London 1979 (5)

Continuing the series of posts showing work taken in London in 1979 as posted to Facebook with comments an image at a time in the first half of 2018.

Previous post in London 1979 series

London Photographs 1979 – Peter Marshall

North Acton, Ealing, 1979
19h-41: power station, railway, trucks, cooling towers,

Acton Lane Power Station was first built in 1889 by the by the Metropolitan Electric Supply Company Limited, becoming a part of London Power Company Limited in 1924, and one of the four stations of the London and Home Counties Joint Electricity Authority in 1925.

The old station was replaced by Acton Lane ‘B’ station with its 3 cooling towers begun in 1950. It was mostly between the west coast mainline from Euston and the Grand Union Canal with another railway line crossing along its eastern border. Several pipe bridges still cross the canal, but the coal to run the turbines came by rail rather than canal. Still in use when I took this picture, it closed in 1983. The cooling towers have gone but the site is still in use by the National Grid.

Rail enthusiasts may be able to tell me more and perhaps pinpoint the exact location from which I took this picture, which I think may have been from the bridge on Old Oak Lane, but the scene has changed considerably since 1979.

North Acton or Harlesden, Ealing/Brent, 1979
19h-44: house, works

I’ve no real recollection of the whereabouts of the fiefdom of ‘Govin the Hulk’ whose name is on the gate or fence at the right of this picture, but previous and following frames were made on the platform at Willesden Junction, and it seems as if I arrived there, took a short walk and then returned.

The careful positioning of the frame edges and retention of verticals show that it was the pattern of the image with its interlocking planes that interested me rather than the particular location or use of these buildings, which appear to be commercial rather than domestic.

I think it likely that this will have been taken on an Olympus OM camera, probably the OM1, and using the 35mm shift lens which around this time became my most-used lens. This lens had two sliding panels at its rear which enabled it to be moved horizontally or vertically relative to the camera body, enabling the film to be positioned anywhere inside the image circle – which was roughly that of a medium format 35mm lens. It was of course particularly useful with tall buildings where it would enable you to keep verticals upright while working much closer to the building, and avoiding the much of the empty area between the camera and building. It would give a similar result to taking the picture with a 24mm and then cropping much of the bottom and both sides.

Being essentially a medium format lens with a specially adapted mount, it came at medium format prices. Having long lusted after this rare and expensive beast I walked out of the station at Hull and across Ferensway to Hilton Photographic and found a secondhand one looking at me from the window. I’m not sure they really knew what it was or perhaps they doubted if anyone in Hull would want such an unusual item, but the price was very reasonable and within minutes it was mine.

Willesden Junction Station, Brent, 1979
19h-45: house, works, brent

Willesden Junction is a complicated station with upper and lower level lines and platforms, with services from London Overground, Bakerloo Line underground and National Rail. This view is of the high level line going south from the station. The bridge at left carries a footpath from the end of Station Approach to Salter St, running parallel and close to the West London Line, still an interesting walk for lovers of industrial urban chaos. The lonely looking signal box was still there last time I travelled, though probably long out of use.

Th North London line which ran from Richmond to Broad Street and was among those listed for closure by car industry propagandist Dr Beeching in 1963, and was only saved by a massive popular campaign. It was again threatened in 1970-71 and another campaign was needed to keep it running. A few years after I took this picture Broad Street station was closed (its site now the Broadgate development next to Liverpool St Station) and the Richmond service joined to the recently opened CrossTown LinkLine service from Camden Road to North Woolwich, using old redundant Southern Region stock, but serving several new stations and was renamed the North London Link.

It remained something of a secret service, thanks partly to some well-hidden stations with rather obscure names, though important to many Londoners as a way to get to work particularly in the tube-free East London areas it now served, linking them to the Underground at Highbury & Islington.

In 2006 the section between Stratford and North Woolwich was closed (later becoming part of the DLR and the Canning Town to N Woolwich section becoming part of Crossrail.) The Richmond to Stratford line was transferred to Transport for London in 2007 and is now part of the London Overground service, much improved with new trains and an increased frequency of service.

The service has always been slow, though for a couple of years from 2000-2002 there were around 5 faster services a day run by Anglia Railways from Ipswich to Basingstoke, calling only at major stations such as Willesden Junction, and providing a direct link for me from Staines. But apparently it attracted few other passengers and my occasional use failed to keep it open.

There were no passenger services from here on the West London Line to Clapham Junciton in 1979; stopped in 1940 they only restarted in 1994. Again the service has improved greatly since taken over as London Overground, with several new stations.

