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UK King James I Grammar School (Laurel and Hardy Special), Bishop Auckland - September 2016

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History

“Boys at King James had to war gorgeous uniforms of red and gold, and these were expensive… It had to be worn at all times outside school, and if we happened to pass one of the masters in the street, we had to salute him by touching the cap” (Alan Scott, former school attendee). 

In 1604, a widow named Anne Swyfte of Durham City, presented a petition to the King of England. She petitioned for the founding of a grammar school in North Auckland. The King, in his efforts to advocate royal absolutism, quickly agreed and on 12th April 1604 conferred the Royal Seal of approval, alongside a grant of £10 year to the Governors. Although the school was founded in 1604, as the funding acquired had to accumulate, the school that stands today was not built until 1864. Designed by Thomas Austin of Newcastle, the first rooms were a house and schoolroom. Further extensions were added by the same architect in 1873/4. The large two storey front block was constructed in 1897, in a Gothic Revival style using thin course of squared stone with ashlar plinth, quoins and dressings and a slate roof. The main entrance had steps leading up to a double doored entrance; a large carved stoned was positioned above this with the inscription Schola Regia ad 1605 Aucklandensis. 

In 1902, Arthur Stanley Jefferson (Laurel of Laurel and Hardy) attended King James I Grammar School. Since his parents were actors and therefore travelled a great deal, Laurel was sent to live with his grandmother for many years in the north east of England. He later moved to Glasgow and finished his education at Rutherglen Academy. It is rumoured that there is a 20th century plaque commemorating Laurel somewhere on the front of the main building. 

Currently, there are concerns among local residents and the council that the former school, which was severely damaged in an arson attack in 2007, has been left to rot. Many have argued that the council need to do more to prevent the listed building from becoming irreparable. As with any historic building though, there have been complications with several restoration projects that have been proposed. It is hoped that various fundraising activities will allow the Stan Laurel Community Building Group to take ownership of the school. However, as it is estimated to cost around £2 million to complete the project, the building continues to stand abandoned, with a metal fence, scaffolding and tarpaulin surrounding it. 

“The size of the challenge is immense, but that doesn’t mean to say it isn’t worth doing. I know how everybody feels about this building, so I say good luck to you” (Councillor Charlie Kay). 

Our Version of Events

It was late, and we already felt pretty fucked, but we’d been putting off having a look at King James I Grammar School for a long time. Now, stood outside the front gates we realised precisely why we’d been putting this place off for so long. It looks just as fucked as us. Nevertheless, as the legendary Laurel attended the school, we wanted to be able to say we’d walked along the same corridors as he had. Waiting until the coast was clear, one by one we hopped the fences surrounding the rotting building. From there it wasn’t difficult to find a way inside; anyone taking a look from the outside will see why.

Inside, the building looked even worse. We walked, tentatively, across the first room, after realising that most of the floorboards were so decayed they crumbled beneath our feet. It was mainly decomposing carpet that constituted the floor now. With each step a bittersweet stench stung our nostrils; strangely nostalgic and repellent at the same time, the odour hung heavily throughout the room. Further into the school, it was obvious that the entire structure was in a sorry looking state and, other than peeling wallpaper, crumbling fireplaces and stained toilets, there was very little by way of visual stimuli. None of this mattered though. After all, it is likely Arthur Stanley Jefferson had walked through these very rooms. 

Determined to reach the top floor, we continued with our slow pace. None of us suddenly fancied plummeting through the floor. Thankfully, the stairs, which were caked in years of grime and shit, were made of stone and concrete, so they seemed much more durable than anything else we’d seen so far. Step by step, we ascended to the uppermost floor of the school. There was no doubt about it, this was clearly where the fire had been back in 2007. A large metal support structure filled the entire room, and above we could see a large white tarp, clearly covering a gaping hole were a slate titled roof should have been. Fearing this floor more than the others we’d encountered, we decided to stick to the sides of the room as we made our way across. There was no real reason why we needed to wander around up here, but since Laurel had been here it seemed worth it. With the sound of Dance of the Cuckoos ringing in our ears, we thought we’d take a chance, doing a dance, because, well, I’m a cuckoo and you’re a cuckoo. Laa-laa-laa-laa-la la. And, now all the folks have gone wild, it’s time to bring this report to an end. 

As with all explores, an extraordinary amount of courage, or perhaps it was impatience, blanketed us. Needless to say, it took a fraction of the time to get back out. The taste of the fresh night air smelled good against our nostrils as we stepped back onto the cracked, chewing gum coated, pavement of Bishop Auckland. A couple of scummy looking chavs wandered past, stopping only to ask if we had a light. We didn’t, so they continued on their way, but not before Mayhem shouted after them, “Nice trackies, bruv, they match your trainers.” And with that, oh what a howdy-do. It is because two funny chaps taught them all something new?

