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

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  • 05/11/13--02:46: News and Newsletters

  • 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

    Deptford Creek - talk by Diana Rimel - Orpington and District Archaeology Society - 3rd July - The Priory, Church Hill, Orpington. 8 pm

    The Woolwich Antiquarian Society newsletter includes some items – all by the inimitable Richard Buchan

    Royal Laboratory building refurbishment – Richard notes that these buildings are the oldest in the Arsenal, dating from 1696 – and a laboratory was where people laboured. He notes that the developer had intended to refurbish them fir community use but by 2013 plans had changed ‘due to overwhelming pressure for more housing’ and so they will be flats,

    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


    Crossness Engines Record

    As ever the Record is full of information – however we should note two particular items for the Spring 2013 issue

    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.

    The Centrifugal Engine House – this is part one of an article about this building which is not in the Trust area and still used by Thames Water. It was opened in 1916 and article describes work being carried out along with some pictures.  The engines came from Fullerton, Hodgart and Barclay Ltd., Vulcan Foundry & Engine Works in Paisley and were vertical enclosed triple expansion type. Pumps came from Boving & Co. Ltd., and an Overhead Travelling Crane was from Joseph Booth Ltd. of Leeds. Some problems with these orders are described.

    Other articles in this issue include:

    News from the grounds maintenance team

    A short history of sewage and its disposal

    The Great Stink

    Volunteer spotlight


    New members


    future steaming days – 23rd June, 28th July, 1stSeptember, 13th October.


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    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.

    "If you travel along Woolwich Church Street from west to east, you will pass by the wallof the former Royal Dockyard, which is now called the "Commonwealth Buildings" site.  Sometime after the closure of the dockyard in 1869, this part of the yard occupiedby the RACS, which now, as the CWS only retain the statutorily listed gate house buildings. The old steam factory building remains on the site. It commemorates the transition from sailing ships to steam power in the Dockyard, and is at present used for storage purposes. Several housing schemes have been projected for this site.   A river-side walkway should be made here to link up with the walkway in the adjacent Dockyard housing estate.  The walkway passes a small historic gun battery, and leads to two former docks. The Clockhouse has been retained and is now a community centre, and the Gate house is now a public house.   The dockyard walls remain around the estate.

    Below St. Mary's Parish Church, there is now a welcome sight, a boat building and repair yard, very suitable for this area.   

    Woolwich Free Ferry is threatened by the proposed East London River Crossing, but whatever the outcome of this the ferry should be promoted as a tourist attraction, and part of a tourist-trail through historic Woolwich. Walkways and a riverside cafe-restaurant should be made in the area leading from Ferry Approach to the Waterfront Leisure Centre. The leisure centre itself unfortunately obscures the view of the river, although there is a good view from its restaurant. This together with the nearby Crown & Cushion public house, also with its river views could make a striking riverside leisure area.

    On the site of the former Woolwich Power Station. A complex of administrative and teaching buildings for the new Greenwich University is planned, and this looks, according to the plans, quite suitable for the area, and small in scale. However, there is a Victorian building plus associated weigh-bridge on the site which should be incorporated, and not destroyed.  This site is also important for its archaeological significance being the site of a Roman, and Iron-age waterfront fortification. Any future redevelopments need to be preceded further official archaeological investigations.

    In the 1970s an important 17th century pottery kiln was found in the vicinity of the former Crown & Anchor public house, and this is now in store awaiting public display. The archaeological excavations which uncovered the kiln had been launched to discover any remaining traces of Anglo-Saxon Woolwich or the Roman road. After the dig was over, the site was due to be developed as an office block, but eventually the Waterfront Leisure Centre was built there instead.     

    Market Hill still retains historic buildings, and together with Hare Street and Powis Street, and Cally Yard with its horse stables, could become a conservation area. Above the modern shop fronts many Victorian and Edwardian facades remain, including the terracotta RACS building with its statue of Alexander McLeod. There are also two listed cinemas built in the 1930s in this area.   

    Woolwich market is in important local area, and is well used. The indoor market is less well known, and has an interesting internal roof structure.  The distressing state of the former Royal Arsenal Gate-House is a lasting reproach to Greenwich Council, and immediate repair and use is essential in any tourist initiative.     

    The opening up of the Royal Arsenal site itself is of immense importance, and careful integrated plans need to be formulated, perhaps under a heritage trust to safeguard its historic buildings and promote appropriate developments.   
    other articles in the newsletter include
    Transport Working Group - a report
    Port Greenwich
    Community Grants Crisis
    meeting reports
    - happy to scan and add if people are interested


    The traditional Woolwich Arsenal Station has been demolished recently, and a new structure will appear instead, to many inhabitants   regret.     

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  • 05/21/13--03:02: Thamesmead's clock

    This is another of the notes dug out by Diana Rimel - and thanks to her.
    Packed up and ready to leave Deptford
    In 1982 an officer of the GLC Historic Buildings Division noticed an 18th Century clock and cupola standing inside Convoy's Wharf in Deptford. Convoy's Wharf is on the site of the former Deptford Royal Dockyard, which dates back to the early years of the reign of King Henry VIII. It flourished during the 16th and 17th Centuries, but during the 18th Century it began to decline in importance because of its awkward, upstream position and the silting-up of the foreshore. The most important building in the Dockyard was the Great Storehouse, which was demolished in 1981, but thanks to the interest in local history of the manager of Convoy's, Mr A.R.Coates, the clock and cupola was lifted off the building intact, and preserved.

    The Thamesmead General Manager wrote to Messrs Convoys (London) Ltd suggesting that Thamesmead could find a suitable location for the clock if they were willing to release it.  In reply, Mr Coates donated the clock and cupola to Thamesmead and it was eventually transported - by river, as it was too large to pass beneath several railway bridges by road - to the Royal Arsenal for safe keeping.

    The clock and its tower go down river

    The Finance and General   Purposes and Housing Committees of the GLC agreed expenditure for the restoration of the clock and cupola , and later for the construction of a supporting tower in the Classical style which had been designed by a firm of private architects in association with the Council's  Historic buildings Division. A stone tablet was incorporated into the brickwork of the tower, bearing the following inscription.

     "The clock and cupola come from the former Great Storehouse of the Deptford Royal Dockyard, and was donated to the Greater London Council by the kindness of A. R. Coates at Messrs’ Convoy’s (London Wharves) Limited.

    The tower was designed by Leslie Jones and Partners architects in conjunction with the GLC's Director of Architecture, Historic Buildings Division"

    Ultimately in December 1987, the completed structure and restored clock was handed over to Thamesmead Town and the specialist clock makers (John Smith and Sons of Derby) who had restored the clock during the original contract were retained on an annual maintenance contract. Nevertheless, after some short while, it became apparent that the machinery or movement was an unreliable time keeper.

    The Clock movement is - with the exception of the chiming quarters wheel original and dates from 1782.  Inevitably the large brass gear wheels had worn. And whilst this was of little importance in its original position where daily corrections could be made easily, access to the clock on its free-standing tower is a very different matter.

    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.

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  • 06/23/13--03:00: Quick flick through the post
  • 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

    - 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.

    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
    This wharf has been owned by Morden College since the beginning of the eighteenth century. Sir John Morden bought the East Greenwich estate to support his almshouse on the edge of Blackheath. Morden College still flourishes today and still owns this wharf.

    From the end of the eighteenth century, developers rented land from Morden College and built rows of houses. Mr. Bracegirdle ran a boat yard here and lived in a house where the Harbour Master's House now stands. The pub, then called the Green Man, and the row of houses, start to be mentioned. In 1800, the pub changed its name to the Union Tavern. The wharf and the street behind were then called Union Wharf.

    In the mid-nineteenth century, when the wharves of East Greenwich were flourishing and the rows of houses had been built, the Thames Conservancy built the Harbour Master's Office to control this reach of the Thames. The Harbour Master and his staff also lived here. He kept a boat here and supervised navigation on this busy reach. There were steps down to the beach and a causeway to the low tide level. A gridiron on the beach and a steam crane on the wharf were used for salvage and work on craft. The wharf was surrounded on the landward side by a very high wall. Railings topped by the German helmet surrounded both the house and the approach to the wharf.


    When the Port of London Authority was formed at the beginning of the twentieth century, the post of Harbour Master for this reach was abolished but the wharf was kept on as Port of London Wharf. From the 1920's the wharf was used for general import and export by Lovell's Wharf next door.

    In the mid-1960's the wharf was made into a garden for the use of the neighbours. From it, Union Wharf Nursery Garden created the gardens of St Katherine's Dock, based on the idea of plants growing out of cracks in the concrete - the wild returning to the derelict inner city. Surrey Docks Farm grew out of a neighbourhood scheme started here.

    The memorial to animals killed in the Foot and Mouth disaster of 2001 is fast becoming a memory -
    The wharf had a brief career as a tea garden managed and run by the neighbours. It is still owned by Morden College and maintained and enjoyed by the neighbours of Ballast Quay and their visitors. We hope it offers a taste of the wild in an urban landscape.

    In the 1960's, the whole area was concrete with working wharves, shipping, lighterage, cranes. The garden represented the first sign of greenery re- emerging from the industrial age. Now there is no industry, the plants have taken root and the garden illustrates how roots can break up even the hardest surfaces and nature can take over once more.

    Forging is very much part of city farming, so we are doing some iron-age forging.

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  • 06/26/13--09:26: Woolwich River Crossings


    By Diana Rimel



    Lord Roseberry of the London County Council officially opened the Woolwich Ferry in March 1889.

    The very first ferry at Woolwich can be traced to 1308 when William de Wicton sold a small wooden boat, used for transporting people and goods, to William atte Hull for £10. A series of ferry services followed which frequently changed hands and competed vigorously with each other to such an extent that in 1330 Woolwich people petitioned parliament to suppress the rival ferries at Greenwich and Erith. Yet another ferry was established in 1811 by Act of Parliament between Woolwich and Charlton, but the sheer expense of this venture and lack of custom resulted in its downfall. In 1847 the Great Eastern Railway Company opened the Penny Ferry operating until 1908 from North Woolwich Pier, the remains of which can still be seen.

