Articles on this Page
- 01/27/16--06:35: _Do one thing and yo...
- 02/05/16--01:51: _more news
- 02/20/16--21:23: _Greenwich Park Band...
- 02/25/16--08:28: _News
- 02/29/16--07:47: _Sea Witch Pub - the...
- 03/16/16--05:13: _News
- 04/02/16--08:15: _More News
- 04/17/16--22:54: _Beale engineers
- 04/17/16--23:14: _BARBARA
- 04/20/16--22:40: _News from around an...
- 04/28/16--09:12: _Barbara Ludlow - An...
- 05/08/16--10:04: _George Thomas Landmann
- 05/09/16--01:35: _Isaac Landmann
- 05/11/16--14:11: _George Landmann - a...
- 05/14/16--23:34: _George Landmann - t...
- 05/16/16--23:20: _Landmann - explodin...
- 05/21/16--00:07: _George - Turnham Gr...
- 05/22/16--05:11: _News and notes - wh...
- 05/22/16--13:26: _Sudden holes appear...
- 05/24/16--04:33: _Greenwich and Woolw...
- 01/27/16--06:35: Do one thing and you get ......................before the docks (ad)
- 02/05/16--01:51: more news
- 02/20/16--21:23: Greenwich Park Bandstand
- 02/25/16--08:28: News
- 02/29/16--07:47: Sea Witch Pub - the tankards
- 03/16/16--05:13: News
- 04/02/16--08:15: More News
- 04/17/16--22:54: Beale engineers
- 04/17/16--23:14: BARBARA
- 04/20/16--22:40: News from around and about
- 04/28/16--09:12: Barbara Ludlow - An obituary
- 05/08/16--10:04: George Thomas Landmann
- 05/09/16--01:35: Isaac Landmann
- 05/11/16--14:11: George Landmann - a small child at the RMA
- 05/14/16--23:34: George Landmann - the Verbruggens - was there a scandal??
- 05/21/16--00:07: George - Turnham Green and the great Lord Heathfield
- 05/22/16--05:11: News and notes - what is going on in Greenwich
- 05/22/16--13:26: Sudden holes appear in Charlton and Woolwich
- 05/24/16--04:33: Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels
we've been asked to put this out for Docklands History Group
SERIAC 2000 - This is the South East Regional Industrial Archaeology Conference - this year on 23rd April in Kingston. There are talks on 18th century iron in the Weald, Papermaking history, Berkshire windmills - and - and - Amazing Malcolm on The Demise of the Gasholder (and seriously that would we worth the journey to Kingston alone) - the way of booking, or finding out about it seems to be to send a stamped addressed envelope to Mr Bryson, 6 Wychelm Rise, Guildford, GU13TH (no web site, no phone, no nothing)
GLIAS NEWSLETTER. As ever. forthcoming events:
17th Feb - Father Thames - changing role of the Thames Wharves by David Hilling (6.30 Swednborg Hall)
16th March - Gold Refining in London by Michele Blagg (6.30 75 Cowcross Street)
20th April - Engineers perspective on restoring historic buildings. James Miller (6.30 75 Cowcross Street)
18th May. AGM plus The City at Play. Simon Inglis (6.30 75 Cowcross Street)
10th April Crossness Open Day with Prince Consort in steam 10.30-5 www.crossness,org,uk
22 April Crossness Guided Tour. www.crossness,org,uk
22nd May Crossness Open Day with Prince Consort in steam 10.30-5 www.crossness,org,uk
Anything about Greenwich in the GLIAS Newsletter?? er - no
FOOT TUNNEL ENTHUSIASTS -(not sure they exist outside FOGWOFT) A web site has details of a (very clean) foot tunnel in Antwerp http://www.theladytravels.com/antwerp/
BRITISH TRANSPORT TREASURES
- we have been sent links to:
PORT OF LONDON NEWSLETTER
This is now online but only to subscribers. The latest edition has an excellent article about the 'facelift to the bargehouse causeway' - which is just opposite us on the north bank of the river down from the Ferry. Until the 1960s it was actually in Woolwich so we should definitely take some notice of it.
LEWISHAM LOCAL HISTORY NEWSLETTER. This includes an article which is actually about the Greenwich riverside. It was written in 1962 by David Knight, and here are some scraps from it:
"By Blackwall Tunnel are the Metropolitan Gas Works. There seemed no access to the River. I got
into a timber yard and ... (into) hole in the riverside fence .....On this side of the fence, right by the water's edge, ran a tow-path paved with bricks stamped with diamond markings ....barges stacked with timber had nice names Rinqdove, Whitehorse, Maine, Romani. Hardly anyone was about, only two men craning up the long timbers from the barge to the stacking point on the timber yard. The tide was out and the river so low that the black, grimy beach was visible ......At half past nine I came upon the Cutty Sark Tavern, a Free House not yet vanquished by the brewery combinations, but selling Burton bitter ale, draught Worthington, draught Guinness, draught Bass. Further up the river stands the old Trinity Hospital, now an old people's home ......At 19 Crane Street are Corbett & Son, Boatbuilders. The Yacht Inn just beyond sells Watney's draught Red Barrel ale, and has a garden and terrace overlooking the river. The Curlew Rowing Club next door, founded 1866, looks as if it expired the same year, broken-backed behind dust and shutters. At 10 o'clock, the sun a bit warmer, the Royal Naval College hove into view, overwhelming a couple of hundred yards of river bank with its two huge domes, large gates with anchors and tridents wrought, and bare formal lawns. Tugs .. all the time, singly or hauling barges. .... Bright sun on Greenwich Pier and, startlingly, Cutty Sark close at hand with her smart white masts, trim black shrouds, and eager-bosomed matron on the prow. ...
Greenwich Tunnel displays an alarming list of by- laws. ..... There are scatterings everywhere at ebb-tide of planks and river wood. ...... Crossing Creekside by the Creek Bridge, had a hot
bacon sandwich and a large cup of strong tea at a dockers' cafe on McMillan Street., Deptford, near
the old church of St Nicholas".
Another, present day, walk along the peninsula riverside, with some great pictures, can be found at http://alondoninheritance.com/category/the-thames/ -( and, thanks, to the author for the plug for the book.) Great blog, please read
Crossness Engines trust tell us that they have got Bexley Council to agree to rename 'Belevedere Road' as 'Bazalgette Way'.
(this is an update on a previous article on this blog by Barbara - see below)
- or search on this blog for 'Bandstand'.
