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Notes and news — February 2011

In this issue:

GLIAS chairman Denis Smith retires

Denis Smith presentation. © Mike Quinton, 17 November 2010

GLIAS bade a fond farewell to chairman, Denis Smith, at the Rising Sun, Cloth Fair, on Wednesday, 17 November.

The pub evening was attended by some 40 members.

As part of the arrangements incoming GLIAS chairman David Perrett gave an appreciation of Denis and outlined the enormous contribution he had made to GLIAS.

To mark this important event in the history of GLIAS, Denis was presented with a gift — an engraving of the Crystal Palace on the cover of a piece of sheet music, thus joining folk music and IA, his two passions — which had been sourced by Julia Elton.

Denis is moving to Scotland.

The first Shoreditch/Bishopsgate station

The end of an old brick wall caught my attention on the west side of Brick Lane (E1) where the East London Overground Line crosses above the Lane and to the north of where Brick Lane crosses a railway line by means of a road bridge. The wall stretches a fair distance and has a series of arched recesses. Below the road bridge can be seen the railway lines as they start to turn left on the approach into Liverpool Street station. Is this wall part of the original Shoreditch/Bishopsgate Station or the subsequent Bishopsgate Goods Yard, likewise the wall at the NE end of Commercial Street as it follows round into Shoreditch High Street?

Having used Liverpool Street station from the days when it was part of the LNER, I was surprised to find that there had originally been a Shoreditch, later renamed Bishopsgate, station but answered a query that had long been in the back of my mind. Why was the approach to Liverpool Street a 90° bend whereas the lines into the other London termini run straight into them?

There is a detailed description and history of the Bishopsgate Station and surrounding area in The Survey of London, volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End, particularly pages 252-255. The Guildhall Library has a copy. Other information has mainly been obtained from the Wikipedia website.

The Eastern Counties Railway began operations on 20 June 1839 from Romford, terminating temporarily in Stepney/Mile End at Devonshire Street Station (at the junction of Globe Road and Bancroft Road) before being extended in 1840 to Shoreditch. So originally the line did run 'straight' into its terminus. In 1844 there was a proposal that the line should be further extended to the Old Street area, continuing the straight line. Originally, the line had a 5ft gauge but was converted to standard gauge in 1844.

In 1843 a correspondent to The Builder commended the use of corrugated iron for the station's roof, 'like to the most beautiful roof at the Eastern Counties Railway, Shoreditch, excelled nowhere in elegance, lightness and simplicity'. 'The corrugated iron roof of three semi-elliptical spans was supported by two ranges of seventeen cast-iron columns, centred 13ft 9in and linked by light arched ribs. The roof was erected by Messrs Walker & Sons of Bermondsey who purchased the patent of Mr H R Palmer, the inventor and patentee of the corrugated iron'. Palmer had been the resident engineer to the London Docks from 1826-1835 so, was this one of the first 'architectural' uses of corrugated iron for other than dockside warehouses?

A guide to London for the London Exhibition in 1851 ed John Weale p812, described the station as 'a series of elegant buildings in the Italian style of architecture'. A drawing of its front gives the impression of it being like a two-storied 'manor house' with servants quarters above and outside steps going up to the first floors (platforms) from a centre gateway. However, doubts were being expressed about the station. A more critical guide of the same period thought the terminus was small and confined compared with Euston and King's Cross and regretted that it had not been given a more monumental character, 'too much cut up into small parts, and without mass'. By 1857 complaints were being made, both of the difficulty of access to the station and its inadequacy. A letter to the proprietors by John Wallen observed that 'so great confusion exists at busy hours of the day, that passengers accustomed to other lines are frequently heard expressing their disgust and (what is of more consequence to you) they visit it as little as possible'. Commercial Street had been built on the station's south side in 1845 through the slums of Spitalfields and to the north by St Leonard's Church was an infamous slum area only demolished and replaced in the 1890s. So: 'The traveller who arrives in London by the Eastern Counties Railway will find himself jostled by the thronging crowds of Shoreditch — a populous and not very attractive location. But he is within fifteen minutes of the heart of the City'. This was the description in Cassells Illustrated Guide to London with full information for visitors to the metropolis, during the period of the (1862) International Exhibition. The Kelly's Companion to their Post Office Guide of the same year refers to the station as 'Bishopsgate Street', so was the station renamed in an attempt to improve its image?

