Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Working Lives of the Thames Gateway

Eastside - the east London industrial history project - have published a book to accompany a series of exhibitions and their move to Barking.
It sets out to be a portrait of the industrial world of east London - basically through the oral testimonies of people describing their workplaces.

So - what has it got to say about Greenwich industries - the chapter on 'Energy' begins with a fine picture of "Greenwich Gasworks in the 1960s". Eastside did a lot of work on East Greenwich Gasworks - I remember attending sessions with their staff and some old gas workers. The book presents East Greenwich along with reminisences of Beckton Gas Works (what next!!! these two terrible rivals described together on a page!!) and also includes Barking Power Station (!! 'electricity' another thing best not mentioned in gas works - all united in their deaths).

Another Greenwich industry mentioned - bizarrely under 'Transport' - is British Ropes, based in Charlton. However the longest account of life in that firm is about its closure and the winding up of the sports club.

There are a couple of entries for Siemens, and a mention of the Arsenal - with an interview with GIHS's Ray Fordham very prominent.

Inevitably each submission is a tiny snap shot of one person's impressions of their workplace - in itself a small part of very, very large whole. And it is a pity that the vastness of east London industry is really barely touched - although something is always better than nothing (and nothing is what we usually get - since most people don't believe there was any industry in London at all)

The book touches on many, many industries from north of the river - and also covers works in Erith and Slade Green. This is the Thames Gateway so there is nothing from Southwark or Tower Hamlets- or indeed the vast industries of the Lea Valley. It also gives little sense of scale since the Arsenal gets a couple of entries, less than some fairly small food factories.

Still, mustn't grumble. They have done their best - and we may end up with this being the only record of some very very major industries.

Working Lives of the Thames Gateway. Eastside Community Heritage and Partners. £9.99 http://www.hidden-histories.org.uk/

1 comment:

Otter said...

Currently appears as an exhibition at the Guildhall - until 27/02/2011