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News and notes — April 1992

World's first central power station finally demolished

The remaining arches of Sebastian de Ferranti's Deptford power station of 1889 have been demolished along with most of the post-Second World War Deptford East power station. Explosives are being used and there has been concern among local residents who have feared IRA bombs. At the time of writing the Deptford East chimney still has to come down. Some of the pumps in the basement of Deptford East power station were claimed to have come second hand from the PLUTO (pipe line under the ocean) project. Information will be gratefully received.

The original Ferranti station supplied central London at 10,000 volts AC, 83.3 Hz — the frequency decided on was 5,000 cycles per minute. A reasonably good view of the Ferranti arches, set in the south wall of the 1950s East power station building and painted red, could be obtained by looking through a gate on the north side of Stowage SE8. There used to be a substantial model of the 1889 Deptford power station in the Science Museum, South Kensington, which gave a good idea of Ferranti's original arrangements. Bob Carr

Lecture review: Richard Gray — Cinema History

Richard Gray's talk on the history of cinema buildings was fascinating and packed full of illustrations (mainly of London) and facts on this important 20th-century building type.

Not only were the well-known Art Deco (or Odeon style) cinemas covered in depth, such as the Odeon, Muswell Hill, but so were the lesser known early designs, such as the 1910 'Pikes' in Brixton (now a camping shop), and the magnificent 'Pavilion' in Shepherd's Bush of 1923 and the other less common and more bizarre styles of the 1930s such as the Spanish 'Avenue' Northfields, the Chinese 'Palace' in Southall, the Egyptian 'Carlton', Islington and the stockbroker Tudor 'Odeon', Salisbury. From the first cinemas of 1896 to the Cinema Safety Act of 1909, cinemas were in converted buildings, often shops and can be found in enormous quantities in street directories of the period. From 1909 cinemas were purpose-built and many survive though rarely still in use as cinemas, e.g. the 'Grange' in Kilburn, now the 'Galtymore' dance hall. In the 1920s the big new cinemas tended to be located at tram or tube termini and tended to be classical. Art Deco came in the 1930s, being inspired by Eric Mendelsohn's Modernist 'Universal' in Berlin of 1928 and the Arts Decoratif Exhibition in Paris, also of 1928. The vast quantity of visual and factual information should help everyone recognise, date and appreciate cinemas even more. Some may also wish to join the Cinema Theatre Association. Jon Wallsgrove

No more Sarson's

Along with the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and the Breweries, the Sarson's Vinegar Works in Tower Bridge Road is a truly atmospheric complex with its vinegar vats. But it closed at the end of January. If anyone knows anything further about the complex please let me know. So no more do we say 'Don't just say vinegar say Sarsons'. David Perrett

West Ham Abbey Print Works site (TQ 33835)

On 23rd January, at the invitation of the Oxford Archaeological Unit, I visited Stratford to see the excavated remains of part of the West Ham Abbey Print Works where silk cloth was once printed. Excavations were taking place on a large area destined to be the carriage sidings and depot of the Jubilee Line extension. Already the unit's work had hit the national press with the excavation of an extraordinary pre-historic burial of a horse. Work had also revealed Roman and Medieval material, including parts of the walls of an unidentified building of the Abbey of Stratford Langthorne.

An excavation inside a large single-storey shed has revealed evidence of a building marked as 'Dye House' on one mid-19th century map. The large shed was originally erected in 1891 by the Patent Victoria Stone Company Ltd. but more recently used to store paper for the Daily Mirror. Each bay of this building had a pitched roof supported by timber kingpost trusses on tall, wide spaced, cruciform cast-iron columns. These columns had brackets about a quarter of their height from the top. These might have once supported an intermediate floor, or storage tanks. The company was formed to exploit the 1860s patents of Rev. Henry Highton for the production of an artificial stone called Victoria Stone. Syenite from the Groby Quarries in Leicestershire was ground, mixed with Portland cement and cast into iron-lined wooden moulds. When set the resulting block was taken out of its mould and steeped in a bath of liquid silicate of soda for ten days. The impregnated block became hard and impervious. The stone could be used for building or, more likely, as paving slabs. The remains of large concrete steeping tanks have been unearthed.

