Notes and news — December 2002
In this issue:
Recording Group News
- Recording Group News
- GLIAS database wins AIA recording award
- King's Cross — St Pancras
- King's Cross anniversary
- The mystery of Coade Stone
- Convoy's Wharf recollections
- Shieldhall on the Thames
- Ex-RN auxiliary vessel at Gravesend
- GLIAS cruise
- Cruise memories
- Civil engineering at Tate Britain
- Theatres exhibition: 'Scene Unseen'
- Architects and artists like engineering
- Wilkinson Eyre in London
- City Safari — Newcastle Upon Tyne
- The Erasmus Prize 2002
- Real Archaeology
As membership secretary, I often get forms back asking what the Recording Group is. When I first joined GLIAS, 30 years ago, there were many chances to explore buildings to record them and the processes carried on there. Older members may well remember the regular Recording Group publications. Since then the pace for change has increased. Many buildings have been swept away without the chance for members to look at them due to the difficulties of weekend access, never mind the often antagonistic attitude of developers. On the other hand, many members do not have the spare time available due to pressure of work which was not the case in the 1970s.
Recently we have been focusing our efforts on the mechanism of recording — the GLIAS Database. Now that the hard work of programming is over we need volunteers to help with even simple tasks like proof-reading. As we used the entries which were written for the now-defunct GLIAS book which were locked into a superseded computer, we had to scan all the entries from old multi-part computer stationery with holes punched in the sides. This has left us with some gobbledegook, never mind any factual errors.
The other problem is that some boroughs have had little attention, especially the outer London ones. That's not to say that we have not had help. John Hinshelwood has martialled local history groups and has provided a database of local sites in Haringey which has been transferred to the Database, while John Lewis has checked through the sites in Barking and has added to them significantly.
Now it's up to the rest of us! Have a look around your area and see what there is of IA note. You don't need to have a copy of the Database — I am quite happy to print off sections and let members have them to check. So let's get looking.
The Recording Group also decided to help these poor orphan boroughs by visiting some of them. We aim to start with Wandsworth and will meet to have an informal walk around the area (see GLIAS events), checking existing entries and finding new buildings to add. For those who are not sure about what to look for this is an opportunity to find out more. If, by chance, we are overwhelmed by members on the day we will split into two or more groups and so we will be able to range even further. At then end of the day we can repair to a local hostelry for what John Smeaton called 'tea and warming' or perhaps that should be 'beer and warming'.
If this is a popular event, then we will try to hold them in other parts of London — perhaps you could give us a few ideas. Sue Hayton
GLIAS database wins AIA recording award
GLIAS members turned out in force for this year's AIA conference (modes of transport included the Flying Scotsman). Two of our crew, Dave Perrett and Paul Sowan, gave members' presentations. Dave's holiday snaps illustrated a fascinating view of Spanish IA (including IA's mainstay, alcohol, in the form of cider making). Paul Sowan covered the wonderful tunnels of Liverpool, a form of job creation scheme dreamed up by an eccentric philanthropist.
The highlight of the conference was the AIA's Annual Recording awards. The GLIAS Database won the main award, in the face of some very stiff competition. There were over a dozen entries, and over half those entries achieved over 75%, a mark which in other years might have been sufficient to win the award. Three members of the GLIAS recording group went forward to collect the award: Chris Grabham (the database designer), Dave Perrett and Fiona Morton. Olwen Perrett acted as official photographer to the party. The Database received high praise, including a glowing report from English Heritage, whose Data Standards Team evaluated the technical aspects of the database:
'The database ... is very intuitive in its navigation and is very well designed. The combination of images and text make the subject matter very accessible and ... would find a very large audience beyond the Society itself ... I should like to congratulate the GLIAS on an excellent piece of work that is a pleasure to use. I wish them every success with it.'Each of the winning groups gave a short presentation on their project. For GLIAS, Dave gave a history of the database's development and Chris went on to give a demo of the database. We feel the people of Edinburgh may prefer the return of the Forth Bridge from its new six-figure grid reference location above the Woolwich foot tunnel. Much interest was shown in the database by other societies, for its potential, both as a source of information on London, and as what is currently the only example of a computerised IRIS form, as far as we are aware. Leaflets on the database were taken by many conference members.
