• 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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  • Reinforced Shuttlecock Limited Shuttlecock

    Station Road 1928 Industrial

    In 1928, the family (Webber) who made leather footballs in South Norwood, decided to create shuttlecocks.

    In 1930 the Reinforced Shuttlecock Limited company was created. In 1936 they were creating 40000 shuttlecocks made of cork and feathers.

    The business was based in station road and then moved to Stanley works building in 1939. The company opened the first USA shuttlecock manufacturing plant. The business moved to Sandwich in Kent in the late 1940s.

    In order to guarantee the supply of top-quality goose feathers which were only available in China, RSL in 1980 entered into an arrangement with the Chinese Government whereby they set up a factory in Canton, China with the Chinese providing the raw materials and RSL the experience and machinery which had been perfected over the years.

    You can read more about the shuttlecock from page 26 onwards in this issue of The Norwood Review by clicking here.



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  • Atmospheric Railway

    Orton Buildings, Portland Rd, London 1846 Industrial

    In 1845 the London and Croydon Railway opened an atmospheric railway, which used air pressure to move trains.

    The line ran from West Croydon to Forest Hill. Pumping stations were established at West Croydon, Portland Road (now Norwood Junction) and Dartmouth Road (Forest Hill). The pumping station (at Norwood) was built in high Gothic style, and had a prominent tower which was both a chimney and a vent for air pumped from the tube. 

     Steam engines at these pumping stations created a vacuum in a pipe laid between the rails. A free piston in the pipe was attached to the train through a slit sealed by a leather flap. The piston, with a train attached, was pushed from one pumping station to the next by atmospheric pressure.

    Unfortunately the atmospheric railway did not prove a success: the air pressure was not able to be maintained and there are contemporary accounts of passengers having to get out and push the trains – sometimes pushing so hard that the train ran off at great speed and they were unable to re-board! 

    The main problem was with the valve flaps which were leaky – in part due to rats developing a taste for the tallow which was used to maintain the seal. Part of one of the 15 inch atmospheric pipes is on show at the Croydon Museum, together with a wind-up model of the railway.

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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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  • Croydon Canal

    Sunnybank 1809 Industrial

    Without the Croydon Canal, the early development of South Norwood wouldn’t have taken place.

    The Croydon Canal ran 9 ¼ miles from New Cross following the contours of the hills such as Forest Hill, to Croydon. At its northern end it connected to the Grand Surrey Canal. It was nine metres wide and 1.5 metres deep. As it navigated some of the gentle slopes at the bottom of the hills, it meant there were many locks along the root including the 28 locks arranged in two flights at Forest Hill that moved the barges to a higher plain. In the South Norwood area, the canal route made a tight curve around the base of South Norwood Hill. Up until the 1960s, there was a lock keepers cottage at Sunnybank which sits by the canal.

    The canal was created to transported goods from the Thames towards the market town of Croydon. These goods were ‘coals, corn, fir timber, groceries, stone, slate, malt and manure’. From Croydon goods heading up river towards the Thames were ‘oak, elm timber, firestone, lime, fuller’s earth, flints, flour and seeds’.

    In 1801, an Act of Parliament authorised the canal to be built. It opened in 1809. Water supplied the canals from two reservoirs – one at Sydenham and one at South Norwood. Problems with a leaking canal and the arrival of the steam engine meant that this method of transporting goods was now costly and time consuming. The canal closed in 1836 and much of its path was used by the London and Croydon Railway who brought the canal for £40,250.

    The arrival of the railway shaped and changed the area. If the canal had not existed, then that pathway across Surrey might not have been chosen by the railway company and South Norwood might be a very different place.

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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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