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Notes and news — August 1972

In this issue:

Third GLIAS Annual General Meeting

The Society’s third A.G.M. took place on 1st July at the Institute of Archaeology with 51 members attending. The President, Mr R.M. Robbins, began the formal business of the meeting. Denis Smith, on behalf of the Executive Committee, welcomed those present and commented briefly on the work of the Committee. He emphasised the importance of the new GLIAS Monitoring Group, with its links with outside bodies.

In his report, the Secretary outlined the past year for the Society. The visits and other events had been very successful and much of this success had been due to the tireless efforts of Terry Thomas. The Workshop evenings had continued to flourish and among the other events had been: two members’ evenings, a Canal Teach-in for young people and two Society coach trips. The Secretary thanked everyone who had helped with these and other events and particularly Terry Thomas, who was leaving us soon and who had made such a special contribution to the Society’s activities. Another change of Office was the resignation of Valerie Hunn, who for the past year had maintained a very high standard in the production of the Newsletters. The Secretary paid thanks to Valerie for her valuable work and also to Miss Vaughan-Williams, who had been responsible for the task of dispatching the Newsletters. Finally the Secretary thanked David Baume, Mike Kensey and John Kenward who were leaving the Committee.

Concerning I.A. projects it was reported that work had at last started on restoring the Beam Engine at Markfield Road (GLIAS Newsletter May 1972) and volunteers were urgently needed there. The Society had also successfully re-erected the Limehouse Winch on the canal towpath at Camden, thanks to the efforts of Hugh Morrison and others. GLIAS was co-operating with the British Film Institute (GLIAS Newsletter June 1972) to produce archive film of IA interest and some of the results of this work would be seen at the National Film Theatre on 12th January 1973. The Industrial Monuments Survey had also got under way.

These projects would provide a challenge for GLIAS in the coming year. Attention should also be given to training sessions and to Crossness which had been rather neglected in the past year.

Denis Smith thanked the Secretary, Paul Carter, for his great efforts during, what had been for him, a difficult year.

The Treasurer, Godfrey Oxley-Sidey, reported that the increase in membership had been very slow and stressed that efforts should be made to attract new members. The Chronicle Prize and the income from the Thames Basin Booklet had given the Society a good financial start. However, we would now have to rely mainly on subscriptions and this was one reason for the rise in subscription rates during the past year. Due to business commitments Godfrey had felt it necessary to resign from the Office of Treasurer. The meeting unanimously accepted the Treasurer’s report and members applauded to express their thanks for Godfrey’s work over the past three years.

There was only one nomination for each post of Society Officer and six nominations for the seven Committee members, so the meeting elected the nominees unopposed. A late nomination for the remaining Committee post was accepted and Alan Spackman was elected.

The President, in closing the formal business, commented that the next two years would be of great importance in the development of GLIAS.

During the interval members were able to view and purchase some of the books displayed by David Hounslow of St John Thomas Booksellers of Woburn Place. Copies of the Society’s first print, of Three Mills, were also available.

After the interval, Mr Geoffrey Wilson gave a comprehensive talk on the development of the Early Semaphore and Shutter Telegraph throughout the World. Much of this development had taken place in Britain where the main network was built to serve the Admiralty in London. Particularly interesting was the review of the various sending and receiving stations in the South East. After a vote of thanks by Mr. Robbins, Mr. Wilson received a lively ovation from those present.

GLIAS Monitoring Group

The sub-committee, formed to deal with threatened buildings and plant (GLIAS Newsletter March 1972) has decided that it should be known as "GLIAS Monitoring Group". Its objectives are:

We hope to start an index of threatened items, giving basic information (e.g. dates, access, etc.). The members of the group are Denis Smith, John Smith and Ron Fitzgerald. The secretary is Caroline Kenward: please let her know (2a Eccleston Square, SW1, 01-828-1580) if you know of any important industrial buildings or machinery whose future is threatened: the threat need not be immediate: the more time we have the better our chances of constructive action.

GLIAS and Recorded Sound

The British Institute of Recorded Sound is anxious to acquire recordings of plant and machinery in operation and of drivers, operatives and craftsmen talking about their work. It is hoped that GLIAS could co-ordinate and encourage such recording in London and a meeting will shortly be held at which the Institute’s Director will explain the aims to a small group of GLIAS members. If sufficient interest exists, an informal recording group might then be established. In order that the Committee can gauge the likely support for this enterprise, please WRITE NOW if you are interested, with general details of any recording work you have done in this field and an indication of the equipment at your disposal, to: Bryan Woodriffe, 40 Priory Road, Hampton, Middlesex. Please do not expect a reply for a few weeks, while support is being assessed and the meeting arranged.

