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Urban Exploration

To see all of my Urbex projects in full detail, please visit them over at this page on Flickr.com. Urban exploration is the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of urban areas or industrial facilities. Many of these abandoned sites are destined to be torn down - in such cases, a photographic record can serve as a building’s last witness. The activity gives you a sense of the brief and transient nature of each generation's time on this earth and the fading marks of forgotten heritage which they leave behind. When treading through the world of dereliction and urban decay, you feel like a mere 'blip' in the lifespan of these old structures. England is an ideal place for urbex, with a rich wealth of architectural heritage from every era to be found across its many and varied counties. The sets in this collection were taken in various parts of Yorkshire, an ancient county which has more than its fair share of history to explore.
June 16, 2014in Urban Exploration

Teufelsberg: Derelict NSA Spy Base

This abandoned NSA field station sits atop an artificial hill in the Grunewald forest on the west edge of Berlin. Rising 260ft over the surrounding landscape, the mount monitored radio and telephone networks in the East. Behind fences, gates and security systems, various secluded buildings were constructed, as well as five powerful antenna domes. More than 1,000 people are said to have worked here around the clock, every day of the year. They were part of the global ECHELON surveillance network.

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June 15, 2014in Urban Exploration

Saint-Antoine: Convent

This decaying chapel once formed part of a convent that was built in the late 1800s. It hosted an order of Franciscan nuns who ran a Catholic boarding school for girls called Pensionatt Saint-Antoine. Situated near Henri-Chapelle and known locally as ‘Gensterbloom’, it was built in a sturdy yet humble style and lovingly clad with stained-glass windows manufactured by a Belgian craftsman.

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June 15, 2014in Urban Exploration

Charleroi Train Graveyard

This location, in a Charleroi goods yard, used to be a depot where engineering work took place on the SNCB fleet of locomotives. In more recent years it became a train graveyard, purely used for temporary storage of engines that were on their way to the breakers yard. It must have been a very utilitarian but impressively large-scale operation during its active heyday some decades ago.

The HLR Class 73 is a type of diesel locomotive operated by SNCB (the Belgian National Railway Company). Once upon a time, it formed the backbone of the country’s fleet of “shunters” – small, high-powered locomotives with a top speed of 60km per hour that were used for assembling trains at marshalling yards before going to the station. They are a bit like the rail equivalent of a tugboat.

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June 15, 2014in Urban Exploration

Hasard Cheratte: Neo-Gothic Coal Mine

Hasard Cheratte colliery is a former coal mine in Belgium that once played host to many thousands of Dutch miners at the height of its productivity. Today, mining has ground to a halt and the town’s periphery is dotted with the abandoned remnants of its prosperous past. Operations began here in 1850, when an exploratory mine shaft was sunk at a depth of some 250 metres. On June 18th, 1851, they struck the “mother lode” by discovering the Hasard seam – a thick layer of coal that guaranteed the company’s future for many years to come. Operations grew over the next 20 years, with the company gradually acquiring a total surface area of 351 hectares dedicated to extracting the precious resources that suffused the subterranean world below them.

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June 15, 2014in Urban Exploration

Chateau de Noisy

The tragically abandoned castle of Chateau de Noisy (known locally as ‘Chateau Miranda’) is located in Celles, southern Belgium. This neo-gothic masterpiece is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the fortune to photograph, despite its advanced state of neglect.

Construction took place between 1866 and 1907 when it was built as residence for the aristocratic Liedekerke-Beaufort family. Today it is on the verge of collapse: derelict for decades, ravaged by arson and pummelled by the onslaught of weather. Its imposing exterior walls look deceptively strong, but the old structure is deteriorating with increasing rapidity as its internal timbers splinter with dry rot.

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June 15, 2014in Urban Exploration

Zone Braams: NATO Satellite Uplink

Built in the affluent suburbs of a large Belgian city, this incredible relic of the Cold War was a NATO satellite ground station. Known among certain circles by its informal codename of “Zone Braams”, it became something of a legend in the Urban Exploration community before its demolition in June 2014. I was fortunate enough to get inside the base weeks before the official wrecking crews moved in.

