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Notes and news — June 1986

In this issue:

GLIAS Annual General Meeting

The 18th Annual General Meeting of the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society was held at 2.30pm. on Saturday, 26th April 1986, at the City and East London College, Bunhill Row, London EC1.

1. Apologies for absence were received from the President, Michael Robbins, who sent the Society his best wishes for a happy and successful meeting.

2. Approval of the Minutes of the 17th AGM, circulated in Newsletter No. 98, was proposed by Bill Firth and seconded by David Perrett. The meeting concurred.

3. Hugh Marks was appointed Auditor, proposed by Robert Vickers and seconded by Peter Skilton.

4. The unaudited accounts were presented by the Hon. Treasurer, Danny Hayton. There had been a fall in subscriptions by affiliated groups, offset by the ½p off second class postage. Publications expenditure had included the Index, three walks and the Notelets. Last year's AGM had cost more and the insurance costs had increased. Pam Carr asked if, in future, the lecture series could be put as a separate item of expenditure. The Treasurer said that the Society had some 350 individual members (including families) and 46 affiliated. He advised the meeting of the Society's position with regard to the Data Protection Act, saying that registration was unnecessary. Peter Skilton proposed acceptance of the accounts, subject to audit, and this was seconded by Jill Vickers and carried, nem. con. The Chairman proposed a vote of thanks to Danny and to Sue Hayton, for her work as membership secretary.

5. In his Chairman's report, Denis Smith said that the previous year had been busy and important. The Society had been founded in 1968, taking its focus and geographical area from the GLC formed three to four years earlier. He saw no reason to change either the Society's name nor its sphere of influence, with the demise of the GLC. The Committee had continued its tradition of regular meetings with exemplary attendance, each member having specific tasks to do and skills to offer. The Chairman expressed gratitude to the Architectural Association for use of its accommodation for Committee Meetings and to the City and East London College for their hospitality for the lecture series. The Society had continued to provide the range of activities demanded by members despite the increasing problems posed by the conflicting requirements of the Health and Safety At Work Act and the need to cater for the disabled. A Sub-committee was exploring ways in which GLIAS could increase its level of activities and possibly provide an overall view of IA in London following the demise of the GLC. Increasingly GLIAS was being seen as a body to be reckoned with and was consulted by planning authorities, water authorities, and others, The "Green" movement welcomed our co-operation with projects such as the future of the New River and the Middlesex filter beds. GLIAS was consulted about the proposals for Battersea Power Station and had been involved over the future of the Grahame-White building at Hendon and the William Morris site on the Wandle.

The Chairman thanked all involved with Newsletter production, Charlie Thurston and his wife, Robin and Pat Brooks and Derek Needham. He thanked Mary Mills for producing the Index. He apologised for the lack of a journal, but members had been involved with other publications such as 'Dockland' for which we owed a debt of gratitude to Bob Carr. Sales of publications continued at an incredible level though 700 Journal 3 and 800 Journal 2 were still in stock. The Chairman went on to thank individual members of the Committee for their work in the past year.

6. David Thomas reported the various activities of the Recording Group with site reports produced on a Shellac works, an artificial tooth manufacturers and, in the London Archaeologist Bedfont Gunpowder Mills. Production of town trails and the gazetteer continued. Sites visited included Harrods at Barnes and several sites in Camden, in conjunction with the Camden History Society. The forthcoming visit to Coronet Street was publicised.

7. The Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer were re-elected, unopposed, as were the rest of the Committee with the exception of Diana Willment who stood down and whose place was taken by Mary Mills.

8. David Thomas proposed an addition to Clause 8 of the Constitution, to read:

John Parker seconded the proposal, which, after considerable discussion, was put to the vote and was lost with three in favour, thirty seven against and ten abstentions.

It was agreed that Barry Hearndon be co-opted to serve on the Committee and that the new Committee would address the whole question of the constitution.