The Eastern Counties Railway and Eastern Union Railways and others were amalgamated to form the Great Eastern Railway in 1862 and a new London terminus built — Liverpool Street, which was completely operational from 1 November 1875. The Bishopsgate terminal was closed to passengers and reopened as a goods station in 1881, it had originally been intended that it would be a vegetable market but this was successfully challenged by the freeholder and lessee of the nearby Spitalfields Market. The goods station was destroyed by fire on 5 December 1964 and the site has since been redeveloped. But did we lose an iconic building? 'The worst single piece of architectural destruction in the East End in recent years has come via the public sector — Railtrack, London Underground, the Greater London Authority — who in 2002 combined to demolish, with consummate vandalism, one of London's greatest industrial sites, the Bishopsgate Goods Yard, a labyrinthine brick undercroft, home to a remarkable diversity of stalls, in their zeal to upgrade the East London tube line (GLIAS Newsletter December 2003). More such redevelopment and the reason for the area's popularity, which prompted the new line in the first place, will evaporate.' So wrote Ed Glinert in 2005 — East End Chronicles, page 294.

The original construction of Liverpool Street Station was not without its problems for it proved extremely expensive due to the cost of acquiring property and many people were displaced due to the large scale demolitions — were they compensated? The desire to link the GER lines to those of the sub-surface Metropolitan Railway, a link seldom used and relatively soon abandoned, also meant that the GER's lines had to drop down to below ground level from the existing viaducts east of Bishopsgate. This means that there are considerable gradients leading out of the station. Lord Salisbury, who was chairman of the GER in 1870, said that the Liverpool Street extension was 'one of the greatest mistakes ever committed in connection with a railway'. Peter J Butt

Refurbishment of Crystal Palace Station

The Winter 2010/2011 issue of the London Archaeologist includes an article on the refurbishment of Crystal Palace Station.

The article includes a history of the development of the station, which was opened in 1854, in the same year that the Crystal Palace was relocated to Sydenham; and the redevelopment of the station, at a cost of £2 million, in 1877. It describes the layout of the redeveloped station and the work which has now been done to refurbish it.

The issue also includes an article on the archaeological finds at the site of the St Pancras Burial Ground, which includes material on the history of King's Cross Goods Yard and the development of St Pancras International Station. Brian James-Strong

More converted water towers

Additional to those shown in the past two Newsletters (GLIAS Newsletter October 2010; December 2010) are:

David Thomas

In addition to the water tower at the former Brook Hospital (GLIAS Newsletter December 2010), not far away is the water tower at The Hollies, Burnt Oak Lane, Sidcup (just north of Sidcup Station).

The Hollies was a vast children's home, like a self-contained village, designed by Thomas Dinwiddy for the Greenwich and Deptford Board of Guardians and built from 1901. The whole complex was converted for housing in the 1990s. This included the massive and spectacular water tower, red brick, with its pyramid top and four clock faces. Darrell Spurgeon

The water tower of the once Brook Hospital SE18 in Shooters Hill Road (GLIAS Newsletter December 2010), opposite Baker Road, has been converted to a dwelling and is now, I believe, occupied. Ron Bingham

Pudding Mill Lane Pumping Station

The new Pudding Mill Lane Pumping Station, which will service the 2012 Olympics development, has used the original Victorian engineering drawings of nearby Abbey Mills pumping station as decorative elements on its precast concrete cladding.

Rob Scott, of John Lyall Architects Ltd, said: 'It seemed a fitting way to commemorate the engineering triumph, the way that the Victorians did with their impressive infrastructure buildings.'

For more details on the project see:

Ironworks on the north bank of Regents Canal

When I was quite young, around the late 1940s/early 1950s I remember that when travelling on the Metropolitan railway between Baker Street and Finchley Road stations the train emerged from tunnel for a brief period when it travelled over the Regents Canal.

I am sure that at that time I was able to see, on the north bank of the canal, a building with a large sign on its side which read something like Thames (or Thameside) Iron Works.

