The Plaza

Another win for British Heritage - The Plaza, Northwich UK. Designed as a cinema by William and Segar Owen, the former cinema was built in 1928, and closed in the late 1960s, becoming a bingo hall before finally closing its doors in 2011 despite earning listed status a decade prior. It lay derelict for several years before a community group, the Northwich Cinema Trust, began a two year project to reopen the Plaza as a community heritage cinema for the town which faced a three year wait for a new Odeon in the centre of the town to open for the public. The group managed to secure a number of seats from the much loved nearby Regal cinema before demolition began in 2013, and thanks to them the Plaza is now officially saved.

The Wild Woods

Ancient forests once covered almost the entirety of the English landscape from coast to coast. Dense woodland forming a canopy over moss-ridden rock formations where wildlife dominated and small settlements scattered, disconnected from each other. Much of England had been cleared as early as 1000 BC, as the bronze age saw intensive farming on a scale that we are only just beginning to appreciate. Fast forward 3 millennia and almost every inch of the country has now been shaped to suit the needs of modern civilisation. These rare woodlands are one of only a handful left on the isles that remain untouched by man, and therefore serve as brilliant time capsule to our wild, forgotten past.

Greenhouse

When a greenhouse becomes abandoned, it creates an entire microculture of its own. Built in Edwardian times within the grounds of one of Northern England's wealthy estates. Many locals still have memories of it from their childhood; "It held three seperate rooms, each one getting progressively hotter as you passed through. Huge tropical plants and a large fish tank were fed by a constant stream of hot water from large cast iron pipes underneath the shelves. As an indication of wealth, it had exotic plants such as orchids, cacti, ferns and plants whose names most people couldn't even pronounce." After remaining in service to the public after the grounds of the manor became open parkland in the late 19th century, the greenhouse closed in the 1980’s and has remained derelict to this day. The perfect climate allowed for the relentless growth of vegetation that now gives it permanent camouflage.

Eccles Crown Theatre

Opened in 1899 as the Lyceum in Eccles, this iconic theatre was designed as a home for Shakespearian performances. With the advent of popular music it very quickly became home to variety shows changing ownership and names in 1907 when it became the Crown Theatre. In 1932 the 2,500 capacity theatre was converted into a cinema but in 1963 it went the way of many such buildings and became a bingo hall until finally in 1980 a section of the theatre was demolished before closing forever. The site has been closed ever since, having already begun to fall into ruin.

The theatre was listed in 2003 and added to the Theatre's trust at Risk list in 2012. The once stunning proscenium arch inside the theatre depicted Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man but stained glass windows of poets and playwrights installed by the original owner in his bid to educate the poor were removed during a refit several decades ago and sent to America. In 2013 fire crew were called to an arson attack on the building which effected the first and second floor balconies. The Crown is a landmark building in the town of Eccles in a vaguely Elizabethan Style with pilasters and mullioned windows.

The facade is constructed of moulded red brick of five storeys with terracotta dressings to three high arched windows at first floor. It is richly decorated, and has an asymmetrically placed short corner tower. This once had a pyramidal roof and the parapet was topped with square pinnacles. Becoming a cinema in 1932, it was later adapted for Cinemascope, ending stage use. Converted for bingo in 1963, by the late 1980s it was reported to be falling into disrepair internally. The exterior is largely intact, apart from the stage house which has been partly demolished. Planning permission was given in 2005 – and again in 2008 – for partial demolition (retaining the facade) and development of apartments behind. These works have not been started, and the building remains empty and increasingly derelict.

Lighting Up The River

Fireworks display over the central reservation of the Manchester ship canal and River Mersey infront of the Silver Jubilee bridge at the annual event held on Guy Fawkes Day 05/11/16

11/11/11

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - Armistice Day. In a year that has demonstrated the true potential of western democracy, it is more important than ever to remember those who gave their lives to protect it. A lone grave located found at the back of a forgotten church in the heart of Wales reads 'Private John Lewis, 6 Battalion. Welsh Regiment. Died 20/10/1915`. Husband of Mary Jane Lewis, of 8 Pant St, Danycraig, Swansea.

