Home | Membership | News | Diary | Walks | Calvocoressi Fund | Books | Journals | Links | Database | e-papers | About us

Notes and news — December 1985

In this issue:

Camden IA and transport survey — progress report

Seven of us met at Swiss Cottage Library on the 6th November and were keen that within an hour we had agreed to meet the following Saturday to walk around some sites in Kentish Town and to fit in some library research looking at maps and other source documents in the next week. Whilst this pace may not continue, we do intend to do site visits, research, and publication of short reports for the Newsletters of GLIAS and Camden History Society (I'm in both and it makes sense to make this a joint effort).

Our first batch of sites comprises some railway coal drops, a taxi garage/workshops, and the farmer factory of Winsor & Newton Ltd., artists' colourmen. Not all meetings and visits will be mentioned in the Newsletter, so if you'd like to help (and we do need it!) please get in touch with me. David Thomas

The Bedfont Gunpowder Mills

Phil Philo and John Mills have written a booklet outlining the archaeology of the Bedfont Gunpowder Mills (GLIAS Newsletter June 1984). This well printed and interesting booklet outlines the history and describes the workings of the mill, which existed on Hounslow Heath from the 17th century until the 1920s. The mill was operated by water power from the Duke of Northumberland's River, but later gave way to steam power. This booklet is available from Phil Philo at the Gunnersbury Park Museum, Gunnersbury Park, London W3 8LQ. The price is ₤1. Editor

Letters to the editor

From Mr. and Mrs. John Parker. Some Newsletter snippets:

London Hydraulic Power
Most GLIAS members probably know that the London Hydraulic Power Co. has been sold to Mercury Communications, who will use the fibre optic, cable ducts. Work on the change of use is going on all over the City. We have taken several photographs of bits of discarded cast-iron pipes, junctions, valves, joints, etc. and have staggered home with a valve cover in remembrance!

We have also been able to see inside the top of the Tower Subway. The spiral stairs have gone, and the shaft is filled with chequer plate platforms connected by near vertical steel ladders. At the top behind tho door, were a pair of water flow meters, an instrument like a mercury manometer, and an ancient telephone complete with uncased hand-cranked magneto generator.

Broad Street Station and surrounds
The whole area is being redeveloped. The main station has gone, and there are chances to see (and photograph) various bits of structure before they finally go. But you will have to do it soon!

Hydraulic Jiggers
There are a number of these lying in a heap, with various cast-iron columns, at the back of St. Katharine Dock, next to East Smithfield. It looks as if the eventual intention is to pick them up and, put them on some sort of public display.

A Working Steam Crane
We visited the new Dockyard Museum at Chatham, recently. It will take years to develop fully, but we were most interested to see that the exhibits include a number of locomotive steam cranes. One, a 5-tonner, by Grafton of Bedford, is in private hands, and we were lucky enough to see it in steam. Not a common sight these days.

That is all the snippets, for the moment. However, we saw, at the end of the AIA bulletin, Vol. 12, No. 3, a note suggesting that Industrial Archaeologists should include in their Wills an instruction to their Executors to offer to a suitable body (GLIAS, in London?) all their research material for evaluation and possible retention. This seems to us to be an excellent idea. May we suggest that the gist of the note is worthy of reproduction in a GLIAS Newsletter. John Parker

The Crown Works, Vauxhall, SW8

Amongst the many well-known business enterprises that have been associated with the Vauxhall area, is the building contracting firm of Higgs & Hill which, until 1967, occupied the site now covered by Ebbisham Drive and Bannerman House. Just one hundred years before, in 1867, William Higgs, a successful building contractor, whose work had included Chelsea Barracks and Sturgeon's Tabernacle, bought the four-acre market garden site at Vauxhall. In 1870 he moved his office there and started to fit out a yard.

