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Notes and news — December 2018

In this issue:

London fieldwork and publication round-up 2017

The London Archaeologist has published the Annual Review of archaeological investigations and publications for 2017. The following are of IA interest:

Brian James-Strong

A stroll for 45 minutes or so ... from Pimlico over Chelsea Bridge

This is the first of a series of strolls, not long enough to justify being a formal GLIAS walk. It is an opportunity to see Battersea Power Station in part-'refurbished' state.

Catch route 24 bus near Victoria or Pimlico (stop G) tube stations to its Pimlico layby terminus on Grosvenor Road, SW1, east of Lupus Street. Walk onward east, and in front of the green-glazed King William IV pub (closed 6/2018) turn left, pass it, then look to the right. The circular glass tower is part of the heat exchange for a district heating system. Designed to take waste heat from Battersea Power Station via underwater pipes, it now has its own boilers alongside.

Return to, then cross, Grosvenor Road. Pause to notice the road surface undulations, rising at bridge holes which gave river access under the road to wharves and docks. This walk crosses over three before getting to the railway bridge. View the far bank of the Thames. Opposite is Cringle Dock Solid Waste Transfer Station, where rubbish is transferred to lighters for a downstream voyage, and to its right loading gantries for spoil from Battersea Power station and the associated Northern line extension to an underground terminal station. Being here on a weekday an hour or so before high tide gives a chance of seeing a tug moving the rubbish lighters. It is now difficult to identify the sand and gravel wharf whence the empty dredger, Bowbelle, sailed to its collision with the Marchioness in the early hours of 20 August 1989.

Battersea Power Station (Fig 1) was built in two stages on land previously covered by filter beds and reservoirs for the Southwark & Vauxhall Water Company. Work started in 1929, with the first electricity produced for the London Power Company in 1933. The second, eastern, section, was completed in 1955. Although there was a rail connection, supply of coal was usually by ships from the Tyne with a low superstructure ('flat irons') that moored at the still-surviving jetty. Work has been going on for two years to convert the gutted shell and build on land around it. This has included demolition of the chimneys and erecting replicas.

Battersea Power Station Peabody flats

Cross back, and head west. Just past the bus bay is a pavement cover of the different Westminster Electric Supply Corporation Ltd. Cross Lupus Street and turn right to view, on the left, two blocks of Peabody flats, 1880s, with much 'rusticated terracotta' (Fig 2). Remodelling has given each a few less flats than the 19 when built. Only four living floors plus an extension at roof level, which would have held the shared washing rooms (several individual grates and water pots). Most Peabody blocks had washing lines in courtyards. A third block, a war casualty, was replaced in 1952. There were 26 more blocks, lettered A-Z, less ornate, in two long terraces on both sides of Peabody Avenue, each containing all 16 to 20 flats. The majority remain; access through the modern arch is for residents only 1.

Back on Grosvenor Road, next to the carriage sidings (the buffer ends of sidings 3 and 4 are over the site of a small dock) is the former Grosvenor Road station, London Chatham & Dover Railway, 1867-1911. Nothing remains of the platforms (or an adjacent London Brighton & South Coast Railway station). Battersea Park station, still open, is of similar design. Grosvenor Bridge itself, 1860, initially carried two tracks and was widened in 1865 and 1907. There was a separate London Brighton & South Coast Railway station which disappeared with the 1907 widening.

