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Notes and news — February 1972

In this issue:


In a recent circular from the Department of the Environment dealing with the setting up of Regional Water Boards, there were some interesting comments on Inland Waterways. It is recognised that Inland Waterways and particularly canals have not only important functions as water supply channels, but also as major attractions for leisure. With this in view DoE has suggested that the Inland Waterways Board should be disbanded; responsibility for canals would pass to locally administered authorities. There is clearly a question of whether enough cash will be available for these authorities to do a reasonable job.

However, given the money, more local responsibility could give the canals a bright future. The negative attitude of the Inland Waterways Board over the future of Regent's Canal between the Thames and Camden Town might hopefully be changed if a smaller and more representative body was responsible. When the proposed authorities are set up, which should be by 1974, GLIAS must make certain that its views are heard clearly by all concerned.

Windsor Hotel faces demolition

During the redevelopment of Victoria Street, Windsor House, formerly Windsor Hotel, is likely to be demolished. One of London's most unusual hotel buildings, it was used as Government offices in the First World War and has never been used as a hotel since. Its massive and ornate entrance is particularly distinctive.

The site is close to where Colonel Blood is believed to be buried. A large complex is planned for the site, the architect being Richard Deiffert, who is responsible for Centre Point and other Central London office blocks.

London's Industrial Monuments No. 1: Greathead Tunnelling Shield

London is famous for its network of underground 'Tube' railways and one of the principal reasons for the success in building the early 'Tubes' was the development of the tunnelling shield. London's early underground railways were built on the cut-and-cover principle and although a shield was used by Sir Marc Brunel in constructing the Thames Tunnel (1824-43) from Wapping to Rotherhithe, the first successful use of shield to build an underground railway was in the construction of the Tower Subway, from Tower Hill, under the Thames to Vine Street, Southwark. In building this railway, opened in 1870, the shields used were of a new circular form, based on Brunel's principle and developed by the Engineer in charge of constructing the subway, Peter William Barlow. Later Barlow patented his idea and named his shield after the contractor who built the subway, James Henry Greathead.

Greathead shields were used to build the world's first underground electric 'Tube', the City & South London Railway, which was opened in 1890. Nothing further happened until the turn of the century, but in the next ten years a spate of underground construction followed and one of the shields used to bore the branch of what is now the Northern Line, from Moorgate to Finsbury Park (opened 1904) still survives.

In an era which is seeing a renewed period of 'Tube' construction, this reminder of the pioneer builders of London's Underground network can be located at the southern end of Platform 10 at Moorgate L.T. station and can be viewed upon request of London Transport. P. Carter

Museums No. 1: Beamish: Museum in the Making

If you are planning a trip to the North East, then you should try to visit the North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish. Frank Atkinson, until recently the curator of the Bowes Museum, has over many years collected a vast number of items from the North. His team has saved an apothecary's shop, engines of all sorts and horse-drawn hearses.

Every item has been in use in the North; many, particularly those concerned with railways, were invented and developed in the region. The intention is to reconstruct buildings, pit-head equipment and tramways in the grounds of Beamish Hall, which is near Chester-le-Street, County Durham. Meanwhile, a fascinating collection of the smaller exhibits has been very well arranged in part of the house. In the stables are a steam-roller, agricultural equipment and the contents of a printer's workshop.

There is still a great deal of work to be done; consequently the Museum has rather restricted opening times. Last summer it was open at weekends and Bank Holidays until October. If you want to find the opening times for next year, phone 020-73 (Stanley) 3586, or write to The North of England Open Air Museum, Beamish Hall, County Durham.

This article is the first in a series of notes about museums which will be of particular interest to GLIAS members. Future items will be the Weald and Downland Museum and the Ironbridge Gorge Trust.

Clapham Museum of Transport

The London Borough of Lambeth has recently put a spoke in British Rail's plans for moving the Museum to York (GLIAS Newsletter June 1971). The site has been rezoned from Industrial to Residential use; this has halved the value of the site and British Rail has clearly to delay the move and possibly reconsider its earlier decision. Although this is a rather unsatisfactory situation a delay could be used positively by London Transport, which has so far been unable to find a permanent site for the display of its exhibits. Given more time and help and pressure from GLIAS, London Transport may find a suitable location.

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© GLIAS, 1972