Articles on this Page
- 05/11/13--02:46: _News and Newsletters
- 05/16/13--00:49: _Woolwich - the view...
- 05/21/13--03:02: _Thamesmead's clock
- 06/23/13--03:00: _Quick flick through...
- 06/26/13--09:26: _Woolwich River Cros...
- 07/12/13--10:17: _Newsletter No.1
- 07/16/13--08:25: _GIHS Newsletter no....
- 07/18/13--03:14: _Wood Wharf report 1998
- 07/24/13--01:59: _Diana's notes on Wo...
- 07/27/13--01:45: _Industrial History ...
- 07/27/13--02:23: _Newsletters 1-3 whe...
- 08/15/13--11:02: _Article 1
- 08/17/13--04:22: _Crossness loco rest...
- 09/02/13--08:18: _Pollution - the gas...
- 09/18/13--05:13: _Oh oooer - too much...
- 10/07/13--08:53: _Woolwich Foot Tunne...
- 10/08/13--02:39: _GLIAS NEWSLETTER RE...
- 10/08/13--23:57: _Our local stations ...
- 03/11/14--01:08: _Wheen's Deptford So...
- 03/11/14--08:01: _United Glass - lett...
- 05/11/13--02:46: News and Newsletters
- 05/16/13--00:49: Woolwich - the view from 1993
- 05/21/13--03:02: Thamesmead's clock
- 06/23/13--03:00: Quick flick through the post
- 06/26/13--09:26: Woolwich River Crossings
- 07/12/13--10:17: Newsletter No.1
- 07/16/13--08:25: GIHS Newsletter no.2. June 1998
- 07/18/13--03:14: Wood Wharf report 1998
- 07/24/13--01:59: Diana's notes on Woolwich
- 07/27/13--01:45: Industrial History Newsletter. No.3. 1998
- The Bellot Monument - who was he? Why is it there?
- Queen's (and other) Stairs. What are 'river stairs'? Why are they there? What are the rights on them - and who owns them?
- Trinity Hospital - what it is? Why is there? (and ask people to respect the privacy of the inmates!)
- London Underground Power Station - information about its past and what it is used for today.
- The Meridian line !!!!!
- Harbour Master's Office - what is it? Who used it?
- Morden College Plaques - explaining they are NOT fire insurance plaques.
- Plaques noting the riverviews and buildings of interest from Cutty Sark pub - and a number of other places along the way.
- Cranes on Lovell's Wharf - how to make a feature of them, and explain why they are there.
- Renewing the painted signs on Lovell's Wharf
- A note about the vista down Pelton Road; the Pelton Arms. and some explanation about the name.
- The Cadet Place wall - the Great Globe - and some notes about Portland Stone.
- Some notes about the industry using Granite Wharf and Piper's Wharf - and a request to respect their privacy.
- Notes and a display about sailing barges at Piper's Wharf with some information about barges built on site.
- Public access to Enderby House plus a display inside
- A search for the mast of the Great Eastern and other relics which were once displayed here.
- Some interpretation of the cable motifs on the riverside office block
- Interpretation of the preserved machinery on Enderby Wharf - and a display of telecommunications heritage would be wonderful
- A return of the John H.Mackay - or a different cable layer.
- A plaque noting the line of the ropewalk
- A plaque about the seventeenth century gun powder depot
- A plaque on the Amylum silos
- A plaque at the site of the Sea Witch
- Some information at Bay Wharf about Maudslay and other shipbuilders once on site
- A plaque about inland vistas - particularly the gasholder
- A plaque at Victoria Deep Water Wharf (if they managed to open the path up, through there) about Henry Bessemer - whose Greenwich works was there. Perhaps also some information about Appleby engines and where one can be found preserved
- Delta Wharf - some information about Delta Metal.
- Point Wharf. See if it is possible to moor Orinoco here - she was built on this site and is currently berthed at Hoo.
- Something about boat building at Point Wharf using the skills of those who recently worked there
- A plaque on the vent of the 'old' Blackwall Tunnel with some notes about the LCC.
- A note about the Blakeley gun foundry at Ordnance Wharf and its interest for Americans - and a pointer to the Virginia Settlers site across the river.
- 07/27/13--02:23: Newsletters 1-3 where are they now
- 08/15/13--11:02: Article 1
- 08/17/13--04:22: Crossness loco restoration
- 09/02/13--08:18: Pollution - the gas industry view 1929
- 09/18/13--05:13: Oh oooer - too much underground in Charlton
- 10/07/13--08:53: Woolwich Foot Tunnel Anniversary event
- 10/08/13--02:39: GLIAS NEWSLETTER REVIEW - SOME MEETINGS AND SOME WRONGS
- 10/08/13--23:57: Our local stations in London Railway Record
- 03/11/14--01:08: Wheen's Deptford Soapery
- 03/11/14--08:01: United Glass - letter about a strike
London and Middlesex Archaeology Society
Newsletter May 2013
Items of interest to Greenwich industrial historians
They are asking for papers for a Conference on The River and the Port of London to be held 16th November 2013 at the Museum of London. No details of how to contact them but the new newsletter editor is email@example.com
Deptford Creek - talk by Diana Rimel - Orpington and District Archaeology Society - 3rd July - The Priory, Church Hill, Orpington. 8 pm
19C Monorails - these were the subject of the Blackheath Scientific Society's April meeting. Richard tells us that the earliest one was made to move building materials round the Victualling Yard at Deptford in 1823. “It had cast iron posts nine feet apart with a forked top to support wooden beams 3" wide by 9" deep capped with a rounded iron rail. A pair of waggons was hung on either side of a two wheel bogey, below the level of the rail. Four men could use it to manage a balanced load of 2 ½ tons’. It was designed by H R Palmer, who
Richard cites Monorails of the 19Century, by A S Garner, Lightmoor Press, ISBN 13: 978 1899889 S7 0
Ecological Garden.This has resulted from an award from the waste disposal company Biffa. It is to be built on an area between the concrete yard and the access track to the Thames Path, where they say ‘behind large ivy-covered trees lurks a large abandoned penstock building with a grill gate and a separate vent shaft. Wildlife in residence included various birds plus short tailed voles and grass snakes with visiting foxes and squirrels. With the help of someone from Crawley Council they have planted more trees, dug a pond and a viewing area and undertaken much work to encourage more wildlife.
A short history of sewage and its disposal
The Great Stink
Thanks to Diana Rimel a whole lot of old leaflets and info has been given to us for this blog. First up is an article from 'Waterfront Community News' written by our Chair, Sue Parker, in 1993.
I suppose comments should be 'contrast and compare'
anyway - here it is - A Walk Along the Waterfront.
|Packed up and ready to leave Deptford|
|The clock and its tower go down river|
It was decided in consequence, to connect the movement from the four faces, and insert an electrically operated self-correcting motor to drive the hands, which was done in September 1991. The original movement was left in place, and in the event of Thamesmead’s eventually creating a museum there will be the possibility of removing it and mounting it on permanent static display.
Due to my neglect - and distraction - much stuff sitting in my in tray is - well, still sitting there.
Here is some of the stuff which has come in
GLIAS - I have the new journal which will feature, hopefully soon, with a major new article on Deptford Dockyard.
The GLIAS June Newletter: (its VERY thin)
They are list - of interest in Greenwich -
- Crossness Steaming Days
23rd (That's today - so I might go down later). with a model engineering fair
28th July - with steam wagons and vintage tractors and cars.
1st September - with local history groups.
10.30-5 £5 www.crossness.org.uk
- and - er - that's it. But see review of London's Industrial Heritage - something else that needs to be reviewed here in the future.
Redriff Chronicle - an article about Ada Salter and the Beautification of Bermondsey should be an inspiration to us all - and there is a campaign to raise money to replace the stolen statues of Dr.Salter and his daughter, and the cat and will include a new statue of Ada. www.salterstatues.co.uk
They also advertise Deptford Creek walks - you need to book at the Creekside Centre. (sorry, no details for contacting them, and they are technically in Lewisham)
and finally - and hope she doesn't mind - here is the handout which Hillary Peters prepared and circulated for the Garden Open Day at Ballast Quay
- by Hillary Peters
Forging is very much part of city farming, so we are doing some iron-age forging.
General Charles Gordon of Khartoum (1833-1885) born in Woolwich and studied at the Academy. Gordon built 1888 by R & H Green.
Charles Hutton (1737-1823), professor of Mathematics at Woolwich Academy from 1773-1807, calculated the density of the earth using measurements obtained in 1774 by the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskeleyne. Hutton built 1893 by William Simmons and Co Ltd.
William James Squires (1850-1931), a Woolwich man, twice Mayor of Woolwich and for many years Chairman of the Woolwich Equitable Building Society. A bookseller and stationer who owned two shops in the town. Squires built 1922 by J Samuel White and Co Ltd.
Second Gordon built same date, same firm.
William Crooks (1852-1921) Woolwich's first Labour MP, took his seat in the House of Commons in 1903. Served on the London County Council from 1892-1910 and was Mayor of Poplar 1910. Crooks built 1930 by J Samuel White and Co Ltd.
artisan to reach Cabinet rank. Flagship of the fleet.
The right to run a ferry belongs like a fair or market to an English law franchise its origin by statue, royal grant or prescription. The owner can charge toll and take action against rivals. The Woolwich Ferry of the 14th century was a Royal Ferry, farmed by the King (meaning that he could receive payment from the owners). This was an attempt to stop rival ferries from Greenwich and Erith.
