Thursday 17 December 2009

Lungley's Yard pictures

Merv has now sent the following two pictures of Lungley's Deptford Green shipbuilding yard. Comments on them would be very welcome

He has also sent an accessions list to the Southampton Archives showing that Lungley also had a works in that area

Merv has given no information as to where these pictues have come from or how we know they are of Lungley in Deptford. So, if they are someone's copyright - then our apologies and please let us know and we will remove them or give a credit.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

More about Deptford shipbuilder, Lungley, and some of his ships

More information from Merv in Australia


Lungley's yard was at Deptford Green, and had one of the first dry docks on the Thames. It has been described as "the most complete yard on the Thames". The yard was in existence in 1814. They also built marine engines, but closed down in 1866, when Lungley became manager of C. J. Mare's yard at Millwall.

Some of the ships built in Deptford by Lungley

NORSEMAN (1) was built in 1866 with a tonnage of 1386grt, a length of 262ft 9in, a beam of 32ft 2in and a service speed of 9 knots. In July 1866 she joined the mail service with a red funnel but in 1873 was sold to J. Heugh and in 1874 was converted into a cable repair ship by the Telegraph & Maintenance Co and employed by the Cia Telegrafica Platino-Brasilera on Siemens cables from Rio de Janeiro to Montevideo. She was re-engined in 1880 and, by fitting a circular tank in the no. 2 hold, was given cable laying capability. In 1888, assisted by the Viking, she laid the up-river River Plate cable. Badly damaged during a storm in 1892 she was replaced by Norseman (2) put up for sale being acquired by A.C.S. Springer of London. She was finally broken up in November 1898.

CELT (2) was built in 1866 with a tonnage of 1439grt, a length of 262ft 9in, a beam of 32ft 2in and a service speed of 9 knots. Sister of the Norseman she joined the mail service in August 1866 and in 1874 she was lengthen to 293ft with an increase in tonnage to 2112grt. In February 1875 she was wrecked at the mouth of the River Ratel between Cape Agulhas and Danger Point, all 98 persons aboard being saved by the Zulu.

CAMBRIAN was built in 1860 with a tonnage of 1055grt, a length of 245ft, a beam of 33ft 7in and a service speed of 8 knots. Costing £25,000 she was launched on 23rd April 1860 by Mrs Saxon the wife of Capt. Saxon of Anderson, Saxon & Co, the Union Lines agent at Cape Town. She was the first mail ship built for the company to exceed 1000grt. Sold to French owners in 1872 her subsequent career is unknown.

BRITON (2) was built in 1861 with a tonnage of 1164grt, a length of 264ft, a beam of 33ft 7in and a service speed of 9.5 knots. Due to her hull being subdivided both horizontally and vertically she was described by her owners as being 'unsinkable and unburnable'. In 1873 she was sold to the Admiralty, converted into a troopship and renamed HMS Dromedary. Placed in reserve during 1880 she was finally disposed of in 1884.

SAXON (2) was built in 1863 with a tonnage of 1142grt, a length of 290ft 10in, a beam of 32ft 10in and a service speed of 10.5 knots. She began service on the mail run on 13th February 1863 and reduced the time to 31 days. In 1876 she was sold to Bailey & Leetham of Hull who were known as the 'Tombstone Line' because of their black funnel with a broad white vertical line and a rounded top. She was sold on again in 1885 to Empreza Insulana de Navegaçao of Ponte Delgado, Azores and renamed Benguella for their Lisbon-Azores service. On 24th June 1890 she sprang a leak in the Atlantic and abandoned with all the passengers and crew being rescued by the Spanish barque Marianna.

ROMAN (1) was built in 1863 with a tonnage of 1282grt, a length of 290ft 10in, a beam of 32ft 10in and a service speed of 10.5 knots. She started her career as a red funneled mail steamer in November 1863 but, as larger ships were built and joined the fleet, was transferred to the Intermediate service in 1869. She was lengthened and re-engined in 1872 and, at the same time, was given a black funnel. In 1880 she was deployed on the Zanzibar service until 1888 when she was transferred to the Southampton-Bremen-Hamburg feeder service. She was sold ot Essayan Oondjian of Constantinople (Istanbul) and renamed Adana in 1889 and was scrapped in 1910 at Smyrna after grounding.

ANGLIAN (1) was built in 1864 with a tonnage of 661grt, a length of 204ft 10in, a beam of 26ft 4in and a service speed of 8 knots. Built with a shallow draft to facilitate the sand bar at Durban she was delivered in March 1864 for the Intercolonial service between Cape Town, Durban and Mauritius. When the Intercolonial service was discontinued in 1868 she became surplus to requirements and was sold to Palgrave, Murphy & Co. of Dublin in the following year, retaining her name. In 1882 her owners renamed her City of Lisbon so that all their ships bore a 'City of ...' name. She ended her career in 1903 when she sank off New Brighton in the River Mersey after being in collision with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co's Douglas.

MAURITIUS was built in 1865 with a tonnage of 587grt, a length of 210ft, a beam of 26ft 5in and a service speed of 9 knots. Similar in design to the Anglian she joined her sister on the Intercolonial service in 1865. When the service was discontinued in 1868 she was put up for sale at Southampton and acquired in the following year by Palgrave, Murphy & Co. of Dublin but then sold on to J. P. Hutchinson of Glasgow. She had new boilers fitted in 1872 and a compound engine in 1876. In 1901 she was sold to Sociadade 'La Mediterranea', of Barcelona with T. Fernandez as manager and renamed Industria. She sank after a collision in 1910.

DANE (1) was built in 1854 with a tonnage of 530grt, a length of 195ft, a beam of 25ft 1in and a service speed of 9 knots. Sister of the Briton she was, on completion, immediately chartered to the French Government for use in the Crimean War. In 1856, due to a surplus of coal, she was laid up at Southampton with the intention of using her for the November sailing to South America but this voyage never materialised. On December 1856 her owners were re-styled Union Steamship Company. In 1857 she followed the Union and the Norman onto the Rio de Janeiro service and on 15th September of the same year and under the command of Capt Strutt she undertook the first voyage to the Cape Colony with the mails. For this purpose she was given a red funnel with a broad black top, a livery that was applied to all the Cape Colony mail ships. In 1863 she was placed on the new coastal service followed, in 1864, by the Mauritius service. On 17th May 1865, whilst at anchor and during the 'Great Gale', she was holed by a drifting sailing ship. In the same year she was chartered by the British Government to carry troops to Zanzibar where they were used to suppress slave trading. On 28th November 1865 she went ashore whilst approaching Port Elizabeth on a voyage from Simonstown and on 4th December became a total loss.

NORMAN (1) was built in 1854 in London with a tonnage of 530grt, a length of 195ft, a beam of 25ft 1in and a service speed of 9 knots. Identical to the Dane she was immediately chartered to the British Government for Crimean War service and completed her maiden voyage from Southampton to Constantinople and Balaklava with a cargo of wooden huts for troops wintering in the freezing Crimea. In late 1855 she was laid up at Southampton but on 29th September 1856 inaugurated the Union Steam Collier Co's Southampton - Rio de Janeiro service quickly followed by the Union and the Dane. On 21st January 1857, under Union Steam Ship Co. ownership, she replaced the Celt on her ill-fated December sailing and in the following November completed the run to the Cape in 39 days. In 1863 she replaced the Roman on the South African coastal service returning to Southampton in the following year. She was sold to Charles Lungley in 1865 as part payment for three new ships he was building for the company. Lungley then sold the ship to Bremner, Bennett & Bremner of London with the same name and for their Mediterranean trade and thereafter all trace of her was lost.

