I was staying with my friend in her Clapham apartment. I’d only just arrived in London and I was spending my days and nights looking for flats and jobs and daydreaming of adventure. I spotted a Facebook post from Rebecca Litchfield. She was upset because the model that she’d booked for the job had pulled out at the last minute. I messaged her immediately and she said she’d love to have me involved. We’d both been wanting to work together for a while so it was almost like it was meant to be.
I met Rebecca at Clapham Junction and we caught the train out to a station nearby the manor house we would be shooting in the next morning. Matt and Richie met us at the train station. It was the first time Rebecca had met either of them but they all knew each other from urbex forums. We did the standard introductions and then we were off. It was only a short 15 minute drive to Bull Manor. We weren’t technically meant to be there so we parked the car around the corner and then under the cover of darkness we quietly snuck down a muddy path and… that’s where we came across out first obstacle. All the winter rain had turned what was previously a large ditch in to a rather deep creek. Luckily we came across a fallen tree and we all took turns in crossing the rotting log on to the opposite bank. Richie went first with his sleeping bag in one hand and his camera and clothes in another. He made it nearly all the way across before slipping on the rotting bark and falling in to the water. He pulled himself out pretty quickly but the main concern was the camera. We needed to get in to the manor first before checking the damage. After Richie had slipped we all knew to be extra cautious and we passed all our camping gear across the creek before crawling along to the other side.
Once we crossed we then had a whole new challenge to face. As silent as could be we had to climb a rusted old fence – the boys being such lovely gentlemen helped me across silently we crossed fields and jumped more fenced this time they were covered in barbed wire. I must admit that I was a little apprehensive when we approached the house and I saw the razor wire that surrounded the building. Luckily my new friends knew the way in. The rest of our entrance I’m going to have to leave out but it was very challenging and took us a rather long time with all of our gear.
When we entered the house the first thing that surprised me was all the stuff! No one ever moved out of there. All their things were just there. Left to rot. We couldn’t see much in the night and we didn’t want to turn our torches on just in case someone saw us – so we set ourselves up with a few candles for light and sat around chatting in to the wee hours of the morning. Everything in the house was damp so we sat on bin bags to keep the moisture out. It was a freezing night and I was very grateful to be dry and in a very toasty sleeping bag. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for Richie – all his clothes and his sleeping bag were damp from his fall in to the creek. We chatted late in to the night and they all exchanged stories of their adventures. I listened intently – they certainly fanned the flames of my wanderlust fire. Urbex is like a whole new world to me and a very interesting one at that.
By the time we went to sleep I was completely exhausted. We rolled our bin bags out on the floor – jumped in to our sleeping bags with our pillows zipped up inside with us. I slept like the dead. who would have thought? We woke at first light and I saw the true haunting beauty of this abandoned manor house. The house itself was 4 stories high and an impressive stained glass ceiling. We could only reach the first two stories as the other staircases had rotted and fallen down. The boys ventured further than we had using a ladder that was in the house. We got my hair and makeup ready while we were waiting for the sun to rise. Then we spent the next few hours shooting barefoot around the decapitated house… I have never been so cold in my life! My feet completely lost feeling but somehow were still really painful. Thank goodness it was worth it. It was so so worth it.
I had an adventure. I had a brand new experience. I made some wonderful new friends and we created some beautiful images.
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Until next time wanderlusters.
Photographer: Rebecca Litchfield
Model: Jessica Nicole Griffiths
Gowns: The Couture Company
Location: Bull Manor
Let me know what you think – leave a comment below or tweet me @jessicaswander