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Notes from Bob Carr — April 1995

Thomas Wallis

It is not clear if Thomas Wallis (GLIAS Newsletter February 1995) ever had a partner called Gilbert. The latter may have been an American or Canadian involved with Wallis very early on when Wallis, Gilbert and Partners was being set up.

The subject of Thomas Wallis seems to have provoked some interest. Wallis the man was apparently quite a character. After a poem and cartoon ridiculing Wallis, Gilbert and Partners and the Hoover Factory in Perivale was published in the Architectural Review in July 1932, Wallis is reported to have entered the Review office 'brandishing a horsewhip'. He is said to have had a number of mistresses and there is a story of one lady being dumped in the bath at Roland Gardens SW7 where the Partnership had offices including a glamorous lounge with private bathroom.

As a businessman Wallis was very successful and he included a number of the famous industrialists of the age among his friends. For Derby Day a bus was provided at the racecourse with food from Harrods to entertain his clients to lunch. For some his personal image is strongly reminiscent of 1930s Hollywood cinema.

Wallis never became Sir Thomas, perhaps because he was never considered quite respectable enough. Could the fact that his main business had been the design of façades for factory buildings have had anything to do with it? Bob Carr

Trams are coming, bus stops are changing

If you go to East Croydon railway station you may be interested to learn that the new station has received the Pilkington Glass Award for the best use of glass. There is quite a lot of it. Leaving the station you may soon be able to catch a tram on the 17-mile system about to be constructed in south London. The Croydon Tramlink Bill was passed by a House of Commons Committee in June 1994. The large West Croydon bus station has recently reopened after extensive refurbishment.

Fifty new-type aluminium bus stops designed by London Transport are being erected as a trial in Ilford, New Addington and Richmond. The Royal Fine Arts Commission has given the new design its blessing and if trials are encouraging large-scale replacement of current ferro-concrete designs is likely. One wonders what the vandals will make of aluminium bus stops.

Way out east, the East Thames Corridor will stretch to the Estuary. Here there are plans for trams in Barking and guided buses for Dartford. A guided-bus scheme is proposed for the re-use of the abandoned railway line from Luton to Dunstable. Bob Carr

Richmond and Kingston

A thin vertical slice of the main building of Kingston B power station (GLIAS Newsletter December 1994) was just surviving, consisting of open steel framework containing what looked like remains of the coalbunkers. By the time you read this the whole site will probably be cleared. Unlike some power stations Kingston B retained its original generating plant until the end.

The foundation stone was laid on 15 May 1946 and it was the first station to be opened after the 1948 nationalisation of the electricity supply industry. Being built in a sensitive partly residential area great care was taken in the design to make it visually and environmentally attractive. Opened by the King the only other electric power station to receive this honour was Barking opened by King George V in 1924.

Prominent ice-rink campaigner Mr Richard Meacock was due to have his case heard by the European Court of Appeal in Strasbourg on 10 January this year but we heard shortly after that the European Court had dismissed Mr Meacock's case against Richmond Council without a hearing. Mr Meacock claims that planning permission for the building of flats on the site of Richmond Ice Rink lapsed in October 1994 and work by present site owners Delta (UK) Ltd should not be allowed to continue. A petition with more than 58,000 signatures calls for the reinstatement of the ice rink. In a recent incident a ball-bearing gun was fired through the window of Mr Meacock's shop, The Gallery on Richmond Hill, causing £1,040 worth of damage. At present the Ice Rink case is being prepared for presentation to the (English) High Court. For the second time the Local Government Ombudsman has cleared Richmond Council of charges of malpractice over the handling of the closure of Richmond Ice Rink. Bob Carr

Listed railway stations

Farringdon station, 30.5.08. © Robert Mason A number of London Transport railway stations have recently been listed. A substantial proportion of these are by architect Charles Holden. It is to be hoped the future operators of London's transport (whoever that will be) will not be saddled with too great a burden of historic fabric to maintain. At a national level British Rail were in the unhappy situation of having to maintain a large number of listed buildings and structures while being in the business of running a railway service.

At present 46 London Transport stations are listed grade two. There is currently a great fashion for buildings in 1930s style in which many LT stations were built and one would not like to see a disproportionate number of stations in the London area listed for this reason. In contrast local Victorian and Edwardian surface railway stations in Greater London have received little protection and more attention could well be given to these cinderellas of the railway scene. Let us hope a sense of balance will prevail.

Newly listed LT stations include Acton Town, Ealing Common, Eastcote, Farringdon (pictured), Holloway Road (GLIAS Newsletter June 1993), Hounslow East, Loughton, Northfields, Rayners Lane, Sudbury Hill and Turnpike Lane. This is plenty for a GLIAS member with a travel card to ride around and examine. Bob Carr

Alexandra Palace

There are plans to establish a National Television Museum at Alexandra Palace (GLIAS Newsletter October 1994), which is at present in a debt-ridden and moribund state. The world's first public television broadcasts to the London area started from here in 1936 and Alexandra Palace can justly claim to be the cradle of television. Really substantial funding will be necessary both to clear huge debts (the Palace is currently losing more than £1 million a year) and to carry out the necessary works. Sources of finance considered are the National Lottery and the Millennium Commission.

Schemes under consideration include a television archive, hotel and multiplex cinema within the existing building and an indoor real-snow ski slope (real snow unlike the Beckton Alps and its companions). Planning permission has already been obtained for a multi-storey car park. It has been proposed to connect the Palace to Wood Green underground railway station by cable cars. The real-snow ski slope which would extend into the park is an integral part of current draft proposals and this has provoked opposition from environmental groups who insist the park is sacrosanct. It also seems likely that cable cars would be objected to on environmental grounds. Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 1995