Notes and news — December 2021
In this issue:
From the chair
- From the chair
- Minutes of the 15th Annual General Meeting
- GLIAS Database
- Mitcham gasholder
- Why all the fuss?
- What's happened to Fussells?
- London Fieldwork Round-up
- Heritage at Risk
- Kentish Town motive power depot
- Recording industrial archaeology and the local High Street
- Proposed GWR hotel near Looe with a line from St Germans to East Looe and links with Metropolitan Country Estates Ltd
- Crossness 1961
- Waterways Journal seeks new contributors
We've survived the AGM with a few technical hitches leaving some thoughts to be considered by the committee. Perhaps we should visit the pub after the AGM!
Other remote and 'hybrid events' have taken place for the AIA, Newcomen Society and the CCS with more or less technical success. I attended some of the sessions for the AIA Conference and AGM which were spread over several weekends. Although they replaced a planned visit to Liverpool there will be a long weekend of visits on 24-26 June. Bookings will open early next year.
With many events taking place excuses are needed to 'make the effort' and the visit of an American friend in September prompted me to visit Kempton Park for the first time in many years. The space in the engine room has been put to good use allowing for the two triple expansion engines, workshop and exhibition space to be accommodated. I was surprised to see that they were displaying the video I made of the last day of steaming which, in addition to the record, shows just how video has progressed. One unfortunate outcome was that he had 14 starting videos on his 'phone before 'Lady Bessie Prescott' managed to get going. The barring engine automatically disengaged each time and, at last, the engine completed a full revolution and continued running.
Hopefully events will keep happening and I look forward to seeing you in person soon. Dan Hayton
Minutes of the 15th Annual General Meeting
Held at The Sekforde and on Zoom at 6.30pm on Wednesday 17 November 2021
Present: Daniel Hayton (Chairman), Andrew Turner (Treasurer), Tim Sidaway (Secretary), Leigh Adam, Martin Adams, Bob Flanaghan, Hazel Ford, Colin Jenkins, Susan Johanknecht, Olwen Perrett, David Perrett, Kate Quinton, Mike Quinton, Christopher Rule, Paul Saulter, Malcolm Tucker, Richard West, Mike Wither, Youla Yates. Proxy instructions were received from a further 19 members. Up to 14 members attended online through Zoom. Total: 52 members
Notice of Meeting The Chairman welcomed the members to the 15th AGM of the Society. The relevant papers had been posted to all members.
1. Apologies for Absence The following apologies had been received: Caroline Dale, David Dawson, Sue Golding, Iain Hopkins, Lesley Pryde-Coles.
The following members had given apologies but provided a vote by proxy: George Arthur, John Barnes, Michael Bean, Charles Bicheno, Alan Bunker, Michael Bussell, Sue Drury, Robert Excell, Edward Handley, Jill Harvey, Marcus Hind, Christopher Hoare, Peter R Jones, Simon Martin, Janet McLeavy, Robert Mitchell, Lynda Smith, Brian Sturt, Dave Taylor, Ann Whitehorn, Stewart J Wild.
2. The Chairman's Report had already been circulated. The Chairman reported that the Society had continued its activities during the period April 2020 to April 2021. Despite limited face to face contact, the Society has kept in touch with members and the general public:
Six Newsletters had been published, as was Journal No. 19. Two online lectures had been given by Giles Eyre and Ursula Jefferies.
The Society was consulted over planning matters and over more general enquiries.
The Chairman thanked the members of the Committee for their continued support.
3. The Treasurer's Report and Statement of Accounts for the year ending March 2021 had already been circulated to members.
The Treasurer noted the following key points:
Mary Mills questioned what had happened to book stock. It was explained that the stock had been physically retained, but its value written off in the accounts.
- Subscriptions were higher than last year because of early payments before the year end.
- The cost of the Newsletter is now reduced because of electronic distribution to many members and a cheaper method of distribution.
- Most book stock has been written off because of age.
- Expenditure from the Calvocoressi Fund was a grant to assist the publication of the House Mill pamphlet.
- Expenditure against SERIAC was refund of booking fees after the conference was cancelled because of Covid-19. It was noted that many delegates had generously donated their fees to SERIAC funds.
