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Notes and news — August 1998

GLIAS walk: Vauxhall and downstream

Bill Firth's walk began at the station by Vauxhall Bridge, ended at Blackfriars Bridge, and was punctuated by four more bridges, all remarkable in their different ways and all with interesting and well-documented histories. A detour took us through the once heavily industrialised part of Vauxhall, behind the river front. Almost all that remains of that is Doulton's splendid terracotta facade. The Albert Embankment, besides providing a major road, conceals the all-important sewer.

Oxo Tower. © Robert Mason, 2004 At County Hall by Westminster Bridge, what is now generally called 'The South Bank' begins. We paid particular attention to the Shell Centre before going out to the road to look at the facade of Waterloo station. A little further on the skeleton of the British Film Institute's new Imax Cinema is nearly complete. It is on the 'site of the down-and-outs' encampment in the middle of the underpass. The nearby Stamford Street has been the home of such household names as WH Smith, Boots and Sainsbury, but it also contains good Georgian buildings and has the Waterloo — Bank railway underneath.

This brought us to Coin Street, where the local inhabitants have been very successful in resisting the spread of office development. The Community Builders (non-profit making) who were responsible for the estate in Coin Street have also refurbished the Oxo Tower Building for use by small businesses.

Here, within sight of Blackfriars, the walk came to an end. It was difficult to believe that we had been on our feet for two-and-a-half hours but Mr Firth had retained our interest throughout with an excellent, very detailed commentary. L J Beckett

Crossness Engines

Crossness Engines 'Open Day' 1998 was as successful as last year, and while our visitor numbers remained the same, our takings were up. We conducted a 'customer care' visitor survey which showed once more that knowledge of the event is spread by 'word of mouth' rather than any other means of advertising. However other forms of advertising obviously succeed and our visitors came from as far afield as Southampton and west Bromwich.

All our exhibitor places were filled and we were very happy to see the GLIAS stand doing well in sales and enquiries.

We are intending to expand our education service by encouraging more schools to use out facilities. Unfortunately this means a drain on our workforce, as members are needed to act a guides who might otherwise be employed on restoration work. To overcome this problem we are seeking help from anyone willing to volunteer to assist in guiding small parties of children (or adult visitor) around 'Crossness Engines and Museum of Sanitation Engineering'.

Prospective guides would of course be given information about the history of London's Main Drainage scheme and the engines at Crossness as well as sufficient 'training' to enable them to assist in guiding. At present there are just two 'visitor days' and one 'school day' per month. Therefore, depending on how many 'guides' are available, the number of times one might be called upon to assist could be quite small. Peter Skilton

Whatever happened to COSQUEC?

In the early 1990s considerable discussion and consultation was taking place within the archaeological community with a view to setting up a system of vocational qualifications. NVQs, and for Scotland SVQs, were proposed and much preparatory work was undertaken. All this would have been significant for GLIAS members and industrial archaeologists in general but after a great deal of effort nothing came of the work.

Basically the concept was rejected by many in the archaeological community and for unpaid individuals to acquire NVQs the expense would have been prohibitive. In archaeology there was no body which could put up the money, unlike industry where NVQs were established. If you are not familiar with the abbreviation, COSQUEC stands for Council for Occupational Standards and Qualifications in Environmental Conservation. Bob Carr

Enclosed gasholders

Enclosed gasholders (GLIAS newsletter April 1998) seem to be in the news at present. Paul Yunnie published an article on the subject in issue 14 of Historic Gas Times only in March 1998. He mentions examples in North America and the fact that there they were built in houses to prevent the water seal freezing. Other factors favouring enclosure were protection from high winds and snow loading and in some aesthetically sensitive locations putting the holder in a building which could be given an elegant architectural treatment made the close proximity of a gasworks more acceptable to local residents.

In the USA in the 1980s the Society for Industrial Archaeology carried out a survey and in New England found 13 surviving gasholder houses all in good condition. The example at Concord in New Hampshire still contained its holder in 1988 and was thought to be the last complete gasholder house surviving in the US. Inside the building was a single-lift holder of 125,000 cu.ft. capacity guided by rails fixed to the inside walls. The enclosing house built in 1888 was 86 feet in diameter and 24 feet high. A fine photograph is reproduced in Paul's article. The building has a strong chapel-like appearance.