In 1873, wishing to retire, William Higgs proposed a merger between his son William and Rowland and Joseph Hill, the latter married to a close friend of Higgs' daughter Lettie. The Hill brothers, who had just inherited their father's building business in Islington, moved to Clapham and the new business commenced at Vauxhall in 1874. When purchasing the site, William Higgs senior had also acquired an adjoining site to the east, fronting Kennington Oval and in 1875 he built a row of houses — now numbers 60-63 Kennington Oval and 96-106 (even) Harleyford Road — and on the land behind them, the Crown Baths, a speculative private swimming pool which was well patronised in the days before the introduction of municipal baths.

The pools were heated by waste steam from the building yard's beam engine. The baths no longer function but the building still stands and is now occupied by the marble works of Messrs. J. Whitehead & Sort. The Vauxhall yard comprised workshops for carpenters, joiners, stonemasons, blacksmiths, plumbers and glaziers, an extensive timber store, and stables for up to twenty horses. One of the most prestigious contracts of the new partnership was the Tate Gallery, just across the river, built between 1893 and 1897. In 1898 the firm became a Limited Liability Company. At around this time mechanics were paid 8¾d (3½p) per hour, painters 7 2/3d (2½p) and apprentices around 1d (½p) per hour. In 1902 King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra travelled to Dartmouth to lay the foundation stone of the Royal Naval Training College. For this contract stone from Portland was taken to Vauxhall to be dressed and then returned to Dartmouth by boat. In 1909 the company built the new London. Chatham and Dover section of Victoria Station.

During the 1914-18 War the company undertook contracts for munitions factories and gun emplacements while later production was switched to prefabricated buildings and aircraft parts. At one time around one hundred women were employed operating sewing machines to assemble the fabric coverings fir aircraft wings. A piggery was also set up alongside the stables at the Crown Works to help boost the supply of home-produced food. At the end of the war a canteen was opened and shortly after this the 'Crown Orchestra' was formed to play at important functions as well as entertaining the workers during their lunch break. A works committee was also set up, together with a sports club, and works outings were arranged. The company's last horse was pensioned off in 1922 to be replaced by a fleet of steam and petrol-driven lorries.

During the twenties, Higgs and Hill were responsible for many of London's well-known landmarks, including the Park Lane Hotel, Liberty's, Swan & Edgar, and India House, while at Chiltern Court (1929) they used a 145ft tower crane, one of the first to be used in the country. During the next decade contracts included the London Fire, Brigade Headquarters on Albert Embankment and the extension to County Hall.

Again in the Second World War, work was switched to airfields, factories and air-raid shelters including the massive citadel in Horseferry Road which still survives beneath the Marsham Street offices of the DoE. During an air-raid in 1940 one third of the Crown Works was destroyed by fire but it was later rebuilt, and the firm continued to operate there until it eventually moved to New Maldon in 1967. Post-war contracts included the completion of the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and the Hayward Gallery and in recent years the company has been responsible for the London Weekend Television Centre, the Croydon Flyover, and a number of hospitals and university buildings, as well as numerous projects in the West Indies.

GLIAS are grateful to the Vauxhall Society for permission to reprint this article, which appears in their November Newsletter.

Gazetteer of London industrial archaeology: Lambeth — Clapham

Clapham map (Note — sites 550-606 will appear in following Newsletters)

This completes the Lambeth Gazetteer. Previous parts appeared in Newsletters Nos. 69, 78, 79, 91 & 95.

Clapham is simply a lot of Victorian streets infilling between main roads with the remnant of a village centre around Old Town. There is no IA theme or large factory. All the industrial sites started small and many never grew. The list is arranged for most locations to be seen on foot in an afternoon; an extension covers the rest. All are in postal district SW4 except 646/7/9 (SW8). We have relied heavily on publications of the Clapham Society (Secretary, John Howe, 26 Lynette Avenue, SW4) for information. All sites, except 653, were noted on 17.11.85. Kevin Woolridge and David Thomas

607 53 Acre Lane Garage, late 1920s façade, of Escott, motor van builders and for a short time, Carrimore Coaches. Now timber store. (Opposite, behind 86/8, is one-time Cheltenham Works of Rodant & Co., where "Cheltenham Mineral Water" was concocted. The firm invented the Crown Cap.)

