Home | Membership | News | Diary | Walks | Calvocoressi Fund | Books | Journals | Links | Database | e-papers | About us

Notes and news — June 2016

In this issue:

Woodberry Wetlands

This remarkable haven for wildlife in Stoke Newington was opened by Sir David Attenborough on 30 April this year. At one time it was suggested that a solution similar to that at Barn Elms (GLIAS Newsletter December 1990, December 2001) might be adopted for the two Stoke Newington reservoirs and what has now come to fruition at the East Reservoir is, if anything, an even better scheme.

As well as the natural world there is industrial archaeological interest here. In 1831 a pumping station was built immediately to the east of Lordship Road. At first it housed a second-hand engine of marine type obtained from the South Level Commissioners. This pumping station was apparently demolished some time before 1900 but an associated building, presently believed to have been a coal store and workshop, was retained.

With financial assistance from a number of benefactors including the Association for Industrial Archaeology this building has been restored and now known as the Coal House serves as a café for visitors. Woodbury Wetlands is open to the public free of charge and is well worth a visit. Bob Carr

Deptford Working Histories

The newly formed 'Deptford Working Histories' is sending out a call for involvement and participation from GLIAS members interested in researching the industrial past of Deptford's Riverfront.

We are asking you to join a 'Swot Team' to help uncover jointly or individually, using several London based archives, the histories of the following:

And ... we would like to say 'Hi again, Nice to have met you and hope you will join us' to the group of GLIAS members bumped into on the Oxleas Road Bridge SE8 last

April while they gazed over the large now empty space of what was once a canal pool which will soon be 'Des-Res' new build apartments.

Given Deptford's historic wealth, not just of London, but of international importance across several eras, it is remarkable that there is no Deptford specific Heritage Centre.

Deptford Working Histories is made up entirely of unpaid hard working enthusiasts (and new members of GLIAS) formed in respond to the massive rebuilding programmes currently re-molding Deptford and its population.

It is dedicated to researching, celebrating and sharing Deptford's rich working history of industrial innovation and stature before the few last vestiges of that heritage disappear.

As well as researching across several libraries and archives we put on community participatory events to engage local people in the ordinary history of the area which has for so long been widely and woefully forgotten and/or under researched.

Since forming in January 2016 we have delivered three exhibitions on local council estates and one historic walk and talk and have more of the same in the pipe line.
Please contact for a warm welcome and further details

Surviving London gasholders

East Greenwich, 2016 © Robert Mason

As well as the listed gasholders at Bromley-by-Bow, St Pancras and The Oval there are a good many gas holders still to be seen in the London area. That is to say gasholder guide frames, as all low-pressure gas holders on public supply in Britain are now de-commissioned.

At the beginning of May 2016 it was noted that the following locations still had their guide frames: St Mary Cray, Bromley, Old Kent Road and East Greenwich (pictured). Bob Carr

London Historic Environment Research Strategy webpage now live

CBA London have now finished putting together the London Historic Environment Research Strategy introductory webpage with access to the strategy pdf and a few initial resource links. More will be added to the webpage over time. An Advisory Board is also going to be established in the coming months.

The CBA London webpage link for the research strategy is:

There is also a Facebook Public Group page intended to act as a Research Strategy forum for discussion and advice. The link is:

Disused industrial equipment next to Lea Bridge station

Kestner Evaporator, Lea Bridge station © Stephen Furley Makers plate © Stephen Furley

There is something behind the 'down' platform at Lea Bridge station which has a tall metal chimney made of several sections bolted together and which seems to be of considerable age. The chimney sections look to be cast, rather than made from sheet metal. I didn't notice it when the station was previously open in 1985, and couldn't get a close look at it from a passing train after the station closed. At first I thought it might just be an incinerator or something, but it's the wrong shape, a tall cylinder, somewhat similar to a vertical boiler. Since I happened to be in Stratford recently now that the station has re-opened, I returned to Lea Bridge to get a closer look. It's something rather more interesting.

There's a smallish tank perched above it to one side, though some of the piping seems to be missing. There's also a pipe in the shape of an inverted U connected to the main vessel. Just above the wall separating it from the platform there's a metal plate:

Surprisingly Google brings up quite a few items relating to this company. Fruit juice evaporators seem to have been one of their main products, along with sugar refinery equipment, and one mention of a plant for drying animal blood to make fertiliser.

I have only been able to find one reference to the Merilene Heating System, in a British document from the 1940s, but on an Indian website about the production of varnish. There's a drawing of the equipment, looking exactly like that at Lea Bridge, but with the missing pipework intact. Unfortunately, the drawing is poorly annotated, and it's not clear exactly how it worked. It seems that it was used for industrial process heating to relatively low temperatures, but higher than could be obtained by steam coils without using high pressures, by heating an oil, and circulating this around the vessel containing whatever was to be heated. The small tank is a expansion tank for the circulating hot oil. There is a small access door in the conical top, reached by the vertical ladder.

The hole with the missing door is not for putting in coal; the device was oil fired. Given this fact the chimney seems to be surprisingly tall; maybe it was unusually so in this case to keep oil fumes away from passengers waiting on the station platform.

Above left shows most of the device, and above right the makers plate. The hole with the missing door is not for putting in coal; the device was oil fired. Given this fact the chimney seems to be surprisingly tall; maybe it was unusually so in this case to keep oil fumes away from passengers waiting on the station platform.

