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Notes and news — June 2002

In this issue:

Message from the GLIAS President

The 200th issue of any publication, and particularly that of a voluntary organisation, is an event for celebration; and so it is for GLIAS. As president I note with interest how over the years the society itself has developed from its first tentative steps prior to its formal inception and then with regular issues of the newsletter it has matured to the present time.

I recall in the early days the work of a small group in 1971 who assembled at Limehouse Lock to remove the redundant winch (GLIAS Newsletter June 1971), previously used for opening the lock gates, and re-erected it at Camden Lock — and now Limehouse Lock itself has gone! But recorded in the newsletter is a microcosm of the changing industrial and commercial London scene, already ravaged by the impact of the Second World War and the subsequent redevelopment of post-war years, and this record could well be the hunting ground for future historians who will in many cases have no relevant archive to search.

It is therefore essential that notes of contemporary change in industrial, architectural and sociological features should be correctly and adequately recorded in future issue to continue the excellent coverage the newsletter has provided over the past 200 issues.

Finally congratulations to the past and present editors and all the contributors who have enlightened the members with such valuable material. Best wishes for the future. John Boyes

From the secretary's postbag

Since my previous piece (GLIAS Newsletter February 2002), the committee has considered requests for support from:

Contact Brian Strong at

Spot it and jot it 3: Street Furniture Under Your Feet

J W Cunningham coal-hole plate. © Robert Mason Coal hole covers In the 19th century buildings in cities usually had a coal hole in the pavement to allow the coal merchant to fill up the bunker, often under the pavement, without entering or making a mess in the house. The hole, which measured anything from 12 to 24 inches, was covered with a cast-iron plate which often advertised the name of the maker. They were also given a raised pattern so that on rainy days pedestrians would not slip on a smooth surface. The covers usually date from the 1860s onwards and it was at this time that Shepard Taylor became so fascinated with their variety that he made a study of them and also coined the word, 'opercula' from the Latin for a cover.

Today coal hole covers are becoming rarer as pavements are 'modernised' with tarmac or concrete slabs instead of York stone. They can still be found in areas like Bloomsbury, Kensington, Pimlico or Paddington. Does anyone know of a series of good examples in a street?

Or can anyone tell me if they know of an example of a plate by J W Cunningham of 196 Blackfriars Road, which features a dog with his head in a pot. This sign is derived from the early trade sign for an ironmonger. (The dog is meant to be eating out of a three-legged iron pot).

Hayward Brothers in Cowcross Street, EC1. © Robert Mason Pavement lights These are used to give light with security to areas at basement level. The most common examples are by Hayward Brothers of Union Street in the Borough, but there are also fine examples by the St Pancras Ironworks. One of theirs that I have noted is in the Grand' Place in Brussels! Do you know of any good examples, that is ones that are in pristine condition, or ones by less common manufacturers?

Fire hydrants Fire hydrants began to appear in cities in the 1840s so that fire engines could connect their pipes to the mains and so have enough water to extinguish any fire. Look out for heavy rectangular plates in the road or pavement often made by Ham Baker of Westminster. Often there are small plates on a post or in a wall by the pavement to direct you to the hydrant. Cast-iron examples are quite rare now.

Drain covers Mains drainage was not considered to be compulsory in London until the Northern and Southern Outfall Sewer system was constructed by Joseph William Bazalgette. Many local authorities in what are now the suburbs were also slow to connect housing to a proper drainage system. However, there are still a number of drain covers to allow access to what Stanley Holloway called 'dahn below'. In Bromley, for example, a small estate built at the beginning of the 20th century has dated drain covers so that you can almost trace the building of the development. Access was needed in case of a sudden shower when the storm water would pour into the sewers, and anyone working there would have to emerge quickly.

Valve covers There is a wealth of different valve covers belonging to water, gas or even hydraulic power companies. You have to be very observant to note the different initials on the square gas covers. Those labelled GL&CC (Gas, Light & Coke Company) could be the oldest as the company was first set up in 1812. Don't dismiss local companies either such as the SSGCo. If you are lucky you could see a cover marked LHP standing for the London Hydraulic Power Company, if you are in London, or the Liverpool Hydraulic Power Company if you are in that city. NR covers can be seen in the north of London on covers which once belonged to the New River Company. They do not seem to be unduly rare or have I just been lucky? Sue Hayton

Follow-up: Coal hole covers: Sue Hayton was correct in saying that Bloomsbury was a good area for these. There is a virtually complete run of over 30 covers along the south side of Bedford Square. There is another run along the south side of Bedford Avenue and some more round the corner on the east side of Adeline Place.

Fire hydrants: Hornsey had the habit of putting the dates on the hydrant covers. The earliest that I know of for certain is marked HLB 1887. Later ones were marked BH. The latest one which I have seen is dated 1930. I think that after that date the MWB took over with their standard covers. What did HLB stand for? Hornsey Local Board perhaps? I have found an even older fire hydrant cover marked 1884 LBH. It is outside St James' Church, Muswell Hill. Also another variant marked 1904 HDC.

