July 31, 2016

Ogdans Tobacco Factory

Stepping back in time

Ogdans Tobacco Factory

When Jon backs his wagon into the yard after popping out on a reclaim collection (or a rescue as I like to call it) we almost never know what to expect, it could literally be anything. From huge pieces of architecture to 20 belfast sinks to the most weird and wonderful curios, and I’ll admit it does feel a teensy bit like Christmas.

Sometimes it will be a one off collection from a small reclaim and for other larger reclaim projects it could be lots of collections from one place as the project progresses. During one of these larger projects the wagon was rumbling into the yard again with some crazy bits and pieces, huge old industrial tanks with the most fantastic chambers and dials, massive posts, beautiful timber, everything from this project was a little bit special.

Being the nosey parker I am I asked if I could go along on the next collection, I wanted to see where all this treasure was being rescued from and Jon graciously agreed, on Saturday we would head over to Ogdans Tobacco Factory in Liverpool. Friday night’s sleep was poor to say the least, I’d made the mistake of doing a little research and was now beyond excited to see this place in person.

Founded by Thomas Ogdan, Ogdans Tobacco Factory was built in 1899 and opened in 1901, housing a pair of 430 horsepower inverted vertical steam engines and employing generations of local families the factory was a hive of activity until it’s closure in 2007. While the prominent office building had the protection of being grade listed the factory behind was being demolished to make way for housing. Looking at pictures of people working inside the factory 100 years ago and reading transcripts of women who started working there when they were fifteen and later met their husbands there, I was already starting to feel a bit sad about the old place.

Visiting the site was a totally new experience for me, I’ve never been on a building site let alone a demolition so I really wasn’t sure what to expect, I didn't know at what stage of demolition the buildings would be but armed with high viz, hard hat and my camera I found that the old place still had it’s soul. Most of the structures were still intact and the atmosphere was tangible.

I felt torn between not wanting this place to disappear and wanting to rescue every rusty detail, walking from room to room inside the factory, down passages, peeking into the workers coatrooms still with untouched original hooks, sinks and mirrors, the whole place had a sacred feel and I suddenly felt very lucky to be able to witness it before it was gone. I think Jon might have the best and the hardest job of us all, it must be difficult to see these places go and not be able to rescue it all from gone and forgotten.

Ogdans. They just don’t make them like this anymore.

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