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Notes and news — September 2020

In this issue:

Photo competition

We are pleased to announce the results of the photo competition. And here they are!

Then: Coal drops, gas holders and railway yards, Somers Town by Sidney Ray. Taken in 1968

 Coal drops, gas holders and railway yards, Somers Town by Sidney Ray. Taken in 1968

Then and Now: New Construction, Coaldrops Yard, King's Cross by Sidney Ray. Taken in 2018/19

 New Construction, Coaldrops Yard, King's Cross by Sidney Ray. Taken in 2018/19

Now: Thames Tideway 2 by Adam Thompson. Taken in 2020.

 Thames Tideway 2 by Adam Thompson. Taken in 2020

The judges were Susan Johanknecht, Mike Quinton and Eleanor Sidaway. They regretted having to judge remotely and therefore not being able to meet in person but they were able to reach an agreement on all the categories without too much difficulty. They commented: 'It's been an interesting exercise. Well done to everyone who entered the GLIAS Photo Competition; you gave us plenty to write and argue about but it is a pity we judges can't explain our choices at a GLIAS meeting. We look forward to a day soon when we can all sit around a table with a drink and chat properly.'

Walk: indirectly to Lots Road and Chelsea Harbour

This stroll is built around seeing what is happening at Lots Road power station, having been prompted by an article thereon by Bob Mitchell in the April 2020 Newsletter and an additional note in Martin Weyell in the July issue. It should take about 90 minutes. Restricted access has meant research was not possible for all locations mentioned.

Start on the south side of Kings Road at the junction with Old Church Street. This is a short distance west of Carlyle Square bus stop. Routes 11, 19 and 319 from Sloane Square or 22 and 49 from South Kensington.

Head south along Old Church Street ('Old' is a 20th-century addition), to No. 48, on the left. Provided there is no parked car, a glance along the archway floor will recognise a familiar name on a drain cover: 'Thomas Crapper & Son Ltd, Marlborough Works, Chelsea.' (Photo 1). The firm benefitted from patenting sanitary fittings (ball cocks), good quality products, a classy showroom (120 Kings Road; nothing to see) and a memorable name. The name was revived by a firm which had a website illustrating its luxury sanitary and bathroom items.

48 Old Church Street, Crapper drain cover 46 Old Church Street, Dairy cow

Side and front walls of 46 have tiled depictions of its former business — and if in doubt, cow heads adorn the street façade and the rear building, which has: 'Estd 1796, 1908'. (Photo 2). The top section of wording on the reaper is a bit faded. (Photo 3). This was the dairy of William and Thomas Wright, but that use ceased some time between 1918 and 1939, the premises then housing several businesses over the years (from making ice cream to a sound recording studio) before becoming residential. Sometimes it was used as one with No 48, which had stables and storage sheds. At other times a separate business (eg, a provisions merchant) used 48.

'Ye early mower whets his scythe' 12 & 14 Old Church Street Lawrence Street, Peabody estate Chelsea Embankment monument, 1874

No. 44 was a former butchers' shop, more recently a restaurant. More frontages and arches suggest other premises have had commercial use. Continue past Justice Walk to stop across the road opposite Nos 12 & 14. (Photo 4). The façade has clearly been rebuilt in a style suggesting a factory or workshops, but nothing seen so far has provided the 'missing link'. No 10 was already names Carlyle Works, a sanitary engineers' business, before Fraser & Ellis Ltd, in the same trade, moved here in 1926. That firm's website says it remained until 1996 before moving to new premises in Battersea. Their ground floor had a shop window type of frontage. There were workshops at the rear — as there were also for Nos 12, 14 and 16. No 16 was occupied by a firm of exhibition stand makers in the 1960s. There is a small crane alongside a first-floor goods door.

Return to head east along Justice Walk. Look over the top of the wall on the right, before the end a former Wesleyan Chapel (1841) squeezes the space, to see some of the workshops behind 16 to 10 Old Church Street.

Diagonally to the right from the end of Justice Walk, on Lawrence Street, is West Block, one of four in a compact Peabody housing estate. At the far end is a small space outside the entrance to the private estate. A resident advised that small top floor windows show original locations of communal laundry rooms. (Photo 5).

