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Notes and news — October 2013

In this issue:

Stuart's Granolithic Company Limited

London Metropolitan Archives has recently acquired an archive of material relating to Stuart's Granolithic Company Limited which was responsible for many major 20th-century reinforced concrete buildings as well as stone repairs to facades of existing and historic buildings.

The company's mark has been left on several well-known London landmarks including the front gates of Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club, London Zoo and University College London.

The archives date from foundation in 1887 and document a key aspect of the construction industry and use of reinforced concrete. They consist of memorandum and articles of association, directors and annual general meeting minutes, registers of members and share ledgers, annual returns to Companies House, private letters (1905-21), and annual balance sheets and accounts. Operational records include Research Division test papers from the 1960s, product specifications, works photographs including pre-war new builds during the late 1920s and 1930s, and post-war restoration of churches. There is also advertising and printed material, pension scheme rules and papers, and histories.

The firm was wound up and liquidated in 2012.

The records have been donated by Mr C J N Trollope, great-grandson of the company's first chairman.

The records are currently uncatalogued and available for consultation by prior appointment (accession reference B13/057). Related construction business archives are also held by London Metropolitan Archives.

Limehouse Accumulator Tower

Members will have seen Tim Smith's detailed article on the Limehouse Basin Accumulator Tower in the latest issue of our journal, 'London's Industrial Archaeology'. The tower was not available for Open House London this September, because serious damage to the roof and the electric lighting by metal thieves last spring had not been repaired by the owners, the Canal and River Trust (CRT), formerly British Waterways. A squatter had also left the building in a very filthy state, defecating inside it, but that was cleaned up. Our display boards were wrecked by the squatter, who it is said used them to sleep upon.

The tower is in the south-eastern corner of an empty site north of the railway that is being sold to the housing developers Bellway. They have planning permission for a housing development here, on the last remaining plot around the former Regent's Canal Dock. The Grade 2 listed tower is safeguarded and GLIAS will have the right to continue to open the tower on Open House Days. We fought off a proposal in the planning application last autumn to build a block six storeys high in the line of sight towards Stepney Church, getting that reduced to four storeys. Views of Commercial Road will still be curtailed. Tower Hamlets planners were remarkably indifferent to the tower's role as a viewing platform — their sole priority seems to be to increase the housing stock of this already populous borough. The successive housing developments have severely reduced the once panoramic views and a nine-storey block, in the wake of others, will now loom over the tower from the west.

I understand contracts have now been exchanged for the sale to Bellway. CRT did not get the stolen lead replaced after the damage was discovered in March, because they considered Bellway would be in a better position to do this. We must now be anxious that Bellway will get round quickly to doing repairs before the rain and frost can further damage this listed building, and also attend to renewing faulty pointing and clearing vegetation both on the building and around it, without Tower Hamlets' enforcement team having to intervene. Malcolm Tucker

See also:

Open House treasures

On the Sunday of the 'Open House' weekend (22 September) it was possible to partake in a guided walk around 'Roe Green Village', between Kingsbury and Colindale, NW9. Centred around Roe Lane this small estate was built in 1918-19 to house key workers at the Airco aircraft factory located at the junction of Grove Park and Edgware Road, Colindale. Despite being built in wartime (apparently by German PoWs) the houses are of a very high standard and influenced strongly by the Arts and Crafts and Garden City movements. The estate bears a resemblance to the equally admired Progress Estate in Eltham, built earlier to house Woolwich Arsenal munitions workers. I don't know if this walk has featured in other years, but I hadn't noticed before. If it happens again next year it can be recommended. Afterwards I was able to have a look through locked gates at the Airco factory which still survives as the workshops of 'Kingsway Kitchens'.

Also recommended is the 'Tin Tabernacle/Cambridge Hall' at Cambridge Avenue, close to Kilburn High Road station. This is a very large Grade II listed prefabricated corrugated wrought iron structure built as a church in 1863 (very early I think for such a building). For many years it has functioned as the sea cadet 'Training Ship Bicester'. The interior has been adapted to resemble a battleship and has to be seen to be fully appreciated! Again I don't know if has featured before on Open House, but I can't say I'd noticed it. It also appears to be open on other occasions, as an exhibition was being advertised as taking place in there shortly afterwards. David Flett

Industrial London

There was an old Black Country saying about the industrial West Midlands that in standard English went something like this — 'Black Country men make it, Birmingham men put it together and Solihull men talk about it'. How does London fit into this description of industrial activity? There is a current popular misconception that London was mainly about talking rather than making. In fact London has always been the country's largest manufacturing region. The part of London mostly concerned with professional discussions was principally the City, West End and some parts of West London. The rest of Greater London, by far the larger area, was essentially involved in manufacturing.

