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Notes and news — November 2020

In this issue:

The lump coal crisis

It is currently proposed that no more coal in lumps is to be mined in Britain, it will be banned. This could have serious implications for the heritage sector. Coal will still be produced for power stations but this is small coal because when it arrives at a power station it is ground in ball mills into really fine powder.

The Free Miners of the Forest of Dean are exempt from the proposed ban; small quantities of steam coal should still be available for some time from South Wales and a small mine in the North of England can supply anthracite, but not in large enough quantities for a mainline steam locomotive.

An option is to import Russian coal for locomotives such as Flying Scotsman and Tornado but this will involve a larger carbon footprint compared with opencast mining in the North of England. It is not only railway engines that require lump coal, there are other locomotive-type boilers to be fired. What about traction engines and steam-powered road vehicles?

The steel industry requires coking coal for blast furnaces and blacksmiths use coke breeze. For traditional demonstrations of blacksmithing coal in small lumps is often in use. Country houses and stately homes like to have a traditional coal fire over the Christmas period and ordinary domestic coal fires are to be completely prohibited. The latter prohibition will hardly be of concern in London where traditional coal fires came to an end when smokeless zones were introduced following the Clean Air Act of 1956. Bob Carr

Of 'Coals From Newcastle' and 'Aston Martin'

This unlikely, to me at least, pairing was brought together in Nigel McMurray's 2020 biography of 'Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland — The Legend of Newcastle' [ISBN 9781659997972]. Sir Arthur, 'became an international figure in the shipping trade including owning docks on the Thames, and was sometime owner of Aston Martin and Dunstanburgh Castle'.

Arthur (1867-1953) was the seventh of 10 children; his father, B J Sutherland, a Newcastle businessman, became a major importer of grain, flour and cheese, and a coal exporter. In 1892 at the age of 25 Arthur persuaded his father into a new venture by raising the money to build a ship and so create a shipping company. On the unexpected death of his father in 1901, Arthur took over the business which became a limited liability company in 1902 with the name 'BJ Sutherland & Co Ltd'. Arthur gradually built up his shipping empire, mainly the Tyne-Tees Co. Ltd. as well as the Free Trade Wharf Co. Ltd. whose wharfage on the Thames, some mile-and-a-half down river from Tower Bridge, he expanded and whose principal import was 'sea-borne coal' which came from the North-East of England and South Wales. Sir Arthur's colliers were one of many fleets of independent colliers that came into the Port of London with most of their coal going to the numerous industries on the banks of the Thames, such as the gas and electricity supply companies, the London County Council tramways department, London Underground, plus cement works, sugar refineries, paper mills. [The coal for domestic consumption came mainly by rail from the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire coal fields into the original Lewis Cubitt's King's Cross — now the Granary Complex]

Sir Arthur's youngest son Gordon, was a 'petrol head', choosing not to follow in his father's shipping footsteps but became an engineer obtaining a diploma with honours from the Chelsea Automobile Engineering Training College with expertise in racing cars. In 1932 Gordon persuaded his father to purchase the Aston Martin works at Feltham, Middlesex. This was deemed by The Motor (13 December) to be 'one of the most important announcements in Aston Martin's history', for Aston Martin had just survived the Great Depression and it took Sir Arthur's investments to give the company a long sought after financial stability. On the advice of Lord Ridley of Northumberland, a car racing enthusiast who had set various speed records at Brooklands, Sir Arthur in 1935 injected a further ₤10,000 on the grounds that racing was an important part of the development of a car as well as good publicity. Sir Arthur became the chairman of the directors with Gordon as managing director and engine developer. Gordon would race their cars at Brooklands, including in 1939 at the last race at the circuit which he lapped at 105.97mph. Despite the international reputation of its cars for design and performance, Aston Martin always struggled financially and was dependent on it being a subsidiary of Sir Arthur's successful BJ Sutherland & Co. which held shares in it. During the Second World War, the firm switched over to wartime production and also suffered bomb damage. However, Sir Arthur anticipated little post-War demand for elite cars and the company was a real drain on BJ Sutherland & Co. and so in September 1944 he offered to sell Aston Martin to Gordon for ₤5, which Gordon accepted. Now for the first time Gordon had absolute control over the company but not with his father's financial resources to produce new models. However, Gordon also possessed the family eye for good business and in 1947 he advertised the company for sale in 'The Times' and sold it to the Huddersfield precision engineering firm of David Brown Ltd for ₤20,500. Essentially, Aston Martin was but an unusual glamorous indulgence by Sir Arthur to his son for BJ Sutherland & Co. had taken a considerable loss on its holdings. Peter J Butt

