Notes and news — October 2023
In this issue:
From the chair
- From the chair
- Time marches on
- Can you list a replica?
- Marks & Spencer's, Oxford Street
- Blackhorse Road
- The Grays Light Ship LV38
- London Bridge signal box
- Thomas Buxton
- Prototype Routemaster buses
- K8 telephone boxes
- Thames watermains
- Bars at the window
- Street furniture — the public lavatory
The Fitzrovia walk led by Mike and Kate Quinton was a success with requests for notes by those who couldn't make it on the day.
The next walk on 14 October will be led by Alan Burkitt-Gray in Greenwich — The Home of International Telecoms (see Diary dates for further details).
We have a vacancy for a member to look after the records of our Membership. The details are kept on an Excel Spreadsheet and although regular reports to the Committee form part of the 'job' meetings can be attended in person or by Zoom.
Anyone interested get in touch with me via email@example.com. Dan Hayton
Time marches on
While travelling to Bromley I noticed that a long-time presence on the route had changed from Phillips Duplicators into a Solar Power sales office.
This led me to think back on the production processes for the Newsletter since GLIAS was founded.
The contents of the Newsletter can be found in the Archive on our website but how was it produced and distributed?
Until recently snail mail was the only distribution method but with COVID and other factors we have been offering a PDF version by email. Members have taken advantage of the option but we still offer a print version to those who like 'real copy'.
But how did we get ink on paper? Initially, before I joined (and if anyone knows better do correct me), we used a company, Celtic Mailways, for printing and distribution. We then moved on to using in house(s) printing and distribution where Gestetner skins were typed and printed and then 'stuffed' and posted by volunteers from the membership. When the duplicator moved out of London GLIAS 'inherited' the Gestetner machine and volunteers took over the printing which was kept at the Kirkaldy Testing Museum.
From manual typewriters to computer driven dot-matrix printers (without the ribbon) the lead time could be cut down still using the original printer. When that machine was showing its age we approached Phillips Duplicators, where we had bought supplies for many years, for a replacement. The suggestion was made that we should trade-in our old machine for a scanning duplicator where we could use ink-jet or laser printed originals. That machine could also reduce A4 copy to print A5 two up for booklets. Eventually an ink leak marked the end of that machine and we were able to trade it in, for parts, against a newer model.
With the effort required to print each issue and the economics of third party printing the Newsletter switched to a photocopying/printing process which enabled the use of illustrations in colour at a practical cost with volunteers (?) continuing to distribute by post.
Finally we come to where we are now with the Newsletter printed and distributed 'untouched by human hand'; laid out on computer, sent to the printer as an email attachment accompanied by a distribution list from an Excel spreadsheet and then sent out by the printers. Email copies are sent out using the same PDF document (avoiding any possible delays in the post).
The Newsletter has come to you over the years using 20th-century technology to now be delivered by cyberspace. Thanks to all those, past and present, for keeping this going. Dan Hayton
Can you list a replica?
The Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale, a public house in West London, was built in 1921. While it was being considered for grade II listing in 2015 it was demolished without planning permission and the developer had to rebuild it brick by brick. The Tavern reopened in 2021.
If the building had originally been listed would it still be listable when rebuilt? A replica is not original. Can you list a replica?
Visiting the interior of the Carlton Tavern now it is hard to believe that this public house has been completely rebuilt since 2015. It is an astonishingly successful recreation with a real period atmosphere. It seems you can fake anything.
With reference to the current controversy regarding the improper demolition of a public house at Himley in Staffordshire in similar circumstances, in the unlikely event that this pub were rebuilt, would it be listable? Bob Carr
Marks & Spencer's, Oxford Street
The British Secretary of State Michael Gove has rejected Marks & Spencer's plans to demolish its store near the west end of Oxford Street, Orchard House by Alfred Aldridge Trehearne and Charles Frederick Norman (1929-30), and replace it with a building designed by Pilbrow & Partners.
A report by the Department of Housing & Communities, which announced Mr Gove's decision, makes clear that demolishing the building would generate roughly 40,000 tonnes of embodied carbon.
The most environmentally friendly building is one already built. Mr Gove disagreed with the notion that the present Marks & Spencer's building could not be reused.
Mr Gove also found that the impact of the proposed new building on the façade of Selfridges would be unfortunate. The appearance and volume of the Pilbrow & Partners building would distract from Selfridges listed façade which is immediately across Orchard Street to the east. Harry Gordon Selfridge's celebrated department store was built in stages between 1906 and 1928 and is listed grade II*. Bob Carr
In London it has been the policy, introduced by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, to allow the building of tower blocks of apartments near underground and railway stations. Parts of The Lea Valley are no exception. The immediate vicinity of Tottenham Hale station is a prime example and if you have not alighted from a train here recently, stepping outside you may well be astonished. The scene is now reminiscent of a Paris banlieue.