The document on the Indian website is here:

There are 640 pages of it, but the Merilene system is mentioned at the bottom of page 7, with the drawing on page 8. That is the pages numbered 7 and 8; pages 28 and 29 of the PDF file.

It seems that Kestner was acquired by APV in 1966.

The building seems to be unoccupied at present; it would be interesting to know which company previously used it, and what they needed to heat with this system.

This device has clearly been out of use for a very long time, and its survival from both the scrap man and rust is rather surprising, but I doubt that it will be there much longer. Possibly worth documenting? Stephen Furley

Gypsy Tart

Gypsy Tart from Gravesend © Bob Carr

It is claimed that Gypsy Tarts originated on the Isle of Sheppey. The tart seems to be well known in an area stretching from this isle westwards towards London, probably as far west as Dartford. Over the past 60 years they have been quite a favourite component of school dinners in the area. The tarts are reported to be very sweet and give children energy: ingredients include evaporated milk and sugar. Bob Carr

Greatness Mill

Until recently a really ramshackle mill could still be seen in Mill Lane, Bat & Ball, Sevenoaks. It was the kind of thing you might occasionally have seen 30 odd years ago, but it was a very unlikely sight at the beginning of last year. You can get a good idea of this maverick industrial archaeological survival which was at TQ 534 568 from the present version of Google Streetview which dates from October 2014.

About the end of last August, The Sevenoaks Chronicle newspaper carried the following headline — 'Diggers move in as iconic Sevenoaks mill is destroyed to make way for 26 new homes'. If you go to Mill Lane now you will see a row of new houses being built. The Mill and mill cottage have gone. Bob Carr

Fish Island and Hackney Wick

Here is a feature about Fish Island and Hackney Wick from the blog 'Spitalfields Life', by 'The Gentle Author':

It has some marvellous black-and-white photos, such as I have not seen for a long time, with captions by Tom Ridge, GLIAS member. He continues to fight against many odds for Tower Hamlets' industrial heritage. The Fish Island Conservation Area within the London Legacy Development Corporation's area is becoming a development hotspot and Tom writes here on the planning jeopardy of the Swan Wharf stables block, with his current petition.

Here is another series of photos on the same blog:

Malcolm Tucker

Royal Photographic Society Collection to move to London

The Science Museum Group (SMG) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) have announced that more than 400,000 objects from SMG's three-million-strong photography collection, held at the National Media Museum in Bradford, will be transferred to the V&A.

These photographs, cameras, books and manuscript material will join the V&A's existing collection of 500,000 photographs to create an International Photography Resource Centre. The new centre will become the single largest collection on the art of photography in the world.

The collection being transferred encompasses vintage prints, the world's first negative, unique daguerreotypes and early colour photographs, as well as important albums, books, cameras and the archives of major photographers. At its heart is the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) Collection, which charts the invention and development of photography over the last two centuries.

Dr Michael Pritchard, Director-General of the RPS, said: 'The RPS has worked closely with the National Media Museum since 2003 to ensure that the world-class RPS Collection of photographs, technology, books and documents from 1827 to 2016 has grown and developed. I am pleased that we can further enhance the RPS Collection's stature alongside the V&A's own art photography collection and make it more widely available to the public and scholars and ensuring it remains a prime resource for future generations.'

Once transferred, the collection will be stored, digitised and made accessible for study. In the short term, the permanent gallery space dedicated to photographs at the V&A will be doubled. A second phase will see the opening of an International Photography Resource Centre to provide opportunities for access, collaborative research and education.

Tann safes

The articles about Tann safes (GLIAS Newsletter April 2016) mentions various places in Hackney associated with Tann, but to me the most exciting thing is what I regard as the 'Tann Memorial'. That is to say, the end wall of the house in Hackney Road at the junction with Treadway Street which is entirely given over to an advertisement for Tann Safes, seemingly literally carved in stone. Well worth a detour to enjoy. And long may it remain. Bob Rogers

Porters' rest at Piccadilly

Re: GLIAS Newsletters February 2015, April 2016. It was interesting to note in a local newspaper that present at the unveiling of the replica was Simon Kenyon-Slaney, and other members of the family, the great-great-grandson of Robert Aglionby Slaney, MP for Shrewsbury, who commissioned the original rest in 1861. Long may the replica remain! And a long life to the family. Bob Rogers

© Robert Mason

Raising awareness of our heritage!

I want to raise awareness of our historic buildings and I would love you to help me with my project.

I am collecting photographs of buildings with dates on them. I want to collect about 200 dated buildings by August 2016. I want to publish them on line in chronological order and give a talk on them on 1 August 2016. This will be a great resource for architectural historians, interested people and visitors. It can be added to in the future.

I would love you to contribute by photographing the façade of any dated buildings that you see with a close up of the date on them (if not clearly visible) and then email the photographs to me with a brief address of the building photographed. Please get your friends and family involved, children seem to especially enjoy looking for dates on buildings!

I also need help finding a venue to give my talk and with publishing online. If you could help with either of these that would be greatly appreciated too!

Thank you in advance for your participation!
Charlotte Matthews, Head of Historic Buildings and Landscapes, Pre-Construct Archaeology. Email:

Next issue >>>

© GLIAS, 2016