A year in review

2015 was probably my busiest ever year in terms of my personal photography; so many places explored yet I wouldn't even say the project is even half way finished. This is going to make one sizeable book when it's done. I keep a daily diary on instagram so have put them all together to make a small preview of some of the places I've documented over the past 12 months.


n. The eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet.

Daresbury Hall: The Aftermath

Revisiting Daresbury Hall (original gallery: http://www.rikcotterill.com/albums/daresbury-hall/) In early 2015 I visited Daresbury Hall estate for the first time. Built in 1759 the manor was and still is lying derelict within the Cheshire countryside, and my first encounter with the buildings concentrated mostly on its degraded outbuildings and the state that it was left in following its use as an apocalyptic paint-balling exercise. At the time this was the most striking thing about the estate compared to my other explores.

However, recent events have shaped the site into something quite different altogether. Following my first visit I noticed on numerous occasions a glowing light in the groundskeepers bungalow as I drove past at night. Situated next to the manor, I often wondered why an abandoned estate would still have power and furthermore why anyone would be using it. In April the headlines confirmed my suspicions and a dozen police cars were found at the gates scouring the estate for what became the largest Cannabis seizing operation the town has ever seen. Over 600 plants were being maintained as part of a drug operation worth around £1 million.

Police activity was maintained on the site well into the autumn, and once the site had been reclosed I decided to document how the events had effected the site. The area that I decided to avoid on my list visit was ironically the annexed building that the drugs were being grown in. Hundreds of reflective, high power lighting units hooked up to the power lines. The main area had been locked up by the police but evidence of the dwellers could be found in almost every room. The publicity from the events had also caused more vandalism and changes were easy to notice across the estate. The lease car and garage that feature in my previous gallery had been burnt to the ground, and the swimming pool had been scoured for scrap metal. The manor itself is still intact and it is unlikely that it was compromised as it has been locked up for many years.

The future of Daresbury Hall is still up in the air; every year that passes brings its foundations closer to collapse but it would still be a wonderful sight to see the manor restored to its former glory. Especially given the unfortunate circumstances it has unwillingly endured.

View Daresbury Hall: The Aftermath (full gallery)

The Winstanley Scandal

The master bedroom balcony at Winstanley Hall. In 1855 scandal hit the estate when a Mrs Shortrede was found drowned in the courtyard well. It was later discovered that Mr Shortrede had been having an affair, his wife found out and threw herself into the well. Mrs Atherton, Mr Shortrede's extra marital interest, unable to deal with the guilt subsequently hung herself from the balcony of the master bedroom. Mr Shortrede, being unable to cope with the loss of both his women, shot himself in the head whilst sat on the privy. The rest is history, so to speak.

The Duke Of Lancaster

TSS Duke of Lancaster, the railway steamer passenger ship that operated between 1956 and 1979. Now permanently beached on the river Dee near Holywell in North Wales.

The ship has become a canvas for wall art of a different kind. The 'DuDug Collective' are an international group of artists who are part of the small team that fight to keep the ship upright and against the constant efforts to have it dismantled and taken away.

The duke is guarded 24/7, but luckily you can get close enough when the tide goes out to sneak a few shots in before security come running. Once you get chatting to them, however they are more than happy to let you know a bit about the history of the place before reminding you to get on your way.

A market once stood here once a week both on the shop and adjacent to it along the water before the council shut it down due to lack of emergency service routes. Hopefully the Duke will be here for many years to come, and one day they'll let us see inside what is apparently an untouched cabin..

Jumping Jeepnis

Alan Ginet displays his pride and joy Saturn Jeepney that has travelled all the way from the Phillipines where it was once hand-made and custom built out of aluminium in the decades following the American occupation of the islands after ww2, when the salvaged and imported American parts were used, put together then reinvented as ‘Jeepneys’, and have been iconic symbols of Filipino transport ever since. Alan tells me this is one of the finest remaining original examples from the post war era.

