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Notes and news — June 1991

In this issue:

Recording Group report

The Group was very grateful to two members who got catalogues for an auction sale of British Waterways properties — including several London canalside sites. We all like to dream of our own little bit of towpath and one member had attended the sale to see people achieving just that. Sites sold included lock keepers' cottages, the Newbold on Avon tunnel, bingo halls and a tower block as well as some of the sites we had seen on our walk round Hackney Wick (see below).

It was noted that Camden Town is supposed to be 200 years old this year. It was apparently named after Lord Camden from Camden House at Chiselhurst in Kent. Any information please? (>>>)

We were shown a cutting about St. Leonard's Orphanage in Hornchurch which is apparently in a state of disrepair having been sold in the early 80s to a developer by Tower Hamlets Council.

Members had been told about the site of the Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks in Battersea (next to the power station). This site is supposed to be of great interest with many regains — and is likely to be demolished soon. Mary Mills

Notes from Bob Carr

At the May Fair Inter-Continental Hotel on 27th March Conrad Ritblat & Co. held a substantial auction of British Waterways canalside sites in Greater London and beyond. This included, a number of sites in East London in Hackney and Stratford. Among the many interesting lots was number 57, a freehold tunnel with vacant possession at Newbold on Avon, Rugby, Warwickshire. This was once part of the Oxford Canal canal, and is now disused.

Thames Water's Kirtling Street SW8 store and workshops, just to the east of Battersea Power Station is a water pumping station site dating from about 1830, at which buildings will shortly be demolished. In the late 19th century the Vauxhall and Southwark waterworks here covered all of what is now the Battersea power station site. In recent years it was the maintenance depot for the whole of the TWA. The GLIAS Recording Group was able to make a brief recording visit on 1st May. As well as former beam engine locations a large machine shop with machine tools by Mitchells of Keighley, forge with Massey ex-steam hammer, and Mirrlees Diesel oil engine (number 64689/33) were noted.

It seems Mr Peter Palumbo will get his way and demolish the Mappin & Webb building (GLIAS Newsletter October 1989) by the Mansion House in the City. Seven other adjacent Victorian listed buildings will also go. SAVE Britain's Heritage, who have been opposing demolition, may have to pay legal costs of the order of a quarter of a million pounds. If you think you may be able to help in any way SAVE are at 68 Battersea High Street, SW11 (telephone 071-223 3336). Interest-free loans have been suggested as one solution.

You may not have noticed the absence of the chimney of the former electric power station for the Waterloo & City line to the South East of Waterloo Railway station. A more serious loss is the pumping station building which housed the two James Simpson &. Co. Ltd. horizontal cross-compound steam pumping engines built 1910 and 1915 which draw water for drinking from a borehole in Croydon. The building was just to the east of the Purley Way, in Waddon Way (TQ 313 639) amidst pleasant gardens and some said resembled a girls' school. In the early 1980s it was the last water pumping station in Britain in public supply service to use reciprocating steam engines. The Cornish boilers were still coal fired and hand stoked. Demolition took place about the middle of April. However one of the steam engines can be seen at the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. Bob Carr

Glais (not a misprint)

Glais is a village in the Swansea Valley in South Wales, straddling the B4291 just South of the bridge over the River Tawe. It is about five miles North East of Swansea, grid reference SN 7000 — is close to the Swansea Canal and has two chapels and a Post Office. At one time it boasted a railway station in the centre of the village to the West of the B4291 just before the main road takes a sharp bend to the left before the bridge over the Tawe when motoring North. At Glais Junction two Midland Railway lines converged.

The area to the South West was heavily industrial. Felinfran colliery (now closed) was half a mile away in this direction and in 1953 the manager was T. E. Lloyd, with under-manager D. Jeffreys. At that time they were mining steam coal from the Graigola seam. It was a medium-sized pit for the area with 223 men employed underground and 57 on the surface. Less than a mile from the village centre to the North West, is the huge Mond nickel works at Clydach-on-Tawe.

