I’d passed by this long term dereliction located in the Western part of the Yorkshire Dales a number of times on trips bound elsewhere, each time mentally marking it in the ‘promising’ category of potential explorations, but it wasn’t until a few months after first discovery that I finally decided to have a look inside. I guess because it was so close to my home at the time, that I was saving it for a ‘rainy day’ – a time when I wasn’t feeling particularly energetic or motivated, and needed something nice and local that had a good chance of being interesting, so, on one warm Summer day in mid-July, I found myself inside, wandering through it’s steadily deteriorating rooms, tracing the footsteps of it’s last occupants.
Let’s get the name out of the way first as obviously it’s not the dwelling’s actual title, just a pseudonym I happen to have given it based on what I found inside. As you’ve probably gathered by now if you’ve read some of my other pieces, I’m not especially averse to using the proper names of the places I explore and where they’re located – I like giving history and context, and that’s often tough to do without giving suitable background info. There is good reason though, why, in the urban exploration community, divulging this is often considered anathema – not all who seek out abandoned spaces do so with an eye to documenting their findings, abiding by the age-old mantra: “Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints1” – others are perfectly content on stripping a place of anything worth taking (including the copper wiring), before maybe smashing things up a little and covering it in (mostly terrible) graffiti2 It’s for this reason that many explorers are somewhat hesitant to go into too much detail with this – And me? Well, let’s just say I’m straddling that fine line, between information and preservation. If I think providing the name/location is unlikely to result in significant harm to a place, or, if the history is interesting/significant enough to warrant it, I’ll provide them – if not, I won’t until such a time as I consider it ‘safe’ to do so (eg. the location gets demolished/renovated). Although, in reality, I’m almost certainly way too small-time to have much of an appreciable impact anyway.
This particular farmhouse dates to around the early-mid 18th century like many in the area, their onset brought about during the dawn of the industrial revolution, as farmers gained enough wealth through the sale of raw materials to the newly developing mills; to rebuild their existing wooden dwellings in hardier local limestone. Despite the nearly 3 centuries that have passed since it’s construction, structurally it doesn’t seem to have been altered much at all – lose the more modern windows, the tv aerial, and the other electrical accoutrements that adorn the outside, plonk it down in 1750, and I doubt your average farmhand or gentry member would even bat an eyelid, unless they went inside of course, and found the hulking great fridge that had been emptied apart from a single tub of butter that I didn’t dare to investigate any closer.
From piecing together information from the many odds-and-ends I found scattered about, along with the house’s entry on the register of listed buildings, I’m fairly confident in dating it’s eventual abandonment to June 1994, although I’m certainly not the first to wander inside in the intervening years despite finding no other exploratory evidence online. Some of the artefacts found within are positioned just a little too photogenically, and in ways no sane resident would consider – who neatly arranges their shoes next to their teacups and cheese grater? Despite this, it’s obviously been a while since the last human visit judging by the cobwebs that crackled as I opened the various doors – it looks like a cat has more recently had the run of the place, and set up residence in a fallen cupboard filled with a nest of old clothes that it evidently had no qualms about using as a toilet.
Other forms of life were more physically present upstairs, where a colony of Swallows were busy nesting before I disturbed them. On my approach they all flooded out of the missing window pane that served as an entrance and endlessly circled the house, occasionally popping back in to check I was still there, before zooming straight out again in disappointment. Their nests dotted the upper ceiling line, and their droppings coated the floor which I crunched through in my traversal. The smell wasn’t pleasant, but it also wasn’t as overwhelming as I expected, maybe I’ve been to so many grotty places by now I’m gradually losing it. Probably just as well.
This building was rather unusual in the sheer amount of stuff it still contains that was left behind when the previous owners left for whatever reason – most of it congregated on the ground floor, presumably as a measure to prevent stress on the upper. Decorative trinkets, clothes, chairs, a nearly full bottle of gin; even sentimental items such as a folder of children’s schoolwork and drawings that I would have thought would hold personal value (I know my parents still have mine stashed away in their attic); although maybe I can understand the dozens of gradually yellowing erotic novels scattered around – do people really read them more than once?
Much of what remains has been collected into cardboard boxes, almost as if it was going to be taken before some unforeseen event occurred, which inevitably raises a whole host of questions. It could be something incredibly benign, incredibly tragic; anything I suggest would be pure speculation on my part, it’s often hard to map out the histories of everyday people before the advent of the internet – factories, churches, schools – these places more likely than not have their pasts codified into texts that have been recorded, archived, published and are thus easily researched; who can say the same of the average Dales-dwelling family in 1994? Little hints are present here and there though: A caravan deteriorating round the back, and a souvenir bodyboard upstairs speak of holidays in Cornwall3, the aforementioned drawings, essays and a stuffed panda suggest the presence of at least one (probably female) child/teenager; and the crate of unopened sandwich spread in the kitchen… well, someone in the house evidently loved the stuff.
Little mysteries are all part and parcel of this hobby – it’s part of what makes it so appealing to me, but you never know when missing pieces might show themselves and the ghosts you’re chasing finally allow you to catch up. It could be in a totally unrelated piece of research, a chance conversation years down the line and then again, possibly never. As always, I’ll keep both an eye, and an ear out, and update if I find anything.
- I’ve also heard “and break nothing but silence” tacked onto that as well, which I rather like
- I think that this attitude may be somewhat cultural actually – ruins in Taiwan for example are generally much better respected and it’s not uncommon to find valuable artefacts left behind, untouched and unlooted.
- The name of a seemingly long defunct surf shop in the region is present on the board itself – I’m not just inferring this out of nowhere!