Notes and news — March 1975
In this issue:
- Comment: Bombs
- Visit to Whitefriars Glass
- Other Groups
- Exhibition Project — Rotherhithe
- Sir William Halcrow & Partners I.A. Group
- Young's Brewery, Wandsworth
- "Conservation and Industrial Archaeology"
- Walthamstow Workshop
Since the last newsletter went to press, there have been explosions at a number of sites which are noteworthy from an IA point of view; in particular the east end of Selfridges (one of the first buildings in London to employ skeletal steel frame construction) and the Pumping Station at Waterworks Corner between Woodford and Walthamstow which is powered by vintage diesel engines. Fortunately, although Selfridges lost a lot of glass and much of the Waterworks' roof was carried away, damage was not irreparable.
However, incidents like these have made Industrial Archaeology in the field a more difficult business. David Thomas reports that people are getting much more suspicious about his recording activities in Southwark and that he was pursued by a hostile caretaker on a pushbike. Denis Smith has also experienced difficulty; a recent party he took to the Isle of Dogs was refused admission to two previously accessible sites — the West India Docks and Stewart Street pumping station. Some of his problems may also be caused by the fact that fewer and fewer places actually work on a Saturday, making Saturday visits a nuisance to the owners, even if they are ideal for us. But that is another story.
The most serious incident of this type which has occurred recently was the arrest of one of Bryan Woodriffe's Kingston Poly students who was photographing Kingston Post Office at the time. Brian had to go down to the nick and provide identification to get his student out.
The purpose of this article is not to dissuade GLIAS members from photographing and recording I.A. subjects. Quite the reverse — as there is still a chronic shortage of people to do recording, while the number of sites needing to be 'done' grows continually. What we would recommend, however, is that you carry some means of identification with you when recording. Also, if/you are likely to be seen by a gatekeeper or other employee, have a friendly chat and explain what you are up to — that way they won't get suspicious or alarmed. You do not, I might add, need to get permission to photograph the outside of a building, providing you take the photograph from the public highway and, I think, providing it is not a building subject to the Official Secrets Act ie: a military airfield.
On the question of identification, the GLIAS Committee is examining the possibility of printing a considerably more imposing and informative membership card which you could show if necessary.
At the time of writing, there is a 'cease fire' on bombing; if this turns into a final end to hostilities, which for all sakes I hope it does, we may return to easier times. A year ago I can remember getting access to a site because one members of our party was able to flourish a Central Office of Information internal telephone directory! Adrian Tayler
Camden Transport Survey Our first aim is a comprehensive recording of transport sites in the Borough. We have, so far, had two Saturday recording expeditions, both in lousy weather. That to King's Cross/St Pancras, with the intention of photographing exteriors of railway and canal premises was curtailed, and will now be completed on Saturday 22 March.
The horse stable at Camden proved more interesting than anticipated and are the subject of a special recording session on Saturday 5 May. We are also having evening meetings and further visits are planned. In the meantime, a small group are meeting at lunchtime to visit sites not open at weekends — help much needed. This project is run jointly with Camden History Society. Full details from David Thomas.
Southwark Demolition is, to some extent, making things easier, insofar as time does not permit detailed interior measurement of buildings, even where this is clearly desirable. Already a considerable number of warehouses in Bermondsey have been completely razed, including Bennetts Wharf, which we recorded in August.
An emergency visit to the recently closed Stevenson & Howell Essence Works resulted in our obtaining a number of old photographs and site plan; we also managed to photograph a few machines and vessels in situ, but were that tantalisingly few weeks too late to see production.
There are plenty of individual buildings and streets needing recording and basic documentary research. This is the most important Borough in London and the most rapidly changing. Any spare time help volunteers gratefully welcomed. Contact David Thomas.
