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Notes and news — February 2020

In this issue:

London's IA in films and on television

In the last two Newsletters, I selected examples of the reuse of London buildings and sites of IA interest, and reviewed industrial changes in my home borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, during the half-century that GLIAS has been in existence. This third and last piece looking back over that period considers one, perhaps neglected, aspect of how London's IA has been recorded — in films and on television.

One obvious area of coverage is from documentaries and other programmes specifically aiming to describe buildings, sites, and the infrastructure of the industrial era. Earlier such films depicted working activities and scenes that have since become extinct, and so provide a valuable historical record of 'the world we have lost'. I think for example of Night Mail (GPO Film Unit, 1936) and The Cornish Engine (Shell Film Unit, 1948), and of their makers such as John Grierson and Sir Arthur Elton, the latter himself becoming a leading figure in the early days of industrial archaeology. The later Terminus (Edgar Anstey and John Schlesinger, British Transport Films, 1961) covers a day in the life of Waterloo Station; while the station is still active, nearly all of the scenes depicted are of ways of work and life that are hard to recognise today, little more than half a century later.

More recently, television programme-makers have responded to the growing popular interest in IA, and in particular in exploring canals and railways (whether or not they have been restored or 'preserved'), bridges, and other notable engineering achievements. Producers often choose to centre series around known personalities, for example Prunella Scales and her husband Timothy West (themselves long-term canal enthusiasts) visiting or re-visiting inland waterways, and former MP Michael Portillo travelling railways armed with his copy of an early 'Bradshaw'. These long-running series have ventured both home and abroad, sometimes located in and around London: inevitably they focus on the present-day scene, with only occasional historical material. Other programmes have included the archaeological series Time Team in which IA sites have occasionally figured, and one of its presenters the actor Tony Robinson is among those who have gone on to front other historical series on engineering and industrial history.

A less obvious, but to me interesting, depiction of what are mostly now lost IA sites in London can be found — essentially incidentally, and often only fleetingly — in fiction-based films and television dramas, particularly in crime series such as The Sweeney. The proliferation in TV channels has brought with it the need for programmes to show on them, with the result that many 'old' films and television series are being resurrected and can be seen again (often frequently!). As one who finds the current output of the 'mainstream' TV channels these days to be barely watchable, it is good to have such potentially interesting viewing. A caveat, however, is that there is often an element of sheer luck in catching a film or programme worth the trouble of watching, or recording for later 'skimming through'. (A public-spirited soul might compile a catalogue of sites seen in individual episodes, but that task is beyond me.)

Here I single out just a few films and television series in which London IA sites have featured. I have first-hand knowledge of most of these, although I am indebted to Editor Robert Mason for some suggestions made when I first broached the idea of writing this piece. To save space I have generally not given dates or details, which — like information on other London IA sites used for filming, and there are surely many! — should be obtainable via Google searching.


The Blue Lamp, notable as the film in which Jack Warner's PC George Dixon was shot dead by Dirk Bogarde's character, only to be 'resurrected' several years later for a long-running BBC-TV series Dixon of Dock Green, features White City Stadium in the hunt for the killer among the crowds present for an evening of greyhound racing. This popular sporting venue was demolished in the 1980s. Another 1950s film 'stars' King's Cross Station and its environs, contributing much of the atmospheric seedy character to The Ladykillers, a black comedy. In the film a van is robbed of cash in Cheney Road immediately west of the station: a road erased, with most of the surrounding buildings, in the last decade or so. The thieves led by Alec Guinness then retire to their lodgings in a house (built for the film) immediately above the south portals of the Copenhagen Tunnels. (Oddly, though, the view looking out of its front door is up Argyle Street north towards the then soot-blackened south façade of St Pancras Station. Filmic licence!) Much effective use is made of smoke-belching steam locomotives hauling long goods trains as backscene while the thieves fall out in violence; the macabre denouement of the tale is delivered by the lowering of an upper-quadrant signal.

