#603 – Meadowbank Salt Mine – Part 3

In comparison to the rest of the headstocks I’ve photographed, Meadowbank mine is frankly weird looking. Of course, these are functional structures designed by an engineer to fulfil a purpose and without a thought to aesthetics. But this one…….it looks like someone is trying to hide or disguise it with all that cladding, like the old mills I see round the north with metal cladding clumsily attached in a vain attempt at modernisation. I’m sure that’s not the case of course, as it’s looked like this since at least 1989, and may have even been built like this.

Headstocks are of course purely functional structures (although some of the French and Belgian ones photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher had some interesting embellishments and some were almost castle like), and are effectively a giant pulley mechanism. Although ostensibly the same, they tend to be unique to each mine. And while I’m not remotely qualified to offer a critique on aesthetics (and aesthetics were somewhere near the bottom of the list in the design of these structures), the stark, almost amateurish, simplicity of Meadowbank appeals to me. Normally what we see are variations of a steel framework (or sometimes a concrete framework) or alternatively a concrete tower although these have all been demolished. And while that may well exist behind the cladding, all the casual observer sees is this huge surface of grooves cladding, like an old barn or lock up garage on a grand scale. And the simple angles remind me of a cartoon like Christmas present, where the wrapping paper barely disguises the distinctive shape of say a teapot. It’s almost like someone was saying ‘nothing to see here’ about an 80-100 foot high – or whatever it is – structure that towers over the rolling countryside of Cheshire.

I had to photograph this from a slightly low elevation on the opposite riverbank, but I left space around the structure to allow for correcting the verticals in Lightroom so it doesn’t look too bad. I also shot it against a grey sky which I’ve succeeded in neutralising and I’m happy with the effect.

I’ve not yet added it to my typology as I don’t have enough for another column just yet, but this and the tandem headstocks at Snibston are so different to the rest that it’s going to give me some headaches in terms of the layout!

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