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Notes and news — October 2003

In this issue:

Coal Gas For Ballooning

Having recently been searching the minute books of the Portsea Island Gas Light Company, I was intrigued by a reference to filling balloons with coal gas.

I did a search and found the story on the GLIAS website (GLIAS Newsletter August 2003). Perhaps you would be interested in the following:

Trish Lovell

Hydraulic (Horse) Power

Bob Carr (GLIAS Newsletter August 2003) suggests a figure of 150hp for the accumulator at Regent's Canal Dock, Limehouse. In his calculation he makes a number of assumptions, that the pumping engine was of 30hp and that the accumulator supplied power at five times that rate. Henry Robinson (H Robinson, Hydraulic Power and Hydraulic Machinery, 1887) gives a formula for calculating the horsepower of an accumulator, thus:

He goes on to calculate the power of an accumulator with 12ins ram, 22ft stroke loaded to 750 psi as:

[Surely he is mixing his units. I think it should be 56.57 hp]

Blaine (R G Blaine, Hydraulic Machinery, 1897) takes a different view. He works out energy stored as Wh ft-lbs, where W is weight and h is stroke. He writes: 'If the accumulator discharges at p lbs per square inch its usual storage is 62.4 x 2.3 x p x A x h ft-lbs' (A being area of ram). A cubic foot of water weighs 62.4lbs, but where does the 2.3 come from? The formula makes no sense to me. He divides this by 33,000 x 60 to give horsepower hours.

He goes on to calculate the horsepower hours of 'the largest accumulator used by LHP'. For this he uses its weight of 106 tons and stroke of 23ft. His calculation is:

He goes on to say that it can give out, 'say, 160hp for 1 minute'.

Using the LHP accumulator pressure of the time, 750 psi (it was later increased to 800 psi), this gives a diameter for the ram of 20 inches. If we then try putting these figures into the previous formula we get 2.73 horsepower hours only if we omit the 62.4 and the 2.3!

Turning to the Regent's Canal Dock, we know that there were two engines under a railway arch, each of 75 hp. Since the accumulator was probably used to control the engines, if one were working and the other stopped, and power demand exceeded supply, then the accumulator would start to fall. In so doing it would, at some point in its descent, start the second engine. The two engines together would then be expected to cater for the total demand and stop the accumulator falling. If they failed to do this then they would be unable to meet demand and there would be problems on the system. In practice, therefore, one might not expect the accumulator to develop more than about 75 hp. Calculating the demand for power and the size engines and accumulators required must have been difficult, especially in the early days of hydraulic power. W G Armstrong certainly had difficulties with his first system, at New Holland, Lincolnshire. It seems he did not expect all the cranes to be used at the same time. But New Holland was at the south end of the ferry from Hull, so everything happened when the boat arrived. In its early days, the early 1850s, the hydraulic system was always short of power. So acute was the problem that its owners, the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway, bought two hand cranes and three steam cranes to supplement the hydraulic cranes. Sir John Fowler, the MS&LR's consulting engineer, and W G Armstrong found that the solution was to install a duplicate steam pumping engine and to add another accumulator [Source: MS&LR Minute Books in PRO]. Armstrong's early systems tended to use low-powered steam pumping engines and several accumulators. At the West India Dock, for example, there were two 60 hp engines and no less than six accumulators. Later systems tended to have engines of higher power and fewer accumulators, depending on the application. Tim R Smith

Historic Accident

I thought that GLIAS ought to know about the 200th anniversary, on 8 September 1803, of an industrial accident in Greenwich which is said to have altered the course of the steam engine design. In writing this short piece about it I hope that someone will be able to help me with some of the problems I have encountered — and that first statement is one of them, if you want to challenge it I would be grateful.

The accident was an explosion in a boiler of an engine built by Richard Trevithick — and it is mentioned in many, many accounts of the steam engine. It is about the boy who went to catch eels instead of watching the engine — and then boiler blew and the rest — well, it's history.

