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Notes and news — August 1988

In this issue:

IA recording in Greater London

The discussion which took place at the 'White Hart' on 15th January (GLIAS Newsletter June 1988) was lengthy and even to give a synopsis would take a good deal of Newsletter space. Jon Wallsgrove, who chaired the meeting, made notes from which the following points are taken:

From the tape recording of much of the evening's proceedings the following items have been selected:

If readers would like more, further selections will appear in later Newsletters. It is anticipated that there may be written replies and this summary is being kept as brief as possible to allow room. (To be continued). Mary Mills and Bob Carr

Bob Carr's comments — IA recording in Greater London

What is the purpose of IA or any other recording of the past (GLIAS Newsletter June 1988)?

History is a social necessity and as much a necessity to Londoners as memory is to the individual. IA recording goes some way to explaining events and industrial developments. It clothes, so to speak, the bare bones of the more chronology of dates. The Industrial Revolution did not happen overnight it was a long process which is still, continuing. The only constant in the changing city of London is change itself. Can we know how the future should be developed? Only by knowing the past from our corporate memory of what has gone before will we know the difference between what is good and what is not. Our 'seed corn' lies in what we can preserve of our industrial heritage. This is why recording is important, no matter how thinly spread. Members of historical associations such as GLIAS tend to be more mature persons whose interest in nostalgia has become larger than the aggression of youthful progress. What matters is our interpretation of our industrial past as an historical record and as a prediction of the future by observing trends of industrial development through the years and not being swayed by the subjective influences of our own particular prejudices and references.

Bob fears for the future of GLIAS membership declining. I hope that will not happen, because there is a need for GLIAS. Members wishing to air their views on this and other subjects please send their comments to the Editor. Editor

Recording Group visit to King's Cross Goods Yard

King's Cross Goods site is currently the subject of major redevelopment proposals which will completely transform the area bounded by the old Midland and Great Northern Railways and the North London Line, The Recording Group is particularly keen to ensure that the buildings on this site are recorded before they are transformed or demolished. Our efforts have been concentrated on the National Freight Consortium's site which contains a variety of important buildings including: Cubitt's Granary 1851, (with goods shed behind), the Eastern Coal Drops (more familiar as Bagley's Warehouse 1851), the Western Coal Drops 1856 (converted to a goods shed 1897), the Western Goods shed 1900 (on the site of a canal basin, with several curious constructional features), a set of 1850s offices (there is a claim these were a hotel for the temporary passenger station), fish and coal offices along the canal boundary and the Midland Goods shed of 1850.


So far the Western Coal Drops have been recorded and a tour has been made of the whole site. There are remains of hydraulic equipment, although the hydraulic pumping station went some time ago. Several wagon turntables survive and the locations of the canal basins can be clearly traced. Several of the redevelopment plans propose excavating these. Charles Norrie

There will be a further Recording Group visit to the NFC's King's Cross site on Saturday 13th August. This site is subject to proposals for redevelopment by the London Regeneration Consortiums and much recording work remains to be done.

Many interesting railway and canal features survive, including a granary, coal drops, goods sheds, and filled-in canal basins. We meet at 10am at the NFC site entrance on York Way, just north of the Canal. But please phone Charles Norrie, (01-270-9014) evenings and weekends, beforehand to check, as last minute changes are always possible. Charles Norrie

Notes from the Recording Group

On 5th March 1988 a party of GLIAS members together with members of the Ragged School Museum History Club visited Bryant & May's Fairfield Match Works in Bow, best known as the scene of the famous Match Girls strike in 1889, which is soon to be redeveloped for housing.

The works comprised a large complex of buildings at the centre of which were multi-storey blocks from the 1870s and 1909 both made of non-combustible materials. The site is a large one and there were many outbuildings which it was not possible for the party to sec in the time available. Following a short walk around the outside of the main building, members entered via the office block where the Board Room, canteen, etc. were noted. They then climbed successive floors of the factory block which was almost completely empty, with few fittings left. It was possible to sue only a small section.

Comments concerned the fire fighting arrangements — hydrants, hoses and a sprinkler system etc. going throughout the buildings. Fire doors had a falling hinge on one side. Similarly a ventilator system went throughout the building and heating was from automotive-style sheet radiators. Refuse shoots were marked 'Brymay' and were made by a South London company for Bryant & May. There were water towers with tanks. Throughout were wash basins and eye washes with notices reminding workers to wash before eating, and preventative measures against dermatitis. On each floor were service wings off the staircases, with WCs. Combustible material had been stored in separate buildings. There were Otis-built lifts — which included notices referring to the lift driver. On the top floor had been an art department, with a rotating cylindrical dark room door. On the second floor had been a branch of the National Westminster Bank.

