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Notes and news — October 1988

In this issue:

Philip Daniell

It is with regret that the society has heard of the death of Philip during the summer. Philip was a long standing member of the society. He was both professionally and enthusiastically involved with canals. Until his retirement Philip was Resources Officer with the British Waterways Board but his interests were wider than just a job. He led a number of walks for GLIAS, particularly in the Three-Mills area and in recent years he lectured on Canal IA to GLIAS at the City Poly. He was also deeply involved in environmental issues in Bromley, writing a number of town trails and arranging visits. The society offers its condolences to his wife. David Perrett

AIA Conference 1988 — Swansea

By some strange coincidence the Association for Industrial Archaeology Conference managed to coincide, with the sun shining in South Wales, so the one hundred and fifty or so attendees enjoyed some rather fine weather Swansea itself has undergone very substantial chances since it was the centre of the tinplate industry. What the Second World War did to the centre of the city (leading to a town planning disaster), modern urban clearance schemes in the form of the Swansea Valley Project have done to the Industrial remains in the valley. The docks are now doing a St. Katharine's with modern housing on the quaysides, some odd architectural sculpture and the necessary conversion of some remaining industrial buildings into restaurants, pubs and an Industrial Museum. However the area, which is only a short walk from the town centre, did seem very lively when members of the conference went to the Industrial Museum for the opening reception, in the presence of the Lord Mayor. The Museum staff should be thanked for coming in on a Friday evening in order to work the Abbey Woollen Mill, now part of the Museum.

The main body of the conference was the now standard mix of lectures on the locality, members' contributions including three by GLIAS members (Denis Smith, Bob Carr and Russ Nichols) and formal business and socialising in the bars. The rapid de-industrialisation of the area was reflected in the conference visits. The choice was Aberdulais — a complex area of sites now protected by the National Trust for Wales, the Swansea Valley and my own choice, Llanelly Docks. Unfortunately for me there is very little left in Llanelly Docks. One site visited after a 20-minute walk had been closed since 1320 and offered only two pleasant green indentations in a river bank.

Professor Butt from Glasgow gave the Rolt Memorial Lecture — 'Landscape with Machines — the view from America!' which bore a strong resemblance to a 'what I did on my holidays' talk. At the AGM the two GLIAS members on the AIA Council, Bob Carr and myself, were voted back for a further two years. David Perrett

GLIAS wins AIA photographic competition

At the conference, a small IA photographic competition was held. This was a preliminary try-out for a more important competition to be held in future years. The entries, either individual or society displays, were judged and the prize presented at the AGM. The GLIAS display of four boards on 'Harringay Stadium and its Totalisator' was prepared by Charles Norrie with a number of excellent colour photographs, mostly by Bob Carr. This was the winning entry. The display should be shown at some future GLIAS events. CONGRATULATIONS! David Perrett

Another silk mill?

The Brent Reservoir, popularly known as the Welsh Harp, was constructed from about 1835 by the Regent's Canal Company for canal water supply. The name 'Welsh Harp' comes from a pub which was situated on the Edgware Road. From about 1860 to 1910 the area was very popular for entertainment and recreation and in 1876 the first mechanical hare was tried out here in a greyhound race.

The Reservoir is fed from the east by the River Brent and from the north by a tributary called the Silk Stream. Did this perhaps once power a silk mill or mills? At its maximum extent in the mid-19th century the Reservoir had an area of about 400 acres so potentially there is a large supply of water power. Are there any GLIAS members with local or specialised knowledge who can shed light on this? If so please let me know.

More porter

Has someone spivved up 'The Old Blue Last' in Shoreditch since I saw it last? It used not to lay any claims to the origins of porter (GLIAS Newsletter August 1988). The pub was rebuilt on one of the triangular sites created when Great Eastern Street was driven through and the wording on the prominent bullnosed end reads 'Old Blue Last. AD 1700. Rebuilt 1876. Truman Hanbury Buxton & Co's Entire'. Trumans are still close by, at Brick Lane, E1, the only large brewery remaining in central London but they no longer sell 'entire', i.e. porter.

