St John the baptist' primary school

Built in 1887, St John the baptist primary was built as a voluntary aided school for infants that coincided with the formation of the adjacent St John's church, and although it only had four classrooms, managed to maintain its place at the heart of the community for almost 120 years. It's doors were closed along with a number of local schools in 2004 when a new school was built in order to bring the pupils into one place. The nationally famous comedian Frankie Randle was born next door in 1901 was known to have been a pupil at the school in his infant years, and the labels of the last group of children's names still stand above the coat hangars in the cloakroom. The building has now been locked up for more than a decade but is on the market for any future restoration, however its listed status restricts the possibility of redevelopment and thus the school has started to decay heavily.

County police station

Basement cells of a victorian county police station in Northern England abandoned in the early 90s after Margaret Thatcher proposed that all local stations merge into regional bases to severerely reduce costs thereby changing the structure of the police force entirely. Stations like this were purposefully kept as a way for the community to remain connected with their local 'beat' and could only keep a small handful of criminals temporarily overnight. The ones that are still standing are reminiscent of a time when local policing was a much more intimate affair.

Black Mountain Secret

Hidden within the black mountains of central wales, this nursing home once housed up to 50 nurses who lived onsite whilst working at the asylum across the way. Having reached full capacity during world war I, the entire site was eventually closed less than a decade after the NHS was introduced, having felt the stresses of the new health law legislation. The buildings have now become some of the most beautifully decayed examples that I have ever seen.

Sunnymede

Sunnymede primary was founded in 1964, and was the last remaining independent school in the coastal town of Southport when its doors closed at the end of term in 2010 after celebrating its 50th anniversary. Due to the combination of falling numbers of pupils joining the school, increasing costs and the sheer amount of red tape and paperwork from the overbearing interference of the governments education policies. Day pupils aged from 3-11 paid £5100 per term, and the school could cater for 141 pupils at full capacity.

The much loved headmaster was Mr Simon Pattinson who lived in the out-house next to the school on a permanent basis, and had kept the school running after five decades of family ownership. Simon’s father Alan and his wife Katy began Sunnymede’s educational odyssey in 1960. They arrived from Cambridge with high ambitions of developing every facet of the school possible. Within a decade they had moved from Grosvenor Road to its present site. With a number of local independent schools operating locally at the time, competition was strong, but the business flourished, and the number of pupils on the roll grew rapidly.

Until the boundary changes of the early 70s the school was part of the lancashire county education board, but then ended up in merseyside to the dismay of some of the childrens parents, leading to the start of its initial demise. The further reason for this sad demise is due on one hand to a failing roll over in it’s last 12 to 18 months of operation, and on the other to an increase in expenditure created by the various regulations and legislations imposed by the government. After celebrating the school's 50th birthday, just six months before it's eventual closure, Simon Pattinson wrote: “This family school has literally been my life’s work, and it is to the testament of pupils, past and present, our wonderful teachers and the constant support from many parents and friends that have allowed us to reach this fabulous milestone.”

Through the seasons

Having a place like Daresbury Hall on my doorstep means I get to fully appreciate how it changes through the seasons, and whilst it may not be as pristine as it once was when i first visited, it's still great to see how it flourishes at this time of year when nature fully takes back what's been left behind.


To see the site and its changes over the years, click here and here below to view both albums featuring Daresbury Hall from two of my full visits.

Douglas Skymaster

Inside the cockpit of a disused Douglas DC-4 skymaster, famously known for their use during the Berlin Airlift. This skymaster was used between 1946 - 1962 as a passenger plane before serving across the world as a freight plane until it was decommissioned in 2002. It was left to rot at the Arizona aviation graveyard for some time before finding it's final resting place in the UK, where it was kept at RAF North Weald before being dismantled for parts, and the cockpit seen here is now being prepared for display at the Burtonwood heritage centre.

The DC-4 (Or C-54 as it was known during the war) proved to be one of the most popular and reliable planes of the 20th century, with 1245 being built between May 1942 and August 1947, including 79 postwar DC-4s. Several remained in service as of 2011, and Douglas continued to develop the type during the war in preparation for a return to airline use when peace returned. The type's sales prospects withered when 500 wartime skymasters came onto the civil market, and many like this one were converted to airliners by Douglas.

It is particularly fitting that this plane is now to go on display here at Burtonwood, as the DC-4 has a significant association with the north west of England, being a frequent visitor to Liverpool and also in its military guise as the C-54 being a regular visitor to the Burtonwood Base Air Depot itself . These aircraft ferried parts and personnel to and from the US, and many of these aircraft eventually ended up being involved in Operation Plainfare a.k.a. the Berlin Airlift.

The crisis started on June 24, 1948, when Soviet forces blockaded rail, road, and water access to Allied-controlled areas of Berlin. The United States and United Kingdom responded by airlifting food and fuel to Berlin from Allied airbases in western Germany, and the Douglas Skymaster was one of the iconic aircraft used to take these emergency supplies to those in need on the Eastern side of Berlin. 