Electricity link box covers: This is a further category of interest. Until a few years ago there were some marked ST PANCRAS VESTRY but I have not checked recently. There are still some marked VESTRY OF ST MARY ISLINGTON but they are very worn. Do these really date from before the London boroughs being created? In more central areas there are still covers from the competing supply companies around. Pat Graham

25 Years On: Guard Posts and Boundary Markers

Contemplating the 200th issue of the GLIAS newsletter, I thought back to what I was doing in 1976/77. A collection of scores of black-and-white photographs and sketches reminded me of traipsing round London's streets in the late 1970s capturing images of cast-iron street furniture. The objects recorded 25 years ago are commonly known as street bollards but more properly they were 'guard-posts' and 'boundary markers'. The variety of design was quite surprising, ranging from a fairly common 'cannon' shape to a selection of extraordinary complex and ornate designs, some of which originated from foreign cannon shape.

Real cannon, Bankside, SE1 (1976). Reputedly French weapon, © Peter Skilton Real cannon, corner of Beadle Street, SE1 (1976). Note trunion mark 3 Cannon style, Chamber Street, E1 (1977). M.E.O.T., © Peter Skilton Cannon style, Leather Lane, EC1 (1977). 'St Andrews & St George 1812', © Peter Skilton

Left to right: 1. Real cannon, Bankside, SE1 (1976). Reputedly French weapon; 2. Real cannon, corner of Beadle Street, SE1 (1976). Note trunion mark 3" above pavement level; 3. Cannon style, Chamber Street, E1 (1977). M.E.O.T.; 4. Cannon style, Leather Lane, EC1 (1977). 'St Andrews & St George 1812

Research has revealed that original guard-posts were made of wood and placed on the edge of the road to prevent the wheels of heavy coaches and carts from creating ruts and breaking up the footpath. As the surfaces of roads and footpaths improved, it became more expensive to repair them and local authorities and road owners paid even more attention to guarding them against the ravages of iron-rimmed wheels. Enterprising road owners started to use captured cannon as 'guard-posts' to protect the footway, the weapon was half buried in the ground with the cascabel down and the ground line about level with the gun's trunions. One cannon outside St Helen's, Undershaft, was buried muzzle down. There was a finite number of such unwanted weapons and so the authorities resorted to having copies of cannon made from cast iron. The first copies were styled in the shape of standard cannon, with a slightly flared muzzle with a domed top to represent a cannon ball. Other posts began to appear that were slim, tapered with eight sides and not what one might immediately think of as cannon shaped, until that is, you look at some Spanish cannon design. By the early 1800s and into the Victorian era guard-post shapes took on all the flamboyance the Victorian mind could conceive, some posts adjacent to Tower Bridge reflecting the bridge design.

Ornate, Hans Place, SW1 (1976), © Peter Skilton Ornate, Potters Field, SE1 (1976). In style of Tower Bridge balustrade, © Peter Skilton Ornate, Stoney Street, Borough Market, SE1 (1976), © Peter Skilton

Left to right: 1. Ornate, Hans Place, SW1 (1976); 2. Ornate, Potters Field, SE1 (1976). In style of Tower Bridge balustrade; 3. Ornate, Stoney Street, Borough Market, SE1 (1976)

Not all the posts I encountered were guard-posts; some were boundary markers with the initials of the vestry or locality emblazoned on them. These initials can give one hours, sometimes days and in one case months of fun trying to decipher their meaning. 'St L V' found on a post in Shoreditch is fairly easy to guess as Saint Leonard's Vestry, 'M E O T' is not that difficult to translate into Mile End Old Town but 'Cht Ch Mddx' found on a post in Southwark causes one to think a little harder. It seems the boundary post had wandered or had been 'borrowed' from the vestry of Christ's Church, Middlesex. Other posts in north east Southwark bore the legend 'Clink Liberty'; these marked the boundary of the Bishop of Winchester's Palace, within which a felon might seek sanctity from the common law. A real mind teaser were the four ornate ribbed, square posts found in Wellclose Square, E1, these had the initials RBT in entwined script and topped with a crown. The crown and 'R' indicated 'Royal', but what the 'B' and 'T' stood for was not easy to decipher. It was many months later that I learnt that there had been a theatre in the near vicinity which had collapsed just three days after its opening. The name of that establishment was the Royal Brunswick Theatre, the only evidence that the building ever existed were its now redundant guard-posts bearing the cipher 'RBT'.

During my search for these guardians of the pavements, I walked the length and breadth of London noting the conditions of posts in each borough I visited. The best maintained guard-posts were, in 1976/77, located in the City of London and the City of Westminster. The surrounding boroughs took little care of their street furniture, the surprise came in the Royal Borough of Kensington, the posts in that borough were in very poor condition, either caked in many layers of thick 'stone paint' or devoid of any paint at all.

At the time of my investigation the posts were for the most part very old, the only new posts appeared in the City of Westminster. Twenty-five years on and the thoroughfares of London have sprouted a rash of new guard-posts to protect our pavements, not from the wheels of horsedrawn carts but the ubiquitous cars and heavy lorries. Peter Skilton

GLIAS AGM lecture: The Royal Gunpowder Mills

Incorporating mills, Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey. © Robert Mason The society's annual guest lecture was given after the AGM by Norman Paul, who announced that the Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills had been awarded the Landmark Medal for services to chemistry that very day.

There had been 300 years of activity at Waltham, mainly in the manufacture of gunpowder, which had been the only form of explosive for centuries. It had originally been discovered by the Chinese, who mixed saltpetre, charcoal and sulphur by accident. It was originally used mainly in fireworks, which were used for religious purposes, to ward off evil spirits; later it was used in rockets and cannon. News of it reached Europe via the Arabs. Roger Bacon did a lot of work on it, writing up his conclusions in cypher which was not cracked until the 20th century — but that did not stop others discovering the secret. The English first used it at Crécy.