In reply to a question from Hazel Ford, the Chairman explained that the Calvocoressi Fund had been established following a generous bequest from past member Paul Calvocoressi. Grants from the fund are available to fund original research and publication; details are given on the GLIAS website.
The Treasurer explained that SERIAC funds are held within the GLIAS bank account but are kept separate in the accounts as they are assets of SERIAC and cannot be spent by GLIAS. Discussion of the future of SERIAC was deferred to AOB.
The Treasurer's Report was accepted nem. con (51)
4. Election of Directors The Chairman said that the Society's Memorandum and Articles of Association required one third of the Directors to resign each year. Accordingly, David Perrett, Tim Sidaway and Youla Yates had resigned but offered themselves for re-election; there were no other candidates.
Martin Adams proposed that David Perrett, Tim Sidaway and Youla Yates be elected as a Directors of GLIAS. The motion was seconded by Christopher Rule and was carried nem. con. (51)
5. Election of Chairman The Chairman passed the chair to the Secretary for this vote.
Mike Quinton proposed that Daniel Hayton be elected as Chairman. The motion was seconded by Paul Saulter and was carried nem. con. (51)
The Chairman resumed the chair
6. Election of Secretary The Chairman said that Tim Sidaway offered himself for re-election.
Andrew Turner proposed that Tim Sidaway be elected as Company Secretary. The motion was seconded by Martin Adams and carried nem. con. (50)
7. Election of Treasurer The Chairman said that Andrew Turner had offered himself for re-election.
Paul Saulter proposed that Andrew Turner be elected as Treasurer. The motion was seconded by Colin Jenkins and carried nem. con. (51)
8. Appointment of President
The Chairman advised that the post of President had been vacant since the death of Denis Smith some years ago. The Board proposed that Professor David Perrett be appointed as President in recognition of his past and continuing service to GLIAS and his current important role as Chairman of the AIA.
Paul Saulter proposed that Professor David Perrett be elected as President of GLIAS. The motion was seconded by Martin Adams and carried nem. con. (51)
9. Appointment of Vice President
The Chairman noted that a vice president needs to be re-appointed each year.
David Perrett proposed that Malcolm Tucker be elected as Vice President of GLIAS. The motion was seconded by Tim Sidaway and carried nem. con. (49)
10. Other Business
Malcolm Tucker asked for an update on SERIAC and whether GLIAS would be prepared to host the next conference, given that 2020 had been cancelled.
David Perrett explained that SERIAC is not an entity but rather a loose grouping of societies who come together to arrange the conference on a rolling basis. There has been no appetite to date from the contributing societies to restart the sequence, and it would be too late to arrange a meeting for Spring 2022. He also advised that universities and other venues are still not opening their facilities for outside conferences. From his role in the AIA he is aware that only the East Midlands group has restarted, and he has had no feedback regarding their success.
Jill Smith suggested that something could be arranged online.
A straw poll showed there was some interest in reviving SERIAC, but no-one volunteered to help with its organisation.
The Chairman reported the sad news that Ruth Verrall passed away last week. She was an active Board member for many years, and with her husband Paul they enthusiastically manned the GLIAS bookstall across the length and breadth of London. The meeting expressed their condolences to Paul and family.
The Chairman declared the meeting closed.
A number of members followed the meeting with informal presentations about their interests.
Members are reminded that the GLIAS database of over 3,000 IA sites in London is available online on the Industrial History Online website (www.industrialhistoryonline.co.uk/yiho). Details on how to access the database can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. A number of London sites can be viewed without the need to log in.
The large gasholder at Croydon TQ 311 659, Factory Lane is being demolished. It is very sad to see this great holder go because it is superficially quite similar to the large holders at East Greenwich which have already gone. People interested in these holders have been able to see the Croydon example and get a good idea of what the East Greenwich giants were like. Here is a photograph of the Croydon holder. Bob Carr
Paraphrasing The Wimbledon Guardian, it reported that:
Firefighters rushed to a gasholder on fire in Mitcham at 8.53am on Wednesday, 21 July, 2021. Black smoke was billowing from the holder and Western Road was cordoned off.
Four fire engines and 25 firefighters from Mitcham, Wimbledon and Tooting stations remained at the site into the early evening. Residents were advised to keep windows and doors shut and a 25m cordon was put in place.
