• The Electric Disc: Machines for Exciting Frictional Electricity

    Stanleybury, South Norwood 1868 Commercial
    Invention: The Electric Disk

    William Stanley’s patent of 1868 for “Improvements in the Construction of Machines for Exciting Frictional Electricity” no. 3878.

    The hand-held machine in the drawing, shown held against a table, is the form he patented. His patent does away with the large frame and replaces it with two slips of wood brought close together with only a slit for the glass, forming a handle at one end. The long metal axis carrying the disc is short and made of wood.

    The intention of the improvement was to pare down the size and complexity of the plate glass static electricity generating machines used for demonstration and experimentation to its essential, functioning elements that would be cheap and easy to manufacture.

    Soon after registering the patent Stanley published a book of experiments: Stanley’s Patent Electric Disk and 100 experiments by a Positive Conductor. In it, he states that the experiments are amusing so as to be memorable. They are numbered up to 150 and divided into categories such as attraction/repulsion, effect on the human frame, and the luminous effects of electricity passing through gasses.

    Some experiments are meant to impress, like igniting gunpowder inside a model of a house (exp. 114) or illuminating a fish (exp. 88). Others do things like ring bells or see-saw using the motion of push and pull through the alternating charging and then grounding little hanging wooden pith balls.

    Watch the video below to find out more, and you’ll also find a video all about Patents and their importance in relation to Inventions.

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  • Webber Bros. Ltd 18 Leather Panel Football: ‘Premier’

    SE25 5AH 1901 Commercial

    The Webber Premier football was a ball developed and manufactured in South Norwood during the first half of the 20th Century. Thanks to its innovative 18-panel, laceless design, the Premier was selected to be the match ball in the FA Cup finals in 1935, 1950 and 1951. 

    The Webber Premier helped transform how football was played, allowing for more precision and control. The ball “kept its shape irrespective of how conditions were,” wrote Gordon Banks, goalkeeper in England’s 1966 World Cup winning side, and “never deviated in the air.”

    The Premier was made by Webber Bros., a sporting goods manufacturer based at 19-21 Station Road, currently the site of Yeha Noah cafe. At its height, the company employed over a hundred people and produced cricket balls, netballs and more.



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  • Pascall’s Patent Expanding Ridge

    South Norwood Hill 1880 Commercial

    Not much is known about what this invention is but it was something created by Thomas Pascall’s South Norwood Pottery and Building Material Depot in South Norwood.

    According to the advertisements, Pascall’s Brickworks was founded in 1798 on the junction of the bottom of South Norwood Hill and Penge Road by Henry Pascall, Senior. This would have been before the arrival of the Croydon Canal. The brickworks can be dated as far back at 1804 when Henry puts an advertisement in The Times to sell or let land at Biggin Hill.

    From that date the family made bricks which could be moved across south London initially on the Croydon Canal and then on the London to Croydon Railway. There was a pathway that took the bricks straight down to the canal and when that had gone, the bricks were moved on the railway. The Pascall family also made other products such as tiles and plant pots. By 1890s, they were advertising a patent propagating pan for greenhouses.

    As a business that was in South Norwood for at least 100 years, they needed to compete with the surrounding brickfields and offer new products which is probably why they created the patent expanding ridge.

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  • The Dividing Machine: An Invention by William Stanley

    South Norwood Hill 1861 Commercial
    The Dividing Machine- An Invention by William Stanley

    William F Stanley updated a straight-line dividing machine for the dividing of mathematical scales.

    The commercial success of this machine, particularly following the award of a medal at the International Exhibition of 1862, was the effective start of the success story of W. F. Stanley and Company Ltd. The business had various factories, workshops and outlets across Greater London and its environs, but was very significant for South Norwood where Stanley lived.

    Before Stanley started his business, his father had pointed out to him that the Swiss were introducing drawing instruments of light construction which had considerable advantages over the current British makes and that there was a considerable opportunity for a mechanic with ability and originality to set up for himself in this line of business. W. F. Stanley decided to set up in business for himself, with around £100 in capital, as a maker of drawing office equipment. Not long after this he invented a simplified version of a stereoscope which he retailed at a quarter of the price of the instruments already on the market. A London wholesale firm gave him an order for 1,200 and after he had made the necessary special tools. The size of the order made it possible for him to engage his first workman.

    One of the problems which Stanley had to grapple with was that of the division of drawing scales, the accuracy of which at that time left a great deal to be desired, as was pointed out constantly by his customers. In 1861 he had managed to devise a straight-line dividing machine for the dividing of mathematical scales. The dividing machine worked by turning a handle and divide any space into equal parts and could therefore be used to divide to the standard lengths of all nations

    Watch the video below to find out more, and you’ll also find a video all about Patents and their importance in relation to Inventions.

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  • Concrete Underpass

    Station Road 1912 Commercial

    This subway underneath Norwood Junction Station was opened in July 1912 and is the first reinforced concrete subway in the world. It improved the accessibility of the neighbourhood for the local community who lived on either sides of the tracks.

    Local people ‘agitated’ for a subway for around ten years  until the council swung into action to get this local improvement. Key figures involved in this action were Councillor W Roberts and the local vicar. In October 1909, the councillor asked the Streets Improvement Committee to consider the possibility of a subway and after December 1909, the plans and specifications were set out at a planned cost of £6,000. The subway was completed and opened in 1912 and continues to be in use.

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  • Cristoid Film

    Norwood Junction 1899 Commercial

    Cristoid film, developed by John Tyack Sandell, had two layers of emulsion of different sensitivity, coated on a hardened gelatine base. The films were available as sheets or roll-film.

    John Tyack Sandell was born in Somerset, England on 29th September, 1853. In 1871 Sandell was an apprentice chemist in Somerset, England. He became a chemist by trade and, after his apprenticeship, was employed by R. W. Thomas and Company.

    After being promoted to general manager at R. W. Thomas and Company, John Tyack Sandell became the guiding force behind the lantern plate known as “the Thomas plates.” Encouraged by this success, he developed his own line of double-film and triple-film plates that were manufactured by a company that bore his name, Sandell Dry Plates and Films Ltd., based in South Norwood.

    Sandell was most comfortable either inside his laboratory or outside taking landscape photographs. His photographs of the Pharmaceutical Society were exhibited on his multi-coated plates.
    Sandell received a patent for his cristoid film, which was marketed shortly thereafter in December 1899. A sheet constructed of hardened gelatin, it needed no support from glass or plastic. A fast and light-sensitive silver gelatin emulsion was superimposed onto a slow, thick, and comparatively insensitive emulsion. The result was a flat film that was considerably more opaque than its celluloid roll film counterpart.

    Highly protective of his plates, Sandell marketed them and demonstrated their preparation to the public personally. However, despite their perfection, his plates never achieved the commercial success they deserved because their development took more time and required greater technical precision than their easier and less expensive counterparts.

    Like most visionaries, Sandell proved to be a poor businessman. His association with Sandell Films and Plates ended badly in 1902, and shortly thereafter his health began failing rapidly. He died virtually penniless on December 29, 1906.

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  • ‘Croydon’ A song by Captain Sensible

    South Norwood Hill 1982 Commercial

    ‘Croydon’ is Captain Sensible’s autobiography in song, immortalising his days at Stanley Technical School, South Norwood. With a tale of the theft of the bronze bust in the entrance hall as well as trying to get to know girls from the local schools, and cleaning Fairfield Halls’ toilets, the song celebrated life growing up in Croydon.

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