Monday, 13 June 2016

News and notes from Greenwich Industrial History

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.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Greenwich Industrial History News

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.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Young George Landmann visits Upper Brook Street

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.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels

Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels.
(this article - with details and pictures - was published in Subterranea No.37 December 2014. Copies are available from their bookshop
The Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels have been the subject of a great deal of local controversy and with Thames crossings being a major subject of public discussion at the moment, they are likely to become more so.As far as we are aware thesetwo Thames tunnels are one of only three or four sub-river pedestrian tunnels – all in Britain apart from one in Antwerp.They were built to allow access to north London jobs for south London residents and also to provide them with a free crossing. In an era when tolls had only recently been abolished on up river bridges it was seen as only fair that equally free crossings should be provided for residents who lived east of the Tower.   That crossing needed to go under the river rather than over it on a ferry or a bridge – which would essentially be obstructions on the busy commercial river.

The Greenwich tunnel was the earlier of the two and a great deal more has been writtenabout it than the later Woolwich tunnel.  It was intended that it should replace ferry services which had enjoyed a statutory existence since 1676 and which owned the rights for the transfer of foot passengers. By 1900 the ownership of these rights was with the Great Eastern Railway Company and they, and TheLondon County Council acquired an enabling Act of Parliament for the foot tunnel in 1897. This, the Greenwich  tunnel was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie - the second tunnel built by the County Council following on from the Blackwall, with which is hardly compares. The contractors were J. Cochrane and Sons and work began in 1899. It tunnel opened in 1902.

Construction began with the sinking of a shaft on the north bank of the River in Island Gardens and advanced under the river and it emerged in Greenwich by what was then the Ship Inn. GeologistDr. Jackie Skipper recently gave a presentation to Greenwich Industrial History Society which drew our attention to the complexities of the river bed which faced the engineers.  Much of the information which she is now able to provide to potential tunnel builders would have been unknown in 1900 and engineers would have had to handle problems as they encountered them.

The tunnel is formed of 32mm iron plates bolted together, lined with concrete and white glazed ceramic tiles..The tunnel itself dips towards the centre of the river with a gradient of 1 in 15.  The gradients were designed for the sake of economy as the enabling Act of Parliament required should allow for dredging of the river at 48ft at high water

It is accessed by lift and by spiral staircases descending in shafts – 88 steps on the north side and 100 at GreenwichThe stairs are of wrought iron with brittle non-polishing cast iron tread plates. The shafts are accessed via a brick entrance rotunda capped with a listed glass dome.  The walls of the rotundae are built over the outer edge of caissons which hold the shafts; the lift and stair structures hang from the caisson, and do not bear structurally on the horizontal surface at the base of the shafts.   The caissons themselves are of two steel skins 43ft in external diameter with four foot of concrete between outside and inside skins. A thick vertical stanchion stands in front of the lift doors and this runs the whole depth of the shaft and ties the stairs and lifts together.

. Great care was taken to make the jointing water proof.  Bolts had lead washers put on them completely filling any spaces and soft lead wire was hammered into the joints between castings.

The tunnelling shield used was 14ft 6 in in length with 13 segments at the cutting edge, each segment have two 6inch teeth. Care was also taken with the health of the men employed and new apparatus was designed to remove ‘carbonic acid’ from the air and also to ventilate generally.  It was noted that ‘only nine cases of caisson sickness occurred, mostlytrivial’ and ‘caused by indiscretion on the part of the sufferers’.   It was hoped that the County Council could use the results which emerged from the use of this new apparatus to improve future works. Messrs Leslie and Macmorran were the Medical Offices in charge.  A number of learned paper emerged from this paper as results were published.   However it is said that the ‘rate of progress has been exceptionally rapid’ – 10ft per working day.

During the Second World War the Greenwich tunnel was bombed but a strengthened section near the north end attests to the damage and repair work.  There is also shrapnel damage left unrepaired in the brickwork of the south rotunda.  It is thought that the bomb which caused the damage was on the foreshore of the north bank – but there were numerous hits on the south side, including rocket attacks.

