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Notes and news — June 2011

In this issue:

The last Q-Ship?

With the introduction of the big gun battleship wartime naval strategy changed in the 1900s. It was judged too risky to collect merchant ships together into convoys in the traditional way protected by Royal Navy escorts. Herding merchant ships would make too easy a target for a battleship which could fire with impunity from a long distance, sinking many ships before they had time to scatter. The policy was to disperse merchantmen so there was no rich target worth the attention of a great battleship.

However, submarines made their appearance and German U-boats became a problem. They carried a limited number of torpedoes and their captains preferred to surface and sink unarmed merchant ships by gunfire. The British solution was to operate armed vessels equipped with quite large guns which could overwhelm a submarine and for these ships to be disguised as unarmed civilians. The idea was that their guns would only be revealed when the submarine was on the surface and quite close to — surprise was essential. These were the Q-ships so called because they operated secretively from Queenstown in southern Ireland. In the Atlantic convoys were only introduced officially in September 1917.

We actually have what is probably the last surviving Q-ship here in London. This is 'HMS' [1] President berthed by the Embankment opposite Temple Avenue at TQ 313 807. President, an Anchusa-class sloop, was built on the Clyde by Lobnitz & Company of Renfrew [2] and launched in January 1918. She was powered by a four-cylinder triple-expansion steam engine, also by Lobnitz & Company, driving a single screw. Steam was supplied by two boilers and as HMS Saxifrage she carried a crew of 93.

President is now in a bad way despite much expenditure in recent years and is unlikely to last much longer at her present berth. Another Anchusa-class sloop, HMS Chrysanthemum [3], was berthed on the Embankment close by to the west at TQ 312 807, opposite the Temple. Sold to the charity InterAction in 1988 she was broken up in 1995. Bob Carr

Old Shoreditch train station sold

The former Shoreditch underground station was sold by TfL in February to an anonymous buyer for £665,000.

The 1,688 sq ft space, at the junction of Code Street and Pedley Street, had a guide price of £180,000.

The single-storey station, consisting of a ticket office, lobby area, storerooms, plant rooms and a toilet, closed in 2006 when the East London Overground line was upgraded.

Underneath the arches

What was in the inner-city railway bridges before they filled up with lock-up garages, bars and restaurants? Guardian — G2, 'Notes and Queries', 23 & 30 March 2011.

Derek Wheatley of Isleworth, pointed out that the questioner meant 'viaducts' — 'Long bridge-like structure esp. series of arches' [Concise Oxford Dictionary]. Roger Backhouse of Ilford stated that when London's first railway, the London and Greenwich was planned, the promoters envisaged using most of the 878 arches for dwellings and show houses were constructed at Deptford. However, the public showed little interest and after the opening of the railway in 1836 most arches were let to commercial undertakings but unused arches created social problems and were sealed off. In 1986, the 150th anniversary of the L&G, the then British Rail Property Board promoted the use of arches for start-up businesses.

Peter Elliot of St Albans wrote that the Short Brothers moved their balloon factory into two arches in Battersea in 1903 and that the Wright brothers gave them a contract to build six aircraft, making them the world's first aircraft manufacturing company. This was six years before AV Roe rented an arch from the Great Eastern Railway under a viaduct on the Walthamstow Marshes that takes the railway spur across the River Lea to Chingford so that he could continue to test his ideas and from where on 13 July 1909 his triplane flew, the first official flight of an all-British aircraft with a British pilot [London's Lea Valley, Jim Lewis, p66]. Do the Short's Battersea arches have a 'blue plaque' or at least some local recognition, as does Roe's Walthamstow arch? Do any other London arches have or had a particular IA interest?

Michael Nunn of Lancaster recounted that under the arches of Leeds station there were various manufacturing premises — one of which, a tallow works, caught fire c1900 and brought down the viaduct and tracks above! Peter J Butt

Brixton Windmill reopens

A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund last year — long fought for by the Friends of Brixton Windmill — has made possible the restoration of the interior of this tower windmill so that it will be accessible to the public again.

