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Notes and news — August 2016

In this issue:

Kirkaldy Testing Museum, past and present

It has been some time since there has been an article in these pages about the Kirkaldy Testing Museum (GLIAS Newsletter October 2014). The museum has had a troubled period over the last three years but we have come through this and are looking forward with more confidence. I will explain the background to what happened, how we have resolved things and how we see the future.

Kirkaldy Testing Museum, 2012. © Adriaan Linters The Testing Museum has been open since 1983 and occupies the ground floor and basement of 99 Southwark Street. The original testing works had all the floors but in the first refurbishment of the building the three upper floors we converted to commercial offices. Originally it was contemplated that these could provide income to support the museum but that did not happen for reasons that are too complicated to describe here. Instead the museum obtained a 25-year lease in 1987 at a peppercorn rent and for most of that time the rest of the building was occupied by Waterman Partners consulting engineers. They effectively subsidised the museum by not charging for any of the building maintenance expenses for which we should have been liable. In the early years they also used it for corporate functions as they were proud to share the building with such historically significant machinery. It opened one day per month for the casual visitors and at other times by special arrangement for groups. A small but very dedicated team of volunteers including myself kept the place clean and tidy and did small restoration tasks, for many years under the capable guidance of Peter Skilton in the role of museum manager.

As with any commercial business things change and Waterman partners left the building. The lease was acquired by commercial landlords and they did another refurbishment to the upper floor offices to allow split letting to a number of tenants with a shared foyer and common parts. This did not directly affect the museum. Unfortunately the museum's initial 25-year term lease was allowed to expire in 2012, a renewal opportunity having been missed. This meant that we were left with no tenure unless we could obtain a new lease. The landlords' initial rent demand was much too high and they would have liked to covert the museum space to other uses, in particular they went as far as making plans for possible conversion to a restaurant around the testing machine. As they said to us 'We are commercial landlords'. Of course the museum directors took a different view, that Kirkaldys is an internationally important engineering heritage site that must be preserved and open to visitors as is clearly specified in the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the KTM company. We attempted to find support both locally such as Southwark Council, Better Bankside, GLIAS of course and more widely from the likes of English Heritage and the Engineering Institutions. We also began negotiations with the landlord to try to reach an agreement for a new lease at an acceptable rent.

In the meantime the museum acquired four new directors to make a total of seven. The organisation had operated for many years with only three, one of whom was Denis Smith who did more than anyone else to ensure the preservation of the works. He had to give up on health grounds so we did not have his long experience to call upon. Fortunately one of the new directors was Paul Saulter and he took the lead in the difficult lease negotiations. The building had been grade 2 listed for a long time but it may have been possible for the landlord to make a case for significant changes. For example the restaurant conversion already mentioned, while retaining the testing machinery. At the instigation of GLIAS the listing was upgraded to 2* in June 2014 with this time much more recognition given to the testing machine and its setting within the building. This stopped any possibility of major changes being approved and was we believe the most significant thing in making the landlord accept that the museum must stay and that this is not a commercial space.

After long negotiation involving significant legal input a new lease was agreed at the end of 2015. However, this is only for 10 years and is backdated to start in June 2014. The museum has three years rent free but then has an increasing amount to pay in the years up to 2024. We are also liable for a reasonable share of the maintenance expenses of the building and have a commitment up upgrading the fire protection arrangements. Historically there has never been a connection to the fire alarm system for the rest of the building.

As already noted we have had seven directors through this period but we are now down to five. Hugh McGillivray who has been our leader for a number of years decided to retire away from London. As a former head of the materials testing laboratories in mechanical engineering at Imperial College he was able to give a unique perspective on the interpretation of the museum to visitors and will be greatly missed. Paul Saulter who is known to many of you through his provision of travel services to the IA community has also stepped down. We owe all own him great thanks for using his negotiating skills to successfully obtain the new lease.

