Sunday 30 September 2012

Central Park Leisure Pools - A Hidden View

On the day of the brand new Plymouth Life Centre opening, a strange twist of fate led to the opportunity to photograph the swift demise of the Central Park Pools. Taking a brief break from a full day trying out the new facilities I popped outside mid-afternoon to take advantage of the clear blue skies to capture some photographs of the old buildings only to find the fencing compound open along with a door to the main pool area. Thinking it must be workmen, I walked into a corridor with alarm bells ringing out & walked into the pool area shouting 'Hello' only to be greeted by a few teenagers who were about to hoist a ladder up to the high dive board. Upon seeing me they scarpered back to the park so I set about taking a few photos whilst waiting for security to come. My theory being that someone would already have been notified of the alarm, then my presence may dissuade the lads to come back & climb that ladder, & run the risk of falling in the almost empty pool which would have caused serious injury as it was let alone climbing higher.

End of an era
Inside the open door I came across
Fire exit from the main pool area, alarm bells blaring  - time to take a look
Barriers lying at the bottom of the deserted pool
Raised spectator seating lies empty
At the deep end of photo reportage

I quickly realised & to amazement, that the buildings was already becoming pretty vandalised within such a short space of time & let's make one thing clear, none of the kids was trashing stuff when I disturbed them so whoever was responsible we will never know - I'll touch on this again a little later in the post. Around 15 minutes had passed & the silence was rudely interrupted by the sound of the doors slamming shut. At this point I was on the diving board section & ran back thinking it was security locking back up only to hear several loud thuds against the door. When I reached the door, it was checkmate for the teenagers had returned & jammed the entry with around 10 barriers & stood with smug grins - okay think.....I'm barricaded in........may as well take some more photos then & wait for the cavalry of yellow jackets to arrive!

In the shadows of it's former glory
Numbered lanes
.75m shallow pool
Deserted shallow pool 
The play park outside buzzing with families oblivious to the blaring alarm that is pounding my eardrums

Apart from the obvious barriers that had been thrown in the pools, there hadn't been much damage but the first floor in parts was full of glass from broken cabinets & glass door panels. A couple of fire extinguishers had been let off  & I found that most of the lighting in the building was turned on, another hazard for kids scrabbling about in a derelict building intent on wreaking havoc, live electrics aren't to be taken lightly & a phone call was made to a contact at the Life Centre to get the building locked down & returned to taking photos while waiting for the security firm to arrive. Time to get up close & personal with the diving platforms!

Walkway to the spectators area littered with broken glass
No barefeet today!
Follow the yellow hand rail
The dizzy heights of the dive platforms
Dive dummy

No longer in use
Here it is - Tom Daley's old dive platform!
Overlooking the six lane pool
The dive pool from the top platform

The dive platforms offered an amazing view of the derelict complex, the height for me wasn't a problem but there would be no way I would even jump from that height into a full pool. After taking in the views from above, it was over to the spectators seating area to soak up the alarming atmosphere.

Time to get the spectators view

Here we are

Silent rows

The derelict scene on a busy Saturday afternoon

Silence in the changing rooms

Shower humour

An hour later - alarm still blaring & flashing

Fire doors

Gym Tots area

Height chart

It was just over an hour later I found a way out of the building by the rear entrance where the kids had also barricaded to an extent, but with many sites like this, climbing has come in to play & on my return to the outside I was greeted by more kids trying to get in. I locked the door behind me so will never know if they regained access. None of the teenagers were hostile, more inquisitive as to why I was taking photos & I explained about make a photo archive of the building. Their response about the building getting trashed was 'It's getting demolished anyway'!

Goodbye Central Park Pools

So there it is, documented by accident & now gone forever. I waited around for another ten minutes & still no sign of security so headed back to the Life Centre to notify them & it was swiftly dealt with, although more kids managed to gain entry again later that month from what a contractor told us, to begin another wrecking spree & smashing further windows. C'est la vie!

Hidden Plymouth - A Tribute to Tom Daley

A little different to what we normally post on here but we couldn't not do our own tribute to Plymouth's very own Olympic Bronze medalist, Tom Daley. We had the privilege of watching Tom dive in a British Championship back in April 2012 at Plymouth Life Centre where he won gold with some amazing diving in the 10m platform. This young chap is never out the media spotlight nowadays & is an inspiration for youngsters worldwide. Not only an inspiration to the young, but also the older generations who yearn for a Brit to do well, especially after getting knock-backs with whatever life throws our way & if you have followed Tom for the past few years you will know the story, if not read his book or watch him & his team mates relaxing from training doing their own version of LMFAO's "Sexy & I Know It" on You Tube, we love it!



Okay, okay there's a little more than makes out to this tribute after a strange twist of fate would see me stood on the old diving board where Tom Daley cut his teeth & we have some exclusive images from within the Central Park Pools after closure.......coming up next on the blog!

Tom Daley's old diving platform in the now demolished Central Park Pools

Saturday 29 September 2012

"The Blockhouse" WWII Mural - Stoke Village

If you're local to Stoke Village or know Plymouth well, you surely must be aware of The Blockhouse, a prominent Napoleonic Redoubt overlooking the dockyard it was built to protect. Officially known as Mount Pleasant Redoubt it sits as one of the highest points in the City at over 70 metres, & now forms use as an impressive public park. On a clear day it offers amazing views across to Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor, & across to Plymouth Sound, if you haven't been make a note to appreciate this important & historic feature & enjoy the view for yourselves.

