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Notes and news — December 1977

In this issue:

Obituary — Kingsley Royden

We are deeply sorry to hear of the sudden death in early October of 'Ken' Royden. As the conservation officer in the Tower Hamlets Borough Planning Department he was instrumental in the statutory listing of a number of industrial buildings and since his retirement he had devoted much of his energy to local history and industrial archaeology in East London. He represented GLIAS on the Tower Hamlets Conservation Advisory Committee. His extensive local knowledge and his tireless enthusiasm will be sadly missed. Malcolm Tucker

What members are doing

A GLIAS Workshop in Southwark, with no David Thomas, seems unthinkable — but such an event actually took place on 1st November! David, who was physically restrained by his doctor from attending, had kindly organised the event in conjunction with the Southwark & Lambeth Archaeological Society.

There's no doubt that no-one really looks at his surroundings in the same way as an industrial archaeologist and even SLAS members with their intimate knowledge of Southwark had their eyes opened by the first GLIAS speaker, David Perrett, who gave an illustrated introduction to the two GLIAS town trails. David's talk had a lesson for any of us who may be lulled into thinking that we're now in a conservation-conscious age; even the short printing schedules of these two leaflets could not keep pace with the bulldozers at several sites along the routes!

The next speaker, from SLAS, gave a fascinating account of his current research into George Tinworth, an employee at the Doulton's Lambeth pottery during the second half of the 19th century. The study had been sparked off by the chance discovery in a library of a notebook, written in Tinworth's own hand, in which he had set out to write his memoirs. These extraordinarily simplistic jottings brought to life the experiences of this craftsman who had lived all his life in Walworth. Whether one regards his designs and sculptures as delightful primitive art, or simply hideous, does not affect the importance of this research and we look forward eagerly to its publication.

The third talk described the GLIAS recording work at St. Saviours' flourmill. To stand in at short notice for David Thomas was a daunting task undertaken admirably by Pauline Collins, who described the wide range of approaches which must be taken in a thorough recording job. Not only photographs and measurements were involved, but also careful analyses of the processes which the building housed. In the absence of the actual machinery, manufacturers' contemporary catalogues provided much detailed information; and if one face of the building was inaccessible because it rises straight out of St. Saviours Dock, the answer was simple — hire a boat! This hard work is continuing and should result in a particularly worthwhile GLIAS publication. Ken Catford


GLIAS member John McGuiness was the fastest one round the LISSCA 1977 Trainwalk round 14 London termini in October in a time of a little over three hours. The sponsored walk attracted some 60 entrants and raised £1,000.

And Getting Caught

We aren't saying who caught who, but GLIAS committee members Jill Baulch and Robert Vickers were married on October 29, GLIAS members wished them well with the following poems:

A Recording Romance
Happy Days, down at Hay's,
Frozen Toes, in Montague Close,
Risking pneumonia, pipes of ammonia,
Rotten board floor, iron columns galore!

Up on the roof, clothes waterproof,
Layouts to measure, dubious pleasure!
Derelict jiggers — guess it all figures —
Love at first site? Hope we are right!

Looking at cast iron (other than loos)

Following this Newsletter's recent London loo survey (GLIAS Newsletter October 1977), what about cast iron bandstands? There must have been dozens of them in London's parks in Victorian and Edwardian times, but surprisingly few now remain. The Coalbrookdale bandstand in Greenwich Park (TQ 392772) was mentioned in the last Newsletter (GLIAS Newsletter October 1977) and there's an iron bandstand in Croydon Road Recreation Ground, Beckenham (TQ 369690). The cast iron columns of the latter are embossed 'McCallum & Hope, Glasgow' and it was presumably erected when the park was opened in 1891. If anyone knows of others remaining in London please send details to me (22 Parkwood, Beckenham, Kent) and we'll publish the list in the Newsletter — it seems pretty certain that the list won't take up too much space! Ken Catford

Shirley Windmill

Derek Bayliss reports from the 'Croydon Advertiser' that the 1854 windmill in the grounds of John Ruskin High School is to become an agricultural museum and field study centre. The mill has been preserved by the Council, but has been used for storage and has not normally been open to the public. A teacher-curator is to be appointed to look after the mill and centre and the council hopes to find a benefactor to provide between £10,000-15,000 to put the mill back in working order. It is hoped to open it next year, outside school hours and with volunteer staff. The public are invited to offer exhibits to the Education Department.