The Minffordd Path

The last light of the day falling behind the peak of Cadair Idris in Snowdonia national park. The natural bowl-shaped mountain was formed by a cirque glacier during the last ice age when snow and ice accumulated in the corries due to avalanches on higher slopes. Over thousands of years ice flowed out through the bowl's opening carving the chair of Cadair Idris. As the glacier eroded the lip down to the bedrock, there are several tear-drop shaped hills above the edge of Llyn Cau lake that boasts crystal clear waters as moisture forms at the peak and rolls down the mountain.

1920 - 2010

Yesterday afternoon was spent mooching around an old special needs school. Opened on behalf of the north Manchester jewish community towards the end of the industrial revolution in 1920, and is remembered as the school with probably the longest name in existence..."The Jewish Fresh Air Home and School for poor inner-city children suffering from malnutrition or asthma caused by smog."

It eventually closed in 2010 as the need for children to have a country retreat away from the gathering pollution of an industrial city was no longer an issue after the regions industrial era had all but come to an end. The community had built a new school within its area of city that meant there was no longer an hours journey to and from the school twice every day. The old school now serves no purpose and has been empty and unused now for over six years. From the outside it is deceptively well kept, but as is always teh case, the weather always find its way inside eventually.

The Water Tower

Opened in 1937 just outside the small yorkshire village of the same name, RAF Church Fenton saw the peak of its activity during the years of the Second World War, when it served within the defence network of fighter bases of the RAF providing protection for the Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Humberside industrial regions. During September 1940 it became home to the first RAF "Eagle squadron" of American volunteers, the No. 71 Squadron RAF flying the Hawker Hurricane I. The airfield was also home to both the first all-Canadian and all-Polish squadrons. As technologies evolved throughout the war, the base was expanded to accommodate large numbers of pilots and aviation personnel, and the first night fighter Operational Training Unit was formed at Church Fenton in 1940.

The expansion period of the RAF saw many building designs and layouts appear throughout the airfield, mostly designed in a Georgian art deco style. With so many personnel on site, one thing the site needed was a self sufficient water system, therefore a large water tower was built toward the west side of the airfield. Clean, treated water was pumped up into the tower, where it's stored in a large tank that might hold a thousand or so gallons—depending on demand. When the site needed water, water pumps situated at the base of the tower utilized the pull of gravity to provide high water pressure.

The other new advance for the period was central heating. These plants heated the contained water and distributed it around the permanent camp to supply a steady, reliable source of heat throughout the seasons. The Pelapone Engine and Pumps have been left behind after many years of disuse but remain in relatively good condition due to their protection from the weather.

If D-Day Were To Fail

The famous 'Mulberry harbours' were temporary portable harbours developed by the British during World War II to facilitate the rapid offloading of cargo onto beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. After the Allies successfully held beachheads following D-Day, two prefabricated harbours were taken in sections across the English Channel from Britain with the invading army and assembled off Omaha and Gold Beach. They are now praised as one of the greatest engineering feats of the entire second world war. 

One of the industrial companies involved in the production of the harbours were Carr Bros Ltd, and Talbot Bros Ltd of Rotherhithe, London. A strategically placed residential area of the capital used as an industrial harbour, it was linked to the canals across the country via the thames. During WW2 Rotherhithe was an overwhelmingly maritime district and its main industry was ship making, repairing and breaking. Their factories closed not long after the war, but throughout the UK evidence of their waterborne defences can still be found. The majority of which are most likely at the bottom of our river beds, but some have become quite literally part of the landscape in the 70 years since their function was ever conceived. 

At the opposite end of the country, the Manchester Ship canal, built during the 19th century, was and still is the most direct and reliable method of reaching the city of Manchester from the mouth of the Irish Sea at Liverpool. The brilliant ingenuity of the British navy engineers during the production of Mulberry Harbour lead to the same idea being applied on a smaller and defensive scale around Britain's many estuaries, rivers and canals in apprehension of a possible German invasion in the event of a defeat in Europe. 

The homeguard worked tirelessly during the peak times of the war to ensure that precautions were in place to defend mainland Britain if the Germans pushed back the allied troops during the liberation of France into occupied Europe. Industrial production was running at full capacity and Manchester was one of the main districts in the north of England that held indispensable defences against the Germans, and with Liverpool in battered ruin from the blitz, the factories and emplacements in Manchester would be the first to be targeted in the event of an invasion on the western coast of the country. 

