Friday 28 August 2015

Latest news and stuff in the post


~ Events include:

(This is on the riverside in Greenwich, SE10 - at the riverside end of Pelton Road/Lassell Street - where the Cutty Sark pub is (

Residents of Ballast Quay tell us "We will open Ballast Quay garden on Saturday 29th/Sunday 30th August only, from 10-5pm.  From the information we have been able to glean, the 13 designated Tall Ships will be passing at intervals in both directions, taking fee-paying tour passengers throughout the day, starting late morning and going on into the early evening. As a street, a group of us will man a tea-and-cakes stall and take contributions, which we will split between two local 'charities'. We will not be charging admission.  Diane Greenwood leases and maintains the garden with  Hilary, her friend, who started the whole thing and it is with their kind permission that we are there at all. For this occasion Hilary has mounted a small but sweet exhibition of tall ships pix, memorabilia and maps and she will be sitting drawing her signature 'botanical' greetings cards, for sale.   
Enderby Group - who are working on the telecoms and other heritage of the area and the future of Enderby House - will have a stall, and members will be able to give the latest information we have on progress.
The crew of the Lenox Project is looking forward to meeting you all at the Tall Ships Festival in Woolwich this Saturday 29th August. We will have our restored Saker cannon on show, and we'll also be selling new t-shirts carrying a fabulous design showing the Lenox in Deptford Dockyard, created by Lush Designs specially for us! Our cannon and stall will be in Woolwich Arsenal from midday till 8pm, so come along to say hello and find out what we are up to! 
The Lenox Project CIC aims to build a replica 17th century ship in the former Royal Dockyard at Deptford


Amalgamated Society of Engineers.  We have been told that when the Amalgamated Society of Engineers was set up in the mid 19th century that some of the prime movers worked here in Greenwich for the early telecommunications industry - at Morden Wharf for Glass Elliott and for Kupers.  Please let us know if you have any knowledge of this, or any knowledge of someone who might know, or where archives are kept.

Bandstand in Greenwich Park. We have a request - which has been all round England already and which appears to originate from the Royal Parks. This is about the park bandstand and if we know why the name 'Deane and Co.' appear on the columns.  It was always said to have been made by the Coalbrookedale Company - but there were also a small number of specialist bandstand makers. Any ideas?? Happy to pass info on??

1 Hyde Vale.  We have the following news from Paul "This afternoon I received very welcome news. The building is now Listed at Grade II. Historic England accepted all of our key points about the history of the building, stating:  “1 Hyde Vale was purpose-built as a builder's workshop and yard, part of a composition with the adjacent builder's house (63 Royal Hill) which is also listed at Grade II. As the only listed Georgian purpose-built builder's workshops in Greater London, and possibly in the country, the building is notable for its rarity. It has also been identified as significant for its architectural interest, surviving structure, and the group value it lends to 63 Royal Hill. It is clear that the building also contributes to the significance of the West Greenwich Conservation Area. The area's authenticity is enhanced through the presence of this historic building. As the only building providing evidence of industry in the Hyde Vale area it helps to further our understanding of how people lived and worked in this part of West Greenwich.”. This means the existing planning application will be rejected, and the developers will have to come back with a conversion, rather than a demolition. This keeps an important, rare building and should also greatly diminish the disruption that neighbours would have suffered.  

POLLUTION AND SMELLS.  People will have read about the objections to the cruise liner terminal at Enderbys on the grounds of pollution.  An old Greenwich resident has written to us - from a retirement home outside of London - 'yes it would pollute the atmosphere... as you know many factories, especially the Dog Biscuit works and Tunnel Refineries gave off strong smells at times - and yes, the river was filthy too'.     So - perhaps we should be researching the history of local smells and pollutants.  There used to be a lot of very detailed works on Tunnel Refineries and their strong smell. 

