London 1978 (6)

Continuing my series of posts of my pictures from 1978 which will eventually include all of the selected photographs I took in London in 1978 and posted recently on Facebook with comments, and a few related images. All of these pictures (and more) are in my London Pictures web site, and eventually I intend to add the comments there too.

Click on any image to go to the web page with a slightly larger picture.

London 1978 (6)

Mural and Morganite works, Battersea, Wandworth, 1978
14l42: wandsworth, battersea, works, mural

The Morgan Crucible Works between Church Road and the River Thames began with a company bought by William Morgan in 1850; he was joined by his five brothers in 1855 and in 1856 they bought the small crucible factory of E. Falcke & Sons, founded by Wilhelm Falcke around 1823, at Garden Wharf halfway between Battersea Bridge and St Mary’s Church. The Morgans had been selling a crucible made in the USA which used graphite mixed into the clay and decided to make these themselves, setting up the Patent Plumbago Crucible Company (plumbago being a now archaic name for graphite.) In 1872 they bought up the surrounding houses and built a new factory with a 100ft clock tower, designed by Charles
Henry Cooke.

They continued to expand and buy up neighbouring wharves, eventually owning an around 1,000 ft stretch of the riverside, erecting more buildings on the expanded site. The building in my picture is I think their large factory building from 1934-7. By the 1960s the business had run out of space for further expansion and moved production to sites in Worcestershire and Swansea. The Battersea Works closed in 1970 and building of a housing estate on the site, Morgan’s Walk by Wates Ltd, began shortly after I took this picture and was completed in 1984.

‘The Battersea Mural: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’ on ‘Morgan’s Wall’ was designed by Brian Barnes in 1976 and painted with permission from Morgans by him and 60 local residents from the Battersea Redevelopment Action Group, taking nearly 2 years to complete. Scandalously an application to make the retention of the wall a condition of planning permission for demolition of the site was turned down and the 276-foot wide mural between 12 and 18 ft high was demolished when the Morgan Crucible Company brought in heavy plant at dead of night on 6th June 1979. The artist and six others were arrested at the site later in the day. Fortunately the mural, a vision of the future of the area, had been well recorded in photographs and on film, which you can see on YouTube.

Mural and Morganite works, Battersea, Wandworth, 1978
14l43: wandsworth, battersea, works, mural

A portrait format image showing the full height of the chimney.

Morganite works, Battersea, Wandworth, 1978
14l45: wandsworth, battersea, works

A long section of the wall along Church St to the west of the mural. At the end is a building with a notice stating it is Morganite Special Carbons Limited.

Morgan Advanced Materials plc is now a global engineering company with its HQ in Windsor and operating in 50 countries, manufacturing at around 85 plants in over 30 countries and selling to customers in more than a hundred. It describes itself as “a world-leader in advanced materials science and engineering of ceramics, carbon and composites”, making “insulating fibres, electrical carbon systems, seals and bearings, ceramic cores, crucibles for metals processing and high technology composites” as well as specialist materials “to perform critical duties in harsh or demanding environments” in “healthcare, petrochemicals, transport, electronics, energy, security and industrial” markets.

Hovis, River Thames, Battersea Rail Bridge & Fulham Power Station, Battersea, Wandworth, 1978
14l52: wandsworth, battersea, works, bakery, bridge, river, thames, power station, boat,

The view upstream shows an industrial scene that has now disappeared.

At left is Rank’s Hovis Battersea Flourmill. The first mill on this site, built by Thomas Fowler in 1788 was apparently a rather curious horizontal windmill to a design by a former naval captain, Stephen Hooper. Fowler used it for grinding linseed to give linseed oil, but it was soon taken over and used to grind corn and a Boulton & Watt steam engine bought to replace or augment the wind.

