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Notes and news — October 2002

In this issue:

From the Secretary's postbag

I have continued to receive a number of interesting enquiries about sites or projects in London:

Payne's Wharf and Borthwick Wharf, Deptford are under threat of redevelopment and a local group is trying to get them listed. The GLIAS committee agreed in principle to support listing of both buildings and attached particular importance to the river frontage of Payne's Wharf. The committee were, however, concerned to ensure that all the claims made for the buildings were accurate; and that the application related to the buildings as they are now, as restoration to an earlier state is much more difficult to secure.

There was press and TV publicity for proposals for a 'vertical museum' in the Rotherhithe shaft of the Thames Tunnel, particularly on the back page of The Guardian on 29 July and BBC London News a couple of days later. Inevitably, the illustrations were of I K Brunel, but Marc did get a mention!

Time Team are to carry out an investigation at the Liberty site, Merton and sought help from people with knowledge of silk milling there.

The Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service (GLAAS) Review, March to May again mentioned a number of industrial sites of interest:

Tobacco Dock Front site with "well preserved remains of warehousing and associated industrial structures dating from the 17th and 18th centuries".

Price's Candle Factory, Wandsworth where "building recording has been completed and the majority of the buildings demolished. The facades of the building fronting York Road is [sic] to be retained".

Also, the London Archaeologist, Summer 2002 (Vol 10. No 1) refers to excavations in Hanworth Road, Hounslow which have "revealed a massive deposit of porcelain from the little-known Isleworth Pottery, dumped into a large quarry pit from which the Pottery had been digging clay for many years. The factory was opened about 1757 by Joseph Shore, and made fine pottery and porcelain for the rest of the century. It relocated to Hanworth Road in 1830, and must have moved the whole dump of porcelain there at some time."

Other interesting developments include:

English Heritage are undertaking a study of the architectural and archaeological remains of the Chemical Industry. The first step was to define the size and scope of the industry in England. Patrick Graham, Tim Smith and Mary Mills are commenting to English Heritage on the report of this first stage.

A New Archive for Traditional Mills being developed by a new charitable trust. They have already received donations of the Arthur C Smith and Harry Meyer collections of windmill photographs; Paul Wilson's collection on turbines, waterwheels and waterpower; and the Peter Dolman collection of Suffolk mills material. A free online catalogue is available on; they would also welcome donations.

English Heritage have funded a new post for a Community Archaeologist for London, which we hope will be helpful.

A website on British Steam Fire Engines has been set up at (not working, try

Finally, we still get strange enquiries from people who do not understand our role. The most recent was from the Brazil-China Chamber of Industry and Commerce, seeking out help in importing equipment for locomotives! Brian Strong

Kirkaldy Testing Museum update

The focus at Kirkaldy Testing Museum recently has not been on the large Kirkaldy testing machine but instead on acquiring and arranging other smaller materials testing machines covering the period from 1865 to 1965 when Kirkaldy's Testing Works was operating. This is before electronic monitoring and control so we are dealing with purely mechanical devices.

We have a few original machines that belonged to the Kirkaldy works. These include:

The acquired machines have come from two main sources — first the materials laboratories of Imperial College with which the museum has a strong connection. The laboratories at Imperial College have been rearranged to make way for the construction of the new Tanaka management school, meaning many old machines are now surplus to requirements. These include:

The second source of machines has been the parachute manufacturers Irving Aerospace company of Stevenage (formerly GQ Parachutes). They had a testing laboratory for cords and fabric with a number of machines originally designed for testing metals adapted to this use. The company closed in 2001 and the testing laboratory contacted the original manufacturers Denison to see if they wanted any machines for preservation.

They declined but contacted Hugh McGillivray at Imperial College who was able to suggest Kirkaldy Testing Museum as a worthy home. Thanks to the sturdy efforts of Tim Crichton who looked after the machines and then transported then to the museum (testing machines are heavy!) we now have the following items on display:

Kirkaldy Testing Museum. © Robert Mason We also have a Denison tensile testing machine from 1926, which is a machine of 1,000lb capacity used for testing wires for overhead power lines donated to the museum by the AEI company. Other machines donated to the museum include a Hounsfield vertical rubber tester and a Hounsfield Tensometer (a small horizontal testing machine). All the machines mentioned above except for the Izod and the horizontal Avery tensile tester are on the ground floor of the museum. It is unlikely that any more machines can be acquired due to lack of space.

