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Notes and news — February 2014

In this issue:

Dennis Wire — obituary

Dennis, a long-standing GLIAS member, died in November 2013, age 87.

By profession a railway engineer, he had a wide interest in IA and after retirement joined daytime classes. He was a regular attender at GLIAS lectures, going afterwards for a drink and a natter. Although Dennis moved from East London to Huntingdon a few years ago, he attended the 2012 AGM and later in the year we exchanged emails about the sort of minutia that railway enthusiasts love — the origins of a lamp bracket at a station in Furness. David Thomas

King's Cross Square

King's Cross Square   Robert Mason 2014

King's Cross Square, the space in front of King's Cross station (GLIAS Newsletter October 2013, GLIAS Newsletter December 2013) will hardly be clear even when the building works, still in progress, are finally finished and the last hoardings cleared away.

A steel and glass canopy has been erected above the arches leading south from the trainshed, admittedly a welcome addition at times of rain. In the space to the south of this, the Square itself, there is a clutter of stone slab seats and three really obtrusive tall stainless-steel lighting masts. It appears that there will also be two or three buildings, mostly for ventilation of the underground, and the South Square will be further encumbered by some display boards.

Nearly all these recent additions are aggressive and hardly fit in with Lewis Cubitt's original design. To the northwest of the Square, obtrusive stainless-steel street furniture now spoils the view of St Pancras when approaching from the King's Cross suburban platforms. Bob Carr

London Archaeologist

The Winter edition of the London Archaeologist (Vol 13, No 11) contains several items of interest to Industrial Archaeology in London:

Brian James-Strong

Sainsbury's demolition?

Sainsbury's supermarket in Bugsby's Way Greenwich   Bob Carr

Designed by Chetwood Architects, the remarkable Sainsbury's supermarket in Bugsby's Way Greenwich at TQ 401 787 is threatened with immediate demolition. An exemplar building dating only from 1999, it is surrounded by grass banks for thermal insulation, has secure, covered cycle storage and wind turbines for electricity generation. Among the many design features of this pioneering building, the first in the UK to achieve a BREEAM rating of excellent 1, are solar panels, the use of recycled materials and service water drawn from the London aquifer via boreholes.

The local nickname is Teletubby — Sainsbury's and its style was popular with the general public. The official opening was performed by Jamie Oliver and because it incorporated low-energy technologies, it was launched as 'Britain's first low-energy supermarket'. Described by Michael Evamy writing in The Independent as 'the most carefully designed supermarket in the world, ever' — the building was shortlisted for the Stirling prize in 2000 and won a RIBA sustainability award. A petition has been organised to retain the building for alternative uses now that Sainsbury's no longer want it 2. Bob Carr

Queenborough Rolling Mills

The South East is not generally associated with really heavy industry and if we consider say Surrey and Sussex this may be true, but North Kent is different. The south bank of the Thames was heavily industrialised and on the Isle of Sheppey there were two steelworks active until recently.

The Queenborough Rolling Mill to the east of Rushenden Road at TQ 912 716 was engaged in rolling steel to make standard reinforcing bars used in concrete buildings as well as other products. In April 1990 railway rails were being rolled down here. Now closed, an auction of plant took place last September

The sale included the best part of three miles of railway rails, four locomotives and four cranes and a good number of railway wagons. Two of the cranes were rail mounted to run on standard gauge track and the other two were Stothert & Pitt dockside travelling cranes. Transport by both rail and sea was used by the firm. An internal railway linked the rolling mill with a wharf on the Medway to the west at TQ 897 717 which could accommodate ships up to 4,000 tons deadweight.