The first definitive evidence of manufacture at Waltham was in 1662 and the first title deeds refer to two powder mills in 1669. It was then owned by three generations of the Walton family. The earliest known illustration of the works was in 1775, when there were stamp mills, operated by cams from a water wheel. Smeaton introduced the use of edge runners, geared from below to grind the three ingredients together. The government bought Faversham Mills in 1759. In 1783, the private sector fought back and persuaded Pitt to privatise it; but Sir William Congreve kept up the argument until the Government purchased Waltham in 1787 for £10,000, and then spent £35,000 in refurbishment. In 1809/10 there was a 'shoot-out' on Marlborough Downs, in which Waltham gunpowder propelled a 10lb shot 4,440 yards and Faversham 4,360, compared with 4,270 for the best private-sector result. It was calculated that the savings at Waltham Abbey by the superior product were £1,045,494 0s 6d farthing over two decades!

Congreve's son (also William) introduced innovations to the manufacturing process and also introduced the rocket, powered by gunpowder (it was not very accurate), used at Boulogne 1806, Copenhagen 1807, Leipzig 1813, Fort McHenry (Baltimore) 1814 and Waterloo 1815. The rocket was also used for firing lines, which ships were required to carry by the late 18th century.

Waterwheel-powered gunpowder press. Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey. © Robert Mason Gunpowder consists of 75% potassium nitrate (saltpetre), 15% charcoal and 10% sulphur. Potassium nitrate was originally from midden heaps and was later imported from India and refined by recrystallisation; sulphur was imported, mainly from Sicily, and refined by a sublimation process; charcoal was made originally in traditional mounds and later in iron retorts. Each was ground separately and then the three ingredients were mixed in drums before being taken in powder boats (a gentle form of transport for dangerous materials) to the incorporating house (devised by Smeaton), powered by a water wheel and ground by edge runners, each weighing 4 tons, for 4-5 hours. Iron runners were introduced later. The resulting material was then pressed (the more compressed, the more powerful the gunpowder) by a hydraulic ram, of which several remain around the site. Finally, it was granulated (in a machine invented by Congreve), a process which remained virtually unchanged until the 1940s. The resulting larger grains were used in cannon, smaller grains in muskets and rifles and the dust was recycled. The product was then loaded to barrels and sailed down the Lea to government stores at Woolwich and Purfleet. A round journey by barge could take three weeks. There were a number of explosions at Waltham. One could be heard in London and was illustrated in the Strand Magazine. This led to the setting up of the Explosives Directorate and the introduction of stringent regulations on manufacture, storage and transport of gunpowder. Waltham Abbey had its own police, who searched everyone on the way in. Workers had to wear special clothing and safety boots and no metal was allowed inside the works. It also had its own fire brigade.

Gunpowder manufacture continued at Waltham until the 1940s but became less important. New materials were introduced and a new south site (not part of the preserved site) was introduced c1880, adjacent to the Royal Small Arms Factory.

Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey. © Robert Mason New materials included:

During both World Wars, Waltham was mainly a cordite factory, when it was the main supplier. In its last years, Waltham was involved in other new products, including TNT and RDX. Waltham was the pilot plant to produce the explosive for Barnes Wallis's 'bouncing bomb'. During the Second World War, Waltham was considered to be too near London and a land mine destroyed a mill in 1943. New ordnance factories were dispersed and Waltham gradually ran down. Production ceased in 1945. The site reopened as a research and development location for major chemical research on new explosives and propellants. In the 1980s, the ROFs were privatised and the south site went with the Royal Small Arms Factory. British Aerospace subsequently sold it for redevelopment. The Ministry of Defence also wished to sell the north site, but the Royal Commission scheduled it as an ancient monument and 21 buildings were listed. It closed in 1991. MoD spent £16.5m on decontamination. A steering committee was established and obtained a grant of £6.5m from a lottery grant and a £5m endowment from MoD to preserve the site for posterity. It opened to the public in 2001 (GLIAS Newsletter April 2001). Brian Strong

Preserved locomotives built in London

Some of London's mainline railway companies built locomotives in London workshops and a few of those locomotives have been preserved.

The oldest survivor was built in 1881 by the North London Railway at their Bow Works. The small 0-6-0 tank engine (NLR: 76, 116; LNWR: 2650; LMS: 7505, 27505; BR: 58850) was designed by J C Park. Many years ago it was used on the Bluebell Railway but now it can be found at Barrow Hill, near Chesterfield. Park was successor at Bow to William Adams, who was born in Limehouse. Adams was responsible for setting up the Bow Works. He went on to become locomotive superintendent of the London & South Western Railway. The LSWR built locomotives at Nine Elms until 1909 when work was transferred to new workshops at Eastleigh, Hampshire.

Four Adams-designed locomotives built at Nine Elms have been preserved. A T3 class 4-4-0 of 1893 (No 563, below left) can be seen at the National Railway Museum in York. The Isle of Wight Steam Railway owns an O2 class 0-4-4T named 'Calbourne', and there are two B4 class 0-4-0 dock tanks, 'Normandy' (below right) on the Bluebell Railway and 'Granville' at Bressingham. One of Adams' best known designs was his 'Radial' tank. One of these magnificent 4-4-2T (No 488) locomotives is now at the Bluebell Railway, but it was built outside London by Neilson & Son in Glasgow.