In a sumptuous new book, Britain's Industrial Revolution — The Making of a Manufacturing People, 1700-1870 *, Dr Barrie Trinder makes this entirely clear. In the introduction he refers to the unique character of London and the surprising amount of industry that was there. Furthermore he subsequently devotes 34 pages to London, describing among other things brewing, vinegar making, carriage building, leather, glass, engine building, sugar refining, shipbuilding, brickmaking and recycling. Summing up he concludes that while some Londoners made their living by other means, the majority were as much a manufacturing people as any other town in Great Britain. London's industry was generally of the putting together kind, characteristic of Birmingham, rather than the mining of raw materials and the heavy work of smelting and puddling iron and rolling plates and sections for use elsewhere which dominated the Black Country. Bob Carr

Brompton Road Underground Station

Brompton Road tube station © Robert Mason 2013

On 7 August 2013 the Ministry of Defence announced that it will be selling its central London site at 206 Brompton Road, SW3, next to the Brompton Oratory, after the property was declared surplus to military requirements.

This is the Great Northern, Piccadilly & Brompton Railway's Brompton Road station opened on 15 December 1906 and was between Knightsbridge and South Kensington but it proved to be too close to those stations and was closed because of low passenger numbers 28 years later, on 30 July 1934.

The station building, designed by architect Leslie Green, has the distinctive semicircular windows and oxblood red tiles (GLIAS Newsletter February 1987) typical of stations of that line, for example, Russell Square. Only its side entrance remains, the original frontage was demolished in the 1970s. See photo: 'Do Not Alight Here', by Ben Pedroche, Capital History, p47.

Christian Wolmar in 'The Subterranean Railway', Atlantic Books, p183, recounts that a Piccadilly Line short-lived innovation to reduce running times, was for some trains to pass through the less well used stations. This inspired the title of a 1928 West End farce by Jevan Brandon-Thomas, 'Passing Brompton Road', about a socialite who thought that this was the reason for her poorly attended parties!

Just before the Second World War, the building, together with the lift shafts and lower western passages, were sold to the War Office for use by the British Army's Air Defence Formation, The 1st Anti-Aircraft Division. During the war, the station became the Royal Artillery's Anti-Aircraft Operations Room for central London and they stayed in the building until the 1950s. See reference for further details and pictures, including its original white, yellow and turquoise tiling, and a huge anti-aircraft operations map for central London in a lift well deep underground, which is one of the last remaining signs of the station's wartime history. Peter J Butt

Railway offices

In response to David Thomas's question (GLIAS Newsletter April 2013) about the North Eastern Railway Company's offices at 4 Cowley Street SW1, the headquarters of that railway were not in London but situated in a massive Queen Anne style building in York. Opened in 1906 this building is now the Cedar Court Grand Hotel and Spa, and is still very much there — just to the east of the present mainline railway station.

The North Eastern Railway operated lines in the north east of England which came nowhere near London. The Press sometime confuse the North Eastern Railway (NER) with the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). At the Railway Grouping in 1923 the NER was merged into a much larger new concern, the LNER, which did serve London. The NER were in business 1854-1923 and the LNER 1923-1948.

The North Eastern Railway Company was heavily involved in transporting coal to the east coast for shipment to London and also owned extensive docks in the North East. They probably had a London office with a view to managing the extensive coal trade at this end. A very rich and powerful company with a near monopoly in their territory, they may also have found a building near the Houses of Parliament convenient for the management of their parliamentary business.

Although of relatively late date, the North Eastern Railway office building in York was not centrally heated — even quite recently. Rather than radiators, rooms were warmed by individual fireplaces served by a coal scuttle. From memory coal was brought to top up the scuttles in small trucks which came up the building in lifts and were then wheeled along the corridors. Coal was very much King for the NER at the time (1906) and perhaps office staff were to be frequently reminded by hands-on experience just how central to their work coal was.

This method of heating the York headquarters building was indeed surprising — the NER were running electric trains in 1904. As labour costs mounted in recent years this labour-intensive method of office heating, somewhat reminiscent of a 19th-century coal mine, must have become quite a problem. Were any large office buildings in London heated in this way? Bob Carr

Paternoster lifts

The paternoster lift which was installed at Northwick Park Hospital when the hospital opened in 1970 (GLIAS Newsletter August 2013) is still there although when I looked last month it was closed for 'repairs and testing'.

