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Notes and news — August 1999

In this issue:

Henry Dixon's London

Commercial photographer Henry Dixon's valuable record of Victorian London is on display at the Guildhall Library Print Room following the rediscovery of over 200 original glass-plate negatives, many of which show images of London never seen before.

Dixon's work included the Holborn Valley improvements (1866-71), early shots in London Zoo, as well as commissions for the City Sewers Department and the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London (SPROL). Dixon photographed many historic buildings threatened with destruction during the Victorian era of rebuilding and modernisation.

One newly discovered picture shows a handsome chimney on the riverside opposite Somerset House. The exhibition staff had not been able to identify it but I recognised it as part of a refuse incinerator — the very same structure that Don Clow described (GLIAS Newsletter April 1999).

The brick-built chimney was octagonal and quite slim, with a double machicolated (Sienese-style) top crowned with tall, ornamental iron cresting like a balustrade (not a spark arrester). This was one of the various decorative devices that the Victorians used where the appearance of a chimney was sensitive or pride was involved. Thomas Hawksley used something similar in 1878-81 at Cambridge Gas Works.

A puzzle is that the chimney is seen in the picture to rise from a small free-standing, single-story brick and slate-roofed building, suitable for a couple of furnaces at most. The Goad Insurance Plan of 1889 (London Volume X, sheet 240) shows a two-storey building added in front of the chimney to the south, containing five furnaces (presumably double-ended, to make Don Clow's ten), flanked by two tipping platforms reached by wagon elevators. However, a room in the single-storey part is labelled 'Refuse burnt' and so was maybe part of the original installation. Since the photo does not show a flue for connection to the later furnaces, I presume the destructor was completed in two phases, the first more primitive than the final version.

By 1889 there was also a 30hp steam engine north of the chimney which may have driven machinery in buildings around the two-acre depot, named the 'City Sewers Yard'. The 'five-foot' OS of 1894 shows a similar layout to Goad, both of them stylising the chimney with a circle. The plan is unaltered on the LCC's partial revision of 1937, where the name of the Corporation of London (successors to the commissioners) has been added.

The chimney was at grid reference TQ 310 804, in Commercial Road, SE1 (now Upper Ground on the National Theatre site). Goad gives its height as 110 feet. Malcolm Tucker
Guildhall Library Print Room, Monday to Friday 9.30am — 5pm. Tel: 020 7332 1839. Collage Image Database website:

Queen Anne's Gate lamp conversion

The street lighting in Queen Anne's Gate (alongside the Home Office and leading to St James' Park) has finally been converted from gas to electricity.

This has been achieved using the original lamp standards, which I believe are Georgian. The lantern tops have been replaced with new ones and it looks as if electric cables have been run up through the existing lamp-posts.

I do not think the lamps in St James' Park itself have been altered as they are administered by the Royal Parks and, as we are often told, the Royal Parks do not have any money! I guess the ones in Queen Anne's Gate come under Westminster Council. Dave Taylor

Follow the Fleet, Blackfriars to King's Cross

Some 60 people turned up at the Water Carrier statue at the north-east end of Blackfriars Bridge for the July walk led by David Perrett.

Follow the Fleet, of course, has nothing to do with the Royal Navy and everything to do with the River Fleet. David's walk took us along the line of the river, now in a sewer, with diversions to either side.

Having passed under Holborn Viaduct where, due to demolition of the buildings on the north side we could see the brick arches leading up to the viaduct itself, we passed, via Ely Place and the jewellery quarter of Hatton Garden to Leather Lane, known for its lunch-time market, to Clerkenwell Road.

Here we returned briefly to Farringdon Road to see the buildings of an old type foundry and then diverted through a little-known passage to view the bridge taking Rosebery Avenue over Warner Street. Thence, through Exmouth Market, now going upmarket, to Finsbury Town Hall (below left) and up Amwell Street to New River Head and the old dairy (below right), which did an unexpectedly large trade in soft drinks on a warm Saturday afternoon.

Finsbury Town Hall © Robert Mason 2016 Lloyd Dairy, River Street/Amwell Street © Robert Mason 2016

From here it was downhill through old squares which, possibly due to the proximity of the less salubrious parts of King's Cross, have not yet been gentrified, to end on top of King's Cross Thameslink Station.

This was another very interesting walk past some well-known sites, some little-known ones and some unexpected corners. We are most grateful to David for an interesting and instructive afternoon. Bill Firth

National Maritime Museum 'Search Stations'

The revamped National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is making itself more accessible to the public through new 'Search Stations' which allow visitors to study its collections using touchscreen technology.

The museum has the largest collection of maritime-related artefacts in the world, including material on the Port of London. As only a small number of the museum's objects can be on display at any one time, the Search Stations provide computerised access to some items that are rarely seen.

The Search Stations are located in the south entrance to the museum, outside the Caird Library. It is planned to put the data on the web in the future.

