Monday, October 29, 2012

Edingham Munitions Factory, Dumfries & Galloway

The 300-acre Edingham munitions complex was built in 1939 after the outbreak of the Second World War. Costing a not unsubstantial £3.5m, it took the man-power of more than 3,000 (mostly Irish) men to reach completion.

The Dumfries-to-Stranraer railway line ran through the site, making it ideally connected for development as well as the manufacture of cordite and nitroglycerine.

The site, comprising of two identical halves - such that if one part was damaged by explosion (accidental or targeted) manufacture would not be disrupted - remains largely intact to this day.  

Many of the free-standing buildings were used for storage. Other buildings, built into the profile of the landscape to lessen the destruction caused by any unintended explosions, were used for mixing and fabrication.

Edingham munitions factory - mixing and fabrication buildings

Dark corridors behind mixing rooms joined up the rabbit-warren of buildings.

Connecting corridors

The shabby, flaking plaster of the mixing rooms' interiors contrasted pleasantly with the geometrical precision of the door frames and latticed window; the cold, autumn light rather clumsily divided by the ragged glass panes.

Mixing room - interior I

Mixing room - interior II

Fabrication room - interior III

Chemical, as well as explosives, storage warehouses were also strategically placed throughout the site.

Chemical Warehouse

Much of the housing that was inhabited by the Irish immigrant community during construction of the site, consisting largely of basic wooden huts, was turned over to house prisoners of war towards the end of the war between 1943-47.

The Irish connection to the site remained visible, with many walls bearing inscriptions of Irish battle cries.

Faugh-a-Ballagh / Brits Out

The buildings, interspersed throughout the sizeable compound, also bore reminders of the climate within which Edingham's workers operated in. The threat of attack by enemy bombing, as well as the ever-present threat of explosions and gas leaks, characterised the day-to-day living of the factory workers' lives.

'Take your gas mask with you'

The long, eery corridors of Edingham signalled the route to the old mess hall. Though the site is only a few miles from nearby Dalbeattie, many of the factory workers lived on-site.

'Empty Corridors'

Staircases always provide a rather nice combination between the known and the unknown. What lies in wait around the corner, or at the top, provides an imaginative feast upon which one's neocortex or thalamus can gorge themselves - the viewer's as well as the explorer's.

Stairway to [              ]

At the top of this particular ascent was the promised mess hall which in many respects bore striking similarities to Detroit's Packard Plant.

Edingham Mess Hall 

Chairs, possibly original, and other kinds of paraphernalia often found strewn across abandoned buildings adorned the mess-hall's ante rooms. In this case, they were lined up with typical military precision. This odd appearance of order in a building so ramshackle and disorderly had a rather pleasing effect:


Whilst this shot provides some much-needed toilet humour:


As with most abandoned buildings, the presence of graffiti was inevitable; however, Edingham's was far from the colourful, artistic illustrations that one might have seen in, say, Glenwood Power Station. Much of it was restricted to the imprints visitors (under whatever guise) felt the need to leave after making their explorations; some of it, however, was curiously sinister. Perhaps Scots are simply less artistic - or much more depressed.

Initials and Swastikas

Whilst Edingham's overground presence is sizeable, the surface tells only half the story. The constant threat of explosion by accident, or (even worse) bombing, and the possibility of chain reactions from the production of nitroglycerine and cordite, meant that the overground rabbit-warren of corridors were complimented by equally labyrinthine subterranean counterparts.

One of the few remaining underground elements to the Edingham compound

After the Second World War, the Admiralty took advantage of Edingham's unique anti-explosion safeguards and used the complex as an explosive storage site, housing everything from dynamite stock to floating mines. However, after the Admiralty had packed up and left in 1960, and the land was sold back to local farmers, the site was effectively consigned to perpetual abandonment. 

Many of the bunkers have since been sealed off, either by obstructing entrances with rubble from those buildings unfortunate enough to be demolished,  or (ironically) implosion by controlled explosion. 

Edingham by air

Since 1960, the Edingham site has ceased to serve any useful purpose other than being used occasionally as a storage facility for everything from furniture to classic cars. Other than a brief ascension to fame in 2008 with a guest appearance in the opening shots of Outpost, the complex's main use to this day remains as an army and police training ground. 

Reminiscent of a bye-gone era, Edingham was the first set of military buildings that I had explored. Though uninteresting in its architectural design or composition, as with all buildings, it had a story to tell - and an interesting one at that. And whilst it may not have been a Steinert Music Hall, nor an Angel Island Quarantine Hospital, it had charm, and its own particular allure. 

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