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

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    The next episode in George Landmann's childhood memories involve a visit with his mother and sister to "Mrs Burton, 21 Upper Brook Street".

    Upper Brook Street is, of course, an upmarket address and no. 21 is very much still there, and now a listed building - as is no 20,  next door.   In fact I think George was wrong and that Mrs. Burton actually lived in No.20 - which is, if anything rather grander than 21.  The Mrs. Burton  who lived there had been Marguerite Lydius from an upmarket French Canadian and New York background - which may have some relevance to Landmann's later Canadian adventures. He says she was a widow with one child, a daughter.   She was the widow of Ralph Burton, a career soldier who had seen service in the Americas, particularly in Canada and shortly before his death been elected to Parliament.  He had in fact left two children, something which Landmann may not have known or remembered.

    Landmann describes at length the dining habits there of a M.Tremble,a Frenchman - but of more interest to us is his meeting there with the Chevalier D'Eon.   There have been many, many books and articles written about the cross-dressing Chevalier.  Very briefly he/she had had a military career in France but was predominately a spy and a leading member of 'The King's Secret' working for Louis XV and also undertook major negotiations on behalf of the French Government.  He is someone who it might be thought almost anything might be true - in particular the reasons why, in the late 1780s, he was living in London dressed as a woman.

    I also think that the Chevalier's adventures in the French military and espionage services may have some connections to the background of George's father Isaac Landmann, since there seem to be some co-incidences of place and contacts. 

    George - who was then nine years old - described the Chevalier's dress in a great deal of detail  - 'black silk gown .....puffed-up muslin kerchief ....muslin cap with broad muslin frill' and wearing the Cross of St. Louis (as shown in most portraits of the Chevalier).  However he adds that the Chevalier's 'voice was gruff and strong as that of a grenadier .....every appearance of a man in a woman's apparel'.  This bears out some of the something noticed by recent commentators on the Chevalier - one article about a recently discovered portrait points out that despite the women's clothing, a great deal of stubble is shown on the chin!

    After dinner at Mrs. Burton's, the ladies the retired, and the Chevalier remarked that it was good they had gone because  now 'we may enjoy a little rational conversation'. The rest of the evening was spent discussing the 'art of war'.    I think this discussion was in French - which shows that young George was not only allowed to stay up and listen to the Chevalier, but that he already spoke at least two languages.

    He goes on to talk about the Chevalier's sword fight with St. George. This was a famous event held at Carlton House in front of the Prince of Wales and was painted by Robineau

    St.George is another person who has been the subject of extensive research and writings. He was a virtuoso musician from a slave background in Guadeloupe and educated in France.  He was 'celebrated' - as Landmann says - 'as the most expert swordsman of his day'.  Landmann also mentions in passing that he was 'a man of colour' (a phrase which, to my mind, could mean a number of things some unconnected to his racial background  -ie 'called to the colours' was sometimes used to mean joining the army). 

    St.George later came to dinner with the Landmann's in Woolwich where he met a party of artillery officers and M. Mollard - Charles Lewis Mollard, the French fencing master at the Royal Military Academy.  Mollard is described by Landmann as a 'coarse vulgar fellow ... educated among the gendarmerie of Paris'.  Inevitably the party went into the garden for a 'carte a tierce' between Mollard and St. George.  This proceeded with Mollard being completely trounced - which he refused to believe or accept. St. George then undertook a great feat of agility and skill which 'drew forth loud and reiterated applauds from all the company'.  Mollard then lost his temper and the proceedings were brought to a close.

    Finally, from Brook Street, young George was taken to 'Astley's Amphitheatre of Equestrian Arts' which was just south of Westminster Bridge and where demonstrations of virtuoso riding skills were performed. It has later been known as 'Astley's Circus' - although this is not a name Astley himself used.

    He describes how he saw 'the old original Astley .. mounted on the identical white horse which Lord Heathfield habitually rode at Gibraltar during the siege ... his Lordship made a present of him to Mr. Astley'.   I am not at all sure what George meant by 'identical white horse' - since if it was the actual horse which was presented by the regiment to Astley in 1766 - and  which went on to be a star performer with Astley, it must have been a rather old by the time George got to see it. Also it was unlikely to have been anywhere near the siege of Gibraltar itself since that was not until 1779.  However, I am sure the story was all good for show biz.  At the end of the show a blaze of fireworks spelt out 'God Save the King'.

    So - the above has been a couple more pages of  George Landmann's childhood memories, albeit they are sometimes a bit imperfect. He was a privileged child who met interesting and prominent people in circumstances where other children might have been sheltered. The people he met were from an overwhelmingly military background - but one which was intellectual, cosmopolitan and more than a bit eccentric.

    British History online. Upper Brook Street. Web site
    Landmann. Adventures and Recollections.
    The Guardian. Arts Website
    Wikipedia, as convenient (including biographical articles on D'Eon, St.George and Philip Astley)
    There are also on line some interesting biographies of Philip Astley, about his military career under Heathfield and his later use of Gibralter to publicise his shows.

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    Lots of bits and pieces this time - although much of it isn't entirely about Greenwich -
    Watchers of the Greenwich riverside path should note that more industrial relics have gone in east Greenwich - the whole of the Pipers/Badocks/Providence site has been cleared and razed - it was never easy to see what was there because of the hostility of the occupants but what has definitely gone is the old house (used as offices until recently), the random stone wall with 'Piper's' name in the stonework, and the ramp in the area used by the Board of Works - and I guess much else that it was never possible to see. 
    Worse still the interesting stretch of foreshore down river of the site has been cleared and very largely destroyed - this includes barge stands and at least one barge mast  - and it would be good to know if they have been kept by someone or, were they just junked?? and what about the wildlife which was there??

    ENDERBY GROUP - will be at the Ballast Quay Garden at the Open Gardens weekend 18th and 19th June. They hope to offer riverside walks, and to be joined by the very wonderful Nicola Mudlark - as well as the beautiful garden, the river, and the recently identified East Greenwich Pier remains.

    - this comes by email - and we recommend everyone to subscribe to this and to read it. Its all about the River
    This month leads with "Cruise Ship Chistening - A New Thames Record".  This is of course the naming of cruise ship Viking Sea in Greenwich. While 'Tidal Thames' gives details of the ceremony at Cutty Sark - they also give details of the pilot - Stuart Hay - and the trials on board of Portable Pilot.  (they do however miss the irony of the Vikings coming to the area where they once murdered an archbishop!!)
    The Newsletter also includes a story of a little dog called Russell who fell in the river and was rescued at the Barrier by a PLA boat.  Lucky Russell, lucky he was spotted.
    Finally - there are a couple of court cases resulting from collisions on the river off the Peninsula. I think this is about some of these speed boats which dash up and down the river with passengers - fined for navigating against the international collision regulations.  Oh dear.


    One of the most important engineers to be based in South London - well, Southwark, at the Blue - was Brian Donkin.  The last GIHS talk was given by Brian Strong who mentioned some of Donkin's work here in Greenwich on the East Greenwich tide mill - and there was much more. A biography has just been published by Maureen Greenland, 'Brian Donkin. The very Civil Engineer 1768-1855' published by B.D.Book Associates, 76-78 Cartledge Lane, Holmesfield, Derebyshire, S18 7SB. Please email us for a copy of the order form.

    They are advertising as GLIAS events:
    2nd July Railways and Buildings of Woolwich Royal Arsenal and Dockyard.
    (as ever you can't just turn up - you have to email and book a place)

    The newsletter also mentions Deptford Working Histories - and urges people to get in touch with them  (hopefully more on that later)

    Surviving London Gasholders - GLIAS notes that East Greenwich holder is still there!!

    We have also had a copy of London's Industrial Archaeology,   This includes two articles about Crossness - David Dawson on 'The other steam engines at Crossness and the work they did' and Owen Ward on 'The Native Guano Company at Crossness'.
    Hopefully more details later - and if anyone wants to send a review, happy to put it here.

    The Farm is now 20 years old and are looking for memorabilia.  Please let them know if you have anything.  The Farm did include a, sort of non-agricultural, site in the abbatoir and many years ago we published an article about the police raid there in the 1980s. And one of our first speakers was Dave Vaughan on how the farm was set up.
    contact them
    We have been given the text of a talk at St.George's Church by Prof Mary Davis   This has come from the Marx Memorial Library - and although the text doesn't mention Greenwich - or more specifically Woolwich, it should be encouraged to do so.  Again - please get in touch if you are St.George's Church - or can give us any info we can publish, or listen to.  Thanks,

    This national newsletter rarely mentions London - but the current issue has another note about the Enderby Group and their work on the wharf and global telecoms.  This includes a quotation from Barratts which says they are 'continuing discussions with local interest groups' - and it would be of interest to know who these groups are!! 

    Their AGM is on 6th July Museum of London Docklands  6 pm and it will be followed by a talk on the River Thames Society.
    7th September - they have a talk on London firefloat Massey Shaw
    5th October  talk on Barge Carrier Systems
    2nd November Chris Ellmers on Industrial Discontent in the Thames Shipyards
    7th December - Discovering a Lost Thames Pierhead Painter.

    We note that they recently had a substitute speaker in the PLA's Environment person - and we have been endeavouring to contact her to come and see us.

    They have noted a plaque outside the Tesco in Trafalgar Road saying it was the terminus for the London Tramway Co.Ltd. - would like to know more about this. There is a lot of tramway memorabilia around Greenwich and Charlton, but this is fairly obscure.  And it is also usually impossible to get plaques up for things - like the first power station in the world or like the major marine engine manufacturer in the world or like the major fire engine manufacturer in the world, for instance.
    Can whoever is responsible for the plaque contact us - and - as ever - write something we cab publish here, or come and speak to us at a meeting.
    Planning matters which they list include 110-114 Norman Road with no mention if its industrial past (info please??)  and likewise the long article on Hope Wharf.

    - this is not to do with Greenwich or industry but her fans might like to know that Iris Bryce has produced a book on her life living on a canal boat - 'Canals are my World' Enquiries to  Iris has written extensively in the past about her life living and working in Greenwich and Woolwich in the 1950s and her husband, Owen - who died recently - more or less invented popular jazz in Britain in the 1940s.  We recently visited the Southend Museum where a room is dedicated to him.

    There has been a long trail of international visitors visiting and coming to see as many British gasholders as possible before they all go.  Must mention in particular the curator of the gasworks museum in Augsburg.  We have leaflets and pictures if anyone is interested in seeing more. I can't find an excuse for putting them here.

    AND - We have been sent a whole lot of new publicity material by Crossness Engines. Its all very very impressive. 
    Dates are;
    For Prince Consort in Steam - 19th June, 24th July, 4th September, 9th October (£8 adults)
    Prince Consort not in Steam - 5th June, 3rd July, 14th August, 23rd October (£6 adults)

    They are urging all our members to go and see how well they doing and moving forward.

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    News and notes from Greenwich Industrial History
    (well some of it is about Lewisham)

    Ian Bull speaks on The Arsenal - Then and Now.
    Age Exchange Bakehouse - 7.30 - All Welcome


    This month they are featuring Conservation News - and all the planning applications and cases in Woolwich which they deal with and take up with the Council planners.   They explain that they work with other groups in Greenwich on this - the Greenwich Conservation Group is made up of representatives from all the local amenity societies and many resident's groups.

    Cases they have recently taken up include the Love Lane development and their concerns about remains of the old Post Office which was demolished on the site.  They have objected to 11 storey blocks being built near John Wilson Street (apparently the site is called Thomas Street but they say this is a confusing description). They have looked at plans to replace the Albion Pub - and issues around the conversion of a house in Crescent Road

    I would love to give a contact for WADAS but there is no web address given on their newsletter - or indeed emails for the officers, and I don't really want to put people's home addresses here.  I can try and forward anything to them if anyone sends comments to

    They then list 'Woolwich Worthies' deserving of blue plaques in Woolwich - and give details - these include Flinders Petrie, archaeologist,  Sylvia Syms, actress, General Gordon, Tom Cribb, boxer, William Vincent, historian, Samuel Pepys, Frank Elliston Erwood, histrorian, The Pioneer Bookshop, Fred Leslie, actor, Joseph Grimaldi, clown, Tom Paine, Boy George, Women workers in the Arsenal.

    There must be far more very worthy of a blue plaque - the many distinguished scientists at the Royal Military Academy and the Royal Arsenal, for a start.  Some years ago I was asked to help get a plaque to Sir John Anderson in Victoria Way (failed that one!) and also in Victoria Way, that I know of was Inspector of Explosives Vivian Majendie.

    WADAS Newsletter gives - as ever - some meetings of other organisations. One of them is the Welling and District Model Engineering Society who have run their little railway just inside the Greenwich border for many years.  I recently complained that I had walked round and round their site and never found out how to get in, and was severely told off for saying that. It is behind the big electricity sub station on the old A2 near Falconwood Station.   They are open 19th June, 2nd,7th and 31st July, 14th and 28th August, 11th and 25th September and 9th October.  2-5 pm

    PREFAB MUSEUM - Elisabeth writes that they have free training places and volunteering opportunities.  This is about collecting stories, recording memories and photographs about prefabs.  They intend to set up a national archive with an interactive map.
    Contact Jane or Elisabeth    They have a preliminary meeting on the Isle of Dogs on 20th August.

    CHARLTON RIVERSIDE - the idea of a history of Charlton Riverside has been floating around in a few quarters. We also understand that a group is being set up to look at Charlton Village - don't let the riverside be neglected, particularly in view of the fact that it is Greenwich's next big regeneration area. Please get in touch if you can help or are interested

    SURREY CANAL TOWPATH - We understand that a Deptford based group are looking at the towpath of the old Surrey Canal. Please get in touch if you can help or are interested

    Note from British Transport Treasures -please look at  - this takes you to an ad, for some of Stuart Ratcliffe's excellent books on Shipbuilding in Rotherhithe.

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    Sorry about the time lapse again - down in Ramsgate and then a whole week transfixed by Twitter 
    below are various requests for comments and help. Reply if you want to

    -any way - are you free Tuesday lunchtime??


    The Royal Borough of Greenwich will unveil a new interpretive plaque outside the Greenwich Foot Tunnel at 12 noon, Tuesday, 5 July.  Deputy Leader Cllr. Danny Thorpe will lead the short ceremony.

    The plaque will tell some of the history of the tunnel and will hopefully explain to tourists what the entrance in front of it actually is (lots of them apparently think it is the Royal Observatory!!) .  The unveiling follows several years of successful working together on various m issues between the Council and the Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels. All are welcome and we hope to see you on the day.
    So - all turn up and cheer! Couple or three points
    1. Yes there should be a plaque on the Woolwich Foot Tunnel too. Please lobby the Council!!
    2. South London has as lot of early under river tunnels - and we need to join with the Brunel Tunnel project at Rotherhithe for the first underwater tunnel in the world.   FOGWOFT is in touch with the great-grandson of the designer of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, Alexander Binnie - again the tunnel was revolutionary in design. But Binnie had previously designed the Blackwall - now, we all hate the Blackwall but it does stand up pretty well to a daily bashing and we ought to be proud of it really - it has a BIG anniversary next year - we need to join with others to celebrate the provision of FREE cross river services over all this years.  Info - about your ideas and projects welcome.
    3. Don't want to frighten off all the local people campaigning about the proposed Silvertown Tunnel. Look forward to your input too
    WOOLWICH- we are very aware that the Spray Street proposals affect many historic buildings in Woolwich - which is already reeling from demolitions due to the DLR.  There are also still all these rumours about the Arsenal Canal on Thamesmead.  Please get in touch with your thoughts on this. GIHS has resources and contacts.  Don't do it alone.
    - and - while on the subject of Woolwich and the Arsenal - GIHS listened to one of the best talks it has ever had last month - Ian Bull on the Arsenal site.  Really really urge people who want to know about this amazing site - probably the largest and most innovative and important works site that the world has ever seen - listen to what Ian has to say and look at the evolving web site. Happy to send details on request.
    THE STIRLING CASTLE.  Visiting Ramsgate I was told about the Stirling Castle - this is a 18th century wreck on the Goodwin Sands which, rather strangely, is owned by a small Thanet based archaeological society.  There is also a rather important gun which has been the subject of an Ordnance Society Journal (No.20) article although it is not clear where it now is. 
    Why should Greenwich be interested in this?  Well, Stirling Castle was built at Deptford in 1677 and, although I don't think the gun was cast at Woolwich, more info would be interesting. We also understand that Historic England has been conserving some items from her - what have they got to say?
    So - we do intend to give more details about all this in due course - but in the meantime would be very interested to hear from people who we hope are our readers with any thought or info on Sterling Castle - National Maritime Museum?? Lenox Project? Deptford Dockyard groups?? Arsenal history?? - Between us we should be able to put something together
    Some interesting stuff in their report - including that the Museum in Docklands is opening an exhibition on warehousing and the museum building.  They have also sent out a long long report of a talk by Edward Sargeant on construction in the Port and the Great War.  I could ask them if they would mind it being reproduced here - or, if anyone is interested, could pass on the reference to it (there isn't a digital link).
    RADICAL HOUSING IN TOWER HAMLETS - only just over the river after all
    Exhibition at the Raphael Samuel History Centre, Queen Mary College (and for all of you who never cross the River, that's in the Mile End Road).  Opens 7th July with a launch 6-7pm with speaker Mike Tyrrell of Tower Hamlets Community Housing
    26th July Walk round Social Housing in Poplar 7-9 booking essential (and, as those of you who follow the current campaigns on the Balfron block, and Robin Hood Gardens - that should be - well - interesting!!)  (Sorry, no obvious web address)
    6th August East End immigrants and the battle for housing.  2-3. this is about housing help for Jewish and Bengali people.1930s-1970s
    18th August - Setting the Record Straight - housing policies and archives
    20th August - Walk round housing in Bethnal Green
    17th September - film on Goodbye Longfellow Road.
    (You know - sometimes I really, really miss the East End).
    So - we also have a newsletter from the East End Waterway Group.  This is about trying to preserve industrial buildings in Hackney Wick now developers and trendies have discovered it, post Olympics. 
    One such is Algha Works - this is an old print works and a very interesting and amazing building. There is apparently a planning application to change it.
    Also - Swan Wharf - which is at the Old Ford Locks which are on the Lea. This is a 1906 stable block which is set to be demolished. There is also a wharf through which, until the 1970s, all the exotic substances you have never heard of were imported to the Shellac and other factories locally. There was also a very interesting chimney which has gone already.
    Hackney Wick was a very very important industrial area (the first plastics in the world were made there) and there were many characterful buildings.
    (sorry the group has no email or web site - they don't seem to believe in them over there!!)
    ENDERBY GROUP- is plugging on with a footfall survey along the riverside and continued lobbying. We have a new leaflet out - happy to send to anyone interested, in bulk or otherwise
    All at Charlton House 2.15  contact Jim Marrett
    17th September - Julie Ricketts on St.George's Garrison Church, Woolwich
    8th October  Mike Jones on Crossness
    11th March - Stuart Robinson on Whitechapel 1888
    8th April - AGM
    13th May - Jim Marrett on The Abbey at Lesnes
    10th June - Charlotte Matthews - London Pubs.
    (they haven't got a web site either - is this the world of the future?? )
    DEPTFORD WORKING HISTORIES - tell us they are working on the 50th anniversary event of a Lewisham council estate  - and we wait to hear more.