Also on the lookout for exhibits are Concrete Utilities Limited who have formed a Museum of Street Lighting at Great Amwell, Ware, Herts. If you have or know the whereabouts of anything of this description got in touch with their Sales Manager Mr. D.R. Crow.

NOW ... The Big Question, Are We Recorders or Crusaders, or Both?

Derek Bayliss writes: "I'm rising to your bait on page 6 of the August Newsletter (GLIAS Newsletter August 1977). I certainly don't think GLIAS should stick to recording disappearing industries, important though that is. We should help to decide what industrial monuments deserve preservation in Greater London; contribute to discussions about the means of preservation; and be ready to protest if really important monuments are threatened. But we should be selective about this. For one thing, as you probably had in mind in asking the question, our membership and resources are small. Our asset is our special knowledge of industrial archaeology, which should enable us to distinguish between monuments which tell us something important about London's industrial history and more marginal ones which may be more the concern of local amenity societies. With every respect to Malcolm Tucker, I wonder whether GLIAS should really be brought into discussions about cast iron bollards, however attractive is there not a danger that we may cry 'wolf too often and that we may be taken less seriously when (as at St. Katharine Docks) we try to help to save really important buildings from more serious threats than municipal irresponsibility?

Just two more points. First, all GLIAS members are presumably enthusiasts for their subject and an enthusiast's first instinct will by definition, be to press for the preservation of more than is really necessary or desirable. Second, the many amenity societies may be glad of GLIAS as a helper but suspicious if we try to steal their show. We should only take the lead if no-one else is doing so. Lest this all seems unduly abstract, may I mention that I have recently made recommendations to the GLC Historic Buildings Branch, on behalf of GLIAS, for the listing of a number of industrial buildings in Croydon, ranging from an 18th-century smithy to the 1928 buildings at Croydon Airport and that they seemed glad to have our views."

From Michael Adams: "The need for GLIAS and similar bodies to take vigorous action in defence of industrial landscapes, historic buildings and places of interest, as the general public are neither sufficiently informed or sufficiently interested to take action of any kind. The 'Establishment' whether it be left or right will support the developer because the Establishment is subject to continuous pressure from well informed and active groups putting the case for redevelopment, backed by the results of careful research and expert's opinion (possibly experts' opinions) because of course money is abundantly to hand.

The Government bureau for maintenance of historic buildings and sites exists to serve the interests of an articulate middle class and these must be numerically greater than the vested interests of the developers. The difference is in the ardour with which the latter pursue their ends and the apathy of the former. Those of us who are concerned should use every resource at our disposal individually and jointly to prevent the destruction of that which is worthy of preservation."

Ken Catford gives us a view from inside the planning departments "I am very concerned to read in recent Newsletters that GLIAS seems to be taking an active preservationist role in the cases of certain threatened buildings. If this policy were to continue, the result could only diminish the widely recognised status of GLIAS as a knowledgeable, independent body, whose unbiased advice on the significance of industrial monuments can be relied upon by planning authorities and private developers alike. The work and standing of the Society will suffer if it becomes known as a hysterical group with a one-track mind to keep out-dated buildings at all costs. Already a survey in historic premises which are soon to be altered has been hampered by the owner asking for our written assurance that we are not preservationists and only then agreeing to our survey continuing after the time for objections to their planning applications has passed. Without our assurance they would not have permitted our survey, so that not only would the building be destroyed, but it would have gone unrecorded. Those who are concerned about preserving particular buildings can rest assured that SPAB, the Victorian Society, civic societies and the like will put on the pressure and do so more skilfully than GLIAS. In the meantime, GLIAS should continue to seek access to threatened buildings in order to carry out its unbiased and expert recording work, for which it is deservedly gaining more and more respect."