The current directors are:

Colin Jenkins, director of KTM and GLIAS

150 years of testing...

        ... and a new 'lease' of life at the Kirkaldy Testing Museum!

Kirkaldy Testing Museum, 2005. © Robert Mason This year the Kirkaldy Testing Museum celebrates the 150th anniversary of the opening of David Kirkaldy's Testing and Experimenting Works. The Works was originally opened at The Grove, Southwark on 1 January 1866, but later moved to its present location at 99 Southwark Street to take up the opportunity of this newly developed area.

To mark one-and-a-half centuries of testing the museum is engaging in a range of new projects and activities, to bring the Testing Works to a wider audience and plan for a sustainable future. The signing of a new lease is the first way in which this future now looks more certain.

One of the projects being brought to fruition is a commemorative 150th anniversary book, 'Facts Not Opinions', written by Hugh MacGillivray, Colin Jenkins and Lucy Hogarth, which celebrates the involvement of the Works in some of the most significant engineering projects in history. Currently in preparation, details will appear soon on the Kirkaldy Testing Museum's website,

Those readers who keep an eye on the website will also have noticed that whenever possible the museum is now opening at least twice a month. As well as the 'First Sundays' there is often a Working Day on the third Saturday, an essential way to ensure that Kirkaldy's Universal Testing Machine and the many other working machines here — as well as the Testing Works themselves — are kept in good order. In part this has been made possible by enthusiastic new volunteers, valued not only for their help in showing the Works to visitors but for new ideas and fresh outlook they bring as the Museum looks forward to the future. More volunteers would be welcome to get involved.

Over the past few months, the museum has been host to BBC film crews, installation artists and engineering experts, not to mention our many visitors!

It may be 150 years old, but there is life in her yet ... watch this space! Lucy Hogarth, Director

London's biggest redevelopment zone

Built for the Post Office in 1975, Keybridge House at 80 South Lambeth Road, Nine Elms, was a building 15 storeys high and 246 feet tall. It now occupies a prime site for redevelopment and is being demolished to make way for luxury flats. Keybridge House was built on the site of Brand's factory which made Brand's essence of beef, essence of chicken and so on.

In the 1820s King George IV's poor health motivated a Royal Chef, Mr H W Brand, to develop an essence of chicken in the hope of improving His Majesty's condition. In 1835 having retired from the Royal Kitchens, Mr Brand set up in business at 11 Little Stanhope Street, Mayfair. He developed Brand's Essence of Chicken for sale to the public as a food for invalids, convalescents and children. His wife passed the business on in 1873 and in 1887 new owners built a five-storey factory at 72-84 South Lambeth Road.

The area around Vauxhall and Nine Elms is the capital's biggest redevelopment zone; nearby is Battersea Power Station which will be converted into flats and a new US Embassy will be built hereabouts. The present Embassy in Grosvenor Square, designed by Eero Saarinen, was completed in 1960 and is listed grade II. The new location will be far more convenient for people commuting from say Worcester Park, and the Embassy will resemble a crystalline cube, with a semi-circular pond on one side. It is to be surrounded by a generous extent of public green space.

London's skyline is changing, 436 tall towers are currently in the planning pipeline. In two years' time we are promised Crossrail and an enhanced Thameslink service which will greatly improve transport within the capital. However, by this date an enormous number of new flats will probably have been built, increasing the population by a frightening amount, so it is something of a balancing act between the increasing number of people and improving transport.

Current uncertainties following the recent Referendum may affect the situation. Bob Carr

Romany's Camden Town

Frank Romany Ltd was an old established cabinet makers' suppliers who used to have a shop at 52-54 Camden High Street; they were on the east side of the road fairly well south towards Mornington Crescent.

