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Notes and news — April 2005

In this issue:

GLIAS Lecture: The Industries of Wandsworth

Dorien Gerhold gave the society's January lecture, which more strictly was about the industries of the Wandle Valley. The river Wandle falls steeply, 124ft in nine miles, with clean water which never froze. The Domesday Book recorded seven mills in the local manor, which were almost certainly on the Wandle. Mills continued to operate thereafter, including the Lower, Middle, Upper and Adkins mills, powering different industries, sometimes owned by businessmen from the City of London rather than local people and recorded in lawsuits in the Courts of Chancery and the Exchequer. The earliest were corn mills, for example in 1610 grinding wheat supplied from the Kingston and Brentford markets, via London mealmen. At that time, 148 people were dependent on the mills, or some 13% of the population of 1100. A map of 1633 showed the Lower and Middle mills only as flour mills.

In 1610, the Lower Mill ground wheat from 13 counties for the royal court. In 1723, it was an oil mill, before reverting to corn. It was burned down in 1777, rebuilt and then demolished in the 1890s. The Middle Mill was first listed in 1504 and was accompanied by a windmill in the 1650s. It had four pairs of stones in 1804 (with two more pairs in the windmill) and also ended its life in the 1890s. The Upper Mill was a corn mill to the late 17th century and was then used for a variety of industries; corn milling took over again after it was rebuilt in 1818 and it was later acquired by Watneys. Adkins Mill was never wholly a corn mill after 1754. Two mills further south (outside Wandsworth) were never corn mills: Earlsped was in the iron industry and Brazil Mill was used to produce red dye from wood.

In 1634, a frying pan works was set up by 'Dutchmen' from Mechelen (Malines), using a battery process to hammer bars into plates. The business moved from Wandsworth from Bristol. Edward Baker's will in 1672 included a stock of 80 tons of iron (but no brass), valued at £1,332. The factory employed foreign workers from Liège. Between 1704 and 1770, it was a copper mill. It then became a chemical works.

Gerhold then referred to the introduction of four new industries:

Other industries in the Wandle Valley were hat-making and leather-working: skinning, tanning and dressing. In the 18th century, the valley lost its copper and iron manufacture, but gained malting and distilling, oil pressing and chemicals (linked to cloth-working). It had a greater range of industry than almost any other parish in the country. It declined in the 19th century, when steam engines replaced water power and the river became polluted by the surviving industries. In conclusion, Dorien emphasised the long build-up of industry and the roles of foreigners and Londoners in promoting it. Brian Strong

GLIAS Lecture: Joseph Locke (1805-1860) and Thomas Brassey (1805-70)

The March lecture was given by our chairman, Dr Denis Smith, who said histories of 19th-century technology often highlighted the roles of distinguished engineers, but rarely those of contractors — perhaps because of the difficulties of tracing the different schemes on which they were involved and they rarely left behind an archive of their work — partly because documentation was often destroyed in fear of litigation! Of the leading 19th-century contractors, only William Mackenzie had left drawings and account books, which were only discovered in 1988. Although the lecture was gazetted to celebrate the bicentenaries of both men, it therefore concentrated on the career of the railway contractor, Thomas Brassey, and dealt with the engineer, Joseph Locke, primarily in relation to the schemes on which the two worked together.

Joseph Locke first worked with George Stephenson on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and in 1830 became MICE. Brassey started work as a land agent in Sheffield and surveyed part of Telford's Holyhead Road. The two first met on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, when Brassey was the quarry manager who supplied stone for the Sankey Viaduct; and they first worked together on the Penkridge Viaduct on the Great Junction Railway — the beginning of the 'dream team'. Brassey worked with others in a number of incarnations: Peto and Brassey; Peto, Brassey and Betts; Peto, Brassey, Betts and Jackson (in Canada) and Peto, Betts and Crampton.

