Thursday, 30 October 2008

Harvey's cover

This is the magazine's cover in 1938

Lots about Harvey's -thank you Geoff

Thanks to Geoff Brighty who has given us a pile of Harvey's house magazines. All will be revealed from them in installments as I work my way through them.

Harvey's were a metal working business sited for most of their existence in the Woolwich Road -the new fire station is on part of their site and there are some bits of their wall left. Inevitably, like most such factory house magazines most of the news is about the sport's club plus endless pictures of dinners, dances and people being presented with their gold watch! So for a start I have put in a picture which mixes the social and the workplace -Christmas 1958 in the wire weaving department!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Thanks to Janet Macdonald-and the Deptford Victualling Yard

The October meeting of GIHS featured an amazing and very popular talk by Janet Macdonald on the diet provided to the 18th century Navy with particular reference to the Deptford Victualling Yard. Janet has promised us a version of this to put out - but also reminded us that of following article which we have never put out -sorry Janet, and please come back and talk to us again soon - so - anyway -here it is:


In February 1809, the Victualling Board wrote to the Navy Board to inform them that they were having problems with the wall of the victualling wharf at Deptford. Water was seeping through the wall into the wine cellar, which was likely to cause the iron hoops of thecasks to rot. The inspector of repairs, SamuelHobbs, had reported that the wall had sunk and split, leaving chasms' through which the water entered at high tide and retreated at low tide, taking with it the soil behind the wall and causingthe pavement above to sink. This was likely to worsen if not attended to; he recommended excavating down to the base of the wall and refilling with clay or puddle (a mixture of clay and sand) and also adding piles to secure the land ties and relieve the pressure on them.
Remarking that the wharf had already been repaired several times under the direction of the Inspector General of Naval Works, he suggested the architect at the Navy Office, Mr Holt, should be asked to advise.'
Two days later, the Victualling Board wrote again to report that Henry Garrett, the agent victualler at Deptford, who had checked at high tide, reported that the water was now damaging the boundary wall between the victualling and dock yards, this being exacerbated by rat runs to the pea store and flesh cellars and between the seasoning house and the old cooperage, the water rising over the floor sufficiently to stop the coopers working. The Navy Board's response, which did not come until two weeks later, was to the effect that the problem was caused by broken drains from the settling of the ground, and that these would have to be replaced.
This presumably was done, as there is no more correspondence in the Victualling Board records until October 1811, when the Victualling Board reported to the Navy Board that the ground on the wharf between two of the cranes had 'fell in very much' and that the mudsills had been forced off the foundations, causing the wall to split. This in turn had caused cracks in the groined [sic] arches of the cellars and the party walls of the new storehouses.
A month later, they wrote again to the Navy Board to pass on the agent victualler's report that at low tide 'the ground at the back of the wall [had] sunk down with a great crash' which broke the land ties. The Inspector of Repairs urged immediate action and the Victualling Board asked for the Civil Architect and Engineer to give his opinion.
Initial attempts to solve the problem seemto have been restricted to trying to press the wall down into a more solid foundation, the Victualling Board asking the Navy Board to borrow 600 tons of iron ballast for this purpose, then returning this three months later. Another three months passed, then the Victualling Board asked for cinder ashes from the smitheries in the dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich to mix with ground lime and ballast for repair work, but none of this seems to have worked, as in March 1813 the Victualling Board asked for the Navy Board's surveyor of buildings to make an inspection and give his opinion on the necessary repairs.
Nothing seems to have been done, as in October the Victualling Board reported that the previous day's high tide had made one end of the wharf shift and settle, and requesting an inspection and recommendation that they would create temporary versions above the coffer dam.
However, in November 1817, the Victualling Board wrote once more to the Admiralty secretary, atating that the repairs needed to be extended. They said that Mr Rennie had reported That it appears, from an examination of that part of the Old Wharf Wall which lies between the landing stairs and Eastern end of the Victualling jard, and which, including the return, is Three hundred'feet [92.3 metres] in length and that the whole bottom is silt [which] having sunk away from the planking on which the Wall stands, its weight may therefore be said to be supported by the Piles only, That these piles are all driven perpendicularly, and are kept in that position by the great body of Mud, and Silt, which lies in front of them, so that if this mud was to be removed the piles would fall forward, unless the land ties by which theWall is sustained were sufficiently strong to prevent them;that these land ties are ... very much decayed, and consequently no great dependence can be had on them; that therefore, if this Wall is to be preserved, it must undergo a considerable repair, which with the Tender Piles in front [of] the decayed brickwork will cost at least £2,000 and when done, the great Mud bank in front of it will prevent the full advantage being taken of the deep water along the new Wall, as it will check the current of the Tide and occasion a settlement of mud infront of the new Wharf, the foundation of which lies Seven feet deeper than the Old Wall; that the expense of a Wall of 300 feet in length, with the materials of theCoffer dam now in use, will be about £16,000; whereas if this Wall were to stand over to a future period, it would cost about £25,000, ... that it would not be advisable to leave it in its present state... and that [Mr Rennie] cannot therefore help advising us that the new Wall be extended to the Eastern extremity of the Yards.'
This letter is endorsed as approving the work as detailed.
The final letter in the sequence, in May 1821, reports that the work had been completed 'in a manner which we conceive [is] highly creditableto the professional skill and ability of Mr Rennie ... assisted by the unremitting attention and indefatigability of Mr Hobbs, our inspector of Works...' and goes on to recommend what appears to be a bonus for Hobbs ('such remuneration for his services as [their lordships] may appear to meet').
No record of the finalcost of this work has been found. It should come as no surprise to those familiar with the workings of the Admiralty andits subordinate boards that this saga should have gone on for so long, but it is, if not surprising, intriguing that there is no record of the Navy Board having responded to most the VictuallingBoard's pleas for help in this matter. Perhaps, in due course, the Navy Board letters project will turn up the other side of this story.
Janet Macdonald