Markfield Road Beam Engine — Report by A.J. Spackman. 30.6.72

The Markfield Beam Engine project (GLIAS Newsletter May 1972) was established early in 1972 under the direction of A.J. Spackman. The work is being carried out by volunteer labour. The volunteers have come from GLIAS, Enfield Archaeology Society, Walthamstow and Brookmans Park evening classes as well as several students from various colleges.

The Lea Valley Regional Park Authority is the supervising body and is responsible for agreed and budgeted finance for the Engine and building. Restoration of the building was completed, above floor level, before handing over of engine to the project group in April 1972.

The work on the Engine is proceeding steadily. There is some need for more people who can give 2 to 6 hours of their time to cleaning or more specialist work that they may have expert knowledge of. So far work has been limited to Sundays as there has been no demand for other days. The building is well lighted and there is a large car park, but children sometimes throw stones. It is within 10 mins. walk of Seven Sisters or Tottenham Hale L.T. stations and South Tottenham B.R.

Visit to Whitbread’s Brewery

On Friday 9 June, a small party visited the Whitbread’s Brewery in Chiswell Street, City, which has been in operation for over 200 years (GLIAS Newsletter February 1970). They saw the processes and equipment involved in brewing, including the great copper vats in which malt and water are heated to form 'wort', before yeast and hops are added. The white brick-lined cellars were designed by John Smeaton and the influence of another notable engineer, John Rennie, was seen in the cast-iron columns so similar to those in his London Docks warehouses. Many such details await recording before much of the brewery vanishes under redevelopment. Happily, the scheme provides for the retention of the Porter Tun Room, whose splendid timber roof has already endured bombs and fire in the Second World War.

Visit to Faversham

Faversham, Kent, was the destination on Sunday 18 June, but a stop was made en route for the Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway, a 2ft 6in gauge industrial line formerly run by Bowaters. A trip to Kemsley and back was made in open coaches, the smoke and steam of the locomotive being supplemented by a steady drizzle.

Later, the restored Chart Mills were visited: these formed a major part of the Faversham gunpowder industry, active between the 16th century and the 1930s. The remaining mill has been carefully renovated and the internal machinery was readily understood with the aid of an excellent tape-recorded commentary.

A restored Thames sailing barge was seen in the course of a wet but cheerful walk around Faversham town, whose conservation is a model to many less sensitive town councils. The brick oast house at Perry Court Farm, our last stop, was said by its owner to have been a "new old type" of structure when his father built it in 1904, as its layout and construction followed the old pattern, excepting the unusual but satisfactory square kilns for hop-drying.

Visit to W.T. Morrell & Co. Ltd., Bookbinders. 5.7.72.

The party of nine were well rewarded by the GLIAS visit to the bookbinding craft workshop of W.T. Morrell & Co. Ltd. in Nottingham Court, Covent Garden. For two hours we were shown round by one of the directors, Mr. C.E.R. Then-Bergh, who took us through the stages of pressing, sewing, backing and gilding. Each of these operations is carried out by craftsmen and craftswomen in their typical way of "Oh, it's quite simple" but producing a quality which sadly reminds us of the past rather than the present.

One of the items of particular interest was the store of backing papers and leathers of special period design, mainly from abroad and many of which are no longer made. The presses date back 100-150 years and the various other tools and methods of working — adhesives such as "flour paste" and "white of egg" — seem more of the 19th than the 20th century. The amount of gold leaf and leather used was a constant reminder of the fine quality of this work.

The only sad note of the afternoon was the realisation that Covent Garden, an area full of these craft workshops, may very soon be re-developed and our tour become tragically just a memory.

Visit to Croydon

The visit to the Croydon area on 15th July began at Handley's Brickworks, Norwood, where bricks are at present being manufactured from clay taken from L.T. Tube excavations! This is mixed with power station waste, fly ash and high-carbon grit, before being pressed, extruded and wire-cut. After drying, the bricks are fired in kilns; we saw an impressive bank of 20 kilns in two rows, fired from above by fine coal in a way that resembles the vertical retorts of a town gas works. The cyclic sequence brings each kiln back to firing temperature once every 20 days. Shift working is essential to maintain kiln temperature, but despite this and other factors, the brickworks appears to have a reasonably secure future as it is on industrially zoned land. A horizontal steam engine once powered the works from a series of shafts and pulleys, but it is now disused.

An ascent of Shirley windmill, a restored tower mill in the grounds of a school, was followed by the climactic sights and sounds of Addington Well Pumping Station. Here are two fine beam engines of 1888 and 1893, one of which is constantly at work. Their future alas is gloomy: a fully automatic pumping station on the same site will be operational in 2-3 years and after that.... Once again the need is felt for an agreed policy of preservation or thorough recording of surviving engines in the London region.

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© GLIAS, 1972