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Notes and news — October 2005

In this issue:

From the secretary's postbag

The Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service (GLAAS) Quarterly Review December 2004-March 2005 includes reports on the following:

New Providence Wharf (Tower Hamlets): a watching brief is being undertaken during the final stage of the work. This is 'expected to reveal further dock structures of the same sequence recorded in the [earlier] excavation. So far, four rows of wooden post and plank revetments have been observed, all seemingly backfilled during the late 19th century. The finds assembly is sparse, consisting of occasional lengths of chain and small fragments of late 19th century pottery.'

Beckton Sewage Works, part of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's London sewage system. The Beckton works were constructed in the 1860s to form the end of the Northern Outfall; 'in 1887 precipitation lanes were constructed to treat the sewage chemically and the sludge was removed in ships and dumped at sea. These structures as well as the valves and pumps rooms are the main focus of' a building recording study by Oxford Archaeology. 'In the 1960s the eastern section of these lanes were largely demolished to form re-aeration lanes and this later modification forms a secondary focus of the report. The work is prior to the development of the new Thames Gateway Water Treatment Plant (TGWTP) at the site.'

Royal Victoria Dock — another building recording by MoLAS of the N, O and P Warehouses, 'originally built as a single warehouse as part of the complex of dock buildings at Royal Victoria Dock in 1855. A fire in 1925 caused extensive damage and subsequent rebuilding took place, particularly in the interior of the buildings, which was known to have stored American tobacco after this period. The building was last occupied in 1981 and again modified in the 1990s.'

Former Charrington's Wharf on the Isle of Dogs: an excavation has revealed 'post-medieval remains of docks, slipways, dockside buildings, river walls with associated working surfaces and assorted detritus ... dated from the early 17th century to the mid 20th century. A 19th-century timber slipway was found in a particularly fine state of preservation. Among the finds was a rare pitch barrel likely to have been manufactured in the Baltic and buried in the 17th century. The pottery assembly included imports from Europe and the Far East.'

English Heritage also plan to have pages devoted to GLAAS on their website, including archaeological priority areas, contacts, publications and links to other organisations in London. Meanwhile, some GLAAS information is available on the London Archaeology website at www.londonarchaeology.org.uk.
Brian Strong

Kirkaldy Testing Museum notes: Kirkaldy and fatigue

Did fatigue ever worry David Kirkaldy? Well his work was so meticulous that surely he must at times have become fatigued, but after some initial observations, he seemed not to pursue the mechanical phenomenon of failures under repeated cycles of loading. He set up his testing and experimental works in 1865, within a decade of fatigue becoming recognised as an engineering reality but there is no record that he ever made a serious study of the problem. I wonder why?

Kirkaldy Testing Museum, 2012. © Adriaan Linters The term 'fatigue' was first applied to failure of metals after many reversals of stress of a level well below their static strength by Poncelet, in France, in 1839. With the coming of railways, this phenomenon became of major importance and in 1843 Rankine, a professor at Glasgow, presented a paper to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), in London, describing such fractures as circumferential cracks penetrating the axles where there was a sharp change in diameter near a journal bearing and recommended the use of large blending curves at such points of change of section. In 1849, McConnell, a railway engineer, ascribed the behaviour to the crystallisation of the metal under repeated vibration and jarring. Robert Stephenson, the president of the ICE, disputed that view and cautioned that it had not been fully proven. In 1850, Stephenson reported that iron of normal ductility and that with a so-called crystalline appearance after failure by fatigue, showed no real difference when examined under a microscope. At the same meeting, David Kirkaldy also spoke in similar vein, that fatigue did not cause iron to 'go crystalline'. Kirkaldy quoted results from two tests made on the same rod. The first test was a conventional tensile test on a wasted piece with a parallel central gauge length while the second was on a much shorter end piece of the same rod, little more that a deep groove turned between its two ends. The first piece broke in a ductile manner with an appreciable reduction in cross-sectional area while the second broke with the so called 'crystalline' appearance and very little reduction in cross-section. He pointed out that all metals were inherently crystalline when first made and must have been the same for these two tests since the pieces were adjacent in the same rod. Since the pieces had not been loaded more than once fatigue did not influence the appearance of the fractures. The difference must reflect a different path taken by the two fracture types, 'ductile pulling out' emphasising the 'fibrous' nature of wrought iron (as clearly seen when etched in acid) while the 'crystalline fatigue' failure cut across that microstructure perpendicular to the direction of loading. He also pointed out that an impact load could cause a crystalline appearance in some fractures.

