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Notes and news — October 1987

In this issue:

Recording Group

Among the more notable sites at which work has recently been done is the Limehouse Paperboard Mill (Robert Hough Ltd), Narrow Street, E14, (GLIAS Newsletter February 1987), which closed on 24th December 1986. Here a video film was made as well as the usual note-taking, sketching and photography. Little now remains apart from the shell of the building, and the site is due to be redeveloped for housing. Much machinery went to the Museum of London.

Another location which proved to be remarkable was the Harringay greyhound racing track with its original mechanical totalisator working at 120 volts DC, installed about 1928, with the addition of later machinery to provide facilities, for Quinella. The whole stadium is to be replaced by a supermarket from mid-September 1987. The method of hare driving and the photo finish camera were inspected and a short video film was made, which captures the atmosphere quite well (GLIAS Newsletter June 1987).

Work continues preparing material for publication, in particular the report on the railway depot at Bricklayers' Arms which is intended for the GLIAS Journal and also for Vogan's Mill Bermondsey and Harrods depository in West London. The longer report on the Shoreditch Refuse Destructor and Generating Station, Coronet Street, N1 has been sent out (GLIAS Newsletter June 1987). Visits have been paid to Saul Barren, Salmon Smokers, Assembly Passage, E1 and to Regent's Canal Dock, E14. Other sites which have received consideration are: Burrells Colour Works, West Ferry Road, E14 (the launching site of Brunel's SS. Great Eastern). Great Smith Street Baths, SW1; the former tramway building in Shoreditch, E1 which is to, be redeveloped; and the swing bridge and associated hydraulic pumping station, Connaught Road, E16. The Recording Group is open to all. Bob Carr

Activities captured in architecture

GLIAS Newsletter December 1984 carried what was to be definitely the final list of sites where there is some activity depicted. However, a number have since come to light. They are:

1. Two churches have caught the attention of eyes wandering during services. St. James', Sussex Gardens, W2 has Sir Alexander Fleming depicted in stained glass in his laboratory. His discovery of penicillin took place at nearby St. Mary's Hospital. The other church has no more than a plaque, unveiled in March 1985, at Our Lady and St. Philip Neri church, Sydenham Road, SE26 to Sir George Grove, who as well as being a writer, allegedly helped build cast-iron lighthouses in Jamaica and Bermuda in the 1840s. (More info welcomed!)

2. At Camberwell Green the former Middlesex Session House has a Justice and Scales facing towards entrants.

3. The LSB school of 1870s vintage in Tower Street, WC1, has a small stone plaque of teacher and pupil in the south-east wall.

4. Greenwich Hospital has, inevitably, a variety of nautical symbols in the gates.

5. A 'red cross' appears in two locations — the first aid block at Croydon Airport (still standing) and in the recently-demolished section of Charing Cross hospital.

6. Another sign noted and now gone was the small motif of ears of wheat around the letters ABC in railings of the ex-bakery, Camden St. NW1

7. Patrons of H.K. Lewis & Co. booksellers specialising in medicine and science will note stone volumes and a pestle as they enter the 1930/1 shop on the corner of 24 Gower Place/136 Gower Street, WC1.

8. Reflecting, no doubt, contemporary thoughts of the 'learning leanings' of the respective sexes, the Thames Poly in Woolwich has a female holding a vase, and a chap with a piston.

9. An earlier foundation, the Royal Veterinary College, NW1, has suitable animal heads.

10. Not far away, St. Pancras Baths, that unusual pile with much terracotta in Prince of Wales Rd, NW5 has Neptune and maidens with water pots. The shadowy background of TOWER BRIDGE is a bit odd.

11. The lists have excluded normal fire insurance signs, but perhaps we can stretch a point to include a large sun in stucco on the side of one of their offices, at 284 Camden Road.

12. A bit obscure — a bell, plus anchor and dolphin for good measure, is above what directories indicate was the entrance to Bell Bros., Publishers, at 6 Portugal Street, WC2. Can anyone confirm this connection please?

13. Two anxious firemen peer from the 1899 portion of the fire station in Chiltern Street, W1 Note also helmet and hatchet around date.

14. Perhaps, the firemen were looking for nurses from nearby Cavendish Square, where the Nursing College has a bandaged hand on one side and what looks remarkably like a butcher's cleaver on the other.

