The Woolwich Antiquarians current newsletter has a report of the talk by Andy Griffiths on the Woolwich Free Ferry starting with -
1308 William de Wicton sold the ferry and house for £10
(was this a free ferry - must say I have my doubts!)
1850 first talk of a free ferry - at the time it was just a horse raft
1880 Woolwich Parish had a public meeting- but couldn't afford a ferry - so applied to the Metropolitan Board of Works pointing out that west Londoners could cross the river for nothing
1885 an enabling act of Parliament
1887 Mowlem appointed to build the terminals and pontoons
1889 the ferry was opened by Lord Rosebery - three days after the inception of the London County Council. The first boat was Gordon, then Duncan and then Hutton. They were side wheel paddle steam boats.
1922 - there were new ferries - Squires, Gordon and in 1930 Will Crooks and John Benn. Everyone loved them.
In the Second World War they did lots of evacuation work from bomb sites, particularly from Silvertown.
1963 the present boats came into service. James Newman, Ernest Bevin and John Burns.
1966 new terminals were built.
The ferry can take bigger and heavier lorries than the Blackwall Tunnel and HGVs are 11% of its users. Most cars use it on weekends. All users are logged. The morning peak is northbound and south bound in the evening. They were designed to take 500 passengers, but are licenced for 350 - usually it is 25. In July they do a charity run for disadvantaged children.
There are five crews each with seven members - and also staff at the terminals.
Maintenance is a problem as the vehicles are getting quite old. John Burns is now waiting for a small spare part which is no longer made. There are no longer any dry docks on the Thames which can take them and they have to go to Hull for major repairs. They do have their own maintenance department - one ferry has recently had its decking replaced there.
The newsletter also has a long write up of a seminar on the Localism Bill
There is also a copy of an obituary to Jeremy Cotton - our local wildlife expert who died over Christmas. Jeremy was also a member of GIHS. The obituary is one which appeared on a sister blog www.marymarysdiary.com