Notes and news — February 2021
In this issue:
- Deptford Creek
- An oasis in the railway lands — Camley Street Natural Park
- Reading gasholder
- Rubber roads
- Concrete barges
- Lion fountains
- 13 amp plugs and other developments in domestic electrical installations
- More on the Bofors gun platform at Cheshunt
- Cash boost for historic dinosaurs
- London's engineers honoured
- Dairy building on the A3
- House Mill booklet
The railway lift bridge across Deptford Creek could still be raised until about 1970 because Thames barges used to go up the Creek as far as Deptford Bridge to unload at grain mills. This meant that round about high tide trains between London and a Greenwich were sometimes delayed.
Traffic using lighters would have been able to continue the half mile upstream to Deptford Bridge, the limit of navigation, for some years after that but by about 1980 most of this traffic would have ended. In addition to the well-known listed Mumford's Mill there used to be Robinson's Mill and a range of other buildings.
The following photograph taken by an unknown photographer shows the riverside looking south-west about 1979. On the left you can see part of Deptford East power station and to the far right is Borthwicks Wharf cold store — both now long gone. Just to the right of Deptford East power station we see what might be a mill complex. Behind the first building there is a range of buildings of increasing height — probably built between the wars.
The next photograph taken from the A200 Creek Road swing bridge in March 1981 looking south-west shows Mumford's Mill immediately to the left of the railway lift bridge, and there appear to be no other large buildings. These had perhaps been demolished by then?
After 40 years memory can easily pay tricks; can I remember Deptford Broadway being gloomy and dominated by massive buildings on the north side of Deptford Bridge? Some of this range of buildings may have included flour mills and granaries. There are GLIAS members who should still remember Deptford Bridge in the late 1970s. Do you remember any big 1930s buildings?
Were the buildings just to the right of the power station in the first photograph at Deptford Bridge or perhaps somewhere else, or am I just up the Creek? Bob Carr
An oasis in the railway lands — Camley Street Natural Park
In the centre of the former central London borough of St Pancras was a large industrial area informally called 'the railway lands', now largely redeveloped, encompassing the railway stations of King's Cross and St Pancras together with their extensive goods and coal yards plus the Regent's Canal and a gas works.
An 1890s map showed that to the NW of King's Cross were five blocks of coal drops or 'shoots' for the transfer of coal from wagons to carts or lorries using gravity. The two surviving blocks north of the canal now form the nucleus of the new Coal Drops Yard. Two other blocks were south of the canal to the east and west of Camley Street which runs NW from Goodsway which is adjacent to King's Cross. A fifth block was in Pancras Road (fig 1). All were demolished in 1977. Across the western site in Camley Street now run the tracks for the Eurostar into St Pancras. The eastern site (fig 2) lay vacant littered with industrial artefacts such as fractured ironwork (fig 3), a horsedrawn railway delivery cart (fig 4) and a cast iron mooring post (fig 5) beside the canal with Regency insignia. Eventually the site was repurposed (fig 6) and opened in 1983 as the two acre Camley Street Natural Park, a green oasis in the grimy environment.
fig 1. Midland Railway Coal drops and gasholders; fig 2. Camley Street, site after demolition of coal drops
fig 3. Demolition of coal drops; fig 4. Railway cart, Camley St 1960
fig 5. Camley Street, Regency mooring post by canal; fig 6. Site of park 1960s
The magnificent recycled wrought-iron gates (fig 7) are of note being formerly used for the Midland Railway yards in nearby Purchese Street. The park was much used by school groups and views were given of the nearby active gasholders (fig 8) framed by trees and tranquil ponds. The gasholders have mainly been relocated across the canal to Gasholder Park. The Natural Park has been progressively improved. A former water tower near St Pancras lock gives a splendid panoramic view (figs 9 and 10) of the Park, Coal Drops Yard, the stations, Crick Institute and social media headquarters buildings, now regenerating the district with a new industry. Sidney Ray
fig 7. Entrance gates 2019; fig 8. Camley St Natural Park 1970s
fig 9. Location of Camley Street Natural Park (centre); fig 10. Camley Street 2019 (all photos by the author during 1968-2019)
There have been delays in the demolition of the gasholder at Reading, see
More recent information received informally suggests that this demolition has still not taken place because of the Covid-19 virus pandemic. Does anyone have information as to the present situation? A photograph of this gasholder for the Newsletter would be appreciated — it is quite close to Blake's Lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal. Bob Carr
The piece on rubber roads (GLIAS Newsletter December 2020) stirred some best forgotten memories.