Denis then went on to discuss the many railway schemes for which Brassey, usually with Locke as engineer, was responsible: 13 schemes in England, starting with the Penkridge Viaduct, opened in 1837 on the Grand Junction Railway — Europe's first trunk line; railways in East Anglia, including the Brantham Cutting near Manningtree in 1845; six railways in Scotland 1837-48, including the Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock, and the Caledonian Railways, which climbs 1,016ft in 122 miles; the Chirk Viaduct (next to Telford's canal aqueduct) in 1848, originally built in timber with 16 spans, but rebuilt in brick and stone in 1859; and the Great Northern Railway, including the Welwyn (or Digswell) Viaduct — 100ft high, 500 yards long, 40 arches and 13 million bricks — and the difficult three-mile crossing of Whitlesey Mere. Brassey was also responsible for 10 railways in France, including the line from Cherbourg (with its Southampton connection) to Paris, on which there was a disastrous collapse of a major viaduct, which he quickly rebuilt; and railways in Holland, Denmark, Norway, India and Canada. For the Toronto-Quebec Railway, he set up the Canada Works at Birkenhead with Robert Stephenson to fabricate rails, bridges, locomotives and carriages which were shipped across the Atlantic to be put together. On arrival, not a rivet hole had to be re-drilled!

Brassey, Peto and Betts were also, unusually, both promoter and contractor of the Victoria Dock, the first London docks to be served by rail: Brassey's London, Tilbury and Southend Line. The dock was 4,000ft long, with four 580ft jetties. It opened in 1855 and in April 1858, 500 ships and 2,500 barges passed through the entrance lock. There was also a graving dock, which was closed in 1887, following Peto's earlier bankruptcy, when the Victoria Dock had been sold to the London and St Katharine Docks. Peto and Brassey also supplied a railway from Balaclava to Sebastopol during the Crimean War; and Brassey built a bridge over the Severn in 1861 and the Runcorn, Kew and Richmond railway bridges. Brian Strong

From the Secretary's postbag

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and English Heritage have announced the results of the Heritage Protection Review, which are 'designed to make the ... system simpler, more open and more flexible, while maintaining the current levels of protection for our rich heritage of historic buildings, monuments, battlefields and gardens.' The proposals will unify the current systems of listing, scheduling and registers for historic sites into a single regeneration regime, with a new, unified 'heritage consent'. A White Paper is to be published later this year. Meanwhile, administration of the system will transfer from DCMS to English Heritage in April; and there will then be new notification and consultation arrangements for owners and local planning authorities, better information for owners and a new formal review process for listing decisions. DCMS will also be consulting publicly on new listing criteria to replace those in PPG 15.

The English Heritage Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service [GLAAS] Quarterly Review for August to November 2004 includes:

Brian Strong

Old Street in the Borough of Finsbury

On the south side of Old Street walking west from the large roundabout which is somewhat reminiscent of Baghdad in the days of Saddam Hussein (no swords though), one sees a large late-Victorian building ahead which at first sight might have been built as an LCC fire station. High up on the east wall is a prominent cement sign which reads 'Finsbury Van & Wheel Works' and there is a pointing hand. This sign is formed with the letters recessed into the concrete and they would probably have been filled in with black paint.

Finsbury Van and Wheel Works

However the front of the building is most informative and proclaims its history in some detail by means of a number of plaques. Collected together they read 'St Luke's Parochial Schools founded 1698', 'Removed from Golden Lane to this site 1870', 'New Wing added 1887, J T Pedder Esq Chairman', 'The Telfer Wing erected 1887, J T Pedder Esq Treasurer', 'Erected for 400 children, James Telfer Esq treasurer', 'St Luke's School moved from this site 1972'. It is very nice that the history is brought up to date by the 1972 plaque which says when the School moved out. At the east end of the building, number 196 Old Street is now City Cloisters.

