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Notes and news — August 1982

In this issue:

News from Docklands

A party of Recording Group members visited the disused entrance lock at Blackwall on June 18. The present lock replaced William Jessop's original 1802 entrance lock for the West India Docks in the mid-1890s. A good account appeared in Engineering in a series of articles in 1894. There have been few substantial changes and the work of the Recording Group consisted in the main of a study of 'lock furniture': capstans, bollards, pulleys, etc. Immediately to the N of the lock is the shell of the impounding station built at the same time as the lock. Prestons Road is carried across the entrance by a hydraulically operated swing bridge. Some time was spent on these two items as well. One of TWA's sludge ships was noted in dry dock at Blackwall Yards ship repair work in London is not quite dead. The group had a worthwhile and enjoyable time thanks to Sid Miller and Bob Aspinall of the PLA.

The documentary film makers 'Infovision' have made a film of the gas engines at Shad Thames (Maguire Street) for British Gas. The script was based on the GLIAS report which appeared as a Supplement to GLIAS Newsletter 71. Filming took place during wet weather near the end of June. GLIAS hopes to get a copy of the film. (

Although on the Tower Hamlets local list, demolition has started on the Storm Water Pumping Station in Stewart Street on the Isle of Dogs. The demolishers had taken off the roof before a stop was put to their work, but the recent heavy rain probably means the building is now a lost cause. On the subject of demolition again, the railway-over bridge in Hooper Street E1 which carried traffic to Commercial Road Goods Station had almost disappeared by June 18. The hydraulic power station for the Commercial Road Depot is being refurbished by the GLC and now has quite a smart appearance. The accumulators are still in situ. While photographing the roofless pumping station on Sunday June 27 1982 I thought a small airliner made as if to land in Millwall Dock! I was not mistaken — the following Monday a photograph appeared in The Times (p.2) showing the plane on the ground in the West India Docks. It was a four-engined de Havilland Dash STOL and landed on Herons Wharf. An airport for Docklands is being promoted by the Mowlem Group and Brymon Airways. There has been much talk of airports, but the most likely site is the Royal Docks.

Since the 1960s London has fallen behind the rest of Britain in not having an Industrial Museum like Beamish or Ironbridge. The Science Museum at South Ken is a national museum and cannot concern itself in much detail with the industry of London. There are now plans for a museum in Docklands. Three sites are at present under consideration: a group of listed buildings at the entrance to the West India Docks, the 'Skin Floor' at London Docks and warehouses along Shad Thames (Butler's Wharf) & by St. Saviour's Dock Bermondsey. The most likely candidate being the West India Dock site, but any of the schemes would provide welcome adaptive re-use for historically important buildings. For finance it is hoped that the London Docklands Development Corporation will play the kind of role that Telford Development Corporation did in the creation of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. One problem of having an industrial museum in Docklands will be getting sufficient visitors. The West India Docks site in particular is at present well off the beaten tourist track. Hopefully the proposed rapid transit system making use of the disused London & Blackwall railway viaduct will be the answer. It is planned that London's new industrial museum in Docklands will come into being under the wing of the Museum of London. Bob Carr

And news from Rotherhithe

Visitors to the Brunel Engine House at Rotherhithe (St. Marychurch Street, SE16, open on Sundays 11.00-16.00 until the end of September) can inspect progress on restoring what is thought to be the sole surviving stationary steam engine built by J & G Rennie of Southwark. The work is being carried out as a MSC job creation scheme under the expert supervision of GLIAS member Dave Morphew. The horizontal compound Vee engine, dating from around 1885, used to work in one of the impounding stations at Chatham Dockyard. It is being restored to a workable condition and will form a permanent feature in the engine house. Once the MSC scheme is completed in November the Brunel project will be seeking to increase the display space available inside the restored engine house. A scheme involving the use of modern Dexion staging to create a free-standing mezzanine floor has been proposed, but the Project committee would be delighted to adapt suitable historic ironmongery to do the same job. Parts of a cast iron footbridge of the internal walkways from a Victorian prison have been suggested. The structure will be free-standing and precise dimensions are not critical, however, whatever is chosen will have to fit inside a space approx. 20 by 30 feet. Exhibits secretary BOB BARNES would be grateful to hear from anyone with an eye for recycling structural cast iron who can possibly give leads, telephone 488 1313, extension 249.

