Notes and news — July 2020
In this issue:
Professor Angus Buchanan
- Prof Angus Buchanan
- The statue of Robert Milligan
- Update from the GLIAS committee
- Wood Green memories
- Colet Court, Euston Films and Blythe House
- The Lea Valley
- Whitbread Brewery beam engine in Sydney, Australia
- Lots Road
- Former horse and carriage repository in Spitalfields listed
- Museum of London's Smithfield move approved
- MWB markers
- Conservation Watch
Angus, one of the pioneers of IA, died just before his 90th birthday on 17 June. He had a particular interest in Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his works. His wife Brenda, also a keen industrial archaeologist, had died two months earlier. He was a good friend of GLIAS over the years.
He set up the Centre for the Study of the History of Technology at Bath in 1964, which from 1966 organised a series of Bath IA annual conferences. The Bath conferences grew in strength and led to the establishment of the AIA in 1973. With the death of Tom Rolt in 1974, before the first annual conference of the AIA, Angus became the chair. Rather belatedly he was appointed Professor. Angus was also President of the Newcomen Society. I am sure fuller obituaries will be published by the AIA and the Newcomen Society. David Perrett
The statue of Robert Milligan
The statue of Robert Milligan stood outside the Museum of London Docklands in the West India Docks until the early evening of 9 June this year, when the land owner, the Canal and River Trust, removed it for safe keeping following the recent Black Lives Matter protests. Milligan (1746-1809) was a prominent West India merchant, an owner of plantations in Jamaica and an anti-abolitionist. He led the group of businessmen who promoted and built the immense and innovatory West India Docks, to eradicate the losses due to theft and delay at London's traditional riverside wharves. He served as deputy chairman and then chairman of the West India Dock Company, constituted in 1799. Following his death in May 1809, the directors of the company commissioned the statue, which was first erected inside the Docks in 1813. Modelled in bronze by the notable sculptor (Sir) Richard Westmacott RA (1775-1856), the statue is slightly more than life-size, in civilian dress, and it stood upon a stepped granite plinth bearing two bronze plaques — one a representation of Britannia receiving the fruits of Commerce.
The statue has had several homes over the years. It was first located on the North Quay of the West India Docks, in the middle of the roadway opposite the portico of the Dock Offices (now the 'Ledger Building'), where it created a traffic bottleneck. In 1875 it was re-erected complete with its plinth on top of the central pier of the entrance gateway, at the end of West India Dock Road, but that was demolished as a traffic obstruction in 1943. The statue was then put into store until its re-erection circa 1970, minus its plinth, next to the former main entrance to the London Docks at East Smithfield. The Port of London Authority had moved its head office there from its grand HQ building on Trinity Square. The PLA moved again in the mid 1980s and the statue went back into store. Edward Sargent, who was the first conservation officer of the London Docklands Development Corporation, rediscovered the plinth in undergrowth near the site of the WID's Limehouse entrance basin (together with the Dock's foundation stone of 1800 that had been put there after the Blitz). All were re-housed in the Museum of London's docklands store and proto-display in W Warehouse at the Royal Victoria Dock.
In 1997-1998 the London Docklands Development Corporation reinstated the Milligan statue and plinth close to their original site outside the Ledger Building, as part of a project to enhance the West India Docks Conservation Area. The bronze plaques had long disappeared and needed to be recreated from engravings and photographs. Within a couple of years it was moved a few yards eastwards to a site safer from traffic damage, in front of the entrance to the future Museum in Docklands. The museum opened in the spring of 2003 in the refurbished, Grade-I-listed No.1 Warehouse, and it is now known as the Museum of London Docklands.
In 2007, the museum opened its permanent exhibition London, Sugar, Slavery, which was Heritage Lottery funded to celebrate the bicentenary of Britain's abolition of the slave trade (as distinct from slavery) in 1807. Although Milligan was a slave owner, and the West Indian sugar trade was reliant on slave labour, the purpose of the LDDC's reinstatement of the statue was to enhance and contextualise the notable heritage buildings, with which it is contemporary, and in no way to celebrate slavery. Its proper place is in front of those buildings, as it was originally. But, supposing that shades of public opinion may now imperil this work of art in its customary outdoor location, a natural home would seem to be inside the museum. This is one of several museums in England addressing the history of the transatlantic slave trade but the only one relating that to the Thames. Low headroom and floor loadings and perhaps inverted deference may preclude displaying it on its plinth, while interpretative materials may distract from aesthetic appreciation, but (if room can be found) that will be better than consignment to a museum store.
