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Notes and news — April 2009

In this issue:

Iron churches — advertisement

Following the discussion about 'iron churches' last year (GLIAS Newsletter October 2008) I thought the following advertisement that I spotted at an exhibition in the First Garden City Heritage Museum, in Letchworth, might be of interest.

The advert appeared in the supplement to 'The Country Gentleman And Land And Water Illustrated' of September the 18, 1906. It states:


It is interesting to note that they considered that they could make buildings survive earthquakes in 1906. I wonder how detailed the stress calculations were to achieve this on a corrugated iron church? Dan Little

CBA London

A new Group of the Council for British Archaeology has been set up for London.

This has been carved out of CBA Mid Anglia (which included London north of the Thames) and CBA South-East (London south of the Thames), both of which continue in being. Hitherto archaeological concerns between London and the parts once in neighbouring counties were handled by the Standing Conference on London Archaeology (SCOLA), being dissolved in March after 15 years' existence.

The London Archaeological Forum has a membership comprising archaeological societies, museums, boroughs, archaeological contractors etc. It is hosted by the Museum of London, and is likely to be brought under the aegis of CBA London.

Members interested in our archaeological heritage can take the 'London Archaeologist' magazine, and for a small extra fee join CBA London (and then also get the excellent 'British Archaeology'). CBA South-East, covering Kent and Surrey on our doorstep, may also be of interest — for another small extra fee. Richard Buchanan

1001 Cleaner

Demonstrations to introduce new products used to be popular at exhibitions and in high-street department stores. Often on getting the wonder new product home it was found not to be quite so effective or easy to use as the skilled and talkative professional demonstrator had made out.

However an exception to this was 1001 Cleaner, an early general-purpose detergent, which if diluted with water and used to wipe carpets and upholstery really did have a magical effect. When coal fires were ubiquitous, rooms were heavily soiled with carbon deposits and cleaning them off with detergent made a very visible difference. Colours became lighter and brighter and the first cleaned stripe was remarkably different from the rest of the cushion or chair back which remained untouched. Often you realised just how dirty everything really was and set to work vigorously with more 1001.

This was all about 60 years ago and pale yellow 1001 cleaner in its clear fluted glass bottle is probably no longer available. In the early 1970s Woolworth's used to sell it. Do readers remember this product? Its name suggests it came from America but it seems to have been entirely British. What was actually in the bottle? Bob Carr (More)

The Surrey Iron Railway: A contemporary Russian description

The Surrey Iron Railway, from Wandsworth to Croydon, was authorised by an Act of Parliament of 1801 (41 Geo. III. Cap. 33), and it seems formally opened throughout for traffic in 1803. It was, of course, a horse-drawn tramway and evidently conveyed only goods traffic. Somewhat surprisingly, it continued to serve Croydon until 1846, although that town had had a locomotive-hauled service of trains provided by the London & Croydon Railway since 1839.

Early descriptions in English

This plateway, being something of a novelty for the south of England, and the first railway to be sanctioned by an Act of Parliament, excited considerable interest. Quite lengthy descriptions were published in 1805 in James Malcolm's Compendium of modern husbandry; in 1809 in William Stevenson's General view of the agriculture of the County of Surrey; and much later, in 1831, in Joseph Priestley's Historical account of the navigable rivers, canals and railways throughout Great Britain (a reprint was issued in 1971).

Descriptions in German and Russian

There was, indeed, international interest. In 1826 and 1827 two Germans, Karl August Ludwig Freiherr von Oeynhausen and Ernest Heinrich Karl von Dechen, visited England and wrote an account of railways seen during their tour, published in German in 1829. This work, translated into English, was republished by the Newcomen Society in 1971.

However, first off the mark was Leev Waxel [c.1776 + c. 1816] the title of whose booklet, published in Russian at St Petersburg in 1805, can be rendered as Description of an iron road (iron rail way) established in the County of Surrey, in Eng/and, in 1802, contrived for the most convenient and easiest transportation of different goods and loads by horses. This has 25 pages, and a large folded plate shewing details of the plate rails and stone sleepers A copy is held, at 1396.f.32. by the British Library. The author, Léon de Waxel as he appears in the British Library's catalogue, seems to have been, born in 1776 or 1777, and died in 1816 or 1817, according to various Russian National Biographies at the British Library, and was a senior engineer in the Russian Navy, interested in antiquities on the Black Sea shore, and numismatics, these being the subjects of his other published works held at St. Pancras (both written in French.) One of these, at least, has 'With the authors most respectfull [sic] compliments' written on the front cover, presumably in his own handwriting. He may perhaps have been a relative of the Swede Sven Vaksel [????-1762] who served as an officer in the Russian Navy. The British Library also holds copies of his booklet Essai sur les médailles plaqueées des anciens published in London in 1809. His other known interests include antiquities of the Black Sea shore, and numismatics.

