Monday, 20 May 2019

Siemens - whales - Enderby - underground - George Elliott

Apologies for not putting it out earlier but have been working flat out on the new book which we hope to get out in time for the Greenwich Book Festival.   It’s going to be a rerun of ‘Greenwich Marsh’ but with 20 years more information.  Keep in touch

We have a ‘help help’ call from a member who has been asked to do some research on the Siemens site which is currently being developed.  He says “I cannot get access to the Siemens engineering archive ……………. so if any members of the GIHS have a particular interest in Siemens Brothers during the period of the report I would be grateful for any assistance they could give me in my research’.

This is of course because the Heritage Centre and archive are closed –so much for promises of access !!


We have had a copy of the latest issue of the ‘Dockyards’ which is the newsletter of the Royal Dockyards Association. Of course this covers dockyards all round the world so it’s not all about Deptford and Woolwich.  

There is a report on a walk round Woolwich to see the remnants the Dockyard and the Arsenal. They comment that many of the older buildings are dwarfed by new blocks of flats.  They also note how disappointing it is to see the Greenwich Heritage Centre has closed and they have made representations to the Council about this – complaining that the proposed site at Anchor and Hope Lane is too remote to get to easily and will only be available for five years

There is also report of a meeting which we didn’t report on at the time – and probably should have done - which was ‘Hidden Deptford’. This was an event at St. Nicholas Church and 'Dockyards' Editor says how astonished he was to see such an amazing number of people in the audience.   The first speaker was David Davies, author of 'Pepys Ships' and also 'Kings of the Sea'.  He talked about the foundation of the Dockyards because it was easy it was to get there from Whitehall and the Tower of London as well as the Palace in Greenwich. The Thames was central for shipbuilding because in the 17th century the amount of warfare in the North Sea and how Deptford and Woolwich became research and development yards. By the 19th century the area was less accessible for large the naval ships.  He was followed by Richard Edensor talking about the women of Restoration Deptford – an iron contractor in Susan Beckford and Ann Pearson is a rat catcher/ he also talked about Deptford shipwright John Shish. There was also a series of folk songs by the South East London Folk Orchestra and then another talk about the proposed built building of the Lenox.

Naval Dockyards Society has put out a call for papers for their Conference on the 4th of April, 2020 at the National Maritime Museum.  This is to be called ‘Where Empires Collide.  Dockyards and Naval Bases in and around the Indian Ocean.’  Details available from the Society and proposals should be sent before the 30th of October 2019 to Philip McDougal (details from me)


Thank you to Sue Allen for sending a copy of an article about Sir George Elliot’s - he is the man who is half of the firm of Glass Elliot who were largely responsible for setting up cable manufacture at Enderby Wharf.   The article is taken from Journal of the Gelligaer Local History Appreciation Society and is by Professor Bernard Knight. It gives details of the life and career of Sir George.  He describes how George began as the son of a collier in Newcastle and whose first job was at the age of nine working in the coal mine. A friend of the family taught and arithmetic and he later attended night classes. At the mine his engineering and financial talents led him to become a consultant and manager and he leased and eventually owned other collieries. He became a major industrialists and important politician – a close friend of the Prime Minister, Disraeli, and ended up with the sixth richest man in England.


We have a copy of ‘Subterranea’ the Journal of Subterranea Britannica

I’m sorry to see in it an obituary to Harry Pearman who has come to speak to GIHS in the past about his research of all things underground for which he was well known. The obituary, by Paul Sowan, mentions that in his professional life Harry was an IT specialist and that he worked ‘for other local authorities’. This was in fact London Online Local Authorities which was based in Greenwich in John Harrison House which was demolished for the new University of Greenwich Architects Department buildings in Stockwell Street.  This was an extremely interesting and very unusual local government body. It was a consortium of local authorities, which included Greenwich, set up at a time when most of the population had never heard of computers - in the early 1960s.  We take for granted today the use of computers for things like working out rates payments and payroll –  but in those days a lot of what they had to do was just to try and explain to suspicious and disbelieving  Council Officers what it was about.  They were remarkable for having one of the first ever business computers – a Leo – which originated with Lyons Tea Shop company. No one worldwide had thought of using computers in business until Lyons did it and they had to make their own machines. This was revolutionary albeit it used paper tape and had no random access. Harry was a leading member of the team.

While Harry was at John Harrison House he added in a considerable amount of underground research in Greenwich which was published in the Journals of the Chelsea Speleological society in the 1960s. These articles have formed a basis which other researchers on underground Greenwich have followed up on. Harry’s initial research has been crucial in understanding what lies underground in Greenwich.
And very sorry to hear he has died.


London and the Whaling Trade.  We have at last received the report on a conference held in 2013 about London and the whaling industry which includes two articles of interest to Greenwich historians.

One of them is by Charles Payton – ‘the Enderby family and their World’.  This is a very impressive article about the background of Enderby family over several generations.  It asks the question throughout of where did the family get their money from which allowed them to afford to run the very large fleet f whaling vessel and sponsor the explorers.  The article tracks three generations and their links with other businesses particularly with people in the Americas. Towards the end he also talks about their use of various chemicals and links with various chemical companies - I had also realised this and was very interested to see his comments on Kyan’s timber preservation work as well his work with naphtha on rubber for rope and cable manufacture. It’s a great article and please read it.

