Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Gas Holder Stuff - the East Greenwich Gasholder. by Stewart Ash

Gas Holder Stuff

The South Metropolitan Gas Works (1883-1948)

In 1883, the Morden CollegeTrustees, then being drawn from the Aldermen of the City of London, had a shift in policy and they sold to the South Metropolitan Gas Works, the freehold of two parcels of land comprising almost 13 acres for £27,000. 

One was in the middle of the peninsula and the other was to the northwest, close to Blakely’s Ordnance factory.  The northern area had a river frontage and was mainly wasteland.  The central area had grass-lands, two market gardens (covering 8 acres), 17 cottages, a row of unfinished buildings and a stable yard.  This was the first land the Trustees had sold since the Wricklemarsh Estate in 1708.  This decision to sell was to have a lasting impact on the development of the peninsula and on industrial relations for all the companies operating on it.

The gas works was built under the direction of its chairman, Sir George Livesey (1834-1908).  Before construction could begin, many tons of clinker and heavy rubble were dumped onto the land in order to stabilise the marshy ground.  The gas works eventually occupied most of the east and centre of the peninsula, stretching for around 1.2 miles (2km) from Blackwall Point, southeast towards New Charlton, and covering some 240acres (0.97km2). 

The site had two very large gas holders.  The first, built in 1886-88, had a capacity of 8,600,000 cubic feet (240,000m3) and was the world's first 'four lift' (moving section) holder.  The second, built in 1890, had six lifts and was the largest in the world at 12,200,000 cubic feet (350,000m3).  This holder was damaged by an IRA bomb in January 1979 and finally demolished in 1986.

George Livesey was a complicated man who had followed his father Thomas Livesey (1807-71) into the company in 1848.  He was appointed General Manager, then Chief Engineer, before becoming Chairman of the Board in 1885.  Livesey prided himself on his company’s relationship with its workforce and the working conditions that were provided for them.  However, in 1889 he chose to go to war with the newly formed National Union of Gas Workers.

The Silvertown Explosion

The Greenwich Peninsula survived relatively unscathed during the First World War, with the notable exception of the damage caused by the Silvertown Explosion.
Inside No.,2 holder after the explosion

This disaster occurred at a munitions factory in Silvertown that was manufacturing explosives for the World War I military effort.  The blast occurred at 6.52pm on Friday, 19 January 1917, and was caused by the ignition of approximately 50 tons of trinitrotoluene (TNT).  73 people were killed and more than 400 injured; in addition, it caused substantial damage to properties in the surrounding area.  Reports at the time indicated that the explosion blew the glass out of windows in the Savoy Hotel,and almost overturned a taxi in Pall Mall.  The fires could be seen in Maidstone and Guildford, and the blast was heard up to 100 miles (160km) away, including Sandringham in Norfolk and at a number of places along the Sussex coast.

The TNT plant was destroyed instantly, as were many nearby buildings, including the Silvertown Fire Station.  Much of the TNT was in railway goods wagons, awaiting transport.  Debris was thrown for miles around, with red-hot chunks of rubble causing fires.  Many thousands of pounds worth of goods was destroyed in nearby warehouses.  The blast range was later estimated by the Port of London Authority to have spanned 17 acres (7 hectares).  Up to 70,000 properties were damaged, with 900 near to the centre of the blast being beyond salvage.  Estimates of the cost of the damage ranged from £250,000 to £2.5million.

On the Greenwich Peninsula, there was some damage to the buildings on the Wilkie & Soames site, but the worst damage was reserved for the Gas Works.  The gas in the No.2 Gasholder was ignited and it was wrecked completely. No.1 Gasholder was also very seriously damaged.  This caused a massive fireball, which rose thousands of feet into the air. In addition, a large number of slates were torn from the roofs of the buildings and many windows were broken.

Those present in the offices of the works on the eastern side of the site stated that:

The report was terrific, the floor appeared to heave and the building rocked.  This was followed by a blinding glare seen through the Venetian sun-blinds, and lasting several seconds, during which it seemed to be as light as day outside. The glare ceased, and the north-eastern sky was suffused with the glow of a tremendous fire.’
The gas holders were repaired and put back into operation as a priority, because gas was still the dominant form of domestic, and more importantly, industrial lighting; it was essential to maintain this for the war effort.