There were notices saying it was for use by staff only but these were ignored by some visitors, some of whom presumably expected it to stop when they wanted to get off! Consequently foyers were installed (date unknown) which could only be accessed by use of a staff security card. Arthur Pollard

The New River, 400 years old

The New River from the springs of Chadwell and Amwell, Hertfordshire, to Sadler's Wells, Islington was dug on the 100ft contour on the west side of the Lee valley and was originally some 40 miles long. It was completed within four years and opened on 29th September 1613 by the Lord Mayor of London so is now 400 years old.

About 1600 an Edmund Colthurst had first proposed the scheme and was made responsible for the project in 1609 but shortly afterwards the Corporation of London accepted another offer from Hugh Myddleton, a London goldsmith, to pay for and complete the project and who has since been given the credit for building the River.

Surely 'cutting' the river must have been quite an engineering feat in its day and what effect has the New River had on the Industrial Archaeology of London in the last 400 years? Peter J Butt

De Havilland building

I read with interest the article by Bob Carr about the de Havilland Building (GLIAS Newsletter August 2013).

I was intrigued as I worked for de Havilland in the 60s to 90s at the Hatfield site but I don't remember any mention of a satellite factory at Upper Clapton.

I contacted the de Havilland Heritage Museum to see if they had any references regarding this building and its uses. Unfortunately they did not have any information on the building either other than that mentioned by Bob and therefore could not confirm the rumour of it being a 'shadow factory'.

It is correct that the Vampire and Venom twin boom aircraft had the pressurised fuselage made of specially crafted wood ply but the rest of the aircraft was of metal construction. However, the twin boom DH110 Vixen, is described as being of 'all metal construction'.

My research reveals that apparently a building occupied by The Wrighton Furniture Factory once stood in Billet Road, Walthamstow, E17.

This is only a short distance across the Lea Valley Regional Park from Theydon Road, Upper Clapton, E5 — the site of the de Havilland Building.

During the Second World War Wrighton was contracted to build de Havilland Mosquito fuselages. In fact a photo appears in Jim Lewis's book entitled 'Battleships, Buses & Bombers' which is part of the Lea Valley Series. This photo is of the workforce in front of the factory with the Mosquito fuselage. They are under a banner displaying the following information: JULY 8th 1944, W.A.L. WDH 1000, WRIGHTON AIRCRAFT LTD, WALTHAMSTOW, E17.

I realise that this doesn't solve the riddle of the de Havilland Building but it does confirm that shadow factories were set up in this area. Dan Little

Thames Ironworks Lifeboat — Charles Henry Ashley

Charles Henry Ashley on the Quay in Conwy. © David Perrett Returning from a short break in Llandudno with a plan to write a short note for the newsletter I was surprised to see the note from Gavin Redknap about Thames Ironworks built lifeboats (GLIAS Newsletter August 2013) since Ollie and I had just been looking at one on the Quay in Conwy (right).

The boat Charles Henry Ashley had been built in 1907 and remained on station at Cemaes, a small fishing port on the north coast of Anglesey until 1932. She is constructed of mahogany, 38ft in length with a beam of 9ft and weighs some 5.5 tons with two lug sails and a jib.

Her crew consisted of a coxswain, second coxswain, bowman and 12 oarsmen. New she cost £1,090. She was on station at 'Porth Yr Ogof' and launched seven times in rescues.

When taken out of service in 1932 she was sold to a local man and ended up in store until 1960 when she was then used for pleasure trips until being installed as a feature in a caravan park. She was acquired by the Amlwch Heritage Trust in 1997 and since 2006 has been renovated to seaworthy condition by a local group. She was returned to sea in April 2009. David Perrett
For more details see

Concrete home in Dulwich

549 Lordship Lane, built in 1873 by Charles Drake. © David Perrett I have driven along the South Circular from Brockley for over 30 years and watched the gradual collapse of 549 Lordship Lane (TQ3473SW) on the corner with Underhill Road just north from the Horniman Museum as I passed.

Gradually more and more propping was required to keep it standing and the interior was completely vandalised. It was built in 1873 by Charles Drake of the Patent Concrete Building Company to be occupied by himself and his family until 1876. Drake had worked for a pioneer of concrete construction, Francis Tall, who had patented in 1864 wooden shuttering into which concrete was poured to form the required structure.

In 1867 Drake patented an improved version using standardised wrought-iron metal panels. Drake built the walls of his house using his 'building apparatus', allowed the concrete to be poured 600mm at a time before another section of shuttering was then installed and the process repeated. The concrete as was common at the time is 'aerated' being composed of 50% fired clay, 20% Portland cement and the rest air. Drake's system was overly successful since in part concrete was not a liked material for dwellings in a society where taste was dominated by Ruskin.