Electricity versus gas

It is commonly supposed that gas lighting was long ago displaced by electric as the latter is more convenient, cleaner and brighter. It is also thought that people who had gas lighting at home were unhealthy owing to the fumes. However, even as recently as the mid-1930s would-be utopian flats at Kensal Green were built with gas lighting. Admittedly they were experimental and atypical (being built for workers from the adjacent gas works), but just how late did gas lighting survive? Do older GLIAS members have any memories of gas lighting to relate? This subject of attitudes to gas lighting in the home in the recent past might be one for the oral historian with a tape recorder. There seems to have been quite a mythology associated with gas. Bob Carr (>>>)


In conjunction with their one-day seminar on the "Crisis in Recording" (GLIAS Newsletter December 1981), the CBA published a report entitled "The Recording of Industrial Sites: A Review". The Industrial Archaeology Research Committee's Working Party identified four stages in the recording and preservation of industrial monuments which they represented by a triangle with location surveys as the base followed by survey sheet recording, detailed recording, with preservation as the apex. The location surveys would be used to identify potential sites and machinery for follow up, leading to selected sites receiving detailed survey and/or preservation. Whilst such a systematic approach is a laudable aim, in the field of amateur recording the practice is very different and it is hard to see how it can easily be changed. In London, the gazetteers published in the Newsletter represent the locational survey, which, on a more formalised level take the form of completed CBA record cards. We have not tackled survey sheet recording but it is perhaps something that GLIAS should be considering in the London context. Detailed recording by GLIAS is haphazard. Choice of sites depends not on any prior consideration of which are important but more on which are accessible at weekends or at times when members are on holiday.

The report gives examples of survey sheets used by various groups and organisations but none is suitable for general use in London. On drawings, the Working Party considers three-dimensional sketches to be the most effective method of presentation. Whilst this may be so, there will be few amateurs who could hope to emulate the examples given in the report. One appendix suggests two stages for written reports — site report and final report — and suggests standard formats for them.

I have used the headings for the site report to write the following notes on the recently demolished railway goods warehouse in Wilson Street, EC2. My rough notes were made at a safe distance during demolition and, therefore, lack some details. Some of the headings are inappropriate for this particular site. Others I have used loosely as an indication of what should be included. With a little modification and expansion, this could form the basis of a standard survey format for London.


  • SITUATION   Part of Broad Street Goods Depot, on the northern edge of the City of London. Rail access via North London Railway from the LNWR main line at Camden. One of two "City" goods depots of the LNWR (the other was Haydon Square).

  • LOCATION  Wilson Street Warehouse was adjacent to the main goods depot, to the west. Rail access from the east via two bridges (demolished) at first floor level and possibly also at ground level.

  • DATE  General style suggested a date towards the end of the C19. (First entry in Kelly's is 1900)


  • STRUCTURE Roughly rectangular in plan; mainly 5 floors, except for the three western bays which were 2, 3 and 4 storey respectively. There were 10 bays, N-S and about 12 bays E-W. The roof was in five sections, each covering two of the N-S bays and with timber kingpost trusses supporting a slate roof. The outer walls were built up as parapets to hide the roof. In the NE corner was a rectangular tower about half as high again as the building; probably for a water tank for the sprinkler system. There were two internal lift-shaft towers, with housing for the lift motors above roof level. There was a loading bank on the ground floor served by roadways with access to Wilson Street and covered with wooden awnings north and south of the building. On the north side there were two wooden beams and there was evidence that there had been at least one on the south side also.

  • BUILDING SEQUENCE  Not applicable.

  • CONSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS Outer walls were mainly of stock brick with blue engineering brick at the sides of openings. Window heads were of a cream-yellow brick with a stone keystone and stone springings for the segmental arches. Sills appeared to be stone and beneath the windows red brick was used.

    Internally there were columns of rivetted angle and plate with a cross-section as in Fig. 1. Each column had a strapping at top and bottom with three or four intermediate straps depending on the length of the, column. The columns rested on octagonal plates and had similar plates on top. Most of the internal columns had brick filling the spaces between the steel and were surrounded by a brick casing. Those along the edge of the loading banks were not treated in this way. The columns supported riveted steel girders and jack arches. Floors were possibly concrete.


  • MACHINERY  At least three hydraulic pillar cranes on the ground floor. No works plates noticed; all were of fairly light construction, possibly about 30 cwt SWL.

  • PRODUCTS  Not applicable.

    Ground level was such that the roadway from the loading banks sloped up to Wilson Street. Granite stoneways were provided to assist carts from the weighbridges up to the street (see GLIAS Newsletter 77).

  • CONDITION  Demolished May/June 1982.

