Monday, 16 July 2018

News now

Woolwich Antiquarian Newsletter. 
The current edition includes an article by Jim Marrett on Woolwich potteries which features the story of the Woolwich stoneware kiln.  He also mentions finds in the Rope Yard Rails area of red earthenware called 'London Ware'. The oldest of these kilns showed that Woolwich had a 400 year old pottery industry

The Newsletter also summarises a number of sites in ‘A Further Date with Building' by Jim Marratt.  Among other sites he mentions the LCC Shooters Hill Fire Station built in 1927 and designed by J.B.Corslake.  Opposite the fire station is a wall in which bricks were made by 'Stephen'.   He also mentions the Lakedale Road Fire Station and the nearby horse tram depot - and many RACS buildings in Woolwich as well as Beasley’s brewery in Plumstead.

The two new Woolwich ferry boats are mentioned which are being built in Poland.  These will have small low emission engines which charge batteries at a constant rate.

The newsletter also gives the news that the Falconwood Model Railway has been told to leave its current site by National Grid. They are trying to identify a new sites - and would welcome information. 


We have been sent a copy of a book by Roger Williams called “Whitebait and the Thames fisheries”.  This tells the story of how Whitebait became a popular dish and how it moved to Greenwich rom Dagenham as a feature of pub menus.   We have booked Roger to come and speak to us about Greenwich fishing and Whitebait next summer. In the meantime the book is £7.00 from Bristol Book Publishing.

We have also noted a talk by Roger given to the Docklands History Group on fishing in the Thames.  He pointed out that Greenwich was the biggest supplier of fish to Billingsgate until the 19th century.  This ended when the Royal Hospital was extended and many of the buildings used by the fishing industry were demolised. The industry began to move to the North Sea ports which they helped to build as the railway provided access. Grimsby owes a lot to Greenwich

 Rapid Wire Systems

GLIAS has noted the local existence of rapid wire systems in shops. These systems was where the assistant put your money into a little metal tray, pulled a lever, and it whizzed off and then came back with your change.  We understand the Age Exchange Centre in Blackheath has a system like this which came out of a shop in Hackney.  In Woolwich the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society had such a system which not only returned your change but also your dividend.

Greenwich Visitor.  
The July edition has an article on the gasholder and the presentation of the GIHS petition. It also covers the subsequent resolution at a Council meeting which was voted down. Thank you Visitor for featuring this.  
Also in this edition is a full page feature and appreciation by Julian Watson of Greenwich historian and writer Beryl Platts who died a few weeks ago.  Julian highlights her work in defeating the plans for the Ringway motorways which were intended to run through central Greenwich and how she drew attention to the historic fabric of our area.  Pat of that heritage is the Borough Hall, in Royal Hill,  and on another page an article by Alan Watkins talks about the Hall and its background as part of Greenwich’s revolutionary 1939 town-hall and how it would make a wonderful museum for Greenwich Town  (as distinct from Woolwich).

Westcombe News.  
The July this also featured the story of the Borough hall with architectural details about its history.  They also mention the new bridge which has 'healed 'the missing link of the Thames path.  Another Initiative highlighted by the News is the installation of seven storyboards on the history and wildlife of Blackheath which had been put in place.  In June the News carried the story of the gas holder and the need to sign the petition.

853 blogger has also picked up the story of the gas-holder in some detail. 

Perhaps we should point out that none of these commentators on the holder appear to understand that neither the council nor its officers have given permission for demolition of the holder. They have only agreed to a management process by which the holder can be demolished.  The decision to demolish has been rendered unnecessary by the government’s imposition of the immunity to listing order.

Elizabeth writes to us about a new book by Dr. Peter Hodgkinson. this is about Major Conrad Hugh Dinwiddy who was a ‘civilian turned artillery man’ and as such invented an aerial range finder, an aiming post scheme for firing, schemes for firing artillery from river barges and the use of a monorail for artillery supply. He was killed in battle in September 1917.  He ad bene a pupil at the Roan School and had been s surveyor at East Greenwich Gas Works.  Elizabeth says we must see the website

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Greenwich No.2. gas holder 1917

These pictures show the wreck of Greenwich No.2. Gas holder in 1917.

No.2. Gas Holder stood slightly to the north of the current holder. It was much larger and was for many years the largest gas holder in the world. Its tank - the ground level part of the structure - is still there and is rumoured to be the future works site for the Silvertown Tunnel.  
In 1917 there was a massive explosion in a TNT factory in Slvertown on the other side of the River.  No.2. gas holder was badly damaged - and these pictures show the damage. They are part of a collection of over twenty pictures of the damage which we have been sent by the National Grid Archive. 

During the explosion the gas supply to south London was saved by valvesman Frederick Innis whose quick actions earnt him a British Empire Medal.   I am pleased to find more about him on the Ladywell Cemetery Web site - and hope to add more soon - and a lot more pictures.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

A perspective from 2000 on the history of the Greenwich Peninsula

I wrote this for the OU's student magazine in March 2000  - does anything change. Please comment!!


Writing a history of the industries which preceded the Millennium Dome on the Greenwich Peninsula was, as it turned out, far from easy.  The official story was about site pollution with a subtext that the old and bad was to become the new and clean.  They didn't want to know about anything that suggested past was not, perhaps, all that awful.  How does the historian cope with a subject, which 'authority' is wary about and which a number of others are likely to be upset by?