Hundreds of people have daily used the tunnel to cross the River - and pedestrians have now been joined by many cyclists, for whom it is the major crossing point between Tower Bridge and the Woolwich Free Ferry.    The visible part of the tunnel is its small circular cupolaewith an entrance made of StuartsGranolithic cement and a ribbed glass dome above.  Over the doorways at the Greenwich end is a bronze plaque which commemorates the completion of the work. These are nowlisted Grade II.

The tunnels were built by the LondoncountyCouncil and passed in due course to the Greater London Council. When that was closed down Greenwich Council took over managementresponsibility of the tunnels on behalf of the three constituent boroughs – Greenwich, Towner Hamlets and Newham.

This article has been about the Greenwich Foot Tunnel – and sadly there is much less detail About the Woolwich one.  In Woolwich the tunnel entrance originally sat on the ferry approach – but access to the ferry was moved to allow for vehicle movements and a new leisure centre now cut the foot tunnel off from road and leaves it out of sight.   On the North Woolwich side the entrance is visible but isolated in the centre of roads jammed with traffic waitingfor the ferry.  The Woolwich tunnel is much less heavily used than the Greenwich one and many people prefer to use the Free Ferry.

It was surprise to discover that the existing Woolwich tunnel was n fact the second to be planned here.   Research on the Woolwich tunnel produced press cuttings of an attempt to build a tunnel twenty years earlier – hitherto unknown.  Investigations have failed to discover any research, or indeed mention of it.    It appears to have been begun in 1877 under Mr. Gilbert, engineer, with Messrs. Sharp as contractors.  It is said that it resulted from an accident on the Thames were eight people were drowned trying to cross the river. It was to run from near the Great Eastern Railway station in North Woolwich and terminate in Woolwich high street accessed by ‘an enclosed road.  The tunnel would be 1,800 ft. long and would lie 25ft-35ft below the river bed. It was to be made up of a circular tube of iron 9 ft. in diameter and about 12ft in height.  It should take four people walking abreast.   The press comment that it would be very useful to take troops and artillery guns across the river.  However by 1879 work was ‘in abeyance’.     The strange thing about the press reports on which this is based is that none of them are local.

The Woolwich tunnel was opened ten years after the Greenwich, in 1912. - by Lord Chesleymore the then Chairman of the London County Council. It was designed by Maurice Fitzmaurice who had taken over from Binnie as Chief Engineer to the County council in 1901. It was and built by Walter Scott and Middleton. It is said that the provision of the tunnel owned much to the efforts of Will Crooks, who had been Chair of the LCC Bridges Committee in 1898 when, it is said, the Greenwich Tunnel was planned.  From 1903 he was Member of Parliament for Woolwich, at a time when the Woolwich constituency covered both sides of the river and thus both tunnel entrances.

Construction began on the north bank in 1910 with workers digging by hand and the tunnel continued to be dug in this way and, like other tunnels, used the Greathead shield.  The tunnel id 1655 feet long and thetop is 10 feet below the river bed –covered by 38 feet of water at low tide and 69 feet at high tide.  It is a cast iron tube made of a series of connecting rings

Like the Greenwich tunnel it was lined with white ceramic tiles and the floor was York stone flags.   Lifts were not allowed for in the original scheme and they were added later in the project at an additional cost of £5,000 – and with manually operated gates. Like the Greenwich lifts they were replaced in the early 1990s with the original panelled interiors retained. They can carry up to 40 passengers.   The rotundas are red brick on a plinth of blue engineering brick, with sash windows protected by iron grilles and above the parapet is a conical roof with circular copper clad lantern. The entrances have glass canopies on cast iron columns. They were listed GradeII in 1989. 

Work started to upgrade the Woolwich tunnel in 2010 and the tunnel closed during the day as work proceeded.  However in 2010 the tunnel was closed completely as structural weaknesses were discovered in the stairways.  It eventually reopened in 2011 although the lifts were not completed.   The tunnel has a leaky feeder system to allow the use of mobile phones.

