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Notes and news — October 2004

In this issue:

Obituary: Peter Roberts 1947-2004

Peter, a long-time GLIAS member, died in May. He was a man of many interests, being active in sailing barge restoration at Maldon, leading towing path walks of the IWA and active in CAMRA almost from its start. A windmill enthusiast, while chairman of his local history society he had access to Upminster Windmill, and this led to one of the most frightening experiences of my life: to be taken up to the cap of the mill where it seemed to me that there was nothing but a tiny rail to prevent my rapid return to earth. Peter, whose eyesight was limited, seemed unmoved by this, while I was more or less paralysed with fear.

After his terminal condition was diagnosed shortly before Christmas, it was still 'business as usual' and Peter bravely continued to come up from Upminster to London to attend meetings of GLIAS and other societies until shortly before he died. His funeral was crowded out, a deserved tribute to his popularity among his various circles of friends, and later his ashes were scattered from Upminster Windmill. Richard Graham

Current research at Crossness

Grade 1 Listed Industrial Building. © Crossness Engines Trust It is not just 'Prince Consort' that has occupied the time of the volunteers at Crossness, although up until steaming it focused the minds of many of them! Planning for the siting of the 'other' engines in the care of the Trust has been continuing more actively since 'PC' was brought back to life.

The Valve House, a building at the western end of the site, has been selected as being suitable for the other engines. It is fairly close to the Boiler House and a steam main, from the current boiler, will be run into the Valve House. A few months ago it was discovered that the Valve House floor had been built over a series of brick arches, 16ft 6in centres and about 9in thick, with a floor covering of about 12in or so of concrete on top. This has caused a problem as the Easton & Anderson (E&A) engine, which was in use at Addington and came to Crossness via the Museum of London, has a flywheel 18ft diameter that requires a pit, below floor level, right through an arch!

Further research showed that in 1878 the Metropolitan Board of Works had purchased six ex-GWR broad gauge locomotives. Two of these were for use at Crossness, in the Valve House at the western end, minus their driving wheels, to drive four pumps for lifting storm water. Easton & Anderson were selected to do the mechanical engineering conversion and Thomas Docwra the building alterations. The building alteration drawings, apart from showing what work was required, gave useful information about the arches. Another piece of research gave some indication of what went on at the eastern end of the house where the E&A engine was to be sited. The arches extend right across the site from the western end of the Valve House to the eastern end of the Fitting Shop. In 1879 six vaults in the Fitting Shop and two in the Valve House (eastern end) were used for the treatment and then the storage of water for the boilers and, in the Valve House, for locomotives. The two vaults in the Valve House were not in the area where the E&A engine was to be sited.

Work continues in the Valve House as it does just outside the house where the excavation of a disused penstock chamber is going on, but that is another story. David Dawson

Research sources: London Metropolitan Archive for MBW minutes and contract drawings, etc.

We at Crossness, have for some time been aware of the outline of a structure in the form of brick walls at ground level. It was not until the end of April this year that anyone made investigation as to exactly what this 'structure' might have been.

Research with the aid of maps and plans of the Southern Outfall Works showed that there had been a penstock chamber and a ventilation shaft at the site in which we were interested. The location is at the eastern end, and just to the north of the 'Valve House', and is surrounded by a cluster of four Sycamore trees. The whole site occupies an area some 4.7m by 4.53m, the penstock chamber measuring 2.45m by 4.53m overall, the long axis being on an east/west line.

Preliminary investigations made by Crossness Engines volunteers revealed a cast-iron devise held against the inside of the north wall of the penstock, at the western end. The method of attachment was by means of a wrought-iron bolt passing through the wall and secured through a wall-plate on the outside. The device (although broken) measures 310mm by 355mm and is roughly 'T' shaped, and although we have so far nothing to corroborate our suspicions, it is thought to be one side of a penstock-gate guide. The eastern end of the north wall indicated there had been a similar 'guide' attached, the evidence being a groove through the wall where the bolt had passed through, and iron staining on the brickwork where the 'guide' had been clamped.

The Crossness Engines Executive were of the opinion that we should seek professional assistance, and so the Bexley Archaeology Group (BAG) were invited to conduct investigations of the site. Members of BAG came and assessed the work so far carried out and after approving work done so far, set about the job of excavation, reporting back to a CEE representative. At first the finds were only of mild interest, the penstock chamber having been back-filled with a variety of detritus — fragments of stone-ware soft-drink bottles, red concrete roofing tiles, bricks (glazed and non-glazed) and everyday rubbish. At a depth of approximately 1m there is a course of bricks running east/west along the south wall. Three feet from the south wall there is a metal girder, 127mm wide by 152mm deep, running east/west. Attached to this girder are two stanchion with part hand-rails attached, bent over to lay in alignment with the girder. Evidence of the hand-rails let into the south wall of the chamber indicate that the corbled brick-work level with the metal girder supported an iron grid with a 'safety rail' attached through the girder and returned to the south wall.

scan On the north wall in the north-east comer of the chamber, at approximately 737mm depth, the fractured remains of the eastern guide for the penstock-gate was located. Working on the measurements of the 'guides' and their distance apart, the penstock gates would have been close to 3m wide, this figure tallies very well with plans we have of other penstocks on our site.

