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Notes and news — May 1972

In this issue:


The London Transport Generating Station received its last load of sea coal during December for steam generation. Electricity is now produced by gas turbines. The jetty will be used by oil tankers delivering fuel.

Crossness Sewage Pumping Station

The Victorian Beam-Engine House at Crossness, featured in the GLIAS 'Chronicle' sequence (GLIAS Newsletter April 1971), has just recently been made the responsibility of the Historic Buildings Board (GLC). Now that the Council have made this decision, one hopes GLIAS may be able to take a more active part in assuring the building's safe future. We look forward to more news on this matter soon.

London Hydraulic Co. Visit, 25 March

The last operating pumping station of the last public hydraulic supply company in Britain is in Wapping. Water supply to the whole of the remaining system — some 120 miles of mains criss-crossing the dock and central areas of London — is maintained at 800lb. per square inch pressure by automatic electric pumps which are activated immediately the pressure drops. If a main bursts, supply is increased to offset the loss (with occasional spectacular results!) until the section is isolated. Power was used extensively for lifts, hoists, cranes, swing bridges, etc., but this is now drawn from on-site electric motors or private systems in new buildings.

London's Industrial Monuments No. 2: Pillar Box at Purley

A monument to the communications industry (and in a small way to iron-founding) is Greater London's oldest pillar letter box. This box is situated at the junction of Furze Lane and Woodcote Valley Road with Foxley Lane at Purley in the London Borough of Croydon, TQ 309 617. It is cylindrical with a hexagonal cap. The maker's name and date, in three lines 'COCHRANE & CO / WOODSIDE WORKS / DUDLEY 1859' are clearly visible on the base.

This type of box is known as the First National Standard since before 1859 different types were in use in different parts of the country. The earliest pillar boxes in London were erected in 1855 but none of these remain. The First National Standard were superseded by the well-known hexagonal 'Penfolds' of 1866-79, of which there are about 40 left in London.

This information is taken in the main from Farrugia (J.Y.): The Letter Box (Centaur Press, 1969) which should be consulted for further details. M. Nail

This has now been replaced by a modern pillar box (Google Streetview)

Crabtree Wharf

Crabtree Wharf on Fulham Reach, 1972, looking north © Michael Bussell 1972

Demolition started recently at Crabtree Wharf, on the Fulham bank of the Thames (OS ref. TQ 234 773). The site is to be used for a council housing scheme. The Wharf and its buildings had been occupied continuously since the 1890s, when large-scale industrial development began along this stretch of the river, by Joseph Mears Ltd., contractors, hauliers and wharfingers. They adjoined a small dock, known as Crabtree Dock, where there was a marine engineering and boat-building business. Earlier, the riverside was occupied mainly by residential properties set in attractive grounds and it is interesting that the site is now reverting to such use, however, Crabtree itself had become established as a small industrial hamlet by the second half of the 18th century, with a small pottery, a chalk wharf and lime kilns, a vitriol works and malthouses; and it may have originated about the time of Charles I as an industrial annex to the estate of the pioneer merchant and industrialist Sir Nicholas Crisp (1598-1666), who was responsible, amongst other enterprises, for considerable development of brickmaking in the area. No traces remain of these earlier activities. (This information is summarised from "A History of Fulham", Fulham History Society, 1970.)

The main building was a large L-shaped three-storey brick block, remarkable in that it was built as a multi-storey stables accommodating about 300 horses. The ramps linking floors were removed in a major reconstruction following a fire in the 1950s but most of the original ground floor and part of the upper floors remained to show the brick piers and cast-iron columns supporting brick jack-arches on wrought-iron beams. Vertical grooves on the columns located boarding (since removed) which separated the stalls and a number of tethering rings and other characteristic stable fittings survived.

A two-storey typically 19th-century office block and two modern single-storey sheds also occupied the site. The river frontage was dominated by a large electric derrick.

A basic photographic record of the site was made in the weeks before demolition, in collaboration with the Hammersmith Borough Council and the Fulham and Hammersmith Historical Society. It is hoped to record the recollections of men who used to work on the Wharf and much work remains to trace early records or plans and to answer such questions as: how common (or rare) were multi-storey stable blocks and how did the Wharf operate on a typical working day? Anyone willing and/or able to help is invited to contact Michael Bussell, 23, Fitzgeorge Avenue, W14.

GLIAS Restoration Fund

GLIAS has started on its first major restoration project at Markfield Road; the canal winch from Limehouse is to be restored and re-erected at Camden in the next couple of weeks; it is possible work may start at Crossness before the end of the year; no doubt more and more restoration projects will come about in the next few years. But restoration costs money and the Society needs tools and materials to undertake this work. Therefore it has been decided to set up a special fund to assist this work.

Although the LVRPA gave a grant for chemicals for cleaning, things urgently required at Markfield Road include buckets, brushes, shovels, electric kettle, large enamel teapot, cups. Can you help by donating one of these items? Bring it along to Markfield Road one Sunday. Already the Treasurer has donated a first-aid kit, the Secretary a bucket, shovel and brush and the Park-Keeper a wheelbarrow. But more is needed. We want oil, grease, varnish, and lifting equipment. We need especially a large office-type lock-up locker or cupboard and the services of someone experienced in design work to decide the final colour scheme in which the engine will be painted. If you can help, please either bring a donation along to Markfield Road one Sunday, or send a donation of money or green shield stamps to the Treasurer, G.C. Oxley-Sidey, 32, The Avenue, Cheam, Surrey, marking your enclosure "Restoration Fund". All monies accumulated will only be used to assist restoration projects.

Limehouse Winch

Volunteers to help re-erect this piece of machinery please contact Hugh Morrison, 62, Kenilworth Court, SW15 (789-7399). The winch must be re-erected by mid-May.

Limehouse winch at Camden, c1972, © Sidney Ray

Markfield Road Beam Engine

Work has started on the Society's first major restoration project, at Markfield Road, South Tottenham, restoring the compound beam pumping engine, under the direction of Alan Spackman (GLIAS Newsletter March 1972). Work will be taking place at least every Sunday, 10.00-16.00 hrs. Volunteers are wanted to do a whole variety of tasks. If you can help, please come along, or contact Alan Spackman, 5 Thrush Lane, Cuffley, Herts, (Cuffley 3224) enclosing SAE.

It is hoped the engine, by Wood Brothers, Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, 1888, will eventually be one of the showpieces of the Lee Valley Regional Park. GLIAS and members of the Enfield Archaeological Society have undertaken to restore the engine and possibly eventually make it work. Your help is urgently needed.

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© GLIAS, 1972