Friday, 11 December 2015

News items yet again

Sorry to keep pushing my own works. Need to be a bit shameless maybe,

'Innovation, Enterprise and Change on the Greenwich Peninsula' is still available (but I have just opened the LAST BOX).  Copies are for sale at Sabo, Stockwell Street, The Warwick Leadlay Galley, Nelson Road,  Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Centre, and the NOW Galley, Greenwich Peninsula Square. or from me Or from Rob who can also handle paypal.
- and also buy some of Rob's wonderful calendars of Greenwich or the Thames

Also -next week - I am doing presentations on the peninsula and its history:
16th Wednesday - 6.00-700 Greenwich Centre Library
17th Thursday - 7-8 Blackheath Library

Great launch event at the Greenwich Gallery for Peter Kent's amazing 'The Birth of London's Newest City'.  Go and see it - its on until the 23rd.  9-5.30  weekdays, 12-4 weekends.  Honestly. This is amazing. (the sponsors)

As ever - various events
20th January - The Archaeology and History of the Kings Cross Goods Yard.  Rebecca Haslam.  6.30 Swedenborg Hall.
17th February. Father Thames. Still alive and kicking. The changing role of Thames Wharves.  David Hilling. 6.30 Swedenborg Hall.
16th March,  Gold Refining in London.  Michaele Blagg. 6.30 75 Cowcross Street
20th April The Restoration of Historic Buildings. An Engineer's perspective. 6.15 75 Cowcross Street
18th May. AGM.  Played in London. The Heritage of a City at Play. Simon Inglis  6.15 75 Cowcross Street

Guided Towpath Walks by the Inland Waterways Association, all over Christmas.
10th February. Newcomen Society. Susan Mossman on 'Onward ever' Henry Bessemer and his Works.  5.45  Science Museum (bet she doesn't mention his Greenwich Works)
SERIAC - 23rd April. Kingston on Thames.

The GLIAS Newsletter also lists down items from the London Archaeologists Fieldwork Roundup for 2014.. Greenwich items are:
Enderby House. evaluation to locate c17-18 gunpowder magazine built 1694. Found C17 brick foundation and robbed wall of magazine
King Henry's Dock SE18. evaluation of site of Graving Dock found three phases of features: timber posts and a horizontal beam from an early phase: a wall from the second phase: and a mooring bollard and two brick structures 'most likely a dock crane' from the post 1850's phase.
Greenwich Market - building survey: designed by Joseph Kay. 1833. Hipped roof of market is steel based structure of 1905-8
Pelton Road and Commerell Street SE10. industrial buildings.
Convoys Wharf. found brick and concrete wall foundations and possibly crane bases from the Nineteenth Century; a stone structrure which could be part of Stern Dock Entrance and a possible continuation of a slipway wall. Also dug test pits inside and outside the Olympia Building and a cast iron structure of 1844 originally erected as cover for Slipways.

There is also an article praising Rich Sylvester's Greenwich Peninsula map  and urges that it be made more available

Arco Trent - another article in the GLIAS Newsletter  discusses Richard Wilson's ''Slice of Reality' which has been round the back of the Dome since 2000. It says that this was originally the Arco Trent built in 1971. 'Originally a dredger, in later life she served as a floating booster station, modified to assist other vessels in the discharge of aggregate at more remote locations, even in open water'.  She is currently used as a studi
Finally - there is a note in the newsletter from Gillian Friar who has a collection of books and research materials about John Evelyn and would be happy to donate them to someone interested.

This is the Association for Industrial Archaeology's Winter 2015 edition.
They advertise their new web site
The edition also includes an article on Enderby Wharf - this is by - er - me - and there is also a small advert for my new book - so, thanks AIA.

18th December  - talks on Mechanical Calculators, My Wife's Iron Fork, The Last Vulcan Bomber Flight. 
15th January - Managing the Crossness Nature Reserve.
both at Mycenae House n7.45

Their winter fair is 12th December (that's tomorrow) at Lewisham Arthouse, 140 Lewisham Way. 11-6.  lots of new t-shirts, and other stud with a 'fabulous design'.  You can also buy direct from them.  They also have a new brochure which is available on their web site.

MARIE CELESTE DE CASTERAS. Ann Dingsdale writes: " I am researching the 1,499 women who signed the 1866 womens' suffrage petition in 1866.  We plan to celebrate the local women who signed with a walk in May to mark the 150th anniversary (40 years before the Suffragettes!)

I have been interested to find that one woman who signed in Greenwich took out some interesting engineering patents in the early 1860's, and if GIHS know anything more about her.   She was Marie Celeste de Castres SInibaldi, a naturalised Frenchwoman,born 1808, and married to a Corsican professor of Italian,  Luigi Sinibaldi. Iin the 1860's she was living at 1 South Villas, South
Street. Her son was an engineer,Napoleon Sinibaldi and hHer brother in law Pierre Sinibaldi was a
Military Engineer.