An English translation of the Russian text

The existence of Waxel's booklet was noted by Derek Bayliss in his Retracing the first public railway first published in 1981. Indeed, Derek had an English translation made, by William Duck, who has made a copy available to me. Subsequently, I have acquired a second English translation. GLIAS has expressed an interest in publishing the English text, and I am about to enter into discussion with the translators who, of course, own the copyright in their work; and with the British Library, whose permission would certainly be required to reprint the plate.

What does it say?

In the mean time, it seems worthwhile putting on record a brief outline of the contents of Waxel's booklet. From my own point of view, the text is disappointing, as the line from Wandsworth to Croydon called for no heavy civil engineering works, and seems to have served no significant mineral industries. If only Waxel had returned a few years later to record some details of the Surrey Iron Railway's legally distinct extension, the Croydon, Merstham & Godstone Iron Railway, and its Chipstead Valley embankment, Hooley cutting, limeworks at South Croydon and Merstham, and stone quarries at the latter place; but he didn't!

However, the text will interest those wishing for details of the iron plates, stone sleeper blocks, road crossings, points for junctions, and the economics of the concern. It opens with a recitation of the history of the line, the pros and cons of a railway rather than a canal, and the then intended continuation to Portsmouth. Of particular interest, for comparative purposes, the author gives some details of a similar plateway, by then in operation at 'the London Dock', supplied to him by a Mr Vogon. Vogon, a transliteration from Russian, has been identified, by both translators, as almost certainly William Vaughan [1752-1850], an advocate or promoter of canal and dock schemes, especially sewing London. However, not being strictly speaking an engineer, he seems not to have been judged to merit a main entry in either of the published volumes of the Institution of Civil Engineers' Biographical dictionary of civil engineers, 1500-1830 or 1830-1890.

Perhaps the other interesting aspect of Waxel's booklet is the plate. This shews, it seems without explanation, track of three different gauges. Paul W Sowan

See also:

Digging Dad's Army

The East & South-East London People's War Project (1914-1945) — a field project with training school — is planned for 13-21 June, based in the Woolwich/Shooters Hill area.

This project is continuing an archaeological investigation that featured in an episode of Time Team recorded in 2007.

Features to be investigated include: a barrage-balloon bed; the debris of a balloon site; a possible First World War trench; a possible gun-pit; and some Second World War air-raid shelters.

The field school comprises two weekend short courses with a five-day module in the middle and will be led by local freelance archaeologist Andy Brockman, who initiated the Time Team investigation, and Neil Faulkner, features editor of Current Archaeology. The courses are:

Further details from Andy Brockman. Email:

Brentford Dock 150

Celebrations are being planned for the weekend of 11-12 July to mark the 150th anniversary of the official opening of the Great Western Railway's Docks at Brentford (recorded on 15 July 1859 at 3.40pm).

The proposal is for the residents (of the now rebuilt dock) to celebrate with local people, interested enthusiasts of Industrial Architecture, River Transport, Sail, Steam and Diesel with an invited collection of suitable boats and associated period transport vehicles for an open weekend.

A new book on the history of Brentford Dock will also be released (('Brentford Dock and Railway', by Diana Willment. ISBN: 978-0-9540590-5-7).

Also proposed is a Vintage Bus service linking the Steam/Musical Museum at Kew and the GWR Preservation Group at Southall.
For more detailed information please contact Derek or Chris at Brentford Dock Marina. Tel: 07970 143987. Web:

Ipswich Dock

The large wet dock at Ipswich was constructed early in the 1840s by building a cut-off channel to divert the water from the River Gipping 1 to the west. A large bend of the Orwell was thus isolated and with the building of a suitable ship lock to the south, a considerable area of impounded water was formed in which ships could float at a constant level, irrespective of the tide. In the first decade of the 19th century William Jessop had carried out a similar larger scheme in Bristol to make the Floating Harbour 2 there.

On the north quay of the new basin a grand range of warehouses and granaries was built in the second half of the 19th century, and later. This quay had been the Port of Ipswich for hundreds of years before the dock was built and many merchant's houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries survive a short way inland. There is at least one excellent example of a Tudor warehouse extant. The yard here was being used by a coal merchant about 40 years ago.