The formal business was followed by a lecture by Ken Powell on "Saving Britain's Heritage". Tim Smith (Hon Secretary)

News from Dockland

The Docklands Light Railway proceeds apace. Meanwhile, there has been rebuilding and a number of demolitions. At St. Katharine's a new building, which at present from a distance looks almost as if it might have been designed by Philip Hardwick, is rising on the site of "C" warehouse. New Crane Wharf is being refurbished. Basically it is in a sound state. At Free Trade Wharf almost nothing remains, apart from the two East India Company saltpetre warehouses of 1795 which are undergoing restoration. The original Western wing of the 1795 configuration has been demolished and the warehouse keeper's house by the river. Between Butcher Row and the North Quay of the West India docks, the former London and Blackwall Railway viaduct of 1840, disused since 1962, is being renovated to take the new light railway. The bridge by the main entrance to the West India Docks, which carried the London and Blackwall Railway over the West India Dock Road, is being replaced. On the Isle of Dogs the well-known landmark of McDougall's granary has disappeared. This reinforced concrete granary stood on the South side of Millwall Outer Dock, close to the site of the original mill of 1869 which was destroyed by fire. McDougall's invented self-raising flour. Grain traffic used to be a big feature of Millwall Dock.

The 1922 cable ship John W Mackay, formerly in the river at Enderbys' dolphins, can now be seen in the West India docks. Captain Scott's 'Discovery' has gone to Dundee and the 'Kathleen & May' is in the new St. Mary Overy dry dock with work being carried out on her prior to opening there. During the cold weather earlier this year there was a considerable amount of ice about in the docks. Some preparatory work appears to have started at Canary Wharf. Three office blocks 260 metres (850 feet) high are proposed here. For comparison the London Telecom Tower (formerly Post Office Tower) completed in 1964 is 177 metres (580 feet) high, surmounted by a 12 metre (39 feet) mast, making a total height of 189 metres (620 feet). The Nat West Tower, Bishopsgate, finished in 1980, is 52 storeys, 183 metres (600 feet) high. (I.K. Brunel's 'Great Eastern' was 211 metres (693 feet) long.) It remains to be seen if the Isle of Dogs will resemble Manhattan in five to ten years' time. The three bridges across the West India Docks for the light railway are completed. Some track has been laid to the East of Millwall Dock and items of rolling stock have been noted. At the southern end of the Docklands Light Railway, by Island Gardens, the terminus is nearing completion. Worth noting just to the East of the railway bridge, on the north side of Manchester Road, is a small concrete ladies' and gents' public convenience with pitched roof and large iron ventilators on top. The nearby LCC fire station on the corner of West Ferry Road and East Ferry Road is likely to be demolished in a year or two. It is in "Queen Anne" style and dates from 1904. The cottages behind are said to have been built as married quarters for firemen.

To the North East of the Isle of Dogs the Preston's Road graving dock, opened in 1878, is being surrounded by a new housing development for which the dock (full of water) will form the central feature. The ship repair works at this dock are all but obliterated. The caisson of the dry dock (weighted with cannon balls) is to be dispensed with.

A little to the North, to the West of Preston's Road, a new housing development presses close to the water at the Blackwall Entrance but to the East of the road swing bridge (1897 by Sir Alexander Binnie, hydraulic machinery by Armstrong's, likely to be demolished soon), the derelict entrance lock of 1894 is still much as before. Apart from accumulator towers little remains above ground level at Poplar Docks and the wall along Preston's Road has been breached. To the East, a new road scheme will bring about the demolition of the curiously named Victorian pub, the 'Marshall Keate' (popular locally) and even worse the former house of the shipbuilder George Green and family, at the entrance to Blackwall Yard in Blackwall Way, is to go. This building, dating from the mid-19th century, has an imposing central stairwell with ship models displayed on the walls and has been in use as offices for Blackwall Yard. It was hoped that a blue plaque commemorating George Green would be placed on the house but it is probably now too late to save this building.

As part of the Thames Market Centre on the site of the East India Import Dock it is proposed to erect two 160 metre (525 feet) high office blocks which would rival the Canary Wharf scheme. Architects are the Sir Basil Spence partnership and consulting engineers Ove Arup and Partners. The whole, relatively derelict area around the mouth of Bow Creek is the subject of a study regarding future development. Industrial archaeologists are advised to visit this interesting locality before the changes come. Some traditional maritime activity is still in progress. The wharf on Bow Creek used by J.J. Prior Ltd., for its fleet of snail sand-carrying coasters is still in use and a vessel was noted out of the water on the slipway recently. Across on the Essex side of the river, railway track has been lifted and cut up at the site of Thames Ironworks, lag developments are expected shortly at Victoria Dock. T. & V. Warehouses have been demolished and the Board of Trade building in Connaught Road has been cleared away. East of the Royal Docks, it is said that preparatory foundation work has started for the proposed new road bridge across the Thames. South of the river the celebrated large gas holder at East Greenwich gasworks has gone (GLIAS Newsletter April 1986). Further West in Rotherhithe, what looks like a freshly refurbished warehouse is in fact a new development. It will soon be difficult to distinguish fakes from the real thing! Bob Carr

Regent's Canal news

At the Regent's Canal Dock members of GLIAS and the Ragged School Museum Trust have been surveying the early hydraulic accumulator tower thought to date from 1852. Shrubs, small trees, and much rubbish have been cleared to reveal features of the tower. The dock itself is largely disused with only the odd narrow boat passing through to keep the herons company. A report will be produced in due course.

