Saturday, 20 December 2008
--- he was always sympathetic to local gas historians - and I had talked to him about the plight of our great gas holder back in the summer!
Friday, 12 December 2008
George wrote to say that in 1809 Donkin "acted as a consultant to the executors of the Greenwich Tide Mill and persuaded them to bring in Mr. Hall as contractor. His approach to hydraulics was logical and showed considerable technical skill".
- "Mr. Hall' is probably John Hall of J.E.Hall the Dartford engineering company.
George later wrote " Donkin spent a lot of time in 1811 and 1812 working out how to drive in the piles to support the wharf, sinking a cylinder of brickwork, and supervising the building of a pier, brick walls and gates, and adjusting the flow of water".
The thing is - which mill is he referring to? We have two candidates - one is the tide mill at Deptford Bridge and other the Tide Mill which stood in East Greenwich at the end of what used to be Riverway but which is now a difficult-to-work-out bit of riverside.
Deptford Bridge Mill - was an ancient mill washed away by a flood in 1824 and rebuilt when it was taken over by Robinsons. So whatever Donkin did would have to have been work on the old mill - which was probably pretty creaky by then and needing work - but would a mill on the Ravensbourne had a pier and a wharf?
The East Greenwich Mill - was built in 1802. So it was new in 1812 and why would it have needed work? It had been built by Lloyd and Ostell who were the leading millwrights of their day. The only evidence that it might not have been structurally wonderful is that in the early 1840s it was described as a 'heap of wood' and throughout its history it does seem to have not worked very well. However it would have had a wharf on the Thames - and it could have had a pier too, a 'causeway' is shown on old maps. However - the note about Hall being 'consultant to the executors' is interesting - the mill was subject to a Chancery case for many years, although it should have been cleared up by 1812.
Comment on this would be welcomed.
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Saturday, 6 December 2008
Greenwich does however get a mention in Bob Carr's review of Richard Hartree's book on 'John Penn and Son of Greenwich'.
PLEASE REMEMBER Richard is coming to speak to GIHS on 20th January (not 11th as much of the press has been saying).
Bob begins by pointing out the importance of Penns as a major builder or marine steam engines at a time when the Thames was Britain's great shipbuilding river. In the 1830s Penns built seven oscillating engines for Thames paddle steamers - achieving success where others had had difficulty - which became standard propulsion in this field for many years. Penn's engine in the Elbe steamer John Penn built 1864 was in use until 1966, and we have already in this blog noted the engine on the Diesbar, still in use and designated an ASME landmark this summer. The Penn engine used in Empress and used in Bournemouth until 1955 is now in a museum in Southampton. Penns were the preferred contractors for the supply of large steam engines to the Navy and played a central role in the transition from sail to steam. In 1854 John Penn's lignum vitae propeller shaft bearing was a crucial contribution to the development of screw propulsion. A replica of a Penn trunk engine of c.1860 has been built and fitted into, Thames built, Warrior in her berth at Portsmouth.
As shipbuilding was moved away from the Thames Penn's began gradually to decline and were sold to Thames Ironworks in 1899. There is now nothing to see on their Blackheath Hill site - not even a plaque or any sort of sign - but some elements of their boiler works at Payne's Wharf remains, although also without any sort of mark.
Bob also points to the family history elements of the book - and that Richard's ancestry also includes Blackheath based moralist author, Samuel Smiles. But most of all it is 'an educational book explaining in simple terms the development of marine propulsion in the 19th century'
Remember to come to the meeting on 20th to hear Richard - and there are details of how to get the book further down in the blog.
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Dot was interested in many aspects of Greenwich history - and had been active in saving an archive of electrical engineers and cable makers, Johnson andPhillips.
At least she will be spared a twilight life, something an active person like herself would have hated.
Thursday, 13 November 2008
By 1841 the Norway Street site had been let to a I then got interested in the steam engine builder William Joyce, who, I assume also had Dreadnought Wharf. He seems to have died very young in 1856 and is buried in Nunhead Cemetery. He lived in Diamond Terrace. He seems to have built many steam engines and notes about them often turn up in histories of local works. I also have a note that he built steam flour mills for Symrna in 1850 but more importantly a ship called the City of Paris – presumably this was built at Dreadnought Wharf. He also may have built a steam yacht for the Pasha of Egypt. He was also probably involved in some of the early steam cars which were made locally.
After Joyce died the works was taken over by Cowan - and there is a photograph in the
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
‘The Great Stink’ - over £1.5 million of Lottery money allocated for Crossness Pumping Station restoration. Featuring - Wesley Kerr, Chair of HLF Committee for London - Peter Bazalgette, President of Crossness Engines Trust and great-great grandson of Sir Joseph Bazalgette.
In the 150th year since the “Great Stink” of 1858, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is delighted to announce over £1.5 million in funding to help restore the Grade 1 listed Crossness Pumping Station in Bexley - the solution and product of Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s vision to save London from what 19th Century Prime Minister Disraeli called “a Stygian pool reeking with ineffable and unbearable horror”.
Wesley Kerr, Chair of the HLF Committee for London, said:
"The London Committee is thrilled that this unique part of our city's heritage, including some of the finest and largest steam engines in existence, housed in cathedral-sized buildings on an inspiring Thameside site, is to be fully restored and opened to all. The volunteers have done sterling work already. This vital part of London's past will become a cherished local community asset and an exhilarating destination for future generations."
A triumph of Victorian engineering, Crossness Pumping Station was opened in 1865 attended by the Prince of Wales and dignitaries of the time. Housing the four largest rotary beam engines in the world and currently in a dilapidated state, the Grade 1 listed Beam Engine House and Boiler House are both on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register.