Explored with Ford Mayhem and Rizla Rider. 
 

King James I Grammar School

 

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King James Postcard

 

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Laurel of Laurel and Hardy

 

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Few of those are a little bit over processed for my liking, calm down on the sliders. ;)  

 

Looks like an interesting building, if a little trashed. 

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    • By Zen1991
      History- The building is from the 'railway era'. The hotel was a hub of the community, it had a fantastic ballroom and restaurant. Many people came by rail to stay at Sutton Bridge. 
      The hotel from around 2000 was used by an employment agency called StaffSmart to house workers they had lured over to the UK from South Africa to work in the local canning factory. People came from SA on the promise of hotel accommodation and didn't know until they got here that it meant inside the shell of the Bridge Hotel on damp mattresses lined up in each room, including the Ballroom. After StaffSmart vacated the hotel, it stood empty with broken windows until it was bought and restored to a high standard with plush furnishings and chandeliers. However, the hotel rooms were pricey and without the rail trade of people heading to the village, people would be passing through and tended to stay in cheaper accommodation in the area. The hotel wasn't open for long before closing down and ownership passed through several hands whilst falling further into disrepair. 
      In 2015, workmen were spotted on the site removing roof tiles and floorboards to salvage as many building materials before it was demolished but its still standing now, so I don't know what stopped the demolition. Since then the building has unfortunately been vandalised and several fires have been set destroying about 70% of it. 
       

      The Bridge Hotel in the 50's
       
      Explore- The hotel is close to me, so even though I knew the damage of the place it was still worth checking out. Access to the building was easy, a window round back was broken and a board to climb up to it was balanced kind of safely. The cellar floor, ground floor and a few rooms on the first floor were safe enough to walk around but past that there is a lot of fire damage. 
       
      Pictures- 

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

    • By Gromr123
      This one required an early start, but the morning adventure to The Kings Hall was worth the effort. Visited with Zombizza. 

      History
      "Located in Southall, Middlesex, in the west of Greater London. The King’s Hall was built in 1916 and was designed by architect Sir Alfred Gelder of Hull. The King’s Hall building has a 3-storey red brick and stone facade. It was operated by the Uxbridge and Southall Wesleyan Mission and it was soon screening religious films.
      By 1926, it was operating as a regular cinema, still managed by the Methodist church.
      The King’s Hall Cinema was closed in 1937. It then reverted back to a Methodist Church use as the King’s Hall Methodist Church. They vacated the building in January 2013"

      The Explore
      Started nice and early, and managed our entrance fairly incident free...if we don't count the massive tear in my trousers..
      It's a pretty spectacular place with a wonderful blend of natural decay and marvelous original features/architecture. With little to no daylight, we decided to wonder round the back rooms while the sun came up before the spending too much time on the main attraction, the large auditorium. 
      The rooms around the back are a weird mix of new and old, some of them being more disgusting than others. One room was so pungent that I took 2 steps in before bailing out. 
      There was also one room that was filled with beds, old food packets and needles. Looked a few years old, but squatters for sure. 
      The larger rooms consisted of meeting rooms, prayer rooms and teaching rooms. All of them had funky wavy flooring where the wooden floor tiles had expanded with moisture.
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      After a few hours we left, although the exit was hilariously unsubtle.

      Photos
       
      The Auditorium
       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       



       

       

       

       

       

       

       



       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

    • By Maniac
      Not the most inspiring of places, but it's quite remarkable because of how quickly it got trashed. It closed in june that year, and by ocotber it was royally trashed. It's now been flattened and the land is still for sale.








      The weird thing about this place was remembering it from when I was a kid, was sad seeing it so trashed.
      Cheers
      Maniac.
    • By Maniac
      Well it was a pretty foolish decision to try this one really, but it was just too tempting since the rumors of it being wide open and security not giving a damn just made it too tempting to try, and we desperately wanted to see inside this place before it gets stripped by pikies or burnt to the ground, which is probably what will end up happening unless something drastic is done to keep people out the building.
      It was about 9:30 in the evening when Fluff, Ryda and Impact arrived at my house. From there we took the supercav to Buckmore, which was surprisingly deserted - there wasn't a soul around. So we grab our stuff, and walk through a gaping great big hole in the fence up one of the main tracks towards the deserted leisure complex.
      We had a few heart stopping moments on the way up the track which turned out to people racing up and down the road outside, so we pushed on towards to complex, all of us a little bit on edge and uncertain of what we would find at the other end. Slowly the building loomed out of the darkness. Still nothing, no security, no lights just an eerie stillness. We quickly start walking round the building looking for an entrance point, we didn't have to look long at there are loads of them, smashed windows, forced doors, open fire exits - the place has more holes in it than swiss cheese.
      In we go, we ended up in the climbing wall area. No sooner had we got into the building when we heard noises, then saw torches. Shit, we can't be busted already surely? Luckily (or un-luckily as it will pan out) it turned out to be some people from Essex, infact it turned out to be quite a few people from essex, about 20 of them in total just wondering around being far to noisey for my liking. This did two things 1. it made us a little more relaxed as if there's 20 of them in the building and they've not been busted, if there are any security they can't be doing a very good job. But it also made us a tad nervous since these people wern't your typical urban explorer type, I think Essex boys and girls sums it up nicely, and they were doing a nice job of smashing every beer bottle they came across, and breaking the remainder of the windows
      Essex People

