Notes and news — August 2022
In this issue:
From the chair
- From the chair
- Westminster gas lamps
- Northumberland Park Pumping Station
- Plumstead Power Station
- Control room at Battersea Power Station unveiled
- Thames Water access shaft
- Camden Horse Stables 1975 and Stables Market 2022
- Britannia — good news
- 'Poplar' returns to Poplar
- Award for Pumphouse Museum founder
The Society has continued with its programme of walks details of the future ones can be found in this Newsletter.
Looking further ahead we are planning a Pub Evening on 16 November and are looking forward to the Lecture Series starting in January 2023. If anyone would like to 'volunteer' themselves, or anyone you know, do get in touch
In the wider world SERIAC will take place in April 2023 and will be held in Sussex; details will follow but the current plan is to hold a hybrid meeting with a speaker from each of the Societies involved. SERIAC will continue into 2024, hosted by GLIAS, if 2023 proves successful.
The Society has also written in support of the Lea Valley Heritage Alliance in its efforts to promote the importance of the area's industrial history.
On more domestic matters the Committee is always looking for volunteers for the activities we undertake (or should undertake). Does any member feel confident with 'Social Media'? It would also be useful to have 'back-up' for the roles we currently undertake.
Having 'got over' the Covid crisis we're applying the membership rules and if you hear a fellow member say 'I didn't get August Newsletter' do ask them to check that their membership is up to date.
Thanks to those who help the Society to progress with specific activities and to the Membership as a whole for their continuing support. Dan Hayton
Westminster gas lamps
In November 2021 it became known that Westminster Council (former) had plans for the remaining 350 public gas lamps in its care — to electrify by conversion or replacement. By the time various groups had persuaded them that this was an unnecessary removal of a loved tourist attraction, some 50 had been 'dealt with'. Most have a patch of small LED bulbs in the top of the retained lamp case, which in daylight appears to be without any source of illumination. Hundreds of lamps have been converted or replaced over the years — it was the realisation that this would be 'the end' which led to the opposition. Gas lamps in private property, including the Royal Parks, are outside the Council's remit, so are not affected. Some standards have initials depicting (former) ownership cast into a lower section. One blog says the mantles are of metal, giving them a much longer life than the fragile ones in domestic gas lamps. Is this true — and if so, since when?
GLIAS member David Flett wrote two walks for another group last autumn, encompassing a good selection of gas lamps, and has agreed to them being included in this newsletter. The walks have a short 'overlap' section. Obviously, the complete standard and lamp case are best seen in daylight, but the glow best seen when it is dark. Revisits get the best of both.
Walk 1. Victoria Underground to Westminster Underground. About 2½ miles; up to 2 hours with stops
From the top of steps above the District & Circle Line platforms, take the exit to Victoria St. Turn left, then right to cross the road at traffic lights, crossing again to the west side of Buckingham Palace Rd, then right towards the Palace. The first gas lamps are behind the gated vehicle and quadruped entrance to the Royal Mews — one by each sentry kiosk and two more within the arch beyond. Pass the long wall topped with Coade stone urns, then railings at the start of the Palace grounds which in July 2022 were here covered by several 'temporary' buildings — until a pavement-centre gas lamp. Stop for eyes to sweep from the gate directly ahead (Birdcage Walk), left to a road gate and one on the pavement next to the railings. Turn left, passing a lamp on the kerbside lettered IV GR, to the gate with large gas lights on the pillars (Photo 1-1). Continuing, a side gate to Buckingham Palace yard has gas lamps, and from here a few attached to the Palace wall can be seen. Continue to the main gates with clusters of five lamps. (Photo 1-2). However, all the lamps along these railings and gates, which in truth have now no real function, were unlit at 21.40 one July evening; it's not known if they are lit later or perhaps seasonally.
