Notes and news — April 1983
In this issue:
- Marine Ices
- Early years at Old Kent Road gas works
- And some electricity history
- Early insulators
- Stoneways: Commercial Road Stoneway — A postscript
- ... and woodenways
- Activities captured in architecture. Part 1 — Transport
- Clink — Clunk
- Gazetteer of London industrial archaeology: Mouth of Bow Creek/Blackwall area
- Supplement: Pickford's Wharf
On 22 Feb 1983, after a good meal in the restaurant which finished about 21.00, a party of GLIAS members took a look behind the scenes at Marine Ices, 8 Haverstock Hill, NW3. Our guide, Dante Mansi, showed us the ingredients of the famous ice cream and water ices: fresh lemons, mango pulp, etc. and we inspected the plant, mostly modern, stainless steel and American. During the day about 12 people work in the factory, which is on three floors and extends some way back from the road in what was at one time houses and a butchers shop. We spent a chilly time in the cold store. Was it really -20°C? It did not seem that cold. From an IA point of view the most interesting items were a pair of two-cylinder inverted vertical electrically driven reciprocating ammonia compressors (dating from before 1945?) and formerly used in the making of Lyons ice cream at Cadby Hall. In the ice cream parlour we spotted the portholes from the days when Marine Ices resembled the bridge of a ship. Many thanks to all at Marine Ices and our most enthusiastic guide Dante Mansi for a most interesting and enjoyable evening. Bob Carr
Early years at Old Kent Road gas works
It is 150 years since the South Metropolitan Gas Light and Coke Company built a gas works by Canal Bridge in Old Kent Road to supply the public with cannel gas. Development of this site forms an important chapter in the history of the industry. By 1830 the Gas Industry was well established in London North of the River, to the South, mainly green fields, only the Phoenix Gas Light & Coke Company was supplying gas to the area. Formed in 1824, the Company could trace its origins to 1814 when a gasworks was built on Bankside, only two years after the Gas Light & Coke Company made its uncertain way into the world. Well established with a works at Bankside and Greenwich, the Phoenix did not have any competition until 1829 when the South Metropolitan Gas Light & Coke Company was formed.
The Company started to lay mains and build a works on land leased from the Surrey Canal Company, work proceeded slowly and they were not supplying gas to the public until late 1833. The South Metropolitan did not make a good start, some officers were not entirely honest and there were problems in balancing the books. The works were designed by George Holsworthy Palmer (1791-1868), a pupil of Samuel Clegg. The retort house had 24 settings of three cast iron retorts, the purifiers and condensers were in a separate house. Two gas holders were provided similar to a design of John Malham with a central cast iron guide column. Shortly after the works started production a tar tank caught fire and burst, also the stability of the retort house gave some concern.
Gradually the Company began to establish itself, having some success with lighting contracts, though selling cannel gas at eleven shillings (55p) per 1,000 cubic foot, two shillings more than the Phoenix was a major stumbling block. In 1835 a third holder of similar pattern with a capacity of 69,000 cubic foot brought the storage capacity to 150,000 cubic foot, equivalent to a day's sendout. Palmer was an inventive rather than practical engineer and relationships with the Directors were often strained, finally resulting in his dismissal in June 1836. John Hill was appointed in his place and was injured in a violent explosion which occurred in the purifier house in October of the same year. Palmer had designed the house without ventilation, a workman had entered with a naked light, the resulting explosion was heard over a wide area of London. The Directors made a valiant effort to extinguish the fire and with the help of Mr. Winsor (junior) and some men from the Gas Light & Coke Company, supplies were restored in three hours.
Despite these problems the next few years saw the Company assuming an air of respectability, also the decision to abandon cannel gas enabled more effective competition with rival companies. In 1839 an event occurred which completely changed the fortunes of the Company, when Thomas Livesey was appointed Chief Clerk. Nephew of Thomas Livesey, Deputy Governor of the Gas Light & Coke Company, he was employed at the Brick Lane Works of the same company. He moved from Islington with his wife Ellen and his son George to a house provided by the Company. Rapidly Thomas Livesey's tenure took effect, relationships with the Phoenix were smoothed, mainly to deter rival companies, the London to the North and the Deptford to the South. Old Kent Road Works soon were to be regarded as among the best run in London.
Thus began an association with the South Metropolitan and the Liveseys which lasted for nearly 70 years, turning a small concern into one of the country's premier gas companies. This was achieved by considerable technical development, which not only had effect on gas production at Old Kent Road, but also on the industry as a whole. Old Kent Road remained in production until 1953, when expansion of East Greenwich enabled the works to be closed down. Much of the plant was soon demolished and the site redeveloped. By the GLIAS gas man!
