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Notes and news — April 1990

In this issue:

Broadhurst, Clarkson & Fuller Ltd


Telescope House in the Farringdon Road is the home of Broadhurst, Clarkson & Fuller Ltd. who still manufacture refracting telescopes for astronomical use and carry out work on microscopes. They claim to have been originally founded in 1785 by Charles Tulley. The shop, full of splendid examples of optical equipment, is probably known to many GLIAS newsletter readers.

On the ground floor at the back of the shop is a German lathe acquired some time after the First World War. This is still used with the tool hand held and unsupported. In this workshop brass tubing and lens shanking are turned and screw threads cut. For telescopes screw threads need to be loose so that glass lens elements can be removed easily without risk of cracking the glass. At one time, probably near the end of World War Two when material was in short supply, old plate glass windows had been used to fabricate lens blanks. A piece of glass is trimmed to a roughly circular shape to form a blank using a simple hand tool. This appears to require considerable skill. In connection with the lathe there are several expanding chucks of which the firm has a large collection; invaluable for repair work. Over the years many other useful artefacts such as patterns have been accumulated.

There had been a lens grinding shop on the first floor. Now lens elements are bought in from Japan ready ground and only assembly takes place at Farringdon Road. Victorian pattern refracting telescopes have been in continuous production since the 19th century. All work is carried out on the promises with only two or three people. At one time during World War Two part of the firm was at Watford.

The brass tube making process for telescopes is carried out in the basement. To produce a telescope tube a brass sheet is bent round and the butting edges joined together. A boxwood mallet is used to beat the metal. Brass sheet and tube work is soft soldered except the tubes themselves, which are brazed. The tube is wired, brazed and immersed in a lead bath of weak sulphuric acid, rubbed down with sand, then water. A fine stick of silver solder is used for making the joint and the seam is filed sooth. The cylindrical tube so formed is next placed over a tapered mandrel and gripped by an iron collar. The assembly is inserted into a sizable hand-operated machine in which the tube is drawn out to the required dimensions. (The process is similar to that used for the manufacture of trumpet tubes in the 17th century.)

For drawing the tubes there were two machines, the older one dating from perhaps the 18th century, the later one from about 1900. When placed on the mandrel the brass tubes ere lubricated with tallow so they can be removed after stretching. In addition to the two, tube drawing machines in the basement there were lathes of relatively recent manufacture and an old chopping block of considerable character. The writer is indebted to Mr Dud Fuller FSc, FRAS, for visits to his telescope manufactory and interesting discussions. Bob Carr

Romford Brewery — part one

GLIAS member Bernard Ford, who now lives in Buxton, Derbyshire, wrote to me in October 1989 with good wishes for the proposed GLIAS visit to Romford Brewery (GLIAS Newsletter October 1989). His letter contained reminiscences of Romford and some of his anecdotes will I hope be of interest to GLIAS Newsletter readers. Towards the end of the 19th century Bernard's grandfather brought his family to Romford from Danbury and worked in a steam-powered roller mill near Romford railway station. Before that he had dressed millstones as a millwright.

Bernard went to school at St. Edward's Senior in 1935 when Romford Wednesday livestock market was very much in business and animals were still being driven to market along the public highway. With Roneo Ltd. now gone, Romford Brewery was one of the largest employers in the town and had its own deep wells driven into the chalk for water supply. Bernard thinks the Brewery supplied local properties with electricity at 200 volts DC. There was a strong connection with the local fire brigade. A maroon summoned the volunteer firemen to the fire station close by the Brewery and many firemen worked there.

On our visit of 28th November 1939 we learnt that during World War Two the Brewery was damaged by bombing on five occasions, including a raid as late as April 1944. The main ingredients of beer are water, malted barley, hops, sugar and yeast. Water traditionally came from a brewery's own well but at Romford the one well from which water is drawn is no longer suitable and all water for brewing comes from the town supply, which is softened before use. Malted barley comes from Mistley in Essex where Allied-Lyons have a large modern installation.

Malted barley provides all the food elements required by yeast for the fermentation. To make it, barley is steeped in water and is put into an air-conditioned chamber in which the grain starts to grow. After three or four days the growth is stopped by drying in a kiln which adds colour to the malt.

The hops arrive as dried pellets. At Romford, English hops are used for John Bull Bitter, continental hops for Skol Lager and Australian hops for Castlemaine XXXX, all imparting their own specific character. In some beers cane or maize sugar syrups are added to supplement the sugars extracted from malted barley. In fermentation the yeast converts the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide at the same time as producing its own characteristic flavour. The yeast used for Skol produces quite a different flavour from that used for Castlemaine XXXX.

