Home | Membership | News | Diary | Walks | Calvocoressi Fund | Books | Journals | Links | Database | e-papers | About us

Notes and news — April 1971

In this issue:

GLIAS wins the BBC 'Chronicle' Industrial Archaeology Competition

GLIAS was awarded the first prize of £250 in the BBC2 archaeology programme 'Chronicle' transmitted on 20th February. Second and third prizes of £75 and £50 were awarded to two other groups out of the eight short-listed finalists, who included a team undertaking the restoration of Faversham Gunpowder Mill in Kent and the Great Western Society which is keeping alive both the spirit of the GWR and the steam locomotive from headquarters in Didcot. Another scheme, setting a welcome precedent, was the restoration of a Scottish engine house aided by the local council.

Film was shown of the eight finalists at work. Paul Carter and Denis Smith of GLIAS were seen exploring the interior of Crossness engine house on the Erith Marshes and subsequently discussing the future of Tower Bridge with its Superintendent from a windswept vantage point above the Thames. A point that was stressed, the difficulty of communication and keeping watch on developments in a city of eight million inhabitants extending over hundreds of square miles, clearly carried weight in the deliberations of the three judges, Kenneth Hawley, Kenneth Hudson and Neil Cossons.

The cash prizes are intended as a very practical encouragement and assistance to the winning groups and the GLIAS Committee is already considering the ways in which the £250 could most effectively be used. In the meantime, congratulations and thanks to those members who took part in the broadcast; and of course thanks to the BBC for supporting and encouraging industrial archaeology in Britain and especially in London.

'The Humphrey Pump And Its Inventor'

Denis Smith, a GLIAS committee member, delivered his paper on 'The Humphrey Pump and its Inventor' to the Newcomen Society on 10th February. Herbert A. Humphrey (1868-1951) was a versatile engineer, chemist and inventor; the most fertile period of his life was just before World War I. His gas pump was conceived and developed in that period.

The principle on which the pump operates is delightfully simple. Instead of transmitting the pumping force through pistons, rods, etc., the explosion of gas acts directly on the surface of the water and pushes it through the pump. This consists of a U-shaped pipe, at one end of which is the combustion pipe where the water to be pumped is admitted through valve controlled inlets; the other end of the pipe is open to the air, to allow for uneven expansion and the water flows steadily out of a branch off this end of the pipe.

The largest installation of Humphrey pumps was at the King George V reservoir, Enfield. Press coverage of the opening by King George V in 1913 was spectacular and widespread; it compared with coverage of the opening of Crossness pumping station by Prince Albert. It is interesting that at such a late date developments in Public Health engineering were considered to be of such significance and created such public interest.

Although the concept of the pump was so simple, very few were actually built. The pump was introduced at a particularly unfortunate time; the First World War disrupted any possible development of an idea which could not conceivably be put to any warlike purpose. Also at this time interest in and development of electric power was intense and tended to displace ideas which used other types of fuel. The few Humphrey pumps that were built also had operating difficulties; the most serious was the lack of instrumentation, resulting in the need for highly skilled and sensitive operators. It could take a matter of hours to start a Humphrey pump; a Metropolitan Water Board engineer at the meeting recalled an occasion when flood water in the River Lea had subsided by the time the pumps at Enfield were operating!

Denis Smith must be congratulated on the informative and fascinating presentation of his paper. He used a variety of slides, some taken by himself, others of the few installations in other countries and most interesting copies of pictures which were used by Humphrey in his own lectures. Sound recordings of the Enfield pumps in action and of operators' experiences indicated the real problems which the pumps created.

Due to their size, preservation of the pumps at Enfield is not likely to be a difficulty: in Denis's words: 'Once you've got a Humphrey pump, you've got a Humphrey pump'. John Kenward

More News on Albert Bridge

It now appears that there will almost certainly be a Public Inquiry held to examine the GLC proposal to erect a temporary (seven year) prop in midspan to enable the bridge to continue to carry traffic (GLIAS Newsletter August 1970). Denis Smith is preparing a brief commentary on the GLC Engineer's Report, in support of the Albert Bridge Group's opposition to the GLC proposal.

Tower Bridge

As a result of GLIAS enquiries (GLIAS Newsletter November 1970), the City Engineer has stated that active consideration is being given by the Corporation of the City of London to retaining some of the current machinery of the bridge, when this becomes obsolete as a result of planned modernisation.

Crossness Pumping Engine House

Interest in Crossness has been aroused as a result of its being featured in the BBC 'Chronicle' programme on 20th February. Mr Davis, Works Manager at Crossness, is now putting in hand a plan of work to tidy up the Engine House. Mr Davis is hoping it may be possible to hold an 'Open Day' at the Works later in the summer. Members will be notified when more information is available.

Alexandra Palace Organ to Stay in Britain

The magnificent concert organ at Alexandra Palace has been sold for £500 to two people, one a great grandson of Henry Willis its builder, by the GLC. The decision was made despite a higher offer from a dealer who intended to send the organ to the USA.

Belfast Might Be Coming To London

Second World War cruiser 'HMS Belfast' © Robert Mason 2014

The Second World War cruiser 'Belfast' may be preserved and moored opposite the Tower of London. A Belfast Trust has been formed and plans are well advanced. It is intended that the London Division of the RNR would be set up on board, while tourists would be encouraged to visit the ship and perhaps sample a tot of rum. This is good news, for very little survives to illustrate the history and character of the Navy between 1900 and 1950. The site too is well-chosen, both for attracting visitors and as symbolising the maritime and fighting roles of the Navy.

Markfield Road Beam Engine, South Tottenham

Work is likely to start on restoring this engine (GLIAS Newsletter November 1970) in the next few weeks, as soon as certain building work on the engine house has been completed by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority. The LVRPA are to provide insurance cover for GLIAS members willing to work on the engine. If you would like to help, please contact Alan Spackman, 35 Cranfield Crescent, Cuffley, Herts.

The Limehouse Winch

The British Waterways Board have now agreed to allow GLIAS to dismantle, recondition and re-erect this winch (GLIAS Newsletter August 1970), probably at Hampstead Road lock, Camden. If you would like to help, please contact the Project Director, Hugh Morrison, 62 Kenilworth Court, SW15 (telephone 789-5502).

Limehouse winch at Camden, c1972, © Sidney Ray

Fulham Pottery

Although inventories and survey have now been completed (GLIAS Newsletter January 1971), there is plenty of work to be done on the excavations which are now in hand. Contact Michael Bussell if you would like to help.

Next issue >>>

© GLIAS, 1971