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Notes and news — April 2010

In this issue:

London's smallest factories — The fermentation industries

The GLIAS February lecture was given by Professor Martin Adams, Professor of Industrial Microbiology at the University of Surrey and also a GLIAS member.

In the lecture, Martin talked about London industries based on micro-organisms. He started by referring to the cholera outbreaks of the first half of the 19th century and the work of Dr John Snow in Soho, who established that it was a contagion. One piece of evidence was that none of the 70 men working at the Red Lion Brewery on Broad Street, who were supplied with beer, was affected. In 1800, there were 127 common brewers in London. Following the closure of Young's at Wandsworth in 2006, there remain only two breweries within the M25: the Romford Brewery and Fuller's at Mortlake. Martin then showed slides of former breweries in London, included the Cannon Brewery at Clerkenwell; Hodgson's at Bow Bridge, demolished in 1933, where IPA was first developed; the Anchor Brewery in Southwark; and Meux, on the site now occupied by the Dominion Theatre, which was visited by Louis Pasteur in 1871.

Martin Adams also looked at different methods of vinegar distillation; and the gin distilling industry, including Booths and Nicholsons. He discussed the work of Chaim Weitzmann in developing methods of distilling acetone from grain at Three Mills during the First World War. He referred to the articles on the Lea Valley (whisky) Distillery and the work of Kemball Bishop at Three Mills, both the subject of articles in Volume 9 of London's Industrial History. The latter included work on the development of penicillin. He concluded by drawing together the various activities at Three Mills: distilling, brewing, acetone, penicillin etc and suggested Three Mills should become an Industrial Microbiology World Heritage Site! Brian James-Strong

Markfield Road Beam Engine

Even compared with a few years ago, the situation at Markfield Road has undergone a tremendous improvement. The recreation ground to the southwest is now Markfield Park and the beam engine house has windows again. Letting in the light is a revelation and the beam engine is now open to casual visitors on a regular basis. Moreover regular steamings are to take place this summer.

The high-level settling-tank area has been transformed into 'picturesque ruins' with a delightful atmosphere and people are now exploring this with obvious enjoyment. Some undergrowth has been retained giving the impression that one is the first person to enter here for many years. In order to make pathways through the settling tanks some breaches have been made in the thick concrete walls which are about five feet high. There are interesting fractures to look at in the c1886 Victorian mass concrete and one can see how it dried from the outside.

The engine at Markfield Road is a 100hp Woolf Compound rotative beam engine built by Wood Brothers of Sowerby Bridge, Yorks, in 1886-1888. It was in use continuously on its present site for sewage pumping until 1905, and could pump four million gallons of effluent in 24 hours. Following this it was on standby for storm-water pumping until 1964. Originally it worked at 18 rpm using steam at 120 psi.

The original cast-iron window frames along the south side of the beam engine house are still in place with a single sheet of vandal-resistant transparent material on the outside of each. A replica window of similar design has been put in on the west wall above the doorway. Steam is supplied by two small modern gas-fired boilers in a boiler house to the east of the beam engine. A larger period boiler which was to have been used proved unsatisfactory and has been replaced.

To the southeast of the beam engine is a café. Some new buildings have been put up in a style matching the two historic buildings and the group is quite harmonious. All in all the whole scheme is excellent and has been sensitively done. The local authority is to be congratulated. Money has been made available by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The beam engine is open to the public on the second Sunday of each month and steaming dates this year are 5 April, 31 May, 27 June, 25 July, 30 August and 26 September. The engine is also steamed for school parties. It runs quite quickly compared with many preserved beam engines. Bob Carr

Haringey engineer J A Prestwich

The London Borough of Haringey has its own plaque scheme to mark historic buildings in the borough. On Friday 19 March a green plaque was unveiled at 1a Landsdowne Road, Northumberland Park in Tottenham to honour John Alfred Prestwich. The plaque reads 'John Alfred Prestwich 1874-1952 Inventor and Designer of Engines Founded J.A.P. Engineering Company Here in 1898'. Dr Jim Lewis, local historian of the Lea Valley, who commented that 'Prestwich was a great designer, his engines were precise and reliable ... you can definitely say that JAP engineers kickstarted the motorcycle industry' unveiled the plaque.

J.A.P. Industries produced precision engines used in motorcycles, Speedway racing cars and even early aeroplanes. It also produced early cinematographic equipment, some used to film Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1897 and used on Scott's Antarctic expedition in 1905.

The factories manufactured arms for the allied services during the Second World War. At the end of the Second World War production was taken over by Villiers Ltd and the factories closed in 1963.

At its peak the company employed more than 3,500 workers.

There is a report of the unveiling with pictures on the website.

Bruce Castle Museum, Lordship Lane, Tottenham N17 also have some archive and artefacts from JAP Industries. Cherry McAskill

A railway oddity at Croydon

It is good that John Liffen (GLIAS Newsletter August 2009) has corrected my sloppy assumption that the recently demolished South Croydon Signal Box dated from the 1930s electrification, and has provided the correct date for its erection in 1955.