St Joseph's Catholic Seminary

One of the proudest derelict buildings in the country. Built in 1883 the college served the entire North of England and was purposefully situated in Upholland, the geographic centre of the Diocese of Liverpool. Whilst the seminary flourished in the post war era, there was a sharp drop in enrollment due to a rapidly changing social climate towards the end of the century. The vast scale of this 150 acre site meant that financial instability during the 1980s resulted in its closure in 1992 and subsequent deconsecration soon after (removal of religious blessing by a priest).

This is not an easy site to access; full time security, alarm systems and cctv operation make it a somewhat covert exploration but I had a little help from a fellow urbexer and bumped into a few lads on the roof who pointed out where to avoid whilst exploring. 

The stained glass windows of the prayer room were the cream of the crop. Very nearly missed this room towards the end of the day as it was one of the last we managed to find and it was in the back of my mind during the whole visit having seen images of it before. It was every bit as beautiful as I had imagined. I must make it one of my goals for the future to witness the sun rising through the glass.

The Ark

The empty and abandoned main sanctuary hall inside the most important 20th-century synagogue in England and without doubt the finest surviving in Europe dating from the inter-war period.

Constructed in 1936 and used by an active congregation until 2007, it gained its listed status in 1983 however this was upgraded to Grade II status shortly after its closure in 2008 and has been on the ‘at risk’ register since 2010. It is hoped the repairs will secure its long-term future and help find a new use for it however until then the building sits empty in a derelict state.

The art deco design directly reflects Swedish architectural influences, both in the exterior of the building, which is clearly inspired by the late fruition of the Swedish national romantic style, and in its interior, which draws on contemporary Swedish functionalism. In consequence, it stands alone as a synagogue which is really significant in terms of the progressive architecture of its time. Although clearly not ‘international modern’, it was a genuine attempt at a new architecture appropriate for a modern synagogue.

Given its hugely significant representation as a last great cultural expression of European Jewish culture before the holocaust, this is one of the most important cultural grounds I've ever explored and yet it felt almost entirely forgotten among it's surrounding urban landscape. In all honesty I never expected to get inside. Full gallery and interior exploration detail coming soon.

Grange-Over-Sands Lido. 

The Grange Lido, built in in 1932, sits on the edge of the Lake District National Park looking over Morecambe Bay. Whilst remaining unknown to most in the modern age, it is one of only 5 or 6 seaside Lidos still surviving. During the mid 20th century, the lidos reflected the importance of fresh air, fitness and mass leisure to the inter-war generation.

Following a decline in domestic holiday-goers in the early 90's, finance troubles hit the Lido hard and it was closed in 1993 and has remained unopened since. However, the preservation of the site thanks to the local borough has kept it nicely intact and hidden from vandals, and It has since been identified as the most important coastal building in the North. The entire site became grade II listed in 2011 as it is the last remaining Art Deco Lido in the North of England.

From a distance, the lido appears to be something similar to a concrete bunker, greeted by the tide before the water sinks away again leaving it stranded on the coastline with nothing but reeds and flat land for miles. The appeal of the location is without doubt as strong as it ever was, but the demand for a british holiday just isn't part of our culture as it once was.. therefore the lido remains a monument for times gone by.

Newly abandoned - Merseyside Health Club

Poolside at an abandoned health club in Merseyside, UK that has fallen into disrepair since the owner was forced to close in January this year when maintenance costs to the roof structure became too high and unsafe for employees and members to use the facility.

The pool has boomed with algae in the summer sun but for the most part everything else appears as though people have simply vanished making it unusually quiet. This place is still a secret so things are still left as they were, a rare thing in this hobby!

Photo Competition Results

I'm not usually one for entering competitions but since it was local to me I thought I'd get some of my photographs out there for people to see at Stockton Heath Architecture photo competition. I won first prize for both the judges competition and the public vote for my photographs of camelot abandoned theme park and the derelict soda ash works in winnington. Thanks to anyone who voted!

Calcott Hall. Frozen in time.

