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Notes and news — December 2023

In this issue:

From the chair

We've had another successful season of walks concluding in October with Alan Burkitt-Gray leading a tour of telecoms in Greenwich. The Society's thanks go to Andrew Turner for co-ordinating the walks season (and dealing with circumstances that led to the cancellation of the June walk).

Thanks also to Peter Finch for the Royal Docks; Andrew Turner for the Lower Lea; Kate and Mike Quinton for Fitzrovia and Alan for the above Greenwich walk.

GLIAS has been involved with development proposals, in particular with respect to gasholder sites at Fulham and Bethnal Green. Our thanks go to Malcolm Tucker and Michael Bussell for their involvement.

We held our customary November Pub Evening at The Sekforde in Clerkenwell when presentations were given by myself, Paul Saulter and David Perrett while Alan Burkitt-Gray and Mary Mills covered the plight of the Archives in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. There is a petition to the Council to improve access which can be found by searching for Greenwich Archive Petition. Do take a look and support it.

The evening included some new faces as well as familiar ones turning up in person while The Sekforde provided drinks and food for those who needed sustenance. Making use of their WiFi enabled us to include members online. We're looking forward to seeing you in 2024 at our first lecture on 17 January.

Season's Greetings and Best Wishes for 2024. Dan Hayton

Fulham Gasworks

GLIAS was approached by St William about the Georgian Gasholder on the site of the former Fulham Gasworks and this led to a meeting with the developer, architects and landscape architects over the restoration and use of the remains of the 1830 structure.

The guide frame and the internal support truss attached to the crown are planned to be retained on the same site as the focal point of an open space within the development. The crown of the bell, replaced later in the 19th century, has deteriorated enough for a drone to be inserted through one of the holes and interior photographs show the state of the truss, crown, support and tank walls.

The GLIAS party included myself, Michael Bussell, Malcolm Tucker and David Perrett along with Annabel Clarke of the Hammersmith and Fulham Historic Buildings Group. We met with Sean Gilbreth, St William (developer); Duko Frankhuizen, St William (developer); Andrew Rowland, ADAM Architecture (architects); Daniella Favero, Gillespies (landscape architects); and Timur Tatlioglu, Montagu Evans (heritage consultants); and discussed an initial proposal for conservation and display of the gasholder.

Fulham Gasholder No. 2, Dan Hayton

It was difficult to get close enough to identify the pump in front of the tank in my photo (above), any thoughts on what a Weir-type pump would be used for?

For further details of gasholders see: Low-pressure gas storage by Brian Sturt; GLIAS Journal No 2.

We look forward to hearing more of this development and others on gasworks and gasholder sites. Dan Hayton

Gasholder No. 2, built in 1829-30, is by far the oldest surviving gasholder in the world, as recognised by its Grade II* listing — raised in 2017 from its 1970 listing at Grade II following comments on its significance made, among others, by GLIAS member and gasholder authority Malcolm Tucker and by me, also a GLIAS member but for this purpose writing on behalf of my local Hammersmith & Fulham Historic Buildings Group.

My acquaintance with the gasholder dates as far back as 1972, when I was approached by a member of the erstwhile Hammersmith Borough Architect's Department who was interested — good for him! — in sites of industrial archaeological interest in the borough. His particular focus was on Gasholder No. 2, which had been taken out of service the previous year.

Although town gas was no longer made there, Fulham then remained an active gasworks site for local storage of gas in five other, larger and later, gasholders — which of course meant that public access was generally prohibited.

The architect had the idea of providing a pedestrian tunnel entered from a nearby street that would allow the public to walk towards the gasholder before climbing a stairway up to a ground-level annular walkway surrounding No. 2. This would be fenced off from the rest of the gasworks site, allowing visitors to appreciate No. 2's character and features from close up without entering the still-active gasworks area.

An interesting idea, but almost certainly impractical on grounds of cost and of buried pipework, etc obstructing any feasible route. Nevertheless, permission to visit No. 2 was obtained from North Thames Gas Board, and on Thursday 18 May 1972 I took an afternoon off work and accompanied the architect and his colleague to inspect it.

