Saturday, 17 August 2019

Belated news - but anyway its summer

I have been very trmiss not sending some of this off earlier,.   I ought to send it out on the day it comes in! Hwever here is the digest of what has been in the post recently -  keep on to the end there is some important stuff there

Woolwich Antiquarians Newsetter

They note the following dates
9th November Andy Brockman on The Conflict Archaeology of Woolwich. 2 pm Charlton House
4 September.  Richard Buchanan  on Street Furniture. Orpington and District Archaeological Society, Christ Church to Tudor Way, Petts Wood 8 pm
14th September. Charlton Society 50 years. 2 pm Charlton House

Among other items the Newsletter notes use of the Tram Shed in Woolwich. The point out that it was built as an electricity substation using mains driven motors directly coupled to generators to provide the DC supply needed by the trams.

Shrewsbury House. There are concerns about a World War II building converted for use as a house known as Green Garth.  The Community Centre is keen to use  this building since it is designed in bomb resistant reinforced concrete and is thus sound proofed. It also has a good hall for art displays.  They are hoping to get heritage funding.

They also report on the current state of the Avery Hill Winter Garden  which belong to Greenwich  University who would like to sell. Apparently an understanding has been reached with the council

Cruise liner Terminal site - they report that Morgan Stanley have sold the land to Criterion Capital

There is an article about a suite of Astragraphic telescopes - meaning that modern digital is used to generate viewable output. It is to be named after Annie Maunder who was called 'a computer' when she worked there in the 1890s. Some details are given of her life.

Lewisham Local History Society Newsletter

They lead with a obituary to Diana Rimmel whose death we reported earlier in this blog. It includes tributes from Julian Watson and John King

They give some information about Frederick Lanchester who designed the heavy bomber ansd who was apparently born in Lewisham.

In answer to a query they mention the Whitbread bottling plant which was on what is now the Tesco site and the only remaining building there called Eagle House. The Anchor Brewery occupied the site from 1818 and in 1870 built Eagle House but it was bought by Whitbreads in 1984

They advertise meetings
27 September. Women’s Suffrage Movement in Lewisham and working-class campaigners with Jill Mountford
25th October. Lewishams' listed theatre at Catford Broadway by Carmel O’Connor
29th November Leaves from Literary Lewisham by Malcolm Bacchus
They don’t say where the meetings are but I guess they are at the Methodist Church at Albion Road at 7:30

GLIAS Newsletter

They advertise meetings and walks
7th September Camden housing led by John Goodier
5th October City Geology led by Alan Wheeler
email to book

They hope that newsletters during this year which is their anniversary year will be themed:
in October people asked to contribute about GLIAS  coach trips; in December about the GLIAS Recording Group in February walks and conferences

An article on Greenwich and Woolwich ferries includes the new ferry vessels from Poland which are currently being an embarrassment on the old Woolwich ferry route. It also gives some details of the Greenwich steam ferry which operated in the 1880s at what was later known as Wood Wharf.


This has an article by Pieter Van der Merwe on the Tudor and earlier jetty remains found on the foreshore off the Five Foot Walk in Greenwich and exposed by the  emergency repairs to the river wall . He also mentions the Friars Wharf in the same area.


This includes some interesting information about Woolwich and Greenwich in a packed newsletter. It is by John Laxton who I remember well as having done and very noticeable dissertation on Woolwich Labour Party in the 1970s. This article talks about the growth of the Party in Woolwich and saysntht by 1901 the Liberal Association there had ceased to function. A Progressive Association was formed and the Woolwich Trades Council said that the Parliamentary  Candidate had to get a pledge to join the Independently Labour Party members in Parliament. Will Crooks was chosen and fought a by-election in 1903 as the Labour candidate winning with a majority of over 3000. John points out the strength of local trade uniona and that the engineers in Woolwich had 2000 members. The Labour Representation Committee formed in Woolwich was organised it what was to hecome the universal pattern for constituency Labour parties.


