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Shadows of the North Book Now On Sale!

DSCF2368It’s been a long time in the making, but I am proud to announce that I have finally got round to publishing a book to accompany the Shadows of the North exhibition! OK, so I’ve mistimed this quite spectacularly as the exhibition at Queen Street Mill is about to end*, but if you haven’t seen it there or at Helmshore then this is an expanded version of the exhibition, and arguably more compact.

Like the exhibition, the book is a wander through the battered and broken remains of the textile mills of Lancashire and West Yorkshire, as well as the surrounding landscape. David Plowden, one of my photographic inspirations, referred to his habit of being ‘one step ahead of the wrecking ball’, and to a large extent, this is something I also have the knack of, albeit with varying degrees of success.

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The book is 70 pages in length and is exclusively black and white which may come as no surprise if you are familiar with my work. I have a limited numbers of books available in this initial batch of printed books, and I will order more if / when these sell out. Given the somewhat expensive prices charged by Blurb, I tend only to order any books from them when there is either a 40 or 50% off offer on, so any future batch will be sometime next year at the earliest.

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Alternatively, if you are a millennial and shun printed matter (or live outside the UK), I have the book available as a downloadable PDF for £4.99. Be warned, it is a very large document! For a preview, please have a look at the 20 page preview PDF also on the store

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DSCF2363The prices on the website are for UK shipping, please contact me if you are outside the UK.

*Truth be told, I did have plans for a Mechanical Landscapes book earlier in the year, and even have a print ready PDF, but everything that could possibly go wrong did do, so I took it as a sign that the universe was telling me that I want ready yet!

 

Buy it here: http://mechanicallandscapes.selz.com

 

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#461 – Chatterley Whitfield Revisited 2

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Institute shaft looming overhead.

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The view from the landscapes slagheap.

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The Chatterley Whitfield company logo, cast in iron.

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Platt Shaft headgear.

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The looming bulk of the Hesketh.

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And another one, a little further away. I wanted to frame it between some of the surface buildings to give it a little more context.

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Steam boilers. These weren’t the main boilers for the Hesketh winding gear, but they received exhaust steam from the winding engine. This was then used at low pressure to generate electricity through mixed pressure turbine sets. Information from Tarboat’s picture in Flickr.

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Similar aspect to last time, but I just couldn’t get the composition. This of course is in a different orientation, best of a bad bunch, I didn’t like any of the portrait format ones.

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Same view as last time, well almost!

 

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#460 – Chatterley Whitfield Revisited 1

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I rarely go and revisit places that I’ve photographed, with only a handful of exceptions e.g. Bailey Mill last week. Partly this is due to sating may curiosity first time round, and partly due to my usual modus operandi of being one step ahead of the demolition crews. In Chatterley Whitfield’s case, my curiosity wasn’t sated, and I’m hoping the demolition crew are a long way off – but I’m not overly optimistic.

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The mine was one of the most productive in the country, and the biggest on the Stafforshire coalfield. There has been mining on the site for hundreds of years, but the name Chatterley Whitfield is a comparatively recent one. It came about due to the acquisition of the Whitfield colliery by the nearby Chatterley Iron Company in the 1870’s. The iron company folded in the early 1900’s but the mine survived through various changes of ownership into the 1970’s. It was certainly a very successful mine, being the first one in the country to produce a million saleable tons in a year in 1937. However, the infrastructure was aging and the colliery’s best -and most productive days were behind it. It was becoming less economic to extract the coal and output dropped to 408000 tons in 1965.

Coal drawing stopped in 1976 and coal from the Whitfield mine started to be extracted from the nearby Wolstanton Colliery. Thereafter, the mine became a visitor attraction but closed in the early 90’s, since when it has been left to rot.

Tours are organised once a year as part of the annual Heritage Open Days and these are led by the Chatterley Whitfield Friends group who do a sterling job. They also have an excellent website that has been massively improved of late and is well worth a visit.

