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Notes and news — June 1969

In this issue:

Recording the Abbey Mill Site

The May 1969 issue of "Industrial Archaeology" contains an article in the Aids to Recording series by our Chairman, Alan Thomas. It deals with a survey carried out on the site of the Abbey Mill at West Ham (burnt down in the last war) and several techniques particularly useful when recording ruined sites are described. The mill site was to be obliterated by a road-widening scheme and friendly relations established with the contractors enabled numerous details to be recorded as they were literally unearthed.

Plans for the Lee Valley Park

The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority has produced a colourful folding brochure outlining plans for the Park, the first in England. Of special interest is the proposal for a Museum of Industrial Archaeology in the existing Abbey Mills Pump House.

Great Britain for the Thames?

Newspaper reports towards the end of May suggested that moves to bring back Brunel's Great Britain, the first ocean-going iron ship, are receiving more support from London than from Bristol where she was launched in 1843. The Great Britain has lain in the Falkland Islands for 83 years, but recently a scheme has been mooted to return her to England. Certainly the ship is more significant in maritime history than the two Queens which are now in the United States and her remarkable survival inspires hopes that a home may be found for her, perhaps as the dignified centre-piece of one of the marina plans currently being discussed for the Thames.

Industrial Archaeology and the Film

A meeting was held on 22nd May at the Shell Centre by the British Industrial and Scientific Film Association, at which it was agreed to set up an I.A. Group. Those at the meeting were shown some of the films that have been made in the past, including several of the excellent Shell Film Unit "shorts" and others sponsored by the National Coal Board, Peek Frean and Courtaulds. The Group's aims are to locate existing film records and to ensure that important industrial items — static and mechanical — are recorded on film.

Disbanding of the Thames Basin Archaeological Observers' Group

The last AGM of the Group was held on 15th March last, at which it was decided to disband. This has been brought about by the existence now of numerous local societies engaged in archaeological activity within the region, many having been started by Group members. Formed in 1957, at a time when archaeology in London was almost at a standstill, the Group has thus in its short life fulfilled a most useful role. In February 1966 an I.A. Section was established under the direction of Paul Carter, which carried out a number of measured and photographic surveys.

The Group has been very much connected with the setting-up of GLIAS. In particular, it financed the publicity for the inaugural meeting held in December 1968. Its last project, the production of the booklet 'Industrial Monuments of Greater London' will be of great use to GLIAS members as a basis for future work. The distribution of this booklet, which will be available shortly, is to be handled by GLIAS and a considerable proportion of the revenue from sales will come to our Society. Also, three former TBAOG members will be serving on the Society's first Executive Committee. The Thames Basin Archaeological Observers' Group will be remembered as one of the pioneers of industrial archaeology in the London region.

The Harrow Weald Kiln

The remains of a kiln in the grounds of The Kiln, Harrow Weald (OS 1in. map 160, grid ref. 145926) are being surveyed by Bill Eadie and Brigid Grafton-Green.

Originally there are said to have been three kilns at this site, producing 'all sorts of pipes, tiles, pots and what not' between 1795-1895. (Further research may well show that the tilery was in business before 1795.) The business was owned and worked by Charles and Mary Blackwell, who also farmed 200 acres locally.

Today one kiln only remains, its walls standing to a height of about 18 feet. The chimney was removed, for safety reasons, by the present owner, Sir Oliver Scott, who has kindly given permission for the survey.

Brick-making was another activity, though it is not clear whether this was carried on here or only at a brick kiln a short distance away. It seems clear that the dwelling-house (still used today) and the drying sheds were built from bricks and tiles of local production. One drying shed remains, a long, narrow, single-storey building now used as an outhouse, its walls built in checker pattern with alternate bricks missing to allow free air-passage. Its tiled roof is supported on timber uprights and cross-beams, many of which appear original. The base of each upright rests in a timber pad which is itself set in a narrow brick foundation or sleeper beam.

An old print shows a second long drying shed beside the first, but this is now missing (though its brick foundations are visible in places on the adjoining path) and the first building is truncated. Other buildings which must have been part of the complex have also vanished, but there are plenty of traces; low walls, footings, banks in the lawn. It is hoped that after surveying the kiln building and drying shed it may be possible by probing to plot the outlines of the whole complex. One difficulty is, however, that according to local information the rubble from the demolished buildings was not removed, but was spread over the area prior to the lawns being laid down.

Clay came from a field just north of the kiln, between it and the known line of Grim's Dyke, which is only a few hundred yards away. This area is no longer a field, but is now a small coppice. It may prove possible to locate the main clay pits beneath the undergrowth.

Tailpiece: Charles and Mary Blackwell were followed in the tile business by their elder son, another Charles. Their younger son, Thomas, joined a firm of oilmen in Soho. There he met another apprentice, Edmund Crosse. Ten years later the firm of Crosse and Blackwell was born.

This survey, a preliminary report on which appears above, is a good illustration of the type of work that can be undertaken by an individual or small group. Details of other surveys in progress will be welcomed. Brigid Grafton-Green

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© GLIAS, 1969