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Notes and news — April 2017

In this issue:

Whitechapel Bell Foundry — update

A campaign has been launched by a consortium of heritage groups to raise interest and try to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. As reported (GLIAS Newsletter February 2017), the foundry is about to close upon the retirement of the proprietor, after some 270 years on the same site at 32-34 Whitechapel Road, near Aldgate East.

The East End Preservation Society has fronted a petition to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, which may be accessed via the Spitalfields Life blog at
Malcolm Tucker

The Survey of London, which is by chance currently working on Whitechapel, has recently done some work on the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Summaries of our research and a plan arising from such measured survey as we have been able to carry out (access for recording was limited) can be seen in the survey's blog at and on the interactive (GLIAS members please note! all contributions welcome) website that we have set up for our Whitechapel project, see

As will be evident, we have established that the foundry's present front buildings date in fact from the mid 1740s, following on from acquisition of the site that had been the Artichoke in 1739. There is also on our website a link to an interview with Alan Hughes, the Master Founder.

In addition, Derek Kendall made a thorough photographic survey of the foundry in 2010 for English Heritage, recording processes as well as buildings. Many of his photographs can be seen online at:
Peter Guillery, Senior Historian and Editor, Survey of London, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London

If anyone would like to register their support to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, please follow the links below:

Meanwhile, the Museum of London has put in an order for the last ever bell to be made at Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The museum has in its collection a handful of items from the foundry, including a rare wooden lathe for making hand bells from 1740, the moulding gauges of the Bow Bells, cast in 1956 after the originals were destroyed in the Blitz, a bell cast by Robert Mot at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1573, a plague bell and a hand bell from Vauxhall Gardens.

Steam locomotive movements

Tornado, Finsbury Park, 13.2.17 © Robert Carr 2017

Some mainline steam locomotives are located in London from time to time in order to work special trains. They are usually stabled at either Southall or Stewarts Lane. Quite often they move about London discreetly attracting almost zero public attention. For instance in February this year the A1 Pacific 'Tornado' popped up to Yorkshire for a few days in order to work special trains from Skipton to Appleby over Ribblehead viaduct.

This was to promote the imminent reopening of the Settle and Carlisle line following engineering work and the editor of this newsletter had the pleasure of riding in trains behind Tornado (see below). He even had his photograph in the Daily Mirror and various online news articles.

Starting from Stewarts Lane at 11.55am on Monday 13 February, Tornado worked round London to the west passing through Kensington Olympia, North Pole Junction, Willesden Junction, West Hampstead, Camden Road to Copenhagen Junction and then northwards along the East Coast mainline.

Tornado was due to pass Finsbury Park station at 13.17. The locomotive came through the station very quietly without stopping and left early, at 13.14. It was not even held at the signal at the north end of Platform 7 to wait for a slot on the fast line (pictured right).

Returning to London on 17 February Tornado was due to pass through Finsbury Park southbound in pitch darkness at 5.05½am and would have passed rapidly through the station on platform 4. On the way back to Stewarts Lane the locomotive again worked round London to the west reversing the route used on 13 February. By the time Tornado with its support coach was due to pass through Kensington Olympia at 5.45am it might just have been light enough for a sharp-eyed commuter to notice the event. Tornado arrived back at Stewarts Lane on time at 6.14. Bob Carr

Tornado 'Plandampf'

Tornado, Appleby, 14.2.17 © Sian Lewis 2017

A winter's daybreak on a cold northern railway platform is not where you would expect to find a crowd of people on Valentine's Day. But that was where you could find me and a few hundred others — on Appleby station waiting for the first scheduled mainline passenger train to be hauled by a steam locomotive for nearly 50 years.

Unlike the numerous steam excursions that take place throughout the year, this was actually a regular service train. The only difference — the three-coach diesel multiple unit was replaced by a steam locomotive hauling nine carriages. And with Britain's newest mainline steam locomotive 60153 Tornado in the starring role, TV crews and reporters were out in force.

I was standing on top of the station's very windy footbridge trying to get a glimpse of Tornado waiting in a distant siding when a photographer from the Press Association asked whether he could take a picture of me holding my ticket. I obliged despite reservations that my valuable pass for the 8.25am train would be blown away. And before my journey was over this picture was already appearing on the websites of the BBC, ITV, Daily Mail and The Guardian!