Close by is the Western Pumping Station, with the Engineer's residence behind. It lifts sewage up to main pipes to flow eastwards, below the embankment, eventually to Beckton via Abbey Mills. 1875, Italianate design, chimney 272ft. Initially four beam engines, replaced in 1936 by some hefty diesel pumps; electrics now take the main load. This did not have its own dock. Instead, there was a riverside wharf with a narrow gauge railway to take coal from that, passing under the road — so another bridge! Four nice iron light standards adorn the outside wall (Figs 3, 4). Maker's plaques are of a local firm, H Young & Co, Pimlico, although the 1918 Kelly's Directory has the works in Battersea.

iron light standard H Young & Co

A few paces further on, take the steps named 'Grosvenor Waterside' to reach a fence above the entrance to Grosvenor to Basin lock. (Fig 5). The bridge hole is similar to the blocked ones already crossed. From 1928 this led to a Council depot and wharf where Westminster's refuse was loaded into lighters to be towed downstream. Now the lock and basin are surrounded by newish flats. In June 2018 there were no small boats at all at the moorings provided. The basin had been at the start of the short Grosvenor Canal, opened on the site of a tidal creek in 1823, which ran to a much larger basin, a convenient open space upon which part of Victoria station was built. The canal itself survived, gradually being reduced in length and use. Cross the swing bridge, turn right then left and take a sloping path back to road level.

Grosvenor to Basin lock war memorial

Before crossing Chelsea Bridge, look across the road junction to the corner of Ranelagh Gardens. A large bronze war memorial to a cavalry regiment of the British Army commemorates their fighting in South Africa in 1899-1902 (Fig 6).

After crossing Chelsea Bridge on the downstream side, take steps to the 'Riverside Walk' to have a look at the underside of the bridge, opened 1890 and the Grosvenor Basin bridge hole. You are standing on the site of railway sidings of the LBSC Rly Battersea Wharf. In winter months there is a view of the pumping station; in summer trees obscure it. Beneath the railway bridge are odd looking, but completely functional, public conveniences. Continue on the approximate alignment of a siding headshunt, to there is an open space and then hoarding between the Power Station and the river. In June 2018 some panels of this hoarding had small display windows with bits and pieces. Also in June the apparently dead end access road along the west of the Power Station continued, with a pavement, on a temporary bridge across the building site to Nine Elms Lane. The best time to walk this bit is, of course, during the working day. To the right is a nearby bus stop for routes 156, 344 and 436 to Vauxhall bus, tube and rail stations. David Thomas

Delivery driver memories

I used to deliver to a carpet shop in Southend Lane, Bell Green (GLIAS Newsletter October 2018). The chap in the shop told me that when they started on the supermarket a dog swam in the Pool River which ran beside the site. It was very ill and all its fur fell out. It appeared the groundwork had stirred up some toxin from the gas works days.

Mention of Greenwich Town Hall (GLIAS Newsletter October 2018) stirred the thought of turning left at the light to head towards the town hall. This meant passing a very nondescript Victorian building which bore the sign of Merryweather and Sons, the famous fire engine makers. Now commemorated with Merryweather Place.

Not making the turn meant going up Blackheath Hill. On the left was the baker's shop under which was an air-raid shelter (unofficial, I think) in the old illegal chalk workings. In later years on the south side the old unmapped illegal workings collapsed and a pub sank down to the first floor window sills. At the time there was talk of a widespread collapse as far as Lewisham. Bob Rust

Oil jars as trade signs

Earthenware oil jars, cut in half vertically and fixed to the wall above a shop front, were trade signs almost exclusive to London. They indicated oil and colour merchants, who sold these main ingredients to make oil based paint, although usually many other items from nails, screws and hand tools to paraffin and household hardware. There is in the UK now no need or demand for that trade, as tinned paints are sold with any colour of choice squirted into a neutral base. They are gradually disappearing over time; there were some locations which had complete jars, but these have all gone.

John Ashdown, a member of GLIAS, wrote in Newsletter 24 (March 1973) that he was making a record of the jars remaining and his findings were published in the London Archaeologist. Separately, Peter Backman wrote about oil jars near Strand. These give a good background and are recommended. They can be downloaded, free, from the Archaeology Data Service website at:

Articles: 'The oil jar as a London shop sign', John Ashdown, Vol 02.07 (1974) with an updating Addendum, Vol 02.10 (1975), and 'London oil jars in the 1840s', Peter Backman, Vol 03.03 (1977).

