Thursday 26 July 2012

National Shire Horse Centre, Yealmpton

All the following photos came from various visits to the Shire Horse Centre back in 2009. On a recent visit, we found this place has totally changed with new owners living onsite therefore please respect their privacy & do not attempt to trespass.

I first visited the more or less abandoned Shire back in 2009 with a few more revisits before it was taken over by the new owners. Warnings of unfriendly travellers pitched onsite kept a few people away which, thankfully, is the possible reason as to why the site had suffered little vandalism compared to some of the sites we have seen across the UK. On our fist visit, there for sure were a couple of caravans but nobody to be found anywhere so we decided on to have a quiet walk round the whole site, expecting to run into someone at some point. Past experience of running into hostile people kept us on our toes & back in the '90's I had to make a hasty exit from a disused mill in Bradford to avoid confrontation with a huddle of junkies. Thankfully this turned out to be quite the opposite.

First opened in 1978, the centre became the top Shire Horse Centre in the country just 7 years later in 1985, not long after expansion to accommodate more horses & attractions. In 1978, the Guinness Book Record for the World's Tallest Living Horse was awarded to the resident Boringdon Black King standing at a whopping 19.2" hands.

Attracting around 300,000 visitors a year at it's peak, the Shire ran into financial difficulties in the mid-nineties. It was then taken over by the Hockin family who struggled on with it for another four years until it's final closure in the Autumn 2000, with the auctioning of assets including the Shire Horses taking place in the November of the same year.

Since closure, the site lay derelict, awaiting development that never came until recently when new owners purchased the site for their family home. Back in '09 when we took the photos, the site was used by SW War Games for airsoft, & a filming location for a comedy movie called Holy Water that featured Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor in Terminator) & Tommy 'Tiny' Lister (The Fifth Element), signs were still to be found dotted around the site.

Postal van used in the filming of Holy Water
Bedroom set in the former family cottage
Part of the film script. The VHS videos were found in-situ in the bedroom

Joined by Si & Graybags on the first visit, we spent a full day walking round the site & to great surprise, found every building open. Personally I found some of the buildings a little sad to see, essentially a place time forgot with nature taking her hold, especially in the outdoor adventure area that now resembled a jungle course. I was pretty taken aback when we came across some of the old Shire Horses reigns & saddlery that didn't sell at auction, still on display in one of the older stables.

Saddlery left on display & just look at that incredible stone floor
Stables lie silent & empty - awaiting the warm welcome sound of hoofs once again
Amusing stable graffiti - Lazy Horse?

There was a building that we couldn't find at first, known as Junglemania, a soft play area for kids so we opted for a nice wander around the outdoor arenas & nature walks - that's when it really sank in how much of a loss to the area this multi-themed site really is. All the trade skills lost through it's closure including blacksmiths, glass engravers, saddlers & potters, not to mention the many other jobs to allow the centre to function. Sadly, I moved to Plymouth a few years after it closed but would have loved to taken my son there just for the education alone with the skills on display.....oh & get him on the deathslide.

An eerie silence lies amid the former outdoor arena, slowly being reclaimed by nature
Sketchy bridge over the lake along the old nature walk
The bridge of doom across to the top of the deathslide

We did finally find the Junglemania after a good few hours enjoying the lovely sunshine & a good hour of fun was spent coming away with friction burns from the slide that really did need a good polish. It was really what we needed after hours walking the site with some rib-cracking moments. Oh by the way, if you think we are young, our combined age at the time was 118 - yeah, you're right, we're just big kids at heart enjoying life whilst documenting our lost heritage!
Righty then, Junglemania......GO!
Ah but hang on, we're too tall......
....quick, there's a noise blend in!
Graybags couldn't resist but ruined his favourite top from the friction burns

So there we have it, a glimpse of the old Shire for you to see through our eyes. Once the site's assets were sold off, there was little chance of something like it returning & it was going to get redeveloped either way but I'm really pleased for the new owners who have taken it on to care for as their family home.

If you have any memories of the centre, worked there or indeed have any photos you would like to share, please do get in touch as we would love to hear from you!

Thursday 19 July 2012

Mount Wise Redoubt

Site Visited - June 2009

You don't have to look far to find remains of Plymouth's rich military history, & the Mount Wise area of Devonport is no exception. Contained within the defensive walls known as the 'Devonport Dock Lines', a series of gun batteries & a redoubt were constructed on the high ridge overlooking the entrance to the Hamoaze with the aim of protecting the dockyard. Further military installations built over the years included barracks, a laboratory, tunnels & even a Cold War nuclear bunker, all of which will feature in forthcoming visits.

For now, we will concentrate on the Mount Wise Redoubt, once an important part of the Plymouth defences, now forming part of a public space overlooking the swimming pools below. Built in the 1770's & octagonal in shape, it's armament consisted of eight 32 pounder guns & two 10 inch mortars, changing in 1850 to three 10 inch guns. Remodelling took place some years later & in 1885, three 64 pounder RML's were mounted & stayed in place until 1895. Also situated within the redoubt from 1806 was a Signalling Station, the last in a chain of 32 which were installed between London & Plymouth, & was used by the Admiralty to pass semaphore signals on to ships moored in Plymouth Sound. This was replaced in 1852 by the telegraph, & remained in operation until the 1930's. World War II saw a newer defensive use with barrage balloons being moored onsite to deter low-flying German aircraft. Demolition of all above ground buildings took place in the 1960's, & in 1998, a 40 metre high mast was erected with a 360˚ viewing platform, history board & plaques, which thankfully have suffered little vandalism over the years.