With the Manchester Ship Canal the only direct way to reach the city by water, four concrete barges were transported from London to a key point on the canal half way between the two cities in Warrington, at a point where the water flows inland for a quarter of a mile hidden behind farmland making them hard to spot from the air. If D-Day failed and the Nazi invasion were to take place, the homeguard planned to move the barges directly into the ship canal and intentionally fill their cargo holds with water. Effectively turning them into concrete boulders, this would prevent any ships from reaching their destination.

Despite their precautions, a home defence operation was never required and D-Day led to the liberation of Central Europe. The barges were forgotten and eventually eroded causing them to fill with water and sink into the shallows at the side of the canal. Whilst the overgrowth has consumed them for over 7 decades they are still incredibly well preserved and would take an ambitious operation to move, so they remain part of the surrounding farmland. The town of Warrington and neighbouring district of Trafford now have very few remnants left from the war effort after having seen extensive regeneration into the 21st century, but the barges still serve as a brilliant hidden reminder of how close we once came to war on our doorstep, and they will likely be here for many years still to come.


Runcorn Railway Bridge. Then and Now 1920 - 2016

Built in 1868 to connect the towns of Widnes and Runcorn across the river Mersey, the bridge is still in operation on the same line today but has seen a great deal of change around it. The invention of the car led to the construction of the Widnes transporter bridge in 1905 (seen behind the railway bridge in the top photo) which proved to be inadequate for increasing traffic, and by 1961 was demolished and replaced by the Runcorn bridge (in the foreground) which again could not cope with the ever growing flow of traffic in and out of Liverpool, and was later extended and reopened as the Silver Jubilee Bridge. The bridge now carries 80,000 vehicles a day which is more than triple its intended capacity. Due for completion this time next year, a much wider bridge, the Mersey Gateway, is being built a mile down the river that will eventually ( theoretically ) solve the problem once and for all.

The Death of ICI

One by one, the last remnants of one of Britain's largest industrial institutions have been torn apart since it was acquired by foreign company's in 2008. It's factories either sold or shut down, jobs lost and operational profits sent overseas. Since then, the latest site to meet its fate has been the 140 year old soda ash works on Wallerscote Island in Winnington. Once a thriving industry that fed the region through its productivity, it is now being demolished to make way for new housing and all evidence of its past will have been removed. It may have been considered by many as an eyesore, and had been dormant for many years, but it at least served as a memorial to something that we were once proud to call British.

 Παλατάκι στα Λιμενάρια (Palatáki Limenária)

Limenaria, with the continuing settlement of Kalyvia (or St. George) is a coastal town on the southern point of the Greek island of Thassos. The first inhabitants of the village were workers from the mountain village Kastro (Castle), in the heart of the island, which is now isolated. The mysterious 'Palatáki' looms over the landscape of the town with its brilliantly bold colours and striking architecture. From a distance, you almost cant tell that it has been left derelict for over half a century.

The region flourished in the beginning of 20th century, when the German company “Spiedel“ began its work there, running its mining excavation for export all over the world which gave the local harbor its first ever commercial activity. The offices of the company, known as the palace or “palataki”, were built in 1903 and constitutes a vivid example of eclectic architecture as it is characterized by a strict geometry and influenced from central European adherents during the time period that was seeing a shift in styles across the continent. This explains why many people mistakenly assume the building is several hundred years older than it actually is. 

The palace looks over into the vast open horizon of the North Aegean sea. Beneath, hidden away from the busy streets of the town are the iron mines themselves. The terrain is rich in cadmium and argentiferous lead which Spiedel began to excavate in 1905 and it ceased in 1912 due to the First World War. The exploitation was continued by Belgian miners 'Vielle Montagne' in 1925 until 1930 when they interrupted the operation owing to the financial crash in the build up to the Second World War, when the Nazis occupied the island from 1941-1944 and reportedly used the palace as a base for their high ranking officers. In 1957 another company poached the mines in parallel with local Greek operations. However, all the activities in the region stopped in 1963.

