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Notes and news — October 2018

In this issue:

'GLIAS' database online

The award-winning database, developed by GLIAS member Chris Grabham, has been developed into an online web-based system by the Yorkshire Archaeology Society's Industrial History Group with the involvement of Robert Vickers, a GLIAS member who lives in Yorkshire.

The online system, which includes a large number of images, uses the Web to provide mapping details as well as the usual feature of links to 'everything' (even Wikipedia). The current Yorkshire Database can be viewed at

The system has spread beyond the boundaries of Yorkshire to include other areas 'Up North' and we are in the process of transferring the CD-based London data to the system.

As with all recording exercises, information can go out of date very quickly and some of it may be confusing or wrong. GLIAS is looking for volunteers to help with the task of reviewing the information, checking grid references and tidying up the records.

Any member interested in helping with this should get in touch via Members who contributed to the original database are particularly invited to assist.
Dan Hayton, Treasurer

Bell Green gas holders, Lower Sydenham, SE6

Two gas holder frames, the smaller 1872 and the larger 1880, stand back from the main road, Perry Hill. Numbered 7 and 8, they are the last features of a gas works which covered 46 acres, coal coming in from a railway line to the east (GLIAS Newsletter December 2017; December 2015).

At first glance the frames appear to be steel, but Malcolm Tucker, our gas holders expert, has identified them as examples of wrought iron riveted latticework construction on cast iron base plates. They taper upwards but are not embellished with finials, or company initials at the bottom or in the bosses which hold the cross-brace rods. Their capacity (1.6m and 2.6m cu ft) was extended in 1907 by 30% when 'flying lifts' were added, so that when full the bells rose above the tops of the guide frames. There are three tiers of Warren girders.

The works ceased producing (town) gas in about 1970 and the rest of the site has already been redeveloped with car parking in mind. Acres of it with some familiar retail names fixed to large shed-like buildings and a 24-hour McDonalds.


At first glance the holders appear nothing special, but they are both technically important and a significant local landmark. The Sydenham Society, Victorian Society and GLIAS argued for their retention and achieved getting them placed by London Borough of Lewisham on a 'local list', but did not persuade Historic England that they were worthy of 'listed buildings' status. Initially a planning application for redevelopment of the site was rejected in 2017. Alternatives, featuring/reusing at least one of the holders, as at King's Cross, were proposed as part of the campaign for retention. But in July 2018 a new planning application, involving demolition, was agreed. Promises about proper recording have been made. At the time of writing (mid-September) the Sydenham Society was continuing to seek ways of retaining the holders.

The adjacent Livesey Memorial Hall, erected in 1911 as a memorial to Sir George Livesey (d 1908, pink-coloured obelisk in Nunhead Cemetery), and the memorial next to it, to gas works employees who died in both World Wars (1920, altered to show Second World War names), are not affected. Livesey was chairman of the South Metropolitan Gas Company and of Bell Green's Crystal Palace District Gas Company, founded 1854. This latter became the South Suburban in 1904 and amalgamated with the South Metropolitan in 1927. The Mid Kent Railway, which served the works, opened 1857, so this might be the year that gas production started. Incidentally, Livesey, a teetotaller, would not approve of the names of four separate brewers on the current notice board listing the Hall's facilities!

Given the above, it would be best to see the holders soon. A moderately interesting route would be to leave Lower Sydenham station by the 'down', eastern, exit and walk to the end of Station Approach. A glance to the right will see Maybray Building, one of the Deco buildings which are fast disappearing from the area; in September it had a sign offering workshop/warehouse space. The new corner building carries the name Dylon House as a nod to the past. Walk north along Worsley Bridge Road and at the end turn left under the railway bridge and use the pedestrian island to cross Southend Lane and go ahead into Riverside Walk. The Pool River was diverted and culverted under the gas works site, on the left, the concrete channelling dating from post-works landscaping. A footbridge on the left is at or near where a railway ran into the works from three sidings alongside the main line, ahead. There is nothing now to suggest they ever existed. Two small four-wheel steam engines tripped wagons to and from (and within) the works. Coal inwards, coke, tar and other recovered chemical by-products out. Cross the bridge and go straight ahead. This was the centre of the gas works. In the distance are holders Nos 7 and 8. Walk on to get close and see the gentle curve of the tops of the two bells and the wheels attached which ran up the frames to keep the bells rigid.