At Camden, BWB have opened the toll house as an information centre and have included a splendid exhibition illustrating the history of the canal. This is well worth a visit by GLIAS members. Tim Smith

News from Kew, May 1986

As many GLIAS members will already know, Kew Bridge Engines is passing through a period of considerable change and development. We are now officially open to the public seven days a week, although we continue to steam the engines only at weekends and on Bank Holiday Mondays.

March 1985 saw the first steaming for 41 years of the newly restored 1838 Maudslay Cornish cycle beam engine, when we were pleased to welcome GLIAS members. This brings to six the number of major engines restored to steam at Kew. In October 1985 we took over the Carpenters' Shop from Thames Water, and this is now the museum entrance. This large area is used as a working space, but has been useful for temporary exhibitions, auctions, parties, etc. There have been many suggestions for its use, but it is earmarked for an exhibition on the history of London's water supply. In November 1985 our tenth birthday as a museum was celebrated with a fireworks party. The 1930s Diesel House was officially taken over in April 1986 and will eventually house internal combustion engines from Bewdley, Woodcote and Fortis Green, in addition to one of its existing Allen diesel engines.

The new Pumping Station in the remaining filter bed to the west of the museum is finished and rerouting of the water mains complete. This has had the dual effect of stemming the spring outside the tea-room and isolating the 100 inch engine from the public supply, bringing the restoration of this magnificent engine one step nearer. Soon we will be taking over the remainder of the building adjoining the main steam hall, and the tea-room and visitors' toilets will be resited here. Once we have control over the whole site it will be possible to install permanent signposting, provide better visitor information and improve its general appearance. Work on rebuilding the 1910 James Simpson engine from Waddon in the main hall will start soon, and it is planned to have this in steam early in 1980. Negotiations are in hand for the repair of the cornices of the stand-pipe tower and conservation work on the 90 and 100 inch engine house. A longer term project is the refurbishment of the Old Trust Office as an archive room available for the study of records and books related to water supply history. Within the next month we hope to have an HSC team working on the building of a new workshop. There are many other projects under discussion, such as a narrow gauge railway, a water wheel and restoration of the 100 inch engine.

The museum is in great demand as a venue for video, film and photographic sessions, club meetings, discos, parties, concerts, auctions, lectures, rallies, etc, and continues with its programme of special events. A new venture this year was the first Stationary Engine Rally early in May. We continue to undertake contract work for many organisations and individuals; and act in an advisory capacity on matters of engine conservation and restoration. At present we are restoring three engines for the Science Museum, a grain pump from Victoria Dock for the LDDC and a Maclaren traction engine and Foden steam wagon for private owners.

As you can see, there is plenty of work to be done as well as plenty to be seen at Kew. With only four full-time and three part-time staff, the museum relies heavily on volunteers and new volunteers are always welcome. But whether as visitor or volunteer, we look forward to seeing you at Kew this year. Diana Willment
Information from Kew Bridge Engines, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, Middlesex. Tel. 01-560-4757

Letters to the editor

From Daron H. Gunson. Mr. Gunson writes:
One of my hobbies is collecting old editions of Whitaker's Almanack. I recently came across a copy of the 1932 edition. The section on "Science and Invention of 1931" contains an interesting item relating to a new cast-iron road at Romford Road, Stratford. It reads:

I wonder if any GLIAS member has any information about what became of the road sand the idea? Any particulars would be gratefully received.
Replies to Mr. Daron H. Gunson, 17 Woodway, Button Mount, Brentwood, Essex.

The London and Greenwich Railway Gas Company

150 years ago on Wednesday 14th December 1836 London's first passenger railway was opened with due ceremony by the Lord Mayor of London, Thomas Kelly. To celebrate this historic occasion a number of events have been organised through 1986 with a major exhibition at Cannon Street Station. One development undertaken by the London and Greenwich Railway that is unlikely to feature in the celebrations was the formation of a separate company to manufacture gas for the railway. This concern later became involved with public supply, and during their twenty years of existence added a further chapter to the complex history of the gas industry in South East London.