Beckton Gasworks has appeared in numerous films, including the opening aerial sequence in For Your Eyes Only, starring the late Roger Moore as James Bond; Biggles — Adventures in Time, in which the eponymous hero created by Captain W E Johns transits in a time-warp between modern London and the World War I battlefront; and, remarkably, as a stand-in for a South Vietnamese city ravaged by war in Full Metal Jacket (GLIAS Newsletter February 1986). For the latter, much demolition was first carried out before suitable building sets were erected. In the Royal Docks area, the huge Millennium Mills and its surroundings have featured in numerous films such as Terry Gilliam's Brazil and Derek Jarman's The Last of England, as well as in episodes of television series and in music videos. On the other side of the Thames Estuary, the concrete towers of Thamesmead (some since demolished) were seen in the dystopian Clockwork Orange. The film of John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Gary Oldman playing George Smiley used Blythe House, close to Olympia and built as the headquarters of the Post Office Savings Bank, for the location of the Intelligence HQ known as The Circus, although interior shots were digitally processed to create an impression of large open offices (see also below and in my two previous Newsletter articles for more about Blythe House).

Television series

Industrial buildings and sites, either elderly or derelict, were natural location choices, in particular for what used to be known as 'cops and robbers' stories. They offered both photogenic decrepitude, and suitable indoor and outdoor spaces for the almost-inevitable car and/or on-foot 'chase'. The two London-based commercial television companies in the 1970s and 1980s, London Weekend Television and Thames Television, made much use of such locations in various series.

I have snapshot memories of long-ago moments from two LWT productions, as their locations were very familiar to me. In the closing episode of The Gold Robbers (1969) — a lengthy series inspired I imagine by the Great Train Robbery six years earlier — police cars are in pursuit through the London Docks Group, which had closed that year, culminating in the villains' car running off the end of the central jetty of the Western Dock into the water, with presumably fatal results. I had then just spent some time there, photographing the warehouses, some of which dated back to 1805. And in an episode of The Professionals there is a chase — on foot this time — up one of the steel escape staircases of the erstwhile Lyons Cadby Hall food factory, on the corner of Hammersmith Road and Brook Green.

Among the popular and long-running series from Euston Films, a Thames Television subsidiary based in Blythe House, were Minder starring George Cole, and The Sweeney with John Thaw and Dennis Waterman. Both made frequent use of streets in easy reach of Blythe House in Fulham, Shepherds Bush, etc, and in at least one series of Minder the end-credits backscene setting was Hammersmith Bridge. The Sweeney, its title using half of the rhyming slang nickname of the Scotland Yard 'Flying Squad', ran what were often quite robust and violent stories, frequently ending with a shoot-out in a large open warehouse, railway shed, gasworks, or the like. Understandably the camera did not usually linger on particular views or name the locations used, so I could not positively identify most of these. However, two I did know well, and by chance both have appeared in very recent umpteenth repeat showings of the series on ITV4.

One involves another armed pursuit of a suspect, again in the London Docks Western Dock. I like to think that the director admired the grandeur of the five derelict North Stack multi-storey warehouses of 1805 with their massive rusticated stone plinths supporting thick brick walls and hefty timber floors and roofs, and consequently gave them generous on-screen exposure, because quite lengthy scenes of the chase showed the external façades, the large open floor spaces, and the stone staircases with their semi-circular landings and enclosing brickwork. The villain then takes refuge under the same jetty that featured in The Gold Robbers. (This episode was dated 1975, so the car driven off the jetty in that 1969 filming was probably still submerged, to be retrieved when the dock was drained ahead of filling and redevelopment as housing some years later.) There are also passing glimpses of the cleared sites of warehouses on the west quay of the Western Dock that I had visited and photographed a few years earlier. Sadly, and shamefully, the North Stack buildings, despite all five being listed Grade I and the finest surviving intact group of London dockside warehouses, were in their turn to be demolished around 1979 to make way for the construction of the News International 'Fortress Wapping' development. In those days there was no requirement for recording before demolition to ensure 'preservation by record', so this few minutes of film in The Sweeney has special value.