By way of being a historical document in itself is the first newsletter put out by GIHS in 1998
A dodgy server at Goldsmiths means that our old web site may not be accessible. So - read the first item on it here, instead - but less some pictures and and some meeting announcments. See what the world was like only 14 years ago
Greenwich Industrial History Society - Aims and Objectives
3. To hold a watching brief on industrial sites in the relevant area and to comment on any issues which might arise in the course of redevelopment, planning applications, etc.
1851 The Year of the great Exhibition
A special event in your community
Some features of the changing landscape
Dan Weinbrein has, of course, made a very considerable contribution to Greenwich’s Industrial History with his study on Arsenal workers in peacetime
WHAT THE SOCIETY HAS BEEN DOING
He took us from the old Station Museum to the riverside, past the site of Henley's cable works and
The new London Teleport - demonstrating only too vividly the role of telecommunications as a continuing industry in the area. On returning we were unexpectedly allowed into the Museum for a welcome break and look round. We continued through the Royal Victoria Gardens, admiring the team hammer on the way. We walked along the riverside - noting the sites of various ferries to Woolwich proper (or South Woolwich as they call it over there!) and then set off for a quick glimpse of the Royal Albert Dock and Gal1ions Hotel.
A long list of interesting sites and subjects was drawn up - the Matchless Motor Cycle Factory, the Uplifting Corsets, barge builders, the collier trade, Siemens, and much much more.
Following the rediscovery of sand workings in Diamond Terrace by Per Schreiber in the 1980s the mine was surveyed by Rod Le Gear and Harry Pearman on 18th August 1986 and this survey published in Volume 15 of the records of the Chelsea Speleological Society (1987)
In Caves and Tunnels in South East England, Part 7 (Chelsea Speleological Society Records Vol. 15) it was reported: “ Per Schreiber was sufficiently inspired to start a house to house survey around the Hyde Vale area and he ran the tunnels to ground, wide open, in someone’s back garden. The resultant survey is shown here”.
Entrance is down a long flight of steps. There are relics of electric cables and signs of use as an air raid shelter. It is mostly of walking height with one short hands and knees section. A few dates and carvings on the walls. The massive roof fall which terminates three tunnels offers the only chance of a dug extension. It occurred when a garden hose was left running on the lawn above.
The drawing which accompanied the above report is reproduced below - with kind permission of Harry Pearman.
When visited in March 1998 there was no obvious deterioration in the condition of the tunnels in the intervening years and they are still as shown in the 1986 survey. Access is down a flight of Yorkshire flag stone steps in the rear garden of Meridian West (built 1972). The present owner of the property has constructed a new inclined entrance, which is kept gated. At the bottom of the steps is a left turn shortly followed by a total roof collapse which occurred in the 1960s after a hose was left running in the garden above. Turning left at the bottom of the stairs there is a crossroads after eight metres. At this point the present owner, E. Morton Wright, has supported the roof with sandbags and timber stemples following the appearance of a large cavity. Turning left (north) at the crossroads the passage ends in a rounded chamber after five metres. Straight on leads to another small rounded chamber (lying under the house) after twelve metres. In this passage close to the crossroads are numerous inscriptions, which appear to date from the Second World War when the tunnels were used as air- raid shelters. There are carved portraits of Shirley Temple and Mussolini and an intricately carved 17th century date which is undoubtedly much more recent. South from the crossroads the passage bends round to the west reaching a T-junction after 11 metres. North leads to the other side of the roof fall at the bottom of the steps and south reaches a natural end after la metres. Close to the junction is more graffiti from World War Two shelterers with dates from the 1940s. Having turned south at the T junction almost immediately there is a crawl way the west with a step up of three metres. This is a low meandering passage which opens first onto a round chamber with several trail headings and after ten metres reached another T junction where it is possible to stand upright again. Turning right (NE) once again leads to the same total roof collapse after six metres. Turning left (SE) at the T junction there is a right hand bend to the north west after six metres (collapse or infill). Close to this second T junction is more graffiti in soot on the roof which is difficult to decipher and on the floor there is the skeleton of a fox cub indicating there must be another way into the tunnels other than the gated entrance - probably through the roof collapse. There is a lot of sand spread over the floor at this point; it is not clear where this had come from as pick marks are still clearly visible in the roof and on the walls. Apart from the entrance passage and two sections close to the crossroads, which are brick lined, the tunnels are unlined throughout with
Long pick marks clearly visible throughout. It is possible to stand upright along most of the galleries. Although the sand appears very soft, there is little evidence of falls other than those already mentioned. The tunnels seem remarkable stable and safe.
There is little evidence to date the workings although Mr. Morton Wright feels that the brickwork dates from the 17th century. The purpose of the mine is also unclear. Silver sand is often used in glass making but the sand has been tested by Pilkingtons who say it would not be suitable. Another major use of sand is as an abrasive for cleaning and there is definite evidence this was one use for Greenwich sand. One elderly resident remembers being told as a child that a man used to come round with a wheelbarrow to collect sand which was sold to local pubs for that purpose. It has also been suggested that it may have been used as hourglass sands.
The future of the existing tunnels seems secure. Although there are plans for a development on an adjacent site is it my opinion that the existing tunnels lie wholly below the garden of Meridian West but there may well be other tunnels yet to be discovered. Some year ago a subsidence appeared in another part of the garden which was quickly filled in and it has been suggested that the major roof fall could be a four-way junction with another passage leading in the direction of the planned development
Mr. Morton Wright is keen to preserve the tunnels. He has installed lighting as far as the crossroads and has used the tunnels on several occasions for cocktail parties.
It is understood that considerable research has been done on the origins of the these tunnels and it is hoped to have more information in the future Julian Watson (Greenwich Local History Library) has said: " It would appear that the existing tunnels are the last visible remains of an extensive network of tunnels examined by members of the Greenwich Antiquarian Society in 1905. John Stone, who wrote 'Greenwich: its underground passages, caverns, etc. [Trans. Greenwich Antiq. Vol. 1, 1914, pp. 262-277] states that the tunnels were in or near Mr. Montmorency's garden ground, 23 West Grove Lane, and says 'I do not know the extent of these excavations but one can wander about in what seems a perfect maze of tunnels for a considerable distance '. John Stone & Rod Le Gear (author of the 1986 report) are certain that the tunnels were dug in order to excavate sand, a material in great demand for many purposes including floor sanding mould making and glass making. The mines are a significant part of Greenwich's industrial heritage.
NORTON'S BARGE BUILDERS
Peartree Wharf owners G.J.Palmer & Sons, Barge and Tug Repairs,
Norton's. Chart ton (foreshore) Barge repairers,
Dorman Long (Bridge Dept.], Dorman Jetty, Dorman Long & Co. Led. 'Phone GRE 0921, bridge constructional engineers,
Greenwich Yacht Club,
Redpath Brown's Steel structural engineers (no mention of a jetty). Phone GRE 2671;
The 1936 'Thames Navigator’s Pocket: Companion', under 'Bugsy’s Reach or the south shore' shows proceeding upstream from the Angerstein branch railway
Christie's Wharf and jetty
British Petroleum Wharf,
Angerstein’s Wharf (Southern Railway)
Anglo-American Oil Wharf
Pear Tree Wharf.
Dorman Long's Store, Wharf
When the New Millennium Experience site is finished only a few original buildings will remain. These are The Pilot pub and the short row of Georgian cottages, called Ceylon Place, The pub is rightly popular and has recently been extended but, alongside it, the small, dilapidated cottages are rarely given a second look. They are currently in use as short life housing and their downmarket looks barely reveal their origins as part of what was once an exciting new development at the end of what is now Riverway.
The cottages date from about 1801, They were built in the lane behind a 'big' house and a huge corn mill which stood on the on the riverfront, In the eighteenth century the site was owned by George Russell, a London soap manufacturer whose works were near Blackfriars Bridge but who lived at Longlands House near Sidcup. In 1801 he was approached by a William Johnson, from Bromley, Kent, who had patented a new design of tide mill. A tide mill is a watermill worked by the power of the tides - a good example can be seen today at Three Mills, behind the Tesco store off the northern Blackwall Tunnel Approach. Russell agreed to the project and construction went ahead on the mill - the cottages and the house were included as the start of 'New East Greenwich'. At the same time Russell got a licence from the City of London to build a causeway down into the river at what was then called 'Bugsby's Hole'. This causeway is still in use today. The site - and perhaps George Russell had some unexplained connections with national politics, In 1801 some of the site was leased to a group of out of office politicians - William Pitt, the recently resigned Prime Minister, his elder brother, the Earl of Chatham, and their associates the Hon.Edward Crags and the Hon. John Eliot. Their role in the development is not clear but it might explain the name of the pub. 'The Pilot' is almost certainly named after William Pitt who was described in a contemporary song as 'The Pilot who weathered the storm', Ceylon, after which the cottages were named, had recently come under the protection of the British Crown,
Two hundred years ago the site must have looked marvellous and romantic. The big mill moving slowly, the big house with gardens going down to the river. Behind it were the cottages and pub overlooking some six acres of millponds with meadows beyond. Nearby was a thatched barn and all around were grazing cows and sheep, Around 1900, when the cottages were a century old, someone built extensions on the backs of them - making them marginally bigger but eating in to what had been pretty gardens, The 'big house', East Lodge, was demolished then and its' site is now used by the Yacht Club. What happened to the summerhouse lookout over the river? Are any of the trees those planted by the Davies sisters who lived there in the nineteenth century? The little cottages have gone on for almost two hundred years serving as housing for local workers - fishermen, mill workers, and barge builders. All around things have changed. The great mill became a chemical works and was replaced by a power station. On the fields behind a steel works was built and - soon more cottages, a mission room and soon more cottages and the pub. The only thing not to have changed seems to be the supply of thirsty workers who drink in The Pilot
These cottages were part of an industrial site and they should not be treated as quaint and countrified. Let us hope that English Partnerships and the New Millennium Experience treat them kindly and take due regard to their age and context
GREENWICH INDUSTRIAL HISTORY IN PRINT
Editorial on North Woolwich Old Station Museum, April 1996, p. 1
The Greenwich Park Branch by J.E.Connor, part I, April 1996, pp 23-32
The Greenwich Park Branch by J.E.Connor, part 2, July 1996, pp 14- IS
DLR Lewisham Extension, January 1997, p.36
Tracing the Greenwich Park Branch by Ian Baker, April [997 pp9-12
Work at Greenwich (DLR) October 1997, p. 35
London Railway Record obtainable from Connor & Butler, 69 Guildford Road, Colchester. Essex. O 1 2RZ,
ASPECTS OF THE ARSENAL: The Royal Arsenal Woolwich.