The rolling-mill plant came second-hand from Italy and was installed here about 1976. It consisted of a traditional type mill and a Bendotti recuperatory gas furnace which was used to heat steel to red heat, sufficient for re-rolling. Bob Carr

English Heritage Conservation Bulletin

The Winter 2013 edition of the English Heritage 'Conservation Bulletin' is a special issue devoted to the First World War. It covers a wide range of issues on the Home Front, including trench training; coast defence, airfields, tanks and graveyards. Of particular interest to industrial archaeology in London are the following:

  • The First Blitz: the Battlefields Trust is setting up a project to collect information on the German aerial campaign against the UK, which will cover not only the airship raids, but also the lesser known raids by developing bomber aircraft. The project will include working with the War Memorials Trust to restore memorials recording damage and casualties from air raids; identifying locations associated with the campaign, including airfields, crash sites, gun and searchlight emplacements and associated industries, which will be input to the Council for British Archaeology's Home Front project and local Historic Environment Registers; and collecting and collating information about the air raids.

  • National Munitions Factories: a research project to record the National Factories in England, a number of which were in the London area, has recently been completed. The results are lodged in the National Record of the Historic Environment and are accessible online via the Pastscape website: The project used contemporary sources to determine how, when and where these factories were constructed, as well as current survivals. In due course it will be used to underpin a survey of factory sites potentially meriting designation.

  • Legacies of the Home Front 1914-18: a pilot study in spring 2013 recorded surviving evidence of the First World War Home Front. It concentrated on two areas: the hinterland of Stoke-on-Trent and London's Lea Valley, which was 'a major industrial and innovation zone and one that also experienced the world's first Blitz'. A variety of sites were identified in Stoke Newington .... [which] 'claims the dubious honour of receiving the first bomb dropped on London'. More information is available at

    The English Heritage Conservation Bulletin is published twice yearly and is available online at Brian James-Strong

    Finsbury Health Centre 75

    Finsbury Health Centre   Robert Mason 2016

    When opened in 1938 the Finsbury Health Centre in London would have appeared overwhelmingly futuristic to the deprived and downtrodden population that at that time lived in relative squalor around it: a present from an advanced alien civilisation dropped in from outer space perhaps. With progressive utopian aims to improve the health of the local population it was designed by the Georgian architect Berthold Lubetkin and the Tecton architectural practice. The metropolitan borough of Finsbury with its motto altiora petimus, we seek higher things, anticipated the advent of the NHS by a decade.

    If you are not familiar with this building the fa ade has a vague resemblance to that of the considerably larger Royal Festival Hall of 1951. Listed grade I, the Health Centre was partially restored about 1995, mainly the north wing. Restoration of the rest of the building to the same standard is now called for.

    On entering the health centre, tapering corridors gave the impression that the building was bigger than it really was. You found an informal lounge with chairs and tables — amazingly you could just walk in and sit down — so different from the usual institutional waiting room with parallel rows of chairs. It was so visitor friendly.

    On Monday 21 October last, the Finsbury Health Centre Preservation Trust organised a party to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Centre's opening. And so 75 years to the day, over 350 people packed the foyer to celebrate the event, with speeches by the Mayoress of Islington, Marisha Ray (whose grandfather worked with Dr Katial the man who commissioned the building in 1935), Martin Klute (Chairman of Islington Health Scrutiny Committee), Dr Iona Heath (Past President of the Royal College of General Practitioners), Martyn Hill (of NHS Property Services, the building's owner), Barbara Jacobson (Chairman of the Finsbury Health Centre Preservation Trust) and John Allan of Avanti Architects.

    Built with public money for a borough then impoverished, The Finsbury Health Centre is essentially unique in Britain. Opened by Lord Horder the King's Physician and Herbert Morrison in 1938, the Centre has continued to serve the local community for 70 years. Before the original opening in the 1930s, the young Denys Lasdun, then the most junior member of the architectural team, had the job of sweeping up before the guests arrived. Altiora petimus? Bob Carr

    Hackney Wick and Fish Island Conservation Area

    GLIAS has written to support the proposals to extend the constricted boundaries of the two Conservation Areas for Hackney Wick and Fish Island.

