Blow-Out

Gigantic 50ft high 'blowing out towers' left behind at a disused bromine facility on the Welsh coastline. Sea water would be sucked in, treated with chemicals and then the resulting bromine solution quite literally 'blown' out of the water using this high pressure system which would churn in 22,000 tonnes of water in order to produce just 1 tonne of bromine. Despite clean sea water returning at the end of the process, the site was plagued with well-publicised pollution issues linked to the surrounding area, and when the site was decommissioned around 15 years ago it took the best part of a year to decontaminate. Only the bulkiest parts, around a quarter of the original structures now survive whilst the site awaits a new purpose.

Then & Now

1911-2018. John Summers & Sons headquarters, on the banks of the River Dee in Flintshire. Once the center of one of the biggest steelworks in the world employing more than 10,000 people, it was brought down like many by the ill fated British steel corporation. The only part of the works to gain listed status, it survived demolition and has stood silent now for four decades. Last year it was put on a top 10 list of endangered buildings by the Victorian Society, and since then talks have began in order to bring it back to life on behalf of Enbarr community foundation who have managed to sign over the redundant building. They've got a mammoth task on their hands, but fingers crossed they can get it done before it's too late.

Then & Now

1937-2018. The Gaumont theatre, Liverpool. Aptly named due to having housed Britain’s first Gaumont projectomatic system which led the way for modern cinema at the time. With 1,500-seats the theatre was built to replace the Dingle Picturedrome, and operated until 1966 when single screen cinemas essentially became outdated overnight. It has been derelict now for just over two decades, and with the building not being listed, the only reason it's survived this long is the fact that mobile phone operators continue to use the old projector room and have masts on the roof, whilst the curved exterior wall shines billboard adverts at drivers heading into the city. Not an entirely dignified existence by any means.

Northern Monument 25

Hightown cornmill - a fascinating little Jacobean building that still sits amongst the trees and the same flowing brook in rural Cheshire that it has done for more than 400 years. Built around 1616 originally as a cornmill during the construction of Dunham Massey, it was central to the design by Sir George Booth which saw the estate strive towards being almost entirely self-sufficient by working off the surrounding land. It later found new purpose as a sawmill before shutting down when the estate began to diminish. Fortunately it was never allowed to crumble into disrepair, and whilst it is no longer in industrial use, it was restored and much of the machinery re-constructed around 1980 including a fully working waterwheel. Allowing passers-by to experience one of Britain’s last remaining examples of a functioning seventeenth century watermill.

Forged Legacy

All that's left of the casting pit at this once extensive ironworks in the British Midlands. At its peak around 7000 people were employed here, effectively sustaining the population of an entire region. The majority is now a demolished wasteland, which is a crying shame considering the importance it once held for the country. During the 1st and 2nd World Wars hundreds of thousands of shell and bomb casings, gun barrels, and concrete air-raid shelter components were produced here at a time when it was considered to be one of the most modern foundry's in Europe. The Germans reportedly refrained from bombing the site as they planned to take it for themselves in the event of a successful invasion. You might argue that it would still be thriving to this day if that had happened..

Then & Now

1900-2019. Hawarden House of Correction, built in the mid 1700's to store prisoners and ne'er-do-well's from within the village before their trial or removal to the county gaol (old term for prison). Inside would be a basement area void of daylight and ventilation - not the sort of place you'd want to be if you could help it. Laws eventually changed in Britain to protect the rights of citizens awaiting conviction, so the doors were shut not long after the Victorian era and have remained closed ever since.

Then & Now 1970-2018

The Red Hazels, Prescot. A manor house that stands alone surrounded by what is now a completely unrecognisable landscape compared to when it was built in the mid 1700's. Many wealthy families once lived here, including members of the infamous glass-making Pilkington family. The estate has slowly been consumed and dissected by subsequent owners. The most recent of which acquired what was left of the land and built an extensive business park - with the listed manor house clearly surplus to requirements, allowing it to remain derelict with no future in sight. They have even had the audacity to use it for free advertising.. Having listed protection in the UK is a brilliant thing that we should count ourselves lucky to have, but in my opinion continued ownership should only be granted with proof of intent for restoration and/or maintenance. Until that happens, we're still at risk of losing more and more of our heritage each year.