The Midland Railway route from Swansea St Thomas station to Hereford via Brecon (making use of running powers over the Neath & Brecon Railway) split into two at Upper Bank, with a goods line branching off to the East. This rejoined the main line at Glais Junction. On the passenger line to the South of Glais were a number of tinplate works and colliery sidings including Morriston & John Player tinplate. Graigola Merthyr colliery and Mond Nickel Works. In 1903 passenger trains from Swansea St Thomas to Glais took about twenty minutes calling at three intermediate stations. Bob Carr

Letter to the editor

From R. W. Kidner, who writes:
The paragraph in the new GLIAS Newsletter regarding the Hudson's furniture vans (GLIAS Newsletter February 1991) reminds me that in the 1920s most railway stations in South East London sported one or more enamelled-metal advertisements for the rival firm, Taylors of Ranelagh Road, Pimlico, showing one of these vans riding on a railway flat-wagon, a not uncommon sight. The oldest of the metal plates showed a locomotive hauling the van, which was of the style of the 1860s (there were some later styles) and it would be interesting to know how for back this road-rail system was being used. The Southern Railway containerised furniture removal system did not, I think, come in until the early thirties. R. W. Kidner

Hudson's furniture vans

Many thanks to those who supplied information (GLIAS Newsletter February 1991). A summary has been sent to the Toppesfield Museum. Does anyone have more information about Hudson's activities in suburban London, Kent or Sussex? Bill Firth

Access Dartmoor

Access Dartmoor is a local group formed to invite visitors to take advantage of holiday opportunities in the Dartmoor area.

In the area the 18th-century woollen industry gave way to mining and quarrying leaving a rich legacy of industrial remains. Sticklepath once had seven waterwheels of which three can still be seen at the Finch Foundry. A short distance away is Morwhellian Quay, now an open air museum based on a Victorian copper port. The quarries at Meldon provided stone for London's buildings and there are some impressive railway viaducts in the vicinity. Bill Firth
Contact: Access Dartmoor, Appletrees, Sticklepath, Qakhampton, Devon, EX20 2NJ. Tel (0837) 840717. Fax (0837) 840186

Labour heritage

Industrial Archaeologists, when investigating the background to a particular site, may well want to know more about the people who worked there. Trade Union and other labour history records may well tell us a great deal about a particular industry. This is a field which industrial archaeologists often find it hard to keep in touch with — and the move of the National Museum of Labour History from Limehouse to Manchester makes it even more difficult for Londoners.

Labour Heritage is an organisation set up to study Labour Party history and it produces a bulletin, aimed at the non-professional researcher, which aims to help them find and use Labour movement source material. The Winter 1990/91 edition reviews an article by Alistair Tough, 'Trade Unions and their Records' which indicates where various collections or records can be found. (The article appeared in Archive April 1990.) The Bulletin also includes an article on Friendly Society Records and what they might contain and another on the Clerkenwell-based Marx Memorial Library. (Labour Heritage, c/o Irene Wagner, 19 Museum Chambers, Bury Place, WC1A 2LH.) Mary Mills

Industrial Heritage

GLIAS members will be pleased to know that the Autumn 1990 edition contains an article by Brian Sturt — 'Early Years at Old Kent Road Gas Works'. This is a useful account of the first years of what was to become the foremost company in England... but... wait... Industrial Heritage describes this as 'More of the lost treasure' and a glance at the first page reveals that this article has been 'mislaid for years'! I know Brian's work on the Old Kent Road works and I don't believe for one minute that this article represents all he knows today about the subject. I don't want to sit down and write a review of something I know isn't up to date. Please ask Industrial Heritage not to lose things in future. Mary Mills

Crossness — an update!

Since the Crossness Engines Trust was excluded from the engine house in October 1989 (GLIAS Newsletter August 1990) a vigorous campaign has been run to re-establish contact with the owners of the site, the newly privatised Thames Water Utilities Ltd. The postcard campaign supported by many GLIAS members has borne fruit and a meeting has been held with Mr. Michael Hoffman, Chairman and Chief Executive of TWU which has opened the door for discussion on the granting of a lease to the Trust.

Since being locked out, a limited number of Trust members have been allowed back to gather personal tools and equipment. The visit was depressing in the deterioration of condition which were approaching those found when we first had access in 1985.

Progress to October 1989 included the complete repainting of one of the screens of the Octagon which is now protected by polythene sheeting. On the engine Victoria, the covers of the three cylinders had been removed and the condition of the bores found to be in remarkably good condition. The IP and LP cylinders were given a protective coding of grease and the covers replaced but we had not protected the HP cylinder which is open and exposed to the rising water in the basement. This rising water, caused by the power supply to an automatic sump pump being cut off, has now flooded the two 9ft diameter pump barrels that had been cleaned and were being prepared for restoration. Nothing is known about the steam barring engine that had been restored to the stage of being run mechanically prior to being prepared for steaming.

