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Notes and news — April 2011

In this issue:

Listed gates returned to Bishopsgate Goods Yard

The listed wrought iron gates on the Shoreditch High Street main entrance to the former Bishopsgate Goods Yard were reinstated in November 2010 after an absence of nine years. This was one of the final tasks for the East London Line Project, which has seen the extension of that line northwards from Shoreditch to Dalston Junction. A new station has been constructed on the concrete viaduct that now strides across the largely cleared Goods Yard site. Of the former railway structures there remains only the listed Braithwaite Viaduct, some perimeter walls, and the Shoreditch High Street main entrance, also listed (Grade II).

The gates were installed when the Bishopsgate site, the original 1840 London passenger terminus of the Eastern Counties Railway, was reconstructed as the Great Eastern Railway's goods station after Liverpool Street had been opened as its new passenger station in 1874.

Twin gates gave admittance for road vehicles to the Goods Yard at street level, under a projecting stone oriel 'gatekeeper's look-out'. Each of these gates sat on a pintle set into a small cast-iron shoe, and was held in place by a wrought-iron hinge strap anchored in the brick wall supporting the top level (now demolished). Stone blocks in the walls acted as stop-blocks for the gates when open. A large single gate led to a ramp (also now removed), up to the top level of the yard. The single gate — almost 9m long! — was supported by two hinge straps bolted to an iron pier faced with decorative panels and topped by a 'candelabra', originally gas-lit. The long gate-leaf was braced by twin tie-rods running diagonally down from the top of the heel-post to an anchor-point close to the head-post. This gate closed against a smaller iron pier set against the wall at the edge of the top yard level. The gates were embellished with large cast-iron medallions, and are fine examples of the ironworkers' ability to combine function with lively elegance.

Single gate being opened by hand Winding mechanism - winding box and handle in foreground

The single gate (pictured above) weighed over two tons, and so its opening and closing was controlled by a simple but ingenious winding mechanism set in the boundary wall. A winding-handle close to the stone gate stop-block engaged with a spur-wheel in a cast-iron box; this rotated a drive-rod set in a timber-faced horizontal recess in the wall. The rod was jointed via a coupling halfway along its length, in another box, and then continued to a larger chain-box, where a worm on the rod turned a cog-wheel on a vertical shaft which held a large worm-wheel. Onto this wheel was secured a chain whose other end was hooked onto the back of the gate. As the handle was turned, so the chain was wound onto the worm, and the gate was pulled open. The pitch of the worm was shallow, which ensured that the gate would not dangerously swing shut if the handle was released — it had to be wound both open and shut.

Replica makers plate on boundary wall The gates were removed with Listed Building Consent in late 2001 and taken off-site, both for restoration and for protection while the site demolition and East London Line works were carried out. The restoration was carried out by Ballantine of Bo'ness, after which the gates were stored in frames next to the approach to the London Transport Museum Depot at Acton, where they could be seen by those attending the Depot open days. The winding mechanism was supposed to remain on site, but an over-enthusiastic contractor removed this too! However this did permit its off-site cleaning and repair.

In 2006 the East London Line Project commissioned the preparation of a method statement for the reinstatement of both gates and winding mechanism, in order to regularise the position under listed buildings law. I was known to some of the Project heritage team with whom, as a consultant to Arup, I had worked on the King's Cross/St Pancras Underground scheme, and so I was invited to prepare this statement. This I duly did. The most interesting part of this work was to measure up the components of the winding mechanism in store, and then to recreate its operation on the drawing board (there being no available drawings or other records). The method statement was duly submitted to the London Borough of Hackney, and was approved.

Nothing more happened until mid-2010, when preparations began for the reinstatement, as the railway works in the Goods Yard were in sight of completion. Firstly, Ballantine of Bo'ness came to site and measured up for three replacement cast-iron cover plates for the winding mechanism boxes, to replace plates that had been damaged or purloined. Among these was a plate fixed on the pavement side of the chain-box, which proudly announced that 'These iron gates were manufactured and erected for the Great Eastern Railway by Barnard Bishop & Barnards London and Norwich 1884'. By great good fortune, GLIAS member Tim Smith had photographed this plate before it disappeared, and with his photograph we were able to recreate this plate (pictured right). Thank you, Tim!