The usual story is that porter was invented to simulate a popular blend of three types of ale in the early 18th century. Since the qualities of these three ales were combined in a single brew, it was given the name 'entire'. It may have been brewed first at the Bell Brewhouse, east of Shoreditch High Street, in 1722. It was very dark, using brown malt and also very heavily hopped. To produce a high alcoholic content, it was matured for a year or more in casks or in large vats, hence a great need for storage space. Samuel Whitbread had a series of stone cisterns constructed for this purpose beneath his brewery at Chiswell Street, designed by John Smeaton between 1775 and 1786 (using pozzolanic mortar). Others resorted to huge vessels above ground, until one at Meux's Horseshoe Brewery, near the bottom of Tottenham Court Road, burst catastrophically in 1814.

The brewers of Burton on Trent also entered the London market, despatching their ale and also porter by sea, by canal and then by railways so that ale stores became features of the LNWR at Camden Town and of the Midland Railway at Agar Town and beneath St Pancras Station. The huge Ale and Porter Store beside the canal at Agar Town, which was built by the Midland Railway for Messrs. Bass in 1865 and which burnt down in 1978, could hold 100,000 barrels of 36 gallons each. I hold the research notes made by GLIAS and the Camden History Society when we investigated this building, but our researches were not concluded, so if anyone would like to look further into the storage and transport of porter, I should be glad to hear from them. Malcolm Tucker

Nunhead Cemetery

While walking round Victorian cemeteries looking for the graves of engineers and industrialists may be a pleasant occupation on a Sunday afternoon it is hardly industrial archaeology. However such cemeteries often have local groups formed to keep an eye on them, worry about their conservation and research into their history. One evening last March I went to give a lecture to the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery about the gas engineer, George Livesey, who is buried there.

Nunhead has many graves of South Londoners of interest to industrial historians and I was interested to meet people who are researching not the history of their own family but that, of people buried in the cemetery. Such family trees may in fact turn out to be of great interest because in revealing family links and intermarriage all sorts of influences in a particular field can be traced. I have since been sent a very detailed family tree which one of their members has produced of the family of Bryan Donkin, the, Bermondsey engineer.

The Friends of Nunhead have produced a series of information sheets about families in the cemetery — these include the Ravenscrofts (wigmakers of Chancery Lane,) the Prestige family (engineers) and the Figgins family (typefounders). They have also published Nunhead Notables which includes potted biographies of many people of interest to industrial archaeologists — for instance — Sir Frederick Abel (explosives expert), Sir Charles Fox (engineer), Thomas Tilling (omnibus proprietor) and Joseph Tomlinson (railway engineer).

Details of all these can be obtained from Ron Wollacott, 135 Gordon Road, SE15. Mary Mills

Greater London news

The area just to the north of King's Cross and St Pancras stations is a delight to the industrial archaeologist and is considered by many to be the best thing in Greater London. By rights it might have been expected to have been redeveloped during the 1960s but miraculously it still survives, largely intact. As readers of the GLIAS Newsletter or the local press will have gathered, this idyllic state of affairs will soon come to an end and what to the general public must be seen as an anachronism will be swept away in a major redevelopment. The two mainline stations themselves are listed grade one and the German gymnasium of 1865 and three of the St Pancras gasholders, dating from 1861, may survive but the King's Cross Hotel is likely to be demolished and a large number of lesser items will go.

To the West the new British Library is rising on the site of the Midland Railway's Somers Town goods depot. When this was constructed in the 1870s the property was surrounded by a screen wall about 30 feet high and 3,250 feet in length, which consumed about eight million bricks, the wall being, faced with Leicestershire red brick. This impressive perimeter wall survived with the new construction going on behind, but by March more than half had gone. To the North remains of the once numerous coal drops are much depleted.

To the north east of the area is the Potato Market, dating from 1865 and like much else hereabouts a relatively intact survival. Until a few weeks ago, when British Rail started to knock it down. This enraged the developers almost as much as the conservationists and demolition has stopped. The general public is taking an interest. A photograph of the Potato Market appeared in the Independent of 20th July 1988, page 5, and on page 10 of Time Out for 10-17 August 1980 was an article entitled 'Hot Potato'. This describes British Rail's attempt at demolition and there is an interior photograph which includes a well-known GLIAS member. In a loft, being rained upon as the roof had already been removed by British Rail, were discovered the archives of a potato merchant going back to the 1860s and now reckoned to be of great interest. These were saved by local historian Themis Michaelidou and it is understood will probably go to the Greater London Record Office. Some implements used in the potato trade were also found.