LSWR T3 class 4-4-0 of 1893 (No 563) Normandy, Bluebell Railway, 2022. © Robert Mason

Adams was succeeded at Nine Elms was Dugald Drummond. Three of his Nine Elms-built locomotives survive. Two are M7 class tank engines, one of which (No 53, below left) is on the Swanage Railway in Dorset and the other (No 245, below right) is at the National Railway Museum; the third is one of the famous T9 4-4-0s (No 120), now at the Bluebell Railway. Nicknamed 'Greyhounds', they were used on the West of England expresses out of Waterloo.

30053, M7 class on Swanage Railway, 2004. © Robert Mason 245 at National Railway Museum, 2016. © Robert Mason

Of the 1,700 locomotives built at Stratford Works four survive. The National Railway Museum owns a J69 tank engine built in 1904 (No 87) to the designs of James Holden. Another Holden engine, a 2-4-0 tender engine, can be seen at Bressingham, Norfolk. The North Norfolk Railway has two Stratford-built engines, one of T W Worsdell's standard J15 tender engine (No 7564) of 1912 and one of Hill's N7 tank engines (No 7999) built in 1924, one of the last to be built at Stratford. The N7 tank engines were the mainstay of suburban services out of Liverpool Street.

The London Chatham and Dover Railway workshops were at Longhedge in Battersea. Of the 50 locomotives built there, just one survives. It is a magnificently restored 0-6-0 Class C tender engine (No 592), designed by Harry Wainwright and built in 1902. It can be seen at Sheffield Park on the Bluebell Railway.

592 at Bluebell Railway, 2022. © Robert Mason

The newest London-built preserved locomotive is a Maunsell N class 2-6-0 tender engine (No 31874) of 1924, now on the Watercress Line. Unlike the rest, it was not built in a railway workshop but at Woolwich Arsenal, for the Southern Railway. Construction of railway locomotives at Woolwich was a government initiative to alleviate unemployment after the First World War.

Metropolitan Railway No 1 (London Transport L44) (below) was built at Neasden in 1898. The 0-4-4 tank engine is now at Quainton Road, Buckinghamshire.

Metropolitan Railway No 1 at Ongar, 2018. © Robert Mason

Around 3,000 mainline locomotives were built in London. Only 15 survive.

A few preserved locomotives were built by London's private builders. Four of George England's small locomotives built in the 1860s for the Festiniog Railway survive. Only one, 'Prince', is in working order.

Another England product was 'Shannon', a small well tank built for the Sandy & Potton Railway in 1857. Later it worked on the Wantage Tramway and is now preserved at Didcot.

The firm of Merryweather is best known for its fire engines but it did build a number of vertical-boilered steam tram engines. One can now be seen at the railway museum in Utrecht having been built in 1881 for the Rijnlandsche Stoomtramweg. Tim Smith

A disaster at King's Cross

A most valuable piece of evidence for visitors to understand the original form of the King's Cross Goods Station was the relieving arch in the boundary wall facing the canal, where it crossed the entrance to the main basin in front of the granary.

This was filled in around 1920, and the towpath bridge went long ago, but a 50-foot-long, cast-iron girder embedded in the wall with its bottom flange exposed, and a magnificent shallow-rise relieving arch above it, showed where barges laden with merchandise entered and left the station in its earlier days. (The remaining towpath bridge further along, below St Pancras Lock, crossed the entrance to a second basin for coal and stone, which was filled in to build the western goods shed in 1897.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act, 1996, made provision for work 5D (1), a temporary 'haul road' to connect the working sites in the King's Cross Goods Yard to the sites at St Pancras station. I did not spot this at the time, because of the amount of documentation, and no one can quite remember when the details of the works came up for consultation with English Heritage and Camden Council in accordance with set procedures, but probably along with many other things it was around 1997. The centre line of the work passed through the site of the basin entrance but the limits of deviation were wide enough to have avoided it, had the archaeological significance of the site been considered.

At the end of February this year it was found that a new Bailey bridge had been put across the canal for the new road, involving the cutting away of two thirds of the length of the arch, while the girder had been very neatly cut in two pieces. As of mid-May, Camden Council was still waiting for a meeting with contractors to resolve these matters, since cutting of the girder had not been agreed, but it is difficult to see how the parts can ever be put back again to work structurally, or the wall reinstated to span the opening, without demolishing the remaining third of the structure and building a replica. Malcolm Tucker

King's Cross gazetteer

Bishopsgate Goods Station, London E1

This was the Great Eastern Railway's two-level goods station of 1877-82, replacing the original Shoreditch passenger terminus of 1839-42. The upper level was 'burnt down' in 1964. Tim Smith and I collaborated with the then Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) in recording work in 1995, and their Historic Building Report (NBR Index No 94371), written by Peter Guillery, can be consulted in the National Monuments Record (now part of English Heritage).

The site consists of a viaduct, mainly of brick arches, about 400 feet wide and about 1,500 feet long. Within this longitudinally, and roofed with plate girders and jack arches, there are two peripheral roadways, a central corridor with three lines of rails and the sites of three hydraulic hoists that brought wagons down from the main rail level above. There remain various fittings, some intact wagon turntables and two large hydraulic accumulators. Platforms under the intervening arches were intended partly for fish and vegetable markets, which were soon forced to close by legal challenges. Two inclined roadways served the now cleared upper level (which had a third warehouse level above it in part). There are listed wrought-iron gates next to Shoreditch High Street. English Heritage considers the site to be particularly important as the last major remains of a two-level goods station. (Manchester Deansgate has been compromised by development, while the lower part of the western goods shed at King's Cross has lost various diagnostic features. Warehouses are a functionally separate building type.)

