Home | Membership | News | Diary | Walks | Calvocoressi Fund | Books | Journals | Links | Database | e-papers | About us

Notes and news — August 2007

In this issue:

British Library and GLIAS

GLIAS has been invited to join the UK Web Archiving Consortium, being managed by the British Library, which will mean that the GLIAS website will be archived along with selective representative websites in advance of the introduction of legal deposit for digital materials.

GLIAS intends to support this proposal, and therefore if any previous contributors to the Newsletter objects to this, would they please raise their objection with the secretary at before the end of August.

The Mid-Kent Railway and the Addiscombe Railway

The area of the London Borough of Croydon has had at one time or another something like 25 railway stations, of which 16 are still open for business. Of the short stretches of line closed for railway purposes, large parts of two, on the West Croydon to Wimbledon and Elmers End to Selsdon lines, are now in use by the Croydon Tramlink. Part on one, the end of the former Central Croydon branch, has long been a public garden, the remainder and associated sidings now lying under the Fairfield Halls and adjoining converted car park. The kilometer of closed line from Woodside to Addiscombe is now being converted into a linear park. The short ‘Norwood Spur' between Norwood Junction and the Beckenham Junction has been built on.

The Addiscombe line of the Mid Kent Railway

The Addiscombe branch line, closed on 31 May 1997, served the Croydon terminus of the sometime Mid Kent Railway. That undertaking, which hardly entered the fringes of the historic county of Kent and never laid any track in what is now the administrative county, was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1855, having designs on penetrating the county as an alternative route to the Channel port, and also the heart of Croydon: it did neither! A line was opened from Lewisham to Beckenham Junction in 1857 beyond which trains ran over the West End of London & Crystal Palace Railway's extension to Bromley, now Bromley South, and then on its own metals again to St Mary Cray which was the furthest into Kent it ever reached.

Plans to reach central Croydon were slightly more successful. Under and 1862 Act a line was built, branching off the earlier Mid-Kent line at New Beckenham, to serve a terminus at Addiscombe opened in 1964, this being short of central Croydon by about half a mile. Intermediate stations were at Clock House, 1890, Elmers End and Woodside, for the racecourse, 1871. The Mid-Kent Railway was absorbed as a part of the South Eastern Railway in 1866. Branches from Addiscombe line were opened from Elmers End to Hayes, which still has a railway service, in 1882, and from Woodside to Selsdon in 1885.

The Addiscombe branch line and terminus

The Mid-Kent line from Elmers End to Woodside, and the Woodside to Selsdon line, are now used in large part, from 2000, by the Beckenham Junction, Elmers End, and New Addington branches of Croydon Tramlink. The approximately one kilometre length of track from Woodside Junction to Addiscombe, including the terminus, was closed on 31 May 1997. The new Addiscombe tram stop is near the former Bingham Road Station on the line to Selsdon, not at the site of the former Addiscombe Station. The station and other buildings at Addiscombe have been almost entirely demolished, in 2001, much to the disappointment of the South Easter & Chatham Railway Preservation Society, established 1 February 1984, which campaigned unsuccessfully to preserve Addiscombe Station and its EMU Shed for use as a museum after closure.

The linear park

The double track line ran from the junction at Woodside, under the Blackhorse Road bridge, and then in art on an embankment to the terminus on Addiscombe Road. The most noteworthy intermediate structure was a rail overbridge which carried the line above a footpath. Dalmally Passage, which connects Morland Road with Dalmally Road. This bridge, clearly a relatively modern structure, not dating from 1864, and parts of the embankment, have been removed to create public access paths to the northern and southern parts of the new park.

Phase 1 of the linear park, from Dalmally Passage southwards, was opened to the public on 26 May 2007. Its other entrance is via a pathway from East India Way, off Addiscombe Road, a modern development on the site of Addiscombe Station and carriage sheds, named from the East India Company's former military college which operated nearby from 1809 to 1858. What is to be Pase w of the park, from Dalmally Passage northwards to the Blackhorse Road tram stop, is not yet open to the public.

Railway structures remaining

The yellow brick Woodside station building remains, out of use, on the road bridge immediately to the north of the Woodisde tram stop, and is reportedly at risk of demolition in the event of road widening here. Immediately to the south of Woodside Junction and the tram stop, the overgrown track bed of the closed Addiscombe line can be seen to pass in a shallow cutting below the Blackhorse Lane road bridge: this bridge also passes over the former line to Selsdon, now used here by the Croydon trams.