    Tim Smith, June 1982

    Camberwell Stables — A site recording visit in August

    Having followed up Mr. B. A. Miller's kind notification of a site built as stables in his area, the Recording Group is arranging a visit to look over the site and to put together ideas for making a record of it from which a Report might be written. With or without knowledge of stables, we hope you will be able to join us — the site is substantially intact and should offer scope for an interesting visit and survey.

    And reports in the pipeline

    STEVENSON & HOWELL — At the moment we are working on a Report on Stevenson and Howell, essence manufacturers, whose works were in Southwark and hope that copies will be available for sale at the AIA Conference and the first winter lecture. A review will be included in the October Newsletter.

    CHAIR-FRAME MAKERS — CALLING WOODWORKERS — We are nearing completion of a Report on a chair-frame makers in Shoreditch. Can any members who are familiar with woodwork equipment please contact David Thomas to confirm exact uses of various machines?

    Gazetteer update (items in GLIAS Newsletter April 1982)

  • ITEM 353 Lambeth Pier. Paul London writes correcting the date and giving more information:
    'The pier was transferred from the Thames Conservancy to the LCC (with 16 others) for their steamboat service which started on 17 June 1905 and was finally abandoned on 31 October 1907, after which it was handed back to the Thames Conservancy (the Port of London Authority took it over in 1909). The LCC service called at 28 piers, all of which were LCC owned; about a dozen of these survive today and they all seem to have very similar architecture on the pontoons themselves — though I'm not aware of any of them having the same sort of entrance as Lambeth.'

  • ITEM 356 Lambeth Palace. Of dubious value, perhaps, it should be mentioned that this is the oldest brick building in south London.

  • ITEM 402 Terminal House. Paul London and Jeremy Buck have both written confirming that this was indeed a major coach terminus, opened in 1929 and closed at the outbreak of war in 1939, its demise being hastened by the take-over of various independent companies by larger concerns who were already operating from the more conveniently situated Victoria Coach Station (opened 1932). Further information is in an article in "Coaching Journal" July 1977.

    As it happens, a recent article in a magazine mentioned that the Victoria Coach Station site was acquired 50 years ago with the help of the Southern Railway — whose predecessors were often shareholders in coaching companies. Can anyone confirm or clarify what the tie-up was — it is interesting to speculate whether at one time the site was within property owned by the Grosvenor Canal. A similar question may also be made regarding the nearby British Airways terminal. Any further thoughts, please, to David Thomas, 36 Pearman Street SE1 (who also has copies of the article referred to above) (>>>)

    The Blackheath hole — the gap is narrowing.....

    We thought that the use of the concrete hole described in GLIAS Newsletter December 1981 had been established. But Subterranea Britannica has now written saying that a very similar structure was discovered at a pig farm in Whaddon, Cambridgeshire, in 1981. This was for liquid manure from a pig farm, which was held until being pumped out and spread on the fields. (Is it mere coincidence that the Blackheath site was also a pig farm?). Do we have a swine-swain who can help?

    Press pickings ...

    '£40 million rubbish power plan' — South London Press 18 June 1982. One of the schemes put forward for this listed building is a 'simple' conversion to refuse destruction and at the same time generation of electricity as a by-product. However, this is in apparent competition with a £12 million scheme just announced by the GLC to build a new transfer station to barge 800 tons of rubbish a day from the nearby former gasworks site, closing down existing facilities at Cringle Dock and Feathers Wharf.

    One of London's few remaining Victorian water towers, in the grounds of Ladywell Lodge, Ladywell Road SE13, a day-centre for handicapped adults, is up for sale by Lewisham Council. The tower stored water from a 210ft well when the Lodge was used as a workhouse for the poor and planning permission now exists for the conversion of this local landmark into craft shops and residential use, other ventures being considered so that the tower, to be used wholly by the community, will be retained. If you are interested, apply to Lewisham Borough Council. (South London Press May 1982).

    Two stations have been in the news recently. The Camberwell Society has managed to raise/obtain £30,000 to restore Denmark Hill station which was damaged by fire in March 1980, with the idea that the spare space not required by British Rail will be used as a pub and restaurant.

    Blackheath Preservation Trust, meanwhile, is, together with the London Borough of Lewisham and the Manpower Services Commission, to convert the virtually intact 1848 residential section of the station into offices at a total cost of some £67,000 (information from the Civic Trust's bi-monthly magazine, 'Heritage Outlook').

