#404 – Mather and Platt’s Park Engineering Works

I’ve noted on this blog before that Manchester, the so-called first industrial city, now describes itself as a post-industrial city. It’s an accurate assessment as it’s hard to find anything of any consequence that is made in Manchester these days, beyond Cornflakes and Coronation Street.

The area to the east of the city was, at one time, very heavily industrialised, with an abundance of heavy engineering works, a steelworks, coal mines, power stations, cotton mills and factories making goods of all types.

In the post war era though, it was hit particularly hard as the city evolved into something else. The online Hansard collection notes that 20000 jobs were lost between 1971 and 1985 in East Manchester alone. One of the longest established names in the manufacturing history still survives though (just), in the shape of Mathers Foundry. The foundry is the last surviving section of what was once the giant Park Engineering Works of Mather and Platt, and it’s worth running through a quick history of this historic site.

DSCF2693 The works finally closed in 1996, and the majority of the site was demolished shortly afterwards, but as has happened elsewhere, the foundry was sold as a going concern and has survived several changes of ownership and rounds of redundancies since then. The land where the rest of the works once stood has recently been redeveloped after many years of standing empty and is now home to a large bakery.

The works featured in LS Lowry’s wartime painting ‘Going to Work‘ from 1943. The tower on the left of that picture can be recognised as the one in the picture above, the taller one was demolished when the factory closed.


There’s a few photos from inside the foundry from a visit by the Manchester Engineering Society here.


Railway lines. It’s hard to see on the aerial photo below, but the site was rail connected. There’s an interesting picture on Flickr here of a shunter crossing the main road in the 1970’s – you can just about make out a crossing over the main road in the photo below.


An aerial view from the 1920’s. The foundry building in the first picture can be seen in the bottom left, while the newer building in the second picture stands to the left of it, and was built, in the empty land in the bottom corner of the picture.

A more recent view from 1953 here shows the works in its fully developed state, including the works cricket pitch between the road and the factory.

A comprehensive history of the company and the works can be found here.

#403 – Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry Part 3

Just a few more random ones from the visit. It was good to have some expert accompaniment on the visit, so thanks again to Iain Robinson for spending a good part of the day with me as he’s very knowledgeable on the local quarry industry and has visited and researched many of the local quarries. As I mentioned in the first post in this series, his blog robinsonmaps.blogspot.com is a brilliant read for anyone with an interest in this field.


Graffiti scratched into the slate windowsill of a building.


Winding engine (I think) in one of the sheds.


Primitive coat hooks. Amazing that they’ve lasted this long!


This started off as a powdered milk can, and then became a brew tin. It still hangs up by the entrance to one of the winders.


Close up of the clutch and gearing to one of the blondin winders. Some lovely textures in there.


Smiley face:)


A salt battery, somewhat Dickensian by the time the place closed.



Yet another abandoned compressor. There seems to be a few of these lying round here and other North Wales quarries, and it’s one of those peculiarities of the slate industry that they weren’t all cut up for scrap when the place closed. I can understand maybe somewhere as inaccessible as Dinorwic, but less so here.

Last one of the inside looking out pictures from the day. 




#402 – Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry Part 2


While I’m not a frequent visitor to North Wales, I have visited at least annually over the past ten years, and had experienced only one sunny day in that time. So I was pleasantly surprised to experience the area when it wasn’t smothered in cloud, fog and rain. Photographically, this represented a departure from me for two reasons – 1) murky skies suit my style, and 2) they are easy to expose for. I prefer to add contrast in post processing so I can put it where I want it, whereas on sunny days – well it’s just difficult.
This was exasperated by the photos taken inside as the detail visible through the windows was largely blown out. The D700 has a decent dynamic range but it’s not up to the standards of its successors although I think they would also have struggled. Of course, taking multiple exposures and blending them afterwards would have solved the problem, but I wasn’t in a tripod using frame of mind, alas.


The blue skies aren’t typically Welsh, but the foreground could only be taken in Wales. The little wagon is sat on a weighbridge, and beyond the undergrowth in the background is the area that has been re-opened by Hanson.


Some kind of scales, presumably linked to the weighbridge outside originally. They must have taken a hell of a knock to now be lying on the floor.


Another ‘inside looking out through a window’ shot. This building housed a winding engine and a small workshop, this is the fitters bench in the foreground. The sheds in the background are back in use for storing quarry vehicles so are under lock and key and not accessible.





#401 – Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry Part 1


I’ve no particular association with the area or the industry, but I have an odd fascination with the slate industry and the way it has shaped the landscape of North Wales.

In most industries, once a plant has worn out or is rendered obsolete for whatever reason, the place is either raised to the ground and something else is built there, or it is regenerated or re-purposed into something else, e.g. apartments, offices, colleges, etc.


