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AIMS - to research, publish and promote the industrial history of the London Borough of Greenwich

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  • 02/07/18--00:10: News

  • Sorry - that  it has been so long since this blog appeared. It has  been a very very slow month for information coming in and newsletters only started arriving this week. There is a lot going on in the wider world of industrial Greenwich histiory - but not very much we can report on.

    The gas holder.   As people will be aware from the local press, following the issue of an Immunity from Listing order by the Department of the Environment,  the Council was asked to agree plans to demolish it.  These were refused by the Council - we understand at officer level - and also we understand discussions are going on about its future. But we do not know any more than that.  
    Enderby Group and Enderby House.   Things go apace on the Enderby site with the new housing filling up and an active bunch of new residents (see their Facebook page).  With Enderby House the Group has met the Greenwich Conservation Officer with reference to remediation work there.  We understand she, and someone from Historic England and been to inspect and are now passing on their thoughts to Barratts.  We await more information. As people will be aware part of the site has now been sold but we do not know who to. The sales office has now been demolished which means that work on the Riverside path will start in two phases and would take some time - meaning more closures and the future is still very unclear
    The Group has also met with Barratts and the Council about a new sculpture to go on the riverside at Enderby Wharf.  We have been asked not to give details but we were very very impressed and like what is being put forward a lot.
    Atlas and Derrick Gardens. The council is considering conservation area status for Atlas and Derrick Gardens in Anchor and Hope Lane. The consultation is now closed and and we await results Atlas and Derrick Gardens were built by Corys in the 19th century to house workers from their coal transhipment site in the River - called Atlas
    Siemens. The Government has also issued an Immunity from Listing order on some of the old Siemens buildings in Bowater Road  Again we do not know the current position but there is a great deal of opposition to this both from the Council, the Siemens Engineering Society and a number of important historians who have worked on these Woolwich sites.
    White Hart. We understand that the Council is intending to refurbish the old White Hart 'power station' depot building for community use. It has been in use by Crossrail for the past two or three years - so let's see what happens and what the plans are.
    Hopefully more information about all of these will be available soon

    We are sorry to hear of the death of Greenwich historian, Beryl Platts. Beryl was not an industrial historian but she always had something interesting to say in her work on central Greenwich and the Crooms Hill area of which she had a vast store of knowledge. Condolences to her family - and her daughter Elizabeth, a distinguished archaeologist and member of the Enderby Group
    Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter
    The Antiquarians current newsletter gives details of a talk by iim Marrett on buildings in Woolwich with some interesting personal details. He described how he had a Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee mug with a picture of the Arsenal main gate on it and the date '1977'.   The society hopes to have installed plaque to the memory of the people who worked in the Arsenal in 1917 including Lilian Barker who was superintendent for the women workers including those in danger buildings.  He said that a monument in Plumstead cemetery commemorates 16 people killed in the Arsenal in a guncotton and Lydditte explosion in 1903.  
    He also talked about the Bull Pub on Shooters Hill saying that the arms of William and Mary which were once in its tap room are now in the Courage headquarters.  He also said that the Parish boundary stone of  1812 is in his back garden
    Woolwich walk  - Wonderful Woolwich
    We have been told about a  series of walks arranged by the London Metropolitan Archive which includes Wonderful Woolwich on 14th March.  Tickets available through Eventbrite but we have no further details
    Enderby wharf advertising for homes – we spotted the following information given on the Barratt website advertising homes on the wharf:
    "The development was named after Samuel Enderby, a maritime entrepreneur and explorer who founded a shipping company in the 18th century.
    His residence, Enderby House, a listed building, now forms part of the new development"
    We asked the Enderby Group's Stewart Ash what he thought about this. And he says:
    The development may have been named after Samuel Enderby (senior or junior) they don’t say, but that is not where the site or the house got their names from, and neither Samuel ever lived there.  Both were dead before the site was acquired!  The site gets its name from the Enderby Hemp & Rope Works, established by Messrs Enderby Brothers (Charles George & Henry) in 1830, the year after Samuel Jnr died.  Charles, George and Henry were Samuel Jnr’s sons.   Charles Enderby, member of the Royal Society for the Arts and founder member of the Geographical Society had the house built in 1845-46 and lived there from April 1846 to August 1849.
    So - please Barrett’s talk to us and we will help you get the information right next time you put advertisements out.  Happy to help!
    Historic England 
    We have a note from Mark Stevenson at Historic England to say that archaeological work on Phase 9 Woolwich Riverside will start soon, He has sent us a document about the site and we’re happy to forward that to anybody if they get in touch
    Mark also sent us details of archaeological work for the Valley House scheme area, But no more details than that work will start soon.
    GLIAS Newsletter February 2018
    They advertise
    20th February talk on "Iron men - 19th century engineer Henry Maudslay and his circle."  People will be aware that the start of Maudslays career in Woolwich and that there is a stained glass window of him in Woolwich Town hall - so everybody should go to this 
    21st March. James Brindley in London and his plans for the Thames
    18 April. London’s Underground Edwardian tile patterns and some their context
    16th May. AGM  Talk about the Post Office Museum and Railway
    These talks are all at 75 Cowcross Street EC1M 6EL at 6.30
    GLIAS also advertise
    11th April.  John Pender. The Cable King. this is a talk for elite Newcomen Society by the Enderby Group's Stewart Ash. It is at 5.45 pm at the Dana Studio, Wellcome Wolfson Building, 165 Queen’s Gate,  SW7 5HD.  details 
    A memorial service for Dr. Denis Smith will be held on the 9th June at Thaxted  Parish Church at 14.30
    We are sorry to learn from Lewisham Local History Society of the recent death of Gordon Dennington. Gordon  edited their  Newsletter for 15 years and also came to talk to us in Greenwich on a couple of occasions. He will be missed.
    Bromley Borough Local History Society
    We understand that on the 6th of March they have a talk the Lubbock family. This distinguished family had a role in Greenwich as successive family members chaired Morden College. the talk is 7. 45 at Trinity United Reformed Church. Freelands Road, Bromley 
    Ordnance Jetty
    We note that local wildlife enthusiasts as well as the 853 blog are concerned about plans by the 02 Hotel Intercontinental and their plans to convert the  disused Ordnance Jetty into a restaurant for  river buses and hotel vistitors. Details on 853 blog.

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  • 02/09/18--14:40: The Ghost in the Dome
  • You see this all goes back to at least 1998 and maybe further back.

    I had done this M.Phil at the Poly in the early 1980s and it was about George Livesey who was the big man in the late 19th century gas  industry.  He had built East Greenwich Gas Works  and I rather thought - as the Millennium neared - well this was my big chance!

    I was also researching the history of the peninsula and for a long time I had been going down there and climbing through hedges and finding things (I was younger then), chatting up security men and so on.  I got to know Kay Murch who was the last gas works employee on the site and by then she was site manager for the New Millennium Experience Company.  Kay was a local lady, who had started in the gas works as a typist, and she was all right.

    So - its 1998 - one morning I open the Guardian and there is a big three page spread about the Dome, and Kay had taken a group of press men round the site. She had been asked about stories of a ghost - oh, yes, she had said - its George Livesey who built the gas works, Mary Mills knows all about it.'   There it was, in print.

    So - next evening there I was on ITV - at what was then the Livesey Museum in the Old Kent Road. Telling the world about George.

    And then I sort of forgot about it. But then once the Dome was opened in 2000 I got a call from their press officer - who I knew anyway. And down I went for an interview with Psychic News and Fortean Times.  'Tell us' they said 'did Mr. Livesey have any hobbies'.  'Oh yes, he liked to go to the seaside' .  'Oh' says the press officer 'there is a seaside zone in the Dome ... and its on the site of the old gas company office block'.  Ah ha.  

    Next thing I was on the John Dunn show going down the river on Viceroy and telling them all about Livesey live on air - except when I mentioned Blur and Park Life in Riverway (they put music over that bit and told me off - the John Dunn show never had music recorded after 1970).   

    Anyway it all pops up from time to time in ghost hunting journals. Personally I think Livesey was a committed Christian, rational and very very bright and would have had no truck with becoming a ghost.

    BUT some years later I met some bloke who said to me that he was the ghost in the Dome.  He said that in the Second World War he was fire watching down in the gas company offices. He was tired so he wrapped himself up in a sheet and went to sleep on the comfy deep pile carpet in the director's offices. Then clank clank there is the cleaner in the morning, so he stood up, wrapped  in a sheet ............................ so you see that's how stories start.


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  • 03/06/18--11:02: John Humpheries House
  • John Humpheries House and Leo Computer Centre

    by Harry Pearman

    John Humphries House in Stockwell Street was the first purpose-built computer centre in Greenwich and the site of a remarkable initiative by local government.

    An early UK computer with an electronic stored memory was the EDSAC  machine developed at Cambridge University in 1949. I caught the attention of J. Lyons & Co., who were the managers of a highly successful teashop chain.   They were also innovators of management systems and found that the paperwork of stock control in all of their branches greatly inhibited efficiency. Lyons therefore set about building the first UK computer for business use. It was dubbed the LEO 1 machine; LEO standing for Lyons Electronic Office. It utilised mercury delay lines for memory storage, and ran the world's first regular office job for stock control in 1951. An offshoot company, LEO Computers Ltd., was formed in 1954 to market the technology and LE02 machines were installed in many British offices, including Ford Motor Company, British Oxygen Company and the Ministry of Pensions at Newcastle.

    This success led to the invention of the LE03 machine. This machine used panels of magnetic washers to store programs and data. Memory size was limited, and programmers had to show great ingenuity in the direct manipulation of memory in order to contain data. Files were stored on magnetic tape reels and data was entered by completing batches of forms, which were punched onto paper tape. Programs were written in a wholly numeric language called Intercede, and the primitive operating system required a great deal of operator intervention. LEO'S principal benefit was the ability to print forms and tabulations at speeds of up to 1,000 lines a minute.

    In 1960 these innovations caught the attention of a Greenwich Councillor named John Humphries.   He was instrumental in the creation of a Joint Committee formed from the then Metropolitan Boroughs of Greenwich, Woolwich, Deptford, Southwark, Bermondsey and Camberwell, and this in turn set about the creation of a computer centre, with the result that John Humphries house was built and officially opened. The development of systems was placed in the hands of the Metropolitan Boroughs Organisation & Methods Committee, another Joint Organisation serving the needs of 28 Metropolitan Boroughs and managed by John Dive. They created a computer division and it was based at John Humphries The first application was Rate Accounting and this was followed by Payroll, General Ledger Accounting, Job Costing, Stock Control, Creditor Payments, Miscellaneous Debtors, Transport, Housing Rents, Electoral Registration, Library Cataloguing and Land Use Registration. Subsequently The Forest and Bexley Hospitals and the Bloodstock Agency also used the services of the site.

    A major change took place in 1965 when London Government was re-organised and the centre then serviced the data processing needs of the London Boroughs of Bexley, Greenwich and Southwark. As computing developed it became financially viable for each local authority to create its own computer installation. The need for a joint installation ceased and the use of John Humphries House was discontinued, LEO Computers Ltd merged with the computer interests of English Electric in 1963 to form English Electric LEO, and later, English Electric Leo Marconi (EELM). Subsequent mergers eventually found LEO incorporated into SCL in 1968. And the ICL machine range took over new production.

