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Notes and news — October 2006

In this issue:

Paddington Span Four saved

Network Rail has dropped its plans to demolish Span Four at Paddington Station and decided instead to invest in its restoration.

Span Four is an elegant and dramatic Edwardian extension to the station, dating from 1911-16, by the Great Western Railway's New Works Engineer, W Young Armstrong. It both complements and enhances IK Brunel's original work at the station. For the past 13 years it has been hidden from the travelling public by a scaffold crash deck.

Network Rail had planned to demolish Span Four and replace it with an office on a deck over the rails, claiming that the development was essential to increase railway capacity at the station and that Span Four was a poor pastiche.

London directories

When systematically searching for a family history connection through the City of London Directories of the 1860s, which are held on microfilm at the Corporation of London's Guildhall Library, I was surprised by how many adverts there were for manufacturing firms. But the majority were for firms in the Birmingham and Sheffield areas, many having pictures of their products and/or their factories, a gold mine for IA. By comparison, there appeared to be few adverts by firms in London and the South East.

Does anyone know if and where London firms of that time advertised?
Peter J Butt. Email:

Drayton Park

The site being cleared in Drayton Park (GLIAS Newsletter August 2006) was originally built up in the 1860s and the former Wesleyan Chapel and School occupied the site at the same time. The factory now being demolished was built in the 1950s to house Westerns Laundries (later National Sunlight). This was a large firm having shops in many parts of the area. There was another laundry in nearby Whistler Street, also in St Thomas's Road and the Mayfield Laundry site is now being redeveloped by the Arsenal Football Club. When Westerns left Drayton Park the site was occupied by a firm named Cypressa which subsequently moved to West London. Roy Hidson

Wood Green Potteries

Having grown up near Bounds Green Underground Station can I add to Patrick Graham's recollections on flower-pot makers (GLIAS Newsletter August 2006). The lorries carrying the tons of clay were Sentinel steam driven — fast, quiet and powerful. The only snag was that they needed a two-man crew; one to drive and one to feed water and shovel coke according to pressure variations. Are there any Sentinel wagons preserved somewhere? Don Hayes

I too am an old Wood Greener and remember that gas engine with the ‘hit and miss' governor (GLIAS Newsletter August 2006). When she was a little girl my Mum fell in the New River (the abandoned bit) and her clothes were dried by Coles' kiln.

Ken Barker, a descendant of the Souths, runs this website which contains a lot of information:

Pat Cryer, a descendant of the Coles, runs a similar one: After the Second World War the local press carried a story that the two companies had signed a pact on wages to stop the poaching of skilled potters as the yards adjoined. Bob Rust

Vitrified bricks

There are clusters of vitrified waste bricks (GLIAS Newsletter August 2006) remaining as the boundary walls/fences in the fronts of houses at the northern end of Wimbledon Park Road where it crosses Glanville Road, and nearby. I know nothing about the theory linking them with gasworks. Wandsworth was, of course, one of London's main gas-producing centres and very near to this location. Rita Ensing

Concrete framed buildings

The piece on framed buildings (GLIAS Newsletter August 2006) reminded me of one which I always thought of as rare. Going south in Butcher Row and crossing The Highway into Narrow Street immediately on the right was a builders merchant's warehouse (I've forgotten the name). This had a reinforced concrete frame with solid brick infill. When the wharves went and the area was gentrified the infill was all stripped out and replaced with walls with windows converting the building into a block of apartments (posh flats). Bob Rust

25 Payne Road

Malcolm Tucker deserves applause for his first-rate account of the development of building structures, in his article '25 Payne Road, London E3 — Metal Framing', (GLIAS Newsletter August 2006). However the facts he outlines will be well known to most readers with an interest in buildings and how they resist collapse and to those GLIAS members involved in the recording work on the building in Payne Road. We are fully aware that the type of building ubiquitous in London before the Great Fire of 1666 was timber framed with diagonal wind bracing. This was an efficient method of constructing quite tall buildings and was only abandoned because of the fire risk. Schools programmes on television have been dealing with this topic in an adequate manner for 20 years.

It appears that the sentence being objected to is as follows (GLIAS Newsletter April 2006):

The 25 Payne Road building has a composite structure and by 'transitional stage' is only meant the transition from iron to steel. All-steel internal construction with load-bearing walls makes a transition to an all steel frame with rigid joints (allowing load-bearing walls to be dispensed with) just that bit easier. What we see at 25 Payne Road is little more than an embryonic development, but it is there. This embryonic development might not have been worth mentioning but is characteristic of a number of buildings in the area, of this date.

The point being made in the offending sentence is that once we have an all-steel frame, joining the horizontal and vertical members rigidly by riveting is an obvious and almost trivial development; obvious because the girders, and probably steel columns, would already be formed by riveting. It was not meant to suggest that this was how the FIRST fully-framed structures were arrived at. Gasholder guide frames and skyscrapers were in existence well before 1897.