Obviously it hasn't been there for a very long time now but does anybody know anything about it? Barry Emmott
59 Oxhey Lane, Hatch End, Pinner, Middlesex HA5 4AY. Tel: 020 8933 7602. Email:

Hendon watchtower

The Barnet & Potters Bar Times (15 December) reported that the Claude Grahame-White watchtower (GLIAS Newsletter August 2002), which was used to monitor aircraft movement during the First World War, has been moved from Beaufort Park to the RAF Museum at Hendon.

The watchtower dates from 1911, when it was used as a control tower alongside the neighbouring aircraft factory, where planes were built during the war. It has been relocated brick-by-brick, using as many of the original materials as possible, including internal parts such as the staircases.

The watchtower will exhibit displays on the life of Grahame-White and the history of Hendon aerodrome. The upper floor also features a recreation of his office, including a trophy for his flights from London to Lichfield in 1910. Brian James-Strong

Number 205a Morning Lane

John & Elizabeth Eastwick-Field with John Stillman designed 205a Morning Lane; this was unexpectedly demolished while being considered for listing (GLIAS Newsletter October 2010). The Stillman and Eastwick-Field partnership (SEF) was set up in 1949, in an attic in Dean Street, the partners meeting in 1937 while students at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. The practice made a significant contribution to the post-war rebuilding of Britain from the early 1950s. As the business expanded it moved to Bloomsbury and later to Highbury, in north London. Much of their work was the design of schools, hospitals, housing and university accommodation. John Eastwick-Field became president of the Architectural Association in 1966 and a Fellow of University College London in 1984: he was awarded an OBE in 1977.

The partners also designed Stoke Newington Secondary School which was built 1967-70 in Clissold Road, London N16. The architecture here is striking and the buildings are finished in durable brick, this school has been submitted for statutory listing recently and a number of SEF buildings have a mention in Pevsner. The school is on the east side of the road at TQ 329 862. Bob Carr

News in brief

Opposite the main entrance to Reading General railway station at SU 714 737 the Jolly Porter public house has been showing its age of late and in July 2009 reopened as the Mannakoo music bar with 'edgy artwork from students at Thames Valley University'. The whole row of shops westwards from here along Station Hill as far as the Western Tower is now threatened with demolition, as well as the 15-storey tower itself. This development is about 45-50 years old.

Acton tram depot at the top of Acton Hill, just off High Street Acton, has been totally demolished and the site is being redeveloped for retail and housing. The depot was a red-brick building behind the Red Lion and Pineapple public house at the junction with the A4000 Gunnersbury Lane, TQ 196 801, and opened in 1896 firstly for horse trams. In 1901 the trams service was electrified. The depot was converted for trolley buses in 1936 but closed the following year and was then used for the storage of underground-railway electrical equipment. It became an operational depot again, for buses, in 1990 with a memorable open day in July 1996. The name has been retained throughout and buses have displayed the destination Acton Tram Depot recently.

As many of us know the infamous railway king George Hudson of York had to live in Calais to escape his creditors when his business practices were exposed and he lost influence. However, in later years he was to some extent rehabilitated and was able to return to England. His remaining friends provided him with an annuity of £600 per year enabling him to live in London in a modest house, number 87 Churton Street, London SW1. The Carlton Club even re-elected him chairman of their smoking room. George Hudson's last home, 87 Churton Street is still there. Does it have a blue plaque?

Deutsche Bahn (DB) at Marylebone: on Friday 17 December the train from Wrexham arrived at about 10.40am. At the front of the train which was double-headed, was the Schenker diesel-electric locomotive 67018 in full DB livery, immediately behind 67018 was one of the regular locos Thomas Telford, which may have failed? Schenker Rail (UK) used to be the English, Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS): now a DB subsidiary it is the largest rail-freight company in Britain. The Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway Company trains now appear to be maintained at Wembley Traction Maintenance Depot (TMD) just south of the new Wembley Stadium.

Now it is 2011 there is a 2012 shop at St Pancras station: it is in the undercroft close to the Eurostar booking office.

It does appear that the Finsbury Park train spotting platform (GLIAS Newsletter August 2008) was unique. Does anyone know otherwise?