At the front of the building on Fairfield Road were two lodge buildings with decorative plaques. At the back of the site were two very large concrete buildings still in use. It was unfortunately not possible to see the boiler rooms. The extent of pollution of the site was not known. It was agreed that because of the size of the site, the lack of artefacts on it and the time factor, it had not been possible to emerge from the visit with any better knowledge of the process of match making. This was a large and important site. Members who attended the visit or who may have information about the site, are asked to contact the recording group in order to compile a list of what is known. Mary Mills

Huntsmoor Mill

The River Colne and its distributaries the Fray's River and the Colne Brook, which flow through the green-belt land along the boundary of Middlesex and Buckinghamshire, have possibly the most standing remains of watermills of any river in Greater London, including the Wandle. Before Easter, we were invited to look at the site of Huntsmoor or Yiewsley Mill at Cowley (TQ 048815), where there is some interesting hydroelectric equipment of the 1890s.

With the owner's help, we were able to reconstruct some of the site's history. Mentioned in Domesday and rebuilt in brick probably early in the 19th century, the mill formerly had a low-breastshot wheel 18.5 feet in diameter, at the end of a dam across a loop of the Colne. The fall was about 6 feet in favourable conditions. The dam was rebuilt in elm, oak and deal timber in 1855. As a corn-mill owned by the local Huntsmoor estate, it probably succumbed under competition from steam mills in the Port of London and the effects of a fire in 1873.

In the 1890s, the mill was converted to generate electricity (100 volts dc) for Huntsmoor House. The water level was slightly raised and a turbine house was erected on brick piers in the riddle of a new dam, with a horizontal drive shaft into the mill building. It became disused and in the 1930s the present owner's father-in-law undertook a reconstructions relocating the turbine in a new concrete pit within the mill, but the engineer died and the reconditioned electrical equipment was never re-erected. The building was reduced to a single-storey workshop. In last October's great storm, its roof was crushed by a tree, but it is to be re-roofed.

The early equipment includes a belt-driven Siemens generator of primitive appearance, a control board with two large ammeters and variable resistors, a control board for the battery circuits, a belt-driven tachometer and one of the large rectangular glass containers for the lead-acid storage batteries. The generator, Siemens serial no. 3496A s is rated at 102 volts/55 amps at 975 rpm. It has an 8 inch pulley mounted on the drive shaft.

Stored alongside we saw a Crompton 2 kw DC set of a later date, No. 121018 rated at 100/136 volts, 20 amps at 1000rpm and a smaller set with CROMPTON embossed on the casting but with a plate of B. E White, Pomeroy St, Mew Cross. This machine is rated at 50/70 volts and 20 amps at 1460rpm. The serial number is 2532.

The vertical shaft, axial-flow turbine, 43 inches in diameter, is of a very simple type, probably a Jonval. With fixed, guide vanes set in the floor of the pit above the rotor, it was controlled by a hatch in the headrace. The river was high and the site severely back-watered when we saw it, so we had to survey the turbine by feel. Malcolm Tucker and Tim Smith

Limehouse Paperboard Mill

Hough's Wharf, or R. H. Wharf as it was also known, the large riverside warehouse associated with the Limehouse Paperboard Mill (GLIAS Newsletter February 1987), has been demolished, as has most of the adjacent Dover Wharf. Our circulating file with notes of the Recording Group visits has returned to me. If anyone who went to Hough's has not seen the file and would like to do so, please contact me. It is hoped that, enough material will be gathered to put together an article on the Mill. Tim Smith

More porters

GLIAS members seem to have a special interest in beer (GLIAS Newsletter June 1988)! I am grateful for new information from Jim Barr and Peter Marshall. If you are a Porter fan and have never been before, the 'Old Blue Last' in Shoreditch, on the corner of Great Eastern Street and Curtain Road, might be worth a visit. It is here that London Porter is said to have originated and the fact is proclaimed on the outside. At the 'Orange Brewery', a brew-pub, 37 Pimlico Road, SW1, you can drink Porter brewed on the premises. Bottled Porter from the Flag Brewery Cooperative, is served at the Jazz Cafe, 56 Newington Green, London M16. Bob Carr

The London Archive Users' Forum

The LAUF A.G.M. took place at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St. London WC1, on 2nd June 1988.

Future activities will include a visit to the House of Lords record office and a conference about record office standards and the relative perceptions of users and archivists about the service in record offices. The Forum will also be submitting representations to the Office of Arts and Libraries about the relationship of archives services to libraries, in the context of the Green paper 'Paying for Library Services'.