When I first decided to write about this accident I had intended to send it to the GLIAS Journal. That was long before I began to edit that publication myself. In those days I saw the story partly as an exercise in IA — and then you could just about locate the site and try and work out where it all happened. Now there's no chance of that, since the landscaping of the area for the Millennium Dome. Anyway I soon realised that I was coming across a lot of problems in the research. Perhaps someone in GLIAS has some ideas on them — hence this article.

First, there the problem I mentioned above about the history of the steam engine. Interestingly, that steam engine was being used in the construction of a large tide mill. As I began to research the story I became increasingly nervous of displaying my evident ignorance of tide mill construction — so if anyone would like to comment on that for me, I'd be grateful and happy to send details of the East Greenwich mill as I understand them.

And then there is the mill builder ... I know that the mill site was owned, and the mill commissioned by George Russell. He isn't a problem to me — he was a large scale soap manufacturer looking for something to do with his money in retirement and he is also the man who bought the engine from Trevithick's agent. But there are also two mysteries there — first of all the lease on the site to Prime Minister, William Pitt, and his brother, and then there is a comment (unsourced) in The Engineer in the 1901 that the mill was built for the London Flour Company. Any ideas there?

The next mystery is William Johnson. He had a patent on the mill design and he was certainly around the mill — negotiating the site, and eventually living there and apparently operating it. Who was he? He seems to have come from Bromley, Kent, and the librarian at the Institution of Civil Engineers knows him as 'Duffy' and says he worked with Mackenzie. You can follow his trail from his patents to Heybridge and then Droitwich for salt, then to the Horsley iron works and then to lifting gear at Millbank. Someone must know something about him.

Then we have John Lloyd. The only contemporary account of the mill we have appears in Gregory's Mechanics. Gregory was Woolwich based and he seems to have taken a stroll down to Greenwich one day, done some nice drawings of the mill machinery and chatted to the foreman — who told him the mill was being built by John Lloyd. He was a major millwright, a partner in Lloyd and Ostell who also installed the mill machinery at Waltham Abbey. In his day, I guess, he was famous but now, because we have become so mesmerised by steam engines, we have forgotten those important millwrights. There used to be a memorial to John Lloyd in Christ Church, Blackfriars Road, before it was bombed. So, who knows something about him and what was his relationship to Russell and to Johnson?

Finally — there is one big mystery which might solve all the rest. George Russell died in 1804 and all his property went into Chancery. There is one enormous document in the PRO which lists all the lawyers' expenses — one item of expenses is 'for Daniel Vaux and Mr Johnson for attending as a witness in a case respecting the steam engine in Greenwich marsh in 1803, 9th July 1808'. What case? There is no apparent mention of it in the collections of either Trevithick or Boulton and Watt. But it seems there was an enquiry into that accident, which might just unlock the other secrets of this important case. I have hunted high and low! Anyone any ideas? Mary Mills

Frant Road

As a road haulage man I was interested in Paul Sowan's piece about the London Parcel Delivery Company (GLIAS Newsletter August 2003).

The 'bank' to which he refers is of course the loading bank, maybe, but not necessarily a secure area. It is a platform at the height of a van's floor to facilitate loading and unloading, still found today in most haulage depots. There is some controversy about the origin of the word in haulage. It has been postulated that it came from the mason's banker or bench which started its life as a bank of earth to raise the stone to an easy working height. A cart could be backed up to it, so that the 'banksman' (the mason's labourer) could easily transfer large pieces of stone to and from the cart. In building work today, the person who guides in lorries, directs the crane and directs the handling of heavy pieces is still called the 'banksman', a post now recognised in safety legislation.

These are extracts from the Carter, Paterson story by W Seymour, relating to LPD. (CP went on to become London's major parcel carrier).

