Milseán Mill, Limerick City – May 2014

Milseán Mill was the last of the trio of Limerick buildings which we had yet to crack. I’m not using it’s real name here as it’s not one I want to pop up in search engines but anyone from Limerick will know the building quite well. The main building was originally built in the late 1800s and initially started life as a flax mill. Since then various outbuildings have been added onto the main structure and the use of the building has changed as time has passed.

For the majority of its life, the factory was the headquarters of the Condensed Milk Company of Ireland. This company survived in Limerick for over 90 years until they were wound down in 1974. Their assets were split up and sold to the various farmer co-operatives that were operating in the country at the time. Golden Vale purchased this site and continued to process milk here up until 2011. In 2011 Kerry Group (which had since acquired Golden Vale) wound down the milk processing plant on site.

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Image Source: Photo by Jim Bruce, released to the public domain under Wikimedia Commons

Since this closure (as far as I know) the site has been used mainly as a storage depot. This meant that security remained very tight with security on site 24/7 and the PIRs and CCTV which are scattered around the grounds of the building still remaining active. Stellaluna and I tried to access the site within this time but despite making it onto the grounds (and making an involuntary blood sacrifice on the way in!), the main building was tightly sealed. Similarly to Rank’s Silo and Bannatyne’s Mill all we could do was wait patiently.

Our chance came this year when Limerick was named as one of the European cities of culture for 2014. Limerick has embraced the title and has hosted countless events throughout the city encompassing many different art forms. The urban art which has been popping up around Limerick during the year is particularly impressive and has improved the look of the city considerably.

For the Summer of 2014, a series of contemporary art exhibitions were set up around the city. Luckily for us one of the main locations being used was this factory. Over twenty different art pieces were set up throughout the outbuildings of the site and within the ground floor of the main building. These areas however were mostly wide open spaces and held little of interest. The more interesting stuff remained behind closed doors.

After hearing that Stellaluna had figured out access, myself and Storysham visited the exhibition as soon as we could. With the grounds being open to the public, security still remained on site keeping an eye on things and monitoring the CCTV. Along with this there were plenty of volunteers looking after the exhibitions so we still had to be wary. After arriving at the exhibition we waited around and bided our time until everything was clear and then quickly went for it making our way over the access point and into one of the buildings.

From here we were able to explore to our heart’s content as long as we kept away from the windows and kept noise to a minimum. We worked our way throughout the accessible outbuildings and main building. Disappointingly the main building had been mostly stripped of anything of interest. The machinery that once filled this building seems to have been long removed. All that remains now to remind you of its past use are small mementos scattered throughout the building. We came across some small pieces of machinery which hadn’t been removed and milk boxes and cans from the days when the mill was in operation but other than this the place had been well cleaned out. Nonetheless the impressiveness of the structure itself kept us interested along with the fantastic view down the river overlooking Limerick City. More than that though I was happy to finally crack the third structure in the Limerick trio which I had been trying so hard to access over the last eight years. Like the other two buildings it took a bit of luck and opportunism to get it done. In the end though I reckon this made it all the more satisfying.

Below are the handful of photos I took from our cheeky venture within the mill.

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This is the view of an exterior wall of the main building from within one of the outbuildings. Unfortunately someone saw fit to plaster and paint over the original stonework

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The first floor of the main building, disappointingly this room had been altered significantly with the addition of a suspended ceiling and flimsy partitioning

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The second floor of the main building

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The beautiful spiral staircase which winds it’s way from the top to the bottom of the structure

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A view of Limerick I’ve been waiting a long time to enjoy, unfortunately a typical Limerick hail/rain shower put a quick end to that!

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Bannatyne’s Mill, Limerick City – November 2012

After cracking Rank’s Silo, there was still another building in the Limerick docks which was part of the Limerick trio we were trying to access, Bannatyne’s Mill. Similarly to the silo, this building was locked up tight on the sides within the docks with floodlights, a dome security camera covering two sides and all access well closed off. Access was there on the road side albeit a good 15ft up with no good climbing holds. The amount of traffic on this road meant that SRT wasn’t an option so just like the silo, all that we could so was to wait patiently for our chance.

This chance came one year later when the Shannon Foynes Port Company decided to start renovation works on the building. Scaffolding was soon erected around the entire perimeter of the building reaching all the way up to the roof. Similarly to the silo, we knew this would be our only chance to access this building for the foreseeable future.

