Notes and news — June 2023
In this issue:
From the chair
- From the chair
- Hays Wharf 1974
- Elain Harwood 1958-2023
- Selby's in the Holloway Road
- Brass work as street furniture
- LT2, a 'New Bus For London'
- Coffee Tavern facing demolition
- Shipyard machinery and MV Clan Maclaren
- Lord of the Isles
- Not room to swing a cat round
- More on clock towers
- Stationery shops
- Arthur Martin Ltd, Greenwich
- Is this a prison?
- Willesden Junction substation — update
- Share your old photos
With the AGM, another year has passed and the Society moves onto the walks over the summer, disrupted by rail strikes.
Having had another successful year of Newsletters, Lectures and London's Industrial Archaeology the Society has found itself with, almost entirely, the usual suspects supporting our activities. We have received an offer of help with the production of the Journal but, as was pointed out at the AGM, we are not reaching out to the wider, potential, audience to expand our membership.
There is always room for help with our regular activities but there are areas of 'social media' and communication which GLIAS can use to 'reach out' to the wider public.
Anyone who would like to help with what we do now or should be doing in the future do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dan Hayton, Chairman GLIAS
Hays Wharf 1974
In May 1974 a GLIAS Recording Group visited the Hays Wharf complex in Tooley Street, Southwark (GLIAS Newsletter July 1974).
It was unusual for visitors to explore the old bonded warehouses and see the ancient dock or wharf which was by then partly silted up. The complex was in the process of closing down and was later transformed in the 1980s into other purposes such as accommodation. The greatest transformation was perhaps to the dock which was covered over to become the floor of the Hays Galleria complex.
The old site had many storage areas for both bonded and unbonded goods, with roofs supported by brick arches or timber beams with iron columns. Photographic opportunities were limited but fine views were possible over the Pool of London to the demolition and rebuilding of the Billingsgate and Monument districts on the north bank of the Thames.
Other industrial subjects were the forbidding external walls of the warehouses and the cranes festooning them as well as the dilapidated wharf. An excellent account of warehouses in dockland is given by Malcolm Tucker of GLIAS in the publication 'Dockland: An Illustrated Historical Survey of Life and Work in East London' (NELP, 1986). Sidney Ray. All photos by the author
Elain Harwood 1958-2023
It is with great sadness we report the sudden death of Elain Harwood at the early age of 64. We have lost someone who made building conservation a more lively subject — an architectural enfant terrible she was the star of the Twentieth Century Society. Elain worked for Historic England (previously English Heritage) from 1984 and remained with them until her death.
Elain was born in Beeston, Notts in June 1958 and studied history at the University of Bristol. In 1984-6 she studied building conservation at the Architectural Association (AA) in London, where GLIAS held its meetings, and back in Bristol completed her PhD on the buildings of London's South Bank. In her opinion England's most significant post-war building was at Leicester University — the Engineering Building which is now 60 years old, see photograph below left taken on 7 March 2020. Its architects were James Stirling and James Gowan with Frank Newby as structural engineer — Frank gave lectures at the AA. The Engineering Building was listed Grade II* in 1993.
In September 1971 the Leicester Engineering Building appeared on a Royal Mail 7½p postage stamp. At that time British postage stamps depicting new British achievements were a novelty and H M The Queen looks so young, a mere slip of a girl; this was The New Elizabethan Age.
A building in Margate in which Elain showed an interest was Arlington House, near the railway station. Nineteen stories high, Arlington House dates from 1964 — see photograph above right. Before 1926 another railway station, Margate Sands for the South Eastern Railway occupied the site1. This railway station became The Casino Dance Hall but the dance hall burnt down in 1946 and the site was then just a car park. Arlington House was built to the designs of Russell Diplock; the ripple exterior gives every resident of the block a view of the sea. A high-rise apartment building close to Margate's seafront, this tall block has been the subject of local criticism. However, it is now quite a popular place to live, the flats are spacious with good views and in 2022 flats in Arlington House had reached prices of about ₤150,000.