In this country there was an enclosed stone-built gasholder house at Gott's Mill, Armley, now Leeds Industrial Museum, and two small examples without their holders survive in Warwick (SP 278 653). They were built in 1822. Sir Neil Cossons in his BP Book of Industrial Archaeology reproduces a photograph of the Warwick gasworks. It is on page 223 of the second edition — this is a book many of you will have at home. The gasworks in Warwick were in the western part of the town by the terminus of the Warwick and Birmingham canal, which would have been convenient for the delivery of coal. Early gasholders were often placed inside buildings in the mistaken belief that this was safer. However, a consideration of explosions and the effect of flying bricks led to an end of this practice. Photographic evidence makes clear that many gasholders had windows. In the event of an explosion flying glass would have been an additional hazard.

Brian Sturt mentions contemplating the inside of a gasholder in comfort from within the Royal Albert Hall (GLIAS newsletter April 1998) and remarks that in the days of the South Metropolitan Company anything like entertainment inside gasholders was sadly lacking. In our own more enlightened times this is no longer the case and it is probably in Germany that innovation commenced.

Readers will probably be familiar with the use of abandoned industrial buildings for installation art. The Anya Gallaccio Intensities and Surfaces installation at the LHP Wapping pumping station in 1996 will be well known to many (see eg. Times 17 & 20 February, Independent 10 February, Guardian 3 & 13 February, Daily Telegraph 3 February & 6 March etc.) and during the period of LDDC occupancy at Trinity Buoy Wharf near the mouth of Bow Creek the site was notable for installation art. Probably the most ambitious event here was 'Pitch', an exhibition of site-specific installations by ten artists making excellent use of the interiors of buildings on the wharf. This a brief display of conceptual art only lasted for about one week in September 1994. There was also an exhibition here previously of lengths of plain cloth which has been left for a time in some of London's Lost Rivers so as to gain a little of the character of the water which flowed in them.

A development in music is the writing of compositions which are 'site specific'. You may remember a series of TV programmes with young musicians performing such works in a disused London roller flour mill and other interiors with a strong industrial ambience. As a contribution to the 1995 ISCM World Music Days the composer James Clark wrote and had performed a 'site specific' seven minute 'surround-sound' piece 'Afterglow' for four musicians to be performed inside the 525 feet high disused culindrical gasholder at Oberhausen in the Ruhrgebiet, Germany. This gasholder now functions as a museum and exhibition space and its vertigo-inducing interior made it a spectacular venue for timbral and spatial musical presentations. A concert performance of 'Afterglow' took place recently at the Conway Hall in London but here without the contribution of the Oberhausen gasholder. Additional parts had to be written out for violin and piano to approximate the effect.

Site-specific musical events took place this April in Manchester. Joseph Hyde produced a piece 'Resonating Arch', for the Castlefield railway viaduct in which the sound of trains passing overhead was electronically manipulated. While the provision of funding for artistic endeavour is to be applauded, readers of this newsletter may hope that funding for the recording of industrial buildings and structures and the setting up of industrial museums where appropriate, will also be forthcoming. Some of us who visited the Anya Gallaccio exhibition at Wapping did so not only to see the ice but also to be able to photograph the interior of the hydraulic pumping station. At least photography was permitted. Bob Carr

Millennium news

I am aware that people will have seen cuttings about the ghost in the Millennium Dome. I have seen very few of them (would be interested in more) but I nevertheless thought you might be interested in a ringside view. As you may know I live virtually on top of the Dome site and we are all very aware of the gas works connection.

George Livesey was the charismatic chairman of the South Met. Gas Co. I wrote a short biographical article of him for a GLIAS Journal ten or so years ago ('George Livesey'. London's Industrial Archaeology No.4.) He has, however, also turned up in various articles on South London Gas by Brian Sturt and myself in a number of guises. Irrepressible George is never far away.

The ghost of Livesey seems to have come to public attention via The Guardian. I found myself quoted in a long feature article as a local historian who knew all about it. I didn't, but a few enquiries revealed that there had been stories on and off for years following noises from the office roof at East Greenwich and a sighting of a figure several hundred yards away across a windswept peninsula in the early hours of the morning. I later heard about a letter to a Western edition of the Daily Mail. A quick 'phone call to a — very amused — West Country-based gas historian confirmed this. A lady who claimed to have worked at East Greenwich Gas Works said she had heard the ghost.

Then everything went quiet. What happened next was that the Daily Telegraph telephoned the Livesey Museum. This is a small general museum for local children based in the library that George gave to the borough. The curator sent them a copy of the handout about George that I had written for them some years ago and their front-page story a couple of days later was based on this. By then the Southwark press officer was involved and determined to get the museum onto the TV somehow or other. That afternoon I was asked to do interviews for a number of TV companies. I couldn't be in two places at once and Brian Sturt was sadly unobtainable en route between London and Fareham (get a mobile 'phone, Brian!). I did an interview about Livesey for Carlton, which appeared on that night's local news.