The former rail overbridge at Dalmally Passage has now been demolished and the path widened. Access to the track bed southwards from here has been created by excavating an inclined pathway into the embankment at this point. Some of the excavated embankment has been used to create bunds along the embankment edges. Tall heavy-duty steel fences have been provided to prevent unauthorised access to or from neighbouring gardens. So as far as can be seen from the newly excavated material, the embankment contained predominantly Blackheath Pebbles, mixed here and there with smaller quantities of river gravels and occasional small patches of chalk. If the smaller Blackheath Pebbles formed a substantial part of the body of the embankment, if the question arises as to their source. Alternatively, they may merely be remnants of track ballast.

Phase 1 of the park ends short of the former station site, alongside the end of Windemere Road. Beyond the end of the park, a substantial length of all yellow brick wall, apparently a former boundary wall alongside the former EMU sheds, remains in situ. The base of this has been widened substantially with concrete to a height of a little less than a metre, presumably for strengthening. Just before Addiscombe Road is reached, a few fragments of the brick station building remain visible, retained presumably as part of a property boundary. Paul W Sowan


London's Road Surfaces And Pavements

Further to the recent questions and notes on London's Road surfaces and pavements in the last few GLIAS Newsletters (GLIAS Newsletter April 2007).

A New Pavement — at St Paul's

A future London pavement that should be worth looking out for.

Three quotes from The Guardian 'Work' supplement for Saturday 30 June 2007 that contained a feature article entitled 'A working life — Classic rock' by Melissa Viney who had interviewed stonemason Andy Webster of WJ Haysom & Son, St Aldhems Quarry, Dorset.

'Webster is currently working on a contract to make replacement paving for St Paul's Cathedral. Purbeck marble (technically not a true marble but the name has stuck) has been used in cathedrals since the 13th century. When, inevitably, these buildings need restoration, St Aldhelm's quarry gets the job, being the only supplier of the coveted Purbeck marble, a beautiful green stone crammed with fossils.'

'Webster can only wonder how earlier stonemasons would manually chop stone into lengths without the use of modern machines.'

'He shows me some of the paving stones he has completed for St Paul's Cathedral. Dark and light stone cut into complicated patterns will interlink to represent sections of the moulding in the cloisters of the original St Paul's before the Great Fire of London.'

Pavements — The John Mowlem and Burt Family's London Connections

While searching the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography I came across their entry by M H Port for the Burt family (per. c.1830-1964), building contractors and civil engineers (

The whole entry is well worth a read, the following extracts being relevant to London show that as far as the firm 'Mowlem' is concerned, London's roads and pavements, at least metaphorically, did turn into gold.

For several generations the Burt family exemplified the characteristics of the founder of their firm. Self-educated, John Mowlem (1788-1868) contractor had slowly built up a considerable and profitable contracting business with a high degree of vertical integration, largely confined to a particular sector, on the basis of small unit profits on a steadily increasing turnover. The Burts further expanded the firm, and seized an opportunity afforded by their conservative financial policy to break into major public building contracting.

John Mowlem, son of a Swanage quarryman came to London about 1807 and was recommended to the master mason Henry Westmacott of Pimlico. 'He was a big, strong young fellow' — aged only twelve, but tall for his age, he had been obliged to hide from a press gang — 'with a splendid eye and hand for work', 'honest, industrious and sober'. About 1815, 'I was made foreman over all the works then going on in London'.

Responding to the emerging demand for macadamising London's streets, Mowlem set up as a paving contractor and stone merchant about 1823, though it took several years to establish himself. In the 1830s he enjoyed a substantial interest in several metropolitan paving contracts, including the West End parishes. But the competition was intense; failure to maintain an adequate supply of stone sometimes lost a contract, though his rivals suffered similarly, and there is evidence of collusion. It was by close attention to detail that Mowlem made his profits in a trade of large turnover but narrow margins — in 1838 his turnover was probably rather more than £12,000. Perennially short of cash, he operated on bills of exchange.

In 1839-40 Mowlem undertook his first work of national importance, paving Blackfriars Bridge with the granite sets known as 'narrow cubes', of which he was the first manufacturer. He realised that this could establish him in the first rank of paving contractors. 'This contract', he wrote, 'is one of the best I have ever had and will place me above harm and in that situation in the Metropolis where I shall be much envied' (that is, by rival contractors). Leaving his ordinary business to be managed by his wife's nephew George Burt and Burt's brother-in-law, Joseph Freeman, he moved to Guernsey (where he had long been a major purchaser) for eight months in November 1839 to ensure the vital supplies of granite.