Had I stopped to think back to my childhood in the 1940s, I'd have realised a 1930s date was unlikely! I have a clear memory of gazing into the then still operational mechanical South Croydon Station North Signal Box from the footbridge over the lines between Hurst Road and South Park Hill Road on the way to and from school! That (and I assume a corresponding south box at South Croydon Junction (of which I retain no mental image)) would have been replaced by the 1955 box.

So here, to make amends for causing the publication of misinformation, is a frank statement of ignorance and plea for members' thoughts on an odd feature of the railway cutting between East and South Croydon Stations. The stem fence line is as to be expected a more or less straight line. The stem boundary is not. It features an embayment, deviating to include an apparently more than necessary part of the adjoining Park Hill, formerly the deer park of the Archbishops of Canterbury at Croydon Palace and, since 1887 a public park. The curious eastern railway boundary is sufficiently pronounced to be shown on modern street maps, and on the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 sheet. It is not a modern feature. It appears on W Roberts' 1847 plan of the Parish of Croydon, surveyed within six years of the opener of the original two-track main Brighton line, and may thus be an original feature of the Park Hill cutting as first made.

The London & Brighton Railway was opened here in 1841. Southwards from East Croydon Station (at the time the Croydon (LBR) station of course) the line was formed through the Park Hill Cutting, as far south as what is now the Coombe Road overbridge. There was no South Croydon Station until 1867.

The cutting accommodated at first two lines of rails, which ran along between the sloping cutting sides. It now accommodates five lines of track, although these seem to have been laid without any additional land-take, as the sloping cutting sides have been replaced by not-quite-vertical brick retaining walls. So the late 1830s fence-lines appear to be in 2009 exactly as they were when the line opened in 1841. That on the west side of the cutting is as would be expected a more or less straight line. That on the east side features the substantial incursion into the grounds of Park Hill as noted above. I would welcome members' thoughts on why a straight line was not taken. Paul W Sowan

Heritage Lottery Fund Workshop

The Heritage Lottery Fund's London region is keen to encourage applications from under-represented groups and heritage sectors. The industrial, maritime and transport heritage sector has been identified as an area that does not receive as many awards as other types of heritage.

HLF is keen to redress this imbalance, and is running a workshop for organisations who might have an idea for a project, or who want to come and find out more about the application process and the types of projects funded by the HLF. The workshop will be an opportunity to meet members of London's development team and IM&T policy advisors, as well as talk to grantees who have run successful projects in London. The workshop will explore HLF aims of learning, participation and conservation, as well as potential partnerships and the support available in both completing an application and delivering a project. It is well worth applying to HLF — the current success rate is around 60%.

A free workshop is scheduled for 10 May 2010 at HLF London's offices in Sloane Square, from 12.30pm to 5pm. Booking is essential as places are limited, and lunch will be provided. If there is sufficient demand, there is a possibility to run a repeat workshop in June.

Please note that this is a London-focused initiative and is intended to benefit those groups who aim to deliver project activities in London rather than other regions of the UK.
For further details and booking, as well as information about HLF's current funding programmes contact Lucy Price, London Development Officer. Tel: 020 7591 6174. Email:

The South Norwood heritage of William Stanley

William Ford Robinson Stanley (1829-1909), a sufficiently highly regarded scientific instrument maker to merit an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, died at his home at South Norwood, London SE25, on 14 August 1909 and was buried at nearby Beckenham Cemetery. A celebration was held at his grave to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of 'Mr South Norwood' as he was known.

This great inventor and philanthropist set up in business making mathematical and scientific instruments in London in 1853, but moved to South Norwood in or about the 1860s. He designed and built for himself two substantial houses in the immediate neighbourhood, and in or about 1874 expanded his works into larger purpose-built premises at Belgrave Road, near Norwood Junction station (GLIAS Newsletter April 2001).

He designed and superintended the building of the Stanley Halls and the adjoining Stanley Technical Trade Schools at the foot of South Norwood Hill. And in 1907 the inhabitants of South Norwood subscribed for and erected a clock tower at the top of station road to commemorate the golden wedding anniversary of W F R Stanley and his wife Eliza, née Savory.

In the same year, in view of his public benefactions, he was made a Freeman of the County Borough of Croydon. In his will, Stanley made bequests including a number in favour of local charitable and educational purposes, among which was the Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society, which body celebrated its centenary in 1970, and continues as a focal point for local archaeologists, geologists, and local and natural historians today.

For some decades after his death, a Stanley bequest made provision for the award of Stanley Art and Science prizes for pupils in the third form (now known as Year 9) in Croydon schools. The author of this note was awarded both prizes while a pupil at the Croydon Secondary Technical School, also in South Norwood, in 1953. South Norwood had two technical schools at that time.

Sadly, the once-visible Stanley heritage in South Norwood has been progressively whittled away, such is Croydon and such is progress. A checklist follows:

Curiously, the exact chronology of Stanley's arrival and first activities in South Norwood remains obscure, although he does appear in an 1869 street directory. Several published works throw some but insufficient light on this:

Curiously, the best published account of Stanley's South Norwood works is to be found in John Corbet Anderson's book The Great North Wood; with a geological, topographical and historical description of Upper, West and South Norwood, in the County of Surrey (pages 84-86) published in 1898.