    More news on the new book about Brian Donkin and the East Greenwich tide mill to come
    All news gratefully received.

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    George Landmann's autobiography continues to ramble on through his childhood - with memories of Woolwich in the late 18th century and many posh visitors to the Royal Military Academy (then still located on what we know as the Arsenal site).There are also some insights to research and development in the Arsenal itself  - and some thoughts, from me, that today Woolwich is never considered as having a role in the 'industrial revolution' .... but ...

    He says of Woolwich around 1780 - "of the inhabitants though there were several very respectable - but only three kept carriages'

    The first of the three he lists is Squire Martin, an 'opulent and independent farmer'.  I am unable to find any reference to a Squire Martin in the Woolwich area and would be keen to hear from anyone who knows who he might be - George's idea of the Woolwich boundaries tend to be a bit vague! 

    He then lists 'Squire Bowater' who is much clearer, and the Bowater family are well documented and owned huge areas in the western part of Woolwich. There is also however a bit of a problem. If we take it that George's memories are of his childhood - say 1780-1790 - then the inheritor of the Bowater estate, John, was in Europe avoiding those looking to recover vast debts from him, having fled the country in 1778. There also seems to have been a certain amount of scandal attached to his marriage. Although, I suppose, young George would not have known about all this.

    His final resident who he says 'kept a carriage' is a 'Mr.Whitman who built a house on the northern declivity of Shooters Hill". Mr. Whitman is also obscure - or at least he is not mentioned by Survey of Woolwich.  George adds the further information that the house was later owned by "General Cuppage" . I was very disinclined to believe that anyone of such a strange name existed but it turns out that following a distinguished career the General settled in Shooters Hill. His obtituary fails to give his given name, but he was Irish from a family with close ties to Edmund Burke and coming to England he had been educated at the Royal Military Academy.  His Shooters Hill house is said to have extended considerable hospitality to 'educated and scientific men'.  George says it was 'in front of a piece of water which owing to its peculiar position on the side of the hill appears to be out of level'. Once again I would welcome suggestions about both the house and the water.

    George's account of Woolwich then drifts off to a long description of the dissolute life of a Royal Artillery Lnt Sutton.  A Captain Thomas Sutton was Assistant Firemaster at the Royal Laboratory and lived near the RMA building when George was a child - and this just might be the same person. George remembers someone with many social contacts, including with 'Lord Eardley of Belvedere'.  This is all very interesting although I would point out that Samson Gideon was not created Baron Eardley until 1789, but George's account is, of course, retrospective.

    The next couple of pages concern the visit to Woolwicj of 'Madame la Princess de Lamballe' - Marie Louise de Savoy, the intimate friend of Marie Antoinette. . She was incredibly grand with - "a train full five yards long...borne by a young black page .... her hair dressed to rise very high ... a pink silk hat with many ostrich feathers'.  She received an equally impressive welcome 'nearly two thousand men of the Royal Artillery ... accoutred as troops of the line  .. to man six pieces of artillery .. a salute of nineteen guns'  - although George does admit that they had to scratch round a bit to get the two thousand together and some came from Chatham  and 'distant parts'.   Having read George's account of this grand lady it is actually really disturbing to learn of her end - raped, guillotined, mutilated, her head paraded around Paris on a pike.

    The Princess's visit to Woolwich apparently ended with a visit to the Landmann's where she spoke, in French, to George's father Isaac, and ate lunch prepared by his mother. George and his sister were presented to her and she gave him her 'bonbonniere'.  This seems to me remarkable - why did she not get dinner from the top officers at Woolwich? It raises again the question of who exactly Isaac Landmann was, what was his past in France? Why had he come to England?

    George then moved on to the more workaday aspects of life in the RMA and devotes a couple of pages to the work of Sergeant Bell concentrating on the Sergeant's suggestions for raising the Royal George wrecked at Portsmouth. John Bell was indeed based at Woolwich - and had actually witnessed the wreck of the Royal George. His ideas for raising the ship were demonstrated - as George Landmann relates - in front of a distinguished audience but were not carried out. The Royal George was eventually raised in 1839, using the method suggested by John Bell, by the distinguished Royal Engineer, Pasley.  Landmann describes other devices invented by Bell, as does Bell's entry in DNB.  He is one of the many people in this period who developed new methods of working - but not one of the ones which will get mentioned in accounts of 'great inventors' or the 'industrial revolution'.

    It might be interesting to note the bigwigs who came to see Bell's underwater explosive experiments -

    The Duke of Richmond (Master General of the Ordinance - Charles Lennox, distinguished soldier and politician. Ambassador and Privy Councillor - as a sideline he developed Goodwood racecourse),

    General Sir W. Green (Chief Royal Engineer. William Green distinguished military innovator, particularly in Gibralter - who later lived in Plumstead)

    Col.Morse (Royal Engineer - Robert Morse, who succeeded Green as Chief Royal Engineer)

    Major Blomfield, (Thomas Blomfield, Inspector of Artillery, innovator, administrator and much else)

    Captain Fage (Royal Artillery - Edward Fage eventually Major General "in his Majesty's Army of Greenwich')

    Dr. Masculine (Astronomer Royal)

    I am only listing these down because they were the people who came to watch experiments carried out by a non-commissioned officer in Woolwich in the late 18th century. They all have important titles but also all of them were innovators aware of the technical advances being made around them and working on how they could be exploited. An important title sometimes hides a relatively humble background. In the same way technical advances among the military may be transferred to civilian industries but this is rarely noted. Keep in mind that work in Woolwich among these early engineers and artillerymen is a key part of industrial expansion in the 18th and early 19th century.  When people talk about the 'industrial revolution' they won't even think about the military input, and they certainly won't even consider Woolwich - perhaps they need to be informed.

    Thanks to George Landmann then - and next he goes to school in Greenwich

    English Heritage. Survey of Woolwich,.
    Landmann, Adventures and Recollections
    United Service Journal. Web site
    Wikipedia. As appropriate.

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    George starts school  - and sees  - well mounted gentlemen muggers.

    In 1789 the Landmann family left their house at the back of the Royal Military Academy and moved to Greenwich - or, as George says, Blackheath.  This house was somewhere  in the area which is now Westgrove Lane, but which house is not clear..

    George was sent to school 'of which the Rev. Dr. Egan was the master'.  James Egan had apparently taken over 'The Royal Park Academy' from his father in law, Dr. Bakewell. Egan was interested in methods of teaching languages and encouraged boys to speak either Latin or French only in school but to do so in a way that 'divests instruction of harshness'.  It should be noted that as an adult George Landmann spoke several languages fluently.

    George says that the school was 'close to the new church, at the corner of King Street, and is now converted into tea gardens'  - somewhere near the park gate at the top end of King William Street. George's 'new church' being St.Mary's which stood on the site now taken by William IV's enormous statue.

    Having moved to Greenwich and enrolled at school George then launches into a series of descriptions of  muggings on Blackheath - some of which he appears to have witnessed.

    1.He describes walking one Sunday afternoon on Chesterfield Walk at a time when many people are having an after dinner stroll.  Suddenly everyone turns towards The Green Man - then at the top of Blackheath Hill. They point to a horseman speeding down the hill 'leading to the lime kilns' - exclaiming 'there .. there.. do you see him'. It turns out that the inhabitant of one of the big houses alongside the park had been sitting on his garden wall reading a book when a 'gentleman mounted on a handsome horse' came up to him in a friendly sort of way.  When he got close 'the gentleman' whipped out a pistol threatening 'with the unpleasant necessity of scattering his brains amongst the rose bushes'.  The victim handed over his valuable at once and the assailant galloped off.

    2. A few moments later a 'post chaise with two gentlemen, a lady and a manservant' arrived to say they had been robbed 'near the Rising Sun, by four armed men on foot'.

    3. A few days later Paul Sandby arrived on the Landmann's doorstep - Sandby is of course the famous artist who was drawing master at the Royal Military Academy.  He had with him his very distressed daughter and had brought her to the Landmann's house to enable her to recover quietly.  They had had their watches stolen by a robber by the corner of Greenwich Park - 'at one o'clock in the daytime'.

    4. Then - Major and Lady Emily Macleod were crossing Woolwich Common 'along the deep ditch' - by which I assume George means the ha ha in Ha Ha Road. 'A well mounted highwayman commanded the driver to stop or have his brains blown out'. The muzzle of his pistol was thrust into Lady Emily's face.  The Major however picked up a bottle of Cologne  and pushed it into the robber's face 'declaring in a voice of thunder that he would instantly shoot him'.  The robber ran off!!

    - George does comment however that although there were lots of robberies 'particularly on the Lower Road' that there were very few murders.

    5. Major Patterson of the Artillery ' a very rough muscular man' found it necessary while at a review of troops on Blackheath to take himself to a quiet corner and remove one of his boots. The robber who found him was 'well dressed, also well mounted' - and having removed Major Patterson's valuables galloped to the other side of the field to mingle with the crowd, secure from detection.

    6. Once a month cash was sent to the army at Woolwich,. for whatever. This could be two or three thousand pounds and came in a post chaise with a pay clerk. To cross Blackheath it was escorted by six artillery men plus a non-commissioned officer.  The officer took up the rear and the soldiers went on either side with fixed bayonets and loaded muskets.

    Note - that the robbers always have very very posh horses. No doubt they could afford them.

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    The next chapter in George Landmann's autobiography starts with him being taken by his father to 'Exeter Change'. George had done up his foot long hair specially for this visit - by tying it into tight pigtails at night it became by day a giant 'furze bush'. He assures it that this was very fashionable for young boys in the 1790s.

    On the way there they encountered the 'smoking ruins' of Richmond House and a 'dense mob' out to watch the fire.We can thus date this visit to December 1791 which is when the second Richmond House was gutted by fire.  The house had been the London residence of the Dukes of Richmond, and had been adjacent to the old royal palace of Whitehall. The original Richmond House of about 1660 had been replaced in 1733-4 by a new house  built to the designs of Lord Burlington.
    They eventually reached Exeter Exchange. This had been built in 1676, on the site of the demolished Exeter House, London home of the Earls of Exeter, opposite the today's  Savoy Hotel. It originally housed small shops but George comments 'it was gloomy dirty and badly paved'.  From 1773, the upstairs  rooms were let s  a menagerie which included lions, tigers,monkeys, and other exotic species, all confined in iron cages in small rooms.  It is this that young George was keen to see. What happened next concerned George's hairstyle and a lot of commotion - read his account and wonder! (health and safety again!)

    George then - briskly as ever changing subject - begins to talk about balloon flights by the famous Italian aeronaut (and publicist), Lunardi.  Lunardi took off for many of his flights from the Artillery Ground in Moorfields - and I am therefore a bit suspicious of a number of web sites which say he left from the Royal Artillery grounds in Woolwich (have they got the right bit of artillery there??). George does not mention these take offs but does say he saw Lunardi's balloon pass over Woolwich and land in Barking.  I am going to quote, more or less verbatim, what George says and you can judge for yourselves

    "The people of Barking were regarded by the Woolwichers as a set of barbarians .. and it was commonly believed .. that the air of Barking was so insalubrious to women that no female could survive a year's residence there"

    Lunardi was rescued from the clutches of Barking people by 'officers of the Artillery' and taken to dine in the mess.

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    hope GIHS and its readers will indulge me in something personal. I am justifying it with some pictures of the working Thames before the Great War.....  but otherwise .....

    In 1914 my Dad would have been six and attending Wrotham Road School in Gravesend - its still there. He won a prize that year 'for reading' - a book presented by Mrs. Huggins - who I assume was the Lady Mayoress of the day.

    The book he won is now falling to bits - 'Our Holiday on a barge' by Alice Talwin Morris.  I am not quite sure what Gravesend Education Committee thought a working class six year old would make of this story of a very middle class family holiday - but now, nearly 100 years later I am beginning to appreciate it.

    The story goes that the children - four of them, on the Swallows and Amazons model - want an outdoor holiday, so Father's nice boss, arranges for them all to go on one of the Company's barges, with his teenage son Archie - who also wants an outdoor life.  The barge is all fitted up and off they go. The book sort of suggests they go off into deepest countryside but, as Father commutes every day from his City job I would think its just a bit upriver of Windsor.

     They have the usual adventures - a fright at the weir, meet a game keeper, go fishing, it rains ... and they are stared at by the village people who were clearly not used to middle class children.

    What I really love about the book are the illustrations. I love the period feel of them, and in particular the clothes - the girls in black stockings, long sleeved sweaters and their hair tied back. Sunny hats. Father in his long raincoat, cap and stockings. And Mother with long belted skirt, and three quarter length coat - ever so fetching. Archie wears white trousers - even lying on the grass, and on the boat. I like the flatness of the drawings.  They are also not drawings which are 'childish' they are real life drawings, with no attempt to talk down to a young audience.

    The book doesn't say who the artist is but it must have been Alice herself.  There isn't much about her on the net - but there is quite a bit about her husband, Talwin Morris. He was art editor for the publisher Blackie and an important innovator in book design.  Living in Glasgow they were deeply involved with Mackintosh and the Glasgow School of Art,.  He died only in his early 40s and Alice lived on publishing several children's books - all now going for vast prices on Amazon (but my copy is very very tatty).

    Hope you like the selection of pictures

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    This post includes stuff that has come in over the past couple of weeks. August is usually a slack month - but there has just been a sudden rush!!
    (sorry about some of the strange variations in type - have wasted 2 hours trying to sort)

    New Plaque for Greenwich Foot Tunnel
    On 5 July 2016 FOGWOFT members turned up at Cutty Sark Gardens to celebrate the unveiling of an interpretive plaque for the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. They were joined by a representative of the Institution of Civil Engineers. The ceremony was led by Deputy Leader Cllr. Danny Thorpe, whose staff had designed and commissioned the plaque. It will do a great job in explaining the history and original reasons for the historic foot tunnel. It may even answer the common visitor questions of whether this is a public lavatory or the Greenwich Observatory! It is the latest in a series of projects by the Royal Borough to enhance users experience of the tunnel.  FOGWOFThave been closely consulted about all three projects. Since the completion of the major refurbishment scheme in 2014, it would have been easy for the Borough to lose sight of the importance of this working heritage. It is to their credit that they have not; and fogwoft will continue to support innovative actions that improve both tunnels.

    FOGWOFT has also been involved in the new electronic system in the tunnels to keep cyclists in order - more news soon

    - We also note that the recent BBC thriller 'The Secret Agent' had its final scene down it the tunnel. Fame at last!!


    This issue starts with the exciting headline "The Great Stink Exhibition and the start of the Transformation of Crossness into a more formal museum" and continues " The Boiler House has been totally transformed with the introduction of the new National Lottery funded Great Stink exhibition. The exhibition tells the story of why Crossness and the London sewer system was built and the prevention of the spread of Cholera. It also depicts how Crossness was built and comes right up to date with the new Thames Water Treatment Plant" - this apparently includes murals on the walls of the cafe and toilets, a display of old toilets and a new mock sewer tunnel with 'visual and sound effects'.

    They also have pictures of their transformed garden - plus a swan and a pheasant who ' struts around .. as if he owns the place'.

    More seriously there is an article about Easton and Anderson (based in Southwark and then Erith) and their links to construction and equipment at Crossness.