Camden Roundhouse planning row

A planning row has developed between the Metropolitan Police and the Norman Trust, owners of the Roundhouse. The police want to build a divisional police station on police-owned land next to the Roundhouse. This would restrict access to the Roundhouse which claims the police plan undermines the viability of the venue. No doubt this will simmer on for a long time while claims and counter-claims are made. Bill Firth

Hampton Water Works redevelopment

In June this year a number of focus groups were set up to consider different aspects of the redevelopment of Hampton Waterworks in depth. Among these is a Heritage and Railway Group. There used to be a narrow gauge railway that ran from Hampton to Kempton Park Waterworks which used steam locomotives.

Follow-up: GLIAS newsletter August 2003

Gasholder Place, Lambeth

Gasholder Place, London SE11, is about to disappear. Numbers 263-75 Kennington Lane are being cleared to make way for a supermarket car park. The supermarket building itself will be quite low which means the view of the gasholders from Kennington Lane should actually be improved.

To the east of the supermarket site in Montford Place the c1960s building on the west side of the road, connected to the Beefeater Gin distillery, is also being demolished. The main red-brick Beefeater building opposite, which has an attractive doorway, should be retained. On Kennington Lane the buildings being demolished are mostly c1950s industrial premises which included Central House.

A good view of the Kennington gasholders can be obtained from Vauxhall Street with the two column-guided Victorian holders, numbers four and five, quite close. The two-lift Victorian holders are Siamese twins sharing a single column between them. The large gasholder, number one, rebuilt by George Livesey c1890 appears to have only three lifts. Do any readers have knowledge of when the flying lift was removed (Silvertown is a long way away)? Are flying lifts now rare? Bob Carr

The New River Path

There is an opportunity to open a more or less continuous public path along one side of the New River through Haringey. This will complete the path agreed or already open from the source of the river to Stoke Newington and Islington. Haringey Council Environmental Services wants comments from people living near the New River and from community and amenity organisations.
For information and to make comments contact New River Consultation, Planning and Development Service, 639 High Road, N17 8BD. Tel: 020 8808 1066

Down Street tour

The London Transport Museum organises tours of the disused stations at Down Street and Aldwych, details of which are advertised on its website ( The website also features an online tour of Down Street, complete with pictures and guide text.

Millennium Wheel

The £20 million Millennium Wheel is due to be hoisted upright over a 24-hour period in late August.

The 1,500-tonne, 433-foot high structure — called the British Airways London Eye — is being built horizontally over the Thames with seven temporary islands being used as supports.

The wheel, which should afford views of up to 25 miles, will stand in Jubilee Gardens next to the old County Hall building on the south bank of the Thames. After boarding the 32 glass capsules passengers will be able to see from Windsor in the west to Gravesend in the east at the height of the ride.

The structure should be completed by December and will start turning for the Millennium Eve. It will not open to the public until January 2000. Fares will be £6.95 for adults and £4.80 for children.

Nunhead Steam Bus Garage — running out of steam

In 1911 the National Steam Car Co Ltd opened a bus garage at 20-26 Nunhead Lane in South Peckham. The Clarkson steam buses were fired by paraffin and served routes from the area to Shepherd's Bush and Hampton Court. The company ceased operating in 1919 and the garage was acquired for petrol buses by first the London General Co and then the LPRT.

London Transport closed the garage in 1954. The garage was used from 1958 to the 1970s by Banfield's Luxury Coaches. After then it was used by a drinks wholesaler.

In 1997 plans for total demolition were put forward but were opposed by the Peckham Society who asked GLIAS to help with mounting a case. The surviving structure with its three central bays with a central clock turret is now believed to be the sole survivor of the this type of bus garage in Britain. The original aims of total demolition to build new sheltered housing were counted by John Beasley of the Peckham Society. The case was called to the Regeneration & Environment (Planning & Traffic schemes) sub committee of Southwark Council in May 1999. The decision was taken that demolition would be allowed but that the distinctive central portion with clock turret should be retained in the redevelopment. The developers are now objecting to this on the basis of cost.

GLIAS experience elsewhere, eg Streatham Silk Mills (now Sainsbury's) (GLIAS Newsletter December 1991), shows that redevelopment incorporating original structure can be highly successful resulting in interesting and characterful 'new' buildings. David Perrett
For fuller details of the site and the many other transport firsts of Peckham see 'Transport in Peckham and Nunhead', by John D Beasley, ISBN 1874401071, published in August 1997 by South Riding Press (6 Everthorpe Road, London SE15 4DA. Tel: 020 8693 9412)

Croydon Tramlink

Work on the Croydon Tramlink is well on schedule with the installation of rails and overhead wiring at an advanced stage. The overhead wire is live in central Croydon with occasional test running of trams round the town centre loop. Test running is also taking place between Wandle Park and Wimbledon.