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  • 03/07/18--01:43: Article 0

    The speaker from the PLA for next week's meeting is now unable to do the talk.

    Hoping to get a replacement - watch this space

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    Remains of a Revolution – Presented by Sir Neil Cossons OBE FSA (Wednesday 11th April 2018)

    In the eighteenth century, Britain was widely recognised as the first industrial nation.  In the nineteenth as ‘workshop of the world’.  What we now call the Industrial Revolution defined this momentous episode in the nation’s history and the dramatic changes in society and the landscape that ensued, not only in Britain herself but across the globe.  And, of the great industrial endeavours that distinguished this revolution the Royal Dockyards were the world’s largest.  Chatham was one of these.

    In this lecture, Sir Neil Cossons considers the legitimacy of these revolutionary assertions, explores the surviving evidence and addresses the conservation challenges it presents.  As a former Director of London’s Science Museum, and Chairman of English Heritage he draws on a wide palette of international examples to demonstrate how for some a future has been assured, for others their legacy will be little more than a footnote to history.

    This lecture begins at 7:00pm and will be hosted at the Royal Dockyard Church.
    The lecture is FREE to attend and places can be booked via our website:
    Sir Neil Cossons is sure to be an excellent speaker, providing some unique insights into The Historic Dockyard as well as comparisons to other industrial heritage sites.  Places at this event are strictly limited so make sure you book early to ensure your place!

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     Access to the World Wide Web is only possible due to a vast global network of subsea fibre optic cables carrying terabits of data under the oceans.  This unheralded technology did not grow up overnight, it was more than one hundred and sixty-five years in the making and the Greenwich Peninsula was the focal point of its development.One man did more than any other individual to develop a global communications network and that man was Scotsman Sir John Pender GCMG (1816-96).

    John Pender made his first fortune in the calico printing industry in Manchester.His association with Greenwich began in 1857, when Glass, Elliot & Co acquired the Enderby Wharfsite from Messrs Enderby Brothers to armour half of the cable ordered by the Atlantic Telegraph Co.  At that time Pender was a   director and major shareholder in the Atlantic Telegraph Co but had little to do with the 1857 and 1858 attempts to lay a working cable across the Atlantic.

    Oil painting of the SS Great Eastern  laying the 1865 cable
    by Robert Dudley, presented to Telcon by the artist  and now
    owned by ASN at Greenwich and on display in their  SS Great
    Eastern conference room
    After these failures it was Pender who, in 1864,put up a personal guarantee of £250k to persuade the directors of the Glass, Elliot and the Gutta Percha Co to merge their two companies to form the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Co (Telcon).  Pender became its first Chairman and oversaw the successful laying of two cables across the Atlantic in 1866.  In 1868 he stood down as Chairman and was replaced by his close friend, Daniel Gooch, but retained his stock holding in the company.  Over the next 28 years he went on to build a global network of submarine telegraph cables that connected the United Kingdom to its colonies and beyond, through a series of operating companies, collectively known as The Eastern & Associated Telegraph Companies.  This company would later become Cable & Wireless.

    Pender never gave up his stock holding in Telcon and, whenever his operating companies needed a new cable, it was invariably Telcon that was awarded the supply contract.  From its formation, through Pender’s patronage, Telcon went on to dominate the submarine cable supply industry for the next 100 years.  After John Pender’s death, two further generations of Penders were directors of Telcon until it merged with BICC in 1959.

    Sepia wash water colour by Robert Dudley.  Pender seated in
    the cable hut at Porthcurno, watching the first message sent
    over his cable system to India in 1870.
    From 1876 John Pender leased the Palladian mansion of Foots Cray Place from the Vansittart family, as his summer residence.  He died there on 7 July 1896 and is buried in the family tomb in the graveyard of All Saints Church.  The family tomb is marked by a five metres high Celtic cross, which is the only memorial to his memory accessible to the public.

    Despite his outstanding achievements, very few people have heard of him or understand the debt we owe to him for the legacy that he has left us.  Now there is a biography of this great man, written with the benefit of access to the Pender family archive.  It is available from Amazon as an e book

    hard copy with either black & white or full colour illustrations:

    Marble bust of Sir John Pender by Edward Onslow Ford 1897 commissioned by the Sir John Pender Memorial Committee. From 1902 it was on public display at University College London, outside the newly opened  Pender Laboratory.  It remained there for over 100 years but has now been returned to the Pender family

    The cover notes have been written by Bill Burns, one of the world’s leading experts of the history of the submarine cable industry.  They are repeated below: ‘John Pender was a key figure in one of the 19th century’s most important technological enterprises: the interconnection of the British Empire through undersea telegraph cables, a network that Tom Standage has called the Victorian Internet. Pender exemplified the best that the 19th century could produce, he was a hard-working businessman with concern for the welfare of his staff, and who sought public office to speak for Manchester merchants and Lancashire cotton workers during the Cotton Famine. Always a forward thinker, he saw that telecommunications was destined to be the great development of the second half of the 19th century.

    Miniature of John Pender in 1866
    Pender suffered personal tragedy when his first wife died just thirteen months after their marriage, leaving him with an infant son. His second marriage ten years later to the determined and enterprising Emma Denison was a turning point both for his family and the Empire. The electric telegraph caught his interest, and his promotion and organization of the companies that laid the first Atlantic cable were a significant factor in their eventual success. In 1869 he established the first of many cable companies which before his death connected Great Britain to all parts of its Empire and beyond. Awarded many high honours from foreign governments, he was finally knighted by Queen Victoria in 1888.

    John Pender kept his personal life private and this perhaps explains why there has not been a biography of him before now. The Pender family granted Stewart Ash unrestricted access to the family archives, and this book gives us a detailed account of John Pender’s ascent from his humble beginnings in Scotland. A truly remarkable man, he made his first fortune in the cotton trade, then dedicated his life to the development of the undersea cable industry and its rise to pre-eminence, becoming a Member of Parliament in successive governments in furtherance of his dreams.

    The Sir John Pender Memorial in All Saints
    Churchyard, Foots Cray, Kent

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    Harbour Master's House.

    We all know the Harbour Master's House on Ballast Quay - it was part of a complicated network set up to try and regulate the huge numbers of coal ships from the north in the river in the 19th century.

    It was a rebuild of an older Harbour Master's Office which was at 'Highbridge Place'.  I found a web site which says it became the Three Crowns Pub, which was alongside the Highbridge draw dock.

    Does anyone know anything about this and if it is true??

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    I thought that - given the current debate on pollution - that it might be of interest to look back and see where we were 24 years ago.  

    This is a report of a Conference held by Docklands Forum.  The Forum covered most of east London (technically they covered the Docklands regeneration area set up in the 1970s by the GLC which covered parts of Greenwich and Lewisham as well as what became the Docklands development area)

    So - attendees and speakers came from all over the area - and we included a big pack of comments and responses from community groups from all around (sorry - I no longer have a copy of that)

    - a few key points about the early 1990s

    -  site remediation was still not always undertaken then, and there were many very dodgy sites. The Thatcher Government had effectively stopped any research although local authorities were often trying to  draw up contaminated sites registers. (I remember looking at the LDDC's sites register in disbelief!!)

    -  air quality was clearly a big issue. Some authorities - notably Greenwich and Southwark - were building extensive monitoring networks and encouraging research by their EHOs.   But remember there was no 'on line' then.

    -  lead based air pollution was a big issue in parts of Tower Hamlets. By 1994 this was based around the Murdoch print works but in years before that all school children were blood tested around the Island Lead Works.

    -  power stations and powered recycling plants were an issue with many planned. I remember a big conference about this in Dartford.  But my memory of dates is getting a bit hazy.

    So - some you will remember this conference - and some of you were there. So please comment.

    I think it is possible that a final page is missing.  This is entirely my fault as in 1994 I was responsible for putting the set of papers together!! (sorry!) 




    The pollution problems of East London will not be eradicated overnight. However, there is no doubt that this conference raised the profile of the stresses on East London's environment and the quality of life of its communities whilst providing a forum for discussion of the issues and prospective solutions.

    The Conference held in mid-October on the 29th floor of Guy's Hospital Tower set an ambitious but realistic agenda with over fifty organisations directly participating through oral or written presentations. The involvement of statutory agencies, those in the business of government, community and environmental organisations acted as a timely reminder that the pollution issues of greatest concern have social, economic and environmental ramifications, the impact of which is common to us all.

    The Conference's proceedings are currently being incorporated into a publication. In due course a synopsis of the pollution issues identified, their impact and identified realistic solutions will be presented at a Ministerial meeting. What follows is a short review of the salient issues discussed.

    1.0 The Common Agenda

    The Conference had a common agenda, the issues of which are complex and interlinked. To progress that agenda the Forum sought to establish consensus amongst an ever increasing number of stakeholders on what issues should be included, what action should be taken, by whom, and over what timescale. The outcome of this Conference must pass the test of realism, especially in political terms, as most of the issues we are concerned with are 90% politics and only 10% science and technology. The residual scientific and technological uncertainties will take a long time to resolve, so we must progress in the face of that uncertainty.

    To wait for the resolution of all scientific and technological problems would almost certainly be counter productive. We must adopt a precautionary approach to all pollution issues which we do not fully understand.

    2.0 Industrial Legacy

    Like most major western cities, prevailing winds have always determined where 'bad neighbour industries' would be located. Being 'downwind', East London became the depository for large industry including the largest gasworks site in the world.

    Given that the quality of land is intimately bound up with its past it should be of no surprise that land contamination in East London is widespread. However, before health and environmental concerns over contaminated land began to be reflected in new legislation, East London experienced tremendous pressure for land development, as a consequence of both the Government's commitment to preserving the Green Belt and regenerating Docklands.  Landowners and large industries were only too keen to exploit their resources in the boom years and unsurprisingly, a significant number of these sites were acquired and redeveloped, many for housing.

    It is crucial that a full assessment of the significance of land contamination is carried out on existing or proposed development sites suspected of being contaminated. 

    Where land contamination is identified, and where levels exceed the 'upper trigger concentrations', remedial action is required and should be undertaken immediately. 

    Costs of remedial measures such as landfill could be anything up to £1 million to remove one metre of soil depth over 1 acre. Notwithstanding some legal recourse to the 'polluter pays principle' (notably statutory agencies taking remedial steps where pollution has already occurred and subsequently recovering the cost from those responsible), this can not successfully be achieved where those responsible have long 'disappeared' and where the current owner wasn't aware and has no money. This leaves the dilemma of who should pay, the tax-payer or the customer? If neither the tax-payer nor the customer pays then the local community continues to suffer.

    Quite clearly reclamation costs prohibit development of many contaminated inner city sites and this is where the financial assistance of English Partnerships can be considered. English Partnerships (the Urban Regeneration Agency) currently has an initial budget of £250 million for regenerating areas of need in England, through reclamation and development of land, including the treatment of contaminated land. It is interesting to note that the sum for England is approxamately equivalent to the sum for Wales but half that for Scotland.

    East London (Inner Thames Gateway) requires a comprehensive land contamination reclamation strategy and accordingly requires an English Partnership package that can call upon sufficient funds. 