We have had a letter to the Planning Department of the council about the site allocations consultation and local plan preferred approach. Hopefully local groups will read the huge amount of material sent out on this and keep us in touch with their views on all those old industrial sites.  Info on the Council web site under 'Consultations'.


Monday, 8 July 2019

This and that and Plumstead Station

There is a petition out on Plumstead Station:
“Network Rail South East: Save Our Station (History) - Plumstead - Sign the Petition!  via @UKChange

The background to this is explained on the Facebook Plumstead People page
and this has been copied at the bottom of this posting.  So - see below.


Meanwhile - What else has come in?

A number of people have pointed out to us  information from the the pan European heritage organisation, EuropaNostra, with reference to their endangered sites programme and the possibility of referring our poor gas holder to it. It's probably much too late to save the gas holder now -  although we are still hoping that some elements from can be kept.  However, I am putting below are some details from Europe Nostra web site.

"Call for Nominations - the 7 Most Endangered 2020 - Deadline extended to 1st August 2019. Most Endangered Programme: Apply Now 

"If you know of an important heritage site in Europe that is endangered – such as a historic monument or archaeological site, a place of worship, an industrial complex, a historic park, a museum or a movable heritage asset – why not nominate it for the 7 Most Endangered programme 2020?  
The Most Endangered programme identifies threatened monuments and sites in Europe and mobilises public and private partners - on a local, national and European level - to find a viable future for those sites. It is not a funding programme. Its aim is to serve as a catalyst for action.  
Europa Nostra, the leading European heritage network, runs this programme in partnership with the European Investment Bank Institute and with the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.  You can nominate a heritage site with the support of an organisation in your country that is a member of Europa Nostra or directly by joining our pan-European network of member and associate organisations.  
The 7 Most Endangered heritage sites in Europe for 2020 will be announced in March 2020.  It is only with your help that we can save our shared heritage treasures! Submit your nomination by 1 August 2019 (deadline extended).

EUROPA NOSTRA The Voice of Cultural Heritage in Europe  |  La Voix du patrimoine culturel en Europe. Headquarters Lange Voorhout 35, 2514 EC The Hague, The Netherlands | +31 70 302 40 50 | . With the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union"

And better get in fast before Boris junks any chance we get of being part of the programme 


London Railway Record. The July 2019 number has a colour feature on  Woolwich Line signal boxes. These are pictures taken in the 1960s by Terry Tracy and covers boxes from Woolwich Arsenal to Slade Green. 
It begins with Woolcwich Station signal box which dated from 1906 and continues with Abbey Wood, Belvedere  Crabtree Crossing, Erith, North End and Slade Green.  The photographs are interesting and with each one are details of the box, its purpose and its eventual fate.


Links is produced by the Newcomen Sciety and the cover of the June 2019 issue features a porcelain pot with a picture of our East Greenwich gas holder reproduced on it.  Inside an article describes how all techniques from the past have been used up by  potters is today and cites the work of Raewyn Harrisom who has produced these pots showing the East Greenwich Gas holder.  Hopefully we can get in touch with Raewyn  and find out more about her work and why she picked the holder as a decorative item


Appleby Engineers

Appleby were a major engineering firm based on the Greenwich Peninsula and elsewhere in the late 19th century.  We have had speakers at GIHS on Appleby ands a short article about them in the Greenwich Society Newsletter last year led to a great deal of interest from local people. Research on Appleby has been undertaken by  John Steeds and he ill has been in touch with us recently about some questions from the Museum at Goulburn in Australia where some Appleby engines are preserved, He has sent us the following information which he has sent to  hem

"One of the questions you asked me was where the castings for the Goulburn beam pump were manufactured. Whilst I cannot be certain, I now think that there is a very good chance that they came from the Haslam Foundry and Engineering Company in Derby.  This was also known as the Union Foundry. I have recently discovered that Charles James Appleby was a director of A.S.Haslam and Co. in Derby.

