Monday, 11 July 2016

George Landmann - starting school in Greenwich and some 'well mounted' muggers

George starts school  - and sees  - well mounted gentlemen muggers.

In 1789 the Landmann family left their house at the back of the Royal Military Academy and moved to Greenwich - or, as George says, Blackheath.  This house was somewhere  in the area which is now Westgrove Lane, but which house is not clear..

George was sent to school 'of which the Rev. Dr. Egan was the master'.  James Egan had apparently taken over 'The Royal Park Academy' from his father in law, Dr. Bakewell. Egan was interested in methods of teaching languages and encouraged boys to speak either Latin or French only in school but to do so in a way that 'divests instruction of harshness'.  It should be noted that as an adult George Landmann spoke several languages fluently.

George says that the school was 'close to the new church, at the corner of King Street, and is now converted into tea gardens'  - somewhere near the park gate at the top end of King William Street. George's 'new church' being St.Mary's which stood on the site now taken by William IV's enormous statue.

Having moved to Greenwich and enrolled at school George then launches into a series of descriptions of  muggings on Blackheath - some of which he appears to have witnessed.

1.He describes walking one Sunday afternoon on Chesterfield Walk at a time when many people are having an after dinner stroll.  Suddenly everyone turns towards The Green Man - then at the top of Blackheath Hill. They point to a horseman speeding down the hill 'leading to the lime kilns' - exclaiming 'there .. there.. do you see him'. It turns out that the inhabitant of one of the big houses alongside the park had been sitting on his garden wall reading a book when a 'gentleman mounted on a handsome horse' came up to him in a friendly sort of way.  When he got close 'the gentleman' whipped out a pistol threatening 'with the unpleasant necessity of scattering his brains amongst the rose bushes'.  The victim handed over his valuable at once and the assailant galloped off.

2. A few moments later a 'post chaise with two gentlemen, a lady and a manservant' arrived to say they had been robbed 'near the Rising Sun, by four armed men on foot'.

3. A few days later Paul Sandby arrived on the Landmann's doorstep - Sandby is of course the famous artist who was drawing master at the Royal Military Academy.  He had with him his very distressed daughter and had brought her to the Landmann's house to enable her to recover quietly.  They had had their watches stolen by a robber by the corner of Greenwich Park - 'at one o'clock in the daytime'.

4. Then - Major and Lady Emily Macleod were crossing Woolwich Common 'along the deep ditch' - by which I assume George means the ha ha in Ha Ha Road. 'A well mounted highwayman commanded the driver to stop or have his brains blown out'. The muzzle of his pistol was thrust into Lady Emily's face.  The Major however picked up a bottle of Cologne  and pushed it into the robber's face 'declaring in a voice of thunder that he would instantly shoot him'.  The robber ran off!!

- George does comment however that although there were lots of robberies 'particularly on the Lower Road' that there were very few murders.

5. Major Patterson of the Artillery ' a very rough muscular man' found it necessary while at a review of troops on Blackheath to take himself to a quiet corner and remove one of his boots. The robber who found him was 'well dressed, also well mounted' - and having removed Major Patterson's valuables galloped to the other side of the field to mingle with the crowd, secure from detection.

6. Once a month cash was sent to the army at Woolwich,. for whatever. This could be two or three thousand pounds and came in a post chaise with a pay clerk. To cross Blackheath it was escorted by six artillery men plus a non-commissioned officer.  The officer took up the rear and the soldiers went on either side with fixed bayonets and loaded muskets.

Note - that the robbers always have very very posh horses. No doubt they could afford them.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

George Landmann - his childhood story and how very important is Woolwich

George Landmann's autobiography continues to ramble on through his childhood - with memories of Woolwich in the late 18th century and many posh visitors to the Royal Military Academy (then still located on what we know as the Arsenal site).There are also some insights to research and development in the Arsenal itself  - and some thoughts, from me, that today Woolwich is never considered as having a role in the 'industrial revolution' .... but ...

He says of Woolwich around 1780 - "of the inhabitants though there were several very respectable - but only three kept carriages'

The first of the three he lists is Squire Martin, an 'opulent and independent farmer'.  I am unable to find any reference to a Squire Martin in the Woolwich area and would be keen to hear from anyone who knows who he might be - George's idea of the Woolwich boundaries tend to be a bit vague! 