Gaslight and Brian Donkin

"Gaslight' has just turned up - the Newsletter of the North West Gas Historical Society. In it is an article about the (latterly) Chesterfield based firm of Brian Donkin & Company - and the article is partly to record the passing of the Chesterfield Works. However, as the article records this was originally a south London company with an important works based near The Blue in Bermondsey. It was there that Donkin secured many first - paper making machinery, canned food, to name just two. Some years ago I had an article published in the GLIAS Newsletter (154 Oct.1994) which drew attention to Donkin's family links with both the gas-industry magnates, the Hawes family.
The current article in 'Gaslight' draws attention to Donkin's relationship with the instrument maker Edward Troughton - after whom Troughton Road in Charlton is named. Troughton's site was, I understand, on the west side of the Woolwich Road junction with Victoria Way. They are not company who has ever featured in GIHS's newsletter or talks and we would be very interested to hear from anyone who could make a contribution on that.
There is still another episode to go on Donkin's in a future 'Gaslight' and hopefully it will record an even more important link with a Greenwich inventor and industry.
Gaslight is obtainable from Diane Smith, 13 Private Drive, Barnston, Wirral, CH61 1DF at £5 a year. And, incidentally, they are looking for a new editor!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Bessemer's saloon

Most people - including his biographers - don't seem to know anything about the works that this famous inventor had on the Greenwich Peninsula (please leave a message here if you want to know more!).
Working with another Peninsula based company, Maudslay Son and Field, Bessemer, who suffered a lot from sea sickness, developed a saloon to go in ships which wouldn't sway about. This was kept at his house in Denmark Hill but then ended up as a room in the Horticultural College at Hextable (down the road from Sidcup!). It is thought that after the college was demolished that some people took bits home - and I have a message from someone who is trying to find out if this is so, and if the bits are still around! He has also sent some pictures of young ladies in the saloon at Hextable which he found in an album in an Edinburgh Bookshop. If you know anything about any of this please leave a message.

Crossness Record

Another fascinating newsletter from our local industrial history museum - it contains news of an enormous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other grants which enable all sorts of expansion. We look forward one day to one of them coming to a GIHS meeting and telling us about it! Other items in the newsletter include - an article about Boreholes at Crossness - a review of the performance of Hamlet in the engine house - picures of various bits of insect life found around the site - more news about restoring their amazing set of pumping engines - and so on Check them out at

They are advertising days when you can visit (but you must book 020 831 3711 by ringing ONLY on Tuesdays and Sundays 9.30-4 and no messages to be left) 4th, 16th November and 2nd and 14th December.

