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Notes and news — October 1996

Justice — Liberty — Science

The above words appear over the proscenium arch in the main hall of Stanley Halls, South Norwood (GLIAS Newsletter October 1995).

These previously rather neglected Edwardian buildings are of great quality, especially as regards their construction, and are now perhaps beginning at long last to be recognised.

In a somewhat unfashionable part of London near Norwood Junction railway station, recognition has been an uphill process, but at least there are now signs of restoration. The roof of the main hall itself is supported by laminated timber arches, of a kind, but unlike those in St Paul's Presbyterian Church on the Isle of Dogs. This former church in West Ferry Road is being reopened for musical performances and there may even be a bar. Bob Carr

Another attempt at Battersea Power Station retention

Another attempt is being made to revitalise the moribund Battersea power station site (GLIAS Newsletter April 1994) and convert the former power station into an entertainment complex which would be economically viable.

The new scheme is not that different from the proposals made in 1986 in conjunction with Battersea Leisure, which ran into financial difficulties. Attractions might include a themed boat ride, virtual reality ride, a 32-screen cinema, roller coaster and rides up and down inside one of the chimneys.

The famous Art Deco control room might be re-used as a restaurant and a number of other eating and shopping facilities are envisaged. The new developer is Parkview, a Hong Kong property company.

To bring customers to the intended development it is planned to run continuous shuttle trains between Victoria and Clapham Junction, calling at a new station to be constructed on the site.

Tallest building in Britain

Sir Norman Foster has plans for a 90-storey office block 1,003 feet high on the site of the former Baltic Exchange, severely damaged by an IRA bomb in 1992.

The Baltic Exchange, a steel-framed structure, built 1900-1904, was listed grade II*. It seems that English Heritage might just agree to the demolition of what is left of the listed building as it is in a deplorable state. Bob Carr

Bromley walk

A large contingent gathered at Bromley South station in pleasantly warm weather at the beginning of August for the GLIAS walk. Described as 'Hop Garden to Suburb' it lived up to this description as Sue Hayton led us expertly and interestingly round the landmarks of Bromley. She is also the first leader to lay on a press photographer, who posed the group at the War Memorial overlooking the valley where the hop gardens had been.

After the walk some of us repaired to a local, where Belgian beers are sold, and a sampling was held. Now we know where Danny gets his information — he doesn't need to go to Belgium for it, whatever he may lead us to believe!

Many thanks to Sue for an interesting and entertaining afternoon.

The Lion to the Elephant

Another excellent turnout was achieved for Dave Perrett's walk, the last in this year's season, and most people were able to find the Lion on Westminster Bridge although works on County Hall kept us away from that section of the riverside.

The area we looked at had suffered from damage, particularly during one air-raid, during the war but we were still able to see the London Necropolis Railway station in Westminster Bridge Road before returning to the Albert Embankment for views of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster and Lambeth Bridges and St Thomas's Hospital. Beyond Lambeth Bridge we had an opportunity to see the LCC Fire Brigade Headquarters building of 1934.

Round the corner in Black Prince Street are the former Art Workshops of Doultons where the decoration and panel depicting the studio were admired. Dave led us down to look at a number of sites from the old 'Bedlam', now the Imperial War Museum, to an Admiralty Telegraph Station and finally to the Elephant and Castle, Bakerloo Line Station where the walk ended (except for those who went in search of a pint).

As a result of our pleas for new ideas and leaders for walks, we have received one idea, but the proposer seems reluctant to lead it. This is a start, but we really do need more ideas and new leaders would be welcome, too. Please come forward, the present leaders will be pleased to help you. Bill Firth and Danny Hayton

Yet another old gasworks

This, I am afraid, is going to be another tale of a gasworks which didn't work very well. This is not a story of one of the really scandalous London gasworks. Just a little local matter down in Woolwich.

In 1817 or thereabouts, a Mr Livesey and a Mr Hardy built a gasworks in Woolwich. If the name Livesey is familiar, it is because he was George Livesey's great uncle, Thomas. Mr Hardy, a coal merchant friend of Livesey, was also a partner of Mr Hedley, with whom he failed in a tender to build a gas works in Greenwich (see the article on the first Greenwich gas works). They built this works on a site called 'Roff's Compound' or 'Edgar's Coal Wharf'. This was down by the river somewhere in the area of today's Bell Watergate.

In 1824 they tried to sell the works to the South London Gas Company. One of the reasons why they were so keen to get rid of it was that Thomas Livesey was Deputy Governor of the Westminster-based Chartered Gas Light and Coke Co. The Chartered took a very dim view of his extra-curricular activities and in May 1827 he had to make a sworn statement to the effect that he had disposed of his interest in the Woolwich Gas Company. This, as it turns out, was not really true. The works seems to have been owned by some sort of corporate body of whom Mr Ainger — another person with interests in coal and iron and a wharf at Bankside — was a trustee.

The years went by. The works seems to have passed into the hands of Hardy's partner, Thomas Hedley and a Mr Ainger. It was offered around to other gas companies, like the Phoenix at Bankside. They could have had it for £6,500 but neither they, nor apparently anyone else, wanted it.