CELT (1) was built in 1855 with a tonnage of 531grt, a length of 176ft 4in, a beam of 25ft 1in and a service speed of 9 knots. Built with the intention of replacing the Union on the coal trade she was, on completion, requisitioned for use during the Crimean War. On 24th December 1856 she sailed from Southampton bound for Rio de Janeiro but was forced to return to Cowes Roads with engine trouble. She set out again on 31st December but had to return to Southampton on 3rd January 1857 when she sprang a leak and the voyage was consequently cancelled. On 17th May she sailed from Liverpool, the new departure port, for South America and made two round voyages before, in the October, she made the second sailing to the Cape with the mails, completing the voyage in 43 days. In 1862 she was sold to Charles Lungley as part payment for the larger mail ships he was building and subsequently sold to Balnerre of Rotterdam and renamed Gothenburg. She was purchased by J. Meek of Newcastle in 1875, reverted to her original name of Celt and had compound engines and new boilers installed. In 1885 she was under the ownership of Thames & Bristol Trading Co. Ltd of London and in 1891 she was owned by McDowall & Barbour of Piraeus, restyled Hellenic Steam Navigation Co. in 1908, with the name Poseidon. Without a change of name she was acquired by J.Potomianos of Istanbul in 1910 and in 1933 her name was deleted from the Register of Shipping.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Lungley - Deptford shipwright

Merv in Australia has written with a lot of information about a Deptford shipwright. Basically he is after info on family history - and locating anyone who can help. But he has some interesting things to say about Lungley

Merv says:
I have been trying to establish Charles Lungley's date of birth - was it 1816 - in Hatfield, Essex. He died Jun 1871 in Greenwich aged 55 years. He married Mary Ann Burchell.

Ships Built in Deptford.
Dane - Norman - Celt 1 & 2 - Cambrian - Briton - Saxon - Roman - Anglian - Mauritius - Norseman - Pevensey [Well known in the USA Wars] - Florence Irving - Agnes Irving -Kaioura [Aust NZ run] -and others were built for the Crimean Wars.

His addresses and the places of his children's birth show how his career as a shipbuilder moved around the lower Thamesside area.

In 1851 his children were:
Mary Ann born Greenwich Kent
Frances born Northfleet Kent
Ellen born Northfleet Kent
Margaret born Poplar Mdx
Janet born Poplar Mdx
Kate born Poplar Mdx
and later
Reete born Poplar Mdx
Charles Frederick born Greenwich Kent

His addresses were
High Street, Poplar Mdx
Dock Row Northfleet
Aylesford North Kent
High Street, St Mary, Maldon, Essex
182 Ramsden Road, Clapham, Surrey

He also says
One of the ships of his was 'Florence Irving' which arrived in Australia in -1868 with a relation of mine on board. This was Capt G S Rowling who was born in Scilly and settled in Swansea later became a Master Mariner.He had a number of voyages out as well as to USA so he must have travelled quite a lot in those days.

Sunday 13 December 2009

GLIAS Newsletter 245

The latest GLIAS newsletter has arrived with some items of Greenwich interest - although our programme of talks seems not have made it to their events list!

The first article in the newsletter is about Dave Perrett's visit to Convoy's Wharf on one of their recent open days before a planning application for housing is submitted to Lewisham Council. Dave gives a brief outline of the history of the site and draws particular attention to the 1840s ship sheds built on the site. Convoys was, of course, the earliest of the Royal Dockyards and where much naval research and development was carried out. It seems that current plans for the vast ship sheds is as community space - they are currently in use to store wheeley bins. The developers apparently claim to intend Deptford to become the Camden of south-east London!
This is an interesting subject and can we encourage any one else who has an interest in Convoys to get in touch and perhaps add to our information.

GLIAS also lists excavations in London listed in the London Fieldwork Publications round up. In Greenwich they note:
43-81 Greenwich High Road - tanning pits and structures associated with Merryweathers (more info please!!)
Greenwich Wharf (no detail given, this is what we know as Lovells)
Old Brewery, Royal Naval College (no detail in GLIAS - but information can be found back in the blog)

'News in brief' notes the current demolition of the Syrol site - more information would be welcome here.

- and, finally, there is more notes about that ever-embarrassing subject, the Woolwich Autostacker. One item is from Len Fiddler who was a pupil at Woolwich Polytechnic School when the autostacker was built. He watched it being built and the boys were given a holiday on opening day. He says that the problem was that the cables were too elastic and that when cars were lifted they had one set of wheels in the car park and one set in the lift, and became stuck. He says it was too expensive to replace the cables. (although personally I would have thought replacing the cables was cheaper than leaving the building to rot unused for years and years - and anyway, surely the cost would have been down to the contractor?)

Father of the Cycle Industry

Thanks to Richard Hartree who has sent a copy of notes about the early days of the cycle industry in Coventry. The article concerns the early days of three pioneers of this - Starley, Hillman and Singer. Of interest to us are their south London origins.

James Starley came from Sussex but moved to London to become a gardener to John Penn, the eminent Greenwich 19th century engineer. Starley became very skilled with mechanical devices and was able to mend and improve a sewing machine bought for Mrs.Penn. Penn knew Josiah Turner, who had made the machine, and he was able to get Starley a job in his works. Turner and Starley moved to Coventry and started a sewing machine works there, attracting workers from the defunct watch making trade. Starley went on to perfect many devices particularly in the field of bicycles - and is described as 'one of our great inventors'.

William Hillman lived near to Starley in Lewisham and was apprenticed at the Penn works. In 1871 he too went to Coventry and entered into a partnership with Starley. Hillman left to set up his business initially with bicycles and then moving into early motor manufacturing.

George Singer, was another apprentice at Penns - and a bell ringer in Lewisham along with Hillman. He too moved to Coventry to share lodgings with Hillman. He too became pre-eminent, and very rich, in the field of bicycle manufacture and also became Mayor of Coventry.

It makes me wonder - perhaps someone should trace the lives of many more of Penn's apprentices and see how much of British manufacturing industry can be tracked back to the works on Blackheath Hill!

Sunday 22 November 2009

Johnsen & Jorgensen question

I came across your web site whilst browsing this evening and wondered if you or any of your members may be able to help me...

My late grandfather, Harry, worked for a company called Johnsen and Jorgensen for many years. They manufactured medical and laboratory glass. I believe their main factory was in the Charlton/Woolwich area. During the war a temporary factory was set up in Hildenborough, Kent (Oakfield Works) due to the bombing and he moved there with the company. The business later transferred to South Wales (Cardiff area) and he again moved with the company.

I would like to find out more information about the factory in Charlton/Woolwich, where it was located, and if there is anything left to see today. If anyone knows anything about the set up in Hildenborough that would be a bonus.

A bit of a long shot I suppose but you never know.

Thanks in advance for any assistance.

By the way, you may be interested to know that I write a blog called Kent Today and Yesterday. I have just written a post which includes pictures of the now derelict W T Henley/AEI Cables site in Northfleet which is currently being demolished.

Best regards,
Glen Humble

Thursday 19 November 2009

Woolwich Antiquarians ferries

The WADAS newsletter has some interesting notes about Woolwich Ferry and why it is only running on one boat. Apparently John Burns has had a loss of hydraulic oil in a hard to trace place. It has now been sorted out - and the spare part is now being overhauled. These (now very old) vessels are all being overhauled and repaired

John Burns - was the leader of the 1889 Dock Strike and was the first Labour leader to become a Cabinet Minister

James Newman - was leader of Woolwich Council from 1941.

Ernest Bevin - was the Docker's trade union leader and later Minister of Labour. He was MP for East Woolwich in 1950.

The newsletter also has news of the Olympic events on Woolwich Common, a lecture on Woolwich Town Hall and various local lectures and events - AND the Severndroog Castle By a Brick Scheme.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Manchesters Trucks

Kindly supplied by Graham Manchester, here is a photo of one of the Manchester trucks from Charlton.

Interestingly, Corgi have made a model of this truck.

Graham also reports;

'We were the first ones onto the site after the closure of the Gas Works and took up residence in 1976! That was interesting! We were told we had to be off not later than 1996 as the Millennium building was going to be built there (so much for bidding from Birmingham and Manchester!)

Hottest year for years and mutant ladybirds about 1" diameter each which used to dive bomb us and bite us! (among many other stories!)'

Friday 13 November 2009

Advert from 1930s Mercury

The above advertisement for South Metropolitan Gas Company appeared in the 100th anniversary of the Mercury. It is one of many illustrations to be used in a forthcoming book about the Greenwich Peninsula.

