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Notes and news — December 2012

In this issue:

E-FAITH 2012

Talk and a tour of the House Mill, the largest remaining tide mill in the country. © Mike Quinton

This was the sixth European Federation of Associations of Industrial and Technical Heritage weekend. Participants came from all over Europe and assembled on the first afternoon at the Tavistock Hotel to travel by Underground to Bromley-by-Bow for a visit to Three Mills; this included a talk and a tour of the House Mill, the largest remaining tide mill in the country. This was followed by a short walk in the area around the Bow Back Rivers and a return to the hotel via the Docklands Light Railway and the Tube. Everyone was welcomed informally there by the president of E-Faith, Paul Saulter, and by Professor David Perrett, chairman of GLIAS.

The following day we travelled to Toynbee Hall. This was enlivened by the need to travel by bus as Transport for London had decided that this was a good day to close all lines leading to Aldgate East. No one was lost on the way and everyone gathered in the historic hall for a day of presentations by the delegates. We heard many fascinating talks on topics ranging from a newly created Museum of Science and Technology in Catalonia, Work Life Museums in Sweden, and an airship hangar in Sicily to the Stroudwater Textile Trust, the Middleport Pottery and numerous other sites. One of the speakers from Belgium spoke about major mining sites in Wallonia, an area that was an important part of the Belgian Industrial Revolution. One of these sites is Bois du Cazier near Charleroi. We have family in Belgium and one of our granddaughters had previously visited this site with her school. She was very keen to go there again, so at half term we had a guided tour of the buildings, machines and other artefacts. We can thoroughly recommend a visit.

GLIAS kindly provided a sandwich lunch and after further topics and discussion, we took another bus to Kirkaldy's Testing Works where volunteers talked about the unique testing machine and its history.

On the last morning we travelled by Piccadilly Line and bus to the Musical Museum in Kew where we were welcomed and given the opportunity to visit the museum to see its collection of self-playing instruments and to listen to the Wurlitzer concert organ being played. This was followed by a presentation by John Porter, former trustee of the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. The group then walked to the Steam Museum where the original pumping station was opened in 1838. We were able to see some of the engines in steam, including the Cornish beam engine, and visit the rest of the exhibits. Kate Quinton

More pictures

Treasure Hunt 2012

The results. © Mike Quinton

On the first Saturday in October 25 enthusiasts assembled at Stamford Brook Underground Station for the annual challenge presented by Fiona and Chris. The various teams covered a wide area looking for all sorts of artefacts.

Near Turnham Green Station we saw the site of the battle of Turnham Green fought during the Civil War in 1642 and the perimeter of the first garden suburb, Bedford Park. We missed the cheese fair in Dukes Meadow, which was an annual event until the 18th century. (Chiswick means 'cheese farm'). We tore ourselves away from the barbers' shop rehearsal going on in Norman Shaw's St Michael and All Angels to focus on the task in hand.

On Chiswick High Road there is a curious statue of a wild boar in a front garden, although why it is there was not revealed. The Royal Chiswick Laundry used to cover a large area here; some of its buildings still remain.

The area between the Great West Road and the Thames was full of clues for us to find. There were several breweries here, including the Lamb Brewery, but no time for any sampling.

Famous people lived here, including William Hogarth and Alexander Pope. In W M Thackeray's Vanity Fair Becky Sharp threw a dictionary into a garden in Chiswick Square. There is a blue plaque to Edward Johnston, who designed the font used by London Underground and standardised the Underground symbol.

Other less fortunate residents were here too; one was the assistant purser on the Lusitania, which was torpedoed in May 1915. Another had the misfortune to be mistaken for a ghost and shot.

It was a fine afternoon and as we went round, we encountered other teams trying not to give away any clues that they had found. We finished at the Old Ship beside the river and we were very glad to sit down to go through the answers and to refresh ourselves suitably after our exertions.