Nationalisation and Closure

A major change to industry on the peninsula was brought about by the 1948 Gas Act, under which the Labour Government nationalised all the gas companies in the British Isles and South Metropolitan became part of the South Eastern Gas Board.  The Gas Works continued to dominate the peninsula until the discovery of oil and gas in the North Sea. Then the site became redundant, finally ceasing production in 1976.  The site then lay derelict until the 1990s when redevelopment began.

Stewart Ash

Thursday, 22 June 2017


Biggest gas holder in Europe - an exceptional structure built to revolutionary principles - listing now refused - and scheduled for demolition - ideas for reuse apparently not considered

For a list of converted and reused gas holders round the world see gas holders reused


There are more links at the bottom of the page to relevant sites -including links to how they use gasholder sites in other countries and some artworks

To start - the historical background to the holder and why it is important


The gas industry in South London, beginning around 1820, had developed as a chaos of small competing private companies. Regulation was imposed on them by governments from the 1870s – partly following parliamentary lobbying by George Livesey.  This resulted in the area being dominated by Livesey’s South Metropolitan Company from the Old Kent Road. East Greenwich works was built in the 1880s as the out-of-town mega works which the government wanted to be built but it was also a show place for Livesey’s ideals and standards. Only perfection was good enough for South Met.!
(More about Livesey below)


The simplest description of a gas holder is to imagine it as a  cup sitting turned upside down in a saucer which holds a pool of water. The cup is built in a tier of sections which can lift and fall according to the internal pressure

The East Greenwich holder is one of a series designed by George Livesey which he began at Old Kent Road at what was originally the main works of the South Metropolitan Company and where he developed his ideas.  Of this series few remain.

The holder with its companion which was demolished in 1986,
Together they then made up the largest amount of safe gas storage

No13 Gasholder at Old Kent Road has now been listed.  Built in 1879-81 it’s frame was the first built on George Livesey's revolutionary cylindrical shell principle which treats it as a single huge cylinder. There are many other revolutionary aspects to the design and materials and while the structure appears to be simple it is in fact very complex and very different from the older, often highly decorative, holders most of which are now being demolished.

Construction at East Greenwich was affected by the marshy subsoil which resulted in a shallower tank – the part of the holder which is normally underground aas and holds water to provide a gas tight seal.   Problems with the sub soil were discovered during excavation in September 1884 and the depth of the tank had to be reduced with 13 feet of it raised in an embankment and this raises its height.

The holder also needed a greater numbers of lifts – the tiered and telescoped sections inside the frame - to raise the volume of gas which it could hold.  Thus it is far taller than would normally be expected. It has four of these ‘lifts’ and is the first holder ever built to this size. It rises to about 180 feet and holds 8.2 million cubic feet of gas.

The great height of construction was made possible by new materials and it effected a great saving in cost which had a huge subsequent effect. Part of Livesey's success derived from his many improvements in design making it more efficient and lighter.  Costs of storage were also less in terms of landuse and labour - and workers could be encouraged to go to church on Sundays even though Sunday dinners had to be cooked.

A press advertisement from the 1930s
illustrates South Met's considerable
brio - and their pride in their holders
The holder is free of all extraneous decoration and it thus sets a new bench-mark for gasholder design of which it is a refinement in size and sophistication and an exploitation of the beauty of pure structural form. Ideas then being embodied in industrial and domestic design as the modern movement.

Around 1980, parts of the bell and guide frame-on one side were fire damaged in an IRA bomb attack, but they were reinstated


Some years ago English Heritage commissioned a report on London holders. The consultant recommended Old Kent Road No.13 for listing – and did not recommend EG No.1. or any others. Very recently this report has been revisited and as a result OKR13 has been listed and EG1 consigned for demolition. Others listed have been the Kings Cross holders and that at Vauxhall – basically because they have been seen on TV and are ‘loved’, whatever that means


Livesey was an extraordinary man, brought up in the Old Kent Road gasworks where he began work at the age of 14.  He is best known for his opposition to trade unions and his dreadful fight with the Gas Workers Union in 1889.   This reputation however masks a much more complicated career – and the very original line he took on most things, frequently to strong opposition.  In the 1870s he promoted to government the idea of a sliding scale in gas company financing – only allowing private gas companies to distribute profits to shareholders if their gas prices went down. He extended this idea to the workplace in a scheme where a bonus to workers was paid linked to gas prices. This became his co-partnership scheme whereby in the 1890s some members of the Board were elected by shop floor workers and a building society set up to help them buy their homes.  He also instituted many revolutionary technical and managerial changes in the works – of which these huge holders are only one example.
He was also a major figure in the London Temperance movement, for which he was knighted