Bob Rust

Water-sealed Gasholders

These are the type of holder most readers will immediately think of and used to be accommodated alongside the retort houses and cleaning plant of urban gasworks. Traditionally the bells which contained the gas were made from wrought iron sheet only about one eighth of an inch thick. They are/were rather flexible and normally are/were supported by the pressure of the gas inside (or if you prefer the excess gas pressure over atmospheric pressure). When the gas is let out of a water-sealed holder for maintenance etc the holder bell needs to be supported to prevent deformation. This is usually done by some kind of fixed framework for the deflated bell to rest upon.

It has recently been possible for the general public to see the means of supporting an empty bell. When gasholders are to be demolished a plate or two on the top of the bell is removed to purge the interior of any residual gas. This could be observed during demolition of the St Pancras holders (GLIAS Newsletter October 2001). Although not accessible to the general public a particularly good view of the top of one of the holders immediately north of Battlebridge Road could be obtained from the roof of Culross Buildings.

More recently the demolition of the Stepney Gasholders (GLIAS Newsletter February 2001) has given views from Harford Street of partially dismantled bells. Bob Carr

King's Cross gazetteer

The Modern World Begins For Croydon! 200th Anniversary Of The Surrey Iron Railway

The Surrey Iron Railway's claim to be the world's first public railway depends rather on the interpretation of the word 'public' if not railway. There had been numerous earlier railways, the wagon wheels guided variously by grooves cut or built into stone pavements, and wooden and iron rails. Many of these were built by and for privately operated mines or canals, exclusively for their proprietors' use and on their own land, thus not requiring Acts of Parliament. It has been argued that the 'Surrey Iron' deserves its 'first public railway' because it was authorised by Parliament, and was available to the public at large — the only requirements were the ownership of wagons with the wheels the right distance apart to fit the track, and payment of tolls.

The railway, built from Wandsworth, arrived at its southern terminus at Pitlake, in Croydon, on 26 July 1803. This year, therefore, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of its opening. Arguably, this event led to the start of the modernisation of Croydon, a process that seems to continue apace!

Croydon in 1803: The railway terminus was within yards of the 'old' town centre, already referred to as le Eldetoun by the 13th century. Croydon's commercial centre has migrated steadily eastwards via the Surrey Street market (there was a market charter in 1276), the High Street, and now the Park Lane/Wellesley Road/East Croydon Station area. In the Old Town, encircled by streams and ponds, stood (and still stand bits of) Croydon's manor house (later archiepiscopal palace) and parish church. Croydon was a small but important market town in the east Surrey countryside, some ten miles of open country separating it from London. The palace had been sold and converted into a bleaching works and calico printing factory after the last Archbishop had left in the 1770s. It was fitted out with at least two waterwheels.

A demand for coal in Croydon: In due course, the palace acquired three substantial chimneys (all since demolished), as coal-fired boilers for one or more steam engines supplanted water-wheels for power and perhaps for heating water. Whether the palace's conversion to fossil fuel commenced before the draining and filling in of the mill ponds about 1849 merits some research. But there can be little doubt that a substantial inward flow of coal to the town was under way by the 1820s when the town's first gas works was set up at Overton's Yard, on the west side of Surrey Street. This site was but yards from Church Road, a new road laid out on the former trackbed of the Surrey Iron Railway's Merstham extension of 1805. There were also several breweries.

The Haling Downs Chalk Pit And Lime Works: There were several small-scale chalk pits and limeworks scattered around the Coombe Road/Coombe Lane area to the south east of the town by 1803, but all had relied on horse-and-cart haulage. Croydon's first rail-linked limeworks was at Haling Down, beside the A23 Brighton Road. Although there was probably a pit here before the Merstham extension arrived in 1805, it was probably enlarged considerably to provide material for the massive railway embankment (the southern end survives) at Chipstead Valley Road when the Croydon, Merstham & Godstone Iron Railway was built between 1803 and 1805. Later in the 19th century this was operated as a conventional limeworks by, for example, the Pettifer family and by Alfred Bullock. Biddulph Road was laid out on the pit floor early in the 20th century.

