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Notes and news — February 1989

In this issue:

The Eiffel Tower centenary

31st March 1989, Eiffel Tower inaugurated 100 years ago. Including the television transmission aerial the Tower is 1,051 feet high (the corresponding height for the British Telecom Tower in London is 620 feet), the Eiffel Tower is constructed from wrought iron and was one of the last large structures in this material before the dawn of the age of steel. Bob Carr

Blackwall Workshops

Trinity House intend to close the maintenance workshops at Blackwall in about six months. Enforced contraction of all branches of the Service makes it impossible to continue operations there. A visit to Trinity Buoy Wharf was made on 17th October 1980 (GLIAS Newsletter April 1981). Bob Carr

Demolition of chimneys

On Saturday 10th December 1980 the two chimneys of Brunswick Wharf power station were demolished by explosives at 1:00pm. Unlike the demolition of the Woolwich power station chimneys in 1979 which were blown up as a public spectacle, this demolition was carried out in a fairly secretive manner, presumably to avoid crowds of spectators.

A large residential development is to take place on the site. Brunswick Wharf plc, created by developers Rosehaugh Stanhope and Berkley House plc, plan 1.5 million square feet of apartments, one million square feet of business units and parking for 2,800 cars.

Brunswick Wharf power station of 346 MW capacity was built 1952-6 on the site of the East India import dock, so badly damaged by bombing during World War II that it was deemed not worth repairing. The power station had an impressive set of eleven boilers in line. A visit was paid by GLIAS on 17th January 1980 while electricity generation was still in progress. Bob Carr

Humphrey gas pumps

Shortly before Christmas parts of one of the Humphrey gas pumps from Chingford were noted just north of the Coppermill, Walthamstow. It is understood a pump might be going to Crossness. Bob Carr

King's Cross

On Saturday 26th November 1988 a one-day meeting on the history of the King's Cross area was held at Birkbeck College, Malet Street, WC1. A substantial and much appreciated contribution was that from GLIAS member Malcolm Tucker who spoke before lunch on the goods stations. Robert Thorne of English Heritage, continued in the afternoon developing the line taken by Malcolm and covering the coal drops. The day had started with Gordon Diddle, who provided an introduction to the railway history. Gavin Stamp, well-known architectural pundit and architectural correspondent to 'The Independent', gave the series of lectures a rousing conclusion. He dwelt mainly on the buildings, principally Georgian houses, which pre-dated the coming of the railways. Much property was demolished to make way for the two main-line termini. The day ended with a showing of the film 'The Lady Killers' (1955) which was set around King's Cross and included many fine period scenes of considerable interest to the industrial archaeologist. Quite apart from that the plot was considered commendable. The meeting was well attended and it is planned to hold similar events on other matters of local history interest. For further information write to Dr. Michael Hunter, Department of History, Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Bob Carr

The Molins Factory, Deptford

As I write this, at the end of December, the demolition men are busy on the Molins Factory in Lower Road, Deptford and I imagine that by the time this Newsletter is printed it will have entirely gone. I know nothing about Molins except that they made cigarette making machinery (there can't have been many people doing that!) and were the last big manufacturing concern in Deptford to close. The factory which is being demolished had the most interesting frontage with columns along the front in the shape of cigarettes with silver tips at the top. If it was in the Great West Road no doubt it would have been much photographed and we would know all about it, but as it is all the pundits — Pevsner, Docklands and even SELIA — completely ignore it. Surely someone knows something about this building and the industry which it housed?

New Stewart Street Pumping Station

Can one build industrial archaeology? After seeing John Outram's new storm water pumping station for the Isle of Dogs I am inclined to answer, yes! Amazingly this is a pumping station in the grand tradition of William Chadwell Mylne's Castle pumping station for the New River on Green Lanes. One might suppose a final fling before privatisation, this disturbing building can be loosely described as a classical temple with Egyptian overtones. Eccentric it might be but by next century it must surely join the great pantheon of architecturally notable London pumping stations and provide industrial archaeologists with another location for visits. See it if at all possible. You get a fair view from the road. Failing that David Turnbull's article in AJ for 19th October 1988 can be recommended. John Outram called his building 'a temple for summer storms'; AJ merely notes that it is built to handle storm water and the effluent of the affluent. Bob Carr