    Recently, plans have been drawn up to retain the facade of Broad Street station within proposed redevelopments. Can anyone please give further details? David Thomas (>>>)

    A plaque on No. 4 Milner Street SW3, near South Kensington station, states that this was the site of the Chelsea Electricity Supply Company's works. The four-storey building has been repaired/rebuilt at street level, but clearly predates 1935. Can anyone supply any more information? (>>>)

    Church Row — wood pavement

    The Surveyor reported that the wood pavement in Church Row had been very much damaged by water from the mains of the Water Company freezing under the wood blocks; that he had informed the Water Company thereof and had been in communication with the Improved Wood Pavement Company with a view to the reinstatement of the roadway at the expense of the Water Company.

    The action of the Surveyor was approved and the Clerk was directed to inform the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company that the roadway would be reinstated at once and the account would be sent to the Company for payment."
    from St. Olave (Southwark) Board of Works' Minutes 19 February 1895.

    There are several examples of roadways near churches, etc., to deaden noise of traffic. Can any member say just how common wooden streets were — and whether the problem described was a common one? David Thomas (>>>)

    Enough news?

    'The old railway station is being restored by a rail preservation society who plan their own exhibition and it is possible that a group will take over the old St. Stephen's Church in the centre and with the Welsh National Opera Company having converted an old warehouse at the other end of Bute Street into their headquarters and now building a rehearsal studio and restaurant extension, the whole area has considerable potential as a tourist and artistic centre. Indeed, dockland could become the trendy place to be in the future...'

    From an article about Butetown, the former commercial centre of Cardiff's dockland, in the South Wales Echo, 13 April 1982.

    A £30 million redevelopment of Gloucester Docks is to be undertaken converting warehouses to residential units, shops, offices, workshops, Crown Court — Waterways News January 1982.

    'The old town of Kingston-upon-Hull which was sick and near to dying only three or four years ago, has made a remarkable recovery ... The Waterfront Club, hotel and restaurant (was) in 1978 no more than an empty, derelict warehouse ... The redundant Pearse Warehouse, two great ranges, one of 1745, the other of 1760, (were) likewise until recently empty and decaying alongside the River Hull. A builder/developer took them on and has converted them to 120 flats' — Heritage Outlook May 1981

    When will we be able to write this about London except, perhaps, for a single pocket around Rotherhithe? And if not, should we be doing something about it?

    'RADIO TIMES two pence every Friday' — advertisement on 59 Stockwell Road SW9. When was THAT painted? (>>>)

    Jolliffe & Banks' civil engineering contracts in London

    The civil engineering contracting partnership of William John Jolliffe and Edward Banks operated from 1807 to 1832, based at the stone quarries and limeworks at the terminus of the Croydon, Merstham & Godstone Railway at Merstham, Surrey. Probably, however, relatively little stone or lime was brought from Merstham over Surrey's pioneer public railways for use in the firm's major contracts. They had use of a lime works at Hailing, on the Medway, from about 1822; pioneered the use of Aberdeen and Dartmoor granite in London; and are known to have had dealings in Portland stone. An outline of the firm's operations was contributed by H.W. Dickinson in the Transactions of the Newcomen Society (12, pp. 1-8) in 1933. New documentary source material has now come to light, in the form of an Index of all the works of the firm, evidently complete though undated; and an imperfect series of annual statements from 1813 to 1840 (the later ones relating to the winding-up, as the partnership ceased operations in 1832 and both partners died in 1835). These documents are amongst the Hylton estate papers in the Somerset Record Office at Taunton (SoRo C/1961 DD/HY 23, 27 and 36.)

    The Index contains names and costs, but no other details, of all the well-known major contracts such as Sheerness Dockyard (£1,463,622) and minor local ones such as the 'Croydon Railway Machine House' (tentatively identified as the building now known as 'Weighbridge Cottage' on Merstham Hill) (£184).

    A selection of entries for works which are or may be London sites follows, in the hope that readers may be able to suggest exact locations, dates and references to further manuscript or published information. I have added tentative identifications, notes and dates for some entries.