15. Perhaps books and learning get more than their fair share of attention for a further site is the library at the corner of Bowling Green Walk, Pitfield St., N1 (part of the Coronet Street complex), above the door of which a muse squats on books.

16. Paddington Green Children's Hospital has a suitable family scene, to reassure patients.

17. Music features on two buildings — Jews' harps and angels on Trinity College of Music, Mandeville Place, W1 and a fistful of hand-held instruments on the Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Rd, SW7.

18. It does not look buoyant, but the Sailors Home, 747 Commercial Road, E1 has some anchors, just in case.

19. Sailors having a night out might spare time to observe others at work in a variety of activities: carpenter, welder, mason, as decor around Poplar Civic Centre, Fairfield Road, E3.

20. Whether one regards cricket as an activity or the opposite, there is no doubt from the depictions on the outside wall that Lord's ground is where it happens.

I am still interested in hearing of new sites — and would love to hear from a member who could help me bring the new lists together as a booklet.

David Thomas, 36 Pearman St. SE1 7RB

Harringay Greyhound Stadium

With the closure of Harringay Greyhound Stadium due at the end of September, GLIAS has now made three visits to observe this site while it is still operating and especially to record the working of the Tote machinery (GLIAS Newsletter June 1987).

The Tote consists of a number of ticket-issuing machines to record any of the four types of bet that can be made and print a ticket, transfer the bet electrically to what is essentially a series of vast adding machines located in a building behind the main display boards and present the accumulated results on large drum displays on the front of the building. Information is also recorded on more humble counters so that staff can calculate the amount that has to be paid out on the winning dog or dogs. Host of the machinery was originally supplied in the 1920s by Julius, a specialist Australian company, but it has been supplemented subtracted iron and modified in the intervening years.

Each bet as it arrives is 'amplified' using relays and distributed to table top counting machines, which accumulate the totals. The impulse is then used to drive display drums. The sound of the machinery as the betting reaches a crescendo is not easy to forget. And then, when the race starts, the Tote's job is done and the machinery goes quiet. At the end of the race there is a bustle of people recording counts, checking then, calculating pay-outs, announcing the results and the betting cycle then recommences with re-setting the counting machinery.

Although the track is to close soon, we got the impression of a very efficient and effective organisation and of equipment in a very good state of repair.

Andrew Keene has made a short video and Bob Carr photographed a typical evening's operation. A short report on the recording group's visit has been made.

Considerable interest has been shown in the site by others and two other films have been made. The question arises of what will happen to the machine when the course closes. Parts of the machine may be of specialist interest to demonstrate particular aspects of, for example, computer development, or as a static exhibit.

But it would be more appropriate if the Tote could be reconstructed again (in toto?) and used again for the purpose for which it was built. This would be no easy undertaking, as the machinery is old, large, delicate, not designed to be moved and complicated. But there is the sad example of White City Stadium, where the Tote machinery was simply bulldozed.

We should like to thank the Greyhound Racing Association and especially John Blake, the course's director and Mr. Carew, the Tote manager. Charles Norrie

Visit to Nat West Tower, 19th February 1987

A party of GLIAS and Newcomen Society members ascended 600 feet to the top of the National Westminster Bank Tower in. the City of London on Thursday 19th February 1987. This building is the tallest occupied building in Britain, being only 20 feet, lower than the mast on top of the British Telecom (formerly Post Office) tower. Twenty one lifts (five being double deck) take personnel between its 52 floors. These lifts, by the Express company of Northampton, give very little impression of the distance covered — so remarkably good is the ride that apart from views from the window, one could well imagine that on reaching, say the 45th floor, only two or three floors had been ascended.

The boiler house near the top of the tower was inspected first. Four dual, fuel gas/oil boilers are installed in this unmanned installation and provide steam for central heating at a pressure of 4½ bar. Gas for the boilers rises to the boiler house via a 12 inch main. At the time of our visit two boilers were in use. Also at the top of the tower is an auxiliary power, station equipped with gas turbine alternators. The temperature outside was little above zero and to venture outside at the top would have required suitable protective clothing.