These are the details of the patents: 1862 October 31 No 2945. Improvements in the manufacture of armour plates for ships fortifications and forts, and in the manufacture of plates to be used  in the construction and building of ships and for other purposes, and  for attaching copper or other like protective metal to the outside of metal plates for making copper bottoms or bottoms with a similar protection to Iron ships. The method of constructing armour plates for building ships of war is to use laminated plates combining iron and steel and also plates of iron without steel perfectly wrought and to unite them by soldering with copper brass or other metal in the manner described. To procure great strength laminated plates of steel and iron are used in combination. Plates for building ships for the merchant service are manufactured in like manner but with thinner plates. By the same means I produce all other formation of iron for machinery, beams and other purposes.By the process described, an external coat of copper or other protective metal can be given to each plate of iron which when the plates are used in the construction of ships will produce the effect of copper bottoms

August 22, 1862. 2205. To Marie Celeste Sinibaldi of 1, South villas South-street, Greenwich, in the county of Kent, for the invention of "improvements in the manufacture of chains, and in the
apparatus employed therein."

Notes of meetings - but all they do is West London - and I know they would blame us for not offering them a  south east  London Labour Heritage Day.  However......
20th February  West London History Day.  Ruskin Hall, Acton,. W3
21st May AGM. Unite the Union Offices, Holborn, WC2

EAST END WATERWAYS GROUP- only just over the other side of the river -  they have sent us details of their letters on planning proposals for the Hackney Wick area - 'the science park of the 1840s'.  Happy to pass details on.

Monday, 30 November 2015

and some more bits and pieces

BETTER (which is Greenwich Library Department, as was) says

Come and join us for some  fascinating talks with author and historian Mary Mills who will be launching her new book-Innovation, Enterprise and Change on the Greenwich Peninsula’.  Looking at a new history of the peninsula, its industries and how they brought change to both Greenwich and the world
Wednesday 16th December 2015  6.00-7.00pm At Greenwich Centre Library

Thursday 17th December 2015 7.00-8.00pm At Blackheath Library
- this is their new programme - all talks at the Museum of London Docklands. E14 5.30 for 6
3rd February - David Hilling. On barge carrier systems
2nd March - Len Taphouse. Five years a Dockyard apprentice
6th April  Edward Sargent. The Port of London Authority's works programme in the First World War
4th May  Joan Lock. The Princess Alice Disaster
1st June. Des Pawson. For Sailor, Rigger and Sailmaker. Tools for the Rope and Canvas Working Trades
6th July. Peter Finch. The River Thames Society 
They also report on their November meeting which was on Trinity Buoy Wharf - which is just the other side of the river from GMV - where there is a small lighthouse. We are asking their permission to reproduce this.  Their October meeting was about Roman Walbrook and their August meeting was our own Richard Buchanan on Enderbys.
We have been given a link to an organisation which hopes to rebuild the Cutty Sark (hope they don't spoil bids for funding for the Lenox!!).  http//
TIDAL THAMES NEWS - this bulletin from the Port of London Authority comes regularly. You have to subscribe to it because it is all fixed up so you can't forward it to your friends.  This month has an article about new Clippers for the passenger service.
The latest issue of Industrial Archaeology  has come in the post. No articles about Greenwich - in fact the nearest they get to us in this issue is Cumbria. There is however a very short review of Brian Strong's GLIAS article on the east Greenwich tide mill.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Goodness - more news already

Check out new ways of buying my book on Innovation on the Greenwich Peninsula -

also - would be very grateful for any local outlet which could sell copies for us - or take some flyers for it (do understand if you might not want to sell)

Also I will be doing presentations on the peninsula for Greenwich Libraries
Greenwich Centre Library Wednesday 16th December 18:00-20:00
Blackheath Library Thursday 17th December 19.00-20.00

Lewisham History Journal - the latest Journal has come from Lewisham Local History Society. No 23
It includes articles about George England's (very interesting 19th century at New Cross) Hatcham Iron Works; Industrial Homes in Forest Hill, and Edward Hatfull, Survivor of Trafalgar (he was born in Watergate Street - which is, just, in Greenwich of course.
Also they advertise:
29th January - meeting about, our own, Severndroog Castle. and
26th February - meeting about Tolls, trains and canals (this will be the bit round New Cross)
both at the Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, Lewisham 7.30-7.45

Peter Kent - has an exhibition of his major new work on current developments in Greenwich and beyond. This is three drawings - aeriel panoramas.
4th December - to 23rd December - Greenwich Gallery, Peyton Place, SE10
or call Tony Othen  020 8465 5968  07956 456647

Thames Discover Programme Foreshore Forum - the next meeting is at the Society of Antiquaries.  on 5th December. No link on the piece of paper they sent me - but there is a web site somewhere.