To introduce the whole King's Cross redevelopment the London Regeneration Consortium PLC issued an A2 size brochure, depicting a man taking a dog for a walk round the area. Claimed to be the biggest redevelopment project in Europe, 125 acres and £6.5 billion (for comparison Canary Wharf is a mere £1.8 billion) several proposals have been unveiled. There is a scheme which would involve the removal of the German gymnasium and according to at least two proposals the Great Northern hotel opened in 1854 and listed grade 2 would disappear. Interesting examples of industrial housing are unlisted and have a slim chance of survival. Norman Foster suggested the construction of a large cone-shaped steel and glass blister hanger to roof over the gap between the St Pancras and King's Cross train sheds and enclose a three-dimensional passenger interchange. It has even been suggested (Guardian, 7th March 1988, page 17) that the St Pancras hotel and Cubitt's brick arches in front of King's Cross be cleared away to give a better view of the train sheds from Euston Road. See it soon. You may not have long.

The Architects' Journal noted that 'the rules of Monopoly have been changed, now you can build over stations'. Big developments at London railway termini are to be expected. The reconstruction of the Broad Street and Liverpool Street station area is already well advanced, Broad Street having totally disappeared and a good deal of Liverpool Street too. If you have not been recently, pay a visit but be warned, a stranger can all but get lost in the new Broadgate. The eastern part of Liverpool Street station constructed in 1891 has been built over above platform level and the view westwards from Bishopsgate is of a great new complex of office building stretching away to the North. Fenchurch Street has been dealt with but Paddington, Marylebone, Baker Street and Waterloo are as yet little altered. The Victorian bar at Marylebone station is worth a visit. Just to the South of Charing Cross station work is in progress constructing a 14-storey office block which will span the railway tracks. Local traders in Villiers Street are being annoyed by mud from a large excavation. Holborn Viaduct station will almost certainly not last long and immediately north of Blackfriars the newly re-opened Thameslink is to be taken into a tunnel to make way for more development.

As well as building over stations, building over roads now seems a possibility. Just to the East of the Museum of London the relatively recent Lee House has been demolished and the replacement 10-storey office building will span the road, London Wall, to the South. To be called Alban Gate the development is to be carried over the road on a bridge which is already being built. The design, which must support a large load with a minimum number of columns, is described as 'four queen post trusses with two bow string arches on either side'. Architecturally it is planned the building will resemble 'a Post-Modern juke box clad in pink granite'. An artist's impression appeared in the Times of 23 August 1988 on page 4. London industrial archaeology in the near future could well be involved with recording examples of buildings in international modern style.

Several buildings occupying corner sites about London are in the process of replacement. This seems to be a favourite kind of development and is happening on the eastern corner of the Strand and Lancaster Place and at the corresponding corner with Northumberland Avenue on the South side of Trafalgar Square. At Camden Town the Sainsbury's Supermarket being built on the site of the ABC Bakery currently looks like a small football stadium. In Liverpool Road, Islington, the classical hospital buildings are being redeveloped for housing by Circle 33 and at the Angel a large corner site between the High Street and City Road has been cleared. The Blue Coat Boy inn was a casualty. Redevelopment is very popular in the City and London's stock of Victorian and early 20th-century commercial buildings is being rapidly reduced, Replacement is mostly with buildings of Post Modern design, (the Lloyd's building is exceptional) and the unattentive may not appreciate how much is recent. Looking Westwards over the City from near the Whitechapel Road it is clear just how much is happening from the large number of cranes and the pounding of pile drivers. In the 19th century most of earlier London was swept away and the same may be happening now. Perhaps London in the 1860s was like this.