Albert Memorial

Albert Memorial © Robert Mason 2017

Structural problems involving a wrought iron beam are now thought to be not too serious and the memorial should be repaired and restored. Earlier proposals to enclose the monument in glass have been abandoned. English Heritage, the Victorian Society and SPAB were involved. Bob Carr

Gillespie Park

The redundant railway land South East of Finsbury Park station, behind the entrance to Arsenal underground station, has become an important asset for local people who fear that what is now Gillespie Park may soon be sold to developers for housing and there is a Gillespie Park and Sidings Campaign. At a public meeting held in November a BR spokesman agreed that provided a property company could be found, to co-ordinate the deal British Rail would be happy to sell the development land in one inch square lots. At 6,272,620 square inches to the acre it should work out at less than a pound per square inch. Bob Carr

Covent Garden

To fund necessary improvement work at the Covent Garden Opera House a substantial component of commercial office development, including the demolition of listed buildings is included in current proposals for the area. In October 1988 the Court of Appeal dismissed an attempt by the Covent Garden, Community Association to have planning permission for the redevelopment scheme revoked and it is highly probable that substantial redevelopment will take place. In an article in The Guardian (page 23, October 20th 1988), Professor Malcolm Grant suggests that this court decision has effected a change in English law to allow a trade-off between undesirable development and a 'good cause'. The introduction of new office accommodation to the Covent Garden locality is likely to add to present congestion. Bob Carr

Bryant and May's

Fairfield Works, Bow, in East London, the former Bryant and May's match factory which closed in 1979 is to be converted for domestic purposes. Renamed 'The Bow Quarter', it is intended to provide affordable housing of a high standard. Prices of homes will range from £60,000 upwards. Kentish Homes, already responsible for the 'Cascades' and 'Burrel's Wharf developments in Docklands, are engaged in one of the largest and most complex residential conversions in Britain. The GLIAS Recording Group paid a visit to Fairfield Works in March 1988 (GLIAS Newsletter August 1988).

The firm was established in 1861. Bryant and May's single-storey building was greatly extended in 1874 to become a multi-storey factory. In 1887 the works was described as having stone floors and high roofs. Match making involved health risks due to the use of phosphorous and was said to be responsible for cases of phosphorous necrosis or 'phossy jaw'. William Bryant and Francis May were Quakers and took an interest in the well-being of their workforce. However, despite precautions and medical supervision, the suspicion of dangerous working conditions persisted. The works is well known for the famous 'Match Girls' Strike' in the summer of 1888 in which Mrs. Annie Besant played a prominent part. This followed an article by her in 'The Link' entitled 'White Slavery in London'. The strike is claimed to be the first example of union organisation by unskilled women. Bob Carr

Letter to the editor

From Mike Taylor, who writes regarding the 'Silk Stream' (GLIAS Newsletter December 1988):
According to Gover (J.E.B.) and others, The Place-names of Middlesex, English Place-Name Society, vol. 18 (Cambridge: C.U.P. 1942) p6, the 'Silk' element is derived from the Old English 'Sulh', with the topographical leaning of 'furrow, narrow gully, etc'. The earliest record of this form of the word (among others) applied to the stream was in a charter dated 957.

The Docklands Light Railway tunnelling machine

Edmund Nuttall Limited, the main contractor for the Docklands Light Railway City extension to Bank, selected Herrenknecht International Limited to design and manufacture tunnelling machines for both the running tunnels and the new Bank station platform tunnels.

The machines are based on the novel concept, developed jointly by Edmund Nuttall and Herrenknecht, of 'plugging in' the 5.39m diameter running tunnel machine into the centre of the 7.75m diameter station tunnel machine and utilising the smaller machine's facilities to power the larger machine for the relatively short lengths of station tunnel required. The running tunnels are of circular cross section and are lined with precast concrete segmental lining — an expanded type in the London Clay and a bolted type in the overlying Thames Ballast. The face is excavated by a fully rotatable hinged arm excavator with 30 tonnes break-out force mounted in a segmental tunnelling shield with detachable tail and loose skin. Very precise control of the excavator is provided by joystick controls. Face support is provided by 4 breasting doors hinged from the shield which cover the upper part of the face, the lower part being supported by the shield structure and muck hopper.

