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Notes and news — December 2017

In this issue:

Denis Smith

Dr Denis Smith

It is with sadness that we have to announce the death of Dr Denis Smith, long-time Chairman and later Vice-President of GLIAS.

Denis was one of the founding members of GLIAS and became Chairman in 1972, retiring in 2012. During this period the GLIAS Journal was initiated along with the lecture series to which he contributed talks on many topics.

In connection with Denis's 'other life' in music he conceived and produced 'Iron and Steam' for Industrial Heritage Year in 1993. The concert's programme connecting to industrial events and themes ranged from Brass Band pieces to Scottish Dance Tunes via Victorian Drawing Room Ballads.

Denis was also President of the Newcomen Society and a member of the Panel for Historic Engineering Works (PHEW) of the ICE. His publications included papers to the Newcomen Society, a chapter on the Houses of Parliament, the PHEW book on London & the Thames Valley, and London Docklands.

Our sympathy goes to Lyn, their children Matthew and Jenny and grandchildren, Kirsty and Callum.

News of old and new at Old Oak Common

Back in 2010 GLIAS reported the impending demolition of the former GWR Old Oak Common Locomotive Depot, in order that a new Crossrail Train Maintenance Depot could be built on the site (GLIAS Newsletters June 2010 and August 2010). This depot is now in place. Before demolition, however, extensive recording of the site and its building was undertaken. I reviewed an Oxford Archaeology book on the railway archaeology of the Crossrail route (GLIAS Newsletter August 2017), which rightly gave considerable attention to the loco depot's history and structures.

For those interested in more detailed information about the Depot, I am pleased to say that Crossrail has made available the recording reports, which can be downloaded from

This is a most welcome and public-spirited move: usually such records of documentary studies and on-site investigations are prepared to satisfy conditions attached to a planning permission, with copies being deposited only with the local planning authority and perhaps the National Monuments Record. Such so-called 'grey' literature is therefore not readily accessible to interested individuals, unlike a downloaded copy.

Of particular interest are:

Other available reports include a record of archaeological investigations and an updated schedule of elements to be salvaged from buildings and structures, with the aim that as much of these as possible would be incorporated in new construction. (I hope this is coming to pass.)

Turning from the old to the new, a press release from the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) reports the start of demolition of the former Old Oak Common British Railways Staff Hostel that stands — or more probably stood, by the time you are reading this — immediately west of the Loco Depot. The press release is at

The site is to be redeveloped to provide 605 homes (one-third to be 'affordable') and some commercial space. Residential blocks will be up to 26 storeys high, and the visualisations of the scheme provided at public consultation sessions — available at — give a foretaste of what the OPDC area might look like when the present ambitious regeneration scheme comes to fruition. Not something that a worker at the Loco Depot would recognise!

The hostel was built in 1947-8, so its construction bridged the date when the GWR became part of nationalised British Railways on 1 January 1948. As such it must have been one of the last examples, if not the last, of accommodation built by the railways to accommodate their staff. This was quite common practice in the early days of railways, particularly when a major development was being introduced outside an urban area, as at Swindon where the GWR established its works in a then small market town, and built its own Railway Village.

It would be interesting to know what factors led to the building of the Old Oak Hostel soon after the end of the Second World War — perhaps accommodation was scarce locally after wartime bomb damage? Certainly it was very convenient for the journey to work, and close to the canal for evening strolls and fishing. The building was not judged to be a 'heritage asset' in the jargon of modern planning, and was outside the depot boundary, so it has not been recorded. Michael Bussell

The Woolwich Stoneware Kiln

Readers of the article on the Woolwich Stoneware Kiln (GLIAS Newsletter October 2017) might have wondered how its remains in a box weighing more than 40 tons were moved by road from Woolwich to the Greenwich Council Depot in Tunnel Avenue, c.1978. At that time, there was heavy industry in the area and very heavy haulage was commonplace. The move appears to have been surprisingly routine.

Now here we have someone who actually knew the Woolwich Kiln at first hand and moreover was present when the archaeological remains were being boxed prior to their removal from the original site. Wonderful! Bob Carr

So, from the horse's mouth...

As one of the volunteers at the pottery site where the Woolwich Kiln was found, I was pleased to see the piece by Bob Carr about it (GLIAS Newsletter October 2017).

