Notes and news — April 2020
In this issue:
Bazalgette family papers
- Bazalgette family papers
- A stroll from Wood Green to Alexandra Palace
- East Greenwich No.1
- Bringing the City of London's markets to Dagenham Dock
- Lea Bridge Waterworks
- Chimneys at Lots Road Generating Station — Chelsea
- Colet Court and Euston Films
- Unique Queen Victoria Jubilee plaque
- Memory jog, please
- Conservation watch
During a holiday to Edinburgh a couple of years ago Ollie and I made a side trip to visit Lynn Smith, widow of Denis (our Past Chair).
She showed us Denis's unsorted papers stored in their garage. Among the many items of interest was a large collection of papers, family photographs, etc relating to Sir Joseph William Bazalgette and his family. We brought these back to London.
At the Crossness Event last March to mark the Bicentenary of Bazalgette's birth I told Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Crossness Engines as well as executive chair of ITV, of this collection of his family papers. Sir Peter had formerly also chaired Arts Council England, and the production company Endemol.
A few weeks later he invited us round to his house and I handed the archive back to him and one of his cousins. His view was that they were items loaned to the ICE by an elderly member of the family in 1991 for an exhibition on Bazalgette that Denis was organising. The elderly person had died before the material could be returned and had stayed in Denis's possession, moving with him first to Huntingdon and then to Edinburgh.
The return of the material to the family prompted Peter to get together other material in the possession of other members of the family as well as his own. This collection has been professionally catalogued and has been subsequently presented to the Library at the Institution of Civil Engineers, where it can now be consulted. These family papers complement the large collection of material including the MBW archives that are held at the London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell. David Perrett
A stroll from Wood Green to Alexandra Palace
Just being on the terrace at the Palace, looking south over London, is a pleasure. There is the option of a pint from the Phoenix, western end. In 2018 the theatre was sufficiently restored for events. It is only 10 minutes from Wood Green on a W3 bus — fine for the return. Walking the route described will take about 70 minutes, or a bit longer if tarrying.
① If arriving at Wood Green by Underground, notice the ventilation grills above head height along the platforms, featuring a deer resting in the middle of a country railway track. Safely — no conductor rail and the curvature plus lack of sleepers would derail any train. Not like life upstairs when this part of the Piccadilly Line opened in 1932. A 'grand union' junction of double track tram lines at the crossroads had four sets of curves, allowing trams to go from any route to any other route — handy for the nearby depot. From the nondescript station entrance bear right (west) to cross High Road onto the north pavement of Station Road, stopping soon opposite Nos 13-27, now Green Rooms hotel, restaurant, wedding venue, etc. This was built in 1934 as District Offices and a showroom for the North Metropolitan Electric Power Supply Company 1. Examples of its products are named in metalwork (see below left). The showroom might not have opened until early 1935. Ignore any wildly different dates. The Company had over 30 showrooms, some of similar design, but without the embellishments, in its area in c.1940. There were actually three closely entwined companies for electricity generation, distribution and supply, with a contract to supply the North Metropolitan tram company. There must have been interesting negotiations in 1933 (formation of London Transport) and 1948 (nationalisation of main electricity generating public companies)
② Continue west along Station Road, noticing on the right an open space latterly occupied by the Palais de Luxe. Giving a cinema a fancy name didn't make it profitable and it was demolished. The Jolly Anglers (1905), opposite, replaced a previous pub of the same name, perhaps commemorating fishermen's luck in the New River, which ran nearby until diverted in 1859. Turn right to ascend River Park Road and look right to see a brick industrial building alongside, and part of, Wood Green bus garage (above right). This was once separate, being occupied over the years by different firms to do with metalwork. Its land included pavement lights, now filled in, set in the area which is now used for car parking, hence the signage that it is private property. Leaside Buses was one of the companies set up when London Buses' operations were privatised in 1984, but subsequently bought by Arriva in 1998.
