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Notes and news — December 1976

In this issue:

What GLIAS members have been doing...

Finding Things... 'Tucked away behind Ballards Lane, Finchley is an old, reputedly Victorian, music hall. It is now used as industrial premises. It is hemmed in externally and not particularly photogenic and has been gutted internally, but the arched roof and proscenium arch are obvious. At one time the building housed one of the first automatic polish filling lines in the country and old tins are still sometimes found under the floorboards. There seems to be little to record, but it might reveal more to a theatre enthusiast.' Details from Bill Firth, 49 Woodstock Avenue, London NW1 9RG.

Going Down Holes... 'On 30th October 1976, a symposium, organised by the William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust and the Chelsea Speleological Society at the Institute of Geological Sciences in South Kensington, brought together people interested in man-made holes in the South-east. An entertaining programme of lectures was provided with subjects ranging from the Neolithic Flint Wines at Grimes Graves, Norfolk, to deneholes in Kent. There has been a surprising amount of mining in south-east England, not only for coal (in Kent) and iron-ore (in the Weald) but for chalk (from deneholes and chalk wells), building stone and gypsum. Of special interest to industrial archaeologists was a talk by Paul Sowan of the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society on Hearthstone Mining in Surrey. Hearthstone is a material found in the Upper Greensand beds of the North Downs and was used during the 19th and early 20th centuries by housewives to whiten their doorsteps and window sills. Firestone, a refractory material also used as a building stone, is found in and has been mined from the same beds.

The following day a party of about 30 descended through a manhole cover near the A22 at Godstone, Surrey and slid down a muddy slope into one of the Hearthstone mines. After scrambling over two roof falls the main series of tunnels was reached. The passages are about 5ft high as those not wearing safety helmets soon discovered. Mining was by the pillar and stall method, many stalls being backfilled with waste materials (deads) held in position with well-built dry-stone walls. The pillars were left to bear the roofstone and the overburden above it but, in places extra support was given either by wooden pit props or by stone pillars built of blocks about 2ft square and perhaps 9in high. Pick marks on the roof and walls show that all the materials have been removed by hand. Rope grooves can be seen in the walls indicating the use of ponies for haulage along the tramways. We were shown some lengths of platerail still in situ; these might have been brought from the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway when it closed in the mid-19th century. Elsewhere there were lengths of flat-bottomed rail which had been laid to a narrower gauge. Latterly the tunnels had been used for mushroom growing and the debris from this activity was scattered on the floor.

After about two hours underground we emerged once more into daylight, covered in a grey mud. All who participated found the mines most interesting and well worth the effort involved in their exploration. The organisers are to be commended for putting on such an absorbing weekend.' Tim Smith (Tim heard of the South East Mining Symposium through the August 1976 Newsletter)

Flocking to the GLIAS Winter Lectures... Glenn, who has organised this series of five lectures, is delighted by the response and, confident now that the remaining three lectures will also 'pull', is mulling over 'London's Lost Railways' and 'Bellfounding' for next season. It seems he has found one way to bring GLIAS members together, it would be good if the Christmas 'do' he is organising could enable even more members to get to know one another — especially now members and ones who have 'never been to anything before'. Here are some comments on the two lectures (one from a 'brand-new' member)

'Mr. Ray of the Royal Photographic Society dipped into a vast and catholic library of slides to illustrate Photography for Industrial Archaeologists. We had it all: high viewpoint, low viewpoint, focus technique, use of a figure to emphasise scale, shadows to delineate (a beauty this shot — bars of crisp shadow falling across a moulded surface). Of course we've heard it all before, but we know the answers — all the answers — it is the questions we do not know! Are we so sure we don't need telling: 'Go in close' — do we, often enough? 'Take it now' — how many times have you subsequently found it was raining, gone back by another route, found you'd used your last frame, had to dash for a train? Some advice is really too obvious: 'Too dark to focus? — then measure' — of course you always have a tape measure on you? — don't you? Using a long lead to a flash gun — I took a closer look at my own equipment — I'd never before realised the flash gun could be used separately from the shoe mounting! I was as amused as the rest at the advice to those standing on a cliff edge, but in the industrial archaeology game not all cliff edges are that recognisable, I recall an occasion when, but for a look round, I might never have been, your newest member. Bees Pilling

A GLIAS member, using his new SLR in company for the first time with suitably restrained pride, was chagrined to find all interest centred on his folding tripod that was also a clamp by which the camera could be attached to a railing or something! This useful accessory costs about £3 and is obtainable from Polysales Photographic Ltd. Meadrow, Godalming, Surrey GU7 33X.