Energy for free

Colossal quantities of water flow in and out of London twice every 24-hours (water is heavy — a cubic metre weighs one tonne). This flow passes right through London as far as Teddington. The Thames is tidal but we now make very little use of all the free energy it could afford us. Two hundred years ago waterwheels drove millstones and until recent time numerous ships were brought up to London with the help of the tide and returned to the estuary on the ebb.

Apart from people who use the Thames, most of us seem to have forgotten about the tidal nature of the river but a recent video currently available on the internet shows, almost in real time, two men Colin and Shaun Dobson in a narrow boat making the somewhat adventurous journey from Teddington Lock to Limehouse basin (ex Regent's Canal Dock). Leaving early in the day just after high tide at Teddington Colin and Shaun made a surprisingly rapid journey travelling most of the way at six or seven miles per hour — the current can run at four or five mph. Perhaps the most difficult part was the turn into Limehouse lock but despite some danger they accomplished this manoeuvre successfully — see the Foxes Afloat channel on You Tube, vlog 120.

The ebb tide which flows down river is faster than the flood tide which flows up river but the flow of the flood tide is still quite fast. Until ten or twenty years ago you could still see a good number of Thames lighters — by then all of steel construction. They still had their cunning 'swim ends' which in the hands of a skilled lighterman could exploit the currents in a surprising way enabling the craft to be brought to almost any downstream wharf that might be chosen.

This was how Thames waterman used to move goods about on the Thames, note at speeds of up to 4 or 5 mph once Sir Joseph Bazalgette had narrowed the Thames (before the Thames embankments were built the river flowed more slowly). True, later on, steam tugs were used to tow trains of lighters, by this time people had become less patient and when plenty of steam power was available waiting for the right state of the tide, which might entail a delay of up to 12 hours, became irksome.

Thames watermen still practised their craft skills and at least until recently, say 1990 or later, could demonstrate the art of handling a lighter on the tideway, just using sweeps (large oars). If we take the example of a lighter travelling from Teddington Lock or Brentford down to the Port of London and remember the narrowboat film with Colin and Shaun, a man and a boy with sweeps could perform this journey perhaps with a load of 50 to 100 tons in a time comparable to that which could be accomplished with a horse and cart — and with a much heavier load. This was how heavy loads were moved about on the water before we got into the habit of using more fossil fuel than we really needed to.

A few people do still make use of the tide for small-ship and boat repair. One way of doing this is to use a floating dock. You open the cocks in the floating dock and allow it to settle onto a hard surface at the bottom (or perhaps a slipway). Next you position the vessel to be worked upon so that when the tide goes out the craft will settle on the wooden blocks arranged along the floor of the dock. At low tide you close the cocks; the water will have drained out of the dry dock by now. As the tide comes in the dry dock carrying the ship or boat to be repaired will float off and you will be able to work on your vessel in the dry at any convenient time, and as the dock is now floating you can move it to another nearby location.

. © Bob Carr, 3 Sept 2018

When the work is completed the cocks of the floating dock are opened and the dock sinks to the bottom again, the repaired vessel floats off. We are now ready for the next vessel. The procedure above has been completed without recourse to energy-expensive pumping.

The tide also assists the removal of London's rubbish. Tugs towing barges loaded with refuse containers save fuel by travelling down river on the ebb and returning on the flood. Bob Carr

Hammersmith Bridge

Hammersmith Bridge. © Robert Mason

Hammersmith Bridge closed to all traffic in August for safety reasons after increased cracking, which is thought to have been triggered by the hot summer weather.

