Notes and news — February 2023
In this issue:
From the Chair
- From the Chair
- The railway grouping
- Lining the main
- Green Country buses
- All done with cows?
- Photographer identified
- Boring sugar packets
- Street furniture — thermometers
- Memories of King's Cross station and depot
- Captions for wintry photographs
- Request for information
- Can you help?
- The Paul Calvocoressi Bursary
- Conservation Watch
Best wishes for 2023 to all.
We've started our 2023 lecture series with 'Self Sacrifice — People's History and Heroism' by Dr John Price of Goldsmiths' College. We had an in-person audience of 29 and, as an estimate, 50 Zoom viewers.
The Gallery, where we hold our lectures thanks to Alan Baxter Ltd, has upgraded its facilities and thanks to Peter Bowles, who explained the new layout to Andrew Turner, Bill Barksfield and me, we didn't have the usual stutters associated with our previous online events.
Progress is continuing on the next issue of 'London's Industrial Archaeology' but we're always keen to receive articles from members and other sources. Please email articles or suggestions to email@example.com.
A reminder of the next lecture, in person at The Gallery, 77 Cowcross Street, London, EC1M 6BP or via Zoom. The subject is 'BRITAIN'S PREFABS AND THE TEMPORARY HOUSING PROGRAMME — BUILDING THE POST-WAR WORLD', by Jane Hearn on 15 February at 6pm for 6:30. Do put the date in your diary and a reminder email (or two) will be sent nearer the date for the in-person and online audience.
Looking forward to seeing you in February. Dan Hayton
The railway grouping
The first of January this year marked the centenary of one of the most significant events in our railway history. On this day the hundred or so private companies were grouped together into just four, to form the Southern Railway, the Great Western Railway, the London Midland and Scottish Railway and the London and North Eastern Railway.
Before 1914 the railways were fully privatised. During the Great War (1914-18) there was government control — which continued until 1921. Following the war there were calls for complete nationalisation. This was rejected and a compromise arrived at. A system of partial-privatisation with some government control came into force on 1 January 1923 with the Railways of Britain managed by just four boards of directors.
Prior to 1923 each of the private companies had their own characteristic way of doing things. By the 1923 Grouping within each company's territory a fair amount of standardisation had generally been achieved. To knowledgeable railway enthusiasts, even as late as the 1950s, this made railway travel especially interesting 1. Fences, cast-iron work on station platforms, luggage barrows, signals, carriages, wagons and innumerable line-side details often made clear which of the private companies had before 1923 operated the line you were travelling on.
Over the years most of these indications of territory have disappeared and later on things could really get mixed up. In the early 1960s at Waterloo railway station British Railways had some Great North of Scotland Railway silverware on the table in the refreshment room.
The pre-1923 mainline railway companies running north from London had their termini in a row along the 'New Road' 2. From west to east there were the Great Central Railway from Marylebone, the London and North-Western Railway from Euston, the Midland from St Pancras, the Great Northern from King's Cross and further to the east there was the Great Eastern from Liverpool Street. Each pre-grouping railway had its own livery, with locomotives and rolling stock painted in distinctive colours. As an example locomotives on passenger trains were shiny black at Euston, red at St Pancras and the Great Eastern had blue engines.
Over the years the distinction between these separate pre-grouping companies has become less marked. Journalists in the popular press now seem to have no idea that prior to the Grouping at each of the London termini you would only see locomotives from the appropriate company. Nowadays a steam locomotive seems to be treated as if it were a motor car which can go anywhere but in reality some territorial distinctions continued almost until the end of steam traction on British Railways.
There seems to have been scarcely any commemoration of this major railway event. Does anyone know of a publication in the railway press? On 2 January this year the Daily Telegraph republished a century-old article which discussed the merits of the Grouping, and the LNER are celebrating the centenary of the existence of the name London and North Eastern Railway. It seems to be railway modellers who are the most aware of the 1923 Grouping. Bob Carr
1. About 1956 Ian Allan published a useful pre-grouping railway atlas by W Philip Conolly which showed the lines of the old companies in distinctive colours.
