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Report - Eli Lilly, Basingstoke March 2011.

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by Treadstone, Mar 16, 2011.

  1. Treadstone

    Treadstone 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Mar 14, 2010
    Likes Received:
    First, some background
    A visit to a site with the full co-operation of the owners appeals to those like me who just love getting into places to the public don't see - by whatever means - finding out about the place and taking photos (and yes, I admit it, writing long reports afterwards). Some will think without a serious infiltration component it's not proper urbex but lets be clear from the off: this site can't be done by infiltration.
    Eli Lilly is a US pharmaceutical company: animal testing makes all drug companies targets for animal rights protesters, large US companies (and I worked for one until recently) all feel they are at slightly higher risk than normal from terrorism, and this site used to have tens of millions of pounds worth of drugs stored there. So the security was pretty darn good when the site was active and it hasn't been turned off, there is still a 24/7 security presence on site, we saw the CCTV monitoring and various things had to be deactivated to avoid calling in the off-site security. Lilly has had a pretty happy association with Basingstoke for 70 odd years and they don't want people's final memory of the place to be that kids treated it as a playground with fatal consequences. (I also know that most big US companies take the risk of someone getting in, having an accident and suing them pretty seriously - but that was never mentioned).

    Lilly keep an eye on what's said about them on the net, and this thread from leads and rumours came to the attention of a chap called Damien, who seems to be interested in Urb-ex. He took it to someone else by the name of Kevin. Like other large US companies Lilly see Europe, Middle East and Africa as one region (we always used to talk about this strange place called Emea) : Kevin is head of security for Emea, and he was prepared to facilitate a tour - this was an experiment and a calculated risk for him, but the hope is it will reduce the chance of people breaking into have a look. We were invited down for 4PM and Kevin stayed with us till we left a little after 9. Most people in his role would have said no, not only did he say yes, but he gave up his evening for us, along with two of his staff: Dave who is in charge of security locally and was based at the site when it was open, and Mark who was their "common sense" health and safety guy along: health and safety meant they had to provide hard hats and hi-viz gear for us, and common sense meant they didn't insist we wore them. We were treated like VIP guests - roofs on site are were considered unsafe when it was open and required full harnesses: they're certainly not safe for a large group to visit now, and the network of tunnels on site has flooded and some pretty nasty stuff seeped into it so they weren't accessible. Aside from that we were allowed to go where we wanted and weren't told to do (or not do) anything all evening and were only asked to do small one thing to comply with Lilly policy - which was not to post pictures of their staff on line - a normal thing for drug companies.
    It's a very unusual kind of public relations and a total success in the eyes of those who went. Dave told us that just to post on the forums needed clearance from various bigwigs inside the company so it wasn't just one guy going out on a limb, and Lilly deserve massive credit for being prepared to do it. Special thanks to Kevin, Dave and Mark for giving up an evening for a group of strangers.
    If you happen to be reading this as another company thinking of doing something similar, I'm sure Kevin would say "do it", and have some tips to pass on about it was organized.
    If you're an explorer with a really strong urge to visit, you need to see if they will run another tour : ironically the only building I think was accessible by Normal Urb-ex techniques is missing its roof and considered unsafe, so it was the only one we didn't venture inside. Everything else is shut up tight, and if you get over the fence you'll have a couple of minutes to shoot exteriors before their security people come to show you off site.

    History from the notes I made.
    As I said Eli Lilly is a US pharmaceutical company, best known for making Prozac. Basingstoke was its first plant outside the US and they started building there in 1938. They weren't very imaginative with the names of the buildings and just gave them letters, so the big white art deco building which you can see in aerial photos is known as 'A block' . It's a copy of a US building and it's said that the plans were posted over for a Local architect (Arthur George Porri -who had earlier worked on the Carreras Cigarette Factory - one of the most noted art Deco buidings in London) to use and he didn't change anything - so it's a bit overspec'd. It's also suggested the building was built back-to-front - the goods entrances at the back should have faced the railway but instead the grand front does. Lilly wanted a floor which was uninterrupted by support pillars, with the result that the top floor has a 220' x 60' unsupported concrete ceiling which for a long time was the largest in the country. It was built by McAlpine and had a giant Neon sign on top. The build finished just as World war 2 started, so the sign came down without ever being lit. The white building was such a landmark that they painted it over with camouflage paint , this was a tar based paint, which is nigh-on impossible to remove and a problem to paint over - it's still underneath. They built aircraft instruments in the place so it got anti-aircraft guns to defend it - though all trace of them is long gone.
    After the war it manufactured dry products - i.e. tablets and capsules, rather than drugs for injection or liquid medicine, the lines allowed the drugs to go all the way through without being touched by human hand (although the Japanese market demands that every tablet is subject to a human inspection). Some of the stuff was pretty nasty and needed operators to wear bubble suits (think of Homer in the Simpsons credits).
    They had 600 employees on site and forged good links with the community, gave a lot of stuff to schools and sent some senior people to sit on governing bodies where they contribute expertise as well as material help. They did have open days when the place was operating , and I think there was a "just because the site is closed, doesn't mean we can't still do one" attitude even now.

    The site closed in 2007 - Lilly moved consolidated R & D into UK from other European sites, but moved manufacturing out. Everyone thought they were too attached to Basingstoke to close the place, so that came as a shock; from what we told the process was handled as well as that sort of thing ever is.
    The site is being sold to company named Lemon Land - you can see their plans for the site on the council's web site , (Click the documents link on the top of that page if you want to see the actual plans) it is described as "mixed use development comprising flexible use of 20,250 sqm gross B1 offices and/or D1 education buildings, 472 residential units, flexible use for 19,500 sqm gross B1 offices and /or D1 education buildings, flexible use for 1,110 sqm gross A1/A2/A3/A4 and /or A5 uses, 180 sqm Art Gallery, conversion of white building to 150 bedroom hotel including roof extension, open space, parking, access and associated works"

    A Block - the white building, will be preserved and everything else will go, so these may be some of the last photos taken of the place.
    Until the sale is completed Lilly continues to take responsibility for security on site. Which is where the write up started. So on with the pictures.

    First a bit of scene setting - this is lifted from Bing Maps and was taken when the site was still working - you'll notice the
    pics of the big white building all show the Lilly sign was taken down then the site closed. Pretty much everything between road and railway is the site, and if you want to get a scale the White building is 220 feet ~70M) on the longest side

    Next looking at the East wall of A block, from the car park about half way down the right edge of the first picture.

    Looking along the back of the A block from the same position

    A little further down the car park , looking back to A block

    You can just make out goal posts on the grass at the bottom of the aerial photo, here's how the pitch looks now.

    In the bottom left corner of the Aerial photo, you can see two chimneys for the Power house which was still intact. This is now missing its roof, and here is where one of the chimneys stood.

    Looking into the stripped out Powerhouse - note the lack of roof.

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