Some of Elain Harwood's numerous books about post-war British architecture may be known to readers. Her latest book published in 2022 is Brutalist Britain: Buildings of the 1960s and 1970s. In the previous year she published Mid-Century Britain: Modern Architecture 1938-1963. Some of her other books include Art Deco Britain: Buildings of the interwar years, 2019, Space, Hope, and Brutalism: English Architecture, 1945-1975, published in 2015, Chamberlin, Powell and Bon: The Barbican and Beyond, 2011 and Nottingham, 2008. Nottingham was where she grew up. England: A Guide to Post-war Listed Buildings, 2003 is a useful survey. Bob Carr
1. Page 38, Brutalist Britain: Buildings of the 1960s and 1970s by Elain Harwood. Batsford 2022
Selby's in the Holloway Road
Department stores seem to be fast becoming extinct (GLIAS Newsletter April 2021). An exception is a department store at 384-400 Holloway Road N7, near the Nags Head. This is Selbys, an independent firm* established in 1895; let us hope it continues in business for a time. The experience of visiting a Department Store is something young people have had little experience of. The nearby Marks & Spencer's went out of business about three years ago and is now a LIDL. Bob Carr
* In January 1968 Selbys joined the Morley Stores group which consists of eight modest department stores in the Greater London area
Brass work as street furniture
A previous photo essay (GLIAS Newsletter April 2023) illustrated the role of ironworks and foundries in providing many types of street furniture for London. There were also a number of brass foundries which, as well as providing plumbing requisites, made items such as house name and number plates as well as distinctive brass lettering usually set into paving materials for purposes of advertising and identification.
Sadly, such lettering, while being polished by footfall, also suffers from erosion by the contact with shoes and damage by the cracking of pavements.
A selection of examples are shown taken over the last 50 years. Sidney Ray. All photos by the author
LT2, a 'New Bus For London'
LT2, the 'New Bus for London' in Bob Carr's photo (GLIAS Newsletter February 2023), was originally red. It was one of the batch of eight pre-production prototypes, entering service in 2012 on route 38.
In 2013, LT1, 2 & 3 were loaned to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, who sent them on a promotional world tour. LT 2 went to Europe. (LT1 to America and LT3 to Singapore.)
When LT2 returned to England, it was painted green with advertising on the lower body sides, for a six-month loan period to First West Yorkshire, to promote their 'New Bus for West Yorkshire' initiative. Since returning to London, the Yorkshire part of its green livery has been removed, forming the London Country Bus Services retro livery in Bob Carr's photo.
Thank you, Arriva, Wikimedia Commons and Oxford Diecast for making the above information available online. David Reason
Coffee Tavern facing demolition
Sadly the Great Western Coffee Tavern at 56 Great Western Road, London W9 is again under serious threat. Network Rail has not renewed the lease after its previous renewal of ten years and is planning to demolish the building and replace it with a block of flats.
Below are a couple of photographs; one taken last year when it was a bed manufacturer (business started in the 1970s) and one of the building as it looks now, boarded up and empty.
If anyone interested in saving the building please contact Maggie Tyler at: email@example.com
Shipyard machinery and MV Clan Maclaren
In the 1970s there were extensive ship repair facilities in London with well-equipped yards at Blackwall, on the Isle of Dogs and in the Royal Docks. These major yards closed at the end of the decade and most of the historic large machines were broken up. Some recording work was undertaken with publications in London's Industrial Archaeology 1.
A few large machine tools were saved by the Museum of London with the intention of displaying them when the intended Port and Industrial Museum for London, then still in the planning stage, was established. Sadly, despite much effort it was never possible to establish such a combined museum and Greater London is the only region of the country with no industrial museum 2.
For a time the Museum of London displayed some large shipyard machine tools on the north quay of the Royal Victoria Dock, close to its Visitor Centre, then the possible future home for the Museum in Docklands. But — as the museum project was finally realised as a River and Port-related one at the West India Quay — even this space had to be relinquished and what was left was offered to other museums with probably few shipyard machines finding a good home.
So if you want to get any idea of what this great machinery looked like where can you go? One answer to this question is the Scottish National Maritime Museum at Irvine in Ayrshire. Most shipyard machines were made in or near Glasgow 3 and the Scottish Maritime Museum has examples which give an idea of what things were like in London. The Royal Navy also had ship repair facilities and nearer home some shipyard machines can be seen at Chatham Dockyard.
