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Notes and news — December 2008

In this issue:

Secretary's Notes

The autumn 2008 issue of the London Archaeologist summarises the proposals for the Heritage Protection Bill, which is expected to be included in the Queen's Speech to the next session of Parliament:

The issue also includes an article on the excavation of five 19th-century lighters from Erith.

The London Archaeologist also circulated the London Fieldwork and Publication Round-up 2007. The list is much longer than usual because of the work involved with 2012 Olympics sites. The main cases of industrial interest were:

Brian James-Strong

Lottery award for Crossness

Crossness Pumping Station has been awarded over £1.5 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund to help restore the Grade I listed site to its Victorian splendour.

The award comes 150 years since the 'Great Stink' of 1858 when it became clear that London needed a sewage system.

Crossness Pumping Station was opened in 1865. Housing the four largest rotary beam engines in the world and currently in a dilapidated state, the Beam Engine House and Boiler House are both on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register.

The restoration, part of a project costing £2.7 million (GLIAS Newsletter August 2005), is due to start in early 2009. As well as conserving the buildings there will be a new exhibition exploring the social history of the site which will take in public health, pollution and the environment, encouraging visitors to celebrate the engineering triumph on their doorstep. A new café, car parking, education room and archive and an updated website will also be developed.

Underground museums above operating railways

It has been suggested that the planned extension of the Brunel Museum at Rotherhithe from the Engine House into the top of the adjoining Thames Tunnel shaft 'will be the first underground museum above an operating railway' (GLIAS Newsletter October 2008).

I am afraid we have been beaten to it by about 10 years by a German group, Berliner Unterwelten e.V., which has an office rented in the southern surface building of the Gesundbrunnen U-bahn station, and Second World War air-raid-shelter rooms below. BU organises public tours (some in English) in the shelter built above the station which is itself built on the floor of a deep cutting (now roofed over). The rooms include several kitted out with reconstructions of a shelter interior, and others displaying Second World War photographs and artefacts.

Other guided visits nearby also organised by BU are to a Cold War bunker at Pankstrasse Station (the next one up the line); and in the ruins of a Second World War 'flak' tower in neighbouring Volkspark Humboldthain. All these sites are on or near U-bahn line U8 to the north of the city centre, served by northbound trains from Alexanderplatz Station. The organisation is a 'registered association' (eingetragen Verein). Paul W Sowan

The East London Line closed in December 2007 for major engineering works. When the line reopens, as part of the London Overground, it will provide improved transport links to 20 boroughs on fast, frequent, air-conditioned, accessible trains.

TfL and main works contractor Balfour Beatty — Carillion Joint Venture have also agreed to pay the costs for the design and construction of a floor within the Brunel shaft, as part of the works. This generous gift to the museum will provide, within the Brunel shaft at Rotherhithe, the maximum space available for future expansion of the museum above the operating railway.

A reinforced concrete slab floor is currently being constructed within the 12.6 metre diameter shaft. The slab has been designed to sustain a load of 20kN/m2, and spans across the shaft, supported on two tunnel spandrel walls, all of which were assessed for suitability of providing support to the new floor. The slab is 11 metres from the top of the shaft, and 7.5 metres below ground level. Overall the shaft is 19 metres deep from track level to the top of the shaft.

To meet the requirements of the Buildings Regulations, the space in the shaft above the new floor will be provided with fire separation, and the new floor and associated structural supports provide two hours structural fire resistance.

Following approval of the application by the Trustees of Brunel Museum to the Southwark Council for listed building consent in accordance with the Planning (listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act 1990, works began in June 2008 and are expected to be finished in November 2008.

The present shaft is completely covered by pre-cast concrete jack arches and riveted support girders, except for a small vent, 3.1m x 1.25m, which is covered by a capping slab to protect internal electrical equipment from weather. Personnel access is available from the roof via a cat ladder and via a small doorway from ground level. To enable construction of the slab to start, the 7 tonne pre-cast concrete vent capping slab was removed using a 95 tonne Liebherr all-terrain crane, thus providing a small crane access point within the shaft. An elaborate scaffold falsework has been erected from track level to support the soffit formwork, which incorporates an estimated 5,000 metres of scaffold tube. The scaffold design, by Balfour Beatty, allows construction work to continue on the East London Line, including the movement of works trains up and down both rail lines.