Mather & Smith of Ashford, a long-established ironfounders, were appointed to carry out the reinstatement. As part of the M J Allen group they were able to provide a complete service, transporting the gates from Acton and craning them back into place. The winding mechanism, which had been in store in a container on the Goods Yard site, was successfully re-assembled and tested (much to my relief!). And the new cast-iron cover plates were fixed in place. While I was photographing the pavement-side plate, passers-by were stopping to look at it. It was very gratifying, after I had explained what we were doing, to be complimented on putting back a part of the local heritage!

But — before you head out to look at the gates — I have to caution that all the ironwork has been encased in timber, with the positive approval of Hackney's Conservation team, as a prudent if sad necessity for security while the redevelopment of the Goods Yard site is still awaited. As many will know, there is currently a heavy demand for metals, and 'scrap' prices are rising. The temptation to steal is strong, and a paper listing is no assurance of protection. I hope however that it will again one day be possible to see this splendid example of Victorian ironwork, as part of a regenerated site. Michael Bussell

Camden Railway Heritage Trust launches website

The area formerly occupied by Camden Goods Depot, together with associated sites in the close vicinity, is rich in industrial heritage. The arrival of first the Regent's Canal in 1816 and then the London & Birmingham Railway in 1837 at the Hampstead Road created an important transport interchange and led to Camden's rapid social and industrial development.

The website provides the historical background and presents the heritage features, both above and below ground, many of national and international significance, including locomotive and goods storage sheds, vaults and tunnels, and stables ranges. It introduces the Trust and its role in protecting this heritage and making it known to a wider public through creation of a heritage trail, publication of a trail guide, guided walks, talks and other events.

Chance to see Somers Town site

The construction site for the huge UKCMRI (UK Centre for Medical Research & Innovation) medical research building at Brill Place, Somers Town, NW1 will be open to the public for a few days in April.

Museum of London archaeologists are excavating the former Somers Town Goods Yard site before building work starts, concentrating on areas where the fish shed and coal depot were located.

There will be free tours at 9am, 10.30am, 1pm and 2.30pm on the following days:

Saturday 16 April
Monday 18 April
Tuesday 19 April
Wednesday 20 April
Thursday 21 April

Each tour will last approximately one hour with time to ask questions. Go to the UKCMRI exhibition on Brill Place at these times to be shown around the excavation. Children are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult if under 16.
Further details. Tel: 0800 028 9731. Email: Web:

GLIAS member Michael Bussell says: 'I had a look at the UKCMRI linked website, and noted that — according to the blurb there — the goods yard was demolished in the 1950s and 1960s. One hopes that MOLA's historical research will correct this. The Purchese Street coal depot to the north closed in 1968. Somers Town goods depot itself was finally closed in 1973, but was still standing in large part in the late 1970s when I was involved in looking at the feasibility of installing a heavy piling rig on the upper level to install trial piles for the Library ahead of demolition work. I recall that the site was cleared shortly after, when for a while the south-eastern part was used as a very basic long-distance coach station. Fragments of the boundary wall remained when I last looked, but will presumably be removed for the UKCMRI development that unhelpfully precludes any possibility of a future extension to the British Library.

'There are two quite useful illustrated accounts in 'serious' railway journals, both from Wild Swan Publications — 'St Pancras', Andy Brown, Midland Record (preview issue), 1996, pp 2-30 and 128 [regrettably now expensively collectable], and 'Goods Traffic at St Pancras', Ivor Gotheridge, British Railway Journal, no 46, 1993, 266-283. The latter is particularly well illustrated, and includes photos of the 'beer hoist' at the north end of the passenger station, which carried wagons down to and up from the undercroft. Its shaft and tunnel survived closure in 1960, was infilled c.1980, and was then eradicated during excavation for the station extension during the recent Channel Tunnel Rail Link work. I trust it was suitably recorded during removal (which, sadly, is probably more than happened to the unlisted Somers Town depot, despite its magnificently sturdy construction).'

A new kilogram and Hatton Garden?

'Shrivelling kilogram set for the scrap heap' was the heading of an article by Alok Jha in The Guardian (24 January 2011). The 'international prototype' kilogram in Paris, which since 1899 has defined the kilogram and is made of platinum-iridium was cast by Johnson Matthey in Hatton Garden in 1879. However, measurements over the last century have shown that it has 'lost' around 50 micrograms or the weight of a grain of sand.

