Notes and news — February 1987
In this issue:
- Recent demolition
- An impression of Limehouse Paperboard Mill
- News from the Crossness Beam Engine Preservation Group
- Paddle Steamer Waverley
- Museum, conservation and IA projects in the London area
- City of London Girls' School dig
- News from the Kirkaldy Testing Museum, Southwark
- Letters to the editor
- The Docklands Light Railway — Part Five
- Former Silk Mill, 496 Streatham High Road, SW16
In Camden Town by the Regent's Canal a large expanse of 1930s factory buildings including the ABC Bakery has been demolished. It is believed the area will be redeveloped as a Sainsbury's supermarket. Alongside Victoria Railway Station to the East the site of Hudson's depository is being built upon and in Buckingham Palace Road a characteristic 1930s industrial building at the North West end of Ebury Bridge has gone. The British Rail Finsbury Park diesel depot is derelict and in Wapping the small market hall-like building just to the North West of the underground station has gone. There is demolition at Butler's Wharf, around the South Dock, Surrey Commercial Docks and in the river off Beckton Gas Works the monumental jetties for unloading coal will soon be no more. Bob Carr
An impression of Limehouse Paperboard Mill
Limehouse Paperboard Mill is moving at the end of the year and some of the Recording Group were able to visit it one day when it was still in production, prior to a recording visit after it has closed. This is an impression of that first visit.
We were shown round by the Production Manager, Mr. Pluck. In a preliminary chat, one member (no, not me) asked if it was true that there were still two steam engines somewhere in the mill? I found his reply evasive and his smile mysterious.
The Process. Waste paper is beaten with warm water into a pulp and put through various cleaning processes to remove all foreign matter. The pulp then goes to the wet end of the board machine, which builds up even layers of fibre to make a wet board, This is dried, first by squeezing it between press rolls and'-then by running it over steam-heated drying cylinders. It is finally calendered (smoothed) and reeled.
We started by going up a fire escape to the top floor of the main building, to the raw materials store about 150 tons of waste paper. The bales were hoisted from the street by an electric hoist on a cat-head and moved on the steel-shod floor by, fork lifts. The structure had an R.C. and skylight roof supported by C.I. columns. A couple of conveyors disappeared through holes in the wall.
We went through a door to find, ourselves in a large plant room, in which half a dozen large, items and numberless smaller ones were inter-connected by a labyrinth of pipes. Each conveyor fed a hydrapulper, a circular metal vat with a rotor spinning at the bottom. Each could pulp about 3½ tons of material an hour and certainly a load of waste was turned into pulp in not very many minutes. We looked over a rail into a maelstrom, of coarse grey porridge and could see the rotor at the bottom. I was impressed by the fact that the biggest problem was getting rid of the rubbish. The ragger takes out rag, string, wire, etc. while the junker takes out large lumps of metal or stones. Other devices dealt with sticky plastic tape, plastic foam and small, metal, objects. We saw a considerable pile of these last items, mostly staples of every conceivable kind. The cleaned pulp then went on to the beaters.
We left this cramped and crowded floor by a near-vertical ladder and saw the bottom of the pulpers and beaters, together with lots more small plant, mostly pumps. This floor wasn't just wet — we paddled! On this level we saw the dye store — some customers want coloured board — and we also saw the ventilating plant over the board machine. Then down again, passing, the filters that clean river water for process through the boiler room with two modern package boilers and two old Lancashires (the originals?) and the feed pumps and the three stock chests. These last were sizeable vertical, steel, tanks in which finished pulp is stored before going to the machine. But no steam-engine.
And so to the heart of the mill, the board making machine. It stood in a hall about 25ft wide, 180ft long and two storeys high and it was a snug fit. It was a most impressive bit of equipment. It was hot, it was noisy and it was humid. In fact, in spite of the ventilating, plant, it was "raining" over the wet end of the drying rolls.
It wasn't easy to see what was happening, but seven cylinders were picking up fibre and transferring it to a fabric web. This was met by another web and the sandwich was fed between six pairs of rolls where graded and increasing pressure removed enough water to make the board self-supporting. That was the end of the "wet" end. The "dry" end consisted of 69 steam-heated drying cylinders, each about 2½' by 10' (I said it was hot!) through which the board wound its tortuous way. At the end the board was slightly damped, calendered and reeled. The reel, about 3' in diameter, was put on to a slitter and reeler, which removed the cut edges and produced reels of finished width. Then, away to store on a fork-lift.