The second such valuable record is of the disused and subsequently demolished White City Refuse Destructor on the east side of Wood Lane. The Sweeney episode in which it appears dates from 1977, just a year to so after the last GLIAS visit to record it (yet to be written up!). We are treated to external views of the main red-brick building, including one ramp up which loaded dustcarts could be horse-drawn (later driven) before discharge into the top-fed incinerator cells and departure down another ramp. A suspected 'mole' is kidnapped and held in what I took to be one of the horizontal flues that drew combustion gases to and up the tall brick chimney. The film crew obviously had much superior lighting gear to our weak torches, so I could readily make out on-screen the details of the flue brickwork against which the victim was being 'interrogated'.

Inevitably, most of the sites and buildings that offered atmospheric locations for such filming in the 1970s and 1980s have since been demolished. In my view their successors — if and when used — are generally less photogenic. However, more recent films and television series do occasionally offer an interesting location. For example, the ITV 'prequel' to the Morse saga, Endeavour, used Kempton Pumping Station, although presented as a factory. Googling 'Kempton Pumping Station film locations' will turn up other uses — see for example

This is merely an appetiser of such locational use of London's IA on film. GLIAS members might like to contribute other locations that they know of. Michael Bussell

Green light for Silvertown Quays

The Silvertown Quays development in the Royal Docks will finally get under way after years of planning and false starts.

Newham Council has approved a ₤3.5 billion scheme and construction is set to start in early 2021.

Phase one of the project will see about 1,000 homes built in long-abandoned industrial buildings including the Millennium Mills. There will also be a public space called Mills Square capable of hosting events for up to 1,500 people and a new park alongside the dock. The 15-year scheme will eventually create seven million sq ft of residential and commercial space.

Silvertown Quays — named after the factories established by Victorian industrialist Stephen William Silver in the mid 19th century — has been largely abandoned since the Royal Docks closed in the 1980s.

Millennium Mills, Silvertown, 2022

Millennium Mills and the buildings around it have been used as the setting for many movies and TV shows, including Terry Gilliam's Brazil, Derek Jarman's The Last of England, Paddington 2, and the drama series Ashes to Ashes (see above).

Meanwhile, the proposed ₤1 billion Silvertown Tunnel connecting the Royal Docks and Greenwich has been given the go ahead after Transport for London finalised the project's contract with Riverlinx Consortium who will design, build, finance and maintain the tunnel.

King's Cross — the gas holders and coal drops

Remarks by Ken Catford in the December 2019 Newsletter raised an interesting conundrum when it comes to retention of redundant industrial structures. I like to think that a letter I wrote in September 1977 to the GLC Historic Buildings Division (on GLIAS paper) had a small part to play in including these in an extension of an existing Conservation Area around St Pancras Lock. Relevant wording was:

Michael Bussell, who was a heritage consultant to the King's Cross Central developer, Argent, has rightly pointed out that it took imagination, as well as the right economics and fortuitous other circumstances, to prompt the site's current regeneration after a previous proposal had been abandoned. The area could have deteriorated into a massive eyesore ripe for clearance. See The King's Cross Story: 200 Years of History in the Railway Lands, by Peter Darley, 2018 (reviewed in (GLIAS Newsletter December 2018).

Quite remarkably for the centre of London, the approved masterplan included dismantling, renovating, re-siting and re-erecting the guide frames from the redundant gas holders to include flats built inside — which from some angles can look akin to the removed gas holding bells. (Photo 1). But, of course, the holder frames existed purely to guide the bells, and arguably by themselves they are merely an interesting visual pattern which does not represent how they would have functioned and looked, with the bells partly or fully raised, during their working lives. Ken has suggested that saving frames by themselves to enclose something quite alien to the design, is just facadism. Along the way the link between the location and coal delivered by canal has been completely lost.