What prompted the article was a meeting that evening at the Royal Society in London to discuss how to redefine the kilogram in terms of a fundamental unit of measurement as the other six base units of the International System of Units (SI) have been. The experts want to define the kilogram in terms of a fundamental unit of measurement in quantum physics, the Planck constant.

Amid the turmoil of the French Revolution the foundations of a unified system of weights and measures, the metric system, was achieved, even though the secretary of the Commission responsible, was guillotined in 1794! The metric system was finally confirmed in 1799. The kilogram being defined as the mass of 1,000cc's of distilled water at 4ºC, when it has its maximum density. The standard kilogram was made in Paris out of platinum and took the shape of a cylinder of height equal to its diameter. Later the manmade standard was found to have a 28 parts in a million error made during fabrication. In 1875, 28 countries formed the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures based in Sevres, Paris, to construct and maintain international prototypes of the metre and kilogram and create copies for those 28 countries. The alloy chosen was 10% iridium-platinum because of its stability, hardness, high density and resistance to corrosion.

Johnson Matthey & Co had assisted in refining, melting and casting into ingots the metal from which the standard was produced. Further orders followed in 1878 and 1879. Then in 1882, Johnson Matthey produced 30 standard metres and 40 standard kilograms and have subsequently produced more national prototypes. Having made a cylinder, the Bureau carries out the final adjustments necessary. Only once, in 1946, have the other prototypes been compared with the International Prototype Kilogram. [Standard Kilogram Weights, by FJ Smith of Johnson Matthey & Co London, Platinum Metals Review, 1973, 17(2) pages 66-68.]

In 1861 Johnson Matthey were approved as refiners to the Bank of England. In 1879 George Matthey, at the time the senior partner of the firm, was elected to be a Fellow of the Royal Society, his citation stating: 'Distinguished as a Metallurgist, having special knowledge of the metals of the Platinum Group. The development of the Platinum Industry was mainly due to his efforts.'

Johnson Matthey is a specialist chemicals company focused on its core skills in: Catalysts, Precious Metals, Fine Chemicals and Process Technology. It was established in the New Garden House, 78 Hatton Garden in 1817 but moved its head office to Trafalgar Square in 1991, 78 Hatton Garden was sold in 1998 but their Precious Metals Division continues to be based at 40-42 Hatton Garden.

The Hatton Garden area was owned by the Bishop of Ely who was so powerful within the church and the state that he had a palace, chapel and grounds in central London.

Elizabeth I admired and promoted the handsome courtier Christopher Hatton. In 1576, seeking somewhere to live, he asked the Queen to give him a house with grounds in Ely Palace. The Bishop did not have a say in the matter and Elizabeth granted Hatton a lease, fixing his rent at £10 pa, 10 loads of hay... and a rose at midsummer! Hatton was knighted in 1577 and became Lord Chancellor in 1587. In the mid-17th century, the once famous garden was used to create an estate of streets and houses. These days nearly 300 of the local businesses are in the jewellery industry and over 30 shops represent the largest jewellery retail cluster in the UK. There are two blue plaques of IA interest. One to Sir Hiram Maxim (1840-1916), who designed the Maxim (machine) gun in his Hatton Garden workshop which he opened in 1884, and the other to Robert Paul (1869-1943), a maker of scientific instruments and cinematographer who started his own business there in 1891. Both have entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as does George Matthey (1825-1913). Peter J Butt

The Woolwich Free Ferry

The Woolwich Free Ferry, a vital piece of London's industrial architecture, has only had brief details on assorted sites and some pictorial recognition, but no detailed explanation of the operation as far as I can tell.

When I first came into contact with it in 1955 it had been running little changed since 1889 when it was set up due to the efforts of the 'sewer king' Joseph Bazalgette. Initially two (quickly three) paddle steamers, Gordon (1) and Duncan (built 1888 by R and H Green), with Hutton (built 1893 by William Simmons and Company) added 1893. In 1921 Gordon was replaced with Gordon (2) (built 1923 by Samuel White and Company Limited) and Duncan with Squire (also built by Whites). In 1930 the fleet increased to five with John Benn and Will Crook (both also built 1930 by Whites). In the fashion of the time the boats were named after local 'worthies'.

