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Notes and news — June 1987

In this issue:

GLIAS Annual General Meeting

The 19th Annual General Meeting of the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society was held at 2:30pm on Saturday, 25th April 1987, at the Architectural Association, 34-36 Bedford Square, London WC1.

1. Apologies for absence were received from the President, Michael Robbins, who sent the Society his best wishes, from Brian Sturt and from David and Elisabeth Wood.

2. Approval of the Minutes of the 18th Annual General Meeting, circulated in Newsletter No. 104, was proposed by Peter Skilton, seconded by Jackie Moore and accepted by the meeting.

3. Hugh Marks was appointed Auditor, proposed by John Parker and seconded by Bob Carr.

4. The audited accounts were presented by the Hon. Treasurer, Danny Hayton. Copies would be circulated with the Newsletter. The main points of note were the good publication sales, the stocks of paper now held by the Society for Newsletter production, the split of CBA expenses between subscription and insurance and the showing of the Winter Lecture Series expenditure separately. Publicity costs were higher owing to the provision of new photo displays. The recently acquired duplicator would be expensed and not shown as a capital item because of the relatively low cost to the Society. Peter Skilton proposed the acceptance of the accounts, seconded by Bill Firth and carried nem. con.

The Chairman thanked Danny and Sue Hayton for her work as membership secretary.

5. The Chairman, Dr. Denis Smith, reported yet another busy and active year for the Society, noting that 1988 would bring about its 20th anniversary, which called for a celebration. He outlined the role of the Committee in steering the activities of the Society and arranging a series of events to suit the membership, whose suggestions were always welcomed. Last year had seen visits to Sheffield and Dudley. Visits within London were increasingly difficult to arrange, particularly at weekends. The Winter Lecture Series was, as always, very well attended and the Chairman thanked Dave Perrett for all his work in organising them. The importance of fieldwork was stressed. The Recording Group had been very active; one of the more interesting sites visited during the year being the Limehouse Paperboard Mill. Dr. Smith said conservation matters had been, well to the fore, thanking David Thomas for giving evidence on behalf of the Society at the Streatham Silk Hill Enquiry, Malcolm Tucker for preparing the excellent display on the New River which was due to return to Enfield after the AGM, and Bill Firth, for representing the Society in the continuing saga of the Grahame-White building at Hendon.

The Chairman announced that the Institute of Mechanical Engineers were to present their 'Engineering Heritage Hallmark Plaque' to Kirkaldy Testing Museum and to Tower Bridge on Tuesday 28th April.

During the year GLIAS had been involved in the London and Greenwich Railway 150 Anniversary celebrations; the Docklands History Survey, the Docklands History Group and the AIA Conference at Loughborough, where Dave Perrett had been elected to the Council of the AIA. The Chairman thanked Dave Perrett and Mary Mills for their work in organising SERIAC which GLIAS had hosted this year. He also noted that Dorset now had an IA Society, thanks to GLIAS member Brenda Innes. Tom Smith was thanked for his work as Publications Officer. The Chairman apologised, once again, for the lack of a Journal, but hoped that Journal No. 4 would appear before the next AGM. On the subject of the proposed M.U.P. book on the IA of London, the Chairman was sorry to have to report that its editor, Derek Holliday, was seriously ill and the meeting resolved that the Chairman should convey the Society's best wishes to him.

The Chairman thanked Charlie Thurston, Robin Brooks and family and Derek Needham for production and distribution of the Newsletter. GLIAS had now acquired the duplicator, which was kept at Kirkaldy. The Committee were examining ways in which GLIAS could contact youth, with the aim of attracting young people to I.A. and had concluded that an inhibiting factor was lack of charitable status. Investigations were continuing.

The Chairman was sad to report the death last autumn, of Ron Huitson, one of the early GLIAS members. In his will he had bequeathed to GLIAS a number of books and photographs and four models, a Stuart Turner twin launch engine, a crab winch and capstan and a mobile hydraulic jigger. The meeting agreed that the models should be displayed at Kirkaldy's but any GLIAS member wishing to borrow them for display elsewhere could do so.

Dr. Smith said that the Committee proposed to appoint Kenneth Hudson as the Society's first Vice-President, and this was ratified by the meeting.

The Chairman concluded his report by thanking individual members of the Committee for their work in the past year.

5. All members of the Committee except David Thomas were willing to stand again; there being no other nominees the Chairman declared them duly elected. The Chairman proposed that the four co-opted members — Chris Rule, Jackie Moore, Tim Sideway and Barry Hearndon be elected as full members of the Committee. This was seconded by the Hon Secretary and carried by the meeting.

