Abandoned buildings can hold a deep fascination even when they are mere empty shells that only hint at the many lives once lived, and perhaps lost, within them. They provide a rich seam of opportunities for photographers or those who are simply curious, as well as offering a rare, un-curated and first-hand experience of history that cannot found within carefully labelled and supervised museum exhibits or books.
They also whisper to us about the temporary nature of our own lives, and perhaps even our whole civilization, by so clearly reminding us that everything from our grandest constructions to our beloved homes will, just like these buildings, eventually give in to the ravages of time and be slowly reclaimed by nature.
However, they can be even more fascinating when some of the things from their often rich and fascinating pasts are left behind after abandonment. As we shall see in the following entires, these can sometimes provide either interesting or deeply macabre insights into the buildings' past, sad or melancholy reflections on the aspirations once held by those whole built them or lived in them, and occasionally even perplexing mysteries which defy any obvious explanation.
10. The Crane Mirror
Dating back to 1833, St Brigid’s Asylum in Ireland is among the oldest surviving examples of such buildings. Designed in a prison-like ‘radial’ plan from grim grey stone, by the 1920s it was grossly overcrowded, designed for 840 patients but holding almost 1,500.
Like all good mysteries, the 'crane mirror' posed some intriguing questions. Standing alone in an otherwise unremarkable room, with its strange seashell motif and intricate dancing carved wooden cranes, it stood around 12ft (3.65 metres) tall and suggested something perhaps more at home in a ballet school. But in the 19th Century, and within a lunatic asylum, that explanation seemed most unlikely.
Larger than any door or window in the room, one wonders how they even managed to get it in there. But more intriguingly, why even go to such trouble? Was it some strange passion project installed at the request of a former Medical Superintendent? Could there really have been ballet classes in an asylum? Was it a part of some strange type of therapy? Perhaps it covered up a doorway or something else now hidden behind it? And if so, what? No satisfactory answer has yet been found.