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GREATER LONDON INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY SOCIETY

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Notes and news — April 2004

In this issue:

Secretary's notes

The Greater London Archaeology Quarterly Review (July-October 2003) issued by English Heritage includes several reports on industrial sites:

Royal Arsenal, Woolwich

Merton Priory — the site of the first Abbey Mill. The evaluation produced 'evidence of a large historic mill-pond and masonry revetments', and the 'complete foundations of a mediaeval watermill with a revetted mill-leat and a large associated building. The mill-wheel, about 3m wide and undershot, sat between massive masonry abutments.' There was also an associated building with a large pool or tank, which seems likely to have 'had an industrial purpose, perhaps associated with cloth production.'

St Katharine Dock: a 'watching brief of pile probing holes found extensive remains of the walls and brick vaults belonging to Dock House and 'C Warehouse' of the West Dock ... built by Thomas Telford in 1825-28.'

The issue also reviewed Investigating the Maritime History of Rotherhithe: Excavations at Pacific Wharf, 165 Rotherhithe Street, Southwark published by MOLAS. There was a 17th-century timber river wall, which 'allowed occupation of marginal land. The site was used as a timber yard and then developed as a commercial wharf, with new waterfronts constructed in deeper water. In the second half of the 18th century the Woolcombe family of shipbuilders developed a new river frontage and a wet dock. In the early 19th century the Beatson family adapted the site as a ship-breakers' yard ...' The review concludes that 'the findings at Pacific Wharf provide important insights into post-mediaeval woodworking techniques ...'

I attended the February meeting of the London Archaeological Forum, which meets about three times a year at the Museum of London to keep archaeology societies in touch with developments. The main item was a presentation on the museum's proposals to update the Medieval Gallery, which they now propose should cover the whole period from the departure of the Romans to the accession of Elizabeth I. The report circulated for the meeting also reported on excavations at Crown Wharf Ironworks, Dace Road, E3: evidence included timber tanks from the 18th century, which had reused barge sections in its lining. The meeting was followed by a tour of the Ceramic and Glass Store at the LAARC, which includes Roman and Medieval ceramics, Tudor and Stuart stoneware, Whitefriars glass and imported German stoneware. If any members are interested, it is possible to arrange visits through the Museum of London.

Malcolm Tucker and I have also been busy on the society's behalf, commenting on a planning applications for redevelopment of the site of Stepney Gas Works. Malcolm has commented on an application for the proposed Olympic Games sites; and has met the archaeologist advising developers on the C J Mare Forge Building in Westferry Road, Millwall, E14. Brian Strong

GLIAS Lecture: James Henry Greathead and the London Tube system

Rob Cartwright gave the first lecture in the society's belatedly resumed lecture series in January. Greathead was born in South Africa in 1844, the grandson of a British settler. His father was a member of the Legislative Council in 1858, but the family then moved to London for the sake of the boy's education: James Henry studied maths, mechanics and engineering. They returned to South Africa in 1862 for business reasons, but his father then died in the following year.

Tower Subway, 30.5.08. © Robert MasonGreathead then returned to England, where he was apprenticed to Peter Barlow. He worked on railway schemes and proposals for a tube, using cable-hauled 'omnibuses'. In 1868, Greathead tendered for the Tower Subway, using a cylindrical shield (which was not patented) — the earliest modular shield which was moved as a single piece by screw jacks. The tunnel was 1,350ft long, with gradients at each end. The tunnel was completed in 10 months and opened in August 1870 — the world's first tube railway. Lifts were operated by steam engines and the cars which conveyed passengers through the tunnel were 10ft 6in long, 5ft 3in wide and 5ft 1in high. The fares were 2d first class and 1d second class. Unfortunately, it was not successful and by November 1870 was in receivership. It was then converted to a walkway, which was successful until Tower Bridge opened in 1894.

