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Notes and news — December 2004

In this issue:

AIA Conference 2004: Hertfordshire and the Lea Valley

The Association for Industrial Archaeology holds an annual conference, each taking place in a different part of Great Britain. The Conference usually consists of a one day seminar on topics of current IA interest, held on a Friday; the formal conference from Friday evening to Sunday lunch time, with lectures of national or local interest; and further lectures and visits to local IA sites through to the following Thursday. In addition, a Gazetteer is produced of as many as possible sites of local interest.

The AIA approached GLIAS in late 2002, proposing that the 2004 Conference should be held in London. A central London location was considered too difficult in the light of contemporary traffic and security problems, not to mention cost, so it was agreed to hold the Conference at the new de Havilland Campus of the University of Hertfordshire at Hatfield; and to relate the lectures and visits to Hertfordshire and the Lea Valley. The Conference was planned by a small steering group of GLIAS/AIA members: Bill Firth, Tim Smith, Bob Carr, Mary Mills, David Perrett and Malcolm Tucker; Tony Crosby and Tony Parkes (AIA), and myself as secretary. Bill Firth took the chair until his death in December 2003, when Tim Smith took over.

The conference took place in August and was extremely successful. Bob Carr organised the Friday seminar. The conference lectures and visits related to many sites in the area, including the New River; the malting and papermaking industries; Abbey Mills and Three Mills; the Royal Gunpowder Factory. Planning took more than 18 months and involved a great deal of effort by all those listed above. In addition, Tim Smith and Bob Carr, with help from Malcolm Tucker, Tony Crosby and others, put together the gazetteer, which is the most up-to-date catalogue of IA sites in Hertfordshire and Lea Valley (see review).

Following the conference, Mike Bone, the retiring chairman of the AIA wrote to thank all those concerned, saying:

In addition, Professor Angus Buchanan, president of the AIA, wrote:

Professor Marilyn Palmer, who took over the AIA chair, and Peter Neaverson also wrote to thank everybody involved, adding:

GLIAS is affiliated to the AIA which means GLIAS members can attend AIA conference at a reduced rate. Brian Strong

From the Secretary's Postbox

The February-April issue of the Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service (confusingly, they abbreviate it to GLAAS!) contains the following items related to industrial sites in London:

The review also refers to a number of new publications, including 'Paddington Station: its History and Architecture' by Steven Brindle, published by English Heritage.

The May to July issue of the GLAAS Quarterly Review includes the following items:

Members may not be aware of the very thorough work done by Malcolm Tucker, in commenting on planning applications on behalf of the society. The load has been particularly heavy recently, because of the extensive proposals for redevelopment in East London relating to the Olympic bid and other developments, in which Tom Ridge has also been heavily involved. The society has commented on the Tower Hamlets UDP First Deposit Draft; a draft Lower Lea Valley Area Action Plan and an Olympic Games Applications and Legacy Masterplan, Environmental Statement. The society has supported proposals for Conservation Areas in Tower Hamlets, and an adjacent area of Hackney; and, in relation to the Olympic proposals, has identified the need for a major historical study, on the Model of the Survey of London, informed additionally archaeological, economic and engineering insights, which it is hoped will be supported by English Heritage. The society has also assisted the London Borough of Haringey in identifying important industrial sites in the borough in relation to its revised UDP.

The society has also commented on the revised proposals for the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station; planning applications affecting the forge of the former Millwall Ironworks in Westferry Road and the former Stepney Gas Works; the King's Cross Redevelopment; the viaduct on the Limehouse Curve; and an appeal on Bow Wharf.
Brian Strong

The First Testing Machine

So who made the first testing machine?

Chambers Dictionary (CD) defines 'machine' as 'any artificial means or contrivance; any instrument for the conversion of motion'. The Oxford Concise (OC) says 'apparatus for applying mechanical power, having several parts each with definite function' but adds, for Mechanics, 'instrument that transmits force or directs its application'. Among 14 different meanings for 'power' the OC also states 'electrical or mechanical energy as opposed to hand labour'. For a testing machine we must surely add the restriction, 'for the purpose of obtaining some of the mechanical properties of a material'.