From the viewing gallery one has tremendous views of London and for most of the party this was a favourite part of the tour, although on the day of our visit the visibility was not very good. Other high rise buildings in the City are seen to advantage from the gallery. Looking down from this unfamiliar vantage London is strongly reminiscent of New York.

Descending the tower various services were examined including air conditioning plant and some of the many control panels. Batteries are installed for emergency lighting. One feature noted was that light fittings in the building are cooled by the air extracted for air conditioning purposes. Our visit terminated on level one in the control room, from which conditions in the tower are monitored. Security is a significant concern. Much use is made of computers and closed circuit television. Demolition work to clear the site for building the tower started in August 1970, construction started in March 1971 and bank staff began to move into the building from 1980. The foundations extend 18.3 metres below the surface. There is a reinforced concrete circular foundation raft 54 metres in diameter and 4.5 metres thick standing on 375 concrete belled piles driven a further 24.4 metres into the London clay. The rigid core of the tower, again of reinforced concrete, is in cross section an irregular polygon. Even with a 100mph wind blowing, the tower is designed to move only about a millimetre. The lifts, emergency staircases, ventilation shaft and toilets are housed within the rigid core. Three wings are hung on the outside giving accommodation for 2,500 bank staff on 35 floors. These wings are divided by three intermediate plant floors. Near ground level huge reinforced concrete cantilevers transfer the load of the wings to the central core. The building of this structure demanded sophisticated falsework and six pours of concrete; each of the three cantilevers contains 153 layers of reinforcement. Nat West Tower is believed to be the tallest cantilevered building in the world. The total weight is 130,000 tonnes; 100,000 tonnes of concrete and 3,800 tonnes of structural steel were used. We should like to express our heartfelt thanks to Mr. Haring and the National Westminster Bank for a most interesting technical visit. Bob Carr

Electricity versus Gas

In August 1982 (GLIAS Newsletter August 1982) Bob Carr asked for comments on the above. This note, updated, is based on a letter that I sent to him at the time. It has been revised to take account of new information that I have received since then. Much of it has come from Ruth and Paul Verrall, to whom I offer my thanks. So, Electricity versus Gas Part One.

Personal Recollections

Gas lighting survived until much more recently than many people seem to think.

I can remember the Victorian houses in which both pairs of my grandparents lived, in Hackney. Both had only gas light when I can first recall visiting then, in the late 1920s. One was wired up, for light only, about 1933 or 1934, but the other only had gas until it was left in 1937. Indeed, the light in the scullery was a 'batswing', without an incandescent mantle. As gas was by then sold, on the basis of its heating, rather than its lighting power, the light that it gave was very poor indeed.

The 'spec' builder's house that my father bought new in Woodford in 1929 had electric light fitted, but that only. There were no power points. The electric iron and soon, the vacuum cleaner (a Goblin horizontal cylinder model) were plugged into a two-way adaptor plugged into a ceiling light, the bulb having been removed and at night replaced in the other outlet of the adaptor. The first socket to be fitted in a house was usually a 5A one in the kitchen for the electric iron, that being the first appliance that most people bought. My father bought a Goblin electric Clock about 1933 and was outraged at having to pay 12/6d. (62½p) to have a clock point for it fitted.

A.C. mains were only just being fairly widely available at the standard frequency of 50herz and Dad must have had a very early synchronous clock. We had no need for other points. We had no mains radio or free-standing lamps at that time. Television for a very few experimenters, was Baird 30 line using a mechanical scanning disc and other appliances were not in our price bracket. The really widespread use of appliances only started at the end of the post-war austerity period, in the middle 1950s. We cooked by gas, heated water with a coke-fired (by courtesy of the gas company) boiler in the kitchen, lit a coke fire in the living room with a built-in gas igniter and had gas fire points in three other rooms in the house though I think, that only the main bedroom had a fire attached.

In 1935 my father moved to an Edwardian house elsewhere in Woodford. Gas lit when built, it had been fitted for electric light, together with one 5A 2-pin socket in most rooms. There were no power, i.e. 15A, outlets. There were several bumps in the plaster where gas points had been removed and plastered over and one plugged pipe still stuck out of the wall. The house next door didn't get its electricity until 1936, for I saw the cable jointers couple the supply cable to the street main. I have little doubt that anyone living in a pre-World War 1 house will, unless it has been completely re-plastered, be able to find evidence of buried gas light points in some of its walls. Indeed, I know of one friend who bought just such a house and found some of the gas brackets still in place. Also, Ruth told me that a house in which she lived, in Castile Road, Woolwich, only had gas light when it was demolished in 1960.

