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Notes and news — December 2009

In this issue:

Convoys Wharf, Deptford

Exterior. © Dave Perrett Many GLIAS members will have seen Convoys Wharf from trips along river. It is the former site of the Royal Dockyard at Deptford.

Deptford Dockyard was established by Henry VIII in 1513 and closed in 1869, its site having proved unsuitable for the new Victorian iron-clad navy.

In 1871 the site was acquired by the City of London for use as a foreign cattle market where live animals coming from the continent and Ireland were butchered. It became notorious for the 'gut girls' who worked in total squalor in the abattoirs and dressing sheds and then at weekends 'terrorised' the local pubs. The foreign cattle market closed in 1913.

During the First World War it was used as a military supply depot. In 1923 a director of the News of the World bought the site as a wharf for the importation of newsprint. The site came to be known as Convoys Wharf and was latterly owned by News International, who left the site in 2000.

One structure on the site that was almost unknown until the demolition of surrounding structures in the 1980s were two Victorian shipbuilding sheds joined at the middle. There were originally three sheds at Deptford and the two that survive were probably built in 1846 and supplied by George Baker & Son. They are of wrought and cast iron construction with spans of about 30m — more than sufficient for a warship to be built undercover.

Interior. © Dave Perrett According to James Sutherland they had probably been altered in about 1870 to accommodate the cattle market. According to his paper in Transaction of Newcomen Society (60, 1989) there were 18 iron ship-sheds in Britain but only those in Chatham and those in Deptford survive. The significance of these large span roofs cannot be overlooked since they precede all the large iron railway sheds.

They were lucky to survive the bombing of the yard on 21 October 1940.

The majority of the buildings on this massive site (14.5 acres) are concrete warehouses built in 1950s plus some very large span newsprint stores (probably dating from the 1990s) on the river front that once again hid the ship shed.

On 5 December we took the opportunity to visit the site with the architects as part of a public consultation on its future. A planning application will be submitted in January for some 3,500 homes in low rise and tower blocks with employment space. The ship-sheds, which are listed, will become a cultural and community space. The architects seem to even appreciate the importance or history of the site — they still call the sheds the Olympia warehouse, a recent News International name. The ship-sheds are now the London Borough of Lewisham's wheelie bin store!

The proposed plans by the owners, Hutchinson Whampoa Properties, say that they will make Deptford the Camden of the south east. But as one of the very few local residents who turned up said: no-one in the right senses would walk down to the Convoys site at night! David & Olwen Perrett

GLIAS Treasure Hunt 2009

On Saturday 26 September Soho Square was a warm and peaceful place. Many people were sitting among the trees and shrubs absorbing the sun and relaxing.

However, there was also a second group of individuals clutching sheets of paper and busily searching for signs, notices, blue plaques and other clues. Time for the annual treasure hunt again! Supervising this were Fiona and Chris, wearing appropriate headgear for the weather and poised with their camera to catch the finding of clues.

There were 31 clues, some pictorial, others in words. They were to be found between Soho Square, Shaftesbury Avenue and Carnaby Street. They ranged from a pump, a penny chute and a pub sign to a huge green electric plug, high up on a building. We all worked hard for three hours, the deadline being in St Anne's Churchyard off Wardour Street at 5.30pm. No one had full marks, but three teams tied for top place. Fortunately there were three prizes, so despite the tie-break going into action, each team received one, the traditional map of the area.

Everyone had an enjoyable and instructive afternoon. Fiona and Chris had clearly put much thought and effort into the clues and the preparation of the question sheets. They also had to cope with a last-minute change, when some windows were thoughtlessly boarded up two days earlier, ruining a clue.

We all want to thank them very much for providing us with such a fascinating exercise in industrial archaeology. We look forward to another challenge next season. Kate Quinton

Lorry-driving memories

The piece on wall cranes (GLIAS Newsletter October 2009) took me back to my lorry-driving years. Every London wharf (there were many) had its vertical row of 'loopholes' some with double doors, some with single, each with its 'drop board' on two chains like a lorry tailboard. This had to be capable of being folded up to clear cargo being worked from higher floors.

The crane was generally (but not always) to the left of the loophole with the control rope on the right (as you look at the building). The crane man stood on the drop board, his left hand inside the building on the control rope. Reversed for a right-hand crane. There was a grab handle but if he held on to this it restricted his view so most just leant out (no health and safety in those days). As he stood at the loophole being worked, if it was the top floor he could be 80ft or more above the lorry where the cargo was being worked — this required considerable and generally unrecognised skill. The driver needed to know which side the arm was as it indicated which way to step back when being unloaded and where to look when being loaded.