About four foot below the floor level of the Stone Company's building lay a flagged floor stained with reds, browns and blues and dissected with brick lined drainage channels. Fragments of pottery jars, found in another trench and identified as London Stoneware (1800-1900), are marked 'West Ham Abbey' and 'Tucker'. The West Ham Abbey Print Works was established about 1830 by R. &. E. Littler, silk printers. Calico printing had been developed in West Ham in the 17th century when William Sherwin took out a patent. The area between Abbey Road and Stratford became known as the 'Calico Grounds'. The move to silk printing was a natural progression given the proximity of Spitalfields and the spread of silk weaving into Essex. Reading Littler is said to have developed a 'madder green' dye and to have given the recipe to John Tucker who had taken over the works by 1840. The Abbey Print Works appears to have survived until the 1860s. It would be interesting to know if Tucker used the aniline mauve dye developed by Perkin at Shadwell in 1857 although this seems unlikely. Printing at the Abbey Works seems to have been done by hand. Some blocks are said to survive in the Passmore Edwards Museum.

The rest of the Jubilee Line site includes Stratford Market and buildings around the Adam and Eve pub. These include the former works of Saul Harrison, rag merchants and makers of re-cycled cloths. Plant includes a huge rag washing machine which resembles a rotary cement kiln in its construction. If any GLIAS members have further information about this fascinating area I would be pleased to hear from them. I would like to thank David Wilkinson of the Oxford Archaeological Unit for inviting me to see the site. Thanks also to Howard Bloch and Mary Mills for historical information. Tim Smith

British Archaeological Awards

The ten biennial British Archaeological Awards which include industrial archaeology are the most prestigious in British archaeology. This year 1992 the Ironbridge Award, Heritage in Britain Award, Sponsorship Award and the Virgin Group Award are particularly relevant to industrial archaeology. The closing date for entries is 30th June 1992. Bob Carr

The Trojan car

Further to the note in the last newsletter (GLIAS Newsletter February 1992), Bert Nash of the Croydon Airport Society has written: 'Its dying gasp as a car was a dreadful fabric-bodied saloon where the engine lived vertically in the boot and the car had negligible ground clearance.'

Bert has volunteered to copy the relevant pages from 'Lost Causes of Motoring' by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu for any Trojan enthusiast on receipt of a large SAE and £1.50 to cover costs. His address is: H.E. Nash, 2 Redford Avenue, Wallington, Surrey, SM6 9EP. Bill Firth

Incineration Plant, North London Waste Authority, Edmonton N18.

The NLWA incineration plant, just off the North Circular Road (A406), River Lee, Edmonton, is currently offering Open Days, which readers of this newsletter will unfortunately miss. However, I have found out that a group can take a guided tour at a cost of £35 per group, maximum around 15.

The ticket price will be determined by the number of GLIAS members who wish to go on the visit. The plant requires a couple of weeks' notice and prefers weekday mornings. It is situated near Angel Road BR station (Liverpool Street). Might I suggest that members and friends who are interested in such a visit telephone me (081-455 3245) by the end of April? I can then gauge the degree of interest and set up a firm date in mid-May.

The plant was German-designed and built in 1970 to last for 25 years. £100 million-worth of changes are afoot to upgrade the equipment and those changes will comply with new European regulations which will come into force in 1996. It is jointly owned by the Boroughs of Barnet, Enfield, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Hackney, Camden and Islington. 400,000 tonnes of waste are destroyed annually producing boiler temperatures of 900°C. Steam from the boilers is then fed to turbines which produce 30 megawatts of electricity every hour, which in turn is fed into the National Grid. June Gibson

An industrial inheritance park for London

Members of GLIAS visited the 1776 House Mill at Three Mills, Bromley by Bow on 18th January and subsequently invited the project manager to meet the Executive Committee on 26th February.

The Committee was asked to confirm or challenge the view that the Three Mills and Abbey Mills area should be preserved as a centre of outstanding historical interest. A long term restoration project and a number of research programmes are already in progress. The plan is to relate something of a thousand years' industrial development and show how techniques and processes, originally pioneered on the Lea, were often to be taken up later in other locations.