The next stage was to go along the other side of the machine and THERE were the steam engines. They were two cylinder totally enclosed, high speed, forced lubrication machines and one (the other is a spare) was driving the drying cylinders. One was dated to 1913, the other to 1924. I at least had hoped to see something silent and forgotten, in a corner. To find a pair of old stagers, still doing the job for which they were installed over 60 years ago, was quite beyond expectation. It was the highlight of the visit. Mr. Pluck's earlier smile was explained! I don't suppose that I'll ever see another working steam engine.
Finally, we had a look at the board store, the maintenance shop (that was worth a morning in itself), the laminator, which sticks several layers of board together to make a thicker product and the pallet-making, area.
Hot, wet, humid, noisy, smelly, cramped, this was no visit for the squeamish or the less than fit. Like-all production, plants, it was utterly fascinating. We would like to thank the Management of Limehouse Paperboard Mills Ltd. for permission to make the visit, and offer special thanks to Mr. Pluck, who gave up half a day to show us round. John Parker, November 1985
During November and December various members of the Recording Group made several visits to the steam-generated Limehouse Paperboard Hill, which stopped production on 24 December. The firm are moving to new premises in Bermondsey but will now buy in paperboard instead of making their own. Photographic and video records were made of the various processes and of machinery in use. The site is very complex and we are proposing to make further visits to record details of the buildings and machines. Anyone who has not been involved already but would like to help please contact me. Tim Smith
News from the Crossness Beam Engine Preservation Group
Edition No. 2 of the 'Record', the newsletter of the C.B.E.P.G. was produced in December, with information of the group's A.G.M. to be held on 22 January 1987. They also hope to have an Open Day sometime at the end of May.
There is an article by David K. Rouse under the heading 'What other preservationists are doing'. David is a member of the Thames and Medway Canal Association. There is a query about whether there was a Gasworks on site at Crossness, The Journal, of Gas Lighting (6 Feb. 1866) mentions that there were plans to build a Gasworks on site. Can any of our members be of help? Peter J Skilton
Paddle Steamer Waverley
On 28 September 1986 such was the demand for places on the day's cruise to the Medway that those turning up at Tower Pier 'on spec' had only the option of a trip to Tilbury, with the ferry crossing to Gravesend included. Despite Waverley accommodating 1,016 deck passengers, advance booking had been heavy and more people were joining the ship down river. The Waverley had been operating locally since 17th September and this was the last day. On the Medway, Waverley was to meet Britain's last coal-fired paddle steamer, Kingswear Castle, 94 tons gross, built in 1924 (her diagonal compound engine dates from 1904). The paddle steamer Medway Queen was specially raised from the deep (information from Bob Barnes) and a cheer went up as the Waverley sailed past, with a fire pump on the Medway Queen producing a fountain, by way of a salute. Medway Queen is 3.16 tons gross and was built in 1924.
Despite this day being almost at the end of the season the Waverley was still commendably clean and high tea in the restaurant, including fried fish, was still available, live music at the tables being provided by a 'white minstrel' with banjo and straw boater. The great attraction is of course Waverley's magnificent set of diagonal triple expansion steam engines built by Rankin and Blackmore Ltd, Greenock. Cylinder diameters are 24, 39 and 62 inches with a stroke of 66 inches and the power 2100 ihp (1545 kW). Speed is now 14 knots but when in service with the Caledonian Steam Packet Co. Ltd. she steamed at 17 knots.
The overall length of Waverley's riveted hull is 240 feet, extreme breadth (over the paddle boxes) 57 feet 3 inches and draught 6 feet 3 inches, (gross tonnage is 693). She was built in 1947 by A and J Inglis Ltd, Glasgow, yard number 1330P. Electricity at 110 V d.c. for lighting and so on is provided by a single 15kW generator. For those of us waiting in the dusk on Tilbury landing stage, to be picked, up and returned to London, Waverley was indeed a very fine sight as she came into view with blazing lights and warmth below decks offering civilisation in a desolate spot. Back at lower Pier coaches were waiting to take groups of Waverley enthusiasts home to places as far afield as South Wales and Leicestershire. Look out for Waverley's visit to the Thames next year. Bob Carr
Museum, conservation and IA projects in the London area
There are numerous schemes for industrial and other preservation projects and for industrial archaeological work either in the pipeline or coming to fruition in the London area but as Bill Firth's review of London Museums and Collections (GLIAS Newsletter December 1986) suggests, published lists are by no means complete. GLIAS hopes to compile its own list and make information available to members.
