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Notes and news — October 2017

In this issue:

More on the London Electric Cab Company

I read with interest Peter Butt's piece in about electric taxis in London at the end of the 19th century (GLIAS Newsletter August 2017). I'd not heard of the London Electric Cab Company, but an internet search brought useful information.

The London Electric Cab Company, located in Juxton Street, Lambeth, were in business between 1896 and 1899. They were the successor to the Ward Electrical Car Company. In 1897, the London Electric Cab Company began a regular service using cabs designed by their general manager, Walter Bersey. The Bersey Cab, which had a 40-cell battery and 3 horsepower electric motor, had a range of 50 miles between charges — excellent for that date. By 1899 they claimed to have 80 cabs for use, though in August that year they closed. The Ward Electrical Car Company was founded in 1888 by the electrical engineer Radcliffe Ward. They produced an experimental electric bus and a van for the London postal service. In 1894 Walter Bersey developed the second electric bus and also the postal van which, in a six-month trial covered around 1,000 miles. Following this success, the London Electric Omnibus Company was established in 1896. However, success was short-lived as they had gone bust by 1900.

From the mid-1890s to c1906 electric cars enjoyed a brief period of popularity; they were quiet, smooth-running and easy to drive compared with petrol-engined cars — no gears or clutches! There were up to 22 manufacturers of electric cars, though most lasted no more than 2-3 years and all but one had gone out of business by 1910. The exception was London-based Electromobile which was in business 1901-1920. The coachbuilders, Thrupp & Maberly, established in London in 1760, and by the 1890s at premises in Welbeck Street and Marylebone Lane, built an electric carriage for the Queen of Spain in 1896, probably their first motor car body. The electric car's failure to thrive was, of course, down to the short range possible before recharging the batteries, a problem we're only successfully getting to grips with over a century later! Robert Vickers

The Woolwich stoneware kiln

In March this year a 17th-century stoneware kiln of exceptional interest was completely destroyed. This deliberate destruction was carried out by professional archaeologists in the course of a state-of-the-art examination of the kiln. Originally excavated in 1974, it was situated near the riverside in Woolwich and the stoneware kiln may have been the first of its type in Britain.

Following the kiln's discovery more than 40 years ago it was decided that as this find might be rather special the whole kiln should be retained. The site was needed for redevelopment and so in 1975 a remarkable piece of engineering took place. The complete kiln was enclosed in a great wooden box, truncated beneath, and then raised six feet. A 16mm cine film of the operation was made and in the late 1970s a copy was shown at a GLIAS evening. Some of you may remember seeing this.

The great box was moved by road to the Greenwich Council depot in Tunnel Avenue. It remained here until 1990 when the depot closed. Following this closure the box was moved again to the London Borough of Greenwich Heritage Centre at Woolwich. Subsequently the box has probably been moved short distances about this area.

Recently, however, it was necessary to move the box yet again because it occupied space required for redevelopment. By now the wooden box was rotten and the structure failing. A further move was really out of the question. Thus Oxford Archaeology were brought in to examine the contents of the box using the latest techniques. In the course of this work the kiln would be destroyed.

Woolwich stoneware kiln The complete kiln was enclosed in a great wooden box

Before the professional examination commenced, a few visitors were allowed to inspect and photograph the top of the kiln. On Thursday 30 March the kiln was sliced and sectioned and a detailed digital record made. On Friday 31 March the demolition men were called in. Everything was cleared away and by the end of the week all trace of the kiln had completely disappeared.

This was not hurried 'rescue archaeology' ahead of the bulldozer. The examination was carefully done with sufficient time available. The Woolwich Kiln excavation unearthed the earliest evidence for the manufacture of salt glaze stoneware in England, dated 1650–1700. Bob Carr

Cabmen's Shelter recognised in listing anniversary

Cabmen's Shelter at Grosvenor Gardens

Historic England has listed the Cabmen's Shelter at Grosvenor Gardens near Victoria Station to mark 70 years of protecting England's historic buildings.

