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Notes and news — December 1978

In this issue:

Cogs, Crafts & Cast Iron

Well, the GLIAS Tenth Anniversary exhibition has finally opened after seemingly endless months of planning and preparation. We have attempted to compress into a few panels of photographs and diagrams (plus an audiovisual display) not only ten years of change in London, but also what is London's Industrial Archaeology. The subject matter is obviously immense and a whole exhibition could be and maybe will be in the future, devoted to many of the topics shown, such as the railways or canals of London. For many GLIAS members it may leave out their favourite subject or lack expert depth of coverage, but it has been rather like cramming a whole museum into a single corridor. London is now far behind the rest of the country in terms of the museum coverage given to its industrial past. It seems that every provincial city from Newcastle to Bristol, Derby to Bradford now has an industrial museum. Maybe our exhibition will in a small way complement the work of the Museum of London's modern department in filling that gap. On behalf of the Society I would like to thank the many GLIAS members who have helped in so many ways with the exhibition. Particular thanks must go to Chris Ellmers of the Museum of London for devoting so much of his own time to our exhibition, producing the final photographic prints and arranging everything at the Museum. Dave Perrett

Going, Going, Gone — Buildings

Many of the changes in London over the past ten years are remembered in the Cogs, Crafts & Cast Iron exhibition, yet the changes continue and apparently quicken:

Cutler Street Warehouses On the very day (13 November) that the exhibition opened, demolition commenced on a substantial part of the former East India Company warehouses. These closely packed six-storeyed, red brick warehouses occupy over five acres of some of the most valuable land in the world, the City of London, and redevelopment was probably unavoidable. They were constructed between 1793 and 1801 and demonstrate a number of building methods ranging from wooden pillars to patent fire-proof construction. Three years ago demolition proposals by the Baltic Exchange brought howls of protest and much newspaper coverage and the plans were dropped. This time the whole procedure has been much quicker and more secretive. The GLC Historic Buildings Division and the Museum of London have been able to do a little 'rescue' archaeology.

Albion Brewery, Whitechapel Road During the summer, this former Mann, Crossman & Paulin Brewery was demolished. The Kew Bridge Engines Trust were asked to remove the 1867 Kittoe & Brotherhood beam engine, but the adjoining horizontal engine will be scrapped. The beam engine is probably to be re-erected at a new textile museum in Somerset.

Queenhithe, EC4. The last remaining group of unchanged Thames-side warehouses in the City were demolished in the middle of October; now only converted warehouses, like the Samuel Pepys pub, remain.

Woolwich Tram Shelter: Although providing a useful shelter in Beresford Square Market, this tram shelter built in 1914 and probably London's last survivor, has been removed in the last few weeks. Woolwich was associated with one of London's last horse trams (1913) and last electric tram (1952).

Two of the pictures in our exhibition are before and after shots of a Regent's canal-side warehouse destroyed by fire in October, while the Brewery at Hadley Green, Barnet has also become a development site in the last few months. Dave Perrett

Going, Going, Gone — People!

Two of our most useful members have moved away from London recently (although we hope that they will keep in touch): Adrian & Annie Tayler hove moved to a beautiful 16th-century hall house in Norfolk, while Ken Catford has gone to Liverpool to become principal architect in the Metropolitan Council's Planning Department. Adrian, who produced the newsletter for some years and dealt with publications, was still helping us as he actually moved: working with Denis putting together the audiovisual display for the exhibition. Many GLIAS members, especially at Goldsmiths, will miss Ken not only as a cheerful, helpful person to have around, but for the beautiful, painstaking drawings he produced for the Society. Gone, but not forgotten evidently, as Dave is already muttering about visits to Norfolk and Liverpool!

Talking of visits, I haven't much space to write all I would like about the trip to Sheffield, but I will use this little to voice the opinion of everyone there that Dave had "done it again" — a really well-organised trip that packed an unbelievable amount of Sheffield's IA into one enjoyable day. Thanks Dave.

At the end of September a number of GLIAS members enjoyed a most interesting visit to the site of an early cement works, Francis & Company, at Cliffe in Kent. Bob Barnes organised the visit and supplied us with a map of the site and notes which were so informative that I asked him to describe the enterprise for the newsletter — see below.

Francis & Company, at Cliffe in Kent

In 1824 Joseph Aspdin of Wakefield patented a type of artificial cement known as Portland cement. This product was superior in strength and colour to other cements known at that time and after William Aspdin, I.C. Johnson and others had perfected the manufacturing process in the 1840s the industry grew rapidly. Portland cement is made by burning limestone and clay together and pulverising the resultant clinker. The ready availability of the raw materials, water transport and the proximity of the rapidly growing metropolis made North Kent the most important area in the world in the development of the Portland Cement industry.

Cement manufacture is nowadays carried out in a few very large plants. A notable example is the Blue Circle works at Northfleet, probably the largest of its kind in the world. This plant has continuously fired rotary kilns, the principle of which was first applied in this country around 1900. The rotary kiln soon superseded the earlier batch production which was employed in a large number of works on the Thames and Medway. On September 24th we visited the site of one of these early works: that of Francis and Co of Cliffe.