Tuesday 10 November 2009


I am not sure that this is actually straight forward industrial history but I thought it was so interesting people should know more about it. This is about Gilbert's Pit - a site of scientific interest in Charlton. I understand that a recent event was held in the Pit for the local great and good (and that's not me!) by the London Geodiversity Partnership and to show new plans which the council has for the area.
They say Gilbert's Pit as one of the most important geological sites in Britain. The industrial link to it is that the rock face has been revealed because it was a quarry connected to the local glass industry (and Charlton had the biggest glass works in Europe in the 1960s).
The new plans hope to connect the area round Gilbert's Pit with other local parks and open spaces - and to manage it in a way to show its geological importance and to give people access and information about this important site.
There is much of interest there - above the pit is the site of a Romano-British fort and there have been finds of pottery there. In the 18th century it was a semaphore station and later a Home Guard look out. The sand in the pit was used for brass mouldings in the Arsenal and later in the glass works.
The rock formations in the pit show older rocks on top of newer rocks - and this is a puzzle and one of the reasons it is interesting to geologists. The pit is described as a 'reference locality for geologists' giving insights to change in climate over 55 million years.
I realise this is a very brief outline of an important, and rather obscure, subject. There have been reports published on the site - and generally on geodiversity by Government and London Government sources and I am happy to put some references here if people ask for them.

Thursday 5 November 2009


The latest edition of English Heritage's 'Current Archaeology' mentions something we ought to have known about earlier. This is the Teardrop site in Woolwich, and adjacent to the ferry.

They describe how 'one of the largest sections in London' was cut through a ditch and discovered that the ditch was probably Iron Age in origin and is thought to have enclosed a trading area (I think that means some sort of wharf). They also discovered five pottery kilns - does this also link with the well known kiln now languishing outside the Heritage Centre in its box?? Two of the kilns were 13th/14th century and used for London Ware production - the only such site ever found.
I have written to the team and hope to get more information.

Elsewhere in this edition is a note about Seager's Distillery at Deptford Bridge - which of course was described at the last GIHS meeting by Duncan Hawkins (thank you Duncan). They describe however, for those of you who weren't there, the remains of an 18th century sugar refinery, stonemasons cottages and of course the 19th century gin distillery and a late 19th century iron works.

Friday 16 October 2009

Just arrived today - history of Siemens Engineering Society

First I should explain to any readers under 60 that Siemens was a large factory near where the barrier is today. Like so much of Greenwich and Woolwich industry it was a world leader in expertise and innovation in its field of electrical engineering - much of what we take for granted in telecommunications today was pioneered there. After the factory closed in the 1960s the group of young apprentices continued with a programme of lectures and technical visits - and now, all OAPs, have published a history of their Society.

The book is fascinating - but I am just going to quote some of the letter that comes with it from Secretary, Brian Middlemiss.

"The Engineering Society was founded in October 1897, its first President being Alexander Siemens. The Society flourished until 1968 when the Company was taken over by GEC and closed. The feelings of loyalty, memories and fellowship were such that reunion meetings began in 1969. The 40th Anniversary of this reformed Society has provided the spur to produce this history.
Ever since the Society embarked on this project our object has been to recored, as far as has been possible, the pioneering research, development, engineering and manufacture of Electrical Cables, Telegraph, Telephone, Signalling, and Measuring Apparatus, Wireless Equipment, Lamps, Lights and Batteries undertraken by Siemens Brothers and Co., Ltd for over 100 years.
The age profile of the members of the Society suggests we will not be undertaking any more major projects.
I hope you find reading our history informative and enjoyable."

The history is indeed amazing - and it is very very touching to find the devotion they have to the achievements of an employer which went out of business over forty years ago! The book will be on display at the GIHS meeting next week - and would be available to loan to anyone who promised to bring it back. And the Heritage Centre has a copy. I do not think copies are to go on general sale - but we are happy to pass contact details on if anyone asks for them.

Thursday 8 October 2009


People who venture north of the river may be aware of Valentine's House, north of Ilford. The house has recently been renovated with a lottery grant and was the subject of a talk at Walthamstow Local History Society on Thursday evening.

Why should Greenwich historians be interested in a house in Ilford? Well, Valentines House was the home of a Greenwich industrialist, Charles Holcome.

In 1841 Morden College granted a lease on a large site on the Peninsula - 'Further Pitts' - to Charles Holcombe. He acted as a developer, leasing part of the site to a network of other companies.

Holcombe was obviously at least middle aged by the time he invested in the Greenwich sites – it is likely that he had previously been the tenant of Hatcham Manor Farm at New Cross and had operated a chemical works there. By the time he came to Greenwich he had already taken occupation of Valentines Park and his family were local benefactors in the Ilford area. A road alongside Valentine's House is named after him 'Holcombe Road'. Strangely, the adjacent road is 'Bethell Avenue' - and this is unlikely to be a coincidence – does this reflect a connection with Bethell, the most famous of the coal tar distillers of his generation? .

The Greenwich site is shown on the 1843 Greenwich Tithe map as that of Charles Holcombe ‘ house, premises, tar factory, sheds and yard’. When he took over Great and Little Pits Morden College made it quite clear that he must spend at least £300 per acre on improvements.

Initially he applied to the Commissioner of Woods and Forests for an embankment to his wharf and Morden College comments that the permission was ‘accompanied by restrictions of a very unusual and prejudicial character’. What ever that means!

In Greenwich directories his Greenwich works is listed as a 'brass foundry, tar and Asfelt works'. He is also described as a 'refiner of coal tar, spirit, pitch and varnish'.

A footpath is shown from Blackwall Lane to the river – this was soon to be diverted and changed to become Morden Wharf Lane, or Sea Witch Lane, which for many years has been a private road through the glucose refinery. Holcombe then built Morden Wharf - the area which today juts out into the river downstream of the silos. It is not known why he named it this - perhaps he had a special relationship with Morden College, or wanted to curry favour with them. Morden Wharf Road led to a pub – the Sea Witch – also built by Holcombe. He obtained permission to build houses from Morden College who also provided designs and specifications – and riverside cottages by the pub and terraces of houses sprang up on the borders of the area he was leasing. The houses were, inevitably, designed by George Smith the Morden College surveyor.

He later asked Morden College for permission to lay asphalt on the river path. He also asked permission to build a draw dock and complained when permission had been given to someone else to deposit rubbish on the riverside. These activities gradually added to the local amenities and made the area more attractive to other incoming industrialists.

After his death Holcombe's leases on the sites at Morden Wharf and the sub-tenants who occupied them continued in the ownership of his widow and descendents. They were members of the Ingleby family - and it is them are best remembered at Valentine's House.

A web site for the Friends of Valentine's House can be found at where there is also a great deal of information about the house and its owners over the centuries. It is a place well worth a visit - a beautiful house in a sensational park.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Woolwich educated Nobel Prize winner - for research done on Greenwich Peninsula

Newspaper reports outline the Nobel prize won by Charles Kuen Kao's for his work on fibre optics - which had paved the way for the current broadband. The papers report on his education at Woolwich Polytechnic. We note that the Times includes a quote from Baroness Blackstone because they say 'the University of Greenwich includes the former Woolwich Polytechnic".
(of course the Times should note that the University of Greenwich IS Woolwich Polytechnic but stripped of those departments which educated Dr. Kao and made it so prestigious).

However, the newspaper report also points out that Dr.Kao's research was done at STC. Was therefore their work done in Greenwich at what is now the Alcatel works? We would be grateful for information. In 2000 Alcatel published a book - in an attempt to show that the technology driving the internet was developed only a short distance from the Dome, where it had been decided to ignore local industries. The booklet includes a photograph of Dr.Kao and makes a strong case for much of the optical fibre technology being developed here. They also say that in 1986 the Greenwich factory secured the first order for an international fibre optic cable.

So - anyone who has any information please add it here

Tuesday 6 October 2009

New Ashburnham Triangle book out

Diana Rimel has now published the update of her Ashburnham Triangle book - and this is a real tour de force. It lovingly charts the general history of the area and then lists street by street houses, pubs and other buildings. Of course, we are an industrial history society and would like to see a lot more about the industry of the area - but it has not been neglected. .

Even the name of 'Ashburnham' is industrial - it reflects the great Ashburnham furnace of the Wealden iron industry - and their later alliance with the Crowley ironmasters whose 18th century warehouses stood on Ballast Quay.