He then lists 'Squire Bowater' who is much clearer, and the Bowater family are well documented and owned huge areas in the western part of Woolwich. There is also however a bit of a problem. If we take it that George's memories are of his childhood - say 1780-1790 - then the inheritor of the Bowater estate, John, was in Europe avoiding those looking to recover vast debts from him, having fled the country in 1778. There also seems to have been a certain amount of scandal attached to his marriage. Although, I suppose, young George would not have known about all this.

His final resident who he says 'kept a carriage' is a 'Mr.Whitman who built a house on the northern declivity of Shooters Hill". Mr. Whitman is also obscure - or at least he is not mentioned by Survey of Woolwich.  George adds the further information that the house was later owned by "General Cuppage" . I was very disinclined to believe that anyone of such a strange name existed but it turns out that following a distinguished career the General settled in Shooters Hill. His obtituary fails to give his given name, but he was Irish from a family with close ties to Edmund Burke and coming to England he had been educated at the Royal Military Academy.  His Shooters Hill house is said to have extended considerable hospitality to 'educated and scientific men'.  George says it was 'in front of a piece of water which owing to its peculiar position on the side of the hill appears to be out of level'. Once again I would welcome suggestions about both the house and the water.

George's account of Woolwich then drifts off to a long description of the dissolute life of a Royal Artillery Lnt Sutton.  A Captain Thomas Sutton was Assistant Firemaster at the Royal Laboratory and lived near the RMA building when George was a child - and this just might be the same person. George remembers someone with many social contacts, including with 'Lord Eardley of Belvedere'.  This is all very interesting although I would point out that Samson Gideon was not created Baron Eardley until 1789, but George's account is, of course, retrospective.

The next couple of pages concern the visit to Woolwicj of 'Madame la Princess de Lamballe' - Marie Louise de Savoy, the intimate friend of Marie Antoinette. . She was incredibly grand with - "a train full five yards long...borne by a young black page .... her hair dressed to rise very high ... a pink silk hat with many ostrich feathers'.  She received an equally impressive welcome 'nearly two thousand men of the Royal Artillery ... accoutred as troops of the line  .. to man six pieces of artillery .. a salute of nineteen guns'  - although George does admit that they had to scratch round a bit to get the two thousand together and some came from Chatham  and 'distant parts'.   Having read George's account of this grand lady it is actually really disturbing to learn of her end - raped, guillotined, mutilated, her head paraded around Paris on a pike.

The Princess's visit to Woolwich apparently ended with a visit to the Landmann's where she spoke, in French, to George's father Isaac, and ate lunch prepared by his mother. George and his sister were presented to her and she gave him her 'bonbonniere'.  This seems to me remarkable - why did she not get dinner from the top officers at Woolwich? It raises again the question of who exactly Isaac Landmann was, what was his past in France? Why had he come to England?

George then moved on to the more workaday aspects of life in the RMA and devotes a couple of pages to the work of Sergeant Bell concentrating on the Sergeant's suggestions for raising the Royal George wrecked at Portsmouth. John Bell was indeed based at Woolwich - and had actually witnessed the wreck of the Royal George. His ideas for raising the ship were demonstrated - as George Landmann relates - in front of a distinguished audience but were not carried out. The Royal George was eventually raised in 1839, using the method suggested by John Bell, by the distinguished Royal Engineer, Pasley.  Landmann describes other devices invented by Bell, as does Bell's entry in DNB.  He is one of the many people in this period who developed new methods of working - but not one of the ones which will get mentioned in accounts of 'great inventors' or the 'industrial revolution'.