Unfortunately the news is not all good. Kirkaldy's main machine which is driven by water pressure at 1,000lb/in2 cannot be run due to a suspected blockage in the hydraulic system. Professional help is going to be needed to fix this.

We would like more visitors. The museum is open for general visits on the first Sunday of each month. With sufficient notice the museum can also take group visits of up to 20 people during the week. In particular if you know people in engineering or material science pass the word. The museum contains many fine examples of applied maths and physics principles at work — stresses and strains, parallelograms of forces, Young's Modulus.

As well as the Sundays the volunteers are also there at other times. There is still lots of work to do, especially in the basement where it is planned to set up a display on Kirkaldy's concrete testing activities. I hope to keep GLIAS members informed of activities at Kirkaldy Testing Museum on a regular basis. Colin Jenkins
Kirkaldy Testing Museum website:

Toilet anniversary

This summer Britain marked the 150th anniversary of its public toilets when a model, dressed as Britannia, laid a giant penny against the railings of a subterranean loo in central London, near the spot on Fleet Street where Britain's first public toilet (now closed) opened in 1852.

Public toilets were introduced to stop the spread of disease through 'public fouling,' and many of London's Victorian loos are graceful structures — tiled underground chambers encircled by iron fences and crowned with arches or pergolas. Many are now padlocked and rusting, while others have found new life as cafes, flower shops, theatres and nightclubs.

The British Toilet Association lobbies for better bathrooms and its Loo of the Year awards recognise excellence in public conveniences.

Authorities in Westminster, which has the country's busiest public toilets — the Leicester Square loo serves more than one million customers a year — have devised ingenious ways to combat street urination. The borough has set up open-air urinals in busy tourist areas and plans to introduce collapsible urinals, invented in the Netherlands, that can rise out of the sidewalk on Friday and Saturday nights.

Follow-up: GLIAS Newsletter December 2002

Museum in Docklands fails to open

Museum of London Docklands. © Robert Mason, 28.3.12 The long-awaited Museum in Docklands (GLIAS Newsletter August 2000) failed to open this summer after a mysterious benefactor failed to keep a promise to underwrite running costs.

As a result it has been forced by its main funder, the Heritage Lottery Fund, to hold merger talks with the Museum of London.

The museum, which chronicles the 2,000-year history of the Port of London received an initial £11.5m grant from the HLF five years ago. Construction costs ran £1.7m over budget, and so far a total of £16m has been spent. Grants of around £4m from the former Docklands Development Corporation and corporate donors were quickly swallowed up.

The museum's site, a Napoleonic era warehouse close to Canary Wharf dating back to 1802, it is itself a piece of Docklands history. It has been refurbished to house artefacts, paintings, models, boats and machinery that tell the story of London's port from Roman times to the present day. The exhibits are all in place, including numerous archaeological finds from Roman and Saxon times. The galleries are almost ready to be opened, and a fun area for children is nearing completion. The centre also includes a lecture and film theatre.

GLIAS Cruise 2002

This year's GLIAS cruise took place on Saturday, 10 August. As there was a ship at the covered berth at Tower Wharf, essentially our departure point, we had a little time spare before we were due to queue at security for admission to the Seacon terminal. A brief visit was first made by car to Rosherville, once famed for its pleasure gardens. This proved well worthwhile.

Rosherville was laid out in the 19th century by Mr Jeremiah Rosher as a speculation and there are still fine houses of the period to be seen. Visitors came from London by steamer to a pier built for the purpose in 1840. This is now absent. Where this pier abutted the riverbank interesting arches were noted and there is still a concrete observation post used during the Second World War to watch out for anti-shipping mines being dropped from German aeroplanes. Pier Road at Rosherville was notable for the number of Sikhs living there. They came to settle in the area from the 1950s and Gravesend still has a large Sikh community.

At Tower Wharf we were fortunate to witness the departure of the ship from her covered berth. This was the Dutch registered Sea Charente, a standard type of coastal vessel with a navigation bridge aft which can be lowered, allowing passage up-river, say on the Rhine under relatively low bridges. On 10 August the Sea Charente was bound for Duisburg. Ships of this kind have become relatively numerous. It was an interesting experience to see a ship being manoeuvred 'indoors'. The depth of water at the Tower Wharf covered berth is sufficient to allow ships to arrive and leave at any state of the tide.

