Notes and news — June 2006
In this issue:
From the Secretary's Postbag
- From the Secretary's Postbag
- AWH Pearsall — A Personal Reminiscence
- Nash Mill
- Handyside's in Sri Lanka
- 'Wooden Brick Roads'
- The V1 Flying Bomb
- Roundhouse reopens
- Royal Albert & Victoria Docks 'Cut'
- Hamilton Road Electricity Works
- Waste bricks
- London Archaeological Forum News
- Industrial Britain in film
- Prisoner of War huts on Peckham Rye Common
- Luton Hat Factory
- Greater London News
- Opie Collection in London
- Pepys Estate, Deptford — Heritage Projects
- Thames Survey
- New English Heritage office
- Kew Bridge Steam Museum news
The Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service (GLAAS) Quarterly Review November 2005-January 2006 announces a consultation by English Heritage on draft Conservation Principles, which are 'designed to spell out in one place and in a comprehensive fashion, the fundamental beliefs and policies that should underpin standards of practice in the broad field of conservation'. The document is available at: www.englishheritage.org.uk/conservationprinciples
The Review also includes summary reports on a number of excavations involving industrial archaeology:
Royal Arsenal, Greenwich, Building 49 which forms the east range of the main central quadrangle of the Grand Store complex, 'a nationally important set of warehouses constructed between 1806-1813 due to the military demands of the Napoleonic Wars'. Finds include a former hoist at the east end of the central block, with 'an external hoist arm adjacent to a pair of first floor loading doors at the centre of the east wall.' Internally, 'adjacent to the ground floor doorway is a largely surviving hydraulic hoist (or jigger) fixed to the wall which would have powered the external hoist as well as internal lifts to move items between floors.' In the central area is 'an iron frame, sunken within the ground floor slab, with rail tracks running over the top of it. Directly above it there was a large hatch in a mezzanine and there would possibly have been a hoist to raise items up from a wagon ... Another feature ... is the base from a former railway turntable...'
Royal Arsenal, Greenwich, Building 45 also forms part of the Grand Store complex, originally 'single storied brick structure (Flemish bond) with hipped roof and sash windows'. The three original ranges were 'linked by a vast shed which filled the quadrangle and was constructed in 1855-6 during the Crimean War.' The investigation 'also confirmed that the water tower was a later addition, (probably Edwardian) and that it was almost certainly never a hydraulic accumulator as has previously been considered possible.'
East London Line Extension Project, Hackney found evidence of local brickmaking and the remains of 18th/19th-century buildings, cleared for construction of the railway viaduct in 1870.
Former MoD Record Office: 'Standard building recording of a World War II Royal Ordnance Factory, ROF Hayes ... one of 22 new ordnance factories built 1940-1. It specialised in the manufacture of tank guns and artillery guns ... one of the only surviving little-altered ROFs.'
Clerkenwell Magistrates Court (Grade II listed) — The original building on the site was a police court, built 1840-2, 'probably designed by Charles Reeves', demolished and replaced by the Court building in 1867-9, designed by T C Sorby, and still a police station. The courtroom and cells were demolished in 1903-6 and replaced by new facilities. The building was recorded before conversion to a hotel.
Market Estate, Islington: an evaluation which found a 'pair of 19th or early 20th century brick drains or soakaways, probably associated with the Metropolitan Cattle Market that occupied the site from 1852 to 1963'.
Windmill Lane, Stratford, E15 An evaluation which found 'a series of square shallow quarries cut into natural gravels ... [which] are associated with brickfields of the late 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Although the deposits on this site were predominantly sandy, it is possible that brickearth has been systematically stripped from the area as it was recorded on a nearby site. Alternately [sic], the same method of quarrying may have been used for gravel extraction.'
The spring 2006 issue of the London Archaeologist contains an article on excavations at 211 Long Lane, Southwark, which includes post-medieval tanneries and information on horn working; and another on waste and its disposal in Southwark, including the post-medieval period.
A non-member has sent in material about the City & Suburban Electric Carriage Co. Ltd, which operated from the 'Niagara', a converted skating rink in Westminster 1901-5. 'The New Shell Book of Firsts' [Patrick Robertson, Headline, 1994] claims that the company built the first multi-storey car park, opened in May 1901, at 6 Denman Street, just off Piccadilly Circus. It says 'the garage had seven floors and was equipped with an electric elevator capable of raising a 3-ton lorry to the top storey. With a total floor space of 19,000 sq ft, it was claimed as the largest garage in the world at that date.' Unfortunately, Mr Robertson includes no references in the book. I should be interested to hear if any members can tell us more. Brian Strong
AWH Pearsall — A Personal Reminiscence
The historian Alan Pearsall who lived in Greenwich died recently at the age of 80. In the 1940s he was in the Royal Navy and later at the National Maritime Museum he worked on records of the Royal Navy with a mature lady secretary. He joined the Newcomen Society in 1964 and for a time was a Member of Council.
His father was a professor of biology at University College London and the family had connections with North West England — his mother lived at Morecambe before her death. He had a particular interest in LMS railway steamers and their captains to whom he had been introduced by his father when he was a boy. He also made longer sea cruises with his parents before the Second World War and had photographs from these holidays.
