The Electric Disc: Machines for Exciting Frictional ElectricityStanleybury, South Norwood 1868 Commercial
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.Read More
Pascall’s Patent Expanding RidgeSouth Norwood Hill 1880 Industrial
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.Read More
Atmospheric RailwayOrton 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.Read More
The Song of Hiawatha: A Composition by Samuel Coleridge-TaylorUpper Grove 1898 Creative
This piece of music is the best known work by composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was an English composer and conductor.
He was born in London in 1875 to Alice Hare Martin, an English woman, and Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor, a Krio man from Sierra Leone who had studied medicine in the capital. This meant he was mixed race. Samuel’s father did not marry Alice so he was brought up in Alice’s family home where he was taught how to play the violin.
His talent was noticed and he was given violin lessons and then he was able to study at the Royal College of Music. Clearly gifted, he completed a degree in musical composition and became a professor at the Crystal Palace School of Music.
He became particularly known for his three cantatas on the epic poem Song of Hiawatha by American Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Coleridge-Taylor premiered the first section in 1898, when he was 22. As this piece of music was so popular, he was able to do three tours of the United States. One his first visit he was received at the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt which was a rare event for a man of African descent.
Although he had created a very successful piece of music because he sold the music outright, he did not benefit directly.
In 1912, at the age of 37, he caught pneumonia and died.Read More
The Dividing Machine: An Invention by William StanleySouth Norwood Hill 1861 Industrial
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.Read More
Croydon CanalSunnybank 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.Read More
Cristoid FilmNorwood Junction 1899 Industrial
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.Read More