Chris and Fiona had clearly worked hard to provide an exciting and stimulating treasure hunt and we would all like to thank them for giving us such a good insight into this part of London. Kate Quinton

More pictures

Stroud Green and Crouch Hill

This article deals with two railway lines north of Finsbury Park. One of these is now disused and the other is part of the Overground. A snapshot in time when the area was being built up, outlines the train services to the City that attracted office workers to move to this healthy area. The supply of coal is also discussed.

In North London the country between Finsbury Park and Muswell Hill was only built over towards the end of the 19th century. Two railway lines were constructed across this area at about the same time, opening in 1867-8. The Great Northern Railway branch line from Finsbury Park to Highgate ran north-westwards across the area while the Tottenham & Hampstead Junction Railway ran from north-east to south-west. These two lines crossed at Stroud Green, the Great Northern passing over the Tottenham & Hampstead Junction. No connection was made between the two routes.

Just to the north-east of this crossing of railway lines, at the junction of Lancaster Road and Stapleton Hall Road, London N4, a group of 19th-century buildings has been unexpectedly demolished. These were on the eastern corner of the road junction on railway land at TQ 309 877. The buildings consisted of an attractive white house on the corner with a range of lower buildings to the north. Situated over the Tottenham & Hampstead Junction Railway they had the appearance of a late 19th-century railway station, probably of Great Eastern Railway design, but having looked at a number of maps and plans it appears that there never was a station here.

Opposite the site in question the Great Northern Railway (GN) had a house for their station master; it is still there. Stroud Green GN station opened here in 1881. The station platforms, now gone, were at a high level on the line from Finsbury Park to Highgate and beyond: this line which ran north-west to south-east has lost its rails and is now the Parkland Walk. At the junction of Lancaster Road and Stapleton Hall Road we have a three level arrangement. Stapleton Hall Road crosses over the former Tottenham & Hampstead Junction Railway (T&HJ) and underneath the GN line. It might be reasonable to suppose that in the 1890s there was a low-level station on the T&HJ opposite the GN station. However, the expense of building and operating a station here allowing interchange with the Great Northern was presumably thought to outweigh any income that might be generated. Perhaps it was feared that some traffic might even have been lost to the Great Northern line.

The T&HJ had their nearest station about 350 yards to the west on Crouch Hill. Currently this is Crouch Hill Overground station. Nowadays the T&HJ is a busy line with frequent container trains as well as the Overground service of four trains per hour in each direction.

The little complex of railway-associated buildings at the junction of Lancaster Road and Stapleton Hall Road was occupied by coal merchants, estate agents, a builder and decorator and a bootmaker. In 1912 there were four coal merchants here, three of them on the east side of Stapleton Hall Road.

Station masters' houses were generally big, reflecting the social status of the inhabitant. Station masters were important people in the late 19th century and in country districts could carry out business far and wide throughout the area served by their railway. The present-day view of them as a sort of senior porter looking after the station was untrue before the decline in importance of the railways in the 1930s. Previously they were of a social class who could meet gentry and well to do businessmen on favourable terms, with a rank comparable to that of a doctor, bank manager or vicar. About 1880 the Great Northern built a double-fronted house for their station master at Stroud Green.

With the building of large houses in the area for people who commuted to the City, the supply of coal to the locality for domestic heating was becoming a profitable business. It was important for the railway company to acquire a substantial stake in this growing market. GN coal would probably be brought by horse dray from coal yards at Hornsey and Finsbury Park.

Now the Tottenham & Hampstead Junction Railway was a joint undertaking between the Great Eastern Railway and the Midland. The Midland Railway was the supplier of railborne coal to London par excellence and the Great Northern its bitter rival. We see this rivalry displayed on a grand scale at King's Cross and St Pancras stations: the mighty St Pancras built to overshadow and look down upon its rival next door. The situation at Stroud Green, at the junction of Lancaster Road and Stapleton Hall Road, might be read as another instance of this railway rivalry. Here the imposing GN station master's house could look down upon the small white house on the corner opposite, where perhaps the rival company's agent resided. However, this imagined situation is probably fanciful. Hard facts are needed. The nearest point from which Midland Railway coal was brought was relatively close, most likely from the railway yard just to the west of Green Lanes at TQ 316 881. This site is now a nature reserve called Railway Fields.