Photo 1. King's Cross gas holder frames as reused © David G Thomas Photo 2. Greenwich No 2 gas holder © David G Thomas

This leads to asking if retention and re-use of gas holder bells can be achieved. The answer is 'yes', although so far there is only one example in Europe, in Duisberg, Germany, where a bell fixed within its frame covers a swimming pool. A prime, now lost, example might have been Greenwich No 2 holder. Its frame and part-raised bell, with an internal diameter greater than the Albert Hall, could have become a venue to complement the nearby O2 Centre — and perhaps be longer lasting. (Photo 2). Sure, it would have needed work, but could have looked real from outside. Perhaps there will be circumstances for a few UK examples of holders with retained bells being used as good enclosed spaces without internal supports. An unlikely twist is at Londonderry, where the former gas works site has what from a distance appear to be two re-used gas holders. (Photo 3). In reality they are scaled-down in size and clearly not built like the originals, yet they do contain sports and arts venues. Someone did have the idea... For completeness, it should be noted that in northern Europe there are several examples of conversion of brick-built outer gas holder enclosures for alternative use, leaving the bulk appearance relatively unchanged — but of course the internal metal gas holding parts, which no-one saw, have been removed.

A different approach was taken with the brick-built coal drops at King's Cross, in effect adapted railway viaducts which allowed bottom-discharge wagons to drop coal into hoppers below, whence it was further downloaded to distribution carts, later lorries. Here, the basic brick-arched structures have been retained with the (wooden) coal-dropping parts removed, to form shops, etc. Plus a new eye-catching upward curving roof which is completely alien, whilst at the same time contributing much to the busy attraction of the site. (Photo 4). I wonder what 'coal drops' means to visitors. There is potential for spending a few thousand pounds on suitable display panels and, if it is not too late, leaving just one bay repaired as in working order with a wagon above. Else, soon, with the imminent banning of its domestic use in the UK, the whole concept of using coal for energy, heating and cooking will just fade from consciousness.

Photo 3. Londonderry 'replicas' © David G Thomas Photo 4. Roof on top of King's Cross coal drops © David G Thomas

Arguably, industrial archaeology, the discovering, recording and interpreting of artefacts, needs to consider a more 'in the street' way of understanding history — though whether that itself is worthwhile or merely a waste of energy and brainpower might itself yet again be debated inconclusively. Maybe the whole King's Cross site, with its many re-used buildings and heavy employment and sightseeing footfall, can be used as an example to see whether or not there is any mileage in the idea. So, thank you, Ken for stirring thoughts; Michael for introducing economic reality; and Malcolm Tucker, whose grasp on developments across London and expertise in evaluating the technical significance of different artefacts helps inform those involved in the planning process. The views and comment in this item are the writer's and do not represent GLIAS views or policy. David Thomas

For some months the Heatherwick kissing-roof, now occupied by Samsung, has been open to the general public. It is possible to go up there and admire the sweeping laminated timbers which are part of its construction. Bob Carr

Heatherwick roof King's Cross 13 Jan 20 © R Carr Heatherwick roof King's Cross 13 Jan 20 © R Carr

New chimneys at Battersea

At Battersea Power Station the four iconic chimneys have been demolished and rebuilt. The concrete used to construct the originals was made using Thames water which included salt. Over the years the salt had attacked the steel reinforcing bars making demolition inevitable. The new chimneys have been built using water free from salt and should last much longer. The steel reinforcements are up to date and are thought to be better than those used in the 1930s and of course the new chimneys will not have hot gases passing through them.

Battersea Power Station, © Lucy Melford 2022

Originally the exhaust was washed in the towers beneath the two chimneys nearest the river but this was discontinued at the start of the War. In low cloud unique pure-white plumes of condensing vapour pierced the cloud and were clearly visible from miles away. They were too obvious a beacon advertising the position of London. Washing the smoke was probably never resumed. In the 1960s the air in Chelsea was dirty; did Battersea A power station contribute to this?

GLIAS paid a visit to Battersea Power Station in July 1979 (GLIAS Newsletter October 1979). Battersea A was out of use by then. Bob Carr

A stroll from Waterloo Station to the Imperial War Museum and back

Most visitors to the Imperial War Museum travel by tube to Lambeth North and walk five minutes down the road. This stroll takes a longer route to include items of interest.

