Saturday, 13 January 2018

Siemens ~Woolwich - site notes

Information from Siemens Engineering Society
Siemens Brothers & Co. Ltd., Building Identification and Site AgentslManagement 
Building Identification:
We have done our best to identify the original use of the buildings proposed for conservation.
Our information is a little patchy as virtually all the Members of the Siemens Brothers Engineering Society came from the Telephone side of the business as opposed to the Cable Business
. This was despite the Society being open to all employees.

Map Key No 1  Third Phase of Expansion to Cable Factory 1929-1948

Map Key No 2 Second Phase of Expansion 1900 - 1928Wood-Workers Building, cable drums etc.

Map Key No 3 Third Phase of Expansion 1929 - 1948. Instrument Factory and Marine Radio School

Map Key No 4 Second Phase as above. Copper Wire Factory, known as the IR Building. IR was short for India Rubber, an early form of cable insulation.

Map Key No 5 Not Siemens Brothers - Trinity Wharf 

Map Key No 13 First Phase of Expansion to the original Cable Factory 1865 - 1899, now the earliest surviving building of the Siemens Telegraph Cable Works. Cable insulation and core-testing.

Map Key No 14 First Phase of Expansion as above. Workshop extensions for dynamo shops, milling machinery, armouring and lead sheathing.

Site AgentslManagement
In March 2004 towards the end of the Archive Material Catalogue Project, the Committee decided it would be nice if some form of permanent plaque and/or memorial to Siemens Brothers could be established on the site of the old Woolwich Works. This lead us into contact with the site managing agent, who at the time was The Co-operative Insurance Society(CIS). The CIS were very keen on this idea as a part of their redevelopment and landscaping of the site. This resulted in a sculptress being hired who produced a model of a sculpture based on ideas and equipment we had provided, with an associated plinth, the wording for which had been agreed by all parties. Unfortunately, this project never came to fruition because the entire CIS Property Portfolio was taken over by AXA Real Estate.
We continued liaison with AXA, who took some time to get to grips with a huge portfolio. Although sympathetic, our project took a backseat, but AXA gave us 6 monthly updates on the progress being made on the site. This included liaison, with Greenwich Council,  refurbishment and re-use (leasing) some of the original Siemens buildings and possibly  saving the original and earliest Siemens building, as well as a residential aspect. This 'site regeneration' plan represented a significant investment, but it all depended on the success or otherwise of the AXA plans and the market demand for refurbished warehouse/workshop accommodation. Market demand we believe was low and the situation has now changed completely with the arrival of the Charlton Riverside Development.

During 2011 we were contacted by Mott MacDonald [Consultants for the Greenwich University Technical College] about the previous use of the land [part of our old site] on which the GUTC was to be built. We provided a full background and in short; the Architects were sympathetic to the original building and the wording on the formal plaque [unveiled by HRH The Duke of York] was extended to include a reference to the original factory site. We were invited to the opening and had a guided tour. Recognition for Siemens Brothers at last

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Siemens Woolwich, History

Siemens Brothers had one of the largest and most important works in Woolwich - which closed as long ago as the 1960s.  A consisderable number of buildings remain on the riverside on the Charlton/Woolwich borders.  The area is now being considered for a Riverside Conservation Area and at the time time there are news of Immunity for Listing Orders coming from the Department of the Environment.  The Siemens Brothers Engineering Society have prepared a huge amount of information to support this - and we have been sent copies and now have clearance to put them on this blog.  This is the first few pages - there is a lot more to come!! (and thanks for all this to Brian Middlemiss and his colleagues)

Charlton Riverside Conservation Areas and Locally Listed Buildings Consultation
Supporting Information
The Siemens & Halske Company was founded in London in 1858 and in 1863 with continued expansion bought a piece of land on the Thames in Woolwich and built on it a cable factory,  a mechanical workshop and stores. In 1865 Halske withdrew his support for the Company  and William and Werner Siemens took over the assets and re-registered the business as Siemens Brothers, London.
Siemens Brothers became a Limited Company in 1880 and pioneered research, development, engineering and manufacture of Electrical Cables, Telegraph, Telephone, Signalling and  Measuring Apparatus, Wireless Equipment, Lamps, Lights and Batteries. The Woolwich  Works [now the Westminster Industrial Estate] was bounded by Warspite Road, the Thames, Hardens Manorway and the main Woolwich/Greenwich Road and employed an average of around 8,000 people in the post war years.
A large area of this site between Bowater Road and the main Woolwich/Greenwich Road has  already been lost to modern factory units and the new Greenwich University Technical College. It is therefore imperative that no more is lost and the remaining buildings should be conserved not only as the remaining legacy of Siemens Telegraph & Cable Works, one of the area's biggest industries and employers, which stood at the forefront of technological advancement in the international telecommunications industry, but because these remaining buildings represent a significant part of local heritage.
A book written by LD. Scott, printed in 1958 and published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson [London] provides a detailed history of 'Siemens Brothers 1858 - 1958'. This is a hardback book consisting of 279 pages and was presented to Managers as a part of the Company's centenary celebrations. and to demonstrate the significant role Siemens Brothers played in the telecommunications industry. This book has a pull-out map which details the development of the Woolwich Works, colour coded by building periods.