③ Return to Station Road and continue west on the same side. The road dips, providing headroom under a removed Great Eastern Railway (GER) bridge for Palace Gates trains. New buildings have obliterated its alignment. Continue, then turn right and walk a short distance uphill in Bradley Road. A small detached building stands at the end of a garden on the left. The far side is nicer (below left). Once premises of James Hodson, brush maker, who also used houses at the other end of the garden, 74 & 76 Station Road. A local Directory for 1938 advertises products that included 'special brushes for tea plantations' 2. There was a later spell of plastic injection moulding before it became a residence.
④ Return to Station Road and walk back to use the pedestrian crossing, turning left at the far side to the end of an area of raised grass. In the wall are two recycled vehicle-width gates, saved from a dairy that, complete with cows, occupied land adjacent to the railway embankment. Ownership changed several times; it was finally part of United Dairies, combining many separate undertakings. Turn right along Tower Place until turning left into Mayes Road.
⑤ Opposite, at 109, is the former HQ office of Barratt's Confectionery Works, 1897, now flats named Canterbury House (above right). 'Labor et Probitas' translates as 'Work and Honour'. Letters E G F A are for Directors' first names. GLIAS Journal 8, 2004, has an excellent article by an 'insider', Dennis Plowright 3. A booklet the firm produced in 1953 has Liquorice Allsorts in colour on the cover, just some of the 200 or so different items produced here 4. A jumble of factory and warehouse buildings reflects building, extension and rebuilding over time between 1880 and closure, by then owned by Bassett's since 1966, in 1979. Some premises in Clarendon Road might be later. Alongside to the left is a building of 1953, currently used by a self-storage firm. Go down Mayes Road and turn first right into Coburg Road, glancing up at the part removed 'Barratt & Co 1922' sign, and turn right into the cul-de-sac of Clarendon Road, to see more different phases. The name 'Chocolate Factory' reflects use of some buildings for a few years by Caxton Chocolates. The whole site now has some eight dozen studios with about 500 using them. The factory had about 2,000 workers at its peak. Return to Coburg Street and continue, turning right, north, into (un-named) Western Road, with the embankment of the Great Northern Railway from King's Cross alongside. The recycle compound on the left is where the Wood Green 'dust destructor' stood. It provided hot water for the public baths, 1911, ahead left. These had a single pool and the usual slipper baths, plus showers. Separately listed were 'spray baths'. What were these? Cross the road to walk on the pavement next to the baths. At the front are secure gates and a name, Decorium; it is now a private function centre.
⑥ Go ahead into the park and immediately bear right across the grass and through the centre of the pergola. Beyond is a disused granite fountain, 1930, in memory of G W Barratt, Chairman of the Company, d. 1928. Bear left towards Station Road, crossing it in front of St Paul's church, and turn left. Houses from 98 to 138, all those in Barratt Ave, and some in Park Ave, are of similar design and date, 1892-7. They are on land purchased for development by the Barratts, though it seems few, if any, of their workers could afford one. Continue uphill to a bridge over the New River. To the west it flows under the railway and to the east it emerges from a low tunnel, which is the end of the 1859 diversion. Nothing remains of the previous route from High Road to here. Take the footpath past the tunnel entrance to Park Ave and cross it. A few paces ahead is a short basic New River Company (NRC) metal marker post. Walk down around curved Park Ave. Nos. 69-51, opposite, are part of the Barratt development.
⑦ Between Nos. 51 and 49 is the brick abutment of a girder railway bridge on the GER line. Misleading ungated steps alongside no 49 go only to a locked gate; the resident has insisted that they are private property. Don't try! But steps beyond the north abutment are definitely a public path. Take these and you can, ground condition permitting, go to the slightly higher ground on the left, and thus onto a few yards of former trackbed. In the open, west of the trees, requiring perhaps some searching, is an oval NRC sign on a low, leaning, metal post.
