Thursday 24 April 2014

A good time was had by all - at Harvey's

For those interested in class distinctions and workplace social life in the 1950s - the following set of pictures comes from the company magazine of Harvey's - metal fabrications (specialising in holes) base in Woolwich Road - now the fire station site.

The Foremen's Annual Outing to Brighton - luncheon at the Royal Pavilion

The Heavy Tank Shop Annual Outing.

Engineers Outing

Lady Cleaners Outing - note Mr Mace, Security, at the back.

Oil Tank Shop Beano - and clearly having a much jollier time than the others,

Wednesday 16 April 2014

The Woolwich Engineers we rarely think about

Greenwich Industrial History - we take that as the factories and works of our local area, and accept that engineering and engineering innovation played a major part of that.   However Woolwich is just as important for military engineering - and the early years of the Royal Engineers in the area we now call the Royal Arsenal and the Royal Military Academy.  

The article below doesn't mention the role played in Woolwich but it does talk about the formation of the RE. It is taken from Wonders of World Engineering  Part 40.  1937.

(and - by the way - the Royal Engineers have an excellent museum in Gillingham)

ENGINES of war are no new invention, and attempts at the mechanization of armed forces were made many ages ago in man's struggle for power. The scythes on ancient British chariots, the siege engines of the Romans, the armour of medieval knights, the application of gunpowder-  all represent steps in the slow development of warfare through the centuries 
Now the day of the sword and spear has ceased and the defence of countries depends on the accuracy of scientific calculations and on industrial resources.  The struggle now lies on either side between men and machines, and military engineering is of as much importance as-the courage and resolution of the fighting units and the efficiency of industry mobilized for war. In the British Army the vast amount of engineering work entailed in the theatre of war, from trench construction to road and railway building, is undertaken by-the Corps of Royal Engineers 
Among the earliest examples of military engineering in Great Britain were the great roads built by the Romans to facilitate the movements of their legions. To-day, road making is one of the most important of all   military engineering activities in time of war. Mechanization can have little value without good roads 
Earthworks and other forms of fortification called for specialized attention even in the earliest times. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, after the establishment of an English standing army, a number of "King’s Engineers" had been appointed for special duties, mainly in connexion with fortifications. In 1700 there were twelve of these officials (they did not hold army rank) in the British Isles, but long before then the country's wars had necessitated the services of “Train Engineers" for the operation of the cannon and the supply of ordnance 
The artillery, however, was separately established in 1716 and a Corps of Engineers was formed with permanent personnel, augmented in war time, of twenty-eight engineers. A Company of Soldier Artificers was formed at Gibraltar in 1772, and these men played an important part in the siege of the Rock (1779-83) and in the building of the first of the famous gun galleries 
The Corps of Engineers was granted the title of "Royal" in 1787 and in that year also was formed a Corps of Royal Military Artificers, in which the Soldier Artificers were afterwards incorporated. The Artificers were responsible for Wellington's famous fortifications, the Lines of Torres Vedas, before Lisbon in the Peninsular War.  In 1813 the Royal Military Artificers were renamed the Royal Sappers and Miners 
A private soldier in the Royal Engineers is still termed a sapper and a sap is the name given to a heading run out from a trench dug parallel with a line of fortifications to be attacked.  The Royal Sappers and Miners performed invaluable work at the siege of Sebastopol and elsewhere during the Crimean War. At the conclusion of hostilities in 1856 the Royal Sappers and Miners (which consisted of rank and file only to this date) were united to the existing Corps of Royal Engineers.  The East India Company's Engineer officers, with the traditions of Lucknow and the storming of Delhi well established in British history, were amalgamated with the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1862. 

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Now - what was in Kidbrooke before the Ferrier??

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Charlton Tram Depot

The London County Council's Central Tram Depot was in Charlton. People might remember it better as the 'Airfix Building' in Feltram Way (Mr. Fell was the Department's Head).  There were considerable remains still there in the 1980s, and it would be interesting to know if this is still the case.
The following is extracts from an article on London Trams in Wonders of World Engineering  Part 32. Undated but probably mid-1930s. 

GIHS has never had a speaker on any of the various tram related sites in Charlton and Greenwich and are anxious to hear from volunteers!

"The overhauling and repair of such a fleet is a big task requiring three works, which are at Hendon, West Ham and Charlton. Those at Charlton are the largest of their type in Great Britain. They occupy some seven acres and are planned to deal, if necessary, with all the cars in service during the course of a year. Every car: has to be examined annually and certified to the Ministry of Transport before it is relicensed for public service. Generally a car is given a complete overhaul, occupying about thirteen days, every second year.