There is a chapter on the industrial buildings along this part of Deptford Creek - with a (much too short) section on Merryweathers and another on the LESC building, by Richard Cheffins (and first published by GIHS). Other information about Greenwich industry turns up in the description of many residential streets. For instance an item chosen at random is a note about Thomas Pottle's pottery in Blackheath Road under 'personalities'. However, I looked in vain for mention of the London and Greenwich Railway under both 'Blue Stile' and 'North Pole' - perhaps their first entry into Greenwich it is hidden somewhere else.

The book was launched at an event at Davy's Wine Bar by Cllr. Maureen O'Mara. In introducing it she said " Local history is one of my own great interests so I was very pleased and flattered to be asked by the Association to introduce Diana. As a Triangle resident now for over sixteen years I have always been fascinated by its history and I congratulate Diana on this new edition of her book"

In his introduction to the book Mick Delap, Chair of the Ashburnham Triangle Association, talks about the vanishing industrial landscape and points in particular to the demolition of the Merryweather buildings.

This is a an important book which records the past of this key area and at the same time allows us to see it at a time of great transition. And whether you know the Triangle or not the book is still a good read.

Copies and info available from Richard Cheffins, Cheques payable to the Ashburnham Triangle Association - £5 - not sure if that includes post and packing.

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Computer manufacture in Greenwich

Those who can remember the computer manufacturers of the 1960s - when Britain was still a major player - will know that one of the most important of them was Elliott Brothers, based on the Lewisham/Greenwich borders.

A member has drawn our attention to an article - "Elliott Brothers to BAE Systems" by C T Bartlett which appeared in the Summer 2009 Newsletter of the History Technical and Professional Network of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. This can be found at
Through many mergers Elliott Brothers via Marcom-Elliott Avionic Systems Ltd and then Marconi Avionics, became part of BAE Systems. C.T.Bartlett, worked for Marconi Avionics and when he retired set up a museum called Rochester Avionic Archives on the Rochester site of BAE Systems - carries a different version of the Elliott article and a description of the collection. Unfortunately there is no information about how or even whether the public can visit.

The website says "Welcome to Rochester Avionic Archives - a large collection of avionic hardware items together with an archive of films, documents, videos,brochures and newspapers. The oldest item is a Slide Rule from 1894 but the majority of the items are of mid to late20th century origin. The emphasis is on equipment made or relevant to the Rochester site and the work of Elliott Bros, Marconi and BAE Systems The Rochester Avionic Archives (RAA), is located within BAE System Rochester, and aims to preserve a record of the products and generate pride in the people who helped create the company.

Up to 1998, a unique collection of equipment and documents was stored in the Flying School under the care of one of the previous Directors of the company. This collection included the 'Elliott Collection' which is a valuable archive relating to the work of Elliott Brothers in the 19th century. This collection has historic scientific instruments and documents but in addition there were some more modem items concerned with the avionics business of the Company and in particular at Rochester.

- So - what do we know about their work in South London?

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Walk London - The Royal Arsenal to Greenwich

Members of the Greenwich Industrial History Society (and others) might be interested in a walk on Sunday, 27th September at 11am.

Ian Bull, a walk leader for 'Walk London' is hosting. Please meet outside Woolwich Arsenal station for a historical walk along the Thames Path from The Royal Arsenal to Greenwich. The walk is just over 7.5 miles long and has no set finish time although it is expected to last about four to five hours. Photographs to illustrate the route over the past 50 years or so will be on hand. These have been provided by The Greenwich Heritage Centre. A packed lunch may be advisable but a visit to the Thames Barrier's café en route is an option.

This cannot be an in depth investigation into local history but the weather forecast is excellent and the walk might make a pleasant if familiar stroll. The walk is free and there's no need to to pre-book. All are very welcome to contact Ian in advance for further information.

Unfortunately it will not be possible to have a close look at the Royal Arsenal's buildings due to an event on the site.

OBO Ian Bull
Tel: 020 7223 3572

The walk appears on Walk London's website at...


Walk London is a partnership of all the London Boroughs. Financed by Transport for London it is led by The Corporation of the City of London.

Keskerdh Kernow 500

We've been sent a copy of this wonderful book about Cornwall - a lot of it is about the March to Blackheath - isn't there a plaque up on the wall of Greenwich park? At the end of the March the marchers made the Blackheath Declaration - which was basically about Cornish rights (they wanted a Development Agency and stuff like that). Anyway its a great book with lots of interesting stuff in it - happy to lend it out but it would be important to get it back.

Now - why were we sent it? One of the most important people in the great history of Cornish industry, mining technology and engineering was Richard Trevithick. He pioneered much steam engine technology and designed one of the earliest Locomotives (there are great accounts of his first steaming through the streets of Cambourne). He has very tangible links with south east London, since he ended his days working for J.&E.Hall and is buried in Dartford.

One of the most important things which happened to his work on steam engine design - and something which can claim to be a milestone in steam engine technology - was the explosion of a boiler in one of his new high pressure engines in 1803. Where did this take place?? Why, on the Greenwich Peninsula just down near the river from the Pilot.

I wrote this up, to a somewhat cool reception, for the bi-centenary of this event - and I had also found the inquest report for one of the victims who died in St.Thomas's hospital. Anyway, two weeks ago I met a Cornish industrial historian and sent him a copy of my article. He has replied with multiple thanks - very very keen to know where it was that it happened and - as a thank you has sent this wonderful book.

So - who remembers the march?

Friday 11 September 2009

Open House at the Arsenal site

A press release from firepower - ROYAL ARSENAL PREPARES TO OPEN ITS DOORS

On Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September, the Royal Arsenal's historic Old Royal Military Academy where history was both taught and made - a Grade II (star) listed building built 1716-20 - will be open free of charge as part of the London Open House Weekend. The building is attributed to Nicholas Hawksmoor and was commissioned by the Government’s Board of Ordnance. It was the birthplace of the Royal Artillery, and was one of the first military academies of Europe. The British army officer training system now based at Sandhurst, was first established here. The Academy took in the first cadets in 1721 then in 1805, they were moved into a converted workshop nearby, and the RMA Woolwich became known to generations of officers as "The Shop". The traditions begun and standards set here in the 18th Century are carried through to today as the core values of military education and standards in Britain and in many other countries. The building is now used by Firepower, The Royal Artillery Museum.

- and - what they don't say in this press release (which comes from Firepower and thus is only interested in the Royal Artillery) that it had a formative role in the Royal Engineers - and - perhaps more importantly was the place where many scientists undertook research. I have always felt that it is about time someone took seriously Woolwich's role in the scientific community of the 18th and 19th centuries - and the role of the Royal Military Academy in being one of the earliest institutions to provide a scientific education in this country.
I did edit that press release down a lot too!

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Woolwich Foot Tunnel tiles

a correspondent says:

I came across the following in papers for the Newellite Glass Tile Company formed in 1898 and based at 19 Shenton Street, Old Kent Road.October 1912 - "The loss shewn is almost entirely attributable to a contract undertaken by the Company for Tiling the Woolwich Tunnel under the engineers to the LCC."My grandfather held shares in the company and one of the owners, John Tyrrell Newell was a relative of his. The company eventually folded and was dissolved in 1921.I would be interested to know if any record of the contract would be in any archives or if you could point me in any direction to find out more.

Crossness Engines Steaming Day

As mentioned in an earlier post, Sunday August 23rd saw the last of the 2009 Steaming Days.

Crossness was extremely busy on a beautifully hot and sunny day. Helpers there were suggesting a possible record attendance. Apparently, a certain Mr. Gryff Rhys Jones had mentioned Crossness in his 'World's Greatest Cities' program on London the previous Sunday, so that must have helped.

Since I have yet to find any videos of these 'steaming' events posted on the Web, I thought members of the GIHS and others might be interested in seeing a video I took with a little Flip video camera. I have spent almost no time on this. They are raw clips, unedited, in the same sequence that I took them and with a piece of electronic music chosen totally random that seems to just work with the motions.