Continue south along Lawrence Street and turn right to the front of a brick residential block. This was purpose built in 1888 as the Chelsea Hospital for Sick and Incurable Children, which had outgrown its previous building on the site and before that others nearby. It became a nursery after the hospital was evacuated to Kent, and again a specialist children's hospital in 1955, before being sold in 1996 and converted to flats.

Turn right (west) to follow the curved pavement, glancing at the gravestone to Hans Sloane (d.1753). Entwined snakes around a jar symbolise his qualification as a physician. He died in Chelsea Manor House, which he owned, having made arrangements to donate a large 'collection' to the nation. Where the pavement joins that of the Chelsea Embankment road is a (functioning) drinking fountain monument to George Sparkes, died 1878 (inscription). Loops remain where chains for a total of eight drinking cups had been attached. Then head west, past a larger than life seated statue of Sir Thomas Moore (in bushes on the right; another wealthy local) to cross the end of Old Church Street and go down steps to a lower garden. At the foot of the steps turn sharp left to see a sculpture by Jacob Epstein. This is a reminder he lived for a few years in a house hereabouts — completely destroyed. At the time the area had many authors, artists and actresses. Go up steps at the far end to the pavement corner. Two boys, looking as if scrumping apples, climb an 1874 MBW lamp standard and monument to the Embankment, cast at Coalbrookdale. (Photo 6). (An identical monument is on the Embankment, further east.)

Ahead right is the stone main hall of Sir John Crosby House, which stood in Bishopsgate. It was dismantled and rebuilt here in 1906-10. Later additions, some more in keeping than others, include an international students' hostel, although the autumn 1939 Government Review shows it was already housing 52 river emergency police. Cross Cheyne Embankment and walk a short distance onto the east side of Battersea Bridge (1885) to consider the difference between it and the nearby delicate Albert Bridge, 1873, strengthened 1880s, with a central support added in 1973. Cross the road at the lights to the north-west corner of the bridge and follow the Cheyne Walk pavement to a little path in the bushes, where there is a statue of Whistler (1834-1903), who lived nearby. Nothing commemorates his next door neighbours — the Brunel family. The substantial stench pipe is by J Stone & Co, London SE; the firm's products included cast-iron pipes.

Continue west, passing house boats, a feature of the riverside here for over 100 years, until bearing left into Lots Road, then go through a gateway on the left into an open area of cobbles and parkland. Surprisingly, discrete doors on the left are public toilets, open in late July. The open area had been wharves for the originally separate, later combined (1965), Boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea. Refuse was transferred into river craft, using cranes on concrete jetties. Two jetties are still there, with substantial craft wooden crash/rubbing posts. Do walk onto one. Cremorne Gardens once stretched inland from the river. Iron gates saved from the Kings Road entrance are a 'feature'. (Photo 7). Also, not so obvious, is a white stone plaque to Chelsea Borough employees who died in WW1 and WW2.

Cremorne Gardens gates, Chelsea Borough Wharf Lots Road, Chelsea Flour Mill chimney

Returning to the road, continue past Chelsea Wharf, a gated residential property. Its core is a rebuilt 1894 London General Omnibus Company property to receive and chop river-delivered hay (etc.) as fodder for bus horses. When GLIAS visited the site in 1978 and 1979 it was a flour mill. There is a short note by John Parker in Newsletter 50 and a waterside photo in Newsletter 62. Continue along Lots Road, crossing to the far corner of the junction with Ashburnham Road and turn to look back at the former flour mill's squat brick chimney. (Photo 8).

Across Lots Road, Station House has flats for employees working in the LCC storm water pumping station alongside (1904, 'listed', Photo 9). As London has a common sewerage system for clean and dirty waste water, it needs to handle large volumes in wet weather. This was one of several stations built to pump excess amounts of (very diluted) 'flow' directly into the Thames. Original gas engines were replaced by diesels, and new pumps installed, in the 1930s. The chunky/ugly outside exhaust pipes are more recent. (A supplement to GLIAS Newsletter 71 describes Shad Thames storm water pumping station). Work is now under way to build a new sewer in the river bed to cope. In the roadway outside Station House is a circular drain cover, marked LCC MD. (Main drainage?).