After consultation between a BAG representative and a member of CET, it was decided that there would be only a minimum gain by excavating further. Safety equipment would need to be installed and further precautions taken, with very little idea of just how much deeper the archaeologists would need to dig before further evidence of an important nature came to light. It was decided that the dig would cease and the Crossness Engines Executive would make a decision on what will happen with the site. Peter J Skilton

Kirkaldy Testing Museum instruments

The museum has a store of nearly 50 extensometers, instruments used mainly for measuring the small elastic extension of pieces under tensile load, in order to determine the tensile (or Young's) modulus. About a dozen instruments are for measuring the small time-dependent, or creep, strains that occur at elevated temperature (which implies testing above roughly half the melting temperature of the substance, when measured on the absolute (Kelvin) scale). Of all these, only about a dozen are duplicates. Most of the different types have now been set out on display, some mounted as if on a test piece, others in their boxes.

None of these instruments is original to the Kirkaldy Works. Indeed, few such instruments had then been invented, though David Kirkaldy (sen) designed one if not two types as part of his 'testing system'. They deserve a full study though types from about the turn of the 19th and 20th century have been examined recently by Paul McCarthy, a Friend of Kirkaldy Testing Museum.

It seems the earliest extensometer we have is an Ewing instrument of 8in gauge length (c200mm). Ewing's patent, dating from 1894, is for a device with a nominal 2 to 1 mechanical lever with the enlarged movement measured by a microscope with calibrated eye-piece. The exact date of manufacture of this particular instrument is not known — perhaps about 1900. A second 'copy' differs in a number of details and probably dates from c1910-20. Another early instrument is a Cambridge Instruments Vibrating Reed extensometer, dating from 1908, in which the reed acts as a very sensitive 'feel' for a micrometer measurement of extension. Of similar vintage, if not a little earlier, is an Unwin torsion meter for measuring the angle of elastic twist of a piece subjected to torsion, again with a calibrated microscope, in order to find its torsion modulus.

Several optical and mechanical lever instruments date from about 1920 onwards (Lamb optical lever types from 2 to 6in gauge length (c50-150mm), Martens and Avery mechanical types using 4in and 2in gauge lengths (c100mm and c50mm) respectively. A selection of Huggenberger mechanical lever types with from 8 or 12 to 1 leverage operate on a gauge lengths from 1in (c25mm) down to as little as ¼in (c7mm). All these types were made over a period of at least 20-30 years so the exact date of manufacture is not known. More recent types include those with the extension measured by 'dial gauges' some on a relatively long gauge length (such as 4 or 8in, c150 or 200mm) and others with a mechanical leverage (such as 2 to 1) but operating on a shorter gauge length (such as 2in, c50mm, Gerrard and Lindley types).

Broadly, the long gauge length optical lever types (including some not represented at Kirkaldy Testing Museum) were used for the determination of modulus. Lindley dial-gauge extensomers were widely used in the Second World War era for determining the 'proof stress' (or the onset of permanent deformation) when testing the aluminium alloys mass produced for aircraft manufacture and another type, the Hounsfield screw micrometer with an electrical contact to give 'feel', became popular in the 1950s-60s. Thereafter, various electrical types, resistive, inductive or capacitive, came to the fore, since that allowed automatic recording on chart plotters or, for dynamic testing, on cathode ray tubes, just in the period that the Kirkaldy works were closing — Kirkaldy Testing Museum has one pair of variable inductance type of about 1950 vintage.

The Kirkaldy Testing Museum had an extremely good open day as part of the London Open House Weekend with visitors peering in a quarter of an hour before we opened at 10.15 and a quarter of an hour after we closed at 4.30

We had a full house all day with a total of 316 visitors. Ted Turner

Kirkaldy Testing Museum website:

London To Birmingham

The first Virgin train in passenger service to 'tilt' was a cross-country Super Voyager running between Oxford and Banbury on 29 April 2004. At first sight this seems an unlikely length of track to choose for such an event but when it is realised that the line was originally built to I K Brunel's Broad Gauge the additional clearance would have made it easier to convert the route for such running.

Trains were allowed to tilt on the West Coast Main Line from Euston from Monday 14 June 2004. This involved the new Pendolino trains. However, when the winter timetable comes into force on Monday 27 September 2004 we should see dramatic changes. The Pendolini will presumably then be fully tilting. In the rush hours Silverlink trains will be confined to the slow lines and much quicker journey times for Virgin are promised. The average journey from Euston to Birmingham New Street is planned to take one hour 23 minutes with two hours six minutes for London to Manchester and four hours 40 minutes London to Glasgow.

This is fine if you are a Virgin inter-city traveller but commuters on the less prestigious Silverlink services may not be so happy. The Silverlink service from Northampton to Birmingham will cease altogether to be replaced by Central trains running only once per hour. A major problem is the double-track Rugby to Wolverhampton route; just a single line in each direction preventing overtaking. Fast Pendolini would be impeded by slow Silverlink trains here.