Advice, assistance, suggestions or offers of research effort would be welcomed. The principal area of interest is the Lea in the vicinity of Stratford, Bow and Three Mills. Potential subjects include the medieval baking, wood, osier and leather trades; gunpowder, fulling, silk and calico production; textile printing. Bow porcelain production, alcohol and gin distilling; the manufacture of sugar, confectionery, sulphuric acid, soda, soap, perfume, starch, jute, cement, carriages, highway steam engines, rubber, rockets, lifeboats, matches, dyes, printing inks, flavouring, quinine, pharmaceuticals, waxes, leather and Lloyd loom furniture.

Sewage systems and pumping stations, gas works, fairgrounds and beam engines are major subjects that are, obviously, equally relevant, but where both GLIAS expertise and reference works are already known.

The compiler of this curious shopping list thanked the Society for its enthusiasm and explained how the Industrial Archaeology of the Lower Lea Valley, in East London Papers 1969-70 by Denis Smith, had first sparked a continuing interest in the subject. Brian Daubney
If you can help, please contact Mr. Daubney, House Mill Project Manager, 116 Westcombe Park Road, London SE3 7RZ. Tel: 081-653 2717. Fax: 081-305 2192

Visit to the Hoover Buildings

Last August we spent an exciting afternoon at the deserted Hoover Factory. We are indebted to Messrs. Lyons Sleeman Hoare, architects, of Chiswick, for allowing us to roam about the premises at will, photographing what we liked. There was little in the way of fixtures and fittings and no factory plant. The architects are acting for Tesco who now own the site and who are sponsoring all the conservation and the new work. The famous facade will be retained as will the offices and foyer behind it with the existing office capacity doubled. This may be let separately as prestige suites. Tesco will have retail space at the rear of the existing building. At the moment that area is occupied by an asbestos contaminated building.

Some fittings, added in recent years, are out of keeping and will be discarded, whereas original fittings from the 30s will be cleaned, stored and put tack. Washrooms abound and some of the best fittings are from them and the front staircases. Many handsome vitrolite tiles are being saved.

An adjacent building housed a huge ballroom on the first floor, with massive kitchens behind, for Company functions and for hire. This ballroom doubled as a cinema and we were able to climb into the projectionist's cubicle and examine projection equipment.

In the main building we saw testing areas, research and development areas. It does seem that this landmark will continue to catch all eyes passing by. Traffic updates on radio stations will ever refer to 'tailbacks as far as the Hoover building'. How could we call it anything else? June and Rick Gibson

Letters to the editor

Readers of GLIAS Newsletter may be interested to know that the Sheffield firm of steeplejacks, W.E. Harrison (Steeplejacks) Ltd. went into voluntary liquidation this month.

They advertised themselves as 'Of Nelson's Column Fame' . According to the Sheffield Telegraph of 14th February, the first to climb Nelson's Column was Teddy Harrison in 1896, to decorate it for Trafalgar Day. He was not allowed to use spikes or nails, so he lashed overlapping 18ft ladders together. He found that Nelson's arm and foot were fractured, his sword hilt had broken off and there was no truth in the story that silver was hidden in the crown of his hat.

The firm were established in 1854 by Samuel Harrison and has been at its present premises in Regent Terrace since 1883. It has suffered from the decline in the numbers of factory chimneys and the present recession was the last straw. Derek Bayliss

We have in our possession two City of London 1851 cast-iron Coal Duty posts. These were removed some 10 years ago from the path of the M25 road across Stanwell Moor in West Middlesex. The posts are in fact numbers 74 and 75 in the list published by Martin Nail 'The Coal Duties of the City of London and their Boundary Marks'.

Despite a number of attempts to find, a new home for these posts, including approaches to the London Borough of Hillingdon and the Museum of London, we have been unable to find a suitable site or sites for their re-erection. Continuing storage of the pests is now presenting a considerable problem, so much so that unless we are able to find an alternative solution by the end of June 1992, both posts will have to be scrapped.

If any member of GLIAS is able to find suitable storage or to recommend sites for erection, we should very much like to hear from them. The posts are of the small variety erected beside roads and transport can be arranged within the London area if required.

