The origins of the most famous coke plant in the city of Charleroi dates back to 1838, when a coke-fired blast furnace was established along the river Sambre by the newborn company Société Anonyme des Laminoirs, Forges, Fonderies et Usines de la Providence (shorten Forges de la Providence). Although coke ovens were present on site since the beginning, a first modern coke plant was established in 1908 to support the three existing blast furnaces. At the time, the Providence steelworks were amongst the largest in the Charleroi region and whole Belgium too. This favorable positioning was confirmed and improved after a general restructuring occurred between the two world wars. The first phase (1918-21) consisted in the replacement of ancient blast furnaces with five new ones: two at Marchienne and three more at Dampremy. The resulting expanded site was stretching for about 2 km between the Sambre (south) and the Bruxelles-Charleroi canal (north).
The second phase occurred in the mid 1930s, when an additional blast furnace was built at the Dampremy site along with a large, modern coke plant. The latter (1932-34) was still located at the Marchienne site, slightly to the east of the previous coke plant. Equipped with a battery of 50 Koppers ovens, it had a capacity of 30.000-32.000 t/m and thus was able to satisfy the requirements of the whole site. The two coke plants used to work side-by-side until the early 1950s, when the older one was dismantled and the newer improved. In addition to the original Koppers battery two Coppée ones were built, each one counting 26 ovens. This layout persisted for about thirty years, during which Forges de la Providence merged with several other Belgian steel companies until the creation of Cockerill-Sambre in 1981. The latter controlled all the steelmaking sites in both Charleroi and Liège regions. Being the only one left of its kind in Charleroi, the Marchienne coke plant was improved through the addition of a fourth battery of 20 Didier ovens. This led to an overall capacity of 750000 t/y of metallurgical coke obtained in 122 ovens. Further corporate restructuring led to the creation of Carsid in 2001, which gathered together the last existing primary steel facilities in Charleroi, i.e. the Marchienne coke plant (Forges de la Providence), a sintering plant, a blast furnace and an OMB plant (all three originally belonging to Thy-Marcinelle et Monceau company). Decreasing steel demand plus the obsolescence of inherited facilities made the life of Carsid lasting for just a few years. The coke plant was run down in 2008, leaving the rest mothballed until the definitive closure (2012).
I also made a documentary about this place (it has english subtitles)
Thanks for looking!
Visited here twice over the span of a week, once with the SO, and the second with mookster,Brewtal, Zotez and obscurity.
It's a big place and I didn't realise how much I'd missed till the second visit!
Bulstrode house (listed grade II) lies towards the centre of the park. Rebuilt by Benjamin Ferrey 1860-2 for the twelfth Duke of Somerset, probably incorporating elements of the earlier buildings, it is a rambling, red-brick, Tudor-style building with an imposing tower over the main, north entrance and a French Renaissance-style colonnade on the south front giving access to the adjoining south terrace. The enclosed Inner Court, a service courtyard, is attached to the east side of the house, with various C20 buildings close by. Attached to the north-east corner of the house is the Outer Court, entered from the forecourt through a Gothic arch with a ducal crest in the gable, flanked by railings and brick piers with stone caps. The other three sides of this court have a Gothic loggia fronting a single-storey building; access to the Inner Court is through a gateway on the south side.
In 1966, the community moved to Kent, and the property was bought by WEC International, a Christian evangelist missionary organisation who have gradually restored and improved the public parts of the house's interior.
The house was put up for sale in 2016 and it's now intended to be turned into a luxury hotel. It was also used recently as a film set for the latest Johnny English film.
A pretty simple one, apart from having to wade through a muddy bog in a field. The house is huge and even after a few hours I felt like I'd need a re-visit the following week to see the rest of it, especially with the snow and ice making parts like the rooftops terrifying slippery. The second visit was a lovely sunny day and much more pleasant.
Unfortunately the local kids have been getting in and really smashing the place up good and proper. A real shame as its got some really nice original features.
The Fire alarms still worked and these were pretty much going off 24/7, which was great to cover up the noise of us moving around inside, but also really really annoying! However Brewtal made it his personal mission to find the fuseboard and turn them off. Took him a little while but he did it! Bliss at last.
