Friday, 18 September 2020


The pictures below come from a set which we have been given by someone who got them from an unknown source.  They are copies - so someone out there has the originals.
They are marked 'Thames Ironworks' - now that works was in Newham, on Bow Creek, and it closed in 1911.   However  in 1899 Thames Ironworks had taken over the famous Greenwich based Penn's Engine Works.
We think it very likely that these pictures are of the old Penn works - perhaps taken at closure in 1911.
Penn's was on the Wickes site in Blackheath Road with an entrance in Coldbath Street.  Many people will remember the Erecting Shop demolished in the 1980s while listing was being considered.

There is more information on Penn's on past pages of this blog - use the search facility and see.

We know nothing about these pictures and would be VERY interested in any comments on what they show - and - where do they come from? where are the originals?


Thursday, 3 September 2020

Wednesday, 19 August 2020






All meetings will be virtual, held via Facebook Live, YouTube, Zoom or similar technology (technology to be decided).


Video attendance will be free of charge, live as they are delivered, and each meeting will be recorded for free viewing afterwards.


For full details, see or see our Facebook group at


We hope to resume in-person meetings in 2021, depending on current laws about meetings, but we want to continue to make meetings available online at the same time.


There will be no charge for any GIHS meetings, live or virtual, at least through to the summer of 2021.


Tuesday 13 October

Starting online at 19:30

Greenwich and Woolwich, the birthplace of the global telecoms industry and the internet

The global network that we now call the internet was built in factories along the river in Greenwich, Charlton and North Woolwich. One of them is almost certainly the oldest working factory in the industry. And the optical fibre technology that the internet uses today was invented by an electronics engineer trained in Woolwich and North Woolwich.

Alan Burkitt-Gray, SE London-based telecoms and technology journalist and secretary of GIHS 


Tuesday 10 November

Starting online at 19:30

Greenwich Marsh to Greenwich Peninsula – 300 years of regeneration

The Greenwich peninsula, now the home to the O2, North Greenwich station, hotels, endless blocks of flats and tunnels to the other side of the river, has been the scene of industry for a thousand years – with tide mills and factories that made gunpowder, rope, soap, linoleum, concrete and steel, not to mention the gasworks.

Dr Mary Mills, industrial historian and joint chair of GIHS 


Tuesday 8 December

Starting online at 19:30

The Eastern Telegraph Company’s first cable system – the Red Sea Line to India

It’s 150 years this year since the UK was first connected directly to India, via Gibraltar, Malta, Alexandria, Aden and the Indian Ocean. The cable was made in Greenwich – and the Aden-Mumbai stretch was laid by the Great Eastern, the Brunel’s paddle steamer that was built on the Isle of Dogs. 

Stewart Ash, SE London-based submarine cable consultant and historian


Tuesday, 4 August 2020


Greenwich Industrial History Society

Newsletter August 2020

Like every other Society we had to pause our meetings from March onwards. But we have an exciting offer to all members – and to followers of our Facebook group: online meetings, via Zoom, to start this autumn.

We are building the agenda for our autumn schedule of online meetings, and we will announce the topics and speakers shortly.

Among the subjects we are considering are Greenwich’s contribution to the communications revolution from 1851 onwards; the Great Eastern and its role in the first cable from Britain to India; the East Greenwich gasholder, recently demolished. Please let us know of other wishes and suggestions. Please email or with your ideas.

AGM report

The GIHS officers are now Andrew Bullivant and Mary Mills as joint chairs; Alan Burkitt-Gray as secretary; Juliet Cairns as auditor; and Elizabeth Pearcey as a co-opted extra member. Our treasurer resigned, and so Alan, Mary and Juliet are now doing it between them. It has taken some time to sort out the paper work which our late, and very valued, treasurer, Steve Daly left. But we are working on it.

We are not going to charge a membership subscription for 2020-21. All our online meetings will be free and – when we finally are able to gather back in our regular meeting place – meetings for winter, spring and summer 2021 will be free too.

Please contact Elizabeth Pearcey (details below) for membership enquiries.