How gas holder sites are used in other parts of the world - an article about some of them
There are numerous web sites about reuse of holders round the world - too many of me to list here - suggest a google search!!
Dublin is particularly interesting

more to come

Note about winners at a Royal Academy Exhibition (which seem to have some connection to the Council's consultants)

Ideas for gas holders in London

Livesey's statue by Pomeroy - hopefully
and disgracefully still rotting in the
back of the closed Library which he
donated to the people of Southwark

Forgotten spaces competion winners (the same lot)

Facebook page for National Association for Industrial Archaeology - follow links for  correspondence

Facebook page of the Gas holder appreciation society 

Web site of the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society - follow internal links for articles

Talk by George Livesey himself on how he approached the design of gasholders

Page on my Peninsula History web site about holders on the Greenwich Peninsula

Biographical article on George Livesey - I wrote this in 1989 and it is a bit out of date

Just in case you wondered - the Gas Workers strike in parts one and two - I wrote this in - ooer - 1975 or something.

A local campaign on the Bell Green Holders

Pininterest site on holder reuse

Finally - by chance - on Friday 30th June I am doing a talk to Lewisham Local History Society on Gas in Greenwich (lots of scandals!!!)  Methodist Hall, Albion Road. 7.30


Monday, 3 April 2017

Better late than never

This is just a few items from the ENORMOUS pile of stuff waiting to go out to you about industrial Greenwich:

First - a letter - 
I write to enquire whether you think members of The Greenwich Industrial History Society might be interested to know about a forthcoming exhibition by Terry Scales? The exhibition features Terry’s earliest works from when he was enrolled as a student at Camberwell School of Art at age 13 through to his early working years as a stevedore working every wharf between Tower Bridge and Woolwich. We are hoping there will also be an artist talk – details to be announced via Terry’s blogsite; http://terryscales.blogspot.co.uk/ .

The details are;

Title; Scenes from Post-War London 1946 – 1960. The Early Paintings of Terry Scales.
Returning from an idyllic childhood as an evacuee in Devon to the trauma of war torn Bermondsey, Terry records through his teenage pen and ink drawings the chaos and energy of his surroundings, as he begins life as a 13 year old student at Camberwell School of Art and later as a young adult shows how his passion for documenting the working life of the Thames began.    
9th May – 10th June 2017.
West Greenwich Library, 146 Greenwich High Road, Greenwich, London, SE10 8NN.
Opening Times; Varied - Monday: 2pm to 7pm, Tuesday: 9am to 5.30pm, Thursday: 9am to 7pm, Friday: 2pm to 5.30pm, Saturday: 9am to 5pm (Wednesday and Sunday: Closed)


Greenwich Park History Group

The group is advertising an open afternoon to which they are inviting people who may have memories or knowledge about the park.  Monday 5th June 2.30 at the Wildlife Centre.  


The Thames Festival Trust and the Museum of London are looking for volunteers for a history of London's boatyards. This will involve oral history and the history of boatbuilding on the tidal Thames. email bmayes@thamesfestival.org



Lots and lots of news  - they have had a 'Grand Reopening' (while explaining they never really closed) - lots of student visits - scouts visits - walking tours for Peabody - schools STEAM programme - and they were used as a location for forthcoming 'Victor Frankenstein' and 'TV 'Jekyll and Hyde'.
and lots more.



Our previous posting was about the Archaeology at the Woolwich Kiln.   Work is also starting/ongoing at Callis Yard,  20 Horn Lane, and land to the west of West Parkside



There has been a petition flying about 'Save Island Gardens' - the nice bit of green opposite the Cutty Sark on the Isle of Dogs.  It appears that this is not actually about Island Gardens as such, but about an old wharf to the west of the gardens - where there has been an ongoing land ownership dispute.

We did wonder who owns Island Gardens itself - at one time it belonged to Greenwich Hospital Estates.  Does it still belong to them or has it been sold to someone??  I think we need to know.



Apparently the last clutch of 28 storey tower blocks on the Peninsula have been inspired by the chimneys of the Greenwich Power Station.  The design is by Alison Brooks for Knight Dragon.