Another article is by Kevin Reilly and Guy Thompson about the ‘Bay Wharf whale and some early Thames strandings’.  It is about the whale skeleton found at Bay Wharf buried in the foreshore which is thought to be from the 17th century. They also established that it was killed there. I am sorry that the article doesn’t include Chris Ellmers very amusing talk - which he gave at the Conference -about 17th century pamphlets on stranded Whales. Perhaps we should be pleased to say our latest whale at Gravesend seems to have swum off unharmed. 

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

More bits of news

Congratulations to Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society on the on the publication of an Occasional Paper (No. 5)  called "Sweets and Schooldays'  and is a series of reminiscences from WADS members on the sweets they ate and the schools they went to.

At the last GIHS meeting Richard Buchanan told us about street furniture in Greenwich and Woolwich.  A report of a talk  by Richard on this subject was given in a recent WADAS newsletter .

SO - the other reason for congratulating WADAS is that at last they have got a web site!!  The report of Richards talk can thus be read at

On Monday night was the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels.  They seem to have got a bit bogged down in trying to get new bylaws passed  - the scheme seems to be held up in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.  One report to the meeting was about a plan for a cycle crossing at Rotherhithe this is for a bridge, but there is apparently an alternative plan for electric ferries run by the Thames Clipper people.  See

We also understand that the Woolwich Foot Tunnel is to become end of the English Coast path. See   We also understand that Ian Blore is to lead an walk through the tunnel for the organisers of this initiative. Details soon.

There had been a bit of a kerfuffle in Westcombe Park and Charlton through the abrupt threat of closure of the Angerstein foot crossing by Network Rail.  The Angerstein railway itself can only be known to a few people in the Borough and the foot crossing itself only known by the few hundred people who use it on a daily basis.  A bridge to the crossings runs from Westcombe Park station across the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Motorway. an article about these should appear in the w
Weekender in due course. In the meantime Network Rail changes their collective mind about immediate closure plans following a petition set up by the Westcombe Society, a letter and phone calls from our MP Matt Pennycook, and a letter from the Council legal department!1

We understand or that there is plan to re-build a draw dock at Riverside Gardens (that is what people used to call Lovell's Wharf or Greenwich Wharf).   I think that was a drawdock originally set up by the Greenwich Board of Works in the 19th century. More info would be good.

We understand that archaeological work is about to start on Building 10th Southern block, Royal Arsenal.

AND ………………….

GIHS had an e-mail from someone who was concerned that gutta percha decoration around the door of Enderby House had disappeared.  But no - the leaves were a feature on the building adjacent to Enderby House which unfortunately has been demolished by the developer. Gutta Percha was the substance used successfully as an insulator on early under water cables.

Enderby House itself is supposed to be a pub opens by Youngs.  Something seems to have impeded the pub opening and we look forward to try and find out what it is and making sure that Youngs include the correct historical information when it is fitted out.

The Greenwich Archive Users Forum have published their third newsletter and this can be obtained from,

Can anyone help with this enquiry??

"I am looking for any information relating to Wakeley Brothers of Otterham Quay, Rainham,Kent nd their barges They had offices at Honduras wharf in London. 
I would like to find an image of a Wakeley barge in full sail advertising their 'Famous Hop Manure’. 

Monday, 29 April 2019

Greenwich's Black 'Ole

Greenwich’s secret war time location. 
‘The Black ‘Ole’ in Tunnel Glucose.

Unless you worked at the Tunnel Glucose factory during or shortly after the Second World War you might not know what the ‘Black ‘Ole ‘was. It certainly was not a hole but it was really black as I can personally vouch. My father, who worked at Tunnel Glucose from 1935 until 1954, used to tell me anecdotes about the war time work carried out there. Even after the war finished the ‘Black ‘Ole’ continued to operate and I visited it several times with my father to see and wonder at the fantastic colours and experience the acrid smells that were being produced.

What was the ‘Black ‘Ole’ you ask. Very simple it was the location of a massive crucible that smelted down scrap metal at extremely high temperatures to produce magnesium. As this then went into the production of armour plating for armoured vehicles e.g. tanks etc. it was classified as a reserved occupation. Therefore, my father was not called up but both he and my mother became members of the Auxiliary Fire Service which helped fight the fires that resulted from bombings during and after ‘The Blitz’.

My uncle Dick worked in the ‘Black ‘Ole ‘after the war and I used to see him labouring in the filthy, baking hot environment. In the middle of this old building was the crucible full of molten meatal which was positioned over a massive furnace. The smelted metal would be poured into waiting receptacles and at that point there were sparks everywhere lighting up the dark and dismal work area which was full of black soot. So, it became commonly known as the ‘Black ‘Ole’. We often visited my uncle and aunty who lived in Dupree Road and was used to see him bathing in a tin tub in front of the fire. He was always known to my brother and I as ‘Dirty’ Dick due to the dirty condition he came home in after work. My father used to really tell us off if we referred to my uncle as anything other than Uncle Dick. As an ex-soldier my uncle joined the Corps of Commissionaire when the smelting process closed and he subsequently got a job as a security guard on the main works gate at Tunnel Glucose.

One of the other stories my late father used to tell me was about the time he had a visit from a scrap metal merchant during the war. The person trying to sell the scrap to the works manager asked my father to give his boss a box of cigars which was a gift from the supplier. My father duly took the present into his boss but before he went in, he noticed the seal on the box was broken. Being a nosy person, my father opened the lid to find that one of the cigars was missing and in its place was a roll of banknotes the same size as a cigar. He duly closed the lid and on entering his boss’s office handed the box over and left the supplier to start the negotiations with his boss on the value of the scrap metal. My father was never sure what the quality of the scrap was and what it would have yielded for the war effort.

