Special needs school abandoned just last year in Northern England - when Thatcher closed down the asylums in the 1980's she sought to cut costs by integrating patients into regular facilities. She was responsible for closing them down and ejecting countless thousands into the hands of 'care in the community.' Motivated by financial conerns, it nonetheless marked the end of a time when madness could be 'brushed under the carpet'. Decades later and the Tory party is now doing the same by taking away the services of many sites primarily developed for special needs children and instead grouping them into larger, more generic facilities in order to save costs. This is happening quietly and behind the scenes as opposed to the statement it made two decades ago, but the repercussions for these developing children will undoubtedly become clear over the following years as these schools close down, leaving yet more historical buildings to fall into decay and the feeling of deja vu thanks to supposed 'progress'.
It survived two World Wars, several recessions and the invention of stackable plastic chairs. But in the end cheap foreign competition proved too much and in 2010 the 170-year-old Lancashire furniture firm HJ Berry & Sons entered its final days as the administrator started to sell assets, including property and machinery in the village of Chipping.
This weekend six years ago the public had a chance to buy the last chairs produced in the Kirk Mills site before trade buyers started to bid for the heavy plant and machinery. Also sold were two detached houses, four cottages, a mill once used by industrial pioneer Richard Arkwright and 20 acres of commercial land.
The company, owned by Andrew Berry, went into administration with £4.6m of debt but the administrator is hopeful that unsecured creditors will see some of their money back after the asset sale, triggered by a creditors' meeting in Preston. The community had hoped the mill might have either been turned into a museum or a country house retreat.
The Berry family ran the company for five generations but increased competition from Chinese and other foreign chair producers meant it failed to turn a profit in the last ten years of operation. At the time of closure it was Britain's oldest surviving furniture maker. Six years on, and at the time of my visit nothing has changed past the point of which the doors were closed.
The factory still lies dormant along the old stream that once powered Kirk Mills in the victorian age, and the vibrant colours have stood the test of time within its walls. Staff items still hang in the changing rooms, with personal items left untouched since everyone was sent home. This was something of a sad place to visit, given the relevance of Britain's dying industry, places like this were once something to be proud of, yet we have turned to an economy that favors the growth of Chinese development over our own in order to save a few penny's, while the true cost of our discount habit is in clear sight.
Left behind. Film set for the apocalyptic TV drama 'Extremis' staring David O'hara where part of the old infirmary was made to look like a dilapidated hospital. Luckily they left it for us explorers to take advantage of once they finished. The hospital bed and equipment were never taken away by the film crew and the paint job never had to be fixed given the buildings derelict state. It doesn't quite capture the accuracy of what an empty hospital truly looks like, from experience the NHS never leave a dime behind..
The wreck of MV Chica which sank on the river weaver almost 23 years ago. After a little research I found she had quite the colourful history: "Built in 1894 as a cargo barge in Norway, Chica was commandeered by the German Navy during the occupation of Norway in WW2 and after the war found herself running guns in the Mediterranean and finally smuggling cigarettes and tobacco across the straights of Gibralter only to find herself as part of the fishing fleet in Liverpool bay in 1950 and in 1981 she was bought by a businessman to run cruises up and down the river weaver but during a period of inactivity in 1993 she started taking on water and with nobody onboard to operate the bilge pumps she listed and her fate was sealed"
Built in 1905 and donated to the people of Liverpool by Andrew Carnegie, the famous industrialist and philanthropist for the United States and the British Empire whom at the time was widely known as the richest man in the world, yet by the time he opened the library he had given the vast majority of his wealth away to charitable causes.
Lister library functioned proudly up until 2006 when safety concerns forced its closure. However, heritage funding has now been granted and the Grade II listed building is about to be completely renovated into a care centre with plans to reopen in 2017 on a 125-year lease to the community-based charity 'Lister Steps’. Pigeons had set the alarms off and a friendly security guard (rare!) by luck was inside and let us have a wander around.
