Transport & Industrial Archaeology
Image copyright: TeamManley
Meetings or visits are generally on the second Tuesday of the month, and may be half a day for a talk, or a full day for a visit. We aim for a relaxed atmosphere, and technical discussions are normally very limited.
Most visits start mid-morning and include lunch at local cafe or pub in a convivial atmosphere!
Photos of some past outings can be viewed in the T&IAG Photo Album.
The new event calendar for 2017 is below:
Following each event, a summary will be published in the panel below, to show you what you either enjoyed or missed !
Photos may appear below or in the T&IAG Photo Album.
For more details contact Tony Samson (01483 282936).
LATEST T&IAG ACTIVITY REPORT
PREVIOUS T&IAG Activities:
One of our members spoke about his career in flying, including training Red Arrows pilots. His talk included many funny and hair-raising stories, and it was enhanced by the fact that he arrived in his flying suit!
One of our members spoke about his family business that was the Tyzack Tool Company. He explained how the company was formed, making saws, and then how marriages and arguments caused many changes during their expansion. The company originated in Sheffield but moved to premises in Shoreditch in 1839 and then onto High Wycombe, following the furniture trade. The name still exits on gardening and other tools but is now owned by Spear & Jackson.
We visited the London Docklands Museum at Canary Wharf for an Introductory Talk and walk round the various galleries. The guide was excellent and provided a great introduction to the impressive exhibits that range from the original East India Docks for sugar etc. to the current-day re-generation.
T&IAG Activity: October to December 2015
On Tuesday 8th December, 16 members attended a talk by Tim Avory on 18(B) Squadron's (Chinook) Involvement in The Falklands War. Tim served in the Squadron and gave a very personal account of their involvement in the War. It was a very good review of the history of the war, but with an insight into the logistics of getting the ships and planes ready for their involvement. The sheer effort to convert commercial ships to enable them to transport troops and equipment, including the Chinooks was absolutely amazing. Tim knew some of the people killed in the war and they lost 4 Chinooks during the Exocet missile strike. We collected £100 to donate to the RAF Benevolent Fund.
We then adjourned to the ‘King Billy’ for our Christmas Lunch and were joined by some partners and the speaker making a total of 28 people. The pub was beautifully decorated and the staff performed a great job, considering they had another group of 20 in as well; a fitting end to 2015.
On Tuesday 10th November, a group of us went to The Kirkaldy Testing Museum in London. David Kirkaldy's Testing and Experimenting Works set international standards in testing materials from which everyone’s everyday life benefits today.
Today, this unique Victorian workshop keeps alive our direct link with Kirkaldy's innovation, as it preserves Kirkaldy's unique Universal Testing Machine - the huge 47ft long hydraulic powered machine he designed and had built in Leeds - in full working order in the premises he built to house it.
We started with a short video presenting the story of the family who ran the business for almost 100 years and of the wider development of materials testing, the workshop and the Universal Testing Machine provide a unique crucible for new experimentation and collaboration. We then had an interesting guided tour of the premises showing other machines and samples of materials. The Universal Testing Machine was then started up and we saw an iron bar stretched to breaking point, with rust dropping off first and then the final break. One of our group then used another machine to put loads on a sample of the ‘tape’ used to bind parcels, the one that we try to tear but have to cut! Gradual pressure was applied to stretch and at various points the tape was ‘twanged’ and it was obvious at each point that the tape was getting tighter. At one point a single strand broke and then the whole piece; the load put on it was 300 tons.
On Friday 30th October, a group of us went to Twyford Waterworks which is an Edwardian pumping station containing a unique selection of buildings and machinery within a rural downland setting in the heart of Hampshire. The site was given the status of a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1973 and in 1985 the Twyford Waterworks Trust was incorporated as a charity to run it. The Trust obtained a lease for the redundant parts of the site in 1992, although Southern Water Services, the present owners of the site, still extract 5 million gallons (25 megalitres) from the original boreholes.
The older sections have escaped demolition and thus a complete series of steam, diesel, separate D.C. motors and modern submersible electric pumps is still available for the public to view and, in many cases, see in operation. The site is unique in having both water extraction and a complete water softening treatment plant. Only coal needed to be brought in to Twyford. Chalk for the lime kilns was quarried on site and the Clark process softening plant stands complete and with sections workable. The five bottle kilns and their servicing system and railway; the water hydraulic engines working the railway incline and the lime mixing plant; the carbon dispenser; the Haines filters; even the mixing bell housing where the well water meets the ‘lime water’ in the softening tank are all in situ.
We were given a very comprehensive tour of the facility in 3 small groups and the knowledge and enthusiasm of all the guides was apparent.
