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Notes and news — October 1977

In this issue:

Docklands Survey

Government grants are likely to produce a noticeable speed-up of redevelopment in the dockland areas. The official Docklands Development Team is seeking the help of GLIAS and other bodies in a survey of features worthy of salvage or protection from demolition.

Among our membership is probably dispersed a considerable knowledge of dock and riverside sites. Some of this has already been sent to Mike Bussell or catalogued by the Goldsmith's group, but the remainder we need to gather together quickly for it to be of use in influencing decision on conservation. It will also form a basis for more detailed recording work.

Our intention is to produce hand lists with summary descriptions just sufficient to indicate the significance of each item, thus additions to our collection of CBA cards will be most welcome. In collating this material on behalf of GLIAS Recording Group I need clerical aid and other assistance from one or two members not already committed to other projects — a good opportunity for someone to get to know parts of dockland. Offers of help and well as information to me please. The areas in question are Wapping, Limehouse, the Isle of Dogs, Blackwall, Silvertown, North Woolwich & Beckton, Rotherhithe, the Surrey Docks, the north part of Deptford, the Greenwich Charlton peninsula and Charlton eastwards to the Thames Barrier site. Volunteers for surveys of individual areas will be needed in due course. Malcolm Tucker

And an example of why we need to keep an eye on the Docks

With the closure of the London Hydraulic Power Company (GLIAS Newsletter August 1977) after 94 years the era of public hydraulic power supply systems has ended, now only private systems, such as those in Birkenhead and Goole Docks survive. The demise of LHP aroused both good and bad interest in the company; an excellent brief historical study by GLIAS member Roger Morgan appeared in the New Scientist (July 28, p.221) and Denis Smith is preparing a full history of the company to be published by GLIAS, but we've had to move fast to protect Wapping pumping station from being gutted. In conjunction with the GLC and Tower Hamlets, the listing of the building has been extended to the pumping machinery. Although only of 1950s vintage, we feel that if this equipment is cut up for scrap the pumping station, which is intended ultimately to form part of a preservation area to explain the working of the docks to future generations, will lose most of its meaning. Dave Perrett

Town Trailling

On three of those fine summer evenings last year; Robert Vickers and myself were to be found sampling ales in the pubs of Southwark. By this sacrifice we hoped to include a pub guide in our IA walks. The first of these: Walk No. 2 Blackfriars to Tower Bridge; is included with this newsletter (No. 2 pipped No. 1 to the post and the walk from Waterloo to London Bridge should be ready for the next newsletter). It has taken a year to bring this idea to fruition due mainly to constant changes caused by both new facts and demolitions — the cover picture and a major section of Trail 1 disappeared when part of Bankside was pulled down. Originally, also, our scripts were too long, we found that only 1,400 words of typo-set text could be used, so there went the pub guide (shame!). Our thanks to Chris Rule for type setting and paste-up and to Brenda Sowan for arranging the printing.

Now you can help:

1. If you know of outlets (clubs, museums, etc) for the trails, they retail at 5p each.
2. GLIAS needs to extend this series — trails along the Regent's Canal and the Embankment are promised, but can you write a similar walk for another area? We can help with the final production. In either case contact Robert Vickers or Dave Perrett

Living Dangerously — GLIAS (and NF) Visit Deptford...

With superb timing, the GLIAS walk round Deptford coincided with three other local walks by the National Front, the Socialist Workers and ALCARAF, plus a home match by Millwall. Fortunately we didn't need a police escort, but we did receive their attention, asking who we were and what we were doing. Well, the 28 GLIAS members were visiting the Sewage Pumping Station, where Mr Bourner and his staff showed us round. Opened in 1864, it lifts sewage from 20½ sq miles of South London through 18' into the Southern Outfall Sewer. All the plant dates from 1934 and consists of 2 x 190hp and 1 x 500hp Allen vertical diesels driving centrifugal pumps, plus 2 Worthington Axial pumps driven by massive 1,000hp 8-cylinder Crossley diesels. The station also has its own hydraulic system with accumulators for raising the sluices in the sewers. Following suitable liquid refreshment, George Arthur led us on an IA trail following the remains of the Nunhead — Greenwich Park line of the LC & DR, opened in 1871, closed 1916 and finally abandoned in 1929, although hidden by modern housing, cuttings, buildings and bridges can still be seen. Between the showers we made our way round Greenwich Park with its Coalbrookdale bandstand and along the river front back to the pumping station. Finally, to the lady who ran away when our group came towards her, what did she think GLIAS stands for? Dave Perrett

More London Loos ...

