Lady in Red

Red Dress ManorBeing half naked in the back seat of a car while a man with a mallet threatens you sounds like the start of a teen slasher film. It was the end of our urban exploring adventure. It was going so well.

Red Dress Manor

living room

Over a year ago, Wales Online published an article about Calcott Hall, aka, Red Dress Manor. The once working farm was built in 1725 and was abandoned in the ’90s. Online articles say it was abandoned in the ’70s when owner Ellen Jones fell ill. Red Dress ManorHowever we found medicine bottles for a Francis Jones dated 1994 and a letter to Francis dated 1997. We had to go. This place was calling to us, whispering that it wanted us to explore inside it. And like sailors lured to their deaths by sirens, we obeyed. We kept our excitement in check by reminding ourselves that previous urb exing adventures never went well. We always got caught or failed to get in. Bit like the rest of our lives really – one adventurous failure after another, all packaged in hilarious stories to hide our misery. If we want to urb ex, we always check forums to see if anyone’s been there recently. They had. This was looking good.Red Dress Manor

We met our partners in crime, Laura, Jack and James, who join us on most adventures now and set off. We’d refreshed our rusty law knowledge and went satisfied that we weren’t breaking any laws. Trespassing is a civil offence and as long as you don’t damage the property or commit any crimes while there, you’re fine. If someone asks you to leave, just leave. We said to our mum “You didn’t try to stop us, tell us it was a bad idea or warn us to be careful.” Mum “I’ve given up now.” When we told our uncle about our adventure, he said “Hopefully one day you’ll get hit by the normality cloud.” Luckily we’re fast and have the motto “if you keep running, it can’t get you.”

Red Dress Manor

kitchen

It was all going so well. Except our SatNav, Helen, wanted us to take a left road. We were following James, who went straight ahead. Helen kept trying to make us do a U-Turn. When we disobeyed, she switched off data connection and sulked. She does this a lot when we ignore her. We should take her to meet our therapist, as she clearly has issues. Mid Wales is mostly mountains so internet signal isn’t great. Then Lynx (who has kidney issues) really needed a wee. There were no services. There hadn’t been any toilets for miles. She was desperate enough to go at the side of the road at this point but having recently had bad experiences at being semi naked in a public place, it was unadvised. Red Dress ManorWe eventually found a pub and pulled in, losing James and Jack. Toilets were for paying customers only. Cat had to pay £1.20 for a lemonade just so Lynx’s kidneys wouldn’t explode. We enjoyed our unnecessary drink slightly enraged. Though the cheerful barman seemed thrilled to have the three of us there. We were the only customers. Maybe everybody else was peeing in the bushes out the back. While we were there, Helen, realising we needed her help, switched data connection back on. We hit the road. To find services with toilets half a mile later. We met up with the guys in a petrol station further down the road and continued.Red Dress Manor

As we neared our destination, the road was closed. The only route around it meant going quite far out of our way to loop back around. Helen kept insisting we make a u-turn and drive through the road closure. Maybe she wanted to experience an action film lifestyle where we crash through barriers without scratching our paintwork.Red Dress Manor

We’d seen on a forum that tips for finding the house was ‘find the village, find the house.’ Kind of like ‘save the cheerleader, save the world’. We doubted this simplicity. Nothing in life is that easy. We were wrong.Red Dress Manor

Domgay in Llanymynech isn’t a village. It’s a long road with farms and a funeral director’s off it. We travelled the road. And found the house. It’s easily visible from the road. It’s stunning in its decay. We found a lane around the other side and pulled in. But there were gates and cows so we couldn’t park there. This was going to be a problem. Trying to hide an orange Mini Cooper convertible and a blue Ford Street Ka was not going to go well. We drove around then spotted a visitors’ car park. We parked there and went on foot to the house. One problem – we stick out. With a group of five people, including twin goths with orange hair and none of us dressed like country people, it was clear we didn’t belong here. Luckily there was no-one around.

Red Dress Manor

attic room

Cat found a gate blocked by stinging nettles that were nearly face high. No-one was keen on this. James then found a low fence topped with barbed wire. We’d pick barbed wire over stinging nettles any day. Cat ducked under the wire then held it up for James. He removed the loose top plank, making access easier. We crossed the field to the house. Red Dress ManorThe front door was boarded up but Cat spotted an open window. Six feet off the ground. We’re 5’1″. There was a ledge at our waist height, just wide enough for toes. At this point, she regretted her tight PVC trousers but luckily, our hyper mobility means we can get our feet to waist height. She climbed up, pulling herself up with the stable part of the window frame. We didn’t come dressed for climbing! James and Laura hate climbing so we were impressed they were willing to get in this way. Cat pulled them up then Lynx climbed up, followed by Jack. We’d actually made it inside.

Red Dress Manor

medicine bottle dated 1994

Normally, when things go well, we get suspicious. If we have a run of good luck, it usually means something horrible is about to happen. You can blame it on us being paranoid and having trust issues (both of which are true) but nothing ever goes well without being countered by something bad. Weirdly, it never happens the other way around.

We found ourselves in the living room. It was mostly intact, apart from papers and receipts scattered everywhere. This was a theme. Previous explorers have ransacked the place, tossing fifty years’ worth of paperwork (we’re not kidding – there was an exercise book from 1949) and clothing all over the floors.