He was then involved in a shield to construct a tunnel in New York, using hydraulic presses; and the Woolwich Subway, which was constructed through water-bearing strata using hydraulic rams and tunnelling by compressed air. He obtained a patent in 1874 and designed a mechanical segment erector. He became a member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1874 and of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1881.

Rob Cartwright then turned to Greathead's role in building the deep level London tubes. The first underground railways (the Metropolitan, District and Circle Lines) were shallow and constructed in the 1860s by the 'cut and cover' method. The City and South London line was the first underground railway in the world powered by electricity. The original proposal was for a cable-hauled system, on which work began in May 1886, building the first shaft in the river Thames! The tunnels under the river were completed in January 1887.

In August 1888 the decision was taken to use electric traction. In 1889, experiments were undertaken with electric locomotives. The construction cost for the line was £½ million per mile, half that of the Metropolitan Line. The Prince of Wales opened the line as far as Stockwell in November 1890 and the first passenger services took place in the following month. There was a flat fare of 2d. In its first year 2.4 million passengers used the line; in 1891, there were over five million passengers.

In 1884, an improved shield had been proposed, using compressed air and hydraulic rams at a pressure of 500lbs/in². In 1885, a rotary cutter was patented, but not built because of the problem of disposal of spoil. This was solved in 1889, using high pressure water, but again was not built.

The opening of the City and South London Line was followed by an explosion in tube construction: the Central Line from Shepherd's Bush to Bank; the Baker Street to Waterloo Line; the lines from Finsbury Park and Hampstead to Bank; and the Waterloo and City Line. In 1892, a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament inquired into the overall development of the London underground system.

Greathead also worked on the Liverpool Overhead Railway (nicknamed 'the Docker's Umbrella') — another world first — which opened in 1893; and the Blackwall Tunnel, built with what was at the time the largest shield in the world, which was completed in 1896 and opened in May 1897.

Greathead died in 1896. Brian Strong

GLIAS lecture: St Pancras Station 1865-2007 — A Journey Through History

Roderick Shelton, historic buildings consultant to Channel Tunnel Rail Link, gave the February lecture on both the history and future of St Pancras Station.

St Pancras Station. © Robert Mason 2017 The Midland Railway originally used King's Cross and Euston stations, before developing its own station adjacent to King's Cross. The engineer was William Barlow, consulting engineer to the Midland Railway and the architect was, of course, Sir George Gilbert Scott. Scott ignored parts of the brief and proposed a building two storeys higher than specified! The line involved a viaduct and canal crossing. The station is itself built on a gradient, with its undercroft which was used as a warehouse for Burton ales. The competition for the design was held in 1865 and awarded to Scott (without the extra storeys). Work started in 1866 and took 2½ years, with a link to the Metropolitan Railway opening in October 1868. Meanwhile, work on the hotel had started in 1867 and was opened in 1873.

The single span roof was designed without columns so that it could be altered easily, but the works for the Channel Tunnel high speed line will be the first time it has been done. The roof originally had roof and furrow glazing (Joseph Paxton was a director of the Midland Railway), but was later changed. The ridge and furrow system is to be restored in the new works. Mr Shelton then discussed the use of the station from 1868 to the post-war period, illustrated by many contemporary slides. The station was bombed in the First World War, affecting the cab rank and the tower, but little evidence of this has been found. In the Second World War, Somers Town goods depot and St Pancras station were both hit. A bomb went through the deck of the station and into what is now the Thameslink tunnel, destroying or damaging columns, which were then repaired under the War Damage system. The station was closed for only a week. In the post-war period, the glazing was changed, making the station darker. He showed a slide of a Tilbury boat train — forerunner of the new high speed link. On the freight side, the hoist to the undercroft was removed. Slides included the coal drops and depot, Somers Town goods station and the watering of horses.

The hotel was closed in 1935 and became the Chambers offices. Belfast trusses were put in the Booking Hall roof. In 1966, British Rail proposed to close the station, which was listed Grade I in 1967, but not properly maintained. The beer trade in the undercroft ceased in the 1960s. It has since been used for taxi repair, an archive store and a bonded warehouse. Parts of the original turntable pits have been found.