⑧ Housing completely covers the site of Palace Gates passenger station. Bear left and walk north into Dorset Road. Nos. 24 to 2 were built quite late (c.1907) by the GER for its employees to rent. The 1939 Government Review shows every 'head of household' was a railwayman, though some adult children living at home were not. A short block of newer houses covers the one-time station forecourt. Main buildings were on the far, southbound, platform, but this was the side for cabs to and from Alexandra Palace. Coal yard sidings were beyond the passenger station. Continue left into Bridge Road, past another eight GER houses (above, right). Turn left to walk downhill along Blenheim Road, crossing to what appear to be the original, 1859, buildings of Wood Green/Alexandra Palace station. The footbridge, divided for ticket holders and 'open', is relatively new. A previous, ticket holders only bridge, was through an archway, now a floor to ceiling window. (Only visible when this building is open).
⑨ Cross the bridge on the 'open' side and turn left to a lay-by which remains from a forecourt to a second station building here, before reaching the brick wall, for Palace passengers, at the end of the differently angled ticket holders bridge. There was also a completely separate cross-railway 'open' bridge. The start of its access path can be seen behind wooden gates in the fencing 5. Next, at lower level, are two semi-detached houses which the GNR provided for its station master and another employee.
⑩ Just after where the lay-by joins the road towards Alexandra Palace, cobbles across the road signal entry to Alexandra Palace Park grounds. There was a gate here with buildings and walls forming a barrier. A fragment of wall remains to the left, beyond the small brick building. A novel type of transport, a Telerage electric railway, was constructed from just within the Park gates to the Palace in 1889/90. Alas, the Palace was going through a spell of intermittent closure and it was not a commercial success, soon being dismantled 6. An electric tram, again from just within the Park gates, constructed in 1898, also had periods of idleness between 'seasons' and was soon removed 7. Its route was later (1906) followed by specially geared trams, running through from Wood Green.
⑪ Take the level, gated, tarmac road, a public path and cycleway, and drop down a lane shortly reached on the left, until reaching the curved, cambered, wide band of grass with trees on both sides (below left). This is the former horse racing track, in use 1868 to 1970. Nothing now remains of pavilions/grandstands or stables. Turn round and walk up the steps and then left (west) through the widened car parking area which merges into the tarmac road. Shortly before the next metal road barrier, turn at right angles to go up the grass slope, which should be mud-free even in poor weather, looking back to make sure you have not gone past the road barrier. Soon there is a solid east-west path and, with luck, about 15 paces the other side of that path, and directly in line with the road barrier, is a hefty rounded dark metal cylinder in the grass (below right). If it is not spotted immediately, walk a short distance in each direction on the path, looking uphill — it's too large to be hidden. This cylinder, mentioned by Bob Rust (GLIAS Newsletter April 2019), supplied town gas for sightseeing balloons, with a tethering ring attached to the top.