Photographs of some of our 2015 outings can be viewed here.
Dorking Caves Report - September 2015
On Friday 8th September, 12 of us went to the Dorking Caves, which have been re-opened for guided tours. They are not really caves but a series of tunnels in the sandstone which are believed to have been used for wine and port storage.
The history is difficult to determine, despite many initials and dates carved into the walls, and there is a ‘room’ at the end of a tunnel that was obviously used as a ‘meeting place’, 60 feet underground. There is a lot of speculation about this and an unlikely visitor can be seen in the photographs in Photo Gallery along with others!
Report from T&IAG for May to July 2015
On Tuesday 12th May, a group of us went to the Coultershaw Heritage Site and Beam Pump, near Petworth, where there is a waterwheel, 18th century water pump, 21st century water turbine, and historic buildings set around the mill pond.
We watched the waterwheel drive the Beam Pump to produce an impressive water spout. From 1782 it pumped water to Petworth House and town, 1 ½ miles to the north.
We also saw the Archimedes screw turbine using water to generate electricity and visited the Engine House and tried pumping water with the hand pumps.
We walked around the canal basin to see the remains of the 18th century lock, canal warehouses and stables and the fish ladder; unfortunately no fish were performing!
Coultershaw is an important example of 18th century industrialisation in a rural area. It has been the site of several corn mills from before 1086 up to 1973. It was on the routes of the Rother Navigation (1794-1888), the Petworth to Chichester Turnpike (1800-1877) and the Mid Sussex Railway to Petworth (1859-1966).
Petworth station is located ¼ mile south of Coultershaw and is now bed and breakfast accommodation.
‘The Railway Inn’, later renamed ‘The Race Horse’ now ‘Badgers’ was visited for the usual pub lunch.
On Tuesday 2nd June, 8 of us went to see a talk on McLaren Technology Group given at the Lightbox in Woking. This was a very impressive and interesting presentation from a member of the marketing team. He went through the history of the company from its founder, racing driver, mechanic and designer, Bruce McLaren, through Formula 1 to road cars at their Woking Technology Centre.
On Friday 5th June, 5 of us went to the Epping & Ongar Steam Railway. This is a newly opened heritage line, and heritage buses take you from Epping LT station to North Weald and then trains go onto Ongar. They are currently 100 yards from Epping and shuttle trains take you to the ‘buffer stop’. The history of the creation of the line from Loughton, its electrification and its final link to Ongar is interesting. One of the original stations was the least used on the whole LT network; an average of 6 passengers a day! A very enjoyable trip, although a long Central Line trip, topped by the usual pub lunch.
On Friday July 3rd, 23 of us went to Whitchurch Silk Mill in Hampshire. This is a 19th Century water mill that still weaves English silk fabrics using 19th Century machinery. The Mill is the oldest working silk mill in Britain, still weaving in its original building. We eventually all gathered for coffee and excellent brownies in the café, after traffic delays due to Open Day at Guildford University. We were given an interesting tour of the facility including the working waterwheel and weaving looms. We saw samples of silk and were given a talk on the whole process from silkworm to finished product. Most of us then adjourned to the lovely grounds around the River Test for a picnic in the glorious sunshine.
Photos of these trips are available here.
Report from T&IAG for January to April 2015
2015 has started with 3 talks, two from members; one by Jeremy Coventry, who took us through his working life, from seaman to engineer. This was well illustrated with personal photographs and slides showing the significant changes in shipping and particularly the London docks.
The second by Mark Blowers, on the Air Production Industry where Mark clearly explained the process to manufacture the gases and how they are stored and transported. He also highlighted the risks involved in the processes and the steps taken to mitigate them.
The third talk, in February, was on the Crossrail Project, by a representative from the project based in London. The slides were extremely professional and detailed and explained the complications with the creation of tunnels in some of the sites. The complication tended to be at the points where Crossrail will intersect with existing tube lines and how close the various sets of tunnels were going to be. In certain areas the existing properties had to be supported as the foundations were being excavated. The other major part of the project is to get rid of all the ‘earth’ from the tunnelling. This is achieved by a series of conveyor belts, lorries, trains and ships that eventually lead to a site in the Thames Estuary. This is then used to create a series of islands as part of new bird sanctuary for the RSPB. We were joined at this talk by members of the Fetcham U3A equivalent group.