View of Mount Wise Redoubt from the former top secret Maritime HQ Bunker

Dusk at the Redoubt

Defensive wall of the Redoubt

Looking toward Royal William Yard & beyond from the modern viewing platform

Relics of the original military uses can still be found today within the Redoubt including racer rails for the guns, barrage balloon anchoring points, ammunition recesses & rope rings for manoeuvring the heavy guns. 

Relics & signs of the Redoubt's intended uses

View from the roof of the former MHQ Cold War bunker

The view from Richmond Walk

Today the Redoubt is now a place for the public to enjoy providing an ideal location for picnics, lovely walks or watching the Navy ships leave & return to Devonport. Make sure you read the information boards onsite if you plan a visit & if dog walking, please be considerate & use the bins provided to help keep this scenic area pleasant for visitors.

Monday 16 July 2012

GWR Goods Shed, Millbay Docks

Site Visited - June 2009

Adjacent to the GWR baggage store was this smaller goods shed, with platform consisting of blue & red brick steps. The exact year when this was built is unclear but is thought to pre-date the larger building, it's last use being a car repair garage or storage for Vospers judging by miscellaneous equipment left abandoned such as diagnostics & wheel alignment machines. The shed was connected to the baggage store via a gate with a small guardhouse attached, although the gate had long gone & replaced with a wall, this was an entry point for vehicles at one time. Interestingly the long brick walled side of the shed exterior had a ghost ad faintly visible & i'm still trying to determine what it actually read in full, I'm assuming the first part read 'Great', so my guess is the Great Western. I've searched everywhere to find old photographs but found nothing yet, have a look for yourself & see if you can make out what the full ad would have read.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

A Post for Thought.....

We've had some interesting feedback for Hidden Plymouth in the past few weeks & since relaunching the blog back in May, quite a few new readers have appeared so we just thought it would be nice to welcome all of you who are reading this for the first time. We hope our research & discoveries that we document brings you good viewing & even inspires you to interact & be a part of uncovering our heritage.

To the people who have seen our findings via the Facebook page over the past 3 years, we thank hugely for your support that gives us the inspiration to dig deeper & find new sites, alongside building a historic archive for each site. Since 2006, literally hundreds of hours have been spent in libraries, online, outdoor field research & documenting sites, some of which no longer exist. Over 200 sites in & around Plymouth alone...okay, it's not all about fortresses or a neglected island with the excitement & added adrenalin rush of dark dank tunnels.

The majority of locations are of military & WWII heritage, our specialist subject if we had to do Mastermind, but infused will be a splattering of industrial heritage, lost & demolished buildings that have been swept away for development. Just to keep it fresh we may even have a few posts dedicated to street furniture that we have captured. If you find that boring & only want the underground stuff, then skip & just follow what you like, simple as that really.

Some people term what we do as 'Urban Exploration', my I wish I was 17 again! Some find it odd that we potter about in bunkers - others are fascinated. All we know is we like to investigate & document our heritage to help build a better history for others to learn from. The amount of Plymothians who have approached us & wasn't aware of some of the stuff under their feet is incredible & it makes us feel very privileged to share our adventures & pictures with them.

Urban Explorer Playground?

We need as many people who have connections with Plymouth to connect with Hidden Plymouth & help build a detailed history for each site. To make this work we need as much interaction as possible & urge you to spread the word via sharing this blog with your parents, friends, family, neighbours & social media links. Even small snippets of stories or information have led to a bigger picture & we are so grateful for family members of ex-forces that have shared their memories. Each month, we will be posting a call for help in researching some of the sites & will keep you updated with our findings.

Until then, we still have the relaunched blog to carry on with much to come in the form of lost railways, forgotten ruins, forts, WWII heritage & lost buildings. Tracking down old soldiers from wartime graffiti, & people of Plymouth who sought refuge in underground passages. Creating an archive of stories from local adventure camps.....passing on them stories to future generations. Maybe dropping into that derelict local on the way home to have one last time at the bar!

Sunday 8 July 2012

GWR Baggage Store, Millbay Docks

Site visits between 2008/9

Part of the Great Western Railway line, this baggage store was built in the 1920's for passengers arriving & departing at the Great Western Docks, Millbay. The last GWR passenger train ran from the docks in 1963, although it continued to be used by freight trains until 1971. Afterwards it was used by Farley's for storage possibly in the late '70s, early '80s & finally Vospers car showroom until being abandoned & left derelict for years. Deemed an eyesore by many who failed to appreciate it's striking features, notably the curved rear section where trains would once pass through to the docks, this fantastic building is now gone, recently demolished as part of the ongoing regeneration of the Millbay area. This would have made a striking conversion but instead it will probably be replaced with some ghastly looking apartments that have no character.

Image showing the unique curved section

The view from the ferry port road

Loading platform

A different angle

The vehicle loading bay

Cast iron spiral staircase to the offices

Doorway to the offices

Lift controls

Just one of the thousands of old Farley's baby food tins, this batch destined for export to the Far East

The Farley's tins floor!

At the top of the main spiral staircase, roof level

Looking at the spiral staircase exit on the roof

Looking down one of the lift shafts

British Transport lift regulations notice

Lift hydraulics on the roof

Top of the baggage chute

Top of one of the lifts

Photos during the demolition

A section of the baggage chute looks more like a snail, trying to escape the cutter's torch!