Alex Poole

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Spillers Millennium Mills

August 18th, 2009 by alex

Since photographing the wonderful Spillers Millennium Mills building in London’s Royal Victoria Docks at the weekend  during a family trip to Thames Barrier Park, (highly recommended for a day out with young kids by the way - take swimmies & towels,) I’ve become rather fixated with this building.

Spillers Millennium Mills

Nestled between the barrier and the ExCel exhibition centre, its described by some as “brooding” which seems rather an understatement - juxtaposed against the sleek chrome of Pontoon Dock DLR station it appears to me almost malevolent in its unapologetic dereliction. This is only heightened when you start to look at some of the photos taken by explorers inside the bulding - with 10 storey drops, missing steps and even whole walls, its a proper genuine deathtrap.

The history of the building spans a little over 100 years. It was built in 1905 by William Vernon and Sons, bought by Spillers shortly afterwards and named after their “Millennium Flour” of the time, though apparently the mill was also used for making the dog food for which Spillers were famous. It was partially destroyed by a massive explosion at the neighbouring Brunner Mond’s works in 1917, extended massively around 1933 and de-commissioned in the mid 1980’s when Spillers moved their milling activities East to Tilbury.

The Millennium Mills building was used as the backdrop to Jean Michelle Jarre’s 1988 “Destination Docklands” concert, (along with the even larger neighbouring  Cooperative Wholesale Society mill which was demolished shortly afterwards,) and has featured in a number of pop videos,  in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket and as the backdrop to Life on Mars, since. As soon as someone decides its safe enough to stump up the capital again, it will be turned into up to 5000 (yes, that was thousand! This is a *big* place!) luxury flats as part of the proposed Silvertown Quays development. This would have gone ahead already except for the fact that the money was due to come from Bank of Scotland, who have recently had quite enough on their plate without funding more Docklands development!

Millennium Mills is a favourite destination for Urban Explorers and you’ll find loads of reports and internal photos on sites like 28DL. Urban Explorers are understandably rather tight-lipped about the exact way they gain access to buildings like the Mills; the best hints I could find online were ironically in an Evening Standard interview - basically from the old Rank Hovis mill you can.. well, work it out yourself! Judging from the chronological order most of the  photo sets I’ve seen come in, one might gain entrance to the site somewhere near the corner of North Woolwich Road and Mill Road and pass by the “D” silo (where the grain would originally have been removed from the ship,) before covering the ground to the main building.

So without further ado, the best links I can find, after some conderable Googling, to the dark, brooding, majestic and malevolent Millenium Mills. These are in no particular order…

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=site:28dayslater.co.uk+millenium+mill (all the 28DL stuff)

http://www.forever-changes.com/Millenium%20Mills/Millenium%20Mills.htm

http://striped.online.fr/friched/inheritance/millennium/index.html

http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulholmes/sets/72057594070422686/

http://greenie.deviantart.com/art/Millenium-Mills-53431088

http://www.contaminationzone.com/Gallery9.php

http://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/showthread.php?t=4403

http://www.thederelictsensation.com/c_interviews/interviews2.htm

http://www.beyondthefence.fpic.co.uk/c1723487.html

http://mrswift.me.uk/derelict/Millenium%20Mills/

Hope you enjoy these photos as much as I did.

Obviously if you want to take your own photos, you take your own risk too. Please be very clear that this post is not an incitement to do so!

I think I got most of ‘em, but if I missed any good sets of photos, please comment. Thanks.

Update - 2012. UrbanX (who, it seems, lives in Ely, small world) put this video up:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pESlC1rXq2c

It has the clearest image of the “leap of faith” required to enter the mill that I’ve seen. There’s enough context in that shot that anyone with a bit of common sense can work it out without further help. But, still, don’t be going there on your own!

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3 responses so far ↓

  • It sure is one bitch of a building but I should think it will be a long time before anyone goes in there again after all the press coverage

  • I worked for spillers in 1959 in their animal foods purchasing
    department situated in colonial House Mark lane E.C.3.
    I worked for the two buyers Arthur Warren and frank Drake
    a wonderful company to work for, and I was suprised how
    quickly the company declined, considering they were one of
    the top three Flour Millers also top three animal foods and
    probably the largest dog food manufacturers in the country
    How sad to see the Spillers name almost disappear
    Finally, I spent time visiting Millennium Mills to pay the men
    on pay day

  • It’s hardly surprising urbexers keep access details a secret when people post them on the web! And Millennium Mill is still somewhere you can get into, but it’s not for a newcomer. Security will catch you very quickly, or you’ll receive serious injury in the buildings.