Joel Kosminsky of the TfL IA group, affiliated to GLIAS, has come across an excellent 1957 photograph of 10 Penton St, N1, then a hardware shop with two jars of different sizes (one definitely half, one possibly a whole jar), on this website: No longer a shop and no oil jars.

A recent check of London sites listed by John Ashdown and one extra known to me gave just eight remaining, below. All except the pair at Merton Road have been painted. With the exception of 253 Tooley Street (photo below), jars are white/cream.

John Ashdown also mentions a few more held in museums and in places outside London. These have not been checked, apart from two half jars seen on 29 High Street, High Wycombe. But please do let me know if any others exist, or if any are removed) and I'll be glad to add them in a future newsletter update. David Thomas

1 Godfrey Street, Chelsea, SW3 1, Polygon, Clapham Old Town, SW4 253 Tooley Street, SE1

An early post office

104 Bermondsey Street

The GLIAS walk on 6 October around London Bridge & Bermondsey led by Pat Dennison included Bermondsey Street where on number 104, a simple three-storey Georgian terrace house we noticed a black plaque stating: 'This was the site of one of London's earliest Post Offices'.

Post Offices have evolved. A State postal service was established in 1635 when Charles I threw open to the general public the facilities of his Royal posts. In the earliest days post offices were usually housed at inns, where the only duty of the postmaster-cum-innkeeper were the acceptance and handing over of letters … until the introduction of the Mail Coach service in 1784. By 1814, 'Every Office or Receiving-House, must have a letter box in the Front for Unpaid Letters. It must be fixed in a part convenient for Public access, be large and strong, and kept locked, with the Key out, till the proper time of emptying for each dispatch. The words 'Unpaid Letter Box' to be painted on it ...' By the 1820s many new postal routes had been opened up and with the growing challenge of the industrial revolution and the expansion of trade, new post offices were established.

The mid 1820s London Directories at the London Guildhall Library each contain a 'List of GENERAL POST Receiving-Houses', no 103 Bermondsey Street being one of 59 entries. They also contain a 'List of TWO-PENNY Post Receiving-Houses' number 87 Bermondsey Street, being one of the 120 entries. So the claim of the plaque would appear not to be unreasonable assuming that the present 104 Bermondsey Street used to be number 103 or thereabouts. In fact was the Bermondsey Street area actually on the London to Dover Post Road of the late 1600's when all mail came into London to be sorted? I have been informed that there was a Post Office there until 2005, now outside 104 is a standard EIIR double aperture red letter box.

In the 1700s in London, bell-ringing General-Post Letter Carriers walked the streets for one hour in the evening, after the closure of the letter receiving houses, to gather in any late letters for despatch by Night Mails from London. They called at every house in their walk and carried a locked bag with an aperture just large enough to drop in a letter. Small mail carts waited at certain points in the metropolis, to take the locked bags from the bell-men and speedily convey them to The General Post Office. This Bell-man system in London came to an end in 1866. The first London roadside letter boxes, to save people the trouble of having to take their letters to a post office were erected in 1855, the first 6 being placed in the roads between Fleet Street and Rutland Gate (Kensington). Peter Butt

Blue plaque for Cooper Car Company

Cooper Car Company works

The former works of the Cooper Car Company, which manufactured the racing cars that won the 1959 and 1960 Formula One World Championships, now has an English Heritage blue plaque.

Charles Cooper, his son John, and their team of engineers designed and built the cars at their garage on Hollyfield Road in Surbiton, KT5 9AL. The Cooper Car Company pioneered the now-standard rear engine layout in Formula One, and saw famous drivers such as Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham steer their cars to victory. It was also from these premises that they manufactured the Mini Cooper racing car. Peter Butt

Closure of the former Great Western Railway main line between Old Oak Common and Greenford

This was the route of express trains from London to Birmingham. Now, down to single track, it has only one return passenger train, Mon to Fri, plus ad-hoc use as part of a circuit for turning empty trains.