What were the passenger train services from the area being offered to City commuters? Using an 1887 timetable it is possible to construct a snapshot of how things were 125 years ago. Surprisingly at this date the GN and Midland were equally matched. Up and down journey times for through trains to and from Moorgate were 26 minutes from and to Stroud Green GN with the same journey times from Crouch Hill station on the Tottenham & Hampstead Junction. Some of the trains from Crouch Hill did not terminate at Moorgate but ran through the Snow Hill tunnel to and from Victoria via Ludgate Hill, Brixton and Clapham Junction. GN trains from Stroud Green provided a similar service. Considering the number of intermediate stops, the timings were good and competition between the two equally balanced routes appears intense. Locomotives would have been fitted with condensing apparatus for working through the tunnels.

At this date what motive power did the Midland Company have for its trains from Crouch Hill? They were at a slight disadvantage as their route to the widened lines and Moorgate was getting on for a mile longer. Mr Johnson was producing his 0-4-4 tank engines, quite big locomotives for the period; in 1875-6 thirty were built by Neilson and Co in Glasgow. Further locomotives of a similar type were built from 1881. London suburban services were an important part of the Midland Railway's business and it is highly likely that large modern locomotives of this kind would have been allocated to the London area early on.

It might be supposed that these engines were somewhat superior to those available on the GN line at this date, enabling the Midland to offer a significant challenge, but this does not seem to be the case. The Midland had first built 0-4-4 tank engines back in 1868. These were double-framed locos designed by Mathew Kirtley. Because of brake difficulties they were initially used on goods trains. Shortly after the Midland's 780 class was introduced. These were back-tanks where the water was accommodated in a tank in the bunker. They were double-framed 0-4-4 passenger locos and 20 were built in 1870. The GN responded to these developments quite rapidly, their locomotive engineer Patrick Stirling produced an 0-4-4 back tank, the G2 class, and 46 were built 1872-81.

Suburban London in 1887 would have been much quieter than it is now and a passenger locomotive labouring up the bank from Stroud Green towards Crouch End and Highgate would have created a considerable noise nuisance. We might compare this with a present day low-flying helicopter, but the train would have taken much longer to pass. Living close to the GNR line would not have been that desirable. On a weekday 125 years ago the last northbound train to leave Stroud Green was timed at 12.12am while on a Sunday it was 9.47pm. On weekdays there were at least five northbound trains after ten in the evening. The Parkland Walk is so peaceful nowadays.

Some of the information for this article was provided by Malcolm Tucker for which many thanks are due. Bob Carr

Part two

Smithfield — a railway connection

Vaguely knowing that in 1846 a Royal Commission on Metropolis Railway Termini had essentially created an above ground steam train-free rectangle in central London because of the potential damage to its existing buildings and (more importantly?) vested City interests, and thinking that I knew the area reasonably well, I was surprised when reading the first paragraph of the article: 'The Metropolitan Meat and Poultry Market, Smithfield', Illustrated London News, supplement, October 10, 1868, p349. New Smithfield Market, which will supersede both those of Newgate-Street and Leadenhall-street, is nearly completed. … Its site is partly upon old Smithfield, bounded by Long-lane, but some other land had to be purchased to obtain the necessary space. …The difficulties of the work were much increased by the fact that the building was to be erected over the goods station of the Great Western Railway, and over the underground works of the Metropolitan line. The reference to the Metropolitan Line was obvious but a GWR goods station? Paddington Station is some three miles away! At least the Great Northern's Goods Yard is adjacent to Kings Cross Station.