The windmill was built in 1816 and leased by the Ashby family, millers producing stoneground wholemeal flour. It fell into disuse in 1935 and was purchased by the LCC in 1957. In 1964 it was re-furnished with milling equipment from a mill in Burgh-le-Marsh, Lincolnshire. In 1971 it was transferred to Lambeth Council but again fell into neglect.

Brixton Windmill reopened to the public on Monday 2 May. On National Mill weekend (14-15 May) the mill once again ground corn.

The mill is situated in a small park, Windmill Gardens, at the west end of Blenheim Gardens, off Brixton Hill, London SW2. There must be a good view from the next door jail! David Perrett

Fairclough wagons

I well remember the wagons of 'Tommy' Fairclough, the night trunk motors passed the end of my road when I was a youngster. Well known around Smithfield along with R J Weeks of Hackney and T Ward. In 1948 taken into BRS Meat Haulage, so far as I can tell not resurrected. The late Frank Cousins, General Secretary of TGWU was a Fairclough's driver on the London to Yorkshire run.

The firm used insulated containers and insulated bodies on its eight-wheelers. These were built on a strong wooden frame — it had to be to carry the full load on 'hanging' rails fixed to the 'roof'. Diagonal tongue and groove planking on the outside, thick cork insulation, reversed diagonal tongue and groove on the inside lined with zinc sheet (with soldered joints). Stout floor as this was pounded by the feet of the porters or the frozen carcases of pigs and lambs which were stacked on the floor.

The porters actually ran up wooden steps from the ground into the van about 4ft 6in (1.37m) with a 200lb (90kg) quarter of beef on their shoulder. Hind quarters of 'bull beef' could weigh up to 250lb (113kg). In one straight move this was swung so that a hook on the hanging rail went between the bone and the tendon on the leg. If it missed it took two men to lift it off the porter's shoulder and onto the hook.

I have put out 'feelers' with my classic vehicle club to see if anyone has more information. So it will take a bit of time to hopefully get a response with more info.

The mention of the 'Tilbury depot' stirred memories of an old work mate Jimmy Crane. He started work at 14 as a 'trace horse boy' with Thomas Hatcher, a well known London haulier. He was stationed by the steeply humped cobbled canal bridge in Narrow Street to assist Hatcher's single horse carts over the hump (and anyone else who paid 1d). He received a written reprimand for riding the horse back to the stable. When he got to 16 he was promoted to a single horse cart doing small collections from around east London.

On his first day he was given a list of addresses and the instruction 'Take it to Tilbury' (meaning Tilbury Depot). The name came from it accumulating smalls into railway wagons to go 'down river to Tilbury Docks. Jim didn't know this and having collected set off down the A13 to Tilbury Docks. When he arrived the sheds were shut so he phoned Hatcher's (2d). The foreman was amazed when he said where he was and he was told to stay in the box and they would ring. When they rang he was told to leave the cart in the dock (you can't get anything out without a gate pass) and take the horse to Mr Ridley the local coal merchant who would stable and feed it. When he asked what he should do he was told 'Ask Mr Ridley nicely if you can sleep in the hayloft? You made the mistake.'

During the Second World War Tilbury Depot became the Tilbury Shelter reputed to have housed 10,000 in most unsanitary conditions at its peak. Apparently not as safe as it seemed. It was visited by George VI and the Queen. Bob Rust

Iron churches

A couple of years ago there was some interest expressed about Iron Churches (GLIAS Newsletter October 2007, GLIAS Newsletter December 2007, GLIAS Newsletter October 2008).

Although it is not in London I thought that readers might be interested in one I discovered on holiday while enjoying a drive through the Lincolnshire Wolds. We came across it at a hamlet called Stainton le Vale. It seemed to be unused and unloved as it was in a state of disrepair.