The Buildings of the Royal Arsenal - by Darrell Spurgeon
Tower Place - by Winifred Cutler
Paul Sandby RA 1731-1809. Father of English Watercolour by David Brighton
She Can Sew a Flannel Cartridge in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich by Barbara Ludlow
The Royal Artillery in Woolwich by Brigadier K.A. Timbers
A Brief History of the Transport System in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich by J.Fisher
From Domestic to Danger Building: Women Workers in the Royal Arsenal by Bernadette Gillow
The Arsenal and its Co-op Connection by Ron Roffey
The Royal Arsenal workers and Independent Labour Representation. A Beacon in the Dark. by Paul Tyler
Industrial Relations in the Royal Arsenal by William Pearce
15th September 1998 7.30 pm INAUGURAL MEETING AND FIRST AGM East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SEl0.
13th October 1998. 7.30 pm INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY IN GREENWICH by Prof. Dave Perrett (Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society & Association for Industrial Archaeology) East Greenwich Community Centre Christchurch Way, SEl0.
December 1998 7.30 pm GREENWICH AND ITS INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE. By Paul Calvocoressi (English Heritage) East Greenwich Community Centre. Christchurch Way. SE10O.
12th January 1999 STONES OF DEPTFORD by Peter Gurnett. Venue to be arranged
From John Day. Very belated thanks for the copy of your newsletter. It speaks well for the future. I don't know whether you are aware of the existence of a large number of drawings of machinery made by Hick Hargreaves for Woolwich are held at Bolton Library. Thanks for the note about the 'Aspects of the Arsenal' book. I persuaded a friend to get it for me as a birthday present'.
From Ian Sharpe. I hope you don't mind me writing to you from the other side of the river. Right opposite the tip of Greenwich Peninsula is a site, Brunswick Wharf, which is very important and needs some attention. The 'First Settlers' left Blackwall in 1606 to land in what is now Virginia USA. These heroic men braved all to set up across the uncharted seas. They founded Jamestown, and started the tobacco trade which was to become the main economy of Virginia. Yet a monument in their honour at Brunswick Wharf (the little mermaid) first unveiled by the American Ambassador in 1928 and again in 1953, has been neglected. It is directly opposite the Millennium Dome project, and although Barretts who are building a housing complex there have offered to restore it but will they get it right? It must have access and facilities for the many visitors that are bound to come. The people planning the Millennium should look beyond Greenwich and across the river.
From Rick Tisdell. Re: Redpath Brown. I have managed to unearth some information from a file I discovered at my sister's house. I worked at Redpath's from 1960 to 1971 where I completed my apprenticeship as an Electrician in the Maintenance Department. My father worked at East Greenwich all his working life in the office where he was the purchasing officer. He was made redundant when British Steel closed the works in 1977. He died in 1979. My mother also worked in the office at Greenwich and it was there that she met and married my father. She was the daughter of Johnny Stewart who was for many years the Template Shop Foreman at the works. His brother also worked in the Drawing Office at Greenwich for a short time. My mother went on to work full time as Secretary to the Managing Director at Duncannon Street Head Office in the 1960s. Her great uncle was called Dan Taylor and he was either Foreman of the Roof Shop or General Foreman at around the time of the First World War.
BYGONE KENT is produced monthly by Meresborough Books of Rainham, Kent . It has published so much about Greenwich and its industries including this list of articles - which will be continued later on. Here are some of the articles on Greenwich industry which had appeared up to a couple of years ago.
Deptford: Former Royal Dockyard. By Philip MacDougal Vo1.2. No.11 Nov. 1981.
Whitebait in the Thames by Eric R..Swan. Vol.3. No.1.. April 1982
A Place of Great Dread by Susan King. VoI.3.No.6. June 1982.
The Princess Alice by Henry J. Green Vol 4. . April 1983.
Visit to Woolwich by Henry Green Vol 4. No.5. June 1983..
Eltham Park. The Story of a Station. By Jim Landergan. Vol 5. No.2. Feb 1984.
The Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Cables of 1865 and 1866, By Arthur Joyce Vol. 5. May 1984
The Royal Arsenal Woolwich. By P. Baigent Vol 5.No.9. Sept 1984
Shipbreaking at Woolwich by Philip Banbury Vol.5. No.9. Sept. 1984.
Housing for the Woolwich Arsenal Munitions Workers. By John Kennett. Vol 6. No. 12. Dec. 1985.
The Closure of Deptford and Woolwich Dockyards. Philip MacDougall. Vol. 7. No.4 . April 1986
Cable Manufacturing in Kent.. Pt.1 by Philip Banbury. Vol.7 No 7.July 1986
Cable Manufacturing in Kent Pt.2. by Philip Banbury. Vol 7. No.9. Sept. 1986.
The Remains of a Naval Base. By Philip MacDougall. Vol. 1 No.9. Sept 1986
The Southern Outfall Works. Crossness. By Robert Eastleigh. Vol. 1 No.11. Nov. 1986
Erith's Tuppeny Trams. Pt 1. By Robert Eastleigh Vo1.8. No. 1. Jan 1987.
The Bexley Urban District Tramways. Pt. 1. By Robert Eastleigh Vol. 9. No.1. Jan. 1988.
The Bexley Urban District Tramways. Pt. 2. By Robert Eastleigh Vol 9 No. 2. Feb 1988.
The Building of the Bostall Estate. Abbey Wood. By Rod LeGear. Vo1.9. N.3. March 1988
As the Crow flies. Milestones in Metropolitan Kent. By Bernard Brown Vol 9. No.3. March 1988
The Other Woolwich Ferry. By Robert Eastleigh. Vol.9. No 11.Nov. 1988
Launching a Barge. By Iris Bryce. Vol. 13. No.1. Jan 1992
The Maritime Duties of London's Bobbies. By Bernard Brown. Vo1.13. No.4. April 1992.
The Deptford Turnpike Road. By Bernard Brown. Vol 13. No.5 May 1992.
Parte of Kent. The Development of North Woolwich. By Bernard Brown. Vo1.14. No 1.Jan 1993
The Deptford Ferry. By Bernard Brown Vol l4. No.8 Aug 1993
The Thirty-nine Steps. By Bernard Brown. Vol.17. No.3. Jan 1996.
The Epic Story of the Effluent Vessels. Pt. 1. By Anthony Lane Vol.18.No.3. Aug. 1997
A Disaster in Blackheath Tunnel. By John Hilton. Vol. 18 No. 8 Aug 1997
The Epic Story of the Effluent Vessels. Pt.2. By Anthony Lane Vol. 18. No.9 Sept 1997
Chapter one - The Early Site
“That area of land roughly triangular in shape bounded by the railway embankment to the south west; Conington Road and Silk Mills Path to the east and the small bridge over the Ravensbourne to the south is one of the most historic sites in Lewisham. A Bronze Age axe head and bones, thought to be the jaw of a wolf, have been unearthed and the fragment of pottery and tiles found nearby suggest that it may have been a Roman site. Here was once once of the great fields of the Manor of Lewisham called Sundermead; corrupted in modem times to Sundry Meadow or Thundery Mead, and across the river was the field known as Loots, Locks or Lock Mead. From early times is has been associated with the tools and trappings of militarism and, therefore, whether intentionally or not, has been surrounded by an air of mystery. On this site, throughout the centuries, has stood a mill whose product encompassed the romance of chivalry, the heroism of warfare, the beauty of silk and the splendour of precious metal.
In the Domesday Survey of 1080- 1086, England's first ever public record; about 5,600 mills are listed. Eleven of these were in Lewisham, on the Ravensbourne, and one was on the site which, many centuries later, would be occupied by the Royal Armoury Mill and the Lewisham Silk MiIls.
The River Ravensbourne rises at Caesar's Well on Keston Common and after being joined at Catford by the Pool River and then by the Quaggy at Lewisham, it winds on until it reaches the Thames at Deptford Creek:, a total distance of nearly eleven miles.