Removing the body (see below **)
The work is divided into two sections, one dealing with the body and the other with the truck and the motors. When the car arrives a schedule of the work to be done is circulated with the vehicle to all the shops. The first task is to lift the body from the trucks by an electric hoist, and to replace the worn trucks and motors by reconditioned ones. Then the car is placed on the body shop ropeway. During its journey through the shop the body work, wiring and electrical equipment are examined and repaired, if necessary.

The controllers are replaced, power and lighting cables are tested; circuit- breakers and switches are removed and recalibrated on a specially designed motor generator set. Trolley bases, booms and heads are replaced annually with overhauled units. Fittings and furniture such as seat cushions are dealt with in another section. If the work cannot be completed in scheduled time the car is withdrawn from the routine schedule and passed to the auxiliary body shop. Meanwhile, sections of framing consisting of complete side frames, platforms and top cover vestibule ends are assembled ready for fitting. When this has been done the car is delivered at the paint shop on another ropeway. Two tracks accommodate six cars each, and extend into a drying chamber with a capacity of six cars. The cars are washed down and given one coat of paint and one of varnish, double-tier scaffolding enabling both decks to be painted simultaneously. The interiors are floodlit" so that portable lamps are not needed.

Seats are cleaned by an apparatus which combines beating and suction. The seats rest on a chain conveyer table which passes through a sheet-iron cabinet, inside which leather thongs on revolving drums beat the seat, half the drums turning in a vertical plane and half in a horizontal plane. The dust is removed by an exhauster fan and passed through a duct to dust-collecting filter bags outside the building. Compressed air jets in the base of the cabinet clean the underside of the seat and disturb dust on the ledges of seat frames.

Motors and trucks are dismantled on the truck shop roadway. The motors are inspected and repaired in an adjoining shop and reassembled. They are tested by an hour's run on light load in either direction of rotation 'before they are replaced on the trucks.

Axle Testing

SOME 28,500 ploughs are overhauled and about 1,500 new ones are made in a year. The plough shop consists of three moving tables, a loading platform and two hydraulic presses. The plough is placed on a conveyer and during a journey of about 50 feet it is stripped of defective parts. At the end of the table hydraulic presses remove rivets and re-rivet the friction plates, and the plough is then placed on one of the two conveyers moving in the opposite direction. On the return journey the shoes are replaced and the fuses and top contacts are put into working order. Axles are
tested for cracks by the electro-magnetic method.   A powerful electro-magnet magnetises a part, over which a solution of iron filings and paraffin is poured. If there is a fracture the filings form in a small heap across the gap and reveal it. Magnetic brake shoes are produced by a two-unit plant, each unit having four machines, one for bar-cutting,' one for piano-milling one for four-spindle drilling and tapping, and one for cropping. In the wheel shop independent grinding machines deal with re-tyred wheels and with tyres on which the flats are not so deep as to make grinding too costly, A wheel-lathe re- moves flats and reforms flanges. Before wheel tyres are shrunk on to the centres they are expanded by electric tyre-heating transformers. Worn tyres are removed by oxy-coal-gas cutters. The welding shop is equipped with electric welding machines and transformers, and oxy-acetylene welding apparatus. Other sections include the smiths' shop, foundry, woodworking shop, sections for electrical and light repairs, and sections for printing destination blinds. Stores and auxiliary services are accommodated also. Apart from Charlton and the other works there are the depots where the tramway cars are housed, cleaned and maintained, and where minor repairs are executed. The maintenance of the rails and the wires is another big task.
**Caption - "Removing the body of a tramway car from its trucks by means of an electric hoist.  The work of an overhaul shop is divided into two sections, one dealing with the body and the other with the truck and motors. The truck and motors are replaced with reconditioned pats and the body is placed on a ropeway which conveys it through the various sections of the body shop.  Here body work, wiring  and electrical equipment are examined.
All photo credits are to London Transport

Hackney Power Station

Sorry - this isn't Greenwich - but its such a great picture.
This is Metropolitan Borough of Hackney's power station  - probably in the late 1930s. It comes from "Wonders of World Engineering" Part 50 (sadly not dated).
The remains of the power station are alongside the Lea, north of Millfields Road.

Monday 7 April 2014

Bateman's Engineering

This cutting comes from the Kentish Mercury January 1883. I know nothing else about Bateman's not even where their site was,.

Thursday 3 April 2014

The Bermondsey Volunteers

Neither Greenwich nor Industrial  - but this article is interesting and from the South Met. Gas Co's house magazine Co-partnership Journal in November 1908

One industrial link - the Col.Bevington mentioned is of course a member of the Bermondsey (and Erith) leather business. Is he the same Bevington whose statue stands in Tooley Street.