608 79 Acre Lane. Chunky 1920s offices of New Imperial Laundry; washing shed behind. Built to serve a chain of some 20 receiving shops in south London. In use.


609 Junction Landor Road/King's Avenue. Disused two-bay granite horse trough; Metropolitan, etc.

610 Mandrell Road/Mauleverer Road, Brixton, depot of Carter, Patterson, carriers, rebuilt and extended 1904. One and two floor buildings around a cobbled yard, with later infill.

611 199-213 Lyham Road. The three-floor façade of 1905 unifies the several buildings of Williamsons Ltd.'s bakery. Disused. (The rear entrance to Brixton prison is adjacent; you will be watched.)

612 72 Park Hill. Former residence surrounded by garages and workshops in late 1920s (as was 74). In 1946-59, the chassis of some 2,000 custom-built Allard sports cars were assembled here. The firm eventually closed in 1977. Book: "Allard" by J H Haynes, 1976.

613 Rear 11 Park Hill. Modest little factory, spoilt by additions. c1911 for the Direct Supply Aerated Water Co., who had fizzed off by the early 1920s.

614 154 Clapham Park Road. A right hotch-potch of workshops, on which more research is needed. Apparently some 1880s workshops for an ornamental leather works, others of 1920s. Includes works of Weimar pianos, trading name of Whelpdale, Maxwell & Codd Ltd, alias Bluther Pianos, since c1935.

615 The route to Clapham Common tube station passes a few bits and pieces in Crescent Lane:

616 Clapham Common tube. Odd mini dome over steps to booking office. 1926 rebuild of 1900 terminus (City & South London Railway) when line extended to Morden. Original entrance was on corner of Clapham Park Road; site used for access to a Deep Shelter (see Site 634) and hidden by advertisement hoardings. Above the station, a 1920 wooden tram shelter and mediocre 1906 clock.

617 Fountain of UK Temperance & General Provident Institution, 1884; moved here from afront their offices, Adelaide Place, London Bridge, in 1895.

618 4 North Side. 1916 steel-framed factory for Ross Ltd, manufacturers of spectacle, telescope, photographic, etc., lenses; claimed as first to make photographic lenses in England. Founded 1830, smaller previous building on this site c.1890.

619 4 Old Town. Sycamore laundry, family run, where garments of Royalty (and others) are laundered "traditionally". Founded 1865, took over this 1787 house, by then a Girls' Reformatory, 1890s. The work is done in premises to rear, a mix of old and new.

620 Maritime House, Old Town. Fish and a small ship's prow on frontage of 1939 HQ of National Union of Seamen.

621 1 Polygon Building of 1792, a shop since at least 1860, has no fewer than seven half-jars advertising as shop of oil and colourman (for do-it-yourself paint mixing). (>>>)

© Sidney Ray

622 Fire Station 1868, replaced 1902. Site of two doors easily seen.

623 20-24 Bromells Street wholesale shop and warehouse dating from 1890s of H Davis, ironmonger; recently closed.

624 64a Venn Street. Winsor Works, 1903, built for Mr. Bonekemper for manufacture of boot and shoe laces; went walkies mid 1940s.

625 66 Venn Street. Curious little postmen's office, 1902, weighed down by the coat of arms.

626 For those with a social history bent, diversion to 42 Clapham Manor Street. 1850 Clapham Dispensary, though no sign now of origin.

627 146 High Street. Original façade of Majestic opened August 1914. Actual Cinema in Stonehouse Street.


628 47 High Street. Temperance Billiard Hall, c1910, currently empty.


629 41 High Street. Imposing frontage of 1911 Public Hall. Occupied by Cannon's, motor spares; one of several premises of the family firm which started as a bicycle shop in Mitcham in 1907.

630 11 Tremadoc Road. Disused factory in 1870 Orphanage. Quite a long two-floor range. Either being demolished or refurbished.

631 29 High Street. Cross the road to read the painted sign above the shop which advertises its status, c1922-28, as the Music Roll Exchange.