The tunnel is now over a hundred years old and feeling its age.  In 2008 it was agreed that it needed to be, at least, refurbished.  Work began in 2009 funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government    but it soon became clear that the project was running very late and was in trouble.   As 2012 neared, when the tunnel would be needed as a river crossing during the Olympics, public disquiet grew.The stairs at Greenwich reopened on time in 2011butwereheavily boarded so as to cause difficulty in use.  Various reasons were given for delays, promises were made on opening.  The problems clearly remained.   The homes and communities agency which had been overseeing the project was wound up, and another long delay with no information ensured. At this point FOGWOFT was launched – Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels.

In 2012 with works still in a complete mess the Royal Borough of Greenwich set up an inquiry into the refurbishment scheme.  FOGWOFT officers attended meetings where the tunnel was discussed and made representations. Meanwhile the original contractors were no longer on site and a new firm was undertaking unfinished work.   

The eventual consultant’s report to the Council commented that while work on the tunnel was a small job for the construction industry it was nevertheless unique and complex in a way that had not really been appreciated.  FOGWOFT has worked closely with Council officers and reported on work as it has been completed.  Officers have had several interesting visits to see the problems faced by the construction team – they can hardly be called tours of the works, since the area involved is small and cramped.  As work progressed problems with century old structures were uncovered as well as problems of drainage and with the formation of miniature stalagmites as condensation drips onto the floor.   The clear wired glass on the domes had the dirt of many decades on it and people assumed the murky look was traditional.  English Heritage agreed that the new laminated glass would have a feint white smoke tint to reproduce that unwashed look!  FOGWOFT helped with a public consultation as to whether the tunnel should be re-tiled or whether the traditional tile work should be cleaned but remain, however scarred.    It has however proved that however clean the tiles are that they are never going to return to their original bright white state.

The liftsat Greenwich were originally installed two years after the tunnel was opened and there are stories of gallant young men helping young ladies to descent the steps, sometime with bicycles.  The lifts were replaced in 1992 with an 80 person capacity and the beautiful original mahogany lift interiors r-installed.  These lifts were always attended with staff members at both and south lifts. It was decided to install lifts which did not need to be manned  and thus new state-of-the-art lifts are now in place, complete with the original mahogany interiors – but there have been problems of constant lift breakdowns.  The ventilation system allows hot air from the tunnel to be vented through louvres in the cupolae but solar heat builds up under the listed glass domes.  The electronic lift controls cut out at temperatures above 43deg.C. – The highest recorded temperature in the domes has been 56deg.C.   Initially it became a struggle to keep the new equipment cool; temporary air conditioned boxes were built round the control cabinets and industrial fans used.  Even so they could not cope and now permanent cool boxes have been installed as well as back up air conditioning units and fans put on new steel gantries below the cupola.   Since then the lifts have been more reliable – and it has been a lesson in how advances in technology can produce systems more vulnerable to environmental change than old mechanical systems.

The tunnelsare classed as public highways and are thus permanently open. They are also part of the UK NationalCycle Route I which linksInverness and Dover.

As the tunnels have returned to normal use FOGWOFT there are challenges to be met.  The by-laws – dating from 1902 – rule that there shall be no cycling in the tunnel, but this is ignored by many cyclists, and in particular a lycra-clad minority who hurtle through the tunnel to the danger of pedestrians.  FOGWOFDT had been asked by Greenwich Council to help participate in a pilot scheme which to monitor electronically – and hopefully regulate – movement in the tunnel.  It is thought that if this is successful that it could be used elsewhere –canal towpaths would be one obvious use. However, it has now emerged that funding for the scheme from the GLA is notforthcoming and as this article is written we wait for news from Greenwich Council Officers about new ideas and new initiatives to deal with this ongoing problem.Some problems have still not been completely overcome – the lifts at Greenwich failed again during the Tall Ships Festival, and it emerged that spare parts needed to be specially made, in Germany.

FOGWOFT will continue to monitor the tunnels and hopefully help to make them both better known but to enable them to become an important part of the Greenwich heritage which visitors come to see and provide not only a crossing place for them, and for locals, but significant local places which might have a variety of other uses - there is space, for example, for art works in the rotunda.