The 133-year-old bridge has been closed to motorised traffic since April 2019 after critical faults were found in the ageing cast-iron pedestals that hold the suspension system in place, and it is now shut to all pedestrians and cyclists.

The Sir Joseph Bazalgette-designed bridge, which opened in 1887, is an example of an 'eyebar' suspension bridge or 'chain' bridge which are quite rare. They tend to be the oldest types of extant suspension bridges because they were superseded by stronger wire cable suspension bridges.

The total cost of repairs is estimated at ₤141m, with ₤46m needed just to prevent the bridge from collapsing.

Hammersmith Bridge used to carry 22,000 motor vehicles a day. The government's new Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce has proposed a ferry across the Thames by 'early next year'.

Waterloo — Adieu and welcome

The Adieu refers to the Ian Allan bookshop in Lower Marsh, which catered for transport and military interests. It closed at the end of October.

The welcome refers to two new items on the walkway above the concourse at Waterloo station. (But in mid-October parts were closed off if shops alongside were not open).

The first is 'The Sunbathers' (1951), a pair, nude, who were on a vertical wall near the Festival of Britain site and, recently restored, affixed to the wall here in August 2020. An accompanying framed photograph shows onlookers peering down on them over a wall. Coincidentally, the young child face, part of the station's architecture, above to the left, appears open mouthed in horror. (Photo 1).

The material used was Pericrete, based on a cement and plastics mix, named after the surname of its sculptor, Peri, who came to Britain in 1933 and died in 1967. Not so far away, at Vauxhall, are three reliefs by him on the outer walls of the staircases of flats in LCC post-war housing estates. They are:

1. Children holding hands in a chain, 1949, one colour, Darley House, Laud Street
2. Boys playing football, 1952, 2 colours, Wareham House, SE end of Fentiman Road
3. Mother and children playing, 1949, 2 colours, Horton House, SE end of Fentiman Road (near Wareham House). (Photo 2).

The second, a few paces to the left of 'The Sunbathers' is a memorial, also recently installed 'Dedicated to the memory of those from the allied forces who gave their lives in the Battle of Waterloo'. A circular metal piece carries the names Wellington and Waterloo. (Photo 3).

Beyond that, previously seen distantly from ground level, the arch of the vehicle exit from the station has six panels carved with the names of counties served by the London & South Western Railway. Whether or not the Isle of Wight was, is, or should be, a separate county doesn't matter — a sixth name was needed to complete the symmetry. They could have had more to choose from if they had included the Channel Islands, served by the Company's steamers, or counties served by through carriages over other Companies' lines, say to Cardiff or Sheffield. The LNWR lodges on the Euston Road side of Euston Square display a more liberal interpretation of towns served. And yes, through carriages from there did indeed reach Tenby. David Thomas

The sunbathers, with 1951 framed photograph below left and child face above left Mother and children playing, 1949, Horton House Waterloo memorial

Camden Highline

A group hoping to convert the disused elevated railtrack from Camden Town to King's Cross into a creative green space (GLIAS Newsletter October 2017) has launched a competition to find the design team who will bring the project to life.

The Camden Highline charity wants to create a 15-minute green walking route, inspired by a similar scheme in New York, over 1.1km of disused railway viaduct.

Starting at Kentish Town Road to the west, and ending at York Way to the east, the route will run parallel but separate to the active North London Line, through residential and industrial areas, as well as conservation areas.

The trackbed has been disused since the late 1980s when the four tracks were changed to double-track after the closure of the short-lived Freightliner Terminal at York Way.

Arch 42 at Nine Elms

One of the arches under the Victorian railway viaduct that carries the South Western main line into Waterloo station is the subject of an architectural competition.

The area around Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station is currently being transformed with new Underground stations on the Northern Line Extension, and planners want to create a new tunnel for pedestrians and cyclists at Arch 42 under the line which currently forms an inconvenient barrier.

Shortlisted teams will be awarded a ₤500 honorarium to develop their proposals, which will feature in a public exhibition in late November. The overall budget for the winning design is expected to be in the region of ₤165,000 + VAT including all fees, to develop and deliver the project which can be installed ahead of the opening of the Northern Line Extension next year.

