Reviews and snippets March 2005
AN ARSENAL LAD
By Jack Vaughan
In January of this year Jack Vaughan told us that he could not continue as GIHS Chair since ill health had prevented him coming to meetings. Jack has been Chair since the Society began in 1998 and we must all be very grateful to his commitment and hard work. The 2005 AGM in January agreed to elect him as an Emeritus President of the Society for life ‘whether he likes it or not’. Jack has been devoted to the Greenwich’s industrial past and his contributions to the planning process will be sadly missed - although hopefully his clock making skills are still intact! He has asked us to include the following article, which appears in the current Woolwich and District Antiquarians Proceedings (Vol. LVII)
Since this is an apprentice tale, let me say at the outset, that the title "lad" is misleading since the word was applied to a particular type of apprentice, as will be explained in due course.
My story starts as a seven-year-old as Fox Hill School, the family home being at the top of Fox Hill, adjacent to the public house - The Fox and Hounds. Having failed the Scholarship examination my secondary education was undertaken at Woolwich Central School in Sandy Hill Road. I believe all London Boroughs had Central Schools, intellectually somewhere between the Elementary and Grammar Schools. The first two years were the same for all pupils, but at the end of that a choice had to be made between "technical" and "commercial". The latter would lead to the world of economics - banking, money etc., while the former was directed towards science, engineering and industrial activities. Unluckily, my father had died before I was born; he had worked as a turner in the Royal Arsenal. My mother tried to persuade me to choose commerce and a nice clean job in a bank - I said no! Although I had thoughts about marine engineering, I was not academically able enough to try for the Navy. Eventually, I sat examinations for the RAF and the Royal Arsenal. The result of the Arsenal exam arrived first. I had achieved tenth place in a field of over two hundred! In that year (1932) twelve places were available. The family situation was somewhat shaky and I felt it right to take the plunge into starting work. My 'reward' was my first bicycle, a Royal Enfield (built like a gun!) costing three pounds, fifteen shillings, and bought at Blackett's, next to what is now 'The Tramshed', in Woolwich. It served me well for many years - although the front wheel was such a good fit in the Plumstead Road tramlines that I sometimes had visions of ending up in the Abbey Wood Tram depot. In September 1933 I presented myself at the "Main Gate" in Beresford Square, in downtown Woolwich, and was conducted to the Central Office, which still stands as Building 22.
If you want to read the rest of Jack’s biography contact Woolwich Antiquarians , for a copy of Proceedings......
RAMBLERS ASSOCIATION AND THE THAMES RIVERSIDE WALK
In the latest edition of South East Rambler it says: ‘ if you've completed your 180 mile tramp down the Thames Path and - here you are at the mighty Thames Barrier’ you’ve got to ‘hold on a minute’ because ‘there seems to be another 9 ¾ miles up ahead still’. This is about the extension, created by Greenwich and Bexley Councils to Erith. They start at the Thames Barrier where ‘your first experience is an anti climax - a diversion away from the river’. – as an industrial estate blocks the way.. Eventually at Rustin Road.. . when the new housing ends, an ‘impressive footbridge structure, the Linkbridge, takes you over a flood wall into the former a Woolwich Dockyard”. And “massive cannons on a bastion remind you of the site's past history” and to the left “The Clockhouse of 1784” They warn of building on Mastpond Wharf “ and suggest a walk along Church Street to reach Woolwich Ferry.. “ cross the ferry approach, looking out for vast lorries” Then “a little lane winds down and back to riverside, where you have a grandstand view of the two big ferries trundling back and forth” and next “you are walking beside the grassy humps of Royal Arsenal Gardens, created on the site of a power station demolished back in 1979…. Then a gate leads into Woolwich Arsenal itself, and the broad riverside strip left open to protect the run of listed buildings”. And there you are all the way to Erith! There is no information given as to where more information on this walk can be obtained.
By Sue Bullevant
Saturday April, 2nd 2005 will be the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Severndroog in 1755 and the Severndroog Building Preservation Trust is planning events at Severndroog Castle, Castle Wood on Shooters Hill, SE18 on Sunday 3rd April 2005.
Severndroog (or Suvarnadrug) is an island fortress off the Malabar Coast of India, between Bombay and Goa. Sir William James defeated the Malabar pirates at the battle of Severndoorg, thus clearing the trade and shipping routes of the East India Company and the local Indian rulers.
Bombay has been part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza and consisted of several low-lying islands. Charles II sold it to the East India Company who drained the land and established the port. William James was the son of a miller in Wales and became a ploughboy there. He went to sea when he was 12 years old on a Bristol trader, and was ship wrecked when he was 18 in the West Indies. He became a Captain in the service of the East India Company and later a Commodore. On his retirement he lived at Park Place Farm in Eltham and became a director of the East India Company and an MP.
He died at his house in Gerrard Street Soho in 1783 and in 1784 his wife had Severndroog castle built. The architect was William Jupp (the East India Company’s architect). The Castle featured in the BBC's Restoration programme in 2004 and has statutory listing Grade 2*.
The building is a triple towered Castle in the Gothic style on 3 floors with a viewing platform, and is built as his memorial. He and his wife are buried at Eltham. The East India Company’s ships were built at Blackwall and had docking facilities there.