Notes and news — June 2003
In this issue:
The Galloways Engine at Liverpool Road
- The Galloways Engine at Liverpool Road
- Packaging Archaeology
- Mail Rail — The Post Office London Railway
- King's Cross Level Crossing?
- Bird's, Blackstock Road
- Overhead System In Dublin
- Greenwich Notes
- Maunsel Street
- City Safari, Barcelona
- Firth goes forth
- Getting Rid Of People
- Museum in Docklands finally opens
- More On Bricks
- 'Mystery Site' in Tottenham
- Fish Facts!
- Historic Images Now Online
In 1909, six inverted-vertical triple-expansion steam pumping engines were installed in the new Water Street pumping station on the Manchester Corporation hydraulic system. In 1927 the pumps were electrified by the fitting of an electric motor behind each engine. The steam cylinders were removed and the motors drove the existing pumps through double helical gear. After the station closed in December 1972, one of the sets was taken to Salford University for preservation. In 2002 this pumping set was restored at Heritage Engineering in Glasgow, and put on display at the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester.
The steam engine appears to have been a standard E B Ellington design, of the type usually associated with the Hydraulic Engineering Company of Chester, the first being supplied to the Wapping Pumping Station of the London Hydraulic Power Company. But the Water Street engine is said to have been built by Galloways of Manchester. Yet the gauge board displayed with it is clearly marked 'Hydraulic Engineering Company'. Engines supplied to Whitworth Street and Pott Street pumping stations in Manchester were from the Chester company, of which Ellington was managing director. Ellington was consulting engineer for the Manchester system.
The engine is displayed in its 1927 form. The pump barrels are fixed to a substantial vertical frame by brackets. Above each pump there is a crosshead connected to the pump plunger, with connecting rods to a crankshaft beneath the pump. A spur wheel on the end of the crankshaft is driven by a pinion on the motor shaft. The 220-volt dc motor is by the Electrical Construction Company Ltd of Wolverhampton.
The suction pipe runs across the front of the set at a low level and terminates at an air vessel. There is a vertical branch pipe for each pump, with a suction valve on top. From the suction valve a pipe connects to the pump barrel through a delivery valve. Each delivery valve is connected to the delivery pipe, which runs behind and above the suction pipe.
Comparison of the Galloways engine with photographs of the engines supplied to LHP shows that the arrangement of suction and delivery pipes is the same, with the air vessel on the left hand side and connections to the delivery pipe on the right. The position of the pumps, crossheads and crankshaft are also the same and the end plate of the frame looks similar. Could it be that the Hydraulic Engineering Company sub-contracted the work to Galloways? When Grosvenor Road pumping station was electrified in the 1950s, it was done in a similar way to Water Street, Manchester, with electric motors driving the previously steam-driven pumps. But at Wapping, Rotherhithe and City Road Basin pumping stations the steam pumping engines were completely removed and replaced by electrically-driven three-throw ram pumps. Five of those at Wapping survive. The Grosvenor Road sets were scrapped so the Galloways engine at Manchester is the best we have to show what LHP's steam engines were like. Tim R Smith
If industrial archaeology is the study of the material remains of human activity from the past 250 years or so then industrial archaeologists should be taking an interest in the products of industry as well as the premises within which these products were manufactured. Archaeology is the study of artefacts rather than just written records and the way in which manufacturers packaged their goods in order to make them attractive is the concern of industrial archaeology. The past 150 years have produced a plethora of packets and containers, some of which have survived longer than their contents and sometimes longer even than the firm which originally made use of them. Vicwardian ginger-beer bottles are a good example and have become collectable.
Thus there is an interest in packaging items although not necessarily from mainstream industrial archaeology. Packaging has been more the preserve of people interested in printed ephemera and perhaps the collectors of modern antiques. There was, of course, the excellent museum set up in Gloucester by Robert Opie and most local museums include at least a small display of packaging relating to the past industries of their area. This has been going on for 40 years or more. Perhaps there should be more 'integration'?
Mention of a Politi Turkish Delight drum (GLIAS Newsletter August 2002) produced a written response which is encouraging from a GLIAS viewpoint. As packaging has been such an important activity of the last century involving enormous effort both managerial and artistic and has often been associated with London, an outsider would surely expect this.