It might be interesting to note the bigwigs who came to see Bell's underwater explosive experiments -

The Duke of Richmond (Master General of the Ordinance - Charles Lennox, distinguished soldier and politician. Ambassador and Privy Councillor - as a sideline he developed Goodwood racecourse),

General Sir W. Green (Chief Royal Engineer. William Green distinguished military innovator, particularly in Gibralter - who later lived in Plumstead)

Col.Morse (Royal Engineer - Robert Morse, who succeeded Green as Chief Royal Engineer)

Major Blomfield, (Thomas Blomfield, Inspector of Artillery, innovator, administrator and much else)

Captain Fage (Royal Artillery - Edward Fage eventually Major General "in his Majesty's Army of Greenwich')

Dr. Masculine (Astronomer Royal)

I am only listing these down because they were the people who came to watch experiments carried out by a non-commissioned officer in Woolwich in the late 18th century. They all have important titles but also all of them were innovators aware of the technical advances being made around them and working on how they could be exploited. An important title sometimes hides a relatively humble background. In the same way technical advances among the military may be transferred to civilian industries but this is rarely noted. Keep in mind that work in Woolwich among these early engineers and artillerymen is a key part of industrial expansion in the 18th and early 19th century.  When people talk about the 'industrial revolution' they won't even think about the military input, and they certainly won't even consider Woolwich - perhaps they need to be informed.

Thanks to George Landmann then - and next he goes to school in Greenwich

English Heritage. Survey of Woolwich,.
Landmann, Adventures and Recollections
United Service Journal. Web site
Wikipedia. As appropriate.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Some important new news - FOGWOFT - CHANGE IN WOOLWICH - STERLING CASTLE and more

Sorry about the time lapse again - down in Ramsgate and then a whole week transfixed by Twitter 
below are various requests for comments and help. Reply if you want to

-any way - are you free Tuesday lunchtime??


The Royal Borough of Greenwich will unveil a new interpretive plaque outside the Greenwich Foot Tunnel at 12 noon, Tuesday, 5 July.  Deputy Leader Cllr. Danny Thorpe will lead the short ceremony.
The plaque will tell some of the history of the tunnel and will hopefully explain to tourists what the entrance in front of it actually is (lots of them apparently think it is the Royal Observatory!!) .  The unveiling follows several years of successful working together on various m issues between the Council and the Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels. All are welcome and we hope to see you on the day.
So - all turn up and cheer! Couple or three points
1. Yes there should be a plaque on the Woolwich Foot Tunnel too. Please lobby the Council!!
2. South London has as lot of early under river tunnels - and we need to join with the Brunel Tunnel project at Rotherhithe for the first underwater tunnel in the world.   FOGWOFT is in touch with the great-grandson of the designer of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, Alexander Binnie - again the tunnel was revolutionary in design. But Binnie had previously designed the Blackwall - now, we all hate the Blackwall but it does stand up pretty well to a daily bashing and we ought to be proud of it really - it has a BIG anniversary next year - we need to join with others to celebrate the provision of FREE cross river services over all this years.  Info - about your ideas and projects welcome.
3. Don't want to frighten off all the local people campaigning about the proposed Silvertown Tunnel. Look forward to your input too
WOOLWICH - we are very aware that the Spray Street proposals affect many historic buildings in Woolwich - which is already reeling from demolitions due to the DLR.  There are also still all these rumours about the Arsenal Canal on Thamesmead.  Please get in touch with your thoughts on this. GIHS has resources and contacts.  Don't do it alone.
- and - while on the subject of Woolwich and the Arsenal - GIHS listened to one of the best talks it has ever had last month - Ian Bull on the Arsenal site.  Really really urge people who want to know about this amazing site - probably the largest and most innovative and important works site that the world has ever seen - listen to what Ian has to say and look at the evolving web site. Happy to send details on request.
THE STIRLING CASTLE.  Visiting Ramsgate I was told about the Stirling Castle - this is a 18th century wreck on the Goodwin Sands which, rather strangely, is owned by a small Thanet based archaeological society.  There is also a rather important gun which has been the subject of an Ordnance Society Journal (No.20) article although it is not clear where it now is. 
Why should Greenwich be interested in this?  Well, Stirling Castle was built at Deptford in 1677 and, although I don't think the gun was cast at Woolwich, more info would be interesting. We also understand that Historic England has been conserving some items from her - what have they got to say?
So - we do intend to give more details about all this in due course - but in the meantime would be very interested to hear from people who we hope are our readers with any thought or info on Sterling Castle - National Maritime Museum?? Lenox Project? Deptford Dockyard groups?? Arsenal history?? - Between us we should be able to put something together
Some interesting stuff in their report - including that the Museum in Docklands is opening an exhibition on warehousing and the museum building.  They have also sent out a long long report of a talk by Edward Sargeant on construction in the Port and the Great War.  I could ask them if they would mind it being reproduced here - or, if anyone is interested, could pass on the reference to it (there isn't a digital link).
RADICAL HOUSING IN TOWER HAMLETS - only just over the river after all
Exhibition at the Raphael Samuel History Centre, Queen Mary College (and for all of you who never cross the River, that's in the Mile End Road).  Opens 7th July with a launch 6-7pm with speaker Mike Tyrrell of Tower Hamlets Community Housing
26th July Walk round Social Housing in Poplar 7-9 booking essential (and, as those of you who follow the current campaigns on the Balfron block, and Robin Hood Gardens - that should be - well - interesting!!)  (Sorry, no obvious web address)
6th August East End immigrants and the battle for housing.  2-3. this is about housing help for Jewish and Bengali people.1930s-1970s
18th August - Setting the Record Straight - housing policies and archives
20th August - Walk round housing in Bethnal Green
17th September - film on Goodbye Longfellow Road.
(You know - sometimes I really, really miss the East End).
So - we also have a newsletter from the East End Waterway Group.  This is about trying to preserve industrial buildings in Hackney Wick now developers and trendies have discovered it, post Olympics. 
One such is Algha Works - this is an old print works and a very interesting and amazing building. There is apparently a planning application to change it.
Also - Swan Wharf - which is at the Old Ford Locks which are on the Lea. This is a 1906 stable block which is set to be demolished. There is also a wharf through which, until the 1970s, all the exotic substances you have never heard of were imported to the Shellac and other factories locally. There was also a very interesting chimney which has gone already.
Hackney Wick was a very very important industrial area (the first plastics in the world were made there) and there were many characterful buildings.
(sorry the group has no email or web site - they don't seem to believe in them over there!!)
ENDERBY GROUP - is plugging on with a footfall survey along the riverside and continued lobbying. We have a new leaflet out - happy to send to anyone interested, in bulk or otherwise
All at Charlton House 2.15  contact Jim Marrett
17th September - Julie Ricketts on St.George's Garrison Church, Woolwich
8th October  Mike Jones on Crossness
11th March - Stuart Robinson on Whitechapel 1888
8th April - AGM
13th May - Jim Marrett on The Abbey at Lesnes
10th June - Charlotte Matthews - London Pubs.
(they haven't got a web site either - is this the world of the future?? )
DEPTFORD WORKING HISTORIES - tell us they are working on the 50th anniversary event of a Lewisham council estate  - and we wait to hear more.