① Waterloo station. Opened 1848 by the London and South Western Railway and extended. The main vast expanse of roof had to wait until the end of WW1 before being glazed. Start on the steps outside the arch entrance at the north east corner of the concourse. In January 1919, as a major expansion neared completion, the Engineer suggested this be made a war memorial. Conflict areas are named. On the left is Bellona, goddess of war (1914) and right, beneath pigeon netting, is Athena, goddess of courage and wisdom, holding the winged Nike, goddess of victory (1918). (Photo 1). Britannia sits aloft1. Placing wreathes on the ground below the bronze name panels proved impractical, so the corner lion heads were ordered with rings for attachments2. Two remain in original condition; others have just ring-end indents. Walk a few paces up the road slope to see the repeated Nouveau metal heads between window levels, concealing ventilation grills, (photo 2) before returning to ascend the steps to the station concourse. Three solemn stone faces adorn this side of the arch. To the right is a small memorial to the railway General Manager, Herbert Walker. Turn to note the modern roof over platforms 20-24, a new section built for Eurostar trains, before crossing the concourse toward the large suspended clock. On the way, check out the hydraulic buffers on platforms 17 to 1, now the only working examples in London. Go left through the vehicle exit arch and then right until below the tubular enclosed footbridge to Waterloo East platforms. Across the roadway are two stone doorways, normally sealed by see-through metal shutters. Beyond is the bridge of a one-time single track railway link across to the SE&C lines, used for a century as a pedestrian access route. Continue south through the cab shelter and round the end of the station building along the access road (noting the top floor of a building the other side, mentioned later) until taking a pedestrian crossing leading to a gap in the wall and steps down.

Athena holding Nike, Waterloo Station arch © David G Thomas Metal face between windows, Waterloo Station © David G Thomas

② Pause at the top of the steps. Ahead is the roof of the former boiler house of the Waterloo & City Railway (W&C) generating station (1898), its chimney cut back to base. It survived as the boilers continued to be used for hot water to radiators in the station offices and premises. (Photo 3). Looking left along the wall just passed, notice a girder supporting part of the wall and road across W&C premises. Turn left, down the steps. Ahead is an enclosed shaft above a W&C track — seen by squinting through the end covering. Large road cranes are brought in to lift or lower carriages; the permanent pillar crane deals with smaller items.

Former Waterloo & City Gen stn, minus chy © David G Thomas Lower Marsh, dog & pot coal hole cover © David G Thomas 121 Westminster Bridge Rd, London Necropolis HQ © David G Thomas

③ Continue to Lower Marsh and turn right, pausing alongside the first building on the left, Cubana, at a relatively rare Cunningham 'dog & pot' pavement coal hole cover. (Photo 4). Depending on interests, the Ian Allan book shop next door may tempt. Continue past the bulk of an office block, Nos 35-41, built c.1940 for the Trussed Concrete Steel Company (Truscon Ho). That left c.1970; the company thrives in Australia. The main occupier is now Christian Aid. Although the street is a Conservation Area, its character is changing with new uses for the shops and on-going redevelopment. Spare a glance at Iceland, No 112/3, on the right, in what was a standard F W Woolworths store, opened c.1930 and closed in the early 1980s. By chance, an almost identical one stands close to another Waterloo station, in Merseyside. Number 127 retains two half oil jars, a mark of a former oil and colour man (GLIAS Newsletter December 2018). Quite remarkable, as the shop ceased that trade after changing hands in the mid 1920s. Finally, on the left, at the corner, No 170 Westminster Bridge Road is the imposing former Dover Castle Hotel, with flats in the rooms above a Co-op supermarket. In the past decade many new hotels have been built in the area.

④ Turn left, without crossing Westminster Bridge Road. No 121, opposite, with the date 1900 above the top windows, was the HQ of the London Necropolis Company. It does look rather like an oversize cemetery monument. (Photo 5). The vehicle arch was for hearses. Behind, lifts took coffins to a separate small station erected to replace previous premises which were in the way of Waterloo station's expansion. Funeral trains ran to station platforms within Brookwood cemetery. Necropolis station did not reopen after war damage. The corner building before crossing Baylis Road was Lambeth Building Society's HQ, erected in 1960 as a modern replacement for previous premises, and now a hotel3. Pause a short while to note relatively new houses behind a wall to the left, on the other side of Baylis Road. These occupy the site of five blocks, containing over 500 flats, erected by the LSWR in 1901-3 to replace rented housing stock that was about to be demolished as Waterloo station was expanded. The site was a lucky coincidence, as it had just been vacated by Maudslay. Cross the road and glance at the wall plaque inside Lambeth North tube station.