If out there in the greater GLIAS membership there are people with an enthusiasm for packaging archaeology a few more artefacts might be mentioned. Can anyone date the following tinplate box of Gee's Linctus pastilles? Most of the pastilles themselves were still within the box until it was recently disposed of and they appeared to be quite edible, although this was not actually put to the test. The box had a paper liner with a number perforated. Clues to the date were a strip of white self-adhesive tape on the back with black lettering which read: P.T. HARRIS LTD., PHARMACEUTICAL CHEMISTS, 187, KINGS ROAD, S.W.3, TEL. FLAXMAN 1785.
Lettering on the lid of the box (all upper case) included NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN, EACH PASTILLE CONTAINS THE EQUIVALENT OF APPROXIMATELY 30 MINIMS (HALF TEASPOONFUL) GEE'S LINCTUS B.P.C., GEE'S LINCTUS PASTILLES B.P.C. and at the bottom SMITH KENDON LTD., 132 BOROUGH, LONDON, S.E.1.
A small green glass bottle was found on a rubbish tip in Worcester roughly in the late 1960s, this tip contained Vicwardian town refuse and from memory many fragments of Worcester pottery. The site was probably redeveloped shortly afterwards. The green glass bottle at first sight is slightly reminiscent of Roman glassware, there are interference colours characteristic of old glass, but it is clearly marked in raised lettering Eiffel Tower Fruit Juices, Foster Clark & Co, Maidstone. The bottle has a cross section which is square with truncated corners, has a round neck with a rim and is four inches (just over 100cm) high. It was probably sealed with a cork and no doubt had a paper label, long since lost. The glass is fairly thick and compared with a present-day bottle it is relatively crudely made. Bob Carr
Mail Rail — The Post Office London Railway
Further to the note on Mail Rail (GLIAS Newsletter April 2003), according to The Guardian newspaper a leaked memo indicated that the system would be mothballed on 30 May.
The system has been well documented — Derek Bayliss' excellent book 'The Post Office Railway London', published by Turntable Publications in 1978 was the standard work on the subject. Changes have taken place on the line since it was published, notably by the introduction of new rolling stock in the 1980s. Bayliss's book has now been largely superseded by 'Mails Under London' by L C Stanway (ISBN 0953539814) published in 2000 by the Association of Essex Philatelic Societies.
Entering 'Mail Rail' in a search engine points one to Colin Karslake's comprehensive and up-to-date website. There is also under the London Assembly's website (www.london.gov.uk), a report by their Public Services Committee 'The Future of Mail Rail'. Basically they are unhappy about the mothballing of the line and strongly recommend Royal Mail to investigate ways to make the line cost-effective.
My only encounter with the POLR was when a colleague and I were asked on an informal basis to comment on the repeated failures of the plate frames of the 1930s stock as the management were considering the possibility of new stock as an alternative to continual repairs. The failures were 'textbook' fatigue cracks extending from the sharp corners of cut-outs in the frames. As the normal mode of operation of the trains was characterised by harsh accelerations and braking added to which was the presence of very tight curves on the track taken at speed, our comment was that if the stock had survived this hammering for well over 30 years then perhaps a redesign of the vulnerable areas of the frames might keep the existing rolling stock on the rails for many more years. In the event the Post Office went for new stock.
During much of its life the POLR had nine stations, these were:
*A new Western District Office in Rathbone Place was opened in 1965 on a deviated section of track and replaced both these offices. Only three stations remained in 2003 — Paddington, Mount Pleasant, and Eastern District Office. Don Clow
- Eastern District Office — Whitechapel Road
- Liverpool Street Station
- East Central District Office — King Edward Building, Aldersgate Street, closed recently
- Mount Pleasant Sorting Office — Farringdon Street
- West Central District Office — High Holborn
- Western District Office — Wimpole Street, closed 1965*
- Western Parcels Office — Baker Street, closed 1965*
- Paddington District Office — Paddington station
King's Cross Level Crossing?
The CTRL main line railway from Paris and Brussels is to emerge from its long tunnel beneath Islington from a portal immediately to the east of the King's Cross to Edinburgh main railway line. This is just to the south of the North London Line railway overbridge (the portal is just to the north west of Gifford Street N1) and will presumably cross the main line running north from King's Cross on a bridge, yet to be built.