Jolliffe & Banks' Stone Quarries and Limeworks at Merstham: Although the Jolliffe family had bought land and settled at Merstham in or about 1788, they seem not to have exploited the mineral resources until William Jolliffe's partnership with Edward Banks dating from about 1807. The Jolliffes had backed the CMGIR, and Jolliffe & Banks reopened the underground building-stone quarries and developed the chalk pits and limeworks on an industrial scale. Coal southbound from Wandsworth was doubtless required for the kilns, and for the stationary steam winding engine known to have been erected here. Although Jolliffe and Banks, important early civil engineering contractors, were responsible for the construction of works as far afield as Heligoland (now a German island) and Howth Harbour it should not be thought that Merstham stone or lime ever travelled far, if at all, beyond London. They had the use of limeworks at Halling in the Medway Valley from the 1820s, and employed stone from many sources including Aberdeen and Portland.

Croydon's Second Town Hall: Jolliffe & Banks built a second Town Hall for Croydon in 1807-08, using Merstham stone (and probably lime) supplied via the CMGIR. Their contract for this work has been published (GLIAS Newsletter August 1982), although the building was demolished within 90 years as part of Croydon's first big redevelopment scheme of the 1890s, when the High Street was widened to allow more traffic through, including modern electric trams replacing the antiquated horse-drawn ones.

Fourth Generation 'Trams!': The northern continuation of the High Street (North End) is now pedestrianised, and second-generation electric trams now cross the town centre on an east-west alignment (George Street — Church Street) instead of a north-south one. The modern Tramlink might be termed 'fourth generation', the SIR and CMGIR 'tramways' being the first (freight only), and horse-drawn passenger-carrying street tramways (from 1879) being the second, and the 1901-51 electric trams being the third (there were also some experimental battery-operated electric trams in the 1890s). Curiously, the modern triangular tramways junction at the west end of Church Street is very close to the earlier Pitlake three-way junction between the SIR, CMGIR and Croydon Canal Company's private tramway. The latter's route is now Tamworth Road, taken by eastbound modern trams.

The modern railways arrive: The passenger-carrying locomotive-hauled London & Croydon Railway was opened to its Croydon terminus (now West Croydon Station) in 1839, and was in part laid along the drained Croydon Canal which had operated about 1809-36. In the 1830s the London & Brighton Railway bought up the CMGIR, needing some of its land for its own line, especially for the deep cutting at Hooley. It seems likely the CMGIR saw its last use as a mean for contractors to dispose of surplus spoil from the cutting. The SIR remained open into the 1840s, but within a dozen years of its own closure its route had been taken by the 1855 West Croydon to Wimbledon line. That line was itself closed and part of its route is now followed by modern trams to and from Wimbledon.

It can be said, therefore, that in 1803 the Surrey Iron Railway was the first of a series of innovations which have led to Croydon remaining in 2003, as 200 years earlier, a bigger town and gateway to the south than nearby Sutton or Bromley. Paul Sowan

City Safari, Liverpool, 22-25 August 2003

Liverpool will be European City of Culture in 2008 and, as it has always been an important port, particularly in connection with the cotton and associated slave trade, it is bidding to be designated a World Heritage Site. This would be enough to make the city a strong candidate for a City Safari but it also has some marvellous commercial architecture and pubs.

Friday evening started with dinner, rearranged at the Everyman Theatre when the Adelphi Hotel cancelled a booking, followed by Sue Hayton's introductory talk. Afterwards, many of us retired to The Philharmonic, a pub and restaurant named after and serving the Philharmonic Hall opposite. The interior is a magnificent Art Nouveau design with a famous marble Gents. By tradition arrangements can be made for ladies to view it.

