Dockland, Smokestacks and Slums: In the Shadows of British Industry (Silver Link)

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Dockland, Smokestacks and Slums: In the Shadows of British Industry is a photographic study of the 19th and early 20th century British industrial scene, from its recovery following the Second World War to its decline in the mid-1980s. This was an era when Britain still led the world in engineering, shipbuilding, merchant shipping, commerce and exports, not to mention international prestige.

At its worst the Industrial Revolution desecrated the landscape with mining and quarrying, and life was hard and unhealthy for the workers and their families living in our industrial towns, with dirt, noise, smells and soot, often working long hours and working in dangerous conditions. Some of the houses, tenements and hovels seen in the pictures were probably grim and depressing places to live, but the author, Cedric Greenwood, nonetheless found them photogenic, with a certain appeal. Although they show poverty, pollution and often industrial decay, at the same time they have immense nostalgic and aesthetic appeal.

Most of the photographs date from the 1950s and ’60s, and feature individual industries, such as mines, mills, maltings, gasworks, foundries, shipyards, workshops, iron and steel works, power stations and general industrial townscapes. Industry is also found in rural settings in wild west Cornwall and around the edge of the Lake District. Much of the late-Victorian industrial architecture was a credit to our townscapes, but most has now disappeared almost without trace, converted, redeveloped and sanitised beyond recognition. Many people will have no conception of how the face of their town or city has changed, with mills, railway termini and banks replaced by car parks, shopping centres, leisure centres, restaurants and wine bars.

The extended captions accompanying the pictures portray a Britain in transition, from industry to shopping, leisure and tourism, and represent a very personal reflection on a landscape and way of life now almost totally vanished.

197 colour and 69 black & white photographs. 144 pages.

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