Home | Membership | News | Diary | Walks | Calvocoressi Fund | Books | Journals | Links | Database | e-papers | About us

Notes and news — February 1990

In this issue:

Recording Group report

The Recording Group held its first meeting of 1990 on 8th January. The following items were discussed and members present would be very glad of further information, help or offers of participation where appropriate. Please get in touch with Mary at 24 Humber Road, London SE3.

North London Line Viaduct The viaduct which used to take trains from Broad Street to Dalston is now disused, but it is understood that the East London line from Shoreditch will be extended along it. The Recording Group would like to try and arrange a walk along the trackbed and in any case arrange a walk at ground level in the spring. It is also understood, that the East London line will be extended south from New Cross to Old Kent Road it was agreed to investigate if this also meant destruction of sites en route.

Limehouse Link Route This is the major road planned through Limehouse. Some group members had looked at the route and discovered that work was under way and a lot of demolition already taking place. It was agreed to look further at Dunbar Wharf (in the yard of which was a pump), Buchanan's Wharf and Dundee Wharf (already fifty per cent demolished). Peter circulated photographs taken on the walk.

Greenwich Ferry Mary had been told about some submerged works of the Potters Ferry between the Isle of Dogs and Greenwich. Bob said that his research on this had shown a strong connection with the Great Eastern Railway and there were certainly some rails on site. It was agreed to investigate further.

Waterloo and City Hoist Tim had arranged a recording group visit there (GLIAS Newsletter December 1989) and taken some pictures. June had been on the visit and had afterwards spoken to the Project Manager at Waterloo. She discovered that the British Rail Museum was not interested in preserving the lift. She also contacted the Beamish, Ironbridge, Kew, Black Country and Stephenson Railway Museums. Eventually she spoke to the Curator of the Armstrong Museum at Cragside in Northumberland who showed a great deal of interest but the sheer size of the lift as well as the cost of demolition and transport meant that they cannot take the lift either. Demolition is due to start this month. She had also had support from the Railway and Canal Historical Society.

We had been given information about sessions on recording techniques at Local Societies' weekends held at Ironbridge by the AIA. A report on these for the Recording Group would be very welcome.

The Group talked about works on coalhole covers and wore told about a 19th century book called 'Opercula' written by a London doctor. We understood that lamp standards in the Tottenham Court Road had all been pulled down, and that they had been, particularly interesting. Mary Mills

Rayners Lane Odeon

For the first time for many years (probably since it was built) this superbly unique cinema — formerly the Odeon, Rayners Lane — has received a new coat of stucco which has revitalised its Art Deco exterior. Forlornly mouldering away for the last few years, a prey to vandals and pigeons, there is hope that the remainder of the frontage will be put back to its 1930s glory, as talk about further improvements lead local people to believe there will be another use for this listed building that has come back from the dead. Geoff Donald

Railways under and over London

Lack of financial confidence in recent months is diminishing many threats to items of industrial archaeological interest. Second thoughts about the King's Cross redevelopment could mean railway lands at Stratford in East London being used for a Channel Tunnel terminal instead. The North London line would likely be used for access to Stratford. The great expense of the proposed 15 kilometre long tunnel from King's Cross through difficult ground beneath South East London to ??Nottingham?? SE9 is enough to produce cold feet.

For the original construction of the Great Northern Railway northwards from King's Cross, some of the land required was owned by St. Bartholomew's Hospital. The Hospital gave up what was needed for railway building on condition that when no longer required for railway use it would revert back to them. This is an additional difficulty for the King's Cross redevelopment scheme. It is understood the Hospital will require a large sum of money to allow non-railway use.

Moves and countermoves over the location of Channel Tunnel terminals and the choice of routes continue. In the meantime the oldest part of Waterloo station, platforms 16-21 (Windsor Lines) dating from a rebuild in 1885, is being transformed into a multi-storey terminal for the Channel Tunnel and will handle traffic as soon as trains from the Continent start to run. These will reach Waterloo over surface lines via Brixton.