The earliest mills on the Ravensbourne would have been somewhat primitive structures, built: around a timber frame, with walls of wattle and daub and a roof of thatch. One simple type of mill, known as the Greek mill, dates from about 85 B. C, and derived its power from a horizontal waterwheel which fixed to a vertical shaft, turned the mill stones
A second, more efficient type of mill was inspired by a Roman architect and engineer, Vitruvius in the latter part of the first century B.C. His mill had a vertical waterwheel; attached to a horizontal shaft and power was now transmuted via gearing. This was the type that became common in the Ravensbourne. Working parts were made from wood, and since iron was scarce and therefore expensive the bearings for the main drive shaft connected to the waterwheel would have been of stone prepared by a local stonemason. The lower section of the wheel was immersed in the stream and the force of water against the flat wooden paddles fixed at intervals around its circumference, caused it to rotate. Almost certainty, corn mills of this basic type would only have worked a single pair of millstones.
How to read on - in 1979 the Lewisham Local History Society published a 26 page A5 booklet written by two of its members and entitled 'The Lewisham Silk Mills. That booklet has been out of print for some years but now, following nineteen more years of meticulous research on the part of the authors we are proud re have been entrusted with the task of publication in association with GLIAS, of a greatly enlarged Second Edition. This new edition contains iv + 113 pages. With 21 illustrations in 9.5" x 6.5" (242 mm x 165 mm) format, burst bound in heavy gauge gloss laminated card cover with fold-in back.
Contents: - The early Site - The Royal Armoury Mill - Swords and Muskets – the Royal Small. Arms Factory - Robert Arnold Silk Thowster – the First Stantons - Gold and Silver Wyre dressing - The Second Stantons –into the twentieth century – workers at the Royal Small Arms Factory – Trades at the Mill – Mill Employees – Stanton Family Pedigree
The first interesting question, discussed by Mr. Burgess, was 'why a dedicated power station'? The answer is that electrical transport predated the general electricity supply system at a time when electrical supply was very locally based. The London County Council had been set up in 1889 and took over the horse drawn tramway companies. The Greenwich Power Station was designed by the LCC Architect's Department to supply the electric tram system and was opened in two stages in 1906 and 1910. An elegant rain water hopper dated' 1903 AD' is on the rear of the building. It is interesting to note that according the 'The Greenwich and Dartford Tramways” by Robert J. Hurley that a brand new electric tramway was opened from the King William the Fourth pub in Trafalgar Road to central London in 1904. Where did the power come from for that? At around the same time the underground and tube rail ways were being electrified (1st January 1905 for Baker Street to Uxbridge, 1st July 1905 the first stage of the Inner Circle). But Greenwich Power Station did not begin to supply the railway operations until 1933 when the LCC Tramways were absorbed into the London Transport Passenger Board. It was then planned to generate at Greenwich the power for the railway extensions in North East London and for the trolley buses which were to replace the trams in south and east Lon don. Greenwich supplied both systems until1961' when the trolley buses were scrapped. Linkages to Mile End and Mansell Street are identified on the control panels. Greenwich's main function today is to supplement the output of the Lots Road, Chelsea power station at times of peak demand and to provide a standby facility.
The original installation comprised a coal fired boiler house with four chimneys and an engine room housing four vertical horizontal compound reciprocating steam engines driving flywheel type alternators at 6,600 volts, 25 Hz. By 1910 the superiority of steam turbines had been realised and four steam turbine alternators were installed for phase two of the building programme. Coal was landed from colliers which came from North East England, onto the jetty and then to a large system of bunkers. The original reciprocating engines were replaced by steam turbines in 1922. The next major change came in the mid 1960s when the steam plant was replaced by gas turbine generators Rolls Royce 'Avon' engines similar to those used, in jet aircraft. Originally powered solely by gas oil the plant was later converted for dual fuel operation (oil, or natural gas -the latter is now the main source of power). Start up of the generators is powered by a large bank of batteries. Output from the generation is 11,000 volts and use of transformers boosts this, to 22,000.
The jetty is now no longer used. The relatively small quantity of oil used comes by road tanker and gas and oil do not generate the ash, which, when coal was used, was removed via the jetty. The building is of some architectural interest. The chimneys for Phase I were 250 feet high but, following objections from the Royal Observatory, those for Phase 2 were only 182 feet. A hand-out was provided with facts and figures, a simplified plant diagram and a site plan. Altogether a fascinating visit.
The Royal Arsenal Woolwich. Edited by Beverley Burford and Julian Watson.
Chapters are illustrated with Black and white photographs, drawings, maps and plans and there is a bibliography and an index.
The article below appeared in the second Greenwich Industrial History Newsetter in 1998. It features extracts from a report drawn up by a local campaign group - along with some specialist researchers in an effort to draw attention to the importance of the site and to try and halt drastic redevelopment which would not respect the historic integrity of the site (which went ahead some years later). It was reproduced with their permission in 1998.
By the second half of the 19th century iron plate and later steel were beginning to replace wood as the material of choice for the manufacture of large and medium sized vessels (note the Iron Shipbuilding Yards to the west of Wood Wharf on the OS maps of 1865 and 1895). In the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century a huge number of flat bottomed barges and lighters of both wood and iron or steel construction transported materials up and down the Thames and the east coast The Wood Wharf foreshore provides an ideal location for the maintenance of such craft without the expense of cranes, slips or dry docks The occupation of the extant building at number 32 by specialist barge and lighter repair yards, can be traced back to the time of its construction just after the turn of the century; Percy Talbot, Whitehair (who specialised in the transport of grain to the flour mills in Deptford Creek), Union Lighterage and most recently Pope & Bond The form and layout of the building suggests that it was purpose built for this activity The remarkable similarity of the preceding structure represented on the OS maps of 1895 and 1865 would support the supposition that there is a direct link to the earlier days of boat building and repair at Wood Wharf
A duplicate of this awesome construction was of course operating on the opposite shore and between these landing stages steamed two purpose built ferries.
Riverboat Repair Workshops
The building now on the site of number 32 was erected at or around the turn of the century. It comprises two ground floor workshop spaces either side of the roadway, a third larger first floor workshop facing the river behind which is a unit subdivided to provide locker roomoffice and kitchen facilities. Purpose built, probably based on a pre-existing structurean archetypal form of which there are no other examples left on Greenwich waterfront. The trade practice for which it was designed and built and the activity it serviced are a testament to a pre-industriaI past and the unbroken history of boat building and repair on and around this site. The mater al and form of its structure and utility of its external detailing are characteristic of construction practice towards the end of the great industrial age which had changed forever the once marshy land to the west and south. The rear workshop still houses a forgetools and machinery employed to cut and form metal sheet and bar necessary to maintain the most recent incarnation of working Thames cargo vessels: steel barges and lighters. This building and if at all possible some aspects of its intended function should be retained.
PLANNING ISSUES & CONTRIBUTING TO REGENERATION IN GREENWICH
The exploitation of the remaining elements (slipway and engine chamber) of the Great Greenwich Steam Ferry as the core around which to present a dynamic history of the riverfront at Greenwich and promote future uses of the River Thames far transport and pleasure.
There are a number of organisations and publications dealing with underground exploration. Rod LeGear himself is a leading member of the Kent Underground Research Group (Sec. Mike Clinch, 01322 526425). Another - international - organisation is Subterranea Brittanica (Sec. Malcolm Tadd 01737 823 456). There have been many publications which mention underground Greenwich - Rod didn't mention his own Kent and East Sussex Underground (Meresborough Books 1991). Many of the best reports on Greenwich have, bizarrely, been published by the Chelsea Spelaeological Society - the following notes some references taken at random from their publications:
Woolwich sappers tunnels - CSS Records Vol. 13.
Turpins Cave Plumstead, Maryon Park chalk mine - CSS Records Vol. 17.
MEMORIES OF AN ROF APPRENTICE
Pre-War there were three grades of apprentices in the Royal Arsenal. Trade apprentices who, as the name suggests, were training in their chosen trade, such as fitter, turner, pattern maker, etc. After six months they had one option to change their choice. Student apprentices who spent a couple of years on practical work after a college degree. The third grade were the Engineering Apprentices who spent five years working at a number of trades and spending a fair amount of time studying for a degree.
Entry as an engineering apprentice was by examination and interview at the age of sixteen. The average intake in the thirties was about twelve from some hundred to a hundred and fifty applicants. For the first two years there was compulsory attendance of two days and two evenings a week at what was, then, the Woolwich Polytechnic. The remaining three years were spent during term time at the Poly. or, for a few, at one of the London Colleges. At the end of the five years, most of the apprentices had a degree in engineering and the necessary thirty-six months of practical training needed for membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
From here on things get personal, but they are my memories as far as they go and after something like sixty years may not be accurate. For both of these I apologise in advance. If anybody sees a mistake, please let Mary, or I, know so that it can be put right for future historians
I have no recollection of any examination. Perhaps I was exempted by having matriculated with distinction in four technical subjects, but I remember the interview. My father was a keen model engineer and had a lathe, which I was allowed to use. I had made a model of a two cylinder boiler feed pump (described in Shop Shed and Road by L.B.S.C.) and this I produced at the interview when I was asked if I knew anything about metalwork. There was a pause while the interview board thought up something else to ask me.