The photograph (below, 1), looking north-east, shows the cluster of buildings recently built round Blackhorse Road station; this station serves both the overground and the Victoria line. The cluster here is less extreme than that at Tottenham Hale but is fairly typical. On the left you can see a railway line with overhead electrification; this is the Goblin line running from Gospel Oak to Barking, and now extended further to Barking Riverside, the old site of Barking Power Station. See the photograph of this power station (2) taken on 14 June 1970.
The ship is the CEGB collier Sir Archibald Page. Powered by a triple-expansion steam engine she was built at Sunderland in 1950. Sold abroad in 1972 the vessel was broken up in March 1980.
As well as a frequent Overground service the railway line you see on the left in photograph (1) has heavy freight traffic, mostly container trains from Thameside. At times there may be a freight train running between every passenger train. To the north, Forest Road runs from east to west immediately alongside the railway. This road crossing of the Lea Valley is particularly pleasant with the Maynard Reservoirs on one side. A great crested grebe could sometimes be seen on the Low Maynard Reservoir.
A good length of the railway between Blackhorse Road and South Tottenham is supported on brick arches. With the frequent passing of 100 ton wagons these arches are now carrying a greater load than they were originally designed for. In photograph (1) the water in the foreground is Walthamstow reservoir number four. Bob Carr
The Grays Light Ship LV38
For many years there has been a decrepit wooden hulk at Grays, the remains of a 19th-century light ship. No longer there, what happened to this remarkable survival which was over a hundred years old?
Built of oak in 1860 and 90 feet overall, LV38 saw service at several locations off the East Coast. Finally she served at the Mouse station on the Thames Estuary where in 1941 the vessel was damaged by enemy air attack. Following this LV38 was laid up at Gorleston.
After the war in 1947 the lightship was bought by the Thurrock Yacht Club for use as headquarters. Eventually becoming in too decrepit a state for further use she was abandoned and continued to decay.
It can be reported that although in October 2011 the whole vessel was finally broken up, the mast with its characteristic lantern was saved and is now prominently displayed at the water's edge in front of the Yacht Club. Photograph (1) shows the lantern and photograph (2) a view of the Yacht Club looking west. The photographs were taken in July 2023. Bob Carr
London Bridge signal box
Some people admire the clean lines of the now disused London Bridge signal box (see photograph below), and a new use is being sought for the building.
There are enthusiasts for this style of modernist architecture who would like to see the box listed as a good example of its period. Have they been successful, does anyone have news of recent developments?
When opened in 1974 London Bridge signal box was one of the busiest on British railways. An Area Signalling Centre it controlled all the lines from Charing Cross and Cannon Street out through London Bridge station and on towards Kent, a total of 47 miles of route. Open 24/7, 60 signalling staff and four shift managers were needed to run it.
The upper floor of the box, which is without windows, contained the control panels and the staff. The lower floor housed the signalling equipment, as well as the offices and mess facilities for the signals maintenance team.
Over the years some of the work of the box was transferred away and the London Bridge box began to see less use. The end came in 2014 when Thameslink was opened through London Bridge station and signalling was transferred to Three Bridges Regional Operating Centre. Some signal equipment was retained in the London Bridge box for possible use elsewhere but in 2020 the building became redundant.
Readers might like to suggest a new use? A possible suggestion might be as a modern art gallery, the artwork could be displayed on the top floor which is windowless and the floor beneath which has windows could serve for reception, shop and a café. Public Access could be on the south side of the building from Crucifix Lane by steps and a small auxiliary lift.
There is already a White Cube gallery in Bermondsey so why not a White Box at London Bridge? The vicinity of London Bridge station is often thronged with tourists so there should already be an appropriate clientele on hand. To the west we have Tate Modern and further on the Hayward Gallery. A new modern art gallery at London Bridge might well be complementary and could be used for specialist exhibitions; we could have a quartet of modern art galleries on the south bank.
Works of art such as paintings by Mondrian and Malevich come to mind, the sculptures of Anthony Caro and perhaps the work of some American minimalists, Carl Andre for instance.