Cable: Siemens Brothers were one of the major cable making companies of the world between mid-Iv" C and mid-20th C, for underground and submarine use. The Company entered the submarine cable business in the early 1860's, laying cables all over the world. The Company also played a significant role in the design, development and manufacture of  the well-known PLUTO [Pipe Line Under The Ocean] cable, used as a 'pipe' to cany oil across the Channel to Normandy for use by the Allied invading forces. It was originally known as the 'HAIS' cable; H [the initial letter ofthe name of the instigator, Hartley, of
Anglo-Iranian] AI [Anglo-Iranian Oil Company] and S [Siemens Brothers]
. The Company had its own wharf on the Thames at Woolwich and operated its own cable ship, C.S. Faraday,which was purpose designed by William Siemens.

Telegraphy: Siemens Brothers started with this product in the mid-Iv'" C; it being the firstelectrical form of communication and continued well into the 20th C particularly for ships.
Cable ship Faraday

Telephony: Siemens Brothers were one of the five Telephone switching equipment manufactures in the UK to supply to the Post Office who ran the nation-wide network
. They also supplied world-wide. The UK's first electronic exchanges were designed and built by Siemens Brothers, called TXE-4 by the PO. When adopted by the PO, other manufacturers also produced these exchanges.
The Siemens Brothers Engineering Society. The Society was formed in 1897, the 50th anniversary of the founding of Siemens & HalskeIt was a formally constituted organisation and Alexander Siemens was the first President being the nephew and adoptive son of Sir William Siemens. At the time of the formal 
termination in 1968 [when Siemens Brothers closed] there were over 600 members.
The Society was re-formed in 1968 by two former officers of the original Society. 'A Society linked no longer by employment but by memories and fellowship.' The re-formed Society continued to meet regularly right up to 2013 when the age of the members dictated that closure was inevitable, this was 45 years after the closure of the Company! In 1991 the Society, realised that there was little information/archive material in existence around the local libraries about Siemens Brothers & Co. Ltd. This being somewhat alarming for a Company that had a business continuity at Woolwich for 100 + years, the Society set about accumulating its own archive.
Over the succeeding years the Society had accumulated such an immense amount of archive material, donated by Members of the Society, that it became necessary in 2001 to form a six- man Archive Project Committee. The work of this committee resulted in the publication of an Archive Material Catalogue which detailed almost 1400 items of documentation and  hardware. One hundred copies of this catalogue were printed [June 2004] and given wide circulation including six 'New Holders' of the archive material itself Some 80% of this material is held at the Greenwich Heritage Centre [GHC].
Subsequently the Society went on to produce a 'Supplement' to this catalogue, printed in October 2006, which detailed a further 300+ items, and given the same wide distribution. After this period the Society went on to produce its own history. This was printed in two parts '1897 - 2008' [October 2009] and '2009 - 2013 The Final Five Years' [July 2015], again both parts being given the same wide distribution as the archive material catalogue. .
Siemens UK Ltd. Siemens UK is the UK arm of the giant German Company Siemens AG. The former 
Siemens Brothers & Co. Ltd and Siemens UK are often confused, same family but different Companies. However the Siemens Brothers Engineering Society owe a huge debt of thanks to Siemens UK. Following a chance meeting between the Society's Archivist and the Siemens UK Archivist at the old Woolwich Local History Library; Siemens UK went on to support all of the Engineering Society's activities from 1994 to its closure in 2013. In particular this included funding the printing of all four documents detailed above. Before this chance meeting Siemens UK had been unaware that the Engineering Society still existed.
The Siemens plc., [UK] had in 1993 published a book entitled "Sir William Siemens - A Man of Vision". This was in celebration of William Siemens who had begun building Siemens in the UK 150 years previously in 1843. The Archivist dearly wished she had been aware of the Siemens Brothers Engineering Society a few years earlier as this book also covers the history of Siemens Brothers & Co. Ltd., including life at the Woolwich Works, life on board the Faraday and the Cable Business. All Members of the Engineering Society were presented with a copy of this book.

William Siemens was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1883, sadly only a few months before his death. He had provided communication to many parts of the British Empire via cable laid by the Company, enabling direct contact, for the first time

Monday, 1 January 2018

More news - not all of it depressing.

CLEARLY we are all working very hard on the probable terrible fate of our wonderful gas holder. There is lots of stuff around on many local blogs and newsheets.  Everyone is being urged to contact the Council planners and tell them what they think.  