At time of writing, the soffit has been completed, together with the installation of 8.5 tonnes of steel reinforcement. The actual concrete will be poured utilising a 36-metre boom pump, to complete the entire 50m3 (120 tonne) slab in one pour. We await final approval to concrete the slab, and as such the site compound has been reduced to a minimum.

Following the curing of the slab, BB-CJV will be removing all redundant steelwork within the shaft above the new floor, which formed part of flood gates installed during the Second World War. A passive stack ventilation system shall be provided from the underside of the new floor to the exterior of the shaft above ground level. The vent capping slab will be replaced and a temporary access tower will be installed down to the floor, ready for the next exciting development.

The shaft sunk by Brunel father and son in 1825, inaccessible since the arrival of the railway in 1869, will soon re-emerge with a new life as a museum above an operating railway. Robert Hulse, Brunel Museum

Moving SS Robin to Lowestoft

In June 2008 SS Robin (GLIAS Newsletter August 2008) 1 had the appearance of a 'flatiron' collier. Her funnel, masts and ventilators had been taken off and she had a sufficiently reduced air draught to pass beneath the DLR bridge to the east of her usual berth at West India Quay. On Saturday morning, 14 June, two launch tugs commenced the move, accompanied by some other small craft carrying representatives of the various things that might be damaged on the way.

First Robin was moved sideways to the south alongside the quay opposite the Museum in Docklands. From here she could be edged gingerly forwards to the east beneath the railway bridge. There were platform-lengthening works for West India Quay station in progress with scaffolding beneath the bridge immediately to the north but Robin was squeezed past successfully, without incident. With perhaps the most difficult part of the operation completed Robin was now pulled further north-eastwards to the lift bridge which carries Upper Bank Street across the West India Import Dock. This bowstring bridge pivots at the south end and can be partially lifted by a hydraulic ram on the opposite side of the dock to the north. Road traffic had to be stopped for the bridge lift and there were plenty of uniformed Canary Wharf security officers on duty at barriers to help accomplish this. Already things were becoming quite a spectacle.

With the bridge lifted there was room close to the north quay for Robin to pass underneath. Further east Robin was then slowly turned to face southwards into Bellmouth Passage, the dock passage which connects the Import Dock with South Dock. Air draught problems were now at an end. The dock passage leading to the south beneath North Colonnade and South Colonnade has no restriction as all the bridges across it can be fully opened. There are two glazed footbridges which swing and the two road bridges carrying the Colonnades are fairly conventional lift bridges each with a single lifting span which pivots on the east side. These open rather like the bascules of Tower Bridge and give a clear passage to a ship. Bellmouth Bridge, the footbridge to the north was swung using manual control owing to a technical difficulty. Such was the occasion that building workers stopped to watch Robin pass by. Finally she was tugged through the passage and entered South Dock.

From here it was a straightforward journey across the dock to the southeast towards the Meridian Gate area and a berth on the south quay a short way to the west of the scout ship Lord Amory 2. Here Robin waited two weeks for the tow to Lowestoft.

On Saturday morning, 28 June 2008 at nine o'clock, the seagoing tug Napia, 900 hp, had arrived and was lashed alongside Robin near the bow so that the coaster could be propelled downriver stern first. Until out at sea Robin was handled thus in the manner of a large dumb barge, on the tidal Thames this method of propelling big barges is quite commonplace. Towing cables were attached to the bow of Robin so that when the time came the tug could be released from her position alongside and pull Robin round to head into the sea and tow her in a more conventional fashion for the coastal journey.

Accompanied by the launch Kingwood of 1915, a Dunkirk veteran, carrying VIPs who had made the restoration of Robin possible, and with some guests in addition, Robin passed through the West India entrance lock and out onto the tideway — the large blue lift bridge of 1969 being raised to let us all through.

The weather was pleasant and the launch manoeuvred around Robin and her tug as we progressed down river giving those on board good opportunities for photography. All too quickly we had arrived at Gravesend where we were to be put ashore and the guests were disembarked at the Royal Terrace Pier, quite a privilege in itself.