Eurostar offers the opportunity for renaissance. The current works will double the length of the station. Only the Eurostar will use the Barlow shed; the Midland Line trains will use one side the new station (involving a longer walk for passengers!) and lines to Kent will use the other side. A new Thameslink station and tunnels are being built, as well as the rebuilding of the underground interchange. Work on the train shed will include reinstatement of damaged brickwork to the original detailed specification; and the repair, cleaning and repainting of ironwork. The undercroft will be dug out and reinstated — this requires careful work, as the columns are not bolted down at the base! Mr Shelton showed slides of some of the archaeology, including a fire alarm where the key was still inside its unbroken glass box! Other slides showed the original gas meters, dated 1867 and 1868, both made in Edinburgh, with decorative dials in gold leaf.

The east side of the station was expected to be opened in a couple of months. The Barlow shed will then close for the work to be done, including providing for the much longer Eurostar trains. Eurostar is expected to open in 2007, with work on the new hotel a few months behind. Mr Shelton concluded with a first for a GLIAS lecture — a virtual reality walk around the new station in 2007! Brian Strong

The King's Cross bridge and CTRL

The new Channel Tunnel Rail Link bridge north of King's Cross (GLIAS Newsletter February 2004) was pushed across the East Coast Main Line from the west at Christmas during a 55-hour occupancy (no trains). This was the largest UK railway civil engineering work to be undertaken over Christmas 2003.

The Rail Link which will eventually cross the new bridge is being built westwards from a great trench at Stratford. A tunnel boring machine (TBM) is working beneath the North London railway line and will eventually emerge from a portal immediately to the east of the new bridge. Intermediate shafts have been sunk near Navarino Curve Junction (TQ 345 849) and to the east of Corsica Street (TQ 319 848). Once the TBM has passed a shaft it will be used to remove spoil from the workings. Presumably rail will be used to minimise extra road congestion. Does anyone have information as to where the westbound TBM is working at present? A second TBM is working eastwards from Stratford towards Dagenham.

When the CTRL is completed the shafts will have emergency facilities in case it is necessary to stop a Eurostar train in the tunnel and evacuate passengers. This means customs and immigration arrangements will be necessary at each shaft. Bob Carr

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link overbridge (GLIAS Newsletter February 2004) crossing the East Coast Main Line has been mentioned in recent railway magazines. One confirms that the bridge was moved into position during 24-26 December and another gives the reason for it being enclosed as noise reduction for nearby residents. David Reason

King's Cross gazetteer

Enfield Island Village

In response to Bob Carr's question at the end of his piece on Pearson's Department store (GLIAS Newsletter February 2004) the 121 bus does indeed now run to Enfield Island Village, and passes on its journey from Turnpike Lane station the third Pearson's store in Wood Green (the second being in Bishops Stortford). The Wood Green store is their newest store being opened in February 1996.

The Enfield Island Village is a housing development on the site of the Royal Small Arms Factory. The village on the island is reached via a bridge over the river, giving the houses and other buildings an isolated feel. A few of the old buildings are used as a business centre, housing management, fitness centre and a recently opened Interpretation Centre, but the rest of the 1,000-home estate is made up of low-rise flats and semi-detached, two- and three-bedroom identikit houses. There is a huge pressure on local authorities to build houses in the south east on so called 'brownfield sites', a legacy of our industrial past. Issues of contamination from toxins and even radiation were addressed in a book produced by Friends of the Earth (Unsafe as Houses — Urban Renaissance or Toxic Timebomb? ISBN 1 85750 329 5)

The history of the Royal Small Arms Factory is well rehearsed elsewhere, for example 'RSAF Enfield and its workers' by David Pam. RSAF was sold off by the government in 1984 and its subsequent closure by British Aerospace in 1988 saw the end of munitions production in the area after almost 200 years.