The Enderby Group report that they still have not been able to see inside Enderby House. However Urban Explorers have been in and taken a videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLNLfPPgFsk

LOTS MORE BUT SAVING THAT UP FOR LATER  - among it is a very paper on Deptford Creek

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Archaeology of Archaeology - the Woolwich kiln

It has been all excitement this week.  What is this all about?? In 1974 a group of eager young people volunteered to do what we now call 'community archaeology' on a site in Woolwich.  And what did they find???

"THE EXCAVATION at the Woolwich Old Ferry Approach in 1974 recovered a sequence of kilns producing earthenware and stoneware.' The stoneware kiln is unique ....ince it represents attempts to produce a saltglazed stoneware in Britain earlier than Dwight's venture in 1672."

So - its called 'The Woolwich Kiln '-  Next the kiln was lifted out in one piece, and it was huge - as big as a room.  It was taken off to the Council depot in Tunnel Avenue and there is stayed until the depot closed. It was then taken on a low loader to the Arsenal site. (we think there was a film made of it being moved, and possibly of the dig - does anyone know about this??).  It sat on the Arsenal site as everything was demolished around it, and - I think - around 2000 it was opened up to see if it was alright because it was thought that plant growth inside might have destroyed it.  But it was ok.  It was then moved to outside the Heritage Centre, and there it has stayed.

This week a group of archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology with a lot of high tech equipment, not available in 1974, are all set to slice it up, take it to bits and see what it is all about.

So - since Sunday - there has been a big exercise to contact all those keen young people - now mainly retirees, some married to those they met on the dig, many inspired to become leading lights in local archaeology, and local history groups or even eminent historians. Some, sadly are dead (a sad mention of Beverley Burford).  However a stream of people have come down to look at the kiln - and the archaeologists working on it have been making notes and keeping records of what they are told. Some of them - like me - were not involved in the original dig, but we knew about it,  Others had a particular reason - .ike Lisa, from Maze Hill Pottery who is an expert in salt glazed stone ware - and as many of those keen young people as we have been able to contact.

Today is Thursday - we understand that be tomorrow it will be all gone.


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Notes and notices - nothing for weeks and they all come at once


They advertise meetings:
15th February  Spitalfields Silk Industry  by Sue Jackson
15th March  Crossrail Archaeology roundup - Jay Carver and Andy Shelley
19th April - Royal Arsenal Then and Now - Ian Bull
17th May - AGM and Andrew Smithy. The New River
All at Alan Baxter, Ltd. 75 Cowcross Street, EC1.  6.30

The GLIAS Bookstall will be at Bexley History Fair  5th March, SERIAC Worthing 22nd April, Nunhead Cemetery 20th May

22nd April  SERIAC 2017 is at Worthing College Sixth Form College,  and is about '50 years of IA'.  (includes speakers on Architecture of T.H.Myres for the London to Brighton Railway,  The development of the Roadside Letter Box,  50 years of Sussex Mills, Brighton 'Atlantic' Locomotive reconstruction, 50 years of SIAS - and a keynote speech on Industrial Archaeology and Archaeology by Marilyn Palmer herself).
(not really any info about how you get to go to it unless you have the form which is with the GLIAS newsletter - no website or anything. It says information on conference arrangements from martin@snowing.co.uk - so hope that is some help)

more advertised with some Greenwich interest:

24th February Maudslay and his Circle by David Waller. Wandsworth Historical Society. Friends Meeting House, Wandsworth High Street. 8 pm

Elsewhere in the GLIAS Newsletter - a long article on the closure of the amazingly old Whitchapel Bell Foundry  .... news that the Hornsey gas holder has been demolished  ... Markfield Beam Engine and Museum study update ... sewer vents ... 

----------------and ................. about Greenwich. ............. there is an article about the Royal Iris, currently derelict and stranded on the river wall in Charlton/Woolwich borders. The article reports that the ship is now registered as a floating pier - which admits she now can't be moved and its cheaper to do that.It is thought that if she is broken up on site it will cost more than her scrap value - but what else can be done!  Brought some how or other down here from Liverpool she was supposed to become a floating night club - so, what now??

There is also a review of 'The Matchless Colliers' by Bill Cakebread which relates the history of the Collier family, Matchless and AJS in Plumstead. (£10 plys £2.50 p&p from The Paddock, High Street, Battle, TN339JR  cheques fo W.A.Cakebread). 



