Return To The River Ely Tidal Harbour And Warehouse

Following our first photography trip down to the River Ely Tidal Harbour, it was a good while before we returned to the run-down industrial site with our cameras. This post focuses on the last time we visited what was left of the site in around 1999 / 2000, and in those intervening years, a lot had changed.

To start with we’d had to come from a different direction, the rickety bridge that led from the Penarth Road entrance to the back of the rubbish tip that we used before was gone, and the dump was no more. The dump had been transformed into what’s no known as Grangemoor Park, on the outskirts of the big retail park on Ferry Road. We came across a lot of waste ground to the rear of the site, from the direction of the big Asda store.




The first time we visited we hadn’t been up to the back of the warehouses as there was still a lot of business activity going on there. As you’ll see in the previous post on the site the area was being used to store the vehicles that had come from the Welsh Industrial And Maritime Museum down Cardiff Bay. This was all gone when we visited this time, all the commercial activity in the area had stopped and moved on, and everything was in a much worse state of repair. Derelict in fact.

Unlike the first lot of photos, this trip was a colour shoot, shot on either a 35mm camera, or a new fangled (at the time) and now obsolete APS camera, which explains the funny long shots and the different colour saturation in some of the photos. Some of the images below are a bit blurry and scratchy as they were scanned from the negatives, the others scanned from the printed APS photos. And I say a colour shoot but you could be forgiven for thinking they were as black and white as the first lot given their starkness and lack of colour. I have bumped the colour up a bit in some of them to compensate.

We’ll start with the old stone workshops that sat under the A4055 flyover. I really liked these buildings, their scale and position. They were purely utilitarian with the main road rushing above the one of them but full of character. Unlike the first visit we were now able to go inside these buildings, and was saddened to see them in such a sorry state. As you’ll see from this first lot of photos, the very fabric of them was on the verge of collapse.

I remember being impressed by the roof inside these warehouses, and looking at these photos again I was reminded of why. The outside was clad in corrugated iron, but the inside was lined with planks of wood and looked really impressive. Excuse my lack of technical language here, but the interior iron work can be seen in the photos below, and the wooden planks running up from the wall to the apex, whitewashed. It looked solid and considered, not just an old cheaply thrown together workspace.

The buildings sitting under the flyover

The buildings sitting under the flyover

Exterior of building below the flyover

Exterior of building below the flyover

View between the derelict buildings under the flyover

View between the derelict buildings under the flyover

Interior of derelict workshop under the flyover

Interior of derelict workshop under the flyover

Interior of derelict workshop under the flyover

Interior of derelict workshop under the flyover

Interior of derelict workshop under the flyover

Interior of derelict workshop under the flyover

Interior of derelict workshop under the flyover

Interior of derelict workshop under the flyover

As I mentioned, in previous visits we hadn’t gone up to the area around the two workshops under the road as there was people working. Now they were gone we had a bit of a wander around the scrubby area. This next lot of photos are from this area, away from the river and to the back of the old tidal harbour. There was a lot of knackered corrugated iron and derelict small buildings. They were mostly accessible, but there was a lot of bracken and long grass around, not to mention piles of sleepers, broken glass and old tyres.

View of the buildings in the area

View of the buildings in the area

Large units at the back of the area

Large units at the back of the area

View of the buildings in the area

View of the buildings in the area

Derelict outbuilding close to the harbour

Derelict outbuilding close to the harbour

Flattened buildings on the site of the tidal harbour

Flattened buildings on the site of the tidal harbour

Despite being able to get inside a lot of the buildings around the actual tidal harbour, we never managed to get inside the black metal part of the tidal harbour above the wooden quayside. I don’t recall why, if that was maybe still in use or if the entrances were all boarded. It would have been good to get a look inside there, but sadly, that time is long gone. Whilst the top part of the building seemed fairly intact, the same could not be said for the wooden tidal harbour below and the wooden structures to the sides of it.

A lot of the wood structure around the harbour and the quayside was rotting away and looking a lot worse for wear. The next lot of photos give a look at the wood uprights and structures. To my mind it seems a lot more shattered and splintered than our previous visits, on the verge of melting away into the mud and the river.

View of the tidal harbour buildings and site

View of the tidal harbour buildings and site

View of the tidal harbour

View of the tidal harbour

View of the tidal harbour uprights

View of the tidal harbour uprights

View of the tidal harbour uprights

View of the tidal harbour uprights

Rotting timbers alongside the tidal harbour

Rotting timbers alongside the tidal harbour

Timbers under the A4055 flyover

Timbers under the A4055 flyover

Rotting timbers alongside the tidal harbour

Rotting timbers alongside the tidal harbour

View across the River Ely towards Penarth Road

View across the River Ely towards Penarth Road

View of the tidal harbour uprights

View of the tidal harbour uprights

It was still possible to walk along the covered ground section of the tidal harbour, however, it had to be done with great care as the structure here was also in a worse state than previously, and also looked like it was ready to collapse. The old bellows was still there, close to the back wall, and the timbers under the warehouse building looked solid and in good repair compared to the rest of the wood structure.

Looking up to the tidal harbour building

Looking up to the tidal harbour building

View of the tidal harbour

View of the tidal harbour

View of the tidal harbour timbers

View of the tidal harbour timbers

View of the tidal harbour

View of the tidal harbour

View of the tidal harbour

View of the tidal harbour

Collapsing walkway under the tidal harbour building

Collapsing walkway under the tidal harbour building

Collapsing walkway under the tidal harbour building

Collapsing walkway under the tidal harbour building

Collapsing walkway under the tidal harbour building

Collapsing walkway under the tidal harbour building

Walkway under the tidal harbour building

Walkway under the tidal harbour building

So, that was our last trip down to the tidal harbour before it was demolished completely to make way for the new high-rise accommodation that stands there now, as a part of Cardiff Bay’s redevelopment. I wish I’d have gone back more over the years and taken more or maybe tried to get into the black building above the tidal harbour. It was not to be though but I’m happy to have the photos to remind me of how it was back then.

You may wonder why I took so many photos of the place. In the early 1990s I was doing Fine Art as a degree down in Falmouth in Cornwall. I’ve always enjoyed using urban settings in my work and placing them in different locations as well as adding people and stories to these locations. I would often draw from photographs to help me create these images, either as a source for artwork, or to make montages and create a whole new reality from these photos. The River Ely Tidal Harbour really captured my imagination and was used time and time again in my artworks over the years (and no doubt will again at some point). Below are a few examples of how this location featured in my creative works, including a large panoramic view of the area from many of the photos above. Be sure to click on the image below to see the bigger version.

Photomontage made in 2001

Photomontage made in 2001 – Click image to see larger version.

Black and White photocopy montage from 1993

Black and White photocopy montage from 1993

Tiger Bay Playground (Stuck In The Mud) - Mixed media painting 1995

Tiger Bay Playground (Stuck In The Mud) – Mixed media painting 1995

Comments 2

  1. Mark Lane 21st July 2017
    • David 22nd July 2017

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