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Notes and news — April 2015

In this issue:

Obituary: David Wood, 1937-2015

On 30 January, GLIAS lost one of its longest-standing members, David Wood. He joined in 1970 with his wife Elizabeth, who survives him. David and Elizabeth took part in many GLIAS walks and Recording Group activities in our early days, particularly in west London and along the Thames, while David's photographic skills were helpful in the exhibitions GLIAS mounted at the Museum of London in 1978 and 1982.

About the same time, David and Elizabeth became actively involved in the Thames Barge Club and the Society for Spritsail Barge Research, as they were then called, and David in the London Branch of the Inland Waterways Association. They explored and campaigned for London's diverse navigable waterways and cruised more widely in a succession of boats. In 1977 David published 'Powderbarge WD', about the barges that served the Royal Gunpowder Factory at Waltham Abbey (second edition 2000). Gunpowder works were another of the Woods' joint interests.

David was a solicitor with a City law firm, but he suffered a stroke and had to take early retirement. He was able to continue particularly his detailed researches on London's sailing barges until his sudden death some 20 years later. He had been involved in the establishment of the London Canal Museum in the 1980s and subsequently his knowledge of local waterways craft was of great value in creating various displays there. He loaned to the museum most of his collection of barge models, many of them made by himself, and donated his photos of north London's canals and his files on canalside planning matters.

David was a very kindly and quietly capable man. GLIAS conveys its deepest condolences to Elizabeth. Malcolm Tucker

Crossness — 150 years ago

Crossness Pumping Station was officially opened by the Prince of Wales 150 years ago this year, on 4 April 1865.

His Royal Highness left Speakers Stairs at Westminster Palace and travelled down river and arrived at Woolwich at noon. The party landed on the opposite bank in order to inspect the Northern Outfall Works first at Barking Creek. Then they crossed the river to the Southern Outfall Works at Crossness. As soon as the prince set foot on the pier a Royal Standard was hung out from the buildings and the Royal Marines band played.

A section of the outfall sewer was erected in front of the engine house and the party entered the engine house by passing through it. They toured the engine and boiler houses and went into the culvert through which the sewage is received after it leaves the pumps and makes its way to the reservoir. The party next visited the reservoir.

After visiting the Workshop they returned to the Engine House and with assistance from the engineers the Prince turned the valve that started the first engine. This was one of the original single-cylindered engines.

All four engines were set in motion by the prince who was cheered by workmen in the upper regions of the house as each one was started.

Following this a lunch was served and speeches made. In a toast proposed by the prince he said: 'Success to the great and national undertaking, the completion of which we have witnessed this day.'

The prince left Crossness as he had arrived by river boat at 3pm, and arrived back at Westminster by 4.30pm.

One of the Crossness Engines — Prince Consort — is now back in steam (GLIAS Newsletter October 2003). David Dawson

Alexandra Palace regeneration

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded Alexandra Palace £18.8million to restore its most significant historic spaces to their former glory and secure the palace's future as one of London's leading heritage destinations.

Under the plans, the eastern end of the palace, comprising the BBC Studios and the Victorian Theatre will be repaired and refurbished, together with the glazed East Court in which a new and more welcoming public entrance hall will be created.

Alexandra Palace, March 2016. © Colin Marr

The BBC studios, which gave birth to high-definition television broadcasts in 1936, will be turned into an interactive visitor attraction.

The restoration will cost £26.7m, with the London Borough of Haringey having pledged £6.8m and the Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust committing to a fundraising target of £1m before the start of the project in 2016.

Carole Souter, chief executive of HLF, said: 'Alexandra Palace has played a pivotal role in the development of popular entertainment, culminating in the birth of British television.

'The eastern end has stood derelict for 35 years but now Lottery funding is heralding a new chapter for this iconic building, creating an inspirational space where people can learn about its rich and colourful history.'

