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Notes and news — February 2009

In this issue:

Routemasters back in London 'by 2011'

New Routemaster. © Robert Mason, 2.10.14 A new modern version of the Routemaster bus is expected to be back on the streets of London by 2011. Car company Aston Martin and architect firm Foster and Partners jointly won a competition to design the successor to the driver-and-conductor Routemaster which was taken out of regular service in December 2005 (GLIAS Newsletter December 2005). They share the £25,000 first prize with bus, coach and truck design firm Capoco Design, based in Wiltshire.

The original Routemasters, which plied London's streets since 1959, were phased out from regular service by the end of 2005 as they were inaccessible to wheelchairs or pushchairs.

The new bus will be zero-emissions ready and accessible for all. Passengers benefit from views from the top of the deck through a glazed roof which incorporates solar cells to generate energy and filter daylight to control the temperature inside.

The bus design reintroduces the rear open-access platform that made London's Routemaster bus so popular up until its withdrawal from general service. This is supplemented by a side door to facilitate access for the mobility impaired and families with young children.

The Steam Tug Portwey

Portwey notice. © Robert Mason, 28.3.12 The imminent start of major civil engineering works at the east end of William Jessop's West India Import Dock of 1802 has meant that the steam tug Portwey has had to move to a new berth, to avoid being cut off from the Tideway (GLIAS Newsletter August 2008). Works for a new Crossrail station for Canary Wharf will last for several years before Portwey can move back to her berth near the Museum in Docklands. The twin-screw tug will still be open to serious visitors on Wednesday afternoons but her new location is less convenient than the old one close to West India Quay DLR station. Portwey is now at the east end of South Dock just to the south west of the scout ship Lord Amory. The location is sometimes known as Dollar Bay. Car parking is difficult here. A convenient way of getting to Portwey is to take bus D3 or D6 northwards from Crossharbour DLR station.

The cost of coal which presently comes from Russia* is a problem. About a ton is needed to light up and warm through Portwey's boiler prior to departure. The Russian coal is good steam coal and considerably better than the previous lot which although not actually house coal was very smoky (GLIAS Newsletter February 2001). Means of earning revenue are being considered including steam experience courses similar to those run by railway preservation societies. Will a day stoking a marine boiler prove as attractive as driving a steam locomotive? Portwey can have a good run up and down South Dock.

The historic River Lea lighter which used to lie alongside Portwey has been transferred to a new owner upriver on the Thames. The condition of this venerable craft is uncertain as a considerable quantity of bitumen has been spilt inside making inspection almost impossible. It is understood that scouts will be involved in restoration. The lighter was originally propelled by sweeps and making use of the tide for the greater part of its journeys. The Museum in Docklands had an interest and emphasised its historic importance but never came to actually acquire the lighter. Bob Carr

The 100-inch engine — restore or leave alone?

The Kew Bridge Steam Museum will be holding another day seminar on Saturday 20 June 2009. The issue to be addressed is the desirability of restoring the 100-inch Cornish beam engine of 1869 which has not run since 1956. Opinion is divided and there is to be a debate in the afternoon with a vote taken.

In the morning there will be two papers: 'The story of the 100 inch engine', '33 years of the 90 in museum operation. What have we learned?'. There will be an opportunity to visit the below-floor areas of the 100 and 90 inch engines before a demonstration run of the 90 during which the guide and the driver will talk through the starting operation.

During lunch (included) visitors will be able to inspect the Steam Hall engines, including the gallery and underfloor parts of the Hathorn-Davey triple. The archive team will have a special exhibition on the 100-inch engine in the library.

After lunch there will be two papers: 'The reasons for restoring the 100-inch engine', 'The reasons for not restoring the 100-inch engine'. After the meeting, visitors are invited to have a free conducted tour of the Musical Museum. In the evening there will be another 'Steamy Film Show' in the Concert Hall of the Musical Museum.
Further information and to make a booking: Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, Middx TW8 0EN. Tel: 020 8568 4757. Web:

Munitions in London

Further to Bob Carr's observations about the Eley Brothers' establishment in King's Cross (GLIAS Newsletter December 2008), I am fairly sure that this would have only been a local distribution facility, as their main manufacturing plant was in Birmingham.

As to potential risk, there would have been very little to the general public, as smokeless nitro-cellulose powers (a propellant) had effectively replaced black-powder (an explosive) by the turn of the century.

While researching the First World War Ministry of Munitions, however, I discovered that there was a hand-grenade filling plant located in Fulham; one wonders if the neighbours were aware. This was not that big a risk as only the day's requirements were kept on-site — being brought daily from the main store on Wormwood Scrubs, a journey that would have passed through Shepherds Bush and Hammersmith!

Actually, the Scrubs seems to have had quite a significant military history in both world wars, and it is still used by the King's Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery.

