Monday, 3 August 2015

The Gillette Building

On the way home from a picnic in the grounds of Osterley House we stopped to take a closer look at one of the many 1930's factories along the A4. The Gillette Building at Gillette Corner on the Great West Road at Brentford was built in 1937 and designed by the brilliantly named Sir Bannister Flight Fletcher. The building was awarded a Grade 2 Listing by English Heritage.

This Art Deco gem now lies empty since Gillette Razor production moved to Poland in 2006 and various developers plans have fallen through. Hopefully that will change in the very near future.

The Razor Archive has many interesting details about the company itself and also has a gallery of photographs from inside this magnificent building.

Monday, 20 July 2015

A Brilliant Spectacle...The Inauguration of the King George Reservoir

This article was originally published in the London Historians members newsletter........

 I live opposite a very stunning waterway, The King George V Reservoir in Chingford....unfortunately I can only see its banks from my windows and the sail of a boat or a windsurf during warm weekends.

The Reservoir today
I have looked at its banks, walked part of its perimeter, been inside its pump house and admired its beauty from local hills but until a few weeks ago I did not know what a significant stretch of water it was and the pomp, ceremony and threat of attack that its inauguration involved. On an open day I visited the Search Room of the Waltham Forest Archive at Vestry Road Museum and asked to see any documentation they had about the reservoir. Several packets emerged and in one was a programme of events for the Inauguration and tucked inside another leaflet... a detailed itinerary for invited guests.

The King George Reservoir as it was at first known was part of a scheme to divert the River Lea in the Lea Valley area to provide fresh water for the ever growing population of London. At this time the land came under the remit of the East London Waterworks Company but following a decision by Parliament in 1902 this and seven other companies became the Metropolitan Water Board.

The Board's Chief Engineer was Mr. William Booth Bryan and with the Chingford Reservoir he planned London's largest reservoir with a capacity of 3 billion gallons of water. It is over a mile in length and is divided by an embankment in three sections through the centre as it was feared high winds would cause waves and flood the nearby roads! The overall cost of the entire scheme in the Lea Valley amounted to some £3,000,000.00 with the Chingford Reservoir costing £550,000.00 alone. The pumping station at the North End of the Reservoir in Enfield would house 5 Humphrey Pumps that were named after their inventor H.A. Humphrey which were able to deliver 180 million gallons each 24 hours. This was a state of the art build in terms of the engineering and the processes used in its construction. The Metropolitan Water Board agreed to use these new pumps if Humphrey was willing to forfeit £20,000.00 if the pumps were not successful, there was also another forfeit if coal consumption exceeded a certain limit. Luckily he was successful on both counts.

The first sod was cut by Mr. E.B. Barnard, Chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Water Board on 11th April 1908 but it was to be another five years before the reservoir was finally inaugurated.  By 1910 a million and a half tons of earth had been excavated  and used to create a promenade along the banks of the River Lea. There were over 1,200 men employed in it's building ranging from labourer to skilled engineers.

Ceremony of Cutting the First Sod 1908

The Chingford Reservoir was finally completed in 1912 but the Inauguration date was set for Saturday 15th March 1913 and it was to be a lavish affair attended by King George as well as Queen Mary. Barnard invited over 300 guests to celebrate this auspicious occasion with a luncheon, wines and the accompaniment of the full band of the Grenadier Guards. Special Marquees were erected at the Pump house site in Enfield and detailed instructions were sent to the specially invited guests with information on attire and transport arrangements. The King and Queen did not attend the luncheon but arrived just after 4.30pm for prayers and special presentations.

The Order of Events for the Day 

This was the King and Queens’s first engagement since Monday 10th March for the State Opening of Parliament during which on their carriage ride along The Mall five Suffragettes pushed their way forward to present a petition to the King on women's Suffrage. The women were subsequently arrested and it was with this in mind that a decision was taken to line the route on the following Saturday with 3,000 police officers. Major Clive Wigram, His Majesty's Private Secretary visited the reservoir for a full rehearsal on 13th March and special precautions were taken so a there were no untoward incidents with suffragettes

King George and Queen Mary left Buckingham Palace at 2.00pm in a horse drawn carriage for the 14 mile journey to Enfield. The roads through this part of the route were decorated with banners and awash with cheering crowds as the procession made its way through.  At several points along the route stops were made and local borough dignitaries were introduced to the King and Queen. For many people this was the first opportunity for them to actually see them after the 1911 Coronation.