When the two DC-4s arrived at North Weald over 10 years ago, they were acquired for use in a planned film about the Berlin Airlift. The film never came to fruition and the DC-4s began to decay in their derelict state. In this photo you can see how one example still remained intact whilst the other was taken apart, most notably the cockpit which is now at Burtonwood. 

The cockpit has now begun its restoration and sports the iconic red lightning stripe associated with the Berlin airlift era that made the DC-4 so famous. Eventually it will be on display as a walk-in attraction for people of all ages to learn about Berlin airlift and to experience the aircraft up close as a sentiment to the history of the American airbase at Burtonwood.

Elm Tree Cottage

Hidden along the border of England & Wales, this holiday cottage was abandoned at some point in 2011 for unknown reasons. All post inside the property is dated past this point and left unopened, including five years of attempted contact from the tv license agency. This was a unique opportunity for me to explore a place unlike any that I had been to before, as it was as close to pristine as I could ever hope to achieve from a location such as this. The property was obviously suited to having people stay for short stays at a time, and didn't have the feel of a home that was ever lived in to as full an extent as I have seen in the past, as those homes more often than not end up littered with the belongings of their owners in one way or another. The two bedrooms each had only single beds, and guides to local walks could be found in the living room and kitchen. This was obviously a place for people to stay as a countryside retreat.

With the cottage having been forgotten so literally since its last use, the weather had made very little impact on the interior and it felt in many ways like we were seconds away from somebody coming home, but one of the strangest things about this cottage has to have been the taxidermy - at least three deer heads were found hanging from the wall, a cheetahs head casually rested on the bedroom cabinet, and two baby snakes were kept inside jars sitting on the kitchen worktop. I'm not sure I'd rest too easily if I'd paid to stay here for a week, but each to their own..

This was a real struggle to find, and any trace of the property was a well kept secret online. The gardens have consumed the majority of the property and it is hardly even noticeable from the roadside, but eventually the research paid off and we were able to spend a little time to ourselves appreciating the sentimentality of this place. I love how one week we can be exploring the vast industrialisation of an abandoned paper mill, and the next we can be inside a place like this. Just one of the reasons this is a project that just keeps on giving.

Iranian Embassy

Today I decided to drive 15 minutes away from my house and ended up in Iran. No, I'm not joking. A crumbling mansion owned by the government of Iran sits abandoned within one of the most expensive areas of the outskirts of Manchester. Surrounded by million-pound properties, Brackendene was once a grand site with greenhouses, outbuildings and a swimming pool. Now, the red-brick mansion has a hole for a roof and lies forgotten behind overgrown woodland and security fences.

Brackendene was bought by the Iranians in the 1970s. The consul-general lived there at one stage and it was beautifully maintained, yet the building began to be left empty in the years after Iran's Islamic revolution. Since then, the state of the house has reflected the troubled diplomatic relationship between Iran and the UK, with the mock-Tudor building finally becoming deserted around a decade ago. It wasn't until 2011 that it looked like there might be a breakthrough, with reports saying that Iranian embassy representatives from London had travelled to Trafford to discuss the site's future, but soon after tensions over Iran's nuclear programme erupted into violence. Hundreds of protesters attacked the British embassy in Tehran because of the UK's support of further sanctions. In response, the UK gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.

Since then, any hope of the embassy gaining any kind of maintenance from it's owners has faded away, and with it the inevitable influx of vandalism has taken it's toll. The building has had two major arson attacks which have all but destroyed the roof and most of the upper floors, and anything of value has been scavenged by thieves. The outskirts of the plot are now lined with barbed wire and signs to keep vandals out.

In the past 12 months, Trafford council has taken to strip the land of rubble and debris, and has started to clear this large plot of everything but the shell of the house itself, which can only mean that demolition is soon to be underway. Houses on this stretch of road are known to sell for millions of pounds and this is one of the largest plots of land available. Any chance of an Iranian ambassador setting foot here again is almost entirely gone.

Justice for the 96

After a 27 year fight for justice, the thousands of Liverpool fans who travelled to Hillsborough on April 15, 1989 are now confirmed to have played no role in causing the disaster that ended with the loss of 96 lives. In a landmark decision jurors at the inquests into the tragedy ruled the actions of supporters in no way led to the deaths of 96 fans on the Leppings Lane terraces. The decision - which underlined the findings of the 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel report - finally brings to an end 27 years of accusations waged against Reds fans on the day. Question seven of the 14 the jury were tasked with answering asked: Was there any behaviour on the part of the football supporters which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles? Delivering the verdict this morning the jury finally decided the answer was no.

Same Fate

Special needs school abandoned just last year in Northern England - when Thatcher closed down the asylums in the 1980's she sought to cut costs by integrating patients into regular facilities. She was responsible for closing them down and ejecting countless thousands into the hands of 'care in the community.' Motivated by financial conerns, it nonetheless marked the end of a time when madness could be 'brushed under the carpet'. Decades later and the Tory party is now doing the same by taking away the services of many sites primarily developed for special needs children and instead grouping them into larger, more generic facilities in order to save costs. This is happening quietly and behind the scenes as opposed to the statement it made two decades ago, but the repercussions for these developing children will undoubtedly become clear over the following years as these schools close down, leaving yet more historical buildings to fall into decay and the feeling of deja vu thanks to supposed 'progress'.