As far as I know all the wharves I worked had a crane powered by a hydraulic motor in the basement with power supplied by the London Hydraulic Power Company (which sold its pipe network to the cable TV people, I understand), along with the three-position control valve. The control rope with its binding of insulating tape where it was gripped ran through each floor as did the crane wire. I understand the control rope was part of a spring-tensioned loop. The crane was controlled by pulling the rope down for 'down' or up for 'up' with 'stop' a very nebulous position in the middle, speed was controlled by how far the rope was pulled. I believe at one time there were lifts in the City powered in the same way with the cage actually travelling past a fixed control rope which needed great skill by the lift man to grab the rope and jerk it to stop the lift at the right floor.

There are several wall cranes still existing in Pennington Street, Wapping opposite 'Fort Murdoch' as ornaments on the old warehouses now converted to posh flats with the loopholes and drop boards replaced by French windows and balconies. Also a good one in St John Street, Clerkenwell almost opposite the end of St John's Lane on the top floor of the building the loophole still exists unaltered complete with drop board and chains (easy to see on Google Street View).

I had a look at Kendall Place on Street View. It only looks from the top, but I would suggest this could have been a commercial mews run by a Jobmaster supplying horses to an upmarket area. The crane would be for lifting forage which was normally stored upstairs. From the view I got there appeared to be one single door on the first floor which could have been a hayloft door.

I also had a look at Back Church Lane (Street View) where I see the cranes were on the right and standing out from the wall on brackets. All the original drop boards in position and all bearing the wide 'notch' in the middle where they were caught by the wire before the load was swung out to pass them

Thinking about my time working round the London Docks brought back memories of working under that iconic piece of dock architecture the 'High Flier' officially known as the Dock Derrick. With drivers cab (a mass of windows) and all the machinery in a large wooden cabin swivelling on top of a four-legged pylon about 50ft above the ground. High enough to reach out over the ship lying alongside but still needing a hatchway man to guide the driver when working the lower decks. The name that immediately came to mind was Stothert and Pitt. Electrically-powered they moved along the quay on their rails laying down or picking up the huge cable which supplied their power from a drum on one of the legs. The early model, the DD1, was made up of a riveted lattice work of angle iron and steel strip, both for the jib and the pylon. Some time in the late 60s came the DD2, four huge tubular legs and a jib made of tubing. The dockers immediately christened them 'Rockettes' as they did not have the rock steady stability of the DD1. I don't know how this was resolved as I lost touch with my Shop Steward contact in Tilbury. Some of these can still be seen in the Royal Victoria Dock painted black and just ornaments.

Just inside the West Ferry Road gate of Millwall dock was the first hydraulically powered 'almost' high flier, it was installed in around 1897 and was still working in the mid 60s — the TGWU magazine 'Record' of that time had a picture of it working a sailing ship when it was first installed.

My most enduring memory of the High Flier was the scene from Sir Winston Churchill's funeral. As the Havengore carrying the coffin up the Thames passed Hayes Wharf the cranes lowered their jibs in sequence in salute. The dockers at Hayes were to the left of Trotsky yet they rehearsed the move in their own time to pay tribute to a leading Tory whose poor history with Unions was overshadowed by his wartime leadership. Bob Rust

Kingston Bridge

As a sequel to Peter Butt's notes on London Bridge and flatpacks (GLIAS Newsletter October 2009) it might be of interest that Kingston Bridge (built and endowed in 1565) was indeed toll-free but the wooden structure was demolished in 1828 as it was in a ruinous state and was replaced with the present bridge, constructed between 1825 and 1828 (architect E Lapidge). As there was no endowment tolls were levied. These were removed among great celebrations on Saturday 12 March 1870. The following is a contemporary account of the proceedings:

The bridge was widened in 1914. John H Boyes

London Archaeologist

The autumn issue of the London Archaeologist contains an article on 'Post-Medieval Wharfs on the Channelsea River: Burford Wharf Calico Printing Works, Stratford, E15'. The Channelsea River is a branch of the River Lea, which was an area of growing industrial development from the 17th century onwards. Calico printing was a cheaper process than silk weaving, with which it competed. The first calico printer in England was William Sherwin of West Ham, who took out a patent in 1676. By 1747 an area near the excavation site was known as the calico grounds. By 1832, the only remaining calico printer was D and E Burford (later E Burford and Co) of Stratford, which carried on until about 1870 and continued as dyers until 1882. The excavation found evidence of 18th- and 19th-century wharfs. Dumped material used for levelling up the area included flared, handled stoneware with dye tidemark residues, made to specifications suited to their use in the production of dyes and stamped Burford. Dating was imprecise and given as 1800 to 1900. The dumped material also included non-bespoke stoneware bellied bottles used for the supply and storage of chemicals.