Commissioned in 1969 (the same year that the first SATCOM satellite was launched), this base was an important control terminal in NATO’s international network. It facilitated a plethora of military radio transmissions for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. There were 24 of these satellite communication facilities located in NATO countries across the world, in addition to many mobile units. This particular site was finally decommissioned in 2012 after more than 40 years in operation. Its centrepiece was the satellite uplink dish, a giant structure (housed in a radar dome) whose bowl was 40 feet in diameter. At its peak, “Braams” was continually manned by a staff of 30 soldiers - most of them working as radio technicians.

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May 23, 2014in Urban Exploration

Montzen Gare: Freight Station

Montzen Gare is an old freight railway station in the district of Plombières on Belgium’s eastern border with Germany. A station and shunting tracks were first built here for the German army by Russian prisoners of war in 1915. It saw its heyday in the 1930s, when transportation of goods from the east to Belgian seaports made it an important hub in the railway network.

It was originally a very aesthetic piece of infrastructure (conveying passengers on the Aachen line from 1919) and even won an architecture prize in 1938 for being the most beautiful station in the country. The Second World War, however, took its toll on Montzen and the concrete structure you see today is merely what was constructed after the original was annihilated in a bombing raid.

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April 27, 2014in Urban Exploration

M.O.D. Pyestock

From the 1950s through to the 1970s, this facility was possibly the largest operation of its type in the world. The design, experimentation and testing that was conducted here helped to usher in the jet age. From running up Concorde's Olympus jet engines in a simulated supersonic conditions through to the endurance checking of every gas turbine installed in the ships of the Royal Navy, Pyestock's credentials were extremely impressive. The facility now lies rusting and abandoned; a decaying testament to the former might of British industry in the analogue age.

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April 27, 2014in Urban Exploration

Cannon Brewery, Sheffield

Stones Brewery was a regional enterprise, founded by entrepreneur William Stones and his partner Joseph Watts. In 1868 he purchased the lease of the Neepsend Brewery in Sheffield, renaming it as the Cannon Brewery and continuing to operate there until his death in 1894. Stones' success saw him die as one of the richest men in Sheffield.

The enterprise changed in ownership and these buildings were purchased by Bass Brewery in 1968. The site was eventually closed in 1999 and has been largely stripped of its former industrial innards, although the hallmarks of production still remain.

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December 5, 2011in Urban Exploration

High Royds Lunatic Asylum

High Royds is a former psychiatric hospital situated on the outskirts of Menston. It was first opened in 1888 as the "West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum" and continued operating to some extent right up until 2003. The stern Gothic architecture of the old buildings and the decaying state of its labyrinthine corridors makes it an incredibly atmospheric spot and a much sought-after location for urban explorers.

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December 5, 2011in Urban Exploration

Dalton Mills, Keighley

Built by the rich industrialist Joseph Craven in 1869, this vast old mill was once a towering centre of industry which proudly presided over Keighley. It is situated on the north side of the River Worth, a water source which once powered all kinds of activity throughout the valley. At this time, the town was one of the busiest and wealthiest in Yorkshire. All of the new buildings were ornate and worthy of a town of such wealth and prestige as a result of its industrial might, and reflect the strong sense of civic pride that had developed in the area. Today much of Dalton Mills lies in a decrepit but breathtaking state and still retains a sense of sad majesty as the structure gradually continues a journey into decline.

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December 5, 2011in Urban Exploration

Thorpe Marsh Power Station

The crumbling skeleton of this coal-fired giant sits broodingly in low lying fields to the north of Doncaster. The story of Thorpe Marsh Power Station began with its construction in 1959, amid much fanfare heralding its advanced generators and state-of-the-art component technologies. After decades of faithful service to the National Grid, the station was finally terminated in 1994 and is rapidly succumbing to the ravages of foliage and the British weather. It's one of the more intruiging abandoned places that I've visited. View project
December 5, 2011in Urban Exploration