A 'small amount of solid residue' had caught fire and a Fire Brigade spokesman later said that the fire was very likely accidental.
The above refers to the only surviving gasholder guide frame on the site, which is at TQ 273 691. The guide frame is from Mitcham number 4, built in 1906 by Samuel Cutler & Sons. Originally Mitcham gasworks, the sequence of ownership was Mitcham Gas Company, Wandsworth Gas Company and later the SEGB — South Eastern Gas Board.
The Mitcham guide frame is due to be demolished, starting on Monday 8 November this year. Bob Carr
1. gasholder looking north-east; 2. gasholder looking south [January 2019]
Why all the fuss?
When Mr Charles Henry Capper built a chimney at Old Ford pumping station in 1828 it aroused great public interest resulting in articles in the press widely syndicated throughout Britain. Prior to this hardly any newspaper mentioned industrial chimneys unless perhaps there was a major disaster with people killed.
People travelling in and out of London along the Mile End Road would have seen this chimney being built to the north of the road. As the days went by it grew higher and higher, eventually reaching a height of 175 feet.
Industrial Chimneys had been built in London before but they had always been surrounded by scaffolding for the builders. This example had no visible scaffolding and appeared to grow organically as if it was some giant vegetable.
This amazing growth became a talking point and Mr Capper was approached by several people who wanted to visit the chimney and go to the top. Sensibly he issued a warning that only his experienced builders were allowed to do this, it was very dangerous and he could not allow members of the public to ascend.
When the chimney was completed there was a well attended topping-out ceremony with newspaper reporters present and it was this that gave rise to the articles in the national press. A report was also published in Mechanics Magazine 1.
However, shortly afterwards there came a response from Scotland pointing out that building a chimney without scaffolding was nothing particularly remarkable and that it had been done before 2.
Mr Capper came from the Birmingham area and it is unlikely that his 175 feet high London chimney was the very first he had ever built without scaffolding so it is reasonable to assume that the practice also existed in the West Midlands.
In 1835 Sir George Head undertook a tour of the manufacturing districts of England and wrote a very interesting account of his travels 3. He describes the building of a really tall chimney, 276 feet high without scaffolding at Runcorn in 1834. This is probably the best account that we have of building an industrial chimney from the inside — see pp17-18 in the New York edition.
Thus it was that it seems odd that in the 1860s the Metropolitan Board of Works built the chimney of Deptford pumping station using a great deal of scaffolding — see GLIAS Newsletter October 2021.
According to James Smith, in the early 19th century builders putting up an ordinary building in London, and the surrounding counties, always used scaffolding outside the building. In Liverpool buildings were always erected with the scaffolding inside the building and this was also true for an extensive area in that part of the country where it was considered to be a more convenient way of proceeding. The use of scaffolding varied geographically 4.
The practice of building chimneys from the inside without external scaffolding became commonplace in the United States and there is an 1889 description of chimneys being built by this method in Chicago. This comes from a popular newspaper article in the Chicago Herald written in the style of a conversation between people watching a factory chimney being built. The conversation went roughly like this:
BystanderThis is a really fascinating article and it is well worth reading the original in full. We are very grateful to the California Digital Newspaper Collection 5 for making it available online. The article was syndicated and the example reproduced comes from the Coronado Mercury 6.
Have they done away with scaffoldings altogether in chimney building?
The questioner had observed that the masons above him were working from within.
As a rule, yes, when there is room enough, it being less expensive and less dangerous. You will observe that but two masons are at work and one labourer, who attends to the mortar and bricks lifted up by the horse below.
The method of building a chimney described in 1889, from the inside using a horse to haul loads to the top, sounds very similar to that described by Sir George Head at Runcorn in 1834. We do not know if Mr Capper used a horse in London, one is not mentioned. For some chimneys built from the inside the load was raised by men working a winch. In 1836 this method was adopted in Carlisle to build Dixon's chimney at Shaddon Mill, 305 feet high.
The newspaper article ends as follows:
A tall chimney is not a mere pile of masonry heaped up all in a hurry, one brick upon another, but a masterpiece of skill, demanding infinitely more art than the rearing of the equilateral walls of ordinary residences. But for this altitude how much grimier and dirtier and darker and fouler the atmosphere of this great city, which is daily growing into greater Importance as a manufacturing centre.