Recently TWU let a contract to repair the roof of the adjacent Triple Expansion Engine House since when there has been a spate of burglaries. The 'secure' stores that held the main bearings for the engine had its door smashed in but the bearings were not touched. They have been removed for safe keeping. Also a 19th-century Lorch instrument lathe has been stolen. Altogether a sorry tale, but, as far as can be seen, there does not seem to be any major damage to the engines or cast-iron work. Looking to the future, we are optimistic that the outcome of discussions currently under way with TWU will be fruitful and that we shall be back in the engine house this summer. John Ridley, Crossness Engines Trust

Recording Group walk around Hackney Wick area

It is only if you ignore the motorways and arrive via Wick Lane that you realise that you are following a long winding lane from the town of Hackney to its wharf on the Lea. In doing so you reach one of the most interesting industrial areas in London. Like everywhere else it is being demolished but on a busy weekday there is enough going on for you to think yourself back to the time when London was an industrial city. Walk down Cadogan Terrace, into Wick Lane and into the 'Science Park of the 1860s'.

We started the walk from the new (well, newish) Hackney Wick station on the North London Link immediately seeing groups of old buildings opposite, described on the 1888 map as 'India Rubber Works'. Round the bend in Wall is Road we passed the Carless Institute, built in the 1926s as a recreational facility for local workers.

We went straight down to the site of the Parkesine Co works in Wallis Road. There is not a lot left of this works but, with expert guidance, we were able to see where the works had been. This site is so important to industrial historians that there really should be a plaque up! It is the factory built in 1862 by Alexander Parkes to make the first plastic material called 'Xylonite', usually known by its American name of 'Celluloid'. The company had come from Homerton and later moved to Hale End, Walthamstow and from there to Brantham in Suffolk where it still makes the product. The works was built next to the waterproof cloth works of George Spill, who had moved his works to this area from Stepney Green in order to get the solvents needed for the waterproofing agent. He eventually took over the whole site. The latter works later became a part of the Clarke Nichols and Coombs (Clernico) sweet factory, a company with an early welfare scheme for its young women employees. Several Clernico buildings survive in the area. Behind this site is that of the Falcon Chemical Works of Edward Beanes established from the 1870s.

We next walked round to Berkshire Road noting as we went the sewer vent pipe over the line of the Hackney Brook, which once passed through the area to discharge into the Lea. Yuppie flats, Leabank Square, have now been built on the site of the Bronco Atlas Works. The Atlas works, founded in the 1860s by Simpson, Maule and Nicholson, was involved in the first commercially-produced viable aniline dye. From 1908 until 1967 it was the works of Bronco Toilet paper, which some members had visited previously. Bronco had come to Hackney Wick in 1908 having acquired an American patent for perforated paper they started with the Onliwon paper towel.

From the now private wharf on the Hackney Cut we could see two pipe bridges across the Cut and Hackney Dog Track on the other side. Back under the railway bridge we passed the wall which had surrounded the Carless, Capel and Leonard works. They moved into 5 White Post Lane in 1859 and stayed to take over many of the other surrounding works. Carless had the Hope Chemical Works and were the first company to make motor spirit, introducing the word 'petrol'.

In White Post Lane we saw the disused works of Achille Serre the drycleaning company with their name still to be seen above the entrance. They were established in this area from before 1890 in order to buy benzoline, used for dry cleaning, direct from Carless, Capel and Leonard. We also passed the site of W.C. Barnes Phoenix Chemical Works there before 1849 as specialist distillers of coal tar and petroleum ether and Griffiths Tar and Naphtha works from the 1860s.

Crossing the Carpenters Road bridge we walked down the towpath on the Hackney Cut passing the wide expanse of water at the entrance to the Hertford Union to the east. The west bank is now opened up with a new industrial estate turning its back on the canal, low landscaped for leisure use. On the east bank we noticed derelict works and it was good to see the lock-keepers houses at Old Ford Locks still lived in and the lock itself in good order. The lack of foliage in early spring meant that we were able to look over the wall of the old East London Waterworks site and see a series of mounds and half-buried walls inside perhaps worth a close up investigation. Crossing the lock we came into Dace Road and an area of crowded industrial buildings. First, Suters, at Swan Wharf on the downstream side of Dace Road — this company was the subject of a GLIAS visit to its works in Eastway in 1985 (GLIAS Newsletter April 1985). We looked into the yards of the many buildings of the Percy Dalton Co. On one wall is the sign 'Brittania Works". In the 1961 directories a 'Brittania Folding Box Co' is listed in Dace Road. Two other box-making companies appear in Dace Road for the same date.

We walked to the flight of stairs going up onto the northern outfall sewer and then walked down the sewer embankment looking down on the mass of old industrial buildings which we had passed. On the old saps they are in many different hands but today they are all part of the Percy Dalton works surely all those buildings aren't used just to produce packets of peanuts! Something else we ought to look further at.