In case anyone doubts the power of the GLIAS spy network, the AIA conference is yet another example of its reach. When Chris and I got on our bus to the Riccarton campus, a voice chirped up behind us, 'Are you Chris Grabham by any chance?'. As a follow-up to our being recognised at New Year on the beach in Aberdour, we feel we can safely expect to meet GLIAS members if we take our honeymoon in Tibet. Fiona Morton
King's Cross — St Pancras
Since the construction of section two of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) commenced last January, it has moved on apace, although, because nearly 20km of the route through London is to be in twin bored tunnels, the surface evidence is localised and concentrated (GLIAS Newsletter February 2002). A journey on the North London line through Stratford, passing the site of the kilometre-long subsurface station box, gives some impression of the scale of the earthmoving and concrete involved.
At the west end, where the line will unite with the existing network, the area north of King's Cross and St Pancras stations has been a hive of activity this autumn, most of the infrastructure having been diverted and new works begun, requiring frequent and bewildering changes of roads and footpaths. The viaduct of the Midland main line has been cut back on both sites, to leave for the time being two tracks and one bridge threading into the St Pancras terminus. The canal bridges are being rebuilt. A new concrete frame for the east side of the station extension is marching northwards, past the residual two blocks of Stanley Buildings, and soon will cross the cleared site of the triplet gasholders. A diverted road now wends between the German Gymnasium, the Culross tenement block and the one remaining gasholder. Further north, rail sidings have been laid out to handle the masses of spoil that will be dumped in Bedfordshire brick pits, and some impressive bridge trusses are being built, to be slid into place this Christmas across the Midland mainline, for the connections westwards.
Back at King's Cross the porte cochère of 1852 on the west side of the station has temporarily been taken down to make room for large piling rigs constructing the bored-piled retaining wall around the London Underground northern ticket hall, while the western ticket hall, for the Metropolitan and Circle lines, is being built on the site of the St Pancras station forecourt. All listed building features on these two sites are to be reinstated in due course. The now empty Great Northern Hotel remains as a familiar landmark in this sea of change.
On the east side of King's Cross, private development work has started on the sites owned by P&O alongside York Way to end many years of 'bight' within this conservation area. Foundations for a new hotel have started north of Caledonia Street and new offices will then be squeezed in between existing buildings, which will be retained and converted. More of the industrial buildings are being kept, after public objections forced a redesign by new architects in 2001. They include the 1860s brewers', engineers', coppersmiths' and brassworks of Henry Pontifex & Sons at 32-34 York Way and some interesting timber roofs. The coppersmiths' has been the subject of archaeological investigation above and below ground by AOC Archaeology, but sadly the adjoining black lead and washing blue works at Albion Yard was less well covered.
Looking to the slightly longer term, consultants for Railtrack (now Network Rail) have been planning four new platforms for the west side of King's Cross, for enhancement of the East Coast Main Line (ECML). They would replace the local platforms (9-11), but at a lower level and would be much longer. A fourth bore of Gasworks Tunnel, under the canal and goods yard site, would diverge from the ECML somewhere south of Copenhagen Tunnel. A new tramline from south of the river to Camden Town could also be routed nearby.
For the period following the completion of the CTRL, the development consortium Argent-St George is preparing a master plan for most of the land between King's Cross and the CTRL. A preliminary consultation document, A Framework for Regeneration, was issued in September. The notable buildings of the King's Cross Goods Station (1850s onwards) would be retained and converted to new use, with new buildings surrounding them. On the coveted land between the stations south of the canal, some of the buildings mentioned earlier that have been safeguarded so far, appear less secure. It is tentatively proposed to re-erect the listed gasholder guide frames in the west corner of the goods yard, north of the canal, which would require demolition of the two-level, early steel-framed Western Goods Shed of 1899. The developers aim to have their scheme ready to start construction when the CTRL opens in January 2007. Malcolm Tucker
King's Cross gazetteer
King's Cross anniversary
The 150th birthday of King's Cross railway station was to be celebrated on 14 October 2002. Leading up to the event there was to be a peripatetic exhibition with on the day itself the station manager and other staff dressed in Victorian clothes. Did anyone see the exhibition or even better anyone dressed up? Bob Carr
GLIAS lecture: The mystery of Coade Stone
Dr Gerry Moss gave the first of this winter's lectures in October. His interest in Coade stone was first aroused by a stone on a corner in Redhill bearing the inscription 'CROGGON 1822'. He knew that Croggon was a sculptor and decided to research the history of the artificial Coade stone of which it was made.
The firm was first established by Daniel Pincot in 1767, the earliest reference he could find to artificial stone. In 1769, it was taken over by the first Eleanor Coade, who died in 1797. She was succeeded by her daughter, the second Eleanor, whose ownership passed to John Sealey; then to William Croggon; and finally, following his death in 1835, to his son Thomas John Croggon, who closed the factory in 1837. The factory was located on the south bank of the Thames, on a site close to the modern Festival Hall, and is shown on maps and plans in 1799 and 1806. One surprise was that none showed the kilns, which would have been quite large to produce some of the items. There was also a showroom at the corner of Westminster Bridge (close to where the Coade stone lion now stands).