© Dan Little © Dan Little

On referral to an information sheet we were informed of the following — note the italics were inserted by me:

The location of chapels was often determined by where the land was donated, with many situated on the edge of, or just outside the village itself and not necessarily within the communities who used them.'

© Dan Little

About a year ago I spotted another Iron Church while making my way to the Space Centre in Leicester but was unable to stop anywhere near it on the dual carriageway to take a photo. Dan Little

Bunhill Fields and IA

In February, Bunhill Fields burial ground, on the west side of City Road, EC2, was afforded the highest level of recognition as a historic landscape, with a Grade I entry on the national Register of Parks and Gardens. 'Very well timbered. Several pretty if minor C18 monuments worth a glance' [Buildings of England, London Vol 2, Pevsner, published 1952].

In addition, some 75 individual tombs were listed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on the advice of English Heritage. The Bunhill Fields burial ground was established in the 1660s with its current boundaries fixed in the mid-18th century. The ground was declared full and closed in the 1850s with around 123,000 people interned in its four acres. Since 1867 it has been managed as an open space by the City of London Corporation although their connection goes back to its earliest days.

Historically, the burial ground at Bunhill Fields was for the bodies of dissenters, those who objected to a set liturgy within the established church, the conformists being buried in their own parish graveyard. Bunhill Fields contains the final resting place of some of the most radical figures in our history — John Bunyon, Daniel Defoe and William Blake among them. When searching the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for any who were buried in Bunhill Fields, most entries concern dissenting and nonconformist preachers but then, many of those had another 'day job'.

Of the others, one of the most famous is Mr Thomas Newcomen (baptised 1664, died 1729). He was an ironmonger and 'sole inventor of that surprising machine for raising water by fire', his atmospheric reciprocating steam engine solved the problems of winding and pumping of the new deep mines, many supplying coal for London. He was obviously well liked as a business man: 'We have bin very successful from first to last in the timeing of things about the Fire Engine, which I should hardly have ventured upon if I had not mett with such a very honest good man as Mr Newcomen who I believe would not wrong any body to gain ever so much'. The London Gazette, of 11-14 August 1716, gives an insight into how business was then conducted: 'Mr Thomas Newcomen, If any person shall be desirous to treat with the proprietors for such engines, attendance will be given for that purpose every Wednesday at the Sword Blade Coffee House in Birchin Lane'.

James Cox (c.1723-1800), jeweller and entrepreneur who following his discharge from bankruptcy in 1763 began preparations to produce the extravagant musical clocks and other articles for export to the Far East, for which he was to become famous. This required heavy investment in raw materials and the establishment of an extensive network of craftsmen and suppliers; indeed, Cox was to claim in 1773 that he had for the past seven years employed about 800-1,000 workers. Since the returns from this enterprise, though potentially high, were likely to be slow and uncertain, Cox's ability to undertake it so soon after his bankruptcy suggests that he had powerful financial backing. Few of the grander objects made by Cox's workforce survive, but they include the magnificent Swan automaton now in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, and probably the Peacock clock in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. Fortunately, Cox's appetite for publicity meant that other major works were described in contemporary newspapers and pamphlets, while many smaller articles with his signature can be found in public collections.

Thomas Moore (1700?-1788), in 1750 he was appointed framework-knitter to Frederick, Prince of Wales and by 1763 was being described as a carpet-maker. His carpets were bought by Horace Walpole and George, Prince of Wales. Robert Adam designed several including one for Syon House and three at Osterley Park. 'In his stature, Mr M. was rather below the common size, but of a manly aspect. Easily accessible, without … pride … His address was pleasing, if not completely polished', 'Mr Moore … was by Nature formed for industry' [Gentleman's Magazine obituary]. What does this say about the attitude at the time to those in 'trade'?

There are 15 Fellows of The Royal Society that the ODNB list who were interred in Bunhill Fields and the adjacent Quaker burial ground. Is this the greatest concentration of them? The following are four of those in Bunhill Fields.