The following entries have been received from David Thomas:
A) OPEN TO THE PUBLIC: London Transport Museum at Covent Garden, Kew Bridge Engines Trust, National Museum of Labour History, North Woolwich Station Museum, The Music Museum Brentford, Historic Ships at St. Katharine Docks and Tower Bridge Engines.
B) OPENING RESTRICTED: Brunel Engine House, Gas Museum at Bromley by Bow, Pinner Chalk Mine, RAF Museum Hendon, Sound Broadcasting Museum, Southall Railway Museum, Taxi Cab Museum, Upminster Windmill.
C) NOT OPEN: Bakelite Museum Society, Crossness Pumping Station, Kirkaldy Testing Works, Tate & Lyle Sugar Museum, Wandle Industrial Museum.
Other Projects which come to mind are:
Fire Service Museum, Southwark Bridge Road (not open),
Markfield Beam Engine (opening restricted),
Museum of London, Museum in Docklands, Victoria Dock (opening restricted),
Operating Theatre, The Chapter House, Guy's Hospital (opening restricted),
Kathleen & May, coastal trading schooner, Southwark (open to the public),
Ragged School Museum, Tower Hamlets (not open),
Science Museum, South Kensington (open to the public),
Steamship VIC 56 (not open), TV Museum, Alexandra Palace (not open),
Wash House Museum project, Peabody Buildings, Southwark (not open),
Woolwich Arsenal Museum (not open).
The above titles may not all be correct and it would be a good idea to add addresses and telephone numbers, names of Curators or Secretaries and so on. Please write to me at 127 Queens Drive, London N4 2BB if you have additional information. Probably the easiest is to send a leaflet or prospectus, etc. Bob Carr
City of London Girls' School dig
Members will know of the Coalbrookdale lamps at the front of this school dated 1882 on the Embankment at Blackfriars. The school was built (unbelievable today) on the site of the City of London Gas Light & Coke Co. This works had been established in 1814 and was acquired in 1890 by the Gas Light & Coke Co, whose offices with monogram over the door survive in Tudor St. In 1873 the G.L. Coke Co. sold off the site for the school building. The school is now closed and the site is to be redeveloped. At present the Dept. of Urban Archaeology, Museum of London, are digging in the former playground and uncovering substantial remains of this early gasworks, while looking for earlier remains.
However, the gasworks were not the only important industrial interest here. Before the gasworks part of the site was occupied c.1700 by Thomas Savery and here he demonstrated his machine for raising water by the Impellent Force of Fire*, the forerunner of the steam engine. Being a good industrial archaeologist I helped out the 'dirt' archaeologists by asking them to look out for evidence of the Savery workshop. Maybe the wall already discovered was the sump for this engine. I look forward to watching over the progress on this very interesting dig. David Perrett
* See London's Industrial Archaeology Vol. 2, p.24.
News from the Kirkaldy Testing Museum, Southwark
Progress at 99 Southwark Street has been slow over the past year but improvements are to be seen in the shape of a splendid sales counter, the replacement of some tongue-and-groove on the walls and the completion of the painting of the O.H. hoista.
The museum was shortlisted for the 1986 Dorothea. Award and although we didn't win it, we were given some very useful and practical advice.
GLIAS purchased a duplicator which is now housed within the museum, so '99' has, become another 'Wapping' but without barbed wire, pickets and 'aggro'!
The Friends of the Kirkaldy Testing Museum always welcomes new members so if anyone within GLIAS (or without) would like to become a 'Friend' please contact the membership secretary, Peter J. Skilton, 35 Selkirk Drive, Erith, Kent DA8 3QR.
Letters to the editor
From Ian J. Wilson, who writes:
I am writing with regard to the questions John A. Bagley asked about stone sleepers in Paddington (GLIAS Newsletter December 1986).
I have for some time now been working on an article about Paddington Basin for the Grand Union Canal Society newsletter and have noticed the stone blocks referred to, I have no idea how long they have been by the warehouses at Paddington except that I noticed them for the first time about seven or eight years ago.
