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Notes and news — June 2005

In this issue:

Kirkaldy Testing Museum Notes: Sceleroscopes

If, in the days when the telegraph service still operated, you sent that message to the appropriate firm you were assured of five Shore Sceleroscopes by return! 'Why', do I hear you ask, 'would I want five Shore Sceleroscopes so urgently?' I offer no reply except to add that there were six one-word codes covering the rapid supply of from one to six such gadgets by return, the exact form of each code now eluding me. The Shore Sceleroscope, as you will well remember, was a portable hardness testing machine more or less popular in the 1920s-30s.

To the laymen, hardness may seem an obvious mechanical property of a material but the closer one looks at the concept, the more it shimmers into a blur of uncertainty, only resolved even today, by arbitrary definitions of several different meanings to the term. Think of pushing your thumb into your arm (which recovers when the load is removed ) or into a piece of putty (where the indent is permanent. The harder will scratch the softer, will indent less under a given tool and load, will cause a bigger rebound on impact (as of 'hard' billiard balls), will wear less under abrasion and can even be correlated to magnetic response (well, magneto-striction effects). An indentation may be made by a semicircular section prism or the edge of a small bar of triangular section, a ball, a cone or a pyramid shaped tool.

Early in the 18th century Réaumur used indentation by an edge; he and Huygens suggested a scratch test and Musschenbroek (he of the first testing machine) used the number of blows on a chisel to cut a bar. At the start of the 19th century, Werner, Haüy and then Mohs, suggested scratch tests. Mohs devised a scale that is still used by geologists, to relate the hardness of different materials with talc as the softest and diamond as the hardest. In 1850, Seebeck and Franz and then Turner proposed a scratch test using a device they called a scelerometer. This consisted of a pivoted arm carrying a weight and needle that bore onto a revolving disc of the test material, somewhat akin to a gramophone arm and record, the hardness being the weight to cause a scratch.

In the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century many indentation tests were devised; by Calvert and Johnson, Wade, Rosset, Middleberg, Unwin, Föpple, Haigh, variously using a cone, a prism or a knife-edge to indent the test article, some on a scale needing a load of several tons (a few kN) convenient for use with a conventional testing machine.

In 1900, Brinell devised a machine to apply a small load, typically 10kg (c 20lbf) to a hard steel ball in order to press it into the surface of a metal test piece for a defined period (about 30sec). He defined the Brinell hardness number as the load divided by the saucer-shaped contact area of the indentation, measured after the load had been removed. Meyer suggested using the projected area rather than the contact area. Ludwik proposed using a conical indenter and the contact area; Rockwell made a machine using a conical indenter with a rounded tip, a pre-load and various loads and scales according to the hardness being studied, all based on the depth of penetration. Firth proposed a square section pyramid shaped diamond indenter and the contact area, leading to a machine developed by Vickers Ltd and known by their name. In 1939, Knoop used a diamond indenter with the cross section of a parallelogram of 7:1 ratio, which proved capable of testing the hardness of diamond itself. Of all the foregoing only the plastic indentation methods, Brinell, Rockwell and Vickers, are still widely used.

Meanwhile, in the same period, some tests for dynamic hardness were proposed, some based on dropping a small indenter from a known height, Martel in 1895 measuring the volume of indentation while Shore, with his sceleroscope of 1906, measured the height of rebound of the indenter. This device was portable (weighing about 20lbf, c10 kg) that could thus be used on a large machine or structure in situ. In 1923, Herbert used the damping of a swinging pendulum to measure surface hardness and wear. At some time, perhaps around the turn of the century, Kirkaldy used a flagstone wear and abrasion tester consisting of a rectangular box containing a number of hard steel balls. The sides of the box were four flagstones and the whole was rotated by an electric motor for a period such as 24hrs after which the weight loss of each flagstone due to abrasion was measured.

