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Notes and news — April 2012

In this issue:

Limehouse Accumulator Tower — volunteers needed

GLIAS are working with British Waterways to open the Limehouse Accumulator Tower during the weekend of Open House London: 22 and 23 September 2012. We are also looking at the possibility of running other visits to the site.

For this year, Chris Grabham has offered to coordinate the Open House volunteers. We need people to donate a couple of hours of their time to guiding and stewarding visitors to the tower.

Volunteers would be put together in teams of three or four and a set of notes are available for those new to the tower's history, and in return you gain that coveted prize the Open House volunteers badge — which allows you to jump queues at most Open House buildings during the rest of the Open House weekend.

If you are interested in volunteering on this weekend (or other occasions) or would like further information about what's involved, please contact Chris at We're particularly keen to hear from qualified first-aiders but all volunteers are welcome.

London Bridge Station planning application

In December 2011 LB Southwark agreed with recommendations of its planning officers and approved the application to demolish the 'listed' train shed over the terminating platforms at London Bridge station (GLIAS Newsletter December 2011). English Heritage and the Victorian Society had already conceded on this. Also approved was the contested demolition of the (unlisted) former LBSCR offices at 68-74 Tooley Street. David Thomas

Aircraft dope

The discussion re aircraft dope (GLIAS Newsletter February 2012) unearthed memories of past times. When I started my aircraft maintenance engineering apprenticeship in 1957, we had, after learning basic engineering skills, to learn how to cover control surfaces with fabric (usually Linen or Mercerised cotton) and the dope them to stiffen the fabric.

This was a necessary skill in the 50s to 70s as there were many fabric-covered light aircraft still flying. Also many of the more modern aircraft only had metal skinning in highly stressed areas and the areas of lower stress were fabric covered, eg the Hurricane.

The methods of attaching the fabric to the structure had to be learnt. The fabric, tapes and thread were all to the required quality specifications. However, before covering, the structure was inspected to ensure its integrity and having been assured we could then go ahead and cover the structure. On basic structures the fabric was sewn with stitches 3in apart with single knotting and double knotting every 18in. In highly stressed areas, where there was propeller wash from engines developing 400hp or more, the stitches were required to be 1½in apart. On Geodetic structures (eg the Wellington) a method of stitching with wire was used.

Components covered by fabric were protected by the application of dope. There were several types of dope available that were usually compounded from a nitro-cellulose or a cellulose acetate base. The purpose of doping was to provide stiffness to the fabric, to make an airtight and watertight surface, in order to prevent deterioration, due to sunlight and weather, of the fabric and underlying structure.

The method of application, as I remember it, had to be strictly followed with regard to the time intervals between coats in order to achieve the required results. The first coat had to be brushed into the fabric while the subsequent coats could be either brushed or sprayed onto the fabric. The initial coats contained a red pigment while the final coat matched the colour scheme of the aircraft. Dan Little

Battersea Power Station up for sale

Battersea Power Station is now up for sale on the open market for the first time in its history.

The 39-acre site has been valued at £500 million. Estate agents Knight Frank, who are handling the sale, expect to receive final bids in the autumn.

The coal-fired power station was decommissioned in 1983 after 50 years in service. Planning permission for a £5bn development including homes, offices, a hotel, retail and leisure facilities was secured for the site from Wandsworth Council last year.

Meanwhile, property consultancy EC Harris claims the site would be worth an extra £470 million to a developer who could demolish the Grade-II listed building itself, according to calculations done for Reuters.
The Twentieth Century Society with support from the Building Centre Trust is holding a day conference on the future of the power station on Friday 20 April. Web:

Carting Lane sewer gas light

This was reported as top-less (GLIAS Newsletter December 2011). By mid-January this year it was complete and lit. The main column appears to be modern and carries no identification name. The internet has an undated note that it was rebuilt after the original Webb's Patent column was destroyed by a road vehicle. Can any member confirm this, and, if correct, the date of reinstatement?