In the report of their December meeting the Pierhead Painters are referred to, These were, apparently, artists who painted ships going in and out of ports all over the world. There are some books about them which were referrred to. The speaker asked for information about an H.Crane who was painting before 1917 and was still painting in 1955.  Does anyone have any information??

Their February meeting was about The Thames as a Barrier and also The early days of the London Dock Company by Derek Morris. (perhaps GIHS should get him along!!)

Lewisham Local History Society Newsletter

Most of the items this time are really just about Lewisham - they include:

a review of 'Lee Memories' a book produced by Lee Fair Share Time Bank . (get info from Leefairshare ............
....a note about a new blue plaque to Antarctic explorer William Colbeck.............
.............. a note about Plassy Road School ..................150th anniversary of Lee Station .... and a wartime ride on the 54 tram (this ends more or less at the Lewisham border - but is 54 tram now our 54 bus, from Woolwich to Elmers End??)

The newsletter also gives a short obituary to much-missed ex-Southwark Local History archivist...
... and also announces the retirement of Lewisham Local History Society editor, Gordon Dennington.

24th February - Sue Hayton on street furniture in South East London
31st March - Nick Bertram on Modern Nature  - Living on the Edge
(both at Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13 7.45)

They also advertise
7th March  Alan Piper 100 Years of Biggin Hill airport . Bromley Local History Society  Trinity United Reform Church, Freelands Road, Bromley,  7.45


Greenwich Society Newsletter

The Greenwich Society is setting up a group of people to look at the future of The Point - and we look forward to how that is going.  No mention by them that it covers a chalk mine which in the 19th century became a naughty night club.

They have an article about James Wolfe - whose statue looks out from the space by the Royal Observatory. The author of the article is Pieter van der Mewre and he points out that 2017 will be the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada. He talks about the capture of Quebec by Wolfe and the skills of James Cook who as a hydrographic surveyor helped get the army up the St.Lawrence river.

There is also a long article about Greenwich Power station - more details elsewhere in this note

--- and thank you to their new newsletter editor for giving GIHS a slot

Note from Richard Buchanan to say that Ray Fordham is hoping to get two telephone cabinets in the Arsenal conserved. They are still in situ with their original wiring - and are from the Great War period.


There has been some press coverage of a new 'Prince Philip Centre' - and clearly something is going up alongside the A2 at Kidbrooke. Presumably this is to replace the Maritime Museum store in Nelson Mandela Road - and will it also replace the Royal Brass Foundry store. It would be good to know much more about this.

see for press story


Gas holders

We have a note from Steve in the Lewisham History Society who is hoping to get some sort of preservation order on the two huge gas holders at Bell Green in Sydenham. We have already seen other attempts to list gas holders failing - at Bethnal Green and Hornsey, and Bow is likely also to fail. 

In the past week we have had two enquiries from people about the East Greenwich gas holder (biggest in Europe and with a revolutionary design). They all assume it is listed - but it is not and applications to do so have failed. Raising this in conversation last night at a meeting in East Greenwich there was a lot of shock-horror - and some anger - from locals that it might go - 'its our holder' ' its our landmark'   'my little boy looks at it every day' 'they mustn't touch it'...... any ideas???



Not industrial but very scientific - did you know the first Wisteria in England was planted by Charles Hampden Turner at Wood Lodge on Shooters Hill (site of the Oxleas Cafe). They had been acquired from China and brought back to England by the East India Company Inspector of Tea,


In Touch with the Thames

We have been sent details of Marine Management Organisation workshops on Marine Plane development. These are nation wide, but the London ones are

7th March  9-30-16.00 Wesley Hotel, 81-103 Euston Street, NW1  for informaiton planning@marinemanagement.org.uk


Charlton Society

Talk on the History of Gardens and Growing in Charlton.  Charlton House, Grand Salon 2.30  18th February.


Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter

They include - sadly - obituaries to Ann Rusher, and Joan Harbottle
An article on Woolwich Garrison Church Trust (GIHS has a speaker from them soon) .... and a long article by Jim Marrett about rescuing a boundary stone   ....



We have had a note about the Deptford Pumping Station site and its place in the current legacy masterplan. This site is an original 19th pumping station by Bazalgette with listed buildings. It is felt that this needs some sort of histortical interpretation  - and adding in the new Tideway tunnel too. The add that this all within sight of - the first commuter railway, world beating marine steam engine factory, the first centralised generation of electricity for public use, and the UKs first successful internal combustion engine .  (er - does that cover the fire engines too??)