Nor was a gas supply universal. I found, in Walthamstow library, a copy of a leaflet of the 1920s, offering to 'carcass up' i.e. fit pipes into, houses and to supply an obsolescent black gas cooker, for a very modest sum. This was presumably to try and stop the rival from getting in first, though the number of electric cookers used at that time was small indeed. Households that couldn't afford gas certainly couldn't afford an electric cooker.

The Southend Road, from Gates' Corner South Woodford to the roundabout by the River Roding, was lit — and well lit — by multi-mantle gas lights, set at the top of standards as tall as most modern electric ones, made by Sugg. They were re-used after the War and were not then replaced by electric light for some years. The side-street lighting of many (most?) boroughs was by gas until long after World-War II. Virtually all boroughs still have scores of cast iron gas lamp posts converted to electricity by fitting them with an electric lantern and a swan neck of steel tube. GLIAS members could amuse themselves by counting how many different combinations of these conversions they can spot. A photographic record would certainly run into hundreds. It would also be interesting to spot those surviving standards that once supported arc lights.

Bet can remember seeing a lamplighter in Smithfield, when she was working there after the war. He carried a long pole, at the top of which was a perforated brass tube containing a flare and a remotely operated igniter for it. It may be appropriate to advise some GLIAS members that the City of Westminster has kept the original gas lighting in many of its little courts and passages and that these lamps arc particularly observable north of the Strand and in parts of Mayfair.

Between the wars, all the elementary schools had gaslight and well both Bet and I can remember the ritual of teacher using a long hooked pole to pull the loop-ended chains swinging above our heads that pulled the tap on and off on each of the multi-mantle (4 or 5?) lamps supporting pipe. Even more do we remember the soft yellow but adequate glow and the companionable hiss of the burners. These lights were particularly needed on the occasion of another item of industrial ephemera — a yellow pea-soup fog!

Many railway stations on suburban lines were only slowly changed to electric light. Woodford was on the L.N.E.R. Liverpool Street to Ongar line and most of its stations were gas lit until London Transport turned it into the Central Line extension in the late '40s. At least one country station, Chigwell Lane, now Debden, war, then still lit by OIL lamps, there being no local gas supply.

Another long-running tradition, which may still linger on in some buildings, was to use gas lighting for the emergency lighting in case of failure of the electricity supply. Thus, virtually all cinemas and theatres had their 'EXIT' signs over the auditorium doors lit by gas and they could sometimes be seen to be flickering slightly, Woolworths, too, had emergency lighting by gas in all their stores until recently. Bet and I went looking for such lamps in 1982, and found them in 5 or 6 stores, with capped pipes in several more. One characteristic of their lamps was that the opaque globe round the burners was enclosed in a coarse mesh wire netting, to hold the bits if the globe cracked. There are a pair of such lamps over the 30s Woolworth counter in the Museum of London.

Finally the belief that gas fumes were bad for your health? I can only say that Bet and I had never heard this tale until we read it in GLIAS Newsletter No. 81! John Parker

History Societies visit — Docklands Airport

Members of the Croydon Airport Society cannot be accused of only being interested in the past. Thus, on Wednesday 29th July over fifty members of the society and their friends in the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society were the guests of John Mowlem & Company, the managers of the new London City Airport in the old Royal Docks. Amongst those on the visit were several British Airways staff including a senior B.757 Training Captain and two head office staff from Heathrow.

After introducing the visitors to the airport, Mowlem Public Affairs, Manager, Nicholas Hopkins explained how his company had evolved the project which will come to fruition in the autumn when two airlines, Bryman and Eurocity, begin operations with Dash 7 aircraft to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Dusseldorf, the Channel Islands, Manchester and Plymouth/Newquay. Mr. Hopkins, who has been involved with, the project since its inception, then introduced John Douthwaite, the Airport Director, who had previously been Director at Southampton Airport and earlier had been with BAA; and John Home, the Ground Services Manager at the new airport. One of the visitors was the President of the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, Michael Robbins, who had once been the Managing Director of London's Underground Railways and is a historian of some distinction. The Croydon Airport Society's President, Sir Peter Masefield, had intended to, be with his members but he was delayed at a British Caledonian Airways board meeting at Gatwick. Sir Peter is a director of 3CAL and has been involved in the merger negotiations with British Airways; he is also a former chairman of the British Airports Authority.