Research into the Dome site raises a lot of issues, some in the wide historical context and others of interest only to historians of particular industries.  My research at the OU on the waste products of early gas manufacture in the context of surrounding industry gave me a head start with some of the manufacturers who had been on site in Greenwich. Further work produced exciting material, which validated some of my previous conclusions and identified a number of exciting and innovative factories.  Any eventual book had to appeal to the widest public, and time constraints would leave much of the research only half-done.

Despite all this activity I had, however, never really been able to address what I felt were the wider issues raised by the research. Tentative attempts to draw attention to some of them had met with a horrified response from several quarters 'how can you compare the Millennium Dome to the industries which went before it? I was aware, as they should have been, that the construction of the Dome on that particular site in Greenwich was yet another step in the exploitation of the area for economic gain.  I also felt it likely that there were some bodies who would not welcome publicity about their activities – albeit that these activities took place over a hundred years ago. 

Greenwich Marsh, as the peninsula was once always known, had been embanked and drained in time immemorial and administered by its own management body separately from the rest of the town.  Much of it had been in institutional ownership from the seventeenth century and these charitable bodies acted as developers in the nineteenth century to encourage and promote industry.  Many sites had harboured manufacturers who had been both ground breaking and important in a very wide context. I could not believe that subjects like the first Atlantic cable, the biggest gas holder in the world and guns for the Confederates in the American Civil War, financed by the opium trade, would not find an audience. 

There were a number of points I wanted to make. First was that the Dome is just another stage in the continuum of development in an area which has been home to many industries with a world wide influence - and that the reasons for this are connected to the geographical context, land use and ownership.   Publicity represented 'Royalty and Time' as the main historical contribution made in Greenwich but it seems very clear that its people have had a much wider impact beyond that.  The presence of the Tudor Royal Palace with its military requirements and the consequent need for scientific research, also engendered by the Royal Observatory have been of great significance to local industry. There were a number of important points concerning individual industries and their influence in a wider context- for example, the aspirations of the gas company which encompassed new ideas on public service and industrial partnerships.

There was also a wider, more political, context about the role of the historian in regeneration. In Greenwich, throughout the 1980s, we had watched the development of the London Docklands Area. What had been the greatest port in the world simply disappeared. Many sites of great interest to industrial historians were demolished without the smallest attempt at recording. As they were replaced with new developments an ethos emerged which appeared determined to deny what had been there before. Reference to the past was only made in reference to jolly cockneys or to soured industrial relations.   It is remarkable that of all the industrial centres of Britain, London - arguably the greatest of them all, has no industrial museum and this situation seems likely to continue despite brave attempts.  Very few people from outside east London have any idea of the extent of this industrial heartland and most people would not believe in it.  Why has the history of the vast engine for the economy of Britain simply been written off?

In Greenwich there was already a groundswell about the fate of the site of the Royal Arsenal.  This vast armaments factory had been closed to all except those who worked there.  Among the army of ex-workers however are a number who have become historians. When the site was eventually opened up to the public much had already been demolished and the only 'heritage' input into the site's future was to be yet another artillery museum – nothing about the technological and scientific skills which allowed the military machine to function.   Many ex-arsenal workers were ready to protest and my work on Greenwich marsh found a ready audience with them.

I began to try and get some support for a book about the industries around the Dome. Publishers and booksellers, could not grasp its wider context, but only saw it as, unsellable, local industrial history.  I was told that no one would be interested outside a few enthusiasts in the local area.  Others, including some local academics, could not see the Dome as part of continuum of development, saying anything that went before it was not of interest and was old and dirty. The official line was that the Dome was a break with the unpleasant past.  They have been perfectly happy to promote the past of Greenwich when it is about Henry VIII, or Lord Nelson,  - but not, in the most extreme example, to talk about the contribution of one local factory to the development of the Internet.   They were also, of course, afraid that something embarrassing might be uncovered.

I published the book myself in June 1999 with some help from my ex-employers, a Docklands 'community watchdog' organisation. It was not easy to maintain the integrity of the research while at the same picking my way through the various sensibilities. Initially sales were to friends and locals and, then, increasingly to those who had lived and worked on the Peninsula.  The press, except for one national newspaper has taken no interest.  A number of other books have been produced and an 'official' history is on its way.  As far as I am aware none of them have taken on the issues of the past of the site in a global context – the 'old and dirty' theme remains.  The only information about the past which will be available to visitors on site will be the official history of the politics behind the Dome and  - I presume – some populist stuff about 'Royal Greenwich'.

Recently the landscape designer on the Dome site said that in laying out the park area that they would not adhere to the 'current fashion for industrial heritage'.  This comment reveals a great deal about what is wrong with the way that 'regeneration' tackles history.  Much industrial history has been presented in what has sometimes been a very trivial way.  Objects are isolated from their context and used as decorative features.  Museums are often set up to present the past in a way which is easy to take in and, frequently very superficial. It is no surprise then that the whole subject is seen as a 'fashion' by urban designers - rather than something which was the stuff of so many lives. A similar problems is that it is often very difficult to get decision makers to understand that people researching their family histories are ordinary folk who have become historians through choice and that their search for knowledge will often lead them far beyond the mere names and dates of their ancestors. So sources of information are cut off and destroyed because it is thought they will be of interest only to the few. The desire of people from all walks of life to know about the past needs to be taken in a serious and unpatronising way.

