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where - industrial heritage in London

industrial heritage in London...
LONDON ... not only the Olympics...


1. Visits during the E-FAITH weekend

The Lea, a tidal river at this point, is thought to be the site of the earliest recorded tidal mill system in Britain dating back to the 11th century and became one of London’s oldest industrial centres. The House Mill goes back to 1776 and is a grade 1 listed building. It operated until 1940. The mill is thought to be the largest remaining tidal mill in the world, though the water wheels are no longer in operation. The recent construction of a lock and weir to allow barges access to the 2012 Olympics site has created the possibility of renewed activity but no longer tidal.

  • A guided private visit to the House Mill at Three Mills in East London, courtesy of The River Lea Tidal Mill Trust Ltd, has been arranged for Friday afternoon. The visit will be followed by a short walk in the area to see the new lock and, from the outside, the near-by Abbey Mills pumping station. Option to view the Olympic site if practical.

The conference takes place in Toynbee Hall in the heart of London’s East End. The hall opened its doors in 1884 and became the base of many important institutions of social reform. Marconi demonstrated his wireless for the first time in the UK at Toynbee and the founder of the Olympic Movement spent time here.

Kirkaldy Testing Museum houses the unique testing machine devised by David Kirkaldy in the early 1860s which could bend, stretch, twist and break any sample of iron or steel. The purpose-built structure remained open for testing until the 1980s when it was taken over by a volunteer group.

  • At the end of Saturday a private visit to the Kirkaldy Testing Museum has been arranged to se. The machine can still be demonstrated and it is hoped that may be possible during the visit.

The Musical Museum  contains one of the world's foremost collections of automatic instruments. From the tiny clockwork Musical Box to the self playing 'Mighty Wurlitzer', the collection embraces an impressive and comprehensive array of sophisticated reproducing pianos, orchestrions, orchestrelles, residence organs and violin players.

  • The Sunday morning meeting takes place at the Musical Museum

Kew Bridge Steam Museum is housed in the pumping station built in the 19th century to supply London with water. The museum has a remarkable collection of steam engines including the original huge Cornish Engines

  • The Sunday morning will end with a visit to the Kew Engines Museum when the huge Cornish Engines will be in steam.



2. Other points of interest in and around London

In the 19th century London was also a great commercial and manufacturing centre. Food and drink were important industries. There were flourmills and sauce factories in Lambeth and sugar refineries in Whitehall and St Georges in the East. The first tinned foods were made in Bermondsey. There were also breweries all over London. Bermondsey and Southwark were famous for their leather industry and for hat making. Bethnal Green was noted for boot and shoe making. The clothing trade was also important. Chemicals were made in Silvertown and West Ham. Clocks and watches and jewellery were made in Clerkenwell. There were shipyards in Poplar, Deptford, Milwall and Blackwall. In the early 20th century new industries grew in the suburbs, such as aircraft building, vehicle manufacturing and producing electrical goods. Early London industries, with their dependence on the burning of coal, did much to earn the whole capital its nickname “The Smoke”.

As in a lot of other places the idea of progress of the third quarter of the 20th century meant the destruction of many remains of that past - and even today a number of interesting sites are still at risk.

The Euston 'arch’, designed by Philip Hardwick for the London & Birmingham Railway, completed in May 1838, a symbol for the confidence and style of the early railway, was demolished amidst considerable protest, between November 1961 and February 1962. The campaign against the destruction of the arch became something of a cause celebre and was a major influence in changing attitudes to the preservation of Britain's architectural heritage.
Much of what has been lost is also shown by the photographs of London, 1970-83, taken by Peter Marshall concentrating on industry and former industrial sites in London.
A London Industrial Heritage at Risk report was published in October 2011 by English Heritage. Around half the industrial entries on the Register in London are structures associated with transport.