Basic dimensions were:

They were odd-looking purpose-built craft. A large foredeck and a small afterdeck, both carrying a tall funnel more like a factory chimney. The square superstructure housed the engines, drive gear, coal bunkers, a small passenger cabin and crews quarters. Down each side fore and aft of the paddle boxes was a covered space for passengers. From the passenger accommodation it was possible to see the engines working.

On the top of the main superstructure was the vehicle deck, which was slightly curved across the width (whale backed). This was about 70ft (21.5m) by 40ft (12m). This was enclosed by a stout metal panel with a rail on top. On the sides this was made up of a 10ft (3m) stretch, a 10ft (3m) gap, a 30ft (9m) stretch, a 10ft (3m) gap, a 10ft (3m) stretch. The gaps were the places where the loading bridges landed. In all the time I used the paddle boats these gaps were only guarded by a single chain hooked into an eye bolt.

At the forward end of the vehicle deck was the enclosed bridge which was about 11ft (3.35m) above the deck. The master's view was from either end as it was just behind the forward funnel.

The service ran between two special piers at North Woolwich and Woolwich. The pier carried a loading bridge hinged at the landward end, with the riverward end carried on a double decked pontoon which rose and fell with the tide between guides on two sets of pilings. There were walkways leading down to the lower level of the pontoon which coincided with the entries to the deck for foot passengers. It also carried the mooring bollards and the two seamen who handled the mooring lines each time the ferry docked. The outer end of the bridge carried link plates about 10ft (3m) by 4ft (1.5m) raised and lowered by a small winch. Once the boat was properly positioned and moored these were lowered to make the final link to the vehicle deck.

Until 1966, northbound ferry traffic queued down Hare Street, Woolwich (but not across the pedestrian crossing which irritated the local constabulary). At the bottom of the traffic had to cross Woolwich High Street in to the small square which was Ferry Approach that was also the site of the access to the pedestrian tunnel. Here the deck men weighed up the vehicles to work out the best way to load the deck. Southbound traffic queued along Pier Road, North Woolwich turning left on to the loading bridge just opposite the shaft for the foot tunnel. At one time this was a bus terminal as far back as trolleybuses. It was also the site of the stall where a lady sold fried sausage in a roll (with or without onions). Just downstream from the ferry pier (the landward end abutment is still there) was the Sun Pier (now derelict but labelled on some maps North Woolwich Pier) with the Sun Tug craft (all numbered on the funnel with Roman numerals, I can remember XXVI) tied up waiting to be called to work lighters or ships. The office was on the pontoon. At that point was and is North Woolwich Railway Station, although the pub facing that has gone, today it is the start of the special lane for the ferry. Where Pier Road joined Albert Road was and is the police station (a landmark in the fog).

The docking procedure was like that of any vessel, it must be remembered that the boat was worked facing against the flow of the river as it docked. So that sometimes the bow was the front sometimes the back. The boat approached the pier at a slight angle against the flow of the river, when the front touched, the head rope was secured. I understand the seaman adjusted that to get the right position, then the paddles went ahead to 'spring in' the back end and that was secured. Once the mooring men were satisfied the link plates were lowered and unloading commenced.

Vehicles athwart ship first, then those in the wings, then the centre. As soon as one end was free loading commenced, a very skilled operation needing to be quick and make best use of deck space. I always thought, a tribute to the deck hands.

Once loading was complete, the link plates lifted, the chains were hooked across. The head rope was cast off , the paddles went 'astern' on the back rope, a manoeuvre called 'springing off' which took the front out into the river and the boat was away to be carried by the flow of the river on its next trip across ready to come against the flow to the other pier.

Memories from that time: When the paddles churned during manoeuvring the bed of the river was stirred up, in the summer the smell was horrendous, at that time the Thames was almost a sewer. At the foggy time of the year sometimes the ferry stopped. If you were near the front and the deckies knew you by sight they would come up and say, 'You going to pull out and crawl round (road traffic was affected as well) or wait and see if it lifts a bit?' If you opted to stop they would take you down to the crew room for a mug of tea. Sometimes there would be many lorries and long queues, I was driving an eight-wheeler for BRS, the deckie would come up the queue and say 'We need you across the boat up in the corner, can you do it if we put a man up?' No power steering in those days so you needed help to shunt at low speed.