Thames crossings of all sorts have been proposed recently and there is current a consultationexercise being undertaken on behalf of Transport for London.  At FOGWOFT’s recent AGM it has been suggested that the problems of cyclists who want to speed over could be solved by the provision of other tunnels paralleling the existing foot tunnels but for the use of cyclisrs. In the context of some of the other propsoals this is cheap and cheerful..

Both tunnels continue to do the job they were built for a century ago, and do it efficiently, however modernising them, while maintaining their traditional features, has been more problematic than anyone thought – and provided some valuable lessons. .   This makes an important point about the tunnels – they seem so simple – and yet they were major engineering works of their day, and should be appreciated as such. To quote one report to Tower Hamlets Council ‘they represent a magnificent feat of Edwardian engineering – impressive ambition of the project  - the character is consistent and defined by the finest engineering techniques of the day  - the design throughout ... and fabric is coherent, logical and simple and the materials used are robust and designed to last’.

Mary Mills


Sources - the material for most of this article was obtained verbally from construction team members on site at the tunnels.   An article on the history of the Greenwich Tunnel by Myles Dove appeared in the September 2002 edition of the Greenwich Industrial History Newsletter. ( .   Other material has come from Dr. Skipper’s presentation to Greenwich Industrial History Society (also unpublished).Materialcan also be found in reports to meetings of the three LondonBoroughs concerned – sometimesburied in minutes or as appendices.

Article in Engineer 4th April 1902.

Institution of Civil Engineers 1901-1902. Minutes of proceedings. The Greenwich Footway Tunnel by William Charles Copperthwaite. M.Inst. C.E. (much of this paper describes the arrangements made to allow construction to proceed)

Press cutting file Greenwich Heritage Centre

London Borough of Greenwich. Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels. Feasibility Study for refurbishment



Dr. Mary Mills (incidentally Chair of FOGWOFT)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Sudden holes appear in Charlton and Woolwich

The following might be a bit band wagon jumping - but the recent collapses in local roads are all too familiar to me - brought up in Gravesend where dene holes were well known.

There has been a lot of local research  by individuals and organisations. -

Subterranea Britannica is long established, has a distinguished record and maintains a data base.

Kent Underground Research (KURG) has specialised in our area and I note that the redoubtable Rod LeGear is giving a talk to Gravesend Historical Association on 12th September about Kent Chalk Mines.   There are also newer local organisations - like GIHS - and the North West Kent Family History Society has also produced research, particularly in brickworks.

A lot of work on the subject was published in the 1960s  (and later) by the Chelsea Spelaeological Society - and I have put below a few references to their findings on Woolwich and Charlton from what I happen to have about the house and remember, Sub Brit have published far more

Vol 4
Page 38. Report on digs at Deneholes in Abbey Wood
Page 58 Deneholes discovered in Plumstead 1880s

Vol. 6
page 63 Report of tunnel in front of Charlton House, and Council report on the subject
page 43  Detailed report of chalk mine in Alliance Road area, Plumstead.10 page report including maps.

Vol 10
page 108 Denehole which appeared in Abbey Wood in 1974

Caves and Tunnels in South East England

Part 4. 
Page 55 Woolwich Common - collapse in Nightingale Vale

Part 5
Page 26 Sappers tunnels in Woolwich

Part 6
Page 49 historical note on excavations on Plumstead Common

Part 9
Page 19 Turpins Cave - edge of Bostall Wood plus a plan
Page 20.  Maryon Park Chalk Mine

--  well that's a few to be going on with

News and notes - what is going on in Greenwich

More notes and stuff that has come in


The prestigious NEWCOMEN SOCIETY - is to hold an event at the Royal Institution on 5th September to note the 150th anniversary of the first working transatlantic  telegraph cable.  The first speaker and scene settler will be Enderby Group's Stewart Ash. The event is called Annihilating Space and Time - 150 Years of Transatlantic Telecommunication.  You can book through Eventbrite or £65 cheque to the Newcomen Society, The Science Museum, Blythe House, 23 Blythe Road, W140QX

- and - on a more local note - The Enderby Group is carrying out a footfall survey of the riverside path. No else has ever done it, the Council haven't commissioned it and we need figures to bolster our claims that amenity on the path is needed.  We need more volunteers.  All you have to do is sit in the sunshine and enter the number of people going past onto a form -  lots of interesting people, happy to chat too.  Email and I will pass you on to the team.


