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Notes and news — April 2013

In this issue:

Railways at Stroud Green

This is a continuation of the short article in Newsletter 263 about two railway lines which passed through Stroud Green north of Finsbury Park. There was no junction between these routes nor were there stations close together for the interchange of passengers. The present note outlines the East to West train service in 1887 and there is a short discussion regarding locomotives.

There is a most welcome piece from Malcolm Tucker in the last newsletter (GLIAS Newsletter February 2013) which ably complements what has been written previously. In the article that Malcolm refers to (GLIAS Newsletter December 2012) the notes on train services in 1887 only mention those of the Great Northern and Midland railways. The Tottenham & Hampstead Junction Railway (T&HJ) running northeast to southwest through Stroud Green was a joint line shared between the Great Eastern Railway (GE) and the Midland and along with the Midland, the G E also had a passenger service. On weekdays this consisted of 12 trains a day in each direction between Highgate Road (high level) and Chingford. Highgate Road (high level) station which closed in 1915 was at TQ 286 857, not far from Parliament Hill Fields.

These Great Eastern trains stopped at Crouch Hill and in the easterly direction ran on the T&HJ almost to its north-eastern extremity. Here the G E trains turned southwards towards Stratford and from then onwards were on pure Great Eastern metals the rest of the way. Negotiating Copper Mill junction and Hall Farm junction they continued through St James' Street Walthamstow and on to Chingford by way of Hoe Street and Wood Street. The total journey from Highgate Road lasted 35 minutes. There were 11 intermediate stops. On Sundays there was still quite a good service with 11 trains from Highgate Road to Chingford and ten back. The locomotives would most likely have been stabled in the east — if the depot had been opened by this date, probably at Wood Street, Walthamstow.

It is unclear who the intended passengers for this Great Eastern service were. Highgate Road is not much of a destination! Presumably the trains were intended for people from Chingford and Walthamstow wanting to go to the West End rather than the City. At some stage in the journey they probably changed onto a Midland train which would take them on to St Pancras. G E trains otherwise ran into Liverpool Street. However, one wonders how many passengers ever caught the morning train from Crouch Hill at eight minutes past ten arriving in Chingford at ten thirty five.

Details of the locomotives used by the Great Eastern on the T&HJ are not presently to hand but compared with the corresponding engines of the Midland and Great Northern they were probably not so massive. In north London, suburban trains often had locomotives comparable in size to those in use on main line expresses. The North London and Metropolitan companies in particular used large 4-4-0 tank engines from quite an early date, 1863 and 1864 respectively.

One reason engines on suburban passenger trains north of the Thames were relatively large might be that many of them were fitted with condensing gear for working through lengthy sections in tunnels — the Metropolitan in particular. A large boiler would surely be advantageous? More steam could be stored for portions of the journey when the exhaust, normally drawing the fire, was diverted into water tanks. Deprived of blast the fire, usually white hot in a locomotive working hard, would cool fairly rapidly and steam production fall off. Furthermore, owing to the back pressure when condensing, the locomotive would then be less efficient. True, waste heat was being saved warming the feed water but this advantage would only be felt later. It would be interesting to hear from someone who had a knowledge of the working of condensing locomotives in tunnels. Just what were the problems and would a larger boiler, necessitating a larger engine overall, be really desirable? That in itself might be sufficient to explain the disparity in size in the later 19th century between suburban locomotives in north London and those of the southern companies. Bob Carr

Mail Rail plans

The British Postal Museum and Archive (BPMA) has received a £250,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out a feasibility study to assess the viability of opening a section of the former Post Office underground railway.

The plans are to convert the Mail Rail depot at Mount Pleasant into an exhibition space and newly designed battery-operated trains will make a 15-minute journey through existing tunnels under the mail centre.

A narrated tour will describe the construction of the system from 1915, its opening in 1927 to its closure in 2003 (GLIAS Newsletter June 2003). Peter J Butt

Watford Gasholder

Gasholder in Lower High Street, Watford. © Kate Quinton The gasholder at Watford (GLIAS Newsletter February 2013) has a very fine example of a guide frame made from rolled-steel 'joist' sections, which were simply ordered from a stockist, sawn accurately to length and spiced together, rather than having the standards and girders fabricated from plates and angles or made as lattice work. This simplified the construction of holders of small to medium size and the arrangement was first used in the late 1890s. The Watford one is so 'clean' in its detailing that I wonder if it is somewhat later than the ascribed date of 1903 — a rather similar one was erected at Uxbridge in 1934.