During the tour of the new airport, the visitors were, read a telex message of goodwill from Charles Stuart, the Chairman and, Chief Executive of Brymon Airways which had been the first airline to promote the STOL concept in the old London docks. Mr. Stuart congratulated the two societies for their interest in visiting the London City Airport. He regretted he could not he with the visitors but emphasised that Brymon looked forward to visiting London City Airport in October and every day thereafter. John King

Docklands Light Railway

The long awaited opening to the public took place on Bank Holiday Monday 31st August 1987 (GLIAS Newsletter August 1987). As expected it was well worth waiting for and trains were crowded with enthusiasts as well as local people investigating new ways of getting to work or entertainment. Two separate train services are operated: one from Tower Gateway to Island Gardens, the other from Island Gardens to Stratford. All passes valid on the Underground are valid on the Docklands Light Railway and trains run at frequent intervals for about the same hours as London Transport. (A waiting room at West India Quay would be a good idea.) Bob Carr

Report on the Docklands Light Railway

Letter to the editor

June Stubbs writes that she is very concerned about the Baths House in Great Smith Street, SW1. It was proposed by developers to demolish this building together with the listed buildings of Orchard House, Park Reuse and the library, together with the unlisted bathe house. June would like some assistance to help classify the baths house with a view to having it listed before it is too late. The listed buildings in this area are now being preserved but part of the baths house site already been cleared, including some second class cubicles which had levers outside to fill the baths. The chimney is still intact and possibly the boiler rise. The baths house, together with the adjoining library, was built as an integrated unit, designed by F. J. Smith in 1392.
If you are able to help June, please write to her at 39 Westminster Mansions, Great Smith St, SW1.

Local Studies Notes — new titles

A series of free duplicated sheets (GLIAS Newsletter October 1986), covering a wide range of Local Studies topics are now available from Newham Local Studies Library's Stratford Reference Library, Water Lane, London E15 4NJ. The new titles are:

44. The Explosion — Women's Dreadnought. 27th January 1917.
45. The Opening of Silvertown Fire Station 31st October 1914.
46. Recollections of the Silvertown Explosion by Ex-Supernumary Fireman T.R. Betts.
47. The Silvertown Explosion Roll of Honour.
48. The East Ham Fire Brigade 1904 East Ham Echo.
52. Mayors of Newham.
53. The Isolation Hospital 1904 East Ham Echo.
54. Canning Town. Thomas Burke's The London Spy 1922.
55. How London's Gas Is Made (Beckton Gas Works) 1896.
56. The Easter Holiday 5th April 1929. East Ham Echo.
57. The Launch of the Warrior 5th January 1861. Illustrated London News.
59. John Travers Cornwell VC — Hero of the Battle of Jutland.

If you would like to receive any of the above free sheets, please send a large SAE to the Librarian, Mr. Howard Bloch at the above address, indicating which sheets you would like him to send to you.

HMS Warrior

Britain's first ironclad battleship, HMS Warrior, is now on display in Portsmouth alongside the Mary Rose and HMS Victory. Built at Canning Town at the Thames Iron Works and launched in 1860, she was the biggest, fastest and best armed ship then afloat. Yet she never fired a shot in anger and ended an unadventurous naval career serving as a floating oil jetty at Pembroke Dock. The hulk was towed to Hartlepool in 1979 where it underwent extensive restoration and now looks as good as new. At Portsmouth Harbour. Open every day from 10.30 am to 5.00 pm. Admission £3.00 adults, £1.50 concessions

Streatham Silk Mill

Further to the report (GLIAS Newsletter February 1987) a public enquiry was held and decided that the building must be retained as part of the Sainsbury's development. GLIAS is grateful to David Thomas for successfully presenting our views at the enquiry.

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© GLIAS, 1987