GKN Shadow Factory/Industrial Estate, Smethwick Dec '11

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mookster

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On a mooch around Birmingham the other day I stumbled across a large expanse of derelict semi-demolished buildings and thought they warranted a further look at some point. Getting home I did some googling and found it had a name, the old GKN Fasteners site which I noticed had been done a few times before the demolition of about half the site. I then stumbled across something interesting that put it right at the top of the 'to see' list - the huge expanse of tunnels underneath the site which were still intact.

Some arrangements for a proper visit were made with my usual exploring buddy Treadstone. I loved it down here, it's filthy and wet and oily and grimy and dark and dangerous and brilliant although a bitch to take photos of owing to the almost total darkness. I think I saw about 2/3rds of the place in total which means a revisit is definitely in order soon.

Some history (from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=36177)

In 1854 J. S. Nettlefold, a Birmingham screw manufacturer, had revolutionized his industry by introducing automated American machinery. Room was needed to house this; Nettlefold, joined by his brother-in-law Joseph Chamberlain, father of the statesman, established the Heath Street Works in Cranford Street, Smethwick. The firm (until 1874 Nettlefold & Chamberlain and then Nettlefolds Ltd.) dominated the market by the mid 1860s. Among those prominent in its development was the younger Joseph Chamberlain, who joined it in 1854 and soon afterwards took charge of the commercial side of the organization. He became a partner in 1869 and remained with the firm until 1874, when he retired to devote himself to politics. The firm had by then begun to acquire additional premises. In 1869 it bought the Imperial Mills, which stood on the north side of Cranford Street, opposite the Heath Street Works. The mills were converted for the manufacture of nuts and bolts, and a wire-drawing mill, a bar shop, and a nail-making shop were built. In 1880, the year in which it became a limited company, Nettlefolds took over one of its local rivals, the Birmingham Screw Co., which had set up its St. George's Works in Grove Lane in 1868. The newly acquired works was almost as large as the Heath Street Works and faced it from the opposite bank of the Birmingham Canal.

Although the firm continued to expand, its profits fluctuated considerably during the last twenty years of the 19th century, and in 1902 the merger for which Arthur Keen had been working took place: Nettlefolds joined Guest, Keen & Co. to form Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd. By the outbreak of the First World War the new company produced over half the screws and about a quarter of the nuts and bolts made in the country. The amalgamation made the firm the largest employer in the town. In the late 1960s the headquarters of Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd., by then an investment company, adjoined the Heath Street Works, a 50-acre complex run by G.K.N. Screws and Fasteners Ltd. and employing some 4,500 people. G.K.N. had several other subsidiaries in Smethwick. G.K.N. Distributors Ltd. had its headquarters at the London Works, while G.K.N. Group Services Ltd. was in Cranford Street, G.K.N. Reinforcements Ltd. in Alma Street, and G.K.N. Fasteners Corrosion Laboratory in Abberley Street. Smethwick Drop Forgings Ltd. of Rolfe Street, acquired by G.K.N. in 1963, was run as a subsidiary of G.K.N. Forgings Ltd.



























Now some from the old GKN works which later became an industrial estate and until recently karting was held on the flat expanse of ground. A sizeable chunk has been demolished although it doesn't look like any work has taken place recently.



Unfortunately we couldn't find a way into this other building short of using a boat or walking right through a bus garage

















And lastly, one of the only things left that proves this was once a massive screw factory...



Thanks for looking, more here http://www.flickr.com/photos/mookie427/sets/72157628375123527/
 

mookster

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Cheers, I can't wait to get back down there and finish it off:mrgreen:
 

Derelict-UK

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Blimey, they have demolished the large glassed roofed building, That must have been done for the Sandwell Hospital.

The building that you couldn't get into can be partially accessed via the roof but you can't actually get to the lower floors.

The Karting track hasn't been there for well over 6 years or so. It was last used as a building merchants.
 

Derelict-UK

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If you do go back, the truck yard on the other side of the road has some bomb shelters built next to the canal bank on the far end of the car park.
 

mookster

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Blimey, they have demolished the large glassed roofed building, That must have been done for the Sandwell Hospital.

The building that you couldn't get into can be partially accessed via the roof but you can't actually get to the lower floors.

The Karting track hasn't been there for well over 6 years or so. It was last used as a building merchants.

Thanks for that info! That explains all the new bricks lying around then. Real shame a lot of the sheds have been demolished but it's the underground stuff which is of major interest...
 

Derelict-UK

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In one of the very far tunnels there is an extracting/conditioning fan? and also some old drinks cans. These pictures are from my visit back in March 2007...










 

mookster

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Oh nice! Gives me something to hunt for in my next trip as we didn't venture right down the far ends this time, determined to give it a proper going over.
 

Engineer

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If you do go back, the truck yard on the other side of the road has some bomb shelters built next to the canal bank on the far end of the car park.


Just over the wall from the bomb shelters there's a dry aqueduct from Edgbaston Reservoir to the old Engine Arm, eventually goes UG and re-appears here.

IMG_2517.png
 

Derelict-UK

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doesn't look very dry to me!

And are you sure it's from Edgbaston Resivoir as that is about 3 miles away from this location?
 

Engineer

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skeleton key

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Great stuff there guys.
Tunnels & tunnels ,Looks very nice

Cheers SK :)
 

mookster

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Went back today with Canute:mrgreen:

I saw loads more as we gave what we could a thorough going over, but I realised the site is way bigger than I imagined and still haven't seen the lot! I really really love this place, it's everything I love rolled into one. The rain/snow while we were down there made for some interesting acoustics as well.





Neither of us was tempted by the walk of faith/death...





























More here http://www.flickr.com/photos/mookie427/sets/72157628375123527/ :)

Trip 3 is on the cards...still loads to see!
 

fluffy5518

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Oh mate !!Don't know how i missed this post. This is SERIOUSLY amazing !!! Pic 1 started me drooling and i haven't stopped yet !! It looks absolutely huge. Cracking pics too. Definately gonna put this at No 1 on the to do list !! Thanx for posting.
 

night crawler

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Oh mate !!Don't know how i missed this post. This is SERIOUSLY amazing !!! Pic 1 started me drooling and i haven't stopped yet !! It looks absolutely huge. Cracking pics too. Definately gonna put this at No 1 on the to do list !! Thanx for posting.
Now there is an chance to try the new lenser torch. :)
 
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