The first definition in Chambers embraces all of contenders below since all are surely 'contrivances'! The first in the Oxford Concise, together with its notion of power, eliminates them all since all were hand operated!

We are therefore restricted to the second meaning in CD 'conversion of motion' and the quite contrary one in the OC of 'instrument that transmits force' or possibly to both taken together.

Leaving aside the early civilisations for whom we have no record on such matters, the earliest systematic tests recorded were made in c1600 by Leonardo da Vinci. He tested copper wire by hanging weights on it thereby 'transmitting force' but not by using an 'instrument' (OC). He gave a small downwards motion to the wire as it stretched, but that did not 'convert motion' (CD).

In 1725, Desaguliers, in London, used a lever just hooked onto a frame to measure the force required to separate two pieces of lead 'wrung' together, but seemingly he did not test the strength of any material, so fails that requirement.

In 1756, van Musschenbroek, in Holland, tested small pieces of wood and metal in tension using a simple lever hung by a screwed rod from a frame, with a small moving jockey weight. The screwed rod allowed the lever to be moved up or down its supporting frame to accommodate different lengths of test piece. He thus uses an 'instrument to transmit force' (OC), though not to 'convert motion' (CD).

In 1790, Perronet, in France, scores with a 'universal machine', a lever so arranged as to allow testing in tension as well as the original purpose of just compression. That 'transmits force' (OC) but again does not apply motion (CD).

In 1809, Rondalet, in France, adapted a similar lever machine, albeit for testing only in compression, by moving the otherwise 'fixed end' of the piece as it compressed under load, to allow the lever to kept in a horizontal position during the test. That both 'transmits force' (OC) and 'converts motion' (CD) and points clearly to Rondalet, in 1809 as inventing the first 'machine' for testing.

In the literature, some credit Rondalet as first with a testing machine while others credit van Musschenbroek.

But if the more restrictive meaning of 'mechanical energy as opposed to hand-labour' is called into play, then we probably have to go to one of the large chain testing machines. The first application of mechanical power to drive the gears or hydraulics of such machines is uncertain, but it seems possible that one installed by Brown and Lennox in a large iron works at Pontypridd, South Wales, around 1817, might win that claim.

The first recognisable forerunner of a large 'modern' (ie 20th-century) type machine, designed to test in several modes, and with a good lever system to measure the load, was a hydraulically operated machine of 130t (c1.3MN) capacity built by W Williams at the Cyfartha Iron Works, Merthyr Tydfil, in 1829. Whether its hydraulics was hand or power operated is not known; probably power.

And spare a thought for David Kirkaldy, who in the mid-1850s used a hand operated 'outdated' simple lever with no 'take up' mechanism, yet made a series of tension tests on wrought iron and steel that brought him sufficient fame to encourage him to resign his post at Napier's Shipyard, Glasgow, design his now famous 'big machine' (Kirkaldy Testing Museum's pride and joy, still workable) and set up in London as a consultant on testing materials, soon achieving a world-class reputation.

So perhaps we should look to the purpose, insight and ingenuity of the early engineers, not just at their contrivances. Ted Turner

Firefighting expressions

In my part of London (N22) in the 1940s the street fire alarm was of a different type. It looked like a cuckoo clock. Instead of the dial was a little glass window, it was painted red and mounted on a pillar about 4ft 6in tall. Cast into the front was the wording 'In case of fire break glass and pull handle. Wait for arrival of fire engine. Penalty for improper use £5'. Breaking the glass caused a door to drop taking the broken glass away from the handle, which was clearly marked 'Pull'. Pulling this released a clockwork mechanism. This operated something like a Morse key, it sent a coded message to the fire station showing which box was involved.

The use of ex-sailors certainly left its mark on the London brigade. Firemen are hands who work in watches denoted by bell signals. There are no ropes, only lines. At one time the working cap of London was the peakless fore and aft cap of the seaman. When firemen pull or lift they count 'two, six, heave', not one, two, three. This, I have discovered, dates back to the days of muzzle loading cannon on the wooden warships. When the gun was fired it came inboard, after reloading it was pulled out by a block and tackle on each side operated by numbers two and six of the gun's crew. Thus the number one gave the order 'two, six, heave'.