The Council is in a very difficult position. A Certificate of Immunity from Listing has been issued by the Goverment agency.  Immediately the owners, Southern Gas Networks, have told the Council that they intend to demolish it and are asking the Council to approve their demolition plan.  They have followed the same plan with other local councils, and holders are coming down despite widespread public protests. Local listing can be done -but it has no legal force if the owners decide to go ahead and demolish anyway. That shouldn't stop us making a fuss - at the best we can buy time.

Subterranea Britannica

Their 'magazine' arrived the other day. Full of interest and some of it about Greenwich.

First - they have an item about the work done by veteran underground explorer Harry Pearman and the Chelsea Spelaelogical Society Records, and how good they are and what a collection of information.  They don't say - but some of the best work is about Greenwich - all sorts of things from the Park Conduits, Plumstead Mines and obscure bits of Blackheath can be found there. I know - but they don't say - that Harry worked for Greenwich Planning Department in the 1960s, hence all this info.   Its been a great source for everyone since.

An article by Mark Chatterton describes 'The Road Tunnels of Great Britain' which briefly describes our own Blackwall as 'in the east of London and built  to carry goods between the docks on the north and south banks of the river Thames' - eh?? where does that come from.  Anyway the Blackwall should have had much more than a brief mention - its a triumph of engineering over too much traffic!  He also mentions The Silvertown Tunnel ' it is planned to be open by 2021'. oh ho!

Another article is about the Thames Tunnel Tour in October. In this foray a group of people began on the Waterloo and City line, or at least they looked at it and then went on the Northern Line to Embankment. They then went on the Circle Line to Tower Hill and had a look at the Tower Subway (from above, you can't go down there) So they went on the DLR to Cutty Sark and then lunch, and back over to the Isle of Dogs through the Foot Tunnel. And then back on the DLR to Limehouse and then they walked back through the Rotherhithe Tunnel (aaargh!!).And then - the highlight - to the oldest tunnel of them all, Brunel''s Thames Tunnel and the East London Line. So - Greenwich was their lunch break!!!  They do mention some interesting things though.

You can get copies of this through the Sub Brit web site -


Crossness Record

More news from Crossness Engines

- the chimney. a  whole page article about the chimney which once stood at the works - to keep the many people who ask about it informed

- a report from Petra, their Outreach Worker.  Petra works with local schools - for example in September Charlton's Cherry Orchard School paid a visit - the trust is also now employing an Education Assistant, Calleen Everitt

-  news of RANG - and the arrival of Busy Basil from Haig Hall in Wigan

-  the formation of a wildlife pond - and the possible installation of toad ladders

- and they still need volunteers. If you want information on this get on to Greg


Call for papers on Maritime Animals.  They seem to want not so much marine wildlife but stuff like the ship's cat (and attendant rats).
The conference will be at the National Maritime Museum April 26-27th 2019. Contact
They are also looking for good maritime animal stories in addition to the papers


this includes

- item on Air Quality Strategy for the Port of London as a UK Port first. A consultation paper is available from the PLA consultation ends on 23rd January.

- Thames Skills Academy - first appreentices. This is a scheme for deck apprentices and engineering appentices.

- advert for a new book on the heritage of the Tidal Thames - this is a Museum of London Archaeology book and is really about their work along the foreshore.  Its £15 and you can get it from PLA or the Museum.


We are told by the Council conservation department that they have been told that Historic England have issued an imunity to listing document for the oldest range of Siemens buldings 18-32 Bowater Road.  They do not think that Siemens was significant enough.

I am aware that a lot of people are getting together info to challenge this - and any one interested is encouraged to contact   Siemens - who closed as long ago as the 1950s - were a major international firm working mainly in telecoms and also cable. To say there were no significant is ignorant and insulting.  Please support a bid to get this overturned.


- and while we are on about Siemens- Brian Middlemiss from the Siemens Society send all at GIHS best wishes for Christmas and the New Year


Docklands History Group

Any post-graduate or PhD student working on a subject related to the history of the Port of London and/or the River should contact Edward Sargent for details of a working group and how papers can be contributed.

Please also look at their facebook page


Finally  - we have a copy of a very very good book from Museum of London about the archaeology and history of Deptford Dockyard.  More on that soon

Friday, 22 December 2017

East Greenwich gasholder - planning application to demolish

An application to demolish the East Greenwich gasholder has been submitted to Greenwich Council. by its owners Southern Gas Networks.

(if that link doesn't work go to Greenwich Council's planning search system and type in 'Millennium Way' and it should be the first thing that comes up.

The consultation period is apparently 20th December - 11th January - which is a stunningly cynical move on the part of Southern Gas - when not only many local residents but many of the planners will be on holiday, and getting anything done nearly impossible.