As noted above there has been local concern about Greenwich Power Station and the possibility of it being upgraded. A  number of consultation meetings took place and very angry residents attended them. All this is outlined in the article by Richard Baglin in the Greenwich Society Newsletter. Currently the application has been withdrawn by London Underground, who own the power station.

Thanks to Len Duval we got a note from Vicky from TfL - we asked what the future of the power station is?  if it is not expanded is it likely to be closed and the site sold.  Its an interesting building and probably the oldest power station in Europe still in operation. Sale would mean demolition and more 'luxury' riverside flats. All that Vicky says on this is that that option has been investigated but that, at the moment the tube cannot operate without the power station - since it provides emergency back up power. It would cost more to build a new power station on a green field site than the sale of the site would realise .................. so .............. lets see. 

oooh - and - look at this!!!!  http://www.ghsoc.co.uk/
now there's really posh!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Notes and bits and pieces

Docklands History Group
This is about their conference on Thames River Crossingson 13th May at the Museum in Docklands. They are now taking bookings - look at their website www.docklandshistorygroup.org.uk.

Speakers - as you will see the important papers are near the end

Gustav Milne – Crossing the Thames in prehistoric and Roman times.
John Scofield – Old London Bridge and the Pool of London
Hazel Forsyth– Frost Fairs
Chris Dodd – Thames Watermenwherries and ferries
Professor Jerry White – Some 18th century Thames crossings and the shape of London
Peter Cross-Rudkin – John Rennie’s Thames bridges
Chris Everett – Waterloo Bridge: 200 years in the London Physche
Mary Mills and Ian Blore – The story of the LCC tunnels 
Guy Taylor – The incredible disappearing bridge mystery


London Railway Record - article on Blackheath Station
The current edition (January 2017) includes a really wonderful article on Blackheath Station by Peter Kay -although we note thanks to Neil Rhind and that Neil read it and provided the pictures. The article is 11 pages long and I hardly know where to start reviewing it. Most of all I would recommend people to read it! What it doesn't mention is that here in Greenwich it is now the only local station which actually has trains going somewhere useful! www.londonrailwayrecord.co.uk


AND - while we are on the subject of Neil Rhind - many of us enjoyed his 80th birthday party at Blackheath Concert Halls on 17th January.  The cake was in the shape of Blackheath Tea Hut which Neil has been keen to demolish.


Planning and Demolitions
We note in the planning papers an application for the demolition of the VIP Trading Estate and VIP Industrial Estate in Anchor and Hope Lane.  This is a huge site at the end of  Anchor and Hope Lane and adjacent to the river. It is so big that it totally encloses and isolates hapless Atlas and Derrick Gardens. The plan is for flats and flats and flats (975) although it is presented with shops and cafes and the rest.  This is an area with numerous small businesses and a lot of people work there - and of course sites of historic interest.  We await more detail. Please submit!! The planning reference is 16/4008/F


Lenox Project
Posting from the Lenox Project urging us to be at the Evelyn Assembly on 21st January to vote for them - sorry, Lenox Project. Whatever the Evelyn Assembly is I am sure it won't want to see a vast congregation of Greenwich residents turning up - so - good luck and that, but I think that's a Lewisham local event.


Greenwich Historical Society have their pantomime on 25th January at James Wolfe School, Royal Hill, 7.15, curtain up 7.30. Free to GHS members - guests £5.   thanks Horatio


Last night - 18th - GLIAS - had as their lecture speaker James Hulme on Charlton - he is due  to speak to us, GIHS, on 13th June. The only review I have had so far of last nights event is 'truly wonderful'  - so, what did others think, and please come and hear him in June.

Still looking at all these Telcon newsletters - some small bits from 28 - 1957

Cable ships which visited Enderby  - C.S.Castillio Olmedo to load cable for the Spanish Government - CS Lasso to load cable for the Admiralty - CS Stanley Angwin to discharge cable from Cable and Wireless and load cable for the South American coast - CS Edward Wilshaw - to load cable for the Indian Ocean.

Staff Association - the speaker noted the 100th anniversary of the launch of Great Eastern - and spoke about the future for cables of all sorts with TV and business men all talking to each other round the world. He said that inter planetary travel would really open up the opportunity for cable sales.

