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Notes and news — October 1975

In this issue:

Camden Transport Survey

Horse stables seem to have been dotted around throughout the Borough and we can now claim to have recorded two sites in detail, discovered a third and found that a third is hidden away in the depths of the railway arches near St Pancras. We are organising several site visits in October/November to Camden NCL Depot (ex LNWR, LMS) and, if negotiations go well, to King's Cross Goods (NER). Also the Midland Railway engine sheds, goods yards and coal drops at Kentish Town. The actual sites will depend on the urgency and on our own ability to get access, both at weekends and occasionally midweek lunchtime. Definite dates are: Recording — Sats 18 Oct and 29 Nov. Evening Progress Meeting — 17 Nov. Further details from David Thomas.

Southwark Project

As can be seen from the events list, we are having a blitz on this area before the winter sets in. There are whole chunks of territory which we have only covered very scantily, including a traditional bacon curing factory which wafts blue smoke over Great Suffolk Street, (interesting — most bacon and ham isn't smoked at all now, but pickled in Nitrates. Ed.) We have several sites for which time is running out. The workshop evening (16 Oct) will to some extent show how far we have gone — and the way we go about it. More details about the project and offers of help to do photography and archive work, to David T.

Clapham Project

The Clapham team (GLIAS Newsletter June 1975) feel a bit like a dog with two tails which, having chased them a while, finds that both are mirages! The two projects initially chosen — the piano factory and the optical works — were not followed up; the former because a library records check revealed a good photographic record already in existence, the latter because we were in time only to see a gutted building. However, negotiation has now taken place and we have permission to visit two premises — the former Stockwell brewery and Brixton's Watton Lodge Sanitary Steam Laundry (1906), which will be visited in the next few weeks. Full details of these and other visits, including a proposed lightning recording of a fish tank loo (you need to be quick because you can get some very funny looks "doing" a gents), can be had from David Perrett, 51 Norfolk House Road, Streatham, SW16 (769 1434 eves.)

Putting on a show

I would like to thank everyone who has helped man the GLIAS stand on its two major outings this Summer — to the Alexandra Palace Centenary (GLIAS Newsletter May 1975) and to the Lambeth Country Fair. Showing our face in this way is an excellent means of increasing membership and all your efforts were much appreciated.

We are now looking around for other events to go to and I'd be grateful for any suggestions. I'm also very happy to receive invitations to talk to local history societies and other types of group; recently I've proclaimed GLIAS in the City, Leyton and Hornchurch and I'm more than willing to take my slides and my patter to any not-too-distant part which can offer a worthwhile audience. Adrian Tayler (521 3805 day & eves.)

Lea Bridge Gas Works

This works has been closed for some half-dozen years, which meant that North Thames staff from Ilford had to come down to Leyton to show the GLIAS party round; this in turn meant that this had to be a week-day visit. Nonetheless, a fair number of people turned up, including representatives of the Science Museum and the Waltham Forest Libraries and Museums, who were very welcome. We were shown over the site by Messrs Thurman and Archer of the Gas Board and saw quite a range of veteran machinery, especially in the form of pumps, valves and meters. The works was also one of the first to use vertical retorts.

AGM Report

A mood of qualified self-congratulation pervaded the GLIAS AGM this year. Apart from anything else, it was gratifying that a large number of members attended on a sunny Saturday afternoon. During the meeting, Vere Glass announced that the membership was rising and would probably reach 300 by the end of the year. Adrian Tayler commented on the increased publicity ventures which had proved so successful. David Thomas was heartily thanked for his efforts in ensuring a full programme of events throughout the year. Colin Hartford could be proud of his financial control — the accounts were substantially in credit, with no subscription increase since 1969. Robert Vickers, secretary of the Recording Group, described the valuable fieldwork being undertaken by GLIAS — and earned the congratulations of the guest speaker, Michael Rix, who said he had been heartened to find an industrial archaeology society actually doing industrial archaeology! For the chairman, Denis Smith, it must have been encouraging that an election was necessary for the executive committee; a sign of a society with an enthusiastic membership.

The congratulations, though, could not be whole-hearted. 300 members are far too few and the recording work is done only by a handful of those 300. Even the most skilful treasurer cannot prevent the need for a subscription increase in these inflationary times and this will happen next year.

The business of the meeting commenced with the approval of Bryan Jones as auditor. The accounts so clearly set out by the treasurer were then formally approved. The subscription increase proposal for next year was approved (almost) unanimously (although the representatives of affiliated institutions expressed some understandable concern at their new rate of £5).

Changes to the Society's constitution came next, also carried unanimously. As Denis Smith pointed out, the constitution is there to serve the members and not to be an impediment to the society's activities. Thus these new measures to build in greater flexibility were welcomed.

