Friday, 20 February 2015

The Greenwich ropeworks and a wretch

Enderby Wharf and Rope

The Enderby family are known for their rope walk on the Greenwich Peninsula - the line of which could be seen until obliterated by current development. It lay at right angles to the Thames and parallel to Bendish Sluice - also now obliterated by the Barratt development.

The rope walk on the site however was in existence before the Enderby family came to the site and dated from some time after 1800.  It was in the hands of a James Littlewood by 1808, and this was described as a “rope house, rope walk, houses and wharf’. 

The following is extracts from a court case heard in the Court of Exchquer in the June 1824 and is taken from an account in the morning Chronicle.  It concerns 'The King v. Robert Binns" Binns was the landlord of a the Seven Stars in Whitechapel and he had received a quantity of spirits without a permit and in cans or bladders.

Thomas Phipps, a Surveyor of Excise, gave evidence that he had discovered a private still in Kentish Town managed by 'a person who gave his name as Smith.  He was taken to the Magistrates Court and fined 30/-.

The next witness was James Littlewood  was admitted that he also used the name of Smith and within the past three or four months had manufactured three or four hundred gallons of spirits.
Littlewood went on "he had been rather unfortunate in business; he became a bankrupt in 1817, ..... having borrowed of his friends £40 he took the rope walk which had occasioned his bankruptcy and where he should have succeeded, had not a conspiracy been formed to take it out of his hands". he went on that he has "made over the rope-walk to a person named Young, but received nothing for it, only a promise of his situation as foreman, with a salary of £250 per annum".
It then emerged that he had later been charged with stealing some hemp  from Mr. Young, but he sais this was not so. He was however sacked because of it and took out a charge against Mr. Young to recover the possession of property.   This was tried at Maidstone, but was defeated because there was no written agreement.  However during the proceedings he ended up in the Horsemonger Lane Jail for running an illicit still, and for selling spirits in the prison.

Once out of gaol he "turned his attention to a private still in Kentish-town, and passed by the name of Smith". Since that had been discovered by the Excise he set up another still at Leytonstone, and then one at Camberwell, changing his name again to Cross, and when this was discovered he opened yet another still in Bethnal-Green.

Since then he had been in the Fleet Prison because of debts contracted at the Greenwich ropeworks.
Following evidence from some other parties  - the Foreman of the Jury stood up and said, “My Lord, we are unanimous"  and said, about Littlewood "we cannot believe such a wretch on his oath.”
-  the case ended with no verdict.

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