On the west side of the King's Cross main line work is already underway building an embankment to continue the CTRL line westwards towards its terminus at St Pancras. However, the embankment being constructed presently suggests that the CTRL might cross York Way (the A5200 and 390 bus route) by a level crossing. As this is inconceivable how will York Way be diverted? For many years it has been carried over what were railway sidings on a fine brick arched viaduct of considerable length (probably not listed). York Way must either go under or over the CTRL railway.
The new railway may well be carried over York Way but sufficient clearance for double deck buses will be needed and the CTRL needs to arrive at St Pancras at the right level, about 15 feet above the Euston Road. It appears to be quite a tight situation.
Travelling on the train between King's Cross and Finsbury Park gives a good view of what is going on but not the opportunity to measure the levels involved. When more is built some interesting civil engineering is likely to be revealed. Bob Carr
King's Cross gazetteer
Bird's, Blackstock Road
I was interested to read your article on More Closed and Open Shops (GLIAS Newsletter April 2003).
T Bird's shop in Blackstock Road was founded in the 1880s but one of the reasons for its closure was a large increase in rent. The date of H J Bloom's shop is 1945. The business is still conducted by Mr Bloom who is now in his late eighties. Roy Hidson
Overhead system in Dublin
Mention of the Gipe overhead cash conveyor (GLIAS Newsletter April 2003) reminds me of a recent visit to the Bad Ass Cafe in Dublin where the Lamson system is used to get diners' orders from tables to the central cash desk (there a four lines), and from there via a line still being completed to the kitchen area.
Not every order is so processed as sometimes it's quicker for the waiters to take the order by hand. If one asks, staff are quite enthusiastic, and I was allowed to 'send' the order from my table! A certain knack is needed because my first attempt failed to launch the 'car', and the second one was so vigorous that the 'car' bounced off the buffers and came half way back. Third time lucky! Well worth a visit, although many of the diners seem to think it is all quite normal.
This experience (and the food) really made my weekend, which included an Irish rail tour, investigations into existing and disappeared cinemas, theatres, railways, stations, canals, and a DUKW 'splash-tour' trip around old Dublin and the Grand Canal basin. David Johnson
Hanson plc has secured a relatively long term (10 year) interest in the Victoria Deepwater Terminal, Blackwall Reach, Greenwich for use by ships unloading aggregate and similar products.
This maintains the future of this wharf, the last of the large upriver wharves now Convoy's has closed.
When working recently at Steve Leach's boatyard next to Thames Lock in Brentford, I came across a bollard marked 'J.Piper Greenwich'. I assume this was made by the firm of that name, whose yard still exists in Greenwich, under other ownership but still ship repairers. Peter Finch
Maunsel Street, SWl (GLIAS Newsletter April 2003) has no connection with R E L Maunsell (1868-1944) of the Southern Railway, or indeed his namesake of the Second World War sea forts. According to Gillian Bebbington (London Street Names, Batsford, 1972), quoting Stow, it was once part of Tothill Fields and now named after a former Lord of Tothill Manor. However, it did not receive its present name until 1939; previously it was New Street. Richard Graham
City Safari, Barcelona
Participants for April's City Safari assembled for dinner in the foyer of the Hotel Park for dinner and Sue Hayton's introductory talk. The hotel, on the edge of the old city, was built in the early 1950s and is one of the first examples of the Modern Movement in Barcelona.
The Safari got under way on Friday morning with a walk in the old city which is laid out in a grid with many interesting corners. It has been gentrified to some extent with boutiques but some old tradesmen's shops remain. The Mercat (market) del Born of 1876 has a cast-iron frame and louvered wooden panels in the walls which help to keep it cool. Recently the foundations of part of the old city, over which the market was built, have been discovered and the interior is currently an archaeological dig. There are many water fountains, all of which seem to still work, indicating the old water supply. There was also a point for the hydraulic disposal of rubbish which is fed into an opening and conveyed below ground to a central collection point. The Fishermen's Church indicates how much nearer the sea this area once was. One of the oldest streets is the Carrer de Montcada with large three-storied houses around a central courtyard and a large arched doorway giving access to the street.