⑤ Turn round, cross the road and stop alongside the Westminster Bridge Road name sign at foot of the surviving tower of Christ Church, surrounded by a 1959 replacement including office development which itself is now mainly a school. Within a blocked doorway is a relocated 1873 plaque to Morley, and higher the name Lincoln Tower. The spire is encircled by bands of red with incisions between them — stars and stripes. The story is that during the American Civil War the church raised money for the (anti-slavery) Confederates, later receiving a financial gift, which the spire commemorates. Would the UK's economy (and its I.A.) have developed differently had the other side won?

⑥ Walk round the corner into Kennington Road. It is impossible to ignore the glitz of Waterloo Plaza Hotel. This is the former Central Office of Information, 1958, striped down to the reinforced concrete frame and rebuilt and extended in 2015-6. Continue past the yellow brick police station, opened 1955 by the son of Lloyd George, himself then a Minister, to replace a 1870s one that was war destroyed. A commemorative 'stone' is alongside the door, at the top of the steps.

⑦ Next on the left are some old large houses which have had mixed fortunes and uses over the years. The odd faces on 59 may date from about 1900, when it was the Variety Club. In 1903 Nos 61 & 63 were converted to house the Lambeth Savings Bank, formerly at 86 Hercules Road. Another example of relocation because of LSWR expansion. The successor savings bank remained here until about 1990. Turn left at the next road junction, into Lambeth Road. One of the surviving large houses, no 100, carries a blue plaque commemorating a former resident, Captain Bligh. In 1910 it and those adjacent were 'apartments'. The end house, 94, with a cross each side of the porch, was a vicarage. A few steps away, a pedestrian crossing leads to a gate and then the Imperial War Museum, open daily 10-18.00 (Jan 2020). Entry is free, though there is a charge for some exhibitions and events. The main building is the centre section of Bethlem Hospital, in its final years correctly described as for nervous diseases.

⑧ After visiting the Museum, return to Waterloo is by a different route. Go straight ahead from the entrance through gates next to the small lodge and turn right to stop at the junction of St Georges Road. The corner building on the left, c.1840, retains its name as 'Royal South London Dispensary' along the top, although that closed in 1917.

On the opposite corner is the Catholic cathedral. There was to be a tower above the entrance. However, our main interest is a wall with a railing along the top but apparently enclosing nothing. Behind, well below street level, is the Bakerloo Line London Road depot. Small metal junction boxes provide a viewing foot stand, although there is little to see during a weekday. (Photo 6).

⑨ Turn left along St Georges Road. If lighting is right, the penultimate large Cathedral window will show the scene of Pope John Paul II blessing sick people, who were en route to Lourdes, during his visit here in May 1982. Continue on the left, south-west, pavement as this road curves to the left to become Westminster Bridge Road, passing some pleasant 1950s flats, Amigo House, on the other side. Ahead right the tower is the former MI6, 1962, coyly described in Kellys for 1965 as 'Foreign Office (Research Department)'. Since their move to premises at Vauxhall it has been re-clad and a penthouse added. Continue across King Edward Walk and past Morley College (the same Morley), rebuilt and reopened in 1958 after bomb damage. Next is Holst Court, a block of flats and attached to the street wall is a history plaque with photos of the former Oakey works which stood on the site.

⑩ Cross the road to turn right then left into Pearman Street. Apart from the new Nos 1 to 5, the three-storey terraced houses, c.1884, are described as 'tenements' in census returns for 1891-1911, each having three independent lots of tenants within three un-self-contained flats, although each floor had its own WC and scullery. To reach the top floor meant walking past two of the doors on the ground floor and three on the first floor. A downstairs side door allowed upper floor occupants to access the rear yard (dustbins and clothes lines) without going through ground-floor tenant rooms. No baths, of course — it was either a weekly splash in the tin one or use public ones not far away. 130 years on, some are owner-occupied as single houses, some rented and some converted into 'proper' flats or maisonettes with interior 'front doors'. Before crossing Frazier Street, look right, to see flats built to house ambulance workers. The remainder of the large block contains London Ambulance HQ offices and garages. This was previously the site of a LCC school.