Following my note in the last newsletter (GLIAS Newsletter August 1977), our knowledge of free-standing cast-iron Gents in London has now doubled — we have four. Paul Calvocoressi wrote to tell of a circular one with an ogee-shaped lattice top, which stands outside the Connaught Tavern in Connaught Road, Canning Town, just north of the swing bridge between the Victoria and Albert docks; he believes it was cast at the Lion Foundry Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire (founded c.1880). It is now in a poor state, but J.M. Tildesley, Deputy Curator at the Passmore Edwards Museum, Stratford, also wrote that the museum has a watching brief and if in the future it has to be moved it will go to the museum. David and Elizabeth Wood also point out that council members in Twickenham can avail themselves of a cast-iron loo in the grounds of York House. Well, if that's all our cast-iron loos, do we have any other interesting conveniences? Dave Perrett

For The Record

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

Below are some developments and results of recent activities.

Bollards Following the note in the last newsletter (GLIAS Newsletter August 1977), Georgina Skilton, who is looking at these interesting items of street furniture, has sent us these drawings of the bollard recently removed from Leicester Square. Members who know of any rare or unusual examples are urged to contact her at 20 Commonwealth Way, London SE2.

Crompton's Generating Station


Member Roger Morgan has sent us the above sketch section of R.E.B. Crompton's generating station in Kensington Court, W8. Built in 1886/1895, it was claimed to be the first central generating station in the modern sense. Building proposals to convert it into a shop have been agreed.

Sub zero


Lambeth Borough Surveyor's Department contacted us recently to advise on the use and significance of a mysterious conical hole on a playschool site off Kennington Lane. Pauline Collins was volunteered to inspect it at close quarters. Subsequent discussion with members of GLIAS confirmed the suspicion that it was a cesspit, which (fortunately) probably ceased to be in use in the 1870s with the advent of mains drainage. A typical upper part has been added in the sketch on the left. The pit has now been filled in.

Information Please

Thank you for the replies so far. They reveal a considerable depth of knowledge on some subjects but inevitably lead to further questions! First, news on recent requests:

Ash's artificial teeth: Not only was this firm a world-wide undertaking, starting from small beginnings in a goldbeaters workshops in the 1830s, but the present-day successors are still going strong and have a small museum of teeth and instruments made! Malcolm Osmundson has made contact with them and is now gathering more information.

Corn trade: a long shot that has paid off. There is a fascinating book on Britain's Commodity Markets by G.L. Rees, published in 1972 by Elek which David Delaney has lent us.

Bookbinding: Just as the last Newsletter went to press we learnt that the firm of Watkins & Watkins, who specialised in the binding of bibles, was about to close. We were kindly allowed access to make a photographic record while work was still in process and hope to do a "compare and contrast" report on mechanical and hand bookbinding. Meanwhile, if any members have hidden, or have for sale, a litho stone, please contact David.

And now for this month's requests ...

1. We keep coming across artificial mineral water factories, which occur even more frequently than breweries on maps of 1890/1900. Can anyone say if there was a boom in this trade at the turn of the century and if so, why? (>>>)

2. Electro-platers are still quite common, but does anyone know of any tin platers around London? We may have found the last one, but would like to be sure...

3. We are at last putting together a long-overdue report on the essence-making firm of Stevenson & Howell and would appreciate advice on whether other essence-makers exist in London.

GLIAS Reports

Requests for all GLIAS publications should be made to Adrian Tayler. Reports now available are:

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© GLIAS, 1977