In peak periods Virgin will no longer call at Milton Keynes. However, Northampton will have two Pendolini running to London in the morning peak period with a return service in the evening. One wonders if the economical tickets from London to the West Midlands and beyond which were offered by Silverlink and Central Trains will be available in the future?

The new Pendolini have regenerative braking and each can return up to 5mW to the overhead power lines. This means that the West Coast power supply system has had to be upgraded to allow for several Pendolini close together braking at once. The new trains were assembled by Alstrom at their Washwood Heath factory near Saltley, Birmingham. For testing the Pendolini were taken to a special test track at Old Dalby, Asfordby. This is a line closed to regular traffic and was part of the Midland Railway's route from London to Nottingham via Melton Mowbray. After full tests here the trains were then transferred to a West Coast depot for further running in on passenger lines before they were paid for and allowed to enter revenue-earning service. Each train cost more than £11m.

The spirit of road competition is certainly not dead. National Express coaches' new NXL Shuttle service to Birmingham from Victoria coach station and Golders Green will be half hourly during the day. This service via the M1 motorway is to start on 13 September ready for the new 27 September rail timetable. Passengers are guaranteed leather seats, air conditioning, convenient luggage facilities and plenty of leg room. The average journey time should, traffic permitting, be two hours 10 minutes from Golders Green to Digbeth coach station. This is all a bit reminiscent of 1959. Some single fares at £1 are being offered. The maximum fare will be £19 return.

The writer LTC Rolt is well known for his books on the industrial and engineering past but he also wrote about contemporary topics. In 1959 he produced The London Birmingham Motorway sponsored by Laing, the contractor for much of the M1 work (GLIAS Newsletter August 2004). This book does not appear to be in the British Library Catalogue but the Public Record Office has a copy. Are any GLIAS members familiar with this work? Bob Carr

Transport changes in London

Work is now under way extending the Docklands Light Railway from Canning Town south-eastwards to City Airport and North Woolwich. Along Woolwich Road it will follow the route of the Silvertown Tramway and after a tunnel in the Connaught Road area will have a station just south of the Airport terminal building. From here it will head eastwards along the south side of King George V Dock to a terminus to be called King George V north of Rymill Street. The line as far as North Woolwich is due for completion in December 2005. The new DLR will presumably replace current Silverlink train services to Silvertown and North Woolwich.

Further extensions of this route are to include a tunnel under the river looping southwards to serve the extensive housing developments now being built on the Woolwich Arsenal site. Trains will terminate heading westwards close to the current Woolwich Arsenal station.

On the buses the much-loved Routemasters are to be replaced on all but 'heritage' routes. The number 73 and two other Routemaster services were converted to bendy-bus operation on Saturday 4 September 2004. With the use of articulated buses rather than double deckers are we falling in line with Germanic transport practice? Initial response to bendy-buses on route 73 has been unfavourable, much standing is involved at peak periods, but people need time to get used to things. Bob Carr

Bus companies Stagecoach and Go-Ahead are planning a full-scale tourist service around the capital's landmarks using Routemaster buses which were to be scrapped and replaced with bendy buses.

Stagecoach and Go-Ahead have decided there is a market for them on tourist routes and will also employ dozens of bus conductors whose jobs were to go when the old service was axed.

Meanwhile, Arriva has been hit with a £1m bill for bigger garages after the new bendy buses were too long to fit in existing depots.

London's Industrial Archaeology No 8

The cover picture is entitled 'Nineteenth Century roadmenders at work in London'. Under magnification, the noticeboard on the left of the picture is headed 'South Eastern Railway', and the street sign to its right possibly 'JOINER STREET SE'.

A recent visit to Tooley Street, SE1 suggests that the tower in the background is that of Southwark Cathedral. However, the area of the Joiner Street junction with Tooley Street was extensively altered in connection with the Jubilee Line extension works, and the large footbridge over Tooley Street prevents any attempt to confirm the original viewpoint. Richard Graham
Copies of London's Industrial Archaeology No 8 are available from the GLIAS sales list

Coal hoppers at Hornsey

The piece in the latest GLIAS journal (London's Industrial Archaeology Number 8) about the Camden hydraulic accumulator tower mentioned the system working a coal hopper.

As a child both before and just after the wars I stood on a bridge to get the steam and smoke, although in my case at it was Hornsey station as my granddad and uncle were engine drivers working from what I think was called Ferme Park Locomotive Power Depot at the edge of Ferme Park marshalling yard. We used to meet them from work. That bridge was bombed on 9 October 1940 by a sneak raider and my granddad's friend Edgar Wentworth was sheltering under his loco by the bridge (in accordance with orders). As well as demolishing the bridge it destroyed Edgar's loco, killing him — the super-heater tubes were found over a mile away.