In many instances touching the rain laden clouds, they soar aloft into undisturbed aerial circulation, to be so diffused as to render innocuous all manner of gases and poisonous exhalations. Bob Carr
1. Mechanics Magazine number 266, 13 September 1828, p104.
2. Mechanics Magazine, 27 September 1828, p144.
3. A home tour through the manufacturing districts of England in the summer of 1835, Sir George Head, London 1836. This was quite a popular book which had more than one printing — the page numbers vary slightly.
4. The Panorama of Science and Arts by James Smith 1830, volume 1, p214. The edition of 1815 also makes the same point.
5. California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside. http://cdnc.ucr.edu
6. Coronado Mercury, Volume II (2), Number 6, 5 October 1889, p3.
What's happened to Fussells?
I had never heard of Fussells tinned milk until I had a student vacation job in Leicester. This was at the British United Shoe Machinery Company in their factory which made shoe puffs.
It was in the 1950s, and I was a progress chaser expediting the production of particular puffs which were needed urgently when fashions in ladies shoes changed. In the office where I was based they always used condensed milk for their tea and insisted that it should be Fussells which was marked unsuitable for babies. They seemed particularly proud that this milk was 'unfit for babies''.
Fussells tinned milk only seemed to be sold in little corner shops in areas of terraced housing. The label on the tin was mostly white, with an image of a butterfly. Making tea with condensed milk was commonplace during and after the war. I must have had it many times; when you are young you accept things.
When I tell some people that the puff factory had a skiving department with numerous skivers they appear amused.
Fussells tinned milk apparently still has quite a following in the North of England, probably centred towards Liverpool. Can anyone tell us more?
Jacob Fussell (1819-1912) was a Quaker from Baltimore, Maryland who supported the abolition of slavery. He was the first ice cream wholesaler in the United States and also marketed milk. Condensed milk was probably used to make ice cream.
You can still buy Fussells Milk in tins but Nestlé have changed the name to give their products 'a better image', it has been renamed 'Carnation light condensed milk'. Bob Carr
London Fieldwork Round-up
The London Fieldwork Round-up 2020 has been published by The London Archaeologist. The following items are of IA interest:
- Rainham Road South Standing Structure recording of May and Baker factory 1915-2011. Records deposited at Essex Record Office.
- Land at Church Manorway, Erith: Watching brief identified two C20 tile kilns, with multiple small flues feeding a larger central flue, leading to a chimney. Two tramways were identified parallel to the kilns.
- Royal Bell, High Street, Bromley built C17. Found possible firing pit or clamp kiln.
- King's Cross Central Station recorded fragmentary railway remains.
- Middlesex Hospital Evaluation within boundary of Strand Union Workhouse (1778-1873).
- Medius House, New Oxford Street Found circular structure interpreted as an icehouse, probable disused end C17/early C18.
- Diorama, Park Street East Standing structure recording identified at least two major phases of building. Building was converted to Baptist Chapel second half of C19.
- Mount Pleasant Identified C17 ditch used as routeway; also part of London's Civil War defences.
- 225 City Road, Hackney Site of Victorian workhouse.
- The Stage, 30 Curtain Road site of Curtain Playhouse; remains preserved in situ. Later site of market gardening C17.
- Carrara Wharf, Fulham Watching brief.
- The Gateway, Wood Lane, N17 Site was located in Cowley Brickworks, within Eynham Brick Fields C19.
- Ashley Road, Tottenham Standing structure recording of building using Dorman Long girders.
- Romford Gasworks Monitoring of work; only truncated remains were observed.
- St George's Hospital, Hornchurch 'Although the old Poor law had been superseded in 1930, this was essentially a brand new workhouse'. Arts and Crafts style architecture.
- Regent's Wharf, N1 Recorded truncated remains of C19-20 warehouses. Building survey of Thorley's Castle Food and Cake Mill Company.
- Royal Hospital Chelsea Recording of stables and Bakehouse,
- 11-13 Thames Street, KT1 Evidence of C18 distiller (Sarah Nicholas) and later market garden.
- Old Station Road, Colliers Wood Group of brick foundations thought to be associated with railway line which ran along what is now Morantun Way.