It was the weekend of the Beatles Festival and our programme was carefully arranged to keep us from this distraction. Accordingly Saturday morning was spent in commercial Liverpool before the festival got under way and it became really crowded. There is a large number of interesting and striking buildings of which there is room only for a selection.

At 25 Church Street is the first Woolworth's shop to be opened in Europe but it is not Woolworth's now. Bluecoat Chambers in School Lane were built as a charity school in 1717 and are now an arts centre. The Central is one of the grandiose Liverpudlian pubs with a Victorian facade and a mirrored interior. Lewis's store, not to be confused with John Lewis, is post war following an incendiary bomb attack which burnt down the 1886 building. Along with many other fine buildings we came to the Adelphi.

The Adelphi Hotel was built for the Midland Railway by Frank Atkinson, who also designed Selfridges store in London. Built in 1912 it replaces an earlier hotel of 1868-9. Rather surprisingly we were left to wander at will through the magnificent ground floor lounges, dining rooms and bars.

The Adelphi was one of a number of railway buildings, the preponderance of which is itself a measure of the city's importance. Lime Street Station has one train shed of 1869 spanning 219 feet and an addition of 1874 spanning 184 feet. Outside is the magnificent North Western Railway Hotel built in 1871 to designs of Alfred Waterhouse. It is now a hall of residence for students at John Moores University. The Exchange Station in Tithebarn Street was built for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in the 1880s. Only the fine facade remains with new offices behind. The former offices and warehouse of the Midland Railway in Victoria Street date from 1850 and feature coats of arms and the names of places served by the railway.

Another feature of commercial Liverpool is the shipping, banking and marine insurance companies' offices. Many of these are in the three parallel Dale, Victoria and Tithebarn Streets. The typical Prudential Building in red brick and terracotta dates from the 1880s. The General Accident Building of 1899 was the head office of the Bank of Liverpool. The India Buildings were built in the 1920s for the Holt Blue Funnel Line. Oriel Chambers is an early use of cast iron as a structural material. The large glass windows are a curtain wall with the cast iron behind bearing the weight. The Tower Building, 1908, was one of the first steel framed buildings in the country. Martins Bank, now Barclays, has a restored, opulent banking hall.

In the afternoon we went across the Mersey by train to Birkenhead. Hamilton Square is a fine large square, 1826, the brain child of William Laird, the founder of the famous ship building company. One side is dominated by Birkenhead Town Hall which is now the Wirral Museum since the modern local authority uses Wallasey Town Hall. The interior is worth viewing without the museum but there are many interesting exhibits too, including a fine model of the Pierhead, Woodside, as it was. The first 'street railway' was opened here by George Francis Train in 1860 but it did not last long as the rails above the road level restricted other traffic. There is a tramway museum in Taylor Street and a service is run down to Woodside but we walked in order to take in some other sites.

Egerton Bridge at Morpeth Dock is a good example of a Birkenhead bascule bridge and affords a view over what were Birkenhead Docks. Other sites included the warehouse of the Cheshire Lines Committee (Great Northern, Midland and, as it was, Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Railways), one of several ventilation towers for the Mersey Tunnel, and other offices and warehouses. This bought us to Shore Road Pumping Station with the 'Giant Grasshopper Engine' built in the 1870s to keep the railway tunnel under the Mersey dry. The engine can be demonstrated but no longer by steam. At the ferry terminal at Woodside there is the hotel originally of 1834, extended in 1963 and waiting for a new owner. The return by ferry with good views of Liverpool Pierhead ended the day.

Sunday was given over to the docks, the northern docks in the morning and the southern section in the afternoon. We started by train to Sandhills and a short walk to the dock area with a huge boundary wall, 18 feet high built of irregular lumps of granite. It is broken by entrances with wooden gates which slide back on wheels into the wall. Large plaques give the names of the various docks. The docks are gradually being redeveloped and many are filled in. A series of sewer ventilation pipes runs along the dock wall and there are the remains of some drinking fountains — presumably an attempt by some temperance organisation to keep the dockers from stronger drink. However, there are also many pubs, almost all of which are now closed for lack of trade.

