Monday, 28 April 2008

Land of Promise

Just arrived in the post - 4 DVDs of films by 'The British Documentary Movement 1930-19950'. Many of these films cover industrial subjects and several were made in a building at the end of Bennett Park in Blackheath - as I remember it there is a small exhibition in the lobby of the private flats there now.
The only one I have watched so far is 'Children at School' filmed, not in Greenwich, but in the nursery of the Gas Light and Coke Company flats at Ladbroke Grove - itself built in the tank of a disused gas holder.

Docklands History Group

Notice of the next Docklands History Group meeting in the post - this Group, was originally set up to rescue and record the history of Docklands at a time when the Docks were all being closed - since when it has gone on from strength to strength. It meets every month at the Museum in Docklands - and the next meeting, on 1st May, is about the Life of a Ship's Pilot. They are also desperate for someone to volunteer as their Secretary. Wish I had the time to get to their meetings, let alone help them out!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Ports of Call

Before 1963 a large chunk of what is now part of Newham, north of the river, was in the Borough of Woolwich - when Greenwich Industrial History Society was set up we meant to take that area in as part of our research ( more about that at some time in the future). This will explain why I am telling you about a note I had yesterday from people in the University of East London about their Ports of Call project and the audio trail and guided walks they are arranging on 7th May. These are called 'Walks of Art' and there is information at One of the trails will be round West Silvertown and the other around North Woolwich - bits of those areas were once in Kent and part of Woolwich! So, lets, see what they have to say about OUR past!

Blackheath Hill Railway Tunnel

Nick Catford has had some publicity in the local press in his attempt to get information about the railway tunnel which carried what was the Greenwich Park Line under Blackheath Hill. He has now sent me his finished manuscript on this - which will appear in the Greenwich Industrial History newsletter some time in the future. I am assuming it will also appear on the Subterranea Britannica website where so much of Nick's research can be found. Is that true Nick?? The tunnel was built as part of the railway line opened in 1872 between Greenwich and Nunhead - the Greenwich Station was on the site of what is now the Ibis Hotel. It was never that successful and closed in 1917. Nick has researched what happened to the tunnel under Blackheath Hill after closure, what it was used for - and what it looks like now.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Births, Chimney Pots and Lightermen

Hearing a presentation last night about arts projects on the Greenwich Peninsula I was very happy to hear that the exhibition between the Dome and the Jubilee Line Station at North Greenwich is to be left there a bit longer. This is an 'arts' project by Julian Walker and consists of thousands of tiny scraps and artifacts found on the Peninsula foreshore. Julian and his team undertook a lot of research at Greenwich Heritage Centre to identify these or at least to find something relevant to say about them, and they are all labelled in one way or another and exhibited in vast glass cases alongside the walkway. Just reading the labels is evocative of much of the industrial past of the Peninsula - there are references to many of the industries, to ships launched and to the working lives of many individuals. I understand that many thousands of people have looked at this exhibition every day. You can find it by walking out of North Greenwich Station into Millennium Square going towards the Dome - as the walkway bends round towards the Dome entrance then the exhibition is in cases to the left. Go and see it before it has to be moved!!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Museum in Docklands

Out to supper last night, and it was good to meet up with old friends from the Museum in Docklands. I wonder how many Greenwich people go there - and if they know how many of the exhibits come from south of the River. For instance, one very large exhibit is the wooden capstan which I came across in the long grass on the derelict gas works site on the Peninsula in the 1980s. It seems originally to have been part of the dry dock which had been built on the tip of the Peninsula in the 1870s, the remains of which must now be somewhere under the Dome. When the gas works was built in the 1880s they were required to take over the dry dock and eventually seem to have used it as a reservoir. They kept the capstan which stood on the riverside - perhaps as some sort of decorative feature.
When the gas works closed the capstan stayed there alongside one of the internal roads. Anyway, its just one of the many Greenwich sourced exhibits in this wonderful local museum which everyone should go and see - just get on the DLR, get off at West India Quay and turn left, past the Robin and its ahead and to the right.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

View from the barrier

Cold and horrid yesterday and the nearest I got to the Royal Docks Campus was looking at the river from the barrier site. There was a ship at the Tate and Lyle jetty - 'Ismail K' . Does anyone know any more about it?- and being at the barrier brings me to Siemens - the electrical engineering giant whose factory was in that area until the 1950s. Some one emailed me the other day asking for information on Siemens records. She is a family history researcher looking for info about her grandfather who , she says, hung himself at Siemens Cable works in 1929. She is wondering if there are any personal records of such things.

Saturday, 19 April 2008


Today the South East Region Industrial Archaeology Conference (SERIAC) was held just across the river at the Docklands Campus of the University of East London. Sorry - I couldn't go but very interested in any one who wants to report - travel there must have been pretty dire with no DLR or Circle Line! Among the papers to be given with the most local interest were Denis Smith on Bazalgette and main drainage and Brian Bloice on Dalton the Sanitaryware manufacturer - both involving sites in Bexley.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Livesey Museum closure

The latest GLIAS newsletter draws attention to the closure of the Livesey Museum in Southwark. This is housed in a library given to what was then Camberwell Council by Sir George Livesey. Livesey is, of course, of great interest to Greenwich historians since he built the great East Greenwich gasworks - his dream of a totally efficient gas works which would embody his ideas of partnership between management, customers and workforce. His ghost has even been said to haunt the Millennium Dome. In the back of the Livesey Museum is a wonderful statue of Sir George - by Pomfrey, who sculpted the statue of Victoria in Woolwich Town Hall. Does anyone know what will become of it?
photo R.J.M.Carr

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Next meeting - Merryweather

The next Greenwich Industrial History Society meeting is Neil Bennett talking about Merryweathers - the fire engine manufacturerand whose products went all over the world. Their famous factory in Greenwich High Road is currently being demolished.

Neil's talk will be on 20th May, at the Old Bakehouse - the Age Exchange Theatre in Bennett Park behind their shop opposite Blackheath Station. 7.30.

Penn -Greenwich marine engineering

Last night the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society hosted the launch of a new biography of John Penn by Richard Hartree. Penn's 19th century engineering works stood on Blackheath Hill (now Wickes). They were pre-eminent internationally in marine engineering-for example they built the engines for Warrior, now preserved at Portsmouth. One family member lived in The Cedars on Belmont Hill, and another built Penn's Almshouses in Greenwich High Road.
More details of the book later.