A few older GLIAS members may remember Jim Tildesley who was at the Passmore Edwards Museum in Newham. This London Borough was collecting material on a large scale as well as the Museum of London and had warehouses in East London packed with artefacts (ref GLIAS Newsletter February 2023, More London Loos ...). On at least one occasion Jim arranged a visit to a store in Newham for GLIAS.
Years later Jim, James Michael Tildesley, became director of the Scottish National Maritime Museum and seeing the interest GLIAS had shown in large machine tools made in Glasgow got in touch. As well as a range of shipyard machines this museum has displays of other maritime material including ship models. Their website illustrates a fine model of the motor ship, Clan Maclaren. The following photograph shows this vessel on the Manchester Ship Canal passing through the Barton swing aqueduct. The photograph was taken by D K Cross in July 1970.
Clan Maclaren was typical of the ships that used to visit the larger docks in London in the 1960s although few of these had such hefty derricks. Built by the Greenock Dockyard Co Ltd, Greenock, in 1946, Clan Maclaren was 439 feet long and 6,009 tons gross. In May 1977 she was at Gadani Beach, Pakistan to be broken up.
It appears that the model of Clan Maclaren may not be in Irvine but in London on board HQS Wellington, berthed on the Thames Embankment. Does anyone know if this model is still onboard there? HQS Wellington is the headquarters of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners and is sometimes open to the general public during Open House.
Clan Maclaren had sturdy Samson posts and jumbo derricks and appears designed to carry heavy loads, probably as deck cargo. One use for such a vessel would have been exporting railway locomotives and carriages from the Clyde to former colonies. The North British locomotive company was based in Springburn and huge locomotives were trundled through the streets of Glasgow on their way to the docks, a memorable spectacle for the citizens of Glasgow. An illustration on the cover of the book The Springburn Story 4 gives an impression of what this was like.
Architectural commentators sometimes look back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. They are interested in the architecture but among all the modernity are surprised to see what appear to be ancient steam locomotives, including a large example destined for export. As well as the new Britannia Pacific 70004 William Shakespeare for British Railways, a broad-gauge 2-8-2 steam locomotive for India was on display, built by North British in Glasgow 5.
Bob Carr. Thanks are due to Chris Ellmers for his contribution to this article
1. London's Industrial Archaeology No 3, 1984, pp41-46
London's Industrial Archaeology No 7, 2000, pp55-63. The illustrations in the printed copies are of high quality
2. Victorian Technology and its preservation in Britain; a report submitted to the Leverhulme Trust. N A F Smith, Leicester University Press 1970. See Appendix IV, The major Technological Museums under development
3. Workshop of the British Empire: Engineering and Shipbuilding in the West of Scotland by Michael S Moss and John R Hume, Heinemann 1977
4. The Springburn Story by John Thomas, David & Charles 1964
5. Wags can joke that they had a broad-gauge steam locomotive at the Great Exhibition in 1851, Lord of the Isles, and a hundred years later they had a broad-gauge steam locomotive at the Festival of Britain.
Lord of the Isles
Lord of the Isles, a GWR 4-2-2 locomotive built 1851, had a top speed of 75-80 mph.
The W G class 2-8-2 locomotive for India of which 2,450 were built and one was on display at the 1951 Festival of Britain (see above) was probably not much faster.
Lord of the Isles was broken up in 1906; the 8ft diameter driving wheels were retained and are currently in Swindon.
In 1852 the Flying Dutchman express train using locomotives of the same class as Lord of the Isles was scheduled to run between London and Swindon at an average speed of 59 miles per hour. The timing of trains between London and Swindon was not significantly faster in 1951.
Together with the electric telegraph a locomotive similar to Lord of the Isles is depicted in the decorations round the top of the Royal Albert Hall, see photograph. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Great Western Railway in 1985 a replica of Iron Duke, a locomotive of the same class as Lord of the Isles was on display near the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens. The replica was constructed using the boiler and cylinders of a Hunslet 18 inch 0-6-0 saddle tank. It could run along a short length of broad gauge track and when in steam the spectacle of this giant locomotive in motion, from ground level, was most impressive. This replica still exists and can be seen at the Didcot Railway Centre.