632 Clapham BR station, Voltaire Road. Probably London, Chatham & Dover Railway, 1867. A pleasant ramble of one- and two-storey buildings on the 'up' side, now occupied by an antiques firm. Passengers use a side entrance in Gauden Road for the peak hour only service; canopy removed 1984/5.

633 Clapham North tube. Unmemorable 1924-6 rebuild.

634 Clapham North Deep Shelter. Opposite 381 Clapham Road is a round concrete block, about 20ft high and 20ft diameter, surrounded by a brick wall. Built (as were seven others) for use as wartime shelters on the route of a projected 'express' tube line to duplicate the Northern Line.

635 Rear 376 Clapham Road/15-19 Union Road. Savoy Hotel Laundry of early 1920s, with additions. In use.

636 Windmill PH (Young's, highly popular). Some buildings of 1730s contemporary with post mill; the only sign of it now is the sign.

637 Quick peek at rear of 73 South Side in Narbonne Road — former games room of Eagle House, of which only the gateway post eagles remain.

638 Nearly opposite Cavendish Road, Another grotty milestone, 1745.

639 Balham Hill 1916 Women's Hospital, overshadowed by 1935 extension.

640 Clapham South Deep Shelter (see 634)

641 Just outside the Borough, Clapham South tube. 1924-6. More recognisably Holden style. Originally single storey with steel frame for later addition; Westbury Court added 1937.

642 Bandstand. 1862, for the Royal Horticultural Society's Kensington exhibition; here 1890.


643 Opposite Victory Rise — a third milestone; 1745.

644 Outside 50 The Chase. Penfold letter box, 1869, hexagonal design.

645 84 The Chase. Factory, probably 1880s, for Branaon & Co., manufacturers of coffee extract, essence and chicory. Firm founded 1875, and here until 1950s. Original factory later extended.

646 636/8 Wandsworth Road. Large Temperance Billiard Hall, c1910. Probably no coincidence that site previously Meek's, later South London Brewery. Ugly bingo frontage addition.

647 516 Wandsworth Road. Imposing grey stock brick four floor block, c1870. Archway, rusticated, to brewery behind; bits 1820, but nothing to look at (and difficult to actually see; try from Newby Street).


648 43 Netherford Road. Cute 1902 LCC office for Weights & Measures testers. (Other adjacent buildings — Coroner's Court; local taxation offices.)

649 401½ Wandsworth Road. Stall factory, surrounded by grassed-over sites of demolished buildings, of the shtort-lived Battersea Wholesale Confectionery Co., 1890-1903 (approx.)

650 Opposite, at 274 the Bell PH has nice tiles in porch, "Webb & Co., Tile & Mosaic Works, 294 Euston Road".

651 Really part of the Stockwell list; Marquis of Lorne PH, corner Combermere/Mordaunt Street. Pretty yellow, green and brown tiled ground floor façade.

652 Lyham Road. South Western Hospital, rambling Victorian pile, originally fever hospital; not investigated.

653 Observant Members will note that no sites are listed for the far south-west of Clapham. Well, for an expedition, go to Weir Road, where several large houses of the 1860s have been replaced by C20 industrial premises, etc. The best two are the Weir Hospital (maternity) and, at No. 7, what was in 1980 Benson's Hosiery factory.

Lighthouses in London

Trinity House have asked if we can advise of any buildings which have lighthouses as an architectural feature. The four which are known are given below. Please send details of any further sightings to David Thomas.

1. Abbey National Building, 217-229 Baker Street NWS (1932) The Association's company symbol appears in portland stone on the façade.

2. 59½ Southwark Street SE1 A shipping warning bell (buoy), a pun on the name of Bell's United Asbestos Co. Ltd, is above the door.

3. Ocean House, 36-44 Moorgate EC2 HQ of the Ocean Accident & Guarantee Corporation is suitably illuminated. Part of their advertisement from 1918 edition of Kelly's Directory is shown.

4. 60 Borough High Street SE1 There is a lighthouse carved in brick over the door. This was a branch office of the same company from about 1900-1964.

The Corporation had other branches: are any others so endowed? (>>>)

Next issue >>>

© GLIAS, 1985