Contending with hostile merchants, Mowlem leased and bought quarries; faced with incessant rain, he introduced tarpaulins into the quarries, and himself often took a double turn at the pump; 'I am so fatigued in the evening I can scarcely get home'. Lacking sufficient stone-dressers, he raised piece-rates, brought quarrymen from the mainland, reduced his charge for dressing stones from 4d. to 3d., and sent some stones for dressing in London. His gamble succeeded: he prised the St Clement Danes' paving contract from the firm that had held it for 20 years, succeeded George Manwell as office of works contracting mason for the London district, responsible for maintaining government property, and in 1842 recovered the St Martin's paviour's and mason's contract. When in January 1845 he took George Burt and Joseph Freeman into partnership, the firm's stock was valued at £4,668, including stone, barges, horse-trucks, horses, a crane, and a travelling scaffold; by 1850 the valuation had more than doubled.

Despite retiring in 1845 to Swanage, Mowlem kept a close eye on the metropolitan paving contracts. He attended committees himself when necessary, and travelled to inspect quarries — in 1847 alone he needed 50,000 tons of Guernsey stone. Coal provided freight for his brigs when they were not carrying stone. 1848 saw a notable expansion in the firm's activities, and Mowlem secured a dominant position in the supply of granite. In May 1851 the firm was 'very successful' in bidding for the London vestries' contracts — some for only hundreds of pounds — that provided nearly all the firm's work into the 1870s, earning it the sobriquet of London John. Work for ten major local authorities in the 1860s grossed an average of over £50,000 per annum.

Mowlem's principal partner and nephew, George Burt (1816-1894), was born at Swanage in 1816, and summoned to join his uncle in London, becoming his partner in 1844. Burt presided over a change in the character of the firm's work: the financial crisis of 1866-7 that brought down many great speculative contractors left Mowlems unimpeded, so that they were able to enter the list of major public-works contractors, landing one of the biggest contracts then offered, for building Queen Victoria Street in the City (1869). Their new status was secured by rebuilding Billingsgate Market (1874-7); thereafter they played a leading role in London, notably the City of London School in 1880 [on the new Victoria Embankment], Smithfield fruit market in 1882, and the Imperial Institute in 1887, as well as major sewerage and railway works). Collecting relics of old London, often from his firm's own demolitions, Burt re-erected many in Swanage, notably the porch for the post-fire Mercers' Hall, now adorning the town hall. He died in 1894 and is buried in Kensal Green cemetery.

Sir John Mowlem Burt (1845-1918), became a partner in 1875, overseeing such major works as the Admiralty extensions and arch (1896-1901, 1906-14); New Scotland Yard (1908); Institution of Civil Engineers (1911); and refronting Buckingham Palace (1913). As contractor for the coronation annexe at Westminster Abbey he was knighted in 1902.

Sir George Mowlem Burt (1884-1964), followed his father's and uncle's path into the family firm in 1902. On his father's death he became supervising director. A rich crop of contracts immediately after the First World War included the Port of London Authority (PLA) offices at Tower Hill, the Star and Garter Home at Richmond, and Bush House, Aldwych (1929 and 1934), followed by a great deal of dock reconstruction for the Port of London Authority; dock, jetty, and factory for Fords at Dagenham; and the King George V graving dock, Southampton. Other major London contracts included the Peter Robinson department store, the new Lloyds building, titanic office-blocks on Millbank for Imperial Chemical Industries (1927-8), power stations (Fulham and Battersea), and hospitals (St Mary's, Paddington, and the Royal Masonic). From 1940 to 1945 Mowlems won over £29 million worth of contracts, including airfield runways and concrete units for Mulberry harbours. Similarly, Mowlems played an important role in post-war reconstruction, notably power stations and refineries. When Burt retired as chairman in 1961 (becoming president), his company ranked 11th in the British construction industry.

Shepley stone

Five miles to the east of Holmfirth (of The Last of the Summer Wine fame) lies the West Yorkshire Pennine village of Shepley which has its own claim to fame that is much more tangible. In 1829, an Enclosure Act allocated 220 acres of common land to the south of the village, some of which was set aside for quarrying. The first of four quarries opened in the same year. The rock is carboniferous sandstone and is known as Hard York Stone, in places it is brown, but there is also a blue band that is highly prized for its colour, quality and rarity. These quarries lie at the junction of the A635 Barnsley/Oldham and the A629 Rotherham/Huddersfield roads, grid reference SE 195 087.

