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

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  • 05/12/15--00:54: Round up of whats what again
  • Just saw the latest cruise liner turning at Enderbys  - it probably isn't industrial history to have noticed a drift of smoke off her - what will the berthing arrangements be when the cruise liners come there???

    So what have I got in the post??

    I've been asked to give the new website of the Naval Dockyards Society

    Dig at Woolwich - it appears that one of the old Woolwich Gas Works sites has been unearthed by archaeologists.  Chris Mansfield  as an assiduous Woolwich photographer went down there and took some pics  - and was promptly thrown off the site by Berkeley Homes!!!  Meanwhile the archaeologists had asked Malcolm Tucker (top London industrial archaeologist) down to see the site. Malcolm (bless him) told them that I (Mary Mills) had a PhD in local gas history, lived locally and would probably like to see the site.  Long silence - followed by an email from the archaeolgists to say they had now left the site. Chris Mansfield meanwhile had persuaded Berkeley Homes to let him back in.
    (small appendix - 20 years ago I went down to another lot of archaeologists digging up the other old Woolwich gas works site  - 'can I have a look at the dig please??' I said - ' Come on in darlin' - we'll show you a thing or two, eh lads!')

    Peter Kent - the current PLA online newsletter includes a UTube interview with local artist (and GIHS member Peter Kent)  I got this by email but I assume it can be accessed via the PLA website

    Warship Anne Trust - this is a meeting on 4th July 2015 in Hastings about Warship Anne whose remains apparently lie at Pett Level. The speaker list includes some of those who have been involved in research at Deptford and Woolwich Dockyard. Details

    London and the Whaling Trade.  This is a pre-notice of the future publication of the transactions of the Conference held on this subject a couple of years ago.  It includes a number of papers of Greenwich interest including Richard Sabin on the Greenwich Whale (the 17th century skeleton found at Bay Wharf) and Charles Paton on the Enderby Family (we understand he is about to publish a book on the family).  Docklands History Group are inviting advance orders

    GIHS has been talking to local GLA member, Len Duvall. Len has suggested we draw up a list of all those little things around Greenwich and Woolwich, which come from the past and need looking after.  Let us have your suggestions  - please......................

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    I know I have been banging on about the East Greenwich Tide Mill for years and years and years - an written about it in various places and with varying degrees of seriousness/pop reportage.

    So - I am very pleased to see an article by Brian Strong in the new GLIAS Journal. 'A tidal mill at East Greenwich'.  Brian has been closely involved for many years with the tide mills at Three Mills and he is rather an expert on the subject.

    Tide Mills are an interesting and rather neglected subject.  We all know about water mills with turning dripping wheels and jolly millers who in the olden days ground corn for grateful villagers in idyllic rural settings - we also know about windmills doing much the same thing but with wind. But tide mills??  They were obviously in tidal areas and they tended to be associated with something rather larger in scale than village corn.  We need to remember that mills weren't just about corn - they were about every possible industrial process that needed grinding or something similar - and tide mills tended to deal with the heavier stuff.  There were many of them round here - there was one on Deptford Creek near where the A2 crosses today at Deptford Bridge. There was what might have been a 12th century one discovered a couple of years ago on the Lovell's Wharf site and an even older one was found at Ebbsfleet when the station there was built.   More recent is Three Mills, the largest tide mill in the world,  just behind Tesco on the other side of the Tunnel Approach and which was at work until the Second World War.  Please visit and be amazed - there is a café and they do tours, check out their Facebook page under 'House Mill'.

    East Greenwich was never on that scale but it did have some interesting innovations in working methods, which Brian has outlined.  While the mill was still being constructed, Olinthus Gregory walked down the river wall from Woolwich to have a look at it.  Gregory was a mathematics master at the Royal Military Academy who would soon succeed Hutton as Professor.  Interested in mill machinery he wrote a definitive work 'A Treatise on Mechanics' in which the East Greenwich Mill features prominently.  So we have a wonderful first hand description which Brian has extrapolated and explained.

    The East Greenwich mill is important in Greenwich history in that it represents what must be the first developer on the Peninsula - a subject we are now all very familiar with.  It is also the site where Richard Trevithick's career as an innovative steam engine builder took a nose dive when the boiler of his engine, used to pump the mill's foundations, exploded due to negligence on site.  Its a mill we need to be aware of - and all the more because it appears that English Heritage were ignorant of its existence in their site report to the Council.   Hopefully Brian's work can help change that perspective

    Finally, I am very chuffed that the cover of the Journal has used a design based on Gregory's drawings of the moving parts of various mills. And its shiny!  It looks much better than the GLIAS Journal's rather amateurish past efforts.

    Please buy it. Cost through post will be £5.50 - £4 for Journal + £1.50 p&p.  Cheque made out to GLIAS.  By post from Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, Rivendell, Knockholt Road, Halstead, Kent  TN14 7ET . GIHS has some copies which we can sell at meetings - or I am happy to sell to anyone who asks me personally for it. That's £4 - please note GIHS is not making any profit.  email

    Oh and - I have been so excited by the mill that I nearly forgot to mention the other really really important local article in this journal.  That is about the iron slip cover roofs at Deptford and Woolwich Royal Dockyards. This is by archaeologist Duncan Hawkins - who has come to talk to GIHS in the past about his work at Deptford - and perhaps we should ask him again.

    These roofs were revolutionary when they were installed in the Royal Dockyards between 1844 and 1857 to design briefs by the Royal Engineers.  They were built to cover over ships being built on slips in the Dockyards. Three were built at Woolwich and three at Deptford - and two of the Woolwich ones are now at Chatham Dockyard where they can be seen. The third is what is now known as Olympia Warehouse at Deptford - and at the mercy of the development process.

    This is an important article describing not only an innovative construction method for spanning large areas but is also important in the history of our two Royal Dockyards and in the history of the Royal Engineers (dare I point out that they originate in Woolwich too).

    Please buy it and read it for all those reasons.

    - and - there is also an article about Stratford Railway Workshops - look, they used to build railway locomotives, big ones, just over the river there in Stratford. You need to know about that as well. And there is an article about Three Mills which I mentioned above although this is about Acetone production.

    I think you do need to get in touch and read a copy of this..........................

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  • 06/03/15--10:12: Summertime to do
  • Lots of stuff in the post - but most of it is about various events - little of it to do with Greenwich and Industrial History.  Anyway - here are some bits and pieces.

    Our next meeting:  16th June Ian Bull 'The Standard Gauge railways of the Royal Arsenal'  - details over on the side panel.

    Also locally:

    13th-14th June, Ballast Quay Garden. for the London Open Gardens/Squares weekend, Sat/Sun, 10-5pm, with a little exhibition in the 'shed' - photography not history this year

    13th - 28th June Exhibition on East of Eden, which is work students in the University Architecture School have done on east Greenwich and the Peninsula .
    also book on this out soon


    Several newsletters and so on, but - its summer - not very much content.

    Industrial Archaeology News (173 Summer 2015) has an article by Bob Carr on the use of gas holders round the world. Please note that other countries don't pull them down - they use them for housing, amenity and so on.  Its ironic that in Greenwich, where we have such a heritage of engineering, that it seems very likely that we are about to pull down a breakthrough in 19th engineering in the great Greenwich gas holder. Please  protest, although I am not sure what any of us can do, once developers move in.  

    Bob describes:
    Austria (Simmering - four holders all in housing and community use),
    Germany - Oberhausen (very well known and adopted as a symbol for the whole region), Tauchrevier (indoor diving centre), Augsberg (nor sure), Leipzeig (display of panoramas), Dresden (exhibition about the town for tourists), Berlin (flats), Shoneberg (TV studio),
    Latvia - Riga (tourism centre)
    Czech Republic Ostrava - (auditorium)
    Netherlands Amsterdam - (TV studio and trade fairs)
    Italy Venice (monument - following a big public protest about demolition) Florence (social centre in a park), Rome (warehouse and parking and art installation),
    Greece Athens - (Museum)
    Ireland Dublin - (flats)
    Denmark Copenhagen - (theatre)
    Sweden Stockholm - (cultural centre)  Gavle (theatre)
    Finland Helsinki - (circus and arts venue), Turku (thermal battery for district heating)

    But we just pull them down - because proposals are made by the developers who buy them, and the public sector on the whole has to go along with it.

    PS - IA News is almost impossible to get and I don't even have an address you can write to.  Association for Industrial Archaeology has a Facebook page. Find it and say you want a copy.   There are also a number of excellent gas holder preservation Facebook pages.


    Historic Gas Times - the latest edition does have an article about gas holders, but it is 'Memories' of said same.  They have given up too. 
    (What's wrong with this country??)

    Two other things:

    GLIAS Newsletter. (only 4 sides!!)
    I see Dan Hayton is leading a walk round the Greenwich Peninsula on 3rd October.  If you want a place and to be given details email

    The also recommend London Archaeologist Spring 2015  (Vol 14 No.4.) for an article on archaeology at Convoys Wharf

    GIHS - has copies of the GLIAS Journal with an article on the East Greenwich Tide Mill, and one on Deptford Dockyard. £4 each (no profit that is the cover price) on sale at meetings or email


    Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter.
    Great article by Richard Buchanan on Enderbys (can we copy it Richard??)

    Also note about a new blue plaque at 74 Shooters Hill Road to William Lindlay and William Heerlein Lindley and their contribution to a clean, cheap water supply. 
    Can we know more?? Is there someone would like to speak about this.


    Finally - Steve had reminded me of a terrific programme of local history events in June in Tower Hamlets. See

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  • 06/05/15--07:41: A Parliamentary interlude

  • The link below is -hopefully - the maiden speech of Greenwich and Woolwich's new MP, Matt Pennycook, in Parliament. 
    There is good reason for putting this on an industrial history blog - listen and you will see....