I had thought that I had found details of all of the various Appleby works, in both Leicester and London.  Because of a couple of references I had long suspected that there may also have been another works in Derby, but despite a lot of hunting, and various other experts telling me that I was mistaken, I had rather given up the hunt.   However, I have recently found an article telling me that Charles Appleby was made one of the six directors of the newly re-formed Engineering    and Ironfounding  business of “A.S.Haslam and Co” working at the Union Foundry in Derby.

On 13 Dec 1876 Alfred Searle Haslam resurrected his old company, as a new company, and was joined by 5 new directors. In addition to A.S. Haslam,and C.J.Appleby the other new directors were Edmund A Pontiflex, John Barton and William Henry Ashwell – all clearly Engineers of some distinction, as I have been able to find details of their various careers and Joseph Jessop who had connection with Appleby Brothers.   Initially Haslam’s specialised in heavy and hydraulic machinery but then came ship refrigeration.   Appleby Brothers intention was to send as much of their heavy work as possible to Derby - and I guess that this probably included the castings for the Goulburn Beam Pump. Also, the 1882 date of the pump is relatively soon after the date that the Applebys became involved in the Derby Works.

Mr Alfred Haslam became very successful in the production of refrigeration for ships for the movement of meat from the other side of the world. This he patented in the early 1880’s and he monopolised the industry until the mid 1890’s. In addition to refrigeration of ships he supplied refrigeration to docks, hospitals and hotels. He was so successful that he was knighted by Queen Victoria and became Mayor of Derby.

I am still trying to find more information about the Derby production.  As a part of your researches, have you found any reference to the Haslam Union Foundry?

and John has asked us: "I would really like to find out how long Charles James Appleby and Joseph Jessop remained Directors of A.S.Haslam and Co.   Do you know of any directories etc. where this information may be found?"


Here is the detail for the Plumstead station petition

Save Our Station History! Network Rail are mandated to provide accessibility to all train stations; this is a good thing! Destroying local history and ignoring the local community is not! I am petitioning Network Rail to reconsider their plans, re-visit the very attractive alternative proposals suggested last year (from Positive Plumstead Project - and respect Plumstead. 

Step Free Access for all London Stations, especially Plumstead (SE18) is welcome however not at any cost. Network Rail proposes installing an “off the peg” footbridge and lift shafts, directly from the station building. which will mean demolishing the historic bridge and replacing it with a massive modern box structure. It should be noted, that the station was built in 1859, not just to cater for the area’s rapidly expanding population and Royal Arsenal workforce, but so that materials could be transported to and from the Arsenal via the famous “Hole in the Wall”. Evidence of this use still remains at the station. Its importance to the history of the Arsenal should not be underestimated. Furthermore, the Greenwich Line was the first in London. The only original stations surviving are Greenwich, Westcombe Park and Plumstead – presenting three different styles.

During the Area Planning Meeting Network Rail refused to consider the following points; 1) The current layout presents pinch-points, which are problematic at busy times. Network Rail’s plans will exacerbate the problem rather than solve it.
(Alternative plans suggested by Community Action Group Positive Plumstead Project would create two ways to enter/exit the platforms. Indeed, this will be of particular  benefit to people living in Glyndon, for instance.)

Network Rail’s plan will mean the demolition of the 1892 iron lattice footbridge, the removal and replacement of the attractive brick steps, also dating from 1892, damage to the attractive 1892 section of the building, removal of part of an 1892 canopy and removal of a crenellated section of the original 1859 station. The crenellations (repeated over the Sam’s Coffee sign) are mirrored on nearby buildings, creating (in heritage lingo) group value and a sense of place. 
(Alternative plans suggested by Community Action Group Positive Plumstead Project would mean that all of the original features, of this charming Victorian Station, will be retained.) 