Visit to Whitefriars Glass 13 January 1975
Our twenty members did not have to be expert industrial archaeologists to appreciate this visit. We saw glass being extracted as a molten red-hot blob on the end of a tube from the 'pots' within the oil-fired furnace, then blown as and shaped by members of the 'choir', the 3/5 strong team. After this, wares are gently cooled, before going to the cutting and grinding shop. Drinking glasses have their lips reheated to give a smooth surface. Also, we were told how thermometer glass, stained church windows and the multi-colour paperweights are made. Fascinating. Many thanks to Richard Graham for arranging.
British Tunnelling Society This society is putting on an exhibition at the Institution of Civil Engineers, Great George Street, SW1, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the start of Brunel's Thames Tunnel. It will be open from 10 June to 1 July.
Liverpool Street Details of the campaign are enclosed with this newsletter. In addition, the Group are organising guided tours of points of IA interest in the station on 28, 29 and 30 March. Meet by the taxi rank at the Broad Street entrance to the station, 11.00am.
London & Middlesex Annual Conference Papers at this year's London & Middlesex Archaeological Society conference, to be held in the Livery Hall of Guildhall, EC2, on March 22 include 'Trig Lane and other Waterfront Sites 1974', 'Excavations in Staines 1974', 'A 17th Century Stoneware Kiln from Woolwich' and 'Excavations at London Docks'. Tickets 85p for non-members, details from Alison Laws, London Museum, Kensington Palace, London W8 4PX.
Progress at Kew Bridge Members may have seen the appeal literature put out by the Kew Bridge Engines Trust. They are after £64,000, including £10,000 to install a gas-fired steam plant, £7,500 for public amenities — loos, car parks, exhibition hall; £12,500 to restore the tower and £10,000 for an extensive research programme into the history of London's water supply. The two Lancashire boilers (second hand from Battle Hospital, Reading) for the steam-plant are already on site, awaiting installation. Work has also started on restoring the 1820 Boulton & Watt engine. Volunteers are welcomed, between 10-6. The Trust's address is c/o 11 The Vineyard, Richmond, Surrey, tel 948 1577.
Exhibition Project — Rotherhithe
Visitors to Rotherhithe may at last notice some signs of constructive activity in and around the Brunels' engine house at the south end of the Thames Tunnel. Thanks to the GLC and Southwark Council a start has been made on the first phase of the landscaping of the site. This work involves clearing and levelling the derelict land between the engine house, the shaft and Rotherhithe Street, and the construction of a small public open space (seats, trees and flowers). The DoE have given a grant towards the cost of restoring the engine house itself and this will be started shortly.
It will soon be possible to start accumulating material for the permanent exhibition to be based on the site. The main feature of the exhibition inside the engine house will be a dramatic reconstruction of the tunnelling works. There will be a quantity of documentary material, some of which will be retained from the commemorative exhibition to be held at the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Science Museum. Some relevant pieces of hardware will also be included. As well as prime exhibits of obvious relevance and impact it is also hoped to use the site to preserve relics of London's industrial history that are of local or contemporary interest but not necessarily obvious museum pieces. One or two large, indestructible pieces of ironmongery could be incorporated into the landscaping scheme as permanent outdoor exhibits. There is also a need for such things as benches, flower pots, lamps, bollards etc; we are hoping to obtain some reasonable decorative examples of these but it may be possible to reuse other objects in these roles. Any pieces of hardware that could be used by local kids to climb on, crawl through or fall in would no doubt be appreciated. We would like to draw upon the collective experience of GLIAS in choosing these exhibits and if readers have any (sensible) suggestions they would be most welcome. Please write to GLIAS member Robert Barnes, 52 Boyne Rd, Lewisham SE13. If you are interested in joining the Project please write to our Membership Secretary David McLymont, 6 Phoenix Court, Chingford Ave, E4. Robert Barnes
Sir William Halcrow & Partners I.A. Group
We are very pleased to welcome as corporate members the new Sir William Halcrow & Partners IA Group. R W Grafton, their Publicity Secretary, has sent us the following details:
Sir William Halcrow & Partners is a firm of Consulting Engineers of long standing. The IA Group was formed in December 1974 by Halcrow employees with a membership consisting almost entirely of civil engineers and associated technical staff. We are the first Consulting Engineers to affiliate with GLIAS.