He said that the kiln was put in a wooden box. This is true except that the box was supported by a massive steel frame (approx. 4m x 6m x 3m high externally). Special trenches were dug in the surrounding sandy ground around — and below the bottom of — the kiln. My recollection of what follows is fading, and may be wrong, but I was posted in said trenches at the time. The frame was lowered into the trenches, then steel plates were driven under the kiln and secured to it. Plywood sides (about 2cm thick) were fitted to complete the box and internal gaps were filled with foam. The bottom edges of the box were prevented from moving within the frame by multiple wooden wedges driven in all round its base. A plywood top was fitted. The whole crate and its contents weighed about 43 tons and was lifted by a mobile crane onto a low loader.

The Woolwich Kiln was found in 1974 on a pottery whose normal business was making red earthenware. It seems a German potter had come over around the beginning of the second quarter of the 17th Century*, persuaded the proprietor to let him build a kiln and had set about making stoneware vessels. Woolwich clay is no match for the German and French clays used for the stoneware vessels then being imported in quantity, but odd pockets of it were good enough to make saleable pots. But not enough to be profitable and the kiln was slighted and another redware kiln built over it. Significant remnants of the stoneware kiln survived — unlike continental kilns which were continually rebuilt as they wore out after a few firings — it was an important find, for continental Europe as well as here. Experts from the British Museum came to look at it and it was decided it should be kept.

Greenwich Council agreed to the kiln being set up as a feature in a future development, and to store it in the meantime in their depot in Tunnel Avenue. New developments took place, but the kiln remained in its crate; after a couple of moves it ended up beside the Greenwich Heritage Centre (in Woolwich Arsenal). Over the years dust and soil collected between the wedges at the bottom of the box, in which weeds grew and the bottom edges of the plywood sides began to rot. (From time to time I weeded the crate — a buddleia only died after three years hard pruning.)

The archaeological world changed its policy about putting treasured objects on display — without continual and costly maintenance they soon deteriorate when open to the elements. With the box beginning to show its age and no museum space to house the kiln, the heritage world agreed to record the kiln and demolish it — to the relief of Greenwich Council and the site developers, Berkeley Homes. The developers built a platform, with a translucent awning, on top of the frame from which the kiln could be viewed and for its excavation.

There was some nervousness when the top was opened — how well had the kiln survived? Had there been any plant growth? Museum staff found it still in excellent condition. Some of the local volunteers who had been on the original excavation (now grey haired) came to see it. Oxford Archaeology, the in-house archaeologists for the Woolwich Arsenal redevelopment, have now 3D-scanned the kiln and gone on to excavate it and the surrounding soil, to recover as much evidence for its construction and use as possible — indeed more than could have been found by leaving it intact. By April 2017 it had gone. The scan, in particular, could not have been made in 1974 so the original exercise was not in vain.

In its last days the frame supported the viewing gallery which Bob Carr no doubt clambered up, and would have been the last thing left when the kiln was dismantled. Richard Buchanan

Homes from the workplace

The apparently insatiable demand for homes in London is resulting in many buildings originally erected for industrial, commercial, or other non-residential use finding a new life as flats. The cylindrical dwelling blocks inserted into the re-erected 'Siamese triplet' gasholder guide frames at St Pancras have received frequent mention in the Newsletter, most recently in the June 2017 issue, but this is only one of an increasing number of adaptations and conversions. A recent Evening Standard 'Homes & Property' supplement (1 November) contained details of several such schemes that illustrate this trend, affecting buildings of various types. (Prices, needless to say, range from daunting to eye-watering to someone like me, who can remember from his youth a time when a four-bedroomed house could be had for a few thousand pounds ...)

The Hoover vacuum cleaner factory in Perivale, west London, was indisputably industrial when built in the early 1930s to an Art Deco design by architects Wallis Gilbert & Partners. Although it faces onto Western Avenue, it is in what is sometimes known as the Great West Road style, whose most notable example — the Firestone Tyre Factory, on that arterial road — was demolished in 1980 just ahead of being listed. The resulting storm of protest lead to the listing of the Hoover building at grade II*. The company failed soon afterwards, and the ground floor of the building became home to a Tesco superstore. At night the façade was illuminated by dramatic green lighting. Now the upper floors have been adapted to accommodate 66 flats, one of which (with two bedrooms and bathrooms) was noted in the Standard as being on offer at five pounds short of £570,000.