My father was not necessarily always an innocent party during the war as confirmed by another tale he told me of an event that happened during a fire in the East End. As mentioned previously he was in the AFS and was called out to a major fire in a bonded warehouse. On arriving at the scene, he and his crew were advised by the police on duty that if they looked in the fire hydrants when fixing their hoses, they might find something of interest. Being a bonded warehouse full of alcohol I will leave the details of their finds to your imagination. Quite a few people were seen leaving the building clutching its contents!

Very fond memories and I am sure that my father had many more tales to tell .

Graham McDougal

1 May 2019

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Belated news

I'm sorry that nothing has been on here in the way of news for some time, very remiss...………...

So what have we got?
Crossness Engines.  We ought to congratulate Crossness Engines on the big party they had to celebrate Joseph Bazalgette's 200th birthday.  this was a great event with all sorts of people including the Mayor of Greenwich and Peter Bazalgette's (the great man's great grandson) and many more. The event included a ceremony to rename a locomotive ' Bazalgette' in preparation for their new railway.  More on that elsewhwere

We have been sent a copy of an excellent new book of photographs of Thamesmeand called 'The Town of Tomorrow. 50 Years of Thamesmead'. I'm not going to pretend that the book is particularly industrial but it does have pictures of building work on the site as well as pictures of the inhabitants and the houses. There is also an essay on the town and how it came to be built. Its a great local book about our area and we should all read it.

The Medieval Port of London.  This is the subject of a conference organised by the Docklands History Group to be held at the Museum of London on 18 May.  It looks like being a great events and if you haven't booked already information is on the Docklands History Group website;

GLIAS Newsletter April 2019
There is nothing about Greenwich per se in the newsletter but there are lots and lots events you can go to.
15th May GLIAS AGM. this is followed by a talk on Trinity Buoy Wharf and the proposed historic ships collection for London. This is very relevant to us as Trinity Buoy Wharf is just across the river from the Peninsula.  It is at The Gallery 75 Cowcross Street EC1 -opposite Farringdon Station and very accessible now we have trains which go to St.Pancras, 6.15.

The Brunel Engine House is holding a series of events to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Sir Marc Brunel. 
24th April.  Talk by Robert Hulse, the director of the Brunel Museum on the Tunnel. Brunel Engine House- just behind Rotherhithe Station. 7.45
29th May Thames Tideway Project Director of Mike Sawyer on London's Super Sewers. 7.30
26the June FOGWOFT'S Ian Blore on London's Forgotten Foot Tunnel at Woolwich. visit and walk

Other talks from the GLIAS Newsletter which might be of interest to Greenwich

27th April Low tide walk through Deptford Creek. Creekside Discovery Centre 40 Creekside SE8
5th May. Crossness Engines public steaming. Bazalgette Way. 10.30-4.
5th May House Mill guided tour £4  Three Mills Lane, Bromley by Bow E3  (behind Tesco)
11th May Trevithick Day at Dartford.  Dartford Central Park 10-5
12th May Low Tide walk through for Deptford Creek as above
19th May House Mill to tour as above

The Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society Newsletter is packed full of information.  First some dates
11th May Woolwich Women at War by Steve Hookins. Woolwich Antiquarians Charlton House 2 pm
8th June Iron Men, Henry Maudsley by Ian Waller. Charlton House 2 pm
6th July Royal Greenwich four World War One VCs Jim Marrett. Charlton house 2 pm

27th April James Ellis, Charlton developer by Barbara Holland Charlton Society. Charlton House  2.30
18th May Brigadier M Richads of Charlton. Military and industrial Peter Guillery Charlton Society. Charlton House  2.30
15th June Charlton Society Summer party at Woolwich Garrison church

We are also pleased to see the announcement that the Falconwood Miniature Railway has had a stay of eviction until the autumn.  The railway will therefore then run on: 21st April, 5th & 19th May, 2nd,16th, 30th June, 14,28 July, 11th,25th August, 8,22 September, 6th October.  The railway is behind the electricity transmission station on Falconwood Way.

There many other items covered by WADAS - in addition to their AGM report and Chair's Report for 2018. There is also a conservation report - most items of which will have been dealt elsewhere here.

Also and as well .................

The Prince Philip Maritime Collection Centre.  This is a bit of a mystery. There has been a store for the Maritime Museum for a long time in Kidbrook. They were in a building which dated from the Second World War - said by them to be a hospital although this seems unlikely (let's see your evidence!) This has been replaced by a grand new building but it seems very difficult to find anything out about it. You can see it from the motorway by the bend at the Kidbrooke turn off. It is said to include a Visitor Centre but its very unclear when it can be visited.  The old building was stuffed full of really really interesting items and a was very very large collection. WADAS reports one of their members having a snoop round and getting nowhere but have also had a report which says there are millions of items in the collection and all are recorded on the computer but are taking time to shift into the new building. You can't just turn up and knock on the door - you have to book. So let's see.

The Antiquarians also report on the QR (quick response) tag system. This is something which the Enderby Group has been taking up and it has been installed on the Lay Lines sculpture at Enderby House. It is a system where you can dial up on your Smart phone to get more information about the site. Enderby Group has been trying to interest the various Greenwich tourist organisations - Visit Greenwich and so on - in setting up something wider but without much success.  Chamber of Commerce are now interested. Of course there are problems which will need to be overcome - but if people work together the borough could do something, and with the help of local societies rather than expensive consultants.

