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Notes and news — August 1989

In this issue:

The Docklands Light Railway

At present the DLR has 11 trains in service (GLIAS Newsletter December 1986) and another 10 are being built by British Rail Engineering Ltd in York. The first is due for delivery in September and the order is to be completed by next Easter. An order for a further 21 trains has been placed with a Belgian company for delivery from December 1990. All the new trains are being constructed to allow them to be driven in the Bank extension tunnel. The original rolling stock will be converted for tunnel operation.

Tower Gateway Station is to have new barriers installed, together with a new exit staircase.
From the Docklands Light Railway News

GLIAS Recording Group report

  • King's Cross — The group is to record a number of endangered sites to the, east of the main King's Cross Site (in York Way and Caledonian Road). This is going ahead and one visit will be designated as a training session. Members interested should ring. The watching brief on the main site continues with members attending the Camden Conservation Area Committee, visits with English Heritage and advice on a book to be produced by Birkbeck College.
  • St. Pancras Gas Works site — A preliminary visit has taken place. Those members who were unable to go on this visit will be contacted about a second date in August. It is hoped to produce a leaflet on the site.
  • Crystal Palace Low Station — It is believed this site is about to be disposed of by British Rail. Any information would be very welcome. (>>>)
  • Museum of Theatre Technology — We have received a letter from John Earl about proposals for this. He has also sent two reports which could be loaned to any member interested.
  • Railway Works at Squirrels Heath — A model of this work in the North Woolwich Museum has prompted questions about remains of this works which probably dates from the 1840s. It is hoped to arrange a visit but more information from members would be welcome. (>>>)
  • Blackheath Station — A member has asked if rails in the 'ecology park' at Blackheath Station are wrought iron. Does anyone have any information? (>>>)
  • Waterloo/Southwark — Much of this area will change as part of the Chunnel terminus proposals. It is likely that the Bankside Power Station site will become the entrance for the bore underneath London. Of particular interest and likely to go soon is the hydraulic lift for Waterloo and City line trains. It is hoped to arrange a visit. Have members any information on other sites of interest and in danger in the area?
  • Royal Ordnance Factory at Enfield — Enfield Council are drawing up a planning brief on the site. There is believed, to be much of interest there. It is hoped to arrange a site visit.
  • Thurrock Whiting Works at Swanscombe — A member has asked for information, particularly of the train layouts. Can anyone help?

    If you can help with any of these items or would like further information please contact Mary Mills, 24 Humber Road, London SE3

    King's Cross

    King's Cross Conservation Area Advisory Committee, upon which GLIAS is represented, has produced an advisory document on the areas likely to be affected by the Channel Tunnel Terminal Station and Goods Station developments. The area was divided into four parts (the Goods Station, the area between King's Cross and St. Pancras, the area east of York Way/south of the Pentonville Road and Battlebridge Basin/Regent's Canal) and maps drawn up showing conservation proposals for individual buildings. Amongst other issues particular attention was given to buildings of 'technological innovation and curiosity'. Buildings were assessed in one of three categories — those of particular importance in themselves or for the area, buildings of complementary value and buildings and sites where sympathetic redevelopment would be beneficial.

    On the Goods Station the report proposes that 'this important, group of industrial buildings ... should in our view be preserved virtually in its entirety' and that 'great care needs to be taken in the way in which the buildings and their surroundings are rehabilitated so that people can understand the original function of the buildings and the working of the whole transport interchange as it was in its heyday'. Charles Norrie

    Imperial Gas Works

    A short and wet site visit was arranged (courtesy of North Thames Gas) to this site. Currently, six holders are operated, in two groups separated by Goods Way, which bifurcated the original Imperial Gas Company's site. They are connected to the local low and medium pressure systems. Two holders, with the frame of another destroyed in the war, form the remarkable (and possibly unique) 'Siamese triplet' in which columns are shared between adjacent holders. The four older frames (including the 'Siamese triplet') date from the 1850/60s, but were telescoped to increase capacity in the 1800s. These are listed. Nothing appears to remain of the gas works themselves, but they were decommissioned between 1904 and 1907. Minute books of the Imperial Gas Company are held in the G.L.R.O. Charles Norrie

    The Metropolitan Tower

    This year the Eiffel Tower is one hundred years old (GLIAS Newsletter February 1989) and has been carrying a slogan emblazoned vertically in lights which reads '100 ans'. The centenary of the Eiffel Tower in Paris brings to mind London's answer to that tower, The Metropolitan Tower, which was constructed as far as the first stage, a height of 155 feet, on a site now occupied by Wembley Stadium. It was intended to be higher than the Eiffel Tower and was to be the main feature of a new recreational park.