    These early ferries demonstrated the need for an inexpensive reliable ferry service capable of carrying people to work in the docks of North Woolwich. There was also a thriving boat building industry at Woolwich. Local traders demands for a steam ferry were finally met in 1881 when the Metropolitan Board of Works agreed to fund a free ferry for the people of Woolwich, as an acknowledgement of the contributions made by its ratepayers towards the cost of bridges built in London

    In rapid succession the river gained other crossings, the Blackwall Tunnel in 1897, the Greenwich Foot tunnel in 1902 and the Woolwich Foot Tunnell in 1912. By the time the Ferry opened the London County Council had taken over from the Metropolitan Board of Works. There were great celebrations in the town, shops were decorated with bunting, and a lively procession wended its way through Powis Street, then Hare Street, to join the Gordon Paddle steamer on its first trip. People from all over the country came to see the opening and floating landing stages were installed.

    The Gordon, Duncan and Hatton constituted the first paddle steamers, and were reminiscent of Mississippi steamboats with tall black funnels. They were replaced by the Squires, a second Gordon built in 1923 and the John Benn had the Will Crooks. During its 100 years of service the Woolwich ferry has not often been totally closed. The Squires went out of action in 1926 when it was struck on its port bow by the US vessel Coahama County when returning to the south pontoon. Fortunately no one was injured. These trusty coke-powered vessels clocked up a combined 400,000 miles until 1963.

    From 1963 the John Burns, Ernest Bevin and James Newman powered by diesel, took over from the paddle steamers and by their double ended loading design facilitated the loading and unloading of cars and lorries.  They were able to sail in either direction and each boat has two 500hp diesel engines. In 1966 terminals with steel trussed ramps adjustable to a 30 ft. tidal range and designed by Husband and Co replaced floating landing stages.

    In 1991 there were 84 ferry staff, 12 in the offices, 30 in the workshops, including shipwrights, plumbers, fitters, boiler makers, painters and welders - almost a fully-fledged dockyard. At that time the boats did 16 weeks on the river and eight being overhauled on the ferry's own dry dock.


    General Charles Gordon of Khartoum (1833-1885) born in Woolwich and studied at the Academy. Gordon built 1888 by R & H Green.

    Colonel Francis Duncan (1836-1888) author of 'The History of the Royal Artillery.' Duncan was a soldier and an MP, director of the St John's Ambulance Brigade from 1877-82. He died at Woolwich and is buried at Charlton. Duncan built 1888 by R and 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.

    Sir John Benn, (1850-1922) member of London County Council from its inception 1889 and chairman 1904-5, publisher, lived on Blackheath, grandfather of Tony Benn. M.P for Devonport for 6 years. Benn built 1930 by J Samuel White & Co Ltd.

    James Newman (1879-1955) school teacher, was a distinguished citizen of Woolwich, school-teacher, mayor from 1923-25 and 1951- 52, many years a member of the Woolwich Borough Council. Co- founder and vice-President of the Woolwich Council of Social Services. Awarded OBE in 1948 for his contribution to local government.

    Ernest Bevin (1881-1951) pioneer of modern trade unionism. Minister in two governments and Labour MP for Woolwich during the last year of his life. Bevin was known affectionately as the 'dockers' KC.'

    All three current ferries were built in 1963 at the  Caledon Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. Ltd. Shipyard in Dundee

    John Elliott Burns 1858-1943, loved London's history and river. Called the Thames Liquid History; represented Battersea on Londonn County Council from 1889-1907; led the great dock strike of 1889 and was one of the first Labour MPs to represent Battersea. Also in 1905 the first
    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.

    Gordon, Duncan and Hatton cost £.45,077 (including acquisition of property for approach roads). LCC built piers and pontoons (£119,367) and compensation of £27,500 to the Great Eastern Railway for the loss of its penny service. Service inaugurated by Earl of Roseberry in March 1889.

    Duncan and Gordon were 164ft long, driven by four steam engines - two coupled to each paddle-wheel, producing a total of 600hp.  They were able to carry 1000 passengers and 15 vessels. In their first year they transported 1,658,777 passengers and 67,614 vehicles. When the Hutton joined them it was a 20 minute service maintained between 5am and 11pm, except in fog. The old boats were sold for scrap in 1963, and many people were sad to see them go. They had closed only 3 times till then.

    Burns, Bevin and Newman were diesel engined with Voith Schneider cycloidal infinitely variable propellers fore and aft. They are end-loading carrying some 330 vehicles and 6, 500 passengers between 8am-8pm each day. 1982 was their first year out of service. In December 1981 the engines of the Bevin were started up after a 3 day Christmas holiday. One blew up, its block split and it was a write off. During the holiday water had leaked into one of the cylinders of the engine, and when it was started the water in the cylinder caused too much pressure to build up.

    In January .1982 the Burns's crankshaft split owing to metal fatigue, the engine was also a write off. Both boats were out of service on 10thJanuary and the Newman carried on alone. The good engine was taken out of the Bevin and put in the Burns and she returned to service on 22 February. The ferry service broke down at the same time as the train drivers’ strike of that year. It increased road traffic in the Blackwall Tunnel and all round Woolwich.

    In 1991 one million vehicles and two and a. quarter million passengers crossed the river. It cost then £3.3 million a year to run, paid for by the Government, but run by Greenwich Council. Captain Peter Deekes who was in charge in 1991 had been working for the ferry since starting as a relief hand in 1962, and was still in charge in 1997, when thick fog halted the service.

    NB The Metropolitan Board of Works provided the crossing free of charge because the people of Woolwich had paid rates toward the cost of building the toll bridges in West London, which were made free in the 1900s.

    The first Ferry Approach was built opposite Hare street, where he National Car Park? Waterfront Centre is today. Mowlem were the contractors. In the 1960s John Wilson street was constructed as the new Ferry Approach Road, and traffic was removed from the centre of the road. (Wilson was the Baptist Minister of Woolwich, 1877-1930).

    In 1940 the ferries did not go to Dunkirk but on 7 September there was a big German raid on Silvertown. Ferryboats ran all night taking people across the river which was filled with burning oil.

    All through the war the ferry ran a 24 hour service - sometimes without guide lights and with difficult steering. Once a bomb exploded near the stern, but didn't do much major damage. A VI flying bomb just missed the bridge of the boat and buried itself in the far bank of the river.  The ferries also took shift workers between the Arsenal and Gallions Point. Two extra paddle steamers were used by the Red Cross (chartered from the Port Sanitary Authority at Deptford) and the John Herron a Wallasey steamer from the Mersey  


    Woolwich Foot Tunnel

    Promoted by the North and South Woolwich Railway Company in 1904 - Bill for railway under river. Opposed by LCC but Parliament upheld it and the Council had to provide a free pedestrian subway. It was opened on 26 October 1912 by Major General Lord Cheylesmore, Chairman of the LCC at that time. Access is gained through the lift and stair shaft on the riverfront via Glass Yard. Built 1909-12, designed by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, architect and engineer. Cost estimated at £78,860 firm chosen, Waiter Scott & Middleton Ltd. It. has circular shafts for lifts (costing £5,000 to make and added later) and stairs, topped with glass domes. The shafts were sunk 25ft, close to the ferry piers. The tunnel 12ft 8in in diameter and 1,635 ft. long was bored by the standard method of a shield working in compressed air. It was walled with cast-iron, lined with brick and white glazed tiles. An earlier subway begun by J H Greathead was not completed.

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  • 07/12/13--10:17: Newsletter No.1
  • 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


    Volume 1. Issue 1. April 1998


    12th May Tuesday 1998 East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10. 7.30 Speaker: Andrew Turner on ‘Redpath Brown. 200 Constructive Years’

    7th July Tuesday 1998 East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10. 7.30 Speaker: Rod le Gear on ‘Underground Greenwich.


    Redpath Brown's Greenwich works was on the site to the south of Riverway which is set to become the Millennium 'Eco-Village'. It was later nationalised as British Steel - and the factory closed in the 1970s. Some buildings from the works are said to be still in use by Greenwich Yacht Club and the Society hopes to arrange a visit to the site before it is taken over and demolished. Readers of the News Shopper will have seen their story of 25th March 'Draughtsman wants your help in tracing history of Redpath'. This draws attention to a history of the company which was written a couple of years ago by Mr. Arthur Turner of Edinburgh. He is now working with John Fry who was a draughtsman at the Greenwich works and they are hoping to get in touch with past colleagues. Mr. Fry has a blueprint of the whole works layout - which hopefully we can reproduce when a clear version is available.

    Our speaker on 12th May will be Arthur Turner's son, Andrew. Andrew has worked closely with members of the group in Greenwich, is a member of GLIAS and lives in the London area.

    If you want to know more about Redpath Brown - come and hear Andrew on the 12th

    Greenwich Industrial History Society - Aims and Objectives

    The following Aims and Objectives for the Society were agreed at its second meeting:

    1.            To research the Industrial History of the Greenwich Area

    2.            To aid the publication of this research where appropriate

    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.


    Greenwich historians should be more aware than most of the need to produce 'histories for the Millennium'. The Open University is undertaking 'a concerted effort to mark the historic moment'. They have issued an invitation to - everyone - to produce a history of their community. A leaflet about how to participate is available from; Dan Weinbrein, OSFACH, Faculty of Social Sciences, Open University, MK7 6AA (3 copies free). Anyone interested is encouraged to telephone 0131 445 2865 or try They suggest a number of options

    1953 – The New Elizabethan Era

    The 1930s

    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



    At the first meeting of the Society it was unanimously agreed to take in North Woolwich as part of the area which the Society's area of interest - as it was part of Woolwich until the setting up of the London Boroughs in 1963. For that reason a walk round North Woolwich was organised with Howard Bloch as our guide. Howard has expert knowledge of the area and a number of publications on the subject to his credit.

    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.


    If the Society considers that it covers North Woolwich - then it must also take in the Railway Museum, now in the old station building. The Museum buildings are owned by a Trust while the staff is employed by the London Borough of Newham and there was some input from the Great Eastern Railway Society. In recent years there have been drastic cuts in hours and staff - despite the Museum's popularity and booming attendance figures. It is understood that it will be open at weekends through the summer.

    We would  like to say a very  bit thank you to Charlie Harris at the North Woolwich Old Station Museum who gave us time for a brief unofficial visit to the Museum - something we had not expected.


