Abandonment, decay, dereliction: there are those of us to whom these concepts have great resonance. Their application to a particular location conveys a real sense of history, of time stood still, a direct link to the past, an atmosphere of melancholy. The material evidence, dust, peeling paint, rusting metal, abandoned objects, is often the essential ingredient.
‘Dust in the air suspended
Marks the place where a story ended.’
From TS Eliot’s Little Gidding in Four Quartets
Our imaginations work overtime, we can see the ghosts.
The machinations of the heritage industry can be strange. This is a grade II listed building, currently derelict. It has received a large grant to restore it and to be transformed into a visitor centre for the wonderful Woodberry Wetlands project in Stoke Newington in London. The whole project, being run by the London Wildlife Trust, will create the largest reed bed in London, and will make the site, the East Reservoir, a holding pond for the Lea Valley waterway, permanently accessible to the public for the first time since it was constructed in 1833.
Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, site owners Thames Water, Hackney Council and Berkeley Homes to the tune of £1.5 million this building is part of a major landscape project.
The building, at one end of the reservoir, is actually listed as a gas house. It was converted to that use in the 1960s but originally was the kitchen and coal sheds for the boiler house (gone) built to service the dining hall (gone) of the directors of the New River Company, which owned the reservoir. This was presumably something along the lines of those medieval and later banqueting house follies found on country house estates, a room with a view of the reservoir!
I can’t help thinking the ‘gas house’ will not mean so much once it is restored.