I should perhaps explain that such a guide frame works to resist wind forces like a single beam of cylindrical cross-section, cantilevered from the ground, with the vertical and horizontal members relatively slim, the diagonal tie rods playing an important role and the circle keeping its shape. That principle was devised by George Livesey in 1879 for the remarkable (and still standing) holder at Old Kent Road, but on the smaller scale here the standards are closer together. Take a glimpse at Watford before it is too late.

Kate Quinton needs a gentle rap on the knuckles for calling it 'cast iron'. The heavy and often ornate columns of many earlier gasholder guide frames were indeed of cast iron, such as those soon to be re-erected at St Pancras. But where you see a historic structure made up from long thin members of a constant cross section you will know that the pieces have been produced in a rolling mill from a malleable material, either wrought iron or (as here) its successor mild steel. The light telescopic container for the gas, called the 'bell', was always made from rolled wrought-iron sheets or latterly mild steel. At Watford the 'tank' which contains the water in which the bell floats up and down is also of steel. Malcolm Tucker

Railway offices

The Evening Standard (20 February 2012) had a photograph of 4 Cowley Street, SW1. The accompanying text said that the building, formerly the Liberal Democrats' HQ, was up for sale. It is described as 'The Georgian Gem' with planning permission to convert 'back to a single residence'.

Nil points for their homework! As the scrolled initials in the railings and barely visible marks of similar lettering above the door show, and 'The Buildings of England' London volume 6, Westminster, confirms, this was built in 1904-5 as offices of the North Eastern Railway, and not a residence. Was this 'just' its London foothold, rather than the actual HQ?

An older and more modest building at 41 Trinity Square, EC3 was taken over by the London Tilbury & Southend Railway, which marked its presence by a small depiction of one of their locomotives above the doorway (still there). This was also the HQ of the separate short, but closely related, Whitechapel & Bow Railway Company.

Do any other identifiable railway company HQ or similar offices survive in London, other than at or adjacent to terminal stations? David Thomas

Triple E ships head for London Gateway

'GIANTS OF THE SEA FORCE PORTS TO GROW. New ships can carry 18,000 containers-enough to fill a train 68 miles long', was the headline of Rupert Neate's full page article in The Guardian, 7 March 2013, p33.

It continued: 'A fleet of floating behemoths are on their way to Europe, container ships so large — almost a quarter of a mile long, wider than a motorway and taller than a 20-storey office block. These are known as the Triple E (economy, energy efficiency and environmentally improved) ships, which will come into service this summer. They will just about be able to squeeze through the Suez, but not Panama, canal and will only ply the China to Europe route bringing in goods and returning with cargoes of scrap metal and plastic waste for recycling-but mostly empty. Only a handful of European ports, which includes Felixstowe and Southampton in Britain are equipped to handle these ships with another being built, the London Gateway, costing £1.5bn and is 20 miles east of London. It is due to open before the end of the year and has just installed the first of 24 138-metre high cranes. It is Britain's biggest construction project after Crossrail, employing 2,500 workers. It will be able to handle seven Triple Es at the same time and it is anticipated that the port will support 36,000 jobs. The world's biggest shipping company Maersk Line has ordered 20 Triple Es from the South Korean shipbuilder Daewoo.'

The first container ship was invented by US businessman Malcolm McLean in the 1950s and carried just 58 containers on a converted Second World War oil tanker. How things have changed. As a school teacher in the 1970s I regularly took classes of 12-year-old pupils for a walk along the south side of the Thames from Greenwich to the Blackwall Tunnel and which passed through a working container dock. That part of the public footpath was between the rails that the front and rear pairs of the legs of the cranes ran on, the path being marked out by white lines. My pupils did find the experience 'interesting'!

As I understand it, a quid pro quo for allowing the building of the London Gateway Triple E complex is that both the RSPB and Essex Wildlife are to manage equally large new reserves just up river from the new port. 120 acres of the latter's Thameside Nature Park is already open but is 'only a fraction of its eventual size'. Peter J Butt

Search for historic Cubitt material

London Metropolitan Archives is hoping to contact the new owner of historic records about master builder Thomas Cubitt and the Cubitt Estates after failing to secure the material at auction.