Facebook page and the GIHS blog

There is a lot going on in industrial history in Greenwich at the moment and we attempt to report as much as possible on the Greenwich Industrial History page on Facebook. If you are a Facebook user, search for the society, go to, or go to this specially shortened link

We will also post details of all our meetings – including our online meetings – there.

Our Facebook group now has 500 members and new people are joining all the time. Many of them are young people who are moving into the new flats on the Peninsula.

We are also still running the GHIS blog at for longer items – and there is an Instagram and a Twitter account.

Over the past couple of years we have hosted a small advisory group for people involved in various projects and campaigns. Hopefully this has provided a measure of mutual support.  If you would like to contribute please contact us.

So what is going on? A quick run round

Being Greenwich, this is all about development sites – and, with all the activities listed below, things are really still on hold. Until the start of lockdown we had regular meetings of members who were involved in various projects, so please keep in touch so we can tell people what it going on.

·       THE GASHOLDER. Clearly this has now been demolished . We are left with an amazing photo archive and much new information. We had four site visits and a commemorative artwork is planned. We are also in touch with many historians and activists with an interest in the gas industry and gas holders. The Silvertown Tunnel will include major works on the site of the No 2. Holder (demolished in 1985) and we hope that this will provide items of interest.

·       ENDERBY WHARF. The Enderby Group continues to monitor developments. It is to our regret that Barratts – which developed the site – never constructively engaged with the group. Enderby House has now been passed to Young’s brewery, although what is happening is still not clear. Our members worked closely with Bobby Lloyd who designed a commemorative artwork for the site. We have had a number of articles and books published and are grateful to Bill Burns, who runs the Atlantic Cable Web site

·       ROYAL ARSENAL. We are in close touch with the group running the Royal Arsenal website and with other activists on the site. Before lockdown there were successful pub-based information sessions and the group also hosts a lively facebook page and has a terrific website.

·       GREENWICH ARCHIVE. We have been closely involved in drawing attention to the deficiency in the current arrangements through the Greenwich Archive Users Forum.

·       DEPTFORD DOCKYARD. We are in touch with residents who seek to challenge the development plans for the site – which were agreed some years ago and may now be revised – and they hope to get the historical context re-examined.

·       SIEMENS SITE. We have members working with the developers here and other members working with local campaigners. It is hoped that the new development will include some reference to the past of this important company. Sadly, as many will be aware, Brian Middlemiss from the Siemens Engineering Society was killed in an accident. He and other members had provided a vast amount of help and support over the years.

·       MORDEN WHARF. A planning application is now in for this important site. Members have been involved in providing historical information here.

·       SILVERTOWN TUNNEL. Planning applications for the actual works are now being registered. We are looking at plans for an archaeologist on site and are seeking advice on their remit. Clearly we would like them to evaluate the remains of the two holders on site  (YES – two holders.

·       DEPTFORD CREEK.  We have been happy to support West Greenwich residents who have been campaigning for a Creekside footpath to be opened – as planning consents have ruled. They would like this to include information with reference to the many industrial sites on the Creek – and to include buildings currently in use by Thames Water for construction of the Tideway Tunnel

·       PUBLICATIONS. Many members are involved in the production of community based newsletters and leaflets on Greenwich’s industrial history – for example Richard Buchanan’s monthly newsletter for Woolwich Antiquarians.  Stewart Ash has produced many articles, and three books – one on the Enderby family and one on the cable industry in Greenwich are on the Atlantic Cable website. His biography of Sir John Pender is available through Amazon.  Mary Mills continues to produce an article most weeks on Greenwich industry in Greenwich Weekender and hopes to re-publish Greenwich Marsh –first published in 1998 but this time longer and with proper references – again via Amazon.

·       REQUESTS: We currently have requests for information on:

o   Greenwich Ferry Countess of Zetland

o   Old photographs of Park Row

o   Always happy to take on issue and see what we can come up with.