The restoration, part of a project costing £2.7 million, is due to start in early 2009. As well as conserving the buildings there will be a new exhibition exploring the social history of the site which will take in public health, pollution and the environment, encouraging visitors to celebrate the engineering triumph on their doorstep. A new café, car parking, education room and archive and an updated website will also be developed.
Peter Bazalgette, President of the Crossness Engines Trust and great-great-grandson of Sir Joseph adds:
“The Trust’s volunteers have worked tirelessly to restore one of the magnificent engines and to create an experience which visitor’s already enjoy. This project will allow us to improve on that experience, safeguard the fabric of the buildings and make possible new community ventures that will allow this monument to Victorian engineering to take on a new lease of life.”
Malcolm Woods, Historic Buildings and Areas Advisor for English Heritage, who have also provided grants and long term advice and support to the Trust, said:
‘“Crossness Pumping Station is a spectacular example of the boundless ambition, vision, and commitment of the Victorians in transforming the public health of the capital. English Heritage is delighted to be able to support the work of the Crossness Engines Trust and can today announce a grant of £150,000 towards the repair of these fantastic buildings. The grant will go towards restoring the fabric of the buildings that house the magnificent pumping engines and secure the long-term and active future of the buildings. The announcement today of this vital funding from both English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund is a major step towards removing the buildings from our Heritage at Risk Register”.
The Pumping Station when restored will be run almost entirely by volunteers, who will lead a range of activities for schools and other visitors including workshops, talks, and guided tours, to help bring the past to life and celebrate this triumph of Victorian engineering. Beyond that there are plans to use the site for a range of community and leisure activities.
It will open for three days a week from Spring to Autumn and two days a week through the Winter. As well as exploring past achievements, it will encourage visitors to see how the past, present and future are connected, on a site where Thames Water continues the work of Bazalgette’s vision in the 21st Century.
Very significant support (both financial and otherwise) has also been forthcoming from the Department of Communities and Local Government, Thames Water, Tilfen Land, the London Borough of Bexley and the City Bridge Trust. All of this has allowed the Trust to proceed with the work that will convert the vision into reality.
Sunday, 2 November 2008
Saturday First XI - played Northern Poly, Erith Tech, City of London College, Old Shootershillians, Blackheath Wanderers - and while none of these are industrial they also played J.&E.Hall of Dartford - and who were Beehive, and Armcross?
The Saturday Second XI were also playing educational establishments - but also the Southern Railway and Lyles Sports (must be the golden syrup division!), - and also Plumstead Radical which must mean the Plumstead based drinking club!
Sunday First XI list gives little indication of industrial fixtures, entirely made up of local town sides - Catford Wanderers and the like, but the Sunday Second XI played the Kentish Mercury, and Maybloom Sports (another Plumstead drinking club!), and - finally - Barrow Blackman (who were they?)
So - in 1952 who was Harvey's football club playing - and they seem to have had a number of teams operating out of their Hervey Road ground. Their 1st XI played in the Premier Division of the London Business Houses and 1952 fixtures were mostly not local - some are easy to identify - J.& Phillips (local of course), S.T.C. (also local), Tottenham Gas, May and Baker (in Barking), Lampson Paragon - but who were Gothic, Tamber, Sam Jones, B.D.V., and LT (LER)
Their second team played in the South London Alliance - and in 1952 they also played May and Baker, Slades Green (must be the railway depot), Stones (local of course), Woolwich Borough Council, R.A.C.S., Erith Council, Henleys (North Woolwich or Gravesend), Metro Gas (thats East Greenwich Gas Works), - but who were West Kent, Old Selts, Hendon Strollers, Old Heathians, Mobeka S.C.??
Finally their third team playing in the South East London Amateur League - they played Spicers, Molins (then in Deptford), Elliots (our local computer manufacturer!!), Peek Freans (in Spa Road), - but who were County Gate, Charles Page, Clifton Villa, Welling Meth, Dewrance, G.Park Res (did Greenwich Park staff have their own team??).
In 1951 Harvey's First team had played and one by one goal against Metrogas. The long write up of the match can be very instructive. Most of all that they had played at the Valley to a crowd of 2,000. What local company team today can match that!
Saturday, 1 November 2008
I am treating Harvey's here as a historical entity - but I believe that the firm still exists and that the office furniture department is alive and well and located in Margate. If anyone from Margate picks this article up I would be grateful to know more about Harvey's work today - and of course since 1934.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
Sunday, 26 October 2008
THE VICTUALLING WHARF WALL AT DEPTFORD: COLLAPSE AND REPLACEMENT IN THE EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY
In February 1809, the Victualling Board wrote to the Navy Board to inform them that they were having problems with the wall of the victualling wharf at Deptford. Water was seeping through the wall into the wine cellar, which was likely to cause the iron hoops of thecasks to rot. The inspector of repairs, SamuelHobbs, had reported that the wall had sunk and split, leaving chasms' through which the water entered at high tide and retreated at low tide, taking with it the soil behind the wall and causingthe pavement above to sink. This was likely to worsen if not attended to; he recommended excavating down to the base of the wall and refilling with clay or puddle (a mixture of clay and sand) and also adding piles to secure the land ties and relieve the pressure on them.
Remarking that the wharf had already been repaired several times under the direction of the Inspector General of Naval Works, he suggested the architect at the Navy Office, Mr Holt, should be asked to advise.'
Two days later, the Victualling Board wrote again to report that Henry Garrett, the agent victualler at Deptford, who had checked at high tide, reported that the water was now damaging the boundary wall between the victualling and dock yards, this being exacerbated by rat runs to the pea store and flesh cellars and between the seasoning house and the old cooperage, the water rising over the floor sufficiently to stop the coopers working. The Navy Board's response, which did not come until two weeks later, was to the effect that the problem was caused by broken drains from the settling of the ground, and that these would have to be replaced.
