Friday, 22 December 2017

East Greenwich gasholder - planning application to demolish

An application to demolish the East Greenwich gasholder has been submitted to Greenwich Council. by its owners Southern Gas Networks.

(if that link doesn't work go to Greenwich Council's planning search system and type in 'Millennium Way' and it should be the first thing that comes up.

The consultation period is apparently 20th December - 11th January - which is a stunningly cynical move on the part of Southern Gas - when not only many local residents but many of the planners will be on holiday, and getting anything done nearly impossible.

The following link goes to a great picture of the holder taken the day after the IRA attack in 1979.  I have always understood that the bomb was not on the holder itself, but on an adjacent installation

Listing - people are asking - 'can't we get it listed??'  - well, no. There have been a number of applications for listing over the years - and all of them refused. BUT NOW last week the Department of the Environment granted it immunity from listing - ie. it can never be listed.

BUT it may still be possible to get it 'locally listed' - ie Greenwich can put it on a list of local buildings which they think are important. It doesn't give it very much in the way of protection but it does put up a marker for it and would give councillors confidence to keep it - although what they want can easily be overturned by the Government Planning Inspectorate.

See what Peter says below

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Rope making and the birth of the submarine cable industry

Rope making and the birth of the submarine cable industry.
by John Yeardley

In the nineteenth century a dramatic change took place in the cordage industry with the invention of wire rope. Some companies took to this revolutionary metallic raw material and a new industry was born. Much of this development was centred in London.

In the beginning. George Wright Binks, a foreman ropemaker at Woolwich Dockyard, about 1830, conceived the idea of forming a rope from twisted iron wire instead of hemp and began practical experiments to that end in the dockyard ropery.

George Binks tried unsuccessfully to interest the Admiralty in his invention but his efforts caught the attention of a Captain Harris R.N. who in 1835 put up the money to establish a small works in Great Grimsby in Lincolnshire. Binks and his two sons continued the development and in the same year produced the first true stranded wire rope. In 1838 the factory was moved from Great Grimsby to new premises in Greenwich Road, (now West Ferry Road,) Millwall.

George Wright Binks
Lewis Dunbar Brodie Gordon, a young Scotsman who had worked with Brunel on the Thames Tunnel until 1837 became interested in the possibilities of rope made from iron wire and discussed it with a boyhood friend and brilliant engineer, Robert Sterling Newall. He wrote to Newall in June 1838 and the latter, working very quickly, replied at the end of July with a drawing of a machine to produce a four strand wire rope.

In 1840 Newell took out a patent for "certain improvements in wire rope and in machinery for making such rope" In the same year Gordon and Newall, in partnership with Charles Liddell (a pupil of George Stephenson), established a factory in Gateshead trading as R.S.Newall & Co

In 1850 a submarine cable of copper wires coated with Gutta Percha was laid between Dover and Calais for the Anglo French Telegraph Company but it lasted only one day through chafing on rocks. Newall then proposed that such a cable could be improved by armouring it with a layer of wires, in effect making the cable the core of a wire rope. The contract to make such a cable was however given to Wilkins and Weatherley, rope makers ofWapping. After a legal battle over patents Newall took over their premises and the cable was successfully laid in September 185l.

Other cables soon followed including the Dover - Ostend cable in 1853 on which Newall cooperated with William Kuper.

Kuper and Company had been one of the first to manufacture wire rope with a factory on the Surrey Canal but had failed to prosper and gone bankrupt in 1849 whereupon a mining engineer called George Elliot came to the rescue by acting as their sole agent and manager. The works were moved to Morden Wharf, East Greenwich and by 1854 Elliot was so successful that he became proprietor by paying the creditors in full with interest. Kuper than retired and was replaced by Richard Glass. The company was then renamed Glass, Elliot and Co and began increasingly to go in for producing submarine cables. In 1856 they enlarged their premises by taking over what had formerly been Enderby's Hemp Rope Works.

Newall rope making machine
Samuel Enderby, born in 1717, went into partnership with an oil merchant, Charles Buxton and in 1752 he married Buxton's daughter. They owned a number of sailing ships and one of them was involved in the famous Boston Tea Party. In 1775 he took over the business and started fitting out ships for whaling. By 1790 he owned 68 whaling vessels and had estates in Lewisham, Bermondsey, Eltham and Lee and lived in Crooms Hill House. Various sons became involved in what was a very large and important business. (One of his grandsons was General Gordon of Khartoum fame). The company vessels obviously used vast quantities of rope and in 1829 they established their own rope factory in Greenwich. The enterprise was fairly short lived for the factory was destroyed by fire in 1845 putting 250 people out of work. Although the machinery was covered by insurance the factory never reopened' and was eventually sold to Glass Elliott and Co.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

News of this and that, but not about Christmas


Below - under 'GLIAS NEWSLETTER' is a report of the death of Dr. Denis Smith - and his contribution to industrial history/archaeology - much of it in our area.