    Open days are all 10-30 am to 5 pm
    Prince Consort under steam - 4th September, 9th October
    Just open, no steam - 14th August, 23rd October
    CET tours - 26th August, 23rd September,. book these two

    see more (and all the pictures) at


    We have a note from Historic England to say that archaeological work is to start on two sites - one Re: 278-65 Greenwich Wharf: 14/0460/F -Phase 2 (LAG/011/278), and the other
    Alcatel Lucent Telegraph works (LAG/011/489) CLO12333 .  

    In both cases they have sent us pdfs of the desk stop study and work programme - 

    please get onto us if you are interested.

    The Enderby Group is keeping an eye on the Alcatel site study 

    but the Pipers Wharf site is the more worrying.  The site has been 
    completely cleared of many items of great interest before work has 
    started and the archaeologists pre-report seems totally unaware
    of the various works and wharves which were once on the site.


    The Enderby Group have been very busy - they have been 
    undertaking a footfall survey on the riverside path - which has 
    sadly been cut short by the sudden closure of the path round 
    Pipers Wharf.    They have also been preparing their own vision 
    document for the future of the area. And challenging the listing 
    designation of Enderby House. More on all of this to come. 


    We have just had the following link from British Transport 
    Treasures (thank you Stuart)


    their summer newsletter includes some details from the 
    Community archaeological dig on the Old Keeper's Cottage.  
    Included is a note from Brian Starkey 
    about the occupants of the cottage in the mid 19th century.  
    One of them was an important Fellow of the Society of 

    The  July/August Newsletter has 
    -  a brief write up of the (lost) planning battle on the 
                         Old Loyal Britons in Thames Street.  
    -   a brief note about the remains of the Tudor/Stuart jetty 
                         on the foreshore OF the University site. 
    - noted (thank you) the new plaque with information on the 
                           Greenwich Foot Tunnel with a nice picture. 


    They note the inauguration of the plaque for the foot tunnel. 
    Otherwise - nothing about Greenwich and Woolwich!

    The following meetings are noted: 

    GLIAS WALK - this is round Erith and led by Andrew Turner.  
    1st October,.  to book a place email

    16th November.  - GLIAS pub evening. 
    Horseshoe, Clerkenwell Close, at 6.30  
    They are happy to have audience contributions - 
    bring your own memory stick, preferably Power Point


    Interesting articles - albeit about Lewisham - Catford Dogs, 
    the London School Board - and - er - Cliff Richard.

    They advertise:
    (all these Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way 7.45)
    30th September Jane Hearn on the Downham Estate
    25th November - Gordon Dennington on Sunday Cinemas 
                  and Film Censorship
    16th December - Mike Brown on Christmas on the Home Front

    - oh and -= 
    Bromley Local History Society. Trinity Reformed Church, 
    Freelands Road, Bromley  7.45
    Mary Mills on The Work of Coles Child in Greenwich


    The main article in their current newsletter is about the 
    Greenwich Heritage Centre's events around nursing 
    in the Great War.

    They mention conservation cases current in Woolwich - 

    the Granada Cinema and the Guard House.

    There is a feature on Gilbert's Pit and the new stairway 

    access to it. Visits via  
    This is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of
    the London Geodiversity Partnership. It was used as a 
    source of sand for local glassworks and the Arsenal.

    The Antiquarians also have a nice obituary to Barbara Ludlow.

    2 pm for 2.15 pm  Charlton House, 
    17 Sept    St George’s Garrison Church  Julie Ricketts
    8   Oct      Crossness - Past, Present and Future   Mike Jones

    11 Mar     Whitechapel 1888 - Murder - Poverty Stuart Robinson
    8   Apl      Annual General Meeting  with Show & Tell   
    13 May    The Abbey of St Thomas the Martyr at Lesnes,  
                         Vincent Memorial Lecture  Jim Marrett
    10 Jun      London Pubs  and  Buildings Charlotte Matthews

    10 Sept   2.30 pm   Photographs and Stories of Charlton   

    Rochester Way, adjacent to Falconwood Station,

    Steam and electric hauled model railway.
    Sundays, 2 – 5 pm  14,28 Aug  11,25 Sept  9 Oct.

    Now - sometime ago the Naval Dockyards people asked
     me if  someone could arrange a walk for them round the 
     military and naval sites in Woolwich - now, that seemed 
    a tall order and at firsit seemed that if you wanted a 
    THOROUGH look at Woolwich you had better book a 
    week - because it would take three days minimum 
    - however - I put them in  touch with Ian Bull  - and - 

    ... So - they went on their walk with Ian - who took them 
    round the more easily reached bits and there is a terrific 
    write up in their newsletter. I am very tempted to quote much 
    of it - but - roughly - they saw - 'railway subway ... quite 
    an impressive structure' ....... 'impressive brick built 
    chimney'.....  'steam factory .. wonderful example'....  
    'boat store .. utmost importance' ..... 'Clockhouse ... 
    impressive looking building' ....'impressive columns of 
    the main gate' ....'many buildings of historical interest' 
    'Dial Arch for lunch' ...'Royal Brass Foundry ..
    unusual and well looked after' ...'all very 
    impressive' ..
    Well - glad they were impressed - and 
    thank you to Ian.



    This is the national newsletter from the Association for 
    Industrial Archaeology. This is really more about the 
    provinces -not London - but there are a series of articles 
    in the current issue about the challenges which local 
    societies meet as well as meetings with Members of 
    Parliament - happy to pass on to any one 
    Along with the GLIAS newsletter they feature the 
    Kirkaldy Testing Museum in Southwark Street, SE1 - 
    and if you haven't been there yet - go at once. Its about 
    As the London representative on the AIA Dr. Robert 
    Carr has provided his usual article on London's 
    industrial history -but sadly nothing about Greenwich 
    this time.
    There is however a report on the Enderby Group's March 
    seminar - happy to copy and pass onto to anyone 

    I am not going to reproduce their list of meetings -

    but happy to send to anyone interested in IA 
    conferences in Kansas City, Romania, Lisbon or even Devizes.


    The current issue headlines 'Engineers baffled as icon
     fails after 133 yrs' - hope the time ball is sorted by the time 
    I am writing this. There is a whole page about the inauguration 
    of the foot tunnel  plaque -and thanks very much GV for that!!!
    They also highlight a little known techie interest 
    attraction in Greenwich - the Aviation Experience 
    which is down at the cable car 
    (which of course pretends to be an airline). 


    and - as I write this, the following tweet has come in from "
     ‏@Gashistory  Once the largest #gasholder in the world @ #Greenwich 1904 
    #Advert for Clayton Son & Co."

    so - this is a lot longer than I thought - must get some lunch - 

    sorry if its a bit strange, I had a lot of problems with word-wrap - which has led to me having to put in manual line breaks - but also with fonts and type sizes. I have typed some of this four times and it is still not consistent 
    Mary for GIHS

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    Readers will remember that about a year ago we published a plea from some West Greenwich residents about an old industrial building in the posh bit of Greenwich which developers wanted to demolish.
    The building was subsequently listed and everyone (except, obviously, the developer) was happy.

    Amazingly, now, only a year later it has been delisted and there is a planning application for it awaiting approval.

    It appears that the developers requested a reivew of the decision - and that at least one local organisation was told about this. We do not know if the people who originally campaigned were involved and we understand they may be on holiday - we would of course love to hear from them.  It then appears that the Secretary of State decided to overturn the listing decision. There is a long statement about parts of the building which have been reviewed.

    Comments on this very welcome

    NOW - for other bits of news.

    Kent Underground Research Group are organising a visit to the air raid shelters at the Northfleet Henley's Works.  Henleys were a major cable manufacturer - and in fact Mr. Henley himself once worked in East Greenwich.  I am enclosing this in case any of the cable making fans among you are interested. Contact  and they suggest looking at . 


    The Prefab Museum are hosting an event on the Isle of Dogs along with the Friends of the Island History Trust on 23 September. Admission to the archive tea party at 2.15 pm is free, and free tickets (which must be pre-booked) for the guided walk and illustrated talk are available on eventbrite. Walk:  Talk:




    AND - we have a note from Danny

    I'd like to take the opportunity to remind you of the Newcomen meeting on 5th September at the Royal Institution "ANNIHILATING SPACE & TIME: 150 YEARS OF TRANSATLANTIC TELECOMMUNICATION." Bookings are available through Eventbrite at .

    Do come along.

    Violet writes "  I previously found lists of ships built by Edward and later Thomas Snellgrove at Deptford but would like to know how they were related (i.e. were they father & son, brothers, etc.) along with any other detail you may have available.


    and - two things from Norman

    First of all he says

    "My mother was shown a shop in Greenwich where her grandfather worked and used to make the Lord Mayor's whip for the London Lord Mayor's show every year."

    Really - does anyone know anything about this???  Sounds really interesting.

    and also Norman says:

    "I have an ancestor Ayton Hyde (married name was Watts) born about 1821 and, according to 1861 census, born in Cape of Good Hope.  I am trying to find out what her father was doing in Cape of Good Hope at that time as there were few British settlers there at that time. I do know about the 1820 Settlers but Ayton's parents names are not on the list (or at least I cannot find them)  Ayton's father was William Hyde (or Hide) born about 1791. The 1842 census shows him born in Kent and living then on Ship & Billet Row, Woolwich Road, Greenwich, and his occupation was Shipwright.  He was married to Elizabeth (possibly nee Brown Deller).  Their 2nd child was born in Greenwich in 1826, indicating that they had returned from Africa by then. I suspect William Hyde might have gone to Cape of Good Hope in connection with his occupation as a shipwright.  I understand shipbuilding docks around Greenwich were closing around that time so possibly he followed the work.  I deduce he would have been in the Cape from about 1820 (or a bit earlier) till about 1825.
    Any clues or leads you can let me have would be much appreciated.


    LAMAS  - on 11th April LAMAS has a talk on Britain's historic lighthouses 'with special reference to London's only lighthouse at Blackwall.   This is the building you can see from the Peninsula on across the river.  Museum of London 6.30


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  • 09/05/16--03:33: September - news and so on
  • Lots of news from the Lenox Project - to build a 17th century warship in Deptford
    (who seem to have me down as a VIP supporter)

    17th and 19th September they are hosting a London Open House event at the Master Shipwright's House in Deptford.  This is where John Shish who built Lenox would have lived. They also say Richard Endsor - historian and Lenox expert - will be talking.

    Both the Lenox and the Shipwrights House are MUST SEE
    (entrance via large metal gates at the end of Watergate Street)

    They also advertise their merchandise, nifty teeshirts, tea towels and the like. Details on their website



    We are all too horribly aware that a huge chunk of the Greenwich Riverside Path has been closed, because, allegedly the sea wall has given way and is dangerous.  Work on this will be down to the Environment Agency rather than the Council.

    Fogwoft, the Greenwich Cyclists and the Enderby Group have all been talking to Council officers about what can be done - and it has been raised at various meetings.  The diversion doesn't need to be anything like as big as it is and we hope to hear news about that soon


    A somewhat mysterious note from Stuart Rankin to say that all published research on Rotherhithe shipbuilding is now ... er somewhere.  Hope to get clarified soon



    The current issue has an article about the Greenwich Foot Tunnel by - er - me, Mary Mills.
    But thanks to Ian Blore who read it through for me.

    I hope to so an article for them soon on the Woolwich Foot Tunnel and also on the much maligned Blackwall.   The Blackwall has its 150th anniversary this year and we hope to get a speaker - the great grandson of its engineer and designer, Alexander Binnie.  Professor Chris Binnie is a distinguished engineer in his own right.

    The article is in Vol.37 NO.5



    Thanks to Nick and all at Sub Brit. They have run as a news item the story about the new plaque for the Greenwich Foot Tunnel plus a nice picture.

    otherwise this is another issue packed with articles and information about all things underground - for ie - Pneumatic railway at Crystal Palace,  Sub Brit visit to Rome. Is this London's smallest tunnel, Make your own atom bomb, etc etc et


    Julian Watson writes ...

    I was at the Heritage Centre yesterday and, among other things, decided to look again at an album of photos taken by David Leggatt in 1963. I was looking for his unique photo of the Tourist Information kiosk that stood in Cutty Sark Gardens; the kiosk which once or more often was hurled into the river by lads on Saturday nights. A town hall porter in uniform stood in the kiosk helping visitors.

    In the same album are many industrial history photos: Deptford Wharf railway, Angerstein Railway and Wharf, the old railway bridge across Deptford Creek which took a gang of men to open, Tudor wells on the site of John Humphries House and many more. The photos are poor quality but are all dated and annotated and are rare views. 


    There is a picture on Geograph
    this is of a marine engine which a was in the Southampton Maritime Museum. It was made by our own John Penn on Blackheath Hill.  It is said to be in store somewhere in Mid-Wales and that there are plans to display it.  
    So - has anyone any info about this - where is it going to be displayed - and why is it in Wales and not here - I don't think we have any Penn engines anywhere in Greenwich - its just other people that think they are important.
    Info - please?

    Lots and lots of stuff from Civic Voice and Heritage Update

    ** Reminding us of Heritage Open Days 8th - 11th September (outside London - which these outfits largely over) including  Treasure your Treasures encouraging communities to photograph things and stuff like that.

    *** European Year of Cultural Heritage - these are proposals for 2018 (so this might not be relevant to us - oh dear!). Share your ideas they say, while there is still time...... They say look at the Europa Nostra press release - no web link given

    *** Historic England survey on EU funding for the historic environment. Access the survey while you can  

    ** 2017 50th anniversary of Conservation Areas. So there will be a Big Conservation Conversation with a focus on 17th June and ways civic societies can celebrate this

    ** Ride and Stride sponsored bike ride for fundraising for churches and chapels. participation details for churches, cyclists, walkers and horses

    *** Heritage Alliance Heritage Debate on heritage research. 26th October at the Waldorf Hilton. booking details soon

    **** Tourism Action Plan and Discover England Fund Awards.

    *** Heritage Lottery. Kick the Dust. This is about young people.

    **** Institute for Historic Building Conservation. Conservation Wiki - knowledge sharing platform (now web link given)

    Future of public parks inquiry


    **** Local Science Heroes - scheme by the Royal Society

    could think of 100s

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    Victorians Decoded: Art and Telegraphy ​- exhibition in central London - about communications in the 19th century -  to which Enderby Wharf in Greenwich made an essential contribution.  Explore the impact of telegraphy on the artistic imagination and wider social consciousness in the 19th century. 150 years ago communication was revolutionised. The successful laying of cable along the floor of the Atlantic ocean meant that exchanges that would have taken weeks by ship, were possible within a single day. This groundbreaking technology captivated Victorian society and how it conceived of itself in time and space. 

    FREE exhibition 20 September 2016 - 22 January 2017 Guildhall Art Gallery, off Gresham Street EC2V 5AE

    The project is a collaboration between the Courtauld Institute, Kings College, London and the Guidlhall Art Gallery.  Learn more about the wider programme of research and activity commemorating this event by visiting the Scrambled Messages website.

    Scrambled Messages is running a photography competition See their Facebook page


    Thanks to Paul Trynka we learn about planned changes to the lifting bridge which takes the Greenwich railway over Deptford Creek. Network Rail want to replace some elements of the bridge with fibreglass replicas - for some very obvious safety reasons on this working railway, The bridge dates from only 1965 when it replaced older bridges taking the railway over the Creek. It was built to lift the track to allow vessels on the Creek to pass under it - the 'sail before steam' rule.  The bridge is on the Lewisham/Greenwich border and both boroughs were apparently consulted on this. Greenwich decided listed building consent was not needed while Lewisham made a list of comments and conditions covering several pages of the report.  Would welcome info/comments on this.  Happy to send copies of the report from Network Rail - which Paul has kindly sent me - please email and ask


    Pleased to see that Blackheath Historian, and GIHS contributor, Neil Rhind has been made Honorary President of the Blackheath Society - and congratulations Neil from everyone. 
    Neil is leading a number of walks round the area - but Blackheath being Blackheath this is attendance by ticket only (write with SAE £5 each and you are only allowed two tickets  Blackheath Society, Old Bakehouse, 11 Blackheath Village, SE3 9LA).  They also have
    13th October 7.30 insights on Sherlock Holmes and Blackheath (tickets £10
    17th October - walk round Deptford Creek.10.30 Deptford Broadway DLR station. £5
    15th November - walk round Olympic Park. Visitors Centre. 10.30 donations welcome
    20th November - Age Exchange Friends Christmas Fair 10.30-5 - Age Exhange have been very generous to GIHS and we should support them in return.
    3rd December. Blackheath Village Day. 11 am with horses from the Kings Troop plus Yuletide events (although Christmas is three weeks away then!!)



    We have been sent the following links 

    From Bill "Here's an 1886 report on the ship"

    and from Alan > Excellent programme available on iPlayer at the moment about a late 19th  century cable ship and its role in recovering bodies from the Titanic disaster. Lots about the early history of subsea telegraphy and how they did it

    complimentary articles on these issues by Stewart Ash are going to follow forthwith in several new posts. Also the updated report on the telegraphy seminar will be back soon



    The Greenwich Society bring news of emergency work on the river wall by the Old Royal Naval College. This is caused by the erosion of the foreshore which has exposed the chalk footings and risking the river washing out the foundations.  The level of the foreshore is to be raised with 140 stone filled nylon bags and has been approved by historic England.
    - the Greenwich Society doesn't mention the closure to the riverside walk further down river past Lovells which is also said to be (although we have no confirmation) down to erosion of the river wall and the need for remedial works.  It is good to see that, unlike the Lovell's section, that the stretch in front of the ORNC will be kept open while work proceeds. It is also noted that the closure of the Lovell's stretch has included the destruction of a number of historic items - including some of the last barge stands


    NOW GALLERY - they have an event - A People's Picnic celebrating the People's Brick Company. Gateway Pavilions, 17th September 15.00-17.00. This includes making some actual bricks in a kiln which will be opened and the bricks displayed.