This presumably was done, as there is no more correspondence in the Victualling Board records until October 1811, when the Victualling Board reported to the Navy Board that the ground on the wharf between two of the cranes had 'fell in very much' and that the mudsills had been forced off the foundations, causing the wall to split. This in turn had caused cracks in the groined [sic] arches of the cellars and the party walls of the new storehouses.
A month later, they wrote again to the Navy Board to pass on the agent victualler's report that at low tide 'the ground at the back of the wall [had] sunk down with a great crash' which broke the land ties. The Inspector of Repairs urged immediate action and the Victualling Board asked for the Civil Architect and Engineer to give his opinion.
Initial attempts to solve the problem seemto have been restricted to trying to press the wall down into a more solid foundation, the Victualling Board asking the Navy Board to borrow 600 tons of iron ballast for this purpose, then returning this three months later. Another three months passed, then the Victualling Board asked for cinder ashes from the smitheries in the dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich to mix with ground lime and ballast for repair work, but none of this seems to have worked, as in March 1813 the Victualling Board asked for the Navy Board's surveyor of buildings to make an inspection and give his opinion on the necessary repairs.
Nothing seems to have been done, as in October the Victualling Board reported that the previous day's high tide had made one end of the wharf shift and settle, and requesting an inspection and recommendation that they would create temporary versions above the coffer dam.
However, in November 1817, the Victualling Board wrote once more to the Admiralty secretary, atating that the repairs needed to be extended. They said that Mr Rennie had reported That it appears, from an examination of that part of the Old Wharf Wall which lies between the landing stairs and Eastern end of the Victualling jard, and which, including the return, is Three hundred'feet [92.3 metres] in length and that the whole bottom is silt [which] having sunk away from the planking on which the Wall stands, its weight may therefore be said to be supported by the Piles only, That these piles are all driven perpendicularly, and are kept in that position by the great body of Mud, and Silt, which lies in front of them, so that if this mud was to be removed the piles would fall forward, unless the land ties by which theWall is sustained were sufficiently strong to prevent them;that these land ties are ... very much decayed, and consequently no great dependence can be had on them; that therefore, if this Wall is to be preserved, it must undergo a considerable repair, which with the Tender Piles in front [of] the decayed brickwork will cost at least £2,000 and when done, the great Mud bank in front of it will prevent the full advantage being taken of the deep water along the new Wall, as it will check the current of the Tide and occasion a settlement of mud infront of the new Wharf, the foundation of which lies Seven feet deeper than the Old Wall; that the expense of a Wall of 300 feet in length, with the materials of theCoffer dam now in use, will be about £16,000; whereas if this Wall were to stand over to a future period, it would cost about £25,000, ... that it would not be advisable to leave it in its present state... and that [Mr Rennie] cannot therefore help advising us that the new Wall be extended to the Eastern extremity of the Yards.'
This letter is endorsed as approving the work as detailed.
The final letter in the sequence, in May 1821, reports that the work had been completed 'in a manner which we conceive [is] highly creditableto the professional skill and ability of Mr Rennie ... assisted by the unremitting attention and indefatigability of Mr Hobbs, our inspector of Works...' and goes on to recommend what appears to be a bonus for Hobbs ('such remuneration for his services as [their lordships] may appear to meet').
No record of the finalcost of this work has been found. It should come as no surprise to those familiar with the workings of the Admiralty andits subordinate boards that this saga should have gone on for so long, but it is, if not surprising, intriguing that there is no record of the Navy Board having responded to most the VictuallingBoard's pleas for help in this matter. Perhaps, in due course, the Navy Board letters project will turn up the other side of this story.
The current article in 'Gaslight' draws attention to Donkin's relationship with the instrument maker Edward Troughton - after whom Troughton Road in Charlton is named. Troughton's site was, I understand, on the west side of the Woolwich Road junction with Victoria Way. They are not company who has ever featured in GIHS's newsletter or talks and we would be very interested to hear from anyone who could make a contribution on that.
There is still another episode to go on Donkin's in a future 'Gaslight' and hopefully it will record an even more important link with a Greenwich inventor and industry.
Gaslight is obtainable from Diane Smith, 13 Private Drive, Barnston, Wirral, CH61 1DF at £5 a year. And, incidentally, they are looking for a new editor!
Saturday, 25 October 2008
Working with another Peninsula based company, Maudslay Son and Field, Bessemer, who suffered a lot from sea sickness, developed a saloon to go in ships which wouldn't sway about. This was kept at his house in Denmark Hill but then ended up as a room in the Horticultural College at Hextable (down the road from Sidcup!). It is thought that after the college was demolished that some people took bits home - and I have a message from someone who is trying to find out if this is so, and if the bits are still around! He has also sent some pictures of young ladies in the saloon at Hextable which he found in an album in an Edinburgh Bookshop. If you know anything about any of this please leave a message.
Friday, 10 October 2008
Monday, 6 October 2008
Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Wednesday, 17 September 2008
The study moves on to sites of prehistoric occupation and notes signs of flint workings – maybe our earliest industry! Later evidence is found of iron and copper slag and baked clay as well as loom weights from Roman times.
The authors note a sand quarry in the area mentioned by Hasted in 1797 and sand pits and quarries shown on maps of the early 19th century. In the 1830s two lime burners are listed in 1839 at New Charlton. This document has been produced in conjunction with works planned here by the Council and we look forward to more detail on this.
Does anyone know of any parish markers in the Borough? Is this something we should be looking out for?
Friday, 12 September 2008
Thursday, 11 September 2008
Monday, 8 September 2008
Saturday, 6 September 2008
Does anyone in your society know the original purpose of the building nowoccupied by the Greenwich Natural Health Centre at the back of 70 RoyalHill? It is a most curious structure hidden away behind Royal Hill andabutting the allotments on what used to be the other railway line coming into Greenwich.