At the former Bishopsgate railway station the ornamental gates have been reinstated. The main upper-level station was destroyed in a great fire on 5 December 1964.

The office building of the Lesney Matchbox Toys factory by the River Lee Navigation at TQ 367 853 has now been gone for some time (GLIAS Newsletter April 2008). For passengers there used to be quite a good view of this from the south when travelling eastwards by car on the A12. A good deal of demolition took place in February 2010. A new building similar in size to the office block is now rising on the site. The Matchbox brand name was started in 1953. Lesney Products founded by Leslie and Rodney Smith in 1947 was an industrial die-casting company. Matchbox toys were priced from about 1s 8d upwards.

Tweed House by the Limehouse Cut is still there (GLIAS Newsletter August 2009).

Not all Docklands Light Railway trains from London to Lewisham stop at West India Quay station. A single line at lower level bypasses the station to the east, from which there is a good view down into the coffer dam where the new Canary Wharf Crossrail station is being built. Access to these works is effected by an earth ramp on the south side.

Some of you may have missed the fact that 2010 was the centenary of the birth of John Poulson, the disgraced architect from Pontefract, Yorkshire, who was jailed in March 1974 for corruption. His buildings are now beginning to disappear quite quickly. In London the office block at Cannon Street station has gone [1] and Elizabeth House (pictured below) by the Royal Festival Hall [2] may be demolished fairly soon.

Elizabeth House. © Robert Carr

Shard Tower © Robert Mason 2013

At London Bridge station the central core of the Shard Tower (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010) was topped out early in December having reached 72 storeys [*]. When completed the whole construction will be about the same height as the Eiffel tower in Paris. Its architect Renzo Piano, by no means an abrasive man, is unhappy with the phrase 'Shard of Glass' and the word 'Shard' coined by the media, and feels these names gives his creation a sharp unfriendly cutting image he does not intend. The new tower exceeded the height of number one Canada Square, Canary Wharf, towards the end of November and has grown considerably since. When completed in the summer of 2012 it will achieve in concrete and steel what was achieved in wrought iron in Paris in 1889. For the London Bridge tower about 17,000 tons of steel will be used, getting on for two tons per foot.

At the DLR Cutty Sark station the top half of the cutting-head of a tunnel-boring machine (TBM) is currently on display. It comes from the TBM which was used to drive the twin 17 feet diameter segmentally-lined tunnels beneath the Thames which connect Island Gardens to the south.

At the Cutty Sark clipper [*] in Greenwich work is in progress on the rebuilding of the ship after the disastrous fire in May 2007. From the outside nothing can be seen and the hull is tented over. It is hoped to reopen the ship to the public this year.

At the Morris Walk Estate in Woolwich, to the south of Woolwich Church Street and east of Maryon Park, building started in 1963 and the estate contains the first system-built flats to be put up in London. Based on a Danish design modified by the LCC, the 10-12 storey blocks were given Danish influenced names in recognition of this. Some of the flats are quite big and there are four-bedroom examples. Heating is by electric radiators. The exterior panels are finished in durable stone chippings and are in excellent condition. All balconies were omitted on the grounds of expense! From the outside the flats look well-maintained, in good condition, and are currently lived in. Structurally the flats are still in good condition but the estate has become run down. The three-storey blocks are said to be in the worst state and all the buildings here are due to be demolished. Flats similar to these Woolwich examples were subsequently built in Peckham, Brixton, Homerton and Fulham.

In Brixton at the St Matthew's Estate, the flats there have been substantially rebuilt and are now almost unrecognisable. The other estates are still essentially as built. A grand scheme on a sweeping scale, the Morris Walk Estate was planned under a Conservative government and impressed a visiting Soviet delegation by its boldness. The railway line from London Bridge to Woolwich runs through the estate and the two parts are connected by a footbridge and a pedestrian tunnel. Originally there was also a level crossing.