    (we note that all of a sudden sites on the Peninsula are Lower and Upper Brickfields - fine - but the last, and probably only brickfield on the Peninsula closed around 1801 - I suppose it is better than 'The Pits' which was the historic name for some of this area).  
    (or is it a chimney)
    This is the Optic Cloak by Conrad Shawcross now only too visible on the Peninsula.  This is part of the Peninsula’s new low carbon Energy Centre, and has been designed in collaboration with the architectural practice C.F. Møller Architects. The centre will house is to house technically advanced boilers and Combined Heat & Power to provide heat energy on the Peninsula for some 15,000 homes and 3.5 million square feet of commercial space.  Heat will be distributed through a District Heating Network not only to Knight Dragon's developments, but also to others including Barratt's Enderby Wharf.  The Energy Centre will be completed in Autumn 2016.



     Headline from the Victorian Society "Top ten endangered buildings list highlights neglect outside South East' - clearly they haven't seen Enderby House.   

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    The Commercial Cable Company's Maintenance Cableship 
    by Stewart Ash

    This article first appeared in SubTel Forum Issue 72, September 2013 
    Back Reflection 

    Over the last two additions I have written about some of the significant contributions of the Commercial Cable Company (CCC) to trans-Atlantic telegraphy. However, this was not the first time that the CCC has featured in Back Reflection. Some readers may remember that the role played by the CCC cableship Mackay-Bennett in the Titanic disaster in 1912, was described in Issue 61.

    While researching the story of the Atlantic Price War, I came across a detailed description of the CS Mackay-Bennett in a book called 'Submarine Cable Laying and Repairing' written by H. D. Wilkinson  and published as a second edition in 1908. It struck me that the description in Wilkinson's book  would be very close to the arrangements of the vessel when she sailed on that fateful voyage, and that readers may be interested in the layout of a maintenance cable ship that was operating at the beginning of the 20th century, over 100 years ago. So here it is!

    "The Cable Ship 'Mackay-Bennett.'- This steamer, owned by the Commercial Cable Company of New  York, is employed in the maintenance of the Company's systems in the Atlantic and European waters. The three Atlantic cables of this Company from Ireland to Nova Scotia represent together 6,894 nautical miles (nm), the two from Nova Scotia to the States 1,352nm, and the two European cables connecting Ireland with England and France 839nm, or a total of 9,085nm. Other Atlantic maintenance vessels are the 'Minia', of the Anglo-American Telegraph Company, and the 'Pouver- Ouertier', of the Compagnie Francatse. The 'Mackay-Bennett', launched in September, 1884, was built at Govan, on the Clyde, in the yard of Messrs. John Elder and Co, and measures 270ft. by 40ft., by 24ft 6ins by depth moulded. Her tonnage is 1,012.92 net registered and 1,700 gross registered.

    Mr. G. H. Bambridge, to whose courtesy the writer is indebted for the accompanying details.  In the design of this steamer special pains have been taken to give her good steering and  manoeuvring qualities. In addition to the usual stern rudder, a second rudder is fixed at the bow inside the line of the stem, which can be worked by a hand-wheel. This very useful addition enables  a course to be kept when going astern (frequently required in repair work), in easing strain on cable or in fetching or getting clear of a buoy or splice. Steam steering gear of Messrs. Muir and  Caldwell's system is fitted in the wheel-house aft, and can be operated from either of two wheels, one amidships and one on the poop. A hand-wheel is also fitted aft as a stand-by, giving a third  means of steering independent of steam. Her manoeuvring qualities are still further increased by the use of Brown's patent hydraulic reversing gear, previously referred to. As the Mackay-Bennett is a twin-screw steamer and Brown's reversing gear is fitted to each engine, there is not much time lost  in turning her round either way. Bilge keels are also fitted which minimise the rolling in heavy  weather. The engines are compound surface-condensing, with cylinders 2Sin. and SOin. diameter. On her trial trip a speed of 12.3 knots was attained, the engines developing 2,190 The coalbunker capacity is 750 tons. Three cable tanks are fitted, having a total capacity to loading lines  of 385nm or 710 tons of deep-sea cable, lin. in diameter. The fore tank, No. 1, is 20ft, No. 230ft  and No. 328ft in diameter, and the mean diameters of the cones are respectively 6ft 2in, 7ft 2in and  6ft 2in The fore and aft tanks can be loaded to a height of 10ft., and the tank amidships to 14ft. At  these heights the fore tank holds 60nm, the mid-ships 195nm, and the aft tank 130nm of the above type of cable. The tanks are all in connection with pumps in the engine-room, by means of which  they can be flooded with water or discharged, as required. Steam cable gear capable of dealing with repairing work in the deepest waters of the Atlantic is fixed both forward and aft. That in the fore part of the ship, used chiefly for grappling and picking-up, has a single drum driven by a double- cylinder engine with inclined cylinders, fitted with clutch for single or double purchase, and a brake for paying-out with the engine thrown out of gear. The brake is controlled by a hand-wheel and  screw. The aft gear is driven by a similar engine with clutch for throwing out of gear when paying- out with the brake. The bow and stern sheaves are fitted underneath the working deck or platform, as in the 'Faraday'. The testing room is situated underneath the forward part of the bridge. Lord  Kelvin's sounding air-tube navigational machine and James's submarine sentry for indicating depths while in motion are carried, and the ship is also supplied with Messrs. Johnson and Philips' sounding machine for deep-sea work. For trimming purposes the Mackay-Bennett is built with a special cellular double bottom running the whole length of the vessel, which can be utilised for water ballast to the extent of 300 tons. The equipment of this handsome vessel is completed with an electric lighting plant consisting of two Siemens dynamos, each with a normal output of 90 amperes at 110 volts. These are driven by a pair of Tangye engines, the light being distributed throughout the ship, and night operations are facilitated by deck-light reflectors fitted with six and eight incandescent lamps." 

    I think readers can see that many things have changed in the design of cableships in the ensuing 129 years since the Mackay Bennett was launched; however, the basic layout remains very much the same and should be recognisable to those readers who are familiar with today's vessels. For any readers that are interested in finding out more about the history of cableships, I would recommend to you, the bible of this subject; 'Cableships and Submarine Cables' by K R Haigh; Second Edition published in 1978. It is a great pity that there has been no new reference book, on cableships, published over the last 35 years, since during that period many unique vessels have come and gone, and stern working only vessels have become the norm.

    1 I.H.P = Indicated Horse Power
    © Stewart Ash 2016

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    CS Mackay Bennett 
    by Stewart Ash

    This article first appeared in SubTel Forum Issue 61, January 2012 
    Back Reflection

    One hundred years ago, the 5.5. Titanic, , then the largest passenger ship in the world and owned by he White Star line, set out from Southampton on its maiden voyage to New York, on 10th April 1912. On board were 2,223 passengers and crew. As is well known, at 23:40 (local) on 14th April, she hit an iceberg and sank, going down at 02:20 (local) on the morning of is 15th April. 1,517 people lost their lives that day and it remains one of the worst marine disasters in peacetime. The high casualty rate was due in part to the fact that the ship only carried lifeboats for 1,178 people, which  was entirely consistent with the regulations that were in force at the time. A high proportion of the victims were men, due to the 'women and children first' protocol that was enforced by the ship's crew in abandoning ship.

    As this year is the centenary of this tragic event, much in the months to come, will be said, written, broadcast and televised describing various aspects of the story. Therefore, we thought we would  take the opportunity, in the first issue of 2012, to cover the role that the submarine cable industry  had to play in the aftermath of the disaster.

    Even as the S.S. Carpathia was steaming back to New York with survivors from the Titanic, the White  Star line was in the process of chartering the 1,700 ton, C.S. Mackay Bennett from the Commercial  Cable Company to recover bodies from the Atlantic. The charter rate agreed was US$550  a day.

    The Mackay Bennett was built by John Elder and Co. in Govan, Glasgow, in 1884. She was named after the two principle directors of the Commercial Cable Company; John W Mackay (1831-1902) and James Gordon Bennett Jr. (1841-1918), who was also proprietor of the New York Herald.

    At the time, the Mackay Bennett was on station, alongside in Halifax, Nova Scotla. The cable in her tanks was quickly discharged to shore and replaced with ice. A number of embalmers, undertakers and a large quantity of coffins were embarked. All of the ship's crew volunteered for the harrowing task, and were paid double. The Mackay Bennett set sail, under the command of Captain Frederick Harold Larnder, on Wednesday 1 ih April. Time was of the essence for a number of reasons; firstly, if  the floating bodies reached the Gulf Stream they would be distributed far and wide; secondly the probability that the bodies would be disfigured by wild life, making identification impossible, had to be taken into consideration and finally, the need of loved ones and families for closure was recognised.

    The Mackay Bennett reached the disaster site on the evening of Saturday 20th April. It quickly became apparent that there too many floating bodies for the Mackay Bennett to cope with and a second vessel, the Anglo American Telegraph Company's CS Minia, was quickly chartered by the White Star Line.

    The crew began recovery operations the next morning and, despite heavy swell, managed to recover 51 bodies, of these 26 were considered so badly disfigured as to make identification impossible. These were wrapped in canvas, weighed down with iron bars and committed to the deep in a burial ceremony that evening. The remainder were embalmed and placed in coffins.

    On the 23rd April the Mackay Bennett rendezvoused with the SS Sardinian in order to take on more canvas for wrapping bodies. By Tuesday zs" April, the Mackay Bennett had recovered 306 bodies, of which 116 were buried at sea. Overwhelmed by the task they had undertaken, they headed back to Halifax with 190 bodies on board, roughly twice as many as the coffins they had taken. By this time, the C S Mania had arrived at the disaster site and continued to search, she recovered a further 17 bodies before she abandoned the search and returned to Halifax.

    As the bodies had been taken aboard the Mackay Bennett, they were given a label with a number on it and any possessions discovered on the body were placed in a small bag with the same number. Despite the best efforts of the authorities in Halifax and the officials of the White Star Line, only 56 of the 190 bodies returned to Halifax by the Mackay Bennett were positively identified.

    Arrangements were made for the bodies that could not be identified or, where relatives could not afford or did not want to repatriate them, to be buried in three of Halifax's cemeteries; the Baron de Hirsch; the Fairview Lawn and the Mount 0livet. About half of the 150 people buried in Halifax were never identified, so the top line of their headstones were left blank, with only the body number
    engraved for reference and 'Died April 15, 1912'.

    The crew of the Mackay Bennett had recovered the body of a small fair haired boy. There were no unique possessions on the body, so he remained unidentified. When people read about this, he became a symbol of the tragedy and the authorities in Halifax were overwhelmed with offers to
    sponsor the toddler's funeral and pay for a headstone. The difficult task of selecting a sponsor was
    made easier when Captain Larnder and the crew of the Mackay Bennett offered to sponsor the  funeral. The boy's epitaph reads:'Erected to the Memory of an Unknown Child Whose Remains were Recovered after the Disaster of  the Titanic, April 15, 1912'. 

    In November 2002, the American PBS television series 'Secrets of the Dead' initially identified the body as Eino Viljami Panula, a 13-month old Finnish baby, the identification being based on dental records. However, Canadian researchers discovered through a test on the child's HVS1, a type of mitochondrial DNA molecule, that this did not match the Panula family. DNA extracted from the exhumed remains and DNA provided by a surviving maternal relative helped positively match the remains and the re-identification was announced on 30 July 2007. The boy was Sidney Leslie Goodwin (1910 -1912) a 19 month old English boy, the youngest son of Frederick Joseph Goodwin and Augusta nee Tyler. The Goodwins were traveling to the USA to join Fredrick's brother Thomas. They had booked third class passage on a small steamer out of Southampton but, due to the coal strike, the voyage was cancelled and they had been transferred to the Titanic. Frederick had five other children, Lillian 16, Charles 14, William 11, Jessie 10 and Harold 9. Apart from Sidney, none of  the family's remains have been identified, and it is probable that they are among the 1,188 bodies  that were never recovered.

    Captain Larnder was killed in action during the First World War, but the Mackay Bennett continued in service as a cable ship until 1922. She was then retired to Plymouth Sound where she was used as a cable storage hulk. During WWII she was sunk at her moorings but later re-floated and refitted. In September 1965 she was refitted and broken up.

    Copyright Stewart Ash 2016

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    Newcomen Society Conference at the Royal Institution on 5th September 2016
    Annihilating Space & Time
    150 Years of Transatlantic Telecommunication

    This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first successful Telegraph Cable system between Britain and America in 1866.  The idea for such a Conference, five years ago, by a world expert on international telecommunications, Bill Burns, was taken up by the Newcomen Society.

    It also marks the bicentenary of the birth of John Pender, the “cable king”, who ensured that the 1866 cable system was built, and went on to establish the worldwide telegraph cable industry

    Cyrus West Field was the American entrepreneur whose drive led to Transatlantic Telegraph Cable project being brought to a successful conclusion – and to interesting John Pender in it.
    Conference attendees were given, courtesy of Stephanie Buffum Field, wife of Cyrus West Field IV, a commemorative badge depicting the cross section of the 1866 cable.  The diameter of the deep sea cable was 1⅛ inches – equal to the overall badge diameter, inclusive of the inscription.  Bill Burns helped with the design, but she very kindly produced these at her own expense for participants in two events in Ireland, a Newfoundland celebration and this conference.

    Registration was set to start at 9.15 am, people mostly arriving early.  There were eight talks given in two morning and two afternoon sessions, with coffee and buffet lunch breaks between.  The day finished with a reception from 6pm.
    This write-up of the conference is divided into three Parts.  It does not take the talks in the order in which they were given, but attempts to put together the various topics that were raised.  Some speakers are cited in more than one Part.  Errors are likely.

    1.      The lead-up to a successful Transatlantic Telegraph
    2.      Where the Telegraph went next
    3.      Telephony and Data
    Some technical details pertinent to this article:

            i.       Cable Core is a term with different connotations.  The original telegraph cables were made with a copper centre conductor with gutta percha insulation applied.  This was called the Core.  Cores produced by the Gutta Percha Co were shipped to a cable manufacturer who added armouring.
          ii.       Telegraph transmission was by Morse code – though not as Morse had first proposed but as improved by Frederick Gerke in 1848 and later accepted as the International Morse code.  For submarine cable transmission a positive pulse denoted a dot and a negative pulse a dash.  Even this had its drawbacks as in ordinary language there are more dots than dashes, so continual usage would tend to positively charge the cable; telegraphese, obviating this, was adopted.
        iii.       Nautical Mile and nanometre are both shown as ‘nm’ - the context indicates which is meant.
    1 nautical mile is equal to 1 minute of longitude at the equator.  The original definition of the metre was one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to theNorth Pole.  1 nm = 1.852 km
         iv.       Channel is another term with different connotations.  In relation to telephony it denotes a two way means of speech communication.
           v.       Optical Fibre - this year is the 50th anniversary of the paper by Charles Kao and George Hockham describing how information could be carried by light waves guided by a glass fibre.
         vi.       Optical Fibre system capacity is now quoted in bits per second – prefixed with G (giga, 109), T (tera, 1012) or P (peta, 1015).
    It is impractical to quote the number of channels carried (although more are than ever before) - telephony being a small proportion of total traffic.

    Part 1.     The lead-up to a successful Transatlantic Telegraph
    Different aspects of the story leading to the transatlantic telegraph emerged from the different approaches taken by several of the speakers.  This part derives from presentations by:

    Stewart Ash             “The ~First Steps – Joining the Dots & Dashes”
    Donard de Cogan    “From Mirror Galvanometer to Telex – how they increased the bit rate”
    Ronald Shearer       “An Urgent Message: North America’s obsession with the Atlantic Cable”
    John Moyle              “Looking for a Needle in a Haystack – Locating Causes of Malfunction”

    Stewart Ash set the scene by going back to communication by sending smoke signals.  The Navy developed an elaborate system of signal flags, and semaphore. Lines of beacons were replaced (first by the French) with mechanical semaphore systems.  The British Navy had just installed such a system when in 1816 Francis Ronalds devised a workable electric telegraph – and proposed they adopt it.  They didn’t.  But advances were being made in electrical theory, and the Daniel cell made for a convenient source of electricity.  In 1837 Cooke & Wheatstone patented an electrical telegraph and, once accepted, their equipment was conveniently installed along railways for their own and commercial use.  Several telegraph designs were soon installed worldwide.

    Several attempts were made to waterproof telegraph cables, for instance to link parts of cities across rivers, but none succeeded (rubber was a contender but still an inadequately understood material)

    Gutta Percha was introduced to London in 1842.  It is derived from the resin of SE Asian trees, where the inhabitants used it as an easily worked material, hard below about 65OC and waterproof.  Its properties were soon found ideal for many purposes, and a large import trade developed.  Faraday suggested it could be used to cover underground telegraph wires in areas of heavy rainfall.  Henry Bewley devised a machine to make gutta percha tubing and Charles Hancock modified the design to coat copper wire – to make “cable core”.  They formed the Gutta Percha Company in 1845.  Cable cores came to have three or four layers of gutta percha to prevent a defect in one from being catastrophic.