2. The New Road was built in the 18th century to link the City with West London. It was completed in 1756 when what we now know as the Pentonville Road opened. Nowadays sections of this road have different names, the Euston Road and City Road for example.
Lining the main
Thames Water has a problem in London, that much of the network of large-diameter (>600mm) trunk mains is of cast iron, which is a brittle material that can fracture unpredictably when overstressed. Although robustly constructed, many of these mains are of considerable age and are subject to ongoing deterioration from the effects of corrosion, fatigue from repeated loading cycles and impacts from heavy traffic. From these and other causes there have been many mains bursts over the years that caused serious flooding, but the pipes are difficult to renew, being of large diameter and embedded under busy roads and other obstacles, so the company is committed to an ongoing programme of relining them in situ. New techniques have been developed from the experience of the North Sea oil industry, for inserting strong plastic linings of high-density polyethylene that are closely fitted to the internal diameter of the mains.
This note describes the lining process we recently watched for one of three 36 inch (915mm) water mains which constitute the New River pipe track south of Finsbury Park. This runs westwards from Stoke Newington pumping station to the junction of Blackstock Road with Seven Sisters Road. It was laid in the 1860s to feed the New River Company's Maiden Lane service reservoir and now forms part of a more extensive network. The route crosses a later grid of suburban streets on the diagonal, limiting surface access
The main was lined here in sections about 350 metres long. 10-metre lengths of the blue polyethylene lining pipe were butt-welded together using heat in a mechanised jig. The machine is shown in photograph (below left).
From the end of the section of main being lined, a powerful linear hydraulic winch (above centre) hauled the lining through the main by a heavy wire rope, aided by a rotary hydraulic winch driving a drum to take up the slack in the rope (above right). As the plastic lining entered the main it was first drawn through a metal die mounted in a substantial welded steel frame anchored to the ground, see below.
This slightly reduced the diameter of the lining when held in tension. Two men added lubricant from a pair of white cans (see photograph above) while this was taking place. The process was one of drawing, like wire, rather than extrusion like toothpaste. The linear winch consisted of two hydraulic rams pulling in alternation. Their safe working capacity was 100 tonnes force but in practice the tension was about 49 tonnes.
When the winches relaxed their pull the lining expanded to fill the space available. Once started the lining of a section of water main had to be carried through to completion. It was essential to draw the lining through the main before the lining expanded. This involved men working under floodlights quite late into the night to complete their work.
On the white steel framework in the above photograph 'Seven Sisters' refers to the heavily-trafficked Seven Sisters Road where the team working on this pipe track had started work. Details will vary each time a relining is performed, according to circumstances and the plant available. The lining of London's cast-iron trunk mains will enable their continued use for years to come. Malcolm Tucker and Bob Carr
Green Country buses
Just beyond the boundary of Greater London it seems that Green Country Buses might be making a comeback. Here is a recent photograph of a Routemaster at Potters Bar painted in period colours. There is also a service from here to St Albans which is now operated by Sullivan Buses, also in green livery. Bob Carr
All done with cows?
The future prospect for cows has appeared bleak because of the large amount of methane they emit. Perhaps there may now be a reprieve in the shape of a tractor — the New Holland T7.270 methane-powered LNG — made in Basildon.
This new tractor is powered by capturing methane which currently escapes from cow manure. The methane can be treated, compressed and used as liquid fuel. The fuel tank of the T7.270 LNG keeps the methane liquefied at a temperature of minus 162℃.
By removing large amounts of methane from the atmosphere this technology has the potential to combat climate change. Methane has considerably more atmospheric warming power than carbon dioxide — see the Appendix. A farm with 150 cows could balance the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 140 households *.
Currently the T7.270 LNG is limited to using cow and pig manure but New Holland is working to expand the source of fuel to other livestock, including poultry.
Last year a pilot study in Cornwall demonstrated that the T7.270 LNG prototype could successfully reduce its carbon emission from 2,500 to 500 tonnes while maintaining its performance compared with a comparable diesel tractor.