At the side of that footbridge next to the engine shed were the coaling hopper, the water crane and the turntable. The hopper always amazed me as a child, a truck was put on a platform at the side of the tower, it was clamped in some way and then the whole thing rose to the top of the tower and the truck was totally inverted (I also saw a similar one at Cricklewood). After going under the hopper for coal the loco went under the water crane where I enjoyed seeing the fireman pull the chain and see the huge gush of water as the tank overflowed. It then went on to the turntable; pre-war this was rotated by the driver and fireman turning a double crank. After the war it had been adapted to be operated by the loco's vacuum brake pipe being connected to the turntable mechanism. I never knew what powered the truck lift on the hopper.

My granddad was coaling under that hopper when a large piece of coal jammed, he freed it with the long poker and it fell on his head fracturing his skull, from then on he had a silver plate in his skull. He was finally invalided out because he had a 'blow back' in the firebox while running down hill. The burns to his leg exacerbated varicose veins (drivers stood for most of their shift) leaving him with venous ulcers, which lasted until he died.

One more historical point. Every week he got a little booklet called 'Permanent way checks'. This detailed all the repairs to and around the 'roads' covered by that 'loco', temporary speed limits, hand signals, look outs etc. He had to learn the ones relevant to the 'road' he was working and when he clocked on could be questioned by the foreman 'Hobnail Harry' or the Locomotive Superintendent. He had an early ASLEF membership number, which was on his badge (I think it was 1268) and according to his rulebook could be fined five shillings for 'causing his locomotive to be involved in a collision.' Bob Rust

Fire fighting in London

The ubiquitous elegant fire stations built by the LCC in Vicwardian times were conceived at a time when fire engines were steam fire pumps pulled to the scene of action by teams of horses. At the station pumps had to be kept on standby with a fire made up and on the hectic journey to a conflagration a stoker at the back had to put more coal on the grate and raise steam to maximum pressure ready for the pump to deliver a forceful jet of water. It must have been a stirring sight to see an engine with bell ringing rush by with galloping horses and smoke billowing from the chimney. This was quite a common event in Edwardian London although now almost beyond living memory.

The first steam-powered fire engine, on land, was introduced in 1860 and until relatively recently most firemen used to be ex sailors. The last horse-drawn fire engine in London was withdrawn from Kensington fire station in 1921 and the two horses there were retired. The Science Museum acquired 'London's last horse-drawn fire engine' made in 1902 by Merryweather and Sons Ltd. It is now on display at the Science Museum's store, Wroughton (south of Swindon).

The first self-propelled motorised fire engine delivered to a public fire brigade was only built in 1904. This went to Finchley and not surprisingly was again made by Merryweathers who built so many engines which can be seen in museums all over the world. Resplendent with polished brass they indicate clearly how the ex sailors spent much of their time when not actually firefighting. Merryweathers are no longer in business, they closed in the late 1960s, but the façade of their manufactory can still be seen in Greenwich High Road.

At the Science Museum's store, Wroughton, a street electric telegraph device is on display which was used to summon fire engines. This is made of cast iron and painted black and yellow. About six feet high it consists of a box supported on a fluted column. A brass handle on the front of the box was to be turned to send an electric signal to the fire station. You were then expected to wait until the fire engine arrived and direct the firemen to the scene of the fire.

A white enamelled plate with black lettering announced that there was a £5 reward for information leading to the conviction of anyone giving a false alarm and from memory the penalty for misuse of the telegraph was £25. The Science Museum acquired the device c1952 which agrees with the amount of the fine. In the 1950s the penalty for pulling the communication cord on a train without good cause was £5. The maker of the fire telegraph had a London address. Do any readers remember seeing one of these in a London street? Bob Carr

Science Museum opens its stores

Science Museum artefacts that have never been seen by the public are to go on display, the institution announced today. The attraction's vast store rooms which hold a treasure trove of objects from the world of science, technology and medicine are to be opened up to visitors. The Science Museum galleries are filled with more than 15,000 objects but there are over 170,000 hidden away in the Blythe House storerooms in Kensington. The tours are free but spaces are limited and must be pre-booked on a first come, first served basis.
Tel: 020 7942 4884. Email:

Deptford and Woolwich

Readers will be only too aware of how housing redevelopment along the riverside has rendered much of Thameside permanently unusable for shipping activities. Nearly all the wharves have gone. Currently a campaign is being waged to prevent the Deptford Dockyard waterfront from being redeveloped in this way. Deptford and Woolwich Royal Dockyards were situated at two of the best locations on the Thames, where deep water is maintained by natural scour. Not surprisingly the Crown had the pick of choice sites when selecting where its shipyards were to be built and it would be a great tragedy if Deptford (Convoys Wharf) is to be lost to shipping for all time. From Barnes Terrace you can see the two c1847 shipbuilding sheds in which wooden warships were constructed.