Later I was driving a 12 ton artic and got a long (for those days) 32ft (9.75m.) trailer for long concrete beams. The vehicle was inches over 40ft (12.2m) long. Going home past the ferry it was very quite (no queue) so I pulled into Ferry Approach and asked the head deckie if we could see if it would fit as it would only take me a couple of minutes to back off. I went across the deck, they took the chain off and took my front wheels right to the edge, it was then possible to raise the link plate. When I got to the north side I had to go back a couple of feet for the link plate to come down. The word spread amongst the crews as I could always get in the queue and say 'We've had this one on'. The final thing was getting to the front with a long vehicle to be told, 'We can't get you on this one, the coal man is delivering'. The coal waggon had to go in the thwart ship lane so they could tip the 1cwt (50kg) sacks into the under deck bunker.

In 1963 this all changed, the paddlers went and the three new diesel boats came into service.

The Ernest Bevin is named after Ernest Bevin (1881-1951), a trade unionist and MP for Woolwich.
The John Burns after John Elliot Burns (1858-1943), who led the great dock strike of 1889.
The James Newman after James Newman, one time Mayor of Woolwich.

Basic dimensions:

The propellers were vertical rings of blades which could be altered to drive the boat backwards, forwards or sideways.

They have a small foredeck but nothing aft, although the vehicle deck is the same distance from either end of the boat. The bridge is mid-ships on a gantry about 17ft (5.2m) above the deck. The vehicle deck is 45ft (13.75m) by 120ft (37.5m).

In the beginning these were loaded sideways from the old piers while the new piers were built. Although the chain had been replaced with stout sliding metal plate doors.

In September 1966 the new piers opened. On the north side the new pier was just upstream of the old pier, 'U' shaped in plan with the docking end pointing downstream. On the south side a new marshalling area was built upstream from the old site, this took the ferry traffic out of Hare Street ferry traffic now approaching via the newly built John Wilson Street. Again it was the 'U' shape pointing downstream.

These new piers were large concrete structures with two hydraulically operated loading bridges. The boat approached end on to a massive rubber sprung wooden 'buffing beam', it was held parallel to the bank by another piling structure. The new propulsion system allowed the vessel to be moved sideways to press on the pier. Once the master was satisfied the loading bridges were lowered and engaged with the vessel holding it in position. The five lines of vehicles were simply driven straight off and reloaded the same way. This meant the front of the boat was opposite ends each trip. There was still some skill needed by the deck hands to make best use of space, vehicle were sorted at the landward end of the bridges, being directed down which ever loading bridge suited the deck crew. The new method of loading and deck length allowed two maximum length artics to be loaded one behind the other.

In the beginning there were teething troubles with the new boats. I was on one going north reading my paper when I realised we were a long time docking (it took about five minutes) when I looked up we were passing the tallest grid pylons in England going down river on the ebb. Eventually the engines started and we steamed back up to the north side.

The local kids spent summer holidays riding backwards and forwards, in the days of steam watching the engines. After the 'Marchioness disaster' (August 1989) everyone had to get off at each end and get back on. The 'abandon ship' drill was given out over the public address system at the start of each journey.

Its ownership extends from Metropolitan Board of Works to London County Council to Greater London Council to Transport for London to London Borough of Greenwich. Ending (so far) with a short-term private contract between LBG and Serco. From all reports, since being in the hands of Serco the service has markedly deteriorated. With plans for further river crossing there is talk of upgrading and tolling the ferry, although this would require an Act of Parliament.

In case anyone wonders about the use of the word boat, anything that floats is a vessel or craft (including sea side inflatables when adrift). They are mostly ships except ferry boats, rowing boats and narrow boats. Other non ship craft are lighters or dumb boats and barges (motor or sailing). Bob Rust

I was on the ferry one November afternoon, the chief deck hand always known as 'Big Ears' (they were) came to me and asked if I had been out yesterday as it was a right pea souper. He said 'You'll laugh at what happened to me. We did the odd trip and then it really closed in so they sent us home. I got on my bike and set off up Albert Road, I seemed to be going for ages then the fog thinned and I saw a feller. I said to him “Am I near the swing bridge?” he said, “No mate you're in Green's machine shop!”' Albert Road turned sharp left to go over the swing bridge but right facing you on the bend was the gates of R & H Green & Siley, Weir the ship repairers, straight ahead across the yard was the ever open door into their main workshop.