Continue from the end of the Palace railings across Constitution Hill and bear right to follow the inside of the curved balustraded Canada wall, with four gas lamps on the central gate. A few lamps can be seen in the park beyond, included in Walk 2. Turn left along The Mall, taking the parallel wide tarmac path-cum-cycleway. This has gas lamps on both sides. (That section overlaps Walk 2). At the traffic lights, right, crossing The Mall to enter St James's Park. Five gas lamps alongside the path to the bridge, and five more to Birdcage Walk. Go ahead to see the lamps on Queen Anne's Gate, beyond, before returning to the Park side of the road and turn right. Gas lamps along here have been supplemented (completely overshadowed) by tall electric lights, and it seems some have disappeared completely. Keep a look-out for, and take, a narrow pedestrian path on the far side of the road, Cockpit Steps. The lamp at this end is gas; the one at the far end converted. Left along Old Queen St (all converted or replaced) and right at Storey's Gate.
Cross Broad Sanctuary to the western door of Westminster Abbey — flanked by gas lamps on railings. (Photo 1-3). Right and right again, past the first two of four more in front of the buildings. If open, turn left through the archway into Dean's Yard. This has usually been closed at night and open during the day, but was 'visitors only' (next to a sign about cream teas) at 15.20 on two July afternoons. If open, walk through, observing lamps, to exit by a door at the far corner into Great College St. Cross ahead and down Tufton St. If closed, walk around, ahead and left via Great Smith St, left at Great Peter St, then right into Tufton St. Take second left, Romney St (more lamps), then left into Dean Bradley St, noticing carved images of products above the two doors of 7-9, once Thorneycroft's offices. St John's Church, Smith Square, has gas lamps either side of front and rear steps.
Bear left around the church, noticing lamps in Dean Trench and Gayfere Streets, then left into Lord North St. The road side of the first, older, lamp on the right is lettered St I E W. (Photo 1-4). So a Westminster parish, though the lamp may not be in its original location.
Continue ahead to Cowley St (blue plaques), which becomes Barton St, to turn right along Great Smith St and left at Millbank. A second, small, green, left, part of Old Palace Yard, with KGV statue, has nine gas lamps. Turn back several yards to a place to cross the road, then left. The Parliament buildings on the right have a line of gas lamps, with extra ones on the wall either side of the Peers' entrance, with a single lamp enlightening those passing through. (Photo 1-5). Although only the arch lamp was lit one July evening at 22.40, the policeman at the pavement entrance said they are functional. Perhaps only lit for functions, then. (Note: scaffolding was being erected nearby in July and may spoil the view of lamps). Continue. There are further lamps in the Parliament grounds, again unlit when seen. At the corner, right to Bridge St, to catch a last glimpse of Parliament's lamps. Across the road is Westminster Underground (District, Circle & Jubilee lines). For a short extension, stroll onto Westminster Bridge. When new, the lamps here were gas lit.
1-1. Gate post, approaching Buckingham Palace; 1-2. Main gates, Buckingham Palace; 1-3. Westminster Abbey, west entrance; 1-4. Lord North St; 1-5. Parliament — Peers' entrance
Walk 2. Green Park Underground to The Strand. About 2½ miles; up to 2 hours with stops
From Green Park Underground take the exit 'Green Park and Buckingham Palace'. Directly ahead, almost immediately on entering into the park, is a round fountain and to the left a substantial gas lamp, lettered G R. (Photo 2-1). Walk past that and right into Queen's Walk, a tarmac down-slope path outside the park, lit by a string of gas lamps on the right side. After passing a single lamp behind a hedge by a step, left, then two on the right, turn right by a footpath into the park, veering left past a second substantial gas lamp, along a path with a few normal-size lamps. At the next junction of paths, turn sharp left to rejoin Queen's Walk just as it meets The Mall. Turn left, and take the wide tarmac path-cum-cycleway parallel to The Mall, which is lit by gas lamps on both sides. (This section overlaps Walk 1). Continue ahead until reaching a memorial to the Queen Mother and King George VI on the left, with large deco gas lights. (Photo 2-2).
Ascend the steps, ahead to Carlton House Terrace, and turn right, passing several gas lights. Original George IV posts (lettering) have been extended to carry more modern lamp fittings. At the end, take the not-very-obvious steps, left, into Spring Pl. Take a few steps right to see the lamps atop gates (Photo 2-3), then continue into Trafalgar Sq. Turn right to cross The Mall to a large three-globe former gas light, marked MBW, VR, 1878 (Photo 2-4). Holes around the base suggest it allows, or allowed, ventilation — but of what? Go ahead, crossing Whitehall and Northumberland Ave to a similar lamp, base unholed. Cross again, to the corner of Trafalgar Sq and walk alongside the wall on the east side. All former gas lamps around the Square, including in front of the National Gallery, are now lit by electricity. Cross Charing Cross Rd and turn left along the west side pavement of St Martin's Lane.