On the river there was relatively little swell and despite rain being expected the afternoon turned out to be quite dry and sunny. Following the south bank eastwards we came to the former APCM cement works. From the river it is possible to see the three large rotary kilns which are exposed to the elements for most of their length. From memory when rain fell they were rather steamy objects. Again from memory, some of the chalk to feed these kilns was quarried in Essex and brought by conveyor through a tunnel under the Thames.

At the former Henley's cable works we saw the jetty with its gear for loading submarine cable directly on board ships. We were later able to inspect the Rosherville arches from our boat, the Enterprise. The arches were something of a puzzle. Was there also an outfall here, perhaps from a culvetted stream or small river?

Further on we came to the site of the Imperial Paper Mills where Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 fireless steam locomotives used to puff about and cross the road with trains of flat wagons laden with great piles of bales. Just to the east is the pier which carried the former Gravesend West Street railway station. This was the terminus of a branch railway built by the London Chatham and Dover Company from the south west through Southfleet. Much of this route will shortly be used by Eurostar trains making their way to London from the first part of the CTRL to be completed. The new line from Folkestone will temporarily end near Ebbsfleet from which there will be a rather laborious journey southwards round London so as to terminate at the present Eurostar station at Waterloo.

Looking up at the site of Gravesend West Street there now seems to be little left of the station and to our surprise rather than railway vehicles we saw boats upstairs on the pier. It is being used as a boatyard and there was a ferry there, probably for repair. At one time a ferry operated from this pier to Tilbury. Further east at Gravesend the newly restored Town Pier at the south end of the High Street looked particularly splendid.

Carrying on past the entrance to the canal basin from which boats could once sail directly to Strood on a route which included a tunnel, the gasholders at Milton were noted. We passed large sheds used for metal working. Berthed here was a small steamship with engine aft, probably an ex-naval auxiliary tanker, about the size of VIC 56 and of a similar date. This vessel has occupied the same berth for years and is now fairly derelict. It is likely to be in private ownership with the intention of preservation, unfortunately ship maintenance is ruinously expensive.

Further east we passed the ship repair facilities at Denton. Coastal ships belonging to R Lapthorn and Co of Rochester were being worked on. One of these was drawn up on the slipway. Hoo Fort has been at Denton since 28 February.

We continued well to the east towards Cliffe Marshes. After waiting for large ships passing down river to the sea we were able to cross the deep water channel to the north bank, not far short of Coal House Point, and now we headed west.

At Tilbury B power station we saw the Orla, a collier in Polish Ocean Line colours, getting ready for sea after being unloaded. Registered in Malta she was bound for Riga. There are now few remains of Tilbury A power station. Passing the historic Tilbury Fort, Tilbury Riverside landing stage was the next main attraction with a cruise liner, the Astor, waiting to depart for Bremerhaven the following day. Were the passengers on a sight-seeing tour around London? Tilbury Jetty, to the west, of reinforced concrete construction has a bowstring bridge to allow lighters to pass inside and receive goods unloaded from the landward side of ships. Passing this now little used structure we came to Northfleet Hope with large ocean-going container ships being unloaded - an impressive sight. Tilbury is the third largest port in the country.

Next we passed Tilbury Grain Terminal but no ships were berthed here. Grain ships are unloaded on the outside quay with shoots to load ships positioned at the inside berths. Approaching Grays there is still a very ancient wreck of a lightship just offshore. This was probably built more than 70 years ago. Ship breaking used to be carried out here. Grays itself is now remarkable for large numbers of new houses, which are becoming ubiquitous on Thameside.

The Procter & Gamble Soap Manufactory, West Thurrock, and remains of West Thurrock cement works were noted before we passed under the Dartford Road Bridge. Travelling well upstream of the Bridge we crossed over to the south bank of the Thames and then proceeded eastwards back to Tower Wharf.

Passing Greenhithe, pretty well all we could see were new houses. The great activity there associated with F T Everard & Sons Ltd and their large fleet of coastal ships has all gone, almost without trace. Just to the east Empire Paper Mills have been demolished and the site is about to be redeveloped for housing. However the pier which used to carry a railway was still almost unchanged. About 30 years ago a fireless locomotive was stationed here.