The issue also refers to the release of what is thought to be one of the first aerial surveys of London, flown in 1917. They are now available on line at Other aerial photos dating back to the 1940s are also available. Detailed search results, including the age and ground coverage are displayed and there is a choice to purchase either hard copy print or digital image file.

Accompanying this issue is the London Fieldwork and Publication Round-up 2008, summarising the results of excavations, studies and publications in that year. A number are of particular IA interest:

If anyone would like the report references of any of these investigations, please email me at

It is also nice to note that the Bibliography of works on London's archaeology published in 2008 includes the articles in GLIAS Journal No 9.
Brian James-Strong

EMIAC 79 at Swannington

On Saturday 22 May 2010 the Leicestershire Industrial History Society are hosting a Heritage Day at the Village Hall, Main Street, Swannington, Leicestershire LE67 8LQ. There will be lectures on the Leicester & Swannington Railway, the restoration of Hough Windmill and future developments for the Swannington Heritage Trust, and Landscape evidence of Coalmining in the local coalfield. The site visits should be memorable and include current coal mine excavations (stout footwear required).

Swannington was the centre for early coal mining in North West Leicestershire. The first manorial rights were granted in 1278 to Sir John Talbot, who controlled the 13th-century coal workings. In 1520 the manor passed to William Wyggeston, a prominent Leicester business man, who was to set up various trusts in order to preserve Swannington's village status. Expansion of Swannington began in the early 1700s when new deep coal seams were worked, leading to an influx of miners and their families from Shropshire. A map published in 1779 indicates 37 working mines in the Swannington area. In addition several abattoirs and tanyards operated in the village and shoemaking was a thriving separate industry.

Swannington achieved prominence in 1829-32 with the building of the Leicester & Swannington Railway which was promoted by local mine owners William Stenson and John Ellis in conjunction with George Stephenson. The engineer for the railway was Robert Stephenson with Thomas Miles his assistant. Much of the capital was raised from investors in Liverpool. It was on this railway that the locomotive steam whistle was introduced following an accident with a farm cart on a level crossing in 1833. In 1834 the locomotive Atlas was delivered to the railway. This was the first ever 0-6-0 tender locomotive with inside cylinders and the type became standard for goods traffic for the next hundred years.

For motorists living in North London Swannington is within range for a day's outing. Take the M1 north to junction 22 and Swannington is a short drive to the northwest along the A511. Bob Carr
For further information and booking forms contact Alan Brittan. Tel: 01773 710133. Email:

View Tube

The London Evening Standard on 11 November 2009 announced: 'Tin Shed is first venue of £6 billion Olympic Park'.

The 'View Tube' is an unmissable lime-green building that sits across the 'Greenway', formerly the Northern Outfall, public footpath through the SW corner of the 2012 site. It can be seen from the Pudding Mill Lane DLR station and is some 200 yards walk away on the opposite side of the railway line. It has a covered viewing platform, an arts and education suite and cycle hire and a ground floor [to be recommended] café.

A publicity notice states that 'the View Tube is an excellent example of sustainable building'.

Devised by Urban Space Management Ltd, the Container City System uses shipping containers linked together to provide high strength, prefabricated and steel modules that can be combined to create a wide variety of building shapes and adapted to suit most planning or end user needs.

The installation of the View Tube was completed in two days.

There is to be a programme of arts and cultural activities:
Peter J Butt

A tunnel puzzle at Crystal Palace

One of the standard histories of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway refers to what seems to be a somewhat unlikely pedestrian tunnel connecting Crystal Palace Station (formerly known as Crystal Palace Low Level Station) to the main exhibition building.

JTH Turner's exact wording is as follows:

There were two stations built to serve the Crystal Palace exhibition and entertainment centre at Sydenham, where the Great Exhibition building erected in Hyde Park in 1851 was re-erected (in an enlarged form) in 1854. Turner is explicitly referring to the station still in use on Anerley Hill, the first part of which was opened as a terminus on a line from London Bridge by the LBSCR in 1854. It was subsequently rebuilt and extended with another line from Croydon via Norwood Junction, and the lines extended through the 746 yards Norwood tunnel towards Streatham Hill and Victoria. The surviving station, as rebuilt and extended, now stands as the most imposing example of Crystal Palace era architecture in the district, the interior part housing platforms 3 and 4 being very fine.