Covered Market and the listing of the Lamella roof. This listing has meant the market cannot be demolished as the developer had planned (despite the consultant, Alan Baxter's, report to keep it) It also appears likely that a new conservation area will keep the frontage of shops along Plumstead Road which the developer again had wanted to demolish.

Charlton Riverside. As people the development scheme was turned down and this refusal was endorsed by the London Mayor. It is understood local residents are getting together to try ensure development is suitable for the site and local people

41 Kings Highway. This is a property with a horse and cart through passage which may have led to a stable. The owner wanted to convert it into a room. Refusal was backed by a local campaign and the local conservation officer it means that he is likely to be Listed

Greenwich Mural Workshop is bidding for funding to renew the benches around about what was the Rathmore Community Centre which are 30 years old and originally designed by them

Finally there is a  report on Richard Buchanan's street furniture talk which he gave to GIHS  and more on that to come

These days there is a lot of industrial history online - when GIHS started this was a lone voice - but now its everywhere! Always happy to give publicity if people ask - otherwise it gets quite difficult trying to keep up.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

My Father’s Work Experiences at Tunnel Glucose,

My Father’s Work Experiences at Tunnel Glucose
Tunnel Avenue, East Greenwich.

My father, Percy McDougal, was born in 1908 in Siebert Road, Blackheath, the youngest of five children. He left school at the age of 14 and did a variety of jobs including shop work and painting and decorating.  In 1932 he married my mother Doris Hughes and at that time he was working as a shop assistant. By 1935 he had joined Tunnel Glucose and gradually worked his way up the ladder until he became works superintendent. This being his position when he left the company in 1954.

During the 1930’s he made several trips to the company’s parent factory in Alost, Belgium. At that time travel was limited to taking the train to Dover and then ferry to Ostend in order to catch another train to Alost. It was during one of these trips to Belgium that he fell out with management due to the toilet facilities available. The rule in the Belgium factory was that all toilets that the workers used were not fitted with doors. It was considered necessary in order for the workers to be seen taking their toilet break. There was much fear amongst local management that workers would use the toilets as an excuse to skip off to have a smoke. Smoking at the place of work was of course not allowed on hygiene grounds. My father objected strongly that he was not prepared to give up his privacy when the call of nature came. Thus, he made a stand for him to use the same toilets as the Senior Management as they had doors which could be closed when in use. I understood from him that my father won the day but totally upset the company’s Belgium managers.

Tower Julie delivering grain from Amsterdam 1970s
photo Pat O'Driscoll
By the time the second world war started my father was on the way up and in mid forties he had been appointed works foreman. This enabled our family to move from the rented upstairs flat in Chevening Road to a house at the top of Tunnel Avenue, a few doors down from the Fire Station.  My cousin told me many years after my father died that he was the first in our family to buy their own home and to have both a tv and a telephone.

The TV was great but the telephone only seemed to ring when my father was needed out of hours to deal with some kind of works emergency. He was forever being contacted to rush back on his bicycle to handle a manufacturing problem which had stopped production. As a process industry the operation was 24 hours per day and 7 days per week. Now we knew why we had a phone. My father was on 24-hour callout.

One specific incident I can recall is when he was called out one night to deal with a major problem with a tanker that had crashed in Blackwall Tunnel. This was before the additional tunnel we have today. Therefore, there was just one access through the old Victorian tunnel under the Thames.This was the only major road artery connecting north and south London.  It was a long way upstream to Tower Bridge and the Woolwich Ferry was very limited and time consuming. The Tunnel Glucose tanker in question had crashed in the tunnel and spilled its entire load across the road. Blackwall Tunnel was completely blocked and the sticky mess would take hours to clean up and let the traffic flow as normal. My father spent all night and most of the next day on the emergency which was so serious that it made the newspapers. There were no TV crews then as there are today but if there were Percy may well have been interviewed and asked to explain what was being done to resolve this massive disruption to road communications. 

Amongst my fondest memories was the times my father used to bring us home ‘sweets’. Sweets were still on ration so in very short supply. The ‘sweets’ that he brought for my younger brother and I were not bought in shops.  They were yummy slabs of solid glucose which had been produced in the company’s laboratory as part of pre-production testing. They were very hard, crunchy and probably didn’t do our teeth much good but to two young boys they were heavenly gifts of luxury.

Another great memory was my first trip in an aeroplane. In 1953 my father had to make a business trip to the factory in Alost. He decided to take an extra week in Alost as holiday so took my mother, my brother and I with him. We flew from Heathrow when I was allowed chewing gum when we took off and landed. The family stayed in the same hotel my father stayed at before the war and we had a marvellous time whilst he worked hard. Other first experiences were drinking Coca Cola and chocolate milk shake, riding in shiny black Chevrolet and Citroen cars and admiring ‘plus fours ‘which all the children wore. My father refused vigorously my request to bring a pair back to the UK. My thanks to Tunnel Glucose for this wonderful opportunity to travel abroad.

Towards the end of my father’s tenure several things happened to Tunnel Glucose. One was the change of name to Tunnel Refineries and the other was being merged or taken over by a company called Glenville’s. I believe that my father was one of the few people who had stayed on and helped the skeleton staff to survive the difficult wartime. He was not called up as he worked in a protected job and had been totally committed to the company having worked there for nearly 20 years.

Management changes to operating policy was too much for my father to handle so he handed in his notice although he was asked several times to reconsider his decision. He left Tunnel Refineries in the summer of 1954.The same year the family moved to Swindon where he and my mother bought a grocer’s shop. He had returned to his earlier role when he and my mother had first met.