    2.1 Integrated Pollution Control

    Many of the worst pollutants, those which can do most harm if mishandled or those hardest to dispose of safely, are industrial materials and by-products. Industrial processes with the greatest pollution potential come under Integrated Pollution Control (lPC) which is regulated by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution (HMlP).

    IPC is a medium and a legal basis which takes a holistic approach to ensure that any substances from industry which are released to the environment are directed to the medium to which they will cause the minimum damage be it to air, water or land .

    Crucial to IPC is the principle that companies should use the 'best available techniques not entailing excessive cost' (BA TNEEC). The Chemical Industry (who are the highest spenders on pollution control equipment) foresee the time when the proactive state of today will become the statutory norm and the 'NEEC' of 'BA TNEEC' will become irrelevant. IPC embodies the precautionary principle and requires operators to use the BATNEEC to achieve the 'best practicable environmental option' (BPEO). Through IPC, HMIP regulates industrial releases through 'authorisations', industrial licences which permit operations of certain processes and their environmental consequence for a fee.

    IPC was seen to be impeccable in theory but rather challenging in practice in so far as the regime will not be totally up and running until 1996 and has only had eight successful prosecutions since 1991, with five pending.

    Prevention is better than cure and HMIP should have a greater obligation to press for the best technology of the today to be used to ensure that the environment of tomorrow is protected to the best of our ability. 

    The Government should formulate and establish, as soon as possible, the promised UK Environmental Protection Agency. Without this body we will never have a true system of Integrated Pollution Control. 

    2.2 The Printing Industry

    Docklands has the largest concentration of newspaper printworks in Europe. Whilst many different pollutants are produced in the printing processes polluting air, land or water, the three major priority printing pollutants are:

    - Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) in wash-up products (e.g, white spirit);
    - screen printing reclamation products; and
    - flexographic inks.

    In particular, there is great international concern over VOCs for four reasons:

    - some of them are toxic or carcinogenic;
    - some of them contribute to stratospheric Ozone depletion;
    - most of them make an indirect contribution to global warming;
    - most of them contribute, in varying degrees, to the formation of ground level Ozone.

    The UK (along with all other EU countries) is committed to a 30% reduction in VOCs
    emissions between 1988 and 1999 and the printing industry is a major player.

    VOC alternatives in wash-up have been on the market for almost a decade. In fact vegetable oils (Vas) have now been used in numerous countries including the US, Japan, Denmark and Germany for some time now. The 'Daily Express' printers in Manchester use mainly VOs for wash-up purposes which minimise the direct health risks to workers as well as reducing the contribution to ground level Ozone, global warming and the destruction of the Ozone layer. There should be no excuse why East London continues to be exposed to vac emmssions from the printwork industry when there are acceptable pollution free alternatives on the market.

    Newspaper printworks in Docklands should immediately begin replacing their wash-up Volatile Organic Compounds with Vegetable Oils along the lines of the Daily Express works in Manchester. 

    All major companies and organisations in East London (e.g, hospitals, educational establishments etc.) should be assisted by relevant authorities (DoE, HMIP, etc) to develop 'Life Cycle Analyses' of their goods and services in order to consider the localised and wider implications of their use of specific materials such as VOCs. 

    2.3 Industry and Community

    Quite clearly, industry cannot exist in isolation and community cannot ignore the need for industry and the economic wealth it can bring. There is irrevocable inter-dependence.

    Companies in East London should follow the example set by Pura Foods, and formulate environmental policies which reflect their responsibilities to the environment and to society at large. 

    3.0 Water Pollution

    Water, necessary for life itself, is also a natural resource of environmental, economic and social importance. It therefore needs to be protected and managed. The driving force for monitoring, understanding and controlling water quality is a concern for both the environment and human health.

    The National Rivers Authority (NRA) has the direct responsibility for maintaining the quality of water in both rivers and underground aquifers. To achieve this the NRA controls all discharges to watercourses by means of discharge consents. Conditions are attached to consents which relate to the volume and type of discharge and the quality standard of that discharge.

    In London, natural climatic circumstances also generate pollution incidents. Notably at times of high rainfall the capacity of London's Victorian sewerage system becomes inadequate and the Thames receives a large polluting load from storm overflows as well as the discharge from sewage works on the river.

    London requires its sewerage system to be upgraded to eliminate storm overflow problems (at current prices the cost is estimated at £0.5 billion). 

    Despite the NRAs planning and pollution prevention work, the risk of pollution from both accidents and deliberate unconsented discharges is still phenomenally high and as a consequence water quality in many rivers has declined in recent years.

    Although prosecutions are on the increase (over 400 in 1993/94), catching polluters and successfully prosecuting them is not always accomplished and when it is, fines are often too lenient.

    The severity of pollution incidents must be reflected in fines. 

    4.0 Air Quality

    Air pollution is a non-specific term for a complex cocktail of chemicals produced directly by vehicles and industrial plants, 'primary pollutants', as well as those produced by the primary pollutants in combination with sunlight, 'secondary pollutants'.

    The main air pollutants of concern in London include: Sulphur Dioxide; particulates; Carbon Monoxide; Nitrogen Oxides; VOCs; and photo-chemical smog (Ozone).

    4.1 Air Quality Management

    Local authorities have long recognised that they have an important part to play in improving air quality. With the demise of GLC support, research initiatives have became fragmented. However, an increasing number of authorities, with support from the ALA, LBA and SEIPH, are now striving to improve air quality in a more structured way by adopting a local air quality management system. The scheme is being implemented by the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) and contains three major components:

    - monitoring;
    - emission inventories;
    - pollution dispersion modelling.

    LAQN currently receives funding from the Regional Health Authorities. Its funding of £80,000 compares poorly with the £1.2 million available for Paris.

    The London Air Quality Network is underfunded and requires greater commitment from Government. 

    A sufficiently robust set of national air quality standards should be in place which should be enforceable at local levels. It should not be necessary for local authorities to set their own targets. 

    5.0 Road Transport Toxic Emissions

    Road transport is a substantial source of toxic emissions, some of which are major factors in local air pollution. In London, the contribution of road transport to total emissions is higher than the average for the UK as a whole, as this is largely due to the sheer concentration of road traffic.

    The average Londoner breathes about 230 million litres of air during a life-time. It would be reckless to assume that such vast consumption of air could have no effect on our health!

    There is definitive evidence that air pollution is associated with long term increases in mortality. Epidemiological studies have suggested, for example, that traffic pollution probably killed up to 160 Londoners in less than a week of foggy weather during December 1991 when cold static weather trapped air pollutants.

    5.1 PM10 and particulates

    Black smoke in London, which includes the smallest particles known as PM10 (those of less than 10 microns in diameter), can reach the deepest recesses of the lungs and is strongly associated with increased ill health and respiratory infections.

    96% of black smoke is now derived from road traffic, with 80% of that being derived from diesel engines. For many years diesel was wrongly heralded as a 'green fuel' with the consequence that diesel engine vehicles have made a significant penetration into the UK market.

    It is very difficult and expensive to eliminate or clean up PM10 particles from diesel exhausts. Any solution to eradicate the significant threats to London's air quality posed by PM10 will be dependent upon decreasing the attractiveness of cars, taxis, buses and lorries which run on diesel.

    The Government should promote the use of alternative vehicle fuel. In London, taxis and buses are major PM10 polluters, but the technology enabling them to run on gas, for example as they do in Japan, which is infinitely safer for human health is available.

    There should be discouragement of the use of diesel through legislation (it was totally wrongly heralded as a 'green fuel') and tighter VOC controls for petrol pumps and vehicles).

    There should be financial incentives to persuade vehicle owners to have catalytic converters fitted where possible in order to remove primary pollutants. 

    Diesel engines incompletely combust fuel, producing a combination of particulate matter and polynuclear aromatic carbons which are already acknowledged as carcinogenic. Measures to tackle diesel pollution lag well behind those already being introduced for petrol pollution. In London, for example, heavy goods vehicles produce the majority of airborne particulate matter, hence the pollution situation no doubt will be worsened by the recent announced demise of the London Lorry Ban.

    The London Lorry ban should be reinstated. 

    A wide variety of devices exist to trap PMIO. Diesel vehicles, especially lorries, should 
    be fitted with them. 

    5.2 Asthma in London

    Asthma rates in East London are 80% above national rates, with Tower Hamlets having the single highest borough rates. Rates of asthma amongst children are particularly alarmingly with, for example 17% of all 8 year olds in Newham suffering from the illness. As only the most severe cases go to hospital current data only reflects the tip of the iceberg.

    Data of respiratory problems, especially asthma, treated by GPs should be routinely available and monitored. 

    More generally, asthma levels have significantly increased in the last fifteen years with the consequence that hospital admissions, consultations and prescriptions for anti-asthmatic drugs have more than doubled in that period. The estimated cost to the nation in 1994 has been calculated to be close to £1 billion.

    Whilst some of this increase may be due to more accurate diagnoses of asthma there is now substantial evidence linking asthma with air pollution both at epidemiological and population
    level. Air pollution also affects other vulnerable groups, such as those with chronic bronchitis and emphysema, the elderly, and the very young, including unborn children. The total number of Londoners in vulnerable groups at risk from air pollution exceeds one million.

    There should be a recognised network promoting awareness and working to reduce environmental hazards. 

    Guy's Hospital experienced a 1000% increase in admissions for bronchial and asthmatic complaints during the pollution episode of June 1994. This reinforces the fact that South East London can not afford to lose Guy's Accident and Emergency unit

    The current Government plans to close Guy's Hospital should be scrapped and Guy's Hospital Campaign to establish an asthma centre should be given full Government support. 

    5.3 Monitoring

    Comprehensive air quality monitoring in London does not exist, as yet, exist. There are only three monitoring sites in London which meet EU standards

    Little of the monitoring undertaken by local authorities, the Warren Springs Laboratory (recently liquidated by the DTI), and the DoE, little complies with EC directives because the range of sites they monitor are predominately 'urban background pollution' sites as opposed to 'canyon like streets' such as busy intersections.

    The Government should ensure that existing monitoring sites should be upgraded wherever possible to conform to EU standards. 

    That future monitoring equipment be located at sites that record the true values of  pollution (e.g. curbside locations). 

    Failure to measure highest concentrations of pollutants at the roadside in London renders air quality data disjointed and incoherent which in turn reduces our understanding of how relatively short time exposure to high concentrations of 'pollution cocktails' provokes the deterioration in our health.

    Air quality monitoring should be made a statutory requirement for local authorities. 

    Clearly there is scope for further selective, properly targeted, DoE funded exercises in monitoring.

    Further research is specifically required to assess the 'cocktail effect' on health.

    The Government should assist in the setting up of a regional pollution monitoring network which will continuously monitor air pollutants and meterological conditions. This should require automatic data transfer from monitoring sites to council offices. 

    Data is only worth collecting if London has a statutory authority/government mechanism in place to know what to do with them. Currently London has neither.

    5.4 Recent East London Initiatives

    Southwark's £250,000 European Life Project has secured a continuous curb side monitoring station and has pioneered the use of the 'Denver FEAT' system to identify passing vehicles causing gross pollution on the Old Kent Road. Through infra-red and computer technology Southwark has been able to identify approximately 25 'smog hogs' per hour, but require police cooperation to stop and inform.