Following retirement from the National Maritime Museum he went abroad quite regularly, often in connection with maritime matters. In old age he was frail and had difficulty getting about but nonetheless in his declining years he still managed to make a number of sea cruises, mostly in home waters. Getting to and from the ship was a difficulty but once on board he could manage.
Several of his photographs have been published on the internet, mostly of railway structures in the Morecambe Bay area taken when he was quite young. He also photographed colliers on the Thames at the time steam colliers were being replaced by diesel ships and his collection of colour slides was an important one.
In the 1980s he was a member of the Dockland History Survey Committee and I had the pleasure of editing his two chapters for the book Dockland (NELP/GLC 1986). In recent years, with HH Davies, he wrote The Holyhead Steamers of the LNWR (LNWR Society Portfolio series). More seriously, in 1971 he published with Peter Mathias — Shipping, a Survey of Historical Records (David & Charles) and contributed a chapter, Ports and Shipping, to the Encyclopaedia of the History of Technology, edited by Ian McNeil (1990). For the Navy Records Society in 1993 he produced with co-editors John B Hattendorf, RJB Knight, NAM Rodger and Geoffrey Till — British Naval Documents, 1204-1960, with a foreword by HRH Prince Philip. He was invited to several garden parties at Buckingham Palace and it may be this latter publication which was the connection. Bob Carr
Nash Mill, the last remaining operational paper mill of the former John Dickinson empire in Hertfordshire, is to close in May.
Like Apsley Mill, Nash Mill was an ancient corn mill on the river Gade. It was bought by John Dickinson in 1811, two years after he acquired Apsley Mill. Subsequently Dickinson built Home Park Mill (Kings Langley) in 1820 and Croxley Mill in 1829.
An early claim to fame for Nash Mill was the manufacture of security paper containing a silk thread. This was used for the penny black stamps introduced in 1840. Later production concentrated on white and coloured board. Since the closure of Apsley Mill, Nash Mill has been owned by SAPPI.
While there are some post-Second World War buildings on the site many older buildings remain including Nash Mill house, built 1790, the first family home of John Dickinson following his marriage in 1810.
Frogmore Mill in Two Waters, where the Fourdrinier machine was developed, is the last remaining paper mill in this area. It is now part of The Paper Trail based on part of the former Apsley Mill site.
Now that canalside land is much sought after for housing, Nash Mill is likely to be redeveloped just like the nearby Apsley Mill and Ovaltine sites. John Buekett
Handyside's In Sri Lanka
Peter Butt's interesting information on Handyside's of Derby (GLIAS Newsletter April 2006) appeared soon after my February trip to Sri Lanka, where, while enjoying my interest in colonial versions of British street furniture, I photographed two letter boxes outside the Post Office in the former colonial hill station of Nuwara Eliya.
The working version (in the street below) shows it was made in the Telegraph Workshops, Colombo, 1929. Its predecessor was a Handyside letter box which has been lovingly preserved and painted (carefully picking out the Handyside name) and set on a concrete plinth in pride of place in the centre of the Post Office lawn.
Having recently seen our own Post Office remove the charming antique letter box — also one of the last pieces of original street furniture — on the Pullens estate in SE17 (GLIAS Newsletter February 2005), despite the estate now being a Conservation Area, I am very pleased to see a Sri Lankan hill station choosing instead to preserve its own postal/industrial heritage.
This letter box was not the only industrial item I saw preserved for posterity, almost as sculpture — perhaps members will enjoy this photograph of a White Rose boiler, set on a plinth in the hotel garden in another hill station, Bandarawela.
How nice it would be to see such items preserved in UK gardens and towns, to be enjoyed by all!
Now does anyone know who made the Sri Lankan phone boxes (pictured above)? They might be local — or not. Sarah Timewell
'Wooden Brick Roads'
I can assure John Ramsden that he is correct in his recall of wooden roads (GLIAS Newsletter April 2006). These were previously mentioned some time ago (GLIAS Newsletters 81 and 82). Shortly after that I was loaned a book on this subject called 'The Elements of Roadmaking' by JW Green, engineer and surveyor to the City of Durham, published in 1924. A couple of pages photocopied at the time read:
Wood blocks. For a number of years, wood pavements have been laid in many towns and with very satisfactory results, being particularly quiet, and of good wearing surface. The life is now 10 years, though these roads often have a much longer life in practice. On removal from the road, the blocks may be re-squared and used again.The book had an advertisement by The Improved Wood Pavement Co, Ld. in which there is an alphabetic list of 80 of London's main thoroughfares with their creosoted Deal roads. These start with Aldgate, Aldwych, Bayswater Road, Bishopsgate, Blackfriars Bridge approach, Brixton Road, Bond Street, and Borough High Street. Below the list it adds 'And hundreds of other thoroughfares in London, Birmingham and the leading provincial towns'.
Wood block roads have been laid on as steep a grade as 1 in 12, but the limiting grade is usually given as about 1 in 27. Cross fall should be about 1 in 36.