Bakerloo Line London Road depot © David G Thomas David Greig HQ, Waterloo Rd © David G Thomas

⑪ Reaching Waterloo Road, spare a glance at the brutalist frontage of the Ambulance HQ, opened 1973, before turning left, but not crossing the road, to view the long columned façade of the former HQ and shop of David Greig, provisions dealers, carrying dates 1928 & 1930. (Photo 7). The firm's thistle emblem — large at the ends, smaller nearer the central entrance — appear elsewhere on the occasional surviving frontage of one of the 200 or so shops which it had across southern England. At its peak in the 1930s the firm also occupied the site of the adjacent Hampton Hotel and further premises at 282-294 Waterloo Road, with its own bacon kilns in the street behind. Taken over, and never following the supermarket trend, the name did not survive and these premises were vacated in about 1975. New offices, named Wellington House, have been built behind and above the façade.

Almost adjoining is the Old Vic Theatre. This was where Morley first started holding adult education classes in some rooms, before the original Morley College was built to 'provide education to adult men and women'.

⑫ Walk north along Waterloo Road, crossing Baylis Road to pause in front of the 'Fire Station, opened 1910', now licensed premises. This had replaced a much earlier fire station on the site and in the 1960s was London Ambulance's HQ before their new building was ready. It had limited on-site sleeping accommodation above. Alongside, on the left of Holmes Terrace, is a former annexe of the Union Jack Club. That, now occupying part of the high brown towers across the road, was founded in 1907 to provide accommodation for service personnel passing through London. After WW2 additional accommodation was provided by this annexe, which had basic dormitory sleeping. It has recently been altered to become offices for British Transport Police. Immediately ahead is Waterloo station, with the bridge of the former line across the street and the later, higher, pedestrian link to Waterloo East platforms. David G Thomas

Exploring the riverside

A series of articles giving detailed information about the industrial history of the riverbank is being published in the Greenwich Weekender, a free local newspaper. Starting on the south bank in Deptford, the series is proceeding eastwards. Some of these articles are available online.

The Greenwich Weekender also contains further articles which may interest GLIAS readers. See eg:
Bob Carr

Telegraph to India 150th anniversary celebration

June this year will be the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of the telegraph to India, and to mark this milestone, PK Porthcurno is planning a series of events to celebrate.

These will include a re-enactment of the landing of the cable on 10 June, an exhibition on 'The Cable King' and 'The 1870 Landing' that will open early in June. In addition, there will be a performance of a newly commissioned play at the neighbouring Minack Theatre on 22 June. More details will be available on the website (

The vast majority was made at Enderby and Morden Wharves, in Greenwich, although some manufacture was subcontracted to W T Henley at North Woolwich to meet the project timescales. Mary Mills

Hackney Light and Power

In the spring of 2020 the London Borough of Hackney will start a new service, Hackney Light and Power, which is to supply renewable or low carbon energy to council buildings and services. It is hoped later to supply local homes and business. This is partly inspired by the Shoreditch Refuse Destructor and Generating Station which was situated in Coronet Street, N1. The remains of this power station, which generated electricity from domestic rubbish, were recorded by GLIAS in May 1986. A report was published in October as a supplement to GLIAS Newsletter 106. Perhaps people do read GLIAS publications? Bob Carr

A Hansom cab stand

A note was published in GLIAS Newsletter December 2018 suggesting that a short stoneway paved with granite setts was connected with the New River. Since these setts are almost over a New River pipe track this appeared likely. The notion was that in the days when roads were wet macadam, a hard standing to support a heavy engine would be useful for maintenance work. This photograph shows the setts which are in Somerfield Road, London N4. The stone rails are laid to a gauge of about 5 feet.

