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Notes and news — February 2007

In this issue:

The Brunel Museum and the Relaunched Tunnel Club

At a reception and dinner in November 2006, the Brunel Museum and guests unveiled a plaque and relaunched the Tunnel Club (1834), close by the museum itself.

The event was sponsored by Jacobs UK and attended by representatives from Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Halcrow, Sir Robert McAlpine's, Mott MacDonald, Skanska, and others. President Lord Gladwyn, direct descendant of Brunel, welcomed guests to Tunnel Wharf, directly above the site of the first banquet in 1827. Patrons Sir William and Lady McAlpine thanked their fellow patrons Lord Redesdale, Piers Gough and Dan Cruikshank for their support during a very successful Bicentenary Year, and described the museum's award-winning education and outreach work. Gordon Masterton, outgoing president of the ICE, spoke about the history of the site.

The party then adjourned to the upper room of The Spreadeagle & Crown (now renamed 'The Mayflower') where Paul Hoyland, chairman elect of the British Tunnelling Society, unveiled a plaque and outlined the debt modern tunnelling owes the Brunels. Representing the Royal Society, Professor Martin Taylor described the two Brunels as celebrated fellows of the society, and of the society's interest in promoting engineering and education. Professor Taylor proposed the traditional toast to Sir Marc Brunel FRS.

The first Underwater Banquet was held on 10 November 1827, but to close the Bicentenary Year, the party also celebrated a dinner on 25 April 1834 when Fellows of the Royal Society launched the Tunnel Club. Sir Marc Brunel's birthday was then the excuse for a select group of politicians, thinkers, engineers and writers to met and talk. In the same spirit guests were invited once more to the upper room of The Mayflower, with the intention that the group will meet here every year, in April or November.

The story of the Brunel's triumph is told in the small museum below, housed in the original Engine House. The Engine House is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, but is also hard by Brunel's original shaft, and the museum has big plans for the converted shaft as a new, modern London museum to Brunel father and son. Next to IK Brunel's first project, and a few hundred yards up river from his last, the Great Eastern Steam ship, seems the obvious place to commemorate a prolific and controversial figure and one of BBC's Great Britons.

This is where Isambard Kingdom Brunel, began and nearly ended his career, in the Thames Tunnel. This was the first Underwater Fair and the Eighth Wonder of the World, with a million visitors in the first 15 weeks of opening. Also the first underwater Banquet Hall (1827) and the first Underwater Fairground (1852). Today, of course, the tunnel carries some 14 million passengers a year on East London Line trains between Rotherhithe and Wapping in the oldest section of the oldest Underground in the world. Robert Hulse
Brunel Engine House, Railway Avenue, SE16. Tel: 020 7231 3840. Web: www.brunel-museum.org.uk

Finsbury Park cinemas

The former cinema at 269 Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, at one time called the Rink, reopened as a LIDL supermarket on Thursday 7 December 2006 (GLIAS Newsletter December 2006). It is not easy to tell whether any of the cinema interior has been preserved or not. The interior of the supermarket is lined with white boards and ornate Edwardian decoration could well be intact behind this.

This was Islington's first purpose-built cinema, architects Fair & Myer, which opened on Saturday 2 October 1909. It was built on the site of former tram sheds and there was a skating rink at the back. New Century penny-in-the-slot locks were fitted to the toilet accommodation, an innovation, to exclude the 'rougher element'. It is interesting to note the purpose for which these were introduced. Was the willingness to squander one old penny really thought sufficient to ensure appropriate behaviour?

Montagu Alexander Pyke was a pioneer of cinema circuit building in London and this cinema in Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, was his second Cinematograph Theatre. Pyke'e empire grew to 16 cinemas but in 1915 it suffered a calamitous collapse. On one terrible morning in 1915 Mr Pyke was due to appear at the Old Bailey on a manslaughter charge, to apply for a discharge at the Bankruptcy Court and to appear before Mr Justice Deane in the Divorce Court.

The Cinematograph Theatre, Finsbury Park, had changed its name to the Rink and prospered under new management. When the fashion for skating — presumably roller skating — waned, the skating rink became the main auditorium of the cinema. The original Cinematograph Theatre served as an entrance lobby and the new cinema behind had a capacity of 2,212 seats compared with Pyke's 620. In 1923, on 14 June, it became the first British cinema to demonstrate 'sound on film', where the film itself carries a sound track fully synchronised with the pictures. In 1950 the name became Gaumont and final closure took place on 12 July 1958. Following this the building was used for dances, bingo and snooker.

