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Notes and news — October 2008

In this issue:

General market buildings at Smithfield — demolition refused

Smithfield, 21 April 2004. © Robert Mason

The Secretary of State has refused consent to developers Thornfield to demolish the General Market Buildings at Smithfield. The buildings, designed by the City Surveyor Sir Horace Jones, have stood empty for more than a decade.

Marcus Binney, president of SAVE Britain's Heritage, says: 'The General Market Buildings have been scandalously neglected by the City Corporation. At the inquiry the City conceded that the market made a significant contribution to the conservation area. The market buildings should now be offered for sale. If they are they can very quickly become as lively, attractive and popular as Borough Market south of the river'.

GLIAS member Michael Bussell says: 'I think it is premature to say that the buildings are 'saved' until they have found more caring owners and users. Consent to demolish has been refused — not quite the same thing as 'saving' for the future!'


SERIAC 2008 was hosted by GLIAS and held at the University of East London, Docklands Campus, London, E16 on Saturday 19 April. It took the theme of The Making of London & the South East. 280 delegates registered for SERIAC. There were 12 display stands. This probably makes this meeting the largest IA gathering in the UK that we are aware of.

Its organisation was not without difficulties. For April it was a cold, windy day and in addition there was also no DLR service to the campus and it rained!

We were very pleased that John Boyes (President of GLIAS) was able to attend and give a short but lively welcoming address. The Keynote Lecture — Making the Metropolis: The Importance of Bazalgette & the Metropolitan Board of Works was then delivered Dr Denis Smith (GLIAS). Charles Norrie (Kings Cross Action Group and GLIAS) had been awarded a SERIAC bursary two years ago and gave a thought-provoking presentation A Lesson for I.A. — the King's Cross Railwaylands. The final morning session was Plotting the Progress — Exploring Industrial Development with Maps by Roger Cline (London Topographical Society) in which he used Goad insurance plans to illustrate industrial changes in the Camden area.

During the lunch break a rolling programme of slides of the Olympic site was shown. This presentation by Chris and Fiona Grabham also resulted from a SERIAC bursary award. After lunch the first lecture was by Brian Bloice (SLAS) who talked on Henry Doulton, Sanitary Engineer & Potter; without the development of glazed pipes for sanitary ware towns and city could not have developed. In Taking Railways to the South from the Metropolis Gordon Knowles (SIHG) looked at the role of the suburban railway. The Work of Georgian Engineers in the South was given by Alan Green (SIAS).

The final lecture should have been given by Brian Strong (GLIAS) on Sir William Fairburn, Engineer & Millwright. Unfortunately Brian had been taken ill during the night but having already sent his PowerPoint presentation his lecture was entertainingly presented by a trio of Newcomen Society Presidents, Dr Denis Smith, James Sutherland and Professor David Perrett!

Following the conference there was a limited numbers visit to House Mill at Bromley-by-Bow. Again the bad weather and poor transport meant that a number of booked delegates did not get to the mill. The Friends of the Mill welcomed the 70 or so who made it and gave them an excellent series of tours.

GLIAS thanks all those who helped make this meeting such a success against many odds particularly our speakers. Finally we made a surplus of about £200 and GLIAS has handed this on along with the float to Hampshire IA group who will be the hosts for SERIAC 2009 which will be in Winchester Guildhall on 25 April next year. David Perrett , SERIAC Organiser

Shrubland Road tin tabernacle, Dalston

Further to the note by Norma King (GLIAS Newsletter December 2007) concerning her experiences during the 1950s while attending the Congregational Chapel in Shrubland Road, Dalston. The chapel, with a full-page picture of its frontage is featured in the authoritative book; Corrugated Iron — Building on the Frontier by Mornument & Holloway, Francis Lincoln Ltd, ISBN 978-0-7112-2654-8, pages 98 & 99. It is now the 'Sight of Eternal Life Church' and the authors suggest that as it was built in 1858 it may be the oldest surviving corrugated iron church in the world.

