Sunday, 23 November 2008

Royal Artillery (very expensive) book

I was invited in the week to the launch at Firepower of a new book about the Royal Artillery - I didn't buy it (£37!) but I would very much welcome anyone who fancies reviewing it here.
It is called 'The Royal Artillery, Woolwich. A Celebration' and it is by Brigadier Ken Timbers - I guess it is available from Firepower

Monday, 17 November 2008

GIHS Meeting Venue Reminder

It has been brought to the Society's attention that the Blog pages don't actually have a reference to where the monthly meetings of the Society are held. We will investigate creating some kind of reference to the Meetings and venue on the Blog page by some other means, but meanwhile, this is lifted off one of our earlier printed format newsletters.


Meetings are held at;

The Old Bakehouse, (at back of the) Age Exchange Reminiscence Centre, 11 Blackheath Village, London, SE23 9LA

Do not go to the Reminiscence Centre itself - The Old Bakehouse is at the back, in Bennett Park. Walk into Bennett Park and turn left into a yard. The Old Bakehouse is the building on your right. The entrance is straight ahead. Members and visitors are strongly advised not to park at the Old Bakehouse.

Here is a map of the area.
The arrow tip should be pointing more to the western end of Bennett Park.

Tom's site

Tom Stothard was a wonderful man who devoted himself to a lot of issues in the history of Docklands. I have a note from his grandaughter asking us to put a link through to a website which has been set up to showcase some of his work.

Link corrected - November 2nd 2009

Naval Dockyards

In the post a copy of the Transactions of the Naval Dockyards Society. As ever it contains almost nothing about the two VERY VERY IMPORTANT dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford. What can I say? its all about Portsmouth again!!!
I know they should say we should all get writing - ??? So why don't we?


In the post a newsletter from Southwark and Lambeth Archaeological Society. All good stuff! Their coming programme includes:
13th Jan Neil Hawkins on Excavations at Drapers Gardens
10th Feb. Stephen Humphrey on Industries of Southwark, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe
10th March Recent local Archaeological and Historical Work
allmeeting 7.30 106 The Cut, SE1

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Kent Ironworks

We have a request for information about Kent Ironworks. This seems to have been based at Dreadnought Wharf in Thames Street, Greenwich and also at a site about half way up Norway Street which was known as Victoria Foundry.

I've raked the following info out of my notes on the area - and everyone would be grateful to know more.

I think the Norway Street site was the original Greenwich gas works site. I wrote this site up in Bygone Kent - (The first Greenwich Gasworks and how it fell down. BGK 20 No.6. June 1999)

By 1841 the Norway Street site had been let to a I then got interested in the steam engine builder William Joyce, who, I assume also had Dreadnought Wharf. He seems to have died very young in 1856 and is buried in Nunhead Cemetery. He lived in Diamond Terrace. He seems to have built many steam engines and notes about them often turn up in histories of local works. I also have a note that he built steam flour mills for Symrna in 1850 but more importantly a ship called the City of Paris – presumably this was built at Dreadnought Wharf. He also may have built a steam yacht for the Pasha of Egypt. He was also probably involved in some of the early steam cars which were made locally.

After Joyce died the works was taken over by Cowan - and there is a photograph in the

the biography of the torpedo manufacturer Alfred Yarrow which and shows him as a very young man in a steam car built for him by Cowans which is clearly marked 'Kent Iron works'.

Always grateful for more info

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Crossness today

I went today to the press launch of the succeful Heritage Lottery bid at Crossness Engines Trust. Useless of me to say anything other than it went very well. I'm putting below their press release:

‘The Great Stink’ - over £1.5 million of Lottery money allocated for Crossness Pumping Station restoration. Featuring - Wesley Kerr, Chair of HLF Committee for London - Peter Bazalgette, President of Crossness Engines Trust and great-great grandson of Sir Joseph Bazalgette.

In the 150th year since the “Great Stink” of 1858, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is delighted to announce over £1.5 million in funding to help restore the Grade 1 listed Crossness Pumping Station in Bexley - the solution and product of Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s vision to save London from what 19th Century Prime Minister Disraeli called “a Stygian pool reeking with ineffable and unbearable horror”.

Wesley Kerr, Chair of the HLF Committee for London, said:

"The London Committee is thrilled that this unique part of our city's heritage, including some of the finest and largest steam engines in existence, housed in cathedral-sized buildings on an inspiring Thameside site, is to be fully restored and opened to all. The volunteers have done sterling work already. This vital part of London's past will become a cherished local community asset and an exhilarating destination for future generations."

A triumph of Victorian engineering, Crossness Pumping Station was opened in 1865 attended by the Prince of Wales and dignitaries of the time. Housing the four largest rotary beam engines in the world and currently in a dilapidated state, the Grade 1 listed Beam Engine House and Boiler House are both on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register.