I took two just two photographs on that visit (the cost of film, and of processing it in those days, discouraged profligate snapping, and these were in black-and-white). The first was an upward view of one of the 12 distinctive 'tripod' guide frames equally spaced around the bell, these being made of iron castings bolted together to form tapering T-sections.

The second was of a plaque mounted on a small post in front of the gasholder, which, under the name of the Gas Light and Coke Company and the date 1948 (immediately pre-nationalisation) recorded (without any punctuation!) that 'THIS HOLDER WAS BUILT BY THE IMPERIAL GAS COMPANY IN 1830 AND HAS BEEN IN CONSTANT USE SINCE THAT DATE IT IS THE OLDEST WORKING GASHOLDER IN THE WORLD'.

A 'tripod' guide frame of Gasholder No. 2 - Michael Bussell The 1948 plaque recording the significance of Gasholder No. 2 – regrettably since 'lost' - Michael Bussell

I'm glad that I took that photo, as the plaque has since been 'lost' somehow or other. I was pleased to be able to pass a scan of my photo of the plaque to St William at our meeting, which would allow them to have a replica plaque cast. I look forward to seeing that, standing in front of a 'resurrected' Gasholder No. 2. Michael Bussell

London gasholders update, November 2023

There are now several projects under way or seeking planning permission for reusing gasholder guide frames, being promoted by St William Homes LLP, which is a joint venture between the house builders Berkeley Homes and National Grid plc, the former owners of a great number of gasworks sites in North London.

The most recent project is to develop the Bromley-by-Bow gasholder station in Newham, for which planning applications were submitted in October. This is the renowned group of seven Grade-II-listed holders (1872-82) east of Bow Creek, near the Three Mills. To finance the costly refurbishment of the guide frames it is proposed to build blocks of flats inside the frames and slimmer, high-rise 'pencil blocks' next to them; also, a substantial park cum nature reserve is to be fitted in. Unfortunately, the infilling flats will obscure the shapes of the guide frames when seen from across the river, while the pencil blocks will intrude into familiar views (see separate note, below).

One of the pedestals in the cast-iron columns at Bromley-by-Bow, of a classical design originated at Bethnal Green 20 years earlier, in 1858. With internal bolts now rusted up, dismantling them without breakage may prove tricky. (MT Tucker 2023)

After long exposure to the weather (including past removal of the caps from the columns), the guide frames are in poor condition — the junctions between the columns and girders are inaccessible to repair in situ while corroded internal bolts present further problems, so it is proposed to dismantle the cast-iron frames, take them away for refurbishment in workshops in Sheffield and then reassemble around the new flats, using the existing tank walls as foundations under the columns. Detailed method statements have been prepared, but difficulties in taking apart the cast ironwork may have been underestimated.

The lattice-girdered crown structure of Bromley No.4 (engineer Vitruvius Wyatt, 1876-7) is individually listed and is proposed to be displayed as an open-air feature and separately from its guide frame.

B-by-B No.4, Wyatt's Crown Girders, as proposed to be re-erected in current planning application (RSHP Architects 2023)

At the Marian Place, Bethnal Green gasholder site, by the Regent's Canal in Tower Hamlets, the cast-iron-framed and long-lived 'No.2' holder (of 1865-6 by Joseph Clark) is to be treated similarly to those at Bromley-by-Bow, but the wrought-iron framed 'No.5' (of 1888-9 by George Trewby) will be refurbished in situ — it would be too complicated and damaging to take it to pieces and reassemble. Removing the toxic lead paint and repairs to the ironwork will be done from scaffolding in stages, within a dust-tight 'cocoon'. Work on removing the wrought-iron bells (not to be kept) and de-sludging the tanks has been progressing there, but salvaging sufficient guide-roller carriages for reinstatement is something that gets overlooked when the bells are cut up. This site is to be marketed as 'Broadway East'

Also in Tower Hamlets, at 'Poplar Riverside', three wrought-iron lattice standards and the associated girder work (of eye-catching shape) were salvaged during the demolition of the 'Poplar No.1' guide frame (engineer Harry Jones, 1876-7). They are to be re-erected on a landscaped site within a park. The ground is to be specially shaped so that the standards will face a levelled area simulating a sector of the original tank — this solution was pressed for by local historian Tom Ridge and myself.

