By Tom Dare
THE AUTHOR of a book chronicling some of London’s most fascinating derelict sites has released a series of eerie images ahead of the release of a new book next year.
Taken by photographer Paul Talling for his Derelict London series, pictures show what remains of two London pubs, as well as shots of the now-abandoned Holloway Women’s Prison in North London.
Other photos show the ‘Croydon toy tree’, a tree in South London where people leave lost toys in the hope that they will one day be found.
Paul has released the images ahead of the release of a new book, due out next year, celebrating his 15 years of travelling across London to document all things derelict.
He already has a website, derelictlondon.com, and the new book is a follow-up to his successful 2008 book ‘Derelict London’.
And Paul says his main reason for doing this type of work is that he wants people to appreciate London’s past as much as its future.
“I hope my work demonstrates that London’s derelict buildings deserve to be celebrated just as much as its new developments,” he said.
“I spent much of my life as a housing officer and music promoter in and around London. The photography involvement began purely as a labour of love taking snaps of places before they became regenerated.
“My fascination with derelict London buildings dates back to an early Spring morning in 2003, when I was walking home from a club and noticed that an abandoned candle factory in Wandsworth was finally succumbing to the wrecker’s ball.
“There was something rather poignant about seeing this once vibrant building finally biting the dust and it prompted me to keep a casual eye out for other buildings tottering on the edge of extinction.
“Soon, I became obsessed and took to randomly wandering the streets at weekends, camera in hand, and eventually setting up a website derelictlondon.com. Any fears that I may have had that I was the only person who found these places even remotely interesting were soon dispelled when the website got thousands of hits a day.
“All these buildings are reminders of London’s bygone days. Each one is full of social history that sheds old, forgotten light on the city – from drinkers to prisoners.
“For example, many people don’t realise that the Bird in Hand pub in Croydon was once a canal side pub. Indeed, many people, even some locals, don’t even know that there was a canal in Croydon.”
Paul has written other books since the release of Derelict London, including one on London’s lost rivers, and he also hosts guided walking tours which have proven to be hugely popular.
And he says what he loves most about this type of photography is that it documents the ever-changing face of one of the world’s biggest cities.
“My work simply shows how London is, and always has been, an endlessly changing and evolving city,” he says.
“We see phone boxes and public toilets disappearing but we also see positive regeneration in areas like King’s Cross. Since I started the website many sites have been wiped off the face of the earth while others have been converted to serve new uses.
“Followers of the website give me a lot of nostalgic comments and memories whether they have lived, worked or visited these places in the past.
“Most stories are from people who used to drink in the pubs, or from readers who say their parents met in that pub, and even one from a reader who claims that his uncle stabbed someone in an East End pub featured in my book.
“Someone also saw my pictures of the decaying redundant Mersey Ferry currently moored down by the Thames Barrier and said they saw the Beatles play a gig on it in its heyday.
“However, many of these places are structurally unsound and extremely dangerous.
“Plus they have the perils of discarded syringes, dead rats and pigeons, wasps nests etc. I’ve seen it all, so don’t attempt to enter them!!