- Bermondsey Biscuit Factory Standing building recording of former Peek Frean factory.
- 133 Park Street & 105 Sumner Street, SE1 Likely remains of tanner's yard.
- Blackfriars Crown Court SE1 Found fragments of glass working crucibles, pottery kiln furniture and production waste.
- Canada Water Surrey Quays Found two large concrete blocks believed to be associated with moorings at the Dock.
- Hop Exchange SE1 1866.
- 262-272 St James's Road, Bermondsey Removal of petrol tanks of former garage.
- 4-6 and 16-22 Middlesex Street, E1 Site of late C16 playhouse, closed 1616.
- Duke Shore Wharf, E14 Found timbers which could be earlier riverside structure C17-19, when there was a dry dock on the site.
- Thames Water Works Watching brief during upgrade.
- Carrington Street Car Park W1 Two main watercourses identified in Tyburn valley.
Heritage at Risk
Battersea Power Station has been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.
The former coal-fired power station was decommissioned in 1975 and was added to the Historic England list of deteriorating structures in 2008.
Recently it has been revamped with new retail, leisure and dining venues alongside housing and office space.
However, 18 sites in London have added to the register, including the Second World War Bofors gun tower and ancillary building at Ruislip; the former Streatham Hill Theatre, now a bingo hall; the base of the southern Crystal Palace Water Tower; Olympia Convoy's Wharf; and the metal railing to Chingford Mill Pumping Station.
Across London there are 634 entries on the 2021 Heritage at Risk Register.
The transformation of Battersea Power Station will be almost complete in 2022 as it opens to the public following an extensive redevelopment scheme.
The most eyecatching feature will doubtless be the Battersea Power Station Chimney Lift which will take visitors 109m above ground to the top of the north west chimney for 360-degree views of London's skyline from spring 2022. Operated by entertainment company IMG, it will be open to the public as well as for private events, with the experience beginning with an exhibition on the power station's history in turbine hall A.
All four chimneys were demolished and rebuilt about five years ago at a cost of ₤48m because they were judged to be unsafe.
2021 saw the first residents move into their homes in the spring, the Northern Line Extension open in the autumn and retailers and office occupiers start to fit out their spaces ahead of next year's public opening.
The restored and refitted building will provide 253 flats, more than 100 shops, restaurants and cafés and six floors of office space.
Kentish Town motive power depot
In 1868 the Midland Railway's last section of its own line to London, between Bedford and St Pancras, was opened.
To cater for locomotive repairs and servicing, it built an engine shed complex at Kentish Town complete with a repair shop. The main structures were two rectangular round houses with a central turntable and stabling lines radiating outwards. This layout enabled any engine to be moved without having to shunt any other engines; an operationally flexible arrangement compared with the straight shed.
The facilities at Kentish Town were supplemented by a shed at Bedford and by two further sheds at St Albans and Hendon. An additional shed at Northampton was built between 1871 and 1873. These four consisted of two road straight sheds for four to six engines. All these have now been demolished with the exception of Northampton which is Grade II listed. Northampton MR shed has now been restored and converted for the use of the Students Union as part of the Riverside complex of Northampton University.
To serve the ever-growing goods traffic centred on the Brent Group of marshalling yards a further locomotive depot was opened at Child's Hill in 1882, renamed Cricklewood in 1903, to replace Hendon. The new depot, situated at the junction of the Midland and South Western Junction Railway and the Midland Main Line, supplied the motive power for the cross-London freight traffic.
Kentish Town is sited adjacent to the series of lines connecting the Midland Railway Main Line with the orbital route around North London of the Hampstead Junction Railway and the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction. This complex of lines from the THJR eventually consisted of two south-facing junctions with the Midland and one north-facing opened between 1870 and 1900. The two south-facing connection lines were closed in 1964 for the high level and 1981 for the low level line.
A permanent connection between the orbital routes at Gospel Oak was not made until the start of the Second World War in 1939. Operational logic finally overcame narrow self interest of the operator of the Hampstead Junction Railway.