Excavated material falls into the lower, part of the face and is loaded onto a conveyor either by the forward motion of the shield or by the excavator bucket. The conveyor is a heavy-duty belt-type one metre wide which raises the muck to the upper part of the tunnel for discharge into Volvo dump-trucks for removal from the tunnel via the portals. The Volvo dump trucks, are used to feed tunnel lining segments to the machine being unloaded by an overhead hoist pick-up. The unloader hoist travels forward with the segments to the segment feeder, which in turn deposits the segments in the tail of the machine ready for building.

The massive, invert segments, which are shaped to form the roadway for the dump trucks, are lowered from the, feeder by twin electric, hoists while all other segments of the lining are picked up by the vacuum pad on the erector head and rotated by it to their final position. The head is capable of movement along the tunnel, as well as radially and can be moved with great delicacy to put the segments in the exact position required. Upper segments are supported on hydraulically operated building bars until rings are complete.

Both expanded and bolted rings may be placed by the same erector, which can also handle the small solid block keys for the bolted rings. Expanded ring wedges are selected and placed manually, the stressing jacks being powered from the shield. Grout for bolted rings is brought into the tunnel by Nuttall-designed bulk carrier/pump units.

The shield, which weighs over 100 tonnes, is pushed forward from the lining by fifteen 110 tonne thrust 1300mm stoke hydraulic jacks fitted with polyurethane soled shoes. Accurate steering is possible, the line and level of the tunnels being controlled with the use of a Zed Instruments laser prediction system.

Probing ahead of the face is carried out by a drill, mounted when required on the excavator arm. The power pack and electrical switchgear are mounted on two portal gantries which slide on brackets fixed to the tunnel lining behind the machine and towed by it.

The station shield is 7.75m outside diameter, weighs 120 tonnes and is made of 12 segments. It will be erected in a chamber at the east end of the Westbound station, access being via the high level passages and escalator tunnel system, before the running tunnel drive reaches the area. The running tunnel machine will stop in this chamber, be moved 1275mm sideways and thrust forward to mate with the station shield. Extensions to the excavator arm and erector head' to give the required additional reach will be fitted and. tunnelling of the station ground can commence. The station shield has a tail in which the bolted rings specified are built and at the end of its work it can be dismantled in the ground leaving its skin behind.

The station shield carcass can then be dismantled and moved for re-erection in the Eastbound station. Meanwhile the running machine will be realigned and will complete the running tunnel over-run and junction tunnel, be dismantled and re-erected at the portal and will then complete the Eastbound running tunnel.

The total value of the machinery including spares is one million pounds; the order was placed in early August 1987 and the machine was delivered to Royal Mint Street in the last week in February 1988 arriving in sections by road transport. The station shield, not required until the late summer, was delivered later.

The main contractor for the Docklands Light Railway extension to Bank is Edmund Nuttall Limited; the works were designed for them by their consulting engineers, G. Maunsell and Partners, while the DLR is represented on site by Mott Hay & Anderson.
The above article has been reprinted by kind permission of the Publicity Dept. of the Docklands, Light Railway, Poplar, E14 9QA

Who invented radio?

Lee de Forest, born at Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S.A. in 1873, patented the triode valve in 1906 and this was often described as an invention as great as radio itself. De Forest studied at Yale University and gained a Ph.D. for his thesis on wireless telegraphy. He ultimately had over 300 American and foreign patents to his name. The triode or 'audion' was the introduction of a third element into the diode invented by Fleming in 1904, The triode could, amplify faint signals and the name 'amplifier' was born; without it radio and television could not have been possible. Lee de Forest sold his invention to the American Telephone and Telegraph Company for $390,000. Like many clever inventors he was not a very successful business man, losing fortunes as often as he made them. His triode remained the king pin of the electronics industry until the advent of the transistor. De Forest staged the first radio broadcast in history from the Metropolitan Opera House in 1910 and by 1916 he had, set up a radio station broadcasting news. By 1923 he had turned his attention to films, demonstrating the first sound and motion pictures and by 1928 the 'talkies' began to take over from the silent films. Lee de Forest died in 1961. Editor

Tadworth Tower

Although now a private residence, and now home of the author, the Tower House at Tadworth in Surrey started life as a water tower for the Sutton District Water Company (SDWC).