The blocks are laid on a concrete foundation, carefully screeded to a correct surface; the top of the concrete should not be trowelled, as float coats or grout on the surface tend to crack off under heavy traffic. The size of block varies, that usually employed being 8in or 9in long, 4in or 5in deep, and 3in wide. They should of course be laid with the grain vertical, so as not to splinter off under wear. There should always be a marked difference in depth and width, to avoid any block being wrongly laid. Both hard and soft woods have been used, but the latter are more popular, hard woods being somewhat unyielding, and tending to become loose through contraction in dry weather; they are also more liable to shakes and cracks.
The soft woods are more resilient, quieter in use, and have a tendency to 'broom' under traffic; they wear less slippery than hard woods and grit can be rolled in. Hard woods are laid to best advantage at seaside towns, where the hygroscopic nature of the atmosphere provides sufficient moisture to prevent extreme contraction and shrinkage. Jarrah and Karri are the hard woods chiefly used. Creosoted Deal is the soft wood mostly employed.
To avoid trouble through swelling, due to the absorption of water, soft wood blocks should be thoroughly impregnated with creosote. The creosote should have a specific gravity of 1.03 to 1.08 at 25 degrees Centigrade. The higher the specific gravity, the more the proportion of anthracite constituents, which, unlike the lighter oils, are insoluble and non-volatile.
The high specific gravity oils, however, do not penetrate as well as light oils. Creosote is also frequently mixed with tar. While this increases the waterproofing qualities, it also retards penetration. Soft wood blocks should contain at least 10lbs. of creosote per cu. ft., but not more than about 15lbs. should be used, as more causes 'bleeding'. Another cause of 'bleeding' is insufficient provision for expansion, causing creosote to be squeezed out.
Blocks are usually laid direct on the concrete foundation, being dipped as placed in a mixture of about 20 to 30 gallons of creosote to 1 ton of pitch.... After blocks are truly laid they are flushed with a bituminous or Portland cement grout (and may be sprinkled with fine sand or gravel). Grouting must be carefully done to prevent water getting under blocks, as this may lift them.
Owing to expansion and contraction in wood block paving, an expansion space should be provided next to the kerb, and this may be filled with puddled clay or a bituminous mixture.
The late Bet Parker checked on the firm in Kelly's Directories held at the Guildhall Library. They were first mentioned in 1873 (the advert says established 1872) and finally in 1965, though by that time only as paving contractors. Bet noted that an 1842 Directory (the earliest directory on open shelves) shows three wood paviors in London — though of course these might have done purely domestic work.
Incidentally, older manhole covers within roadways often have wooden blocks set within the iron framework. David Thomas
Tarred Wooden blocks for roads were made in their millions in a factory on the Greenwich Peninsula. This had been originally Bethell's tar works and — in the ownership of his heirs — the Imperial Wood Paving Company. It was one of the many applications for wood soaked tar which resulted from the process which Bethell perfected. I have such a block at home — it is a more complicated structure than a mere block. Below is an extract about it from my book 'Greenwich Marsh'
In 1848 Bethell patented a way of 'preserving animal and vegetable substances from decay'. There was a great need to find a way of preserving wood from rot and the Earl of Dundonald had suggested the usefulness of coal tar for this in the 1780s. Other inventors had used other preservatives and other methods; Bethell was to take some elements of each to achieve his object.Mary Mills
One particular need was for a cheap way of preserving wooden ships. The eventual success of Bethell's process was to lead to the world wide use of wood for such things as railway sleepers and telegraph poles. At Greenwich the works eventually specialised in the manufacture of tar soaked wood block paving.
The process which Bethell developed involved an apparatus first designed in Paris. The dried timber was put on iron bogey frames, run into a strong iron cylinder, and the air pumped out. The preservative solution was then forced in. Although a number of preservatives were specified coal tar was the cheapest and easier to obtain. It was also far safer to use than some of the other recommendations — Kyan's sublimate was poisonous and particularly dangerous. Bethell seems to have either sold his patent to others or licensed them to use it.
Bethell himself set up in business with a tar distillery in Battersea in 1845. He soon expanded with a chemical works at Bow Common, and another near Blackwall Point on a site leased from Morden College. His first approach to Morden College had been as early as 1839 when he asked for the use of a piece of rough ground. He gave his address as Mecklenberg Square — built by the Greenwich Hospital Estates surveyor, Joseph Kaye. His Greenwich works was soon underway and coal tar was purchased in bulk from the Imperial Gas Company works at St. Pancras and Haggerston.
The Greenwich works remained in operation for many years. After Bethell's death in the 1870s his wife Louisa retained ownership — although she lived in Bath while professional managers ran the company from an address in King William Street, City of London. In the 1880s the works was transferred to the Improved Wood Pavement Company in which the Bethell family remained involved.
Regarding the request for more information about 'wooden brick roads', this was a form of road surfacing, known as wood block, used for heavily trafficked roads in towns and cities early in 20th century.
The blocks were laid on a firm base, typically concrete, with the end grain uppermost. They were very slippery when wet and for this reason were given a non-skid surface dressing consisting of abrasive particles embedded in tar or bitumen. As the blocks could absorb up to 50% of water by weight it was difficult to get the surface dressing to adhere to the blocks and it was a common site to find large areas stripped from the blocks.