Not all local dignitaries were clamouring for this introduction and one man Mr Will Thorne, Labour MP for West Ham South declined his invitation. In a letter to the Town Clerk of Stratford he states: 

"I quite recognise that the opening of a new waterworks reservoir by their Majesties means a great deal more to the East London people than they perhaps recognise. If I thought that their Majesties' coming through the East of London and receiving an address of welcome at Stratford would in any way be a means of mitigating the deep-rooted and chronic poverty in the borough, I should feel it a pleasure to be on the platform and accept the invitation"

He subsequently wishes everyone involved a good day and trusts it goes ahead safely! At Leytonstone the Royals transferred to a motor vehicle and it was from here most of the 3,000 police officers were positioned.

After lunch and visits to the Pump house the invited quests were requested to take their seats in specially constructed grandstands by 4.15pm to await the arrival of the Royal Party. King George arrived at the reservoir named after him at 4.32pm. They were greeted upon their arrival by Edward Broughton Barnard and several addresses followed. The King then set the pumps in motion by means of a key and the reservoir began to fill. King George unveiled a commemoration stone and after a cup of tea inspected the Humphrey Pumps with Queen Mary. The Majesties and their entourage left Chingford at 5.28pm by car and arrived back at the Palace at 6.45pm.

The Metropolitan Water Boards Notes for Attendees

I can only imagine this ' brilliant spectacle' as it was called by one newspaper but through reading newspaper reports and looking at items in the archive I can get a sense of the scale of the occasion. I was also lucky enough to find a file of photographs lodged at the London Metropolitan Archives which really do show how grand a day it was!

Plan of Marquees and Grandstands

King George V inspecting the troops

The Pump House 

Inside the Pump House, the Humphrey Pumps

The Bishop of St Albans

Mr. E.B. Barnard, Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board

The water inlets

The Reservoir filling up

 king George V and Queen Mary 

The King George V Reservoir is still providing clean water to London 102 years later and despite the Humphrey pumps no longer being used to provide its power it remains an engineering marvel.


Vestry House Museum, Search Room, Waltham Forest Archive

British Newspapers Online
Final Photographs - Thames Water Utilities Limited, deposited at The London Metropolitan Archive; ACC/2558/MW/C/35/279

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Map that Saved Epping Forest

I had been waiting for the 4th of July this year for some time after reading that the Essex Record Office which is based in Chelmsford was displaying one of the three 1882 Epping Forest Arbitration maps at Loughton Library! This was a one day only event and something not to be missed by myself.

The map is huge, the largest held by the ERO measuring over 30 feet long and almost 13 feet wide and after talking to archivists and other staff I was in awe of the fact that they able to display it all. The other two copies of this magnificent map are held at the London Metropolitan Archive (for the Corporation of London) and the National Archives at Kew (for The Crown) whilst this one belongs to Essex! The Arbitrator was Sir Arthur Hobhouse QC and his brief was to determine which illegally included land should remain enclosed and which were to be open again. The Map is a result of that very important work and was published in July 1882.

(Photo courtesy of Essex Record Office Twitter Feed)

The importance of this map to the area in general and Loughton, in particular, cannot be underestimated. The map painted on paper and linen backed was drawn up only four years after the Epping Forest Act of 1878 which ended the right of local people to lop wood in an enormous area covering about 6,000 acres. This map followed on from the long drawn out arbitration process which would eventually secure Epping Forest's future under the conservatorship of the Corporation of London. This Act meant that it was no longer a Royal Forest and stopped the Crown's right to venison as well as stipulating that the Conservators.....

 "shall at all times keep Epping Forest unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the people"

A few months previously on Saturday, May 6th 1882 Queen Victoria arrived at Chingford Station by Royal Train and took a carriage drive to High Beech to officially hand over Epping Forest to the people. The evening before it had rained but on this day they were greeted with sunshine and as one newspaper states "The wind was a gentle zephyr". Carts and carriages lined the route through the forest but were requested to leave enough room for people who stood eight to ten deep along the roadside. The station at Chingford only a few years old at this time was adorned with flowers, flags, and garlands as well as sporting a red carpet on the platform. Throughout the day up to ten Great Eastern Railway Company trains an hour left Liverpool Street to take sightseers to either Loughton or Chingford Stations where they might get the best vantage point but helpful notices in the press also suggested they use Ponders End Station and take a walk through the beautiful forest.