Paternoster lifts

There is an example of a Paternoster Lift (GLIAS Newsletter February 2015) in the film 'The Omen' (the Gregory Peck version). It's at Northwick Park Hospital.

Also, when I started work in 1958 at Euston House (BR LMR) now called Eversholt House, there was a Paternoster type of elevator used to convey mail from the ground floor sorting office as far as the eighth floor. The mail was contained in metal boxes with a sliding knob which would hit a lever and be ejected at the required floor on to a set of rollers awaiting collection. Charles Bicheno

Creekmouth — LB of Barking and Dagenham (Postcode IG11)

Creekmouth is south of the A13 trunk road and on the east side of the mouth of the River Roding as it flows into the River Thames. A 'Creekmouth Heritage Walk' intrigued me for having lived most of my life within 10 miles of the area, I had never been there, but then, who has? The area's entry in 'London 5: East, The Buildings of England, by Cherry, O'Brian and Pevsner, 2005' was not encouraging, the 1953-1960 Thames View Estate is complemented, but The London — Tilbury Road (A13) lies as a grim belt across the borough and is as unpleasant as any major urban thoroughfare can be... South of the A13 lies an area which was historically reserved for some of the more noxious and unneighbourly industries lining River Road and beyond. It is a staggering mess, a hinterland of factories and warehouses.

We were told that at one time the area had formed a natural lake and harbour connected to the Thames and it was from here that Henry VIII had embarked on his flagship for his continental 'Cloth of Gold' venture. The lake had subsequently silted up, and it was where much of London's WW2 rubble was dumped, residents are still advised not to grow anything for eating. For centuries there has been industry on the eastern bank of the Roding, originally being accessed from the river which was then thriving, Barking having had a large fishing fleet. River Road, which runs parallel to the Roding came later.

0-6-0 loco currently at Blumsons Timber Merchants River Road, Barking, taken December 2014 by John Lewis

My first impressions as we walked south along River Road agreed with Pevsner. There were surprises however. The one being a metal clad factory has 'sculptures' on its sides. At Maple Wharf, 38 River Road in the forecourt of Blumsom Timber Centre, established 1896, is a broad gauge 0-6-0 tank engine (GLIAS Newsletter June 2006). Googling suggests that it was built by Tampella of Finland in 1925, numbered 795, and it arrived at Blumsom's in 2008 via the Epping and Ongar Railway. But this is all that I have been able to find out about the engine. At Algor Wharf, is what looks to me like a 1920s-style brick building at right angles to the road. In plan-view it appears to consist of three adjacent identical squares. The outer squares having square 'towers', five if not six storeys high, with each of the sides having three or four long 'studio' windows which will allow lot of light into the tower and one can see daylight through the towers. These towers do not appear to have any internal floors. The middle square is a low building in the same architectural style, also with matching windows on the two outer walls. The building is on the Borough's 'Local List of Buildings of Special Historic or Architectural Importance', it must have been built for a particular purpose but what was it?

At the southern end of River Road, the OS map shows a public footpath curving round to the confluence of the Thames and the Roding. This path would originally have passed round behind the hamlet of Creekmouth and is now within the Creekmouth Open Space where one is able to get close to the 1983 60m tall Barking Creekmouth flood barrier. The hamlet of Creekmouth came into existence in 1887 being built to house the workers of the Lowes chemical factory, by 1889 there were 55 houses with a population of 210. The hamlet had one school, built in 1901, one shop, one pub and a Mission Church built into the centre of one of the terraces of houses. The village was flooded during the Great Essex Flood of 1953 and the families were moved out for Lowes were not willing to refurbish the houses. Subsequently the village was demolished, the school being the only building still standing, now the offices of Squibb Demolition of 62 River Road. An information board includes a sketch of a monoplane and states that Handley Page had an aeroplane factory here and that in 1911 the EHP5 was the first plane to fly over London. Peter J Butt

Sir Nigel Gresley statue

Statue of Sir Nigel Gresley, King's Cross Station © Marcus Man

The Gresley Society Trust has obtained authority from Network Rail, Camden Borough Council, and English Heritage to erect a statue of Sir Nigel Gresley on the western concourse of King's Cross Station for a planned unveiling on Tuesday 5 April 2016, the 75th anniversary of Sir Nigel's death.