I understand that since then George has popped up elsewhere. Events in my personal life took me out of circulation for a week and I lost the chance to get more coverage in the local papers and elsewhere. I would like to see George getting a bit of publicity at last. I am really beginning to believe in ghosts. The more I think about George I am sure that he wouldn't have been able to keep out of the Dome.

More seriously I think that even the silliest stories are a chance to get a bit of publicity for industrial historians. I would like to see some recognition in the Dome of the contribution that the gas industry has made — east Greenwich in particular. All we have heard about is dirt and pollution — what about public service and innovation? George Livesey has many faults — and the great 1889 gas holder will soon go, because people think it is 'ugly' and there is no way we can get any other message over. Perhaps a silly season story might just help a bit.

If anyone wants to know why my regular gasworks articles have, temporarily, stopped — you should ask the ghost why it takes up so much of my time! Mary Mills

Epping to Ongar line

London Underground is to sell the former Epping to Ongar Line to Pilot Developments, a commercial company who intend to develop the line as a leisure resource in time for the Millennium. Ongar Railway Preservation Society hoped to re-introduce commuter services on the line.

1916 — making shells at Hackney Wick

The diaries of Lady Cynthia Asquith (1887-1960) covering the period 1915-18, published by Hutchinson, London, in 1968, describe a night visit to a munitions factory at Hackney Wick to serve in the canteen. The entry is dated Friday 14 July 1916, and after describing the period of her canteen work, continues: 'we were shown all over the huge factory — most thrilling. Toil-begrimed men handling red-hot icicles of shells — thousands of them — most Wellsian and awe-inspiring.' On arrival at the factory there is mention of 'sparks flying out of the chimneys'. Readers may also be interested to learn that on Saturday 29 May 1915 she launched a ship, 'The Champion', at Hebburn-on-Tyne.

In 1917 Lady Cynthia fancied becoming a film star, proposing to adopt the stage name Sylvia Strayte. On Saturday 17 November, with two companions, she travelled by tram to 'remote' Catford. She was the only one in the party who had ever been on a tram before and the journey took more than an hour, as they kept getting on the wrong tram. The purpose of the journey was to visit the Windsor Film Company Studios, where she underwent a film test. She hoped to be paid £10 a week. The film studio upstairs is described as 'immense — like a vast greenhouse' and the filming as 'like the Tower of Babel' — everyone shouting in some foreign language'. The camera operator was a pleasant Italian. Guido Serra had founded the Windsor Film Company at Bromley Road SE6 in 1914. The firm moved into studios at Catford in August 1916 and had a capacity to produce about six films per year. Bob Carr

Rusty Salmon

Iron Brew of various kinds is commonplace now, even in London but a well-known maker of fish paste in glass jars also uses iron as an ingredient (GLIAS newsletter June 1998). It was recently noted in an ingredients list that a jar of salmon paste contained a small amount of iron oxide to give the contents a suitable pink colour.

Tinned or bottled fruits such as strawberries or raspberries look rather pale or brownish unless artificially coloured red, and it has long been a practice to add red dye. The style in which the additive information is given changes with time and whereas say five to ten years ago E 124 might have been seen on most labels it now seems all right to print explicitly 'Ponceau 4R'. Perhaps the general public is deemed to be more suspicious of 'E' numbers than a frank admission that an azo dye is present. Foodstuffs intended mainly for ethnic minorities appear to be more likely to use the 'E' number appellation. The following styles may be quoted: a tin of Scottish raspberries contained raspberries, apple juice and colour, Ponceau 4R; a tin of strawberries in light syrup from Spain gave the colouring additive as E124, while red plums in syrup from Turkey contained 'Ponceau 4R'. As well as 'E' numbers another classification is that of the Society of Dyers and Colourists who have/had a system of Colour Index (C.I.) numbers, for example tartrazine E192, a yellow colour, is C.I. 19140; cochineal E120, (a red colour made from the female of the insect Dactilopius Coccus, found e.g. in the Canary Islands), is C.I. 75470, silver (the metal) is C.I. 77820 and Ponceau 4R is C.I. 162 55.