·       Alan Burkitt-Gray, o   ( 7 Foxes Dale, London SE3 9BD Phone 079 6202 1330

·       Mary Mills o   (24 Humber Road, London,SE3LT

·       Elizabeth Pearcey o   (125B Dalling Road London W6 0ET.: 020 8222 8468.: 07738 473547.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Articles on Greenwich Peninsula History - by Mary Mills

Mary Mills –Works on Peninsula History

As ever I find 'consultants' paid  for writing histores of Peninsula sites - and getting it all wrong.  They never ever seem to consult existing work - and goodness there is a lot out there for them to ignore.  

These are just some of my own articles and booklets on Peninsula History - there are many others I just can't track down or still trying.  

Sorry if this is boastful - but I am not getting paid for this, and others are getting consultants' rates for writing nonsense.   

bleat bleat

Alexander Theophilus Blakeley. Ordnance Journal 2001

Beale’s Gas Exhauster  Greenwich Weekender  10 June 2020

Bessemer and Greenwich. GLIAS Newsletter. Letter

Blackadder.  Greenwich Visitor.

Blackwall Point Greenwich Society Newsletter Sept/Oct 2018. 

Breach in the Sea Wall, Bygone Kent. 19/.4.

Bugsby’s Reach

Bugsby’s Reach consultation. GLIAS Newsletter

Case for Listing cranes at Lovells Wharf .Groundwork 1999

Ceylon Place cottages. Greenwich Visitor

Damn Your Eyes Mr. Sharp.  Meridian Magazine. March 2000

Dock That Never Was, Bygone Kent . 20/.4

Drugs, Guns and High Finance. Bygone Kent. 19/7.

Early Gas Industry and its Residual Products in East London.  Book M. Wright 1994

East Greenwich Gas Holder is Going. Newcomen Links. Sept 2019

East Greenwich No.2.  GLIAS Newsletter 1986

East Greenwich Tide Mill. London’s Industrial Archaeology 17. 2019

Enderby Leaflet (with Stewart Ash and Peter Luck)

Enderby Wharf. The True Story. Westcombe  News Feb 2017  (with Peter Luck)

Explosion at Blackwall Point Greenwich Weekender  5th September 2018

Explosion 200 years ago. Industrial Heritage  Vol. 32 Winter 2007

Explosive Magazine at Greenwich Greenwich Weekender 17th June 2020

Explosive Magazine at Greenwich, Bygone Kent,. 18/12.

Finding the Bulli Bulli GIHS Newsletter Vol.2/ 5

From Greenwich across the Atlantic . Greenwch Weeknder 16th July 2020

From Mr Bugsby to the Coaling Jetty. Booklet

From the Great Meadow to the Barge Builders Greenwich Weekender 27 May 2020

Gas Workers Strike in South London,  South London Record 4, 1989.

George Livesey Business History 1988

Georgian Cottages on the New Millennium Experience Site

Georgian Cottages nearly demolished for the Millennium Exhibition. Greenwich Society Newsletter

Peninsula History Docklands Forum; April 1998

Giveem enough Rope Greenwich Weekender  24 June 2020

Granite wharf Greenwich Weekender  13 May 2020

Greenwich and Woolwich at Work. Suttons 2002 Book 

Greenwich Gunpowder Depot, Gunpowder Mills Study Group, 21.

Greenwich Harbour Master. Greenwich Weekender  16th May  2018

Greenwich Inland Linoleum, Bygone Kent, 20/3.

Greenwich Marsh Flood Defences. Newcomen   Bulletin 170, April 1998.

Greenwich Marsh, M.Wright 1999 Book 

Greenwich Peninsula. Docklands Forum 1999

Greenwich ships travelled far. Greenwich Weekender 10th June 2019

Gunpowder. Inspection and Death, Bygone Kent. 19/l.

Henry VIII King of Industrial England.  Greenwich Visitor November 2018

Henry Bessemer in Greenwich. Newcomen Society Bulletin, 172, 1998.

Hills Family, Bygone Kent, 18/3,

History of the Holder Greenwich Weekender 16th April 2018

How I found the Dry Dock Capstan. Greenwich Weekender 23rd April 2019

How Time and Tide shaped our History. Greenwich Visitor Oct. 2008

Ice Well at Lovells Wharf Kent Underground Research Newsletter.63

Industrial Accident at East Greenwich. Bygone Kent, 17/11, 1996

Industrial Site in East Greenwich, Bygone  Kent, 17/12 1996.