Before street fire alarms a person discovering a fire would shout 'Fire' in the direction of the fire station, this would be taken up by the next person in that direction until the station was reached, thus in the 21st century the fire brigade turns out to 'a shout'. If someone rings the bell at the station to report a fire it is 'a running call' as it is if someone hails a passing fire engine.

In the days of the horse-drawn machine the special harness was hung in the roof of the appliance room. When 'the bells went down' (an expression I have never had explained) it could be dropped onto the horses. An old fireman told me that the horses were in stalls at the side and on hearing the bells would put themselves into position to be harnessed. There is one final phrase dating from that time. An appliance or fireman ready to go to work is said to be 'on the run'. The back wheels of the old steam pump were put up on a sloping ramp (the run) making it easier for the horses to start and quickly come to a gallop, thus it was 'on the run' ready for work. Bob Rust

See also GLIAS Newsletter October 2004

Locomotive Coaling Plants

Locomotive coaling plants which hoisted a railway wagon about 50ft from rail level and emptied the contents into a hopper (GLIAS Newsletter October 2004) were commonplace at larger depots. Generally of reinforced-concrete construction most were demolished by 1968 when British Railways ceased to use coal-fired locomotives. Forty years ago they were a prominent feature of our landscape together with power station cooling towers, colliery pithead winding gear, blast furnaces, gasholders and for that matter tall smoking chimneys. Apart perhaps from gasholders in Greater London almost all these indications of an industrial nation have now disappeared. A large-size locomotive coaling plant may still exist at the Carnforth depot in Lancashire which for many years was home to Steamtown.

In British Railways days c1953 Hornsey depot had the code 34B. King's Cross was 34A. Locomotives carried a cast-iron plate showing their 'shed code' fixed to the lower part of the smoke-box door to indicate where they came from. Keen locomotive spotters knew all the codes by heart. There were about 350 in total. Hornsey (TQ 311 892) was quite a large depot which specialised in motive power for freight trains. Passenger locomotives were based at King's Cross depot (TQ 300 838). The official term for an engine shed was Motive Power Depot (mpd). Note that train shed is something quite different. A train shed is a covered area for accommodating railway passenger carriages. This was to protect the fine varnished finish of the woodwork from the sun. In the earlier days of railways there were relatively few trains and most carriages could be kept in the passenger station itself. As traffic grew and more carriages were brought into use they had to be moved out to carriage sheds down the line. Excellent examples of train sheds can be seen at King's Cross TQ 303 832 and St Pancras TQ 301 830.

Plans of an LNER concrete coaling plant were published in the Railway Modeller, May 1967. They are sometimes called coaling towers. In the late 1940s they attracted the attention of artists. A striking period depiction of a reinforced-concrete coaling plant in 'contemporary' style used to be on display in a milk bar on the east side of Granby Street, Leicester, roughly opposite Calais Hill or Dover Street. The row of houses which accommodated the milk bar still exists and is close to London Road railway station. The Leicester mpd (15C) north east of this station itself had a similar coaling plant constructed post Second World War. You got a good view of the Leicester coaling plant from Hutchinson Walk, then popularly known as 'birdcage'. From memory the coaling plant artwork in the milk bar was a print so perhaps one of these still exists. Do any readers remember seeing one? The artist, who might perhaps have been an architect, was probably not based in Leicester. His style was slightly reminiscent of the American Lionel Feininger (1871-1956) but from memory the coaling plant was definitely not in the US. Bob Carr

London Buses — Bendy is trendy — But …

Routemaster buses at Victoria station. © Robert Mason The number of Routemaster buses running in London has been reduced to fewer than 200. Bendy buses will replace Routemasters on route 12, leaving only seven routes operated by RMs and RMLs. They are to be removed from regular service altogether by the end of 2005 (GLIAS Newsletter October 2004).

Bendy buses are 18m long, nearly 60ft, so three stopping nose to tail take up a great length of pavement. When most buses are bendy Oxford Street is going to be very crowded. The bus stops in central London are likely to be repositioned even further apart which will hardly help the disabled. There is much to be said for stacking one deck on top of another as in the traditional double-decker bus. High-rise buildings are said to be good for us so why not high-rise buses?