In 1853 I.C. Johnson (one of the great names in the Portland cement industry) started a works at Cliffe in partnership with a man called Osmotherly. This enterprise was not too successful at first, but after Osmotherly had left Johnson took eover Aspdin's former works at Gateshead and ran the two enterprises concurrently. In 1880 Johnson founded the large works at Greenhithe which has only recently been demolished. In 1865 Alfred Francis (d. 1871) formed a partnership to build a new works at Cliffe for the manufacture of Portland Cement. Alfred was the younger son of Charles Francis who made his fortune in the manufacture of Roman cement. The older son Charles manufactured Portland cement at Newport Isle of Wight and traded as Charles Francis, Son & Co. whilst Alfred Francis kept control of the original works and offices at Phoenix Wharf, Nine Elms, Vauxhall. The cement manufactured at Cliffe was marketed as 'Nine Elms' brand and the works known as the Nine Elms Works.

In 1866 C.E. de Michele became a partner in the; firm and his son Vitale became engineer at Cliffe. V. de Michele had several patents to his credit, including a testing machine, improved kilns and washmills. In 1871 Francis & Co erected a 156 foot iron chimney above their kilns after complaints from General Gordon who was CO of the adjacent fort. Empson, Holcombe and Co had works at the head of Cliffe creek which were erected around 1877. These were amalgamated with Francis and Co in 1886, along with Francis, Donald & Johnson, whiting manufacturers of Cliffe. In 1900 Francis and Co were one of the firms who combined to form Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (1900) Ltd. The Cliffe works seem to have closed in 1921, but the nearby Alpha Works, erected in 1910 were still employing 171 people when they closed in 1969. There was also an explosives works on Cliffe Creek which closed in 1922.

Many of the buildings associated with the early cement industry would have been little more than sheds and many of the sites have been redeveloped. The site of the Francis works has not been re-used, but it was evident on our visit that the demolition men have striven mightily to destroy what was left behind in 1922. The most recognisable remains at Cliffe are the nine kilns by Cliffe fort. These are built of mass concrete and are substantially complete, although most of the brick lining and conical superstructures are missing. Scattered around the overgrown site were a set of edge rollers, a Lancashire boiler, millstones and sections of the tall wrought iron chimney. Drawings of these finds and a fuller report will be made in due course. Bob Barnes

For The Record

It's cold outside and we've a hefty backlog of site reports that need to be written up. At the same time it's necessary to do archival research on past and future projects and for this all members are invited to the sessions shown in Diary Dates. Fuller details and offers of help (particularly typing) please, to Recording Group Secretary, David Thomas.

GLIAS Docks Tour: The Isle Of Dogs And The Royals — see below
Silvertown and the Royal Docks — see below

GLIAS Docks Tour: The Isle Of Dogs And The Royals — 3 Sept. 1978

West India and Millwall Docks

The WEST INDIA DOCKS were opened 1802-6. The Export and Import Docks were the first of the London Wet Dock System built specifically for the discharge of cargo, as an alternative to the crowded legal quays (from which over £¼ million worth of goods were pilfered per annum). The two docks were originally connected to the Thames via Blackwall Basin to the east (for shipping) and via Limehouse Basin to the up-river barge/lighter entrance (now filled in). North of the Import Dock were warehouses designed by Gwilt of a type new to London (one remains in original condition). They held molasses, coffee and cotton: no West Indian cargo could be landed elsewhere until 1823. The south side was a rum quay with underground vaults. Power for cranes, locks etc. was initially supplied by man haulage/treadmills; steam power was not used owing to the fire risk. Hydraulic and electric power were subsequently used.

The CITY CANAL opened in 1805 saved two miles of sailing but the time and cost of double locking and hand haulage resulted in financial losses from the start. After use for the floating of timber it was converted into the present South Dock in 1866-70. The dock was interconnected in 1926 to the two northern docks and to the Millwall Docks. At the site of its eastern entrance is the present day entrance lock to the whole dock system. Some original work remains at the western entrance. An electric pumping station c.1914 (for impounding) straddles the canal to the east of West Ferry Road.

The MILLWALL DOCKS opened in 1868. A good view may be obtained from the elevated footway off Tiller Road (the east end of this bridge was closed for repairs 9/78). These docks were largely used for the discharge of grain. A graving dock was built on the south side. The original Millwall Dock Co. purchased the surrounding 200 acres in the hope that it would become an industrial estate. On the day of our visit the Russian steamship ANGARSK lay in Millwall Outer Dock. She was built by the "Neptun" yard in Rostock in 1956. The vessel is powered by a four-cylinder reciprocating compound-expansion steam engine. Cylinder dimensions are — two of 4-65 mm bore and two of 1,000 mm bore with a common stroke of 1,000 mm. Similar vessels often visit London.

