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George's Diner, Silvertown
Photograph: Paul Talling George's Diner, Silvertown

Derelict London: the photo project mapping the capital’s abandoned buildings

Paul Talling has been documenting the city's ruined spaces for 16 years, taking thousands of photos

By El Hunt

Paul Talling is on a mission: to document every single one of London’s abandoned buildings. He reckons he’s captured more than 7,000 on film so far, and each building has its story – from North Woolwich pier, which witnessed the worst inland shipping disaster in British history in 1878, to Chariots Roman Spa in Shoreditch: Britain’s biggest gay sauna until its closure in 2016.

Since the first edition of Talling’s  ‘Derelict London’ book in 2008, many of the city’s previously abandoned buildings have been transformed – whether through controversial regeneration projects or conversion into pop-up cinemas and bars. But as the books’s new edition shows, there’s still a surprising number of derelict spaces around London. Show your out-of-town mates next time they tell you that London’s just endless rows of posh flats.  

Photograph: Paul Talling

⬆ Founded in 1868, Leyton FC was one of the oldest football clubs in London. The team moved to the 4,000 capacity Hare and Hounds stadium – named after a nearby pub – in 1937. In early 2011, the club was forced out of the Isthmian League Division One North due to debt, and now the team’s home stands empty.

Photograph: Paul Talling

⬆ Once home to another football team, Welling United FC, The Butterfly Lane Club in Eltham was torched in an arson attack in 2014.

Photograph: Paul Talling

⬆ North Woolwich station opened in 1847, and survived an air raid during the Blitz in 1940. After the original station building closed in the ’80s, it was turned into a railway museum, which eventually shut down in 2008. The building is now abandoned, but sections of the old line have been used in Crossrail.

Photograph: Paul Talling

⬆ According to locals, Georges Diner used to serve some of the best fry-ups for miles. Frequented by lorry drivers, city slickers and builders, the apostrophe-less cafe came equipped with hot showers. In 2005, it closed down to make way for an ambitious regeneration project which ended up being a non-starter. Now, it stands derelict. 

Photograph: Paul Talling

⬆ Close to North Woolwich’s old station, North Woolwich pier once offered a steam-ferry crossing over the Thames in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1878, the pier witnessed the worst inland shipping disaster in British history: a paddle steamer collided with a collier ship, metres from the shore.

Photograph: Paul Talling

⬆ These corrugated sheds are almost all that remains of Wells Fireworks, once the country's leading pyrotechnic factory. In its heyday, the Dartford business made fireworks for the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932 and a handful of Royal Jubilees. But in the ’70s, competition with cheaper manufacturers in China meant the factory was closed for good. The now-derelict complex is thought to be filled with traces of explosives. 

Derelict London: All-New Edition’ by Paul Talling is available now from Random House Books.

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