The Old Bathhouse

Continue on the pavement past the holders and turn right into Perry Hill to see the Livesey Hall and war memorial. Cross the road and turn south into Bell Green, passing a stone horse trough safely preserved well back from the road on the right. Opposite where this becomes Sydenham Road, No. 65 carries the name 'The Old Bathhouse' (1907). This former slipper baths now houses an architectural salvage firm (pictured above), their opening times neatly shown in the centre of a fireplace surround — 11am-4pm, Tue to Fri. The roofline of the baths section can be seen from the open space behind the adjacent Bell public house. Continue east past another Deco building (currently Coventry Scaffolding) and bear left along Southend Lane. A footpath leads to the station from the turning adjacent to the Railway Tavern. David Thomas

Meanwhile, the latest Victorian Society list of most endangered buildings, ironically tagged as its 'Top Ten', has just been posted:

Among these, five out of ten are industrial. Of London interest is — or rather are, all seven being counted as one 'building' — the Bromley-by-Bow gasholders (all Grade II, 1872, Clark & Kirkham): (GLIAS Newsletter February 2016)

Signal boxes on the Metropolitan Line, Finchley Road to Uxbridge

The 5 September 2016 issue of the Evening Standard had an article about closure of Edgware Road signal box (GLIAS Newsletter October 2016), built 1926 and clearly visible from the station's north-most District/Circle Lines platform. This closure was associated with signalling of the Hammersmith & City, District and Metropolitan Lines, which continues.

On a journey to Uxbridge in July 2018 considerable lengths of newly erected cable run supports were seen, plus some new signals covered over awaiting commissioning, indicating changes are happening. It is not known if or how existing structures will be affected. Noted en-route (including the 1904 Ruislip box mentioned in the October 2017 Newsletter), were several existing and closed boxes. Much of this information is taken from the excellent Metadyne website 1.

• Finchley Road. 1937; work taken over by Baker Street Control Centre 1987. On west side of line, north of the station. Around a curve, not visible from the station platforms. Glimpsed from northbound, and easily seen from southbound, trains.

• Willesden Green, much altered box. North-west end of the 'down' platform on track used by Metropolitan Line trains.

• Neasden (depot) South. 1934. East side of line, at south-east entrance to depot. Closed 1987 when work taken over by Baker Street Control Centre.

• Neasden (depot) North. 1934. East side of line, a small box at the north-east entrance to depot. Closed 1987 when work taken over by Baker Street Control Centre.

• Wembley Park. 1932, with additions. North end of northbound island platforms. Closed in stages 1984 to 1987, as work taken over by Baker Street Control Centre.

• Harrow-on-the-Hill station. 1948. Top floor of a block above the north of the station. (pictured below, July 2018). Miniature levers when seen Oct 2015.

Harrow-on-the-Hill, July 2018

• Rayners Lane. 1935. On north side of line, just west of station. Coverage extended in 1987 to Uxbridge, inclusive. Push buttons used when seen Oct 2015.

• Ruislip. 1904. Taken out of use 1975. Off east end of Uxbridge-bound platform. Wooden cabin on brick base, 'listed'.

• Uxbridge. 1938 (when new passenger station opened). Work taken over by Rayners Lane in 1987. On east side of line cutting descending to Uxbridge station, after lines branch off to serve depot. Visible briefly from departing trains. (Pictured below, July 2018. Tele-photo from York Road, only possible when no trains in the sidings. Note new cable runs installed but not yet used). David Thomas

Uxbridge, July 2018

Greenwich and other town halls

The short article in the last Newsletter (GLIAS Newsletter August 2018) may give a false impression and a correction needs to be made. Not all of the 1939 Town Hall building is still used by Greenwich Council; the part of this massive building along Greenwich High Road is no longer in Council use. However, most of the building fronting Royal Hill is used by the Council and the currently underutilised part of the Town Hall, some of which might become a museum, is along here.

Owen Hatherley has written some pleasant things about this Town Hall and appears to be highly approving. To quote Owen — 'for years I've lived in the vicinity of the Greenwich Town Hall, one of the best examples of this lost style.' 1

Owing to the increasing workload of local councils, in the 1930s there was a spate of Town Hall building, the expenditure being justified on the grounds that a suitable building would increase efficiency. As well as the examples based on Hilversum, Swedish between-the-wars architecture was also influential. In London a major Swedish-inspired example was Walthamstow Town Hall, now the town hall for Waltham Forest. The architecture was by Philip Dalton Hepworth (1890-1963) who studied at the Architectural Association. There are three buildings in the complex here, to the south east there is a theatre, and a Magistrates Court was added to the south west in the early 1970s 2. The three buildings are clad in Portland stone and the effect is really impressive: this might almost be the seat of government for a small nation. Work started in 1937 and the first two buildings were completed in 1942. This Town Hall was listed grade II in 1982. Bob Carr