Traditionally, the 'mystery' relates to how the artificial stone was made. Dr Moss said this was not strictly true. He had found no evidence of attempts to conceal the composition, which had not been recorded at the time. Modern micro-analysis showed it to be composed of 50% ball clay and a 50% mixture of flint, sands, grog and cullet (glass). The grog — ground up pottery and earthenware — was thought to be critical. It was ground to a fine powder to provide tempering for the clay. Otherwise, there was nothing surprising in the composition. It was not known whether the grog consisted of rejects or was specially fired. The process involved firing the material twice. Coade stone was very durable and acid-resistant. Much of it survives with very little weathering.
Dr Moss illustrated his talk with slides, showing maps and plans of the factory and the showroom site; an engraving of the kiln; illustrations of products from the catalogues; and a wide range of surviving examples, including pineapple finials (with the inscription 'Coade & Sealy 1800'); keystones and string courses from London squares; and many figures and vases of varying sizes.
Discussion mainly focused on the nature of the 'mystery'. Perhaps the mystery was 'what is the mystery?'! Denis Smith agreed there was in fact no mystery in the analysis — was it perhaps in the management of the kiln? Dr Moss said the material had never been patented and customers were invited to the showroom rather than the factory. It was also not clear why the factory closed. There was no evidence on profitability — perhaps the son lost interest? Brian Strong
Convoy's Wharf Recollections
I regularly loaded paper out of Convoy's (GLIAS Newsletter June 2002) and was surprised that no mention was made of the huge almost semi-circular building, like a Nissen hut but nearly 100 feet across. We were always told that it was a listed building and was the slaughterhouse of the cattle market. On the right just inside the gate were the sheds that replaced some destroyed in the 1940 Blitz. These had a plaque commemorating their building.
When I first started loading from there, there were several ranges of beautifully built yellow stock brick buildings, apparently left over from its days as the Royal Navy Victualing Yard. When these were demolished by Convoy's to expand the wharf, the demolition contractor took the bricks as payment for the job. The unique one was the 30ft square windowless building used as a gear store. This had walls about 5ft feet thick, a massive steel door and a corrugated iron roof. We were told that this was the powder magazine and was constructed so that if there were an accidental explosion the blast would go straight up. There was also a large open area where a shed had been destroyed by arson during the newspaper strike. On the downstream end was the decorative wharf front of Payne's with its name built into the pediment. While behind that was the range of buildings, which the dockers called Nelson's House (which is of course at Woolwich) but which seem to fit the description of the workhouse built on the site of Sayes Court. There is also the connection with Peter the Great and Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Francis Drake. Bob Rust
Shieldhall on the Thames
A surprise entry in the Port of London Authority ships expected list announced that a Shieldhall would be arriving at Tilbury Landing Stage. Surely this was not the preserved SS Shieldhall (GLIAS Newsletter February 2002) from Southampton, and in November too? Yes it was true! On sunny Sunday 3 November 2002 SS Shieldhall was to be seen berthed alongside Tilbury Landing Stage.
She had had a good passage from Southampton despite the lateness of the season and was here for filming with Stephen Fry. Having completed that work she went straight back home and we did not have the pleasure of any passenger cruises or even sessions for the public to go on board while she was on the London river. However, if she can come here in November a visit in the summer should be quite feasible and the Waverley and Balmoral might yet find some competition on the Thames.
Shieldhall spent about 20 years, much of her working life, on the Clyde and her owners Glasgow Corporation must have been inordinately proud of their sludge to have commissioned such a magnificent ship. She is twin screw (like Portwey — GLIAS Newsletter February 2001), with a pair of triple-expansion steam engines (1,600 ihp) which gave her a service speed of 11 knots and was designed to cope with really bad winter weather out beyond the Firth of Clyde. She was built by Lobnitz & Co at Renfrew as recently as 1955 but is a really traditional ship nonetheless, all 1,792 tons gross of her. Shieldhall has a riveted hull and teak decks. Counting auxiliaries she has a total of 20 steam engines.
In case readers are not familiar with what goes on at Shieldhall, the place on the south bank of the Clyde west of Glasgow — just beyond the Clyde road tunnel, it should be sufficient to say that it is the Glasgow equivalent of Crossness or Beckton with outfall works. (Sensitive readers might skip the rest of this paragraph). The CWS had a food manufactory at Shieldhall and one of its products was Shieldhall sauce. A few years ago the café in the Co-Operative department store in Derby had reproduction posters of the between-the-wars period on the walls illustrating famous CWS brands. Sure enough one poster proudly advertised Shieldhall brown sauce. This unfortunate association was probably unknown to most people in Derby but was Shieldhall sauce ever marketed in Glasgow? The brand name Shieldhall was applied to many other CWS food products. The former CWS Shieldhall brass band founded in 1918 is still strenuously active and very well-known in brass band circles.
