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South East Regional Industrial Archaeology Conference 1992

"Serving the People: Public Utilities"

Saturday 21 March 1992, hosted by SUIAG

Boldrewood Lecture Theatre, University of Southampton

0945-1020 Registration and Coffee
                Chairman for Morning Session: Mrs Pam Moore BA
1020-1030 Welcome and Opening Remarks
1030-1110 Wind Engines and Municipal Water Supply - J Kenneth Major
1110-1150 Electricity Comes to Godalming - Kenneth Gravett
1150-1230 The London Hydraulic Power Company: A Lost Utility - Tim Smith
                Lunch Break
                Chairman for Afternoon Session: Dr J Martin Gregory
1405-1445 South Eastern Gas: A Historical Survey, 1814-1949 - Brian Sturt
1445-1525 The Brook Pumping Station - Jim Preston
1525-1550 Tea
1550-1630 The Emergence of the Municipal Engineer in the Victorian City - Dr Denis Smith
1630-1700 Introduction to Twyford Pumping Station - Dr Edwin Course
1700-1715 Discussion and Closing Remarks
1800         Tour of Twyford Water Pumping Station; machinery in operation.


J Kenneth Major is an architect with his own practice specialising in old buildings and, more particularly, watermills and windmills. For many years now he has been involved within the world of industrial archaeology. He has written several books, including "Fieldwork in Industrial Archaeology", "Animal Powered Engines" and "Mills of the Isle of Wight". His concern over wind engines has led him to make exhaustive studies of the survival of these fine machines which once dotted the south-eastern half of Britain.

Kenneth Gravett, M.Sc.,F.S.A., C.Eng.,F.I.E.E is a retired Chartered Electrical Engineer, with an interest in historic buildings. He is currently Chairman of the Surrey Local History Council and also President of the Kent Archaeological Society.
Tim Smith has been involved in industrial archaeology for about twenty years. He is a Committee Member and former Honorary Secretary of GLIAS, and an active member of that Society's recording group. His many IA interests include transport, quarrying, and, of course, hydraulic power.

Brian E Sturt, recently retired after thirty five years in the gas industry, starting work in research laboratories at Old Kent Road. After holding a number of posts, he finally became a Shift Controller, with responsibilities, when on shift, for gas supplies throughout South Eastern Gas. He has wide interests in industrial history and archaeology and is undertaking research into the history of the gas industry. He is a member of a number of societies, including GLIAS, the AIA and DIAS.

Jim Preston was for some years a lecturer at Mid Kent College, with a particular interest in local industrial history. He is the author of "Industrial Medway", "Aveling and Porter" and "A Brief History of Rochester Airport".
Denis Smith is a Chartered Engineer, who, after industrial experience lectured on civil engineering for several years. He is an historian by inclination, and by second training at Imperial College where he was awarded a Doctorate for his thesis on History of Technology. He is a founder member and Chairman of GLIAS, Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Newcomen Society, and of the Trustees of the Kirkcaldy Testing Museum. Dr Smith also serves on the Archives Panel and the Panel for Historical Engineering Works of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He is an Extra-Mural lecturer on industrial archaeology for the University of London.

Edwin Course was Senior Lecturer in Industrial Archaeology and Transport Studies in the University of Southampton until his retirement. He is President of the Southampton University Industrial Archaeology Group, and Chairman of the Twyford Waterworks Trust. He is the author of a number of books and numerous articles on industrial archaeology and transport.

Synopses OF Lectures

Wind Engines and Municipal Water Supply
Local authorities began to take a concerned interest in the supply of fresh water and the treatment of sewage, after the cholera outbreaks of the 1830s. At that time, the water or sewage was pumped by means of steam engines or, rather more rarely, by waterwheels or water turbines. In the south-eastern half of the country, wells are deep in the chalk or limestone, and so the forces necessary for the delivery of water were quite large.
Local authorities were always concerned with keeping costs down, and so power which was virtually free was popular. Wind engines provided one way in which the running expenses were for maintenance only, with no requirement for expensive fuel such as that required by the steam engine. The normal wind engine was not powerful enough for more than the smallest requirements for water, such as a large estate, a hospital or a large farm. These were fixed bladed wind engines on wood or steel lattice towers.
In the 1880s various developments were put in hand by British firms, and one was able to install heavy duty wind engines with large outputs for the purposes of water raising or sewage pumping. This met the needs of the smaller local authorities and our records show many examples of these.

Electricity Comes to Godalming
The town of Godalming was the first in England to have a public supply of electricity, commencing on 26 September 1881, but only lasting until 1 May 1884. How this occurred is a story as much of local politics as of technical achievement. On the other hand, Brighton has had electricity continually since 27 February 1882 (and Eastbourne since later in the same year). The differences between these systems will be discussed in an attempt to identify the factors for success.

