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Notes and news — October 2015

In this issue:

More on Islington bacon smokehouse

Peter Butt (GLIAS Newsletter August 2015) asked about an Islington bacon smokehouse. Its Grade II listing was noted on the Historic England web page:

while a fuller entry on the building is on the National Heritage List for England web page:

This gives the address as 44-46 St John Street, EC1M 4DF, and dates the building at 1877. The architect was one Charles Bell, who designed it for E R Parker, a provision merchant. As Peter noted, although more recently converted to offices, the building has retained the distinctive high-level circular sliding shutters that allowed the smoking process to be regulated from a first-floor external walkway.

There is a short description of the smokehouse and a photograph of its exterior on p58 of the Historic England Designation Yearbook 2014-15, downloadable from:

Some time in the late 1980s I was in a group of engineers and architects that walked through the derelict former premises of the Danish Bacon Company north of Cowcross Street, which — like the St John Street smokery — was close to Smithfield Meat Market. I dimly recall seeing a stained-glass window with the letters D B C incorporated, and looking into a smokehouse with walls crusted with a thick coating of carbon from the smoke. Alas I did not have my camera! The site was subsequently redeveloped, with little evidence of its past being retained. Those with a copy of Aubrey Wilson's London's Industrial Heritage (1967) will remember the photograph of the food-drying kilns in South Lambeth Road built for the founder of Brand's Essence, long since demolished. There can be few such buildings left today, even if now disused or derelict. So the survival of the St John Street smokery building and the retention of visible features of its past usage is especially welcome. Michael Bussell

It is set behind St John Street in Clerkenwell, and is mentioned briefly in volume 46 of the Survey of London (2008), the relevant party of which can be seen online under Nos 38-46 in the section that comes up through this link —
Peter Guillery

Millennium Mills, Silvertown, Royal Docks

Articles in 'The Wharf', 30 July 2015, p4, by Giles Broadbent, and 'The Guardian', 11 August, p11, by Maev Kennedy, describe plans for the redevelopment of this mill building which overlooks the Royal Victoria Dock. The Wharf's headline being: 'Flour fortress set to rise again from barren landscape', while The Guardian's is: 'Docklands' incredible hulk gets new lease of life as housing and offices'.

Millennium Mills, Silvertown, 2022

There had been mills in the area for centuries, but the 10-storey high complex was originally built in 1905 for Vernon and Sons and named after their award-winning flour, Winalot dog food was made there. The mills suffered from the Silvertown Explosion in 1917 when a nearby munitions factory exploded. The present mill building, partly built with government compensation, was regarded in its time as palatial, being light and airy with large windows and high ceilings. The mills are mentioned by the successors of Pevsner in their 2005: 'The Buildings of England, London 5: East' as: 'Spiller's Millennium Mills remain a major landmark on the dock side'. Pevsner himself in his 1952 'Essex' volume was quite lyrical about Silvertown itself: 'Silvertown in spite, and partly because, of its heavy war damage, has much poetry. The mixture of the vast ships in the docks, the vaster factories and mills, the small, mean, huddled and not uncomfortable houses, the scrubby vegetation of the bombed sites, and the church cannot fail to impress'. At least the Millennium Mills are still recognisable if little else in the area is and they 'will be the architectural centre piece of the Silvertown Partnerships' reworking of the Royal Docks, housing some of the most entrepreneurial and exciting companies in the world', or as the other article states: 'it will be the home of digital startups and accelerators'.
Peter J Butt

Peckham regeneration

Readers of the property pages of the London newspapers will probably know this already, but recently Peckham has been trumpeted as the trendiest place on earth — even compared with Camden Market. This has relevance for industrial archaeology.

Peckham Rye railway station was designed by the architect Charles Henry Driver (1832-1900), who working with the engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette was responsible for a number of London's great pumping stations. From 1865, in collaboration with the engineer R J Hood, Driver contributed much architecture to the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) and was responsible for the big railway terminus at London Bridge. This great station, larger than King's Cross, has recently been demolished — a sad loss for London. You can still see Driver's fine railway terminus at Eastbourne.