Around 1900, Hertz proposed a theory for elastic indentation, such as a lightly loaded ball onto a surface (or thumb into arm), and Jeffries and Archer pointed out that permanent indentations in metals were governed by the laws of plastic slip at the atomic structure level (which structure also controls magnetic properties, hence the aforementioned relationship). As the theory of plastic flow of metals by the movement of dislocations through the crystal lattice became better understood, it was realised that the permanent indentation tests such as Brinell, Rockwell and Vickers, were essentially measures of the resistance to plastic flow. That, being equal and opposite for tension and compression and in most ductile metals, allowed such tests to be used as much for giving a cheap and simple method of estimating the tensile strength of a sample as for determining a hardness measure, per se.

If you do not remember the Shore Sceleroscope then welcome to Kirkaldy Testing Museum to see one 'in the flesh'. A Kirkaldy-owned Brinell machine c1920 and a donated Vickers machine c1960 and the in-house wear tester for pavement slabs are also on display. This is not the place to expand on the relationships between all these types of hardness (a book by SR Williams — Hardness and Hardness Measurements; S.R. Williams, Am. Soc. Met. Cleveland, 1942 — lists about 2,000 papers up to 1941!) but if you have, or know of, any of the other machines mentioned above 'going spare', please telegraph Kirkaldy Testing Museum at once! Ted Turner
Kirkaldy Testing Museum website:

Previous related articles

Fire Alarm System — Royal Gunpowder Mills

Further to recent correspondence on fire fighting in London (GLIAS Newsletter October 2004; December 2004), not surprisingly the Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey had an extensive addressable fire alarm system connected to a central fire station. An addressable system is one which indicates which part of the site has a fire rather than just sending out a general alarm. In addition firefighting and first aid equipment was stored around the site and every manufacturing section had its own firefighting squad drawn from the production workers.

With the advent of electricity in the 19th century those concerned with fire safety soon realised its potential for alarm systems. One of the leaders in electrical development was the German firm of Siemens and Halske, with its independent British offshoot Siemens at Woolwich. At the end of the 19th century this firm installed a state of the art system at the Mills.

Fire alarm pillars were distributed at key points in what was dense woodland surrounding the scattered production buildings. Current flow in the circuit was continuous. On operation of the alarm by pulling a brass handle the switch actuated a clockwork mechanism which turned a disc. Slots were cut into the edge of the disc at varying intervals. As it turned a copper brush contact interrupted the current flow. This transmitted a Morse code signal to the control room in the fire station. The Morse dots and dashes were recorded on ticker tape. Each alarm had its own unique sequence of dots and dashes, enabling immediate location of the fire. In addition the signal actuated indicator lights. The system utilised clockwork which needed servicing, winding and might break down as could the electrical supply. A continuous current system meant that any interruption of the current through a fault arising could be immediately identified and rectified. In addition as a back up measure there was a weight attached to a chain which when released by pulling the alarm handle turned the disc.

Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey, © Robert Mason Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey, © Robert Mason

Like the Morse code it used the concept and equipment were durable and the system was operable into the 1950s. Alarm pillars, mechanisms and the control board, which were made to a very high standard, have survived and have been restored. The alarm pillars, about 6ft high, have elaborate decoration in the casting; painted bright red picked out in silver topped by fireball filials they present an impressive sight. Visitors to the Mills will be able to see the pillars, mechanism and board and other firefighting equipment.

The Mills latterly also had an extensive sprinkler system. Colonel William Congreve, Comptroller of the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich, and of the Mills, evidently had an eye also to the commercial market. As early as 1812 he took out a patent for a sprinkler system 'Securing Buildings, Ships etc. from Fire' incorporating a sealed reservoir holding water with air pumped in and compressed.

Siemens Woolwich had close links with the German firm and a street alarm pillar virtually identical to the Waltham Abbey model survives in a street near to the site of what was the massive Spandau explosives works in Berlin, latterly used during the Soviet occupation as a tank factory. Les Tucker

Early concrete houses in the Gravesend area

Thameside in the 19th century saw the rise of the modern cement industry and proprietors of cement factories were keen to demonstrate the advantages of the progressive new material by building concrete houses, often for themselves to live in. To show what could be done with the new material a number of pioneering concrete houses were built around the middle of the century in the Swanscombe — Gravesend area.

In London Road, Swanscombe, at the entrance to Swanscombe Cement Works a concrete house was built by John Bazley White Junior, probably in the 1840s. From 1926 to 1964 it was used as the offices of Swanscombe Urban District Council. Demolition took place soon after the council moved out.

