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Notes and news — October 2010

In this issue:

Enderby Wharf

The cable ship ÎIe de Batz, 14,000 tons gross, paid a visit to the Thames and berthed at Greenwich Tiers around 26 August this year. This visit took place because Alcatel, now Alcatel-Lucent, were being presented with a Queen's Award for Industry by the Lord Lieutenant of London. The Mayor of Greenwich and other dignitaries were present, Alcatel-Lucent employees and their families visited the ship and there was also a tour of the Alcatel factory at the Enderby Wharf site. One of the few extra people allowed on board was Alan Burkitt-Gray who some readers may remember from industrial archaeology at Goldsmiths' about 30 years ago. Alan was able to be present in his professional role as a business journalist.

Alcatel-Lucent, with headquarters, in Paris is a French/US/international company. The factory at Greenwich no longer makes submarine cable, this is now manufactured in Calais and the cable ships are loaded there. The repeaters which are spaced at intervals along a submarine cable and amplify the signal are made at the Greenwich factory. These work on power sent along the cable and need to survive submerged for the lifetime of the cable, about 25 years. The Greenwich site is very likely the oldest continuously operating factory in the telecoms industry in the world. See The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage, 1997, for more information.

By the riverside at Enderby Wharf the listed Enderby House still survives (see Dockland NELP/GLC 1986, p255). There are plans to establish some kind of museum here in connection with a hotel and cruise liner facility. Scour off Enderby's forms a natural depression in the river bed and ships up to 220 metres in length could be berthed at a pier. Thames Clippers are also to call. American and Japanese tourists would be attracted and there is a North American connection via the novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville, 1851. Melville makes reference to the 'the famous whaling house of Enderby & Sons' in chapter 101 and the book contains a great deal of factual information on whaling at that time. Passages such as


make the Moby Dick connection entirely credible. Bob Carr

William Stanier in London

In the article on Old Oak Common (GLIAS Newsletter August 2010) footnote 7 requires amendment. It is true that William Stanier was employed by the GWR on the locomotive running side until he became Assistant Works Manager at Swindon in 1912, but that is not the whole story so we first look at his social life and note that he was a good swimmer and played for the Swindon water-polo team. Swindon was his home town. After the GWR had moved him to London he still visited Swindon quite frequently as he was an important member of the water-polo team. Also in Swindon he had met a Miss Ella Elizabeth Morse; their acquaintance blossomed and they became engaged to be married in 1905.

Stanier had been promoted and required to move away from Swindon. In February 1903 he had been appointed as Assistant Divisional Superintendent at Westbourne Park, London, which was the depot which Old Oak Common replaced and it was a key position at a time when G J Churchward had just started his great programme of re-equipping the GWR with a range of standard locomotives having many major components in common. The programme involved numerous running trials seen first-hand by Stanier at Westbourne Park. Stanier developed a critical eye for locomotive performance and impressed Churchward by his ability to suggest improvements.

The introduction of larger locomotives meant that the restricted site at Westbourne Park was becoming overcrowded and a large modern depot was planned further out of London at an almost green-field site near the canal at TQ 217 824, to the west of Old Oak Lane, south of Willesden Junction. In the years leading up to the official opening of the new depot in March 1906 it is very likely that William Stanier was involved in the setting up of the facilities there. This is borne out by the first paper he published; 'The Equipment of a Running Shed' (1). The start of this paper describes in considerable detail a Running Shed Stores for tools and locomotive parts and comments regarding the labelling of (metal) boxes, 'A good plan is to use rubber type for this purpose, the labels being placed behind a piece of glass, fixed with two tin slides' (p203), and about a rack for boiler tubes 'taped oak blocks in the base enable tubes to be stacked only six inchers out of perpendicular' (pp203-204) suggest first-hand detailed experience of what was being set up at the new Old Oak Common depot.

