Wednesday 29 August 2012

Underground stuff and above ground stuff

The August 2012 edition of Subterranea has just come through the door - and it must be said that Nick Catford is doing a really great job as editor - piles and piles of interesting articles about underground stuff from here to China - but however - there are a couple of mini items about here - Greenwich and Woolwich.

"Massive Cold War era foundations (but no bunker) at Woolwich

This is an item about the demolition of Peggy Middleton House.

"an apparently unremarkable four storey civic building .... built in the 1960s, proved to have astonishingly massive heavily reinforced concrete foundations. But the former students' hall of residence" (that was next door, up the hill a bit) "did not conceal a secret bunker, as might have been suspected, It was a case of 'overbuild' to withstand extremely heavy loads, 'designed at the height of the Cold War paranoia' ".

"The demolition of this structure, to make way for the new Woolwich Central residential and retail development, called for the use of some of the world's most powerful demolition and excavation equipment. Excavators with capacities of 45 to 75 tonnes were used. With structural spans of up to 16 or 17 metres (rather than the six metres common at the time), the building called for an astonishingly massive foundation slab, and support columns up to one metre square.
(their source was New Civil Engineer September 2011)
And also ...................

"Yet another tunnel under the Thames, Silvertown, east London?

Yet another road tunnel under the river is now actively being proposed. A new Silvertown road tunnel, close to the two existing Blackwall tunnels, could give extra traffic capacity. This would run from Greenwich to Silvertown. With a capacity of 6,000 vehicles per hour such a tunnel would relieve pressure on the Blackwall and Rotherhithe road tunnels.

And also ................

"The Silvertown railway tunnel to have a new lease of life as a part of Crossrail, east London

A disused railway tunnel dating from 1878 at Silvertown, east London, is to be brought back into railway use. Two single-track tunnels in the central part of the abandoned tunnel are to be replaced by a concrete box double-track tunnel for the Crossrail branch to Woolwich Arsenal and Abbey Wood.

Moving on to Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter who report
"Granada Cinema/Gala Bingo Hall, Grade Il* listed, in Powis Street. They report that the building has been bought by the Christ Faith Tabernacle (CFT Cathedral) who await a decision on their planning application to change its use to a place of worship. They propose removing some furniture but no major alterations are planned. CFT have already spent £6m+ on the building. Various activities are planned, open to the public. For the duration of the Olympics, the building is open to the public, Mondays-Fridays, 12noon - 4.00pm: just walk in and someone will show you round.

and they say - re. the Olympics

The Shooting events, as heard from Shooters Hill, brought back memories of the small arms proof firing at the Arsenal in 1940s & 50s.

and TV reviews

Royal Greenwich on ITV - John Sergeant hosted a show on 27th July - entertaining but with minimal, and poor, history. Clive Aslet, who has written an unreliable history of Greenwich, was interviewed, but added little. Woolwich did get a look in, but the view of the RA Barracks through the shooting screen was less than impressive. A stall holder in Woolwich Market was featured

(and hooray to that!!  - they ignored what I told their researcher about 'Greenwich, the home of Communications) 

Sad News. Paul


I am not sure that it is even appropriate to put this dreadful news here. News has reached us from several sources of the death of Paul Calvocoressi.  Many people in Greenwich will have known him as the English Heritage Officer who covered Greenwich - and worked with him on conservation and listing issues.
Paul was also enthusiastic and knowledgable on industrial history - always supported Greenwich Industrial History Society, joined at the very start and came to talk to us on several occasions (he always said he would tell us 'the truth about the Arsenal' when he retired - but, sadly, never did).   Outside of Greenwich he attended many industrial history events and was a regular at conferences.  Personally I knew him when I worked on regeneration issues in Docklands - we commissioned a booklet from him 'Conservation in Docklands' - and I remember only too well at national events being part of a small group of east London industrial historians trying to get through to provincials the true horror of destruction of London's industry with no sign of any recording - they never did listen, but Paul was a great advocate and the only only one of us they really took seriously. 
Paul's father was Peter Calvocoressi who died - ironically - only a couple of years ago - and who had had an amazing career in, among many other things, in publishing and at Bletchley Park. He had a whole page obituary in the Guardian - and I hope someone is writing something similar for Paul.
He was a lovely man, who I can think of nothing bad to say about.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

London Bridge Station roof

Industrial Archaeology News is published quarterly as the newsletter of the Association for Industrial Archaeology.
Inevitably, as all us London industrial historians, know - London gets a bit left out in most of such circles. Few people outside of the lower Thames or the Lea Valley actually believe there ever was any industry in London. 
The current issue however has an article, by Dr. Robert Carr, on the situation at London Bridge Station -  there is always a time delay in such things getting written and into print, so perhaps someone will  update us on the situation.

