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  1. History Even though the small town of Milton was connected with the goldrush years in the 1860s, it was actually founded as a milling town at the beginning of the 1850s. It is rumoured that this is how the town received its name – Milltown is said to have been shortened to Milton. The Bruce Woollen Mill, which was primarily a vertical woollen and worsted manufacturing mill that made blankets, rugs, carpet and apparel fabric, was one of the later additions to the industry as it was not established until 1897. A considerable amount of money was invested in the mill as much of the company’s machinery was specialist equipment imported from Britain. If anything, then, this indicates how prosperous the industry was at the time. Although there are no records of the prices of the machines, a government website reveals that the estimated cost to run the mill initially was £6,000 ($998,000 in today’s NZ currency). However, despite the huge investment, the doors at Bruce Mill did not stay open for long as a devastating fire destroyed the building four years later. Although no one was killed, only the brick walls were left standing after the incident. The mill was rebuilt in 1902, though, thanks to the high demand for woollen products at the time. Thereafter, no further disasters occurred, and by 1923 the company had, apparently, produced the first Swanndri shirts (hard-wearing wool bush shirts). In the same year renovations had to be made to increase the size of the building to meet increasing consumer demands for their growing range of products. The main classical styled office building was the last building to be constructed as part of the expansion plans. Yet, by 1962 Bruce Woollen Mill was taken over by Alliance Textiles. The mill was run smoothly thereafter, without further incident – up until 1992 at least, when forty-nine workers were locked out for refusing to sign new contract agreements. This would result in a group of thirteen protesters assembling outside the gates for the next six years. This was the longest industrial action in New Zealand trade union history. Unfortunately, the protests did not amount to much as Alliance Textiles closed the mill in 1999, with the loss of fifty-four jobs. It was reported that it was no longer economically viable to run the mill due to cheaper products being imported from China and India. Despite the closure at the end of the 1900s, Bruce Woollen Mill Ltd. was re-established for a few years by a consortium of Wool Equities Ltd. and a group of manufacturers and wholesalers in 2012. The mill reopened as a manufacturer of woollen, merino possum, worsted and hand knitting yarns Nevertheless, the Bruce Woollen Mill went into receivership in January 2016. As a result, it is said to have had a considerable impact on the local community in terms of the job losses incurred. Our Version of Events We’d spotted Bruce Woollen Mill while we were checking out the old bacon factory in Milton, but decided we’d come back the following day to have a crack at it during the day. It’s easier to get photos during the day after all. The only problem, though, was that we weren’t quite sure if the place was abandoned or not. Therefore, we spent a little while researching the location, and eventually came across a few articles that indicated it was indeed partially closed. Well, that was good enough for us. It was time to find a way inside! Getting in wasn’t particularly easy, especially since workers from the live section of the factory kept coming outside to satisfy their nicotine addictions. However, we persevered and crept around the site checking out all the nooks and crannies, hoping one of them would reveal a way inside. In the end, our searching turned up nothing, except access to an old workshop – a part of the site that looked a lot more fucked than the other buildings. At this stage, though, we were out of options, so we decided to have a poke around inside anyway. Industrial porn is industrial porn at the end of the day, and sometimes you just have to take what you can get. As it turned out, the workshop we’d managed to access wasn’t too bad at all. The entire place was alive with the rich smells of oil and used metal. The wooden benches and floor boards were littered with hundreds of screws and heavily stained with years of grease. The sheer amount of old-school equipment in there was great to see too, and it even had the classic stash of VHS porn tapes lying around. It’s likely that we would have spent longer in this room, testing out a few of the machines to see if they worked, but this didn’t happen because we happened to find a door hidden among the shadows at the very back of the room. It goes without saying, our curiosity got the better of us and we couldn’t help but take a peek to see what was on the other side. Sure enough, it led into another room. It was a good start. This one was much different, however. Suddenly we found ourselves inside a small warehouse that was filled with cardboard boxes and metal carts. At this point we started to get a little excited, wondering if we’d perhaps found a way into the actual woollen mill as this section appeared to be an old storage area for products ready to be transported. So, with this in mind we cracked on and made our way to the other side of the building, where we found a set of industrial rubber curtains. Little did we know at the time, but this was our last obstacle – the last thing between us and the juicy machinery on the other side. One by one we passed through the curtain and, on the other side, we found ourselves standing before rows upon rows of pure industrial goodness. We’d managed to wander into the closed part of the old woollen factory, and it was fucking amazing. There were cogs, switches, levers and buttons everywhere we looked. For the next ten minutes or so, then, we were all happy snappers. If anything, mind, there was too much to take photos of! However, in our excitement we inadvertently ended up wandering into the live part of the site, where the production line was still up and running. So, from this point on we turned from being excited schoolboys into epic ninjas with unrivalled stealth skills and, somehow, managed to work our way around the workers and active machinery. It was great, being among whining machines and the whirring of drilling that coming from somewhere on the far side of the factory floor. Somehow, though we’re not quite sure exactly how, we managed to remain undetected the entire time we were inside the old woollen mill. At one point all of the machines even stopped, meaning our footsteps and camera taking noises suddenly seemed unbelievably loud. But, the guys working inside seemed oblivious to our presence. Nonetheless, after a further half an hour or so we decided that we’d pushed our luck far enough and that it was probably time to call it a day. We still had a bit of daylight left and more explores lined up, so it made sense to leave while we were still ahead. The battle to resist the urge to take more photos was intense on our way out, but eventually we managed to get back to the bus without incident. It was time to get back on the road and get a few more explored under our belts. Explored with Nillskill and Bane. Equipment being assembled in 1897 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26: 27: 28: 29: 30: 31: 32: 33: 34: 35: 36: 37:
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