In April, the group visited the Battle of Britain Museum at Hawkinge in Kent. This has been created on the old wartime airfield, now in the middle of a housing estate. We were all very impressed with the effort of volunteers to create and document the exhibits. From pieces of crashed planes (there are over 600) they have not only identified some of the planes, but the crew and who shot them down! There was a very extensive display of memorabilia, including a V1 rocket or ‘doodlebug’. There were also exhibits of uniforms, documents, weapons, etc. leading to an impressive display and well worth a visit. After the traditional pub lunch, at a pub frequented by the airman and therefore full of memorabilia, we went to the Battle of Britain Memorial at nearby Capel-le-Ferne. This is a particularly poignant site with the wall dedicated with the names of the airmen who were part of the Battle of Britain and a wonderful memorial. We were extremely lucky with the weather than enabled us to walk around the site and up to the edge of the White Cliffs to look at France. We also sat outside of the newly built Visitor Centre, The Wing, looking at the memorial. This had been recently opened by the Queen as she must have known we were coming!
Pictures are in the T&IAG section of the U3A Photo Gallery.
DVD, Planning and Christmas Lunch on December 12th 2014
Despite problems with the technology, some of them self-inflicted by the leader, we managed to go through next year’s plan and watch a very interesting DVD of the history of the Port of London, supplied by Peter Bennett-Davies. It was amazing to watch how much traffic there was in the early days and how manual, and dangerous looking, the tasks were. The demise of the Port was really quite rapid, but eventually the area was re-developed with offices and apartments as can be seen today.
We then adjourned to the King Billy and were joined by some partners for a very good and well organised lunch. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves as can be seen by the photographs in the T&IAG section of the Photo Gallery.
Lighthouse Talk on November 3rd 2014
A large group, including some Boating & Sailing Group members, enjoyed a thoroughly entertaining and interesting talk from Neil Hargreaves, chairman and founder of the Association of Lighthouse Keepers. Neil told a very personal story of his life from Trawler man, through Lightships to Lighthouse Keeper. He explained the history of Lighthouses and Trinity House and had wonderful photographs including a video clip of trying to get people onto a Lighthouse in very rough seas. Some of his stories were quite scary and it made you realise what a dangerous and lonely job it could be.
He recommended a visit to the ALK museum at Hurst Castle, which I can endorse having been there.
Question time was limited as Neil was moving house that day and some of his belongings were already on their way to Harwich!
London Walk to Brunel Museum on October 1st 2014
4 members joined the guided walk along the Thames focusing on sites related to Brunel and ending up at the Brunel Museum. The guide was very knowledgeable and it was a lovely evening for the walk. The museum is housed in the old engine house, but we were allowed to go into the original shaft of the tunnel. This involved stepping over a wall, down a couple of metal rungs and then crawling for a few yards on hands and knees through a tunnel. You then arrived in the vast shaft where they were preparing for a concert! You could see signs of the original pathway down the shaft that was designed for horse-drawn carriages.
We adjourned, naturally, to a pub on the Thames and had a very good meal and view on the first floor overlooking the Thames at night.
On Thursday 18th September , 10 members were joined by 7 from the Fetcham U3A to visit the Burlesdon Brickworks near Southampton.
Our visit started in the traditional manner; in the coffee shop! We had left Horsley in gloom, driven through sunshine to be greeted on arrival by a major storm. We all listened to the thunder and watched the lightning and the car park gradually filled with water; not the 26 degrees we were expecting. However, we were told by or guide that we would be under cover for most of the tour.
The site is created as a museum with very good storyboards at various points to explain the exhibits and show the process of making bricks. Our guide, Lyn, took us through the various sections explaining not only the equipment, but the social history.
The site was chosen due to the abundance of London Clay and sand which are the essential constituents of bricks. The clay was dug by hand, until the 1930s, and as the clay was close to the building, it was transported by wagons pushed by hand on railway tracks. A man had to ride on the trucks to stop then with a long pole as there were no brakes. As the clay being dug got further away, locomotives were introduced and finally overhead buckets on a wire hawser, in which children were known to ride. The clay was emptied into the hopper of the brick making machine, with a small amount kept aside for pressing hand-made bricks with specific logos.
We had agreed that we would pay extra to have the steam engine that drives the machine to be fired up and this was done.
The photographs show the machine, but the process was as follows:
An Archimedes screw chopped up the clay in the hopper, then the clay then went on to the rollers that crushed stones that hadn’t been extracted by the man on top of the hopper! A second Archimedes screw forced the clay through a nose cone and the extruded clay was pushed through wire cutters to create eight bricks at a time. The eight bricks were picked up, by the flat of the hand to avoid indentations, and put on a ‘crowding barrow’. The ‘boys’ then ran with the barrow to the drying shed to unload and stack the bricks, which were left for 15 days. The drying sheds had a patented underflow heating system driven by the same steam engine.