Past bank buildings on the Via Laietana, the Town Hall, the Parliament of Catalunya and the Gas and Electricity Offices, where there is a Crossley 10hp gas engine of 1929 inside the impressive entrance, we came to the Plaça de Catalunya. The square, planned in the 19th century was not landscaped until 1929 in connection with the exposition of that year. There is a large statue representing the city with a girl holding a ship and a man with a cog wheel. Another piece captioned trabajo — work — has a man with a horse and a hammer. The streets around, especially the Passeig de Gràcia, are paved with tiles by Gaudi. There are two interesting houses in the Passeig, No 42, Casa Amatller, was converted for the chocolate manufacturer Amatller, 1898-1900, no 43, Casa Batlló, was designed by Gaudi for the textile magnate Batlló, 1904-7. Around the corner at 255 Carrer Aragó is the publishing works of Montaner and Simon. Since 1984 it has been used as a foundation for the artist Tàpies who is responsible for the curious wire sculpture on the roof.
After lunch the walk continued along and around the famous Las Ramblas. The Rambla was originally a seasonal river bed, rambla means both a gutter and a promenade. The Casa Damiens, 54 Carrer de Palai, now occupied by C&A, is one of the first reinforced concrete buildings in the city. Tabacos de Filipinas, 109 Las Ramblas, is where the important trade in tobacco from the Philippines was organised. The Mercat de Sant Josep or Mercat de la Boqueria just off Las Ramblas is the oldest in the city. Further along is the Hospital de la Santa Creu, an extensive site now rebuilt but the old cloistered courtyard remains and now houses the Library of the Institute of Catalan Studies. The Hotel International on Las Ramblas was built for the 1888 Exposition apparently in 66 days! In the block bounded to the west of Las Ramblas by Avenguda del Paral-el three large chimneys are all that remain of the former electricity works and are a reminder of the earlier industrial nature of the area.
Lastly a metro ride led to the famous Sagrada Familia Church, designed by Gaudi, where we were left to our own devices to spend time at the incomplete church or to go on self-guided expeditions but eventually everyone found their way back to the hotel.
Saturday's peregrinations started across the road from the hotel at the Estaciòn de França, the French Station, built for the traffic from France during the 1929 Exposition. Three large iron train sheds are flanked by a grand station building. The station is now much reduced, the middle platforms have been filled in and the train service is meagre. The original hydraulic buffers by Ransome and Rapier of Ipswich are in situ.
The walk then went into Barceloneta, the part of the city established after the building of the Arsenal in the early 18th century. The first gas works for the city were built here and the framework of the gasholder, a water tower and the offices remain but the site is being redeveloped. A circus ring was currently occupying the inside of the gasholder frame. On the sea front there is a statue of Simón Bolívar of South American fame and then the site of the works of La Maquiniste Terrestre Y Maritima. The engineering company dates from 1855 but the works were built 1918-25. Little remains but some iron work and the entrance arch to the works which leads to a complex of social housing.
La Fraternitat was a workers co-operative founded in 1879. The modernist office building in Carrer del Comte de Santa Clara was built in 1914. The Mercat de Barceloneta in iron was built in the 1880s and is being modernised and a temporary building is in use. The Club Nataciò was set up 1920-22 and is being extended and modernised. The stone clock tower on the Moll (Mole) des Pescadors is actually the remains of a lighthouse. Following expansion of the harbour in the 19th century a new light was required and the old one was converted into a clock tower. On the Moll del Dipósit there are some interesting 19th-century warehouses now in use as the Museum of Catalonia.
The afternoon visits took in various official buildings finishing at the Maritime Museum. First, almost opposite the Park Hotel is the Duana Vell, the old Customs House, late 18th century, now used by the government. The new Customs House is further to the west. The Nautical School is defined by an old anchor in the forecourt which is corroding away. The old port building has plaques depicting trade. La Llotja, the Exchange, dates from 1383 and the late 18th-century building surrounds the gothic original. The Edificio Correros, Central Post Office, has a huge main hall decorated with murals featuring various aspects of the postal service with pastiches of famous paintings such as Botticelli's Venus Arising from the Waves. Where Las Ramblas meets the sea front at the Plaça del Portal de la Pau Columbus stands atop a 60m-tall base bearing plaques depicting the Columbus story. There is a lift to the top to allow views over the port and city but those who ventured reported disappointment as the viewing windows are small. On the corner of this square a military building has statues on the roof of military men, one holds a torpedo, others have an aeroplane. The Port Authority Building was built as the Mondial Palace Hotel and resembles a French casino. There are good views here of the funicular from the port to Montjuic. The afternoon ended at the Maritime Museum which is housed in the old Royal Shipyard, originally established in 1284. The major feature is the enormous covered sheds in which ships could be built or repaired. Later the bulk of trade moved to the Atlantic Coast and the buildings were used as warehouses, a powder magazine and barracks. The complex was declared a national monument in 1976.
