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Notes and news — April 1986

In this issue:

News snips

CANNON STREET STATION. The towers at the river end of the brick walls which used to support the overall roof are to have gilded cupolas fitted after restoration of the brickwork.

ST. PANCRAS STATION. At last the restoration of the former hotel is going to continue and it is to become a hotel again, with some 400 beds.

BUBBLES IN ELEPHANT. The Bubble Theatre Company has been given a £37,500 grant to convert industrial buildings in Elephant Lane, Rotherhithe (hard by the Sufferance Wharf Workshops, Tunnel Wharf and Brunel Engine House) to a theatre. (GLIAS Walk No. 5 passes the site).

BRASS IN THE BASEMENT. T.A. Harries Ltd. until the 1940s at Blackfriars Rd, SE1, intend to open a replica of their former brassware and plumbing shop, at present premises at 134 Old Kent Rd, SE1. Any members with photos, artefacts, etc. are asked to contact the firm.

MAJESTIC SHOW. Majestic Wine Warehouse opened at the former Odeon/Liberty Cinema, Balham Hill, SW12 in November. The 1930s glazed tile frontage has been retained, although the auditorium was demolished. Dave Thomas

Help wanted

Researching the contractors' railways used in the construction of L.C.C. Council Estates in the 1920s. Those currently being researched are:

All had materials brought in from the main line railways but Becontree was an extensive line since it went as far as the River Thames to a pier, where materials were offloaded from sailing barges. Any recollections, information, newspaper references, or photographs, on a loan basis welcome. Please phone Dick Riley, on 460-4339.

Snow Hill railway tunnel

Work has recently started on reconstructing this tunnel prior to reinstating a north-south rail link over the Thames. It formed the western side of a triangular junction between the Metropolitan Railway and the London Chatham and Dover Railway, much of it being below the Smithfield area. The work will involve the laying of a very sharp curve at the east end of Farringdon station (Midland lines) into the double track tunnel and extension of the platforms towards King's Cross. This incidentally means that at least part of the trains entering the tunnel will have to start on a 1 in 29 gradient, among the steepest on BR.

The end of the tunnel is just below the eastern concourse of Holborn Viaduct Station. The new connection, unlike the old, will be for passenger traffic only and this will involve new dual electric stock being constructed. The changeover from overhead to third rail pick up will be in Farringdon Station. The first stage of the work, that is the installation of lighting, has just been completed and the start of reconstruction and track laying is about to begin. The link is planned to open in May 1987. The following brief notes describe something of the interesting history of this link.

10 January 1863: Farringdon Street (1st station) opened by Metropolitan Railway replaced by Farringdon Street (2nd station) 1st March 1866. This station was called Farringdon High Holborn from 1922 to 1936.

1854: LC&DR line to City opened to terminus at Blackfriars Bridge (south end) on 1st June. On completion of the bridge over the River, the line was extended to a temporary City terminus (Little Earl Street) on 21st December. The permanent station at Ludgate Hill opened 1st June 1865.

1st January 1866: A link between West St. June and Ludgate Hill via Snow Hill opened for LC&DR passenger traffic and GNR two days later. Goods traffic started on 20th February following. This underground link included a 1 in 32 descent from the viaduct at Ludgate down to the Met. The intermediate station at Snow Hill (from 1912 called Holborn Viaduct Low Level) did not open until 1st August 1874. Services via this new link soon included:

1860: The dead meat market at Smithfield reopened in its new building.

1st September 1871: A new eastbound rail spur connecting the Snow Hill link with Aldersgate Street and running below the market opened. LCGR trains now ran through to Moorgate. A substantial GNR goods depot developed below Smithfield.

2nd March 1874: Holborn Viaduct Station opened by LC&DR. Ludgate Hill declines in importance.

1886: Second rail bridge across Thames at Blackfriars and new station at St. Paul's (now Blackfriars) opened 10th May.

1st July 1908: Snow Hill to Farringdon closed to passenger traffic due to lack of trade. Some summer specials continued to use the link. Passengers could still go into Moorgate.