There was one particular reason I was especially keen to be on this train. I was christened on 11 August 1968, the day of the last British Railways mainline passenger train to be hauled by steam locomotive. Known as the 'Fifteen Guinea Special' the service ran from Liverpool Lime Street to Carlisle and back via Manchester Victoria and the Settle-Carlisle line.

I was constantly reminded of this fact by my late father as he claimed he would rather have skipped church to say goodbye to steam. A 50-mile drive up Wensleydale could have seen him at Garsdale station, but duty prevailed.

East African Railways

My father grew up after the Second World War when a large proportion of schoolboys were loco spotters. In 1961 he left the UK to work in East Africa, spending his last afternoon in London photographing locomotive movements at Paddington Station before heading to Heathrow. By the time he next visited these shores in 1965, steam was in its death throes, and then when he returned with me in 1968 the last remaining steam locomotives were confined to a few sheds in the north. Fortunately there was still steam in East Africa as I grew up, so I naturally became an enthusiast too.

The 8.25am from Appleby to Skipton on 14 February was the first of three days of a 'Plandampf' operation, the German word meaning 'scheduled steam' given to running steam-hauled timetabled trains on the main line.

Tornado, which was completed in 2008 48 years after British Railways' last locomotive Evening Star emerged from Swindon works, was a fitting engine for the trip, although a class 67 diesel was also required to provide power for the modern Mark 2 carriages.

The mood on board was buoyant, with seats filled not just by ordinary passengers but also film crews, British Transport Police, and representatives of organisations like the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line who campaigned to save the line back in the 1980s and now act as a user group to improve facilities and services for passengers along the 72-mile line.

Travelling tender-first on its southbound trip Tornado coped smoothly with the ascent up to Ais Gill Summit, which at 1,169 feet above sea level is the highest point on a main line in England. With clear visibility the 'roof of England' provided a spectacular backdrop with snow-covered peaks occasionally obscured by long drifts of white smoke as the engine worked hard.

By the time we reached the iconic Ribblehead viaduct legions of photographers were lining the trackside while above the modern phenomenon of drones were tracking our progress. Our train then eased down through Settle and arrived right on time at 10.08am in Skipton where large crowds were out in force to greet us.

So now the 'Fifteen Guinea Special' can no longer claim to be British Railways' last steam train. And the price of my ticket? A bargain at just £15.00! Robert Mason

Victoria Coach Station 85

Victoria Coach Station © Robert Mason 2016

Victoria coach station was designed by Wallace, Gilbert and Partners and officially opened to the public on the 10 March 1932. To celebrate the 85th anniversary a special event was held over the weekend 10-12 March this year.

Despite the coach station being a busy working site, room was made available to display about ten older preserved and more recent coaches each day, the actual coaches on view being changed from time to time. It was possible to visit the interiors of some of these vehicles which dated from the 1930s onwards — the standard of some of the restoration was superb as well as the comfort of seats provided Pre War.

A present-day sleeper coach which presently runs from London to Scotland was also available for inspection; this even had double beds upstairs. Bob Carr

Historic industrial buildings on 6-Mile Waterway 'Ring' at risk

The Grade II-listed buildings at 777-783 Commercial Road E14 have been rotting and rusting away on the 'at risk' register since 2003.

The three listed buildings were the main parts of Caird & Rayner's engineering works where they designed and produced their own patented seawater distillation plant — initially for steam ships and later for motor vessels, including 'dreadnoughts' for the Royal Navy and Cunard liners from the Mauretania to the QE2.

The former sailmaker's warehouse is London's only fully-surviving, purpose-built, internal-timber-framed sailmaker's warehouse with first-floor sail loft. The internal-steel-framed galleried engineering workshop with service cross wing is London's only surviving example of this nationally rare industrial building type; and is London's only surviving example of a marine engineering works with service cross wing.

Recent planning applications for single-space reuse as offices were thought to be a bright light at the end of a very long tunnel, but closer inspection reveals endless proposals for replacement of historic fabric and the risk of further losses, in addition to extensive demolition of the allegedly least significant of the three listed buildings.