The Sea Witch Pub stood along the Greenwich Riverside Path, facing the river, until it was bombed in the Second World War and was subsequently demolished. It stood just where the path turns abruptly left to go round Morden Wharf - until five or six years ago this was the site of the Amylum Laboratory building, which strangely echoed its size, shape and layout.
I wrote an article about the Sea Witch for Bygone Kent a few years ago and it can be found online at https://greenwichpeninsulahistory.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/two-vanished-greenwich-pubs/ and I understand more research has been done by others, since.
We have now been sent two pictures of the base of a tankard which has clearly come from this long vanished pub. They came from Alex of the Brightwater Brewery which is in Claygate, Surrey. It occurs to GIHS that there must be more like this out there - so - if your grandpa is using a Sea Witch tankard to keep his used paint brushes in, please let us know (we also think that there are collectors out there willing to - er - pay)
Enderby Group - On Monday the Enderby Group held a seminar for a small selected audience of local politicians, prominent citizens, museum operators and historians and some developers. This consisted of a walk from the Cutty Sark Pub to the Enderby Jetty - (and thanks to Keith Palmer of Alcatel-Lucent who opened up the jetty and made a major contribution to the seminar later). Various items of historical interest were pointed out along with some of the group's ideas for the future. They then went back to the Crows Nest in Cutty Sark Pub (and thanks to the staff) where we had coffee and a chat. Stewart Ash gave a presentation on the history of the site, and Elizabeth Pearcey talked about our hopes for the future and the possibilities. One problem that the group has is that no-one has any idea what Barratt plans for Enderby House - one participant at the meeting said that they were turning down offers to purchase it, and the Barratt staff who had promised to attend, sadly did not appear. Planners present confirmed that Barratts are obliged under their planning consent to renovate the building - but, again, no one still has much idea what the state of the building is now. Council staff confirmed that have urged Barratt to talk to the Group
Come on Barratt - we can all work together on this!
Some pictures of the event together with a write up is at https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=enderby and http://onthethames.net/2016/03/14/enderby-campaigners-discuss-future-historic-site/
(and thank you Rob and Danny - and Michael for the picture above)
The Enderby Group produced an information pack and a walk document for the event - a limited number of these are available should anyone be interested.
info wanted: Hello, I am interested in the old firm of T W Thompson & co and the Endyne works, I have found a small amount of info on line, just wondering if there are any old photos of the Endyne works, or of the Engines & Dynamos that they built, and when and why the company closed down.
British Transport Treasures has sent us the following:
CROSSRAIL ARCHAEOLOGY - In most of the 19th century - in fact up to 1912 - anyone who lived in East Greenwich or on the Peninsula would have had their river view dominated by the huge warships which were built on the north bank alongside Bow Creek - and elsewhere of course. This was the Thames Ironworks site on the Essex Bank of the Creek.
If you go now to Portsmouth Maritime Station the main thing you can see outside, looming over the station is the vast bulk of HMS Warrior - in the 1850s that bulk would have dominated the our view of the river, and Warrior is very far from being the biggest ship built in Bow Creek - and in those days they expected to see big ships on the Thames.
So thanks to Crossrail the (fairly minimal) archaeological dig on the shipbuilding site has been published and is available. Its fine, although it has its limitations - an interesting beginners guide to Thames Shipbuilding, with some useful details on Ditchburn and Mare (I have never seen them written up before) and on the Hills (who are a specialist subject of mine and basically Deptford and Greenwich based). There is a lot of detail about the places they dug and what they found there.
My main criticism is that although they say they have consulted shipbuilding specialists there is no mention in the acknowledgements of anyone from the Museum in Docklands or the Greenwich Maritime History Institute or indeed any of the people who have been running and participating in the bi-annual Thames Shipbuilding Symposia - so - er - why not??
However, we should thank Crossrail for getting the archaeologists to publish - most of the industrial sites in Greenwich, now covered with tower blocks, have had 'desk tops' and digs and reports - which no one has ever seen, or will see. Bad bad bad
Daniel Harrison. The Thames Ironworks 1837-1912: A Major Shipbuilder on the Thames. MOLA (sorry no idea how much or where you get it from - someone said Oxbow Publications)
CHANGE OF PROGRAMME
GIHS - meeting on 19th - this will now feature Mary Mills - on some other bits of the Enderby site - the gunpowder works and the Beale foundry
Age Exchange Bakehouse, Bennett Park. 7.30
TIDAL THAMES NEWSLETTER - PORT OF LONDON AUTHORITY
There is always something interesting in this monthly web based newsetter. the March issue features a page on The AHOY Centre, based on the Greenwich/Deptford Borders. " The Centre uses maritime training in a range of projects to help disadvantaged kids, and recently launched the Community Boats Fund Raising Challenge putting the 'expertise' of community volunteers to good use so that a pair of the club's own Watermen's Cutters can be built
the AHOY team needs more volunteers to help sand, varnish and do other tasks ......they are now just over half way through the fit out of the first boat and have cast the hull mould for the second".
PLA also point to the increasing size of boats on the Thames and mention that last May Viking Star was the largest ever cruise ship to come up and moor at Greenwich.
BRITISH TRANSPORT TREASURES - Stuart has sent us....
GREENWICH HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION
Forthcoming meetings: All at James Wolfe School, Royal Hill. 7.30
27th April - Greenwich. A photographic Memoir. By Horatio Blood
25th May - London's Sailortown - A social history of Shadwell and Ratcliffe. By Derek Morris
28th September - A History of Ballast Quay and Union Wharf. By Michael Graham Smith and Polly Carter
26th October - Bert Lloyd by Dave Arthur
23rd November - PC Wren by Neil Rhind.
SOCIALIST HISTORY SOCIETY
26th April Ada Salter and Ethical Socialism by Graham Taylor Marx Memorial Library, 37a Clerkenwell Green, EC1ODU (Farringdon Station). Ada Salter was an activist working in Bermondsey in the early 20th century.
PRESERVE ENDERBY'S MARITIME HERITAGE - Please see the write up of the recent Enderby Group event by Mandy Little in the Mercury http://www.southlondonpress.co.uk/article.cfm?id=116839&headline=Preserve%20Enderby%E2%80%99s%20maritime%20heritage§ionIs=sports&searchyear=2016
BLACKHEATH SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY
What can cause sea level change?? by Tom Armitage 15th April Mycenae House.
- The current issue begins with a picture of their trust board meeting 'at work'. There is information about current refurbishment, including heating and work on the roof of the fitting shop and a new home for loco 'Woolwich'. There are some pictures of gardening and various other events and activities - much detail of maintenance of 'Victoria'. There was a visit from Sludgetech and a 96 years birthday cake.