1914-1918: The Snow Hill line was a major war artery and because of this line being finally closed to all passenger traffic (1st June), goods traffic could then run uninterrupted.

3rd March 1929: Ludgate Hill Station closed by Southern Railway.

23rd March 1969: Line closed to goods traffic. Last train a BR (E) parcels train. Line officially closed and disconnected 3rd May 1971.

1864: 1864 railway bridge over Thames removed.

1986: Work starts to reinstate link.

David Perrett

Letters to the editor

From Mr. P.E. Bayman, Operations Manager, Docklands Light Railway:

I have recently had sight of a copy of the February Newsletter and I was interested to read the references to the Docklands Light Railway, particularly in John Parker's article (GLIAS Newsletter February 1986). Without wishing to be too critical, there are a few inaccuracies, the most substantial being Mr. Parker's assumption that current supply will be overhead, it will in fact be third rail. This will be a modern protected underrunning system which will be both safer than conventional systems and avoid the icing problems of the winter.

The existing rails on the Fenchurch Street viaduct will indeed be used by DLR trains on the section between Cannon Street Road (west of Shadwell) and Stepney East, which, incidentally, is to be renamed Limehouse. Some adjustment will be necessary to accommodate the DLR station at Shadwell.

The brick viaduct of the former London and Blackwall Railway to the west of Stepney is in good condition and only minor renovation is needed. Sadly, the cast iron balustrade on the Regent's Canal Dock is in most cases beyond repair, but it will be replaced by an exact replica in modern materials, this being a Grade II listed structure. The road bridges in this section are being replaced, but the old side girders are being renovated and re-used, albeit now relieved of their structural load.

Road bridges on the Poplar to Bow section have also been found to be sub-standard hence the rebuilding of most of them, including the one referred to at Devons Road. P E Bayman

From Mr. Jim Whitehead of Chesham, Bucks.

Further to my letter of 23th May 1984 about Mr. Berry's papers going to the Science Museum Library, the papers of the late Geoffrey Berry relating to the history of London's water supply have been listed and can be seen at the Science Museum Library. I will send a copy of the list on request.

The Science Museum Library is a modern building just off Imperial Institute Road at the side of the Science Museum and is in the Imperial College complex. It is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5.30pm. You should have some sort of identification (eg. bank card) plus evidence of address, if/when you go, to obtain a reader's ticket for the collections and rare books.

I am sorry to say that Mrs. E Berry died last February. There are three children of the marriage. Jim Whitehead

SEGAS — East Greenwich Gasworks

SEGAS have decided to mark the centenary of the largest gas holder in Europe by demolishing it — last week I was once again caught trespassing on East Greenwich Gasworks property.

East Greenwich No. 2 Gasholder was the biggest gasholder, the expression of what, the South Met. Gas Company was trying to do at East Greenwich — to show the world that they were the leading gas company — and to make that fact quite clearly visible in Beckton on the other side of the river.

East Greenwich Gasholder No1 guide frame alongside the even larger Gasholder No2, which was demolished not long afterwards. Malcolm Tucker, 15.6.1980

The works was built in the early 1880s embodying all that was most innovative in gas. There were, however, problems with the marshy ground and No. 1 holder (the one that's now still full of gas) had proved very expensive to build. For that reason it was decided not to build proper foundations for No. 2. The ground was excavated as far as the water table and then the base for the telescopic holder was built up out of the ground. This structure is now clearly visible as the holder is demolished. There was considered to be a risk that the holder would tilt in this shallow base and for this reason a great deal of research was done into the structure of the rollers. In addition a great deal of thought was given by the company to the effect of extraordinary wind pressures on the holder's surface. The eventual guide framing was constructed to what is described as a combination of the English radial and French tangential systems. An additional two 'flying lifts' projected from the top of the holder when it was full. The finished holder would take 12m. cubic feet of gas. At the time it was the biggest in the world.

