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Notes and news — April 1988

In this issue:

The future of the New River

(See GLIAS Newsletter August 1986). At a meeting at the House of Commons on Wednesday 2nd March three members of the New River Action Group (including GLIAS Chairman) met Roy Watts, Chairman of Thames Water and three of his senior staff, to discuss matters of concern. The meeting was chaired by Michael Portillo MP and Lord Ted Graham was in attendance.

Thames Water produced a detailed report of their current ideas, both for maintaining the regime of the water-course from Enfield to Stoke Newington and for the East and West Reservoirs themselves.

In summary, the proposals now being investigated in detail to provide a balance between amenity, water resources and safety, are:

In point of fact the 50Ml/d mentioned in Item (1) above is equal to 13.2 millions of gallons per day — just over twice the figure previously proposed by TWA. There is some further evidence of response to criticism in the new development proposals at the Stoke Newington site. Copies of the March 1988 TWA proposals will be available at the GLIAS AGM. Denis Smith

White Hart meetings

Conveniently situated at the west end of Theobalds Road, close to Holborn tube station, the upstairs room of the White Hart public house is proving a successful new location for GLIAS meetings. On 15th January a useful discussion took place on recording work in Greater London and the future of London IA generally, chaired by Jon Wallsgrove. Thanks are due to Jon for a well-disciplined meeting (which might have been terribly rambling!) and for drawing together the evening's conclusions, The GLIAS White Hart organisation is due to Mary Mills.

The recording presentation on Hough's, the Limehouse Paperboard Mill, on Friday 12th February, was surprisingly well attended with Mr. James Hough and former workers as well as Tom Ridge and members of the Ragged School Museum project present. Our secretary Tim Smith was presenter. John Parker gave a very informative talk on the general history of papermaking and its relation to board making at Hough's and Tom Ridge gave a slide show on the history of the dry dock over which the Limehouse Board Hill is built and presented the not inconsiderable results of his historical researches. There was also video of the Mill at work by Andrew Keene and Dan Hayton. Unfortunately I was absent due to illness and am very sorry to have missed a really first rate event. It is hoped the Harringay evening on the 11th March will be a success. Bob Carr

The Brunel Exhibition Project, Rotherhithe

Marc Isambard Brunel's Thames Tunnel between Rotherhithe and Wapping was the world's first thoroughfare to be built underneath a major river. The story of its construction between 1825 and 1843 is one of the classic sagas from the heroic era of civil engineering which is, or at least should be, well known to readers of this newsletter.

The Brunel Exhibition Project/Rotherhithe is a registered Charity formed in 1973 with the objective of securing the preservation of the remaining buildings on the surface at Rotherhithe which once formed part of the Thames Tunnel works and setting up a permanent exhibition inside the old boiler house which was once used for the steam engines that drained and ventilated the works. The Project was wholly successful in these aims and the museum has now been open at least once per month for the past eight years.

The last 15 years have seen massive and accelerating changes in the surrounding area; where once was dereliction is now considered a desirable and increasingly expensive place to live; down the road new industry and shopping developments are mushrooming. We believe that the project has an opportunity to develop a major tourist asset within what is recognised as an outstanding conservation area. There is a possibility of funding within LDDC's strategy for tourist activity in Surrey Docks and there is now clear commercial potential for the site. What has hitherto operated as an underfunded, largely local attraction staffed by a dwindling band of volunteers could, given effective and sympathetic management, be established as a financially viable and professionally run Heritage and Information Centre for Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks. It is important that the IA view is properly taken into account in any new development.

Anyone interested in the future of London's most historic IA site should come to the Annual General Meeting at the Engine House, Tunnel Road, Rotherhithe SE16 (50 yards from Rotherhithe station) on 20th April at 19.00. Visitors will be most welcome. Anyone just wanting to get their hands dirty should come down on the weekend of 30th April/1st May (start 11.00) where we will be having a major clearing session following recent archaeological excavations. Visitors may get a chance to do some real digging! Bob Barnes
Normal openings continue throughout the year — first Sunday every month (11.00 to 15.00) with weekly openings during June, July and August. For further information contact Bob Barnes (0322 25725) or Nick de Salis (318 2499)

Finsbury Park redevelopment

A major redevelopment plan for the Finsbury Park area is being proposed by Mr. Sam Morris, the former Billingsgate porter, who was responsible for the refurbishment of the Agricultural Halls, Islington. The scheme, known as the 'Rainbow Initiative' covering an area over 20 times that of Arsenal football stadium, is claimed will create more than 6,000 new jobs. It includes Arsenal Park, an industry/housing and DIY development on BR Gillespie and Drayton Park sidings, 'The Rainbow Centre', a 24-hour shopping and leisure complex on a site off Isledon Road, 'Workshop City', small workshops and a fashion school between Fonthill Road and Finsbury Park Station and 'The Housing Initiative', refurbishment of Six Acres and Harvest Estates by an independent trust. At the Rainbow Theatre (GLIAS Newsletter December 1987) plans include a drive-in car park on the ground floor which would displace the listed Fountain Court. A cinema museum next to the George Robey public house is under consideration. Bob Carr


Porter is a beverage which originated in London in the early 18th century and took its name from having been at first a favourite drink of street porters. By the late 19th century it was a very popular drink, at which time good London Porter contained about 6.4% alcohol and nearly a similar amount of saccharine and extractive matter. Stout had about 7.3% alcohol. Porter is brewed in London today by the Flag Brewery. I would like to know if GLIAS members have come across any. Bob Carr

The Great Engineers: Exhibition at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore. November 1987 - January 1988

This exhibition celebrated 150 years of design at the UCA by presenting a small but intriguing selection of original design drawings, prints, photographs and models relating to major British engineering projects from 1837 to the present. The effect was very beautiful, with enormously enlarged prints and photos forming chronological curtains through which the next section could be glimpsed and a series of busts of eminent Victorian engineers gave the whole the appearance of a hall-of-fame. So keen indeed were the designers to give an aesthetic experience that messy troublesome things like explanatory texts were tucked away out of sight so as not to spoil the overall effect... the show was 'to enhance public recognition of the engineer's status'.

In the Exhibition book of the show (£35) and the special edition, of 'Architectural Design' (£4.95) every attempt is made to distance the engineer from the architect and his social responsibility, so as not to taint engineering with the unpopularity of modernist architecture... Arup & Partners had the major part of the modern exhibits and the idea is clearly to show them as the rightful heirs of Stephenson, Brunel, Paxton, Bazalgette and others... There is no critical sense, no hint of failures and false starts, all is the triumphal progress to a glorious end-product.

The beauty of the show was to convince us that engineers are truly creative spirits. Viewed in this light the show made an excellent statement... So the exhibition succeeded in showing us engineering for art's sake but failed to show engineering as a vital part of society, which was one of its intentions.
From G.G.W. Green: The Ironbridge Institute, Edited by Denis Smith

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© GLIAS, 1988