Know locally as ‘the College’ there is no record of the building having been used for educational purposes. In fact, there are no records relating directly to the site or the buildings. All the evidence gathered has been taken from references found in records relating to surrounding buildings and businesses.
Until 1946 it had been assumed on no real evidence that the site was privately owned. Locals attest to the fact that the grassed area between the railings and the standing remains was kept neatly mown until the winter of 1939. The ruins themselves also seem to have been kept in decent order. No one, however, seems to be able to recall who did the work and when.
Indeed, the whole site seems to have had a reputation. It would be too strong to suggest it was considered haunted, but it was thought distinctly odd. Children did not climb over or through the railings to play in the ruins as children will, despite their tempting appearance. Indeed, they were rarely to be seen playing on the pavement directly alongside the railings.
And therein lies another mystery. The whole site, even the portions where adjacent buildings came to the very boundary, was surrounded by high, sturdy, cast-iron railings. These remained in place throughout the Second World War and, as the photographs of 1944 show, presented a substantial barrier. What is more, there seems to have been no gate, or break for an entrance. One cannot be seen in any of the extant photographs, although as none of these have the buildings as the main subject, this is not conclusive. No one from the area who has been interviewed can remember a gate.
After the site was cleared in 1945, it stood empty until it was taken into public ownership in 1952. A local firm of carriers often used it for parking their vans and lorries. The flats that were subsequently built there were never popular with tenants. Several people who lived there spoke of them as being gloomy. Their one saving grace, it seems, is that they preserved the archaeology. The flats were erected towards the rear of the site which had mostly been open ground, overlapping onto the site of adjacent buildings that had also been destroyed. The gardens and play area at the front overlay the area where the original ruins had stood.
When the flats were demolished in 1968, the whole area became green space, serving surrounding high-rise housing developments. Popular during the day with locals, it remained free of the troubles that often plague such urban spaces at night. Vandalism, drinking, drugs, and rowdy behaviour did not occur simply because no one went into the area at night.
During the last few years of the decade, there were occasional reports of children playing there in the dark. The police who attended several call-outs never found anyone and there was never a suggestion of trouble making, merely a concern that young children were out in the early hours of the morning. These reports died away and only revived when the archaeological work began.
All those who have worked on the site, especially the night security staff, have expressed feeling uncomfortable at times. No one has felt afraid. Indeed, the most often stated feeling was one of having wandered into a playground and frightened the children away. One archaeologist with many years experience said he felt that a profound silence and sadness would envelop the site for a few moments before the mundane world returned.
Preliminary work on the site has begun to reveal a remarkably uncomplicated outline, as if the building had remained unaltered since it was built. This has led to some speculation that it is not very old, despite references to a building on the site dating back to at least 1342. An entrance to a set of cellars has been found, but there is no evidence of the network of tunnels said to exist beneath the building and surrounding area. This is a fairly common myth where old buildings are concerned and they rarely have a basis in fact.
From Crofton: A Local History by Rev Eric Simmons, Sapphire Press, 1992.