A photograph of the cinema entrance in the Pyke era, in Chris Draper's book, shows a restaurant to the east and dining rooms and tobacconist to the west. The sales of tobacco at Finsbury Park in Edwardian times appear to have been prodigious; tobacconist shops were ubiquitous (GLIAS Newsletter June 2005). Just think what the atmosphere in cinemas must have been like.

The book Islington's Cinemas and Film Studios mentions another kind of cinema associated with Finsbury Park; these were the cinema coaches operated by the LNER in the twenties and thirties. The first cinema carriage was converted from a GNR saloon and seated 44. The service started on the Flying Scotsman departing King's Cross on 12 March 1924. The cinema coach went as far as York and then returned to King's Cross, passing through Finsbury Park twice on a daily basis. Before high speeds, a rail journey from Edinburgh to London was a protracted affair, something on the lines of a land cruise. One got to know ones travelling companions very well indeed and probably took breakfast, lunch and tea with them before arrival at King's Cross. The possibility of a 2-3 hour break watching a film would have been very welcome.

A second cinema coach, converted from a brake van, showed talking pictures and was introduced on the King's Cross to Leeds service on 27 May 1935. The go-ahead LNER already had on-board hairdressing saloons and a wireless service and another improved cinema coach was introduced in March 1936. When war was declared in September 1939 both the remaining coaches had their cinema equipment removed and returned to brake van usage. Along with much else of pre-war railway luxury the cinema service never resumed.

Thanks are due to Cherry McAskill who kindly sent information from the book Islington's Cinemas and Film Studios by Chris Draper — and Chris Rule has also drawn attention to the former cinema building. Bob Carr

Camden horse tunnels

A tunnel was built under Camden Goods Yard in 1854-56 so that horses working in the goods yard could make their way safely beneath the tracks to and from their stables. Soon afterwards, a second tunnel was built to connect with Allsop's stables on the site of 42 Gloucester Avenue. The Regent's Canal towpath was also connected with the horse tunnels. At the peak, some 400 horses worked in the goods yard and sidings, moving goods and shunting railway wagons.

The eastern tunnel is Grade II listed. It starts in Stables Market and connects with a large area of basement storage of brick arched construction that extends under the forecourt of the Interchange Warehouse. It emerges at ground level in Gilbeys Yard in a building forming part of 30 Oval Road. There is no similar structure elsewhere unless one counts the horse tunnels associated with canal towpaths.

At 30 Oval Road the developer, Mandrake Properties, has had approval to demolish the staircase leading from the horse tunnel to ground level as part of a new office and housing development, and to block up the tunnels. There appears to have been no consideration of the listed status of the structure, and the loss of the tunnel would be a major blow to the proposed Camden Railway Heritage Trail. This will include the Primrose Hill tunnel east portals, the Roundhouse, Stables, Camden Lock, Interchange Building, Stationary Winding Engine House and a compex of vaults, arches and horse tunnels. However, Robert O'Hara, architect for the developer, said the firm was aware that the tunnels were listed but that they would not be touched. He stated: 'We are not doing anything that was not in the planning approval last year. The entrance will be built over but the tunnels will not be touched.'

In December 2006 Peter Darley of the recently formed Camden Railway Heritage Trust wrote to English Heritage begging it to do 'all within its power' to prevent the loss of the tunnels. A spokeswoman for English Heritage said that, at the time the planning application was submitted, it had not known of the tunnels' proximity or of their distinctive architecture. English Heritage has written to Camden Council's conservation department calling for further negotiations with the developer to prevent the tunnels being blocked up. A Camden press official admitted that the tunnels were not mentioned in the planning application, adding 'We hold our hands up and apologise about it'.

Work has now been halted while negotiations take place.

The information above is based on articles appearing in the Camden New Journal, 11 January 2007, p13, and the Newsletter of the Camden History Society, January 2007, p3. Graham Bird

Mr Darley can be contacted by email at Darleyp@aol.com

Tragedy in Piccadilly — Bird run over

Sir Alfred Bird was knocked down by a motor car in Piccadilly, early on Tuesday 7 February 1922. He was taken to St George's Hospital but died shortly afterwards.