Tubbs Rd/Station Rd, Harlesden Brent, 1979
19h-65: street, shop

Beta Books was on Station Rd in Harlesden, though the station a few yards around the corner to the left is Willesden Junction.

I was perhaps a little slow in taking this picture of the man walking away from me, which the low level of the camera helps to give a slightly sinister cinematic feeling, enhanced by the dark printing (and unintentional underexposure.) One of my preoccupations at the time was in trying to react rapidly and instinctively to situations, and getting away – at least at times – from the careful and precise construction of some of my images. But it sometimes gets hard to distinguish between carelessness and deliberate and intentioned carelessness.

Beta Books probably appealed to me because of a mention in David Lodge’s 1975 tale of two campuses ‘Changing Places’ of the Beta Bookshop, “a favourite gathering place for radicals into which the police had lobbed so many gas grenades it was said you could tell which students in your class had bought their books there by the tears streaming down their faces”, though his was in a thinly disguised Berkeley, California, rather than Harlesden.

The partly visible shop to the right of Beta Books is ‘Orbitone’, a record shop owned by Jamaican born Sonny Roberts and the home of his Orbitone label, noted for both reggae and Nigerian music. The first Orbitone release was in 1972 and the final release in 1987 and the shop closed around that time. Roberts, who came to the UK in 1958 in his mid-twenties first worked as a carpenter but soon found he could make a better living as a DJ and then a record producer and was apparently the first Jamaican to set up and own a recording studio in the UK in 1961.

This row of shops became Brazilian in more recent years, with the book and record shop being incorporated into the ‘Brazilian Emporium’. The bookshop is now a ‘Hamburgueria & Tapiocaria’.

Tubbs Rd/Station Rd area, Harlesden, Brent, 1979
19h-66: street, shop

Wanted Urgently says the sign at the right of the small premises of Iron Steel & Metal Merchant J Bridges & Sons, somewhere not far from Willesden Junction. But I think the time was gone, despite the further injunction ‘Time to Sell Your Scrap!!!’ at the left, and it is unlikely that the time really was 3.23 as the clock behind a broken glass circle shows. The place is boarded up, part covering some of the signs, the doors padlocked.

In front stands some scrap, a broken Hotpoint machine and a bin overflowing with rubbish. I like the description ‘Iron, Steel & Metal…’ though elsewhere it has the more precise if misspelt ‘Ferous and Non Ferous Metals’.

There are also two different listings of the same telephone number, one with the Harlesden ELGar exchange and the other with the all-figure 965 which replaced it in 1966, while at right the numbers are painted over.

R Tealing Ltd, Borough Market, Southwark 1979
19i-11: doorway, barrow, market trader,

There was until recently a fruit and vegetable wholesaler, R Tealing (Covent Garden) Ltd, a private listed company operating in the New Covent Garden Market, registed in 1974, though only since 1975 under this name, and I imagine that this was a part of the same or an associated enterprise. In 1979 Borough Market was still a real vegetable market with none of the trendy foodie places which now attract tourists in their droves.

I never got there in the early morning to really see the real market at work, between around 2am and 8am, though there is the attraction of a special market licence at The Market Porter, open Mon-Fri 6.00-8.30am, one of only three remaining London pubs with an early licence.

St Mary Overie Wharf Offices, Borough Market, Southwark, 1979
19i-13: cobbles, office, street, warehouse

G L Stansall (Wholesale Grocers) Ltd was dissolved in 1981. Although the address is given as St Mary Overy Wharf I think this may have been the neighbouring premises of Stave Wharf which was across a narrow roadway.

I had visited and photographed this area in 1978 and returned as they some of the warehouses were being demolished. The brick-built warehouse at St Mary Overy’s Wharf was erected for Mr. George Doo in 1882 and was in the following year the first customer of the public hydraulic supply network set up by the wharves & Warehouse Steam Power & Hydraulic Pressure Co. (renamed the London Hydraulic Power Co. in 1884) which powered its external cranes and hoists.

Built as a granary, the lower floors became a general warehouse. The building was taken over by Cole & Carey, general wharfingers, in 1890, and they continued to use it for some years after the premises were bought by the Proprietors of Hay’s Wharf. There were various tenants from the late 1960s, and G L Stansall was the last of these, leaving behind shelving with food tins, sacks peanuts and boxes of liqueur chocolates when they quit.

Part of the roof was destroyed by fire in 1979 and all except a small section at the southwest corner demolished soon afterwards and replaced by modern structures in a similar brick but with considerably less individuality. It is a bland but not entirely out of character redevelopment which more or less retains the same streets and passages but little of the atmosphere.

More to follow shortly

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