They advertise - Open Day just turn up 10.30-17.00 10th April, 22nd May, 5th June, 19the June (free to fathers), 3rd July, 24th July, 14th August, 4th September, 9th October, 23rd October (on some of these dates Prince Consort is in steam)
CET GUIDED TOURS book through Eventbrite - 22nd April, 27th May, 15th July, 26th August, 23rd September.
TOTALLY THAMES WALK - 4th September, 11th September book through Eventbrite
ST GEORGE'S WESTCOMBE PARK
15th-16th - Exhibition by the Marx Memorial Library on the role of Socialists and Trade Unionists who tried to keep us out of the Great War from 9 am to 9.00pm Friday and 7.00 Saturday
15th lecture by Prof Mary Davis 7.30
HISTORIC GAS TIMES
The current issue includes an article by Hither Green based historian, Brian Sturt, about Charles Aird and Kingston Gas Works. Brian does however also mention Charles' earlier work in Greenwich. He describes how in the 1840s his father John Aird was Manager of Greenwich Gas Works (the current Waitrose site) . Small main laying jobs led to the setting up of John Aird and Co. in 1848 - a major contractor. Charles kept a diary which has been published (Peter Stirling Aird, Deptford, Toronto and Kingston, The Early Years of Charles Aird, Victorian Engineer. Grimshay Press 2005).
Next GIHS meeting 19th April at Age Exchange Bakehouse. 7.30
In a change to the original advertised programme I am going to speak about Joshua and John Taylor Beale.
I have already written several articles about the Beale's in the 1990s - and am now a bit upset to realise that a lot of what I wrote was actually wrong!!
Joshua Beale rented part of the Enderby site from the Enderbys in the early 19th century - he had an amazingly versatile career as an inventor and manufacturer. Much of what did links up with other strands of innovation in that period - use of rubber, steam engines, new ways of propelling boats, steam road vehicles - and much else. His most important invention was sold to a local firm which, moving out of London, manufactured it until at least the 1950s. That firm is now part of a multi national and adaptions of his invention is still made in their factories around the world.
John Beale, his son, was a also a prolific inventor with links to early cinema and bicycles.
Last December I went to Matlock to see a file in the Derbyshire Record Office - and uncovered an amazing story of family scandals and squabbles.
Please come along
As many historians and people in Greenwich will know by now Barbara Ludlow died over the weekend. This is a brief tribute to her - she was one of the founders of Greenwich Industrial History Society - and we will be putting something more fitting as a memorial to this important Greenwich historian - and a friend to many of us.
In the meantime here is a link to a Facebook page which Rob Powell has set up for tributes and comments - with a picture of one of her books.
INDUSTRIAL HISTORY NEWS - WITH GREENWICH INTEREST
We are getting information about plans to fill in the Arsenal Canal. More information here when we get it. Meanwhile https://fromthemurkydepths.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/plumstead-station-area-to-be-upgraded-though-royal-arsenal-canal-to-go/#comment-2098
They are advertising as follows
20th April GLIAS lecture Restoration of Historic Buildings from an Engineers Perspective by James Miller
18th May AGM 6.15 followed the Heritage of a City at Play. Simon Inglis
both at 75 Cowcross Street, EC1
2 July - Walk on Railways and Buildings of Woolwich Arsenal and Dockyard with Don Kennedy. book via firstname.lastname@example.org
The GLIAS Newsletter also contains a report on the Enderby Group's seminar with links to various sites with information on it. This is essentially the same report which has appeared on this web site (largely because both were written by me).
Other items covered in the newsletter have already been covered here - one of them is an excellent review of the Museum of London's Archaeology Unit study of the Thames Ironworks site which lies opposite the Greenwich Peninsula, the road name change in Bexley to Bazalgette Way, and the admirable GooseyGoo. There is a link to a project trying to list all letter boxes in Britain (115,000 of them) http://www.lbsg.org/
Other meetings of Greenwich interest which they have listed are:
7th May Before the Docks. Conference. www.docklandshistorygroup.org.uk
22nd May Crossness Engines Steam Open Day www.crossness.org.uk
5th June Crossness Engines Static Open Day www.crossness.org.uk
*** AND - we have news that the latest GLIAS Journal is out. We haven't seen it yet BUT we understand it contains two articles about Crossness - The Other Steam Engines at Crossness by David Dawson and The Native Guano Co at Crossness by Owen Ward
Need to catch up with this - and will go through several back issues and report on what they say about Greenwich!
Meanwhile - this year.
Vol.37 No.1. a nice review of my Innovations booklet - thank you Pat
Vol.37, No.2. Features a big article about Enderby Wharf.
WOOLWICH ANTIQUARIANS NEWSLETTER
This has a brief note about the Welling and District Model Engineering Society (at Falconwood, just in Greenwich by a tiny margin) www.wdmes.co.uk
Steam and electric hauled railway open Sundays 2-5 pm April 24, May 8,22, June 5,19, July 3,17,31. August 14,28 September 11,25, October 9th. They are at the back of the electricity transformer station at Falconwood
The newsletter has a long article about Frank Elliston-~Erwood who was a past Secretary of the Society. A plaque has been put up to him in Foxcroft Road. There is a long article about him and about the plaque.
There is an article about the closure of Firepower and several obituaries. And - thank you Richard - an article about the Enderby House seminar.
THE LENOX PROJECT
Come and meet this project to build a historic warship on 23rd April, They have an event with the Sayes Garden people in the foyer of the Deptford Lounge 12.30-3 (the Lounge is round the back of Deptford Church Street somewhere). They have also produced 'The Lenox Project Vision. A lasting legacy for Deptford' which can be downloaded from their website. http://www.buildthelenox.org/
LETTER FROM NORFOLK
A reader from Norfolk has sent us his memories of Norton's Barge Yard on the Greenwich Peninsula "Over 40 years ago the organisation of the conversion of Thalatta at Norton's (for a youth organisation) watched in Astoundment as Dick heaped nearly 3/4 of a century of the succession of Kentish and (Bugsby's Hole) misc paperwork in a bonfire at H.T.M. despite the protests of the teller. I have often shared opinions as to how much Social History and REAL INDUSTRY was missed by this singular act of frustration and broken dreams - I greatly doubt if this witness is still alive if so her would be into his nineties. Best regards for the unrecorded real TRADESMEN who are long gone but not forgotten"
ENDERBY GROUP - had heard from some editing Briscoe's Journal of his Antarctic voyages for Enderbys - more on this when we know more.
