In nineteen eighty something or other a couple of friends and I hitched from Bangor, where we were attending an art foundation course, to Beaumaris with the purpose of hunting down Baron Hill, a long abandoned ruined mansion house. We asked about it in a little pub up a sidestreet and were told by some lads that local witches were rumoured to use the grounds of Baron Hill for their rituals. After a couple of ciders and a long walk we found it... what a place! My young head, steeped in Hammer films and M. R. James ghost stories, thrilled in the desolation and dark romance of the place. It was a really grey windy day and there were banging, creaking and scratching noises coming from within the ruined shell... we were mightily spooked! It seemed the tales of witchcraft were true... in one of the old out-buildings we found a large pentangle chalked on the floor! We made a hasty retreat! We had taken a few photos of the house on borrowed, college cameras, and as soon as we returned we rushed excitedly to the darkroom.
Two shots seemed to show ghostly figures looking out at us. We freaked out a little, then hugged ourselves in glee. We had caught 'real live' ghosts on film!
Feeling brave and nervous, we returned to the old house to take more pictures. As we gazed up at the haunted windows we saw that our spirits had manifested themselves from the plasterwork on the wall beyond the frame. The camera had flattened and blurred the shapes, and the black and white film hid the buff coloured, broken wall. I think part of me was rather glad.
Last year Iain, Sam and I sneeked back into the grounds. This time it didn't feel creepy at all... but it was fascinating, and a lot more overgrown after thirty years, as you can see if you compare the photograph at the top of the page with the small photo just below it. I really love it when a ruin is swamped by greenery, like a temple in the jungle, it's magical!
The mansion was originally built in 1618 by Sir Richard Bulkeley as the family seat of the influential Bulkeley family. It underwent reconstruction in 1776 by architect Samuel Wyatt who adopted the Neo-Palladian style. In World War II the Royal Engineers were stationed at the house. It was later damaged by fire, but the shell of the house survives.
As a photographer it's a site crammed with opportunities... but beware, you will be trespassing on private property.