Just before you get to the old St Luke's School building, Mallow Street runs off to the south. Looking down Mallow Street there is another fairly prominent sign on the right reading 'Harry Schuman Ltd, Wholesale Cabinet Makers'. This is at number 11. On the south-east corner of the same block a blue enamel sign survives with white letters which reads 'Mallow St EC'. This is part of the extensive 'Borough of Finsbury'. The locality is an interesting one north of Bunhill Fields and is well worth exploring on foot. Turning right into Featherstone Street and continuing into Banner Street we come to Whitecross Street which has a street market. Bob Carr

King's Cross on line for £400 million facelift

King's Cross station, 2004. © Robert Mason A £400 million expansion of one of London's most famous railway stations has been given the funding green light by the Government.

The decision means that Network Rail can seek planning permission for the redevelopment at King's Cross station.

The key features of the expansion scheme are:

Overall, the work will see the main line station's passenger numbers increase from 40 million a year to around 50 million within 10 years.

King's Cross gazetteer

The first railway dining car

The first British dining-car service left Leeds for London King' Cross on 1 November 1879. This was provided by the Pullman Car 'Princess of Wales' which accommodated only 10 first-class passengers. A supplement of two shillings and sixpence was charged and the carriage included a gentlemen's smoking room and a ladies dressing room. GNER celebrated the 125th anniversary on 1 November last year with restaurant-car staff on a Leeds to London train dressed in period uniforms and a Victorian-style menu. Bob Carr

Kirkaldy Testing Museum notes: Brown's Machine

Does anyone remember 1812? No, not the Overture or the retreat from Moscow, but the cable works 'just down the road' at Millwall. In that year the Admiralty started to use wrought iron anchor chains (in fact still called 'cables') instead of hemp anchor cables. Because of the well known 'weakest link' syndrome, it was decreed that every chain had to be tested in 15 cable (90ft, c28m) lengths.

The man who, more or less single handed, persuaded the Admiralty to make a trial of these new fangled cables was Samuel (later Sir Samuel) Brown, a naval captain recently retired from the navy. He was by no means the first to make such a proposal, but he was the first to make headway after very successful use of iron chains on a voyage to the West Indies and then several trials on warships. Wrought iron anchor cables gradually became the standard equipment for the Royal Navy and merchant shipping soon followed suit.

More relevant to our interests at KTM is that Brown, in about 1812, made a large testing or 'proofing' machine, at his manufactory at Mill Wall, more than 50 years before Kirkaldy built his still famous machine. But was it the first such machine?

The generally accepted story is that Brown built a mechanical machine driven by hand power and gear wheels, with a lever weighing system. It was about 100ft (c31m) long with a capacity of at least 100ton (c1,000kN). In 1813, a one time colleague, Thomas Brunton, having set up a rival business nearby in Commercial Road, had a machine built by a Mr Fuller (a one time foreman with Brown) similar in size and capacity to Brown's which was undoubtedly the first hydraulic testing machine. This machine was used by Telford, in 1814, for some of his tests made in connection with the 'Britannia' bridge and highly praised by him.

In searching the literature of the time, the writer has found no pictures or diagrams of these machines, excepting one small part of each, in the Simon Goodrich papers, but has found some details that muddy the foregoing simple picture of events. Firstly, there is contemporary evidence that Brown's machine probably existed in 1810, but even in 1812, did not have a lever weighing system. The user relied on an estimation of the force required to turn the handles of the gear wheels that pulled the chain, and then estimated the load from that force and the effective gear ratio (including handle and winding drum radii). The error in such an estimation was, at the time, taken as 1 in 12, but may well have approached 1 in 5. There is also evidence that John Rennie's assistant, John Walker, fitted a lever system to Brown's machine in 1814, seemingly giving Brunton the claim to 'first', depending on just how a 'testing machine' (as distinct from some 'proofing' device) is defined. Or does it?