A consequence of the Waterloo station rebuilding will be the removal of the interesting hydraulic lift which raises carriages from the Waterloo & City underground railway line when they need to go away for repair. Because of the difference in levels there is no direct rail connection. A deep-level car park will be constructed beneath the new Channel Tunnel terminal and eventually it will be possible to run Waterloo & City carriages into this, from which they can be taken away by road on low loaders. The lift, which incorporates a large hydraulic jigger, is due to be removed by early 1990. It dates from about 1898 when the Waterloo & City line was opened. From 1837 to 1844 London and Birmingham Railway trains from Euston were drawn up Camden Bank by cable. Two sixty horse-power stationary steam engines by Maudsley Son and Field were installed beneath the railway just to the north of the Regent's Canal. There is a lithograph by J. C. Bourne dated April 1837 which shows the building of the stationary engine accommodation and another illustration depicts the completed line with the chimneys for the stationary engines' boilers clearly shown, one on each side of the railway. When cable haulage was dispensed with, the winding engines went to a Russian flax mill but the chamber they occupied is still there. Being a short walk along the canal towpath from trendy Camden Lock this cavern has recently been considered for conversion to a wine bar.

The Brunels' tunnel beneath the Thames from Rotherhithe to Wapping is likely to come into increased railway use. Completed in 1842 after considerable difficulties as a tunnel for pedestrian use only, the money for the planned access for wheeled road vehicles not being forthcoming, it was converted for railway use. Trains ran from the South to Wapping from 1869 using a connecting tunnel driven through difficult wet river gravels by Sir John Hawkshaw. An even greater task was the construction of the line northwards through similar strata beneath the Eastern Basin of the London Docks to connect with the Great Eastern Railway at Shoreditch. This was done, with minimum inconvenience to the Dock above, by the same engineer and the through route completed in 1876.

It is planned to construct a new linking line northwards from Shoreditch to connect with the southern end of the former North London Railway viaduct which ran from Broad Street to Dalston Junction. There would be a new interchange station with London Underground Ltd.'s Central Line at Bishopsgate. The construction of Broadgate (GLIAS Newsletter October 1988) has meant the abandonment of a considerable length of railway viaduct with small businesses still being carried on in the railway arches beneath. The intention is also to extend the present train service through the Brunel tunnel to New Cross, further into South East London using existing lines. Bob Carr

Great Giles Gilbert Scott

At Battersea power station rebuilding work has all but ceased with the building gutted and essentially only the walls and chimneys standing. Plans for conversion to a theme park and leisure complex have been in some doubt (see the Evening Standard 20th September 1989, page 10). If the long tunnel for Channel Tunnel trains from King's Cross to Nottingham is actually built, Bankside power station would make a good site for working shaft or drift. Some of the walls could be retained to hide the unsightliness of the proceedings, and being on the river bank, spoil could be sent away by barge.

However, Bankside power station, like Battersea was designed by no less than Sir Giles Gilbert Scott O.M. and in the words of Gavin Stamp is 'the Ultimate Temple of Power'. The Thirties Society are dismayed that it has not been possible to list Bankside. The former Financial Times building Bracken House is cited as an example of a recent building of comparable merit which does have the protection of listing (see the Independent, 11th October 1989). Bankside only generated electricity from 1963 to 1981.

In its own parkland setting, out west at Park Royal the Guinness Brewery produces Harp Lager, Kaliber and London Guinness. It is a superb piece of work 1933-6 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (architect) with Sir Alexander Gibb (engineer), justly lauded by Pevsner. Try the view of the Brewery buildings at dusk from the Piccadilly Line looking east — a landscape redolent of South Lancashire with Edwardian spinning mills. On summer evenings peering through thick green hedges one glimpses white clad cricketers on the Sports Ground and the estate has its own railway. This is happily an example of a factory still very much in production where problems of conservation hardly arise as there is still an economic use. Bob Carr

The first launderette

Britain's first coin-operated launderette opened at 184 Queensway W2 on 9th May 1949. In classic bedsitter land at the north end of Queensway opposite Whiteley's, the premises are still in their original use, operated by Brookford Launderettes. One might almost expect to see a blue plaque on the wall. Bob Carr

Midnight under the Thames

The Brunel Engine House Museum at Rotherhithe organised a walk at very short notice through the East London Line's historic tunnel under the Thames from Rotherhithe to Wapping (and back). GLIAS members will need no introduction to Brunels' masterpiece, begun in 1825 and completed as a foot-tunnel in 1842, after many travails and converted to railway use in 1869.

After the end of service on 8th December, a party of sixty shepherded by L.U.L. personnel, including the young and dynamic general manager of the line Ian Jeffries, Nick de Salvas of the Museum and Bob Jones, walked the tunnel again. There was a quick trip to visit the escalator chambers at Rotherhithe station, while waiting for the power to be cut off.