In the 1850s, Wöhler studied fatigue for a German railway company and set up a simple testing device to apply bending stress to a rotating cantilever, versions of which still carry his name. In 1864, Fairburn tested girders 22ft (c7m) long in connection with possible fatigue of bridges and recommended a margin of eight-fold between the static tensile strength of a metal and the applied working stress under the maximum value of a varying load.

Kirkaldy's test was very well thought out and his argument conclusive that a crystalline appearance of fracture in a normally ductile material was not just a consequence of repeated loadings. The difference in configuration in his tests might be expressed here as the first piece being 'all middle and no (well, very little) ends' while the second was 'all ends and no (well, very little) middle'. There are two effects here, a so-called stress concentration (ie an elevation of the local stress to perhaps three-fold or more above the nominal) arising from a sharp change in section and an effect called 'plastic constraint' (whereby a three-dimensional state of stress is induced). Kirkaldy, as with Rankine and others before him, certainly recognised the former and advised against such features in practice. Since the coming of plasticity theory in the mid-20th century the effect of plastic constraint and its role in inducing brittle fractures in otherwise ductile material is well understood but it seems unlikely that that role was appreciated in the mid-19th century. But that is not the point here. The point here is that by the 1850s fatigue was widely recognised as a problem. Kirkaldy, with his quite astute reasoning, offered more insight into the problem than any other engineer had shown at the time, so why did he not follow it up by further tests?

We shall probably never be sure. Kirkaldy was of course still working for Napier's shipyard in Glasgow and was about to conduct the series of test that first brought him to prominence. He next invested his future in his 'big machine' that was not designed to apply the many cycles of load needed to instigate fatigue (despite his early advertisement mentioning that his machine could apply repeated loadings). We know that once launched, he was kept very busy with the tests he was asked to make; tensile, bending, compression, shearing and so on, testing metal girders, brick columns, concrete blocks, tiles... almost anything... However interested he undoubtedly was in the better understanding of materials and their behaviour, he was after all running a commercial business. Perhaps no-one asked him to do fatigue tests that might then have appeared as being rather peculiar to the railways, though he did static tests on the tyres of engine wheels and girders for the Indian State Railways. Perhaps he saw fatigue as some combination of poor material and poor design and did not recognise it as a separate phenomenon that would still plague engineers a century and a half later.

If any reader knows of a Wöhler type machine 'going spare', even if of 1950 rather than 1850 vintage, KTM would be very interested to be told of it. Ted Turner
Kirkaldy Testing Museum website: www.testingmuseum.org.uk

Previous related articles

Excavations at Erith Docks

I should like to comment on Neil Hawkins' report (GLIAS Newsletter August 2005) relating to the extraction of ballast and the construction of a quarry tramway.

Considering the local geology, the ballast would either have been of various gravels, such as the well-known 'Thames Ballast', or else the chalk which underlies the loam — in neither case 'stone'. The loamy sand, dug from large pits in the Thanet Sands at Charlton and Woolwich as well as Erith, was highly prized for foundry sand, as Neil remarks. I suggest that it provided a remunerative alternative to ordinary ballast for some of the collier ships returning to the Tyne.

Regarding the 'narrow gauge' railway, built not earlier than 1842, the use of cast-iron rails would be remarkable at such date, unless reused from elsewhere. However, the approximately 1:50 plan seems to confirm one's expectations that these were not cast-iron but wrought iron rails, rolled in long lengths to a constant cross section, with a flat-bottomed form and laid on standard timber sleepers. Cast-iron rails in a mineral railway would have been of variable cross-section with a pronounced 'fish belly' for strength, jointed at intervals of roughly 1 metre and often, but not always, laid on stone blocks rather than timbers. Furthermore, from the scale bar, the gauge of the track appears remarkably close to 1,435mm — the standard gauge of 4ft 8½in and not 'narrow gauge', in the modern sense at all!