Prince Consort is certainly an impressive beast, and a huge credit to the team of volunteers that have restored her to working order. What surprised me more than anything was how quiet it was, with a whole load of weird creaks, groans, squeaks and whistles being the dominant sounds rather than any crashing and banging.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Elliott of Lewisham

I knew Elliotts as Elliott Automation - our local computer manufacturer. We have an enquiry from a reader about an Elliott engineers - is this the same firm? can anyone tell us more? the reader says:

"Messrs Elliotts, the well known engineers."Quote from newspaper report of the inquest on my great grandfather HenryPilbeam Cox of Bolden Street Deptford who worked here in 1904/5. He shot himself in 1906. Can you tell me what this firm was, please? He was an electrical instrument maker. My grandfather Thomas Cox may have been an apprentice there about the same time".

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Morris Walk

System Building on the Morris Walk Estate by Lorna Coventry on 23 June 2009

Lorna Coventry works for English Heritage, and is a colleague of Peter Guillery (who has featured previously in the Newsletter). They are currently working on the Survey of London, vol. 48, Woolwich.
She spoke about the Morris Walk Estate, the first to be ‘system’ built in London. The Estate is east of Maryon Park and runs down to Woolwich Church Street, the railway running through it. Morris Walk was the name of the road in the middle of the area, though that and all other previous features were obliterated. The redevelopment was done for slum clearance, though some good houses were included (for which market prices had to be paid) to make up the area for the development to be viable – just over 500 units were provided in 3 and 10-12 storey blocks.
The ‘system’ was Danish and had been used successfully for ten years in the Netherlands before it was taken up by the LCC. It comprised a set of interlocking load bearing wall and floor panels which could be arranged into housing units. These could be stacked to make multi-storey blocks. The LCC did not take the design as it was, but modified it to be able make taller blocks.
They were proud of its aesthetics. The outer faces of the panels were finished with stone chippings, and are still as good as when they were put up over forty years ago. However, the Estate had some serious drawbacks. There was a standard kitchen and bathroom design – fine for a two bedroom unit, but cramped for a four bedroom unit. Balconies were deemed too expensive and omitted – so there was nowhere suitable to put the washing - making condensation a problem; ventilators were provided to cope with it, but were drafty and often blocked up. Heating was by electric radiators, and was always inadequate even after an upgrade. Noise insulation between Units was very poor.
Various communal activities were planned, but not provided because money ran out… Open areas between the blocks, intended for family activities, have not been used very much, and many children are kept safely indoors, looking at TV.
Later buildings built with this system included the notorious Ronan Point where a domestic gas explosion caused the collapse of all floors at one corner, though Ms Coventry said the Morris Walk Estate did not have this design fault.
The Estate is now slated for redevelopment, though again money is tight. A forty year life is rather poor, many buildings around the Estate being much older, and still going strong – indeed, structurally, the Estate is still in good fettle, but no one wants it kept.

The embarrasing thing we must never mention

Colin Long mentions in IA Memories, in GLIAS News 243, an automatic Car Park that never worked. The following notes add some detail (though it may not be wholly accurate):

This was called an Autostacker, and was designed for 256 cars to be parked 16 on either side the building on eight floors. A car would be driven onto a pallet at the entrance, then taken by lift and conveyor to a free bay within; drivers would be saved the difficulty of manoeuvring and less space was needed as cars could be packed more tightly. (One would hope it would all still work on ones return.)

Automation was by Standard Telephones & Cables (STC), not from their nearby works at North Woolwich but at Footscray. This used relay circuitry and worked. However, the building suffered from settlement, preventing the conveyor system, by John Brown, from operating - they tried to get part of it going for the opening by Princess Margaret in 1962. But settlement continued and eventually the building was demolished.

Woolwich is one of those few places along the Thames where high ground reaches through the marshes that existed before the river was embanked. Woolwich has two pieces of high ground, the one to the west with St Mary's Church on it, overlooking the site of Woolwich Dockyard, and the easterly one where the Woolwich Power Station was. Archaeological investigations, when Power Station was built, and more recently when the adjacent area between Warren Lane & Beresford Road was cleared for development, showed that the Romans had a settlement on the eastern eminence, around which they dug an enormous ditch (about half the size of the moat at the Tower of London).
I think the Autostacker was built partially over the ditch.
Richard Buchanan

Saturday 8 August 2009

Bessemer in Greenwich

Steel production, together with Henry Bessemer and the Bessemer converter are usually associated with the north of England, and Sheffield in particular. It comes as a surprise to learn that Bessemer himself lived for many years in South London and that he built a steel works at Greenwich. Of course, Kent has a steel works today in Sheerness and, naturally, the arms industry at Woolwich Arsenal and elsewhere used steel in huge quantities. It is still however, remarkable that so little is known about Bessemer's Greenwich works which lay close to where the Millennium Dome is being built today. It has proved very difficult to find anything very much out about this works and there is some conflict about what really went on there.

Henry Bessemer came from a French background and an ingenious inventor who took out numerous patents on all sorts of devices and processes, from which he made a lot of money. One of the earliest was 'bronze powder', which he made in a factory in the St. Pancras area. He described some of the lengths he went to in order to keep the process secret and his, unfinished, autobiography sometimes seems much the same – it is often very difficult to disentangle from the narrative exactly what he said and did at any one time. Recently historians have suggested that his steel making process arose out of his interest in making guns, something that, of course, would draw him to Woolwich and the Arsenal.

Bessemer had been in France working, at the suggestion of Louis Napoleon, with the French military authorities when he came to the conclusion that a new sort of metal was needed. In due course he developed a process and a works was opened in Sheffield in the late 1850s. To cut a very long story very short indeed he eventually became involved with Col. Eardley Wilmot at the Royal Arsenal and plans began to be made to build a plant for the manufacture of Bessemer's steel in Woolwich. It soon became clear that Col. Willmot's support for Bessemer was not shared by the Minister of War and the plans were abandoned. At around the same time Bessemer steel was rejected for use in the Arsenal. Bessemer was very bitter 'it was quite clear that neither I, nor my steel, was wanted at Woolwich, and I made up my mind to leave the place severely alone in future.'

The position at Woolwich was further complicated by the appointment in 1859 of William Armstrong, the Newcastle based arms manufacturer, to the position of Director of Rifled Ordnance at Woolwich. In a previous article I described how Alexander Theophilus Blakeley, who built an abortive gun foundry on the Greenwich peninsula, had lost out to Armstrong and gone out of business. Bessemer had discovered Blakeley and his patented process for making guns at around the same time as he began to develop his steel making process. No doubt both of them had good cause to feel aggrieved at the appointment of Armstrong and their failure to sell arms to the British government.

Bessemer's biography is not a particular easy book to read. By the time he wrote it he was an old man, Blakeley was long dead and many of the differences with other people had been patched up or forgotten. He died before the biography was completed and a final chapter was added by his son. In a short paragraph, Henry Bessemer Jnr, mentions that a steel works was built at Greenwich in the mid-1860s. Very little is known about this works and my attempts to find out the views on it of historians with a knowledge of Bessemer it has found got very little in the way of a response.

There is no doubt that Bessemer had a works of some sort at Greenwich. It was on the site now known as Victoria Wharf (lately the Victoria Deep Water Wharf) and dated from around 1865. Victoria Wharf. is one of the few sites on the Greenwich riverside which is in not owned by Morden College. This means that detailed archives are not available nor has it proved possible to contact the site's new owners. The first reference in the public archives is an application to the Thames Conservators in June 1865 from 'Bessemer Brothers' for permission to build a jetty. He is also listed in the Greenwich Commission of Sewers rate books of 1865 which also note that the owners of the land are Clark and Terry from whom Bessemer held a lease - he later bought the freehold. In 1865 an advertisement in the Kentish Mercury mentions the closeness of the Bessemer works and its thirsty steel workers to the Star in the East pub – the pub's successor is now Ranburn's alongside the Blackwall Tunnel entrance.

Bessemer Jnr. says very little about this Greenwich works but he says it was very small and that his father intended it for his sons. "It had", says Bessemer Jnr., "two 2½ ton converters and all the plant necessary. Including one 2½-ton steam hammer and another the size of which is not given. The buildings were carefully designed, with the intention that the establishment should be in all respects be a model one". It was, he says never opened because of the down turn in Thames shipbuilding.