There is contemporary evidence that Brunton used a small lever working on a plunger to measure the hydraulic pressure and hence the load applied to the cable. But there is also direct evidence that this load was some 10 to 20% different from that given by Brown's lever weighing system. The error was due in part to an unsatisfactory design of the plunger and in part to friction in the packing rings between the ram and the hydraulic cylinder, whereby the load 'measured' from the pressure, was the sum of the load in the cable plus the friction force. So, depending on whether or not a testing device with an error approaching 20% is worthy to be called 'the first chain testing machine', perhaps that title reverts to Brown for the 1814 version of his machine. Or does it?

In 1808, at North Shields, Robert Flynn had made and used wrought iron anchor cables and according to a well known book by Traill (T W Traill, Chain Cables and Chains; Crosby Lockwood, 1885), albeit written in 1885, Flynn, in 1812, was given a plaque by grateful local sea captains for his work in making and testing wrought iron anchor cables. The testing device is not specifically mentioned. Traill also says that Brown was well acquainted with Flynn and obtained some iron rigging chains from him. A web-site actually claims that Flynn had a mechanically driven lever weighing machine, seemingly in 1808, presumably that referred to by Traill in 1812. But the writer has been unable as yet to find the source of the statements in either the website or in Traill's book. The earliest record so far found is a thumbnail sketch of Flynn's machine, indeed a mechanically operated lever machine, in 1827 (or possibly 1823). But if such a machine existed in 1812, why did Brown, knowing Flynn's work, build a much inferior machine without a weighing system, unless of course from force of economy? Or perhaps, in 1812, Flynn's machine was only a mechanical pulling device with the load estimated from the winding force and gear ratio, just such as Brown first used? Brunton says that before his own machine of 1813, all others were 'merely a multiplication of cog wheels'.

So who made the first chain-testing machine incorporating a reliable weighing system? Does anyone know a good source of more information on such matters in the first two decades of the 19th century? Ted Turner
Kirkaldy Testing Museum website:

Previous related articles

Yinka Shonibare and Goldsmiths' College

Yinka Shonibare (see The Arts and Industrial Archaeology, GLIAS Newsletter 179, pp4-5) was born in London in 1962. In 1965 he was taken to Lagos, Nigeria but later came back to England and studied at Goldsmiths' College. Shonibare's work usually involves cultural ambiguity. He is now a Fellow of Goldsmiths' College (FGC).

In 2004 he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize although he did not win it. Among the works he exhibited at Tate Britain for last year's Prize was his first film Un Ballo in Maschera which depicts through dance the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden in March 1792, (Louis XVI was guillotined in January 1793). It features elaborate costumes in a period setting and is slightly reminiscent of L'Année dernière à Marienbad by Alain Resnais (1961) but in colour.

King Gustav III was shot in the back by an assassin at a masked ball held in the Royal Opera House, Stockholm. The assassination is the subject for Verdi's opera Un Ballo in Maschera of 1859 which in Italy was so controversial it had to be heavily censored with Gustav becoming Riccardo, Count of Warwick, and the location changed to Boston. Only in recent years has the opera been performed as Verdi originally intended, eg Stockholm 1958. The assassination of King Gustav was the result of an aristocratic plot and many considered it a major setback for reform (instead of revolution?) — an international cause célèbre. Gustav was something of an enlightened monarch and certainly a gifted writer.

The building used for Yinka's film, a co-production by Swedish Television and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, was a Rococo theatre with lighted flares at the entrance. The original Opera House in which the King was shot was opened in 1782 and pulled down 1892. For the film location Confidencen was chosen, a private theatre at Ulriksdal Castle near Stockholm by architect Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz. Completed in 1753 it is one of Sweden's oldest theatres and was previously owned by Gustav's mother. An example of adaptive re-use it was originally stables.