The tram route to New Addington will make use of an abandoned railway tunnel on the line which used to run south from Woodside Junction and join the present line from East Croydon to Oxted between South Croydon and Sanderstead. The 28km network is anticipated to be operational by November 1999.
Tel: 020 8760 5729. Website:

Watermark 8

Watermark number 8 (June 1999) contains an article on Thames ferries and news of the progress of the Thames Landscape Strategy.
For further information contact Thames Landscape Strategy, c/o Holly Lodge, Richmond Park, Richmond, Surrey TW10 5HS. Tel: 020 8940 0654. Website:

English Heritage — Buildings at Risk (new version)

Piloti in Private Eye (25 June 1999) points out that according to English Heritage the cost of saving the country's finest listed buildings currently under threat would be about £400 million. That is half the cost of the Millennium Dome. Bob Carr

Finsbury Park lottery grant

Finsbury Park in Haringey is set to benefit from £1.5m of lottery money. Proposals for the Grade II-listed park, designed in the 1860s by Alexander McKenzie, include restoring the landscape and historic features, planting, and improving access, security and recreational opportunities.

M11 extension to open

The M11 link road in east London is now scheduled to open in late August 1999 almost ten years after the plans were first drawn up. The final bill for the controversial motorway is around twice the projected £200 million cost.

On the tiles — Paddington

The pedestrian passageway that connects the Circle Line underground station at Paddington with the main line terminus is lined with tiles, some of which depict tunnelling work and refer to Mr Brunel. The tiling appears to refer to Isambard's father Marc Brunel rather than the son who was engineer of Paddington Station. It seems unlikely that the people responsible chose the wrong Brunel so what is the thinking behind the decoration? Perhaps someone can explain. Bob Carr

Reading radio transmitter

With the threat of warfare in the 1930s the government set up a number of small relay radio transmission stations to broadcast national BBC programmes, supplementing the large transmitters used up to that time. One such low-powered synchronised unit was the transmitter in Reading where Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington Bear, was working in the early 1940s (GLIAS newsletter June 1999).

They were meant to be top secret for fear that enemy bombers might use radio direction finding techniques to home in on the transmitters. Transmitters were to be turned off if enemy planes were in the vicinity.

The lone Dornier that carried out a surprise attack on the town centre of Reading on 10 February 1943 might well have been using radio direction finding techniques. Working at a radio transmitter was a dangerous occupation, tantamount to operating a beacon for bombers. Bob Carr

Ragged School Museum award

The Ragged School Museum has won an Age Concern Millennium Award thanks to four volunteers.

One of the primary aims of these awards is to bridge the gap between generations. The museum's team of older volunteers achieve this through acting as guides for primary school visitors.
Further details from the museum at 46-50 Copperfield Road, London E1 4RR. Tel: 020 8980 6405. Website:

Ice block at LHP Wapping

A misconception crept into the article about the ice installation at LHP Wapping just over three years ago (GLIAS newsletter June 1999). The art event was called 'Intensities and Surfaces' and the large mass of ice was not a solid block. To manufacture such a thing would have been a feat indeed!

About 560 medium-size ice blocks (rectangular blocks roughly a foot across) from a standard industrial ice plant were stacked close together to achieve the effect. During the event a video of the installation of the ice was shown and this was quite an engineering operation in itself. Some spaces were left in the ice mass by the omission of blocks here and there to allow the insertion of strip lights and ordinary light bulbs. This was to give some control over the rate of melting of the ice and also rock salt was included to hasten melting. It is not known how solid the core of the ice mass was, quite a few blocks could have been left out there so that the ice melted quicker, in which case fewer than 500 blocks might have been used.

There is a good photograph of the ice mass or stack of blocks in the boiler house at LHP Wapping shortly after it was constructed in Art Monthly (April 1996, p3). Bob Carr

Industrial museums have been a failure

Industrial museums have been a failure while all-conquering art galleries continue to flourish and are even pushing local history museums to the periphery.

Art is perceived as the future and something with which money can be made while history is of little relevance and is too expensive.

The public will visit art galleries to be amused and shocked; they are entertaining. Museums are boring probably because compared with art, history is difficult and/or associated with school.

In general, archaeology still seems to be relevant. Pre-Roman Britain is popular. Is it civilisation that is out of fashion? Bob Carr

Obituary — Michael Stratton

I was deeply saddened to hear of Michael Stratton's death at the early age of 45 as a result of cancer.

Michael, together with Barrie Trinder, led the postgraduate teaching of industrial archaeology at the Ironbridge Institute from 1982. This emphasised the importance of fieldwork and trained many of those who now work in industrial museums, heritage management and related official posts. He later moved to the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies at the University of York. His published work includes The Terracotta Revival (Victor Gollancz with Peter Crawley, 1993), an authoritative study of architectural ceramics, and, with Paul Collins, British Car Factories from 1896 (Veloce Publishing, 1993), a model study of an industrial building type.

Michael radiated enthusiasm and friendliness. He was a good man as well as a stimulating teacher and an eloquent advocate of the importance of industrial archaeology. He will be greatly missed. Michael Bussell

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© GLIAS, 1999