WildBoyz

New Zealand
Bruce Woollen Mill, Milton - May 2017

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

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Holy crapballs I'm liking that. Belter that m8ty

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Nice building and still a lot of things inside. Great set.

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Looks ace, that porn wall is epic as well :thumb 

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Really enjoyed this report and pics :) 

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That's nice :thumb loving the frontage of the main building. Some really nice machinery there too :thumb 

 

:comp: 

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    • By WildBoyz
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      Ouvrage Latiremont is a gros ouvrage (large work) of the Maginot Line – a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles and weapon installations built by France in the 1930s to deter invasion by Germany. The site of Ouvrage Latiremont was selected and approved by the Commission d’Organisation des Régions Fortifiées (CORF) in 1931. It cost eighty-eight million francs (approximately twelve million in pound sterling) to construct the fortification. The design of Ouvrage Latiremont is known as a casemate fortress – a fortified or armoured structure, also referred to as a vaulted chamber, from which guns are fired. Once completed, 75mm and 81mm guns were installed and a second phase was planned, to add additional 75mm and 135mm gun turret blocks. However, the second phase of the development never went ahead as the funding was allocated elsewhere. 

      Latiremont has two main entrances and six combat blocks (three infantry blocks and three artillery). It also comprises more than five kilometres of underground tunnels and galleries; these are at an average depth of thirty metres. A small narrow-gauge railway system, which was connected to a regional military railway system, once linked all six sections of the fortress and it was used to transport supplies, such as equipment, food and ammunition. There were said to be several stations inside Latiremont which were large enough to service and store large trains. Once fully operational, Latiremont was placed under the command of Commandant Pophillat. Pophillat had twenty-one officers and five-hundred and eighty men of the 149th Fortress Infantry Regiment at his disposal. 

      Following the 1939 invasion of Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Thereafter, between the September 1939 and June 1940, Latiremont fired over 14,4  52 75mm rounds and 4,234 81mm rounds at German forces. The fortress, though, was not directly attacked until June 1940. On the 21st June 1940, the German 161st Division led by Colonel Gerhard Wilck, which brought 210mm howitzers and 305mm siege mortars with them, launched their attack against Latiremont. While the attack was underway, a small number of German units moved to the rear of the Maginot Line where they were able to cut power and communications. Despite heavy resistant from Latiremont and nearby fortress Fermont, firing ceased on 25th June and both garrisons surrendered to the German forces on 27th June. For the remainder of the war, the area was used for a German propaganda film, to document the June 1940 attacks, but it did not see any further significant fighting. 

      In 1951 the French government attempted to restore many of the northeastern ouvrages, to defend against a potential advance by the Warsaw Pact. However, following the establishment of the French Nuclear Strike Force, the importance of the Maginot Line diminished. Latiremont was subsequently abandoned by the military in 1967. Today, the fortress remains abandoned and has suffered heavily from water ingress. 

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      We finished off our Biscoff and spent our remaining Euros on food in Aldi before we set off for Latiremont. Our combined wealth got us a couple of tins of beans, a box of mushrooms and some spices to sprinkle on top. Someone did offer to buy our car in the car park after we got the supplies in, but we had to insist we really needed it to get home to England. The potential buyer still didn’t seem to see that as a problem though. It was quite a mission to shake him. 

      The drive over to the border of Luxembourg was very pleasant. We played some banging tunes and arrived at the location with plenty of time to spare. At first, we had anticipated that finding the fortress in the forest would be quite a challenge, but as it turned out we stumbled across it within ten minutes of being there. Gaining access to the gros ouvrage was a little more tricky of course – it is a military fortress after all! 

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    • By WildBoyz
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      After a good session in Brussels, sampling the fine beer of Belgium, we set off in the direction of Luxembourg. Our grand aim was to find an incredibly large underground fortress, but since that entailed a fair bit of driving we figured we might as well check out a few abandoned châteaus along the way. Château D’ah took our fancy because we’d seen some shots of the main downstairs corridor and a very striking staircase. In hindsight, though, if we’d known how fucked the place was going to be, we probably would have given this place a miss and checked out a couple of other locations we had on our list. 

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    • By WildBoyz
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      Our Version of Events

      On our mission to consume lots of good beer, we left Bruges and set off in the direction of Antwerp. However, just over an hour later we found that we were almost upon the great city. We’d neglected to take into consideration how small Belgium is so we had a bit of spare time to kill before it was time to get pissed all over again. To break up the drinking and sober up a bit, then, we decided to go take a quick look at the [mostly] abandoned village of Doel we’d read about some time ago.

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    • By WildBoyz
      History
       
      Castle Wolvenhof, also known by many as Château Du Loup, was designed by J. Vercoutere and constructed between 1912 and 1914 for the industrialist, Gaspard Vanden Bogaerde. It was one of two castles built in the area. With the outbreak of World War One, Bogaerde and his brother Émile, the owner of the second castle, volunteered to enlist in the Belgian army and they were subsequently sent away to fight. While they were away, German forces commandeered the buildings and the site was converted into a prison camp and a small airfield named Flugplatz Abeele. Towards the end of the war, Castle Wolvenhof sustained a significant amount of damage as much of the wood, including the very expensive floorboards, was torn out and used as firewood. Following the German defeat, the two brothers returned to their properties and spent the next few years renovating them. The Bogaerde families continued to live in the castles long after the Second World War. However, in 1999, both buildings were sold to the city and the grounds were opened as a public park. 

      Today, although it is a heritage building, Castle Wolvenhof is abandoned. Yet, after someone, presumably the city, invested 322,500 euros in the property in 2016, restoration work has begun. The aim of the project is to bring back the building and return it to its former glory. It is unknown what purpose the building will serve once the restoration work is complete; one source suggests it will remain a central part of the park in which it is situated. 