Network Rail intends to install an unsightly, “off the peg” footbridge close to Plumstead Bridge, at a height that will blight an area earmarked for a “makeover”. Indeed, the Area Planning Committee gave this very reason for its previous refusal. Network Rail has notably failed to address this issue by sticking to its original designs.
(Alternative plans suggested by Community Action Group Positive Plumstead Project proposal would move the bridge further along the track, westwards, so that the station can continue to tie together the Victorian elements of local architecture, rather than the eye being drawn to the current proposal.)

Concerns have been raised around fear of crime and anti-social behaviour in relation to enclosed bridges and covered stairs, citing experiences of the new footbridge at Church Manor Way as an example.
(Alternative plans suggested by Community Action Group Positive Plumstead Project suggest ideally the bridge be made of glass, which is less obtrusive and less likely to attract crime and anti-social behaviour than one that is mostly opaque.)

The station will have to be closed, for some considerable period, for the works proposed by Network Rail, to be carried out.
(Alternative plans suggested by Community Action Group Positive Plumstead Project mean extended closure will be unnecessary.)

The Network Rail plans, by their admission, are the more expensive. 
(So £££ cannot be sued as an excuse to dismiss this.)

Network Rail proposal  received absolutely zero formal submissions of support. 83 people, however objected.
(So local support cannot be cited as a reason to go ahead.)

Network Rail coerced the Area Planning Committee into accepting its lazy, one size fits all proposal, by using emotional blackmail, ignoring requests and reneging on an arrangement for a site visit to explore alternative ideas. Previously, Network Rail endeavoured to protect attractive stations, by locating such additions separately, albeit that these tended to be in more affluent areas. Under the Access for All programme, however, they are applying a one size fits all approach. 

Network Rail is relying on a very old law (dating back, even, to before the creation of the station itself) which means that it can build and demolish whatever it likes within and close to its property. Which means ignoring local community voices.

Recently in Charlton SE7 Network Rail, due to local public pressure, were made to change their minds in shutting an important access crossing, please sign and hare this to get them to change their minds and Save Our Station (History!)*

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Diana Rimel

GIHS is sorry to learn that Diana Rimel has died.  She was one of the true local historians of Greenwich.  Diana had been associated with GIHS from the start, had contributed a number of articles to both the newsletter and this blog and has also come to speak to us on a number of occasions.

Diana began her working life as a secretary (didn't we all) and attended the London School of Economics as a mature student in 1970 for a history degree.  Later she set up a number of historical groups and organisations throughout the area mainly in association with Goldsmiths College. Some of them became independent historical groups - survivors include the Mycenae House Local History Group and another is the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe History Group.  She also wrote for a number of magazines and newspapers - including our local Kentish Mercury and for a number of others. In particular she was involved with the Ashburnham Triangle Association, and its newsletter, She also published a book in 1994 about the Ashburnham Triangle Conservation Area. She also identified the local architect, Dinwiddy, and highlighted much of his work.

She will be greatly missed

Her family are compiling a tribute board for her and asking people and to share memories of her or send photographs.  Her daughters are on Donations in her memory to the Friends of Severndroog Castle. htpps:// Her funeral is on 18th July 12.15 Eltham Crematorium.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

All sorts of news and reviews

LAST NIGHT -   Thanks to everyone who came to the Greenwich Industrial History Meeting last night and in particular thanks to Tracy Stringfellow and Charlie MacKeith who were the speakers.  Age Exchange, where we’ve met for the last 20 years, had a flood and we ended up in the garden house at the back of the Railway Pub in the pouring rain.  One lady had fallen and hurt herself - she went home and (I don’t know her name) but best wishes to her from all of us.  Thanks too to Steve who stood for nearly an hour in the rain telling people where the meeting was being held, as they arrived

It was a completely amazing talk from Charlie about Charlton House and the garden building - which has been used as toilets for many years. He was very interesting about all the work done on it and about the light it throws on to Charlton House itself and why it was built.  If you are a local history society - book him at once!


