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Notes and news — August 1977

In this issue:


Thanks to all those who helped man the GLIAS stand at the Victoria Park canal rally, in the most trying meteorological conditions? Jill Baulch, Robert Carr, Peter Danes, Georgina & Peter Skilton, Adrian Tayler, Robert Vickers plus anyone we've missed and especially David & Elizabeth Wood for their nautical skill in lashing down the display stands against the tempest. Our presentation centred on the fast-diminishing industrial landscape and engineering features of the Regent's Canal.

The CEGB are now preparing plans for the last section of the high-voltage cable ducts along the towpath through Camden Town (including crossing the bridge across the railway interchange basin which requires Listed Building Consent). The ducting and the bridgeworks necessitated by the topography are likely to cause permanent visual damage to this splendid, yet fragile, stretch of industrial landscape. As a member of the Regent's Canal Group and GLIAS I am joining with local pressure for an alternative route. Malcolm Tucker

Another Winner from The Recording Group Stable...

W.A. Crips & Sons, Bermondsey's Last Chainsmiths by David G. Thomas and Brenda J. Sowan. 26 pages. 45p (65p to non-members)
The report describes the development of the firm from 1664, the workshop and its wide ranging collection of machinery and the type of work undertaken serving the surrounding industries.

It was the age of much of the machinery and the extensive use of line shafting and belt drives — originally powered by a gas engine, but now from an electric motor — which first brought GLIAS members to the workshop. It is amazing that such a collection has survived intact for so long. It is packed into a relatively small space and the plans and photographs give an idea of the workshop's crowded appearance.

The wide variety of work done by the firm over the years is of great interest and is well illustrated by the letterheads and advertisements reproduced throughout the text. From its foundation the firm made iron fittings and particularly chains, for barges and lighters, but soon expanded its scope to include iron and steel bridge building, warehouse fitting and mill furnishing; in fact providing a comprehensive service to the riverside industries of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. Adaptability has been the reason for the firm's survivals as motor vehicles became more widespread in the 1920s and 30s the firm undertook motor repairs. The firm's links with surrounding industry has also been the reason for its declines riverside warehouses and mills stand disused, there are no more barges to be repaired, only by adapting to light engineering work and employing a very small staff of the firm still surviving. Mr. Leslie Crips, the present owner, has suggested that the next adaptation should be to some sort of museum with an educational function, to show something of Bermondsey's river trade. It is a suggestion that ought to be considered. Robert Vickers

If you would like to see a chainmakers workshop and are in the Dudley area... the Black Country Museum has recently opened a working chainshop at Mushroom Green, just south of Dudley. It is open Sunday afternoons from 14.00-17.00 and on the first Sunday in every month there is a demonstration of chainmaking. Further details from: Black Country Museum, Tipton Rd, Dudley DY1 45Q or telephone 021 557 9643.

GLIAS Goes To Brum...

The trip to Birmingham on June 25 was a resounding success, with no small thanks to Dave Perrett for organising it and Brian Davis for checking out our route, Brian being from Brum.

The party left Euston at 8.40 in drizzle, but by the time we reached Birmingham at about 10.15, conditions had improved and the city welcomed us with sunshine. Led at a 'brisk' pace (you were warned Ed.) by Dave, we set off to visit the gun-barrel proof house, Moor Street, Curzon Street and Snow Hill stations. It was a somewhat sad sight as the mid-19th century station fell victim of the blue-white flame of the demolition men's oxy-acetylane torch; Snow Hill, once a hive of activity, is now little more than a pile of rubble. On to Ludgate Hill and St. Pauls Church standing in St. Pauls Square, the centre of Birmingham's 'Toy' and jewellery industry set up in the 1750s. At 10 & 11 Frederick Street we saw a pair of derelict 'back-to-backs' which gave an idea of the cramped living conditions of the early 1800s. A little further down Frederick Street were the 'Victoria' pen works, built for Joseph Gillott and on the opposite side the 'Albert' pen works of W.E. Willey.