The mill was replaced by a new mill using steel rollers rather than millstones by Mayhew & Sons in 1887, and the business was acquired by Joseph Rank, Hull’s great miller, in 1914. He kept the Mayhew name and put his son Rowland in charge to try out new ideas in milling. Rowland’s first move was to bring in the architects of Hull’s greatest mills, Sir Alfred Gelder and Llewellyn Kitchen to provide modern mill buildings including some on land reclaimed from the river. They made various later additions to the site, fighting to build silos taller than were allowed under the London building regulations so that a whole barge of grain could be unloaded without stopping. After Rowland died in 1939, the mill became part of Rank’s who became Rank Hovis McDougall Ltd in 1962. The mill closed in 1992 and was demolished in 1997. The tall triangle of Richard Rogers’ Montevetro (‘glass mountain’) now occupies the site.

On the other side of the river, which is crossed by the Battersea Rail Bridge, is Fulham power station, with its 4 chimneys in line. Built for Fulham Borough COuncil and opened in 1936, it was the largest municipal power station in the country and had its own fleet of colliers to bring coal from the Tyne. It was also one of the first power stations to have flue-gas desulphurisation equipment, although this was removed around 1940. Nationalised in 1948 the power station was decommissioned in 1978 and demolished in the 1980s.

Park Lane Subway, Mayfair, Westminster, 1978
14o42: westminster, mayfair, subway, shadow

Another preoccupation at the time was my interest in shadows, such as this one apparently descending the Hyde Park corner subway at the lower end of Park Lane. Like my interest in reflections, this was at least in part inspired by my interest in the work of Lee Friedlander, whose work I had been introduced to by Creative Camera magazine.

I ordered a copy of his self-published book ‘Photographs’ (the second from his Haywire Press after his 1970 Self Portrait) when it came out at about the time I took this picture, though it took some time for the Creative Camera bookshop to actually get a copy for me. Self Portrait had been full of shadows, perhaps the earliest and most inventive book of ‘selfies’, but seemed then (and later when I got a review copy of the 1998 second edition) to rather stretch a single idea too far. ‘Photographs’ a few years later was a early career retrospective and still in my opinion contains his best work.

Bus, Piccadilly, Mayfair, Westminster, 1978
14o52: westminster, mayfair, bus, reflection,

Another Friedlandereque exploration of the complex visual landscape provided by reflections. Looking at it now I find it a mystery, but feel it doesn’t quite succeed as a picture. It is a single exposure and is printed the right way round
and I think involves two reflecting glass surfaces, one possibly a bus shelter. The trees are presumably in Green Park and I think this must have been made somewhere on the north side of Piccadilly between Half Moon St and Bolton St.

Carrington Mews, Mayfair, Westminster, 1978
14o56: westminster, mayfair, flats

‘Carrington Mews Dwellings’ were, as it says above the door, ‘Erected A.D. 1877 by the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes’. Carrington Mews is now simply the part of Shepherd St west of Hertford St and this building was demolished soon after I took this picture. Its place is I think now occupied by May Fayre House, some kind of hotel apartments.

MAIDIC was “a well-intentioned philanthropic organisation” which had developed into “a major provider of housing” by the time this block was built. It was the first of its kind, founded in 1841 to provide to provide affordable housing for the working classes on a privately run basis, with a financial return for investors based on the ‘five percent philanthropy’ model (for MAIDIC this was specified as a minimum return.) It gained a Royal Charter on 30th June 1845 and was incorporated as a Royal Charter Company as The Metropolitan Property Association in 1981. It has no connection with the similarly named Metropolitan Housing Association.

The setting up of the association followed the work of Edwin Chadwick whose ‘Report on The Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain’ was begun in 1839 and published in 1842 and predated the publication of Engels’ ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ in 1844.

Companies such as MAIDIC (and there were around 28 of them in 1875) increasingly found it difficult to make a sufficient financial return, and were largely superceded by organisations with a more charitable basis and the growth of large-scale municipal housing from the start of the 20th century.

More to follow….

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no
sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.