Write to tell us that this will start soon Subject:Land at Enderby Wharf, Christchurch Way: 15/3844/SD (LAG/011/391) CLO16536 (Enderby Group are of course aware of this)
Sorry to keep on about them (or us as we are otherwise known). We were very happy to welcome Bill Burns from the US to our last committee meeting. Bill is a long distance member of the committee and he runs the very excellent http://atlantic-cable.com/
Delighted to learn that at the time Brunel's Great Eastern was being launched in Millwall, that a tug was launched by a Greenwich Shipbuilder, called Little Eastern.
There are some details about her on http://thamestugs.co.uk but not which Greenwich shipbuilder was responsible - any info welcome
GREENWICH PARK RESERVOIR
Richard draws attention to the picture of the Greenwich Park Reservoir which won a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors award and is featured in (of all places!!) Greenwich Time.
on 29th March. Congratulations on the award, and the picture - and it would be good if Greenwich Time took a bit of interest in something like this again.
Elizabeth comments " the next reservoir northwards is interesting. The building is said to have been designed by Robert Hooke (the listing says Nicholas Hawksmoor but thoughts may have moved on). Anyone know the current state of research.
As part of my research into this Greenwich engineer - I did a talk about him to GIHS on Tuesday and happy to repeat this - I have been trying to find out more about a steam engine which he built which is in store at the Beamish Museum in Durham. I understand from them that it is owned by Tyne and Tees Museum Service and are waiting for information back from them. The engine dates from 1849 and came from the Glemsford Silk Mill. Pic below. Any information we would be grateful - it is not his signature rotary engine though.
Dartford Trevithick Day.
This is on May 7th with a show in Central Park Dartford, and then on the 8th a steam parade in Dartford High Street
Julian Watson writes ‘I started work in the Local History Room at the old Blackheath Library in St John’s Park 1965 and it wasn’t long before I became assistant to June Burkitt in the Local History Room. It was there that I first met Barbara and we got along well immediately. She had already finished her London University diploma course in local history and I remember reading her dissertation, which is preserved in the Greenwich Heritage Centre.
The Local History Library was a fairly new initiative, which was far too big for one small room so an attempt was made to create a Local History Library at Charlton House. Sadly this failed because suddenly ‘Woodlands’ in Mycenae Road was on the market and threatened with demolition. Greenwich Council acquired it and the Local History Library was created there rather than at Charlton House. I, with two new members of staff, moved the collections there in 1970 and Barbara, who had been working as an adult education lecturer, was appointed as our Education Officer and Senior Library Assistant – she had worked at the National Central Library. She did all our timesheets and most of the general administration because I was gathering in all the other large and dispersed collections: the Woolwich and Kent Collections from Woolwich Library, council archives from the old Greenwich Town hall and Woolwich Town hall plus collection from Eltham library.
Barbara was an outstanding historian and communicator and always great company. She was married to Roy Ludlow who was a very talented and engaging man. He designed bank note printing machines for De La Rue and had a very busy life particularly when former colonies became independent and needed their own currency. They had two sons, Christopher and Michael.
Barbara was a fine speaker and was, in retirement, recruited by the late Ivan Howletts, the producer of the Radio 4 ‘Making History’ programmes. They became friends and he used her on several of the programmes. She and I did one programme about the Enderby family of Greenwich. Her work in schools and colleges was much admired - the students were not only fascinated by the content of her talks but they also behaved well. She was a natural teacher and lecturer. A powerful memory for me and a great achievement for Barbara were her talks to the patients at Bexley Mental Hospital. There was constant noise from the audience, which flowed in and out of the room with much shouting, but it was a very great success and the patients all loved her visits.
Barbara was a natural scholar – she said that she had only one ambition and that was historical research. She applied great intellectual rigour to her research and writing, never fully trusting published works but always going to the primary sources. She solved the mystery of the local Domesday Book entries, which had defeated generations of learned professors and antiquarians. After her retirement she was contracted by Greenwich Libraries to research historical documents relating to the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich as part of the European funded Konver project. This she did with great thoroughness, researching at many repositories including The London Metropolitan Archives, The National Archives and the Ministry of Defence. It was a very fine piece of work. On my last visit to the Greenwich Heritage Centre, I noticed that a volunteer was using her work and was thrilled with what she had done.
For the past (nearly) thirty years I have flirted with the idea of doing a biography of George Landmann.
I did a lot of research in 1986 for a booklet, timed for the 150th anniversary of the London to Greenwich Railway - and ever since then I have piled up more and more information. I am also stuck in that I don't feel I could publish, and - more importantly - distribute, a biography of that type - and there is no chance a 'proper' publisher wouldn't even start to look at me. I am also only too well aware that I am likely to make BIG mistakes in the sections about the Peninsula War
So - I will put a bit together now and then - on this blog - and see how we go from there.
Why is he interesting - well.......:
Lt. Col. George Thomas Landmann was born in 1780 in the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich where his German father was a professor
He was brought up in Woolwich and wrote a very lively account of his childhood
As a teenager he went to Canada and had some REAL adventures
As a Royal Engineer he prepared battlefields for famous generals in the Peninsula War
As a linguist (and I guess a spy) he travelled round Portugal and elsewhere
He became head of the Royal Engineers in Ireland, in Durham and in Gravesend
His marriage broke up and he left the army. He then lived in Greenwich.
He travelled round Europe with Congreve negotiating for and building gas works in major cities
He built the - ground breaking - London to Greenwich Railway
He planned other railways
He worked with Peter Hesketh Fleetwood and Decimus Burton to design and build the port of Fleetwood - and he built its railway
He retired and wrote a number of books
- now I think I will see what I can do with that.
- first thing need to try (again) to find out who is father really was, but - we shall see ........
In writing about George Landmann is it important to first look at his distinguished father, from whom he learnt so much.
Isaac Landmann was Professor of Fortification and Artillery in the days when the Royal Military Academy was becoming an intellectual hothouse. He left behind a canon of important books on his specialist subjects - and yet we know very little about who he was and where he came from. There is a suspicion of a very interesting background, which remains totally obscure.
|Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, as it is now|
It is, I think, important to note that the appointment as Professor of both Fortification and Artillery illustrates a point - here, at Woolwich, the two future Artillery and Engineering Regiments - - were once seen as a unified subject when taught to the young gentlemen cadets.