From the platforms up to street level at Crystal Palace Station Road (off Anerley Hill) is quite a climb up several flights of steps. And from the station entrance up to the top of the ridge on which the palace itself stood is an uphill walk of about a quarter of a mile. Any tunnel from the station to the palace would necessarily be quite long, and steeply inclined, perhaps with steps in parts if not throughout.

Examination of the station walls reveals no obvious trace of a pedestrian tunnel entrance. Local information refers to a surface but covered walkway from station to Palace, which is perhaps what Turner remembered. As he was born in or about 1929, he would only have been around seven years old when the Crystal Palace was destroyed by the last of a series of fires, on 30 November 1936, and the supposed tunnel rendered redundant.

The second station serving Crystal Palace, known in its time as Crystal Palace High Level Station, was opened as a terminus by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway in 1865, and was closed in 1954. I remember a cavernous building with an overall roof, with neglected timber platforms and no passengers in sight in its last years of operation. This building (now demolished) stood at a much higher elevation than the LBSCR station, alongside Crystal Palace Parade, directly opposite the Palace. There was certainly a 'subway' linking that station directly to the palace, although definitely not 'inclined.' This structure, with internally ornate polychrome brickwork, is of course still under the Parade, although not currently publicly accessible. Some years ago it was opened to the public each year on what was called the Subway Superday, when visitors could enjoy the fine brickwork and visit various traders' and exhibitors' stalls set up for the day. Postcards showing the interior can still be purchased locally.

Visitors to the locality are advised not to miss the fine interior of the Low Level station, the Crystal Palace Park including the recently restored display of full-size Victorian replica prehistoric animals, or the Crystal Palace Museum (free admission. Web: at the top of Anerley Hill. The museum is housed in a part of the former Crystal Palace School of Engineering, the only substantial surviving part of the Palace still usable. This is next to the base of Brunel's south water tower, where some of the waterworks pipework can still be seen. At the north end of the site, Second World War bomb damage rubble has recently been removed to reveal the remains of the Palace aquarium. Paul W Sowan


Trade catalogues

The often enigmatic small print on all sorts of manufactured objects can often be a valuable clue to identifying and dating them. Patent numbers are potentially very easy, if you have access to a comprehensive set of patent specifications and associated indexes, as at the British Library. Trade marks can no doubt also be tracked down and dated.

I have to hand a mould blown clear glass bottle with the lettering THE CHISLEHURST MINERAL WATER WORKS / REGISTERED TRADE MARK HL [the letters HL are within a shield] and, on the base of the bottle, S.D.B. & Co. Ltd. 1448]. Doubtless all this code is decipherable! Trade marks registers, company registration documentation, and local directories could probably provide some answers.

Another valuable aid is trade literature, including trade directories and magazines and the advertisements they contain, and trade catalogues.

The library of the Croydon Natural History &Scientific Society contains some items in these categories. Apart from the more obvious Croydon-based material, there is some relating to London as a whole. Two examples are:

Nicholls & Clarke Ltd of Shoreditch High Street

NICHOLLS & CLARKE LTD, 1975, Nicholls & Clarke Ltd. Manufacturers & Distributors of Building Materials. Catalogue No. 75. London: Nicholls & Clarke Ltd: 725pp.

This company commenced trading at Shoreditch High Street on 25th July 1875, as a partnership of Samuel Nicholls and Harry Clarke.

Sun Electrical Co. Ltd

SUN ELECTRICAL CO. LTD, 1931, Catalogue of electrical supplies apparatus and appliances. List No. 601. February 1931. London: Sun Electrical Co. Ltd: 772pp.

This company was established in 1899.
Paul W Sowan

News in brief

In Hackney the Woodberry Down estate, south of the A503 Seven Sisters Road, is to be demolished and totally rebuilt. It is intended to replace the present 1,800 homes by 4,300. The new blocks will be higher than those to be demolished and half of the new homes will be for private sale. Estimated cost is £850 million.

In about 1935 the London County Council compulsorily purchased land for the estate despite considerable opposition. Woodberry Down was then a desirable area for well to do housing. An 'estate of the future' was begun, being finally finished in 1962. One of Britain's first purpose-built comprehensive schools opened here in 1955*. However like many idealistic housing schemes, after about 50 years Woodberry Down is now in a poor state of repair.