A bronze statue group to commemorate Czar Peter the Great's visit to Deptford to study shipbuilding in 1698 was unveiled on 5 June 2001 by Prince Michael of Kent accompanied by the Russian Ambassador. The work is by Russians Mikhail Shemyakia (sculptor) and Vyacheslav Bukhayev (architect) and is situated by recent flats near the entrance to Deptford Creek. On the west bank of the creek, close to the site of Sebastian de Ferranti's pioneer power station of 1889, the bronze figures are on a polished granite plinth made in St Petersburg. The statues were to be cast in Deptford. Does anyone know who cast them?

The eastern peninsula at the entrance to Deptford Creek has been totally cleared and awaits redevelopment. Small ships carrying sand and gravel still use the creek and berth just above Creek Road on the east bank which means the road bridge is still opened from time to time. A Stothert & Pitt crane is used to unload cargoes. The MV James Prior was noted at the berth on 27 August 2004.

The Grand Surrey Canal, which closed in 1971, must be almost the only canal in the country without an enthusiast group campaigning to reopen it. Is this correct?

Currently the MV Balmoral and the replica Endeavour operate occasional passenger cruises from Woolwich Arsenal and the Woolwich Dockyard waterfront is not entirely private housing, although flats are now being built on the site of Cubow's shipyard. Recent archaeological excavation at Woolwich Arsenal has unearthed an enormous treasure trove of industrial and military remains. What is all too clear is that when a contractor undertakes to demolish anything, demolition does not proceed further than is strictly necessary. This often means that just about everything below ground level is untouched. At Summerlee Ironworks, Coatbridge, Scotland, the late 1930s 'demolition' was especially parsimonious and substantial blast furnace and ancillary building remains, some even above ground level, allowed the establishment of an excellent museum.

At Woolwich Arsenal steam hammer bases, casting floors, machine beds and building foundations have been discovered on a bewildering scale. Here archaeologists and developers are working in partnership, with recent archaeological knowledge being utilised in planning new building locations and where to put foundation piles. In the past, the Arsenal when disposing of redundant military items, for instance when peace was declared, would often adopt the easy way out and just bury their 'rubbish' using any convenient hole that needed filling. This has provided the 21st century with a rich legacy of historic arms and munitions for scholarly study. Bob Carr

The demise of steam — A premature announcement!

In his article 'More Memories of Steam' (GLIAS Newsletter August 2004) Dave Hill claims that, with a few exceptions, steam is dead. This is certainly not the case.

Members of AIA and the Newcomen Society who visited Longannet power station in Scotland in 2002 and 2003 saw steam in use in a big way. In fact the Scottish Parliament has recently authorised the re-instatement of the railway line to Longannet via Alloa to improve the transport of coal to the power station.

Travelling through Yorkshire on the East Coast Mainline the steaming cooling towers of Drax, Eggborough and Ferrybridge power stations show that Longannet is not alone. Dave may dismiss this as 'old technology' but the modern, natural gas fuelled, Combined Cycle power plants that have sprung up all over Great Britain have a gas turbine followed by a waste heat boiler, often with supplementary firing, which provides steam to a steam turbine to form the second stage of the combined cycle. While in the process industries large quantities of high pressure steams are generated and used in ammonia and methanol plants and, on a smaller scale, in many others.

Coming down from the big to the micro my local dry cleaner recently had a complete upgrading of its equipment with a smart new, well planned and installed steam system to feed its Hoffman presses.

Dave appears to have been unfortunate in being associates with steam systems that were badly designed, poorly installed and manned and maintained by morons. Those of us who spent our working lives in the chemical and process industries were, on the whole, more fortunate.

Steam lives on — long live steam. Patrick Graham

Industrial accidents at Hall's Stoats Nest (Coulsdon) and Alfred Bullock's Haling Down (South Croydon) Limeworks: The Deaths of Charles Dulake and Ernest Dulake

Mineral workings open to the sky, provided they were 20 feet deep or deeper, were legally classified as quarries for the purposes of the Quarries Act 1894 and, from 1 January 1895, became subject to Inspection by HM Inspectors of Mines and Quarries. These inspectors served also as Inspectors of Factories for any associated processing plant. The Inspectors' Annual Reports contain lists of quarries, some statistical employment data, and reports on accidents and prosecutions of their owners or operators.

Two men sharing the uncommon surname Dulake, who have been ascertained as having been related, died as a result of accidents at two of the larger limeworks operating in what was to become in 1965 the southern part of the London Borough of Croydon. One occurred the year before the coming into force of the Quarries Act, the other five years after.

Contemporary accounts of both accidents reveal interesting technical details of the nature and mode of operation of late 19th-century limeworks.

Halls' Stoats Nest limeworks (Coulsdon)

The family partnership which was ultimately incorporated as Hall & Company Ltd traced its origins to George Valentine Hall (1786-1845) at Jolliffe & Banks' limeworks and stone quarries at the southern terminus of the Croydon, Merstham & Godstone Iron Railway at Merstham. In due course, members of the Hall family took over the lease of these works, but gave this up and developed new chalk pits and lime kilns at Coulsdon in 1864. Robert Hunt recorded Halls as also occupying the chalk pits and limeworks at Betchworth in 1858, as well as at Merstham, although C G Dobson's lavishly produced but historically deficient company history (A century and a quarter, 1954) fails to mention these. The partnership was incorporated as Hall & Company (Croydon) Ltd in 1898, and as Hall & Company Ltd in 1918.

