Thursday 27 March 2014

All that was left of it


The local South London gas company, South Metropolitan, made many appliances - cookers among them.  I would be grateful if someone could confirm, or otherwise, if they were made at their Norman Road works in Greenwich.

Anyway - the following article comes from the Company's house magazine 'Co-partnership
Journal' and dates from 1908


Our picture shows  "Metro. 2' -one that has been returned to the Stores after a career of unsurpassed brilliance. This cooker has been through a conflagration on the premises in which it was fixed, and, remaining at its post like the hero of Mrs. Hemnns' ballad, has emerged in the condition shown. The cast iron has been melted by the intense heat, which also fused a portion of the slag-wool packing.


Wednesday 26 March 2014

Prospectus for a Deptford Pier in 1830

This is the prospectus for a Deptford Pier Company set up in 1830 - as you will see - a lot of it might sound familiar - and the people involved have all got quite a bit of 'previous'  and - er- interests in the Greenwich Railway. Please look at the last couple of paragraphs for all the wonderful things they intend to build, having cleared away some unsightly dwellings.

The prospectus of this Company, incorporated by Act of Parliament, 5th William IV., cap. 13, as follows: --
The public utility and necessity of the Deptford Pier Company will at once be conceded by those who consider the immense and daily increasing number of steam vessels, which at every hour of the day navigate the crowded surface of the Thames, occasioning serious damage to other vessels, as well as considerable injury to themselves, and continually accompanied with fatal and distressing accidents.
The grounds on which Parliament have sanctioned the Act of Incorporation now obtained will at once be understood by reference to the preamble, which was duly proved in evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons ...
 "that the conveyance of passengers and goods to and from the Metropolis by steam and other vessels has of late years very much increased and that such communications would be greatly facilitated if means were afforded for landing such passengers and goods at Deptford by the erection of a pier; and that the danger attending the navigation of the river Thames between Deptford and London Bridge occasioned by steamboats would be hereby avoided, whilst a ready and convenient communication with the metropolis could be maintained by means of the Greenwich and London Railway now erecting."  
The site now chosen for the formation of a pier presents advantages peculiar to this locality. In addition to the commodious bay-like form of the river at this part, here is a depth of water of 15 feet, even at the lowest ebb, close to the shore, thus enabling the Company to afford every facility of landing and embarking without the necessity for a projecting pier. That which peculiarly renders Deptford the spot to which steamers may be expected to resort, results from its being the nearest point of the river to the metropolis, which can be approached without encountering the danger arising from the great number of vessels in the pool; whilst the London and Greenwich Railway presents a medium of communication with the very centre of the metropolis, which cannot, in all probability be elsewhere obtained.  
The city authorities have evinced their approbation of the undertaking by granting to the company a. considerable addition to the river frontage which will greatly increase the future value of the water-side premises.  It is the intention of the company to form a wharf or terrace of 700 feet in length, with sufficient depth of water for steamers to lie alongside at all times of tide. The company propose also to erect warehouses for merchandise, &c so as to enable vessels to discharge their cargoes without the expense and hazard of lighterage.  Proper arrangements with the Customs Department will also be made so as to render every facility to passengers in foreign steam vessels.  
The pier at Deptford being nearly equidistant from the City and West End of the Metropolis, affords the most convenient access to every part of London. For passengers going to the West End, conveyance will be provided at moderate rates, affording accommodation to various points between Lambeth, Vauxhall, Pimlico, and the extreme western limits of London; and also forming a direct communication through Peckham and Camberwell to Hyde Park Corner, over Vauxhall Bridge. through which densely populated district there has hitherto been no public conveyance; and it may be confidently asserted, that less time will be occupied in reaching the West End of London by landing at the Deptford Pier, than is now consumed between Deptford and the Custom House, steamboats usually taking three-quarters of an hour to navigate that dangerous portion of the river, the whole of which time will  be gained to the passenger, as he will probably have reached his destination in the time occupied in navigating the Pool.
Passengers to the City, or to the Surrey side of the river, will be provided with an expeditious and cheap medium of conveyance over the London and Greenwich Railway which adjoins the leading avenue to the pier, and will afford an immediate conveyance of four-fifths of the time usually consumed between Deptford and the Custom House through the Pool. 
In order to convey a just notion of the future success of the Deptford Pier, it is necessary that allusion should be made to several under-takings .now in progress in the immediate neighbourhood, which seem to fall into natural alliance with it. The advantages they offer of extending the utility of the pier will be eagerly embraced by the directors.  Already, the London and Greenwich Railway presents prospect of early completion; leaving London from the bridge, it is brought within a short distance of Deptford Pier, and the directors of the Pier Company will use their utmost exertions to have their works complete In due time to avail themselves of the opening of the railway.
An Act of Parliament has been obtained for the formation of a railway between Croydon and London, which will join the Greenwich railway at Deptford, and as the projectors of that work contemplate the eventual extension of their line to Brighton, it may be expected that direct communication will be established between the ports of Shoreham and Brighton and the Deptford Pier.  It is in contemplation to convert the towing-path of the Grand Surrey Canal into a tramway, and to continue the same to Vauxhall, for which adequate powers are provided in their existing Acts of Parliament. At Vauxhall, the Southampton 'Railway has already commenced, leading by collateral branches to Bath and Basing, and. from the same depot, the Grand Western Railroad (the Act for which is now obtained) will also emanate.   
But leaving for the present any further consideration of the benefits, it is proper to advert to other objects contemplated by the Act of Parliament. The parish of St. Nicholas, Deptford, since the closing of HIs Majesty's Dockyard, has been almost deserted; whole rows of houses are now untenanted or let to casual occupants; and property which in war time yielded considerable revenue to the owners, has fallen into a state bordering on decay and abandonment.  The Company has power to clear so much of this extensive tract as they may deem proper; in so doing, their object will be to substitute a new town, consisting of wide streets, adapted for healthful residence or commercial occupation. The fine gravelly soil abounding in spring- water of the purest quality, at moderate depth is of itself a great recommendation. The streets will lead direct to the water-side, and will form handsome and convenient avenues to the pier; and it can hardly be doubted that the value of this property will be greatly enhanced by these Improvements, and form another source of profit to the Company, as well as to those builders and others who may be inclined to invest their capital in this neighbourhood.  The contemplated hotels, warehouses, &c., will be erected on a scale commensurate with the magnitude of the undertaking.
The situation will in itself insure considerable casual resort, commanding a fine prospect of the river and surrounding country. Greenwich Hospital, the Park, Blackwall, Woolwich, the East and West India Docks, Deptford Dockyard, the Lower Pool. And even the shipping as far as Erith are all visible from the spot. An extensive promenade, forming- part of the plan, will make it a delightful resort for the inhabitants of Deptford and its neighbourhood.  Builders and others inclined to take part in the contemplated improvements may purchase freehold sites, subject to the requisite conditions. and every information will be furnished, on application to Mr. Horton Ledger, surveyor to the Company.
The lithographic view published by the company, under the superintendence of their surveyor, will particularly show the character of the waterside elevation of the proposed pier and terrace; whilst. The accompanying plan will give a general idea of the intended approaches.  A commodious temporary landing-place will be provided during the progress of the works, and coaches will at once commence running from the Deptford Pier to the different parts of the Metropolis.  
The capital of the company is £50,000, in 2,500 shares of £20 each; and the directors Messrs. John Wilson Davis, Richard Edmonds, Adam Gordon, Samuel Gardiner, Henry B. Leeson, Captain Robert Page, George Walter, and Frederick Albert Winsor.   