    Sir Edward Watkin, of Great Central Railway and Channel Tunnel fame, was one of the chief promoters. A plot of land 280 acres in extent was purchased at Wembley and in November 1889 prizes of 500 and 250 guineas were offered for designs. Needless to say there were many entries, a good deal of which were, to put it mildly, absurd. Even one from Mr. Arnold Hills of the Thames Ironworks, an ardent proponent of vegetarianism, envisaged a colony of aerial vegetarians who would derive sustenance from fruit and vegetables grown in hanging gardens. His plan also included a one-twelfth size replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza, a temple, an international store and at the top of the Tower a hotel, flats and so on which could be let for prices commensurate with their altitude. The more fanatical projects need not be mentioned.

    Sir Benjamin Baker FRS was among the judges, who selected a design very similar to that of M. Eiffel's in Paris. Steel girders from Newton Heath Ironworks in Manchester were delivered direct to the site by rail but when Wembley Park opened in May 1894 the Tower was only completed to the first stage and work stopped at the end of the year. The Metropolitan Tower Construction Company had insufficient capital to complete their work and public opinion turned against having such a Tower in London. It stayed as it was for thirteen years. Demolition, making use of explosives, was completed in July 1907 by the Manchester firm of Heenan and Froude.

    GLIAS members who are railway enthusiasts may have a copy of L.T.C. Rolt's book, The Making of a Railway (Hugh Evelyn, 1971), which largely consists of photographs by the Leicester photographer S.W.A. Newton of the construction of the Great Central Railway. On page 37 there is a picture of a Ruston excavator at work on railway building near Wembley. In the background of this photograph what was built of the Metropolitan Tower can be seen in the distance. Bob Carr

    Woolwich Ferry centenary

    The Woolwich Ferry celebrated 100 years of crossing the river this spring (GLIAS Newsletter February 1989). A special celebration was held on board in March — GLIAS being represented by our Chair — Denis Smith — with civic dignitaries from Greenwich and Newham and the presence of the Minister of Transport. An exhibition about the ferry's past is now on board one of the boats. A book on the history of the ferry is also available from Greenwich Library Dept. — 'Free For All; by Julian Watson and Wendy Gregory.

    Notes on the Whitechapel Bell Foundry — visit May 1988

    Small bells are cast in greensand. Larger bells are cast in clay moulds. A cast-iron case is lined with a mixture of clay, goats hair and horse manure (to provide for aeration on casting so that gases can escape). Clay is put on in many layers with baking at 130-140 degrees in between and finally dressed with plumbago. At this stage any inscriptions are stamped. The inner mould is made of loam and coated with graphite. It takes about a month to prepare moulds for a set of bells.

    A mixture of 77% copper and 23% tin (= bell-founders metal) is melted (by rotary oil-fired furnace) and poured into the top of the bell (the mould being the right way up). Use is made of Nitrogen and phosphor-copper and charcoal are placed on top to prevent oxidation. (As well as the rotary furnace another marked 'Morgan Furnace Type 1305 Serial No. 277/65 Marguerite Thermal Design Ltd. Worcester' was noted.) Scrap bell-metal is often used. It is not usually necessary to analyse it as one can tell the tin content by the way it fractures. Scrap copper is now worth £1,200 per ton and ingot tin is about £5,000 per ton. Bells are sold for about £400 per cwt so that a half ton bell costs £4,000 and a peal of fourteen costs £100,000.