Over the last year it has been very sympathetically restored by the Heritage of London Trust and a local housing association (Hexagon) and now contains five flats. The Duke of Gloucester opened the finished building on 13 June 2013. In its complete but empty shape it was opened on Open House Sunday and the photograph (right) shows it on that day. David Perrett
For further details on Drake see web article by one of his descendants David Scott Cowan

Some other mass concrete buildings in London

1866 Albion Villas, Woolwich Road, Bexleyheath Concrete cottages for agricultural workers by Francis Tall.

Concrete cottages 44-46 Victoria Road, Mortlake possibly also by Tall.

Gothic Lodge, Idmiston Rd/barston Rd, Tulse Hill, another of Drake's homes built in his patented way.

1883 New Church (Swedenborgian), Waldegrave Road, off Anerley Hill now converted into flats called 'New Church Court'.

1911 former church, now arts centre Dilston Grove (in Southwark Park) designed by Sir John Simpson and Maxwell Ayrton. Poured concrete construction. Replaced earlier church of 1886 funded by Clare College Cambridge that subsided in 1909! David Perrett

News in brief

On the west side of Finsbury park station the City North building is now almost demolished. Dating from about the 1970s it will be replaced by a new development to include apartments, shops, a cinema, restaurants, a gymnasium and offices. It was here that the Pullman car Doris used to reside. It was moved to a more secure location following vandalism (GLIAS Newsletter June 2006).

The new City North redevelopment will be substantial. In a RIBA competition Benson & Forsyth were selected to carry out this project, an £80 million mixed-use scheme covering 46,000 square metres.

It is claimed that the new scheme will 'reinstate an orthogonal geometry at local level, with bold vertical elements to establish a presence in north London and the wider-city context.' The project's 'assembly of volumes' is characterised by a podium over two floors, a raised garden overlooking Finsbury Park at second floor level, and above that an assembly of two towers, one cylindrical and one rectilinear. 'The tall buildings will simultaneously address both the park to the east and the City to the south, and will be an instantly recognisable signature'. A commentator liked the Unité d'habitation meets De Stijl aura.

The re-erection of gasholder number 8 on a new site north of St Pancras railway station is making progress (GLIAS Newsletter August 2013). By 10 August, five columns had been finished and were clear of scaffolding, a further four had been put up but were still scaffolded.

Despite publicity, the front of King's Cross main-line station is still cluttered (GLIAS Newsletter June 2013). Work continues behind barriers and hoardings and there is little sign of imminent completion. This year Open House London took place on September 21-22. A leaflet for this event with an artist's impression of the finished result advertised 'Discover King's Cross Square transformation'.

PS Waverley will be sailing from Tower Pier in early October; the last cruise is on Saturday 12 October calling at Southend and then sailing out to the Maunsell Forts* in the Thames Estuary. These were built in 1942 to discourage German aeroplanes, often seaplanes, from laying magnetic mines in the approaches to London. Until it was discovered how these weapons worked and antidotes devised they posed a terrible danger to shipping. In 1940 London was the busiest port in the world. Bob Carr

Two 'Army' forts, the nearer one still with its original seven towers. 12 October 2013. © Michael Bussell Army fort with six towers and the stump of the seventh visible. 12 October 2013. © Michael Bussell  Seven-tower Army fort. 12 October 2013. © Michael Bussell

Ship Carbon Co

I started work at The Motor Gear and Engineering Co. in High Road, Chadwell Heath in December 1939 having left school aged 14.

Grove Road, Chadwell Heath, the site of the Sadler Aircraft/Cabinet Works had become an industrial area, one occupier was Ship Carbon Co. As the name implies they collected soot from the funnels on the vast number of vessels using London docks wishing to maintain their steaming performance.

I presume the soot once cleaned was pressed into black shapes or rods to use for blast furnace hearths, like the one surveyed by GLIAS in the 1970s being demolished at Ford Dagenham for example. Bernard Ford

Enderby Wharf developments

Enderby Wharf (between Greenwich and the O2) which was first developed in the 18th century by a whaling company and was later used to manufacture cables and a cross-channel petrol pipeline to support the D-Day invasion, is to be transformed when work starts soon to build 770 homes, the capital's first cruise liner terminal, along with a hotel, shops and rivertaxi pier. [Evening Standard, 18 September, Homes and Property, p4]. Peter J Butt

Request for information

I am currently working on the first part of a detailed multi-volume history of the Blackpool tramways, this one covering the period from 1885 to 1899.

I have been trying to find a photograph of a Blackpool tram that ran at the International Inventions Exhibition at South Kensington from May to November 1886.

Can any GLIAS members help?
Brian Turner, Lytham, Lancs. Email:

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© GLIAS, 2013