After the Second World War the blocks were removed and replaced with asphalt. During the early post-war fuel shortages they were in great demand to burn on open fires which was the main method of heating houses.
I have often wondered if they were specified by road surveyors who were sympathetic to horses who must have found the alternative hard wearing surface of granite sets very unforgiving to their joints and dangerously slippery for their iron shoes. John Buekett
Being brought up in London I was warned about wood block roads, particularly when wet and I have painful memories. I still bear a scar from one evening in about 1954 when on my way to an evening class in the Borough High Street area on my Vespa motor scooter during light rain. With no warning suddenly there was a minor eruption in front of me which I had no hope of avoiding and I crashed in the middle of a busy traffic junction. I arrived late for my class and in a bloody mess! Ian Frost
The V1 Flying Bomb
In his autobiography David Bellamy gives a firsthand account of how a V1 flying bomb (GLIAS Newsletter October 2004, GLIAS Newsletter August 2004) could pass safely overhead, but then turn back to drop close to you after having caught a wing on a barrage balloon cable (p70, Jolly Green Giant, Century 2002, ISBN 0 7126 83593).
This happened to him on Friday 16th June 1944 and although there were no injuries in the family, their house in South London suffered a good deal of damage. Chapter 5 gives a graphic account of what it was like to be aged around 12 then; when he collected bomb fragments and dud incendiary bombs which were kept in his father's garden shed. Some of the incendiaries had notes inside from workers, probably enduring forced labour under Hitler, who had risked their lives to make sure the bomb wouldn't go off.
Young David even found a crashed V1 which had not exploded (p73). It had broken open and some of the explosive from the warhead was carefully removed to make fireworks. The hoard of explosive kept in two-pound jam jars was a very well-kept secret. Bob Carr
The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm Road, Camden, originally built in 1846 by Robert Stephenson for the servicing and maintaining of steam engines and then used as a gin warehouse for 91 years, is to reopen on 5th June after a £27.7m refit (GLIAS Newsletter December 2001).
The redevelopment has turned the Roundhouse into a performing arts venue and creative centre for young people. It incorporates a 3,300-seat Main Space including a new Circle level, a new wing with café, other public facilities and the 150-seat Studio 42, plus the Roundhouse Studios, a complex converted from the previously unused Undercroft to house rehearsal rooms, sound recording studios and video editing equipment.
During the redevelopment builders unearthed an original iron turning wheel for the turntable, estimated at 140 years old.
Royal Albert & Victoria Docks 'Cut'
There is more information on the Royal Albert & Victoria Docks 'Cut' (GLIAS Newsletter April 2006) on the Transport for London website describing the new DLR extension.
There is a photograph of the Cut on land to the east of Bow Creek, looking south west towards The Dome — looks like a narrow drainage ditch.
On the Crossrail website, in references to the Victoria Dock portal and Custom House Station sites, the Cut is described as 'a filled in drainage channel'.
In his 'East Ham & West Ham Past', Jim Lewis mentions a limited sewerage scheme with an open cut main sewer operating from 1855 between Victoria Dock and Gallions Reach. This seems to have been provided by the Dock Company to replace old land drains destroyed in making the Dock.
On the large-scale versions of the 1894-96 OS maps mentioned by Don Kennedy the Cut joins the Thames west of the former entrance to the Victoria Dock), runs along the northern side of that dock and the later Albert Dock finishing at its eastern end, without actually exiting into Gallions Reach.
This 'Cut' was clearly not a canal, but a land drainage channel, also used by the ever-increasing domestic and industrial development for sewage. Was it scoured by the tide or was there a system of sluices? Peter Finch
Hamilton Road Electricity Works
The Twickenham or Hamilton Road Electricity Works (HEW) (GLIAS Newsletter February 2006) are now in a newly designated Conservation Area and a proposal by the developers who own the site, has just been refused by delegated powers at Richmond Council.
An application to have the buildings listed by English Heritage has just been turned down due to lack of national importance but we are contesting this decision.
There are hardly any examples of Industrial Architecture in Twickenham and HEW is the hub of an area of working class cottages which are unusual for this town. I want to promote what Industrial Architecture we have as it played an integral part in the making of Twickenham. I have researched the history of HEW but there are not many references to it. I have not found any photographs of its early days and the people who worked there. It is an ongoing project.
I have forged a close relationship with the Environment Trust for Richmond upon Thames and they are featuring my campaign in their newsletter and various displays. I am trying to link it up with the few other Industrial buildings in the area and together we want to do a project on Industrial Architecture in the Richmond Borough. Cathy Cooper
We now have our own website which features local history of the area, series of events and latest news. Web: www.hew.org.uk
On the subject of waste bricks (GLIAS Newsletter April 2006), vitrified bricks can be found in many locations around London. The builder (Galley) who built many houses on the Eastcote/Ruislip borders in the late 1930s was very fond of them and even incorporated them in house walls. In my garden (c1930) in Kings Langley, I have found quite a few used in garden landscaping.
