Joseph Wells Fireworks Factory

by thenewenglishlandscape

This photograph, one of a series, was taken on the site of the former Joseph Wells Fireworks Factory near Dartford, Kent, close to the Thames. These corrugated iron sheds, which for obvious reasons were spaced apart from one another, survive in an overgrown landscape of elder bushes and buddleia. Nature is constantly re-appropriating these spaces, with branches protruding through window slots and door-frames.

How do structures like these feature in debates about what should be preserved in landscapes which are earmarked for regeneration? It could be argued that they constitute an important part of the post-war history of Dartford marshes and should therefore be preserved in some form.  But how, and to what purpose?  Do we need to argue for a third kind of open ground somewhere between the wildlife conservation park, which can sometimes appear over-defensive and protected, and landscaped greenery to be found in the suburbs around London nominally called ‘recreation space’?

Unfortunately, planners and developers frequently see landscapes likes these as blank canvases that can be cleared or levelled flat. The specifics of place are something they would prefer not to have to address when making their decisions on the future of such ambiguous places.