The Blakeley gun foundry at Ordnance Wharf was built at about the same time as the Bessemer Works and, since they knew each other and both had lost to Armstrong, maybe the two works had some connection with each other. Perhaps, when he came to write his biography, and some scores had been settled, Bessemer found it expedient not to mention this.

Some of the proprietors of neighbouring industries seem to have had connections with Bessemer. There were the cable works of Glass Elliott – and Bessemer had showed an interest in telegraph cables. Next door, to the south, was Horseshoe Breach which had recently been upgraded by the 'wooden nutmeg', Nathan Thompson, in his bid to build and sell 5,000 identical boats each year. Following his demise it had been taken over by Maudslay Son and Field. It was there that Bessemer's prototype anti-sea sickness boat was to be built. On Victoria Wharf itself was an artificial stone works owned by Frederick and Ernest Ransome, from the Ipswich family, who Bessemer knew. To the north was John Bethel's specialist tar distillery - Bessemer himself mentions 'Bethel's patent coke' in connection with steel making and I do not doubt that there were coke ovens at Bethel's Greenwich works.

What happened to the works? Bessemer Jnr. says that it was never used but that they kept the lease and later bought the freehold. Both works and plant were let to London Steel and Ordnance – 'London Steel and Iron Works' are shown on site on the Ordnance Survey dated 1869. What is quite clear from the archives is that the authorities thought that Bessemer had remained on site; London Steel and Ordnance are not mentioned. In 1872 there was a complaint from Morden College that the 'Bessemer Steel Co.' had encroached on their land and discussions later began for the company to lease 'a small field in the marshes adjoining this property for 21 years' and went on to say that Bessemer were offering more than the market value – hardly the action of company which does not want a site. As late as 1891 Morden College's surveyor was still dealing with Bessemer Brothers.

I would be very interested to know if anyone has found another reference to London Steel and Ordinance – a body about which I have been unable to discover anything at all about.

Bessemer Jnr. said that Steel and Ordnance 'did not achieve much success' and that the works was then let to Messrs. Appleby Bros. The tenancy can be confirmed from the Morden College records from about 1878. When they left, almost twenty years later, the site was let to a linoleum manufacturer, who later bought the freehold from the Bessemers.

Perhaps the most important thing is what the linoleum manufacturer had to say about the site. His name was Frederick Walton and it is perhaps possible that he knew Henry Bessemer – another of Bessemer's interests was linoleum. Walton said how pleased he was to get the site because it was 'where Bessemer proved his widely known steel process'. Did Walton know something about the site that Bessemer wanted kept quiet?

Bessemer himself, or his sons, had the site from about 1865 and they or, London Steel and Iron, or Steel and Ordnance' had it until it was let to Appleby thirteen years later. Probably initially the works was built to supply Blakeley with steel with perhaps the sub-text of upsetting the authorities at Woolwich. Bessemer himself had moved to South London – to a very very grand mansion in Denmark Hill – in the early 1860s. At that time a direct train service from Denmark Hill to Greenwich was being planned. Perhaps he also thought that a steel works near his home would be useful. It would be tucked away from the prying eyes of his licensees and those at his works in the north of England.

We may probably never know what Bessemer actually did at Greenwich but it is thought that had Blakeley been more lucky in his backers, and had stayed in business, that he and Henry Bessemer might have turned Greenwich into a great steel town – Sheffield on Thames.

Mary Mills

Thursday 23 July 2009

Amazing finds on the Charlton foreshore

Thanks to Elliott and Lorna from the Thames Discovery Team for an amazing meeting for GIHS on Tuesday.

We have the following report from Richard Buchanan - and see further down for details of when they will be on site again - and looking for volunteers

“Thames Discovery” is following on from the 1990s ‘Foreshore’ study, with small staff on a three year scheme to establish a continuing archaeological study of the Thames foreshore, which can change from tide to tide, eroding in some places or building up elsewhere. To do this they are training volunteers, both in the classroom and on sites – one of which is by the Anchor & Hope pub in Charlton.
There was a ship breakers yard there, where a square platform was built from scrap material. This was for boats to sit on between high tides for repair work. Map and pictorial evidence suggests it was built in 1904, a time when the yard broke up four warships built in mid-19C.
The 19C was a time of rapid change in warship design, going from: wooden sailing ships; through designs with wrought iron armour and steam engines driving screw propellers (though still with sails as early steam engines needed too much coal); iron ships, which could be made larger; to steel battleships such as the Dreadnaught. Warships could already be obsolete when they were launched. So few of a particular design would have been built – and the wood and iron used to make the boat platform is therefore of interest.
The Duke of Wellington, built at Pembroke in 1852 as the world’s largest and most powerful ship, probably contributed the timbers in the platform. The Hannibal, Deptford 1854; Edgar, Woolwich 1858; and Anson, Woolwich 1860, could also have contributed to the platform, which contains iron beams and some large lumps.

- Elliott says

These are the times for our fieldwork at Charlton: 27/7 0915-1315 28/7 0945-1345 29/7 1030-1430 30/7 1100-1500 31/7 1200-1600
If it is at all possible, it would be helpful for us if those who wanted to come down could come together as a group (or two groups on two different days?) as we will be training volunteers for most of the time, and it would be nice to devote some time to give your members a good tour of the site. If not, nevertheless, I will try to show everyone round as best I can.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Greenwich medieval tide mill

Southwark and Lambeth Archaeological Society recently hosted a talk on the Greenwich medieval tide mill. They have been kind enough to allow us to publish their account of the talk - and also thanks for permission from Simon Davis

There was great excitement when the medieval tide mill was found at Greenwich in 2008 – with more surviving than any in Southwark. Early contact was made with Simon Davis of MoLAS, who, after a period of doubt when work was stopped due to the developer of the site being ‘credit crunched’, agreed to speak to the Southwark & Lambeth Archaeological Society on 14th April 2009. Moreover, he arranged for Damian Goodburn, generally regarded as London’s premier archaeological timber expert, to speak too.
The site of the mill is about half a mile downstream of the (erstwhile) Royal Naval College, where the Thames turns north towards the O2 (Dome). The Naval College is now Greenwich University, but was previously: the Royal Naval Hospital (Asylum) for Seamen; the Tudor Palace of Placentia; Duke Humphrey’s house; and the Lewisham house of the Abbey of St Peter of Ghent – who were there from 918 to 1414 and (probably) built the mill. The site is known as Granite Wharf.
Mr Davis began with a plan of the site, showing bore holes and evaluation trenches – none of which had revealed the mill. Then he showed a picture looking north to the 1694 Naval Powder Magazine (surrounded by a square wall), thought to be near where Enderby House is now. In the foreground the scene shows peat cutting - suggestive of good damp conditions for archaeological survival.
The mill was found during site watching, when a machine exposed some massive timber beams, some 30m from the present river front. Two were 3 ft wide, across the centre of a 6m square timber floor frame (denoted FF1 herein*), pointing towards the River. Digging revealed further floor framing (FF2) towards the river, doubling the length of the mill building. It was possible to tell that there had been two phases of flooring, and evidence for braces showed how at least the lower part of the superstructure was built. The surviving timbers had been secured to the underlying ground by piles, four of these being cradle timbers supporting the corners of FF1. There were chalk foundations, with some mill stone sherds mixed in.
There was still a plank on one side of the entry channel to the mill, leading to the head race which ran over the floor of FF1 above one of the 3 ft wide beams; FF1 would also have supported the sluice. A woven hazel panel was found - at first it was thought to be a filter, but it had a very dense weave and would have impeded the water flow. As it passed into FF2 the channel dropped down into the wheel pit, which extended across FF2 into the tail race beyond.
It is hoped that access to dig the tail race will be granted later this year. There was no sign of the mill pond, which was possibly above the levels seen in the bore holes or evaluation trenches.
Mr Goodburn described the woodwork of the mill, and how it fitted in with the changes in technology - at that time carpentry was being introduced from France (it had an Arabic origin), replacing Saxo-Norman tree wright techniques. Carpentry includes prefabricated framing, usually made flat, the joints having carpenters’ marks.
All the wood was oak, and apart from the base timber of the wheel pit, carpentry techniques were used. The large beams were felled in 1194 (dendro date), smaller timber being similarly dated. Timber conversion (cutting a trunk to size) could be just trimming square for a large beam, or splitting in half, quarters etc. Some beams were tapered, the whole trunk from the base to the first branch having been used. Boards were not sawn but cleft, giving a characteristic feathered shape; the broad end can be grooved. (Only later did mills and similar structures use elm boards.)
The base timber of the wheel pit was dug out from a single three foot wide oak log (like a dug-out canoe), curving down from the entry to the level of the tail race at the exit, which was set at -1.15m OD. Above the base timber the wheel pit had tongue & groove boarding. A part of the mill wheel was found in the pit – enough to postulate a diameter of about 5½ m, with 12 spokes and 60 paddles. The wheel was a lightweight design, having a single rim with the paddles extending either side of it. Maintenance of the wheel would have been straightforward. One paddle survived.
Mortices in the timbers for vertical posts had no residual signs of the tenons, and floor boarding had been carefully removed, indicating that the mill had been dismantled after it went out of use.
The timbers have been taken up and sent for conservation, some to York where their 4m long facility made it necessary to cut the 6m timbers. They should be impregnated with polyethylene glycol in 2-3 years.
Tidal Range. Mr Goodburn said there must have been a tidal range of 5 to 5½ m to operate the mill. Preparatory building work for the mill would have been at a spring low tide, that level being well below the tail race. Other tide mills, wharves, etc. along the Thames would also have needed such a tidal range. (Sea level has risen over the centuries, but he said that the tidal range must always have been much as it is now – current received wisdom not withstanding.)
Mr Davis, in summing up, said that the Greenwich Tide Mill was of national significance. The developer showed great interest in the mill, and was very helpful while it was being excavated. He even suggested building a replica on site, though probably not full size, as a feature to lure buyers to the proposed housing.
Apologies for any confusion caused by the FF1 and FF2 designations, which will inevitably differ from the nomenclature in any proper publication.
Richard Buchanan

