An abandoned factory in Sheffield apparently makes for an interesting photo subject. I know this because I saw karl101’s photo album on flickr and then I looked around some more and found some more photos here and here.


I’ve lived the  Urbex life both vicariously and fairly regularly on this blog through people like silentUK and longexposure.net, and that’s been fun, but there’s obviously additional local interest for me in this one.

The company was founded by John Dyson who began mining clay and making bricks in the early 1800s. From the very beginning the business was a success. The 1834 Sheffield trade directory lists “John Dyson – Brick Maker, Stannington” which indicates that he ran the business on his own. However, by 1838 the business was listed as “John Dyson and Son – Black clay miners and firebrick manufacturers, Griffs House, Stannington”.

Dyson’s were manufacturers of refractory material, ceramics for the steel industry – basically making the tiles which lined the inside of the furnaces and ladles used in steelmaking – they also produced fire backs and other household ceramic bricks for the likes of Agas, fires etc.

As with all industry these days, however, China does it more cheaply. But rather than going under like so many other British businesses have, Dyson reacted to this by building a plant in Tianjin in China. They still supply “technical ceramics and thermal technologies” to those people and industries who need technical ceramics and thermal technologies.
I guess 2015 China is a far cry from even the 1970s in Sheffield, though:

I worked at Dyson in 1970. When I was there we mostly made teeming refractories for steel making. They lined the blast furnaces, ladles and moulds. The pipes for “uphill” teeming were stamped out in wet clay (mined from the local Ughill quarries) in drop stamp moulds. Every so often, someone would be a bit slow taking his hands out of the way of the stamp and would lose the end of his fingers. Almost everyone in the factory was missing bits of fingers, crushed by the stamper.



Given the number of photo albums and sites devoted to it, I guess that the Dyson Ceramics factory in Sheffield must be the most accessible derelict factory in the world. What’s interesting to me is the respect with which it appears to be treated by the explorers and photographers. Easily mobile items (like the bottles and stamping kit above) appear in photos from both 2010 and 2014 – people are going in there to take photographs, not souvenirs.

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