Lots Road, LCC storm water pumping station Lots Road power station. 17 Sept, 1978

Ahead left is the 453 feet long Lots Road power station, built to supply the District and some other Underground railways, plus electric trams. (Photo 10). It operated 1905 to 2002, and is now undergoing, appropriately 're-generation'. Two of the original four chimneys were removed in the 1960s. In July 2020 both ends had scars where ancillary buildings have been removed. Three cranes stood within the roofless shell, whilst the lower part of the Lots Road wall was encased in hoarding and scaffold. Nothing is yet known about the miscellaneous works/warehouses on the other side of Lots Road. Short researched article, anyone?

Continue until turning left on a wide footpath alongside the road to stop on a bridge and look along the Chelsea Creek side of the power station, where coal and later oil fuel were delivered. Turn round. The Creek itself turned north immediately west of the road bridge alongside, leading to the Kensington Canal. This pre-dated the railway a bit further west, (1858), which ran parallel to the canal's route to a basin near Addison Road. Directly west there was a short branch beneath that railway to a basin to supply coal to the now demolished Imperial gas works.

The Thames Path makes a large loop alongside Chelsea Creek, opposite the power station, a pleasant enough walk. However, for us it appears to be fine to take a short cut and continue south on the road towards, and then down steps to the left (east) side of, Chelsea Harbour Hotel. Below is Chelsea Harbour as is, Chelsea Basin as was, amid a 1980s development which includes changed land levels. The Basin was jointly owned by the GW and LNW Railway companies. Rail access was from the much higher line, via a junction some distance to the north. A 1916 map shows eight parallel sidings on each side of the Basin. No less than 20 wagon turntables allowed 'sideways' shunting between lines, one wagon at a time. Head around the (rebuilt) Basin to the lock at the far side, which gives river access. A foot bridge carries the looped Thames Path. Turn right towards the railway bridge, then right again onto a road parallel to the railway viaduct. This leads to Imperial Wharf station, named after the gas works basin mentioned previously. As of end July 2020, London Overground trains run Clapham Junction — West Brompton — Willesden — Stratford), while a short way further are Route C3 bus stops (this side of the road to Earls Court; other side to Clapham Junction). All photographs 2020 except the last one (1978). David Thomas

They laughed at Canaletto

People who laugh at something often do so because of ignorance. A good example are the views of London painted by Canaletto c.1750, some of which show London with red roof tiles similar to those in Italy — 'clearly he worked up this painting when back home in Venice' — snort.

In fact London was generally roofed with red tiles until the 19th century. The change came with the introduction of roofing slates, principally from North Wales. Slate is a fine-grained metamorphic rock which splits easily into thin sheets which can be trimmed to make the well-known roof slates. These are very durable and lighter than clay pantiles. Victorian builders made use of these slates in huge numbers and the slate extraction industry boomed. From small ports such as Porthmadog, Dinorwic and Penrhyn came ever increasing numbers. Using slates meant that the timber structure forming the pitched roof of a building could be made lighter, saving timber and money. If you put clay tiles on a Victorian slate roof you will strain the roof truss.

Before the widespread use of slates in London, clay tiles, like bricks, were made in the countryside just beyond the built-up area. Tile Kiln Lane at Archway indicates where a kiln was situated and there was a tile works just to the north of Battlebridge Basin at King's Cross.

When I first saw the House Mill at Three Mills restored I was taken aback — 'who on earth put that awful red roof on top'. Then I realised that this red tiled roof was correct. Yes, that was how it looked before the tiles were replaced by more modern and lighter slates.

When you look at a Victorian tiled roof, and these are still quite common, think on the fact that the older tiles would probably have come to London by sea round Lands End in a small ship. This might well have been a sailing ship, something like the Kathleen and May * in size, or even smaller.