The 1900 low level line between Engine Shed Junction and Mortimer Street Junction had a great impact on the buildings of Kentish Town Loco. To make space for the new line No1 Shed, dating from 1868, had to be demolished together with one corner of No2 Shed. The remaining 1868 shed was renumbered No1 and the two 1900-built sheds became 2 and 3. After the 1900 rebuilding the only major change was the replacement of the coaling stage with a mechanical coal hopper and the closure of the repair shop.
It was not until the 1950s under British Railway management that a modernisation programme was carried out. This involved a radical rebuild of the 1868 and the refurbishment of Nos 2 and 3 sheds. All this work was undertaken with the servicing of steam engines in mind. The introduction of diesel traction from 1959 led to the closure of Kentish Town Loco in 1963, not long after the refurbishment was completed.
After closure the buildings and yard were sold to Murphy's, the civil engineering contractors. Under Murphy's ownership the yard and sheds were cleared of all rails and railway features. This has left little but the three roundhouses which have been treated sympathetically while being adapted to their new use.
Internally the BR rebuild of No1 Shed mirrored the original structure. It is possible that some of the original cast-iron beams and supports have survived. Externally the former ancillary buildings can be traced with their outline imprinted on the walls. The one remaining MR 1868 feature is the water tank which was at one time converted to be used as a vehicle wash.
No2 Shed is in an almost complete state of preservation so far as the roof and external walls are concerned. Internally the turntable pit and inspection pits between the rails have been concreted over. To see the contractors vehicles grouped around the central area like the steam locos of former years is an endorsement of the original layout for accessibility.
No3 Shed is the most changed and has been completely rebuilt as office and reception space on two floors. The upper floor consists of a mezzanine area built into the roof space. The remaining original feature visible is the lattice work roof girders which serve as a reminder of the origins of the buildings.
The future of the site is in doubt and a scheme for housing development was proposed in 2019. I do not know if any of the original building would have survived or what progress has been made with the development plans. John Downing
Recording industrial archaeology and the local High Street
To follow on from my previous photo essay on the ephemeral signs of past industrial activities in the local High Street (GLIAS Newsletter October 2021), a more solid presence was in the form of various shop fronts and window displays crammed with products.
Most such convenient small shops and craft industries have been replaced by international chains and franchises. Technology and mass production overseas has superseded the former 'back of shop' workplaces.
Walking down the High Street is now a totally different visual experience and vivid exposure to consumer products. While there will be no reversion to the local craft forms of industry as illustrated, these photos are a timely reminder of what was commonplace. The photos cover the last 50 years and were taken in High Streets or equivalents across Greater London. Sidney Ray (All photos by the author)
W Flint, Westminster ironmonger; Wandsworth beer delivery
Hugh Bros ironmonger, Walworth; Donovan Bros bag shop, Spitalfields
A Butler & Sons cutlers, Soho; Purvis & Sons colourists, Soho
Quality Chop House, Mount Pleasant; Ilford Films pharmacist, Islington
Jays jewellers, Islington; A S Hall forage shop, Islington
Robert Dyas drysalters, Islington; Seymore surgical stores, Holborn
A Butler & Sons plumbers, Holborn; Hardy signwriter, Hackney
Laurence & Laurence Ltd watchmakers, Fitzrovia; J Evans dairy, Fitzrovia
Leonard T Keane scrap merchants, Finsbury; Tomac Book Centre, Euston
Express Dairy Co, Edgware; Whybrow herbalist, East End
The Globe cafe, Dalston; H Allan & Son saw works, Clerkenwell
L S Wildey & Son, 1 Polygon Building, Clapham. Oil shop; Sanitary steam laundry, Brixton
Proposed GWR hotel near Looe with a line from St Germans to East Looe and links with Metropolitan Country Estates Ltd
The June 2021 Newsletter had the above as an enquiry from Mr Alec Kendall. He has now completed a detailed paper recording the progress and eventual failure of the combined railway and hotel scheme (including a golf course and private beach access) during the 1930s, which also involved intended housing development. In 1936 the GWR set up a separate company, Western Enterprises Ltd (WEL), listing non-railway other activities which it was, or might be, involved in, including, for example, aerodromes and housing development — such as that proposed near Looe, for which land was purchased.