The restoration, part of a project costing £2.7 million, is due to start in early 2009. As well as conserving the buildings there will be a new exhibition exploring the social history of the site which will take in public health, pollution and the environment, encouraging visitors to celebrate the engineering triumph on their doorstep. A new cafĂ©, car parking, education room and archive and an updated website will also be developed.

Peter Bazalgette, President of the Crossness Engines Trust and great-great-grandson of Sir Joseph adds:

“The Trust’s volunteers have worked tirelessly to restore one of the magnificent engines and to create an experience which visitor’s already enjoy. This project will allow us to improve on that experience, safeguard the fabric of the buildings and make possible new community ventures that will allow this monument to Victorian engineering to take on a new lease of life.”

Malcolm Woods, Historic Buildings and Areas Advisor for English Heritage, who have also provided grants and long term advice and support to the Trust, said:

‘“Crossness Pumping Station is a spectacular example of the boundless ambition, vision, and commitment of the Victorians in transforming the public health of the capital. English Heritage is delighted to be able to support the work of the Crossness Engines Trust and can today announce a grant of £150,000 towards the repair of these fantastic buildings. The grant will go towards restoring the fabric of the buildings that house the magnificent pumping engines and secure the long-term and active future of the buildings. The announcement today of this vital funding from both English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund is a major step towards removing the buildings from our Heritage at Risk Register”.

The Pumping Station when restored will be run almost entirely by volunteers, who will lead a range of activities for schools and other visitors including workshops, talks, and guided tours, to help bring the past to life and celebrate this triumph of Victorian engineering. Beyond that there are plans to use the site for a range of community and leisure activities.

It will open for three days a week from Spring to Autumn and two days a week through the Winter. As well as exploring past achievements, it will encourage visitors to see how the past, present and future are connected, on a site where Thames Water continues the work of Bazalgette’s vision in the 21st Century.

Very significant support (both financial and otherwise) has also been forthcoming from the Department of Communities and Local Government, Thames Water, Tilfen Land, the London Borough of Bexley and the City Bridge Trust. All of this has allowed the Trust to proceed with the work that will convert the vision into reality.

Friday, 7 November 2008

John Penn and Sons of Greenwich by Richard Hartree

The Society would like to recommend the book ‘John Penn and Sons of Greenwich’. It was reviewed in the South East London ‘Mercury’ by Tony Lord and described as a ‘must have’ for local historians. Unfortunately there was no mention in the review of where it can be purchased in Greenwich. It is available at the Heritage Centre and the Tourist Information Centre and at Maritime Books.

Richard Hartree, himself, is the distributor and can supply copies himself, but these will incur a P&P charge of £1.50.  His contact details is or 01295 788215 or Stables Cottage, Sibford Ferris, Banbury OX15 5RE. John Penn and Sons will be the topic of Richard's talk to the GIHS on January 20th 2009.

Harveys at War

One of the 'Harco' Magazines is for September 1940 - and it is full of wartime arrangements. The first page and the first headline reads 'After the Siren'. This is all about spotters on the roof of the factory and what workers should do when they blow their whistles. They also say that the families of employees can use the works Dugouts at night - and can bring in their bedding. Another article points out that the canteen is much busier since families have fled London leaving men to feed themselves! There is a long list of employees who are now in the Forces - the Company was sending them each a monthly packet of 50 cigarettes. Articles follow - 'When the Raiders Come' - 'The Empire's Resources'- 'United States Aircraft to help in Britain's fight' - 'Compensation for air raid victims' - 'The Home Guard'. The issue however ends with five pages of sports news and this begins and ends with news of the Rifle Section -reporting there that 'normal activities had to be abandoned as the range was required for the Factory Defence Force ... it was rather unfortunate as we had just managed to win a match ... and had hoped to leave the bottom position in the League Table'.
Contemporary material like this gives us a very close view of ordinary people and their reactions in wartime. In late 1940 people are still feeling their way through the situation - doing what they can, really not sure. I remember reading the Greenwich Labour Party minute books for this period and seeing how by 1941 devastation and shock was hitting the civilian population - but then within 18 months, much quicker than I would have expected, people really were positive and planning a new and better post war world. I wonder if these factory magazines will echo that.
Most interesting is the 'News Reel of Nazi Europe' - which describes how workers, particularly trade unionists, were being executed all over Europe by the Nazi's (although I don't suppose that the Harvey's management would have encouraged strikes). They say "Hitler, who has always posed as the friend of the workers, has .. launched savage attacks upon the workers of every state into which his hordes have marches ........................inadequate rations, bad pay, brutal treatment and the ruthless stamping out of every spark of freedom'