Sunday started in the Parc de la Ciutadella laid out after the Citadel fortress had been demolished in 1873. The arsenal remained and part is now a museum of modern art, the Parliament of Catalunya occupies the central part. The 1888 World Exposition was held in the park and a number of buildings are extant. The Umbracle was built with a slatted roof to allow shade and ventilation to the plants inside. It was used for the exposition but reverted to horticulture afterwards. The Café Restaurant del Park was intended for the exposition but was not ready in time. It now houses the Zoological Museum. Another building contains the Geological Museum. Outside are some large samples of various rocks including one captioned Anthracite, Cardiff, England! The main entrance to the exposition and park is along a triumphal way starting with the massive brick Arc de Triomf.
Close by is the power station of 1897. There are still two parallel turbine and generator halls and offices on the corner featuring the company name in mosaic. The present company Hidroelèctrica de Catalunya now uses the offices. Further on is the Estaçió del Nord, North Station. Originally built in 1861 it was enlarged in 1880 but went out of use and was converted into an arena for the 1992 Olympic Games. The yard is used as a bus station and part of the building is the ticket office from which it is possible to look into what was the train shed.
At this point the party began to break up as some people had early afternoon flights to catch. Those remaining went on to Montjuic but since I was an early leaver I cannot comment further. 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
Firth goes forth
GLIAS member Bill Firth made the news pages of his local newspaper, the Ham and High, for his recording work of Barnet postboxes.
Getting rid of people
Peter Butt's comments (GLIAS Newsletter April 2003) are illuminating. It is in new enterprises that there are difficulties and perhaps counter examples.
Consider the introduction of steam colliers to the coastal and short-sea trade in the mid 19th century. This proved to be a difficult matter. Not only were iron-hulled steamships more expensive than the previous sailing collier brigs but they required more crew, not less. As well as seamen, engineers and stokers were needed and these had not only to be fed but given sleeping accommodation too. Moreover this was in a hull which also had to provide room for a bulky steam engine, bunkers and boilers. The coal used for fuel also had to be paid for and in the 1850s marine steam engines were fairly inefficient.
It only proved economic to use steam colliers because, compared with a sailing ship, they could make many more round trips in a given time. Compare this with the use of a Boeing 747 air freighter to take goods to Australia in competition with a conventional sea-going cargo ship. Taking the capital cost of the Boeing into account and its fuel bill one might at first think that air freight would be prohibitively expensive but this is apparently not so.
The success of the giant Antonov air freighters leading up to the massive AN225 is another interesting example. The cargo the AN225 can carry is anything but conventional air freight.
In the inter-war years of the 20th century the replacement of coal-fired boilers feeding reciprocating steam engines in ocean-going ships by compression ignition oil engines for propulsion would seem to be a very straightforward case where diesel engines would take over rapidly as soon as they became available. Getting rid of stokers would mean they not only did not have to be fed but their accommodation space became available for cargo. Also hot and bulky boilers could be dispensed with.
In Scandinavian ships diesel propulsion became the norm quite rapidly but in the large British merchant fleet motor ships were introduced slowly. This was partly dictated by National policy. Jobs of coal miners had to be protected and there was concern that the use of imported foreign oil would make the country vulnerable in time of war. The memory of the First World War and U-boats still lingered. For merchant ships Britain was surprisingly late in its adoption of oil fuel.
Carrying bricks by coastal ship is an example to consider. Bricks have to be handled carefully to avoid breakage and the work of loading and unloading is slow and labour intensive. This means that the vessel carrying bricks is tied up in port for long periods. In the later 19th century an expensive coastal steamer had to be making numerous voyages to pay its way and for this reason bricks were usually carried by sailing coaster or Thames barge until a surprisingly late date.
It seems there may be counter examples to the 'Getting Rid of People Principle'. In situations where very high technology is being introduced, giving enormous advantages, employing more people may be acceptable. However, the 'enormous advantage' is in fact also expanding the business. The 'Getting Rid of People Principle' is only applicable when the business remains roughly the same size (as Peter Butt has pointed out). One must expect greater expenditure for a an enhanced business activity.