In what is now Council Avenue, Northfleet, a concrete house was built in 1841 by Thomas Sturge, a local cement manufacturer. It remained a private house up to the First World War but in 1920 was purchased by Northfleet Urban District Council, becoming Northfleet Town Hall. Following local government reorganisation in 1974 it became the Technical Department of Gravesham Borough Council.

In Pelham Road, Gravesend, a concrete house called Mayfield was built in 1875 by I C Johnson, to his own designs. Johnson, who claimed to be the first developer of Portland Cement, owned local cement factories. He lived in Mayfield until his death in 1911 at the age of 101. Later it was used for educational purposes and in the 1980s was part of the Gravesend Branch of the North West Kent Technical College.

The inventor of Portland Cement, William Aspdin, planned to build a grand concrete house — Portland Hall. The Architects were John Morris & Son of Poplar. In the Leith Park Road — Windmill Hill area of Gravesend a considerable area was enclosed for this purpose but unfortunately Aspdin ran into financial difficulties and the house never got much beyond its foundations.

The remains became known as Aspdin's Folly and a good deal of these have since gone but part was incorporated into a private house. Twenty years ago the wall surrounding the property was still in existence. It featured pilasters with elaborate capitals. Probably built 1855-1860 the wall, pilasters and capitals were constructed of brick with a thick coating of aggregate and cement. Ref A C Davis, A Hundred Years of Portland Cement 1824-1924, Concrete Publications Ltd 1924, pages 69 & 71.

Thanks are due to Gravesend Central Library, Windmill Street, for information. Bob Carr

Science Museum Library

Members may have heard about proposals to close the Science Museum Library and split it among three locations. This arose because Imperial College, where the library is located, proposed to raise the service charge for the accommodation by 400%.

The GLIAS committee learned that the trustees of the museum were unable to meet this increase in costs and therefore proposed to transfer the bulk of the printed collection to the Imperial College Library; other material, particularly archives, to the British Library; and to retain a small collection in the main Science Museum. This proposal was strongly resisted by Prospect, the trade union representing the staff, many of whose jobs would have disappeared.

I wrote to the trustees on behalf of GLIAS, emphasising the importance of the historic material which is relevant to Britain's and London's industrial history; and the retention of free access in the evenings and at weekends. The committee was particularly concerned about the future of the large collection of Victorian literature on science and industry; and of the archives which had been deposited with the library. The trustees said that, if the proposals went ahead, agreements would be put in place 'to guarantee public access similar to that available now, and most material currently on open access [was] likely to remain so'.

The position was discussed further by the trustees before Easter. They 'felt unable to take what would be an irreversible decision without reviewing funding first' and 'decided for the time being to continue the Science Museum Library's presence in the Imperial College building, South Kensington, while an independent study is undertaken of NMSI's funding... Further consultations with interested parties will take place in the near future. So we have a reprieve for the time being. The Review has taken the view that the Trustees were not entirely happy with the Tripartite option, which was the best of the dispersal type options for the library, so we are going back to take another look at options where the museum continues to operate a major library for the history of science and technology, if funding can be made available. The reprieve is certainly good news for library users, but of course means another year of uncertainty for the staff.'

The committee will continue to keep in touch with the review. Meanwhile, it would be helpful if GLIAS members who are already readers use the library as much as possible; and if you are not a member, please join! Brian Strong

Visit to the Belgian Black Country

On 18 April, 29 members of the AIA and GLIAS stood in wind and rain, waiting for a coach tour to eastern France and the Belgian 'Black Country', organised by Paul Saulter and led by our own Sue Hayton. After a good journey to Dover, we caught an earlier ferry than expected. On arrival in France, we therefore took the scenic route, rather than the motorway, to St Omer; only to find an horrific fatal accident involving a car and two articulated vehicles had closed the road. The police diverted us down narrower roads, and soon the driver was faced with a stone arch too narrow for the coach and the need to reverse for several hundred yards — the first of a number of highly skilled manoeuvres, which our driver, Paul, passed with flying colours! This brought us into Arques from a different direction than planned, passing the Cristal d'Arques factory before reaching Les Fontinettes Boat Lift, built on the model of the Anderton Lift in Cheshire between 1883 and 1887 on the Neufosse Canal that connects the rivers Lys and Aa. The two tanks were 39.5 by 5.6 metres, and coped with 12 boats an hour or two convoys of 3,000 tons. It is now disused, but open as a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the French were not geared up to deal with a coach party. The man at the desk dealt with one customer at a time, taking the money, providing an English leaflet (strangely identical to Sue's notes) and then disappearing to let them in the gate before returning to deal with the next customer! Inside, we found a video and model, but were not able to get into the lift itself. Most of us then walked to see the massive new lock, capable of passing boats of 10,000 tons, which had replaced the lift.