⑫ Walk left (west) along the path and veer right at the next junction, ascending below the south-eastern tower of Alexandra Palace, with TV mast on top and the newly replaced roof of Crown Court behind 8. Curve up towards a short flight of steps, cross the road to more steps to the front of the Palace. Turn right, east, to see wall plaques below the mast, giving information about the TV service. The mast is supported on a metal frame which runs down within the building; note crude steel tie-plates on the outside. The television studios, etc. occupied quite a large section of the Palace — see the metal windows in brick walling. Go round the east end, past the Crown Court entrance, to the theatre, since 2018 sufficiently restored to have events. These occasionally feature the Willis organ which luckily was away for repair at the time of the 1968 fire. Trams terminated in the nearest car park. Trams also ran to the west end of the Palace; it took motor buses to establish a through service. Further round, below the north side, was the GNR Alexandra Palace station, 1873, of which the modest building (probably not as early as 1873) survives in community use (below). Passenger services reflected the fortunes of the Palace and finally ceased, after a proposed electrification scheme was abandoned, in 1954. There was a token amount of freight to the Palace 8. There had been a miniature railway around the lake, but not the slightest evidence remains. David Thomas
1. 'Northmet: A history ...' (of the three companies) by N C Friswell, 2000. This covers the complexities of the Company history; copy in Haringey Archives, Bruce Castle. The Green Rooms website has current use information
2. Kelly's Directory, Wood Green & Southgate, 1938
3. 'Barratt & Co Ltd, Manufacturing Confectioners, Wood Green' by Dennis G Plowright. GLIAS Journal website
4. Seen in Haringey Archives, Bruce Castle
5. Former bridge arrangements clearly shown on OS maps
6. 'Account of the installation of a Telerage Electric Railway ...' Article from Modern Tramway & Light Railway Review, 1/1969, by A W Bond. Copy in Haringey Archives, Bruce Castle
7. 'London's first electric tramway ... 1898-99.' Article from Journal of Transport History, 1958, by J H Price. Copy in Haringey Archives, Bruce Castle
8. I have deliberately omitted detail for the Palace, TV broadcasting and the railway from Highgate (High Level). Wikipedia has lots
Grateful thanks for help from Haringey Archives staff at Bruce Castle, Bishopsgate Institute (Directories) and Westminster Archives (computer access to Ancestry and Find My Past)
East Greenwich No.1
The great gasholder near the Millennium Dome is being demolished (GLIAS Newsletter October 2019). The demolition is now obvious when driving by to and from the Blackwall Tunnel; the top of the guide frame is being removed and many people are taking photographs. Demolishing such a huge structure, almost comparable in size with the train shed of St Pancras station 1, is no mean task and the first part of the work was to cut up and remove the bell and lifts.
This water-sealed gasholder was the work of George 2 and Frank Livesey 3. In 1886 when excavating for the subterranean tank which was to contain the water it was soon found that the ground here is heavily waterlogged and plans had to be changed. Frank Livesey decided on a much shallower tank than usual and one of great diameter, so as to get the desired volume. For the new gasworks being built at East Greenwich a huge storage capacity was going to be needed.
As the depth of the tank below ground level here could only be quite shallow, the sides of the tank were impounded in the manner of a dock or reservoir. When in use the water level in the tank was well above the original ground level. You could clearly see this when approaching the gasholder. At first there was rising ground and then a flight of 18 steps — see photograph.
Because the water in the tank had to be shallower than originally planned, Frank chose to have four lifts instead of three making this the world's first four-lift gasholder. It was also the largest in the world, for five years 4.
Here are some photographs taken in November 2019 with the bell and lifts gone. You can see the flat central dumpling and that the deeper water was confined to a relatively narrow rim around the perimeter.
Demolishing the guide frame in the recent high winds has been a demanding task. The wind at 180 feet bears no comparison with that at ground level!
Special thanks are due to SGN for site visits. Bob Carr
1. The Barlow train shed in 240 feet wide, the diameter of the No. 1 holder at East Greenwich is 254 feet. At St Pancras the maximum height of the Barlow train shed above the tracks is 100 feet. The height of the East Greenwich guide frame is 180 feet.
2. George Livesey (1834-1908)
3. George's younger brother Frank (1844-1899)
4. You can still see a large George Livesey type gasholder guide frame in Factory Road, Croydon, TQ 311 659. Built for the Croydon Gas Company about 1920 it is slightly smaller than East Greenwich No. 1 but its appearance is similar. You can get a good view from Waddon Marsh tram station.
Bringing the City of London's markets to Dagenham Dock
After a wide-ranging search and thorough assessment of other sites Dagenham Dock was identified as the preferred site to relocate the markets (GLIAS Newsletter June 2019).