    Thank you Matt, thank you  Matt, thank you Matt
    - and - PS - Congratulations, a great speech

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    GIHS  has received the following letter from a Greenwich resident asking for help with a planning proposal   - here is what he says:  

    "I'm sending over some details about the Planning Application to demolish and redevelop 1, Hyde Vale, reference  15/1580/L and 15/1233/F  
    The building is at the bottom of Hyde Vale, and is on the junction with,King George Street. It directly adjoins 63 Royal Hill, a listed building, which is on the junction with Royal Hill and Hyde Vale. 
    The developers state, in their D&A statement and at the public consultation that this is a "horrible building" that dates from "the 1920s or maybe the 1950s". In fact the building dates from 1828-1830, and although bomb-damaged, the developers' own heritage appraisal shows it is mostly original with many timber-framed walls and the original roof timbers. I am still in search of a pre-war photo of the building that we know exists, and shows it complete with the original cornice etc.  
    The developers believe that, because this is a commercial building, this makes it less important. In fact, Georgian commercial buildings are rarer than the contemporary houses. For this reason, the Georgian Group are already objecting.  
    Greenwich and Kent records show that 1 Hyde Vale was built alongside 63 Royal Hill, by the same builder, William Smith, who lived at number 63; his family continued to work in and own what we call the dairy (there were doubtless other people renting space in there too). The land, previously a market garden, was redeveloped by John Maul Sutton, who took on the lease in 1827. He lived in and oversaw building of what's called the Surgeon's House, 61 Royal Hill, and sold a sub lease to Smith, who had built 63 Royal Hill and 1 Hyde Vale by 1830. Smith also built a row of houses on the plot, on what was then Little George Street. The dairy is of a piece with Number 63, although in brick rather than stucco, it has the same width bays, and originally had a heavy brick cornice. It's likely that Thomas or Richard Smirke Martyr, who lived just down King George St and, like Smith, worked frequently for the Roan Estate, were architects for the main house, which is ingeniously designed, and spec'd up or sketched out the commercial building - they were the main local surveyors.  
    We believe the building should be saved. Although it's inevitable, given the new planning laws, that it will be redeveloped into residential, properly refurbished and reinstated it would make magnificent apartments. The building plays a crucial role in the setting, and the context, of number 63 Royal Hill, and of this section of Greenwich in general. It plays a pivotal role in one of the few surviving all-Georgian junctions in Greenwich, and its loss in favour of a bland modern building that weakly mimics it, will substantially harm the West Greenwich Conservation Area.  

    As you'll know, this area was full of small businesses, diarymen, hatters, dressmakers, coppersmiths, some  of whom followed their trade in the houses on King George St, and many of whom would have worked in this building, just down from what, as my neighbour up the hill always tell me, are the "grander villas" for the Gentlefolk, all built within a few years of this building. 1 Hyde Vale is a rare survivor that helps tell this story. 
    I've attached a couple of photos that give a feel for the building. I have plenty more should you want them! I've also attached the 1827 Article of Agreement, and an 1830 indenture, that show 1 Hyde Vale was built between these dates, alongside Number 63 and the houses on Little George Street. 

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    So - various bits and pieces


    Dreadnought School - Blackwall Lane - people are always asking what is the old 'derelict' school in Blackwall Lane. Why can't we use it as a new school instead of building, they say.  Well - for many many years it has been a branch of the Horniman Museum.  Very few Greenwich people have seen inside it - I have never been, for one.  BUT the Forest Hill Museum does now run tours (from Forest Hill, but never mind).  
    They say the store 'houses the majority of our collections: approximately 95% of the Anthropology and Natural History collections and 80% of the musical instruments collection.     It will cost you £10 and it is for over 18s only.   You have to have a ticket.  Thursday 18th June 6.30-8 .  Let us know how you get on.

    Docklands History Group  - notice of their AGM 1st July Museum of London Docklands 6 pm
    They have a vacancy for a committee member.

    East End Waterway Group - they have been campaigning to save the dramatically sited Bethnal Green Gas holder. It turns out it is still owned by National Grid despite stories in the press that it had been sold to Berkeley Homes.   Let's see what happens next. 

    Greenwich Historical Society - letter to say they are moving their meetings to James Wolfe School, Royal Hill. (for those of you unable to keep with which school is in which building this is the old Board School which was used by Greenwich Community College and was also once a girls school).

    English Heritage.  thanks English Heritage for sending us some info about sites in the Borough on which work is about to start.  I am not including the whole lot of stuff here but happy to send it on to anyone who emails. (  They are heavily archaeological - nothing newer than the Iron Age I'm afraid.  EH say that there were full desk top studies on the history done, but we, of course, don't get to see those.

    1. King Henry Dock. Planning app 11/1584F

    2. Plots N205 & N207.  These are riverside sites near the cable car and the route of the proposed Silvertown whatsit.  

    Naval Dockyards Society - call for papers for their conference on 16th April 2016 . They want stuff on Naval Air Stations and the defence of dockyards. See
    I also have a copy of their latest Dockyards Newsletter. Nothing in it that I can see about Greenwich - but there is
    Falkland Historic  Dockyard Museum
    Sheerness - ambitious plans
    Command of the Oceans update
    Venice Arsenale
    Admiralty Dock Books
    Black Diamonds - Coal and Empire
    The Canvey loop
    Gibralter No.4 Dock
    Naval Dockyard at Key West
    Chatham Dockyard and Asbestos
    The Milford Haven Lazarette Ships
    Memories from Sheerness

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  • 06/23/15--02:01: Coal tar and Coal tar dyes


    Today coal tar is seen as a menacing cancer-giving substance. This of course wasn't always the case and careers in the gas industry were built on knowledge of tars and how they could be used.  The following article describes its application in the development of dyes.  It was written in the 1920s-or 1930s and comes from Copartnership Herald - which was the house journal of the east London based Commercial Gas Company.
    It is worth noting - what the article doesn't say - that most of the research described here took place in east London. largely in Hackney Wick.  Perkin himself, very much the hero of tar based dye stuffs - was brought up in Stepney and did much of his lonely research as a lad in a room above his father's shop.
    We shouldn't put down the achievements of these researchers because of our subsequent knowledge. Arguably we wouldn't know of the dangers had people like them not looked at new substances and analysed them - and the development of these coal tar dyes led to other research, as well as leading to major industries and consumer goods, which we still buy.

    It is of historical interest thatthe first English patent, referring to the destructive distillation of coal, was granted in the year 1681to .J .J. Becher and Henry Serle for "a new way of making pitch and tarre out of pit- coale never before found out or used by any other." At first the industry was of very small proportions, and. not until the beginning of the nineteenth century was the distillation of coal carried out extensively, and then 110t for the purpose of producing tar and pitch, but for the making of coal gas. The tar thus formed forced itself upon the notice of the gas manufacturer since it could·not be thrown away without causing a nuisance. As it was impossible to get rid of it by running it into the streams and rivers, the problem was solved to some extent by burning the tar as a fuel. About the year 1830, tar was used at the Glasgow Gas Works for heating the retorts by pouring it over the coke. Some relief was also brought about by its use as a paint for wood and metal work, and for this purpose the more volatile portions of the tar were removed by distillation, the spirit so obtained being used either as a substitute or turpentine or as a solvent for rubber in the manufacture of a waterproof material, which is still known by the name of the original Glasgow manufacturer, Mackintosh. Some of the residue from the distillation was burned for the production of lampblack, and this was used in the making of blacking and printers'ink.
    The demand for tar still lagged behind the supply until the year 1838, when .John Bethel introduced a process for preserving or •• pickling"timber, thus starting an industry which has now attained enormous proportions, and still forms at thepresent day one of the most important outlets for coal tar oils.

    During the year 1845 there was founded ill London the Royal College of Chemistry, where A. VV. Hofmann and his students interested themselves in the nature and composition of coal tar. One of the 'earliest results to be obtained was the isolation from it of the hydrocarbon benzene. These investigations not only led to the isolation of some of the main constitucnts of coal tar, but were the beginning from which the vast modern industry of coal tar dyes, drugs, and explosives has grown. As early as in the year 1831 it was known that when benzene is treated with concentrated nitric acid it is converted into an oily liquid nitro-benzene, which was manufactured in small quantities, 'and used under the name of essence of mirbane for scenting soap. Nitro-benzene in its turn, as was found by Bechamp in 1854, could be converted into aniline by the action of a mixture of acetic acid and finely divided iron upon the nitro-benzene. It was with this compound, aniline, that WH. Perkin made his important discovery of the first coal tar dye. Whilst engaged in an attempt to produce quinine from simpler substances, he treated a solution of aniline in dilute sulphuric acid with potassium dichromate. As a result there separated outdark-coloured resinous mass, and from this material Pcrkin obtained the first known aniline dye, which was manufactured and sold under the name of aniline purple or mauve, the name given to it by the French dyers. The success which attended the introduction of mauve, the vogue of which among the women became so common that Punch referred to it as " The mauve measles,"naturally led chemists to try the action of other substances on aniline, and although they did not succeed in making mauve, their efforts led to the discovery of a new dye, aniline red, magenta or fuchsine. The formation of this dye had been observed as early as 1856, but the success of its manufacture was not achieved until the year l860, when two English chemists, Medlock and Nicholsonprepared it by the action of arsenic acid on commercial aniline. Just as aniline formed the basis of manufacture for mauve and of magenta, so magenta in its turn became the starting-point for the preparation of a series of new dyes, the number of which began rapidly to increase. In 186l aniline blue was prepared by heating magenta with aniline in the presence of benzoic acid, and by treating this dye with concentrated sulphuric acid Nicholson produced the more valuable blue which possessed the advantage of being soluble in water. This dye was more suitable for dyeing wool than the dyes previously prepared.
    Although the preparation of new dyes and the perfecting of their industrial production was carried on with much vigour along the lines opened up by W. H. Pcrkin, chemists were not unmindful or the need of more theoretical investigations for the purpose of determining the composition and constitution of these new substances. In this work Hofmann took a leading part, and in 1862 confirmed what had already been discovered by Nicholson, that magenta could not be obtained from the pure aniline but only from the commercial aniline which contained the two substances, ortho- and para-toluidine, as impurities. Owing to these developments, a demand was created for themore volatile portions of the coal tar which had to be rejected by the timber "pickling"industry.
    Although, in the past, crude coal tar was employed not only as a fuel but also for the manufacture of roofing felt, the tarring of roads and other purposes, the water or ammoniacal liquor present in the tar was found to be detrimental, so that now only a small amount is used in the crude static
    Tar is a complex mixture of substances, and these vary considerably, their relative amounts depending upon thekind of coal distilled, and the conditions under which the distillation is carried out. The temperature, shape of retort, and the time during which the volatile products remain in contact with the red hot walls of the retort, influence to a wide extent its chemical and physical properties. "Then the distillation is carried out at a low temperature the tar contains a large percentage of hydrocarbons of the paraffin and olefine series, and a small'amount of naphthalene and “free carbon."If the distillation is carried out at a high temperature, as in the case when coal is distilled for illuminating gas or hard coke, the tar contains only traces of paraffinoid hydrocarbons, the predominating hydrocarbons being those of the benzene, naphthalene, and anthracene series (aromatic hydro- carbons). The "free carbon" content of this tar is generally high. In practice the tar obtained from heavily charged retorts is of a superior quality to that produced from those lightly charged, and contains less" free carbon" and a higher percentage of light oils.

    Of the total quantity of tar produced in produced in gas works, about 60 per cent. is deposited in the hydraulic main, the remainder being carried forward with this gas to the condensers and tar extractors.