At the subsequent enquiry the driver of the motor car responsible, Lewis Marshall, was exonerated from all blame. Sir Alfred, who was 73, was on his way from a political reception in Grosvenor Square which he left shortly after midnight and was attempting to cross the road at Hyde Park Corner. At the enquiry it was said that Sir Alfred hesitated while in the middle of the road and unexpectedly went backwards. Captain J H Thorpe said that Sir Alfred was extraordinarily nervous in traffic. The car that struck Bird was travelling at 8-10 mph.

Sir Alfred was the son of Mr Alfred Bird FCS, the Birmingham analytical and manufacturing chemist who invented baking powder, eggless custard powder and founded the well-known firm of Alfred Bird and Sons. Sir Alfred joined the family business, subsequently assumed sole control, and was responsible for the establishment of Devonshire works Digbeth, now known as the Custard Factory. In 1905 he retired and went into politics, being MP for Wolverhampton West from 1910 until his death. He was knighted in 1921. His house in Solihull, Tudor Grange, contained significant art treasurers including works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Lord Leighton. Bob Carr
Reference: The Times 1922; Wednesday 8 February, p15 and Friday 10 February, p7

East London Line temporary closure

London Underground has announced that there will be a temporary closure of the East London Line from 22 December 2007.

There will not be a formal statutory closure process, as it is closing for two years for upgrading, and will reopen, albeit as part of London Overground.

Perhaps the most important point for GLIAS members is that there is just over one year to take all the photos of interesting bits of brickwork, as no doubt changes will be made. Patty Singleton

Kensal Green and North Kensington changes

Around midnight on 30 August about 100 metres of the Kensal Green Cemetery's boundary wall collapsed. The bricks mostly fell into the cemetery, damaging many monuments, but fortunately there were no casualties. The wall, Grade II listed, is the original 1832 structure, stock-brick with stone coping, buttressed at intervals, 10–12 feet high and foundations some five feet below ground. Designed to keep out the body-snatchers or 'resurrection-men', the wall was designed by John Griffith, builder William Chadwick and stretches over half a mile along the Harrow Road.

At the corner of Ladbroke Grove and Kensal Road, is the former Paddington Vestry Refuse Transfer Depot, later known as Corporation Yard and, more recently, as Porta Bella Dock, until taken over by EMI as part of their headquarter complex, which included buildings across the canal.

The depot was used to transfer refuse from carts to barges, with a covered wharf, ramp and bridges, circa 1880 and is Grade II listed. EMI moved out last year with no subsequent occupants. The adjoining Stable Block was recently demolished with English Heritage's agreement on the basis that it had been extensively altered. However, this building was in scale with the remaining parts of the depot, whose future is unknown and is to be replaced by an office/residential block.

Across Ladbroke Grove is a Sainsbury's, built on part of the site of the Kensal Green Gasworks, originally the Western Gasworks and then the Gas Light & Coke Company. Remaining are the 1929 office block, now used by community groups, a large concrete water tower and the No.1 Basin, used by coal barges off the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal.

Further west, with two gas-holders still in use, the remainder of the Gasworks site, after extensive remedial work, awaits redevelopment, which will include the reopening of the larger No.2 Basin, currently infilled. Peter Finch

Museum news — both good and bad

Islington Museum said farewell to its current home at Islington Town Hall on Friday 15 December, as preparations begin for its permanent new home at Finsbury Library. In its new premises, the museum will use nearly £1million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to offer a bigger and better service than ever before.

The museum will open in its new home in early 2008. Although it will not have a permanent home in the interim, staff will continue to provide several of its services. For instance, mini exhibitions of items from the museum's collection will take place in the borough's libraries. Museum staff will also still respond to emails, letters and telephone enquiries about the museum.

Cllr George Allan, executive member for customer focus, said: 'Over the next year, museum staff will be working hard to get new and ambitious exhibitions and designs ready for the opening at Finsbury Library. I'm sure people will agree with me that the new premises are worth waiting for.' Verity Cork, media officer, Islington Council
Website www.islington.gov.uk

Mark Taylor, director of the Museums Association, has urged Wandsworth Borough Council to reconsider plans to close Wandsworth Museum. The museum looks likely to be the victim of funding constraints at the council, which announced proposals to close it following a lower than hoped-for budget increase for the coming year. In a letter to Edward Lister, the leader of Wandsworth Borough Council, Taylor emphasised the key role the museum plays in the local community.