Greenwich Town Hall Greenwich Town Hall

I was interested to read Bob Carr's item on Greenwich Town Hall as from 1955 to 1980 I worked for building contractors William Moss and Sons Ltd who built this building (before my time!). Moss are a very old established building contractor, being founded in 1820, and are still in existence as part of the Kier Group. They have many well known buildings to their credit including the Michael Sobell Sports Centre, Manchester Reference Library, the entrance and the ventilation towers to the Mersey Tunnel and many more. They also built Wembley (subsequently Brent) Town Hall mentioned in Bob's article.

According to Moss's publicity the architects for Greenwich Town Hall were Culpin and Sons and for Wembley Town Hall, Clifford Strange.

It will be interesting to see what is the future for Greenwich Town Hall. Wembley Town Hall (below) has recently been converted into a French school. Ray Plassard

Wembley Town Hall

The 1803 boiler explosion at Greenwich

The explosion in September 1803 of Richard Trevithick's high-pressure steam engine at Greenwich tide mill, TQ 396 797, may at first sight seem mainly a local affair, although most readers will be aware that this tragedy blighted Trevithick's career. At the time the relatively portable high-pressure engine had considerable prospects of becoming a great success. The Military had one of these useful engines at Woolwich Arsenal and were about to use it. Had the tragic explosion caused by gross negligence not taken place when it did, the Military would very likely have found this invention of great utility. Woolwich Arsenal was familiar with things that might explode and there was military discipline to ensure that things were done properly. Moreover, highly qualified Royal Engineers were on hand at the Arsenal to give advice.

If orders for the Trevithick engine had begun to arrive in some numbers, he would more easily have found financial backers and with his genius, high-pressure steam would definitely have been applied quite widely. The explosion at Greenwich gave Trevithick's rivals Boulton & Watt an enormous publicity advantage in denigrating Trevithick's invention and condemning high-pressure steam universally. James Watt had a particular horror of high pressure steam and in the previous century had gone out of his way to prohibit its use.

Most readers will probably be aware that in later years the London steam carriage was a very considerable success and was only narrowly defeated by a combination of horse and railway interests. The infamous explosion of 1803 probably delayed the introduction of high-pressure steam in the London area by a good 10 years.

Had Hancock and his colleagues carried out their work 10 years earlier, history could have been very different 1. We may never have had the extensive railway network that was actually built 2. Some mainline railways we may have had, but they would have been on the scale of Dr Beeching — and the Railway Mania would not have taken place. Suitable roads that could support steam carriages would have been built, they nearly were, and steam carriages would have served as feeders for what mainline railways there were.

There would have been no red flag Acts and the motorcar would have been developed much earlier in Britain, rivalling work on the Continent. A viable motor vehicle was already in existence here in 1888 but Edward Butler, its hapless inventor, simply had to give up because demonstration on the public road was completely impossible — see The First Motor Vehicle (GLIAS Newsletter August 2017). The railway lobby in Parliament exerted a stranglehold on the country, preventing the development of inland navigation. Had Trevithick's boiler not exploded when it did, Nottingham might well have been an inland port with navigation to the North Sea via a suitably engineered River Trent.

Sixty years ago some people held the opinion that railways had been a great mistake and that their widespread introduction was a dead end which should never have happened. This was at a time when the building of a British motorway network was about to take place and this opinion was probably an extreme one, however had the 1803 explosion on the riverside at Greenwich never taken place, we would almost certainly be living in a world very different from the one that we have now. Bob Carr

London chimneys

In the June Newsletter the very fine chimney at Woolwich Dockyard was described (GLIAS Newsletter June 2018). There are, of course, many other interesting examples in the Greater London area. Here are two in Newham.

Mill Road in Newham continues northwards as Rayleigh Road and there is a full-size mill chimney on a small traffic island at TQ 408 803. You get a good view of this using Google Earth. This chimney dates from the 1930s and according to Pevsner was built for Rank's Empire flour Mills on the south side of Royal Victoria Dock. Originally built in 1904 this flour mill was substantially rebuilt in the early 1930s.

A short way to the west of this chimney, set back to the south from the Royal Victoria Dock, is a low rise housing estate which had the support of Prince Charles. There is a notion abroad that the Prince asked that the Flour Mill chimney should be retained.