However, there is still very much to be seen and visited  and - when coming to the E-FAITH meeting - we there are a lot of good cases to prolong your journey and to visit some more of the industrial heritage delights of the town.
We can here only give you a small selection of sites to be visited, the top of the iceberg

The Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society (GLIAS) was founded in 1968 to record relics of London's industrial history and to deposit these records with national and local museums, archives, etc; also to advise local authorities and others on the restoration and preservation of historic industrial buildings and machinery.
GLIAS also developed since 1998 a sophisticated database for finding and recording information about sites in Greater London. It is actually five interlinked databases, designed to feel like one. These databases are : Sites, Images, Articles, Glossary/Biography and Websites.

London Canals and Waterways
Of course there are the quays of the Thames and London canals to visit - an interesting set of waterways heritage;
But don't forget to visit also:

  • The London Canal Museum brings you the fascinating history of London's canals. Witness the unique heritage of a huge Victorian ice well for Norwegian ice brought by ship and canal boat. The museum is located in a former Victorian ice warehouse built for ice cream maker Carlo Gatti. The Industrial Heritage attractions of London offer valuable insights into Victorian business life.
  • Regent's Canal (1812-1820), north of central London links the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal, just north-west of Paddington Basin in the west, to the Limehouse Basin and the River Thames in east London. The canal has three tunnels.
    The can be walked from Little Venice (Blomfield Road, Paddington) to Limehouse Dock (Narrow Street) passing "Camden Market" or "Camden Lock", or take the waterbus between Little Venice to Camden Lock. In the 19th century the Little Venice area was home to artists, writers and prostitutes. Redevelopment of the Camden Lock area started in the mid 1970s when the Camden Lock crafts market was formed. It offered a fascinating history of redevelopment, in the late 1980s the market left its hippy roots behind and focussed more on contemporary fashions, now it is a yuppy-area.
  • The Grand Union Canal was opened in 1820. It is Britain’s longest canal, linking London to Birmingham. A masterpiece of this canal are the Hanwell Flight of six locks created in 1794 by William Jessop, the Grand Union's Chief Engineer. It raises the water level by about 53ft over half a mile, and is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.


London Railways and stations
London’s first railway line opened in February 1836 between Spa Road in Bermondsey and Deptford. Long distance train travel arrived in London in 1837, with the building of the Euston terminus at the end of the line from Birmingham. Other major termini soon followed, with Paddington opening in 1838, Fenchurch Street in 1841 and King’s Cross in 1850.
London Bridge is the oldest station in London: it was first opened in 1836. Today it serves over 42 million people every year. The station originated as two stations and this is still apparent in the combination of through and terminal platforms which make up the station. The through platforms lie on the Kent and South East London Routes into Charing Cross and Cannon Street. The remainder of the station is the terminus for routes from Sussex and South London.

  • Opened in 1836, Deptford station is reputedly the oldest railway station in London, and the oldest suburban station in the world, to survive on its existing site. However, the original station building was demolished by the Southern Railway and replaced by a new, opened last April
  • Now some impressive railway stations witness nevertheless of London’s railway history: King’s Cross (1850-52, built by William and Lewis Cubitt), Paddington (1855, built by I.K. Brunel and M. Digby-Wyatt), Charing Cross (1864, the roof collapsed on 5 December 1905 and was rebuilt two years later), St.Pancras (1868-1874, designed by W.H. Barlow), Liverpool Street (built 1872-1875), Victoria Station (1860-62, rebuilt 1906), Waterloo Station (present buildings inaugurated in 1922) and many more.
    Marylebone Terminal, the newest of major London terminals which was opened in 1899 by Great Central Railway (GCR) when its London extension was complete. It's now often used for filming.
  • The site of Southall Railway Centre is used by three independent groups including Locomotive Services (where volunteers can contribute to the preservation and restoration of mainline locomotives), and the Great Western Railway Preservation Group (GWRPG). Currently (part of) the site is leased by West Coast Railway Company as an operational base for several of its preserved mainline-registered steam locomotives
  • The North London Railway began life in 1846 as the East and West India Docks and Birmingham Junction Railway, intended to link the London and Birmingham Railway with the docks at Poplar. Now the North London Railway Historical Society (NLRHS), founded in October 1990, caters for everybody interested in the story of the railway and the many associated lines, from 1846 to the present day.