'Wandsworth Museum's collection has been built up by and for local people,' he wrote. 'It is a unique reflection of the identity of the borough and it would be a great loss to the local community if this were lost.

'I do understand that local government currently faces and unprecedented range of financial pressures, but I urge you not to take any action that will irreversibly damage the services the museum offers to the people of Wandsworth.'

The final decision on the museum's future will be made on February 19 by the council's executive committee. Wandsworth Museum receives about 30,000 visitors each year — 8,000 of those in school groups. Fourteen museum staff would be made redundant with the closure, although council policy is to redeploy employees wherever possible. Alternative places for the museum's exhibits include schools and three unused chapels.

If you want to register your concern about the proposed closure then send your views to leader@wandsworth.gov.uk

Greater London news in brief

Thames Water are currently installing pressure-reducing valves in water mains in North London. These valves permit full pressure at peak periods but reduce the pressures at other times, thus reducing leaks. From an industrial archaeological viewpoint this is excellent; older and historically interesting mains are likely to have a longer life. Control of the valve may be from a kerbside box above ground — valves are not remotely operated from a central control room. They are probably almost automatic and just require tweaking from time to time. Does anyone have further information?

On the south side of Prince's Gardens, SW7, halls of residence for Imperial College by Richard Sheppard and Partners completed in 1969 have recently been demolished. After 36 years of hard student use these buildings must have had enough. The 1982 AIA Conference was hosted by GLIAS in London (GLIAS Newsletter 82, p3) and we used the accommodation here.

The new bus station on the south side of Finsbury Park station (GLIAS Newsletter April 2005) had fully opened on Monday 27 November 2006. What was the booking hall has been demolished and tickets are now sold essentially in the open, under a high roof which extends over part of the bus station. This faces the former Silver Bullet public house clad in faïence tiling (GLIAS Newsletter 11, pp8-9).

On 1 December 2006 work appeared to have just started on the site of the Arthur Simpson Library, Hanley Road, N4 (GLIAS Newsletter June 2005). A JCB-type machine was in evidence.

Ploton's period shop front in Highgate (GLIAS Newsletter June 2006) has now been replaced.

At Marylebone railway station the new platforms, numbers 5 and 6, are now in use (GLIAS Newsletter December 2005). They have a roof, apparently new, but in keeping with the rest of the station.

The GLC extension to County Hall (see 'Tempus fugit' article), to the south west of the main building and linked to it by a footbridge, had been demolished by 20 November 2006. Completed in 1974 this was never a very happy building — one of architecture's less successful creations. Aesthetics apart there were problems with the automatic blinds and air for ventilation was drawn from over the River Thames making offices icy in winter. It was also said to be impossible to boil a kettle anywhere inside as water vapour upset the automatic humidity control. However, the story that latterly it was used by MI5 for interrogation is probably untrue — a folk tale induced by the building's appearance. It just looked as if that went on in there. A new development, number one Westminster Bridge, will be replacing it. It was thought the old building might be demolished by explosives. Does anyone know more?

At Ebbsfleet the whole Channel Tunnel Rail Link site is now a fenced-off and patrolled high-security area. Services to St Pancras are due to start on 14 November 2007. Test running of Eurostar trains must surely start soon (GLIAS Newsletter October 2006). Has anyone seen one? Bob Carr

'Hot bricks'

Lots of responses to Bob Carr's article (GLIAS Newsletter December 2006), proving that the night storage heater is far from dead:

I purchased my single bedroom flat nearly 20 years ago, and there were two night storage heaters in the living room and one in the bedroom. Call me old-fashioned, but I do not like a warm bedroom — the heater in that room is therefore never used. Unlike more modern properties, my flat is not double glazed and, in spite of this stays warm throughout the winter months. This surely demonstrates the efficiency of the 'hot brick' system and taking advantage of cheap 'Economy Seven' electricity. The only other system in my four rooms and hall are those produced by cooking and bathing, not bad for a system 20 yeas old I think you might agree!