The following things are covered below - with other bits of news interspersed in between:

East Greenwich Gasholder
Charlton Riverside Consultation
The Royal Arsenal Canal Swing Bridge
Enderby House
Plumstead Station
Royal Naval Dockyards Society Newsletter
Royal Arsenal Building 19/C1
News from Trinity Buoy Wharf
Mystery Building in Maryon Park
Lewisham History Journal -  article on the Silvertown explosion
Industrial Archaeology News - article on the Royal Arsenal
GLIAS Newsletter
Discussions on Industrial Heritage in Greenwich



We are informed that this has received a Certificate of Immunity against listing. The letter from the Government's Department says (I've summarised this a bit - its was a bit intimidatingly long)


After considering your grounds for review the original decision to be minded to issue a Certificate of Immunity. is upheld. The reasons for this are as follows.

Historic England provided advice that the Gasholder doesn't meet the criteria for listing. ....a decision then had to be made on whether or not to ... to issue a Certificate of Immunity. . .... there would have to be good reason for not issuing it ..... only .. one circumstance may provide reason ..... That would be if  ... if significant new evidence of architectural or historic interest may .... emerge that could potentially alter the decision not to list. .......the case of the No.1 Gasholder it is thought very unlikely that significant new evidence would emerge and there are no valid reasons for withholding a Certificate of Immunity."

among the people who have seen that response, one of them says he can see a weasel in it. Looking hard for that myself!!

Meanwhile Lewisham has locally listed the holders at Bell Green.  No weasels there, only a mole who says that this is all to do with scuppering Aldi.



We have a note from the Council as follows:

"Royal Borough of Greenwich is beginning a public consultation on new heritage designations within  Charlton Riverside. We are proposing to create two new Conservation Areas and add several buildings to our Local Heritage List. We would welcome views on the proposals. They comprise what we consider to be significant areas of 19/20C industrial heritage, including the remaining legacy of Siemens Telegraph and Cable Works.  We are asking for comments on:

·      the proposed conservation area boundaries and architectural and historic interest of the two areas

·      the architectural, historic or environmental merits of the proposed locally listed buildings

The consultation can be found at along with downloadable maps and a summary of the proposals. The consultation will run for 5 weeks and will close on at 5pm on Wednesday 17 January 2018.

and - as an added extra on that   CHARLTON CHAMPION

This is the latest episode of Darryl's commentary on the Council's Charlton Riverside proposals (more about this below). It is headed 'A ten-storey love song?? Greenwich Council's surprising plan for Charlton Riverside. 
Well, read it and see



Concerns about the swing bridge on the Royal Arsenal Canal were raised with the Council. Here are their answers

Do Peabody have plans to renovate and conserve the Swing Bridge? 

Answer:  Peabody own and maintain the swing bridge. They have advised that their maintenance regime focuses on preserving the bridge in its current condition and that they have no immediate plans to renovate the bridge although it will be considered as part of a future Broadwater Dock development scheme.

Has this been raised already, by RBG, in talks with Peabody?

Answer: There have been no specific plans agreed regarding the swing bridge but the Council has been in discussions with Peabody about this matter. Additionally, the Housing Zone funding allocation for Plumstead and Thamesmead (please see the linked Cabinet report for further information ) includes funding for preparing feasibility studies and a master plan for Broadwater Dock and the Council will be fully engaged in these documents development.

Have organisations, such as Historic England and the Canal and River Trust, been contacted for advice?

Answer: The swing bridge structure is Grade II Listed and also features on the Heritage at Risk Register (under category C: poor condition, slow decay; no solution agreed).  The Council has been liaising with Historic England’s Heritage at Risk team on the matter and Historic England have advised that they have been making efforts to discuss and agree a strategy towards repair and conservation with Peabody. The Council has discussed this with Peabody and requested a response and update.

The current status and support in making this a condition of any planning approval?

Peabody have advised that they are some way off submitting a planning application for the Broadwater Dock development scheme and, therefore, there has not yet been any pre-application meetings with the Council.