In the brewhouse a sugar solution called wort is extracted from the malted barley which is then fermented by the yeast. The malt is milled by a six-roll mill to produce grist. This is mixed with liquor (water) at a specified temperature to form the mash and is allowed to stand for a given time during which enzymes from the malted barley break down the starch into fermentable sugars. The mash than goes to a lauter tun where the grains are separated from the sugary solution. The resultant liquid, the wort, is boiled for about one-and-a-half hours with hops to extract bittering compounds and to sterilise it. The hops are taken out, the wort is cooled and passes to the fermenting room. Fermentation takes place in largo cylindro-conical vessels, the largest hold 45,000 gallons. The process takes five days to a week during which the yeast multiplies three or four times in weight. After fermentation the yeast is removed, a fraction being retained to add to later fermentations. The yeast having been taken out, the green goes to cold storage at -1°C for at least seven days. We were able to observe the process by peering through glass ports in the stainless steel vessels. These could be hot and care was required to avoid burning oneself.

After fermentation used yeast goes to Burton-on-Trent to make Marmite. This is a long-established practice. Spent grain goes to make cattle food. Bernard Ford remembers the steaming grains leaving the Brewery in lorries painted 'James for Grains' hopper bodied lorries with matching four-wheeled trailers.

The lauter tun installed at Romford represents German practice and would be necessary for the brewing of Löwenbräu lager. In order to brew under licence very strict conditions must be adhered to and ingredients and recipes have to be exact. For the four beers brewed at Romford quite separate ingredients are used to obtain the correct taste. (To be continued) Bob Carr

Nuclear reactor Jason

On Tuesday 14th November 1989 a small party of members of the GLIAS Recording Group visited the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, SE10, to see the nuclear reactor Jason. The design of this reactor was developed by Hawker Siddeley from the American Argonaut reactor which first operated in 1957. After running for two years at Hawker Siddeley Jason was bought by the Admiralty and transported to Greenwich where it first ran on 6th November 1962.

Jason is a ten kilowatt, water moderated and cooled, graphite reflected, thermal reactor using eighty per cent enriched uranium-aluminium plate fuel elements separated by graphite wedges. Two rows of fuel elements mounted in a 90° sector of an annulus formed by two concentric aluminium core tanks make up a single slab core with a critical mass of about 2 kilograms of Uranium 235. There are four independent control mechanisms; safety, coarse and fine cadmium control rods and a moderator dump, fail-safe and each capable of shutting down the reactor.

Three flux measuring instrumentation channels ensure coverage by at least two channels throughout the power range. More independent power unit instrumentation is provided by two shutdown amplifiers and there are three radiation monitors which measure levels close to each of the main experimental areas.

The fail safe magnetic logic of the safety and interlock circuits makes certain that the correct sequence of operations is followed during the start of operation. Automatic shutdown commence should the likelihood of dangerous conditions arise. The reactor is inherently safe owing to the large negative void and temperature coefficients of reactivity. For removable experiments administrative control limits the reactivity available to half a per cent.

The reactor is used by students taking nuclear courses and is a versatile critical facility. A high neutron and gamma flux environment enables many aspects of operation and control to be demonstrated and training in health and safety procedures is given. Research is carried out by staff and long term students and the reactor's facilities are also used by outside organisations.

A pneumatic transfer system enables up to three 0.6ml samples to be irradiated for a given time and recovered to a properly lined lead cell within 3.5 seconds. Supporting services include extensive and well equipped electronic and mechanical workshops and extensive computing and simulating facilities. There is a fully equipped radiological protection service.

During our visit safety arrangements were stressed and each member of the party was provided with appropriate protective clothing, including white cotton shoe covers and we were obliged to wash afterwards. Visually one sees a pile of concrete blocks and the interest is in the control arrangements. Jason is probably the only nuclear reactor housed in a building dating from 1699. The walls are about six feet thick. As the power output is small the fuel elements installed when Jason went to Greenwich are still viable so there are no problems of transporting nuclear waste. Only about one gramme of Uranium 235 has been consumed in 27 years of operation. We are particularly grateful to Professor J. Head for permitting the visit, Mr. C. Roust who acted as our host and Mary Mills of GLIAS. Bob Carr

An interesting date

  • 30th June, Tower Bridge opened in 1894 (96 years ago).

    Shooters Hill

    Shooters Hill is a very small piece of South London, yet it has its own Local History Society which has just published its second volume of Transactions (available from Shooters Hill Local History Group, Shrewsbury House, Bushmoor Crescent, Shooters Hill, SE10, or ring 855-5175). Two articles in particular might interest industrial archaeologists. 'The Stones of Shooters Hill' which details 40 pieces of rock which have had some human attention. This includes boundary markers, milestones and a mounting block as well as the site of dark's soft water process and at least one stone which the writer cannot identify. 'Buses over Shooters Hill' is an exhaustive list of buses which have made the exhausting climb up the hill, together with many many details — at one point including the graffiti! Mary Mills

    Double blow

    Two museum projects well known to GLIAS members have had serious setbacks.