They were the result of hotspots in the kiln which caused the clay to fuse and become vitrified when cold. Sometimes this was confined to individual bricks but in extreme conditions the bricks fused together forming conglomerates. With improved methods of controlling the temperature in kilns and the closure of most small brickworks this phenomena has largely disappeared. Of course, glazed bricks were made deliberately under controlled conditions often by means of a salt glaze. John Buekett
Their use in walls was common in my Thames-side district of Gravesend and many examples still exist. I have always presumed this was linked with the local brick manufacturing industry. Ian Frost
London Archaeological Forum News
Two publications were reported to the January meeting of the London Archaeological Forum:
John Baker's late 17th-Century Glasshouse at Vauxhall, by Kieron Tyler and Hugh Wilmott which is claimed to be 'the first of London's 17th-century glasshouses to be excavate. This publication describes the finds from the site, demonstrates how Vauxhall competed with London's other glasshouses and discusses London's late 17th-century glasshouse industry. The glasshouse opened sometime between 1663 and 1681, and had closed by 1704. Excavations in 1989 found a furnace, crucibles, tools, working waste and finished vessels. Vauxhall was operating when lead crystal was first being made in England but it produced vessels for a proven market: wine bottles, green-glass vessela and fine wares. The remains of a well-preserved 17th-century bargehouse were also recorded on site.' MoLAS monographs 28 £12.95.
The Doulton Stoneware Pothouse in Lambeth: excavations at 9 Albert Embankment, London by Kieron Tyler with John Brown, Terence Paul Smith and Lucy Whittingham. The 'small pottery factory made stoneware bottles and other vessels between the 1870s and 1926, the majority of which were used as packaging for ginger beer, ink and other products. Five pottery kilns were uncovered and still contained vessels and parts of the kiln structure, enabling a fascinating study of both the products and the manufacturing process. Then site is set in its historical context, with essays examining the Lambeth stoneware industry and the links between Henry Doulton and other Victorian social reformers such as Edwin Chadwick and Joseph Cowen. A 19th-century sopaworks that preceded Doulton's pothouse is also discussed.' MoLAS monograph 15 £7.95
The English Heritage Research News (Winter 2005-6) reports that English Heritage 'is funding a four-year project to digitise all 45 of the Survey of London 'parish' volumes published to date, making them freely available online via the Institute of Historical Research' British History Online website at www.british-history.ac.uk/surveyoflondon.' Phase 1 was due to be launched at the end of February, with eight post-war volumes, on the St James's, Soho and Mayfair districts. Completion of the whole project is planned for September 2008.
Industrial Britain In Film
Derek Daniels' piece on Bishops' Bridge and Paddington as seen in the film The Blue Lamp (GLIAS Newsletter April 2006) will no doubt stir the cinematic memories of many a member. A trove of views of a vanished industrial Britain are to be seen in the great British documentary films of the 30s and 40s, made by such directors as John Grierson and Humphrey Jennings, working from film units set up by Shell, the Empire Marketing Board, the GPO, the National Coal Board and British Transport. The role of industrial bodies such as these in sponsoring innovative and artistic documentary films has never been repeated, and fortunately for us, many of the films are available to rent or buy today.
My uncle Edward Carrick was an art director and production designer in films from the 20s to the 60s, and during the Second World War he worked for the Crown Film Unit, the Ministry of Information's wartime documentary (ie propaganda) film arm. He was art director on Target for Tonight (1941) about the RAF's bombing missions; Close Quarters (1943) for which he filmed on a working submarine as well as built a full-size model of it; Western Approaches (1944) about the Merchant Navy; and Fires Were Started (1943) Humphrey Jennings' masterpiece of dramatised documentary (also known as I Was A Fireman).
Fires Were Started is a record of a day and night in the Fire Service during the Blitz. It is set in Trinidad Street and Alderman's Wharf in Limehouse — then a working East End community of wharves and warehouses, not the miles of characterless 1980s flats it is today. Carrick recounted working all day during the Blitz, and going out with a cameraman at night to film anything that could be useful. The East End was an important target for the Luftwaffe, and one night he chanced to see the old Tate and Lyle factory at Silvertown explode into flames. They had an old hand-crank camera with them, and the cameraman got so excited that he inadvertently sped up the winding. The Tate and Lyle explosion is the same big conflagration seen in Fires Were Started. The damage at Silvertown that night was extensive, destroying other factories and wharves as well, which were still on fire the next morning.
Carrick needed to stage a fire at night for the action of the film, but it had to be carefully controlled — the authorities were none too thrilled about the film unit starting another fire when there already so many! A lot of effort went into the filming of the burning building (an already-bombed warehouse). At one point in the middle of it all, Carrick flicked off his protective leather jacket what he thought was ash, only to realise it was molten lead dripping onto him from the roof. He survived, the film was a dramatic and moving success, and his daughter-in-law wore the jacket into the 1960s.
Readers with an interest in documentaries and industrial film units will find the following links useful:
Documentary Film Units and Film Sponsorship
Includes links to pages on industrial film units and the directors.
An excellent introduction with links to some of the most important films, many of which were set in industry.