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I found this quite humbling – 60 years of service. And by the time this certificate was issued, he was 73 but note that it says ‘he is at present employed on the surface as a General Labourer’ (my emphasis) – the implication being that he was still employed. I know of plenty of people at my workplace with 25 year service certificates on their desks, and a few with 40 year certificates, but not many of the latter as they’ve usually taken redundancy by that stage. But 60 years? That’s impressive, especially for a career in an industry so fraught with danger as coal mining, in an era when safety standards weren’t anything like they developed into in the latter years of the 20th century.

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Apparently, this roadway through the site was once a road through the site that anyone could use to walk or drive across the site.

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The giant chimney that dominates the site. There’s talk of it not being in a good state and may have to be brought down at some point in the next 5 years – don’t know how true that is. In fairness, most of the brick structures on site are in poor condition, but chimneys are a slightly different proposition.

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I don’t know what the future holds. Most of the buildings are listed but appear to be in a poor state of repair, and very few are accessible. The Hesketh engine house still has its steam engine intact, but is not accessible unfortunately.

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#459 – Bailey Mill Revisited

In the summer of 2007 I was on a bit of an exploration rampage, visiting over a dozen sites in a few months. One of my favourites was Bailey Mill in Delph. I’d been tipped off that the metal thieves had forced their way in and were just loading up their highly chromed Transits with copper and other loot, so the next day I finished work at dinnertime and legged it over to Saddleworth.  It was a warm, humid day in August and the sky was covered in an awkward flat cloud cover that I’ve been struggling to this day to get a decent picture out of.

The mill had been closed for several years but was in good condition, and contained some original machinery – not much, but enough to make it interesting. The photographs were good, with 3 featuring in the 20 photographs that make up my my Shadows of The North exhibition.

Thereafter the mill declined. Given the strange tendency (or not) of empty mills to spontaneously combust, I was surprised that Bailey Mill, with it’s wooden floors, had beaten this tendency. However, then came the news on Facebook earlier this year that Bailey’s luck had run out, and it was well ablaze.

I don’t live in the area, and don’t pass through regularly, so it took me until September to pay a visit, and I was surprised that not much appeared to have been done to clear the site.

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17th September 2016

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3rd August 2007

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17th September 2016

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3rd August 2007

In reality, the mills days were numbered. Permission to demolish the mills had been granted in 2015, so it was only a matter of time before they were to come down anyway, it just happened a little quicker and in a more dramatic fashion than anyone had anticipated.

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Quite literally razed to the ground.

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This was the doorway by which I entered the building in 2007- the door itself was lying on the floor that day as the metal thieves had been in the day before and I was fortunate to visit in their aftermath.

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The chimney remains intact.

#458 – Burnley Gas Holder Demolition

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Like a giant toy, the old gas holder at Burnley is being dismantled piece by piece. Unlike the demolition of buildings, gas holders are disassembled piece by piece (a great time lapse can be found here). Although I know that gas holders were slowly disappearing from our landscape (see my earlier post on the Blackburn gas holder) I didn’t realise this one was due to go until I drove past it on Monday whilst taking my family shopping in Colne, and saw the gigantic crane looming next to it.. Naturally, I didn’t have a camera on me, and even if I did, I don’t think my family would have appreciated it if I’d have pulled off the motorway to spend time photographing it!

So, a revisit on Friday found that demolition was well advanced, with around half of the structure gone.

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The rising dome can be seen behind the demolition equipment – this will be the last thing to be removed.

Burnley Gas Company gasworks, Burnley Lane, 1928

The gas works as it was in 1928. The above photos were taken from somewhere near where the buildings were on the left / centre of the old photo. These are obviously long gone, probably demolished when town gas was replaced with natural gas in the 1960’s / 1970’s. The land is now just fields, although I suspect they are heavily contaminated.

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The holder isn’t the easiest thing to photograph as it’s obscured by trees on one side, and it’s some distance from the main entrance. I quite liked this angle of it.

