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Notes and news — August 2010

In this issue:

GLIAS Lecture — Camden's Railway Heritage

Following the AGM, Peter Darley, secretary of the Camden Railway Heritage Trust, gave the final GLIAS lecture of the winter, on Camden's Railway Heritage. He took us through the history of the construction and development of the London and Birmingham Railway site and its remaining heritage. Access to the Euston Terminal involved taking passengers up or down an incline of 1:85, compared with a maximum of 1:300 on the rest of the line. The approach was from the south-west, via the Primrose Hill Tunnel, the spoil from which was used to raise the ground level to take the line over the Regent's Canal. Robert Stephenson took personal responsibility for the construction of the Primrose Hill Tunnel and the Camden Incline. Peter showed Browne prints of the incline cutting and the winding vaults for the cable haulage under construction. He described the operation of the cable haulage which was used only to haul trains out of Euston; trains were taken into Euston using brakes at a maximum of 10mph. By 1843, locomotives were able to haul mail trains up the incline and by 1844 the system was no longer required.

Peter described the development of the site during the second half of the 19th century. The Pickford's shed was constructed in 1846, the first offering a road, rail and canal interchange. Stabling was installed in the lower floor. In the same year, the Roundhouse and a Construction Shop were introduced. Camden Town Station was enlarged in 1848 and the Construction Shop disappeared (part of it may have been taken to Euston). In 1851, an NLR connection was made to the Docks. Further development took place in 1854-6, when new horse stables and the horse tunnel were built. Gilbeys appeared on the site in 1896, with a distillery and a bonded store.

He then described the key surviving heritage features: the Regent's Canal and Hampstead Road Lock of 1816 (below left); the Roving Bridge of 1846 (below right); the Primrose Hill Tunnel Portals of c1840, which are listed Grade 2* — the first to be treated architecturally; the Stationery Winding Engine Vaults, upgraded to Grade 2* this year; the Roundhouse of 1846-7, Grade 2; the Vaults, Arches and Tunnels (though some have been demolished), the Stables and the Horse Hospital, which accommodated some 700-800 horses at the peak of their operation.

Hampstead Road Lock © Robert Mason 2016 Roving Bridge © Robert Mason 2016

The Camden Railway Heritage Trust had been active in securing the grading of the east portals of the Primrose Hill Tunnel and in the removal of graffiti; restoration remained to be tackled. The Trust had also secured the upgrading of the Winding Engine Vaults, where a problem of flooding needed to be overcome. They were now seeking to protect the East Horse Tunnel from demolition, on which a report had been presented to English Heritage. Finally, the Trust was developing education resources and he expressed the Trust's gratitude for GLIAS's assistance in publishing the Heritage Trail. Brian James-Strong

Deptford Dockyard and Young's Brewery planning updates

Further to my notes about these two sites in earlier newsletters this year there are updates on these sites.

A new planning application for the Deptford dockyard site (GLIAS Newsletter December 2009) is about to be submitted by Hutchison Whampoa and their development team for Convoy's Wharf. Prior to this the team held a small exhibition in Deptford for two days only. Since the beginning of the year some archaeological investigations have taken place on the site which I was told at the exhibition had found nothing so significantly important to change the development proposals. However, the new plans include changes to show social gains. In particular a primary school is included — a good thing given the large number of houses proposed for the site! There is an increase in the number of low cost houses and so minor changes to layout. However, this is still a very high density for buildings and the views of the river and the shipsheds are still marred. If you want to see a little more look at the developer's website although it won't tell you much but there are some photographs of the MoLaS digs.

The major development at Young's Ram Brewery (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010) for 829 new homes and shops in two towers, with 42 floors and 32 floors had been passed by Wandsworth Council in late 2008. At the beginning of July these plans were rejected by Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles. The developer Minerva said it would look to 'move the scheme forward by the end of this year' and address the Government's concerns about the size and location of the high buildings which are close to an oil storage facility. David Perrett

Royal Naval Dockyard at Deptford (Convoy's Wharf)

I would like to ask for your help to circulate the following information among your members for contacts of individuals interested in the John Rennie, Sir Samuel Bentham and George Ledwell-Taylor works recently discovered as extant at the former Royal Naval Dockyard at Deptford (Convoy's Wharf). An archaeological dig currently under way here has discovered these works just immediately below the modern concrete and tarmac surfaces, filled in intact in the late 19th/early 20th century — docks, slips, basins, mast ponds within a 40-acre site on the Thames at Deptford, that was Henry VIII's royal dockyard from 1513.