The major feature is Stanley Dock built at the end of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1848. There are warehouses to the north and south of the dock and the bonded Tobacco Warehouse of 1900. Since it was Sunday there was a market in the warehouse and we were able to get inside. Unfortunately the stalls and the crowds made it difficult to fully appreciate the building.

Opposite Victoria Dock is another ventilation shaft for the tunnels under the river. The warehouse of 1821 at Waterloo Dock is the only conversion into housing in this section. Inside the wall near the old landing stage there are some railway remains, a few rails and a signal post. There is also a drinking fountain. At the waterside there are some dilapidated remains of the landing stage from which so many, particularly Irish, departed to the USA in search of a better life. There is modern development here too but it all seemed rather lifeless. As we came to the pierhead we admired the Marine Engine Room Memorial dedicated to all those engineers who kept the boilers going and lost their lives in tragedies at sea. The remains of a canal proposed by the Duke of Bridgwater to bring salt from his mines to the docks followed and then we were at the Pierhead where the Mersey ferries operate.

After lunch we admired the three graces, the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building. There are plans to add a fourth 'grace'. This brought us to the famous Albert Dock, a major reuse of the dock warehouses as a leisure facility which includes The Merseyside Maritime Museum, Tate Liverpool, The Museum of Liverpool Life, restaurants and pubs. Beyond is Wapping Dock which has been redeveloped. Turning inland up Parliament Street we came to Cains Brewery, a fine red brick complex. The brewery was closed but the Brewery Tap was open, and welcome on a warm sunny afternoon. On our way back to our hotel we paused at a number of interesting but derelict warehouses.

On Monday morning (it was Bank Holiday Weekend) we went to Port Sunlight. This is the model village William Hesketh Lever laid out, with little expense spared, for the workers at his Port Sunlight soap factory at the turn of the 19th century. It has been suggested that, if he had spared some expense he might have built houses which his workers could afford.

The block at 2-4 Park Road, close to Port Sunlight Station, was built in 1892 and a copy is in Glasgow where it was built as an exhibit for the 1901 Glasgow Exhibition. The fire station was built as stables, converted for horse-drawn fire engines and later for motor vehicles. Gladstone Hall, named for the prime minister of the time who opened it, was a canteen but is now a hall for film shows and theatrical productions. The Heritage Centre was a girls' hostel. Lever lived in Bridge Cottage in the 1890s. Hulme Hall (Hulme was Lever's wife's maiden name) was also a dining room but is now used as conference suites. We had coffee at the Bridge Inn which has some interesting stained glass. We went on to the church which Lever, a Congregationalist, built as a Congregational Church. There is interesting glass and a Willis organ. Outside, backing on to the west end, are the tombs of Lever, who became Lord Leverhulme, and his wife. From here we went by the Victoria Memorial to the Lady Leverhulme Art Gallery. However, time was pressing for some to catch trains home and the party began to break up. Bill Firth
For further information on City Safaris contact Heritage of Industry Ltd, 80 Udimore Road, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7DY. Website:

Menier And Willcox, Southwark

Looking through an old GLIAS Newsletter (108, April 1986 p10) about manufacturing industry I came across an article about two Southwark Street firms — Menier and Willcox. And I realised that I had been wondering about both of them recently.

Menier were/are chocolate makers. The article says that they were in 49-53 Southwark Street, later taken over by Willcox, but their Southwark depots had long closed down and moved to Ipswich. Anyone who travels on the railway between London Bridge and Waterloo can today see a large, new, advertisement for Menier Chocolate on one of these buildings (difficult to work out which one from the train!) implying that it is on the 'Menier Chocolate Factory'.

