped the gardens. He was fond of stargazing and the tower was a great place for it(source my mom)

I don’t know when it was abandoned and the reasons why, there are rumours that it belongs to the military or to Tarmak, it’s cordoned off and bricked up. It’s not mentioned in any listed building lists or any official register which is crazy considering the uniqueness of the set of buildings and its history, the mystery grows…..

Okay I’ll stop writing as I don’t think blog posts should be so long, should they? and let the photos  do the talking.

main entrance, covered in oil and barbed wire, special forces training to get past or just go round the side!

notice the lawn or ‘green’ in the foreground is being looked after.

free-standing structure in front of the main buildings, was it originally a barn? It’s had modifications and the two entrances correspond to it being turned into a garage. It’s got an add-on structure with an interesting object inside, see below….

a type of stove/oven still with its wooden cover

dangerous building

KEEP OUT

ROTTEN BONES!

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