      Our Version of Events

      Although we’d just returned from New Zealand and had barely set foot on English soil, we decided that a new trip was in order, to make the most of the good summer weather Europe has been experiencing. So, with an epic explore in mind, somewhere along the Maginot Line, we decided to travel through Belgium to reach it. Our decision to visit Belgium was twofold: we could see a few abandoned sites along the way, and drink lots of Belgian beer. 

      The first stop on our travels, mainly for a quick break after driving from the north east, was the legendary Château Du Loup. Surprisingly, finding it was easier than we’d imagined, and gaining access wasn’t as hard as we’d anticipated. However, no sooner had we stepped inside the building did we set off an alarm. From the inside, though, it didn’t seem to sound too loud, so we decided to crack on and take some snaps anyway. For the next half an hour, then, we raced around the building trying to take a photo of each room. The entire time it felt as though a farmer might turn up, or some kind of Belgian security guard, but, fortunately, neither did. In the end, we were able to leave without further incident. 

      It was only when we were making our way back outside that we realised how loud the alarm really was. It was clearly attracting quite a bit of attention from the people who were making good use of the surrounding parkland too. At this point, then, we decided to casually join the general public and take a wander around the park. Our blending in seemed to work rather well, other than the fact our French and Flemish skills don’t go much further than ‘Hallo’, ‘Ik ben op zoek naar, John’ and ‘Bonjour’. Still, it was enough to get us back to the cars. After that, our next destination was Bruges, with plenty of time left in the day to drink lots of beer!

      Explored with Ford Mayhem, MKD, Rizla Rider, The Hurricane and Husky. 
       
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    • By WildBoyz
      History

      The Wallaceville Animal Research Centre, located in Wellington, New Zealand, was a Government-owned veterinary and animal research centre. Following the establishment of the New Zealand Department of Agriculture in 1892, a new facility was commissioned to undertake research on livestock, which could then be applied to help farming communities across the country. The laboratory was eventually constructed in 1905. Before this time, research had simply been carried out in temporary makeshift laboratories in Wellington. 

      New Zealand’s only Government Veterinary Surgeon, John Gilruth, was appointed as Wallaceville Laboratory’s founder and officer-in-charge. Gilruth had spent many years investigating stock diseases in New Zealand and France, so he was already a chief veterinarian, government bacteriologist and fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. According to historical records, Scottish-born Gilruth went on to become the Administrator of the Northern Territory in Darwin, Australia. However, his blunt, dynamic style of leadership, which was often viewed as being arrogant and insensitive, resulted in the Darwin Rebellion in 1918. Subsequently, Gilruth was forced to resign from his position and evacuate the Northern Territory under the protection of HMAS Encounter, a military cruiser. 

      As for the research facility in Wallaceville, it continued to expand over the years as more land surrounding the original building was drained and cleared. In the end, over two hundred people worked for the veterinary facility and one hundred acres of land were developed into laboratory buildings and pastures for farm stock and growing oats and other crops for animal feed. However, following plans to relocate the site at the beginning of the millennium, the facility closed in 2007. After the move, the site remained abandoned until 2014, when part of the site was redeveloped into a business park. The remaining farmland and pastures were later sold to a private owner for property development. 

      Our Version of Events

      And so, we come to our final explore in New Zealand, before we made the incredibly long journey back to England. We were in Wellington, ready to catch our flight but decided there was still time for one last dirty derp. In the end, there’s always time for a quickie. 

      After quick head’s up from Urbex Central NZ, then, we found ourselves stood outside the oldest veterinary facility in the southern hemisphere. Gaining access wasn’t particularly difficult, despite it being situated on a relatively active business park. We simply strutted in with ninja-like skills and managed to squeeze through an inhumanly-sized hole in the roof, right at the tippy top. 

      Once inside, it was immediately obvious that touching anything would be a very bad idea, as it would probably result in us contracting a form of AIDs. The contents of various cardboard boxes we found happened to have chicken varieties, cow ones and a couple of strains belonging to pigs. There were plenty of other vials of diseases scattered throughout the site too, which made our initial paranoia about cutting a finger or grazing an arm even more pronounced. Fortunately, though, we seem to have made it out unscathed.

      All in all, then, the explore was really good. There was plenty of stuff left over, and we had to sneak around a bit to avoid being seen by anyone wandering around outside which is always fun. The entire building still had a 1905 feeling to it too, since everything looked dated compared to a modern-day laboratory such as GSK. We spent roughly forty-five minutes inside, and then called it a day because we’d managed to take snaps of every room. Getting back out, however, was a mighty task since it suddenly became extremely busy outside with cars and people passing by. Somehow, though, and we’re really not quite sure how, we still managed to avoid getting caught by anyone as we retraced the steps we’d initially taken to get inside. 

      Farewells and Some Acknowledgements

      On and off since 2014, we’ve been travelling back and forth between the UK and New Zealand. This explore stands as the last explore we’re likely to do in New Zealand for a good while because the coffers are now almost entirely depleted. At this point in time then, we would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone we’ve met, explored and gotten caught by the police with, particularly Urbex Central New Zealand. In particular, we would like to thank our friend, Nillskill, for sharing locations and taking the time to travel around most of the country with us. In total, we managed to explore over one-hundred and eleven sites together. You will be missed, but we look forward to your proposed visit to the UK at some point in the near future. We would also like to mention a few more names of those we’ve met along the way: Bane, Gunner, Zort, Nadita, Harley, René, The Mexican Bandit and Dylan. It was a real pleasure to have met you all, and we’re happy that we managed to spend some time exploring together, even if one of you does insist on being called Zort in everyday life. Stay safe, ladies and gents. Cheerio. 

      WildBoyz.

      Explored with Nillskill.
       
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