The circumstances of Charles Dulake's death

On Sunday morning 21 October 1894 George Gibbs, a fellow labourer at the works, discovered the dead body of Charles Dulake (48) lying on the top of one of the lime kilns. His feet and lower legs were charred to the bone. An inquest was held at the Red Lion inn on Tuesday 23 October, at which it was reported that Dulake had been 'addicted to drinking to excess' although according to Gibbs the deceased had not to his knowledge 'been the worse for drink' during the six weeks he had been employed by Halls. However, Edwin Gardner, station-master at the nearby railway station (presumably what is now Coulsdon South), reported that Dulake had arrived on a late night train from Croydon on Saturday 20 October 'very much the worse for liquor'. He had had to be helped out of the station by a porter. He (Gardner) had not seen Dulake in that condition before.

Gibbs' evidence concerning the discovery of Dulake's body throws some interesting light on Halls' kilns and their operation at the time.

He had discovered Dulake's body 'lying on the top of one of the kilns, dead. The fire had not then nearly reached the top but deceased's legs were burnt. From the position in which he was lying he was of opinion that he tumbled headlong into the kiln and became senseless from the fumes.'

A Dr Hugo, having been summoned, had arrived at the kilns at about 8.45 that Sunday morning, reported that in his opinion Dulake had then been dead some five or six hours, and thus presumably died in the early hours. The deceased had died of suffocation by the carbonic acid (that is to say, carbon dioxide) given off by the kilns. The burns had been caused after death. The jury returned a verdict of death from misadventure, which Dulake's death certificate attributed to the influence of alcohol.

This sad event raises some interesting questions concerning the kilns and how they were operated.

Industrial-scale flare kilns

In 1894 industrial-scale 'flare kilns' were still in common use. These were worked on the intermittent principle, being loaded by hand with chalk and fuel, fired, allowed to burn out, and allowed to cool before being unloaded by hand. During this process the large lumps of chalk were converted to significantly lighter but otherwise similarly large lumps of quicklime. It was necessary, for complete calcination of the entire kiln full of chalk, to allow the fire to burn right through to the top of the entire charge.

During the operation of the kiln, a tonne of pure white chalk gives off just under half a tonne of carbon dioxide gas, leaving just over half a tonne of quicklime.

The firing and cooling cycle, and the fact that the fire had to burn right through to the top of the charge, obviously made the operation of this kind of kiln expensive in fuel. It was also expensive in terms of manpower, as every charge had to be loaded and unloaded by hand. This sort of 'flare kiln' was generally built surmounted by a brick cone to assist the draft and keep out rain (a photograph of Halls' flare kilns at Merstham is reproduced in Dobson's book). Photographic records survive of such conical-topped flare kilns at other local limeworks, such as those at Betchworth, Brockham, Dorking, Oxted, and Riddlesdown. A drunken man might fall against one of these cones, but could hardly fall into such a kiln unless he c1imbed the brick cone (of the order of a couple of metres high and as steep as a house roof) and then fell into the relatively narrow circular vent at the top. Had Dulake fallen into such a kiln, he could have been discovered by Gibb only by the latter climbing the cone side and peering in. Recovery and examination of the body from a flare kiln would have meant clambering down into a now very hot and enclosed space with a high carbon dioxide content!

Draw kilns

Gibbs' evidence allows us to conclude that Dulake did not fall into a flare kiln. And indeed it strongly suggests that Halls were operating draw kilns in 1894. Draw kilns (also known as perpetual or running kilns) were operated continuously. They were generally simple vertical brick cylinders, with an unfenced circular open top. The kiln would be started by loading it with alternate layers of chalk, old pitch-soaked railway sleepers, and coal. Thenceforward, for months or years, additional chalk and coal were tipped into the top from time to time, as quicklime was drawn from the bottom causing the kiln contents to subside. Within the height of the kiln, the lower third would be quicklime being cooled by air drawn in at the bottom: the middle third would be where the fire was concentrated: and the upper third was chalk and coal being warmed and dried by the hot carbon dioxide and spent air (mostly nitrogen) escaping from the top of the kiln. Economic management of this sort of kiln would ensure that the fire was kept in the central part. If the fire burnt through to the top, heat energy (and thus fuel) would have been wasted.

When the unfortunate Dulake fell into the kiln, he quite probably landed on comfortably warm chalk, and was quickly (and painlessly) asphyxiated by carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning might also have been possible, if the kiln was burning with a deficient air supply. The fire burned through towards the top of the kiln later on the Sunday morning, charring the feet and lower legs of the corpse.