Monday, 18 August 2008
My recent Merryweather & Sons interest is in the Electric Clock claimed to have been built by, or associated with the company, before 1901. another blog (NAWCC_Message_Board@nawcc-mb.com) suggested this could be one of a network of 'master' and 'slave' electric clocks made by Charles Shepherd of 53 Leadenhall Street for the Royal Greenwich Observatory and elsewhere, or could even be the Gate Clock fixed outside the gate of the nearby Royal Observatory in 1852, in which case it is a very important clock indeed. In today's world a company manufacturing an electric clock does not exactly raise an eyebrow, but it was changing the world then!
I have written to the Royal Observatory but I'd be grateful to anyone who can confirm a link between Merryweather and Shepherd, the Greenwich Observatory or the then Astronomer Royal, George Airy, or indeed what the Merryweather electric clock really was.
I'm making progress finding out about such obscure Merryweather products as the Dulier smoke absorption system and John Gordon's electric tram system, but 'Tanks for camel transport' still draws a blank!
Anyone interested in the firm's history can find some excellent information on a Greenwich-made steam fire engine exported to Australia, and on the company, at www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/index.php
....Industrial history is the new rock 'n' roll...(?)
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
"This book, written by a descendant of John Penn I, tells the story of this famous marine engineering firm and of three generations of the Penn family through the 1800s. The Epilogue tells of the family’s service in The Royal Household in the 1900s. When John Penn II died in 1878 the Kentish Mercury and Greenwich Gazette wrote of him as ‘Greenwich’s greatest son’.
In 1799 his father, John Penn I, had started an agricultural engineering business on the site at the junction of Blackheath and Lewisham Roads which in twenty years grew to be one of the major engineering works in the London area. Although he lived in Lewisham he stood as a reformist candidate for Greenwich in the December 1832 parliamentary election.
John II apprenticed in the firm and became a partner in the early 1830s. His design of oscillating engine for paddle steamers and his patented trunk engine for naval screw propelled ships coupled with the quality and reliability of the firm’s products led it to become the major engine supplier to the Royal Navy in the transition from sail to steam. His patented design of a wood propeller shaft stern bearing was vital to the worldwide use of steam-powered ships. The firm was a major local employer with, at its peak, 1800 employed at its Greenwich and Deptford works. In addition to achieving success for the firm John II also became a leading figure in the engineering profession.
He was succeeded by his two elder sons. John Penn III became MP for Lewisham in 1891 and served until his death in 1903.
In Greenwich today we can see John Penn Street which ran down one side of the works site and the Penn Almshouses in South Street which were built in 1884 in memory of John Penn II. In Deptford we can see the arched riverfront of the boiler works and a cast iron bollard set into the wall at the corner of Watergate Street and Borthwick Street . In Blackheath we can see John Penn II’s grand house ‘The Cedars’, now converted into flats, and in the Lewisham the Riverdale Mill which was on John Penn I’s property.
The book is available at the Greenwich Heritage Centre, The Greenwich Tourist Information Centre, Maritime Books at 66 Royal Hill, and from the author on 01295 788215 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, 1 August 2008
This obituary is about his life in the world of Greenwich's local history - but he had many many other interests. At this funeral we heard about his record in the army in the Second World War, how he fought at El Alamein and met Field Marshall Montgomery. We also heard about his lifetimes enthusiasm for Charlton Football Club.
At a first meeting he could seem rather gruff, but one soon found how kind a man he was – there was no one who did not like Jack, even if they did not fully share his views.
He had been an apprentice at the Arsenal (writing about his experiences in Woolwich Antiquarian Proceedings Vol XLII) then worked there until he retired - again we heard at his funeral how he was respected for his engineering ability and knowledge and how he later went on to teach his skills at Woolwich Polytechnic School.
From this arose a love of clocks and his ability to repair them. The future of the clock on Building 10 at the Arsenal particularly worried him – Berkeley Homes say they will restore it. He always championed the Arsenal, giving talks on its history. He was also well versed in the Woolwich Dockyard, and a connoisseur of local pubs…
Many societies benefitted from his energy: on Shooters Hill where he lived for 54 years, he was Chairman of the Shooters Hill Society; he wrote articles for the Shooters Hill Local History Group, published in its series of ‘Aspects’. He was the inaugural chairman of the Greenwich Industrial History Society eventually becoming Honorary President. He was also involved in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, history group. But his longest association was with the Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society; for many years on its council, latterly as a Vice President; he was chairman of the Conservation Sub-Committee.
Jack was a fierce defender of Woolwich’s heritage in his dealings with the Borough’s Planners, particularly in respect of his beloved Arsenal. He was a frequent attendee at Planning Committees and made sure they heard his views. However, they listened to him with more respect than he would ever acknowledge and changes were often made. One locally famous exploit was his saving the tomb of the world famous engineer, Henry Maudslay, when the Council cleared St Mary’s Churchyard – all but one of its cast iron plates were retrieved, and taken to the Maritime Museum store in the Brass Foundry - they are now in the care of the Greenwich Heritage Centre. Jack was well known and respected by the London-wide community of industrial archaeologists, particularly in the Greater London Industrial Archaeological Society. In 2001 a special seminar on Maudslay was held at Kew Bridge Engines Trust - special mention was made of Jack’s role in rescuing the plaque and a small ceremony was held.
Recently he became frail and although he went into a well run nursing home, he was only his old self with visitors who shared his interests. Six weeks before he died he had a fall, requiring two operations.
His funeral was at Eltham Crematorium, Falconwood at on Wednesday 23rd July at 2.45pm. This was followed by a do at the Red Lion Pub on Shooters Hill - one of his favourite locals.