Henry Miles (1698-1763), dissenting minister was also a writer with a taste for natural history, botany, and electricity. He submitted numerous papers ranging from the effect of electricity and the weather to the flow of blood in fishes, 'Of eels in vinegar', and 'Improvement in cider and perry'.

Thomas Yeoman (1709/10-1781), surveyor, among others he worked for the Royal Navy on the ventilation of war ships and was credited with the ventilation of the Drury Lane Theatre and the houses of parliament. During the 1760s and 1770s Yeoman's main occupation was as a surveyor and engineer of canal and river navigations and of drainage schemes that included work on the rivers Stort, Chelmer, Lea, Stour, Medway, Thames; and the Clyde Canal. Probably his greatest surviving achievement is the Limehouse Cut, linking the River Lea to the Thames upstream of the Isle of Dogs, which he completed, as John Smeaton's assistant, in 1770. In recognition of his standing in the embryonic profession he was elected in 1771 the first president of the Society of Civil Engineers.

The story of how a seemingly simple mathematical theorem ignited one of the greatest scientific controversies of all time, is the advertising copy for a new book by SB McGrayne, Yale Books: 'The Theory That Would Not Die' or 'How Bayes Rule cracked the enigma code, hunted down Russian submarines, and emerged triumphant from 2 centuries of controversy'. Thomas Bayes (1701-1761), a Presbyterian minister and mathematician, is only now coming into his own. Perhaps ironically it was after an attack on 'Infidel Mathematicians', the practitioners of the then new calculus that an anonymous tract was published in their defence which was attributed to Bayes and got him his FRS. Bayes rule essentially states: 'by updating our initial beliefs with objective new information, we get a new improved belief'. To its adherents, it is an elegant statement about learning from experience but for its opponents it is subjectivity run amok. As indicated, his ideas were long rejected but their application really requires the use of a computer. The internet search engine Google depends on Bayes' rule as does DNA decoding and it has recently overturned some archaeological assumptions, eg the West Kennet Long Barrow was not used for generations but only for 10 to 30 years! [(English) Heritage Today, March 2011]. A-level statistics students may know of Bayes 'theorem', a special case of his rule.

From a GLIAS point of view, Abraham Rees (1743-1825), Presbyterian minister and encyclopaedist should surely be better known, hence this ODNB entry by AP Woolrich. Rees's great interest in mathematics and the physical sciences led him to re-edit Ephraim Chambers's Cyclopaedia, originally published in 1728, for its publishers, Longmans. Rees's new edition appeared in 1778 in one folio volume. He augmented it with new material and published a four-volume edition in 1781-6. He was rewarded for his work by being elected a fellow of the Royal Society and subsequently to the Linnean Society, the American Philosophical Society, and the Royal Society of Literature. The success of his edition of Chambers led Thomas Longman to invite Rees to edit a similar but much more comprehensive publication. This was The New Cyclopaedia, or, Universal Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences, more commonly known as Rees's Cyclopaedia. The first half-volume was published on 1802, and succeeding parts, in alphabetical order, appeared at fairly regular intervals; the work was completed with the issuing of six half-volumes of plates in 1820. The work extended to 39 volumes of text, five volumes of plates, and an atlas. It sold for £85, but was reputed to have cost Longmans nearly £300,000. The Cyclopaedia contains around 39 million words; over 500 articles each exceeded 10,000 words. A pirated edition was published in America in 1806-22 by Samuel Bradford of Philadelphia, and was expanded with specifically American material to reach 42 volumes of text and six volumes of plates.

Rees had considerable assistance from about 100 contributors, most of whom were nonconformists of various persuasions. They were eminent specialists in their respective fields, proficient in the sciences, technology, manufacturing, agriculture, banking, and transportation, as well as the arts and humanities. A number were members of the teaching staffs of the Royal Military Academy and the East India Company's Addiscombe College. Other contributors were working journalists who wrote for scientific, medical, and technical periodicals of the time. Several of the contributors were active in radical politics; one was gaoled for sedition and another indicted for treason. At the time of its publication, when philosophical radicalism was so suspect in Britain, aspects of the Cyclopaedia were thought to be subversive and attracted the hostility of the loyalist press. The editor and authors went to great pains to emphasize their Englishness, to the extent of Anglicising many French words. The French kings Louis appear under the heading Lewis, for example.