    Towards the end of May 1988 the Whitechapel Bell Foundry was casting a new set of bells for St. Martin's in the Fields. They were going to melt down the old bells but Perth Australia bought them and supplied their equivalent in new metal. The copper billets were about 20" by 4" by 2", somewhat striated and blistered. Casting takes about half an hour. If spare space is available, stock size bells are cast — about a dozen of these were in the yard. Casting is done on Thursdays. The bells for St. Martin's were to be cast on 26 May 1988. Small bells can be uncovered the next day but larger bells are left to cool over the weekend. Bells are then tuned. Large bells are placed upside down and concentric circles are gouged out of the inside — the ones we saw were in two bands, one about 6 inches deep about a foot down and one about three inches deep near the neck of the bell. This exposed the bright-gold bell metal against the dull bronze of the surface. The timber roof of the building in which the bell tuning is carried out is of interest.

    Stroboscopic tuners are used. It is necessary to tune the five principal tones of a large bell — the fundamental, the hum note, the nominal (i.e. octave up) the third and fifth harmonics. Tuning to within 1/100 of a semitone is possible. It is easy to flatten a bell by shaving off from the inside but it is only possible to sharpen a little. On old bells one can see chisel marks where they have been tuned and also marks where the clappers hit the inside. From clapper marks, it can be seen when bells have been turned, often several times. Higher pitched bells and higher resonances are tuned on the sharp side since if they were tuned to the exact pitch they would sound flat. The ear is very sensitive to flat notes. Hand bells are shot blasted and turned by hand. These have only two principal tones, the fundamental and the 12th harmonic. Cow-hide handles are fitted to these bells. There is a big export market to the United States.

    SG cast iron is now used for bell clappers instead of wrought iron. These are bought in as are the cast-iron bell frames which have replaced wooden ones. Until the 1830s the trade of bell founder was independent from that of bell hanger, but now all the work is done by the founder. Ball bearings were introduced at the end of the First World War. Older bells have loops or canons cast into the top for hanging. A cast-iron piece was also cast into the bell to take the clapper. Modern bells have flat tops and extra fittings are bolted on. In the carpenters' shop in the roof, bell wheels are made. Over these the bell ropes are hung. The wheels are constructed of oak with an ash rim. Plywood, has replaced elm (which warps) for the outer rim. The biggest bell cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry was Big Ben. In recent years, the Bicentennial Bell was cast which the Queen presented to the USA in 1976. This weighed six and a half tons and was 6'10" wide. At least 25% of the Whitechapel's output is for export, mostly to the USA and to ex-Commonwealth countries.

    There were 32 staff on the clocking-in board, of which about half a dozen had clocked in on the Saturday of our visit. Working hours seemed to be around 7.45am to 4.45pm. English names predominated. We are most grateful to one of the owners, Mr. W.A. Hughes, for acting as our guide on a visit to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry on 21 May 1988. The firm moved from Aldgate to its present site, which was previously an inn, in 1738. In the yard was a lead cistern dated 1670. Wooden pipes and a well have been uncovered here. A clock bell cast from the commutator of a DC motor was noted in the yard. This replaced the steam engine in 1911. According to our guide the DC motor ran at 15 volts. It was scrapped after World War II, on conversion to AC. In upstairs workshop a 250 year old mahogany lathe was inspects.

    A 1762 Canterbury bell was in for repair. This had been cast on site, on the Cathedral yard, as was common then because of the difficulty of transport. A crack had been replaced with a new weld, about one inch wide and six inches long. The bell was inscribed '1762 William Chapman moulded me'. Pam and Bob Carr