Isaac seems to have been head hunted by the Government to this post. He had been teaching at the Ecole Militaire in Paris, but, following reorganisation there was reduced to turoring 'the art of war' privately to young French gentlemen. Sir Thomas Page was sent to Paris, under Royal Command, with inducements including a pension (apparently never paid). He is said to have already known Isaac Landmann, which is why he was sent - Page was an important cartographer, engineer and graduate of the RMA. At the time he was sent to Paris to see Landmann he was Engineer in charge of the eastern coastal defences, but was also recovering from wounds received at the Battle of Bunkers Hill, in America, in 1775.
The name of Landmann - and indeed Isaac Landmann - is not uncommon. It mainly occurs as the name of men of German Jewish descent. From the little we know of his past 'our' Isaac Landmann was German - and this comes from a chance remark by George III that he had origins in common with Queen Charlotte who came from Mecklenburg-Strelitz However Isaac seems to have been involved with the French military - and in fact is said to have had 'field experience ' with them. He is said to have been Aide de Campe to (French) Marshall de Broglie.
I must admit here to being confused - not the least about the Seven Years War, which seems to be relevant here. I should also admit that, despite having passed examinations in European History at O, A and first degree level, I still know nothing about it - and certainly nothing which explains how a young German got to be assistant to a major French General - and Marshall of France. De Broglie is said to have been experimenting with the ideas of a division of his armed forces based on skills - cavalry, artillery and, maybe, also engineers. He was out of favour and dismissed from army command during the 1760s but returned to successfully promote the divisions which became the future of military practice. Perhaps a future researcher will discover how Isaac Landmann became his protégé and such an expert in 'the art of war' as to be wanted by the British Government. It is also important to note that French practice in fortification was very advanced following the work of Vauban and others, including de Broglie.
There is one more small clue to Isaac's past - George Landmann was to meet in Gibralter the Countess of Noailles - Anne Louise Marie de Beauvau. She told him she would give him "some information as to the fate of my mother's uncle, who commanded a regiment of Swiss guards at the commencement of the great revolution; and also respecting another relative then serving in the gardes-du-corps of Louis the Sixteenth, and belonging to the company of her father-in- law, the Prince de Poix". That information never came. The Swiss guards were, and are, elite mercenaries who defended foreign royalty - of particular note was their defence of the Tuileries in 1792 during the French revolution. We know nothing of Isaac's wife, except that her name was Katherine, and through this piece of information that she came from an elite military family.
And so Isaac and Katherine came to Woolwich in 1770 where Isaac took up his appointment, and they were given accommodation in the Royal Military Academy building (if you stand opposite the Greenwich Heritage Centre, its the big building on the left). George was born a couple of years later.
In his years teaching at Woolwich Isaac produced a number of books and papers on his specialist subjects (see below). There are also a number of manuscripts which, when I saw them, were in the Royal Artillery Library, with drawings and Isaacs commentary, written in French. He eventually retired to a nice house in Crooms Hill - but that is part of George's story which I am about to move on to.
Some of Isaac's books
Practical Geometry, for the use of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. 1798
The Principles of Fortification, reduced into questions and answers. 1806
A Treatise on Mines for the use of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. 1815 ('mines' here is used meaning explosives).
The Principles of Artillery, reduced into questions and answers, for the use of the Royal Military Academy, at Woolwich. 1808
The Field Engineer's Vade Mecum 1802
A Course of the Five Orders of Civil Architecture; with a plan and some geometrical elevations of town gates of fortified places ..1785
But - we need to move on to George Landman's childhood in the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich
Hogg. The Royal Arsenal
Landmann, George. Adventures and Recollections
Landmann, George. Recollections of Military Life
Ordnance Journal Book
Royal Artillery. Records and archive material (this research was done at the old library in the RMA building - present location unknown)
Royal Engineer. Archive material at Brompton Barracks Library.
Woolwich. Survey of London
George Landmann devoted almost a whole volume of his autobiography to his childhood in Woolwich. Most of it describes unrelated incidents. This is of such great local history interest and, as we shall see. there are already web pages and written accounts of his life elsewhere as an adult. I am therefore going to go through his account of his life, describe what he says and provide some commentary. It is likely to take rather more than one posting!
He was born in the Royal Military Academy - and the previous chapter has described how his parents came to live there following his father's appointment as Professor of Fortification and Artillery. The old Royal Military Academy building on the Arsenal site still exists although it has been in other use for 210 years. Clearly in 1779 it sat in rather different surroundings.
The RMA was built on the site of what had been Tower Place built before 1545 and with - obviously - a tower, and more of that to come. Gradually, throughout the 17th century the manufacture of armaments expanded around the area and it came into the ownership of the Board of Ordinance. By the early 18th century it was becoming the major centre for ordinance in the country. Today the RMA building is surrounded by other distinguished buildings from this era - The Royal Brass Foundry and the Great Pile, both of 1717, are just two of them.
Tower Place itself was replaced in 1718, although the tower remained. It was to contain a 'great room' to be an academy to train young officers for the new 'scientific corps' - the future Artillery and Engineers. In the 1740s two houses were built at the back for the First and Second Masters - and the Landmanns were accommodated in one of these. In 1764 it was reorganised and the cadets were henceforth taught, writing, arithmetic, algebra, Latin, French, mathematics, fortification, attack, defence, gunnery, mining, laboratory work, fencing, dancing. The two masters were Professors of Fortification and Artillery, and of Mathematics and there were other staff for specialist areas. Appointments were to include some of the most distinguished scientists of the day - and this was the foremost educational establishment for technical subjects in the country. It is an educational heritage of which, I think, Woolwich should be proud.
At the time of Isaac Landmann's appointment Viscount Townshend was Master General of the Ordinance and as, George, says a frequent visitor to the Landmann household. In fact, as we shall see, the first chapter of George's autobiography is very much taken up with his father's interactions with Townshend and other such important personages. The post of Master General has been abolished only three ago, in 2013. It had been created under Henry VIII and was responsible for what we would think of as all the military hardware. Many of its holders had places in the Cabinet of their day and were generally extremely important people. George Townshend was a career soldier and administrator who worked closely with Lord North - but his tenure as Master of Ordinance was not continuous.
Townshend was young George Landmann's godfather. His other godfather was Sir Thomas Page, the man who had gone to France to recruit Isaac Landmann to Woolwich, for George III. His godmother was Lady Townshend - Townshend second wife, Anne Montgomery. He also says that his oldest friend was Thomas Hislop ' afterwards General .... who first took me from the nurse into his arms'. He omits to say that Hislop, was a lad of sixteen at the time - and that his promotion to General was some thirty years in the future.