Back in the mid 50s I was doing London deliveries and a few pieces of rubber road still existed.
There are three I can recall.
Then there was the whole of central Oxford, originally to stop the noise from iron coach tyres from disturbing the scholars.
- Bridge Street, Westminster where it joined Parliament Street (great care approaching the lights).
- York Road (I think) past Price's Wax Candle factory.
- Grosvenor Place past the King Edward VII Hospital for Officers.
All actually a nightmare with rubber tyres lubricated with rain.
Quite a bit worse than its successors tar blocks and cobble stones, the latter of course were good for horses. Bob Rust
When steel was short in wartime concrete barges and even ships became a practical proposition. Sir Owen Williams was a leading figure in the development of such craft, see
By the riverside to the south of Rainham you can see a group of sunken concrete barges which were put there to help protect the embankment. In the photograph you can make out a well-known London landmark on the opposite bank — Crossness sewage-sludge incinerator. See
The barges were towed here and sunk in 1953 to shore up the flood defences which had been damaged by the huge surge tide of 31 January — 1 February 1953 and have been here ever since.
On Saturday 31 January 1953, late in the day and the following morning a serious storm caused a catastrophic storm surge — the combination of a high spring tide, a strong gale from the north compounded with the funnelling effect of the North Sea narrowing towards the south caused the sea to rise as much as 18ft above mean sea level. Most sea defences were overwhelmed and there was widespread flooding; a total of 307 people died in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
Canvey Island was inundated, with the loss of 58 lives. At Felixstowe 41 people died and 37 people died when the seafront village of Jaywick was flooded.
The surge also hit the Netherlands and north-west Belgium. In the Netherlands 1,836 people died, mostly in Zealand. There were also 19 deaths in eastern Scotland.
This was the worst natural disaster in modern British history and the worst flooding the Thames had seen in very many years. Bob Carr
In Regent's Park, the Avenue Gardens near the Broad Walk have been looking very fine in winter sunshine — see photograph below. The original Victorian ornaments have been restored over the last 25 years; we often only see Victorian gardens in a state of decay and a visit here is instructive. Some Victorian-style planting is also evident.
In the centre of these gardens there is a large stone bowl supported by four winged lions which was installed in 1863 — see photograph below.
The origin of this design is obscure, some writers suggest it was inspired by ornamental lions in Venice. There is a lion fountain in the Town Hall Square in Leicester, designed in 1879 by F J Hames, the architect of Leicester Town Hall:
What is surprising is that the Leicester fountain was copied and there is a similar example in Porto, the second largest city of Portugal.
A suitable public monument was required in Porto but there was disagreement as to its design. Some time later visitors from Porto saw the Leicester fountain being made at the Val d'Osne foundry in Paris and suggested that Porto might have a similar one. This appeared to be the solution and the example in Porto is a close copy of the Lion Fountain in Leicester.
The Porto fountain was inaugurated in 1886 to celebrate a new public water supply which was being installed in the locality. Bob Carr
13 amp plugs and other developments in domestic electrical installations
I was particularly interested to read Bob Rust's article on the 13 amp plug (GLIAS Newsletter December 2020) and the development of domestic cabling, since I had only a week or so before photographed items from my collection for inclusion in another paper.
The development of the 13amp, square pinned, fused plug and the associated shuttered socket was developed as a result of the committee convened by the Institution of Electrical Engineers at the behest of the Ministry of Works and published as Post-War Building Study No. 11 (Ministry of Works 1944). In the appendix at page 87 "Supplementary report on a recommended new standard socket-outlet and plug", is set out the desire for a national standard form of "Socket-Outlet and Plug".
At paragraph 5 they invited the trade organisation, the B.E.A.M.A., to "proceed as a matter of urgency with the preparation of suitable designs, which will form the subject of joint discussions with them prior to the submission of a request to the British Standards Institution for the preparation of an agreed standard". The result was, as Bob said, the 13 amp plug we all now take as standard, until we visit continental countries and experience the far inferior and less safe, plug and socket they use.
The report listed 13 points of "technical detail affecting the design of an 'all-purpose' socket-outlet and plug". These were:
1. To ensure safety, particularly of young children, the live contacts of the socket-outlet should be protected
2. The design of the socket-outlets and plugs should preclude "overhang" danger, e.g. it should not be possible to insert incorrectly one pin of the plug into the live contact tube of the socket and thus expose a live pin of the plug.
