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Notes and news — June 1982

In this issue:

GLIAS thirteenth A.G.M. (24 April 1982)

Had I realized that this was our '13th' I should have been even more worried when we could not obtain our usual venue at the Museum of London and our guest speaker seemed unlikely to be able to come, but in the event all we lost was our 'cuppa'. Douglas Hague did not disappoint us with his splendid talk on Lighthouses given in his usual style and character, for which 'we are particularly grateful as looking at slides taken with his partner Rosemary Christie who had just died must have been painful for him. We are also grateful to the Architectural Association for the use of their pleasant lecture theatre.

At the A.G.M, the acceptance of last year's minutes (which appeared in Newsletter 74) was proposed by Peter Skilton, seconded by Tim Smith and unanimously approved. Michael Robbins continues as our much valued President. Robert Vickers was proposed as Auditor for next years' accounts by Tony Innes, seconded by Malcolm Tucker and unanimously accepted. Our Treasurer apologised for a small error in last year's accounts. Regarding this year's, our book stock has been converted into cash (over £1,000), which means no increase in subscription and money available for another Journal, perhaps also other publications. Danny said there was no point incevenanting [sic] subscriptions as we are not a charity and that standing orders also offered us no advantages. Dave Perrett queried the miscellaneous expenses which were 900% different to last year's. This was explained by the fact that last year large expenses such as the Belgian visit had been put into this category to simplify accounting. Danny was also asked what was the GLIAS financial commitment to the Kirkaldy project, which he replied was only £19: GLIAS contribution towards the cost of a skip; after which the work is being taken over by the Industrial Buildings Preservation Trust. Peter Skilton proposed, Bob Carr seconded the proposal and the accounts were accepted by the Society.

Denis Smith in his Chairman's Report said that the Treasurer's Report revealed two important things s we had had a very active year and the successful maintenance of the subscription at £3 was because we were steadily increasing our membership thanks to the efficiency of our Membership Secretary and probably also because of the attractions of the Societies activities; he further asked that if these were not to members liking they would let the Committee know. He concluded that not only did a steady growth in membership keep the subscription down, but also gave us increasing standing as a Society and enabled us to organize events like the AIA conference to which he invited all present and appealed for members to offer their services as guides and helpers. Denis thanked all members who had assisted the Society in the past year, both on the Committee and off.

Geoff Bowles, summing up his impressions of our recording work after his first spell as secretary to the Recording Group, said he thought they were probably doing the right job in the right way (site work in summer, archive work and writing up in winter), but not on enough sites in view of the shortage of professionals, which made us almost the only people in London tackling the ever-increasing number of I A sites. 5-10% of our membership was not enough and he wanted to see more members, on sites and more in the libraries. He concluded by mentioning a number of forthcoming recording visits.

The Committee, all being eligible and willing to stand for re-election, was proposed en bloc by Jill Vickers, seconded by John Parker and duly elected. The Committee were also pleased to welcome back Tim Smith who was proposed by Bob Carr, seconded by Peter Skilton and elected by the meeting.

The 1982/3 Committee is:
Chairman: Denis Smith
Secretary/Newsletter Editor: Brenda Innes
Treasurer: Danny Hayton

Members: Julia Elton, Derek Holliday, Dave Perrett (Visits Co-ordinator), Bob Carr, Brian Sturt, Peter Skilton, Bill Firth (Publicity) and Tim Smith. Ex officio: Publications Officer Tom Smith, Journal Editor Brenda Sowan, Membership Secretary Lyn Holliday, Recording Group Secretary Geoff Bowles.

Plaques for Bromley

Bromley Borough Council is considering erecting plaques at places of interest in the Borough. Environment Bromley has been invited to make suggestions. PHILIP DANIELL (300 Baring Road, London SE12) would welcome ideas from readers. He has already proposed the former Fox's Brewery at Green Street Green; the former house in Anerley of Thomas Crapper, the Victorian plumber; the site where the Orpington Car was manufactured; the site of the old High Elms laundry, now EnBro's public picnic site. There must be other places in Bromley with an IA interest.

The Union Wharf weight from Merstham

The layout of the Merstham terminus of the Croydon Merstham & Godstone Railway has puzzled historians in the past and it was not until the 1970s that evidence started to emerge which enabled a clearer picture to be built up. Recent evidence is debated in "Early Plateways and Firestone Mining in Surrey" (see references). In 1972 the Surrey Archaeological Society organised a rescue dig under the direction of Jim Shenton. The reason for the rescue dig was that the planned M23 motorway, now constructed, was destined to traverse the CMGR terminus site thus possibly obliterating any remaining evidence. During the rescue dig evidence of early plateways was unearthed and this evidence is discussed in the above mentioned publication. Of particular interest was the discovery of evidence which led to the identification of a plateway at Merstham which predated the CMGR by 10 or more years. This plateway, which was in the region of Quarry Dean Farm, led to underground stone workings via a stone barrel vault and cutting. The cutting can still be seen as a surface feature and access to the barrel vault can be gained via a nearby cavers' entrance to the underground stone workings. Quarry Dean Farm was at TQ 2982 5401.