6. Bob Carr proposed that:

7. During 'Any Other Business' Charlie Thurston asked for contributions for the Newsletter, John Parker suggested a GLIAS badge and the Chairman spoke of the possibility of producing postcards.

After the formal business, Dr Marilyn Palmer spoke on the subject of 'Industrial Archaeology and the Amateur'.


Dr. Denis Smith — Chairman
Tim Smith — Hon Secretary
Denny Hayton — Hon. Treasurer
Members — Mary Mills, Bob Carr, David Perrett, Bill Firth, Youla Yates, Peter Skilton, Brian Sturt, Barry Hearndon, Jackie Moore, Chris Rule and Tim Sidaway
Publications — Tom Smith
Newsletter Editor — Charlie Thurston
Membership Secretary — Sue Hayton

Tim Smith

Welsh coal

I've received a query concerning the London end of the Welsh coal trade in the period 1810-1850, from Paul Reynolds, who has asked if any members can help him. A Robert Parsons, whose family came from Edenbridge, opened some levels near Neath in 1837-43. In the letter year he sold out to Thomas Sturge, a London coal merchant, on generous terms. So the queries are how was Welsh coal handled in London at the time, why did Parsons get involved, and was there any link between him and Sturge? Replies please direct to Paul at 87 Gebelfa Road, Sketty, Swansea SA2 8ND. However, please send a copy to the GLIAS Newsletter editor so it can be included in a future issue. David Thomas

West Hoathly Brickworks

On Thursday 25th September 1986, a party of GLIAS and Newcomen Society members (many belong to both societies) visited West Hoathly Brickworks near East Grinstead, part of the Ibstock group. The works are situated alongside the disused section of the 'Bluebell' railway line north of Horsted Keynes (TQ 372 330). Hand brickmaking still takes place here and bricks are fired in clamps rather than in a kiln, producing a wider variation of brick colours. High quality traditionally-made bricks are much in demand for new public buildings such as town halls, libraries, public toilets, larger shops and for conservation work and many small brickworks around the country are hard at work meeting this demand. At Blue Circle's Smeed Dean works at Sittingbourne, London stock bricks are still made with real Victorian rubbish and Redland Bricks have a resident wooden pattern maker at their Beare Green brickworks. At West Hoathly there are sufficient reserves of Wadhurst Clay for the present brickmaking there to continue for at least 10-15 years.

The visit to West Hoathly commenced with a tour of the works. The clay, containing sandstone and shale, is mixed with coke grit to aid firing in the ratio of six of clay to one of grit. After moulding, in some cases by hand, the bricks pass through drying kilns at a temperature of 140°C. At West Hoathly there are 17 drying tunnels and the process takes 48-72 hours, after which there is an 8½% reduction in brick size. For firing the clamp is constructed on a concave concrete bed and the bricks 'burn themselves', the temperature of the clamp being 1,150°C. To ignite the clamp a small coke fire is started in a brazier-like brick construction at one end and the fire spreads readily throughout the whole mass along spaces between the bricks. At West Hoathly the clamps are built inside large sheds open at the sides and we had the exciting experience of walking on top of a burning clamp with the heat melting the soles of our shoes (did our guide have shares in Clarks'?) One brick's thickness below, the bricks in the clamp were red hot and smoke issued from gaps between the bricks. The walk on top of the clamp was reminiscent of a visit to the volcanic, crater of Solfatara near Naples. After firing there is, compared with freshly moulded bricks, a total shrinkage of 10½%. Following burning, a gang of men dismantle the clamp, the bricks being sorted by hand according to the way they burned, their colour and other properties. West Hoathly is a labour intensive works and much of the handling is manual. About 54 people are employed. With the introduction of new machinery this is likely to be somewhat reduced.

After the works tour we had a really excellent buffet lunch accompanied by wine or beer, very generously provided by our hosts. This was followed by a presentation on brickwork at the turn of the century and a most informative general discussion took place. Handmade bricks cost about £320-£350 per thousand compared with about £250 for machine made. An ordinary house contains roughly 12,000 bricks (multiplying £300 by 12 gives nothing like the cost of a house!) We were able to compare brickmaking at West Hoathly with the Fletton brickmaking industry from the Newcomen Society visit to Stewartby on 5th October 1982 (see Newcomen Bulletin 125 page 6). The Oxford Clay contains sufficient carbonaceous matter for the addition of coke breeze to be unimportant. At Stewartby there is mass-production on a huge scale and uniform machine-made Fletton bricks do not have the character of the products from smaller specialised works which in comparison often produce quite tiny batches, sometimes (as at Beare Green) to special order. At West Hoathly bricks were once simply air-dried but this practice ceased in the mid-1930s. We are very greatly indebted to Ibstock Bricks for their hospitality and especially to Mr. Roy Fuller, Technical Liaison Officer, for a really instructive works tour, much information and a memorable visit (quite apart from the food). The day was rounded off by a visit to the nearby Bluebell Railway. Bob Carr