As for shot itself, I can remember, as a schoolboy, a shot-tower still being in existence on the Thames (Southwark?).

With regard to shooting for the pot during the war; the Ministry of Food was so concerned about the effects of pigeons and rabbits on agricultural production that subsidised ammunition, for shotgun and .22" rifle, was made available to the farming community. (There must be older residents in your locality who would remember this, as restrictions on youngsters having access to firearms were very relaxed in those days.) Guy Taylor

Tornado to make London debut

Tornado at St Denys station. © Peter Hall, 14 February 2009

New A1 Pacific locomotive 60163 Tornado will make its first visit to London on 7 February with a passenger excursion to King's Cross.

The £3 million engine is the first main line locomotive to be built in Britain for nearly 50 years. It brings back to life a class of locomotive designed by Arthur H Peppercorn for the London and North Eastern Railway in the late 1940s. Tornado will depart King's Cross for the first time with the VSOE British Pullman train on 26 February.

News in brief

The new tunnel under the Thames at Woolwich for the Docklands Light Railway opened for traffic on Saturday 10 January (GLIAS Newsletter December 2006; GLIAS Newsletter April 2004). The official opening ceremony was performed on Monday 12 January by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. He cut a ribbon. Considering the importance of this new cross-river transport link there was surprisingly little media coverage — they seem to concentrate on disasters and ignore good news. This is another railway project opened well on time, seven weeks early, and also well within budget. The civil engineering works for the tunnel were completed about a year ago. A footway for use in emergencies runs the whole length of the tunnel — rather like the one along the tunnel to Bank DLR station. One can now travel by DLR from Woolwich direct to City Airport and beyond. The DLR station is adjacent to Woolwich Arsenal station, served by many trains from Kent. This new link will go some way to putting Woolwich town centre on the map.

To the south of the Essex Filter Beds the west-to-east set of electricity pylons has been completely removed (GLIAS Newsletter December 2008). A considerable transformation has been wrought over the Christmas period. There is now just a single row of pylons in this part of the Lea Valley, running roughly southwest to northeast. Dismantling of the pylons used a variety of techniques but in the main a large crane was utilised and the towers dismantled in manageable sections. It is planned to remove a total of 52 pylons from the vicinity of the Olympic Stadium.

The redbrick industrial building on the north side of Richmond Road E8, immediately east of the railway over bridge at TQ 3478 8453 is being demolished. Until about six years ago this was in use as the Flowers East art gallery, venue of many memorable exhibitions. The building was probably about 80 years old and is believed to have been built as a laundry, later being used to store animal furs. Angela Flowers moved her influential gallery here in 1988.

Buckwheat, probably from birdseed, has been noted growing wild in Spa Fields, Skinner Street, Islington (page 187). Coriander has been growing by the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens and at Camden Town (page 65).
The page numbers refer to volume 87 of the London Naturalist (GLIAS Newsletter August 2007).

At the north end of Finsbury Park Road N4 the stable-like building on the west side of the road behind the former tobacconist's shop (GLIAS Newsletter June 2005) has been demolished. Two houses are being built on the site. It is surprising that the old stable building was not converted for mews housing some years ago.

Train services from Aylesbury Vale Parkway station (GLIAS Newsletter June 2007) started on Sunday 14 December 2008. On weekdays there are trains about every half hour at peak periods, with an hourly service off peak. The journey time to Marylebone is about an hour. It is claimed that the station opened four years ahead of time.

In early December 2008 the canopy and buildings at Primrose Hill station which date from 1855 were totally demolished to leave just a bare platform. Apparently there was no consultation beforehand and many local people are incensed. There is a Primrose Hill conservation area (GLIAS Newsletter October 2000) but presumably the station is not included. Thirteen years older than St Pancras this was a remarkably complete Victorian station of considerable character, next to the Roundhouse (GLIAS Newsletter April 2007; GLIAS Newsletter June 2006). There has been a campaign to reopen the station for regular train services. These finished in 1992. Bob Carr

Memories of the food and drink industries

Eastside Community Heritage is planning to record the memories of retired and long-serving workers in the food and drink industries from East and South-east London. The project aims to investigate the company atmosphere and social scene, the role of women at work, trade unions and many other themes. People will be asked to spend an hour or so talking to a sensitive listener about their experiences at their convenience.
Please contact Laura Mitchison. Email:

Chambers and Payne's Wharves

Mention of Chambers and Payne's Wharves (GLIAS Newsletter December 2008) stirred memories. I regularly collected from and delivered to the former and could see the ornamental facade of the latter when loading in Convoy's. It made me wonder about Palmer's and Borthwick's next door with its own Borthwick Street which was also a delivery point. I thought readers might be interested in these extracts from the lorry drivers bible 'London Wharves and Docks' published by Commercial Motor in 1954 price 7/6. All the wharves from Brentford to Tilbury, a bit of history itself.