At Chingford Victoria's arrival was greeted by over 1,100 invited guests seated in grandstands on the station yard as well as a Forest Sub-Reception Committee already awaiting in carriages. As always timing was the key to these Royal visits and the Royal Party arrived punctually at 4.30pm. The Queen was joined in her carriage by HRH Princess Louise, HRH Princess Beatrice as well as the Duchess of Connaught, wife of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, the third son of Victoria and first Ranger of the forest. The Queen was dressed in black as was customary but sported a white ostrich feather in her bonnet and smiled in response to the crowds' cheers.

Queen Victoria leaves Chingford Station

The Queen's open carriage was drawn by four horses with postillions and flanked by outriders in scarlet livery. A footman and the Queen's confidante John Brown, in Highland costume, took up places at the rear of the carriage as it made its way through the decorated arch at the front of the station as the 1st Essex Artillery fired a Royal salute and bands played the National Anthem.  A long procession of carriages and riders made the four-mile journey to the specially erected amphitheater outside of the Kings Oak public house in High Beech.

The Plan for the 2,000 seat amphitheatre

The amphitheatre shown in the plan above had seating for 2,000 people and the guests to Epping Forest that day included foreign royals and leaders as well as members of our own Royal Family and political parties.  The Corporation of London had many distinguished guests themselves as well as from the Metropolitan Board of Works. I was pleased to see that one of those guests was Enfield born, Sir Joseph Bazalgette their Chief Engineer who had only recently completed his work which would transform the sewage system of London.

After their arrival in High Beech at 4.45pm the Royal Standard was hoisted and the bands of the Coldstream Guards and the Royal Artillery again played the National Anthem.  The Queen remained in her carriage throughout proceedings and it was driven up a ramp onto a canopied dais in front of the amphitheatre crowd. A young local girl Victoria Buxton whose father Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton was a Liberal politician and advocate of open spaces, was lifted up to deliver a bouquet to Her Majesty.

Victoria Buxton presenting the bouquet

With several speeches and prayer over the Queen herself was able to 'open' the Forest and pronounce it "Free for the enjoyment of the people",  At the permission of Her Majesty an oak tree was also planted to commemorate the occasion and she herself was presented with a book of photographs of the Forest by the Lady Mayoress.

The Royal party at this stage returned via the same route to Chingford Station to take a train at 5.30pm and unbelievably arrived back at Windsor Castle for 6.45pm!

A planning document that I found at the London Metropolitan Archive advised that 190 private carriages would be needed to transport guests from Railway Stations to the High Beech site and that none were to leave without having 4 passengers. The document also puts the cost of the event at about £6,330.00 which today would be around £650,000.00 in today's money.

Artwork proof for the Invitation
As the Queen left the area there were further festivities which culminated in a magnificent firework display at the Royal Forest Hotel as well as many Chinese Lanterns to illuminate the site.

Today the only reminder of that occasion at High Beech is the splendid oak tree planted in her name on that May day in 1882.

Loughton and the surrounding area have been left with many reminders of the men involved in the 'saving' of the Forest with roads, schools and even a lake named after them such as Buxton Road and Willingale School. The enduring reminder for Loughton though is Lopping Hall on the High Road which was gifted to the parishioners of Loughton in 1884 by the Corporation of London in compensation for the loss of their lopping rights in Epping Forest. The hall cost over £3,000 to built although an amount of £7,000 was given over by the City. The remaining money was put into the accounts of the Lopping Hall Endowment Trust and today as always is a cultural hub for the town.

The Arbitration Map of Epping Forest is a testament to the work involved in keeping the forest in one piece by the Victorians and aside from a few additions remains the same today.


British Newspaper Archive online... Lloyds Weekly and the London Standard
Photographs of Epping Forest Arbitration Map 1882 courtesy of the Essex Record Office
Plan of High Beech site and Invitation available to view at the London Metropolitan Archive