3. To reduce the liability to damage, socket-outlets in all new installations should be of the flush mounted or semi-recessed types.
4. Plugs, should be easy to withdraw and should be as light and compact as possible.
5. On A.C. circuits, which we have assumed will be universal in new buildings, disconnection can be safely made by withdrawing the plug; the expense and complication of a separate switch is therefore unnecessary in the standard design. It may, however, be desirable to have an alternative standard design incorporating a switch for use where this additional convenience is required.
6. The socket-outlet connection terminals shall accommodate a 7/·029 in. cable looped in and out, and also a "spur" connection if required, i.e. three 7/·029 in. cables require to be accommodated. Particular attention should be given to the size of the terminals and cable anchorages in both the socket-outlet and the plug.
7. In view of our recommendation that the socket-outlets should be placed well above floor level, the plug should be standardized with the flexible connection entry at the bottom.
8. Resilient members of the combination should be incorporated in the socket-outlet.
9. If solid pins are used they should not be slotted.
10. Provision should be made in the plug for the accommodation of a cartridge type fuse for 13 amps., and alternatively, for 3 amps. Fuses of these ratings should be interchangeable and readily identified.
11. In deciding the pin spacing, consideration should be given to a radical rearrangement of the pins, e.g. the live pin might be in the centre with the earth and neutral pins on the outside, or possibly the earth and neutral pins might be placed very close together.
12. It is desirable; if possible, that the new standard socket-outlet should fit into the existing standard type of connecting box.
13. The plug should accommodate satisfactorily flexible cords of circular cross section of either size 23/·0076 in. or 70/·0076 in.
Most of these features were in fact incorporated into the standard design. One observation is the recommendation for fuse sizes. Bob is correct that the early plugs used three ratings of fuse while the report, at paragraph 10, only envisaged two. While I agree with Bob that 3, 5 and 13 amp fuses were used I find that an early MK fused plug, which had an indicator to show which rating of fuse it contained, shows 3, 7 and 13 amp.
An early MK 13 amp fused plug, with an indicator to record the rating of the fuse within it. Note the descriptions are for 3, 7 and 13 amp fuses. The two screws on the right tighten the cable clamp, which will accommodate a number of cable sizes. The large screw, in the middle of the pins, secures the top cover.
Before the standardisation of the 13 amp plug and socket in conjunction with the ring main, domestic wiring comprised a number of spurs, of differing amperages, from a central fuse board. Plugs and sockets were of differing ratings generally 2, 5 and 15 amps. The pins might be just two, live and neutral or three including an earth terminable as well. Some two terminal plugs were for coaxial wires such as are now used for television aerial connections.
A selection of plugs and sockets. Bottom left is a 15 amp and a 5 amp surface mounted switched socket and two pin plug, above and to the right are a range of three pin plugs and sockets 2, 5 and 15 amp in size. On the right is a switched 13 amp socket and fused plug of the post WW2 period.
Bob referred to three main cable types i.e. lead sheathed, rubber sheathed and plastic sheathed. By the time of the Post-War Building Study lead sheathed cable was not encouraged and rubber sheathed was preferred, although, because of the anticipated shortage of rubber, polyvinyl chloride was considered to be an acceptable alternative.
A selection of the three cable types described. The top one is lead sheathed and shows the build-up, comprising the wires covered with vulcanised India-rubber, which has perished and was covered with waxed tape, which is clearly printed with the words 'HENLEY NUNAZO (REGD) CABLE'. The middle one is rubber sheathed and is imprinted with the words 'PIRELLI-GENERAL SOUTHAMPTON ENGLAND 250 VOLT CMA REGD'. The bottom one is PVC insulated and can be dated by having the two main wires coloured red and black and the earth being bare.
The history of the development of domestic wiring is in itself a fascinating one, which concerns not just the development of the materials and fittings used but also the way in which they were distributed within the building. But this must be the subject of another article.
I am not an electrical engineer and so I would very pleased to receive any comments and/or corrections in relation to this article.
John McGuinness, firstname.lastname@example.org
More on the Bofors gun platform at Cheshunt
As outlined in the previous newsletter, at Cheshunt TL 3698 0222 there is a concrete structure, listed grade II, built at the beginning of the Second World War for a Bofors anti-aircraft gun. The installation here was apparently of advanced design for its date — the gun was equipped with an electromechanical analog aiming system.