We can be contacted during working hours on 0932 762254 or FAX 0932 764463. Chris Bartlett

The emergency recording of London buildings

The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England is expanding its capacity for the emergency recording of threatened buildings with the formation of a new London section.

Latterly RCHME'S London threatened buildings recording has been handled from Swindon, which office has responsibility for this work throughout southern England. From 1st April 1992 a recording unit will be based in London, to deal solely with London cases. These arise principally from listed building consent applications referred to HOME under the terms of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation) Act 1990. Other buildings that warrant recording come to RCHME's attention through a variety of other channels. So far as capacity allows, these too are recorded.

The new section will determine its recording priorities in close cooperation with local government officers, English Heritage, the Museum of London and other specialist and local organizations. RCHME welcomes all information which helps to identify the buildings where the making of a record is most appropriate and most urgently required. All types of buildings are covered.

The nature of the records made varies, as suits the building and the occasion, to include photographs, measured survey drawings and written reports. These are made publicly available through the National Buildings Record.
For more information contact Peter Guillery or Charlotte Bradbeer, RCHME, Threatened Buildings (London), Fortress House, Room 1/16, 23 Savile Row, London W1X 2JQ or tel: 071-973 3080

Recording Group news

At the February meeting we were pleased, to welcome Peter Guillery from the Royal Commission for Historical Monuments, Threatened Buildings Division (see note above).

At the March meeting videos were shown by Andrew Keene and June Gibson about the Battersea Waterworks site which members had visited and on which Tim Smith and others have working hard.

Both meetings were held in the Brunel Engine House at Rotherhithe. We were grateful to them for the use of their facilities. The Engine House is a long way for some members, but it is very comfortable and we were grateful for the use of their video machine.

Current sites include:

  • Richmond Ice Rink — The closure has had a lot of publicity. Peter Marshall has discovered that it had been a World War 1 munitions factory, later converted to an ice rink.

  • Three Mills Visit — The Recording Group arranged a successful visit to the site. We would like to thank Brian Daubney for arranging it and taking us round (see Brian's note above).

  • Enfield Small Arms Factory — We have received a bundle of photographs from RCHM and they are available to any member who contacts us.

  • Acton Central Station — Acton Historical Society asked us to write to Ealing Planning Department and British Rail. Ealing replied saying the BR had demolished part of the station. The Council has therefore extended the Conservation Area to cover the whole station to prevent BR from demolishing further.

  • Icewells — Malcolm Tucker has been researching some of the North London sites of United Carlo Gatti. A letter has been received from Sylvia Beaman (author of 'The Ice House of Britain' with Susan Roaf) which contained a form to be filled in with details of ice houses for a future gazetteer. Copies available from Mary Mills.

  • Harefield Copper Mills (GLIAS Newsletter February 1992) — Derek Bayliss sent further information quoting from 'Harefield's, Turner and Newall Limited, the First 50 Years 1920-70' (published by the company in 1970).

    They took over Bells United Asbestos Company Limited and became part of a group of companies manufacturing asbestos building products; asbestos cement pressure pipes for water supply; textiles papers and paper laminates for electrical insulation. In 1928, Bells' factories at Harefield, Erith and Widnes were merged. In 1933 they became a subsidiary of Turner and Newall and with Turners Asbestos Cement Company formed Turners Asbestos Cement Company Limited. This suggests that the Herfield Works was still in use then. An illustration shows corrugated sheets being stacked at a factory with an internal railway of 18in-2ft gauge. The building shown appears to be a large wooden shed with massive timber uprights. Derek wondered whether it was taken at Harefield.

    The Recording Group has also been looking at the following sites and would be grateful for any information from members.

  • Bulls Bridge
  • May and Baker's site at Dagenham
  • Edmonton Incinerator Plant
  • Delta Enfield site at Charlton (A member has also requested any information on cable-making sites.)
  • Tate and Lyle's Silvertown site — rumours of closure
  • Sarson's Vinegar Works (see note above)
  • Plumstead Destructor site. White Hart Lane
  • Camden Round House — rumours of sale
  • Parkway Cinema, Camden — listing?

    Mary Mills

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  • © GLIAS, 1992