I Was A Fireman/Fires Were Started
A partial list of films (MovieMail and the BFI are good sources of films for purchase)
GPO Film Unit
www.moviemail-online.co.uk/films/9067 — contains Alberto Cavalcanti's great Coal Face
www.moviemail-online.co.uk/films/12707 — contains Grierson's masterpiece Night Mail and other GPO films
British Transport Films
At The Coal Face — Cumberland Story/Rhondda and Wye Valley, dir. Humphrey Jennings. Cumberland Story is an account of the 1940s modernisation of the mines.
Prisoner of War huts on Peckham Rye Common
There is evidence of German prisoners of war being on Peckham Rye Common in the First World War 1,2. Most of what I have been able to glean has been through oral accounts and from English Heritage rather than from documents.
I have been in communication with Roger Thomas, who is military support officer for English Heritage. It seems there were two phases of building the huts on Peckham Rye Common adjacent to Strakers Road. The first phase was as accommodation for the heavy anti-aircraft battery ZE12 Southwark Park. In this park there were also Nissen huts later on in the war. The earlier huts were smaller wooden structures with galvanised corrugated sheeting-clad roofs built to the east of the surviving four huts. The remaining four huts stand out very clearly on the 1945 aerial photograph with their glinting corrugated roofs.
The Italian prisoners of war came to Peckham Rye Common in 1943, after Italy's capitulation. They were used as a labour force as agricultural labourers in the country but in the cities they were used for clearing bomb sites, repairing roads and later on in post-war reconstruction. It is unusual to find POW work hostel buildings still remaining especially in an urban area. There is evidence that the two huts nearest the old putting green were used by German POWs after the war. Later all the huts were used by displaced persons from Poland.
During the Italians' occupation they were treated as 'trusties'. They were allowed to go down Rye Lane to shop, they grew vegetables, cereals, kept pigs and poultry. They wore fatigues with a large circle on their backs. They occupied themselves by building a shell and stone grotto 3 and making wooden toys 4.
The huts were surrounded by barbed wire, however, and no doubt there was a curfew at night time. I understand that a few of the Italians stayed on over here, but that is anecdotal.
Presently The One O'Clock Club is the most westerly of the complex, No 1 hut is the most northerly, being the one which is in the best state of preservation. No 2 is immediately behind and has been left for local community use on a temporary basis and hut No 3 is parallel to it. Hut No 1 is presently used by Southwark Caribb football club, No 2 has stored park equipment and hut No 3 has half the space taken up by Caribb football equipment and the rest is used by the park. At present there are no toilet facilities either on the common or in the park despite the completion of the Heritage Lottery Grant refurbishment. There is a sad lack of resources to effectively allow the street/park wardens to provide security.
The huts are 24ft span Ministry of War Production (MOWWP) buildings constructed of concrete composite portal frame with infill walls made from a single leaf of hollow clay blocks. The roofs are sinusoidal profiled corrugated iron and the windows single glazed timber framed. The floor is a concrete slab. The buildings are not insulated and the walls are not rendered. The wall finish is predominantly painted blocks inside and out. Football equipment and clothing belonging the Caribb club fill half the space and further parks equipment for the rest.
The concrete structural frames are suffering from spalling of the concrete which has exposed steel reinforcement beneath. The frame is distorted in hut No 2. Externally too, spalling has occurred exposing the rusting reinforcement beneath. The roofs are damaged in places and at the edges, within the gables and eaves the sheeting has not offered adequate protection to the walls below which has lead to deterioration of concrete beams and timber.
Ceilings are damaged and bowing in some places, some of it due to previous water penetration. Windows are all boarded up and some of the frames are rotten. These would have to be replaced and opening shutters installed to deal with vandalism if the huts were refurbished. The One O'Clock hut, the most westerly of the group has been refurbished and is painted crimson.
The Southwark Park connection
The history of the POW accommodation huts is intertwined with the Heavy Anti-aircraft battery in Southwark Park. The battery was situated on the southern part of the oval and the huts in the south west corner. There were sufficient huts to house 29 displaced families who squatted in them by August 1946. They had official sanction however because a local coalman delivered to them twice a week. Bermondsey Borough Council told them that it would take up to six years to rehouse them. Not all was well however, 'The 29 families now squatting in Southwark Park had set up their own nightly watch committee as some of the ex army huts had been burgled' 5. The allotments in the north of the park were taken back by the council in 1952 and it is suspected that the squatters were moved on at about that time. The battery must have been substantial because they had a NAFFI and their boundary was secure. I have a copy of a leave document for a Gunner T Gosling, whose granddaughter still lives in the area 6. There is also a photograph of three AA guns taken by Mrs Fox in about 1940 7.
Plans for the future of Peckham Rye Common POW huts
Southwark Parks manager has stated that the huts should be demolished by February 2006 as they are a drain on his budget and planning approval for a new café and changing rooms on the site next to hut No 1 where the portacabin now is. He has conceded that hut No 2 can remain until next September 2006 while efforts are made to find a solution for funding its rehabilitation. Peter Frost
- 1. Prisoners lived on the Rye during the First World War. PSN No 67, p14, 1997
- 2. German POWs were housed in huts during the First World War. 'East Dulwich Remembered' John D Beasley, p25, Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2002
- 3. Letter, Bill Clark, PSN No 97, p6, 2004
- 4. Windmill made by POW. PSN, No 95, p11, 2004
- 5. SLP, Sept 1946.