At the site of Fulham gasworks, which is being marketed as 'King's Road Park', the former 'Fulham No.2' gasholder of 1830 has the oldest metalwork in the world and is listed at Grade 2* (see above). Submerged in its water-filled tank since c.1970, its very early wrought-iron roof trusses will take some effort to recover, but they are proposed to be displayed in the open air within its brick tank and with walk-through access as a sociable meeting place.

South of the river next to Battersea Park is the earliest of Berkeley Homes' gasworks development sites (GLIAS Newsletter February 2013). Subsequently marketed as 'Prince of Wales Drive', its overall consent was granted in 2016 and its last phases are now nearly complete. I suggested in 2013 that some rarely surviving giant-single-order cast-iron columns should be salvaged from Battersea No.5 for re-erection; that was not taken up, but the upper parts of three early box-lattice standards with associated girders from Battersea No.6 (1881-3 by Robert Morton) have been saved and nicely re-erected by the roadside.

Battersea No.6, top tier of guide frame as now re-erected at Prince of Wales Drive, SW8. (MT Tucker 2023)

Also south of the river, and famously within view of The Oval cricket ground, is 'Kennington No.1', a magnificent wrought-iron lattice structure of 1877-9 and 1890-1 and the last of Historic England's gasholder listings. Like Bethnal Green No.5, this is to be refurbished in situ, with new flats built inside. But, with so many ventures in the pipeline, this part of the 'Oval Village' development is on hold for the present. Malcolm Tucker

Kirkaldy Testing Works' 150th anniversary

On 1 January 1874 David Kirkaldy opened his Testing and Experimenting Works at 99 Southwark Street so we will be celebrating its 150th anniversary next year. This was not Kirkaldy's first premises in London. He had begun in 1866 at The Grove in Southwark where he first set up his universal testing machine. One of his first engagements was from the engineers for the new Blackfriars Bridge where he was asked to test and report on the cement, bricks, and granite, wrought and cast iron, timber for struts etc. Within a few weeks steel arrived from Krupps of Essen, to be followed by material for testing from many British and Overseas manufacturers.

Such was his success and the quantity of work being received that the premises at The Grove became too small and he decided to move, but not too far. Southwark Street was at that time newly created as part of the Metropolitan Board of Works Sewerage Scheme. David Kirkaldy was able to obtain a plot of land there and have the present building constructed to house the testing machine on the ground floor. In the basement was and still is the equipment related to cement and concrete testing including a hydraulic press built into the floor. Another room contains a chain testing machine from circa 1907. The current museum retains only the basement and ground floor but earlier there was a well equipped machine shop on the first floor and the upper two floors were devoted to what was known as The Museum of Fractures. Here the results of the numerous tests were displayed for reference and to show clients.

Kirkaldy's Testing Works Patent Testing Machine

The development of the Testing Works into a museum can be traced through early articles in GLIAS newsletters of the 1970s and 1980s. The museum is now open more often than in previous years. In particular we have a premium tour including a run of the Universal Testing Machine on every fourth Saturday of the month (except in December).

Our schools programme as described in (Newsletter 323 is continuing this year. We are always looking for more volunteers, in particular those who can help with our school visits during the week. Colin Jenkins
For details see our website

Can you list a replica?

Bob Carr asks if a replica can be listed (GLIAS Newsletter October 2023). I am pretty sure the answer is yes. Logically it would be an extreme example of 'like for like' repair as practised for example in the case of major fires like Uppark (Clandon might be an exception but the outer shell survives together with some of the internal fittings). Listing is about the historic or architectural significance of the building and an accurate reconstruction (not pastiche) would retain most of the former and much of the latter. In both the cases you quote I believe foundations survived as well as materials which could be re-used — I don't know the level of pre-demolition recording that took place.

