RIP Cranleigh Brickworks - March 2016

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Brewtal

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It's a pretty horrible feeling strolling around a place you already love when you know it will be the last time you set foot in there. I have looked at a lot of pictures of this place from over the years and the change incredible. My other half first brought me here for our 2nd explore together in March 2015 and returning to find the place in the process of being demolished was a bit of a shock. The whole landscape had changed and some parts had already been torn down. A new temporary site office with a decontamination unit for workers had been set up at the main gate, sensors for the new security lighting were dotted about and were so sensitive they came on in broad daylight as soon as you were close by. Demolition equipment was spread all over the site. Pretty crazy feeling to stumble into the middle of it.

The history has already been covered but here is a short copy and paste:

"Established as a fuller's earth and refractory clay works in the early 20th century, this site was chosen in 1937 by the Steetley Chemical Company as a site for a large part of its chemical manufacturing operations. The chemical factory closed in 1989 and a brickworks was established just to the west of it in 1990. This in turn closed in c.2004 and the yard was used to store bricks from other factories in the area. The site is now largely abandoned and is heavily contaminated with hazardous chemicals."

This place is very heavily polluted. I work with some pretty nasty cleaning chemicals so I am pretty fearful of them at the best of times, but seeing similar ones left to rot in plastic containers and leaking is really upsetting. This place was once declared biologically dead at one point. In the main building some brick making equipment had been partially dismantled and something really nasty exposed. This section was fenced off with signs warning of a contaminated area and upon closer inspection the smell of industrial chemicals was all too apparent. Just a respirator would be useless against some of this stuff.

We first visited almost a year ago to the day, and we were not expecting to see what lay before us. This first visit was a while before I signed up to this forum so I didn't bother posting the pics from my phone, and after forking out for a proper camera I had no intention of ever posting any of my old pics. But for this report I will do a March 2015 and March 2016 comparison where possible. Our first visit involved a bit of cautious paranoia because we heard dogs barking, so we missed a few parts, but this time was blanketed in total silence so when arrived we went for it and made the most of what was remaining. Luckily the water treatment plant and chemical company building we missed last time were among the few still standing, that was what I really wanted to see!

2015 approach:


2016 approach:


2015 main building external:


2016 main building externals:




Some 2016 internal shots of the main building - a lot of features removed but most notably the control panels and brick most walls partially demolished:




Brick kilns largely unchanged other than natural decay and insulation having been removed years ago:


2016 phone pic of the top of the brick kilns:


2016 pics of partially decommissioned equipment. Warnings in place for a very good reason! You could almost taste the air near this part!










The human body is an amazing thing. When it tells you that you need to get the fuck away it is probably best to go with your gut (and lung) instinct. 5 mins of shallow breathing through a P3 was enough, the mask was useless here and I valued my health too much to stick around. I am glad I was alone for these shots.

Some 2015 features that are now gone:








So on to the 2016 destruction:











Now the good bits I missed last time. The former chem co and the brickworks water treatment plant.

The water treatment plant is quite a bit of kit. Next to this plant sits a small pond/reservoir with an apt warning:



Just one look at this water is enough to a send shiver down your spine, I don't know if it was blue algae growing or just toxic scum but it was disgusting to see.

The water treatment plant - this was to remove the ammonia from the effluent water by air stripping via two turbulent contact towers:

"The water containing ammonia is pumped to the top of the first stripping tower where it is contacted counter currently with ambient air blown into the base of the stripper. The water from the bottom of the first stripper is pumped to the top of the second stripping tower where it is further air stripped to reduce the ammonia to the required level.

The ammonia strippers contain ellipsoid packing which are fluidised by the air flow up through the tower, the mobile packing provides a highly efficient mass transfer surface and also reduces scaling.

Ambient air is blown by centrifugal fans into the base of each stripping tower through air distributors and then passes up through the packing stripping the ammonia from the water. The ammonia laden air is vented from the top of the stripper after passing through a mist eliminator." Source - acwa.co.uk

The chemicals used in this process are nasty and the left overs were laying about. An extra filtration unit was added at a later date, housed in a shipping container:



And now into the main plant:



















Complete waste of time now it is inactive. Some mega nasty stuff in here.

Now to the Steetley Chemical Co building that remained. This served as staff locker rooms and showers, as well as storage for lab gear and records. There was a second building next to it that I can only assume was for production, but was stripped a long time ago. I peered through the windows a year ago but couldn't get in. The door looked to be open but for some reason it wouldn't move, I was not willing to apply force. I was very happy to see it this time.

2015:




2016:

I've seen a lot of slates removed from derelict buildings recently, this one was not the first. Is this a new thing?


