I met up with Gina early in the morning, this house was our first of the day. It turned out to be a rather eventful and unorthodox visit with the way we went into the house.
We noticed a station wagon parked at the front gate so decided to go in one of our cars and speak to whoever it was inside the car - who was actually fast asleep with his shoes placed outside the car. We introduced ourselves and he introduced himself as Billy; knowing some history to the house we knew him to be the owner of the house. So, what transpired was about 45 minutes of chatting to him and asking if it was ok for us to go inside and photograph his house. He knew people had already been in [uninvited] and had called the police the previous day but they hadn't turned up. At the point where he agreed we could go inside for one hour to get our photographs, the police duly turned up - 24 hours too late. It must be said, the policeman was the politest I have ever met and chatted with Billy for a while and then said to us that if Billy was fine for us to go in then he couldn't stop us but would have to go and check it to make sure it was structurally sound as he didn't want us taking risks if the building was unsafe. After a quick look around the house he deemed it fine [suprisingly] and escorted us into the house.
Now, that is the first time I or Gina have had a police escort into a derelict building, usually it is the other way round, We have both been caught inside in the past more than once, and been escorted out by the plice so this was quite refreshing!
I am not sure how he deemed it safe though as part of the house round the back has actually collapsed and the floors inside the part still standing were very brittle indeed and could crumble at any point. Our friendly policeman said we could have 45 minutes maximum inside the house as he would have to wait outside and make sure we came out in one piece. All in all, a quite tremendous service from the police which he didn't have to do but as he had peered through the windows, he himself was quite amazed and described what he saw as a 'time capsule' so i think he understood our eagerness to go inside.
There is a story to this house which is very sad indeed so a little history:
The local newspaper carried an obituary after the passing of Billy's father - dated 19th june 2002. It said:
The death has taken place of a well-known farmer who was a regular prizewinner in past agricultural shows. Arthur William (Bill) ******* of ***** Farm died in hospital on June 7, aged 85. Much respected in the farming community he was described by friends as a tidy, prize-winning farmer held in high regard by his peers. He farmed the area for over 50 years.
Some time after, Billy's mother Gwenneth also passed away. As Billy lived at the family home he was thus left alone. Unable to live in the house after both his parent's died, Billy lived in a caravan in the front grounds which can be seen in one of the external photographs. From chatting with Billy - who incidentaly was a lovely chap - he has not lived in the house at all since they both died, only popping in very rarely with the last time many years ago. Due to physical health reasons, Billy is now unable to live in the caravan, hence living in his station wagon.
Billy was in the news some years ago, which I will not go into here out of respect. Suffice to say it was reported that Billy had been a farmer all his life and had won countless farming shows and had acted as a judge in a number of county shows. The rest of the story is now history and doesn't need to be mentioned here.
So with 45 minutes to photograph the house we both made our way through each room at ultra high speed. Both of us having tripods made it all the more difficult as the floors were littered with possessions so finding space to get the tripod up wasn't easy especially in such a rush. Because of the time constraint i didn't get as many detail close up shots as I normally would - especially of paperwork, letters and magazines etc. The fact the floors seemed to crack under our footsteps didn't bother us either as we were in such a rush.
Hopefully I did a decent job in capturing the interior of this amazing house. The decay was extensive but it's clear it was once a beautiful country house and far from the typical claustrophobic farmhouses I have photographed before. This was a handsome and spacious house, more like a mini stately home and suitably furnished with beautiful furniture. Most of the possessions inside were of a vintage age adding to the time-capsule feel of the house. It is a real shame the house is in
such a derelict state and probably beyond saving as a renovation project.
Finally, it was a pleasure to meet Billy, both myself and Gina were glad to have met him and thankful to him for trusting us and allowing us to go inside what was once his beloved family home. I wish Billy to find peace and get healthy as it is no way to live the way he is living now.