GLIAS

GREATER LONDON INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY SOCIETY

Home | Membership | News | Diary | Courses | Noticeboard | Books | Links | Database | e-papers | Contact

Notes and news — August 2014

In this issue:

A bequest from Paul Calvocoressi

Members may recall that a notice of the death of Paul Calvocoressi appeared in the Newsletter last year (GLIAS Newsletter February 2013). Paul was a GLC inspector of historic buildings, later with English Heritage. He had a particular interest in Industrial Archaeology being a member of both GLIAS and the AIA and had a detailed knowledge of Thames Warehouses on which he gave a GLIAS lecture. He was instrumental in establishing a preservation trust for Crossness Engines.

I am now able to report that GLIAS along five other bodies concerned with London's history and archaeology were left generous sums of money in Paul's will. Over its next few meetings the GLIAS Board will be considering how to best use this bequest for the benefit of industrial archaeology in London. The Board would be interested in members' views. David Perrett (>>>)

Kirkaldy update

Kirkaldy Testing Museum, 2012. © Adriaan Linters Members will be aware that David Kirkaldy's Testing Works Museum at 99 Southwark Street has been under threat of closure since new landlords took over and this has concerned the GLIAS Board considerably. Earlier this year, on behalf of GLIAS, I submitted an application to English Heritage asking that its listing (Grade II) be increased to Grade I and all parts of the works be included. In June, I was informed that it was to be uprated to Grade II*. This certainly enhances its protection but I am disappointed that that its international importance was not fully appreciated and that alone in my opinion warrants Grade I.

The following information is edited from a note circulated by Hugh MacGillivray, director of the museum, in mid-July:

The next, and possibly the last open day by the Trust, is therefore Sunday 3 August when the machine will be action. David Perrett

A new future for 55 Broadway?

55 Broadway, 2004. © Robert Mason To anyone who grew up under London Transport, rather than Transport for London, 55 Broadway was the headquarters of 'LT'. Times change, and TfL now covers a much wider remit than its predecessor with a correspondingly larger staff, based in various offices — some as far afield as Worthing and Sheffield.

So it is perhaps not surprising that TfL is looking for new uses for the LT flagship building, which sits above St James's Park Underground Station, midway between St James's Park and Westminster Abbey. According to a recent press release, architects TateHindle have been selected to prepare a proposal for what is described as 'a residential-led development', to be submitted for planning permission and Listed Building Consent later this year. TfL, which owns the building's freehold, points out that it has a duty to those who pay taxes and fares to obtain a commercial return on the building, and undertakes to put the proceeds into improving London's public transport services. With property prices in central London rising almost beyond belief and apparently beyond control, it seems that conversion to luxury apartments to sell at six, possibly seven, figure prices is intended.

The architect of 55 Broadway was Charles Holden, who also created some distinctive station buildings for London Underground as well as London University Senate House. Both this building and 55 Broadway have a steel frame, are clad in Portland stone, and rise to substantial but varying heights — which reduces their bulky impact on the surroundings and, more practically for their occupants, provides good daylighting. Both reflect American practice in taller building design in cities, indeed 55 Broadway was the tallest office building in London when it opened in 1929. It has a cruciform plan like a plus sign (+), with four wings abutting a central tower. The wings rise to 80 feet (24.3m) above ground, the limiting height permitted for occupied buildings at the time by London building regulations, mainly as this was the greatest height to which the fire brigade could reach with ladders and hoses, but incidentally helping to reduce the gloomy 'canyon' effect produced by tall slab-sided buildings overlooking narrow streets, as in cities such as New York and elsewhere. The central tower rises to 175 feet (53.3m). Opinions seem to differ on whether this greater height was permitted because the tower's upper floors were only scantily occupied (it functions mainly as a service core), or were accessible from the adjacent flat roofs of the wings, or perhaps because the tower is set well back from the street frontages.

The building, originally listed Grade II in 1970 but raised to Grade I status in 2011 (GLIAS Newsletter August 2011), was relatively rare in incorporating sculpture on its façades, notably by Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore and Eric Gill. Internally it was impressively fitted out with extensive use of teak floors, marble, bronze, and other quality materials.

55 Broadway also has particular significance for GLIAS. Our first president, the late R Michael Robbins, was a noted transport historian, but of more relevance is that he rose to be a senior person in London Transport, eventually becoming managing director (railways). Early meetings of the GLIAS Committee, following the society's launch in December 1968, were held in his spacious office in 55 Broadway. For our first meeting, on Monday 13 January 1969, my diary notes that we were generously provided with sherry and biscuits (!) — although Mr Robbins of course contributed very much more to GLIAS than that... Michael Bussell

The 'Castle' pubs of Camden

I've heard many times from various sources a story about the 'castle' pubs of Camden Town — the Edinboro Castle, the Dublin Castle, the Windsor Castle and the Pembroke Castle — being so-called to keep the railway navvies of varying origins apart during the 19th century. None of the sources cites any documentary evidence for this, and personally I find it somewhat hard to believe.