Encapsulated within the extensive 1870s work, between Wheler Street and Brick Lane, is 850 feet of the original viaduct of the Eastern Counties Railway, opened on 1 July 1840. It is now referred to as the Braithwaite Viaduct, after John Braithwaite, the ECR's engineer. It has shallow, semi-elliptical brick arches, as do other sections further east, but the width here is greater, 50 feet or so front to back, as the tracks multiplied on approach to the terminus. So the piers are divided by cross-passages, with distinctive two-centred 'pointed' arches. This structure was recently listed in Grade 2. However, English Heritage had wanted the whole station to be listed and the viaduct to be scheduled as an ancient monument.

Recently there has been much controversy in the press, with conflicting information. I am reliably informed that the East London Line extension, as enacted, will ramp up to high level east of Brick Lane and will run north of the listed Braithwaite structure, which is outside the railway's limits of deviation and will not be directly affected, contrary to some reports. However, London Underground Ltd wishes to see the rest of the viaduct demolished, to leave a cleared site so that an intended public-private partnership can build a new viaduct of similar height — something that English Heritage is contesting. A group of tenants beneath the viaduct is also fighting such demolition. There are no firm plans for site redevelopment, and the owner, Railtrack Properties, has only recently appointed a masterplanner. The Corporation of London, whose boundary takes in the western extremity of the site (but not the Braithwaite Viaduct), wishes to encourage office development. English Heritage has commissioned a report from Kim Wilkie indicating many culturally enhancing commercial uses for the existing structures, which wholesale demolition at this stage would preclude consideration of. Various political and commercial agendas may take the upper hand, however. Malcolm Tucker
The London Railway Heritage Society are campaigning to save the viaduct. Details from The Old Signal Box, Queens Road LSWR, Queenstown Road Station, London SW8 4LR. Tel: 020 7902 3509. Website:

Bridges in E8

The bridge in Forest Road, E8, which carries the road over the track bed of the former North London Railway line from Dalston Junction to Broad Street has been closed for some time for rebuilding. The original 19th-century twin-span cast-iron structure has been replaced by a single span bridge. The bridge in Richmond Road, E8, has been similarly replaced.

This replacement work is being carried out in advance of the building of the East London Line Extension railway (ELLX) which it is intended will link the railway which runs through the Brunel Thames Tunnel from South London to the North London line at Dalston. Bob Carr

Closed shops

Grouts' drapers' shop, formerly in business at 397 Green Lanes, Palmers Green, N13 has closed. It was a well-known establishment and had an enthusiastic clientele of senior citizens, some of whom travelled long distances. It used to have an overhead wire system to send cash from the counter assistants to the cash desk. Hopefully someone will give the wires a new home? Latterly individual electronic tills had replaced the central cash desk.

Another shop which has closed is the old established family business of E Gibbons. They sold furniture, toys, prams and cots, etc and occupied the south side of Amhurst Road E8 with a row of shop fronts stretching north-westwards from Hackney Central Station. The shop fronts had a post Second World War appearance, rather brownish, and there were traditional shop awnings. The business was founded in 1831 and moved to the Amhurst Road site in 1890. The last day of sale was advertised as Saturday 4 May, 2002 and on that day all goods remaining were to be offered at half price. They used to claim they were the largest cash-only furniture store but a large and prominent sign for Visa was displayed latterly. The shop windows might be listed locally and at the east end of the row a smart-café conversion has made interesting use of one of E Gibbons' former windows. What will happen to the rest remains to be seen but in any case a substantial component of the character of the area is about to disappear.

There is now a mock-up of Frederick Cooke's former jellied-eel shop in the new Hackney Museum. Cooke's noted establishment, which closed in 1997, was at number 41 in the High Street a short distance north of Dalston Kingsland station on the west side of the road and used to have live eels in a tray next to the street. This was meant to tempt customers inside to sample the pie and mash. It is now the Shanghai Chinese restaurant. According to the Channel 4 television programme Time Team (29 April), eels used to come from Ely. In the telephone directory Frederick Cooke was described as an eel merchant.
Hackney Museum, admission free, is now in the purpose-built Hackney Technology and Learning Centre, Town Hall Square. As well as the eel pie shop mock-up there is a Saxon longboat, Daniel Defoe's tombstone, a fire engine c1835, a reconstructed room from a wealthy Victorian home and a Yiddish printers. Website:

The draper's shop of T Bird at 132 Blackstock Road, Islington, London N4 2DX was notable for a very characteristic art-deco shop front. Inside it had the usual shop fittings of the period in abundance and a memorable atmosphere and aroma. In later years it had a specialism — old ladies' underwear. You can still visit the shop which retains some original features. It is now a drinks bar.

Further north in Islington was a traditional gent's outfitters, Thomas Swan and Company. The shop is in Stroud Green Road on the corner with Tollington Park, to the south. It used to have small grey fans in the window rather reminiscent of aeroplane propellers, for cooling in hot weather (even though the shop faces north). The fans probably dated from the post Second World War period and they may have been in the window to give it a modern look rather than for real utility. However although the fans are no longer there the shop front has been retained and quite a few of the splendid wooden shop fittings. It is now an estate agent's. Opposite in Stroud Green Road is a baker's shop probably dating from the 1950s with a noteworthy period frontage.