The following link goes to a great picture of the holder taken the day after the IRA attack in 1979.  I have always understood that the bomb was not on the holder itself, but on an adjacent installation

Listing - people are asking - 'can't we get it listed??'  - well, no. There have been a number of applications for listing over the years - and all of them refused. BUT NOW last week the Department of the Environment granted it immunity from listing - ie. it can never be listed.

BUT it may still be possible to get it 'locally listed' - ie Greenwich can put it on a list of local buildings which they think are important. It doesn't give it very much in the way of protection but it does put up a marker for it and would give councillors confidence to keep it - although what they want can easily be overturned by the Government Planning Inspectorate.

See what Peter says below

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Rope making and the birth of the submarine cable industry

Rope making and the birth of the submarine cable industry.
by John Yeardley

In the nineteenth century a dramatic change took place in the cordage industry with the invention of wire rope. Some companies took to this revolutionary metallic raw material and a new industry was born. Much of this development was centred in London.

In the beginning. George Wright Binks, a foreman ropemaker at Woolwich Dockyard, about 1830, conceived the idea of forming a rope from twisted iron wire instead of hemp and began practical experiments to that end in the dockyard ropery.

George Binks tried unsuccessfully to interest the Admiralty in his invention but his efforts caught the attention of a Captain Harris R.N. who in 1835 put up the money to establish a small works in Great Grimsby in Lincolnshire. Binks and his two sons continued the development and in the same year produced the first true stranded wire rope. In 1838 the factory was moved from Great Grimsby to new premises in Greenwich Road, (now West Ferry Road,) Millwall.

George Wright Binks
Lewis Dunbar Brodie Gordon, a young Scotsman who had worked with Brunel on the Thames Tunnel until 1837 became interested in the possibilities of rope made from iron wire and discussed it with a boyhood friend and brilliant engineer, Robert Sterling Newall. He wrote to Newall in June 1838 and the latter, working very quickly, replied at the end of July with a drawing of a machine to produce a four strand wire rope.

In 1840 Newell took out a patent for "certain improvements in wire rope and in machinery for making such rope" In the same year Gordon and Newall, in partnership with Charles Liddell (a pupil of George Stephenson), established a factory in Gateshead trading as R.S.Newall & Co

In 1850 a submarine cable of copper wires coated with Gutta Percha was laid between Dover and Calais for the Anglo French Telegraph Company but it lasted only one day through chafing on rocks. Newall then proposed that such a cable could be improved by armouring it with a layer of wires, in effect making the cable the core of a wire rope. The contract to make such a cable was however given to Wilkins and Weatherley, rope makers ofWapping. After a legal battle over patents Newall took over their premises and the cable was successfully laid in September 185l.

Other cables soon followed including the Dover - Ostend cable in 1853 on which Newall cooperated with William Kuper.

Kuper and Company had been one of the first to manufacture wire rope with a factory on the Surrey Canal but had failed to prosper and gone bankrupt in 1849 whereupon a mining engineer called George Elliot came to the rescue by acting as their sole agent and manager. The works were moved to Morden Wharf, East Greenwich and by 1854 Elliot was so successful that he became proprietor by paying the creditors in full with interest. Kuper than retired and was replaced by Richard Glass. The company was then renamed Glass, Elliot and Co and began increasingly to go in for producing submarine cables. In 1856 they enlarged their premises by taking over what had formerly been Enderby's Hemp Rope Works.

Newall rope making machine
Samuel Enderby, born in 1717, went into partnership with an oil merchant, Charles Buxton and in 1752 he married Buxton's daughter. They owned a number of sailing ships and one of them was involved in the famous Boston Tea Party. In 1775 he took over the business and started fitting out ships for whaling. By 1790 he owned 68 whaling vessels and had estates in Lewisham, Bermondsey, Eltham and Lee and lived in Crooms Hill House. Various sons became involved in what was a very large and important business. (One of his grandsons was General Gordon of Khartoum fame). The company vessels obviously used vast quantities of rope and in 1829 they established their own rope factory in Greenwich. The enterprise was fairly short lived for the factory was destroyed by fire in 1845 putting 250 people out of work. Although the machinery was covered by insurance the factory never reopened' and was eventually sold to Glass Elliott and Co.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

News of this and that, but not about Christmas


Below - under 'GLIAS NEWSLETTER' is a report of the death of Dr. Denis Smith - and his contribution to industrial history/archaeology - much of it in our area.

The following things are covered below - with other bits of news interspersed in between:

East Greenwich Gasholder
Charlton Riverside Consultation
The Royal Arsenal Canal Swing Bridge
Enderby House
Plumstead Station
Royal Naval Dockyards Society Newsletter
Royal Arsenal Building 19/C1
News from Trinity Buoy Wharf
Mystery Building in Maryon Park
Lewisham History Journal -  article on the Silvertown explosion
Industrial Archaeology News - article on the Royal Arsenal
GLIAS Newsletter
Discussions on Industrial Heritage in Greenwich



We are informed that this has received a Certificate of Immunity against listing. The letter from the Government's Department says (I've summarised this a bit - its was a bit intimidatingly long)


After considering your grounds for review the original decision to be minded to issue a Certificate of Immunity. is upheld. The reasons for this are as follows.