Robin proceeded rapidly on with the tide towards the estuary and out of sight. Officially Robin was classed as a hulk or wreck and white rectangles had been painted on her hull along the top of the boot topping close to the waterline as a warning to mariners. The white rectangles, spaced about 20 feet apart, would give a ready indication of any change in her trim, necessitating pumping and perhaps further action. However the weather remained fine and the hull of Robin still surprisingly watertight. We later heard that Robin had arrived in Lowestoft the following Sunday at 6.30am. The media did a tremendous job reporting the move of this historic ship and television and radio as well as numerous newspapers gave excellent coverage of the event. Bob Carr

(1) There was a visit to Robin at West India Quay on Wednesday 28 May 2003 (GLIAS Newsletter December 2003).
(2) The Lord Amory, about 600 tons, is thought to be the former North Sea Dutch pilot vessel Algol — renamed c1981.

South Croydon Junction Signal Box demolished

One of Croydon's very few surviving railway signal boxes (rendered redundant by the centralisation of signalling in a handful of control centres) has been demolished. The South Croydon box was noticed missing in the summer of 2008. That at East Croydon, in alternative use, survives. Both were two-storey brick-built boxes of the 1930s, erected in connection with the electrification of the Brighton main line.

The South Croydon box, south of the station, stood between the Brighton and the Oxted lines at South Croydon Junction. This location made national headlines in October 1947, being the site of one of Croydon's very few (and easily the worst) railway accidents. On a foggy Friday morning, 24 October, an up Tottenham Corner train crashed into the rear of a halted up Haywards Heath train. Newspapers of the time reported the time of the accident as variously 8.04, 8.30, and 8.36. Thirty-one persons died, and at least twice as many were injured. Paul W Sowan

Kingsway tunnels up for sale

British Telecom has put the Kingsway tunnel complex (GLIAS Newsletter December 1995) up for sale again after failing to find a buyer for the 77,000 square-foot system of horizontal and vertical shafts in 1996.

The tunnels were originally built in 1940 as deep air-raid shelters which could accommodate up to 8,000 people.

The Post Office took over the tunnels after the Second World War as a secure location for its long-distance phone exchange, including the 1950s hotline which directly connected the White House and the Kremlin during the Cold War.

In the 1980s the government used part of the complex as a temporary backup for its top secret Pindar war control bunker.

Access to the mile-long tunnel system is through unmarked doors in the street on High Holborn.

BT hopes the sale could attract offers of up to £5m.

Tower Hamlets Local History Library saved

Tower Hamlets have agreed to keep the borough's local history library and archives in Bancroft Road.

Leader of the Council Lutfur Rahman said: 'When I became leader of Tower Hamlets Council I promised that I would do everything I could to ensure that we cherish the East End's unique heritage.

'The challenge now is to secure the funding needed to complete the urgent repairs and bring the Vestry Hall back to its former glory. I have instructed council officers to try to identify external sources of funding to help finance those works.

'Our shared history is not something to be locked away or reserved for the few. It is something to be shared and celebrated by the many.'

GLIAS member Tom Ridge said: 'Councillor Rahman is to be congratulated on his decision to keep the local history library and archives at Bancroft Library. This is good news for all concerned, but we have asked for the whole building to be reused as the Tower Hamlets Local History Centre. We therefore hope that the council will make the necessary financial commitment to secure funding from elsewhere.'

Residents oppose redevelopment of Gun Wharf, E3

Developers Durkan are planning to demolish existing industrial units at Gun Wharf, E3 and redevelop it as a four/five storey residential/commercial unit development.

Local residents are opposing the proposed development which will tower over the Hertford Union Canal, Victoria Park, Connaught Works and Albany Works.

Gun Wharf is a converted Victorian warehouse, as is Connaught Works. Both are currently visible from Victoria Park, Three Colts Bridge, Old Ford Road and St Stephen's Road — the two buildings contribute significantly to the spirit of the local area. The building will equal or tower over both former warehouses, including the taller one feature in this picture.