    In 1849 an experimental (unarmoured) cable core was laid from a ship in Folkstone harbour and connected to the South Eastern Railway’s telegraph to London, and messages sent from the ship to London.  In 1850 the Brett brothers, John & Jacob, commissioned a cable to cross between Dover and Calais; it had a single copper wire with gutta percha insulation – and worked for a few days - long enough for the Brett Brothers to retain their exclusive license to land cables in France.

    In 1851 an improved cable was laid.  It had four cores of the 1850 type helically wound together, bound in hemp saturated in pitch & tallow and 10 galvanised armour wires around the whole.  But the end of the cable ran out a mile short of the coast.  The extra cable needed to finish the system was made by W Kuper & Co. This firm was based in Camberwell on the Surrey Canal, but had recently expanded to Morden Wharf in Greenwich – it is possible that the extra cable was made there.  The system was completed and worked for a number of years.  More cables followed, between Britain and Europe, across the Irish Sea, and in the Mediterranean.

    Americans were keen to get news from England – an example shows why.  One of Canada’s main exports was of grain to Britain; Montreal set the price paid to farmers – London paid according to British market conditions: normally the prices kept in step but the Irish famine caused major problems.  In 1850 the US, Canada, and Britain were all on the gold standard (£1 = $4.82), and coping with price fluctuations involved transhipments of gold.

    Steamships had already reduced the transit time to two weeks instead of eight or so by sail.  If first landfall was at Halifax then news could be rushed by carrier pigeon to Boston and thence by telegraph a couple of days before the ship reached New York.  When the telegraph reached St John in 1849 a pony express across Nova Scotia was added to the mix – by the end of that year the telegraph reached Halifax.

    The Superintendent of Lines in Nova Scotia was Frederick Newton Gisborne, an Englishman, and in 1852 he was the first to lay a (British) deep-sea cable in North America between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.  In 1854 he met Cyrus West Field in New York, and suggested a New York to Newfoundland cable; when “and London” was added Field became interested.  He approached the top experts in America, Matthew Maury an oceanography expert and head of the National Observatory and Professor Samuel Morse.  Both thought the idea feasible.  A survey across the North Atlantic had previously been made, showing a plateau at not too great a depth.  Surveys at that time were at widely spaced locations, and taken from ships unsuited to maintaining station while a plumb bob was slowly lowered to the deep ocean bed - this was a hundred years before Sonar.

    Cyrus Field then went to England looking for the best firms to undertake the job, and for financial backing.  The Atlantic Telegraph Company was established as a business venture, with no in-house technical expertise.  One of the investors was John Pender, a Manchester cotton merchant.

    By then Kuper & Co had become Glass, Elliott & Co.  In early 1857 they were awarded a contract for half the system (and expanded again onto Enderby Wharf just upstream from Morden Wharf); the other half went to R S Newall & Co.  The cable core, made by the Gutta Percha Co, had a seven strand copper wire and three layers of gutta percha.  The cable companies wound on 18, bought in, armour wires.  Extra armour was added for the shore ends to guard against cable chafing from wave action or anchor damage.  (Some modern fishing equipment can easily damage cables, but what was then in use was a minor concern).

    The British and American governments provided the ships to lay the cable (as the ships were in commission there was no hiring charge): HMS Agamemnon loaded the Glass, Elliott cable at Greenwich, and USS Niagara the R S Newall cable at Birkenhead.  The lay was commenced but the cable parted and was lost after only 300 nm had been laid.  Cable still aboard was unloaded and more to replace what had been lost was made for another attempt in 1858.  Glass, Elliott & Co had found that winding the armour wires with a right hand lay made it possible to coil the cable in a clockwise manner; R S Newall & Co used the traditional rope-making left hand lay.  As cable is laid the tension rises as it takes the weight of what has just left the ship before it reaches the sea bottom, causing the armour wires to untwist – as the cable reaches the seabed the tension drops and they regain their original lay.  Jointing cables with oppositely laid armour wires would break the joint during the descent; this was circumvented with a joint housing that rigidly held both cables, lowering it to the ocean bed in the middle of the Atlantic, then laying the two cables to the terminals.

    This time the lay was successful, but the system failed after a few weeks.  This was blamed on the excessive test voltages that had been applied to the cable, but another factor was that the cable kept since 1857 had been stored in the open and had been warmed by the sun sufficiently for the gutta percha to soften and allow the centre conductor to drop to one side.  (After 1858 cable was always stored in covered tanks that were kept wet – by flooding them, or by a continuous water spray.

    The demise of the 1858 cable was a serious setback and even led to stories that the whole enterprise had been a hoax.  Nevertheless useful traffic had been carried, and a transatlantic telegraph shown to be practicable.  The British government and the Atlantic Telegraph Co set up a commission in 1859 to study both the design and manufacturing methods used in cable manufacture.  It published its report in 1861.  This led to the merger of the Gutta Percha Co and Glass, Elliott & Co to form the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company – known as Telcon – to be able to control the quality at all stages of manufacture.  The person to organise the merger and become the first Chairman was John Pender

    Cyrus Field and the Atlantic Telegraph Co kept faith, and a new cable, to an improved design was ordered from Telcon.  The SS Great Eastern, built by Brunel, had failed commercially as a liner and was being sold off – but being big, with screw, paddle and sail propulsion was seen as ideal for laying cable.  With one funnel removed to make way for cable tanks, the ship was capable of taking the entire length of cable.  Too big to come to Greenwich, hulks were used to ferry the cable to her at Sheerness.  The lay started in July 1865.  But again the cable was lost, this time only 600 miles from America.

    The Atlantic Telegraph Co could not afford a fourth cable.  The Anglo-American Telegraph company was set up and commissioned a new cable to be laid in 1866.  This was successful; and after laying it the Great Eastern went back to the end of the 1865 cable, and spliced on sufficient cable to complete that system too. By the end of 1866 both systems were working.  Messages were priced at £1 per 5 letter word for the first 20 words and 5s thereafter – leading to coded and abbreviated messages.  As it turned out the 1865 cable had the longer life.

    Dr Moyle described the well documented tale of the completion of the 1865 trans-Atlantic telegraph cable: the failed recovery of the cable when it was lost, and then its pioneering recovery in 1866 leading to the completion of the system.  In 1865 the Great Eastern had sailed back behind the point they had reached, then sailed across the line of the cable with a grappling hook, had picked up the cable but the (steel) grappling rope broke.  This was repeated twice more.  In 1866, with a stronger grappling rope, they partially raised the cable and buoyed it off; they went further back and partially raised more of the cable.  Gradually they (there was an escort ship which assisted) recovered the end of the 1865 cable.

    The grapple design had a shaft with rows of hooks along its length, the inner diameter of the hooks matched to the cable diameter.  When towed across the line of the cable it was hoped that one of the hooks would catch it.  This would be felt by a man feeling the grappling rope on board ship as it bumped over the seabed, and detecting it becoming taught.  The grappling rope would then be wound in and the strain on the winding engine monitored.  If the tension stayed the same they had caught a piece of debris; but an increase showed they had the cable, adding to the tension as it lifted off the seabed.

    All the major American and British contributors to this triumph of engineering: Cyrus West who had seen it through, scientists, manufactures, engineers, ships’ captains, etc were honoured or otherwise rewarded – except John Pender.  He was out of favour in the British establishment having been embroiled in a bribery case while seeking election to a rotten borough.  However later in life he was awarded KCMG then GCMG, becoming Sir John Pender.  His London address was 18 Arlington Street (only a stone’s throw from the Royal Institution) - and the then Prime Minister, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury, lived at No.20.

    Part 2.     Where the Telegraph went next

    Nigel Linge     “Encircling the Globe”

    The success of the Transatlantic Telegraph in 1866 was the trigger that unleashed a proliferation of submarine telegraph systems, which continued to 1903.  On busy routes, particularly across the Atlantic, systems were duplicated and triplicated.  The French put in a transatlantic system in 1869, made by Telcon, from Brest to Duxbury, then the longest system in the world.

    On new routes segments were built by individual companies, so that difficulties encountered, and losses made, by one would not bring the whole scheme to a halt; once the whole system was established these companies were amalgamated.  John Pender resigned as chairman of Telcon – in order to organise the majority of this activity and chair such companies.  He naturally directed their cable purchases to Telcon.

    The British were keen to have connections to the Empire, India being the first target.  This started with the Falmouth – Gibralta – Malta system; except that Falmouth had too much shipping for the safety of the cable and they went from Porthcurno instead.  Another cable reached the east of the Mediterranean, then there was an overland route through the Middle East to the Indian Ocean where a further cable went to Bombay.  Completion was in 1870.  The overland section in particular was slow, and it was bypassed by cables installed via Suez.  In 1872 the companies that built the several system segments were amalgamated into Eastern Telegraph Company with Pender as chairman – a post he held until he died in 1896.

    The cable systems went on to the Far East, eventually to China and Australia, again with separate companies amalgamated later.

    South Africa was first reached by a system which looped down the west coast from one country to the next.  This was slow and a cable via Zanzibar down the east coast was laid to speed things up.  A more direct cable was also laid down the Atlantic via Ascension Island in 1899 at the time of the Boer War (the British Government spent £5500 on its messages while the press spent ten times as much).

    The Americas were opened up by routes in and through the Caribbean from the USA, by the Central & South American Telegraph Company from 1881-3.  The India-Rubber, Gutta-Percha & Telegraph Works Co Ltd at Silvertown were their main supplier.  With a landline across Panama, the northern, eastern and western coasts of South America were served.

    When Pender died he had responsibility for one third of the mileage of telegraph cable wordwide, handling over 2 million messages a year, with 1800 staff, and 10 cable ships – he was called the Cable King.  One of his initiatives had been to set up the Global Trust Company – it had shares in telegraph cable systems worldwide, which overall made a consistent profit – and made a good investment for savers.

    In 1902 the final link was made in an ‘all red line’, a cable system around the world where all the cable stations were in a part of the British Empire.  This was when the Pacific was crossed (its longest segment from Bamfield, Vancouver to Fanning Island); and made use of the trans-Canadian landline of 1871, masterminded by Sit Stanford Flemming.

    Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, the year of the first telegraph patent; and died in 1901, just a year short of this ultimate achievement in submarine telegraphy.  Techniques, many devised at the outset, stood the test of time in cable manufacture, cable laying and system design.

    Donard de Cogan       “From Mirror Galvanometer to Telex – how they increased the bit rate”

    The first half of the 20th century saw a considerable increase in the capability of cable, with corresponding increase in the equipment at the terminals.

    One thinks of ‘earth’ as having zero potential.  In one’s locality it does (except that an earth rod in resistive ground is unlikely to be perfect).  Across an ocean earth potentials can fluctuate significantly.

    Mirror Galvanometer comprises a coil suspended by its input and output wires between the poles of a magnet, with a small mirror attached to the coil.  The incoming current from the cable is passed through the coil, causing it to rotate in the magnetic field.  A rising current will turn it one way, a negative current the opposite way.  A light shone on the mirror is reflected onto screen marked with a scale.  Before starting transmission the spot of light is centred.  From then the spot is read as a dot for a rising current and a dash for a falling current – even though the mean position of the spot wanders across the scale (due to earth potential fluctuations).  Two operators were needed – one to read the spot and the other to write down the message.

    Syphon Recorder.  The first improvement was to replace the mirror with a syphon, fed with ink, its end just above a paper ribbon on which it traced a line corresponding to the input signal.  Only one operator was now needed.

    Initially Simplex working was used, where a message was sent, and the cable given time to discharge before transmitting in the opposite direction.  Duplexworking, enabling transmission in both directions simultaneously, was introduced in 1873.  At both ends of the cable Send and Receive circuits were connected to two arms of a Bridge, the other connections being to the Cable and a balancing Artificial Line.  John Muirhead developed the form of duplex working used on submarine telegraph cables, and held the patent.

    Drum Relay.  In 1899 S G Brown devised a relay to allow an incoming signal (after initial removal of earth potential fluctuations) to be retransmitted without operator interaction.  It was a modification of the syphon recorder, the syphon replaced by a probe which just touched the edge of a drum.  This was made of three discs with mica insulation between them, the probe running on the central disc with no signal, one side disc for a dot the other for a dash.

    Cable Loading.  Oliver Heaviside postulated in 1890s that for distortionless transmission the inductance (L) of a cable mattered as well as its capacitance (C), resistance (R) and leakance (G), ie  RC = GL.  The inductance of telegraph cables was quite low and had not been taken into account: adding inductance to a cable would enable it to transmit at a higher rate.  Early experiments with added loading coils showed no improvement.  However, Western Electric developed Permalloy , a nickel-iron alloy, which could be wound as a tape around the centre conductor and provide the necessary inductance.  Shortly afterwards, in 1923, Telcon inventedMu‑metal, with small proportions of other metals, which was much easier to apply (as a wire) and just as effective.  Rates of 1000 words a minute became possible. Duplex working came with corresponding improvements in artificial lines (in temperature controlled rooms).  An early application was a new cable for the Vancouver to Fanning Island segment of the trans-Pacific Cable.  Cable manufacture then had a new lease of life as faster cables replaced the old ones.

    1000 words a minute was far faster than could be sent by one operator.  Mechanisation came in.  The Kleinschmidt Perforator enabled the operator to perforate a paper tape at a manageable rate, the tape then fed to a machine for transmission at cable rate (with other operators’ tapes).

    Cable loading did not reduce cable losses.  The Heurtley Hot Wire Magnifier was developed as a receiver, coming into service in 1919.  The incoming signal was passed through a platinum resistance wire arranged to move a needle as it warmed or cooled – and the movement used to operate a relay.  The magnifier was a very sophisticated piece of mechanical equipment and worked reliably (before the same could be said for valve electronics).

    Multiplexers.  Several, eg 5, channels were connected to a single cable by a rotary switch.  Pulses from each channel were chopped to one fifth of their normal width and transmitted sequentially.  At the receiving end a similar switch distributed the pulses to ongoing channels where they were restored to their normal length. Once synchronised the switches were kept in step by tuning forks.  Other equipment included: Varioplex which divided its time between many channels, going faster if few were in use, or slower if the system was busier; and Translators which turned landline (Baudot) code to Telegraph code.

    After 1922 staffing at Valencia dropped to 10% of its level in 1919.
    It is postulated that during WWII that the latest trans-Atlantic telegraph cable was able to carry a single voice channel – between Churchill and Roosevelt.


    There was a brief discussion about the non-use of valves (vacuum tubes) in Telegraph equipment.  Valves steadily gained in reliability and longevity during the 20thcentury, but designers remained dubious.  However, a feature of Telegraph was the very low frequency spectrum it used; to handle this very large capacitors would be needed – and these were notoriously unreliable until 1970s.

    John Moyle     “Looking for a Needle in a Haystack – Locating Causes of Malfunction”

    Accounts of cable systems ignore reliability!  But the number of repair ships in Victorian times was equal to the number of cable laying ships.

    Malfunctions were of two types:
    -          Cable Break (in particular the centre conductor) - service interrupted.
    -          Cable Fault (defective insulation)

    Records of malfunctions were rarely made public, and on routes with duplicate cables could escape notice.  The Eastern Telegraph Co registered 2.5 malfunctions per 1000nm.  However cables, no doubt with the odd repair, could attain a 50 year life.

    There was a range of causes, some natural or due to outside agencies; others in-house:
    -          Earthquakes and Volcanoes – Lightning - Boring Animals - Anchor damage.
    -          Manufacturing Defects - Poor Jointing - Inadequate Surveying.
    -          Chafing - Inadequate Slack – Poor Jointing – Storage.
    Or: -   Malevolence.

    - Earthquakes and Volcanoes: the mid-Atlantic Ridge and other sea bottom irregularities round the world were unknown.  There were also mud slides off edges of continental shelves, particularly by river deltas.

    - Lightning: if a cable hut was struck a large earth current could flow through the cable to the sea.

    - Boring Animals: it was found that brass tape wound around the outside of the gutta percha was too smooth for borers to get a start.

    - Anchor damage: choose cable landing places away from ports (even if they are the eventual destination).

    - Inadequate Surveying: it usually was - even with well separated positions it was a slow process.

    - Chafing: inadequate trenching at the landing site, or insufficient armouring.

    - Inadequate Slack: no one wanted a length of cable to be suspended between high points on the seabed.  Slack was usually set at 10% in shallow water and 20% in deep water in case of unexpected ruggedness of the sea bottom.  Loops of cable on the sea bed were accepted.

    - Storage: lengths of repair cable mattered as well as cable awaiting the arrival of a cable laying ship.

    - Malevolence: damage inflicted by rival companies; cutting enemy cables in war time.

    Locating a break could be done from one or both ends of a system by measuring the resistance of the centre conductor (assuming a short to earth at the break) and comparing the result to measurements made in the cable tanks before laying.  Due allowance would be made for the sea bed temperature and the 0.3V effect of a copper/steel cell that would arise at the break.  Copper cores generally had a resistance of 10 ohm/nm but could differ.

    Defective Insulation did not necessarily stop the cable working; if near shore a counter current could mitigate the effect until a repair could be made.

    Dr Moyle had studied many records - of the cable companies, and in the press (who only covered the particularly noticeable malfunctions).  He had found that there was an average of one repair voyage per annum for every 500nm of cable.

    Part 3.     Telephony and Data

    Jacob Ward    “The Politics of Automating the Telephone Network in post-WWII Britain”

    This was tangential to other papers in the conference, but fascinating.  It described a traditional political process gradually evolving as it grappled with technical advances.