2-1. Green Park; 2-2. Royal memorial; 2-3. Atop gate, Spring Pl; 2-4. 1878 former gas lamp, corner The Mall & Whitehall; 2-5. Goodwins Court; 2-6. Arch, Bedford Chambers, Covent Garden
Look left into Cecil Court to view two lamps, and then almost immediately turn right up a step into the easily-missed Goodwins Court. (Photo 2-5). Exit left into Bedfordbury (another lamp right in front of you) and then right into New Row (but also look left for more lamps). Left into Garrick St (lamp at junction) then right into Rose St, walking on through the passageway alongside the Lamb and Flag pub — lamps either end. Exit right into Floral St, where gas lamps have been either modified or replaced by similar-style electric ones. At end, right into James St and right into the arcaded part of Bedford Chambers, passing a gas lamp in centre of each arch. (Photo 2-6). Cross to pass the east end of St Pauls Church, which has more lamps mounted on the wall. Continuing past the Ladies', stairs down to a Gents' are gas lit. Right into Henrietta St (more lamps). Check out the entrance to St Pauls Gardens, right. If open, walk in to view lamps here and return. (Gardens closed at night and for special events — which this year include, until 22 August 2022, closure from about 18.00 for an open air theatre). Left into Bedford St and left into Maiden Lane (lamps at junction and along here), going almost straight ahead into Tavistock St (more lamps) then right into Burleigh St and right again into Exeter St (some if not all lamps now electric) to reach The Strand. To see London's surviving sewer gas lamp (albeit largely a replica after the cast-iron original was demolished by a lorry), cross to Carting Lane, alongside the Coal Hole PH. There are no surviving gas lamps in the area, so return to The Strand and turn left, then left into quieter John Adam St, which leads to Villiers St. Embankment Underground (District, Circle, Bakerloo and Northern Lines) is to the left. David Flett (walks) and David Thomas (photos)
Northumberland Park Pumping Station [TQ 350 908]
The main building of Northumberland Park pumping station in Marsh Lane (GLIAS Newsletter February 2019) has now been demolished and only the boiler house survives. This has been refurbished, and painted pale grey appears to have a new use probably in connection with the bus depot. Go Ahead buses can now utilise the whole site without the encumbrance of a locally protected building in the centre of their principal parking area.
Built about 1886, in recent years Northumberland Park pumping station has become remarkably obscure. Being referred to by several names has not helped. Earlier last century it was simply referred to as The Park, which was later amended to Northumberland Park. It has also been referred to as Marsh Lane pumping station and Long Water pumping station.
The main building used to house a pair of horizontal pumping engines which it is believed raised water from two borehole shafts which surfaced within the building. The considerable height of the building would have enabled pump rods to be changed indoors in hygienic conditions. Some pumping stations had the external appearance of a small church with a square tower. The pump rods were changed within the tower.
When Northumberland Park pumping station was built the locality was pleasantly green and tranquil. Over the years it has become more and more covered over with concrete and tarmac, transport depots of various kinds are now numerous. Immediately to the north east of the Go Ahead bus depot an area of allotments survives (photograph below taken in 2017).
A smart new depot for Haringey cleansing department road vehicles opened in November 2021 just of the south-east of the bus depot alongside Watermead Way, the north-south main road to the east (see photograph below). Marsh Lane no longer runs through to the west side of the railway. The level crossing has been abolished and there is a footbridge for pedestrians.
To the north of Marsh Lane, running northwards, is Garman Road with modest industrial premises which generally appear to have been built in the late 1930s or just postwar, for light engineering firms and small businesses. An interesting architectural example is now a Bulgarian supermarket. Bob Carr
See also Pumping Stations in Danger, Industrial Archaeology News 188 Spring 2019, pp4-5. This is available online.