Rees's Cyclopaedia has been superseded by more modern works, but has also been ignored by scholarship. It has, however, been cherished by specialists in the history of science and technology of the period. For the modern reader it is an incomparable manual for all facets of Regency endeavour, since it reflects the scope of knowledge, particularly scientific and technical, during the British Enlightenment. It is particularly valuable for the early phase of the industrial revolution. Peter J Butt

Advertising campaigns

There has been resistance to the introduction of new materials. Do readers remember a series of adverts which depicted a man in a jersey punching a man in a white coat holding a test tube? The captions went something like '... take that you fool, there is no substitute for wool'. This was about the time there were numerous humorous adverts for Accles and Pollock in underground trains. Accles and Pollock, Oldbury, are still in business. Bob Carr

Industrial endeavours

English Heritage is embarking on a project to find out how much of the country's industrial heritage is at risk, and to raise the debate about what needs saving and how. Results of the research will be revealed in October at the launch of the annual Heritage at Risk register.
To find out more and comment on your favourite industrial buildings, visit

Deptford Dockyard — demolition

With the exception of the two shipsheds this site has been almost entirely cleared in the last couple of months (GLIAS Newsletter December 2009). The massive paper warehouses on the riverside dating from the 1980s and of some merit in their own right have gone. Archaeological trenches are being investigated over parts of the sites. The second and modified planning application is currently with Lewisham council. David Perrett

With the demolition of some of the sheds at Convoys Wharf, Deptford (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010) the dockyard's two 19th-century covered slipways can now be clearly seen from the river. Peter Finch

Save the workhouse on Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia

There is a campaign to save a 230-year-old Georgian former workhouse which is the last of its kind in central London.

Cleveland Street Workhouse

The building at 44 Cleveland Street in Fitzrovia (near London's Telecom Tower) is the best preserved Georgian workhouse in central London. Originally built on fields in 1775, it has been used for the care of elderly and sick Londoners ever since. It had been the Outpatients' Department of the Middlesex Hospital for many years when it was closed in 2006.

Information required

Back in the 50s I carried grand pianos for Harrod's. I have a nagging recollection of an underground connection to a warehouse north of Brompton Road.

Does anyone know any more about this? Bob Rust

Obituary: John Basil Geoffrey Parker (6 March 1923 — 30 January 2011)

I well remember being on the GLIAS stall at the 1977 LAMAS conference in the Museum of London when an attendee came up, looked at our publications and said that her husband was really interested in engineering and would be very interested in GLIAS. So Bet and John Parker came to join GLIAS and both becoming very active members until Bet's death some 10 years ago.

Henry Williams recording, Bet and John Parker measuring and Hugh Marks investigating a rice polisher in a derelict Clink Wharf on 1 July 1978 John trained as a pharmacist and rose to become the District Pharmacist for the East End being based at Queen Mary's E15. They lived in Leigh-on-Sea had had a particular interest in the River and London's Docklands. They soon became involved in recording and in their house a framed photograph by David Thomas of a GLIAS team recording a rice polisher in a derelict Clink Wharf on 1 July 1978 had pride of place on the mantelpiece. On the back of the photoframe were written 'GLIAS at Clink Wharf top floor — of happy memory — our first exercise in IA recording'. John's note then says The Wharf had been abandoned in 1966 and puzzlingly for a building without power lost its roof and top two floors on the afternoon of 28 September 1980 and was demolished at the end of 1981. The photograph (right) shows Henry Williams recording, Bet and John measuring and Hugh Marks investigating. They also worked on recording the Gas Engines in Shad Thames.

