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Notes and news — August 2012

In this issue:

Archaeology of the Olympics site

The Olympic Delivery Authority has published a booklet (36pp) entitled 'Renewing the Past — Unearthing the History of the Olympic Park Site' (ISBN 978-1-874350-60-6, £4.95).

The booklet brings together a summary of the work done by a number of archaeological teams, notably MOL and Pre-Construct Archaeology. Co-ordination of the follow-up work has been by Wessex Archaeology.

The booklet summarises the work done from various sources, including documentary research; geoarchaeology; 121 evaluation trenches and excavation of eight of them; analysis of some 10,000 finds; environmental analysis; building recording and oral history. This included the recording of 52 individual buildings or groups of buildings and other structures. It features the work done on the Yardley soap and perfume factory; and the Clarnico confectionary works, of which the Starch Department building is the only industrial building to be preserved in the Olympic Park. The booklet also features the clinker-built river boat and Second World War structures, reported in more detail in the London Archaeologist Vol 13, No 3 (GLIAS Newsletter February 2012). Other examples of IA interest which are briefly mentioned include millstreams and a mill wheelpit; roads and bridges, including recording of bridges built to carry Bazalgette's Northern Outfall Sewer across roads and waterways; and a furnace at Temple Mills.

The main purpose of the booklet is to awaken interest in what has been found, particularly the general public. A full account of the investigation is to be published, hopefully before the Games begin: 'By River, Fields and Factories: the Making of the the Lower Lea Valley. Archaeological and Cultural Heritage Investigations on the Site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games' by Andrew B Powell, who also wrote the text of the booklet. It is to be hoped that this will contain full details, or references to individual reports, which will enable members to access those in which they are interested and possibly to link up with their own research. Brian James-Strong

The return of steam to the London Underground

Metropolitan Railway E Class 0-4-4T No 1

Next year is the 150th anniversary of the London Underground — the world's first underground railway.

To mark the occasion the London Transport Museum in partnership with Buckinghamshire Railway Society is restoring Metropolitan Railway E-Class 0-4-4T steam locomotive No 1 to working condition.

Met Loco No 1, which was built in 1898, will recreate the first journey of 9 January 1863 on the original stretch of the Metropolitan Railway from Paddington station.

The Metropolitan Railway had been built and financed by a private company to link the mainline stations at Paddington, Euston and King's Cross with the business district of central London.

Steam Tug Portwey on the Thames

Writing as someone who has several times been a passenger on Portwey (GLIAS Newsletter June 2011), what is it that makes the experience so pleasant and memorable? There are recollections of arriving early in the day — the morning light, the animated river scene, the smell of smoke and hot oil, the good company of other passengers — and friendly crew bringing frequent hot drinks and food. All these combine to make a pleasant impression not that easily forgotten.

Portwey took part in the River Parade for the Mayor's Thames Festival in September 2010. The Russian railway coal being used on the tug that day was not the same as the previous railway coal that they had had from Russia. There was more smoke and smell but this made Portwey a fine sight for the onlookers on the river bank. Near the Thames Barrier when circulating about for the start of the River Parade, well-known landmarks kept appearing in ever changing and unexpected directions. VIC 96 was a tremendous sight, making a strong visual impact so black and dramatic close up against the more distant river bank. Once the procession of vessels was under way the Dutch barge seemed to have difficulty keeping in line and was yawing about but having no keel probably makes it difficult. The leeboards were not down; wouldn't this have made a difference? There was also a floating belfry on the tideway complete with bellringers at work, whatever next.

The three-masted schooner we passed was elegant, her hull displaying a superb sheer most recently built ships no longer have. On Portwey the nicely kept heads have running hot water — did working tugs have this luxury? Well perhaps the captain might have. Back outside on deck the sounds of an engine gently ticking over, water against the hull and the occasional splash as water comes over the gunwale are easy to recollect. Boris Johnson was outside City Hall on the Thursday before the Thames Festival but did anyone on Portwey see him on the Saturday? Perhaps he was back in the country by then. Bob Carr
For more information on Portwey see

Shire Books — 50 years

Lucy Mangan (Guardian Review Section, 2 June 2012, p5), in her unique way drew her readers' attention to the fact that: 'it is the 50th birthday of Shire Books, a superbly British Institution'.

'Covering every subject under the sun and most of those that would otherwise linger in the shadows. Each runs to about 10,000 words and is a little golden nugget of knowledge smelted down from the writer's encyclopaedic understanding of the subject. The perfect overview without overload.'

My own library includes: Post Offices, Corrugated Iron Buildings, London Railway Stations and The Victorian Cemetery!