We are aware of local disquiet on the issue of the railway bridge at Plumstead Station. Please Plumstead people as you have now finished Making Merry can somebody send me a note which I can publish here about what is going on?


There are also a crowd funding appeal from the Deptford based Lenox Project for a visitor centre to showcase the area's shipbuilding heritage


A lot of newsletters and so on have come in since I last did this blog -so please read it - sorry but there is rather a lot of it. 

Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter.   As ever this regular newsletter is full of interesting information.

They report on a meeting on Woolwich Women at War by Steve Hookins. This was about women of all sorts who worked in the Arsenal in the Great War- some called ‘Munitionettes’. Of course the women were thrown out when the war ended.  His sounds like a very lively report and the speaker great fun as well as informative

They also note another speaker on Recovery of the Tidal Thames and its Fisheries. Again this sounds very interesting going from when the Thames was declared biologically dead in 1957 to the present day. The speaker, Steve Colclough, described the whole process of degeneration of the Thames and the work done now, including the fish survey. The Thames is now an example of European best practice.

They also report on local conservation issues including Woolwich Town centre conservation – reminding me that we have still heard nothing about getting a blue plaque on the old Woolwich Labour Party Building.  Must get something done.


Docklands History Group. They report on a meeting held in May about Lascars in Shadwell by John Seed. I remember Lascars when I lived in Gravesend as a child where Asian seamen would be seen wandering the streets having come from ships docked in Tilbury. John Seed described their lives in East London in the early 19th century.


GLIAS Newsletter .  

The June newsletter is full of news of their 50th anniversary plans which include a celebratory meal to be held in October. In the Newsletter they are running articles on ‘themes’ relevant to the anniversary.  They start with reminiscences of industrial archaeology evening classes which inevitably feature Denis Smith’s famous evening classes at Goldsmiths in the 1970s and go on with many subsequent classes by Denis. Bob Carr’s numerous evening classes also get a mention in one line – and none of the others are mentioned at all

There is an item on London windmills which includes the Plumstead Windmill pub. 

Graham Dolan’s lecture on Greenwich observatory and the London County Council Tramways Power Station is mentioned and someone has written in with details from the Southern Railway minutes about their problems with the Observatory. This is a quotation from 1923 about correspondence between the Chair of the Railway Company and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport about removal of the magnetic instruments from the Observatory and the money which the railway had to pay towards this.

A book review of Jim Lewis’s new book on the Enfield Small Arms factory mentions its origins in Lewisham at the Armoury Mill


The Crossness Engines Record. The spring/summer edition begins with a wonderful selection of pictures from their birthday party for Sir Joseph Bazalgette. There is a large picture of the cake with his picture on it and others show guests like our Greenwich Mayor enjoying themselves at the event. There is also a poem by John Richmond to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Joseph Bazalgette’s birth.

The Record includes news – one of their members is making little wooden owls for sale - there is a report on the RANG railway which will run from along to Bazalgette Way and its receipt of money from a crowd funding projects - there is a report on asbestos problems and how this has now been overcome, much of it has been already removed – and there is an article on the history of the Crossness School which was for the children of the workers at Crossness.

All good stuff


Greenwich Society Newsletter.  The society has taken to having historical of articles which I am personally very pleased about. The May June Edition has an article by Peter Van der Merwe on the Painted Hall and how it has been used, and the various restorations and works done on it since its inception. Along with that is a notice about the K2 chronometer which Captain Bligh and took on the Bounty in 1787. This is also by Peter van de Merwe

The other article is by me on the warship, Warrior, and how it was built just across the river at Bow Creek and the various contributions made by Greenwich workers to it.

There is also a brief note about Williams the Pirate in response to the article about gibbets on the Greenwich Peninsula by Pieter in the last edition.


Journal of the Greenwich Historical Society 2019. The leading article is 'Mr. Spurgeon Magic Lantern' by Anthony Cross.  This is about the various photographs taken in the 1880s in Greenwich by Charles Spurgeon. They are obviously posed but nevertheless very interesting as is Tony’s article about them.