LMA recently completed a catalogue of archives of the great 19th century squares and estates developed by Cubitt, but was outbid in October 2012 over 573 volumes of rentals and lease books.

Earlier in 2012, ten volumes of Cubitt estates records were transferred to LMA under a gift agreement made in 2010. The records consist of outgoing letter books and lease books containing plans of the estates (1825-1959). The highlights are three lease books containing articles of agreement for building plots, block plans and property descriptions. They cover the Grosvenor, Belgrave 'Lowndes Estate', Bedford, Southampton, Stoke Newington, Galthorpe, 'Battersea lands', Stanley, Wise and Crown Estates, Westminster. The three volumes were compiled from circa 1825 with details of previous property ownership and subsequent lettings. These volumes are now available for access.

There is also an Isle of Dogs letter book of William Cubitt and Company. The volume contains outgoing letters concerning letting of wharves, to Commissioners of the Poplar Sewers, the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital, and the Trustees of All Saints Poplar, and to the Worshipful Committee of the Thames Navigation concerning rights of embanking the River Thames (1843-51).

Thomas Cubitt (1788-1855) was one of London's leading master builders. He opened his business in 1810 in Gray's Inn Road and his first major building project was the London Institution, Finsbury Circus. He later began speculative housing in Camden Town, Islington and Stoke Newington. He also developed Bloomsbury around Gordon and Tavistock Squares for landowners including Duke of Bedford. In 1824, Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster, commissioned Cubitt to build housing in Belgravia (Belgrave Square and Pimlico). He was responsible for the east front of Buckingham Palace and was an organiser of the Battersea Park Scheme. He also funded part of the River Thames Embankment.

Thomas Cubitt later withdrew from estate management leaving matters to his brother William Cubitt (1791-1863). The business later moved from Gray's Inn Road to Westminster, operating from 3 Lyall Street, Belgrave Square (1850-5); Grosvenor Road, Pimlico (1855-9); 71 St George's Square (1859-60); and 127 St George's Square (1860-4). Cubitt's affairs continued to be managed by his executors and later the trustees under his will (the trustees in 1881 were George Cubitt of Denbies, and William Cubitt of Fallapit, South Devon). In 1883 the building business was acquired by Holland and Hannen and was later incorporated as Holland, Hannen and Cubitts Limited. The Cubitt Estates were later managed by Cubitt Estates Limited.

The making of the first London Underground tunnels?

There are to me some apparently contradictory claims as to whom made the Underground possible in the first place: Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849), Charles Fox (1810-1874) and / or James Henry Greathead (1844-1896).

Brunel's Rotherhithe tunnel was opened in March 1843 for pedestrians but became part of the Underground system in 1865. The Brunel Museum's book, 'The Brunels' Tunnel', edited by Eric Kentley states (p26): 'The concept of the travelling shield is still used in tunnelling today, and Marc Isambard Brunel's invention made possible not only the first tunnel anywhere through the soft earth under a river bed but also, in a sense, every tunnel excavated under water ever since.'

Some time ago I noted down: 'The Railway Engineer by R Woolridge, first published in 'The Derbyshire Life and Countryside' in their 'Derbyshire Characters' series: He [Charles Fox] designed the Watford tunnel and afterwards carried out the extension of the line from Camden Town to Euston Square. This particular extension was built wholly under cover within retaining walls and was thus the forerunner of the present London underground system.' Is the statement factually correct? The present Camden Town and Euston Square stations are not connected on the Underground! Sir Charles Fox was the building contractor for the 1851 'Crystal Palace' and is buried in Nunhead Cemetery.

James Henry Greathead 1844-1896. © Robert Mason 2018 In the middle of the road near to Wellington's statue at the western end of Cornhill there is a plinth which appears to also be an 'air vent', but from what? It is topped with a statue and states: 'James Henry Greathead 1844-1896, Chief Engineer, City and South London Railway. Inventor of the travelling shield that made possible the cutting of the Tunnels of London's deep level tube system.'

