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Notes and news — February 1985

In this issue:

Denny Edwards

GLIAS member Denny Edwards was in Turkey on an archaeological site last autumn, carrying out work towards her Ph.D. It is understood that at the end of October she contracted hepatitis, from which she died. Her IA survey of part of Hackney is sufficiently completed for publication to be possible. This tragic loss of a young person with so much promise will be mourned by many. Her speciality was Archaeo-Botany. Bob Carr

West London water-pumping stations

GLIAS members took part in the Newcomen Society visit to West London on the 7th August 1984. In the morning we assembled at the well-known Kew Bridge pumping station museum where a most worthwhile time was spent under the guidance of Mr. Kenneth Brown, a great expert on the Cornish engine.

Restoration work is in progress on the 1838 Maudslay beam engine which was converted to the Cornish cycle in 1846-8 and last worked in 1944. After a failure in 1888 the original beam was replaced by a new one from Hunter and English of Bow. Close by is the 1859 Cornish bull engine (no beam) by Harvey and Co, Hayle, which stopped work at the same time and is thought to be the only complete example in the world on its working site. (Two Bull engines were installed at the Sudbrook pumping station in Monmouthshire on the Severn Railway Tunnel but have been dismantled for preservation. One went to the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and the other to the Science Museum). The interesting roof structure of the Boiler House, entirely of wrought iron, dates from about 1837 with a later extension. Watt wagon-type boilers were originally housed here but were replaced by Cornish Boilers in 1846 when the ninety-inch Grand Junction engine was installed. Our visit terminated with an inspection of the workshop area and the present-day boilers. Several dismantled engines lay about the yard outside awaiting re-erection, including one of the Worthington Simpson horizontal cross-compounds from Waddon. If you have not been to Kew Bridge yet, a visit to this superior working steam engine and water supply museum should be very high on your list of priorities.

After an excellent lunch at the nearby Waggon and Horses we proceeded to the Thames Water Authority's Hampton Waterworks where the steam plant is being removed. It is thought to be the last steam-powered pumping station in public water supply service in the country. In the Stilgoe engine house, designed by A.J. Johnson FRIBA, (the entrance has an Egyptian flavour), only two of the original eight 3,000hp Parsons impulse type steam turbine pumping sets were still in situ but we did see them at work. The turbine sets drove centrifugal pumps for high-lift pumping and electrical generators for low-lift electric pumps housed in a separate building. The tender for the turbines from W.H. Allen Sons & Co. Ltd, was accepted in Hay 1936 and the total pumping capacity was 203mgd of filtered water and 85 mgd of unfiltered water with a total generation capacity of 2,700 kw.

Adjacent to the engine house the drum-type water tube boilers built by John Thompson Water Tube boilers Ltd. were fitted with carrier-bar mechanical stokers and with a grate area of 105 square feet could each evaporate 20,000 lb. of water per hour. The heating surfaces were 5,050 square feet for the boiler, 1,100 sq. ft. for the superheater, 2,000 sq. ft. for the economiser and 5,500 sq. ft. for the preheater and the working pressure was 325psi with a temperature of 650°F including 220°F of superheat. Coal for the boilers was brought from a wharf by the river on a conveyor in an interesting tunnel beneath Sunbury Road. The ash removal procedure was also noted.

Following the provisions of the Metropolis Water Supply Act of 1851 five water companies — the Southwark & Vauxhall, Lambeth, West Middlesex, Chelsea and Grand Junction — established themselves in the vicinity of Hampton. By the time the Metropolitan Water Board took over in 1903 several fine buildings had been erected to house pumping engines and GLIAS member Malcolm Tucker conducted the party on a tour of the exteriors of the remaining noteworthy examples along Sunbury Road. There has been some demolition lately. After we visited the Davidson filter house, finally completed in 1947, which contains the low-lift electric pumps and the primary filters. A fountain with fish adorns the entrance. Thanks are due to the Thames Water Authority, Mr D.A. Crocker and our guide, Mr R. Plaster, also to Mr Kenneth Brown, Diana Willment and Malcolm Tucker. Bob Carr

Nacanco Ltd, London Road, Barking

This company was founded by George Featherstone Griffin (1825-1902), a man of private means and an inventor. Following his success at designing a cheap, all-metal railway track, he turned his attention to designing metal containers. His first patent was granted in 1877; from his second patent (in 1880) of a metallic box or can which could be opened without the use of tools, the Self-Opening Tin Box Company was formed.

The company had premises first at 156 Upper Thames St, moving to 47 Holborn Viaduct in 1882. A year later they moved again, to 19 Kirby St, Hatton Garden. In 1886, more satisfactory, premises were found, at 34 York Road, near King's Cross and the company remained there for 25 years. Meantime, Ernest F. Griffin had taken over the business and he initiated the move to London Road, Barking, where the company still operates today. During the First World War the company manufactured food ration cans and casings for various ammunitions. After the war they reverted back to the production of all types of cans. Between the wars some 300-400 types of can were manufactured, from Horlicks and confectionery tins to hair cream and paint tins. During the 1939-45 War, production switched to grenade and rocket cases and ammunition boxes. A wartime invention by the firm of an HP securing clip to provide extra securing of the cap to the can when in transit or storage, is still produced today and exported worldwide. By the early 1950s military supply work had ceased and a number of the hand lines had been replaced by automated machinery. In 1967 the company was acquired by the National Can Corporation of America (whose name was abbreviated to make the present name of Nacanco Ltd.), when it purchased the Clover Can Company which then owned the Barking plant. In 1980 Nacanco had become the second largest can manufacturer in the U.K. David Willis

