Two years ago this period thatched cottage met its end when a single ember from the fireplace in the living room sparked a fire that destroyed the entire roof, leaving only a shell behind. Plans have been in place to restore it to its former glory but the sheer complexity of doing so has meant that this cottage has sat dormant within this quaint, historic village ever since. (click image to view next photo)
The Lime Street Futurist Cinema. Another iconic part of our heritage gone forever. After a vicious fight last year on behalf of the gracious efforts of SAVE, the supreme court eventually ruled against the protection of this early 20th century building that has been closed since the early 80s. The appeal ran straight down to the last minute but the demolition crew had already moved in immediately after the decision was made, with the new building foundations now already taking shape. Why they couldn't retain the facade and construct a new modern cinema for the center of the city instead of more new shops is just beyond me. So the deeply divided subject of the regeneration of Liverpool continues..
In this photo, taken from my photo documentary of St Josephs Catholic Seminary, the right side represents the beauty and the pride of the buildings we photograph. The left represents the dark side of the hobby; the 'urbex' community. Only in football have I ever experienced such drama-loving elitism among people that detract so far from the actual point of the matter. For every follower I ever gain on instagram, I lose one due to the acts of people who call themselves 'pro' urbexers, who think that because I allowed an author to use my images and my words for his ongoing written report on sexual abuse at this Catholic college I photographed two years ago, I was therefore considered a 'sellout' for the fact that the author eventually granted the same material to be used in the Huffington post and the daily mail, disregarding the awareness it might have further gained for such an important issue within our dark and recent past. I will always be proud to say that I distance myself from this toxic community of people, and that my work is a deeply personal project that gives me so much pleasure and will carry on for many more years to come as I document the beauty of our abandoned heritage. My work is not 'urbex' and it never will be. For those that have always appreciated my work and for all the great artists on instagram that I share experiences with each day, I know it's not about the number of likes or the followers or keeping secret locations in groups hidden away from everyone else, it's about appreciating what we have before it's gone. It's a pity some people have forgotten that.
An abandoned brick works facility has now sat dormant on the shores of Wales for over a century since it closed following the First World War. This quickly became one of my favourite places in the world, with the crystal clear waters running over iron-stained pink rocks beneath this stunningly preserved maze of overgrown factory buildings. Back in the day a railway brought the ore to the cliff above the brick works where the rocks would be pummeled and rendered to a size that could be further processed. According to written accounts, women with iron covered gloves would break the rocks into smaller pieces, whilst engineers decided to take advantage of the slope and gravity to bring the ore down to the plant. The production stages were tiered and the further processed ore would descend from one level to the next towards sea level. Once the ore was finely resolved it was moulded and dried before being stacked inside the Bee-Hive Kilns, then shipped out onto the Irish Sea and beyond.
Then & Now 1986 - 2015. Horncliffe Mansion, sitting adjacent to a once busy b-road, this 11-bedroom venue was originally built as a private home for local mill owner and businessman Henry Hoyle Hardman in 1869. The grounds, made up of several buildings both old and new, were used more recently as a wedding venue, restaurant and nursing home until it's closure around a decade ago. Planning approval was granted for a local property developer to convert the house into a dwelling in April 2009, but is has remained derelict and he has now had it on the market for more than 8 years. The 10,000 sq ft mansion has been valued at £500,000, but the sheer extent of work needed to bring this place back to its former glory means that the Grade II listed property has been entirely forgotten and now requires a comprehensive scheme of renovation that, as of yet, nobody has decided to risk their money on.
Then & Now 1874 - 2016. Downhill House, sat dormant on the remote shores of County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. "Built where only a romantic would expect to find one and only a lunatic would build one.” Constructed at huge expense, it was once normal when commissioning a mansion to site it where it might enjoy a view, but also some shelter from the elements. Downhill is all view and no shelter. On its exposed headland, the house is battered mercilessly by wind and rain. However, it was not the weather that reduced Downhill to the ruin we see today, rather the more mundane forces of declining family finances that levelled so many great houses in Ireland and Britain. Frederick Hervey began building Downhill in the 1770s; if its location seems remote now, it must have felt like the ends of the earth in those days. The top photo was the first known image to be taken following the restoration of the house following a huge fire in the 1850s. It's last known use was as a billet for RAF servicemen during World War Two. Since the great depression and the extraction of the military from the area following the war, the weather has reduced Downhill mansion to an empty shell, as if dusted and cleaned off by the winds that still greet its walls each day.
