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GKN - a.k.a A Most Treacherous Explore < on 11/8/2018 7:22 PM > | Reply with Quote
In my previous post on the Longbridge Shadow Factory I eluded to this other complex I explored a number of times between 2011 and 2013. The tunnels have now been filled in as the entire site is being redeveloped into a huge new hospital.
Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds - more commonly known as GKN - is a huge multinational company that nowadays specialises in the automotive and aerospace industries, however in the past they produced all manner of metal goods across a huge array of factories across the UK. Their enormous factory in Smethwick, a heavily industrialised area to the west of Birmingham, was centred around production of screws, nuts, bolts and other kinds of fasteners. The factory closed in 1991 as part of a huge restructuring effort to focus on military and aerospace industries rather than blanket steel goods production.
The factory buildings were partially demolished with parts converted into small scale light industrial use, still in use today. However everyone forgot that underneath the factory were two large sets of tunnels, utilised in the war years for continual production even during air raids when the entire area was being bombed. These remained untouched since closure in 1991 slowly decaying away with the occasional visitor braving the darkness. The factory was split in two by a canal with a set of tunnels on each side - sadly one set was majorly flooded and totally unexplorable however the other complex, set further back from the canal, was very much explorable.
This place is to this day one of the most dangerous places I have explored. Of course it goes without saying that 99% of the complex was totally pitch black, and the arched tunnels were at most just seven foot tall in the middle with all manner of pipes and girders and sharp metalwork poking out at head height. There were numerous deep pits of murky polluted water, and oil was literally oozing out of the walls from decades of soaking through the ground from above. I'm sure you can imagine the smell too, it was a horrendous mix of oil, stagnant water and decay.
Despite all of that, and despite it being in a pretty horrible part of the country, it quickly became one of my favourite spots with a guaranteed entry if you went on a weekend. There was loads of old stuff to see down there from its days as a fasteners factory, and many an enjoyable hour was spent down there in the pitch black - my favourite memory being my penultimate visit in December 2012 when it was absolutely hammering it down with rain and water was literally cascading into the tunnels from holes at the surface.
Photos go from my first visit onwards - you may be able to see my light painting skills improve dramatically the further down you go!
6 - This light well was one of the only areas with any natural light making it in.
A year later I returned during a ridiculously heavy rainstorm one freezing cold December day and had one of my favourite explores ever.
There were a few buildings left that hadn't found a use, although only one was accessible - it was fairly empty and uninteresting but in the spirit of completion...
26 - these were commonly referred to as the stairs of death - an exposed staircase covered in rubble that liked to behave like a landslide on the way up and into the building!
30 - a surviving building on the other side of the canal, in the grounds of a bus depot and not accessible sadly.
31 - the office block which backed onto the part converted into light industrial use post-closure - this was only ever accessed a couple of times and sadly not by me.
32 - a visible part of the tunnel system on the other side of the canal, it's level was a lot lower down than the system I explored.
I actually shot a little bit of video inside the tunnels during the pouring rain storm on my penultimate visit...