As a Group we can lay claim to both youth and tradition; for whilst the IA Group has only recently formed, there have been some notable instances where Halcrow as a firm (through the enthusiasm and involvement of the Partners) have made contributions of importance in the field of Industrial Archaeology. During the Aston Expressway Contract in 1971 we were instrumental in preserving, as a monument, a Boulton & Watt Beam Blowing Engine which had served a local blast furnace since 1817. At the Clywedog Dam site Halcrow's conserved an old lead mine and the associated mine workings, now being restored by the Welsh Office.
The Group's terms of reference (briefly) are as follows: to link nationally with the concept of Industrial Archaeology; to explore and record on our own initiative and on GLIAS initiative; to hold meetings which alternate between specialist IA Group meetings and open meetings when we would present and publicise aspects of Industrial Archaeology to other members of the firm. Finally, to feed information in both directions, between outside bodies and our own engineers and the Civil Engineering profession in general.
Our Group interests naturally have a bias towards the history of engineering and we feel that we can offer much in the way of expertise in this field, to Industrial Archaeologists both locally and nationally. The specialities of the firm cover Dams, Mines, Bridges, Tunnelling and Marine Works.
We are at present cultivating feedback from our offices around GB. As a result of this, we have already passed information to Bath concerning a passenger station booking hall shortly to be demolished at Fort William. Other projects include the exciting (to us) rescue of a 19th-century treadle lathe from an old cellar. We hope to restore this to working order and present it to a museum.
Our first Open Meeting was attended by GLIAS President, Michael Robbins who gave a (necessarily) shortened version of his talk on Baker Street Station. As a 'first' this meeting has set a high standard for future events within this firm and has generated much enthusiasm and interest. Again we thank Michael Robbins most sincerely. We feel we have much to offer Industrial Archaeology and we hope to develop an affiliated group, a rewarding relationship with GLIAS.
Trade Signs As well as banks, utilities and pubs, several trades used generic trade signs as advertisements. The well-known ones include barbers' poles, the pawnbrokers' three gold balls, oilmen's oil jars and chemists' glass jars. Are there any others? Please give the location of examples if you think they are rare, but please restrict to London.
Pictures on Street Furniture Most items of street furniture have some decoration and a proportion have coats of arms, initials, patterns, etc. A few have definite pictures, such as the lamp standards at St Martin-in-the-Fields and St Pancras and the 'dog and pot' coal hole covers. Are there any other examples? (one-offs don't count.)
Stench Pipes Carshalton UDC decorated the heads of their stench pipes with an arrow pointer, looking somewhat like a weather vane. Is this unique?
Loos The number of letters we've had on the subject of ornate public lavatories (GLIAS Newsletter January 1975) has sent us quite 'bog-eyed'. (All complaints about this joke to David Thomas). To date we know about the following:
- Holborn: approx. 50 yards E of Holborn tube; porcelain stalls marked 'George Jennings, Patentee' in dark grey marble surround; 'fishtank' cisterns mounted on short brass pillars. Ornate vents above ground.
- Stockwell: not far from Stockwell tube at the junction of Lambeth Rd with Clapham Rd.
- Kew Bridge: in the traffic island at the northern end of Kew Bridge. Two hexagonal fish tanks. Maker: Finch's of Lambeth.
- Balham: outside Balham station; a later type of cistern — porcelain with glass windows.
One of our correspondents suggested that the Holborn example should be listed; he implied that the Kew Bridge one already is scheduled as a listed building. Also mentioned were the often ornate, but now increasingly rare cast-iron urinals, Nunhead Cemetery and St Albans Football ground being given as examples.