If a whole power station can successfully become an art gallery the suggestion that a much smaller signal box with clean functional lines might also become one is a modest proposal. Bob Carr
People who could afford it sometimes used really large motor cars before the Second World War; successful doctors in private practice in London would often arrive in an old Royal Rolls-Royce with an engine 7 litres or more in size — this would surely enhance the placebo effect. It was not thought unreasonable for the Civil Engineer Sir Owen Williams* to use a 6-litre Bentley for site visits. He was still using his 6-litre Bentley in 1940 when engaged in important war work but he was finally persuaded to get a more economical car and bought a 3-litre Bentley.
In the 1950s and 60s some American cars were very large in physical size, this photograph shows a full-size Plymouth Belvedere dating from 1960. Many automobiles in the USA at this time had 4 or 5 litre engines. The Belvedere had a choice of engines of various types ranging in size from 3½ litres to 5½ litres.
At first sight it looks as if the photograph of this American car might have been taken somewhere like Los Angeles, and about 50 years ago, but in fact the car was in London and photographed in April 2016. The Plymouth Belvedere is a collector's piece on display for a classic car event and it was parked close to the entrance to the King's Cross & St Pancras underground station in King's Boulevard. This boulevard leads from King's Cross suburban station northwards towards the King's Cross goods yard.
As fuel prices increased and concern for the environment began to grow engines became more efficient and most of us now regard a motorcar engine with a capacity of more than 1.6 litres as rather large. Some large cars of greater engine capacity are still retained by enthusiasts for occasional use and can be seen on display at various rallies and public events.
In the last few years hybrid car engines became available and for use in central London hybrid cars became relatively popular. However, as we are now learning, batteries of hybrid vehicles need replacing after a few years and this is becoming a problem. As the price of lithium has increased mining in Cornwall is becoming economic again.
It is now emerging that hybrid vehicles were a stopgap and as more charging points become available, fully electric cars are beginning to be used in increasing numbers. In parts of London where there are sufficient charging points electric cars such as the Tesla are rapidly becoming more numerous. Already more than twice as many fully electric cars are being bought compared with hybrids which are fast becoming industrial archaeology.
However, environmentally speaking, because of the huge amount of energy required in manufacturing, one of the worst things that you can do is to buy a new car or a new more or less anything else for that matter. Bob Carr
* Sir Evan Owen Williams (1890 — 1969). He was knighted in 1923
Many thanks for highlighting Mike Brown's book London Brewed in the Newsletter (GLIAS Newsletter August 2023). I have bought a copy and find it an excellent publication.
Perhaps I can add a note. On the previous ₤5 note featuring Elizabeth Fry, there is also a group of people depicted which includes Thomas Buxton (the one with glasses), a director of Truman, Hanbury and Buxton. He was included because he was Elizabeth Fry's brother in law, and an MP who took over from Wilberforce as head of the anti-slavery campaign. He was Hanbury's nephew and an effective director of the brewery. David Roberts
Prototype Routemaster buses
With reference to the article by David Reason (GLIAS Newsletter August 2023), observation at Potters Bar and Chingford indicates that preproduction prototypes LT 1-5 are in service on route 313. From the internet LT 1-7 are based at Enfield.
Since LT 1-8 were prototypes they are presumably not all the same and it would be sensible to base this varied set of buses at one depot where specialist staff familiar with the details and having access to appropriate spares can maintain them. The photograph below shows LT5 at Potters Bar in July 2023.
Incidentally the curvaceous styling of the 2012 Routemaster bus was the work of Heatherwick Studios which are based at King's Cross. Thomas Heatherwick designed the curving roof which was placed on top of the Coal Drops there*. Bob Carr
* Industrial Archaeology News 188, Spring 2019, p20
Bob Carr referred to the Sullivan company (GLIAS Newsletter August 2023) and wondered if more information was available.
If you go to the Sullivan Buses website (www.sullivanbuses.com) and click on 'enthusiasts' much will be explained. Briefly though, Dean Sullivan the proprietor, having worked for the Underground organising weekend rail-replacement buses, saw that there might be a business to be made out of building up a fleet of secondhand buses that could be used on such work at weekends. These buses then enabled him to bid to operate school services Mon-Fri at relatively marginal cost. Since then the company has expanded by successfully bidding to operate a few all-day TfL contract services plus some commercial services outside London, notably route 84 to St Albans, which they rescued after Metroline withdrew it. Sullivans are the only independent company contracted to operate TfL bus services.
On their website under 'routes' there is a list of what they operate. This seems quite impressive, but many of the services don't amount to much. The buses on London contracts have to be painted red. Those on commercial work outside London are steadily being painted green, though those on the service to Thorpe Park are blue.
