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Notes and news — April 1989

In this issue:

The London and Croydon Railway — Anniversary

The 150th anniversary of the opening of this railway is 5th June this year when British Rail hope to run a special train from London Bridge to Croydon carrying first day covers. These will be on sale at the Exhibition of photographs, maps and plans in the Sun Lounge of Fairfield Halls, Croydon. The exhibition will be open from 30th May until Saturday 10th June (excluding Sunday) and in the Arnhem Gallery there will be a model railway exhibition from Friday 2nd June until Sunday 4th June. Some parts of the exhibition will transfer to Deptford Town Hall on Saturday 17th June, on which day from 3.00-5.15pm there will be talks about the Croydon Canal, the London and Croydon Railway and Croydon transport today. John King

Some interesting dates and anniversaries

  • Tuesday, 4th April 1989 — The Kodak Museum of Popular Photography opens in Bradford, Yorkshire
  • Friday, 21st April 1964 — BBC2 TV began 25 years ago
  • Saturday, 27th May 1989 — Festival of Steam at Liphook in Hants
  • Tuesday, 30th May 1959 — The Hovercraft service began (30 years ago)
  • Friday, 2nd June 1989 — The Greenwich Festival begins
  • Wednesday 14th June 1919 — Alcock and Brown flew the Atlantic (70 years ago)
  • Saturday 17th June 1989 — Biggin Hill International Air Fair
  • Friday 30th June 1894 — Tower Bridge inaugurated (95 years ago)

    Bob Carr

    GLIAS Recording Group

    There have been two recording group meetings since the last newsletter. What has happened:

    London and Middlesex Archaeological Society — Mr. Corbie (LAMAS) came to the meeting on 6th February to discuss an arrangement for GLIAS to advise LAMAS on endangered sites. He praised the work GLIAS had done on the Streatham Silk Mill. It is hoped to set up a network so that bodies who want advice on sites can quickly be referred to a GLIAS member with particular expertise.

    King's Cross — This important site has occupied a lot of the Recording Group's time. It is also hoped to visit St. Pancras gasworks.

    Aerial Surveys — Meetings were being held at English Heritage.

    Other sites: The following sites are being discussed. We would be glad of information on any of them.

  • Isleworth Sewage Works — where there is a three throw hydraulic pump dating from the 1930s.
  • Deptford Evelyn Street Baths and Deptford Town Hall — about both of which there are rumours of demolition.
  • Brentford — developments around the canal, river and dock are proceeding quickly. Members felt it was important to see what was left before it was too late.
  • Hampton Water Works — and the Hampton and Kempton Park Railway.
  • Paper Mill on the River Cray — an early site but with very little left on it, about which our advice had been asked.
  • Penge East Railway Station — an LCDR station which LAMAS hopes to get listed.
  • St Bride's Institute, City — where there is a swimming pool.
  • Southall — where the margarine factory and associated works look like being demolished soon.
  • Peak Frean's Biscuit Works in Southwark — due to close soon.
  • Brick Lane Brewery — now closed. A steam engine was on site.
  • Butlers Spice Grinders, SE16 — still going despite development all round.
  • Enfield Museum — a sign outside seems to indicate something rather bigger than a veteran car museum.
  • 'Telford Bridge' at St Katharine Dock — planning permission for its removal has been refused.

    The Recording Group is always grateful for information on interesting industrial sites in London. Members are always welcome to turn up at meetings with information. Mary Mills

    Letters to the editor

    From Derek Bayliss, who writes: Readers of the GLIAS Newsletter might like to know that the January 1989 issue of 'Personnel Management' includes an article — 'The Turbulent Birth of British Profit-Sharing' by Esmond Lindop (pp44-47) about George Livesey and the background to the 1889-90 strike at the South Metropolitan Gas Company. Footnotes refer to Mary Mills' researches on the subject.

    And from Moil Barker: Two tourist leaflets 'Croydon Office Trail' and. 'Croydon Shopping Trail' are still available from the Tourist Information Centre, Central Reference Library, Katharine Street, Croydon, Surrey. They are free, but I'm sure an SAE would be appreciated.

    King's Cross

    There are now two main threads to the King's Cross developments — the Parliamentary Bill and the planning application to Camden. By the time you receive this Newsletter the London Regeneration Consortium, the developers, should have presented their 'planning application to Camden', comprising two alternative outline plans, supported by some 25 reports and an environmental assessment. The developers hope to achieve an agreed consent with Camden by the summer of 1990, with detailed plans for phase I of the development (the eastern edge of the site) by Christmas 1990.

    And what of the new plans? In some ways, they are closer to Norman Foster's original master plan than the second. The central park reverts to an oval from a pear-drop shape, while the core of buildings in the triangle between the King's Cross, St. Pancras and the south edge of the park, which attracted much criticism in the original design are reinstated, but will be less intensively developed.

