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TAPLOW LODGE
B476 Cliveden Road, Taplow, Berkshire


The Eastern Facade

I find it hard to believe that there isn't a single mention of Taplow Lodge elsewhere on the web. Not one. This is all the more intriguing when you consider that, as I have stated on many occasions, it was arguably more impressive than the CRCMH itself. I would even go so far as to say that, for the sheer sight of it, Taplow Lodge was easily one of the country's finest abandoned buildings. But perhaps the major reason for this lack of general acknowlegement is that it no longer exists. The site - dead opposite the CRCMH on the other side of the Cliveden Road - was bulldozed and turned into the upper-class "Orkney Lodge" housing estate (presumably named after Lord Orkney - a former owner of Cliveden, responsible amongst other things for planting the woods around the CRCMH) sometime during late 1995. That the destruction of such a building was ever allowed to happen borders on being criminal.


Location of Taplow Lodge - CRCMH on left

Taplow Lodge was somewhat older than the adjacent hospital. It appears on the 1882 map during a time when Cliveden was still home to the Duke of Westminster, and the CRCMH was not even a twinkle in the Astors' eyes. Below is a 19th century engraving, taken from a 1750 painting from when Frederick, Prince of Wales, and father of "mad" King George III, moved to Cliveden. Contrary to the "wishful-thinking" theory written on the graphic itself, the white building to the right of the picture is undoubtedly meant to be Taplow Court.

As part of the Cliveden estate, it was a grandiose building in itself - Pre-Victorian but made substantially bigger during the late 19th century. Containing stables and workshops, Taplow Lodge was no doubt originally utilized by the Cliveden grounds staff. Later, it was used as accomodation by CRCMH nurses for a while before it fell into disrepair - apparently being in such a state (disgusting, cold and falling apart) that the nurses simply moved out. There is even a rumour that a servant's tunnel connected Taplow Lodge to the main buildings at Cliveden - and also of a well with no apparent bottom. Sadly, little else is known about the place.

We spent a very long time exploring the CRCMH before we actually discovered Taplow Lodge - and quite accidentally at that. I can't imagine why. Perhaps because it was so well hidden from the road - behind thick bushes and trees, down a gravel track that looked for all the world as if it was somebody's driveway. But we were amongst the fortunate ones. I'd say that an infinitely small proportion of CRCMH explorers throughout the years were ever aware that an equally fantastic experience awaited them across the road. Certainly among the adventurers I've encountered this appears to have been the case.



Outbuildings and stables beside Taplow Lodge - Door leads to "old hall" type building


We first stumbled upon the place on the first day of shooting Mist Raiders. I'm not sure why we wandered off in the opposite direction for a change, but the cars were parked fairly close to what once would have been a driveway to the Lodge. Entering via the southern end of the site, the first thing we came across were a collection of outbuildings - stables and the like. These can be seen clearly at the southern end of the site on the map above. We were certainly quite lost for words in finding yet another run-down site so close to the CRCMH (and indeed only later discovered the true identity of our find, having studied maps). We shot one scene in what appeared to be an old hall (perhaps a coachworks?) next to some stables. Like its CRCMH counterpart - there was a raised stage - and the fact that such a building existed (if that's what it really was) points to the fact that the site we were exploring had no less prestige than Cliveden itself.



A still from "The Harrowing" - inside the "old hall"


Making our way around the side of these outbuildings, we met with a sight that was not so much awe-inspiring as completely out of this world. We just couldn't believe our eyes. Talk about stumbling into Narnia. A huge white crumbling stately home nestled in an open parkland setting enclosed by thick forest. Don't get me wrong - the CRCMH is very impressive - but this was something else.



Taplow Lodge - looking due south

I guess I could use a couple of stone circles here to make a comparison. Well, sort of. Everybody knows Stonehenge. When you see it in person, it completely hits you - standing isolated in the middle of a vast flat landscape, it sticks out like a sore thumb. It's instantly impressive. At the other end of Salisbury Plain, you'll find Avebury. The largest stone circle in the world no less. But strangely enough, it's not so immediately impressive. These roles reverse however upon closer inspection. Stonehenge is undoubtedly striking - but at the end of the day, there's not much to it. On the other hand, Avebury, while initially not much to look at (from ground-level at least) is a far more intricate and interesting place to explore.

Avebury is like the CRCMH. You know it's a hospital and you're expecting a hospital - so that initial shock factor is dampened a bit. But that isn't a bad thing, because a lifetime of discovery and adventure awaits you there. Taplow Lodge is immediate and overwhelming. But like Stonehenge, would ultimately hold nowhere near the exploration longevity as the CRCMH. That's not to say it wasn't interesting (I am hopeless with analogies I'm afraid), but that it paled into insignificance compared to what the hospital had to offer long term - a point illustrated very well in the map above. Look at the sheer scale of the CRCMH in comparison to Taplow Lodge. It never really stood much of a chance in the long term. But thankfully we have preserved some images of the truly remarkable sight that Taplow Lodge truly was.



External textures on the main building - note interesting iron balcony

Once inside the main building, the decay was instantly visible. Unlike most of the CRCMH, there was a feeling that the place was quite structurally unsound. Ceilings and walls had collapsed. Much of the interior was a mess, and we truly had to tip-toe around everything. Some areas though still retained an air of grace. None more so than the grand staircase. This part of the house made me think of The Poseidon Adventure. Junk all over the place, yet this majestic staircase still winds its way to the upper balconies with lavish burgundy wallpaper throughout. Sadly, this dark part of the house wasn't treated kindly on film, with only our small torch to pinpoint features - though there were no such issues with the naked eye. We did dare to venture up the stairs - albeit very cautiously - but turned back from a room not far from the top when the floor began making very unsavoury noises.


A bay window on the south side

The stairs leading down to the cellar held no such fears. Again too dark to photograph with much success, but perhaps the most fascinating part of the house. The atmosphere of the place changed from regal country manor house to the misty backstreets of Victorian London. The cellar consisted of strange bare-brick passageways with cobbled floors that brought back memories of the Jack The Ripper exhibit at Madame Tussauds. An incredibly creepy place. In the time we were down there, we failed to exhaust every single alley. Possibly because we were frightened to death. If the stories of a secret tunnel between here and Cliveden are true, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. This basement area would have been the perfect place to start or finish such an affair.

Unfortunately, that's about as far as our Taplow Lodge exploration ever took us. Had we known its immediate fate at the time (i.e. impending demolition), perhaps we'd have made more of an effort to document the place. But as it stands, all that's left is here on these pages for you all to see. So that leaves me with two messages. One, for you - whether you are a general reader, a dedicated explorer, of both: If you can help with any information - be that in written form of a mystical or historical nature - or perhaps something visual - please please contact us. My second message is for those who live today in what has become the "Orkney Lodge" estate. And it goes something like this: Can you please pull up your floorboards and see if there happens to be any, say, secret passages leading to Cliveden or anything under your house? Thank you.

 

Damon Torsten,
March 2002

NOTE: All images on this page are taken from video rushes from the Mist Raiders prelude "The Harrowing". Sadly, the interior footage is far too dark to be of much value here. The shot above is actually a montage of two shots (half of which was taken on the run - which explains the blurriness) and shows the eastern side of the building.

Thanks to, well, you know who you are, for some of the information regarding the 19th century engraving and a few other historical points.


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