Anyway we must be only too grateful that the very fine ship Shieldhall not only survives but has actually been brought back to life and can now sail round the coast of Britain. She is 268ft long (20ft longer than PS Waverley) and was registered to carry 80 passengers with excellent dining facilities. It was possible to take a trip out down the water from Glasgow on her when she was still at work on the Clyde and this must have been a real treat. Hopefully some of these days are coming back again.
Glasgow Corporation later operated the Dalmarnock, a motor ship built in 1970. She was bigger than Shieldhall at 2,266 tons gross and a length of 313 feet. Dalmarnock works are to the east of the centre of Glasgow close to the Clyde on the north bank. The address is Swanston Street, G40. The Corporation colours for their ships were funnel yellow with black top and a pale grey hull with red boot-topping.
Following her service on the Clyde SS Shieldhall was operated from Southampton by the Southern Water Authority and it is due to their generosity and the efforts of many volunteers that we still have her with us. Bob Carr
It is possible to stay the night on board Shieldhall in Southampton in one of her excellent traditional cabins. She is usually to be found at berth 48, Southampton Eastern Docks. Tel: 023 8022 5853. Web: www.ss-shieldhall.co.uk/
Ex-RN auxiliary vessel at Gravesend
The notes on the GLIAS cruise (GLIAS Newsletter October 2002) were rather hastily written and a good deal more should have been added. Here is a little more about the small derelict steamship we noted at Gravesend.
She is on the south bank just downriver of the entrance to the Canal Basin. From the land the vessel is obscured by large sheds used for metal working. She appears to be a small steamship built c1943, hull part riveted and with engines aft, perhaps a tanker to bunker warships in dock. It has been said that this small ship spent her entire working life at Chatham and also that the original reciprocating steam engine has been replaced by a diesel. Again at one time it was hoped to use the ship for commercial trading purposes. She is still in the colours of the RN auxiliary services. Said to be owned by a Frenchman with an oriental wife — at one time they lived on board which was difficult owing to the inclination of the deck. The ship carries no name or number and is hard to identify. There is a vague memory that at one time she did have a number, perhaps preceded by a letter or letters (a 'C' perhaps), but if so this identification is now completely invisible.
It is said the hull plates are in bad condition and now the vessel partially floods at high tide. She is likely to be removed from the berth (and scrapped?). Much of the above requires verification. Does anyone have more (and especially reliable) information? It all sounds quite fascinating. Bob Carr
In the report of the GLIAS cruise (GLIAS Newsletter October 2002) mention should have been made of the removal of the jetty at Denton Wharf, Gravesend (TQ665 744), seen and photographed through the rain the previous year (GLIAS Newsletter December 2001).
This 1970s jetty, which succumbed to structural problems, was the last place of work of several vintage cranes from the West India and Millwall Docks, of 3 to 30 tonnes capacity and until recently handling both general cargoes and containers.
We also saw, over the flood banks at Swanscombe and West Thurrock, the activity around the tunnel portals of the CTRL river crossing — which more than made up the crane count.
Regarding the West Thurrock powerline crossing, this was built in connection with the adjoining coal-fired power station, completed in 1965 but now closed and demolished. It is part of the 275kV supergrid. The earlier powerline crossing from Dagenham to Crossness, demolished in 1987, was planned and constructed in 1927-1932 for the original 132kV national grid. With towers 487ft high and 120ft across at the base, this was a major engineering work that I wanted to include in my Buildings of England contribution on Thames Crossings (London 2: South), but the editor said it was not a building.
From our boat last August we estimated the West Thurrock towers to be about 600ft tall, but that does not imply extra navigation headroom, because of the larger clearance around each cable for the higher voltage and the greater sag on the span of 4,500ft compared with 3,060ft at Crossness. Thanks, Bob for organising yet another stimulating cruise, and getting the weather right this time. Malcolm Tucker
The report of the GLIAS cruise (GLIAS Newsletter October 2002) brought back some memories.
The chalk from Essex was converted to slurry and pumped under the Thames through a pipe an arrangement that went on until the pits on the Essex side were closed down. The demise of chalk quarrying in Essex was accelerated by the pits getting so deep that they affected the water table, an effect that could be registered at Amwell near Ware, the start of the New River. In fact Tunnel Cement was only allowed to deepen its pit on the undertaking that the water pumped out was supplied to the Thames Board Mills to replace extraction from the mains for use in papermaking.