Where the sewer crosses the Hackney Cut we saw the remaining wartime defences still with holes in which a barrier could be slatted to keep the Germans out of Hackney. From this height inside the old waterworks site we could see a derelict house and on the east bank an interesting old building, part of the old Crown Chemical works, round topped iron window frames giving us feeling of massiveness, supporting a flimsy roof that might have replaced a heavy water tank. The building is marked on the 1893 map and on the 1935 map a 'crane' is marked at that end.

The Roach/Dace Roads are is now entirely industrial and it is a surprise to find a lot of housing there on old maps. We walked up to Roach Road noting derelict factory buildings alongside the Lea most to do with the furniture trade veneers and timber; the 'Younger' chimney prominent among them at the works of Younger Furniture (London) Ltd. We had tantalising glimpses of workshops and yards beyond the gate. Another building in Homer Road is labelled 'Reams House' for the Hucal Paint Co. formed as Collodite Products.

On the corner of Smeed/Stour Roads we had noted a building of which the ground floor was surrounded by a wall of squared glass which appeared to be ornamental on the inside. What was this for? The works is called 'UK Optical Algha Works' and in 1961 was owned by M. Wisesan & Co., Spectacle Frame Makers. Is this what it was built for?

On the corner of Monier/Beachy Roads rails went from the road into the works — 3ft 6in gauge industrial tramway tracks was the verdict of some of the party. What were they for? On the side of the building were signs for Fenton Packing and Slipping — the signs were not new but surely the rails were older. On the 1935 map the works is shown as 'Insulation Co'.

Others watched a lorry load of live chickens being delivered to the modern Kosher slaughterhouse on the corner of Smeed Road. Locals told stories of the gutters running with blood from the previous premises. We saw one hen escaping to placidly peck around the yard. On a weekday walk we would have set men in white coats brandishing knives in this area.

We walked back under the motorway and the line of the old North London Line to Blackwall and into Cadogan Terrace, noting the Thames Water depot and the ornate reinforced concrete bridge over Duckett's Cut (Hertford Union Canal). It seemed like time for a break (why had none of us realised it was St. Patrick's Day?) and the nearest pub was called 'Top of the Morning'! Well we had some interesting conversations and learnt a lot about the area and a very pleasant drink on the pub's terrace on the Canal. We walked back to the station along the canal passing the derelict site of Leon and Charles Clerc's Pharos Chemical works on the north. Clerc's were refiners and distillers of benzoline and naphthalene and established in 1860. Next, at the confluence of Hackney and Duckett's cuts, was the cleared site of the Lea Chemical Works originally producing acetic and tartaric acid, but used as a distillery by Carless after 1907.

What had we learnt apart from the importance of shamrock? Well, there was a tremendous amount of work to be done and a lot more to look at. We had hardly looked at the Wallis/Dace Road areas and there is another area further down the Lea around Iceland Wharf as well as the Carpenters Road area. We knew that a lot of works in this area had pioneered industries based on chemical technologies. Old maps reveal numerous works producing petrol chemicals — a lot more needs to be done.

Readers should note the following short bibliography:

A.J. Wait — The British Xylonite Co Ltd. of Homerton in East London Record. No. 6. 1983
John Merriam — Pioneering in Plastics: the story of Xylonite East Anglian Magazine 1976
E.G.D. Liveing — Pioneers of Petrol: a centenary history of Carless, Capel and Leonard. London 1959
P. Morris & C. Russell — Archives of the British Chemical Industry 1750-1914 BSHS 1988
GLIAS Newsletter No. 97, April 1985 — A.F. Suter & Co. Ltd.

Bibliography of printed works on London history to 1989

The need for a general bibliography of writings on the history of London has long been recognised. The Bibliography based at London University Centre for Metropolitan History aims to fill this gap by listing relevant books and articles. Titles are drawn from surveys of collections at Guildhall Library, borough local history libraries, etc. For the purpose of the bibliography London is defined as the whole of the former GLC area plus the City and works published up to the end of 1990 are being included. Publication is planned for 1992. Compilation began in 1978 and some 20,000 items are currently being stored in a computer database which allows detailed searches to be made. The CMH is happy to answer bibliographical enquiries and to supply printouts of relevant titles. Enquiries should be made by post, giving the subject and period. There is currently no charge, but inclusion of postage would be appreciated. Enquiries should be addressed to Miss Heather Creaton, Centre for Metropolitan History, 34 Tavistock Square, WC1H 9EZ.

