Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Pyestock.
For over fifty years, Pyestock was host to the development and testing of gas turbine engines. From the 1950s through to the 1970s, it was the largest facility of its type in Europe (if not the world), and the design, experimentation and testing at Pyestock helped to usher in the jet age. From running up Concorde’s Olympus jet engines in a simulated supersonic conditions through to the endurance checking of every gas turbine installed in the ships of the Royal Navy, Pyestock’s credentials were extremely impressive.
As gas turbine research matured and computer simulations took over, Pyestock was gradually run down and now stands unused. The structures on the site are considered to be of national, if not international, importance. But due to their extremely specialised nature, no alternative uses have been put forward, and the whole site is destined to be demolished and replaced by a supermarket distribution centre.
However, in this transitional period at it waits its fate, Pyestock has become an unofficial museum. The entrance fee is a combination of dexterity, intelligence and courage. Those able to pay are constantly amazed and inspired by what they find; and are saddened that one of the most important research sites in the world is to be swept away and forgotten.
Transport out of London on a very early Sunday morning is not the greatest. As such, my trip to Pyestock started on the Saturday night as I jumped on a train bound for Epsom, a place I’ve only ever visited when making a trip to West Park Asylum.
I spent the night in a hotel there, checking out Simon Evans to kill some time, and rose at 5am the following morning. Shortly afterwards I was being picked up by a few guys and driven to a place I didn’t actually know too much about, but where I had seen a few photos that made me really want to go there.
Entry was straightforward, but within a few minutes of being in the grounds we were being shouted at by someone unseen, but they seemed to be external so not security. Swiftly we found our way into the buildings and hid out for a while, working our way to higher ground.
Before long a police car showed up, along with a hound. The roof seemed the safest place as dogs can’t climb ladders very well.
At this point the journey seemed a waste. I had seen nothing and had now found out this was an ex MOD building which seemed to heighten the seriousness of it. Thoughts were turning to going home.
However, we had come to take photos, and by golly that’s what we were going to do and either leave when we were ready or get escorted out.
I’m very pleased that we continued on, as this place was pretty awesome!
The above picture is from ‘Cell 4’ – the size of this room cannot really be shown in this one image as you can’t fully appreciate it. It goes a lot further back than you see here, and a lot further down. The main pipes running through the image are big enough for you to walk through, and here’s a quick shot of me standing on top of one of the pipes in the middle so you can have some sort of scale – I was hoping to stand on the section where all of the pipes meet in the foreground but a slimy green residue left the surface like ice and I wasn’t keen on trying to get past it and breaking a limb with so much else to see around the complex.