 The mines are a strong indication of the islands industrial legacy and a lost place of interest in a place so commonly overlooked by visitors who seek the marble beaches on the coastline. The ground is covered by a black metal giving the soil an impressive brown color, which as I later found is an absolute pain to clean off. 

Last Visit

Living almost next door to daresbury Hall I've been able to see it change through the seasons in the years since it became derelict, and it's slow but steady decline into vandalism. The pool was eventually stripped of all its stainless steel and only now after the arson attack earlier this year that very nearly destroyed the manor, has it actually earnt some protection. I never thought I'd be happy to see an abandoned site lit up with floodlights at night but the authorities severely let this brilliant place down over the years and thanks to 'Save Britain's heritage' it now has people fighting for it. This is the most recent and probably the last visit of mine, when the overgrowth beautifully crept over the domed roof of the pool as it does each summer.

26/8/1940

Found scrawled into the foundation stone of a ww2 pillbox bunker hidden in the hills of the Brecon Beacons, Wales UK. Pillboxes were stationed all over the UK during the war, and occupied by the Home Guard which operated from 1940 until 1944, meaning that this was most likely carved into the stone during the construction of the pillbox itself. The Home Guard was composed of 1.5 million local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, such as those too young or too old to join the services, or those in reserved occupations.

On this day, 26th August 1940; "Over Britain... the German attacks continue. They send three major raids against RAF airfields and one on Portsmouth. One of the airfield raids gets through almost undamaged but all the others are heavily engaged by the RAF. The day's losses are 31 RAF fighters and 19 German bombers and 26 fighters. As the Luftwaffe’s assault on Britain’s air defences continued the RAF had to develop tactics that avoided unnecessary air combat with enemy fighters and targeted the bombers. Squadron Leader Peter Townsend led No. 85 Squadron’s Hurricanes into the attack on 26th August." According to the original timetable Hitler ought to decide now whether the invasion should be attempted.

Torpantau

Also known as Beacons or Beacon Summit Tunnel - Torpantau claimed the record for the highest tunnel on the UK's standard gauge network at 1,313 feet above sea level. Reached by a three-mile climb from the south, trains passed through it curving sharply to the right before emerging onto the notorious Seven Mile Bank at a falling gradient towards Brecon. This was an extremely ambitious attempt at somehow maneuvering long carriages through the winding hills of mid-wales. The tunnel opened in 1863 although construction work had finished the previous year.

The Brecon & Merthyr Junction Railway (B&MJR) which passed through the tunnel gained the unfortunate nickname of the "Breakneck and Murder Railway" due to the number of accidents it suffered which, thanks to those steep inclines, were often severe. Neither was its reputation done any favours by the slowness of its trains. By the time the section through the tunnel closed on 4th May 1964, the line was only carrying freight. Passengers services across the B&MJR system has ended by January 1963.

Torpantau Tunnel itself is 666 yards in length and features a masonry arch springing either off shelves cut high into the rock face or lengths of brick or stone sidewall which were added incrementally over time as the need arose. Refuges are incorporated throughout. The south portal is masonry-built and wedged into the end of a vertically-sided cutting, the west face of which is retained by a wing wall for a short distance.

The north portal (actually ESE-facing) is a larger stone structure, projecting out into the cutting which has more gently-graded sides. Though generally in reasonable condition, some small falls of loose rock have occurred, accumulating on the solum, and a stream flows through the tunnel resulting in both approach cuttings being waterlogged.

Torpantau station was left derelict after the passenger trains ceased operation in 1963 exactly 100 years after it opened, and it wasn't for another 18 years until the narrow-gauge Brecon Mountain Railway occupied the trackbed which lies south of the tunnel where the station once sat, having now served since 1980 the mountain railway asserts the long-term aspiration of extending its operation northwards through the tunnel. Until then, the tunnel lies dormant among the lonely mountains.

Perseid Gazing

Officially starting on July 17, the annual shower of shooting stars aka the Perseid Meteor Showers run until August 24. Whilst camping within the Brecon Beacons I found the perfect opportunity to view the sky without any disturbance from civilisation. On a clear night here, you can see the Milky Way, major constellations and bright nebulas moving slowly across the pitch black hills. Shot with Fujfifilm x100t @ 23mm f2.0 / 30"