They’re all slightly different. Be it their location in an otherwise empty field, sat adjacent to a busy road junction, or tucked away betweeen houses, they’re all still slightly different. Some are getting torn down now. We turned up at Kings Cross to try to climb the 130 year old structures but they were gone, pillars of metal stacked up on the ground, ready for removal. Upon finding out they were going to be reinstalled once the crossrail works under the site are completed, I felt a wave of elation. Somebody else cares!
In fact, there’s several people that care. Aside from the obvious curiosity as a child, these first came to my attention when Loops posted some excellent images in 2009, from his climb up the East Greenwich Gasometer. Nebula and Gary accompanied me up this a year or so later, and then in 2011, Nebula and I visited Saltley in Birmingham to carry on where we had left off on a previous trip in 2010.
I met Analepsis and Keitei in December 2011, and they both made their intentions clear. While Gasometer climbing may have become slightly more appealing as the targets of the London UE community broadened following the preventative action of the court services, the desire to ‘complete’ something and own bragging rights on a system is always there, and something those with the focus will work towards. Paul had completed the London Underground with Kevin Arnold, and Dsankt and co had ‘demolished’ the Paris Metro. While the gas holding objects of our desires are perhaps not considered as worthy of vigilant security as the underground mass transit systems of the English and French capitals, they pose a different set of challenges to overcome. And who doesn’t like a challenge?
Some are sat in wasteland, some on live gas sites. Some are obviously derelict, some have electric fences around them, and some require a run across railway tracks to get to them. Most have palisade fences around them, and the ladders to the top are often covered in crackling paint and bird shit. All have ladders that are partially enclosed, and without scaff hooks, you just have to grit your teeth and get on with it.
There’s been a degree of creativity required. I’ve never encountered an electric fence before, at least not in this area of my life, and while the first trip to one of these secured by electricity may have caused a retreat, at least we knew what we were dealing with. We spoke about returning and throwing an old carpet over the wires, but as it transpired, we skipped this one. At least we knew what we were dealing with….
The domes are plate metal, often riveted together. The more recent ones are welded, but they all vibrate slightly when you walk on them. I tended to avoid doing this, suspicion that eventually I would sail too close to the wind and tumble through enough to put me off. You want to minimise the risk, really. Remove it where you can?
At the top, the height is sufficient to grant a view across the neighbourhood. Sometimes, there are groups of these gas holders, either in the immediate vicinity, or slightly further afield. It’s always the mission to do the lot, although sometimes, aspirations never run alongside the reality that is achieved.
Palisade fences are only as fearsome as you allow them to be. The majority of the time, there’s some way past them. I’ve been under them, over them, through them, and around them in this quest. Its no wonder the pursuit of the urban is restricted for so many when things are taken at face value.
The photos one can obtain can seem somewhat repetitive. There’s not many overly different views, but the slight differences in structure eventually elicit a response of sorts. A difference in the vertical structure or the way the ladders are laid out becomes more noticeable after a while, even though this is perhaps an unremarkable observation.
The roots of the gasometer was in the concept of ‘town gas’. Instead of a network of pipes and a system serving a vast area, one gas company would serve a town, and the gasometer would be used to store the gas. Now, these are used for balancing the gas at a safe pressure, If used at all. Gas is stored in spherical containers at a much greater pressure. These industrial behemoths are becoming removed from the horizons of the UK, and London has seen several demolished.
It has been a team effort really. We’ve all shared information and visited different locations at different times. We’ve cracked some together, and others have been shared by the party first to visit. I like their uniqueness, I guess that’s why I keep going back.
One night, myself, Neb and Keitei ran across some tracks and bypassed a fence, then drove 10 miles north, where I struggled to fit through a gap in a fence due to my ever enlarging chest. I scraped through and made the climb. Other occasions have not been so successful, like the time I fell off a wall while trying to visit a certain, particularly well secured location. On another occasion, we walked past a security guard and told him we were meant to be there, only for him to come running screaming after us when he realised that we weren’t.
I’ve always felt inclined to photograph the whole dome from the top, but it doesn’t represent it fully. The dome has a steep curve from the bottom, this is much more evident when you’re on ground level. Looks are deceiving, and up close, the beauty of these becomes much more apparent than when they sit on the horizon, upsetting people with nothing better to complain about.