We have a report from Greenwich Council:

"We visited Enderby House along with colleagues from Historic England. The building has been inaccessible for over 18 months since Barratt had deemed the timber structures unsafe. We agreed a programme of essential stabilisation works back in April and these works were carried out in July/August. We have requested urgent improvements to the ventilation as well as an updated timber survey. We are heading towards agreeing schedules of work and the submission of a listed building consent application for the timber elements once full information has been provided and an approach agreed."

The Enderby Group hope to meet Rebecca soon and clarify the situation further



Concerns have been raised about the footbridge at Plumstead Station.  The Council says:

"Regarding Plumstead Station ..on 31st October 2017 Network Rail submitted a prior approval application (Reference 17/3443/PA) for 'Construction of a new footbridge with 2 new lifts shafts and associated lift motor rooms, creation of a new access walkway, construction of a new bin store, demolition of existing footbridge'.   The Planning Department confirms the proposals fall within permitted development rights rather than requiring a full planning application.  At this time a decision has not yet been made.

More details from the following link:

Despite seeking information from Network Rail, we are unable to advise a likely timeframe for the works. However, the proposal will allow the station to remain open during the construction work. On completion of the work the station will become fully “accessibility” compliant in accordance with the latest relevant standards.

- and PS - we have information from elsewhere that the old footbridge might be sold to a railway preservation group - suppose that couldn't be made a planning condition???



Their AGM is on 24th March 10.00 am at the National Maritime Museum

Call for papers for Conference 24th March 2018 - on Naval Operations and bases in the Mediterranean during the 18th Century.  Send title and 300 word synopsis by 20th December 2017 to Dr.Ann Coats

Dockyards Newsletter - the current issue contains the following items of interest to Greenwich Borough.

News from Chatham - this concerns Machine Shop 8 at Chatham Dockyard Museum. This building was once Slip Cover 6 at Woolwich Dockyard designed by Fox, Henderson in 1844-45. It now has planning consent for use as a leisure centre and will contain a climbing wall. This will include a new frame and cover for the building.

Report on the Lenox Project. The last twelve months have seen some steps forward, commencing with registration as a charity for more effective future fund-raising. They have completed ther ibusiness-plan. Their London Open House event on 16/17 September at the Master Shipwright’s House was extremely successful, gaining many new supporters and raising funds. The official visitor numbers were 1,039 though there were probably had more. They also launched a  film made by some of our volunteers, which can be seen on the website With the aid of funds from the Tideway Tunnel project, they are about to embark on an outreach programme into local schools, which will involve older pupils in teaching primary school children.



Museum of London Archaeology Unit are urging us to take part in a survey about their future work. 



- they are advertising the following events

11th January Waste and the Thames - What's the future. To held at Walbrook Wharf (the City's waste facility).  Register interest
15th March, Thames Estuary Partnership. Members only.  A deeper insight into the organisation's activities. To be held at Watermen's Hall
17th-18th January. Coastal Futures Conference. Royal Geographical Society
7th February.  British Water Winter Reception. House of Lords/
21st April  Take on 50K in a day for AHOY.   This is a rowing challenge for Deptford's AHOY Centre.


7th March Annual Lecture.  This year they have Peter Marsden the World Heritage Site Co-ordinator - thus allowing us to point out that the special zone around it includes some industrial buildings (notably Greenwich Power Station). you have to pay to go to this though £10 (with semi obligatory wine) cheques to Friends of Greenwich Park, 52 Greenwich Park Street, SE10 9LT


Enquiry  - can anyone help with the following

" I have an old painting  - on the back of the original frame is the name and address of the framer. The text is in old copperplate script  and somewhat damaged and difficult to decipher, but what I am able to read of the framer's details are:

J. ?I. Illman, 87 Trafalgar S?quare. East Greenwich.

On the front of the painting are the artist's initials (O.I.) and a date of 13, which could refer to 1913 but more likely 1813.

Any information on the dates and address of the farmer's business activity could help with the dating of the painting."


We have been asked to point out two things

1. European Heritage Protection legislation is not being transferred into English Law
2. The English Tourist Board does not mention industry - even when it is in a World Heritage site.



The Port of London Authority has the following consultation on air quality



Following concerns on this building Ian writes:  I met one of the architects from Bennetts Associates, the firm working on the Council's cultural proposals for the Arsenal. He assured me that the building's extensive 'shop floor', probably the best in London if not South East England, will be preserved pretty much 'in  aspic'. All the cranes will stay as will the railway lines and hopefully the surviving sections of wood-block floor. The former boiler house to the north of the building is likely to have its mid C20 mezzanine floor removed, same for mid C20 walling in that area.  Remarkably, the architect's Father in Law had worked on the design of  the building's four cranes in 1952.

