Thursday, July 28, 2016

China Treasures in the Dust

On Sunday we hit the jackpot with our exploring. We discovered an abandoned china plant and couldn't believe our luck when we managed to get inside and were immediately presented with so many photo opportunities that we didn't know where to start. There was little conversation as we we climbed in and immediately started photographing the treasure. A huge warehouse was below us, with large wooden boxes filled with china that were stacked high, their contents spilling and tumbling from their containers, now darkened from their once pristine white by time and weather which came in from a missing wall on the side of the building.
I was so happy that we'd stumbled across this. Having been urbexers for a decade, we've seen so many of our favorite haunts get desecrated by vandals, contents smashed to smithereens and ugly graffiti daubed across walls and anything else that aerosol paint would adhere to. Items would be hurled around, once beautiful artifacts destroyed beyond recognition with walls and ceilings ripped apart by scrappers who tore out any copper or lead that could be sold. Some of our old haunts have also been demolished or renovated, so it's been a long time since we'd come across any new locations to investigate and take photos of.
This place was amazing. Of course there were some breakages, but most had likely happened naturally over time as crates or piles had toppled due to a slow disintegration or from wild animals claiming the building as their domain. There were mountains of wooden boxes piled up with plates, mugs and cups that had gradually toppled from their organized stacks, crates open to the elements with neat rows of china that had blotches of weathered dust decorating them. And cobwebs. So many lovely dust laden cobwebs, stretching from handles to rims, from box edges to the walls. It's been a long time since I've seen anything so wonderfully undisturbed as this.
As we tiptoed around the floor, trying vainly to avoid treading on the china, Richard made an amusing observation that we sounded like a bunch of raccoons in the kitchen, as broken pieces crunched underfoot. But this pottery was made of sturdy stuff and I noticed that every time I had to stand on a plate or mug to get between boxes they never broke under my weight. Impressive.
Obviously someone had once been here to set this up but we didn't see another soul the whole time we were there. I did hear a radio when I entered the old tool shop, playing Patience by Guns 'n' Roses, so I hummed along happily as I took my photos. There was a live plant immediately next door and someone was working away but thankfully they remained oblivious to us.
A mold for mug and cup handles.
Clay feet which supported different molds. I did read a sign on the wall which designated a space for egg cup molds but despite searching I never found an egg cup.
Outside were broken tea and coffee services with creamer jugs, sugar bowls and small dishes. We did manage to find a few unbroken ones. Most of what we saw here was unfinished, it hadn't been glazed.
In another building we came across shelving made from wooden crates and it was here that we found stacks of finished products, painted with pastel colors and patterns, all protected with a shiny glaze. Many of these had once been carefully decorated by hand.
This plant opened about 120 years ago and has been closed down for 25 years. The inevitable cheap Chinese imports were the main cause of its closure and the employees at one point even considered buying it themselves to keep it running, but that idea was aborted. There had been a strong fellowship among the workers and the plant's closure fell hard among the community, and was damaging to the town, contributing to a high unemployment rate. Dinner services for restaurants, hotels and even the White House were made here and the unique logo was highly valued, and still is, The name is seen through this old plant and I even found a huge board where staff would have logged production rates  along with breakages.
One of the tunnel kilns. There were a few of these in the buildings as well as a couple of beehive kilns which were broken down. It was still possible to make out some of the different department areas as I walked around, various rooms for different processes of the production. Stacks of molds were still set by kilns, tracks that took loaded trolleys into the kilns for firing were still in place. After the plant's closure a couple of fires had been started by arsonists so now there are large empty areas but there was still plenty remaining to get a good feel of how it had once been here.
It was getting dull and overcast outside and we had to think about starting to make our way home. It was tough leaving as I could easily have spent a couple more hours there. I really wanted to sit still for a few minutes and take stock to consider what I may have missed. Having looked at articles since then I know there's more photos that I'd love to take of the place but for now, the plant will sit silent again, and wait for the next urbexer who will work hard to take artistic photos while treating the place with respect. Hopefully.

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