Public Transport heritage in London
Transport has played a vital part of London's success providing the means of efficient communications and travel.
The metro system is the oldest in the world: the first line opened in 1863. On the network one can find a lot of ‘history’, including a series of disused stations

  • The London Transport Museum pays tribute to the Victorian Heritage of public transport.
  • Located in historic Rotherhithe the Brunel Museum is on the site of the Thames Tunnel, the first tunnel under a river anywhere in the world, and the only project which both Brunels (father Marc and son Isambard ) worked on together. The Brunel Museum is housed in Marc Brunel’s original Engine House, and features a fascinating exhibition on the Thames Tunnel’s construction and history.

Other aspects of transport and travel

  • The London Tower Bridge (built 1886–1894) uses hydraulic pressure to open and close the bridge. Although Tower Bridge is now powered by oil and electricity, the original steam engines maintained by a dedicated team of technical officers remain in their original location for all to see.  This area is known as the Victorian Engine Rooms.
    A museum explains the history and working of the bridge.
    The third steam engine (large tandem cross-compound steam engine), installed during the Second War, became redundant when the rest of the system was modernised in 1974, and was donated to the Forncett Industrial Steam Museum by the Corporation of the City of London
  • The Kew Transport Museum features several unique, specialized, and generally out-of-the-ordinary vehicles from the British Isles, objects from over a hundred years of public transport. Also an exhibition on how the transport industry has changed
  • The London Motorcycle Museum houses the finest collection of British Motorcycles including rare and experimental models
  • Whitewebbs Museum of Transport houses cars, trucks, motorcycles, a model railway, engines, ...

And last but not least:

  • Croydon Airport was the first airport in the world to introduce air traffic control, in 1921. For almost twenty years it was London 's principal airport. During the Second War it was closed to passenger transport and it played a vital role as a fighter station during the Battle of Britain. Decision to close Croydon was made in 1952 and its last scheduled flight departed on 30 September 1959.
    The aim of the Croydon Airport Society is to celebrate and perpetuate the history of Croydon Airport, the companies, organisations and the aircraft which were active, and the people who flew, served and worked at the airport.
  • The British Airways Heritage Center shows the history and memorabilia of British Airways, including uniforms, aircraft models and pictures, posters and photographs.

Steam heritage in London

  • Steam power comes alive at London's Kew Bridge Steam Museum. Built in the 19th century to supply London with water, the museum is recognised as the most important historic site of the water supply industry in Britain. Another great Museum exhibiting the Industrial Heritage of Great Britain. 
  • The Kempton Great Engines Trust, a registered charity devoted to renovating and running, for public display, the world's largest fully operational Triple Expansion Steam Engine 
  • The Crossness Pumping Station was built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette as part of Victorian sewerage system (1865). The pumping station is constructed in the Romanesque style and features some of the most spectacular ornamental Victorian cast ironwork. It also contains the four original pumping engines (although the cylinders were upgraded in 1901), which are possibly the largest remaining rotative beam engines in the world.
  • Markfield Beam Engine and Museum, offers a fine example of Victorian steam powered pumping engine (1886). The works were operational until 1964 and are now preserved and run by volunteers. 
  • The Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum, formerly known as the Lea Valley Experience, the site is currently being transformed into London's new steam and transport museum. It is proposed to have all three Pump House bays fully developed in 2013, and the new museum gallery constructed in early 2014. The pump house today contains what are believed to be the only surviving pair of "C" class horizontal steam engines built by the Lincolnshire firm of William Marshall Sons & Co.

Electrical Power
London also has two iconic old power stations.

The London area still has a number of wind and waterr mills.
Windmills are distinctive landmarks in the cityscape.