The site was the former Barking Reach Power Station which was constructed between 1992 and 1996 and closed in 2014. [NB this is not the Barking Power station as reported in some newspapers which was at Barking Riverside/Creekmouth]
It is located [near to the C2C's Dagenham Dock Railway station] at Cheques Lane in Dagenham, south of the A13. With 42 acres of industrial land, the location benefits from a direct link to the A13 road network as well as good road and bus links. Access to the River Thames presents a significant opportunity to use the river for the movement of goods.
A multi-deck yard will provide parking spaces for vans and cars at the front and rear which allows for the separation of vehicles with HGV deliveries taking place at ground level.
[An artist's impression shows one rectangular building. Visitors will be able to access three individual market entrances. Each entrance will be unique and identify with the history and tradition associated with the markets.]
Spring 2020 - outline planning application submitted to the LBBD.
2020/2022 - demolition of existing power station.
2023/2025 - construction of the new co-location market.
2025/2026 - new markets open and businesses move in.
Extracts from and for further information: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/dagenhamdock
Lea Bridge Waterworks
The East London Waterworks Company was established in 1807 and in the early 19th century took their water from the River Lea at Old Ford, where they had works. In 1829, to obtain cleaner water, the intake was moved upriver to Lea Bridge. Over the years facilities at Lea Bridge were enlarged and the waterworks here were greatly expanded from the 1850s. Great engine houses with tall chimneys were built along the Lea Bridge Road. The architecturally impressive examples had been demolished by 1980 but you can get some idea of how two of them looked at the Coppermill. Listed grade II, this is further up the Lea Valley about a mile to the northwest in Coppermill Lane at TQ 350 882. In 1852 an aqueduct was built to connect the Coppermill to the Lea Bridge Waterworks. In 1864 a tower with an open arcade to the upper storey was added to the Coppermill to house a Cornish Bull engine. This tower replicates the architectural style of the now demolished Victoria and Prince & Princess Engine Houses at Lea Bridge 1.
The Waterworks estate at Lea Bridge, situated to the south of the Lea Bridge Road, now straddles the Lea Valley from the River Lee Navigation eastwards to the railway line which runs from Stratford to Tottenham Hale. The eastern and western parts, the former Essex filter beds and the Middlesex filter beds, are now nature reserves and considerably overgrown. Since their formation no significant redevelopment has taken place at these nature reserves, so far. Things still appear to be as they were. Clancy Docwra, the large construction firm, continue to use the yard to the west of the Essex filter beds 2. Currently this yard is owned by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) who intended to build two free school academies here. In the 1970s the whole Waterworks site was designated as Metropolitan Open Land.
Blocks of flats have recently been built to the east and west of the Waterworks, some of them massive; local concern is that building may now take place on the yard. A petition has been organised in favour of converting this yard, on the site of filter beds, for 'wild swimming'. This would be a feature something like one of the Hampstead Ponds. See eg
The London branch of The Campaign to Protect Rural England is involved because this is more than just a local issue. A London-wide principle is at stake; we have something of a test case here; building on Metropolitan Open Land is equivalent to building on the Green Belt beyond Greater London.
Some engine houses still survive towards the west end of the Waterworks site including the Musgrave engine and boiler house, 1922-4. There is a fine house, 1890-2 by GE Dolman listed locally, for the Chief Engineer of the East London Waterworks Company, William Booth Bryan (1848-1914), and also an attractive Octagonal Turbine House or Sluice House of 1885. This is in stock brick with a dentil cornice of stone, stone or stucco mouldings to arched windows and a slate roof. It is also locally listed.
An English Heritage website deals with Lea Bridge Waterworks, see: www.brind.co.uk/leamarsh/history/EngHeritageMOL.html
Unfortunately their criterion for listing seems to be the architectural quality of the buildings, with little consideration for anything else. Bob Carr
1. There is an excellent illustration of one of the Lea Bridge engines on p3 of London's Industrial Archaeology No.1, ISSN 0142 - 6273. This depicts the 100-inch Cornish beam engine by Harvey of Hayle erected in 1866. See London and the Steam Engine. Part 1: the engines by David Perrett. More generally Civil Engineering Heritage: London and the Thames Valley edited by Denis Smith, Thomas Telford Ltd 2001, ISBN: 9780727728760, is a good reference.