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A photo from 2007 taken during a trip out here at 5am in the morning after noticing that one of the boards had recently been removed. Typically it led to a dead end!

So, without further ado myself and Stellaluna (who had also accessed Rank’s Silo last year during the short window of opportunity, although she did it on a solo venture!) decided it needed to be hit soon. We arrived in the early hours of the morning and made out a quick plan. Unlike the silo, this time the ladders up through the scaffolding were located within the docks themselves. In addition to this, security had gone to the trouble of shining huge floodlights along the lengths of the ladders so that you would be completely visible to anyone passing on the road below. Both of these factors made for a good challenge.

There were two sets of ladders leading to the roof, one set at each end of the building. The end facing the main active portion of the docks was too risky as it was overlooking a docked ship, was covered by a security camera and if security left their hut they would be able to see it clearly. So we had no option but to climb the ladders at the other end which faced the less active portion of the docks. The main worry here would be the passing traffic.

With a bit of monkeying about we quickly gained access to the docks themselves and crouched down hidden in the shadows. Once we were certain we weren’t seen or heard we made our way across to the base of the ladders. After making sure the coast was clear we started our mad sprint up the 9 ladders to the top level of scaffolding. Halfway up a truck appeared on the road facing us. We stopped moving and kept close to the ground/ladders hoping we wouldn’t attract the drivers attention. We were lit up like Christmas trees up here but luckily he didn’t seem to notice us and once he had gone by we burst off again up the ladders and emerged at the top level hidden by the green netting.

Once up here, the only access to the roof itself was at the opposite end of the building (at the top of the other set of ladders) so we had no option but to sneak our way around the length of the building on the top level of scaffolding. Once at the other side we had to perform a slightly dodgy maneuver, climbing up the slats of the slanted roof and edging ourselves onto one more short higher level of scaffolding. We could have taken the ladder but would have exposed ourselves to yet another CCTV camera (which was perched on top of the silo) if we had done so. Once up here we were able to make a quick dash to the roof and down through some rotten wooden stairs into the top of the building.

We were careful with the light from our torches, narrowing the beam so the light couldn’t be seen by security. We quietly made our way through the building all the way down to the ground floor.

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The ground floor of the mill near the main entrance

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The bottom floor was converted into a gift shop at some stage after the mill closed. This gift shop used to sell different types of crystal, clothes and fabric to the tourists passing through. This then closed in the late 80s/early 90s and the building has remained abandoned ever since. Due to this, there were loads of bits and pieces left over from this shop on the ground floor which made for some interesting viewing.

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It seemed the builders who were currently renovating the roof had been looking around the mill as well and left some creepy messages on the mirrors scattered around the building. “Slenderman is behind you” being the best!

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We looked through the upper floors in a bit more detail and found some pretty cool machinery left over from the mill and some strange grotesque petrified animals that looked like they had lain there for way too many years.

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After spending a good two hours exploring the inside of the building, we headed back up to the roof. There wasn’t as much left to see inside the mill as we had anticipated but due to the fact we had finally made it inside after such a long wait we didn’t really care too much. Again we followed the tricky route back down to the scaffolding at the side of the building and traversed around to the top of our set of ladders. We took a few shots as we waited for the coast to clear, we then made another quick dash down the ladders to the ground unseen and then slipped quickly out of the docks and onto the road. This one took a bit of effort and a long wait to finally get in but it was well worth it in the end and made for an excellent night time explore.

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Rank’s Silo, Limerick City – September 2011

This is a report I’ve been sitting on for a while for various reasons. While not that impressive an explore or building, the location of it (within the live docks of the small city of Limerick) means that it would have most likely attracted some media attention from the local papers. With the main local paper having run a front page story previously about a graffiti tagger who scaled the “dangerous heights” of a 6 story construction site I reckoned this report would present another easy opportunity for them to run a lazy story, this time on urban exploring.

Many of these generic stories have been ran in the UK rags. If it was to follow these guidelines it would be something along the lines of the usual garbage claiming that we’re a “danger to ourselves and others”, “incredibly irresponsible” and of course including the phrase “break in” several times seeing as sneaking in and out without damaging anything doesn’t sound as exciting in print. And of course as is usually the case, the photos would be stolen and printed without any compensation. The main issue here would be that if the local paper ran a sensationalist story like this, the exposure could jeopardise any possibility of us exploring another building which we still had to crack within the docks. Due to this myself, along with the other two explorers who did this building at the time decided to keep it on the qt.

