Friday, 21 October 2016

Telcon plastics

Ad from 1958 - when we made plastics too

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Telcon helps out Jodrell Bank

In the extract from a 1957 Telcon Magazine below the cable company works with the Jodrell Bank observatory - although everyone knows now that the underwater cables round the world get our international messages into our computers and phones much faster than any satellite can.  The picture is that which was with the original article

The radio telescope at Jodrell Bank seen from the control room       

Some of our readers mav have heard or read a short announcement on October 9 that the new astronomical telescope nearing completion at Jodrell Bank was being erected against time in order to study the movements of the Russian satellite, which at that time was feared might be falling rapidly to earth. The announcement said, amongst other things, that the telescope could not operate until some cable was obtained.

Meanwhile, a little drama was being played at Telcon, Greenwich, where, just as the hooter was blowing for lunch an urgent message was received asking us to supply some of our high frequency cable. By 2 o'clock, three drums of cable weighing nearly half a ton had been extracted from our drum field and battened up ready for dispatch,only awaiting instructions as to precisely where they should be sent. During the course of the afternoon the Observatory asked us to route the cable to Crewe instead of Manchester, and later on during the same evening we bad a telephone call to say that our cable was safely on site!

Pretty good work!

It is gratifying to record that a message of congratulation was sent to us from the Observatory authorities thanking us for our prompt service.

Telcon Magazine Christmas 1957

Sunday, 16 October 2016

History of Avery Hill Park

by Bee Twidale

Avery Hill is a unique park where you can walk and enjoy a cross section of time! The earliest evidence of human activity is a Mesolithic flint tool found by a 1st Royal Eltham Scout taking part in a Young Friends of Avery Hill Park tree planting.

The rugby field and the others around it have medieval origins. After the Norman Conquest the land was gifted to the King’s brother, Bishop Odo. Most of the land was crown property until the nineteenth century. There are records from 1290 of  King Edward buying hay to feed the starving deer at Eltham Palace, from John De Henley; owner of the fields at that time. The wild flower meadow, Henley’s field, is named after him. The Hedgerows are the oldest in Greenwich; the earliest dating back to the 1370’s

There is a Tudor conduit in the North West corner of the park. This ancient building supplied fresh water to Eltham Palace. In Elizabethan times Ann Twist, Mistress of the Royal Laundry to Elizabeth 1st; owned the fields at Avery Hill. Next time you see pictures of fancy Elizabethan neck ruffs, think of Ann Twist!

In the 19th century the first mansions were built at Avery Hill.

The sugar magnate James Boyd developed the parkland and planted most of the fine specimen trees. Colonel John Thomas North, the nitrate king of the 1890’s, developed the Winter Garden, the Italianate Garden and much of the parkland as you see it today. Colonel North’s death notice in the New York Times (6.4.1896) reported; “Colonel North had a mansion in the outskirts of Eltham, in Kent, which was sumptuous and hospitable. Avery Hill is as celebrated in England as Walpole’s Strawberry Hill was.”

London County Council purchased Avery Hill in the early 20th century and established Avery Hill Teachers’ Training College; now part of Greenwich University.

Avery Hill Park has a strong sporting tradition, the LCC organised Polo matches in the 1920’s. Now you can enjoy cricket, football, rugby, basket ball, table tennis, boules and the fitness equipment; much of this financed by the Olympic Legacy fund and the Mayor of London’s “Help a London Park” grant. The mayor’s grant of £400K stimulated the Young Friends of Averyhill Park to design their own park features; a project supported by Greenwich University and Avery Hill Youth Club. More about Young Friends later!

Responding to the initiative set up by Greenwich Parks and Open Spaces; Friends of Avery Hill Park began in February 2007 led by Steve Hull. Their first big initiative was to fill the gap left by the park café (torched by an arson attack in 2005) with a “Container Café”. At this time tagging was rife in the park and the container was a prime target. With grant funding; Averyhill Youth Club and other local teenagers designed and painted a mural on the container café, problem solved! The Friends group went on to play a major part in the rebuilding of the eco-friendly, design award winning café. They have run many successful summer “Parks Fests” centred around the café and performance area.