Shepley stone has been used for, steps, sills, lintels, tombstones and slabs, in locations that include Windsor Castle, the House of Commons and Westminster Hall, Liverpool Cathedral, the Mersey Tunnel and the Newcastle Workhouse. The quarries are now worked by 'Marshalls', and in 2000, plans were submitted to increase the quantities of stone being extracted. Some six months or so ago, an article appeared in one of the Huddersfield papers reporting that the Shepley Quarry had supplied the stone for the recent repaving of Trafalgar Square. To my untutored eye, the distinctive colouring of these paving stones, would suggest that over the years many more London pavements have been made by using stone from Shepley, for example in Blackheath and at Sadler's Wells. Individual paving slabs would also appear to have been re-used, for example under the north end of the Millennium Bridge. Peter J Butt


Wood blocks

I was browsing in the basement of Quinto (second hand books for the connoisseur, 48a Charing Cross Road), when my attention wandered to the brick floor — why I wondered were there concentric circles on one of the bricks? Lo, closer examination showed what I had assumed to be bricks laid stretcher bond, were in fact similarly sized and proportioned blocks of wood — clearly original Victorian roadway paving sets (GLIAS Newsletter April 2007). I think they need a preservation order. Roger J Morgan


Millstones were once an exceptionally article of commerce and have, of course, been used wither as hand-operated querns for grinding wheat or in mechanically operated mills driven by hand or water, and in more modern times by external or internal combustion engines, for thousands of years. By the time of the Domesday survey of 1086 we know that a great many English parishes had a mill, and, of course, the number multiplied. Within the large parish of Croydon, there have been several windmills, including one at Upper Norwood and two or three on Croydon Common.

Material suitable for making millstones, however, is not to be found in every parish. Often stone of the right quality had to be brought from great distances, and even imported from abroad. Whole millstones, several feet in diameter, were exceptionally difficult to move other than by water. But long before roads were suitable for wheeled traffic, never mind canals or railways, whole millstones were taken even to the most isolated villages, probably on sledges drawn by oxen.

What makes a good millstone?

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us of burr-stone, also buhrstone or burrstone, ‘A siliceous rock of coarse cellular structure, fund chiefly in France and N. America, and used for millstones' and records the word from as far back as 1690.

The Shirley millstones appear to be of French burrstone. David Page, in his Economic Geography; or Geology in its relations to the Arts and Manufactures, published in 1874, describes the material as follows:

Burrs — One of the keenest and most durable of materials, whether for making meal and flour, or for the trituration of cements, manures, pigments, and other chemicals is burrstone, a porous siliceous rock from the tertiary (sic) formations of Europe and America. These burrstones are of various colours, whitish, yellowish and reddish brown, are almost pure silica, with just sufficient calcareous matter to give them the requisite toughness, and are slightly porous or vesicular from the decay of imbedded shells and other minuter organisms, and are of freshwater origin. Those used in Britain are generally obtained from the tertiary (sic) deposits of France Seine et Marne) from whence they are brought in blocks a foor or more square, to be dressed, built up, and clamped or hooped for millstones of various varying dimensions. The dressing, fitting and building up of these blocks requires much skill and labour, as the jointings of the separate pieces should be scarcely perceptible, and the whole surface rendered true and even. As burrstone is expensive, the requisite weight and thickness is usually obtained by a backing of concrete, made up of the chippings, which for these purposes answers perfectly well.

These burrstones are now largely employed for all kinds of trituration and milling, not only in meal and flour mills, but in cement-works, potteries, chemical works, and other similar factories. In course of time they wear smooth like other stones, and their ‘burr' has to be renewed by atedious process of pick-dressing, though recently diamond points have been applied with great success, and saving of time and money. As the majority of burrstones vary from 6 to 6.7 in hardness, while that of the bort or black diamond is about 10, the influence of the latter on the former is readily pereptible, while it is free from the dangerous ‘fire' which accompanies the use of steel. (The hardness of steel, as in a pen-knife blade has been quoted to be ~6.5. PRS)

As only the best stone is of use for milling, millstone pieces or even entire millstones have been mined or quarried underground, especially in France. One French source was at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre (Seine et Marne) in the valley of the Marne, about 24km SW of Chateau-Thierry, between Paris and Rheims. Paul Sowan

Dr Lewkowitsch — oils, fats and waxes

(Continued from GLIAS Newsletter June 2007)