While typing this reply, my thoughts returned to the 1940s, when economy was of paramount importance. In the winter, my mother would place a house-brick in the kitchen-range oven during the evening and just before I went to bed, the brick was wrapped in an old towel and placed at the bottom of my bed. This was not only cheaper than filling a stone water bottle with hot water, it was more convenient to carry the towel-wrapped brick to the air-raid shelter in the event of an air raid. Peter Skilton

Bob Carr may like to know that electric night storage heating units are still available. I have used these since the early 1980s and find them very effective. The 'white meter' is simply a dual rate meter to record off-peak and normal kWh usage. The meter is switched from one to the other by a separate remotely controlled device (somewhat larger than the meter). Control is via a signal received via the main supply (I believe) or radio.

Heaters are still listed by GlenDimplex, Dimplex being the original manufacturers. Completely automatic control (of heat stored) is available if a room temperature sensing thermostat is fitted. John Ellis

Bob Carr writes of storage radiators as though they are very much a part of history, but are they now so unusual? They are in use in the building in which I work, which is not connected to the local gas supply. As the amount of heat available for release depends on the amount of overnight 'charge', it is far too easy to end up with too much or not enough being available, although the heat released can be regulated to some extent. The main disadvantage of this system must surely be its inability to respond to demand instantaneously, for instance making the initial switch-on, when winter arrives a matter of some guesswork — and often regret!

I was also amused by Bob's reference to museums being 'full of freaks', being initially unsure if he was referring to people or objects. Indeed, this point may be open to debate! Martin Broadribb

Night storage heaters are alive and well and are still being marketed. I replaced gas central heating with night storage heaters and a white meter in my bungalow two years ago and I am delighted with their efficiency and economy. Hundreds of 'hits' can be obtained when Googling for 'night storage heaters' and the first site to visit is www.dimplex.co.uk. Paul Tritton

As a note on Bob Carr's contribution on hot bricks, I do have news of fairly recent domestic installations of these annoyingly uncontrollable and inefficient devices. My daughter had them in her modern flat in South Norwood while my son had a very interesting example in his flat in a Lewisham tower block. This was switched on for the whole building in the off-peak hours by radio via a receiver and antenna on the roof — from where I don't know. Ben Rayner

It could be assumed that 'night storage heating using off-peak tariffs' was a thing of the past here in the UK. Far from it — it is still widely used both for domestic and commercial/business applications. I am advised the electricity suppliers are currently promoting its use.

What has changed over the years are the actual appliances. Forty years ago when night storage was a relatively new idea for domestic installations and was being heavily promoted by the electricity suppliers, the heaters were often large in size and always extremely heavy being constructed of many special bricks. Today the range of appliances is extensive and they are usually much smaller, lighter, thanks to modern materials, and extremely efficient with modern electronic controls.

In answer to the provocative question, 'are still installations still in use?' Most certainly, they are, although perhaps not so common as in years gone by. A neighbour of mine has always used off-peak storage for all his domestic heating. The main appliance in his house was installed in 1969 and is still giving good, reliable and efficient service.

In 1963 when setting up our first home, my wife and I opted for completely off-peak/night storage and it was very successful. In 1967 we moved to a larger house and took all the heaters with us and reinstalled them, again very successfully and they remained in use until we eventually moved away. We still use an off-peak tariff but only for water heating. Ian Frost

Bob Carr asked if anyone still uses storage heaters. Yes, they do! The block of flats where I live had replacement storage heaters installed about five or six years ago. Newer TSR Storage Heaters from Creda replaced our HEATSTORE storage heaters from a company, unnamed on the 'instruction for use' leaflet at an address in Avonmouth. A couple of telephone calls revealed that the current heaters are actually made by a company called Applied Energy. Creda handles servicing and repairs.

My first experience of them was in about 1963 in Leicestershire, where East Midlands Electricity Board supplied them. Delivery was very slow as they were a new product. They certainly kept the house warm during the day but by 10pm, they were cold — and so were we. They were very large and the special bricks and wiring were installed into the metal casing in situ.

The next storage heater which we had was already installed in the house in Sussex built by the New Towns Commission. It was even larger than the first heaters. A fan in the base helped to distribute the warm air. The first quarter's electricity bill looked like the national debt. We did not use the heater again!

