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From Childhood Curiosity to Appreciation of the Past – The Thrill of Urbex

Here we have a guest article written by Imogen Reed.

From Childhood Curiosity to Appreciation of the Past – The Thrill of Urbex
Urban exploration is a relatively new term, commandeered by the curious and brave alike; those whom just have to know what lies behind that decrepit wall or door. However, the spirit of urban exploration is certainly not a new phenomenon.

A Child-like Curiosity
From our childhood memories, many will remember the local abandoned house, hospital or school that lay dormant to human activity, simply brimming with yet to be exploited adventures and excitement. Exploration is a key to the development of a child’s understanding of the larger world, and disused buildings such as these were often entered by the bored and the inquisitive in the hazy last weeks of summer holidays or restless weekends.

Although many adults would have liked to believe that children were attempting to break-in to disused buildings to simply cause chaos and damage, the truth behind these childhood antics was pure curiosity, with perhaps a desire to prove your bravery. Children are generally not comfortable or compliant to being told that there’s somewhere you simply must not enter or visit, it goes against their natural talent to view the world from a naïve, wide-eyed angle and for some this ability to question everything around them carries with them into adulthood.

Urban exploration is clearly an extension of our childhood desire to allow our curiosity to get the better of us. The excitement of treading where you shouldn’t strictly tread is still as awe-inspiring to a grown adult as it is those bored children squeezing though the fence of their local abandoned house, just to peek through the windows, dig around the garden or find an unused shed. There was a thrill in seeking out new places to explore, whether on foot or riding in on your fixed-speed bike. Children were alive with anticipation of perhaps being discovered, often scurrying away hurriedly leaving behind a shoe, rucksack or their precious bike, resulting in parents reluctantly having to make a bicycle insurance comparison incase of future escapades.

An Adulthood Appreciation for the Past
As we get older, we also gain a finer appreciation for the history we’re surrounded by. We’re amazed to find beautiful architectural wonders totally abandoned, the only inhabitants that remain are the local flora and fauna that have taken over the cracks in windows and wooden doors, seeping inside and filling a void that was once perhaps occupied by thriving crowds. This is especially the case with old sanatoriums, hospitals and asylums.

At one time these grand and vast buildings were home to a whole plethora of different people, from working staff to in-patients, and most of us are lucky enough to have never entered a facility such as this in its heyday. However, our curiosity still lies strong with out souls, the same child-like questions and curiosities still abound us:

“What was it like to stay there?”

“What equipment was used?”

“Are there any signs of what life was like still remaining in the building?”

The Secrets Within
These grand buildings were constructed using curious and intriguing blueprints, with each hospital being more like a small town than just simply a singular building in its own right. Like children, we know there are secrets held within that are just too interesting to lay untold any longer. Many of the grounds were peppered with small outhouses, underground networks of service tunnels, huge kitchens and recreational facilities such as dance halls – the possibilities for finding something unusual to see are endless.

Urban exploration allows the brave and curious a chance to let their imagination run free, as they turn from one rusty and damp corridor to be unwitting met with perhaps a beautiful and intricately decorated theatre hall or in-house chapel. One can observe the physical remnants of these surroundings, whilst at the same time taking in the more than tangible atmosphere that remains of those whom once frequented these spaces in the past.

Treasures That Tell a Story
There may be old paperwork left over by a lazy patron or employee of such a facility, or even an old suitcase filled with a dress or scarf, maybe a grubby, water-stained bible on a pew; to some, finds such as these are treasures to behold. A small slice of history, a little taste of how life was once led before, for whatever reason, the inhabitants left the building permanently, allowing only for the decay and waste of what would otherwise be an extraordinary edifice.

To be an urban explorer in adulthood is no more reprehensible than in childhood, and in some ways it is even less so. With an adulthood regard for the history of our locality, our respect and admiration for beautiful and grand architecture of the past teamed with a healthy spirit of child-like curiosity, it is those that partake in Urbex that should be thanked for utilizing their appreciation of the long-forgotten, to offer us an exciting insight into what once was.

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One Response

  1. Thanks Imogen, it’s always the signs of the life that was, that fascinates me. There’s something about places which were very busy and are now abandoned, that tugs at me emotionally. It’s like the buildings and thier contents, which were previously there just to facilitate a human activity have retained the energy and have become the ‘life’ of the location. For me, this is most tangible at locations that are very recently vacated. I think that the people who explore, film and photograph such places (as well as entertain me!) provide an invaluable historical record from a perspective that couldn’t ever be captured while a site was in it’s heyday.

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