The death of an apparently fit father at a relatively early age must have been a dreadful shock for Dr Julius Lewkowitsch's family. He had married Katherine Julia Morris at Hampstead Registry Office in 1902 and a son and daughter survived him. In fact there was something of a Lewkowitsch dynasty. Some GLIAS members may actually remember his daughter, Dr Elsa Lewkowitsch (1903-1980) who was an active member of the GLIAS Recording Group (GLIAS Newsletter 74, p6). In 1980 she endowed a memorial lecture for her father Julius. This prestigious lecture is a biennial event and is organised by the Oils and Fats Group of the SCI. Julius Lewkowitsch was a member of the SCI from 1889. The biennial lecture is published.

Elsa Lewkowitsch, who was ten when her father died, followed her father's profession and a paper by her describing research she did at Imperial College and published in 1928 can be found on the internet. This concerns an investigation of the ultraviolet absorption spectrum of chlorophyll in an alcoholic solution. Nettle leaves were the raw material and it was essential to store the solution in the dark and change the sample frequently. A graph is published. She had a very good memory and could easily recall things in London seen from upstairs on an open-top bus before the First World War. A memorable event was the visit she kindly arranged for some of us to see the then Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning.

The phrase 'tailored-fats' was used frequently by Elsa Lewkowitsch when talking to GLIAS in the late 1970s but seems to be no longer in current use, an outmoded technical term — the SCI currently refer to the work of her father simply using the phrase oils, fats and waxes. The name tailored fats was probably in vogue about 40 years ago but when people started to avoid fat in food for health reasons the term is likely to have acquired a negative image from a marketing viewpoint. Although outmoded, 'tailored fats' is a useful description in industrial archaeology. Civil engineers no longer use the term 'ferro concrete' but similarly in an industrial archaeological context it's useful.

However one describes it, Julius Lewkowitsch did much to lay the foundations for the 'tailored fats' industry. In this food technology a raw material such as palm oil is purified, modified and mixed to produce various oils, fats and waxes with a variety of properties having particular applications in food production. A confectioner, ice-cream, chocolate, cake, biscuit or margarine maker will order oil or fat products specifically tailored to his precise needs. We all of us eat many of the results of this technology. The Pura Foods plant recently closed (GLIAS Newsletter December 2006, GLIAS Newsletter February 2007) was an example of a complex where the tailoring of fats took place and there were/are many examples of associated industries, especially in the Greater London area. Bob Carr

Developments at Bow Back Rivers

The lower tidal part of the River Lea splits into several branches which are known as Bow Back Rivers. The upper part of these will be within the area of the 2012 Olympic Games. At a talk given to the Remembering Three Mills Group Mr Richard Rutter, Regeneration Manager for British Waterways, said that the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is keen that they are made non-tidal and fed with clean, fresh water from the river to make them an amenity to the site.

The rivers come under the jurisdiction of British Waterways (BW). They and the ODA are keen that the waterways are navigable and are used during the construction and operation of the site to reduce the number of lorries on the roads. To these ends BW have started a programme of work to enable 350 tonne barges to use the rivers. These will bring bulk construction materials in and, while the site is in use, take refuse out. The Lee Navigation can only handle 100t barges. Each 350t barge carries the equivalent of 15/17 lorry loads and this traffic will be taken off the roads. Also the cost of transport is reduced and the emission of carbon dioxide.

The work involves building a new lock for 350t barges and a weir on the Prescott flood relief channel and a weir on Three Mills Wall River a short distance above The House Mill at Three Mills. This will reduce considerably the pond available to The House Mill if it is put back into operating order. The weir heights will be adjustable and BW say that they will arrange for the bulk of the freshwater flow will go to the mill. We will have to wait to see the effect on the mill. Patrick Graham

The Banksman

It appears that the term 'Banksman' originated in the colliery industry. He was the man at the top of the pit shaft who unhooked the corves from the rope and emptied them. It then became the man unloaded the full tubs from the mine cage and loaded empty tubs. The Shorter OED gives a reference dating from 1598. The archives of the Durham Mining Museum cites a reference — 'A Glossary of Terms used in the Coal Trade' by G C Greenwell (Colliery Viewer), first published in 1849 — which supports this meaning and much more recently 'Modern Mining Occupations — a list of Occupations and Job Descriptions' (1957) describes the job as 'Responsible for control of the shaft top and signalling cages for coal, men and materials'.

