Tuesday, 31 March 2015

St Mary's Flats and the - er - Autostacker

following is a scan and transcript of a booklet produced by Woolwich Council in 1961 about their new flats and new parking system  - and, look, this is a scheme produced by a supremely confident Labour Metropolitan Borough. Woolwich had done this development themselves - in other boroughs it would have been undertaken by the London County Council - but Woolwich had special consent to do it themselves.  We all know now about the wretched Autostacker - but that shouldn't be a reason to denigrate the St.Mary's scheme as a whole. We forget that this was a clearance scheme of a terrible terrible slum area - designed to propel Woolwich into the modern world.  They were using the latest and most fashionable architects - and the flats were noted by Pevsner - and they were doing it all inhouse.

Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich
Visit of Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret and Mr. Antony Armstrong-Jones
On the Occasion of the Completion of The St.Mary's Tower Flats -  The Coffee House and Lounge at St. Mary's Church - The Council's Multi-Storey Garage
Thursday, 11th May, 1961

WOOLWICH is the second largest in area of the Metropolitan Boroughs and holds a unique position as far as housing is concerned. Apart from the London County Council it is, and always has been, the foremost housing authority in London. As an out- skirting south-eastern London Borough however, suffering severe war damage, it still has a serious housing problem.

Woolwich has always believed in the construction of well-appointed housing estates with suitable amenities in the way of wide roads, open spaces and community centres. Until the last few years the Woolwich Council has always avoided the construction of tall blocks of fiats on its estates, but the scarcity of land has necessitated their erection and these tower flats have been built accordingly.
The St. Mary's Area of the Borough has been the subject of a large comprehensive scheme of redevelopment during the last five years. Before the last war the area comprised small un- desirable dwellings, narrow, badly arranged streets and few, if any amenities. Suffering from heavy bombing as a result of its proximity to the Royal Arsenal, the area became semi-derelict and an eyesore.  The area is now being transformed by the Woolwich Council into a pleasant, well laid-out neighbourhood with open spaces, shopping centres and other amenities. The new buildings have been appreciated greatly by the former residents of the area and these new tower fiats, with a commanding view over the River Thames, are a further stage in the scheme. The area is one of eight areas in London included in the development plan, and the only one which is being carried out by a Metropolitan Borough Council. As approved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, the area comprised approximately 62 areas in which were over 1,200 families in some 1,100 dwellings, the majority of which were old and in need of replacement.

Rehousing of families from some of the most unfit dwellings commenced in January, 1952, and up to the present, 718 families have been rehoused from the area. Some 600 properties have been demolished, and a further 180 acquired and held pending demolition as and when the families in occupation are rehoused.  To date, 485 new dwellings have been erected, all by the Borough Council's direct labour organisation, and a further 89 are now under construction. A parade of shops and a number of garages also have been provided.  The present scheme in Frances Street and Samuel Street has been designed by Messrs. Norman & Dawbarn, is being constructed by Wates Ltd. and the Quantity Surveyors are Messrs. Falkner & Partners. The scheme comprises 279 dwellings, together with two shops, and garages, made up as follows :-

Four 14 storey blocks containing 159 Two Bedroom Flats 60 One Bedroom Flats
Five 4 storey blocks containing 37 Three Bedroom Maisonettes 13 Bed-sitter Flats

One 2 storey block containing 8 Bed-sitter Flats 1 Three Bedroom Maisonette

Doctor's House and Surgery
The fourteen-storey flats are equipped with electric under-floor heating to give background space heating, this being supplemented with electric panel fires in the living rooms. Each Tower block will have two lifts, and communal laundries are provided in the basements of two blocks which will serve all dwellings in the scheme. The smaller blocks are equipped with solid fuel appliances in the living rooms. Water heating is by balanced flue gas multipoint heaters. Building operations commenced in July, 1959, and the scheme is expected to be completed early in 1962. Flats have been furnished by the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society and Cuff's Ltd.

The redevelopment in the St. Mary's Area is only a part of the Borough Council's housing activities. Since the war some 3,460 permanent homes have been built in other parts of the Borough, both for general housing purposes and for smaller slum clearance areas. In addition, 986 emergency factory made bungalows were provided, although a number of these have now been removed to make available land for permanent development.  Schemes are in progress on four other sites, where a total of 337 dwellings are under construction by the Council's direct labour organisation.

A further large development area in central Plumstead-the Glyndon Area-has also been undertaken by the Council and 160 families have been rehoused, the unfit vacated dwellings now being in process of demolition. The first stage of the redevelopment, comprising 252 dwellings, is expected to commence later in 1961. This post-war development, added to the extensive housing programmes of the inter-war years, has brought the total number of dwellings owned and controlled by the Council to over 10,000.

Notwithstanding its proud record of achievement in housing, the Woolwich Council will continue to provide homes for the many citizens who still need them. Whilst proceeding with slum clearance and redevelopment, the Council will do everything possible to press on with the provision of housing accommodation to satisfy the ever present demand.