Also passed on the 121 bus route are several co-op outlets formerly run by the Enfield Highway Cooperative Society. The local co-op was set up in 1872 for the benefit of workers on the Enfield arms manufacturing site.Cherry McAskill
The site has an interpretation centre (ie a small museum) and offers a two-part history trail around the site. Only buildings remain but they have been imaginatively restored and integrated into this modern housing development. Website: www.rsaiv.co.uk

Brunel bridge

The earliest of eight surviving Isambard Kingdom Brunel iron bridges in England has been discovered hidden within a modern brick road bridge over the Grand Union Canal near Paddington Station.

English Heritage's inspector of ancient monuments Dr Steven Brindle found Brunel's surviving notebooks with designs and records of load testing for the cast-iron beams of a Paddington canal bridge, dating from 1838. Letters about the bridge, from Brunel to the Grand Junction Canal Company, were also found, but it was not known if the structure still existed. It was finally found, surviving as the Bishops Bridge, just a week before it was due to be demolished as part of the Paddington Bridge Project.

The structure will be dismantled and hopefully reconstructed in time for the 200th anniversary of Brunel's birth, in 2006. The next stage is to secure funding for its full restoration and find a new location. One option is to install it as a public footbridge over the Grand Union Canal in Paddington.

London Transport outside London

We tend to think nowadays of London Transport serving the region roughly within the M25 and that's it. Fifty years ago London Transport served much of the Home Counties. This fact was recently brought home when preparing material for the 2004 AIA Conference Gazetteer which will be given to delegates attending the event at Hatfield.

Just considering the conference area, in 1948 there were LT (red) bus garages at Palmers Green, Tottenham, Enfield, Hackney and Potters Bar. Green country bus garages were located at Epping, Hatfield, Hertford, Hemel Hempstead, Hitchin, Luton, St Albans, Tring, Watford High Street and Watford Leavesden Road. Probably most of these buildings still survive. Does anyone know if the Luton garage is still there? It's hard to think of Luton, with its midland atmosphere — 'the North begins at Luton', as a former London Transport bus town. Bob Carr

Diagonale

The well-known architect Will Alsop (born and brought up in Northampton) thinks the towns and suburbs between London and Birmingham along the M1 corridor may link up to form a Supercity. Together with Thames Gateway this will create a conurbation stretching from Wolverhampton to Southend-on-Sea. Alsop calls this Diagonale. He has similar feelings about a Supercity stretching along the south coast, roughly from Hastings to Poole, which is to involve the construction of piers parallel to the coast on which tall buildings would be erected.

With plans to build housing on the Green Belt this kind of thing no longer sounds that far fetched. Our population has not ceased to grow, especially in the South East, and people want their own separate houses with garden. At present farmers are encouraged to set aside land so they don't grow too many crops. There should be farm land to spare for more housing. Have readers been following this kind of debate? Bob Carr

DLR extension

The Government has given the go-ahead for a £150m extension of the Docklands Light Railway under the Thames which will extend the railway by 2.5km from North Woolwich to Woolwich Arsenal.

Tunnels will be bored under the river, extending the line from the planned King George V station in North Woolwich, just east of City Airport.

The earliest the project could be completed is 2008, but finance still has to be secured. It is expected to be funded in the same way as the Lewisham extension, using the Private Finance Initiative.

Estimated journey times for the new line would be 26 minutes between Woolwich Arsenal and Bank and 18 minutes to Canary Wharf.

All change at Finsbury Park

The area of granite sets outside the old eastern entrance to Finsbury Park railway station has recently been replaced by tarmac. It looks as if the new road surface will be used by buses. The former railway character has now almost gone but to the south east there is still a building clad in pale brown 1930s faļence tiling which used to be the Silver Bullet public house. Part of this survives as a pub now called The Gaslight and the old Silver Bullet lettering can even now be made out.