Opened in the mid 1860s, Peckham Rye railway station is in two parts, north and south, built as a joint station for the London Chatham and Dover and the LBSCR. It was listed grade II early in 2008 and is slowly being renovated and brought back to something of its former glory. Following refenestration, current attention is focused on reopening the spacious Old Waiting Room. More like a fine ballroom than a mere waiting room it stretches across from north to south between the two sets of railway tracks. Other parts of the station have already received some attention making a formerly rather disagreeable location considerably more inviting. A driving force behind this renaissance is the architect Benedict O'Looney, who lectures at the University of Canterbury. When built this Peckham station was architecturally at least the equal of Denmark Hill.

Just to the north-east of Peckham Rye railway station is a massive multi-storey car park, built for Sainsbury's in 1982. It is a rectangular box-like structure. The supermarket itself was accommodated inside the box on the Rye Lane side of the building at the east end of Moncrieff Place. By 1992 Sainsbury's had moved out, to 80 Dog Kennel Hill SE22, and a multiplex cinema took the supermarket's place. When there was a serious intention of extending the tramway network of South London to the north across the Thames, this multi-storey car park was earmarked for redevelopment to provide a tram depot.

Now the tramway extension into central London has been abandoned and the car park has become run down — the upper floors are currently out of use for car parking. The topmost floors now display works of art and on the roof itself is an oh-so-trendy café — called Franks. The innovative conversion of the roof was carried out by the young Cambridge architects Carr & Smith. Orchestral concerts are held in part of the car park and when the orchestra is playing the music can be heard from the platforms of Peckham Rye railway station.

Immediately to the south of this car park, across the two sets of railway tracks, is a former sports equipment manufactory — the Bussey Building. This is an early 20th-century reinforced concrete structure, brick-clad with most of the decorative features on the railway side of the building, facing north. Reputedly cricket bats were made here using willow from the firm's own farm in Suffolk. Now there is Yoga on the roof, opera, theatre and much else inside. Purcell's Dido and Aeneas was performed here in 2013 and plays from the Royal Court Theatre in 2012. Bob Carr

Wyatt & Co tin box factory

In Southwark the former Wyatt & Co tin box factory, 67-71 Tanner Street, which dates from 1872, has been in use as a furniture market — Tower Bridge Antiques. The local council has approved the demolition of the building and it is to be replaced by an eight-storey copper and zinc-clad apartment block, designed by Create Design & Architecture. A submission from the Victorian Society objected to the demolition of the factory on the grounds that it is a 'characterful historic building, capable of sympathetic conversion'. The planning officer admitted that the Victorian building 'has some townscape merit' but said 'it is not considered to be of sufficient quality and significance to justify retention'. Bob Carr

News in brief

In Oxford Street, there is a fine example of a chhatri — see GLIAS Newsletter June 2012. Painted white, it is high up opposite the John Lewis department store.

By the River Lea just south-east of Bow Locks at TQ 383 822 is a large plant for the recycling of domestic waste, operated by Bywaters. Working 24 hours a day it employs over a hundred people. Some of the work is quite labour intensive, human intervention is still necessary to remove material that cannot be recycled. Remember this if you are ever tempted to put something unsavoury into the bag — there is a human being at the other end who will have to deal with it.

PS Waverley was scheduled to operate cruises on the Thames this year from 25 September to 11 October. Cruises to see the Thames forts designed by Guy Maunsell * were advertised for 1 & 10 October. Bob Carr

Tottenham cake

There have been several mentions of 'Tottenham pink cake' in the newsletter (eg, GLIAS Newsletter February 2015).

For those wanting to have a go at making their own version the following recipe was published recently in the Hampshire Star Courier.

Preheat oven to 150°C. Grease and line the base of a 12x9in tray-bake pan.

Mix the butter and the caster sugar. Gradually add the egg and the flour mix, folding as you go, alternating between the two until all is well combined.

Now mix in the vanilla extract. Add a little milk, until the mixture becomes a 'dropping' consistency — the mixture should slowly fall, not run off the spoon.

Pour into the baking tray and bake for 50 minutes approximately, until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool while you make the icing. In a bowl, add the food colouring (optional) to the icing sugar, gradually add a little water until it is just runny enough to coat your cake.

Top with the coconut (which you can toast lightly for added flavour), leave to set and cut into squares.

(Thanks to Martin Adams)

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© GLIAS, 2015