This concrete structure consists of two towers of modest height, the same for each tower, separated by a gap. The height is sufficient to allow the gun to fire in any direction, the southern part accommodated the gun and the northern tower was originally covered by an armoured shield to protect the commander and crew operating the prediction equipment. The platform to the south housed a good supply of ammunition as well as the gun.
The Bofors gun was a rapid-firing automatic 40 mm cannon of the kind later fitted to aircraft but having a rather larger calibre — they were usually mounted in pairs. From 1943 some German Messerschmitt Me 109 fighters and other aircraft were equipped with a single 30mm cannon. The steel shield protecting the commander and crew operating the predictor would be proof against machine-gun bullets but probably not explosive cannon shells.
The difference between an aircraft machine-gun and a cannon was that the cannon fired explosive shells while the machine-gun fired solid bullets and was of smaller calibre. Cannon became necessary to destroy bombers — a machine gun did not inflict sufficient structural damage.
Quite how successful was this installation of advanced design at Cheshunt? The answer is unclear but only a small number of Bofors guns were equipped with a sophisticated electromechanical predictor. The Bofors anti-aircraft gun was manufactured in enormous quantities and almost all of them were operated manually, with no predictor. A later version of this weapon was introduced with enhanced performance enabling the shells to reach higher altitudes and the Bofors gun remained in service until well into this century.
With a rate of fire of two rounds per second per gun could the pair of Bofors guns at Cheshunt actually hit a rapidly moving low-flying aircraft — even with a futuristic predictor? Slightly later in the war the Germans resorted to low-level hit and run tactics and these attacks became a serious nuisance. I remember being taken to the south end of Rugby station to see the barrage balloons which were clustered round the Great Central railway bridge which carried LNER trains over the LMS main line to London. To bring down a mainline railway bridge and block the West Coast mainline at the same time was an attractive proposition. Bob Carr
Cash boost for historic dinosaurs
Work has begun to repair the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs which have deteriorated and been damaged in recent years.
The Grade I listed dinosaurs, which are the world's first dinosaur statues, date back to 1854 when they were created for the Crystal Palace park, the new home of Joseph Paxton's 1851 Great Exhibition building.
A ₤24,870 restoration project — including ₤19,870 from the Government's Culture Recovery Fund and ₤3,500 from the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs — will focus on replacing detached parts of the sculptures and preventing further deterioration.
The statues were created by sculptor and natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, the first ever attempt to interpret paleontological discoveries as full-scale, full-bodied, living animals.
London's engineers honoured
The Victorian mechanical and material engineer David Kirkaldy (1820-97) is one of the first seven engineers to be inducted into the City of London Engineering Hall of Fame. He was nominated by Armourers and Brasiers Livery Company who had a private tour of the Kirkaldy Testing Museum.
The other inductees are Sir Hugh Myddleton. John Rennie the elder, Sir Henry Bessemer, Ludwik Finkelstein, Dame Stephanie Shirley and Sir John Parker.
For a presentation of the first inductees see: https://youtu.be/KXarXYU3Gy0
Dairy building on the A3
I have had a reply from a Mick Hodges who remembers the cows (GLIAS Newsletter December 2020), but l had got the wrong dairies. It was Job's not United. The ones I remember were concrete replaced in the 1970s in plastic due to wear and tear. Very recently they were again removed due to age and health and safety, but public outcry has prevailed and now they are back in all their glory! Teddy Bagnell
House Mill booklet
A number of members have asked about the booklet — artwork? poster? interpretation document? — enclosed with the November Newsletter. It was produced by GLIAS member Ben Weiner and artist Kim Vousden as a novel way of graphically explaining the history and working of the House Mill at Bromley-by-Bow. GLIAS agreed to sponsor its development and production through a bursary from the Calvocoressi Fund and in return the House Mill Trust donated a copy to each GLIAS member.
The Fund was established with a generous bequest from Paul Calvocoressi following his death in 2012. It provides bursaries of up to ₤1,000 to support and enhance Industrial Archaeology in its widest sense in the Greater London Region, and as administrators of the fund, GLIAS is keen to receive applications.
Further details are available at www.glias.org.uk/gliasnoticeboard.html
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© GLIAS, 2021