Monday, 4 November 2019

Reviews and snippets July 2000

Reviews and snippets July 2000

Domesday Industry

At a recent lecture at the Maritime Museum, Andrew Butcher of the University of Kent  pointed out that Greenwich was an important industrial centre in Norman times. He pointed out that in the Domesday book there were 4 mills in Greenwich and 11 in Lewisham.

We can assume that most of these were on the Ravensbourne and that probably the ones listed for Greenwich were in the Deptford Bridge area, What sort of mills were these? How did they work? Did they mill corn for flour - or something else? This is not a subject we should ignore.

Pensioner's News 

Kay Murch has sent a copy of  British Gas Pensioners’ News  which covers the ‘New Home’ for the ‘War Memorial’ on the Greenwich Peninsula to employees of the South Metropolitan Gas Comany based at East Greenwich Gas Works, Phoenix Wharf and Ordnance Wharf, who died in the War.    It also records that the Memorial is recorded on the Imperial War Museum Database.
PS. Congratulations on the MBE, Kay.

Sir Joseph Bazalgette
‘The Great Stink of London’ by Stephen Halliday .  I recently came across this most interesting book which might be worth mentioning in the Newsletter.  It tells the story of why and how London’s 19th century sewage system (including the Crossness and Deptford Pumping Stations) was built, focussing on Bazalgette’s role.

Alfred Baluch

Alfred Baluch has sent us a some pictures of himself and his involvement in pensioners’ demonstrations  and with Jack Jones at the opening of the Working River exhibition at Age Exchange.   He attended our meeting on Mumford’s Mill and contributed some of his reminiscences of the mill in work.
He also says ‘ I collected and delivered sacks (bags) of flour to small bakers shops in and around London in 1940-41 for around eight years.  This was bags of flour of 140 lbs in weight, Australian flour at 150 lbs of weight or sacks of wheat at 252 lbs in weight. Sacks were always used when collecting from shop or granary for delivery to the mill’.

The new Swiftstone Trust says... ‘We are an environmental and  educational  charity  concerned  with  the improvement of the environment in London.  We preserve and run the vintage Thames Tug, The Swiftstone, donated to us by Cory  Environmental,  who  have  operated  her commercially since 1953 . So what has an old tug got to do with improving the environment?

The Thames has a long history of working for London.  For centuries it was the only way to bring goods into or out of the capital.  Thousands of tons of coal, sugar, ballast, all manner of foodstuffs, exotic or ordinary, anything and everything that London needed came up the Thames in barges ..pulled by tugs (oh, and the stuff we didn't want -thousands of tons of rubbish - went out by the same route)

Sadly this happens less and less. Wharves are being lost to housing development, more and more transport is being diverted to the roads as companies and local authorities switch their contracts from river to road. But what can we do about it?  Ask your local councillor if your rubbish is transported the clean,  or the dirty way.  

General Sir Martin Farndale

We have been sent a copy of the Times obituary of General Sir Martin Farndale who inspired the project to build a Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich.  The article describes Sir Martin’s distinguished army record  up to his retirement in 1988 finally in command of BAOR.   He then published a number of works on the History of the Royal Artillery and was appointed as Master Gunner of St.James’ Park.  He went on to Chair the project to house the regimental collection in a new museum on the Arsenal site. He died on May 10th.

Shipwright's Palace

Devotees of ‘The Weasel' on the back page of the Saturday Independent Newspaper will know that he has often shown an interest in Greenwich and its more ‘out of the way’ attractions. On 6th May the Weasel took himself to the Shipwrights Palace in Deptford and had a look round.
‘Probably the last great Thameside House’ .. was described by our furry friend as ‘distinctly unpalatial'. However, William Richards, one of the owners who is attempting to renovate this important and semi derelict building with no funding, seems to have done his best to talk up industrial Deptford to the newspaper.  He mentioned ‘the first double dry-dock in the world’ .. ‘Henry VIII’s great storehouse’ .. and the clocktower ‘ now in Thamesmead Shopping Centre, and we want it back’.

   Crossness Sludge Incinerator

Visit to Crossness Sludge incinerator. The current edition of the Newcomen Society Bulletin includes three pages on the visit to the incinerator - which we have already reported on twice, so no more details.  The article adds however that the sludge ship ‘Thames’ was sold to a West African republic last year and that ‘Hounslow’ and ‘Bexley’ still await disposal.  Is this still true? Are they still there? Would anyone like to report on this important piece of our past - while they are still afloat?