OTHER FEATURES OF MILLWALL. The drainage windmills have long since disappeared and the remains of the once flourishing ship-building industry are few. The Great Eastern was launched from Napier's Yard in 1858, but 10 years later the trade was being transferred to the Clyde with metal and chemical industries taking its place. Sites include Associated Lead Manufacturers, Burrell's Colours, Millwall Iron Works (of William Fairbairn fame), Millwall Lead Works, Samuda's Yard etc.

CUBITT'S TOWN was begun about 1843 by the building firm of that name. Timber wharves, brick fields, a pottery and a cement factory were established here together with an extensive housing estate largely for Irish labourers, now mostly demolished. The Island Gardens were laid out by the Naval College to improve their view (the view from the Island could hardly be improved on); the northern entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel (1897) is here. The housing estates throughout the Island demonstrate interesting variations in municipal style. A branch of the Blackwall Railway passed through the West India and Millwall Docks and terminated in a passenger station near Ferry Road at the west of Island Gardens where part of the viaduct remains. It was initially horsedrawn for fear of fire in the docks.

The SOUTH WEST INDIA DOCK ENTRANCE was enlarged c.1927 to become the principal entrance to the whole system (the eastern entrance to the City Canal was originally here). The modern lift bridge affords a good view of the South West India Dock in which freighters can still be seen unloading. By the riverside to the north runs Coldharbour Lane: the Gun Inn has a terrace with a good view of the river. The lane also contains a riverside police station and listed buildings including Isle House (ex. Dock master's House) by John Rennie (the younger) 1824. Nearby across Preston's Road is The London House by the same architect, unfortunately disfigured by a recently installed flat roof. Further north lies the original Blackwall entrance, all but unusable. Power for lock gates, cranes, capstans etc. used to be supplied by the dock's own central hydraulic power station. This system is now defunct and a small modern hydraulic power plant situated just to the south of the South West India Dock Entrance provides power for the immediate vicinity only.

The POPLAR DOCKS originated from the Eastern Dock, a reservoir for the West India Dock. From 1833 this dock was used as a timber pond. In 1850 it was leased to the East and West India Docks and Birmingham Junction Railway, which ran from Chalk Farm to the West India Docks. This Railway Company (later to become the North London Railway) built a dock (Collier Dock) and a terminal goods station. The Northumberland and Durham Coal Co. operated traffic over this line with its own engines and wagons paying £10,000 pa. The Western Dock was built in 1877. The pre-grouping railway companies which finally had facilities at these docks were the Great Northern, North London, London & North Western and even the Great Western. British Rail still has a freight depot here and ships and lighters are handled; in 9/78 sugar beet seemed to be the main traffic. The Docks' disused hydraulic pumping station building still stands. The remaining wagon capstans have been electrified. Two accumulator towers survive. GLIAS would like to thank Mr. D.A.W. Green of British Rail for permission to visit these docks. The area by the river to the east of Poplar Docks was once famed for shipbuilding. To the north east of Poplar Docks the Midland Railway had a goods station. A hydraulic power station building showing much evidence of Derby standardisation remains. Relics of the London and Blackwall Railway can be found a little to the north including a bridge with a parapet constructed from large slate slabs.

Silvertown and the Royal Docks

Silvertown and the Royal Docks

The ROYAL DOCKS comprise the Victoria, Albert and King George V docks situated to the north of Woolwich Reach, Victoria Dock was opened in 1855 specifically for general steamship trade. It was the first London dock for ocean-going ships to be connected to the national railway system, which compensated for its greater distance from the City. The Royal Albert Dock was opened in 1880; single-storey transit sheds being erected instead of warehouses as the emphasis lay on fast turn-round. This was the first dock in London to be lit by electricity. King George V Dock was opened in 1921. As well as general cargoes these docks specialised in the handling of tobacco, meat and fruit, especially bananas and several cold stores were erected. Victoria Dock contains/ed a floating vacuum grain elevator. A good view of the Victoria Dock may be obtained from the Silvertown Way Bridge over the western entrance. A partial view of the Royal Albert Dock may be obtained from the Silvertown bypass where a concrete bridge carries it across the BR railway line to North Woolwich. Dry docks leading off the Albert and King George V Docks have recently been in use. During September 1978 Royal Albert Dock Basin was in use as a yacht marina. To the east of the basin is an electric pump house dated 1912 (impounding station) and a rubbish destructor (c.1950). The entrance lock for the Royal Docks still uses hydraulic lock gates and capstans etc.

To the south of the Royal Docks (Silvertown) are sugar refineries (Tate and Lyle) for which ships berth in Woolwich Reach. To the west of the Woolwich Ferry are the remains of the works of Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd. Harland and Wolff the shipbuilders had extensive premises to the south-east of King George V Dock across Woolwich Manor Way. It has very recently been reported that the area of North Woolwich is a wasteland where these works have been demolished. For those who have never visited London's Dockland and who want to experience something of the area time is short — you must hurry.

Many thanks are due to Edward Sargent for his very valuable help as guide and his masterly exposition at the West India Docks entrance. Do any members have a boat or the use of one? Many of the sites require photography from the river. I am co-ordinator for Dockland recording. Bob Carr


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© GLIAS, 1978