In 1898 the SDWC purchased a plot of land from the Tattenham Park (Epsom Downs) Land Co. for the erection of a water tower at grid ref. TQ 233 557. This land roughly corresponds with 13, 15 and 17 Tower Road. The intention was to supply water to the surrounding district principally to the north and in the same year the tower was erected. A foundation stone unearthed in the present garden in 1969 confirms this detail which is mentioned in the SDWC half yearly reports published in the Suton Advertiser that year.

The tower consisted of a rivetted steel tank on a brickwork supporting structure. It was supplied with water pumped from the SDWC works in Carshalton Road, Sutton. This necessitated raising the water approximately 500 ft. to achieve a top water level in the tower of 641 ft. above sea level. The tower was about 50 ft. high, the tank being about 11ft. in depth. The brickwork was of a decorative style in red and yellow facing bricks with Staffordshire Blue specials on ridges and ledges. The photograph overleaf shows it in about 1905.

In 1910 the SWDC acquired the Kingswood and District Water Company and in order to meet the demands of the new area a second tower was built at Colley Hill in 1911. This tower is still in use and can be seen in Margery Wood.

The capacity of Tadworth Tower was 20,000 gallons. However, by 1912 only 18,000 gallons was effectively used. This was because the additional pumping pressure to the Margery Wood Tower made it necessary to reset the ball valve at Tadworth. An engineer's report of this time indicates that in spite of the Margery Wood Tower, demand for water was so great that the Tadworth tank was dry for considerable periods during the day and night. A proposal seriously considered in 1912 was the provision of a reservoir to supplement Tadworth; it is not known what actually happened.

By 1925 SDWC had decided Tadworth Tower was redundant, and the tank was taken to their Woodmansterne depot where it was used to store oil. The land was then returned to the Tattenham Land Co.

In 1927 the present adjoining domestic buildings were erected and Tadworth Tower took on a new residential role as part of Tower House, with new castellation and a flat roof. The first occupier was William Adams, landlord of the nearby Dukes Head public house. During the war years the house was let. The tenants, Mr. & Mrs. Morton, purchased the freehold in 1947. The author purchased the property in 1969, carrying out restoration work in 1970, 1977 and 1987, the latter including renovation of the Tower's brickwork. Bruce Osbourne

Sources: Sutton Advertiser, 2/2 & 5/8/1898; Archives & correspondence of SDWC; Kelly's Directory; Sutton District Water Company 1863-1963, '100 years of service'.


Streatham Silk Mill, 496 Streatham High Road, SW16

The December 1987 Newsletter recorded a rather negative official statement from Sainsbury's regarding the future of this listed three-storey Georgian building which stood in the space allocated for car parking at their proposed supermarket.

Since then there has remarkably favourable progress. A new firm of architects has drawn up a scheme similar to those proposed by Jon Wallsgrove (GLIAS Newsletter February 1987) and English Heritage, including sympathetic rebuilding of the much-altered west end of the mill and using the structure as an interesting and imposing entrance to the supermarket behind.

The plans — supported by GLIAS, The Streatham Society and English Heritage — were agreed by Lambeth at the end of last summer.

By January 1989 the main structure of the supermarket was complete, and the mill building was undergoing major restoration behind an all-enveloping sheet of polythene. David Thomas

The Woolwich Free Ferry

1989 is the centenary of Britain's only free transport — the Woolwich Free Ferry. On the 23rd March 1889 the newly formed London County Council opened the Woolwich Free Ferry. After a procession along Fowls Street and Hare Street the official party crossed to the north bank and then returned to Woolwich where Lord Rosebery carried out the opening ceremony.

An exhibition in the saloon of one of the ferries and a small publication is planned for mid-March to record the history and achievements of this remarkable piece of transport history (including its remarkable safety record) which linked the two ancient halves of Woolwich, and created deeply affectionate memories in generations of local people who used it for work and pleasure.

We would be interested to hear about sources of information including engineering drawings, documents and artefacts and most importantly, a model of one of the old boats. Please contact Julian Watson, Greenwich Local History Library, Woodlands, Mycenae Road, London SE3 7SE. Tel: 858-4631

Kit Gregory and Julian Watson

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© GLIAS, 1989