There is also a very important article on the Trafalgar Tavern by John Bold which describes its building and use in great detail. Another article consists of accounts of National Service by a number of well-known local individuals - including Peter Kent and several others. There is also an obituary to Darrel Spurgeon who of course was a member of GIHS and who wrote a series of guides to various parts of our local area

Finally we should appreciate the high quality of production of this booklet.  This is down to Rob Powell and it is an immensely impressive publication. 


Industrial Archaeology News. This includes an article by me about George Landmann, the Royal Engineer who built the Greenwich railway and gives a bit of biographical information about him. I've always felt that strongly that Landmann is never mentioned in works on railway engineers although what he did with the Greenwich Railway in particular was ground breaking.

This edition also includes an article by Bob Carr 'On the Origin of Tall Industrial Chimneys'.  I am very aware that Bob has been looking all over the place for evidence of early chimney building. He mentions a numberof chimneys  in Woolwich and includes the two built in the Dockyard in the early 1840s, and says that there were others in the Arsenal.  So, all of you people who are researching the Arsenal - Bob would be very interested in anything about chimney design and construction you might have come across.

There is also quite a bit of news about Crossness Engines.  They note that planning permission has been given by Bexley Council for the installation narrow gauge railway and modification of an existing building for use as depot facilities. They also note the need for track and sleepers and so on.
there is also an article about the Bazalgette party and some details of the work being done at Crossness – which course would not be familiar to people from outside our area who would read IA News..


And while I’m blowing my own trumpet – do people see the articles which I have been doing fortnightly in the Greenwich Weekender? The current one is about the Turkish ferries built on the Greenwich Peninsula by Maudslay Son and Field . One of them, built in 1871, was still in use in the late 1990s


Forthcoming meetings – these are garnered from all the different newsletters I’ve got here:

19th GLIAS Walk 6.30 Medicine and More. Free. Meet Henry VII Gate, Bart’s Hospital Smithfield,
22nd June. Royal Greenwich Big Band and Eltham Hill Steel Pans. Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
22nd June. Thames Barge Match Gravesend  www.boatingonthethames
23rd June Countrypolitan Band Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
23rd June Low Tide Walk through Deptford Creek. 11-1 pm Creekside Discovery Centre, 14 Creekside
23rd June Crossness Public Steaming 10.30-4 pm  Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood
23rd June House Mill Guided Tour. £4 11-4 Three Mill Lane, Bromley by Bow (behind Tesco)
27th June The Great North Wood Project. Friends of Oxleas Woodlands. Shrewsbury House. 7.30 pm
30th June Here to Havana. Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
30th June House Mill Guided Tour. £4 11-4 Three Mill Lane, Bromley by Bow (behind Tesco)
3rd July Chris Ellmers. A Very Very Naughty Boy. Docklands History Group. 5.30 Museum of London Docklands West India Quay Hertsmere Road.  £2
6th July. Jim Marrett. Royal Greenwich. Four World War 1 VC’s.    Woolwich Antiquarians Charlton house 2.00 pm
6th July GLIAS Walk 2.30 Dartford. Tickets from 
7th July KIX Jazz Orchestra Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
7th July House Mill Guided Tour. £4 11-4 Three Mill Lane, Bromley by Bow (behind Tesco)
7th June Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries Open Day. 11-4 pm
8th July. Art and Architecture of Calcutta. Dr John Stevens. Arts Society. Greenwich University, Old Royal Naval College, King William Court,  7.15 £10
9th July. Cricket Match. Greenwich Society v. Blackheath Society. Rangers Field, Greenwich Park.6.00 pm
11th July. Development of the Thames Tideway.  Harpinder Birdi.  London Museum of Water and Steam, Kew Bridge. Tickets £5. From
14th July Heroes Band Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
14th July House Mill Guided Tour. £4 11-4 Three Mill Lane, Bromley by Bow (behind Tesco)
17th July 19th GLIAS Walk 6.30 Tower Bridge to Rotherhithe. Free. Meet Riverside, City Hall
20th July. Restoring Urban Rivers. Charlton Society. Charlton House  2.30
21st July Meantime Band Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
28th July South London jazz orchestra and Live Band Lindy, Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
29th July House Mill Guided Tour. £4 11-4 Three Mill Lane, Bromley by Bow (behind Tesco)
29, 30, 31st July South East London Wool and Textile Festival. Woodlands Farm 11-4 pm
3rd August GLIAS Walk 2.30 Rickmansworth. Tickets from 
4th August Silver Ghosts. Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
11th August Shadey scandals. Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
18th August The Old Jelly Rollers. Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
25th August Greenwich Concert Band. Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
26th August Galaxy Big Band Greenwich Park Bandstand 3 pm
7th September GLIAS Walk 2.30 Camden Housing. Tickets from 
5th October GLIAS Walk 2.30 City Geology. Tickets from 
12th October. Pearly Kings and Queens. Clive Bennett and Gwen Jones.  Woolwich Antiquarians Charlton House 2.00 pm
9th November. The Conflict Archaeology of Woolwich. Andy Brockman.  Woolwich Antiquarians.  Charlton House 2 pm