    Local authorities require the introduction of new powers to deal effectively with smoking vehicles on the road at a local level, without requiring the assistance of the police. 

    Local authorities should have the power to issue fines (nationally set) and legally require the vehicle owner to have the vehicle checked at an MOT testing station. 

    The London Boroughs of Greenwich and Tower Hamlets along with the South East Institute of Public Health are currently undertaking research to establish the influence of air pollution on the respiratory health of school children in the north and south Thames Region. Currently three schools in each Borough are involved, but the project can only last one year due to the insifficient funding.

    The Government should closely monitor the progress of such research and ensure that additional funds are made available to enable it to continue. 

    The Livesey, Southwark's children's museum has created and 'Air Aware' exhibition aimed at raising awareness amongst children. The exhibition takes an interactive look at air from an all encompassing viewpoint and embraces themes such as weather, wind energy, respiratory problems and air pollution.

    User friendly exhibitions directed at children of school age are an important element in the education of the next generation. Such exhibitions should be funded by the Departments of Health, Education and Environment. 

    The London Guildhall University has launched a new Environmental Centre for London to provide quality training and consultancy to business and industry in the areas of environmental management, environmental policy formulation and environmnetal enterprise.

    5.5 Transport Energy

    The London Energy Study (undertaken by LRC) has identified that in London 37% of all car journeys are under 2.2 miles, but use approximately 0.5% of the total energy used in the EC. Road transport consumes 26% of the total amount of energy used in London.

    There should be positive encouragement of less environmentally damaging modes of transport which either make little demand on energy and do not pollute (walking and cycling) or make less demands on energy and pollute less (various forms of public transport). 

    5.6 Pollution alerts and quality of information

    When pollution is likely to reach dangerous levels, information should be passed on to local and national media in order that those vulnerable to pollution can receive clear advice about what they should do. The current freephone DOE air quality service (0800 ) does not provide an adequate user-friendly service.

    Current DoE protocol of defining air quality as "very good", "good", "poor" or "very poor" is totally inadequate and does not reflect World Health Organisation graduation standards.

    The DoE must re-evaluate their use of such crude definitions and favour more 'user- friendly' indexes with a greater number of gradations which are capable of clarifying pollution episodes to a greater extent. 

    The main thrust of pollution alert advice should be directed at those causing the problem, not those suffering the consequences. 

    There should be legal powers to control traffic during pollution episodes. 

    The Departments of Health, Transport and the Environment should encourage the national media and local broadcasting systems (e.g, Cable TV) to carry regular reports on air quality . 

    5.7 East London's Roads Jeopardy

    Aside from vast tracts of contaminated land, East London suffers from 'motorway type' roads slicing through boroughs taking commuters daily to and from the City, leaving behind its noise and exhaust emissions.

    The launch of the 'Thames Gateway' (formally the East Thames Corridor) initiative outlining the Government's commitment to economic regeneration coupled with environmental enhancement should be based on sustainable transport policies which favour developments such as the Woolwich Rail Crossing and relegate, for good, the unacceptable and unsustainable notion that East London requires further major road transport developments.

    To guarantee a long-term improvement in East London's air quality it is vital that London develops and implements a rational coherent integrated public transport strategy. 

    Encouraging more vehicles means more pollution, therefore all means available should be used to curb traffic growth in East London, if not decrease it.

    There has to be a clear shift from the 'Roads Programme' towards the public transport programme. 

    There should be clear legislative incentives to persuade motorists to avoid using their cars especially on pollution alert days. 

    5.8 Heliport Threat

    Helicopters are the noisiest form of transport known. Unlike fixed wing aircraft, helicopters are far more disruptive because of the long duration and type of sound they produce: a 'blade slap' sound which intensifies as the helicopter takes off and lands.

    The current proposal for a floating 'aircraft carrier' on the Thames which could facilitate up to 22,000 helicopter movements p.a. should be vigorously opposed. Instead the River Thames should be promoted for river bus services. 

    5.9 London's Public Transport
    Much of London's public transport is old, in poor condition with declining standards. Through the spending of 50% more on trunk roads and motorways over the last eight years, the Government has continued to starve London's public transport of the money needed to improve services. Government expenditure on British Rail has been cut by 25% and spending on London Transport remains woefully inadequate.

    This year: - investment in Network SouthEast will amount to an estimated £250 million, compared to
    the £475 million needed;

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    After having not produced a Greenwich industrialhistory posting  for some months I thought I ought to do something.  Several newsletters have come in all at once - so – here we go

    Industrial Archaeology News 184 Spring 2018. 

    An article on England’s Major Civil Engineering Achievements mentions nothing in Greenwich. Under 'major tunnels' there is a short mention of the Brunel tunnel at Rotherhithe. I have written to say that they might have mentioned our much abused Blackwall Tunnel, built with much innovation 120 years ago and undertaking a heroic task on a daily basis. Would some of these other tunnels even begin to cope with what the Blackwall has to put up with??

    There is an article by David Dawson about Crossness Engines, with reproduced notes and letters from the 1860 about firing on ranges in the Arsenal leading to  dangerous situation at the outfall.  He also mentions some confusion about the restored  grid-iron at the Arsenal where very large items were loaded onto barges.  He mentions another possible grid iron at Crossness used by the sludge barges and another at the Woolwich Ferry.
    There is an article on gasholders - from a well known local source - and about the Greenwich holder in particular. We are very grateful for this publicity about the demolition of our local icon.
    The newsletter also advertises a number of international events including a Congress in Santiago in September.  There are also insets on what appear to be two AIA conferences the summer  - one in Nottingham and at Wick.  Happy to send details to anybody interested

    GLIAS  Newsletter

    For those of you who Denis Smith, and maybe  went to his Goldsmith's class. GLIAS reminds us that on the 9th of June is a memorial service to Denis at Thaxted Parish Church in Essex  1430 and afterwards at the Swan Hotel. Its obviously a very very difficult place to get to and they would like notice of people who intend to go - email me for details.

    Crossness Engines Records

    Crossness has our Greenwich Mayor on its front page following his visit to the work. 
    The issue also includes:
    Some information on the asbestos issue
    A plan for the bicentenary of Joseph Bazalgette's birth in 2019 and they are open to ideas

    Work on the valve house which is now in use for their small engines collection following a major cleanup

    News about the various railway projects and restoration of an known as Busy Basil and are looking for help with the project

    An article about the use of the engine house in a number of feature films and television programmes

    Docklands History Group.

    Please note their annual conference on Shipbuilding on the Thameson 12th May. Booking details on their web site

    Naval Dockyards Society

    They have announced that the Navy Board projects at the National Archives has been extended for another year

    Greenwich Industrial History Society has not been idle. We have had a series of meetings with a committee made up of people from all over the Borough who have experience in particular issues - and we would welcome more expert volunteers.
    We are attempting to put together a gazetteer of industrial remains in the Borough of Greenwich co-ordinated at the moment by Peter luck. We hope to publish this in some form and would welcome help and advice
    He also hope to put together individual booklets of interest to visitors - on subjects like the communications industry, trams, and similar subjects
    We are also looking at the following issues and would be happy to add to the list. Please get in touch:
    White Hart Road and proposed adaption of the old Plumstead Destructor into a community resource.
    Spray Street Quarter. This includes proposals for a wide area which includes much of interest, like the listed covered market roof

    Creekside  - there is concern about joining up schemes into a Riverside walk.  There are also issues around the railway lifting bridge
    Enderby Group. This continues and is discussing possible artwork for the site. It is still not known what  is likley to happen to the cruise liner terminal proposals or the site which is now for sale. Work continues on Enderby House. We are also keeping an eye on Riverside closures.

    Trinity Buoy Wharf , Although north of the river course there is a ferry service which runs from there to the Dome, and the arts and sculpture trail which runs down the Lea Valley is now planned to cross the river to take in art works on the peninsula riverside. We are in touch with Richard Albanese who is now working at Trinity Buoy Wharf on some of these issues, which include historic ships.
    East Greenwich Gas holder. There is yet another planning application on management of its demolition by Southern Gas Networks. There seems to be little anyone can do about this process of demolition which is being forced forward. We also note that there is the same process going on with the Bell Green holders, despite their being listed by Lewisham Council.
    Charlton Riverside - there is a vast plan for the usual housing which will take in some of the old rope works site and we need to keep an eye on remains there and also on remains of the Glenton railway
    Arsenal - we understand that Peabody's  housing programme is keeping an eye on heritage assets and they have an officer in charge of this.  An archive by Ray Fordham is being scanned, An eye needs to be kept on the canal remains but  we understand the nitrating  plant will be saved and work continues on the 'Gog and Magog' grid-iron
    There is an interest in street furniture and we understand information has come up about a local firm called Ginman.
    For all of this help and information from YOU would be wonderful.

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    This is a brief information sheet about the holder plus information on the current demolition plans.

    Please support the petition  

    (There are other descriptions of the holder further down the blog - but - sorry - I have managed to mess up the best one ) 

    Biggest gas holder in Europe - an exceptional structure built to revolutionary principles - listing now refused - and scheduled for demolition - ideas for reuse apparently not considered


    The gas industry in South London, beginning around 1820, had developed as a chaos of small competing private companies. Regulation was imposed on them by governments from the 1870s. This resulted in the area being dominated by Livesey’s South Metropolitan Company from the Old Kent Road. East Greenwich works was built in the 1880s as the out-of-town mega works which the government wanted to be built but it was also a show place for Livesey’s ideals and standards. Only perfection was good enough for South Met.!


    A gas holder is like a cup turned upside down in a saucer which holds a pool of water. The cup is built in a tier of sections which can lift and fall according to the amount of gas in it. This one was built on George Livesey's revolutionary cylindrical shell principle which treats it as a single huge cylinder. There are many other revolutionary aspects to the design and materials and while the structure appears to be simple it is really very complex and different from the older, often highly decorative, holders.

    It is far taller than would normally be expected. It has four ‘lifts’ which rise upwards and is the first holder ever built to this size. It rises to about 180 feet and holds 8.2 million cubic feet of gas. The great height of construction was made possible by new materials and it effected a great saving in cost which had a huge subsequent effect. It is it more efficient and lighter.  Costs of storage were also less in terms of land use and labour - and workers could be encouraged to go to church on Sundays even though Sunday dinners had to be cooked.

    The holder is free of all decoration and it sets a new bench-mark for gasholder design of which it is a refinement in size and sophistication and an exploitation of the beauty of pure structural form. Ideas then being embodied in industrial and domestic design as the modern movement.


    Some years ago English Heritage commissioned a report on London holders.  Very recently this report has been revisited and as a result an Old Kent Road holder has been listed and East Greenwich No.1 has not.