Association for Industrial Archaeology

I've just had two newsletters from the national Industrial Archaeology Assocation. I've been a member for many years and usually go to their annual conference and their newsletters are full of interesting items of news and articles. However I've searched and searched these two newsletter for anything about Greenwich - most of their members have difficulty believing there was any industry in London, let alone Greenwich! I suppose it is up to us to tell them! However check them out at

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Meeting next Tuesday

Next Tuesday (21st October) Greenwich Industrial History meeting at the Old Bakehouse with Janet Macdonald on some aspects of the Royal Victualling Yard at Deptford. 7.30 just turn up.
We may also have a brief presentation about the University of Greenwich Big Band and their historical concerts (more about that later)
see you all there!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

amazing panorama of Woolwich

Trotting round all the libraries in the Borough - I was very taken with Slade (tucked around the back streets south of Plumstead Common). On the back wall is a huge photograph (and I mean HUGE!) of Woolwich taken from somewhere near the Town Hall. It shows the power station, the old ferry, the autostaker (which must date it!) and all sorts of long gone stuff in the Arsenal. How did it get there? what date is it? what can we see in it?

Friday, 10 October 2008

Woodlands Farm, Steve and the Clothworkers

Excitement - the latest newsletter from Woodlands Farm Trust has an article in it by our Treasurer, Steve Daly.
This is a history of the Clothworkers Company - Much of the area of woodland around the farm is called Clothworkers Wood - and as a City Livery Company they are much occupied with actual industry.
I am not going to quote all of Steve's article and people who want to read it - and that everyone - should of course join Woodlands Farm Trust, and get the newsletter themselves. Woodlands Farm is Greenwich's own real Farm (not a City Farm this is the real thing). or email and say you want to join and get the newsletter to see Steve's article.
Future events at the farm include (they are on the Welling side of Shooters Hill)
19th October Apple Day 11-4
23rd November Christmas Fair 10.3o-3.30
11th April Lambing Day 11-4.30
7th June Summer Show 11-4.30

Blackheath Scientific Society

Another programme in the post - this is from Blackheath Scientific Society with a write of a very interesting evening they had on Thames Defences. If Blackheath Scientific Society had anything as advanced as a web site, or even an email, I might be persuaded to ask their speaker to do a slot for GIHS as well! Their next meeting is on 21st September and is about 'Collecting Brachypelma - the Red Legged Tarantulas from Mexico'. All their meetings are held at Mycenae House, Se3 at 7.45. In the future they have:
21st November - Prof James Emmerson on - VISTA -Visible & IR Surrey Telescope, Atacama
16th January - Humphrey Dawson on Aviation Terrorism
20th February - the International Glaucoma Association
20th March - Phil Williams on RAYNET Radio Amateur Emergency Network
17th April - Peter Evans on Confessions of a Science Presenter
15th May - Restoration of the Cutty Sark

Butler Tricycle

Note from John Day in response to back postings about Merryweather's. He notes mention of a Butler's Tricycle made by them and says Butler lived in Newbury and gave his occupation as an Engineer and Draughtsman - which John says makes him think he was working for a company local to that area. Butler was well known in automobile history for his advanced thinking - he invented the float feed, variable choke and spray carburettor and a time when others were using surface vaporisation (Butler's Patent Nos 15589/87, and 9203/89). In a patent court action it was held that Butler anticipated Maybach. However John says that Butlers was not the world's first car - he cites Knight of Farnham as the first British one.

Lewisham Local History Society

The usual dynamic list of meetings and speakers for Lewisham Local History Society has just turned up - meetings of interest to us:
30th January - Prof. Vivian Nutton on Roy Porter, a great historian
27th February - Dr.Andrew Flinn on Herbert Morrison and the South Lewisham Labour Party
27th March Ray Thatcher - Joseph Hardcastle and Hatcham House
24th April Dr.Roger Bowdler - The Pursuit of Special Interests, designation in London
22nd May Charlie Mackeith & Madeleine Adams - Restoring Boone's Chapel
26th June Gordon Dennington - Zeppelins and Gothas over London
17th July Steve Grindlay - Sex and Scandal in Sydenham
25th September - Richard Hartree - The Penns of Lewisham
30th October - Len Reilly - The Promised Land. The Lure of South London
27th November - Brian Bloice - London's Postal History
11th December - Sir Ian Mills - Six centuries of Christian Art at St.Margaret's Lee

Monday, 6 October 2008

Info on Bonney wanted

We have a request for information about George Bonney who was a boat builder in 1860 perhaps in Woolwich. Can anyone give us any information.

letter from John Day

Our member, John Day, has written to say that he has just finished cataloguing 80-100,000 drawings for Firepower (these are from the Royal Artillery archive). It has taken him the last 15 years to do this!!
Can we encourage him to tell us more?