    Howard Bloch’s most recent publication is 'First Hand Accounts and Reports’ of this dramatic and devastating event. The explosion affected a huge area and was felt throughout Greenwich, as elsewhere. The  No.2. Gasholder at East Greenwich was ruptured through the shock waves and the gas exploded in the air. The book is £3.50 plus £1 postage from All Points East, 69 Frinton, E6


    About thirty people attended the first meeting of the Society. We would like to thank GLIAS for help and support - in particular Executive Committee member, Bob Carr who spoke briefly about Greenwich's industrial history in a national context. It was agreed to set up a working party consisting of Barbara Ludlow, Mary Mills and Jack Vaughan. Steve Daly volunteered to be Treasurer - and everyone present made a donation towards costs. It was agreed to cover everything relevant to the industrial history of Greenwich in its widest context - in particular at those areas most under development pressure, Deptford Creek, Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich Arsenal. We agreed to apply to join both Docklands Forum and the Greenwich Waterfront Community Forum and to build links with as many relevant local bodies as we could - but to stay as closely under the wing of GLIAS as possible. Thank you to Greenwich Labour Party for the free use of their hall.


    Jack Vaughan gave an interesting talk on Woolwich Dockyard and the many famous ships built there. Launches from the Woolwich slips were took place before vast crowds of onlookers as the ship went down into the river with acres of flags flying from the decks. Relics of many of these ships can now be found in museums and collections around the world. Jack pointed to the origins of the yard as far back as the reign of Henry VII and went on to talk about the remains which could now be found on site. The conservation of the steam factory was particularly noted as a triumph for the Woolwich Antiquarian Society. Thank you to Jack's daughter for helping with the slides.  There was also some discussion on the Diamond Terrace sand mines and Nick Catford offered, on behalf of the Kent Underground Research Team to undertake a new survey. People talked about the problems-at the Wood Wharf boat repair yard and hoped to be able to arrange a visit there - it was the site of a Greenwich Ferry and considerable remains are said to exist on site.

    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.

    Greenwich University has a commission to prepare for CD-Rom the records of all the local Labour Parties together with some interpretative material. This work is being undertaken by Fred Lindop from the Humanities Department.


    Report on the current condition of a small sand mine situated in the rear garden of Meridian West, Diamond Terrace, Greenwich, SEIO (TQ  1386769) Date of visit: 30th March 1998 Present: Nick Catford KURG, GLIAS, Subterranea Britannica) and Malcolm Tadd (KURG, GLIAS, Subterranea Britannica)

    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.

    Nick Catford

    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. 


    Barge building – was a most important trade in Greenwich - has been in decline since the beginning of the century. It will soon be too late to find out anything very much about it, unless people's memories are jogged. One firm which survived until relatively recently was on the area which is now to be the site of the Millennium 'Eco-village'. Pat O'Driscoll has sent some information about Norton's and anyone else who remembers the works - or any other barge builders - is urged to get in touch. Pat says 'Dick Norton's yard was on the Foreshore between Dorman Long's and Pear Tree Wharf the first jetty down-river from the end of River Way is Redpath Brown's, which is taken over by the Thames Barrier Yacht Club. There used to be steam crane on this jetty .  The next jetty down, Dorman Long's, no longer exists but was in a bad state of repair and was removed several years ago. The old clubhouse of the Greenwich Yacht Club was a little upstream of this jetty. The club has moved to what used to be Redpath Brown's canteen. Norton's did not have a Wharf as such, and operated on the foreshore, where there was a set of barge blocks running parallel to the shore. He had a couple of old lighters too, which were used to moor craft alongside and sometime a boat would moor at the end of Dorman' s jetty while awaiting a berth. There was a half wicket gate in the corrugated iron fence at Dorman Shed and here was a tap for water for a steam crane, and a heap of coal. I understand that Norton also let out a few moorings. A yacht barge also was there with people on board - Venta was one such.  Norton's had two sheds the other side of the corrugated iron fence. One was for storing tools, nuts, and bolts, paint, etc. The other was Fred's living quarters. Fred (the watchman) was Dick's last employee.

    Topsail - Journal of the Society for Sailing Barge Research had just published an article by John Glenn, who was frequently aboard the ketch barge, Ethel Edith, when she was laid up at Norton's in 1934.... The Gaselee Wharf Guide of 1954 going upstream gives ..

    Esso Angerstein spirit and kerosene,

    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;

    Pilot's Causeway.


    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.

    Norton's 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

    Mary Mills

    Reproduced from Docklands Forum Mailing Pack


    There are many publications which throw some light on Greenwich's industrial past One of these is The London Railway Record - a 'small' journal still only 3 years old, Since then it has published the following articles about Greenwich:

    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,             


    The winter edition of  ' Wildlife London' asks what’s so special about London. And looks at derelict industrial sites and nature. It says the old MOD Kidbrooke Depot supports great crested newts, slow worms and wall hrds and that there is a flora of dazzling spectra at Woolwich Arsenal which will ‘disappear under bricks, mortar, asphalt and an insult of tidy rye grass lawns'. They say Greenwich Reach is a particular problem because a  'hundred species of wildflowers' and 'exotica' support invertebrates which feed two breeding pairs of back redstarts 'an extremely rate bird. They draw attention to the planned casino, cinema and hotel. . Wildlife London .London Wildlife Trust, Harling House, 47-51 Great Suffolk Street. SEI.


    ASPECTS OF THE  ARSENAL: The Royal Arsenal Woolwich.

    This new book has been published by Greenwich Borough Museum. Edited jointly by Beverley Burford and Julian Watson, it includes chapters on the Arsenal by several well-known authors:

    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

    Copies are available from Greenwich libraries and museum. [Prices on application]



    In February 36 Woolwich Antiquarians visited the Arsenal site under the leadership of Jack Vaughan - and ably reported in their newsletter by Tony Fawcett.  They were accompanied by John Usmar, Deputy Chairman of the Royal Arsenal Woolwich, Historical Society... Members saw the 'dilapidated' buildings of the original Royal Laboratory - perhaps the oldest industrial buildings in London. Then to New Laboratory Square where the new museum of Artillery is to be sited. They passed the New Cartridge Factory, the riverside Guardhouses and the site of the now demolished Shipping Sheds. John Usmar took the group into the  Grand Storehouses where they saw the chimney less cast iron stove. In the Chemical Department they were shown a veranda over which Frederick Abel, the chemist, is said to have lowered samples in a basket. They continued to see many of the famous buildings the Central Office, the remains of the Shell Foundry, the New Carriage tore which includes a clock - wound up weekly by Jack! The group also saw the 'magnificently restored' Brass Foundry and then the buildings around Dial Square with the Main Guardhouse and Verbruggen's House.


    From Angela Simco: I have been commissioned by English Heritage to prepare the Step One report for the Clay Industries as part of the Monuments Protection Programme survey of industrial monuments. I would like to know of anyone who has under- take a surveyor recording of clay pits or ceramic production sites. 13 Green Lane, Clapham, Bedford, MK41 6EP

    From Prof Tony Arnold: I am currently carrying out research into the history of iron shipbuilding on the Thames. I would very much appreciate the names of any sources I could follow up. Univ. Essex, Winvenhoe Park, Colchester, C04 35Q

    From Derek Bayliss: We have set up a copperas study group and are very interested' in the works around Deptford Creek. It is remarkable how the old Thames side works and the tiny Pennine ones for that matter, kept going in the late 18th and early 19th centuries beside the large Tyneside and Scottish works - something to do with local raw materials and markets, I imagine. We haven't quite worked out the story of copperas as a source of sulphuric acid. Why go to all the bother of copperas beds when other firms were using the Ward process or the lead chamber process? Sheffield.

    From Mrs. Wright: My maternal grandfather worked for one local gas company as an engineer all his life and some inventions of his were put into uses (no payment in those days!). We do have a photo of him when he was a foreman, in his bowler hat, with two other workers. He died from cancer in 1951. SE3

    From Bill Brown: I used to live in Meridian House, a block of flats in Blackwall Lane and went to school at the Dreadnought and buy coke from the gasworks at 6d. for 28 Ibs then sell it to other tenants in the flats for 6~d. a bag. I would wheel the pram loaded with bags of coke along Tunnel Avenue and pick up lumps of Coalite that had fallen off the lorry because of the rough cobbled road - but it was also rough for the pram as well and I got through a number of them. SE I 0

    FORTHCOMING PUBLICATIONS  ..... soon to be available is the long awaited 'Lewisham Silk Mills. The History of an Ancient Site. The Story of Armour, Small Arms, Silk and Gold and Silver Wire Drawing' by Sylvia Macartney and John West. This is to be published by Lewisham Local History Society in association with the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society. The sales price is not yet known but it will be under £12. Copies will be available from Lewisham Local History Society bookstall (info. from Tom Sheppard 0181 8520219) or through Greenwich and Lewisham Local History Departments. Please note, however, that GLIAS members will each get a copy free. [GLIAS membership details from Sue Hayton, 31 The High Street, Farnborough Village, Orpington, Kent, BR6 7BQ].

    A Ghost in the Works - George Livesey was the charismatic (but strike breaking) Chair of the South Metropolitan Gas Works and the man responsible for the East Greenwich Gas Works – the 'Dome' site. Mary Mills was recently amazed to see herself quoted in the Guardian newspaper   about his ghost which is supposed to haunt the works! Livesey was a deeply religious man with strong beliefs about society - he was also a national figure in the temperance movement. He would have loved the Dome on 'his' works site.  Neither of these aspects seem to be of interest to the ghost-hunters.  The story has been taken up by a correspondent to West Country editions of the Daily Mail - and looks likely to run and run! Watch this space!

    WEIGHBRIDGES.  There are a number of weighbridges in the Borough, several of which are under threat from development. Woolwich Antiquarian Society are particularly concerned about three in the Woolwich area - on the Arsenal site, the old Woolwich Power Station and White Hart Road Depot. There are probably several more. Anyone with expertise on weighbridges or who has knowledge of other sites are asked to get in touch.

    RUBBISH.  It seems likely that Greenwich Council will review some of its maintenance sites and depots - and these should be recorded before they are passed into other hands. In Woolwich the White Hart Road depot housed a very early municipal power station which generated electricity from rubbish and there were a number of other interesting features. Tunnel  Avenue Depot also seems likely to be under- threat from the Dome and the old jetty from which Greenwich rubbish was barged away until the 1960s still stands derelict - who owns it now?  Visits to both these sites can be arranged if there is sufficient interest.