The London Hydraulic Power Company: A Lost Utility
Following the successful introduction of hydraulic power in London's docks and railway goods depots, attempts were made in 1860 to provide a public supply to riverside wharves, but it was 1883, before the first public pumping station at Falcon Wharf opened, using powers under the Wharves and Warehouses, Steam Power and Hydraulic Pressure Company's Act of 1871. Purchased by the General Hydraulic Power Company, its name was changed to the London Hydraulic Power Company, by a new Act of 1884. Sir James Allport was its first Chairman, and Edward Bazand Ellington and Corbet Woodall its Engineers.
The company grew rapidly. Additional pumping stations were built at Millbank (1886), Wapping (1891), City Road Basin (1894), Rotherhithe (1903) and Grosvenor Road (replacing Millbank in 1910). By 1933, the LHP had 186 miles of mains supplying around 8,000 machines. These included passenger and goods lifts in City offices, department stores, hotels and private dwellings, stage machinery in theatres, organ blowers in churches and fire hydrants. Supplies to docks and railway goods depots increased when the LHP pumping stations were electrified in the 1950s, but decline was inevitable. The last pumping station, Wapping, closed in 1977.

South Eastern Gas: A Historical Survey 1814-1949
In 1958 North Thames Gas published a Historical Index of the gas companies that once existed in their area of supply. The author considered as a long term research project, a similar gazetteer for South Eastern Gas. The preliminary findings from this research form the basis for today's lecture.
On 21 January 1948, Hugh Gaitskell tabled a Bill in the House of Commons to nationalise the gas industry. Receiving Royal Assent on 30 July, all former gas companies were grouped into twelve regional boards, on vesting day, 1 May 1949. The formation of the South Eastern Gas Board brought to an end the independence of sixty one diverse gas companies. These were the final consolidation from more than a hundred and forty companies that once existed during a hundred and thirty five years of development.
The lecture will focus on a number of aspects of the industry in the South East, starting from inconspicuous beginnings in 1814, through a rapid rise between 1850 and 1870, to a long period of consolidation through the 1880s, interrupted by two World Wars, until Nationalisation. The rise of technology, effects of development of the electricity industry, formation of holding companies and the final events leading to Nationalisation, will all be considered.

The Brook Pumping Station
Chatham grew up along a marshy valley bordering the Old Bourne, otherwise known as the Brook. By 1801 the population had reached 10,505, and was to expand rapidly thereafter, with the expansion of the Royal Dockyard. Initially no provision was made for the disposal of waste and sewage, a problem aggravated by storm waste flowing from nearby high ground. Little impact was made by the Board of Health, set up in 1849, and Chatham remained a smelly, squalid, unhealthy area, prone to cholera and diphtheria. The answer was to be a joint sewerage scheme with the City of Rochester, but the opening of the system was to be delayed until 1929. The Brook Pumping Station was to be a key element, until its replacement in 1979.

The Emergence of the Municipal Engineer in the Victorian City
The growth of Britain's population, and the marked change to urban living during the Victorian period, posed many social problems. The solution to these involved the combined skills of engineers, architects, scientists, lawyers and politicians.
Life in large cities and towns leads to increased dependence on engineering and requires a continuous, behind the scenes, input of technology. Municipal Authorities found it increasingly necessary to employ their own Engineers to design, implement, and subsequently manage a complex network of services. These could include water-supply, main drainage, inner city transport systems, refuse collection and disposal, street lighting, energy distribution systems, planning controls, new buildings and dangerous structures. However, it was the question of Public Health which created the Municipal Engineer.
A new group of engineering specialists emerged and they gradually evolved their own professional organisation. Salaried Engineers and Surveyors, spending public money, were accountable to lay Committees whose membership changed annually. The Engineer's proposals were judged not only on technical competence and costs, but on political expediency. The lecture will discuss these issues using examples of projects involving Engineers and schemes from within the SERIAC region.

Introduction to Twyford Pumping Station
The South Hants Water Company was authorised by an Act of Parliament of 1876 to extract and supply water in an area to the north and west of Southampton. The first pumping station, with wells in the chalk aquifer, was opened at Timsbury, near Romsey in 1878. In response to increasing demand, a second pumping station was authorised in 1894, to be constructed at Twyford, about three miles to the south east of Winchester. The plant consisted of a steam engine with pumps and a water softening system. The lime for water softening was supplied from two kilns, built on a well ventilated site above the chalk quarry on the south side of the works. Water was pumped in two stages from the well to the softening plant and from the softening plant to a service reservoir, located on a hill about half a mile from the works. Fortunately, we were in time to meet people who remembered the early days, with the coal brought by horse and cart along the dirt roads from Shawford Station, and the first Superintendent, Mr Stone, a former ships' engineer. In the 1930s, diesel power was introduced, and after the Second World War, electric pumping commenced. All the buildings were extended as the statutory capacity was raised from 2,500,000 to 5,000,000 gallons a day. By 1974 it had been decided to convert the station into an underground remotely controlled site, with total demolition of the surface buildings and plant. In the nick of time, Twyford was Scheduled as an Ancient Monument, not so much for the outstanding merit of anyone part, but rather for its unique completeness. A Trust is now responsible for its preservation, and after the conclusion of this meeting, there will be an opportunity for delegates to visit the site.