Anyway, enough of my cynical ranting! I should probably get on with the actual report. As a bit of background, growing up in Limerick City with an interest in venturing places where I really shouldn’t be, there were three buildings that clearly stood out from the rest. In other cities I’m sure these buildings wouldn’t be hugely impressive but in Limerick they were the main targets for us. With these three buildings all having been built between 1850 and 1930 they are some of the last true remaining pieces of the industrial hub which Limerick once was in days past.

This trio of large grey structures still stand defiantly to this day in considerably good repair. Due to their good state of repair and the locations of the buildings, they are secured quite well. Two of them lie within the live Limerick docks right beside the main docking location of ships and the other lies within a well secured depot. Despite this several attempts were made at all three locations by the different explorers in Limerick at the time, however no point of ingress was ever found. Our only option was to be patient and wait and hope for something opportunistic which we could pounce on. The first piece of the puzzle fell into place in September 2011.

First up was the old Rank’s Silo within the Limerick Docks. This building is the last remnant of a series of connected mills and silos which were demolished (with much difficulty!) in the late eighties. Below are links to the newspaper articles about each of the failed demolition attempts and the 5th and final successful attempt. These buildings were made of some seriously strong stuff.
Attempt #1: http://www.limerickcity.ie/media/mills%20&%20milling%2037.pdf
Attempt #2: http://www.limerickcity.ie/media/mills%20&%20milling%2038.pdf
Attempt #3: http://www.limerickcity.ie/media/mills%20&%20milling%2039.pdf
Attempt #4 & #5: http://www.limerickcity.ie/media/mills%20&%20milling%2040.pdf

This photo shows what the original series of buildings looked like: https://www.flickr.com/photos/45755268@N00/4380055889/ The sole remaining silo is the one at the furthest right of the above photo.

Why the last silo was left behind I’m not entirely certain, maybe the difficulty involved in demolishing the other buildings meant it was easier to just leave this silo be. Whatever the reason it’s great to have one last part of this historic series of buildings still standing today. Amazingly it’s still one of the tallest buildings in the city today standing at around 10 stories tall. The Clarion and Riverpoint (and possibly the spire of St. John’s Cathedral) are the only buildings that surpass this to my knowledge.

Back to the current day and the building now lies right inside the entrance to the live Limerick Docks. The security situation and location of this building is what technically made this the hardest of the trio. Three sides of the building are within the docks with the other side facing onto one of the busiest roads in Limerick and of course a 24 hour petrol station. The main security hut of the docks which is manned all night is situated 5 metres from the building. In addition to this there are two dome security cameras placed on two of the corners of the building within the docks. So, effectively three of the four sides of the building are covered by CCTV. These cameras cover the main closed door at ground level and the external fire escape ladder which are both already fully exposed to anyone in the docks anyway. The only side of the building not covered by these cameras is the side facing the road. With this road being one of the main arteries in and out of the city, large gaps in traffic are few and far between even in the early hours of the morning. On top of this though, this side faces a 24 hour petrol station which as luck would have it is subsidised for all of the emergency services. This means that this station is a hub for the Gardai of Limerick city at all hours of the day and night. All of this combined meant that access was a reasonably difficult prospect!

So…forward to September 2011. Due to crumbling concrete at the top of the structure, 16 levels of scaffolding were slowly built up along the road facing side of the building reaching all the way to the roof. This would allow for repair work to be carried out on the damaged concrete at the top of the structure. Once this was complete the scaffolding would be taken down again.

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The silo from the entrance to the petrol station

Realistically this was going to be the only opportunity we were going to get to access the interior of the silo for the foreseeable future. A satellite photo from 2007 showed that the door from the roof down into the silo was wide open. This was our only possible point of access so all we could do was hope that the door hadn’t been locked shut at any time in the last 4 years. After a quick recce to check out the area properly and work out a plan, myself and fellow Limerick explorer, Storysham took a trip out in the early hours of the morning for a proper attempt.

In the 5-10 minutes it took us to reach our parking spot along the road and walk to the building we had already been passed by 5 Garda cars/vans. In addition to this, even though it was after 2am, there was still plenty of traffic using the road, there was a good bit of activity at the 24hr petrol station across the road and there was the odd person walking by as well.