    WOOD WHARF.  The new owners of Wood Wharf, on Thames Street in Greenwich, are expected to put in a planning application shortly. Wood Wharf was the site of Pope and Bond's boat repair business which floundered when Westminster stopped    barging rubbish down river. The site was once   that of a mechanised ferry to the Isle of Dogs and it is said that considerable remains of this probably unique - ferry remain on site. Despite the desperate need for boat repair facilities on the Thames it will probably before housing. The two reports which made recommendations on the feasibility of a working heritage site here are now gathering dust. A small group -led by Reg Barter - have tried hard to keep what remains together in the hope that something can be salvaged.        


    0 0


     June 1998 Volume 1. Issue 2

    This is a scan of some of the articles which appeared in this newsletter. The main article in this edition was a long piece about Wood Wharf – this will follow as a separate posting.  Some details of where to get books etc. have been removed as very out of date – and in several cases the contacts originally given have died.


    7th July 1998. 7.30 pm UNDERGROUND GREENWICH by Rod LeGear (Kent Underground Research Group). East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SEl0.

    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

    Readers might like to know that a microfiche with the names of old gas workers has been deposited at Woodlands Local History Library, Mycenae Road. Up to date details of gas workers can be obtained from Terry Mitchell, Mobberley. Cheshire.



    From Alan Palfrey. I have been thinking very seriously about the direction which the Society should be taking. Should we just have meetings with talks, or should we actively go out and find sites and industries to research? Should it be left to individuals to do their own research. Or should the Society offer support or perhaps take on projects to be done jointly? Can we share information about our interests and what can we do to help each other? I would like to see us setting up a register of member’s interest’s and. perhaps, flagging this up on a big map on the wall. It was a good idea to pass a book round at the last meeting but we need something people can see. Perhaps at each meeting we could have an 'Open Forum' session where people can what they are doing and ask for help. I would like to flag up my own interest in National Enamels which was in Norman Road in later years it was 'Vickery's'. Has anyone any information or pictures about this site and those who worked there?

    From Michael Dunmow, Crossness Engines Trust. Many thanks for the first issue - it looks very promising. I'm sure you'll resolve the pictures problem. Best wishes.

    From David Cuffley, North West Family History Society. Thank you for your letter telling us about the founding of GIHS. Please convey NWK FHS's congratulations to your members. Most people do not realise that Family Historians cover not only the details of their families but also the social and occupational information associated with them. As an example of this Jean Strike one of our Vice Presidents runs an index of Papermakers and is very knowledgeable on this industry. I run the Brickmakers Index which lists Brickfield workers and details of their families, works and as much more as I can squeeze into the database. At this moment there are 11,060 entries .. Articles regularly appear in our Journal about the industrial aspects of our research. You will find details of the Woolwich & Plumstead Brickmakers in articles by me in both NWK FHS Journal and Woolwich & District FHS Journal. Regards.

    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 Michael Ward. Historic Greenwich Blue Plaques. Following our talk about 113 Blackheath Park I am writing to ask you to press for a much better marking of the wonderful proper ties that are to be found all over the Borough. The case of l13 Blackheath Park is striking and although it is not an industrial building the arguments that apply to it are just the same. It is the house that the world famous philosopher John Smart Mill inhabited for some 20 years. These were the seminal years of his greatest writings on Liberty, Utilitarianism and the Subjugation of Women. Apparently the London County Council Greater London Council response to requests for a blue plaque was to say that there one somewhere in London already. Greenwich should seize the initiative now ready for the flood of Millennium tourists, by commissioning cast and ceramic plaques tor a fair number of sites. I would also mention the conduit building and a commemoration of the first English golf course on Blackheath. You and your industrial historian colleagues will have many more to suggest throughout the Borough. The cost is not great – about £1,000 for a specially made round plaque with crafted lettering and  rather less than for a metal or new simulated plastic plaque

    From Arthur Turner. It really was a wonderful experience to be present at your meeting to hear Andrew's talk and to meet up with so many of your members and ex-employees of Redpath Brown. We had previously spent some come down to the site seeing the old Canteen building and the possible former sheds now resheeted as part of the Industrial Estate (Unit 19): also the former works jetty, slightly modified  I suspect from its original shape. My only regret was the lack of time to speak to people after the talk

    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.

    From Philip MacDougal .  One of the earliest and most important industrial enterprises in the nation were the naval  dockyards. During the eighteenth century, for instance the naval dockyard at Chatham had a work force in excess of 2,000 . This made it the single largest employer in the southeast. In addition there were yards variously sited at Sheerness, Deptford, Woolwich and Greenhithe. Undoubtedly there must be a number of local historians either working on the history of these yards or who would like to know more about them. For this reason, The Naval Dockyards Society was established. Our next meeting will be at Woolwich (5th September 1998) where we will be exploring the site of the old dockyard. GHIS members are welcome to contact me. 
    From Terry Scales. In Greenwich we have in the past taken our industrial heritage tor granted. Iremember the warm glow of satisfaction when reading a press statement by a member of the Planning Department that "The chimneys of Deptford Powerhouse are important site lines in the view across London and will be safeguarded in any future development'. That was in the mid1980s. How things have changed since then and doesn't it just illustrate the danger of sitting cosily by whilst the waterfront of Greenwich is slowly leeehed of its trading character and converted into a Crovdon on Sea.At least the intention of the Deptford development, Iunderstand ,is to renovate the large pier and continue with its maritime use in some way. This highlights the future of our other pier, the much loved old coaling pier by Trinity Hospital. Striding into the river on massive Doric cast-iron columns it is a truly magnificent structure. Many older residents will remember the constant cascade of water that dropped from the chutes above. It is the third element in a trio of contrasts. The Trinity Hospital and the Powerhouse itself making for a dramatic visual surprise as the pedestrian comes upon them quite suddenly. The Poet Laureate, Cudahy Lewis, used the space under the pier as the site of a murder mystery when writing thrillers under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake (Relevant Council Department, please note). This alone should guarantee it a safe future, but so strange and romantic is this edifice that in the next two years it will almost certainly come under the beady eye of the 'rationalisers' and fall victim to their rage for tidiness. My own interest is not historical - it is in fact a relatively recent structure of 1906 - but a purely visual only. As a landscape artist I find it an invaluable focal point in adjacent Riverside subjects. Looking either east or west it dramatizes the sense of space. This is particularly so from Pipers wharf where the elegance of the Royal Naval College is set off superbly by the Blue/grey columns rising from dun green waters. If we do not make a concrete effort to list the coal pier I am afraid we will lose it by default. I urge this society to lose no time in taking the necessary steps to do so
    There are many overlapping points between Community History and Industrial History (see letter from NW Kent FHS).  A new Family and Community Historical Research Society has been set up by the Open University, aiming to 'promote and communicate research in family and community history within a scholarly framework'. They aim to publish a journal with a first issue planned for November 1998. Details from Prof. Ruth Finnegan, OSFACH, Open University, Gardiner 2, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA 5.   

     Consultation papers on the Greenwich Cultural Plan have been sent out. They include all sorts of wormy bodies but there is no mention of any sort of historical research. The document points out that the millennium provides an unprecedented opportunity for Greenwich. Forty-five people (none of them historians) were consulted. The Council hopes for a range of activities throughout the Borough with as wide as possible coverage concerning visual arts. Creative activities, sport and gardens all build on the existing cultural strength of Greenwich. In order to measure success initiatives should  create a dialogue,  harness economic benefit, address intra borough inequities, create a legacy, and leveraged funding. All of this is detailed. A Cultural Plan Co-ordinator is to be appointed who will ask for project proposals from the community and assist with submissions. Funds they say are limited. Time, they say, is running out.  Get your bids in.


    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.

    The Fire King of Greenwich. Jane Putman. Vol.2.No.3. March 1981

    Woolwich: Kent's First Royal Dockyard by Philip MacDougal Vol 2. No.l0. Oct. 1981.

    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



    About fifty people attended the third meeting of the Society to hear Andrew Turner speak about Redpath Brown. Numbers meant a move into the hall at East Greenwich Community Centre - apologies to those who couldn't hear. We will try and sort chis problem out. Other items were that we plan to have a stall at the Crossness Engines Open Day, we will circulate copies of the Greenwich Cultural Plan, thanks to Goldsmiths College for putting the newsletter on their web site, circulate membership and subscription forms, Sue Bullevant spoke on the Borough Conservation Group. Draw up a register of research interests on a map




    Sylvia Macartney and John West

    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


    INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY NEWS is published quarterly for members of the Association for Industrial Archaeology. The summer 1998 edition has printed in full our 'press release' announcing the setting up of the Greenwich Society. In a review of LA News in Greater London the Society is mentioned again with particular reference to the 'Dome' and the industrial remains which it will cover. Articles in the Bulletin cover as far away as Upper Silesia and much nearer home an excellent article on the watercress industry at Springhead, outside Gravesend.

    INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW is the journal of the AlA. The 1998 volume contains many impressive articles although the general drift gives the impression that industry stopped somewhere short of Watford. London itself is hardly mentioned let alone Greenwich and Woolwich. Subjects include wooden wagon way in Sunderland, edge runners in the British gunpowder industry, Fairbairn's influence on Stephen's bridge designs, John Farey technical author, Silver End Model Village, ICI coal to oil plant, Lodz textile mills and the water supply of Antwerp. Details of member ship from The Wharfage, Iron Bridge,Telford, Shrops., TF8 7AW.

    GLIAS NEWSLETTER  No.176 June 1998. (unusually thin) contains just one mention of Greenwich industries. An article on the back page describes food additives as 'an important component of the London IA scene'. In this context the author describes the 'specialised tailored products made by Amylum UK'. Other articles draw attention to sites outside Greenwich a National Inventory of War Memorials, early electric tramways at Northfleet and docks near Heathrow Junction. [Enquiries about GLIAS membership to Sue Hayton, 3 The High Street, Farnborough Village. Orpington, BR6 7BO )


    Environment week events included tours of the London Transport Greenwich power station. Mary and I visited    the station, which is on the river side almost on the Meridian Line, on 6th June in the company of about twelve other people. We were fortunate in having an expert guide, Mike Burgess, a retired LT electrical engineer who had worked at Greenwich.