People these days don't know what a proper London fog was. It contained so much sulphur that when it met the moisture in your nose it made sulphuric acid and ate holes in your hanky. Bob Rust

Woolwich Ferry, Robert Mason 2022

East Greenwich Coaling Jetty plans

The East Greenwich Coaling Jetty (TQ 398 796) should become a pier for visiting historic ships according to the Greenwich Historical Ships Harbour (GHSH) project.

The jetty, on Mudlarks Boulevard off John Harrison Way, was originally built after the Second World War for coal deliveries to the new power station on the Greenwich peninsula.

GHSH believes the jetty could be redeveloped as a public heritage facility enabling historic ships to dock in London with facilities for restoration and conservation projects, skill training, education, research and opportunities for the public and local community to participate.

One of the project's volunteers, Alan Boakes of Bexley Borough, commented: 'It is rather surprising that an historic city like London that largely grew because it was a port, and today has a healthy tourist sector, does not have any river access point.'

Was this scheme in any way inspired by Pier 25 on the Hudson River in New York? Bob Carr

Robert Jones, engineer to the Commercial Gas, Light and Coke Company

Reading Brian Sturt's review of 'Stepney Gasworks: the archaeology and history of the Commercial Gas Light and Coke Company's works at Harford Street, London E1, 1837-1946', by Antony Francis (GLIAS Newsletter February 2011) I noticed the name of Robert Jones who was the engineer to the Commercial Gas, Light and Coke Company, appointed in 1854. The name rang a bell. I have been connected with the Crossness Engines as a volunteer for some years and have been researching the engineering history of the site.

In 1865, just after the works was opened, the engineer Joseph Bazalgette produced a report on the subject of 'lighting the Southern Outfall Works recommending that the Board (The Metropolitan Board of Works) manufacture their own gas and that works for the purpose be erected, at an estimated cost of £1,650'.

At a further meeting reported on 2 February 1866, the engineer reported that he had consulted local gas companies to find out what their cost of supply would be. Needless to say it would be cheaper than the gas companies would have charged.

An extract from 'The Journal of Gas Lighting, Water Supply, & Sanitary Improvement' for 6 February 1866 states that 'The Main Drainage Committee of the Metropolitan Board of Works recommended, at the last meeting of the Board, "that, for the purpose of lighting at the works at Crossness, the Board do manufacture its own gas, and that the necessary buildings be forthwith erected". The recommendation was adopted, and the engineer was authorised to consult Mr Robert Jones, the engineer of the Commercial Gas Company, on the subject.'

Mr Jones was duly consulted and produced a report listing the necessary equipment and the estimated cost of producing annually 3 million cubic feet of gas. He was appointed by the Board to construct the works.

By July 1867 the Gas Works were in operation and the Board had to appoint a gas maker. They appointed Robert Cossey who had been employed by Robert Jones while the works were set up. He received 32/6 for seven days but the Board decided to pay him '28/- a week for seven days in consideration of having a house rent free'.

The works were lit by gas until the London County Council, early in 1898, decided that 'the gas plant at the Crossness Outfall has become worn out and inadequate, and that it is necessary that steps should be taken without delay to provide means for lighting the works during next winter'.

Electricity was duly installed. So, after 35 years, the Gas Works were eventually closed down.

As Brian Sturt mentions in his review, the last chapter in the book describes the impact that the Commercial Company had upon private and public domains. It certainly made an impact at Crossness! David Dawson

Aldgate 'Tilbury' warehouse undercroft

As a teenager I lived in the only habitation in Gowers Walk, Aldgate E1, facing the eastern wall of the great 'Tilbury', sometime known as Commercial Road Goods Depot. I was aware of rail lines in the undercroft at street level, and saw trucks being rope-hauled by capstan across Hooper Street from one dark undercroft enclosure to another. I wonder if any member is aware of either the rail layout or of the workings of this system. The trucks would have been lowered by one of the hydraulic truck-lifts positioned around the main complex. I wonder if there are photographs. Is anyone aware of the track layout on the main railway floor?

My father worked for Faircloughs, a firm of Gowers Walk meat hauliers, who fetched meat from the London docks in unrefridgerated vehicles, taking it to the London meat markets.

This 'Faircloughs' appears not to be related to Fairclough Street, off Back Church Lane.

I have tried to 'research' Faircloughs, but with little success. Our flat at 49 Gowers Walk had a big red lamp, and an even bigger alarm bell in the master bedroom. My father was resident engineer, and the bell and lamp were to get him out of bed in the night should there be a breakdown.