East End Waterway Group has sent a long letter to the case officer at Tower Hamlets. It objects to the harm to the listed buildings and the St Anne's Church Conservation Area and the Limehouse Cut Conservation Area; and suggests ways in which the harm can be reduced or removed. Tom Ridge

Lea Bridge

At the junction of Lea Bridge Road and Argyle Avenue, on the north east corner at TQ 363 872, there is a three-storey red brick industrial building with pitched roof. This building is being gutted, perhaps preliminary to demolition? The whole corner site may be being cleared to make way for housing. The newly reopened Lea Bridge railway station is quite close by.

The original Lea Bridge station was opened in 1840 on the old Northern and Eastern mainline which was intended to go to York. This was a very sensible early scheme and it is surprising that this was not the first route to be completed from London to the North as the gradients were relatively easy. The routes to the North that were actually built involved the great climb from Euston to Tring or the steeply graded route from King's Cross up to Potters Bar.

The Northern and Eastern was built to a gauge of 5 feet, this was because the company shared the route from London used by the Eastern Counties Railway as far as Stratford. The Eastern Counties Railway had a gauge of 5 feet. This non-standard gauge did not last very long — all the 5ft gauge track was converted to standard gauge in the autumn of 1844.

Lea Bridge Road crosses the Northern and Eastern railway by an over bridge. The ramp up to the bridge from the west shows signs of being built at quite an early date and is worth inspecting. Bob Carr

Convoys Wharf, Deptford

This is from my vague memories of the Royal Navy Victualling Yard (GLIAS Newsletter December 2009) from when I worked there 1970-80 for Corys.

In the 1950s-70s the yard was known as Palmer's Wharf and it was shared by Palmers Wharf Cold Storage which stored frozen imported meat, New Zealand lamb, etc, — mostly for supplying Smithfield Market at night as needed to top up lamb shortages! Palmers Wharf closed in the 70s? The refrigerated cold storage rooms were totally out of date, and I guess dated from the Victualling Yard days. They were located close to the dockside and were fascinating frozen 'caves' of frozen meat, some dating from at least the war years! Then there was a loading bank for fridge vans and trailers, loading was done by hand, no pallets then! Just really old wheel barrows.

Then there was the William Cory transport depot providing refrigerated transport, including for Palmers Wharf as well as general transport from nearby wharves. Their name changed to McGregor Cory Cargo Services, and they slowly diversified into the evolving ISO container transport from Tilbury, etc. The refrigerated containers were taking over lamb and beef imports from New Zealand and Australia. Cory began to leave Deptford in the 70s-early 80s to be closer to the container work in Essex.

Then there was Saunders Transport who provided heavy transport for the construction industry (including a 'drive-over' lorry wheel cleaner, which they invented, to stop the mud and rubble going onto our streets).

Then there was Convoys who supplied several newspapers with rolls of Newsprint paper which came by ship from the Baltic countries. Most of the old warehouses on site stored newsprint and Convoys trucks would rush deliveries of huge paper rolls to Fleet Street as needed.

A big fire destroyed one of their newer bigger warehouses in the 70s and new even bigger warehouses were built for newsprint paper roll storage'.

This left Convoys as sole users and the place only then became Convoys Wharf which was taken over by News International at about the time Palmers Wharf Cold Storage closed down.

Now it is all dust, but I hope that the archaeological research has since uncovered more earlier evidence of its history going back to Henry VIII. Sebastian Coventry

Hampton & Kempton Waterworks Railway


I thought it was time to provide an update on Hampton & Kempton Waterworks Railway (GLIAS Newsletter August 2003) and to publicise our website (

A section of new build railway has been laid in the form of a circle at the Kempton end of the heritage railway site, known as the Hanworth Loop. This section is open to the public every Sunday from March to November and operates using our 1903 Barclay steam locomotive Darent (pictured right), originally built for Provan Gasworks, Glasgow.

The railway is currently in negotiation with Thames Water as landlords of the original track bed from Kempton to Hampton with a view to gaining a lease that will enable the railway's recreation so far as possible in terms of length and routing.

Members of GLIAS and their families are invited to visit any Sunday we are open, or better still to come along on one of those Saturdays or Sundays when the Great Engine House triple expansion engine is in steam. See for dates.