The events following upon the French Revolution led the British Parliament to pass an Act for the enrolment of Volunteers under the official title of 'Armed Associations.' A small but persistent minority in the House of Commons strongly resisted the measure, but Mr. Pitt’s Bill was carried amidst an outburst of popular enthusiasm, and in 1794 -one month after Lord Howe's naval victory over the French-the enrolment of Volunteers began. Bermondsey was the first parish south of the Thames to respond to the Proclamation. As early as 1793' a meeting took place in Bermondsey for the purpose of memorialising the Government to adopt these measures.     .

Two companies of seventy men each were enrolled under Major-Commandant Gaitskill, and received the title of The Bermondsey Volunteers.'

A further Proclamation was made in 1798, and this led to the formation of many other corps in the Metropolis and the provincial towns. First among the new enrolments was the Second Bermondsey Corps, known as 'The Bermondsey Loyal Volunteers,' under Captain Thomas Rich. This was followed by the formation of a company in Rotherhithe under Captain John Grice, and by similar companies in Newington, St. George's, Christ Church, and St. Saviour's, Southwark, and also by a company in St. John, Horselydown. Some of these, by the terms of enrolment, were to serve only in their own and the adjoining parishes, but the First Bermondsey Corps volunteered to be associated with the Militia to go to any part of the southern counties, and, if called upon, to garrison towns on the south coast.

The uniform of the Volunteers in the Metropolis was almost the same in every district, and only varied in the colour of the facings. This consisted of a coat cut away to show the waistcoat, the officer always wearing a frilled shirt and hair powder, and a helmet covered or partially covered with bearskin, and surmounted by a plume. The men were armed with a firelock, and a bayonet which screwed over the muzzle of the gun.

The colours carried by each of the corps were the gift of the ladies of the neighbourhood. One of the colours bears the tender suggestion, 'We Guard Those we Love,' whilst another, equally loyal but more prosaic, has ' Our King, Laws, and Trade.' These colours, six in all, were deposited in the Churches of St. Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, and St. Mary, Rotherhithe, on the disbanding of the old Volunteers. In 1877 they were presented to Colonel Bevington and placed by him in the Drill Hall. They are fine specimens of embroidery, though now worn and faded. The 'Place of Arms,' as the headquarters used to be called, was for the First Corps, in the old Artillery Hall of Horselydown, which they shared with the company in that parish. The Second Corps had 'Jamaica House,' in Cherry Garden Street, pulled down about forty years ago.   The inspection ground for the corps of the locality was the' Spa Road Gardens,' -then a fashionable place of resort. The modern Volunteer movement, which was inaugurated in 1859, led to the enrolment of a corps in Bermondsey and another in Rotherhithe. The Rotherhithe Corps (23rd Surrey) was enrolled in 1861.

These two corps were amalgamated in 1863 under the title of the 4th Surrey Administrative Battalion, which was altered to the 6th Surrey Rifle Volunteers in 1881. This designation was changed to the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, the' Queen's' Royal West Surrey Regiment, in 1883, the uniform originally dark green with scarlet facings, ill conformity with the uniform of the 'Queen's' Royal West Surrey Regiment.

.The present commodious Drill Hall was built in 1876 from the design of Major Gale, architect; and erected at the expense of the late Colonel Bevington, who spared no means to make the battalion efficient. The spirit shown by the Volunteers of 1802 caused Charles Yorke, Secretary of War, to exclaim: If our martial spirit be once extinguished our wealth is vain and our commerce fruitless. For my own part I wish to see the spirit of valour flourish among our countrymen. I wish that every one of them should, as in the days of our ancestors, have his helmet and his sword suspended over his chimney ready to be put on, and his horse prepared to bear him against the first enemy that shall dare to invade his native land. .

 May these patriotic words be laid to heart by the young men whom Mr. Haldane invites to enter' the ranks of the Territorial Army.

 Mr. H.L.Phillips (Old Mortality) has kindly sent a newspaper cutting

 dated May 8, '1801, which reads as' follows :-

The Bermondsey Volunteers, commanded by Major Gaitskill, on Tuesday last had their first grand field day; for the summer, and were received at the Parade at the Spa, by Lord Onslow, Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Surrey. Notwithstanding the winter recess, the corps performed the various evolutions and firings with such accuracy and exactness, as was highly honourable to themselves and gratifying to the commanding officer, and which produced the most flattering commendations from his lordship. ' ,.

A numerous assemblage of spectators were admitted by tickets, to whom the gardens afforded the most delightful promenade, highly enlivened by the splendour 9Hhe day, and the beauty of the evening, and which greatly added to the gaiety of 'the scene. After the 'field exercise the corps, with Lord Onslow, the High Sheriff and a number of visitors partook of an excellent dinner given by the honorary members, for whose liberality and politeness the corps is much indebted.

This short account of a Volunteer 'field day' a century ago is interesting to compare with the reports of this year's Territorial Army manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain.-EDITOR.]