This is a very broad-brush account. Slate roof tiles have been used from Roman times and probably before but it was the Victorian period which saw their widespread use in London. You sometimes see a house with a tiled roof named The Pantiles. These properties usually date from the 20th century.

Over the last 50 years lighter artificial fibre-cement slates have been developed; from a distance these have an appearance similar to traditional slates and reduce roof loading even more. Bob Carr

MWB markers


The enquiry about Metropolitan Water Board marker posts near a service reservoir in Bromley (GLIAS Newsletter July 2020) shows not a stone but a marker post made of cast iron. The material is recognisable because the letters M.W.B. are 'embossed', i.e. standing out from the surface, which is simple for an iron-founder to do but difficult for a stonemason — a mason will normally chisel his lettering into a stone, what is called 'incised'. An iron casting is made with a wooden 'pattern', shaped to match the finished product so as to form the hollow mould of sand into which the molten iron is poured. Individual letters carved from wood or cast from metal can readily be applied to the surface of the pattern. I imagine the letters might be fixed with wood screws for robustness — the countersunk heads would then have needed disguising with filler, but may have left some mark.

Some public landowners used cast-iron posts to demarcate property boundaries, but in this case the posts are likely to be marking a pipe track, i.e. the line of a buried water main, either by a series in a line or merely where the main crosses a road or changes course. Let me know if this tallies with what can be seen on the ground. Malcolm Tucker

The Chocolate Museum, Brixton

The Chocolate Museum, based at 187 Ferndale Road, SW9 8BA, has a website and anyone can receive their free weekly Newsletter. I was a bit sceptical, as it has sections aimed at school children, but it is currently running through associations of chocolate with successive letters of the alphabet. As of 9 August 2020 this had reached 'O for Oxidation'. A new slant on an everyday topic. Check it out on
David Thomas

Death of Mike Horne

Mike, best known as a transport historian but with interests in other aspects of London history which he mentioned on the Metadyne website, died in March 2020. The site was an excellent source of detailed information for an article on Metropolitan Line signal boxes (GLIAS Newsletter October 2018). It is understood, however, that he made arrangements for the site to be continued (which it is, as of late July), although there may be short closures for maintenance/updates. David Thomas

New River Head

The former Smeaton beam engine house, along with adjacent buildings, is going to have a new use.

New River Head engine house, Islington, 2016

The House of Illustration, renamed the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, is to move in — planning to open in autumn 2022 after spending £8m on the project. There will, of course, be a café. Noted in the free e-Newsletter Ian Visits, August 2020. David Thomas

Tugs on the Thames

Over the past year the scene has been changing. Now most of the tugs you see on the River are GPS vessels. GPS are Marine Contractors who engage in Civil Engineering, Dredging, Diving and Marine & Offshore Work. They also transport loads by dumb barge and are heavily involved with the Thames Tideway Project. With so much new construction taking place in London moving building materials by water has become a major operation, reducing the number of lorry journeys in the London area.

GPS Avenger

Some GPS tugs make quite long sea passages. In January this year GPS Avenger towed two barges from South Holland to Le Havre and then proceeded to Romania without a load, presumably to carry out work there. This could have been to tow a barge from Constanta to the Thames. In the photograph of GPS Avenger (above) Woolwich Dockyard is in the background.

GPS Iberia

The second photograph shows GPS Iberia pushing a dumb barge. Tugs do not pull barges as much as they used to. The barge is TTT-35 where TTT stands for Thames Tideway Tunnel.

Finally we have GPS Racia 78 gross registered tons, this is quite an old tug built in 1964. Bob Carr

GPS Racia

Percy Ingle Bakers close

At the end of June Percy Ingle bakers in Hackney announced a phased closure with a proposed final trading date of 31 March 2021.

For me, Ingles has been a modest highlight of everyday life since I moved to East London. Arriving relatively recently from the suburbs of the home counties where such local chains have really died out, I was pleased to see one that seemed still to be viable; but in fact according to a report in British Baker (see link below), in recent years, rather than profits the company was glad to report reduced losses. For 2017-18 these were £165,000 on a turnover (sic) of £13.1 million. The business, founded in Clarence Road, Hackney in 1954 by a third-generation baker, had over 50 shops, all (latterly at least) supplied by a single bakery in Leyton.