    Britain had a series of Strowger (relay operated) telephone exchanges each specifically wired for its location.  Updates to the system, such as adding a new exchange to serve more subscribers, meant physical changes to all the exchanges that would need to make connections to it.

    A system using Group Routing and Charging Equipment (GRACE) was introduced in 1959 to allow subscriber trunk dialling, instead having operator assistance. This was a development of automation that London and other cities already had, and worked well.

    Nevertheless General Purpose Electronic Exchanges were seen as the way forward - but they would have to work with existing exchanges until conversion was complete.

    A major problem was ‘prestige’.  The Post Office (BT had not then been hived off) had a fine, international, reputation.  Problems were to be solved, however intractable, and the timetable met.  A prototype exchange was built.  It was soon found that the circuits (made with individual power hungry components) required far more power than a Strowger exchange – an extra fan floor was built.  1958 became 1963.  Other problems loomed – different subcontractors had used different component types - high pulse rate interconnections across the exchange interfered with low pulse rate input and output lines.  In 1965 they gave up and closed the exchange.  However lessons had been learnt and the next attempt was better managed

    In 1967 Mr J Merriman revised the philosophy of a general purpose exchange, though telephony was still at its heart.  The Empress Exchange was to be the first System X exchange and use pulse code modulation, the design led by Roy Harris.  It was based on a ‘switch’, which was ready in 1976, but development continued to 1979 before a general launch.  The Carter Committee, 1975-7, made a major recommendation in its report to separate responsibility for procurement from development.

    The idea for Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), first propounded by Kituhara of NTT in Japan in 1972, was taken up.  A series of specifications was prepared and completed in 1978.  This led to the use of packet switching where all types of data – telex, voice, video, etc - are coded into a standard digital form, put into packets with a header giving the destination and content details.

    This is the traffic which optical fibre cables carry internationally.

    “Mondial House”

    At the time GRACE was introduced coaxial submarine cables carrying telephony (with some circuits given over to telegraphy) were superseding the telegraph cables - and experiencing a demand far greater than they could carry – so highly lucrative rates could be charged.  An international control centre in London was planned for them.  Construction of the massive Mondial House began in 1969 on a site just east of Cannon Street Station; it opened in 1978.  It flourished in 1980s, but did not survive the advent of the World Wide Web and in 2005 was sold and soon demolished.

    Derek Cassidy     “Submarine Networks: the next stage of their evolution”

    Overseas telephone connections have been wanted since the advent of the telephone – and some telegraph cables were able to provide a single channel.  In 1884 it was done across San Fransico Bay to Oakland.  In 1921 an inductively loaded cable from Key West to Havana was used successfully.

    But what really made it practicable was coaxial cable, where a conductor of copper or aluminium, was put round the core to provide a controlled low resistance return path for the signal (as opposed to armour wires or brass tape).  This was patented in 1923.  In 1928 a coaxial system from Newfoundland to Ireland was proposed, but abandoned in 1930.  The first was the Trans-Atlantic Telephone (TAT 1) system in 1956 for 36 channels, with one cable for each direction of transmission and repeaters to amplify the signal.

    In 1947 the Irish Post Office and GPO had laid a system from Dollymount to Holyhead comprising a pair of cables with balanced earth, capable of carrying 50 channels.
    Submarine Networks took a giant step forward with the advent of the optical fibre – we now have repeatered systems across the Atlantic able to transmit 100 Gbit/s on a fibre pair (the practical limit for such a system being 6 fibre pairs).  Short systems up to 400km, only needing cable, can pack more fibres into the cable than might be prudent (a cable to Belgium has 98 fibre pairs and, if it were broken, would take four days just to splice).
    The advent of new cable types made previous cables obsolete.  Not all old cables were scrapped – some were taken up for reuse.
    In 1911 a cable was relaid in a loop and used to detect the current induced by the magnetism of shipping passing overhead.  This was developed by the British Navy in 1915 and used in both WWI and WWII.  The Oban Loop was one such, set up to guard the assembly point for convoys to Russia and America.
    Sound Surveilance System, SOSUS, begun by the UK & US in 1949, reuses coaxial cable to connect a series of seabed hydrophones for longer range detection of submarines.
    Other seabed users are bodies investigating climate change, seismographers, and renewable energy producers.  Universities use them for research.

    Keith Schofield    “Today’s Guardians of Global Connectivity – Protecting Submarine Cables”
    The 1884 Paris Conventionfor the Protection of Submarine Telegraph Cables, Article II, says:
    It is a punishable offence to break or injure a submarine cable, wilfully or by culpable negligence, in such manner as might interrupt or obstruct telegraphic communication, either wholly or partially, such punishment being without prejudice to any civil action for damages.
    This provision does not apply to cases where those who break or injure a cable do so with the lawful object of saving their lives or their ship, after they have taken every necessary precaution to avoid so breaking or injuring the cable.
    ICPC  The International Cable Protection Committee, of which Mr Schofield is General Manager, was formed in 1958, providing a forum for cable operating companies, manufacturers, cable laying and repairing companies.  The cables are mainly for telecommunications, but include power cables.
    Satellites are generally thought to carry significant traffic – they don’t, their contribution is only 0.17%.
    There are now over 300 cables, most owned internationally; though businesses, including such as Facebook, are putting in their own cables to their ‘clouds’. System complexity means that the cable costs are about 5% of the total.
    Optical fibre cable failures average out at 200 failures a year – in systems with a combined length of over a million km.  Most are in shallow water, only 4% being in deep water.  When a failure occurs its distance along the cable can be found by using an Optical Cable Time Domain Reflectometer (OCTDR) at the cable ends, and its position determined from the laying data.
    Optical fibre repair equipment has been standardised – and uses a universal joint which has a housing within which fibres can be spliced.  All (optical cable) repair ships carry it, and can if need by pass a kit on to another ship that is awaiting a replacement.
    Jointing a power cable involves much larger equipment, and a much bigger repair ship.
    There are numerous cable crossings nowadays; if a repair is needed at or near a crossing the first ship to arrive takes charge.  If the lower cable needs repair, then if at all possible it will be done without disturbing the crossing cable.

    The Newcomen Society is to be congratulated on organising the conference, which was generally declared to have been very successful.

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  • 09/23/16--02:39: John Pender - The Cable King

  • The Cable King

    As many readers will know, this year is the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first successful telegraph cables to be laid across the Atlantic.  The 1866 cable was completed between Valentia, Ireland and Heart’s Content, Newfoundland on 27th July and just six weeks later the 1865 cable was finally completed on the 8th September 1866.  Celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic have commemorated this historic event. However, there is another anniversary that is arguably more significant for the submarine cable industry.  2016 is the bi-centennial anniversary of the birth of the man who probably did more than any other individual to make the Atlantic Telegraph a success.  He then went on to found a submarine telegraph cable empire that encircled the earth and earned himself the epithet ‘Cable King’ before his death.  That man was John Pender (1816-96).

    John Pender was born on 10th September 1816 in the village of Bonhill in the Vale of Leven, just 24 miles to the northwest of Glasgow.  He was the middle child of seven of James Pender and Marion née Mason.  In 1810, the Penders had moved from Campsie in Stirling to Bonhill so that James could take up a job in one of the printing and bleaching businesses that had grown up in the area.  John Pender’s obituary, published in the Dumbarton Herald in July 1896, indicates that James worked at the Bonhill Printworks known as ‘Wee Field’.  The family lived in a cottage on Burn Street and from 1823 John attended the village school, also in Burn Street.  He apparently showed a natural aptitude towards mathematics and drawing.

    Sometime between 1824 and 1829, the Pender family moved to the Gorbals, which at that time was an area of up-market residences for the merchant classes, a mile or so outside the city of Glasgow to the south of the river Clyde.  This was the boom period for the Gorbals, and moving there at that time suggests a significant rise in the Pender family fortunes.  John was sent to Glasgow High School to continue his education.  Unfortunately all of the early nineteenth century records of the school were destroyed in a fire some years ago and no details of his academic performance have survived.  John left school at the age of 14 and took up an apprenticeship as a ‘Pattern Maker’ at Croftengea, one of the Bonhill calico print works.  In 1835, Croftengea became John Orr Ewing & Co, when it was taken over by John Orr Ewing (1809-78) and Robert Alexander, where they began producing ‘Turkey Red’ dyed products. John Orr Ewing was a business associate and friend of James Pender and, on completing his apprenticeship in 1837, Orr Ewing facilitated his son’s advanced into a management position. A report of 1839 in the New Statistical Account of Scotland described the company as employing 192 men, 142 women and 104 children with an output of close to three million yards of printed goods per year.

    John Pender married Marion Cairns, the daughter of a Glasgow tailor, on 20th November 1840.  The parish records give his profession as ‘Calico Printer’.  Marion quickly presented John with a son, James, born in Bonhill on 28th September 1841.  However, she died just a few weeks later, on the 16th December, her twenty-second birthday.  The cause of her death is unrecorded but it was most likely due to complications related to the birth of her son.

    The business of John Orr Ewing & Co thrived and expanded, selling their Turkey Red products in Glasgow and Manchester, the centre of a growing export trade to China and India.  John Orr Ewing was making a fortune!  In late 1843 he decided to retire and sell his shares in the business to his partner, which he finally did in 1845.  The two John’s would become lifelong friends and it was Orr Ewing’s decision to quit the business,combined with the recent loss of his wife, that encouraged Pender to make a new start by moving to Manchester and start making money for himself.  In January 1844, he set up his own business, John Pender & Co ‘Commission Agents’ with offices at 20 David Street and took up residence at Grove House in Higher Broughton, then a small township to the north of the city.  The detached house was on the main Manchester road, and he lived there with his two year old son James and his youngest sister Marion who was his housekeeper.

    Over the next few years John Pender & Co flourished and John moved his offices to 29 Dale Street and his residence to Bredbury Hall in Stockport.  On 12 June 1851, he married Emma Denison (1816-90), an heiress from Daybrook in Nottingham, whose ancestry can be traced back to mid-sixteenth- century landed gentry.  Emma encouraged John to diversify his investments and so when the English & Irish Magnetic Telegraph Co was launched in Liverpool on 10th June 1852, she suggested that he should take a major stake in the company.  On 23rd May the following year, the chief engineer of the Magnetic, Charles Tilston Bright (1832-88), oversaw the installation of the first successful cable across the Irish Sea from Port Patrick to Donaghadee and a telegraph service between London and Dublin was then set up.  Pender closely followed the development of this service and it was this that stimulated his life-long interest in the electric telegraph.

    Pender’s textile business continued to grow and by 1856 he sold Bredbury Hall and moved to the larger estate of Crumpsall Hall on the Middleton Road to the northwest of Manchester.  His family then comprised Emma and James plus Henry Denison Pender (b. 8th Oct1852), Anne Denison Pender (b. 9th Nov 1853) and John Denison Pender (b. 10th Oct 1855).

    In October 1856, John Watkins Brett (1805-63), Charles Tilston Bright and Cyrus W Field (1819-92) came to Liverpool and Manchester promoting the Atlantic Telegraph Company and Pender was one of the first to take shares in this company.  Although he was appointed a director of the Atlantic Telegraph Co he did not take a leading role in the project at this stage.  At the end of that year his last child, Marion Denison Pender (b. 4th Dec 1856), was born at Crumpsall Hall.  The following year Pender was appointed Chairman of the British & Irish Magnetic Telegraph Co, which took over the English & Irish company and would provide a vital link in the Atlantic Telegraph.

    Pender appears to have had very little to do directly with the 1857 attempt and 1858 failed Atlantic Telegraph cable. When the joint British Government and Atlantic Telegraph Co investigation report was published in April 1861, Pender was focused on his textiles business, because the early part of the American Civil War (12th April 1861 – 9th May 1865) had created a cotton famine in Manchester and alternative sources had to be found.

    On the 12th December 1862, John Pender was elected the Liberal MP for Totnes in a by-election and, in order to undertake his parliamentary responsibilities, he purchased a London residence at 18 Arlington Street.

    It was Richard Atwood Glass (1820-73) who recognised that if an Atlantic Telegraph was to be successful it would need a single company responsible for all aspects of the project.  Unfortunately, Glass did not have the standing or reputation to make this happen.  However, in late 1863 he shared his thoughts with Cyrus Field and Field took the idea to Pender.  Pender believed such a thing could be possible so he took on the task.  He was reappointed as a director of the Atlantic Telegraph Co on 17th March 1864, and then oversaw a merger between the Gutta Percha Co and Glass, Elliot & Co.

    On 4th April 1864, the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Co known as Telcon was formed with Pender as its first Chairman.  To achieve this outcome Pender had put up a personal guarantee of £250K.  One month later Telcon was awarded the contract for a new Atlantic Telegraph.

    As part of Pender’s grand plan, on 14th January 1864 a consortium led by Daniel Gooch (1816-89), and Thomas Brassey(1805-70)supported by John Pender purchased Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s (1806-59) ship, the SS Great Eastern, at auction in Liverpool for £25,000.  A new company, the Great Eastern Steamship Co, was established with Gooch as chairman and Pender and Brassey as directors. She was converted for cable work and, as part of the refit one of her five funnels (second from the stern) was removed to make way for a cable tank.  She was then chartered to Telcon for £50,000 worth of Telcon’sshares.

    As is well known, the 1865 cable lay failed when the cable parted just 600 nautical miles short of Newfoundland.  Daniel Gooch was on board, and on the return passage he wrote a letter to a friend expressing confidence that they would return the following year and complete the task.  Prior to the Great Eastern sailing from Sheerness on 15th July, John Pender had been on the husting where he had been re-elected as the member for Totnes at the General Election on 12th July.

    To Gooch’s disappointment, the Atlantic Cable Company was fully extended.  New capital was required to keep the dream alive, and due to the American Civil War, none could be expected from America.  Once again, it was Daniel Gooch and John Pender who answered the call.  They raised £600K of new investment, co-founding the Anglo-American Telegraph Company in March 1866.  Both became directors of this new company, and Richard Atwood Glass was appointed as its first Chairman.  This company took over Field’s New York, Newfoundland & London Telegraph Company, appointing Field as a non-executive director.  Unsurprisingly, a contract to build a new Atlantic cable was given to Telcon; the fee for this was paid in Anglo-American shares.

    The SS Great Eastern sailed from Sheerness on 30th June 1866, and to confound long-held superstitions, the lay from Valentia commenced on Friday the thirteenth, with the well-known outcome, described earlier.

    A number of the key men involved in the Atlantic Telegraph were recognised by Queen Victoria for their contribution to the success of this massive undertaking.  Captain James Anderson (1824¬-93), commander of the SS Great Eastern, Richard Attwood Glass, the managing director and Samuel Canning (1823¬-1908), the chief engineer of Telcon, were knighted.  Daniel Gooch and Curtis Miranda Lampson (1806-¬85) were created baronets.  Lampson was originally an American from New Haven, Vermont but had become a naturalised British citizen in 1849.  He had joined the board of directors of the Atlantic Telegraph Company in 1856, becoming its vice-chairman then,in 1866, he became a director of the Anglo-American Telegraph Company.  Although the contribution of Cyrus Field was recognised and greatly appreciated, it was considered inappropriate to offer an American citizen an English honour.

    Despite his pivotal role in the final success of the Atlantic Telegraph, John Pender received no recognition whatsoever.  He was chairman of the British & Irish Magnetic Telegraph Co, founded and was Chairman of Telcon, a director of the Atlantic Telegraph Co, founder and director of the Anglo-American Telegraph Co and was also on the board of the Great Eastern Steamship Co.  He had taken more financial risk and almost certainly done more than any other individual to ensure the success of this project but no rewards came his way.

    Why this should have occurred has never been made public but it is almost certainly due to the Totnes General Election.  Shortly after the election, a petition alleging corrupt practices was brought by John Earle Lloyd and Edmund Tucker.  This led to a House of Commons Select Committee hearing under the chairmanship of Edward PleydellBouverie (1818-89).  Evidence was heard from 16-23 March 1866 and the outcome was that John Pender’s election was declared void, and in addition, he was found guilty of bribery by offering Robert Harris, a local blacksmith and Conservative agent, a position worth £300 per year, if he voted for him.

    This type of vote buying was common practice in a number of so called ‘Rotten' or 'Pocket' Boroughs at that time.  Although Pender strenuously denied these accusations and Harris was exposed as a convicted perjurer, the political mood was for clamping down on such electoral practices.  On 6th June 1866, Queen Victoria ordered a Royal Commission to look into electoral corruption at the Great Yarmouth, Lancaster, Reigate and Totnes elections.  The commission finally reported in March 1867; the report was a precursor to Benjamin Disraeli’s (1804-81) Reform Act of 1867, under which Totnes was disenfranchised in 1868.  The Queen’s honours for the Atlantic Telegraph were made public on the 15 November 1866, so it would have been impossible for Pender’s key role to have been acknowledged by the Queen at that time.

    In 1868, Pender stood down as chairman of Telcon and set about building the submarine cable empire that would become the Eastern & Associated Telegraph Companies.  By 1870, England was connected to India and from June 1872, messages could be sent from London to Sydney over Pender’s cables.