Low-sodium salt usually contains potassium chloride as a substitute and naturally-occurring potassium includes the unstable isotope, potassium-40. This makes replacement salt radioactive, the potassium-40 emitting beta and gamma rays. This radiation is easily measured with a Geiger counter. Bananas have quite a high potassium content which makes them more radioactive than most food. Normally the radiation dose from potassium within the body is roughly equal to that from all other natural sources combined. Bob Carr

Bow back rivers

The Bow back rivers are in East London and form part of the delta of the River Lea. There are about three-and-a-half miles of them in total. The Olympic Games next year will be held in new stadia being completed in this area and British Waterways have been able to spend £60 million upgrading and renovating these interesting back waters so that they will become available for ordinary holiday canal boaters to explore as a leisure activity.

The new Three Mills lock on the Prescott Channel (GLIAS Newsletter August 2009) cost £24 million. City Mill lock is being rebuilt and that will open up two waterways. Carpenters Road lock is almost unique, at least locally, in having radial gates. This is being refurbished too and the concrete footbridge, probably about 60 years old, is being removed. Bow Riverside is a development at Bow Interchange where the A11 passes east to west over the River Lea at TQ 378 830. There is a flyover for road traffic in and out of London here but there is no towpath connecting south to north along the river. A new towpath is being made beneath Bow Bridge; the improvement scheme here is costing about £2.5 million.

The main games site is on Stadium Island for which access is provided by a large number of wide pedestrian bridges, about half of which are temporary. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will contain a total of five stadia including a Velodrome. Velo Park will be part of the Legacy and there will also be a North Park. Over the past few years trees have been planted in the whole area and by next summer they will be semi mature. The Olympic area should look very nice by the time of the games. On the water, bright-green duckweed is presently causing considerable problems and special craft equipped with screens are being used to scoop this up. Current policy nationally is to replace straight concrete channels which were built to restrain streams and small rivers with more natural banks and in the Lower Lea Valley some concrete walls are being replaced by soft verges.

There is a 'Freight Route', and Waterworks River is being used by 350 ton barges. At present about four of them are operating in the area which is less than had been hoped for. The legislation was so worded that rail transport has been able to secure most of the contracts to deliver material to the building sites. On the passenger side 20 boats 14 feet wide are being built for 'Waterchariot' to operate a waterbus service from Limehouse to Old Ford with a frequency of up to two per hour. This means of transport is proving popular as the time of arrival is relatively certain; there will be no serious Olympic traffic delays on the waterways. It is hoped that two of the boats can be retained after the Games and a service continued at a reduced frequency. The remaining 18 craft will be converted into hire cruisers.

Between Stratford railway station and Stratford International, a large development 'Stratford City' is being built. There is also going to be a 'Stratford Waterfront'. A wide Lea River Walk or 'Fat Walk' is being constructed from Three Mills southwards to the Thames riverside opposite the Millennium Dome. This will be up to 13 feet wide. Eleven thousand new homes are to be built in the Lower Lea Valley. Following the Games it will take about a year of dismantling work to remove stadia and tidy up. Residents should have a peaceful time after that. Mark Blackwell, regeneration manager Lower Lea Valley Olympics, British Waterways gave an informative presentation on the above work at the London Canal Museum on 6 January. Bob Carr


Regarding the address of Kemble Pianos (GLIAS Newsletter December 2010), the 1954 edition of Kelly's Post Office Directory lists Kemble & Co Ltd, piano mfrs, at 97 Carysfort Road, N16.

Regarding trolleybus poles, last time I was in New Malden, just over a year ago, I saw a pole in Burlington Road opposite Cavendish Avenue. This would have been for routes 604 and 605. Ian McDonald

Bob Carr (GLIAS Newsletter December 2010) says that PS Lincoln Castle was the last coal-fired vessel of her kind in Britain.

Kingswear Castle, Whitstable, 31 July 2004. © Robert Mason

The coal-fired Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle of 1924 (pictured above) still provides a varied programme of cruises from Easter to October on the River Medway and Thames Estuary. Her two-cylinder compound diagonal steam engine came from the previous Kingswear Castle of 1904. The 2011 timetable can be found at Jill Harvey

Christmas card

For 12 years I have received a Christmas card, addressed to GLIAS, from David and Rob of David Gibson, Architects. In 1986-88 the firm planned conversion of the former Streatham Silk Mill into part of a new supermarket for Sainsbury's (GLIAS Newsletter December 1991). Photographs are shown on their web site: David Thomas

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© GLIAS, 2011