When Lord of the Isles was on display in the Great Exhibition of 1851 it may have carried the name Charles Russell. Russell (1786-1856) was chairman of the Great Western Railway from 1839 to 1855. He shot himself in 1856. Bob Carr
Not room to swing a cat round
Many GLIAS members will be aware that the people who give commentaries on the boats that take tourists from London to Greenwich tell some pretty tall stories. One of these is that the walkway across the top of Tower Bridge had to be closed because there were so many suicides. No one actually did jump off, the reason it was closed was because few people were using it. The opening and closing of the bascules proved to be less time-consuming than expected and pedestrians were quite happy to wait a short time for the bridge to close and then simply walk across at low-level. It turned out to be just not worth the bother of going over the top.
Many popular expressions still in use have a nautical origin; 'to the bitter end', 'pipe down', 'taken aback', 'on our beam ends' are examples and another is 'there's not room to swing a cat round'. Despite what you might have been told on a river trip the cat in question was not a cat o' nine tails for flogging sailors but a collier brig of the type that brought sea-coal up-river to London in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. These tough sailing ships could carry 300-400 tons of coal — quite substantial for this period.
Their passage from Northumberland, Durham and Fife to the Thames depended very much on weather conditions. This meant that there would be periods when hardly any coal was arriving and then quite a fleet of colliers would arrive more or less together.
The Pool of London was very crowded and if many of these colliers arrived they had to wait until space upriver was available. They would then anchor and clutter the lower reaches and the Estuary. Deep-sea ships were inconvenienced and the bosun or captain of an arriving vessel would complain, 'there's not room to swing a cat round'. Larger ships required more space to swing at anchor than a collier brig.
In central London traffic congestion is nothing new and in the old crowded narrow streets there was no room to swing a cat round — a feline cat. In the days when rich and important people had carriages with footmen, these footmen would often be burly young lads. One of their functions was to fight their way through traffic congestion when their master's coach was held up. If there was a coach in the way with four footmen and you had six the coach blocking the way would probably not chance a fight and retreat back to a suitable passing place. Bob Carr
More on clock towers
At Thamesmead the clock from Deptford Dockyard (GLIAS Newsletter April 2023) was placed on top of a tall red-brick tower — built in 1986 it is still there, see photograph below left. Two massive cannon point at the base of the Tower as if to demolish it, see photograph below right.
You might expect these large guns to be replicas; if they were real guns they would be too heavy wouldn't they? Surprisingly they are genuine.
Woolwich Arsenal had a habit of burying obsolete equipment. When redeveloping the eastern part of the Arsenal in the 1970s guns from the 18th and 19th centuries were excavated from the Broadwater Dock area. Probably because real cannon are heavy, most of them can still be seen on display or laid out around the Arsenal site.
Further downriver at Erith there is another clock tower on top of Morrison's supermarket — see photograph, below. This tower is rather different from the Dockyard clock and its design is more reminiscent of a lighthouse; some Irish examples come to mind. At Erith there is a blind tower with clock faces. From a distance the impression is pleasing but on closer examination its cheap construction is obvious. Anyway it's a nice folly.
Overall the redevelopment at Erith is commendable, the area still has a significant maritime flavour and the concrete jetty which in the 1960s oceangoing ships used to berth against and unload is still there. High winds permitting you can still walk to the end.
The address of the supermarket is James Watt Way, Erith. It might be that the name James Watt was chosen because British Insulated Calendar Cables (BICC) had a works at Erith and Fraser & Chalmers were also here. Fraser & Chalmers were taken over by the General Electric Company (GEC) in 1918. Bob Carr
The Shires Estate
Two massive apartment blocks in Edmonton, Cheshire House and Shropshire House on the Shires Estate are likely to be demolished owing to safety problems. Gas supplies to the blocks built in the 1960s were switched off in November, concrete panels have failed structural safety tests and there is a possibility the buildings could collapse in the event of a gas explosion. Eighteen stories high, about 200 people currently live in the blocks and it has been estimated that refurbishment could cost as much as ₤53 million. The local authority has decided that this cost is prohibitive.
Nearly sixty years old these two blocks, a prominent landmark of the area, were cheaply constructed and have served their purpose. The original design may not have been intended to have such a long life.
Meridian Water Redevelopment
Just south of the Angel Road Flyover and on both sides of Meridian Way a substantial area is being redeveloped for housing.