Some years ago Romany's moved north westwards, to 104 Arlington Road, a former LCC Tramway building on the east side of the street, where they sold a wide range of architectural ironwork. The tramway building was the usual kind we are familiar with, there was room for at least one tram car and the building would have been equipped with motor converters to provide the traction current of about 500 volts DC *. This tramshed was built in 1908 and is now listed grade II; the architect may have been Vincent Harris, 1876-1971. Harris worked for the LCC 1901-1907. Romany's have now vacated the building and it is being gutted, presumably for conversion to flats. Currently there are branches of Romany's at other addresses.

Following Romany's relocation from the High Street to Arlington Road, it was reported by a visitor to the new premises that the tramway building still had an interesting crane inside, which at the time was perhaps still in occasional use. Has anyone seen this crane and do they have any idea whether it is being retained? Bob Carr

Dana Research Centre and Library at the Science Museum

In the December 2015 issue of the GLIAS newsletter the new library at the Science Museum was discussed and pertinent questions were raised which I shall answer here. I can also reassure GLIAS members that the museum's library and archives have a secure future and that improved access to our collections remains a high priority.

We moved our library and archive collections from Imperial College London to our stores at Wroughton, near Swindon, over an eight-year period from 2006 as the result of significant changes at the College. It had acquired much more material electronically, it needed the space the Science Museum Library was occupying and more recently it ceased teaching the history of science, technology and medicine. The final move in 2014 gave us the opportunity to create a new library that would improve access in London to our remotely stored collections, including archives, which could only be consulted in our Wroughton reading room, which for some people is difficult to get to.

The new Dana Research Centre and Library is located in an existing building in what was the Dana Café, which had been used for contemporary science events. The Dana Foundation helped to fund the original building, so its name remained in the title. The Centre is also home to our Research & Public History Department that manages our research students, raises external funds for research into our collections and produces the Science Museum Group Journal (

The library is smaller than our previous home but the design is an inspiring light-filled space with around 6,000 selected volumes on open-access shelving, containing core histories of science, technology and medicine and over a thousand biographies. There are four PCs for readers to access our new library and archives catalogues, our objects database and our electronic resources, a huge resource for the industrial historian, including all of JSTOR, the digitised Illustrated London News and our Discovery service, with its access to millions of articles in all subjects.

Readers can order material from our Wroughton stores to be transported to London for consultation, including archives, journals, books, trade literature, patents and microfilms. We can also provide high-quality scanned copies to consult or to purchase, including large format engineering drawings. Our services have improved considerably and feedback has been very positive. The Wroughton reading room remains open for pre-booked visits on Fridays for readers to consult large amounts of material.

When we separated from Imperial College we had to acquire our own computer catalogue ( which has delayed further computerisation of the card catalogue. If readers cannot find what they are looking for on the computer catalogue they should ask the library to check the old card catalogue at Wroughton. For W. Francis Goodrich we do have five of his works: The economic disposal of towns' refuse (1901); Modern destructor practice (1912); Refuse disposal and power production (1904); Small destructors for institutional and trade waste (1904); and, The utilization of low-grade and waste fuels (1924).

We recently launched the online archives catalogue which describes Science Museum Group archive collections in much greater detail than before ( The catalogue includes scans of detailed collection lists, printed copies of which are available in both libraries. Significant collections relating to London's industrial and engineering history include: Collection of Geoffrey C. Berry relating to history of water supply in the London area, and, Volume relating to working practices and equipment at Port of London Authority and Merseyside Docks and Harbour Board. Our archive collections are growing and we are in negotiations to secure yet more material.

We also offer group visits for which we can transport relevant selected archives, books and other material to London to display or to consult. GLIAS members are invited to visit the new Dana Research Centre and Library at 165 Queen's Gate where we are open Monday to Friday 10:00 to 17:00. We look forward to welcoming you! Nick Wyatt, Head of Library & Archives, Science Museum


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: two new entries in May 2016 by Anton Howes. The following being much abbreviated notes.