When WEC International left in 2016 they stripped out pretty much everything and so a good chunk of the rooms are empty and not too interesting. However the whole lower floor/Basement level had some really nice interesting bits and the power still worked!
We were doing really well until we set off some PIR alarms in one of the outbuildings while we were leaving. Whoops!
Turned out to be a great explore!
The clock tower mechanism which still could be operated.
The Basement level. Most the lights worked!
My oh my, how long has it been since I posted a report? Exploring has become a low priority for me ever since I left the UK, even if I've always kept tabs on new sites shared here and on social media. Truth be told learning Mandarin and my lady have taken a much bigger priority in recent years, plus my lady is no fan of me going about it alone so that makes organising jaunts more challenging. I have visited a fair few sites around Taiwan, but compared to Europe there is so little here to get me to jump on the next train there because beautiful architecture is just so rare and even noteworthy industrial sites are few and far between; many places are just rotting concrete shells. So this report here is meant to be a compilation of my latest explores to date which I feel don't have enough bite to warrant standalone reports.
There will be more reports to come in the future, but since I left my torch and tripod in England it will be some time before I visit these. I trust the results will not be disappointing though.
亞哥花園/Encore Garden, July 2018
Visited with some colleagues and non-explorers.
I'd always been aware of this one, as it's situated close to my favourite hiking trails just outside of Taizhong where I live. But being me I never made a move until last year. It's an abandoned theme park in Dakeng district, opened in 1981 and was a hugely popular site that attracted around 1m people a year. Like several sites in Taiwan it was hit by the 921 earthquake in 1999 which severely damaged the area, causing attendance to drop dramatically. Eventually the financial losses incurred forced the place to close in 2008.
On most days there is a security guard with dogs at the top of the site, living in a shack. However as of last year the entire site has been repurposed as a rally racetrack. Pay $100 (that's £2.50) to enter and you can sit back and spectate, but before that we chose to explore the park first. Initially we were in full stealth mode, when we spotted people in hi vis vests dotted around the site as well as the guard's dogs barking at us, but after seeing others drive round with their scooters we realised it was a free for all for today.
What I found really fascinating about exploring in Taiwan compared to Europe and other places is how the fertile, humid tropical enviroment is far more hostile to built structures which means nature takes over rapidly once the place is abandoned; the restaurant was completely covered in thick, thick dust, and other structures had started to be completely invaded by tree branches.
Old arcade machines left behind
Because of thick shrub finding the entrance to this ride took a bit of careful searching, but we got to it.
It turns out as long as we stayed off the roads as much as possible, we were at free to roam whenever we wanted. The racing stewards didn't mind us at all. Unfortunately the outdoor auditorium was inaccessible because there were too many race cars on the route leading up to it.
Another thing that's incredibly striking about Taiwan and nature is the frequency of earthquake tremors. In my experience they seem to hit every few months, and in mountainous and rural areas can trigger minor (or major) landslides; look at the next 2 pictures and compare to older photos...
By stark contrast to the western world, obviously with a few exceptions Asians and the Taiwanese have utmost respect for abandoned sites. Whether this be rooted in a fear of the supernatural (people in the west believe in ghosts, but superstitions are taken far more seriously here), they treat abandoned sites as tombs and relics of the past to be treated with respect. It's because of this, little if any effort is made to seal any buildings from intruders and yet sites see so little vandalism. Security guards are rare, too. Another thing is that for several sites upon closure and abandonment the owners do not bother to remove items from buildings, regardless of their value. The fundamental exception to this rule being statues and religious iconography, because to leave these to rot is to bring huge misfortune on one's life.
So although decent sites are indeed rare, exploring those that are around are unique experiences in which you can really lose yourself and let your imagination run free.
I then made my way inside the buildings in the middle of the site, and was stunned to find the power still on. It turns out even on a Sunday there were workers inside. Unfortunately the site manager walked in, then politely asked me to leave after this photo was taken.
It's far from epic, but it's well worth sharing as it's so vastly different from Crapalot. I'm still alive by the way...
Thank you so much for reading, and it's a real pleasure to be back.