Wednesday 15 April 2009

More Merryweather

- a long and interesting letter about Merryweathers from the Glenister family of Grove Park:

Mr. Glenister writes to say he is the great grandson of William Montague Glenister who was involved with the Merryweather fire tricycle. He has a copy of the original patent and would happy to share this with anyone who is interested. He also had pictures of Merryweather engines - one of which was sold to St.Albans Fire Brigade and was used in the Coronation Procession of George V in 1911. He also has a photo of an engine on display at Floors Castle in Kelso.
He says William Glenister met Mr. Merryweather in Hastings where he thinks Merryweathers had a factory and they designed engines together there. William founded the first Volunteer Fire Brigade in the country in Hastings in 1861, which is how they met. He was the Captain of this first Fire Brigade and also Chief Constable of Police. The modern family has the first hand carved ivory fireman's whistle, on a gold chain, presented to William Glenister for this.

We need to know more!!!

Tuesday 31 March 2009

Industrial Heritage

something else in the post:

In a previous edition of Industrial Heritage Richard Cheffins article on the LESC building in Greenwich High Road was reproduced. Now a correspondent to the journal has written:
"The Power Station at Deptford was equipped with reciprocating steam engines made in Bolton by Hick Hargreaves. They were builders of large steam engines, but not as large as that planned by Ferranti and they had to order new machine tools big enough to make the 4 x 10,000HP engines. These engines had spherical hearings features in Hicks engines form the first of their locomotives circa 183q. the engines drove the 10,000 volt alternators with ropes as in a textile mill. The 10,0000 v was taken into London by the side of railway tracks because no council would have such a dangerous voltage over their land. the conductors were concentric copper pipes with paper insulation, the inner being live. Ferranti demonstrated the safety by hammering a chisel through the conductor under power.
100 years ago in 1908 there was a fire under railway arches and a conductor was put out of action. As a temporary expedient supply customers Ferranti used surveying conductors as live with an earth return. he lost about 1,000 volts but it affected telephones, telegraphs and tram cars. the effect was felt as far away as Italy. The disturbance was put down as a severe electrical storm. The beans were spilt just before his death when Ferranti spoke on his easily days.

DHG Warner

This mornings post - lots of stuff for a change - Docklands History Group. There is a report of a talk by Edward Sargeant on Gravesend skiffs. this might not seem to be much about Greenwich but he says "the Gravesend skiff seems to have been derived from the tupe of skiff in use around Greenwich". What is more he talks anout William Warner, who was born in Greenwich in 1832 where he was apprenticed to Shipbuilder Corbettt (who?? tell me more??). He then moved to West Street in Gravesend and starting building skiffs - so - you see - it all comes from round here, not down there. His skiffs all had to be used round Greenwich because the water was too rough down in Gravesend. He had to add a plank to improve the freeboard. Edward wants to start a Kent traditional boat association - and I think we can claim, very happily, that Greenwich is really part of Kent (and it is!!).
Edward is coming to talk to GIHS in the autumn about the Grand Surrey Canal.

Thursday 5 March 2009

linseed oil and tankers

I have a request for information as follows

I would like information about a little tanker which carried molasses from Cantley, Norfolk and linseed oil from Holland (and fuel oil) to and from various wharves in London and I wish to trace information about them to incorporate into a record of her trading routes. In your area I am interested in Greenwich Inlaid Lino Co. Victoria Works, and Greig's Wharf area; The Mollassine Co. Ltd, Tunnel Glucose Refiners - Tunnel Wharf, Thames Soap & Candle Works (Unilever).
I am also particularly interested to find out about Younghusbands Wharf, Rotherhithe Street Lower Pool which I see on my port chart is named as King & Queen Wharf, more or less opposite Shadwell New Basin entrance lock and just downstream of Bellamy's Wharf. Also the run of wharves downstream of the Mar Dyke in West Thurrock marshes to Stone Ness which includes Anglo American oil Co, Caspian Wharf, Jurgens Ltd wharf and Tunnel Cement works wharf, all just upstream of Everards base at Greenhithe.
I would be most grateful if you could point me in the right direction for information.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

A whole lot of bits and pieces

Some short notes:-

1. Docklands History Group - forthcoming programme. Events held at the Museum in Docklands
5th March - Fire Fighting on the Thames. David Rogers
2nd April - Introduction to the Port of London Authority Centenary Exhibition
7th May - visit to the Wapping Police Museum.

2. We have a request for information on the fatal gunpowder explosion at Erith in 1964

3. Francis Tin Box Factory. We have a request for information if records exist for this company which was in Blackheath Hill. This is about boxes supplied to troops in the First World War.

4. We have been approached by a marine archaeologist working on the Charlton riverside. He is looking for information about Castle's breakers and about Cory.


Tuesday 24 February 2009

gasworks in greenwich

far be it from me to blow my own trumpet - but I am very very chuffed to have got the British Library to substitute the following for the ridiculous page they had previously for the picture.

without being a lawyer - mandamus is a means by which local authorities are forced to levy a rate. The deal which the gas company promoters gave to the vestry was claimed by protestors to be on the lines of - £5,000 down and everyone in Greenwich get free gas for ever and ever.........................

Monday 23 February 2009

Big bands in greenwich

Hopefully now everyone has tickets for the Greenwich University Big Band concert that Fred Parrott is running - Iris Bryce writes as follows

"With your Big Band Jazz concert - I thought you might be intererested to know that in 1949 Owen and Iris Bryce opened the first Jazz Club in Woolwich, the venue being the Cavendish Rooms in the Ritz Ballroom in Woolwich New Rd. A few months later we moved it to Mr.Tilley's Dance Studios in Calderwood Street - we called the Club 'The Sunday Barbecue' and not one of us had any real idea of what a barbecue was!. Owen was a founder member of the George Webb Dixielanders, the pioneer New Orleans Jazz that played in the Red Barn Barnehurst from 1943 - 46. In 1946 Humphrey Lyttelton joined the band and the rest as they say is History! I have written about this in TREE IN THE QUAD, the story of life in Woolwich in the 1940's - 70's - this was published by the University of Greenwich. The book has photos of the opening night when we brought three jazz musicians from Paris over, and the opening ceremony was by Ray Sonin, the editor of THE MELODY MAKER. The book is available from the Greenwich Heritage Centre. If we can help in any other way please don't hesitate to ask

Thanks Iris - I'm sure I'm not the only person who remembers Owen when he was playing in (whoops) the 1950s. His was easily the best band on Friday nights at the Terminus in Gravesend. Not sure if its industrial history, but it'll do!

