#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.

#450 – Samsung Galaxy S7 Shoot – Crossness Pumping Station 3

And so down into the basement….

Well actually it’s not really a basement as such. Four triple expansion compound steam engines were installed into a new building adjacent to the original one in 1897 to provide additional pumping capacity, but these were removed not long after in 1913 and replaced with Crossley diesels.The diesel engines were installed below the original floor level of the triple expansion engines in what amounts to a huge pit.

And so ended my brief time as a professional photographer! It was 4.00 on Friday afternon and I was south east of London on the banks of the Thames, watching ocean going ships going up the river – along way from the sun drenched lowlands of Chorley where I live. Time to battle my way through London to Euston – the gateway t’north.

 

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One of the large diesel engines. The huge pipe to the right is a sewage pipe.

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A sewage pump, made by Gwynnes, a long defunct London engineering company.

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Can’t remember exactly what this was, but it was manufactured by Alldays and Onions of Birmingham.

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I saw this as being a big rusty industrial elephant – can you see the two eyes above the ‘trunk’?20160311_143309-Edit-10620160311_143348-Edit-107

The internet doesn’t know much about the Light Production Company, alas.

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Down in the pit

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Panoramic view of the giant sewage pipe.

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A rather old Health & Safety sign.

#449 – Samsung Galaxy S7 Shoot – Crossness Pumping Station 2

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Beam engines – f***ing big beam engines at that. Crossness is home to four huge beam engines – Victoria, Prince Consort, Albert Edward (the Prince of Wales) and Alexandra (the Princess of Wales). Prince Consort has been restored to full working condition and Prince Consort is now being worked on. At the other end of the building, Albert Edward and Alexandra lie unrestored and that is where I focused my attention.

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I loved this beautifully painted wrought ironwork, and the contrast it made with the silent, unrestored engines behind.20160311_140022-Edit-8020160311_140923-Edit-90

The late afternoon winter sun caught this huge wheel with a lovely colour of light.

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#448 – Samsung Galaxy S7 Shoot – Crossness Pumping Station 1

Crossness Pumping Station is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for years. The magnificent Kew may have a more central location, glossy website and some giant engines, but Crossness is a marvelous mixture of wrought iron, rust and symmetry that is incomparable.

I was really blown away by the place. I trained as an engineer, I’m fascinated by history and love art and design so this place appealed to me on every possible level and could have spent all day there if we’d had time. If it wasn’t for the fact that I live 250 miles away I’d visit again!

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I think this is a variation of the MBW (Metropolitan Board of Works) monogram that is seen at various locations around the works.

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The unrestored end of the works.The floor here is mostly stone flags, but note the cast iron lattice floor by the flywheels and on the floor above  – more of that next week.

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Sun shining through the cast iron floor and casting shadows on one of the cylinders.20160311_134126-Edit-64

One of the four 27 feet, 52 ton flywheels,

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More ornamentation. I love the Victorians way of beautifully (some would say needless?) ornamentation in places that few saw, but was put there to show the pride they had in their engineering and architecture. The sewerage system and pumping station, unglamourous today, were a major step forward and a huge accomplishment and it was only right that that this was celebrated.

#422 – Rhydymwyn Valley Works, aka The Mustard Gas Factory, Part 3

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The Atom Bomb Connection

Rhydymwyn was used to house gaseous diffusion machines with the objective of separating the uranium isotope U-235 from U-238 as this was thought to be the quickest way of producing enough material for an atom bomb. The site was chosen for a number of reasons – there were empty buildings of the right size, it was accessible (the site was on a railway line and not too far from civilisation), it had a local workforce, wasn’t too far from the chemical industries of the Mersey / Wirral area and the site was already a guarded, secure site.

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Light and shadow

While the British scientists were making good progress, there was a recognition that Britain simply didn’t have the resources to step up from experimentation to weaponisation. In August 1943, the Quebec Agreement was signed and British nuclear scientists were transferred to America to join the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bombs that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima and ended the war.  The American effort was on an incomprehensible scale – the enormous K-25 building was built at Oak Ridge in Tennessee for gaseous diffusion, but covered 2 million square feet and cost $512 million dollars (equivalent to $6.7 billion in 2014 money!!!!)

Sources:

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cTLZkBuAZSsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+x+site+rhydymwyn&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAGoVChMI19Ot3ZmsyAIVgboaCh0GqAsT#v=onepage&q=the%20x%20site%20rhydymwyn&f=false

https://www.rhydymwynvalleyhistory.co.uk/history/history-atomicbomb.htm

https://www.rhydymwynvalleyhistory.co.uk/documents/PN_1377_Rhyd_Vol_2.pdf

https://www.rhydymwynvalleyhistory.co.uk/library.htm

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Switches

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Machinery bay

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Leaning in

#420 – Rhydymwyn Valley Works, aka The Mustard Gas Factory, Part 1

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The landscape of Britain continues to be littered with the remains of past conflicts. From the Napoleonic era forts of the channel, through to the likes of Chatham dockyard and old ordnance factories, pill boxes and ammunition dumps – you don’t have to look that hard to find something. DSC_6288

I’d previously visited the remains of ROF Marchwiel near Wrexham, but an opportunity arose to visit the former Valley Works nearby. This site is a rather different proposition in many ways. The most notable was its usage. While primarily built to produce mustard gas (a horrific weapon that thankfully neither side used in World War 2), the site was subsequently used for a number of other purposes. The most interesting of these was the vaguely named Tube Alloys project. This deliberately innocuous project name was Britain’s nascent atom bomb project. The scientists involved were later transferred to America to join the Manhattan Project and contributed to the development of the atomic bombs that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima and ended the war. I will cover some of this in a future blog post, but a well researched write up of the Valley Works involvement in this critical era of history can be found here.

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Safety Poster

Possibly due to its location (in a low valley), the site remained undetected by the Luftwaffe throughout the war. It was effectively split into two sections, the south being the production facility, and the north being the…..

The war ended, and despite many other atrocities, mustard gas was never used. However, Britain still had huge stocks of it scattered around the country at forward filling depots.

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Four windows

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One window

Following the end of the war, the manufacturing equipment was decommissioned and the nations stocks of mustard gas were either destroyed or stored in the tunnels at Valley until the late 50’s when the remaining stocks were destroyed. The site remained in government use thereafter as a food storage buffer depot facility for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), although other (conspiracy??) theories exist about its usage during the 70’s and 80’s.

In 1994, the site was closed as the network of food storage depots was closed, and in 2003 a large number of the remaining buildings were demolished due to their poor condition. The site is now a managed nature reserve, although it is the only one I’ve ever been to that is fenced off and manned by security!

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Calculations

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Always watching out………..