    On 11th January 1990 the Museum of London were informed by the LDDC that from April 1990 funding for the Museum in Docklands Project would cease. Should no alternative funding be found for the Museum of London Docklands Project staff would have to be reduced from eleven to four, and even the future of the collection at W Warehouse, Royal Victoria Dock would not be secure. To express concern about the fate of the Museum in Docklands please write to the LDBC or your local MP, especially if you live in the former Port of London area and your family has been there for some time.

    At Crossness the volunteer restoration workers have been locked out of the beam engine house on the technicality of not satisfying health and safety at work requirements. No doubt you already know something of these calamities from the newspapers.

    A special evening meeting at Thamesmead to discuss the Crossness crisis was scheduled for 15th March. If you did not go and think you can help, contact Michael Dunmow, 8 Yorkland Avenue, Welling, DA16 2LF. (telephone 303 6723) Bob Carr

    Hackney Archives

    It has been learnt very recently that owing to problems of funding the abolition of the Archives Department of the London Borough of Hackney has been considered. Although the threat of immediate closure is now dropped there is a general issue of concern.
    Contact Isobel Watson, 29 Stepney Green, E1

    Victorian Brewers' Grain Hoist

    A good home is needed for a Victorian Brewers' Grain Hoist — free of charge except for transport. Negotiations for the Docklands Museum to have it have fallen through. It is situated in North London at present. Interested parties please contact John Enderby, Vice President of Hendon and District Archaeology Society, tel. 01-203 2630. June Gibson

    Letters to the editor

    From Mr. T.P. Smith, who writes:
    I read with interest the Recording Group report (GLIAS Newsletter February 1990), with particular reference to the final sentence in the item 'North London Line Viaduct'. This stated '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'.

    This final sentence is a real puzzler since to extend a line from New Cross to Old Kent Road would mean going almost due west, not south as suggested. In any case the proposal is to reinstate an old track which formed a junction some 400 yards south of Surrey Docks Station (now known as Surrey Quays, I believe) which went south west, across the end of Silwood Street, under the London-Greenwich railway, under the London-Croydon line; on an embankment over the (then) Surrey Canal, skirting round and parallel to Lovelinch Street (now Close), over Hornsay Street and joining the South London line at Old Kent Road junction, just north of the Old Kent Road.

    This line is shown in use in the April 1910 Bradshaw (page 199) with trains running from Shoreditch to Peckham Rye (a 20-minute journey). It was closed shortly afterwards, probably in 1912. It is shown on the Godfrey Edition of Old Ordnance Survey Maps No. 91, Deptford (North) 1914. The section from the canal to the junction is marked 'East London Railway (dismantled)'.

    On ITV Thames News on 21st December last they briefly showed a map confirming the above with a new station marked to be known as 'Deptford Park'. As far as I could assess its position it appeared to be at the end of Silwood Street — but this is pure conjecture. The line is to run from Dalston in the north to Dulwich in the south (which Dulwich is not stated — possibly East).

    I trust this clarifies the position on the southern connections of the Dalston to Dulwich line. If it is possible to walk this southern section I would be very interested to join a party in the future.

    And a letter from June Gibson:
    The notes on the discussion on airfields in London (GLIAS Newsletter February 1990) brought back childhood memories of being taken to Hendon, many an evening to the Police Sports Ground/Pavilion Bar, sited where Peel College stands today. I used to love playing hide-and-seek in the conical metal sentry boxes positioned along Aerodrome Road. Of course the road was much more open then, with much green grass and many white cricket screens.

    Also, though outside of London, I must mention the old Heston airfield. I occasionally visit a warehouse at the Park Industrial Estate off Cranbrook Road. This warehouse is near the one remaining airfield building, namely the aircraft hangar which fleetingly shows on newsreel film of Neville Chamberlain's return from Berlin. The roof of the hangar has recently been renewed. It looks rather bright — being silver-coloured corrugated iron — against the original worn concrete. The building is used commercially but at least it is still there! The long-demolished control tower and the other buildings nearby are shown in a photograph in a nearby hostelry — 'The Queen's Head'. The airfield site itself is now a golf course, behind Heston Services on the M4. The easiest way of getting to Heston is to travel along the Great West Road.

    The item on Rayners Lane Odeon (GLIAS Newsletter February 1990) reminded me that I know Peggy Weber, formerly a cinema organist in the 40s and 50s. Although now quite elderly she is very sprightly and still plays very well when she has the opportunity. She will soon return from New York. In the meantime, enquiries via June Gibson on 01-455 3245 if any GLIAS member wants to speak to her.