The 1906 structure (pictured right), which was erected by the Cabmen's Shelter Fund to provide cabbies with shelter and refreshments when they were on the ranks, has been listed at Grade II (

Thirteen of the shelters remain in London and are still run by the Cabmen's Shelter Fund (the initials CSF are sometimes engraved into the decorative woodwork panels). This list differs slightly from the one published in GLIAS Newsletter January 1975.

Cabmen's Shelter at Embsay railway station

The Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 was the birth of the listed building system we know today. The listing system was 'born from destruction' following widespread bombing in Second World War. The first lists were 'Salvage Lists', compiled as an emergency measure to identify which buildings were special enough to be protected in post-war rebuilding.

Cabmen's shelters have featured frequently in GLIAS Newsletters (eg GLIAS Newsletter October 2009).

I recently came across a Cabmen's Shelter in Yorkshire at Embsay railway station (right). It was relocated to this heritage railway from its original site at Ilkley railway station.

It is mounted on wheels and has a metal plate up on its roof with 'CABMEN'S SHELTER' stencilled and cut out to provide ventilation. Robert Mason

The re-use of locomotives boilers in industry

The piece 'In a London Laundry?' was submitted to the Newsletter in the hope that there might be some response. As you can see below there has been a considerable response!

Although it came from a source that should have been reliable, the story of an Atlantic boiler being found in a laundry may be incorrect (GLIAS Newsletter August 2017). The boiler currently being used for the Brighton Atlantic Project was discovered in 1986 by members of the Engine Shed Society at a timber works in Maldon. Four locomotive boilers had been in use there, there were two boilers from LNER C1 class 4-4-2 locomotives*, a boiler from a London & South Western Railway T1 class 0-4-4T and a boiler of Midland Railway type which is believed to have come from a Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway class C 4-4-0 (

One of the large Atlantic boilers was in very good condition and this is the one now being used for the Brighton Atlantic, the other Atlantic boiler was in quite a bad way and was subsequently scrapped. The other two loco boilers are now believed to be in the hands of preservationists.

Boilers from C1 class Atlantics seem to have survived for quite a long time after the engines were withdrawn from service, there were something like 13 at various locations in Doncaster and six of these lasted until about 1965. These Atlantic boilers may have been popular because of their excellent steam raising capabilities. People might like to comment?

At the Maldon timber works there were originally three large Atlantic boilers. One was there until 1952 and the remaining two were in use at Maldon until 1975.

Regarding the Newhaven boat trains (GLIAS Newsletter August 2017), these did not run via the Uckfield line as this would have involved a reversal at Lewes. In 1910 a boat train from London Victoria to Newhaven via Hayward's Heath took one hour 23 minutes. The service was exclusively for Continental passengers and conveyed a Pullman Car. Bob Carr

Boiler for 'Beachy Head'

The article about the Great Northern Railway Atlantic boiler (GLIAS Newsletter August 2017) doesn't seem to refer to the same one being used on 'Beachy Head', as ours came from Maldon in Essex where it was being used in a factory making window frames, not in a laundry.

We are well on the way to completion with the aim of having 'Beachy Head' steaming on the Bluebell Railway in 2020, the 60th anniversary of the opening of the line as a Heritage Railway.

Atlantic boiler after discovery at the factory and before the cladding and asbestos were removed © 'Bluebell Atlantic Project' Atlantic boiler being loaded ready for transportation to Sheffield Park © 'Bluebell Atlantic Project' Atlantic boiler in its new home in Atlantic House construction shed © 'Bluebell Atlantic Project'

Below is a report from our Design Engineer, Fred Bailey, who has researched our boiler.

David Jones, Atlantic Project, Bluebell Railway. Web:

D E Marsh was Chief AME at Doncaster and assisted H A Ivatt with design of the Great Northern Railway Atlantics. When CME at Brighton he ordered a set of the Ivatt Atlantic drawings on which the first batch of five Brighton Atlantics (H1 Class) were based. Hence the close similarity with the GNR locos.

The GNR boiler mentioned was first at a wood-working factory in Maldon, Essex. The boilers used wood waste for fuel for steam raising. The firm was taken over and eventually closed. The boilers were purchased by a concern in Brightlingsea. My brother inspected the boilers there and gave a favourable report on one of the GNR boilers which set the reconstruction project in motion.