In 2002 Tower Hamlets granted permission for a sensitive redevelopment to the interior of Albany Works (GLIAS Newsletter October 2001; GLIAS Newsletter February 2002).
More details on the proposed plans and grounds for objection:

Proposed demolition of the former Henderson's Film Laboratories, South Norwood

A planning permission proposal has been submitted to LB Croydon Council for the demolition of the premises of the former Henderson's film laboratories at 18 and 20 St Dunstan's Road, South Norwood (immediately to the west of South Norwood High Street.

A photograph of a two and three-storey block appeared in Croydon Advertiser, 6 June 2008, page 57. Paul W Sowan

Embankment cabmen's shelter

The cabmen's shelter on the Embankment (GLIAS Newsletter October 2008) need not have a T E Lawrence connection.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust is a charity set up to receive and disburse excess income from Lawrence's estate. It gives grants to, among other things, 'permanent preservation for the public benefit of places and buildings of natural beauty or historic interest in England and Wales'.

If there is a specific connection I haven't been able to find it! David Gordon

British or Civic restaurants in the London Borough of Croydon

'British' or 'Civic' restaurants were established in Croydon during the Second World War at the instigation of Lord Woolton (1883-1964), Minister of Food for 1940-43. Quite apart from providing meals for persons rendered homeless by enemy action, they were open to the population at large, and seen as a way of economising on fuel usage by replacing a great deal of home cooking by providing meals at centralised kitchens.

The County Borough of Croydon had 20 such establishments, designed to seat from 150 to 200 persons each. Some were set up in rented commercial premises, whereas others were cheaply built single-storey structures on, at times, plots where existing bomb-damaged buildings had been demolished. One such purpose-built restaurant, still standing and in community use, is on the west side of London Road, Thornton Heath, backing onto the bus garage. Another, at 114-124 Brighton Road, South Croydon, had been used by the local council for storage until it was demolished some years ago to be replaced by a block of apartments.

Others were in commercial premises, such as the former Collins Glasshouse on the corner of Croydon High Street and Masons Avenue. Several were in cinemas which ceased to function as such during the war, including the still-standing former Norbury Cinema (now Dreamland Beds) at 1,355-1,357 London Road, Norbury (the auditorium can still be seen from Northborough or Tylecroft Roads), and the former Regent Cinema (now a youth club) at Portland Road, where the auditorium (a large corrugated-iron shed) still stands, having been used to serve school dinners to South Norwood's then two technical schools in the 1950s. All 20 locations are listed by Sayers.

Before it was amalgamated with Croydon County Borough to form the London Borough in 1963, the adjoining area administered by the Coulsdon & Purley Urban District Council also had such restaurants, certainly at Addington, Coulsdon, and Selsdon. The Selsdon restaurant was in a hall, which has in its time been used as a dance hall, above the former Bailey's garage (currently an empty building at 230 Addington Road). Some account of the history of this particular restaurant has been published by Edward Frith, who noted that at first meat and two vegetables could be had for 9d, soup or a sweet were 3d each, and a cup of tea was 1½d (children were charged half price). Paul W Sowan

Friese-Greene Films — information required

While walking along the King's Road recently I noticed a 'habitat' shop occupying a building that looked like it had once been a cinema.


On closer inspection it had some Art Deco motifs on its facade plus a plaque dedicated to William Friese-Greene who began the 'New All British Friese-Greene Natural Colour Process' in 1898. This was a two-colour successive frame process with alternate frames tinted red and blue. When projected at 24 frames per second the eye's persistence of vision merged the colours to produce an acceptable coloured image of the subject.


His son, Claude, took this to greater heights with the production of the film 'The Open Road' which recorded the epic road journey from Land's End to John O'Groats. However, this process could not compete with less costlier processes and it fell out of use.


Do any readers know if this building was used to present any of William or Claude Friese-Greene's films?
Dan Little. Email:

Development of public spaces at Guildhall Library

Guildhall Library is to be extensively refurbished for the first time since 1974, with work due to start in March 2009, lasting up to six months.

There will be significant improvements including more public computer workstations, a new training area, new access facilities for wheelchair users, and planned reinstatement of a dedicated entrance subject to planning permission.

