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Notes and news — April 1969

In this issue:


The formation of GLIAS, the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, is felt to be a desirable and indeed essential step in the developing study and assessment of London's industrial past. London is an especially difficult area for the industrial archaeologist by virtue of its size and complexity, and while it is true that there are a number of local archaeological societies in the area with active industrial archaeology groups, nevertheless coverage of London as a whole is uneven. To remedy this is one of the main aims of GLIAS.

Some excellent work is already being done in the London area: the Lower Lea Valley Survey and the activities of the Industrial Archaeology Sections of the Thames Basin Archaeological Observers' Group and the Enfield Archaeological Society are examples, while one cannot forget the book 'London's Industrial Heritage' by Aubrey Wilson, the survey for which brought to notice many important and fascinating items.

There is, however, still a vast amount to be done: there comes to mind for instance the need to record sites and buildings liable to be obliterated by the London Motorway Box scheme in the next decade. It is most certainly not the intention of GLIAS to make a 'takeover bid' in areas where a local group already functions. But it is hoped to indicate areas and topics needing attention, and we will be glad to receive details of projects being carried out, either to illustrate an approach to the subject or to pass on requests for 'assistance in undertaking large-scale or urgent surveys'. Likewise, anyone wishing to get in touch with others in their locality or with similar interests is invited to write in.

A very important aspect of industrial archaeology is the publication of fieldwork, whether it is the result of a survey of one item or, as may be expected as the subject develops, a major study of an industry or a building type: for instance the London dockside warehouse. It is hoped that GLIAS will be able to publish such work separately as funds permit, but we would draw attention to the quarterly publications 'The London Archaeologist' (referred to elsewhere in this issue) and 'Industrial Archaeology', the national journal of the history of industry and technology. The editors of both these will be glad to receive articles on London's industrial archaeology.

To be effective, the Newsletter must contain what is useful and interesting to its readers. Regular features will include comment on matters of importance, a diary of coming events, reports on Society activities and recent happenings, information on projects currently being undertaken, and reviews of books for the London reader. A list of members and their interests will be compiled and published, as will a list of the relevant local and national organisations. It is planned to publish 8-10 issues a year, so that up-to-date news can be included.

GLIAS Inaugural Meeting

130 people attended this meeting, held on Sunday 1st December 1968 in the Lecture Theatre of the Science Museum, South Kensington. The chairman Denis Smith referred in his introductory remarks to the problems of industrial archaeology in London, which made some sort of organisation necessary. He outlined the possible aims such an organisation should have: especially keeping workers in touch by regular publications, coordinating efforts to avoid duplication and ensure adequate coverage of all areas and subjects. Later it could also present an informed opinion to responsible bodies on possible preservation of items.

This was followed by two brief but informative contributions: Dr Norman Smith described the Survey of Victorian Technology, which seeks to locate preserved items from the Victorian period, determine what else should be preserved, and examine whether the present procedures for this are adequate. Nicholas Farrant, editor of the new quarterly magazine 'The London Archaeologist', spoke of its aims adding that contributions from industrial archaeologists would be welcome.

Mr. Eric de Mare then spoke under the title Use and Beauty, praising the splendid functional beauty of many industrial structures. His talk was illustrated by numerous slides that confirmed his opinions.

The meeting was then thrown open for those present to express their opinions on the proposed Society and its aims. Most were in favour of such an organisation, but stressed that it should not supplant local archaeological societies in their own areas. As a result, a steering committee was set up with eleven members, which was to agree a policy and Constitution for the Society, these to be submitted for approval to a further meeting to be held as soon as possible. The following were appointed to the steering committee: Messrs M. Bussell, P. Carter, M. Kensey, J. Kenward, M. Mangan, G. Oxley-Sidey, M. Robbins, D. Smith, A. Thomas, J. Thorn, and J. Turtle.

The meeting closed with a colour film showing West Ham pumping station and its engines at work, made by the Lower Lea Valley Industrial Archaeology Survey.

Crossness Beam Pumping Engines, Belvedere Road, SE2

One of the most important projects undertaken during the last century was the installation of an entirely new drainage system for London by the Metropolitan Board of Works in the 1860s under Joseph Bazalgette. Abbey Mills Pumping Station on the Northern Outfall is well known and plans are going ahead for its preservation. However, its counterpart at Crossness Sewage Treatment Works is also worthy of preservation and an investigation is now being made as to the cost and possible method of restoring the engine house and its beam engines by Mr. N. Harrison of the Historic Buildings Division, in the G.L.C. Department of Architecture and Civic Design.

The engine house, opened in 1865 with much pomp and festivity, is not on quite the same scale as Abbey Mills, but the interior ironwork is equally as elaborate. Most important are the four 125hp beam engines (J. Watt & Son) which were compounded early this century. They now stand out of use but in reasonable condition.

One of the main items in costing the restoration is that of labour and the Society may be asked to assist by providing a working party, undertaking cleaning, painting, etc. of some of the ironwork and the beam engines. If the G.L.C. decide to go ahead with the restoration, this could be a long-term project, possibly during the summer months for two or three years. More information will be available at the next Society meeting, and anyone interested in this project should contact Paul Carter then. Anyone with a working knowledge of steam engines will be especially welcome, as it is proposed to investigate the possibilities of bringing one of the engines to life again.

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© GLIAS, 1969