The Hutments, York

The Vale of York is a broad expanse of low-lying terrain in a position of strategic significance to the north of England. During World War II, many of its conveniently flat rural fields were converted to landing strips and air bases to host an influx of military armament as the European conflict escalated. Pilots and air crews from allied forces around the world often became temporary residents of Yorkshire as part of ongoing troop movements around the region, and new accommodation was needed to house them. The Hutments, as they are known locally, are a living memory of this time. View project
December 5, 2011in Urban Exploration

ROC Nuclear Bunker

This is a set of shots depicting a cold war era bunker of the Royal Observer Corps. It was part of a network some 1500 bunkers strong, the purpose of which was to observe and record data from across the country so that central command could track and triangulate the results of nuclear bombs dropping on the United Kingdom. View project
December 5, 2011in Urban Exploration

Imperial Works, Menston

G.L Murphy’s Machinery Ltd. was an industrial parts manufacturer established in 1930. They were based in this mill, named Imperial Works, on the rural outskirts of Menston in West Yorkshire. The company made tools, belt driven machinery, transmissions and electrical equipment, specialising in items for tanners and leather manufacturers in addition to glue and gelatine plants. They produced batch runs of specialist components and carried out renovation work on various machine parts. View project
December 4, 2011in Urban Exploration

Eastmoor Young Offenders Institute

This place is an abandoned Victorian youth correctional facility in Adel which opened in 1857. Such institutions were once more commonly called 'borstals'; facilities where young offenders and children who were failing to integrate with society were sent to a secure environment to be taught practical skills so they could find a vocation or gainful employment. There is quite an eerie feel about the decaying structures which populate the site; slowly crumbling away and being reclaimed by the undergrowth. View project

December 3, 2011in Urban Exploration

Lobb Ghyll Viaduct

Lobb Ghyll Viaduct is a derelict five arch construction hidden away in a bluebell wood by the River Wharfe to the south of Bolton Bridge in Yorkshire. Like most of the old railway structures in the area, it is hewn from a local type of rock called millstone grit. It was built by the Midland Railway in 1888 to connect Ilkley and Skipton.

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December 3, 2011in Urban Exploration

Tower Works, Leeds

The fine example of Victorian architecture in central Leeds is known as Tower Works and was built in 1864-66 by Thomas Shaw. The factory produced pins for wool, flax, cotton and silk combing and for carding cloth. The firm's founder was succeeded by his son, Colonel TR Harding, one of the foremost Leeds philanthropists of his day, and the business continued until 1978.

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December 3, 2011in Urban Exploration

Bramhope Tunnel

A collection of images around the North Portal of Bramhope Tunnel, a huge project which began in the 1840s to construct a rail link between Leeds and Thirsk. More than two miles long, the tunnel was a remarkable accomplishment for its day. Its north portal is remarkable for the ornate castellated stonework, hewn from local Millstone Grit rock.

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December 3, 2011in Urban Exploration

Prospect Tunnel

This abandoned railway tunnel runs beneath Follifoot Ridge in North Yorkshire. It was opened as an extension to an existing line in 1858 by the Leeds & Thirsk Railway company in order to provide a direct link between Harrogate and Leeds. For an external look at one of this construction's contemporaries, see the Bramhope Tunnel set.

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December 2, 2011in Urban Exploration

Yeadon Anti-Aircraft Defences

The remains of the Royal Artillery's 644th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery Regiment are in a farmer's field near East Carlton atop Otley Chevin, in Wharfedale. The images show various views of a control bunker and four concrete emplacements (arranged in a semicircle around a central control bunker) which held the 3.7" Bofors guns charged with the defence of the AVRO aircraft factory near Leeds Bradford Airport (formerly Yeadon Aerodrome). The stubs of the metal bolts which held the heavy gun in place are still visible in the concrete, now marked by little tufts of grass. View project

December 2, 2011in Urban Exploration

Middleton Tuberculosis Hospital

These shots depict the site of the former Middleton Hospital, a tuberculosis sanatorium which was hidden away in a forest high above the Yorkshire town of Ilkley. It opened in 1920 and served several functions throughout its history, being used for military purposes during the Great War and ending its life as a geriatric hospital.

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