The current heaters, although heavy, were carried into the flat by the electrician installing them. The main heater in the living room has a fan in the base operated by a separate switch and cable. The off-peak heating also supplies our hot water. I am happy with the system. Peggy Green

I study with interest Bob Carr's many pieces in the newsletters, but I believe that he is out of touch with the domestic storage heater scene, if, as it appears from his item, he believes that such things are fit only to be used as museum exhibits.

My sister lives in a modern block of flats constructed for elderly people. She has storage heaters, installed when the flats were built, as her main source of space heating. She tells me that all of the dwellings are the same in this respect. There is no gas supply, no doubt to avoid a catastrophic explosion should a resident have an accident with it. I expect many other modern blocks of flats for older people have the same arrangement for the same reason.

If I remember correctly, years ago a more elaborate set-up was available which I believe was called 'Electricaire'. It had a large number of bricks in a central store, from which hot air was ducted to individual rooms, presumably controlled by individual thermostats operating blowers. I never actually saw such an arrangement and I suspect it was not a commercial success. Incidentally my own electricity supplier, coyly named EDF Energy, sent me a letter a couple of months ago offering to sell me storage heaters for my own house, which is not aimed at any particular age group.

As to Dinorwig and the cable exchange with France, despite these influences, nighttime energy is still very much cheaper than daytime energy on my Economy 7 tariff — 3.62p per unit against 14.41p or 8.92p (plus vat) during the day. Ken Brown

London's roads

Dave Perrett's piece on London's road surfaces (GLIAS Newsletter December 2006) has provoked a number of replies:

The following item from Time Out London, 25 October - 1 November 2006 may be of interest:

Help save it — visit www.littlegreenstreet.com. Graham Bird

I found the GLIAS website very interesting and fascinating. As an ex-Cockney, I relived many memories from my boyhood. On your section regarding rubber road paving, I was intrigued that there was no mention of Lombard Street. I was a telegram boy for a couple of years in the City, and I distinctly remember the rubber blocks in Lombard street, along with the explanation from several 'doormen' that it was to muffle the sound of horse hooves and metal-rimmed wheels. As far as I know, it was still in place to the beginning of the 1960s, but may have been removed earlier. Thanks again for an enlightening site. Roy Barnacle

David Perrett asks if there are any real cobbles left in London. If so they are very rare but there are however areas of pebbles set in concrete with the stones spaced further apart than in a traditional cobbled street. These appear to be to deter pedestrians from walking on them, thus cutting down on jaywalking — all about separating pedestrians from motor vehicles. Workmen in site boots would scarcely notice the rough surface but in ordinary town shoes they are uncomfortable and do prevent all but grimly determined people from venturing over them.

From memory there used to be some at Knightsbridge at Scotch House, the junction of Knightsbridge and the Brompton Road. Incidentally the 1960s building on the north side of this junction, north of the eastern exit from Knightsbridge underground station, has recently been totally demolished. Part of this building used to form a bridge over Edinburgh Gate, the road running northwards towards Hyde Park. A group of bronze figures by Epstein — Pan, his last work (1959) — used to be a feature of this gate. The demolished building was Bowater House by Guy Morgan and Partners (1959). So 47 years is now a good age for a building in London. Probably something much bigger can now be built in its place.

There is a small area of what look like cobbles in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington, near the aviary. Set in what looks like earth rather than cement these stones are not set very close together and it is difficult to judge whether the area is intended to deter pedestrians or to imitate an early 19th century London street. This raises the question of how close together the stones have to be for a surface to be considered really cobbled. Epistemologically speaking we have a problem — how do we define a cobbled surface? In a traditional cobbled street shouldn't most of the stones be touching? Do cobblestones set close together in a matrix of modern concrete constitute a cobbled surface? A good example of a small cobbled street of the traditional kind is/was Pigg Lane, Norwich (TG 233 090). Bob Carr

Pura Foods

Reading of the demise of Pura Foods at the end of Bow Creek (GLIAS Newsletter December 2006) I would like to add a little to the river side of that story.

Although Pura Foods themselves were most unco-operative about this aspect of their production, I know that the two vessels which supplied some of their oil, back in 2000, 'Star Bonaire' (2,600 tonnes) and 'Star Aruba' (1,350 tonnes), work from the Rotterdam base of the Koole Company (head office in Zaandam, Netherlands). The oil arrives in large sea-going vessels through the Maaslant Barrier and is unloaded either over the side into the waiting tankers or into holding tanks on the river bank.