    IA in Scotland

    Half-term took us to Scotland, for a brief visit to relatives and a longer time spent checking out IA sites I So if you are in Scotland look out for a few of these sites. We visited New Lanark for the first time in some years and were pleasantly surprised by the progress since our last visit. The main car park is now situated outside the village hut the spectacular footpath down to the village makes the walk worthwhile although not easy for the older or disabled visitor. The exhibits in the Mill (no, 3, 1826) are a little disappointing as the cotton mules are still lying in pieces but once completed this should be interesting although perhaps not on a par with Styal. Don't expect too much of the shop on the ground floor; there are plenty of souvenirs however (I was able to buy a Charles Rennie Macintosh mug.), but very little in the way of books apart from the standard guide. There is plenty of scope for expansion hero — perhaps the GLIAS Bookshop could help out! Work is still continuing renovation of Mill No. 1 (1789) for example. This oldest surviving mill on site was cut down from five to three storeys in 1945. It appears that this is being returned to its original state. Although much of the housing has been renovated to modern standards, work is still being carried out on the rest of the housing stock. The mill lake was empty with repairs being made to it by a large force of what appeared to be job creation labour.

    We also paid a visit to both sites belonging to The Scottish Mining Museum south of Edinburgh. The Prestongrange site has been open for some years, with the large Cornish, pumping engine by Harvey's of Hayle as its prime exhibit. The newer site is at Lady Victoria Colliery, Newtongrange. The former offices house a good shop and tearoom as well as an interesting, series of tableaux of what life was like for a miner. The rest of the site is being opened progressively and we were able to see the huge winding engine, the largest in Scotland, as well as the pit head gear and cages. (Watch, out for broad Scottish accents!) The little mining village is also worth a look although not mentioned in the literature.

    If you have the chance don't miss the Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank at Dumbarton. Here you can see the complete model-making, process as well as the 100 metre tank in which the models were tested. This was the first tank (1882-83) to be used commercially to test ship hull designs. It is hoped to bring the tank back into use soon. With so many chip-building sites disappearing on the Clyde, the Scottish Maritime Museum which is based in Irvine has set up an out-station here.

    Industrial Museums seem to be a huge growth industry, in Scotland and include a new open-air museum based on Dalmellington, Ayrshire, which will feature iron-making, brick-making and local weaving. The Summerlee Heritage Trust opened last year on the banks of the Monkland Canal in Coatbridge and features 'the pride of Scottish Victorian engineering'. Sue Hayton

    Railway Hostel, Camden

    The former hostel on the North side of the railway, just to the West of Bridge Approach, NW1 for the use of footplatemen staying overnight in London, has been derelict for some time. It is now rebuilt in current yuppie style with a view to accommodating people who earn their living in rather a different manner, the old function very hard to guess. Its new name is Iron Bridge House. The train service from nearby Primrose Hill station is likely to cease soon unless local protests are very strong. New trains were introduced only recently (GLIAS Newsletter August 1986). Bob Carr

    Romford Brewery

    In 1799 Edward Ind bought the Star Inn at Romford and increased his trade by supplying ale to other publicans in the area. The brothers George and Octavius E Coope joined the business in October 1845, Edward Ind dying in 1845. In the mid-19th century a fashion for light-coloured 'pale ale' developed, which required hard water. The firm of Ind Coope, as the business had become, opened a brewery at Burton-on-Trent which had ideal water.

    Ind Coope took over Samuel Allsopp's in.1934. Allsopp's had started in 1703 and had already absorbed Halls of Oxford and A. Arrol of Alloa. In 1947 the group acquired the Aylesbury Brewery in 1949 the Wrexham Lager Beer Company. Further take-overs were Benskins of Watford (1957) and Taylor Walker, London (1959).

    In 1908 the Romford Brewery produced about 8,000 barrels of beer per week and employed 450 men. Much modernisation has taken place recently. A new large bottling hall was completed in 1961. New lauter tun and wort coppers have been installed in the brewhouse and the keg packaging lines are very up to date with fully automated computer controlled operations. All beers are flash pasteurised before being put into kegs. As well as John Bull Bitter, Skol Lager, Lowenbrau and Castlemaine XXXX are produced.

    For some time the Brewery had its own railway system. This started in 1353 with access from the Eastern Counties Railway by wagon, hoist as the main line is at a high level. The hoist had been replaced with an incline by the early 1860s. In 1946 the Brewery was operating two private steam locomotives (see Industrial Railway Record, December 1982). Rail traffic ceased in the mid-1960s.

