Monday, 15 April 2013

St Joseph's Missionary College, Mill Hill, London - April 2013

Saturday saw a return to several things for me, exploring away from Kent, exploring with Starlight, and my first time back in Leicester for the first time since June 2010. The big 28 Days Later meet was in Leicester on Saturday evening, so Starlight and I headed up from Ashford, stopping off at St Joseph's on the way as it wasn't too far from the M1. For the last few months it seems like every man and his dog have done this place, so it would be rude not to pop in.

Thanks to GAJ, BHG, and PCW for all supplying me with the same map within two minutes of each other.

Not my photo, from Costar.co.uk
Access was a joke to be honest. I'd been warned that security would be around, but despite getting my coat quite muddy crawling, we had nothing to worry about.

The place was wide open as well, which is never going to do it any favours. Hopefully it's sealed up a bit better at some point soon, otherwise I can see the build being trashed or burnt down.

Some history, lovingly borrowed from RaisinWing's report in 28DL:

The St Joseph's Foreign Missionary Society (Mill Hill Missionaries) was founded at Mill Hill in 1866 by Father Herbert Vaughan (1832-1903). It was the first catholic missionary society to be founded in England. 

The college organised successful missions across much of the world, but eventually numbers began declining in the 1980s. The future of the Mill Hill college was first discussed in 1997, and various plans were drawn up in 2004 to allow the surrounding land to be developed to fund the continuation of the college. These were rejected, opting instead to sell the land and premises. The college officially closed in 2006.

It has been used as a filming location for several well known TV shows with the latest being Call The Midwife in 2012.

The basement had quite a bit of standard basement equipment in it, as well as the above lovely mural. 

I saw Call the Midwife once, it was bloody awful. 

After a few of the kitchen area, we made our way to the oldest part of the site, which featured a courtyard graced by the famous tower.

This part of the site was intensely photogenic, and made for some lovely shots. 

This led us to arguably the highlight of the site, the chapel. Glorious lighting made this part quite special.

For the next part, I headed upwards. Starlight didn't like the look (or rather smell) of the pigeon poop, and whilst it wasn't exactly nice, I initially wasn't bothered by it. When you get to about half way up the tower though, it becomes stronger, the pigeons become more attacking, and the stairs become a lot dodgier. If only it had been a nice day, the photos from the top might have been worth it!

It was ridiculously windy up there, and I'm not great with heights at the best of times, so when I pigeon flew directly at my head whilst I was by the edge I was understandably pretty terrified. Not to mention the Weeping Angel, too. 

After a shaky return down to the bottom of the tower, I bumped in to Starlight again, and we made our way to the newer part of the site, which presumably would have been all of the classrooms, and brothel.

Unfortunately this area had been almost entirely stripped, and was relatively boring. There's only so many empty rooms and corridor shots that one can do, although I did find the poster below. I can't imagine an original would have stuck around so long, so I presume that it's something to do with Call the Midwife.

Time was getting on, so we took the executive decision to leave the site and make our way up to Leicester. We took a slightly different route out, passing some plastic covering that the builders have erected.

St Joe's was a pretty cool explore. Yes, it has become quite the tourist trap, but quite frankly with such lax security it's hardly surprising. We didn't have enough time to find a few of the areas that I've seen in other reports, such as the rooftop section, but we at least got to see the most important sections. 

Thanks for reading, more places to come in the near future I hope.


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