This raises the question of what is the use of archaeological work, if it is not reported to a standard that permits accurate recall and meaningful interpretation of what was found. Furthermore, in the industrial period, components were often constructed to precise if not standardised sizes and shapes, which provide strong evidence for dating and the circumstances of manufacture and use, or indicate the progression of engineering design through time. This demands precision in recording process and appropriately large scales for the drawn record. Since ironwork is so much more precise than those constructional materials with which traditional archaeologists are generally familiar, significant details may need to be drawn and read with precision at scales of 1:5 or larger, if there is to be a proper record and diagnosis of important items — the elevations of an elaborate casting, the cross-section of a rail, or details of a joint, for instance.

Engineers and mechanics were highly numerate and their work often dimensionally critical, so that reporting the actual measurements of sizes also needs strong encouragement (preferably in the units, such as inches and fractions, that the original designer would have used, provided that the recorder is competently familiar with these).

Lastly, on the raising of the ground level to support the new railway. Unless to cross a swamp or lake, I doubt any railway builder would build an embankment for the purpose of creating a more 'solid' base. Easing or eliminating gradients is indeed usually the reason for earthworks, perhaps particularly necessary where the lie of the land had previously been disrupted by quarrying or an existing embankment had to be joined on to. Avoiding a level crossing with a road, or raising the wagons to a higher level from which to tipple their loads, might be other reasons.

The above said, we should thank Neil Hawkins for disseminating his findings through the GLIAS Newsletter and encourage more field archaeologists to do the same and share in fruitful debate. Malcolm Tucker

The Maclamp?

Following the piece on the Anglepoise lamp by Bob Carr (GLIAS Newsletter August 2005), I heard 40 years ago about a special form of flexible lamp called the Maclamp (invented by a Mr Scott!), which if I remember correctly I saw still on sale in Germany a few years ago. Can anyone provide more details? Michael Wright

European Industrial Heritage Trail launched

A heritage trail linking sites of industrial significance across Europe has been launched.

Historians and archaeologists from Britain, Germany and Holland have joined forces to launch the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH), which they hope will encourage more people to explore such sites and take greater pride in modern and historical industry.
Website: http://en.erih.net/

Gerrards Cross tunnel

A 30m section of the 300m Gerrards Cross railway tunnel collapsed on Thursday 30 June interrupting Chiltern train services to Banbury, Birmingham and elsewhere.

The initial view being publicised at Marylebone station is that some of the concrete arches were overloaded before the space around them had been correctly infilled. This new work was being carried out to cover over the railway which is in a cutting here so as to provide a central site for the construction of a Tesco supermarket. Most of the infill has been removed along with the damaged arches and the crown of the tunnel has been cleared. The remaining arches have been rigorously tested for safety and what remains now has a safety factor greater than normal for such a structure. Train services through the 'Tesco tunnel' finally resumed on 20 August.

The Chiltern route to the Midlands has become a flourishing one, so much so that at the former Great Central Railway Marylebone station, opened as recently as 1899, two more platforms are to be built to accommodate the extra traffic generated. Originally Marylebone was the terminus of the main line from Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester but this through route was closed by British Railways in 1966. The line through Gerrards Cross was before the 1923 Grouping a joint GCR and GWR route used by the Great Western's crack two-hour trains to Birmingham. Bob Carr

Routemaster contracts awarded

Routemaster buses at Victoria station. © Robert Mason Routemasters will finally leave front-line service with London Buses by the end of 2005 (GLIAS Newsletter June 2005), but they will still be seen in the capital on heritage routes.

Contracts for two Heritage Routemaster services have now been awarded by Transport for London to the bus operators First Group and Stagecoach.

The contracts have been awarded for the following proposed routes:

It is proposed that the routes would both operate every 15 minutes, between about 9.30am and 6.30pm, seven days a week.

Five buses will be used for each route, and three extra buses will be kept in reserve, totalling 16 Routemasters across both Heritage routes.

Exploring the Fleet with Dorothy L Sayers

The eminent crime writer Dorothy L Sayers included a superb, partly autobiographical, account of pre-war London office life in one of her stories 'Murder Must Advertise' (GLIAS Newsletter August 1990). In addition to that there is an authentic-sounding and graphic description of an exploration of the underground Fleet River, starting from its outfall at Blackfriars, in the uncompleted work 'Thrones, Dominations'. She describes how the Bazalgette interceptor sewers cross the river on weirs which the party have to climb over by means of fixed iron ladders and mentions the methane fire risk which has to be taken into account.

