My exploring life is littered with numerous places I never quite got around to, and then it was too late. Crookham Court is one of those, and I paid the price since this was basically a fail! I’d most seriously intended to go last year when it was seemingly wide open for ages, but I dragged my heels where I’m always busy and then heard it’d been properly secured so forgot about it again. However, last month I’d been up the A34 for a few days and so whilst pondering things I could do on the way home remembered Crookham Court. Naturally a quick search showed that it’d been more accessible a month before, but yet again I was too late! Even so I decided I’d check it out …
There’s a rather dark cloud over Crookham Court, or more specifically its later life as a boarding school.
The current Crookham Court was built in the mid-nineteenth century on the site of a previous manor house that was destroyed by fire. As was frequently the way with grand family mansions, the current building grew over the remainder of the century with several further phases of building. Also as was often the way with such mansions, at some point it stopped being a family home. Given the proximity of RAF Greenham Common, for a while it was a school for the children of the nearby RAF personnel. Whilst most recall Greenham Common’s active use being into the early 1990s, the RAF actually departed in 1964, before the base was resurrected in 1967 by the USAF courtesy of the needs of the Cold War. Likewise post-RAF Crookham Court was resurrected as a independent boarding school for boys.
That boarding school was operational from the early 1960s, but in 1988 several cases of child sexual abuse involving staff members came to light. The school featured in a BBC investigation on the programme That’s Life, leading to three members of staff being convicted in 1990, including the owner of the school! The school closed in 1989. Another member of staff was convicted in 2012. Needless to say the school’s notoriety features in several bits of scrawled graffiti.
My approach was pretty amateur to be honest. I took a quick look at the aerials, could see that there were houses by the entrance and actually through the site at the bottom, and so didn’t come in that way. Initially I couldn’t even get near since the road past was closed by the police courtesy of an accident! Ultimately I found somewhere appropriate to park up, and it wasn’t too difficult to find my way from there. The trouble was that main building was still totally sealed up, well certainly to somebody on their own. I did find one possible way in, but it was a drop-down one-way route and even then I suspect blocked once inside, and when you’re on your own you can’t take such risks. So instead I mooched around various outbuildings, and at least got my first smell of exploring in a while. The largest outbuilding had most notably been used as a science classroom which was cool, but with hindsight I totally missed out one end of that building that I reckon was used as a chapel or similar from others’ pictures. The most edgy moment? I approached the outdoor swimming pool, heard a buzz, and suddenly realized I was stood half-a-metre away from a very active wood hornet nest in the wood cladding of a building!
I’d still love to see inside the mansion proper, so next time I’m that way might try my luck again!