Hand drawn porn and a hand drawn pic of Rambo. Amazing!:


















And finally my favourite bit -





















There are some nasty chemicals in here too. I thought there were ball bearings on part of the floor in here and wondered what the hell they were from, but they droplets of were mercury. This whole site truly is a death trap.

Another great day out but I was sad to see the end of this place. I've been a bit preoccupied with work and midnight attempts at trying to cover another place being demolished a bit closer to home so had a delay in getting this report up. 7 attempts and 6 times getting caught is a bit too much. In a way I am glad, because as gutted as I was to see this place be leveled I am glad this hazardous area will soon be gone and pose no further threat to any would be explorers who are less cautious. Judging by what appeared to be going on and my delay in posting I am sure pretty much everything has gone now. Probably for the best. If they do build houses here - please don't buy one!

Thanks for looking, and please take my advice and stay well away!
 

UrbanX

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Blimey that is contaminated then :eek: ...when are the new family home going up then?! :p
Lovely comprehensive report, digital archaeologists of the future will thank you!
Thanks for sharing :)
 

Lone Wanderer

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Wow, it's pretty amazing to see how hazardous that place is, and how little effort they seem to have put into keeping people away

if you really want people to stay away, you don't put Harris fencing up :p I thought they would at least use the kind of panel fencing that you see at building sites..great report tho!
 

Brewtal

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Thanks for all the kind words everyone. Scary to think it will be leveled and housing built on top. I dread to think what has leached in to the water table and the surrounding ecosystem. Such a shame. I never want to return to this place even after it has been declared safe!
 

The Archivist

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Well now, that is sad to see, from an Urbex point of view anyway - it's off the beaten track, but I've been visiting since 2005, as have a fair few others in the know.

They've been talking about redevelopment for years, but the cost of decontamination and massive local opposition was always a sticking point. Hopefully now they'll be able to put an end to this mini environmental disaster at least. Your report is a fitting send-off
 

Dirus_Strictus

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Scary to think it will be leveled and housing built on top. I dread to think what has leached in to the water table and the surrounding ecosystem. Such a shame. I never want to return to this place even after it has been declared safe!

A nicely photographed report, but also one that made me feel somewhat uneasy, but not for the obvious reasons!

Having been involved with the manufacture, transportation (branch of my family run a chemical haulage business), use off, and investigation of accidents/incidents involving dangerous chemicals for all of my working life, this report leaves me somewhat bewildered and concerned. If the author had enough knowledge to realise that a clearly signed site was a health hazard, why enter it in the first place? This site has a major thing in its favour - it is a modern site and as such, all manufacturing procedures, chemicals used and produced are on record. There are far older manufacturing sites that probably contain far more deadly waste, judging by what could have gone on years back. In my boyhood, the local gas works was a common sight - The local one was derelict wasteland when we move here 10 years ago - levelled off with new topsoil around 6 years ago, it is now a 'bijou' estate of expensive properties. At least the subsoil will be well sterilised!

Please remember, it is what one can carry off these sites that can cause damage to family and friends, via contaminated clothing. There is a building in these parts that is heavily contaminated with asbestos (the old insulation is completely friable and lying all over the place). People exploring the mill park near my regular dog walking route and I often see them returning to their cars, chucking the 'face mask' in the back and driving off home. Meanwhile some of the fibres adhering to their clothing will contaminate the car interior, the rest will fall off in the family home. Asbestos decontamination workers wear disposable coveralls and have onsite showers for a particular reason - theirs and the general public's health. It is often said that 'one fibre' kills and yes it only takes one asbestos fibre, deep in the lungs to set in motion that 30 years march to the grave. When I started work with the old BR, my immediate boss was a chap that went on to be the acknowledged expert in asbestos identification and removal, he died a horrible death from Mesothelioma in his 60's. As a young office post lad in the Doncaster Plant Works, he had made 'snow balls' from the heaps of Blue Asbestos waiting to be applied to the loco boilers. After his death, I often wondered if he ever thought about the very possible death sentence he had inflicted on himself all those years previously, when he realised how dangerous the stuff really was.

I write this in the hope that you active explores really do take all positive steps to be safe, now and in your future years.Keep Safe.
 

Old Wilco

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I drive past there on a fairly regular basis and wondered what was going on with all the lorries coming and going. I can't believe that it would ever be used for building houses, as you say with all the chemicals it would never be safe plus that fact of the very small lane that it sits on traffic would be a nightmare. The whole area is a toxic dump, and the old landfill site less than a mile away can't help much. I remember years ago that my grandfather worked there and never had anything good to say about the place. Indecently, have you heard the old legend of the two children that drowned in the pond on the left as you enter? I think it was sometime in the 50's or 60's.
 

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