And some electricity history
The recent relocation of the London Electricity Board's headquarters has resulted in the vacation of two historic buildings, Alpha Place in Flood Street, Chelsea and Lesco House, Stamford Street, Waterloo. Alpha Place was built in 1894 by the Chelsea Electricity Supply Company as a generating station with two 80kw DC generators fed by two Babcock & Wilcox boilers, by 1911 the output reached 2,800 kW and in 1928 generation ceased when the CESC obtained a bulk supply from the London Power Company. In 1936 the CESC became part of the Central London Electricity Supply Co. and on nationalisation in 1948 CLESCo became part of the LEB. Throughout this period Alpha Place was used as sub-station with office accommodation added in 1950.
Lesco House was built in 1930 by the London Electricity Supply Co, on land leased from the Duchy of Cornwall. This three-storey building was used for Headquarters departments and extended to five floors in 1965.
Another LEB building has been recently refurbished, the former power station at 25 Eccleston Place, Victoria, which was designed by Stanley Peach and built in 1891 for the Westminster Supply Corporation. The building was later used as a sub-station and offices and became disused during the 1960s. Over the last two years the building has been reconstructed, retaining the original facade, as modern office accommodation. Tim Kendall (who is allowed to give his name!)
Mike Pope of the Sussex IA Society has written to me on the subject of insulators used for early telecommunications and electricity supply transmission lines, which he has been researching for a number of years. He asks about early insulator manufacturers 'Fuller of Bow' and 'Warden of Westminster' of whom little is known. He also suggests that London is likely to be the best source of early insulators, either attached to old buildings or in subways and railway tunnels. He says 'Should, you, or any of your industrial archaeological colleagues, be in a position to recover any early or unusual insulators, it could be of considerable help to me'. Tim Smith
Anyone with any knowledge of this subject is invited to write to Dr. Pope at 34 The Avenue, Hambrook, Chichester, Sussex PO18 8TY
Stoneways: Commercial Road Stoneway — A postscript
I have found a second illustration of the Commercial Road Stoneway (see Newsletters 77 & 83) in the Illustrated London News of 15 November, 1851 (p.604). The picture is of the Bow Spring Bridge, Stepney Station, but it does depict the stoneway, under the bridge on the south side of Commercial Road, with a wagon pulled by two horses. Only one stoneway is shown, supporting the theory that the second was never built. Tim Smith
... and woodenways
Robert Dawson has been kind enough to donate to GLIAS 'Modern Road Construction' by Francis Wood, a 1912 book with numerous references to wood paving (hard & soft). It is most interesting and includes a map which shows that most of the roads in Fulham were at this time wood paved. There is too much to put in this newsletter, but I will bring it to the AGM for anyone that would like to see it.
Derek Bayliss has also found some literature on the subjects 'The Construction of Roads and Streets' by Henry Law & D. Kinnear Clark (Crosby Lockwood & Son, 1890) devotes five chapters to the subject, as well as part of its historical chapter and mentions many different types, with examples of their use in London. It agrees with 1839 as the date of the first London example, but says that it was at the Old Bailey, not in Oxford Street. An appendix contains an 'Extract from the Report of Colonel Heywood, Engineer and Surveyor to the Commissioners of Sewers, City of London, on the condition of Wood & Asphalt Carriage-way Pavements, on 1 February, 1877', which lists numerous examples in the City, with details of their age, area and condition and who laid them. The impression is given that they wore out within two or three years; perhaps more readily with the iron-tyred wagons of those days than with today's pneumatic tyres.
Derek has also formed a 'GLIAS-type recording group for the Sheffield Trades Historical Society', who are 'having as hard a time keeping ahead of demolition of steel and cutlery works as David Thomas did with the Thames side warehouses'. Having discovered 'a former water-powered site, not a stone's throw from the city Centre, that isn't in Miller's Water Mills of Sheffield' Derek is obviously enjoying himself and would welcome 'any GLIAS members who find their way here' (particularly if they don't mind helping), or to hear from anyone with useful information.
Activities captured in architecture. Part 1 — Transport
This three-part series is intended to list some — and encourage members to let me know of other — buildings which have as features of their design scenes or products with an IA interest (pub signs, coats of arms and painted items have been excluded). Part 1 deals with transport; next will be food and lastly all the rest. If you know of any 'gems' please let me know at 36 Pearman Street SE1 7RB.
1. Michelin Building, 81 Fulham Rd, SW3. 1910 Covered in tiles with racing car scenes and big ceramic tyres.
2. Continental Tyre & Rubber Co, corner Brompton Rd & North Terrace, SW3. Three varieties of tyre form a pattern along the wall. Name plaque above entrance to basement garage in North Terrace.
3. Thornycroft Ho, Dean Bradley St, SW1. Built c.1921 as offices for John Isaac Thornycroft & Co, builders of torpedo boats, launches and lorries, with these above doorways.