The use of articulated buses is acceptable along broad Continental boulevards and probably in outer London but in crowded streets nearer the centre there are considerable problems, as on the 73 bus route. When a van or lorry stops in an awkward place bendy buses can have difficulties getting round a corner. The short RM Routemaster bus was much better in narrower winding streets. On some routes in London bendy buses will probably be quite all right but many well-established routes are likely to prove unsuitable. Let us hope the learning process is not too painful. We may see the replacement of bendy buses by new double-deckers on several services.

It is all too easy to get knocked off a bicycle in Oxford Street. The driver of a bendy bus must have real difficulties keeping track of the independent rear; it can have quite a life of its own. Having ridden in the rear section of an articulated Mercedes bus the motion can be quite alarming at times, eg on steep corners. Drivers will have been retrained to drive the new buses. Hopefully there will not be a spate of accidents. Bob Carr

Printing Ink Works

Riverside Works, at 419 Wick Lane, Tower Hamlets (TQ 373 837) is the former printing ink works of John Kidd & Co, established in the 1860s, though the present buildings mainly date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In its heyday the works supplied most of Fleet Street with ink. It is thought to be one of the few remaining purpose-built printing ink factories, and it is under threat of demolition. We need to know if, indeed, any other printing ink factories of similar or earlier date survive. So if any member has information about ink manufacturers we would like to hear from you. Tim Smith

Demolition of Historic Buildings

Soane's Bank of England, the London Coal Exchange, the Euston Arch, the Firestone Building, the Weaver Grainstore Swansea, Brynmawr Rubber Factory and now the Tricorn Centre — all these once had their supporters campaigning for conservation but they lost.

The Tricorn Centre, Portsmouth, by Owen Lauder opened c1964 has attracted recent media attention with treatment at a 'popular' level. An article in The Times (20 January 2004) defended Tricorn and there has been a campaign by the Portsmouth Society for a solution other than total demolition but this has proved unsuccessful. Not even a token retention like that at the Bull Ring, Birmingham, will take place. Complete destruction by the Controlled Demolition Group Ltd making use of a Cat 245 Longreach 'cruncher' is currently under way and will take 36 weeks. Bob Carr

The New Canal Mania

Canal reopening and even the building of new ones is reaching heights of activity unprecedented since the early railway age — 170 years ago. The reopening of the Forth & Clyde Canal appears to have been a tremendous success as part of a greater scheme to rejuvenate and 'beautify' the industrial region of central Scotland. This seems to go hand in hand with the Green movement, involving the planting of trees and the provision of better habitat for wildlife as well as allowing the local population to visit a countryside, albeit much tidied-up, more easily. It is all about getting rid of brownfield sites (basically industrial archaeology). Where the Forth & Clyde Canal was blocked by new bridges allowing very limited headroom locks either side now lower boats sufficiently to give better clearance. However, sadly there is no longer sufficient headroom to pass Clyde Puffers. The old Forth & Clyde Canal had lifting bridges.

In the Midlands the Ashby canal is being rebuilt northwards back to its original terminus at Moira Furnace, some of this involving construction along a completely new line. A wide canal free of locks which for most of its life has been used for the transport of coal southwards from local pits, the Ashby Canal should now attract plenty of pleasure traffic.

At Foxton near Market Harborough on the canal route from the East Midlands to London a new boatlift to bypass the flight of locks there may well be built. The boating community would be happy for this to happen but industrial archaeologists are concerned at the likely destruction of remains of the abandoned Vicwardian lift. The new lift will presumably be large enough for wide boats.

There is at present even some commercial activity on the Grand Junction Canal — in the Uxbridge area. Could this be for wide boats taking aggregate to Heathrow for the construction of Terminal 5 (GLIAS Newsletter April 2004)?

The defunct Aylesbury arm of the Grand Junction Canal which has geological problems causing leaks is likely to be reopened by the simple expedient of introducing a plastic lining of the kind used on a smaller scale to ensure that garden ponds are watertight. The Thames & Severn Canal which was abandoned because of its leaky summit is likely to be brought back into use by similar means.