'In 1962, John Rotheroe published the first title (Discovering East Suffolk) in what would become a thriving cottage industry by selling advertising space and giving the book away free. When word came back that recipients were selling their copies on to others, the business proper was born, and continued to be run out of Rotheroe's home in Princess Risborough until just five years ago, when it was bought by Osprey Publishers. The oldest title still in print is Windmills, which has been selling steadily since it first appeared in 1968.' Peter J Butt

Commuting from South East London

The weekday peak periods at London railway termini are bad, but are those at London Bridge the worst of all? This congested station on a relatively narrow site is shortly to be dramatically rebuilt in an effort to improve the situation (GLIAS Newsletter December 2011) and a new line is already under construction to the southwest of the station.

Evidence suggests that on trains to and from South East London travelling has generally been bad for a long time. R W Kidner on page 24 of his book 'The Southern Railway' (1958) mentions newspaper headlines such as 'appalling scenes at Charing Cross' and 'Girls crushed at Waterloo'. However, it is not clear if the incident at Waterloo was at Waterloo East or the main line terminus. Mention of fights breaking out at London Bridge among frustrated passengers can be found on the internet, eg during hot weather in June last year and a 25-year-old woman, an architect from Lewisham, was mugged last September with little reaction from surrounding passengers (Evening Standard 14 March 2012, p22).

Southern Region's Kentish lines were the most densely occupied in the world; see LTC Rolt, Red for Danger (Pan 1966) p275. It was in South East London that the Bulleid 'double-deck' trains were introduced in an attempt to pack more people onto a train of given length. These 4 – DD units held 122 more passengers than a standard four-car train and first appeared from Lancing Works at the end of 1949. They ran from Charing Cross to Dartford, and sometimes on to Gravesend and elsewhere. Accounts from people who commuted on theses trains suggest that the experience was unpleasant and they were withdrawn on 1 October 1971. Platforms were lengthened and standard 10-car trains used instead. Two of the 4 – DD coaches have been preserved.

Ladies-only compartments were numerous on these lines c.1979. From memory there was something like one or more in each 4 or 5 car emu. While one did occasionally see 'ladies only' compartments at St Pancras and Paddington there seemed to be far more of these on trains running between London Bridge and Dartford. Is this subjective memory at all correct? If there were more than usual there was almost certainly a good reason. Can any reader explain what was going on? Bob Carr

Britain From Above

The Britain from Above website was launched in June, presenting the Aerofilms Collection of aerial photographs from 1919-1953.

The Aerofilms Collection includes 1.26 million negatives and more than 2,000 photograph albums.

Dating from 1919 to 2006, the total collection presents a picture of the changing face of Britain in the 20th century, covering almost every settlement in Britain from the air, often many times over. It includes the largest and most significant number of air photographs of Britain taken before 1939.

The collection is very varied including urban, suburban, rural, coastal and industrial scenes.

Chelsea FC bid for Battersea Power Station

Chelsea Football Club are bidding to acquire the Battersea Power Station site (GLIAS Newsletter April 2012) for the construction of a 60,000-seater stadium.

A statement on the club's website revealed that they have made an offer to acquire the 39-acre site in partnership with property development partner Almacantar.

The statement reveals that Chelsea will retain many of the significant features of the Grade II listed power station:

'Working with architects and planning experts, we have developed a plan to preserve all the significant aspects of Battersea Power Station,' it said.

'The four iconic chimneys and wash towers along with the Grade II listed west turbine hall and control room will be restored and retained in their original locations.'

Chelsea face fierce competition for the power station, with a number of interested parties having submitted what were sealed bids.

STOP PRESS: The right to redevelop Battersea Power Station has been won by a pair of Malaysian property companies, SP Setia and Sime Darby, in a deal worth £400m. The £8bn redevelopment is due to begin next year.

Award for Brixton Windmill

Brixton Windmill has won a prestigious Museum and Heritage Award for conservation and restoration.

The Grade II* listed windmill, which was built in 1816 for producing stoneground wholemeal flour, reopened to the public last year (GLIAS Newsletter June 2011).

The restoration cost £581,222, with £397,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £55,130 from Lambeth Council, £2,000 from Friends of Windmill Gardens and non-cash contributions valued at £126,392.

Canal & River Trust

More than 2,000 miles of historic canals and rivers across England and Wales are now in the hands of the Canal & River Trust charity.

The move, part of the Public Bodies Reform programme, is the largest single transfer of a public body into the charitable sector.

The Trust, which took over management from British Waterways and The Waterways Trust in July, is aiming to build upon the public passion for the nation's canals through increased fundraising, volunteering and community involvement.

Tony Hales, chairman of the Canal & River Trust, said: 'In the last 50 years our canals and rivers have been transformed from a national disgrace into a national treasure. This in itself has been extraordinary, but it is only the start.