Once dried the bricks were stacked in the kilns each of which had 12 chambers. The chambers were linked by flues and ducts and the aim was to start a fire and keep it going through each chamber in turn. This was done by ‘boys’ feeding coal through holes in the roof, another not very pleasant job. At its peak the machine could produce 40,000 bricks a day and, as the machine did not stop and they were only paid if bricks were being produced, this all had to be done quickly and efficiently as a team.
We were also treated to a demonstration of making a brick by hand in a mould, which is how the industry started on farms in the very early days.
After a good lunch, we were free to look around the rest of the exhibits, including a chimney pot collection and a steam train being prepared for the weekend gala.
The site was closed in 1974 when it was deemed too expensive to bring it up to the safety standards required by the new Health & Safety at Work Act. However the site was listed in the 1980s and is now run as an Industrial Museum.
We all found this a fascinating and informative visit which was mainly thanks to our guide.
On Wednesday 27th August 9 members visited the Windmill at Nutley near East Grinstead. Photos available here.
Netley Windmill has been dated to 1700, but as no mill existed on this current site until 1836, it must have been moved! Nutley is the last open-trestle post mill in Sussex and one of only 5 surviving in England.
A post mill is one that the whole structure, including all the machinery inside, is supported on a ‘post’, in this case the trunk of an oak tree. A tailpole enables the whole mill to be rotated to face the wind; as we proved; it can be moved by 3 people!
The mill stopped being regularly used in 1908, until a local team started restoration in 1968.
The plan was to retain as much of the original structure and contents as possible and hence since restoration, it only grinds corn once a year; on a windy day in October.
The sails, or sweeps as they are known in Sussex and Kent, are of two types; one set are common sweeps i.e. a lattice framework on which sailcloth is spread. The other set are shutters, not unlike a venetian blind, which are held closed by a spring. If the wind is too high the shutters spring open to allow the wind through; not a bad idea for 1772!
The guide, Brian, was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic and took us into the two levels of the mill. He showed all the working parts from the wheels, drive shaft, now iron, and the working millstones. It was very cramped and low and the miller would have mainly worked in the winter and therefore for a lot of the time in the dark!
A very interesting visit was finished off in the usual manner; a pub lunch.
As an aside and for those who bought the booklet, Alan Gilbertson has pointed out a reference to ‘Samson, the famous abbot of Bury St Edmunds’ in the Origin of Windmills section.
On Thursday 10th July 14 members visited the Buckingham Railway Centre, near Aylesbury.
The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre is a 25 acre working Steam Museum, with one of the UK's largest collections of locomotives, rolling stock and railway memorabilia.
We started the day with coffee, of course, and then joined our guide Bill for an introductory talk. This took place in the impressive Visitor Centre – the former Oxford Rewley Road Station - with Refreshment Rooms, Gift Shop, a Royal Dining Coach from 1901, and a coach used by Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower for secret war strategy planning meetings and a full sized steam locomotive.
You can find a more detailed history of the line and the museum site contents here.
The tour then took us to the extremes of the site, via a shed containing rolling stock in various state of repair. This end of the site contained a magnificent, ride-on, miniature railway. This is operated by a separate group and runs on weekends and special event days. It contained miles of track, sidings, signal box and station.
We returned to the Visitor Centre for lunch, which had been provided on request as the facility was not normally open.
We then continued our tour, past the original station building of 1898 to the Museum. This contained a wide variety of interesting things including a Passimeter (a booking office to you and I) and a Post Office railway car to a BR(S) Horse Box and an American velocipede. There was also a traction engine converted to pull trucks! There was also a large and diverse collection of smaller items such as signs and plates, rule books and tin plate toys.
Outside was a Travelling Post Office coach, which is used to demonstrate for children the sorting process, done on board.
On Friday 9th May members visited the Rural Life Centre near Farnham.
As this is mainly an outdoor visit, we were pleased that the rain stopped as we arrived. We started the visit, as expected, by having coffee and cake in the café; while there, we naturally ordered our lunch!
Then we set off for the main purpose of the day.
We were all very surprised at the scale of the exhibits and the excellent way the whole area had been constructed. Given that this is a mainly volunteer run organisation this was a significant achievement.
We spent a good deal of time talking to the blacksmith as he actually runs a business from the forge. He showed us examples of his work on a set of very grand gates (in the style of Hampton Court!) and demonstrated producing a ‘scroll’ from a piece of flat metal.
After a break for the pre-ordered lunch, including a freshly made apple and blackberry crumble (for some of us), we continued round the site. At the end, we re-convened at the café for tea and one of us even managed a piece of cake.
As there we were few visitors, it was very easy to view all the exhibits in detail, but the site must come alive at weekends. They were preparing for a big event this weekend, ‘A Village at War’, with tents being constructed and many army style vehicles running around.
