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.
.AOLWebSuite .AOLPicturesFullSizeLink { height: 1px; width: 1px; overflow: hidden; } .AOLWebSuite a {color:blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer} .AOLWebSuite a.hsSig {cursor: default}

Merryweathers - more news from Waltham Abbey

We have been sent the following news about an exhiit from Greenwich at Waltham Abbey - below is part of the signage proposed:

Merryweather Two piece Wooden Ladder

The two section wooden ladder was donated to RGPF by the Cole family. Les Cole was a long serving member of the Safety Section at Waltham Abbey who rose to Chief Safety Officer. The origin of the ladder is obscure, but it is thought that it was never used at Waltham Abbey. The ladder is typical of ones used during the period between 1860 and 1900 on hand carts or horse drawn carts which carried fire fighting equipment to incidents.
The name plates appear to be up to 150 years old and could be made of ivory. The firm’s address may be a telegraphic address ( Fire engine works London).
The rungs are circular and secured with wooden wedges. The highest rung is hollow and has a metal rod riveted through from end to end. The sides of each ladder taper inwards towards the top so that the bottom of the upper ladder fits tightly over the top of the lower one. Extra rigidity is provided by shaping the top of each ladder to locate under the bottom rung of another. Since each ladder is fairly short we assume that six or even more of these sections would have to be joined together to scale burning buildings.
The company name dates back to approx 1830 when Moses Merryweather took over an existing company from his uncle. The company started in around 1690 making fire fighting pumps on Cross Street London, and the first fire engine factory was built in 1738 on the corner of Bow Street and Long Acre. This later became a showroom and manufacture moved to Lambeth in 1862 and also opened in Greenwich in 1876. Three sons of Moses Merryweather joined the company and towards the turn of the century. One of them, James, became responsible for international sales. Internet searches tell us that Merryweather and Sons were "Fire Engine Makers by Appointment to His Majesty the King", and sold fire-fighting apparatus to many cities around the world. By 1913 its machines were being used across the UK, in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Burma, Egypt, India and Singapore and China.” The firm fell upon hard times after WW2 and the Art Deco factory in Greenwich High Road was demolished as recently as July 2008.

Thursday 29 January 2009

University of Greenwich Big Band Concert


The University of Greenwich Big Band is performing a Concert at the Greenwich campus (old Royal Naval College) on Monday 16th March - 8 p.m. with a theme of the History of Greenwich and Big Band Music.

The organiser, Fred Pareett has had some help from Mary Mills in putting together some if illustrations for the presentation part of this concert, and thought that the members of the GIHS might be interested in attending this concert. There is no admission charge, but seating in the lecture theatre is limited, so admission is by ticket only. There are only a small number set aside that can be held for GIHS members.

You may well ask what Big Band Music has to do with the History of Greenwich - perhaps not a lot ! However, this will be the fourth concert of this type we have performed. In fact, the industrial history of Greenwich covers a similar period to the development of Jazz and Big Band music from the days of the slave music in America. The previous concerts in this "multimedia" format covered the Centenary of Avery Hill College (now a part of the University) , the history of Chatham and the Dockyards, and the "Roaring Twenties". All of these events were completely oversubscribed, with a waiting list for tickets.

In June 1933 the Royal Naval College was the location of the Greenwich Pageant, a musical event devised by the historian Arthur Bryant, to depict the history of Greenwich. It was performed by local people, the military, and supported by an orchestra and military band. This event is not on quite such a grand scale, but it will be somthing quite unique.

Members of the GIHS interested in tickets, please contact Fred (contact details below) mentioning they are part of the GIHS.

Fred Parrett
Manager, University Big Band Group

Saturday 17 January 2009

The Valiant

Thanks to Brian Sturt who has pointed out an article about the Merryweather's Valiant Steam Pump - in a magazine (previously unknown to me) called Vintage Spirit. The article is by Ron Henderson - and if you are out there, Ron, and read this - please get in touch and come to speak at one of our meetings about it!

He says that the pump was designed and first used in HMS Valiant in 1883 when a pump was needed to pump water from the shore to the ship - the pump was put in a row boat, taken ashore and wheeled to the water supply. It then pumped to the ship at 3,500 gallons per hour. It was a very successful design and thousands were made in Greenwich and sold over the next 50 years. The War Office alone bought 3,000. During the First World War the War Office took over the Greenwich factory (?? is this true) and another 2,000 were made for war time use. In the Second World War they made another 2,000 and they were known world wide as 'Little Merryweathers'. They also made a special posh version for railways and the fire service with lots of brass and copper finish,there was a heavy duty one for contractors and lots of other specials. They were used in at least 42 countries and were owned by a whole selection of Dukes and Maharajahs.

Clearly the people who preserve and do up old steam equipment can't get hold of enough of them.

The famous Reg

This is to announce another sad death - Reg Barter - who was one of our founder members and who did so much to promote the use of the river and the riverside in Greenwich. Reg - like many of us - was shocked at how the pace of regeneration meant that the working river was simply ignored and forgotten. He was one of the moving forces behind the preservation of the Massey Shaw and the tug, Swiftstone. He always had a new and a bright idea - he will be sadly missed.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Royal Artillery Library - article by John Day