Alfred Bullock's Haling Downs limeworks

There appears to have been a chalk pit at Haling Downs (currently behind the houses in Biddulph Road, South Croydon) since the earliest years of the 19th century, and it seems likely that this was greatly developed for and by the Croydon, Merstham & Godstone Iron Railway, which operated from 1805 to 1838. Between 1803 and 1805 it is more than probable that this chalk pit supplied the material for making the massive CMGIR embankment supporting the overbridge at Chipstead Valley Road. Chalk pits worked as sources of material for constructing railway embankments are not uncommon. In the late 1890s those at Purley provided material for doubling the line from two tracks to four from South Croydon to Coulsdon, for example.

Later in the 19th century, the Haling Downs pit was worked as a conventional limeworks, converting chalk to quicklime in kilns. There were certainly lime kilns at this site by 1839, apparently owned by one James Sadler. By the middle of the century the Pettifer family were operating the limeworks, succeeded towards the end of the century by Alfred Bullock, a prominent general contractor and carman, and builder, and keeper of the Central Livery Stables in Fell Road. He was responsible for a number of buildings in Croydon, including the Whitehorse Road and Woodside schools in 1891, and the rebuilding of the Swan & Sugar Loaf public house in 1896.

Ernest Dulake's death

In the four years 1807 to 1900 Bullock employed from five to seven men at his Haling Downs limeworks, among them Ernest Dulake. On 3 January 1900 Dulake (22), a labourer, while at work at the chalk face with a crowbar, was injured by a fall of chalk. He died of his injuries on 15 January.

Consequent prosecutions of Alfred Bullock

The Inspector of Mines and Quarries, having learned of this death, made it his business to look into Alfred Bullock's (or his manager James Whiting's) management of the works. He had in fact in May the previous year notified Bullock that 'he was breaking the law in many ways'. 'When I paid a visit to the quarry and works in January 1900, I discovered that he was persisting in this neglect. Fines and costs amounting to £12.18.6d, to say nothing of his legal expenses, at once brought about an astonishing alacrity to do everything to my satisfaction. A conviction before magistrates is a safe cure for the "absent-mindedness" from which so many quarry owners suffer.'

Bullock was convicted under the Metalliferous Mines Act, 1872, the Factory and Workshop Act, 1878, and the Quarries Act 1894, for (1) Neglecting to report the death or Ernest Dulake; (2) neglecting to keep a record of boiler examinations; (3) neglecting to have daily reports made of the condition of the plant; (4) not posting up an abstract of the mines and quarries Acts; (5) not posting up the relevant Special Rules; (6) not fencing a fly-wheel; (7) not fencing mill gearing; (8) not fencing dangerous parts of the machinery; (9) employing a child who had not been medically examined for a certificate of fitness; and (10) not posting up an Abstract of the Factory & Workshop Act.

Nature and purpose of Bullock's machinery at the limeworks

From this it is clear that Bullock had a steam engine and grinding mill at his works. Assuming this to be directly related to the lime-burning operations, this plant is most likely to have been for grinding quicklime. At this period, limeworks commonly sold quicklime either as 'lump lime' as drawn straight from the kilns, or as 'ground lime'. Quite apart from the dangers posed by unprotected mill-gearing, working in a place where quicklime dust was flying about would have been a somewhat hazardous occupation. Purchasers of quicklime, in either form, for building purposes commonly slaked it themselves on site. Limeworks started to supply slaked lime about the second and third decades of the 20th century.

I am grateful to Robert Dulake of Hornchurch for the information here relating to the death of Ernest Dulake. He has also ascertained that Charles was a first cousin of William Henry Dulake, Ernest's father. WH Dulake, a railway clerk, was living at Hooley in 1881, and at Coulsdon (Station Road) in 1891. Paul W Sowan


Anderson, John Corbet, 1867, Antiquities of Croydon Church [Advertisements pages]
Anon, 1894 Coulsdon. A man suffocated at the lime kilns. Surrey Mirror, 27 October 1894.
Croydon Parish, 1839, New valuation of Croydon Parish
Dobson, CG, 1954, A century and a quarter. the story of the growth of our business from 1824 to the present day. Croydon: Hall & Company Ltd.
Dulake, Charles, 1894, Death certificate
Foster, Clement Le Neve, 1901,5 of HM Inspector of Mines for the North Wales &c District (No. 9) .. under the Metalliferous Mines Regulation Acts, 1872 and 1875, and the Quarries Act, 1894, for the year 1900.
Hunt, Robert, 1860, Mining records. Mineral statistics of the United Kingdom [&c] Being part 11. for 1858. Memoir Geological Survey.

The Goldfish Saga continues

I am sorry if Bob Rust feels angry (GLIAS Newsletter August 2004). This goldfish saga is just another example of how difficult it is to recover anything about even the recent past with total certainty (let alone the real past). I have gone back and collated all references to the subject in the Newsletter and Bob Rust first introduced the topic in GLIAS Newsletter December 2002, with eight further mentions.

As always, one has to be clear what the claim is. It is that he and his brother saw goldfish in the tanks up to 1960, when the attendant retired.

Fletcher's illustration is dated Feb 1961. Fletcher wrote that he pointed out the resemblance of the tanks to fish tanks and to his delight the then attendant confirmed that a previous attendant had used them for that purpose. Thus the suggestion came from Fletcher, and was not volunteered by the attendant, and was hearsay.

