For over a hundred years, this underground reservoir in Clayton, Lancashire held a bellyful of water – 300 000 gallons of it to be exact – until it was drained in 1992. The Chorley Historical and Archeological Society made two applications to English Heritage for the reservoir to become a listed building but it was deemed to be ‘neither rare nor an exceptional example of its type.’
Its empty belly is now being be filled in to provide building space for a new housing development but before sending the bright, shiny bull-dozers in, Kingsway homes opened the reservoir to the public. Excellent! I love murky places where nobody ever goes so my partner and I hot-footed it over there with our cameras.
The queue of people at the site office was a mixed-bag of folks: neatly groomed, retired couples, bobble-hatted students, parents clutching the hands of their excited children and a couple of scruff-bags at the back of the queue (that would be us then). A genial man in the site office handed out information packs and waved us all through the gate and down the steps into the cold, drippy cavern.
Now this underground reservoir may not be ‘rare or an exceptional example of its type’ but I feel very sad that it’s been buried forever. In the two weeks it was open, thousands of visitors waded through puddles to take photographs of this elegant, vaulted structure.
But it wasn’t just the graceful arches and beautiful Victorian brick work that attracted so many people. It seems that many members of the public are up for a bit of adventure. Had the underground reservoir been kept open to visitors, would it have become a tourist attraction? What about all the underground tunnels, cold war bunkers and God knows what other exciting structures that sit empty throughout the UK?
The British public love a day out and we do it very well – the UK is packed with museums, castles and theme parks. But the unexpected volume of visitors who trotted down the makeshift steps to visit this underground reservoir clearly demonstrate that a significant number of people are obviously thrilled by dark, mysterious places that are hidden, forbidden or otherwise impossible to get to.
So here are my photographs. (Note to self: take tripod next time).
Another grunged up pipe in all its super creepiness.
Looks as though you could dive right in but it was only a few cm deep so don’t try this at home, eh?