Stood atop The Blockhouse with fantastic views over Plymouth Sound

In WWII it was brought into much needed multi-use, becoming a strong defensive site against the Luftwaffe with barrage balloons & anti-aircraft guns. Alongside Masterman Road, ARP shelters were built into the glacis of the redoubt of which all remain today sealed for future generations to discover. At the corner entrance lies an ARP Warden's Post stripped of original fittings but now a visual attraction in the form of a memorial to the area's people during WWII. The paint is now starting to flake a little due to the harsh weather we have had but try go see it for yourself, we think it's great!

This is a fantastic memorial from a fresh generation perspective sitting next to the Stoke Youth & Community Centre, giving local residents a daily reminder of what The Blockhouse was like during World War II. A fitting tribute to those who were there. With the shelters still buried, it would be great to eventually see them opened up to the public as an extra feature to the park, oh & whilst you're at it, why not have an anti-aircraft gun mounted inside the Redoubt for good measure.

We will feature another blog post on Mount Pleasant Redoubt soon with more photos from the park & looking at the history of the site. Be sure to check it out if you're passing by!

Tuesday 25 September 2012

"The Wall" Public Air Raid Shelter Part 2

Well you got the brief tour of the "The Wall" ARP Shelter & here we look at some of the graffiti & artefacts found within alongside a few surprises above ground. To kick off though, we want to focus on that one brick in "The Wall".

P.L.D. 10 Years 13/1/1941 

The person who etched this into the brick toilet cubicle would now be 81 years old & we are guessing it is a male. We urge all readers to check their families for the initials & help to identify the writer. Hey, we know it's a long shot but we like to search really deep for our research & build a better history for the shelters that form an important part of our heritage. We have tracked a family from other graffiti in the past, one being from the Devonport Park shelter that was partly demolished back in 2009. Writings in this shelter have given us some leads to work on including an address in Mount Gould Road.

The best we have to go on!

Any takers on this one?

Inscription found in another toilet block

One of two face drawings found close to each other

Face art

Character drawings

Mister Sad


Striking chin feature in this drawing

Contractor says fire engine, archeaologist says bus, we say it's a tram - How about you? Send us a comment below!

Although there was little graffiti, it was some of the most interesting. Clearly there were signs that the shelter had been whitewashed with a second coat at some point due to the way that some of the pencil markings were showing through & again highlights just how clean this shelter was. Whoever was in charge of it certainly took pride in it's appearance. Thankfully there were just a few artefacts that were left behind at various points along the underground passageways.

Artefacts found close to the entrance

Rusted, almost disintegrated bucket

Bottles from the wartime era

Bottled in Exeter

Bakealite junction boxes for electric lighting

Bench fixings void of timber seats

Bakealite fittings

Now personally for me, apart from the etched brick, the highlight was what the shelter was cut into above ground. Evidence of the Plymouth Leat was what the archeaologist's were said to be looking for & also the original cobbled surface of the car park had been revealed as see in the photos below. This shows how sympathetic the demolition has been of this shelter, a behind the scenes look at how little damage was done to the original structure itself. An escape hatch had been exposed & there were a couple of exploratory holes cut through the roof, but most impressive was the stairwell that had been throughly cleaned by contractors in preparation for the documentation to take place. 

This was always one of those shelters that would be demolished due to the need for development within the city centre, but at least it has been documented in a way that Plymothians can now see for themselves that it is not always wanton destruction of heritage. We were impressed with how thoughtful the contractors & Uni staff were toward the shelter & taking time to tell us their views on it's existence. A lot of people thought that this shelter was long demolished since the war, & it's highly possible that this was just infilled quickly & re-tarmaced before the end of the war & returned to it's use as a car park but, with all the madness of rebuilding the blitzed city it's highly possible that documents were lost along the way.

Stood atop the entrance to the shelter with Plymouth Museum in the background
Entrance overlooked by the Link & Davy Building

A different angle over the entrance

Original cobbled road that the shelter was constructed through

Stood on top of the shelter showing depth, cobbled road & contractors exploratory hole

Close up looking the cobble surface
Stood with our back to the previous image looking midway along the shelter & exposed escape hatch

Shelter looking toward the infilled end - notice the stone walls that the shelter has cut through

This section of the shelter cut through some sort of stone walling - could this be a trace of the leat?
Surveying the site stood atop the section that had yet to be uncovered fully above ground

There it is & we also made a short video tour of the shelter which will be uploaded soon for you to follow the passageways to the end. On a personal note this was an excellent shelter to document with the different layers of history around it & particularly pleased to see how the passageways cut though the cobbled road.

A lot of feedback has been received since the first photos appeared & we welcome feedback from as many people as possible, after all it is your support that will eventually lead to one of these time capsules to be saved. As we have already mentioned, many people had thought this one had long gone years ago so with the groundworks for a much needed new University building imminent, it would have suffered major setbacks if the shelter were to be kept & plans changed to adapt. Given better hindsight, if it could have been integrated into the new building as a permanent historic feature it would certainly have been one of the most interesting campus buildings in the world, food for thought!