Subterranean City, by Antony Clayton, Historical Publications, gives explanations of the Brunel and Greathead systems but does not mention Cox. In 1818 Brunel patented a 'tunnel shield' that consisted of 12 cast-iron frames, each divided vertically into three cells large enough to contain a miner. After each of the cells had been worked forward by 4½ inches, the main frame was moved forward by means of screw jacks braced against the brickwork behind and another layer of brick lining put in place (p85). Greathead developed his travelling shield from Brunel's and his mentor Peter William Barlow (1809-1885) ideas (p90). His first shield, with an 8½ft diameter, was used to make the 1869 pedestrian Tower Subway. It held three men working under compressed air in a circular iron ring divided into seven segments, the working area being sealed off with a watertight bulkhead. It could advance 10ft every 24 hours being driven through the earth by hydraulic jacks, the excavated tunnel was lined by cast-iron segments and the gap between the casing and the surrounding earth filled with cement. Following more improvements, his initially 10ft 2in diameter shield was first used to make the City and South London Railway. Creating circular tunnels it became the first 'tube' to be bored below ground (p109). Is this now the Northern Line between Monument and the Elephant and Castle? His method did not become obsolete. The Victoria Line made in 1962 was bored using a 'drum digger', the leading edge of the digger's shield had a rotating cutting mechanism with a central aperture through which the soil was removed but because of the terrain in the northern sections a Greathead shield had to be employed (p128). Another of Greathead's ideas was the hump design for the approach to and from the platforms to help with deceleration and acceleration.

So what of the Crossrail tunnelling techniques? And will the media have a field day if and when the machines emerge from their tunnels unlike the machines that were used to bore the Channel Tunnel?

As a postscript. When crossing the Connaught road bridge between the Royal Victoria and the Royal Albert Docks one has a bird's-eye view of the Crossrail workings. At the end of February they appeared to be putting into place two coffer dams, presumably these are on either side of the Connaught Tunnel on the old North London Line to North Woolwich. Intriguingly, Subterranean City (p85) notes that before Brunel, Richard Trevithick (1771-1833) had proposed in 1807 laying a cast-iron tube into a trench excavated from within watertight coffer dams across the Thames near Rotherhithe. His suggestion was rejected, so over 200 years later and a few miles further down river, is his idea at last being used? Peter J Butt

See also:

Dairy Art Centre

'A milk bar with a difference, the Dairy Art Centre, a new non-profit art centre due to open in Bloomsbury WC1 this spring', was the opening of a note by Gareth Harris in the Art Fund's Spring 2013 Art Quarterly p8.

He writes that the setting itself is striking enough as the space was used as a milk depot for Express Diaries until 2006 and that the building will remain fairly raw and retain a lot of the original, industrial feel of its former use.

The dairy's vast milk fridges will be transformed into an artists' project space for performance and site-specific commissions. With its high ceilings, immense halls and skylights, the 3,500 square-metre space should provide an impressive backdrop for a series of international contemporary exhibitions. Peter J Butt
The Dairy, 7a Wakefield Street, WC1N 1PG.

184 Shepherd's Bush Road, W6

Readers might be interested in the design and access statement within the planning application documents for 184 Shepherd's Bush Road as it includes information on the history of the site.

The listed building is an early and relatively rare surviving example of a purpose-built motor depot and garage with showroom, built in 1915-16. Paul Baker

Half a century ago — re-reading 'Industrial Archaeology — An Introduction' by Kenneth Hudson

'Industrial Archaeology - An Introduction' by Kenneth Hudson Looking for the names of those who had been in the delegation to the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan that argued with him, abortively, for the retention of the Euston Arch in 1962, I took down Kenneth Hudson's pioneering study Industrial Archaeology — an Introduction. Opening it, I realised with something of a shock that it is all of 50 years ago this year since it was published. Having located his comments on the Euston Arch *, and not having looked in it for some years, I was soon engrossed in the rest of the book; and I was reminded why it was (and still should be) such an influential text, explaining lucidly what industrial archaeology is and why it matters.

Kenneth Hudson (1916-1999, and in his later years a vice-president of GLIAS) was for some years in the 1950s and 60s the BBC's West of England industrial correspondent, a role that allowed him to see what was happening in the region as industrial sites were being modernised or cleared — usually with little or no interest among the owners, the workforce or the public at large in keeping or even recording any evidence of the historical equipment, buildings or processes that were being discarded.

The book had its genesis in the plan by the Council for British Archaeology some years earlier to compile and publish a CBA handbook of industrial archaeology. That faltered — indeed it was not until 2012 [sic] that this appeared (Industrial Archaeology: a Handbook, compiled by Marilyn Palmer, Michael Nevell and Mark Sissons, CBA, 2012). In the intervening half-century there has been a remarkable upsurge in public interest in, and concern over, the 'industrial heritage', as it is now called. Today, there is a measure of statutory protection; investigation and study by English Heritage, individuals, and the various national and regional IA societies including GLIAS; and recording, often now required as a condition of planning consent and these days undertaken by commercial organisations employing professional archaeological staff, rather than by interested volunteers working at weekends.

