Then & Now 1889-2018. Baron Hill - one of the most magical places I have ever visited. Acres of untouched nature now hides the clues to the hidden past of this 17th century manor that has been left behind for almost a hundred years. What once stood here was a pristine ornate garden; the shining glory of Anglesey Island.
Today marks the anniversary of the notorious RAF dambusters raid on Germany in 1943, and the death of one of our local hero's (and close friend of my Grandfather's) John Wilkinson, the wireless operator in Vernon Byers’s aircraft the AJ-K Avro Lancaster. This was the third aircraft to take off on the night of 16 May, and the first to be lost. Off course, it crossed the Dutch coast at Texel Island, a well known flak position, and was shot down before reaching its target. The aircraft pictured that I photographed in 2009 are now some of the only examples left in the world that resemble those used by these men during the liberation of Europe, and what became known as the pioneering feat of Operation Chastise, a courageous effort by many that stunted the industrial growth of Nazi Germany and paved the way for eventual victory. I vividly remember his photo sitting ontop of my grandparents TV throughout my childhood, and in his home town just down the road from me they recently held a commemorative afternoon in honor of his memory.
1905 - 2018. Storthes Hall asylum, Kirkburton. Originally an 18th century Manor, the Hall was acquired by the West Riding society in 1904 as Yorkshires 'last asylum' due to overcrowding across the region in other institutes. The land surrounding the building was vastly extended, housing up to 3000 patients in its prime, and served for more than 8 decades until it closed in 1991 along with all other asylums in the country. The 20+ surrounding buildings were demolished due to asbestos contamination leaving the listed manor on its own again for almost 30 years, and after endless planning requests it is now under preparation for development as part of one of Europe's largest retirement villages. If all goes to plan, this building will find new life once again
Ashurst Beacon, perhaps the most famous landmark of Skelmersdale at the top of Ashurst Hill, stands at 173m above sea level. One of a chain of Lancashire beacons which stretched from Liverpool to Lancaster Castle, it was built in the 16th Century by Sir William Ashurst as an early warning system against invaders during the glorious revolution. Today its chamber is locked shut but the monument still commands a magnificent view point over many counties and on a clear day visitors can see the mountains of Snowdonia, the Cheshire Plain, Blackpool Tower, the Lake District Mountains and the panorama of Liverpool and the River Mersey.
1903-2017. Bidston Observatory, built in 1866 when Liverpool observatory was forced to relocate due to the industrial expansion of the city. It became of huge important during the second World War when it predicted the tidal patterns for D-day, and the telescopes housed in the observatory were previously used to watch planetary bodies in order to calculate the exact time needed for nautical navigation, and was transferred to ships in the docks by the firing of the one o’clock gun. After almost 14 decades of pioneering astronomy the observatory was left unused and served as a derelict monument ontop of the hill for more than ten years. Luckily the building was saved and is currently under ownership with aims of becoming a fully functional dwelling.
1997-2016 : The Knightmare roller-coaster, Camelot Theme Park UK. One of the only rides not to be salvaged following the parks closure in 2012.
This anti-aircraft emplacement was built near the coast of North Wales during WW2 to target the luftwaffe after they flew over Liverpool during the blitz. In the years that followed the war, the concrete foundations became littered, somewhat ironically, with the iconic vehicle of Nazi Germany itself. VW beetles were restored and maintained on this site as part of a workshop until around a dozen were left to the elements when it closed some time ago.
The swallow tattoo. A symbol that originates from sailors in the Royal Navy and maritime industry who reflected their hope and promise of coming home safely. Over time, it became a tradition for men to show off their sailing experience, and duties performed for their country. My grandad had these on both hands from a young age, and so when I bumped into this well inked gent in a pub in Lancashire I felt the instant need to ask his story. He added that "legend also states that if a serviceman does not survive his travels, the birds alight upon his soul and carry him from the murky waters into heaven." Granted he had downed quite a few ales by this point, but the symbol still remains.
The entrance to a derelict manor in rural Cheshire that hasn't been used for over a decade since the owner passed away and left the estate to his daughter, who has yet to come up with any plans for what was once her childhood home.
1885-2017. Malsis Hall, built in 1866 as a family Manor, was converted into a prep school in 1920 where it served for almost a century. In 2014 its doors closed and the estate has now changed hands with Seddon construction due to ruin yet another proud peice of our heritage with over 100 lego houses by 2020. Plans have been announced that involve preserving the main hall as a residential care home, but seeing as the profit margin for such a plan is so small, we have to prepare for the worst yet again. Fingers and toes crossed whilst this one plays out .
1816-2017. The Wellington Rooms. Once the centre of the Liverpool social scene during the nineteenth century, it was built to host the Wellington club, a high society for assemblies, dance balls and parties for the city's upper-middle class. As the culture in the city changed, eventually the building fell into disrepair and it closed permanently in 1997. More recently known as 'The Irish centre' following its use as a hub for Irish social events in the 60s and 70s onwards, it has become a sentimental figure in the 'stop the rot' campaign, a movement that aims to save buildings such as this around the city from falling into complete disrepair before it's too late. For more info visit: https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/all-about/stop-the-rot
1818-2018. (How a ruinous building looks after exactly 200 years of weather). Rocksavage Mansion, built in 1568, was one of the great Elizabethan 'prodigy' houses in England, and one of the biggest in the entire county. As it passed through generations of the Savage family, by the early 1700s it was abandoned and within decades became a crumbling ruin. The legacy of its name now remains merely in the naming of rocksavage power station, just half a mile along the river weaver. The entire plot is now used by grazing horses and no longer remains registered as an estate.