Friends of Greenwich Park Newsletter - this includes some info on their new history group, which sounds all very interesting. There is a meeting on 7th December at 11 in the Wildlife Centre.  The newsletter also gives details of archaeologists busy on the site of the Old Keepers Cottage with lots of interesting finds.  They also say they are trying to build up a picture of the buildings which were once on the site - which is a nice change for archaeologists!  There is also a note about a project about the Great War and the role of the park and its staff in it.  Their annual lecture is by Pieter Van Der Merwe on Painters and the Park 21st February in the morning, and you have to book.

Facebook  - for some time we have been looking at all the interesting telecoms related information on the Scrambled Messages Facebook Page - they even have our own Enderby Wharf as their banner picture. Look them up, its a great - Bristol based - site.
We have now also discovered GooseyGoo which lists industrial sites where there are campaigns or concerned residents and others trying to get them listed, saved, turned into a museum, photographed before demolition, or whatever.  Its another great Facebook site - look them up too. Goosey Goo also has a web page - check out the Enderby Group on it

Greenwich Society Newsletter - they advertise their annual lecture which is about Fortnum and Masons (suppose that is marginally industrial, but not a Greenwich subject) - its £10 to go in and its on 22nd November in the Maritime Museum Lecture Theatre. see 
They also advertise their Question and Answer Session with Matt Pennycook (16th Jan 11 am - dunno where).  27th February Annual Quiz.  They have included a note about the Enderby Group (thank you very much) and GIHS future meetings (thank you again - very grateful).

Also check out new ways of buying my book on Innovation on the Greenwich Peninsula - (and thanks Rob for sorting this out)

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

More news items after a bit of a gap

More news - the gap being caused by me (Mary) being so busy with my new book.
(Innovation, Enterprise and Change on the Greenwich Peninsula. Available from me £8 plus pp £2 - happy to deliver if you live round here)

Prefab Museum - this project, originally based in Lewisham, has a Brockley prefab walk on 5th December. Check out

Blackheath Scientific Society. Meeting 20th November, 7.45 Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, SE3  Paul Ryan on TV Gathering the Strands.   This is about outside broadcasting.  Info 020 8854 3389

We have been asked for more details on the Shooters Hill Abbatoir.   Grateful for info we can pass on - GIHS did publish an article on the abbatoir and the police raid there and the article is at

We have also been asked for info on pay and conditions in the 1930s at Frederick Braby's Ida Works in Deptford, and Elliotts in Lewisham.  They are also interested in social conditions around the factories and any trade union involvement.

Battle of Waterloo. This is going to take place at the Old Royal Naval College on 5th December at 6.30 https:/

Stuart Rankin has sent us a link to a programme for the launch of HMS Albion - which caused a massive wave where several people were drowned off Woolwich. http://www.britishtransporttrreasures/product/souvenir-of-the-launch-of-hms-albion-by-h-r-h-the-duchess-of-york-june-21st-1898-ebook/

The Lenox Project have a new promotional t shirt for sale as well as other things to fund raise and get you into a present buying mode -

Archaeology - we are told by English Heritage that work is about to start on the western area of the Alcatel Lucent site. Happy to send links, please contact.,

We have an email from someone who has bought an old pewter mug with 'Sea Witch East Greenwich' engraved on it.   The Sea Witch was on the riverside near where the silos stood until recently. Grateful for more info.

Henry - at a recent GIHS meeting John King talked about Sir Francis Joseph and it appears that he was involved with Henry's Sacks in Blackwall Lane.  We know a bit about the firm but it would be good to pass more onto John.  Joseph described how in May 1931 he visited Imperial Wharf in Greenwich - and was not happy with what he saw there. We also have a description of the works and their contribution to the Second World War effort - mainly through producing sacks to put things in which were needed for the war. 

Julie Tadman has sent us a list of local water mills insured in 1824 - this includes Barratts water corn mill at Bugsby's Hole and Riches stream and water corn mills at Greenwich.

Old Loyal Britons - there has been a long planning battle over this old pub in Thames Street and a great deal of research into the building. We were send info in October - but this is now clearly out of date. Would appreciate an update. Planning officers were apparently claiming that it couldn't be old and worth keeping because they said it had been bombed,  Researchers were denying this and saying the building was original.

We have a leaflet from the propeller foundry - would be grateful to hear from them again. Why is it called 'propeller foundry'  - we thought Stone's propeller factory was in Charlton and that what you have in Deptford is the office block. Please explain.

Treason's Harbours.  This is the published version of a conference run by the Naval Dockyards Society in 2011.   It includes articles all of which have some relevance to the Royal Dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich. 'The Dog in the Nighttime. Dockyard in the Genre of Naval Historical Fiction', 'All a-sparkle with Gun flashes. The Bay of Rosas in Naval Literature; 'Art in Dockyards'  'The Iron Slip Roof Cover Roofs of the Royal Dockyards 1844-1857' and "The Application and Scheme of Paintworks in British Men-of-War during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries".  As well as book reviews and notices.

