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Notes and news — August 1995

Foxtrot U475

Peter Skilton's note on the Russian Submarine U475 which has been in London just over a year (GLIAS Newsletter June 1995) makes clear just how claustrophobic the interior appears to visitors. One is overwhelmed by the sheer number of pipes and valves. Just how could anyone ever learn what they are all for let alone find room to live in the tiny spaces left for the crew.

Russian submarine on Medway. © Robert Mason The Foxtrot class were built at Sudomekh near Leningrad 1958-71 for the Russian Navy and were the second most numerous type, more than 76 being made. As Peter says a most successful design, from 1972 the class was superseded by the Tango class (Foxtrot & Tango are NATO names). From 1968 Foxtrot submarines were supplied new to India, Libya, Cuba etc. India still operates a small fleet of them.

Displacement is 1,950 tons on the surface and 2,500 dived and a Foxtrot is 300 feet long carrying a crew of 75. Power is diesel-electric, three diesels provide 6,000 bhp and there are three electric motors coupled to three shafts producing 5,400 hp. This gives a surface speed of 18 knots and 16 knots submerged. Surface cruising range is about 20,000 miles but it was quite common to refuel these submarines at sea greatly extending their endurance. The Foxtrot class were armed with torpedoes, six 21-inch tubes in the bow and four 16-inch tubes in the stern and 22 torpedoes were carried. In normal operating conditions a Foxtrot would dive to about 800 feet but in an emergency could dive to almost 1,000 feet.

The Foxtrot in Greenwich at Long's Wharf, U475, was in active service with the Russian Baltic Fleet for 27 years, until April 1994. In 1976 she had been modified for use as a training submarine for foreign submariners from India, Libya and Cuba. Last summer she came to London from the naval base at Riga in Latvia under the command of Captain Vitalij Burda towed by a Russian Navy tug to the mouth of the Medway. The tug refused to come up-river and the tow to Woolwich was completed by a local tug.

U475 is the only Russian submarine in Britain, now owned by Russian Submarines UK Ltd. Bob Carr


A box of Zebo seen for sale in Pearces hardware shop in the High Street, Chesham, about a year ago prompts the question, what exactly is Zebo? It had been said that Zebo was a thing of the past long since unobtainable and yet there it was. Is the Zebo trade still going, in a niche market (the box looked quite new), or was the box exceptionally old stock? It was evening and the shop closed so no enquiries were possible at the time. If any GLIAS member remembers Zebo and can say what it was used for please write in. Bob Carr

Belgians in Letchworth

Letchworth in Hertfordshire was the World's First Garden City, based upon the ideas of Sir Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928). It was intended to create a self-contained community where work, home and leisure would all take place in healthy country-like surroundings away from the crowded industrial towns of the 19th century. Naturally such a scheme attracted many idealistic people with a wide variety of beliefs.

In May 1903 a tract of land was bought 3,818 acres in extent astride the Cambridge branch of the Great Northern Railway and with relatively few level areas. Following a competition the plan for Letchworth was drawn up by Barry Parker (1867-1947) and Raymond Unwin (1863-1940), both with Derbyshire backgrounds. In 1904 construction work began and a competition to design a 'cheap cottage' costing not more than £150 produced a plethora of examples. The following year an exhibition was visited by more than 60,000 people when 121 cottages were to be seen.

By 1911 the population had reached 5,324 but during the Great War nearly 3,000 Belgian refugees (GLIAS Newsletter February 1995) came to live in the town. In 1915 the steelfoundry of Kryn and Lahy was set up by the railway in the factory area of Letchworth making munitions and a large proportion of the workforce there was Belgian. Unlike Birtley in County Durham in the Hertfordshire town the Belgians were quickly integrated into the local community. The distinctive social atmosphere of Letchworth and the fact that it was a new town probably had much to do with this. Bob Carr

St Pancras Station and Hotel

Now really clean on the outside the St Pancras railway station and hotel in the Euston Road is in its predominantly bright red brick colouring a strong contrast to its subdued and some would say more tasteful rival King's Cross next door. Built with a view to advertising East Midlands building materials which could all be brought to London by the Midland Railway there is indeed more in St Pancras Station than the Hathern terra cotta mentioned by David Perrett (GLIAS Newsletter December 1994).

An East Midlands product that can even now be obtained from the Whistlestop Food and Wine shop inside the station is the pork pie, a delicacy long associated with Melton Mowbray where it originated as a by-product of Stilton Cheese making. GLIAS members who buy pork pies in London will note that they often come from Nottinghamshire or Lincolnshire. The present writer was brought up in an East Midlands town where people literally queued in the street for pork pies and they were even said to be eaten for breakfast.

Of late a particularly fine example of the East Midlands Pork Pie obtainable from St Pancras has been that made by Saxby Brothers Ltd of the Melton Bakery, Wellingborough, Northants, established in 1904 and still a family business. These celebrated Midland pies come in traditional white waxed paper wrappers proudly printed with gold medals and with no anachronistic plastic in sight. To the pork-pie connoisseur they are well worth their somewhat higher cost. The railways also had an association with a Saxby's which was something to do with signals but that is another story.

Survey of London volumes 43 and 44 — Poplar, Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs, The Parish of All Saints, Editors Hermione Hobhouse and Stephen Porter, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1994, £130.

For anyone in GLIAS the appearance of new volumes of the Survey of London is a great event and these two tomes are very industrial. It is a pity we cannot all rush out and buy copies but at this price most of us will think at least twice. Seeing the enormous amount being offered £130 is a not unreasonable amount to ask and the contents are essential reading for everyone interested in the past of Poplar, the Isle of Dogs and Blackwall. At least make sure a library accessible to you gets copies.

The sheer size and complex detail of the contents of these two volumes goes some way to explaining why no moderately comprehensive gazetteer of London's industrial archaeology has ever been published. Such works are generally available for most parts of Britain but it seems London has just too much industrial archaeology. The two volumes reviewed here cover only one Parish and after a hundred years the Survey of London has covered but a small fraction of the former LCC area.

However, volumes 43 and 44 present a very detailed survey rich in riverside industrial sites around the Isle of Dogs and there are very many references to a wide variety of sources including recent publications. It is gratifying to see the GLIAS Newsletter being quoted as a primary source. The coverage is wide ranging and topics that might be mentioned include the Thames Plate Glass Works, Trinity House Buoy Wharf, the Blackwall Tunnel, Blackwall Yard and Poplar Docks. There is a good section on Modern Docklands. The two volumes contain 872 large double column pages of text plus 160 pages of photographic plates and there are numerous excellent maps and line drawings. More than just architecture is covered and members will find much of engineering and technological interest. Highly recommended. Bob Carr



News from Crossness


Woolwich walk


Another obscure gas works


Restoration of cranes in Docklands


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© GLIAS, 1995