When the results were published I headed the list which comprised Sydney Bacon, Alfred Bennett, Eddie Hessey, Hibbert Jarvis, Norman Lindsey Maybe, Cyril Morris, Malcolm Starkey, Robert Walker. Morris died of T.B. in his second year. Lindsey after his discharge from R.E.M.E. as Lieut. Colonel at the end of the war. Walker became a civil engineer with the Port of London Authority after getting his degree at City and Guilds. Sir Sydney Bacon retired as Director General of Ordnance Factories. Starkey was one of the militia called up in 1939, being released to become manager of one of the war time ordnance factories, Fazakerly making Sten guns, and later taking a senior position with Tranco Valves.
I was no stranger to the Arsenal. In the mid-thirties my father became a shift engineer in the Central Power Station and on Sundays, when he was on days, I took in his hot lunch in a basket. Since everything was shut down, such electricity as was needed coming from the Woolwich Power Station at Warren Lane, I had the freedom to wander where I liked within the building. At that time the western end of the Arsenal was still on direct current. In the power station were two Yates and Thom 1450 H.P. inverted triple expansion engines with Corliss valve gear, direct coupled to D.C. generators some ten to twelve feet in diameter. Alongside was a totally enclosed Vickers-Howden triple with a piston valve on the high pressure cylinder and slide valves on the intermediate and low pressure cylinders. Alternating current for the eastern end came from a 6000 kilowatt Metropolitan Vickers turbo-generator and, when needed, from a pair of rotary converters. As usual, the switch board ran along a gallery on the north wall and at the west end was the engineer's office that I came to know even better in later years. The boiler house was south of the engine room and contained six water tube boilers, four Thompson and two Babcock and Wilcox, all with chain grate stoking. The ash went down into long, narrow, trucks on the 18-inch gauge railway, this being the last use for narrow gauge. On the north side of the power station was a pump house, providing hydraulic pressure for the various machines and cranes, and to the north again was the electrical repair shop.
On my first day I reported to the apprentice supervisor, in the Central Office, and was taken to the Gauge Shop for the New Fuze Factory. Actually the shop was the Fuze Poolroom and the Gauge Shop was the high accuracy part of the toolroom. The chap I was given to as apprentice was Jim Hands. He made the jigs and tools for Mechanical Time Fuze No. 207, which was a short term watch mechanism using a swinging arm in place of the usual balance wheel. The movement was made and assembled, by girls, on the first floor of the adjacent building, The New Fuze Factory. It was a long time before I cottoned on to why it was always Jim who fixed belts and bolts under the benches while I did all the work on top.
The first job I had was to scrape the faces of light alloy depth gauges true and square. These had to be frosted (an ornamental pattern left by a scraper) and be accurate to a couple of thousandths of an inch although they were only graduated in eighths. They were in light alloy because they were for use in the Danger Buildings for measuring the depth of explosive in shells
When I had finished that job, Jim suggested I made myself some tools and started with a 5 x inch engineer's square. After hacksawing the shapes from gauge plate, the parts were ground on a Brown and Sharp surface grinder, riveted together and scraped and lapped to the standard demanded by the View Room i.e. less than one ten-thousandth of an inch square and true in any direction. I still have that square, it is still true because I never dared to use it!
One of the tools Jim thought up and made was a device for burnishing the pivots of the balance arm. This comprised four dead hard and highly polished discs rotated on spindles in massive cast iron bearing blocks. My part in this was machining the bearing blocks, base plate etc, on a Butler 18-inch shaper, a lovely tool on which I enjoyed working and, as they say, could nearly make talk.
The New Fuze was near the fourth gate (Plumstead Gate) and I rode to work on my 1920 Sunbeam motorcycle, which I had bought for £2 and fully restored. One morning, in the crush, the inverted brake lever on the end of the handlebars caught in a man's pocket, tore it so that his lunch fell out on the road, he was not pleased. In the evening he came to our house and was pacified with a ten-shilling note and an old jacket of my father's. By that time my father had become foreman of the Electrical Shop and he arranged for No 4 electricity sub-station to be specially opened morning and evening for me to garage my bike safely in the dry
In the August Guide Neil returned again to an industrial theme - plus a very welcome plug for our society. His article was headed Industrial Detergentsbut covered far more.
He mentioned a number of Blackheath-based factories - a fruit juice factory in Independents Road, Burndept the wireless factory, a toy construction kit maker in Blackheath Grove followed by a plating factory - and then on to a brief biography of Percival Moses Parsons. Parsons, says Neil 'invented manganese bronze in his back garden' and much much more (including the Central London Railway).
Thank you Neil - I think we'll have to book you as a speaker soon!
From Katie Jones;
Is there any mileage to investigating the history of the rather unprepossessing building at the corner of what was Deal's Gateway, on the Blackheath Road, with a facade marked 'Kentish Mercury'? This building looks in danger of being demolished, as it stands starkly against the developing DLR line through to Lewisham. There are several 'To Let' signs already on the building. Is this building well documented already, or would my involvement be helpful?
From John Day;
Does anyone know anything about this quotation from Mechanic's Magazine (Vol. 9 1828) 'Mr. Perkins continues to prosecute his plans for application of steam to warlike purposes. Last week he had another day's practice with his gun at the Limekilns, Greenwich'.
From F.G. Gilbert Bentley;
Although age (84) and serious ill health prevents my attending a meeting now this does in no way reduce my interests. My attachments to the area are wide and cover a life-time.
I listened at midnight on December 31st 1922 to a faint crackling radio on Shooters Hill (I was eight years old) to hear the sound of Big Ben chiming in the new year - for the first time on radio - and then listening to the many ships hooters in the huge docks below and beyond. I did not then know I would see them ablaze and blown apart in September 1940.
I went to the pictures in October 1940 in Woolwich and saw only half the film. It was to be 42 years before I saw the end of it because the cinema was hit (The Daily Mirror had a column on it). I was in Woolwich, Greenwich and Deptford, throughout the blitz and in a number of barracks when they were damaged.
My grandparents had a big laundry in Wilmington which served the area (James Bentley) and they had steam engines, etc. I could go on, but .....
So have a very great affection, attachment and interest in the area - not least its communications: trams, buses, ferry, subways, etc. The area has so much to offer industrial history - docks, shipyards, Arsenal, Royal Observatory, R.M. Academy, R.M. Repository, Rotunda, Palace, Royal Naval College, Royal Artillery, Grand Depot, Schools, and endless small businesses that support these things, the unmistakable bond in the river.
The whole of English (and Empire) History has at some time congregated or passed by and through. Thousands and thousands of ordinary people (like me) have contributed something to the tapestry by being there at the right (sometimes the wrong) time.
Editorial Note - What was the film, Mr. Gilbert-Bentley? In the 1960s I worked for a laundry trade journal and remember James Bentley well. Tell us more - even if it was in Dartford!
From Colin Thom. Assistant Editor, Survey of London;
Peter Guillery recently pointed out to me the note asking for information on the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. I wrote the section on the history of the tunnel for Survey of London, Vols. 43-44 on Poplar, Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs. I thought the list of references may help the Westcombe Society in their search for sources. Also, the research notes on the volume can be consulted in the RCHME London Office which may be of interest to the Society.
From Philip MacDougall, Naval Dockyards Society;
I enclose our own recently published newsletter. I could certainly publicise anything you might have on the Woolwich Arsenal, Deptford and Woolwich Dockyard and the victualling yards. I would also welcome any connected items from your members.
Editorial Note: the Naval Dockyards Society Newsletter includes - requests for help about Sir John Cox, Edmund Dummer, George St. Lo and John Tippetts, Coaling facilities at naval ports, Infantry Landing Craft, and penal establishments in the Andaman Islands. Information is also needed for a bibliography of books on civilian facilities of the Navy. There are details of the Society of Model Shipwrights (which meets in Orpington) and articles in Penetanguishene Dockyard in Canada, the Vasa in Stockholm, the Iron Ship Building Shop in Chatham and papers given at the Society's Conference.
From Julian Bowsher;
Congratulations on having set up the Greenwich Industrial History Society. I enjoyed the first two issues of your newsletter even though the subject matter may be a little modern for me! I am an archaeologist based at the Museum of London, but I live locally and have dug up many sites in Greenwich. A few months ago I was elected as President of the Greenwich Historical Society. As such I am keen on establishing links with like-minded societies - perhaps we could have joint lectures or something in the future. Next year I am hoping that all of our meetings will have a millennial theme!
From Myles Dove;
Thankyou for all the contacts and information about the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Recently I was phoned by someone in Greenwich Council's EPM Section about the revised Sunday opening of the lifts, which they are extending to 7 p.m. from now until mid-September 1998. He also mentioned Greenwich Council's proposals to put up some display material about the foot-tunnel and other riverside works in the lift lobbies as part of the Cutty Sark Gardens improvements. As they didn't seem to have details of the Steam Ferry, shown in issue 2, of your Newsletter, I suggested they use that as well.
From Philip Binns;
I was particularly interested in the article about Wood Wharf and the adjacent slipway and engine chamber associated with the Great Greenwich Steam Ferry. Its potential future as a conservation centre, dynamic historical museum and visitor facility sounds very attractive. Until I retired a couple of years ago I was an architect specialising in exhibition and museum design. If there is any assistance I can give in that area on an informal basis, please feel free to call on me.