Historic England provided advice that the Gasholder doesn't meet the criteria for listing. ....a decision then had to be made on whether or not to ... to issue a Certificate of Immunity. . .... there would have to be good reason for not issuing it ..... only .. one circumstance may provide reason ..... That would be if  ... if significant new evidence of architectural or historic interest may .... emerge that could potentially alter the decision not to list. .......the case of the No.1 Gasholder it is thought very unlikely that significant new evidence would emerge and there are no valid reasons for withholding a Certificate of Immunity."

among the people who have seen that response, one of them says he can see a weasel in it. Looking hard for that myself!!

Meanwhile Lewisham has locally listed the holders at Bell Green.  No weasels there, only a mole who says that this is all to do with scuppering Aldi.



We have a note from the Council as follows:

"Royal Borough of Greenwich is beginning a public consultation on new heritage designations within  Charlton Riverside. We are proposing to create two new Conservation Areas and add several buildings to our Local Heritage List. We would welcome views on the proposals. They comprise what we consider to be significant areas of 19/20C industrial heritage, including the remaining legacy of Siemens Telegraph and Cable Works.  We are asking for comments on:

·      the proposed conservation area boundaries and architectural and historic interest of the two areas

·      the architectural, historic or environmental merits of the proposed locally listed buildings

The consultation can be found at along with downloadable maps and a summary of the proposals. The consultation will run for 5 weeks and will close on at 5pm on Wednesday 17 January 2018.

and - as an added extra on that   CHARLTON CHAMPION

This is the latest episode of Darryl's commentary on the Council's Charlton Riverside proposals (more about this below). It is headed 'A ten-storey love song?? Greenwich Council's surprising plan for Charlton Riverside. 
Well, read it and see



Concerns about the swing bridge on the Royal Arsenal Canal were raised with the Council. Here are their answers

Do Peabody have plans to renovate and conserve the Swing Bridge? 

Answer:  Peabody own and maintain the swing bridge. They have advised that their maintenance regime focuses on preserving the bridge in its current condition and that they have no immediate plans to renovate the bridge although it will be considered as part of a future Broadwater Dock development scheme.

Has this been raised already, by RBG, in talks with Peabody?

Answer: There have been no specific plans agreed regarding the swing bridge but the Council has been in discussions with Peabody about this matter. Additionally, the Housing Zone funding allocation for Plumstead and Thamesmead (please see the linked Cabinet report for further information ) includes funding for preparing feasibility studies and a master plan for Broadwater Dock and the Council will be fully engaged in these documents development.

Have organisations, such as Historic England and the Canal and River Trust, been contacted for advice?

Answer: The swing bridge structure is Grade II Listed and also features on the Heritage at Risk Register (under category C: poor condition, slow decay; no solution agreed).  The Council has been liaising with Historic England’s Heritage at Risk team on the matter and Historic England have advised that they have been making efforts to discuss and agree a strategy towards repair and conservation with Peabody. The Council has discussed this with Peabody and requested a response and update.

The current status and support in making this a condition of any planning approval?

Peabody have advised that they are some way off submitting a planning application for the Broadwater Dock development scheme and, therefore, there has not yet been any pre-application meetings with the Council.



We have a report from Greenwich Council:

"We visited Enderby House along with colleagues from Historic England. The building has been inaccessible for over 18 months since Barratt had deemed the timber structures unsafe. We agreed a programme of essential stabilisation works back in April and these works were carried out in July/August. We have requested urgent improvements to the ventilation as well as an updated timber survey. We are heading towards agreeing schedules of work and the submission of a listed building consent application for the timber elements once full information has been provided and an approach agreed."

The Enderby Group hope to meet Rebecca soon and clarify the situation further



Concerns have been raised about the footbridge at Plumstead Station.  The Council says:

"Regarding Plumstead Station ..on 31st October 2017 Network Rail submitted a prior approval application (Reference 17/3443/PA) for 'Construction of a new footbridge with 2 new lifts shafts and associated lift motor rooms, creation of a new access walkway, construction of a new bin store, demolition of existing footbridge'.   The Planning Department confirms the proposals fall within permitted development rights rather than requiring a full planning application.  At this time a decision has not yet been made. 

More details from the following link:

Despite seeking information from Network Rail, we are unable to advise a likely timeframe for the works. However, the proposal will allow the station to remain open during the construction work. On completion of the work the station will become fully “accessibility” compliant in accordance with the latest relevant standards.

- and PS - we have information from elsewhere that the old footbridge might be sold to a railway preservation group - suppose that couldn't be made a planning condition???