The journey northwards starts under dry flow conditions but is brought to a dramatic end by an underground wind which heralds the onset of storm conditions. The party emerges hurriedly into rain and wet streets above ground, climbing out of a manhole in the Clerkenwell Road with the London traffic diverted by a red flag. They had been looking for the lost London river Cranbourne that was thought to flow underground into the Fleet from the Seven Dials area and when interrupted had just begun to explore a small branch sewer with low headroom.

For a time, 1921-29, Dorothy L Sayers lived near the north end of Great James Street on the west side at number 24, close to the Rugby Tavern, and there is a blue plaque on the house. Thrones, Dominations (the title comes from Milton) was the last of her Peter Wimsey stories and is set in London in 1936. It remained uncompleted when she died in 1957 but she had drawn a plot diagram in coloured inks and the work was finished by Jill Paton Walsh and finally published in February 1998. Sayers, who was born in 1893, had other work to do besides writing detective stories and devoted much of her later life to the translation of Dante. Bob Carr

Beatrix Potter and the Manufacturing Silversmiths

The famous children's writer Beatrix Potter was born in 1866 and will be well-known to most readers. However, the engineer Leslie Linder who lived at Buckhurst Hill may not be such a household name. He became fascinated with the work of Beatrix Potter in his early forties (c1945) and devoted much of his available time to collecting and copying her original artwork and, more surprisingly, published three important books on Beatrix Potter. It is to him we owe the unearthing of Beatrix Potter's remarkable journal which she wrote in code and was kept by her between the ages of 15 and 30. It is an account of upper middle-class life in late Victorian times full of observation and insight. Leslie Linder's background was the family engineering business — lifting engineers who diversified into radio masts. He was a specialist in lifting gear and wrote a definitive study of the subject.

Beatrix Potter's Journal covering the years 1881-1897 was first published in full in 1989. Written in code it was transcribed by Leslie Linder. An incomplete edited version by Linder appeared in 1966 for the Beatrix Potter centenary. After his death in 1974 Linder left most of his collection to the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum — an invaluable legacy.

GLIAS members will be interested in the fact that on Friday 4 November 1881 Beatrix Potter paid a visit to Hunt & Roskells, silver manufacturers in Harrison Street, south of King's Cross station, London and wrote a full account in her Journal. Despite her youth this is a very worthy piece of work.

She noted the large numbers of beautifully made steel dies worth several thousand pounds, described a large traditional screw press used for pressing soft metal into 3-fasts (meaning unclear) and a drop press where a man raised a weight of about half a hundredweight and let it fall. A piece of copper was stamped as a demonstration. There was a great deal of dust at these premises and she was told that gold and silver dust became lost in it, in quite large quantities.

She described how silver wire is reduced in diameter by drawing through a small hole which she found very interesting. She saw silver cast and noticed that the pots the silver was melted in were made of plumbago. In one room six or seven silversmiths were hammering silver to a constant thickness; very noisy.

A large vase was heated to red heat and plunged into a tank of dirty-looking pickle from which it was quickly removed a brilliant white. Potter noted that in this manufactory all firing and melting was done by gas. At the top of the building in a long room she watched old men with good manners, who seemed very respectable, sitting opposite a window engraving by means of small steel pins. The cups and other things were filled with an unpleasant mixture of boiling pitch and sand which set hard to prevent them being hammered out of shape. Afterwards this was removed by putting some red-hot coals on it.

In the finishing room a machine with many wheels and straps turned a brush with which the silver was scrubbed after being rubbed or scratched with wet pumice stone. Two men dressed like French cooks sat at a table covered with rouge, which they mixed with some oil and rubbed the silver with their fingers, making it beautifully bright and finished.

The tour of the factory was brought to a conclusion with a visit to the design room, a medium sized studio with skylights surrounded by curtains in which sat a big man in a velvet cloak posing as Vasco da Gama. There was an artist with a long black cloak at work on a plaster model, who had brought out for the party to examine the drawings of the rest of the collection. The chief work on hand was a large set of plate to be presented to the manager of the White Star Line of Steam Ships.