Not so quarrying. While some quarries that are simply holes in the landscape have been filled with landfill, the removal of rock from a hillside or mountainside is somewhat irreversible. But whereas most quarrying has minimal waste (e.g. the majority of what is quarried is used, such as gravel or sand quarrying), slate quarrying of the past was a different proposition entirly. Yeilds of around 10% meant that collosal amounts of waste material (or ‘rubbish’) were created, and these continue to litter the hillsides of Snowdonia.


I’d visited Dinorwic on a couple of occasions previously, but hadn’t explored any other quarries but had read about them on the Quarryscapes blog, Graham Stephen’s Geotopoi blog and Iain Robinsons Treasure Maps blog, the Penmorfa website as well as on Flickr. These quarries are a complete paradigm shift from other industrial sites, and not just for the reasons I mentioned above. They tend to have been closed for many, many years, and the places are just left to decay. Consequently, people have been exploring and photographing them for years, so by searching various sources online there’s a really good chronicle of how things have changed over the past 30-50 years.

It has been through these websites that I have become friendly with Iain Robinson, who invited me along to see the Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry, one that he is quite familair with. The quarry isn’t a huge place, certainly nowhere near as big as the giant Dinorwic and Penrhyn Quarries that dominated the industry for many years, but is a good size nonetheless. Furthermore it has recently seen a partial re-opening after a seam of green slate was discovered.

See Iain’s blog here: http://robinsonmaps.blogspot.co.uk/

#400 – Library of Congress Images – SS Rotterdam at Holland America Line Terminal, Hoboken


Holland America Panorama

This is a panorama created from three separate 8×10 glass plate negative scans. Needless to say, the resultant file is rather large! I recently upgraded my computer as my 6 year old PC with 4GB of RAM struggled with files like this, but the new one has significantly more processing power and Photoshop CC made light work of merging these files. Thankfully the photographer had the incredible foresight to provide plenty of overlap on each individual frame and repositioned his camera intelligently between each exposure, so the merged file has little of the curvature that is often seen when merging pictures into a panorama.


Horses bringing cargo or provisions.


Passing steamboat and riverfront buildings in the background.


Some kind of loading or unloading going on alongside


A lot going on on deck



Young boys watching the proceedings

As is the norm with these glass plate scans, it’s the staggering level of detail that makes looking at these images quite rewarding. I don’t know how these images were viewed or presented when they were taken in the early 20th century, I’m quite certain they weren’t blown up to any kind of signficant size and the astonishing resolution was probably wasted. But when viewed on a high-res HD screen, it’s quite impressive and I dare say that a giant panorama print would be a sight to behold, if somewhat expensive and unwieldy.

Given the wide field of view in the resultant panorama, this is very much the depiction of a scene. By that, I mean that it is almost like standing at a window, or at a vantage point, and taking in the view by looking at different things, then using binoculars (magnifying glass tool) to focus on one particular element, then returning to view the whole scene. I suppose that’s the difference between this and the regular images that are of a lesser field of view.

If your internet connection and computer hardware will take it, I’ve uploaded a high res jpeg to my Google Drive for you to download and luxuriate in the detail! Beware – it’s 76mb, significantly smaller than the 1GB full size file!




Brymbo Steelworks Foundry – Update

A bit of a follow up to the post I made a while back about the foundry roof collapse at Brymbo –  I’ve been informed by the Brymbo Heritage Group that the roof has now been safely removed and the walls made safe and watertight. I suppose this is a case of having to move backwards before moving forwards, but it’s good to see that something is being done to preserve this important facility, given that almost everything else has been demolished.

Foundry roof Jan 2015


#398 – Library of Congess Images – Main Street Buffalo

Looking up Main Street, Buffalo, N.Y-Edit

I’m guessing that this photograph was taken by some intrepid photographer climbing a tall riverside gilding such as a grain elevator as for the most part, downtown Buffalo looks quite a low lying city with few tall buildings. What strikes me about this scene is the clear summer sky, as so many of the photographs in the archive, especially of cities, are characterised by murky, overcast skies, a function I guess of the amount of atmospheric pollution endemic of the times. I also wonder what the dynamic range of the film in use was, and whether the very slow film was capable of capturing detailed skies (although to be honest, this doesn’t look like a particularly challenging exposure).

The steamer is Northland, one that appears in a lot of photographs in the the Library of Congress archive. It was one of many steamers that worked on the Great Lakes. Their purpose was either to link railheads on either side of the lake or to carry tourists to the more remote areas that were all but inaccessible before cars became more available post world war 2.

Northland was built in 1894 at the Globe Iron Works in Cleveland for the run between Buffalo and Duluth.  This was no small pleasure steamer – it was 383 feet in length, displaced 4244 tons and carried 350 first class and 300 second class passengers. Total cost was a not insignificant $650000.