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Book reviews — August 1981

Locomotion Papers No. 130, 1981 The Oakwood Press 40 pages, 16 pages illustrations, £1.80
Dr. Course in his 'Bexleyheath Line' provides a readable account of what appears today an integral part of the complex of suburban lines serving North West Kent, carrying heavy commuter traffic into London. However the railway's origins were not as a branch from an established railway company, but an independent line promoted by local landowners, who having seen development of the Cator Estate in Blackheath, had similar ideas for their own land. Dr. Course leads the reader through the complex affairs of the Bexley Heath Railway from its inception in 1881 to its opening in 1895 and relates development of the railway in association with local housing schemes. Development initially was slow and it was not until the building boom of the 1930's that land alongside the railway was largely built up, creating the heavy traffic which it now carries. If you wish to know why the Bexley Heath went through a tunnel at Blackheath, round the bend at Eltham and what they did by moonlight, then this is the book for you. A well-researched book, Dr. Course's writing had wider appeal than just the railway enthusiast, it is a pity that some of the illustrations are not as clear as they might be. BRIAN STURT

WHERE WE USED TO WORK by Kenneth Hudson
John Baker (London) 1980 162pp illustrated £7.95
Another excellent Kenneth Hudson in his usual style. Many of the topics covered this time should be of special interest to Newsletter readers - included are cathedral building (in concrete), furniture workshops (the East End of London is treated) and furniture at Heal's and Whiteley's department stores, London restaurants, glovers, aeroplane manufacture, biscuit making (including an account of Bath Olivers), postal delivery, newspapers and magazines (much in London again), Although the author does display his usual West Country bias London gets a very fair share. There is much to interest us. The book deals largely with the kind of industry encountered in GLIAS recording work.

HMSO 1979 illustrated £1
This government publication might sound so dull that the average industrial archaeologist wouldn't even bother to look at it, but in fact the contents are very interesting and readable. A potted history of working conditions in cotton mills is given with contrasting photographs of old and new machinery (the old photographs will appeal to GLIAS readers!) Read about shuttle kissing, mule spinners' cancer, machinery guards, temperature, noise and dust, etc.

Editions Robert Laffont Paris 1980 464pp illustrated £12
IA is not as well developed in France as in Britain. In some ways this book, one of the first on the subject in the French language, is reminiscent of the BP book of IA by Neil Cossons, but the coverage is rather incomplete and concentrates mainly on mills, factory buildings, coal mines, forges and blast furnaces. The Royal Manufactories get some space, but there is little on transport and machinery is hardly dealt with. The bias is largely architectural, building materials and landscape being a feature. The illustrations are poorly reproduced and there is no gazetteer of sites. The book should prove of interest to those taking a holiday in France.

Thomas Telford Ltd. London 1980 155pp illustrated £12.50
The title of this book is rather a misnomer; only the first chapter deals with the period before the Port of London Act of 1908 created the PLA. This first chapter is lightweight and an account more reminiscent of commentaries given on boat trips to Greenwich than History in the strong sense. The book seems to be compiled essentially from the author's own experience as a practising engineer and the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. The accounts of wartime repairs and modifications and the building of Phoenix Units and the Mulberry Harbour, admiralty barges and PLUTO, etc., are interesting. The latter parts of the book on recent events are the most valuable, but what a pity references are not given. Errors here and there reduce the credibility of what is written arid as sources are not quoted the value of the whole is reduced. The text would have benefitted from further editing, in places imprecise terminology gives the appearance of a first draft. At £12-50 the book is poor value with only about 140 pages of text and something like a third of these taken up by illustrations. The photographs, quite well reproduced, are a bonus feature - Mowlem as well as PLA items are included. Dock plans and sections at the back are useful. BOB CARR

AND A FREE LEAFLET (from Scotland, too!)
The Scottish Tourist Board has again published "See Scotland at Work", a free leaflet listing some of the industrial and craft workshops which may be visited north of the border. Bagpipe, kilt and textile works are featured, together with many arts and crafts studios. However, Boore Peebles will show you how to make generators and electric motors and the Electricity Boards will show you them at work in stations ranging from Dounray to hydro dams and brewers and distillers will provide visits (and perhaps refreshments). Perhaps the most marked difference to England is the list of lighthouses which are open most afternoons for public visits, perhaps Trinity House might take note. DANNY HAYTON

© GLIAS, 1981