The Young Friends, supported by the local Primary and Secondary Schools, Youth Club and Scouts and Guides have also been busy since 2007 conducting an accessibility survey for wheelchair users. Also finding their green fingers planting crocus & daffodils, snowdrop and bluebell bulbs. The adult friends’ group initiated a survey which led to the Young Friends choosing to design and build a wildflower maze and turf seat funded by a Greenwich Pride grant. By 2009 60 teenagers and 40 primary age children had planted 2K native species bulbs and 1K tree whips and completed a Tree Girth/Age survey.

2010 saw the centenary of Girl Guiding and the local Eltham young women pulled out the stops to enhance Henley’s wildflower meadow with 100 cowslip and primrose plugs & 1K wild daffodil and snowdrop bulbs. Inspired by the Mayor’s “Help a London Park” £400K grant; a team of 12 & 13 year olds from 3rd New Eltham Guides and a Scout from 40th Greenwich  worked with Greenwich Uni. Architecture lecturers and students to produce sketches and models of their “blue sky” designs for the park. These were put on display in the Winter Garden for the Green Chain festival. Heather Yedigaroff of Greenwich Council entered these young people for the “Green Guardian” awards. Amazingly the Guide team came 2nd; they lost out to professional architects from Hyde Housing for the Green Concept award! The Scout was awarded “Young Guardian of the Year”. The team of 12 & 13 year old Guides went on to design and build a balcony garden at Hampton Court Flower show.

2013 saw Averyhill Winter-Garden heating system fail. The friends group supported the universities bid for lottery funding and the uni. gardeners by lending garden fleece to protect the most delicate plants until the heating could be restored. The canary island date palm is the largest in the UK.

In 2015 Greenwich University put the Mansion Site up for sale, deeming it no longer fit for purpose. The Uni had plans for the building to be converted for Academy use. The Friends group instigated Tree Protection Orders being placed on the Winter-Garden trees and significant trees on the Mansion campus. To date, 2016, no buyer has been found.

In the past 2 years the friends’ group has encouraged Greenwich Parks and Open Spaces to clear Pippenhall Farm, our local Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, of massive Bramble overgrowth on the medieval Ridge and Furrow and also 1K square metres of Japanese Knotweed. A new tenant has been found. With ponies grazing once again, Narrow Leaved Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Knapweed, Fleabane, Corky Fruited Water Dropwort and Yellow Bartsia; some of the rarer wildflowers, have begun to re-emerge. Currently Friends of Avery Hill Park are seeking funds to restore the Italianate terrace garden. The design is well underway………watch this space!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Telcon Shop Stewards 1954

Below is the shop stewards page from Greenwich taken from the Autumn 1954 Telcon House Magazine.  There were some bits in this which I couldn't read from the pdf - I hope it makes sense anyway!


Stewards, were faced with the problem of what to do about it. As the committee lacks a George Bernard  Shaw, the task appeared likely to prove extremely difficult. One school of thought was all for leaving the page as bare as a billiard ball but this didn't seem likely to convey much to our readers so we tried another angle. "Let us make it a technical page and demonstrate our mastery of theoretical as well as practical work" we said

What emerged was if the coaxial bearings are made to rotate in an anti- clockwise direction was in complete contradiction to the thesis laid down by the Master Mariners' Association, how would the proportion of time saved be apportioned between Management and Operators.'

This didn't seem likely either to convey much to the average reader, and it is the floating vote that counts, so off we went on another tack, "How about a literary effort after all ?". This appealed greatly to some of us at first but, after careful discussion which produced snippets of army songs, limericks and postcards from Southend; it was thought that we might be accused of being- horror take us-highbrow.

So, far into the night, we wrestled with the problem and eventually agreed upon the following scheme.  In each issue we shall introduce to you one of our members, commencing with our worthy Chairman. If we can we shall .comment on the problems of the workers as we see them, make a report on the activities of the Shop Stewards' Committee, and report items of interest from the various departments. One thing to be borne in mind is that this magazine is by way of being a family affair and although we shall, if necessary, offer criticism to the Management, we cannot be too controversial on this page.

In any we can and to do settle out differences through the usual channels. Our ambition is to help to foster the family feeling within Telcon by means of these articles and to further cement the existing good relations.