When considering whether the work force is actually being diminished it is important to consider the complete area of financial interest of the employer(s) (or financiers). This is about choosing the right set, manifold or domain.
One must bear in mind that 'getting rid of people' is only from the point of view of the employer(s) and in the case of introducing steam colliers a given group of owners may be replacing several collier brigs with far fewer steam vessels. Overall there may still be a reduction in the number of people employed for a particular trade.
Comparing a single steam collier with a single collier brig is not looking at the overall financial situation. As mentioned previously the steamship will almost certainly be replacing more than one sailing ship. Also when the unloading of a steam collier by cranes and grabs is compared with the labour intensive practice of 'coal whipping' to unload a brig, a saving in the overall workforce might still be taking place. 'Getting rid of people' might be more pervasive than we realise.
With reference to Bletchley Park the introduction of machines like Colossus can be seen as an example of getting rid of people. Quite apart from the large amount of time which would have been needed otherwise, an enormous number of people would have had to be employed. Bob Carr
Museum in Docklands finally opens
The long-awaited Museum in Docklands has finally opened its doors to the public. It is located in No 1 Warehouse, West India Quay which, when it was built in 1802-04, formed part of the largest brick building in the world.
Visitors enter at level three and follow a timeline from Roman times to the present day on their way down the levels. Interactive screens, which were not working when I visited, augment numerous artefacts. Hopefully these offer greater detail than the information panels, as I suspect GLIAS members will find the labelling aimed more at the general visitor than the industrial archaeologist!
The layout of the building is somewhat confusing, so be prepared to get lost or accidentally bypass galleries. But with perseverance there is much of interest in here.
The museum is organising several walks, talks and visits that may be of interest to members. See the Events section for details.
Moored close by the museum are Steam Tug Portwey and SS Robin, both mentioned in recent GLIAS newsletters. Robert Mason
Museum in Docklands, No 1 Warehouse, West India Quay, Hertsmere Road, E14 4AL. Box office: 0870 444 3855. Website: www.museumindocklands.org.uk
More on bricks
Further to Bob Carr's comments re bricks (GLIAS Newsletter April 2003) may I just make a couple of points that may answer some of the queries. Firstly may I advise that the term 'a one brick wall', ie one brick thick, actually means it is 9in thick. The width of a brick is referred to as 'half a brick', so a 4.5in-thick wall is 'a half brick wall'. In 'pound shillings and pence days' a brick was nominally 8.5in long, with one joint making it 9in, and 2.5in high with one joint making it a 3in high course.
As to bonds these developed with a mixture of stretchers (9in length) and headers (4.5in width) to ensure strength, ie you had to turn the bricks at 90° to each other to ensure bonding across the thickness of the wall, otherwise you ended up with several lines of independent skins of brickwork. The different types of bond developed with different ideas on the strongest method, be it complete rows of header and complete rows of stretchers or various combinations of both in the same course.
In modern house construction bricks are little more than a decorative outer skin and add little to the structure or thermal insulation. Hence you have just a half-brick skin and the cheapest way to lay these is stretcher bond, anything else requires cutting a brick to show headers. In relative terms labour costs were lower in the one brick (and thicker) days where of course the brick didn't then need to be cut anyway. Today due to what have been appalling conditions in the building industry we have bricklayers who can demand £18 to £25 an hour and even this is not very attractive to youngsters. Incidentally even breezeblocks are history. Rodney Marshall
Regarding Bob Carr's item 'No more bonds' (GLIAS Newsletter April 2003) I am sure he will be interested and pleased to hear that the new station buildings at West Ham on the Jubilee line have been built in traditional red English bond brickwork, nicely detailed and executed, as has the sub-station between there and Canning Town. Ray Plassord
'Mystery site' in Tottenham
My brother said with regard to Bob Carr's Mystery Site in Tottenham (GLIAS Newsletter April 2003) — he knows the area well — that Bob has two uses confused.