Turning to three other books for some confirmation: 'The Buildings of England, London 1: the City of London', Bradley & Pevsner, publ 2002, p339, states: Smithfield Market, West Smithfield, in engineering terms, a more dramatic achievement lies invisibly below: a four-acre subterranean goods station made 1862-5, served the Metropolitan Railway, joint undertakers of the line with the Great Western. And referring to the General Market of 1878-83: more railway sidings beneath, reached by a roadway on the south side. 'The Annals of London, a year by year record of 1,000 years of history', John Richardson, Cassells, publ 2000, records for 1868: The new Smithfield Market was opened on 24 November, its construction entailed the excavation of a deep basement in which a train station was located — this was on the line that now connects Ludgate Hill to Farringdon. Twenty enormous girders, each 240ft long, spanned this subterranean floor, to hold the weight of the market floor. 'Do Not Alight Here', Ben Pedroche, Capital History, publ 2011, p132. Barbican Station, originally called Aldersgate Street and opened in 1865, has a photograph plus: there is a disused but well preserved signal box at one end of the platforms, to the left of which can be seen fenced off tunnels that formerly served the nearby Smithfield Market. Then a friend told me that: 'Steam tank engines ran until the 1960s, he had seen them. They ran from under Smithfield Market over Ludgate Hill then Blackfriars Bridge. Also to the 'City Widened Lines', where the Metropolitan & City lines run parallel with each other, serving the LMS at St Pancras and LNER at King's Cross.'

The ILN article could imply that the Smithfield 'railway station' was planned to be a central London freight train hub, and as such, would appear to go against the recommendation of the 1846 Royal Commission not to have a single central London terminus. The whole of the railway system north and south of the Thames, as well as the those communicating with the northern and eastern counties, will be able to bring the supply of meat direct into the market at Smithfield, and avoid altogether the cartage. The widened portion of the Metropolitan Railway will give access to the market from the Great Northern, the Midland, and the Great Western systems. A short curve connecting the Metropolitan Extension of the London, Chatham, and Dover and the South-Western. By means of the inner-circle system, and a junction at Aldersgate with the East London, the trains of the Brighton and South-Eastern will be admitted, as well as those from the eastern counties. The Times of 18 August 1868 also suggested this possibility: It is expected also that a considerable general goods traffic will be carried on at this junction in addition to the meat trade, for which the sidings have been especially constructed, for a circular road, with an easy gradient, winds down from the centre of Smithfield, and enters the underground area beneath arches.

The ILN also describes the workings of the market: Beneath the site of the market is a large area of more than five acres, covered with sidings and rails, and provided with cellarage and store rooms, which will be found of great value in carrying on the business of the market. The trucks of meat will be hoisted by hydraulic power into the market, where their contents will be at once delivered into the shops of the salesmen. So, in my day, why were there so many large lorries always in the streets outside?

The architecture of Smithfield was also mentioned which to me raises further queries. Because of the already mentioned existing railways underneath the site: This rendered it necessary to fall back upon the plan so often resorted to in London buildings — to build upon iron columns, involving a multiplication of arches, brick walls, and vaults in all directions, before the market-house could be erected. Three thousand tons of wrought iron were used, and five miles of iron girders were laid to support the floor of the market. Assuming that the author of the article did not indulge in artistic licence, is Smithfield 'station' as impressive as the now opened up ground floor of the St Pancras train shed that was being built at the same time. Which earlier London buildings was this ILN article referring to and who were their architects and iron founders? Who was the very first to use this technique? By contrast, will Crossrail affect underground Smithfield and those original tunnels? Peter J Butt

Bob Rogers adds: 'Peter Butt might care to peruse 'GWR Goods Services, Goods Depots and Their Operation' Part 2A by Tony Atkins — Wild Swan Publications, 2007 pp138-149.'

London and Birmingham Railway stone sleeper blocks

Among the objects encountered during this year's GLIAS walk in Chesham was a group of ex-London and Birmingham Railway stone sleeper blocks, now used as seating in Lowndes Park.

Stone sleeper blocks were commonly used on early industrial tramways and this practice was adopted by some of the early railways. According to Richards and Simpson 1, the London and Birmingham used a total of 152,460 tons of stone sleeper blocks when it opened in 1838. The blocks were laid on foundations of chalk, gravel and clay, with chairs supporting the rails.

