152: Human Presence – GKN Shadow Factory tunnels, Smethwick, Birmingham

So in my last post, I was talking about the GKN Shadow Factory tunnels which had grabbed my attention a lot due to the pictures I had seen. So I have decided to do a much more detailed post to highlight the areas in the tunnels that are the most relevant.

So a brief history on the place itself then:

In 1854 J. S. Nettlefold, a Birmingham screw manufacturer, had revolutionized his industry by introducing automated American machinery. Room was needed to house this; Nettlefold, joined by his brother-in-law Joseph Chamberlain, father of the statesman, established the Heath Street Works in Cranford Street, Smethwick. The firm dominated the market by the mid 1860s. In 1880, the year in which it became a limited company, Nettlefolds took over one of its local rivals, the Birmingham Screw Co. The newly acquired works was almost as large as the Heath Street Works and faced it from the opposite bank of the Birmingham Canal.

By the outbreak of the First World War the new company produced over half the screws and about a quarter of the nuts and bolts made in the country. In the late 1960s the headquarters of Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd., by then an investment company, adjoined the Heath Street Works, a 50-acre complex run by GKN Screws and Fasteners Ltd. and employing some 4,500 people.

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So it’s weird to look at these pictures and to imagine that around 60 years ago this factory was bubbling with life, but now it was being reduced down to a piece of rubble that was inhabitable now. SO this is the type of place I would be very interested in going to. To see all the machinery rusting and eroded, it just shows what happens when there is no human presence at all to look after these places, especially when they used to be running 24/7 most of the time.

However, there seems to be a slight problem, as there are conflicting views as to whether the place is still accessible. Many people say that the above grounds are no longer reachable due to barricades, security and being demolished. However the pictures above are from the tunnels that run underground; yet no one actually says where the entrance is to this place which makes it a difficulty, as well as that even looking everywhere I cannot see an entrance at all.
So this may mean that I might have to reconsider my ideas about what I want to pursue with regards to this topic, as I still want to look onto the idea of abandonment.


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