Nine Elms was the London and South Western Railway's first London terminus when it opened on 21 May 1838. It closed in 1848 when the railway was extended to the new terminus at Waterloo. The Nine Elms to Waterloo viaduct over the Lambeth Marsh is 2 miles (3.2 km) in length and has over 290 arches.

The new Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station stations are due to open on the extended line from Kennington in autumn 2021. The extension may be continued to Clapham Junction in the future, although that decision depends on what happens to Crossrail 2.

It is not clear whether this will mean the end for the 'Kennington Loop', the only place on the Underground where you can leave a station on one train, and arrive back at the same station at the next stop.

The loop, situated just south of Kennington station, allows terminating trains to leave the southbound platform, do the loop and turn up on Kennington's northbound platform a couple of minutes later.

Having a butchers at shop fronts

Sidney Ray has kindly sent some photographs of bovine heads and a delightfully period chemists'. He did not make detailed location notes at the time of taking the photos, 30 or so years ago, so if any are recognised as extant, or the fate of the site is known, please do let me know. And, of course, do report any further sightings! David Thomas
Contact: or 36 Pearman St, SE1 7RB

Fitzrovia. © Sidney Ray Paddington area. Murrays. © Sidney Ray Near Nags Head, Holloway. © Sidney Ray

Garner & Pope Ltd, Chemists, 198 Haverstock Hill, NW3. © Sidney Ray< Part of façade of an 1869 shop at Marlborough. © Sidney Ray


The process to hand over the completed Elizabeth line rail infrastructure is under way, with Crossrail planning to start intensive operational testing, known as 'trial running', at the earliest opportunity in 2021.

Passenger services are earmarked for the first half of 2022, over three years after originally planned (GLIAS Newsletter April 2016) and ₤3bn over budget.

The introduction of full services will be aligned with the National Rail timetable change which occurs twice a year in May and December.

The line will increase the capacity of London's rail network by 21 per cent, with longer trains carrying up to 1,500 passengers, twice that of the average Underground train.

Euston redevelopment

Statue of Robert Stephenson at Euston railway station. © Robert Mason

The statue of pioneering engineer Robert Stephenson which has been located at Euston railway station for nearly 150 years has been removed and put into storage while work takes place on the High Speed 2 redevelopment.

In London Stephenson (1803-1859) is primarily associated with the development of the London and Birmingham, the first inter-city railway into London which opened in 1838.

The Grade II-listed statue made from cast bronze was presented to the London & North Western Railway by the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1871. It was moved from its original site between the two entrance lodges in Euston Square in 1968 when the station was controversially rebuilt to accommodate the electrified West Coast Main Line and has stood in its latest location since 2008.

After the overhaul Euston station will have 11 new 400m-long platforms, a new concourse and improved connections to local Underground stations.

Historic London street furniture

Gully grates, fire hydrants, manhole covers and direction signs are among items of street furniture which may be mundane in themselves but may also be a reminder of the names of local authorities and public utility companies long since gone.

Doug Rose has been photographing them for several years and has now placed a large selection of his images in a new section of his personal website,

Doug will be known to many for his magisterial book Tiles of the Unexpected Underground, a history and review of the decorative platform tile schemes installed on three London Underground lines in 1906-7, and who gave a GLIAS talk on this subject in April 2018. The new section, 'Historic London Street Furniture' also includes extensive background and interpretive notes by our member John Liffen.

Vestry of St Mary Islington (Holloway Road N7 at junction with Digswell Street) Southgate Urban District Council (Green Lanes N21 outside no. 884) East Barnet Valley Urban District Council (Hadley Highstone EN5 opposite Dury Road)

Progress on super sewer

Tideway, the company constructing London's new 25km super sewer known as the Thames Tideway Tunnel, has an interactive online map showing the current locations of its tunnel boring machines (TBMs).

This expansion of London's sewer network is due to be finished by 2024. Two sections — from Fulham to Acton and from Battersea to Fulham — have already been completed. There are 24 construction sites in London, from Acton in West London to Beckton in the east.