HJ Berry & Sons

It survived two World Wars, several recessions and the invention of stackable plastic chairs. But in the end cheap foreign competition proved too much and in 2010 the 170-year-old Lancashire furniture firm HJ Berry & Sons entered its final days as the administrator started to sell assets, including property and machinery in the village of Chipping.

This weekend six years ago the public had a chance to buy the last chairs produced in the Kirk Mills site before trade buyers started to bid for the heavy plant and machinery. Also sold were two detached houses, four cottages, a mill once used by industrial pioneer Richard Arkwright and 20 acres of commercial land. The company, owned by Andrew Berry, went into administration with £4.6m of debt but the administrator is hopeful that unsecured creditors will see some of their money back after the asset sale, triggered by a creditors' meeting in Preston. The community had hoped the mill might have either been turned into a museum or a country house retreat. The Berry family ran the company for five generations but increased competition from Chinese and other foreign chair producers meant it failed to turn a profit in the last ten years of operation. At the time of closure it was Britain's oldest surviving furniture maker. Six years on, and at the time of my visit nothing has changed past the point of which the doors were closed. 

The factory still lies dormant along the old stream that once powered Kirk Mills in the victorian age, and the vibrant colours have stood the test of time within its walls. Staff items still hang in the changing rooms, with personal items left untouched since everyone was sent home. This was something of a sad place to visit, given the relevance of Britain's dying industry, places like this were once something to be proud of, yet we have turned to an economy that favors the growth of Chinese development over our own in order to save a few penny's, while the true cost of our discount habit is in clear sight.

Extremis

Left behind. Film set for the apocalyptic TV drama 'Extremis' staring David O'hara where part of the old infirmary was made to look like a dilapidated hospital. Luckily they left it for us explorers to take advantage of once they finished. The hospital bed and equipment were never taken away by the film crew and the paint job never had to be fixed given the buildings derelict state. It doesn't quite capture the accuracy of what an empty hospital truly looks like, from experience the NHS never leave a dime behind..

Boat-wrecked

The wreck of MV Chica which sank on the river weaver almost 23 years ago. After a little research I found she had quite the colourful history: "Built in 1894 as a cargo barge in Norway, Chica was commandeered by the German Navy during the occupation of Norway in WW2 and after the war found herself running guns in the Mediterranean and finally smuggling cigarettes and tobacco across the straights of Gibralter only to find herself as part of the fishing fleet in Liverpool bay in 1950 and in 1981 she was bought by a businessman to run cruises up and down the river weaver but during a period of inactivity in 1993 she started taking on water and with nobody onboard to operate the bilge pumps she listed and her fate was sealed"

Lister Drive Carnegie Library

Built in 1905 and donated to the people of Liverpool by Andrew Carnegie, the famous industrialist and philanthropist for the United States and the British Empire whom at the time was widely known as the richest man in the world, yet by the time he opened the library he had given the vast majority of his wealth away to charitable causes.

Lister library functioned proudly up until 2006 when safety concerns forced its closure. However, heritage funding has now been granted and the Grade II listed building is about to be completely renovated into a care centre with plans to reopen in 2017 on a 125-year lease to the community-based charity 'Lister Steps’. Pigeons had set the alarms off and a friendly security guard (rare!) by luck was inside and let us have a wander around.

Plough House Farm

A farmhouse that has evaded the past three decades lies dormant within the Shropshire countryside. Word had spread about this intriguing place following a report last year that showed a home left behind by an elderly couple and almost entirely untouched. This took a fair amount of digging up in terms of research and outright exploring but finding a place like this is always worth the time and effort. Some of the first televisions to arrive in the UK remain here as relics of a past time. And one of my favorite things to find in any derelict place - a lost car graveyard with vehicles from a whole host of eras stretching back over the last 50 years.

The Five Lonely Giants

The old power station at Willington near Derby closed its doors in 1999. The Five cooling towers are the only remaining parts that have been left untouched with no clear indication of any demolition plans. The towers are 300 feet high, 218 feet in diameter at the base, 145 feet in diameter at the top and 122 feet in diameter at the throat. Put it simply..they are gigantic.

Post-war Britain saw a sea of change in the way electricity was produced. The National Grid, which had been devised in the 1920s, allowed the removal of the small generating stations located in urban areas to be replaced with large, purpose built “Power Stations” linked together to deliver electricity wherever it was required. Willington was one of the first and one of the largest of its kind. However, the stations were privatised and sold to National Power in the early 1990s and eventually closed in the mid-1990s. Although most of the stations were demolished at the turn of the millennium, the five cooling towers continue to dominate the skyline of the local area. The site is earmarked for a large residential development, pending the results of a public inquiry.

Highway 307

Abandoned hotel. Highway 307, Mexico. The food poisoning scandal that cursed the tourism industry of the country in 2009-10 hit the economy hard. Many unfinished projects were then irreversibly damaged by hurricane Alex and it took the industry over two years to fully recover. This archway entrance was part of a 50 million dollar project to build one of the East coast's most luxurious golf hotel resorts. It was never completed.