The passenger trains are: 10.57 South Ruislip (interchange with Central Line) to Paddington arr 11.26, and return 11.35 from Paddington, non-stop to High Wycombe, arr 12.30.

South Ruislip

They run for the last time on Friday 7 December 2018. This will allow the junction at Old Oak Common to be severed as part of a massive redevelopment that will incorporate a station with Crossrail, main line and (planned) HS2 platforms. These trains are the only way to get a view of the wooden Greenford signal box (on the south-east side of the line, best seen from the 10.57 train), which still works a few semaphore signals. It will continue in use to allow access to a siding and signal trains from West Ealing onto the High Wycombe line.

If anyone is minded to travel by the 11.35 to High Wycombe, the 'listed' GWR former broad gauge goods shed at the end of the original branch line from Maidenhead stands next to the station and is worth a glimpse, although when seen in spring 2018 it could do with some TLC. Nearby, up the hill across the railway bridge and first left, is the way to High Wycombe Museum in Castle Hill House, Priory Avenue (free, 10-16.00 M to F), which includes info on the local chair-making industry. A footbridge allows a short cut from the museum to the town centre.

On the train's last day, Friday 7 December, to cater for anticipated enthusiast demand, it should be three coaches instead of two, and will call additionally at South Ruislip (12.00). Note it leaves from the distant Platform 14 at Paddington. David Thomas

The last loco-hauled passenger service was a steam special on 24 November behind 35028 Clan Line, pictured at South Ruislip (right).

A walk to Dudding Hill Junction signal box

Martin Weyell mentioned this former Midland Railway signal box, which is still in use (GLIAS Newsletter June 2018). These notes suggest a route to it via other items of interest.

Although Cricklewood station provides a fast journey from central London, it is 10 minutes' walk to where this walk begins, at Mora Street bus stop at the north end of Cricklewood Broadway, served by routes 16, 32, 245, 266, 316 & 332. From the stop, go a short distance along the south-east pavement towards the red and grey brick four-floor telephone exchange, 1929/30, with the ridiculously small ornamental keystone heads above some windows, and turn north-east alongside it into Kara Way (no name signs in 2018). Ahead left are ends of four terraces of c140 houses, now a Conservation Area. They were built by the Midland Railway, late 1860s onward, to rent to its employees. Many would have worked nearby in the adjacent freight yards, loco shed and signal boxes, and on the permanent way. In two pairs of rows, front doors face across green/garden space, vehicle access being via back lanes. The furthest pair, Needham and Campion Terraces, have continuous footpath access to front doors which can be walked (discretely). Campion is shorter, so it is best to take Needham, perhaps also sampling a section of a back lane, to the end. Turn left to return to the main road.

Midland Ter and Johnston Ter

On the right hand corner is a two-floor red brick building, 318 Cricklewood Broadway, now named Sindhi Community House. It was built by the Midland Railway in about 1899/1900 as a hostel for 'foreign' trainmen to rest between shifts after bringing a train to Cricklewood. They were usually off freight workings; there was a similar hostel for passenger trainmen in Kentish Town. (More on these hostels in a future Newsletter). The adjacent railway bridge carries one of the lines to Dudding Hill Junction.

Cross the road, turn left then right into Temple Road and at the end turn right into Mora Road. Glance up at the two inscriptions in terracotta on the substantial brick school (1909). The Latin saying probably never cut much ice! Walking forward, on the left is Alan Coren Close, a gated entrance to private housing (often locked) in the grounds of Cricklewood water pumping station, which is itself secured by daunting fencing. This was steam-operated when opened in 1905 by the New River Company to pump onwards water from Kew; it did not have its own wells. The 135ft ornate chimney has a communications use.