4. London United Electric Tramways Co. generating station, 74 Chiswick High Rd, W4. 1899 Small tramcars above doorway. (NB. No public access, part of bus garage)
5. 88 Kingsway, WC2. Magnet of tram rail, surrounding tram wheel above doorway, with legend 'British Electrical Federation Ltd'. Offices of a myriad of tram and transport companies, from British Electric Tramways to the Gearless Motor Omnibus Co.
6. St. Pancras Station, NW1. c.1870. Four railway workers in brickwork near ceiling of old booking office (no access in January).
7. Liverpool Street Station, EC2. Improbable cherub figures in brick above the footbridge from the Bishopsgate entrance carrying out tasks such as fireman, signalman, surveyor.
8. 41 Trinity Square, EC3. A London Tilbury & Southend Railway locomotive, complete with Westinghouse brake pump, appears above the doorway: this was the Company's offices c.1900-1911.
9. Baker Street Station, NW1. The Metropolitan Railway's offices around the corner in Allsop Place have buffers and couplings sprouting from the walls! Note also the 'electric spark' symbol and Metropolitan Railway trespass notice.
10. Moorgate Station, EC2. A rather measly tube tunnel scene on the Moorgate side and an 'electric spark' on corner of Moor Place/Moorfields.
11. LT sub-station & vent shaft, Archway Rd, N6 (just to NE of the viaduct). Plaque with a transformer depicted. (Thanks to Chris Rule for this one).
12. Thomas Cook & Son's former HQ at 108 Fleet St, EC4. c.1872. A small steam engine emerges from behind a globe.
13. Nearby, the Daily Express building includes a polished metal express train in its fascinating foyer decor.
14. The old Unity House, HQ of the NUR, had front views of steam engines embellishing the entrance gateways; does anyone know if these will reappear on the new HQ?
15. Canadian Pacific House, 62-5 Cockspur St, SW1. 1903 Far up on the facade are a steam railway engine and ship. At the rear, the legend 'The grand trunk railway of Canada'.
16. Norgess Huis, 21-24 Cockspur St. SW1 has a well-developed lady clasping an eight-wheeled steam engine. This building includes the London offices of the Norwegian State Railways.
17. The canopy spandrels at former Great Eastern Railway stations on the line to Epping have various designs. Those at Snaresbrook (now LT) on the Id side platform and on the Epping/Lea Valley platforms at Stratford (High Level) have a remarkable resemblance to locomotive wheels.
18. Denmark House, 15 Tooley St, SE1. A cargo liner above offices occupied by butter, etc. importers.
19. Lloyds Register, 71 Fenchurch St, EC3 c.1901. Covered by statues of maidens holding ships.
20. There are many other places where ships, generally a rather symbolic barque, appear, as do anchors (eg Deptford's former naval yard). I am ignoring most, but cannot resist including 15 Tufton St, SW1 1907. This is the Society for the Propagation of the Bible in Foreign Parts and a scene depicts a preacher, bible open, in the prow of a sailing ship approaching a palmy coast with waiting natives!
21. Royal Riding School, Buckingham Gate, SW1. 1820s. On the pediment a nude Hercules manfully struggles with two wild horses.
22. Trinity House, Trinity Sq., EC3 includes two lighthouses in panels on the facade.
23. Odds & Sods. These are scenes with a transport interest, but no direct connection:
- a. 59 Southwark St, SE1. A bell-buoy above the door has nothing to do with shipping, but is a visual pun on the firm's names Bell's Asbestos.
- b. Many assurance companies used lighthouses as a symbol typical is that on Ocean Buildings, 36-44 Moorgate, EC2.
- c. 13 Poultry, EC2 has its facade covered in scenes of Royal processions, including horses and carriages.
- d. ICI House, Millbank, SW1 1928, has a LNER express train hurtling across one of the door panels.
- e. The RIBA, 66 Portland Pl, WC1 has an insignificant tube tunnel on the door.
- f. Royal Arsenal Co-Op's Store, Lewisham High St, SE13 1933, has illustrations of transport.
- g. Albert Hall 1871. Exterior mosaic scenes include a GWR broad gauge 'single'.
- h. The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Merton, SW19 has a new east window installed in the 1950s which has a street scene including the Churchwarden's pride and joy: his Morris Minor.
