By the second half of the 19th century iron plate and later steel were beginning to replace wood as the material of choice for the manufacture of large and medium sized vessels (note the Iron Shipbuilding Yards to the west of Wood Wharf on the OS maps of 1865 and 1895). In the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century a huge number of flat bottomed barges and lighters of both wood and iron or steel construction transported materials up and down the Thames and the east coast The Wood Wharf foreshore provides an ideal location for the maintenance of such craft without the expense of cranes, slips or dry docks The occupation of the extant building at number 32 by specialist barge and lighter repair yards, can be traced back to the time of its construction just after the turn of the century; Percy Talbot, Whitehair (who specialised in the transport of grain to the flour mills in Deptford Creek), Union Lighterage and most recently Pope & Bond The form and layout of the building suggests that it was purpose built for this activity The remarkable similarity of the preceding structure represented on the OS maps of 1895 and 1865 would support the supposition that there is a direct link to the earlier days of boat building and repair at Wood Wharf
A duplicate of this awesome construction was of course operating on the opposite shore and between these landing stages steamed two purpose built ferries.
Riverboat Repair Workshops
The building now on the site of number 32 was erected at or around the turn of the century. It comprises two ground floor workshop spaces either side of the roadway, a third larger first floor workshop facing the river behind which is a unit subdivided to provide locker room office and kitchen facilities. Purpose built, probably based on a pre-existing structure an archetypal form of which there are no other examples left on Greenwich waterfront. The trade practice for which it was designed and built and the activity it serviced are a testament to a pre-industriaI past and the unbroken history of boat building and repair on and around this site. The mater al and form of its structure and utility of its external detailing are characteristic of construction practice towards the end of the great industrial age which had changed forever the once marshy land to the west and south. The rear workshop still houses a forge tools and machinery employed to cut and form metal sheet and bar necessary to maintain the most recent incarnation of working Thames cargo vessels: steel barges and lighters. This building and if at all possible some aspects of its intended function should be retained.
PLANNING ISSUES & CONTRIBUTING TO REGENERATION IN GREENWICH
The exploitation of the remaining elements (slipway and engine chamber) of the Great Greenwich Steam Ferry as the core around which to present a dynamic history of the riverfront at Greenwich and promote future uses of the River Thames far transport and pleasure.