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Book reviews — December 2022

'Nails, Rails and Props', by Valerie Preston-Dunlop
64 pages, 2022 Verve Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9509859-5-4
A new book has come out on the history of Stones, engineers who began in Deptford Railway Arches in 1831, and had major sites in the Arklow Road area. They eventually moved to Charlton where their foundry is still in use (albeit in other ownership), but where on a much larger site they made enormous items for shipping — eg propellers for the Queen Mary — and much else.

The book began from a family history link and concentrates on the firm's work in Deptford, in particular on the Arklow Road sites, and fills in some gaps as well as highlighting many aspects of their work — for instance, a department dealing with Laundry Machinery. Their Rail Department made an important contribution to carriage lighting, and there was also a Fastener and a Boiler division. Many of the firm's buildings still remain in the area, albeit converted to flats.

It moves on to some wonderful pictures and details of the propeller manufacture in Charlton and much more.

The author Valerie Preston-Dunlop Blackheath resident closely involved with the Laban Conservatoire in Deptford and has a very distinguished record as an author on works on dance, theory and history. I think we should congratulate her on now turning to such a tough industrial subject as Stones. I can see however — and this is a comment, not a criticism — that there are some errors and misapprehensions because this is not really 'her subject'. For example, she has used for her source on the London to Greenwich Railway, Ron Thomas's excellent book — but it is 40 years old and there has been other work since on issues like, for instance, use of the inclined plane at Deptford. Also Stones were on the east side of Anchor and Hope Lane, SE7 and the Sainsbury Depot, on the west side, is on the site of United Glass.

I am currently writing, as people may know, Charlton's industrial sites for my Greenwich Weekender articles — and Stones is one of the Charlton industries I am looking at with some trepidation — vast, very important and very little source material. So I would like to congratulate Valerie on taking on this enormous firm with so many important manufactures.

This book will be an important addition to our story about the size and importance of engineering in South East London and is so attractively produced and laid out that it will attract a much wider audience than most such works and help the credibility of all of us. Mary Mills

© GLIAS, 2022