It became apparent that there are a number of collections of gun, carriage, ammunition and sundries drawings. It also became clear that there was no central reference of who held what. The only collection on which I am qualified to comment is that held by the Clavel Library at Firepower, Woolwich, since I have spent some fourteen years cataloguing them. It began in January 1994 when the Rotunda asked the Royal Arsenal Historical Society for volunteers to catalogue some drawings remaining from the Arsenal closure. I was the only volunteer and I was introduced to Stan Walker, who led me to a pile of rolls of linen tracings. It was agreed that I should take a number of rolls home, catalogue them and collect another batch when I returned the first. This worked well through a number of custodians and the formation of Firepower, to which the drawings were passed. Over the years more and more appeared .
They exist in two separate collections. The first is some 40,000 linen tracings in rolls, of between two to nearly five hunderd drawings each, emanating from one department, or manufacturer. Since the drawings were originally completely shuffled both in source and size, the rolls are in numerical order only in the roll. For example, roll C.I.A (A) 13. is the thirteenth roll of Chief Inspector of Armaments, (Ammunition) drawings and will undoubtedly contain drawing numbers that will interleave with drawing numbers in other C.I.A. (A) rolls of which there are twenty eight That roll contains fifty seven drawings of ammunition packing. In total there are 573 rolls and the list of all occupies just over ten pages. The drawings vary in size from A4 to 8ft. X 4ft.(a breech block, which if my memory is right is 18in.). These rolls now occupy the whole of the end wall of the library.
These drawings date from the late 19th century (very few) to WW 2. and cover everything that has the slightest connection with other than handguns. Drawings that were found to illustrate bridges, pontoons, gas masks and other non-gun subjects have been sent to more relevant regimental libraries.
The other collection, that came to light just as I was finishing the tracings in 2005, exists in two twenty-drawer steel filing cabinets. Each drawer contains between 500 to 800 envelopes each containing a (or occasionally more) 6in. X 4in. negative of a single drawing.
One cabinet is devoted to R.C.D (Royal Carriage Department) drawings, which deal with a wide variety of equipment from complete gun carriages to drag-ropes. They are in numerical order, but what might be termed subject shuffled. They cover from a few 19th. Century to, roughly, the mid –twenties. Some of the drawings come as families i.e. the 12 Pr. Q.F. Mk 1, Garrison drawings are RCD 7626A/1 – 48.There are also drawings of various wagons and limbers.
The other cabinet is devoted to R.G.F. (Royal Gun Factories) drawings. These are all (except a very few) breech loading gun barrels and the drawings are what may be thought of as “from the trunnions up” as they deal with only barrels and breech mechanisms; apart from some tools.
The RCD and RGF had two different ideas of what should be drawn. RCD drawings are pretty well all of new manufacture and, as far as I remember, do not include any modifications or repairs. On the other hand RGF show every modification and repair to even single specified guns. This resulted in some guns having several hundred drawings to there number.
For the drawings in the two, RCD and RGF, cabinets I made an index of what I have called “Gun Families “. This gives a list of the majority of the drawings relating to a particular gun. For example, the B.L. 5” Howitzer Mk I is shown on RGF 10982/1 to 34, and the 60 Pr B.L. on RCD 121290B, 14376A and RGF 11050/1 to 230, 11416/1 to 50. They range from 1 Pr. to 60 Pr. and 1 in. to 18 in. and, with one or two exceptions, are all B.L. and Q.F.
Each roll of tracings and each drawer has a printout of its contents, the library has a duplicate printouts and floppy discs of the tracing drawings lists and printouts and a C.D. of the cabinet negatives.
That’s my story of fourteen years cataloguing the Clavel drawing collection which I finished in August 2008.. Looking back there were, probably, better ways of doing it, but I began with a word processor and found the need for more and more capacity as the drawings came out of the woodwork. I still type with one finger; that’s why I only managed 25 negatives an hour. If you find difficulty in locating a particular drawing, please remember I was presented with some 40,000 tracings completely shuffled in relation to size, content and source (over 50 different) and I did what seemed a good idea at the time.
Now, what about the other sources telling us what they have got, even if it is not catalogued? I know there are drawings at Fort Nelson, Chatham, Fort Amherst, Barrow Library (Vickers), and Cambridge University and, probably, some of the regimental museums. As they say “Lets be havin’you”.
John Day

Tuesday 6 January 2009

The Enderbys - note from Barbara Ludlow

Barbara writes as follows:

I have recently written a two-part article for the Journal ofthe Greenwich Historical Society entitled 'Whaling for Oil' - the Rise and Fall of the 'Enterprising Enderbys'. Part two is about to be published in the Journal. The first part is about the foundation of their shipping business in the 18thcentury. Before this they owned a tannery in Bermondsey.
Samuel Enderby, died at Blackheath in 1797, was apprenticed to an oil cooper at Trigg Stairs in the City of London. He married the daughter of Charles Buxton, an oil merchant - a move which enabled him to become an oil merchant too - and also a ship owner. His first known house was 66 Hyde Vale, which he occupied in 1758. Other addresses are given by Keith Dawson (earlier post on this blog) living in Blackheath in different houses over the years - details of which Neil Rhind kindly supplied me with.
Information about who lived where is not the purpose of this small piece and I dealt with these details in part one of the article. My new article deals with the growth of the Enderby shipping, whaling business and the establishment of their rope and canvas manufactory in Greenwich. There is indeed an address for Charles Enderby in Greenwich - today the building is known as Enderby House on the edge of the riverbank in East Greenwich. He is listed in the 1841 Census in that house. At the same time his two brothers, George and Henry, were living with his widowed mother in Old Charlton.
Part Two of the article deals with Charles Enderby in the Auckland Islands and the establishment of the Enderby Settlement for The Southern Whaling Company. In 1849 Charles sailed from Plymouth as His Excellency Lt.Governor Charles Enderby. The Auckland Islands had been discovered by an Enderby whaling captain. The sad story of Charles and his settlement (some two hundred miles south of New Zealand) is in part two.

I am surprised that Keith Dawson did not not link Charles with Enderby House. He also says that Hyde Cliff was demolished for the building of the Catholic school, St.Ursula's. I have been to that school many tines and I am sure that the very old part of the school was once Hyde Cliff - I know that part of the school was in an old large house.