Apparently, the 'age of Tin Tabernacles' was from the 1860s to the 1920s. The 1890s seeing the greatest number constructed or reconstructed, for there was an active second hand market in them. The first corrugated iron church in London was constructed as a temporary measure in the grounds of a vicarage in Kensington while a permanent stone church was built, that corrugated iron church was reviewed in The Builder of October 1855. However, 11 years earlier on 17 October 1844 under the sub-heading 'Iron Church for Jamaica', the Caledonian Mercury reported: 'A church has been sent out to Jamaica as a specimen, as many of the kind are likely to be required'. This proved to be the case, as well as Jamaica many went to Australia, North America and South Africa. One constructed in the 1860s for the Hudson's Bay Company in Quebec still stands, although on its fourth site and now houses a local museum and is 165 miles from the nearest main road.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of 'tin tabernacle' contains the sentence: 'applied disparagingly to buildings (esp. Nonconformist churches) made partly of corrugated iron', for there was a reaction against the use of corrugated iron even for temporary church buildings, ie tabernacles, as would appear from the title of a booklet published in 1888, The Advantages to be derived by the Adoption of Movable Wooden Churches for Temporary Purposes, instead of the Ordinary Iron Ones1. Influential architects such as Pugin, and critics such as Ruskin, were against the use of new materials and 'industrial impostors' for churches. However, the rapid growth in urban population during the Victorian era required a new wave of church and chapel building and the cost and advocacy of traditional materials was irrelevant to the church needs of the poor or those at the margins of society2.

The history of the Shrubland Road Church would appear to be typical of many urban non-conformist causes. It was founded in 1858 by a group of Presbyterians who obtained an 80-year lease from a local landlord, the Rhodes estate, and was built by a local firm, Messrs Tupper and Co, Moorgate Street, London, EC. It was reported to have been built in 10 weeks, could accommodate 500 persons and cost between £1,200-£1,300. By 1871 the worshippers was describing themselves as Congregationalists [in 1972, 101 years later Congregationalists and English Presbyterians were to unite and become the United Reformed Church]. The Church prospered during the latter years of the 1800s but the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette of 1 December 1909 recorded: The church requires a new roof and heating apparatus, and sanitary and general repairs, involving a total outlay of £400. Such a sum cannot be raised in the poor neighbourhood in which the church is situated. Fortunately, the problems must have been overcome for the church survived but in 1971 the congregation merged with Trinity Chapel in South Hackney, the building then becoming the home of the present Christian church. In 1975 the building was given Grade II listing, so hopefully, its future should be secure.

The firm of Messrs Tupper and Co is listed in the 1858 Kelly's Post Office Directory3 as Tupper Chas, Wm & Co. In its Trades Directory section, the firm is listed under the three headings: Ironfounders, Iron & Steel Merchants and Agents, and Iron and Plate Workers. They also had a full page advertisement. Previously they had been known as 'Tupper and Carr', their office was at 61A Moorgate Street EC and they had works at Regents Canal Dock, Commercial Road, Limehouse, E and Berkley Street, Birmingham. Two medals were illustrated, one with the profiles of Queen Victoria and Albert labelled London 1851, so presumably they had exhibited at the Great Exhibition, the other had the profile of Napoleon III and labelled, Paris 1856. The advert stated that they were manufacturers of galvanized iron and galvanized tinned iron in sheets, tiles, iron roofs, cisterns, tanks, iron fences, telegraph wire and stores, &c., and that they were also sole licensees and manufactures of: Mallet's Patent Buckled Plates for flooring of bridges, viaducts, jetties, and fire proof buildings, railway wagons & iron door panels, plating between iron pilings, &c. Was 'Buckled Plates' another name for, or did they have a different profile to corrugated iron? They would appear to have had similar uses. How could one find out? By 1864 the firm's advertisement had been expanded to include in their list of uses for their galvanised iron: Churches, Drill Sheds and Schools. But there were no references to 'Buckled Plates'. The first year that the Trade Directory separately listed Iron Church Builders was in 1870, Tupper and Co appeared among the seven listed. Peter J Butt

Shaftesbury Hall

Shaftesbury Hall, 17 February 2008. © David Flett

English Heritage have decided not to list Shaftesbury Hall, the 'Tin Tabernacle' in Herbert Road, N11 (GLIAS Newsletter June 2008).