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    Going through the park
    Dodging the Column  - recently I have taken to showing at talks on Greenwich industry the 1950s British Transport film - 'Dodging the Column'.  This shows equipment from the Charlton based manufacturer, Harveys, being taken to Scotland.  The article below comes from Harvey's house magazine (December 1951) and shows their view of things -

    If you haven't seen 'Dodging the Column' - it is on Youtube.  One of the earliest shots shows a chap climbing the bus stop in Woolwich Road, outside the prefabs which predated Phipps House - and he has a hammer in his hand, clearly with intent.....  It sort of goes on from there - you'll enjoy it. 

    AT 8 am. on Sunday morning the 28th October, 1951 there emerged from the Heavy Construction Department the biggest distillation column yet.

    Round the Marble arch

    This column, which was manufactured for the ·Forth Chemicals, Ltd., measured 130 ft. 6 in. in length and had an inside diameter of 8 ft. It  weighed 40 tons. No light job this to convey to Grangemouth on the shores of the Firth of Forth, Scotland. Transport was in the capable hands of E. W. Rudd, Heavy Haulage Service, Special Traffic (Pickford) Division, British Road Services, who have now acquired a bit of experience in handling Harvey's "tall orders."

    Traction was provided by two 45-ton 100 h.p. Scammell tractors and the column was carried 0n two trailers approximately 60 ft. apa-t.

    Great credit is due to the two drivers, Bert Burns and George Bird, who completed the 417 mile journey two days ahead of schedule. Only one snag was encountered: at. Eamont Bridge, Penrith, where the end of the column became wedged on the road at a dip. After some time it was hoisted clear.



    Police protection
    'Rarin' to go' - the column still in the factory

    Holding up the traffic

    Hyde Park Corner
    Worm's eye view

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    I don't think I should put personal reminisences here - but its hot - and people are moaning about the buses.

    In the late '60s - I was working in Stamford Street, and I could get a number 70 bus from outside my office to the Cutty Sark.  So - it was a very, very hot evening and I set off for Greenwich.

    The traffic was terrible and the bus was hot - even up the front in an RT with the windows open.  We got slower and slower - by the time we got to Tooley Street there were buses and cars which had boiled, all over the pavements. Buses were pulled over with the driver and conductor sitting on the platform, looking miserable.  Vast great queues at bus stops. Terrible. And it kept getting hotter.  Eventually people began to pass round a story - someone had got on the bus who had told them that Tower Bridge had melted and that the road had fallen into the river.

    Well you never know, do you?

    I have looked in vain on the net for this incident - although one US newspaper clipping says it was in July 1968..   I know Tower Bridge has stuck again recently but none of the reports of that seem to mention it at all. 

    So what was going on??

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    New Woolwich High Level Bridge -
    I think these are mid-1930s and far from sure where the drawing has come from - and clearly it would be difficult to have loaded it up as one long strip.
    Who knows more about this??

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    SOME BITS OF PIECES FROM MY IN TRAY.......................................


    The Enderby Group is happy to provide a speaker for meetings of all sorts - to tell you about Enderby Wharf and Enderby House and how Greenwich began the telecoms revolution.  Email me for details


    Its not good - we still have no idea if the gasholder has been bought by a developer, bent on demolition, who that developer might be, and if there is any support at all for keeping it for whatever use.  We can give lots of ideas for re-use - like is done by people all round the world, except here!!!

    However - many people out there are interested in our holder.  A photograph of it has just been exhibited at the Royal Academy summer exhibition.  A limited edition of this photograph was for sale at £150 each (!!) and has now sold out

    Neil Sharman has asked us to advertise 'Do you remember the Pleasaunce in World War Two??' please email   This is East Greenwich Pleasaunce - not the park with a similar name in Eltham.  They know there was a public shelter for 150 people, and that two high explosive bombs were dropped - but they want to know where these were and if there were also allotments (and I want to know how the avoided digging on the area where all the mass graves are).

    Nicola has an exhibition of, among other things, messages in bottles, "Waves from the Water" is at the Made in Greenwich Gallery 324 Creek Road 1st-12th August. 11am-6pm

    The Department of Architecture at Greenwich University has produced a rather important book about students work on the Greenwich Peninsula and Thamesmead.  There is too much of it to put much here - it will be the subject of a separate posting.  But in the meanwhile Ian Worley has put a posting on Facebook about his contribution to it.  This is via a link to Making is Thinking  Please read

    Future meetings in their new home:

    23rd September - 2000 years of Greenwich. A potted history. Linda Cunningham et al
    28th October - Munitions Lasses - Frances Ward
    25th November - 50 Years of the London Borough of Greenwich. Julian Watson
    27th January - The GHS Pantomime
    24th February - Greenwich History Online. Rob Powell
    23rd March - F.W.Simms Map - The Parish of Greenwich in the County of Kent 1838. Anthony Cross
    27th April - Greenwich. A Photographic Memoir
    25th May - possible visit to Chiswick

    All at James Wolfe Primary School, Royal Hill.
    They also make a note of the DORA Project - another project looking at Second World War bomb sites - they have a presentation on 12th September in St. Alfege Church Hall.

    I know this isn't in Greenwich, and it is also the other side of the River - but this is an SOS from a really great group - the East End Waterway Group   Fish Island is the little bit of Hackney Wick full of old industrial buildings - for example the buildings where the first plastic was developed and made, and much else. It escaped being pulled down for the Olympics, but now the developers are sliding in. Swan Wharf is on the Old Ford Lock on the River Lea - and until relatively recently was still in use and a whole load of exotic substances were imported through it.  Now someone wants to build flats  - of course - but this is not just an interesting old building, it is a wharf which could potentially be used for handing goods taken by canal and not by lorry.
    The group is also trying to secure retention of a number of east end gasholders - the dramatically sited Bethnal Green holders and Leven Road (just the other side of the tunnel)
    There is a lot more -

    For those of you who do not get the many twitter postings from @EastLondonGroup  we would recommend it.  There are many postings about Greenwich , and, because the artists were working before the Second World War, there are often queries asking where people think the site is.  Oh - yes - and lots of 1930s paintings of the Bethnal Green holders.

    GIHS members will remember Rich's great talk on the history of the Greenwich Square/GDH site. Well - if you walk up Vanburgh Hill as far as the Health Centre, which is being demolished, you will find a whole exhibition about Rich's work posted on the hoardings.  Go see!

    I note the headline on their newsletter says 'Our heritage our future' and the front page is all about speakers they have had on Magna Carta.  Hopefully they will move forward and fast!!
    Inside is 'News from Royal Museums'  'Magna Carta Celebrations' (ho hum)  and a note about the new venue for Greenwich Historical Society (fair enough, see below).   Must tell them that GIHS always happy to provide info and speakers.

    We see their new history group is now up and running with Chocolate Biscuits (must go along!!). Next meeting is 7th September 11 am in the Wildlife Centre.  Please keep us informed - happy to post up info, or whatever.

    Lewisham are beginning a project on the history of the Borough and people with info are urged to get in touch. 
    They have future meetings  all at 7.45 Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way
    31st July Seaside Sauce by Alan Payne -about Greenwich resident Donald McGill
    25th September - they have Charlton resident His Eminience The Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury talking about his campaign to save Catford's 19th century Town Hall.
    30th October - Martin Costello on Catford Broadway Theatre

    they also advertise
    6th October Windmills of North West Kent and Kentish London. Bromley Borough Local History Society, Trinity United Reformed Church, Freelands Road, Bromley, 7.45

    People round the world are interested in our gasholders and desperate to see them before they are all pulled down.  Recently a marathon tour was conducted round London by GLIAS members to take in as many as possible in one day for foreign journalists..  The didn't get to East Greenwich until late afternoon - they had started at 9am!! - and still had five more sites to go. Happy to give details of what you can see and where you can see it.

    The Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society has a walk round the Greenwich Peninsula  3rd October Sat GREENWICH PENINSULA: THIS USED TO BE... Led by Dan Hayton. You have to book to go on this:, and GLIAS limits numbers - so  the whole of East Greenwich can't turn up to tell it like it was/is, however much we might like to.   Hopefully they will spend a lot of time at Enderby's and lots with the gasholder.

    The Group has been very busy, albeit, still not sure what will happen to Enderby House. The developers are obliged under the planning consent to repair and reconstruct it - but, since we began making a fuss, a number of organisaitons and individuals have come forward with ideas for it. We will report in duecourse

    In the meantime we have produced quite a lot of written material which will be published  in due course. Two of these are on Bill Burns's Atlantic Cable web site - - this site is vast and contains everything you could ever want to know. The two papers produced by the Enderby Group's Stewart Ash are:

    Another paper - by me - about the site's non-Enderby and non-cable related industries will appear somewhere or other (probably here, if no one else interested)  and most of it is about the Government Gunpowder Depot and a rather interesting father and son engineeers, the Beales.

    We also understand that the Royal Academy summer exhibition (see above)  had an exhibit on 'Enderby Place' -

    - the other thing of note is that the Enderby cruise liner terminal planning consent has gone through the system and now has consent - local people are pretty angry about that and about the pollution aspects of the proposed liners. The issue is - biazarrely - something called 'cold ironing'.  We need to know more - could one of you experts please explain......

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    Last week's GIHS meeting was entertained by the speaker, John Kennedy Melling, on the Noakesoscope.  That, it turns out, was an ingenious sort of magic lantern, showing moving pictures, invented by one of the Noakes, Greenwich based forage merchants.

    One of the mysteries is what happened to the machine - which Mr. Melling had hoped to acquire on the death of the last Noakes, but which went to a descendant and hasn't been seen since 1961!  Where is it??

    Mr. Melling told us a lot about some of the family - there was a famous conjurer who lived in my road in Blackheath. He told us how a boat used to tour the canals giving shows by various similar bits of equipment   -  and  --  

    We have been pointed in the direction of the following item from the Greater London Archaeology Society's Newsletter No.75 - please see


    On the evening of 20th February [1981] last a party of 29 GLIAS people attended the Magic Lantern Theatre aboard the narrow boat "Phantasmagoria", then moored on the Regent's Canal at Delamere Terrace. 22 people were packed into the rather cramped auditorium, whilst seven were accommodated behind the screen and able to witness some of the "Showman's Magic". Hand painted glass slides depicting scenes 3" in diameter were back-projected onto a screen 4' in diameter located amidships, the slides being magnified 15 times, compared with the 50 times magnification of the original Victorian shows. The action varied from the simple two position 'flips' of an acrobatic circus equestrian and a 'skipping' child, through dissolving scenes such as 'Day and Night' and the 'Four Seasons', to the very impressive 'Storm at Sea' accompanied by the crash of thunder and the flash of lightning. This sequence depicts an old favourite of mines Eddystone Lighthouse (Smeaton's of course). Then followed a mesmerising sequence of chromotropes turning and twisting, coming and going and changing colour. The show ended with Anita hand cranking a 1905 Moliere cinematograph and showing an especially printed reel of the first films of the Lumière brothers. (The original films were all of one minute's duration.)