In addition the railway needs to recruit additional volunteers to help out on opening days, to fire and drive the locomotive, to maintain the rolling stock and track, and to help us build the extension towards Hampton. Bob Bond
If interested in the volunteering aspect please contact Bob Bond at

Gasholder news

Hornsey No 3 L N from Katherine Close, N4. 21 JAN 17 R Carr

The guide frame of the later 1929 gasholder at Hornsey (GLIAS Newsletter February 2017) is now being demolished, it was about half gone by 10 March. Since the demolition of the 1892 gasholder No. 1 here, this solitary holder has been quite a landmark for North London. By the time you read this the site will probably have been cleared.

The first new-style George Livesey gasholder at the Old Kent Road works might now be threatened — some local people seem to be campaigning for its retention but the situation is unclear. It has been suggested that this example might perhaps be listed, rather than the later holder at East Greenwich.

News from Tower Hamlets is that the Local Authority is not really in favour of retaining any gasholders. It is understood that the petition mentioned in the last newsletter was too late to meet a deadline and in any case would probably not have affected the council's decision. Bob Carr

MV Royal Iris

MV Royal Iris at Charlton © Robert Carr

When U475, the Russian Foxtrot submarine (GLIAS Newsletter August 1995; October 1995), moved away from the Thames sometime before April 1998 the Royal Iris (GLIAS Newsletter February 2017) occupied the vacant berth at Long's Wharf soon afterwards. Royal Iris has not moved since. Photographs on the internet show MV Royal Iris apparently sunk. Bob Carr

Mobile phone masts

What is described by Bob Carr under Sewer Vents as a modern incarnation (GLIAS Newsletter February 2017) would seem to me to be a variety of the other (regarded as equally offensive by some?) modern phenomena — the mobile phone mast. The fattened top (silencer) holding the aerials. There will be a collection of one or more 'boxes' for the works.

No they are not confined, they do seem to be spreading, there are many across Sussex, seemingly very often outside schools where the imperative to text across a room is most prevalent!

There used to be an online map to discover the who/what/where etc of a mast, but this does not seem to have been updated since 2012.
Martin Snow, General Secretary, Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society. Web:

China-to-UK rail freight

One point needs to be made clear regarding the claimed first China-to-UK freight train (GLIAS Newsletter February 2017). Although the service offered to shippers is the transport of freight from China to the UK, this does not involve the use of a 'through train' in the normal sense. As the countries in the former USSR have a different railway gauge from that of China and western Europe, the cargo has to be transferred from one train to another on the Chinese border, and again on the Polish border. This means that three separate trains, on two different gauges, are required to complete the journey.

Claiming that the 'first through train from China' has reached Britain (with pictures of it in some cases!) is, therefore, misleading. However, most of the media seem to have swallowed the press release as it stands, although one or two newspapers pointed out the true situation. Graham Bird

Chobham Farm Container Depot

Chobham Farm

I am trying to fill some 'missing gaps' in the history of former GER offices adjacent to the Stratford — Cambridge line at Stratford Railway works, once known as Chobham Farm Container Depot, in what I believe came to be known as Zone 11 of the ODA site at Stratford.

I am particularly interested in the fate of the building in which HM Customs & Excise staff and some of the container depot staff were located. I had understood the Victorian building to be called the Kingsworthy building or something similar, and I thought it to have been listed. It was notable for having been constructed with an arch (subsequently bricked up) through which locomotives passed on an east-west line between the former engine shed and the main line sidings.

I am intrigued what happened to the Chobham Farm Container Depot following its closure in the early 1990s. I believe the site was leased to P&OCL as it predominantly handled containers from their Far Eastern routes and the smells from the eastern cargos contained within the warehouses had been likened to those of Hong Kong warehouses and waterfronts — a fact that might amaze the future occupants of the homes in the course of construction on the site!

Any information, images or sources on the history, decline and subsequent demolition, of what I believe (from reports by Pre Construct Archaeology Ltd) was the only remaining original 19th-century railway building on the Chobham Farm (South) site would be most gratefully received.

For completeness, during my enquiries on the internet I came across the report at

and noticed that Figures 4-17 all show what I believe to be the building in the photograph. These appear to confirm that the railway line from the sheds did indeed go straight through the middle of the arch in the office building which up until seeing this was always part of the 'folklore' associated with the building.
Rob Lever. Mob: 07801 099299. Email:

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© GLIAS, 2017