For over five years the old Chapman’s factory in Nairne was my urbex playground. There was something dark and sinister about the dark concrete passageways, the medieval-like meat racks and the smell of death and decay. A combination of the quiet country location, fortified entrances and alarmed building sections, coupled with rumours regarding the buildings ownership, ensured that the site remained untouched by all but the most intrepid of explorers. In an effort to protect the site for as long as possible, I deliberately kept the majority of my photographs of the site offline. Over time, I introduced others to the labyrinth of dark passageways and together we returned on numerous occasions.
Alas, the site finally appears earmarked for demolition with internal dismantling works already well advanced. This is the nature of abandoned photography. Such spaces are in their final days. Some linger longer than others but the inevitability is that everything dies. Saying goodbye to this one is akin to saying goodbye to an old friend. Chapman’s factory provided me with many great adventures and some great exploring stories. I shall miss the place.
Established by George Chapman in 1899, Chapman’s Bacon Factory became the lifeblood of the small Adelaide Hills township of Nairne, with gradual expansion of the factory providing an increasing number of jobs to local hills residents. At its peak, there were nearly 400 people employed at the Nairne site, with a further 70 employed both within South Australia and interstate. In 1982, Chapman’s Smallgoods merged with Southern Farmers Group in 1982 before being acquired by George Weston’s foods in 1987. However, aging infrastructure and internal company restructuring saw Chapman’s Smallgoods relocate from Nairne to Murray Bridge in 2002. Consequently, the Nairne site closed and the site fell into disrepair. Several attempts were made to adapt the space for other purposes. A weekend market operated from the site for some time, as well as an a boutique smallgoods manufacturer but otherwise the site has been inactive for several years and an area of concern for Nairne residents. Increasing copper theft and vandalism took their toll. Demolition work now appears well advanced with plans for a supermarket on the site awaiting final Council approval.
I’d love to hear from ex-Chapman’s employees or those who remember the factory in its heyday before another chapter of SA history is completely erased.