My interest in the term arose when I saw a man working on the King's Cross St Pancras Underground station improvement work who had BANKSMAN on the back of his yellow high visibility jacket The entrance to a nearby site had a notice saying 'vehicles must not leave the site without a banksman in attendance'. The noun appears to have become a verb because a site on Parnell Road E3, near Roman Road has a notice 'All deliveries must be banked'.

Reference to Google shows over 30,000 items incorporating 'banksman' including numerous courses in the construction industry for training banksmen who also appear also to have the job of slingers. Recently I have seen 'traffic marshal' on the backs of jackets on construction sites. Google only has about 200 entries under 'traffic marshal' but one is offering courses for banksmen/traffic marshals so it looks as though the two functions are the same. I think that traffic marshal will be more easily understood by people in the south who only associate banks with finance not hills.

When did the southward migration of the name banksman take place? Has anyone any information on this? Patrick Graham

Steam Tug Portwey

The twin-screw tug Portwey has been in steam at West India Quay recently and is due to visit the shipyard of Small and Co Lowestoft. There she is to be taken out of the water for ultrasonic examination of her hull plates. Small's have been working on the steam drifter Lydia Eva whose hull is in a dreadful state. It is expected that about 60 percent of the drifter's steel hull plates will need to be replaced. Ship preservation is at best ruinously expensive.

Planning the timings for a voyage in Portwey from London to Lowestoft is a difficult matter. Making full use of tidal streams is essential for fuel economy. Fog or poor visibility necessitating a reduction in speed can be particularly awkward. It is hoped to accomplish the voyage in 20 hours. Bob Carr

Cutty Sark

The dreadful fire of 21 May aboard Cutty Sark is such national news it needs no retelling here. Readers may be interested to know that the name Cutty Sark refers to the short chemise worn by the witch Nannie in Robert Burns' 1791 poem Tam O'Shanter — a reworking of a traditional Scottish tale. Nannie was given the linen chemise when a child and still wearing it as an adult, it was too short for her. It is claimed that the famous figurehead which depicts Nannie was carved by the craftsman Robert Hellyer of Blackwall. Does anyone have further information?

The River Thames is a major feature of London — an important tourist attraction. If we could take the Thames away we would find out what effect it has on the London tourist industry. Cutty Sark has gone — its removal is said to be a severe blow to business in historic Greenwich. This is a serious matter. Bob Carr

Greater London News In Brief

Reeves Colour Works © Bob Carr

Reeves Colour Works (pictured) were established at 18 Ashwin Street, Dalston, in 1866. Used for the preparation of artists' materials the present building on the site has an appropriately fine decorative façade, facing south. Judging from its style it was probably put up later than the 1860s. Reeves moved out in the mid 1950s. Some redevelopment is taking place in the area — do readers have any further information?

On 7 June this year the first bio-diesel train ran from Euston to North Wales, the 11.27am to Llandudno. Sir Richard Branson and Mr Gordon Brown were among the passengers. Operated by Virgin the new train will be on trial for six months and runs on a mixture of diesel and 20 percent vegetable oil, or even recycled cooking oil. If the pilot scheme is a success Virgin could convert its whole Voyager fleet to run on this biodiesel mixture cutting carbon dioxide emissions by up to 14 percent, equivalent to taking 23,000 cars off the road. In the future it is hoped to increase the proportion of environmentally-friendly carbon-neutral vegetable oil to 100 percent.

For the new train special fuelling points have been installed at Barton-under-Needwood, Staffs and Crofton, West Yorkshire, fuel being provided by Greenergy Fuels Ltd. On the bio-diesel Voyager the 750 hp Cummins QSK-19 engines have been modified, including the fitting of new hoses resistant to the biodiesel blend. The modified non-tilting four-car set, 220 007 Thames Voyager, will operate over most of the usual Voyager routes.

However, the claim that the 11.27 to Llandudno was the first bio-diesel train may not be quite correct. At Paignton Zoo the Jungle Express, a narrow gauge railway train which takes visitors on a ride round the site, was adapted to run on biofuel last year. Its fuel, supplied by Plymouth Bio-Fuels Ltd based in Plympton, is derived from recycled cooking oil recovered from local fish and chip shops and restaurants. Dating from 1940 the Paignton Zoo Miniature Railway was originally laid to a gauge of 12 inches. It is now 10¼ inches gauge.