    The building is huge and, to me the most visually impressive aspect is the interior of the now disused boiler house like some of our bigger railway station structures. At the other end of the scale there are some fascinating details such as the ribbed walls in specially shaped glazed tiles, which provided channels for cabling. Views from the top of the jetty are breathtaking

    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. 
    Alan Mills       


    'Gaslight' The Newsletter of the North West Gas Historical Society is revealing all about sightings of George Livesey's ghost in East Greenwich Gas works they quote the following letter from Brian Sturt.  "The gas industry over the years engendered its own share of folk law and legend. An enduring phenomenon is that of George Livesey’s Ghost, which it is claimed, haunted the office building of East Greenwich Gasworks, the creation of the former South Metropolitan Gas Company, now the site of the Millennium Dome. The story, as I first heard it some thirty years ago, was that while the works were under construction from 1883 onwards, George lived on site in a flat at the top of the office building. After his death in 1908 he was supposed to have returned to haunt the building. During the last war the offices were extensively damaged and the top storey and the clock tower were destroyed. This did not stop the haunting, footsteps were still to be heard in the roof space. The offices have been demolished for a number of years and consequently George is an apparition of no fixed abode. However it seems the while the offices have gone, George has not, and, as reported in the Daily Telegraph his ghost seemingly made a number of appearances recently.

    Brian Sturt

    The Royal Arsenal Woolwich. Edited by Beverley Burford and Julian Watson.

    Aspects of the Arsenal, produced by the Greenwich Borough Museum has 10 chapters on different aspects of the history of the Royal Arsenal by different authors with particular knowledge of their subject. The aspects covered are: The Buildings of the Royal Arsenal Tower Place Paul Sandby RA 17311808 'Father of English watercolour; 'She can sew a flannel cartridge in the Royal Arsenal Woolwich The Royal Artillery in Woolwich A Brief History of the Transport System in the Royal Arsenal The Arsenal and its Cooperative Connection, the Royal Arsenal workers and independent Labour Representation. A Beacon in the Dark. Industrial relations in the Royal Arsenal.

    Chapters are illustrated with Black and white photographs, drawings, maps and plans and there is a bibliography and an index.

    ON THE SUBJECT OF THE GAS INDUSTRY - the Bromley by Bow based London Gas Museum is likely to be packed up and sent to a. ware house in the Midlands for no better reason than that the gas industry says that it cannot support it; it must move off its site, and has never had a chance to become self-supporting.


    This is an independent Group, although approved by Greenwich Council, which meets approximately monthly in the Town Hall at Woolwich. Membership consists of Local Societies which are also concerned with current planning issues, and is regularly attended by members from the Greenwich Society, Blackheath Society, the Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society, the Shooters Hill Society, the Victorian Society and, recently, by the Waterfront Community Forum. Individually Societies look at the weekly list of planning applications and then, through the Chairman of the Group, request the plans of ones they are interested in commenting on. The plans are then looked at by the whole Group at its meetings, and joint comments are submitted to Greenwich Council via the Planning Officers. Of interest to GIHS are waterfront proposals and in particular, recently, the fate of Ceylon Terrace, and the extension to the Pilot public house a group of locally listed buildings of riverside importance. Proposals to concern industrial buildings to new uses e.g. Mumford's Mill are GIHS interests and any member who had prior knowledge of such schemes should keep GIHS informed of proposals which can be commented on. Susan Parker

    THE WESTCOMBE SOCIETY are looking for someone to help them with information for Research on the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

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  • 07/18/13--03:14: Wood Wharf report 1998
  • 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.

    No 32 Wood Wharf, Pope & Bond is the site of the last traditional barge repair workshop on the Thames. Sadly the company went into voluntary liquidation during the summer of 1996 after the collapse of their refuse lighter repair contract


    Groundwork's local programme managers and officers from the Creekside SRB Executive Team were asked to explore if these unique facilities could be saved. The then owners wanted to redevelop the site but they were supportive of investigations into the site's historic value and how these heritage assets could be retained as intrinsic elements of redevelopment of the whole site

    A technical and interpretative research study was undertaken by local building conservator, Steve Jones for Groundwork.  A complementary analysis of the tourism potential of the site was undertaken by Duncan Tyler and Martin Thomas of St Bank University for the Creekside Renewal SRB

    An outline proposal for a heritage sensitive redevelopment of the whole site was prepared utilising the findings of both studies. It aimed to provide a positive influence on owners, developers and planners about the future of this valuable site.

    In the first half of the 18th century, the time of the appearance of the first structures on or close to the site, the surrounding land was a mixture of marsh and reed beds known as Brooks Marsh. It is probable that this land had at an earlier time been farm land, meadow or pasture, but as a consequence of rising river levels and poor maintenance was no longer sufficiently well drained.  No site-specific documentary evidence detailing activity or structures prior to the end of the 19th century was discovered in the course of this study. Careful analysis of a selected sequence of maps does however provide a reliable history of the development of the site within its immediate environmental context.

    No roads or structures are evident to west of the group of buildings identified as Billingsgate on the survey map of 1695 . On Rocque's map of 1746 a road or track is clearly marked running west parallel to the river bank and a new structure is evident which, allowing for the vagaries of scale, would appear to be on or about the location in which we are interested. Probably the most exciting and evocative map of all those examined is M. Searlessurvey map of the Medclafe Estate dated 1777. Here we encounter for the first time the name Wood Wharf identifying an isolated group of buildings directly on the river's edge and again on or very close to the study site. More important still is a clear declaration of function and activity: 'Boat Building, The marsh behind and to the west is being drained by the means of dykes and a sluice.

     It would appear that the initial seed of riparian industry an commerce which within fifty years would grow to envelope all the riverside land between Greenwich Town and the River Ravensbourne was sown in both material fabric and the practice of skilled labour at the very site under investigation.

    Morris' map of 1832 illustrates the rapid pace of expansion to the south and west of the group of buildings at the western end of the riverfront road. The road itself has now taken on the name Wood Wharf and the presence of a gas works on the western promontory points to the pace of technological change. The current street plan is clearly evident, Wood Wharf together with Thames Street, Bridge Street and Horseferry Road. The exact position of the site can be easily located with the buildings at number 32 displaying a similar footprint to those standing now. Of equal importance is the identification of a ferry which departed from the end of Horseferry Road established by an Act of Parliament in 1812 the ferry was specifically for the transport of horses and vehicles. It should be noted that at this time the Horseferry Road continued right to the river's edge across the land which is the present day site of number 28 Wood Wharf.

    The greater detail of the Ordnance Survey Map of 1869 reveals blocks of dense residential development on either side of Thames Street and the wharves, jetties, shipyards and plethora of riverfront buildings abutting the Thames foreshore. A foundry, ironworks and two breweries are also in evidence interspersed with the residential fabric. The footprint of the cottage on the south side of the site now appears to be that of the presently extant structure and a second storey element to number 32 can be seen to bridge the alleyway as it does today. The Ordnance Survey map of 1895 records little change to the detail of the site and nature of activity on the adjacent water front with the marked exception of the railed landing station on the site of number 28 and the massive concrete slipway running down to the low water mark. These two structures and their opposite parts on the northern shore were installed as part of the mechanically audacious but commercially unsuccessful Greenwich Steam Ferry which opened in 1888.

    By the time the Ordnance Survey Map of 1916 was produced a new structure has been built on the site of number 32, the exact replication of the current footprint and the bridging first floor element confirms the arrival of the present day building. Though the last of the large shipyards to the west has now gone, the foreshore east towards the town centre is still dotted with a variety of small buildings, wharves and jetties. The current structures at numbers 30 and 28 are still not in evidence and the demise of the steam ferry at the end of the previous century, though the concrete slipway still remains, marked the end of sites significant as a ferry crossing point for the lower reaches of the Thames.

    The importance of the Wood Wharf as the location of the first post- medieval development of the Thames waterfront immediately to the west of Greenwich Town has been firmly established The commercial and technological imperative that drove the following expansion was that of industrialisation It is interesting however that the earliest documented activity on this site was a pre industrial craft the skilful practice of which had exerted a powerful influence on the history of the British Isles for more than 2000 years. Searles map of 1777 clearly identifies Wood Wharf as a Soar Building yard. To what extent can we establish a continuity of this practice in and about this yard?

    It would indeed be unusual for a single small site to be exploited without interruption for a single purpose, despite changes in technology, design, demand and practice, over a period of more than two hundred years. Indeed we are told that on the Laurie map of 1821 Wood Wharf is marked as a timber yard,By this time all along the foreshore east of the site was being developed as wharves with jetties and associated riverfront buildings. Here goods were unloaded either from seagoing craft accessing the foreshore on the top of the tide, or more often, both loaded and unloaded to and from smaller craft that transported the bulk of goods and individuals up and down the Thames. 

    By number by far the greatest proportion of boats plying trade on the Thames would be such small craft, under 30 or 35 foot: cutters, gigs, lighters, wherries, and small fishing craft such as the Greenwich Peter boat It has been suggested that the absence of slipways indicates that boats were not actually constructed along this stretch of the Thames during the 19th centuryhowever such an assertion cannot be sustained Graft of this type under 35ft required no slip to be launched they are built as close to the water as possiblepreferably under cover and manhandled to the waters edge, just as they are in daily use for their succeeding working life

    Any of the properties along Wood Wharf, the road running east to Greenwich Town, would be suitable for the fabrication of such craft and they must have been built in large numbers What is different about the original Wood Wharf site is that it is blessed with a particularly firm and shallow sloping foreshore which due to its position at the centre of the curve of the river on the outside of the bend, is the area least prone to silting As a consequence it is an ideal place to beach a boat for maintenance and repairs Given a choice this is the best place between Greenwich and the Ravensbourne to carry out the fabrication and maintenance of small wooden craft

    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

    Only thirty five years ago there were six barge repair yards between Wood Wharf and the entrance to Greenwich foot tunnel The unfortunate demise of Pope & Bond brought to an end the local practice of a craft which long preceded the industrial revolution, initiated the industrialisation of this section of the Greenwich riverfront and all but weathered the post industrial decline Should Greenwich loose from it's riverfront both the site and the skills that most poignantly demonstrates the human bridge between the inevitable cycle of socialtechnological and economic change and the timeless ebb and flow of the tidal Thames we will be forever impoverished. When as a society we acknowledge the true worth of river that lies at the heart of our city as an amenity for leisure and sport and sustainable transport, as we inevitably will, where will the industry that services that new demand reside if the skills and sites are no longer with us?