GEORGE SMART (1757/8-1834) inventor and engineer

Initially setting up as a timber merchant and carpenter in Camden, in 1795 he invented machines to mass produce cask staves enabling a workman to hoop 200 canteens in a 14-hour day. In 1800 he patented a method of interlocking hollow poles for ships masts. By 1805 he had developed this idea to design a 'scandiscope' for the Society for Superseding the Necessity of Climbing Boys so that a sweep could assemble the poles whilst pushing them up a chimney, a cord through their middle being able to open the brushes which brought down the soot when the poles were withdrawn. Smart's other inventions included improvements to lathes and circular saws. He was an active member of the Society of Arts, was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and was unstinting in his generosity towards other engineers.

ISAAC CHARLES JOHNSON (1811-1911) cement manufacturer

Although Portland cement has been available since 1843 its method of manufacture was a trade secret. Johnson was the first to work out a way of reliably producing it for White & Sons. In 1851 he set up in partnership with the railway contractor George Burge a cement factory at Frindsbury, Kent, but this partnership was dissolved in 1854 and he established a new factory at Cliffe. By 1900, I.C. Johnson & Co's Greenhithe plant covered 200 acres, employed over 300, and produced 1,300 tons of cement per week. His employees were provided with a reading room, dining room and they ran a self-supporting catering scheme. His firm was then absorbed into the Association of Portland Cement Manufacturers. Peter J Butt

Could you be an oral historian, an archivist or a prefab scout?

Would you like to help us build our national archive? There are free training places and volunteering opportunities with the Prefab Museum's Heritage Lottery Fund project.

The Moving Prefab Museum and Archive project is about collecting stories, recording memories and photographs about prefabs and making them available for others to enjoy, now and in the future, through a national archive, on our website and through an interactive map. Individual stories and photos are often the only link to our own and collective past, to what went before us; the photo or a story passed down the generations. Wherever we go people want to share their happy memories of living in their prefab.

Would you be willing to help us record memories and stories of prefab residents, and put them into an archive for future generations? You will learn about interview techniques, how to use recording equipment (including smartphones and tablets) and how to make the archive accessible. Free training places in oral history techniques and aspects of archiving are available and we'll be running archive workshops so we can catch up on all the latest acquisitions! We may not be able to track down and document all the 156,623 prefabs that were manufactured and erected across the UK, but with your help we can have a good try!

Many local, regional and national archives are being digitised and made available online. Can you help us find information about prefabs through these and other resources to enrich our collective knowledge?

The training is free. The first date is 20 August 2016 for oral history training, at St John's Community Centre, Glengall Grove E14 (2 minutes from Crossharbour DLR station). Lunch and refreshments are provided at the training and the archive workshops, also we will pay for your travel expenses to and from the venue. We hope to meet Prefab scouts at our UK-wide events.
Contact Elisabeth or Jane to find out more at

New plaque for Greenwich Foot Tunnel

Greenwich Foot Tunnel, 2016. Members of the Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels (FOGWOFT) turned up at Cutty Sark Gardens to celebrate the unveiling of an interpretive plaque for the Greenwich Foot Tunnel on 5 July. They were joined by a representative of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel was built in 1902 as the second of a series of free river crossings for the people of east London by the London County Council. As such it was a major and innovative piece of engineering. The first of these crossings was the phenomenally successful — but much maligned — Blackwall Tunnel, which celebrates its 150th anniversary next year. Both tunnels were designed by the Council's Chief Engineer, Alexander Binnie. FOGWOFT hopes we can honour both him and his tunnels — and we hope to add the, slightly later, Woolwich Foot Tunnel and, of course, the Woolwich Free Ferry. Mary Mills

Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee plaques

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

I was in touch last year about the Queen Victoria plaques in Wimbledon and Ealing (GLIAS Newsletter April 2015).

I am doing some research about visible links between Queen Victoria and Wimbledon, and came across more information about these plaques — follow the link and then scroll down to Warminster:

Graham Kirkpatrick.

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© GLIAS, 2016