A farmhouse that has evaded the past three decades lies dormant within the Shropshire countryside. Word had spread about this intriguing place following a report last year that showed a home left behind by an elderly couple and almost entirely untouched. This took a fair amount of digging up in terms of research and outright exploring but finding a place like this is always worth the time and effort. Some of the first televisions to arrive in the UK remain here as relics of a past time. And one of my favorite things to find in any derelict place - a lost car graveyard with vehicles from a whole host of eras stretching back over the last 50 years.
The old power station at Willington near Derby closed its doors in 1999. The Five cooling towers are the only remaining parts that have been left untouched with no clear indication of any demolition plans. The towers are 300 feet high, 218 feet in diameter at the base, 145 feet in diameter at the top and 122 feet in diameter at the throat. Put it simply..they are gigantic.
Post-war Britain saw a sea of change in the way electricity was produced. The National Grid, which had been devised in the 1920s, allowed the removal of the small generating stations located in urban areas to be replaced with large, purpose built “Power Stations” linked together to deliver electricity wherever it was required. Willington was one of the first and one of the largest of its kind. However, the stations were privatised and sold to National Power in the early 1990s and eventually closed in the mid-1990s. Although most of the stations were demolished at the turn of the millennium, the five cooling towers continue to dominate the skyline of the local area. The site is earmarked for a large residential development, pending the results of a public inquiry.
Abandoned hotel. Highway 307, Mexico. The food poisoning scandal that cursed the tourism industry of the country in 2009-10 hit the economy hard. Many unfinished projects were then irreversibly damaged by hurricane Alex and it took the industry over two years to fully recover. This archway entrance was part of a 50 million dollar project to build one of the East coast's most luxurious golf hotel resorts. It was never completed.
This weekend's explore in my home town. Garnetts Cabinet works, built by the Northern benefactor Robert Garnett in 1906. In its current state the factory has been swallowed up by the growth of the town around it since its doors closed some 40 years ago. Despite having travelled all over the country I've never attempted this place that's effectively on my doorstep, mostly because of its central location but also because it's no secret that the words 'death trap' are an understatement. The place is genuinely falling apart - weather has not been kind to her! The majority of the site is sealed so well that even the owners would have to drill through concrete to get in, but we did get to explore some of the lower sections that could support our weight which is a bonus since its demolition plans have recently been discussed in the local paper. It's Italian designed tower has stood proud above the Warrington skyline for over a century but soon this will all be gone.
This year I've truly hit the ground running with my abandoned project. Some astonishing places visited, and some of my favourite photos yet have come to fruition as a result. A whole bunch of articles & albums will be coming to the site very soon.
Preview 1. The Orphanage:
Situated in north west England, this victorian orphanage is an absolute spectacle. Primarily built as an institute for the 'sick poor', run by the sisters of the diocese it had heavy religious foundations throughout it's service and was most recently used as a hospital and a care home having had numerous new buildings extended within its grounds. My visit marked the 30th anniversary of it's subsequent closure in 1986.
Preview 2. The Infirmary
The colossal campus in west yorkshire. Spanning over ten connected buildings constructed over several eras, the infirmary had so many layers of history hidden within it's walls. Founded in 1831 the original structure included Turkish and Russian medicated baths and even had an electro-medical department. The Infirmary was also approved for the treatment of Veneral Diseases. After relocating to a new hospital, the infirmary buildings were sold to the towns leading college in the late 60's who thoroughly extended upon the existing site and by 1978 there were 8,000 Students in attendance until the college received a grant to relocate to a new £70m waterfront development in 2012. The site they left behind is littered with empty science classrooms and beauty therapy training equipment. One section of the college was even used by Yorkshire police for training and the main building with it's grand sandstone collumns was used to film psychological thriller "Extremis", starring David O’Hara. I was lucky enough to photograph the set that the crew left behind.
These are just a few of the places set to appear on the site - Watch this space!