Dad's Army - note from Andy Brockman

Andy writes as follows:

I wanted to let you know about a new research project I am involved with which might be of interest to GIHS members. I have set it up along with Dr Neil Faulkner of Bristol University [and Current Archaeology] and Dr Nicholas Saunders, also of Bristol University. I am attaching the launch document but here is some background...

Digging Dad's Army- The East and South East London Peoples War Project. Digging Dads Army is designed to look at the surviving archaeology of conflict in East and South East London and tie it into intergenerational and cultural work looking at collection, commemoration and remembrance. It has grown out of work by the Great War Archaeology Group and my own work at Shooters Hill as well as other projects such as Gabe Moshenska's PhD work on Air Raid Shelters and children at UCL.
We plan to do both field and archival work and to use the research programme as a vehicle to train field workers, including training in archive work, and as a basis for events presented to the wider public through work with schools [i.e. Key Stage 2 WW2] and on public events such as living history programmes and exhibitions. The project is based on the principle that you cannot do the research without presenting it to as wide a range of audiences as possible from the academic to the public and particularly to young people. We intend to fund it along the model of Neil Faulkner's long running Sedgeford Project where the research programme is funded through training courses with additional project funding where appropriate. In this respect it also ticks lots of boxes for community involvement, intergenerational work and so on. At the moment accounting and PLI etc comes through the Great War Archaeology Group and we see the project as being accomplished by a consortium of individuals and organisations each bringing different skills and resources. Because it is intended to be a multidisciplinary project, growing out of the community experience, we very much want to have locally based organisations, such as GIHS, with its interest in the Arsenal amongst other things, on board as partners. Particularly so we hope the project will generate access to participation in archaeology which is often lacking in the more orthodox research programmes as well as offering educational and training opportunities and avenues for publishing research. We intend that everything we do is published as soon as possible either down the traditional academic route, but also on line. We believe that with the various wartime anniversaries in the next few years, running up to the WW1 100 in 2014, such a project could generate quite a high profile, including with the media. As you may know Neil's work on the First Blitz and Zeppelin L33 made a Time Watch and for all its faults as a programme, we got a Time Team out of the work at Shooters Hill. It also helps that Neil is issue editor for Current Archaeology Magazine. The next issue will carry a piece on Shooters Hill and this project.

Friday 30 January 2009

Wood block for roads - what happened to them!

A factory on the Greenwich Peninsula was once the home of the manufacture of wooden tarred blocks - much used in all roads in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. A correspondent writes:

"I remember when most of the wooden paving blocks were removed when the roads were re-paved after WW2, in fact we used them for fuel since coal and coke were in such short supply; they were huge producers of smoke because they had asphalt laid on top of them, London justified it's nickname, "The Smoke". I don't know why they removed them, they seemed to do an adequate job, perhaps it was to provide work and improve the infrastructure at the same time. There was avery cold winter just after the war, it was the winter of 1946/1947 in fact, and I seem to remember burning the blocks that winter. We moved from Princes Square to Connaught Square in the January and my dad hired a coster to move the fuel on his barrow. He didn't arrive and was still missing hours later, we thought he had stolen our fuel, but it turned out that the police saw him with it and assumed that he had stolen it. When Dad reported it, the problem was sorted out but he had to pay the man for the extra hours he spent on the job.
Lest you think we were rich, the house in Princes Square had been converted into single rooms with my mother as housekeeper, we lived in the basement; the house in Connaught Square had been requisitioned by the council and converted to flats. I remember that the blocks were removed from Edgeware and Harrow Roads in Paddington but must have been taken from other places as well.
If it's of any interest, wood blocks were used as flooring in factories where heavy, localised, loads were moved around. A few years ago, I was designing the refit for a building in the Philadelphia Navy Yard for civilian use. The building had been used to make the heaviest parts of the drive systems for the biggest ships, huge propellers and prop shafts, the lathe beds were about thirty feet long. I was told that it was pretty standard practise to use the wood blocks so you might find some in old factories in London. The wood has an elastic modulus that allows the load to be spread, even over high spots without causing permanent damage.

Remembering Clive Chambers

Note from Val

Yesterday I chose Clive's tree, in Greenwich Park.
Clive had lots of links with Greenwich : he worked in Greenwich local authority's planning department for a number of years (mainly on the conservation of architecturally important buildings) and often took a sandwich lunch in the Park. In later years he was a frequent visitor to the National Maritime Museum, which adjoins the Park, and he and I would regularly do a Saturday trip to Greenwich town centre (which he knew like the back of his hand, having had a
planning role in the abortive bypass scheme), to visit the market and rummage in the maritime bookshops before enjoying 'tea and a bun' somewhere. The Old Royal Naval College, now part of the University of Greenwich, houses the Greenwich Maritime Institute where Clive did his
recent MA studies in maritime history. And I've now discovered another link he had with Greenwich, and specifically with the Park : a Royal Parks Review of Greenwich Park was published in 1995, and Clive represented Greenwich Environment Forum at the conference held to take forward the recommendations. All the more fitting, then, that he should (at least in spirit) become part of this environment.
Credit for initiating the idea of a memorial tree goes to Clive's American friends, but we took it up enthusiastically on this side of the Atlantic, and I got in touch with the Royal Parks Foundation. A 3-figure sum allows you to dedicate a specific tree in the park of your choice, a 4-figure sum gets you a "Remarkable Tree" : one of the special trees which stand out for their age, size or rarity, or because they have a unique history or wildlife. Thanks to the generosity of Clive's many friends, the donated funds now exceed the minimum, so an additional contribution from Clive's savings has put us into the remarkable league. All tree-sponsorship monies, I have checked, are allocated to the tree-maintenance budget of the chosen Royal Park. The Foundation's Projects Officer, Eleanor Shakeshaft, and the Assistant Park Manager of Greenwich Park, Stuart Goldsworthy, have spent some weeks identifying possible trees for me. Yesterday the three of us did a tour of a dozen candidates, on a beautiful crisp and sunlit day. I'd asked for an oak, if possible, so we looked at examples of several different species of oak, as well as a selection of veteran sweet chestnuts, of which the Park has the greatest stock in the country. The shortlist was easy, and the final choice easier still, scoring high marks for site and prospect as well as tree-ness : the clear winner was a Turkey Oak, about 150 years old. So, not a
native English oak, but they have few of those in Greenwich Park, and none of any grandeur.
Clive's oak, a splendid specimen, stands in prominent isolation on a tree-edged plateau at the top of the hill, near the western boundary of the Park. It's in the Grassland, an area deliberately left rough to encourage all the flowers, insects, fungi and nesting birds that thrive on an acid soil (parkland pH normally 7, here 3-5 because 171of 7 adjacent gravel beds). Now, in winter, the grass is low and tussocky, but Stuart says in summer it's about a foot high, which makes this
mini-plateau a favourite haunt of nudist sunbathers - you have been warned.
The view in every direction has something of interest. Starting from the south and turning clockwise : two gently drooping cedars, historic McCartney House (family home of General Wolfe of Quebec), the graceful spire of a local church, glimpses of Clive's beloved Thames and, beyond, the City and Docklands skyline, then a Henry Moore statue just 50 yards away, the Royal Observatory (and the invisible Greenwich Meridian at 0° longitude), several Anglo-Saxon tumuli, and an avenue of veteran sweet chestnuts. There are no traffic routes nearby, so
the only traffic noise to disturb the birdsong here is from occasional aircraft Walk a
hundred yards to the right of Clive's tree and you cross from the western to the eastern hemisphere, turn another score yards towards the river and you look down over the beautiful 17th-century complex of the Old Royal Naval College, famously painted by Canaletto from the
opposite riverbank.
The brief dedication ceremony will be on Sunday 24 May, Clive's 75th birthday. Time to be decided, but plans are afoot to celebrate with bottles of bubbly and a communal picnic. You are all very welcome.
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