This place is long gone now, but was fairly typical of a semi-rural bleachworks that were common across Lancashire and Yorkshire until recently. Located next to a stream in Meltham, Royd Edge Mills was last home to Brook Dyeing who shut some time before 2007 when I went. It was pretty unremarkable apart from the fact that the water wheel pit had somehow survived the onset of steam, although the wheel itself was long gone. Photographing this was a challenge, and involved me poking the top half of my body through a small hatch, and trying to balance a tripod and front heavy camera on a crumbing ledge about a foot wide.
However, it is this photo that I tend to come back to, as it reminds me of where I grew up and the numerous derelict bleachworks that dotted the area. This survived longer than they did due to the Huddersfield area being one of the last in the country that still has a textile industry. However, this pocket of industry continues to consolidate and Royd Edge Mills probably won’t be the last rural bleachworks to close.
This was the only real ‘external’ photograph I took that really worked as the place was architecturally uninteresting, just a series of brick and stone built sheds. However, when walking round the site, I noticed this gap in the trees from the adjacent footpath, and this vantage point afforded me a view that put the site into its rural context. If you look carefully, you can see where the roof has collapsed, something I’ve seen at other bleachworks, I guess this could be due to the use of a hot, wet process that eventually rots the wooden roof until it is either maintained or collapses.
I composed this quite deliberately to allow the foliage to frame the view, and the inclusion of the chimney was quite symbolic as a powerful emblem of the northern industrial landscape. The rolling hills in the background put the picture into its rural context, and the sky has been worked on in post processing. It was one of those funny days that had bright sunshine one minute and overcast cloud the next, which made for some burnt out areas in the raw file. I’ve burnt the sky in to balance the mass of undergrowth – it does leave the image looking quite ‘heavy’ though.