It will be sculpted by Hazel Reeves and will depict Sir Nigel standing, accompanied by a mallard. The statue will be cast in bronze. A plaque on the adjacent wall will explain briefly about Sir Nigel. It will also carry a QR code, so that those with smartphones may get into immediate touch with this website to learn about Sir Nigel and his work.
The Gresley Society Trust, 96 Greenfield Drive, Eaglescliffe, Stockton on Tees TS16 0HN. Tel: 01642 781641. Web:

News in brief

Henry Perky invented shredded wheat in 1893. A factory to make shredded wheat was built at Welwyn Garden City, designed by Louis de Soissons. Now listed grade II, this building was chosen to represent the year 1926 for the book 100 Buildings 100 Years — see book review. Shredded wheat is no longer made in Welwyn, the factory closed in 2008 and it is now produced in Somerset. Following the local authority's rejection of a proposal for redevelopment by Tesco the future of the Welwyn building is uncertain.

In recent years large Victorian houses in the Seven Sisters Road facing Finsbury Park have been demolished and replaced by flats (see eg GLIAS Newsletter June 2010). Seven years ago in 2008, Alexandra National House was demolished (GLIAS Newsletter August 2008), and Sunflower Court now occupies the site. Another replacement was a development of 44 mixed tenure affordable housing units by the eminent architectural practice Sergison Bates. These are just to the east of the junction with Alexandra Grove at TQ 318 871. Built 2004-8 this development received high praise — in 2009 the architects received a RIBA Award for these affordable flats, were also nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award and shortlisted for the Housing Design Awards and Affordable Home Ownership Award. To the untrained eye these flats look somewhat unfinished? One has much to learn.

There appear to be genuine gaslights outside St Mary's church in Upper Street, Islington. Do these run off the ordinary domestic gas supply? Does anyone have further information? Gas lights in the street now seem fairly rare in London although about 1,500 are said to be still in use.

It was noted on 4 February that at Battersea power station the chimney at the southwest corner had been removed. To the south west of here demolition work had already started on the prominent MAN gasholder, and the top portion was already absent. By the time you read this the whole structure may have gone. The television advertisement for Battersea Dogs' Home which has been broadcast recently shows the complete gasholder. Whittington Lodge which served as Battersea Cats' Home about a hundred years ago has been listed grade II. Dating from 1907 it was designed by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis, responsible for Portmeirion in North Wales. It was the first purpose-built cattery in England.

The Sainsbury's eco supermarket in Bugsby's Way Greenwich (GLIAS Newsletter February 2014) is likely to be demolished but at present the store is still open for business. This remarkable building is probably best seen from the air and The Twentieth Century Society's 100 Buildings 100 Years includes an excellent aerial view: the society chose this supermarket to represent the year 1999 in their book. Bob Carr


Plaque on Dundonald Primary School, Dundonald Road, Wimbledon, SW19

The item on Queen Victoria diamond jubilee plaques (GLIAS Newsletter February 2015) asked for advice of other examples — there is a plaque on Dundonald Primary School, Dundonald Road, Wimbledon, SW19 which is identical to that on the New Inn (except that it has not been painted). It is about 12 feet above the ground whereas the New Inn plaque is lower (and has a receptacle for street smokers' fag butts next to it). Graham Kirkpatrick

Concerning Tottenham Cakes (GLIAS Newsletter February 2015) I've known them in Greggs for as long as I can remember in London (10 years or more), and I found this web page that shines a bit more light of the origins:
Tim Matthews

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© GLIAS, 2015