    Wood Wharf and Greenwich Ferries

    It has long been supposed that there have been ferries from Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs from the earliest times. The evidence for the exact sites at which different ferry services embarked and disembarked passengers on the southern shore and how and when these locations changed is a little sketchy Potters Ferry crossing from Billingsgate to a landing point on the northern shore at the approximate location of the termination of Ferry Street is indicated on the 1695 survey map ). It seems this or another ferry also ran from Garden Stairs.It is reported that there are legal records of transfers of ownership of these various ferries dating back to at least 1570

    A ferry at Greenwich that was capable, in favourable conditions, of transferring horses and carriages across the Thames is mentioned in Pepys' diary and a legal document dated 1762 grants the rights to watermen of Greenwich to provide "passage for men, horses, beasts, and all other cattle and carriages whatsoever. In 1812 an Act of Parliament was passed creating a statutory ferry for horses and vehicles and it is around this time that Horseferry Street first appears on maps The end of Horseferry Road which is now the site of number 28 Wood Wharf must have run directly onto the sandy foreshore so that regardless of the state of the tide a horse and carriage could be driven onto the ferryboat. The Horseferry continued to operate from this site until it was closed by the Metropolitan Board of Works Act of 1883. This was not however the last ferry to operate across the Thames from Wood Wharf.

    The 13th of February 1888 saw the opening of by far the most ambitious and mechanically daring ferry operation system ever to be seen on the River Thames. The principle utilised to effect the smooth transfer of passengers, horses, carriages and even railway trucks onto a ferry steamer whatever the state of the tide had been first employed in the USA. It is a truly remarkable testament to the ambitions of the late 19th century engineer. This device is described in some detail in an article published in 2nd December 1892 edition of The Engineer . In short a concrete slip 350ft long and 53ft wide ran from the end of Horseferry Road down the foreshore. A massive landing stage weighing 270 tons travelled up and down this slip on rails with the flood and ebb of the tide Two travelling platforms each weighing 125 tons shuttled back and forth between the end of Horseferry Road and the landing stage transferring passengers, horses and carriages in either direction.

    A duplicate of this awesome construction was of course operating on the opposite shore and between these landing stages steamed two purpose built ferries.

    The ferries themselves were technologically very advanced being double ended with steam driven twin screws at each end. Underneath the end of Horseferry Road on the site of no. 28 a large chamber housed steam engines which through a system of gearing turned drums so as to draw the landing stage and travelling platforms up and down the slip by means of 4 inch diameter steel cables. In order to reduce the work of the engines the landing stage and platforms were counterbalanced by 20 ton weights which travelled down three iron lined shafts which are sunk over 145ft into ground beneath the chamber.

    Despite its mechanical ingenuity the ferry was never a commercial success principally due to insufficient traffic. It closed between 1890 and 1892 and finally closed for good in about 1899 after less than ten years active life The history of Greenwich and of the lives of the people of Greenwich is inextricably bound to the river and the movement of people and goods up and down and across the river. The history of the Thames watermen who plied their trade in wooden boats of the type that were being made in the original boatyard at Wood Wharfis one of slow demise with the incremental emergence of two earth bound forms the bridge and later the tunnel. By the end of the 19th century engineers had taken the science and art of both bridge and tunnel design and construction to heights never before imagined. It seems deeply ironic that in their enthusiasm to tame the eternal cycle of the tidal Thames they should conceive and construct such an ingenious development of a system of transposition that was all too visibly in decline as a result of the application of those very same skills to a more efficient resolution of the problem

    From the river the varied form and massing of this small complex of buildings, its direct physical association with the foreshore, a sand and pebble beach revealed with the fall of the tide,all in combination present a scene once characteristic of the entire west Greenwich riverfront and the banks of many other Thames reaches. Approaching and walking across the site along Wood Wharf itself, between and under the riverfront buildings and the houses and workshops tucked in close behind, is to experience a streetscape of a character all but lost to the Thames riverside This is the last remaining 25m of a narrow road that twisted between and beneath riverfront buildings eastward to Billingsgate Street and Greenwich town centre the first road along the west Greenwich riverfront and the seed of the street plan extending south to Bridge Street. Dreadnought, Victoria and Norway wharves and the remaining associated warehouses and workshops to the west will be lost or irrevocably changed with the proposed Greenwich Reach development and to the east Highbridge wharf is undergoing similar change.

    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.

    The special nature of this smell section of tidal foreshore, a site naturally suited to the repair and maintenance of river craft, preceded and promoted the landside development The same characteristics of gently sloping, firm sand and minimal silt deposits were the prerequisites for a vehicular ferry The riverside buildings and foreshore are both physically and historically interdependent The most conspicuous reminder of the final stage in the history of the site as a ferry crossing point, the concrete slipcompletes the connection between the landside structures and tidal foreshore With the demise of the ferry the slipway was immediately utilised as an additional facility for the beaching and repair of barges and lighters Despite the passage of more than 100 years and at least one direct hit by bomb during World War II the slipway is still in remarkably good condition its sturdy proportions a remarkable testament to the scale of the moving landing-stage which serviced the long past Greenwich Steam Ferry

    The large chamber beneath the buildings currently occupying the site of numbers 28 and 30 which housed the engines and counterweights for the moving landing stage and travelling platforms together with the concrete slipway is the only remaining material evidence of a great 19th century engineering edifice. Above this structure, like a camouflage net over a military bunker, is a hotchpotch of early and mid 19th century structures. The massive counterweight shafts descending nearly 50 ft into the ground below, roof beams formed from riveted steel plate and angle supporting the woodblock roadway above, and the circular chambers in the retaining walls which formed part of the boiler system, as well as the chamber itself, are all of archaeological significance. What is more the 190mchamberwhich was also used as an air raid shelter during World War II, could be the ideal environment within which to recreate and recall Wood Wharf past life on the late 19th century industrial riverfront; sailing barges and bargemen, lighters and lightermen, the steam ferry and its moving landing-stage; before the age of steam, ferrymen and watermen pulling on their oars against the flooding Thames in slender clinker craft the origins of which date back to vessels of the distant past, the longboats of the Norse raiders and settlers from a previous millennium



    Past and present economic development and planning strategies for this and neighbouring riparian sites as well as Strategic Planning Guidelines for the Thames, point to the retention and exploitation of these assets as an assent al part of any proposal for future development

    The primary economic activities in Central Greenwich are tourism, leisure and retail'. A recent study has identified the 'lack of any interpretation or presentation of the h story of Greenwich.  The lives of the people of Greenwich have historically been greatly influenced by and inextricably bound to the riverfront and its activities and businesses, traditional craft and the people who built and worked them.

    The full technical and interpretative study identifies broad options for the inter-related utilisation of the heritage assets. The ideal option combination for Wood Wharf would be:

    The preservation of the existing fabric of the workshop at number 32 Wood Wharf and the associated tidal foreshore as a centre for the conservation, repair and fabrication of traditional craft

    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.

    Utilisation of the scenic and atmospheric potential of the location to generate further income and employment from a riverfront restaurant

    The separate South, Bank University study into the viability of sensitive development suggests that such a combination could be viable and would


    The site is adjacent to a major proposed development (Greenwich Reach 2000), an estate regeneration project 'Meridian Estate) and an environmental improvement programme (Cutty Sark Gardens). In addition a proposal to build a boardwalk across the front of the site's tidal foreshore has received outline planning permission. The site at present comprises two freehold units under separate ownership. Both freeholders are currently seeking purchasers and/or developers.

    Be compatible and highly complementary to the Greenwich Reach 2000 development

    Provide an acceptable neighbour to the Meridian Estate and contribute to the various related local SRBs.


    The historic significance of the site, both by association and in material fabric, its potential as a viable tourist attraction and the private and public aspiration to recognise and utilise these values have been clearly established,

    The immediate 'environment' is complex and there remains uncertainty about proposals for surrounding landholdings and the potential impact of the proposed boardwalk on future use of Wood Wharf. Given these pressures and the diversity of interests in the future of the site it will not be easy to achieve and maintain a broad consensus. Compromises will be necessary if all parties are to benefit from the redevelopment of the site and the following broad objectives are to be met

    Landowners & developers achieve appropriate financial returns from site development

    The site and parties involved attract a suitable organisation willing to make full traditional boat building and repair use of the foreshore and retained workshop facility.

    The preservation and development of the steam ferry chamber as a viable entity that provides interpretation of Greenwich's working riparian heritage.

    These are realistic, particularly if the various parties, including the local authority, consider a number of potential options for land and planning deals around the site

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  • 07/24/13--01:59: Diana's notes on Woolwich

  • This set of notes has been handed to us by Diana Rimel - and constituted the basis of her walks and talks about Woolwich

    The railway came in in the late 1840s. Horse buses made the railway station their terminus, and the first Arsenal Station buildings were erected in Eton Road (now Vincent Road). It was built in 1849 on part of a sandpit known as Pattisons

    By 1867 over 3,000 passengers a day travelled from the Arsenal station to London, a further 2,000 using the Dockyard station. It was also busy on Sundays with trippers bound for Gravesend. In 1905 the Arsenal station was rebuilt in New Road, and the bridge across the road widened. But it was not until 1926 that the 'Smoke Hole' was filled in in spite of local traders and public protests for nearly 80 years previously. The gap in Greens End was bridged. General Gordon Square was opened on 24 February 1928.

    In the 1970s the original Arsenal station building was still standing in Vincent Road, with a causeway running down to the railway tracks. The car park for railway vehicles once held locomotive sheds and sidings. The present high-tech station was built in 1993 replacing buildings of 1905.


    CALDERWOOD STREET (formerly William Street)

    Small, but busy street, with Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencer and Littlewoods at the Powis Street end. The railway passes under this end. On the site of Littlewoods where once the railway bridge stood was a wooden hut, the workshop of one Frederick Handley Page, former chief electrical designer with Johnson & Phillips. He established a company to manufacture, hire and repair aeroplanes, hydroplanes, airships and balloons at 36 William Street. It was the first aircraft manufacturing company in Britain when it was registered in 1909. The aircraft was assembled in Woolwich, taken by horse drawn cart across the Thames on the Woolwich Ferry and flown in a field in Essex. Eventually the Woolwich workshop became too small and Handley Page moved to Fairlop in Essex, where his aircraft became world famous, producing some of the finest passenger planes between the wars. The first London-Paris scheduled flights were operated by Handley Page, and HP42s served Imperial Airways flying from Croydon to Europe and India.