Chambers now has Chambers Street and Llewellyn Street is a cul de sac. I can't remember what it was in the 60s/70s, we just knew where it was.

I thought you might be interested, perhaps appalled by the comment of my ex brother-in-law, a development manager for a construction company (his firm built a lot of the Little Chefs). 'I don't know why you lot worry about old buildings. Get 'am down and build a new one, there's no bottom line to history or environment. Doesn't matter if we build a wrong'un — they are only meant to last 30 years anyway.' A comment borne out in my own town where award-winning estates from the late 60s early 70s are being swept away and replaced. Much to the detriment of the mature trees that were saplings planted with the estate. Bob Rust

Lepidopterists through the lens

The London Naturalist number 87 (pages 123-132) gives further information about the origins of the Haggerstone Entomological Society in June 1858 (GLIAS Newsletter August 2008) in an article by John Edgington. An album in the archives of the LNHS (donated by J A Clark) contains 50 photographs of Victorian entomologists; 16 portraits are reproduced in the above paper and brief biographies given.

The Haggerstone Society met weekly in a room over the Carpenters' Arms in Martha Street and members subscribed 1d per week. The pennies enabled the small group to buy a copy of Index Entomologicus (1838) by William Wood, and later the monthly periodical the Zoologist was donated to the society. The original members are described as 'men of small means and entirely of the working class whose time and money are both limited', although one was a medical practitioner and another a pharmaceutical chemist. Other occupations mentioned include cabinetmaker, compositor and taxidermist. In those days the law of trespass was jealously enforced and you could be ordered off Epping Forest. Wicken Fen seems to have been a popular resort.

For anyone wishing to know more about Victorian and Edwardian London there is much of interest here. Tragically J A Clark, by profession a pharmacist — talented and generous, died in 1908 after being brutally mugged in Bethnal Green. Later in the paper there is an account of James William Tutt (1858-1911) who first recognised industrial melanism* as an example of adaptive evolution in action. Bob Carr

Exploring Surrey's Past

Exploring Surrey's Past, Surrey Heritage's website, launched earlier this year, now has really good coverage of the county's local history. The site is designed to increase access to the substantial collections held by Surrey History Centre (in its collections catalogue and specialist databases), to the archaeological information held by Surrey's Historic Environment Record (HER) and to the data and images of partnership museums and local history centres.

Users can search by postcode, key word or go into advanced search for more detailed ways of querying the 16 databases available on the site. Many digital images are available on the site. A recent addition has been many selected shots from the Photographic Survey and Record of Surrey — a Surrey-wide collection of images from the 1880s to 1950s.

9-15 Stroud Green Road, N4

9-15 Stroud Green Road, N4 (GLIAS Newsletter December 2008) was built as a cinema with 706 seats and opened in October 1914 as The Scala. The entrance was at the top end and the exit further down and the auditorium ran parallel to Stroud Green Road meaning the rake of the floor followed the natural slope. It closed in 1924 when the cinema at 269 Seven Sisters Road quadrupled its capacity and creamed off most of the trade.

This info was obtained from Islington's Cinemas and Film Studios by Chris Draper and published by London Borough of Islington, undated — probably early 1990s. Ian McDonald

New restoration funding grants from the AIA

The Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA) has money available for funding certain suitable Industrial Archaeological restorations thanks to the generosity of one of its members. The funding is available to provide partnership funding for appropriate restoration work on industrial archaeological sites or artefacts.

Criteria for awarding the grants are:

AIA Council members may wish to visit your site to see the asset it is proposed to restore and seek further information in order to reach a decision.

How to apply:

Please submit your application on four sides of A4 paper and cover all the following areas:

Closing date for applications is 1 June 2009.

Applications to be sent by email to as a Word file. Although the preference is for emailed applications, paper copies will be accepted — please contact the above email address for details.

Ink bottle mystery

The Stephens Collection, a small museum in Finchley dedicated to the history of the Stephens Ink Co and the Stephens family, has acquired a small bottle that is a bit of a mystery. It is cylindrical, of clear glass (slightly 'foxed') and with no label, 8.50cm tall and 5.00cm wide.

What is unusual is that the top of the bottle has a kind of 'ramp' whose purpose is unclear. There is no doubt that it is Stephens Ink bottle since H.C. STEPHENS LONDON is embossed on the base. REGd No 6501 is embossed along the side.

Bottle Bottle

Do any readers know more about this unusual bottle: its likely age, purpose, unusual design feature? (More)

The Stephens Collection ( is housed in Avenue House, the former home of Henry 'Inky' Stephens (1841-1918), who was the son of and successor to Dr Henry Stephens FRCS (1796-1864), the inventor of the famous 'blue-black writing fluid'.
Contact Stewart J Wild, trustee of the Stephens Collection. Email:

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© GLIAS, 2009