Donations in his memory may be made to one of two charities: Cancer Research or The Alzheimer's Society. A cheque made out to the one of your choice should be sent to:
W Uden & Sons Ltd, Funeral Directors, 64 High Street, Sidcup, Kent, DA14 6DS
Jack was a one off - to quote a friend - 'well Jack - Jack's Jack, isn't he!'.
Thursday, 31 July 2008
"The British first occupied the Cape Peninsula in 1795, and from 1814 to 1957 Simon’s Town was the Headquarters for the Royal Navy. The legacy from this period is a very significant infrastructure, that has unique heritage characteristics originating mainly from Victorian England – and many connections with London in particular. I have already been in correspondence concerning two local lighthouses (Cape Point and Roman Rock) that are constructed of cast iron, supplied from the Victoria Foundry in Greenwich. There is a wealth of artefacts that originated from Woolwich – a 9 inch rifled muzzle loading gun manufactured in 1865 at the Royal Gun Factory, still sitting complete on its slide and carriage as produced from the Royal Carriage Department, and a very recent discovery of four 500 lb sea mines of circa 1888 from the Royal Laboratory (two of these were opened up with some trepidation – fortunately they were only filled with sand), all of which are intended for conservation and public display.
Saturday, 19 July 2008
Friday, 18 July 2008
A canal across the Isle of Dogs from Blackwall to Limehouse was built by the Corporation of London as an intended bypass of the peninsula for ships proceeding to the upper reaches of the Thames, which became known as the City Canal. It was a development sanctioned by the West India Docks Act of 1799 and funded by a loan from the Consolidated Fund. Canals were not a new idea, a network around London having been proposed in 1799 and one from Blackwall to Wapping was part of the original proposal for the rival London Docks. Construction, under the supervision of the canal-builder, William Jessop, started in January 1800, and it was completed and opened to ships, barges and lighters in December 1805. Whilst it was toll-free for the first three years of its operation, the City Canal was not a commercial success, as with the concurrent building of the London, West India, East India and later the Commercial Docks it was not to be used to a significant extent for transit purposes. Along with the privately owned docks the canal was used for laying up ships that were in seasonable employment, such as South Sea whalers, ships up for sale and those under repair or fitting-out. Enclosed waters such as the docks and canals had advantages for laying up ships, as there was virtually no tidal movement so that moorings did not need to be continuously tended and consequently the manning on board could be reduced to a minimum.
Steamships first started to use the City Canal for laying-up, repairs and fitting-out from the end of 1814 with the arrival of “Margery”, a ship built on the Clyde that was to operate the first passenger service on the Thames from Wapping to Gravesend for a few months before she was sold and crossed the Channel to undertake similar duties on the Seine. The firm of Boulton, Watt & Co., having their factory at Soho in the Smethwick area of Birmingham, had a sheer hulk, “Pallas”, which was a former American merchant ship that had been seized and condemned as a prize during the War of 1812. This was converted and moored at the Blackwall end of the canal in 1826 for use as a heavy-lift facility for removing and installing boilers and as a workshop. Ships built at shipyards on the Thames and elsewhere, such as Harwich in the east and Holyhead in the west, came to the City Canal to have their machinery installed. BWC had even considered having a factory at Pitcher’s Canal Dockyard for manufacturing boilers, but decided against it with the intention of the Admiralty to develop what became the Woolwich Steam Factory for the maintenance of the expanding Steam Navy.
After several attempts the canal was finally sold to the West India Dock Company in August 1829, when it was renamed the West India South Dock and transit passages came to an end. An adjoining Timber Pond was built in the 1840s and this and the former canal were reconstructed in the 1860s – 70s into the South Dock as it is in its present form, except that the former Limehouse end entrance was subsequently closed. With the ending of their monopolies the dock companies sought other areas of business, the East India Dock Company building the Brunswick Steam Wharf in 1834. The latter company also opened up their docks to steamships and allowed the use of the landmark Masting House for removing and installing boilers. This activity at the East India Docks came to an end in the 1860s with the demolishing of the Masting House and with the depression in Thames shipbuilding following the collapse of the Overend Gurney bank in 1866. By then most steamships were using the Victoria Docks, which were to be used by the last of the Thameside shipbuilders, Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Company, for fitting-out ships, until they ceased business in 1912.
Sunday, 13 July 2008
This is from David who says he used to drive the Grafton Crane on the rails there, beside the river and overlooked by Robinson's office. He describes a 'man in white' bringing down cast iron valves from the power station. He was white because he was covered in asbestos dust and was leaving a cloud of it wherever he went. Under the hydraulic press room, under tons of scrap, an old man was living 'he had an angelic face you would never forget'. David remembers clearing thousands of cartridges - he thought they might be live so he left them, and covered them up with empty scrap bins.
That all sounds pretty dreadful!
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
Thursday, 3 July 2008
London Railway Record is published by Connor & Butler, PO Box 9561 Colchester, Essex.
Saturday, 28 June 2008
"Railway museum rescues historic engine"
ONE of the earliest industrial locomotives in the world has been acquired by the National Railway Museum in York. Bradyll, which dates back to the 1840s, is believed to be the oldest surviving locomotive with six-driving wheels. It has survived in the North East largely by chance.The museum's vehicle collections manager, Jim Rees, said: "the locomotive is of more than mere local or regional importance."The lack of restoration or later rebuilding means that Bradyll remains an incredibly valid piece of railway archaeology, from a period which remains understudied and undervalued by railway historians." no other working machines of this kind have stood the test of time. The locomotive has since been placed in the National Railway Museum's sister attraction at Shildon in County Durham, although the public has only limited access to it.Bradyll's historical importance has now been deemed so great that it has been placed in the national collection, which is overseen by the NRM in York.
Street names in East Greenwich relate, of course, to the Durham coal field - and this is just one survivor.