If we go a short way further north up Rayleigh Road, on Google Earth through the fence you can see the SS Robin on her pontoon in Victoria Dock. To the right, that is to the east, is the massive bulk of Millennium Mills awaiting renovation.

Further east in Newham, another chimney which warrants mention is one designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in 1887-89. Situated at TQ 451 817 it was one of the chimneys for the pumping station at Beckton sewage works. It had an attractive design with an Egyptianesque limestone cap and was listed grade II in March 2009.

Perhaps surprisingly this chimney has been demolished. This was for the construction of the Lee Tunnel from Abbey Mills to Beckton. The intention is to rebuild this chimney once the construction work is completed. It is not known if the chimney will be erected on the same site or whether the intention is to relocate it, in the way that gasholders were moved to new locations at St Pancras. Bob Carr

The Art of the Gestetner

GLIAS members might be interested in a new exhibition at Bruce Castle Museum relating to the Gestetner factory which stood in Tottenham for over 80 years.

Featuring over 100 artefacts uncovered from Haringey and beyond, the exhibition explores the Gestetner machine as a device that revolutionised the office as well as helping a wave of political activists, artists and writers to produce printed publications quickly, affordably and with relative ease.

The Gestetner company outgrew a number of premises in London before moving to Tottenham in 1904 (GLIAS Newsletter October 2011), fast becoming the largest duplicating factory in the world. The exhibition, which has been put on by art group Alt Går Bra, presents material from Bruce Castle Museum and Haringey Archive along with fanzines, political publications, and Alt Går Bra's own mimeographic works.

Bruce Castle Museum and Haringey Archive's collection of Gestetner artefacts include the fantastically illustrated house publications, which record the life of the factory in the 1950s and 1960s.

The exhibition also features material displayed for the first time as a collection: duplicated fanzines and alternative publications from the 1930s-1980s. These amateur publications demonstrate the high level of creativity that was achieved with stencilling, as well as the extent to which duplicating technology enabled marginal groups to network and exchange ideas.

Political pamphlets focus on the Gestetner's potential to spread information outside the mainstream printing industry, leading to a number of political organisations — such as the Committee of 100 and the Hornsey and Wood Green Labour Party — to adopt the machines. The Gestetner as a clandestine printing device is seen in the pamphlets by the Spies for Peace group, exposing the government's secret plans to run the country in the case of nuclear war.

An events programme will run alongside the exhibition, including an oral history walk around the former factory site and a series of Gestetner duplicator workshops.
The Art of the Gestetner is on until 26 January 2019 at Bruce Castle Museum, Lordship Lane, Tottenham, London N17 8NU, Wednesdays to Sundays, 1-5pm

Denis Smith and Kirkaldy's

The latest GLIAS Journal, No. 16, mentions Denis coming across Kirkaldy's. On 2 March 1984, when there was still much IA to be discovered, GLIAS had one of a series of walkabouts south of the river, starting at Waterloo. The Newsletter diary entry described it as to 'take note of what there is, and which buildings should receive further attention'. And so the group took in Southwark Street. Denis got quite — no, very — animated when he saw the words 'facts not opinions' above a doorway, telling the rest of us what it meant and who Kirkaldy was. And so started a link which continues today between GLIAS and what is now the Kirkaldy Testing Museum. David Thomas

Ceramic horse heads

There are few distinct Victorian trade signs which are permanent parts of buildings. Dairies (and abattoirs) sometimes had cow heads. But one rare item is a ceramic horse head. In London two rather battered examples appear on 2 Morocco Street, Bermondsey, SE1 (below left). Another pair, to a different design, with halter, painted over, are on 26 St John's Lane, EC1 (below right). Both premises were farriers'. So are there any more? Please let the Newsletter Editor know. But stone ones stuck atop gate pillars at entrance driveways to large houses — which are still being made — don't count! David Thomas

2 Morocco Street, Bermondsey, SE1 26 St John's Lane, EC1

Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway

I have been reviewing my research on the Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway recently and have added some new LIDAR information which may reveal the route, at least in part. See
Roger J Morgan. Email:

Herbert Road tin tabernacle

I know the Herbert Road tin tabernacle well (GLIAS Newsletter August 2018).