For Virgin Pendolino electric trains it is claimed the carbon dioxide emission is 76 per cent less than travelling by motor car. Pendolini have regenerative braking and return 55 million kWh of electricity to the National Grid each year, 17 percent of the power they use — enough to boil 440 million kettles (the size of kettle is not stated).

The present 1960s Euston railway station is to be demolished and replaced by a new scheme, which to aid funding, will allow the inclusion of office space for businesses. Presumably we will get some quite tall towers as part of the new station. It remains to be seen if any fragments of the original Euston Arch can be incorporated into the development. As well as offices, retail and leisure facilities and 2,500 new homes are included in the plans and a new structure will be built over the concourse. To reduce the present congestion the number of platforms for trains will be increased from 18 to 21. This is a great opportunity to build a splendid new station.

On the south side of Camden Road NW1 a block of flats probably dating from the 1950s is called Bessemer Court. Bessemer was an important industrial innovator. His most famous work is the pioneer introduction of the manufacture of steel in quantity. The association of Henry Bessemer (1813-1898) with the area to the northwest of St Pancras railway station is well known but the reason why Bessemer Court, near Rochester Square, is so named is unclear. Does anyone have further information? Bessemer Court is not an uncommon name.

At the old Arsenal Stadium, Avenell Road, Highbury (GLIAS Newsletter April 2007), the East Stand of 1936 has been gutted — only the walls remain supported by steelwork. For the conversion to housing much work remains to be done inside. The football pitch is to become communal gardens for the new residents.

On the site of the former press-shop building 219-221 Blackstock Road (GLIAS Newsletter June 2006), concrete in quantity was being poured in mid June and a new building was beginning to rise. This site is just south of the Police Station on the east side of the road roughly opposite Hurlock Street N5. From the top of a double-deck bus in mid May it could be seen that a basement had been constructed, at least for the two thirds of the building towards the south. It is not yet known what height the new structure will attain but it will probably not tower much above the Police Station.

The control cabinets for Thames Water pressure reduction valves (GLIAS Newsletter April 2007) can be connected via an underground cable to a GPO telephone manhole, so it looks as if remote control or at least monitoring does take place. A prominent earth rod was installed close to the control cabinet.

At the end of May 2007 five men were noted on the roof of the Millennium Dome cleaning it with water and brushes. It seemed to bear their weight but the slope is steep — like that of a ski slope. No safety harnesses could be seen.

There is an area of London-type cobblestones (GLIAS Newsletter April 2007) at Maze Hill station Greenwich. This is on platform one close to the booking office and just to the east of it. The cobbled area is unlikely to be very old and was probably laid after 1950. Bob Carr

Cabmen's shelters

Cab shelter, Grosvenor Gardens - west side of north garden. © Robert Mason Many people will be familiar with the green painted cabmen's shelters that are located at various points around London (GLIAS Newsletter January 1975).

Recently I have come across other similarly styled, dark green painted shelters in two other places: Hitchin, Hertfordshire (in a small square off the High Street, but formerly located at the railway station) and in the Market Square, Ripon, North Yorkshire.

Both these shelters are preserved and no longer perform their original function. They are both smaller than the London examples and the Ripon one is mounted on very small iron or steel wheels. Though they both carry plaques explaining what they used to be, it is immediately obvious what they are to anyone who is familiar with the function of the London shelters.

Are there any others about? David Flett


Waste areas much beloved by industrial archaeologists are getting increasingly rare in Greater London. Things are becoming rather too tidy. Not only is industrial archaeology suffering, but wildlife is finding it hard to maintain a niche among all the artificial tidiness. In particular wild plants, known to horticulturalists as weeds, are having a bad time. This of course is all a consequence of the more general problem that the species homo sapiens is overrunning the planet, but we tend to keep rather quiet about this.

Naturalists have been noticing the diminishing number of neglected or undisturbed places as well as ourselves. John Swindell in a presidential address to the London Natural History Society (LNHS) in December 2005, made a special plea in favour of weeds in inner London. In his published paper* he gives several definitions of weed, including 'a plant growing where someone doesn't want it' and 'a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered'.

General readers may find some of the following edited extracts of interest — experienced London botanists need read no further as what follows will be old hat, and Latin names have been omitted. Anyone finding the following excites curiosity is referred to the LNHS.

London rocket came to prominence after the Great Fire of London in 1666 when it grew in great profusion on and around damaged buildings. A famous plant of the London bombsites is buddleja or butterfly bush also found at parapet level on terraced houses in East London, another characteristic bombsite plant was atlas poppy.