In St Clement's Reach we passed once more beneath the high tension electricity cables carried well above us by a pair of giant pylons of fearsome height — one on each bank 1,375m (4,500ft) apart. Malcolm Tucker was certain these pylons, built for the National Grid, were post Second World War. Their height is comparable to that of the (former) Post Office Tower in London. Somewhat smaller pylons serving a similar purpose, further up river across Halfway Reach just downstream of Crossness, were demolished about 20 years ago. The headroom beneath the electricity cables in St Clement's Reach would have been a major factor in the design of the Dartford Road Bridge a short way up-river.

Back at Tower Wharf after being on the river nearly four hours the day was nicely rounded off by the sight of the Argentinian sail training ship Libertad passing down river from the West India Docks to the sea. Bob Carr

Follow-up: GLIAS newsletter December 2002

Patent records

Sue Hayton and I attended a seminar in July at the British Library on their holdings of records of patents, trade marks and registered designs; and indexes and other finding aids. The role of the Patent Office is to check that applications involve a new or at least a 'non-obvious improvement', ie the product must be better, cheaper or different from what is already available (though this only started in 1915); and grant rights for a limited period. It is necessary to seek protection individually in each country. The British Library stores official journals, indexes and published patents and offers a service to help enquirers. We were unofficially advised that claiming 'continuous patent research' was a good way to get a reader's ticket at the British Library, as there is nowhere else you can do it!

Patents Until 1852, there were separate English/Welsh, Scottish and Irish systems. The British Library holds the English/Welsh records and the Scottish records are in Edinburgh; the Irish records were burned in 1922. After 1852, there was a unified system for the UK and the British Library holds the records. Unfortunately, records of correspondence between applicants and the Patent Office have been destroyed.

Patents can be searched by number, if already known. There are three numbering systems:

One complication is that short 'provisional' applications could be made from 1852 to 1884, which were printed even if never followed with a 'complete' application. From 1884 to 1915, they existed but were not printed. This means it is possible to find a number on an artefact which cannot be traced in the records.

Secondly, they can be searched by name, on a CD-Rom to 1884; on a name index by classes and post-1920 on the internet (see below). Finally, they can be searched by subject, again on the CD-Rom to 1884 or by using volumes of abridgments in four series:

It is also possible to search by subject from 1920 on the internet by keywords (though with many gaps), on Hayward's Patent Cases reprints and indexes litigation on patents 1617 to 1883. From 1884, there are annual Reports of patent, design and trade marks and other cases.

Registered Designs are really minor inventions. They do not need to be registered. Where they are registered, they can also be searched by number (if known), by name or by subject. Registered Trade Marks exist from 1876 and are recorded in the Trade Marks Journal, which takes up 12m of shelving to 1970! Again, they can be searched by number, by personal or corporate name or by actual mark if a verbal description is known.

Foreign patents Not all countries grant patents — some leave it to their courts to resolve disputes. Of those that do, some, eg Germany, give very little information, though German patents are easy to trace. The French don't number their patents. The US system was said to be very good. US patents can be searched on; this covers abstracts and full text searching from 1976 plus images from 1836. There is a European Patents Office (not part of the EU) set up in 1978. It issued uniform patents, but a fee is payable for each country in which the applicant wishes to protect. The system is complicated.

General One surprise was to learn that patents are not subject to copyright, so copying and reproduction can be unlimited (though the British Library would welcome acknowledgment). An eight-page more detailed description was handed out, which I am prepared to copy to anyone on receipt of £1 to cover copying, postage and packing. The British Library say they are 'happy to answer specific (or general) enquiries through ... email or on fax 020 7412 7480 or telephone 020 7412 7919/20. They are 'willing to carry out half an hour's free research', or otherwise advise on how to go about it. The website is Brian Strong

Greenwich Foot Tunnel anniversary

Greenwich Foot Tunnel, 29.4.16. © Robert Mason Greenwich Foot Tunnel, 29.4.16. © Robert Mason

At 11am on Sunday 4 August, 2002, a small ceremony was held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. This occasion was almost overlooked, but for the sleuthing work of Barry Mason, a local bicycle campaigner, and co-ordinator of Greenwich cyclists. Barry discovered by accident the birthday of the tunnel and contacted Greenwich and Tower Hamlets councils to see if any official event was happening to celebrate the occasion. On being told that there was no interest from the local authorities at either end of the tunnel, he contacted the consulting engineers Binnie Black and Veach, who are the successors to Sir Alexander Binnie, the original designer of the tunnel. Fortunately, Binnie Black and Veach have an enthusiastic PR department and they arranged a ceremony in co-operation with Mr Mason. Greenwich and Tower Hamlets councils then jumped on board. A small stage was erected nearby the southern entrance to the tunnel, standing in the shadow of the Cutty Sark. During a sudden downpour of rain, Chris Binnie, great grandson of Sir Alexander and himself a retired engineer specialising in water supply, gave an excellent, very funny speech. He dressed for the occasion in the style of his great grandfather, including a stovepipe hat and pearl tie pin.

