Tuesday 23 February 2010

More about Greenwich gasworks

The Historic Gas Times - just through my letter box - has two items on two different Greenwich gas works.

First of all - they have picked up my article on the earliest Greenwich Gas Works from the British Library web site - which had originally described it as East Greenwich works (actually 60 years later). The Library had reproduced a print, on which the steeple of St.Alfege church in the background made a location in Norway Street obvious - leading to a small and short lived gas works from the mid-1820s. Historic Gas Times's Barry Wilkinson has also questioned the Library's attribution to the artist, and done some interesting research.

The Second Article is actually about the great East Greenwich works and is 'Misspent Youth on Gasworks' by Tony Coles. This relates adventures and events in the control room of the works in the 1960s - and while a touch technical for the layperson - describes various goings on by someone who was clearly working their way up.

Historic Gas Times is a subscription newsletter but back numbers can be got from 01937 584672. (no web site advertised - sorry).

While on the subject of gas - someone rang me a couple of weeks ago about a film of Croydon Gas Works - they said they would get back in touch - but they haven't. Please - we want to hear from you!

Thursday 4 February 2010

Strike at UGB Charlton 1960

Time was, thirty years ago, when you couldn't move for articles about labour unrest - but times change, so it was a real change to see an article about a strike. This one was in Charlton (now - who remembered that the biggest glass works in Europe was in Charlton in the 1960s????). The article is in the current edition of Labour Heritage - and the following is a brief precis of it.

The article, by Scott Reeve, describes how a Manager asked to meet members of the workforce. When they did not attend an arranged meeting the Shop Steward, Wally Morton, was sacked. By lunch time all work at the factory had stopped and Les Doust, AEU Steward and Communist was chairing the strike committee. At a mass meeting it was resolved to continue the strike until Wally had his job back. Next the boiler workers struck - meaning that the glass making furnaces would go out, and oil supplies to the site were blacked. Within another two days Co-op workers (whose used UG milk bottles) had blacked the site, as had Thames Lightermen - and workers at next door factory, Harveys, were organising collections. Meeting were taking place at the Ministry of Labour.
The strike was front page news on both Kentish Independent and the Mercury - although their stories of numbers on strike differed by 200! The Daily Worker covered the strike on a daily basis. Brian Behan (brother of playwright Brendan) came to the picket line, on behalf of the Socialist Labour League and covered it for their newsheet.
Inevitably a deal was negotiated by AEU District Officials - which reinstated Wally Morton whole allowing management to examine his fitness for his role as shop steward. After some argument a vote to end the strike was narrowly carried. Socialist Labour League described it as a 'shoddy little deal'.

'For more information about Labour Heritage and articles from previous editions of the bulletin, visit www.labourheritage.com. You can buy a copy of the latest bulletin at £2 (incl. postage) or join Labour Heritage (£10 pa or £4 concessions) by contacting: John Grigg: 020 8743 4189, griggshampan1@ukonline.co.uk