A very large Dockland Development is now taking place along Albion Wharf at the north-west end of Ipswich Dock. This is rather overscale and even includes a tower block 23 stories high. The fine Vicwardian dock buildings, those that survive in a recognisable form, are overwhelmed by the new buildings behind and engulfing them. At the very western end are two 20th century concrete granaries 3, unlisted but presently untouched by the redevelopment. With taller new buildings rising behind them they might just be being incorporated into the new development. Does anyone have further information? Bob Carr (More)

News in brief

In north London, Thames Water are renewing 'Victorian' cast-iron water mains (GLIAS Newsletter April 2007). What look like blue plastic pipes are going in. Over half the mains are said to be more than a hundred years old and a considerable number are over 150 years. Thames Water is the UK's largest water and sewerage company with 13 million customers in London and the Thames Valley area.

Work is proceeding steadily on the East London Line (GLIAS Newsletter June 2008). By 2012 there should be 16 air-conditioned trains per hour in each direction running through to Dalston. A train about every four minutes is the kind of frequency operated by Underground lines. Funding has been agreed recently for phase two of the ELL which will link Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction. Phase one should be in operation by the summer of 2010, with four new stations in Hackney at Dalston Junction, Haggerston, Hoxton and Shoreditch High Street. The ELL service is due to be extended to Highbury and Islington by February 2011.

Adelaide Wharf, Queensbridge Road, E2 was one of the four winners of the Hackney Design Awards 2008. Built alongside the Regent's Canal this is a mixed-tenure housing scheme consisting of 147 homes and 650 square metres of workspace. It is considered to be a contemporary landmark building. The architects were Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and the contractor Bovis Lend Lease. The awards ceremony took place at the Saf Restaurant and Bar EC2 on 4 February, the presentations being made by the Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, and the director of the Architecture Foundation Rowan Moore.

Another Stratford Hoard exhibition, curated by Alan Kane, is taking place at Stratford railway station (GLIAS Newsletter October 2008). There should be an exhibition here until summer 2009.

West Thurrock Lagoons and Marshes are now likely to be built on despite vigorous protests from conservationists. The marsh is considered to be one of the three most important sites for endangered wildlife in the country — seventeen priority conservation species are threatened. A coal-fired power station was built here from the 1950s and commissioned in 1962. Close to the northern end of the National Grid's Thames Crossing 1 (GLIAS Newsletter February 2003) it had two 570ft reinforced concrete chimneys, demolished in 1997. Converted to burn oil and natural gas as well as coal its capacity was over 1 GW, but it closed in 1993. It is intended to build a warehouse and lorry park which will destroy over half the habitat here. This is a classic example of a Brownfield Site, undervalued because of its industrial association.

PS Waverley and MV Balmoral (GLIAS Newsletter 206) have had difficulties of late with considerable expense being incurred. Moreover, nearly a third of sailings had to be cancelled last year. It is still hoped to offer an exciting programme this summer. However charitable donations are urgently required. You can make a credit card donation by telephoning 0845 130 4647, or visit the Waverley website. Bob Carr

River Lee — Bow Back Rivers

British Waterways is to dredge the river Lee to bed level between Old Ford Lock and Ferry Lane Tottenham, removing 16,000 cubic metres of contaminated silt. This is to be supported by a grant from the Environment Agency of ₤2 million. Although the work will improve the river for freight barges the main purpose is to improve water quality. It is planned that the works will be completed before the fish spawning season, ie by the end of April.

The Olympic Development Authority has confirmed that they are to provide in the region of ₤4 million to additionally dredge and provide ancillary works to facilitate freight to the Olympic Park. BW has offered any help it can to ensure the works are completed by the time the Olympic Delivery Authority constructs the wharf on the east bank of Waterworks River (Thornton's Field Railway Sidings) so as to facilitate the water freight option.

The construction of Prescott Lock continues at pace and is expected to be fully complete by April.

Successful barge and unloading trials were held with the Authority, Bennetts Barges and the Green Barge Co. before Christmas on the Lee and Waterworks River through Prescott Lock. The construction of a temporary wharf at Bow East on the River Lee Navigation is now complete with an aggregate hard standing at the upper level on the EWS rail site which can accommodate a 60 tonne crane with extendable jib and with six new mooring rings. Containers have been unloaded successfully from barges during the trials.

The London Waterway Commission has held a meeting and discussions with Westfield, Lend Lease, Crossrail, Thames Water, Veolia, Bywaters, London Concrete (Bennetts Barges), Department for Transport and agreed that there is approximately 25 years further development potential in the Stratford area which could use water transport following the Games.