Plumstead Power Station
This large multi-part building, of red brick with white stone trim, can be seen, briefly, from a train between Plumstead and Abbey Wood stations — but not from the new Elizabeth Line. It was opened in October 1903 as a combined refuse destructor and power station1. Incinerating rubbish (which at the time included a significant proportion of household cinders but no plastics) created enough heat for boilers to produce steam to drive machinery to produce electricity. Ash was recycled in making paving slabs and bricks. Changes in administration saw generating cease in the 1920s, but rubbish incineration continued until 1965 (ish — dates differ). It became a large shed within a Council yard. And was excellently placed to become part of a materials supply depot for the Elizabeth Line. TfL will continue to use nearby land, but the empty power station has again become redundant.
Left: From north east; right: From south west
Step forward Greenwich Council, still the owner, which has linked it to plans for 'Plumstead regeneration', helped by Government grants. It agreed outline plans in February 2022. Their website, which has info, in turn has links to that of 'Architecture00' which has photographs, sketches and 'artist impression' drawings. Their site invites 'Take a virtual tour of the Power Station', which goes through a series of open spaces — but without captions to say what's what. It seems that the exterior of the listed building will remain largely unaltered, although the ramp for carts/lorries to first floor level looks to be converted into wide steps in one 'artist impression'. The destructor chimneys have long gone.
The north side parallels the western end of White Hart Ave, where it becomes North Rd. The west end faces White Hart Road, which is blocked by bollards, allowing passage of only cyclists and pedestrians. Parking on these roads, and ones to the south, is either prohibited or in practice impossible. However, there is easy access from Plumstead station along the Ridgeway, a good path along the top of the Southern Outfall Sewer2. From the station, use the pedestrian crossing and continue straight ahead, across a second road (no crossing, but traffic light phases allow time), then turn left and bear right into a cul de sac. At the end, hidden from view until opposite, is a foot and cycle access to the Ridgeway. Walk straight ahead until pedestrian steps down on the right into White Hart Rd. (About 10-12 mins). Unfortunately, in July 2022, hoarding and double-thickness fencing obscure much of the Power Station's ground level side, but photos are possible. There is CCTV. As I looked through a gate at a weighbridge platform, a car stopped alongside, with the driver glancing at me and talking on his mobile phone. He didn't move until I did.
In October 1986 GLIAS published a Newsletter supplement, 'Shoreditch Refuse Destructor and Generator Station' following a Recording Group visit to that pioneering destructor and power station site. A longer report was deposited in May 1987 with LB Hackney Archives. The main façade remains on Hoxton Street. David Thomas
(1) The Greenwich Industrial History Society website includes a 1903 report of the opening.
(2) It continues, almost absolutely straight, until close to Crossness Pumping Station, a (boring) 3 mile walk. There is a similar, wider, path along the Northern Outfall Sewer. Both are cycle routes.
Control room at Battersea Power Station unveiled
Battersea Power Station's original control room — Control Room A — will become a special events space when the Power Station opens this autumn.
The fully restored Art Deco room, which managed the distribution of electricity across London from the early 1930s, was part of the original Turbine Hall A built between 1929 and 1931, before the second half of the building, including Control Room B, was completed in 1950s.
Control Room A boasts teak parquet flooring laid in a herringbone pattern and walls tiled in grey Italian marble offset by black Belgian marble detailing through the room, matched by a gold painted coffered glass ceiling. Also restored is the semi-circular control desk, which appeared in the film The King's Speech.
At its peak, Battersea Power Station produced a fifth of London's electricity. Control Room A remained in use until 1975 when the 1930s half of the building closed down. Battersea Power Station was fully decommissioned in 1983.
Opening to the public from this autumn will be both Turbine Halls, several floors of the Boiler House and the north-west chimney, which will be home to the chimney lift experience — a glass elevator taking visitors 109 metres in the air with 360-degree views of London's skyline (GLIAS Newsletter December 2021). Inside there will be 254 residential apartments, over 100 retail shops, restaurants and cafes, a cinema, and office space.
Thames Water access shaft
An extensive programme of refurbishment work is being carried out by Thames Water to lengthen the useful life of cast-iron water mains, many of which are over a hundred years old. Access to underground water mains is generally effected by sinking shrifts, usually in a public road. The photograph shows one of the shafts in North London which Thames Water have been using to gain access to water mains.