I began by describing the difficulties I knew I would encounter in writing a history of the Dome site - and it has been a minefield - but one I have quite enjoyed finding my way through. Perhaps this article is the first step in saying what I really think about the site and its history.  Those who visit the Dome will have no chance to find out about the achievements of its forerunners. I don't want this to sound like a complaint. - I didn't and don't expect anything.  What emerges – and this is also a conclusion from my experience as a 'watchdog' in London Docklands – is that historians and regenerators each need to keep themselves apart.  The regeneration of industrial heartlands all over this country is a political issue and developers will manipulate the background to the site for whatever purpose – often for very good on es.  Historians mustn't be sucked in by this – they need to keep their own integrity and they do need to have an independent and honest stance when meeting the developers.  They also need to be kept informed, or to take steps to find and not be afraid to engage in debate. No one will take you seriously if you go along with trivialities but you do need an intelligent appreciation of what the political agenda is.

PS  - That was all 18 years ago. I eventually sold a just under 4000 copies of the book, Greenwich Marsh, and am constantly asked for copies (try Amazon!).  It is very out of date now and needs revising. Last year, because of new residents, who might be interested, I considered an update.  Self publishing is all very well but bookshops won't take it, and you end up selling it all, via reviews, by post and in the few friendly shops (thanks to the - now closed - Glass Wardrobe, and more recently Warwick Leadlay and Sabos).  In 2000 my husband was still alive and very willing to pack and post - but I can't face  doing it on my own.  I have contacted various publishers with a record of publishing local history - but, no, they would only take it if - I financed it,  halved the written content and provided more pictures, and guaranteed that the proposed cruise liner terminal would display it in their foyer.  

and - while I am in a bad temper - I could say a thing or two about the 'independent' bookshops.  Its not so much that they won't take your book but it's the sneers that go with the refusal 'Oh! whose the clever one then?'.   I have never met so many unpleasant people. One (now defunct) local bookshop did take 6 copies of Greenwich Marsh - on the understanding that they kept the entire cover price. They sold the 6 in three days - and then refused to take any more on the grounds that they had to 'cut the leaflets up with scissors'. I have no idea what these leaflets were and why they had to be cut.  As a result of this I don't care how evil Amazon is but I will not go into 'independent' bookshops. I remember the TV series 'Black Books' - it was too right!

Friday, 22 June 2018

Friday morning notes

We understand that GIHS members and Arsenal experts Ian Bull and Ray Fordham are currently at Crossness as part of the Peabody London International Festival of Theatre event. They are talking to visitors about the history of the Royal Arsenal. We would encourage people to go and see them – and, of course, also the pigeons and ‘Fly by night’ as featured in the Guardian and on the BBC

Newsletter DOCKYARDS

This includes a call for papers for their next conference which will be on “we stand on Guard for Thee” Dockyards and naval bases in North America, the Atlantic and the Caribbean.  This is on the 18th of March, 2019 at the Maritime Museum and, as usual, will follow their AGM. Please send 300 word synopsis and title before 30th October 2018 to Dr.Ann Coats. email

They are also looking for a volunteer Twitter manager.  A report on the Navy Board project at the National Maritime Museum says that this has been extended for another year when it is hoped it will be finished. There are also notes about an oral history project on the knowledge and recollections of work and experiences in the Royal Dockyards 1946 - 1984. Contact  if you would like to be involved in any of these projects.

Thank you to the Editor for a mention of my booklet ‘Innovation, Enterprise and Change on the Greenwich Peninsula’ (still available, see There is also a note about changes at Maritime Books. They also mention preservation of historic cranes - people will remember the two cranes at Lovell’s (aka Riverside Gardens) which were destroyed against local wishes in the 1990s. They have a special offer for members of the Naval Dockyards Society of a book by Dr.Brian Newman “A work of Titans. A history of the Swan Hunter floating cranes” – of interest to anyone researching work on the Thames.

Rather nearer home for us they review the New Researches Seminar at Docklands History Group last November. Many of the items will be of interest to historians in Greenwich – one about convict prison hulks in Woolwich might well be of interest to Greenwich Industrial History Society as would a paper on “Shipwrights, patronage and the Thames Royal Dockyards”.


They reported on their May meeting which was about the London Gateway - the new Deep Water Container terminal on the Thames at what was Shellhaven, this includes a great deal of detail which we are happy to pass on if anyone is interested.  Their conference next year will be about the medieval Port of London.  They also mention a new book by Peter Stone on the History of the Port of London.
Derick Morris is leading a walk around Limehouse for the Group. This starts at 6.00 pm at Limehouse DLR. He charges £4 per person.
Their AGM will be on 4rh July at the Museum of London Dockland starting at 6.00 pm


We have a note from Elizabeth Cutajar are about some of the trips they are doing ‘off the beaten track’. Contact them


It is understood that funds are available for ‘Greenwich Park Revealed’ and a project leader is being recruited.  The WW1 project is underway and some items have been put on the Royal Parks web site about allotments in the War, about the age of park car workers and about sights and sounds during the Great War.  The Queens Orchard has been planted with historic plants, about which the snails have not been helpful. The next meeting is on the 7th of September, at 11 am.


The Thame Estuary Partnership has commissioned a cultural assessment strategy for the Thames Strategy East Study Area. Museum of London will be responsible for the archaeology and Alan Baxter Associates for the Built Environment. It will take account of the archaeological, cultural, industrial built and environmental heritage. We hope to hear more about this in due course.


And we are informed that work will start soon at St.Alfege’s Church Greenwich High Road

And also in Woolwich at the Ferry Approach

We have the links and details if anyone would like more information


Thanks to a legacy the Association is offering free places to students for their annual conference 31st August - 5th September (check out

They also point out that places for this conference are still available for those who will pay. 