Wil Alsop OBE, RA (GLIAS Newsletter April 2004) has designed a new building for the arts department at Goldsmiths' College. It is a fairly conventional block except that it has a rectangular two-storey bite at the top, out of one side. Here a three-dimensional Alsop doodle in steel will serve as a landmark and remind the locality of Goldsmiths' importance in the arts. The project due for completion last December should rival the recent building for the Laban Dance Centre by Herzog and de Mueron (GLIAS Newsletter June 2000). Together they should give New Cross a fresh image.

Wil Alsop was responsible for the Peckham Library and North Greenwich underground station.

Goldsmiths' also has a special significance for GLIAS. Bob Carr

Olympic Class Liners

There was not just one Titanic which sank in April 1912 (GLIAS Newsletter 179, p6) but three similar sister ships, all built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast. The first, Olympic, was launched in October 1910 while Titanic was launched in May 1911. Following the loss of Titanic a replacement was needed and so Britannic was built and launched in February 1914. Because of the Titanic disaster she incorporated additional safety features. There was a double skin amidships and her 'watertight compartments' extended higher than Titanic's, and of course after 1912 the Olympic ships carried plenty of lifeboats.

The Olympic class liners had mixed triple-expansion and turbine propulsion with three-bladed propellers and were built for the White Star Line so as to compete against two splendid ships which the rival Cunard Line had introduced in 1907. Cunard's Lusitania and Mauretania were pure turbine ships of advanced design. The quadruple-screw Lusitania launched in June 1906 had a speed of 25 knots. Her propellers were three-bladed and she was built by John Brown & Co, Clydebank.

The Mauretania, also quadruple screw, was launched in September 1906 but had four-bladed propellers. She was faster than Lusitania and was built on the Tyne by Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. Mauretania's service speed was 25 knots but she could maintain an average speed of 26 knots across the Atlantic and held the Blue Riband from 1909 to 1929. Her turbines had a maximum output of 70,000 horsepower. A much-loved vessel she was sold for scrap in the spring of 1935 and broken up at Rosyth, Scotland.

These two Cunard liners, although smaller at 762ft in length, were technologically superior to White Star's Olympic class ships which were in any case slower (service speed 21 knots). The Olympics made up for slower speed by more luxurious passenger accommodation possible because of their greater size, 883ft in length. However their triple-screw sterns were old fashioned, essentially an older merchant-ship design scaled up, while the quadruple-screw stern of the two Cunarders represented new thinking influenced by the design of current faster warships. By comparison the Olympic class liners were quite difficult to handle, so much so that occasionally collisions occurred. In September 1911 Olympic collided with the cruiser HMS Hawke and she ran down and sank the Nantucket lightship in May 1934.

In GLIAS circles circa 1980 when large triple-expansion steam engines were being discussed it was often remarked that the two giant triples at Kempton Park were almost certainly the largest in Europe. A corollary was usually added that George Watkins said the Titanic had engines larger than these, but they were at the bottom of the Atlantic. Following the exploration work of Dr Robert Ballard we now know that quite apart from the 12,000ft depth (14 times the length of the ship) the Titanic's two engines are in a bad way.

While serving as a hospital ship Britannic sank in November 1916 in the Aegean Sea in 55 minutes after encountering a mine in the Kea Channel, believed to have been laid by German U-boat U-73. Britannic and Titanic suffered comparable damage. Titanic took 2 hours 40 minutes to sink. Both sank after sustaining damage their design should have prevented. However, the sinking of Britannic may have been hastened by an explosion of coal dust in the bunkers, set off by the mine. Coal dust explosions were not well understood at the time.

In 1976 Jacques Cousteau visited the wreck of Britannic sunk in just 400 feet of water — half the length of the ship. Unlike Titanic, Britannic did not break up on sinking and her two great triple expansion engines, each of 16,000hp, should be largely intact. Recovering one of these might be feasible in the future?

Following the First World War Olympic continued to operate successfully across the North Atlantic, becoming known as Old Reliable. Finally she was withdrawn from service in April 1935 and after initial gutting at Jarrow on the Tyne, her hull was finally broken up at Inverkeithing from September 1937.