Innovation, Enterprise and Change on the Greenwich Peninsula.  2018  Book 

Into the Marshland. Greenwich Weekender  29th April 2020

Jetty. Booklet 2018

Jim Hughes and Orinoco Bygone Kent February 2001

John Beale and Joshua Beale, Inventors from Greenwich Marsh, Bygone Kent, 18/6, June 1997

John Beale of Greenwich. Industrial Heritage. Vol 28 Summer 2002

Jumbo. No More, Greenwich SocietyNewsletter

Kicking up a right stink Greenwich Weekender 13 March 2019

Looming against the sky is the skeleton of the great holder  Greenwich Weekender 8 Aug. 2019

Lovell’s Wharf Booklet

Lovells Wharf Bygone Kent  Nov & Dec 1999 & March 2000

Made in Greenwich. The Appleby Beam Engine. Greenwich Society Newsletter

Man who laid cables under Atlantic. Greenwich Weekender 13 June  2018

Maudslay Son and Field for Kew Bridge Engines Trust CD 2002

Maudslay Son and Field in Greenwich Bygone Kent in three parts  Jan, Feb & March 2002

Medieval tide mill Greenwich Weekender 6th May 2020

Memorial to the dead in the Great War from the East Greenwich Gasworks. Greenwich Soc. Newsletter

Millennium Site - Bad Smells on Greenwich Marsh, Bygone Kent, 17/7 July 1996.

Millennium Site - Who built the Gas Works, Bygone Kent, 17/5, May 1996.

Millennium Site, New East Greenwich, Bygone Kent, 17/8 1996,

Molassine. Bygone Kent

Mollassine Co. & smell to remember  Greenwich Weekender 8th June 2019

Mystery Steel Works, Bygone Kent. 20.

Nathan Thompson and the Wooden Nutmeg.   Bygone Kent. 19/ 5.

Olinthus Gregory Description of the East Greenwich Tide Mill. Industrial Heritage  Vol.33 Spring 2007

Our Poor Doomed Gas Holder Greenwich Weekender 6th March 2019

River People Greenwich Weekender  3rd June 2020

Shipbuilding in East Greenwich. Thames Shipbuilding Study Group

Stockwell and Lewis. Dry Dock Bygone Kent  20/9.

Tragic death of Mary Mahoney killed on her first day at the firework factory  Greenwich Weekender  6th December 2017

Tragic demolition of Jumbo. Greenwich Soc. Newsletter

Thames Tunnels AIA Newsletter  140 Spring 2017

We made History on an Industrial Scale. Greenwich Visitor Sept. 2018

Writing the History of the Greenwich Peninsula. OU Student Journal

Friday, 26 June 2020

David Cufley on sustainable building materials

David Cufley is President of  North West Kent Family History Society and has been to talk to GIHS on a couple of occasions.  However he is really the local authority on bricks and building materials. So – when GIHS was asked about by Mr.P. about local sustainable materials for the built environment we put the enquirer in touch with David.

First David asked “What do you mean by sustainable?Let me know your definition of sustainability and I’ll think again of materials. As a starter:-

Include Clay used for bricks and tiles.

Sand used for mortars and other industrial purposes.

Gravels used for concrete

Chalk for plasters, mortars and Cement. Thus, cement for concrete. Chalk was also used as a fertilizer and is not therefore your built environment.

I assume for the built environment you are including roads, bridges and infrastructures.


Mr P replied. “As there are different interpretations of the term 'sustainability' I will start with that used by the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products (ASBP): "...building products that are low embodied carbonnatural, non-toxic, locally made and healthy in use." Another definition is "... a material that will be available for future generations and has the lowest impact on human health and the environment."

It can also include renewables such as timber, straw and wool if an equal amount is replacing the amount being used but I will focus mainly on housing stock.


All of the materials you mentioned - clay, sand, gravel, chalk - will get a mention as locally available resources, regardless of their sustainability, not least because there is some research going on into the use of existing buildings as a 'material bank' for future construction (part of a design for deconstruction idea).


