The early year tour of mills in monochrome, came to a shuddering halt when I was approached by a PR company to do an urbex style shoot using the new Samsung Galaxy S7.
London Road Fire Station in Manchester was the first location, a magnificent late Victorian building that was last used in the 90’s, but had closed as a fire station some time before that. It’s been empty and decaying ever since, but has recently been bought for renovation.
What was intended to be a one day shoot encompassing two sites in Manchester and London became a two day shoot of 5 sites. Having spent the morning at London Road, we hurtled down to London on the train to the next location but unfortunately redevelopment work was underway and the place was a building site, so there were no usable photographs from here.
A most rewarding exercise both photographically (seeing some places I’d never have seen otherwise, at someone else’s expense) and financially (it funded a new camera!). It was also likely a once in a lifetime opportunity – how many more offers am I likely to get, to get paid to shoot my favourite subjects…..?!?!
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.
One of the large diesel engines. The huge pipe to the right is a sewage pipe.
A sewage pump, made by Gwynnes, a long defunct London engineering company.
Can’t remember exactly what this was, but it was manufactured by Alldays and Onions of Birmingham.
I saw this as being a big rusty industrial elephant – can you see the two eyes above the ‘trunk’?
The internet doesn’t know much about the Light Production Company, alas.
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.
I loved this beautifully painted wrought ironwork, and the contrast it made with the silent, unrestored engines behind.
The late afternoon winter sun caught this huge wheel with a lovely colour of light.
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!
I think this is a variation of the MBW (Metropolitan Board of Works) monogram that is seen at various locations around the works.
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.
Sun shining through the cast iron floor and casting shadows on one of the cylinders.
One of the four 27 feet, 52 ton flywheels,
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.
So this was an interesting choice for the second location on our Samsung photoshoot. Caroline Gardens Chapel in Peckham is a small chapel that is rented out for ‘shabby chic’ weddings and other events. It’s not derelict as such, just maintained in a state of (aesthetic) decay to give the right ambience, and the pictures on the website make it look like it scrubs up, errr, nicely, if you see what I mean.
The place has an interesting history. It is part of a large complex of almshouses, originally built in the early 1820’s as the marvelously titled “Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution Asylum”. But titles can be deceiving, as it wasn’t an asylum as such, rather it was an old folks home for retired landlords, or as they were known at the time ‘decayed members of the trade’, which is quite apt given the now decayed state of their chapel.
The site was hit by a bomb during world war 2, although the institution has evacuated its members out to Denham in Buckinghamshire. The website describes the damage as “..and the chapel was almost completely gutted by an incendiary device, with the astonishing exception of its important stained-glass windows and fascinating collection of carved stone funerary monuments. After the war, the chapel was stabilised and made watertight by filling the crypt with concrete and adding a rudimentary asbestos-cement roof.”
After the war, the site at Denham was kept on, and the board of management decided to move all their residents there so the last tenant was moved out in 1959 and the asylum complex was sold to the London Borough of Southwark which to this day still uses it as social housing. The site was renamed Caroline Gardens after Caroline Secker, a former resident and widow of James Secker, who was the marine in the Battle of Trafalgar said to have caught Nelson when he fell.
The chapel hasn’t really been used since, however, the current team started using it for art projects, theatre productions and photo-shoots, and it is now also licensed for weddings.
An interesting venue with some quite tricky lighting conditions that the camera manged to cope with rather well
Final selection from London Road. Not much else to say really that I haven’t already said. A word or two about the phone – yes, I was being paid to shoot these photographs, but that aside, I was very impressed. The HDR mode was immensely useful in these high contrast conditions, and the screen was fabulous. These photographs have all had some processing in Lightroom and Nik Color Efex to lift them, but the pictures straight out of the phone were more than usable. If I was being fussy, then I’d say that when printed A3 on photo paper you can see a loss of detail, but let’s be honest – how many camera phone pictures are ever printed? The overwhelming majority never even leave the phone other than to be shared on social media.
I used a Joby Griptight mount to fasten the phone to my tripod (which I already owned) and this allowed me to experiment with longer exposures where required, but for the most part, I hand held.
Layers of history
Green door into a green room
You’d have hoped there wouldn’t be many fires in a fire station, but best to be prepared, yes?
And from a different angle.
Laundry room I think, looking out onto the modem offices of Manchester on the other side of the street.