Just round the corner in Tollington Park on the south side of the road stood an old slot machine for the sale of milk which had been adapted for a new use. You could buy live maggots from it for fishing, say in the middle of the night when shops were shut. The maggots were kept cool by the refrigeration system and there was quite a choice of flavours and colours. The machine might still be there. It faced north so was cooling for the maggots that important? Perhaps they were also kept warm at night. It is probably the temperature control that matters.

At Crouch End there are or were a number of period shops including Keevans (Wearsmart Ltd), 24 Topsfield Parade N8 and also a shoe shop which was a branch of W Barratt and Company. Branches of Barratt's are now rare in London.

However, one shop which is still very much in business and worth a journey is Dunn's the Master Bakers, at 6 The Broadway N8. This traditional family business is one of the features of Crouch End and was founded in 1827. The splendid shop dates from 1850. Here excellent buns, cakes etc are displayed in profusion and at least until recently printed paper bags were in use for customers to carry away their purchases. Bob Carr

Follow-up: The shop on the corner of Warren Street/Conway Street, Euston, has been advertised to let (below left). It has attractive glazed blue and cream tiles and the gold lettering reads '35 J Evans Dairy Farmer'.

Evans Dairy, Warren Street/Conway Street © Robert Mason 2018 Lloyd Dairy, River Street/Amwell Street © Robert Mason 2016

There is a similar establishment on the corner of River Street/Amwell Street, Islington (above right). Painted brown it was the premises of 'Lloyd Dairy Farmer'. Although not in use the fusty interior is still visible. Janet Digby

As a long time resident in North London I can remember the days when the overhead wire systems at Grouts' Palmers Green, and in other shops, were in use. They were a matter of great fascination for a small boy like myself.

Bob Carr will be pleased to know that my favourite baker, Dunn's of Crouch End, still use printed paper bags for serving their products to customers. Pat Graham

Brunel watercolour

The Brunel Engine House Museum has recently acquired two fine original watercolours, one of them by Sir Marc Brunel himself (see pic), the other very early view of the tunnel workings by George Yates, and a Victorian 'Peepshow' of the Thames Tunnel.

Work on the tunnel began in November 1825, but there were major floods, money ran out, and the tunnel was bricked up. Calamity followed calamity, and Marc Brunel suffered a heart attack. There was no work in the tunnel for almost seven years, but in 1835 tunnelling began again and a proud Marc painted this unusual watercolour. Most drawings show tall-masted ships crowding the Thames, but Marc's watercolour has just one small rowing boat.

This is not a picture for shareholders or financial backers. It is a family picture. The jacketed figure has no cigar, but is almost certainly Isambard. Further, artistic convention has the striking black figure in the west tunnel, dressed a little out of style and walking away from the viewer, as the painter. His famous tunnel active once more, and his son's fortunes riding high on the tide, Marc is quietly walking away, into the distance and into the dark.
The Brunel Engine House is on Railway Avenue, SE16, by the Rotherhithe tube station. Website:

Ships in London

The SS Robin has been sold to new owners, the Robin Trust, who intend to preserve her, get her steaming again, and convert her hold into a public gallery for use by schools and colleges in her present location, the West India Docks. There may possibly be some modifications made to the ship. The trust would welcome visits from GLIAS members.
See the website:

The Robin was the last vessel to be owned by the Maritime Trust with the exception of the Cutty Sark. Robin had been a big drain on Maritime Trust resources and the trust can now concentrate on Cutty Sark. The committee which had previously been looking after the SS Robin failed to obtain suitable funding.

Ships visit the West India Docks from time to time and are sometimes open to the general public. Recently we have had a visit by two Moroccan warships which berthed at Thames Quay which is on the south side of the southernmost of the three West India Docks just to the east of the Millwall Cut. This is quite a popular location for visiting ships to berth at and receive visitors.
See the website:

It has been suggested that the unidentified diesel trawler which was at the mouth of Bow Creek near Trinity Buoy Wharf (see GLIAS 197 p7 and GLIAS 198, p10) may have been the Arctic -------. There have been unmarked trawlers about on the Thames. Such ships do not generally appear in the list of visitors to the Port of London.
See website:

(Arctic Corsair, quite a large deep-water trawler, is preserved in Hull. There were some smaller 'Arctic' trawlers based elsewhere.) Bob Carr

Not 'Anchor Glass' but Endeavour House

Endeavour House © Chris Rogers Endeavour House interior © Chris Rogers

The Anchor Glass building (GLIAS Newsletter February 2002), surmounted by an anchor, was immediately to the east of Endeavour House. The gap between the two buildings was so small the fine abstract mural on the east side of Endeavour House could hardly be seen until the Anchor building was demolished. The sign which read Endeavour House was removed from the Endeavour building sometime before the building itself was demolished.

Many thanks to Chris Rogers for drawing our attention to the misidentification error and providing additional information.

The 'Anchor Glass' building was (literally) a passing interest — taking note of what was happening when going by on the North Circular Road. Now we know that the building being demolished, Endeavour House, was earlier and of more interest than supposed. Perhaps GLIAS is beginning to get an eye in for the 1950s and 1960s period? Bob Carr

Deptford Dockyard (Convoy's Wharf)

On its closure in 1869 the Royal Naval Dockyard at Deptford became the City of London's Foreign Cattle Market. Cattle from abroad were landed and slaughtered in their millions in the former dockyard buildings. The butchers in the slaughterhouses along with the girls who processed the joints became local characters. The Gut girls, in particular, were renown not only for their crude language and manners including heavy drinking but also for the colourful hats that they wore. Their behaviour at weekends became notorious in London. Girls in service in the West End deserted to this highly paid trade in the market. This fact probably more then their behaviour led to a mission for their 'salvation' to be established. The building, Lady Florence Institute, still stands in Deptford Broadway.