Since 2018 The Meridian Water masterplan has gone through several iterations and will continue to evolve so it is by no means clear what will happen here. IKEA still has to sell the site of its Swedish furniture store and the building may still be there. A new railway station was built to serve the development (GLIAS Newsletter August 2019) and it was intended to build a total of 10,000 new homes. Owing to Brexit, Covid, and other global and domestic events construction costs are now higher than originally anticipated. Bob Carr
Shops that sold stationery and office requisites, stationers, sometimes used to sell their own-brand products. Spiral pads which were used by secretaries to take down dictation in shorthand, sometimes carried the name and address of the shop that sold them. Photograph 1 shows an example from Hampstead in North London. This has an added touch of glamour — The Hampstead Reporters' Notebook. When using this spiral pad was one meant to imagine a newspaper reporter jotting down hot news at some local event?
Photograph 2 shows a similar pad from Cornwall. In the more sedate West Country the stationer has not sought to add a glamorous title. Both these pads have pages size 8 inches by 5 inches (203 x 126 mm) and you can still buy spiral pads the same size today. The row of holes at the top of the cover is for a wire spiral, as a means of binding this allows the notepad to be completely opened so that the pages lie flat against each other. Readers should be familiar with this kind of binding which is still in use for some books.
The notepad from Cornwall dates from the 1970s, it cost 50p which taking inflation into account sounds rather expensive for 60 pages; this was 10 shillings in old money or half a pound. At the time it was bought it was probably rather old stock.
When you went on holiday further afield, say to France, before the days of mobile phones and selfies it was common practice to buy picture postcards and post them to friends and family back home. The postcards were often sold by stationers and they advertised themselves by giving you your postcards in a convenient paper bag, with information about the shop printed on the outside. Photograph 3 shows an example of such a bag; it is six and a half inches by five and a half inches in size (165 x 138 mm) — large enough to comfortably hold half a dozen or so cards.
In the early 1970s the computer department at Chelsea College had a steel cabinet to store paper for the computer. This carried a notice — Stationary Cupboard. A wag had added 'do not drive away'. Bob Carr
Arthur Martin Ltd, Greenwich
I wonder if any GLIAS member can tell me anything about a Greenwich-based firm called Arthur Martin Ltd who were in Plaxtol Place, SE10 from around 1896 until 1961?
I came across them in the 1961 book by Aubrey Wilson on London's Industrial Heritage which describes them having owned a Whitworth planing machine and as 'the famous tool and cutter makers of Westcombe Park'. Westcombe Park is a 19th-century residential suburb but just north of Westcombe Park Station and was a minute trading estate on the site of an old farm yard — it had been a big and important farm for many centuries. Arthur Martin were still advertising for skilled staff in 1959 although Arthur Martin himself had died in 1945 and lived near East Grinstead. I think it possible that the firm may have originated in Clerkenwell. I know no more about the company except that they are described as 'famous' — so why have they left so little about themselves? Any pointers would be useful. I write a weekly article on Greenwich's industrial past for a local freebie and would love to be able to write a proper article on them. It is just this sort of obscure firm we need to know more about if we are to understand the shape and pattern of past industries. Their site has just been cleared following the closure of Sperati's button factory.
Mary Mills. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Is this a prison?
This fairly recent building near Finsbury Park railway station has the appearance of a prison for dangerous criminals. Can anyone explain the purpose of the steel bars? Bob Carr
Willesden Junction substation — update
The 'equipment' mentioned in the article on the old electricity substation east of Willesden Junction (GLIAS Newsletter April 2023) has been donated to the London Transport Traction Group. It consists (only) of one powered bogie in poor condition.
The London Transport Traction Group is based in Wales where they are custodians of two former Isle of Wight class 483 (ex '38 stock) multiple units (GLIAS Newsletter December 2020). Roger Ellis
Share your old photos
Do you have a collection of old photos? Have you thought about sharing them with a wider audience?
The GLIAS Database is part of Industrial History Online (www.industrialhistoryonline.co.uk/yiho/index.php) and would welcome pictures to illustrate the many sites contained therein.
Also Historic England is seeking photos of listed sites and has started an initiative called the Missing Pieces Project (https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/missing-pieces/).
Both sites require a login, but it is fairly straightforward thereafter to start uploading your old photos.
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© GLIAS, 2023