The other firm is Willcox whose head office was 38 Southwark Street. The article says the building was bomb damaged in the Second World War — and it is clear to see from the train that half the building is still in ruins. Are Willcox still there? And why can't they repair bomb damage which has been there for the past 60 years! Mary Mills

Crossness Engine Landmark

Prince Consort. © Crossness Engines Trust On Monday 1 September 2003 the Prince of Wales publicly opened the master steam valve of the Prince Consort engine and the magnificent engine slowly began to move. He was fulfilling the same task that his Great-Great Grandfather had undertaken when opening the Crossness works 138 years earlier.

About a hundred people were present including Peter Bazalgette, whose own great-great-grandfather, Sir Joseph Bazalgette, had designed the main drainage system of London. Peter Bazalgette is chairman of the Crossness Engines Trust and the Trustees and the indomitable group of volunteers are to be congratulated on a heroic feat of restoration and conservation — a major achievement!

The project was supported by the Thames Water Authority, whose chief executive officer was present, English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the local authority among many others. The colour, the warmth and the hypnotic motion of the Prince Consort engine was in stark contrast to the three other engines which are cold, rusty and silent.

I was reminded that a visit to Crossness in the early 1960s was a catalyst helping to motivate the establishment of GLIAS in 1968.

Edward Bazalgette was also present. His programme The London Sewers in the BBC series, Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, was screened on BBC2 on 2 October. Denis Smith

James Smith & Sons Ltd's Offices And Works, South Norwood, And The Buildings They Erected

Derek Bayliss (GLIAS Newsletter February 1980) noted the impressive facade of James Smith & Sons, builders, of 72 Carmichael Road, South Norwood, London SE25. The premises are notable, in an otherwise unremarkable back street behind Norwood Junction Station, for their 'public house classical design'. The design incorporates a liberal quantity of polished granite columns and window surrounds, and the front of the building still carries the lettering James Smith & Sons Ltd over the door. The rear of the building, visible from trains, is distinctly less impressive and was for a while obscured by a large advertisement for the former Orchid Ballroom at Purley, of which establishment they were the owners.

James Smith & Sons built some of Croydon's grandest late Victorian commercial premises and must rank, along with Alfred Bullock, among the town's most important builders.

A considerable amount of information about the firm was recorded by John Corbet Anderson (1898) in his book 'The Great North Wood: with a geological, topographical and historical description of Upper, West, and South Norwood' (a work which also contains lengthy descriptions of Brock's fireworks factory, W F Stanley's factory, the Pascalls' brickworks, and other long-defunct South Norwood enterprises). This is supplemented by a feature article marking the firm's centenary in the Croydon Advertiser of 11 December 1959.

The firm was established in South Norwood in 1859, and moved to new premises beside the railway in or about 1889, when a rail siding was installed for its use (extended in 1899.) There were extensive yards at workshops, including steam joinery works and saw-mills, behind the offices. 'Upwards of 400 men' were employed.

The following buildings in Croydon are known to have been built by James Smith & Sons:

Works elsewhere attributed to the firm include a memorial church at Malvern Link, Emmanuel Church at Eastbourne, All Saints' Church at Peckham, a Convent at Chiswick, and the 'vast' Union House at Bromley.

At the time of its centenary the firm was described as a 'quietly prospering' property holding company, the workshops and yards having been converted to other uses and/or in other occupation. The address is now that of Junction Works Estates. Paul Sowan

Flint Buildings: A Curiosity At South Norwood

South Norwood, as a settled place and centre of industry, effectively dates only from the opening of the Croydon Canal in 1809, and of the London & Croydon Railway (with a station at first called the Jolly Sailor) in 1839. The Pascall family, among others, established and worked brickfields and thus contributed to the obliteration of the former Croydon Common under streets of houses.

In the midst of this sea of brickfields and brick-built houses, it is a surprise to find a small rash of flint buildings, in the corner formed by Portland Road and Coventry Road. The nearest source of flint, as I suspect these flints are 'fresh from the chalk' rather than from the Wandle river gravels, would have been the chalk pits or chalky fields of South Croydon, three or four kilometres to the south. None of the three flint buildings described here appear, from map evidence, to pre-date the coming of the canal or railway.