This is perhaps the greatest concentration of industrial civil engineering structures that has evolved over a period of 400 years to survive on a single site within London.

Expressions of interest, concern for the protection for these heritage assets should be addressed to Julian Heath, the contact at English Heritage.

Some recent damage has occurred by insensitive JCB excavation during the archaeological dig. However, archaeologist David Divers has stated, 'the evaluation has established that the major features of the dockyard have survived in their predicted locations with little evidence for widespread truncation by later activities on the site'. Chris Mazeika

Excavation monographs

Museum of London Archaeology are publishing a series of Monographs on previous excavations. They include a number which are of industrial interest:

Further information is available from I have read No. 47 which relates to excavations at Edward III's house, by the Thames at Rotherhithe; and great houses and Edward II's Rosary in Southwark, on the site opposite the Tower of London. Excavation included the sites of former tide mills in Southwark, but provided only limited information, including excavation of a wheel pit and mill race, which enabled MLA to produce a diagrammatic drawing of the mill wheel and structure. Brian James-Strong

Lea Bridge Depot and Leavesden Road Garage

Many thanks to Bob Carr for bringing the continued existence of Lea Bridge horse tram depot to our attention (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010). The large shed Bob comments on did indeed contain tram cars — and the track is still there as I found when I went for a look! As Bob says, it is in use by a motor car firm. Much of the track is hidden by cars. Not far inside there is now a partition wall which divides what formerly a long thin shed. It was a two-track depot — and was opened by the North Metropolitan Tramways in 1873. Taken over by the LCC in 1906 it closed the following year, presumably upon electrification. It must have been replaced by Stamford Hill depot in Rookwood Road as this opened in 1907 as a purpose-built electric tram depot. Later this became a trolleybus depot. Stamford Hill continues in use today as a bus garage and is now owned by Arriva. Details from the 'Directory of British Tram Depots' (Turner, Smith & Smith, Oxford Publishing Co. 2001).

On the subject of bus garages, the former London General Country Services garage at Leavesden Road, Watford (junction with St Albans Road), still survives but is currently under threat. It was opened in 1920, temporarily closed 1925-29 before finally closing in 1952 upon the opening of the much larger Garston garage further north. Latterly in industrial use, at the time of writing it was empty and for sale. I believe there is a proposal to clear the site for housing.

It is a small brick-built garage roofed in glass. The main entrance is off Leavesden Road, but there is a side entrance from the adjoining side street. Both entrances are treated to some nice cement rendering around them to give a distinguished classical finish. Above each door is a raised panel which possibly once carried a London General and latterly a London Transport sign. David Flett

I love the Lea Bridge horse tram depot. The car sale rooms which is in lower Clapton Road next to the depot has old tram lines in its floor. The large building behind the showrooms was where the trams were once housed.

The whole of this area is now due for redevelopment, flats, offices , etc. Joanna Roberts MBE

Welsh steam coal

After a dearth of 14 years, Welsh dry steam coal suitable for GWR steam locomotives and small ships such as the steam tug Portwey was to be on sale again from the spring of last year.

This comes from open-cast mining by Miller Argent (South Wales) Ltd at Ffos-y-fran near Merthyr Tydfil (Tel: 01685 844381). Close by at Cwmbargoed, a new coal washing and preparation plant to provide a range of sizes was due to start work in March 2009. This disposal point has a direct rail connection to the national railway network. The steam coal could be purchased from the Evans & Reid Coal Company of Cardiff and it was claimed would be available until about 2024. However, that company has since gone into voluntary liquidation. A coal from Poland, relatively low in volatiles, was previously about the best approximation to Welsh dry steam coal available. Steam coal currently costs about £300 per ton. It is claimed that up to 11 million tonnes are available from the Ffos-y-fran site. Bob Carr

Old Oak Common

On Thursday 24 June this year a party from the Hammersmith & Fulham Historic Buildings Group took part in a visit to the extensive Old Oak Common railway depot guided by archaeologists from Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd, (PCA).