Thursday, 26 June 2008
That this Council notes:
1. The Borough of Greenwich has a uniquely rich heritage, having played a role at the centre of British and world history for at least a thousand years.
2. Our claim to national and international significance has been reinforced over the centuries by our proud Royal, maritime, military and industrial links.
3. We have an outstanding Royal heritage as the birthplace of King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary I; the site of two Royal Palaces, a Royal Park and the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich, and many other such sites.
4. Next year, 2009, marks the 500th anniversary of King Henry VIII’s accession to the throne, and 2012 marks the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Dockyard.
This Council believes that:
1. Celebrating our shared heritage can do much to enhance civic pride and to bind together the many people from diverse backgrounds who call this Borough their home.
2. Learning about the great history on our doorstep is a huge benefit of which the Borough’s schoolchildren should be able to take full advantage.
3. The coming years present unique opportunities to showcase our heritage and enhance the prestige of the Borough, which we should fully grasp.
This Council resolves:
1. To embrace and celebrate our heritage as an integral part of our shared vision for the Borough and its future.
2. To devise specific plans to highlight our status as a significant Royal borough, using the opportunities presented by the 500th Anniversaries of the accession of King Henry VIII, and of the founding of the Woolwich Royal Dockyard.
3. To seek further ways in which our maritime, industrial and local heritage can also be championed alongside such plans.
4. To ensure that our hosting of the Olympics in 2012 is used as an opportunity to strengthen and promote our heritage offer, and does not harm it.
5. To re-affirm our support for the restoration of the Cutty Sark, the iconic flagship of our Borough.
6. To support the ‘Discovery Greenwich’ project currently being undertaken by the Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College, which will help bring the history of the World Heritage Site to a wider audience.
Monday, 23 June 2008
Sunday's event was a lot of fun with all sorts of coming and goings and endless plaques and so on being dedicated by the Mayor and the Director of the Maritime Museum.
Details about the history of the Club can be found in Paul Woodhead's book 'The Yacht Club. Greenwich 1908-2000' - written and published for the club and available from them.
Saturday, 21 June 2008
Monday, 16 June 2008
This means of course that while most of Greenwich ignores its engineering past that at least it is on the map as far as the Americans are concerned.
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Heritage museum for London’s Lea Valley. By Lindsay Collier MA
For a number of years now the Lea Valley Corridor has been known as a small area of Britain with a huge industrial past, it is a place where over one hundred industrial firsts have taken place, with half of these being in transportation. This achievement alone is a world record. For the last fourteen years the concept for a museum to celebrate this unique heritage called the Lea Valley Experience has been slowly simmering away in Walthamstow. With the coming of the Olympic Games to the valley in 2012, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase Britain’s largest and forgotten industrial past that has most certainly changed the world
as we know it today.
Our journey down the River Lea starts in Luton, home of the Vauxhall Car Company and London Luton international airport. before this Luton’s main employment came from many hat manufacturers - Luton Town’s Football Club is nicknamed the hatters. An area of Luton called Leagrave is the home of Electrolux, produced a variety of electrical household appliances. Part of their site was once occupied by Hewlett and Brondeau Ltd who built aircraft – they were founded in 1914 and managed by Hilda Hewlett, the first British woman to receive a pilot’s licence. In 1937 the Percival Aircraft Company moved here from Gravesend. The river then slowly twists its way to Hatfield, home of the de Havilland Aviation company, and the world’s first passenger jet airliner, the Comet.
down river at Chadwell and Amwell are the two main sources of the man made New
River constructed to carry water directly to the thirsty Jacobean residents of London.
Ware, once a Roman inland port is the home of Wickhams, manufacturers of plant and railway vehicles, and Warerite, laminated plastic railway carriage interiors. Ware also has malt houses and McMullen’s brewery. At Colliers End the first British balloon flight finally came to rest in September 1784.
Availability of so much water in the Lea meant it was a great place to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables, all in huge quantities. During the 1930s the Valley had the world’s largest
concentration of greenhouses. At one time it produced two thirds of Britain’s total horticultural output.
The world’s first passenger carrying monorail was constructed in 1825 at Cheshunt
to the design of Henry Robinson Palmer who also invented corrugated iron sheets. Today in Cheshunt, is Tesco’s head office and was once the home of Colin Chapman’s Lotus car company
down river at Waltham Abbey are the Royal Gun Powder Mills which opened in 1787 and produced a wide range of explosives and chemical until 1991.
At Enfield the electric light bulb, was first demonstrated twenty years before Edison by Sir Joseph Swan, and started the Ediswan Company in Ponders End. In 1904 the
diode was invented at the company’s works by Ambrose Fleming. the thermos flask,
was also developed at the work’s laboratories by Sir James Dewar in the 1870s.
Belling, MK and Thorn all set up companies in Enfield. we must not also forget the
famous Lee Enfield Rifle invented there by James Paris Lee.
Edmonton was once the home of Straker Squires who produced cars, lorries, buses and steam vehicles. British Oxygen also had a large factory there. In Tottenham the JAP Company produced speedway bikes and motorcycle engines. Gestetner who made duplicating equipment and the Lebus Furniture Company were also there.
Walthamstow is the home of the first British built car and is where many of the first buses that London Transport used in service were built by the Associated Equipment Company. In 1909 Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe became the first Briton to fly an all British built plane on Walthamstow Marshes – a centenary celebration of this is planned for 2009. also forget Bovince Ltd whose company invented the first method of screen printing
Many toy and sweet companies set up home in the valley: Matchbox, Britain’s, Brimtoys, Lines Bros, Trebor, Maynard’s and Bonds being just a few of them.
Hackney, is the home of petrol, as it was here that Carless Capel & Leonard invented the mixture and patented the name.
