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Notes and news — June 2017

In this issue:

Fake news?

As 'fake news' is in the news, I wonder what GLIAS members make of the following items that appeared in 19th-century newspapers.

The first appears to be quite genuine. It is a report, in the Belfast Commercial Chronicle for 30 May 1827 (but it also appeared in other local papers), of an accident at Butler's Wharf. A vessel named the Waterloo, belonging to the Irish Shipping Company, was 'lying off, taking in logs of mahogany, which were lowered by means of a wheelcrane'. A wheel crane, or walking wheel crane, was a treadwheel crane like the ones that survive at Guildford and Harwich. There were two men, Jones and Davies, working in the wheel, which was about 60 feet in circumference (about 20 feet in diameter). The report said 'one of the logs, weighing 2½ tons, suspended at the end of the chain, being too heavy for the strength of the men, it ran down with great velocity, turning the crane round like a flywheel, with the poor fellows inside ...'. It went on, 'the men must have fallen six or eight times a heighth (sic) of 20 feet'. Both men had extensive injuries and were taken to Guy's Hospital.

The second report is, perhaps, more suspect. It again appeared in the Belfast Commercial Chronicle, twelve years later on 2 September 1839. Again a 'vessel was lying off taking in logs of mahogany', but the wharf was Garwood's Wharf, Horsleydown, not Butler's Wharf. The first accident happened 'this morning'; the second 'On Saturday morning'. In both cases a wheel crane was being used and the wording in the two descriptions of the crane was identical: '... wheel crane, which is constructed similar to a tread-mill, the only difference being that the men working the crane are in a box, about 60 feet in circumference'. This time the men were named Newland and Moore. Again the log weighed 2½ tons and was 'too heavy for the strength of the men'. Again they fell 'six or eight times' This time they were taken to the residence of Mr Monkhouse, a medical man in the neighbourhood.

The names of the men are different, and they were taken to different places after the accidents, but in both cases logs of mahogany, identical in weight, were being lowered in vessels 'lying off'. The first accident was at Butler's Wharf, the second at Garwood's Wharf. Much of the wording of the two reports is identical. Were there really two almost identical accidents twelve years apart? Was this the result of lazy journalism, the reporter remembering the previous accident? Or was it fake news? Tim R Smith

Ally Pally set for major facelift

A £26.7m restoration project of Alexandra Palace's East Wing restoration (GLIAS Newsletter April 2015) is now under way.

By the end of next year there will be a brand new public space in the East Court with a stunning glazed roof where visitors will be able to access a range of historical artefacts for the first time, including photographs and early film, which were thought lost or destroyed. The year-round learning and participation programme will also help visitors of all ages understand and enjoy the Palace's rich history.

Alexandra Palace, March 2016. © Colin Marr

Meanwhile, the hidden Victorian theatre dating back to 1875 is being restored by heritage specialists and from late 2018 will host a full programme with theatrical performances, cinema screenings, live comedy, music and corporate entertainment. The theatre will accommodate audiences of up to 1,300 but has been designed to suit smaller and more intimate performances too.

Continued work within the historic television studios has been taken out of the current project to ensure the overall project is delivered on time and within budget.

The re-scoping of the project has received support from the main project funders Heritage Lottery Fund and Haringey Council. The Alexandra Park and Palace restoration project team are now working with the BBC and other partners to finalise the new scope for the television studios project. It will be an interactive celebration of the proud history of broadcasting and the BBC at Alexandra Palace as well an exploration of cutting edge broadcasting and technology.

Alongside the funding from Heritage Lottery Fund and Haringey Council, Alexandra Palace is building partnerships with world class organisations and inviting supporters to help realise the full potential of this project. From in kind support to naming rights and partnering with the learning and participation programme, there is a huge range of opportunities to get involved. Individuals can name a seat in theatre, and every donation over £25 will be credited on the donor board in the restored East Court — visit

Richmond Ice Rink

Opened in 1928, the celebrated Richmond ice rink was demolished in 1992. In its time it had been a pre-eminent facility of international significance — for many local people this was a sad end.

The old rink had been bought by a property company, the London and Edinburgh Trust, who intended to develop the site for luxury housing. As part of the planning conditions the developers were obliged to provide an alternative site and build a new ice rink on it. However, in 1989 the local authority accepted £2½ million as compensation and withdrew this condition. So in 1992 Richmond ice rink closed and the building was demolished.

The debate in Richmond over the building of a replacement ice rink became so fierce that circa 1994 reports reached the GLIAS Newsletter, see eg GLIAS Newsletter December 1994. Despite a great deal of local outrage no ice rink has been built in Richmond since.

There are, however, other ice rinks in London. For instance in 1984 a new ice rink was opened in the Lea Valley in East London, on the Lea Bridge Road at TQ 356 867. As with many things it is now a question of 'Go East'.