More news on the new book about Brian Donkin and the East Greenwich tide mill to come
All news gratefully received.

Monday, 13 June 2016

News and notes from Greenwich Industrial History

News and notes from Greenwich Industrial History
(well some of it is about Lewisham)

Ian Bull speaks on The Arsenal - Then and Now.
Age Exchange Bakehouse - 7.30 - All Welcome


This month they are featuring Conservation News - and all the planning applications and cases in Woolwich which they deal with and take up with the Council planners.   They explain that they work with other groups in Greenwich on this - the Greenwich Conservation Group is made up of representatives from all the local amenity societies and many resident's groups.

Cases they have recently taken up include the Love Lane development and their concerns about remains of the old Post Office which was demolished on the site.  They have objected to 11 storey blocks being built near John Wilson Street (apparently the site is called Thomas Street but they say this is a confusing description). They have looked at plans to replace the Albion Pub - and issues around the conversion of a house in Crescent Road

I would love to give a contact for WADAS but there is no web address given on their newsletter - or indeed emails for the officers, and I don't really want to put people's home addresses here.  I can try and forward anything to them if anyone sends comments to

They then list 'Woolwich Worthies' deserving of blue plaques in Woolwich - and give details - these include Flinders Petrie, archaeologist,  Sylvia Syms, actress, General Gordon, Tom Cribb, boxer, William Vincent, historian, Samuel Pepys, Frank Elliston Erwood, histrorian, The Pioneer Bookshop, Fred Leslie, actor, Joseph Grimaldi, clown, Tom Paine, Boy George, Women workers in the Arsenal.

There must be far more very worthy of a blue plaque - the many distinguished scientists at the Royal Military Academy and the Royal Arsenal, for a start.  Some years ago I was asked to help get a plaque to Sir John Anderson in Victoria Way (failed that one!) and also in Victoria Way, that I know of was Inspector of Explosives Vivian Majendie.