George III was a frequent visitor to Woolwich in this period and special displays would be put on by the cadets and members of the artillery. Isaac Landmann is recorded as having prepared for him paper models of cannon and carriages to demonstrate their workings. Cannon were demonstrated when proved and on these occasions the Board of Ordinance would come to Woolwich and eat a large dinner in one of the rooms of the RMA. For this a cook plus all his ingredients would be sent down from London by boat. Isaac Landmann would be asked to attend these occasions, and while waiting for dinner Lord Townshend would entertain the company with stories of the siege of Quebec, the heroism of General Woolfe, and similar.
Townshend also entertained at the Chocolate House on Blackheath, a famous establishment near the top of Crooms Hill in Greenwich, in the area now known as Westgrove Lane. Landmann also records a dinner given by Townshend on the occasion of his reappointment as Master of Ordinance. This was at the Bull on Shooters Hill and consisted of hundred and fifty one men from the Ordinance and from the Arsenal. The Bull was then a relatively new pub having been built in 1749 but was rebuilt in 1881 so that the pub we see now is different, and very much smaller.
In his autobiography George Landmann explains that while he is writing ahout childhood memories he also uses extracts from his father's 'commonplace book' and says they may be out of order sequentially. I also suspect that many of these memories and notes are not accurate. He describes next a house built 'behind the Red Lion Pub' on Shooters Hill. He says that this was in red brick and built by a Dr. Gore, who set fire to it in around 1784, having insured it. A maid servant was killed in the resulting blaze. Gore was arrested for arson and subsequently hanged. I do not know the truth of this story - and indeed think it very possible it has been investigated and disproved. Clearly any information would be welcome.
George was sent to school at the age of six and this again is somewhat of a mystery. He says he was sent to a school run by a M. Dufort, a Frenchman. This school has so far resisted tracing but Landmann says it was later run by Dr. Watson. This is undoubtedly the same Dr.Watson who was to later tutor Princess Caroline and who lived near the Bull on Shooters Hill. Watson specialised in tutoring boys destined for the Royal Military Academy - but Shooters Hill seems a long way to send a small child daily from the Woolwich riverside
At school George Landmann first encountered Willam Congreve, who became a life long friend. This is the rocket inventor whose father was then Comptroller of the Royal Laboratories at the Arsenal. Congreve was however seven years older than Landmann, so they were unlikely to have actually been at school together. Landmann had a lot to say about Congreve - but perhaps this can wait for the future occasions when they worked closely together.
A lot more to come
Benson Earl Hill. Home Service
George Landmann. Adventures and Recollections a l.
English Heritage. Survey of Woolwich.
Wikipedia, as relevant
The next episode from George Landmann's childhood reminiscences involves work at the Arsenal - and is no doubt taken from his father's Commonplace Book and notes. I am approaching it with a great deal of caution. I am only too well aware that here is a subject on which there has been a vast amount of academic and expert research and that extremely knowledgeable people have spent lifetimes on it. Some of them are bound to have been aware of Landmann's 'Adventures and Recollections'. All I can offer is a quick look through some websites and a great deal of ignorance - but - anyway - who were the Verbruggens and what did George have to say about them?
|Verbruggen's House on the modern Arsenal site|
Powell & Co. Solicitors
A great deal of what is written about the Verbruggens - locally at least - is in connection with the Arsenal buildings - Verbruggen's House and the Royal Brass Foundry. George Landmann was writing in the 1850s and without our heritage of listing status and histories of the Arsenal. It was a century before Hogg's history of the site. I assume he only had his memories and his father' notes to rely on - and personal contact with some of the main players in this story.
He says 'in 1784 Mr. Verbrugen, (sic) a Dutchman with a brother, or son and three daughters, resided in the Warren ... he had entered into a contract with the Board of Ordinance to cast all their brass cannon, mortars and howitzers, and was allowed the use of the foundry for that purpose'. George thus makes no mention of an appointment as Master Gunfounder, treating the father and son as mere contractors. He goes on 'the castings were to be perfectly solid and free from any cavities ...... yet the secrecy and mystery in observed in finishing the work created ... a suspicion that all was not quite correct'.
Now why should that be? There are a number of websites which deal with the Verbruggen's work in The Hague. I cannot vouch for their accuracy, and all I can say is that they look to be respectable and quote all sorts of original sources and a body of research associated with them and the lengths undertaken by the Dutch to improve the manufacture of cannon and the inspection regimes they introduced. They also describe the initial success of Jan Verbruggen at The Hague. They also describe how it was discovered that holes and imperfection in the castings were being packed with screws, with a suggestion that this was common - if dangerous - practice. Hovering about is the suggestion that Jan Verbruggen got his contract to come to England just in time to prevent himself being sacked.
To return to George's account - he says that Verbruggen's work came to the attention of Captain Thomas Blomfield, Inspector of Artillery. Blomfield was indeed appointed to this post in 1780 and is said to have 'begun by condemning 496 new artillery pieces, about a quarter of Britain's annual production, as unsuitable before they were sent to the army or the fleet' - a new and rigorous inspection regime in which he became extremely successful.
George says that Blomfield "ordered a brass cannon to be well cleaned,and particularly to be freed from any grease, and then washed with strong vinegar over the whole surface. This having been done, on the following day a vast number of circles of verdigris of different diameters appeared dispersed from the muzzle to the breech. Blomfield now directed that the same cannon should be sawn into two longitudinal sections, as nearly through the middle as possible, when, after washing the bore first with soap and water, and then with vinegar, fifty-six screws were discovered to have been most ingeniously inserted into as many cavities or defects in the casting ; many of them having been driven from the inside".
He continues "Verbrugen lost his contract ...he shortly afterward died'. Jan Verbruggen died in 1782 and his son Pieter only four years later in 1786.
Now, as I said above, I don't know the truth of all this. I don't know if some clever academic has written it all up, and maybe disproved this story. Adventures and Recollections is relatively well known and surely someone has investigated this scandal. Nevertheless I have never seen any reference to it - even the Dutch research, mentioned above, does not extend the Verbruggen's career after they left the Hague.
Was George right about this?? Is this story true??
Landmann, Adventures and Recollections
List of Officers of the Royal Regiment of Artilley
Survey of London. Woolwich
The Napoleon Series. Web site
Landmann's memoirs continue - short episodes in a discursive style
Health and Safety at Woolwich
Right after his information about the Verbruggens come a couple of pages on the proving of new cannon in the 1780s - and which he witnessed as a small child.