12th GREENWICH ANNUALE. Exhibition of photographs by members of the Greenwich group of London Independent Photography 17th June to 30th June. Greenwich Gallery, Peyton Place, Royal Hill, Greenwich, SE10. Open weekdays 9.30am -5.00pm, Saturday & Sunday 1.00pm - 5.00pm.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

June 11th meeting - what is happening


OUR June meeting will not be in the Bakehouse at Age Exchange but in the Studio.  Go get there we have been told to go into the front door of Age Exchange shop in Blackheath Village and someone will tell us where to go.  We start at 7.30.

The speakers will be

11th June.Tracy Stringfelllow & Charlie MacKeith. on Jacobean Vistas and public conveniences. 

in addition we have a short talk by Julian Kingston on the current initiative on the Lenox Project.

See you all there

Tuesday, 28 May 2019


1947 – 1954

I will always remember January 1947 in Tunnel Avenue, East Greenwich for several reasons. One was that it was my fourth birthday which also coincided with my family moving from an upstairs single bedroom flat with no bathroom into a wonderful three-bedroom house in Tunnel Avenue. Not only did I get lovely birthday presents but I got my own room to sleep in and a bathroom rather than an old tin tub in front of the fire. Our new home also had the luxury of hot water supplied by a coke fired back boiler which leads me to another memory of the winter of 1947.

About a week after we moved into Tunnel Avenue one of the coldest winters on record hit the country resulting in freezing conditions and massive demands on all types of fuel including coke. This therefore affected the heating in our house as we needed coke to keep the boiler running. My vivid recollection of that time is standing next to my mother with my baby brother in his pram queuing in the extreme cold.We had walked the length of Tunnel Avenue from the Fire Station at the top end down to the gas works which was close to the approach to Blackwall Tunnel. When we arrived, we stood for ages in line alongside the brick wall surrounding the gas works waiting to buy the coke which we either took back on the pram or possibly had it delivered. All I mainly remember is that it was a miserable experience especially as we did not have a car to make the journey but had to walk in the extreme weather. Thank fully the winter finished and we then spent several great years in the house in Tunnel Avenue.

My father was very ingenious and provided us with a magnificent view of the Metropolitan Gas Board sports ground which was located directly behind our back garden. Shortly after we moved in he removed the old wooden fence at the bottom of the garden.  Our favourite pastime was watching the cricket matches as the wicket was right in our line of sight. Except of course when the sight screen was moved across thus blocking our view of the proceedings. Thankfully this didn’t happen very often. Many happy summer days were spent watching cricket or the exciting athletics events that also took place.