Its enormous size was considered to be a very cheap way of storing gas. Worked out on the basis of its construction cost and the cost of rates, the price of gas storage was dramatically cut. An additional bonus was that very large amounts of gas could be stored over weekends and holiday periods thus cutting the amount of overtime that had to be paid in wages. The company had a strong ideological commitment to giving its workforce time off on Sundays for religious reasons. It must be remembered that by the end of the decade the Gas Workers' Union had organised partly round the abolition of Sunday working.

When, at 7.00pm on 19 January 1917 the Brunner Mond works at Silvertown blew up, the No. 2 gasholder at Greenwich ruptured and 8 million cubic feet of gas exploded. To the credit of Chief Valvesman Innes and his second, Percy, who were in charge of No. 2, they managed to switch the supply over to No. 1 and maintained the gas supply to South London. Memories of this are still extant in Greenwich.

Charlie Wellard in his biography, held at the Woodlands Local History Library, asked his mother: 'Is it the end of the world?' and an old lady at the time remembered seeing a red hot girder blown across the Thames to pierce No. 2 gasholder. Following this incident the two 'flying lifts' were removed and No. 2 assumed its final shape. It has always looked smaller than its (actually smaller) neighbour.

I stand to be corrected by people who know more than me on any fact in this but (to reassure SEGAS) all information comes from printed sources (Journal of Gas Lighting, Transactions of the Gas Institute and Co-partnership Journal). Mary Mills

Ramsgate visit

On 20th January 1985 our party travelled down to Ramsgate by train and was met at the station by Mr. Robert Matkin and members of the East Kent Maritime Trust who took us by car to the Clock House in the Royal Harbour. This building, listed Grade II* dates from 1805 when the engineer to the Harbour, Samuel Wyatt, prepared the first plans. Subsequent additions were made in 1809 by John Rennie, who succeeded Wyatt and the building reached its present form in 1817. The Clock House is notable in having a solar transit line and clockroom for the correction of ships' chronometers. This facility was established in 1819. The brass solar meridian line laid in an upstairs room was prised from the floor and stolen in the mid 1970s and has since been replaced by a wooden replica. Precisely how the sun's transit was observed is no longer known. The rooms of the Clock House now house a maritime museum for the Isle of Thanet and East Kent coast. Restoration was undertaken as an MSC project which started in 1932.

Inside the Clock House we noted among many exhibits an ingenious working model of the Smeaton Dry Dock opened in 1791 and upstairs admired a very well preserved 6lb bronze gun of Dutch manufacture dating from 1642 that had been recovered from a wreck on the Goodwin Sands. Many other items obtained by Marine Archaeology are on display. Diving on the Goodwin Sands is difficult due to poor visibility. The water is laden with sand and wrecks are uncovered for only a short time. Underwater archaeologists visiting a ship protruding from the sand often find a different vessel exposed at the same place only a short time later. The Dry Dock, adjacent to the Clock House, was originally built to designs of John Smeaton prepared in 1783 but owing to problems with the floor it was eight years before satisfaction was obtained. John Rennie extended the length of the dock to 130 feet in 1815/16. It had a useful life of 80 years before falling into disuse, later becoming a store for ice. Restoration of the dry dock commenced in 1981 with financial help from the MSC and the Thanet District Lotteries Fund. In its early days it was claimed to be the only commercial dry dock between the Thames and Bristol. The model of the dry dock in the Museum, made a few years ago, is so contrived that on pushing a button an electric pump drains the dock and a model ship settles on blocks along the bottom of the dock. It was planned to make the model ever more elaborate. Another ship repair facility at Ramsgate (full size) was a Morton Patent slipway. We saw no remains during the visit. Parts of a camera obscura, formerly at the West Pier of the Royal Harbour, have survived and it is intended to re-establish this near the Smeaton dry dock.