I think we can be assured that the Arsenal will have a significant preserved Victorian industrial building. At last...

He informed me that prior to Greenwich Council buying a lease Berkeley Group were looking at transforming the building into a 'Boutique Hotel'.



Good to hear that Trinity Buoy Wharf have appointed a Maritime Heritage Project Manager

*** fact check - for those of you who never look beyond the foreshore - Trinity Buoy Wharf is opposite the Dome and is where there is a lighthouse at the entry to Bow Creek - and a lot of preserved vessels and some Clippers moored.

They hope to establish a new maritime heritage collection here, and already provide berths for the historic Thames Tug vessels 'Knocker White' and 'Varlet' which was previously at the Museum of London Docklands. They have also agreed to take on the Steam Tug 'Challenge' to be a permanent though fully mobile addition to our collection. They are also working as part of the SS Robin Trust with the aim of moving Robin from the Royal Docks, to a new home at the East India Dock Basin close to where she was built and launched.

and - incidentally - the new Manager is Richard Albanese who has worked for and been associated with the London Museum of Water and Steam for many years.



Our attention was drawn to a building alongside the Green Chain walk near Maryon Park. Basically we were told it lay behind alongside a footpath. The footpath runs into Maryon Park from the point at which Thorntree Road becomes Woodlands Terrace - about opposite the end of Kinveachy Gardens.  The path goes up between a newish house and the last of the older houses. It was not possible to see it from aeriel photographs but it seemed to have an electrical use - 'a pleasant little structure with a somewhat ornate metal ventilator on the roof'.  I went up there and couldn't see anything other than the scant remains of a brick structure of some sort

Then - aha - we were told that it was a substation for the Woolwich Electric Company and that it has been knocked down very recently.

So?? has anyone any information.  Why was it knocked down?? Does anyone have a picture of it??



IA NEWS is published by the National Association for Industrial Archaeology. (No 183 Winter 2017).  It contains an excellent article by Bob Carr about 'Woolwich Arsenal'.  This is no criticism of Bob or his article but that headline says a lot!  This was not 'Woolwich Arsenal' but 'The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich' - and trying to explain about the 'most important factory in the world' to people from north of Watford (or, indeed, south of Gillingham) is an uphill job. Bob has done very well in the limited space to say something important about the Royal Arsenal.  It maybe that, with consent, we can reproduce his article in an edition of this blog.  He makes the very strong point that because of the culture of secrecy there we know very little about its long and diverse history.  In less than a page he has tried to explain about the tumps, and the guns, and the railways, and the ships and the piers, and the gridiron, and the massive and mysterious hinterland.  There should also be something to say about all those satellite factories - nearly all of them north of Watford.  But there is also a whole page of photos.

(ps - is it true that Greenwich Heritage Centre are refusing to accept lifetime collections of Arsenal material from nonagerians)

IA NEWS also has articles of more general interest -

- a report on the seminar on the Impact of Developer Funded Work. Is there any other??  This seminar also included Michael Shapland's paper on Enderby Wharf.  The article concludes that AIA should work to 'promote the next generation of industrial archaeology research'.

- article on the future of industrial archaeology societies. This seems to be saying that we are all in our dotage and that the under-30s don't care/  Very possibly

and another couple of bits about Greenwich (or nearish)

- note ahout the listing of Outram's amazing 'Temple of the Winds' pumping station. This is on the Isle of Dogs and you can see it from the golf course on Delta Wharf on the Peninsula

- note about the setting up of the Valentia Transatlantic Cable Foundation which is fund raising in connection with a World Heritage site status bid.



Remarkably this issue is almost entirely taken up with an article on the Silvertown Explosion in 1917. Other articles are about Prendergast School and Sydenham clergy

The Silvertown article is by Gordon Dennington. Naturally he mentions the explosion in East Greenwich No.2 gas holder and a subsequent fire. I think what he says is interesting and he has used fire brigade sources - and not gas industry ones. He says the fire brigade thought that the damage was due to the 'compression wave from the holder' - and that is what the gas company also thought.  He does not mention - and probably had no way of knowing - that the workers in the valve room heard the explosion and turned off the Greenwich holders before the shock wave reached them.  From memory I think one of them received a bravery award.  No-one ever mentions what should be obvious: at the time of the explosion there were many other holders - some, like the one at West Ham  were much nearer - and not far away were the ones at Poplar, Bromley by Bow and our, still extant, East Greenwich No.1.  All of those held. What was different about No.2 was its 'flying lift.'  (and I would be grateful for an engineer's opinion on that comment).