Any thoughts on sources of info I could search regarding the historic use of clay, sand, gravel etc in the London/Kent/Surrey area? I want examples of historic as well as contemporary use.


Also, you mentioned the use of chalk as a fertilizer; any links you can suggest to find out more about this?


David wrote:


Thanks for the explanation of sustainable. I like the ‘building products that are natural, non-toxic, locally made and healthy in use (not always i.e. limes). Don’t like ‘low embodied carbon’ and ‘material that will be available for future generations …” Example, historically the use of timber and later coal to burn bricks means that they were known for fumes and smoke coming off the clamps and you can find newspaper references (see British Newspaper Library online) to deaths of tramps that slept on or close to the clamp for warmth and in the morning were found dead. The other example that once materials are excavated or quarried for buildings they are not available again except in their new form and not as originally manufactured. The pits once depleted may return to farmland or fishing lakes but the landscape will have changed.

I struggle with the following.The renewable element is fine but such as clay and chalk once used are no longer available, unless you apply your ‘material bank’ idea. One of my fellow MSc students did her dissertation on reclamation of building materials and this is with the Weald and Downland Living Museum (WDLM) as a York University dissertation in the museum’s library.

A problem with bricks and their reuse is their original classification as taken out of the clamp and their use depended on their burning. Bricks used originally only for internal walls and temporary works are not good for use as facings because they will quickly deteriorate when weathered and the structural quality will not accept loads that modern bricks will take. They are too soft. The use of modern mortars will also cause them problems. While they are okay with lime mortars, OPC mortars can be too strong and don’t allow them to breath.


There are other reclaimed and demolition materials that react to modern materials and it’s a case of knowing your materials and where and in what combination they can be used.


Jerry building is not a new phenomenon and can be found in 18th c references. I’ll leave it to you to research the use and misuse of building materials.


Let us consider clay, sand, gravel, chalk, timber and straw/reed in London/Kent/Surrey areas.

Clay pits used for brick, tile (roof) and chimney pots were all made on the brickfields. See my map produced for a talk to Greenwich Industrial group]. I’ve done similar maps for LB Bexley, Dartford, Swanley and at present Eynesford and Farningham for a talk in 2021. Historically brickfields served approx. 5 miles radius (one horse and cart load, out and back in a day). Until canals and railways changed the landscape. However, Greenwich was slightly different as it has the Thames, which allows heavy materials to be carried not only in larger quantities but also further. Example Vanburgh Castle on Maze Hill used bricks from the Medway towns and Fulham areas, only needing carting up to the site from the river. See history of Vanburgh Castle and its accounts.

The North Kent brick industry using clay and chalk mix to form London Stocks was killed off by the fletton brick industry from late 1800s. The threemain factors being, land values for housing becoming higher than returns on brickmaking, industrial manufacturing mechanisation and then labour shortage part of the WW1 factors.

Between the wars people like Stephenson the developer of housing in the Welling, Bexleyheath, Barnhurst, area [See Bexley Library publication]. Bought up the sites of building materials i.e. sand and gravel pits as well as brickfields. Not only did he have sources for his building materials, he could manage costs and deliveries. Not a new idea as Durtnals, builders since the late 16th c to 20th century had sons that not only followed their ancestors’ carpentry/building trade but also ran the brickfield at Sevenoaks, Otford, Kent.

Dawson family at Plumstead, East Wickham, Woolwich and previously Dartford produced not only bricks but also a wide range of clay products; i.e chimney pots, sugar moulds, tiles and drain pipes. The East Wickham brickfield that Stephenson eventually took over also had a chalk mine that extends under Rockcliffe Gardens and Alliance Road. OS Maps of this brickfield will show you they also had a lime kiln. OS maps are very good for locating and discovering the structures used on the sites. The maps are freely available from the National Library of Scotland.

Henry Ward a civil engineer did a paper with illustrations on the East Wickham brickfield (known then as the South Metropolitan Brickfield) describing its equipment and process as an article in the Institution of Civil Engineers proceedings c1890.