A similar sewer gas light, this time clearly worded Webb's Patent, burned brightly in Winchester in December. It is in Great Minster Street, immediately west of the railings surrounding the cathedral green.

Incidentally, the lamps burn mains gas, which creates an updraught to draw gasses via the hollow column from the sewer below.

Webb's Patent lamps were erected in many towns; examples have been seen in Morpeth and (disused) Barry. The sewers of hilly Sheffield had particular potential to have pockets of gas. Derek Bayliss, who lives in that city, advises that 84 such lamps were erected there, of which 18 have been retained. Separately, a 2008 survey, placed on the internet, lists locations of 22 lamps, not all intact, with only three still working at the time. David Thomas

Crossrail update

Crossrail Bulletin 24 contains much of engineering interest, including a proud boast that completion of the Royal Oak portal at Paddington was early. Tunnelling thence will soon commence.

Further to Peter Butt's mention of tunnelling spoil being earmarked for a nature reserve at Wallasea (GLIAS Newsletter February 2012), it says:

Crossrail are conscientious about archaeology. On the industrial front, they report on Crosse & Blackwell at Tottenham Court Road, and the Connaught Tunnel to take the railway to North Woolwich under the Connaught Passage, a water link which connected the Victoria and Albert Docks. Richard Buchanan

The Connaught Tunnel under the Royal Docks was part of the North London Line until 2006. It was built in 1878 before the docks were built above it. It is in poor condition and Crossrail has decided to drain a section of the dock after the 2013 January London Boat Show to expose the top of the tunnel so enlargement work can be carried out using a 'cut and cover' process similar to how it was built.

The tunnel had to be pumped free of water — the small hexagonal brick pumphouse will be donated to the SS Robin Trust to use as its quayside ticket office. Peter J Butt

Temperance Tavern saved from demolition

The building at 56, Great Western Road, Westbourne Park (TQ 249 817) — originally built as one of the taverns for The Great Western Railway Coffee Tavern Company Ltd — has been saved from demolition for at least 10 years.

It had been under threat of demolition due to Crossrail's plans to replace it with an electrical substation.

This particular building is the only surviving purpose-built coffee tavern from the original seven that were established between London and Swansea during the late 1800s and early 1900s. It has been used by a small furniture manufacturing company over the past 30 years.

I was very interested to read that William Stanier was based at Westbourne Park for a few years from 1903 (GLIAS Newsletter October 2010) especially as the Coffee Tavern (built in 1901) included The Carlton Hall in the basement. This hall accommodated 300 people. I gather that William Stanier supported Mutual Improvement Classes and it would therefore seem possible that he would have used the Carlton Hall as a venue.

I am in the process of researching the building's history and would therefore appreciate any further information that GLIAS members may have of this particular site, and William Stanier's time at Westbourne Park station.
Maggie Tyler, Reminiscence and Local History Tutor. Mob: 07989 431 911. Email:

There were several such temperance taverns, including ones at Reading, Swindon, Bristol, Exeter, Newport, Swansea, and Smithfield as well as Westbourne Park, for use by railway workers as an alternative to the public house. See 'The Victorian Railway Worker' by Trevor May, Shire 2007, ISBN 0 7478 0451 6. There is an illustration of the Exeter coffee tavern on p30. Bob Carr

Photo website

When browsing the net I came across a website of industrial landscapes by Marcello Modica. Marcello is an urban planner and photographer from Milan who has over the years built an impressive site at:

I note that it has no links to UK sites which I'll try and correct, at least as far as GLIAS is concerned.

Take a look and see what you think. Danny Hayton

Survey of London, Volume 48: Woolwich

The Survey of London is now completing its work on Woolwich.

Volume 48 will be published towards the end of 2012 by Yale University Press, with support from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

In what is a new departure for the Survey of London, the entire draft text for this book is now available online.

