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Book reviews — August 2004

'Stationary Steam Engines of Great Britain Volume 9 East Anglia and Adjacent Counties (Bedfordshire, Cambridge, Essex, Norfolk, Northamptonshire and Suffolk)', by George Watkins
Landmark Publishing, Ashbourne, DE6 1EJ. 2004. ISBN 1 84306 012 4. Cost £24.
I reviewed Volume 8 in this series entitled 'London' (GLIAS Newsletter 210, p9) and gave something of the background to the series then. This new volume is very mis-titled and from the cover you would not guess what a wealth of information about east London is included. That's what happens if editors stick with historic county boundaries. Why the publishers did not just do one modern London area volume I do not know!

In fact, 14 of the entries cover our area including sites such as Lea Bridge, Walthamstow, Dagenham, Waltham Abbey and West Ham water pumping stations. But without doubt the most significant collection of illustrations are seven photographs illustrating the engines present in Nicholson Distillery at Three Mills in 1934/6. These include two beam engines, one of 1840 and the other 1901, which worked there until destroyed by fire in the early 1950s; two Hunter & English engine, one 1870s inverted vertical compound and the other a 1850s oscillating engine. The c1810 James Watt bell crank engine, which currently resides in the Science Museum store was photographed in situ in the distillery's workshops where it had worked until about 1890. In addition there are pictures of pumping machinery in the distillery and the wheels in Clock Mill. I wonder what other Watkins pictures remain unpublished in NMR records in Swindon?

The format is the same as previously, ie a short description of how the various types of steam engine work followed by sets of three full-page reproductions of George's usually, but not always, superb engine photographs with a page describing each photograph/engine in detail. In total the book has 124 illustrations of engines in the named counties.

My regrets are the continuing high price for this series and the fact that modern digital imaging techniques could once again improve many of the reproductions. Nevertheless a book for all with interests in steam engines in London. David Perrett

'From Silk Mill to Superstore. The Streatham Silk Mill 1820-1989', by Brian Bloice
The Streatham Society, 2002. A5 size, pp14. Price £1.95
In the mid 1980s GLIAS and particularly David Thomas were heavily involved in campaign to record and late preserve this fine silk mill building, near Streatham Common. The mill had been built in 1820. One of the few errors in the book would seem to be to call this 'the first silk factory in Britain' since the John Lombe's famous mill in Derby, now the Derby Industrial museum had been in operation for a century. It was constructed between 1717 and 1721. In fact from 1857 it had changed to being a rubber factory owned by the Cow family famous for their Cow gum and the mill was rather incongruously lost within a complex of later buildings.

Brian Bloice summarises the history of this mill both for silk and rubber in this well illustrated small booklet taking the story right up to the present. Since the mill was saved and now forms the entrance to the Sainsbury's supermarket which opened in 1989 - hence the title. Brian acknowledges the support of GLIAS in saving the Mill throughout the book. The booklet is available from GLIAS Booksales at events or by post. David Perrett

I have appreciated the lively discussion about transport in North London in recent newsletters, and would like to bring members attention to a pictorial history of Grey Green coaches called 'Grey Green - from Ewer to Arriva' by Owen Woodliffe. The photographs are enlivened by both technical details and personal reminiscences, as well as a history of the company.

The book is available from the author at 196 Sinclair Road, Chingford, London E4 8PT. Cherry McAskill

© GLIAS, 2004