On the line of the plateway in 1972 Jim Shenton excavated a stone-lined pit. This measured approximately 4ft cube and contained a substantial plinth measuring approximately 2ft x 2ft in the centre. The reason for this pit remains unclear, but within it were discovered a number of iron objects. These were removed from the SAS dig site and remained lost until quite recently when I located them in the possession of a local resident. Details of these finds are as follows:

As a result of these finds the pit was interpreted as a weighing station. It is the weight however that is particularly interesting. It weighs approximately 60lb. It is a traditional shape with a large ring on top. It is clearly marked Union Wharf and has a six or nine east in the top. Presumably the latter identified it as a 60lb weight.

The wording Union Wharf deserved further investigation and as a result I have prepared the following speculative hypothesis as to how the weight came to be buried at Merstham. First the name Union Wharf suggests a date in the region of 1805 when the union with Ireland took place. Further investigation identifies a Union Wharf on the River Thames, opposite the Isle of Dogs on Greenwich Reach. John Bratby's painting 'Dust before they took the lighters away' illustrates the river from Union Wharf. The wharf is adjacent to the present day Cutty Sark public house at Greenwich. Apparently this public house was originally called "The Union"; and was built in 1805-6 together with some adjacent cottages. It assumed its present name in 1954.

There are and were, certainly other wharves similarly named after the Union, however the Greenwich one is particularly interesting because the date of the development coincides with the dates when stone mining was active in the Quarry Dean Farm area of Merstham and also because of the associations with the Grand Surrey Canal. The Grand Surrey Canal was promoted by an Act of Parliament of 1801. Although intended to run from Rotherhithe to Mitcham it ended up as a dock business and only, reached Camberwell 3 1/8 miles from Rotherhithe, with a much later Peckham branch in 1826. It reached Camberwell in 1810 and eventually became part of the Surrey Docks Company in 1864. Access to the Thames was at Rotherhithe via the Surrey Commercial Docks onto Limehouse Reach which was adjacent to Greenwich Reach and in the same vicinity as the Union Wharf.

Another canal given a Parliamentary Act in 1801 was the Croydon Canal. Like the Grand Surrey, Ralph Dodd was the engineer. This canal ran from Croydon for 9¼ miles to the Grand Surrey Canal at New Cross although originally intended to go to Rotherhithe, The canal closed in 1836 surviving only 27 years following its opening on October 22, 1809. The Croydon Canal linked with the Croydon Merstham and Godstone Railway.

The Croydon Merstham and Godstone Railway history has been well covered in a variety of publications (see references). It is sufficient to say that it connected the Surrey Iron Railway and the Croydon Canal at Croydon with the stone and lime workings at Merstham. The CMGR was opened in 1805, eventually closing in 1939. We are now in a position to speculate on how the Union Wharf weight arrived in Merstham. The Union Wharf development was carried out about 1805/6 and perhaps provided transhipment facilities for inland waterborne traffic from the Grand Surrey Canal in its early days before the dock development took place. The Grand Surrey Canal connected with the Croydon Canal from 1809, but the link was severed in 1836 when the Croydon Canal closed. The CMGR connected with the Croydon Canal throughout the life of the canal thus the weight could have been transported south to Merstham during the period by canal and waggonway.

The fact that the Union Wharf weight is 60lb is another factor which assists in establishing its age. The 120lb hundredweight was discontinued during 1823/4 and therefore establishes that this half hundredweight was made prior to this date. Later half hundredweights were of course 56lb.

The Union Wharf weight, however, was found in conjunction with a plateway that was believed to have been constructed between 1792-5. This pre-dated the CMGR by ten or more years. The dating of the weight and its journey to Merstham, lend support to the belief that this earlier plateway was still operational after 1809 in spite of the fact that the CMGR terminus had been superimposed on top of part of this earlier plateway.

Investigation of the Butterley Furnace ledgers throws up one further clue regarding the origin of the Union Wharf weight. The materials for the CMGR were produced by the Butterley Company of Derbyshire and the furnace ledgers still survive in the Matlock Record Offices. Inspection reveals the following entries:
November 12, 1805 (CMGR account) — Weighing Machine complete
March 15, 1805 Cast iron weights for own wharf (Anderson & Eades account)

Bearing in mind the volume of business that the Butterley Company were doing at this time with the Surrey Iron Railway and the CMGR, could it be that these, references were to the mechanism for the stone-lined pit at Merstham and for the Union Wharf weight for Anderson & Eades, contractors to the CMGR? We shall probably never know for sure, however articulating as the history of this weight provides a fascinating insight into the history of early industrial transport in Surrey.