This account is very good for someone aged 15, in fact quite remarkable; the above précis does not do it credit. Perhaps the only hint that this is by Beatrix Potter is her interest in the several cats she came across during the visit.

Beatrix Potter was describing a works surprisingly like one which can still be seen in Birmingham today at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter. This was the factory of Smith and Pepper, 75-77 Vyse Street, Hockley, Birmingham 18, which is a veritable time capsule just as it was when the workers last downed tools in 1981. A visit is well worthwhile and sometimes it is possible to see demonstrations of some of the processes. Most of the equipment seems to be in full working order. There is a classic arrangement here for reducing wires to size by drawing, very much like that described by Beatrix Potter in 1881 and they have a drop press. Bob Carr

Valve covers, Hornsey

The large valve covers in some parts of North London that Bob Rust describes (GLIAS Newsletter August 2005), 11in by 8¼in (280mm x 210mm) overall and marked with a pair of plain, very bold letters, belonged to the New River Company.

That company's water supply undertaking was transferred to the new Metropolitan Water Board in 1904. The letters are abbreviations — NR (New River), DV (District Valve), AC (Air Cock) and the like. Later covers of a similar size are also found marked MWB or even MWD (Metropolitan Water Division) — the transitional arrangement after the Thames Water Authority took over from the MWB in 1974.

The old water companies in other areas had equivalent cover plates. They can still sometimes be found, in roads where there are important mains, but older valve covers of all sizes are gradually disappearing as mains or fittings are renewed.

Valves wear out, service pipes corrode and cast-iron mains laid in shrinkable clay soils seem to be increasingly prone to leaks and bursts from slight movements of ground or heavy traffic loading.

There is a major programme under way, financed from our ever-increasing water rates, to replace cast-iron mains in polyethylene, and the streets of Hornsey have been seeing this in earnest in recent months.

Some other pieces of street furniture are the fire hydrant covers which are found in the pavements and are very much larger than valve covers. In Hornsey, some are marked MWB or TWA, but those of the early 20th century were provided by the local authority (who ran the fire brigade) and are marked 'Hornsey District Council' or 'Borough of Hornsey' or 'BH', with a date. Some near me are dated 1917 and I speculate that the threat from the Zeppelin air raids was then considered more pressing than the wartime shortage of materials and labour. Malcolm Tucker

'Chimney'/sewer ventilator

The solitary brick-built 'chimney' between the Regent's Canal towpath and Rhodeswell Road (GLIAS Newsletter August 2005) is a sewer vent shaft built about 1906 by the London County Council.

It ventilates the Northern Low Level No 2 Sewer which passes under the canal just south of the shaft, on its way from Hammersmith to Abbey Mills Pumping Station on the Northern Outfall Sewer.

The No 2 Sewer was built by the London County Council between 1904 and 1912.

The sewer vent shaft also ventilates the Limekiln Dock Diversion Sewer which passes under the canal just north of the shaft and cascades into the chamber below the shaft. Tom Ridge

The solitary brick-built stack (octagonal, never hexagonal) is a sewer ventilating column. The London Metropolitan Archives have 'fie-foot' OS maps marked with the sewer lines and , as I recall, showing this on a short branch from the Low Level Interceptor Sewer. However, that does not answer when it was built, as the boldly corbelled cap looks possibly later in style than the sewer's mid 1860s construction date.

There is another, one mile eastward, in Violet Road, Bow (TQ 376 821). This is evidently later, in red engineering brick and circular, with its top recently rebuilt. A plan of this was presented to the London County Council's committee on 12 October 1889 (LMA: LCC/PP/MD/S8, not seen by me). Malcolm Tucker

News from Kew Bridge Steam Museum

Bob Carr's mention of the restoration of the Bull engine (GLIAS Newsletter August 2005) stated that the engine was due to be steamed by June 2005. Unfortunately this has not proved possible despite the Herculean efforts of the volunteers. The engine has undoubtedly presented the museum with its biggest restoration challenge, partly due to the level of corrosion of major parts, but also due to the very cramped and humid under floor working conditions.