Koole also operate a large fleet (17) of edible oil tankers on the Rhine and all round Belgium and the Netherlands and their very distinctive burgundy and orange livery stands out in a crowd (see www.koole.com for their up-to-date pages, in English!).

Their former base at Wormerveer was very close to a margarine factory and they have specialised in the movement of edible oils for many years.

I first got interested in the London operation after being held on the Woolwich Ferry while 'Star Bonaire' passed through and I spotted the Koole name on the coamings. I was familiar with their inland fleet from several cruises around Central Europe and found the website without any problems but it took rather longer to find out anything about the English end. Eventually a friend working for a similar oil processing company in Ellesmere Port suggested a link which took me to Pura Foods but there the trail ended until Koole gave me the information that Star Aruba was due to dock at Brunswick Wharf on a day when I was going to be in Canning Town. I even had permission to speak to the skipper and photograph the operation, but apart from a serious difficulty in getting anywhere near the wharf as a pedestrian, there must have been a delay and I failed to do so. I only managed to obtain a photograph of the boat there some months later through a lucky coincidence. Heading for London City to fly to Luxembourg to start another cruise, we met our daughter at Canning Town bus station (before the DLR extension my daughter worked occasionally in the school that was demolished to make way for the airport terminal!) and catching a bus we went on the flyover above East India Dock and there was a grey and orange hull. My daughter was asked to return that way and try to take some pictures for me and luckily she was suitably obliging.

At the time of writing (13:00, 5/12/06) Star Aruba was scheduled to be docking at Erith and proceeding onto Jurgens Jetty, so the oil traffic still continues, even if Pura Foods doesn't at Brunswick any more! I'm not sure if either Erith or Jurgens Jetty is any more accessible than Brunswick Wharf or Dagenham but one day I must return to that project and take my photographs! 300,000 tonnes of edible oil is still reported as being the annual figure delivered and ADM Pura Foods took over Jurgens Jetty in 2003. Mike Constable

Reminiscences from Bob Rust

The Newsletter never fails to provoke a reminiscence or two.

I started my lorry-driving career in 1955 and have many memories of tar blocks (GLIAS Newsletter December 2006). After heavy rain stretches of road were closed because an area of blocks had floated up. There were square-edged potholes where a few blocks had come up (usually due to water penetration). The road sweeper (yes, we had them then) would remove the loose blocks to the gutter to await the men with the builders cart (now a museum piece) with the small blow lamp powered tar boiler and the punner.

The last stretch I remember clearly was Bridge Street from Westminster Bridge past St Stephens Tower to Parliament Square and the east side of the square and St Margaret's Street past the House of Lord's. There used to be a constable in a box on the corner, presumably to control traffic when official vehicles came down Whitehall for the Commons. He was often called on to take particulars of rear-end collisions. One told me that the blocks were left to reduce the noise from the still numerous iron-tyred carts. Thinking of the noise reminded me of the streets in central Oxford past the colleges where the roads were surfaced with smooth rubber blocks!! Even fast walking pace was too much on a wet day.

I can remember many cobbled yards near the river, particularly in east London. I have vague memories of a cobbled road in Wapping Wall.

With regard to Tate and Lyle, in the late 1960s (GLIAS Newsletter December 2006), raw cane sugar was imported into Avonmouth in hundredweight sacks which were then carried by road (British Road Services) to Denton Wharf at Gravesend. The sacks were dropped by crane on a grid stretched across a lighter where they were slashed open by the dockers so that the sugar fell out. Once the lighter was full it was towed up to Tate's to be emptied by the suction gear. The angle iron legs of the cranes were about three feet in diameter with colonies of wasps. In those days there were railway lines to the wharf down the middle of the roads through the houses, with standard wagons being pulled by a small tractor. Bob Rust

Goldfish again!

Some time ago I recall reading correspondence regarding goldfish in toilet cisterns (GLIAS Newsletter October 2005). The following sentence appeared in 'Random Recollections of Guildhall, 1921-1965', by Clifford Charles Taylor OBE (principal clerk to the town clerk, 1951-1965) and appeared in the newsletter of the Corporation of London Pensioner's Association, Winter 2006:

Peter Butt

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