One of those moments where you find yourself completely within your element.
Taken earlier today in the control room of what was once the Bromborough Central Power Station. Built in 1918 by Lever Brothers on the banks of the Mersey to provide electricity to the nearby Port Sunlight village and the new Bromborough Docks. It is the only part of the station that now remains after the surrounding buildings were demolished in 1998. Since then, it's taken on a much more colourful appearance..
Then & Now 1860-2017. Lord Tabley poses outside his family Manor with his two sisters, on the exact spot where the previous 13th century house once stood. Most extensive alterations were made in the mid 1500s to the house which resulted in its most recent and recognisable design. Surrounded by a moat, a chapel and acres of land, the estate was a proud and modern landmark of the expanding victorian Cheshire landscape. As the wealth of the estate grew and was passed down through generations, the Leicester family enjoyed the most luxurious lifestyle here during the 17th and 18th century, and naturally wished to expand modernise their family home much in the same way as was done before, but were forbidden by law. The instructions stated in the will of Sir Frances Leicester obliged his heirs to maintain the hall in good order; otherwise they would forfeit the inheritance. Unable to demolish and rebuild the manor, in 1767 following his death, the Leicester family decided to build a new larger manor just 700 meters away that most people are familiar with today. Members of the passing families did their best to maintain the old hall for the years that followed. What was not forseen however was the expansion of industry in the area that was changing the land around the building, which was without modern foundations, and by the early 1900s the hall suffered severe subsidence due to the extraction of brine from the Cheshire salt deposits nearby. As it started to crumble, eventually the hall faded from memory and all family heirlooms transfered to the 'new' Manor across the fields. Boggy land from the original moat, overgrown trees and brilliantly crafted, crumbling brickwork is now all that remains on the site of Tabley old hall that has all but disappeared from modern memory. The building was bequeathed to the national trust after the first World War, but unfortunately they refused. A century later and we now see a sobering example of what most of our listed heritage buildings in Britain would look like were they to have been refused the care of the national trust or for it to not exist at all.
2015-2017. Cherry lane Barn, the oldest building in Lymm, Warrington was sadly pulled down last month after years of sitting dormant and becoming home to a family of barn owls who were the only thing keeping the building from destruction by law. Pottery and artefacts were often found here dating back to when the village was first founded. I loved how this quaint old building changed through the seasons, with the bright pink wall rose blooming once a year. I'll be sad to see this blank space now on my travels..
Off the beaten track in the Cheshire woodlands lies the remnants of a defunct railway line that once linked to an Ammonia soda works that produced chemicals for munition used by the army during the First World War. Stockpiles were kept nearby and transported above these connecting trunk-lines onto the mid-cheshire railway where they would be distributed across the country, installed into armaments and sent to the frontlines in Europe. After the war was over, the site was declared obsolete and these concrete structures are all that remain, unbeknown to most people who pass by this dense woodland.
Much of the surrounding land however has still not recovered from the ammonia excavation, with several salt planes left behind sustaining little to no plant life, and a man-made brine lake still chokes the land beneath it. At a glance this area might seem like an unkept rural nature reserve, but after an afternoon getting up close to the landscape here, it seemed clear that this land still has a long way to go before recovering, even after more than a century has passed since the damage was done.
This munitions storage depot still lies hidden and forgotten in the middle of the surrounding dense woodland. Once connected by the industrial rail line that has since been dismantled, it has sat forgotten for over half a century whilst nature slowly creeps in. This unique structure was purposefully built to contain an explosion in the event of an accident inside, whilst making it almost impossible to break into.
Catch my image of Daresbury Laboratory Tower (formerly the Nuclear Structure Facility) among the stars in the new 2017/18 Talking Science Brochure & Promotional material now making its way to the public! For more info on the talks & to download the brochure click here
Mow Cop Castle, built on the ridge upon which the boundary between the counties of Cheshire and Staffordshire are formed. It is widely believed that the castle was built as a summerhouse in 1754 for Randle Wilbraham I of Rode Hall, and designed to deliberately impersonate part of a castle of a bygone era, therby enhancing the view of the newly constructed Rode Hall some 3 miles away on the Cheshire side of the hill. One of the strangest facts about the building is that it isn't actually a ruin atall; at least not in a traditional sense, as the wall was in fact always broken so as to have 'effect' of a ruin when looked at from the valley by people visiting the estate. To boast having a ruin of a castle on your land was considered to give an impression of a rich and long-lasting family heritage. Due to its placement on the border of two counties, Mow Cop has on several occasions been the focus of many quarrels, court cases and legal battles regarding its ownership and use of the land as well as the building itself. The public were forced to react in the 1920's when the land was sold to a Mr.Joe Lavatt, and the surrounding land was quarried to the point where the fate of the building was thought to be in danger. A bitter legal wrangle lasted for over a decade, eventually the building was saved and the public acquired the land, immediately handing it over to the National Trust who have protected it ever since.