Firstly I don't think it would work in avoiding fisticuffs amongst navvies (why would they fight with others just because they're from a different part of the UK and why wouldn't they fight amongst themselves?). Would the Irish navvies working on the railways really fit in the Dublin Castle on a Saturday night? The theory would also require all the pubs to be built or named at the same time, and at the same time that railway building began in Camden in the late 1830s. As doesn't take into account the fact that 'The xxx Castle' is a just a very common form of pub nomenclature.

It is a lovely story though, and I would love it to be true. Do any members have any views or evidence to back it up or dispel it? For example the construction dates of the pubs would be revealing. (As far as I can tell the Windsor Castle and Pembroke Castle were not open until the 1860s, far too late for this theory).

I've also heard that they may have been named after 'Castle' class locomotives, which I'm not convinced by and interestingly the later Caernarvon Castle (now gone) may have been named after a Union Castle Line ship, so could this have any relation to the earlier castle pubs...?
Tim Matthews, Albert Street, Camden Town. Email: timmatthews4500@hotmail.com

Nuclear bunkers

The mention of the underground Civil Defence HQs (GLIAS Newsletter June 2014) reminded me of late 1955.

At that time I was delivering some form of electric motors to the bunkers being constructed in various place.

The one that stuck in my mind was in Bromley Lane at TQ4456 7031 on the outskirts of Chislehurst. At the time I think it was local council offices.

The motor was taken off my lorry and lowered into hole about two yards square, it disappeared into the depths, I reckon about 75 feet.

I think there was a small brick building where the hole had been the next time I was round there.

What made that stick in my mind was that in later years some very large, very expensive houses were built just beside where the hole was.

I always wondered when I passed if all the underground works were filled in before the houses were built.

The original office building is still there, now the Chislehurst Business Centre and so far as I can recollect the hole was somewhere about where the car park now is.

This was not far from what is now called Frognal Corner. At that time called Frogpool Corner as the place on the north east corner (I think a stables) had a large pool with a frog population in the middle of its yard. The pool went when it became a garden centre and the name changed. Bob Rust

Smithfield Western Market buildings saved — for the time being

3.9.14 © Robert Mason 2014

At present in the capital it seems that the City of London, in particular, is undergoing an apparently irresistible spate of major new developments — often involving the loss of attractive, or at worst inoffensive, older buildings. Shades of the 1960s! So it came as a welcome surprise in early July to read 1 that Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, had supported the conclusions of the Planning Inspector who held a public inquiry earlier in the year 2.

Both refused the planning application by Henderson Global Investors and their architect, John McAslan, which would have inserted new office blocks within the Western Market Buildings at Smithfield, retaining most of the façades but losing much of the interiors. Here there are four buildings that, like the main Smithfield Meat Market of 1866-7, were designed by Sir Horace Jones, the City's Architect, and built in stages from the late 1870s to the 1890s. Of these, the largest and architecturally most notable is the General Market, which continues the east-west alignment of the larger market buildings, and features laminated timber barrel-vault roof arches carried on 'Phoenix' columns — octagonal hollow shafts formed by riveting together wrought iron plates. (Although such columns were widely employed in steel, particularly in the USA whose Phoenix Ironworks pioneered them, only one other application of these columns in wrought iron is known in the UK, supporting the canopies at Redhill railway station.)

All four buildings are within the Smithfield Conservation Area, but remain unlisted, unlike the main Meat Market building and the more recent Poultry Market (rebuilt 1962-3 with a shallow reinforced concrete dome roof after the original building had been destroyed by fire). Several attempts to have the Western Market buildings listed have been turned down, including one submitted to English Heritage earlier this year, despite a thorough report on them being prepared by English Heritage's own Historical Research and Conservation Support London team in 2003. This, in particular, highlighted the significance and rarity of the Phoenix columns.

SAVE Britain's Heritage published a campaigning report in 2004, Don't Butcher Smithfield¸ which probably carried weight in the decision to reject an application to demolish these buildings after a public inquiry in 2007-8, but they remained empty and awaiting new use. However, an imaginative alternative to the more recent Henderson proposals has been developed by SAVE, conceived by architects Burrell Foley Fischer (who would have overseen the restoration of the Grade I listed Brighton West Pier, had that not been brought to nothing by hostile natural and human forces). Their ideas envisage a lively mix of open spaces both indoor and outdoor, shopping and eating, and business/craft use. This offers the prospect of becoming, like Covent Garden, a pleasant 'hub' attracting visitors, as well as serving the many workers in offices and other occupations in this area, which currently lacks such a spacious public amenity.