    The old Polytechnic, Town Hall, Library and Methodist Chapel still remain.

    At the John Wilson street end of Calderwood Street on the right stands the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel built in 1816 for the Artillery Garrison, with its Sunday School next door. In the 1980s it became the Gurdwara Sikh temple. It has two very old cottages next door, and is one of oldest parts of Woolwich. On the wall of the chapel is a tablet to the memory of Thomas Murrell, founder of Woolwich Methodism who died in 1837.


    Market Terrace- this has some attractive 18th century cottages and the very first town hall. Market Street was originally intended to take the old Woolwich Market, but traders refused and it remained at Market Head until authorities built Beresford Square in 1854

    The plot of land was then used for the Town Hall which was built in 1840, but almost as soon as it was completed the Town Hall was handed over to the police and a new Town Hall was built just around the corner in Calderwood Street. The first Town Hall was sold to the Government for £1,322 to accommodate the first police force of eight constables and a police court. This had formerly been held in the Castle Inn (at the Granada end of Powis Street).

    The Magistrates Court was built in 1912 and is a two-storey building in Classical style in red brick with quoins and a stone plinth. It has sets of three windows and England's coat of arms in the tympanum.



    The Second Town Hall was built in 1842, and is in a modest classical style with pillars and a plain pediment. It was used as the town hall until 1906. It stands nearly opposite Sainsbury’s with its original inscription on the facade. It is a very small building by Victorian standards for a Town Hall, and shows that municipal government was in its early stages then.

    The Public Library was built in 1901 with funds from the Carnegie Foundation (Scots born Canadian philanthropist) and designed by architects Church, Quick & Whincop. Central bow window below a Dutch gable. This stands on the site of the first town hall

    Woolwich Baths, Bathway, built 1894 by Henry Hudson church architect to Woolwich Board of Health. It later became the student union

    Original Woolwich Polytechnic Building in Calderwood Street was built 1890i91 by Henry Hudson Church, with projecting pink terracotta piers and Baroque caps. The main hall on the corner of Calderwood and Polytechnic streets was added in 1935 by J C Anderson. The Polytechnic was founded in 1890 by Quintin Hogg as The Woolwich Polytechnic Young Men's Christian Institute (see engraving on Calderwood Street buildings). It was supported by the local populace and within 12 months part-time classes had started with 504 mixed students.



    Third Woolwich Town Hall . Built 1903-1906 by architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas for the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich in Edwardian Baroque. Wellington Street entrance leads to Victoria Hall and a statue of QV by Frederick Pomeroy,  long entrance hall " of amazing grandeur' (C & P). Three domes, a balustraded gallery all round, approached by a grand staircase at the far end, which divides into two below a Venetian window. Council chamber off gallery to the right. Entrance to the public hall is in Market Street. High Edwardian baroque style.  Entrance on Ionic columns above 14 larger Ionic columns.   Facing Market Street are the arms of Woolwich on a pedimented balcony held by two cherubs.  It became the town hall foe odnon Borough of Greenwich 1965



    Powis Street, Woolwich known as Edward Street in 1829.

    Powis street was part of Bowater Estate and a large area of land from this estate was purchased in 1783 by Powis, family of Greenwich brewers. Powis Street and the others round it, named Frances Brewer, Thomas, Eleanor, William, Charles and Richard, after the family firm and its members. It was first laid out c1800-1810.

    William and Richard Powis converted Swanne House, on site of present Greenwich Market, into a brewery in 1733. It was purchased in 1831 for the building of the market. Three of the brothers held various public offices in Woolwich, and one was a captain in the army stationed at Woolwich.

    Powis Street was largely rebuilt with grander buildings, 1890- 1910. The Powis Estate was sold for £5000 in the 1880s, but the family held the property until c1930? Henry Hudson Church was the managing agent of the Powis estate.

    The first building in the street was the Scotch Chapel., on which site the Powis Arms was built. A harmonic hall stood on the site of the cooperative ha. The street linked the town with the military buildings on the common            

    Pedestrian main shopping centre. Much late Victorian or Edwardian ranges above ground level. Cuffs etc.

    12 William Shakespeare Pub 1853 r3ebut 1900. Curious façade of c 1894. Shakespeare bust and monkey on the top. Three storeys with urn finials. Scrolled side buttressed. Balustraded balcony on the side.

    52 was site of the South East London Electricity Board of 1910.

    68/86 former Garrets store of 1898. Gigantic emporium, fashionable comprehensive department store of 1898. Unified upper floor with the Invicta horse of Kent (means unconquered) and lots of classical embellishments

    126 was site of Arsenal Supply Co founded 1868:

    151 161 Old head office RACS with symmetrical brick and terracotta, F. Bethell architect. 1903 Italian Renaissance style - inscribed 'Central Stores'. Prominent clock tower, later London Borough of Greenwich offices.

    Statue of Alexander Mcleod, founder and first full time secretary. Co-op motto 'Each for all and all for each'.

    RACS founded by Royal Arsenal workers in 1868 as the Royal Arsenal Supply Association. Renamed Royal Arsenal Coop society 1872, first RACS shop opened on this site in 1873 (147 Powis Street). Became one of largest retail co-ops in country. RACS absorbed by Manchester based CWS (Co-operative Wholesale society) in 1985.

    136-152 CWS registered office and store building art deco style, bands of cream faience, continuous windows, tall tower, and tall, narrow vertical windows. Railings of internal staircase incorporate word 'COOP'. Near the top of No 134 next door is 'Each for all and all for each', within a wreath.

    J Lyons and Co teashop was distinctive there. And the Midland Bank was on the left side corner, facing RACS.

    Pryce's, a long-established Woolwich firm and the biggest printer in the town. Their first floor rooms were used as a school and as the meeting rooms of the Woolwich Scientific Society during the last century. George Carter and Sons, hatters, traded at numbers 37-39 and beyond them Wood Bros, the furniture dealers offered 'easy terms'.                        

    The showrooms of the Metropolitan Gas company) were also there, and the sign of H Samuel, the jeweller.

    Even up to 1967 it was described as 'the finest place in the world, full of colour and excitement, with something new to see every day.' Ruby Ferguson, Jan 1967, Homes and Gardens.


    End of green on which sappers drilled


    laid out c 1800 by a Mr. Spray


    Was Union Gardens. Traceable to old workhouse in Ropeyard Gardens


    Built on site of the ropeyard

    Marquis of Beresford, Master General of Arsenal 1828-30

    New street formed 1740 when George II was king


    Hog lane – renamed 1860, probably the oldest street in Woolwich occupied by shipwrights and ‘other decent people’ in 1835. Had a Nile Tavern at the river end


    Last of a series of zoological names in the area. Widened 1883 was a cul de sac at first until united with Richard Street 1820.


    Named after Bowater family.

    Holy Trinity - erected 1833, closed 1930, and demolished 1962. Semi-official church of the Arsenal.


    180/112 early 19th century 111/2 probably late 18thcentury though in poor condition

    120 the Coopers Arms formerly Plaisteds. Said to be of 1720m oldest pub in Woolwich. Cellars of comparative date. Present building late 19thcentury appearance - well designed timber ground floor. Fine lantern along alley to side.

    Hog Lane street of great poverty. Many low lodging houses in varied building styles ran parallel to Surgeon Street between high street and the river. Houses on the left side demolished 1920s. Dust hole was part of this area so criminal and even the police didn’t enter


    1880 William Hatchers greengrocery shop on the corner. This stretch is now Warren Lane.  Woolwich power station meant that the street was cleared away.



    Transformed from the smoke hole thanks to local traders particularly Thomas Brown, a tailor of Hope House, 3 Russell Place -which was on the north side of the square. He and his fellow traders had had enough of their foods and shops being coated with soot from the open cutting which ventilated Woolwich Arsenal Station. Mr. Brown made a model and drew a representation of what he thought the square ought to look like.  20,000 people signed a petition. When the line wad electrified in 1926.

    The Cross Street side of the square housed a diversity of businesses. Murray’s car hire and Barron's ostrich feathers stood on opposite corners of Peake's Place. This was an ancient alleyway stile existing as a right of way  

    By 1928 smoke hole was completely filled in and the square officially opened with much public celebration. The whole of Russell Place was redeveloped after Birts, the freeholder, sold out in 1931.  Mr. Brown's tailoring business then had to move to new premises in Thomas Street

    Barclays bank is on ten site of the Duke of Connaught Coffee Tavern built to try and bring temperance to the area

    Woolwich Equitable Building Society (General Gordon Square)  Progressed from a Friendly Society, founded in 1842 in the Castle Inn, Powis Street. It began in Benjamin Wates's house at 145 Powis Street. Began in a humble way, first cashbox cost 50p, and the cash was kept in Mr Wates's bedroom until a bank account was opened. William Stuart, a doctor and Woolwich's first police surgeon, was the Society's first president.

    Its first public meeting was held in the Calderwood Street Town Hall in 1847 and after this the first application for a mortgage was made by Richard Bond a builder. The directors financed this out of their own pockets. In 1862, by now more financially secure, the Woolwich moved into rented premises at 153 Powis Street. In 1875 it became the Woolwich Equitable Society. The present building was built in site of Birt's designed in 1932 and completed 1935 by architects Grace and Farmer. Edwardian baroque style with mix of art deco motifs. Entrance flanked by Ionic columns.  Note the owl above the entrance in Woolwich New Road. It was opened by Sir Kingsley Wood in 1935. Branch officers were opened from 1920.  The head office moved to a new building in Bexleyheath in 1989


    Woolwich Post Office built around 1892 late Victorian, three storey in part plus attic in pitched gabled roof. Note terracotta designs to gable ends. The front dormer contains a central circular window. Later addition partly c/92~~ single-storey with parapet roof. Curved facade with Portland stone plinths.