This arrangement of mounting the rails proved unsatisfactory as it was difficult to level the rails to give smooth running and there was insufficient resilience for high speeds. The London and Birmingham was soon converted to use transverse timber sleepers and the redundant stone blocks became available as building material. The blocks in Lowndes Park were used as such at nearby Bury Farm, but Foxell 2 suggests that they may have come to Chesham initially as part of one of the unsuccessful attempts to build a tramway from the town to Boxmoor or Berkhampsted.

A number of stone sleeper blocks, possibly from the London and Birmingham Railway, can be found in front of canal side buildings in London Street, Paddington. Andrew Turner

Platform levels

Peter J Butt wonders if there is an innate reason why 'traditional' railway carriages 'miss' the platform level by often a foot or so (GLIAS Newsletter October 2012).

Transport historian Mike Horne has already supplied the answer, at least so far as the London Underground is concerned. It can be found in his blog article, 'On the consequences of making decisions', to be found here: Without stealing his thunder, it will be found that the reason comes as no surprise to those with any knowledge of how British public administrators reach their decisions.

Mike Horne's name will be familiar to many as the author of a number of reliable books on the history of London's Underground. His website — — contains many other items likely to be of interest to GLIAS members, including a history of London's power supply system together with a list of London's lost power stations, also a history and photographic survey of London's parish boundary markers. John Liffen

Henry Howell & Company — Old Street

Recently the Old Street area has become known as 'silicon roundabout' because of the number of leading IT companies that have offices in the area. So it was interesting to read 'Walk this Way', by Caroline Cornish, the story of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew's collection of 19th-century must-have accessories; the walking stick: Kew Magazine, Autumn 2012, p54.

Dickens, like much of the British public, was dazzled by the displays of the Great Exhibition of 1851, including a huge diversity of walking sticks. At that time no gentleman would be seen in public without his walking stick, However, from 1850 onwards, with the expanding middle class and an increasing urban population, the market grew to unprecedented levels. The foremost manufacturer was Henry Howell & Company, established in 1832. In 1862 they moved to Old Street, close to the London docks where woods arrived from all over the British Empire. By 1893, the factory and warehouse covered 60,000 sq ft, employing 500 skilled workers and was the largest maker of natural walking sticks in the world. In 1870 Henry Howell donated 47 pairs of sticks to Kew's museum, each pair comprising a finished and an unfinished version in the same wood. In 1888 a further 80 pairs arrived from Henry's cousin, Jonathon.

An Illustrated Catalogue, price five shillings including a picture of their factory, states that: Henry Howells & Co were Wholesale and Export Manufacturers of Natural Walking and Umbrella Sticks. Natural Sticks of every Description: Presentation canes, Cigarette sticks, Sword canes, Horse standards, Architects measures, etc, Ladies & Gents riding whips, Driving whips, Hunting crops, Dog whips. Mounters in gold, silver, ivory, tortoise shell, horn, etc. Show rooms: 176, 178, 180 & 182 Old Street. Factory: Old St, Feather Lane, Martha Bldgs, London EC.

Kew acted as a broker between colonial gardens and British industry in order to identify new plant sources. Howell & Co took an active part in this process, giving Kew expert advice and supplying walking sticks that fascinated Dickens and his generation. Peter J Butt

News in brief

Following the hurricane which hit New York at the end of October, news from the historic ships preserved there is good. Despite yachts and small craft in marinas being scattered and marinas reduced to shambles — in some cases completely gone — and the replica Bounty actually sinking at sea with loss of life, there is no serious damage reported. At Pier 25 the 1933 steam lighthouse tender Lilac ' rode out the storm beautifully, like the old hand that she is' and the tug Pegasus, built in 1907 for the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, was unharmed. A small tanker was driven onshore, but otherwise no commercial vessels suffered much either. Most damage was to waterfront facilities generally — especially in New Jersey. (Ref Report from Captain John Doswell, Executive Director, Working Harbor Committee.)