The market in turn closed in 1913 although it continued to be shown on A-Z maps of London until the 1980s! It was then used by the war department from 1914 and remained in Ministry use until after the Second World War. From 1984 it was owned by News International, who used the site for newsprint imports. The two surviving 1840s shipsheds, visited by GLIAS in the 1980s, were ideal for storage of the massive rolls of newsprint.

The Convoy's site is now up for redevelopment and the buildings are empty but an unusual opportunity to enter the site is to occur this summer. From 20 June to 8 July a local theatre group have permission to perform a play called the Gut Girls inside the Wharf in, I presume, the ship sheds. This play, which has been performed a number of times locally over the past few years is to be recommended although it is not for vegetarians. When it was performed at our local pub theatre, the Brockley Jack, there was an awful lot of offal on the stage! David and Olwen Perrett
For details of the performances contact 020 8692 6454

Follow-up: GLIAS Newsletter December 2002

The Betchworth Limeworks and Sandlime Brick Manufacture at Holmethorpe (Merstham/Redhill)

The limeworks at Betchworth were operated from 1865 onwards by the Dorking Greystone Lime Co Ltd, lime-burning ceasing on the site in the 1960s after a few years operation by the legally distinct and short-lived Dorking Lime Co, Ltd. Although out in the country, some 4km to the east of the town, the company's first directors included 'Dorking' in the name to capitalise on Dorking's long-established reputation for hydrated lime for building purposes (the West India Docks among other works.) And this in spite of the fact that lime-burning continued at the real Dorking limeworks into the 20th century, although this was never run by a limited company, nor was it rail-connected.

Some years ago I arranged for the most important of the voluminous surviving records of the Betchworth company to be deposited in the Surrey Record Office (now Surrey Local History Centre). However, a further file has now surfaced (in my possession all the time), and will be deposited with the rest. It is of interest as a sample of business methods and correspondence of the 1930-1950s, and contains important technical evidence throwing light both on limeworks operation and on sandlime brick manufacture during that period.

The Betchworth company supplied grey (hydraulic) and white lime, lump or ground, and grey and white hydrate, to builders (much of it via a London office on the Old Kent Road) and to industrial users for among other purposes town gas purification and water-softening. And to works at Holmethorpe, between Merstham and Redhill, where sandlime bricks were manufactured hy heat and compressed steam treatment of a mixture of sand and lime. Some sandlime bricks were certainly used at Betchworth itself its works laboratory (now demolished) and at least parts of the walls (parts survive) of its 1924 hydrator plant being made of them.

The 'Holmethorpe file' covers (presumably incompletely) the period 1934 to 1959, and includes formal business correspondence, notes of face-to-face meetings and telephone conversations, invoices and other financial documents. At first, the Mansfield Standard Sand Co Ltd (based in Nottinghamshire) operated the works (on 'Trower's old brickworks), and seem to have been new to the area and to sandlime brick manufacture locally in the 1930s. There was some competition with Buxton (Derbyshire) to supply their lime requirements. The Mansfield Company's 1934 letterheading declares that firm to be 'Quarry owners of world famous Mansfield moulding sand, building sand, and pig-bed sand.' And manufacturers of 'Arrow Brand' sandlime bricks. A medal for moulding sand awarded at the Great Exhibition (1851) was claimed. R E Barringer (at Mansfield) seems to have been their managing director, and H R Taylor their local sales manager in Surrey.

In 1936, explaining a shortfall in the hand-picked white lump lime (quicklime) supply, the Betchworth managing director, Major Edgar William Taylerson AMIMechE, explained that his kilns had 'not changed over from grey to white until Wednesday'.

In 1937 there is correspondence with the Standard Railway Wagon Co Ltd, of Reddish/Stockport, concerning two two-foot gauge locomotives they had bought from Holmethorpe and sought to sell .. Betchworth offered £25 each but were told a minimum of £175 the pair was looked for.

From the mid 1930s the Merstham limeworks, previously operated by Joseph S Peters, was incorporated as the Merstham Lime Co Ltd, with Taylerson as managing director. Thenceforth, until the 1950s when the Merstham company was wound up, Betchworth and Merstham both supplied Holmethorpe. Merstham supplied the same range of lime products as Betchworth and, additionally, dealt in selling-on builders' supplies and solid fuels.

From May 1937 to March 1938 4,542 tons of lime were delivered by rail to Holmethorpe Sidings, valued at £6,292. From 1939 onwards the brick manufacturers complained of, on the one hand, unacceptably low calcium oxide content of lime supplied (less than 90% was not acceptable and caused expensive complications at their works, they claimed); and ever-increasing prices. The lime company and the brick company fired missives back and forth citing conflicting chemical analyses, and the lime company pointed out that in thc nature of things their quicklime would absorb atmospheric moisture (and thereby become hydrated lime) in transit and, thereafter, absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide (and thus revert to calcium carbonate) en route. Transit times for railway trucks from Betchworth to Holmethorpe, they said, were the railway's responsibility and beyond their control! One analysis in 1939 showed as low as 68% calcium oxide!

In 1941, in the continual wrangle about lime quality and prices, the brick company pointed out that they had to justify their own prices in great detail as almost all their brick output was supplied to Government departments. Alternative quotations for delivery by lorry were sought, the thin end of a wedge!