2. In October 2018 a burst 36-inch water main caused serious flooding in the Lea Bridge Road area. The water level was particularly high in Waterworks Lane and the underground car park at Paradise Dock was completely flooded. The flood was serious enough to attract attention in Russia, see: https://sputniknews.com/europe/201810031068557412-east-london-flooding-pipe/
Docwra who carried out repair work were allowed to use the former filter bed site to the west of the Essex filter beds to store materials, and park vehicles. Over time this has become semi-permanent.
Chimneys at Lots Road Generating Station — Chelsea
Lots Road Generating Station was built by the Underground Electrical Railways Company of London (UERL). It was designed to generate power for what are now the District, Piccadilly, Bakerloo and Northern lines and started operating in 1905. It was the largest power station in the world when opened and was upgraded several times during its life to cater for additional lines and extensions. Lots Road soldiered on until 2001 when it was closed as part of the Power Services Private Finance Initiative contract which involved the Underground taking power from the National Grid instead of generating its own (GLIAS Newsletter December 2001).
When opened, Lots Road had four chimneys but two were removed during the modernisation works of the 1960s and 1970s. The remaining two chimneys suffered from the effects of the exhaust gases and the top sections of brickwork needed to be taken down and rebuilt periodically, the last occasion being in 1981. The generating station and its chimneys were originally built to generous proportions that reflected the technology of the early 1900s — steam-powered turbines driven by coal-fired boilers. Coal is an inefficient fuel and the exhaust gases emitted were hot and contained noxious chemicals. For this reason, the chimneys were built very tall to help avert contamination of the surrounding atmosphere at ground level. The hot gases took their toll on the chimney structures and inspections were undertaken from ground level with binoculars, supplemented by manual inspections by steeplejacks. There was a frequent need to repoint the brickwork and, occasionally, to replace the metal cap around the top of the stack which both strengthened the top brickwork and acted as a lightning conductor. The conversion from coal to oil fuel and then gas resulted in combustion at lower temperatures than coal which meant that the chimneys were oversized and too cool to expel the boiler exhaust gas without allowing it to condense inside the chimneys. The freeze/thaw cycle of this condensate in cold weather caused the brickwork to deteriorate and led to a decision to rebuild the upper parts of the chimney structures. The state of the chimneys was identified in a ground level survey in the late 1970s and it was decided that a closer inspection was necessary, followed by repairs.
Steeplejacks climbed the outside of the chimney using traditional laddering access methods. Some immediate repairs were carried out to the exterior of the chimneys consisting of replacement of a few courses of brick and repointing the top few metres. However, it became apparent that the inside brick skin of the chimney was in an even worse state, requiring more major repairs. Investigation revealed that the chimneys were originally built from custom-made radial blocks from an American company called Custodis. A successor company called Hamon is still in business and still specialises in chimneys ('Hamon is the premier industrial chimney company in North America, offering turnkey design, furnishing and erection services for new chimney construction and aftermarket chimney repair, maintenance and demolition'). The Custodis perforated blocks were made from the purest selected clays burned at a temperature of about 2,000°F to render them dense and impervious to moisture. The radial blocks were formed to suit the circular and radial lines of each section of the chimney to enable laying with only thin mortar joints. The blocks were also much larger than common bricks meaning that the number of mortar joints was reduced by about 60 percent. The blocks were moulded with vertical perforations which allowed more thorough firing in the kilns and serving to form a dead air space in the walls of the chimney. This prevented rapid heating and cooling of the walls and causing maximum draught by conserving the heat.