I visited the works on several occasions during the early 1950’s some good experiences some not so good but I will expand on these visits in other memories of Tunnel Glucose and living in Tunnel Avenue.
Tunnel Glucose as Amylum fromm the river 1990
photo Peter Luck

 Graham McDougal

5th April 2019

Friday, 5 April 2019

Sir Joseph Bazalgette and Deptford Pumping Station


Photo R.J.M.Carr

28th March was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir Joseph Bazalgette.  He was the Engineer to the 19th century Metropolitan Board of Works - and is most famous for building the London sewage system (and a lot of other things).

On 28th the this year there was a big party down at Crossness Engines - where the sewage from south London all ends up.  People there got a chance to see Busy Basil renamed as Bazalgette - and bits of the new railway, and lots more.

Because of the anniversary a wrote a piece for 'Greenwich Weekender about the works which Bazalgette actually built in Greenwich - Crossness is in Bexley, but only just!

My Weekender article was in their 3rd April edition - and it is on line digitally if you hadn't seen it in print.

The main building which Bazalgette built which is actually in Greenwich is the hidden-away Deptford  pumping station in Greenwich High Road/Norman Road.  This was actually the first building in place for the system - as Mick Delap has just discovered - and has sent me a whole lot of wonderful pictures to prove it. Sadly these have come too late for the Weekender article, so I am putting them below.

I would have thought that the Greenwich High Road pumping station is something we should all be proud of.  It is an amazing and very important listed building - along with a huge decorative iron coal store.  Some of it has recently been done up by the Thames Tideway people who are on part of the site.

I never see any mention of it by the Greenwich Society, or the Council, or anyone about how it is one of our major buildings.  So - come on - lets talk about it.   The Tideway people are going to have some open days soon. So lets all go down and admire what we have,

Here are Mick Delap's pictures - and congratulations to him for a lot of hard work,

and - finally - I know this is a bit of blowing my own trumpet and stuff - but I don't know who sees the articles I've done for Weekender.  So - hope you don't mind - here's a list - all on the digital website

3rd April Bazalgette and Deptford Pumping station
27th March  White Hart Depot
13th March Smells on the Peninsula
6th March Our Poor Doomed Gasholder
1st March 2019 Early copperas industry in Deptford - Nicholas Crispe
6th February 2019 William Joyce shipbuilder
10th October 2018 A world of industrial remains
5th September 2018 The accident at Blackwall Point Power Station
8th August 2018 Women gas workers
16th July 2018 The Charlton, and other, pits
13th June 2018 Sir John Pender - review of book by Stewart Ash
16th May 2018 The Greenwich Harbour Master
18th April 2018 The History of the (gas) holder
21st March 2018 The Greenwich bicycle pioneers
21st February 2018 The Man who built the railway - George Landmann
24th January 2018 The man who built the railway
6th December 2017 The tragic death of Mary Mahoney - killed on her first day at the gunpowder factory.
1st November 2017 Rope- Picking up the strands of our rich history.
3rd October 17th century Woolwich kiln. Gone but not forgotten

Friday, 15 February 2019

David Cuffley on bricks - and also come and hear him next Tuesday

GIHS Meeting on 19th - next Tuesday - we are welcoming David Cuffley who is going to speak 
about Discovering history of a house -case study Salutation Alley Woolwich

David works hard for the North West Kent Family History Society - and is a big expert on brick manufacture.  He is a big support to GIHS and has helped us with many queries about bricks and buildings over the year

Recently he was asked about bricks and Placentua Palace in Greenwich. I thought you should see his reply. (which I've edited a bit).

"Approximate locations of brickworks used to supply bricks to Placentia Palace.

You ask if ‘bricks were manufactured in East Greenwich and transported by barge and cart’.  The location East Greenwich is not one I recognise for a brickfield,. You should see John Musty’s article ‘Brick Kilns and Brick and Tile Suppliers to Hampton Court’ published in The Archaeological Journal 147, 1990, which wikll give you some help understanding the brickmaking industry in the 16th century. 

Musty refers to RICHARD RECOLVER (sometimes RECULVER) of Greenwich working on Hampton Court, Greenwich Palace and St John’s College. My interpretation of the of ‘Greenwich’ is either he was from Greenwich or that he acquired that suffix from having worked on Greenwich Palace for such a long construction period rather only a season (April to October).  My best guess that he was an itinerant brickmaker who came to projects to make bricks rather having his own kiln and transporting the bricks to the site. If Richard Reculver was an itinerant brickmaker I would expect him to be clamp burning bricks rather than have a permanent kiln structure. One small problem is the terms ‘clamp’ and ‘Kiln’ are frequently mixed/misused in old records. However clamps were widely used in this part of Kent right up to Dawson’s brickfield in the late 19th century at East Wickham. 

The Hampton Court records note some brickmakers delivered their bricks to the site and Musty says these were local brickmakers with some others as far away as Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire; 40 miles. My rule of thumb for brick transport by cart is 5 miles out loaded and then back in a day.  Part of the reason for lots of rural brickfields that are difficult to precisely locate, except by parish name.
Greenwich had one major advantage for brick transport and that’s the river. As an example Vanburgh Castle next to Greenwich Park in the 18th century used bricks from as far away as Fulham and Maidstone on the Medway. These were delivered by barge and then carted up to the site from the river. The accounts give names and details.

If you look at Nathaniel Lloyd’s ‘English Brickwork’ and his table of Brick measurements you will notice his c1520 Hampton Court –East side of clock tower were 8 7/8”-*1/2” x 41/2”-4” x 2” thick and were laid 4 courses to 10”, Deep Red in colour. He also records St Johns College- gateway tower as late 15th century 81/4”x41/2”x21/4” with 4 courses to 111/2 the authority for this he gives as Sir R Blomfield, (Hist. Renaiss. Arch. England p351). 