    Doug and Anita Dean, who run this marvellous theatre, are at present on their summer holiday tour, but will be back in September, I believe, to prepare for their next season at Delamere Terrace (October to May). I look forward to seeing their 'second show' which includes a Victorian 'Journey into Outer Space'.

    NB I'd never heard of chromotropes either!
    Tom Smith

    Let us know if you were among the party??

    Author of the piece Tom Smith was a GLIAS member for several years and was GLIAS Sales Officer. He was a Widnes man who spent much of his life in the Royal Artillery, and after leaving the Army he settled in Woolwich. Before he retired he worked as a clerical officer with the Post Office

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  • 03/24/15--03:13: Ballast Quay news

  • We would like to let you know that there are now three new recordings on our Oral History Pages which can be accessed on the Ballast Quay website under:

    We have a further two reminiscences planned to record in  April/May  and we will let you know when they are published.  

    In the meantime we wish you happy listening!

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    Great to see on Facebook that there is a dig in Woolwich which has found bits of one of the old Woolwich gas works. Details on Chris Mansfield's page.

    There were a number of gas works in Woolwich.  Below is a quick scan of articles written about them in the 1930s and published in Co-partnership Journal (South Met. Gas Co house journal)

    South Metropolitan Gas Company


    Fifty years ago, on 1 January 1885, there came into operation the amalgamation of the South Metropolitan Gas Company with the two Woolwich Companies,  known respectively as the Woolwich Equitable Gas Company and the Woolwich  Plumstead and Charlton Consumers' Gas Company. The immediate result of  this was that the South Metropolitan Company's district of supply was extended  throughout Woolwich, Plumstead and Charlton, and into Kent. In addition its  sales of gas increased by about 200 million cubic feet a year, and the quality of  gas to the new area was improved from fourteen and twelve to sixteen candle-  power.

    The Woolwich Equitable Gas Company was established in 1832,  and incorporated ten years later, to supply a cheaper and purer  gas than that which was being received from the company that  had existed in Woolwich since 1820. It was formed with a capital  of £12,000, and the works and apparatus of the older concern were  bought. The site of these works was a small piece of ground at  the bottom of Surgeon Street, immediately east of what is now the  approach to the Woolwich Free Ferry. It is at present used by the  Borough Council as a storing-ground and distributing centre for paving and curb stones
    The Company had been in existence for about two years when  charges of extravagance in the erection of works were made  against the Directors, and in 1836 a public meeting of gas consumers  was held to protest against the high price of gas. The principal  ground for complaint was that the Company was supplying the  Dockyard with gas at nine shillings per thousand cubic feet,  whereas the ordinary consumers were called upon to pay eleven  shillings. The Directors refused, however, to reduce the charge  below ten shillings, whereupon the following decision of a committee of consumers was communicated to them:-   

    "We very much regret the determination that the  Directors have thought proper to come to on this occasion,  and beg to assure them we do not any longer consider them  entitled to the name of ' Equitable,' and further that we have  always supported the Company when former discontent has  taken place, solely on the ground of their charging the same  price to all classes. We therefore now consider that we are  quite at liberty to use any means in our power to procure gas  at a lower price, and if found practicable, or too expensive to  make on a small scale for our own consumption, then we shall  endeavour with other gentlemen to establish another  Company."   

    To this the Company replied that, rather than allow the  conflicting interests of rival companies to inconvenience the town,  they would agree to reduce the price to nine shillings. The consumers, however, were now not content to negotiate further with  the Equitable Company, and they decided to proceed at once with  the formation of a new body and to treat for ground on which to  erect the necessary works. On 18 August 1843 the prospectus of  the Woolwich Consumers' Protective Gas Company was issued.  

    The works of the Equitable Company, which consisted of four gasholders, a retort house and other buildings (including a pipe  factory), were built on the western side of the Royal Arsenal, and  were reached by way of Rodney Street, Meeting-House Lane, and  Harding’s Lane. The two latter thoroughfares have now dis appeared.  For many years after 1887, when the works were  sold, the site was occupied by Messrs. Kirk &; Randall, building  contractors, but during the war the buildings of the Royal Arsenal  were extended to include it. At a recent visit to the site a 2-ft.  length of 6-inch flanged pipe lying in lonely solitude on a piece of  vacant ground belonging to the Borough Council appeared to be  the only indication of the existence at one time of a gasworks in  the vicinity.   

    At the time of the amalgamation the authorised capital of the  Equitable Company was £48,000 and the paid-up capital £22,000.  The selling price of gas was three shillings per thousand cubic feet. The Company was not controlled by the sliding scale, for which it  was seeking authority, but had fixed minimum dividends of  10 per cent., 7 1/2 per cent. and 7 per cent.   

    The Woolwich, Plumstead and Charlton Consumers' Company,  as has already been stated, originated in 1843 as The Protective   Gas Company, and were incorporated in 1855, when it entered into   serious competition with the Woolwich Equitable Company. The  initial charge for gas was eight shillings per thousand cubic feet,  which compared favourably with the eleven shillings required by  its rival. The original capital was £6,000, in 1,200 shares of £5  each. The object of the undertaking, which was constituted by  a Trust Deed limiting the liability of each shareholder to the  amount of his share, was not to offer large dividends, and the  Company did not desire to induce capitalists to invest their money  therein. It was intended, on the contrary, to make it, if possible, solely a consumers' Company, and the shares in the first instance  were offered to consumers with no prospect of a dividend greater, than 5 per cent. It took as its motto that of the Order of the  . Thistle, " Nemo me impune lacessit " (No one provokes me with  impunity), which seemed to indicate that the consumers were  “going to stand no nonsense" from anyone who should seek to  thwart them.   

    The works of the Company were at the end of Hardens Lane,  Woolwich, behind the Carpenter's Arms, and adjoined the  eastern side of the Woolwich Dockyard, with a river frontage and  a jetty. The site is now occupied by Messrs. Tuff & Hoar, cartage contractors. It was formerly approached from the High Street by G lass Yard, or Short's Alley. The works wall can still be seen  on the town side, and apparently it was built largely of old pieces of firebrick and hard clinker. This wall is a relic of Old Woolwich for it runs alongside of what was known as " Forty Corners, a series of alleys and corners which run parallel to the river side of the High Street. The old convict prison next to

    (sorry end of the article is missing)



    In the July issue there appeared a short account of the amalgamation, in  1885, of the South Metropolitan Gas Company with the two Woolwich companies,  known respectively as the Woolwich Equitable Gas Company and the Woolwich,  Plumstead and Charlton Consumers' Gas Company. This month we are pleased  to publish a letter received from Mr. J. D. C. Hunter ill which he sets forth  further interesting details relating to the Consumers' Gas Company's Works.  It is an additional pleasure to include in our pages a contribution from one who  was for many years a highly esteemed officer of the Company, and also closely  associated with the COPARTNERSHIP JOURNAL.-EDlTOR.  

    The article" A Page from the Company's History," in the  COPARTNERSHIP JOURNAL for July, was read by me with intense  pleasure. It called up so many memories of old times and places  that I feel compelled to write a few lines to show my appreciation.  

    I am the only survivor of the staff of either of the Woolwich Companies (the others, my old friends, Arthur Moore, Frederick  Mavity and George Randall having passed away), and what I am  writing may interest some of the few other employees who yet  remain. One, H. Chesney, was mentioned recently in the JOURNAL  when he received your congratulations on the occasion of his golden  wedding. He was employed at the Equitable Works.  

    It is stated in the article that the amalgamation caused the  consumers to get gas of higher illuminating power, but perhaps you  are not aware that it also gave them gas-of greater purity. There  was not a testing station in the town (public spirit was not up to  the level of demanding one), and whatever found its way into the  mains the consumers had to accept as gas. The sulphur certainly  was not down to the Referees' limit, and what the ammonia was  I dare not venture to suggest.  

    My father, after being at Thames Street, Greenwich, where my  grandfather was engineer, became engineer of the Woolwich  Consumers' Company in 1867. I was a very small boy then, and  the works were somewhat different from the plan of them given  in the JOURNAL. The plans I enclose are not drawn to scale, but  are the products of my memory. They show the extensions made  by my father's predecessor, Mr. A. Stark, between 1853 and 1867 and later in about 1874.  

    The Royal Dockyard was not closed until after we had been  a year or two in Woolwich, and one of my oldest memories is that  of being taken on the Jetty to see the Ironclad Repulse launched.  I think only one more vessel, the Thalia, was built before the  yard was closed. The mast pond of the Dockyard adjoined our wharf. It was not really a pond but part of the river enclosed by  floating timbers chained to piles, or "dolphins," in such a manner  that they rose and fell with the tides. On the closing of the  Dockyard this enclosure and the foreshore past Taylor's coal wharf  were purchased by the Company and embanked to form what is now Tuff & Hoar's Wharf. This increase in the area of the works  gave space for a gasholder eighty feet in diameter (the existing  holders were thirty to forty feet), new scrubbers, and purifiers.  

    What appears on the plan of 1853 as Sales' Coal Wharf was  Taylors Coal Wharf in 1867. It was owned by the Company, and  Mr John Taylor had been the tenant of it for some years. Mr Sales then had a wharf which ceased to exist when the approach  to the Free Ferry was made .  

    The old millwright who worked for us could always go to Sales' Wharf and come back with a piece of lignum-vitae, sabicu or some other uncommon wood. This generosity of Mr. Sales used to  astonish me, but in the course of time I found that it was more  apparent than real, for an arrangement existed by which, in return  for letting us have wood, he could have what tar he needed for  the maintenance of his small fleet of barges. An end came to this  state of affairs through wood becoming scarce (I think periodical  sales of old and rejected material, which ceased when the Dockyard  closed, were the cause), but a few relics of it remain in the form  of the handles of some of the old tools that I possess.  

    The Waterman's Steam Packet Company amalgamated with  another company and moved their plant to larger premises where  the electric power station is now. The place they vacated in the  Glass Yard became Rose and Mellish's Flour Mill.  

    Harden's Lane, referred to, I know nothing about.  It did not exist in my time, and I think there must be some  confusion with the approach to the Equitable Works.  

    Short's Alley was always a source of annoyance. It was a  very dirty place, and undesirable folk were nearly always in it.  It was diverted slightly when my father found he had not quite  enough ground for the second gasholder (No. 6). A small holder  (No. I) was scrapped, and the building constructed of old firebricks  and clinkers was shortened, but a circle of the diameter  required could not be struck entirely within the boundary of the  works. The difficulty was got over by pulling down a house which  belonged to the Company and, by giving as much ground as was  taken, altering the course of the alley a few feet. By what  authority it was done I do not know, and it was a matter of  surprise that; the owners of shops in High Street did not complain.  