In at least one case a building (the Gloucester transfer shed) was listed after being completely dismantled and moved to Didcot.
Oliver Pearcy, Former English Heritage Director of Conservation

I can think of two examples which are: The auditorium of the Savoy Theatre was destroyed by fire in 1990, and rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire, re-opening in 1993, and it continues to be Grade II listed.

The 'scenic railway' (rollercoaster) at Dreamland Amusement Park, Margate, was almost completely destroyed by fire in 2008, and is now mainly a replica, but the structure is still listed at Grade II*. Indeed, the structures's listing was raised from Grade II to II* whilst the ride was closed and in a ruinous state due to the fire-damage...!
Jeremy Buck, Wood Green, London

P S Waverley

This September and October the Scottish paddle steamer Waverley has been operating on the Thames and to the east of London as far out as far as Southwold and Margate. For this final phase of her 2023 operations she has been based at Gravesend where bunkering facilities are available and the paddle steamer could have maintenance and rest days at a berth there.

The pair of attached photographs below show one of the seven million Tunnocks caramel wafers which are consumed each week. The example illustrated was bought on board Waverley this October. You might at first think that the volume of seven million caramel wafers must be colossal but if you work out the volume it is quite manageable.

Tunnocks caramel wafers

Tunnocks caramel wafers

The caramel bar illustrated is 9 x 2 x 3 cm in size. A million of these bars has a volume of 54 m³. A Luton van * has a capacity of about 32 m³ so little more than a few vans would be needed for a week's output.

Tunnocks are based in Uddingston, a small town about seven miles south-east of Glasgow. The photograph below left shows the shop and tearoom at 43 Main Street, Uddingston. At the time the photograph was taken in July 1996 there was a traditional tearoom here where you could get a pot of tea and a portion of chips. This delightful tearoom was still there in about 2021 but reports indicate it may now be closed. Does anyone have further information?

Shop and tearoom at 43 Main Street, Uddingston Bakery, Old Mill Road Waverley cup

The photograph above centre shows the bakery which is in Old Mill Road quite close to the shop. This is where the caramel bars, tea cakes, caramel logs, snowballs, and other Tunnocks products are made. As well as sales within the UK there is a substantial export trade, items with wrappers printed in Arabic go to the Middle East where there is a considerable demand. Muslims are permitted to eat Tunnocks tea cakes. Tunnocks dominate Uddingston in the way that Fords dominate Dagenham.

The disposable cup (above right) currently in use on board Waverley is a masterpiece of cardboard engineering.

Bob Carr

Greyhound racing

Every week for the past five years I've written an article on Greenwich's industrial past for a local freebie, the Greenwich Weekender. One week, in mid-October, I thought I would do Charlton dogs — the Charlton greyhound racing stadium which was on the site where Makro stands today. The only thing I knew about the history of greyhound racing was through visits arranged by GLIAS in 1987.

In June 1987 Bob Carr put a note in the GLIAS Newsletter to say that the Harringay dog track was about to be closed. He said the site had much of interest including a huge mechanical totalisator, and he invited members to book up for a visit. This was followed in the October Newsletter by a note from Charles Norrie saying that we had visited; that the totalisator was of great interest and that a film had been made about it by one of our members. In the following March, at a meeting in a central London pub, this film was shown to members and there was some discussion about what we had seen at Harringay.

Charles Norrie continued his interest in the Harringay totalisator and eventually went to Australia where he researched its inventor, George Julius. There are now many websites from Australia itself talking about Julius but Charles was one of the earliest to write about his work. He wrote up the totalisator and his article was published in the GLIAS Journal, No.5 in 1994. Over the past few days I've looked at lots of websites about totalisators and, quite honestly, Charles's article is outstanding. It is the only one I can find which actually describes how the machine worked, what it looked like, something about its antecedents and how these machines, developed in the 1920s and 1930s, as forerunners of the earliest computers — although the eventual technology went in a rather different direction.

Totalisators worked out betting odds on racetracks — registering each bet as it was placed and displaying the results in real time on a huge tote board above the track. At Harringay it consisted of two rooms filled with ever moving equipment and with several staff. It was very impressive.

