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Notes and news — October 1976

In this issue:

Big wheel on the Wandle turns again

The waterwheel shown on the front of London Transport's IA pamphlet can now be seen turning again. This superb broad undershot wheel, of mainly iron construction, was once owned by Liberty's of Regent Street and is one of only five waterwheels to be found on the once busy River Wandle. The wheel house has been cleared by workers at the factory, now owned by Merton Fabric Printers, who still print for Liberty's. The wheel house is used as a shop for direct sale of fabric prints to the public.

Damage caused by the 1966 floods, when the wheel ran wild, can still be seen; a large belt shafting wheel is embedded some half inch into the only timber upright supporting the roof. The wheel is not at present linked to any machinery, but an interesting pair of linen washing frames can be seen suspended over a decidedly dirty Wandle to the rear of the wheel. The whole enterprise is to be congratulated.

The shop is open and the wheel turns from 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. Access is from Station Road off Christchurch Road, Merton. Five mins walk from Colliers Wood underground station. David Perrett

Visit report: Waddon Pumping Station and Croydon Airport site

On Saturday morning, 1st August, a small party visited Waddon Pumping Station, Croydon, which was built by the Corporation waterworks in 1910 and recently transferred to the TWA. Two horizontal steam engines are spaciously laid out in an attractive and well-lit freestyle-vernacular-cum-Art Nouveau engine house. (Map ref TQ 313 639). The engines are cross-compounds by James Simpson, quite magnificent with burnished steel jackets and polished brass rails; very large, especially the fly wheels and still at work, working alternately. On each engine two well pumps are connected to the tail rod of the low pressure cylinder by the nodding motion of a bell crank, while a force pump on the high pressure toil rod delivers to a service reservoir. The three Cornish boilers, one in use at a time, are still hand fired.

Across Purley Way, with its prototype sodium lamps of 1930, lies the site of Croydon Airport. We visited one of the two steel-framed RAF hangars of 1927 (TQ 311 635), an impressive 50 metres by 50 metres of uninterrupted floor space, now used for industrial storage. One side formerly opened full width, with telescoping doors worked by a crank handle and chain drive to one of the wheels. The airport terminal buildings of 1927, notably the Control Tower (TQ 312 635) are in a classical-modern style of some charm, enhanced by the use of some grey granite aggregate cast stone. They are now hemmed in by an untidy industrial estate of the 1960s. Much of the site remains open parkland. With a 1-in-20 cross slope and 3 grass surface (on the well-draining chalk) it comes as no surprise that this was London's major airport until World War 2 and that it did not close until 1959. Malcolm Tucker

Report — A.I.A. Conference, Southampton

Over the weekend of 10-12th September, the Association for Industrial Archaeology held its annual conference at the University of Southampton. As usual, it was an opportunity to meet old friends and to make new ones from societies based all over the country and at least ten GLIAS faces could be counted among the 150 or so delegates.

As well as the formal business, which included the announcement of the new AIA journal, local speakers presented a background to IA in the southern counties. The enterprising work of the local societies in these relatively non-industrial areas ranged from films of pumping stations in Southampton and Winchester, the latter fuelled by local rubbish, to radar establishments of the last war. But the weekend high spot was the Saturday visit to H M Dockyard at Portsmouth with its superb buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries and the lost remaining pieces of Brunel's block-making machinery still 'in situ'. As a very special privilege cameras were allowed, provided the subjects couldn't move. The whole party was transported by naval launch to the Royal Victualling Yard at Gosport before returning to Southampton.

A visit to Southampton docks on Sunday was forgone by the GLIAS party, who visited the picturesque Eling Tide Mill on the River Test, which is currently being restored. It certainly can't be said that the AIA doesn't plan ahead, as programmes for 1977 and 1978 were available. So the dates for your five-year diary are:

1977   9-11 Sept, Manchester University
1978   11-17 Sept, Penzance, hosted by the Trevithick Society
1979   at Ironbridge for its 200th birthday
1980   possibly in London, hosted by GLIAS.
David Perrett

Appeals for information

James Sadler was employed by the Naval Board of Works as a technical adviser. He did work on steam engines and guns and was a pioneer balloonist. He had a private laboratory at his house in Pimlico and probably used a workshop elsewhere in London. A F Benson of 30 Investigator St, Red Hill, Canberra, ACT 2603, Australia, asks if anyone knows:

1. of a workshop in London (not in Pimlico) used by Sadler for gunnery experiments;
2. whether a gun manufactory on the left bank of the Thames below Hammersmith Bridge was associated with Sadler;
3. whether Rev Dr Henry Peter Stacey (1760-1807), who also lost a fortune on experiments in boring gun barrels, was associated with Sadler (1753-1828). Anyone who can assist, please contact Mr Benson direct, or via the editor of the Newcomen Society bulletin, whence comes this appeal.

South London Roundhouse

David Thomas has an old (1973) press cutting showing a stylish former railway roundhouse, then being used as a vehicle maintenance depot by National Carriers. The cutting is unfortunately vague as where in South London this actually is. Can anyone advise? Is it still intact? Please contact David at 4 Heyford Avenue, STO (01-735 2132 evenings).

Liverpool Street — another view

With the Liverpool Street Station public enquiry coming up next month, a few thoughts on "preservationist" from the TSSA journal: the 'Save Liverpool Street' campaign is, they say, "seeking to preserve all that is bad in passenger inconvenience, etc, etc."; "Liverpool Street has something of the dark Satanic mill look about it." Goodness!

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© GLIAS, 1976