Looking At London’s Dead Spaces Through The Eyes Of The Urban Explorers

If you don’t know what urban exploration is, the Wikipedia article on the subject is actually quite informative:

Urban exploration (often shortened as urbex or UE) is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment. Photography and historical interest/documentation are heavily featured in the hobby and, although it may sometimes involve trespass onto private property, this is not always the case and is of innocent intention.

Some people regard urban explorers as hooligans (despite the fact that trespass in and of itself is not a criminal act), but in my view they should be applauded for documenting things that might otherwise pass unnoticed into history – they are the archaeologists of the recent past. You might be surprised to learn that they find plenty of places to record in London – despite the continuing building boom, the capital still has more than it’s fair share of closed cinemas, nightclubs, hospitals, factories and so on that are ripe for exploration.

The most active forum where urban explorers gather is the 28DaysLater website, and I’ve pulled together some interesting London-based discoveries that have been made on the site recently for your viewing pleasure – in each case I’ve linked to the original post if you want to explore further:

Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium was a popular entertainment venue in East London for many years and controversy still surrounds the plans for its future – several housing schemes have been proposed for the site but nothing has happened to date. I have a particular soft spot for the dog track here as I spent many an enjoyable evening watching greyhounds hurtle around the course in its heyday. Here are some shots from urban explorer Spongebob, who paid a visit to the derelict site back in March 2012 while avoiding the attentions of an alert guard dog and irate security guard along the way – you’ll find other photographs from previous visits on his very informative blog here:

I think you’ll agree that it looks surprisingly well-preserved given that it was closed back in August 2008.

User Serenity reports on the Millenium Mills, the defunct warehousing facility built in 1905 that looms over the Royal Victoria Docks, London City Airport and the more recently abandoned London Pleasure Gardens that sit just behind it, which I mentioned on the Londoneer back in the late summer. He’s taken some very impressive shots that are clearly from the upper reaches of the building – did I also mention that urban explorers often have to be very brave or at least foolhardy to undertake some of their activities?

Another one from Spongebob, a very keen London explorer, is the Ilford Swimming Baths, which closed in October 2008 and which he visited in May of last year. After vociferous protests from the local community proposals were tabled for a replacement facility nearby, but to date funds have not materialised. It now turns out that the local authority, the London Borough of Redbridge, will soon be demolishing the pool to make way for a new school, with no word on a new leisure facility for the area… Finally, Matt Fellsilnet takes a peek around the remains of the Bishopsgate Goods Yard Station, which due to a series of legal wrangles has remained untouched for decades despite being surrounded by buzzing Shoreditch. It’s amazing that the people who walk past in their thousands every day have no idea what lurks behind the metal grills and shutters…

I suggest checking out the 28 Days Later website for more, but don’t blame me if you find yourself delving down into the site for hours – there’s some fascinating material here.

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About The Londoneer

Pete Stean is a keen blogger, amateur photographer, singer and ham radio enthusiast in his spare time...