    The GLIAS visit on November 28th will be an opportunity to see brewing on the big scale. It is a social event as well as an industrial visit and replaces the traditional GLIAS informal (Italian) Christmas dinner. Bob Carr


    London's beer was dark in colour before the advent of 'Burtonisation', the artificial treatment of London water to harden it. Porter was first brewed in Shoreditch in 1722 and remained popular for more than 150 years. Now you can try London Porter as it was in a reconstruction by the Pitfield Brewery. Their bottled Porter is available in some off-licence premises. It has an alcoholic content of 5.5% which is a little less than the Victorian original (GLIAS Newsletter December 1988). Bob Carr

    Greenwich Riverside consultation

    The London Borough of Greenwich has commissioned a major consultation on the riverside from Deptford to Thamesmead. The consultants are particularly asking for submissions from 'heritage' groups about what they think future developments of the river-front should be like. Greenwich Council is very aware that the river has been a workplace and the mainspring of much industry in the past and that much of the development on the North bank does not reflect this. Anyone interested in making a submission should contact the Docklands Consultative Committee, 4 Stratford Office Village, Romford Road, E15. (tel: 519-5485) before the middle of August.

    Molins Factory

    Mary Mills would like to thank those members who contacted her about the now demolished Molins Factory in Evelyn Street, SE8 (GLIAS Newsletter February 1989). Some people were still working for Molins in Peterborough and St. Paul's Cray and drew attention to a history of the company written in the 1970s. (A copy of this is in Lewisham Local History Library). Of considerable interest also is the fact that the site before Molins moved on to it was a tramway depot — many details can be found about the site in the new history of LCC trams and elsewhere. However no-one gave any information about the interesting and now demolished frontage to the building, with its row of cigarette-shaped columns.

    Eastern Counties Railway 150th anniversary

    The first section of the Eastern Counties Railway, ten-and-a-half miles from a temporary terminus at Devonshire Street (Mile End) to Romford (just short of the present Romford Station) was formally opened on 18th June 1839 and opened to the public two days letter. The brick viaduct from Shoreditch (later to be known as Bishopsgate) to Devonshire Street WPG still incomplete. Soft ground had caused considerable problems and this part was eventually built on the disappearing trestle principle. For the Railway's opening, two trains with locomotive engines at each end, ran on parallel tracks. Each train had a brass band playing which would have produced effects reminiscent of Charles Ives.

    Devonshire Street no longer exists but the first London terminus was roughly where the line crosses Globe Road. There was a Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station in the 1880s. Between Mile End and Romford, engineering features include an iron bridge over the Regent's Canal and a tunnel near Seven Kings one hundred and thirty feet long. The temporary terminus at Romford was known as Barrack Lane.

    It was intended to link Yarmouth and Norwich with London. A route was surveyed by C. B. Vignoles and John Braithwaite and after a fierce parliamentary battle the Company was incorporated on 4th July 1836. A broad gauge line to rival that of I.K. Brunel was envisaged but after due deliberation Mr. Braithwaite decided, 'that five feet would be about the thing'. The line was to have been constructed starting from the Yarmouth end as well as from London but due to shortage of money no work started in the North.

    According to a contemporary account Vignoles and Braithwaite were both noted for swearing but Vignoles excelled in continental-style tantrums. The writer does not recall the latter being mentioned by K.H. Vignoles in his biography of Charles Blacker Vignoles (see GLIAS Newsletter 90). Opposition to railways could be strong and the press none too scrupulous. In its early days the Eastern Counties Railway attracted much ridicule and was a general butt for the cartoonist and satirist. Mr. Punch was particularly active in the 1840s and 50s.

    The decision to adopt a five foot gauge proved costly. In 1844 the Eastern Counties main line and its Northern extension, the Northern and Eastern from Stratford to Bishop's Stortford, a total of 84 route miles had to be reduced to standard gauge at a cost of £1,000 per mile. Other railways made expensive decisions too. The London & Croydon Railway, opened also in June 1836 (GLIAS Newsletter June 1989) later adopted the atmospheric traction system (see The Railway Magazine, June 1933). An atmospheric service from Forest Hill to Croydon started in October 1845 but was soon abandoned.