In Dockland first generation low-rise buildings erected in the enterprise zone on the Isle of Dogs c.1981 are being demolished to make way for something bigger. Cannon workshops have gone (the research library has moved) and Limehouse Studios have to make way for Canary Wharf. Almost the only survival on the East Greenwich gasworks site is the Sulphate House with its dramatic parabolic roof. Built in the 1950s for the storage of dry powder it has recently been used as a film studio. The whole of Blackwall Point is to be redeveloped. At the Royals large scale building has not yet taken place although much ground is cleared awaiting redevelopment. A big pop concert starring Jean Michel Jarre and featuring son et lumière with images projected onto the remaining buildings was planned for Victoria Dock in September. Bob Carr

Visit to 11 (Fighter) Group operations room — RAF Uxbridge

A party of 35, including a good representation from GLIAS and members of two other societies, visited the operations centre, which was set up by the first commander of Fighter Command after its formation in 1936, Air Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding. It was ready for use in 1939. The room acted as the nerve centre for 11 Group, which was responsible for the air defence of South East England and through it information was fed, evaluated and acted on. By a system of visual displays, kept up to date by the plotters, mainly WAAF, up-to-the-minute information was available to the group controller and his liaison officers. They sat in a 'gallery' overlooking the chart table, on which friendly and enemy aircraft movements were plotted, with other visual displays, such as aircraft and squadron availability and the local weather at fighter airfields, on the wall behind. The room is set up to represent operations on 15 September, 1940 (Battle of Britain Day) when the greatest air battle the world had ever seen took place and was effectively won.

The most interesting aspect of the afternoon was the presence in the party of a lady who had served as a WAAF on the teleprinters in the room through the battle and until 1943. She told us how on 15 September she found she could not read the telex because someone's sleeve was in the way and she brushed it aside only to look up and discover that the arm belonged to Churchill, who happened to be visiting.

Warrant Officer Wren, one of whose RAF duties is to guide visitors round the centre, first gave us a factual account of how the room operated but then, by taking us through the Battle of Britain and particularly the events of 15 September, 1940, he made the whole centre live. Afterwards we spent a long time in the museum in the gallery where there is an interesting collection of souvenirs, press cuttings and photographs of the time and many aeroplane models.

We are grateful to the Officer Commanding RAF Uxbridge for permission to visit the centre and to W/O Wren for his excellent and enthusiastic guidance. Incidentally the centre remained operational until 1958, but modern weapons and detection systems then rendered it obsolete.

In the morning three of us went 'walkabout' in the old town of Uxbridge and around the confusing channels of the Colne and Frays Rivers and the mills they serve and the canal. Thanks to Jon Wallsgrove, who had worked as an architect on some of the buildings, we could identify some of the more interesting buildings among the modern ones.

Apologies are due to those who did not meet up with us. Bill Firth

Government Consultative Paper 'Financing Our Public Library Service'

Anyone who ever visits a local authority local history library, or who consults an archive owned by a public authority should be aware that last February the Government published a Green Paper putting forward proposals which could have far reaching effects for researchers using those facilities. Many organisations with an interest in the use of archives have made submissions to the Government about this — the magazine Local History published a briefing and this was taken up by others and in particular organisations representing family historians. The GLIAS Committee saw a report on the Green Paper at its May meeting but decided not to make representations.

Basically the Green Paper states that the basic public lending right in local authority libraries should remain but it discusses a number of ways in which extra revenue could be raised from what is seen as fringe activities. This has been seen as including use of local history libraries and archives. There is also a suggestion that use of 'non-print' material should be subject to a charge.

London Archive Users' Forum have submitted a six-point representation to the Government which can be summarised as follows:

Did the Victorians invent industrial archaeology?

It has always been claimed that industrial archaeology was 'invented' in 1955 by Michael Rix who described it in an article that year in the Amateur Historian. We can now reveal that something described as Engineering Archaeology was first mentioned in 1866 in the journal 'Engineer'.

In this article the editor described how he despatched nearly the whole staff to look for waterworks in Chelsea and Waterloo. Unfortunately they found nothing but were assured by 'older inhabitants' that in a former period such waterworks did exist. These waterworks were mentioned in the rival journal 'Engineering' and were described as 'a remarkable archaeological discovery'.

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© GLIAS, 1988