The present flats have a mixture of deck and lobby access. As built most of them had two or three bedrooms — the new flats are likely to be smaller. South-facing flats near the top of the taller towers to be built will have good views over the Stoke Newington Reservoirs and should prove attractive to private buyers.

Striking eight-storey blocks such as those to the east of Spring Bank Drive were the LCC's first exercise in concrete construction and here the flats were built with lifts, for the first time. With a concrete finish and deep Viennese-style eaves they are redolent of Germanic flats of the 1920s. Influenced by Zeilenbau planning principles which demanded long narrow housing blocks to give natural light and cross ventilation they were designed in 1942-3 and built 1946-9.

The former W H Allen engineering works, Queen's Park, Bedford, closed in 2000 and the site is now totally built upon with new housing. Even the six-storey office block on the north side of Ford End Road which was retained for a time has gone. Opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1959, it was demolished this year.

Established in 1880 in Lambeth, London, Allen's moved to Bedford in 1893-94.

A major mechanical engineering works they were involved in the manufacture of turbines, pumps and diesel engines. During the First World War up to 3,400 people worked here. From 1989 the works concentrated on diesel engines as part of the Rolls Royce group. A W H Allen engine can be seen at Kew Bridge Steam Museum.

Towards the end of October no smoke was issuing from Stewartby brickworks. This well-known sight has finally come to an end with the closure of the plant in February 2008 when about 200 jobs were lost. In 2005-7 over one million pounds was spent at the works in order to reduce SO2 emissions but the owners, now believed to be German, were unable to satisfy EU environmental requirements. Production of the ubiquitous red Fletton brick, commonplace in much of Greater London, is now concentrated at Whittlesey. At one time there were over 130 chimneys in Marston Vale. Four at Stewartby survive; they are listed together with two kilns there. The brickworks was still relatively intact in August 2008.

A branch of Charlie Brown's is now established on the ground floor of the former Reslaw hat factory on the corner of Dudley Street and Midland Road, Luton (GLIAS Newsletter June 2006). The entrance faces south east. It claims to be Luton's oldest nightclub and now a 300-capacity professional live-music venue. On the east side of Luton station, to the south, large building works are taking place. Just to the north of Luton Airport Parkway station, on the east side of the railway, a large building has recently been demolished.

To the south west of St Albans station the Midland Railway signal box built in 1892 is now a fine sight, recently repainted (GLIAS Newsletter October 2009). The open weekends here are reported to be excellent. A winter opening on Sunday 13 December has been announced.

On the south west side of King's Cross mainline railway station (GLIAS Newsletter August 2009), towards the end of October work had started on the new steel and glass entrance canopy. The erection of this structure which will form the new western concourse is likely to proceed very rapidly.

The three spherical gas holders at Hitchin to the north of the railway station (at TL 1894 3124) on the east side of the main line to Peterborough are still in situ. This design of holder, probably 20th century, is not that common in England. Do readers know of similar examples?

The locomotive coaling plant (at TA 1969 1525) to the south of Immingham Dock was still there at the end of summer 2009, even though the former Great Central engine shed has now been demolished (GLIAS Newsletter October 2008). Presumably to an LNER design, there is a brick infill at the bottom of the tower, on the south side. The surrounding area is flat and not far from the sea — might this brickwork have been added later to mitigate against wind-blown cold dust? Alternatively the brickwork could be a wartime addition to cut down the glare from locomotive fireboxes. German bombers would have flown over here quite regularly.

The recipe for Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce has been discovered in a skip among material disposed of by the manufacturers. Notes written in ink in the mid 19th century in two leather bound volumes were rescued by Mr Brian Keogh, a former accountant. The ingredients have been a secret for 170 years. Marketed by John Wheeley Lea (1791-1874) and William Perrins (1793-1867) the sauce was first sold c1838. Lea had a pharmacists shop in Broad Street, Worcester, and at first employed Perrins as an apprentice. They went into partnership in 1823.

The St Leonard's Health Centre building, Nuttall Street, Kingsland Road, N1 5LZ has recently been listed grade II. A tour covering the history and architecture of the former hospital led by Hannah Price of English Heritage was scheduled for 23 November. The Hospital developed from St Leonard's workhouse infirmary. Considerable refurbishment work has been done to the building since it was condemned in 1934.

