Youngs Ram Brewery - Wandsworth Sw18
Youngs was covered in my Derelict London book a few years ago. Since then the site lay empty apart from being used for the odd tv/film set location. Autumn 2014 has seen demolition of much of the site.The remainder is listed so will be incorporated into a new development.
The earliest records of brewing on this site date back hundreds of years but in recent times its cramped location, and the fact that the local authority expressed an interest in acquiring and developing the land it stood on, prompted the brewery to consider its options, and in 2006 the decision was made to sell up and move to Bedfordshire. Chairman John Young died just days before the brewery closed, and its final brew was served at his funeral. Until the brewery closed, horses and drays were still used to deliver beer to local pubs and the site was home to a live ram and a flock of geese.
In early 2014 Chinese property developer Greenland Holdings Group bought the site which has an investment value of £600m and is to be turned into 661 new homes, including a 36-floor building with 166 flats, and 9,500 square metres of shops, cafés and restaurants. The site will also house a brewing museum and a microbrewer.The Guardian reported in January 2014 "Critics of the London property development have argued that new luxury riverside apartments purchased by foreign buyers do nothing to ease the city's housing shortage."
DARTFORD - WELLS FIREWORK FACTORY
I first visited this site in early 2012 so its time for some updated photographs and information as the site continues to become more dilapidated.
Wells Fireworks was founded by Joseph Wells in the 1830s having learned his trade as an explosive lighterman on the River Thames based at Millwall. He had factories in Earlsfield,Honor Oak Park & Colchester and by 1941 amalgamated the factories by relocating to this site in Dartford. Due to the war the factory was producing signa rockets and flares. A V1 flying bomb exploded at the entrance gates destroying the office but fortunately caused no injuries.
Wells Fireworks quickly became the leading display company in the UK and established a reputation for the manufacture and display of the finest quality fireworks. Using the Wells “Crown Brand” the company displayed at Cowes and Henley Regattas, Coronations and Jubilees to the Royal Family. Securing an international reputation for excellence this led to high value commissions including the LA Olympics, the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics, Rose Bowl displays and designing the original fireworks shows for Disneyland in Florida.
Due to competition from cheap Chinese imports, Wells was forced to vacate its manufacturing plant in Dartford. Led by Stuart Orr, a chemist at the plant, some of the employees took the Wells brand and moved the entire operation to West Sussex. Specialising in close proximity stage pyrotechnics for the entertainment industry, Wells continued its reputation for excellence and supplied to most of the UK’s leading fireworks companies.In 1976 the Dartford site was used by Pains-Wessex then Unwins Pyrotechnics and finally Astra Fireworks who closed the site in 1992.
The actual remains of a number of original buildings from the former factory still remain. Due to planned development in the area, these buildings face an uncertain future. The corrugated iron sheds, which for obvious reasons were spaced apart from one another, survive in an overgrown landscape of elder bushes, brambles, nettles and buddleia.
Wells at Dartford is the only remaining firework factory in the UK of a type which once was common. It has stood derelict for around 25 years. A charity was once planning on rescuing some of the buildings and erecting them as a Fireworks Museum at Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre in Sussex but do sure how far they have got with those plans.
Greenwich University own the site but there are no official plans for the future of the Wells firework factory. The marshy land makes it unsuitable for a large scale building project plus the likely problem of contamination due to the gunpowder may also cause complications. Meanwhile the site continues to decay due to vandalism, the weather and generally nature just taking over. The site is fenced off and there are warning signs that it is a contaminated site. Inside there are the hazards of rotten floors in the huts and between the sheds there were small concrete conduits to prevent a spread of fire. These conduits are overgrown and you don't realise that they are there until you trip over them....