The new look Guildhall Library will house the City Business Library and the existing Guildhall Library Printed Books and Manuscripts Sections. The Printed Books and Manuscripts' holdings will remain in Guildhall Library. The Guildhall Library Prints and Maps team and collections will move to London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) permanently to unite with the rich graphic collections there.

Guildhall Library Manuscripts, the record office for the 'square mile' of the City of London, will modernise its reading room, with improved facilities for readers including access to digitised family history sources.

During the building work the Guildhall Library Manuscripts reading room will close and access to its holdings will be at the reading rooms of LMA in Clerkenwell (40 Northampton Road, London EC1 0HB). The following arrangements will be in place during the refurbishment:

Guildhall Library Manuscripts: distance enquiry service as normal; holdings remain in Guildhall Library; reading room operating from LMA from March 2009 for four to six months, with 48-hour notice to order documents.

Guildhall Library Prints and Maps: distance enquiry service as normal; holdings moving from Guildhall Library to LMA in early 2009 to unite with LMA graphic collections permanently (some material unavailable before and during the move); reading room service permanently at LMA from early 2009.

Guildhall Library Printed Books: distance enquiry service temporarily suspended; holdings remain in Guildhall Library with some material unavailable at times; reading room service at Guildhall Library throughout.

Boring postcards

A postcard, especially one that has been written and posted, can provide fascinating insights into the past (GLIAS Newsletter April 2006) and there are people who collect them.

Readers will be familiar with their use to provide illustrations, often of Edwardian street scenes, in the ubiquitous booklets by local historians we see on sale in the retail outlets of most museums. The book Boring Postcards by Martin Parr, first published in 1999, simply reproduces without comment coloured postcards of new town centres, public buildings, motorway services and so on which were the last word in progress about forty years ago and now painfully out of fashion.

Most buyers probably purchased the book to snigger but the discerning will appreciate that these images of a now lost world are of cutting-edge progressive Britain and an idealistic Utopian vision hard for younger readers to grasp. Martin Parr could easily have added a descriptive text and a title along the lines of Modern British Buildings of the Nineteen Sixties and apart from a few copies sold through the bookshop at the Architectural Association sales could have been next to zero. At it is sales have been excellent and there is a paperback version as well as companion volumes covering America and Germany. The latter which includes the DDR is considered to be the best.

The style of presentation of these images (actually exciting) and choice of title provide a nice Post-Modernist twist. These booklets would make excellent Christmas stocking-fillers. Bob Carr

Shotgun bores

The bore of a shotgun can be defined as the number of lead balls that can be made from a pound of lead — the spherical balls just fitting the gun. That is we are thinking of using the gun like a musket and firing a single ball. In old units a pound of lead has a volume of about 2.4384 cubic inches so it is straightforward to work out the diameter in inches of popular shotgun sizes. A twelve bore is 0.729 inches and a sixteen bore 0.663 inches. The sixteen-bore gun is smaller than a twelve bore but it is said that a good shot can do as well with one as anyone of moderate ability with a twelve bore. During the war country people could supplement the meagre ration by adding a few rabbits, pheasants or partridges to the larder. Do any readers have experience of this activity? At Christmas time this must have been particularly welcome.

In general use a shotgun fires a multitude of small shot and an additional parameter is the choke. This is a constriction near the end of the barrel which controls the spread of the shot. Eley, the manufacturer of cartridges for shotguns, had premises at King's Cross near the present suburban station. It seems bizarre that cartridges might have been filled in such a densely crowded location but perhaps only distribution took place from here. It was certainly a convenient location. Bob Carr (More)

News in brief

On the 8 August the demolition of Culross Buildings (GLIAS Newsletter August 2008) was almost complete. Everything had been razed to the ground.

At the beginning of June the multi-storey car park in Bute Street in Luton to the south-east of the railway station had largely been wrecked in the process of demolition. Only a short time later just a small fragment remained at the west end over the bus station which presumably is going too. There are now good views of the north side of the redbrick Bute Flour Mills, TL 093 215.

In mid October Slough bus station (GLIAS Newsletter December 2007) was in a dramatically wrecked state owing to demolition. The famous Brunel Roundabout close by is also to go.

