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Notes and news — April 1991

In this issue:

Silvertown Way and Silvertown By-pass

Billed as 'A Road to the Empire', Silvertown Way was opened by the then Minister of Transport, Mr. Leslie Hore-Belisha on Thursday 13th September 1934. Factory owners and traders in Silvertown had been pressing for improvements to the approach roads to the Royal Docks and Silvertown since 1902. The First World War delayed the first scheme and it was not until 1929 that the Dock Approaches (Improvement) Act was passed. The consulting engineers were Messrs Rendel, Palmer and Tritton. The main bottlenecks of the area were the White Gates level crossing in Canning Town, the narrow swing bridge over the entrance to the Royal Victoria Dock and the Silvertown level crossing. There were four parts to the new road scheme, a new bridge to carry Barking Road over the River Lea (completed September 1933), the Silvertown Way viaduct across the dock entrance, the Silvertown By-pass (opened July 1935) and the building of 599 new dwellings near Prince Regent Lane to re-house those displaced by the works.

The building of the Lower Lea Crossing involves alteration to Silvertown Way north of Tidal Basin. In order to accommodate a new roundabout being constructed underneath the viaduct two double sections of viaduct are being replaced by beam bridges of steel imported from Belgium. The first (north) of these is being built alongside the viaduct and is due to be swung into position over a weekend in April when the road will be closed. New concrete piers have been inserted underneath the viaduct to take the new bridge. The second will be completed in July. Two slip roads are also being built to connect the roundabout with Silvertown Way. A section of the Tidal Basin spur, at its junction with Silvertown Way, has been replaced so that one of the slip roads can pass underneath. Work on the four span bridge over the Lea is well under way. Silvertown By-pass is closed and awaiting demolition.

It is said that Silvertown Way was Britain's first fly-over. Does any GLIAS member know differently? These roads are the subject of a study initiated by Howard Bloch, Local History Librarian at Newham and being conducted jointly with the GLIAS Recording Group. Tim Smith

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    Visit to Fuller's Brewery, Chiswick

    The visit arranged for 25th March has proved very popular and is now fully booked. It is hoped to organise a second visit on Wednesday 11th December 1991 at 1pm if demand is sufficient. If you sent a cheque but have not received a place for 25th March you have been placed on the list for the next visit and will receive notification when the second visit is confirmed. Please let me know at 127 Queen's Drive, London N4 2BB if you would prefer to withdraw from the list and have your cheque returned. There are still places on the second visit so send a cheque for £3 payable to R Carr plus first class SAE if you would like to take part. Booking for the second visit will be closed in July. Bob Carr

    Buildings and sites at risk

    English Heritage considers that large numbers of listed industrial buildings in the Greater London area are at risk simply from neglect (GLIAS Newsletter October 1990). These are mostly listed grade two and are predominantly in the east of London, the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark having the most examples. Considerable sums of money are required just to secure the continued existence of this industrial archaeology. The magnificent Egyptianesque 'A' station control room, Battersea power station, is reported to be safely secure, at least for the time being.

    At Crossness it is understood that good progress is being made but the Filter Beds, Green Lanes, Stoke Newington may not be retained in planned redevelopment. The contact for the Save the Reservoirs Campaign is Hilary Everett, 91 Lincoln Court, Bethune Road, N16 (telephone.081-802 5944). 'Duck Day' was held on November 18th, at which two local MPs — Diane Abbott and Chris Smith — spoke during a wreath-laying ceremony at the statue of Sir Hugh Myddleton to the south of Islington Green. A march had been held along the course of the New River from the Castle pumping station, Green Lanes, with the marchers carrying ducks (I gather not live ones!).