Sports - among the football, cricket and boxing and the like is news of the Telcon Terribles the company's marbles team. They had had a big win in the British Marbles Championship and were awaiting the arrival of a US ship whose crew were keen to take them on.

Mumetal - one of the Greenwich works most important developments was Mumetal, widely used here, then, now and elsewhere, However an item in the newsletter talks about its use in water divining

all good stuff

Monday, 9 January 2017

Its quiet over Christmas

This is a posting with very little, if any, news and a lot of chit chat.


Don't forget our next meeting ......... which will feature ...

Stewart Ash speaking on Sir John Pender.  17th  7.30. at Age Exchange Old Bakehouse.
- all welcome - learn about how Greenwich changed the world

So -

Richard Buchanan has drawn our attention to an article in the current LAMAS Transactions (Vol.66 2015) This is about the proof house in the Tower of London. This is where the nation's gunpowder was tested Tudor period and earlier and this is an archaeological report, rather than a history (there is a difference).  I guess from the archaeologists point of view this is all good stuff - lots of digging up of post medieval bricks and the like.

Why are we interested in this here in Greenwich? As Richard pointed out 'The Proof House is the predecessor of the Magazine at what became Enderby Wharf''.  So - but - here is my problem with the article - it doesn't actually mention Greenwich.   The Greenwich Gunpowder Magazine dated from the 1690s - the site was first investigated as somewhere for it to be built in 1694.and it is thought this move was because the storage of gunpowder in the Tower was seen as dangerous. However the LAMAS article says that a proof house and charging house were built by the Ordinance Board at the Tower in 1682 and that they were replaced in 1709 with larger buildings. So what was going on??

We know that the Greenwich Magazine was used for proofing as well as for a store. Did the two run concurrently, or have we misunderstood the role of the works at Greenwich?  Isn't this something that should be discussed?  But there is no mention of Greenwich in the article - or indeed of Purfleet where the magazine was moved to in the 18th century.

Can anyone throw a bit of light on this??

 (Anthony Mackinder.. The Proof House and later works at Tower Wharf)

More - archaeology - thanks Elizabeth for a copy of an article in London Archaeologist (winter 2017),   'The Bronze Age landscape of the Greenwich Peninsula'.  

This is another article all about digging things up to look for far distant times.  Fair enough I suppose - if all you are interested in is several thousand years ago, and, bother what has been on the site since.  Illustrations in the article show 'Early Holocene surface around the Blackwall Lane site.... to the north on what is now the Greenwich Peninsula lay a network of channels interspersed with gravel islands'.

The article also draws heavily on the discovery of a Bronze Age trackway in Bellott Street (er - technically not on the Peninsula).  Some of the article also rests on archaeological reports which are not available to the likes of you and me.

As ever I have some problems with this sort of stuff, which seems to exist in a little cloud  of its own some distance from reality.

For instance - can we be told what the Thames was doing at this point??  I mean, I'm not good on prehistoric dates but I do know that  the Thames has moved about a bit over the years, I also guess there have been any number of dreadful tidal surges not to mention various shoals and things in the river (one only removed in the 19th).  How did they affect what they found?? How did all these little gravel islands change?  What relation to they have to what is there now??

The article is about the Bronze Age - but the questions I would like answered are about things which are more recent - it would be good to know who exactly we think first embanked the Peninsula??  Do the drainage channels you have identified then in any way match the late medieval drainage system?? Do we think there were other earlier man made drainage systems?? Why do you think there was managed farming and settlement there when in 1600 the Peninsula was almost all marshland held on short term leases for marsh based activies - wildfowling, osiers, etc?  Does usage and tenure not have a very very long back story.  What were all those bits and pieces I used to be shown by local workers who told me they were Roman and picked up on the Dome site (I didn't believe them particularly ....but.. you never know)

I think there are other issues - one is that it is a pity that the potentially interesting area at what was Bugsby's Causeway was built on with no investigation - were MOLA/Pre-Construct not aware of possibilities there??  and - you know there are more features on the Peninsula than the medieval tide mill
and - also - by the way - I can point you to an excellent description of monthly plant growth there from the 1620s onwards, would be useful for comparison??

Archaeologists will love this article and it is clearly an important paper - I want to say something positive about it, but I also want to know where it takes us.  How does it help us understand the world we find ourselves in??