  • The Windmill on Wimbledon Common was built in 1817 to serve the local community. However it only operated until 1864, when the machinery was removed and it was converted to residential accommodation. Today the sails have been restored to working order and the building houses a fascinating museum of windmills, with exhibits on rural life and local history.
  • Shirley Windmill in Croydon is a restored mid-19th century a five-storey brick tower mill. It was built by Richard Alwen in 1854
  • Arkley Mill, near Barnet Gate, originally stood in Hertfordshire and was transferred to Greater London as the result of border changes in 1974. It not operational tarred brick tower mill of around 1800 which worked until 1916.
  • Brixton Mill, in Blemheim Gardens, a tarred brick tower mill is the last of the once 12 windmills that worked in Lambeth. In 2012 it won the Museums and Heritage Award for Excellence for Restoration/Conservation. It is supported by a group of enthusiasts, the Friends of Windmill Gardens - a local residents’ group that was set up in 2003 to campaign for the restoration, preservation and enhancement of Brixton Windmill and Windmill Gardens. 
  • Keston Windmill in the London borough of Bromley is a weatherboarded post mill of about 1716. It it is the oldest remaining post mill in Kent. It has two pairs of millstones and other machinery remaining and is preserved in the garden of the mill house. 
  • Upminster Mill, a large white smock mill with cottage and bakery built early in the 19th c. and working until World War II. In 1960 Essex County Council demolished the adjacent buildings, but in the following years the mill was repaired. It is now open to the public, staffed by volunteers;

There are a number of watermills along the Wandle, a river which runs through southwest London. The concentration of heavy industry resulted in the stretch of the river between Windsor Avenue and Colliers Wood High Street being diverted during the 18th century.

  • Merton Abbey Mills (Station Road) is a former water driven textile factory, now a crafts market and the site of a summer theatre and music festival.
  • Morden Hall Park Mills are two snuff mills on either side of the river, now owned by the National Trust

Three Mills, in the east of London, is an island where three mills were operated by the tide. Two of the three remain:

  • Clock Mill and Millers House (1817) has been turned into offices and is also home to Three Mills Film Studios
  • House Mill (1776), the largest tidal mill in Britain, will be visited during the E-FAITH weekend (see above)

Manufacturing industries
There is little preserved of the past manufacturing industries in London

  • 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. The company produced famous bells include the original Liberty Bell in Philadelphia (1752), the Great Bell of Montreal and Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster. The company regularly offers foundry visits.
  • The first successful English producer of stoneware was John Dwight (c.1633-1703), a potter based in London. Dwight¿s pottery was established around 1672 in Fulham, at the junction of New King¿s Road and Burlington Road, not far from Putney Bridge. A 19th c. bottle kiln now of the Fulham Pottery remains beside a modern building in New King’s Road.
  • The Whitbread & Co brewery building at 52 Chiswell Street in London still survives, although beer ceased to be brewed there in 1976 and it is now a conference and events venue. The brewery was founded by Samuel Whitbread and Thomas Shewell in 1742.
  • At the time of its closure in 2006 the Ram brewery was said to be the oldest British brewery in continuous operation.. It was then a mix of ancient and ultra-modern plant, including a steam engine which had been installed in 1835 and had been in regular use until the 1980s: it is thought to be the oldest working beam engine of its kind in the world still in working condition and in its original location. The site has been approved for redevelopment into a new shopping / business centre, preserving its historical aspects and to keep brewing going on the site via a 'nanobrewery' set up in the old Young's laboratory.
  • The Old Truman Brewery is the former Black Eagle brewery complex located around Brick Lane in the Spitalfields area. The former Brewery buildings were redeveloped and now house businesses, ranging from cultural venues to art galleries, restaurants, and retail shops. It is today a unique microcosm, attracting visitors from all over the world.
  • Nearby are the traditional Spitalfields silk-weavers’ houses distinguishable by their attic rooms with large windows to provide maximum light to the looms, where Huguenot silk weavers to Jewish tailors once had their industry.
    The Spitalfields Centre charity was set up to preserve 19 Princelet Street, a magical unrestored Huguenot master silk weaver's home, whose shabby frontage conceals a rare surviving synagogue built over its garden.