    Birts and Greens End no 11 were Home and Colonial. Stephens’s hatters were next door. Birt’s sold household items including the perfect transposing piano. The wall to the right of it concealed the infamous smoke hole

    South of the square were 6 public houses including the Fortune of War which became a mosque before demolition in 1981 and redevelopment. The Pullman was formerly the Royal Oak. It was here the Dial Square Football Club met who changed name to Royal Arsenal Football Club


    A Gurdwara or Sikh temple in a powerful building of 1889. Classical frontage. Originally the Freemasons Hall and later became the Woolwich Town Social Club – a workingman’s club

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    Below are some of the articles published in Greenwich Industrial History Society's Newsletter No.3. from 1998.    This has appeared on line on our old web site  but fears about its stability and future means that we are gradually repeating some of the material here.

    Despite the attractions of another world cup match, nearly 50 people turned up to hear Rod LeGear, of the Kent Underground Research Group, talk about Underground Greenwich. Rod stuck closely to the industrial aspects of his subject - ignoring both the many natural caves and the conduit system built for Greenwich Palace. He began with talking about 'dene holes' - a subject well known to residents of north-west Kent if not elsewhere. Rod said that, despite stories about druids and Danes, these were early chalk mines, and often very old. He went on to describe the chalk mining industry in the Borough, how it had often been forgotten and the subsequent collapses when housing was built above old mine shafts. It is with considerable surprise that we learnt that the most recent mine in Greenwich was opened by the Co-op in Abbey Wood less than a century ago and that one building - Federation Hall - is still in use. Rod went on to show photographs taken by a recent party which visited the Diamond Terrace sand mine on behalf of the Society. They included graffiti giving some very unlikely dates and two elaborately carved portraits 'Shirley' and 'Mussolini'. He went on to stress how often such sites are lost and forgotten - there is considerable evidence that a much larger series of mine shafts exists in that part of Greenwich but no-one now knows where they were. Few people would think of Greenwich as once being a mining area but the evidence is there - it's just that we can't see it.


    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:

    Greenwich Conduits. Other Greenwich Caverns, Blackheath Cavern, Blackheath Caves, Plumstead Chalk Mines, - Records Vol. 6.

    Blackheath Denehole - CSS Records Vol. 4.

    Woolwich sappers tunnels - CSS Records Vol. 13.

    Turpins Cave Plumstead, Maryon Park chalk mine - CSS Records Vol. 17.


    John Day

    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


    Neil Rhind writes a regular column on local history issues for Blackheath Guide. The June issue contained a page article on Blackheath Mills. In it he gives details of three known mills on the Heath - at Holly Hedge House (the modern TA HQ), the West Mill on the site of what is now Mill House and Golf House and East Mill at 1-4 Talbot Place. He comments that there were probably once many more. Another mill once stood at Lee Green behind the Tiger's Head - moved there from the corner of Eltham and Kidbrooke Park Roads. Neil goes on to comment on water mills and in particular the Lewisham Mill described in the new Silk Mills book by Sylvia McArtney and John West.

    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.


    Pat O'Driscoll

    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?


    The latest English Heritage list of 'buildings at risk' has been published together with new guidelines. Inevitably the list includes a number of industrial buildings in Greenwich - although finding where to draw the line between 'military' and 'industrial' is sometimes difficult. Here, together with their comments, is some extracts from the list:

    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.


    Peter Guillery has been kind enough to write from the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England to draw attention to the Historic Building Report produced in May 1995 on Greenwich Power Station. It is hoped that the contents of this report can be made available to our readers. In the meantime the following is a brief summary taken from the report - with thanks to Peter and the Commission.

    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 destruction of so many jetties and piers along the riverside is causing great concern. The rapid disappearance of the huge gas works jetty on the Dome site has been cause for some remark - we hope to run an article about it shortly. Further along the riverbank was the old Redpath Brown jetty - itself of considerable historical interest and it too will be the subject of a forthcoming article. This jetty had been occupied for some time by the Greenwich Meridian Yacht Marina although it was on the area of riverbank due to be closed as part of the Dome site. Greenwich Yacht Club, on an adjacent site, are to be relocated but the Greenwich Meridian Club wished to remain independent. Following protracted negotiations the jetty has been compulsory purchased and a dangerous structures notice put on it. The club is looking at a number of other jetties - including massive ones on the Arsenal site which are currently unused.

    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 Thames estuary may seem a long way from Greenwich, but Greenwich is included in the 'archaeological research framework' for the Greater Thames Estuary - a draft of whose consultation document is now available. They define the estuary as stretching upstream as far as Tower Bridge.

    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.


    The old footpath which winds its way along the Greenwich riverside to the end of the peninsula - and the Dome - has recently been the subject of some attention. Shortly before the Dome was thought of it had been designated as part of a nation-wide network of signposted cycle through routes - and was to be upgraded to meet the requirements of fast cyclists. Since then it has been suggested that it ought to be a pleasant walk for people who want to travel by foot from 'historic' Greenwich to the Dome. It is a raggedy old path which has, no doubt, seen a lot in its time - and so Greenwich Council commissioned the consulting engineers, Ove Arup, to look at it with a view to turning it into a cycle and foot path to the Dome.

    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..

    • 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.

    BOOKS... BOOKS... BOOKS...

    ASPECTS OF THE ARSENAL -THE ROYAL ARSENAL WOOLWICH ed. Beverley Burford and Julian Watson. £11.99 from Greenwich Borough Museum, W.H.Smith, Woolwich, or Greenwich University Bookshop.

    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]



    GLIAS's Recording Group wants to list all industrial chimneysin Greater London. They cover a multitude of types from tall power stations to forges and bakeries. People are asked to send details of chimneys to: Danny Hayton, 31 The High Street, Farnborough Village, Orpington, Kent, BR6 7BQ. Please include the following information, if possible, together with your name and that of the person who saw the chimney.

    The Material the chimney is made of.

    The Height - or at least if it is 'tall' or 'short' or 'in-between'.

    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 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.


    London Wildlife Trust have brought out a booklet about Wildlife Under Threat along the Greenwich Waterfront. Although this has been publicised as being about threats to wildlife posed by the Dome - it is far more than that. It also notes problems at sites on Deptford Creek, Woolwich Arsenal and other places like Falconwood Field. It particularly highlights the case of the black redstart which is known to haunt derelict industrial buildings (has it been signed up by GLIAS?).

    It ought to be possible to compile a similar booklet about heritage under threat in Greenwich - any suggestions?

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    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

    Newsletter No.3.

    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.

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  • 08/15/13--11:02: Article 1
  • 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! 

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  • 08/17/13--04:22: Crossness loco restoration
  • 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.

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    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



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    The current issue of Subterranea (Sept 2013 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 tWoolwich Dockyard Station (opened 1 November the same year) was evidently slightly delayed by the tunnelling and the unexpected cavity".

    They then quote from the contempary Kentish Mercury " ......the workmen on the North Kent line ....tunnelling under the hanging woods, at Charlton ...... came upon a cave, of considerable dimensions, cut in the chalk and flint rocks.  .......four chambers have been discovered.... the  men .. found a knife and a spoon ........ and having lighted the whole of the tunnel with candles, and conducted visitors over ...charging them 3d for admission."

    The article coments furtrher that Hanging Wood was 'quarried out oexistence by Edwin Gilbert' and goes on to give details of the position of the railway and the park. It concludes that  - "the feature discovered in 1849 seems most likely to have been a small drift mine for chalk"   and gives more details of chalk and lime workings wih reference to Lewis Glenton.

    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.

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    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.

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    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

    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  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. 

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    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 (

    - 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.

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  • 03/11/14--01:08: Wheen's Deptford Soapery


    Soap for  Civilians and Forces RICHARD WHEEN & SONS, LTD.,
    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)

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     13th February, 1960


    I am writing to you personally to let you know the full facts behind the unofficial stoppage of work at our factory"

    On Tuesday, 9th February, at an official meeting with Representatives of employees working under engineering conditions, the Management made an offer of a 42-hour week with a consequential increase of 3 1/2. per hour, with effect from the 28th February, 1960. Furthermore, it was said that if any National increase of pay was negotiated Nationally before Easter this would also apply at Charlton retrospectively to the 28th February.

    This offer was not accepted and the Management were informed the next day by the Engineering Shop Stewards they were imposing forthwith an unofficial ban on overtime and a work to rule. This unofficial ban was put into effect but did not seriously interfere with the work with the rest of the plant.

    However, on Friday morning, the 12th February, I went into the Shop to talk to engineering employees of the Bottle Machine              Maintenance Section.    Prior to this, instructions were given to the men of this section to be in their shop at 11am for me to talk to them.

    These instructions were countermanded by the Shop Steward of that Section.  The instructions were again given by both the foreman and myself but in the presence of myself and other members of the management, the Shop Steward countermanded my instructions by telling the men that they were not to come forward to listen to what I had to say.  He was, therefore, given notice. 'The Engineering Shop Stewards then proceeded to call out on unofficial strike all sections of the plant on the grounds of victimization.

    This issue is entirely separated from the issue of negotiating better conditions for engineering employees. The Management always discuss these matters through the proper trade Union channels. It concerns the action of a Shop Steward who has presumed that the Manager has not even the right to talk to his employees on the plant during working hours. The question of victimization does not arise. It is simply a question of an elementary principle of Management.

    The dispute which arose from unofficial action in one engineering section, by the morning of Monday the 15th February will already have stopped .the whole plant for three days and seriously affected the earnings or non-engineering personnel

    I wrote to you last July to give you the general background of our Charlton Works. 1959 was another bad year as a whole, but since the end of August the team work of Management and Employees in all departments has lead to better results, which has meant that the factory is running now at about break-even figures. There are sure signs that this progress will be mintained as long as we do not have unofficial action of this type originating from one small section.

    I am relying on the continued support of all good Trade Unionists who should return to work.


    Yours sincerely 





    Paul G Cox, Esq.,

    University College of North Staffordshire

    Keele, Staffordshire.

    Dear Mr. Cox,

    Your letter of the 4th April has been passed on to me, and. in reply to your questions: we employ about 270 people, including 27 women, and make green and amber bottles on two furnaces, mainly for the whisky trade. Our main raw materials are sand which we get from two sources - inland from Faldhouse, West Lothian and coastal wind-blown sand from Gullane East Lothian; Limestone from Derbyshire; soda ash from Cheshire: and oil from Grangemouth. We also use a small amount of local coal. The bulk of production goes to the whisky trade in and around Edinburgh.

    Yours sincerely,



     Works Manager.

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