William Parry Jackson.  We have a request "I have for a while been studying the life of WT Vincent and I thought it was time I included a few paragraphs about his uncle ,  William Parry Jackson.   I know at some time he was chairman of the Equitable gas company and also the Woolwich steam packet company ..  I was wondering if you may have some info"
Mudlarks - as I write this something very interesting seems to have been turned up by Mudlark, Nicola White  .... waiting for more details

LABOUR HERITAGE - The latest Labour Heritage Bulletin has just turned up with article son: Alfred Linnell, Labour Prime Ministers, Labour and the Government of Ireland Act, Staines NUR and Elections in Acton.   None of this is about Greenwich or even South London - perhaps someone should write something!  Happy to pass on contacts to anyone interested.

Highcombe site - this is about use by locals of the derelict playing field in Highcombe Road. Meeting  7th September 19.30 Blackheath Rugby Club.

Thames and Medway Canal Association. This is based in Gravesend but they produce a great little newsletter about this canal - which has been unused, and unusable since the railway took over the tunnel between Higham and Strood in 1845.  They report they are being extensively mucked about by the railway (what's new!) - but would recommend them

The Naval Dockyards Society is asking people who want to have their new 20th Century Naval Dockyards publication to join a subscription list.  Happy to pass on names and details of anyone interested.
found this little gem on sales literature for Greenwich Millennium Village:

"Until around 100 years ago, the main claim to fame of Greenwich Peninsula was its wildlife and fisheries but in 1897, the Blackwall Tunnel was built under the River Thames to link the peninsula with the North bank, and with the tunnel came development"

Have emailed them pointing out that they don't know what they are talking about. Anyone want to bet that - they don't reply t...o my email - and they leave it as it is anyway.

Somewhere there is an implication that 'development' (developer style development) only began when ideas from north London began trickling through the tunnel.

Monday 24 August 2015

Two Women on a Footpath - (seventeen years ago!) with annotations

In the late 1990s as changes accelerated on the Greenwich Peninsula two women went for a walk down the Greenwich riverside path - to see what they would like to happen in the future.  Here is there report - which was published by a Docklands based community- regeneration-watching-organisation.
So, read on:


The old footpath which winds its way along the Greenwich riverside to the end of the peninsula - and the Dome - has recently been the subject of some attention.  Before the Dome was thought of it had been designated as part of a nation-wide network of signposted cycle through-routes - and was to be upgraded to meet the requirements of fast cyclists.
Since then it has been suggested that it ought to be a pleasant walk for people who want to travel by foot from 'historic' Greenwich to the Dome.
It is a raggedy old path which has, no doubt, seen a lot in its time - and so Greenwich Council commissioned the consulting engineers, Ove Arup, to look at it with a view to turning it into a cycle and pedestrian  path to the Dome.

Ove Arup reported to the Council late in 1997 - they said the project could not possibly be completed in time given the requirements. There were a number of legal problems concerning access and land ownership and there were engineering difficulties of providing the fast cycle track - which might also meet with considerable opposition on what were often very reasonable grounds.
So - in August 1998 two of us set off along the path to see what we could find - they noted down what they saw and tried to think of ways in which things could be improved very cheaply. We talked to people we met - many of thetourists walking the path on a rainy summer's day - and asked what they would like to see there. One aspect was more information about the industrial heritage.

The following are some of the suggestions we made for signing - and the information needed. Comments from 2015 in italics

*** Information needed at the Greenwich Foot Tunnel - how about information about the London County Council together with some of the tunnel's history.
(In 2015 Hearsay evidence leads us to believe that some visitors look at the dome of the foot tunnel and think it is the Royal Observatory)
*** The Bellot Monument - Who was Bellot?? Why is this monument here?? Can we be told something  - anything!!
*** Queen's Stairs. What are 'river stairs'. Why are they there? What are the rights on them - and who owns them?   Shouldn't they be gated and locked?? or, alternatively - Why are they gated and locked?? What is going on.