More radical still is the proposal to build an entirely new canal from Milton Keynes to the River Ouse at Bedford; linking the canal network of the Midlands with the Fenland waterways between Cambridge and the Wash. Bedford is the upper limit of navigation on the Ouse. The new canal would be built to the same dimensions as the main line of the Grand Junction Canal (later part of the Grand Union) allowing the passage of boats up to 70ft in length and with a beam of up to 14ft. This would allow wide-beamed boats to pass from the Wash to the Bristol Channel by inland navigation. The estimated cost is £160 million.

How is all this coming about? Is there so much pleasure boating activity that boating tolls provide sufficient revenue to finance this great renaissance? The short answer is no.

Canal reopening and building is being financed as part of a much wider agenda linked to the provision of many more houses in Britain. Basically property developers are funding the new canals for the simple reason that people like to live near water. House prices can be as much as 20% higher if the property is next to a canal or lake. Boaters spend money and bring tourists in the form of gongoozlers who also spend money and this benefits the local economy. The tourist industry is now of real economic significance in Britain. We are still very much an industrial nation but no longer a manufacturing one. The developers also have allies in the shape of Green enthusiasts, nature lovers, walkers, fishermen, local authorities, teachers and schoolchildren following the National Curriculum and a host of others. Water management is also a major factor. The east of England is dry compared with the west and all the new houses which are to be built will require a supply of water at present almost impossible to achieve. As well as permitting navigation, canals can also move water about. The new house-building programme will cover a considerable proportion of the countryside with concrete and tarmac giving rise to the familiar problem of flash flooding when it rains. Management of such floodwaters will be linked to the canal building.

Milton Keynes is presently the fastest growing city in Britain and it is planned to build even more houses there. Something very like Diagonale (GLIAS Newsletter April 2004)) is actually going ahead. New canal building is seen as a planning gain from all this activity.

The first part of the Milton Keynes to Bedford canal is likely to be built in Milton Keynes itself as this portion of the scheme will yield the greatest profits for the developers. The line being chosen for the new canal to Bedford is actually the most expensive to build of a number of options but it will make most money overall. If a canal is introduced it is probably acceptable to build a density of housing near the canal greater than that of a conventional housing estate. The marina at Apsley recently constructed with housing on a former canalside paper-mill site is an example of the kind of development we may have on a large scale. Venice is becoming a planners' exemplar.

The whole area between Milton Keynes and Bedford is likely to be covered with housing. Anyone with an interest in the industrial archaeology of the Forest of Marston Vale should pay a visit there soon before what is left disappears. This is not exceptional. Other development areas in the South East such as Thames Gateway and one in the Cambridge-Stanstead region are also going ahead.

One of the great successes of the Forth and Clyde Canal reopening has been the spectacular Falkirk Wheel which far from being an engineering white elephant is regarded as perhaps the most profitable part of the whole undertaking. So many people go to look at it.

The line of the canal to Bedford will have an engineering challenge at Brogborough; a difference in levels where in the early 19th century a flight of locks might have been built. However thinking is now very different. What is needed here is something very big and dramatic and if possible even more eye-catching than the Falkirk Wheel. It should be easily seen from the M1 and the more preposterous the better. People are invited to submit suggestions. The whole point is to create the biggest public attraction possible. In addition they would have liked the canal to be carried over the M1 in a transparent tube but apparently the levels do not permit this. Bob Carr
The above article was prompted by Paul Leech's talk, 'The Bedford to Milton Keynes Link', given at the London Canal Museum on 4 November 2004

Grand Surrey Canal

The item 'Deptford and Woolwich' (GLIAS Newsletter October 2004) mentions the Grand Surrey Canal, which was the ancestor of the Surrey Docks.

Like the Dartford canal the operators found it more profitable to run docks and wharves than canals. This has, of course, been totally filled in and I think the last over bridge in the Old Kent Road was removed only comparatively recently so it could never be reopened. At one time it had 19 wharves. It is commemorated in various roads and estates with canal references in their name, with an A to Z and a bit of knowledge it is possible to trace its route and some of the oddities its demise has produced, such has roads with a break in the middle for no apparent reason.

In Surrey Canal Road, Deptford it is possible to see the remains of the north bank and towpath and at its junction with Ilderton Road the cover projecting from the warehouse of the timber yard under which lighters were unloaded. The last time I was by there it was Harcross, but in the days when it was Farquharson's its timber came direct from the Surrey Dock.