Northern Monument 24

Delves Hall, Doddington. The first English castle in the series so far - all that remains of which is the formerly moated tower house built by baronet Sir Thomas Delves almost 700 years ago. At one point it was a battlement that was besieged multiple times during the English civil war in the mid 1600's before being extended into a more formal manor house. Eventually the Delves family passed on ownership of the estate to Thomas Broughton, who had it almost entirely demolished, leaving only this 14th Century tower intact as a landscape feature to Doddington Hall, his newly constructed stately home on the other side of the estate which still exists today. Owning battle-worn ruins was massively fashionable back in the day, so this little monument would have been a boasting point and still is despite now having not served any purpose whatsoever for more than 400 years. Enter the tag #northernmonuments on instagram to see the project so far.

Then & Now

1995 - 2018. The once idyllic 'Tots TV' film set was part of a terrestrial TV production for children in the 90's built to 1/3 scale as a replica cottage where three puppet characters lived with their pet donkey. It was a weird show even by today's standards, and it lasted all of five years before being left to the elements in the Warwickshire countryside when the show was cancelled in 1998. If nothing else it's a unique place, and as we visited it on the 20th anniversary of the show ending it made us feel like giants and not just because we've now all grown up, but it was also hard to fit through the door..!

Hidden Tramway

The extremely steep ascent of a narrow gauge tramway left behind in the Cheshire hills. Once used around 80 years ago during the construction of Bulkeley reservoir, a haulage engine lifted locomotives up and down this 45 degree incline which would've been the only way to obtain the required materials at the top of the hill. The line was abandoned after its purpose was served, but the newly connected gravity-fed water main was successful in distributing water to the potteries as far away as Staffordshire.

Derwent Isle

Secluded off the mainland at Derwentwater in the Lake District, it was once used by Benedictine monks when it became known as 'vicars island'. After their worship became illegal in Britain, a new private owner in the late 1700's built a villa, fort, a druid circle folly, a church and boathouse which you can just about see on the far right of the island. It remains largely unchanged from it's original layout and is mostly untouched by modern civilisation. It's still only accessible by boat, and milk is delivered fresh daily from a local farm by canoe.

The ancient chapel of Maghull

A brilliantly preserved little building which has an early history shrouded in mystery - not one record has survived with information of its construction, leaving past generations to identify its Norman/Romanesque columns and conclude that it was built around the 13th century, making it the oldest surviving building in the region and one of the most historic chapels in England. It spends most of its time locked up for preservation, but occasionally a traditional Latin mass is held here as a continuation of its original services.

Last Standing

One of UK's last remaining coal fired power stations. It closed just around two decades ago roughly a century since first being commissioned after it was decided that power for the active site it sits within was to be sourced externally. Back in the day this site and the others surrounding it used to be part of wholly British institutions, but is now owned by Tata chemicals which is part of an Indian corporation of the same name. Over the past few decades they have acquired and dismantled so much of our industry and killed so many jobs that it's nothing short of criminal. They're already in the process of dismantling this derelict section to make way for a new waste-energy plant which will likely enable them to avoid high-tax corporation tariffs on their energy once it goes live. This was obviously a bitter sweet place to visit, but nonetheless I'm glad I got to see it inside before it's gone as it was once vital to the community of the surrounding area near where I grew up.

Then & Now

1892-2018. New Brighton lighthouse in Cheshire sits on the bank of the river at Perch Rock on the Wirral. In 1827 it replaced the original lantern beacon first erected in the 17th century, and is said to be modelled on the trunk of an oak tree. With fog being common on the shipping route where the Mersey opens to the Irish sea, it was installed with three bells under the gallery to act as a signal in both high and low visibility. It was decommissioned in 1973, but restoration work took place in 2001 when an LED lightsource was installed which flashes the names of those lost at sea during its history; including all the 1,517 victims of the sinking of the titanic.