Blists Hill Ironworks

On Friday 6th March 1987 His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, Patron of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, visited Shropshire to open the new Blists Hill Ironworks, As a result, wrought iron is again being made and worked in Britain after a lapse of more than a decade. As part of the opening ceremony a billet of wrought, iron was first worked in a steam hammer and then rolled into bars by passing through grooved, rolls powered by a horizontal steam engine. The Ironworks equipment was largely brought to the Museum site from Messrs. Walmsley's Atlas Forge at Bolton, which ceased production in 1976.

But from the London point of view a most fascinating feature of the Ironworks is the iron-framed building in which it is housed. This is the old WOOLWICH DOCKYARD SMITHERY building which was measured and drawn by the Goldsmith's College IA Group in the early 1970s.' The magnificent building was constructed c.1815 to the design of John Rennie and its re-erection in Shropshire on a piled foundation was the largest civil, engineering project undertaken by a museum in Britain. Danny Hayton and I represented GLIAS and the Goldsmiths' recording team, at the opening ceremony, and it was a novel experience to be back inside the Woolwich Smithery after so many years. A visit to the Blists Hill Ironworks, the newest part of the ever-changing Ironbridge scene, is highly recommended. Denis Smith

GLIAS at the dogs

With period Tannoy loudspeakers and a strongly déjà vu atmosphere, the little Harringay dog track seems sadly on its way out and in fact is likely to close very soon.

More popular dog tracks go in for lots of shiny restaurants and champagne etc. Harringay has beer and hot potatoes and but a modest enclosure for the 'nobs'. A small party from the Recording Group joined the tiny crowd of mainly older people, quiet and orderly, at an evening meeting on Monday 16th March this year and spent a very pleasant evening observing the scene and indeed in some cases taking part in the proceedings.

Dogs, mechanical hare and the starting traps were all of great interest and could be inspected from close quarters, but the main attraction was the mechanical totaliser, now almost unique, which works out the betting odds from information fed to it by ladies at the totaliser windows, working devices reminiscent of tramway controllers. Signals are carried by monster electric cables to the totaliser machine, which we gather is more like the engine of Charles Babbage than the familiar modern pocket calculator.

The Science Museum had been interested and recording work has been done. GLIAS hopes to arrange a visit for members to inspect the machine at close quarters. If you are interested in taking part please send me a first class SAE. Bob Carr

Kirkaldy Testing Museum award

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has awarded the Museum its Engineering Heritage Hallmark plaque. The blue ceramic plaque was presented to the Museum at a ceremony on Tuesday 28th April by Professor Bernard Crossland, the President of the Institution. The plaque is mounted on the west wall of the Testing Machine Room. The Museum is proud of the award which honours net only the achievements of the Kirkaldy family but also all those who have worked, long and hard to restore the Testing Works and its unique machine. Denis Smith

Industrial Archaeology below the ground

Most IA seems to be concerned with structures standing above the surface of the ground, but sometimes it takes on the character of classical archaeology and 'finds' can be seen below the surface. Contractors have been excavating trial shafts in and around the former Hough's rag warehouse on Narrow Street. Some merger of the Recording Group want to have a look at what was suggested might be a crane base that had been found in one of the shafts. Five shafts were open, had gone down to varying depths and were still being deepened. There was something of interest to be seen in every one.

The 'crane base' was in fact the cylinder and lower crosshead of a hydraulic press, partly dismantled and buried under a new and higher floor in the course of some works reorganisation. It was the right size for and had presumably been used for baling rags.

Also in the same hole was a lump of granite, about 16in square and 3ft long. Round it, not quite at the centre, was a stout iron strap, secured with a hefty nut and bolt. Round the bolt was a shackle. Its purpose? We'd like to know.

Below the present floor, as also in the other two shafts inside the warehouse, was what could have been a floor, but was substantial enough to have been part of a considerable structure, perhaps part of a dock, or a quay. The 'floor' was of concrete, at least 2ft thick and it was reinforced with a grillage of old rails. Besides the standard bullhead rail, there was 'some medium weight flat-bottomed rail and a quantity of bridge rail from the Great Western Broad Gauge.