After a good French meal and spending the night in St Omer, we travelled into Belgium to the Mons area to Le Grand-Hornu, a former coalmining township developed between 1816 and 1835. Between 1871 and 1921, there were some 2,300 workers and a quarter of a million tons of coal were produced annually. The colliery closed in 1954 and is now a World Heritage site. There is a Neo-Classical complex, comprising two grand courtyards, including 'the Cathedral' — a building with many columns, but now roofless, which housed a foundry and machine shop. Sadly, no machines remain. The café was housed in the former beam engine bay; and the adjacent room had a fireproof iron and brick vaulted ceiling, similar to many at home. The industrial complex was surrounded by streets of terraced housing for workers and their families, which each had a communal room, kitchen and bedroom on the ground floor and three bedrooms upstairs. These had mostly been restored. The visit was extremely interesting; but the main aim of the presentation appeared to be related to the new use of the complex as an arts centre, rather than displaying the industrial heritage. In the afternoon, we visited the Carrières du Hainaut at Soignies, a blue limestone working quarry, covering a vast area, with reserves expected to last more than another century. The visit was a little hair-raising. While standing on the sloping road down into the quarry, we were suddenly faced with a truck bringing up a slab of stone so big that the driver could not see where he was going — we had to avoid him! We then went on the top of the 100 metre deep cliff of stone, where there was little to prevent a fall and we had to dodge a crane working up and down, moving huge slabs of stone. We then went through the various processes, seeing large blocks being cut by water-lubricated saws, much as in English quarries; and other stages of cutting, engraving and polishing. A very interesting visit.

After another good meal (and Belgian beer) and a night in Mons, we visited another former mining complex at Bois de Luc at La Louvière. It operated between 1846 and 1959 and, like Le Grand-Hornu, was surrounded by workers' housing, much of which has been restored. There is a Mining Museum (which we were unable to visit, as they were fully booked); and an Ecomuseum, which has a number of industrial artefacts in the grounds. The highlight of the visit was to find ourselves being welcomed into the Salle des Fêtes, a village hall built in 1923, where a local group were preparing for an event in May. We were given a full guided tour and applauded by the players! We then moved on to the Cantine des Italiens, the site of a camp where Italian immigrants worked in the coalmines. While we were warned to expect evidence of poor living conditions, several of us thought it the height of luxury compared with our experience on National Service!

After lunch, we then looked at a series of canal boat lifts at La Louvière, built in the late 19th century and again based on the Anderton model. Unfortunately, they were not working, following a major accident at Lift No 1 in 2002, when the lift moved when a large barge was moving out of it. The barge hit the sides of the tank and knocked out the gates, totally disabling the lift, and damaging the barge probably beyond repair. Work is in hand, with EU support, to restore the lift, possibly by 2007. Many of us then walked along the canal bank, to look at Lifts Nos 2 and 3, where we were given a tour and explanation of the pumping station. We then rejoined the coach to drive to a viewing point of a large new boat lift (see below) and then walked again to Lift No 4, below which there is a new exit lock to the modern Canal du Centre, which opened in 1917 to connect the Meuse and the Scheldt. The section at Strey-Thieu was the last link, completed only in 2001, to bypass the four lifts and involving a huge long aqueduct and a massive new lift, capable of lifting boats of 1,350 tons, with the two tanks operating independently, rather than the balanced operation of the Anderton-type lifts. Finally, we completed our canal afternoon at the Ronquières Inclined Plane, at the end of the new section of the Canal du Centre, which is again approached by a massive aqueduct and then takes barges up and down on a fore-and-aft basis, rather than the sideways former plane at Foxton.

