Dorma/ Kaleidoscope, Forge Bleach Works, Chinley … visited with Havoc and Jaff Fox.
Forge Bleach Works occupies a massive site … all of which has been stripped systematically by metal thieves, slate thieves, and probably other kinds of thief too. I remember seeing images of it as an intact site when it first appeared on the forums; today, it’s pretty desolate, a shell dripping with water – it was an overcast afternoon when we rolled up – but the grimness still has a certain something. Rain and overcast cloud gave the place a real air of melancholy, which suited the advanced state of dereliction which the buildings have reached. As it sits out in the country, you’d be forgiven for thinking you could wander about untroubled, but the nearby car park seems to be popular with randoms …
The site was originally built as a paper mill built in the early 1800s by a miller called Sykes – a relatively enlightened industrialist by all accounts, he’s credited with providing the first staff canteen in a Derbyshire factory. Presumably before him, there was a forge on the site? Early in the 20th century, Sykes sold the site to Dorma, who used it to produce bedlinen and cotton prints which involved a great deal of bleaching and dyeing: they’re best known for sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers. The chemical tanks and dye vats are still evident, as are warning signs hinting at the noxious chemicals which used to live in them. The site occupies 34 acres and has a river running through it, which was ideal for a bleachworks since it could be fed directly into the bleachfield, and also diverted into the chlorine-based bleaching process. The water flowed into a reservoir at the top of the site, then through the plant into an activated treatment plant at the bottom.
Dorma sold the site on to Kaleidoscope Colouration Ltd. in August 2003, but by February 2005 the new company had gone into administration, and the doors closed leaving 100 employees out of work. The receiver wasted no time in liquidating the business: a large displenishing sale was held in March 2005, to sell the "cotton and polyester cotton bleaching, dyeing and finishing plant". A selection of the machinery … a bleaching range, a padding & steaming range, a dyeing & washing range, a dye padder, some stenters, padders, gas fired dryers and fast batchers. Also … a weft straightener, more stenters, a baker (sounds unlikely in this context!), a calender, a cutting & rolling sanforiser, several tumble dryers, some inspection & wrapping machines, and finally the wonderfully named “VanWyk computer-controlled Colour Kitchen”. Anyhow, this sadly meant that all the kit and machinery has gone, leaving most of the spaces empty, with little to say about their past use. Even the laboratories have been “turned over” – literally, as the lab benches have been tipped onto their sides and are quietly rotting away.
In fact, the robbers have been so thorough in parts that there’s nothing left worth taking: in the boiler house, the roof has lost its slates, underfelt and lead flashings, leaving only timber battens and rafters, with a few wisps of asbestos hanging where there once were pipes. Water pours into the wallheads; moss and ferns have begun to sprout, spilling the masonry apart. With scrap lead reaching record prices, and secondhand Welsh slates worth up to £1.50 each, Forge Bleach Works has been “quarried” by the pikeys.