    The Great Northern Goods Site

    We now have clearer ideas of which buildings it is proposed will be retained. On the GN goods site the Granary, Eastern and Western Coal Drops, Plimsoll viaduct approach, Fish and Coal Offices remain and the developers appear to intend to keep them in a 'hard' industrial setting. The Midland Goods Shed, including a hydraulic accumulator tower and surrounding canopies, the Main Goods Shed (behind the Granary), the Western Goods Station and the Goods Office building (now LRC's head office) will be lost. The Goods Shed is individually the most important building on the site, the largest of its period and a rare survival. An office building constructed later inside it contains, at a higher level, part of the original 1850s roof. Its loss will be a severe blow to the industrial archaeology of the area. The Granary canal basin is to be excavated but, the developers claim, cannot be economically connected to the canal using the existing infilled bridge, because of the presence of the CEGB's 400kv cable in the canal towpath. The canal basin on which the Western Goods Station stands would also be reopened and can be reconnected to the canal. The developers are already considering alternative uses for the industrial site, but seem to have rejected a heritage centre. 'Specialist' retail is one suggestion. Perhaps it would be desirable to reconstruct typical coal handling units?

    It is intended to move the railway tracks into St. Pancras westwards, releasing land to the west of the park for office development by partial demolition of the viaduct, as the developers have decided it is uneconomic to raft over the tracks.

    Further south, the major losses appear to be the Great Northern Hotel, King's Cross suburban station and the isolated listed gas holder (one of the eastern pair).

    East of York Way

    BR's Bill relates to the works that it needs to develop the second Channel Tunnel station and integrate the operations of King's Cross and St. Pancras stations. The size of the sub-surface station box under King's Cross has grown and now extends from the Camley Street (St. Pancras coal basin) south-east to the Thameslink Station. The blocks east of York Way and south of Pentonville Road will be affected. We have been led to believe the layout of the box is very tight. Nevertheless, it has been suggested that all the area to be compulsorily purchased by BR will not necessarily have to be demolished. Hence, conceivably the Scala cinema and lighthouse site (the flat-iron building) could survive. It appears inevitable that there will be major disruption of the block east of York Way. Developers for the site have not been appointed, but we should bear in mind that the opportunity to improve the main road layout in the area may be proposed by the Department of Transport. BR's Bill cannot be expected to gain Royal Assent before summer 1990.

    Conservation Area Advisory Committee

    Camden Council is setting up a Conservation Area Advisory Committee for King's Cross and GLIAS will be asked to provide a representative. As it has an important and statutory function, if you have any particular issues you feel should be raised, could you contact Malcolm Tucker or Charles Norrie.

    LAMAS' Initiative

    LAMAS the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society has invited GLIAS to advise them on the industrial archaeological aspects of sites that they hear of. While we are investigating how the system might work, Tim Smith has agreed to act as point of contact until the AGM.

    English Heritage Reports

    English Heritage has completed its report (King's Cross Development Site — An inventory of architectural and industrial features). This is a very full report — especially given the short time the authors had — which covers an area rather wider than the GN Goods site. Charles Norrie

    King's Cross gazetteer

    Markfield Beam Engine and Museum

    Five years ago a charitable trust was set up to look after the sewage pumping engine at Markfield Road in Tottenham, North London. The Woolf compound eight-column beam engine installed there in 1886 by Wood Bros. of Sowerby Bridge is complete and in good condition. Advantage has been taken of MSC schemes to overhaul the engine and install a steam generator in an adjacent purpose-built boiler house. The intention of the Trust is to get the engine steaming again within the next three months, where its proximity to Seven Sisters BR and LT stations is likely to bring a steady stream of visitors of all ages. Very little work is needed to prepare the engine for public exhibition, but the small body of volunteers working there need to be able to call occasionally on the services of someone with experience of working a large rotative beam engine, who is willing to advise on the commissioning of this magnificent engine.
    If any GLIAS member can help, please contact Mr. A. J. Spackman, technical director of the Markfield Beam Engine and Museum, at Nine Elms, Therfield, Royston SG8 9QE. John Robinson

    Swedish iron at Hampton Court

    In a recent short talk to the Sheffield Trades Historical Society, Dr Kenneth Barraclough said that work on the 1692 roof of Hampton Court Palace following the fire had brought to light wrought iron joist hangers bearing the marks of Swedish iron works. The iron was in the form of flat bars, roughly 2 inches by half an inch in cross section.

    Fifteen different marks were found. Three are still unidentified. Five were from Akerby iron works in the Dannemora iron-field, and the other seven were from works elsewhere in Sweden.

    It was already known that Sweden was an important exporter of iron to Britain at that time, sending 15,300 tons in 1699; and Akerby was supplying iron to the Sheffield steel trade by 1711. But it was quite exceptional to discover dateable samples with identifiable Swedish marks. Derek Bayliss

    Another Skylon?

    Along with proposals for a 3,400-seat theatre with the largest stage in Britain, to be situated on the South Bank overlooking Jubilee Gardens, is a plan to re-erect the Skylon, one of the symbols of the 1951 Festival of Britain. This is all part of a scheme for the area by the County Hall Developments Group. The Group's bid for County Hall itself has been approved by the London Residuary Body.

    The Skylon, a novel structure in which a cigar-shaped shell was supported vertically by pre-tensioned wires, was designed by Felix Samuely. At the time Britain's finances were in a poor state and wags explained that the Skylon symbolised Britain in 'having no visible means of support'.

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  • © GLIAS, 1989