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

Notes and news — October 2016

In this issue:

The Ladies Bridge — Waterloo Bridge

A flyer received in August from the British Film Institute as part of this year's 'Totally Thames Festival', and whose cinema is under Waterloo Bridge, intrigued me. The Ladies Bridge, a 30-minute documentary film.

Most history starts with a find, so what happens when you start with an urban myth? Today the riverboat pilots on the Thames tell the story of Waterloo Bridge being built by women during the Second World War. Official history has written this story out as historian Dr Chris Wall discovered after trawling archives. In 2005 she was joined by film maker Karen Livesey to pursue the story through oral history. The Ladies Bridge explores why these bridge builders and 24,000 other female construction workers have been written out of history. Recent finds have led to English Heritage considering the placement of a blue plaque on Waterloo Bridge to honour these women.

Googling for more information, Wikipedia states that the LCC decided to demolish the first Waterloo Bridge and replace it with a structure designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. But on his own admission he was no engineer and his design was difficult to implement. The new bridge was partially opened on Tuesday 11 March 1942 and completed in 1945. It was the only Thames bridge to have been damaged by German bombers during the War.

An article by Kirstie McCrum, The Daily Mirror, 23 June 2015, states that the Grade II-listed building has been relisted on the National Heritage List to include details on the women who worked towards its construction from 1937 to 1945. The Heritage Minister has relisted the bridge at the start of the #builtbywomen campaign to mark women's involvement in building in England and is part of a call which could lead to new additions to the 400,000 strong list of England's protected buildings and sites. Peter Butt

'The Thames' found in Siberia

'British explorer's steamship found in Siberian river' was the title of a half-page article in The Guardian, Wednesday 10 August 2016, by Alex Luhn, with subtitle: 'Schooner among first to travel the Northeast Passage'.

It was reported that two researchers from the Russian Geographical Society had found the wreck of 'The Thames', a pioneering British ship that sank in shallow waters on the Yenisei river just south of the Arctic Circle. 'Only part of the stern's superstructure is visible, the ship is full of silt and sand', and 'further work was needed to see if the ship could be raised'. The picture accompanying the article, to my un-nautical eyes, shows a sailing schooner with a single slim funnel in the middle. The ship was the first ocean-going vessel to enter the Yenisei, the largest river flowing into the Kara Sea which is part of the Arctic Ocean.

Joseph Wiggins, its captain, was an early believer in the possibility of sea trade with Siberia which was known to be rich in timber, furs, coal and even mammoth bones. Undeterred by a failed mission in 1875, Wiggins reached the Yenisei in 1877 and left his ship The Thames to winter on the river, the following year he continued upriver, but it ran aground and froze to the bottom. Wiggins was forced to sell it for parts and he returned to Britain overland. Shortly afterwards, Wiggins did return to the area and successfully brought back the first Siberian produce to be transported through the Kara Sea.

Question: accepting that the name of 'The Thames' is not mentioned in Joseph Wiggins' entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as such, but if it was called 'The Thames', did his ship have any connection to the London area apart from its name? Peter Butt

Worcester Park

In March 2016 there were still three fine gasholders at Worcester Park on the east side of the railway line north of the station. They were built in 1926, 1932 and 1954 *. To the southeast of these gas holders an amazing housing development, The Hamptons, has taken place recently on the site of a former sewage farm. The buildings here are clad in timber, painted in pastel colours and have verandas, colonnades and stone chimneys. The architecture is reminiscent of New England in America, in the Colonial Period — a visit here is like going to a film set. The developers responsible are St James Homes, and they have completely removed any hint of the areas previous use. A green space called Mayflower Park includes a grass amphitheatre for performances and a nature reserve — an area of five wetlands. There was an official opening in July 2006. Following further work, the development, now whiter than white, received numerous awards in 2010 and 2011.

Worcester Park is surprisingly convenient for residents who wish to commute to London, it is in fare Zone 4 and from the railway station there are four trains an hour in each direction. The journey to Vauxhall takes just over 20 minutes and here one can interchange onto the Underground — the Victoria Line. An express bus, the X26, runs every half hour from Worcester Park to Heathrow Airport.

There were streets with American names adjacent to the Sewage Works well before the Hamptons development: Lincoln Road, Longfellow Road and Washington Road. Mr John Major, who became Prime Minister in 1990, used to live in Longfellow Road as a boy. Could these American names have suggested the idea of American architecture to Nicolas Morley Architects who were responsible for the Hamptons? Bob Carr

Hitchin gas spheres

Hitchin spherical gas holders © Bob Carr Hitchin spherical gas holders © Bob Carr Hitchin spherical gas holders © Bob Carr

Just to the northeast of Hitchin at TL 1894 3124 were three spherical gas holders, each 13 metres in diameter. Built to contain LPG, they have been out of use for about eight years and were demolished recently. (GLIAS Newsletter December 2009).