    The holder has (April 2018) been given consent to demolition. Last year the Council drew up a planning brief for the site in which they said Proposals should respect and respond to the industrial character of the area as a means of relating new development to the local context. In particular, development should build on the heritage value of the gas holder to enhance the character and distinctiveness of the area.”  Following this an application was made for immunity to listings order – which does not get general consultation, although Greenwich Industrial History Society was aware of it and made a submission.  But the order was granted meaning that it could be demolished without a planning application

    I am putting below an extract about the legal position by Matt Pennycook MP - which his consent (thank you Matt) - because it is a particularly clear and straightforward explanation

    Crucially, the application SGN plc submitted was not a standard planning application but a ‘prior approval’ application. Securing prior approval allows developers to use permitted development rights i.e. the right to make changes without the need to apply for planning permission from the local planning authority. Local planning authorities have only 28 days to determine such applications (if they do not, there is a default in favour of grating permission). Local councillors who object cannot call such applications in, and, in the case of an application to demolish a structure, the local planning authority can only consider the method of demolition, not the principle of whether or not it should take place. In the case of the gasholder, our Council could scrutinise the method of demolition and they did just that, refusing SGN plc’s first prior approval application, but could not refuse the prior notification on the grounds that they would like to see some or all of the gasholder structure to be retained. It’s a frustrating situation, but one that is a world away from the impression created in some recent reports suggesting the Council has backed the demolition of the gasholder. 
    As things stand, the granting of prior approval means that there is nothing that can be done to prevent the gasholder being lost should SGN plc wish to proceed with a demolition. However, the Council will continue to make efforts to reach out to SGN plc in the hope that the site owner will agree to at least begin a discussion about the heritage value of the gasholder and the range of creative proposals that could be brought forward to retain and make use of it. I very much hope they are successful
    Matt Pennycook

    I have also written to planners and influentual people asking them to get the planners to write more detailed letters to residents in cases like this where it is not a straightfordward planning application,. Residents who had raised objections just got a two line letter saying - the first time that it had not been given consent for demolition, and then - the second time that it had.  They deserved to be told what the actual situation was.  Would be grateful for backing for this.

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    This is written from memory and may not be entirely accurate. I would therefore ask that it is regarded as confidential and that none of it is reproduced or quoted until I can write it up from referenced sources. I will try to add to it as more reliable information becomes available.

    There is a lot of the path – but  this is basically about the stretch from Ballast Quay to the Yacht Club – but there are other problems – although different ones – all the way down to Thamesmead.

    The path round the Peninsula is a traditional walkway along the top of the river wall.    In the 1870s the then Greenwich Vestry obtained a judgement at the Kent Assizes to ensure that it was open to the public having been stopped up by a shipbuilding company.   I am not clear on its current status – it is a ‘right of way’ not a highway, but rights of way in London are difficult. However, when the right of way was established Greenwich was in Kent.

    In the late 17th century much of this riverside was passed to the Blackheath Charity, Morden College, who still own/control a great deal of it.  Other sites were in private or charitable hands.  The Enderby site was owned by the Government in the 18th century but has been private since.  Clearly the gas company (South Met. then nationalised from 1947) owned a large estate here and bought up some other sites when they fell vacant – this whole area was vested into the New Millennium Experience Company in the 1990s and is now with the GLA.  However most of it is leased to major holding companies, in some cases there are several layers of leases.

    When the gas company was opened in the 1880s they were allowed to close the path around their works and they built Ordnance Draw Dock as what we would now call ‘planning gain’.  The draw dock is a right of way.  When the Dome was opened the closed stretch was reopened and upgraded but the operators of the Dome (AEG) have never done anything to enhance their interface with the path – and, probably don’t understand that the river is even there!! 

    Between 1860 and 1970s most of the sites along the path were working wharves but the path remained open despite some problems and diversions. Several wharves were safeguarded in the 1980s and some have retained this status. Some wharves were still at work in the 1990.

    In the 1990s the path was declared Cycle Path No.1. by SUSTRANS and criteria for turning the path into a fast cycle track were worked out.  I am very unsure of the planning process with this but it has meant that developers have to install a double paved strip and that there is planting between the path and the river (presumably for safety).  This is not the spirit of the river wall walk!   In 1998 the Council took Hansons to court over closure of the path through their site. The way was only proved by aerial shots showing painted footprints – but the judgement upheld the right of way.

    Over the past few years industry has gone and developers have moved in.  In the late 1990s Groundwork, who work independently of the local authorities, did a lot of work on the path.  They did deals with various industries to plant trees and flowers and enhance the path. Amylum (sugar refinery on Morden Wharf) were already funding the Eltham Environment Centre and were very keen. Groundwork also spent a lot of time doing up the jetties.   At Enderby Wharf an artwork was installed on the steps and commissioned by Carol Kenna. (I have details)

    In 2000 was the Millennium Exhibition – and local environmentalists produced a booklet ‘Millennium Domesday’ (I have a copy).    NME did not engage with locals or local industries about the path but some art works were commissioned which remain.  They also did a considerable amount of planting around the Peninsula – some of this has remained and is maintained by a workforce. I am not sure who is now running this but I think it is the same independent organisation which now owns the ecology centre and the parks.  They do not do the riverside path on the west bank which is supposed to be cared for by the various owners and the Council has enforcement powers on this. They maintain the east bank.  The decision to appoint a non-council operator for the parks and paths was taken by the Government.

    As the 2000s progressed various sites were handed to developers. Lovells , Granite and Pipers Wharf were passed to developers by Morden College  - although Granite and Pipers were still active.  Two cranes on Lovells which the Council was trying to preserve (they were not accepted for listing by EH) were removed without notice by Morden College.   The wharves were developed with housing – and on one site an early medieval tide mill was discovered. Following community action in 2013 developers were refused planning consent for higher buildings and a compromise was later reached. The boat repair yard was moved to a purpose built site at Bay Wharf as part of the planning deal on what is now called Greenwich Wharf – but delay for many years means this move is very recent.

    Meanwhile Alcatel sold the riverside strip at Enderby Wharf to developers – their factory remaining at work. The developer got planning consent for housing and a cruise liner terminal (with expressions of approval from some local groups and no obvious opposition).  They then went bankrupt and the site became derelict.  The adjacent site – the sugar refinery – was sold to a French farming co-op.  One day a demolition crew arrived, with no notice or liaison with the Council or the PLA, and demolished the entire site, including three silos which were being considered for listing. They left the site empty and derelict.  The victim of this was listed Enderby House which was trashed over the next year because there was no site security.

    Later as Knight Dragon became more established a golf range has been set up on Delta Wharf and plans are in place for Point Wharf – and a hotel has been built north of the draw dock. Hanson’s have a factory on their aggregate works at Victoria Deep Water (this is a wharf which PLA are unlikely to agree to de-safeguard).    More recently housing has been built at Enderby by Barratt and a row has erupted around the cruise liner terminal following the submission of a new planning application for the site.  The old sugar refinery site at Morden Wharf is now with U&I whose plans are not really clear – as Cathedral they had a reputation for sites with a lot of amenity but they are a different organisation now.

    In 2014 the Enderby Group was set up to lobby to ensure Enderby House was repaired and that some way be found to recognise the telecoms heritage of the site. The developer, Barratts, are thought to be planning a pub in the house. We are no further forward with anything else!

    Currently Knight Dragon have left the Shooting Star at Point Wharf – and we understand that plans for the Aluna moon clock are still viable.   A sculpture trail from Three Mills on the Lee crosses the river and takes in art works as far as Shooting Star – it would be useful to extend it.  We also understand that the ‘secret ferry’ is to become a public facility following work at Trinity Buoy Wharf (can find out more about that).  However there are also plans for the hotel to use the old Ordnance Wharf jetty for hotel boats (I don’t see PLA agreeing to that but we shall see).

    So – there are a certain number of conflicts here – and are added to by various rights on the foreshore (owned by the Crown) and the role of the Environment Agency in regard to the river and the foreshore.  Several of these bodes are not likely to engage with community representatives.

    I am waiting for answers to a lot of questions about liaison between various bodies, about planning agreements on the river frontages, monitoring and responsibilities for damage, reporting, signage, information (for eg developers refused to put up info on the medieval tide mill) , safeguarding wharves. Will update this when I get answers.

    And then there is the gasholder  - this is an interesting site which was the subject of a planning brief last year.  It has a number of buildings on it which will have to remain which include the Horniman Museum store and that club.  It is walking distance from Enderbys and indeed from most amenity sites on the Peninsula.  Just think what could be done with it!

    In 1960 the architectural commentator Ian Nairn wrote:

    This unknown and unnamed riverside path is the best Thames- side walk in London. It beats all of the embankments and water- gardens hollow. Best in this direction, because then the walk has a climax: the domes of Greenwich Hospital beckoning round the bend of the river, and a splendidly unselfconscious free house, the Cutty Sark.

    The entrance certainly takes some finding: to get there, fork left facing the southern entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel with its pretty Art Nouveau gatehouse. About two hundred yards along, on the left, a passage leads down beside the Delta Metal Co. It zigs and it zags, but it doesn't give up, and eventually comes out at the river.

    The start is now a sizeable belvedere, but the path soon takes on much more exciting forms: between walls, or unfenced above a slide down to the water, or wandering past timber wharves, under cranes and in one case nipping around the back of a boat yard. Never the same for a hundred yards at once, a continuous flirtation with the slow- flowing river, choked with working boats.

    The first houses come in at the Cutty Sark (Union Wharf): then there is a final exciting stretch past Greenwich Power Station and the astonishing contrast with the Trinity almshouses next door, another good riverside pub (the Yacht), and the climax of the footpath in front of Greenwich Hospital. Not just a walk, but a stressed walk - mostly by accident. God preserve it from the prettifiers


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    Now - have you all signed the petition about the gasholder??

    Sign it Now! The situation is that the holder received immunity from listing by the Government, meaning that the Council had to agree to its demolition.   We are asking that they revisit the Council's agreed position on the holder and its site.

    The exact wording of what we are asking for is on the petition page - and I have acres and acres of print which explains the legal position, and the history of the holder in more detail.  Email us and ask if you want to know more.

    The situation with the holder has been covered by local bloggers and the press and we are expecting more coverage over the next couple of weeks.
    (thanks Darryl - and are people allowed to ask who the ginger kid is in the photo??

    We also have had an email from Barbara in Germany

    "I am really worried about the future of Livesey`s masterpiece. It represents an extraordinary structure of the guide frame. I will soon have a book/Phd ready to underline the significance of the threatened EG gasholder. I wrote an whole chapter on the guide frames (90 pages). One small chapter is only describing the frame in EG. For better understanding the whole chapter would be useful.However I still need to wait to be allowed to publish my phd. I will know after my viva...
    In the meantime I can show you two important links to me and my work:

    Research associate at the Technical University of Munich:
    and my research:

    My article "The Gasholder – Shaped by ist function" written for the int. congress on construction history, held in Chicago 2015:



    The next blog post was about Enderby House

    Thank you to Murky for covering this. But he/she is not quite right,.  Our understanding is that Barratts are still negotiating with an unnamed (by them) pub chain.  Hopefully more detail on this in our next posting.



    We have had a note from the Council

     I am writing to notify you that the Royal Borough of Greenwich designated the Charlton Riverside Conservation Area on 21 March 2018. The Royal Borough’s Cabinet also agreed the addition of 17 buildings to our Local Heritage List.

    This is all good news and basically covers Atlas and Derrick Gardens in Anchor and Hope Lane.  There is a planning application pending which will completely surround this pretty little housing estate - more news on that to come.

