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Notes and news — June 1977

In this issue:

The 8th GLIAS AGM on 30 April, 1977

Our AGM, which was held for the first time in the plush lecture theatre of the new Museum of London, was well attended: there were 75 members plus some guests. The Treasurer, Danny Hayton, presented the Accounts (copies obtainable from Danny, send SAE to 31 The High Street, Farnborough Village, Orpington, Kent) which showed that in 1976/7 we had an approximate £200 surplus. This had mainly accumulated due to substantial savings (£150 p.a.) on production of the newsletter, although sales of publications also made a contribution. The surplus could offset the previous years' deficit as well as provide valuable working capital, particularly in view of our increased number of publications.

Rule six of the constitution has caused some difficulties for past membership secretaries and the circulated resolution amended it to reads "for members joining between 1st October and 31st March, a subscription of half the annual rate will apply". It was also considered necessary to delete the line "in the case of new members from 1st January" from the rule. These amendments were passed by 69 votes to 6.

David Thomas explained that the recording group has been reorganised. The backlog of some 25 reports awaiting publication presented something of a handicap at present and help with typing, etc. would be much appreciated. The quality of these reports has been much improved due to access to cost-price litho-printing, increased print runs and, not least, experience gained from the earlier ones. The latest reports; Tower Bridge Workshops and Walton Lodge Laundry proved this by selling well at the meeting. Adrian Tayler, expanding on the role of publications, explained that of our book sales half went to members either at meetings or through the newsletter and half went to the public via booksellers or rallies. More outlets were needed, particularly for the publications now in production.

Kenneth Hudson, a good friend of GLIAS, then gave the annual lecture. With a masterly style and without a single audiovisual aid he gave us his view of 'The Archaeology of the Second Industrial Revolution'. We appreciate that IA is about the first revolution based on iron and steam, but the second based on oil and electricity is equally shadowy and the evidence fast disappearing. We need to construct 'models' of our approach to the subject and to test these models against the evidence. By speaking to veterans, etc. we can refine and reduce the errors in our model. This approach was demonstrated by Kenneth Hudson's researches into such unlikely subjects as potato crisp manufacture, computing and Montague Burton the Tailor, where information received as a result of appeals for information had completely modified his original conceptions. Unfortunately the lecture had to be somewhat curtailed by British Rail inability to cure a landslip near Swindon, which had proved only a minor problem to Isambard Kingdom Brunel! The whole audience will await with interest Kenneth's book on this fascinating subject and if any GLIAS member knows where 'Mother' made the first cut, wrapped loaf would they please let him know.

Finally our Chairman Denis Smith thanked Michael Robbins for attending and agreeing to continue as President. He gave the latest information on such matters as the future of David Kirkaldy's Testing Works, the closure of the London Hydraulic Power Company and the IA officer for London. Following the undoubted success of this AGM, he promised that in future the AGM would be held on a Spring date and at this venue, but hoped that next year would see a contested election for committee membership.

The following are the officers and committee for 1977/8:

Like David Thomas, who is recording group secretary, but not on the committee, we now have a non-committee member as Membership Secretary. Lynn Holliday has offered to take over this vital job, so please direct all membership enquiries to her. Any member (nearly an ex-member!) who has not yet paid his or her sub. please send it at once to Lynn as no further newsletters will be sent where the subscription has not been renewed.

The Committee would like to thank Jill for her work as membership secretary and Lynn for taking over from her.

A valued member of GLIAS, the Newcomen Society and of Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society (to name but a few of his many interests) died in March in his late eighties. Dr. Stanley Baines Hamilton OBE was a man whose long life has been packed with interest and achievement, but rather than summarise his career I feel that one anecdote sums him up. Last year some GLIAS members on holiday ran into a Newcomen Society party visiting a steam winding engine; Dr. Hamilton was climbing over a gate into a field nearby where he had spotted a wagon boiler unobserved by the enthusiasts working on the restoration and by other IA buffs walking past the same gate.

Another sad event, if of an entirely different kind

G.H. Hart, a member from Winchmore Hill, sent me a cutting about the Diorama in Park Square East, Regent's Park. Of interest as an unique survival of early experiments in visual entertainment (the pictures stayed still and the auditorium revolved!) the Diorama was built in 1823 as part of the Regents Park development, designed by Daguerre some 17 years before his more famous experiments in photography. The building is to be scrapped for an Ismaili Cultural & Religious Centre!

Typographical note

In the best traditions of IA the new GLIAS membership cards have been printed on a preserved printing machine using 19th-century type! The machine used was a 1912 'Arab' platen; a design which finally expired in the 1950s after having been in production virtually unaltered for over 80 years. The typefaces used date from c.1870 — the large 'GLIAS' is in a typeface named 'Ornamented, No. 1C' and the remainder of the card in 'Latin Bold Condensed'. Chris Rule

Good news from the canals

The heavy rainfall of this winter (heaviest this century, I heard) means that there should be no water shortage on the canals this summer (although the IWA is asking boaters not to use the locks at night). IWA also triumphantly announced the reopening of the Harecastle Tunnel in April after major repair work lasting over three years. They are also bucked because the approach to another important tunnel — Standedge — has been saved by Kirklees Metropolitan Council.