Their AGM is on 24th March 10.00 am at the National Maritime Museum

Call for papers for Conference 24th March 2018 - on Naval Operations and bases in the Mediterranean during the 18th Century.  Send title and 300 word synopsis by 20th December 2017 to Dr.Ann Coats

Dockyards Newsletter - the current issue contains the following items of interest to Greenwich Borough.

News from Chatham - this concerns Machine Shop 8 at Chatham Dockyard Museum. This building was once Slip Cover 6 at Woolwich Dockyard designed by Fox, Henderson in 1844-45. It now has planning consent for use as a leisure centre and will contain a climbing wall. This will include a new frame and cover for the building.

Report on the Lenox Project. The last twelve months have seen some steps forward, commencing with registration as a charity for more effective future fund-raising. They have completed ther ibusiness-plan. Their London Open House event on 16/17 September at the Master Shipwright’s House was extremely successful, gaining many new supporters and raising funds. The official visitor numbers were 1,039 though there were probably had more. They also launched a  film made by some of our volunteers, which can be seen on the website With the aid of funds from the Tideway Tunnel project, they are about to embark on an outreach programme into local schools, which will involve older pupils in teaching primary school children.



Museum of London Archaeology Unit are urging us to take part in a survey about their future work. 



- they are advertising the following events

11th January Waste and the Thames - What's the future. To held at Walbrook Wharf (the City's waste facility).  Register interest
15th March, Thames Estuary Partnership. Members only.  A deeper insight into the organisation's activities. To be held at Watermen's Hall
17th-18th January. Coastal Futures Conference. Royal Geographical Society
7th February.  British Water Winter Reception. House of Lords/
21st April  Take on 50K in a day for AHOY.   This is a rowing challenge for Deptford's AHOY Centre.


7th March Annual Lecture.  This year they have Peter Marsden the World Heritage Site Co-ordinator - thus allowing us to point out that the special zone around it includes some industrial buildings (notably Greenwich Power Station). you have to pay to go to this though £10 (with semi obligatory wine) cheques to Friends of Greenwich Park, 52 Greenwich Park Street, SE10 9LT


Enquiry  - can anyone help with the following

" I have an old painting  - on the back of the original frame is the name and address of the framer. The text is in old copperplate script  and somewhat damaged and difficult to decipher, but what I am able to read of the framer's details are:

J. ?I. Illman, 87 Trafalgar S?quare. East Greenwich.

On the front of the painting are the artist's initials (O.I.) and a date of 13, which could refer to 1913 but more likely 1813.

Any information on the dates and address of the farmer's business activity could help with the dating of the painting."


We have been asked to point out two things

1. European Heritage Protection legislation is not being transferred into English Law
2. The English Tourist Board does not mention industry - even when it is in a World Heritage site.



The Port of London Authority has the following consultation on air quality



Following concerns on this building Ian writes:  I met one of the architects from Bennetts Associates, the firm working on the Council's cultural proposals for the Arsenal. He assured me that the building's extensive 'shop floor', probably the best in London if not South East England, will be preserved pretty much 'in  aspic'. All the cranes will stay as will the railway lines and hopefully the surviving sections of wood-block floor. The former boiler house to the north of the building is likely to have its mid C20 mezzanine floor removed, same for mid C20 walling in that area.  Remarkably, the architect's Father in Law had worked on the design of  the building's four cranes in 1952.

I think we can be assured that the Arsenal will have a significant preserved Victorian industrial building. At last...

He informed me that prior to Greenwich Council buying a lease Berkeley Group were looking at transforming the building into a 'Boutique Hotel'.



Good to hear that Trinity Buoy Wharf have appointed a Maritime Heritage Project Manager

*** fact check - for those of you who never look beyond the foreshore - Trinity Buoy Wharf is opposite the Dome and is where there is a lighthouse at the entry to Bow Creek - and a lot of preserved vessels and some Clippers moored.

They hope to establish a new maritime heritage collection here, and already provide berths for the historic Thames Tug vessels 'Knocker White' and 'Varlet' which was previously at the Museum of London Docklands. They have also agreed to take on the Steam Tug 'Challenge' to be a permanent though fully mobile addition to our collection. They are also working as part of the SS Robin Trust with the aim of moving Robin from the Royal Docks, to a new home at the East India Dock Basin close to where she was built and launched.

and - incidentally - the new Manager is Richard Albanese who has worked for and been associated with the London Museum of Water and Steam for many years.



Our attention was drawn to a building alongside the Green Chain walk near Maryon Park. Basically we were told it lay behind alongside a footpath. The footpath runs into Maryon Park from the point at which Thorntree Road becomes Woodlands Terrace - about opposite the end of Kinveachy Gardens.  The path goes up between a newish house and the last of the older houses. It was not possible to see it from aeriel photographs but it seemed to have an electrical use - 'a pleasant little structure with a somewhat ornate metal ventilator on the roof'.  I went up there and couldn't see anything other than the scant remains of a brick structure of some sort

Then - aha - we were told that it was a substation for the Woolwich Electric Company and that it has been knocked down very recently.