Unfortunately, when the flyover was built to improve the road connections to Blackwall Tunnel it resulted in the end of the greenery of the sports ground and beyond to be replaced by modern retail and leisure outlets. However, that happened many years after we left. My memories will always be of the wonderful view across to the river where the old Thames sailing barges would often be seen plying their trade. Their red/brown sails could regularly be seen moving majestically up and down the major thoroughfare.Sadly, this sight has gone now however I can still picture it in my mind even now.

Just opposite our house in Tunnel Avenue was the East Greenwich depot of the British Oxygen Company (BOC). There BOC kept a large supply of gas cylinders which were distributed to customers around the local area. We could hear the clanking of cylinders being shifted around the depot or loaded on and off the delivery lorries. During one night in the early 1950’s there was a massive explosion at the depot. Luckily houses in the vicinity were not badly damaged and the nearest fire station was only a matter of yards away at the top of Tunnel Avenue. Therefore, the resulting fire could be tackled very quickly.

The sound of the explosion was heard miles away and broke windows in houses at Blackheath. It made headline news at the time. Of course, my family like others were all woken up by the incident    except for me.  Even though my bedroom was at the front of the house I had slept soundly through the whole thing. Something my parents were absolutely amazed at. Not only was there the sound of the explosion but all the bells and noise from fire engines, ambulances and police cars which attended the scene. Unfortunately, I believe several people were injured in the blast and that there were some fatalities.

One of the most famous methods of transport then were London trams which had been operating since Victorian times. However, the modern needs were overtaking the ageing system as the tramcars had changed little since the service had begun.

Tram tracks were laid in the middle of roads and passengers had to walk from the pavement to get on the tram. Car production was increasing and drivers wanted to drive more freely in the cities. Instead of updating the infrastructure to cater for this it was decided to close the tram system down and replace it with diesel buses. Under ‘Operation Tramaway’ which started in 1950,trams were being phased out and the last tram in London ran on 6th July 1952. It started in Woolwich and terminated at New Cross Depot. As a young lad I stood at the bottom of Halstow Road and waved to the last passengers who were on the last tram to run in London. I can still picture that memorable sight with all the banners hanging off the sides of the tram and everyone cheering.

June 1953, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place and in November a Royal Tour commenced which continued throughout the Commonwealth. In May 1954 the new Royal Yacht Britannia sailed up the Thames bringing the Queen, Prince Philip and their children back to UK. Tunnel Glucose had built a brand-new office suite which overlooked the River Thames. To celebrate the Queen’s homecoming the company invited the staff and their families to witness this historical event. On the day my parents, my brother and I were dressed in our Sunday best and journeyed down to the factory. By that time my father had acquired his second car. This being a new Ford Popular which replaced the old 1930’s Morris.

Unlike our trips down Tunnel Avenue in the bleak winter of 1947, we travelled in comfort and style to arrive ready and waiting for the Royal Yacht. I can remember well the excellent spread of food and drink that had been laid on by the company for all the families to enjoy. The room we were in I guess was the Board Room which had a large window that gave us all an excellent view of the river. As we were on the second floor, we could look out and see the Royal family standing and waving on the deck of Britannia. The Royal Yacht passed by very slowly and everyone was waving and cheering.

Compared with the first time I had seen the Queen in person it was a much more pleasurable experince. The previous time was when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were travelling across Blackheath. All the local school children were herded up to the heath and lined the main road close to the entrance to Greenwich Park. It was a hot summers day and we waited there for what seemed like hours. Then along came the Royal procession in their large cars. Unlike the slow-moving Royal Yacht, the cars sped past at a fast speed and it was over in a flash. We had seen the Queen but only a quick glance. Therefore, the much better memory was the wonderful time we all spent watching the majestic vessel sedately carrying the Queen and the Royal Family up the Thamestowards Tower Bridge.

 Later that year we moved out of our house in Tunnel Avenue and left London for a new life in Wiltshire which saddened me very much.I will always cherish my time growing up in East Greenwich, SE10.

Graham McDougal

26th May 2019