Stratford, was once the home of the largest railway works in the country. The London Cooperative was also founded there by its workers. Today the site is being prepared for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Bow, was famous for the matchbox girls strike, rockets, railway works, and the first improved horse omnibus and we finally end our journey at Bow Creek, once the home of the Thames Iron Works which constructed Britain’s first ironclad warship, the Warrior, along with much else including West Ham United Football Club.
In this brief trip down the River Lea I have only touched on some of its many interesting stories. I have tried to give you a taste of why the industrial heritage of the Lea Valley is so important. I hope by reading this it will inspire you to learn more about it and support the development of the Lea Valley Experience museum to celebrate the regions unique past. For more information visit
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Saturday, 7 June 2008
Thank you Clive Price for the June 1929 copy of Co-partnership Journal - it covers all the gas industry of South East London - but what does it report about the various gas works in Greenwich? - in those days there was also a small gas works on the Ravensbourne at the end of Thames Street, called West Greenwich, as well various chemical works and depots.
- ** Mr. Frederick Latham has been elected to the Company's Co-partnership Committee from the Greenwich Depot.
** the Provident Society includes 2,063 members (91.5% of the workforce) from East Greenwich, 16 (94.1%) from West Greenwich, 186 (83.4%) from Ordnance Wharf (tar works on the Peninsula), 258 (99.6) at Phoenix Wharf (chemical works on the Peninsula).
** Mr. W.J.Gill, Plater at East Greenwich, age 62 has retired after 28 years service
** one of the Company's fleet of ships is called 'Old Charlton'; built in December 1919.
*** the First Aid Trophy - oh dear! Woolwich District only in 6th place, East Greenwich Works in 7th, Phoenix Wharf, in 9th, Ordnance Wharf in 11th, Norman Road depot in 13th and the East Greenwich Laboratory in 16th. It was won by the Slot Meter Department.
*** The East Greenwich Works staff club had had a whist drive plus a Carnival Dance with novelty hats! There was also an outing to Penshurst, and a dance which included an exhibition of the minuet in costume by the ladies of the Physical Culture Section.
**** clocks were presented to Mr.W.King retiring works foreman at West Greenwich and to Mr.J.Ryall who had also retired. Mr. Belben who had retired as Employee Director at West Greenwich got a mahogany clock
** the East Greenwich Football Club had won the 'Metro' Challenge Cup and were runners up in the 'Metro League' (the 'office' team won). Sadly there is little detail on the Cricket, Swimming and Badminton Clubs but the Motor Cycling Club did have a Treasure Hunt starting at Hayes Station and intend to hold a Ladies Day and a Mystery Trial. The Photography Club had had a very pleasant tea at Bromley and - apart from finding a dead stag, and a grey hound with a dead rabbit had had a lovely walk in the spring sunshine.
- is this the 'world we have lost'? or something?
Friday, 6 June 2008
The London Society, Mortimer Wheeler House, 46 Eagle Wharf Road, N1 7ED 020 7253 9400 info@LondonSociety.org.uk http://www.londonsociety.org.uk/
I have also had a nice letter from the author of the article, Clive Price, sending as copy of the gas works house journal 'Co-partnership Journal' - enthusing in particular over an article in it on Scottish Dyes. Clive also recalls that he first began work at AEC Ltd. in Southall where chassis were made for Merryweather's using special engine governors to ensure that there was a smooth extension of the escape ladder when it was operated from a power take off driven by the vehicle engine.
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
This issue also includes other items of local (underground) interest: a report on the underground WW2 Field Hospital in Erith, and an article on Chiselhurst Caves in WW1.
check out sub-brit at http://www.subbrit.org.uk/
ps - Nick Catford is amazingly busy. I have just come back from a holiday in the Scottish borders. Looking for info on the (defunct) Rothbury Railway Station, I find the main source on the net is written by Nick. (thanks!)
Neil Bennett has been interested in the Merryweather company since his childhood ownership of toy and model Merryweather fire engines. At University he explored ancient bound journals of ENGINEERING journal and found that the company goes back to the year 1692 and has a diverse and rich engineering heritage. He was looking for work in 1983 and finding that Merryweather had moved to South Wales, he got a position as Draughtsperson with the company - which he kept until the 'moonlight flit' of the company on Friday 13th April 1984.
The company had started about 25 years after the Fire of London, on the corner of Bow Street and Long Acre. In 1738 a Nathaniel Hadley joined, followed by Simpkin who was a master plumber. Henry Lott joined in 1791. Fire squirts, like large hypodermic needles were made, along with leather buckets and more ambitious pumps. Henry Lott and Braidwood of the London Fire Engine Establishment did not see eye to eye, perhaps having backgrounds from different ends of the social spectrum. Lott was the son of a rich landowner, Braidwood was a 'man of the people'. Moses Merryweather was taken on as an apprentice in 1807 and in 1836 he married Lott's daughter. They had three sons, Richard Merryweather, James Compton Merryweather and Henry Merryweather. Edward Field was a consulting engineer who designed the boiler used in most Merryweather pumps and tram engines.
The Merryweather Sutherland large steam-powered horse-drawn fire engine won first prize at an international fire engine competition at Crystal Palace in 1836. It can be seen at the London Science Museum.
James Compton Merryweather was head of the firm from 1871. In 1873 the Long Acre factory was burnt down, to be replaced. The company manufactured such a range of products that it might not even be appropriate to call them a fire equipment company. Products included all kinds of water supply equipment, ice boats, safety rafts, tanks for camel transport, dye extractors, steam dredging apparatus, compressors, an electric clock and a petrol-cycle. The petrol cycle was described by Neil as the first British car and arguably the world's first car. It was designed by Edward Butler and initially built in the Greenwich High Road factory. Neil requested help in regard to 'tanks for camel transport' - were these something the camel carried on its back, or did you put the camel inside it? A letter to London Zoo had produced no enlightenment.
