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GREATER LONDON INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY SOCIETY

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Notes from Bob Carr — December 1994

Richmond and Kingston

The debate over the construction of a new ice rink in West London is becoming more passionate as time goes on (GLIAS Newsletter August 1994). A prominent campaigner is presenting the matter to the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg and in a letter published in the local press the comments of a Richmond councillor have been described as 'arrogant' and 'dodgy'. It does seem unlikely that a new ice rink will be built on the site of the old one in East Twickenham (the site of the Pelabon Works, GLIAS Newsletter February 1994) but there are a number of other proposals under consideration including that for a new rink on the site of Kingston electric power station. There is a scheme for an ice rink in Kingston town centre but this has critics and fears have been expressed that 'a teenage hell hole' might be created there. Japan's only Olympic ice skating champions, Hiro Suzuki and Tomoko Tanaka, began their training at the old Richmond ice rink staying in the area three years and giving the West London ice rink issue an international dimension.

At 11am on Sunday 16 October 1994 the two 250 feet high 32-sided chimneys of Kingston B power station were satisfactorily demolished using explosives by the contractors Brown & Mason. Water was sprayed to reduce dust and vibration levels were low. The first chimney to be demolished was that to the south followed shortly by the northern one. The Surrey Comet newspaper of 21 October contains a dramatic souvenir centre-page-spread photograph of the event. In this picture the two chimneys are seen simultaneously toppling towards each other — a dramatic use of digital electronic technology enabling a compilation of several photographs to be published as one.

The first Kingston power station, Kingston A with initially a power of 225kW and equipment supplied by Siemens Brothers, opened in November 1893 and was situated in Down Hall Road. Close by was the Native Guano Works dating from 1888 and a special peculiarity of the town. Here local sewage was dried and the residue sold for fertiliser. Needless to say there were complaints about the smell. Kingston B electric power station was later built on this site.

With the usual rebuilding and installation of new plant Kingston A had a long life, not finally closing until August 1959. Planning for the new Kingston B power station started just prior to the Second World War and following delays the new station was finally officially opened on 27 October 1948. Unusually this was a Royal Event, the ceremony being performed by King George VI with Queen Elizabeth. Being close to the Thames cooling water was to be had in abundance (hence no cooling towers) and coal came up river by barge, ash being sent away using the same means. At one time Kingston B occupied third place in the power station league table but became uneconomic as years went by. The station finally ceased generation in the autumn of 1980.

Most plant remained on site and the station was almost complete until relatively recently. Quite serious proposals were put forward to preserve Kingston B as a museum project but this was not to be. The turbines and condensers had already gone by the date of the chimney demolition and at the time of writing the boiler house to the east has lost much of its cladding and the removal of what is left of the boilers should not take long. A power station museum in such a residential West London locality was perhaps never much more than a dream although it was quite recently claimed that Kingston B was a classic example of its kind and the only one still in an almost complete state. For a time there were three chimneys at Kingston, two for Kingston B and one for the old A station. Bob Carr

Whitewebbs Pumping Station

Whitewebbs pumping station, Whitewebbs Road, Enfield Middlesex (TQ 318 998) was one of a number of water pumping stations built to extract ground water and add it to the flow of the New River as demand for water in London increased. It is situated close to the Cuffley Brook and a short walk from Crews Hill railway station. Dating from 1898 the architecture is characteristic of the late Victorian period and similar to several other stations constructed in the area to house water pumping engines. Water from a 14 feet diameter shaft was added to the New River via one of its abandoned loops, the earthwork remains of which can still be seen in Whitewebbs Park to the east.

In 1961 the Enfield and District Veteran Vehicle Society was founded its object being the preservation and maintenance of historic road transport vehicles. This society now has about 300 members who between them own about 80 period motorcycles, cars, commercial and public service vehicles. From this Veteran Vehicle Society grew up the Enfield and District Veteran Vehicle Trust which became a registered charity in 1979 with the aim of establishing a local transport museum. The Trust purchased the Whitewebbs pumping station in 1985 from the Thames Water Authority and has obtained detailed planning permission for its conversion. The pumping station buildings are on the local list of buildings of architectural and historical importance.

Water pumping station buildings are fine for housing the original machinery they were built for but finding alternative uses once their original purpose has become defunct has been a difficulty. At Whitewebbs quite substantial interior modifications are being carried out with the addition of extra floors to display the road vehicles and other items the Trust intends to exhibit. Rather than just road transport the new museum is now to encompass other areas of interest and the group of buildings is to become a Museum of Transport and Local Industrial Archaeology displaying tools, products and artefacts relating to the district's earlier manufacturing industries. Upstairs there will be a library and research facilities.

At Whitewebbs there is the main pumphouse with adjacent boiler house, and an office. A short distance away the architecturally attractive valve house is to become a tearoom and there is a coal weighbridge and bunkers. The yard at present contains a number of items some undergoing restoration. Of particular interest to GLIAS members is a mobile boiler (mounted on wheels) dating from 1871. A railway station roof with decorative valance salvaged locally from Chase Green forms an attractive shelter for further historic items being worked upon.

The original water pumping plant consisted of two compound steam engines by Richard Moreland & Son dating from 1899. Cylinder dimensions were 23 and 46 inches diameter with a stoke of four feet and the pumps were driven via long connecting rods. Two steel Lancashire type boilers provided steam at 120 psi. The engines had Corliss valve gear and 3 mgd could be pumped from a depth of 200 feet. George Watkins paid a visit to this station and took photographs (ref visit 770). It seems the steam engines did not have much work to do and one was taken out, going to the Shortlands pumping station, Bromley in southeast London, about 1910. The other lasted till 1964. The steel boilers were probably broken up about the same time.

Richard Moreland & Son, Hydraulic and General Engineers, was the subject of the GLIAS AGM lecture by Dr Denis Smith on 27 April 1991. Moreland's works were in Old Street, London EC1 but at the time the engines for Whitewebbs were being built a move to Silvertown was about to take place. There the firm diversified into structural engineering. Bob Carr

Climbing up the wall at Stoke Newington pumping station

When you see the Castle pumping station at Stoke Newington does it make you want to climb up the wall? Apparently Nicholas Grimshaw thinks it does. A means of reusing the Castle pumping station in Green Lanes N4 has been devised by architects Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners. Listed building consent and the approval of English Heritage has been obtained to convert the building into an indoor centre for mountain climbing enthusiasts which is due to open in the winter of 1995. Planned features include a 24 metres high overhanging competition wall and a 34 metres high abseiling and rope-training tower. There will be a dance studio, lecture hall and public cafe and bar overlooking the climbing wall. It was noted in the last newsletter that the scheme had been approved by the local authority, Hackney.

The Castle pumping station dating from 1856 and listed grade two stars was designed by William Chadwell Mylne FRS, engineer to the New River Company 1811-61. The family name MYLNE is repeatedly emblazoned in gold letters around the base of the building. At the back was a boiler house supplying steam to six rotative beam pumping engines housed in the castle itself. The external buttresses are not merely decorative but contain slots, each of which accommodated a flywheel shared by two of the beam engines. In the planned adaptive reuse the idea is to exploit the features of the building without altering any of its structure. The climbing enthusiasts have backing from the City and government agencies. Bob Carr
Website: www.castle-climbing.co.uk

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© GLIAS, 1994