English Heritage has announced it will review all 950 of London's blue plaques for potential links to the slave trade. It remains to be seen which other memorials, street names and references to London's connections with the slave trade may now be deemed politically unacceptable, but the Milligan statue will retain a primary significance among them.
The historical information on the statue has been compiled from discussions with Edward Sargent and with Chris Ellmers, who was the project leader of the Museum of London's Museum in Docklands project and the museum's first director. Robert Mason and Malcolm Tucker
Update from the GLIAS committee
Like most similar societies it has been impossible to run our usual programme of events even though we had already planned and scheduled them. In particular we were saddened by the loss of activities, especially those planned for our 50th anniversary. SERIAC too was cancelled but we are considering running the same programme in 2021. You may also have noticed some slippage in getting the newsletter out since printing, stuffing and mailing all had to cease. We thank member Roger Cline, who told us of a printer that when sent a pdf file would complete the entire process. We trust that you liked the results and we plan to continue using this method. The photography competition is now closed and the ceremony planned for SERIAC was not possible so the winner(s) will be announced in a future newsletter.
GLIAS annual general meeting
You must all be aware that our AGM could not be held in May due to the COVID-19 restrictions. We are pleased to tell you that the Committee, which would have changed then, have all agreed to continue in post until we can have an AGM. We discussed options about organising the AGM later in the year. These include an e-AGM (but we are aware that we do not have all your email details and GDPR may limit using that method), a postal vote or with luck an actual meeting. We hope to put details of how we hope to proceed in a future newsletter.
Although subscriptions are normally due in April (and a few of you paid without being asked — thank you) we have decided to postpone the next request for subs payment. The committee will discuss the timing in the autumn.
Journal — LIA18
The next journal is now in final pdf form and ready to go. We usually use the AGM and SERIAC to hand deliver has many copies as possible but that could not be. Therefore, we are approaching the newsletter printers to see if they can take on the bigger task of printing and distributing the journal.
Wood Green memories
Reading David Thomas's piece (GLIAS Newsletter April 2020) took me back to Wood Green where I was raised despite being born in the long gone Royal Northern Hospital at a cost of ₤2-2s-6d to my Mum.
I don't know if David only intended to mention things you could actually see as you strolled. I have a brain which immediately leaps into the 'that triggered a connection mode'.
His mention of the nearby tram depot instantly took me to the conversion to the trolleybus. This engendered the unique (I think) feature the installation of the turntable and traverser. Trams could, of course, be driven from either end and could not be manoeuvred but to make use of limited space could be parked closely together. As the depot was a dead end buses had to be turned around; to overcome both these problems a turntable mounted on a traverser was installed. The turntable and traverser were controlled with reclaimed tram controllers. The bus was driven in onto the turntable, taken off of the overheads and turned through 180 degrees, washed down, then traversed to the north west wall and driven to the front of the depot. The next bus was then driven up as close as possible behind the first. This procedure carried on until that rank was full. The next rank was then parked as close as possible to the first and this went on until all the buses were parked. This meant that all the buses had to be in the right order as the only one that could be driven out in the morning was the front one in the first rank as drivers could only get in from the outside of the rank. For many years the internal night cleaning was done by a well known local family who were congenital dwarves.
Out of the depot to come down what we knew as Jolly Butchers Hill you come to the corner of Station Road where once stood the magnificent Carnegie Library, a gift to the people of Wood Green by the Carnegie Foundation. A similar one in Herne Hill is Grade II listed. The all-knowing local council demolished it and adjoining buildings to use the site to build the enormous (and ugly) River Park House as council offices.
Coming off of David's route for a moment and going into the High Road as far as Shopping City there is a footpath on the left into Gladstone Mews, this contains the first slaughterhouse in Wood Green (pictured below).
Cattle came by rail into Noel Park Goods Yard (now gone), some to go to this still visible slaughterhouse which was initially behind Noel Park Station. This actually supplied the butcher's shop on the station forecourt. The station and the forecourt are now under Portman House and Shopping City.
Back around the corner into Station Road David points to the Northmet showrooms and offices, now a hotel. How confident they were in the 1930s incorporating the company name in the building. The entry way down the side leads to the site of Wood Green's second slaughterhouse, to which cattle were also driven from the Goods Yard. I believe the building's long pitched roof (like the one above) remains visible on Google satellite.