The mention of Henley's cable works brought back visions of Greenwich. Loading at Lovell's or Badcock's and watching the cable snaking out of Submarine Cables Ltd into the ship lying alongside at Enderby's. The place so I was told that the first trans-Atlantic cable was made and loaded. The mention of the Imperial Paper Mills conjured up more visions of countless hours sitting waiting to load paper and the little tea stall in Lansdowne Square where we took turns to buy the tea and the Scots driver in the group kept up the Scots reputation by buying hot OXOs because they were 2½d while tea was 3d! While the Tilbury — Gravesend Ferry still runs despite many trials and tribulations and my grandchildren were most impressed to see the grave of and memorial to Pocahontas the unfortunate Native American princess.
Denton Wharf brought back more memories. The tiny Coronation Street-type houses in Denton where there were railway goods trucks being run down the middle of the street. While at the wharf itself the wasps. In the late 1960s raw sugar from America was in hundredweight hessian sacks, which were landed at Bristol and Liverpool. These were brought by road to Denton Wharf, they were put on grid over a lighter and slashed open, once the lighter was full it was towed upriver to be unloaded by the suction gear at Tate and Lyle's Plaistow Wharf. The presence of the sugar resulted in the legs of the cranes, normally 6in angle iron being about 4ft in diameter with wasps.
Coming back upriver the Tilbury Landing Stage provoked thoughts of the 'big white ships' the P&O liners which made use of Tilbury's rail connection and superb passenger handling facilities in its terminal which had a huge reception hall with a highly polished parquet floor. Carter, Paterson Ltd had vans parked outside to load and unload 'baggage forward.' It also saw the first West Indians in 1948. At the end of the bowstring jetty was a facility for loading liquid latex straight into road tankers. St Clement's or Fiddler's Reach got its name from the tiny St Clement's church that still exists in Hedley Avenue almost totally lost in the embrace of Proctor and Gamble, formerly Thomas Hedley Ltd.
In the shadow of the Queen Elizabeth II bridge is the last vestige of Essex's cement industry. A suction crane on a small jetty, which unloads bulk cement from coasters direct into road tankers for Castle Cement. While mention of the Empire Mills recalls more queues for newsprint. As the voyage was made I could clearly picture the landward views on both sides of the river.
The mention of hydraulic cranes also stirred a memory. Nearly every wharf north and south of the Thames had hydraulic cranes. At the top of the building was a swinging arm about six feet long (one can been seen on the front of a former warehouse in Pennington Street, outside News International) a single cable ran right down through the building to a hydraulic winch in the basement. At each floor was a doorway generally called a loophole and in front of that a hinged drop board on two chains like a lorry tailboard. To one side of the loophole was the control rope, which ran to the control valve on the winch. It was pulled up of up, down for down with a very nebulous hold position halfway between the two which depended on the skill of the crane driver. He stood at the side of the loophole leaning out too watch his load with just a grab handle to hold onto, all the years I worked the wharves I can't remember one falling out. In West India Dock was a 30cwt hydraulic dockside derrick crane which was still in regular use in the early 1960s. There was a picture in the TGWU members magazine of the same crane loading sailing ships in the late 1800s.
One final point on hydraulics, many Victorian office blocks had hydraulic lifts. Some on a multi stage ram others with a hydraulic winch motor. Their unique feature was the control, it was the same rope on a valve arrangement as the warehouse crane. But it was stationary with the lift car travelling over it. At the floor the liftman would grip the rope and jerk to the centre position, he would then 'inch' the lift up or down until the car and the landing coincided. He then opened the trellis gates. Bob Rust
Civil engineering at Tate Britain
The display of the art works 'weight' and 'measure' by Richard Serra at the original Tate Gallery, Millbank, involved considerable engineering problems. The two works were forged steel ingots weighing 38 tonnes each. Of forged steel wrought from railway axles in Germany not only was the task of getting them to the Tate difficult but there was also the problem of how to support such heavy objects without the collapse of the floor. Tate Britain is built on marshy ground and the construction of the gallery building itself had involved foundation problems.
The solution adopted was as follows. The road outside the gallery was closed one morning and by means of steel rails the great masses, brought on low loaders, were simply brought through the front door and slid into place, a winch being used to draw them in. Turntables were used to rotate the ingots and they were jacked up so that the steel rails and their supporting structure, 70 tonnes in all, could be removed. The ingots were then carefully lowered onto 10 centimetre diameter steel pins which were supported on a steel frame placed on top of pile caps in the basement, twenty feet below. Displacement piles were driven 50ft into the ground to support the load imposed by the massive blocks.