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Will Crooks

A newsletter has come from Labour Heritage - an organisation for Labour Party history. There is an article in it by our local Paul Tyler, about 'Will Crooks and the Labour Representation Committee'. Basically he is writing to correct items in a previous newsletter about Crooks - but much of what he says is of interest in Greenwich. He talks about Crooks' adoption as a candiate by the Woolwich Labour Representative Association in 1902 and how Crooks' election to Parliament accelerated negotiations with Liberals. Paul points out however that Crooks' victory in Woolwich was the first example of a Labour candidate winning in a straight fight with Tories and he says 'the result marked the beginning of Labour's rise electorally and had a lasting political resonance on the pattern and style of future elections throughout the country'.

I keep asking Paul to come and speak to GIHS but he keeps refusing .................

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Cricket too

Following on from the previous post about Football fixtures in 1952 - its also instructive to look at what the cfricket teams were doing in 1951. Harveys had four teams -
Saturday First XI - played Northern Poly, Erith Tech, City of London College, Old Shootershillians, Blackheath Wanderers - and while none of these are industrial they also played J.&E.Hall of Dartford - and who were Beehive, and Armcross?
The Saturday Second XI were also playing educational establishments - but also the Southern Railway and Lyles Sports (must be the golden syrup division!), - and also Plumstead Radical which must mean the Plumstead based drinking club!
Sunday First XI list gives little indication of industrial fixtures, entirely made up of local town sides - Catford Wanderers and the like, but the Sunday Second XI played the Kentish Mercury, and Maybloom Sports (another Plumstead drinking club!), and - finally - Barrow Blackman (who were they?)

Sports fixtures

Like most works house magazines much of the ones produced by Harvey's are about the firm's sports club. Something absolutely fascinating is to look at the list of fixtures which the various sporting teams undertook - it is of course a list of other local firms at the time.
So - in 1952 who was Harvey's football club playing - and they seem to have had a number of teams operating out of their Hervey Road ground. Their 1st XI played in the Premier Division of the London Business Houses and 1952 fixtures were mostly not local - some are easy to identify - J.& Phillips (local of course), S.T.C. (also local), Tottenham Gas, May and Baker (in Barking), Lampson Paragon - but who were Gothic, Tamber, Sam Jones, B.D.V., and LT (LER)
Their second team played in the South London Alliance - and in 1952 they also played May and Baker, Slades Green (must be the railway depot), Stones (local of course), Woolwich Borough Council, R.A.C.S., Erith Council, Henleys (North Woolwich or Gravesend), Metro Gas (thats East Greenwich Gas Works), - but who were West Kent, Old Selts, Hendon Strollers, Old Heathians, Mobeka S.C.??
Finally their third team playing in the South East London Amateur League - they played Spicers, Molins (then in Deptford), Elliots (our local computer manufacturer!!), Peek Freans (in Spa Road), - but who were County Gate, Charles Page, Clifton Villa, Welling Meth, Dewrance, G.Park Res (did Greenwich Park staff have their own team??).

In 1951 Harvey's First team had played and one by one goal against Metrogas. The long write up of the match can be very instructive. Most of all that they had played at the Valley to a crowd of 2,000. What local company team today can match that!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

More about Harvey's

Perhaps I should start off by finding something from the magazines which explains about Harvey's and who they are. There is an article which explains a bit about their background and written for their Diamond Jubilee celebrations on July 7th 1934. 'Sixty years of industrial progress'. At that time the firm's founder, G.A.Harvey was still alive and still Chairman, although day to day control was in the hands of his son, Sydney. G.A.Harvey was to die in 1937. He had begun in 'the most inauspicious way possible' in an 'old forge in Lewisham' and turning it into a workshop where, with one boy, he worked in zinc - cisterns, guttering, for local builders. Within ten years he was supplying all round the country and began to move into the area for which the firm was best known - metal perforation. This began with making perforated zinc for meat safes and by 1894 he could expand with a second works at Iron Wharf in Greenwich which was set up for galvanizing and tank making. In 1913 he bought the site in Woolwich Road where the firm was to remain. This was near the river and also the railway - from which a branch line went into the works. In 1934 some of the work was described - fine wire cloth, thicker woven wire articles, all kinds of metal perforation, manufacture of dustbins and similar domestic equipment up to major pressure vessels, fractionating towers, reaction vessels and so on for industry. They also moved into metal office furniture and similar items - for which they became famous.
I am treating Harvey's here as a historical entity - but I believe that the firm still exists and that the office furniture department is alive and well and located in Margate. If anyone from Margate picks this article up I would be grateful to know more about Harvey's work today - and of course since 1934.