On the right was the Rex cinema. Right up to my early teenage the management ignored A U H film classifications, I saw many horror pictures at an early age. If the gang didn't have enough money to all get in it was a case of some going in then going to the fire exit hidden by the toilet's open door and letting your mates in.
On the left, on the corner of Brabant Road, up to the 1960s was Mentmore Plastics factory well known for its fountain pens. Thinking about the old Mentmore factory reminded me of another long forgotten factory just off Station Road via Cumberland and Ringslade Roads, that of Weddell Pharmaceuticals Ltd, a branch of the meat wholesale firm. It manufactured insulin and surgical sutures. Because of these it was tucked away and anonymous. These were tested on live rabbits that were cut, stitched up and observed until the wound healed then according to law killed.
David mentions the bridge in Station Road. For many years its restricted headroom caused single deck trams and later buses to run to Alexandra Palace. After much local controversy about pedestrians falling onto cars a dip was put in the road to accommodate double deck buses. The dip and the guard rails mark the spot. Shortly afterwards (possibly 1969) the bridge was removed! When the dip was put in the road flooded in heavy rain. They must have improved the drains.
Just through the bridge on the left was the United Dairies depot. The stabling for its many horses extended into what was then Caxton Road, with half the stalls being on the first floor. Many U D horses were young Irish steeplechasers being worked to build up muscle. The offices were the scene of Wood Green's murder by shooting, a member of staff being shot in the course of a robbery.
Turning into Mayes Road you face the huge edifice of Barratt's offices. When the company was bought out the offices were cleared out and every scrap of records or archives went into waste paper company skips. Despite the local historian's best efforts. Further along Mayes Road, David mentions the other Barratt's works in Coburg Road. Also in Coburg Road was a branch of the engineering company Davis & Timmins Ltd. always known locally as 'The screw'. It made all the screws for the terminals in MK's electrical plugs, it also had a couple of machines which converted coils of wire into the tiny springs to go into the plungers of lamp holders and bayonet sockets. It had a machine tool department which made the machines that produced the little blue twisted paper packets of salt that used to be in Smith's Crisps. If anyone wanted to repeat this they would have to start from scratch as all the drawings were lost when that factory closed.
Caxton Chocolate was mentioned, it was behind Barratt's and what was Alexandra Senior Girls School (my wife went there) in Western Road. In 1939 the owners were interned as enemy aliens under Defence Regulation 18b as they were German.
Opposite Caxton's was the dust destructor which brought back memories of Wood Green's very advanced dust cart.
Totally enclosed, articulated, easily uncoupled and drawn by the very manoeuvrable Scammell Scarab three-wheel tractor unit. The trailers were special, at the rear they had a pair of doors which were the right height for the dustbin carried on the dustman's shoulder to be tipped over. When the rubbish reached the top of the doors a crank handle was inserted into the side of the trailer and the floor wound forward about three feet and the tipping resumed. When no more could be tipped the trailer was taken to Western Road, the doors opened and the handle wound the other way emptying the trailer without tipping. As it was so easy to uncouple and couple trailers, for some years the council hired heavy horses and harness to take the trailer on a special 'dolly' from door to door saving the expensive tractor and trained driver to quickly take the loaded trailer to the dust destructor. In the late afternoon it was a childhood sight to see the horsemen sitting on an upturned bath tub on the dolly taking the horses back to Mr Nicholls' stables.
At the end of Western Road is Wood Green Common with at its south east end what we then called the rose garden but is now called Barratt Garden. When Barratt's was in production, in the summer the girls used to sit in the rose garden in their dinner break. One group was always covered in icing sugar and were known as Barratt's White Mice. Others could be traced to what they were working on by the colour of their hands and/or hair.