After the first of two nights in a hotel at Charleroi, we visited the 'Casino' (village hall-cum entertainment hall) provided for the workers and the families at the Solvay soda plant at Couillet — all that remains of the former industrial complex. We asked a visiting security guard if we could go inside, but he said it was more than his job was worth. After a long detour which seemed to take us twice round the Charleroi ring road, we went to the Bois du Cazier, the site of a disastrous mining accident in 1956, when 262 miners of 12 nationalities died, including 136 of the immigrant Italians. The accident was strangely reminiscent of the accident to the boat lift: a coal truck was being loaded onto a lift when the lift moved; the truck then struck cables and pipes, causing an explosion. The mine reopened after the accident, but has now closed. There is a museum devoted to the tragedy in one of the two former pitheads, where the gearing remains; and a museum of Belgian heavy industrial industry in other buildings.

In the afternoon, we travelled to Binche, where an annual carnival gave birth to the term 'binge'. There is a beautifully ornamental station, with surviving wartime notices in German, in front of a town square which is surrounded by statues but spoiled by a lack of horticultural maintenance. There are also lovely ornamental buildings in the town square. We then travelled outside the town, to see the now derelict coal washing plant at Peronnes, built in 1954 with Marshall Plan money. En route back to Charleroi, we saw the outside of a brewery, the Brasserie des Alliés at Marchienne du Pont (I didn't realise there were two meanings to the word 'brasserie') and then stopped to look at the Charleroi Steelworks, which is very close to the centre of the town. While we were there, the coke ovens obliged with a large emission of white steam, which left behind a yellow mist when it dispersed. To get a better view, some of us went up the escalator to an elevated tram station. Those who touched the moving handrails wished they hadn't!

After a last night in Charleroi, the party returned via the Distillerie Claeyssens at Wambrechies, just outside Lille. Having studied the growth of the London distilling industry but never seen an operating distillery, I found it particularly interesting to see the production processes which have survived from the 19th century and are essentially the same as those which were used in England. Unfortunately, production had stopped for the summer at the previous weekend, but that did not inhibit us in sampling the product and buying samples before heading for Calais. Brian Strong

Greenwich Steam Ferry 1888-1899

Recent archaeological work carried out during the demolition of Wood Wharf at the north end of Horseferry Place SE10 which was at the southern end of the Greenwich Steam Ferry (ref Engineering 17 February 1888, and The Engineer 2 December 1892) has provided some surprising information. It was thought that there were two or three steam engines on each bank to work the pair of travelling platforms each side of the river and to raise and lower the slowly moving landing stages (one on each bank) which were adjusted as the tide rose and fell. However excavation now reveals that there was only one engine bed at Wood Wharf and it appears that a single (large) steam engine (using steam from three locomotive boilers) perhaps worked the three platforms by a complicated drive. The platforms were not counterbalanced by each other but by massive weights in shafts. There were three of these, one for each platform, over 150 feet deep (this depth has been verified by diving). Further excavation revealed remains of a drain at a lower level which ran to an outfall a short way to the north of Wood Wharf. It is thought this drain predates the Steam Ferry.

Having independently counterbalanced moving platforms would allow the platforms which communicated with the landing stage to move at any time as traffic dictated. This is analogous with the lifts or elevators in a tall building. The implication is that heavy traffic was anticipated. Mention has been made that it was an American system installed at Greenwich and one wonders if ferries of a similar kind ever operated in New York. The arrangement is rather unlike British practice at the time.

The use of locomotive boilers to drive stationary steam engines was not that uncommon and even the locomotive's cylinders and motion might be used. In 1879 the Metropolitan Board of Works purchased six broad gauge engines from the Great Western Railway in order to use them at pumping stations. They were obtained at a reasonable cost — £500 each. Two went to Crossness, one to Falcon brook, Battersea, one to Effra, Vauxhall Gardens and two were put in store. The pair at Crossness drove centrifugal pumps and provided steam for other plant. It is not known how long they survived. Bob Carr

Turner Whistler Monet

Tate Britain recently staged an exhibition (10 February — 15 May) that examined the relationship between Claude Monet (1840-1926) and James Whistler (1834-1903), and their debt to JMW Turner (1755-1851). I visited with my wife and what neither of us expected was to come across some industrial archaeology of London with particular reference to the River Thames.