Thursday 20 March 2014

Visit to the Excalibur Prefab Estate, Lewisham - go while you can


On 15th March, in superb spring weather, a splendid two hour organized walk took place round the estate. There was scant publicity but an embarrassing number of people turned up - from as far afield as Scotland. Despite much press publicity about bulldozing, it turned out that almost no prefabs have actually been demolished, so far.  Areas have been cleared of their occupants and groups of empty prefabs are now hidden behind black hoardings, but they are almost all still there.

On this estate there were two types of prefabs and six, in the most original condition, have been listed grade II. Lewisham Council have complained that English Heritage is irresponsible. The Excalibar estate is in poor condition and the land is urgently required to build new homes for needy and deserving people.

Some residents love their prefabs; they remember the old slogan - popular at the time prefabs were built -  'an Englishman's home is his castle' and are determined to stay. The Estate still has a bit of its old secluded atmosphere. It is relatively traffic free and as well as roads, pedestrian walkways run between some of the bungalows. Pay a visit while you still can. A prefab museum has been opened at 17 Meliot Road SE6. See:

Thursday 13 March 2014

A steam lorry made in Greenwich

In the early 20th century the great Penn works on Blackheath Hill was taken over by Thames Ironworks - the shipbuilders based on Bow Creek, who built the Warrior and many other important ships.  They used the Penn site to build steam motor vehicles. The following piece describes one of these.
Please note - this piece has been scanned from a photocopy handed to us, the source of which is not known and which has no identifying features.  If it is your copyright - or you know whose copyright it is - please let us know.  If it is, it can be removed from this site at once or a credit given.   Even better would be more information and maybe the picture which clearly once accompanied this.
"This is a five ton design of wagon designe'To comply fully with the requirements of the Heavy Motor Car Order.' Unlike many designers of the period the Thames wagon had the undertype compound engine with cylinders 3.7/8" & 6 ½ " x 6" set across the frame and with the two crankshaft pinions engageable with the spur ring on a counter- shaft. This countershaft was extended outside the oil-tight casing to the bevel driven differential gear on the back axle, the bevels giving a reduction of 1 :4·6. At 450 r. p m the engine developed 30 b. h. p. Both cylinders had normal slide valves and the crankshaft was 2 1/4" diameter.

"Steam was generated in a locomotive type boiler containing 32 tubes 1 3/4" dia. the heating surface totalling 50 sq. ft with a grate area of 3 sq. ft.   The exhaust steam was passed through the ash pan to deposit any moisture in suspension and then through a heating coil in the smoke box. This was to render the exhaust practically invisible".

"Standard channels 6" x 2 ½”  were used for the chassis framing and cross braced. Rear main springs were 'four feet long with secondary springs above them two feet long permitting a large movement but well damped. The fore-carriage mounting the front axle was in effect a rectangular frame pivoted at its centre thus providing three- point suspension. Steel wheels 3' 2" dia x 9 1/2" tread were used for the rear and 2' 911 dia. x 5 1/2" tread for the front on a wheelbase of 10' 3". "

"Other main features were an external contracting brake on the spur ring on the countershaft, wood block brakes on the rear wheels and a water tank holding 120 gallons mounted beneath the rear end of the framing. The unladen weight of the five-tonner was 4 T 10 cwt and four to five hundredweights of fuel were carried. If desired an extra two or three tons could be taken on a trailer."