    Why Atlas and Derrick?.  Cory - whose dry dock and tug depot is just along the riverside from the estate - had a coal transhipment system in the river in the 19th century. It was on a hulk called Atlas (there were three Atlases eventually) and it had derricks on it.  So the housing was built by Cory for their workers.

    Thanks to Richard from Trinity Buouy Wharf for this nice picture of the site.  


    Richard who sent the picture is now the Maritime Heritage Project Officer at Trinity Buoy Wharf - just  across the river from the Peninsula, you can see the gaggle of heritage boats there, as well as the Clipper Depot and London's only lighthouse**.  We hear great things are going on over there and hope to have a LOT more news soon.  

    You can get over there very easily via the secret ferry - go to QE Pier and ask - but we think the ferry is going to be less secret soon.

    ** lighthouse in a traditional sense - we do have real warning lights here. The nearest one is not quite in Greenwich at Tripcock Ness


    At the same time the Council also officially designated The Thames Barrier and Bowater Road Conservation Area,   We have covered this area and some of the Siemens buildings which is covered in Survey of Woolwich and also lots of stuff sent to us by the Siemens Engineering Society (thanks to Brian Middlemiss)
    More on that to come too


    Huguenots in Greenwich.  Huguenots were French Protestants who came here as immigrants in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and settled mainly in East London where they introduced many industries - the most famous being the Courtauld silk works.  

    There was a small comunity in Greenwich based in Crooms Hills - I am told that the late Beryl Platts was instrumental in research on them.  The Huguenots of Spitalfields Group is organising a walk around Greenwich on 12th May - details (and you have to book and pay) on or ring 020737036 for something called a supporting visual.

    I would like to book them for a talk at GIHS but I think we might be a bit too small and poor for them.


    Factory chimneys.  I am told that the European industrial heritage group, EFAITH, have just had an  industrial theme month on factory chimneys - starting with a party in Roubaix.  They have made a video  They want everyone to perform Beethoven's Ode to Joy in front of a chimney (not at all sure that would be a good idea!)

    I only mention this because in Woolwich we do have a chimney which would knock spots off anything they might have in the Europe!!  However  my correspondent on this is keen to know what other chimneys we have in Greenwich??? Please let us know?

    Also see

    Spray Street demolitions.  This was covered very adequately by 853    There are a lot of issues here around the demolition of a lot of historic Woolwich buildings - happy to highlight some of them here, please send info.   Much of the current discussion is around the Lamella roof of the doomed covered market (itself a bit of traditional Woolwich). The roof is described as the roof design is a “lamella” system – a lattice usually formed of steel or timber struts. These generate very strong spans that don’t require internal supports. It is rare to see this system used outside of a military context".


    For a long time there has been an Industrial Heritage Support Officer based at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Telford.  There have been various post holders each of which we - and other industrial historians in London - have begged to come and speak to us about what support they can offer.  Sadly it has appeared that they find it impossible to come south of Wolverhampton for reasons we are unable to understand. 

    BUT we now learn there is a wonderful new post holder - Joanna - and she is helpful and friendly.  We have already raised with her the issue of the gasholder and Enderby House, and we understand she is going to meet with the Lea Valley Heritage people - so there is hope yet.

    This is just to say that I am happy to pass issues on to her from Greenwich if people contact me.


    The April GIHS meeting featured the remarkable Ian Bull talking about the Royal Arsenal and the Yantlet (the Yantlet is a Creek on the Isle of Sheppey).  
    Here is a version of some of what he said - reported to us thanks to Peter Luck.  

    Guns were tested.

    At the beginning of the Great War the navy was deeply concerned that its hit-rate was poor despite the quality of the equipment they had. They needed to improve their gunnery and the testing of long-range guns at Foulness was inadequate for the longest range guns. Taking the land at Yantlet and the marsh adjoining enabled firing across the mouth of the Thames over the shipping and up the length of the Foulness foreshore.

    A dock was built and survives (more or less - and is visible from the other side of the creek). It was able to receive the heaviest guns made at Woolwich and it connected directly with a firing platform. a second firing position was a short distance away and the two had a rail connection which also connected to the Grain branch line. Forward of the firing platform were four tall masts which held suspended panels, aligned so that the shell would pass through them and the time differential between its passage through first one then the other would indicate its speed. The shell, on landing on the Foulness foreshore could be retrieved at low tide and examined for further useful info.

    The development of rocketry and the guided missile in WW2 meant that the very heavy naval gun was no longer a viable weapon and the need for testing sych guns ended. The site became redundant and the masts were demolished and the railway taken up. Little remains of the second firing site but the dock is still there and so are several of the associated buildings, re-purposed. The navy has used the site for demolition of unexploded ordnance recovered from the Thames estuary as well as such as terrorist bombs etc etc. It is now wholly unused but still held by the MoD who do not wish to part with it. Access is possible only with MoD permission.

    Before starting the talk Ian told me that the site is now a SSSI as there are many interesting plants colonising bomb craters and there has been no agro-chemical treatment of the land.

    I am told that this will be covered in more detail on and please look at this interesting page for all sorts of stuff about the Arsenal. Also on and thank you Steve Peterson for the information.


    Railway on the Peninsula.  Everyone keeps asking why there is no rail link from the Dome to the main line at Charlton/Westcombe Park.  Well - er - there was - it was destroyed in 1999 by the New Millennium Experience Company.  It ran down roughly on the line of West Parkside. 
    This shows the rail bridge pre-1999 which stood on the
    line of West Pakside west of the Pilot Pub

    In connection with research on this we were asked if it connected to the Redpath Brown steel works which stood roughly south of the Pilot, where many new flats now stand.  Andrew Turner has sent us the following details when we asked if if the steel works was connected to the railway.

    'The information that Redpath Brown was never connected to the national rail system was told to me by John Fry (Manager there during and after the Second World War).. I'm now not 100% sure if John remained there up to closure in 1977, so the comment may only be true for the time he was working there. .

    Maps and site plans up to 1964 including OS 63360:1 maps dated 1961 and 1964 do not show any rail connection into the works. The 63360:1 map of 1970 (SE London) shows a connection into the former Dorman Long part of  the site only while the various sheets of the OS 1250:1 maps of 1971/72  appear to show a connection which leads into both the former Redpath Brown and Dorman Long sites. In both cases, the gas works is no longer shown as rail connected. A plan produced in 1973 suggests that only BSC's McCalls Service Centre (on the former Dorman Long site) was by then rail connected.

    I note that the Industrial Railway Society states that Redpath Dorman Long (the post 1967 name) was connected to the Angerstein Branch but gives no dates. The information could well be over simplified, given the history of the sites.

    Assuming that the 1971/72 OS survey is correct, it looks like the Redpath Brown site (by then part of BSC) may have been connected for a period to the Angerstein Branch after the rail link to the gas works was abandoned. The 1971/72 maps are however the only definitive evidence that I have seen showing the Redpath Brown site as rail connected to the outside world. The 1971/72 maps also show that by then the jetty was out of use, so incoming steel may have changed from water to rail.

    We have a note from DimplyDebs about the 19th century overbridge at Plumstead Station.  It appears this is about to be removed and people in Plumstead are hoping a way can be found to retain it. She has written to councillors saying;

    "I have become aware that Network Rail SE has just reapplied for demolition (18/1455/PA), citing recorded instances of people climbing over the parapet, as well as the necessity to demolish the bridge in order to fit lifts in.

    Whilst I am all for accessibility, I am not convinced that this necessitates the destruction of the Victorian bridge, which is not only attractive but a fine example of important local industrial heritage. It looks like NR has taken a "one size fits all" approach and intends to install an ugly, overbearing structure. It will be a large blot on impending plans to improve the appearance of the station approach. 


    This isn't industrial but thought you might like to go:


    Tuesday, 8th of May - 7:30 pm St George's, Westcombe Park Glenluce Road SE3 7SD

    A program by Dr Sam Moorhead FSA (British Museum) 
    In AD 306, Constantine was acclaimed emperor at York – this was an illegal action, but it did not deter him from becoming one of the most important and influential of all Roman emperors.  This lecture will outline Constantine’s rise to power and his adoption of the Christian faith, culminating in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in AD 312.  After the Edict of Milan in 313, which ended the persecutions, we witness the growth of Christianity in the Roman Empire and in Britain.  Although written sources are sparse, the British Museum has the best collection of fourth century Christian objects north of the Alps, including the Hinton St Mary mosaic, the Water Newton treasure and the Lullingstone wall paintings. Using such objects and a range of other archaeological evidence, this lecture will outline the rich Christian heritage of late Roman Britain.

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  • 05/08/18--22:32: Sad news

  • Sad note this morning to say that Darrell Spurgeonhas died.

    Few people will know Darrell - who was well in his nineties and cut his very considerable list of activities down in the past few years.  He had a very busy life!

    Of interest to local historians were his series of 'Discover' books - written as a retirement project and intended as the guide books to South London, which, as a travel agent, he knew did not exist.

    'Discover' covered the Borough of Greenwich and quite a bit of Bexley, Lewisham and Southwark as well. Darrell was a meticulous researcher and covered many things of interest in the environment - including many industrial remains for which he was an enthusiast.

    If you don't know the 'Discover' series rush out and get them at once - although I don't actually know where from as Darrell used to sell them himself and I guess stocks are limited.

    I am sure in the next few days there will be proper obituaries and tributes to his time as a councillor and with the Co-op and things I know nothing about.


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  • 05/15/18--12:06: News and that

  • ­Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter. 

    They advertise their own future programmes: 2 pm for 2.15 pm on Saturday at Charlton House, in the Grand Salon.
    12 May   Research & Discoveries, Pearly History & Woolwich Potteries
    9 June     A further Date with Buildings
    14 July    Blue Cross Kennels and Pet Cemetery, Shooters Hill Road
    13 Oct     Mudlarking by the Thames
    10 Nov   An Edwardian Nursery Magic Lantern Show

    CROSSNESS ENGINES TRUST       Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, London, SE29AQ Tel 0208311 3711
    Family Open Days - Non Steaming,Beam Engine House closed for asbestos removal.
    20 May, 17 June, 15 July 10:30am- 4:00pm

    18th May Discovering Earthlike Planets.  Mycenae House, 90 Mycenae Road, Blackheath, SE3 7SE

    Welling and District Model Engineering Society, Falconwood, 2-5pm
    20 May; 3, 17 June; 1, 15,29 July; 12,26 Aug; 9, 23 Sept; 70ct; 16 Dec,Santa Special

    WADAS also reports on the Positive Plumstead Project - Their first major concern is the White Hart Road Depot and Plumstead High Street Revamp. We have often reported concerns about the Depot here and it is good to find someone else taking an interest,

    They say “The Borough of Greenwich have £2.5m funding from the GLA to brighten up Plumstead - dividing it between the Grade II listed White Hart Road Depot and Plumstead High Street. The White Hart Road Depot is to have workspaces and community facilities such as studios, rehearsal spaces, a nursery, and a gallery. A public square and a pub are mooted.
    In his book The Woolwich Story E F E Jefferson says that "In June 1901, work was commenced on a generating and refuse destruction works at White Hart Road, Plumstead, and was formally opened by the Mayor, Cllr J JMessent in October 1903. The cost was £40,000, some £2,600 being spent on direct labour- an early instance of what later became a common feature in the Borough."
    The building was the Borough's electricity generating station for Woolwich and Plumstead, a combined rubbish incinerator and electricity generating station being most unusual for the time. The generating plant was closed in the 1920s following the take over and enlargement of the privately built 1895 power station of the Woolwich Electricity Company at Globe Lane. (The site of the, now demolished, power station was temporarily laid out as Arsenal Gardens, but is now being covered by tower blocks of flats by Berkeley.)  However, the incinerator carried on working into the 1970s until replaced by the SELCHP plant in Deptford. The building became a depot for general storage (some items being of significance but also for such things a spare door handles for buildings that had come and gone). The depot was closed, and the building allowed to deteriorate. Most recently Crossrail have used (and refurbished) it while building the Elizabeth line.