On entering the exhibition one of the first pictures was Turner's 1809 realistic picture London From Greenwich Park, which among other things shows the Isle of Dogs as one vast meadow, the only buildings being on the shoreline — between West Ferry Road and the shore. However, the majority of the pictures were summed up to us by the title of Jonathon Ribner's essay in the well illustrated catalogue of the exhibition entitled The Poetics of Pollution. The picture on the catalogue's cover, the souvenir mugs and tea towels are of Monet's Houses of Parliament: Effects of Sunlight in the Fog 1904, which contrasts in subject matter to his paintings of his garden in Giverny. Ribner's essay also includes a potted history of the fight against the air pollution of London. For example Edward I in the late 13th century ineffectively banned coal burning. John Evelyn submitted a plea to Charles II 'for London's inhabitants breathe nothing but an impure and thick mist'. London began to be called the 'big smoke' in the 1700s. Legislation for smoke abatement was introduced in 1821. However, the thick yellow 'pea-soupers' first appeared in the 1840s. There followed Smoke Nuisance Acts in 1858 and 1866, and further regulation in the Public Health Act of 1875. Yet these measures neither touched on domestic smoke nor provided for an official air-monitoring authority and London grew smokier. In 1881 there was an exhibition in South Kensington of smoke-abating fuels, stoves and fireplace grates. In 1886 a week of fog killed between 500 and 700 people which equalled the number of fatalities in the worst cholera years. So perhaps the then currently held 'miasmic' theory of disease that good and bad health was the result of the properties of the air inhaled was to a certain extent understandable. Even though at the time it inhibited the reformers of London's water supplies and sewage disposal. With hindsight it is a wonder that anyone was able to survive these twin pestilences of London.

Yet London's pollution seems to have been a love-hate relationship. London's fog had an allure for French travellers, some considering the fog as England's natural attraction, with a draw comparable to an eruption of Vesuvius. In the 1890s a splendid view of the Thames in fog was advertised as one of the advantages of the Savoy Hotel. So it occurred to us that perhaps some of the 'impressionist' painting of London from that time might have been in fact 'reality'. Following a peak in 1890 London's fogs began to subside — why? In 1904 Monet discovered to his dismay that clear skies sometimes occurred even in winter which was long before the Clean Air Act of 1956 prohibited the emission of dark smoke.

Perhaps of specific interest to traditional industrial archaeologists were pictures, many on loan from American museums but all reproduced in the catalogue, that illustrate 1860s factories on the Thames shoreline at Battersea and Chelsea: lead works, timber yards, chemical works and flour works. A picture by Whistler, Grey and Silver: Old Battersea Reach, shoes the works of the Morgan Crucible Company. There must have been to some extent anti-pollution legislation on the statute books with at least some teeth, for it is stated that in 1857 Morgan Crucible were fined for emitting too much smoke. In those days how was this measured? Is there a book concerning the cleansing of the 'London Fog' on the lines of Stephen Halliday's book concerning Sir Joseph Bazalgette and 'The Great Stink of London'? Peter J Butt


TurnerWhistlerMonet, edited by Katherine Lochnan, Tate Publishing, ISBN 1-85437-500-8
The Great Stink of London, by Stephen Halliday, Sutton Publishing, ISBN 0-7509-2580-9

The 1830 Fulham Gasholder

The oldest gasholder in London and perhaps the world is still in existence at Fulham gasworks. In February its characteristic guide frame could be made out from the train on the West London Railway, that is between Clapham Junction and West Brompton — look west. It is perhaps now visible from outside the works due to recent demolition? See Brian Sturt's gasholder article in London's Industrial Archaeology number 2, page 22. Bob Carr

The Paddington Bridge

Work has been progressing on replacing the 600ft-long viaduct that carries Bishops Bridge Road across the west end of Paddington Station.

The cast ironwork of Brunel's bridge (GLIAS Newsletter June 2004). over the canal was lifted out in April last year and is being stored at Fort Cumberland in Portsmouth until money can be raised for its re-erection.

