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Notes and news — February 1978

In this issue:

A GLIAS Journal?

What do you think about the publication of IA work in London? GLIAS members who attended the AIA Conference in Manchester were very impressed by the journals published by the Bristol and Somerset IA societies. At the same time we felt that there is just as much interesting work going on here and that in addition to site descriptions and histories of railway yards, docks, canal wharves, etc., a journal would be a good place for biographies of London engineers. We would also hope that articles on these topics would be of interest to those living outside the Capital.

An expenditure of some hundreds of pounds would be involved and the cost would probably be in the region of 80p per copy for about 50 A4 pages including photographs. Do you think GLIAS money should be used in this way? Although it might be possible to finance the first issue from funds, would you be willing to pay an increased subscription (of say 50p) in the second year, each member receiving a free copy? Or should it be sold at a reduced rate to members? Success would depend on a fairly long print run. Let me have your comments so that a decision can be taken at the AGM. Brenda Sowan

Last Breath ... Stop

The end of January saw the last working of the two 1894 Armstrong-Mitchell 360hp horizontal engines at Tower Bridge under steam. As usual it is not the engines that finish, they could last another 80 years, but the boilers going out of insurance which is the cause of the end. The proposed sale of one of the engines last year did not occur, due to no sufficiently large [enough] offer being received, so the two engines will remain 'in situ' and possibly a museum/tourist attraction site developed in the future. It is possible, according to Lieut. Cdr. A.P. Rabbit, C.Eng, FIMarE, the Superintending Engineer & Bridge Master, that the engines might then be seen working using compressed air. We hope our grapevine news of the last steamings reached all interested members (it was too late to get into the newsletter) and they were able to get down to see the two beautiful engines in steam for the last time. Dave Perrett

Town Trails Part 2, Number 1

Town Trail No. 1 — Waterloo to London Bridge has at last been finished and should be enclosed with this newsletter. Our first trail No. 2 has been well received, sells well and has therefore been reprinted. With two trails to sell, more outlets are needed. Robert and I now plan to complete our circular route with an Embankment trail from Tower Bridge to Waterloo... Other trails have been offered, but the more the better. So use your local or specialist knowledge and write the 1,000 words needed, it's not difficult.

Our thanks again to Chris Rule for the typesetting and to Brenda Sowan for arranging the printing. Dave Perrett

GLIAS Archive

The Committee is again considering the possibility of creating an archive collection. Discussions were held some time ago with the Museum of London, but at that time the museum, though interested, was unable to do much to help us as it was about to move into its new building in the Barbican. However, we want to look at the idea of an archive again, perhaps at the museum, or another suitable institution. Before we begin serious consideration we would like to know whether members have material they would like to put in the collections and particularly at this stage what quantities.

We think that the archive will be made up mainly of three types of material:

If you are interested in this project please write to Robert Vickers with details of the sort of material you have.

For The Record

In Contact Several members have volunteered to become local contacts:

Innes Grant, Western Hammersmith
George Dines, City of London
Robert Kilsby, City of Westminster

This still means that many parts of London do not have a local IA contact. In addition Ray Woollett is moving jobs and can no longer cover Ealing. Volunteers, please contact the Recording Group Secretary: David Thomas.

Behind Closed Doors Every month or so there is a meeting to discuss and plan recording — new sites, progress, reports and swapping of news. All members are now invited to come along, with their ideas, on the evenings of 11 February and 11 March (see diary for details). If you would like some idea of the topics covered, ring David for a copy of the minutes of a recent meeting.

Site Work We approve of keeping warm and dry in the winter months, but it seems that during the recent firemen's strike some IA sites got even warmer and dryer! We plan to have some visits before too many more sites disappear and meanwhile hope new (and not-so-new) members will come along to the library sessions to prepare ground for further recording. Below we show a few of the sites covered in 1977.

Taped Winter can in some ways be better than summer for recording on tape and this is an extract from Pauline Roenisch's recent interview with Mr Walter Gilbey. Now retired, Mr Gilbey was head of the Gilbey's wine and spirit importing firm; the premises were at Camden until 1967 when the firm moved to Harlow.

'...The Gilbey's started in Camden Town in the 1860s or 70s. Oh yes there is a tremendous connection with Camden Town. And the thing that isn't realised in fact is that many families in Camden running to three, four, five generations have connections with the firm. We often had fathers and sons and grandsons working there; until 1914 there was a strange rule that no married lady was allowed to work for the firm so if you got married you had to leave.

'...You wouldn't compare them with modern factories. These buildings were very old and Victorian; I suppose you would say very draughty, very damp, by some standards. A lot of the work was under railway arches and since so many subterranean areas; it wasn't designed for modern mechanical handling techniques at all. Nevertheless, it was interesting, we were talking, I was just looking at some figures here over a million dozen bottles were produced there, the Gilbey sales, in the old days, in the turn of the century they had a whole train leaving every day with goods for export. It was the biggest wine and spirit business in the world. In fact Gilbey's were the start of the modern wine and spirit business.

'...Oh "A" shed was the absolutely busy place that's right. And that was a huge building with the canal on one side and the main railway to Euston on the other side and right opposite it what in the 1930s was to be the head office, Gilbey House, with its distillery next door and a place called the bottle warehouse next to that; the bottle warehouse was interesting it was one of the first steel and concrete buildings to be built and it was built by Gilbey's own engineer, called Anthony Hucks and he was one of the Hucks family, three generations of whom were with Gilbey's and he was how much it was going to cost and he said 'it will cost what it will cost...'

Just Part Of 1977's Recording


Midland Railway's Somerstown Goods depot off the Euston Road. Hydraulic crane in a now-demolished part of the site.


St Saviour's Mill, Mill Street, Southwark. On the far side of the buildings is a tidal inlet for goods delivery.


Piano repairer's workshop near Camden Town. Small premises like this can be as important as larger sites.


Recording finished not a moment too soon! Hibernia Wharf, on the Thames in Southwark. The timber was insulation for the cold store.


RNLI Broomfield Street depot, Tower Hamlets — an emergency recording visit after preliminary demolition work had started.

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© GLIAS, 1978