    The engine house (I think it still stands) contained two  reciprocating exhausters driven by vertical engines of somewhat  antiquated type. This was rather poor equipment, but it was  considerably better than what the Equitable Works once had.  When the late Mr. Robert Mort on went there as engineer it had  the oscillating engines of an old paddle steamboat adapted to the  purpose

    The experience of  ??ding the old tar tank must have been  unpleasant if not dangerous. It was a formidable black pit in my  early days, and one of the spots I had strict orders to avoid. I am  surprised that it was not taken out when the place was dismantled.  The plan of the Equitable Works seems to show the state of  affairs up to the time Mr. Morton left (he went to Vauxhall about   1865). The last engineer, Mr. William White, made some alterations, but the plan was not changed to any great extent.  

    Other memories could be written, but, I will not bother you  with them. Old men who can look back on nearly seventy years  often make the mistake of assuming that others are as greatly rested in the past as they are themselves, and perhaps I have  made that mistake with you. The future cannot hold many years  for the old ones, but, few as those years may be, they cause serious  thought-what is beyond them causes thought more serious.  

    ( Footnote There were no Gas Works in Woolwich for nearly twenty years before  the prejudice against the' new-fangled light' was overcome. The first gas factory was a very small concern at the bottom of Surgeon Street on the  site of Edgar's coal wharf, and belonged to one of the Livesey family, the  first manager being .MIr. Sanderson, who had previously exhibited the light  in his shop window in Richard Street (the upper part of Hare Street)." Vincent , Records of the Woolwich District)

    SO  - in addition  to the two articles above I have added something I wrote many years ago which was published in Bygone Kent and (a shorter version) in the GLIAS Newsletter


    This, I am afraid, is going to be another tale of a gas works which didn't work very well.  This is not a story of one of the really scandalous London gas works. Just a little local matter down in Woolwich.


    In the early days of the gas industry, between 1810 and 1820, a number of entrepreneurs began to look round for towns in need of a gas works.  In 1815, or thereabouts, a prime candidate must have been Woolwich – a flourishing centre with a number of big industrial sites, which surely must have needed a good source of lighting.  It is no surprise therefore to find a speculative gas works built there.

    Previous articles in this series, about Greenwich, have introduced a number of men who built and sold ready made gas works to local authorities and private individuals.  In Greenwich the first approaches had been made to the local authority in the early 1820s by a Mr. Hedley, followed by a Mr. Gostling. In the 1830s a works had been built in Deptford by a Mr. Barlow.  Some of these, and others we will meet again.

    In 1817, or thereabouts, a Mr. Livesey and a Mr. Hardy built a gas works in Woolwich.  If the name Livesey is familiar, it is because he was George Livesey's great-uncle, Thomas.  After 1870 George Livesey became the leading figure in the gas industry in London and has recently been notorious following a press story about 'the ghost in the Dome'.   To some extent however George had inherited the mantle of great uncle Thomas.  Thomas Livesey was a hosier based in the City of London. In 1812 he had been one of forty men who had bought a block of shares in the first ever gas company, in London, with a view to changing the way it was being run.  In 1813 he had been elected to the Court of Governors as the candidate of this group and, quite literally, set about finding out how a gas company should be set up and managed. A great deal has been written about the invention of the technology of gas manufacture but it is rarely mentioned that Thomas Livesey designed gas company management – in many ways just as important.  Busy as he was with this role he clearly had time for other things, and like many others, an eye for a profit on the side.

    The other partner in the Woolwich gas works was a Mr. Hardy, a coal merchant and a friend of Thomas Livesey.  He was also at that time a partner of Mr.Hedley who was later to tender, unsuccessfully, to build the first Greenwich gas works.  Hardy and Hedley operated a gas equipment and ironmongers business out of an office in Kings Arms Yard off Cheapside in the City of London.  Thomas Livesey also used this address sometimes although his hosiery business was round the corner in Wood Street.

    Livesey and Hardy built their gas works in Woolwich on a site known as 'Roff's Compound' or 'Edgar's Coal Wharf'. This was on the river in the area of today's Bell Watergate and next to the Waterfront Leisure Centre – then in the midst of small streets and wharves. Roff was a well-known wharfinger in Woolwich for many years and his wharf was still marked on a map nearly forty years later in 1853 – by which time there was also a 'steamboat' pier on site.  I am not aware of any contemporary map or plan of the works or even exactly where the site was but it is very likely that it had good riverside access.

    It is likely that it had some local support since it has been said that the first Manager was a Mr.Sanderson who had a business in Richard Street Woolwich where he exhibited gas lights before the works was opened.  Perhaps he was the same Mr. Sanderson who later had a paint and glazing business in Powis Street.

    Whatever the plans for the works were it seems that it was not successful and after only six or seven years Livesey and his friends set about trying to dispose of it.  In 1824 they tried to sell the works to the South London Gas Company. When this approach failed they tried to sell it to the Bankside and Greenwich based Phoenix Company. They asked Phoenix in February 1825, and then in November 1827 and in December 1828 when they offered it to them for £6,500. Phoenix turned it down.

    One of the reasons Livesey and Hardy were so keen to get rid of the Woolwich Gas Works was that as Thomas Livesey was Deputy Governor of the Westminster based Chartered Gas Light and Coke Co. he was not supposed to have an interest in another gas company. In fact the Chartered took a very dim view of his extra-curricular activities and in May 1827 he had to make a sworn statement to the effect that he had disposed of his interest in the Woolwich Gas Company.  This, as it turns out, was not really true.  In what follows Livesey is always described and treated as the owner of this works.

    It seems that he had transferred the legal ownership and the Woolwich gas works was actually owned by a corporate body of which a Mr. Ainger was a trustee.  Ainger was yet another coal and iron merchant  - this time based on Bankside.  Livesey must have known him well since he had been selling coal to the Chartered Company from its inception. 
    The years went by. It was offered around to other gas companies, like the Phoenix at Bankside. They could have had for £6,500, but neither they, nor apparently anyone else wanted it. 

    Previous articles about the gas industry in Greenwich have described the dissatisfaction of local businessmen with the existing private gas companies and their efforts to set up one which would be more responsive to their wish for cheaper gas. In 1832 in Woolwich another gas company was set up, the Woolwich Equitable.  Ten years later another company was set up to rival it – The Woolwich Consumers Protective Gas Company. There was to be talk of  'serious defalcations' at the Woolwich Equitable and the rows between the two rivals fill many pages of the Kentish Mercury.  Neither of these situations will be dealt with in this article.

    The Woolwich Equitable advertised that it would sell 'cheaper and purer' gas and set about trying to buy up the old works in order to supplant them.  They began to negotiate with Mr. Livesey and Mr. Ainger. This should have been no problem since they had been trying to get rid of it for at least the previous ten years.  A valuation was commissioned from Mr. John Barlow.

    Barlow, who was the builder of the Greenwich Railway Gas Works at Deptford, and many others, was in many ways an interested party and, in the interests of honesty and fair play, another valuer was brought in. This was a Mr. Robert Brown of Royal Hill. I assume that this is the Robert Brown, Architect of Royal Place in 1839 not Mr. Robert Brown, Plumber, of Blackheath Hill also extant in 1839 (or perhaps they were the same person).

    The valuation report was very long and very damning – the works was 'very dilapidated' to say the least.  In negotiations Ainger and Livesey began frantically to talk the equipment up – they explained that the wooden tanks were after all, only fifteen years old and the pipework would last at least a hundred years. The report apparently didn't agree with them.  Ainger then accused the Woolwich Equitable Board of trying to cheat him.  

    The new gas company decided that it was desperate to 'buy up the competition' and continued negotiations regardless.  Livesey began to talk about problems with an Act of Parliament and the Board of the Equitable brought their solicitor along to see him.  A settlement was reached in July 1832 at a meeting between both sides and their lawyers. In the following January a list was produced of Messrs. Livesey and Ainger's various misdeeds and Woolwich Equitable Directors were perhaps most annoyed that £245 of the purchase money was to find its way into Mr. Livesey's pocket.
    The old Woolwich works was taken over, run for a while, and closed down. While negotiations had been going on with Livesey and Ainger other arrangements were taking place for a new works to be built specially for the new gas company. It's nice to know that the contract to build the new works went to Mr. Barlow – who lost the contract to survey the old works.

    This story in some ways echoes that in Greenwich in the same period – and probably many other places as well. An early works built by speculators which was inefficient and soon became ruinous. After all you would expect things to improve as people had more experience of the technology.  It is perhaps ironic that Thomas Livesey, so successful in his management of the first and largest company then in existence – should get in such a mess at Woolwich.  It also throws considerable light on the standards of honesty not only of Livesey but also of others of the time and to the lack of statutory regulation.

    The Woolwich works went on to be racked with scandals until taken over by South Met. in the 1880s.

    This article has been compiled from archive sources at London Metropolitan Archives and supplementary material including an article in Co-partnership Journal

    Mary Mills


    PS - there was of course yet another Woolwich gas works inside the Arsenal

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    LATEST STORY FIRST - Yesterday we put on this site stuff about an archaeological dig in Woolwich which had found an old gas holder. Well - later that day photographer Chris Mansfield told us, through Facebook, that he has been thrown off the site for publishing his pictures on line!!!

    There has been a 'consultation' by Transport for London on plans to upgrade Greenwich (possibly oldest working) power station.  This seems to be to put more generation equipment into the long unused easterly hall so as to provide extra potential capacity for the tube while joining local power networks to provide energy for locals. Details are a bit thin on the ground at the moment but local groups are reporting on this and planning to find out more.  See East Greenwich Residents on http://  and the current Greenwich Society Newsletter   

    This is a big big subject - it appears that it has either been sold to a developer, or not, as the case may be. It is likely that the site is being snapped up so it can be demolished for housing.   In many parts of the world redundant gas holders are being turned into all sorts of facilities - including blocks of flats built inside them.  Our holder - East Greenwich No.1 - was the biggest in the world when it was built, and built to revolutionary principles, probably with advice from leading modern movement designers. 

    Meanwhile the club in Blackwall Lane is doing light shows on it

    A group of architects have produced a model of what they think should be done with the holder. Their work seems to have had little, or no, local publicity although it was shown at the Royal Academy and elsewhere. It was done by Patrick Judd and Ash Bonham as a project by the Royal Institution of British Architects and the Architects Journal and the worked received a commendation.   They are trying to get the holder listed - but, quite honestly, we've been there and back already!!