A last word (for this newsletter) from David Thomas: "We are a small society in a large area with one important asset — members with specialist knowledge in specific aspects of IA, on whom we can and do call for expert advice on specific sites. Of course we should not even try — and would quickly go up the wall if we did — to preserve everything willy-nilly. The majority of industrial premises are of little significance as monuments to be preserved, even if they do warrant a recording visit. But it is important that on the RIGHT occasion we do try to influence events as a Society and make public cur views; should we have stood by and seen listed building consent be given for Addington without protest, or watch St. Katharine Docks become a puddle betwixt office and hotel? Should we allow the significant unique site to go — for ever, for reincarnation does not happen in IA?

On these (rare) special occasions we have a positive duty to speak out as the IA society for London, but perhaps even more important in the long term is the slow process of making IA a respectable part of history and ensuring that good sound buildings that also contribute to the townscape are considered for sympathetic re-use when they cease to be used or when plans are made for their replacement. If this involves making a fuss of bollards to make the point, then, provided we exclude any hint of crankiness, this is to the good."

To finish with a news item that will appeal to all factions: two 'Koster' air compressors from Burghley Road pumping station, together with a trolley the workmen used to propel themselves along the old sewer pipes and the clock from the gate have been transferred to Markfield Road to augment the collection of sewer IA.

Corrigenda to Newsletter 52

Oh, dreadful prospect, of South London's sewers being pumped out to Crossness, brick by brick, in a state of prolapse. Though we had heard of the grave national backlog of sewer maintenance, we believed Sir Joseph Bazalgette's main drainage works were still in a good state of health. We are therefore relieved to know that our contributor intended not 'sewerage' but 'sewage' in describing the visit to Deptford pumping station. Two other small points; the Limehouse Cut was connected to the Regent's Canal Dock only in 1968 and St. Katharine Docks were opened in 1828 and completed in 1829. Malcolm Tucker

For The Record

Practical IA — the site and research work — is a major function of GLIAS, which is generally coordinated by the Recording Group.

Site Work We have not been idle, but space prevents more than a brief note. Visits have included a former mineral water factory in Neate Street, SE17 (with the column head drawn by Elizabeth Wood) and a non-ferrous metal foundry.

column head drawn by Elizabeth Wood

Practical IA — "We Want To Know More" Thus say most members on their application or renewal forms. The bricks and mortar, cast iron, machinery and equipment of a site all need to be put into a context — date, use, firm and industry, which are essential facts gleaned by research into existing documents. So, wherever possible, a logical sequence is followed:

  • A site is seen and looks interesting enough to be followed up.
  • Background library research on date and use indicates what to look for.
  • Site recording visit is made to photograph, note, and perhaps measure.
  • More library work answers queries and puts site in context. At all library sessions and site visits we ensure that a leader can advise newcomers on what is needed and where to start.

    Libraries in Plenitude The winter diary has many library sessions — deliberately, both to tie up work on sites already visited and to prepare us for visits in 1978. At Guildhall Library we recently discovered a vast collection of coloured plans for Thames-side warehouses, mills and factories, listing occupants and machinery, plus minute books with details of owners and modernisation... Hence our session on 7 January. At Walworth we also have a large pile of material to sift; and at Swiss Cottage, Holborn and Tower Hamlets there are many references to check; evenings at Victoria specialise in "Kelly-bashing" — referring to trade directories which give a good indication of occupants and uses of buildings throughout London. So, if you'd like to know more, come along to any of the events (even all if that's your New Year Resolution)... or ring David.

    Request for Information — Results

    Two reasons have been given why there was apparently a surge in the production of mineral water 1880-1900 (GLIAS Newsletter October 1977): Victor Bignell has mentioned the introduction of rubber seals on bottles and an advertisement by one firm at the time mentions the temperance movement. Can anyone throw more light?

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  • © GLIAS, 1977