The station at Rotherhithe is slightly to the south of the Brunel tunnel entrance, the access tunnel being constructed by Hawkshaw through shifting ground. In front of the portal the original shaft, covered by a concrete platform just before World War Two, extends across the width of the whole tunnel. Fanny Kemble, who visited the building works, wrote (probably of the north shaft): 'This well is an immense iron frame, cylindrical in form and filled in with bricks; it was constructed, on the ground and then, by some wonderful mechanical process sunk into the earth.' The position of the spiral staircase is still visible.

Although cut as a single tunnel by the Brunels, they constructed a central pillar, forming a brick box with two bores that give the tunnel its characteristic shape. This central wall was used to help jack the shield forward and later, for what, appears to be aesthetic reasons it was pierced at regular intervals by arches, recessed and decorated, although the decoration appears no longer visible. To make the subterranean passage more attractive, the walls were lined with terracotta tiles, still clearly visible, behind which drainage channels were cut. Later the tunnel was rendered.

The line uses standard ballasted track and the tunnel is surprisingly dry. At the lowest point there is a complex sump, which discharges back into the Thames. We 'alighted' at Wapping and proved conclusively the northern end is deeper than the southern (but not as deep as Fanny Kemble's claim of five hundred feet, though she was entitled to her exaggeration). We heard the powerful culverted stream at the southern end of the south bound platform, which appears to spill into a small pool in the track bed and returned via the opposite tunnel, noting the hydraulically operated, guillotine doors installed before WWII but according to L.U.L. redundant because of the Thames Barrier and not recently tested.

A great future is forecast for the East London Line, the Cinderella of the system. There is a proposal to link Shoreditch with the North London Line viaduct to Dalston by a bridge at Bishopsgate, with new stations there and two on the line to Dalston. South, a freight line closed in the 1920s will be reinstated to provide a route to Peckham. Much can be expected for this hidden gem of London's transport history. Many thanks to L.U.L. and the Museum. Meanwhile, can anyone explain how the builders held candlelit dinners as the celebrated engraving shows, when the tunnel slopes? Did they just omit the soup course? Jackie Pontin and Charles Norrie

Waterloo area resignalling scheme

The following work has been completed:

  • new interlocking at Waterloo and renewal of signals between Waterloo and Vauxhall;
  • new signalling controlled from local temporary panels at Epsom, Leatherhead (includes signalling at Effingham Junction), Motspur Park, New Malden and Raynes Park.

    The following work, with planned implementation dates, remains to be done:

  • Commissioning of new signalling centre which will initially control the main lines at Wimbledon — March 1990

    Signalling centre takes over control of signalling at:

    Signalling centre takes over control of signalling at:

    It had been intended to abolish Clapham Junction 'A', West London Junction and Queens Road signal boxes and transfer control to a local temporary panel at Clapham Junction during 1989 but this was not done because of the serious accident in December 1988.
    (From: Branch Line Society News — 25.9.39) David Thomas

    GLIAS Recording Group — evening discussion on airfields in London

    Bill Firth began his talk by saying that aviation archaeology often deals only with aeroplanes and not with the ancillary services for both civil and military use. These include buildings, such as hotels for people and hangars for machines; and ground support vehicles for baggage, and for bombs for the armed services on military sites. Civil aviation needed airline offices and city termini — the only one now left in London is the British Airways Gatwick terminal at Victoria.

    RAF Hendon © Robert Mason 18.4.2016 RAF Hendon © Robert Mason 18.4.2016

    Bill went on to talk about Hendon (GLIAS Newsletter February 1984); firstly the listed Grahame-White hangar. The Ministry of Defence now wanted to demolish this and it was being proposed to move it to the RAF museum — ironically because half of it had already been moved there and sold for scrap. The hangar dated from the First World War. It had a Belfast truss roof which provided a good way of spanning the large area needed. It was not known where the term 'Belfast Truss' came from (it was thought to be a late Victorian invention); its earliest use for a hangar was in one at Hamble built by Anderson & Co. of Belfast, in 1913-14. Bob Carr referred to medieval and later timber bridges using the same type of construction. Bill drew attention to what was probably the first control tower in Britain at Hendon — although its function was not known because it is not clear what 'control' meant then beyond hanging out flags! Grahame-White's office still remained underneath. Grahame-White had also built a black-and-white timbered hotel for VIPs despite wartime shortages and this became the officers' mess. The RAF took over Hendon in the 1920s and in the 1930s standardised 'Georgian' style buildings of a very high standard were put up. These buildings and their use are all part of aviation archaeology. John Bagley, for instance, pointed out a building with a clerestory in which parachutes could have been hung. Much of the Hendon site was now covered with housing but aerial views showed the shape of the site and the runway end. A railway line had run round the air field in a complete loop; but very little could be seen of it now.