Since the beginning of the year I have started to venture outwards from my planned trips towards embracing a more spontaneous approach to my abandoned project as another means of viewing our abandoned landscape. My archive displays my milestone explores but sometimes your research will only get you so far, as there are hidden places that people rarely talk about that you might never have noticed before. In my free time I keep my camera with me at all times regardless of my daily routine, and keep an ever-watching eye out for hidden gems of derelict places that hold long forgotten stories. From December through to January, here are just a few of the places I found on my travels:
Cheshire county constabulary, Oakmere UK. Built in 1892. Originally containing a courthouse, police station and rows of cells. Closed down in 1987, it has been derelict longer than I have been alive! Time has taken its toll and there is nothing left inside. Now surrounded by new build properties it serves only as a reminder of the more isolated community that once existed here.
The Great British Red phone box. Disconnected but with the lights still working, these can now only be found littered across rural areas of the country where they were never replaced. Edale, Peak District UK.
The denied treasure that is Boothes farm. A small family of static home dwellers, gypsies, travellers, or scumbags (choose one) moved onto the land of this abandoned farmhouse and made themselves comfortable at some point over the last few years, making this a permanently unlikely explore. Not unless you fancy getting wilfully chased by rottweilers.
An abandoned restaurant lying dormant along the road to Wincham, UK.
Gullivers World theme park, out of season. The old western quarter is due to be replaced and refurbished at some point in the near future, so it is likely to stay looking this way for quite a while now.
Last summer the council gave planning permission for 300 homes to be built on the site of the old Barnes Hospital near Cheadle, Stockport. Another historical site lost and replaced with what now defines our suburban landscape; cheap nasty housing.
A newly derelict chinese restaurant in Northwich, UK. Another business venture fallen victim to financial misfortune.
Warrington transporter bridge, built in 1915 and abandoned since 1964, it is one of only three remaining examples in the UK and was used to carry large loads from the industrial areas on one side of the river Mersey directly onto what was once the railway line on the opposite side heading to Manchester. The bridge is now protected as a 'scheduled ancient monument'.
The Lewis Carroll ward unit. Once holding the authors name dear, the building now joins the rest of Daresbury estate in utter abandonment.
Abandoned government offices. Runcorn, UK. Plans surfaced to convert these buildings into flats after they were emptied almost a decade ago but strong objection from the public followed by detections of ultra high levels of asbestos eventually led to the entire area being locked up and forgotten.
Abandoned sports recreation club, Widnes. Once a common sight among working class communities in the UK.
Abandoned playground behind a closed pub in Nantwich, Cheshire.
Old town Edinburgh. At a glance there doesn't seem to be a single indication of modern society in this photo, and when you look at the numbers it's clear to see why. The capital has a staggering 4500 listed buildings, which makes up more than 25% of the numbers for the entire country. Some of these buildings are more than 400 years old, and are empty but protected for their historical importance.
Lowton farm cottage. The history of this place remains a mystery to me, all that I do know is that it was built in 1920 and was the home of the family who previously owned this land, but it must have been abandoned a long time ago.
The forgotten greenhouses at Walton Hall, England. These Victorian structures were once some of the most grand in the country, but with the hall itself consuming funds in the late 80s the greenhouses were cordened off and locked away and haven't been entered since. What small plants were left there have by now completely taken over. In 2014 the heritage lottery fund finally accepted the ambitious bid to restore them to their original form, and they are now resting on steel supports ready to be taken down and rebuilt one peice at a time. The process will take more than three years to complete.
Fog lying over a derelict graveyard in rural England. The church here burnt down in the late 50's but the rights to burial in the UK lasts for a minimum of 100 years, meaning that nobody can touch the space until the most recent grave reaches that age. The oldest grave I could find was 1792, and the most recent was 1956, therefore it's highly unlikely that any immediate family members still visit this site, but the law is the law! Unfortunately no zombies.