Another fact I heard recently is that 10% of all TfL contract buses in London are now electric. The number is climbing rapidly as contracts involving new buses invariably involve electric vehicles. David Flett
K8 telephone boxes
About 11,000 K8 phone boxes were installed across the UK between 1968 and 1983 and some of the K8 boxes which survive on London Underground platforms have now been listed grade II. One example is at Chalfont & Latimer station on the Metropolitan line.
The K8 was replaced by the KX100 and has become almost obsolete owing to the use of mobile phones. The boxes on London Transport platforms are now owned by LT and are no longer painted red. They are used by Transport for London staff on the internal telephone system of LT and this use has enabled them to survive. Some of the K8 boxes in Hull have also been listed.
There is a pair of K8 telephone boxes at South Kensington, District line etc, railway station (pictured below). These are covered by a pitched roof, constructed from timber.
Did they not like the new aesthetic? Or could it have a practical use if the station roof above was leaking from time to time? With the flat roofs did people throw their rubbish on top where it was hard to retrieve? Having a sloping roof any rubbish bags would slide off onto the floor and be easier to collect. Bob Carr
Thames Water are now lining another 36-inch main along the New River pipe track which runs from Green Lanes to the Seven Sisters Road (GLIAS Newsletter February 2023). A shaft has been sunk at the north end of Finsbury Park Road and the east end of Somerfield Road. Photograph (1) shows some of the lining work being carried out in October 2022; 10m lengths of blue plastic lining are being welded together prior to being drawn into the main.
Photograph (2) taken in July 2023 shows the shaft in the Somerfield Road. Bob Carr
Bars at the window
The photograph in GLIAS Newsletter June 2023 shows a tall apartment building which appears to have steel bars covering the windows. These windows face south and on closer inspection, looking up at an angle it can be seen that the steelwork is composed of short slats with a cross-section rather reminiscent of an aerofoil. It has been suggested that these slats are there to reduce the effect of sunlight overheating the rooms; they would function somewhat like Venetian blinds. The slats are fixed, they do not rotate.
A few other buildings in London also exhibit this feature. However, what is it like for the inhabitants, is the steelwork outside their windows intrusive? Living in one of these apartments you might still feel you are living behind iron bars. The initial impact when viewing this building might also deter prospective buyers who could exclaim, 'I don't want to live there!'
The building illustrated is one of the twin towers built in Islington near Finsbury Park station, see GLIAS Newsletter 268 October 2013, p7. Bob Carr
Street furniture — the public lavatory
Public lavatories were introduced from necessity in the middle of the 19th century. Lack of building space necessitated many of them being underground structures, often at road junctions and of course there were separate provisions for ladies and gentlemen. A glance at an OS map of the succeeding 100 years shows the large number of these structures and were a source of civic pride for the Victorians. Many were fine examples of the functional use of wood, ceramics, lead, copper, brass, mirrors and mosaics. The latest in plumbing technology was used and an attendant ensured moral behaviour and discouraged vandalism.
Above ground, much heavy and elaborate ironwork as well as stink pipes and ventilators surrounded the entrance and provide enduring examples of street furniture, while below ground, elaborate plumbing and glistening metalwork dominated. A famous example are the lavatories in Wesley's Chapel in City Road.
Regrettably and worryingly, recent years have seen extensive closure of such amenities causing much anxiety, particularly among the elderly, young families and those with medical issues. A variety of anodyne replacement conveniences are in use in some city centres.
Many of the former toilets have been converted for other uses such as restaurants, wine bars, hairdressers and studios. Many lie derelict and rusting, the entrance stairs clogged with rubbish. It may be an expensive process to remove the underground structures and of course very little usable ground area is then available, the original reason for their subterranean existence.
The photographs cover the subject in three categories: exteriors, interiors and signage, taken over the last 50 years. It is a difficult subject to record, the taking of photographs in a public toilet raises much suspicion and considerate 'loitering' until the premises are empty is even more concerning, especially to an alert attendant. For obvious reasons there are no images taken in ladies lavatories!
The exterior photographs show the once ubiquitous iron structures; little provision for disabled access; modern signage as to new use, and above ground conventional structures to better blend in with the surroundings and attempts at gentrification.
The interior photographs highlight the use of marbled ceramics, fishtank cisterns, elaborate pipework and handwash facilities.
Selected signage shows civic pride, manufacturers' signs and logos, health advice and decency warnings.
Curiously, a dual language sign above a male lavatory once near the Rotherhithe tunnel entrance (below) was directed at the Scandinavian seamen from the nearby Canada Water and Surrey Docks where timber was imported from those countries, another vanished industry in Docklands.
Sidney Ray, all photos by the author
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© GLIAS, 2023