For chalk mines see Kent and East Sussex Underground by Kent Underground Research Group. The East Wickham mine they call Plumstead Chalk Mine. The Dartford mine was owned by C N Kidd who was also a brickmaker and a brewer. You will also discover from the historic maps details of the sites along Thames Road to Crayford and Erith area that had chalk, sand and brickfields. Stephenson owned some of these eventually.

Now you have to travel down to Faversham area to find a brickmaker trading under the old ‘Smeed Dean’ name for their London Stocks. See George Smeed book published by Meresborough books (I’ve attached my brick bibliography for the references) that tells of his business including barge building to carry bricks he made up to London. London refuse was brought back to the brickfields on the return journey to be used to temper the clay and fuel the clamps.

You might also like to read ‘Bricks and Brickies’ by F G Willmott that talks about Eastwoods and transporting bricks into London and Refuse out to the brickfields. Willmott also wrote ‘Cement, mud and muddies’ the history of APCM barges and the cement industry. The ‘Blue water’ shopping centre is built in the old chalk quarries used for cement manufacture. The prices for the clay in the 20th c are given by Willmott in this book.

Because of the link of the Medway and Thames to the brick and cement industry it was easy to transport materials into London and most of these sites are now developed as industrial sites or housing.

You might like to read Jim Preston’s book ‘Industrial Medway an historical survey’ that talks about all the industries that used the Kent materials that found their markets in London and further affield. The period covered is up to the 1940s. The same can be applied to the Thames and I expect you have seen Mary Mills book on the Peninsular down river as far as the Thames Barrier. Few of these were sustainable industries but might give you a glimpse into their products.

I’ve mentioned above sand and gravel pits on Thames Road but there was a very fine sand used for cleaning among other things in the 18th and 19th century excavated at pits on the Woolwich Road, near Marion Wilson Park.

The geological OS maps gives the head materials and some areas’ materialsthat have provided for industries. The gardeners at Hall Place, Bexley mentioned in a personal conversation some years ago they had used the spoil, which is sand and gravel, from foundation trenches mixed with cement to form the concrete of their structures and it was returned to the trenches. You can still see sand and gravel being extracted as you travel between Crayford and Sidcup by rail adjacent to Bexley, Hall Place and the Black Prince area. I’m not certain the company name but it might be ‘Bexley Sand and Gravel’.

In regard chalk as a fertilizer it was used on the fields around Wilmington, Joydons Wood and Birchwood. In fact the Birchwood Road was known at one time as fire pit lane. The chalk pits having fires in them to break up the chalk.

The book by Bexley Library publications on Dene and Swallow holes, (sorry cannot remember its author) talks about their excavation of chalk for fertiliser and other uses.

Timber as a sustainable home grown material is no longer a large part of the British Industry, now most of the woodland areas have been cleared. However, there was a resurgence of planting trees for softwoods some years ago; they are quick growing; because of the grants (EU?). I’ve got no references for this for you. Certainly nothing within 25 miles of Greenwich.

I seem to remember part of the decline of the Wealden iron industry was the lack of fuel (timber) and expense of transporting coal in addition to the decline in the iron ore quality and quantity that moved the industry into the midlands.

Thatch and the use of straw and reed was never a big part of construction in London; and Greenwich; after the Great Fire of London when building regulations required tiles, slatesand bricks in favour of replacing more combustible materials.

A discussion I had with a thatcher at the WDLM mentioned most of today’s thatch is imported from Europe although some is still produced in East Anglia. He was very busy working in Sussex and south Surrey area, but I’ve not seen many buildings closer to Greenwich that use this material. Most have been reclad with slate or tile.

Finally, I should mention ‘conservation’ and ‘Building Conservation Philosophy’ by John Earl published by Donhead. There are a couple of pages (P34 etc. ‘Guarding resources ‘Green’ issues) that you might like to read.

A quote by Michael Cope, Head of Planning, English Heritage 2002 leapt out of the page when I first read it. “If sustainability means anything at all our mentality has to change … … we need a mindset where we think carefully before we knock things down and don’t always blame the buildings for problems’.

With that thought I hope I’ve given you the information you want.

