Notes and news — December 1999
In this issue:
One of the third generation of industrial museums
- One of the third generation of industrial museums
- London Transport Museum 'Depot' opens
- London: the West Country's engineering window to the world
- Brussels City Safari
- Whipps Cross Hospital
- ALPHA: Association of London Pumping Heritage Attractions
- Open House 1999
- East London Line extension
- Millennium Wheel update
- Tate Bankside
During the past 200 years, industrial and technical museums have passed through three stages. In stage one, all that was done was to collect, store and display machinery and equipment, reckoning that the mere exhibition of such objects would bring the public flocking to see them. In stage two the museum displayed items from its collections, but also went to some trouble to explain how they worked and what scientific processes were involved. Stage three, which started comparatively recently, puts the historic exhibits into their social context and tries to show how they influenced people's lives and working conditions.
Most of today's museums are of the stage two type, although there are more of the stage three generation now than there were five years ago. An interesting and important example was opened in 1998 at Kerkrade in the Netherlands. Kerkrade is 25km from Maastricht, the capital of the province of Limburg, where coal-mining was carried on until 1970. At one time mining employed 50,000 people and to keep alive the memory of this and other departed industries, a new industrial museum called Industrion was planned and built with finance provided from both public and private sources. It is very much a third-generation museum and uses a wide range of presentation techniques in order to remind especially younger people of the world in which many of their fathers and grandfathers earned a living. Like the new provincial Museum of Industry and Technology distributed over a number of separate sites in Catalonia, it is also and essentially a museum of social history. But there is a significant difference between the two. In Catalonia the archaeology of the province's industrial past is presented and interpreted on its original sites, the restoration and preservation of which gives the public a picture of the whole scene. Industrial archaeology is defined as "the remains of yesterday's industry where it happened".
At Kerkrade, on the other hand, industrial archaeology is regarded as a portable commodity, something to be brought to a museum, in the same way as the finds produced by the excavation of prehistoric or Roman sites. The management goes so far as to say that its museum "contains a wide range of industrial archaeology".
So is industrial archaeology a pursuit or a variety of moveable objects discovered in the course of a pursuit? What will tomorrow's dictionary-makers have to say about it? Should it worry the Deutsches Museum in Munich or our Science Museum if they are labelled second generation and therefore out-of-date museums of their kind? Are they destined to transform themselves into third-generation museums in order to survive and prosper?
Kenneth Hudson, GLIAS vice-president and director of the European Museum Forum which is responsible, among its other activities, for the European Museum of the Year Award. In 1995 he was given the OBE for services to museums
London Transport Museum 'Depot' opens
The London Transport Museum's reserve collection officially opened on 14 October (GLIAS newsletter June 1999).
The Depot is a brand new, environmentally controlled store, purpose built on the site of the old tube depot at Acton Town. For the first time some 370,000 items not currently on display at Covent Garden will be stored under one roof where they can be properly conserved and made available to public view.
The Depot contains 22 items of rolling stock, 28 road vehicles, many large and small objects, ranging from a 1920s tram shelter and parts of the circular escalator, installed but never used at Holloway Road station, to ticket machines and original tiles, as well as drawings, artwork, posters and archive film.
Anyone with an interest in any aspect of London Transport should make the effort to visit it. It is easily accessible just across Gunnersbury Lane from Acton Town station. Bill Firth
London: the West Country's engineering window to the world
Peter Stokes, the archivist to Kew Bridge Steam Museum, began the 1999-2000 winter lecture series with a look at how West Country engineers used London to promote their interests.
Starting with Savery and Newcomen, who built steam engines at Blackfriars, we were taken via Trevithick, who demonstrated his steam locomotive at Euston, and a number of other engineers, to Wolff, who designed waterworks engines.
Peter is an enthusiast and illustrated his talk with a large number of transparencies on the overhead projector and, as time had become short, a rather rapid run through a selection of slides.
There was a good turn-out for the lecture and everybody seemed to find our new venue which is almost opposite the old one. This was a good start to the season and bodes well for the rest of the series. The new lecture theatre is larger than the previous one and so we are not likely to find ourselves so cramped as we have sometimes been in the past. Bill Firth
Brussels City Safari
Fourteen people joined this IA tour of the Brussels led by Sue Hayton in late October. We travelled around the city using the Brussels equivalent of the one-day travel card, which is excellent value, and during our stay used all three of the transport modes available — tram, metro and bus.
The Friday afternoon was spent in the central area of the city. We started at the Petit Sablon in the rue Royale where there are reminders of the Tour und Taxis family (see below).
Going downhill we passed a number of metal-framed department stores, the National Bank, the Gare Central and one of the earliest shopping arcades in Europe, the Galerie St Hubert. The Magasins Wacquez store has been converted to house the Museum of the Comic Strip, and we were able to enter and admire the interior.
Continuing downhill we walked through the famous Grand Place with its guild houses and City Hall. The last part of this walk took us to the Bourse and the art nouveau Falstaff Brasserie.
On the way back to the hotel some of us had a look at some of the art nouveau buildings in the suburb of St Gilles.
In the evening Sue gave us a talk about industrial Brussels.
On Saturday morning we took a tram to the Botanical Gardens, where we admired the 1820s glass house, and a ride on two metros took us to the area of the Tour und Taxis complex.