Since August the steel-trussed bridge of 1907 at the other end, across the main line, has been perched spectacularly on temporary towers, high above its original level, to await the launching of the new continuous girders across the tracks from the north side. The first part of that launch was achieved this May, jacking forwards during night-time possessions and using cleverly adjustable supports for the varying geometry.

Once the remainder of the steelwork has been attached at the rear, the launch is to be completed in September. Then the old bridge will be lowered onto the deck and trundled northwards for dismantling safely clear of the railway.

The new, much wider bridge will be opened in spring 2006. Malcolm Tucker

St Pancras update

A large concrete box is being constructed just to the northwest of the Barlow train shed at St Pancras (GLIAS Newsletter April 2005). Refurbishment of the Midland Railway 'locomotive watering facility' relocated further north by the canal basin seems to be complete and it's now an attractive sight.

On 16 May Thameslink trains started running through from Bedford to Brighton again.

At the German Gymnasium a CTRL exhibition will be starting on 2 June. Opening hours are advertised as Monday to Friday 8.30am-6.30pm and Saturday 9am-12pm.

Midland Mainline is due to move to its new terminus on the west side of the International station in 2006 and the CTRL project should be completed by 2007. Bob Carr

King's Cross gazetteer

Finsbury Park news

The recent toilets immediately to the west of the Finsbury Park main gates opposite the north end of Finsbury Park Road have been demolished. In the park itself, Parkland Walk is being rebuilt. It is to take bicycle traffic to a new interchange facility just northeast of Finsbury Park station on the east side of Stroud Green Road where 125 lockable cycle racks are to be installed (GLIAS Newsletter April 2005). It is claimed this will be the largest in central London and is to be staffed during peak periods. Opening was planned for March 2005. The idea is that commuters can get to and from the station by healthy cycling away from traffic fumes.

In Somerfield Road N4 the attractive substantial cast iron covers set in the kerb by some street drains are disappearing. Raised letters in the iron read SHLB 1884.

At the north end of Finsbury Park Road N4 on the west side is number 296 Seven Sisters Road — Avan's Café. High up on the east side of the building is an aged cement sign with the letters recessed into the concrete which in the right light reads 'Marshall, importer of Segars, wholesale & retail and at Islington'. The Concise Oxford Dictionary entry for Segar says '(incorrect for) cigar'. Presumably about a hundred years ago Avan's was a tobacconist's shop. Behind what is now the Café is the usual back garden/yard but along the south side are the remains of stables. Probably a carriage was kept here. Bob Carr

No more Routemasters on Route 19

The 19 bus route which runs from Finsbury Park to Battersea lost its Routemasters on 2 April when new low-floor double-deck buses began operating (GLIAS Newsletter February 2005). Route 38 which runs from the Clapton Pond to Victoria is due to lose its Routemasters this autumn. They are to be replaced by 'bendy' buses. Soon there will be no more getting on and off buses between stops.

A photograph of a Kentish Bus RML stretched Routemaster at one time used on route 19 appears on page 33 of Tim Smith's Twenty Five Years of GLIAS (ISBN 0 905042 35 2). Bob Carr

Going and gone

The demolition of buildings and structures continues apace. Things put up as recently as 30 years ago are coming down.

In the centre of Leicester, just northeast of the Clock Tower, the Haymarket Theatre and Shopping Centre, a substantial development opened in 1974 will be demolished soon.

North of Watford the 1920s Ovaltine Factory, Kings Langley (TL 077 026), has suffered demolition at the north end.

In London the 1950s style Arthur Simpson Library at 160 Hanley Road N4 has been demolished. Opened in 1960 demolition was somewhat controversial. It was quite an attractive building which might have been re-used.

On the west side of Farringdon Road EC1 at numbers 17-23 there was an attractive 1950s style brick building for Crowson and Sons Ltd, cheese merchants. This has been demolished within about the last year but redevelopment of the site has not yet started.