PEPYS - and coke. We note the forthcoming exhibition locally about diarist Samuel Pepys. We hope that there is mention of the first time coke (as in processed coal) is noted - Pepys said he saw it being made in Greenwich having disembarked from the ferry.   Another Greenwich first - so - is it in the exhibition, or once again are industrial firsts locally too indecent for posh exhibitions at the Maritime Museum.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015



£8 plus £2 packing and postage.  by post to M.Wright, 24 Humber Road, SE37LT  or email
also available SABO Crooms Hill, SE10. or Warwick Leadlay Nelson Road SE10
(other potential outlets please make contact)

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Neil Bennett has given a number of talks on Merryweathers - the Greenwich based fire engine manufacturers. He has also given information and advice to numerous enquirers and has been a great source of knowledge.    He has recently sent us a 'time line' of Merryweathers - and we give the first part of this below, together with Fire Engine America from the Merryweather catalogue.



This class of Engine is one of Messrs. Merryweather and Sons’ SINGLE CYLINDER STEAM FIRE ENTGINES specially designed and built for the Santiago, Valparaiso, Iquique, Lima, Callao, Coquimbo, Guadeloupe, and other fire departments of South America.
The general construction of the Engine is upon the well known principle peculiar to the makers, and is mounted with a Merryweather and Field Improved Boiler, capable of raising steam from cold water in eight minutes from the time of lighting-the fire.
In addition to the usual fittings supplied with the ordinary Engines, this class of Engine is fitted with a copper water tank, fixed underneath the framework of the Engine. This tank will contain enough fresh water for two hours' supply to t he boiler, it being essential to feed the boiler with fresh water when the Engine is used for pumping salt water for fire-extinguishing- purposes. This tank is fitted with a glass water gauge and a funnel for filling with brass cover, with other suitable fittings. The feed pump and injector, with both of which the Engine is furnished, derive their source of supply from this tank.
The wheels of the Engine are made with extra broad tyres to protect the wood rims, which are of tank or hickory; the hubs or locks of the wheels are of iron, polished, and fitted with gun-metal caps. Immediately over the steam cylinders is a tool box for the Engineers’~ tools, oil can, cotton waste, nozzles, etc. Two pressure gauges are fitted on front of the tool box, one indicating the steam pressure in the boiler, and the other the water pressure in the pump.
These Engines are arranged to carry only the coachman in the Front with two ”look-out" men (one at each side of the coachman).  Behind they are constructed for carrying the stoker and engineer for which purpose there is an iron foot-plate and hand rail, so that the boiler may be fired en route to its destination.
The boiler is fitted with spring-balance safety valve, and extra locked patent spring safety valve. In the Front part of the Engine is another tool box to carry the larger tools, which is surmounted by a polished bell. The Engine is fitted with a pair of polished brass lamps with the number of the company engraved on the glass. two extra lamp sockets are provided on the box, so that the lamps may moved to throw a light on the engine when in work at a fire; and in front, immediately under the driving seat , are a couple of other buckets for the general use of the engineer. Although the Engine is shown in the illustration with a pole and sway bars for attaching a pair of horses, it is sometimes supplied with an iron hand pole and drag rope for use when drawn by men.
The Engine is made in three sizes, the smallest one having a straight frame instead of the curved ones shown in the illustration.
Throughout, the Engine, in addition to its first-class finish in the working parts is handsomely appointed.
The frames are of polished angle iron or steel, or handsomely painted, -
The boiler is mounted with a highly-burnished brass lagging and chimney casing.
There are extra steam and water gauges to the boiler, so that the engineer and stoker can see their respective gauges without moving from their posts.
The wheels have polished hubs and are elaborately painted and gold-lined on their felloes and spokes.
The tool-boxes are of polished mahogany, or of mahogany painted and lined in gold.
The bell is polished, and handsomely engraved with the name, number, or arms at' the brigade.
The air-vessels are of copper, burnished; and the pumps are of gun-metal or phosphor bronze, highly finished.
The buckets are of leather, painted and lettered, and the tools are all of polished steel. The Engine throughout is of the best construction and material.
By means of "dividing breechings" each Engine will pump three or four jets of water simultaneously.
The following articles are included with each Engine:-injector with Tank complete  Pressure Gauges Feed Pump, Feed from main Pump, one Copper  Strainer, four Copper Branch Pipes (two long and two short). two supports for branch pipes, six gun metal nozzles, four handsome brass lamps with reflectors, water bags for wheels, engine hose and suction wrenches, shifting wrench, stoking irons, Oil cans, spare valve facings, and gauge glasses, and sway bars for horses, hand pole and ropes, complete without suction and delivery hoses
Printed instructions for working-and keeping Fire Engines in order are sent with each Engine.
NOTE: for use with Steam Fire Engine leather hose is preferable to either rubber, lined canvas or plain leather hose as it Iasts many years and can be easily repaired if injured at a fire. Canvas hose cannot be repaired with facility neither is it serviceable for hard and rough usage as it is quickly damaged by over rough roads, flint walls, and slate roofs.
Extra for improved Lever Brake to act on both hind wheels, £10.
Greenwich Road, S.E.; and 63, Long Acre, WC London.