WADAS Newsletter gives - as ever - some meetings of other organisations. One of them is the Welling and District Model Engineering Society who have run their little railway just inside the Greenwich border for many years.  I recently complained that I had walked round and round their site and never found out how to get in, and was severely told off for saying that. It is behind the big electricity sub station on the old A2 near Falconwood Station.   They are open 19th June, 2nd,7th and 31st July, 14th and 28th August, 11th and 25th September and 9th October.  2-5 pm

PREFAB MUSEUM - Elisabeth writes that they have free training places and volunteering opportunities.  This is about collecting stories, recording memories and photographs about prefabs.  They intend to set up a national archive with an interactive map.
Contact Jane or Elisabeth    They have a preliminary meeting on the Isle of Dogs on 20th August.

CHARLTON RIVERSIDE - the idea of a history of Charlton Riverside has been floating around in a few quarters. We also understand that a group is being set up to look at Charlton Village - don't let the riverside be neglected, particularly in view of the fact that it is Greenwich's next big regeneration area. Please get in touch if you can help or are interested

SURREY CANAL TOWPATH - We understand that a Deptford based group are looking at the towpath of the old Surrey Canal. Please get in touch if you can help or are interested

Note from British Transport Treasures -please look at  - this takes you to an ad, for some of Stuart Ratcliffe's excellent books on Shipbuilding in Rotherhithe.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Greenwich Industrial History News

Lots of bits and pieces this time - although much of it isn't entirely about Greenwich -
Watchers of the Greenwich riverside path should note that more industrial relics have gone in east Greenwich - the whole of the Pipers/Badocks/Providence site has been cleared and razed - it was never easy to see what was there because of the hostility of the occupants but what has definitely gone is the old house (used as offices until recently), the random stone wall with 'Piper's' name in the stonework, and the ramp in the area used by the Board of Works - and I guess much else that it was never possible to see. 
Worse still the interesting stretch of foreshore down river of the site has been cleared and very largely destroyed - this includes barge stands and at least one barge mast  - and it would be good to know if they have been kept by someone or, were they just junked?? and what about the wildlife which was there??

ENDERBY GROUP - will be at the Ballast Quay Garden at the Open Gardens weekend 18th and 19th June. They hope to offer riverside walks, and to be joined by the very wonderful Nicola Mudlark - as well as the beautiful garden, the river, and the recently identified East Greenwich Pier remains.

- this comes by email - and we recommend everyone to subscribe to this and to read it. Its all about the River
This month leads with "Cruise Ship Chistening - A New Thames Record".  This is of course the naming of cruise ship Viking Sea in Greenwich. While 'Tidal Thames' gives details of the ceremony at Cutty Sark - they also give details of the pilot - Stuart Hay - and the trials on board of Portable Pilot.  (they do however miss the irony of the Vikings coming to the area where they once murdered an archbishop!!)
The Newsletter also includes a story of a little dog called Russell who fell in the river and was rescued at the Barrier by a PLA boat.  Lucky Russell, lucky he was spotted.
Finally - there are a couple of court cases resulting from collisions on the river off the Peninsula. I think this is about some of these speed boats which dash up and down the river with passengers - fined for navigating against the international collision regulations.  Oh dear.


One of the most important engineers to be based in South London - well, Southwark, at the Blue - was Brian Donkin.  The last GIHS talk was given by Brian Strong who mentioned some of Donkin's work here in Greenwich on the East Greenwich tide mill - and there was much more. A biography has just been published by Maureen Greenland, 'Brian Donkin. The very Civil Engineer 1768-1855' published by B.D.Book Associates, 76-78 Cartledge Lane, Holmesfield, Derebyshire, S18 7SB. Please email us for a copy of the order form.

They are advertising as GLIAS events:
2nd July Railways and Buildings of Woolwich Royal Arsenal and Dockyard.
(as ever you can't just turn up - you have to email and book a place)

The newsletter also mentions Deptford Working Histories - and urges people to get in touch with them  (hopefully more on that later)

Surviving London Gasholders - GLIAS notes that East Greenwich holder is still there!!