Two things you might like to check firstly is the brick sizes in the college you are interested in.  If Richard Reculver made the bricks at both places I would expect them to be the same size, although different clays might dictate otherwise. Secondly the quality of the brick as the wide 4 course height and bed joint thickness may indicate a more irregular brick shape. If your research shows similar quality and size bricks then perhaps Richard Reculver was the main brickmaker and this would be the type of brick you should be finding at Greenwich-Placentia Palace. 

None of the excavation reports I have managed to find since receiving your email record the bricks found. If you have any details I would love to receive them.
You also ask if Kentish Rag could have been used. If this is so then the river would have been the transport method fromt the aidstone area via easy access on the Medway. There are still Ragstone quarries at Barming, Kent providing ragstone for roads etc..  My experience in the construction industry; over 40 years; is that stone arrived on site cut and shaped with only adjustments made to ensure each section matched properly. Now stone being heavy I would expect worked sizes were easier to move but could be subject to damage especially in the pre industrial age. In large historic projects I have seen where a stone masons yard was set up adjacent to the building. Raw material was brought into the yard and shaped stone lifted into position. At one repair project I worked on in Brighton I spent a day watching the stone mason shape a new section to match the adjacent stones. A really magic piece of work and gave me a lot of respect for their trade.
To the best of my knowledge there were no Architects in this period, the designers were the builders/building contractor. The brickmaker would have undertaken to make bricks for the project and be paid per 1000 bricks made and burnt. For this he would have employed a team of moulders and labourers he paid out of his money. 

A practice that continued into the 19th century was where a berth or stool of six people worked as a team and bwere paid by the brickmaker/moulder. The setting out and laying of bricks is done by the trade of Bricklayer which is not the same and should not be confused with the brickmaker. Building to a set pattern is not a surprise because that’s the tradition of timber frame buildings, i.e. Weald House. My understanding is most of the work was done by rules of thumb the sizing of piers, walls etc. were all done by trade and previous experience.  I also expect but have no proof or reference that the stone supplier for the window reveals would offer styles and sized members/elements he and is workers were familiar with and knew the stone spans could withstand.
All itinerant workers lived on site up to the early 20th century.   Sydney Twist in his book about Faversham Brickmakers talks of brickmakers living on site in hovels formed with un-mortared brick structures. There are stories in newspapers of brickmakers who found tramps in their hovels pushing the structures down on top of them, killing those inside. Brickmakers were a rough lot, of which some of my ancestors are included.
You ask if Dutch bricklayers involved. I don’t know but I do have brickmakers in the early references in my index with surnames such as ‘Flemyng’, ‘Docheman’, ‘Holland’, ‘Tiler’ and ‘Brykeman’ all 13th to pre 17th century.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Naval Dockyards in Deptford and Woolwich - Conference Report

That excellent organisation, the Naval Dockyards Society, has now produced an important report on a conference held at the National Maritime Museum in 2013 – “500 Years of Deptford and Woolwich Dockyards" - officially the Transactions of the Society (Vol 11 Jan 2019). So what’s inside it?

First paper in the report is by NDS Chair Ann Coats and gives a resume of the history of the dockyards and their subsequent existence. She looks at the current planning processes for both of them – in particular at Deptford where there is still a live planning application whereas Woolwich, as people will know, has had housing on the site for many years. She also looks at what remains from the dockyards including items like the Woolwich Dockyard church which was re-erected in Eltham, were it remains.

Next we have Philip McDougal with a paper entitled the Naval Multiplex of Kentish London - and he’s right, we do need to remember the both the Dockyards were in the County of Kent.  He describes how the establishment of the two Dockyards led to other government owned industrial units being set up in the area = including the ropery at Woolwich and the victualling yard, very much later of course, at Deptford. In Greenwich there were institutions with an emphasis on science and health in the Royal Hospital and the Observatory. He describes how over the centuries changes, not just in society and politically, but also issues like silting in the river led to changes to the Dockyards. He mentions also the importance of the Arsenal to the Navy in supply of Ordnance. This is a detailed paper – and my summary above does it little justice and leaves out much of what he raises.  It leads us to other issues about which we will hopefully hear more in future years.-

Of course the dockyards we’re not the only shipbuilders in this part of London. There were private ship construction yards of Deptford - and of course throughout the surrounding area – ships were built here not just for the Navy but for private companies. Chris Ellmers’s paper was on Deptford’s private shipyards and their relationship to the dockyards between 1790 and 1819. He points out that in the late 18th- early 19th centuries private shipyards in Deptford built not only merchant sailing ships but also warships. He looks at the Dudman’s Yard in Grove Street and Wells and also Barnard in Deptford Green pointing out that they provided one of the nation’s major concentrations of shipbuilding. He gives a great deal of information about these yards and their relationships to the dockyards and how they built large warships.  This is a fascinating paper and easily my favourite in the set. There is a great deal of detail about the ships built and he also discusses the workforce and its skill base. We should not underestimate their contribution to the labour movement. Chris reminds us in discussing workplace organisation that these large workplaces existed here at a time when large factories in other trades elsewhere in the country barely existed.  Chris talks also about ship launches, the impact of the Napoleonic wars, and much else. An important and very interesting paper.