More than 500 signal boxes across the UK are in the process of being made redundant as the modernisation of Britain's railway continues. The Victorian boxes, some of which have been part of the railway for around 150 years, will be retired as new technology is introduced. Since the announcement two years ago, 26 Signal boxes across England have earned listed status to preserve the country's rail heritage, but the vast majority will either be removed or allowed to fall into disrepair. For some they still serve as a reminder of the industrious railway network put in place by the Victorian railway pioneers. Originally, all signalling was done by mechanical means. Points and signals were operated locally from individual levers or handles, requiring the signalman to walk between the various pieces of equipment to set them in the required position for each train that passed. Before long, it was realised that control should be concentrated into one building, which came to be known as a signal box. As well as providing a dry, climate controlled space for the complex interlocking mechanics, the raised design of most signal boxes also provided the signalman with a good view of the railway under his control.
The admin building at the late Whittingham asylum. A place that will always remain close to my heart, as it was one of the first spectacles I managed to witness at a point where Britain's largest ever psychiatric hospital complex was being dismantled piece by piece, leaving behind these five dormant Victorian deco buildings. Earmarked for development, these were promised a full restoration as part of an agreement to hold onto the villages heritage, but were instead scandalously demolished to pave way for new housing. I'll never forget the relentless cries of the ravens out in the courtyard that echoed across this once monumental place. It just goes to show how delicate and vulnerable our history can be when allowed to fall into the wrong hands, and why exploring them is so much more than just a ticking a box on a list.
Inside the basin of El Golfo, a half-submerged volcano eroded over centuries by the forces of the ocean. Rain and sea water has collected slowly and become trapped and divided by a mere 200 yards from the ocean. The intense green colour of the Lago Verde lagoon is due to the concentration of Ruppia-Maritima algae present in the water that can be found nowhere else on earth. It was once considered impossible for life to exist in these conditions, yet they manage to thrive here where the water is denser than the dead sea. Scientists now predict that the first discovered forms of extra terrestrial life will likely form a resemblance to these unique organisms.
A tiny rural chapel hidden and forgotten in the Welsh countryside. At most this room would have accommodated 20 worshippers including a local priest and an organist. During the 18th century Wales was still an overwhelmingly rural country with a population of little more than 500,000. Before the industrial revolution the vast majority of people here lived and worked off the land in small, disconnected communities. Without the funds or the manpower that more populated areas recieved from their Christian parishes, they had to come together to build their own chapels in order to congregate together for worship. Unlike the 'tin chapels' in one of my previous projects that started appearing around a century later, these were built by hand using mostly granite and slate that has always been in abundance across their country. As religious culture has changed throughout the centuries, only 12% of people in Wales now routinely attend their local churches, and these buildings that once relied on their communities for maintenance have become overgrown and forgotten. The fact that many are still standing however is a testament to the way they were built, in some instances more than two centuries ago.
The straining tower at Lake Vyrnwy is an imposing castle-like structure standing 48 metres above sea level with a further 15 metres delving into the water. The lake itself sits in the heart of Wales and supplies Liverpool and its surrounding towns with water, after travelling along a 110km aqueduct which starts at the Straining Tower where any detritus is removed via a mesh filter. Built in 1881 in Gothic-revival architectural style as part of the heroic Vrynwy Dam project, the first of its kind in the world. This was the first of several long-distance water supply schemes in Britain which were vital to urban development in the late-Victorian period. Water was first supplied to Liverpool in 1892, where it eventually finds its way to Norton Water Tower, built in parallel at the same time as its sister tower 70 miles away to act as a balancing reservoir in the process of supplying water to the town of Runcorn and through to Liverpool through a tunnel under the River Mersey.
The system that feeds Norton Water Tower still works exactly as it did 125 years ago, and serves the same purpose despite such an increase in population, making it the largest UK tromboned pressure relief device currently in operation. Both towers were designed by George F. Deacon, the Chief Engineer of the Liverpool Corporation Waterworks Department, are now operated and protected by United Utilities. Standing above the surrounding landscape, Norton Tower has become iconic in the local area, and in 1983 it became recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building. The Straining tower, along with the dam it feeds from, earned its Grade I status exactly 10 years later for its national importance as an outstanding achievement of Victorian water engineering, its exceptional completeness in structure and equipment, and its picturesque qualities.
A grade II listed belvedere sitting to the east of Lyme Hall manor in Northern England. Dated from around the 14th century, the top storey and spire date from about 1580 and originally formed a bellcote on the north gatehouse. It is said that if Lord Legh, the head of the family who once lived through generations at the estate could not see the Lantern from his breakfast table in Lyme Hall then the weather was not suitable for hunting. The building was used for centuries as a vantage point sat high up on the ridge looking over the land. The structure was altered by several families who inherited the estate throughout the years, and although now disused, it has stood the test of time spectacularly and the clear gap in the woods leading to the manor remains.
The entrance to the abandoned town high up in the desolate mountains of the North Aegean Islands. We drove gradually upwards for what seemed like hours in the blistering heat without spotting a single other car. Eventually we were welcomed by the silence, the dust and the wild sheep who had replaced people. This town was built as a refuge for natives to hide from pirates and raiders arriving from the surrounding oceans. In other words, it was never meant to be found.