Red Dress Manor

our entrance/exit

It was such a shame. The house would have had a far creepier atmosphere had everything been left as it was when the Jones family lived there. A photo from a girls’ grammar school sits on the fireplace. We ventured further inside, keen to keep away from the window so we wouldn’t be seen. There were two further living rooms. Both had massive holes in the floor and trees growing inside them. We didn’t enter them. The kitchen was safe. Here we found the letter to Francis and the medicine bottles. There was also a car insurance certificate dated 1973 for a Morris Marina. There are two in the garages. A green one and an orange one. We had three Marinas growing up so have a soft spot for them.Red Dress Manor

An old Aga cooker sits in the kitchen. The doorway leads down to an outhouse and a basement, which has several other rooms leading off it and stairs heading up to the bathroom. Up there was unused farm medicine and a bathtub that was in serious danger of falling through the floor. Do not stand on that floor. You will get hurt. There was an old record player with a record still on it: The World of Winnifred Attwell from 1969. We left the basement and headed upstairs, keeping to the sides of the stairs just in case. While we’re a skinny bunch, we’re still heavy enough to plummet through stairs and cause ourselves mischief. Weirdly, the house didn’t have a creepy atmosphere. It still felt like a home and we didn’t once feel uneasy or feel like we shouldn’t be there.Red Dress Manor

On the next level are five bedrooms. The one has the wardrobe where the famous red dress used to hang (hence the manor house’s nickname). Unfortunately, the dress is no longer there and neither is the photo of the woman wearing it (believed to be Ellen, though we found no evidence of an Ellen living there). Instead, there is a knitted replica of the dress and photos of some guy wearing it. It looks like photos taken from a horror film. Another bedroom leads off this one, with random shoes, clothes and more paperwork covering the floor. All the paperwork is addressed to Mr William Jones and Miss Francis Jones. Father and daughter probably. And there are trees growing up through the floor. Nature seems to be reclaiming the house. One of the other bedrooms has rotting suitcases on the beautiful bed and more paperwork over the floor. Tax bills mostly. The other bedroom had a Geography exercise book on the bed, with the name William Jones on it from 1949.

Red Dress Manor

bathroom

The next level up was the attic rooms. These really weren’t safe, with holes in the floor and ceilings. One of these seemed to be a children’s room, with an old dartboard, skipping rope and doll’s house furniture. And more tax bills. There were also old newspapers with Jack’s birthday on them but many years before he was born. One of the rooms had a hole right by the doorway and most of the way across so we didn’t venture in there. Wooden steps led up to another level but the bottom two had rotted off and the rest didn’t look that stable. Cat climbed onto the third step but it didn’t feel very secure so she didn’t risk venturing up.

Red Dress Manor

outhouse

We returned to explore the lower levels then left, after an hour in the house. James and Cat heard a car as we reached the window so ducked back. A Jeep drove past as Cat was half out the window. We headed around the house to look at the cars. However between us and the green Marina were cows. And they were eating, which meant the farmer couldn’t be that far away and if we walked past, they might start mooing and alert him to our presence. Being arrested because we were betrayed by cows would be a low point in lives that haven’t seen many highs. We reluctantly left the car unexplored then found the orange one in a locked garage. As we neared the hedge, another car approached so we ducked down like ninjas before climbing back out over the fence and replacing the plank we’d taken down.Red Dress Manor

Our first successful urban exploring adventure! We couldn’t believe our luck. Finally, after over a year, we got to explore it. We didn’t fall through floors, get Tetanus or get marched out in handcuffs. Things never go this well for us. There had to be something lurking around the corner…

We returned to the cars to find large notes on the windscreens – Please do not park here again. Fair enough, though it was a visitors’ car park and it said you park there at your own risk. It was now boiling so Cat decided to remove the lace jumper she was wearing under her vest top. She’d just stripped off her layers when a man approached with a mallet. He was the type of guy you would cross the road to avoid. Face of Crimewatch. Cursing, Cat ducked down just as he reached the car. Another incident of being half naked in public not ending well. Red Dress ManorHe knocked on the window with the handle of the mallet then said “if you park here again, I’ll phone the police.” Bit harsh, it’s a public car park. Lynx “Sorry, we didn’t realise.” Mallet Man “It’s not that, I know where you’ve been.” Umm…is that supposed to be a threat? You know where we’ve been? So do we. And it was awesome! We weren’t committing an offence. We noticed although he’d spoken to James and Jack, he didn’t threaten them with the police or say he knew where they’d been. Clearly he enjoyed threatening those of a female variety. Nice try. We don’t scare easily. A Mini Cooper trumps a mallet in the weapons stakes.

We had no SatNav now so drove around for ages looking for a pub. Every pub we found was closed. We eventually found one and logged on to the WiFi while pub dog Holly joined us at our table for the duration of our drinks. We now have a taste for urban exploring and already have our next location planned. Let’s just hope men with mallets aren’t lurking nearby.Red Dress Manor

7 Comments

  1. Great write up! You guys need to raise like a million jillion pounds and buy the place…it looks like a great place to party…maybe hire mallet man to be the gardener…or bouncer…or something! 🙂
    Thanks for posting.

    • thanks for reading it 🙂 we’d love to buy this place. You can tell it used to be beautiful. Mallet Man would make a great gardener/security guard 😀

  2. Creepy place, Fun read 😀

  3. […] our successful Red Dress Manor adventure, the urb ex bug had bitten us hard and we wanted to go out again. We haven’t been […]

  4. I really need to try threatening random people with “I know where you’ve been”. Too bad about the other people who had been there though always better to at least think that you’re the first.

    • We were like ‘we know where we’ve been too.’ Maybe we should urb ex places that haven’t been abandoned yet to guarantee we’re the first. Though that’s how nasty words like ‘breaking and entering’ get thrown around 😀


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