An unnoticed error (GLIAS Newsletter October 2012) must be corrected. With reference to the London Transport electricity substation at Archway, Tufnell Park should of course be Highgate. The spacings between stations on this part of the Northern Line extension are very similar except that between Archway and Highgate there is a station missing just where the substation is, so a shaft here is quite probable. It is almost exactly half way between Archway and Highgate. The possibility of a station being opened was probably considered but hard evidence is lacking. There would have been a deep lift shaft somewhat like that at Hampstead.

At Tweed House, Teviot Street (GLIAS Newsletter February 2011), a wooden shaft was built against the front of the building, probably to direct rubble from building work into a skip at the bottom. The block has since been surrounded in scaffolding clad in plastic sheets and the diminution in height as the building is slowly dismantled is becoming apparent. Although Tweed House had a 1970s appearance it was in fact built by the LCC in 1961. Surprisingly avant garde it received a Civic Trust Award in 1964. These flats have been described as 'tough architecture on a challenging site'. Bob Carr


British Restaurant in Upminster Essex. Built by the government in the Second World War.

Thames Board Mills at Purfleet Essex, and elsewhere. Makers of carton board, boxes and wall board, etc. They were the largest in the country. 1902 to 1986, with partial demolition before the last date. They used vast quantities of waste paper. Part of Unilever. Then British Plaster Board, makers of plaster board liners etc. 1986 to 2003. Machinery sold to Saudi Arabia.

May and Baker, Sanofi Aventis, at Dagenham Essex. Pharmaceutical company, 1934 to 2013. Famous especially for the discovery of M&B 693, which saved countless lives including Churchill twice, in the Second World War. Alan Bunker

A demolition order was granted in July 2012 for the demolition of the former offices of the Canning Town Glass Works in Stephenson Street, London E16.


I was interested to see the references to Bulleid's 'double-decker' trains (GLIAS Newsletter October 2012) as in my youth in one of my very infrequent forays south of the river by chance I was lucky enough to have a ride in it. I do not recall from where to where.

In the early 1980s when I moved to east London I went to have a look around the docks area and in Wards' scrapyard at Silvertown was one of the 'double-deck' carriages awaiting its fate with BR brake-vans and an 0-4-0 industrial diesel shunter. I often wonder what route the carriage must have taken from its home in south London to get there. Any suggestions? Ray Plassard

Crossrail and the Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project in Essex

This landmark conservation and engineering scheme for the 21st century is on a scale never before attempted in the UK and the largest of its type in Europe.

The RSPB magazine Birds (Autumn 2012, p29) reports that construction has begun to restore another 670 hectares of land to the coastal marshland it once was. The first imports of clean, excavated material arrives this summer by ship from London. This material will shape the landform, in a complex design to create a mosaic of mudflats, saltmarsh, saline lagoons and grazing marsh. The Project is to provide replacement habitats to offset losses elsewhere along the Essex coast. Peter J Butt

London 2012 Stratford Olympic Park architecture

The London Evening Standard's Kieran Long 'awarded' medals to the five best buildings on the Olympic Park (Evening Standard, 26 July 2012, 'On your marks, get set' supplement, p4), his second award being to: Electricity Substation, architect: Nord Architects, £6.5m.

He commented: 'This might be a nerd's choice, but the hidden infrastructure of London 2012 has been given decent architectural treatment, and Nord's brooding brick substation is one of the most beautiful objects in the Park. See it on your way out of the Park towards Hackney Wick.' Peter J Butt

London Whaling Symposium

London was once a major centre for the whaling trade, based upon the Greenland Dock during the 18th century. The Docklands History Group will be hosting a one-day Symposium on the London Whaling Trade on Saturday 23 March 2013, to be held at the Museum of London Docklands from 9.45 for 10.20 until 5.30. Organised by Chris Ellmers, with international contributors. The cost per person will be £35 (£30 for DHG members). Also, there will be an evening dinner and entertainment on the whaling theme at £50.
The programme of speakers and booking details are on the Docklands History Group website:

Request for information

I am trying to find information regarding the use of hard wood ash or white ash as an insulation material between floors in buildings up to and including Victorian times and if there are any disadvantages in its use.

I wonder if any GLIAS readers would be able to help. Dan Little

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© GLIAS, 2012