There was an arm that ran to a wharf behind Peckham High Street, there was a little cul de sac called Canal Head, now called Peckham Square while Boathouse Walk marks the line of the arm. On the south side of Greenland Dock (part of the Surrey Docks which still has water in it) is a bay that was the end of the canal. Bob Rust

City Coach Company

The piece under the heading 'More on Wood Green' (GLIAS Newsletter August 2004) contains a serious error in stating that the City Coach company was owned by Birch Bros. These were two entirely separate businesses, but having the common unusual feature of operating services within the London Transport area on which some local fares were available. They also had quite separate depots in Kentish Town; Birch Bros at Cathcart Street and City Coach at Leighton Road. The Birch service was between King's Cross and Rushden, while the City Coach service was from Kentish Town to Southend-on-Sea. Tony Newman

School of Herkomer?

Sir Hubert von Herkomer CVO RA (1849-1914) was a renowned Vicwardian artist who attracted numerous students worldwide. In Bushey, Hertfordshire, he established a School of Art and one of his favourite students, Lucy Kemp-Welch (1875-1958), became famous for animal paintings. Bushey Museum and Art Gallery in Rudolph Road (Tel: 020 8950 3233) has a room devoted to Herkomer with memorabilia and portraits. In later life Herkomer became a pioneer filmmaker and his daylight film studio in Melbourne Road, Bushey, still survives. It was built above a former chapel which Herkomer had used as a theatre. This studio was converted to offices in 1985. See the photograph by Tim Smith on p37 of the AIA 2004 Hertfordshire & Lea Valley Gazetteer (ISBN 0 9528930 7 X). Also in Melbourne Road is Lululaund, the fantasy house where Herkomer lived and opposite the film studio is a building used by Herkomer as a printing shop and art studio. A principal road in Bushey is named Herkomer Road.

Herkomer is now a rather forgotten figure, at least in the art world. One might jest that today his fame hardly spreads beyond Bushey, but when did his name cease to be a household word? It seems he was still widely known as recently as the late 1930s. The book 'Don't Mr Disraeli!' by Caryl Brahms and SJ Simon, first published in 1940, makes in the context of describing portraits of eminent people two references to 'school of Herkomer' on one page, (p97 in the 1949 Penguin edition). The implication is that this phrase was then in common use. 'Don't Mr Disraeli!' is a lightweight, fanciful and frivolous debunking book about 'Victorians' which most current GLIAS members would surely dismiss as a very silly book indeed. It takes the most appalling liberties with historical facts, probably indicating the distaste, perhaps even contempt, late 1930s people felt when considering the Victorian period. It is all too easy to forget how long contempt for Victorian taste persisted. As recently as 20 years ago it was possible to hear a GLIAS member roar 'Victorian monstrosity' when describing a 19th-century building.

Taste does change — radically. Judging from his impressive funeral, the painter Sir Alfred East RI RA (1844-1913) born in Kettering, was when he died a very major artist indeed. He had been regarded as England's greatest living landscape painter, probably the greatest since Constable. A memorial gallery in Sheep Street, Kettering, set up almost as a shrine to the great man was to display his paintings but on a visit there today you are unlikely to see much more than one of his paintings without prior appointment (Tel: 01536 534274). The rest are usually in store. East was knighted in 1910 and the Alfred East Gallery built in a classical style at a cost of £2,600 is the oldest purpose-built art gallery in Northamptonshire. Some Vicwardian artists have maintained a reputation while others have disappeared almost without trace. GF Watts has fared quite well. Bob Carr

Locos at Fred Watkins

In a previous newsletter some doubts were expressed about there being loads of derelict locos at Fred Watkins works at Coleford (GLIAS Newsletter April 2004).

Ian Pope, the doyen of industrial archaeology in that area and editor of the excellent magazine 'Archive', confirms there were many locos in this once coal and iron mining centre 'plus others stored at Whitecliffe Quarry and portable engines used for greenhouse soil sterilisation'.

Ian has photos of his locos and boilers. Dave Hill

Kempton in Steam

The No 6 engine is now in working condition and will be steamed in 2005 on 12-13 March, 11-12 June, 15-16 October.

It can also be viewed in a static condition on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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© GLIAS, 2004