Dudding Hill Junction signal box Cricklewood pumping station from north, across railway lines

Turn round, and walk south along St Martins Road, then right into Olive Road and right into Gladstone Park, talking the right hand path to the footbridge over the railway. Immediately below on the south-east side is Dudding Hill Junction signal box, a wooden cabin (extended) on a brick base (not extended), and the junction of the two double track lines running north and south-east to join the Midland Railway main line. An excellent position to photograph trains, but the lines are freight only, so seeing one is luck. A single signal wire runs alongside the line to the south-west. Before following that, there is the option of walking north-east in the park alongside the north-east of the line for a good view of the pumping station, as well as noting that the signals on both lines approaching the junction are electric colour light.

The destination of the signal wire can be found by walking south-west in the park alongside the north-west of the line to a mechanical signal on the opposite side of the line, controlling trains going south-west towards Acton Wells Junction. It has both a red stop arm and a yellow warning ('distant') yellow arm, but as mentioned only one wire. Without getting closer I could not see if the distant is disconnected or if it is motor-operated. A few paces further is an electric colour light signal for trains towards Dudding Hill Junction.

From here it is about 12 minutes' walk to Dollis Hill tube station via a further footbridge over the railway, but lack of signage means using an A-Z.

I am grateful to Hugh Petrie of LB Barnet Local Studies & Archives for help in dating the hostel; to Michael Bussell for info about the pumping station; and to Martin Weyell for mentioning the signal box, of which I was previously unaware. David Thomas

A hard standing for a road locomotive

This is a description of a short stoneway which was very likely installed to support a steam engine, of the portable or locomotive variety, for pumping or probably winding. For pumping an ordinary fire engine of the type made by Shand Mason or Merryweather might have been employed. Paved with granite setts, the length of this isolated hard standing is about 55 feet and there are two parallel sets of stone rails 11 inches wide. The internal gauge between the rails is 49 inches. This stoneway was almost certainly built by the New River Company as there are two New River valve covers set into the granite setts at one end. At the other end is a substantial block of stone with an iron ring attached to the top. This was probably to anchor a road engine for the purpose of winding, something like a steam ploughing engine? At the time this stoneway was installed, probably about 1860, the rest of the roadway would have been gravel. This was well before the days of tarmacadam.

Have any readers come across a similar stoneway? Bob Carr

Potential electronic GLIAS newsletter

In the August Newsletter we asked for members' views on sending the newsletter electronically to those who requested it — although we made it clear that a paper copy would still be sent to those members who preferred it. We thank all of those who took the time to reply; almost without exception they are in favour of receiving the newsletter electronically. We have decided to defer a final decision until the 2019 AGM to allow views from the floor and a vote. GLIAS Committee

Conservation Watch

Gasholder Station, Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SG
Proposed Development by Berkeley Homes (Central London) Ltd:

Demolition of existing buildings and structures including temporary disassembly of listed gas holder no.1, demolition of locally-listed gas holders 4 and 5, redevelopment to provide a mixed-use development comprising re-erection of restored gas-holder no.1, erection of new buildings ranging from 4-18 storeys to provide 738 residential units (Class C3), 10,160sqm of Class B1 office and Class B1 shared working space incorporating ancillary cafe and space for community use, 800sqm for waste management use, 148sqm of D1 community space, the provision of a new publically accessible open space, new pedestrian and vehicle routes, accesses and amenity areas, basement level car park with integral servicing areas, provision of new gas governor and substation, and other associated works of de-contamination.

Poplar Gas Works redevelopment, Application No. PA/18/02803/A1
Concerning the Re-erection of the Gasholder Guide Frame Standards

Malcolm Tucker has written on behalf of GLIAS with comments on the proposals for re-erection of the salvaged section of gasholder guide frame, as currently presented in this planning application.

Poplar No.1 framing (1876-8), MTT 12 July 1987 Poplar No.1 from SE, MTT 5 Nov 1998

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