At the Syral site, formerly Amylum UK, it is planned to demolish the riverside concrete silos with explosives in February (GLIAS Newsletter October 2008). Demolition has been taking place to the east away from the river. Bob Carr

Most of the demolition took place using a long-reach cruncher. Silo remains on 2 August 2010, © Robert Carr.

Liverpool City Safari, 16-18 October

Our safari started from the Hotel Ibis on the waterfront in Liverpool. On the Friday afternoon we explored the city centre, starting with Liverpool One, a vast new shopping area begun in 2004 and not yet completed. We continued the walk, seeing a mix of buildings and structures, including Martins Banking Hall of 1932, Holt Arcade, the former Exchange Station and Mersey Road Tunnel with its art deco buildings and portal.

Some well known buildings were in store for us on Saturday morning, including Lime Street Station, slightly marred by building work, and the Adelphi Hotel. We were shown a 'Liverpool Special' pillar box, larger than the standard model, as there was a larger volume of mail sent. We carried on to the Bullring, originally workers' housing in the round, influenced by the Karl Marx Hof in Vienna. It is now student accommodation. The caretaker emerged as we approached and was full of information. She had lived in the flats herself and seen their gradual decline and revival. We then looked at several university buildings, many in red brick with terracotta decorations and one with Burmantofts faience and tiles inside. After visiting Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, we adjourned to the Philharmonic Hotel for lunch. This is in Art Nouveau style and the gents toilets are particularly ornate; the ladies in the party were given special permission and an escort to view these!

The afternoon took in the Anglican Cathedral and the memorial to William Huskisson, who had the distinction of being knocked over by 'Rocket' on the opening day of the Liverpool-Manchester Railway in 1830 and mortally injured. We continued to the Williamson Tunnels, more than 400 yards of which are known to exist. They have no known purpose. We then saw the Edge Hill and Wapping Tunnels, which were all part of the original railway system leading down to the docks.

On Sunday morning we walked to Central Station and took a train to Sandhills. We had a fascinating walk past a series of docks, many with huge walls, gateposts and turrets. There were remains of the wooden gates which used to slide back into the walls. Some warehouses have been restored whereas others are shadows of their former selves. We saw parts of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal disappearing under buildings on its way to Salthouse Dock. We ended the morning at the Pier Head with an excellent view of the Royal Liver Building and the White Star Line Offices.

Sue Hayton led a magnificent weekend, packed with detailed information. She was ably assisted by Dan, who was kept busy rounding up those at the rear taking just one more photograph. Thanks to both of them, we had a wonderful time and are eagerly awaiting next year's venues. Kate Quinton

More on Autostackers

At the end of his interesting article (GLIAS Newsletter October 2009) Ted Belmont asks if readers knows of the location of other Autostackers.

I recall the one in Leicester Street (off Leicester Square) adjacent to the now demolished Swiss Centre. This too was not always 100% serviceable and, even when working, resulted in frequent traffic jams around the area given the time it took to park and retrieve vehicles.

The system as I understood it required drivers to leave their vehicle on a lift platform when the computer determined where a parking space was available. The platform plus vehicle was then raised to the selected level and a system of rollers automatically moved the vehicle off the platform into the vacant space.

This location could handle quite sizeable cars as I frequently witnessed a busker in a wheelchair (who played a violin with some expertise) reclaim his large American saloon car from this Autostacker at the end of each evening's performance. David Dell

During the early 1970s I did some work at a Volkswagen garage near Lord's Cricket ground which had an automatic stacker in a tower. Vehicles moved vertically up the tower, but not horizontally. I don't know if the garage is still there, but I suspect the stacker is not, as it was tailored exactly to the VWs of the time. I remember that staff were instructed not to put cars with towbars on the stacker, as they were too long and the towbar would snag the mechanism. David Gordon

I attended the Woolwich Polytechnic Secondary school in Woolwich which overlooked the automatic car park you have mentioned in the newsletter. We watched it being built and had a half holiday for the grand opening.

The problem appeared to be that the cables which lifted the car were too elastic.

The car was driven into the cage and the allotted parking space was selected on a panel. The cage was then lifted to the correct floor and the car was then moved sideways out of the cage. As the weight of the car was taken from the cable it took up some of the elasticity. The car had one set of wheels on the floor of the car park and the other in the cage with a height difference of about six inches. It then became stuck.

We did not hear any comments about the building sinking but to replace the cables was too costly. Len Fiddler

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© GLIAS, 2009