The works 'weight' and 'measure' occupied only a small volume of the Duveen Gallery and were not particularly conspicuous to passers by going to other parts of Tate Britain. They were there on display for six months. Although of different heights, when viewed from the front of the gallery they appeared to be of about the same height. Each was roughly six feet high, eight feet long and four feet wide. When in their final positions they were supported above the floor by a few thousandths of an inch and at no time were directly in contact with the floor itself.
It is still possible to see where 'weight' and 'measure' once stood. The places where the steel pins were located are marked by roundels and these presently relate to the art installation 'beat' by Anya Gallaccio (GLIAS Newsletter August 1999) currently on display at Tate Britain until 20 January 2003. (This site-specific work sponsored by Malvern Water involves oak trees and is another story in itself). Richard Serra is also the artist responsible for 'Fulcrum' made from thick steel sheets which is situated just to the west of Liverpool Street station and must be well known to many readers of this newsletter. As well as a work of art 'Fulcrum' is also functional. Bob Carr
At Tate Britain the main contractor for installing and removing 'weight' and 'measure' was Asteel Engineering Services and the consultants were Ove Arup & Partners. For more information telephone Jim McPhail 01753 859523
Theatres exhibition: 'Scene Unseen'
English Heritage's photographer Derek Kendall has undertaken a major survey of London theatres, recording their interior decoration, working environments and historic stage machinery. He has amassed 2,000 images over 18 months.
Some of his spectacular shots have been on display outside two West End theatres during November, and they will be seen again from 3 December into the New Year at the Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, WC2, just north of Leicester Square tube station. Prints of them all can be viewed at the National Monuments Record. Malcolm Tucker
The National Monuments Record (First Floor, 55 Blandford Street, London W1. Web: www.english-heritage.org.uk) is open Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 5pm
Architects and artists like engineering
This year the prestigious £20,000 RIBA Stirling Prize was won, not by a building, but by the new 'opening eye' Millennium Bridge over the Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead. Last year it was won by Magna, Rotherham (GLIAS Newsletter December 2001). Wilkinson Eyre are the architects for the Tyne Millennium Bridge and they also won last year.
The new energy efficient movable bridge over the Tyne leads to the former 1950s Baltic Flour Mill, now a centre for contemporary art. On the top floor until recently was an exhibition of large bridge models made by Chris Burden and his team, from Meccano and similar toy constructional kits including a very large 15m model in Meccano of the between-the-wars bowstring Tyne girder bridge between Newcastle and Gateshead. The pre-war full-size Tyne Bridge was in many ways the precursor for the more famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, New South Wales, which crosses the harbour in a single span of 1,650ft and opened in March 1932. This was the largest arch bridge in the world.
Earlier Chris Burden installed a model aeroplane factory in London (GLIAS Newsletter October 1999). All this goes to show just how much architects and artists are engineers at heart but don't actually practise engineering. In the 1950s what Chris Burden had on show at the Baltic would have been called model engineering, now it is Art. Rumour has it that the Chris Burden 1/20th scale Tyne Bridge Meccano model ended up costing £210,000 (and the artist retains ownership).
Readers will not be unfamiliar with the enthusiasm that architects had for the design style of ocean passenger liners in the 1930s. A few years ago a television series asked well-known architects to choose a favourite building. Richard Rogers chose the Boeing 747. Bob Carr
Wilkinson Eyre in London
The winners of the Stirling Prize two years running, Wilkinson Eyre, are the architects for a new building in Islington. This is the City & Islington College and Lifelong Learning Centre, 26-46 Blackstock Road, London N4. It is on the west side of the road and is being built in front of a red brick former London Board School about a century or so old, taking up much of what was the school playground (not needed for adults).
The new building has a steel frame and the exterior walls are of breeze blocks which will be faced in white cement. From the illustrations the design is in a restrained standard modernist idiom faintly reminiscent of the Bauhaus style. The college building will be flush with the present shops on the west side of Blackstock Road, continuing the line of the Victorian houses that side which never had front gardens and whose front doors open directly onto the pavement. Ove Arup are the engineering consultants. Bob Carr
City Safari — Newcastle upon Tyne
The 'home' safari of 2002 (11-13 October) featured Newcastle. While it is famous for its bridges, Newcastle was a port, a large shipbuilding centre, a great railway town and had a large coal mining industry in the vicinity, accompanied by all the engineering industries that go with these businesses. It is surely enough to mention the names of Robert Stephenson, Joseph Swan, William Armstrong and Charles Parsons to show its attraction for industrial archaeologists.