Some othere sites, interesting because of the way they are redeveloped, are for example:

  • In South East London one finds the once famous Peek Freans Biscuit Factory (100 Clements Road, Bermondsey) which closed in 1989. Peek Frean & Co was the first mass producer of biscuits and employed over 3,000 people in its time from when it opened in 1866 to when it closed. It houses now semi-contained studios and cultural spaces as the Vibe Gallery and V22 Bermondsey (a hub for creative individuals and artists)
  • Between 1952 and 1982 Matchmakers Wharf (Lee Conservancy Road, Homerton Road, Hackney) , now massively redeveloped into 49 permanent purpose-built artists studios, used to be the renowned Lesney Matchbox Toys factory.
  • The Wapping Hydraulic Power Station (Wapping Wall) has been transformed into a restaurant leaving much of the old hydraulic equipment in situ. It’s a unique settlement to dine between massive generators and industrial machinery
  • Hay's Wharf (Southwark) was redeveloped as a visitor attraction in the 1980s, including Hays Galleria. This wharf was begun in 1651 by Alexander Hay and is the oldest in the port of London. In the 1860's it pioneered the use of cold storage, enabling it to store food including New Zealand butter and cheese. This is one of the most succesful conversions in recent years


Industrial and technical museums in and around London

Visiting each of the London’s museums would take more than a lifetime.
The city has a series of important museums devoted to the history of industry, technology and science.

A 'must' is the Science Museum, one of the three major museums on Exhibition Road, South Kensington. The museum was founded in 1857 from the collection of the Royal Society of Arts and surplus items from the Great Exhibition as part of the South Kensington Museum, together with what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum. It included a collection of machinery which became the Museum of Patents in 1858, and the Patent Office Museum in 1863. The Science Museum now holds a collection of over 300,000 items, including such famous items as Stephenson's Rocket, Puffing Billy (the oldest surviving steam locomotive), the first jet engine, some of the earliest remaining steam engines, a working example of Charles Babbage's Difference engine (and the latter, preserved half brain), the first prototype of the 10000-year Clock of the Long Now, and documentation of the first typewriter. It also contains hundreds of interactive exhibits.

Another 'must' are of course The Royal Museums Greenwich which include the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the Cutty Sark and Gipsy Moth IV. The National Maritime Museum was established in the former buildings of the Royal Hospital School. It is the leading maritime museum of the United Kingdom and may be the largest museum of its kind in the world. The Museum was created by the National Maritime Act of 1934. King George VI formally opened the Museum on 27 April 1937.

Other interesting museums for industrial archaeologists are:

  • Bramah Museum of the Tea & Coffee Trade
    The Bramah Museum, only two minutes from London Bridge Station tells the commercial and social 400 year old history of two of the world's most important commodities since their arrival in Europe from the Far East and Africa.
    Unfortunately now temporarily closed for redevelopment.
  • The Twinings Museum is a small museum adjacent to Twinings Shop charts the tea-soaked history of the Twinings family, along with some examples of tea caddies and more unusual items from the world of tea
  • London Museums of Health & Medicine
    London has some 25 museums and collections that explain the history of health and medical care, from the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre to the Florence Nightingale Museum, the Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the London Hospital Museum. They all can be found at one website
  • The Museum of London Docklands (formerly known as Museum in Docklands) is a museum on the Isle of Dogs, east London that tells the history of London's River Thames and Docklands. The museum is part of the Museum of London Group.
  • The Type Museum is a unique and massive collection of artifacts representing the legacy of type founding in England, whose famous type foundries and composing systems supplied the world with type in all languages. The museum was founded in 1992. It is the final repository of many of the original forms, punches, matrices and patterns of some of the most famous and successful metal and wood type foundries in the world. It also holds a historic collection of presses. It is estimated that the collections include between five and eleven million artifacts





2015 - European Industrial and Technical Heritage Year


European Industrial and Technical Heritage Year
Année européenne du patrimoine industriel et technique
Jahr des Industriellen und Technischen Erbes
Anno del Patrimonio Industriale e Tecnico Europeo
Año Europeo del Patrimonio Industrial y Técnico

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