I will certainly be returning and I wound recommend it, particularly for a family visit, as it has something for everyone, including a narrow gauge train.
The calendar has been updated and photographs have been added to the web site.
Given that ‘transport’ is a key element of the activities of the Transport and Industrial Archaeology Group, on April 8th Tony Samson organised a visit to Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) at Guildford. Members of the Astronomy and Science & Technology groups were also invited to attend.
At about 10.30 we all gathered outside the offices of the Labs in Guildford to be issued with car passes and individual visitor badges before being escorted by Peter Shaw to a small lecture room.
Peter’s talk was interesting, informative, and inspiring. Sir Martin Sweeting had formed SSTL in 1985 with just four people and £100. There wasn’t any government funding and the first 15 years were really difficult, trying to find every possible way to make the money go as far as possible. During the 1990s, SSTL staff worked with overseas governments to manufacture experimental training satellites. From 2000 onwards improvements in computing and camera technology meant that pictures could be taken of the Earth with sufficient resolution to provide real operational solutions. SSTL was one of the first organisations to provide images of Hurricane Katrina to the UN.
There are approximately 36,000 satellites in space orbiting the earth in one of three different orbits, near earth (180 – 2K km), mid earth (2K – 36K km), and high earth (> 36K km). Many weather and some communications satellites tend to have a high Earth orbit and are geostationary (orbit time - 23 hrs 56min 4sec).
As satellites get closer to Earth, the pull of gravity gets stronger, and the satellite moves more quickly. Navigation and satellites designed to monitor a particular region occupy mid-Earth orbits, while most scientific satellites, including NASA’s Earth Observing System fleet, have a low Earth orbit and may take only 100min to complete each orbit.
There was no shortage of questions ranging from the technicalities of satellite construction, communication protocols, space clutter and the finances. Satellites are launched by Russian, Indian, or European rockets, the cost of each launch being about 60k$. Collecting or destroying satellites no longer in use is one of the current challenges. Systems proposed include harpooning, bagging them in a net and engulfing them in foam.
Obviously with much of the preparation work being carried out under dust free conditions, we could only see the staff carefully inserting and connecting the microscopic components that comprise the circuit boards used. SSTL is currently building satellites for the Chinese and have joint ventures with some African countries. Construction times for complete satellites can take up to a year with some larger satellites taking longer. The devices are owned by the customer, the data acquired is the property of the funding organisations but as part of the contract SSTL ensure that some time is allowed for satellite maintenance.
At the end of our visit we all agreed that it had been a real privilege to see and hear about such a success story based in the UK.
Some Pimlico residents spend 35 – 40 minutes in the shower - just one of the facts that emerged on Thursday 20th March, when 14 members of the Science & Technology and Transport and Industrial Archaeology groups visited the Pimlico District Heating Undertaking, PDHU. Sited, as you might expect, in Pimlico, a hot water storage tank has served residences in the area for over 50 years and is still the UK’s largest thermal store. Originally hot water was fed under the Thames in 12” pipes from Battersea Power Station. After Battersea closed in 1983, a Combined Heat and Power centre was installed beside the tank to supply not only hot water but also electrical power to an increasing number of homes, schools and churches. Careful engineering has improved the thermal efficiency from 28% to 84%. The installation consists of 3 8MW gas fired boilers and two 3.2 MW Caterpillar CHP generators. Following a short talk, and a tour of the engineering site, the highlight of our visit was a tortuous climb to the top of the storage tank which offered magnificent views across the London landscape. It was easy to identify many landmarks including the remains of Battersea power station, the MI6 building, the Shard, the Walkie Talkie, the London Eye, the Gherkin and the Cheesegrater. The trip was made possible by one of our recently joined members Elisabeth Markwick, a real treat for all who went.
On Tuesday 11th March we had another interesting talk from Alan Crocker, Emeritus Professor at Surrey University, on ‘Industries of the Tillingbourne’. There were 40 odd industries ranging from corn milling to gunpowder manufacturing at various sites along the Tillingbourne from its source at Leith Hill to Shalford where it joins the River Wey. Alan explained the workings of some of the mills and the people involved and showed original pictures and contemporary ones of items that had been found recently. Some of the techniques employed for making wire involved a person being strapped into a harness connected to a wheel that was turned by water, thus pulling the man backwards and in turn him pulling iron through a mesh to create wire! It was also interesting to find that the major constituent of gunpowder is pigeon droppings; goodness knows how that was discovered!
