Self portrait, interior of Cell One, Pyestock. The blue hatch behind me could be raised and hooked open allowing gases to escape into the Silenced Exhaust tower. (North: 21st April 2007)
Two years ago, I knew nothing about Pyestock. And if it wasn’t for a group of urban explorers,
who were the first to infiltrate its security fences, then I would remain equally ignorant
about the site, and Pyestock would’ve passed me by.
But after seeing their photographs, I was smitten. The arrays of blue pipes, towering glass and concrete buildings, and the sheer size of the size suggested something special, different and utterly unique. I likened it to a Thunderbird’s set made real. My initial similes weren’t too far from the mark, as Pyestock would’ve echoed and roared to the whine of gas turbines (jet engines), set in a state-of-the-art testing environment.
The gas turbine (jet engine) wasn’t invented here, but Pyestock was where it was nurtured, raised and reached maturity. So why had I never heard of this site? Not only was its industrial architecture unique and imposing, but it boasted glamour (with its Concorde associations) and secretivity (who knows the military black projects were tested here). Such a beguiling mix could only fascinate. And so, communities of urban explorers traveled from all over the country, and descended on this remarkable collection of buildings. Pyestock’s final days were not defined by vandals and the wrecking ball; it became an unofficial museum, with entrants paying with sneak and courage to gain entry.
(The Farnborough airfield, in particularl the Wind Tunnels and testing facilities of the BAE had received much more attention; Pyestock now a forgotten cousin).
In its final days, Pyestock is also symptomatic of the UK’s gradual move from its industrial past. In short, Pyestock is symbolic of the move from creators through to consumers, and perhaps its fitting that it’s fate post-demolition, is to be the site of the largest Tesco distribution centre in Europe.
Weekend after weekend I crept back, to stand in the testing cells, and try to imagine the noise, activity and sheer power that was confined and controlled in this place. I still don’t believe it deserves its fate: schoolchildren, especially aspiring engineers, should be shown Pyestock, to be galavanised and inspired into the world of science and technology. But, as short mindedness is the name of the game, Pyestock is to be demolished to make way for a dull retail park, and the continuing destruction of interesting and unique places.
I never worked at Pyestock and have no formal connections with the site. But after my positive experiences by publishing the Aquilia pictures (another site ending up and being closed by QinetiQ)… please write in.
I had limited time and much to do. In the end I gave it my best shot, and I hope this website does it justice. In short, Pyestock inspired me. Likewise, I hope you’re equally inspired by its online presence here and can continue to explore its wonders long after its physical structure has gone.
Sometimes places are too big and too grand to be buried as a microsite within this one. Therefore, I've created a separate website for Pyestock:
Features of this site will include:
If you know anything about this site, then please get in touch.