Sunday 26 October 2008

Gaslight and Brian Donkin

"Gaslight' has just turned up - the Newsletter of the North West Gas Historical Society. In it is an article about the (latterly) Chesterfield based firm of Brian Donkin & Company - and the article is partly to record the passing of the Chesterfield Works. However, as the article records this was originally a south London company with an important works based near The Blue in Bermondsey. It was there that Donkin secured many first - paper making machinery, canned food, to name just two. Some years ago I had an article published in the GLIAS Newsletter (154 Oct.1994) which drew attention to Donkin's family links with both the gas-industry magnates, the Hawes family.
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!


Anonymous said...

Bryan Donkin (not Brian) started working with John Hall of Dartford before getting his own works for the Bryan Donkin company at Blue Anchor Lane, Bermondsey from which they moved in 1902. His son, also Bryan Donkin worked all his life at the firm and lived at Eastnor House in Blackheath. The firm started off with papermaking and general engineering, steam engines, waterwheels, equipment for the Thames Tunnel, etc. This included work on the Greenwich tide mill, and also turning the great circle for the Observatory for Troughton. This was an example of their precision engineering expertise. By the 20th century were strongly dependent on the gas industry. Late 19th century they did research with Kennedy of UCL on engine efficiency etc. I visited the Chesterfield works in 1996 shortly before they closed. They still had a working iron foundry going strong then.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Mary said...
George - that is very very interesting. I would particularly like to know what work they did on the Greenwich tide mill and what date it was they did it. I am also very interested in their relationship with Beale and his exhauster - I wrote some of that up in Bygone Kent too.
On another note - Greenwich Industrial History Society would be very interested in a speaker on Donkin! (my direct email is
- oh - and ps - my optician (since retired) was doing a lot of research on Donkin graves in Nunhead Cemetery

Le blog de Framboisine said...

Bonjour. Je suis très intéressée par l'histoire de la fonderie en fer de Bryan Donkins et la première conserverie à Bermondsey en 1812. Merci pour vos renseignements (en français, s'il-vous-plaît). Cordialement. Françoise.