- 6. Thanks to Debbie Gosling.
- 7. We are heavily indebted to Gary Magold, chair of the Friends of Southwark Park for this whole section.
Luton hat factory
The former hat factory to the northwest of the railway station at the corner of Dudley Street and Midland Road (GLIAS Newsletter June 2005) is now quite difficult to make out. So much new building has taken place above the factory and particularly behind it that the new work totally dwarfs previous structures. The character of the neighbourhood has been really transformed by unsympathetic overdevelopment. To the south-east in Crescent Road (?) the white lettering on the south side of the red-brick CWS Bakery (?) facing the railway has recently been obliterated. Redevelopment is taking place here. Bob Carr
Greater London news
North of King's Cross railway station overhead wires have already been erected on the lines running into the western portal of the CTRL tunnel to Stratford and Dagenham (GLIAS Newsletter October 2005). In the 'box' at Stratford track is down and the wires are up. A new train depot probably for Kent commuter trains is nearing completion at Temple Mills on the east side of the line opposite (the now not so new) Spitalfields Market and south of the English Welsh and Scottish motive power depot. Train services from St Pancras to what used to be known as the Continent (we are actually on an off-shore island) are due to start in spring 2007 and so far work appears to be on schedule.
The two railway steam locomotives associated with the Enfield Timber Company have not moved from their old locations. The Finnish broad-gauge HR1 class pacific (GLIAS Newsletter April 2003) is southeast of Southbury station (TQ 348 962) and can be inspected from the up platform. The 1,524 mm (5ft) gauge 0-6-0 tank loco with a huge balloon smokestack (GLIAS Newsletter October 2000) can still be seen from the Hertford Road at TQ 352 966. These two locomotives were built to run on the same 5ft broad-gauge track (approximately the gauge in Russia). Apart from the short lengths the locos stand on it is not known if there are any rails laid to this gauge in the UK. The Irish gauge in 5ft 3in.
The present Shoreditch underground station, a terminus used at peak periods, is to close in June. This is in connection with the works to extend the East London Line northwards to Dalston and Islington (GLIAS Newsletter October 2005). It is intended to open a new Shoreditch station on a different site when the ELXX is completed.
The later of the two former Wool Warehouses c1896/97 just south of the Commercial Road in Back Church Lane E1 is being redeveloped for loft apartments. The warehouse built c1889 has already been converted.
Trains have been running on the new branch of the Docklands Light Railway to King George V for some time (GLIAS Newsletter April 2005). Take a ride along this overhead railway and see the striking stations. The railway line from Custom House to North Woolwich is still open with a service of up to four Silverlink trains per hour.
The Frog and Radiator public house has reopened with the name Ship and Billet (GLIAS Newsletter October 2005). However there has been no major renovation and the pub currently appears confused as to what its name is.
Greenwich District Hospital (GLIAS Newsletter April 2006) is now largely demolished with only a portion along Vanbrugh Hill remaining.
The last Arsenal football match at the old Highbury stadium (GLIAS Newsletter February 2001) was celebrated on Sunday 7th May. A short way to the west the new Arsenal Emirates Stadium is due to open in August.
The fairly recent (roughly 15 years old?) buildings at the northwest corner of Battlebridge Basin (GLIAS Newsletter August 2005) have now all been demolished and the site has been excavated. From what can be seen from the London Canal Museum, probably to a considerable depth for a large building.
On the south side of Drayton Park N5, just west of the primary school, demolition of the long building clad in oatmeal-coloured tiles has been taking place. This building was in use latterly as a distribution depot for imported foods.
It is thought that this may originally have been a steam laundry, probably constructed before the Second World War. Numerous large doors along the tiled façade would have allowed motor vans to deliver washing and return it to customers. This kind of business was commonplace in the early 1950s and would have been used by North London householders, especially for bed linen. The introduction of individual electric washing machines in the home brought about the decline of this practice, now largely restricted to hotels. Partial demolition has revealed the stump of a large red-brick chimney at the back of the site, consistent with this being a former laundry.
The single-storey industrial building on the east side of Blackstock Road N5 a few doors up the hill from the Police Station, has long been out of use. It was some kind of press shop but has been demolished. The site is now almost totally cleared.
The trimmings factory at the north end of Finsbury Park Road N4 on the east side of the street has been demolished. It was at work until quite recently but now the site has been cleared.
A railway Pullman car called Doris has long been in evidence at Finsbury Park station on the west side of the line behind a wire fence. It was on the property of CIL International Ltd, a privately owned shop fitting business and was in use as a hospitality room. Unfortunately it suffered from a bad attack of graffiti some time ago and has remained in this state ever since. Happily a good home has now been found for Doris and she has been moved to Horsted Keynes on the Bluebell Railway where a full restoration will be carried out. Doris was built in 1932 and was one of the cars used on the electric Brighton Belle service. Before the graffiti attack Doris looked smart and displayed Brighton Belle destination boards above the windows.