    Barbara Ludlow tells us that a book by Conan Fraser (who apparently died last year) has been published in New Zealand - The Enderby Settlement - Britain's Whaling Venture on the Sub-Antarctic Island 1849-1852'  Published by Otago University Press. Price not known.

    Meanwhile the Enderby Group is busy busy busy - hope to do a detailed article soon

    Photographer Peter Marshall has now got a page on Facebook about his new book which is largely about pictures on the Greenwich riverside. Here's what he says: "Here's the final volume in my London Docklands series of books with pictures taken before 1985. The book is published as a PDF (ISBN 978-1-909363-13-7) and can be downloaded from Blurb for a fiver and you can print any pages you wish for personal use. If you want a printout of the whole book, this is available from Blurb, but copies are cheaper direct from me at £25 + £2 p/p for UK customers. 90 pages,82 b/w photographs'

    This group campaigns on a number of issues on the other side of the river.  They have been actively involved in trying to prevent the demolition of a number of gas holders - and have just lost the fight with the great and dramatically sited holder in Bethnal Green.   Nearer to us is the campaign - and on line petition - on the holders at Levan Road - which you can see immediately to your right as you emerge from the Blackwall Tunnel.
    They are also actively involved in trying to stop demolitions of some wonderful 19th century industrial buildings at Hackney Wick (where the first plastic - Zylonite - was developed, and much else).

    We have their 150th anniversary newsletter - that 150 years of the engines, not of the Trust.  They have a full report of the opening in the newsletter with lots of congratulations to Mr. Bazalgette.   The newsletter also includes a tribute to Michael Dunmow - one of their most prominent activists and also a assiduous researcher on industrial Bexley. He will be missed.   There is an item on the various bands which have recorded videos and so on among the engines.

    We also have news of the demolition of the old Maybloom Working Men's Club in Plumstead. This interesting building - a purpose built club from 1928 - was almost impossible to see from the road, which why its end seems to be unnoticed. (thanks to Chris Mansfield for the info).

    We have been sitting on an interesting article in the Institution of Civil Engineers Newsletter about a visit to the Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnels. This is a great interest as it involves issues which could be taken up in our Greenwich and Woolwich Tunnels.  Requests to reproduce the article have been ignored (sigh!!)

    Always interesting.   Would recommend article in their February issue on Lord Marks of Woolwich 'The forgotten engineer'.  (hopefully we could reproduce this).

    We have been asked to remind people about the AGM of the Naval Dockyards Society  on 25th April at the Maritime Museum. This is followed by a conference on 'The Royal Dockyards and the Pressures of Global War 1793-1815' . Details

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    following is a scan and transcript of a booklet produced by Woolwich Council in 1961 about their new flats and new parking system  - and, look, this is a scheme produced by a supremely confident Labour Metropolitan Borough. Woolwich had done this development themselves - in other boroughs it would have been undertaken by the London County Council - but Woolwich had special consent to do it themselves.  We all know now about the wretched Autostacker - but that shouldn't be a reason to denigrate the St.Mary's scheme as a whole. We forget that this was a clearance scheme of a terrible terrible slum area - designed to propel Woolwich into the modern world.  They were using the latest and most fashionable architects - and the flats were noted by Pevsner - and they were doing it all inhouse.

    Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich


    Visit of Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret and Mr. Antony Armstrong-Jones

    On the Occasion of the Completion of The St.Mary's Tower Flats - 


    The Coffee House and Lounge at St. Mary's Church - The Council's Multi-Storey Garage

    Thursday, 11th May, 1961


    WOOLWICH is the second largest in area of the Metropolitan Boroughs and holds a unique position as far as housing is concerned. Apart from the London County Council it is, and always has been, the foremost housing authority in London. As an out- skirting south-eastern London Borough however, suffering severe war damage, it still has a serious housing problem.

    Woolwich has always believed in the construction of well-appointed housing estates with suitable amenities in the way of wide roads, open spaces and community centres. Until the last few years the Woolwich Council has always avoided the construction of tall blocks of fiats on its estates, but the scarcity of land has necessitated their erection and these tower flats have been built accordingly.

    The St. Mary's Area of the Borough has been the subject of a large comprehensive scheme of redevelopment during the last five years. Before the last war the area comprised small un- desirable dwellings, narrow, badly arranged streets and few, if any amenities. Suffering from heavy bombing as a result of its proximity to the Royal Arsenal, the area became semi-derelict and an eyesore.  The area is now being transformed by the Woolwich Council into a pleasant, well laid-out neighbourhood with open spaces, shopping centres and other amenities. The new buildings have been appreciated greatly by the former residents of the area and these new tower fiats, with a commanding view over the River Thames, are a further stage in the scheme. The area is one of eight areas in London included in the development plan, and the only one which is being carried out by a Metropolitan Borough Council. As approved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, the area comprised approximately 62 areas in which were over 1,200 families in some 1,100 dwellings, the majority of which were old and in need of replacement.

    Rehousing of families from some of the most unfit dwellings commenced in January, 1952, and up to the present, 718 families have been rehoused from the area. Some 600 properties have been demolished, and a further 180 acquired and held pending demolition as and when the families in occupation are rehoused.  To date, 485 new dwellings have been erected, all by the Borough Council's direct labour organisation, and a further 89 are now under construction. A parade of shops and a number of garages also have been provided.  The present scheme in Frances Street and Samuel Street has been designed by Messrs. Norman & Dawbarn, is being constructed by Wates Ltd. and the Quantity Surveyors are Messrs. Falkner & Partners. The scheme comprises 279 dwellings, together with two shops, and garages, made up as follows :-

    Four 14 storey blocks containing 159 Two Bedroom Flats 60 One Bedroom Flats

    Five 4 storey blocks containing 37 Three Bedroom Maisonettes 13 Bed-sitter Flats

    One 2 storey block containing 8 Bed-sitter Flats 1 Three Bedroom Maisonette

    Doctor's House and Surgery

    The fourteen-storey flats are equipped with electric under-floor heating to give background space heating, this being supplemented with electric panel fires in the living rooms. Each Tower block will have two lifts, and communal laundries are provided in the basements of two blocks which will serve all dwellings in the scheme. The smaller blocks are equipped with solid fuel appliances in the living rooms. Water heating is by balanced flue gas multipoint heaters. Building operations commenced in July, 1959, and the scheme is expected to be completed early in 1962. Flats have been furnished by the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society and Cuff's Ltd.

    The redevelopment in the St. Mary's Area is only a part of the Borough Council's housing activities. Since the war some 3,460 permanent homes have been built in other parts of the Borough, both for general housing purposes and for smaller slum clearance areas. In addition, 986 emergency factory made bungalows were provided, although a number of these have now been removed to make available land for permanent development.  Schemes are in progress on four other sites, where a total of 337 dwellings are under construction by the Council's direct labour organisation.

    A further large development area in central Plumstead-the Glyndon Area-has also been undertaken by the Council and 160 families have been rehoused, the unfit vacated dwellings now being in process of demolition. The first stage of the redevelopment, comprising 252 dwellings, is expected to commence later in 1961. This post-war development, added to the extensive housing programmes of the inter-war years, has brought the total number of dwellings owned and controlled by the Council to over 10,000.

    Notwithstanding its proud record of achievement in housing, the Woolwich Council will continue to provide homes for the many citizens who still need them. Whilst proceeding with slum clearance and redevelopment, the Council will do everything possible to press on with the provision of housing accommodation to satisfy the ever present demand.


    Woolwich is the first outlying metropolitan borough to introduce a parking meter scheme. Unlike the few central boroughs that already have these schemes, the Woolwich Council felt that in the interests of the displaced motorists the provision of adequate off-street parking was an inherent feature of the proposal.  The multi-storey garage, therefore, with other off-street parking places, has been timed to open in conjunction with the commencement of the parking meter scheme. The garage has been constructed for the Council by Auto-Stackers Ltd. and will be operated in conjunction with Shell Mex and B.P. Ltd. and Dagenham Motors Ltd. It is the first fully automatic garage of its kind to be built in this country for ownership by a local authority. The garage will accommodate 256 cars.

    The Woolwich AUTOSTACKER, or multi-storey garage, represents the successful development of an idea conceived by its inventor, Colonel J. A. Stirling, and initially put into practice in the form of a working Meccano model. Recognising the ever increasing demand for improved parking facilities and the general lack of suitable sites, Colonel Stirling was prompted to design a method of garaging cars that would permit the maximum utilisation of space available for off-street parking. The AUTOSTACKER automatic principle of parking cars achieves the aim of providing high density parking for a given volume and also permits rapid parking and withdrawal of vehicles. Apart from the space occupied by the lift entry and exit bays, the ground floor of the garage is completely free for traffic circulation, or alternatively can be used for showrooms, servicing purposes, stores, and a reservoir area or for additional garaging.  Each of the eight floors of the Woolwich garage will accommodate 32 cars, or a total of 256 vehicles. Four lifts are employed, each of which are handling a section of the garage containing 64 car spaces or 8 spaces per floor. The time cycle for parking or withdrawal can be calculated at an average of 50 seconds per lift. The average overall entry or withdrawal rate is accordingly 4 cars every 50 seconds. On this basis it should be possible to clear a fully occupied Garage of this type in just over 53 minutes.  Each floor is divided into three equal galleries running the length of the building. The two outer galleries are each divided into 16 parking spaces 17 ft. 6 ins. long by 6 ft. 8 ins. wide. The central gallery contains the four lifts, one at each end and two in the centre, and also the rails for the powered transporters.

    When the motorist arrives at the garage he leaves his car locked up and with the brake on in one of the entrances where it will rest on a conveyor. He then proceeds to the control kiosk. An attendant, who is in charge of a control panel bearing 256 keys, each of which corresponds to a parking bay, will then turn one of these keys and give it to the motorist as a form of receipt for his vehicle. The actual turning of the key in the control panel starts up the automatic process of parking and the reverse sequence applies for the withdrawal of vehicles. In starting up the parking cycle, the conveyor in the entrance bay moves the car on to a transporter which in turn rests on one of the lifts. This transporter also carries two conveyor belts. The lift then rises to the pre-selected floor, complete with the transporter and car. When it reaches the floor level, the transporter moves off the lift on to rails located on either side of the transverse gallery which extends the whole length of the building. When it arrives adjacent to the pre-selected parking bay, it stops and by starting up its conveyor belts, discharges the car forward into the bay where a further short run of conveyors positively completes the operation. Other advantages include complete security, elimination of exhaust fumes, a reduction in the fire risk and an absolute minimum requirement in respect of labour. The principle of operation is straightforward and involves the adoption of recognised electrical and mechanical practices that have been accepted in industry for a long time. It is the manner in which these practices have been applied rather than the introduction of an untried mechanical process, that has made this new form of automatic parking possible.