A loco from the almost identical second batch, built in 1911 under Marsh's assistant Lawson Billinton (Marsh was on sick leave) of six (H2 Class) was chosen, as a few donated parts from an original, 32424 Beachy Head (all eleven Brighton Atlantics were named by the Southern Railway), will be incorporated in the reconstruction.

The build is complex, the LB&SCR had a penchant for complex — for example the cab roof incorporates over 300 rivets in its construction. However, there is near complete a rolling chassis, an impressive piece of work.

Finally the 'boat trains' to Newhaven would not have travelled via Uckfield as this would have involved reversing at Lewes. The usual route was via Haywards Heath and Lewes. Very occasionally the route via East Grinstead, Horsted Keynes and Haywards Heath might have been used. Brian Sturt

Camden Highline Park Walk

This is the title of a proposal by 'Camden Town Unlimited'. The North London Line was four tracks eastwards from Camden Road Junction. Now there are only two tracks in use on the south side of the formation. The site of the other two tracks is empty space. Metal bridges over roads still have the framework that supported the removed tracks, and have a narrow footbridge placed on top of the frame to give a safe walking surface. From time to time there is talk of reinstating one or both tracks.

The proposal is to arrange access at the very end of the viaduct for four tracks, at the site of Camden Road Junction signal box, just west of Camden Road station, and make a linear park Walkway for about 800 metres to Camley Street. Here it would link to a relatively new foot and cycle path north to Agar Grove. Press releases say 'towards Caledonian Rd & Barnsbury Station', but that's a good way away, across both the Midland and Great Northern lines.

The Walkway would pass through the two disused platforms at Camden Road station and an artist's impression shows access here via a line of ticket gates. There would, of course, need to be a secure barrier between the Walkway and the busy operating railway, and bridges adapted to take the new path, but logistically it all looks straightforward. Network Rail want an assurance of the right to reinstate one or both tracks, the latter effectively closing the walkway, which is fair enough. David Thomas
For more, and some 'artist impressions', see

The Peckham Coal Line Walk

This proposed walk has been discussed for a few years and the website,, has maps and photographs.

In a nutshell, it would be about a kilometre long, in three parts:

1. On a brick viaduct, using the former site of a siding which ran alongside the main lines (very much in use) to a hydraulically operated lift which lowered wagons to a coal yard/depot at street level, below. This section would be from the east side of Peckham Rye Lane to Consort Road.

2. A short new elevated section, continuing to Gordon Road.

3. Then at or near ground level, close to the railway, which is now on embankment and turning to run north-east. It would run alongside the foot of the embankment on adjoining non-railway land, to end at Queen's Road, close to the station of that name. Part of this is already a pleasant public park. It is anticipated that there would be an onward cycle route to a new bridge across the Thames for Canary Wharf.

A news item in The South London Press on 28 July 2017 said that a developer had proposed new build across the route and discussions were underway to find a solution. David Thomas

New developments

Last year, 2016, was a busy one for the construction industry in London. A new skyscraper was started almost every week. A total of 48 were commenced.

Pile driving to the east of Lea Bridge railway station was noted on 23 June 2017 (GLIAS Newsletter April 2017 and June 2017). A name board displayed the word 'Motion', presumably the name of the developers or builders.

A somewhat controversial development of 300 residential units at 97 Lea Bridge Road was approved by the outgoing Mayor Boris Johnson. This envisages three tall blocks up to 18 stories high. Bob Carr

The Odessa Street crane

Odessa Street crane

It is reported recently that the Scotch derrick on the riverside to the east of Odessa Street, at TQ 366 795, has been cut up. The London Docklands Development Corporation had an enlightened policy of preserving selected artefacts from the past in order to give its new residents some sense of place. The derrick was a short way north of the Greenland Entrance to the former Surrey Commercial Docks. It was used to unload timber from ships and barges and had been retained as a monument. Despite a campaign to save it the crane has now gone. Scotch derricks were truly ubiquitous. They were commonplace along the riverside in London and familiar throughout the country in timber yards and quarries. They are now extremely rare. Is there even one example left in Greater London? Bob Carr

Disruption caused by railway building

The annoyance caused by the rebuilding of London Bridge railway station gives some idea of what London must have been like in the early 1860s when there was almost a mania of new railway building. Things were so bad that better off people that could afford to, moved to new addresses in places such as Islington and Belsize Park. At this time the railway from London Bridge was being extended to Waterloo and Charing Cross and other works were going on at the same time too. For instance the Thames Embankment was being constructed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the Midland Railway was being built to St Pancras station and the Metropolitan Railway, London's first underground line, was nearing completion. Bob Carr

Trains from Willesden

The railway branch between the Hitchin — Cambridge passenger line and the former Barrington Cement Works is now quite active. The rails are clearly well used and trains of 100-ton bogie wagons can often be seen on the branch.