What seems to fit his description, as being behind the Town Hall/Swimming Baths complex, was the 'dust destructor'. The heat generated was used to heat the swimming baths, the entrance was from Portland Road. Exactly the same system existed at Western Road, Wood Green, where the last vestiges of the old set-up can still be seen. While Tottenham used side-loading dustcarts, Wood Green used a system which was state of the art for the late 1930s. The refuse was collected in enclosed rear-loading articulated trailers. These had manually cranked moving floors to shift the rubbish forward. They were pulled from door to door by horses which were contracted from Mr Nicholls, and when loaded were swapped with an empty at a pre-arranged point on the round. Being taken to the 'dust destructor' by a Scammell Scarab three-wheeled 'mechanical horse'. The trailers and the Scarab were painted pale green and bore the borough coat of arms.
I digress; back to the site. In an area bounded by Town Hall Approach, Phillip Lane and Clyde Road was a brewery, this was Doodlebugged. Post-war the site carried pre-fabs and now houses a Leisure Centre so that nothing original remains and the whole site is and was visible from the road. Bob Rust
Although I do not know the site, Bob Carr's speculations seem to be pretty close to the mark. A cursory glance at Kelly's for 1941 and 1947 shows on the south side of Clyde Road, N15, Watney, Combe Reid & Co. bottling store; Tottenham Ambulance Service Depot (not 1941); and Tottenham Urban District Council Central Depot, while in 1941 and as late as 1985 Imperial Cold Stores Ltd, ice manufacturers, were at 42 Portland Road, N15.
Norman Barber's A Century of British Brewers 1890-1990 (Brewery History Society 1994) states that the Imperial Lager Brewery Ltd, Portland Road, N15 was registered on 5 May 1886 as the Tottenham Lager Beer & Ice Factory Ltd to acquire the business of Leopold Seckendorff, and went into voluntary liquidation on 6 March 1895, a new company with the new name being registered in 1895. Brewing ceased 1903, and the name was changed to Imperial Cold Stores Ltd. Richard Graham
Follow-up: GLIAS Newsletter August 2003
I hate to be called a liar (GLIAS Newsletter April 2003), particularly in a sniffy tone. Just because Malcolm Holmes missed it by three or four years does not mean it isn't true, there would be no place for historians if people only believed what they could see for themselves.
The attendant that kept the goldfish was a First World War veteran and retired about 1959/60 obviously taking his fish with him. It is still possible to say to any cabby or lorry driver who worked in the London area in the post-war years 'Holborn toilet' and they will say 'Goldfish!' On a personal level I have seen that goldfish very many times from the end of the war until 1949, when I used to go there with my Dad and then between 1955, when I came out of the Army to start driving in my own right, and 1959/60, when the attendant retired. I was introduced to the toilet by my Dad who told me of its convenient location for stopping and about the fish. My good friend and fellow GLIAS member Chris Salaman has seen the fish.
Geoffrey Fletcher; in his book 'The London Nobody Knows' published by Hutchinson in 1962 before Malcolm Holmes went down the steps, wrote: 'To return to Holborn. I made friends with the attendant while I made the drawing illustrated here, and on my pointing out the resemblance of the water tanks to fish tanks, he told me, to my delight, that a previous attendant had actually used them for this purpose. It seemed to me that the fish must have been surprised to find their breathing space restricted and themselves coming down in the world each time the stalls were flushed, and what they made of the copper ball tap in their water I could not imagine. However, keeping fish in a lavatory tank is a delightfully rococo, or rather fin de siècle idea, and might be copied with decorative results. It is wonderfully intriguing to imagine what the men using the place thought of the fish; more important, what the fish thought of the men.'
I would heartily recommend the book, republished in paperback by Penguin in 1965 to any lover of London, if they can find a copy somewhere. Bob Rust
Malcolm Holmes' note brought back otherwise long forgotten memories. As a small boy between 1919 and 1922 my father used to bring me to London and sometime during the day it was necessary to visit the Gents. I always used to look at the glass cisterns in the hope of seeing fish but regretfully I was always disappointed. I expected the green alga in some of the less well-maintained cisterns to be the home of minnows.
I seem to remember seeing the cisterns in Leeds and Birmingham, but my memory may have been at fault. I am sure the glazed cisterns were not exclusive to London. John Boyes
Follow-up: GLIAS Newsletter August 2003
Historic images now online
English Heritage last launched Viewfinder, a new online image resource for England's history. It includes 20,000 images never previously available on the web, and more will be added in due course. In time as may as a million items may be made available.
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© GLIAS, 2003