    Beresford service station, fitted with the latest sales and servicing equipment, is on the ground floor of the Auto-Stacker building. here is easy access to the spacious forecourt, where two petrol pump islands are situated. The complete range of Shell motor spirits is available on both islands. Cantilever lighting is installed over the pumps for night service. A separate pump supplies derv for diesel-engined commercial vehicles. A petroiler is also available for fuelling two-stroke machines.

    Servicing is carried out in the well-equipped bays on the ground level of the stacker. Two lubrication bays, fitted with modern equipment, can carry out a "while-you-wait" lubrication service. A washing bay and tuning bay are situated behind the lubrication bays.

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  • 04/01/15--03:18: GREENWICH POWER STATION

  • GREENWICH POWER STATION – this venerable Greenwich installation is apparently due for another upgrade and Transport for London have been consulting locals on it.  Below are a three articles about it and its past –detailed descriptions from the 1970s, telling us what it was like then

    FIRST – some lecture notes from Diana Rimel

    Greenwich Power station (Old Woolwich Road)  This is on the site used from 1704 to 1860 for the massive Jacobean mansion of the Crowley family, who had the largest iron manufacturing business in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, and married into the Ashburnham family.   Land was then bought by Trinity Hospital, and presumably leased or sold to the London County Council who had horses on it (possibly for trams) here.   The power station was built (1902-10) by former LCC's Architects Department, General and Highways Sections, for the LCC tramways.  The dates are outside on the rainwater heads high up.  There are a Few remains of tram tracks left. but it is mostly simple stock brickwork on a monumental scale. The four tapering octagonal chimneys were truncated at two-thirds height, destroying the original proportions. On the riverside is a massive disused coal jetty, built to take weight of cranes. Coal ships from north-east coast came here till the 1970s, and the coal bunkers are still there.  It changed when gas turbine came in – and diesel oil was delivered by tanker. It is now part of London Underground Limited, General Division and provides emergency power to London Underground, remotely controlled from Lots Road, Chelsea.  The Building considered rather fine by industrial architecture buffs (except for the truncated chimneys). The 'Cottage' on the corner of Hoskins street was lived in by the piermaster.

    Then a handout written for a 1970s Open House day:

    OPEN HOUSE - Greenwich Generating Station

    Welcome to Greenwich Generating Station, one of three buildings where guided tours are being arranged as London Transport's contribution to London Open House Day's 1998 programme.

    Greenwich Generating Station was built on the site of an existing horse tram depot between 1902 and 1910 by the London County Council (LCC) to provide the power for its growing network of electric tramcar routes. The largest building which at that time had been erected by the LCC, the Station was opened in two stages, the northern half in May 1906, and its southern counterpart in 1910. The riverside location offered the joint advantages of direct delivery by boat of coal to fuel the boilers for the steam engines and a supply of water for condensing the steam.

    The main building comprised a Boiler House with four chimneys, and an Engine Room from where current was transmitted at 6 600 volts to substations (including one on site) which supplied direct current to the trams at 550 volts. The capacity was 34 megawatts, which was sufficient to power the entire LCC tram system. The two chimneys in the first section to be opened, at the north (River Thames) end of the site, were originally 76 metres high but because the Station is almost on the Greenwich Meridian, the Royal Observatory complained that smoke from the chimneys obscured their observations. The two later chimneys at the south end of \ ... the site further from the river were built only 55 metres high, and the original taller chimneys were shortened to 55 metres during the modernisation work in the 1970s.

    The development of the Station
    By 1910, steam turbine technology had proved superior to the piston engines installed four years earlier, and four steam turbines were installed for the second stage opening that year. By 1922 the original engines had been removed and replaced with turbines. In 1933, the London Passenger Transport Board took over all road and Underground services in Greater London, including the power stations at Greenwich, Lots Road in Chelsea and Neasden.


    The London Transport Conversions to oil and gas firing
    In 1967 it was decided to replace the steam turbines with gas turbine plant burning oil delivered, as the coal had been, by river. The changeover from coal made possible a reduction in the staffing level by almost 90 per cent. The most visible evidence of coal firing is the 50 massive steel bunkers, each with a capacity of 270 tons, which occupy the upper part of the Boiler House. The gas turbines were modified in 1975-77 to burn either natural gas or oil, with gas as the main fuel and oil as a back-up. With post-war power stations like Bankside in Southwark already closed and being converted for other uses, London Underground's two remaining generating stations (Greenwich and Lots Road, Chelsea) are rare survivors from early this century.

    The operation of the Generating Station today
    All London Transport's electric vehicles (trams, trolleybuses and Underground trains) have been supplied by power generated at Greenwich during its 92-year history. Today, the role of the Station is to supplement the output of the London Underground's principal generating station at Lots Road during peak periods, and to provide emergency supply at other times if required. Full power can be delivered to the system in about three minutes.

    The gas turbine plant is housed in the original Boiler House and is driven by an industrial version of the Rolls Royce "Avon" jet aircraft engine. The high temperature, high velocity exhaust gases from the Avon engine drive a power turbine which in turn drives an alternator. The operation is fully automatic, and a minimum of staff supervision is needed. The installed capacity now is 103 megawatts.

    The future of Greenwich Generating Station

    Negotiations were concluded last month for SEEBOARD Powerlink, a private sector consortium, to take over responsibility for London Underground's high-voltage power distribution network. It is planned that Lots Road will be de-commissioned within two years, and that part of the Greenwich plant will be refurbished and retained for emergency back-up use only. London Underground's power requirements will then be purchased from private electricity suppliers for delivery to the system via the Powerlink network.

    William Edward Riley
    Greenwich Generating Station was designed in consultation with the London County Council's own architect, W E Riley, and the Council used its own labour force for much of the construction work. Other buildings which Riley designed for the LCC include the Central School of Art and Crafts, Southampton Row; the Sessions House in Newington Causeway; and several large LCC housing estates notably the Old Oak Estate in Ducane Road, Hammersmith, and the Totterdown Estate (1 229 cottages) in Tooting.

    The architectural design of the station

    a) External features. Ocupying a 3.75 acre site next to the Trinity Almshouses, Greenwich Generating Station is, with its London Underground counterpart at Lots Road (1902-04), an early example in London of a steel-framed building. The dimensions are 114 m by 59 m, with a maximum roof height of 24 m. For non-industrial buildings, the Ritz Hotel of 1904-05 is generally considered to be London's first major steel-framed structure. The walls are of stock brick set off by Portland stone decorations, notably on the south and north elevations. The original slate roof has been replaced by corrugated sheeting, but decorated rainwater heads dated 1903 (on the north side) and 1908 (on the south side) survive. The twin-naved main block comprises the original Boiler House on the west (upstream) side and the Engine Room on the east (downstream) side. Linking the Boiler House to the river is the coaling pier separately designed and constructed by the LCC's Chief Engineer, Maurice Fitzmaurice. Attractive features are the large end windows and the tapering chimneys, although when the two north chimneys were shortened elegant decorated bands near the top were lost. The west side of the Station has been somewhat disfigured by the addition around 1927 of large concrete coal bunkers.

    b) Internal features - the west nave.   The lower level of the west nave - originally the Boiler House, with 48 boilers in groups of six - is now the Gas Turbine Hall where seven units (one has been taken out of commission) generate the power output. Air is drawn in through filters on the upper floor and the exhaust passes through ducts to the chimneys. The former coal bunkers in this upper section were filled from above, originally by a bucket conveyor but later by a belt conveyor which entered the Boiler House through the north window. The coal passed by gravity through chutes to the mechanical stokers of the boilers below. The ash from the boilers was similarly removed by conveyor in the basement to bunkers under the pier from where it could be removed by barge or by road.

    c) Internal features - the east nave. The east nave, now largely unused, was the former Engine Room where four steam reciprocating engines made by John Musgrave and Sons of Bolton were the last slow-speed engines to be installed in a British power station. The first steam turbines were installed in 1910 at the south end of the Engine Room, and by 1922 the remaining engines had been replaced by turbines. The walls are faced with white and brown glazed bricks, and along the roof of the Engine Room are gantries for a travelling crane.

    Ancillary buildings  - On the eastern side of the main building were offices, the original control room and a substation which converted the electricity to 550 volts direct current for the trams. The control room occupied the central section at an upper level. The two- storey offices at ground floor and gallery level are panelled rooms with simple neo-Georgian fireplaces, and include an early telephone switchboard.

    On the western side of the building are the 11 massive white reinforced concrete reserve coal bunkers added over the yard around 1927. Conveyors were used to transfer coal into and from these bunkers to the boilers, in the latter case on a circuitous route via the pier!

    In the south east corner of the site is the former Pier Foreman's house (10 Hoskins Street) which provides a picturesque, domestic scale, contrast to the Generating Station.

    The riverside structures

    The Coaling Pier (1903-05) extends some 36 metres into the Thames, and is 60 m in length and 12 m in width. The pier is supported by 16 concrete-filled cast-iron Doric columns. The steel-girder superstructure of the pier originally had a timber platform on which cranes unloaded the coal (1 000 tons a day) from the colliers, initially into trucks which delivered the coal to the Station's external bunker, but subsequently on to conveyor belts which carried the coal directly to the upper levels of the Boiler House.

    The area above the 1 900-ton capacity steel bunker on the riverside was converted in 1969-72 to accommodate 12 fuel-oil tanks, fed from five 112 500 gallon fuel-oil storage tanks into which the oil was pumped formerly from tanker barges and which were installed at the same period. These larger tanks are on the site of the pump house which supplied water for condensing the steam from the original engines. Now that the station is gas fired, oil deliveries are by road and the pier is not used.

    The Generating Station's railway

    On the quayside there are rails which passed through a gateway, now bricked up, into the site. The rails carried a 30-ton swan-necked crane which was used to unload barges. and inside the site there was a railway around the perimeter for moving heavy components.

    Sources: September 1998 Greenwich Generating Station (Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1995) Temples of Power (Gavin Stamp. 1979) J                



    Introduction. Greenwich Generating Station was built by the London County Council to supply the growing electric tramway system, and was opened in two stages in 1906 and 1910. The main building comprised the Boiler House, with four chimneys, and the Engine Room which, in the first stage, housed four vertical/horizontal compound reciprocating steam engines driving flywheel type alternators, operating at 6,600 volts, 25 Hz. By 1910, the superiority of steam turbines, compared with piston engines, had been realised, and four steam turbine alternators were installed for the second stage. Because the generating station is almost on the Greenwich Meridian, objections were received from the Royal Observatory that smoke from the chimneys was interfering with their sightings, so the second (southern) pair of chimneys was limited to 182 ft. in height, compared with 250 ft. for the first pair.