John annotated everything and going through his books it was fascinating to read his comments. Pasted inside the cover of British Steam Locomotive Builders by JW Lowe is a letter dated 16 July 1975 from the District Postmaster Whitechapel thanking John for his resourceful conduct during an armed robbery at Burges Road sub-post office and enclosing a giro cheque in appreciation. John added the villains got three years at the Old Bailey after pleading guilty with all the money being recovered and the £25 cheque was used to buy this book.

Near retiring Bet and John acquired a small cruiser on the Lea but waterway matters did not seem to replace his interest in engineering from traction engines to railways. He also built a small workshop in his garage. About 1980 they became regular volunteers at Kirkaldy's helping restore the testing machine and they continued to work there until the late 1990s.

After Bet's death John's visits to GLIAS events became less frequent and eventually ceased but by then he was nearly 80. At home he clearly continued his avid reading on IA. And keeping his diaries. John had apparently kept very detailed daily diaries from an early age and these were stacked in his front room. The last entry just a couple of days before he died said a mouse had got into his house but he had trapped it within the time he had a shower! I have asked his solicitor to enquire whether these could be transferred to the local archives. GLIAS members who knew John will be saddened to hear of his death. David Perrett

Note: John left his extensive collection of IA books, London books etc. to the Society. Chris Rule, Paul and Ruth Verrall, Ollie and myself spent an afternoon in Leigh-on-Sea at Easter bringing two car loads of books back to London but many fiction books etc. just had to be left in John's house. The Board will be discussing what we can do with all these books although most are IA standards, many having been bought from GLIAS in the first instance. David Perrett

News in brief

Does anyone have information regarding 17 Holne Chase, TQ 264 882, a combined house and electrical sub-station in Hampstead Garden Suburb? It consists of a fairly modest house for the engineer with quite a large building for the sub-station behind it. Built for the Finchley Borough Council Electrical Department, is this kind of arrangement at all unusual? What kind of electrical supply did they originally have in the area — was it DC?

Demolition has been 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 proceeded eastwards. The site is now cleared with the exception of two Victorian buildings on Green Lanes. When viewed from Green Lanes the site is behind the White House pub, one of the two surviving buildings.

A tram service from Moorgate to Clissold Park started in about 1874 and the buildings demolished were on the site of a horse tram depot. After the trams were electrified this was used as a toy factory as described in the well-researched GLIAS lecture 'Wells Brimtoy — London Tin Toy Makers' by Chris Rule.

A tram rail leading into the depot from Green Lanes could still be seen at the time of the lecture. The entrance to the depot was immediately north of the White House and was quite well preserved. On or just before Friday 25 March workmen installing new electricity cables dug up the rail in the course of excavating a trench and the rail was left alongside their trench. No one seemed to want it, but the rail had gone by the morning of Saturday 26 March. Its fate is unknown.

We now live in relatively staid and boring times and for many people English politics are of little interest. In the years leading up to the Poulson scandal (GLIAS Newsletter February 2011) younger readers may not fully appreciate the emotional climate in which numerous local politicians were then working. It probably contributed to a frame of mind in which risk taking was more acceptable. Caution was being thrown to the wind.

This was the age of the Great Leaders: Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro and Harold Wilson. Britain was in the White Heat of the Technological Revolution and it was going to be 'Hover Britain'. Were some people simply carried away with the enthusiasm of it all? Joseph Stalin had already set a bad example in Russia but people did not talk about it much and some still believed 'you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs' and 'the end justifies the means'.

As well as Mr Poulson born in 1910 there was another centenary last year. His useful North East contact Andrew Cunningham died in 2010 at the age of 100. Poulson's company built several large blocks of flats in Cunningham's home town — Felling, County Durham. Are any of these still standing?

What is London's most important building? Will Self seems to think it is Stockwell Bus Garage. See page 15 of the Evening Standard, Monday 14 March 2011.

It is suggested that the police may soon check pollen in beehives to look for evidence of genetically modified plants in the neighbourhood.