Introducing the Shop Stewards -Brother Andrews
Bro. Andrews, known to most of us as Andy, is Chairman of the Shop Stewards' Committee. After having served during the war as an air-gunner in which capacity he travelled to many parts of the globe, including Egypt and India, he returned to   his trade of carpentry and   joined Telcon in 1949. Since   that time he has taken an   active interest in the welfare of   his fellow-workers and was   elected shop steward of his   department in 1951.

He not only gained the confidence of his colleagues but   made a deep impression on the Shop Stewards' Committee, thereby becoming the obvious choice as successor to Bro.   Reader for the post of Chairman, when the latter resigned.   Bro. Andrews is married and has two children, a boy and a girl.   As works convener we find in him sympathy and understanding,   together with a sense of humour, which characterises the man and   helps to make him successful in this difficult role.   Chairman's Report .  The Shop Stewards' Committee is made up of all the Stewards in   Telcon, and represents several Unions. The officers are Chairman   (A.S.W.), Vice-Chairman (N.U.G.M.W.), Secretary (A.E.U.) and   (N.U.C) we try to iron out our difficulties, and problems we cannot solve ourselves   are taken by the chairman to the appropriate authority. We also contact our various Trade Union Branches for advice and information.   

Stewards are also represented on the Production Advisory Committee. Here we can bring our views to the fountain head of   authority, and are given an understanding of the problems facing management in its business of running the factory efficiently and profitably.   

In short we arc a link between workers and management and, within the limits or trade union policy. We have a great deal of   scope. We believe that co-operation and local negotiation are the most fruitful ways of getting satisfactory results. We do not always get our own way as we have to bow down to economic factors just as management has to do, but we think we can claim a good record of successful negotiations. We shall continue to serve   the workers to the best of our ability, remembering that without   their support, moral and financial, we, as a committee, shall perish.   

Committee Announcements

Lectures in Economics .   Management has accepted the recommendation of the Production Advisory Committee and has arranged a series of lectures   dealing with basic economies. These will begin in October. We   ask all workers to attend and acquaint themselves with the vital problems concerning our everyday lives.   

Shop Stewards' Fund .  The Committee earnestly request continuous and increasing   support to their fund in the customary manner. It is important   to have a reasonable capital to maintain the service we strive to render to all members.   

Tinfoil   The management has placed a box by the main gate for the collection of tinfoil. It is hoped that all workers will co-operate in this work as the proceeds will go to the Cancer Research Fund or other   deserving charity.   

Management and Labour Relations   There have been, and no doubt will be, millions of words spoken and written on this very controversial subject, and we often hear or read of the causes of industrial strife, as well as the proposed   remedies for them.   

Will there ever be a way to industrial peace? Why do some industries have more labour troubles than others? These questions always come up for discussion at some time or another, both in   managerial and trade union circles

Each and every one of us in the Telcon organisation should give some serious thought to this problem, because the state of Management-Labour relation depends upon us all. The better this relationship, the better the chance of the Telcon organisation  becoming more prosperous to the ultimate benefit of all concerned.   There is no set formula or code laid down, nor can there be for solving automatically all the problems at one sweep but there are several points which should be considered and which would, in our opinion, make for sound Management-Labour relations.   
At Telcon this relationship is in a fairly healthy condition.   Serious disputes do not arise, as we have our various agreements.  We have our Welfare and   Personnel Department and a very capable Personnel Officer, ready to hear our troubles be they personal, domestic, legal, Management and Labour, or what have you, and to help and advise us regarding   them. Several other committees meet regularly, namely the Departmental Production Committees, Foremen's Committee,  Staff Association Council, Shop Stewards' Committee, Sports and Sick Club Committees. All this contributes towards the good relations between Management and Labour, but have we reached the criterion? What can be done in industry to make for really permanently peaceful Management and Labour relations?   

There are several points upon which we shall comment in the Shop Stewards' Page of subsequent issues of this our House Magazine at Telcon, chiefly under the following headings:-   

1 Should management accept the unions as permanent institutions having a positive value to industry and industrial   relations?   
2. Should careful consideration be given to human relations and brains and money devoted to a tip-top Personnel Department?    
3, Should Trade Unions be responsible to the rank and file of workers and management accept and recognise this position?   
4. Should Management and Unions be in close communication   ready to discuss anything any time anywhere?   
5. Should Management and Unions seek a way to accommodate differences and try to settle, differences or problems   on their merits as they arise with union officials taken into   confidence on all problems?   