    In January 1873, John Pender sold his Crumpsall Hall estate and the family moved to Arlington Street.  The entire contents of the house were sold at auction, promoting speculation in the newspapers that Pender was a ruined man.  The truth was that both Arlington Street and Minard Castle, his summer estate on the northwest bank of Loch Fyne in Argyll, were fully furnished and there was no room for the extra furniture.  Pender sold the Minard Castle estate at the end of 1875 and on 16th May 1876 he took out a 21-year lease on Foots Cray Place, a Palladian mansion in Kent, owned by Coleraine Robert Vansittart (1833-86).

    Over the next few years his contribution to subsea telegraphy was recognised by many countries around the world, but it wasn’t until 1888 that it was finally acknowledged in Britain, when he was knighted Knight Commander of St Michael & St George (KCMG).  This was later elevated to Grand Cross of St Michael & St George (GCMG) in 1892.  Interestingly these awards were both granted while Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil (1830-1903), 3rd Marquis of Salisbury was Prime Minister.  Cecil’s London residence was at 20 Arlington Street,next door to Pender!

    Sir John Pender died at Foots Cray Place on 7 July 1896 and is buried in All Saints’ churchyard, Foots Cray, alongside his second wife Emma (d. 8th July 1890) and his son Henry (d.13th January 1881).  There is strong circumstantial evidence in the family papers to suggest that he was soon to be created Baron, but he died before Queen Victoria could sign the warrant.

    Unquestionably John Pender was a major, if not the greatest, contributor to the success of the Atlantic Telegraph.  In building his submarine cable empire he did more for submarine cables than any other man and undoubtedly deserved the title ‘Cable King’.  His cable empire became Cable & Wireless, a name that like John Pender has now been consigned to history after the takeover of Cable & Wireless Communications by Liberty Global plc.

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    This is an important article about part of the Peninsula

    What Has Happened to Bendish Marsh?
    by Stewart Ash
    Bendish Marsh is the name that was given to a 4 acre field on the western Greenwich Peninsula, inland from Enderby Wharf.  Its name probably came from the 17th century dyke and sluice of the same name that feeds into the Thames alongside the steps and causeway at Enderby Wharf.

    The first known document recording ownership of land on the Greenwich Peninsula dates back to 918 and sets out the gift of land known as Old Court Manor, to the Abbey of St Peter, in Ghent by Alfred the Great’s youngest daughter, Ælfthryth (877-929).  This land comprised 276 acres and included a large area on the Greenwich Peninsula,

    Over the next 800 years this land was owned by various kings, queens, monasteries and noblemen. In 1698, the land was Crown property and a lease for a large part of Old Court Manor was acquired by Sir John Morden (1623-1708), from Margaret Boreman,the widow of Sir William Boreman (c.1617-1686),for £9,000.  A year later, Sir John obtained the freehold of this land from the Crown.  On his death, the land passed to his widow, Susan née Brand (1638-1721) and as they had no issue, on her death the land came under the control of the ‘Trustees’ of Sir John’s charity ‘Morden College’.
    By the terms of Sir John’s will, upon his death, seven ‘Trustees’ were to be chosen from the Levant (Turkey) Company to administer the College (and its endowed estates), and if this company should cease to exist, then they were to be selected from the East India Company.  Finally, if the East India Company ceased to exist, then Trustees should be drawn from the Court of Alderman of the City of London.  This stipulation meant that there were three distinct phases of Trustee selection.  From 1708 to 1826, Trustees came from the Levant Company; from 1827 to 1884, they were selected from the East India Company and, from 1885 to the present day,Trustees have been selected from the City Aldermen, many of whom have been Lord Mayor of London.  In recent years only past Lord Mayors of London have been eligible for the position of Trustee.  It was these Trustees who shaped the development of the land that made up part of the Old Court Manor estate.  Their decisions have also influenced the way in which the Greenwich Peninsula as a whole has developed over the last 300 years.

    The first known map showing Old Court Manor was produced by Samuel Travers (1650-1725), Surveyor General of Crown lands,from a survey conducted in 1695 of the Crown lands in Greenwich and on the peninsula.  A copy of Travers’ map is held in the Morden College Archive; it shows all the Old Court Manor land as pasture and marshland, with the notable exception of the Gunpowder Magazine, which stood on Crown land, at what is now Enderby Wharf, from 1695 to 1769.  This map does not give names to the fields on the peninsula.

    According to the Modern College’s official history published in 1982, the first detailed survey of the College lands of Old Court Manor was carried out by the Trustees in 1721.  However, no record of this survey could be found in the College Archive.The first survey map, held in the College Archive, is John Holmes’ survey of 1732. This does identify the field names and Bendish Marsh is among them.

    In 1960, W V Bartlett statedin his essay ‘The River and Marsh at East Greenwich’ that a plan dated 1734, described as ‘a particular of lands late of Sir William Boreman’ does still exist.  It shows the layout of the fields on the peninsula with the following field names: Balsopps Marsh, Bendish Marsh, Bishiop’s Marsh, Catt’s Brains, Crabtree Croft, Dog Kennel Field, Foster’s Hole, Further Pitts, Goose Pool, Great Meadow, Great Pitts, Hawk’s Marsh, Lady Marsh, Little Pitts, Peartree Meadow, Pound Marsh, Pond Meadow, Short Bendish, The Pitts and Thistlecroft.  A plan dated 1734 is not held in the College Archive. However, many of the above field names can be found in Sir William Boreman’s will.  Therefore, the field name of Bendish Marsh can be traced back to at least 1686.  It is probable that the name dates back even further to the early part of the 17th century when Bendish Sluice was built as part of the major drainage system introduced to the marshes at that time.

    These fields, can also be seen on Timothy Skynner’s plan, commissioned by the Greenwich Court of Sewers and made in 1745, shown below.

    Timothy Skynner’s Plan, 1745

    Skynner’s Plan shows the field boundaries and each plot, although not named, is given an alphanumeric reference.  The Plan also denotes some areas as ‘Singles’ and others as ‘Doubles’.  The field boundaries in most cases are defined by the 17th century drainage system.  The annual drainage rates levied by the Court of Sewers on Doubles were twice those on Singles, e.g. in 1704, the rates were 12 shillings per acre and 6 shillings per acre respectively.

    John Rocque’s Map of Greenwich, 1747

    The first published map showing the lands comprising Old Court Manor was made by John (Jean) Rocque (c.1709-62). He was the son of French Huguenot immigrant parents, who became a surveyor and cartographer.  Rocque is best known and remembered for his detailed map of London.  He began work on this in 1737 and the map was published in 24 printed sheets in 1747.  The lands comprising Old Court Manor are shown on the sheet above, in the top right corner, the Gunpowder Magazine can be seen but no field names are included.

    In 1771, the College Trustees commissioned their surveyor, Michael Searles (1722-99), to conduct a further survey of the land on the peninsula.  A map of this survey is also held in the College Archive and it identifies the field named Bendish Marsh.

    At the beginning of the 19thcentury a rope works was established on the land where the Gunpowder Magazine had stood.  It is possible that Henry Vansittart (1777-1843), who purchased the land from the Crown in 1802, was the first person to permit the manufacture of hemp ropes on this site.  In 1808, the rope works was in the hands of James Littlewood but he became bankrupt in 1817, and the rope works was made over to a Mr Young, who operated it until 1828.  Horwood’s map of London, dated 1819, is the first to show a ‘rope walk’ on the site.  The ‘rope walk’ also appears on the later Greenwood map of 1827.This ‘rope walk’ ran parallel to and just behind the line of houses that now stand on the north side of Mauritius Road.  Since the 25th July 1815, Morden College had leased virtually all of its land to the north of the rope manufactory, including the field known as Bendish Marsh, to John Field, a Greenwich farmer.

    In 1830, the rope manufactory was purchased by Charles (1797-1876), George (1802-91) and Henry (1800-76) Enderby, collectively Messrs Enderby Brothers.  Over the next few years they invested a great deal of money in developing it by adding a sail works and a hemp factory to the already existing rope-making facilities.  A boiler house and steam engine were added to mechanise the ‘rope walk’ and drive looms.  Until then, horses had been used to provide the power to form and lay the ropes.  Over the boiler room were hemp and spinning rooms and in other factory buildings were joinery workshops and weaving looms.  This facility became known as Enderby’s Hemp& Rope Works;at its peak it covered some 14 acres (5.66 hectares) and employed 250 local people.  During this period, the river frontage acquired the name ‘Enderby Wharf’.The land known as Bendish Marsh was not part of this property.

    George Smith (1782-1869) became the surveyor for Morden College in 1838.  Immediately, the Trustees instructed him to carry out a detailed survey and evaluate their land holdings on Greenwich Marsh for industrial development.  Whether this initiative came about because the Trustees were then being drawn from the East India Company and policies were changing, or perhaps the idea had been stimulated by the success of the Enderby Hemp & Rope Works, combined with the less successful leasing of their own land on the peninsula to Bryan and Howden for industrial development, is unclear.  Bendish Marsh would have been part of this survey but unfortunately, the maps and records of the survey could not be found in the College Archive.  However, the lands that Smith surveyed are marked in Red on the 1842 Tithe Map, shown below.

    The 1842 Tithe Map

    In 1838, the Enderby brothers acquired from Calvert Clark a small parcel of land on the riverfront to the north of their Hemp & Rope Works.  This is shown on Simms’ 1838 map as 266a, as can be seen it contained a square building,area 266a is described as a ‘cottage and gardens’.

    Simms 1838 Map

    In 1839, the brothers tried to lease additional adjacent lands from Morden College.  This land was Bendish Marsh, to the north of the rope walk, to the east of plot 266 and the dyke shown on the Simms Map.  However, obtaining a lease proved difficult, as it appears that a licence was needed from the trustees if anything other than a bleach house was to be built on the land.  As an alternative, the Enderbys offered to exchange some land already owned by them for Bendish Marsh but this apparently required Parliamentary approval, involving significant additional cost, and so negotiations broke down.
    On 8thMarch 1845, the Enderby Hemp & Rope Works was destroyed by fire.  No records have been found to indicate that the factory ever reopened; however, the Kentish Mercury of 13 September 1845 ran the following:
    Liberality.— On Saturday last the workmen in the employ of Messrs. Enderby took possession of the new factory, which has been erected in place of the one burnt down some few months since. In the evening a supper was prepared for a portion of them at the Ship and Billet, Woolwich road; and also for another portion at the Star and Garter, Park Street. The expenses were borne by Messrs. Enderby, who have generously given all the persons who were thrown out of employment by the fire, half their weekly wages since that period.

    This appears to confirm that at least part of the factory was rebuilt but whether it recommenced trading is less certain.
    Charles Enderby decided to build himself a dwelling house on the riverfront and work commenced in June 1845.  He approached the Morden College Trustees again regarding the Bendish Marsh land and the minutes the Trustees’ meeting of 29th October 1845 record that it was agreed that Bendish Marsh could be leased to the Enderbys as ‘Bleaching Grounds’ but not for building.  On the 13th November 1845, Charles Enderby wrote to the Trustees of Morden College offering to take Bendish Marsh on a 7 year lease. 

    Bendish Marsh

    At that time Bendish Marsh comprised 4 acres, 0 roods and 11 perches.  It is shown in the plan above, along with other Morden College land in Red. It is bounded to the south and west by the Enderbys land (white) and to the east by Blackwall Lane (then known as Ship and Billet Lane).  The light blue area is land belonging to Norfolk College and the puce land was in the hands of the Calvert Clark family. 

    The building of Charles Enderby’s house was completed in April 1846 when Charles took up residence.  He had wanted the Bendish Marsh land to provide direct access to his new residence from Ship and Billet Land, by-passing the rope works site.  The lease, that was to run until Michaelmas 1854, was executed on 24th December 1846 in the names of all three brothers and shortly afterwards,it was reported to the Trustees that the Enderbys had culverted the dyke,running alongside Bendish Marsh and had built a coach road to the new house.

    Charles Enderby lived in the house for three years, during which time he hosted several dinners in the ‘Octagon Room’ for representatives of the Geographic Society, of which he was a founder member, and the Royal Society, of which he had become a fellow in 1841.
    In August 1849, Charles Enderby set sail in the Samuel Enderby for the Auckland Islands.  He would never return to the house.  At that time Messrs Enderby Brothers was in major financial difficulty.  George Enderby wrote to the Trustees on 29thOctober 1849 requesting that they take back the Bendish Marsh lease.  The Trustees refused to do this but agreed to try and find an alternative lessee.  In the meantime the lease was put in the hands of Messrs Lodge & Co, solicitors. No new tenants were immediately forthcoming.
    On the 22ndJuly 1854, George Smith reported to the Trustees that the Enderby lease on Bendish Marsh would expire at Michaelmas.  He begged permission to find an alternative tenant and on 14thOctober a Mr John Smith was approved as a yearly tenant with 3 months’ notice.

    In August 1855, William Coles Child (1814-73) approached the Trustees about leasing Bendish Marsh.  The Trustees offered him a lease with 3 months’ notice at £42 per annum.  In early October, Coles Child turned down this offer as he had been unable to acquire the adjacent Enderby property at a reasonable price.  On the 8th October 1855, John Smith gave notice to quit Bendish Marsh. Then on 26th January 1856, a Mr McKenzie took up a year by year lease, on Bendish Marsh at an annual rent of £10.  This lower rent was agreed due to the fact that Mr McKenzie already leasing other lands from the College on the peninsula.

    When Glass, Elliot & Company purchased the Enderby property in 1857, no approach was made to the Trustees concerning the adjacent Bendish Marsh land.  However, on 7th April 1864, Glass, Elliot became part of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company (Telcon) and on 4th May, Telcon secured a contract for the 1865 Atlantic Telegraph cable.  On the 12thMay, Telcon’s solicitors wrote to the Trustees offering to take a long term lease on Bendish Marsh.  The lease was finally executed on 6th April 1867.  It was for 4 acres, 0 roods and 8 perches, for a term of 80 years, commencing in 1865 at a ground rent of £100 per annum.  There were also a number of covenants requiring Telcon to make significant capital investment in buildings and infrastructure on the land.

    On the 1893 Plan of the Telcon site, the outline of Bendish Marsh can still be seen

    Plan of the Telcon Factory 1893

    The area of Bendish Marsh is defined by a flooded dyke on the top half of the western side.  On the northern edge to the western side it is defined by a flooded dyke for just under half the length, then by a dry ditch running south and then east to Ship and Billet Lane (Blackwall Lane).  The southern edge is roughly along the line of the rope walk and associated buildings.  The southern and lower western boundaries are shown on the plan by a broken line ‘- ____ - ___’.  The 1907 plan of the site is very similar in this area and includes the same ‘boundary line’ denoting the southern and lower western edge of Bendish Marsh.The 1958 site plan and the 1970 plan, drawn up at the time of the STC takeover of Submarine Cables Ltd, both have thisbroken line ‘- ____ - ___’, showing the boundaries of the Bendish Marsh land.

    The Telcon lease of Bendish Marsh was due for renewal in 1945, but there are no records in the College Archive to indicate that it was renewed at any time up to the present day or that the land was sold to Telcon.  However, in 2003, just prior to selling the river frontage, Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks (ASN), commissioned a land registry search into the ownership of the site lands.  The author is grateful to ASN for allowing access to this report.

    The report indicates that Telcon acquired the small parcel of land owned by Norfolk College, at a time when the rest of the property was held under a single title 276267.  On the 7th April 1928, Bendish Marsh and the Norfolk College land were separated from the main holding under a separate title 354883.  Then, on the 16th April 1928, title 354883 was subdivided into Bendish Marsh; title TGL94231 and the Norfolk College land; title TLG12330.  Why Telcon should have done this is unclear.  It may have had something to do with possible sale of land due to the impact of the ‘Great Depression’ on business,or perhaps separating the land into parcels was done to align them with the different business units that would appear on the site during the 1930s.  In 1935, Siemens Brothers and Telcon merged their submarine cable interests as Submarine Cables Ltd (SCL).  The submarine cable manufacturing facilities of SCL were then centred on the title 276267 land.

    The above indicates that Telcon had possession of the freehold of Bendish Marsh prior to 1928.  While no records have been found to date to show when this purchase occurred the most likely explanation is that it happened about the same time that Telcon gave up its lease on Morden Wharf.  Telcon’s predecessor W Küper& Co first came to Greenwich in 1851 taking up an underlease from Charles Holcombe (1792-1870), the primary lease holder of Morden College land, at what Holcombe named Morden Wharf.  In 1854, W Küper& Co became Glass, Elliot & Co and when that company secured the first Atlantic Telegraph contract it need more space, so Glass, Elliot acquired the derelict Enderby Hemp & Rope Works in 1857. For the next 38 years both sites were utilised, but according to ‘The Telcon Story’ published in 1950, Telcon gave up the lease of Morden Wharf and consolidated its manufacturing facilities on the Enderby Wharf site in 1895.  It seems likely that at that time, Telcon could have arranged to acquire from Morden College, the freehold of this 4 acres that was right in the heart of its factory site.
    On 28th August 1944, the plot of land on which 2 Mauritius Road stood was registered by SCL under title SGL191335.  The house was demolished to widen the main gateway to the site at the end of Christchurch Way.  From that date onward the numbering of the houses on the north side of Mauritius Road starts at No. 4.  On 8th December 1961, the freehold of the south east corner of the main site, title 276267, was sold under title LN215230.  This is the land on which the Meantime Brewery now stands.
    In 1970 Standard Telephones & Cables Ltd (STC) acquired SCL and on 4thJune 1974, STC obtained title absolute on the four parcels of land 276267, TLG12320, TLG94231 (Bendish Marsh) and SGL191335, which made up the Enderby Wharf site.  When Alcatel purchased STC Submarine Systems in 1996 these four parcels of land came under its control.  From 2004 ASN began the process of consolidating and upgrading its manufacturing facilities; this process involved reducing the size of the site.  In 2008, the river frontage was sold to West Properties; this included a small part of the western side of Bendish Marsh.  West Properties went into administration and it wasn’t until 2013 that Morgan Stanley acquired West’s assets and appointed Barratt to develop the site.  This reduced ASN’s land ownership to 5 acres and in 2014 a further 2 acres were sold to the Cathedral Group (now U + I plc), this included title SGL191335, a part of Bendish Marsh and small part of title 276267 .  U+I plc, in partnership with Weston Homes, is undertaking the ‘Telegraph Works’ development on this land.