Anyway - please read Gordon's article about one of the biggest disasters to hit East and South East London in the 20th century

Future meetings
26th January. The Real Dad's Army Mike Brown
23rd February. Law and Order in Crofton Park 100 years ago,. Carol Noakes
23rd March - AGM plus Steve Bullock on being Mayor of Lewisham
17th April - Further eastwards down the A2.  Malcom Bacchus
all at Methodist Church Hall. Albion Way, 7.45



It is with sadness that we see the front page of the newsletter the news of the (not unexpected) death of Dr. Denis Smith. Our local connection to Denis, who chaired GLIAS 1972-2012 and did much else, taught a class on Industrial Archaeology at Goldsmiths - and many of those active in industrial history in South East London attended it and were influenced by him.

So - to the newsletter itself.  GLIAS is advertising:

17th January - Conkers, Cordite and the birth of modern technology. Martin Adams
21st February - Iron Men - Henry Maudslay and his Circle. David Waller (lets hope he says lots about Maudslay's days in Woolwich)
21st March - James Brindley in London and his plans for the Thames.Victoria Owens
18th April - London Underground's Edwardian tile patterns and their context. Douglas Rose
16th May - The Post Office Museum and Railway, Chris AGM 6.15
All at 75 Cowcross Street, EC1 6.30

and also -

an article by Richard Buchanan about the Woolwich stoneware kiln.  Again might reproduce this here - with permission - Richard provides the view of someone closely involved

They have given a list of field work mentioned in the London Archaeologist annual review.  Some of these are about Greenwich and unknown to us - please send more details if you have them. They include:

Greenwich Wharf - this is a recording of a large shed used by Pipers.
(Why do we know nothing about this??? Who did the recording and why didn't they contact local groups?  They seem to think that it was partly built with materials from the "18th powder magazine" - with what evidence? - the magazine was demolished in 1770 and the remains sent down river to the Arsenal - the chances of them still lying around in 1869 would seem to me to be minimal!!!  Please get in touch, archaeologist, whoever you are and give us some proof!!   - and tell us why you never contacted historians who have studied the site, and Pipers themselves)

Convoys Wharf - sawpit and other bits from the Royal Dockyard



Only a passing mention of East Greenwich Gas Works in a long article by Brian Sturt on the Great War - it is, of course, the Silvertown Explosion again 'London was lit up like a summer's day'.  Brian, of course, knows that that was exactly what the holder was designed to do, should it be breached or caught alight.

and finally - SERIAC

Next South East Region Industrial Archaeology Conference is in Windsor 21st April 2018.,
No web site.  You have to book on a form (included in the GLIAS Newsletter) £15 plus £12.50 for lunch, if you want it . and send to Graham Smith, 114 Shaw Road, Newbury, RC14 1HR

but - aha - the sponsoring organisation is BIAG - they have a website(!!!)  and here is a link to the SERIAC booking form  and programme.


Greenwich Industrial History Meeting

on Industrial Heritage in Greenwich

The original meeting was held on 10th October with a roster of invited speakers discussing their perspective on Industrial Heritage in our Borough

There were also some lively contributions from the members present

Following this we had another meeting with the speakers and some other interested parties.  We talked about a lot of things - one of which was to try and produce a gazeteer of industrial relics in the borough.  A number of us are working on this - and are keen to speak to anyone else out there who would like to contribute.

Other ideas and comments

"It strikes me that promoting the conservation and or re-use of buildings as part of a green strategy taking the historic and natural environment together would be well worth looking at and presented properly and forcefully should appeal to both RBG and City Hall"

"People are more likely to use our streets when their journey is interesting and stimulating, with attractive views, buildings, planting and street art and where other people are using the street. They will be less dependent on cars if the shops and services they need are within short distances so they do not need to drive to get to them."

"My suggestion is a briefing document - perhaps in the form of a short booklet - written in readable language with many illustrations.  An introduction to the industrial heritage of the Royal Borough, emphasising the unique richness and the value (able to be capitalised on by tourism etc) to the local authority, residents, visitors and so on.  Published by GIHS or even better GLIAS, which would show local councillors the regard felt outside the borough for the local industrial heritage."

" We need to pick up on the meeting some of us had three or four years ago with the Heritage Trust and come back with some proposals.

and .....................  and ...................................