No one claims to have seen goldfish post 1960.

Malcolm Holmes in GLIAS Newsletter December 2003 states that in 1963 he was personally told by the long standing supervisor and attendant (who by implication would have been there pre-1960) that it was not true; and by Fletcher that he made it up.

Fletcher, in a new introduction to a reprint of the book in 1989 in which he updates the sites, specifically takes the opportunity to correct the James Mason film in two instances. Eric Jeal in GLIAS Newsletter April 2004, describes Mason in the film using the urinal and showing the tanks. It seems curious that if Fletcher had recanted the story he should not have mentioned that in 1989 alongside the other two mistakes in the film which he does correct.

So we have a direct conflict of evidence between Bob Rust, and Malcolm Holmes' supervisor/attendant. Those of us who are familiar with Urban Folklore appreciate how fallible human memory is, how prone to contamination, and how vehemently tellers of Urban Myths believe in their truthfulness (with no slur on their character implied), and how pervasive they can become once established. That is why contemporary documentation is always preferable to human memory. Until pre-1960 documentation is produced (and surely so extraordinary a sight must have been commented on in print/photographs/film), then I personally think the issue is unproven either way. Roger J Morgan

I have a video tape of a film which I recorded from Channel 4 TV sometime in the early 1980s, it is called 'The London Nobody Knows'.

In this film James Mason (looking resplendent with flat cap and brolly!) tours various parts of London, including the Holborn loos. The credits state that the film was made by Norcon Film Productions in 1967 and the script was written by Geoffrey Fletcher being based on his book of the same name.

Mason says (and I quote his exact words) '...which reminds me of another story, of the goldfish a former attendant kept in one of his tanks in the Holborn gents'...' at this point the film shows goldfish swimming in a glass cistern. Mason goes on to say '...these fish don't live here of course, we just popped them in by way of illustration ...' after talking about the Victorian workmanship he finishes with the phrase ', one might say, one finds the only true democracy, because all men are equal in the eyes of a lavatory attendant'.

From the film clips it can be seen that the cistern supports are very rusty and the toilets appear to be in a 'run down' condition, although they do flush, and the gas lighting works. However, one gets the impression that quite possibly they were not open to the public at this date. So, as previous correspondents have intimated, Mason/Fletcher does not actually claim it to be a true story and if it was, then it happened long before 1967. Ed Marshall

SS Robin News

The SS Robin gallery is open and is showing Beyond The Fall, a collection of images documenting the decline of the Soviet Union. Work has started on restoring the original steam engine and the task of repainting the hull continues. Volunteers are needed to help supervise the gallery, especially on Saturdays, and also construction support is needed to improve the deckwork and electrics. David Kampfner, Project Director, SS Robin Trust
Open from 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Entrance to the exhibition is free. Website:

La Coupole

Further to the article on the Highbury Corner Commemoration of Second World War flying bomb damage (GLIAS Newsletter August 2004) readers may be interested in La Coupole, a gigantic Nazi underground bunker that I visited a few years ago.

Situated in the Pas-de-Calais, 5km from the town of Saint-Omer, La Coupole was designed by the Nazis, in 1943-1944, to store, prepare and launch the V2 rockets, the secret weapon that Hitler was counting on to destroy London and reverse the course of the war. It is a fascinating place to visit and very well set out. Lawrance Hurst
Further details are available at

Anyone seeking more information on the V weapon sites in Northern France will find 'Hitler's V weapon Sites' by Philip Henshall (Sutton Publishing, ISBN 0 7509 2607 4) most useful as it lists all the sites, their locations and the weapons deployed at each one. Martin Foreman

Lowne memories

At the age of 91 I am organising a family history scrapbook. Having just reached the page devoted to my brother Arthur E Irwin I searched on the internet for Lowne Electric Clocks and was delighted to find the little write-up in your newsletter (GLIAS Newsletter April 2002).

Arthur worked with Fred Lowne for some years and he and Fred married the Sureties sisters Ruby and Joy. Arthur was born eight years before me and I only remember him as the rather distant big brother but there are one or two things I overheard in conversations regarding his work. I gathered that these wonderful precision clocks, beautifully made with great love and care were a great success, but the business acumen of Fred and his delightful mother and father was completely lacking and it was my brother who struggled to keep the books up to date. He used to describe how the Lowne Family would sit around the dinner table working out what to charge a particular customer. Nothing seemed to be written down and Mrs Lowne who could not pronounce her 'rs' used to put a word in now and then such as 'Don't forget to put your bus fare in, Fweddie' and that would be added on.

Sadly, just at the time when Smith's Electric Clocks came on the market meaning a large drop in Lowne sales my brother nursed his father-in-law with cancer until he died, only to be told six months later that his wife, also with cancer, had only six months to live. He never got over this, and aged 52 died of a coronary soon after her death. It is so good that this firm which cared so deeply about the quality of their clocks is still on record. Kathleen Ward

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© GLIAS, 2004