We have their Transactions (No. 64) which is a very good read and includes an interesting article about Steamboat Stewards in 1842 as well as an article on local brewers.

Their programme:

10th September.  The enlightened Robert Pocock of Gravesend. Malcolm Jennings

8th October. Training ship Worcester. Ken Chamberlain

12th November. Women munitions workers in World War Two.  Ann Kaeif

10th December. From Greenhithe to Greyhithe and back again. Christopher Bull

14th January.  Rosherville Village and Gardens.  Michael Thompson

11th February. Cobham landscape detectives. Andrew Mayfield

11th March. Medieval Gravesend. Toni Mount

 8th April. World War I poets. Bob and Fern Ogley

13th May AGM

10th June. Ex-president's evening

All meetings at Saint Mary’s church hall Wrotham road, Gravesend   7 for 7.30


Thanks to Elizabeth we have been sent a copy of the London Archaeologist for Winter 2017 (Vol 14 No11) on the bronze age landscape of the Greenwich Peninsula by Mary Nicholls with Nigel Cameron, Rob Scaife, Karen Stewart and John Whitaker.  This is clearly ab important document for anyone interested in the history of the Greenwich Peninsula and in its archaeology. As with most archaeological reports it bases all of its references from other archaeologists rather than from historians. It is based primarily on studies of sites in Blackwall Lane and in Bellott Street (which is not actually on the peninsula). They describe how the Bronze Age landscape can be reimagined and illustrate what would have been a series of islands between inlets and tributaries feeding into the river. The islands would have been farmed.  They also describe the discovery of trackways. It would be interesting to know how this relates to the subsequent building of the river wall and other later developments in the area. However the article is to be recommended.
 Woolwich stoneware kiln.  This article is in the London Archaeologist, Spring Vol 15 No.4. And is about "The Re-excavation to a 17th century stoneware kiln in Woolwich" by Edward Bidduph and John Cottar. You may remember that we all went chasing down to Woolwich last spring when the kiln which was excavated in 1974 on the Woolwich ferry Approach was examined and destroyed. This article describes the work done on it by Oxford Archaeology. The kiln was used to make salt glazed stoneware bellarmine jugs and is dated at 1660 and is thus believed to be the earliest stoneware kiln in England. The article gives a detailed examination of the kiln and what it produced. It is a very import sat account of one of the most important finds archaeologists have made in the borough and useful or anyone interested not only in archaeology but also in the Greenwich and Woolwich pottery industries

I had a riveting morning with a group of Goldsmiths students listening to David Cuffley talking about brick making in the London Borough of Greenwich.  He has left with use a series of maps and an exhaustive list of references to brick makers in the Borough.  This  is very interesting and  David is very keen to get more information about many of these firms - looking at this myself I can see things which we have featured at various times and also for example he mentions the Greenwich Peninsula brick fields near the Pilot in 1790 which I know a bit about.

David has promised to speak to us next year on Salutation Alley in Woolwich – and I am also keen to remind people of his wonderful talk to Greenwich Historical Society on the bricks of the Greenwich Park Wall.

Friday, 15 June 2018

East Greenwich Gas Holder -latest - and what happens elsewhere!

East Greenwich Gasholder

Please sign the petition

We hope to take the petition to the Council meeting on 27th June - thanks to Cllr Denise Scott-Macdonald.  This will, as usual, just be Denise handing it (a memory stick actually!) over to the Mayor.

People may have noticed that the gasholder is on the agenda for the Planning Board on 20th June.  This is basically an administrative item and not to to directly with the holder's demolition. It is to remove the Hazardous Substances Order which was in place while the holder was full of gas.  There is a bit of a history to this but the order set up a blast zone around the holder which was stopping development of the new school and some other items.  We have however written to the Council saying that we assume that the actual hazardous substances which are on the site and under the holder will be dealt with in a future management order.

However - Darryl in the 853 blog has also pointed out that this has an impact on the plans for the Silvertown Tunnel.
He says that, of course, the hazardous substances order needed to be dealt with before the tunnel could open and that this is one step towards that.
However it is very possible that the gasholder has a lot more to do with the Silvertown Tunnel than that  - Darryl needs to look at a map!


We have quite a bit of news about other luckier gasholders

Old Kent Road - it appears that Southwark Council has done a deal to keep holders on the site at Old Kent Road Gas Works. The big Livesey holder - our East Greenwich holder's little brother - is listed and will be kept in their entirety.  The two smaller Livesey holders are being partly demolished as features in future landscaping of the site.

Chelmsford - there is news that a very ordinary gas holder at Chelmsford is to  kept having been bought by the local council on a site to be used for housing.   They have also got Government money for decontamination and development.  The holder itself has been listed Grade II.

Barcelona - apparently the gasholder frame there was kept as part of the works for the 1992 Olympics.

MEANWHILE IN EAST LONDON - the holders at Poplar, just the other side of the Blackwall Tunnel, appear to have been demolished - despite a massive petition.  Pleas to list it were turned down.  The Bethnal Green holder - the oldest of its type and in a wonderful setting - appears to be still there (last we saw) but has been turned down for listing.