When we come to the locomotive lifting shop Stanier is surprisingly critical of the decision to install an overhead travelling crane at the new depot, see pp204-205. He points out that

To make a comment like this implies he at least watched the tedious procedure and from the full context it appears quite probable he was personally involved (2). Stanier preferred a hydraulic drop pit as employed by the LNWR and illustrates one in his figure 6 on p205.

William Stanier had a close relationship with footplate men (3), and attended their Mutual Improvement Classes at which he often spoke. He also taught evening classes for drivers and fireman at 'Willesden Technical College' (4) where he would have met LNWR men (5). This in some part explains his relative willingness later in life to transfer to the LMS (which incorporated the LNWR) in 1932.

However, all this on railway matters has so far neglected mention of Miss Morse back in Swindon. Old Oak Common depot officially opened on 17 March 1906 but William was only there full-time for just a few months, for in April 1906 he received notice of his transfer to the running department at Swindon with a modest salary increase (6). He married Ella Elizabeth Morse in July and shortly after was receiving an annual salary of £500 (7), at that time a comfortable sum on which to set up home.

In due course it is hoped to write more on William Stanier in London. When he transferred to Crewe he was not actually in Cheshire but had an office at Euston with 'Robin' Riddles (8) as his assistant. Meanwhile their great competitor Nigel Gresley (9) was not actually in Doncaster (10) and had his office just a short walk along the road at King's Cross (11). Bob Carr

W G Armstrong bicentenary being celebrated but very stealthily

I have just chanced across a website — launched with apparently minimal publicity in March — which is celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of William George, later Sir, later Lord, Armstrong, who was surely among the most influential engineers, industrialists and entrepreneurs of the 19th century.

He was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 26 November 1810 and died aged 90 in 1900 — a slightly longer lifespan than Queen Victoria. In that lifetime he pioneered the development and practical application of hydraulic power; revolutionised artillery; built many notable bridges and warships; and was a major benefactor of the city of Newcastle and its people. He transformed an empty barren landscape at Cragside near Rothbury in Northumberland into a palatial mansion (designed by architect Norman Shaw) with afforested grounds. Applying his own expertise, he installed a hydro-electric power plant to make Cragside the first house in the country to be lit by electricity, aided by his friend Joseph Swan.

In London, among other works, he supplied hydraulic cranes to the docks and to railway good depots including that at King's Cross. Most famously, perhaps, he provided the steam engines and hydraulic power installation to operate Tower Bridge, much of which remains in place today although the bridge is now electrically-powered. For some time Armstrong also held a senior Government post at Woolwich Arsenal, where he contributed to significant improvements in artillery.

I K Brunel's bicentenary in 2006 was widely marked, with several new biographies and numerous events. The sesquicentenary of Robert Stephenson's death in 2009 also received wide attention. Surprisingly to me the Armstrong bicentenary is being celebrated quietly — almost stealthily — and, according to the website, with events being held only in and around Newcastle. I wonder why? Perhaps it is his involvement in what we nowadays call weapons technology and arms dealing. Certainly he built battleships, not just for the Royal Navy but for any nation that could afford them; these cast off from the riverside Elswick works on the Tyne with their hydraulically-operated turrets housing massive guns, moving downstream through his own hydraulically-operated Swing Bridge (replacing the masonry-arched bridge, whose openings were too narrow for such vessels). Was it that he became almost unimaginably wealthy, or that he lived to a great age and became something of an Establishment figure? (He was the first engineer to be raised to the peerage).

A new biography, 'William Armstrong: Magician of the North' by Henrietta Heald, is being published by the Northumbria University Press this autumn. It will be interesting to see what conclusions it reaches on the man, and how it compares with 'The Great Gun-maker: the Life of Lord Armstrong' by David Dougan (Frank Graham, 1972), a very informative and readable study. This appeared during the 'honeymoon period' for industrial archaeology (as the late Kenneth Hudson characterised it), when alongside enthusiastic amateur fieldwork there were publishers such as David & Charles, Bradford Barton, and Frank Graham producing a stream of reliable and illuminating studies of industrial history and archaeology. Michael Bussell

News in brief

The bicentenary of the birth of W G Armstrong occurs on 26 November this year. Armstrong was one of the most influential engineers, industrialists and entrepreneurs of the 19th century but this event seems to be arousing surprisingly little public attention at a national level despite the fact that his house Cragside has several times been featured on television.