Coal posts in Bromley

People are sometimes puzzled by the white, metal posts by the road-side at a score of places in rural Bromley, eg. on Leaves Green Common and at the junction of Old Hill and Cudham Lane North. They are "City Posts" or "Coal Posts". They mark the points at which duty became payable on coal coming into London. The positions of the posts, of which over 200 circle London, was determined under the London Coal and Wine Duties (Continuation) Act 1861. In that year the "London District" within which the duties were charged was redefined as the Metropolitan Police District and the City of London. The revenue from the duties was used for a variety of public works, eg. sewers and embankments. The duties ware abolished under the Coal Duties Abolition Act 1889, except for a duty of 4d. which continued to 1890 to meet costs arising from the Holborn valley scheme (i.e. the viaduct etc..) The posts are about six feet long, of which length at least half is usually buried. The inscriptions on the posts in Bromley are: 14' & 15 VICT/CAPI66; 24 VICT: 24 & 25 VICT/CAP42; ACT/24; or 25/VICT/CAP42. These relate to the Act under which the post was set up. Of the last type, there is only one in Bromley. (Finding it might be an amusing exercise.) You can discover one quite different marker. This is on the north side of the railway, 500 yards west of Swanley Station and visible from the by-pass railway bridge. These tall obelisks were erected before 1861 beside railways.

The whole history of the posts is described in a publication "The Coal Duties of the City of London and their Boundary Marks" by Martin Nail, (108 Fleet Road, London NW3.) I am grateful to Mr. Nail for his permission to use his material. Twenty-two of the 200 or so Coal Posts that circle London are in Bromley. Philip Daniell

An ice house at Pinner

Text to come. Tim Smith

Finding your bearings

I am not sure if the following falls within the terms of reference of David Thomas's most interesting series of activities and products captured in architecture, but members may not be aware that a building on an industrial site in Middlesex boasts a quotation from Ruskin. "Life without industry is guilt. Industry without art is brutality" may just be discerned on the mock half-timbering of the Glacier Metal Company Limited at 368 Ealing Rd, Alperton. In the early 1920s the building was owned by Wooler, who made motorcycles and Glacier's moved in circa 1923/24. I have not been able to establish a date at which this thought, derived from "The Relation of Art to Morals" (23. Feb. 1870), was recorded, but it may well derive from the idealism of Wilfred Brown, who joined Glacier in 1931, becoming Chairman and in post-war years presiding over the Glacier Project, initially with the aid of the Tavistock Institute and then with Dr. (later Professor) Elliott Jaques. Brown was later ennobled to enable him to join the first Wilson government.

The Glacier Anti-Friction Metal Company was formed in 1G99 by two Americans, C.W. Findlay and A.J. Battle, who were in partnership. Its premises were somewhere in the St John's Wood or Camden Town area; presumably they were small, as Battle returned to the U.S.A. fairly quickly, but in 19xx the firm moved to Waldo Road near Willesden Junction. These premises were later occupied by Waverley Cars ca. 1926-40 or later and from 1970 by Kigu Ltd. During the Great War, Glacier diversified, manufacturing diecast parts for hand-grenades and later plain bearings, with a consequent increase in workforce from about 27 in 1913 to over 100 in 1917. After the Armistice, the workforce was reduced to pre-war levels and the company could have over-reached itself by acquiring the premises opposite its metal shop as its first machine shop. However, despite a slump in the motor trade in 1920, which resulted in a reduction of the workforce to 10-15, as well as a restricted working week and payment by customers in kind (i.e. vehicles), the Company survived into 1922 when it was approached by Morris Motors and established its first connection with the automotive industry. As a result of the Morris business, the move to Alperton was undertaken and further expansion was possible, so that from Wooler's 19,200 sq. ft. of buildings, the site had 1513CO sq. ft. by 1943. In 1935 Glacier became a public company, having apparently experienced the 1930s economic expansion in the south-east of England. During the Second World War satellite factories were requisitioned in the London area; one (No. 2) was on or near the North Circular Road. In 1941/2 to avoid bombing, a factory was established in the premises of a carpet manufacturer at Ayr and a foundry at Kilmarnock. After the war, these premises had to be handed back, but in Scotland, where problems had arisen owing to the desire of firms which had sought refuse during the war to return to England government inducements were offered to those prepared to remain and in 1947 Glacier took possession of a new factory in Kilmarnock. Repair of bearings was a specialised part of the business and departments were established at Alperton (1931), Glasgow and Manchester (1945) and Jarrow (closed 1979). In 1968 Glacier acquired the premises of the Crosby Valve & Engineering Works on the east side of Ealing Rd. and their 'London Unit' presently occupy them.

Since 1964 Glacier has been part of the Associated Engineering group, which recently resisted, with the help of the Monopolies & Mergers Commission, a takeover bid from G.K.N. The combination of the burden of Brent rates and the general downturn of industry (there have been throe waves of redundancy on the manufacturing side at Alperton), makes it likely that their two factories will move from their sites within the foreseeable future. What will then happen to the pedestrian tunnel under Ealing Road? Already some features have gone — for example No. 1 Factory's foundry (unusual in being used for bronzes, aluminium and cast-iron and distinct from the Company's whiternstal shops), used until a few years ago to have a continuous casting plant. R.G. February 1985

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© GLIAS, 1985