The paper by Peter Cross Rudkin is on John Rennie and the Naval Dockyards 1806- 1821.  It looks at Rennie’s career generally and in particular his role in the dockyards. However, to be honest, it does not say much about Deptford or Woolwich.  it discusses issues like contractors and the context within which Rennie worked in both technical and economic terms but his work at Deptford is described as ‘minor but tricky’ and his work at Woolwich was 'limited'.  However his role as consultant engineer is seen as key in this period.

Mark Stevenson is well known locally as our contact with Historic England. In his paper he looked at the regeneration of the dockyards in a planning context. He also describes his role in the emergence of SHARP which is it an international body which co-ordinates the histories of arsenals and other major historic government military sites manufacturing sites.  He discuss in detail how the planning process has impacted on the two dockyard sites we have locally. This is interesting and extremely informative.

The paper by Duncan Hawkins discusses the archaeological investigations at Convoys Wharf and the work done there. We have of course had a recent detailed report on this work but some this is an important summary of work undertaken at Deptford by the archaeologists

Finally there is a paper by Chris Maseika. People will know Chris from the Shipyards Palace in Deptford. The paper is “Mapping the Built Environment of the former Royal Dockyard at Deptford.  I do think we must very much be grateful to Chris, and Willi, the amount of work they have done on this issue and others. He outlines the changes which have taken place since the closure of the yard but then moves on to a discussion of the architecture and provenance of some of the buildings. He gives much detail about the architectural provenance of officers accommodation and relates it to the development English domestic architecture. This is the fascinating paper which in its originality opens up whole world of possible connections and gives us new insights into the dockyards and their past history - which is not always just about building and repairing warships

This is an important collection of papers about out local Royal Dockyards and raises important issues which are not just about naval ship construction but the influence of them on the society in which we live in today.  We need to be aware that the Naval Dockyards were more than just places visited by Samuel Pepys and where Nelson’s Navy was built but that they had a long existence as workplaces, manufacturing units with a multiplicity of contacts and influences as well a national and international resonance.
Contact Ann Coats for details and copies.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Newsletters, News and stuff

A few notes abour events and so on

GLIAS Newsletter 300

G|LIAS current lecture series
27th February, Mildred Cookson on Roller Flour Mills of London
20th March Tony Riley on London’s Lost Railway Termini
17th April Graham Dolan. Ripples in Time. The Building of Greenwich Power Station and the Unintended Consequences for the Royal Observatory. This is a repeat of the lecture which Graham gave to GIHS last year. It is a very important and interesting lecture and everybody who didn’t hear it in Greenwich should rush up to hear it at GLIAS
15th May AGM (6.15) plus Richard Albanese from Trinity Buoy Wharf.  Again – GIHS heard Richard talk about Trinity Buoy Wharf last month. He is a wonderful speaker on an important local; subject. Go and hear him at GLIAS!
All lectures at 6:30 in the Alan Baxter Ltd gallery 75 Cowcross Street EC1 (round the back and downstairs) See

GLIAS list many other events around London – here are some which may be of interest to Greenwich industrial historians

6th February. Old Rotherhithe. A Docklands History Group film show by Darren Knight 5.30 Museum of London Docklands
12th of February. TFL’s Rail Activities in 2018. This is at the London Underground Railway Society 7.15 Upper Room, All Souls Clubhouse, 141 Cleveland Street, W1
24th February. Low Tide Walk through Deptford creek.  11 am. Creekside Discovery Centre, 14 Creekside SE8
6th March. Riverside Archaeology and Finds. Talk by Jane Sidell. 5.30 Museum of London Docklands
29th March Joseph Bazelgette’s Birthday Party at London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road EC1. It’s free that you need to book
30th March Low Tide walk through Deptford creek 2-4 pm (as above)
31st March. Crossness. Public Steaming day 10.30 -4 Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, SE2
4th April. The Thames River Police.  London Canal Museum talk b/y Martin Wells 7:30 pm 12- 13 New Wharf Road, N1
7th April. Three Mills, House Mill guided tour. -  £4. Three Mill Lane Bromley by Bow E3 - that’s behind Tesco on the Blackwall Tunnel Approach

Elsewhere in the GLIAS Newsletter is an article asking for information about the building in Lewisham High Street which is now the Lewisham Local History Library. What was it before it became a library?


Lewisham Local History Society have sent us their current program
22th February. Mike Brown on the Blitz on Crofton Park
29th March AGM followed by a presentation from Voluntary Auction Lewisham
26th April. Mike Guilfoyle. Some of Lewisham’s Chosen Few - which about people buried in Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery.
31st May Bethelem Royal Hospital in Beckenham
28 June John King on Grove Park in the Great War
All talk to the Methodist Church Hall Albion Way SE 13 7.45

We also have a copy of Lewisham Local History Society Journal No 26 for 2018.  It doesn’t have any articles directly about Greenwich but there is one by Julian Watson on Abraham Colfe. Lewisham benefactor.   Also Carol Harris, Brockley Green to Crofton Park and Diana Beamish on A Teacher, a Carpenter and my family.

Sadly the Lewisham newsletter has on the front page an obituary to John Kennedy Melling.  GIHS members may remember a very memorable talk by him on the Noakesoscope. - a projection system made in Greenwich.