The group assembled at the Premier Lodge Hotel on the Quayside on the Friday afternoon with, as usual, Sue Hayton as leader, assisted by Danny and Paul Saulter. The first 15 to apply were able to have a conducted tour of the Swing Bridge. The unlucky ones had a riverside walk. Since I was lucky I cannot comment on the walk.
The Swing Bridge was designed and constructed by Sir W G Armstrong and Co and opened in 1876. Our guide pointed out that as a builder of warships with rotating gun turrets Armstrong essentially built a gun turret with a bridge instead of guns. We saw the hydraulic mechanism, now electrically operated, for opening the bridge, the massive wheels and track on which it rotates, and climbed up to the control room in the turret where we heard the deafening hooter and admired the view.
Reunited, the two groups crossed to the Gateshead side for a riverside walk on which we could admire sites on both sides of the river. The main destination was Baltic, the transformation of Rank's flour silos into the recently opened contemporary arts centre connected to Newcastle by a non-wobbling Millennium Bridge. The bridge won the 2002 Stirling Architecture Prize which was being presented the next day and, since preparations for the event were in progress, we were unable to go above the third floor and could not reach the viewing gallery on the fifth. However, we could have a refreshment stop which was unfortunately marred for some by dreadfully poor service.
We crossed the Millennium Bridge to Sandgate Steps, part of the regeneration of the quayside which won the Stone Foundation Award in 1997. At the top there are carvings by Neil Talbot of activities associated with coal mining and some words of the well known poem, The Keel Row. The keel boat was a local type operated by keelmen, and we went on to view the Keelman's Hospital built in 1701. Next came the former tramway offices and generating station of 1901. The generating hall has been converted into a church. While we were standing around the entrance a member came out and invited us inside. We were able to admire the size of the hall with a travelling crane still in situ and, having been taken through the building, the office entrance with glass tiles and coloured windows depicting trams and the city arms. We were each given a picture of the generating hall with the plant in use and a map of the old tram system. Lastly to Trinity House where we were just in time to catch it open. This Trinity House had authority over the Tyne Port. Round the quadrangle are the almshouses, the banqueting hall, the chapel and the rigging loft.
In the evening there was a 'Safari Dinner' after which Sue gave an orientation talk.
Saturday was wet but it was not windy so that normal rain protection kept us reasonably dry. Uphill to the city level, we started in the commercial quarter — many banks, insurance companies etc. On Westgate Road is the Lit and Phil, the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne. Founded in 1792 by leading townspeople it has an enormous collection of books, many of them old and rare, and holds lectures and discussion groups. We had a good browse. Outside is a statue of George Stephenson, with his back to the station. Around him a miner holds a miner's safety lamp, a blacksmith an anvil, a platelayer a rail, and an engineer a locomotive.
Space does not allow a description of all the buildings we saw. In Bigg (barley) market Sunlight Chambers were built 1901-2 for Lever Brothers and have a mosaic frieze depicting agriculture and industry. At the top of the market is a water fountain commemorating a noted abstainer, J B Rutherford, with the message 'Water is Best'. Ironically it is surrounded by pubs but of course water is best for brewing beer. This took us into Grainger Town an area built 'as a whole' by Richard Grainger. The design and symmetry of the buildings are impressive and the people of Newcastle are justly proud of them. Included is a large covered market with an impressive roof and a Marks & Spencer 'Penny Bazaar' retaining its original appearance. There is also the Grey Monument, a 135 feet high Doric column topped by Earl Grey of the Reform Bill and the tea. A little more walking took us to the Laing Art Gallery for coffee and if we wishes a few minutes art. More impressive buildings followed, including the Paramount Cinema of 1931, the Civic Centre of 1968, Armstrong's statue, with reliefs of the swing bridge and shipbuilding, the University and the offices of the Newcastle Brewery. Here we adjourned for lunch to reassemble at the Central Station for the afternoon's railwaylands walk.
The station building was built 1845-50 to the plans of John Dobson, who won a gold medal at Paris in 1858 for his wrought and cast iron roof to the curved train shed. The classical portico was added in 1863. The refreshment room has been refurbished and is splendidly decorated with Burmantofts faience tiles. Crossing to the 'wrong side of the tracks' we were in an industrial area. Hanover Street leads down to the riverside. Most of the warehouses which lined the south side have gone but, in compensation, there are some good views of the river and the bridges. The cobbled street has tramways of Shap granite so that horses could get a grip on the cobbles while the carts rode easily along the granite. Up in Forth Street we came to Robert Stephenson's locomotive works, shut up and rather derelict. Below the railway retaining wall we could look up to a huge water tank of 1891 built on top of an Italianate office block. Further along is the site of the Forth Goods Station, most of which has been redeveloped as the Arena Complex. On the way to the Discovery Museum we also passed the cattle market office of 1831 and the 1870s railway auditor's office. The museum is housed in a warehouse and offices built in 1891 for the Co-operative Wholesale Society. The major exhibit is Charles Parsons' turbine powered ship, Turbinia, the first of what became many turbine driven ships. There is also a good display of local history in the Newcastle Story and People's Gallery.