He describes how a batch of new cannon - a hundred or so received from the Carron Company are all lined up pointed at a butt and then set off. It was 'no very uncommon occurrence' for cannon to burst - and on this occasion the bursting set off its neighbour, turned it round, sending a cannon ball flying in the direction of Woolwich church.
Tests on firing in different wind speeds were carried out two hundred yards from the front of the barracks - sometimes with alarming results.
Out for a walk with his mother and sister one day they visited another battery on Plumstead Common. A mortar was fired and they were struck with a shower of gravel. The mortar had burst on firing and the artillery men around it were all knocked down.
Next door at the RMA
Hutton - Woolwich Borough were to name a ferry
after Charles Hutton as a distinguished local
and already well known for his gun carriage invention. One of Isaac's pupils was Lord Edward Fitzgerald who having survived military service in America and a seat in the Irish Parliament had come to Woolwich. Both Koheler and Fitzgerald were in their 20s with considerable service experience - nevertheless they felt able to walk in Landmann's garden and sing silly songs about Hutton. The results, said George, were 'disagreeable'.
Prince Rupert's Tower
Drawings of the RMA buildings at this time show the remaining Tower from the previous Tudor structures. I have no idea why it was called 'Prince Rupert's Tower'. It was in fact in the Landmann's garden and was 'considered unsafe'. One night George saw it rocking to and fro in a high wind - but his father treated this 'with disregard'. Nevertheless Isaac carried out tests by 'suspending a plummet to the ceiling' - and, yes, the Tower did rock two inches either way.
George says that the Tower was the home of a Mrs. Simpson 'in a state of great poverty ... upwards of one hundred years of age'.
Mrs. Simpson was the widow of Thomas Simpson who had taught mathematics at the RMA and who had 'revised the elements of Euclid'. Simpson was self taught and came from a humble background as a weaver. He had married a woman thirty years older than himself with two children. Thus she lived in the Tower with her son 'a poor tailor' for twenty years after Simpson's death.
He also says that the tower was 'one of a chain of towers' with the 'sides of the top apartment consisting almost entirely of windows'. He said he had seen the remains of two other such towers. One of these 'the lowest room only ' was in a garden at the western end of what is now Powis Street. This was of course neither near the river, nor very far from the Warren and Tower Place. It could conjecturally have been part of the old Woolwich manor house - ~Woolwich Hall. The recent and very detailed Survey of Woolwich seems not to have covered it. The other tower he noted was 'east of Plumstead Common' and 'occupied by a farmer'. Any information on this would be welcome.
George further describes how a model of Prince Rupert's tower was made by a Mr.Short the Ordnance modeller (said to by Landmann to be a man of six feet four). He was eventually to donate this to the United Service Institution. It is perfectly possible that this model still exists somewhere - the collection was broken up in the 1960s and some of Landmann's material went to the Royal Engineers Museum, now in Gillingham, but not this model. Where is it??
Landmann. Adventures and Recollections
RE Museum. Correspondence.
Survey of London. Woolwich.
Wikipedia - as necessary
The next episode described in George Landmann's rather rambling childhood memories takes place in west London, far from Woolwich. It raises some interesting questions about his father, Isaac Landmann's, past and his rather exalted connections. It describes visits, and events around the important figure of Lord Heathfield.
George Augustus Elliott was remarkable for his distinguished military career - and to my mind illustrates the pan-European nature of the 18th century. He was clearly a great man - and, unusually for this period, a vegetarian and a teetotaller. He had been born in Scotland, was at the University at Leiden in Holland, studied at the French Ecole Militaire, and served with the Prussian Army,. He became ADC to George II and by 1775 was a Privy Councillor. As Governor of Gibralter he withstood the Great Siege by the French and Spanish for four years and returned to England, a national hero.
Where in this time did he encounter Isaac Landmann who - from George's account - seems to have been a personal friend. In 1779 the, by then, Lord Heathfield had bought a grand house on Turnham Green, to become known as Heathfield House. The house stood at the west end of what is still called Heathfield Road and occupied the site of what is now Chiswick Fire Station. This was where ten year old George Landmann stayed as a guest of the family.
Landmann's main account of events at Heathfield House concern the celebrations in 1789 for the recovery of George III from his first bout of illness. The king attended a great thanksgiving service in St.Paul's Cathedral and Heathfield put on a grand show in Turnham Green. Fireworks were prepared by the Royal Artillery with a 'large fire ball' on the top of the house. There was a roast ox 'stuffed with potatoes' on Turnham Green and free beer for whoever wanted it. Isaac drew and distributed sketches of the event. Just after five in the evening the King's entourage came along main return as he returned to Kew Palace. At that the fireworks were set off with some problems concerning the fireball. Lord Heathfield - by then in a wheelchair - raised a toast and the King waved and saluted from his coach.
While this was all very exciting for a young boy - this was not all of the relationship with Heathfield. George describes accompanying him in his carriage when they stopped to chat to a local baker. He described Heathfield's library, full of kittens, and other domestic events. He related episodes of Heathfield's interactions with soldiers, servants, and local people and some of his eccentricities.
A year later in 1790 Isaac took young George to a grand dinner with the Polish Ambassador. The other participants were a Polish General (unknown identity), and including General Roy (who laid the foundations for the Ordnance Survey); Colonel Elliott (Heathfield's son), and Sir William Fordyce (Scottish doctor,soldier and FRS) .
Heathfield died in 1790 at Aix la Chapelle during a trip on which he had asked Isaac to accompany him. Before he left he gave Katherine - George's mother - his crimson ribbon from his investiture as a Knight of the Bath, in Gibralter. George kept this all his life - but there are no answers as to why he gave it to her and what past relationships had been between the Landmanns and Heathfield. Do the roots of it lie somewhere in his European education and career - he was much older than them, did he perhaps know their parents and history??
All of this goes to show George Landmann growing up surrounded and known by powerful and influential people. These people may well have had a good start in life from wealthy and aristocratic backgrounds but their careers and what they made of then, even given these advantages, were their own, What did he learn from them?