Built in 1891 the Herne Hill Velodrome (TQ 327 741) is the oldest cycling track in the country and one of the oldest in the world. It has also been one of the best in the UK and is probably the last remaining venue still in active use where finals for the 1948 Olympic Games took place. From 1987 until the opening of the London Olympic Velopark in the Lea Valley (GLIAS Newsletter February 2011) it was the only cycle track in London. Herne Hill Velodrome is a shallow concrete bowl with banking at up to 30 degrees and the track is about 500 yards long. Recently saved from extinction with the signing of a new 15-year lease, at least its short-term future is now secure.

Regarding plans to reuse the former Blackwall Point power station jetty TQ 398 796 to accommodate historic vessels (GLIAS Newsletter April 2011): Swiftstone, Massey Shaw and Portwey might be berthed there, as well as perhaps VIC 56 and SS Robin. There would be workshop and floating dock facilities for maintenance. GLIAS visited the power station on Sunday 14 December 1980 (GLIAS Newsletter 72, p6). This included a visit inside the firebrick-lined part of a Babcock & Wilcox boiler. A table of London power stations in 1979 by D K Cross can be found on p10 of GLIAS Newsletter 67 (GLIAS Newsletter April 1980).

At the Ferrier Estate, Kidbrooke TQ 410 753 demolition is under way but there is still enough left to give a good idea of what it looked like when built (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010). Now relatively quiet as many former residents have been already moved away, the estate was essentially system-built 1968-72. Demolition is also under way at the Heygate Estate, Walworth TQ 322 788 which was completed in 1974. The architect for this estate was Tim Tinker.

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

Uncovered following demolition and reconstruction above Tottenham Court Road Underground station, at the east end of, the south side of, Oxford Street, is the following legend below chimney top height: VEGLIO & COS CAFE. Established 1854. Paul Ridgway


Is there interest in continuing 'William Stanier in London' (GLIAS Newsletter December 2010)? There is much ground still to be covered. Quite apart from his early days in London little has been said regarding his later work — he did a great deal more than just railway engines. Some Stanier locomotives were designed in Watford and this would be worth investigating. Bob Carr

Demolition work is going on at the Old Oak Common Works (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010). The Old Oak turntable was donated to the Swanage Railway, who will use it for turning steam locos. The 70ft, electrically operated turntable was installed at Old Oak in 1953, built by Cowans, Sheldon & Co of Carlisle. Peter Finch

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

I greatly enjoyed Bob Rust's account of the Woolwich Free Ferry (GLIAS Newsletter April 2011), also having memories of it in the period he describes — though not with an oversize artic.

He mentions the horrendous smell of the river when the paddles stirred it up. In the late 1950s sewage treatment was less comprehensive than now, and the smell was compounded by non-biodegradable detergents cleaning the river bed of muck which had previously stayed put. As well as the horrendous smell, the paddles stirred up a foot or two of white foam.

All the ferries were, and are, effectively double ended so it does not matter which way the tide is flowing; the way they dock is to let vehicles (on the old ferries the vehicles loaded athwart) drive off forwards.

There is a booklet on the Woolwich Free Ferry, unfortunately no longer in print, though the Greenwich Heritage Centre has a reference copy:

'Free for All' by Julian Watson & Wendy Gregory, 32pp & card cover, A4, with numerous black & white photographs, published by Greenwich Borough Council in 1989 to mark 100 years of the ferry.

The book gives some more detail, but lacks Bob Rust's anecdotes which fill out the story. Richard Buchanan

More on Andrew Handyside

Andy Savage's Andrew Handyside project (GLIAS Newsletter November 2010) is really taking off now.

He has now launched a dedicated blog:

Andy has also produced an accurate and complete route map of the former GNR Derbyshire and Staffordshire railway line (aka The Friargate Line) with all stations and bridges marked including photographs, Google Streetviews and historical information along the route:

And an accurate and complete route map of the former Derby Canal with all locks and bridges marked including photographs, Google Streetviews and historical information along the route:

This canal is currently in the process of being restored.

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© GLIAS, 2011