    These areas were at the forefront of London's industrial developments towards the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th. Good examples of the forms of construction in use for industrial buildings at that time, when steel was beginning to be used as a structural material, are concentrated here. They are solidly built, attractively detailed and adaptable buildings. They are needed to be kept as exemplars, where others have been lost.

    They also recall the importance of London as a manufacturing centre. To a large extent this used raw materials imported through the Port of London and distributed along the adjoining waterways, with local specialities such as in rubber goods. Manufacturing was also driven by the needs of the capital city for printed materials and similar products. Such buildings have an educational value.

    GLIAS says: 'With so much redevelopment now taking place in London, London's former industrial buildings are now much diminished in number, so it is important that such good examples of what remains are protected from destruction through the extension of conservation area controls.' Malcolm T Tucker

    News in brief

    The Luton Guided Busway opened to passengers on 25 September following an official launching ceremony the previous day. The busway provides an interesting ride through a built-up area along a former railway line, avoiding streets gridlocked with traffic. Towards the western end of the route buses leave the course of the railway to make a convenient detour round the centre of Dunstable. Service A then returns to the old railway route and continues along it to terminate at Houghton Regis. The latter place now has a direct service through Luton to the airport. At the launching ceremony Councillor Nigel Young said: 'Watch out Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzard, you really are living in exciting times.'

    Towards the end of the third week in December, the modest gasholder in the Lower High Street at Watford TQ 117 957 (GLIAS Newsletter February 2013) was being demolished. About half the plates from the top of the bell had been removed and half the guide frame was missing. Roughly 80 years old, this was a late example of a column-guided holder with rolled-steel guide frame. It had particularly clean lines.

    Gasholder in Lower High Street, Watford.   Kate Quinton Frogmore House.   Kate Quinton

    North of St Pancras Station at approximately TQ 299 836, the guide frame of gasholder number 8 is now fully re-erected on its new site (GLIAS Newsletter October 2013). Bob Carr

    Freight train question

    Freight trains regularly operate to and fro between Angerstein Wharf on the Thames at New Charlton and Bardon Hill quarry in Leicestershire. Sea-dredged aggregate is unloaded from ships at Angerstein Wharf. Does anyone know what interchange of materials takes place between Angerstein and Leicestershire? Do loaded trains run in both directions? Bob Carr

    Paternoster lifts

    (GLIAS Newsletter October 2013) I remember a report in the local press many years ago about what I believe was a fatal accident involving the lift at Northwick Park Hospital: two youths were fooling about with a wheelchair and the one occupying it was driven into the lift and crushed. This was no doubt an example of natural selection and a pater noster failed to save him.

    There was a Paternoster in the library of the University of Essex when I was there in 1968-9, but I don't now remember if I over-rode either at the top or bottom. Richard Graham

    Depictions to do with beer

    In the December 2013 Newsletter David Flett (GLIAS Newsletter December 2013) mentions a tiled advert which shows a bottle of beer being poured. A rather more frivolous depiction to do with beer is contained in stucco or plaster panels on the 'listed', 1895, 'Duke of Fife' PH at 350 Katherine Street, Forest Gate, E7 8NW. These appear to show cherubs and barrels. While definitely a pub in 2005, it has recently become a night club.

    Are there any other beer-related architectural features in London, other than tiled, etc. lettering?

    Although not in London, more cherubs appear in scenes of brewing in metal panels along the frontage of offices that are the remaining part of the Home Ales Brewery, Mansfield Road, Daybrook, Nottingham. The building, also listed, dates from 1936; the brewery closed in 1996. David Thomas

    Industrial heritage maps

    While nosing around Stanfords' website I saw the following map of Great Britain's Industrial Heritage 1760-1914, which if not currently known to members, and although currently out of stock on their site, might be of interest:

    The publisher, Old House Books, offers others maps of railways, steamship lines, aerodromes, canals and navigals and rivers, etc.
    Sarah Timewell

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  • © GLIAS, 2014