Merryweather and Sons Time-line


Merryweather - the early days of the firm before they arrived in Greenwich
1666 onwards - (Great Fire of London: After slow recovery and reconstruction, the town gives increased attention to fire precautions; virtually nothing had been done for five hundred years)

c. 1690 or 1692 - Nathaniel Hadley. ‘Cross Street’ London. Manufacture of small manual pumps, leather fire buckets etc.

1738 – fire engine factory built, corner of Bow Street and Long Acre. 63 Long Acre and Nathaniel Hadley moved in

1750– Adam Nuttall started a company in Long Acre building manual fire pumps.

1765 - Adam Neuttall’s widow Elizabeth, in Long Acre, advertised as fire engine maker to the King and Navy.

1799 – by this time predecessors of Merryweather supplied black jacks (leather tankard ‘bottels’) and coal buckets to the Greenwich Hospital.

1807 - Moses M apprenticed to fire applicance maker Hadley.

1823 – Hadley & Simpkin at 63 Long Acre listed as Engine Makers.
1829 Braithwaite & Ericsson make the first steam fire engine, but it was not adopted for public use. Parts of their engines probably used to make the Novelty for the Rainhill Trials. Moses Merryweather  is described as Managing Clerk to Hadley & Co, Long Acre.

1834 - Moses Merryweather assisted at a fire at the Houses of Parliament, An experimental Braithwaite & Ericsson engine worked well at this fire.
1836 - Moses Merryweather took control of the firm and renamed it.
1838 - Moses Merryweather assisted at a fire in Inner Temple, London. A fire in the engine room of I.K. Brunel’s ship the Great Western was doused by a Merryweather fire engine/auxiliary pump.  


Friday, 9 October 2015

Siemens Woolwich site - what is happening now!

Thanks to the Siemens Engineering Society we have an update - extracted from their new booklet - about what is happening on their old Woolwich site from the perspective of the Society.  Thanks to Brian Middlemiss who wrote and published the following piece (very slightly edited). Copies of the original are deposited at the Greenwich Heritage Centre

"Our old Woolwich Works is now known as The Westminster Industrial Estate.
Members of the Siemens Engineering Society wanted a memorial  to Siemens Brothers on the site of the old Woolwich Works. The site was owned and managed by The Co-operative Insurance Society and an industrial sculpture was suggested to link the past and the present. A sculptress produced a model based on a Motor Uniselector mounted on two cable drums". 
Brian Middlemiss continues with what happened next:

"The project went into a six month delay due to the popularity of the Sculptress following her London exhibition. However we were shocked to learn in October 2005 that the CIS had sold its entire Property Portfolio to AXA Real Estate  ....our project became a watching brief with updates every six months.
AXA slowly developed their own plans for the site and put an architect's scheme in place which involved liaison with Greenwich Council, refurbishment and re-use (leasing) some of the original Siemens buildings and a residential aspect. This was a significant investment, interest had been expressed in the historical aspects of the site, but everything depended on the success of the AXA plans and the market demand for refurbished warehouse/workshop accommodation.
The economic downturn in 2008 resulted in little progress being made. AXA confmned in April 2009 that a feasibility study for buildings 64 and 61 C (the old IR Building) had been completed with a projected expenditure of £3 .5m to refurbish them. However due the economic climate  and little demand the refurbishment project was mothballed. AtOctober 2009 there was no  meaningful progress, the plans still not being viable. AXA continued to manage the existing  tenants in the Victorian buildings and had been able to do some smalllettings in the buildings,  but in their existing condition. There was some progress on the more traditional warehouse  buildings, they had substantially refurbished four warehouse units along Warspite Road.
Again there was little progress over the next six months to April 2010. However one avenue of  interest was received from film companies who wanted to use the buildings and surrounds for  filming adverts, pop videos and movies. It was hoped this may provide some short term income  and an agreement was signed with a location company. As a point of interest the film "Blow  Up" was partly filmed in Maryon Park opposite the Woolwich Works.
There were no major changes on the estate, with no redevelopment or refurbishment plans for the multi-story warehouse buildings to report in October 2010. AXA had however just completed a major refurbishment of 150 Yate1y Street, which included full redecoration and a new roof and had let this unit to an importer of electricity generators from China. This area was where our staff canteen once stood. There had also been numerous film and stills photography enquiries and a couple of shoots had taken place; a pop video and a magazine shoot.
A significant change had taken place by April 2011. The London Borough (LB) of Greenwich had announced the potential for expansion of residential development along the Thames frontage over a 20 year time frame.
In early September 2011 I received an enquiry from Andrew Williamson of Mott MacDonald. The LB of Greenwich now planned to build a University Technical College (UTC) on our old site ana Mott MacDonald were the Project Managers. They needed to know more about the Siemens works and in particular the south western corner marked up on a map provided. With Bill Philpott's help we put together a quite detailed reply which provided some background; the nature of the business conducted on the site and specifically on the south western corner, known to ,us  as the Auto-Rack Wiring Shop G53.
I had also mentioned in my reply that we kept a watching brief on the site in the long term hope that one day some sort of memorial or plaque would be put in place on the site to reflect the 100+ years occupancy by Siemens Brothers. Mr Williamson much appreciated our detailed and fascinating overview of the Siemens works which was very helpful to him, he was also especially fascinated by the industrial history. The proposed UTC would have specialisms in engineering and construction and was linked to industrial sponsors. He suggested that this link , may be of interest to the UTC and he forwarded our comments to the College. I seized the opportunity and sent another email which detailed the very close links and long association  between Siemens Brothers, the Engineering Society and Lewisham College [the old SELTEC] now a part of the University of Greenwich, one of the sponsors of the new UTC. As events later transpired, this proved to be a significant piece of information.
By Oct 2011 the proposal that the LB of Greenwich planned to build a UTC on our old site had been formally announced. In February 2012 the LB of Greenwich produced their long term strategy report for "Charlton Riverside" all 54 pages of it, which I made available to members at our April 2012 meeting. The proposal to build a UTC on our old site had been agreed and the south western corner of the site had been sold to the LB of Greenwich. They had also purchased the former Victorian school, next to our old site, at the time this school was known as Holborn College.
By October 2012 the Holborn College building had been restored as a primary school and had reopened in September 2012. The land on the south western corner of our site, sold to the LB of'Greenwich, was now being redeveloped for use as a UTC and it was intended that it would open in September 2013. So after many years it was all happening on our old site, with the exception that the situation regarding the old Victorian multi-storey buildings remained unchanged.
At our April 2013 meeting I was able to report that the UTC development was progressing on schedule with the planned opening in September 2013. Events had also moved forward with regard to the older multi-storey buildings. AXA were carrying out an exercise of cleaning the vacant buildings including the removal of asbestos and de-contamination further to pigeon infestation. Increased interest was being received (predominately from house builders and developers) in the buildings due to the longer term plans for the Charlton Riverside area. AXA had also now sold 50 Bowater Road to the adjoining owner, who was planning to refurbish the  building and expand their business of letting small suites to artists and small creative businesses. At our final meeting in October 2013 I reported that the Greenwich UTC was virtually complete and that the College was enrolling its first students. The building was to be formally opened on
24 October 2013, this proved to be a significant event for the Society - more later. The multi- storey buildings were still undergoing the cleaning and asbestos removal process which was due to be completed in January 2014
. There was still interest in the multi-storey buildings for residential use, however, Greenwich Council were now unsure as to whether they want to allow this use on the estate and it may be that they allocate the area as strategic industrial land in the next local plan. This would fix the use for the next 15 years. AXA, not surprisingly, were trying to resist this as the buildings were not really a viable commercial proposition in the current use as not many modem occupiers want to be located above ground floor.
There is clearly a sense of irony that our old site could be allocated as strategic industrial land, back where it all started well over 100 years ago.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Very small amount of stuff in the post

A few newsletters and stuff have turned up over the past fortnight, not much, to be honest.

Lewisham Local History Newsletter.  Really this edition is all about Forest Hill, and like places in Lewisham which even I can't argue are really in Greenwich! There is a note about a Heritage Exhibition on 10-17th October at St.Mary's Church, which will cover some of the joint history when in 918 lands in Greenwich and Lewisham were left to St.Peter's Abbey in Ghent. There is also an appeal for speakers on local history items at Manor House Library  on Wednesday mornings (info

GLIAS Newsletter - This includes an article by Peter Butt on Millennium Mills - its not in Greenwich but you can see it from Greenwich!  Otherwise - they list the following meetings which might be of interest:
17th February. GLIAS lecture. Father Thames, Still alive and kicking. The Changing Role of Thames Wharves.  David Hilling. Swedenborg Hall, Barter Street, WC1 6.30
18th May. GLIAS AGM  The Gallery, Cowcross Street, EC1
4th November. Trinity Buoy Wharf  by Eric Reynolds. Docklands History Group, Museum in Docklands 5.30 (well, again, you can see it from Greenwich)
- and also - Danny Hayton and Andrew Turner's Greenwich Peninsula walk last Saturday seemed to go very well.  I understand it took over three hours to get round - and that they were advised by Elizabeth Pearcey at Enderby Wharf with piles of Enderby Group leaflets.  On the walk was a visitor from Germany  - Barbara Gasometra Berger - here to look at our gasholders, and hot on the heels of a previous visitor with similar intentions from Finland.  So, welcome, to Barbara, and glad she described our massive East Greenwich No.1. holder as 'adorable'.

Beale of East Greenwich - Elizabeth Pearcey has shared with us an article from Newcomen Society Links (which is on a members only website).  This is by Bob Carr and talks about the rotary engine patented by Joshua Beale who had a works on part of the site  of Enderby Wharf in the early 19th century.  It is illustrated with a copy of part of his patent.  Rotary engines are an interesting subject and Bob is hoping to put forward the view that they were a more common and more long lasting design than has previously been thought.  More about the Beales in due course.
Links also a note about the Enderby Group, its work and links to recent publications by Stewart Ash.