Stanley was a prolific writer with several, generally self-financed, published books to his name, best described today as curious scientific speculations. He also published a series of sumptuously executed illustrated catalogues of his mathematical and scientific instruments, such as:

W F R Stanley was a President of the Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society in 1905-1906, and a generous benefactor. The society's library contains the published works cited, and copies of some of Stanley's books and other relevant material. Paul W Sowan

See also GLIAS Newsletter October 1995.

News in brief

Substantial building work is under way at outlying parts of the Woodberry Down Estate (GLIAS Newsletter December 2009). So far the main core of the estate appears little altered.

At the site of the former Brownswood Library (GLIAS Newsletter February 2010) ground clearance, excavation and the insertion of piles has been taking place. The delivery of concrete began on or before 1 March.

Twentieth-century buildings in cities are under particular threat. Dating from the Sixties and Seventies they were designed at a time when it was expected that electricity would be cheap, probably so cheap that it would not even be metered but supplied at a flat rate in the way that water used to be charged for. These buildings are not well insulated, requiring more heating than currently desirable and are now considered bad for the environment. Buildings in Aylesbury and Slough are among likely candidates for demolition.

However, Brutalist concrete buildings are likely to persist. The great mass of concrete employed gives excellent insulation keeping the buildings warm in winter and cool in summer.

The new Langley Academy in Slough is now open. Designed by Norman Foster and Partners it specialises in museum studies and science. It was formally opened by Sir Matthew Pinsent.

Stanier Pacific locomotive 6229 Duchess of Hamilton has been re-streamlined and is on display at the York Railway Museum. Some of the work was done at Tyseley Loco Works, Birmingham, and the locomotive moved to York in May 2009, but not under its own steam. Duchess of Hamilton may come to London in due course. Bob Carr

Duchess of Hamilton. © Ian Mason

Smoke at Bankside Power Station

An article about flue gas washing at Bankside B Power Station (GLIAS Newsletter October 2009) has been published.

Stephen Murray - Bankside Power station: planning, politics and pollution in The Local Historian Vol 33 No 2 (May 2003), pp99-111.
John Seaman

Black Country City Safari, 25-28 March 2010

A group of 20 people assembled at the Novotel in Wolverhampton on the Thursday evening for dinner, followed by an orientation talk by Sue Hayton.

The next morning we walked to Wolverhampton City Centre where we looked at many different buildings including the Queen's Building, erected by the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway and now used as part of the bus station. We also saw the Grand Theatre, the former Head Post office, the former Town Hall, St Peter's Church and the Art Gallery and Museum. Many of these buildings were in brick with stone or terracotta dressings, or in sandstone. The first automatic traffic lights in this country were in Wolverhampton.

In the afternoon we saw the remains of industrial buildings including Star Motors, Manders Paints and Chubb's Lock Works. We looked at the former Low Level Station which was built for the Great Western Railway and was in use until 1972. We walked along the towpath of the Birmingham Canal, where some warehouses remain. Chillington Wharf is a rare survivor of an interchange between canal and railway; there remains a canopy and an overhead crane.

On Saturday we travelled by bus to Willenhall where there is a small market place with a fine clock tower. Lockmaking was the major industry here; one lockmaker's house and workshop has been preserved, but is closed at present due to lack of funds. 'Union Works' was here too, but has been taken over by Assa Abloy, a Swedish company, who also own the Chubb and Yale brand names.

We continued on to Walsall, which has an impressive bus station with an elliptical roof and steel columns, opened in 2000. We paused at the Leather Museum, which houses many fascinating exhibits, before carrying on into the town seeing the baroque Town Hall, the Digbeth Arcade, the Canal Wharf and the Art Gallery, which has a commanding view of the surrounding area.

On Sunday we travelled on the Metro to Bilston, where there is another fine Town Hall. There is also a former Tramway Depot, which was later used for trolleybuses, and a police station, the only one in the country with a moat. We moved on to Wednesbury, where the Central railway station was originally on the Great Western line from Snow Hill. It is now the tram depot for the Metro line. We finished the morning in West Bromwich, where there is a large Library in distinctive Ruabon brick.

Many thanks go to Sue for providing us with such an interesting and memorable weekend, clearly the result of extensive research. As usual she was well supported in her endeavours by Dan. We are looking forward to further safaris later in the year. Kate Quinton

London is not flat

Some of us apparently spend so much time looking at maps and plans on paper that they end up thinking only in two dimensions, rather than three. As well as left and right, north, south and so on, there is also up and down. Elevations and sections are important and when it comes to railway and especially canal engineering an appreciation of the levels involved is crucial. One can go to a meeting about docks and hear a dock entrance described as if it was that of a bus garage, no mention being made of the crucial issue of depth of water to float a large ship. Docks have even been referred to as 'holes in the ground' — which they are not. Probably travel by motor car and in electric trains reading the paper tend to reinforce a two-dimensions-only view of London. A return to cycling will make the gradients apparent. Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 2010