It is advisable that new visitors to this website should read the first part before continuing. This building, known locally as ‘The Establishment’ has been on the periphery of the village for over 80 years. Silently operating behind a stand of trees and accessed by a circuitous route via a cinder track beyond Setchell’s Copse, no-one was seen entering or leaving, and there was no contact in the village by those who worked there.
This story does have some general interest, but given its relation to the folklore of the village (especially its children, myself included!) it stirred many memories and prompted a more physical investigation of the sort now called ‘Urban Exploring’.
On December 17th a crack team of ‘urban’ explorers assembled at Setchell’s Copse to undertake a somewhat exciting reconnoitre of the site. The day was cold and overcast, but bright, and myself, Anmer Pardow and Barry Thule, armed with a notebook, camera, compass and a packed lunch each, set off up the much overgrown cinder path towards the building.
We had decided earlier that an attempt to approach the building as we did as boys was probably a foolhardy idea as we are not as nimble as we once were and also, Barry pointed out that he did not want to get his new winter coat dirty.
The woods at Doggers Covert had made a game attempt at reclaiming the path as we drew near, but we emerged from the undergrowth to stand on the wide concrete apron that surrounds the building. We approached cautiously, and silently to the nearest windows. None of us had ever noticed that windows were were fitted with obscured, mesh reinforced glass!
We made our way down the length of the building until we came to the door, which was securely boarded up and showing no signs of being breached. What we were looking for was a way in, not a way to break in, so on we went around the perimiter of the building. The short side wall offered no windows or access but at the rear of the building was a bit of a surprise; an old portable building (the kind we all used to call ‘mobiles’ back in the day) probably dating from the 1980’s! None of us were expecting this additional structure, which was positioned right up to the back wall and secured with joinery and such like, forming a sort of ‘extension’ to the main building.
The windows here were clear and we could see the interior of a clearly deserted building, in an advanced state of disrepair. We could see that there were some scraps amongst the detritus that looked as if they belonged here, as well as some notices and a large diagram on the far wall. We talked about the likelihood of there being any more than what we could see through these windows, as well as supposing that the three closed doors that must lead into the main building and would probably be locked.
At this point, Barry tried the door and to our combined disbelief it opened freely – not even locked! As we gingerly stepped inside this was the view we had:
After careful scrutiny we found that there were three areas of particular interest. Firstly, the diagram on the wall (A):
We have yet to work out its meaning. It was first thought to have been a map, but without any landmarks or references, this is impossible to ascertain. It certainly bears no relationship to the locality. Next were the six pages pinned neatly on the wall to the right of the ‘map’ (B) which we will come to in the next post.
On the floor at the left of the room (C) were a small pack of cards, some of which are photographic, some are ink drawings and others a pencil notes and diagrams, none of which are any more than 6cm on the longest side.
These will also be more thoroughly investigated in the next post.
So, back to the exploration. We each chose a door, and took turns to try each one. Stating at the door nearest, Barry, who had got us this far went first but found it firmly locked. The second door was Anmer’s and after a little effort opened partially to reveal a completely empty room in a similar state of disrepair.
In this room there was nothing of interest. No paper scraps, no mysterious markings or records of any sort. In fact, we all agreed that compared to the last room this was remarkably empty. Not just empty, but there seemed to be more of an absence of something, which put Anmer in a very strange mood and spooked Barry, who started to suggest that it was getting late and his mother would be worrying.
Back in the first room there was one last door; my door. We three retraced our steps and stood in front of the last door with a sense of apprehension and possibly a little fear. The empty room had unsettled us all.
I took a deep breath and placed my hand upon the cold handle. It turned easily and without sound. Another breath and I quickly pulled open the door. We were met with a sudden rush or air – slightly warm and with a strong, rank smell – which shocked us and forced us into a scattered and somewhat undignified retreat. Outside, after a good chuckle, we gathered our wits about us and decided that we had just got ourselves into a state of heightened tension and scared ourselves. After dusting ourselves down, Anmer and I went back to look inside the final room. Barry stayed outside because his asthma was playing up.
What we found was strange. The room was narrow and very, very dark. So dark that it was impossible to ascertain the length of the room. We stood just outside the threshold and peered into the gloom in silence for some time. The air had lost that initial rush of warmth but the odour of stale sweat, and boiled vinegar was just as strong. The room appeared to be in state of more advanced decay than anywhere else we had seen, but the darkness was the most striking thing. It seemed to be darker in there than anywhere else. Darker than we had seen before.
Anmer looked at me intensely and pointed at the camera around my neck. I quickly took a shot and closed the door. We went back outside in silence.
On the way back to The Teat, Barry asked us about the room. We tried to explain what we had seen, which was to say, not very much, just the blackness. Barry took another puff on his inhaler. It was his turn to buy a round.
To be continued…