Mr Kendall has established that by 1939 only two of the new housing plots on the WEL Kellow Estate near Looe had attracted buyers and there was little further progress in the immediate post-war years. At railway nationalisation in 1948 the 1,000 acres of WEL land east of Looe became part of the British Transport Commission estate. That in turn sold what it could, then, to dispose of the remainder, in 1952 turned to an organisation more adept at such activities, The Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Ltd (MRCEL). They were used, effectively, as agents. WEL itself was formally wound up in 1954.
But what was MRCEL? Acts for railways usually allowed purchase of land needed for the railway, and it was quite usual to find complete fields, etc had to be purchased, resulting in pockets of land remaining once a railway had been built. But the Metropolitan Railway Company was allowed to purchase land which had no railway use, and could be developed for housing which it could then advertise and thus indirectly increase its customer base.
Here I expand a bit on Mr Kendall's work, although only superficially. In 1887 the Metropolitan Railway set up its Metropolitan Surplus Lands Committee to deal with its 'surplus lands'. In turn in 1919 this formed the basis of MRCEL, a separate company, retaining strong links to the Metropolitan Railway. This really took off; in 1920 it was simultaneously advertising Kingsbury Garden Village; Chalk Hill Estate, Wembley Park; and Cedars Estate, Rickmansworth. Even before the catching strap-line 'Metroland' was used. And so the net was expanded, including Amersham. MRCEL was not included when the London Transport Passenger Board was formed in 1933, remaining a separate company. Over time it used its freedom to buy or develop land nowhere near London. MR Kendall mentions places where they had properties — East Anglia, East and South Yorkshire, the Midlands, Hampshire, Cheshire and Essex. An internet 'credit report' says the company, having been re-formed in 1998, was dissolved in 2003.
Mr Kendall has deposited reference copies of his paper 'The Great Western Railway's Last Resort. The story of the Looe and St Germans Branch line, 1935-1948' paper at Kresen Kernow, Redruth (Cornwall's archives); the Royal Institution of Cornwall library; Liskeard and Looe Libraries; The Box, Plymouth; STEAM at Swindon; Wiltshire and Swindon Archives at Chippenham; the GWT at Didcot; and the ICE. It is an absorbing read. David Thomas
From 1957-62 I did a Student Apprenticeship with English Electric, Rugby, manufacturers of steam turbines and large slow revving static diesel engines for power generation.
In the spring and early summer of 1961 I was sent down to the 'Southern Outfall Works' (Crossness) where the company was in the preliminary stage of installing diesel engines and associated equipment in the new power house. (In fact the power house was then an empty building. The engines would not have appeared until the following year).
The engines were to be 'dual fuel' in that they would start up on oil and then run on methane gas.
During my time there I took a number of photos on three films. It must be appreciated that these are my recollections after 60 years.
Notes on film 1
When I arrived at the site the E.E. team were in the process of refurbishing the two site huts (Mess room and Office). Photo (4A) shows them (L-R) Bob Morris (from Shropshire), ?, Eric Hill (E.E. Site Engineer, from Rugby), and Geoff ? (from Rugby). They were members of the 'Outside Dept', responsible for the installation, servicing and maintenance of the company's products. As in Bob's case they did not necessarily live in Rugby as they were assigned to a job (possibly for several years) where they lodged locally and only went home about one weekend in four. A senior engineer from Rugby visited the site about fortnightly to discuss the job and to liaise with the factory. Photo (7A) includes the 'student apprentice'.
4A, 7A, 8A, 9A
Photos (8A and 9A) show the inside of the Power House with the bases for the 10 engines and generators. Behind the 'engines' was a services bay in which would be installed the fuel and coolant tanks etc on frameworks. Below the service bay there was a basement. These photos were taken from the upper walkway. In (8A and 9A) note the two engineers working at floor level and part of an E.E. sign. The building seen through the open door is probably a site hut.
Photo (33) shows the Ford works. Photo (34) is looking east towards Belvedere Power Station and a large site office building can be seen behind the pole. These photos were probably taken from a spot near the Power House.
32, 33, 34
The first job was to prepare the location points on each side of each engine on which the crankcase would stand. These points were about 10" x 5". The soft surface of the concrete floor had to be removed by tapping with hammer and chisel, and then the area had to be made flat and level (no rocking) and with about 80% bedding to receive a metal plate on which the crankcase could be placed. The location points would have been shimmed as required to ensure the crankcase was level.