    In the February Newsletter of the Save the Reservoirs Campaign is an excerpt (unearthed by Marianne Craig) from 'Jackdaw Cake', the autobiography of the travel writer Norman Lewis, who in the 1920s lived in Woodberry Down, N4 near the Stoke Newington Reservoirs. Russian refugees from Stalinist terror, Kulaks, lived in the street and behaved much as they had in Kazan or Tashkent. Families of these refugees close by had installed English stoves in their house and converted them so they could sleep on top in Russian style in winter. The men slept fully dressed ready for an attack while the women slept naked, rolling themselves in bear skins. They drank pivo, home-made Russian beer laced with methylated spirit, smoked yellow cigarettes with Cyrillic letterings and spent their money on fireworks. This entertaining story reaches a climax after the Russians had redecorated Mr Lewis's flat — painting the floor red and covering the walls with tin foil and sticking blue stars and crescents over them. A celebratory party was held with two princes attending, during which the furniture was made into a raft, soaked in petrol and set alight on the West Reservoir. The arrival of the fire brigade and police ended proceedings.

    If this whets the appetite for more please contact Hilary Everett. Bob Carr

    Croydon demolition

    Despite plans to re-use the Croydon B power station main building (GLIAS Newsletter October 1990) it was demolished at short notice before English Heritage had time to pay a visit (see the 'Daily Telegraph', 2nd February 1991, page 17) and the site is to be used by IKEA. In late February only the chimneys and East wall of the power station remained, with considerable metal wreckage to the west.

    Further south at Croydon airport the hangar building to the south-west of the Control Tower was being demolished. Bob Carr


    A new entrance lock which will only admit fairly small craft has been installed at Regent's Canal Dock (confusingly now known as Limehouse Basin). To the north of the dock itself considerable works are in progress for the construction of the Limehouse Link. The work is reminiscent of the extension for the East London Railway beneath the Eastern Dock of the London Docks by Sir John Hawkshaw in the 1870s.

    At the west end of Regent's Canal Dock the warehouse latterly used for the storage of tea has gone. The main Hough's site is completely flattened but the office building to the west is still standing though gutted. A few cottages once alongside the entrance to the Limehouse Cut remain, but nothing else here. Shoulder of Mutton Alley no longer has an alley-like appearance.

    The single storey building on the riverside which was used by Hough's immediately to the east of the Dock entrance lock is still there. Hough's Wharf has received renovation and almost resembles New Concordia Wharf. To the west of the new entrance lock new housing development is in predictable Enid Blyton (i.e. Noddyland) style. Bob Carr

    New home for the Musical Museum — church to be demolished

    Hounslow Council have granted outline planning permission for a hotel development on the former gasworks site at Brentford which will include purpose-built premises for the Musical Museum. At present the collection of automatic musical instruments gathered together by the late lamented Frank Holland MBE (GLIAS Newsletter October 1989) is housed in a disused church, St. George's, which will be demolished if the plans come to fruition. After 27 years it is felt the instruments should be housed in better conditions.

    It is planned that the new museum will open in 1994 and meanwhile regular demonstrations will continue in the nearby church. This will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from April to October, from 2.00 to 5.00pm and on extra days in July and August. Further details can be obtained from The Musical Museum, 368 High Street, Brentford, Middlesex TW3 0BD, telephone 081-560 8108. Bob Carr

    Heritage Centre, Honeywood, Carshalton

    On 1st December 1990 the London Borough of Sutton opened its new Heritage Centre in Honeywood, Honeywood Walk, Carshalton.

    Honeywood is a listed building set on the banks of Carshalton Ponds. A particular attraction is the billiard room with its original table and fittings of 1903. In this room an audio visual display about the history of Honeywood and Carshalton can be seen. The permanent exhibitions cover the history of the borough, from pre-history to mid-20th century in four themes; building, industry, daily life and arts/entertainment. There is also a tea room. Bill Firth

    Brewery History Society

    Members whose interest in breweries goes beyond their product may be interested in the Brewery History Society. The society was founded in 1972 and now has over 250 members. It has an archive with some 500 books and 1,000 photographs and publishes a (nominally) quarterly journal. The annual subscription is £6 — apply to Michael Jones, Secretary, 5 Blunts Hall Drive, Witham, Essex, CM8 1LZ.

