Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

Racal Electronics, Seaton, Devon

Racal Electronics plc was once the third-largest electronics firm in Britain, offering products including voice and data recorders, point of sale terminals, laboratory instruments and military electronics, including radio and radar. At its height, it operated throughout 110 countries world-wide and employed over 30,000 people. 

The Seaton factory manufactured communications equipment, mainly for the MOD, and in 1999 the communications subsidiary of the company was sold to an American company, which was subsequently moved to the US. It was closed in the year 2000, resulting in the loss of 109 jobs and was eventually demolished in June 2008.

I first visited the site to explore and take photos of the exterior in January 2007. By total chance, the fence was open so I was able to get on site and take photos from there. Then much to my surprise, I found an open door which allowed me the opportunity to take a few just inside the building, whilst some removals were taking place. However, on hearing footsteps coming down the stairs, I decided not to outstay my welcome, and exited post haste! 

The photo above was one of only three that I took inside during that first visit. Dripping water splashed down onto the stairs at intervals, but sadly I couldn't capture it on a photo.

Having tried to find other means of entering the site, I finally found a way onto the grounds some three months later. There was no access inside, but I did enjoy a leisurely meander around the grounds, taking exterior photos and enjoying the peaceful surroundings. Following the explore was a blissful riverside relax with a flask of coffee, a ciggy and the delights of nature. Magic!

Above is the bicycle shelter. This proved to be very photogenic, and irresistible. On my first explore, it was a January afternoon and the light was just beginning to fade, which provided an atmospheric background. The photo above was taken on the Easter visit in startling sunshine, providing stripey shadows and contrasts.

The Racal sign was once on the front of the building. 

The factory was a big asset to a small seaside town, and provided jobs for many local people. I know a few who've worked there, and they all have fond memories of their time employed at Racal. This is what one person said...

"I worked between 89-99 on testing mainly portable transceivers notably the Jaguar and Couger sets. Overall the company had a good reputation for working conditions, pay and a pension that firms in the big bad world outside fail on. Summarising - production and test downstairs and design, management and canteen upstairs with lovely views all round."

Extensive grounds included gardens to the front, containing many shrubs and flowers. Along the riverside were several benches for employees whilst on their breaks (below). Bird feeders hung in the Poplar trees which lined the bank. Sadly, the trees were cut down shortly after demolition along with the uprooting of all the gardens, which was totally unnecessary as nothing has been done with the site since.

Plenty more photos in the Photo Gallery album Part 1. The first 20 are from the first visit, and the remaining 24 were taken during the second one. Photos of the site as it was undergoing demolition, plus the remains afterwards, can be seen in the Part 2 album.

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