In 1965 and 1985 Kelly's Post Office London Directory shows Shaftesbury Hall in Herbert Road N11 in the name of the Order of the Sons of Temperance Friendly Society. I believe this organisation still exists: in 2000 its headquarters was at 176 Blackfriars Road, SE1. Richard Graham

Greater London news in brief

At Stratford large-scale building works are in progress and extra platforms are being added to the railway station on the north side. There has been an art exhibition, Stratford Hoard, connected with the opening of the new DLR station made up of things collected by local people — souvenir teapots, milk bottles, postcards, wrapped lumps of sugar and so on.

Of more historical interest are the 'Shadwell Forgeries' — fakes which purported to be souvenirs brought back to London by medieval pilgrims. Too large to be authentic and sometimes dated with anachronistic Arabic (actually Indian) numerals they nevertheless fooled a number of people in the Victorian period. They were skilfully made in lead and brass from 1857 to 1870 by two riverside labourers, William Smith and Charles Eaton, in a workshop in Rosemary Lane (now Royal Mint Street). Billy & Charlie had quite a flourishing trade for a while — 5,000 to 10,000 artefacts being produced. Ironically many are now in museum collections.

About the middle of August it was noted that the new railway yard built to the south east of Lammas Road E10 was full of National Express trains. A footbridge at TQ 3656 8682 gives a good view of the site. This footbridge carries a pathway from the Essex Filter Beds to a gasholder site to the east of Orient Way. There are troughs on the stairs to assist cyclists taking bikes over the bridge.

It is claimed that the King's Cross redevelopment site is the largest in single ownership to be planned and developed in more than 150 years in Central London. The University of the Arts London, including Central St Martin's, is to go into the Granary Complex.

The locomotive shed at Immingham has recently been demolished. It is understood that the concrete coaling plant there (GLIAS Newsletter February 2005), now a great rarity, remains. Does anyone have further news?

Immediately to the east of Tottenham Hale railway station and to the north of Ferry Lane N17 at TQ 3462 8957 part of the Harris Lebus furniture factory (GLIAS Newsletter December 2007) survived until recently. Extensive underground air raid shelters for the staff, probably about 6,000 at the time, were built here c1940 and as previously mentioned these remains which covered a large area have been recorded. The work was done by the archaeological contractors CgMs. The shelters were partially flooded but before destruction some careful recording took place and quite a number of wartime period artefacts recovered — more than might be expected. It was quite a Marie Celeste situation. The site has now been cleared to some way below the old ground level, removing all trace of the shelters, and redevelopment is now progressing rapidly. During the Second World War Utility furniture, now highly collectable, was made by Harris Lebus in Tottenham. The exhibition at Bruce Castle Museum finishes at the end of September.

RAF Stanmore has also been recorded by CgMs. In at least one large shed overhead rails for the handling of barrage balloons (GLIAS Newsletter June 2006) remained in situ here until quite recently. RAF Balloon Command was formed at RAF Stanmore Park in November 1938.

Artists have been moving further and further out of Central London in order to find suitably cheap studio accommodation. Quite often this involves former industrial buildings, see for example the former mineral water factory in the Lea Bridge Road (GLIAS Newsletter December 2007). Set up in the mid 1990s 'The Chocolate Factory', Farleigh Place N16, TQ 342 857, was a Vicwardian warehouse. The connection with chocolate is unclear. The 'Factory' is situated in Shacklewell just east of the A10 and west of Hackney Downs. Recently a new purpose-built block of artists' studios opened here. Does anyone remember Farleigh Place in industrial times?

Amylum UK Blackwall Point is to close. Bob Carr


Bob Carr's article (GLIAS Newsletter August 2007) mentions some of the weeds found growing on wasteland in the London area.