Gas-Lit Stations Prompted by the item on the King's Cross electrification (GLIAS Newsletter January 1975), Kenneth Wills tells me that Hanwell on the Paddington to Slough line, west of W Ealing, looks totally untouched since GWR days and is still gas lit. 'Sad that it is untouched in one sense, since the impression is one of total neglect.'
Thanks for reports: Thomas Pool, Kenneth Wills, Robert Vickers.
Young's Brewery, Wandsworth
An excellent and, not surprisingly, over-subscribed visit arranged by Peter Roberts. In spite of the unofficial day off which the BR signalmen took on the same day, all but one of our party reached the Ram Brewery, where we were given a very detailed tour.
Of particular interest were the beautifully kept malt mill, the unusual oxygenisation and cooling device (something like a copper paddling pool, complete with fountain), the oldest fermentation vessels (wooden with copper linings) and of course, the two beam engines. These engines have been running more or less continuously since 1835 and 1867 respectively, were made locally by Wentworth & Sons.
The engines drive a vertical shaft with power off takes through bevelled gearing to horizontal shafts on each floor, to work the pumps, mills and mash tuns. All of this was working and clearly visible — a fine example of traditional factory operation in use today and to be in use for many years, if the modern boilers supplying the engines are anything to go by.
One regret was that we were not shown the Cooperage; this craft is now extremely rare, but then I think that craftsmen are understandably sensitive to being boggled at by large groups, particularly those which fire off batteries of photo-flashes as they pass.
All in all, a well spent afternoon, agreeably ended in the 'Sampling Room' with a glass or two of Young's incomparable beer. Many thanks to the brewery and to Peter Roberts for arranging the visit.
"Conservation and Industrial Archaeology"
Somewhere like Coalbrookdale, argued Neil Cossons at the Purcell Room, has more importance and relevance to our present-day civilisation than does the tomb of some obscure Pharaoh. He was referring to Tutankhamun and I would not disagree with him.
Neil Cossons was giving a talk in this year's National Trust lecture series to an encouragingly full house — that's about 350 people.
He talked about various dilemmas facing planning bodies, industrial archaeologists and others — for example the question of selection, in particular of making sure we preserve examples of the typical, rather than be carried away by architectural adornment or engineering eccentricity. He was particularly fluent (not surprisingly) when taking the Coalbrookdale/Ironbridge complex itself as an example. He stressed the importance of giving a natural and lifelike appearance to a museum, which is his long term aim as Director of Ironbridge and where possible of preserving items in situ, rather than allowing museums to pillage the countryside, as has happened in some countries.
David Thomas took a block of tickets to the talk for GLIAS members and the society had a stand at the entrance. We gave away a couple of hundred leaflets and have a number of new members as a result.
Once again this was a Thursday event, which, like the Ram Brewery visit, clashed with the signalmen's strike. Nevertheless, there was an audience of twenty or so at the Adult Education Centre in Walthamstow, where the meeting was hosted by Denis Smith's local University of London Extra Mural Class.
Denis was in the chair and led off with a report on his work on Smeaton, in particular, Smeaton's atmospheric engine-house at New River Head, by Rosebery Avenue, EC1; this building, Denis has discovered, is still standing, incorporated in a later engine-house by Milne.
Frank Turner then discussed his research into the Essex Artificial Slate Factory, a curious and none-too-successful undertaking on the River Roding at Woodford Bridge, during the 18th century.
Duncan Law described the growth of the Liverpool Street station campaign and Adrian Tayler traced the rise and fall of the Lea Bridge Gas Company. Their gas works in Leyton is still largely intact, if out of use and we hope to arrange a recording visit there.
Robin Brooks ended the evening by showing what remains of I.A. interest in London's electricity supply industry; he showed some excellent slides, gave an informed talk (he is an LEB man) and brought along part of his collection of relics — name plates, pieces of cable, ancient catalogues for transformers and the like.
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© GLIAS, 1975