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.
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.
The view of the docks with the Clarion Hotel and Riverpoint office building in the background, the only two taller buildings in the city
Looking down on Bannatyne’s Mill, one of the other buildings in the trio we were trying to crack
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!
The view down one of the hatches looking down 8 storeys below
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!