We were aware, or course, that Julius was not the only inventor and manufacturer of this equipment. When I came to research the Charlton Dog Tracks' totalisator I learnt that they had a Union Electric machine but I could not find any real information about any system that wasn't Julius's — and the ones about Julius all quoted Charles Norrie's article in the GLIAS Journal.

Over the next few days on the net I discovered that The Union Totalisator Company was chaired by and belonged to John Nixon Brown (né Izod). In the 1920s he had managed the Carntyne Greyhound Stadium, Glasgow, where he had also promoted dirt track racing. Later he was elected Conservative Member of Parliament for Govan and then Glasgow Craigton. He eventually became Secretary of State for Scotland and entered the House of Lords as Lord Craigton. Nineteen machines were installed by the Union Totalisator company in 1938, alone. The machines themselves were made by Standard Telephones and Cables.

I consulted GIHS members Richard Buchanan and Stewart Ash, both of whom have worked for STC. They both said it was likely that the machines were made at the STC New Southgate works. I am assured that it is very unlikely they were manufactured at STC's Greenwich factory on Enderby Wharf.

The Union Totalisator Company was based in Scotland. In 1930 they advertised their machines from a registered office in Glasgow. They said that their totalisator was already operating successfully and that they have practical experience in installation and operation. An article appeared in several press outlets about the machine installed at the Wishaw Greyhound and Sports Track, south-east of Glasgow. This gives a surprising amount of detail and stresses that the machine was manufactured by Standard Telephones and Cables.

Ten years later in 1940 in Golders Green in London a Mr John Handley was fined for a speeding offence. For a driver keen on speeding Sandringham Avenue, Golders Green would have been only 10 minutes or so away from the Standard Telephones and Cables works, by going up the new North Circular to New Southgate. A year later in a case of fraud at one of the Glasgow dog tracks which had installed the Union Totalisator, John Handley is described as an 'expert on totalisators'. It appears he had a patent which had been assigned to Standard Telephones and Cables and to the Union Company. I do not know what his totalisator was like or what it did but it was clearly effective enough to be bought by many race track managements.

We have to wait until 1960 for another speeding offence. This was in Croydon and he was then living in Purley. By then he had assigned patents for a range of devices to the Creed Company in Croydon. This includes a teleprinter — a device which Creeds specialised in.

Am I perhaps describing here someone who has invented, probably as part of his work, a new device for measuring betting odds at racetracks? It had been sold to a commercial company for marketing and installation while Standard Telephones and Cables were manufacturing it. They were probably his employer. Then, after a string of other inventions, he moved to Croydon, probably to work for Creeds.

I am not going to claim to have found an engineer to rival the Australian Julius — particularly as I have no means at the moment of knowing, or even understanding how the device worked. It seems to have been installed at a great many racetracks. However, I think it is important that we recognise that there is often more than one person who has developed a suitable device and the best known is not always the most important innovator.

I don't know if anyone else can tell me any more about John Handley. It's a fairly common name. I have also found references to a John Handley working in car racing and given our man's track record with speed tickets, I think there might be something there as well. Please let me know if anybody knows anything. Mary Mills

London Museum of Water & Steam

London Museum of Water & Steam's campaign to raise £50,000 to keep the museum open has been aided by a single donation of ₤10,000 plus Gift Aid from a benefactor.

The museum has recently been able to restart steam days after the museum's 96-year-old Lancashire Boiler failed early last year.

Next steam days are 30 and 31 December and 1 January.

To donate to the fundraising campaign please visit their Crowdfunder page:

The Barking Dog has gone

It is surprising that a railway station as important as Barking appears to have no lifts for passengers with luggage but there are good facilities at Barking Riverside. An excellent way to get to the Riverside station from London is to take a C2C train from Fenchurch Street to Barking where you can immediately change onto a TfL Overground train for the short journey to Riverside. As soon as the new Overground branch leaves the National Rail line and heads south it is supported on a concrete viaduct, the arrangement is reminiscent of the Liverpool Overhead Railway or the Docklands Light Railway. Arriving at the terminus (below left) the trains are upstairs in the manner of St Pancras (below right).