Robert Carr says@

London Bridge railway station is one of the oldest in the world, the first part opening in 1836. Following numerous stages of rebuilding the station now occupies a large area on two levels immediately south-east of London Bridge. At least the fourth-busiest rail terminal in London, it is to be completely rebuilt as part of a masterplan.           
Currently the planned rebuilding will involve the  demolition of the large LBSCR (London Brighton and South Coast Railway) train shed covering  platforms 9 -16 to the southeast of the site. Built during 1864 - 67, the engineer for this Brighton terminus was F D Banister (1823-1897) with C H Driver (1832-1900) as architect. Although listed grade 11, English Heritage and the Victorian Society have decided not to oppose demolition.  

It is intended to integrate London Bridge as a whole so that at long last it will serve as a single station rather than being two awkward parts as now. As well as the LBSCR terminus there are the  former South Eastern Railway through platforms  for services from Charing Cross, Waterloo East,  Blackfriars and Cannon Street to south east  England. These three island platforms are to the north of the train shed at a higher level and very intensely used. The through platforms have just simple canopies of recent date to keep the rain off. The spacious and quieter Brighton terminus with an overall roof is to the south. As at St Pancras the train shed, and the rest of the station, is elevated well above the original ground level on brick vaults. It is said that the 1860s roof of the LBSCR terminus must go as the new tracks to be laid through it have to run at a different angle - not along the old alignment. At Victoria station for example, the old South Eastern Railway train shed did not impede the present day operation of the station and there it has been possible to retain it.  
Over the years a considerable amount of repair and renewal has taken place at London Bridge as would be expected for a railway station of this age. At one time the Brighton station had 10-11 platforms; there now are eight. Part of the LBSCR train shed roof to the east was rebuilt
following World War 2 bomb damage. The 1860s part of this roof which is listed grade II is essentially at the west end. This is considered to be structurally weak as there are insufficient wrought-iron tie rods and the roof presently functions as an arch rather than a truss. The least altered part of the original roof is at the widest part of the station where as part of the planned redevelopment it is essential to insert escalators.

 Banister's design for the London Bridge  LBSCR train shed roof was based on a 'nave and  aisles' plan, with a large barrelled roof running  longitudinally and two aisles, originally flat  roofed, flanking this central structure. The nave was based on a 'crescent roof' design and is the last of its kind in London. There were once similar roofs at Cannon Street, Blackfriars, Charing Cross, Birmingham New Street and Liverpool Lime Street. The roof in Liverpool is the only other example to survive. The train shed at London Bridge Station is of national importance.  
However since there is no officially  recognised opposition or even coordinated  protest the removal of this great Victorian train  shed now seems inevitable and the question  arises as to whether it might be relocated.  Rail world at Peterborough have put in an offer but could railway enthusiasts raise the huge sum of money that would be needed? It is unlikely. In any case could they maintain it subsequently, and isn’t a train shed at least eight platforms wide too big for Peterborough anyway? A more sensible suggestion is that it might be re-erected as a grand market hall, perhaps as part of some big urban development. Following closure of the 1850s Les Halles market in central Paris about forty years ago, some of the massive iron and glass building by Victor Baltard was moved to Nugent-sur-Marne. Have any readers visited Nogent recently and is the Pavilion Baltard there a success?  