The Museum of Science & Industry was visited by some who tried to cram as much as possible into the ¾ hour allotted; others used the time to rest their feet and slake their thirst at the 'local'. We all met at Farmers Bridge and spent a few minutes in the canal shop while we waited for the boat to arrive. The 'Europe' is a 70ft narrow boat of steel construction with comfortable seating and a bar. Our skipper/barman kept us well-informed on all the points of interest on our journey through James Brindley's section of the Birmingham Canal as far as 'Split Bridge', then back down Thomas Telford's 'Main Line'. The Brindley section rises and falls through a series of locks and reaches a summit of 491ft, nearly 40ft higher than Telford's more direct route. Our skipper's historical and technical information was supplemented by amusing anecdotes, such as the new boat horse that repeatedly fell into the cut, or the ex-milk-round horse that would only travel a few yards before stepping. While 'locking up and down' the camera shutters were working overtime, with some members nipping along the towpath either to work the locks or to take photographs of our progress. The last part of the canal trip was slightly marred by rain which probably made us less reluctant to board the 13.48 from New Street to Euston. On behalf of everyone who took the trip to Birmingham, our thanks to Dave and Brian. Peter & Georgina Skilton

London's loos

On our recent Brum visit, two of that city's delightful local amenities were 'studied'. These free-standing, ornate, cast iron, gents urinals (more discreet than their French cousins) are fast becoming museum pieces; the Museum of Lincolnshire Life at Lincoln possesses the fine one from Stamford railway station. I only know of two still extant in London; one stands on Brockley Footpath off Linden Grove at the NW corner of Nunhead Cemetery, but this fine structure comes complete with graffiti and firmly scaled entrances. The other, conveniently close for the lawyers of Lincoln's Inn, is in Star Yard just off Chancery Lane and its finely detailed casting can still be observed both within and without. There must be others — let me know for the next newsletter. Dave Perrett

Putney Water Works...

During a recent safari from Yorkshire into Lancashire, Chris Rule and I visited Derek Pilkington, a founder member of the Helmshore Mill Museum Trust. Mr. Pilkington kindly loaned us a plan from the records of S.S. Slott & Sons, Engineers of Haslingden, Lancs. This coloured ¼in:1ft plan (No. 543) shows four aspects of the general arrangement of No. 1 & 2 engines at the East Surrey Water Co's Putney works. It shows two beam engines by Slotts in the main house with three Lancashire boilers in an adjoining house: the whole arrangement very reminiscent of the nearby Addington pumping station. If any member can expand our information or would like a copy of the plan, please contact me. Dave Perrett

The appeal against the decision to demolish Addington has failed; I hope to have more news in the next issue.


Four cast-iron bollards of an exceptionally decorative pattern stood until this May on the North side of the gardens in Leicester Square. They had acorn-shaped heads and a freize of dragons alternating with the cross of St. George, resembling the City of London coat of arms, but minus sword and bore discreetly the maker's names "Young & Co. Founders Pimlico" at the base.

Now something like forty bollards ring the newly pedestrianised square, all replicas in glass-fibre reinforced concrete and painted in blazing technicolor, at the direction of the GLC Department of Planning and Transportation. Ironically, the originals have been removed from site, perhaps just as well. They are in store in the Westminster City Engineer's Depot and we have suggested that they should be looked after until re-used on some other site at a discreet distance. Malcolm Tucker

St. Katharine Docks...

Facsimile and pastiche are things we need to be on our guard against as archaeologists. The course-record of the St. Katharine Docks redevelopment has not been good in this respect and we are now very concerned about 'B' Warehouse, which is the one alongside the N approach to Tower Bridge. The developers are going back on their original proposals, which were to build a new interior within the massively constructed outer walls. They now want to demolish completely and erect a new building which would incorporate the famous cast iron colonnade and some other salvaged components, but otherwise be a travesty of the real thing. In fact, not one of the original Telford/Hardwick warehouses would be retained. Looking back over the nine years since the docks closed, this is a quite incredible turn of events. However, as careful scrutiny has confirmed doubts of the validity of the technical arguments on which the developer bases claims of impossible expense, GLIAS members are joining with others to oppose demolition. Malcolm Tucker

Disappearing industry

Malcolm Tucker certainly does his bit towards the preservation of industrial landmarks large and small and the Committee are grateful to him for his energetic and knowledgeable defence. What do other members think about this aspect of GLIAS activities? Do you feel that we should stick to recording disappearing industry? Or should we also protest vigorously? It would be useful to the Committee and probably interesting to members to have a cross section of opinions? Send them to the Editor.

The London Hydraulic Power Company closed down on June 30 this year and GLIAS will be publishing a record of this unique company which served not only the docks, but provided reliable means of lowering theatre safety curtains in emergency and competed successfully with electricity in the early days of lifts.

Anyone Want A Victorian Pub Front? (Sorry, no interior)

This is one of the many interesting items that appear in the Architects Journal's new page of 'Architectural Salvage'. Item 103 in the July 20 issue is: "Cast iron sack hoist c.1848 excellent condition. Pump mechanism from farm of 1605." These sound the sort of things that magpie GLIAS members might be interested in — me, I hardly dare read the list.