We have also had a copy of London's Industrial Archaeology,   This includes two articles about Crossness - David Dawson on 'The other steam engines at Crossness and the work they did' and Owen Ward on 'The Native Guano Company at Crossness'.
Hopefully more details later - and if anyone wants to send a review, happy to put it here.

The Farm is now 20 years old and are looking for memorabilia.  Please let them know if you have anything.  The Farm did include a, sort of non-agricultural, site in the abbatoir and many years ago we published an article about the police raid there in the 1980s. And one of our first speakers was Dave Vaughan on how the farm was set up.
contact them
We have been given the text of a talk at St.George's Church by Prof Mary Davis   This has come from the Marx Memorial Library - and although the text doesn't mention Greenwich - or more specifically Woolwich, it should be encouraged to do so.  Again - please get in touch if you are St.George's Church - or can give us any info we can publish, or listen to.  Thanks,

This national newsletter rarely mentions London - but the current issue has another note about the Enderby Group and their work on the wharf and global telecoms.  This includes a quotation from Barratts which says they are 'continuing discussions with local interest groups' - and it would be of interest to know who these groups are!! 

Their AGM is on 6th July Museum of London Docklands  6 pm and it will be followed by a talk on the River Thames Society.
7th September - they have a talk on London firefloat Massey Shaw
5th October  talk on Barge Carrier Systems
2nd November Chris Ellmers on Industrial Discontent in the Thames Shipyards
7th December - Discovering a Lost Thames Pierhead Painter.

We note that they recently had a substitute speaker in the PLA's Environment person - and we have been endeavouring to contact her to come and see us.

They have noted a plaque outside the Tesco in Trafalgar Road saying it was the terminus for the London Tramway Co.Ltd. - would like to know more about this. There is a lot of tramway memorabilia around Greenwich and Charlton, but this is fairly obscure.  And it is also usually impossible to get plaques up for things - like the first power station in the world or like the major marine engine manufacturer in the world or like the major fire engine manufacturer in the world, for instance.
Can whoever is responsible for the plaque contact us - and - as ever - write something we cab publish here, or come and speak to us at a meeting.
Planning matters which they list include 110-114 Norman Road with no mention if its industrial past (info please??)  and likewise the long article on Hope Wharf.

- this is not to do with Greenwich or industry but her fans might like to know that Iris Bryce has produced a book on her life living on a canal boat - 'Canals are my World' Enquiries to  Iris has written extensively in the past about her life living and working in Greenwich and Woolwich in the 1950s and her husband, Owen - who died recently - more or less invented popular jazz in Britain in the 1940s.  We recently visited the Southend Museum where a room is dedicated to him.

There has been a long trail of international visitors visiting and coming to see as many British gasholders as possible before they all go.  Must mention in particular the curator of the gasworks museum in Augsburg.  We have leaflets and pictures if anyone is interested in seeing more. I can't find an excuse for putting them here.

AND - We have been sent a whole lot of new publicity material by Crossness Engines. Its all very very impressive. 
Dates are;
For Prince Consort in Steam - 19th June, 24th July, 4th September, 9th October (£8 adults)
Prince Consort not in Steam - 5th June, 3rd July, 14th August, 23rd October (£6 adults)

They are urging all our members to go and see how well they doing and moving forward.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Young George Landmann visits Upper Brook Street

The next episode in George Landmann's childhood memories involve a visit with his mother and sister to "Mrs Burton, 21 Upper Brook Street".

Upper Brook Street is, of course, an upmarket address and no. 21 is very much still there, and now a listed building - as is no 20,  next door.   In fact I think George was wrong and that Mrs. Burton actually lived in No.20 - which is, if anything rather grander than 21.  The Mrs. Burton  who lived there had been Marguerite Lydius from an upmarket French Canadian and New York background - which may have some relevance to Landmann's later Canadian adventures. He says she was a widow with one child, a daughter.   She was the widow of Ralph Burton, a career soldier who had seen service in the Americas, particularly in Canada and shortly before his death been elected to Parliament.  He had in fact left two children, something which Landmann may not have known or remembered.