The Silver Bullet dates back to the 1930s and the introduction of streamlined trains running to the north on the King's Cross line. These really captured the public imagination (they were meant to) and of course were the delight of small boys. The Coronation was one such train and after each journey the exterior was washed down with 'Lux', probably as much to advertise Lux as to clean the train. The train attendants wore Garter blue uniforms with pristine white lapels and highly polished silver buttons. Pure white gloves and blue peaked caps with white cap bands completed the outfits.

However, most railway travellers saw very little of this glamour and London commuters got a particularly raw deal. Owing to numerous tunnels the main line northwards had just one track in each direction and this painful situation was not remedied until the 1950s. The streamliners could not be delayed and to give them the clear road they needed local trains were often held in loops for quite long periods.

Do any older readers have memories of commuting on the pre-war LNER from King's Cross before there were four tracks most of the way? Incidentally where in London was the Coronation washed in Lux? Bob Carr

Heathrow Terminal Five

Work is under way constructing Terminal 5 at Heathrow. It will be very big and use the M25 for road access to minimise extra traffic on existing roads.

The railway service from Paddington, Heathrow Express, will be extended to Terminal 5, as will the Piccadilly line underground.

Most of the aggregate for new construction will arrive by rail at the Colnbrook Logistics Centre to the north west of the airport and only use road for the last part of its journey, again to reduce road traffic.

An excellent rail tour on 30 August 2003 (Hertfordshire Rail Tours) visited the Staines West branch and ran south to Colnbrook as well as visiting the Angerstein branch in Greenwich.

A new air traffic control tower designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership will be 285ft high and is due to open in 2006. It will allow controllers to see all parts of the airport clearly. The mast which will support a five-storey 850 ton upper section to house the controllers will consist of prefabricated sections jacked up from below and when finished the tower will be steadied by four pairs of tensioned guy wires. The present control tower is only half the height of the new one and will not be able to cope when Terminal 5 opens in 2008.

Two rivers, the Longford River and the Duke of Northumberland's River, currently flow through the Terminal 5 site and will be diverted along new courses on the Western Perimeter Corridor. Nearly four miles of new channel are being built and the diversion will be completed by May 2004. Bob Carr

Some memories of steam

In the late 1960s I designed fans and ductwork to remove sawdust and woodchips from woodworking machinery.

My work took me to a number of sites and the memories that follow were often gained from a single visit (I was supposed to be surveying for the new plant!) and hearsay from conversations at the time.

One of the most memorable visits was to J Brace & Sons Ltd, The Sawmills, High Ongar, Essex. The more so as I was able to take a Central Line tube train from the middle of London to Ongar and walk up a hill (I still don't drive) to a steam-driven sawmill, admittedly in its last days of steam.

Chance had played a large part in its survival till then. Its position on the top of a remote chalk hill had probably prevented it getting an industrial electricity supply until late. It had survived through the war taking local oak from Epping Forest and producing gateposts, etc, for farmers. Wood waste was a convenient fuel. The chalk hill had enabled dry underground trenches to be dug for lineshafting, pulleys and belts serving each woodworking machine. The odd concrete base was put down for machinery and bearings for the shafts.

The main drive had been from, I was told a 'Garratt loco', I vaguely remember a brightly painted composite boiler and engine. (Was it really a loco without the wheels?) The chalk hill had been its downfall, years of heat and ashing out had eroded the chalk beneath the loco and it was no longer safe. A simple expedient was adopted while a three-phase electric supply was bought in. A sheet of corrugated iron wall was removed and a rusty threshing engine bought up to drive part of the lineshafting.

One disadvantage of the hidden lineshafting was lack of maintenance. In the noisy sawmill a dry bearing would not be heard, and would either seize or wear the shaft, eventually it broke. A selling point for us was that once each machine was converted to individual electric motor drive, the trenches, when cleared of lineshafting, were ideal for our ducts, saving the more usual overhead distribution and drops to each machine. Brace's still existed up to at least 1988.

This combination of chalk, local timber and sawmill was not unique. I visited one other, but the motive power was gone. It was far away, at East Bros, West Dean, Nr Salisbury, Wilts. This time an industrial electric supply had not, until then, been allowed to cross the adjacent Southern Electric railway line.