In Woolwich in 1832 another gas company was set up, the Woolwich Equitable. They advertised that they would sell 'cheaper and purer gas' and they also set about trying to buy up the old works. They began to negotiate with Mr Livesey and Mr Ainger. A valuation was commissioned from Mr John Barlow. Barlow, also a builder of ready made gas works, was in many ways an interested party and another valuer was brought in. This was a Mr Robert Brown of Royal Hill. I assume that this is the Robert Brown, architect of Royal Place in 1839 and not Mr Robert Brown, plumber, of Blackheath Hill also in 1839.

Baker's valuation was very long and very damning. Ainger and Livesey began to talk the equipment up — the wooden tanks were after all, only 15 years old, and the pipework would last a hundred years. Baker apparently didn't think so. Ainger accused the Woolwich Equitable Board of trying to cheat him. They were however desperate to 'buy up the competition' and decided to do so despite the fact that the old works was 'very dilapidated'. Livesey began to talk about problems with an Act of Parliament and the Board of the Equitable brought their solicitor along to see him. In the long list which they produced of Messrs Livesey and Ainger's misdeeds they were perhaps most annoyed that £245 of the purchase money was to find its way into Mr Livesey's pocket.

The old Woolwich works was taken over, run for a while, and closed down. It's nice to know that the contract to build the new works went to Mr Barlow.

It would be nice to know more about the old Woolwich works. There are more details in the Woolwich Equitable Company's minutes but they are now on the Greater London Record Officer's 'unfit for production' list — thank you to them for letting me look at them for ten minutes 10 years ago.

Gas holder at Finchley Sewage Works

Picketts Lock Sewage Works, north of Edmonton on the River Lea, had a form of 'gasometer' 20' diameter, 30' high.

It embodies spiral pipes, carries hot 'radiator' cooling water from the two large internal combustion engines providing electric power on site, mainly for pumps. Sewage sludge from the aeration pond fills the gasometer, is heated and gas is collected at the top.

The engines work on diesel, gas or a mixture of the two. Large sewers carry a 40' high hollow pipe post with fluted top for venting.

I suspect the 'gasometer' at Finchley Sewage works provided gas mainly for lighting 50 years before the invention of the electric lamp. The gas might later have driven a single cylinder engine with fly wheel (no carburation needed). The gasometer would have been needed to even the flow of gas storing it in daylight to be used for lighting at night. Mr Knights of Highgate

SHOT: Society for the History of Technology

GLIAS was involved in the conference of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) which was held in London at the beginning of August.

SHOT, based in the United States has a wide membership and delegates came from all over the World to a busy conference with several parallel sessions of papers or a wide range of topics.

GLIAS had two main tasks; to set up a display showing the type of its work carried and to arrange and provide coach guides for visits to provide some relaxation for the delegates as well as letting them see some of the important sites in London.

Following a lunch on the first day, hosted by the Newcomen Society, at Kew Bridge the delegates were taken to visit Tower Bridge and Kirkcaldy's Testing Museum and other trips were arranged to Three Mills and the Thames Barrier.

Denis Smith was also asked to stage 'Iron and Steam', the concert which was arranged for Industrial Heritage Year, following the retiring president's address. The setting of the Great Hall at Imperial College allowed for the 500+ delegates with room to spare.

Dr Robert Budd of the Science Museum, who was in charge of the arrangements, has written to Denis to thank all those involved in both the display and who acted as tour guides. Danny Hayton

Open House 1996

One of the reasons for holding Dave Perrett's walk (see above) so late in the month was the AIA conference and another was to enable members to visit some of the buildings open, free of charge, on the weekend of 14/15 September.

The country divided into two for this event, London and everywhere else with certain London Boroughs declining to get involved and some sites returning to their original 'county' allegiances.

Chislehurst in Bromley reverted to Kent and opened up a number of historic houses and a church which was converted from a cinema in the 1960s (complete with tip-up seats). Many London churches were open and other organisations, including SPAB, opened their offices to visitors. Even churches hold links with IA sites as a plaque in the courtyard of the German Lutheran Church in Ailie Street E1 gave the architect of the school building as Grüning who also designed the German Gymnasium, King's Cross.

Changes to the list of buildings were made up to the last minute with withdrawals and additions including Wilton's Music Hall. This was an opportunity not to be missed and a dash was made from the London Taxi Centre, designed by Wallace Gilbert for the Daimler Car Hire Co, in Bloomsbury to the East End to see the interior of this famous hall where Brian Daubney was singing to demonstrate the acoustic as we arrived.

GLIAS was involved at Limehouse Basin where Charles Norrie, Tim Smith and Malcolm Tucker (wearing a Canal Museum hat) were on hand to explain the Hydraulic Accumulator Tower and the development of the dock. A large number of visitors turned up and new members were recruited. One of the visitors turned out to be the 'Weasel' in mufti who then devoted the first piece in The Independent's regular Saturday Magazine feature to the joys of looking out over London. However he was left 'in a state of blissful ignorance' by the 'bevy of Industrial Archaeologists' with 'much talk of "gutta-percha seals" and "weight-loaded accumulators"'. Sue Hayton

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© GLIAS, 1996