Barbara Berger has now got her PhD in gas holder construction.  Here is a page of gasholder history from her ... more to come later

Barbara Berger, Research Associate, Technical University of Munich

Before the rising structures of gasholders changed the cityscapes it was the gas light itself that was revolutionizing the daily life in cities in the beginning of the 19th century. In 1813 public illumination from gas was inaugurated for the very first time in the London district of Westminster. This new lighting technique revolutionized cities worldwide. Paris in 1819. Hannover in 1825 and Turin 13 years later

The gasholder was introduced as a technical building for the storage of locally produced coal gas. Its emerging iron structure presented a new kind of industrial architecture and became symbolic
of the gas industry.

The gasholder's structure was determined by its function. It had to fulfil two basic requirements: first a variable capacity. and secondly a gas-tight construction . A water-based system met both requirements. It was composed of a water tank and a lift for the gas.The latter was immersed into the tank and rose and fell according to the current content of the gas.. An external guide frame guaranteed the reliable movement of the lift. Because of the increasing demand for gas receptacles with more storage were needed. In the 19th and early 20th century there were generally two different kinds of water sealed gasholders, the Belltype gasholder (or single-lift gasholder). and the  gasholder(or multi-lift gasholder).

Initially the lifts of both types were guided via an external linear guide frame. but at the end of the 19th century the new spiral guided technique allowed the building of gasholders even without
a guide frame. Another special form was the so-called gasholder house. that totally hid the filigree iron structure of the gasholder facades were often architecturally ornate.

Over the century development advanced from the water sealed to the waterless or dry-sealed system: the Piston-type gasholder was invented 1913 in Germany. The new sealing technique was adapted along the edge of the piston and guaranteed contact between the piston and the shell of the cylinder. This new sealing technique led to a new appearance and form of the gasholder.

The arrival of natural gas was the beginning of the decline of coal  gas and historic gasholders because the increasing demand on gas required new storage systems - thus new types of gasholders.

Today historic gasholders are industrial relics although very many have already been demolished. The remaining examples are often abandoned and their architectural value is not realized A gasholder facilitates a column-free, tall, symmetrical space,that offers a wide range of reuse projects.

One of the very first examples of revitalization was second world war: a massive gasholder house in Berlin formed into a bunker known as the 'Fichtebunker ' . The inner lifts were demolished and the circular brick walls reinforced. After being modified into a storage depot and shelter for homeless men and women this space is used nowadays as a museum. However. the dome of the building was developed fferentkly. Under the filigree iron structure. exclusive, elaborate loft houses are located with a spectacular view over the city of Berlin.............................(to be continued)

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Greenwich Riverside Path before 'regeneration' - An hysterical walk

 I thought that perhaps - for all our newer resident readers - that we should put something about what the riverside path used to be like.  Well it wasn't all industry - there was ART too.

The riverside walk described below dates from 2000 and was 'a local counterpoint to the Dome Festival'.

I have scanned part of the publicity leaflet - and -being an arts based production it is a bit of a funny shape which my (nice new) scanner is unfamiliar with.   The drawing of the Greenwich riverside is by Peter Kent - and, Peter I am sorry, I have had to scan it in chunks and it would look so much better if I could do the whole thing in one bit - but it would end up very very very tiny.

So - I also thought a bit of explanation might be in order - interpretation - or something

This bit will be the most familiar at the start of the walk.  It begins at Trinity Hospital - there is a sort of raised platform there on  the riverside and I seem to remember a big picture frame there which they put up so you could imagine where you were going was a 'picture'.  So we see the power station, and its jetty - and then the path carries on to Anchor Iron Wharf.  The flats were not built then and you had to walk down a little narrow path with a scrap yard either side - and then - there you were at Ballast Quay,

This stretch is the bit between Ballast Quay and Enderbys - then Lovells Wharf, Granite Wharf and Pipers. Pipers were famous barge builders and  the area was in use by the boat repair yard until very recently.

At Lovells were two huge cranes - Scotch Derricks - which had been left by the previous owner.  They were a local landmark and there were plans to keep them - but the owners demolished them early one morning without any prior notice. Here they are the 'wounded giants'.

The stretch illustrated also includes the Alcatel jetty and the group did a musical performance on it. It was just the same then as it is now - but it did have public access then,

Further up and more wharves - And here we are at Enderbys where there was an 'artistic group' of Penguins - I seem to think they were plastic and floated about in the water.

Chuck Out Your Mouldies was the title of play which was put on locally with lots of local people taking part and based on memories of childhood in the 1940s and 1950s.  It was a lot of fun to do. The 'mouldies' was supposed to be loose change and children would call out to passers by to 'chuck out your mouldies'  and they would then scrabble for pennies and ha'pennies.

and here we are at the end  -  and the road to the Dome. 

The Amylum Silos - something else the riverside has lost. This was a group of concrete silos 'which would make Le Corbusier weep with envy' [cf Owen Hatherley - thanks Owen that's a great quote].
Amylum was a glucose refinery and  was sold to Syrol who were/are French. One day a French demolition crew came in and demolished the lot - with never a by-your-leave, planning consent, a polite note to next door, or anything.  Silos were gone before we knew it. They cleared off back to France and left the site empty and open to all.

If anyone is interested in more info let me know.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

More news from Greenwich and its industrial history

GLIAS Newsletter

Congratulations to GLIAS (Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society)
Congratulations – because after nearly sixty years Newsletter 296 is partly in colour and includes some photographs.  It’s very nice – but whatever next!

They advertise some walks for this summer.   The one most relevant to Greenwich is on the 7th of July when they are looking at Deptford - the site of the Dockyard, the Victualling yard, the power station, the railway station and Creek bridges
You can book by Emailing

(and by the way – this walk is being led by Peter Finch – and if he would like to get in touch with Greenwich Industrial History Society I’m sure we would welcome his input – so – Peter – please email)

Another reasonably local walk is around London Bridge and Bermondsey on 6th October – book through same email as above.

