My home town of Dundee was vandalised by a succession of town planners and dodgy councillors over a two-decade period starting in the 1960s which resulted in many old and historical buildings being bulldozed for profit.
Some of the men behind this wanton destruction of the city's heritage should have gone to jail. As a newspaper reporter for 32 years, I heard plenty of tales of secret "brown envelope" deals, mutual back-scratching and compulsory purchase orders that, somehow, seemed to benefit some councillors more than others. Unfortunately, most of this was over by the time I started the job in 1979.
Thankfully, Dundee has largely cleaned up its act but the damage that was done can't be reversed and an awful lot of the city's built heritage has gone forever. Of course, no city stands still and consequently there are still some areas that have suffered in recent years through this "improvement". Next up, I suspect, will be this 1830s building that used to be part of the Pitalpin Mill complex. The long-disused main mill building was knocked down about five years ago after a fire gutted it. The building at the top of this post was known as the West Warehouse and is basically all that's left of an industrial site that dates back to the 18th century.
In case you didn't know it, Dundee was once the jute capital of the world supplying the material all over the globe including, I believe, to the US where it was used to make sand bags during the Civil War. Pitalpin Mill was one of these jute factories but on a much smaller scale than some of the big ones the city once had. It's in a working class part of town known as Lochee and although there's really not much left of the mill complex I've tried to give you a flavour of what it must have been like in its heyday.
It actually began life as a flax mill before switching to the more profitable jute and then, in the second half of the 20th century, rayon. It closed for good in 1988. There was a proposal to develop it into flats, convert the West Warehouse into two homes and build new flats around-about but it never got off the ground.
The mill was built for a Mr James Donald - the narrow street featured here is Donald's Lane - who lived in Pitalpin House overlooking the site. Pitalpin House is still there and inhabited but looking a little out of place amongst the modern housing around it.
A week or so ago, I was driving nearby and decided to see what was left of the mill. I was very disappointed to find that it had been cleared away and the ground levelled. However, I was struck (it doesn't take much to fascinate me when it comes to local history) by the corner of the lane below, in particular, the kerb stone that I photographed.
The lane really isn't big enough for a car but its cobbles must have clattered to the sounds of a near-infinite number of horses' hooves and metal rimmed cart wheels over the decades. In fact, the kerb on the apex of the corner has been worn away by around two hundred years of horse-drawn transport.
The warehouse itself is slowly succumbing to the elements although I noticed there still seems to be a business running out of the ground floor, possibly a car garage or similar. With most of the glass broken and the roof not in the best of repair, it's only a matter of time before wind and water turn it into a sufficiently dangerous condition for the owner to apply for permission to knock down what is at the moment a protected Category B listed building. Or perhaps it, too, will be gutted by fire?
Then the developers will be able to flatten the entire site and not have to bother with converting - also known as retaining for prosperity - an old building into flats. That way, they'll make more money and one of the vanishingly small parts of Dundee that has any sort of history to it will have lost a vital link to the past.
The camerawork for these photographs was simple enough. An OM2n, 50mm f2 Zuiko and Tmax 400 developed in Firstcall Superfine developer. I got lucky with the shaft of light striking the corner of the lane when I visited. The sun is shining through a gap between two high walls and 30 minutes either way would have left it in shadow.
If the lane and building are still there when the sun gets higher in the sky, I'll make a return visit to see if I can capture a little light in the lane.