'The Canal & River Trust opens an exciting new chapter in the waterways' long history and gives a chance for everyone who cares for them to play a part in their future. By harnessing public goodwill and energy our canals and rivers can breathe much needed new life into our towns, cities and countryside.'

News in brief

An underground pipeline used to run from Pitstone cement works, roughly parallel with the M1 motorway to Rugby cement works. Chalk from Pitstone was turned into a slurry and pumped along the pipe to Rugby for the manufacture of cement. Pitstone cement works closed in the 1990s. Has any of the abandoned southern portion of the pipeline since been reused for a new purpose? Currently Rugby gets its chalk from Kensworth Quarry near Dunstable, still pumped northwards from here.

Around April this year at TQ 321 852 a large block of the former Cossor factory in Islington which had been in use for self storage was being demolished. This was the building set well back from the road immediately south of Aberdeen Lane. Behind the impressive block most of the site consisted of low-rise buildings about one and a half stories high.

A. C. Cossor was founded in 1896 in Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, making scientific glassware. In 1918 the firm moved to larger premises in Highbury called Aberdeen works, extended in 1927, with 22 Highbury Grove as offices and with the nearby balloon factory of the Spencer brothers, well known aeronauts, as an annexe called Melody Works. Quantity production of thermionic valves and later of radios was undertaken. Home construction kits were marketed. Valve sets were easier to use than the old crystal sets. A large four-storey factory was built in 1929 in front of the parent factory and more land was bought near Melody works. In the early 1930s the firm developed cathode ray tubes for television, the first television receivers, and the world's first radar receiver. A four-storey factory replaced several old houses and gardens in Highbury Grove in 1935, with space for 1,000 additional radio workers, and a front administration block in 1936. The firm moved to Harlow (Essex) in 1958.

The last vestiges of Murrells' (GLIAS Newsletter August 2011) have finally disappeared. The front of what was a tiny shop is now painted white and there is a new door.

No demolition of buildings by the riverside has taken place so far at Enderby Wharf (GLIAS Newsletter December 2011). Enderby House and the office etc are still there.

Richborough power station, near Sandwich, opened in 1962. Three cooling towers and the chimney were demolished with explosives this year on Sunday 11 March. Bob Carr


I am unable to help you with Walter Kerr but can help with the production of oxygen and hydrogen (GLIAS Newsletter June 2012).

The first commercially successful process for the production of oxygen was invented by the Brin brothers in Paris who patented it in 1885. Air was passed over barium oxide which absorbed oxygen. The barium oxide was then heated to a high temperature and the oxygen recovered by applying a vacuum. The cycle was then repeated. A works to operate the process was set up in Horseferry Road, London SW1 under the name Brins Oxygen Company. The name was changed later to the British Oxygen Company (BOC).

Hydrogen was likely to have been made from water gas. Passing steam over white hot coke produces a gas containing hydrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide known as water gas. Carbon monoxide could be converted to hydrogen and carbon dioxide by a catalytic process. The carbon dioxide could be removed by washing the gas with water after compression. Residual carbon monoxide could be removed by scrubbing with another solution. Water gas was produced widely in gasworks and the production of hydrogen from it was used in an number of industries.

Calcium oxide is produced as quicklime when chalk or limestone is heated when it is generally quite powdery. I do not know how it was produced in a form suitable for limelight. Patrick L Graham

Request for information

I am currently researching the Normandy Patent Marine Aerated Fresh Water Company which operated in the Victoria Docks neighbourhood from the early 1850s until 1912. It manufactured sea water distillers for both ship-board and land-based operation and produced perhaps as many as 2,000 such units. I am now searching in more depth for information on Dr Alphonse (de) Normandy (founder) and on the Company itself.
Please contact Dr Jim Birkett. Email:

Are any GLIAS members able to help with some research that I am carrying out on a couple of British camera manufacturing companies in the 1930s and 1950s. The first was CAMERAS LTD, which was based on the Slough Trading estate from 1933 I think (possibly Liverpool Road), which was re-born as DEKKO CAMERAS LTD and moved to East Acton (Telford Way) in 1938. I should perhaps say that I have a particular research interest in amateur cinema, and teach a course on that subject here at the University, which has thrown these companies up as a significant presence. Their cameras were certainly very well known at the time.

I was wondering if members might offer any advice on how I might trace information about, or possibly images of, the companies' premises. All of their original buildings seem to have been demolished now, but their sites are still surrounded by several rather elegant deco buildings of the period. I suspect therefore that their own premises would have been well-known at the time, and that some trace of their origin might survive in the architectural record. I do not yet know who designed the premises.
Dr Ian P Craven, University of Glasgow. Email:

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© GLIAS, 2012