On 26th June is a visit to Morden College on Blackheath which is arranged by Dave Perrett. Book for this before 21st June at  Morden College as a major Greenwich landowner made a huge contribution to the industrial history of Greenwich and their archive is a key resource for any historian working in our area

We have already noted the European Year of Cultural Heritage competition to serenade any remaining Industrial chimneys. I would recommend the videos of the 14 entries – many of them are Greek tomato factories.

GLIAS has noted this and accompanying it is a wonderful picture of our own amazing chimney at the Dockyard site in Woolwich Church Street – they say it one of the best surviving examples in London as an octagonal brick chimney built about 1843 for the steam factory at Woolwich Dockyard.

Although I think voting on the best video has already taken place if any musician reading this wanted to take themselves down to Woolwich and play Ode to Joy by the chimney and films it I would be happy to circulate this around Europe!

Thanks also to GLIAS for circulating the link to our gasholder petition.


And thanks for the review of Greenwich Historical Society’s Journal with Tony’s article on the unfortunate dead parachutist, Robert Cocking, and my article on early gas in Greenwich.
And for noting the death of our late friend Darrell Spurgeon


This is the national newsletter – No. 185 – and quite a bit about Greenwich again –

- the newsletter includes articles about European links and work on industrial heritage in Europe.
There is an article about Enderby House and the work of the Enderby Group – particular stress is laid on proposed sculptures funded by Barratts.

And also, a half page article on the London County Council and the free Thames Crossings – in particular the Blackwall and the two foot tunnels.

Note about the possibility of a public ferry over to Trinity Buoy Wharf from QE pier.

Westcombe News

Thanks for the link to the gasholder petition

Greenwich Info
Note they have taken an interest in historical groups – but only mention family history and groups which are part of community centres – no mention of Greenwich Historical Association, Woolwich Antiquarians, us, and many others. Strange!

One of the others - Greenwich Park History Group

We have been sent copies of their minutes and are very impressed at the work they are doing and what they have uncovered – history of the bandstand (please – Barbara – we would love to publish this here!) – the Queens Orchard and changes made for observing the Transit of Venus – project on allotments in the Great War – and the conduits.

Hope they keep in touch – guess we have a big overlapping membership.  Always happy to help.


This is the web page of the Thames Estuary Partnership which sends out newsletters on a regular basis

Thank you them for including the East Greenwich Gasholder petition as an item
Other issues raised include environmental and social items as well as subjects of general Thames interest


and ....

Thanks to Darryl the 853 blogger who was kind enough to let me contribute an item about the Greenwich Borough Hall which was built by the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich and now has an uncertain future. I understand there is likely to much more to this story than I knew when I wrote it ………………………………. watch this space

Monday, 4 June 2018


Here's another view of the holder:

Sign the petition and keep fit  -

(thanks to GMVA for the pic)

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Notes and serenades

Gasholder – this cracking picture has appeared on the GMV facebook page
thanks Laiura Diggle
The latest edition of the GLIAS Journal – London’s Industrial Archaeology No. 16-  is with us. It includes a very important article by James Hulme about the Charlton Riverside.
As many of our readers will know James and how he started work on the Charlton riverside as an assessment of the site for the Council before the development began.  unusually in thse circumstances he has given us an extremely detailed industrial history of an interesting and so far undeveloped area. 
He begins with one of the oldest buildings in the area - the Anchor and Hope pub - moving on to Castle’s shipbreakers at the end of Anchor and Hope Lane. He continues with notes on other riverside sites – including Cory’s dry dock and boatyard, the Glenton and Angerstein railways and of course Siemens. From the 20th century there is United Glass, Bridon and Stones and – much else.
I’m sure people will want to see this article and  copies of the Journal .   Please email
Also in the Journal  includes an article on Great Western Railway employee hostels in London by David Thomas , the Montgomery timber merchants from Brentford by Beverley Ronalds,  Coalbrooke decorative ironwork in London, by David Perrett, and W.T.Gilbert  mathematical instrument makers of Tower Hill by  D.J.Bryden.

We’re getting a lot of requests for information about the proposed desise of the decorative footbridge across Plumstead station.  Network rail needs to install a lift for disabled access between the platforms of Plumstead and unfortunately they have been unable to this and still keep the decorative ironwork bridge. There are now many calls to have  the bridge main retained.  This is clearly a difficult and sensitive issue with rights on both sides of the argument.
Deborah O’Boyle has written  This delightful bridge was built for SE Railway, in 1892, by Joseph Westwood & Co (over in Millwall) .  Please see the GIHS facebook page for more info from Debs on this.

853 has reported on the first outings (in Gdansk!) of the new Woolwich ferries
More news about plans in Europe to create a European database of extant chimneys.  There have been entries to the competition of videos of people serenading chimneys. Apparently none have been received from the UK – but you can see the serenades at

Monday, 21 May 2018

Congratulations Barbara

Congratulations to Barbara Gasometra Berger in Munich on your PhD on gasholders

(We understand there is a chapter on East Greenwich gasholder - can't wait to see it!)

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

News and that

­Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter. 