The six TBMs are all named after women from history who lived or worked near Tideway's construction sites. The latest machine to complete its work, TBM Rachel, was named after Rachel Parsons (1885-1956), an engineer and advocate for women's employment rights who set up the first women-only engineering company in Fulham in 1920, Atalanta Ltd in Fulham Road.

At the start of the First World War she replaced her brother as a director on the board of their father's Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company.

She was found dead on 2 July 1956 and an ex-employee stableman Dennis Pratt was convicted of her manslaughter.

The GLIAS Database online

The first selection of IA sites and images from the GLIAS database can now be seen online on the Industrial Heritage Online (IHO) website ( without the need to sign in to the website. It is hoped that more sites and images will be added to those already available over the next few months.

Over 3,600 sites in the original GLIAS database have been copied to IHO and some new sites and images have also been added. Checking and updating the information before it is released for public viewing is, however, taking time. Anyone who would like to help with this or would simply like to view the complete set of sites on the database is welcome to contact to obtain further information.

Industrial Heritage Online was created and is hosted by the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society. As well as the IA sites in and around London, it includes a large number of site records and images for Yorkshire, the North East and Cumbria. Long term, it is planned that IHO will become self-administrating and provide a means for archiving IA site information for the whole of the country. Andrew Turner

Electrical junction boxes

Corner of Carlyle Road and Northampton Road in Addiscombe

Gareth Page wonders at the meaning of the initials CCEL (GLIAS Newsletter September 2020).

In Ron Brooker, 2013. 'The Dawning of a New Age Croydon and the Advent of the Electricity Supply 1881-1898' Proc. Croydon Nat. Hist. Soc.: 19(6). it is reported that it was the Croydon Corporation Electric Lighting Order 1891 that provided Croydon Council the powers needed to supply Croydon with electric lighting. It seems that the initials CCEL might be relevant here? Paul Rainey

The picture of the electrical junction box stirred a childhood memory. In 1900 before the launching of the Northmet Power Company, although based in Wood Green but covering a very large area, there were many small generating companies serving individual areas which were so far as I know incorporated into it. Under the Northmet all the supplies were intended to be alternating current which of course covered the part of Wood Green where I lived. However, in my 1930s childhood the supply to the Noel Park Estate where my great uncle lived was still direct current under the old set up. My Dad was knowledgeable about electricity (Pre-war he wired our house using lead sheathed cable and buckle clips) so if Mum was going to take me to see Uncle Joe he would say to me, 'Don't touch the light switches!' and to Mum, 'Don't touch the light switches with wet hands'. All houses had porcelain switches which had brass dollies and screw-on brass covers. But it was those in remaining DC areas that still occasionally produced a fatality.

I don't know if this counts as industrial archaeology. My uncle was foreman tool maker at MK electrical. He was involved in the tooling for the revolutionary rectangular pin 13 amp plug, making the tools for the injection moulding of the plastic parts. Those moulds required a high polish which in prototype was achieved using the dust from domestic vacuum cleaners blown through a modified spray gun. My Mum and neighbours saved it for him. Bob Rust

Where is this?

London is changing and many of us do not go out and about as often as we used to. So when you do go out it can be something of a surprise — familiar places have sometimes become almost unrecognisable.

Where are these? Answer in the next issue.

From Cody Dock looking SE down Bow Creek towards London City Island

1. In the distance we see a magical city, framed in a rainbow bridge.

Looking east along Murrain Road, London N4

2. A new development in a style of architecture now popular where a one-bedroom flat can sell for half a million pounds. Bob Carr

Lectures in a Covid world

Zoom, the online video conference app, has been one of the big winners from the locked-down world in which we live. Now we are starting to see its use in delivering lectures which otherwise would have been cancelled.

A good example of this is Alan Burkitt-Gray's lecture to the Greenwich Industrial History Society 'Greenwich and Woolwich: the birthplace of the global telecoms industry'.

Not only could participants see the lecture delivered live, but there is also the facility to access a recorded version after the event on the society's Youtube channel.

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© GLIAS, 2020