The White Star line was unfortunate in losing two huge ships but Cunard also had a disaster. In the Irish Sea in May 1915 Lusitania was hit by a single torpedo fired from German U-boast U20 and took only 20 minutes to sink with a loss of 1,198 lives. A coal-dust explosion in a bunker set off by the torpedo is thought to have been responsible for the rapidity of sinking (remember Senghenydd 1913). Nearing the end of the voyage home her bunkers would have been fairly empty.

What are we to make of all this? Cunard well ahead with help from the British Government on strict conditions that their ships were not to be sold abroad, was competing with White Star with its American money. The two companies adopted slightly different policies giving rise to a situation reminiscent of the Concorde versus Jumbo years of transatlantic air travel. White Star were unlucky in losing two great ships but Cunard was also vulnerable in time of war. The first Olympic, Old Reliable herself, must have been very profitable but owing to the bad economic conditions of the Depression, Cunard and White Star decided to merge in 1933. Olympic and Mauretania were broken up to make way for the Queen Mary launched in September 1934, length 1,019ft, service speed 30 knots (maximum 32 knots). Bob Carr

Historic Photographs Online

Over 3,700 historic photographs of London are now online at the National Monuments record's Viewfinder website. They include two complete collections, the York & Son collection (2,400 images) and the S W Rawlings collection (1,300 images).

The York & Son collection almost exclusively covers London, particularly Westminster, mostly between 1870 and 1900. It records street views, events, people and public buildings.

Stanley W Rawlings worked for the Port of London Authority and his collection, dated 1945-65, reflects this work interest, recording life on the River Thames, especially dock and harbour installations and shipping.

Also on Viewfinder are 47 photographs of the Crystal Palace in Sydenham taken circa 1854 by Philip Henry Delamotte.

The Science Museum houses the world's largest scientific collection containing some of the most important objects in the history of science, technology, industry and transport. For the first time over 30,000 images from these collections can be purchased online.

Greater London News Round-Up

To the east of Finsbury Park station (GLIAS Newsletter April 2004) the brick abutments which used to support the additional railway tracks (for the abortive underground extensions in North London) over what is now the bus station have been partially demolished. The interior of the massive red-brickwork was exposed. This work is probably being done to give access to footpaths alongside the railway on the east side of the line. The abutments are on the east side of Stroud Green Road (north east of the station) and the south side of Seven Sisters Road. (For an account of the abandoned underground extensions in North London see the book Northern Wastes by Jim Blake and Jonathan James, North London Transport Society 1987, ISBN 0 946383 04 9)

On the Silwood Estate (GLIAS Newsletter October 2002) almost all the large blocks of flats have been demolished but the attractive housing close to the railway near Silwood Street SE16 is still relatively untouched. This seems likely to remain.

The former Board School at the north end of Saville Road E16, immediately south west of the terminal building at City Airport, has been demolished. Work on the extension of the Docklands Light Railway to King George V (GLIAS Newsletter October 2004) was well advanced in January with very little of the concrete viaduct from Canning Town still to complete. All the line is carried at a high level.

Fred Tallant Hall formerly on the south side of Drummond Street NW1 between North Gower Street and the Hampstead Road had been totally demolished by mid-February this year, (GLIAS Newsletter April 2003).

North of King's Cross station the Copenhagen viaduct (GLIAS Newsletter February 2004) is now essentially demolished. York Way (A5200) is currently closed from near Randell's Road to the bridge under the North London Railway, just south of Vale Royal.

Work has been in progress at Battersea Power Station (GLIAS Newsletter February 2002) with attention being given to the bases of the chimneys and elsewhere.

Immediately north west of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's Western Pumping Station in Grosvenor Road the residual southern end of the Grosvenor Canal is being built on (GLIAS Newsletter February 2002) and the substantial new development all but encroaches on the pumping station itself. To the north most of the pumping station grounds are going including the pond. Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 2005