    Returning to the Eastern Counties main line, more of the route was opened in 1840. The sections from Shoreditch to Devonshire Street and Romford to Brentwood were opened to the public on 1st July. To service the locomotives an impressive establishment known as the Romford Factory was built in 1848 East of Romford on the South side of the line at Squirrels Heath. In 1948 locomotive work was transferred from here to Stratford and the works became a tarpaulin factory. Amazingly the factory still exists, now occupied by Railstore Ltd.

    To celebrate the Eastern Counties Railway 150th anniversary a plaque was unveiled at Romford and at the Old Station Museum, North Woolwich an exhibition is in progress. The North Woolwich Museum is in the former railway terminus building dating from 1854 (the line opened 1847) (GLIAS Newsletter February 1986). The regular exhibition is first rate and the special Eastern Counties 150 Exhibition can also be highly recommended. For the Romford Factory there are contemporary plans, a recent model and some colour photographs. A rumour is abroad that a length of five-foot gauge track still exists there (>>>). If you have not been to North Woolwich now is an excellent time. Bob Carr

    The Musical Museum, Brentford — and Frank Holland

    The Recording Group has been sent a copy of Frank Holland's autobiography 'A Box Full of Rolls'. As many GLIAS members know, Frank is the founder and 'director of the Musical Museum at Brentford and the book has been produced to celebrate a quarter of a century of the Museum's existence. It is a fascinating account of Frank's life and adventures with many interesting details about his acquisitions. Available from Frank at the Musical Museum, 368 High St, Brentford, Middlesex. It is hoped a supply can be got for the GLIAS bookstall.

    Industrial Archaeology postage stamps

    On 4th July the Post Office issued a set of four Special Stamps entitled 'Industrial Archaeology', to commemorate Museums Year. The stamps are vertical in format (30mm x 41mm) and were designed by Ronald Maddox. The stamps depict:

    Special Stamps entitled 'Industrial Archaeology' 19p — The iron bridge spanning the Severn River, which served the Coalbrookdale furnaces. These were the first to smelt iron ore with coke instead of the more traditional charcoal. The bridge, which was designed by a Shrewsbury architect named Thomas Farnolls Pritchard, was opened in 1779 and has been preserved along with the furnaces by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum.

    27p — The derelict tin mines at St Agnes Head are typical of many such ruins along the coast of Cornwall. Tin has been mined in Britain for three thousand years but the industry has now ceased and tin required for manufacture is imported.

    32p — The cotton mills at New Lanark in Strathclyde are a tribute to enlightened employers David Dale and Richard Arkwright. They gave jobs to many homeless crofters and provided them with good quality housing. Further improvements were made when the business was sold to Dale's son-in-law, Robert Owen, who introduced a co-operative village store and made education available to everyone.

    35p — The 1,000ft long Pontcysyllte aqueduct at Clwyd, engineered by Thomas Telford in 1805, carries the Llangollen arm of the Shropshire Union Canal over the River Bee. Canals were the mainstay of the distribution of raw and finished goods for the manufacturing industries from the mid-18th century until the advent of public railways in the 1830s.

    The set of four stamps is available in a Presentation Pack No.200, which costs £1.35 and the four stamps are also featured in a set of postcard sized colour replicas at 64p per set.

    A chip off the old block

    The Celebrations in France for the 200th Anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille (the Castle of St. Antoine, part of the Paris fortifications) on July 14th 1789 is also the anniversary of M. Joseph Ignace Guillotin's scientific separation device. M. Guillotin was a physician and Professor of Anatomy in Paris and his invention was for the humane execution of criminals. An oblique edged weighted knife is drawn up to its full height and allowed to fall onto the unfortunate victim's neck. Until the advent of this invention the means of execution depended on the judge's discretion — such as quartering and strangulation. The guillotine was first used on 25th April 1792. M. Guillotin assured everyone that the victim would feel no pain — all he would feel would be a sensation on the back of the neck which would be like being touched with a piece of ice. I wonder how he knew? Editor

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  • © GLIAS, 1989