For The Record

The Recording Group is merely a name for the all-too-few who do some practical IA. You don't have to be a member — just came along on any of the site visits or the back-up library evenings shown in the Newsletter. For more details contact the secretary. David Thomas

Below are some developments and results of recent activities.

BANKSIDE LANDMARK DISAPPEARS: A conspicuous, but probably largely ignored (except by local children playing on it and intrepid GLIAS members climbing up it) landmark recently disappeared from Bankside, to make way for the extended riverside walkway along the South Bank. The crane used to stand just west of the corner of Emerson Street and Bankside, in front of a 1905 six-storey brick-built warehouse, which has also been demolished. The crane was, surprisingly in that area, electrically operated and was built by Butters Bros. & Co, Percy Crane Works, Glasgow. The girder-built base, about 15-20 feet high was fixed, with the control cabin and base of the jib on a swivelling platform resting on it. Although disused for some time, the crane served as a reminder of London's once important waterborne trade.


HELP NEEDED! We are indeed grateful for advice following appeals in the last Newsletter. We'd now like to hear from:

For the last three, please get in touch with David Thomas.

Practical IA at New Concordia Wharf: Eleven members gathered in the warm sun on 2nd July to tackle this one-time granary alongside St. Saviour's Dock, Southwark. After an hour's general exploration to get the feel of the place, noticing sites of shafting bearing brackets, remains of hoists, spiral sack chutes and the general construction, three groups were formed.

Two groups concentrated on particular sections, measuring up typical floor layouts and heights, with locations of machinery remains, whilst the third compiled an overall appreciation of the appearance, number of goods doors, sites of demolished yard buildings — noticing slight changes in building style which indicate that the whole complex is not of one date.

A short post-lunch trip in the boat owned by Mike Dines and Steve Weatherill enabled us to navigate St. Saviour's Dock, photographing the site from this side.

The group reconvenes on 11th August to compare notes prior to writing up findings for eventual inclusion in a report on the area.

A Hop Merchant's Warehouse, 24 Melior Street, SE1: Our short report on this building, issued in April, was produced none too soon, for on 22nd April the South London Press carried a public notice of application for planning permission of this area, involving
"60-82 (even) St. Thomas' Street
22-26 (even) Melior Street
All buildings fronting Vinegar
Yard 1-7 Snowsfields".


It would apparently involve demolition of all these premises and their yards, but not the attractive Horseshoe & Wheatsheaf pub, which would be altered by extension. The area is shown shaded in the sketch.

Buildings involved include several warehouses, amongst them being 76/8 St. Thomas' Street, used by Edward Strauss & Co. for hops storage.

Talking of work! Pauline Roenisch has interviewed several fascinating "candidates"; below we give a few verbatim excerpts from a conversation with Mr Walter Looney, who recalls when he cared for horses at the railway stables in Camden. Please advise Pauline of further possibilities.

... The men were employed by the railway company, we all came under Mr Church, 'and woe betide you' if anything went wrong, a proper old countryman. He knew how to tell you off, strong language too. My first week's wages there was seven shillings. Then after that I got half a golden sovereign because in those days there was no paper money and we had little tins with a number on the top and we used to go in and you say to so and so, "here you are, here's my ticket number one, five four" and they give you a tin and you rattle it and it was half a sovereign and as you went on — say you went up — you got say fifteen shillings and then you got a golden sovereign. Then after that it went up to 30 shillings, there was a golden sovereign and half a sovereign. But I used to put it in my hand like that and hold it in case it burnt through a hole in my trousers.

We had a blue uniform with silver buttons and LNWR on there and on the shoulders. When I was up here, going around here I had a uniform but when I went into the stables the uniform was taken away from you. You wore your own clothes you see, 'cause when you're in the stables you don't wear a jacket, you let your braces down and you just stand there in your shirt sleeves and you just work away and groom you see. You can't groom horses and clean stables out with a coat and jacket and waistcoat and that on. You've got to get down to it and do it.

I knew nearly all of them on the railway, that was when they were trying to start up a trade union there then. That was the National ... NUR. They tried to form a band and they came round to me and they gave me a flute and asked if I'd like to join the band — they said take it home and try it. "No" I said, "it's no good to me, I can't blow that thing". They handed me a flute and a book with music in, I didn't know what the dots stood for, I used to think they were bits of dirt and rub them off. It was for the National Union of Railwayman, you see. They had their own Chalk Farm branch, had their own bands you see.

... You used to say "well I'm here, I've got to groom all these 20 horses, I've got to get all this dirt off and it's all flying around and then I've got to feed and look after them" ... Considering, that was really a good job. You see if I'd been a mug I'd have stopped there, but as it was I left and went somewhere else.

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© GLIAS, 1977