Blackheath Guide -

In their May 2000  edition Peter Kent’s ‘Riverwatch’ article started off by saying that ‘London may no longer be a world port.. but there’s still life on the River’... he mentions.. the Global Mariner, 12,778 cargo vessel with an exhibition condemning flats of convenience, ... the Massey Shaw, off to Dunkirk, the Swiftstone, and the new Dixie Queen owned by Livetts which, says Peter has come from Stockholm and has the same manoeuvrability as the Woolwich Ferry.

In June 2000 was a wonderful double page spread drawing of the river by Peter Kent.  Peter has based it on the ‘String of Pearls’ Millennium Festival which brings (or strings)  together a whole host of events along the river, including some in Greenwich. Most of these are in June so are too late for our events column - but others are covered elsewhere.

Industrial Heritage

In this edition Phil reproduced our article on Robinson’s Flour Mills. Deptford Bridge - and was brave enough to reproduce the picture which went with it, which was more than I was!

Bygone Kent. The latest issue (Vol.21 No.5.) includes Mary Mills’ article on ‘What happened to the Fountain’. Strictly speaking this is neither Greenwich, or industrial history, since it is about the, now missing, drinking fountain in Telegraph Hill park. The article asserts that the fountain, which commemorated George Livesey, was a monument to strike breaking!


Newsletter. No.188 Some items from this are reproduced elsewhere.  One smaller item concerns ‘The Great Wheel at Earls Court’ - Michael Bussell and Paul Calvocoressi have pointed out that this is described in Vol. CLII of the Survey of London (South Ken. Athlone Press.1986).  The wheel was made in Greenwich by Maudslay, Son and Field. under the direction of Walter B. Basset as part of the exhibition of 1894/5.  It was near what is now West Kensington Station, was 300 feet in diameter, weighed 500 tons, had 8 inclined columns which supported the axle, adding another 600 tons. It was powered by 2 50hp steam engines taking 20 minutes for each revolution,. There were 40 cars with 40 passengers. It was demolished in 1906/7 having carried over 2,500,000 passengers.

New walk
Mary Mills - in association with Peter Kent - hopes to bring out a booklet describing a Walk from Wood Wharf to the Dome.  

Labour Relations in the Royal Dockyards 

A History of Work  and Labour Relations in the Royal Dockyards is being advertised.  It is edited by Kenneth Lunn and Ann Day Anyone who has a copy of this and who would be prepared to write us a review ... - please do so and just send it in! Thanks.
It includes: Roger Knight, (NMM), ‘Strikes and Disruption in the Royal Dockyards 1688-1788’... and articles by Roger Morris (UCL & Univ.Exeter), Philip MacDougall, Neil Casey (Univ. Plymouth), Mavis Waters (Ontario Univ.), Peter Galliver (Ampleforth Coll.), Kenneth Lunn, Ann Day and Alex Law (Univ. Abertay).

Millennium Dome 

The Millennium Dome by Elizabeth Wilhide and Simon Jenkins.
‘As a structure the Dome is amazing. Whatever your views on the political and monetary aspects the engineering and tight time schedule to bring it into being is almost unbelievable. With government indecision on site and budget eating away at the millennium deadline final design ideas for the structure could not be finalised.  Once those decisions were taken it became a race against time to complete the structure. The book covers this race with chapter titles such as 'The birth of the Dome's’ ‘Running the project' 'Siteworks' and many more. As well as text, some 210 excellent photographs of the work in progress are included.  Every part of the construction is followed photographically - 8,000 piles were driven in 13 weeks, all masts were erected in two weeks. The very special relationship that developed between the various contractors was evidently unique. 
The book is full price still at the bookshop in the Dome - but is remaindered for £4.90 everywhere else!

White Hart Depot

Jack Vaughan writes: I understand from a Council contact that some items from the Red and Cambridge Barracks, formerly in Frances Street, Woolwich, are in fact not lost. They are:

Red Barracks
The gates are still at White Hart Depot (we saw them!)
The missing panel of railings is in fact still in custody, probably at the new Birchmere Depot.
Funding has been applied for for the restoration of the Gate Lodge.
English Heritage is encouraging this as the gate is on the list of endangered species!

Cambridge Barracks
The missing pedestrian gate is currently at the Depot but is damaged and some parts are missing.  A council approved metalwork contractor has confirmed that it can be repaired.  Funding for the work has been applied for.
The Clock on top of the gate - of which the dial and hands remain - has lost its movement and nobody knows where it went.

Royal Artillery Library

In their March Newsletter Woolwich Antiquarians reported on a talk given to them by Mr Paul Shaw on The Royal Artillery Library.