Discussions have been held with the North London Waste Authority to investigate the forthcoming procurement of waste services for the north London boroughs and how water transport may play a part in moving materials to and from a waste processing site on the Lee.

The Olympic Delivery Authority reports that it is already achieving its target of 50% materials by weight to the Olympic Park by sustainable modes through the use of rail, therefore water transport continues to lie at the fringe of transport options. Road haulage continues to remain significantly cheaper than water transport. It is thought that this is due in part to the fact that the principal barge operator is obliged to account for the cost of capital over a three year period rather than discount it over a longer period. The Commission is suggesting a review of the transport sustainability targets and seeks to reduce the 50% use of road, by the inclusion of carbon reduction targets and other measures. Roger Wilkinson

More on the Eley Brothers

Guy Taylor's note on Eley Brothers (GLIAS Newsletter February 2009) reminded me that in 1971 Enfield Archaeological Society had produced a report on Industrial Archaeology in Enfield which included some notes of Eley Brothers' establishments in this area.

On pages 12 and 13 it says:

I spent my working life at the BOC site and the shot tower was a familiar site. I took early retirement in 1995 and both the tower and BOC have long gone. However, while looking for the EAS report I also came across a history of BOC at Edmonton which was produced by some of my colleagues. If Tom Hall, the instigator of the project, had not had the foresight to do this, the story of BOC's involvement at Edmonton would have been lost. Brian Frear

More on 9-15 Stroud Green Road, N4

The now demolished Scala Cinema (GLIAS Newsletter February 2009) was designed by the architect H W Horsley.

The auditorium ran parallel to the road with its rake provided by the fall of the land outside. It had seating for 706 and was opened in October 1914, with seat prices at 3d, 6d and 1/-.

It was built as part of a parade of shops with a railway coal depot at the rear. In 1920 it was taken over by Alahamson and Landan who renamed it the New Scala. Sadly, the enlargement of the nearby Rink Cinema (now Rowan's bowling club) took away much of its trade and it was forced to close in 1924.

The building now went through a number of uses, becoming first a billiard hall and then a wartime factory.

After the war it was used for Irish dancing and whist drives. Finally it became Peter Phillips clothing factory. Roy Hidson


I used to take what was called a 'bagwash' to the laundry in Richmond Rd, E8 (GLIAS Newsletter February 2009) in the 1950s, and the clean, overpowering, distinctive smell has stayed with me for ever.

My mother, aged 90, tells me she remembers going there as a child and has the same enduring memory of it! She seems to remember a bagwash cost 1/6d, and took a day to do.

With a 'bagwash', you brought it back home all creased but clean, and ironed it yourself. Norma King, High Barnet

More on the mysterious ink bottle

Unfortunately my request for information about a mysterious ink bottle (GLIAS Newsletter February 2009) did not receive any replies from the membership, but through another source I have at least learned a little more about this strange bottle.

Bottle Bottle

It seems it dates from around 1882 and is a Stephens' Stylographic Patent Ink Bottle designed for the use of a curved pipette to refill a special Stylographic pen that had a narrow thread rather than a nib. We still have not been able to fathom out exactly how it worked or the reason for the triangular projection — or 'roof' — on the top of the bottle; research continues.
Stewart Wild. Email:

French drain

The British part of the Channel Tunnel acts as a 'French Drain'. What does this bold civil engineering statement mean? In agricultural drainage in Britain from the 18th century a common technique was to dig a trench and lay earthenware pipes, not connected by waterproof joints but with small gaps through which water under pressure can enter. Gravel is then put round the pipes and the trench backfilled. Water from the ground seeps into the pipeline which has been laid at a gentle gradient, and can then drain away through it. This technique was introduced from France at a time when that country was technologically more advanced than Britain.

The northern part of the Channel Tunnel functions like this. The tunnel is not tightly sealed and ground water can seep into it and drain away. This way there is little groundwater pressure on the tunnel.

Tunnelling southwards beneath the Channel the strata being pierced consisted of clayey chalks which made work straightforward, but near the French side the Cretaceous beds have numerous faults and the ground contains water under pressure which can enter the tunnel. Here the work, carried out by French engineers, was more difficult and the tunnel is carefully sealed to prevent the ingress of water. Presumably the 'French Drain' part of the tunnel, which is most of it, requires less careful inspection and maintenance than the difficult part near Calais.

Along the alignment of the tunnel, the ground just beneath the seabed is excellent material to tunnel through. Clay-like and sticky, it forms an almost waterproof seal round the tunnel. The use of 'French-Drain' type construction is a neat solution. Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 2009