Traditionalists should rejoice. We might after all see cows in the countryside for many years yet to come but for the time being their future is undecided. Bob Carr
* This claim should be treated with a little caution. The introduction of the New Holland T7.270 methane-powered LNG tractor appears to be a world first and it's a very welcome development. The New Holland T7.270 LNG deserves a warm reception but the jury is still out.
For the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere, methane has more than 80 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide. Even though carbon dioxide has a longer-lasting effect, in the short term methane is a major cause of global warming. At least a quarter of current global warming is due to methane from human activity.
Roughly a third of the methane emissions caused by human beings comes from livestock. This is emitted mainly by beef and dairy cattle. Methane is produced in the digestive process of ruminants (cows, sheep and goats which have four-part stomachs). Cows and other farm animals produce about 14% of human-induced climate emissions, and it is methane from their breaking-wind and belching and to a lesser extent their manure that is seen as both the biggest concern and best opportunity for tackling global warming.
Although methane breaks down relatively quickly in the atmosphere, it is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Reducing methane emissions is one of the most immediate ways of slowing global heating between now and 2040.
Significantly Cornwall Council is beginning to run its road vehicles on biomethane, recovered from slurry ponds. These ponds contain animal manure which if not covered would emit methane to the atmosphere.
The photograph of the Thames Riverside (GLIAS Newsletter February 2021) which included the entrance to Deptford Creek was taken in the mid-1970s by GLIAS member Tom Smith. The complete left-to-right image is now reproduced here.
George Arthur writes:
Here is Deptford West power station in course of demolition — by the date of the photograph little is left. What you can see is the darker brickwork stump of the western chimney stack, the chimney itself has already been demolished. Lower down the wall facing us is the inside wall at the west end of the boiler house, you can see girders sticking out to the side where they have been cut off. Bob Carr
Boring sugar packets
Around 1960 all kinds of new things were appearing which to many people seemed wonderful at the time; these included shopping malls and motorway services which nowadays we would probably find a bit boring. But, at that time they were innovative and exciting. Such facilities 60 years ago were the subject of Martin Parr's book Boring Postcards published over three decades later.
Parr's book attracted the attention of the GLIAS Newsletter and there was a report in the Christmas issue for 2008 (GLIAS Newsletter December 2008). Martin's choice of title meant that the book had a much wider appeal than it would have done had it just mentioned that it was about facilities built 30 years before that was then modern and innovative.
When in 1999 Parr, a photographer and collector, published Boring Postcards he was no great national figure. Since then he has had quite a meteoric career — just look at his Wikipedia entry. He was made a CBE in 2021.
Postcards of the new motorway services were on sale in the 1960s and people had sent their friends cards of the services they had stopped at. Three decades later when Boring Postcards was published there were people who found this highly amusing. When first opened motorway service facilities were considered the last word, and to eat at one of their cafés was an experience to write home about.
At that time sugar in cafés was beginning to be wrapped rather than just put in a bowl on the table, this was to improve hygiene. As well as wrapped sugar-lumps which were becoming ubiquitous, sugar was sometimes presented in packets two and a half inches by two inches in size. These packets might illustrate the establishment they came from.
The trendy new Motorway services were no exception and two examples are illustrated here. The Blue Boar services on the M1 opened in 1959 and were one of the very first. Just look how 'modern' the packet looks, see photograph 1 — but the telephone number Long Buckby 395 gives the date away. What a contrast!
Opened later in 1966 on the M1 extension further north, Leicester Forest East services had their facilities built on a bridge spanning the motorway. You might now be amused to learn that when first opened people from Leicester used to go out in the evening to dine here — at the Captain's Table. The restaurant's interior was designed by Terence Conran, the waitresses wore nautical outfits and there was a wine list. You could experience 'fine dining'; probably hearing the new-fangled piped music, and eat a meal while traffic raced beneath your table. What luxury — and what an experience! Here is a sugar packet that was available from these services, see photograph 2. Bob Carr
Street furniture — thermometers
The London Book, edited by Ian Hessenberg (published by Bergstrom + Boyle, 1980) is an excellent visual source book for so-called 'psychogeographers' or flaneurs with an interest in industrial archaeology, street furniture and architectural details. Its contents illustrate in profusion items such as lampposts, coal hole covers, clocks, balconies, statues, street name plates and many other items now vanished or fast disappearing.