Anfield Road Hotel, a relic of the old Liverpool. The municipal Stanley Park is the only space dividing the two Merseyside stadiums, where buildings like this once thrived on the new revenue the clubs brought to the area. Yet as the sport has evolved, just as with all major cities the area has sacrificed itself to allow the grounds to expand. Rows of houses now owned by Liverpool and Everton fc either lie empty or have been demolished to make room for decades worth of expansion. More than 70% of buildings within a 1 mile radius of the stadiums are now empty, and while some businesses have survived, this hotel, once a luxury home backing on to Stanley park, holds no value in comparison to its size. Only the very cheapest houses sell on the market here now, with the wealth having moved to the further districts of Merseyside where the footballers ironically live.
2015 was probably my busiest ever year in terms of my personal photography; so many places explored yet I wouldn't even say the project is even half way finished. This is going to make one sizeable book when it's done. I keep a daily diary on instagram so have put them all together to make a small preview of some of the places I've documented over the past 12 months.
n. The eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet.
Revisiting Daresbury Hall (original gallery: http://www.rikcotterill.com/albums/daresbury-hall/)
In early 2015 I visited Daresbury Hall estate for the first time. Built in 1759 the manor was and still is lying derelict within the Cheshire countryside, and my first encounter with the buildings concentrated mostly on its degraded outbuildings and the state that it was left in following its use as an apocalyptic paint-balling exercise. At the time this was the most striking thing about the estate compared to my other explores.
However, recent events have shaped the site into something quite different altogether. Following my first visit I noticed on numerous occasions a glowing light in the groundskeepers bungalow as I drove past at night. Situated next to the manor, I often wondered why an abandoned estate would still have power and furthermore why anyone would be using it. In April the headlines confirmed my suspicions and a dozen police cars were found at the gates scouring the estate for what became the largest Cannabis seizing operation the town has ever seen. Over 600 plants were being maintained as part of a drug operation worth around £1 million.
Police activity was maintained on the site well into the autumn, and once the site had been reclosed I decided to document how the events had effected the site. The area that I decided to avoid on my list visit was ironically the annexed building that the drugs were being grown in. Hundreds of reflective, high power lighting units hooked up to the power lines. The main area had been locked up by the police but evidence of the dwellers could be found in almost every room. The publicity from the events had also caused more vandalism and changes were easy to notice across the estate. The lease car and garage that feature in my previous gallery had been burnt to the ground, and the swimming pool had been scoured for scrap metal. The manor itself is still intact and it is unlikely that it was compromised as it has been locked up for many years.
The future of Daresbury Hall is still up in the air; every year that passes brings its foundations closer to collapse but it would still be a wonderful sight to see the manor restored to its former glory. Especially given the unfortunate circumstances it has unwillingly endured.
The master bedroom balcony at Winstanley Hall. In 1855 scandal hit the estate when a Mrs Shortrede was found drowned in the courtyard well. It was later discovered that Mr Shortrede had been having an affair, his wife found out and threw herself into the well. Mrs Atherton, Mr Shortrede's extra marital interest, unable to deal with the guilt subsequently hung herself from the balcony of the master bedroom. Mr Shortrede, being unable to cope with the loss of both his women, shot himself in the head whilst sat on the privy. The rest is history, so to speak.
TSS Duke of Lancaster, the railway steamer passenger ship that operated between 1956 and 1979. Now permanently beached on the river Dee near Holywell in North Wales.
The ship has become a canvas for wall art of a different kind. The 'DuDug Collective' are an international group of artists who are part of the small team that fight to keep the ship upright and against the constant efforts to have it dismantled and taken away.
The duke is guarded 24/7, but luckily you can get close enough when the tide goes out to sneak a few shots in before security come running. Once you get chatting to them, however they are more than happy to let you know a bit about the history of the place before reminding you to get on your way.
A market once stood here once a week both on the shop and adjacent to it along the water before the council shut it down due to lack of emergency service routes. Hopefully the Duke will be here for many years to come, and one day they'll let us see inside what is apparently an untouched cabin..