Further east towards central London, Acton Town Hall on the High Street lost its original role when London boroughs were amalgamated in the municipal reorganisation that also established the erstwhile Greater London Council in the mid-1960s, but remained in use as offices. Now this elegant red-brick-and-stone Edwardian building, extended in the same style in 1939, is offering 71 homes, with one-bedroom flats starting at £180,000, two-bedroom at £240,000. This gives the buyer a 40% share of ownership, the other 60% remaining with the housing association developer.

Having long known of the highly regarded Atkinson Morley Hospital, I was surprised to see the paper's 'Trophy home of the week' being a triplex apartment (i.e. on three floors) in the former hospital, itself occupying what was once the home of a Duke of Wellington set in 19 acres in Wimbledon, offered at a cool £2.7 million. An internet search informed me that this hospital had been absorbed into St George's Hospital as long ago as 2003.

Another medical establishment with a familiar name, but no longer where it used to be, is the National Institute for Medical Research, which has now been absorbed within the new Francis Crick Institute that — with the British Library — stands on the site of the former Midland Railway Somers Town Goods Depot immediately west of St Pancras Station. The NIMR occupied a large site on The Ridgeway in Mill Hill, developed between 1938 and 1950. Its principal building was designed by Maxwell Ayrton, architect of the original Wembley Stadium, with a seven-storey central block and four lower wings forming a 'stretched butterfly' on plan. A private developer's scheme to provide 462 [sic!] flats on the site is currently being challenged by the Mayor of London, on the basis that it should offer 40% rather than 20% of these as affordable homes.

While we cannot sensibly extrapolate this trend to the (il)logical conclusion of London becoming an entirely residential settlement, with no buildings left in which to work, it certainly does seem — with amalgamations, relocation, 'offshoring' of production, etc — that very much less is actually being made in London than was the case until quite recently. The Hoover building is a case in point — from manufacture to homes, and to shopping...

Lastly in that Standard supplement I noticed a story, not about the conversion of industrial buildings but the regeneration — or rather the rebranding — of a part of south London that in the 19th century was notorious for squalid housing and for its noxious but necessary industries that the nasally sensitive City folk had banished to south of the Thames, notably the leather trade. The survival in new uses of Bermondsey Leathermarket, and adjacent street names such as Tanner Street and Morocco Street, attest to this vanished trade. Now a private development on Grange Walk (appropriately on the site of a former tannery, two-bedroom flats from £649,950) is in an area that is being renamed Bermondsey Spa, recalling the brief exploitation of a chalybeate spring in the late 18th century, and previously recognised by the naming of Spa Road, a station on the London & Greenwich Railway that opened in 1836 and was (briefly!) the first railway terminus in London, but was closed as early as 1915. Michael Bussell

London fieldwork and publication round-up 2016

The London Archaeologist has published the Annual Review of archaeological investigations and publications for 2016. The following are of IA interest:

Brian James-Strong

Gasholder news

At Leven Road, Poplar, gasholder No 1 had about half gone circa mid October. This was the holder which had just an outside chance of being listed. The other holders along Leven Road were also being demolished and probably all will have gone by the time you read this.

At Marian Place, Bethnal Green, the four gasholders were still there recently. A certificate of immunity from listing has been issued for this group.

Welcome news is that gasholder no 2 at Fulham Gasworks Sands End, listed grade II, has been upgraded (see below). It is now listed grade II*. This is the world's oldest surviving gasholder, dating from 1830 (GLIAS Newsletter June 2005).

Stop press news is that the holders at Bell Green TQ 365 720 (pictured below) have been listed locally. Can anyone add further information please?

Gasholders 7 & 8 Bell Green, October 2015 © R Carr Gasholders 7 & 8 Bell Green, October 2015 © R Carr

Quote: At a meeting of Lewisham's Mayor & Cabinet last week the Council took the decision to locally list the two iconic gas holders at Bell Green. This gives them some protection and recognises their historic importance to Sydenham and this part of south-east London. Bob Carr

IA sites added to Heritage at Risk register

Significant sites of industrial interest have been added to this year's 'Heritage at Risk' register.