SAVE, the Victorian Society, and numerous other bodies and individuals all opposed the Henderson scheme. However, and disappointingly to me (and others it appears), English Heritage elected not to oppose the application outright, instead taking the view that the Henderson scheme offered a realistic long term proposal to bring the redundant Victorian buildings back into viable use, and suggesting that a scheme with less new development would not be financially viable. This view would appear to have carried weight with the City Corporation, which granted planning permission. However, the application was then called in for public inquiry by the DCLG Secretary of State, as it was deemed to involve matters of substantial regional and national controversy.

The Inspector, after taking evidence at the public enquiry, came to the view that the Henderson scheme should be refused planning permission, and Mr Pickles agreed. His letter 2 said that 'the Western Market Buildings are an integral part of the group of market buildings that is a key characteristic of the Smithfield Conservation Area and it is important that they are repaired and put into a beneficial use that is consistent with their conservation as heritage assets'. He found 'the proposal to demolish important parts of significant market buildings, to the great detriment to the surrounding area, to be wholly unacceptable ... the shared setting of several listed buildings would not be preserved and the character and appearance of the Smithfield Conservation Area would be diminished'. This is a most welcome (and dare I say pleasantly surprising) decision, although obviously it is essential that the City Corporation as the local planning authority, as well as Henderson or another developer keen to be involved in a more heritage-friendly scheme, should take steps to progress the revival of these long-neglected buildings, which now deserve and have surely earned some Tender Loving Care.

A more impassioned commentary on this, critical of the City Corporation and English Heritage, appeared in The Sunday Times for 13 July 4. Michael Bussell

SERIAC news

SERIAC 2014 was held at Royal Russell School, South Croydon on 12 April 2014 and was hosted jointly by GLIAS, Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society and Sub Brit. There were some 220 attendees including the seven speakers. Even after donations to Shirley Windmill and Croydon Airport Society GLIAS was able to hand on an additional £150 to the next SERIAC organising society HIAS for the next meeting which will be in Southampton on 15 April 2015.

The SERIAC organising committee met a month ago and a number of changes were made.

After some 30 years being Secretary to SERIAC Ron Martin of SIAS stood down and was warmly thanked for all that work. In future the Society holding the next conference will supply not only the SERIAC chair but also the SERIAC secretary. They will deal with all SERIAC matters including the bursary scheme for that year. Once again there were no applications for a SERIAC bursary so it was decided to increase the proportion of SERIAC funding available to the scheme to £750. The bursaries are designed to fund IA research etc. in the SERIAC region. Details will be available in the SERIAC booking form later in the year or contact me. David Perrett
Email: d.perrett647@btinternet.com

News in brief

Although dramatic, on 19 May a fire at Camden Town in The Stables market area does not seem to have done very extensive damage. The fire was noticed just before eight o'clock in the evening. About 600 people were evacuated and the fire brigade did excellent work. By ten o'clock the fire was under control. Fortunately no-one was hurt. Chalk Farm Road was closed and bus services were disrupted. There are outlets serving hot food in The Stables complex and the conflagration could have begun with a fire in a kitchen area. In the 19th century the stables, partly listed grade II, were used by Pickford's the carriers. There was no fire in the Horse Hospital.

In 2008 a more serious fire in the Hawley Wharf area resulted in the clearance of damaged buildings and the Caernarvon Castle public house was demolished. In the Camden Lock area large tracts of land have recently been sold on to an Israeli developer; a new school is to be built along with other development. The area to be developed includes Stanley Sidings. More news from Camden Town would be welcome. Currently in excess of 40 million people a year visit Camden Market.

At 31 Kenworthy Road E9 at the junction with Kemey's Street on the south facing side of a newsagent's shop on the corner is a 'Player's Please' advertisement. Consisting of gold letters in handwriting style shaded in black on a white background it appears to be painted on the brickwork. Quite well above pavement level it might be 40 or more years old. Some recent new brickwork has removed part of the advert but the slogan can still be made out. In this country all cigarettes advertising has been strictly illegal for nearly ten years but as this is a historic survival it is probably permitted to leave it alone. Are Player's cigarettes still sold?

The heritage service of Routemaster buses on route 9 came to an end on Friday 25 July. Routemasters will continue to operate on route 15 for the time being.

Elliott School Putney described by English Heritage as 'perhaps the finest of the large comprehensive schools built by the London County Council architects', was listed grade II in 1992. Designed in 1954, it was an early work of John Bancroft (GLIAS Newsletter October 2011). More than half the school was threatened with demolition and there was a considerable protest campaign. Things seem to have gone quiet of late — what is the current situation?

Bob Carr

Lectures times

GLIAS lectures take place at 6.30pm on the third Wednesday in the month from January to May. At the AGM, it was suggested that a later time might suit some members better, eg 7pm. On a show of hands, there was clear support for retaining the present time of 6.30pm. But, of course, those present were people who were able to attend at 6.30. It was suggested that the views of members who were not present might support a different time. If you have been unable to attend lectures but would have been able to do so at a different time, or if you have views on this issue, please contact me. Brian James-Strong. Email: secretary@glias.org.uk

Next issue >>>


© GLIAS, 2014