Disused industrial equipment next to Lea Bridge Station — more info

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

Readers of the article on disused industrial equipment next to Lea Bridge railway station (GLIAS Newsletter June 2016) who also read Railnews can gain an impression of the intriguing Heath Robinson style equipment on page 7 of the June issue in a photograph of the reopening ceremony, where it appears between the shoulders of two of the participants.

Initial local enquiries and the large scale OS map suggest the equipment served a wood=processing factory owned by, among others, Union Veneers. Bob Rogers

Here is some further information about the disused industrial equipment next to the recently reopened Lea Bridge Road railway station.

I visited the Planning Department of London Borough of Waltham Forest and met Alan Palmer who drew my attention to Planning Application No 31/64 'to erect a boiler, flue, oil storage tank and pump house' dated 28 Feb 1964 — 52 years ago. The applicant was J Berry and Sons at 8 Rigg Approach (land near the Greyhound pub) and the architect Ivor Warne ARIBA of 57 Shelton Street, Covent Garden. Tel: COV 1377! The application includes plans and drawings and stipulations, which include the requirement of Leyton Council, as it then was, for the flue to be 60 feet above ground level, presumably to avoid noxious odours reaching passengers on the almost intimately situated platforms of the station, and also those working over the bridge. The architect pointed out the flue was free standing, self-supporting and required no guy ropes — it was to be painted grey blue. In part, it is, still! And it is still standing!

J Berry and Sons were furniture manufacturers and a selection of their pamphlets can be seen at Vestry House Museum, Walthamstow. They presumably also had timber and laminates.

Stephen Furley drew attention in an Indian source of reference to Kestner Merilene heating system. There is another discussion and perhaps a better drawing to be found on pages 143-152 of 'Surface Coating Technology Handbook' (2009?) on Asia Pacific Business Press.

This equipment seems to me to be an interesting survival of an intriguing heating system known not just in the UK but also in India, etc. And the Kestner organisation is just as fascinating — 'The Times' obituary column introduced me to James Arthur Reavell who, after 'meeting' the Frenchman M. Paul Kestner, established the Kestner Evaporator and Engineering Co Ltd in England. Although his parents were born in England, Reavell might a few generation earlier have had French ancestors. There was more than one company and many associates/colleagues and a plethora of patents, but I have yet to be sure I have found the actual patent for our contraption at Lea Bridge Road station. From local 'sources' I gather this small industrial estate might contain other bits of rusty equipment of interest to GLIAS! Who knows? I will continue to look out more information as time permits.

Meanwhile, I am writing to the conservation officer of Waltham Forest Council. Bob Rogers

At the British Library I found a book entitled 'Kestner Jubilee Book', profusely illustrated and published in 1958. The author is James Arthur Reavell, Founder and Chairman.

He tells us that he met a man named Merrill who was an engineer to Boston, USA firm of Parks-Cramer Co — they exchanged ideas with the result Kestner's initiated the Merilene system of circulating hot oil heat exchange. In early patent records of the time there seem to be at least three people called Merrill.

Interestingly Reavell tells us he was obliged to use the name of Kestner at the insistence of M. Paul Kestner, previously mentioned — however, as Reavell explains, he could hardly have used his own name, as his brother had just used the name for the compressor company he had established at Ipswich!

In addition the Parks-Cramer Co published a catalogue 'Industrial Heating by Oil Circulation: Merrill Process'. I have not seen this work.

Reavell held the post-nominals M.I. Mech. E., M I. Chem. E., F. Inst. F.F.I.M. The book is a fascinating read with a very personal view of the author. On 6 September 1963 the Financial Times published an extraordinary photograph of part of the Merilene system in transit — it looks like a rocket launcher! — to fulfil an order. Bob Rogers

Lordship Road Pumping Station

Situated between the two reservoirs at Stoke Newington, a pumping station was first established here in 1831. The engine initially installed was second hand and came from The Eau Bring Cut, just to the south of King's Lynn. It was a Boulton & Watt beam pumping engine of 25 hp built in 1818. Cylinder diameter was 36 inches and stroke 7 feet. It was previously reported (GLIAS Newsletter June 2016) that this engine was of marine type but this is incorrect.