Many former Woolworth's shops are now in new usage; at least one is a Waitrose. A considerable number of them are now a Poundland or an Iceland. Nationally more than 300 are still empty but in London the take-up has been better with over 80 percent reoccupied. Woolworth's went out of business about a year and a half ago.

A hundred years ago the air around Finsbury Park Station must have been heavy with the scent of cigar smoke. In addition to the segar shop in Finsbury Park Road (GLIAS Newsletter August 2010) recent rebuilding work has revealed another dealer on the south side of Seven Sisters' Road. Presently exposed the old shop sign reads 'No 276 T. W. Marshall Importers of Havanna Segars' (sic).

In Clissold Park the New River is being 'extended' westwards along the original alignment towards the bowling green. Work is to be completed by January 2011. The part previously in water is being refurbished with a waterproof lining and new boarded edges. The water level is to be maintained from a new borehole. At TQ 324 863 repairs are being carried out to the sluice house.

On the north side of Amhurst Park at TQ 335 879 Our Lady's Convent High School in a clean modernist style is being demolished. The site is to be redeveloped for housing, probably by Barretts. The demolition of this school will be something of an architectural loss.

Just off the Lower Clapton Road at TQ 351 855 the Round Chapel by Henry Fuller 1869-71 in a Romanesque style was originally funded by Congregationalists. Listed grade II* it is now an arts and community centre. At one time it could seat 1,200 people.

The important British composer and musical scholar Ebenezer Prout, 1835-1909, lived at 246 Richmond Road, Hackney, until his death (*). From 1861-1873 he was organist of the Union Chapel, Islington (GLIAS Newsletter October 2000), this was also congregational but not however the present building (GLIAS Newsletter August 2004) which was opened after Prout's departure. An organ which Prout would have performed on in the previous Union Chapel is now in Hinckley. It went there in 1878.

Prout was fascinated by the orchestra and at the age of seventeen was already gathering and training a band of orchestral players at the Priory House School, Clapton. Later on he was the conductor of the Borough of Hackney Choral Association, for fourteen years.

On the railway bridge carrying Ferry Lane across the line to Stansted Airport and Cambridge at TQ 345 894 there are a few rusting poles which look like those used to support trolley bus wires. The poles appear to have been converted to support street lighting at a later date. Trolley-bus routes 623 and 625 used to run along Ferry Lane.

L Rodi's café on the east side of Blackhorse Lane at number 16 near Blackhorse Road tube station at TQ 358 894 still has a period shopfront. The interior is described as 'a masterpiece of old vitrolite, uniform tiles, art deco mirrors and ancient features' on the Great British Cafés website ( It has been with the same family since 1925.

Billet Road Works (TQ 368 908) is still in commercial use, a good deal by the motor trade. Ref Herts & Lea Valley Gazetteer ISBN 0 9528930 7 X, page 54, (GLIAS Newsletter December 2004).

Recently arrived, there is a splendid dugout boat at the Essex Filter Beds (*) (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010). It is worth a journey to inspect it.

Shock news is the extensive demolition along the north side of Morning Lane near the north end of Flanders Way. This includes number 205a at TQ 354 849 by Stillman and Eastwick-Field (SEF) 1964 where spot listing was being considered. The Berger paint factory offices of 1934 recently in use by Social Services and repainted have also gone. Consternation has been expressed.

A period feature we have also recently lost is the c1960s reinforced-concrete petrol filling station at the north end of Stockwell Street SE10 on the east side of the road at TQ 383 775. The front of the roof was clad in small blue tiles strongly characteristic of its date. To the south the office block John Humphries House (pictured below) of similar date was a very early local authority computer centre. It is expected that this building may also be demolished.

