In this year 2000, we have had floods, petrol shortages, war in the Middle East, and all sorts of dire global warming predictions. Despite this, it is the Millennium Dome which has been found the most depressing event of the year.

What has that got to do with us? It is this, without purpose no building has relevance, and will not last.

In our museum we celebrate the industrial past of our valley. The mills and industrial buildings may not have been beautiful, though some were, but, so long as they remained relevant, they stood, and were renewed for generations. When the purpose left, and industry moved away, they vanished with astonishing speed.

The Surrey Iron Railway, whose bicentenary is next year, is an example. When it was conceived, there was an overwhelming need for what it could supply - there were up to 90 water powered sites along the Wandle, driving up to 200 wheels. By 1850, when the SIR ceased operating, the sites had reduced to 35, with the increase of steam powered industries no longer linked to the river, with the competition from the Grand Surrey and Croydon Canals, and the new steam railways, providing the final blow.

There is little left now, as Eric Shaw's excellent slide show demonstrated at our AGM.

At least we care about the SIR - for a time it had purpose, and brought a justifiable pride to the area.

Who will care about the Dome?

Nicholas Hart

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