I posted about a visit I made to Carstown House in Louth recently, an abandoned manor house, that’s overgrown, in disrepair, but still looms on the landscape and stays in your thoughts after you’ve walked back down the grassy, wooded lane.
Lots of locals were interested in the piece and the post was linked into Derelict Ireland, a Facebook site run by a talented photographer, who had been inside the house and captured what it looks like now.
I began to look through the various albums available on the page and was absorbed by the photographer’s eye for detail. Not only were the photos haunting, but they were beautiful; light falling through ivy leaves, dark interiors with faded coloured paper on the wall, crumbling buildings with stone architecture carved hundreds of years ago.
If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know that I like to post about the research I do for my own historical writing and that I’m fascinated by the social history of those that lived before us.
Visiting sites and houses, looking at photographs and reading books about the 19th and early 20th centuries inspire my writing as well as give a factual backdrop to the stories I try to tell.
With the kind permission of Derelict Ireland, I’m sharing 24 photos from their Facebook page that I think could inspire other historical fiction and short story writers. Sometimes all it takes is for one image to spark the whole idea for a novel. Please like the page if you are interested in this photographer’s work.
1.Abandoned Prams, Dowth Hall
What a striking sight. Looking at the design of the wheels and bars of the prams, they look to be very old, possibly going back into the 19th century. Why are there two? Were there twins? Babies in close age? Why were the prams kept, were there plans for more children? Where are those babies now?
2. The Blue Velvet DressI think this is my favourite image from the whole page. Who wore this beautiful blue velvet dress? Why is there a wardrobe of clothes still left? Was the suitcase packed to go on a journey that was never made?
3. The House at the end of the Lane
I love the setting of this house – it’s like something you might see on a Christmas card – somewhere Beatrix Potter might have lived. Who lived here? What story does this house have to tell?
4. The Forgotten Shoes
Who walked in these shoes? What were they like? What happened to them? Is that a bible beside them?
5. The Little Girl at the WindowPhotos with families are always fascinating but can you spot the girl in the open upper window? Why didn’t she join her family for the photograph? What kind of personality did she have? Was she bookish, stubborn, too lazy to come down, banished to her room for naughty behaviour?
6. The Comfortable ChairThis looks like it would have been the comfortable seat of someone in the household, but who? A father figure? A matronly, older woman? Look at the shutters in the background, look at the light in the room. Who lived here?
7. Couple Playing Tennis, 1904I like this photograph because we can’t see the subject’s faces, so you need to imagine who they are and what they looked like. How many people would have had tennis courts in Ireland, 1904? Are they married, engaged, brother and sister?
8. Overgrown Manor HouseLook at this magnificent house, peeking through the green foliage. How did it come to this? What did it look like before it was overgrown? Who lived here? What happened?
9. Nuns on the RunThis photo shows nuns from the Holy Rosary Convent standing around a car, and other nuns approaching from the background. Could they fit into a story you are writing? What sort of women were these? What work did they do in the community? Where were they going in the car?
10. Red Chair and TrunkAnother chair picture to make you wonder who sat in it? I love the framing of this photograph. Was this a bedroom? A servant’s room? What was in the trunk? Why was it left behind?
11. Red DoorWhat a striking image with the red against the green. It looks like a magic door. Maybe it is. Why is it red? Were the people who lived here flamboyant? Artistic? Fashionable. And why is it that now, no one goes through this door at all?
12. The Castle TowerWhat a beautiful turret and castle. Could Rapunzel have lived at the top? Another princess? What kind of people moved here? What sort of battles took place here? Is that a door to a dungeon underground?
13. The House of HorrorsEeesh, scared much? What an eerie looking building lurking in the mist. Could it tell a ghost story? Did a murder take place here? What sort of sad story does this abandoned house have to tell?
14. Servant’s Corridor, Glyde HallThis photo captures a corridor that connected the servant’s quarters to the main house. What sort of people passed over it, what characters? Who looked out those windows? Who passed under that arch?
15. Country Life, AbandonedThis 1970s magazine says a lot to me. It represents an ideal, a person that would have subscribed to a magazine about country living and country life – manor living. But, it’s abandoned, left to rot. Why? What happened? Did the family leave quickly? Was it an old magazine, strewn about after an older person died?
16. The Lace CurtainThere’s something so sad about this photograph. Can’t you imagine it, snow white, when it was first put up, a proud housewife looking out? Who last looked out this window? What children looked out?
17. Potions at the Table
This is another of my favourite photos. I love the framing, the colours the possibility of story. What were in the bottles? Who left them there? Could it have been a witch, an alchemist, a perfumer? Or simply, an old man who liked a drink?
19. The Abandoned SuitcaseThe colours are so striking in this photograph. Suitcases say so much. Hopes, dreams, loss, a person’s life, all packed up. Who did this belong to? What happened to them? Where are their family now?
20. Military Property, Keep Out
I’ve included this photo because of the long military history Ireland and the UK have. Often times large mansion houses made great army barracks like this one. Which war could you choose to set your story in? Who lost their life; what girl’s sweetheart would have been posted here?
21. Waiting For You To CallI adore this photograph with its green backdrop, open phonebook, telephone and dust. Who was the last person to make a call on this phone? What sort of conversations were had? Whose number were they looking up? What news came down the line?
22. Mirror MirrorWho looked in this mirror? Were they vain? Proud? Did they grow old in front of it? It’s like Sleeping Beauty’s dressing table with the brambles around the mirror. Does it inspire you?
23. The AccidentThis floor has obviously collapsed, but I like it could inspire a story about an accident or an earthquake or some larger event. Who lived in this room before it disintegrated? Look at the fireplace, the shelves, the wallpaper. It’s a small room, could it have been a child?
24. The Prairie HouseThis is not a prairie house, as it’s captured in Ireland, but the way the fields have been harvested around it makes it look like it could be. Can you imagine how magnificent this house would have been? The sunny days spent here? The ghosts that still might live here?
25. The Old MillMy final pick is this wonderfully framed photograph from John Fay Mill, overlooking the waters that would have turned the mill wheel. Thirsty work. Mills have been the setting for many historical novels, particularly in the UK. Maybe it’s time for an Irish story. Are you the one to write it?
I have to express my thanks and gratitude to Derelict Ireland for allowing me to share these amazing photographs. Please remember these photographs are owned by Derelict Ireland. Visit the Facebook page and like it to keep up to date with the new properties which are regularly added. Please let us know if these photographs inspire any stories for you.