Cab stand, 7 Aug 18 © R Carr

However, a recent local authority publication includes a photograph of the setts with the caption 'Hansom Cab Stand'. Are any of our readers familiar with Hansom cab stands and are there any other surviving examples in London? Bob Carr

London chimneys

Up to the 1820s most industrial chimneys in London had a square cross-section and were all built from the outside using external scaffolding. Then in 1828 a remarkable thing happened. Charles Henry Capper from Birmingham started building a chimney 175 feet high with a circular cross-section at Old Ford. What amazed people was that Capper used no scaffolding and built his chimney entirely from the inside. As well as being reported in the technical press1, ordinary newspapers published articles about this remarkable event and these were widely syndicated nationally.

Shortly afterwards, however, a reply came from Scotland2 pointing out that this practice was already quite common in Edinburgh, and it can be deduced that building chimneys without external scaffolding had been going on in other parts for some time. What was special about London why had the capital lagged behind developments elsewhere?

A suggestion is that in London there might have been restrictive practices in the building trade. It would be fairly reasonable to advise that in the City, a busy and densely populated area, scaffolding must in general be used as a safety precaution. The London Guilds were well organised and powerful and over time could have established a rule that their members would not build at height without appropriate scaffolding. When tall chimneys for stationary steam engines were required a rule of this kind would probably be insisted upon — so could there have been a kind of early 19th century 'health and safety' regulation?

Restrictive practices in the London building trade were well established. Samuel Pepys had trouble with workmen:

Is anyone familiar with the London building trade 200 years ago? Restrictive practices in the building trade might be only too well known to building historians. Bob Carr

Littlebrook Power Station chimney demolished

At about 8 o'clock on Sunday morning, 15 December, the 705ft chimney of Littlebrook power station, Dartford, Kent was demolished by explosives. Oil-fired, Littlebrook D power station closed in March 2015 and demolition has been taking place over the past year or so, the final part of the power station being blown up on Friday 30 August 2019.

The chimney was the last part to be destroyed and the explosion could be clearly heard in Upminster. While this demolition was taking place the Dartford road bridge was closed, it was feared that the explosion and falling structure might distract drivers.

Power station chimneys are rapidly disappearing and on 15 December, Littlebrook which formerly had the fourth tallest chimney in the UK, by then probably had the second tallest. Inverkip power station chimney which stood 774ft high, the tallest in Scotland, was demolished in 2013. Grain power station chimney in Kent was 800 feet high. This was demolished on 7 September 2016. Drax in North Yorkshire has a chimney 851 feet high. At its maximum Littlebrook power station had a total generating capacity of 1,475 MW.

There was a local campaign supported in Gravesend to retain the Littlebrook chimney as a monumental landmark. See:

This has been unsuccessful owing to the cost which would be incurred in maintaining the power station chimney to present-day safety standards. Bob Carr

Inquiry into bell foundry's future

Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, has announced there will be a Public Inquiry into the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Plans to redevelop the foundry into a boutique hotel were controversially approved last year (GLIAS Newsletter December 2019).

Re-Form Heritage, formerly United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust, has been invited to present its proposal for the future of the site as a proper working foundry.

Re-Form Heritage, Factum Foundation and partners have produced a report 'Saved By The Bell' which demonstrates that the 'optimum viable use' of the continuation of foundry work is possible and commercially robust.

Re-Form Heritage is an independent charity which specialises in the restoration and rejuvenation of heritage buildings at risk of decay or demolition. It owns and manages Middleport Pottery in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent.

Conservation Watch

Former Thorley's Cattle Food Mill, 10-18 All Saints Street, London N1 9RL
Planning application P2019/3481/FUL
The new owners have encouraged the architects to work up a scheme considerably more sympathetic to the heritage than the one that the Planning Inspector threw out last summer (GLIAS Newsletter October 2019). Yes, it does retain much of the new accommodation previously proposed, but crafted with much more thought, and it does still encroach on neighbours' daylight, but less so through more careful design. It does meet a good many policy objectives such as more intensive use of land and encouraging creative industries, and as described in the Design and Access Statement and at consultation meetings it looks like a good scheme. Malcolm Tucker

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© GLIAS, 2020