Wheels of fortune for Roundhouse

PUBLISHED: 14:45 23 February 2006 | UPDATED: 10:25 07 September 2010

Roundhouse chief executive Marcus Davey with the “fantastic find

Roundhouse chief executive Marcus Davey with the “fantastic find"".

BUILDERS working to turn the Roundhouse into a multimillion-pound arts centre have stumbled across a unique part of its history. Two huge turntables, once used to manoeuvre engines visiting the coal yard next door, have been uncovered du

Andrew Brightwell

BUILDERS working to turn the Roundhouse into a multimillion-pound arts centre have stumbled across a unique part of its history.

Two huge turntables, once used to manoeuvre engines visiting the coal yard next door, have been uncovered during works to build the centre's new car park.

The Grade II-listed building was originally built to house a repair shed for the London and North West Railway in 1846.

Marcus Davey, Roundhouse chief executive, said: "The unearthing of these beautiful iron turning wheels is a fantastic find. In order to redevelop the Roundhouse, extensive excavations had to be undertaken and nothing of archaeological importance of this scale has been discovered until now.

"It's a beautiful iron structure and in fairly good condition considering it must be at least 140 years old. The original features are intact including the wheels."

Malcolm Tucker, an industrial archaeologist who has visited the two tables, explained that they were once a common sight across the country. He explained the wheels were an effective way of turning a locomotive in a confined space.

He said: "I believe they date from the 1850s or 1870s, from the history of the site. The coal yard next to the Roundhouse would have had tracks for locomotives coming into it and they would have used the turntables to turn locomotives round through 90 degrees. In those days they would have either been hauled round by men or by horses."

Later, with advances in technology, turntables fell out of use.

Mr Tucker said: "But these turn- tables are shown on an Ordnance Survey map of 1952, so they were probably working until then.

"In 1956 the Clean Air Act was introduced and the use of coal in London dropped dramatically, and subsequently the coal yard became a ready mix concrete works. It is possible these two tables were saved because they were simply built over without being removed."

Mr Tucker said it was rare to find the items in such a good state and has suggested the Roundhouse finds a way of keeping and displaying the artefacts.

The tables could raise £500 as scrap, but the arts centre, which still needs to raise £2.5million towards its building project, is hoping it can find a good home for at least one of them.

A spokeswoman said: "We have a number of experts coming to look at them. Mr Tucker was the first and soon someone from English Heritage will also have a look. We will then find the best way to preserve them."


Volunteer as an usher - and get to see performances free

ROUNDHOUSE bosses are appealing for an army of volunteers to help run the new theatre.

The creative arts centre, which will be open by June, needs 200 volunteers who are aged over 18 to work an average of one shift every two weeks at its matinee and evening performances.

Jacky Fairfax and Linda Hapgood, volunteer co-ordinators for the Roundhouse, are looking for people to work as ushers, sell merchandise and assist in other tasks.

Ms Fairfax said: "We are looking for reliable, punctual candidates who will act in a courteous and helpful manner when dealing with members of the public.

"In return, you will gain excellent work experience that will enhance your CV, develop your skills, have the opportunity to meet new friends, and get an insider's view and a real insight into how this major London venue works."

But, perhaps best of all, volunteers will be able to see Roundhouse performances for free and attend social events at the centre.

The Roundhouse will reimburse travel expenses up to £5 and provide induction sessions for all the volunteers.

Anyone interested can in touch with Jacky

or Linda by emailing volunteer.coordinator@, calling 020-7434 6788 or writing to The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8EH.

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