From Malcom Shirley;
I have just found your Web pages during my search for information on a book I am researching called The Royal Docks, surrounds and shipping. I would be very grateful if you could advise of any members that would have particular interest in the Royal Docks during the mid to late 1960's. I am also covering the areas of Gallions, Woolwich and Bugsby Reaches, but not in so much detail. Most of the book will be about the shipping in the area during the 1960s together with my photos taken of these ships as a teenager. I would also be very interested in making contact with anyone who would have any such similar photos.
From Julian Wells;
A couple of years ago I wrote to English Heritage asking them to spot-list the great gas holder at Greenwich. Although my letter was acknowledged I have never heard what has happened. Has anyone any information? The following is a copy of my letter of submission;
The East Greenwich gas holder is a very large one - visible to the thousands who use the A102(M), Blackwall Tunnel Approach. Indeed, it dominates the sky line for much of the area. The impact it makes is remarkable - this was once even more so. It used to be accompanied by a larger, but sadly demolished, partner.
It was built by the South Metropolitan Gas Companyas storage for town gas at their East Greenwich works. This works was planned in the 1880s as a large 'out of town' gas factory to fulfil the growing needs of south London. South Metropolitan, at that time, had claims to be the pre-eminent gas company in the country. It was led by a charismatic chairman, George Livesey - whose statue has recently been moved to the Livesey Museum in the Old Kent Road. Livesey had a remarkable career in the gas industry and East Greenwich was built to embody, not only what was seen as best practice in gas manufacture, but also as a pace setter in British industrial practice. The company was proud of the record of the works, and its high reputation continued after nationalisation. East Greenwich gas works appears in many articles, films, text books and so on ,about efficient and progressive town gas manufacture. In the 1990s gas works sites have acquired a reputation for pollution and dirt - it is perhaps worth remembering that this works in particular was seen as a symbol of a power plant which could provide a first class public service. The giant gas holder was meant to remind the public of that ideal - and of a workforce dedicated to the highest standards in every endeavour..
The holder was built, not without some difficulty, on marshy sub-soil. It was the first holder at the new East Greenwich works begun in 1883. It was designed following considerable thought by Livesey on the rationale and economics of storing gas in single large containers. He described the savings to be achieved not only in construction costs but in gas storage over a very long period.
It was constructed between 1886 and 1888 and when built was the largest in the world (in capacity it was soon overtaken by its larger, and demolished, partner - a very few larger holders were later built but whether they still exist now is not known). It was the first four-lift gas holder. The tank, beneath the holder, is 250' in diameter. The guide framing is c.190' high - with the highest point of the crown over 200' above ground level. It was built by the Isle of Dogs based, Samuel Cutler, and it is likely that some of the design features are his. The contractor was probably Docwra, who were on site and constructed most of the original works. The basic conception, however, is that of George Livesey who undertook considerable research on the behaviour of such structures in gale conditions and his findings were embodied in the holder. The basic engineering of the holder, however, was probably done by George's younger brother, Frank Livesey. In terms of gas holder design it is a development of that first used in the large gasholder 'No.13' still standing at Old Kent Road.
The guide framing - which is what most people can see of the holder - is constructed of rolled steel sections. It is designed, like the holder at Old Kent Road and the demolished East Greenwich No.2., to be very plain. This embodies Livesey's ideas both on economy and on needless ostentation. This ethos was also part of his ideas on 'partnership' - taken from followers of the Italian patriot, Mazzini, and his own work in the local temperance and Christian movements. Partnership was between the capitalist classes of 'owners', the consumers or customers for the gas, and the workforce. The size and austerity of the holder to some extent represent his ideas of 'brotherhood in business'. A plaque on the holder commemorates a fatal accident of 1909.
The holder is overwhelming important, because of its size, the engineering principles on which it was built, the philosophies behind its design. It was built for sound economic reasons but also to show the world that South London gas was made to the highest standards and in absolute accord with the needs of both consumers and the workforce. As such it is a crucial symbol of our industrial past and its' retention on the site a fitting exemplar for the next millennium.
| Since this letter was written some evidence has emerged that the holder may have been influenced in design by early 'modern' architectural ideas. George Livesey mentioned input by 'Major Dresser' who advised that 'ornament had no place on a gasholder'. Does this refer to Christopher Dresser, a well known contemporary designer who lived in South London at Sutton and Barnes? He is best known for his work in ceramics and textiles - but he also had an enormous influence on industrial designers of the early twentieth century. Livesey is known to have had used design ideas which were ahead of their times - for example his own house was furnished by Ambrose Heal. A book about Dresser's life was published in 1993 by Stuart Durant of Kingston University and has since been reproduced as a CD-ROM by the State University of San Francisco as The Father of Industrial Design. If this link could be proved the - much derided - gasholder embodies in its very plainness some important design principles and is in fact an extremely early 'modern' industrial building.
Wheen's soap works in Copperas Street has been neglected in published histories of Deptford. It was founded in 1769 and faded-out just after the end of the Second World War. There may (or may not) have been a connection with Lever's
In the early 1950s I was introduced to the last foreman there, Jack McAuliffe, who lived a short distance away. His wife had been head of the 'girls' who worked in one section of the Soapery and who earned nine shillings a week (the other girls got seven bob).
Jack said that a lot of fat was used in soap making and it came from the nearby Foreign Cattle Market (opened by the City Corporation in 1871) where cattle were slaughtered. Fat was taken to the Soapery by horse and cart. Copperas Street was then an unmade lane, and in bad weather you had to jump from stone to stone to keep your feet dry. When a cart got caught in ruts a gang of men with crowbars would be sent to free the wheels.
Jack told me two other things that I should have asked him more about but unaccountably failed to do so. One was about the bell, set on a tall post, which signalled the beginning and end of the working day. It had been a ship's bell from quite a well-known ship, and Mr Wheen had caused a plaque with the name and details of the ship to be fixed to the base of the post. Can anyone remember the wording?
Factories in those days used steam power rather than electricity. The steam engine at Wheen's is said to have come from the Great Eastern built on the opposite side of the river in the late 1853 and broken-up in 1889. This was not the enormous main engine but one of the various auxiliaries that she had. It is only in quite recent times that people have become interested it industrial history, so I fear that this engine ended-up in a scrapyard after the firm closed. Today it would be preserved. When I first started going around the waterfront in the mid-1950s I more or less working in isolation, sharing the interest with a couple of others. What a pity GLIAS and the Docklands History Group did not exist then. This short article may be seen by somebody who knows more about Wheen's. Perhaps somebody who worked there and who may be able to enlarge upon what I have said?
Mumford's Grain Silo - Priority 'D' - Slow decay, solution agreed but not yet implemented. Listed Grade II. Condition - poor, part occupied. Ownership - a company. 'Warehouse range and grain silo built in 1897 to the design of Aston Webb'. Empty for some years. Consents for refurbishment for mixed use granted. Negotiations for Single Regeneration Bid funding still in progress.
Gateway to Royal Arsenal Rifle Shell Factory - Priory 'C' - Slow decay, no solution agreed. Listed Grade II, Conservation Area. Poor Condition, vacant. In ownership of a Quango. Gateway to Royal Arsenal's shell factory, 1856.
Royal Arsenal Grand Store, east range building 49, west and south west range buildings 36, 37, 46. Priory 'C' - Slow decay, no solution agreed. Listed Grade II*, Conservation Area. Poor Condition, vacant. In ownership of a Quango. 'Royal Arsenal storehouse 1806-13'.
Royal Laboratory to Royal Arsenal Priory 'C' - Slow decay, no solution agreed. Listed Grade II, Conservation Area. Poor Condition, vacant. In ownership of a Quango. 'Royal Arsenal's laboratory, originally built in 1696, reconstructed 1802 after a fire.
Greenwich Generating Station was built in 1902-10 for the London County Council to provide electric power to the capital's tramways. A powerful manifestation of early LCC municipalisation it continues in use as a backup electricity source for London's underground railways. The station is one of few early power stations to continue in operation. It is also notable as an early example of a steel framed building in Britain and, in its stone dressed stockbrick skin, it has considerable architectural distinction. This quality is most evident in the north and south gable-end elevations and in the stone detailing. There are four chimneys; the pair to the north were once taller and ornamentally detailed. Originally coal fired, the station generated current at 6,600 volts with a capacity of 34 MW when complete. Its first section, opened in 1906, incorporated a late example of the use of reciprocating steam engines; thereafter steam turbines were installed. All early plant has been removed and since 1972 the station has been equipped with eight gas turbine alternators, originally burning oil, but later conveted to oil/gas dual-firing. These are housed in what was formerly the boiler house, and have a total capacity of 1l7.6 MW, generated at 11,000 volts but stepped up to 22,000 volts for connection to the London underground distribution system. The massive coal bunkers forming the upper part of the boiler house survive. Amongst a number of ancillary structures the most notable is the coaling pier in the River Thames which stands on 16 huge cast-iron columns.
The whole saga throws up a number of questions about the riverbank and what it should look like and what it should be used for. Club members have sent us the following letter:
From K. Hilbrown, Greenwich Meridian Yacht Marina
I am requesting your assistance with a view to acquiring the Thamesmead Jetty, and with your backing, do all in our power to prevent them from ever being demolished. Do you consider there is a possibility of having a preservation order placed on it, to ensure that yet another part of our heritage is not lost forever? I can foresee the time when all the jetties are lost to developers, unless drastic action is taken before it is too late.