English Heritage have sent us notes of some archaeological work about to start:
Phase 7/8 Riverside, Woolwich (LAG/011/387)
and PLOT M0401, OLD SCHOOL CLOSE, GREENWICH PENINSULA: 14/3601/F (LAG/011/271) - archaeology (this includes a full site briefing - happy to share if someone emails

and - hope you have all been down to see Bullet from a Shooting Star.  It is on Point Wharf, by the way, not the gas works or any part of the gas works site.  It claims to be reminiscent of industry on the Peninsula - do we think that is so?  And do we have any thoughts on what is clearly a triumph of structural engineering??

and - for thoughts on the 19th century telecoms revolution - try

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Siemens Woolwich - a brief history

Siemens Brothers was one of the most important of our local industries. Although they closed as long ago as 1968 the Engineering Society attached to the works has continued to meet until very recently.  As mentioned in an earlier post we have just received a supplementary volume to their original report published in 2009.
This supplement is packed with interesting information about the Woolwich works - but before we go on here is a copy of their front page, a brief history of the Company so that we all know where we are.

A brief history of the Company

William Siemens first conducted business in London in 1843 and in 1847 became an Agent for Siemens & Halske. This company had been established in Germany that year by his elder brother Wemer and Johann Georg Halske, a highly skilled mechanical engineer. Siemens & Halske had established a telegraph factory in Berlin, but it became clear that London needed a permanent staff, warehouse and workshop and thus in 1858 the Siemens & Halske Company was founded in London, England. William, Wemer and Halske (who apart from being a partner, was also in charge ofthe workshop) paid in £1000 each.

In 1863 with continued expansion, Siemens & Halske of London bought a piece of land on the Thames in Woolwich and built on it a cable factory, a mechanical workshop and stores. In 1865 Halske withdrew his support from the Company; largely as a consequence of William and Halske's disagreements over the risks involved in the cable business. The two remaining partners, William and Werner Siemens, took over the assets of Siemens & Halske and re-registered the business as Siemens Brothers, London. Siemens Brothers became a Limited Company in 1880 and pioneered research, development, engineering and manufacture of Electrical Cables, Telegraph, Telephone, Signalling and Measuring Apparatus, Wireless Equipment, Lamps, Lights and Batteries.

From its humble start at Woolwich, when employees averaged around 800 total, the Company grew to encompass over 20,000 employees world wide. Employees at Woolwich reached a peak in the WWII period of 9,500 total, but generally averaged around 8,000 in the post war years.          iJ

In 1958 the Company celebrated its Centenary and was honoured with a visit by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. However the period 1958-1968 heralded many changes in the manufacturing industry. Siemens Brothers became Siemens Edison Swan, a part of the Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) Group, and was then renamed AEI Telecommunications. This period was coincident with the emergence of electronics and the Company again played a pioneering role in the design, development, manufacture and installation of the first electronic telephone exchanges. AEI was in turn taken over by GEC which led to the closure of the Woolwich Works in 1968. Ironically this closure was due mainly to serious over capacity in Britain's power generation manufacturing companies at a period when the ex-Siemens telecommunications business was flourishing.
Brian Middlemiss 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Greenwich industrial history news items

The History of the Siemens Brothers Engineering Society,

We have been kindly sent a copy of Brian Middlemiss's continuing history of the Society 2009-2013.   This continues on a previous work and a bibliography of items collected by the Society and deposited in Greenwich Heritage Centre.  Thanks to Brian for this and we hope to publish some extracts in due course.

Last Tuesday Neil Bennett came to talk to the Society about the famous fire engine factory in Greenwich High Road.  Neil has now sent us a time line of Merryweather History - and again we hope to publish some extracts of this in the next few weeks
Neil has also sent us news of his book on Merryweathers 'Sustained by Extinction'. He says it is far from finished but that he is prepared to let people see what he has done so far.  Please contact GIHS for his email.
He has also forwarded a link from Ron Henderson to a film featuring Merryweathers mr_0010395_pl.mp4

SS Robin - David Riddle has sent us a link to a web page about historic ship Robin - which was in the West India Dock, considered as a feature on the Greenwich riverside, but snaffled by Newham - and which is now in dire funding straits. https://docklockanddriver/

Foundrydata - this is a heritage project about identifying old foundries. If people want to be involved in this and to help add to it please contact

Prefab museum - we had a speaker, Elizabeth Blanchet, on this Lewisham based project last year. The museum itself was in a Lewisham prefab on the Excalibar Estate but a fire ended that. Elizabeth writes to say that they are still hoping to find somewhere to erect an old prefab from Brittany. Please see http://

HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW SCULPTURE ON THE PENINSULA - This is the 'pylon spectacle' - 'A bullet jumps from a shooting star' by  Alex Chinnock.
"Referencing the history and heritage of a site that once housed the largest oil and gasworks in Europe. Chinneck effortlessly creates a sense of awe by literally flipping audiences expectations on their head. Inverting a electricity Pylon made from a combined length of 1186m of steel and weighing 15 tons, there will be over 400 pieces of steel with 900 engineered connection points".
Go and see it - and be grateful someone on the Peninsula is taking a bit of notice of the industrial history of the site - or at least the adjacent site - it is on Point Wharf next to Ordnance Wharf and the gas works. 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

British archaeological awards.  Please follow the link below to nominate

Thursday, 10 September 2015


LAMAS NEWSLETTER - this comes regularly and lists local history events all round London.  They seem to have removed GIHS and we need to see what we can do to remind them. Its bad enough we can't get listed in national Industrial History publications,  on account of this being an electronic newsletter. 

THE LAMAS NEWSLETTER contains an article about the Thames Discovery Programme which includes some notes about their work - the FROG Project - in Greenwich. This says:  that the foreshore outside the Old Royal Naval College has been described by Gus Milne as the "most dynamic foreshore on the Thames"  and that in 2011 the Greenwich Foreshore Recording and Observation Group was set up to monitor three main sites in the borough on a regular basis. - the key site being Greenwich Palace. The article goes on to describe visits to the foreshore and fieldwork. They found that many structures have been 'dramatically eroded' ie - 'Several previously recorded timbers from what had been interpreted as a Tudor jetty have disappeared' however 'several new features have become visible'.   Changes have allowed 'a better understanding of the jettys construction and period' and that 'the majority of the wood used is elm, including the larger timbers, and many of the timbers have been pit sawn. Damian Goodburn has suggested that this would date the structure from about 1560 to 1660'.  Furtherc 'The results of analysis support an interpretation that this structure could be the "King's Bridge" associated with Greenwich Palace, and that the
timbers currently visible may be the 1631 rebuild under Charles I'
.  and  'Further downstream, a causeway and granite platform around the Queen's Stairs is now clearly visible, and a large chalk barge bed is appearing east of the causeway'.

The latest progress report by the Greenwich FROG may be found at: 2013-14.

Perhaps I could comment here that it is a pity some of this energy is not going into investigating what could be the remains of the 1690s jetty at what is now Enderbys - and also the early 19th century tide mill and causeway at what used to be called Riverway, where any evidence will almost certainly be completely destroyed soon with not even a single photograph. Mary

This is the usual cheery newsletter with articles of current interest of work going on.

SUBTERRANEA BRITANNICA are advertising their Autumn Meeting on 10th October which includes items on PLUTO and on the Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe  info:

TIDELINE ART. Mudlarker Nicola White has done a very interesting piece of research and constructed a whole life from a luggage label she found on the foreshore. Please read it http:/

HISTORIC GAS TIMES - this includes an article from local gas historian Brian Sturt. It describes Gas Works Park in Seattle.  Happy to give details of what he says (might even ask him to come and speak to GIHS about it)  - Basically it is the same old story about how everywhere else in the world gas works remains are preserved ... but ... in England .....

Now - they are more interested in Gravesend in saving bits of Greenwich than we are! The following web site  is mainly interested in the riverside and cement industry sites in Northfleet. They include however a whole page about the drawdock at the end of Blackwall Lane - which they describe as 'Greenwich Peninsular O2 Arena Slipway'.   It is well worth seeing what they say 'Greenwich Council would do well to insist that any further development ....  this much needed facility can be brought  back into use'.  They also provide 'vision drawings' of what could be done  'all this slipway needs is space for cars and boat trailors to park and then it is back in business'.

Cory - now people in Spitalfields are more interested in the Charlton Riverside than we are.  I would recommend (thanks to Darryl) 'Among the Thames Lightermen' from Spitalfields Life  This is all about Corys which are still extant on the Charlton Riverside - and I think are a rather larger company than they appear and less easily picked off by developers. The article describes a voyage down river on one of their tugs which transport the city's waste (and the City's waste too) down river to where the rest of us can forget about it. (GIHS could do with a speaker on them too)

IN HACKNEY BUT - the East End Waterway Group are pointing out threats from developers to buildings in Hackney Wick.  One of these is the first building where plastic (Parksine) was made on an industrial scale. They are also still concerned about Swan Wharf and Bream Street. (hope that works)

I have been shown a copy of the Evening Standard 19th August 2015.  This refers to the area of Greenwich now apparently known as 'Telegraph Works' - which at least shows even developers listen to the Enderby Group.  However it goes on 'the site dates back to the Tudor Period when it served as a gunpowder store in Queen Elizabeth I's reign' ................... er .............. er - the gunpowder store was opened in the late 1690s which is 90 years after Elizabeth died..................... AND 'its last hurrah was as a tin foil factory which closed in 2013'.  Well hooray!! can someone please tell us more about this hitherto unknown works which only closed two years ago.  I don't rule its existence out - but Please tell us.

Comments welcomed