The North and South Woolwich Subway.
On 11th September 2014, GIHS published some information about a proposal, previously unknown to the Society, in the 1870s to tunnel under the Thames at Woolwich. I was intrigued by this, and have found some additional material, which together with the information originally posted by GIHS, tells the story of the first attempt to construct a pedestrian subway under the Thames at Woolwich. While researching this project I found reference to two other unfulfilled schemes to tunnel under the Thames at Woolwich and I have included some brief information about these as a postscript.
|Cross section. (Courtesy Kent County Archive)|
|(Courtesy Kent County Archive)|
We cannot be certain of the reasons for the abandonment of the project, but a number of possibilities are worth considering.
|North Woolwich (Courtesy Kent County Archive)|
The High Court cases in 1876 and 1877 suggest that the company had money problems, and Greathead says that Walker’s offer to take over construction was accepted “because of absence of financial strength”(14) . James Greathead was not only a civil engineer, but also a civil engineering contractor who had successfully completed the Tower Subway construction. I think that it is significant that he did not take on the construction contract when Sharpe abandoned work. Perhaps Greathead could see the financial weakness of the company. There may be more information about the finances of the company in the reports of the High Court cases.
Parliamentary papers report that the company had raised £80,000 through shares and loans. The Woolwich foot tunnel built by the LCC is reported to have cost £78,860 to construct (15) . So it appears that the company initially may have had adequate capital for the project . However we do not know how much money was wasted when Sharpe abandoned construction and Walker restarted using a different method of construction.
|Woolwich Terminus (Courtesy Kent County Archive)|
(2) London Metropolitan Archives, MBW/2632/17/15
(3)Chelmsford Chronicle 22 June 1877
(4)Daily Gazette, Middlesbrough, 1 Sept 1876
(5) J. H. Greathead. The City and South London Railway. London. 1896
(6) Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 25 Aug 1876
(7) Morning Post. 20 Sept 1877
(8) Standard (London) . 5 Nov 1878
(9) Greathead. Op cit
(10) Portsmouth Evening News . 18th March 1879
(11) Greathead. Op cit
(12) Lloyds Weekly Newspaper. 3 June 1883
(13) House of Commons Parliamentary Papers. 1888
(14) Greathead. Op cit
(16) A Badsey-Ellis. London’s Lost Tube Schemes. Middlesex. 2005.