    The land that was once Bendish Marsh has now been divided between the Barratt Enderby Wharf development, the U + I Telegraph Works development and the ASN factory.  The new road ‘Telcon Way’, owned by ASN,runs across the northern part of the western end of Bendish Marsh.  It is very likely that Telcon Way follows a similar path to the coach road built by Charles Enderby in 1846.

    Stewart Ash 2016

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    The Enderby Group has been handed some issues of the Telcon Company Magazine from the early 1950s - Telcon, of course, was the name of one of the predecessor firms to Alcatel at Enderby Wharf, although essentially there is a continuum for work from one to the other.  GIHS has had access to these and intends to publish some of the articles in them here.

    Below is an article about exhibits in the 1851 Great Exhibition. We can date this article to 1950 when preparations for the Festival of Britain were underway and Telcon was anxious to prove 100 years continuity of work and progress

    by L.R. Nicholson

    Did you know that Telcon was represented at the famous 1851 exhibition in the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park, the centenary of which will be commemorated in the Festival of Britain? Yes! Telcon has the distinction of being among the select band of exhibitors represented at both exhibitions, for we are showing many of our products, including gutta percha insulated submarine cables, in several sections of the South Bank Exhibition.   

    We mention gutta percha insulated submarine cables specially, for our 1851 exhibits were made of gutta percha, the application of which, as a submarine cable insulant, was destined to make Telcon world-famous in the field of international communications. Replicas of a few of our 1851 exhibits, produced with the original gutta percha moulds, are to be shown in the independent centenary exhibition to be held in the galleries of the Victoria and Albert Museum.   

    The story of our association with the Hyde Park Exhibition is intriguing. This ambitious undertaking was the culmination of many years' hard first, discouraging work by the Royal Society of Arts, its energetic secretary Francis Whishaw, and others.   

    Whishaw started a scheme in 1844 for an annual exhibition of national products with money prizes for the makers of articles of good design, but met with little support from manufacturers. However, before he left the Society to join the staff of Telcon's parent Company The Gutta Percha Company, at Wharf Road, as an engineer he had two small exhibitions and had seen a committee formed to find ways and means of producing an annual show and of obtaining the patronage and interest of the Prince Consort, who was President of the Society.   

    Bigger and better exhibitions, continued to be shown at the premises of the Royal Society of Arts. In 1848 the display was visited by 73,000 people, and in 1849 the premises proved to be quite inadequate, so well was the exhibition patronised.  

     Eventually the Prince Consort  the President of a Royal Commission, the purpose of which was to consider   the organization of an international exhibition in 1851, and a great deal of the eventual success of this exhibition was due to his personal enthusiasm, ability, and drive.   


    The Gutta Percha Company which amalgamated with Glass, Eliot & Co. in 1864 to form our present Company was launching out at this time, and in 1848 and 1849  exhibited at the Royal Society of Arts articles of an ornamental kind, such as "Stag and Dog" and oval picture frames - all moulded, of course, in gutta percha - but nothing apparently from the wide range of more useful goods it was then producing.

    The Telcon Story, it will be recalled, tells how Henry Bewley and Charles Hancock, the founders of The Gutta Percha Company, quarrelled violently over the right to use a wire-covering machine, and how Hancock broke away to form his own company known as the West Ham Gutta Percha Company. A bitter competitive war was waged by these two concerns, culminating eventually in the latter's bankruptcy, but both had their exhibits at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in 1851.     

    The Gutta Percha Company must have had an impressive display, for it included samples of raw gutta percha, waterproof cloth, fishing net floats, driving bands, both round and square, decorated frames, and ceiling centres and mouldings in imitation carved oak and  rosewood. But, strangely enough, having made the first submarine telegraph cable, which was laid across the Straits of Dover in 1850 and marked the beginning of a vast network of under-sea cables throughout the world, and being engaged during the period of the 1851 exhibition in the manufacture of a second cable to cross the English Channel, the Company did not show any of this gutta percha insulated conductor.     

    Another point of interest concerns the gutta percha ornaments exhibited in 1848 and 1849 at the Royal Society of Arts.   Charles Hancock was a great artist (he had a picture accepted by the Royal Academy when he was 19 years of age), and it was he who designed these figures "Stag and Dog" and similar articles when he was with our Company at Wharf Road. These same exhibits were to be seen at Hyde Park in 1851, but on the stand of the rival company which Hancock had started at West Ham in opposition to The Gutta Percha Company.     

    No monetary prizes were given to exhibitors at the Crystal Palace. The Council Medal was awarded sparingly, and only to firms whose products possessed originality as well as outstanding excellence, whilst the second   medal, known as the Prize Medal, was an award of merit only. Out of 14,000 exhibitors, 170 Council Medals and nearly 3,000 Prize Medals were presented, and our Company had the honour of receiving one of the coveted Council Medals.

     Most of the exhibits were for sale, and Queen Victoria made many purchases. Incidentally, The Gutta Percha Company made a bargain when it bought a powerful beam engine which was installed at Wharf Road immediately after the exhibition closed. It supplied power to the whole of the factory,  and Chatterton, who gave his name to the famous compound, when he was works manager of the Gutta Percha Company, owned a lead works next door and had this plant powered also from the same  engine. This amazing machine worked continuously from 1851 until 1933, when the Wharf Road works were transferred to the present Telcon Works at Greenwich.  

     Manufacturers will be acknowledged in the official catalogue of the Festival of Britain only, but anyone familiar with TeIcon products will have no difficulty in recognizing our exhibits in the Transport and Communications, and the Power and Production sections of the South Bank Exhibition, or at   the Victoria and Albert Museum, without reference to the official list  

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    • 11th October 2016 Terry Powley. Society's Changing Perceptions of Youth in the Twentieth Century

    We have their newsletter (they STILL haven't got a website)

    They advertise future meetings 
    8th (that's tomorrow!!) October Mike Jones on Crossness Past and Present
    11th March - Stuart Robinson on A Year of Murder, a year of Poverty.

    2.15 at Charlton House, both of them.


    - one on Charlotte Matthews of Pre-Construct Archaelogy who has been photographing buildings with dates on their facades. She would like to know if anyone can recommend some. 
    - Plaques to Woolwich Worthies - which includes their founders Tom Vincent and Frank Charles Ellison-Erwood, and boxer Tom Cribb - reported frustrations
    - some memories of Nora Wickham who was a past Treasurer and recently died.
    - a note on the closure, in Greenwich, of the Thames path
    - report on the Council's Public Spaces Protection Order (against street drinkers)

    They also report on work by the Enderby Group - as follows:

    A “Plaza” proposal for Enderby Wharf at Greenwich Peninsula  by  Richard Buchanan

    The Enderby Group is working on a proposal to treat the environs of Enderby House as a whole, with the working title of the “Plaza”.  It would unite the House, the space around it in front of Barratt’s apartment blocks, the Thames Path and the jetties and cable loading equipment on the foreshore; it would provide for commercial use, refreshment and portray the heritage of the area.  Also of historic interest are the adjacent Steps & Causeway (used by boats to ferry crew to cable ships moored in the river – and, allowing for rebuilding in the meantime, to gunpowder ships when the Navy had their proof testing Magazine there).

    This we will put before interested parties, three being: Barratt London who own and are to restore and extend Enderby House, and landscape its surroundings: Submarine Network Systems (successors to Telcon, and now part of Nokia) who are responsible for the jetties and cable loading equipment on the foreshore; and the London City Cruise Port immediately to the north.  The major interested party is of course the Council of Royal Greenwich.  It has two roles - as the planning authority under whom Barratt London and the London City Cruise Port operate - and as the manager of the Thames Path.

    Should the idea be received favourably, a possible name is “John Pender Plaza”.  John Pender established and became the first chairman of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company (Telcon) who laid the first successful transatlantic telegraph system in 1866.  He then went on to found cable companies around the world - who bought their cables from Telcon.  He died at his home in Footscray in 1896, and is buried at All Saints Church, Footsray.  There is already Telcon Way, a new road on the north side of Submarine Network Systems leading to the yet to be built London City Cruise Port, which will connect with the “Plaza”.

    The Woolwich newsletter also advertises:

    Blackheath Scientific Society - 18th November Future Missions to Uranus and Neptune, Adam Masters.  8.45 Mycenae House, 90 Mycenae Road,

    Welling and District Model Engineering Society, Rochester Way, adj Falconwood Station (I've still not found out how to get in there!!).  October 9th Open day 2-5

    (thanks for the resend, Steves)

    they give a detailed report on emergency repair work to protect a section of river wall from the Royal Steps to Bellot Gardens. There is dramatic erosion of the foreshore exposing the chalk footings of the wall and introducing a risk of scour. They are working on a repair which will minimise sensitive archaeology by a method also used at the Tower of London - and everything will continue to be accessible.  
    (meanwhile - this is by me, Mary, because its not covered by the Greenwich Soc - down in east Greenwich erosion to the river wall means path closure for maybe two years, no one can find out what is being done or what is going on, and any archaeology has been shifted out quick as you like)

    - and back to the Greenwich Society - in general news they feature two sites on the old Greenwich Park Rail line (unbeknown to them!!). On is the happy opening of the Community Garden in Burney Street - the other is the closure of Greenwich Police Station. (They ask - what will happen to that site?? er - rebuild the railway??)


    This dynamic little publication ( features this month pictures of the new London Bridge - although never a word about those of who cannot actually see the station because our trains no longer stop there).  Nice pics too. Also a note about an abortive visit to Deptford to see the inclined plane. 

    GLIAS NEWSLETTER (Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society)

    Sorry we missed Andrew Turner's Erith walk - hope it went well. GIHS happy to put a report on the blog??
    They advertise:

    16th November - GLIAS Pub evening Horsehoe Pub, 24 Clerkenwell Close, EC1ROAG,. This is an open evening and anyone can come along with a 5 minute presentation on their favourite IA related hobby horse. Helpful to tell Dan first though so he can programme you in

    18th January Conkers, Cordite and the birth of modern biotechnology - Prof Martin Adams
    15th March  Crossrail Archaeology - Jay Carver and Andy Shelley
    19th April  The Royal Arsenal, Then and now. Ian Bull (NOT TO BE MISSED)
    17th May AGM
    All at 18.30 The Gallery, Alan Baxter Ltd., 75 Cowcross Street, EC1

    .... but nothing at all about Greenwich otherwise


    This is an emailed publication, so sorry, can't give a web link

    The current issue features

    Article on planned discounts for Greener ships.   The lack of regulation on emissions from ships of all sorts has been a big issue in Greenwich. PLA are to give discounts to cleaner ships. Happy to send more info on this.

    Michael Heseltine and the Growth Commission are said to have sailed down the river - past us all - to see how we were getting on. They are apparently looking for a vision.

    Tate and Lyle - which is right opposite us - go to the cafe on the arts complex on the old Siemens site and watch the action of the Tate and Lyle Wharf. Anyway the newsletter features an article on them and their work at the refinery following a visit

    Cory - down in Charlton where we still (just) have a bit of real riverside, Cory have their tug depot. They have three new barges - report and pix

    Thames Tideway Tunnel - report on that too


    - by Mark Smithers.  Tell us more?? Review copy??

    As Firepower goes the Heritage Centre seem to be following up the Artillery (rather than the Arsenal, which is what most people are interested in - or indeed the Royal Engineers who also had historic links with the Woolwich and Arsenal site).  We have been sent a copy of a form - although not by the Heritage Centre.  There doesn't seem to be a way of dealing with this electronically but there IS and email address  The form wants to know basically about you helping set up a gallery about the Artillery 


    The Enderby Group have been lent a number of Telcon house magazines from the early 1950s.  They are being scanned and we intend to reproduce some articles here.  Sorry if this blog gets to be Telcon Telcon Telcon - please send other info. we are always happy to publish (within reason)


    Their newsletter is with us - It reports on their Open House day opening when nearly 1,000 people went along. They also report on an ITN programme in which they featured.  They ask us to publicise their gifts - happily


    We have seen a programme for a very interesting conference on 4th November at the National Maritime Museum about the archives of maritme related archives around the country.  There is no booking or cost information with what we have been shown but we think Lizelle de Jager, (Research Department Executive at the Royal Museum Greenwich) at is the person to contact.

    In relation to this - we used to get all sorts of info from the NMM about events and other things. We always publicised it, and sometimes also went along.  This doesn't come any more and its not clear how to get it started again. Hopefully someone from that august institution will read this and see that little small organisations get stuff from them.


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  • 10/08/16--04:57: Company Magazines

  • Hope very much people are enjoying all this stuff about the local cable making industry .... there is a lot more to come.  Every day we are being sent editions of the Telcon works magazine from the 1950s which are packed full with articles about the works and the industry - and we will try to let you see them all.

    I did think however that we ought to vary this a bit.  I remembered that we had some Harvey's works magazines (Harvey's were a big metal working company in the Woolwich Road - they made, well, holes).   I got them out to see what we could use - some great pictures, most of which have appeared here, way back, But - oh dear - the editorial content is almost entirely sports, wedding, outings, bigwigs and the like.

    I also have a lot of stuff from the early 1900s from the gas works Copartnership Journal - again full of stuff about the works, lots of pictures, and interestingly articles about other local works and institutions where gas was being used as a fuel. However, I scanned all these from flimsy photocopies in days when scanners were dodgy, OCR was terrible and pdfs didn't exist. I could try and rescue some of them but the amount of work would be phenomenal.

    So, anyway, I thought I would give you a little taste of the Harvey Magazines - after all it was the 1950s! and if you are lucky sometime I will add in Telcon's 'Hints to Women' (I had forgotten how we had to wear gloves all the time in the '50s. - and my terrible confession is that I rather liked that). They also think people who worked at Harvey's were well off enough to afford cream with their puddings!! - which is more than my family was, Cream came in tins at Christmas, only.

    If you go down still further I have put some pictures of women in the gasworks during the Great War.

    Harvey's Magazine July 1955

    "The Summer seems to be a very slow starter again this year, but the Shops are full of lovely summer dresses, and the new line makes us take a second look at our figures and wish we had not had so many in-between meal snacks during the 'Winter months. 

    I think you will all agree we must have trim waist lines if we are to look our best in an " A " line dress. One very good exercise to do if the tummy muscles have become slack, is to stand flat against a wall without shoes on, pull your tummy muscles taut then relax. Repeat this twenty times. You 
    can do this at any odd time during the day, after a little while the desired effect should soon be obtained. Another very good thing for us all to do, is deep breathing exercises. Place your hands on hips, and take a deep breath, making your hands rise and fall as you do so. This makes for improvement in our health, which after all IS the main thing, for whatever pretty clothes we may wear, if the face is tired and the figure drooping, nothing will look at its best advantage. 

    Here is a tip for a girl who may get a surprise invitation out and her hair is not just as she would like it : 'Wring out a towel in hot water and rub your hair very hard. Repeat this twice, then set with setting lotion. When dry it should comb out quite fresh. . . . . and those spots . . . . Whatever you do don't start squeezing them or the whole evening will be miserable, because you know you have a beautiful red blemish showing. Cover them with Calomine Lotion beneath foundation cream, or- if very angry cover with a flesh coloured round plaster and make up over it . . . . and don't forget a bathing with Boracic Crystals (1 teaspoonful to pint of water warm) is a grand reviver for tired eyes. 

    Just a word to the girls with long slim backs, who always seem to have trouble in making a blouse and skirt stay together neatly. Wear a broad tight elastic belt and you will find this will prevent the blouse slipping apart. 

    Something refreshing for a sweet during the brighter days :- 

    Fruit Sponge Flan 
    1 Sponge Filling :-any medium size jar of fruit. 
    1 round teaspoon arrowroot.
    3 ozs. Castor sugar 
    3 ozs. Selfraising Flour 
    2 eggs 
    Beat eggs lightly, then add sugar beating all the time, for at least 5 minutes. Gradually add the flour and beat to a smooth cream. Pour in a tin about eight inches round, and bake in a moderate oven for twenty minutes. Remove and leave to cool, then place on a tray until cold. Drain your fruit, putting aside the juice, and arrange in the flan. Now blend the arrowroot with a little juice, bring the rest of the juice to the boil and then stir in to the blended mixture, return all . to the saucepan and cook for four minutes stirring continuously. 
    Let the mixture cool a little then pour over the fruit, leave to set. Serve cold with cream."

    Meanwhile in the gasworks:

    Discharging Coke

    Women drivers - sorry about picture quality

    Filling coke sacks

    Mind you - when the war was over the men all got up petitions to management to get the women out!! Management minuted that the women were much better workers.

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