Graiseley Hill

This is the story of a piece of land.  In the late 1800’s it was the site of a grand house, after its demolition in the early 1900’s there was a die casting factory and then a milk distribution depot on the site.  After a period of dereliction it is now the location of a Jaguar Land Rover dealer.

 

What is left in the land when things change over time?  Plants and animals and buildings come and go, uses changes, people who remember it move on or die.  Does the ground have a memory, do any physical signs remain?

 

My original photographs were taken on 15th July 2016, between 5:24 and 5:48pm.  My memories of taking these pictures, and the creation of this work are now part of the land’s history.

Graiseley Hill, Wolverhampton, derelict site, crumpled, view to St Johns church
Graiseley Hill, Wolverhampton, derelict site, crumpled, Hawkins Colliery brick

Graiseley Hill (1885)

 

Walter walked up the top of Graiseley Hill, past the junction with Graiseley Row, at the end of the road he stopped and leant on the field gate. Behind him were the grounds of Graiseley House, on the other side the terrace houses on Graiseley Row.  

 

The sun shone, and the thought about the different lives the people in the different houses lived, when his young grandson ran up along side him.

 

“All right m’boy”

“I’m not a boy, I’ll be eight soon”

He laughs, “yes you’re quite a little man”

“I am and when I’m bigger I’m going to own these fields” 

“Really, hows that then?”

“I’m going to be a farmer, I’ll have sheep and cows in the fields, and hens in a barn”

“And how are you going to afford the fields”

after a thoughtful pause “I’ll earn some money to buy them”

“You’ll be lucky, there’s a new factory coming soon, mark my words, and they’ll be building more houses for the workers”

“No I don’t believe you, not on the fields”.

Graiseley Hill, Wolverhampton, derelict site, crumpled, brick wall

Sitting in the garden of The Hollies (1912)

 

Sarah laughed in the sunshine, her younger sister Rebecca sits down beside her on the grass.

“Did you see John this morning?”

“No”

“Yes you did, bet you did, coming up the Penn Road this morning”

“I didn’t”

“I know you’ve got eyes for him”

“Beccy, no I haven’t, don’t tell mum”

“Your blushing.  he does look cute”

“No I’m not” 

“Yes you are. I saw you talking to him, bet you’re going to end up marrying him.”

“Don’t say that Beccy, you don’t know anything about it”

“I know, I’m going to toss a coin, heads you’ll marry and have three little babies”

“Beccy no”

“Tails you’ll only have two children”

“Beccy stop teasing”

Beccy gets out a coin and pretends to start tossing it in the air, Sarah jumps and reaches over to grab Beccy’s hand and accidentally knocks the coin out.  The coin fly into the long grass on the edge of the flowerbed.

“Sarah you idiot”, she laughs

“It wasn’t my fault you shouldn’t tease”

Beccy and Sarah start to look at the grass, but it is a large patch, and it was only a farthing.  At that moment their mother calls for them from the house, and the coin is forgotten. 

Graiseley Hill, Wolverhampton, derelict site, crumpled, view to factory warehouse
Graiseley Hill, Wolverhampton, derelict site, crumpled, broken parquet

In the Wolverhampton Die Casting factory (1944)

 

“Keep the cases coming”

“Sure, next one’s coming”

“We’ve got to keep getting these out for the boys on the front line”

“I know Flo, I’m not slacking”

“I know”

“I’m glad we can do this to help our boys”

“Yes, but I’m tired, I’ll be glad when it’s all over”

“It’s not going to be over unless we keep on pushing ourselves”

“ye...”

“You OK?”

“Yes your right we have to keep pushing....”

“Sure?”

“Yes”

“What’s up Mary?”

“Mary”

“Oh Flo, my boy’s been missing for two days now, I don’t know exactly where he is, somewhere in central Italy, they had a push and he got separated, I just don’t want to think of him out there on his own in the cold”

“Mary, I’m sorry, these are terrible times, but there’s nothing we can do, best thing is to try not to think about it and keep working”

“Yes put on a brave face and keep at it”.

Graiseley Hill, Wolverhampton, derelict site, crumpled, honeycomb pattern steel concrete
Graiseley Hill, Wolverhampton, derelict site, crumpled, discarded rubber glove

Standing on the junction of the Penn Road and Graiseley Hill (1965)

 

“Sal, can we go up and look at the horses”

“Yeh why not, do you think we've got time” 

“Come on let's just go”

“I don't want to be late for school”

“We won't be, let's go”

“Mrs McKenzie'll kill us if we're late again”

“Come on, stop fannying around” 

 

“Awww look at that one, the hooves are huge”

“Obviously, they have to pull the milk wagons”

“I wish I could have ago at grooming them”

“With those big bristly brushes”

“Cool, do you think they'd let us touch them”

“I'm not doing that”

“Scared”

“Not”

“Are”

“Shit, we need to be getting on”

“Scared”

“Get lost, come on we're going to have to run, I said this was a bad idea” 

“No you didn't, it was your idea” 

“Just get a move on” 

“Shut up we're going to be in trouble”

Graiseley Hill, Wolverhampton, derelict site, crumpled, mattress, wall, sleeping rough homeless

Walking up Graiseley Hill, near the Corner with Graiseley Row (2015)

 

“Where are we going to sleep tonight?” 

“Dunno, I think I saw a place around the fucking corner”

“Uh”

“There was a bit of an old factory wall we could probably hide behind it”

“Uh”

“I fucking hope the rain doesn't start again, or we're going to have to look somewhere else, don't want to fucking get soaked again.” 

“Uh”

“Oh, there's a mattress there.” 

“Brilliant, that will be more comfortable.” 

“It's fucking not brilliant, it means this is someone else's patch, if they come back we'll get our heads kicked in.” 

“Uh”

“Just fucking shut up, if you haven't got anything fucking useful to say keep your fucking mouth shut.” 

“Fuck you, I didn't walk out on my missus to have to put up with this.”

Graiseley Hill, Wolverhampton, derelict site, crumpled, foundations, concrete, metal base

In the carpark of the Range Rover service centre (2020)

“It should be ready in a few minutes, my colleague is just sorting it out, I’ll give you a shout.”

“Sure no worries.”

 

A couple stand out in the car park in the sunshine, it is February and for the first time the sun feels warm on their faces.

 

“It will be good to see my brother again.”

“Yeh it’s been a while, we must make the effort to do this more often.”

“Yeh”

“What about the kids”

“I’m sure they’ll be fine, kids are tough, things will change but they’ll be ok”

“I’m sure you’re right”

“Like you said, we must do this more often”

“Yeh.”

 

Turning around

“What’s that?”

“What?”

“There’s something in the flowerbed”

 

She bends down to brush some bark chips to one side

“It’s an old coin”

“Oh wow, it does look old, can you see a date on it?”

“It’s really dirty, it’s hard to tell, no I can’t make out a date”

“It’s definitely not silver, can’t be anything that special”

“I guess not, funny how things go though, it must have been in the ground and got dug up when they planted the flowers”.

 

There’s a call from the reception door “It’s ready for you now.”

 

“Right we’re coming”

 

Without another thought she tosses the old coin back into the flowerbed and they head over to pick up the car.

Graiseley Hill, Wolverhampton, derelict site, crumpled, bricks, discarded hat