Watched by a crowd of puzzled tourists, the group, including 20 or so cyclists from Barry's cyclist group, representatives from Binnie Black and Veach, and the great and good from both borough councils, retired to the Greenwich University hall for a champagne lunch, compliments of the engineers.

The following extract is taken from an information pack handed out on the day:

Following the event, the cyclists left Greenwich and made a 20-mile round trip down river to the Woolwich tunnel, they went through and then came back toward London where they ate tea and cake in Island Gardens, before finally riding into the Greenwich tunnel one last time and singing it happy birthday. Gary Cummins

The Silwood Estate

Mercifully the demolition of the Silwood Estate (GLIAS Newsletter April 2002) has not been as comprehensive as initially expected. Much of the heart of the estate consisting of medium-size blocks has gone but smaller buildings by the railway are still there and even now the view from the train is not an unpleasant one.

Rebuilding the central part of the estate is quite a challenge. It will be interesting to see what the redevelopers are able to make of it. Bob Carr

Hydraulic crane at St Katharine Docks

A hydraulic wall-crane has been set up on a steel frame on the west side of the entrance lock of St Katharine Docks (near the road bridge). Hoisting and slewing jiggers, normally hidden behind a warehouse wall, are visible for all to see. Furthermore, the crane can be demonstrated at the push of a button – though when I tried nothing happened! The crane was restored to working order at the British Engineerium in Hove. Made by the Hydraulic Engineering Company of Chester, it represents a type of crane which was once common throughout Dockland.

Hydraulic crane at St Katharine Docks © Robert Mason 2022

The St Katharine Docks Company decided to install hydraulic cranes in 1853, accepting Armstrong's tender of £26,881. The Builder reported, on 20 May 1854, that workmen were engaged in laying down pipes along the quays and that a new engine house had been built on the east side of the entrance. Engineering, in 1868, noted that there were a pair of 80hp and a pair of 40hp horizontal high pressure steam pumping engines. A plan of 1863 shows two remote accumulators, one near A warehouse and one near D warehouse. In 1902 St Katharine Docks had 55 hydraulic cranes and six hydraulic 'jiggers'. The latter meant inclined jiggers mounted on wheeled frames that could be moved about the dock. They were usually known as 'devils'. A photograph of a fixed devil at St Katharine Docks appears on page 15 of Aubrey Wilson's book London's Industrial Heritage. The early wall-cranes had horizontally mounted jiggers. Most, if not all, were later altered to vertical positions behind the warehouse walls. Holes were cut in the floors to accommodate them and timber enclosures were built for safety and fire-precaution purposes. Other hydraulic machinery at St Katharine Docks included 21 warehouse lifts, a capstan, a press and vault pumps. There was also a hydraulic swing bridge.

By 1890, the hand-stoked boilers and simple-expansion steam engines were out of date and inefficient. The cost of pumping, at 14.35d per 1,000 gallons in 1898, compared unfavourably with pumping stations at the Royals, 6.9d at Royal Victoria Dock and 4.97d at Royal Albert Dock, and at Tilbury, 5.76d. Plans were made for a new pumping station, but, in 1890, the impoverished London & India Docks Joint Committee had other priorities. It was 1899 before work started on the rebuilding. In 1901 the new pumping station began work, serving both St Katharine and London Docks. The old pumps were stopped. Three new horizontal compound steam pumping engines were supplied by Tannett Walker & Co of Leeds. They continued in use until the 1920s. Thereafter, hydraulic power was purchased from the London Hydraulic Power Company. Hydraulic cranes were used at St Katharine Docks until its closure in the 1960s. Tim R Smith

(With thanks to Bob Aspinall of the Museum in Docklands for access to the PLA Archives)

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© GLIAS, 2002