The following is a quote from one of the society's 'Walks by the Grand Union Canal'. It refers to Lock No. 84, Coppermill Lock at Harefield:
"Look for the coping stones with holes in them at the edge of the lock chamber. These were originally sleeper blocks of the London and Birmingham Railway, when first built in the 1830s. They are 2 feet square by 1 foot thick and each had to be drilled with two holes which were then plugged with timber and into which the rail securing stakes were hammered. They proved unsuccessful on the railway and were purchased cheaply as 'job lots' about 1842 by the Grand Junction Canal Co. who used them as coping stones on the lock chambers."
A lot of the sleeper blocks can still be found on the lock chamber of the Grand Union Canal. As for the ones at Paddington I assume they were kept in the Canal Company's Wharf originally in South Wharf Road, for repairs to lock chambers and were never used, ending up as guard stones. Ian J Wilson
From Derek Bayliss:
I was glad that you were able to include the report of the Sheffield visit in the last Newsletter (GLIAS Newsletter December 1986). One thing we overlooked at the time of the visit was that the GLIAS party might be interested in some of our Sheffield Trades Historical Society and Wortley Top Forge publications:
C.A. TURNER — A Sheffield Heritage: An Anthology of Photographs and Words of the Cutlery Craftsmen. £1.40 plus 22p Post and packing.
B. RONALD DYSON: A Glosser of Old Sheffield. Trade Words and Dialec. 50p. plus 22p Post and packing.
Guide to Top Forge, Hartley. 70p plus 22p post and packing.
C. REGINALD-ANDREWS: The Star of Wortley Ironworks. £1.25p plus 40p
Wortley: Iron in the Service of Man, before 1800. 20p plus 15p. post.
Metals and Meals in the 18th century. 20p plus 15p&p.
From Edward Mandy, who writes:
Re: the article about London Underground Stations with red tile exteriors (GLIAS Newsletter December 1986). Added to this list can be South Kentish Town (below left) disused station on the Northern Line and Down Street (below centre) and Brompton Road (below right) disused stations on the Piccadilly Line.
Also there are at least two other stations, Hyde Park Corner on the Piccadilly Line (below) and Euston on the Northern Line where new entrances have been provided and the old red tiled ones used for other purposes — a restaurant at Hyde Park Corner and as noted in the Newsletter an electrical sub-station at Euston. Edward Mandy
And from Martin Neil the following:
GLIAS members may be interested to know that I have had a number of copies made my booklet: 'The Coal Duties of the City of London and their Boundary Marks' originally published in 1972. I should stress that it is just a reprint, not a new edition; copies are available from me at 14 Leighton Place, London NW5 2QL for £1.50 including postage.
On a completely different subject, I was very interested to see the list of London Underground stations with original ruby red glazed brickwork (GLIAS Newsletter December 1986). Although I think the list of stations still open is complete it omits the still extant buildings of the following closed stations: Brompton Road (in Cottage Place, SW7), Down Street (25 Down St, W1) and South Kentish Town (Kentish Town Road, NW1). The original entrance to Hyde Park Corner Station still stands at 11 Knightsbridge, SW1 and ruby bricks to the height of two storeys (but only one brick wide!). Next to the Clarence pub in Dover Street, W1 are the remains of Dover Street station (subsequently re-sited and renamed Green Park). The electrical substation at Euston mentioned in the Newsletter is in fact the original entrance to the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railways Euston Station.
I see from the papers that there is a recently formed group devoted to trying to save some of the least altered stations from thoughtless modernisation. Do you have any details? Martin Neil
The Docklands Light Railway — Part Five
This fifth extract from 'The Docklands Light Railway' has been reprinted with the kind permission of Mr. R. E. Bayman, Operations Manager of the DLR.
New stations — or stops — will be built at every location except Stratford, where an existing unused bay platform will be adapted. Stops will be constructed from a series of simple standard prefabricated components. Each will have platforms 30 metres (98½ feet) long, although those on the Tower Gateway to Poplar section are designed so that this can be extended to 60 metres (197 feet) to accommodate trains composed of two units, to handle traffic growth. Access to the platforms will be by stairs; hydraulically-powered lifts will be provided for passenger use, particularly for the disabled and shopping laden. Although hydraulic lifts are slower than electrically-powered ones, they are noted for their reliability. Tower Gateway station will be fitted with, escalators and the design of all other stops will, allow escalators to be fitted at a later date if finance becomes available. Some covered shelter will be provided on all platforms.