It was noted on p8 of GLIAS newsletter 316 that it is sometimes necessary for people to go inside water mains to carry out work in awkward places which cannot be dealt with from the outside.
The photograph shows the end of a 36-inch diameter pipe which people may have had to enter to carry out essential work inside the main. This entrance was usually open but when the photograph was taken the end was closed with a cover.
It is not known why the end of this main, usually left open, had been sealed off in this way. Might this be something to do with ventilation or air pressure — does anyone have an explanation? Bob Carr
Camden Horse Stables 1975 and Stables Market 2022
Camden Market is one of London's best known and popular tourist attractions, occupying a large site in North London centred round the Camden Lock on the Regent's Canal. The market grew from an extensive complex of buildings for rail and transport purposes of the surrounding Camden Goods Yard. The various sites have been extensively documented and recorded and they need not be discussed here.
Of some interest was the role and use of horses in the operation of the site. As many as 700 were claimed to have been in use at one time and a dedicated tour is available to highlight their working lives. The horses were housed and cared for in a number of stables blocks at various levels and interconnected. Horse ramps for access were a special feature. The stables were derelict for many years until renovated and repurposed for other uses such as to house market stalls and small businesses. Now they form a unique core for the renamed Stables Market.
During a GLIAS recording visit in May 1975, some photographs were taken of the near derelict site and some of the salient features of selected stable blocks. These pictures were in black and white. Some 47 years later in July 2022 another visit was made to try and duplicate, in colour this time, some of the previous viewpoints and scenes. The photographs show a good example of the repurposing of former industrial buildings to alternative or novel use, serving both as a reminder of the past and as a local source of revenue. Sidney Ray
All photos by the author
Britannia — good news
The article on the long-lived London tug Britannia ended sadly with the vessel being scrapped (GLIAS Newsletter June 2022). It can be reported that the story has actually had a happy ending. She was not scrapped in 2017, the tug still exists. Britannia was bought from the ship breakers at Erith and is now at a boatyard at Brentford awaiting restoration and a new owner. Thanks for this information to Richard Albanese. Bob Carr
'Poplar' returns to Poplar
Former London, Brighton & South Coast Railway Terrier steam locomotive 'Poplar' briefly returned to her original London home for the first time in over 120 years in June.
The Terrier Trust/Kent & East Sussex Railway's 0-6-0 tank engine was on static display for a week at the Docklands Light Railway's Poplar Depot, near Canary Wharf as part of an educational programme for schools funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The event, which was put on by Transport for London and KeolisAmey Docklands (operators of the DLR), also allowed about 500 enthusiasts to visit the 150-year-old locomotive at the weekend.
'Poplar' at the Docklands Light Railway's Poplar Depot, near Canary Wharf
'Poplar' was the first of the class to be built in 1872 and originally hauled commuter trains in London until she was superseded by larger locomotives by the turn of the century. She was purchased by the Rother Valley Railway (later the Kent & East Sussex Railway) in 1901 and was renamed and renumbered to No.3 'Bodiam'.
She was originally withdrawn from service in 1931, but remarkably survived to be restored to working order a few years later and saw further service on the K&ESR and later the Hayling Island branch as BR No. 32670 until 1963. She was saved for preservation and ran under her own steam from Eastleigh to Robertsbridge, arriving on 10 April 1964.
Poplar recently returned to traffic following a three-year overhaul. She is one of the oldest working standard gauge locos in the world.
A total of ten Terriers have survived into preservation and this year sees a number of events to mark their 150th anniversary.
The Poplar depot opened in August 1987 as the main Operations and Maintenance Centre (OMC) for the Docklands Light Railway. When the network expanded a new, larger depot was opened at Beckton in 1994, with Poplar becoming the secondary site. Over half the fleet is stored and maintained here.
Award for Pumphouse Museum founder
Lindsay Collier, co-founder of the Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum, has been awarded the British Empire Medal 'for services to Heritage in the London Borough of Waltham Forest' in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
Lindsay helped to set up the grade II-listed museum in 1997 which includes among its many exhibits a working pair of original Marshall steam engines and two 1967 tube stock Victoria Line carriages, provided by TFL, which are often used as a film set and a pop-up restaurant.
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© GLIAS, 2022