(1) Stables/smithy/chapel — this extraordinary two-storey building is of flint with brick quoins and dressings, and is best seen from Coventry Road, at the rear of the flint cottages described next. Only the upper storey is visible, the ground floor being hidden behind piles of old motor car tyres. It has windows and an upper floor doorway with distinctly 'ecclesiastical' profiles. From the high-level doorway projects a steel girder presumably to accommodate lifting tackle. Brian Lancaster (in Croydon Church Townscape, published 1997 by Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society) has established that the structure has been used for worship by a number of religious groups during the 19th and early 20th century, although the high-level doorway and steel girder point to earlier and later industrial use.

(2) Flint cottages at 1 and 3 Coventry Road (referred to above) — a pair of flint cottages with brick dressings and pitched slate roofs.

(3) Flint building at the rear of shops in Portland Road — a two-storey flint building, immediately to the south of (1) above — partially hidden behind modern ground floor shop extensions. This seems to have an access archway below it which leads to a motor mechanics' business in the yard at the rear. Paul Sowan

Greenwich Heritage Centre opens

The Greenwich Borough Museum, which was founded in Plumstead in 1919, and the Greenwich Local History Library, which has been at Woodlands in Blackheath since 1970, have come together to form the Greenwich Heritage Centre at the Royal Arsenal site in Woolwich.

A large collection of family history resources — census returns, General Register Office indexes, directories and registers of electors — are available to the public. Researchers can consult the full range of historical sources, including books, and pamphlets, maps, drawings, paintings, prints, manuscripts and social history objects, as well as the borough's archaeological archive and natural history specimens.
Greenwich Heritage Centre, Building 41, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, London SE18 6SP. Tel: 020 8854 2452; Fax: 020 8854 2490. Web: Opening times: Tuesday — Saturday 9am-5pm Closed: Sunday, Monday and public holidays

British Archaeological Awards

The next British Archaeological Awards, roughly 12 in number, will be presented in just over a year's time. These, the 2004 awards, will be launched by Lord Redesdale at a ceremony on 20 November 2003 to be held at the British Museum, London. Tickets for this event will be £5 per head. The presentation of the awards themselves will take place at Queen's University, Belfast, on 4 October 2004. The deadline for the submission of entries is 30 May 2004.

If you are involved in an industrial archaeological conservation or research project, have just written a book, made a video or TV programme or completed some other kind of IT presentation you may be eligible to enter. You will be given advice on which of the awards may be pertinent for you. Good luck! Bob Carr
Contact the British Archaeological Awards Hon Secretary, Dr Alison Sheridan, about the middle of April 2004. Her address is Department of Archaeology, National Museums of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF

Port Cities Website

A new website exploring the history of five ports — London, Hartlepool, Liverpool, Southampton and Bristol — was launched in September. The website includes images from historic archives, museums and libraries of the five partners following the digitisation of over 60,000 photographs, paintings, drawings and documents.

Electric Tramway Blunder?

An advertisement recently displayed on the London underground implied that Victorian young women were familiar with electric street tramways. The boom years for the introduction of the electric tramcar across Britain were essentially 1900-3. The epoch when one could first travel by electric tram was very much Edwardian.

Was this some clever advertising trick intended to catch our attention and promote debate? The 'deliberate mistake' was compounded by the lady in the advert wearing a mauve outfit. Do readers have an opinion or more information? Bob Carr

SS Robin

Guided visits to see over SS Robin at West India Quay, close to the DLR station, are now available. These tours are in association with the Lansbury Voices Trust. Robin claims to be the world's oldest complete steamship. Bob Carr
For information and booking telephone 020 7538 0652 or visit For more about the ship visit

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© GLIAS, 2003