Overhead high-tension electricity supply cables in the Lea Valley are being put underground as part of the enabling works for the 2012 Olympics and the Olympic Legacy. A new cable tunnel has been under construction and is now complete. The overhead line from Hackney to West Ham is being permanently removed. The golf course at the Filter Beds, Lea Bridge Road, closed on 3 November and will remain shut until the end of the year while dismantling takes place. There will also be diversions as a number of footpaths, roads, etc need to be closed for the work to proceed safely. GLIAS members wishing to photograph the Lea Valley with its traditional electricity pylons will need to act quickly.

Apart from the architecture at Robin Hood Gardens (GLIAS Newsletter August 2008), the gardens themselves were an unexpected delight in the summer with fragrant bushes giving a distinctly Mediterranean feel. A pleasantly aromatic surprise in this part of London just north of Poplar Docks, they can be worth a visit in themselves.

In mid-October Chambers Wharf, Bermondsey (TQ 343 797), which dates from the 1930s was being demolished. Paynes Wharf, Deptford (TQ 372 781), the former boiler shop of John Penn & Sons, the famous 19th-century marine engine builders (GLIAS Newsletter August 2008), has been entirely gutted. The arched riverside façade remains, supported on the inside, and the walls at the back of the site to the southwest are still extant. This demolition took place several months ago and redevelopment work has now stopped.

The architect Will Alsop RA (GLIAS Newsletter April 2004), responsible for the new Goldsmiths' College building (GLIAS Newsletter April 2005), is working on a residential development by the canal in New Islington, Manchester, called 'Chips'. Other work includes 'A Vision for Croydon' and the new Stratford DLR station which was completed in December 2007. His paintings have been on show at the J gallery in Moulton, Northampton, SP 780 663. Alsop (1947-) was the architect for the North Greenwich underground station (GLIAS Newsletter June 1999). His most recent building to be completed is 'The Public' (strictly THEpUBLIC), New Street, West Bromwich (SP 005 912). If not already open to the general public, it should be shortly.

According to John Bancroft the architect of Pimlico School, the school was opened by Mr Harold Wilson (GLIAS Newsletter April 2008). Mr Wilson had been Prime Minister up to June 1970.

In London N4 at TQ 312 869 the redbrick-faced Vicwardian building at 9-15 Stroud Green Road on the west side of the road was being demolished in mid June. This used to be Sam Philip Ltd, just to the east of John Jones. The 44 x 4 metre site is being redeveloped as The Parade.

Traditionally boilers for road and railway locomotives were usually of rivetted construction. However, the boiler for the new A1 class steam locomotive Tornado, made at Meiningen in former East Germany, has some rivets but is mainly welded. Tornado is now in steam and has been pulling trains on the Great Central Railway. It should come to London in due course working a steam special. Bob Carr

Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum, Sittingbourne

It has previously been reported that the Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum, Sittingbourne was under threat of closure (GLIAS Newsletter February 2006).

Based in a timber framed weatherboarded building the museum lay alongside 'the Bourne' an inlet of Milton Creek, off the Swale. It was the sail loft and barge building yard of Charles Burley whose 'Dolphin Brand' cement was renowned in the London markets, and as well as material relating to the history of the sailing barge it housed a rich collection of models, photographs, paintings and artefacts including a Pratt & Whitney bandsaw from Thames Ship Repairers Ltd, Royal Albert Dock and a collection of brickmaking equipment.

The trust managing the museum had, after a period of closure and uncertainty, made the decision to reopen at Easter but various incidents followed culminating in a disastrous fire on Sunday 26 October which burnt down the main sail loft building. Poignant photographs showed the bandsaw which had been extensively restored standing among the devastation.

Much of the surrounding area is undergoing change and while the trust members are determined that something will be salvaged from the disaster and are determined to restart the museum, it may not be on the present site. Thankfully the trust archives and certain exhibits were either in store or not on site and a record exists of the various exhibition displays. The sailing barge Cambria has moved to Faversham for restoration following a successful lottery bid. Elizabeth Wood

Limehouse Accumulator Tower

GLIAS members are involved in opening the Tower to the public for the Open House weekend in September each year. If you would like to help in future, please get in touch with me and I will put you in contact with the team. Brian James-Strong

GLIAS 40th Anniversary dinner


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© GLIAS, 2008