So?? has anyone any information.  Why was it knocked down?? Does anyone have a picture of it??



IA NEWS is published by the National Association for Industrial Archaeology. (No 183 Winter 2017).  It contains an excellent article by Bob Carr about 'Woolwich Arsenal'.  This is no criticism of Bob or his article but that headline says a lot!  This was not 'Woolwich Arsenal' but 'The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich' - and trying to explain about the 'most important factory in the world' to people from north of Watford (or, indeed, south of Gillingham) is an uphill job. Bob has done very well in the limited space to say something important about the Royal Arsenal.  It maybe that, with consent, we can reproduce his article in an edition of this blog.  He makes the very strong point that because of the culture of secrecy there we know very little about its long and diverse history.  In less than a page he has tried to explain about the tumps, and the guns, and the railways, and the ships and the piers, and the gridiron, and the massive and mysterious hinterland.  There should also be something to say about all those satellite factories - nearly all of them north of Watford.  But there is also a whole page of photos.

(ps - is it true that Greenwich Heritage Centre are refusing to accept lifetime collections of Arsenal material from nonagerians)

IA NEWS also has articles of more general interest -

- a report on the seminar on the Impact of Developer Funded Work. Is there any other??  This seminar also included Michael Shapland's paper on Enderby Wharf.  The article concludes that AIA should work to 'promote the next generation of industrial archaeology research'.

- article on the future of industrial archaeology societies. This seems to be saying that we are all in our dotage and that the under-30s don't care/  Very possibly

and another couple of bits about Greenwich (or nearish)

- note ahout the listing of Outram's amazing 'Temple of the Winds' pumping station. This is on the Isle of Dogs and you can see it from the golf course on Delta Wharf on the Peninsula

- note about the setting up of the Valentia Transatlantic Cable Foundation which is fund raising in connection with a World Heritage site status bid.



Remarkably this issue is almost entirely taken up with an article on the Silvertown Explosion in 1917. Other articles are about Prendergast School and Sydenham clergy

The Silvertown article is by Gordon Dennington. Naturally he mentions the explosion in East Greenwich No.2 gas holder and a subsequent fire. I think what he says is interesting and he has used fire brigade sources - and not gas industry ones. He says the fire brigade thought that the damage was due to the 'compression wave from the holder' - and that is what the gas company also thought.  He does not mention - and probably had no way of knowing - that the workers in the valve room heard the explosion and turned off the Greenwich holders before the shock wave reached them.  From memory I think one of them received a bravery award.  No-one ever mentions what should be obvious: at the time of the explosion there were many other holders - some, like the one at West Ham  were much nearer - and not far away were the ones at Poplar, Bromley by Bow and our, still extant, East Greenwich No.1.  All of those held. What was different about No.2 was its 'flying lift.'  (and I would be grateful for an engineer's opinion on that comment).

Anyway - please read Gordon's article about one of the biggest disasters to hit East and South East London in the 20th century

Future meetings
26th January. The Real Dad's Army Mike Brown
23rd February. Law and Order in Crofton Park 100 years ago,. Carol Noakes
23rd March - AGM plus Steve Bullock on being Mayor of Lewisham
17th April - Further eastwards down the A2.  Malcom Bacchus
all at Methodist Church Hall. Albion Way, 7.45



It is with sadness that we see the front page of the newsletter the news of the (not unexpected) death of Dr. Denis Smith. Our local connection to Denis, who chaired GLIAS 1972-2012 and did much else, taught a class on Industrial Archaeology at Goldsmiths - and many of those active in industrial history in South East London attended it and were influenced by him.

So - to the newsletter itself.  GLIAS is advertising:

17th January - Conkers, Cordite and the birth of modern technology. Martin Adams
21st February - Iron Men - Henry Maudslay and his Circle. David Waller (lets hope he says lots about Maudslay's days in Woolwich)
21st March - James Brindley in London and his plans for the Thames.Victoria Owens
18th April - London Underground's Edwardian tile patterns and their context. Douglas Rose
16th May - The Post Office Museum and Railway, Chris AGM 6.15
All at 75 Cowcross Street, EC1 6.30

and also -

an article by Richard Buchanan about the Woolwich stoneware kiln.  Again might reproduce this here - with permission - Richard provides the view of someone closely involved

They have given a list of field work mentioned in the London Archaeologist annual review.  Some of these are about Greenwich and unknown to us - please send more details if you have them. They include:

Greenwich Wharf - this is a recording of a large shed used by Pipers.
(Why do we know nothing about this??? Who did the recording and why didn't they contact local groups?  They seem to think that it was partly built with materials from the "18th powder magazine" - with what evidence? - the magazine was demolished in 1770 and the remains sent down river to the Arsenal - the chances of them still lying around in 1869 would seem to me to be minimal!!!  Please get in touch, archaeologist, whoever you are and give us some proof!!   - and tell us why you never contacted historians who have studied the site, and Pipers themselves)

Convoys Wharf - sawpit and other bits from the Royal Dockyard



Only a passing mention of East Greenwich Gas Works in a long article by Brian Sturt on the Great War - it is, of course, the Silvertown Explosion again 'London was lit up like a summer's day'.  Brian, of course, knows that that was exactly what the holder was designed to do, should it be breached or caught alight.

and finally - SERIAC

Next South East Region Industrial Archaeology Conference is in Windsor 21st April 2018.,
No web site.  You have to book on a form (included in the GLIAS Newsletter) £15 plus £12.50 for lunch, if you want it . and send to Graham Smith, 114 Shaw Road, Newbury, RC14 1HR

but - aha - the sponsoring organisation is BIAG - they have a website(!!!)  and here is a link to the SERIAC booking form  and programme.


Greenwich Industrial History Meeting

on Industrial Heritage in Greenwich

The original meeting was held on 10th October with a roster of invited speakers discussing their perspective on Industrial Heritage in our Borough

There were also some lively contributions from the members present

Following this we had another meeting with the speakers and some other interested parties.  We talked about a lot of things - one of which was to try and produce a gazeteer of industrial relics in the borough.  A number of us are working on this - and are keen to speak to anyone else out there who would like to contribute.

Other ideas and comments

"It strikes me that promoting the conservation and or re-use of buildings as part of a green strategy taking the historic and natural environment together would be well worth looking at and presented properly and forcefully should appeal to both RBG and City Hall"

"People are more likely to use our streets when their journey is interesting and stimulating, with attractive views, buildings, planting and street art and where other people are using the street. They will be less dependent on cars if the shops and services they need are within short distances so they do not need to drive to get to them."

"My suggestion is a briefing document - perhaps in the form of a short booklet - written in readable language with many illustrations.  An introduction to the industrial heritage of the Royal Borough, emphasising the unique richness and the value (able to be capitalised on by tourism etc) to the local authority, residents, visitors and so on.  Published by GIHS or even better GLIAS, which would show local councillors the regard felt outside the borough for the local industrial heritage."

" We need to pick up on the meeting some of us had three or four years ago with the Heritage Trust and come back with some proposals. 

and .....................  and ...................................

Sunday, 26 November 2017

News items

Lots of newsletters and interesting articles

Bill Burns has an article on the links between Ireland and Canada and the Atlantic Cable in the TICCIH Bulletin 78,.   The link to the web site is  However - they won't let you read it yet, but when the next one comes out it will be archived and you can see it - or you can join TICCIH, in which case you will be sent it to read

TICCIH is The International Committee For The Conservation Of The Industrial Heritage, with a web site run by MIT in the US<  and their next conference is in Chile - so look at their web site and join them for an interesting, and international life.  The Atlantic cable would be right up their street!!!

They are also asking for articles for Bulletin 79.  email,


FRIENDS OF GREENWICH PARK - advertise the following historical events

++ 1st December 11 am History Group meeting in the Wildlife Centre.  Everybody welcome.

7th March 7.30 Friends Annual Lecture. Peter Marsden, World Heritage Site organiser/  £10 - to 52 Greenwich Park Street, SE10 9LT and please enclose SAE



We have been sent the following link to a current article in The Architects’ Journal (as published in online 9 November), on the progress of the competition being run by the RIBA and National Grid plc for new uses for redundant in-ground gasholder tanks .



This has news of the launch of the Waterways Forum.    This was created to help ensure the River cariesd more passengers and goods while used for sporting and cultural events.  Speakers included representatives of Cory's, City Cruses, and Thames Clippers


The current issue contains an article about co--operatives in Woolwich  (earlier than Rochdale) and the start of the Woolwich Labour Party. (very early too).  This is available by subscription only but they can be accessed via their web site



Readers will remember articles about the Woolwich Kiln and its demise last summer. We have been pointed to a web  link for an analytical view of it - actually this is quite exciting,



Greenwich Council is hoping to bid to be the London Borough of Culture.  Some of us have been trying to persuade them that industrial heritage is one of our main cultural strengths (fingers crossed), We understand they will mention the Atlantic Cable, but - that should just be the start!  See the video



Bob Carr has an article in the current Industrial Archaeology News (183 Winter 2017).. He points out how diffficult and secret this internationally important industrial site was - and how hard it is to research. He talks aboiut its size, and also what remains and what we can find out about them.
He doesn't mention the Arsenal Canal - which is a pity because that is one of the biggest worries at the moment = info later.
The AIA website is