    WADAS also report on “Industrial Conservation Areas in Charlton -  the Greenwich and Woolwich & Thamesmead Planning Committee (of councillors) were, bar one, unanimous in agreeing to designate "Bowater Road and Thames Barrier" and "Charlton Riverside" as conservation areas. This has now been ratified.
    Bowater Road is home to the largely complete, albeit disused, Siemen's works. This is the last of many  telecommunication works that used to line the Thames - they supplied the world, and did pioneering work in digital transmission up to 1980s. It is the last to survive of the several major telegraph and telephony businesses in the Borough, and probably the best preserved in the UK (the rump of the Telcon works in Greenwich is still active, though most of its site has now been covered by blocks of flats).

    Charlton Riverside has other industrial assets, for instance early Cory works, but also a group of high quality workers' dwellings at Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens. 



    “Discussions are also starting on what we are calling Bazalgette 200 for the bicentenary of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's birthday falls on 28 March 2019. Planning and fundraising for events to celebrate the engineering genius who created Crossness is about to start. Anyone who has bright ideas about this or would otherwise like to help please do get in touch”.

    A visitor from Sweden came to ask about Bessemer’s Greenwich works.  He is interested in Göran Fredrik Göransson (1819-1900).

    “In 1841 (at 22) he became a partner in the business run by his mother's family, Daniel Elfstrand & Co. The company acquired an ironworks at Högbo and a blast furnace at Edske. In 1856 Göransson travelled to England to buy a steam engine for the blast furnace, but returned having bought a fifth of Bessemer's patent for steel production. With backing from theRoyal Swedish Academy of Sciences he carried out experiments using a Bessemer converter. Initially he tried to stick to Besemer's instructions of using small air tubes (tuyeres) at the base combined with high air pressure. Eventually he ignored this and tried instead with larger tuyeres and a lower pressure and finally produced what is said to be the first ever commercial "pour" of steel using the Bessemer method in July 1858. He corresponded regularly with Bessemer reporting on his progress, but Bessemer failed to even mention him in his autobiography. He opened a steelworks in Sandviken, Sweden in 1862, which after initial difficulties became Sandviken Jernverks AB in 1868. The same company is still in business in the same place), although now only producing specialist steels

    APPG Launch Industrial Heritage report

    Following from the Evidence Sessions held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Industrial Heritage a report has emerged called “Report on the Challenges facing the Industrial Heritage Sector"

    This was apparently launched at an event on 1st May with many attendees (but not us obviously - or even asked us what we thought!)
    The report's key findings are that industrial heritage was vital in the formation of local and national identities, and is highly valuable in the UK's contemporary society as a source of economic potential. By providing an examination of the value of industrial heritage to the United Kingdom and the major social, economic and cultural issues impacting this sector, the APPG has compiled a series of conclusions and recommendations on how to face the challenges of the future.
    You can read it at


    Railway lifting bridge over Deptford Creek

    We had been asked if the railway lift bridge over Deptford Creek was listed – as a result we have been sent lots of interesting information about it.  Here are some extracts from the report on it in 2012.

    English Heritage were asked to assess the railway lifting bridge over Deptford Creek for designation. It is understood that Network Rail are currently considering demolishing the superstructure of the bridge as it no longer functions as a lifting bridge. Deptford Creek forms the boundary between LB Lewisham to the west and LB Greenwich to the east. The eastern supports of the bridge stand on the the Grade 11 listed railway viaduct from the platforms of Greenwich Station to Deptford Creek Bridge in LB Greenwich. The western supports of the bridge stand on the unlisted pier in the centre of the creek which is in LB Lewisham. LB Lewisham is currently considering including the bridge within the proposed Deptford Creek Conservation Area and also locally listing the structure. This is somewhat complicated by the bridge falling within the two boroughs. A 2009 heritage report on Deptford Creek by Design for London noted the bridge as a significant heritage asset.

    The applicant, Network Rail, Design for London and the two Local Planning Authorities concerned were consulted. LB Lewisham in their response of 13 December 2011 noted the historical context of the London-Greenwich railway line and the importance of Deptford Creek and its related industry to the growth of Deptford. Also asserted was the fact that the electrical operation of the lifting bridge was a technical achievement for its time and the design, in contrast to Kingsferry Bridge, reflected the functionality of the lifting bridge. Design for London noted in their response of 15 June 2011 that the bridge was identified as a significant heritage asset in the 2009 London Development Agency Deptford Creek regeneration heritage report.

    As a specific building type, vertical lift bridges are rare nationally with probably not many more than a dozen surviving examples in England, ranging in date from the mid-C19 to 2000 and including road, railway and pedestrian use

    In architectural terms the Deptford Creek lifting bridge is a purely utilitarian structure constructed of steel box girders with no attempt at architectural embellishment. The gantry containing the operating gear, for example, is crudely constructed of steel sheets. Whilst this is perhaps to be expected, with its relatively short span, it lacks the engineering grandeur of the listed Tees (Newport) Bridge. It should be stressed that we have been asked to consider the bridge itself and not the viaduct (already listed) and the pier it rests on. The pier has good quality rusticated masonry dating from its construction in the 1830s but this does not form part of the current assessment. It is perhaps surprising that it was not included in the listing of the viaduct which continues either side of it.

    The vertical lift railway bridge was opened in December 1963, designed by AH Cantrell, Chief Civil Engineer, British Rail Southern Region and built by Sir William Arrol and Co of Glasgow. It was the third bridge to cross Deptford Creek along the Grade" listed railway viaduct, originally built by the London and Greenwich Railway in 1836. The first bridge, constructed c1838, was described in 1840 as ' ... a Balance-Bridge which requires the power of eight men to raise it when necessary for the purpose of allowing masted vehicles to pass above Bridge. On each side of the viaduct between the Spa Road and Deptford is a carriage and footway enclosed by a brick fence-wall'. This bridge was replaced in 1884 by a similar double drawbridge, each section winched up to a simple steel frame superstructure on either side of the bridge. The current bridge was able to lift 40 tonnes and was operated by electrical winches. It no longer functions as a vertical lift bridge having been welded closed, probably due to problems with the foundations.

    The bridge comprises two spans across the dual channels of the creek at this point. The western span is fixed and is included in the listing for the viaduct between Deptford Creek and North Kent Junction. The eastern channel is bridged by the vertical lift bridge. This comprises four braced, square-section, steel columns (approximately 20m in height) containing the lifting hoists, one pair on either side of the channel, joined by a steel box-truss. The two supports are linked at their centre by a further truss (parallel with the railway line) which carries the enclosed steel-clad gantry containing the electrical operating gear. The supports rest on large concrete blocks, which in turn rest on the footings of the original bridge, encased in dressed Portland stone. The vertical lift track section is supported on large steel l-beams which bear the name of the Lanarkshire Steel Company.

    So - its not listed but apparently the buttresses are

    And while we are on the subject of listing. Richard Buchanan has sent us this piece from the archives about Enderby House

    Municipal Offices Woolwich,
    Buildings of Architectural or Historical Interest
    Enderby' House, Enderby' Wharf, SE10
    January 1973

    When the Borough wide study of possible listed buildings was carried out by my officers last summer it did not appear from external survey that this building would attract a mention, but I was then unaware of the internal features and historical associations which you mentioned in your letter.
    I understand from the Department of the Environment their investigator may have missed it altogether, and I have, therefore, asked them to let me have their observations, at the same time drawing their attention to the interior and to the history.
    I have requested this to be done as soon as possible in view of the threat of demolition and which I understand, could arise from future reorganisation and redevelopment by the owners.
    Borough Planning Officer 

    Subterranea Brittanica’s Journal for April 2018  Issue 47 contains an article on Early Thames Subways. ‘The North and South Woolwich Subway and other failed schemes for a Thames crossing at Woolwich”. by Peter Bone

    He begins “ The Woolwich foot tunnel was built by the London County Council and opened in 1912 but more than a quarter of a century earlier, an attempt was made to create a foot tunnel under the Thames at Woolwich” and goes on to describe an abortive earlier scheme “n 1873 the North and South Woolwich Subway Company was formed. Plans for a pedestrian tunnel between Woolwich and North Woolwich were prepared”

    This is a fascinating article and copies can be obtained through the Sub-Brit web site  Please read it!

    Peter Bone also mentions the 1904 North and South Woolwich Electric Railway. This was to be a short line passing under the river, with a station at Beresford Square and at the junction of Albert Road and High Street.

    And also a proposal in 1919 for a tunnelled electric monorail service between Beresford Square and North Woolwich station.
                             and there is even a picture of that!

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  • 05/21/18--05:45: Congratulations Barbara

  • Congratulations to Barbara Gasometra Berger in Munich on your PhD on gasholders

    (We understand there is a chapter on East Greenwich gasholder - can't wait to see it!)

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  • 05/24/18--07:03: Notes and serenades

  • Gasholder – this cracking picture has appeared on the GMV facebook page
    thanks Laiura Diggle
    The latest edition of the GLIAS Journal – London’s Industrial Archaeology No. 16-  is with us. It includes a very important article by James Hulme about the Charlton Riverside.
    As many of our readers will know James and how he started work on the Charlton riverside as an assessment of the site for the Council before the development began.  unusually in thse circumstances he has given us an extremely detailed industrial history of an interesting and so far undeveloped area. 
    He begins with one of the oldest buildings in the area - the Anchor and Hope pub - moving on to Castle’s shipbreakers at the end of Anchor and Hope Lane. He continues with notes on other riverside sites – including Cory’s dry dock and boatyard, the Glenton and Angerstein railways and of course Siemens. From the 20th century there is United Glass, Bridon and Stones and – much else.
    I’m sure people will want to see this article and  copies of the Journal .   Please email
    Also in the Journal  includes an article on Great Western Railway employee hostels in London by David Thomas , the Montgomery timber merchants from Brentford by Beverley Ronalds,  Coalbrooke decorative ironwork in London, by David Perrett, and W.T.Gilbert  mathematical instrument makers of Tower Hill by  D.J.Bryden.