    Flights had started at Hendon by Everitt Edgecumbe who had a shed on the site of the present roundabout where he put an aeroplane called the 'grasshopper' or 'hedge-hopper'. This shed had been used by Graham White's competitor in flying races to Manchester. Grahame-White chose the site for his airfield because of its nearness to tram routes on the Edgware Road — and he developed it with joy riding and weekend meetings, calling it the London Aerodrome.

    Other buildings from Grahame-White's day existed in the Police College area and along the Edgware Road, where there were a number of buildings connected with aircraft manufacture — one with 'Propeller Manufacturing Company' painted on a wall. Many of these factories dated from the First World War but most had now been demolished.

    Tom Sampson from the Croydon Airport Society spoke about Croydon Airport (GLIAS Newsletter February 1988) which was dated from the same period. Here too housing covered much of the area although an area was left where displays could be held. Nothing now remained of the earliest site on the north-west corner of the field demolished when the airport was rebuilt in 1928. On the north side was National Aircraft Factory No.1 in which vast numbers of craft were built during the First World War and some of these buildings remain within an industrial estate. Many aircraft were disposed of after the war and Handley Page took the site over and the remaining aircraft. Recently some DC Havilland 6 wings had been found locally being used as a lean-to shed.

    There were still some runway remains at Croydon. The Airport Hotel was now Croydon Post House but memorabilia on show had been reduced. Croydon had had the first purpose-built terminal in the world, now in a very bad state having been used as a warehouse and it had included an early W.H. Smith bookstall and a post office. Another listed reminder of the airport was a small police post.

    Tom went on to show pictures of the Second World War air raid at Croydon and damage done then. He spoke about the work of the Society and their hopes of turning the control tower into a museum. One constant remaining sign of the site is the direction board on the 194 bus route which still says 'Croydon Airport'. Bill pointed out that street names were a good method of identifying old airport sites.

    Bob Carr spoke about Northolt from its earliest days as a civil and military site. A number of pictures showed Second World War air raid precautions — camouflage on hangars and dispersal sites for the storage of aircraft. He also showed pictures taken on a recent visit to Northolt Airbase (GLIAS Newsletter June 1989) giving a glimpse of a modern airport site at work.

    John Bagley finished the evening with a few extremely interesting slides. Some of these showed remains of the aircraft manufacturing industry throughout Greater London and others were of remains to be seen on site of the North Weald airport. It was agreed that there was a wealth of remains for those who knew where and what to look for. Mary Mills

    Letter to the editor

    From Murray S. L. Bumstead, who writes:
    I do not know whether ancient tramways qualify as industrial archaeology, but it just so happened that we were staying in Box Hill, Melbourne, for the very week when the centenary of the Box Hill-Doncaster tramway was being celebrated. This was the first electric tram in Australia and indeed, in the southern hemisphere. There was a replica of the first car in a glass case outside Box Hill town hall and inside there was a comprehensive exhibition of tramway history.

    Melbourne is of course a city of trams, with an extensive network of routes still operating throughout the city. This modest and quite separate route, however, opened on 14th October 1889. The line ran up and down for just two-and-a-quarter miles across open country and connected the newly opened station at Box Hill with the rapidly growing community at Doncaster. There the Doncaster Tower, reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, was erected. Alas, like the famous Watkin Tower at Wembley Park (GLIAS Newsletter August 1989), built on the site of the present Wembley Stadium, this never got beyond the first level, before the novelty wore off and the public tired of climbing up just to view the surrounding countryside.

    The tramway had an equally chequered career and finally closed in January 1896. Melbourne trams, however, flourished and the Box Hill exhibition included a fascinating collection of old photographs, tickets and equipment, both of the cable trams, which ran until 1940 and some of the present trams, which today provide an efficient transport system, both within the city and to the outlying suburbs.

    Next issue >>>

  • © GLIAS, 1990