Hudson's book was written when all this was in the future. The Euston Arch, and the remarkable cast iron structure of the Coal Exchange in the City of London for a road-widening scheme, had both recently been destroyed, sacrificed to the belief in 'progress' that typified much of the political, official and popular attitudes in the 1960s. It is surely no coincidence that 1963 also saw the publication by Her Majesty's Stationery Office of the Beeching report The Reshaping of British Railways, and of the less-well-remembered Buchanan report Traffic in Towns. Both reports took the view that the powered road vehicle was inevitably to be the preferred and ever-expanding mode of land transport in future. Buchanan argued that this must be planned for strategically, rather than catered for by piecemeal road improvements. The implications of such planning could be alarming! His case study of the central London area now known as Fitzrovia (bounded by Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Street, Great Portland Street and the Euston Road), showed that full adoption of the Buchanan approach would have erased almost every building in the area, and imposed a Californian-style grid of roads with fly-overs and intersections, occupying almost half of the available land surface. Happily this never came to pass, although many cities and towns have since been disfigured by crudely-planned sections of urban motorways, 'inner ring roads', multi-storey car parks, and other built elements that will in the future be part of the archaeology of road transport.

I quickly found myself in my re-reading absorbed by Hudson's passion and his knowledge, often quite detailed, of what was being lost in various parts of the country, and of how much of the evidence of past industry was being scrapped — either deliberately, to avoid the impression of being 'old-fashioned', or through ignorance of its significance. He was writing at a time when 'the industrial past' was not as appreciated and studied as widely as it is now, but rather as something grimy, to be swept away as far as possible and replaced with the 'modern'.

His chapter 'The urgency of industrial archaeology' reported on some isolated but encouraging examples of enlightened company support for the industrial past, not least the restoration of Darby's Coalbrookdale ironworks by Allied Ironfounders for the 250th anniversary of the first smelting of iron with coke. But it also illustrated a dismissive attitude and/or a lack of awareness all too prevalent then (and not unknown today). For example, the owners of one of the first sites making plastic floor tiles rejected Hudson's suggestion that its buildings and plant could be of any archaeological interest, as it dated from as recently as 1923 — just 40 years earlier. Anyone interested in the development of computers, electronics generally, motor vehicle manufacture, and other 20th-century technologies will be aware that dramatic changes can occur and important evidence can be lost in a time much shorter than four decades! And the destruction of company records and of buildings and plant, deplored by Hudson, can still happen today when mergers, closures or privatisation take place.

One of his most thoughtful observations was that it is not just the large and the notable that should be recorded, but the small and the typical. Much more has been lost since his book appeared; but, while "'elf' and safety" and other constraints can make access to a site more difficult than it was in 1963, there is still scope for us to investigate and to record, particularly among 'the small and the typical'. If you can lay hands on Hudson's book, his informative and inspiring words will, I'm sure, prove stimulating. Michael Bussell

News in brief

At Hayes the Nestlés factory by the canal is due to close. Production is to be relocated at Hatton, Tutbury, Derbyshire. The works at Hayes dates back to a cocoa factory set up there by the Sandow Cocoa Company in 1913. This became the Hayes Cocoa Company in 1916 and was bought out by Nestlés in 1929. Nescafé was being produced at Nestlés West London factory quite recently.

There is a champion café at Hatton in Derbyshire, The Salt Box on the A511. This café has won awards and is perhaps the best transport café in Britain.

Post-war prefabs are getting scarce in London (GLIAS Newsletter February 2013). In 2006 just one remained in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham at 31 Irene Road, owned by the council. Permission was given for its demolition. Conservation was not possible because of the presence of asbestos. Photographs were to be taken. See Hammersmith & Fulham HBG Newsletter 15 autumn 2006, p4.

The small industrial building in Blackwall Lane at TQ 394 783, roughly opposite Greenwich Town Social Club has been demolished. Until a few years ago it accommodated a firm of Italian bakers and confectioners. Apparently they moved north of the river because traffic congestion in the Blackwall Tunnel was becoming insufferable. Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 2013