The main use of steam in the woodworking industry was to serve timber-drying kilns. As you can imagine steam was generated in a variety of boilers, vertical, Cornish, Lancashire and Economics. Even loco boilers were pressed into service. One I remember well was at Aaronson Bros, at Rickmansworth, Herts (or is it the boilerhouse tea, made with live steam, I remember?). This Jewish firm had started in wood veneers, huge logs were soaked in vats and thinly shaved by either equally huge 'planes' or 'lathes'. They developed chipboard and the well-known veneered 'Contiboard' using wood from vast estates in Africa and India. They also (cheaply) obtained the rights for 'Melamine' board, a cheap 'Formica' from its inventor? Berry. The factory and boilerhouse were beside the canal. Wood waste was burnt on a 'step grate', rather like a flight of stairs ending in an underground pit of firebrick, the wood burnt as it tumbled down the steps. Perched on this was the firebox of a loco boiler, the products of combustion went through the tubes to the smokebox which connected to a free-standing chimney. We needed a large second-hand economic boiler for a client who was moving to Harlow New Town. We bought one from Fred Watkins who dealt in second-hand machinery from the top of a hill in Coleford, Glos. I could never understand why or how all this stuff was dragged up there. My enduring memory when I went to see the boiler was a vista, I thought as far as the eye could see, of rusting steam locos with their smoke boxes open!

A last use of steam in the woodworking industry, which I never saw, was bent wood furniture. Although the bent wood chair was very familiar then, I can't think when I last saw an example. The back and rear legs were bent from one piece of round, steamed wood shaped like a hairpin. The seat frame was one or two pieces of wood bent in a circle, in its crudest form covered with a circle of drilled plywood. The individual front legs were bent to give a 'kick' at their bottom to add stability. George Hopton of Uxbridge used to be one of the makers of bent wood furniture, but, by the time I went there, they were just dealing in imported hardwoods. Until he died recently, a local small boatbuilder down here, Russell Curnow, used to steam wood for the planking of his boats. He had a very crude arrangement of a 6in or 8in tube sealed at one end, with an electric immersion heater. A little water was kept boiling in this and the small planks were stuffed in until Russell deemed them pliable enough. His mate was positioned inside the boat to hold the end of the copper rivets as Russell hammered them. Lines Bros (Triang Toys) at Morden had a novel way of firing their boilers with woodwaste. The shavings, offcuts etc were carted to the top of retorts, the slow combustion produced methane which burnt with a beautiful blue flame in the boilers. We installed a machine to chip the offcuts and blow it all to the retorts. The unions did not like us replacing the manual labourers and sabotaged the chipper, which did not help the firm's viability. Dave Hill

Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Brunel University for his advocacy of Isambard Kingdom Brunel during the BBC television series Great Britons. (Brunel was in the lead at one time and came second to Sir Winston Churchill — a considerable boost for the status of engineering in the eyes of the general public). The honorary doctorate was presented at a ceremony on 21 July 2003.

Although on a television programme Jeremy Clarkson announced that he was now a doctor, to do him credit he did allow himself shortly after to be thoroughly discredited on technical matters by a young lady who had studied engineering at Cambridge and had a PhD in the subject. If you missed the programme there was a discussion regarding the difference between a supercharger and a turbocharger. From memory the young lady had done research involving the Wankel internal-combustion engine.

Anyway the outcome seems to be that we now have yet another TV presenter doing programmes on the history of technology. Jeremy Clarkson's episode on the gun was predictably bloodthirsty but one learnt that there is on average a Kalashnikov rifle for every 60 people on the planet, while in the USA, where gun shops are more common than petrol stations, there is on average one gun per person (200 million). The programmes have since moved on to air travel, the telephone and television, etc. What with Fred Dibnah, Salvage Squad, Adam Hart-Davis, Peter Bazalgette, Time Team, We Built This City, Men of Iron, Dan Cruickshank, Kirsty Wark and so on, plenty of underwater archaeology, and not to mention numerous programmes on the Second World War (including its archaeology), it is getting difficult to find time to write for this newsletter.