Common bricks are not shaped for building circular chimneys and would require constant 'clipping' to make them fit in the circle. There was a risk that bricklayers would take short cuts by using more mortar than advisable to fill the wedge-shaped vertical joints. London Underground therefore identified the nearest UK equivalent to the Custodis Block — a very hard engineering brick made by the Accrington Brick and Tile Company called the Accrington Nori brick. The company confirmed that they could make radial bricks to the diameter required for Lots Road in the required quantity. It was estimated that around 15 to 20 metres of the top of each chimney would need to be rebuilt but the actual quantity would depend on the condition of the existing brickwork when examined in detail.
The other structural element involved in the works was the metal hoops or tension bands encircling the chimneys. Historically, these tension bands were used to control or prevent further crack propagation as vertical cracks are known to develop in circular chimneys owing to a variety of causes. External tension bands are often retrofitted to brick chimneys to control the degree of vertical crack width present after the initial formation. The bands are usually retrofitted to chimneys starting at the top where the unrestrained edge of the masonry is weakest but they are often in existence over the full height of the structure as at Lots Road. The bands are attached to the chimney exterior and post-tensioned, the tighter the bands, the greater the restraint provided against further cracking.
The rebuilding work was competitively tendered and Bierrum was selected. London Underground specified a safer means of access than the steeplejack ladder method and a hoist was installed in the chimney undergoing reconstruction. This allowed the work to be inspected by the resident engineering staff. Materials were transported from the storage compound on the other side of Chelsea Creek by use of a cable hoist. The final cost of the work was around ₤250,000 with just over 20 metres of each chimney being rebuilt. Some unusual negotiation with a third party was involved as the chimneys formed the site of a radio transmitter cables. These were originally installed in the early 1970s for the start-up of Capital Radio and later used by the BBC for Radio 4. It was therefore necessary to obtain the BBC's agreement to the removal of the cables while the chimney repairs were under way.
The rebuilding was undertaken internally and externally from temporary scaffolding platforms reached by the hoist from ground level inside the chimney. While the scaffold platforms were in position, it was possible to get a panoramic view of the river and Battersea Park from the top of the chimney — as long as you didn't mind climbing a vertical ladder above the top of the chimney, vibrating in the wind! Bob Mitchell
- London's Lost Power Stations and Gasworks: Ben Pedroche
- Converting a colossus: Duncan Hawkins — London's Industrial Archaeology 14 (GLIAS)
Colet Court and Euston Films
In 'London's IA in films and television' (GLIAS Newsletter February 2020) Michael Bussell provides an interesting and stimulating survey of the potential of feature films and old television series as sources for London's industrial archaeology. An example I can suggest (one of many!) is The Galloping Major (Henry Cornelius, 1951) which features location scenes shot at Alexandra Park racecourse during a race meeting. There are views of the Priory Road entrance with the BBC television transmission tower in the background, the grandstand crowded with spectators, the course itself, and distant scenes of the Wood Green gasholders. The racecourse held its last meeting in September 1970 and almost no trace of it now remains. Frame stills can be found in the website www.reelstreets.com which seeks to identify outdoor film locations and to compare them with similar views as they are today.
At the same time I need to correct one statement in the article. Euston Films was not based in Blythe House, Olympia, the former Post Office Savings Bank offices. Blythe House was gradually vacated by National Savings (as the POSB had become) during the 1970s but they retained a presence until September 1978. By that time the Property Services Agency had identified the building for possible museums' use and it was purchased for this purpose by the Department of the Environment in the same year. The three museums involved (the Science Museum, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum) began planning for their occupation almost immediately. It is not therefore the case, as suggested by Michael (GLIAS Newsletter October 2019), that Blythe House had several years of mixed use before being taken over by the museums.