Early Plateways & Firestone Mining in Surrey by B.E. Osborne, Proceedings Vol. 7, Part 3, February 1962, Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society
Official Handbook of the Port of London Authority, 1961
Canal & River Navigations, Edward Paget Tomlinson, 1977
Retracing the First Public Railway, Derek A. Bayliss, 1981

I am grateful to the members of the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society for their assistance in identifying numerous Union Wharves. Bruce Osborne

GLIAS members will know that Derek Bayliss's book on the Surrey Iron Railway is obtainable from him at 30 Muskoka Avenue, Bents Green, Sheffield 511 7RL (see review Newsletter 77). Bruce Osborne's 'Early Plateways & Firestone Mining in Surrey' will certainly interest GLIAS members who want to know more about this country branch of London's IA. This well produced illustrated booklet is obtainable from the Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society Ltd 96a Brighton Road, South Croydon, Surrey CR2 6AD for £1.15 including postage. Incidentally, this historic society (founded in 1870 as the Croydon Microscopical Club) has a lot to offer GLIAS members in South London, not only in the way of publications but they have recently extended an invitation to us to participate in their meetings which, as well as straight botany, microscopy, ornithology and entomology subjects, include geology, local history and archaeology activities with close connections to industrial archaeology; for instance Paul Sowan is organizing a field geology meeting on Sunday June 20 1982 to look at chalk pits in the Betchworth area (details of this meeting from Ron Williams, 29 Outram Road, Croydon CR0 6EX or phone 654 7003).

News from Barnet

A little bit of IA in Barnet has just been added to the Statutory List of Buildings of Architectural & Historic Interest: Crown Public House and 3 lampstandards in front, Cricklewood Broadway, NW2 (TQ 239 847). The lampstandards are described as follows: 'Early 20th century. Circular tapered granite plinths and cast iron shafts, whose bases are urn-shaped and supported by four winged dragons linked by garlands through their jaws. Above the urn a ball swathed in acanthus leaves supports a tapering quadrangular section leading to a square necking. The lampholder heads have been removed.' I hope this presages more street furniture on the list. Bill Firth

News from Docklands

Until recently the Port of London was the World's Greatest Port. Now almost all commercial traffic is handled down river out of London and vast acres of the East End lie derelict — a great challenge to the industrial archaeologist. At St. Katharine Docks, apart from the Ivory Warehouse, essentially only the dock basins survive and are used for pleasure boating. The present-day scheme has been sadly described by one observer as "Britain's answer to Disneyland". On the west side of the Western Dock, facing the Tower of London, a "replica" of a Telford/Hardwick warehouse serves as offices. Oh the N side of the same dock the last of the original warehouses, 'C' Warehouse, was demolished in 1981 and only cast iron columns remain standing on what is now a car park.

The London Docks are no more and in the main little is to be seen on the site of the Surrey Commercial Docks, once very busy with the timber trade. A little further down river the Thames makes a great loop to the S forming the so called "Isle of Dogs", here the West India, Millwall and Poplar Docks are still largely intact. The Isle of Dogs is a fascinating area with a strong independent local character once famed for shipbuilding. Brunel's giant steamship the Great Eastern was built here and launched in January 1858. The London shipbuilding industry declined soon after this, but the Port of London continued to grow. At the entrance to the West India Docks in the NW corner of the Isle of Dogs two of the original dock warehouses, the older by George Guilt of 1802, survive. The surrounding area is rich in remains and has recently been declared a conservation area by the London Docklands Development Corporation.

Still further downstream past the Isle of Dogs and on the N bank of the river the recently closed Royal Group of docks is well worth seeing. GLIAS members were able to enjoy a visit here on Saturday January 30th this year by kind invitation of Chris Ellmers when we visited the Museum of London's Docklands store. So far little demolition has taken place at the Royals. Of the smaller docks on the Thames Regent's Canal Dock at Limehouse survives but the East India docks at Blackwall have mostly disappeared. There are several plans to redevelop Regent's Canal Dock. One of these is in conjunction with a scheme to operate steam trains at weekends on the London & Blackwall Railway as a tourist attraction.

On the shipping side the up-river flat iron collier traffic has ceased. The paddle steamer "Tattershall Castle", 556 tons built in 1934 and now used as a floating exhibition gallery, was in dry dock at Blackwall Engineering in January 1982. By February 2nd she was back at her usual berth on the Victoria Embankment, just up-river of Hungerford Railway Bridge. It is reported that the paddle steamer "Waverley" (693 tons, built 1947) will not be visiting the Thames this summer owing to the cost of pilotage on the river. Sailings from the Sussex coast resorts have also been abandoned due to high berthing charges at Newhaven. Bob Carr

Smithy's Wine Bar — A horsey place

Just N of the former cavalry barracks, better known as the ex-Royal Free Hospital is the Royal Throat, Nose & Ear Hospital. To the side of this hospital, is Britannia Street and half way down this short street is Smithy's Wine Bar. Walk in past the cases of wine and other evidence of a wholesale wine warehouse and into the bar. Here the floor is unusual, the room rises to iron rafters and ring bolts hang from the whitewashed walls. In fact, very little has been done to disguise the fact that this wine bar is a new use for the former horse stables of the London & General Omnibus Company. The menu is basically steak & chips, grilled behind the bar and a help-yourself salad bar. C Taylor-Nobbs

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© GLIAS, 1982