The locals call this place the Maltings, because that’s the name it came with. I’ve driven past it a dozen times and never even seen it– this old brick building, crumbling in places, right next to main road, visible and accessible to the public.
Apparently it’s a hideaway during winter for city street kids– it’s colder here in the Highlands, but space and shelter in the Maltings is plentiful, the police bother no one and what scant social services exist here are not as over taxed as those in the CBD. Ownership of the Maltings is hard to pin down– apparently, developments to create a retro shopping centre a la Melbourne‘s Jam Factory began a few years ago, only to cease months into the work– whether heritage hassles or ghosts are to blame is debatable.
Bunny and I walk straight in to the Maltings, no fences to climb, nothing to sneak through… this time, it doesn’t even feel trespassing.
The Maltings is made up of two massive brick buildings, with a smaller one in between, and tiny cottage on the outskirts of the land. History tells us that once upon a time there were three massive brick buildings, but fire took one of them in the middle of the last century, engulfing a ten foot high statue of a white horse– the Tooth brewery mascot– with it to ashes.
The first floor of the main building is dismay and despair, and if we breath too loudly it will eat us whole.
It’s a dumping ground, a store house for people’s junk. How did all this stuff get here, who took the time to pull it all in here– wasn’t there somewhere more convenient they could dump it? It looks like a whole house full of furniture, and it smells of piss and vomit and stale beer. There are bed spaces here and there, graffiti– lewd and obscure and distasteful in some places, sweet and sad and thoroughly interesting in others.
This building is five stories high, and the further up we traverse, the fewer signs of human debris are evident. The first four floors are solid concrete and safe to walk on– its only the top floor that seems unsafe, with it’s staircase leading to nowhere and unstable, rotting wooden boards.
The stairs between floors are patchy and in some cases altogether unusable– but this is is a funny maze of a building. It reminds me of that optical illusion you see so much you never even pay attention to it anymore. Where the stairs are inaccessible there are ramps, trapdoors, split levels and cellars; and I have a bizarre feeling of inertia– walking upside down.
Time snips itself and folds itself over the way it always does when I’m urbexing– before I know it two hours have passed and my eyes still don’t feel full enough, they aren’t big enough to pass this whole landscape through to my brain.
I haven’t seen anything yet.
In between the two larger buildings is a dilapidated shed, stark and lacy against the blue sky. It feels like it was social place, a lunch room… It feels like men, like mateship, like smoko and tin lunchboxes. There is no darkness anywhere here, once you’re past the bottom floor of the first building with its graffiti and sleeping spots and piss and smell of despair, and that’s all recent– this would have been, for all accounts and purposes, a pleasant place to work.
We follow the pathway across a tiny bridge dripping with willow branches, and the space opens up. In front of us is the largest free standing, horizontal building I have ever seen. It’s huge– so long I can’t fit in all in the lens of my camera. The Tooth and Co logo is embedded into the brickwork. (Wiki tells me the stallion in the logo was secretly gelded during the Seventies… weird. Seventies. Whatever.) It’s surrounded by ample grasslands and there are residential houses just a few hundred meters behind it.
Inside, it’s… disappointing. While not as vandalized as the first building, it’s stripped to nothing. There are massive grain silos that reach all the way to the roof, but no way to access the upper floors of the buildings– I’m aching to see inside the tiny triangle turret rooms on the top floor.
That frustrating disappointment doesn’t last long. There’s one final structure on the Maltings property, and, in truth, I don’t expect much from it– it’s a tiny cottage, gorgeous, but even the cyclone fencing put up to protect it has been pulled down, so I imagine the inside is as messy and gutted as that first floor.
And it is…. kind of. Rubbish, old clothes, broken bottles, filthy blankets… all that stuff is there.
But if you look past that…
More photos on Flickr.