Below this again were the stoat timbers of some wooden structure, but it was not possible to determine its form. The shaft inside the warehouse in the S.E. corner also contained a few courses of large, worked sandstone blocks, possibly part of a quay or river wall. Outside, in a shaft behind the river walls was more timber. It included some 10ft or 12ft down, what looked like a whole tree trunk some 12in or 16in in diameter. It was lying more or less horizontally, at right angles to the river.

Finally, also outside, on the landside of the building, was revealed, the hydraulic power feed pipe. This was notable for the number of joints in relatively short length of pipe, there being five in some 7ft or 8ft. Since several of the lengths were curved, this was presumably to match up the street main with the intake point in the building. There wasn't much chance of bending short lengths of cast iron pressure pipe.

So this was an interesting and not very common episode of I.A. It was a reminder that not only classical archaeologists should never miss a chance to peer into any trench or hole that will give them a chance to see what may be hidden below the surface. J B G Parker, May 1987

Letters to the editor

From Robert Vickers who writes:
KELLY'S DIRECTORIES. Due to our forthcoming move of house, I have the following Kelly's Post Office Directories of London for disposal: 1937, 1938, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1953, 1954, 1957 and 1958. Please contact Robert Vickers on 01-318 1267 if you would like them, free of charge. Delivery, as a job lot, is possible within reason (and London)! Robert Vickers

Neil Barker has also written, to inform us of the creation of THE LONDONERS' SOCIETY, not to be confused with The London Society, The new society is set up to give Londoners a voice in the architecture of the capital. For details contact: The Londoners' Society, Carlyle House, 16 Chelsea Embankment, London, SW3.

Neil goes on to say that 'Holiday Which' of the Consumers Association plan report for their September issue called 'Exploring Britain's Industrial Past'. Finally, he would like to know of other IA societies, whom he could contact when on holiday. Editor

Shoreditch Refuse Destructor and Generator Station, Coronet Street, London N1

Newsletter 106, October 1986, contained as a supplement, a report on the history of this site and GLIAS' recording work. It promised that a fuller report would be prepared for deposition with the Hackney Archivist and that copies of this would be available at cost to GLIAS members.

That day has arrived. The fuller report includes 36 A4 pages:

Photocopies may be obtained from David Thomas at 36 Pearman St, SE1 7R3 from mid-June at the following cost:

It must be stressed that this is not intended to be to the standard of a normal sale publications but rather to make available information to interested members at a reasonable cost.

GLIAS does have further information on a number of destructor sites in London which have been visited over the years — White City, Wembley, Sutton, Croydon (shell only) and near Whitechapel (flue system only). We would be very grateful if anyone who has some technical knowledge of the different systems could contact David Thomas to assist on an article for the GLIAS Journal.

New Gatwick history on sale

In the spring of 1936 Gatwick's first passenger terminal was completed. Today the terminal is a block of offices — Building 99 — on the southern edge of the airport. But in 1936 it was not just another airport terminal — it was the world's first circular passenger terminal building, although the concept was subsequently lost to civil aviation for over 20 years.

British Airports Authority pic and Gatwick Airport Ltd. together with the Sussex Ind. Archaeology Society are about to mark the 50th anniversary of the terminal with a publication. The detailed story of Gatwick's evolution from the grass fields of the Surrey Aero Club in 1930 to an airport with a passenger terminal and scheduled services in 1936 and its subsequent demise until designation over 20 years later as a major London airport is now told in a softback publication.

The history of Gatwick has been researched by airport historian and GLIAS member John King, who over the past five years has examined various archives and interviewed many of the people who were involved in the early days of Gatwick's first scheduled services which were provided by a little airline, British Airways Ltd. Amongst the people interviewed by Mr King have been Mrs Cherry Jackaman, widow of Morris Jackaman who purchased Gatwick in 1933 for £13,500 with a vision of developing Gatwick into an international airport and who subsequently conceived the circular layout as the answer to the airport design problem. The architect of the Beehive has also been interviewed by Mr King and the British Airways Radio Officer, Alan Wood, on the first service on Sunday 17 May 1936; and the Accountant, Raymond Graebe, of the public company, Airports Ltd. which owned Gatwick for 20 years.

The softback book GATWICK: The Evolution of an Airport is now available at a price of £3.75 from airport and other bookshops or by post at a price of £3.95 from the Sussex IA Society at 42 Palmer Avenue, Brighton SN2 8PG. David Thomas

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© GLIAS, 1987