Another, which has established itself strongly in the past 10 years, is Corydalis lutea — it appears to have no common name. This delightful little plant with its delicate pale green, finely divided leaves and many yellow snapdragon-shaped flowers has been in Britain since the 16th century but has increased rapidly in London in recent years possibly due to the near absence of frosts. It only grows about a foot high but in suitable conditions will build up into a substantial mass. It spreads by seed and it is interesting to watch it move from one front garden to the next until a whole terrace has been colonised. On more difficult sites it grows in walls often at first-floor level. Its blue and purple cousins have recently become popular with gardeners. Meanwhile, from May onwards the cheerful flowers of this yellow form add a little beauty to some neglected areas.

A native plant which has spread spectacularly in our area (SW London) in the past few years is the green Alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens). Like the forget-me-not it is a member of the Borage family with a long succession of bright blue flowers. It will grow two feet high in the most unpromising sites at the base of walls and in deep shade and self seeds wildly. I rather like it but if you don't take care when pulling it out, the leaves which resemble those of the foxglove, are covered with hairs which are painful to the touch. Derrick Johnson

Cabman shelters

Cab shelter, Hungerford Bridge, 30 May 2008. © Robert Mason

On recent walks through London I came across two Cabman Shelters (GLIAS Newsletter December 2007).

The first was situated at the bottom of Northumberland Avenue by Hungerford Bridge (pictured) with Sir Joseph Bazalgette's bust on the Victoria Embankment looking across the road at it. One wonders if 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust' means that this shelter has some connection with T E Lawrence!

The second was located at Cheyne Walk on the west side of Battersea Bridge. Dan Little

New museum inside the Brunel shaft

Work has begun installing a concrete shelf for a new museum inside the Brunel Shaft, Rotherhithe (GLIAS Newsletter February 2008).

Robert Hulse, museum director, thinks this will be the first underground museum above an operating railway.

The Brunel Museum (Railway Avenue, Rotherhithe, London SE16 4LF) commemorates Brunel's first and last projects: the Thames Tunnel as birthplace of the tube system and the Great Eastern steamship as the first modern ocean liner.


Kelly's Post Office London Directory shows that W Williamson & Co Ltd Laundry Engineers (GLIAS Newsletter August 2008) had works at Well Street, Hackney from 1897 to 1901. It does not appear in 1903. In earlier entries it also refers to a showroom at 2 White Horse Buildings, High Holborn, WC. It may be of significance that a firm of laundry engineers Williamson, Welburn and Co is shown from 1892 to 1896, but not later at 133 High Holborn, WC. Possibly this firm was a partnership which became the limited company.

Bob Carr (GLIAS Newsletter April 2007) correctly identifies the tiled premises at Edward Road/Courtenay Road E17. Various Kelly's directories between 1961 and 1985 show it to have been an off licence. I recently noted tiles on a former pub in St Leonard's Street, E3, which seems to have been the Imperial Crown.

Mention of the Thames Ironworks Shipbuilding and Co. Ltd (GLIAS Newsletter April 2007) reminds me that West Ham United FC traces its origins from the Thames Ironworks FC of 1895 and I understand that their nickname comes from the shipbuilders' hammers on their badge. The reference to the plaque at Canning Town station prompts me to note that at Lambeth North station there is a plaque commemorating the Maudslay works.

Clarke, Son & Platt (GLIAS Newsletter October 2004) are shown at 85 Gracechurch Street, London EC in Kelly's Post Office London Directory for 1890 and 1901. They are described as 'English, colonial and foreign advertisement agents'. Perhaps the newspaper wrappers enclosed voucher copies of Australian publications to prove that advertisements had duly been inserted. Richard Graham

Information required

At the open day of the City of London cemetery at Manor Park some time ago, while searching for my King Charles's head (war memorials) I came across in Central Avenue a monument to George Wright Binks of Millwall, who died on 24 May 1872 and is described as 'inventor of wire ropes'. Does anyone know anything about him? Richard Graham