Perhaps honour might be satisfied if the sentence being objected to is replaced by the following:

Bob Carr

St Pancras, CTRL and Eurostar

Midland Mainline (MML) trains commenced operation from their new permanent terminus to the northwest of the old St Pancras station on 17 July 2006 (GLIAS Newsletter August 2005). The first train to depart was the 6.10am to Derby. St Pancras was closed over the weekend of 16-17 July for the repositioning of tracks. From the south end of the new four-platform MML station you can once again see into the great William Barlow train shed, listed grade 1. Now restored and re-glazed, it is possible to get quite a good view of the roof.

The new St Pancras International station is to have 15 platforms, six for Eurostar trains which will run southwards into the old train shed, four for Midland Main Line already in use, three at the east side of the station for high-speed services to Kent and two low-level platforms for Thameslink.

The high-speed services from St Pancras to the Continent are due to start in autumn 2007 and currently work is on schedule. We expect test trains to be operating in the tunnel to Stratford quite soon but at the Western Portal, just to the west of the East Coast Main Line north of King's Cross, the overhead traction wires run up to the entrance but do not yet go into the tunnel itself (GLIAS Newsletter June 2006).

When the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) is completed to St Pancras, current Eurostar plans are for most of their services to call at the new Ebbsfleet station, close to the M25 and M2, rather than Ashford as at present. This is causing consternation in East Kent which would loose a valuable amenity. Bob Carr

Crane exported from London

The elderly grey-painted Stothert & Pitt crane, used to unload the small sand and gravel carrying motor ships of JJ Prior Ltd at their wharf on Deptford Creek (GLIAS Newsletter October 2004), has recently been replaced by a tall PLA type crane of the kind common in the larger London docks about 30 years ago. JJ Prior carefully dismantled the old crane and it left the Creek on one of their vessels about Friday 8th September 2006. This export from the Port of London must be the first for a considerable time. The crane was being taken to Prior's depot at Fingringhoe in Essex where it will be re-erected for use there.

This is good news for the Deptford Creek wharf which has been under something of a cloud. Long may it continue in use. Carrying heavy materials by water is enormously fuel-efficient, even compared with rail transport. The 'new' crane at Deptford is second hand and is thought to have come from one of the PLA docks via a location where it was being re-used. This type of crane was the last to be introduced in considerable numbers by the PLA.

Thanks are due to Peter Kent for information. He intends to conduct a survey of cranes on the riverside and would like to hear from anyone interested in cranes, telephone him on 020 8858 3413. Bob Carr

Work continues on ELLX

Bridges along the 'Kingsland Viaduct', the disused elevated railway that used to run from the North London Railway terminus at Broad Street northwards to Dalston Junction, are being rebuilt; involving road closures while the work is in progress (GLIAS Newsletter October 2005). This is for the East London Line Extension (ELLX) railway, due to open by 2010, which will run from Highbury & Islington via Dalston Junction, Shoreditch, Whitechapel and Wapping, through the Brunel Tunnel to Surrey Quays and South East London. Work on 13 bridges has been completed so far including those over Middleton Road and Whiston Road. In September 2006 an imposing new bridge over the Regent's Canal should be completed — it appears to be of the bowstring girder type. All this is part of essential enabling work, prior to the main works which will commence in the autumn of 2006.

New longer trains are to be introduced from 2009 on the present North London (NL) route from Islington to Stratford and it is the intention to increase the frequency of trains to rival that of the Underground. In future this line and the ELLX will appear on all versions of the LT Underground map. The services will be known as 'London Overground'. For the NL line this re-branding is to begin in November 2007 and in 2010 for the ELLX. Bob Carr

Reminder: Routemaster buses still run in London

The last full-time double-decker Routemaster buses operating on route 159 from Marble Arch to Streatham in London ceased work in December 2005 (GLIAS Newsletter December 2005). These were the last such buses in regular service but as some readers probably know if you would still like to experience a ride on a traditional open-platform bus complete with conductor it is possible even now as two heritage services were introduced in November last year. Using ten refurbished vehicles from a special pool of 16, five each operate in central London on routes 9 and 15, about every 15 minutes seven days a week from about 9.30am to 6.30pm. On route 9 the portion covered is from Aldwych to the Royal Albert Hall and for route 15 heritage Routemasters run from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square.

Surprisingly, earlier this year these heritage buses were running almost empty. Does the average bus traveller think a special tourist fare is being charged or is it that they want to travel beyond the limited central part of the route covered? The few passengers riding were almost all elderly and generally had bus passes or travelcards; perhaps the young find newer buses more comfortable and convenient, or cheaper. Anyway it seemed unlikely that these heritage services would continue to operate in their present form much beyond the autumn of 2006. Happily however custom has been picking up of late so take the opportunity while it is available and give the surviving London Routemasters your support. We don't want to see the heritage services close for lack of custom. Hopefully they will continue into 2007. Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 2006