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Notes and news — June 1980

In this issue:

Old shop fittings

The number of shops with overhead wire cash carriers installed has diminished rapidly in recent years. Within the GLC area, it is believed that there is now only one example still to be seen in a shop. In Dartford, Kerr's (drapers) had an installation in regular use until the shop's closure earlier this year. The closure was a pity, as the shop retained several other interesting features (eg. a fine early cash register and gas secondary lighting), but happily Dartford Borough Museum has acquired many of the interior fittings, including the carrier and hopes to display a reconstruction in due course.

A recent notable discovery has been of the existence, albeit outside London, of two further examples, hitherto unrecorded. Moreover, these are not of the more familiar Lamson 'Rapid Wire' type but of an erstwhile rival system, patented by E.G. Gipe, of Chicago, in 1904. These are no longer in daily use, but the proprietors will usually be happy to demonstrate them on request. It is worth seeking these out, as the method of propelling the cash cup is quite different. Listed below are details of all known surviving examples, either in shops or preserved. It is almost certainly incomplete and the writer would be very pleased to be able to add to it. J. Liffen

Installed in shops:

  • W.H. Smith (gents' & boys' clothing), 123 Mitcham Road Tooting, Lamson (4 wires). Not in regular use (retained for interest value)
  • A. Anscombe & Son Ltd, Leyton Road, Harpenden, Herts., Lamson (7 wires). Still in use, but not all wires operating (including, sadly, the upstairs terminal) owing to lack of spares.
  • Armstrongs, 29-33 Cowgate, Peterborough, PE1 1LZ, Gipe (2 wires). Not in regular use (retained for interest value)
  • G. George, High Street Oakham, Rutland, Gipe (1 wire). Not in regular use (retained for interest value)

    Preserved examples:

  • Leicester: Wygston's House, Museum of Costume, St. Nicholas Circle. Lamson (?) 'wooden ball' system (pre-dates wire-borne systems). On display
  • Museum of London, Lamson 'Rapid Wire'. On display
  • Museum of Science & Engineering, Birmingham, Lamson 'Rapid Wire'. On display
  • Tramway Museum, Crich, Gipe. On display
  • Science Museum, S Kensington, Lamson 'Rapid Wire'. In store
  • Dartford Borough Museum, Lamson 'Rapid Wire'. In store

    In addition, the Lamson system from Steer's, Willesden Green, is privately preserved. (Ed. I think there is also one in store at Goldstone Pumping Station).

    Chalk working machinery or a horse gin?

    Patricia Clarke of 31 Lynton Road, Harrow, Middlesex (864 2517) would like to know more about a piece of defunct machinery?

    Can anyone explain? Patricia could arrange a visit.

    Shad Thames — Butler's Wharf

    A planning application was submitted in March for the redevelopment of Butler's Wharf, in Shad Thames, Bermondsey, just below Tower Bridge. This is one of the finest riverside streets in London and an Outstanding Conservation Area. Lattice bridges at different levels span a canyon between later 19th-century warehouses of six to nine storeys.

    As a gesture to conservation, the proposals would involve refurbishment of a short section of warehouse next to Courage's Brewery and cutting down the rest to two or three storey façades, keeping the lower tier of bridges yet destroying completely both the Piranesian spatial effect and the archaeological significance of the tall warehouses.

    A fine granary-style four-storey warehouse which has been partly refurbished would be pulled down to make an open space. The developers would allow some good earlier warehouses which they own further east, along St. Saviours Dock, to be rehabilitated for craft and similar uses, but would not finance this.

    The application has been prompted by an accidental fire last August which badly damaged part of one section of Butler's Wharf and to the general non-conformity to fire regulations of the structures as they stand, which has led to notices from the G.L.C. and the eviction of tenants. But it is not the provision of fire protection and fire escapes which is the obstacle to reuse, but, it seems, difficulties in finding institutions prepared to invest in adapting old buildings. Thus, a new ten-storey hotel block for tourists is proposed, even though hotel accommodation would be a very suitable use to fit behind an existing warehouse facade. As a further twist offices which could use the large floor areas of bulky buildings are opposed by the Borough on use zoning grounds.