GLIAS members have been down the holes again

Sunday's (1st May) tour organised by Derek Bayliss produced a GLIAS convoy carrying some thirty people to disturb the peace of North Surrey. After a brief look at Old Godstone and its mill sites, the party moved on to Haxted Mill, near Edenbridge, with its 9ft overshot wheel plus other milling exhibits and wealden iron collection. After lunch, the archaeology of power was expanded at Outwood Mill. This post mill, the oldest working windmill in the country (1665), has four sails controlled by elliptical springs. Finally, the GLIAS party disappeared like the White Rabbit, thro' the manhole alongside the A22 to visit the extensive remains of a Godstone hearthstone mine (GLIAS Newsletter December 1976). Without a doubt a memorable experience for all, especially those without safety helmets. For not losing us, our thanks to Paul Sowan and Brian Hillman of the Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society. Finally, thanks to the members with cars for helping others to see things outside the GLC area. Dave Perrett

Reports for all sorts

The two new GLIAS publications that were on sale at the AGM demonstrate the variety to be found in London's IA as well as the variety of talent the Recording Group is unearthing in its drive to get the backlog of reports published. 'Tower Bridge Workshops' looks and is a straightforward account of the equipment used to maintain England's best-known piece of engineering, with concise text and clear photographs and diagrams. By contrast 'The Walton Lodge Sanitary Laundry' is an account of that most human of firms: the family business that started in the back kitchen. The most attractive cover indicates what lies within and the dim photos of fierce Mrs Charles William Newland and her happily inebriated-looking spouse, along with pictures of the staff at work and at play do not disappoint these expectations. The text and captions are as good as the illustrations, so altogether Brenda and David are to be congratulated on producing a darn good 35 penn'orth. (This is not to say that Tower Bridge is not good value too, but the author(s) are not named). If you missed your chance at the AGM, here is an opportunity to send for these reports.

Porter store plans

The 1865 Midland Railway's massive triangular-shaped warehouse for storing the 'beverages' of Burton upon Trent, visited by GLIAS as part of the Camden Transport survey, may be saved. The building, which was the subject of a CBA card reproduced in the December Newsletter, is, according to an article in the 13/4/77 Architects Journal, to be retained and converted into a hive of small industries; it will have a new central light well and a restaurant overlooking the Regent's Canal. The estimated cost of conversion is substantial (£2 million), but is far below the cost of providing the same accommodation in a new building (£6 million). It is also an encouraging trend towards the retention of industries in the inner boroughs.

Shiver my timbers — under the bulldozer

Hibernia Wharf (GLIAS Newsletter December 1976), the freezing-cold, damp and increasingly obnoxious complex that has occupied the Saturday mornings of many hapless members is, as predicted in December, being demolished. So far the 1838 block, nearest the Cathedral, has been almost flattened; the remaining buildings are part of a Conservation Area based on Clink Street, but their condition, with rotting floorboards and part-destroyed roofs, is a cause of concern.

'Did you work there?'

Talking to people who have worked in the buildings we visit may not be strictly "archaeology" but can be extremely rewarding and enjoyable, as Kenneth Hudson enthusiastically described to us at the AGM a few weeks ago. Brenda Sowan and David Thomas have recently interviewed three people who formerly worked at the Kensington Council Refuse Destructor at Wood Lane. The ex-dustcart driver, bricklayer and electrician have filled in gaps in our knowledge left after several visits to the site and to reference libraries and have also made the depot "come alive".

They have confirmed that, although the house refuse burned in 1908 contained enough combustible material to raise steam to drive a steam engine to supply forced draft to the refuse kilns (and to drive auxiliary machinery), by the late 1940s replacement electric motors had to be installed. We now know that the closure of the 1930s compost-making plant was hastened by complaints about the smell and flies. We have a description of a disinfestation station, erected in the 1930s and demolished before we arrived, which "debugged" furniture from old dwellings before families were allowed to move into new council flats. We have heard about "races" between dustcart drivers going to Lots Road wharf from where refuse was barged down the Thames: the jetty was so exposed and windy that refuse from the first cart in the queue blew over the others. Also, at Wood Lane, there was a narrow gauge locomotive which was immobilised after a week because its moving parts became blocked by dust.

The men obviously enjoyed remembering the "old days" and were surprised that anyone was interested. The problem is to find them as they tend to move — often outside London — when they retire.

Pauline Roenisch is meanwhile busy tape-recording reminiscences of employees at several sites in London (we hope to include excerpts in the next Newsletter). Please advise if you know of any tape-recording candidates!

Other snippets

Ray Woollett's recent canal-side stroll from Hanwell to Hayes was salutary — Hanwell station, a listed building, is in such bad repair that any passengers must feel that demolition is necessary; in fact BR are failing in their legal duty to maintain the building. It is not age, but neglect, that is causing the canopies to sag, paint to peel and woodwork to rot.

Opposite the station is a violin makers — we hope to pay a weekday recording visit. Members who have knowledge of the trade, please contact David Thomas.

Still on musical instruments, we have recently been to two former piano factories in Camden. Can anyone give advice on the general organisation of production? Please contact Hugh Marks, Top Flat, 252 Willesden Lane, NW2.

Commercial Road Goods yard was the subject of attention on 30 April — those dusty individuals at the AGM had come from measuring up a boiler room, hydraulic wagon hoist and a former wool warehouse!

Unfortunately, shortage of space makes it impossible to include extracts from research on Ash's artificial tooth factory in Camden.

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© GLIAS, 1977