I will miss much of what they offered, if not the whole range. Ingles has in the recent past played up their history with, amongst other things, 'A Family History of Percy Ingle' (undated, c.2017), a printed brochure giving a potted history of the company. This was in fact mostly taken up with details of the preparation of various Ingle specialities (though the famed Tottenham Cake is not amongst them) and the frustrating lack of historical detail in the publication had at least one IA acquaintance of mine spluttering into his coffee.

It was not until the estate agent's boards appeared over my two local branches that I was forced to face the fact that I had probably eaten my last Percy Ingle doughnut. There have been several reports in the press and I append a selection.

Evening Standard, 22 June 2020:

British Baker report, 29 June 2020:

To my taste a rather over-sweet confection, but more bounteous than what British Baker had to offer, Inews, 23 June 2020:

And finally, while it lasts, Ingles' website:

Ben Weiner

Wood Green

Bob Rust (GLIAS Newsletter July 2020) was absolutely correct when saying that the Wood Green to Alexandra Palace 'stroll' in the April issue was written to describe what can be seen en route. His personal recollections add a wonderful flavour and detail. Personal comments on other 'strolls' will be much appreciated. Bob wrote an item in the August 2004 Newsletter which mentioned other things in the area, including the slaughterhouse in his picture, but they made the 'stroll' that bit too long and will be included in future article. David Thomas

Wood Green trailer dust carts

As someone who was born and brought up in Wood Green I was fascinated to read Bob Rust's 'Wood Green Memories' (GLIAS Newsletter July 2020). Bob describes the system of refuse collection using combination motor/horse trailer dust carts. I remember these very well in the 1950s, as the family home was opposite one of the changeover points. We lived in a house in Bounds Green Road, N11, on the corner of Queens Road; on the other side of the main road were Bounds Green Infants, Junior and Secondary Modern Schools. I recall often seeing the dust cart, hauled by a tractor unit, appearing from the Wood Green direction and pulling up outside the school. The tractor unit was then released and driven away, after which a horse (I never noticed where it came from) was backed into the shafts. The dust cart was then turned across Bounds Green Road and into Queens Road, beginning the house-to-house collection round.

Watching this routine was a regular feature of my young life but one week I had a surprise. The dust cart appeared as usual along Bounds Green Road hauled by the tractor unit but instead of stopping for the changeover it turned directly into Queens Road. It then crawled along the road with the dustmen emptying the bins as usual. After that I never saw the horses again. This would have been in perhaps 1957 or 1958 and was an early lesson for me on the reality of technological change.

Wood Green Weekly Herald, 9 May 1958

In 1958 horses were still being used in Wood Green for some of the dustcart duties and on 9 May 1958 the Wood Green Weekly Herald reproduced a photograph of one of the horses decorated for May Day together with its proud team of dustmen. The distinctive curved front of the trailer cart can be seen in the background. John Liffen

Shad Thames gas engines video now on Youtube

GLIAS recorded these engines on Saturday 20 June 1980 with a follow-up on 17 November and I have slides taken on both visits. A recording report was attached to GLIAS Newsletter 71.

Shad Thames Pumping Station from north-east 1980

Just before lockdown I was consulted by Lisa Soverall, Heritage Officer, Southwark Local History Library & Archive about GLIAS's involvement with recording the Shad Thames gas engines and whether we had a digitised version of the professionally made film by British Gas at the time (GLIAS Newsletter August 1982). Unfortunately, my own copy uses the now obsolete Umatic format. The BFI archives suggest that the video was made in 1988 but this is wrong. My copy of the video is clearly dated by British Gas as 18 October 1982. Whether this is the date it was filmed or the date released I do not know.