Reopened in May 2016, Lea Bridge railway station has been of interest to GLIAS because of some unusual old industrial plant close to the down platform (GLIAS Newsletter October 2016). This station is only about half a mile to the north-east of the Lea Valley Ice Centre and there are frequent buses along the Lea Bridge Road. Bob Carr

St Pancras — King's Cross

The recently re-erected guide frames of the triplet gas holders at St Pancras (GLIAS Newsletter February 2016) now contain cylindrical blocks of flats. At first sight the effect is surprisingly realistic; one can almost imagine that the frames still contain bells filled with town gas. The architects Wilkinson Eyre have done a remarkable job in recreating an industrial aesthetic.

Gasholder Park, 2017. © Robert Mason Gasholder Park. © Robert Mason

In the spring it is becoming a regular feature to hold a car boot fair in the area around the Cubitt Granary. This year the event was held on 22-23 April. As well as the usual old cars, commercial vehicles and converted Routemaster buses there was an interesting visitor, a Lincoln Zephyr V12 — apparently from Germany. It had the registration DD BY 5H. Does the DD denote Düsseldorf? Bob Carr

Lincoln Zephyr V12. © Bob Carr

London Bridge Station

Despite previous protests by the Victorian Society and others, the South Eastern Railway offices in Tooley Street have been demolished (GLIAS Newsletter August 2013, June 2012, April 2012, December 2011). Disruption of services through London Bridge station will continue until 2018 with spasmodic closures for associated engineering works hampering rail services over much of South London from time to time. Through train services from St Pancras to London Bridge via Blackfriars should restart in about 12 months. It is intended to run through Thameslink services from Peterborough and Cambridge to the Medway Towns, Brighton and Littlehampton. Bob Carr

A Russian submarine in London

Russian submarine on Medway. © Robert Mason The Russian submarine which used to be at Long Wharf near the Thames Barrier before the Royal Iris was moved there (GLIAS Newsletter April 2017) was generally described as a member of the 'Foxtrot' class.

However, Foxtrot is not a Russian name, it is a NATO reporting name devised to make communication easier for English-speakers. Also, the Russians never used a capital U prefix for their submarines; this is harking back to the German U boats of World War II. U 475 is essentially fictitious, as is the name Black Widow which was devised for film making. Apparently the correct name should be B 49, or in Russian Б 49.

This submarine is now on the Medway, off Strood, only accessible by boat. According to a newspaper report it is owned by a man who lives in Plumstead and is trying to raise funds for its restoration. An urban explorer website with excellent photographs indicates that this submarine has been visited illicitly. The interior appears to be in surprisingly good condition. Bob Carr

Arson at East Tilbury

The remarkable Bata shoe factory at East Tilbury was started by Tomáš Bata in 1932. It subsequently grew into a substantial complex surrounded by an idealist town. For the people that lived there everything was provided by the firm. Bata even had its own farm, and milk was delivered in Bata milk bottles.

Shoe manufacture at East Tilbury declined and the factory closed in 2005 but people who had worked for Bata established a substantial Reminiscence and Resource Centre in the local library. As well as extensive archives there was an impressive display of Bata memorabilia — footwear, packaging, advertising, photographs — cups, medals, badges, buttons and so on. It is astonishing just what wide a range of products Bata produced — they did far more than just boots and shoes.

However, disaster struck on 6 January this year. In the early hours of the morning a Ford Fiesta was backed into the library and set on fire. The Fire Brigade regarded this as a deliberate act. At least the front part of the library was totally gutted, this contained the displays of Bata memorabilia. It was at first thought that there was a considerable loss of archive material too but it is now known that the damage here has not been so severe. It took quite a long time before Bata volunteers were able to enter the library and assess the damage.

If you have anything appropriate that you could donate to the Bata reminiscence centre it would help just a little to make up for the full-scale loss of memorabilia suffered in January. One item that may be very hard to replace is a Bata milk bottle. One was on display at the front of the library but it is thought that in the intense heat the glass will have melted. The current assessment of the library building is that the damage is so severe, rebuilding will not be worthwhile and a new library should be constructed.

People thinking of making a donation of memorabilia should email Mr Mike Tarbard,, or write to him at Waterview, Orsett Road, Horndon-on-the-Hill, Essex SS17 8NS. Bob Carr

GLIAS visit to Morden College, Blackheath — Tuesday 1 August, afternoon

The college was established by Sir John Morden a member of both the Levant and East India Companies. He founded his college to provide accommodation and support for 40 single Turkey merchants, who had fallen on hard times. The college was built between 1695 and 1700 in the style of Wren: 40 apartments and chapel frame a quadrangle and are set in very spacious grounds. The original buildings survive plus much later accommodation since the College now cares for 400 beneficiaries. The college owns large parts of Blackheath and Greenwich, including much of the industrial Greenwich Peninsular. The college, hardly visible from the Heath, does not have public openings such as Open House. Since I have given residents IA talks this is a rather special event for GLIAS.

My plan is to meet at Blackheath Station. We will then walk to the college taking in some of IA on route. There we will be greeted with a talk on the History of the Charity and a tour of the buildings. Tea and biscuits will be available. We will then be taken into the Muniments room where industrially related archives will be shown to us. Dave Perrett
To book a place(s) and receive full details when they are firmed up send email to me: before 24 July

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© GLIAS, 2017