The Open University has been perpetuating the myth of the youthful James Watt being told off by an aunt for wasting too much time wondering at the boiling kettle. Although a nice story is this not just a Victorian invention? Some media programmes do like to set up a rather unlikely or discredited premise and then proceed to demolish it as if to show off how clever they are. Is the Open University about to set this kind of task as an exercise for the student?

Returning to Jeremy Clarkson he does seem to be filling a useful gap left by nearly all the other industrial archaeology presenters in that he is covering more recent technology. This is the kind of thing presently interesting people whose age is less than that of the average age of the GLIAS membership. From first hand experience there are plenty of younger people with a great interest in old motor bikes, the sophisticated circuitry to be found in pre-war British radio sets, period motor cars and aeroplanes, electric traction, anything Art Deco, post-1945 architecture and especially anything connected with the Second World War. It is just these kind of topics that industrial archaeology generally has failed to roll forward in time and embrace. We should therefore not wonder that a younger generation is showing little interest in our industrial archaeology * and is setting up its own organisations to study and disseminate information about what it finds relevant. Much of this is being done via the internet.

Jeremy Clarkson with an image younger than that of most other industrial archaeology presenters is in a good position to front programmes on last century's technology and put across the idea that doing science and technology at university is desirable. We should hope this new direction continues and that Jeremy doesn't just revert back to high-performance motor cars once the present series is over. Bob Carr

* When at school they probably heard quite enough about wind and water mills, cotton, canals, steam railways and so on from a master who was a keen IA buff and are now anxious to find out what happened next.

James Mason and the goldfish

I have been following with great interest the debate about goldfish in the Holborn Gents' lavatories (GLIAS Newsletter February 2004) .

I used to work in the neighbourhood years ago and used these toilets. Certainly I did not see any goldfish but I did appreciate the glass cistern and fine tiles and cleanliness. Geoffrey Fletcher, whose book I still possess, does mention the goldfish — I do not know why he denies it or says it was a joke for I've heard others confirm their existence.

However, in the mid-sixties a film was made about curious places in London and it starred James Mason who was filmed in the toilets in question and as he stood at the urinal (in an attitude of relieving himself) he glanced upward at the glass tank and told the viewer the story of the goldfish. The camera panned upwards to reveal the tank — minus goldfish. Eric Jeal

Thameside News In Brief

The former wool warehouse near Hooper Street remains unconverted. The Millennium Dome is to be used as a sport and concert arena with 10,000 new homes being built in the vicinity. Redevelopment starts next year. The Dome will be an asset in London's bid for the Olympic Games in 2012.

Along the foreshore by Woolwich Arsenal ship hulks are being uncovered. While of archaeological interest these wrecks are vulnerable. The attention of young children and the public generally is undesirable and we have the usual dilemma regarding public access and the protection of archaeological evidence. Concrete barges opposite are also at risk, in this case would-be scrap merchants present a problem. There are 30 registered wrecks in the Thames Strategy area.

At Ford's Dagenham the car assembly plant has closed but diesel engine design and manufacture is flourishing. Three new wind turbines over 300ft high are to be built and one of them will have a public viewing platform which should be a boon for GLIAS members. The ferry at Dagenham ceased operation in mid February.

Withdrawn Routemaster buses are being stored at Purfleet. (About 15 years ago Atlanteans and single-deck buses of a similar date were stored at the Royal Docks.) One can now buy a Routemaster for £2,000. Many London bus routes currently using Routemasters will change over shortly although route 13 was still using RM Routemasters on 18 February (ref Routemasters GLIAS Newsletter February 2002). An A registration vehicle RM441 was noted. The 73 bus service which goes to the Swan at Tottenham is shortly to introduce 'bendy buses'. Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 2004