Monday, 25 May 2020

William Lindley

We are receiving a number of articles and information about engineer William Lindley - some of it is in a posting on the GIHS Facebook page. 

Lindley - when he wasn't designing public services in Europe - lived in Shooters Hill Road.  Here is an article which Blackheath historian, Neil Rhind, wrote about him in 1998:


There simply is no shortage of erudition when it comes to the research and writing of books, which also prove to have a Blackheath interest. And because of my local knowledge there is also no shortage of scholars and researchers beating a path to my door, eager to clarify a reference and seek what little information I might have on their pet subject. They then embarrass me with fulsome thanks in prefaces for very small contributions indeed.  In fact, I should thank them because without such investigation I would know very little of the importance of all sorts of unlikely things.

Take the drains for example.  There are few things more pleasing than a clean drain except the act of unblocking it and watching the water run freely away with a satisfying gurgle.  That is what was not happening in London and most European capitals in the first half of the 19th century.  The Romans knew what to do but their successors managed to forget the techniques.  As cities grew larger and larger so did the problems.

London was quite frightful with the Thames and the small rivers, which flowed into it, being used as the main sewer and, quite often, as the source of drinking water as well.  Such was the smell that even members of Parliament in the House of Commons were appalled and, on occasion, unable to continue their work.

So it was decided that the long-suffering rate- and taxpayer would meet the cost of solving London’s drainage and sewer problems.  Also, the Thames in central London would be embanked.  And embanked it was.  Under the inspiring leadership of engineer Joseph Bazelgette London was properly drained as well.  It was a massive civil engineering undertaking and created one of the, lasting wonders of the modern world, and still in use to day.  Walk the London embankments at Charing Cross and visit the giant Crossness engine house at Belvedere and you will see what I mean.

The volume under scrutiny concerns something rather similar but in Warsaw, Budapest and Prague.  These ancient capitals also suffered from drainage and water problems.  It took an Englishman (more properly Englishmen) to sort things out.  They were the Lindley family, resident of No 74 Shooters Hill Road from 1860.

I knew, from short biographical notes, that they had been up to their elbows in European drains, so to speak, but I put much down to personal hyperbole. Not so – and it took a visit from Professor Ryszard Zelichowski, of Warsaw, hot on the trail of these wondermen, to banish my ignorance.  He is the Dale Porter of the Warsaw water and drain systems and had learned that the Lindleys were Blackheath people.  You could have knocked me down with the proverbial feather when he explained to me how distinguished they were.  And last year Ryszard published a special volume to mark the 110th anniversary of the Warsaw water supply works. 

It all started with engineer/architect Joseph Lindley (1806-1880) who moved to Blackheath in 1860.  His brother William (1808-1890), in the same profession, “rebuilt” Hamburg after the fire in 1842 and then earned an international reputation as a water and sewage engineer, sorting out Warsaw in the 1870s.   His sons, William Heerlein and Robert Searles carried on the good work, ensuring happy healthy populations across the Continent, designing and supervising water and drainage schemes in Prague, Bucharest, Frankfurt, Petrograd, and so on. They were rarely at home. William snr’s daughter, Julia, lived on at No 74, keeping house for the family, until her death in 1937.  It is also extraordinary, in the local context, that old Joseph had married the daughter of Michael Searles (1752-1813) the architect, inter alia, of the Paragon.  William Heerlein Lindley was knighted in 1911 and lived at No 17 Kidbrooke Park Road for a short while during the Great War.

Of course, I would like to say more but, alas, my Polish is scant. Nevertheless, Prof. Zelichowski tells me that the volume he sent to me is the shorter popular version and that he is working on an extended version, which he hopes will be published in English in due course.  At least I think I know what the szluzmajster did and the word filtro, cisnien and pomp seem to have a familiar ring about them.

You will have to send to Warsaw for Ryszard Zelichowski’s volume and I am not sure how many zlotys you will need but I can make enquiries.  Professor Porter’s definitive tome will be issued here in due course and for those details I must wait.  The publisher is the University of Akron Press, Ohio.  Enquiries to its web site:

the article is Neil's copyright and must not be reproduced.