I was researching the Avo Multimeter and its inventor in 1923 Donald Macadie. I found he established a small assembly shop in the tin tabernacle (then known as Shaftesbury Hall) when his production outgrew the shop at 130 Bowes Road. Early 1930s, I think. Bob Rust

Another London Victoria jubilee plaque

2 Bedford Road plaque, © Sid Ray

Following on from the article in the August Newsletter (GLIAS Newsletter August 2018), I have now seen an article written in 1987 that lists all plaque sites then known. It includes just one in London, at 2 Bedford Road, East Finchley, London N2. It is still there, part slightly tinged with blue, but otherwise in good condition, with a separate 1897 tablet. The house was built a few years after its neighbours, to a different style. Nos. 4 to 12 appear on a map dated 1894, while at that time the site of No. 2 was access to some small workshops. That's three in London, but surely there are more? David Thomas

Brighton & Hove Engineerium

This magnificent 1866 water pumping station (GLIAS Newsletter April 1979; April 1978) was opened as a museum in 1976 with most, if not all, of its steam equipment intact. The April 2018 issue of The Railway Magazine had a full page sale advert for the building and surrounding 2.5 acres. The cut-off date for 'expressions of interest' was 8 June. Does any member know the current position? David Thomas

The whirl of music in and around London

Many members will love the sounds of a Wurlitzer in full flow or the side-show organs at steam fairs and the like. These can be savoured at several places in the London area:

1. The Musical Museum, 399 High Street, Brentford ( £9. Well worth a visit anyway, especially on a weekend when combined with a beam engine steaming day at nearby Kew Water & Steam Museum. Sat and Sun tour and demonstrations of instruments at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. However, the Wurlitzer is in a separate theatre/cinema section, only played for Wurlitzer concerts or as a prelude to 'talkies' or to accompany silent films.

2. Troxy, 490 Commercial Road, Limehouse, E1 ( A relatively recent installation (not yet visited), in an appropriate setting, of the Wurlitzer which had been restored at the South Bank University (rescued ex Trocadero, Elephant & Castle). Future concerts currently advertised, all 2019: 5 Jan, 3.30pm; 16 April, 7pm; 27 July, 1900; 22 Sept 3.30pm. A few minutes' walk from Limehouse DLR and Network Rail stations.

3. Odeon, Leicester Square. Not a Wurlitzer, but a cousin/rival, a Compton. Occasional Sunday concerts and accompaniment to silent films. There's also a Compton at the Apollo, Hammersmith, but I know no more (yet).

4. Gala Bingo, 50 Mitcham Road, Tooting, SW17. There is hope that the flood-damaged Wurlitzer at the fantastic former Granada, Tooting (now a giant bingo hall), can again be repaired.

5. Woking. Just over a mile from the station, the American Theatre Organ Society's Wurlitzer is played for Saturday evening concerts. It's in an adapted hall, so acoustics aren't brilliant, though the friendly atmosphere is. Dates for the rest of 2018: 20 Oct & 17 Nov at 7pm; 15 Dec at 3pm (Christmas special). Location: Wurlitzer Hall, Woking Leisure Centre, Woking Park, Kingsland Road, GU22 9BA.

6. St Albans Organ Theatre, 320 Camp Road, St Albans, AL1 5PE ( A fascinating collection of mechanical instruments arranged around a hall with seating in the centre. Open second Sunday of the month March to October, 2.15pm to 4.30pm; £7.00. Best to arrive at opening time to wander round before taking a seat as a short talk precedes the playing of each instrument in turn. Part of the mile or so walk from the City station can include a tarmac foot/cycle path on the former St Albans Abbey to Hatfield railway.

7. Amersham Fair Organ Museum ( An unmarked building (the music gives it away) on the left side of a service road alongside 28 Plantation Road, Amersham, HP6 6HJ. A private collection, part of which is 'on tour' during the summer season. About 8 fairground organs around a room, played in no obvious sequence while the chat continues. Anyone can wander over for a closer look as they play. Free, informal and friendly, with donation option. 11am to 5pm on Sundays: 4 Nov and 9 Dec 2018; 6 Jan, 3 Feb and 3 March 2019. Beware the mid-afternoon raffle, which goes on a bit! Another walk of about a mile, from Amersham station. Small café.

Please do let me or the Newsletter Editor know of any similar location in or around London.
David Thomas:

Conservation Watch

The illuminated signs in front of King's Cross Station (2018/2165/A) were refused planning permission by London Borough of Camden on 10 July.

The restaurant bar canopy on the upper level of the southern end of the Western Coal Drops (GLIAS Newsletter February 2016) was granted planning permission on 30 July.

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© GLIAS, 2018