It wasn’t going to get much quieter so we just had to wait for the largest gap in traffic we could find. Finally a gap came and we went for it. We scrambled up the outside of the scaffolding quickly and quietly hoping not to draw any attention from the petrol station across the road. We were up to the first ladder in no time and began our speedy ascent to the top. We made our way up as stealthily as we could but unfortunately on our 3rd or 4th ladder we were seen by one person walking by. He was stopped and staring up at us. To be honest there wasn’t much I could do, so I just gave him a thumbs up and luckily for us he walked on!

After scaling 15 of the 16 levels we finally made it to the safety of the green netting where we couldn’t be seen. We were fairly certain that we were only seen by the one walker so we just had to hope that he couldn’t care less that we were up there! We climbed the last level of scaffolding and dropped onto the roof of the silo. It felt great to finally be up here admiring the view of Limerick below. Before I could properly admire the view though, I had one thing to check, the door. Luckily for us, it was still wide open!

Before venturing inside however, we decided to relax on the rooftop for a while and take in the view.

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The view of the docks with the Clarion Hotel and Riverpoint office building in the background, the only two taller buildings in the city

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Looking down on Bannatyne’s Mill, one of the other buildings in the trio we were trying to crack

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After taking plenty of roof shots we made our way to the door. Looking inside, the metal floor directly inside the door had rusted away from the rain leaving a nice hole to step through! There was some machinery near the door that was well secured however so we were able to step across to this and climb over this to an area where the floor was more structurally sound. We quickly made our way down a rusty set of stairs at the far side of the small room and we were down into the top floor of the building.

There was a surprising amount of rusting machinery still left up here including some really awesome wheeled contraptions which seemed to be used to disperse grain into the silos below. Unfortunately my interior shots of this top floor aren’t great. Due to the large windows we decided we couldn’t do too much light painting in case security noticed flashing lights coming from the top of the building! So we only took a handful of long exposure shots on the top floor. The circular holes in the floor you can see in some of the below photos were hatches down into the silos themselves. If you fell down one of these hatches it was an 8 storey drop to the bottom. Due to 8 storeys of the building being made up of the silos, there were only 2 floors you could access, the top one with the machinery and the ground floor. These were connected via a rusting staircase or a long defunct lift which didn’t look too trustworthy!

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The view down one of the hatches looking down 8 storeys below

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The lift shaft (to the left) and the metal staircase that led down through the void all the way to the ground floor

I slowly made my way down the metal staircase trying my best not to disturb the pigeons that were roosting between the steps. Upon reaching the ground floor I crept my way across the room. While looking around the ground floor, I looked out one of the windows and saw the face of a security guard only 5 metres from the window. He was sitting in the security hut outside the building. Luckily I had the torch switched off coming down the stairs otherwise the light coming out of the window would have surely given me away. The ground floor was obviously being used for storage as one of the employees bikes was left just inside the door here. Due to the closeness to the security hut, the fact the ground floor was being used for storage (meaning someone could walk in at any time) and the fact that I couldn’t use any light, I didn’t take any photos down here. Again though the amount of rusting machinery down here was quiet cool from the small bit that I could see through the darkness.

I quietly made my way back up the stairs and myself and Storysham headed back out onto the roof. All that was left to do now was to make our way back down. Before we could descend we had to wait for a Garda car across the road at the 24hr petrol station to clear off. Once this was gone we began our speedy descent down the long set of ladders. Cars and trucks were passing beneath our feet as we descended but as far as we could tell we made it down unseen. Nonetheless we quickly made our way back to the car and got the hell out of there. One of the trio was finally down, two to go!

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R & H Hall Mills – February 2014

This group of mills and silos is one I’ve been meaning to visit for quite a while. When I finally got around to visiting this place it didn’t disappoint. The complex is made up of several mills and silos stretching 10 stories high. Random machinery is scattered throughout the different buildings, most of it in surprisingly good condition. A lot of it has been stripped out when the complex closed down but what remains is still interesting. One of the coolest things though are the different stairs and ladders leading around the different buildings which make for a fantastic playground. I spent far too long wandering around and therefore took a lot more photos than usual. I found it hard to narrow down a selection so apologies for the long, long stream of photos below!

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The Auld Mill – January 2014

It is rare to find a mill of this age in such a good condition, especially considering how long it has been abandoned to the elements. The original mill here was built in the early 1800s and it seems an extension was built onto this at a later stage. The mill stretches 6 stories high with plenty of machinery still intact on each floor and a huge water wheel still standing in the millrace. Major thanks to fellow explorer Stellaluna for coming across this one and showing me around.

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