The former Post Office Telephone building on the west side of Farringdon Street, south of Holborn Viaduct, the 'Fleet Building' has excellent period (c1960) semi-abstract murals at pavement level depicting telecommunication. The building looks due for demolition soon but hopefully this is incorrect. It is probably still used by BT. About 40 years ago it was partly a Telephonist Recruitment Centre. The postal address is 70 Farringdon Street and 40 Shoe Lane EC2.

Opened in December 1960 the 11-storey Fleet Building accommodated the inland and international telex exchanges and dealt with London's inland telegrams. There were manual cordless switchboards for international telex, Fleet Mux (an ARQ terminal) and an MCVF terminal. The Fleet also had inland and international test facilities and the Waterloo traffic office was here. In 1968 a Varley ND I/C exchange was opened for the telephone STD network. Until 1970 the only international telex exchange was at the Fleet. The 'hotline' installed after the 1962 Cuban missile crisis to enable heads of state in the USA and USSR to speak to each other directly was also connected with the Fleet Building. For further information see (

Northwest of Blackfriars Bridge the well-known Unilever Building (built 1921 as Lever House) has been gutted. Little more than the façade survives.

Much still remains of Chambers Wharf in Southwark. It goes inland quite a way with large buildings (c1920s?) either side of the street. From an industrial archaeological viewpoint this is one of the very few 'unspoilt' parts of Dockland.

Greenwich District Hospital on the corner of Woolwich Road and Vanbrugh Hill London SE3 is due for demolition very soon. Building started here in 1966 but it wasn't completed until 1980, the design being somewhat experimental. For its time it is a good-looking building.

Demolition has been taking place at the Vitbe flour mills site just above the railway bridge on Crayford Creek (TQ 527 754). Does anyone have further information?

At Avery Hill Campus the tool collection formerly kept in the glasshouses has been removed. Bob Carr

Wallpaper factory demolished

The former wallpaper-factory building at 142-144 Offord Road, Islington, has now been demolished. It was known as Coles or John Perry's. The site is being redeveloped for housing (GLIAS Newsletter February 2003). Bob Carr

Hat factory gutted

The large 1930s hat factory on the corner of Midland Road and Dudley Street in Luton (TL 092 217) is being radically remodelled for housing and there appears to be some new building adjacent to the northwest. Being close to Luton railway station it is a desirable location.

The factory was built for Paul Walser trading as Reslaw Hats. There is a photograph of the building prior to conversion on page 40 of the Hertfordshire and Lea Valley industrial archaeology guide published for the 2004 AIA Conference in Hatfield (ISBN 0 9528930 7 X). Bob Carr

MV Royal Iris

The former Mersey ferry Royal Iris (GLIAS Newsletter August 2001) is still at her usual berth but now looks much smarter. Her superstructure (much of the ship) has been repainted silver and black. Bob Carr

The internet to the rescue?

Over the years the Newcomen Society has produced a fine jigsaw of beautifully produced pieces in the form of papers in the Transactions of the Newcomen Society — but are these pieces being used? Investigation has suggested that not that many serious workers really exploit this wonderful publication achievement and attempts to fit the pieces together so as to see the bigger picture don't seem to be happening.

This is a general problem, with organisations churning out paper which after initial scrutiny is then seldom read. Back copies of our own GLIAS Journal are probably consulted very occasionally, especially by non-members. The situation is compounded by the problem of Parallel Bodies. That is organisations pursuing similar interests but barely communicating with each other. Over the past 30 years we have seen an ever-increasing number of organisations being formed, often more and more specialised, with interests in the field broadly covered by GLIAS. We can't join them all even if we had the time and money.

Electronic publication on the internet would seem to be a way out but so far many journals we might be interested in are not available this way and there is always the problem of long runs of back issues which require great effort to put on the internet. Hopefully in a few years we shall see if the sterling work of Newcomen in making its Transactions generally available internet-wise pays off in the form of a glorious renaissance in the study and understanding of its published papers. Bob Carr
Newcomen website:


I certainly remember seeing goldfish in cisterns (GLIAS Newsletter December 2004) in the early 70s. My recollection is that the Gents in question was south of the river rather than Holborn (possibly the one on the corner of Southwark Street and Southwark Bridge Road which is now a coffee bar), but I may be wrong about the location. Not about the fish, though. Tony Nunn

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© GLIAS, 2005