The London and Greenwich Railway obtained their first Act in May 1833 and construction began in February 1834 of nearly four miles of railway between London Bridge and Greenwich. The route chosen after cutting through an area of slums near London Bridge ran over open ground crossed with lanes and drainage ditches. To avoid numerous level crossings the company's engineer, Lieutenant Colonel G. T. Landmann R.E. opted for an elevated railway built on brick arches, a solution to be adopted by other urban railways to follow. When complete the railway consisted of 878 arches including larger spans over Bermondsey St., the Surrey Canal, Deptford High Street, and a lifting bridge over Deptford Creek to accommodate shipping. A tree-lined walkway was provided on the south side of the railway, open to the public at a toll of one penny, and an access road on the north side. The railway viaduct was lit by gas with over 200 lamp standards spaced at 22 yard intervals, ostensibly to allow police to signal trains at night. In an age where street lighting outside towns was yet unknown, the viaduct lit at night must have provided quite a spectacle. Gas was supplied by contract from the Phoenix Gas Company, which by coincidence had a works within a mile of each terminus, at eight shillings per thousand cubic feet from September 1836.

It was intended to convert some of the arches into dwellings, and two demonstration houses were set up in Deptford during 1835. A six-room house was built into the arch of the 28-foot wide viaduct, each arch having a span of 18 feet and a height of 20 feet. To avoid the problem of having a chimney on a railway viaduct, not only was gas to be used for lighting but also for cooking and heating. Thus with a prospect of a considerable demand for gas to light the viaduct, walkway and dwellings, the Greenwich Railway set up the London and Greenwich Railway Gas Company in 1835 with a nominal capital of £20,000, with Lt. Col. Landmann as engineer, and directors as for the railway. A works was built by the railway between Creek Road and Deptford Creek, approached through what became known as the Gas Arch. However, the housing development was doomed to failure. It was claimed that the dwellings were cramped, the crowns of the arches leaked, and the passing of trains caused vibration. No doubt problems would have been experienced using gas for heating and cooking, since standards of gas supply and design of appliances were in their early stages of development. It was not until the 1880s when the industry, under threat from competition from electricity, was persuaded to diversify, that the use of gas for cooking and heating was taken seriously. So it can easily be seen that a home built into a viaduct held little attraction to the public. In fact the arches were more prone to misuse, and with development of urban railways the railway arch became a Victorian symbol of poverty and deprivation (1).

As the expected demand for gas did not materialise the London and Greenwich Railway Gas Company foundered. Following an unsuccessful attempt to sell the concern to the Phoenix for £18,000 the Company was reformed by Deed of Settlement as the Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Deptford Gas Light and Coke Company in 1838. Turning their attention to public supply the Company began to offer gas to an area already contested by the Phoenix and the South Metropolitan. Competition between the three companies continued through the 1840s with varying intensity. Towards the end of, the decade considerable public agitation to reduce the price of gas resulted in the formation of the Surrey Consumers Gas Light and Coke Association, with the intention of offering low price gas. When in 1851 having completed their works at Rotherhithe, they too joined the fray. After a period of ruinous competition a districting agreement was reached in 1853, each company being allotted their own specific area of supply. In their original Acts of Incorporation or Deeds of Settlement all four companies claimed wide areas of supply in South East London, all with considerable overlap, only the Deptford altered their area before the districting agreement. This was by their Act of Incorporation of 1852 which empowered the Company to supply Deptford only, and change their name to the slightly less cumbersome Deptford Gas Light and Coke Company, with a nominal capital of £50,000.

The Deptford's short life came to an end when by Act of 1856 the Surrey consumers were empowered to purchase the Company outright. It is assumed that the works were closed shortly afterwards, though the sites were retained as holder stations (2).

Returning to the Greenwich Railway, gas lighting on the viaduct was abandoned in April 1838, probably when negotiations were being made to sell the gas concern. In the 1840s London Bridge, Spa Road, and Deptford Stations were lit by gas supplied by the Phoenix, but Greenwich Station only half a mile from the Phoenix Works in Thames Street was instead supplied by the South Metropolitan from their works by Canal Bridge in Old Kent Road three miles away. A typical example of the competition, especially in London, that existed between gas companies in the early years of the gas industry. The railway was soon leased by the South Eastern Railway, and after high hopes, became something of a backwater until 1878 when it was extended to join the North Kent line at Charlton. As to the gas companies who so fiercely competed over the area in the 1840s they had by 1880 become part of the South Metropolitan Gas Company, and memories of the London and Greenwich Railway Gas Company, originally intended to supply what may have been among the earliest 'all gas' dwellings, faded into obscurity.