The well-known London plane tree which flourishes even in a polluted atmosphere has been frequently planted in London parks, squares and streets. Unfortunately its pollen can cause problems for hay fever sufferers and it is often seen establishing itself in pavement cracks and front basement areas. Snapdragon has been noted at Thameside wharves, at roof level on Notting Hill Gate station and at South Kensington station at track level.

Oxford ragwort from Mount Etna is Sicily was introduced to the Oxford botanic gardens in the 16th century but had escaped by 1794. Once it reached the railway c.1879 it spread very rapidly as the clinker of the permanent way was admirably suited to its growth and it had become established in the London area by the first decade of the 20th century.

Bladda-senna with its poppable pods was introduced to Britain in 1568 and now spreads easily along railway banks and to old marshalling yards. It can be found along Parkland Walk, a former railway line running north from Finsbury Park, and in Gillespie Park N4 established on the site of railway sidings. Trailing bellflower is common as a street weed in Kensington and thrives in the basement front areas of terraced houses and mansion blocks.

Since the 19th century plants have used railways for their distribution. They can grow on railway banks and between ballast while the draught of passing trains assists the onward transmission of seeds. Rosebay willowherb, a classic London flower also known as fireweed, like Oxford ragwort spread along railway lines. A New York newspaper reporter writing in 1944 noted that 'London, paradoxically, is the gayest where she has been the most blitzed'. Rosebay willowherb 'sweeps across this pockmarked city and turns what might have been scars into flaming beauty'. Some wild flowers do like a good fire.

Summing up his presidential address, John Swindell quotes from the poem Inversnaid (1881) by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89):

Naturalists and industrial archaeologists tend to visit similar places even if they are looking at slightly different things. Readers may also be interested in the following from the same volume of the LNHS Journal. Thin-clawed Turkish crayfish have been imported for the restaurant trade from the early 1970s and now occur in lakes and ponds in the London area. A population thought to have spread from Billingsgate fish market is now the dominant invertebrate in 25 miles of the Grand Junction Canal. They have been numerous in the Serpentine, Hyde Park, so much so that from 1994 to 1999 they were harvested commercially for restaurants. Bob Carr


I came across your website while searching for information about fish in the cistern (GLIAS Newsletter June 2007) and would like to add the following. A small boy living in Glasgow in the 1960 I remember seeing a newsreel film at the cinema about gold fish in glass cisterns in public toilets, there was a metal plate at the bottom of the cistern and the fish flapped about when the cistern emptied. I have often wondered if the film was still available but have no idea when or where it was made so the reference in your news letter is very interesting. Stuart Adamson

A drawing of Sir John Harington's water closet (The Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596))* shows fish swimming in the cistern. This may be artistic licence. John Seaman

New River photos

The New River Action Group website now has several photos showing the southern half of the New River in a 'virtual' walk of the route. Bob Hare, New River Action Group

Obituary — Fred Bishop

GLIAS member Frederick Bishop died at the age of 80 on 8 May this year (GLIAS Newsletter June 2007). He was a regular attender at the GLIAS lectures and was well-known to many members of the audience. As a young man he did military service, being called up just at the end of the Second World War. Initially he was involved with transport in the London area — from memory this included visits to the railway goods depot at Broad Street. Later he was stationed in Germany and married a German girl.

Later Mr Bishop worked for the London Borough of Newham and when on 16 May 1968 news broke of the Ronan Point failure it was his task to meet the press and fend off awkward questions. This would have been a daunting task at the best of times but Fred had only just been appointed — an unpleasant way to start a new job.

At the Institution of Civil Engineers in London in 1983, the London branch of the Friends of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum was set up. Fred Bishop was secretary and later became chairman. London Branch meetings were held monthly in the grand surroundings of the Guildhall EC2. Fred often visited relatives in Australia by air, for a time also acting as a courier which enabled him to make further flights. He always kept a sharp lookout for items made in the Ironbridge Gorge and did his best to photograph his discoveries, often reporting little known examples of cast iron from Coalbrookdale or tiles made in Jackfield.

For a long time Fred was the efficient secretary for the University of London Extra-Mural Industrial Archaeology Course which was held at the Old Station Museum, North Woolwich. Fred's hard and unfailing work did much to ensure the success of this course. He only retired as secretary when, right at the end of the last century, a stroke made writing impossible. We salute a friendly and dedicated industrial archaeologist, very active on behalf of the Friends of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, and a valuable member of GLIAS. Bob Carr

Next issue >>>

© GLIAS, 2007