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GREATER LONDON INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY SOCIETY

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Notes from Bob Carr — June 1993

Battersea Power Station

At midday on Friday 26 February 1993 Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's famous art deco Battersea Power Station became the property of the Hwangs, a Hong Kong property owning family (GLIAS Newsletter April 1993). Mr Victor Hwang, one of two brothers who have been negotiating the purchase of the site, has expressed an intention that the power station will not be demolished. Further developments are awaited. Bob Carr

Refurbished Finsbury Park to Battersea buses

The number 19 bus service running from Finsbury Park to Battersea was until 23 April 1993 operated by London General red-painted Routemaster buses and exceptionally a Routemaster painted in old style London General livery. Now Kentish bus have taken over the service with 20 maroon and cream refurbished Routemasters.

This is the first traditional open platform conductor operated service to be put out to competitive tender and more can be expected. The Routemasters used by Kentish bus are leased from London Transport. A bold route diagram on the side of the buses makes very clear where the number 19 runs and the distinctive new livery makes a number 19 bus stand out visually at a very great distance, even in central London.

The continued use of Routemaster buses through extensive refurbishment, probably beyond the year 2000, can be regarded as a strong example of adapative re-use. These aged buses, some dating from the 1960s, {C and D registrations — first time round} are very much working industrial archaeology even if no longer in original condition. Bob Carr

Wandle water mills

It might surprise readers to learn that even now there are still four water wheels in situ on the River Wandle, at one time the hardest worked London river with as many as 200 water wheels in use. At Ravensbury Mill, off Morden Road (TQ 265 682), there are two breastshot wheels inside the building. At present they are not accessible to the general public but it is hoped the mill will become the new home of the Wandle Industrial Museum.

Further north in Morden Hall Park you can see the paddle-less remains of a breastshot water wheel on the side of the 18th-century brick-and-weatherboard East Mill (TQ 261 686) formerly used to grind snuff. The wheel on the corresponding West Mill was removed in 1968. The atmosphere inside snuff mills was choking and GLIAS members had experience of this in Sheffield during a visit to the working water-powered Sharrow Mills (GLIAS Newsletter December 1986).

Further north still at the former Liberty Silk printing works site, Merton Abbey (TQ 265 698), is a well restored undershot water wheel about 15ft wide and 12ft diameter which would have developed about 15 horsepower. This used to drive rinsing spools and dates from about 1840. To the south east of this wheel the former Liberty factory buildings are now bookshops and premises selling arts and crafts and there is a public house. A walk following the River Wandle can be recommended. Bob Carr

Holloway Road Underground station

In 1906 a spiral passenger escalator built by Reno Electric Stairways and Conveyors Ltd was installed in a shaft at Holloway Road underground station on the Piccadilly Line. It was not a success and was probably unused by the travelling public.

The first successful underground escalators were those at Earl's Court installed in 1911.

As part of refurbishment work at Holloway Road it is intended to cut what remains of the spiral escalator there into sections and part will go to the London Transport Museum.

The existence of remains of the pioneer escalator at Holloway Road is quite well-known being noted in Industrial Monuments of Greater London, Thames Basin Archaeological Observers' Group (1969), page 36. Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 1993