The Imperial War Museum had an exhibition entitled 'Camouflage'. The leaflet advertising the exhibition included a reproduction of CW Moss's 1943 painting 'The Big Tower, Camouflaged'. I believe that this illustrates a cooling tower of the London North Western Railway power station at Stonebridge Park. This was the last power station of British Railways, and some of the surviving buildings still show traces of camouflage, unfortunately defaced by the moronic scribblings of graffiti vandals. It is not that many years ago that camouflaged industrial buildings were still to be seen, but no doubt the decline of manufacturing industry in London has meant that most have disappeared. Perhaps members may know of surviving examples? Richard Graham

I am currently researching the history and archaeology of the watercress industry in Britain. I am trying to ascertain if watercress was commercially produced in the environs of London before the generally accepted date of 1808 by William Bradbury near Northfleet. In view of the burgeoning population of London through industrial revolution, my theory is that it was being produced at spring sites along the many rivers flowing into the Thames — polluted or not — places like the Bayswater rivulet and the Hackney brook, for example. I have some unconfirmed stories that Euston station was built over a long-established watercress bed probably owned by the Greig family who were local market gardeners. Does anyone know anything about this industry?
Barrie M Hawkins. Tel: 01763 208755. Email:

Does anyone have any information about the records of the 'Cubow Shipyard' which were operational in Woolwich and have been taken over and/or operated by 'Downtown Marine'?
Joe Amato, Government Surveyor of ships, Malta. Email:

Obituary: Jack Vaughan

The world of London industrial history has lost a lot with the death of Jack Vaughan who died on Monday 14 July 2008 at the age of 91. Jack was never a member of GLIAS — since he could never be connected with history which concerned anything outside his beloved Woolwich. He had however many other interests. At this funeral we heard about his record in the army in the Second World War, how he fought at El Alamein and met Field Marshall Montgomery. We also heard about his lifetime's enthusiasm for Charlton Football Club. He was married twice and had five children. At a first meeting he could seem rather gruff, but one soon found how kind a man he was — there was no one who did not like Jack, even if they did not fully share his views.

He had been an apprentice at the Arsenal (writing about his experiences in Woolwich Antiquarian Proceedings Vol XLII) then worked there until he retired — again we heard at his funeral how he was respected for his engineering ability and knowledge and how he later went on to teach his skills at Woolwich Polytechnic School. From this arose a love of clocks and his ability to repair them. The future of the clock on Building 10 at the Arsenal particularly worried him. He always championed the Arsenal, giving talks on its history. He was also well versed in the Woolwich Dockyard, and a connoisseur of local pubs.

Many societies benefited from his energy — he lived for 54 years on Shooters Hill and was chairman of the Shooters Hill Society; he wrote articles for the Shooters Hill Local History Group, published in its series of 'Aspects'. He was the first chairman of the Greenwich Industrial History Society, eventually becoming honorary president. He was also involved in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, history group. But his longest association was with the Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society; for many years on its council, latterly as a vice president; he was chairman of the Conservation Sub-Committee.

Jack was a fierce defender of Woolwich's heritage in his dealings with the Borough's Planners, particularly in respect of his beloved Arsenal. He was a frequent attendee at Planning Committees and made sure they heard his views. However, they listened to him with more respect than he would ever acknowledge and changes were often made. One locally famous exploit was his saving the tomb of the world famous engineer, Henry Maudslay, when the Council cleared St Mary's Churchyard — all but one of its cast-iron plates were retrieved, and taken to the Maritime Museum store in the Brass Foundry — they are now in the care of the Greenwich Heritage Centre. Jack was well known and respected by the London-wide community of industrial archaeologists, particularly in the Greater London Industrial Archaeological Society. In 2001 a special seminar on Maudslay was held at Kew Bridge Engines Trust — special mention was made of Jack's role in rescuing the plaque and a small ceremony was held.

Jack was a one-off — to quote a friend — 'well Jack — Jack's Jack, isn't he!'.

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© GLIAS, 2008