John Humphries House, Stockwell Street SE10,  August 2010, © Robert Carr.

Further east the concrete silos on the riverside at the former Amylum UK site (pictured below) have been reduced to stubs (GLIAS Newsletter December 2009). A long-arm cruncher has been in use.

Remains of silos, 24 August 2010, © Robert Carr.

The Excalibur pre-fab estate Catford (GLIAS Newsletter April 2007) is to be demolished following a vote by residents: 114 for 89 against. About 185 prefabricated houses were built here in 1945-6; it is claimed the workforce were mostly German and Italian prisoners of war. It is one of the largest such prefab estates in Europe still surviving. The roads were named Baudwin, Ector, Meliot, Mordred, Pelinore, Persant, and Wentland.

The Bourne Society publishes a number of books on the Purley and Caterham area including titles such as Electricity Supply in the Caterham District, Caterham Valley Shops (two volumes) and maps. See their website ( or contact Mr Derek Neal, Publications Manager, The Bourne Society, 21 Park Road, Caterham, Surrey, CR3 5TB.
Bob Carr

Andrew Handyside

I have been researching the Victorian iron founder Andrew Handyside (GLIAS Newsletters 197; 221; 223; 224; 229).

I live in Derby where his foundry was located and I am trying to get the council to restore Friar Gate Bridge which is all that is really left in Derby by him. I don't think people in Derby realise just how important Andrew Handyside was to the world. The Friar Gate Bridge does not even have a plaque on it and the council are letting it rot away.

I have been creating a world map showing the exact locations of all of his work:

Each marker has historical information, photographs and Google streetview links. I even bought an antique book from 1873, 'Works in Iron', which has example after example of his work which I am using to build my map up. As well as post boxes there are many bridges, buildings, fountains, roofs.

I also have a brochure from 1905 called 'Steel and Iron Structures Made and erected by Andrew Handyside. Reproduced direct from photos taken on the spot'. This lists a lot of items which have not been listed in any other articles about the company yet. I will be adding these new items onto my map, again with photographs and historical information.

I have recently discovered that Handyside were brought in to remove and replace the roof of Charing Cross station after it collapsed on 5 December 1905. The new station with its Handyside roof was reopened on 19 March 1906 (ref Gentleman's Journal 01.06.1907)

I must have put several hundred hours of work into this project so far, but find it really interesting. Hopefully my research will make people take pride in what he has achieved and make them realise that the bridge is a world landmark.

Over the next few months I will be doing more work on this including creating a HD video for my Youtube channel. I make lots of local videos:

I have created a Andrew Handyside group on Flickr ( so anyone around the world can add their own photographs of his work to a pool of photographs. I am then adding these to my world map.

Feel free to add any photographs of iron works that has any of the following makers marks: Handyside, Andrew Handyside, Andrew Handyside and Company of Derby and London, Andrew Handyside and Co, Ltd, Andw Handyside & Co Ld, Britannia Foundry, Britannia Iron Works, Derby Castings Limited.

GLIAS members might like to sign my petition to get Friar Gate Bridge restored:

Any member wishing to contact me please use the Contact/feedback link on
Andy Savage

Angerstein Wharf narrow-gauge railway

Bob Carr (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010) asked about the narrow-gauge railway going out to the jetty at Angerstein Wharf.

A CEMEX manager informs me that the rails were installed to carry a small trolley to facilitate the delivery of stores to the dredgers that deliver aggregates for processing.

To his knowledge it has never been used and the small amount of stores that the dredgers require are carried by hand. Peter Finch

Converted water towers

A water tower next to the former offices of the North Thames Gas Works, Ladbroke Grove is being converted into a residential building, with an extra seven metres to be added on top, together with timber cladding on the outside.

Are there any other examples of converted water towers in London? Peter Finch

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© GLIAS, 2010