The Hammersmith Road frontage of Colet Court, 22 February 2020
The production base for Euston Films was in fact at Colet Court, a short way along the north side of Hammersmith Road a short way west of the Brook Green turning. Euston Films was founded in March 1971 but did not begin operations until September 1972, when they took a short lease of Colet Court for filming Series 3 of Special Branch. George Taylor, executive producer on many Euston Films productions, later recalled:
As well as having a production base and editing rooms in Redan Place, we had a shooting base at Colet Court, which is the old St Paul's Boys School down at Hammersmith. I think that O Lucky Man [Lindsay Anderson, 1973] had just been made there and it was ideal for us because it had a front building which was administration and dormitory areas, then the rear building which was a series of multi-level classrooms around a huge hall. So we used the hall to build sets in and used the whole building extensively: police station, offices, etc. We took it for a month and we were there for five years. Extraordinary! [Quoted in M Alvarado and J Stewart, Made for Television: Euston Films Limited, BFI Publishing, London, 1985.]
The Redan Place premises were just off Queensway, Bayswater, but it was soon found inconvenient having two sites and within a year all production was moved to Colet Court. As The Sweeney was set in London and with the need to complete filming of each 50-minute episode in two weeks, the outdoor locations used were no more than one hour's driving from Hammersmith. The date that Euston Films moved out of Colet Court has proved difficult to pin down but may have been in 1978 after filming of the fourth (and last) series of The Sweeney was completed. Colet Court was later refurbished and is now high quality office accommodation. A terracotta tablet over an archway reads 'St Paul's Preparatory School 1890'. (The name derives from Dean Colet, the founder in 1509 of St Paul's School, who was described in the Hammersmith Official Guide for c.1956 as 'a zealous and outspoken preacher'.)
To return to Blythe House, the government announced the sale of the building to the private sector in its 2015 Autumn Statement. ₤150 million funding support was allocated for provision of alternative storage facilities. Seven years were allowed for planning and carrying through the decant with the emptied building to be handed over in 2023. In the case of the Science Museum, an enormous new single-storey warehouse is being built at its site at Wroughton, Wiltshire (now renamed the National Collections Centre). As well as accommodating stored objects from all the main Science Museum Group (SMG) locations (London, York, Bradford, Manchester) items from other museums and organizations will also be stored there. To give some idea of its size, the new Wroughton building is about as long as the entire footprint of the Science Museum at South Kensington from the front in Exhibition Road to its far western end. It is also considerably wider. Much better public access to the stored objects is intended, as part of a wider all-embracing review of the entire SMG collections under the title 'One Collection'.
The Science Museum area of Blythe House (as are those of the V&A and the British Museum) is currently a bustle of activity as specially-recruited teams of curators, conservators and photographers undertake a massive re-cataloguing project to ensure that absolutely every object is correctly identified, bar-coded, hazard-checked and photographed before the work of removal begins in 2021. The Wroughton site remains awkward to reach by public transport, and to move around in without a car, but I understand that serious consideration is being given to ways of improving this once the National Collections Centre is open and starts to welcome researchers and others. John Liffen
Unique Queen Victoria Jubilee plaque
In October 2019 Sidney Ray sent the accompanying photograph, which I have held back to include with any further 'sightings'. But as none have been reported, here it is.
It is set in a very small balcony on top of a first floor bay window at 31 Foubert's Place, W1, close to Carnaby Street. The words Diamond Reign date it to 1897. The plaque is part of the whole bay window, which looks more like being added than part of the original build. And then the trail runs cold ... The address is a small mansion block with residences upstairs and shops both sides of the ground floor entrance door. Presumably the building has always been thus. So if the bay window was added by the building's owner, why not similar ones for the two other flat windows at the same level? And if not, who did add it? Browsing a 1918 Kelly's Directory doesn't help. Members' suggestions, please! David Thomas
Memory jog, please
At the pub evening on 15 January a member mentioned evidence of a former gas holder in Barnet. Please can he get in touch to remind me of then location. David Thomas
Email: email@example.com; phone 020 7928 8702, ansaphone on if no-one in
Next issue >>>
© GLIAS, 2020