On Tuesday 11th February we had an extremely interesting talk from David Reynolds entitled ‘Aviation In My Lifetime’. David went through the various aircraft that had featured in his life from his introduction by his father to Croydon airfield through to the new Airbus A340. He worked for BOAC in the Caribbean and was still with them when Concorde was introduced into the US. The talk was very well illustrated with pictures of the various aircraft and with many interesting and amusing anecdotes.
On Tuesday 21st January, the first meeting of 2014 was held at West Horsley Methodist Church Hall. This consisted of a presentation showing the proposed programme for 2014 and some of the options were discussed. Additional ideas were proposed by members and the meeting was rounded off by a short video by Peter Bennett-Davies of the visit to the ‘Great Gathering’ in the National Railway Museum in York undertaken by Peter and Tony. Peter had also added photographs of our visit to Acton LT Depot and his own visits to Shildon, NRM’s other site, and a steam museum in Croatia.
On Tuesday 10th December we went on a guided walk in Guildford entitled ‘Industrial Heritage’. We had an excellent guide, Hugh, who took us to places that most of us hadn’t seen despite living near Guildford for many years. He was very well informed and provided us with an insight into how important the town was to certain industries.
This thoroughly enjoyable walk was finished off with a Christmas Lunch at Café Rouge and some partners joined us for an excellent meal to conclude the programme for 2013.
Whitechapel Bell Foundry
On Saturday 9th November, 15 of the group had a guided tour of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The premises are now designated as Grade II listed buildings and the frontage remains unchanged on a very busy East London road amongst many modern buildings. Having entered the building we were introduced to our guide, who gave us a brief history (see below) and a safety briefing, which as we went round the premises was certainly necessary!
It was like stepping back in time, before health and safety was invented, as there were furnaces, crucibles, numerous pointed objects and sand on the floor. We were treated to an excellent explanation of the methods of casting bells and shown the raw materials used for the cast. We were also given a full explanation, way beyond me, for tuning bells and the equipment for monitoring this process appeared to be the only piece of modern technology in the place. As we moved through and up the various levels we saw the shop for building the frames for hanging bells and the assembly of hand bells, with their leather straps.
The guide, who said he was a cross between a smithy’s assistant and part-time managing director, was excellent and coped with all the questions thrown at him in a humorous manner.
Only 3 people work on the casting floor and a total of 23 in the whole company. Their workload is difficult to plan, but they have received a recent order from a Christian Church in China.
This was a fascinating trip looking at an industry with history but one that is now extremely rare.
An entry in the Guinness Book of Records lists the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as Britain's oldest manufacturing company, having been established in 1570 (during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I) and being in continuous business since that date. In 1970, therefore, the Foundry celebrated its quatercentenary. However a link has been established through the research of bell historian George Elphick back to one Master Founder Robert Chamberlain, thus tracing an unbroken line of founders in Aldgate and Whitechapel back to the year 1420 (in the reign of Henry V, and 72 years before Columbus sailed for America).
Whitechapel Bell Foundry's business has always been, and still concentrates solely on, the manufacture of bells and their associated fittings. The manufacture of large bells for change ringing peals in church towers, single tolling bells, carillon bells, and their complete range of accessories such as framework, wheels, clappers and their assembly in Church towers accounts for approximately four-fifths of the company output. The other fifth of the business lies in the manufacture of hand bells for tune and change ringing, and other small bells of many shapes and sizes.
Whitechapel's famous bells include the original Liberty Bell (1752), the Great Bell of Montreal and, probably best known of all, Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster. Cast in 1858, this is the largest bell ever cast at Whitechapel, weighing 13½ tons. To this day, a cross-section of the bell surrounds the entrance door to the Foundry.. more at http://www.whitechapelbellfoundry.co.uk/
Kempton Steam Museum Visit – 29th September
A very select group of T&IAG went to the steaming day at Kempton Steam Museum. The site contains two triple expansion steam engines that are 62 feet high and weigh over 100 tons. One was used for a guided tour which enabled us to see inside the huge cylinder and all the other components while the guide explained the history and how it worked. The engines were built in 1926 and were pumping 19 million gallons of water each per day to North London from 1928 to 1980.
While we were having the tour we had a great view from a gantry across the building of the other engine as it started up with steam pumped from a nearby boiler house.
The site also has the Hampton & Kempton Waterworks Railway which is a restored part of the original two foot gauge railway that brought coal from Hampton Wharf on the Thames to the Kempton site. Currently they only have a small loop running, but you do get to go round three times!
The longer term plan is to link up to Hampton, but they have some challenges; an aqueduct, a river, a tunnel that is now too low and two roads.
Click here for a selection of photographs in the T&IAG section of the Photo Gallery.