The Historic England list, which identifies sites most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development, includes for the first time Gasholder number 2 at Fulham Gasworks and the Accumulator Tower at Limehouse Basin. Two significant churches — St Anne's Limehouse Parish Church in Stepney and the Church of St George the Martyr in Bermondsey — also feature.

They are among 45 sites added to the register in London this year which now totals 683 buildings and monuments including 87 places of worship, 10 parks and gardens and hundreds of listed buildings.

There are some places that have been removed from the register, including the restored Grade II-listed Griffin pub in Shoreditch, built in 1889 with its glazed tiling and Victorian iron columns.

Historic England's Liz Whitbourn said: 'Two years ago we revealed that 80% of all commemorative monuments at risk nationally were in London. Ten of these have been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register this year but there is more work to do. If these are lost, then part of our city's story is lost too, so we will continue to work closely with owners, volunteers and funding bodies to help safeguard London's most precious historic sites.'

The following information is taken from Historic England:

Further information at

Meanwhile, members of the public are invited to share their knowledge and pictures of listed places with Heritage England via their website:

What can you share?

All you need to do is complete the Heritage Passport form online to become a contributor (this takes around five minutes). Any information supplied will be moderated to make sure it's appropriate and appear in a day or two.

I have successfully added a number of pictures — it is surprising how many of the listings do not have pictures or much detailed information. I am sure GLIAS members could have fun 'enriching the list'! Robert Mason

P S Waverley

Waverley at Swanage. © Robert Mason This year, owing to high winds, some sailings were cancelled. In our South East area the cruise on 4 October along the Essex Coast, calling at Clacton Pier, was cancelled but at least some of parts of the programme in more sheltered waters were able to take place.

Following her last passenger carrying duties around the Thames estuary on Sunday 8 October, Waverley headed home to Glasgow travelling westwards down Channel at a good rate of knots. However, the ship then spent about two days in Weymouth, perhaps to await better conditions for rounding Land's End.

On 12 October in the evening Waverley was off Pembroke and now due to arrive in Glasgow on 14 October at about 7 o'clock in the evening. However, the ship was later sheltering or resting overnight, at Fishguard. High winds were in the offing, Hurricane Ophelia — by the time this cyclone reached the British Isles a post-tropical storm.

Waverley was heading northwest in mid Irish Sea at 11am on 14 October, turning north she passed off Dublin, Newry and headed for Bangor, Country Down. She arrived off Bangor late in the evening, probably anchoring overnight.

On Sunday 15 October Waverley left Bangor about tea-time and sailed north-eastwards for Glasgow, due to arrive there very early in the morning on Monday. She was approaching Girvan at 6.45 pm, was off West Kilbride about 9 o'clock and passed to the West of Great Cumbrae. At 11.30pm she was in the Clyde north of Paisley and the following morning was berthed at Govan.

Some of the above account is rather sketchy; readers may be able to supply more information. Times given are British Summer Time, BST.

Cancelled sailings mean loss of revenue and a delayed return home may have incurred additional expenditure. These setbacks make the continuing operation of this historic ship increasingly difficult. Large charitable donations would be welcome. Bob Carr

More on signal boxes in Greater London

Re: GLIAS Newsletter October 2017. Highams Park signal box dates from 1925 when the posts of level crossing keeper and signal man were combined. It eventually ceased to be required but local interest saved it from demolition. Now (2016) after a period standing empty it has become a restaurant. It is locally listed of historic interest. It is a prominent building in the town.

More details on the web search Highams Park Signal Box. John Goodier

D.N.M. & Co

I wonder if your organisation can provide any information on D.N.M. & Co. London, the manufacturers of this ex-sugar mill steam engine, on display in a shopping complex on the site of the former mill in Torrox, Malaga, Spain. An internet search yields no result. Peter Quilley

ex-sugar mill steam engine, Torrox, Malaga, Spain ex-sugar mill steam engine, Torrox, Malaga, Spain

GLIAS questionnaire

We received 162 replies to the recent online questionnaire. This is a very pleasing level of response (48% of memberships) and we thank all who took part. There is a wealth of useful information, feedback and ideas from the membership that will help us plan for the future.

It is taking time to analyse the results; our aim is to include a report in the next Newsletter. Tim Sidaway, GLIAS Secretary

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© GLIAS, 2017