The current London Journal lists articles on London history published in 1988/1989 and intends to update this regularly. The following is a list of articles of industrial history interest extracted from this list (with their permission). Some of the journals listed are obscure. Local libraries should be able to give information as to where copies can be found. If members find this list of use they can be extracted on a regular basis. Please let us know.

  • Appleby. J.H. & Millburn, J.B. — Henry or Humphrey? The Jacksons. 18th century Chemists. Library 6th series X 1988
  • Blacksore, H.L. — William Rawle. Accoutrement Maker, silversmith, gunmaker, medallist & collector. Apollo CXXVII 1988
  • Clarke, T.H. — Sir Charles Hanbury Williams and the Chelsea Factory. English Ceramic Circle Trans XIII pt 2 1988
  • Cox, A.H. — The Otter Dock. W Drayton & Dist. Historian XCII 1989
  • Cruikshank, D. — Gwilt complex (warehouses) Architectural Review CLXXXV 1989
  • Davis, P. — The Pneumatic Railway what it was and why it was built. Crystal Palace Matters XXXIV 1989
  • Davies, P. — Lit by night, viewed by day. (street lamp brackets) Country Life CLXXXIII 1989
  • Durant, C. — London's first northern by-pass urban development and the New Road from Paddington to Islington. Camden Hist Review No 15 1988
  • Edwards, J. — Public Transport: from carts to buses. The Town of Bromley a century ago. Bromley Local History VIII 1988
  • Ellmers, C. — A 19th century London clock factory: John Moore & Sons, Clerkenwell Close. Tools & Trade V 1988
  • Fairclough, K.R. — The River Lea before 1767. an adequate flash lock navigation. Journal of Transport History X 1989
  • Goulden, R. — The shadow limm'd: Matthais Koops. Factotum XXVII 1988
  • Hamlin, C. — William Bibdin and the idea of biological sewage treatment. Technology & Culture XXIX 1988
  • Homer, R.F. — A 16th century London pewterers work book fragment. Pewter Society Journal VII 1989
  • Huitson, R. & M. — Croydon by gaslight: the story of the provision of a gas supply to Croydon and neighbourhood. Croydon Nat Hist & Science Soc Trans XVIII 1989
  • Isaac, P.C.G. — William Bulmer {1750-1330} fine printer. Archaeologia Aeliana 5th ser. XVI 1988
  • Jackson, A.A. — Railways in and around Woolwich. Southern Notebook X 1989
  • Jackson, A.A. Chrm. — The location of the London (Maiden Lane) temporary terminus. GN2 Railway and Canal History Society Journal XXIX 1989
  • Jerkins, J.M. — The Railways of the Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey. Industrial Railway Record 117 1989
  • Kirkham, P.A. — The London furniture trade 1700-1870 Furniture History. XXIV 1988
  • Lake, B. — The Blackwell (sic) tunnel. Woolwich & Dist Family Hist Soc Journal No 35 1989
  • Loobey, P. — The automobile industry in the borough of Wandsworth. Wandsworth Historian No 55 1988
  • Marriott, J. — West Ham. London's industrial centre and gateway to the world. II Stabilisation and decline. 1910-39. London Journal XIV 1989
  • Millburn, J.R. — The Office of Ordnance & the instrument making trade in mid-18th century. Annals of Science XLV 1988
  • Neale, J.A. — More tilting at Windmills (clockmaker) Antiq Horology. XVII 1988 John Butt, pianoforte maker. Cockney Ancester XLI V 1989
  • Nye. P. — John Butt, pianoforte maker. Cockney Ancester XLIV 1989
  • Porter, D.H. & Clifton, G.C. — Patronage, professional values and Victorian public works: engineering and contracting the Thames embankment. Victorian Studies. XXXI 1933
  • Rothstein. N. — Canterbury and London: the silk industry in the late 17th century. Textile. History XX 1989
  • Samuel, E. — Decca Days: the career of Wilfred Sampson Samuel 1886-1958 Jewish Historical Society Transactions XXX 1987-8
  • Shaw, H. — A Croydon brewery. Croydon Nat Hist & Sci Soc Trans XVII 1989
  • Sherrif, T. — The Charing Cross and West End Electricity Supply Co. Ltd. Newcomen Bulletin 140 1988
  • The Sons of Vulcan — A short history of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths. Root & Branch. 1 No 1
  • Towey, P. — German sugar bakers in the East End. Anglo-German Family History Mitt No.5 1988
  • Watney, B.M. — The Vauxhall China Works 1751-64 English Ceramic Circle Trans XIII pt 3 1989

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  • © GLIAS, 1991