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Report - Downings & Fos bros. glos, : Sept and Nov 2012/ 3 visits , 4 brothers, 30 Pics.

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by Treadstone, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. Treadstone

    Treadstone 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

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    Back before I had even done an explore I saw pictures of Foster Brothers, Gloucester on 28DL. Being at lose end, I figured out where it was and drove down alone. My eyes weren't tuned to identifying access and I snapped a few externals of the abandoned buildings - still not quite certain which one was Fos Bros. The day was a small scale fail - though if I come away with a picture I like it's never a total fail. This one uses my cameras built-in IR filter effect.
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    Years would pass before I saw the other side of this door way.

    The door is at the far end of the building on the right. The Fosters' building is in the background. We'll see this bridge later.
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    Time passes... Thanks to http://www.gloucesterdocks.me.uk/gloucester/warehouses/fosterbrosmill.htm and others I learnt about Thomas Nelson Foster, Richard Gibbs Foster and the history of their mill from 1862 onwards.
    In 1899, the business joined with sixteen other similar firms around the country to form British Oil & Cake Mills Ltd (known as BOCM - which according to wikipedia was "one of the earliest crushers of oilseeds to produce vegetable oils for human consumption and the manufacturing of soap. The by-product of this process, the oilseed cake, was a good source of protein for animal feed." )
    In 1925 BOCM was taken over by Lever Brothers, but the mill at Gloucester continued to be managed by members of the Foster family until 1945. In the early 1950s, BOCM installed a big new oil extraction plant at Avonmouth, [leading to] the closure of the mill at Gloucester c1955… [after which] the building served as distribution depot for products made at Avonmouth [and] closed in the mid 1970s.


    More time passes. A text arrives about Foster Brothers from my regular exploring partner and once more I head for Gloucester. The access, which once I couldn't see, is now obvious. When the time comes we exit by a different route which would have made an easier entry still. We pass quickly through the ground floor.
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    From some of the signs the first floor was the "Seed floor"

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    Looking out of the Window towards the Downing brothers' building.

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    Only a little of the machinery remains. But the Helter-skelter is fascinating

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    The building layout sets our route for us - above the ground floor is vast open spaces with stairs at either end. The glass in the windows is translucent rather than clear and diffuses the sun light giving an effect of a photographic studio with a dozen softboxes. Huge exposed beams and their supporting pillars show the building was built to last (and to support the huge weight of milling equipment) it would convert into fantastic loft apartments. A few holes in the floors need filling first.

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    For me, this next one is shot of the day. It's hard to read at this resolution but the Door has "Cake floor" written on it, so this is the Cake floor door in Fos Bros. Glos.
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    On the next floor up we the Helter-skelter continues - the No Smoking sign from the previous photo is visible looking down through the floor, and the next photo is visible looking up through the ceiling.
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    The top floor is different from the others with ladders to various bits of surviving equipment.

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    More time passes... and I return to site, passing Fosters on the way to the neighbouring building . This building is Downing brothers. The Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology has all you could ever want to know about Downings http://www.gsia.org.uk/reprints/2008/gi200803.pdf
    This photo from 1900-ish shows Malthouses 1 on the right on the right and 2 on the left. Malthouse 2 was built in 1895 - some 20 years after Malthouse 1, Business must have been booming : 6 years later in the Downings called the same Architect (Walter B Wood) and builders (the Gurney Brothers) back build two more Malthouses. .
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    In the 1930s the business became part of Associate British Maltsters (ABM - the name on the bridge)
    Malthouse 1 was demolished and replaced with a concrete cube during a modernisation in the 1950s which also put cooling plant into Malthouses 3 and 4. Someone else has documented the sign on the left of the photo as it appears today. http://paintedsignsandmosaics.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/g-w-e-downing-maltsters-gloucester-1.html

    In the 1970s ABM was itself taken over and a new facility in Wallingford (Oxfordshire) took over malt production; leading to the closure of the Downings' facility in about 1980. Ironically the Wallingford super plant closed and was demolished in 2002 but the Downings' buildings are still standing. For a time the site was owned by West Midlands farmers and used for storing grain.

    This picture shows the wider site, and must have been taken in 2007 or 2008 - both Bing and Google are somewhat out of date.

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    The picture is looking roughly North. The grey area in the lower left is now Sainsbury's and the building site on the right with the cranes is the Gloucester Quays outlet centre. Next to bridge is Foster Bros, and the double building in the centre is Downings' : to the right of that is the successor to Malthouse 1 and you can just see the bridge over the road which appeared at the top of this report

    This is looking towards Downings' from Fosters'. In fact you can see the gap between the two buildings that was visible out of the window above.
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    To my great amusement my companion tried to climb into an opening 10 feet above ground level: I strolled around and found easy walk-in access. The first thing we saw inside were these huge screws.
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    Through a door and up a couple of ladders, and we see Treadstone's first law "There's always a fire extinguisher that looks to be in working order" in action. We also see the second law "There's always more pigeon shit than you expect"
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    Standing beside the fire extinguisher - in the foreground the ladder we climbed and in the far back ground the Foster's building. We're looking Southwards out of the gap between the two Malthouses. On our left one Malthouse lies between us and Merchants road and on our right the other lies between us and the canal.
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    The equipment at the back of this space appears to be some kind of cooling system - gauges and peeling paint. Yum.
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    We re-trace our steps and are about to climb a flight of stairs, when wait... what's through this doorway ?
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    A hall of pillars - actually the picture is the next floor up there were no windows here - crossing it and climbing the steps on the far side we find a modern(ish) office, and I know exactly where I am - on the Eastern side of the eastern of the two Malthouses, behind the door on Merchant Street I had photographed on that first visit.

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    Most of the equipment has gone, and the building follows a similar pattern to fosters, except that most of the windows are bricked up so the light doesn't have that gorgeous quality and is a bit short in quantity too - this was a one MINUTE exposure.
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    Through the windows we can see the bridge over the Merchant street. Might this mean … YES the bridge is accessible.
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    We cross the bridge into Malthouse number 2. The roof is no longer watertight, and the floors are going.
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    Not trusting the floor we turn back across the bridge.
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    There's always one more floor...
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    ultravox likes this.

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