It would seem your society are the only people who understand the important part these jetties have played in the development of trade from all corners of the globe. Are future generations only going to know how mportant the river was to London from reading history books? What German bombers could not do in five years, developers could do overnight, if we do nothing to stop them.
The report comes from a working group comprising Kent and Essex County Councils and a variety of other organisations. It is a long document and it is almost impossible to do it justice in the space available here - so apologies for a summary and some, probably, misplaced highlights. Although most of it is ostensibly to do with 'dirt' archaeology the majority of items, in fact, concern industrial activity - a fact which raises the question of why such important topic as the industrial history of the Thames estuary is relegated to a relatively minor role in a document which says that it is about something else.
The document says that something should be done, in a co-ordinated way, and provides an action list - who could disagree with such an approach!
The following are some of the areas which they find of interest:
prehistoric marine activity, the Roman port, Thames shipbuilding, major pre-Norman buildings, shipping, barge wrecks, other wrecks, trackways, fish traps and ponds, oyster pits, salt works, sea walls (eg. Greenwich Peninsula) fishing and fish processing remains, hospitals, industrial housing (they giveThamesmead as an example!), military activity (e.g. Woolwich), forts, civil defence etc., military architecture ordnance storage.
The items which they note and describe as industrial include:
salt, copperas, glass, boat building, and repair, hydraulic power and steam, electric power, armour, gunpowder, chalk, brick earth, gas works, telegraph cables (eg. at Greenwich), water disposal (eg. Crossness), food processing, specialist metals and chemicals, paper making, shoes, fishing, inshore fishing, canals, railways, docks, wharves, military dockyards and storage, piers.
The action plan given in the report comes complete with a recommended framework and specific objectives. These include:
to investigate the role of ship building in the area and undertake research on cargoes and movements, to develop an understanding of the historical context of sea defences and an understanding of construction methods of sea walls, to research the relationship between leisure resorts and industrial communities, to assess urban growth and industry, to establish a basic inventory of defence sites with a detailed study of those which illustrate technical development, to establish an inventory of industrial sites and identify industries to be targeted for detailed research, to undertake research as a basis for comparative studies and develop a methodology.
A copy of the report could be made available if anyone is interested.
Ove Arup reported to the Council late in 1997 - they said they project could not possibly be completed in time given the requirements. There are a number of legal problems concerning access and land ownership and there were engineering difficulties of providing the fast cycle track - which might also meet with considerable opposition on what were often very reasonable grounds.
In August 1998 Mary Mills and Ursula Bowyer set off along the path to see what they could find - they noted down what they saw and tried to think of ways in which things could be improved very cheaply. They talked to people they met - all tourists walking the path on a rainy summerís day - and asked what they would like to see there. One aspect was more information about the industrial heritage.
The following are some of the suggestions which Mary and Ursula made for heritage signing - and in each case they added a suggestion for payment through sponsorship. They noted the following sites and the information needed:
at the Greenwich Foot Tunnel - about the LCC together with some of the tunnel's history..
PARIS: A PRELIMINARY INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY SITE GUIDE by Susan J. Hayton. £5. inc. p&p. cheques payable to D.W.Hayton. Available from 32 The High Street, Farnborough, Orpington, Kent. BR6 7BQ.
[Volume on Flanders will be ready in September]
LEWISHAM SILK MILLS AND THE HISTORY OF AN ANCIENT SITE. THE STORY OF ARMOUR, SMALL ARMS, SILK AND GOLD AND SILVER WIRE DRAWING by John West and Sylvia McCartney. £6.45 from LLHS Pubs, 2 Bennett Park, Blackheath Village, SE3 9RB.
The Location - with, if possible a road name, or the address or a grid reference.
What it is, or was, used for - if known.
When it was built - or for about how long it has been noticed.
The last time it was seen.
The name and address of the person sending the note in.
Eastside Community Heritage has been set up in West Ham Old Town Hall but aims to cover all of East and South East London. They currently have a new web site;
which is aimed at everyone interested in the 'fascinating heritage of East London'. It will have an official launch in the autumn - call Lorna or Rita on 0181 557 8609 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They have news of exhibitions and projects throughout the area.
OLD STATION MUSEUM, NORTH WOOLWICH, could really do with lots of help - they need - painters, carpenters, electricians, typists, salesmen, graphic designers, cleaners, gardeners, mechanics, chimney sweeps, printers, writers, and lots of others. Contact Charlie on 0171 474 7244 with your skills.
It ought to be possible to compile a similar booklet about heritage under threat in Greenwich - any suggestions?
Over the past couple of weeks we have put out three old newsletters from 1998 - I thought perhaps I ought to jot down some 'where are they now' comments about some of the articles and people. so:
From Newsetter No.1.
Redpath Brown History - happily Andrew Turner is still working on the firm and the Greenwich steelworks, and we hope to have him back with an update talk in the next year or so. Thanks Andrew - and thanks for leading a Greenwich riverside walk for Docklands History Group next week
North Woolwich Walk - Howard Bloch, who led the walk for us and was the Newham Local History Librarian, sadly died some years ago. His job had been deleted by London Borough of Newham. The North Woolwich Station Museum has also been closed by London Borough of Newham and the building still stands derelict.
First meeting - Jack Vaughan, our very wonderful first Chair, also died some years ago. He was a great source of strength and very knowledgeable and passionate about the history of Woolwich. We could do with a lot more like him!!
Barbara Ludlow, who was also a great source of strength now lives at the coast and is no longer very mobile. She has a vast reservoir of knowledge about the area and is endlessly helpful, albeit now by post. Thanks Barbara.
Nick Catford - contributes to many many railway history web sites and seems to have been taking photographs of interesting sites since before the year dot. He now edits the Sub Brit journal.
Pat O'Driscoll edited ByGone Kent until the title was sold by the Publisher. I haven't heard from her for some years and would love to do so - she is a great authority on barge building and the river.
The Georgian Cottages by the Pilot. We managed to get them listed at the very last minute (thanks English Heritage) and they still stand now in their own little square. It turns out the landscape designers for the Dome, etc. had planned to demolish them and were really furious at the listing.
Prof Tony Arnold - published his book 'Iron Shipbuilding on the Thames'
White Hart Depot - English Heritage agreed to list this and it still stands
Wood Wharf - it proved impossible to save any aspects of the ship repair yard or the old ferry remains. There is now a tower block on the site. Clive Chambers, who bravely dived the ferry chambers, has also sadly died.
John Day - who wrote about the Arsenal in this and subsequent editions, and who did a lot of work at the Royal Artillery Archive, has sadly died.
Ian Sharpe - goes on promoting the history of Wapping through his Tourbridge web site
Michael Ward - has sadly died, and no more blue plaques have gone up
David Cuffley continues to run the North West Kent Family History Society and has been to talk to us on several occasions. Hope he will come again soon.
Rick Tisdell has sadly died
Terry Scales - goes on from strength to strength and is coming to speak at the next GIHS meeting
The Gas Museum was all packed up and sent to Leicester, where. I think it remains in its boxes.
The Conservation Group goes on from strength to strength - but I have no idea what happened to the Cultural Plan
Katie Jones wrote her history of the old Mercury building and then left the MS on a bus. The building has since been demolished.
The Naval Dockyards Society flourishes and holds its annual AGM in Greenwich
Greenwich Foot Tunnel - think I have just heard a rumour about a Friends organisation about to be set up.
The East Greenwich Gas Holder - is still there although under constant threat. I'm afraid the Julian only agreed to let me use his name on an article written by me. The Christopher Dresser bit was, I'm afraid, a red herring albeit an interesting one
Mumfords Mill - is now housing, as are most of the Arsenal buildings.
Greenwich Power Station - is still with us. Peter's article appeared in the GLIAS Journal - which I was editing at the time
The Greenwich Yacht Marina (in fact a semi derelict jetty held together with rope and old oil drums). That is a saga not suitable for publication here, I think. Whatever happened to Kenny??
Two women in a footpath - we did our best and happily Ursula is still around and up to all sorts of things.
Millennium Doomsday - upset a lot of people - but, there you go!
ps Greenwich Yacht Marina - they used to advertise on the Blackwall Tunnel Approach 'Drink and music at a riverside location' This in fact meant sitting on one of the oil drums at the less rickety end of the jetty, with canned beer and a transistor radio. You could watch the ducks though.
Away on my holidays I found myself in the Northumberland County archive at Woodhorn in - well, Northumberland.
Now - I am far from sure how we can stretch Greenwich industry geographically but I am wondering if we didn't ought to be include a fairly large stretch of Northumberland.
I learnt about Greenwich Hospital Estates a long time ago. On a study tour of the North East in the early 1970s we were faced with a resentful lecturer - 'look' he said ' all of this land - here in the north, all making profits for Londoners. The income all goes down south to these big buildings in Greenwich and is spent on southerners' . At that stage I didn't actually know where the money went - but I was pretty sure it wasn't spent on the residents of the London Borough of Greenwich and I said so - and was treated with a great deal of suspicion for the rest of the week.
So - Greenwich Hospital Estates. It does cover a lot of Northumberland. I flicked through the pages and pages of the accessions list in the archive - a lot of lead mines, some of them quite famous, collieries, fisheries, stone quarries, farms, a lot of other mineral workings. Then page after page after page of account books. I didn't have the time to call items up, but I guess it would have been very illuminating.