Doubtless members will know of more, please let me know. And in particular, are there any bus, aeroplane, cycle or barge images extant? David Thomas
Part 2 — Food
Part 3 — Industry and communications
Part 4 — Banks, utilities, services & shops
Part 5 — Activities for which a link with their location is unknown or simply non-existent
In York Street, W1, between Wyndham and Enford Streets (TQ 276 818) there is a block of late Victorian flats. In the east wall there is a plaque 'York Street Ladies Residential Chambers 1892'. Can anyone tell me more? Did ladies require residential chambers in those days? If they did, presumably blocks of flats for ladies were thought necessary for propriety and safety — or was 'ladies' a euphemism — although I thought "women" was usually used in that context. Bill Firth
I can answer that one for you Bill, I had a friend who lived in a similar block in St. Johns Wood. They were for professional ladies (my friend was a psychoanalyst), doctors and the like who were just beginning to exist at the end of the 19th century and 'could not with contemporary propriety occupy gentlemen's chambers or whole houses and they had ferocious rules so that gents with impure minds did not think they were the other sort of accommodation'. Ed.
Clink — Clunk
By the time this newsletter arrives demolition will have commenced which will radically alter the highly evocative appearance of Clink Street, SE1 and the river front. A report on two of the sites concerned, Pickford's Wharf A & B and C & D, is enclosed as a supplement.
Gazetteer of London industrial archaeology: Mouth of Bow Creek/Blackwall area
Additional information from Tim Smith:
462 FORMER HYDRAULIC PUMPING STATION East India Dock Wall Road TQ 386 808
This might indeed be a contender for the title of earliest surviving hydraulic pumping station building in Docklands, but there are others. In 1858, James Braidwood, the London fire officer who was killed in the 'Great Tooley Street Fire', reported on fire precautions and methods of fire fighting in the enclosed docks. He reports on hydraulic pumping stations at St. Katharine Docks, London Docks (Hermitage Basin) and the East and West India Docks. At the latter he found two 60 hp steam pumping engines supplying water to the hydraulic system, but it is not clear as to whether he means one at each of these docks or two at one or the other. By this date, London Docks had three pumping stations, one of which survives beside the Hermitage entrance in St. Katharine's Way. This building probably dates from 1856. The Regent's Canal Company had hydraulic power at their dock at Limehouse even earlier. In 1852 they installed 24 hydraulic cranes. There is an accumulator tower on the K-side of the dock, just N of the London & Blackwall Railway viaduct, which could be a relic of this early system. It is an octagonal brick tower with the stump of a chimney running up the side. The original pumping station was replaced c.1899 by a new pumping station at the SW corner of the dock.
464 BRUNSWICK WHARF POWER STATION TQ 388 808
Built 1952-6 on the site of the East India Export Dock which was heavily damaged by bombing. Contains two 63MW turbine sets and four of 55MW by Metropolitan Vickers installed after the repeal of the 'Control of Turbo-Alternators' legislation in 1953. The station is noteworthy in having an impressive set of 11 boilers in line, working at 62.0 bar pressure and a temperature of 482°C. These were built for coal firing but have subsequently been converted to burn oil by the addition of internal brickwork, etc. The conversion back to coal burning is not worthwhile and the station is expensive to run on oil, but it occupies an important position on the Grid. There has been discussion for some time on the closure of Brunswick Wharf, but the station was still generating towards the end of 1982. The riverside at Brunswick Wharf was the terminus of the London & Blackwall Railway which ran from Fenchurch Street station and was opened in 1840 with engineers George Parker Bidder and George Stephenson. Before the power station was built a hotel stood here for the accommodation of travellers who transferred from railway to steamboat (cf. Gallions Hotel at Beckton). The construction of the wharf itself is of some interest in that cast iron piling was used (see the paper 'Engineering in the Port of London, 1803-33' by Prof. A.W. Skempton to be published in Vol.53 of the Transactions of the Newcomen Soc.)
465 EAST INDIA DOCKS IMPOUNDING STATION BUILDING TQ 390 808
Listed Grade II. Now on CEGB property as part of Brunswick Wharf Power Station grounds, this Edwardian neo-Georgian pumping station building dating from c.1911 was thoughtfully designed to harmonise with the classical buildings of the East India Docks already in existence. Pilasters embellish the red brick exterior. The building is in poor condition and the interior is essentially empty.
466 SITE OF RENNIE IRON BRIDGE TQ 392 814 & OTHER BRIDGES ACROSS BOW CREEK
An early 19th-century iron bridge to the designs of John Rennie (the elder) formerly spanned the River Lea (Bow Creek) at this point, but was demolished in the 1930s. The name 'Ironbridge' is applied to items in the vicinity — 'Ironbridge Wharf' (a scrapyard) on the W bank by East India Dock Road, TQ 391 813 and the 'Ironbridge Brewpub', TQ 389 813 on the N side of East India Dock Road, an Inn which in 1981 brewed its own real ale in the basement. The real ale venture, however, seems to have been a failure as the pub has been turned into a 'disco' called 'Plums'.
Bob Carr's Bow Creek/Blackwall Gazetteer will continue in Newsletter 86.
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© GLIAS, 1983