As time progressed the power of the first engine proved inadequate and a more powerful rotative beam engine of 50hp was ordered new from Boulton & Watt in 1847. This second engine had a cylinder diameter of 36 inches and a stroke of 6 feet. It continued in use at Lordship Road until the 1880s. Bob Carr

Edgware Road signal box 'is a treasure'

This was a subheading in The Metro, Monday 5 September, 2016 p25, which reported that The Railway Heritage Designation Advisory Board has 'recognised' the Edgware Road, London Underground signalling cabin built in 1926 and is still in use. But the old-style mechanical levers are being phased out by new signalling systems which will allow enthusiasts to go inside the cabin when it is honourably retired shortly. Peter J Butt

Views from the past

A new collection of images from The London Midland and Scottish Railway Collection, dating from the 1880s to the 1930s is now available in the Historic England online archive.

It contains among others:

Ran out of time after looking at the first 41 pages of 168 pages. Peter J Butt

The new Museum of London

Based on an email to The Friends of the Museum of London 29 July 2016

A blueprint for the redevelopment has been developed for a group of buildings in West Smithfield, including the disused general market and fish market by architects Stanton Williams and Asif Khan, who won the competition to design the museum's new home (GLIAS Newsletter February 2016). The museum director Sharon Ament said the building, replacing the current museum in London Wall, would let more of its collection go on show. She wanted to see it 'spilling into the streets around the buildings. The most important thing is that the museum is about London so the streets, the buildings, the underground, is all the stuff of our museum. We can't ignore the building. Many cultural institutions will inhabit old buildings despite the building and give it a new life, which is often wonderful, but they forget its origins and we can't and won't do that.' An application for planning permission is expected to be submitted in 2018 with the museum set to open in 2022.

Architect Paul Williams, of Stanton Williams, said the design was influenced by the 'idea of going down into the sedimentary layers of the past. Our proposals conceive the revived Smithfield General Market as a building that is permeable on all sides, in the same way as a city square engages with its surroundings. But, in this instance, a covered square — with no front door — an antimuseum, an arena for public life, performance, installation, debate, with places for rest and reflection. This will be the new 'Centre' of London, a democratic meeting place, the centre of a global capital city'.

A dome on top of the general market, which has been closed for more than 30 years, will be lifted up to provide a landmark directly above a set of spiral escalators that will twist down underground, carrying visitors into the rooms used to store produce when it was a working part of the market. The plans, which are still to be finalised, also include proposals to link the spaces below ground with a tunnel going under the Thameslink tracks that run under the site, a sunken garden and a well reaching down to the waters of the River Fleet, which flows beneath the streets of Farringdon. A railway siding, from the days when meat was transported to the market from the docks, still exists and could become home to a historic engine, reflecting the importance of the railways to London's growth. Peter Butt

Green Moor Wharf

I have been researching the connections between the stone quarries in my local South Yorkshire village of Green Moor and London and am writing to ask if GLIAS members have any information about a wharf on the Thames where the stone was unloaded, in particular photographs or illustrations.

The wharf in question is the Green Moor wharf, later the Imperial and Green Moor wharf, on Bankside, just west of Southwark Bridge. From an 1873 map which shows the Wharf, it was situated on the river in front of where the Globe Theatre now stands In 1837 the business was owned by a partnership of Matthew Brown, Jonathan Brown, Leonard Rusby and Henry Booth, the partnership included an agreement to take a stone wharf on the Thames at Bankside. A Trade Directory of 1839 notes that Brown, Booth & Rusby, stone merchants were located at 42 Bankside. The 1873 map also shows a large stockholding yard on the south side of Bankside. The stone (called Green Moor stone) was transported by canal via Hull around the coast to the Thames from the quarries in my village, and was used extensively for Victorian and Edwardian buildings, for example the flagstones around the House of Commons are of this material. The business also used Bridge Wharf in the Kingsland Basin off the Regent's Canal.

There are a couple of photos on the Museum of London website which apparently shows the Green Moor Wharf used for offloading rubbish for Southwark Council, but when visiting the site, the position of this wharf in relation to St Paul's across the river compared with the map indicates this may be photographs of a different wharf.

Any information would be gratefully received. Margaret Tylee. Email:

The Paul Calvocoressi Bursary

Two years ago member and former GLC Inspector of Monuments Paul Calvocoressi left GLIAS a generous bequest in his will (GLIAS Newsletter August 2014). The Executive Board has decided that some of this bequest should be allocated for bursaries (up to £1,000) to support and enhance Industrial Archaeology in its widest sense in the Greater London Region. The nature of that support is flexible e.g. supporting fieldwork, toward a restoration project, publication, enhancing the public understanding of IA, etc. Applicants do not have to live in the London area nor be members of GLIAS although this is desirable but the work proposed must centre on the London region. A presentation at a future GLIAS meeting or in our Journal is desirable. There is no fixed style for the application but it should not exceed two A4 pages.
To request more details please contact the GLIAS Secretary. Email:

Next issue >>>

© GLIAS, 2016