There is also the issue of the South Eastern Railway offices. Formerly in competition, the South Eastern Railway (SER) and the London Chatham and Dover Railway (LC&DR) came to a mutual agreement at the end of the nineteenth century and formed a Joint Management Committee in January 1899. To avoid the financial cost and risks of a formal merger the two companies remained officially separate until the Grouping in 1923, with the receipts split 59% to SER and 41 % to LC&DR.  Joint offices were built at 64 - 84 Tooley Street close to London Bridge station to the northeast. The building work occupied 1897- 1900 and the architect is believed to have been Charles Barry junior (1823-1900). If so, this is his only surviving commercial building, a distinctive polychrome edifice, listed locally, still in use and in good condition. The exterior has recently been  refurbished. These offices are likely to be demolished as part of the London Bridge redevelopment and this IS a matter of contention.  
One reason for the demolition is that a brick building close to the road is seen as a potential danger should a terrorist bomb be detonated in a road vehicle parked at the kerbside. It is recommended that for small cars there should be a clear distance of 30 metres from the kerb to the nearest building.  

A number of documents articulate the importance of security in design, including the RIBA Guidance on Designing for Counterterrorism (2010) and the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure's, Integrated Security, a     Public Realm Design Guide for Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (2010). An outcome is the following  statement:-  'The identification and mitigation of terrorist  threats is not an exact science but one which  requires all those involved in the planning  process to make reasonable efforts to manage  risk. We believe the reduction in blast stand-off which would necessarily result from the retention of 64-84 Tooley Street would result in a materially different environment, such that the public benefit of a secure station would not be delivered to a similar extent through an alternative design proposal. ‘Dr lan Dungavell, Director of the Victorian Society, said that 'to knock this attractive historic building down to create a wider pavement is unnecessary and wasteful.'

 It was reported in February that the Mayor of London Mr Boris Johnson told local activists he would like to prevent the demolition of the South Eastern Railway office building in Tooley Street.  We await developments.

Robert Carr
Industrial Archaeology News  162 Autumn 2012

More info - should you want to find out more about AIA and perhaps teach them more about London industry  - they are anxious to gain more members and to spread the news of their work.

Information about the News and the Annual Review from Liaison Officer, AIA Liaison Office, The Ironbridge Institute, Ironbridge Gorge Museum, Coalbrookedale, Telford TF8 7DX  01325 359846

Hope that's all ok

Thursday 16 August 2012

Commuting from South East London - GLIAS Newsletter

The latest GLIAS newsletter has arrived - and contains the following article about our local train services.

Do people think this is true?? Answers in our comments column please.


The weekday peak periods at London railway termini are bad, but are those at London Bridge the worst of all?  This congested station on a relatively narrow site is shortly to be dramatically rebuilt in an effort to improve the  situation (GLlAS Newsletter 257, p7) and a new line is already under construction to the southwest of the  station.

Evidence suggests that on trains to and from South East London travelling has generally been bad for a long time. R W Kidner on page 24 of his book 'The Southern Railway' (1958) mentions newspaper headlines such as 'appalling scenes at Charing Cross' and 'Girls crushed at Waterloo'. However, it is not clear if the incident at Waterloo was at Waterloo East or the main line terminus. Mention of fights breaking out at London Bridge  among frustrated passengers can be found on the internet, eg during hot weather in June last year and a 25-year- old woman, an architect from Lewisham, was mugged last September with little reaction from surrounding  passengers (Evening Standard 14 March 2012, p22).

Southern Region's Kentish lines were the most densely occupied in the world; see LTC Rolt, Red for Danger  (Pan 1966) page 275. It was in South East London that the Bullied 'double-deck' trains were introduced in aattempt to pack more people onto a train of given length. These 4 - DD units held 122 more passengers than a  standard four-car train and first appeared from Lancing Works at the end of 1949. They ran from Charing Cross  to Dartford, and sometimes on to Gravesend and elsewhere. Accounts from people who commuted on theses  trains suggest that the experience was unpleasant and they were withdrawn on 1 st October 1971. Platforms were  lengthened and standard 10 car trains used instead. Two of the 4 - DD coaches have been preserved.

Ladies-only compartments were numerous on these lines c.1979. From memory there was something like one or more in each 4 or 5 car emu. While one did occasionally see 'ladies only' compartments at St Pancras and Paddington there seemed to be far more of these on trains running between London Bridge and Dartford. Is this subjective memory at all correct? If there were more than usual there was almost certainly a good reason. Can any reader explain what was going on?
Bob Carr

(and thanks to GLIAS and hope neither they nor Bob will object to this - I promise to send any comments you append below on to them - and personally I don't remember any Ladies Only compartments)