Eurotunnel Visit – 14th September
A small group went down to Folkstone as Eurotunnel were opening their UK facility for the first time on Heritage Weekend. The visit consisted on boarding a Routemaster bus and being driven, with a commentary, to the Control Centre. This is where; along with a duplicate in France, all the traffic through the tunnel is controlled. On the UK side there is a huge illuminated panel showing the movements of the trains running through the tunnel and into the sidings. The trains are numbered and the prefix denotes the type of train e.g. Eurostar, Shuttle. It also shows the crossover points and there are a series of alarm panels for monitoring the health of the tunnel.
We re-boarded our bus and our next stop was the ‘Recovery Centre’ where all the emergency support vehicles are housed. There are purpose-built Mercedes vehicles that are driven from either end and the centre piece consists of a module depending on the requirement e.g. fire, police or ambulance. When the vehicles enter the emergency tunnel they are steered onto an underground guidance system that enables them to drive hands-free at 80 kph. The last stop was the maintenance area where the trains are made up of a locomotive and wagons depending on the type of maintenance. The train goes into the tunnel and the relevant wagons are dropped off as the train progresses and work starts. When the work is complete the train recovers the wagons and returns to the depot.
This was a very interesting visit and, if it is repeated next year, I would recommend people to go and it was free!
Excursion on SS Shieldhall - August 9th
On August 9th, 34 people went on the T&IAG organised trip on the SS Shieldhall from Southampton Docks to the Solent to watch the Cowes yacht racing. We travelled via a Reptons-owned ‘executive’ coach with groups of four seats around tables. The weather was splendid and the conditions perfect for a trip aboard the, volunteer run, 1954 built, converted sludge boat. The trip was arranged on this date as it was Cowes Week, which meant that there were yachts of various sizes taking part in races and obviously the view from the deck was excellent. We also saw a cruise liner, a massive container ship and a small motor boat that contained relatives of Tony & Des, so we have a great photograph of SS Shieldhall taken by them.
We were all positively encouraged to visit the boiler room and bridge and the volunteers were more than happy to explain everything to us. The oil-fired boat was much smoother than we had imaged and due to the yacht racing cruised at a leisurely 6 knots, half its rated speed.
Visit to Bluebell Railway on July 9th
On July 9th, the T&IAG visited the Bluebell Railway to travel along the newly opened link through to East Grinstead.
The final route through to East Grinstead involved digging through the Imberhorne tip. Some 300,000 cu.m of domestic waste was tipped into the railway cutting in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Removal of this waste was the only realistic option to allow the railway through. The cost was estimated to be in the region of £4 million.
Further details are on their web site at:
I have included some pictures on when I walked the line in 2010 and 2012 before the cut through was completed and one from the trip in July.
As well as a journey on the train, we visited the newly re-opened Museum at Sheffield Park station. This proved to be a well-laid out and informative museum and we ran out of time to enable us to beat the traffic on the way home.
Visit to Alexander Dennis Factory on June 13th
On June 13th, the T&IAG visited the Alexander Dennis Factory on the Slyfield Estate in Guildford. We were introduced to our hosts for the visit; Roger Heard, a retired Sales Director, Richard Winkworth and John Dennis, the grandson of the founder of the original Dennis Brothers, again retired.
John took us through the history of the original company (see below) accompanied by old photographs and lots of interesting anecdotes. He was followed by Roger Heard who told us of the more recent progress of the present company with photographs and descriptions of the current vehicles. Richard then took us on a tour of the factory, showing us the chassis for buses being assembled on frames from a nearby building. The engines were from Cummins in the UK and the gearboxes from Germany. The chassis were being assembled in preparation for being sent to Hong Kong, along with the bodies that come from Falkirk.
The process was in stark contrast to the Jaguar production as people worked on the same task all the time to ensure consistent quality.
Numerous bus companies now operate Alexander Dennis buses, including the open-top buses in New York
Richard than took us into the museum which contained lawn mowers, two of the John Dennis owned cars and a 1914 fire engine, which unfortunately the visitors are obscuring in the photo below !
The enthusiasm of the hosts and their personal knowledge made this a fantastic visit. You can read more about the history of Dennis here.
On 14th May, 8 members of the group visited the WWII Pill Boxes, behind Netley House in Shere, Shalford Mill and Wanborough Barn.
We were met at Netley House, an NT-owned property, but leased to Architects, by the Ranger in charge of this part of the North Downs,Rob Hewer. He gave us a brief history of the House and the reason that it was owned by the NT.
As we approached the second Pill Box we were challenged by a uniformed ‘guard’ with rifle and fixed bayonet! We sent John Gould to explain our purpose and luckily John was very convincing and we were allowed to pass.