British History Online. Chiswick
Landmann. Adventures and Recollections
Treasure. Who's Who in early Hanoverian Britain
Wikipedia - as expedient
More notes and stuff that has come in
CABLE AND ENDERBY GROUP INFO
The prestigious NEWCOMEN SOCIETY - is to hold an event at the Royal Institution on 5th September to note the 150th anniversary of the first working transatlantic telegraph cable. The first speaker and scene settler will be Enderby Group's Stewart Ash. The event is called Annihilating Space and Time - 150 Years of Transatlantic Telecommunication. You can book through Eventbrite or £65 cheque to the Newcomen Society, The Science Museum, Blythe House, 23 Blythe Road, W140QX
- and - on a more local note - The Enderby Group is carrying out a footfall survey of the riverside path. No else has ever done it, the Council haven't commissioned it and we need figures to bolster our claims that amenity on the path is needed. We need more volunteers. All you have to do is sit in the sunshine and enter the number of people going past onto a form - lots of interesting people, happy to chat too. Email email@example.com and I will pass you on to the team.
- I have some pieces people have sent about the manufacture of guns in the 18th century Arsenal - and am adding that on to the relevant Landman pieces - and thank you to them - and to Elizabeth who has lent me 'The Art of Gunfounding' - all about Woolwich again with lots and lots of pictures.
The Port of London Authority and environmental monitoring - Docklands History Group hosted a talk on this with a last minute substitute speaker at their last meeting. Falcons - eels - seahorses - porpoises - and, er, - cruise liners
Make your own gasholder - for a long long time I have been giving out cut out models of gasholders - and I now learn that there are several types of model. None of them are like our own East Greenwich holder - which is a Livesey type. Am lobbying hard - need a paper version of it. No news about its sad eventual fate though.
- and - talking about gas - we have this week encountered two German gas museum people. They wer staying in Deptford, so we took them to see our own East Greenwich holder (which they were ecstatic about), and then took them to look at the ones at Old Kent Road. Since then they have been hosted by the Westminster Gas Lighting Department, taken all round Kent and Surrey by GLIAS, and round north London by someone else. More holders in London than they have ever seen - and most, no doubt, doomed. Visitors like them need to come NOW while there is something to see.
The Old Loyal Britons Pub down in Thames Street. Lots of emails have been flying about but not sure of the current situation - can someone enlighten us?? Demolished?? Preserved?? Not sure??
Six or so weeks ago I (Mary) did a last minute talk for GIHS on the Beale Engineering factory on the Enderby site = there in the 1820s-1860s. Happy to do it for someone else by the way (lots of scandal, lot of innovation). I knew there was a photograph of a Beale steam engine in Watkins famous book - but that it was not one of the famous rotary engines which he designed. It came from Glemsford Silk Mill in East Anglia - and I then learnt that it is in store at Beamish Museum - but, that, because it is owned by Tyne and Wear Museum Service they know about it and Beamish doesn't.
You might ask what an engine made in Greenwich and used in East Anglia is doing in Newcastle/Durham - but - hey ho - I suppose they thought it couldn't have come from London 'because there wasn't any industry there'.
The other thing is that Tyne and Wear Museums - while being very helpful - have no more information than what came with the engine in - er - 1936. I offered info on Beale - no reply. Happy to give more details according to the 1936 info, and I suppose it might be possible to arrange a trip to see it.
Still a lot of rumours flying round about the Council planning to fill in the Arsenal Canal - real info would be good.
Greenwich Historical Association -
May 25th London's Sailortown (Shadwell) Derek Morris
Sept 28th Ballast Quay by Michael and Polly
Oct 26th - Bert LLoyd by Dave Arthur (A.L. Lloyd was a hero to me in 1964 - finger in the ear stuff)
Nov 23rd - P.C. Wren by Neil Rhind.
Lewisham Local History Newsletter
Little about Greenwich in this edition - other than people being killed by Zeppelins in the Great War.
(four people killed in Well Hall Road, and one at Deptford Power Station) Damage at Greenwich South Street, Greenwich Station, Prince of Orange Pub, Tranquil Vale, Crown Hotel, Royal Parade, Bostall Hill, Army Service Corps Depot and Deptford Dry Dock, Deptford Green).
Meetings at Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way
27th May - Windmills of Kentish London
24th June - Rise and Fall of Robert Cocking - Anthony Cross
29th July - Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park
Query about Dowell's Wharf - who knows about Dowell?? There was an old sign up about the wharf recently but it has now been developered out. This was once the Kent Wharf where Joyce and later Cowan built ships and made engines Any more info. Peter Kent has been putting out the idea of a historic ship here?? So long as it has some Greenwich connections and not built in Scotland maybe?? Any ideas?
Peninsula riverside - along the river side at what was Lovells, Pipers and Badcocks everything is going fast. The old house, the interesting wall and the Piper's signage were all destroyed some weeks ago. On the riverfront - presumably soon to go too - and the river views to be blocked by yet more willow between the path and the foreshore.
Fred says 'the wall that was below the stone pier along the river by pipers yard is about 5 -6 foot high and it had been robbed to build the ramp which was there this would make this wall about the same height as the wall at Cadet Place where the shingle ramp ended .... if you look this wall must have been built on the rivers edge now it is way below the river at high tide, whatever it was it would have flooded..... to me it very interesting, I cannot see why any one would build high stone walls to stop any one stealing blocks of stone".
So - again - any info for Fred
The following might be a bit band wagon jumping - but the recent collapses in local roads are all too familiar to me - brought up in Gravesend where dene holes were well known.
There has been a lot of local research by individuals and organisations. -
Subterranea Britannica http://www.subbrit.org.uk/ is long established, has a distinguished record and maintains a data base.
Kent Underground Research (KURG) has specialised in our area and I note that the redoubtable Rod LeGear is giving a talk to Gravesend Historical Association on 12th September about Kent Chalk Mines. There are also newer local organisations - like GIHS - and the North West Kent Family History Society has also produced research, particularly in brickworks.
A lot of work on the subject was published in the 1960s (and later) by the Chelsea Spelaeological Society - and I have put below a few references to their findings on Woolwich and Charlton from what I happen to have about the house and remember, Sub Brit have published far more
Page 38. Report on digs at Deneholes in Abbey Wood
Page 58 Deneholes discovered in Plumstead 1880s
page 63 Report of tunnel in front of Charlton House, and Council report on the subject
page 43 Detailed report of chalk mine in Alliance Road area, Plumstead.10 page report including maps.
page 108 Denehole which appeared in Abbey Wood in 1974
Caves and Tunnels in South East England
Page 55 Woolwich Common - collapse in Nightingale Vale
Page 26 Sappers tunnels in Woolwich
Page 49 historical note on excavations on Plumstead Common
Page 19 Turpins Cave - edge of Bostall Wood plus a plan
Page 20. Maryon Park Chalk Mine
-- well that's a few to be going on with