first visit to Newhaven Marine Workshops, pigeons and all
Posted by carlotta on Tuesday March 11th, 2014 at 4:28pm
The huge square bulk of the Marine Workshops building sits right on the edge of the River Ouse in Newhaven. Viewed from across the water, the main building belies its size until you notice two Victorian terraced houses sandwiched between it and the redundant railway sheds. They could almost be mistaken for dolls houses, sitting between their enormous neighbours, seemingly placed alongside the river by mistake. When I arrived shortly after midday, the day had turned sparklingly bright and sunny. The river intensified the sunlight, reflecting it up from the water and bouncing it off all nearby surfaces.
I thought I had been prepared by my exterior view but inside the size and height of this shell of a building took me by surprise. It had the feeling of an abandoned cathedral in the quiet emptiness of the space. The vast room was divided through the middle by a row of columns holding up a verdigris iron framework and a double vaulted ceiling. Soft light sifted down through high skylights. Graceful arched windows punctuated the walls, although they were boarded over with chipboard.
Clues to an industrial past were everywhere. Large iron hooks hung on chains from the huge riveted gantries crisscrossing the room. Iron levers stuck out at perpendicular angles from the columns, pulley systems still attached, painted with white coded numbers and letters.
As I stood taking in the presence of this magnificent building I realised that it was not silent after all. There was a soft murmuring emanating from the depths, a whispering, almost a sighing, coming from the huge room before me. Confused and disturbed, I suddenly realised that the mumbling and breathing was not the building itself but many feathered inhabitants. Although I could not see them, pigeons were nesting everywhere.
I moved around the room taking photographs, inspired by my surroundings. But I did not enjoy the pigeons. In a small high-ceilinged room set beside the main space of the building, almost like a side chapel alongside a cathedral nave, the pigeons flew about and resettled with every move I made. I made sure I finished photographing and locked everything up tight long before the sun had set. I wasn’t ready yet to share a darkened building with my winged companions. More on this project can be found here.
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