The design of stops includes a straight, platform edge in order to preserve a (75mm) tolerance gap between the platform and train to allow for wheelchair movements between platform and train. The platform height will closely match the train floor levels. All 16 stops will be fitted with closed circuit television cameras (with video, recording facilities) which will be monitored by the controller in the Operations Centre, Poplar, E14. A passenger alarm will also be provided at stops which will enable passengers to speak to the controller in an emergency. Pressing the alarms to speak to the controller will activate the video cameras. A passenger address system, will allow the controller to make announcements as required and platform indicators will display the destination of the next train to arrive as well as other messages. All stops will be unstaffed, though, with high-frequency train services, platforms will be frequently monitored by the train staff person controlling train door closing.
Stops are designed around a kit of parts; damaged or vandalised items can therefore be removed and replaced quickly and simply.
Ticketing and revenue collection
It is intended that passengers will be able to buy tickets in bulk from outlets such as newsagents, or singly from vending machines located at each station. When a passenger wishes to travel on the system the ticket is validated at the entrance to each station. There will be no barriers at stations but the member of staff on each train will check that passengers have valid tickets, supplemented by roving inspectors.
Signalling and control of trains
Trains will be automatically driven and conventional trackside signals will not be provided. The service will be continually monitored by a central computer which compares the position of trains with stored timetable information. The central computer will communicate with a train-board computer when the train is at a station and depending upon whether the train is running on time, early or late, a stored speed/distance profile will be selected. The on-board computer controls the driving of the trains to the next station, stop. A system of Positive Train Identification is to be used in which each train transmits its identity and destination to line-side equipment to ensure that the correct route is set throughout the journey. Safeguards are provided in the form, of a separate failsafe system known as automatic train protection (ATP), which will prevent trains from exceeding speed limits or from running into each other.
The equipment used to control the operation of points and signalling is known in the railway industry as interlocking. This prevents conflicting moves from being set up and also proves that all points on the route are correctly positioned and physically locked before a train can pass over them. The DLR will incorporate solid state interlocking (S.S.I.) which is fully electronic and has no moving parts.
The operations and maintenance centre
This will be the control centre of the railway at Poplar, facilities will be provided for the cleaning and routine maintenance of rolling stock, along with, an administrative centre, staff facilities, a control room from where all operations will be monitored. A substation connected to the National Grid which will supply power for the railway, will be, located under the running lines to the west of the Poplar stop. Each stop will be an individual London Electricity Board. (LEB) consumer. (To be continued). R. E. Bayman
Former Silk Mill, 496 Streatham High Road, SW16
When Sainsburys purchased land occupied by the Cow Industrial Polymers factory they presumably expected to make an early and straightforward start on clearing the site for their new supermarket. They knew that a former coffee house on the edge of the site was listed and made it clear that their plans would incorporate it. What Sainsburys probably did not realise was that the building in the centre of the site, partly surrounded by additions, was a complete, purpose-built three-storey Georgian silk mill, of pleasant proportions and appearance, complete with a cupola, which was probably the first UK location to use Jacquard-style looms. As a result of GLIAS' representations this 1820 mill was spot-listed in May 1986.
Within weeks Sainsburys applied for listed building consent to demolish. Meanwhile, GLIAS was shown an outline plan of their proposed development, showing that the mill as close to, but not actually encroaching upon, their supermarket. It is in the car park and takes the space of some 20 of a total of about 500 parking places. Using this information, GLIAS member Jon Wallsgrove has drawn up the scheme shown overleaf.
GLIAS has made a formal objection to the demolition application, saying:
- the mill can and should be retained as a visually attractive feature, with the ground floor being used as an entrance arcade;
- it is an early and rare survivor in the London area of a purpose-built factory. The shape, some 25' by 125' and generous window provision, was designed to give maximum light for the hand loom weavers.
Additionally, we have suggested that the upper floors can be retained as a commercial development, with opportunities for jobs.
Above. Perspective drawn 1879. The listed three-storey mill and later chimney are in the centre foreground
Left. 100 years later, 1973
A public enquiry is planned for 17 March. Members objecting to the demolition application should write to Lambeth's Director of Planning, 9-15 New Park Road, SW12, asking for letters to be passed to the enquiry Inspector. Members seeking more information, or able to help with ideas for future uses of the mill, should contact David Thomas.
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© GLIAS, 1987