The varied recording projects of the Society were outlined by Robert Vickers — Southwark, Camden, Stratford and Lewisham/ Greenwich being main areas of activity. As the fieldwork gathers momentum, so the need for a central records depository becomes more urgent and it was pleasing to learn that current discussions with the Director of the new Museum of London will hopefully result in facilities being made available to GLIAS in the museum.

Denis Smith recalled one of the results of the increased publicity during the year. This was an invitation (at only a few days' notice) to fill 90 minutes of air time on Radio London. The "Platform" programme (GLIAS Newsletter January 1975), introduced by Denis, was remarkably well organised — perhaps almost off-puttingly professional as far as would-be callers were concerned, for although it was intended as a phone-in programme, no-one at all phoned in!

Michael Bussell put us in the picture with regard to the book he is writing for Batsfords — a gazetteer of I.A. in Greater London. He appealed for assistance from all GLIAS members in providing local or specialist information, reminding us that a share of the royalties are committed to GLIAS. On the subject of publications, Adrian Tayler outlined proposals for topic papers to be produced by GLIAS, on various subjects such as reports of recording projects, or hints on surveying.

The culmination of the AGM was the election. There was no change in the officers, but new faces on the committee. Ken Catford, Stephen May and John Smith did not stand for re-election and there was already one vacancy. A ballot decided the four new members as being Jill Baulch, Danny Hayton, David Perrett Following the formal business Michael Rix gave a fascinating talk on industrial architecture, this being European Architectural Heritage Year. Mr Rix, who was the first to coin the phrase ‘industrial archaeology' (back in 1951) illustrated many early industrial structures whose significance in terms of the development of modern structural engineering is generally vastly under-rated. His slides not only explained the historic importance of early industrial buildings, but for many present views of these fascinating and impressive structures seemed to remind us of the very reasons we had come under the spell of industrial archaeology in the first place. Ken Catford


The declaration of 1975 as European Architectural Heritage Year brought welcome publicity and encouragement to the cause of architectural conservation. The official support was not only moral (in the form of awards) but also practical, substantial grants being made for conservation schemes.

The grants awarded ranged from £480,000 for environmental improvement in the Aldwick area of York, to the grand sum of £14 towards the cost of renovating an old milestone in Settle. IA projects were included and for example the Ironbridge museum (and related works) received more than £30,000. The only IA scheme in London to receive a Heritage Year grant was the Brunel Project at Rotherhithe (£5,000) (GLIAS Newsletter March 1975).

The awards were announced in June. From a total of 1,377 submissions, 285 awards were made. Of these, more than 60 were for schemes with an IA content; a remarkably high proportion considering the still early state of public interest in historic industrial buildings.

The awards were grouped in three categories; restoration, new uses and environmental improvement.

Industrial restoration schemes centred predictably on mills; mainly water mills, but also two windmills — the Heage tower mill, Derbyshire and the charming Chesterton windmill in Warwickshire. The latter, which dates from 1632, elegantly combines the practical function of a windmill with the appearance of an architectural folly. Only one London building of any IA interest featured in the section; the restoration of The Rotunda at the Museum of Artillery, Woolwich.

Industrial buildings lend themselves to imaginative conversion to new uses of all kinds and no fewer than 38 awards were made for converted industrial buildings. "Convert it to a museum" is still the favourite solution, but there must be a limit to the number of new museums which can be created! Awards were granted to the Moorside Mills Industrial Museum Bradford (former woollen mill); Monkwearmouth Station Museum; Northiam Carpenter's Museum, Sussex (carpenter's shop); visitor facilities at HMS Victory, Portsmouth (former naval stores); Kingsbury Watermill Museum, St Albans; Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther (former harbour buildings); and the local history museum at Bo'ness, Lothian (stables). The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum (GLIAS Newsletter June 1972) near Chichester deservedly received an award for its work in re-erecting otherwise doomed historic buildings.

Three conversion projects in London were successful. The well-known Clock Mill on the Lee, now offices, was an obvious choice for an award. The transformation of a Victorian warehouse at Parkway, Camden, into architects offices was illustrated in this summer's Royal Academy annual exhibition. At Headstone Manor, Harrow, a 16th-century tithe barn has been sensitively converted to a community hall.

Awards outside London included dwellings of all shapes and sizes created out of mills, farm buildings, maltings, granaries and — surely the home of a keep-fit addict — a water tower (at Kenilworth, Warwickshire). The accolade for the most imaginative conversion must surely go to the 19th-century wool warehouse at Hexham, Northumberland, which now houses a public swimming pool. The external appearance has been carefully preserved, while an ideal environment for swimming has been created at less cost than a new purpose-built pool.