In the outer (wet) portion of the Dry Dock, the steam tug 'Cervia' is undergoing restoration by the East Kent Maritime Trust. Cervia was built in 1946 to a government wartime design by Alexander Hall & Co. of Aberdeen, her length overall is 104ft 10in with a beam 11ft 7in and she is 233 tons net. A good deal of her working life was spent on the Thames in the service of William Watkins Ltd. in whose colours she is now painted. On 25th October 1954, while towing the liner 'Arcadia' at Tilbury she capsized, killing the captain and four of the crew. Disasters of this kind are prevalent in traditional tug operations. Two days after the catastrophe she was refloated and brought to Ramsgate for repair, after which she continued working on the Thames.

Cervia's powerful 900ihp triple-expansion steam engine by A. Hall of Aberdeen proved a highlight of the visit. Cylinder diameters are 16¼ and 40 inches and the stroke 27 inches. Steam pressure was 190psi. Some time was spent exploring below. The vessel was built oil-fired and we were able to inspect the boiler room and peer through a furnace door. The last special Lloyds survey was carried out in December 1984 and Cervia is registered 100A1 and LMC.

After lunch a visit was made to the modern Port Ramsgate to the south of the Royal Harbour where we visited the terminal and new harbour construction works. A breakwater is being made by dumping rock brought from Sweden. The traffic of the Port is principally with the near Continent. Interesting parabolic concrete arches were noted in the cliff here. Between Port Ramsgate and the Royal Harbour there are several works to strengthen the cliff in strongly contrasting styles.

We should like to thank Mr. Robert Matkin for inviting us to Ramsgate and giving us a first rate tour. Thanks are also due to Port Ramsgate for the afternoon's visit. In Broadstairs we passed the Crampton Tower, formerly part of the water supply system and learned that Mr. Matkin is involved in a conservation project here. We wish this scheme as much success as the conservation work at the Royal Harbour, Ramsgate. (Mr. Crampton is well-known to railway enthusiasts for his locomotives had a pair of large driving wheels placed at the rear. SNCF has a preserved example.) Bob Carr

Lighthouses in London

GLIAS Newsletter December 1985 asked for any sightings. John and Bet Parker have quite rightly pointed out that the list given excluded those on Trinity House itself. Additionally they have kept their peepers peeled and come up with the following list. Can any members add to this, please?

(1) In the grey façade, depicting Scottish Industry, of the Clydesdale Bank at the corner of Lombard Street and Clements Lane.

(2) Pharos by ship, right centre of pediment on front of Royal Exchange.

(3) Merchant Navy Seamen's war memorial on Tower Hill, 1939-1945, statue of Neptune, centre back, has lighthouse beneath his left elbow.

(4) The Baltic Exchange in St. Mary Axe has one over the foundation stone to the left of its main entrance.

(5) There is another one over its back entrance in Bury Street.

(6) The City of London Polytechnic (formerly Electra House), 84 Moorgate, has a large lighthouse in the stained glass window over the main entrance.

(7) The Bank of New England, 119 Finsbury Pavement, has a stylised lighthouse as its logo. There are two, one in metal on the left wall and one in gold, on the glass window by the door.

(8) Royal Albert Hall, frieze, lighthouse over Eastern entrance No. 4.

(9) Trinity House repair depot, Blackwall Point. There is a brick, small lighthouse on the riverside. Additionally a buoy-style light adorns the road entrance gatepost.

(10) Institution of Civil Engineers has a lighthouse included in its coat of arms and this also appears in a stained glass window within its Birdcage Walk H.Q.

Dave Thomas

The Canal Museum Trust

The Canal Museum Trust has obtained a lease from the GLC of two small buildings on Battlebridge Basin, near King's Cross, with the intention of converting them into a museum of the Regent's Canal. Further information from Mrs. D. Hutchinson, 59 Gloucester Avenue, London NW1 7BA. Tel. 01-485-3271. Malcolm Tucker

Powerful dust — site visit — 17 May

WE WANT to use this opportunity to explain to members just what is involved in site work. We have arranged for several 'team leaders'. Please read on!