Bromley Local History society meetings

5th February. Pam Preedy on Homes for Heroes – Bromley Garden City
5th March Chris Burton on early and quirky Brixton
2nd April. Elizabeth Haynes. Researching the murder of Harriett Monkton
All meetings 7.45 at Trinity United Reform Church, Freelands Road, Bromley


Greenwich Society Newsletter 2019

We are very pleased to see that the Greenwich Society has published an article by Richard Buchanan on Enderby Wharf and Enderby house in which he ices some of the background and history of the house along with details of the current situation on its refurbishment and the Lay Lines sculpture

Some other articles –
There are some details from Wendy Foreman of the current projects at St Alfege's Church including work in the crypt
They advertise a fundraising event for the Cutty Sark for its 150th Anniversary.  This is on the is on the 2nd of April, costs £65, and included two course meal and entertainments,
There is an article by Pieter Van der Merwe about the gibbets which he says were on Greenwich waterside sites and give some grisly pictures of corpses hanging near North Greenwich. She notes the Lay Lines sculpture and the now abandoned cruise liner sites. She continues to Morden Wharf and notes plans for development there and the proposed loss of Primrose Pier. She also covers Victoria Deep Water Wharf, the golf driving range and work which is about to start on a new music and events venue to called magazine nearer to the Dome
The newsletter also comments on the derelict toilet block on Blackheath


We have news from the Docklands History Group of their conference on the medieval port of London on the 18th of May at the Museum of London

Gustav Milne – The Medieval Port of London - an overview
Professor Vanessa Harding – City and Port - merchants and overseas trade
Dr. Damian Goodburn – Ships and boats of the medieval port
Dr. John Schofield – Medieval waterfront buildings
Alderman Alison Gowman - The Hanseatic Steelyard
Dr. Laura Wright – Language and London Bridge
John Clark – The Medieval Thames: rubbish tip, accident black spot, or sacred river?
Nathalie Cohen – The Fishful Thames: the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods
For further information on the Conference and how to book a place, please visit our website at


We would also remind people of the South East Region Industrial Archaeology Conference this year hosted by Kent Archaeological Society and to be held at Dartford Grammar school on the 13 April book through Mike Clinch mike@, 


We understand there is interest in the old barrage balloon site at Kidbrooke. If anyone has memories or something else about the sire, please get in touch


500 Years of Deptford and Woolwich Royal Dockyards. We have a copy of a special edition of the Transactions of the Naval Dockyards Society. There are some very important papers here and hey demand a thorough review - this will be on this site soon.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Enderby House, Lay Lines, ourTelecom's Heritage - and what's going on??

The Enderby Group has been refurbishing its web site - and adding a page about the new sculpture which is standing outside of Enderby House.  Here's the link -

Now this raises a number of issues - but before that, what is the current situation at listed riverside Enderby House??

The house has been stabilised, renovated and made to look good on the outside and an extension built.  Doing this was a condition of the planning consent for the flats, etc. The developer brought in a firm of conservation architects to do the work to the satisfaction of inspections by Greenwich Conservation staff and Historic England.  BUT the inside of the house is still in a very rough state although thoroughly dried out and with some essential replacement of rotted or damaged elements. In short, ready for a tenant's fit-out.

Barratts - who, people may remember, were not the original developer,  were never particularly forthcoming about their plans for the future of the house . However all the indications were that the intended end use was for licensed premises and that any hopes the Enderby Group had for something different were not up for discussion.  We were eventually given to understand that a lease on Enderby use was being offered to Youngs brewery. As they began to prepare a licensing application for a public house there, a number of events on the Riverside nearby made this more problematic. Hopstuff were refused a licence for a bar at Riverside Gardens following public protests and we understands that people on Ballast Quay have been complaining about issues around the very old established Cutty Sark pub. Youngs do however have a reputation as extremely responsible pub managers.

The Council has granted a licence to Youngs for a public house at Enderbys but with a good many restrictions on outside and riverside drinking in order to meet concerns raised by residents in the flats around the house.   Before it can open there is a great deal of work to done on the interior of the house and we look forward to hearing what that will be. In the meantime Enderby Group has met with Youngs and the Council and hopes to continue to talk to Youngs about issues around the use of the house in addition to its use as a bar/restaurant  establishment to provide something for the new community growing up around it and also an reflect our concerns about the unique telecoms heritage here.

Having said all that - back to Lay Lines and the Riverside generally  - issues raised -

Lay Lines has been built because the installation of an artwork was part of the planning consent. So ....

  • We understand that similar requirements are in place for The Telegraph Works and Morden Wharf South but are there  similar requirement on other Riverside sites and developers?

  • What plans do organisations like  Visit Greenwich have to publicise such works?

  • Are there plans to link this work with those installed via the Now Gallery by Knight Dragon.

Enderby Group members - Stewart Ash in particular - have worked hard to help with this project to fruition and to ensure the historical information is accurate.  One feature of it is the QR tags which will provides online interpretation of sites.
  • This sort of scheme could be extended around the Riverside on the Greenwich Peninsula. 
QR tag used at Enderbys

  • What is being done by the Heritage Trust and Visit Greenwich to achieve this??
  • Will they work with the Enderby Group and use their in depth historical knowledge and experience.
  • And of course all the other Riverside sites in Greenwich between Deptford and Thamesmead 

Meanwhile we have some news of how our work on Greenwich's telecoms heritage is progressing:.

Issue 104 of SubTel Forum has now been published.

Stewart tells us that his article on John Pender and Daniel Gooch is on pages 48-53, which includes a brief description of Lay Lines.  There is also a short article by Bill Burns on pages 24-25(who runs

 He is also speaking about John Pender to the Bromley Chapter of retired Institute of Engineering & Technology at Bromley Central Library on 5 March 2019

and also at the Greater Manchester Archeological Festival 2019: Telecommunications Heritage Conference   on Saturday 22 June 2019