The south west side of the Common was enclosed by a long curving brick wall which is Grade II listed. During the Second World War a barrage balloon was sited at the north corner of the common. In very windy weather the balloon dragged the winch lorry into the New River demolishing 20 feet of the wall on the way. This resulted in immediate instruction for balloons not to be flown directly from the winch. Cable was to be passed through a pulley anchored to the ground. This was done by digging a hole four feet deep in which was buried a cross made of two old railway sleepers with a chain long enough to reach the surface bound round the crossing point. This also allowed the winch lorry to be a short way away so the balloon could be close hauled to the mooring circle. The shackle for the pulley and mooring circle existed into the '50s when landscaping turned it into a children's play area. The wall was never restored. Bob Rust
Colet Court, Euston Films and Blythe House
I am very grateful to John Liffen for his informative response (GLIAS Newsletter April 2020), referring to my piece (GLIAS Newsletter February 2020) and correcting my suggestion that Euston Films was 'based in Blythe House'. He quotes a former Euston Films producer who stated that its production base was in Colet Court, the former St Paul's Boys' Preparatory School a little to the west of Blythe House along Hammersmith Road. I acknowledge that this was indeed its centre of operations, including filming: my comment about Blythe House drew on a rock-solid memory I have of a Euston Films nameplate at the street entrance nearest Hammersmith Road, now used for access to the Joint Museums Repository. This image must be from the 1970s, and I speculate that Euston Films might have used the site for vehicle and equipment storage, ancillary to its more substantial activities in Colet Court including actual filming. (Another indelible memory is of a street scene from The Sweeney with stars John Thaw and Dennis Waterman discussing a case — filmed immediately outside Colet Court. No 'location' could be nearer home!)
The photograph accompanying John's text shows Colet Court to be a building in late Victorian-Gothic 'institutional' style. It dates from 1890 to a design by architect W H Spaull of Oswestry. It is more austere and less exuberant than the St Paul's Boys' School of the early 1880s by Alfred Waterhouse (best known for his Natural History Museum) that it faced across Hammersmith Road, whose main range was regrettably demolished in the late 1960s when the school moved to Barnes. Unlike at St Pancras Station, recognition of its architectural character came too late to merit listing or retention for re-use. (Its historical significance also counted for naught — General Montgomery and his team had occupied the building, and in May 1944 presented their D-Day plans to Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower and others, not least Winston Churchill and King George VI. This is now recorded on a plaque erected by the Hammersmith & Fulham Historic Buildings Group.)
St Paul's School under demolition in 1969 seen from Talgarth Road
Ready adaptability for re-use as offices and by Euston Films after the school's departure was the salvation of the High Master's House and Colet Court, both now listed Grade II. The former has recently been further transformed into a boutique hotel, St Paul's. The northern part of the school site is now occupied by low-rise dwellings designed by the GLC Architect's department with then-fashionable purple-brick façades. On the sports field between these and the A4 Talgarth Road stands what is now known as Hammersmith & Fulham College, designed by the GLC's Bob Giles with angular elevations in strong red brick and opened in 1980. After just four decades of use, there are already plans to demolish and replace it. Change, always change!
As to Blythe House, whose interiors I know from visits, I am dismayed at the governmental decision to sell it to the private sector — for conversion to yet more up-market apartments I assume and regret — and the consequent decanting of its huge stored collections of three national museums. John mentions that the Science Museum material is going to Wroughton Airfield near Swindon that the museum already occupies. I endorse John's polite understatement that this site 'remains awkward to reach by public transport' (actually 'impossible'?!), and having visited it on business on a grey January day many years ago I also remember it as bleak and unwelcoming. Leaving aside the huge expense of this unforced relocation that taxpayers are funding without the option, it does seem perverse and contradictory that those wishing to access the stored collection (many inevitably based in, or with good transport links to, London) will now have to make much longer journeys to expensively adapted or newly-built outlying premises, in the process consuming more energy, CO2, money, and time than currently necessary.
My thanks also to John for the link to the www.reelstreets.com website, which identifies the external locations used in many films. A Google search for 'locations for xxxx' where xxxx is the name of a film or TV series should also be useful, although one can then easily spend a lot of time being led to, for example, the various locations used for Arthur Daley's lock-up in successive series of Minder... Michael Bussell
The Lea Valley
This short illustrated item attempts to put the Lea Bridge Waterworks article (GLIAS Newsletter April 2020), in more context and to give readers a better idea of why building on part of the Waterworks site, probably not so well known to many members, is an important issue.
Such a place, so near to central London between Clapton and Lea Bridge railway stations, deserves very special consideration - hence the involvement of The Campaign to Protect Rural England. Bob Carr
The Essex Filter Beds looking northwest (left); The Essex Filter Beds looking southeast [with coot].
The Italianate Tower added to the Coppermill in 1864. View looking northwest. No photograph of this building appeared in the last newsletter.