The Fairclough vehicles consisted of van and trailer, and at weekends the trailers would be parked nose-to-tail in Gowers Walk against the eastern wall of the Tilbury opposite our flat. On that side of the road, there was no pavement but the kerbstones were quite wide. The space between trailers and Tilbury was used by prostitutes who touted for work along Commercial Road. As a teenager I found it all quite interesting.
Eric Shorter, 8 Thresher Close, Luton, Bedfordshire LU4 0TX

Boiler works delay Tornado's return

60163 Tornado, pictured from New Road Bridge (No 1525) near Audley End, 4.8.11. © Robert Mason The 'White Rose' train which was planned to run from King's Cross on 26 February pulled by the steam locomotive 'Tornado' (GLIAS Newsletter December 2010) had to be cancelled.

Tornado's boiler was sent back to DB Meiningen in Germany for work on the firebox: new platework, the replacement of 1,100 stays and work on the foundation ring. Since it entered traffic the engine has been in use for about 300 days and this work can be considered as relatively normal for the amount of work the engine has been doing.

Following hydraulic test in Germany, Tornado's boiler should return to the UK at the end of March and the locomotive should return to revenue-earning service, in Brunswick Green livery, on Thursday 26 May with 'The Cathedrals Express' from London Victoria to Bath & Bristol via the Surrey Hills. The train should pass through East Croydon and Redhill.

Dampflokwerk Meiningen is a railway repair works owned by Deutsche Bahn (DB). It opened in March 1914 and since 1990 has specialised in the maintenance of steam locomotives. These works are responsible for the safe operation of all steam locomotives in Germany. If you are interested in a visit round the works just turn up at 10am every first and third Saturday of the month. It is not necessary to book and the visit takes about 1½ hours. Meiningen with a population of about 20,000 is a town in Germany on the River Werra in the southern part of Thuringia. There is an English Garden in the town centre.

News in brief

A surprisingly large proportion of the built-up area of London contains buildings which date from the 1840s and 50s. By contrast in the West Midlands, the industrial Black Country has only 0.5 percent of its built environment dating from 1841-55 still in existence. Cheaply built houses and mining subsidence are main causes: London was better off at this time. If you go to the Black Country today you see mainly between-the-wars housing estates. The name 'Black Country' has only now just appeared on an Ordnance Survey map.

Demolition is taking place on the south side of Riversdale Road at TQ 323 863. Work started on the west in the second week of March 2011 and is proceeding eastwards. When viewed from Green Lanes the site is behind the White House pub.

John Humphries House (GLIAS Newsletter November 2010) was completed in 1963 for the London Boroughs Joint Computer Committee and housed the fourth LEO III computer to be built, see In 1951 Leo 1 was the world's first business computer and more than 90 LEO IIIs were made. There is a Leo Computer Society, website

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.

A new committee of the Kent Archaeological Society is being formed to represent people who are interested in industrial archaeology in the Historic County of Kent. It was felt that it would be valuable to set up a regional framework with members covering different geographical areas and being in contact with local groups. It is the intention to record and publish details of sites. To get this new group up and running an afternoon conference was held at Harrietsham Village Hall on Saturday 19 February this year. Following an introduction by the chairman of the new committee Jim Preston, we had three really excellent lectures; Leigh Powder Mills by Chris Rowley (Leigh Historical Society), the Industrial Archaeology of the Post Medieval Wealden Iron Industry by Jeremy Hodgkinson (WIRE) and the Mineral Extractive Industries of Kent by Rod LeGear (KURG). The afternoon ended with a General Discussion on the Way Forward. Contact details for anyone interested: Kent Archaeological Society Industrial Archaeological Committee, Secretary Mike Clinch. Email:
Bob Carr


When I was working on the implementation of the Industrial Training Act 1964, one of my more senior colleagues was Col. Andy Work who had been head of training in the Army. He told me that Sir William Stanier (GLIAS Newsletter November 2010) used to visit the IMechE until very late in his life, and had been heard to comment that no-one else there had been properly trained because none of them had served a seven year apprenticeship. Derek Bayliss