DB Schenker Rail are running one or two trains a day here from Willesden in London. The trains consist of 22 bogie wagons and carry a total load of about 1,500 tonnes of material. The railway branch to Barrington has recently been upgraded; a bridge has been strengthened to allow the use of mainline locomotives. Inert material from London construction sites is being used to fill the chalk quarry. Bob Carr

More Jubilee wall plaques

Jubilee wall plaque, Jubilee Cottages, Great Wratting, Suffolk

Another Victoria Jubilee wall ceramic. Spotted on appropriately named Jubilee Buildings, 322-330 High Street, Bangor, North Wales, this one has a raised section above with the date 1897. It is in good condition, to the same design as others. In spite of its location, the wording is, of course, in English.

The Newsletter editor Robert Mason has pointed out that two plaques exist in his village of Great Wratting, Suffolk, again on appropriately named Jubilee Cottages (pictured right).

These, unlike others mentioned in the newsletter (eg GLIAS Newsletter February 2017), are dated 1887 and commemorate 50 years' reign, whereas as far as I know the ones I've seen are 1897 and 60 years. Otherwise, they appear to have the same mould and the queen has not aged in the intervening decade.

Can anyone advise the date or number of years' reign on any further sightings. David Thomas

Grays State

The impressive late pre-war State Cinema in Grays opened in 1938 and is listed grade II*. It was constructed by F G M Chancellor for Frederick's Electric Theatres. The building was to be converted for use by Wetherspoon's but the work seems to be currently in abeyance. A group of enthusiasts has been restoring the impressive Compton organ but a theft of nearly all its organ pipes in July 2011 was a serious setback. There is a good Wikipedia article. Bob Carr

Listed signal boxes in Greater London

Following my note on Wymondham South Junction signal box (GLIAS Newsletter August 2017), I wondered how many railway signal boxes in the Greater London area have been listed.

The answer is currently only three — Bollo Lane Junction, Liverpool Street (Circle Line) and Ruislip station. (Chesham signal box, outside the Greater London area but on the Metropolitan Line in Buckinghamshire, is also listed.)

The following information is taken from Historic England:

GLIAS visited Clapham Junction signal boxes (GLIAS Newsletter October 1979) ahead of the Victoria re-signalling scheme. And the newsletter has carried notes on Great Northern Railway wooden signal boxes at King's Cross (GLIAS Newsletter January 1975), the Waterloo area re-signalling scheme (GLIAS Newsletter February 1990), and South Croydon Junction Signal Box (GLIAS Newsletter December 2008 and August 2009).

Do members know of any other interesting examples of signal boxes that remain in the capital? Robert Mason

We ask for your help please in completing a questionnaire

The GLIAS Board are considering if and how we can increase membership, improve what GLIAS does for its members and improve our educational role. To help us in this, we would be grateful if our Members would complete a questionnaire. It can be completed online in about five minutes, and we would welcome a response from all Individual Members and from each active individual in a Family Membership. The questionnaire will be open until the end of October, but please don't delay and reply sooner rather than later.

The results and numerical analysis will be circulated to the membership upon completion. The GLIAS Board will use the responses to the questionnaire to gauge the feeling of the membership on our activities and to assess if there is a wish to do anything differently.

Please complete the questionnaire at

Alternatively it can be accessed through the website at and those members without a computer can obtain a paper copy from the GLIAS Secretary at 36 Gallows Hill Lane, Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, WD5 0DA. But we do ask that as many people as possible complete the survey online as it aids analysis. Many thanks in advance. Tim Sidaway, GLIAS Secretary

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