    Finally, a letter from John A. Bagley, on the subject of Belfast Truss roofs:
    After the discussion about aircraft hangars (GLIAS Newsletter February 1990), I discussed the origin of the Belfast Truss with Alan Butcher, curator of the civil engineering collection in the Science Museum. The Museum has a model of such a wooden roof, acquired in 1901 from Francis Ritchie & Sons Ltd. of Mountpottinger Road, Belfast, who claim to be the original designers. A contemporary advertisement for 'Ritchie's Girder Roof' claims that this roof — 'well-known as the Belfast Roof' — has been adopted in the largest shipbuilding and engineering works in the world and lists a number of customers in Northern Ireland, Glasgow, Cardiff and Newcastle-on-Tyne. The most distant is Thomas Rhodes & Son of Lye near Birmingham.

    According to Alan Butcher, the roof trusses which have attracted recent attention in the hangars at Hendon and elsewhere are not strictly Belfast trusses at all! In all the hangar roofs I have seen, the diagonal elements of the lattice are all parallel; whereas in Ritchie's version the lattice elements are arranged fan-wise from two centres below the ends of the span. With this arrangement, the diamond-shaped spaces in the lattice become more acute towards the ends of the span. Although this narrow interpretation of the term 'Belfast Truss' to include only Ritchie's version is apparently sanctioned by Queen's University, I think it is reasonable to admit the simpler (and probably commoner) version. In the 1946 edition of R.V. Boughton's 'New Carpenter and Joiner' both versions are illustrated, and referred to as 'old method of construction' and 'modern' respectively.

    It would be interesting to know of any examples of the early style Belfast Truss I believe that the roofs which survive. I believe that the aircraft hangars (nearly all built in 1917 to 1919) all have the later style of truss with parallel diagonals, but the older style almost certainly continued to be built in other fields. John A. Bagley (Science Museum)

    'Music smiths'

    "For most of its brass and iron requirements, the 19th-century piano trade apparently relied on suppliers to whom Reginald Pole (writing in 1851) referred as 'music smiths'. No one, so far is I know, has yet done any research into who these smiths might have been, or where they were located, but it seems possible, if not probable, that a London piano house would, have preferred to deal with a London iron foundry.... Would you or any of your society's members happen to have any information?"

    Replies please to Andrew Garrett, Early Keyboard Instruments, Lyminge, Folkestone, Kent CT18 8EE, telephone (0303) 362132. Bill Firth

    Crystal Palace and the pneumatic railway

    Further to the article by Alice Hayton (GLIAS Newsletter December 1989), the Daily Telegraph ran a short article on this pneumatic railway on 29th December 1989. The article was sent to me by Michael Bussell, who also referred to the GLIAS attempt to find the railway in 1975 or thereabouts. The archaeology project by the Marquis de St. Empire to uncover the pneumatic railway has apparently now run out of money.

    The railway was built by Sir Thomas Rammel in 1864 who sought to overcome the problem of engine smoke in underground rail travel which beset the Metropolitan Railway. (Some loco drivers on the Met. Line were sacked for allowing their engines to make smoke whilst going through the tunnels.) The prototype pneumatic railway ran between Sydenham and Penge Gates of Crystal Palace Park. In this prototype the one carriage, ringed by wood and horsehair which formed a seal with the tunnel wall was blown and sucked along using compressed air which was generated by steam power. The commercial railway project which was to have developed from this was to have run under the Thames from Great Scotland Yard to York Road but failed when the money ran out. Editor

    A Camden pottery?

    Travelling on a few occasions recently out of Euston I've been struck by the group of buildings to the west of the main line immediately past the sign saying 'EUSTON — 1 mile'. There is a tower like a hydraulic accumulator house and a row of workshops with large glass windows facing east. But between the two is what looks like something transported down the line from Stoke-on-Trent — a small kiln perhaps or a biscuit oven ... But what is it?

    Do any of you GLIAS commuters on that line know why there is a kiln just there? If so, please write — 33 St. Margaret's Rd, Brockley, SE4 1YL (or tel. 692-8512) David Perrett

    Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society

    This society has recently published its Transactions for 1988. (No price or publishing details given — I suggest interested would-be-readers contact Greenwich Local History Dept., Woodland, Mycenae Road, SE3 for any information). This edition contains a number of articles of interest to industrial archaeologists: 'The Woolwich RACS 1868-1985' covers much ground already written up but adds some details about a Society which was founded for and by industrial workers; 'Colonel By' is a biography of a Royal Engineer who built a major canal scheme in Canada (coincidentally a recent publication by the Edmonton Society contains another article about By); 'Woolwich Past Needs a Future' goes through the 'history' of archaeology in Woolwich. Ironically most of this is industrial! There are pictures and details of the 1974 kiln discovery and an outline of the power station site dig in which they looked for a Roman pottery and found a gasworks. Mary Mills

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  • © GLIAS, 1990