Recording Fast-Vanishing London Industries...

This is probably GLIAS's most important work and apart from the fact that 'GLIAS NEEDS YOU', even if you have never tried recording before you will probably enjoy getting to grips with industrial archaeology. (How I can write this when I spent a summer holiday sweltering in a dusty hole in Wales and a recent Saturday in the cold and rain under a filthy dust destructor I really don't know!) Anyway, here are some notes by someone who really does enjoy himself and will be happy to initiate anyone into the joys of industrial 'dirt' archaeology:

Shiver My Timbers — Hibernia Wharf Progress Report 'This warehouse complex adjacent to Southwark Cathedral dates from 1838-58 and is of relatively straightforward construction: brick walls, slate covered roof; cast iron columns and, generally, wooden floors. There is an interesting collection of apparently vintage equipment installed when some levels were converted to cold stores: compressors, ammonia & heat transfer chambers and large hunks of complicated machinery in unlit rooms fully enclosed by thick insulation material blanking out windows and doors! Hefty hydraulic crank cylinder, operators' cabins, electric lifts and oddments provide light relief! We have a full inventory of what is where, with photographs, but — oh please — let our efforts not be thwarted by lack of understanding! Can a member who understands the principles of industrial refrigeration systems please contact us to look at photos and say what it all means. (Free supply of beer for as long as it takes!) In the first week of November a large crane appeared on the site, the name of a well-known firm (responsible for demolishing Euston Arch) nailed to a gate and soon Hibernia Wharf will be no more. A site report should be ready for publishing in about six months — if we receive that phone call!' David Thomas

Camden I.A. Survey 'At first sight Camden appears to be a rather mundane borough, but there are many industrial premises, including a concentration on pianos and piano small parts in the Kentish Town area and oddities such as the camel hair brush (not hairbrush!) manufacturer still in operation. Alas, the artificial tooth works is now occupied by a garment maker. Since the start in April this survey has proved to be a most interesting exercise. To date we have visited a bakery, former piano factories of Chappell's and Collard & Collard, the basement of the Prince of Wales Baths and a small workshop. Reports are being written for eventual publication, but for details of current progress send a large SAE to David Thomas, 4 Heyford Avenue, London SW8.

Extracting Industrial History from Libraries and Directories... David's mention of report preparation recalls that members can also have fun helping to dig out the written facts — the only skill needed is ability to read! Come along to any of the Library Sessions and try it.

Looking For Living Industrial Archaeology... Pauline Roenisch is investing in a tape recorder and wants to hear of anyone (probably elderly) with vivid memories of industrial processes or working conditions in defunct industries willing to be interviewed and recorded, phone 954 8296 or write to 7 Rainford Close, Stanmore Hill, Stanmore, Middlesex.

Questions and answers

Railway Round House (GLIAS Newsletter October 1976) This query resulted in three suggestions from members all plumping for a building on the W of the main line from Victoria just S of Grosvenor Bridge. Certainly, it is used for road vehicle maintenance and is about the right size. Would anyone like to join a small group to make a recording visit? Probably a late January Saturday morning. The much altered round houses at Old Oak Common and Kentish Town are known, as is the London & Birmingham's at Chalk Farm — but how many were there, do any others remain and what is their present use? Please send any information and offers of help with recording to DAVID THOMAS.

Ash Trays not IA? One was recently discovered, inspected and cleaned, to reveal the legend 'The Iron & Nickel Battery Co. Ltd, London SW1.' It's of brass, about 5¼" square. Can anyone say if this was an in-house, specially-produced item or did the firm sell them and, indeed, if such ashtrays were once common?

Yes, again — David Thomas for replies.

Stationary Diesel Engine We have recently come across some papers referring to a NESTVIC stationary diesel engine dating from 1955-50. Can any member say if this is a trade name, or a specific type and if for any specialist function? Replies (afraid so) to David Thomas

Anyone Want To Live In A Railway Station?

SPAB, who run a sort of 'lost dogs' agency for buildings, currently have on their books Roydon railway station in Essex! It is one of only three remaining intact on the London to Cambridge line opened 1842-5, is attributed to Francis Thompson, has a portico on the road side and an elegant platform canopy; the accommodation comprises four rooms, four WCs and a cellar (what sort of person would that suit, I wonder?) Apply to: British Rail Property Board, Eastern Region, King's House, 236-40 Pentonville Road. N1 93Z or telephone 01 387 9400 extension 2389.

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© GLIAS, 1976