Woolwich is the first outlying metropolitan borough to introduce a parking meter scheme. Unlike the few central boroughs that already have these schemes, the Woolwich Council felt that in the interests of the displaced motorists the provision of adequate off-street parking was an inherent feature of the proposal.  The multi-storey garage, therefore, with other off-street parking places, has been timed to open in conjunction with the commencement of the parking meter scheme. The garage has been constructed for the Council by Auto-Stackers Ltd. and will be operated in conjunction with Shell Mex and B.P. Ltd. and Dagenham Motors Ltd. It is the first fully automatic garage of its kind to be built in this country for ownership by a local authority. The garage will accommodate 256 cars.

The Woolwich AUTOSTACKER, or multi-storey garage, represents the successful development of an idea conceived by its inventor, Colonel J. A. Stirling, and initially put into practice in the form of a working Meccano model. Recognising the ever increasing demand for improved parking facilities and the general lack of suitable sites, Colonel Stirling was prompted to design a method of garaging cars that would permit the maximum utilisation of space available for off-street parking. The AUTOSTACKER automatic principle of parking cars achieves the aim of providing high density parking for a given volume and also permits rapid parking and withdrawal of vehicles. Apart from the space occupied by the lift entry and exit bays, the ground floor of the garage is completely free for traffic circulation, or alternatively can be used for showrooms, servicing purposes, stores, and a reservoir area or for additional garaging.  Each of the eight floors of the Woolwich garage will accommodate 32 cars, or a total of 256 vehicles. Four lifts are employed, each of which are handling a section of the garage containing 64 car spaces or 8 spaces per floor. The time cycle for parking or withdrawal can be calculated at an average of 50 seconds per lift. The average overall entry or withdrawal rate is accordingly 4 cars every 50 seconds. On this basis it should be possible to clear a fully occupied Garage of this type in just over 53 minutes.  Each floor is divided into three equal galleries running the length of the building. The two outer galleries are each divided into 16 parking spaces 17 ft. 6 ins. long by 6 ft. 8 ins. wide. The central gallery contains the four lifts, one at each end and two in the centre, and also the rails for the powered transporters.

When the motorist arrives at the garage he leaves his car locked up and with the brake on in one of the entrances where it will rest on a conveyor. He then proceeds to the control kiosk. An attendant, who is in charge of a control panel bearing 256 keys, each of which corresponds to a parking bay, will then turn one of these keys and give it to the motorist as a form of receipt for his vehicle. The actual turning of the key in the control panel starts up the automatic process of parking and the reverse sequence applies for the withdrawal of vehicles. In starting up the parking cycle, the conveyor in the entrance bay moves the car on to a transporter which in turn rests on one of the lifts. This transporter also carries two conveyor belts. The lift then rises to the pre-selected floor, complete with the transporter and car. When it reaches the floor level, the transporter moves off the lift on to rails located on either side of the transverse gallery which extends the whole length of the building. When it arrives adjacent to the pre-selected parking bay, it stops and by starting up its conveyor belts, discharges the car forward into the bay where a further short run of conveyors positively completes the operation. Other advantages include complete security, elimination of exhaust fumes, a reduction in the fire risk and an absolute minimum requirement in respect of labour. The principle of operation is straightforward and involves the adoption of recognised electrical and mechanical practices that have been accepted in industry for a long time. It is the manner in which these practices have been applied rather than the introduction of an untried mechanical process, that has made this new form of automatic parking possible.

Beresford service station, fitted with the latest sales and servicing equipment, is on the ground floor of the Auto-Stacker building. here is easy access to the spacious forecourt, where two petrol pump islands are situated. The complete range of Shell motor spirits is available on both islands. Cantilever lighting is installed over the pumps for night service. A separate pump supplies derv for diesel-engined commercial vehicles. A petroiler is also available for fuelling two-stroke machines.

Servicing is carried out in the well-equipped bays on the ground level of the stacker. Two lubrication bays, fitted with modern equipment, can carry out a "while-you-wait" lubrication service. A washing bay and tuning bay are situated behind the lubrication bays.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Born in1937 in the British home for Mother’s and Babies hospital up the road where we Lived in Samuel st and went to school at St Michael’s and all Angels in above Woolwich Dockyard station, during the war.
The rented house had 1 cold water tap, gas cooking and gas lighting, an outside toilet and a tin bath hung on the outside wall except for bath nights.
It stayed in that condition until demolished in the 60s when my old Aunty was rehoused in the new high rise at the top of the road.
There were 4 or 5 pubs, a blacksmith, a brewery and an old abattoir as well as a large water tank down the road for the fire brigade.
The basement of our house was condemned but the Anderson shelter was there so many nights were spent down there with candlelight listening to the bombs dropping and anti aircraft guns firing.
During the day we could see the Barage Balloons with their big ears, play in the bombed buildings or on the slipway next to the Ferry or sit on the boiler, crossing to north Woolwich and back.
We had Marion&Marion Wilson park with reindeer, also Woolwich common to freely roam around so a happy childhood for us kids.
I tell people here in Australia, there are more taps in my house than there were in the street in Woolwich!


Our fathers were gone for most of the war but extended family members lived in the area so very safe for kids to wander.
Yes it was a poor area and time but kids are loved and looked after so you are not aware of it.