Landmann story
- I have some pieces people have sent about the manufacture of guns in the 18th century Arsenal - and am adding that on to the relevant Landman pieces - and thank you to them - and to Elizabeth who has lent me 'The Art of Gunfounding' - all about Woolwich again with lots and lots of pictures.


The Port of London Authority and environmental monitoring - Docklands History Group hosted a talk on this with a last minute substitute speaker at their last meeting. Falcons - eels - seahorses - porpoises - and, er, - cruise liners


Make your own gasholder - for a long long time I have been giving out cut out models of gasholders - and I now learn that there are several types of model. None of them are like our own East Greenwich holder - which is a Livesey type.  Am lobbying hard - need a paper version of it.  No news about its sad eventual fate though.

- and - talking about gas - we have this week encountered two German gas museum people. They wer staying in Deptford, so we took them to see our own East Greenwich holder (which they were ecstatic about), and then took them to look at the ones at Old Kent Road.  Since then they have been hosted by the Westminster Gas Lighting Department, taken all round Kent and Surrey by GLIAS, and round north London by someone else. More holders in London than they have ever seen - and most, no doubt, doomed.  Visitors like them need to come NOW while there is something to see.


The Old Loyal Britons Pub down in Thames Street. Lots of emails have been flying about but not sure of the current situation - can someone enlighten us?? Demolished?? Preserved?? Not sure??


Six or so weeks ago I (Mary) did a last minute talk for GIHS on the Beale Engineering factory on the Enderby site = there in the 1820s-1860s.  Happy to do it for someone else by the way (lots of scandal, lot of innovation).  I knew there was a photograph of a Beale steam engine in Watkins famous book - but that it was not one of the famous rotary engines which he designed.  It came from Glemsford Silk Mill in East Anglia - and I then learnt that it is in store at Beamish Museum - but, that, because it is owned by Tyne and Wear Museum Service they know about it and Beamish doesn't.  

You might ask what an engine made in Greenwich and used in East Anglia is doing in Newcastle/Durham - but - hey ho - I suppose they thought it couldn't have come from London 'because there wasn't any industry there'.   

The other thing is that Tyne and Wear Museums - while being very helpful - have no more information than what came with the engine in - er - 1936.   I offered info on Beale - no reply.  Happy to give more details according to the 1936 info, and I suppose it might be possible to arrange a trip to see it.


Still a lot of rumours flying round about the Council planning to fill in the Arsenal Canal - real info would be good.


Greenwich Historical Association -
May 25th London's Sailortown (Shadwell) Derek Morris
Sept 28th Ballast Quay by Michael and Polly
Oct 26th - Bert LLoyd by Dave Arthur (A.L. Lloyd was a hero to me in 1964 - finger in the ear stuff)
Nov 23rd - P.C. Wren by Neil Rhind.


Lewisham Local History Newsletter
Little about Greenwich in this edition - other than people being killed by Zeppelins in the Great War.
(four people killed in Well Hall Road, and one at Deptford Power Station) Damage at Greenwich South Street, Greenwich Station, Prince of Orange Pub, Tranquil Vale, Crown Hotel, Royal Parade, Bostall Hill, Army Service Corps Depot  and Deptford Dry Dock, Deptford Green).
Meetings at Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way
27th May - Windmills of Kentish London
24th June - Rise and Fall of Robert Cocking - Anthony Cross
29th July - Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park


Query about Dowell's Wharf - who knows about Dowell??  There was an old sign up about the wharf recently but it has now been developered out.  This was once the Kent Wharf where Joyce and later Cowan built ships and made engines   Any more info.  Peter Kent has been putting out the idea of a historic ship here?? So long as it has some Greenwich connections and not built in Scotland maybe?? Any ideas?