1. Thursday 8 May, 18.30 at 99 Southwark St, SE1 (Kirkaldy's). Planning meeting. To explain aims and brief members about the site. Members who intend to come to the site visit are urged to come to this meeting, or to let Peter Skilton, David Thomas or Tim Smith know by post or at the AGM
2. Saturday 17 May, 09.45 at Old Street Tube Booking Office. The site is nearby. Finish by 13.00. Old clothes, note pad, torch.
3. Monday 9 June, 18.30 at 99 Southwark St. Follow-up reunion.
4. Produce short, sharp, report as a Newsletter supplement.


An inter-related collection of buildings erected by Shoreditch Vestry. A refuse destructor (F) burned household rubbish (largely ash). It included a boiler to raise steam to drive electricity generating plant in (B). The steam probably then passed on to heat swimming pools next door.


All buildings are now largely gutted of equipment, but we hope to be able to trace enough to tell us what went on. And one roof is unusual (see sketch).

Half of roof of the destructor


1. This is a nice site for beginners and we haven't had a similar opportunity for training for a while. It's got interest without being too complex.

2. It survives. The buildings go back to the late 1880s and are the sole reminder of several integrated destructor/generating installations. As such, we want to make a record, with history, because it will add to knowledge of London's I.A.. Also, the intent is to refurbish, so site work now can .............

Southwark Street, SE1 — Menier and Willcox

June 1985 holidays took me to Paris, where I visited the Cimetière de l'Est to see the Menier family tomb and to Noisiel, on the eastern outskirts. Here is an industrial village set out around the Menier chocolate factory; I am happy to supply further details.

Menier also had a London factory and a few years ago Joyce Remmett did some research, reproduced here. Southwark Street was laid out in 1864 and various Victorian factories and warehouses were put up. Menier was early on the scene and occupied numbers 49-53 by 1871, remaining there until 1947, when the premises were acquired by the present owners, Willcox & Co. Ltd.

The site is two separate buildings in similar style, linked by a walkway over a service alley. Although the above photograph was taken in 1977 (showing, incidentally, part of the now-demolished Metropolitan Junction signal box), the 1986 appearance is very similar. A very faded painted advertisement from Menier days is just visible from passing trains.

Menier chocolate, with English language wrapping paper, is now distributed in the U.K. by Chas. Southwell & Co. Ipswich; their depot off Bermondsey Wall West (and jam factory) closed many years ago.

Willcox was founded in 1878, moving from premises in Upper Thames Street to 36 Southwark Street in 1880. The firm was both an engineers' suppliers and a refiner of lubricating oil. The firm grew and by 1912, when a new building was erected for then at No.38, they had taken over 32, 34 and 23 Southwark St, as well as premises in nearby Castle, Redcross, Emmerson and Worcester Streets. The accompanying advertisement from the 1900 edition of Kelly's Directory shows how the firm had diversified by then, it does not, however, mention a wholly-owned subsidiary set up in 1897, the Jones-Willcox Patent Wire Bound Hose Co, which currently uses premises in Peacock Street. This latter Company was until 1976 at 47/8 Bankside; the derelict building still has the name. Members are urged to hurry if wishing to see this — the site is where the proposed replica Globe Theatre will (perhaps) be built.

Mr. Willcox Snr. died in 1923, leaving an estate worth £130,000. In spite of some war damage, the firm remains in Southwark Street and area. The John Harvard Library has a number of items on Willcox, including a centenary brochure and a detailed catalogue. Dave Thomas

Special AGM notice

A proposal has been made to alter the Constitution in respect of elections to the Committee. This is included in the formal Notice for the AGM. The proposer, David Thomas, writes:

I must emphasise that this proposal is in no way intended to be a criticism of the present Committee, but rather an attempt to ensure that new members come forward to help in running the Society. It is effectively a reinstatement of a clause which was removed at the 1981 AGM, since when there has been only one year (1985) at which there has been a contest for any Committee post and none at all for the Officer posts. Tim Smith

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© GLIAS, 1986