The bicycle-interchange facility at Finsbury Park (GLIAS Newsletter June 2005) is now open for business.
Traditional coffee roasting still takes place in W Martyn's shop at 135 Muswell Hill Broadway N10. The premises have great charm and easily take one back more than 50 years. The maker's plate on the coffee roasting machine in the window reads Uno Company Ltd, 90 Minories EC3. The shop also sells dried fruit, muesli, jam and chutney. A short way to the west on the same side of the road (north) the former Presbyterian Church (of architectural note) is now a drinking establishment, O'Neill's. Surely this is taking adaptive re-use a little too far?
The artists' materials shop E Ploton (sundries) Ltd at 273 Archway Road N6 has recently closed and the interesting period shop front (pre-Second World War?) is likely to be destroyed. The shop is on the west side of the road roughly opposite Highgate underground station and a little way south of the bookshop Ripping Yarns at number 355. This shop specialises in second hand children's books and may also interest GLIAS members. Bob Carr
Opie Collection in London
The London Topographical Society Newsletter (No62, May 2006, p11) has the following information on the fate of the Robert Opie Collection:
London has some very strange museums, one of the newest being the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. Within it lies the origins of our consumer society. Everyday items — from cars to telephones to holidays — are all wrapped up in packaging and advertising that we take for granted. The Robert Opie Collection is displayed in a time tunnel in which you can trace social tastes and tempos, the whims of style and fashion and the advent of aviation and the jazz age. In 10,000 items the evolution of graphic design can be followed: everything from Kellogg's Corn Flakes package to washing powders to advertisements for all manner of goods is here.The Museum of Brands Packaging and Advertising is located at 2 Colville Mews, Lonsdale Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AR. Tel: 020 7908 0880. Web: www.museumofbrands.com
Pepys Estate, Deptford — Heritage Projects
I am helping organise some heritage projects based on the Pepys Estate in Deptford. The estate, the largest in Lewisham Borough, was built on the site of the (Royal Victoria) Victualling Yards in 1966 and won RIBA architecture awards in 1967 for its modernist design (arch Ted Hollamby).
We are looking for people who know the history of this area or history of the LCC architecture department to contribute to projects that are happening in the 40th anniversary of the construction of the estate. We have talked to Heritage Lottery Fund who are keen to support work in the area so we can pay professional fees.
Short talks, guided walks, visual exhibition and background research are the sorts of things we need. Perhaps some GLIAS members may be interested in helping us. Andrew Freeman
For further information contact Jessica Leech, Pepys Estate History Project, Pepys Community Forum, Unit 2, Victoria Wharf, Grove Street, Deptford, SE8 3QQ. Tel: 020 8694 3503. Email: Jessica@pepyscommunityforum.org.uk
In 1995 the Port of London Authority issued a report on the condition of the many steps, stairs, drawdocks and other landing places within its jurisdiction.
On behalf of the River Thames Society I have compiled a similar survey, to compare the position 10 years on. The 15 London riparian boroughs are covered, together with five boroughs downstream.
I would like to keep this up to date and any information from fellow GLIAS members will be welcome.
The report is available on email and is quite lengthy but I am happy to send it in sections by borough if anyone is interested.
Peter Finch. Email: Sailor1057@aol.com
New English Heritage office
English Heritage have announced a new permanent office for its London Region Staff: 1 Waterhouse Square, 138-142 Holborn, EC1N 2ST. The building is listed Grade II* and was designed by Alfred Waterhouse.
Staff will move in during May and June. English Heritage will also vacate 23 Savile Row, with most staff moving to temporary accommodation at 3 Bunhill Row, EC1Y 8YZ. Telephone numbers remain the same.
Kew Bridge Steam Museum news
Kew Bridge Steam Museum has won the Classic award in the 2006 Museums and Heritage Awards. This award is given annually to a museum that has been open for 10 years or more and that can demonstrate continuous achievement and development.
In her acceptance speech, museum director Lesley Bossine, said it was a tribute to the dedication, hard work and enthusiasm of all the volunteers and staff who had supported the museum over its 30-year history.
Kew Bridge Steam Museum needs a new director to build on over 30 years of successful public operation, to review where the museum is in the market place and development and to take it forward. This will take creativity, energy and stamina, plus experience of marketing museums or visitor attractions, together with the leadership skills needed to direct and encourage staff and above all, the volunteers on whom the museum depends.
Responsibilities will include the safe operation of the museum, the conservation of the (Grade I) buildings and of the nationally important machinery and collections they contain, and ensuring that the museum generates an annual trading surplus. Hour hours will be irregular and weekends not necessarily your own, but you will be in charge. Energy (not age) is key.
£25K upwards subject to negotiation
Please find us on www.kbsm.org, then send a CV and a brief note on how you can meet our challenges to David Bodsworth (Chairman) either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 OEN. Please mark the envelope "Application in Confidence". Closing date: 7th July 2006.
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© GLIAS, 2006