The visit was arranged through Crossrail, whose proposals include a large new depot on the Old Oak Common site. Some members of GLIAS were included in the party as well as representatives from English Heritage, the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and the Fulham and Hammersmith Historical Society. Of prime importance on the site is the so called 'Factory' or locomotive lifting shop situated at TQ 2180 8238 (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010).

As well as the surviving historic Edwardian buildings designed by the locomotive engineer G J Churchward [1] many of the later railway buildings were also visited in a comprehensive tour. PCA have been commissioned by Crossrail to undertake an initial assessment of the significance of the site and its buildings. Their report is expected to recommend the recording of all the Churchward buildings at level 3 (for a definition of level 3 see and recording of selected later buildings but in less detail. Some idea of the building interiors can be gained from the website The tour culminated in a visit to the impressive interior of the Factory.

Old Oak Common Loco Depot, June 2010 Old Oak Common Loco Depot, June 2010

Old Oak Common was the pioneer Churchward roundhouse depot opened on 17 March 1906 by GJ himself and largely unaltered until c1964. It had four turntables inside a massive loco-shed [2], and replaced the previous relatively cramped accommodation at Westbourne Park. The Factory was a separate building abutting the main loco-shed on the northeast corner. It had 12 parallel roads and was equipped with a substantial travelling crane. Depots similar to Old Oak Common though smaller were built subsequently and were commonplace over most of the GWR system [3]. Amazingly almost all traces of these formerly ubiquitous depots have disappeared including the Churchward buildings at Swindon and almost all that remains of the Churchward era now is what we have here in London at Old Oak Common. The Edwardian buildings being recorded by PCA represent the great bulk of what still survives anywhere.

Why is the Factory and its associated buildings so important? Because it was here that in the 1900s, as well as at Swindon [4], that the standard British steam locomotive of the last century was developed. In a period of remarkable innovative and adventurous development before the Great War the GWR rapidly evolved a set of standard designs that served them well until Nationalisation in 1948 [5]. William Stanier, one of Churchward's assistants, who was appointed to the London area by the GWR in 1904 would have worked at the Factory and it was he who took GWR standards to the LMS [6] in 1932 when he became their Chief Mechanical Engineer. Stanier's protégé R A Riddles was later to design all the standard locomotives for British Railways [7]. The test running of the prototype GWR designs took place from London and from 1906 the running repairs and modifications to the new locomotives were carried out in the Factory at Old Oak Common when Stanier was based in London. Bob Carr

William Stanier (1876-1965) was knighted in 1943, and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1944.

He was a member of the Newcomen Society and gave a paper on Churchward in October 1955. Riddles was present in the audience and took part in the subsequent discussion.

Robert Arthur Riddles CBE (1892-1983); The Railway Executive was created in 1947 prior to Nationalisation and Riddles who had been designing locomotives for the War Department was appointed the Member of the Railway Executive responsible for Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. He had two chief assistants, both also former LMS men; Roland C. Bond, Chief Officer (Locomotive Construction and Maintenance), and E. S. Cox, Executive Officer (Design). The duties of these three men effectively covered the old post of Chief Mechanical Engineer and subsequently oversaw the design of all the British Railways standard steam locomotive classes — built up to 1960.

A note on locomotive wheel arrangements; 4-6-0 means a locomotive with four unpowered wheels at the front, followed by six larger driving wheels and then no further wheels behind. In the 1900s another arrangement popular for express passenger locomotives was the 4-4-2 or Atlantic type. This had a pair of smaller trailing wheels behind four driving wheels and was popular for routes where only coal of lower quality was available. The trailing wheels at the rear of the locomotive allowed for a larger firebox. Churchward bought three Atlantic locomotives from France for the GWR. One of these number 102 La France, a de Glehn compound 4-4-2, can be seen in a photograph of the Factory interior, reproduced in the book by E Lyons [2] and on page 1 of Newsletter number 22, Spring 2010, of the Hammersmith & Fulham Historic Buildings Group. This engine hauled the inaugural down run of the Cornish Riviera Express on 1 July 1904 — a non-stop run to Plymouth.

Lea Bridge underground pedestrian passages

Bob Carr asks and raises questions about the roundabout in Leabridge Road (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010). When it was built there was a problem of road crossing by pedestrians.