    By 1922, the original reciprocating engines had been removed and replaced with steam turbines, and various modernisation works were carried out during the following thirty-five years, including adoption of the national frequency of 50 Hz. The L.C.C. Tramways were absorbed into the L.P.T.B. in 1933 and it was planned to generate at Greenwich the power required for the railway extensions in North-East London and for the Trolleybus system which was to replace the trams in east and south London. The programme was deferred by the War but, until the trolleybuses were scrapped in 1961, the station served both the road services and railway operations.

    Following the complete modernisation of Lots Road Generating Station in 1963-68, it was decided to replace the old steam-driven plant at Greenwich by installing gas turbine generators, which enabled the staff to be reduced by nearly 90 per cent. The main requirement for Greenwich is to supplement the output of Lots Road during peak load periods and to provide a standby supply to the system as quickly as possible if required. The Greenwich sets can reach normal full load in about 3 minutes after pressing the 'Start' button, which can be done either at Lots Road or Greenwich.

    Gas Turbine Alternators

    Eight gas turbine alternator units were installed in the former Boiler House with two units exhausting to each of the four chimneys, but more recently one has been taken out of service. They were built by Stal-Laval Ltd. which later became part of the ASEA- Stal Group and is now in the ABB organisation. Each unit has five main components: a gas generator, a power turbine, an alternator, a transformer and an automatic control and monitoring system.

    The gas generator is a Rolls Royce 'Avon' Type 1533 and is essentially an industrial version of the 'Avon' jet aircraft engine which was used in many civil and military aircraft. This comprises a 17-stage axial flow compressor, eight combustion chambers, a 3-stage turbine which drives the compressor, and a fuel control system. A transition duct channels the hot gases exhausting from the gas generator to the power turbine inlet. There is no mechanical drive between the gas generator and the power turbine.
    The power turbine is of the 3-stage axial-flow design and is mechanically coupled, by a drive shaft, to the alternator. The alternator generates 3 phase, 50 Hz electric power at 11,000 volts and has a maximum continuous output of 14,700kW. . although they are normally loaded at the economic rating of 11 ,000kW. The output is fed to the 22,000 volt switchgear via the associated step-up transformer.

    The run-up, loading and shut-down of the gas turbine alternators is fully automatic following the operation of a single push button, and is controlled by equipment located in the two Plant Instrument Rooms which were constructed between each pair of chimneys. Full monitoring instrumentation has been provided to facilitate minimum supervision by staff. If the gas turbine alternator malfunctions, the fault will be registered on the associated control cubicle and, if necessary, the set shuts down.

    Principle of Operation of the Gas Turbine units.

    Air for the gas generator is drawn through roller blind type impregnated filters situated on the upper floor of the gas turbine hall. These extract dust before the air reaches the inlet to the gas generator to reduce fouling of the compressor blades and to protect the engine from damage. The air is drawn through ducting, which contains a silencer, downwards into a sealed chamber from which it passes into the compressor inlet. The air pressure is raised about ten times before it passes into the eight combustion chambers. Fuel is forced at high pressure through the burners into the combustion chambers where it burns in the compressed air.

    The 'Avon' units were originally designed to burn Light Distillate Oil (i.e. Gas Oil) but were modified from 1975 to bum either natural gas or gas oil. The oil is held in storage and service tanks with a total capacity of over 3~000 tons and so is immediately available. Gas is obtained from the British Gas (Transco) system and must be raised to a pressure of 20 Bar. before it passes through control valves to reach the burners.

    The high velocity, high temperature, gas stream issuing from the combustion chambers is directed through nozzles onto the 3-stage turbine, still within the gas generator, which drives the compressor. The gases emerging from this turbine are at a lower pressure but still at a high temperature, and pass through the transition duct to the inlet to the power turbine. "

    The hot gases expand through the power turbine where the energy is extracted in driving the turbine and the alternator rotor which is coupled to it. The output of the alternator is governed by the temperature of the gas stream which in turn is governed by controlling the supply of fuel to the gas generator by the automatic control system. The exhaust gases from the power turbine pass through ducting containing a silencer to one of the chimneys. Thus, the force of the gas jet, which would be used to propel an aircraft, is here utilised in driving the power turbine and alternator. The gas generator is started by a motor housed in the nose cone at the compressor inlet, powered by batteries.

    Fuel system. When the gas turbines were installed, they burned gas oil which was delivered by river tanker to the pier, originally provided for coal deliveries. Storage tanks for 2,500 tons and Service tanks for a further 500 tons were provided. The oil passes through fine strainers and is held in the Service tanks to ensure the removal of any particles which could block the burners. However, since the engines were converted for dual-fuel operation (gas or oil) the quantity of oil required is so reduced that deliveries by road tankers are adequate and the pier has been taken out of use.

    Gas enters the premises at a pressure of about 6 Bar. and passes to the Gas Compressor House constructed in the former Steam Turbine House. Three 4-cylinder two-stage reciprocating compressors are installed which raise the pressure to 20 Bar. A common main on the roof of the gas turbine house delivers the gas to a Gas Control cubicle adjacent to each G- T unit.

    Cooling Water system. Cooling for the alternator, the transformer, the power turbine lubricating oil and the gas compressors is by a two part circulating water system. The primary system pumps water from the River Thames through heat exchangers and back to the river. The secondary system is a closed circuit; water from storage tanks on the upper floor flows by gravity through the various coolers to low-level tanks in the basement and is then pumped through the heat exchangers, where it is cooled, and returned to the storage tanks.

    High Voltage Switchgear. The main switchgear is housed in a switchroom situated on the east side of the building.

    The power generated by each gas turbine alternator is fed via 22,000 volt cables to individual circuit breakers. From the switchroom, the power is connected to the Underground's electrical system through cables to Lots Road, Mile End, Aldgate (Mansell St.) and Stockwell.

    Office of the Generation Manager, 55, Lots Road, Chelsea, SWIO OQG JMB/Jan.97

    The two handouts have pictures with them but these are not included because of the low quality of the photocopied originals and the high probability of them being copyright.

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  • 04/22/15--00:37: AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT
  • A lot of things have happened - will report later - but in the short term we are looking to draw up a list of items of industrial heritage interest from all round the Borough.

    Clearly there are some BIG things - the gasholder and so on 

    but there are also lots of little things  - street furniture and so on.

    A lot of things have disappeared and many were 'tidied up' for the Olympics - a good example was the tram telephone box in Blackwall Lane which no doubt ended up a skip somewhere - and the Blackheath Electricity Co. junction box on the A2 traffic island - removed for the sake of tidiness!!

    If you know of anything - BIG - small - let us know.  Either append it as a comment here - or send to

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  • 04/23/15--04:39: Stuff
  • Various newsletters have turned up - for instance

    Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter
    Forthcoming meetings include:  2nd May Richard Buchanan on the Atlantic Telegraph.   Charlton House. 2.15 pm

    Friends of Greenwich Park Newsletter
    The Friends are announcing an inaugural meeting for a Greenwich Park History Group.  22nd May 11 am Wildlife Centre.    Info

    Greenwich Society Newsletter
    Includes a great picture of Greenwich Marsh in the early 19th with accompanying text.  It is thought the site shown is part of what is now the building site on the riverside at Enderbys.    Thanks to Roger Marshall for the picture and the interpretation.
    The newsletter also includes details of the new - Creek Swing Bridge - Westcombe Woodlands project - Low Carbon plans for East Greenwich Power Station - Planning at Marsh Wall Isle of Dogs - Creekside East Development.

    Lewisham Local History Society Newsletter
    Among articles (of Lewisham interest obviously) one on some of the work of Margaret MacMillan, nursery pioneer, in the Greenwich bit of Deptford.
    26th  June Pioneers of Photography. Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13. 7.45

    Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society. Newsletter
    19th May. AGM and talk on the Importance of Technological Developments in the History of
    Brewing in London.  18.15.-18.30  Swedenborg Lecture Theatre, Barter Street, WC1
    David Wood - sadly an obituary to this great expert on sailing barges - full of info on Greenwich barges and of great help and support on the subject
    Crossness Engines - brief note on their 150th anniversary
    Sainsburys Peartree Way - a brief note to regret the imminent demolition of this prize winning building and its inclusion in '100 buildings 100 years' as the best British building of 1999

    Thames and Medway Canal Association
    OK - not in Greenwich - but just down the road, a group of enthusiasts working on restoration and promotion of a canal which doesn't actually go anywhere!  It went through the Higham tunnel - now used for trains between Gravesend and Strood.  Its a great tunnel too!!

    AND - perhaps most importantly  - Greenwich Power Station,   Local residents around the power station have been consulted on this BUT - only the locals immediately adjacent. Because I live up the hill a bit, I and my neighbours heard nothing.  I went to the consultation and as a result they have sent me a handout. Some of which is scanned below (sorry this programme doesn't accept PDFs).   This is a very important local industrial building - we all need to know about it.

    TFL says:

    "As part of our strategy to reduce the impact of transport operations on the environment, we have developed a proposal to install up to six new gas engines in  Greenwich-Power Station's Old Turbine-Hall. This will provide a steady-source of cheap, reliable, low carbon power for London's Tube. We are also developing plans with the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Greater London Authority to use surplus heat from the Power Station to supply hot water and heating for nearby schools and homes. This will reduce utility bills for residents and Improve local air quality, by eliminating the need for gas fired domestic boilers. The scheme directly contributes to the Mayor of London's target to produce a quarter of London's energy demand from local sources by 2024, as set out in his Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy.

    The proposal is still at a very early stage. We will shortly commence concept design work for the installation of the first two engines. This will include emissions modelling as part of our emissions permit application to the Environment Agency. It is anticipated that physical works for the first two engines will not start before late 2016/early 2017. The installation of the remaining four engines is expected to be staggered over the next 20 years.

    The new engines will be made using the latest technology and will be highly efficient. They will run on natural gas, and create no smoke or smells. Additionally, with Greenwich being an Air Quality Management Area, emissions will be further reduced through the use of emissions abatement equipment.


    Greenwich Power Station was built in 1902 to power the Capital's tramways and Tube railways, which were being electrified at that time. It is currently an operational power station and functions as an emergency electricity source for the Tube network in the event of a major power supply failure from the National Grid. It currently operates 400
    hours per year on average, with no noise disruption to the local community.

    While Greenwich Power Station is not currently listed, it is a building of significant heritage. The current proposals preserve this historic building through avoiding any changes to its external appearance, therefore it is anticipated that no planning application will be required. The change from traditional gas and oil powered electricity generation to combined heat and power generation will preserve the use of this important asset well into the future.


    and ps - Other events which might be interesting:

    9th May, Trevithick Day.  Dartford Park
    Various East London canal towpath walks

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