We think these points will give enough material. and food for thought and we hope our forthcoming comments will at least make interesting reading.       

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Recollections of East Greenwich - the gasworks that is

The account below is taken from the South Met. Gas Company House magazine - Co-partnership Journal.  As you will see it is about someone who started work as East Greenwich Gas Works was being built - followed by some stories of the 1889 gas workers strike.  I have put some notes at the end about some of the things described


When I started work at East Greenwich, in the first week in 1884, various works had been built on the river bank and a road made for the convenience of people travelling to and fro. On the eastern side of this road were market gardens of poor quality, divided and drained by numerous ditches. It was this ground which the Company bought for the erection of their new works.  
Ordnance drawdock in the 1980s

Towards the end of 1883 John Stradling was sent as foreman to direct the operations.  A footpath which skirted the whole of the river bank and had been used by the public for generations, had to be diverted and from the "Pilot" public-house to the "Ferry Arms" a short new road was made by us on the Company's land. A draw-dock (near where the station meters now are) was cleared away, and a new dock made by us near Ordnance Wharf (1) also a boundary wall was commenced.
Our chief difficulty at that time was caused by waterside people insisting on a right-of-way over the old paths which we had not yet removed so we placed a man to divert this traffic; but it was necessary on several occasions to send a gang of men to his assistance. The difficulty, however, was removed as time went on.  

Jioseph Tysoe
The first engineer was Mr. Ridings, who had an office in Blakeley Buildings (2); but when the first retort house neared completion, and retort settings were to be erected, Mr. Tysoe came and took charge. In August, 1887 gas was first made.  

George Livesey
We had many trials and troubles at the start, but these were gradually surmounted.  In 1889 came the trouble with the Gas Workers' Union, and in the second week of December the strike began.(3)  An efficient force of police was present, and the strikers were escorted from the works, after having piled chairs and seats in the centre of No. 1 Retort House lobby and set fire to them. The fire was soon extinguished. Outside the works on a small mound near the “Pilot “public-house an effigy of Mr. George Livesey (4)  was burnt by the strikers.   

We fed and housed the new men, many of whom were unaccustomed to the work, and some of whom were unsuited to it. In a very short time we had them graded, and began to make headway. When the gasholder began to rise it was  rumoured by the strikers that we were filling it up with air. They  tried to increase the demand for gas by turning on the street  lamps during the day.  
A church service in the works for the blacklegs - replacement workers

An incident which remains fresh in my memory after many  years is our first gasholder mishap.  The temperature was below freezing point, and a keen north wind was blowing. The  water in the tank slowed no signs of freezing ; but evidently  the water in the cups on the northern, side of the holdcr had  frozen so rapidly that it escaped notice. As the holder uncuppcd  the lift canted towards the south, and with a jerk the other side  released itself, parting a scam in so doing. Half an hour after-  wards a strong smell of gas was reported on the southern side  of the holder, and about the same time it was noticed that the  holder was descending at a greater rate than the normal consumption would account for. There being no other holder, very  little could be done, and it grounded. The lesson of the mishap  was so well learned that a second has never occurred.  

The nature of the work and the hours of working have changed  considerably since those early days. At that time one of the most  important figures on the works was the scoop driver, who needed  strength, skill and endurance in a high degree.  Although the chief business of the works has been the manufacture of gas, it has been necessary to employ men of many  trades, and the works have been beneficial to the town of Greenwich  by finding employment for so many men. Many things have  happened since I started at East Greenwich. Many old friends  have gone, and but few remain. It is good to look back over the  years, and to feel satisfaction at having done a man's work among  good men.  I should like to record my grateful thanks to my old friends, both in the office and the works, for the help      


(1) This new drawdock - essentially planning gain because it had been insisted on by the local authority - is now Ordnance Drawdock, at the far end of Blackwall Lane by the hotel, and still a public right of way despite scary notices from the hotel telling you the area is private.