Comments are invited before the end of June 2012 as well as any unpublished old photographs of the area and its buildings, outside or inside.
Further details on the website:

A golden opportunity

Part of the opening paragraph of a four-page article in English Heritage's magazine Heritage Today (March, 2012) states that the London Olympics will also be a celebration of the revitalised Lower Lea Valley and an opportunity to focus on the overlooked history of this fascinating stretch of London's East End. The area is peppered with Victorian industrial gems and without English Heritage's involvement some of the history and surroundings historic environments might have been lost forever.

Fish Island/Old Ford has been designated a Conservation Area which preserves a relatively intact part of a late Victorian/Edwardian industrial estate. It includes an almost complete former rubber processing works and associated warehouses, outbuildings, yards and gates. Recently, the buildings have been occupied by small businesses and used as artists' studios and galleries.

Three buildings in the surrounding area have been given listed status: the former fire station at 25-38 Gillander Street which, built in 1911, was restored and converted to flats in the 1990s; and extra building at the already listed Abbey Mills Pumping Station and the Northern Outfall Sewer Bridge by Joseph Bazalgette. The scheduled monument, the First World War memorial on Twelvetrees Crescent was awarded Grade II status. Veronica Fiorato, designation team leader (south), commented that: 'We've also looked at High Street 2012, a scheme to improve the ribbon of London life that connects the City at Aldgate to the Olympic Park, recommending more buildings for listing which we hope will enhance appreciation of the historic environment.' Peter J Butt
'London's Lea Valley: The Olympic Park Story' will be available from late spring. Call EH's Customer Services on 0870 333 1181 to request a copy or download a copy from

Request for help

I am a photographer with an interest in industrial subjects. I am particularly keen to photograph old industrial sites such as factories, power stations, and subjects such as control panels. These need not be in the local area; I would travel a great distance for something very interesting.

I use a plate camera to take very detailed photographs, which necessarily means working slowly and carefully. I have public liability insurance, etc. If members have any suggestions of places to photograph, I would be most grateful — these subjects vanish all too quickly.

I have been photographing on the Hoo Peninsula and am trying to find out more information on the remains of the jetty at Cliffe (beside the wreck of the Hans Egede). Do any GLIAS members who have a specialist knowledge of the Thames estuary aggregate or cement industries, or of Hoo itself, have this information.

I was able to discover the following from Allan Cherry's 'Cliffe in Old Photographs'. On p36 there is a photograph of the jetty in operation with the following text: 'The overhead wires with buckets attached carried coal, brought in barges to the jetty that was near the fort, to the cement factory in Salt Lane, to fuel the kilns. All that remains of the jetty is the wooden piles.'

I am very interested in photographing old control panels like the one from Battersea Power Station which is on my website, along with other examples of my work:

There were superb examples at Bankside but EDF energy declined to grant me access before they scrapped the plant. Michael Collins
Please feel free to contact Michael via email:

Lottery award for Kew Bridge Steam Museum

Kew Bridge Steam Museum. © Adriaan Linters The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £1.845 million to the Kew Bridge Steam Museum for its Project Aquarius redevelopment programme.

The grant will help provide new and improved visitor facilities; finish outstanding repairs to the historic buildings; install additional displays, including new outdoor water-based interactives; add modern interpretation; and develop new education, community outreach and volunteer development programmes.

The museum, which has been operated by the Kew Bridge Engines Trust for 37 years, is housed in a series of grade I and II buildings in which are four giant working Cornish steam pumping engines, together with a whole range of other working pumping engines and exhibits telling the story of London’s water supply.

The museum, which attracts over 15,000 visitors a year from all over the world, is recognised internationally as a centre of excellence for the operation of large historic machinery.

Oliver Pearcey, chairman of the Kew Bridge Engines Trust, said: 'This award will allow us to transform the museum for visitors, to continue to operate our unique collection of working pumping engines, and to play a much greater part in the regeneration and growth of the community in Brentford and Hounslow.'
Project Aquarius website:

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© GLIAS, 2012