Kew Bridge Steam Museum. © Robert Mason However, the light is now beginning to be seen at the end of the tunnel and all the major components have been reinstalled. A new air pump and rod were made on site and these, together with their beam, are now back in place. Work on cleaning and reassembling the valve gear is now well underway, together with what seems like acres of painting. As the conditions under the floor of the engine are likely to continue to be wet and subject to extreme temperature fluctuations, lead based paints and lime wash are being used to give better protection. The paints have been specially manufactured by the Real Paint & Varnish Company, based on the original colours found on the engine. They have been tricky to use compared to modern paints and each coat is taking up to a week to dry!

The excitement of returning a new engine to steam has been tempered by another huge rise in gas prices for the museum, which means it is likely that we will have to reduce the operation of the Cornish engines in order to bring the costs down to an affordable level. These magnificent engines consume 36% of the gas burnt in the museum's Lancashire boiler and if their current level of operation (every weekend) is maintained, the museum will be faced with a gas bill of over £29,000 in 2006, a rise of over £13,000 in two years. As an independent museum without any local or national government revenue support, the museum simply cannot afford the increase without sponsorship or a huge rise in admission charges. We will be actively seeking a sponsor (or sponsors) to help us maintain regular steamings of the Cornish engines and I would be interested in any suggestions GLIAS members may have.

On a brighter note, the museum has recruited a number of new volunteers this year ... but we still want more! We are particularly keen to recruit more engine drivers and stewards to talk to visitors and help demonstrate our horse gin and waterwheel. The Thursday engine maintenance team are also happy to welcome new members. No engineering experience is required, but we have a number of retired engineers who have found their skills are kept in good use by the museum! This is the day that a host of jobs gets tackled from re-packing glands to making new safety rails. Any readers who are interested should contact me for further information.
Lesley Bossine, Kew Bridge Steam Museum. Website: www.kbsm.org

Hampton Waterworks

Regarding RJ Buchanan's article about a visit to Hampton Waterworks (GLIAS Newsletter August 2005), the Grand Junction Waterworks Co had been separate from its parent, the Grand Junction Canal Co, since 1811, nor had it used canal water since 1820 when its water supply was exchanged with that of the Regent's Canal — the Thames at Chelsea was at that time considered sweeter! (Its subsequent removal to Kew Bridge, in 1838, is well known).

A distinctive feature of Hampton was that all three of the waterworks companies that moved there in 1852-5 used the same architecture, by Joseph Quick, in a dainty variety of the Italianate style. (His distinctive chimneys-cum-standpipe towers and the whole of the West Middlesex pumping station have now gone).

It was only the Southwark & Vauxhall Company, when it expanded east of Lower Sunbury Road, that later used different architectural styles. They were all taken over in 1904 by the Metropolitan Water Board, a public body and not as stated. Malcolm Tucker

Regent's Canal

The review of Alan Faulkner's book (GLIAS Newsletter August 2005) stirred a memory. In the 60s, we regularly delivered plastic pellets for export to coasters in the Regent's Canal Dock. At that time there were still narrow boats running in from the Midlands. At that time British Waterways had a boat repair facility in an arm on the south side of the dock. It is shown on a modern A-Z as cut off from the dock but opening into the Thames, alongside it is a path marked Lockside which occupies the site of the 'Lockside Café'.

When the boats were under repair the boat family still lived aboard and went about their daily life. But to allow the shipwrights to worked below the water line the boat would be high and dry on trestles. It always struck me as odd to come out of the cafe and chat to people on a boat with not a drop of water in sight.

Just to the west, Narrow Street passed over the connection of the dock to the Thames, the swing bridge had quite steep approaches and Narrow Street was cobbled so that at an earlier time when many horses were in use Thomas Hatcher Ltd kept a trace horse by the bridge to assist the shaft horse over the hump. Bob Rust

Olympic Games 2012

London being chosen for the 2012 Olympic Games might be good news for the construction industry, hoteliers, would-be athletes and hopefully London in general but it is bad news for industrial archaeology. Already Stratford has lost much of interest to GLIAS members and now in East London even items listed grade II will be at risk. Much of the Bow Back Rivers area may well disappear completely — get out and see what is left while there is still time. Bob Carr

Goldfish — again

'Eccentric London' by Benedict le Vay (Bradt Travel Guides, ISBN 1 84162 041 6 — p183) reports that 'The Princess Louise' pub in Holborn once had goldfish (GLIAS Newsletter October 2004) swimming in its glass cisterns, and ends 'can anyone remember this or is an old drunk pulling my leg?'