Pumping by Gas Engine Bob Carr

Lisa has informed me that she has arranged with the National Grid to have London's Screen Archives host the film called Pumping by Gas Engine on its YouTube channel ( and website ( for free. You can watch the video including a much younger Bob Carr by following the YouTube link. David Perrett

London items seen near Edinburgh in July

I have spent hours during lockdown digitising my IA slides taken between 1974 and my purchase of a digital camera around 2000 — some 10,000 slides. A slow job, about 4 minutes per slide, since scanning usually needed to be followed by restoration using Photoshop. The cheap colour film I could afford in the 1970s is rapidly fading. I've now digitised about half my collection. There is still the B&W collection, equally large to start on! Some of my oldest slides were taken around Croydon where I lived at the time. David Perrett

Addington Well Pumping Station, Croydon

My first IA visit was to Addington Well pumping station where water was still pumped by steam in 1974. Croydon was always rather backward in its approach to water supply and as late as 1893 it installed the beam pumping engines along with coal-fired Cornish boilers. The first by Easton & Anderson of Erith was installed in 1888. A second by Glenfield & Kennedy was installed in 1893. There was also a small vertical engine that drove an overhead crane. Five boilers, by Hewitt & Kellett, Bradford 6ft x 25ft, two supplied in 1888 and three in 1931, were still being hand-stoked in 1974. The beam engines ran for the very last time on 29 June 1975. There was then a battle to preserve the site since it was purpose-built and the steam-powered crane was believed to be unique but this failed. The beam engines were removed for preservation. The Museum of London acquired the Easton engine and it is now loaned to Crossness and the Glenfield engine is preserved at Strumpshaw Hall Steam Museum in Norfolk. The boilers were presumed scrapped.

The boilers in Addington when still being fired in early 1975 The rusting boiler in Prestongrange

Last August during a visit to Edinburgh (minus its festival) we visited the large beam engine still in situ at Prestongrange Colliery, east of Edinburgh. What a forlorn site it is! The engine house and its Harvey's beam engine are secured but the visitors centre where you could ask to see the engine was closed but looked uninviting. The rest of the site is totally unkempt and various pieces of mining machinery are rusting away in the grass or like the railway wagons simply dropping to pieces. To my surprise there were the remains of a Cornish Boiler with a small note saying it was acquired from Addington Well pumping station in the 1980s. The steam crane behind the boiler is by Whitakers of Horsforth, near Leeds. David Perrett

Coade Stone in Portobello

Parking the car on a very busy Portobello sea front we noticed some rather odd but tall pillars in a small park. A plaque said that they had been rescued from the garden of Argyle House, Portobello in 1989 and re-erected in this park in 2006. They are made of Coade Stone.

Coade stone pillars in Portobello

The designs on the two smaller pillars are identical to the Coade Stone chimneys of Dalmeny House, built in 1817, near South Queensferry, seat of Lord Rosebery. Eleanor Coade (1773-1821) had a manufactory on the South Bank of the Thames near Waterloo Bridge where she made artificial stone objects using her secret recipe. Coade stone architectural decorations can be seen on buildings in many parts of London with the best-known example being the South Bank Lion on Westminster Bridge (GLIAS Newsletter June 2009). It is speculated that shipping from a wharf at Lambeth to Leith docks would explain how they got to Edinburgh. David Perrett

London Bridge signal box

Some consider it a visual gem, others not. London Bridge signal box, (called an 'Area Signalling Centre'), opened in stages during 1974-5. In turn it closed in stages, the final section being switched out on 25 July 2020.

London Bridge signal box, 16 June 2013

Network Rail has asked for ideas on re-use. That is, presuming access can be arranged... Photo 16 June 2013. David Thomas

Early C20th electrical junction boxes

On one of my local walks I came across this junction box (below). I've seen a couple of other local examples, also painted silver, but this one is the largest and has some identifiable information. It's on the corner of Carlyle Road and Northampton Road in Addiscombe.

Corner of Carlyle Road and Northampton Road in Addiscombe

I have no idea what CCEL is and all I can dig out about the Simplified Underground Conductor Co. Ltd. is that they had a patent for a conduit in 1904 but, according to the London Gazette, were wound up in February 1911.

It's a small piece if industrial history and I'd be keen to find out a little more if possible.
Gareth Page. Email:

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© GLIAS, 2020