Peter Butt asks (GLIAS Newsletter February 2011) if people displaced by the large scale demolitions necessary for the construction of Liverpool Street station were compensated. According to the late Alan A Jackson's London's Termini (1969. Pan Books Ltd, 1972), the general manager of the Great Eastern Railway gave evidence to a Royal Commission in 1884 in which he mentioned the destruction of 450 tenement dwellings, sheltering some 7,000 people. Their destruction had been anticipated in the company's Act of 1864, although difficulties in raising capital and then acquiring the properties meant years of delay before the station was built. The Act required the GER to run a 2d return daily from Edmonton and another from Walthamstow. 'In practice the GER provided many more cheap trains but, as elsewhere, most of those thrown out of their homes were too poor to afford new houses in the suburbs. Instead, they spent the few shillings “compensation” on a bottle or two of gin and the hire of a cart and squeezed themselves into adjacent streets, increasing the already pitiable overcrowding of the Shoreditch area.' (pp101-02).

Further west, towards the end of the century, the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire (later Great Central) Railway was obliged to house 3,073 occupants of 507 houses demolished to make way for its terminus at Marylebone. This was done in 1896 through the Wharncliffe Dwellings Company, which built six blocks of five-storied buildings in Wharncliffe Gardens, Lisson Grove, NW1. See George Dow: Great Central (London: Locomotive Publishing Co, 1962) v.2 p287. According to Cherry and Pevsner's London 3 North West (1991, 1999 reprint p.663) the dwellings were replaced in the later 1970s by cul de sacs of two- to four-storey housing. Richard Graham

Barry Emmott asks about an ironworks near the Regent's Canal (GLIAS Newsletter February 2011).

In the 1985 GLIAS leaflet 'Industrial Archaeology Walks in London No.6' there is this about the Lisson Grove area: 'Walk along the path past the flats and across the canal by a metal footbridge — opposite are the premises of the Thames Bank Iron Company, which moved here in 1926 from a riverside site near Waterloo'.

In the 1994 edition of Michael Essex-Lopresti's 'Exploring the Regent's Canal,' he says: 'beyond the wall alongside the towing path was another wall inscribed "Thames Bank Iron Company", but this has now been demolished in preparation for a residential development.'

Grace's Guide of the 'Best of British Engineering' shows company adverts of 1891-99, a drawing from the 1892 'The Practical Engineer' of the Champion Horizontal Tubular Boiler 'and an entry from the 1937 British Industries Fair, at which the company had a stand. An English Heritage booklet 'Heating & Ventilation' says the company made slow combustion stoves and was one of the earliest developers of ventilating radiators. The company also supplied and installed ventilation systems for cinema projection booths, including that of Cinerama in 1954, at the London Casino. Peter Finch

Mr Emmott (GLIAS Newsletter February 2011) asks about the Thames Bank Iron Works, which stood in Lodge Road, NW8 and, like the power station also demolished, could be seen from Metropolitan Line trains as they crossed the Regent's Canal. I have not made an exhaustive search, but I find in Kelly's Post Office London Directory that the Iron Works appears at least from the 1890 edition, being iron founders and dealing with products involved in plumbing, water supply and the like. At that time they were at Old Jamaica Wharf on the north side of Upper Ground, SE (later 40 Upper Ground Street, SE1) and this presumably accounts for their name. They were still there in 1924, but by 1928 they had moved to Lodge Road and were still there in 1987, described as plumbers' merchants. It looks to me as if the lower part of the wall on which the sign was still survives. Richard Graham

Unfortunately, the Wrexham & Shropshire Railway (GLIAS Newsletter February 2011), which went to Marylebone Station, ceased operations on 28 January, giving as a reason the economic climate and no prospect of profitability. Peter Finch

Jill Harvey is entirely correct (GLIAS Newsletter February 2011). PS Kingswear Castle is coal-fired and presently operates on the River Medway & Thames Estuary. This vessel richly deserves your support. Lincoln Castle had the claim to be the last coal-fired paddle steamer after Kingswear Castle was withdrawn from passenger service in 1965. Lincoln Castle continued to operate on the Humber ferry service until 1978. Kingswear Castle was returned to passenger carrying in 1985 by preservationists. Bob Carr

There is an octagonal brick water tower (GLIAS Newsletter February 2011) that has been undergoing conversion for some time — presumably to residential, on the A1005, The Ridgeway, close to J24 on the M25, but within London Borough of Enfield. Chris Harry

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© GLIAS, 2011