    We have suggested to the planning authority that conservation must be given priority on this very important site, in return for concessions on other aspects of town planning and we believe there is scope for more imaginative schemes of reuse.

    Overleaf is a sketch showing how a cross-section of Shad Thames looks at present, the proposed changes and a possible alternative. The following page clearly shows the unique visual effect of the warehouses and bridges. Malcolm Tucker

    Butlers wharf plans

    As a postscript, our site training session for recording will be based in this area. It is intended to form two groups, one to concentrate on Shad Thames Pumping Station and a second, led by Malcolm, will deal with recording techniques and what to look for when faced by large industrial buildings. The date is 21st June.

    Other developments on the South Bank

    We have just received details of several planning applications which together cover proposed refurbishment and/or redevelopment of Hay's Wharf properties between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. Interestingly (and much more in line with a sympathetic and realistic conservation approach) it is proposed that the façades of the more important (listed) warehouses are to be retained.

    A separate proposal, already made, concerns part of the site, Chamberlain's Wharf, which may become a private hospital.

    Chamberlain's Wharf

    One of the buildings not affected and shown in plans as remaining in existing use is a former cold store. This is the subject of a recent article in 'Index' (an office equipment magazine) which runs.... 'Fifteen years ago the Proprietors of Hays Wharf decided to set up off-site document storage services and as this business has built up over the years, so more warehouses have been modified to meet the demand. With the cost of prime office space in the City of London now averaging around ₤20 per square foot this is hardly surprising. Hays examined ways in which their range of storage services could be extended to cater for different types of business, such as computer users and the oil industry........... storage is under environmentally-controlled conditions with electronically mastered access. Inventory control and retrieval services are maintained by the company's in-house computer and purpose-designed software.....'

    Which just shows how assets CAN be used effectively. How many more warehouses have a similar potential?

    Meanwhile, the area around Pickfords Wharf, the site of last year's training sessions (GLIAS Newsletter June 1979), is subject to several planning applications; the present limbo is depressing.

    South Bank sites

    Nine Elms Cold Store

    The mention of reuse by Hay's Wharf of a cold store for document storage may be contrasted with a plan for adapting another similar building adjacent to Vauxhall Bridge. This is only 16 years old and was built to have roads, rail and lighter access; capacity is 16,000 tons.

    The store closed last year overtaken by the development of refrigerated containers.

    A plan has now been drawn up to convert it to offices with a penthouse flats section and pub below. Plus, of course, a restaurant to allow a superb view of the Thames. This would involve punching windows in the walls and probably result in a somewhat unusual appearance, but again shows what could be achieved by architects with imagination (and faced with difficulty of demolition of a very solid concrete structure!)

    Nine Elms Cold Store

    'Historic old buildings saved — but what do we do next?'

    Thus runs the headline on an article sent to us by our (new) Borough Correspondent for Waltham Forest, Leslie Wake (110, Forest Glade, Highams Park, E4, 527 4973 home). It refers to two 17th century farm buildings at Chingford — Pimp Hall Barn and Dovecote. The story continues that both are 'listed', that the barn is in such a dangerous condition that it is held up by scaffold and that the dovecote's floor is unsafe. As always, the problem is that these buildings need money and thus need to be used in a way which will make good use of that money. Could the wooden barn indeed be adapted for a concert hall, or is it doomed to a less exciting deterioration because any proposals are incompatible with present-day fire laws?

    Why weight here?

    Bruce Osborne has sent in a bit of a teaser, in the hope that someone can give a plausible answer. He's been involved in an excavation of remains of the Merstham mines and quarries, which were located at the southern end of the Croydon, Merstham & Godstone Railway. In an area apparently disused after about 1830 he has found a stone lined pit, about 3ft by 3ft square by 3ft deep. In the centre was a stone plinth leaving about an 8" gap all round.

    In the pit were found a number of circular cast iron discs together with a hook and a large weight of about 60lbs. The discs were of several sizes, from 4" diameter and 11/16" thick (30oz) to 7½" diameter 2" thick and of approx. 18lb weight.

    The 60lb weight has cast onto it the name UNION WHARF. Bruce would dearly like to know the purpose of the pit and where Union Wharf was. He's at Tower Ho, Tower Rd, Tadworth, Sy. (>>>)


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  • © GLIAS, 1980