NOTES. This article was based on 'London's First Railway' by R.H.G. Thomas and 'The History of the South Metropolitan Gas Company' by W.F.D. Carton. Acts of the various gas companies were consulted at the Greater London Archive, who also hold records of some London companies, however no records of the Deptford Gas Company exist.

B. E. Sturt. February 1986

Railway changes

Near Graham Road in Hackney work is well advanced constructing the new rail spur southwards from the North London line to the Eastern Region main line to Liverpool Street via Cambridge Heath, which will enable Midland Region dual voltage electric trains from Watford to run into Liverpool Street station. Overhead wires are already being erected and ballast has been put down on the new roadbed. The present service, to a minimal station just north of the new Broadgate development, will be diverted via the new spur to Liverpool Street, which means the brick viaduct southwards from Dalston Junction, opened to Broad Street station in 1865, is likely to be abandoned soon, possibly affecting industrial goings on underneath the arches and close by. It is unlikely that much of the viaduct will actually be demolished. Up to several hundred people are said to find employment in small concerns housed in the arches and this is a factor militating against demolition in addition to the cost which would be involved. Hackney Council has not been very keen to take over the viaduct. The ageing third rail electric trains running from Euston to Watford will be replaced soon. Bob Carr

The Docklands Light Railway — Part One

Mr. R.E. Bayman, the Operations Manager of the Docklands Light Railway, has kindly given his permission for this report to be printed in the Newsletter. Because of space constraints the report will be printed in more than one part. Editor


A surface Light Rail system is under construction to serve parts of London's former up-river docks and parts of the East End. On time to open in July 1987 (>>>), the 16 station, 12.1 km system is being built within the budget of £77m which is a strictly cash-limited sum made available by H.M. Treasury through the joint clients for the railway, the London Docklands Development Corporation and London Regional Transport.

Plans to extend the railway to the east towards Beckton and the Stolport (Short take-off and landing airport) in the Royal Docks have already been prepared (>>>). A Bill to construct a westward extension to the Bank has been deposited in Parliament in November 1985. It is intended that private finance will be used to build the extension and the Secretary of State for transport has announced that he is considering ways to involve the private sector in ownership and operation of the Docklands Light Railway.

Legal background

The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is being built under an Act of Parliament and not under a Light Railway Order. The word "Light" in the interim name for the business is used in the sense of "Light Rail" technology, a worldwide industry that is experiencing rapid growth where conventional heavy rail systems are proving too expensive to build.

Parliamentary powers were granted early in 1984 for the construction of the first part of just over 12 kilometres (7.2 miles) of the system. The Docklands Railway Act 1984 provided powers to construct a route between Tower Gateway and the Isle of Dogs. A second Act of 1985 provided powers for the section from Poplar to Stratford.

The closure of the London Docks

The first dock to close was the East India Dock in 1967, followed in 1968-9 by the London and St. Katharine Docks. The last ship left the Surrey Commercial system in 1970 and during the following ten years the remainder of the docks were gradually run down. Commercial freight activity within them all has now ceased.

Improving public transport in Docklands

The decline of the docks and resulting reduction in local employment caused a drop in the demand for public transport in the area, making many services uneconomic. This resulted in service reductions which, in turn, caused further decline. During the 1970s the decision was taken to regenerate, the London Docklands and it was realised that public transport in the area would have to be improved substantially in order to encourage commercial and residential development. To this end plans were drawn up for an extension of the Fleet Line (later known as the Jubilee Line) through the area. This link would have been constructed to conventional railway standards and was to have made extensive use of tunnels. Unfortunately the £325m required for the scheme at the time could not be made available, by the Government. The cost of such a scheme at 1985 prices has now risen to over £400m. It was thought that traffic levels would be too great for a conventional bus service and therefore another solution was needed. The answer was found eventually in Light Rail, technology. This is far cheaper to construct than a conventional railway as the small lightweight vehicles can handle steeper gradients and tighter curves than normal trains, requiring less land and reducing the cost of structures such as bridges. Light Rail systems are often faster and quieter than buses and are free of traffic congestion as well. The Docklands Light Railway will make extensive use of disused railway routes — of which a remarkably large number exist in the area — further reducing the amount of construction work required. (To be continued). R.E. Bayman

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© GLIAS, 1986