So - historically - can we stretch Greenwich's industrial history to cover all of this? (this is a historical blog but the politics are more than interesting too). I am sure there are proper histories out there of the Hospital's northern estates - people who have studied the lead mines and the quarries. I think we need more information about all of this - if we are to sort of annexe it.
PS - I found two items in the accessions list about Greenwich Foot Tunnel - so those of you researching that would do well to come up here and look. Woodhorn is, I guess, a bit on the inaccessible side - as I left I did wonder how you got there by public transport, if at all!
Ian Bull writes:
A Royal Arsenal Railway bogie van has been displayed outside the
Greenwich Heritage Centre for some years. Its condition has recently
deteriorated and last Monday it was moved to Crossness pumping
station to join the steam locomotive 'Woolwich' for restoration.
Plenty of detail and photos in the link below...
Ian is leading the team restoring loco 'Woolwich' at Crossness - GIHS hopes he will agree to come and speak to us some time next year.
A Threat to London'sHealth.
It is not surprising that strong protests have been made in influential quarters against the proposal to erect at Battersea one of a chain of super-power stations,to be set up all over the country. In these utilitarian days it is probably no use being squeamish about the addition of six chimneys, 255 feet high, to the less popular sights of our city; but the addition of two or three hundred tons of sulphur fumes to its atmosphere every week is in a category that the most hardened materialist cannot but regard as disturbing. And, apart from the cost in health, it would accelerate the decay and besmirching of public buildings and parks in the City and West End-by the agency of the prevailing south-west winds-thus entailing heavy expense to the ratepayers for extra cleaning and repair work.
It appears, moreover, that at present no satisfactory method of eliminating these fumes from furnace gases exists, and that residents in the vicinity of power stations still complain bitterly of the quantity of smoke, dust and grit emitted. It is worth while recalling here that no charge of air-pollution can be brought against the gas industry; the general use of gas in home and factory, on the other hand, would almost entirely put an end to the smoke evil.
We can only hope it will be realised that the well-being of the public and the maintenance of the amenities they at present enjoy are objects even more worth striving for than the superficially more practical ones the promoters of this scheme have in mind.
Copartnership Journal South Metropolitan Gas Company June 1929
The current issue of Subterranea (Sept 2013 www.subbrit.org.uk) contains an item on underground items in Charlton - some of it a bit alarming.
The item is headed 'Concern about a probable chalk mine under a railway tunnel at Charlton, southeast London " and relates to an enquiry from Network Rail concerning cavities encountered on the North Kent railway line. They say "the tunnel had been driven between 1847 and 1849 by John Brogden (junior) [1823-1867]. This line was opened to Charlton Station on 30 July 1849, but the next section to Woolwich Dockyard Station (opened 1 November the same year) was evidently slightly delayed by the tunnelling and the unexpected cavity".
The article is by Paul Sowan who is coming to speak to GIHS again on 19th November. But otherwise read Subterranea for the whole story.
Saturday26 October - A Commemoration of the 101st Anniversary of Woolwich Foot Tunnelm-a message from FOGWOFT
The tunnel was opened 101 years before, to the day, by luminaries of London and Woolwich led by Major-General the Right Hon. Lord Cheylesmore, chairman of London County Council.
We will follow the arrangements of 1912, but without a major-General, and proceed under the Thames to the north bank in the Borough of Newham, in an area still known as North Woolwich. From there we will return by ferry. One past through the tunnel was obviously enough then for Edwardian luminaries. The only difference between then and now is that we will have the benefit of takingexercise down and up the stairs. The good Major-General had lifts and we hope to see those again installed and working one day.
Those who make it back from the north bank will have the chance of a tunnel birthday cupcake (children first) and may take tea either at the Waterfront cafe or an alternative for those who the cycle back.
Pedestrians please assemble at Woolwich Tunnel entrance by 11.00.
For cyclists we’ll start at Cutty Sark Gardens at 10.00am. The ride is short, about 12miles, flat, almost entirely off-road and easy even for children. We will return to Cutty Sark Gardens at about lunchtime. Bikes may be locked to the limited cycle stands in front of the Waterfront Leisure Centre or to the railings on the river side. We will also have a guard to keep an eye on those during the commemorative walk.
There are a number of bits and pieces in the current GLIAS Newsletter about Greenwich and Woolwich (Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society Newsletter 268 October 2013 www.glias.org.uk)
First they are advertising a meeting.
19th February 2014. GLIAS Lecture by Simon Davis of MOLA on Mediaeval Mills in Greenwich (assume this is about the tide mill found on the Lovell's site a couple of years ago).. It is at 6.30 at a new venue for GLIAS - The Swedenborgian Lecture Theatre in Barter Street near Kingsway Underground.
There is also a note about Enderby Wharf - and they - I think - are quoting from the Evening Standard of 18th September, Homes and Property
"Enderby Wharf (between Greenwich and the 02) which was first developed in the 18th century by a whaling company and was later used to manufacture cables and a cross-channel petrol pipeline to support the D-Day invasion is to be transformed when work starts soon to build 770 homes, the capital's first cruise liner terminal along with a hotel, shops and a rivertaxi pier."
- Now a lot of that is not quite right. The Enderby Family had married into a whaling company family but they were not on that site in the 18th century but took over a rope walk and built a canvas works there in the late 1830s (see my web site http://greenwichpeninsulahistory.wordpress.com/). Before that it had been a rope walk run by someone else, possibly a bleach and/or copperas works, and before that the Government Gunpowder Inspection Depot. Yes the site was used to make cables - before 1930 the majority of all undersea cables were made there and of course Alcatel will remain on part of the site and still make components for underwater telegraphy there. I am not sure I have ever heard that PLUTO or parts of PLUTO were made in Greenwich - and would be grateful to know more about that. All of the information given about the number of houses and so on, I guess is likely to be changed. My information is that a new developer is now on site for the housing, and no work has yet started on the terminal. We will wait and see.
This is partly a review and partly a plea for help...............
Through the letter box a day or so ago came London Railway Record (No 77 October 2013) - and this time is has lots of things about railways in our Borough.
Some bits and pieces and notes -
"work on the Woolwich Station box' - this of course refers to the new Crossrail station and includes a picture of what it is hoped we will end up with. Some of us will have visited the site of the station box when it was open last year and it is all very positive.
- and a nice note on a new footbridge at New Eltham Station.
- and there is a whole page on what is proposed at London Bridge (ok - not in the Borough but it will affect us all) . There is a map and photos so we can see what is happening and what local commuters will be put through so much agony to achieve. We hear a lot about the proposed future deficiencies in the train service so its nice to see there is going to be some point to it all.
However - there is also a big article with FIVE pages of pictures of our local stations. It starts with a nice picture of Greenwich Station, moves on to Maze Hill and Westcombe Park and goes on to Woolwich Dockyard. I am not sure what has happened to Charlton - perhaps the Charlton Champion will take this up.
I have already pointed out to London Railway Record's editor something missing in the notes on Maze Hill Station. They are interested in remaining structures and completely missed the down side building currently occupied by Maze Hill Pottery. And here is where I am asking for help -
I think that since the 1960s Maze Hill Station buildings on the up side have been replaced more than once. I am not sure when or why. I think there was a major fire - in the 1980s?? and probably more than once. Does anyone remember exactly?? If so pass it onto me, add it as a comment here or send it off to London Railway Record (www.londonrailwayrecord.co.uk)
- and don't let me stop you all commenting on the other photographs (and the lack of Charlton)
Thanks anyway - and thanks to London Railway Record for taking a bit of notice of our bit of south east London.
The Soapery, Copperas Street, S.E.8.
No striking change in the nature of its products has been necessary in the case of the old- established business of Richard Wheen & Sons, Ltd., since its principal manufactures-soap and glycerine-are required in war as in peace.
Considerable damage to the factory was caused by high-explosive bombs, flying bombs, rockets and incendiaries, but these obstacles have not been allowed to interfere with production. Thanks to the loyal support of the employees (nearly all of whom had their homes damaged by enemy action), the Company has been able to despatch its full quota of rationed soap for the civilian population, whilst undertaking additional supplies amounting to many millions of tablets of special soap for the Armed Forces, such as-salt water soap for use in brackish water in the Desert and toilet tablet, for the Far East. Other varieties have been specially made for various Government Ministries, N.A.A.F.I., pithead baths and European rehabilitation, and shipments to the Channel Islands have recently been resumed.
The Company's employees serving in widely scattered areas of the world have identified Wheen's Soaps in all sorts of unlikely places and one man in the Middle East was amused to notice on the outside of a case of soap what appeared to be calculations of the P.A.Y.E. liability of hi, fellow-worker who had packed it.
One curious bombing incident is worthy of record. A shower of incendiaries dropped one night, and was promptly dealt with by the Company's firewatchers, who thought they had accounted for all of them. Several weeks later, however, when coal was being taken to the boilers, an incendiary bomb partly burnt out was discovered, deep in the coal dump, the coal having apparently extinguished it.
The Company is now eagerly awaiting the return of its employees from Active Service. and looks forward to taking its full share both in the coming export drive, and in the production of increased quantities for the Home Trade.
(this comes from a Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich booklet about local industries in war-time)
ANCHOR & HOPE LANE CHARLTON LONDON S E 7