(2) Blakeley Buildings were at the end of Blackwall Lane - people might remember two 1940s houses on the same site, demolished a couple of years ago. The Buildings, which they replaced, was an apartment block built in the 1860s for employees of the Blakeley Ordnance works and never finished. I gas company eventually finished the building and used them for staff accommodation.

(3) The 1889 gas workers strike . See my articles:  and

(4) George Livesey - where do I start?  The evil genius of the gas workers strike and the man who changed, regulated and modernised the gas industry.  Livesey was brought up in the Old Kent Road Gas Works, started work there at the age 14 and remained to become Company Chairman as well as becoming a national figure in the temperence movement..  A clever maverick - he was never ever what people thought he was.  Lots of entries about him - look at the index or search - in

Holders in Blackwall Lane early 20th century

Monday, 10 October 2016

A walk along the river in 1951


This from an (undated) Telcon House Magazine - probably late 1951 or early 1952.  This is a walk most of us can still recognise although it is going fast now. It runs from what is now the Alcatel factory - there and back.  I've put a short commentary at the end.

After lunch - a walk down the river when it’s all set fair for a stroll.

Through the factory, sleeping restlessly, to the towpath, presided over by the towering" Monarch," resplendent in her new autumn coat of paint and on past the wharf to Piper's. A stop for a moment to study the battered barges awaiting attention, and a look in the yard at one yet to be launched, sparing a quick glance into the murkiness of Providence Wharf, and then under the towering cranes, between walls of corrugated iron, brilliant in the watery sunshine, and fascinating in their play of light and shade, then led by the path back to the water again.

No time was available for loitering and the path was still leading on, by the tavern with its ambiguous "FREE HOUSE" sign and beyond, into the shadow of the Generating Station, its chimneys belching forth its filth, and its body, splintered as though wounded, lying in a  labyrinth of steel scaffolding; past ugly gaps in the adjacent houses which revived fading memories of diving planes and screeching bombs; the junk yard, full of things that once had meaning, and with its locked gates mocked by the broken fence.

Children were playing in the road, soldiers with crude wooden swords the eight-year-old in charge ordering.. Wait there while I go and do something important," and returning with an ice cream for his  four-year-old sister. Two more were staring longingly into the sweet shop window, without hope, for their pennies were spent already.

Into the main road, threading through the busy lunch-time shoppers and those who, like myself were merely lookers-on ; failing to resist the attraction of Woolworths, succumbing to the lure of buying ‘Just what I want to do that job;' and realizing on glancing at the clock that time was short and speed essential.

Christchurch Way was elastic, and had been stretched that day by an evil genius to it limit, but the gate was passed on the stroke of .time, and 1 was left with just my impressions of a well- spent lunch hour. 


He has had his lunch and is walking from what is now the Alcatel factory - which was then Telcon. You could then of course get straight onto the riverside path from the factory - unlike now when you are blocked by B*****s.  Monarch is of course a cable ship waiting at Enderbys to be loaded and set off.  He is going towards Greenwich, past Pipers, Lovells  - he mentions Providence wharf, which was inland and I don't know why it was murky.

On to Ballast Quay - with what was still then The Union Tavern.  I don't also know what the scaffolding he mentions round the Power Station is  - I have never heard that it was bombed?? The junk yard is, I guess, Anchor Iron Wharf with the Robinson scrap business.

Then round and back via Trafalgar Road.  Woolworths was what is now the AldLife Charity Shop - it has had an extra floor added but if you look up you will see along the roof line the remains of a classic Woolworth's frontage - perhaps someone could confirm if it had a clock on it?

- oh - and - the pictures are tiny on the original - I know you will think they are too small - but I have actually enlarged them

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Telcon roving camera plus Lord Reith

- and - how about Telcon's 1951 roving camera - and who they snapped.

- and just to add that the clipping at the sides of that picture are them not me!

Who they also snapped - on a visit to Greenwich for the Commonwealth Telecommunucations Conference - was Lord Reith himself.  You clearly can't do better than that!!   Here are some snaps of the great man.

Here he is on the way down here, on a the Festival launch

Looks round the works - Telcothene was Telcon's Polythene

And makes his points over lunch