The Colour Museum in Bradford ( has a gallery illustrating the history of the colouration industry. Bob Carr

Development at Hornsey

A Sainsbury's supermarket is being built on part of the Thames Water site to the north of High Street, Hornsey/Turnpike Lane, south of the filter beds (GLIAS newsletter June 1996).

Water mains are being diverted so they will no longer run under the supermarket and the old pipework will be abandoned and buried. An oral report suggests that the pumping station of 1903 is to become a McDonald's burger house. Bob Carr

Greater London House, Hampstead Road

There are plans afoot to reinstate the multi-coloured Egyptian-style decoration on Greater London House — formerly the Arcadia works — in Mornington Crescent. This was obliterated in the early 1960s, when Art Deco was still well out of fashion. Pevsner in his 1952 'Buildings of England' volume was typically scathing, calling it 'this abominable factory'.

The building was initially designed in a classical style, but built 1926-8 following the craze for all things Egyptian in the wake of the opening of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922. The architects were M E and O H Collins. There was a huge public outcry when this enormous factory was proposed for the gardens in front of Mornington Crescent, which resulted in the setting up of a Royal commission in 1927 to investigate the future of London squares. However, it was too late to stop Messrs Carreras from building what was said at the time to be the largest reinforced concrete structure in the world. The tobacco firm had been founded by Jose Carreras, an emigre from Spain, who had escaped the political upheavals of the 1840s.

His son greatly expanded the business and eventually sold it in the 1890s to William Johnston Yapp, who joined forces in 1903 with with an American, Bernhard Baron, who had settled in England. Baron soon took over the company and with increased sales following the introduction in 1921 of the first machine-made cork-tipped cigarette, 'Craven A', replaced their two existing small factories in Theobalds Road and the City Road with the new Arcadia Works. When it opened in 1928, each of the 3,000 employees was presented with a commemorative medal, many of which probably survive unrecognised.

The factory was constructed using revolutionary methods and employed the latest automated machinery. It was suitably lauded in the contemporary architectural press, not least for the provision for staff of such almost unheard of innovations as air conditioning and medical and welfare facilities. The style of the building received a mixed reception, but the factory was important locally as an employer of a huge labour force. In 1931 the exterior decoration was enhanced by the addition of multi-coloured neon lighting, which featured an illuminated cigarette with swirling smoke and the title 'Craven A'.

The Arcadia Works survived the war, but Carreras merged with Rothmans in 1958 and manufacturing was moved to Basildon. The building was renamed, revamped as offices and the Art Deco styling swept away. It will be interesting to see if the plans to recreate this are carried out, and if they are, how successful is the result. Stephen Croad
For further information on the history of Carreras, details of the building of the factory, including photographs of it in its heyday, and its aftermath, see my article 'Changing Perceptions — a Temple to Tobacco in Camden Town' in the 'Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society' Volume 40, (1996) pp.1-15

Recent industrial archaeology

The celebrated Financial Times printing works at 240 East India Dock Road has closed.

The two large printing presses once so spectacularly visible from outside have been removed. This works by Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners was completed in the summer of 1988 but new technology has already made newspaper production from one centralised printing works obsolete.

Obituary — Joseph William Shirley (1910-1998)

Bill Shirley, who died earlier this year aged 87, was director and general manager of Park Royal Vehicles in north-west London.

Born in Birmingham, he trained as an engineer and began work in 1934 on the shop floor at the Eastern coachworks in Lowestoft. He had become plant director by 1938 and in 1953 moved to Park Royal as general manager. There he oversaw the creation of the Routemaster — the classic London double-decker bus — from design to production.

The first Routemaster entered service in 1956 and the fleet of nearly 3,000 buses was built between then and 1970. Although planned to last for 15 years, there are some 500 Routemasters still running in central London.

Obituary — Enid Crystal Dorothy Marx (1902-1998)

It was reported at the same time as Bill Shirley's death that the textile designer Enid Marx had died, aged 95.

She was born in London (a second cousin thrice removed of Karl Marx) and trained as the Central School of Arts and Crafts and at the Royal College of Art.

Along with Paul Nash and Marion Dorn, she was commissioned by the London Passenger Transport Board in 1937 to design bus and Underground train seat coverings. Their work set an extremely high standard and some of Enid Marx's jazz pattern designs remain in use today.

Throughout a career spanning nearly 75 years, her work ranged from designing stamps for the 1953 Coronation, through book jackets to fabrics issued under the wartime Utility label. Also during the war she produced topographical paintings for the Recording Britain scheme. (Information from the Daily Telegraph 21 May 1998)

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© GLIAS, 1998