The steam tram engines, like the petrol cycle, were hampered by the Locomotive Acts. The trams were quite sophisticated, requiring to condense their own smoke and steam and being forbidden to produce noise or visibly moving parts or to exceed a strict speed limit.
The company took Limited Liability status from 1892 (Merryweather & Sons LIMITED). Mr C J W Jakeman was a director, and his name appears along with 'Merryweather' cast into some of the company's boilers. He was the manager of the Greenwich factory when it opened in 1876. A factory in York Street, Lambeth had opened in 1862. Charles Dickens refers to the fire engine makers in Long Acre in his book The Uncommercial Traveller.
Mr Bennett recalled a storeman named Mitchell, described in a book by James Merryweather. Mitchell would give out cash to local residents when the factory's testing of water jets and smoky machinery had spoilt the ladies' washing as the washing was hung out to dry. This was quite evocative and paints a clear picture of the times, which in some ways haven't changed much.
Neil described the fitting of 100-foot ladders to DUKW vehicles for scaling the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc in the D-Day landings. He also recalled some of the later events when the company, under its parent company Siebe Gorman, disappeared overnight from Ebbw Vale to Plymouth. The name Stuart Le Gassic comes up in reference to the company's recent history, but today it is run for the import of hand fire extinguishers by Jeff Wright at Tuesnoad Grange, Bethersden, Kent. I think Mr Wright would be interested to learn of new aspects of the company's past, or to buy old Merryweather catalogues, but he probably cannot help much with historical research or with spare parts for old machinery!
Neil received a round of applause despite not feeling very well prepared, and the fact that the projector and Powerpoint could not be made to work. On Steve Daly's suggestion he promised to come back again when the issues with the visual display had been resolved. Neil would be interested in talking to anyone who can do research at the South London Press offices, SW16.
Neil made some useful contacts and will be working on his book 'Sustained by Extinction' on the history of Merryweather.
Everything starts from Greenwich - I always said so!
And - while we're talking about Greenwich and the sea perhaps I should mention the Docklands History Group which meets at the Museum in Docklands. Their newsletter has just come with a long report on a talk about 'The Life of a Ships' Pilot' - a history of the men who take the ships from the river into the open seas. Their next meeting is on 5th June at 5.30 and features Chris Ellmers on 'Early Cargo handling and labour management in the West India Docks 1802-1840' and they are also advertising an all day seminar on 'The Docks, Empire and Slavery' on 14th June. This needs to be booked in advance and costs £12. 0870 444 3855 email@example.com
Friday, 23 May 2008
Saturday, 17 May 2008
Neil Bennett on Merryweather Fire Engine Manufacturers of Greenwich
I am really really pleased to have got Neil to do this as Merryweather were a most important local company whose products went world wide - every local museum in the world has their old Fire Engine on show. Try putting 'Merryweather Greenwich' into the net and you will come up with 100s of proudly preserved engines and sites. Something locally preserved are the pumps on London Fire Brigade Float Massey Shaw - hopefully soon to find a permanent site on the Greenwich riverside.
The meeting is as ever at Old BakeHouse (back of Age Exchange building in Blackheath Village) 7.30 just turn up.
Other future meetings
10th June Lindsay Collier on The Industrial Museum of the Lee Valley
15th July Roger Owen on Early Steam Ships and the City Canal
23rd September Hugh Lyon on The impact of railway building on Greenwich
21st October Janet MacDonald on The Royal Victualling Yard Deptford
11th November James Trimmer on The Work of the Port of London Authority, with special reference to Greenwich
11th January Richard Hartree. on John Penn the work of the Greenwich based engineering company and its founders
17th March John King on Lullingstone . The Airport that never was.
Today the chemical weapons establishment at Waltham Abbey is a fascinating and beautiful parkland site which can still evidence strong links with Woolwich and the Arsenal - very visibly through Locomotive Woolwich standing centrally on display. Everyone should go there - they are open every weekend and bankholiday from the end of April to the end of September. Check them out and their events programme at www.royalgunpowdermills.com
So - any one any ideas? where was the Perseverance Works and does anyone know anything about Alpha?
Friday, 16 May 2008
So - what about industrial history here - well it has just managed to creep under the door and get a little bit noticed. Part of this was the investigation of the old brewery area - but also keeping in the minds of the people setting all this up that all of what we know as 'Royal' and 'Maritime' Greenwich had to be backed up by a large and highly skilled workforce - and that those skills were also transferred into a wider world of economic activity and endeavour - and just as important!
Thursday, 15 May 2008
Saturday, 10 May 2008
Saturday, 3 May 2008
The latest issue of 'Gaslight' - the newsletter for historians of the gas industry - has reproduced a fascinating tender document about laying the gas main from East Greenwich to the Old Kent Road gas works in 1884. The contractor was Thos.Docwra and Sons of Balls Pond Road in Islington. and they were charging 23/6d. per yard for the work. This included costs for the employment of a ganger, a jointer, an excavator and a horse and cart - fences, lanterns, timbers left in trench, deals, reinstatement of Macadamed roads, cartage to the rubbish shoot and lead joints. Perhaps this is just a reminder that road works in East Greenwich have always been with us!
Monday, 28 April 2008
The only one I have watched so far is 'Children at School' filmed, not in Greenwich, but in the nursery of the Gas Light and Coke Company flats at Ladbroke Grove - itself built in the tank of a disused gas holder.
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Monday, 21 April 2008
When the gas works closed the capstan stayed there alongside one of the internal roads. Anyway, its just one of the many Greenwich sourced exhibits in this wonderful local museum which everyone should go and see - just get on the DLR, get off at West India Quay and turn left, past the Robin and its ahead and to the right.