Whitbread Brewery beam engine in Sydney, Australia
In the first ever issue of our journal (London's IA) I described the Boulton & Watt rotative beam engine then in the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney. I am lost to remember in those pre-internet days how I learnt of this engine that had emigrated a century earlier.
Samuel Whitbread ordered this giant sun & planet engine from B&W in 1784. It was to replace a horse wheel in Chiswell Street brewery. It was installed the following year, the second steam engine to be installed in a brewery.
During the next 50 years various upgrades took place including replacing the wooden beam with one of cast iron. When the engine was being replaced in 1880s, Prof Liversidge, a driving force in establishing a Technological Museum in the University of Sydney, happened to be on leave in London. He heard that the engine was coming out and persuaded Whitbread's to donate the engine to the Museum, the only condition being that they applied was that it be exhibited for the public benefit.
After being in various sites in Sydney, since 1988 its home has been in the impressive Powerhouse Museum, a former tram power station in central Sydney. It is a massive engine (see photo I took in 2016). It is steamable and when Ollie and I visited, they steamed it for us. Given the development potential of the museum's site near the harbour at the end of 2019 the State Government proposed the removal of the museum to a possibly unsuitable riverside building some 14 miles from the centre of Sydney. The current site becoming of all things a fashion museum and theatre plus no doubt offices. Many in Australia consider this to be very short-sighted and are campaigning against the museum's move and particularly the transfer of the Whitbread engine.
It is one of only four B&W sun & planet rotative engines known to survive. The others are the Lap engine in the Science Museum in London, one in the Royal Scottish Museum Edinburgh and one recently re-assembled in Verdant Mill, Dundee. There are also other London-made exhibits in the Powerhouse Museum including a Maudslay Beam engine of 1837 and a Merryweather steam Fire engine. The GLIAS Board is concerned about this apparently unnecessary move of such a rare engine and have asked me to write to the authorities in Sydney. David Perrett
Re the article on Lots Road power station (GLIAS Newsletter April 2020) there is a history of the building, equipping and opening of the power station and an explanation of how it worked on pages 72 to 80 of the book 'London's District Railway — a history of the Metropolitan District railway, Vol 2, Twentieth Century — (M A C Horne, Capital Transport, 2019) and a paragraph on how the site was chosen on page 26. Pages 82/83 tell how the alternators initially installed were so unreliable in operation that they had to be replaced by new ones only three or four years after opening. Martin Weyell
Former horse and carriage repository in Spitalfields listed
The Victorian Society has achieved a Grade II listing for a now rare former horse repository in Spitalfields, where one once might go to purchase a horse or a carriage as nowadays one might buy a car. It is the last remaining of many that were once to be found in London.
The former Stapleton's Horse & Carriage Repository was listed not only for its rarity, but also for its high-quality decorative brickwork, the survival of a wooden horse ramp, and because it serves as an example of the historic importance of horses and horse-drawn transport in late-19th century cities.
The listing document includes a useful historical summary, outlining that horse repositories originated in the mid-18th century, supplementing and then replacing seasonal open-air horse markets. They would generally have a covered courtyard surrounded by multi-storey stabling; the best-known was Tattersall's in Knightsbridge (1766-1939).
106 Commercial Street had originated as a haulier's depot in the 1860s and Stapleton's were there from 1890 to the beginnings of the First World War. The building is now office-converted. It features an 1890s architectural frontage with carriage arch, a roofed courtyard, a colonnaded balcony, a wooden-treaded horse-stair, a former carriage-lift shaft and evidence of the former horse stalls.
See https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list, under List Entry Number 1469946
Museum of London's Smithfield move approved
The City of London Corporation has approved ₤337m plans to move the Museum of London to former market buildings at West Smithfield (GLIAS Newsletter October 2016).
Architects Stanton Williams and Asif Khan have spent four years working on the detailed plans for the project, which is expected to be open in 2024.
The site includes the General Market, Poultry Market and several buildings known as the Annexe, which includes the Fish Market, Red House and Engine House.
Pamela Zollicoffer, Secretary of the Quaggy Waterways Action Group, is researching covered reservoirs in South London.
She noted two Metropolitan Water Board mark stones either side of Southover Road, Downham, BR1 4PU near the reservoir served from Shortlands Pumping Station (pictured below).
She asks if anyone knows their actual purpose? Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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© GLIAS, 2020