Tag Archives: William Blake

Beyond the chimneys

On the hill near the stratified TAB building and still absent in the air above the Yland is the ghost of the Albion flour Mill. Last year it burned to the ground after revelations of structural weakness; the blue and white silo and factory was an iconic site marker to be integrated into the proposed apartment development as a council precondition. The developer’s fence now surrounding the site is branded with the logo Be A Part Of It, now topped by a marker-written ‘arson’ in a big wobbly hand.

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The phrase ‘dark satanic mills’ in William Blake’s poem Jerusalem comes in part from the London Albion Mill whose charred remains Blake walked past to work in the early 1790s (it is now the site of the Tate Modern). This Mill was a huge chugging monster of industry that was ready to bring most of the small London miller’s to their knees until its owner, bent on paying off the huge cost of construction, overworked the engines, sparking the grain and combusting the entire Mill. Or someone burned it down.

We live and work in this light industrial area; for many years next door to the steady hum of a turning lathe making test equipment for the concrete industry, across the street a prestressed concrete beam manufacturer who oversaw the casting of the creek banks into a drain like sluice after the ’74 floods. These trades and their indicative names Con-test and Austress, have left; the properties are now consumed by services to body fitness while on the street another business model is developing.

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Early mornings and weekends our sleep is broken by engines droning on the kerb side and the brittle, hard-edged timing of repetitive work.

Online delivery trucks cleaned out of hours on the road-side, workers yelling in Urdu, throwing things about in individually parked echo chambers, competing with each other for levels. I’m reminded of a time some years back when a taxi company settled in down the road. In the early morning hours the endless sound of car doors closing became a counting sheep meditation on how one vehicle could require so many doors to be banged shut prior to leaving.

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The Yland has a natural geography of waterways and floodplains submerged under the energies of industry in the air above it. The Albion hill was once a security boundary of the then garrison town and the TAB building maintains the appearance. The Albion mill and the creek below, flour and water signified the staple bread to the early settlement. William Blake’s dark satanic mill was a metaphor intended to condemn the knowledge society of his day for losing its bearings in production. We think here in this overlooked and almost invisible Yland environment something is becoming evident in the overlay of information systems, physical architecture and natural geography.