They advertise their own future programmes: 2 pm for 2.15 pm on Saturday at Charlton House, in the Grand Salon.
12 May   Research & Discoveries, Pearly History & Woolwich Potteries
9 June     A further Date with Buildings
14 July    Blue Cross Kennels and Pet Cemetery, Shooters Hill Road
13 Oct     Mudlarking by the Thames
10 Nov    An Edwardian Nursery Magic Lantern Show

CROSSNESS ENGINES TRUST   Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, London, SE29AQ Tel 0208311 3711
Family Open Days - Non Steaming,Beam Engine House closed for asbestos removal.
20 May, 17 June, 15 July 10:30am- 4:00pm

18th May Discovering Earthlike Planets.  Mycenae House, 90 Mycenae Road, Blackheath, SE3 7SE

Welling and District Model Engineering Society, Falconwood, 2-5pm
20 May; 3, 17 June; 1, 15,29 July; 12,26 Aug; 9, 23 Sept; 70ct; 16 Dec,Santa Special

WADAS also reports on the Positive Plumstead Project - Their first major concern is the White Hart Road Depot and Plumstead High Street Revamp. We have often reported concerns about the Depot here and it is good to find someone else taking an interest,

They say “The Borough of Greenwich have £2.5m funding from the GLA to brighten up Plumstead - dividing it between the Grade II listed White Hart Road Depot and Plumstead High Street. The White Hart Road Depot is to have workspaces and community facilities such as studios, rehearsal spaces, a nursery, and a gallery. A public square and a pub are mooted.
In his book The Woolwich Story E F E Jefferson says that "In June 1901, work was commenced on a generating and refuse destruction works at White Hart Road, Plumstead, and was formally opened by the Mayor, Cllr J JMessent in October 1903. The cost was £40,000, some £2,600 being spent on direct labour- an early instance of what later became a common feature in the Borough."
The building was the Borough's electricity generating station for Woolwich and Plumstead, a combined rubbish incinerator and electricity generating station being most unusual for the time. The generating plant was closed in the 1920s following the take over and enlargement of the privately built 1895 power station of the Woolwich Electricity Company at Globe Lane. (The site of the, now demolished, power station was temporarily laid out as Arsenal Gardens, but is now being covered by tower blocks of flats by Berkeley.)  However, the incinerator carried on working into the 1970s until replaced by the SELCHP plant in Deptford. The building became a depot for general storage (some items being of significance but also for such things a spare door handles for buildings that had come and gone). The depot was closed, and the building allowed to deteriorate. Most recently Crossrail have used (and refurbished) it while building the Elizabeth line.

WADAS also report on “Industrial Conservation Areas in Charlton -  the Greenwich and Woolwich & Thamesmead Planning Committee (of councillors) were, bar one, unanimous in agreeing to designate "Bowater Road and Thames Barrier" and "Charlton Riverside" as conservation areas. This has now been ratified.
Bowater Road is home to the largely complete, albeit disused, Siemen's works. This is the last of many  telecommunication works that used to line the Thames - they supplied the world, and did pioneering work in digital transmission up to 1980s. It is the last to survive of the several major telegraph and telephony businesses in the Borough, and probably the best preserved in the UK (the rump of the Telcon works in Greenwich is still active, though most of its site has now been covered by blocks of flats).

Charlton Riverside has other industrial assets, for instance early Cory works, but also a group of high quality workers' dwellings at Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens. 



“Discussions are also starting on what we are calling Bazalgette 200 for the bicentenary of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's birthday falls on 28 March 2019. Planning and fundraising for events to celebrate the engineering genius who created Crossness is about to start. Anyone who has bright ideas about this or would otherwise like to help please do get in touch”.

A visitor from Sweden came to ask about Bessemer’s Greenwich works.  He is interested in Göran Fredrik Göransson (1819-1900).

“In 1841 (at 22) he became a partner in the business run by his mother's family, Daniel Elfstrand & Co. The company acquired an ironworks at Högbo and a blast furnace at Edske. In 1856 Göransson travelled to England to buy a steam engine for the blast furnace, but returned having bought a fifth of Bessemer's patent for steel production. With backing from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences he carried out experiments using a Bessemer converter. Initially he tried to stick to Besemer's instructions of using small air tubes (tuyeres) at the base combined with high air pressure. Eventually he ignored this and tried instead with larger tuyeres and a lower pressure and finally produced what is said to be the first ever commercial "pour" of steel using the Bessemer method in July 1858. He corresponded regularly with Bessemer reporting on his progress, but Bessemer failed to even mention him in his autobiography. He opened a steelworks in Sandviken, Sweden in 1862, which after initial difficulties became Sandviken Jernverks AB in 1868. The same company is still in business in the same place), although now only producing specialist steels

APPG Launch Industrial Heritage report

Following from the Evidence Sessions held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Industrial Heritage a report has emerged called “Report on the Challenges facing the Industrial Heritage Sector"

This was apparently launched at an event on 1st May with many attendees (but not us obviously - or even asked us what we thought!)
The report's key findings are that industrial heritage was vital in the formation of local and national identities, and is highly valuable in the UK's contemporary society as a source of economic potential. By providing an examination of the value of industrial heritage to the United Kingdom and the major social, economic and cultural issues impacting this sector, the APPG has compiled a series of conclusions and recommendations on how to face the challenges of the future.
You can read it at


Railway lifting bridge over Deptford Creek

We had been asked if the railway lift bridge over Deptford Creek was listed – as a result we have been sent lots of interesting information about it.  Here are some extracts from the report on it in 2012.