Mr Shaw is the first archivist at the library, which is situated in the Old Royal Military Academy. There are also libraries in the Officers Mess of the Royal Artillery barracks, the Rotunda, various regimental collections, and elsewhere.  None of them is open to the public. 

There have been 'gunners' since the 13th century, but it was not until about 1722 that four companies of the Royal Regiment of Artillery were formed by Royal Warrant. ‘Artillery’ includes guns, engines, machines of war and, latterly, guided missiles. Their motto is 'Ubique'  - ‘Everywhere’.  The official repository of their records is at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst - originally set up in Woolwich on what is now known as the Arsenal site. The collection includes students' notebooks from 1826  to 1856 - the  curriculum included mathematics, water colour drawing,  French, German or Hindustani.

The collecting of material on the history of the Royal Artillery has been rather haphazard. An Historical Committee was set up in 1923 to co-ordinate the various collections but it lapsed, was resumed in 1966 and lapsed again.  The opportunity has now arisen to open an Artillery Museum in the place where the Royal Regiment of Artillery was born and where its guns were designed, developed and produced. It is hoped to house the collection of documents, drawings, photographs, uniforms, medals - and the guns themselves - where the public can see them, together with a proper library with research facilities.

Silvertown explosion

The current issue of ‘GasLight’ (Newsletter of the North West Gas HS) includes a number of cuttings about the 1917 explosion contributed by Bob Darkin of Orpington. Bob also describes his own family’s memories.
‘My father remembered seeing a flow reflected in a kitchen mirror. He would have been four years old at the time and the family lived in Armitage Road. His mother was not at home - being the lone parent supporting a family of 4 children she was out working as a cleaner at the gas works when the explosion occurred. She was in one of the offices when the gasholder went up,. She rushed to the door to escape but was trapped; something had fallen across the other side. Luckily her cries for help were heard by someone who managed to release the door allowing her to get out.

North Woolwich

One of the most important parts of Greenwich’s industrial history was that part of Woolwich across the water.

No one has interpreted North Woolwich better than Howard Bloch and his new book on ‘Germans in London’ paints a vivid picture of industry in that area.  Most of the book concerns the treatment of German nationals - or those thought to be such - at the hands of local English people. And a very shocking record it is too.

Alongside the smashed bakeries, and the ‘jute factory converted to internment camp’ is the story of immigrant workers in an industrial heartland - and this includes many details about the works themselves, glass, sugar, chemicals, shipbuilding and everything else.

This is probably a very important book - and a good read - and Howard should be congratulated on it

Docklands History Group. 

At their April meeting the Docklands History Group heard a talk, by Capt. Christopher St.J.H,.Daniel on Sundials. This might not appear to be a particularly industrial subject but, like everything else, sundials had their uses!
‘From Saxon times Sundials played a fundamentally important role in regulating the daily life of mankind throughout Europe a - ‘The art of dialling’ was an integral part of every scholars’ education.

In May the group heard Captain Chris Burls talk about his work as Hydrographic Officer for the Port of London Authority.  He defined this as ‘the art of converting to paper sufficient information to allow a vessel to navigate safely.  The Thame Estuary is notorious with constantly shifting shoals - someone has to provide charts.

The service once had three sections - Upper, Docks and Lower and a survey could take six weeks so long as the weather was good. A team as made up of two surveyors and nine crew.

Today, inevitably, there are only 5 surveyors and 6 support staff in total. Their vessel is ‘Chartwell’  - which can reach the seaward limit from Gravesend in 30 minutes. Side-Scan Sonar will survey the river bed to near photographic quality.  POLAPLOT and Global Positioning have revolutionised everything and 95 miles of the busiest tidal waterway in the world can be surveyed to digital standards. Today the survey of a Reach which once took six weeks takes one week in any weather.  Satellite scanning will cover the whole river bed producing a model to virtual reality resolution. The biggest ships can be guided up river by showing the keel and the river bed on screen.


On the afternoon of Friday 1st September a large party of foreign industrial historians will be arriving in Greenwich - we don’t know how many yet or exactly what time - for the Millennium Conference of The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage. They will be given the choice of going to the Maritime Museum, the Observatory  or going for a guided walk from Cutty Sark to Enderby’s Wharf.  If they all come on the walk we will be in a lot of trouble!  

Heritage Experience

A new ‘heritage experience’ has opened at the Tourist Information Centre at Cutty Sark Gardens. We would be delighted to receive a report on this from any visitor who has been inside

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