In the evening the Millennium Bridge was to be opened in connection with the presentation of the Stirling Prize and before dining we went along the quayside to watch the unusual raising and subsequent lowering of the bridge by swinging it through an arc above the river.
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny and we went out of Newcastle on the Metro to North Shields. The town was originally a fishing town on the riverside. When this became too crowded a new town was built 60 feet higher above the river. Here, in and around Howard and Saville Street, we found inter alia the Municipal Offices, the big houses of the more prosperous citizens and Maritime Chambers, at different times a subscription library and the offices of the Stag Line shipping company. On the way down to the ferry to South Shields we passed the estate of the Provident Society and, on the quayside Collingwood Mansions with a chequered history, part being a sailors' home offering cheap accommodation to visiting sailors until it closed in 1938.
The ferry gave us the opportunity to see the various lights erected to aid navigation into the Tyne, the Tyne Commission Quay, the terminus for boats to Scandinavia, and other riverside sites. In South Shields, just up from the ferry there is the old town and market hall (1768) of typical design, surrounded by a very unattractive 1960s square. A long straight street leads through the town, Along it or close by there are a number of interesting buildings including the former 1860s Marine and Technical College, the Free Library and Reading Room, the Scotia, a fine Edwardian baroque pub, and the former Royal Assembly Hall, recently a night club and in poor condition.
The trip ended with a Metro ride back to Newcastle but some people wished to explore further afield and effectively the safari ended in a pub in South Shields. As always many thanks are due to Sue, Danny and Paul. Bill Firth
For further information on City Safaris contact Heritage of Industry Ltd, 80 Udimore Road, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7DY. Website: www.citysafaris.co.uk
The Erasmus Prize 2002
This year's prestigious €150,000 Erasmus Prize for European Culture has been won by the famous German pair of industrial photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. They have spent their life together since the 1960s making meticulous and wonderful images of industrial structures, especially in Germany, North America and the UK. Readers may remember their excellent exhibition in London at the Camden Arts Centre in the autumn of 1998.
They began taking photographs around Siegen in the Ruhr adopting the photographic style of record rather than art photography and single mindedly elevated this style, at one time almost dismissed as prosaic, into something in their hands now recognised as high art. First taking snapshots with a Rolleiflex, they would often use ladders and scaffolding to obtain good viewpoints, the final photograph being taken using a large format camera. As well as producing wonderful images they of course have also inadvertently served industrial archaeology recording in great detail numerous engineering structures now demolished. Bob Carr
Thousands of hours of history are freely available at www.britishpathe.com following the online launch of Pathe's famous cinema newsreels.
The bi-weekly cinema news bulletins kept the nation informed during two world wars, the great depression and the swinging sixties before the advent of colour television marked the end of the service.
Now 3,500 hours of footage has been put online for internet users to either revisit or see for the first time.
When I saw mention of public toilets (GLIAS Newsletter October 2002), I immediately got a vision of goldfish. Somewhere in the Holborn area was an old gents' urinal, which had red marble stalls, but most importantly glass cisterns which contained some pond weed and a goldfish. When the auto flush operated the water would go down to about two inches and then steadily rise.
These were always immaculate with polished marble, gleaming copper and brass. There are drawings of them by Geoffrey Fletcher in his 1965 book 'The London Nobody Knows.' By the time he drew them the attendants had changed and the fish gone, although the current attendant knew all about them. My late father, a lorry driver like myself, could name the location of every 24-hour public toilet in London. Like my Dad they are now all long gone. Bob Rust
The Museum of London's Archaeology Matters (No 18, July 2002) reports on the excavation of one of the Doulton & Co pothouses in Lambeth. It goes on to say 'But why excavate a building less than a century old? Is this 'real' archaeology? The fact is that no similar stoneware factory remains standing in the UK, none has been excavated, and Doulton's archives have been destroyed. No more is known about the day-to-day working of such pothouses than about those of the 17th century.' Have the MoL discovered a new discipline? Perhaps it might be called ... Industrial Archaeology?! Brian Strong
© GLIAS, 2002