We were asked locally for suggestions. A metal bridge such as crosses railway lines was thought to be something to consider. The transport lot thought it was not a good idea as people may throw themselves from it. Tunnels with four exits/entrances were decided upon. One on the two corners of Kenninghall Road and the same for the corners of Leabridge Road.

The tunnels were a complete disaster — they were used as public toilets, a good place for muggers and last of all someone's body was found down there.

After people declined to use them there were some accidents. We asked for traffic lights and eventually got them.

The tunnels are still there. The entrances were blocked and about two years ago a big effort was made to landscape both the roundabout and some of the area. Joanna Roberts MBE

'Kenninghall Roundabout' (which you call 'Lea Bridge') is near where I lived as a kid. I remember the junction with trolleybuses and although I had moved long before the roundabout was constructed, it DID have double-ended (steps and ramps) pedestrian subways, on all four 'edges'. These were notorious for being unsafe/insecure and fell into disuse quickly. They were infilled a couple of years ago, when the centre of the roundabout was converted from an open air footpath interchange to become the bus stand now evident. There is now no obvious physical evidence of the subways, unless you know how to read the resurfaced pavements. Bus drivers' rest facilities were only installed with the infilling and enabled the abandonment of the Clapton Pond bus stand, much to the relief of the adjacent residents who had campaigned for some time to have buses banished from the Pond's east side stands.

Route 488 does not terminate at Clapton Pond — no buses do now. They may show 'Clapton Pond' on the destination blind (as does half of route 38's northbound operation, the rest terminating at 'Hackney Central') but the route stands on the Kenninghall roundabout, alongside the 38. Route 488's southern terminus isn't 'London Gas Museum' — it's the obscure 'Twelvetrees Crescent', which no-one has ever heard of. 'Southbound' buses on route 488 actually stand at the Bromley Tesco but allow passengers to stay on board to be carried to Bromley by Bow underground station about 400 metres further south, where the bus loops round local roads and an underpass to serve the station. Joel Kosminsky, Editor TfLISHG Bulletin

Woodberry Down Estate

My grandparents used to live in Burtonwood House on the Woodberry Down Estate (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010), so I know it well. When I last passed Burtonwood (in the last few weeks), it was still occupied. No idea if the flats are being refurbished but there is a lot of scaffolding! Joel Kosminsky, Editor TfLISHG Bulletin

My uncle was a foreman brickie on the Woodberry Down Estate. He always tried to make sure that all his gang were ex Borstal boys. He used to say not only had they learned to lay bricks properly but they knew how to obey orders. Bob Rust

Forman's smokehouse

As far as I know the salmon smokehouse of H Forman & Son is not disused (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010).

We visited the factory on 22 March 2010 with a party from the Friends of the Museum of London and Lance Forman, the owner (fourth generation), was very upbeat about his factory and its future prospects.

Essentially it would seem that the ground floor is for salmon preparation and 'smokehouse', the first floor the restaurant, the second (top) floor the art gallery.

Forman's only supply smoked salmon to order, after all, their smoked salmon is a gourmet food.

'Harry Forman, our founder devised the delicate London Cure — a little salt, not too much smoke — to show off the quality of the salmon rather than disguise it.'

Also, 'Forman & Field' — Fresh seasonal British foods direct to your door — is a mail order service that we can personally recommend for that special meal. Peter Butt — see p12 of their 2009-2010 catalogue

AIA grants

The Association for Industrial Archaeology is able to offer grants for small schemes. Last year, it made grants totalling over £36,000 to a number of organisations, which helped to restore a boiler from a Clyde puffer, the stone slate roof of a nail forge, two chaldron wagons and a canal boat.

There are no forms to fill in. Simply visit and click on AWARDS. The AIA also administer the Dorothea Lunford Award for Conservation — last year £500 went to a steam and transport museum. There is a form for this, which they say is 'not too difficult'. Simple forms are also needed for the Publications Prize and the Fieldwork and Recording Awards.

News in brief

Tweed House at TQ 380 820 on the west side of the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach just north of Teviot Street E14 has been boarded up. These flats close to the Limehouse Cut were a good example of their period and received a Civic Trust Award. Their present situation close to the busy A12 mitigates against their continued use for domestic accommodation.

The Segar sign at the north end of Finsbury Park Road (GLIAS Newsletter June 2005) has been cemented over and painted white.

