This video contains flash photography
You’ve only known these doors to be shut tight with only a small gap at the edge allowing a peek in to the darkness. Surprised to see the large double wooden doors open wide, you take the opportunity to satisfy a curiosity.
Just inside the doors, you are in a loading bay. The potential for exploration lies in darkness on either side of the 18th Century warehouse , but that will have to wait as the scale of the joining warehouse range fills your eyes and pulls you through.
You’re in a larger, later structure save one side that is comprised of an 18th Century wall, partially covered with creeping foliage. The space is vast and has a surprising amount of natural, filtered light coming from above through breaks in the roofing and skylights. Raindrops fall through too, and are gently tapping the leaves.
The nature of the substance that crunches underfoot suddenly becomes apparent. This is one big untouched safe-haven for pigeons. No vandalism, no graffiti and just one solitary desk sitting to the left the only obvious modern relic.
Behind the desk is another beckoning abyss; a square archway leading in to a dark annex that seems to have once been a storeroom but it leads no where. More pigeons are disturbed and you’re currently somewhere behind the former Bradley’s Wine Bar and Restaurant building, which is adjacent to the main warehouse.
Back out in to the light, another space is visible through a large square opening to the left. This is the last of the three structures and opens out in to another large warehouse space. One of the walls consists of 16 metres of the original 16th Century walling. Beyond this is Hampton Court. The adjacent wall has a small doorway which leads into a garden of a Nelson Street property.
You retrace your steps through the warehouse range, stepping over dead pigeons at various stages of decay, looking up at the creepers and vines that hang from roof to floor as you reach the loading bay. The ground floor to your right seems to be an office consisting of a desk and a broken window that looks out on to the loading bay. The open drawer is full of twigs and feathers – it’s a nest. There are wooden steps that lead to the first floor where there is an old leather sofa currently providing soft bed for pigeon eggs. Finding no more stairs on this side of the building, you head back down and cross the loading bay to the opposite side.
It’s dark but by using the light from an inadequate torch you can see the ground is littered with loose bricks. A doorway leads in to a partition that contains a vintage oven. The grill compartment is open and houses another nest. You tentatively pull at the main oven door to see what horror movie trope is hiding inside – it’s the anti-climax. Not even a pigeon. You leave the kitchen and climb the stairs, torch in hand. More pigeons are disturbed in the dark.
On this floor, there is a cage containing fire safety equipment and not much else besides an old cabinet perched in an alcove. The loading bay is visible from here as the first floor is only walled on three sides. The light from the main door reveals a small wooden ladder, flat against the wall directly above the steps. You test it by pulling on it firmly. One side is not as solid as the other but you’re confident it will hold. Somebody knows you’re here, right?
As you ascend, you glance across the loading bay in to the larger warehouse range before plunging your head in to the darkness. The air is still, stale warm and silent aside from gentle cooing. This floor stretches the entire width of the warehouse and is empty, save from an enclosed shaft in the middle which sits directly above the loading bay . The only light comes from small gaps in the window shutters and you can see another staircase leads upwards.
You’re in the dormer attic now – it has the same layout as the floor below. You can hear the wind blowing from the Ouse and a pigeon flaps close by. Before you can check if the floor is empty, your torch flickers and fails.
don’t forget to check out the photobooks available in the shop
From Historic England’s website entry on the warehouse:
Known as Edward Bagge’s warehouse in 1842 and on land owned by the Bagg family since 1766. Behind this new front (i.e. to the east side) were two warehouse ranges running towards Nelson Street, amalgamated into one in 1927, and all demolished 1966. Sixteen metres of original walling survives forming south boundary of the garden behind Hampton Court warehouse (W) range: tall, C16, brick, much patched, and with one blocked 2-light mullioned window.
before exploring locations like this be aware of the dangers involved with coming in to contact with asbestos (asbestosis and mesothelioma), pigeon guano (histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis), and also be aware of the physics involved in falling from a great height.