Of all the rooms I've ever discovered, this has to be one of the most awe-inspiring. Inside an abandoned manor in rural Wales, 40 years have passed since this family home was properly lived in. Following the death of Mrs Jones, the farmers widow, the house has become a time portal into the 1970s. Whilst it's unlikely this is exactly how the room was left, (other explorers have clearly come and gone) it truly feels as if time has stopped in this room. Here's hoping it stays this way for many more years to come.

Shaw Heath Hospital, UK.

The last of us video game title screen. Re-imagined. Abandoned electronic gateway archive building, Stockport UK. Alot of the places I visit remind me of video game sets in apocalyptic scenarios. There's a certain appeal to an unmaintained landscape that's probably why they're so enjoyable to discover amongst all the polished concrete offices and glass shopping centres wherever else we go.

Abandoned Car, Bewsey UK.

Abandoned car in Bewsey. May 2015. Apparently the Hungarian family in the terraced home opposite got up and left one day leaving all of their possessions behind. Surprisingly nobody has come to claim the vehicle yet the house has been ransacked.

The corridors of Holland

In April 2015 i visited the Netherlands. Delft, Amsterdam, Keukenhof and all the places in between. I documented the narrow streets and the differences only an outsider would care to notice.


The Solvay Chemical Plant in Warrington is situated on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in Lower Walton. Opened in 1948, the site became wholly owned by Solvay in 1992. The site produces Hydrogen Peroxide and is part of the global Peroxides Strategic Business Unit. It is a self proclaimed asset to the local community yet hides itself away from plain site beyond the suburbs and between the counties of Cheshire and Halton.

In the mid 50's the west end of Baronet road was built as a self contained suburbia for factory workers and families to live in close proximity to the plant, just 100 yards away from the main gates. The homes were regarded at the time as being well within the living standards of South Warrington and even better than the local privately owned homes, which meant that the higher ranked factory officers took pride in the street. However, since Solvay completed the acquisition of the site the road has fallen into dissaray as the company has become more interested in its seclusion in the area as opposed to it's integration, and the row of houses have been left mostly empty as the families of the employees have passed on.
The grounds are now strictly considered private property and even as I photographed the area I was being advised to leave the premises; the surrounding land of each home is now used as car parks for factory employees, a few houses were used to house temporary student workers but just one single home remains in use - an elderly lady whose husband worked at the plant from 1948-1986. Once she passes away, the entire street will be demolished

HMS Blackcap

The military definitely has a strong importance in my immediate family history. Most noteably the navy and the airforce, with both generations of my grandparents having been involved in the past two world wars either through industry or combat. During the last world war my Great Grandfather was part of the team that built the inconic Mosquito aircraft at RAF Swannington in Norflok, my grandfather worked on engine maintenance for the barracuda dive bombers at RNAS Merganser in Scotland, and more recently my uncle has been heavily involved in the RAF Burtonwood association projects. So it is safe to say that the airforce holds a special place in our family heritage. Which brings me to my most recent "urban exploration".

HMS Blackcap

RNAS Stretton, better known as Stretton Airfield and traditionally named HMS Blackcap lies just 3 miles from my house in Warrington, Cheshire and can clearly be seen on any aerial photograph, standing out amid the vast array of industrial estates, farmland and housing developments that have grown around it since it was commissioned in 1942 during the second world war. At the time, situated south-east from the adjacent Burtonwood American Air Base a mere ten miles away, its purpose as an RAF airfield was to protect the cities of Liverpool and Manchester from the Luftwaffe, with a total of three runways and numerous hangars the airfield was a station for 41 Fleet Air Arm squadrons as well as aircraft being flown to and from carriers in the Irish Sea.

The German air force however soon relinquished its threat and the airfield henceforth became an aircraft maintenance yard that housed a sizeable amount of civilians and remained a largely busy complex until the end of the war when it assisted Burtonwood in the extraction and disposal of American naval aircraft. At its peak, the airfield handled one third of all Fleet Air Arm Aircraft and all of its spare engines, and it continued to supply and serve the Royal Naval Air Service until its closure in 1958. As it currently stands, the station is merely concrete runways and taxi lanes, and only half of the original site still remains. In 1974 the now dominant M56 motorway cut straight through the middle of the site, flattening the north side which was then slowly turned into the bustling industrial estate that is now home to Eddie Stobart and co. Some of the original buildings are still scattered around the area, divided by storage facilities, roads and farmland that are slowly but surely hiding them from sight.

