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Notes from Bob Carr — February 1994

Finchley Lido

As a recent evocative television programme testifies, along with the current interest in matters art deco the 1930s lido, or outdoor swimming-pool complex, is attracting a band of enthusiasts. Unhappily for these enthusiasts swimming outdoors is losing in popularity as more heated indoor accommodation, often with high-tech aquatic attractions, becomes available.

Finchley Lido in the London Borough of Barnet dates from the early 1930s and is thought by some to be architecturally the finest example of its kind in North London. Recently it has been leaking and has become dirty and was closed towards the end of 1992. Situated in Finchley High Road the lido was fully opened by 1934 and during the 1948 Olympic Games was the venue for the water-polo events. Plans for redevelopment mean that it is unlikely to retain its present form for long.

The main pool opened on 26 March 1932 and holds a maximum of 456,250 gallons. Its dimensions are 165 feet by 80 feet and it has a maximum depth of ten feet at the diving end. There is an elliptical children's pool of the same overall dimensions which opened on 12 July 1934. Its depth varies from zero to 3 feet 6 inches and it holds 138,000 gallons.

Work was carried out under the supervision of Mr PT Harrison MICE, Finchley Borough engineer and architect. The contractors for the children's pool were William Moss and Sons Ltd. Water filters were by the Patterson Engineering Company and the Becco Engineering and Chemical Company. There is a shelter for which WJ Cearns were the contractors. It need hardly be mentioned that the Twentieth Century Society has been taking a great interest. Bob Carr

Richmond Ice Rink

The Richmond Ice Rink in East Twickenham alongside the Thames closed in January 1992 and was demolished in May that year. Plans were to build 250 flats on the site and construct another ice rink elsewhere but various problems have delayed building. A recent alternative suggestion is not to build the flats and erect a new ice rink on the old site.

It would appear that the completion of the original Richmond ice rink was delayed by the First World War as the site had become an armaments factory in 1916. This was the Pelabon Works of Charles Pelabon, a French-speaking Belgian industrialist. The works employed Belgian refugees including unfortunate soldiers who had lost a limb and it must have been quite a Belgian colony of exiles, a history of the works in French is entitled (translation) 'A Belgian City on the Thames'; there were about 6,000 Belgians in all. Twenty beds were made available for Belgian soldiers on leave and it was proposed to fit the wounded with artificial limbs.

The ice rink finally opened on 18 December 1928 with a rectangular ice surface 286 feet long by 80 feet wide, the major axis being parallel with the river and Clevedon Road. Not surprisingly such proportions made the ice the longest in any indoor rink in the world. It was envisaged that a thousand skaters could be accommodated at the same time with up to 3,000 spectators. However, in 1935 the ice surface was shortened to 200 feet and thereafter dimensions remained the same until the 1990s. Making use of the space saved a small separate ice rink called the Arosa was opened on 26 October 1938 and it continued in use until recently. The Richmond ice rink site is an interesting subject and it is hoped to write more in the future. Bob Carr

Camden Goods Yard

Between the Roundhouse at Chalk Farm and the Regent's Canal, Camden Town, is an extensive area of former railway goods yard essentially at first-floor level with some tunnels and vaults beneath. During the construction of Robert Stephenson's London and Birmingham Railway in the mid 1830s clay was transported here from Primrose Hill tunnel and associated cuttings to make up the ground.

There has been considerable debate as to how this now derelict area is to be re-used but it looks as if the outcome will be a Safeway supermarket and some housing with the underground features remaining relatively undisturbed. Recently the area formerly occupied by railway tracks, which accommodated mostly covered vans, has been used for car parking. If the supermarket is to consist of a low rise shed with large car park the industrial archaeological implications are not too serious. It is local residents fearing even more traffic congestion in the area who are concerned, not to mention local small shopkeepers. Bob Carr

Barford Engineering

At the west end of Northumberland Park, London N17, near White Hart Lane railway station is an attractive building of modest proportions dating from 1852. It is on the south side of Northumberland Park behind an earlier listed house on Tottenham High Road, which house at one time in the 19th century was the residence of a draper who had a few female apprentices. Whether this is relevant to the history of the small building in question is at present unknown.

Inside the building the timber roof structure is worth some attention and there are remains of line shafting, three lathes, a mechanical saw and remnants of electrical equipment. S Barford and Sons ran an engineering business at this address in more recent years. Bob Carr

Greater London news

St Stephen's Church on the corner of Pond Street and Roslyn Hill, Hampstead, by Samuel Sanders Teulon dates from 1869 and is listed grade 1. It has been unused for 16 years and there are now plans by the North London College of Health to convert the building into a library and education centre for nursing staff. There is also a scheme for a community and arts centre. Alan Teulon, who lives in Northampton and is a descendant of the Architect, favours the community centre scheme.

At Chalk Farm the Roundhouse is likely to be refurbished as some kind of arts/entertainment centre but there are objections from local residents who would like restrictions on noise late in the evening. It has been stressed that a nightclub would be inappropriate for the area.

A notable industrial archaeological London landmark is the circular piano factory in Camden Town on the corner of Oval Road and Gloucester Crescent NW1. The building, listed grade 2, dates from 1851 and was the works of Collard and Collard. It has recently been refurbished and is notable for good natural light around the perimeter of its floors. Piano manufacture here ceased in the 1920s. The Collard family had the acquaintance of the Italian composer and pianist Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) and their business produced pianofortes for a fairly up-market niche in the Victorian market. (Camden Town pianos generally were of a less exalted kind). Clementi, who lived much of his life in England, was a particularly pianistic composer and had a personal interest in piano manufacture. He wrote more than 60 piano sonatas.

The art deco ABC bakery Camden Town was demolished in the mid 1980s (GLIAS Newsletter February 1987) and our nostrils are no longer assailed by the delicious smell of baking bread. Sainsbury's have built a supermarket on the site and at first glance the new structure, by architects Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners, might be mistaken for a small football stadium. Opened in December 1988 weathering problems that could give rise to structural difficulties with the supermarket have been noticed and the matter might even result in court action. Prestigious work by Grimshaw's includes the Financial Times printing works on the East India Docks site and the new Channel Tunnel terminal on the west side of Waterloo railway station.

Many adventurous proposals are being put forward to celebrate the millennium. The moat of the Tower of London, dry since early Victorian times, may once again be filled with water. To celebrate the year 2001 it has been proposed to build temporarily a replica of Sir Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace on its original site in Hyde Park. The Victorian Society has shown an interest in this scheme but of course there is the problem of finance.

The Morris Singer fine-art foundry traces its history back to 1848 when a company was started in Frome, Somerset, by John Webb Singer. This undertaking soon became a major works for the production of sculpture for outdoor public display. Many famous London statues were made by them including the figure of Justice above the Old Bailey and Boadicea in her chariot by Westminster Bridge.

In 1927 Singer's moved to Dorset Road, Lambeth, and merged with the Morris Art Bronze factory to form Morris Singer. After the Second World War a long association developed with the sculptor Henry Moore and the firm cast more than one hundred bronzes for this artist. In 1967 Morris Singer moved to Basingstoke where business continued successfully. The firm has a reputation second to none worldwide but sadly recent financial problems have made it necessary to bring in the receivers. It is hoped a buyer for the famous firm may yet be found.

In Richmond Road, Kingston upon Thames, the British Aerospace (former Hawker) factory has been completely demolished. This includes the office facade dating from the late 1950s and financed by the success of Hawker jet fighters. GLIAS paid a memorable visit here, to what was known as the Ham Factory, on Saturday 7 December 1991 just before production of the Harrier finished (GLIAS Newsletter February 1992). Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 1994