Successful 'environmental improvement' schemes included several canal rehabilitation projects and the assessors commented optimistically of the BWB's "small scale but very widespread clean-ups" that "the cumulative effect in ten years' time should be striking". Of major IA importance are the improvements to the Trent and Mersey Canal and Weaver Navigation, incorporating the restoration of the extraordinary Anderton lift which is exactly 100 years old.

Now that EAHY 1975 is nearly over, the obvious cry is for the good work to continue and indeed there seems little doubt that the extensive publicity given to the "year" will ensure a continuing interest in architectural conservation in the years to come. Ken Catford

Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway progress report

From contemporary accounts we know that the experimental railway ran between the Sydenham Entrance and the Penge Gate in the Park and on 3 August a survey was carried out in this area.

A clearly defined strip of grass greener than that on either side was noticed and could possibly have been the line of the tunnel. The strip was surveyed and drawn onto an OS map and appeared to correspond to the line of the tunnel described in contemporary reports.

The following Sunday about 40 volunteers and "The Times" photographer came along and digging started. About 2 feet below the surface the crown of a brick-lined tunnel was uncovered and a hole made in it. The tunnel was about 5 feet in diameter, with about ?? feet of water in it, which gave the potholers a chance to display their art. The GLC Parks Department pumped out the tunnel the following day and it was properly examined and surveyed. It was too small to be the railway tunnel, but may well have been part of the pneumatic system. It seemed to indicate that we had been digging in the right area of the Park.

A result of the publicity has been that more information has come to light, including the patent for the line by Thomas Rammell, the engineer, number 42,509 of 1864. The next stage will be to put together the information so that we can continue digging later in the year with greater hopes of finding the tunnel or its remains. Robert Vickers

Visit to Banstead Hospital, Sutton — 6 September

At the hospital we saw two main items of interest, the beam engine and the bakery. The engine is by Easton and Anderson, London, of 1875 and is the remaining one of two. It was used to drive, via gearing, a pump to raise water from a well to an intermediate tank and thence to the top of a water tower which provided the gravity fed hospital water supply. The engine has an A-frame, is about 9 feet in height, has a flywheel of about 13 feet diameter and an internal cylinder diameter of about 20 inches. During a 10 hour working day it pumped about 120,000 gallons of water with a speed of about 25rpm. The engine is preserved, though not in use and was put in steam for our visit.

The bakery produced bread, rolls, etc., for about 3,000 patients and staff. There are three ovens of 187?, by H Smith & Son of York St, Lambeth and one of 1883, also by Smith who had by then moved to Yeldham Road, Hammersmith. Smiths were specialists in furnaces and ovens and were, according to their plate above the ovens "... inventors and patentees of the smoke consuming furnace approved and adopted by government ... and of continuous baking ovens, together with improvements in ovens rendering bakehouses more healthy and diminishing liability to sour bread." There was also a dough mixing machine and other equipment. The bakery closed two years ago, regretted by many.

This was an interesting visit, showing that one should be on the look-out for items of interest in places one might not expect to find them. Robert Vickers

Chugging along

A cheering item for those who believe that old machinery is far more interesting if in working order and in its original surroundings. In 1909 the Ennis family, farming at Buckrabayule, Victoria, Australia, bought a 6½hp Blackstone engine for sundry duties such as powering oat crushing, wood cutting and chaff cutting. It appears from the photo to be a small mobile (but not self-propelled) single-cylinder horizontal diesel. When it eventually broke down recently, the makers, Mirlees Blackstone (now part of Hawker Siddeley) discovered a similar engine at the Rutland County Museum, Oakham, borrowed the faulty parts — an inlet valve and spring, copied them and shipped them out for a nominal £6. The actual cost to the company must, of course, have been much higher. They deserve a medal.

Also on the subject of machinery, the magazine "Computing" has saved some sections of a vintage (1960-63!) ICT 1300 computer, which Kirklees Council in Yorkshire were scrapping. The interesting bits are likely to go to the Science Museum's section on computers. Only fifteen years old and off to a museum — makes you think!

Wheelwright's equipment rescued

At Cook's Autos, 24 Palmerston Rd, Wealdstone, the Council have rescued a wheelwright's tyring platform, a spiral or twist auger and a blacksmith's top swage. The Humphrey family had carried on business on the site from the 19th century up to 1968, when the platform, which was thought by the new owners to be too large to move, was submerged in asphalt. Descriptions of the wheelwright's trade and of the tools, can be found in various sources, such as the "Shell Book of Country Crafts", should any GLIAS member want to follow this up. These particular tools are now safely in Harrow's local history collection; our thanks to the Local History Librarian for this story.

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© GLIAS, 1975