English Heritage were asked to assess the railway lifting bridge over Deptford Creek for designation. It is understood that Network Rail are currently considering demolishing the superstructure of the bridge as it no longer functions as a lifting bridge. Deptford Creek forms the boundary between LB Lewisham to the west and LB Greenwich to the east. The eastern supports of the bridge stand on the the Grade 11 listed railway viaduct from the platforms of Greenwich Station to Deptford Creek Bridge in LB Greenwich. The western supports of the bridge stand on the unlisted pier in the centre of the creek which is in LB Lewisham. LB Lewisham is currently considering including the bridge within the proposed Deptford Creek Conservation Area and also locally listing the structure. This is somewhat complicated by the bridge falling within the two boroughs. A 2009 heritage report on Deptford Creek by Design for London noted the bridge as a significant heritage asset.

The applicant, Network Rail, Design for London and the two Local Planning Authorities concerned were consulted. LB Lewisham in their response of 13 December 2011 noted the historical context of the London-Greenwich railway line and the importance of Deptford Creek and its related industry to the growth of Deptford. Also asserted was the fact that the electrical operation of the lifting bridge was a technical achievement for its time and the design, in contrast to Kingsferry Bridge, reflected the functionality of the lifting bridge. Design for London noted in their response of 15 June 2011 that the bridge was identified as a significant heritage asset in the 2009 London Development Agency Deptford Creek regeneration heritage report.

As a specific building type, vertical lift bridges are rare nationally with probably not many more than a dozen surviving examples in England, ranging in date from the mid-C19 to 2000 and including road, railway and pedestrian use

In architectural terms the Deptford Creek lifting bridge is a purely utilitarian structure constructed of steel box girders with no attempt at architectural embellishment. The gantry containing the operating gear, for example, is crudely constructed of steel sheets. Whilst this is perhaps to be expected, with its relatively short span, it lacks the engineering grandeur of the listed Tees (Newport) Bridge. It should be stressed that we have been asked to consider the bridge itself and not the viaduct (already listed) and the pier it rests on. The pier has good quality rusticated masonry dating from its construction in the 1830s but this does not form part of the current assessment. It is perhaps surprising that it was not included in the listing of the viaduct which continues either side of it.

The vertical lift railway bridge was opened in December 1963, designed by AH Cantrell, Chief Civil Engineer, British Rail Southern Region and built by Sir William Arrol and Co of Glasgow. It was the third bridge to cross Deptford Creek along the Grade" listed railway viaduct, originally built by the London and Greenwich Railway in 1836. The first bridge, constructed c1838, was described in 1840 as ' ... a Balance-Bridge which requires the power of eight men to raise it when necessary for the purpose of allowing masted vehicles to pass above Bridge. On each side of the viaduct between the Spa Road and Deptford is a carriage and footway enclosed by a brick fence-wall'. This bridge was replaced in 1884 by a similar double drawbridge, each section winched up to a simple steel frame superstructure on either side of the bridge. The current bridge was able to lift 40 tonnes and was operated by electrical winches. It no longer functions as a vertical lift bridge having been welded closed, probably due to problems with the foundations.

The bridge comprises two spans across the dual channels of the creek at this point. The western span is fixed and is included in the listing for the viaduct between Deptford Creek and North Kent Junction. The eastern channel is bridged by the vertical lift bridge. This comprises four braced, square-section, steel columns (approximately 20m in height) containing the lifting hoists, one pair on either side of the channel, joined by a steel box-truss. The two supports are linked at their centre by a further truss (parallel with the railway line) which carries the enclosed steel-clad gantry containing the electrical operating gear. The supports rest on large concrete blocks, which in turn rest on the footings of the original bridge, encased in dressed Portland stone. The vertical lift track section is supported on large steel l-beams which bear the name of the Lanarkshire Steel Company.

So - its not listed but apparently the buttresses are

And while we are on the subject of listing. Richard Buchanan has sent us this piece from the archives about Enderby House

Municipal Offices Woolwich,
Buildings of Architectural or Historical Interest
Enderby' House, Enderby' Wharf, SE10
January 1973

When the Borough wide study of possible listed buildings was carried out by my officers last summer it did not appear from external survey that this building would attract a mention, but I was then unaware of the internal features and historical associations which you mentioned in your letter.
I understand from the Department of the Environment their investigator may have missed it altogether, and I have, therefore, asked them to let me have their observations, at the same time drawing their attention to the interior and to the history.
I have requested this to be done as soon as possible in view of the threat of demolition and which I understand, could arise from future reorganisation and redevelopment by the owners.
Borough Planning Officer 

Subterranea Brittanica’s Journal for April 2018  Issue 47 contains an article on Early Thames Subways. ‘The North and South Woolwich Subway and other failed schemes for a Thames crossing at Woolwich”. by Peter Bone

He begins “ The Woolwich foot tunnel was built by the London County Council and opened in 1912 but more than a quarter of a century earlier, an attempt was made to create a foot tunnel under the Thames at Woolwich” and goes on to describe an abortive earlier scheme “n 1873 the North and South Woolwich Subway Company was formed. Plans for a pedestrian tunnel between Woolwich and North Woolwich were prepared”

This is a fascinating article and copies can be obtained through the Sub-Brit web site  Please read it!

Peter Bone also mentions the 1904 North and South Woolwich Electric Railway. This was to be a short line passing under the river, with a station at Beresford Square and at the junction of Albert Road and High Street.

And also a proposal in 1919 for a tunnelled electric monorail service between Beresford Square and North Woolwich station.
                         and there is even a picture of that!