Barking Riverside Barking Riverside

At Barking Riverside there are food outlets with chairs and tables on the east side of the station (below left). Currently the pier has a good catamaran service at weekends, with Thames Clippers departing every half-hour but check before you travel. The landing stage is a short walk away from the Riverside Station and for motorists it is also possible to park a car close to the landing stage — with payment. The half-hourly Clipper service is providing another river crossing; there is a modestly priced return fare to and from Woolwich Arsenal.

Barking Riverside Outside Barking Riverside Spotted Dog public house

Returning to Barking, on leaving the main railway station there is a street market outside in Station Parade selling food and clothing (above centre) and turning left, to the northeast, The Spotted Dog public house is still in business serving beer and food (above right). However, the Wetherspoon's public house The Barking Dog which was immediately opposite to the southwest has gone and what was Trocoll House is now a building site.

What is remarkable about Barking railway station is that there is no cluster of tower blocks surrounding the station. C2C trains take only 15 minutes to reach Fenchurch Street in the City so why is Barking so different? Perhaps the Wetherspoon site will see the first tower block.

Following investigation this suggestion turns out to be correct, Wetherspoon's own the site and a 28-storey tower block, a new Trocoll House, is to be built here. Terry Farrell and Partners are to be the architects. The architect and former GLIAS committee member Jon Wallsgrove worked under Terry Farrel on the design of the MI6 Building at Vauxhall Cross. The Wetherspoon's website says that The Barking Dog is 'closed for refurbishment' but a larger and improved Wetherspoon's is planned for the new building. Customers will have to wait about two years for this to open.

The new tower block is part of the planned redevelopment of Barking railway station. The booking hall of this station is listed grade II, its design is said to be inspired by that of Roma Termini railway station in Italy. Built in 1961, the architect was H H Powell, architect for the Eastern Region of British Railways. The construction made use of fair-faced and precast concrete with plenty of glazing. Barking railway station has been waiting for its redevelopment and this probably explains the lack of present-day access facilities. Bob Carr

Woolwich Arsenal slipway

The photograph (below left) taken in October 2023 from P S Waverley shows the south bank of the river at Woolwich Arsenal and this is the place from which large guns were sent away by water for test firing at Shoeburyness *.

south bank of the river at Woolwich Arsenal proof sleigh

Rails were laid here to carry the gun on its railway carriage, a 'proof sleigh' (above right), down to the water and the vehicle with its load could go straight onto a purpose-built barge, something like a latter-day landing craft. The photograph (below left) taken by Ian Bull shows the view looking down the slipway from the landward side, a long focal length is being used which makes this image foreshortened. The first photograph, taken near low tide, gives a better idea of the proportions of the arrangement.

view looking down the slipway from the landward side Nautical Archaeological Society visit

The fourth photograph (above right) was taken by Ian Bull on a visit to the slipway on 1 October 2023 and this gives a very good idea of the layout. Ian organised this visit for the Nautical Archaeological Society. Large guns were also returned to Woolwich by water and winched up the slipway. This facility which was built about 1886 continued in use until the last British battleship was withdrawn in 1960.

Thanks are due to Ian Bull for information and for his three photographs. He adds that the timber for the slipway was imported from Oregon and remains in remarkably good condition, note that the rail fixings are still in situ. The flood gates at the top of the ramp are also in good condition. The special barges, known as 'Gog' and 'Magog', were used to take guns to and from the gunnery testing station at Yantlet Creek on the Isle of Grain as well as Shoeburyness. Railway locomotives and rolling stock were also transferred back and forth between Woolwich and Shoeburyness. Bob Carr

Bata, East Tilbury

Following a mention in 'Other Events' in the GLIAS newsletter I visited the Bata Heritage Centre on their open day (Saturday 14 October).

East Tilbury is largely a 'company town' established by Czech shoe magnate Tomáš Bata. He had perfected a production line method of making footwear. Fearing import tariffs being placed on imports from Czechoslovakia he bought up a lot of land in East Tilbury and started a factory there in 1932. The factory grew rapidly and Bata established a growing village for employees.