Landmann describes at length the dining habits there of a M.Tremble,a Frenchman - but of more interest to us is his meeting there with the Chevalier D'Eon.   There have been many, many books and articles written about the cross-dressing Chevalier.  Very briefly he/she had had a military career in France but was predominately a spy and a leading member of 'The King's Secret' working for Louis XV and also undertook major negotiations on behalf of the French Government.  He is someone who it might be thought almost anything might be true - in particular the reasons why, in the late 1780s, he was living in London dressed as a woman.

I also think that the Chevalier's adventures in the French military and espionage services may have some connections to the background of George's father Isaac Landmann, since there seem to be some co-incidences of place and contacts. 

George - who was then nine years old - described the Chevalier's dress in a great deal of detail  - 'black silk gown .....puffed-up muslin kerchief ....muslin cap with broad muslin frill' and wearing the Cross of St. Louis (as shown in most portraits of the Chevalier).  However he adds that the Chevalier's 'voice was gruff and strong as that of a grenadier .....every appearance of a man in a woman's apparel'.  This bears out some of the something noticed by recent commentators on the Chevalier - one article about a recently discovered portrait points out that despite the women's clothing, a great deal of stubble is shown on the chin!

After dinner at Mrs. Burton's, the ladies the retired, and the Chevalier remarked that it was good they had gone because  now 'we may enjoy a little rational conversation'. The rest of the evening was spent discussing the 'art of war'.    I think this discussion was in French - which shows that young George was not only allowed to stay up and listen to the Chevalier, but that he already spoke at least two languages.

He goes on to talk about the Chevalier's sword fight with St. George. This was a famous event held at Carlton House in front of the Prince of Wales and was painted by Robineau

St.George is another person who has been the subject of extensive research and writings. He was a virtuoso musician from a slave background in Guadeloupe and educated in France.  He was 'celebrated' - as Landmann says - 'as the most expert swordsman of his day'.  Landmann also mentions in passing that he was 'a man of colour' (a phrase which, to my mind, could mean a number of things some unconnected to his racial background  -ie 'called to the colours' was sometimes used to mean joining the army). 

St.George later came to dinner with the Landmann's in Woolwich where he met a party of artillery officers and M. Mollard - Charles Lewis Mollard, the French fencing master at the Royal Military Academy.  Mollard is described by Landmann as a 'coarse vulgar fellow ... educated among the gendarmerie of Paris'.  Inevitably the party went into the garden for a 'carte a tierce' between Mollard and St. George.  This proceeded with Mollard being completely trounced - which he refused to believe or accept. St. George then undertook a great feat of agility and skill which 'drew forth loud and reiterated applauds from all the company'.  Mollard then lost his temper and the proceedings were brought to a close.

Finally, from Brook Street, young George was taken to 'Astley's Amphitheatre of Equestrian Arts' which was just south of Westminster Bridge and where demonstrations of virtuoso riding skills were performed. It has later been known as 'Astley's Circus' - although this is not a name Astley himself used.

He describes how he saw 'the old original Astley .. mounted on the identical white horse which Lord Heathfield habitually rode at Gibraltar during the siege ... his Lordship made a present of him to Mr. Astley'.   I am not at all sure what George meant by 'identical white horse' - since if it was the actual horse which was presented by the regiment to Astley in 1766 - and  which went on to be a star performer with Astley, it must have been a rather old by the time George got to see it. Also it was unlikely to have been anywhere near the siege of Gibraltar itself since that was not until 1779.  However, I am sure the story was all good for show biz.  At the end of the show a blaze of fireworks spelt out 'God Save the King'.

So - the above has been a couple more pages of  George Landmann's childhood memories, albeit they are sometimes a bit imperfect. He was a privileged child who met interesting and prominent people in circumstances where other children might have been sheltered. The people he met were from an overwhelmingly military background - but one which was intellectual, cosmopolitan and more than a bit eccentric.

British History online. Upper Brook Street. Web site
Landmann. Adventures and Recollections.
The Guardian. Arts Website
Wikipedia, as convenient (including biographical articles on D'Eon, St.George and Philip Astley)
There are also on line some interesting biographies of Philip Astley, about his military career under Heathfield and his later use of Gibralter to publicise his shows.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Mills


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

Article in Engineer 4th April 1902.

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

Press cutting file Greenwich Heritage Centre

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



Dr. Mary Mills (incidentally Chair of FOGWOFT)