One such item is not included — that is, street thermometers. These large instruments, calibrated in degrees Fahrenheit with significant temperatures prominently marked, were usually detailed in enamel and used as part of an advertising sign, often for tobacco products.
Thermometer manufacturers were usually located in a High Street in districts such as Clerkenwell, noted for scientific instrument production. Most street thermometers have now gone, even the giant one in Leicester Square, to be replaced with large digital readouts of ambient temperature, their digits formed by the light of the now ubiquitous LEDs.
Occasionally the old thermometers may be encountered as a decorative item or in an antiques market. All the photographs were taken in Central London over the past 50 years.
Sidney Ray. All photos by the author
Memories of King's Cross station and depot
As a resident of nearby Somers Town for decades and with a keen interest in the pictorial aspects of industrial archaeology I was able to record the 'railway lands' of King's Cross and St Pancras stations from the end of the era of steam to the recent regeneration and gentrification of the area into its present dynamic and vibrant form.
It was difficult to choose a small but representative selection of images from my collection covering the last 50 years but hopefully the choice will cover a range of interests. The photographs were taken from viewpoints both within and outside the station, most now inaccessible.
Sidney Ray. All photos by the author
Captions for wintry photographs
Here are the promised captions for the snow photographs (GLIAS Newsletter December 2022). Bob Carr
1. Brentwood station looking east.
2. Alexandra Road just north of Brentwood station, looking north.
3. Looking north-east from Shenfield station.
4. This is Mount Avenue in Shenfield looking south east.
5. Chorleywood looking northwest.
6. The Bramley Inn looking west.
Request for information
I'm wondering if one of your members would have any information on the firm of [James] Fraser & Co Iron founders — which in 1810 was originally situated in Long Acre, then relocated to Clerkenwell and finally ending up in Houndsditch and Bromley by Bow. By the 1820s and 1830s James Fraser [inventor and engineer] was probably best known for his patented ships hearths, one of which was on board the HMS Erebus. My interest in James Fraser is that in 1831 he was, along with the wealthy ship owner George Frederick Young, a mortgagee of the merchant vessel Medina.
James Fraser's commercial activities are reasonably well documented but unfortunately very little biographical detail can be discovered about who he was — so any background about this man would be gratefully received.
Sue Baddeley MA [History]. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are undertaking a Historic Building Recording of the former Rank Hovis building at Royal Victoria Dock.
Part of our work is to glean as much information as possible (from as many sources as we can) regarding the milling process and the uses of the floors of the building.
We're hoping to contact former employees or anyone with other useful information to help build a picture of the building's history?
Cate Davies, Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd. Mob: 07971 257732. Email: email@example.com
Can you help?
GLIAS is always on the lookout for members to get more involved in the work we do. For example:
- the GLIAS Committee is looking for people to work alongside them, shadowing their roles with a view to providing committee members of the future.
- we would also like more contributors to the Newsletter and Journal.
- the online Database, which is a Gazetteer of sites in London, needs a lot of work including checking entries, providing photographs or filling gaps.
If you would like to get more involved, in the first instance please contact our Secretary, Tim Sidaway via firstname.lastname@example.org
The Paul Calvocoressi Bursary
The Fund was established with a generous bequest from Paul Calvocoressi. Paul was an expert on historic (particularly industrial) buildings in London successively with the GLC's Historic Buildings Division, English Heritage's London Region and the London Borough of Southwark. He was closely involved in the recording and conservation of London's Docklands and was an enthusiastic member of GLIAS until his death in 2012.
Bursaries (up to ₤1,000) to support and enhance Industrial Archaeology in its widest sense in the Greater London Region, e.g. supporting fieldwork, toward a restoration project, publication, enhancing the public understanding of IA, etc. Applicants do not have to live in the London area nor be members of GLIAS although this is desirable but the work proposed must centre on the London region. A presentation at a future GLIAS meeting or in our Journal is desirable. There is no fixed style for the application but it should not exceed two A4 pages.
To request more details please contact the GLIAS Secretary. Email: email@example.com
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© GLIAS, 2023