Notes and news — March 1974
In this issue:
Brunel Museum Project exhibition at St Mary's Church, Rotherhithe, 19th-27th January
- Brunel Museum Project Exhibition
- Unconsidered Trifles in EC1
- East London Roadworks
- The Soho Society
- City News
- Theatre & Cinema News
The exhibition was organised by the Brunel Exhibition Project group with support from the Bermondsey & Rotherhithe Society. The display included photos, maps and prints illustrating Rotherhithe's rich past and the work of the Brunels — notably the Thames Tunnel nearby. It is proposed that the old engine house over the shaft of the Tunnel be converted to a permanent museum of the Brunels' work, with a landscaped park around. A small warehouse will be converted into craft workshops including an early music centre, with low cost accommodation above. The overall intention is to revive this once-attractive area of Rotherhithe, without destroying its character.
The exhibition is moving on to other locations and members are encouraged to visit it. A lengthier report on the Exhibition Project may be obtained from Michael Bussell (please enclose s.a.e, 9"x4").
Unconsidered trifles in EC1
For those with eyes to see, the village of Clerkenwell is still clearly identifiable. It lies between St James' Church and the Horseshoe pub in a network of little lanes — Sans Walk, Newcastle Row, St James Row and the 'high street', Clerkenwell Close. There is no shortage of bollards with either '1835' or 'St James Clerken Well' cast upon them and on a corner opposite the Horseshoe is a row of derelict cottages with what look like weavers' attics. (Would someone like to follow this up? MNB).
The Hugh Myddelton Schools in the Close have the initials SLB worked into the wrought iron gates and 'Cooking & Laundry' carved into the lintel stonework over one of them. An earlier, 1874, School Board for London establishment just round the corner in Bowling Green Lane is nameless. (Hugh Myddelton Schools date from 1892.)
An intriguing plaque set into a house in Sans Walk proclaims that 'This wall is the entire property of the County of Middlesex' and the county or, rather, its successor should be ashamed of the condition of its possession. In fact, the whole area is evidently about to be cleared.
Not far away, in St John Street, is the Cannon Brewery, in good order but showing no sign of life and the exquisite Finsbury Bank for Savings erected 1840 in Sekforde Street. This latter has just changed hands.
On the corner of Bowling Green Lane and Farringdon Road, the Farringdon Road Works of Orrin & Geer (were they printers' engineers?) has been gutted by fire, but this brick, cast iron, and moulded stone building still stands. Its foundations, judging by the wavering brick courses above, were less substantial than the superstructure. Alan Thomas
East London roadworks
The southern section of the M11 down the Roding Valley is under construction and final proposals for the related link road from Woodford to Hackney are in the public consultation stage.
Two well pumping stations en route, Roding in Roding Lane (TQ415891 — see Industrial Monuments handlist) and Wanstead at Eastern Avenue, Redbridge (415883) are spared by a matter of yards. The route passes through residential areas and open spaces as far as Leytonstone, where it runs along the north side of the Central Line as far as Leyton High Road; there it tunnels under the BR Temple Mills depot, to emerge at a junction with Eastway on Hackney Marsh. The impact on industrial sites of note is minimal, with the exception of Leytonstone Sorting Office in Fillebrook Road (393875), which is likely to be demolished. This turn-of-the-century single-storey building has a red brick facade, with a triangular pediment, two moulded stone doorways bearing the words 'Postmen's Office' and an iron lamp mounted on a pillar box outside, whose side panels bear the words 'Leytonstone Postmen's Sorting Office'.
Of potential concern are the plans for widening the North Circular Road (A406) between Hall Lane, Chingford and Dysons Road, Tottenham. These plans have yet to reach the Department of the Environment from their consultants, but are a threat to the Lea Navigation Bridge (357923), a single span built in 1927 of reinforced concrete in a bold 'Odeon' style with four massive pylons and to the Lea Valley Viaduct (358924-364923), a ferro-concrete structure of the same date, 1,700 feet long, with two even more massive pylons marking its eastern end. Although by 1927 standards the width of the roadway on both structures was very generous (60 feet including the pavement on either side), it is presumably not wide enough for the Department of the Environment today. Adrian Tayler
The Soho Society
With so much redevelopment planned for this unique London area (see e.g. 'Goodbye London' reviewed in GLIAS Newsletter January 1974), it is heartening to learn of a local society which appears to be pursuing a rational but active course in the defence of Soho's character. The Society's News Sheet, 'Soho Clarion', was launched in December 1973: the first issue includes articles on Theatreland in Danger, Threatened Buildings and the History of Soho. Details of membership and more information may be obtained from the Society at 29 Wardour Street, W1 (One matter of particular interest to GLIAS is the passing reference to umpteen small craft workshops carrying out an astonishing variety of activities — would someone like to become involved in recording them?)
Monument area: demolition associated with the extension of the widened Upper Thames Street has now reached Billingsgate. Several premises concerned with the fish trade are being demolished.
Watling Street: demolition applications have been made for a rectangular site, except for four listed buildings, including 22/3, 27/8 Watling Street; 5-9 Watling Court; 39-53 Cannon Street; 11-13 Bow Lane. Anyone with knowledge of the buildings please contact David Thomas.
Archaeology in the City: it is reported that the City's archaeological team, headed by Mr Brian Hobley of the Guildhall Museum, will be enlarged to 25 in the near future. There is no mention that any will be specifically responsible for industrial material: one can but hope, although the onus of recording in this densely occupied area seems likely to remain with the amateur industrial archaeologist for a long time.
Theatre & Cinema News
The Old Vic: the future of this building seems uncertain after next year. Stratford: National Theatre are moving out then, while plans for another company to take over residence have fallen through.
The Theatre Royal Stratford: uncertainty faces this theatre too, which is in need of more money to allow it to continue. Recent demolition has left the theatre in a state of unsplendid isolation, but it will soon be surrounded by redevelopment.
Tooting Granada: this fine example of a giant cinema has been closed for several months. The future is still undecided, but the building is listed.
Salvation Army: A new and truly unique museum has opened at the Salvationist Publishing & Supply offices in Judd Street, WC1. Anyone interested in London's industrial past will almost certainly be curious to know what 19th-century conditions in London were really like and this museum will supply some of the answers in the social sphere. The museum is open Tuesday-Friday, 10-noon and 2-4; admission 10p.
Gunnersbury Park: this GLIAS-affiliated museum aims to display material on the life and history of the Ealing/Hounslow/Acton/Brentford/Chiswick area. Of particular interest is material on 17th-century sword-making at Hounslow, 19th-century printing in Chiswick and 19th-century hand laundries in South Acton. The museum is open 2-4 every day from October-March and Mon-Fri 2-5, Sat & Sun 2-6 April-September, admission free.
Members might like to consider taking up one or more of the projects listed in GLIAS Newsletter January 1974. One further site in need of attention is Southall gasworks — recently closed and likely to follow the way of Kensal Green gasworks, on which demolition work is well advanced. Contact Michael Bussell.
Two further members' projects are noted below:
Photographic survey of Regent's Canal: Malcolm Tucker, 91 Hornsey Lane, N6, to record the canal in Tower Hamlets — and also to be notified of demolished items on London canals that have been recorded.
Photographic record of Mortlake and Barnes: Charles Hailstone, 7A Alder Road, Mortlake, SW14.
Next issue >>>
© GLIAS, 1974