      The main hall where the rave was



      At this point we contemplated leaving after only taking a few photos, as the essex boys and girls were becoming a liability, but we hadn't come all this way to just give up, oh no! So we lay low for a bit in one of the smaller rooms, took a few photos of corridors and had a cup of coffee (cheers ryda ) The noise had subsided, it was safe to come out, so we did, and started doing what we do best.
      Remember this place was absolutely mint just a week ago.









      At this point we managed to get split up, and try though we might we just couldn't find fluff and impact anywhere, so me and ryda just carried on looking round the building trying to find the swimming pool area, which we managed to do just in time to see headlights coming up the main road leading to the centre. Fuck, security - duck down, so we hid behind the small pool while security shone lights though the windows round the pool area. Boy are there a lot of windows in that pool area. After what felt like hours, they had got far enough away for us to make a dash back into the changing rooms, where we hastily packed away our camera gear in preparation for possibly making a run for it.
      We still had no idea where fluff and impact were at this point, although we had seen them through a window earlier being lit up by security so we knew people were onto us. We sat in the changing rooms for a bit before hearing a shout 'come on out, we know you're there' from outside in the corridor. This corridor was the only exit, so we decided to just give ourselves up in the hope that they'd just give us a ticking off and let us walk off site.
      Little did we know at that point that half of medways finest were already on site looking for us, they had dogs, vans the lot. The other half of medways finest were still on their way, in total at it's height there were about 20 police personnel on site. We just went quietly, not a lot else we could do, although I did protest a little at being arrested for buglary, afterall we wern't stealing anything. We still didn't know where fluff and impact were at this point. We were later re-united at the police station.
      I have to say the police were very professional at the way they handled the situation, and once we were back at the police station (They took us all the way to Tonbridge because the nik at Medway had a powecut ) they were actually quite friendly and seemed to show an interest in what we were doing. We were held in the cells for the rest of the night, and were all interviewed this morning, then the entire thing was dropped as we were expecting. We were then left with a problem, how the hek to we get back to the car? The police arn't that well known for providing a taxi service. Lady luck must have been smiling down upon us today however, because the officer who interviewed us managed to get the go ahead to drive us back to where the car was. Thank you very much officer, you saved us a fortune in taxi fayres.
      All in all a very eventful night that none of us will be forgetting in a long while. All's well that ends well, no harm was done and we even got to keep our pictures. The irritating thing about the whole thing is if it hadn't been for the other group of people on site, we wouldn't have been in so much trouble. Apparently the police were called because of a large number of vehicles being seen around the area. Fearing another rave or simelar kicking off they scrambled all available cars to the area, just to arrest the 4 of us as the people they really wanted were long gone.

      One last word. Stay away from buckmore, you will end up in a shite load of trouble if you're caught. They are going to be locking the building up tight, we all said at interview how easy it was to get in, and it needs to be sealed up. The officer in charge is going to see that this happens. I know it's a shame that we won't be able to explore it, but that's £15 million of building there just getting slowly more and more trashed. It's not beyond saving quite yet, but given a few more weeks of abuse it very soon could be.
      Many thanks for reading
      Maniac.
    • By Maniac
      Location - BAE Systems, Rochester, Kent
      Date Visted: February 2008
      Curent Status: Has now been demolished
      Future Plans: Redevelopment.
      BAE systems Rochester was primerily involved in the manufacture of Electronics and Integrated solutions. The buildings form part of Rochester Airport, and were used by an RAF flying school and the Shorts Brothers prior to being used by BAE systems.
      History
      The older part of the complex dates from the 1930's and was probably built when No 23 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School took over use of the site in 1938. The newer part was probably built in when GEC (comprising Marconi and instrument makers Elliot Automation) took over use of the site in 1979. BAE aquired both of these companies in the following years, and continued operations a Rochester until the site was vacated in 2004.
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      Rochester airport itself is now run on a care and maintenance basis by a group of entusiasts, who are currently negotiating with Medway council over a long term lease for the site. The buildings ajoining Maidstone Road are the ones we visted; they are currently being demolished and the land is set for redevelopment. As you can see there's not a lot left, but it was still interesting to look round none the less.








      If you have an electric panel fetish, then this is the place for you.







      Roof Space

      Thanks for looking
      Maniac.

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