Sifting through the structures that time forgot brings us closer to the past and fuels our imagination. In some parts of Britain, you could be forgiven for thinking that the zombie apocalypse had already arrived…
1. Furhouse Manor, Berkshire
Furhouse Manor is cursed with a bleak and macabre history. When the owner died, his descendants quarreled over whether to sell the house. The squabble tore the family apart, causing one of them to commit suicide.
2. Hartford Cotton Mill, Oldham
At its peak in the 1920s, this mill was powered by a steam engine that could drive 120,000 spindles. Having fallen into disrepair in the early ‘90s, the mill now resembles a level from Fallout.
3. Maunsell Forts, Thames Estuary
These stilted sea forts were designed to defend Britain against WWII invaders. Situated 10 miles offshore, the forts are now abandoned save for one which has become the Principality of Sealand. An independent sovereign state since 1967, it boasts its own constitution and hereditary royal rulers. You don’t have to be crazy to live there but it probably helps.
4. Ace High Dishes, RAF Stenigot
During the Cold War, all manner of space-age structures were commissioned by the military including this NATO communications system. Situated in the Lincolnshire countryside, these abandoned satellite dishes relay nothing more than a faint echo of 1950s paranoia.
5. Millennium Mills, Docklands
Before it became a gleaming business hub, London’s Docklands was one of the world’s busiest industrial ports. The grain chutes in this flour mill may now be tarnished, but don’t let the decay fool you: this is still a prime piece of real estate, complete with mesmeric views of the city skyline, London Airport and the Thames Barrier.
6. St Athan Boys’ Village, Vale of Glamorgan
This 1920s youth camp was designed to offer boys a break from Wales’ smoggy industrial towns. Today, its only visitors breathe through face masks while wielding cans of spray paint.
7. Cwm Coke Works, Beddau
In the 1970s, half a million tons of high grade coke were produced here every year. That’s coal derivative coke, just to clarify.
8. Gartloch Hospital, Glasgow
In the late 19th century, Glasgow’s mentally ill were housed in this grand hospital. A century later, the building was used to film BBC series Takin’ Over The Asylum starring Ken Stott and David Tennant. During its heyday, local residents were accustomed to hearing Gartloch’s siren go off every morning. This was just a drill, but in the event of a patient escaping, it would have sounded for real.
9. Hartwood Hospital, North Lanarkshire
Like many 19th-century psychiatric hospitals, Hartwood was entirely self-sufficient with its own farm, gardens, laundry, reservoir, morgue and graveyard. With its clock towers now partially collapsed and furnishings strewn across its decrepit halls, Hartwood is a scene from The Walking Dead.
10. Point of Ayr Lighthouse, Flintshire
The first lighthouse to be built here in 1776 was washed into the sea. The second attempt, constructed in 1819, has fared better, despite the ocean’s best efforts. Head here at low tide to catch the abandoned lighthouse in all its salt-splashed glory.
11. Broadford Works, Aberdeen
During the early 20th century, 3,000 Aberdonians were employed at Scotland’s largest iron-frame mill. Plans are afoot to convert this huge structure into an urban village, but for now it serves as an adventure playground for intrepid explorers. In the words of one photographer, “It reminds me of Robocop where the bad guys hang out.”
12. Penallta Colliery, South Wales
In 1939, Penallta held the record for the most coal produced in a week; by 1986 a fire had forced the coal face to close. The South Wales colliery now serves as a reminder of the mining industry that formed the backbone of Britain.
13. Denbigh Asylum, North Wales
Built in the mid-19th century, this Welsh hospital could house up to 200 psychiatric patients. In 2008, Living TV’s Most Haunted filmed a series here called The Village of the Damned, enraging local residents in the process.
14. Colin’s Barn, Wiltshire
Also known as The Hobbit House, this bizarre but beautiful barn was created by Colin Stokes during the ‘90s. The maverick farmer built the elaborate structure for his sheep, because as everyone knows, the secret to a happy flock is stained glass, turrets and dovecotes.
15. Cambridge Military Hospital
The first hospital in the British Empire to attempt plastic surgery, CMH housed badly disfigured servicemen during WWI. Looking at the abandoned ward, it’s hard not to imagine the anguished cries of the men who once lay here.
16. Gascoigne Wood Mine, North Yorkshire
At its peak, Europe’s largest coal processing plant would have been a cacophony of noise, with 50 trains a day clanking their way towards Britain’s fossil fuel power stations. Visit the Yorkshire mine today and you could hear a pin drop.
17. Talgarth Mental Hospital, Wales
Talgarth Mental Hospital, also known as Mid Wales Lunatic Asylum, was built at the turn of the 20th century and held up to 450 patients. Now the sole preserve of photographers, the hospital is a testament to the charming names we once assigned to psychiatric centres.
18. Shoreham Cement Works
Described as a ‘concrete cathedral’, this limestone quarry is an industrial brute that is inexorably succumbing to nature. Its chimney now serves as a local landmark, despite having long since exhaled its last belch of smoke.
19. Fisons Fertiliser Factory, Stanford-le-Hope
In the 19th century, James Fison & Sons produced animal feeds and bonemeal fertiliser here. During WWI, the factory was used to create munitions, before switching to ammonium nitrate in the 1960s. This cocktail of chemicals may account for the site’s complete absence of life.
20. Abbey Mills Pumping Station, London
Designed by the famed engineer Joseph Bazalgette, this Byzantine building is known as The Cathedral of Sewage. While technically not an abandoned building, its quirks have made it a popular haunt for urban explorers. In addition to housing London’s excrement, the pumping station served as Arkham Asylum Laboratory for a pivotal scene in Batman Begins.
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