Since its closure the only permanent use of the track was as a motor oil testing circuit for Shell Motorsport Technology, who built their station on the south east side whilst renovating the airfield into a vehicle circuit, therefore being responsible for keeping the remaining airfields in relatively good condition until they themselves left the airfield behind with much of their base still intact. Including the garages and mechanics yard and office block which overlooked the start and finish line.

HMS Blackcap

The only wartime remains are two unused air raid shelters, one still left with its original bench and cushions, and a water reservoir to the south. Barracks and hangars remain but are offsite and now technically on private property. Hopefully the airfield will still stand for some time, but the threat of housing development is slowly consuming many of the remaining WWII airfields across the country; the recent demolition of Burtonwood airbase being no exception. Hardly anybody acknowledges the fact that Stretton Airfield is even still there, but perhaps that's a good thing. You can’t help but feel glad you can still, for the time being at least, stumble onto the same ground that once had some real purpose in our military history.

view full album here: http://www.rikcotterill.com/albums/rnas-stretton-hms-blackcap/

Daresbury Hall Estate

Daresbury Hall is a 35 acre site that stands merely 10 minutes away from where I live in the area of South Warrington yet it is something barely anyone talks about let alone visits in recent years. Daresbury village itself is of course known as being the birthplace of Lewis Carroll, and has always been the residency of many well-kept modern heritage mansions. It remains a proud part of the town of Warrington, Daresbury Hall estate once being the very centre of that pride. It was built back in 1759 where for most of its life it stood as a Georgian stately home.

For a time it was home to Lord Daresbury and his family as part of the original Greenall brewery family estate in it's prime, now known as The De Vere Group. Thereafter, during World War 2 the estate was converted to be used as a military hospital, and the Lewis Carroll unit once represented the areas local history through medical service. After the war the undoubted utility of the site meant that it was then sold to the national spastic’s society now known as 'scope' and used as both a care home and school, which is the reason as to why the estate can be seen to have many corresponding structures such as the row of 'digs' outhouse buildings and the caretakers bungalow which were evidently built not according to the dexterity of the original architecture as one might have hoped.
Many years after the spastic society had vacated the premises, it was sold to a millionaire bachelor for a sizeable fee and the manor returned to it's former use as a stately home. Sadly, due to poor maintenance following his death the buildings have fallen into a state of disrepair and the grounds are now uninhabitable. Word has it that the manor stood exactly as the owner had left it for some time, and no possessions were handed forward until the building was emptied following years of vandalism. To the present date Daresbury Hall has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II listed building and seeks planning permission to be restored, but upon visiting the site one can only imagine the mammoth task this would be. Of all the surrounding buildings, the majority would need demolishing. Especially the Lewis Carroll unit and the spastic society housing which have both become something of an eyesore.
The estate does have some hidden gems however, the swimming pool and changing rooms are still in surprisingly original condition , along with the garage to the rear where a finance company appears to have operated at one time under the name 'Rains & son'. A Ford Sierra courtesy car indicates at the very latest this was abandoned in the mid 80's. Daresbury Hall Estate has been subject to a series of 'ghost hunter' operations, with teams of enthusiasts and TV crews visiting the site to explore its apparent supernatural potential given it's history and undeniably eerie presence. There were certain parts that we were just not willing to explore, if only because due to recent safety measures many of the windows have been boarded up making it near impossible to navigate and therefore photograph. I will be revisiting this site very soon, as I feel I have only just scratched the surface. So watch this space!

Archive photograph of the manor in it's last known state of occupied use, March 2002:

Daresbury Hall 2002

Full album available at: www.rikcotterill.com/albums/daresbury-hall