Although owned by the Mansfield company, the Holmethorpe works traded as the Standard Brick Company, until in 1941 it was combined (presumably as a wholly owned subsidiary) by the Sevenoaks Brick Works Ltd (based at Greatness, Sevenoaks). An exchange of letters in 1947 saw the brickworks requesting, and questioning, the fuel costs for lime-burning as an element in the fuel costs for brick production, in response to a Government enquiry. Betchworth justified what was seen to be their high prices for lime by saying that their kilns were mostly fuelled by gas coke, rather than coal. By this year Holmethorpe was also receiving lime from Berwick (presumably Sussex), and the Coulsdon and Riddlesdown limeworks (both sites now in the London Borough of Croydon).

By 1952 Holmethorpe was trading under British Industrial Sand Ltd, subsidiary companies being the Standard Brick and Sand Co Ltd at Redhill, and Joseph Boam Ltd at Leicester). In 1953 Betchworth pleaded 'climatic circumstances which have recently persisted' for below-specification lime! A calcium oxide content of 63% was reported this year. Taylerson complained, too, of 'the perpetual [price] increases emanating from nationalisation'. In 1954 Holmethorpe stated their principal competitors were the London Brick Company, and that 'we have never bothered here to make bricks, since the war, at more than 50% of pre-war output'. On 15 July the same year Holmethorpe complained that truck no. 349305, containing 8 tons 12 cwt of lump white lime, despatched from the Betchworth works on 30 June, had failed to arrive. Enquiries to the railway administration led to its discovery 'in a siding at Merstham'. In reporting this, the lime company said: 'We trust that you have [now] received it, when no doubt you will be reporting on the condition of its contents.' The brick company subsequently confirmed the arrival of the consignment, over two weeks overdue, and (surprisingly) stated that 'the lime is in a fit condition for our use!'

By 1957 it is clear that the brick company had changed its requirement from white lump lime (quicklime) to white hydrate, taking then about 180 tons per annum. Presumably, before this, they hydrated the lime themselves. Complaints now centred on 'damp lime' (clearly hydrate, as damp quicklime is an impossibility!).

Many other files of this kind, featuring other local and London area companies, are already at Woking awaiting study. Paul Sowan

IA gets the A2

It is no probably no surprise to GLIAS members, especially those who are also in Subterranea Britannica, that a former chalkmine under Blackheath has opened up. Unfortunately it is right under the carriageway of the A2 on Blackheath Hill and traffic chaos has descended on south-east London.

Considering the volume of traffic and the weight of modern lorries it is only surprising it did not happen sooner. Most of the road's width has disappeared into a 30ft deep mine and an adjacent pub and block of flats are also moving.

These mines were worked until the late 1700s. Their presence was well known locally and they were open to the public for tours and other entertainments such as masked balls until the 1850s. David Perrett

Kempton Park Pumping Station

We are pleased to see that progress towards steaming one of the giant triple expansion engines is progressing well. At the very end of March one of the small barring engines was steamed and this was used to turn one of the triples over for the first time since it ceased to run in 1980. David Perrett

Dunedin Gasworks Museum

After reading Bob Carr's note on gasholders (GLIAS Newsletter February 2002) that Dunedin, New Zealand, has a gasworks museum, we just had to go. Admittedly we had planned our trip to NZ about six months earlier, but the chance to see an Antipodean gasholder added an extra dimension to the usual tourist trail.

Dunedin's Visitor Information Centre knew about the Dunedin Gasworks Museum, but unfortunately gave us 10am as its opening time, which in fact turned out to be 12 noon. However, once the staff of three realised they had enthusiasts on their premises, they let us wander about to our hearts' content. There is no longer a real gasholder on the site, the last one having been demolished in 2000, though there is an outline framework rebuilt from another site to give some idea of size.

The museum complex represents only a small portion of the operational works, most of which was demolished after its closure in 1987. The buildings on site range in age from the chimney, built in the 19th century, to the parts of the boilerhouse remodelled between 1908 and 1931. Most of the equipment on display dates from the later period.

The museum gives a clear picture of the production of gas from 1863 to 1989, the gasworks having been both the first and the last in New Zealand. It is open and in steam on the first and third weekend of each month, and has several engines puffing away happily in their original positions in the engine house. They include various exhausters, a Bryan Donkin booster and a small beam engine brought to Dunedin in 1868 which I would love to have sitting in our conservatory at home.

Paul and I had a very interesting visit and came away with a nicely produced booklet giving the history of the original works and details on the exhibits. These include a selection of gas stoves through the years, one of which looked disturbingly like the stove I started my married life with — in a museum?

I took some print snaps and Paul has slide photos, so if anyone wishes to see the furthest-flung gasworks museum, let us know and we'll make arrangements. (Tel: 01959 533201). Ruth Verrall

Gun Public House closed

The well-known riverside pub 'The Gun' in Coldharbour from which drinkers can get excellent views of Blackwall Reach and the Millennium Dome is shuttered and closed. This may be the result of a fire. Do any readers have more information? Bob Carr

Follow-up: I learnt from someone living locally that the pub suffered a fire about two months ago. Much damage but no casualties. However, last year I was in the pub and noticed surveyors at work. On asking what they were doing I was told the premises were being measured up with a view to conversion to a private house. The bar staff had heard 'a rumour' but nothing more. I passed the news on to the East London branch of CAMRA who were not aware of any planning application.

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© GLIAS, 2002