    A number of articles on brewers/breweries in or near London have appeared in the journal including: Royal Brewery, Brentford, London Brewers, Arthur Guinness, Benskins, Watford and Truman Hanbury Buxton. The society will be happy to supply photocopies to GLIAS members. Bill Firth

    Aveling & Porter steam roller

    A member, Mr. H. E. Crossley, has drawn our attention to an article in a local paper about a St. Pancras Aveling & Porter steam roller of 1921, which was taken out of service in 1950 and used as a plaything in a children's adventure playground at Cumberland Market until such things were considered dangerous in the 1960s, when it was buried under a pile of rubble. It was accidentally uncovered in 1989 and has been taken in hand by an enthusiast for renovation. Camden intend eventually to place the roller in their Heritage Museum and parade it on suitable occasions. Bill Firth

    Recording Group notes

    The Recording Group and GLIAS members, generally, were invited by the Newham Local History Department to see work done by them on Stratford Fruit and Vegetable Market, which is soon to close. The evening started with refreshments and a chance to look at a display area introducing the markets its background and work.

    We then saw a video about the life of the market, produced by Steve Butcher. This is something that many more GLIAS members might like to see; copies of it are available. The video was followed by a talk by Jim Clayson, who gave a general historical background to London markets, placing Stratford in context. It was a very impressive contribution and several members expressed the hope that Jim would publish it.

    Lyn Brooks of the Great Eastern Railway Society spoke about the railway in the setting up and work of the market. There is a dearth of photographic evidence on the early years — the Society is always grateful for material. Of great interest was his description of research on the timetabling of trains into the market which had helped to identify the sources of produce sold there. An architect member of the Society had studied the building.

    Mark Woodward had been commissioned to photograph the market and he spoke briefly on his approach. We saw some of a very large collection of black and white prints which had been made. Jill Davies introduced a slide show which covered some of the areas from which the archive was being made up. They had, for instance, always tried to photograph all signs and posters and they had tried to reflect the way that the work of the market was organised.

    The final speaker was Stuart Adams on trade tokens and their use in the market. Stuart is currently writing a book about tokens and associated material in Essex and it was clear that the material he had brought to show us was only a tiny part of a vast collection of information. Work on the market is still continuing and it is hoped to record interviews with people who worked there; other recording of the site can continue until final closure.

    Howard Bloch, the Local History Librarian and his team cannot be praised enough for the work that has gone into this recording. They set out determined to get together a proper archive and GLIAS should be in the business of telling other local authorities what they have done and encouraging them to put time and effort into similar ventures. Such an exercise does not have to be expensive — organisation and intelligent use of resources are more important.

    There is a pack of historical information on the market — Newham Library Service Local Studies Notes No. 61 — and this is available. They can also provide information about copies of the video, — and accept volunteers for further work. Please contact Howard Bloch, Local Studies Department, London Borough of Newham, Water Lane Library, Water Lane, Stratford, E15 4NJ. (Tel: 081-534 4545, ext. 25662).

    Readers of the Recording Group Reports will remember a query about the lamp posts in Tottenham Court Road. We have received a letter from Mr. W. T. McNair who writes: 'I think it most unlikely that the standards were fabricated by Johnson & Phillips but I'm sure that the original electric lamps would be of their manufacture.'

    The lamp standards were probably cast in the Saracen Foundry of Walter MacFarlane & Co, Glasgow. Johnson and Phillips made electrical cables under their own name from about 1875 up to 1965 when they were taken over by Delta Enfield cables. The latest situation is that production has been switched to other factories and regrettably the Victoria Works in Charlton may be closed. Mr McNair also enclosed an extract from the 'Universal Electrical Directory' which illustrates arc lamps and lists manufacturers including Johnson and Phillips. Mary Mills

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  • © GLIAS, 1991