The guard, who was dressed in the uniform of the Home Guard, then gave us a tour of the Pill Box and explained the weapons that he had on show and the history of the Home Guard and the Special Operations Executive (see later for explanation) who were trained in this area.
This was a wholly unexpected and informative visit, only spilt by the rain.
We then went on to Shalford Mill, where we had a guided tour which involved the history and climbing up the 3 flights of steps to enable us to see the whole of the function of the Mill.
Once we completed our lunch break at the Seahorse and caused chaos by trying to pay with real money, we went on to Wanborough Barn.
Again a guided tour had been arranged, but the interior of the Barn has a terrific set of display boards which explains the history etc of the Barn. Wanborough Great Barn was built in 1388 and was used for storing and processing crops. Having been built for Waverley Abbey, the barn would have stored the entire manor crop.
It is an aisled barn, made from massive oak timbers, with large doors on either long side to permit entry by carts.The crops would have been threshed with flails on the floor between the doors which is why we call the space inside the door a threshold.
As part of the guided tour we were shown Wanborough Manor, which was one of a number of country houses requisitioned for the Training Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in the winter of 1940-41. The SOE was a secret organisation formed in 1940 to give help and support to resistance movements in enemy-occupied Europe by sending weapons, money and other supplies, as well as agents to train and help local resistance.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day, despite the weather, and the whole thing had been arranged by Robin Satow using his NT contacts.
On 9th April, 18 members of the group plus 2 visitors visited the Jaguar factory at Castle Bromwich. As avid readers of this site will know, this is the site of the Spitfire factory run by John Leader’s father.
The visit was very well organised with an introductory film before our guide took us via mini-bus to the first part of the factory. We toured the plant making the XF model, currently retailing at £50K, and not surprisingly most of the cars were destined for China and the USA.
The production line was an interesting mixture of robots and traditional manual processes. However, unlike the original car production processes, the people worked in teams that were assigned certain tasks and could rotate to alleviate boredom and share skills. Large components, such as the dashboard were assembled in other parts of the plant and then installed in the vehicle as it moved along the line. We were all amazed at the wiring harness complexity, but luckily it is hidden from the driver! The cars are all aluminium and rivets are used to construct the body. The matching of the body and engine etc. was fascinating as it was done in seconds and seemed to involve very few bolts!
All vehicles on the site were already sold and that included many of the new ‘F’ type sports car that looked fantastic.
As can be seen from the photograph, we were all very interested in looking at the cars, but unfortunately for Jaguar, no purchases were made.
The 2012 programme included the following:
January: Guided tour of Brookland's new exhibit; the Cobham Bus Museum
February: Visit to Farnborough Air Sciences Trust
March: Visit to Ockham Mill – a private residence
April: Visit to Beaulieu Motor Museum to see the ‘Bond in Motion’ exhibition
May: Visit to the McAlpine private railway
Jun: Visit to Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast
July: No meeting
August: Visit to Crossness Pumping Station
September: Visit to Didcot Railway Museum
October: Visit to Reigate Caves
November: DVDs on Shipbuilding on the Clyde
December: Christmas Lunch on the Mid-Hants Railway (Watercress Line)
A selection of photographs of these visits is shown below.
This group started in 2009 with the intention of providing a programme of visits and talks, for members interested not only in all forms of transport (yes, even trainspotters are welcome), but also in the much wider field of industrial archaeology. Some current members of the group are engineers, but others have no such background, and we even have a chemist!
Highlights of places visited to date include:
- Brighton Sewers
- Kew Bridge Steam Museum
- Weald & Downland Open Air Museum
- Amberley Heritage Centre
- GWR Steam Museum in Swindon
- Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
We have also had very interesting meetings on Airships, and Twine and Rope Making in Dorset, the construction of the Storebaelt Suspension Bridge and the Falkirk Wheel.
Contact Tony Samson if you are interested in joining us.
Grundon Recycling facility
Crossness Pumping Station
Mid-Hants Railway (Watercress Line) Christmas Lunch
T&IAG Outing 9th October 2012 to Reigate Caves
Eleven of the group visited the well known 'caves' which riddle Reigate town centre, although these are in fact old sand mines and in places are a 1000 years old. The castle mound overlooking Reigate town centre is composed of soft sandstone and has been mined over several centuries. The castle has long gone but the mound and many of its excavations still remain. The guided tour of two of the caves was fascinating, as was the walk in the attractive and secluded gardens on the site of the old castle motte above the Barons Cave.
Some members of the T&IA Group at the McAlpine Fawley Hill Railway, May 2012:
....and a very enjoyable visit to Ockham Mill, March 2012
2011 included an interesting but slightly odiferous visit to the Brighton Sewers!
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