    We’re getting a lot of requests for information about the proposed desise of the decorative footbridge across Plumstead station.  Network rail needs to install a lift for disabled access between the platforms of Plumstead and unfortunately they have been unable to this and still keep the decorative ironwork bridge. There are now many calls to have  the bridge main retained.  This is clearly a difficult and sensitive issue with rights on both sides of the argument.
    Deborah O’Boyle has written  This delightful bridge was built for SE Railway, in 1892, by Joseph Westwood & Co (over in Millwall) .  Please see the GIHS facebook page for more info from Debs on this.

    853 has reported on the first outings (in Gdansk!) of the new Woolwich ferries
    More news about plans in Europe to create a European database of extant chimneys.  There have been entries to the competition of videos of people serenading chimneys. Apparently none have been received from the UK – but you can see the serenades at

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  • 06/04/18--07:28: Article 1

    Here's another view of the holder:

    Sign the petition and keep fit  -

    (thanks to GMVA for the pic)

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    GLIAS Newsletter

    Congratulations to GLIAS (Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society)

    Congratulations – because after nearly sixty years Newsletter 296 is partly in colour and includes some photographs.  It’s very nice – but whatever next!

    They advertise some walks for this summer.   The one most relevant to Greenwich is on the 7th of July when they are looking at Deptford - the site of the Dockyard, the Victualling yard, the power station, the railway station and Creek bridges

    You can book by Emailing

    (and by the way – this walk is being led by Peter Finch – and if he would like to get in touch with Greenwich Industrial History Society I’m sure we would welcome his input – so – Peter – please email)

    Another reasonably local walk is around London Bridge and Bermondsey on 6th October – book through same email as above.

    On 26th June is a visit to Morden College on Blackheath which is arranged by Dave Perrett. Book for this before 21st June at  Morden College as a major Greenwich landowner made a huge contribution to the industrial history of Greenwich and their archive is a key resource for any historian working in our area


    We have already noted the European Year of Cultural Heritage competition to serenade any remaining Industrial chimneys. I would recommend the videos of the 14 entries – many of them are Greek tomato factories.

    GLIAS has noted this and accompanying it is a wonderful picture of our own amazing chimney at the Dockyard site in Woolwich Church Street – they say it one of the best surviving examples in London as an octagonal brick chimney built about 1843 for the steam factory at Woolwich Dockyard.

    Although I think voting on the best video has already taken place if any musician reading this wanted to take themselves down to Woolwich and play Ode to Joy by the chimney and films it I would be happy to circulate this around Europe!


    Thanks also to GLIAS for circulating the link to our gasholder petition.


    And thanks for the review of Greenwich Historical Society’s Journal with Tony’s article on the unfortunate dead parachutist, Robert Cocking, and my article on early gas in Greenwich.

    And for noting the death of our late friend Darrell Spurgeon


    This is the national newsletter – No. 185 – and quite a bit about Greenwich again –

    - the newsletter includes articles about European links and work on industrial heritage in Europe.

    There is an article about Enderby House and the work of the Enderby Group – particular stress is laid on proposed sculptures funded by Barratts.

    And also, a half page article on the London County Council and the free Thames Crossings – in particular the Blackwall and the two foot tunnels.

    Note about the possibility of a public ferry over to Trinity Buoy Wharf from QE pier.

    Westcombe News

    Thanks for the link to the gasholder petition

    Greenwich Info

    Note they have taken an interest in historical groups – but only mention family history and groups which are part of community centres – no mention of Greenwich Historical Association, Woolwich Antiquarians, us, and many others. Strange!

    One of the others - Greenwich Park History Group

    We have been sent copies of their minutes and are very impressed at the work they are doing and what they have uncovered – history of the bandstand (please – Barbara – we would love to publish this here!) – the Queens Orchard and changes made for observing the Transit of Venus – project on allotments in the Great War – and the conduits.

    Hope they keep in touch – guess we have a big overlapping membership.  Always happy to help.


    This is the web page of the Thames Estuary Partnership which sends out newsletters on a regular basis

    Thank you them for including the East Greenwich Gasholder petition as an item

    Other issues raised include environmental and social items as well as subjects of general Thames interest


    and ....

    Thanks to Darryl the 853 blogger who was kind enough to let me contribute an item about the Greenwich Borough Hall which was built by the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich and now has an uncertain future. I understand there is likely to much more to this story than I knew when I wrote it ………………………………. watch this space

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     I thought that perhaps - for all our newer resident readers - that we should put something about what the riverside path used to be like.  Well it wasn't all industry - there was ART too.

    The riverside walk described below dates from 2000 and was 'a local counterpoint to the Dome Festival'.

    I have scanned part of the publicity leaflet - and -being an arts based production it is a bit of a funny shape which my (nice new) scanner is unfamiliar with.   The drawing of the Greenwich riverside is by Peter Kent - and, Peter I am sorry, I have had to scan it in chunks and it would look so much better if I could do the whole thing in one bit - but it would end up very very very tiny.

    So - I also thought a bit of explanation might be in order - interpretation - or something

    This bit will be the most familiar at the start of the walk.  It begins at Trinity Hospital - there is a sort of raised platform there on  the riverside and I seem to remember a big picture frame there which they put up so you could imagine where you were going was a 'picture'.  So we see the power station, and its jetty - and then the path carries on to Anchor Iron Wharf.  The flats were not built then and you had to walk down a little narrow path with a scrap yard either side - and then - there you were at Ballast Quay,

    This stretch is the bit between Ballast Quay and Enderbys - then Lovells Wharf, Granite Wharf and Pipers. Pipers were famous barge builders and  the area was in use by the boat repair yard until very recently.

    At Lovells were two huge cranes - Scotch Derricks - which had been left by the previous owner.  They were a local landmark and there were plans to keep them - but the owners demolished them early one morning without any prior notice. Here they are the 'wounded giants'.

    The stretch illustrated also includes the Alcatel jetty and the group did a musical performance on it. It was just the same then as it is now - but it did have public access then,

    Further up and more wharves - And here we are at Enderbys where there was an 'artistic group' of Penguins - I seem to think they were plastic and floated about in the water.

    Chuck Out Your Mouldies was the title of play which was put on locally with lots of local people taking part and based on memories of childhood in the 1940s and 1950s.  It was a lot of fun to do. The 'mouldies' was supposed to be loose change and children would call out to passers by to 'chuck out your mouldies'  and they would then scrabble for pennies and ha'pennies.

    and here we are at the end  -  and the road to the Dome. 

    The Amylum Silos - something else the riverside has lost. This was a group of concrete silos 'which would make Le Corbusier weep with envy' [cf Owen Hatherley - thanks Owen that's a great quote].
    Amylum was a glucose refinery and  was sold to Syrol who were/are French. One day a French demolition crew came in and demolished the lot - with never a by-your-leave, planning consent, a polite note to next door, or anything.  Silos were gone before we knew it. They cleared off back to France and left the site empty and open to all.

    If anyone is interested in more info let me know.

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    East Greenwich Gasholder

    Please sign the petition

    We hope to take the petition to the Council meeting on 27th June - thanks to Cllr Denise Scott-Macdonald.  This will, as usual, just be Denise handing it (a memory stick actually!) over to the Mayor.

    People may have noticed that the gasholder is on the agenda for the Planning Board on 20th June.  This is basically an administrative item and not to to directly with the holder's demolition. It is to remove the Hazardous Substances Order which was in place while the holder was full of gas.  There is a bit of a history to this but the order set up a blast zone around the holder which was stopping development of the new school and some other items.  We have however written to the Council saying that we assume that the actual hazardous substances which are on the site and under the holder will be dealt with in a future management order.

    However - Darryl in the 853 blog has also pointed out that this has an impact on the plans for the Silvertown Tunnel.
    He says that, of course, the hazardous substances order needed to be dealt with before the tunnel could open and that this is one step towards that.
    However it is very possible that the gasholder has a lot more to do with the Silvertown Tunnel than that  - Darryl needs to look at a map!


    We have quite a bit of news about other luckier gasholders

    Old Kent Road - it appears that Southwark Council has done a deal to keep holders on the site at Old Kent Road Gas Works. The big Livesey holder - our East Greenwich holder's little brother - is listed and will be kept in their entirety.  The two smaller Livesey holders are being partly demolished as features in future landscaping of the site.

    Chelmsford - there is news that a very ordinary gas holder at Chelmsford is to  kept having been bought by the local council on a site to be used for housing.   They have also got Government money for decontamination and development.  The holder itself has been listed Grade II.

    Barcelona - apparently the gasholder frame there was kept as part of the works for the 1992 Olympics.

    MEANWHILE IN EAST LONDON - the holders at Poplar, just the other side of the Blackwall Tunnel, appear to have been demolished - despite a massive petition.  Pleas to list it were turned down.  The Bethnal Green holder - the oldest of its type and in a wonderful setting - appears to be still there (last we saw) but has been turned down for listing.

    Barbara Berger has now got her PhD in gas holder construction.  Here is a page of gasholder history from her ... more to come later

    Barbara Berger, Research Associate, Technical University of Munich

    Before the rising structures of gasholders changed the cityscapes it was the gas light itself that was revolutionizing the daily life in cities in the beginning of the 19th century. In 1813 public illumination from gas was inaugurated for the very first time in the London district of Westminster. This new lighting technique revolutionized cities worldwide. Paris in 1819. Hannover in 1825 and Turin 13 years later

    The gasholder was introduced as a technical building for the storage of locally produced coal gas. Its emerging iron structure presented a new kind of industrial architecture and became symbolic
    of the gas industry.

    The gasholder's structure was determined by its function. It had to fulfil two basic requirements: first a variable capacity. and secondly a gas-tight construction . A water-based system met both requirements. It was composed of a water tank and a lift for the gas.The latter was immersed into the tank and rose and fell according to the current content of the gas.. An external guide frame guaranteed the reliable movement of the lift. Because of the increasing demand for gas receptacles with more storage were needed. In the 19th and early 20th century there were generally two different kinds of water sealed gasholders, the Belltype gasholder (or single-lift gasholder). and the  gasholder(or multi-lift gasholder).

    Initially the lifts of both types were guided via an external linear guide frame. but at the end of the 19th century the new spiral guided technique allowed the building of gasholders even without
    a guide frame. Another special form was the so-called gasholder house. that totally hid the filigree iron structure of the gasholder facades were often architecturally ornate.

    Over the century development advanced from the water sealed to the waterless or dry-sealed system: the Piston-type gasholder was invented 1913 in Germany. The new sealing technique was adapted along the edge of the piston and guaranteed contact between the piston and the shell of the cylinder. This new sealing technique led to a new appearance and form of the gasholder.

    The arrival of natural gas was the beginning of the decline of coal  gas and historic gasholders because the increasing demand on gas required new storage systems - thus new types of gasholders.

    Today historic gasholders are industrial relics although very many have already been demolished. The remaining examples are often abandoned and their architectural value is not realized A gasholder facilitates a column-free, tall, symmetrical space,that offers a wide range of reuse projects.

    One of the very first examples of revitalization was second world war: a massive gasholder house in Berlin formed into a bunker known as the 'Fichtebunker ' . The inner lifts were demolished and the circular brick walls reinforced. After being modified into a storage depot and shelter for homeless men and women this space is used nowadays as a museum. However. the dome of the building was developed fferentkly. Under the filigree iron structure. exclusive, elaborate loft houses are located with a spectacular view over the city of Berlin.............................(to be continued)

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