The meeting heard three talks, on the general theme of 'the richness of London archives'. Ian Leith of the National Monuments Record described their photographic and visual archives. David Mander of Hackney Archives Department described how the records of the Bergers paint firm had been rescued, for Hackney and London, through the good offices of the Business Archives Council; and Julia Sheppard of the Wellcome Institute reviewed the progress of the survey of hospital records undertaken through the Institute.

Membership of LAUF, entitling subscribers to the newsletter and to attend meetings, costs £5p.a. For details etc. please write to Dr. Patricia Croot, Victoria County History, 34 Tavistock Square, London WC1. Isabel Watson (LAUF)

Croydon Airport Society Heathrow meeting

The Croydon Airport Society's Annual Heathrow meeting will take place at 13.30h on 19th October. It will be on the subject of the pre-war airline, Railway Air Services and will be held in the Wings Restaurant in the British Airways head office complex at Hatton Cross, which is on the eastern edge of the airport. The actual location within the complex is building TBA. To gain access into the BA complex, it is necessary to pass through a security gate, the password being Croydon Airport! To get to Hatton Cross is very easy from central London — simply take the Piccadilly Line to the station of that name which is the last stop before Heathrow Terminal A. Hatton Cross is also served by several red bus routes including two (905 and 285) which link it with Feltham Station on the Southern lines from Waterloo (12 minutes away). There is also a Green Line service 726 which stops at Hatton Cross. From further afield some members will find the railair coaches from Woking and Reading useful in which case alight at Terminal Two and take the Underground to Hatton Cross (3 minutes).

From Hatton Cross, leave the Underground Station via the bus station. Then cross the main road via the footbridge. The BA security gate is three minutes' walk away along Cranford Lane. If in doubt, ask. It is also possible to come by car as there will be ample free car parking within the complex but adjoining the building. Hatton Cross adjoins the Great South West Road.

Refreshments including light meals will be available from 17:30 in the airline's canteen which actually adjoins the meeting room. It is expected that copies of the book 'Railway Air Services', by the speaker, John Stroud, will be available at the meeting. GLIAS members and their friends welcome. Enquiries to John King, at 44 Le May Avenue, London SE12 9SU. John King

Letter to the editor

From Mary Mills, who writes:
I'm looking forward to seeing the report of the White Hart meeting about IA recording (see above), which I missed, unfortunately, because I was ill. I suppose what I would most like to ask the participants (if not the whole of GLIAS) is how are we going to cope as industrial London is pulled down round our ears? A thousand people trying to record vanishing sites would hardly touch what is going; six people sitting round talking about it isn't going to achieve anything!

London was a great industrial city. In five years' time almost all traces of that industry will have gone. GLIAS as the only body seriously trying to record is doing pitiably little. As I write I have before me details of housing schemes likely to clear all industry In the Lea Valley south of Temple Mills; Docklands has virtually gone now; there are schemes afoot in what was industrial Greenwich and Woolwich; the whole of Barking reach, Spitalfields, and so on and so on. A stroll round the periphery of the City of London will reveal site after site after site demolished before any of us had thought about blinking. These are areas I know about — members from the north and from the west must know about much more.

I don't know what we are to do — something important is going too quickly to capture. What I am sure about is that the scale of it is too big for meetings at the White Hart to talk about. We are standing by helplessly almost paralysed. What can be done? Mary Mills

Docklands Light Railway — information from the DLR Publicity Dept

Plans are under way to extend the DLR further east to Beckton and the DLR Beckton Bill (GLIAS Newsletter August 1986) had an unopposed second reading in the House of Commons on 10th December last. It is now in the Committee stage for further consideration.

The City extension will be 1.5km long and will be virtually all in tunnel. The main contractors are Edmund Nuttall Ltd., a company very experienced in tunnelling work. The tunnel drive began on 14th March when the tunnelling machine was switched on by the Transport Minister. Two five-metre diameter tunnels are being driven from a portal at Royal Mint Street where the initial railway now terminates near Tower Gateway station. Removal of soil, delivery of the tunnel linings and the laying of the track will all be done from Royal Mint Street. At Fish Street Hill, a temporary shaft is being dug to gain access to the Monument escalator connections. Monument station is to be closed for enlargement to accommodate DLR passengers. At Bucklersbury a temporary shaft will be built here to gain access to BR's Waterloo and City Line from which the passenger tunnels will be built. At Lombard Street the Underground ticket hail is to be extended and a new escalator linked to the tunnels, and Lombard Street will be closed, to traffic until December 1988 when it will become permanent one-way only. A permanent fresh air shaft is to be dug at Lothbury. At Gracechurch Street an access shaft is to be dug at this point. All of this work is to be completed by the summer of 1990.

Thanks to the DLR Publicity Dept. Further items on the DLR will appear in future Newsletters.

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© GLIAS, 1988