Repairs are being carried out at the disused railway viaduct of 17 arches on the Parkland Walk to the north of St James's Lane at TQ 288 894.

From Camden Town there is welcome news about the upgrading of listings, achieved and being urged, at the Goods Yard site and thereabouts. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has upgraded the Camden Incline Winding Engine House from Grade II to Grade II*. It is the aim of the Camden Railway Heritage Trust to create four structures or groups of structures designated Grade II*. Only the Roundhouse was listed thus when the Trust was formed in 2007. See Newsletter No. 8 of the Camden Railway Heritage Trust.

At the north end of Goodhall Street, Willesden, the 19th-century Victoria Institute at TQ 2157 8288 is being converted for flats. Many of the small houses in the Railway Cottage area of NW10 are currently in multiple occupancy. The large building on the north side of Old Oak Lane just to the south of the canal dating from c1970 is also to be converted. This former office block at TQ 2145 8255, now derelict, is mentioned in Pevsner. Bob Carr

Restoration Man

Channel 4's Restoration Man series is set to return for a second series and is looking for owners of historic buildings to take part.

Do you have a passion for historic buildings and have a restoration project which you would like to see featured in the next series of the Restoration Man?

They are looking for unusual and historic buildings in the UK such as water towers, follies, former military buildings, former public toilets, lighthouses, stables, dovecotes. Former shops, barns, railway buildings, signal boxes, halls, libraries,towers, fortresses, oast houses etc. Listed or unlisted. Owners MUST have full planning permission and finance in place.
Please contact The Restoration Man team. Tel: 020 7529 9447. Email:

Queen's Award for Brunel Museum

The Brunel Museum at Rotherhithe is one of 103 UK volunteering groups to win this year's The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

This award recognises outstanding contributions made to local communities by groups voluntarily devoting their time for the benefit of others.

The Brunel Museum received the award for restoring a Scheduled Ancient Monument on the site of Brunel's First Project. The museum and gardens now host a busy programme of community events and school visits.

Robert Hulse from The Brunel Museum said: 'We are thrilled to have received this prestigious honour for the work we do with a very talented group of volunteers from the local community.'

Thames Water opens desalination plant

Thames Water has opened a desalination plant at Beckton, the first of its kind in mainland Britain.

The £270m plant will turn a mixture of sea and river water into drinking water because London does not get enough rainfall.

The plant is designed to act as a back-up supply and when in use will extract 140 million litres a day from the Thames and will be powered by biodiesel largely made from cooking oil discarded by the capital's restaurants.

IA clips

Some IA programmes on the BBC that may be of interest to members:

1. Inside St Mary's disused underground station

2. The London Nobody Knows

Also I saw a film 'The Boy and the Bridge' (1959) at the National Film Theatre ( An extraordinary film of a boy loose in Tower Bridge, with film of the working Thames, the steam engines (being watched over by Arthur Lowe).

Can any GLIAS members shed more light for me?
William Hill. Email:

Fairs and circuses

Fairs and circuses visit Finsbury Park quite regularly and also nearby Clissold Park. For readers interested in old lorries which showmen use for traction these events can be worth a visit.

There are often Fodens and ERFs to be seen in Finsbury Park. The electric generators many of them carry can be older than the vehicle. DC motors and obsolescent voltages appear to be ubiquitous in fairs. Since fairs and circuses are peripatetic the situation will be similar in much of Greater London. Fairs are sometimes held on Islington Green.

In Finsbury Park during the day one can sometimes see circus artistes limbering up and practising as well as circus horses grazing and enjoying some freedom in a temporary paddock.

Julie Walters in her recent autobiography* recalls her fascination with a fair that used to visit Lightwoods Park, Smethwick. Every year it came for a week. She loved the smell of hot dogs, diesel fuel and candy floss, the gaudy colours, loud distorted pop music competing with the noise of electricity generators — and found the muscular young men who worked the fairground rides attractive.

She had a youthful fantasy of living in a caravan, working at a stall with goldfish, and smelling of petrol and refers to the song 'I want to be fourteen again' by Victoria Wood. Young people at least from well-to-do backgrounds do 'run off and join the circus' and amazingly some manage to fit in. There is a mention in the writing of LTC Rolt. This phenomenon is comparable with volunteering to work on the inland waterways and live on a narrow boat in the early 1940s. Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 2010