The Bata admin block plus a statue of Tomáš (not Thomas!) Bata

The set-up was very paternalistic with the company owning houses, shops, leisure/sports facilities, a school and a training college, a huge canteen plus restaurants and even a farm (which supplied many things to the shops and canteen). There was also a large hotel for single workers and visitors. The company was mostly self-sufficient, making their own machinery, shoe boxes, laces, hosiery and even fittings for their shops. One of the factories specialised in recycling rubber to make Wellington boots. The earlier housing was built in a distinctive Czech modernist style. The original housing (in Bata Avenue) plus the equally modernist factory buildings are 'listed'. It was nice to see that modern developments in the area have tried to copy the modernist style. East Tilbury station opened in 1936 specifically to serve the new village.

Though Bata continue to trade in other countries, production ceased here in 2006 and most of the former factory is now in alternative use. The foyer of the former admin block had some displays to examine and served as a meeting/registration point for guided walks (which needed to be pre-booked). We were shown round the area by an ex-employee, though access to the former factory buildings wasn't possible, finishing up at the public library for a talk by another ex-employee. The library contained what I assume is a permanent exhibition relating to the history of Bata and the village. The event was very interesting and I commend it to others when this happens again. David Flett

From the Thames to Eternity

Members may have stumbled across a series of granite blocks in various parts of the city recently.

Granite blocks, Little Britain - Robert Mason

I encountered this set in Little Britain. Apparently it is one of a number of sites where blocks removed from the Thames River wall as part of Tideway's work on the super sewer are temporarily being exhibited in a project called From the Thames to Eternity.

There are a total of 58 blocks, each weighing around one tonne and first used as part of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's river wall in the 19th century. The stones were quarried mainly in Cornwall and Scotland. Robert Mason

Ghost signs — more examples

The High Street ephemera of 'ghost signs' have been shown in previous issues of the Newsletter, together with related subjects such a shop signs and frontage, see issue numbers 316, 317, 320, and 323 for October 2021, December 2021, June 2022 and December 2022 respectively.

This topic is now being more actively researched and recorded, with books published and tours organised for the better known examples.

Now Historic England has expressed an interest in this advertising medium and is encouraging people to search out and record their local examples and to use an interactive map on their website.

Not all signs are created using traditional oil paints on brick or wood, as examples using gilding on glass, enamel, or a metal such as brass are also subject to the passage of time and human intervention.

The selection shown here are all from the Greater London area and taken over the last 60 years, many advertising industrial activity albeit on a small scale. More may flood in a subsequent article. Sidney Ray. All photos by the author















GLIAS has various means of communicating with its members including, of course, the newsletter and in more recent years, the website and Facebook.

We are exploring having a WhatsApp group, which is a mobile phone app allowing for effective group communication. Those who use this app have found it a useful way of sharing information with a group of people.

We will try it out — any participating committee members will be designated as 'administrators'. To join, please email or

You will be able to leave the group at any time if you decide it's not for you. Once it's running with a decent number of people, we may circulate some guidance notes on WhatsApp etiquette! But for starters, be polite, don't overload with too many messages and try not to post at anti-social hours!

Conservation Watch

Bromley-by-Bow Gasworks, Twelvetrees Crescent, Bromley-by-Bow, London E3 3JH
Newham planning application 23/02033/OUT

Malcolm Tucker, on behalf of GLIAS, has written expressing severe misgivings on some townscape aspects of the present proposals.

GLIAS agrees with the recommendation to dismantle the seven listed guide frames for repair and refurbishment off site, but wants the developers to examine and implement ways of making the re-erected gasholders stand out more relative to the enabling development.

'We object to this scheme because the historic guide frames will be poorly seen from the riverside and need to be made more visible amidst the sea of infilling flats, emphasising their column-and-girder structures by using bright paintwork. We also recommend reinstatement of the original corniced entablatures in replica.

'The architects should be asked to explore further ways of making the historic gasholders stand out more relative to the infilling structures and to make the pencil blocks less starkly intrusive.'

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© GLIAS, 2023