I’ve no particular interest in these structures as such, but their absence from the landscape is becoming noticeable. Some will be saved – the one just up the canal from Burnley at Brierfield is and will be dismantled and relocated as part of the development at Brierfield Mill, and English Heritage announced earlier this year that the famous gasholder that overlooks The Oval cricket ground has also been listed. But for the most part, these utilitarian structures, so familiar as to have become part of the backdrop to our urban landscape, will just fade from site forever.

#457 – Scunthorpe steelworks revisited

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For this experiment, I selected my images of the steelworks at Scunthorpe, a set I took on a tour of the works in 2009. I wondered if the addition of textures would enhance the surreal feeling that surrounds the site – certainly straight out of camera pictures didn’t do justice although the monochrome versions in high contrast were an improvement. I also wanted to give the feeling of a journey of sorts, as they were taken from a train that was moving round the works. I was loosely inspired by the opening sequences of modern TV drama series such as Homeland and Deutschland 83, although I had a fixed number of images and couldn’t go back and shoot more to fill in any gaps in the narrative that I wanted to establish.DSC_3473

Starting with a monochrome version of the original image, I downloaded a texture from the internet, and then created a layer in Photoshop. I then adjusted the opacity and layer type.DSC_3486

I’ve put them all together into a short slideshow on YouTube, but the main output has been a small handmade book of prints – I still prefer the physicality of printed matter!

 

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#456 – Mutual Mills

In 1965, Mutual Mills had more than 1,000 people on the payroll and, as well as its textiles operation, had its own Adelaide Engineering division on site (who are still active on site as a sub-contract machining operation).

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Heywood’s textile mills were closing down at a rapid rate, blaming cheap foreign imports for their demise.

But Mutual Mills struggled on, though steadily reducing its workforce.

The death knell was sounded in 1986 when one of the four mills in the complex was sold off, followed by further job losses and the end of the town’s last surviving cotton spinning firm.

The mills appear to be in multiple occupation, but while there is interest in converting them into apartments, nothing appears to have got off the ground yet. The mills are listed and are one of the few complete remaining large complexes of mills left with most having been partially or completely demolished over the past half century.

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/local-news/mill-site-flat-plans-1043221

Two of the mills are currently for sale for £1.6million

 

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#455 – Vernon Carus Revisited

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I visited Vernon Carus’ old Penwortham Mills site back in 2007, not long after the site had closed and work transferred to a new factory round the corner from my house in Chorley. At the time, there was a full time security guard on site who kindly let me wander round for a couple of hours. The main mill was mostly empty and I couldn’t find access to the weaving sheds that contained the remaining machinery. Thereafter, the site went into decline after security was withdrawn, and eventually, the sheds were demolished. The site was bought for redevelopment, but no progress has been made due to the appalling lack of access and the mill has just sat there slowly decaying. It’s been bricked up to make access harder, but to be honest I’ve already been round and don’t fancy risking my neck trying to get in somewhere that’s just a bombed out hulk.

I’d bought a new compact camera so as the place is only 20 minutes away, I thought I’d swing by to have a look and test the camera.

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It was very hard to get any external photographs of the mill in 2007 as there was a lot of single storey buildings in the way. These have since been cleared which makes photography easier. You can see where the north light windows in the shed roofs would have been.

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Looking across the empty wasteland that was once boiler houses, offices and weaving sheds.

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Zooming in a little more. This is where compact cameras come into their own, having a small lens diameter that can fit through gaps in fences and being able to zoom in a lot.

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I used to think this was the base of a chimney, but in hindsight, I think it’s actually a staircase, given how close the windows are to it. I think it may have been this one, but it’s been 9 years since I took that and can’t remember it’s exact location in the mill.

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Vernon Carus Cricket and sports club is more or less opposite the mill and is still very much active. I think they also have a fishing section that uses the old mill lodge behind the factory.

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