Peninsula riverside - along the river side at what was Lovells, Pipers and Badcocks everything is going fast. The old house, the interesting wall and the Piper's signage were all destroyed some weeks ago.  On the riverfront - presumably soon to go too - and the river views to be blocked by yet more willow between the path and the foreshore.

Fred says 'the wall that was below the stone pier along the river by pipers yard is about 5 -6 foot high and it had been robbed to build the ramp which was there this would make this wall about the same height as the wall at Cadet Place where the shingle ramp ended .... if you look this wall must have been built on the rivers edge now it is way below the river at high tide, whatever it was it would have flooded..... to me it very interesting, I cannot see why any one would build high stone walls to stop any one stealing blocks of stone".    

So - again - any info for Fred

Saturday, 21 May 2016

George - Turnham Green and the great Lord Heathfield

The next episode described in George Landmann's  rather rambling childhood memories takes place in west London, far from Woolwich.  It raises some interesting questions about his father, Isaac Landmann's, past and his rather exalted connections.  It describes visits, and events around the important figure of Lord Heathfield.

George Augustus Elliott was remarkable for his distinguished military career - and to my mind illustrates the pan-European nature of the 18th century. He was clearly a great man - and, unusually for this period, a vegetarian and a teetotaller.  He had been born in Scotland, was at the University at Leiden in Holland, studied at the French Ecole Militaire, and served with the Prussian Army,. He became ADC to George II and by 1775 was a Privy Councillor. As Governor of Gibralter he withstood the Great Siege by the French and Spanish for four years and returned to England, a national hero.

Where in this time did he encounter Isaac Landmann who - from George's account - seems to have been a personal friend.  In 1779 the, by then, Lord Heathfield had bought a grand house on Turnham Green, to become known as Heathfield House. The house stood at the west end of what is still called Heathfield Road and occupied the site of what is now Chiswick Fire Station.  This was where ten year old George Landmann stayed as a guest of the family. 

Landmann's main account of events at Heathfield House concern the celebrations  in 1789 for the recovery of George III from his first bout of illness. The king attended a great thanksgiving service in St.Paul's Cathedral and Heathfield put on a grand show in Turnham Green. Fireworks were prepared by the Royal Artillery with a 'large fire ball' on the top of the house. There was a roast ox 'stuffed with potatoes' on Turnham Green and free beer for whoever wanted it. Isaac drew and distributed sketches of the event.  Just after five in the evening the King's entourage came along main return as he returned to Kew Palace. At that the fireworks were set off with some problems concerning the fireball. Lord Heathfield - by then in a wheelchair - raised a toast and the King waved and saluted from his coach.

While this was all very exciting for a young boy - this was not all of the relationship with Heathfield. George describes accompanying him in his carriage when they stopped to chat to a local baker. He described Heathfield's library, full of kittens, and other domestic events.  He related episodes of Heathfield's interactions with soldiers, servants, and local people and some of his eccentricities.

A year later in 1790 Isaac took young George to a grand dinner with the Polish Ambassador.  The other participants were a Polish General (unknown identity), and including General Roy (who laid the foundations for the Ordnance Survey); Colonel Elliott (Heathfield's son), and Sir William Fordyce (Scottish doctor,soldier and FRS) .

Heathfield died in 1790 at Aix la Chapelle during a trip on which he had asked Isaac to accompany him.  Before he left he gave Katherine - George's mother - his crimson ribbon from his investiture as a Knight of the Bath, in Gibralter.  George kept this all his life - but there are no answers as to why he gave it to her and what past relationships had been between the Landmanns and Heathfield. Do the roots of it lie somewhere in his European education and career - he was much older than them, did he perhaps know their parents and history??

All of this goes to show George Landmann growing up surrounded and known by powerful and influential people. These people may well have had a good start in life from wealthy and aristocratic backgrounds but their careers and what they made of then, even given these advantages, were their own, What did he learn from  them?

British History Online. Chiswick
Landmann. Adventures and Recollections
Treasure. Who's Who in early Hanoverian Britain
Wikipedia - as expedient