    Bushes work £310 ? Richard Bush, oil-miller & distiller of Wandsworth, promoter of Surrey Iron Railway
    Brixton Penitentiary 26,677
    Billingsgate Dock 176
    Croydon Canal Wall 216 Croydon Canal completed in 1809
    Croydon Railway Machine House 184 ? Weighbridge Cottage on the Croydon, Merstham & Godstone Railway at Merstham
    Croydon Court House 4,968 Croydon's second town hall, 1808-9 (>>>)
    Chamber of Commerce Works 1,870
    Custom House River Wall 72,759 ? 1819
    -do- stairs 20
    Calverts Brewery 50
    Cockburn Sir George House -
    Cousin Lane Stairs 3
    Dormays Work 345
    Deptford Bridge 1,733
    Deptford Dockyard 66,877 ? 1817
    East India Dock Paving 578
    Elliott George Paving 10
    Harmans New House 6
    Hyde Park Bridge 58,513 Over the Serpentine, 1824 (>>>)
    Kings Road Bridge 3,045 ? Where
    London Dock works 807
    -do- Lock 32,850
    London Bridge -
    -do- approaches -
    North Hyde Works 931 (>>>)
    Old Swan Stairs 315
    Opthalmic Hospital - Now part of Charing Cross Hospital
    Old London Bridge - Demolition
    Parnham's Wall 33
    Patterson's Floor 36 ? Benjamin Paterson, copper-miller of Summers Town
    Pitlake Toll House 110 ? On the Surrey Iron Railway at Croydon
    Penitentiary Millbank 31,296 On the Tate Gallery site
    Queenhiths & Trigg Lane Stairs 14
    Rohdes (?) Wharf Wall 245
    Surrey Railway Machine House 145 On the Surrey Iron Railway
    Sheppley's Wall 281 ? Shepley family, millers, of Hackbridge and Wandsworth
    Strand Bridge Works 462,776 Re-named Waterloo Bridge, 1812-17
    Somerset Place excavations 1,050 ? Somerset House/Kings College site, ? 1819
    Southwark Bridge Works 315,989 ? 1816-19
    -do- Road 1,737
    Staines Old Bridge Repairs 506
    Sterr (?) Lane Stairs 45
    Staines Bridge - ? 1832 (>>>)
    Tritton's Floors 73 ? Trittons, brewers, of Wandsworth & Beddington, promoters of the Surrey Iron Railway
    -do- Pitching 16
    Thames Tunnel 486 ? Borings in the river bed for Marc Brunel, ? 1824- (>>>)
    Vernon's Paving 27
    Vauxhall Stone Account 2,827
    Victualling Office River Wall 79,344 ? 1817
    Wandsworth Basin Wall 325 ? At northern terminus of the Surrey Iron Railway
    -do- Tipping Frame 31
    -do- Basin 1,637
    Weres Work at Garret Lane 181 ? Were & Bush, linseed oil & whitelead millers, Garratt Lane, Wandsworth
    West India Docks Work 78,881 ? 1811
    Waterloo Bridge Road 2,982
    Woolwich Dock Yard 324,395
    Waterloo Bridge Repairs 143
    York Water Works 6,300
    York Wharf Wall 2,025
    York Wharf Buildings 3,019

    Paul Sowan

    Any clues in this fascinating IA mystery should be sent to Paul at Subterranea Britannica, 96a Brighton Road, South Croydon, CR2 6AD

    Heal's department store

    Heal's © Robert Mason

    On Friday morning 12 February 1982 a party of GLIAS members were privileged to see behind the scenes at Heal's department store, 196 Tottenham Court Road. Heal's have been at this address since 1840 when John Harris Heal moved the family feather-dressing business from 33 Rathbone Place.

    The GLIAS visit commenced with coffee and biscuits in the board room which also serves as something of a museum. We were able to inspect many treasures as well as hear about the history of the firm. From the Board Room we passed to the cabinet workshops by way of the shop where, as the entrance to the chairman's office, the doorway and pediment of an old farmhouse is preserved. This farm house used to stand close by and was the family home of the Heals, later becoming a salesmen's hostel. It was not demolished until 1913. After admiring craftsmen at work in the cabinet workshops we moved to the bedding factory where mattresses are still made as in 1850.

    Princess Margaret's mattress was in for repair. A beam engine used to provide power for this factory and we had previously been shown a photograph. It was not unlike the engine on the cover of this Newsletter. From the bedding factory we descended to the basement where a c.1935 Ruston & Hornsby diesel engine was started for us (size 5, class VER, number 183269). To finish we were shown Sir Ambrose Heal's 2.3 litre Sunbeam motor car which was specially built for him.

    Restoration work was in progress. We owe many thanks to Mr. Oliver Heal for permitting our fascinating visit. We should also like to thank our guides Mr. John Beadle, Mr. Frank Fowler and Mr. Robin Hartley (the Archivist) for their considerable efforts on our behalf. Special mention should be made of the work of Mr. John Thrift as overall master of ceremonies. Bob Carr

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  • © GLIAS, 1982