Northern Monument #23

Tŵr Mawr lighthouse on Ynys Llanddwyn / Llanddwyn Island, one of the most beautiful places I've ever photographed in the British Isles. The lighthouse was stripped of its duty in 1976 just over a century after being converted from what was most likely a windmill in 1873. It now stands as a monument that traditionally continues to mark the western entrance to the Menai Strait. The island itself is rich in legends; the name Llanddwyn meaning "The church of St. Dwynwen" the Welsh patron saint of lovers, who retreated here to live a life of solitude to pray for true lovers in the 5th Century. Through these legends this idyllic spot became an important shrine during the Middle Ages, with a holy well in the centre of the island a site of pilgrimage, at which the movement of fish within the surrounding waters was believed to indicate lovers' destinies.

The Library

..at Shugborough Hall, one of just two main rooms to survive from the 1740s period. Formed from a room in the corner of the original house, it has a deep segmental arch flanked by Ionic columns through the former external wall. In this room Thomas Anson built up a remarkable library with a particular focus on architecture and archaeology, whilst the house itself was developed as something of a museum commemorating the admiral's nautical achievements, containing a model of the Centurion, the ship in which he circumnavigated the globe. The entire house is now being painstakingly restored to represent how it existed in its prime - with work having now moved on to the 1st floor of the building.

Standing tall since the middle ages

The 1,000-year-old 'Allerton Oak' in Liverpool is one of the oldest in the country and unsurprisingly has a rich history to tell. Its spreading branches once formed a medieval courtroom long before Britain became the civilisation we know today. A long tradition has seen its leaves and acorns sent as a symbol of love for soldiers fighting at the frontlines of war. It now relies on metal supports to help keep its ancient branches upright, due to having lost much of its trunk at some point during the 19th century when it is said that a shock-wave from an exploding gunpowder ship on the River Mersey caused the tree to split straight down the middle. Despite having been given only a few years left to live around a decade ago, it still shows no signs of letting go and will probably see past us all.

Then & Now

1999 - 2017 St Gabriel's Convent / Knolle Park House, Woolton. Built as a private manor House in 1840 it eventually became home to an order of nuns as part of a catholic institute. Its last year's were scarred by allegations of abuse, and it was consequently forced to close around the time of the above photo due to it going public. After my visit I tried to contact the London House of the 'poor servants of the mother of God' where the order of nuns are based, but wasn't given any access to archive imagery or further insights to its past, so I chose not to put together an article on this one - not least because the photos themselves no longer do the building justice. (They've clearly chosen to forget this place, which has lead to several arson attacks and the entire interior to become trashed beyond recognition)

Nothern Monument 22

Whitby lighthouse (also known as Ellesmere Port lighthouse) at Whitby Locks in Cheshire on the southern side of the River Mersey. The main function of the light was to guide boats into the Shropshire Union Railway and Canal's dock complex from the river. The canal was designed and built by Thomas Telford the renowned canal and civil engineer in 1796, and the light was visible by boats up to 19 miles away as they came up the Mersey with the tide into the docks. It operated successfully until the Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894, reached Ellesmere Port in the same year which cut off the river from the port, meaning the lighthouse was made redundant overnight. The lighthouse and the Harbour Master's office is now a listed building and is fitted with artificial lighting as a testament to its past service.

Gaumont Theatre

This pre-war cinema in Liverpool was built at the start of a new era for the film industry. Seating a massive 1500 guests at a time it was the first in the country to use a revolutionary new 'modern' system that automatically changed film reels and controlled lighting systems between showings. Despite its cutting edge design, the industry moved on and multiplex cinemas with more than one screen left places like this with no choice but to close by the time the 60's came along. It has now been derelict for just over two decades after having hosted bingo events in its final years.