This of course was a filthy dusty task, carried out kneeling. H&S amounted to a handkerchief tied round the face and spectacles or any form of goggles if available. I recall that a grinder was acquired at one stage for preparatory work.
Other photos looking across the site and the river show the installation of the treatment tanks. There was a large industrial cement mixer on site and the only facilities I remember were a toilet block and a canteen that served meat pies and chips and little else. I was not made aware of a medical block, nor was I briefed on emergency procedures.
Notes on film 2
Photo (3A) shows the student apprentice at leisure! Leisure was rare as being away from home the team were working almost a seven day week. This suited me (as it did most apprentices) as the overtime coupled with the living allowance enabled considerable savings to be made over a few months!
3A, 5, 6, 7
Photo (5) shows the student apprentice erecting framework in the services bay. Photos (6 and 7) are of Ernie and Bob Morris on the same task. 'Ernie' was a local welder-fitter taken on as a temporary employee. Note that my hat was the only H&S equipment in the photos, and probably on site!
Photo (8) looks across the river from near the riverbank.
8, 32, 33
Photo (32) shows the arrival of the overhead gantry crane from 'Vaughans of Manchester'. A mobile crane 'borrowed from the site' is alongside. Note the careful positioning of the vehicles between the holes in the floor. It was E.E. responsibility to provide the labour to erect the crane under the guidance of 'Charlie', an installation engineer from Vaughans.
In photo (33) part of the overhead crane is being lifted off the transporter and in (34) Charlie (L) and Bob Morris are riding on it.
Notes on film 3
This film picks up the crane installation. Photo (1A) shows the first bridge girder being lifted up to the upper walkway and the end trucks placed on the runway rails on which the crane would run along the building. Bob Morris (?) can be seen leaning on the rail. Note that a different site mobile crane has been used. Again note the lack of H&S.
1A, 2, 3, 18A
Photo (2) shows the second bridge girder (on the left) having been raised and is being fitted to the previous (on the right).
This operation almost cost me my life. I had been standing on the first bridge girder (no safety harness) to guide the raising and positioning of the second. The crane 'jerked' the part being raised such that it swung and struck the first part knocking me off balance. I immediately dropped flat onto the part I was standing on and hugged it with arms and legs, terrified. It took Charlie some time to get me back to the walkway and safety!
Photo (3) shows the trolley frame being raised, this would run along the top of the crane and across the building.
Photo (18A) is taken in the service bay showing the framework and the tanks etc.
One morning I saw that a mobile crane had fallen over following strong winds and I recall photographing the scene, photo (34A). The windows of the building on the right appear similar to those in the power house. The apparent height of the building and the location by the tank suggest that it is not the power house (from studying 'google earth').
34A, 35, 36, 36A
Photos (35 and 36) I have no recollection of taking! It will have been at the old site. (35) is of the Centrifugal Pump House and (36) of the Crossley engines installed in 1948. I recall Bob Morris obtaining help from the 'leading hand' at the workshop one day and I may have been with him when we took these photos. The student apprentice is showing his delight in having found an engine!
I distinctly recall us looking in on the Beam Engine House one Sunday afternoon to find two 'old boys' looking after the site and despondent at the thought of it being demolished. Seeing the decaying Victorian ironwork I was utterly dismayed and it was this incident that created my interest in Crossness and industrial archaeology. It would be autumn 2019 before I saw Crossness again with a party from Warwickshire Industrial Archaeology Society.
Photo (36A) is of the new site.
If the '1960s' Power House still exists (and if so it is that which houses 6 MAN standby diesels) then it must be that seen on google earth with a pale blue roof in the centre of the site approximately 80m x 25m and lying roughly E-W.
I would like to know if there are any photos of the finished 1960s site and especially of the Power House showing the E.E. diesels.
I wanted to return to Crossness in 1962 but was sent to another sewage works under construction near Edmonton, this was updating an earlier works. George Sayell
Waterways Journal seeks new contributors
Waterways Journal, which has provided an outlet for original waterways history research since 1999, has a new publisher and is seeking new contributors. It is now being published by the Canal & River Trust's Waterways Archive, based at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port.
For further information contact Waterways Journal editor, Chris Griffiths. Tel: 07802 755453. Email: email@example.com
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