I investigated — the pub is a magnificently preserved example of a high Victorian pub, all dark panelling, engraved glass, mirrors and marble. The gents is in the basement. The urinals were certainly Victorian, but their cistern was modern (well 50 years old). I realise now I didn't check the cubicles.

I corresponded with Benedict le Vay — he said he had been told it as a lad by some old regulars, and had never seen it for himself.

Unfortunately once in print lazy succeeding authors will copy it, and so it becomes established by repetition.

Is this a fascinating example of the migration of the story from the underground public toilets to the underground private toilets of the nearest pub? Where next I wonder — Sir John Soane's Museum? Roger Morgan

IA map of Berlin

While in Berlin recently I came across a pocket-sized industrial and transport history map of the city. Entitled 'Technik Geschichte Berlin', it depicts and gives brief notes on 250 sites of IA, waterway and railway interest, many of them grouped into nine 'tours' covering different areas of Berlin. Illustrations of 42 selected artefacts ranging from the Schultheiss brewery to the central slaughterhouse, and a note on Berlin's former railway termini, are also included. The map is in full colour and is published by Gauglitz at the modest price of €4.90.

It would be immensely valuable to have a similar map for London. Publication (or commissioning) of such a map would seem to be a very appropriate aim for GLIAS. Is anyone in a position to take on this task? Graham Bird

News in brief

The enclosed CTRL railway over-bridge across the East Coast Main Line railway (ECML) north of King's Cross (GLIAS Newsletter June 2004) has been connected by an additional enclosure to the western portal of the great tunnel to Stratford and the East (thus making that tunnel just a little longer). In simple terms we now have a tube sticking out of the western portal which finishes on the west side of the ECML. The gap between the overbridge and tunnel was being used to get heavy items in and out of the tunnel and there was a crane for this purpose roughly at the west end of Gifford Street. Now this gap has been closed the implication is that heavy work on the tunnel has been completed; it is not that long now before trains start running on the new line.

At the former Ovaltine Factory (GLIAS Newsletter August 2005) only the façade has been left. When the building of the flats here is finished it will be very difficult to visualise what the factory used to be like. More now survives at the two farms which a long time ago used to supply some of the ingredients for Ovaltine. In later years egg powder was bought in and the eggs from the Egg Farm were sold.

Bridges on the course of the East London Line Extension railway (GLIAS Newsletter June 2002) are being refurbished, work is due to start in mid September with completion by the end of November; the spans over Rivington Street EC2, Dunloe Street E2 and Laburnam Street E2 are being dealt with and there will be corresponding local road closures. A railway bridge over Brick Lane which will not be needed for the ELLX has already been removed. When this new route becomes operational it is intended that trains will run directly from Islington to the Surrey Docks (Canada Water) and beyond; a very useful service.

The Frog and Radiator public house has closed with some regret from local residents. Established in 1989 it was before this the Ship and Billet and red London buses which used to terminate here, at the junction of Blackwall Lane and Woolwich Road SE10, had the name Ship & Billet on their destination blinds — from memory even after 1989. Will it reopen with yet another name? The building dates from 1869. Bob Carr

Street furniture

At the west end of Gloucester Drive N4 where it joins Queen's Drive is an unusual pillar-box with no apparent mention of a reigning monarch. It is fairly standard except that the door is blank; can there be such a thing as a republican pillar-box? A possible explanation is that the original door was fractured by a blow and the current door is a replacement, perhaps temporary. Are blank doors of this kind at all common? Do any readers recall ever having seen one? Further south where King's Crescent joins Queen's Drive is a Penfold letterbox still in use (GLIAS Newsletter February 2002).

Belisha pedestrian crossings were introduced in 1934. They were marked on the road by two parallel lines of silver coloured studs and on each side of the road a pole painted in horizontal black and white bands supported an orange globe which was lit at night. These latter were called Belisha beacons. An unusual combined Belisha beacon and lamppost was noted on the west side of Blackstock Road N4, outside number 10 (Paradise Café). The steel tube supporting the lamp went straight through the orange bulb of the beacon and beneath the bulb the pole was clad with plastic to give the required black and white stripes. Have any readers seen another like this? Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 2005