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Book reviews — February 1991

Architecture Design and Technology Press, 1990. £12.95
The opening sentence of this book reads: 'London's Docklands contains one of the worst collections of late 20th century building to be seen anywhere in the world' — but the author acknowledges that the area also contains some gems of modern architecture. The pocket-size guide would be of considerable use to the GLIAS member visiting Docklands whose interest lies mainly in the history of the area — older buildings are included in the guide — but who cannot avoid encountering the evidence of the 1980s and wonders what to make of some of the quirky modern products. It is stressed that this is a guide book for the many photographs and drawings are too small for anything but quick reference.

'FREE FOR ALL'. By Julian Watson and Wendy Gregory
Greenwich Libraries. 1989
This large format booklet is intended as a 'Celebration of 100 years of the Woolwich Free Ferry'. This is worthwhile for the photographs especially for those for whom the ferry is part of their past. I must admit that I found some difficulty in sorting out the text dealing with the history of the ferries. DON CLOW

In 1770 the young Joseph Bramah came to London from Barnsley in Yorkshire, where he had served an apprenticeship as a joiner. However his natural inventive talent was applied to the design of the water closet which, by a system of valves and traps, prevented leakage and stench. His design remained in use until the end of the 19th century. Bramah had a lasting interest in hydrostatics and his most important invention was the hydraulic press. In 1784 he invented a burglar-proof lock made by high quality precision engineering. A reward of 200 guineas was subsequently offered to the first person to pick this lock and it remained in a Piccadilly shop window for fifty years. Eventually an American took over fifty hours to accomplish this, in 1851, thirty seven years after Bramah had died. Assisted by his young blacksmith, Henry Maudslay, Bramah also invented the lathe slide rest. A man of wide inventive talent, he patented a method of extruding lead pipe, a wood planing machine, a beer pump and a device for the automatic numbering of bank notes. But hydraulics was his passion and he advocated the installation of high-pressure water mains in the streets, to be used for fire-fighting and the operation of hydraulic machinery. West Norwood Cemetery, recently visited by GLIAS members (GN xxxxxxxxx), has a Bramah and Robinson 1837-8 coffin lift. EDITOR

© GLIAS, 1991