Franz von Thurn und Taxis in the Hapsburg Empire started the first international postal service in 1516. Over the next 400 years the service improved and grew so that it was carrying goods of all sorts, money and passengers all over Europe. In the 1890s a canal was built to enable sea-going ships to reach Brussels. In 1897 the building of what became a vast freight complex began and eventually a complete interchange between road, rail and canal was achieved. An overview of the extensive railway sidings was obtained from a bridge over the railway leading to the complex but the most impressive remains are three enormous freight sheds in the rue Picard and an equally large customs house on the Avenue du Port. We spent some time exploring this area where there are many other vestiges of its past in freight forwarders' premises and warehouses.
We returned to the St Catherine area. The Place St Catherine with two water features, is all that remains of a dock — an arm of the River Senne — most of which has been covered over. Nearby is a fruit importer's office decorated with oranges and bananas in glazed terra cotta.
In the afternoon we went to Anderlecht. First to a disused tram depot then, down the rue L Delacroix, we stopped outside a building where we could hear the clank of metal on metal. It was the School of Farriery. We went into the courtyard (none of us understood the no entry sign!) and saw farriers at work and in one corner a horse was being shod. We crossed the canal on a bridge rebuilt after the Second World War but the art deco decorations of market activities have been retained. A little further on we came to the 100m-square iron hall of the cattle market. The structure has been threatened with demolition but there is still a weekly cattle market and other sales on other days.
Past a technical school we came to the Musée Bruxellois de la Gueuze in the rue Gheude. The principle of gueuze brewing is spontaneous fermentation which occurs thanks to certain bacteria only found near the river in Brussels. The Cantillon family has been brewing here since 1900. Lambic beer can be drunk in a few weeks. Gueuze is aged for three years and then blended with younger lambic. Kriek is flavoured with fruit. Connoisseurs say gueuze is the 'champagne of beers'. A visit to the brewery is a 'must'.
Sunday morning gave us time for an extensive walk around the exhibition area of Heysel and the suburb of Schaerbeek, where there is a large complex of sidings, an interesting railway station, a market and more art nouveau houses.
City Safaris are highly recommended. They are operated over a long weekend, sometimes a holiday weekend, to a number of European cities by Heritage of Industry. Bill Firth
For further information on City Safaris contact Heritage of Industry Ltd, 80 Udimore Road, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7DY. Website: www.citysafaris.co.uk
Whipps Cross Hospital
Whipps Cross Hospital originated from the local workhouse. The Forest Healthcare Trust is thinking of demolishing the original buildings to make space for houses. An appeal has gone out for support for a preservation group.
Anyone who is interested should contact David Boote, Secretary, Waltham Forest Civic Society, 85 Forest Drive West, London E11 1JZ
An association of like-minded bodies has formed under the title ALPHA — the Association of London Pumping Heritage Attractions. It is represented by: Crossness Engines; Kew Bridge Steam Museum; Kempton Great Engines; Markfield Beam Engine and Museum; and Friends of the Pump House Museum (Low Hall).
The inaugural meeting was held at Crossness Engines on 29 April this year and the second meeting at Kempton Great Engines on 4 August. Future meetings will be held at sites of the member attractions where and when practical.
At the inaugural meeting it was broadly agreed that the aims and objectives of the society should be "mutual support, to act as a pressure group if need be, covering such matters as health and safety, museums and galleries regulations and relations with landlords, also the general networking of the organisations".
At the second meeting, among many items discussed Peter Skilton agreed to be the official GLIAS representative for ALPHA.
Open House 1999
The 1999 London Open House weekend was deemed a success by both the Kirkaldy Testing Museum and Crossness Engines.
The KTM was open on Saturday 18 September and the first visitor was patiently waiting ten minutes before the museum was due to open. A steady flow of visitors — 116 in total — continued throughout the day until the doors closed at 3.30pm. GLIAS was represented in the form of their publications stall and helpers and the museum would like to thank all those who assisted on the day.
Crossness Engines was open on Sunday 19 September and in spite of a minor hiccup with Thames Water's security the first visitor was on site at 9.55am — a full 35 minutes early (he was shepherded off at 5pm!). A minibus ferried visitors to and from Abbey Wood railway station and notwithstanding Railtrack's disruption of service to the Woolwich line, and the remoteness of the site, 626 people came to admire the engines and museum.
As on previous Open House days, good contacts were made with visitors to both sites. The wider publicity given brought in an audience that we might not otherwise reach. I think it is fair to state that both organisations look forward in anticipation to next year's Open House. Peter Skilton
East London Line extension
There are proposals to extend the East London Line in the north from Whitechapel to Highbury & Islington and in the south from Surrey Quays to Wimbledon and from New Cross Gate to West Croydon. A formal application to transport minister is due this year. If successful, construction could begin in 2002 with a scheduled opening date for 2005.
Millennium Wheel update
Engineering firm Hollandia is facing a bill for hundreds of thousands of pounds after the initial failed attempt to raise the Millennium Wheel on the South Bank of the Thames in September.
Hollandia, which is extensively insured, will meet the expenses of redesigning and testing the faulty cable clips that scuppered the September 10 lift, as well as the overtime costs of round-the-clock work on the wheel. The bill could rise further, too, if the wheel is not operational by 2000. The company's contract is understood to include a mechanism under which it will have to pay compensation for serious delays, although there are no rigid penalty clauses.
Project managers are still confident that the London Eye will carry its first paying passengers on New Year's Eve. Construction schedules have been changed; there will be 24-hour shifts, and some workmen will give up Christmas Day to get it working in time.
The transformed Bankside Power Station will reopen as the Tate Modern on 12 May.
Architects Herzog & de Meuron's design respects the integrity of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's original building and its soaring central chimney. The most visible change is a glass structure running the length of the roof.
Visitors will enter by a new entrance at the west end of the building and descend down a ramp into the vast former turbine hall.
Next issue >>>
© GLIAS, 1999