*** Trinity Hospital - what is it? Why is there? (and we should ask people to respect the privacy of the inmates)

***  London Underground Power Station - We need some information about its past and what it is used for today.
(not to mention those scruffy little additions on the walls - and why in the past 15 years hasn't anyone got round to removing those horrible oil tanks and intrusive, and unused, coal bunker - and why didn't we mention the big jetty and how useful it would be as a venue for something or other - anything, really)

*** The Meridian line
(I know we now all think its in the wrong place but there is a metal strip in the pavement here - no explaination whatsoever)

*** Harbour Master's Office - what is it? Who used it?

*** Morden College Plaques - explaining they are NOT fire insurance plaques.
One of the cranes removed by Morden College
(and pointing out that 1680 is NOT the date of the buildings but the date when Morden College was founded)

*** A plaques noting the riverviews and buildings of interest from Cutty Sark pub - and a number of other places along the way
(clearly this area has changed dramatically since this was written and there is now a bit - well a little bit - of interpretation on the riverside where it has been opened up. And the Ballast Quay activists have been doing a good job with the little garden area on opening days.)

*** Cranes on Lovell's Wharf- how to make a feature of them, and explain why they are there.
(the two Butters Scotch Derricks were removed by Morden College a year or so after this was written whole the Council was still trying to persuade developers to make them a feature in future housing areas.)

*** Renewing the painted signs on Lovell's Wharf
(Oh dear - well that's long gone without a trace!)

*** A note about the vista down Pelton Road, the Pelton Arms and some explanation about the name.

***The Cadet Place wall - the Great Globe - and some notes about Portland Stone.
(---  aargh -  after much argy bargy the developer did agree to re-erect the 'Cyclopean wall - but missed the whole point of it by re-erecting it nice and neatly - and causing considerable offence in doing so.   Go to Watchet Station if you want to see what it should look like).
*** Some notes about the industry using Granite Wharf and Pipers Wharf - and a request to respect their privacy.
(when this was written boats were still regularly using Granite Wharf and transhipping aggregate.  However the request about privacy was to stop visitors being sworn at on sites here)
In this area a couple of years after this was written the early medieval tide mill was found on Granite Wharf.  Requests for signage about this to the developer fell on deaf ears - couldn't afford it, they said)

*** Notes and a display about sailing barges at Piper's Wharf with some information about barges built on site.

*** Public access to Enderby House plus a display inside
(Well!!! - we are all doing our best)

*** A search for the mast of the Great Eastern and other relics which were once displayed here.

*** Some interpretation of the cable motifs on the riverside office block
Cables being loaded at Enderbys
(thanks for drawing to Peter Kent)
(this block was demolished by the developer last year)

*** Interpretation of the preserved machinery on Enderby Wharf - and a display of telecommunications heritage would be wonderful

*** A return of the John H.Mackay - or a different cable laying ship
(we are getting cruise liners there instead)

*** A plaque noting the line of the ropewalk
(the line of the ropewalk has been obliterated by the developer)

*** A plaque about the seventeenth century gun powder depot

*** A plaque on the Amylum silos
(the silos were demolished three years go by French site owners who then cleared off)
Sea Witch 1930s  - riverside pub destroyed in bombing -
*** A plaque at the site of the Sea Witch Pub

***  Some information at Bay Wharf about Maudslay and other shipbuilders once on site

*** A plaque about inland vistas - particularly the gasholder
(which is just about still there)

***A plaque at Victoria Deep Water Wharf (if they managed to open the path up, through there) about Henry Bessemer - whose Greenwich works was there. Perhaps also some information about Appleby engines and where one can be found preserved
(the path was opened up following High Court action by the Council against the site owner)

*** Delta Wharf- some information about Delta Metal.

**** Point Wharf. See if it is possible to moor Orinoco here - she was built on this site and is currently berthed at Hoo.
(Oh dear - Orinoco - the last Greenwich built barge in sail - wasn't built here, she was built - I think - on part of Lovell's Wharf.  However it is possible that Jackobaits built some vessels here which are still on the river - information please??)

Grain deliveries at the silos 1960s
*** Something about boat building at Point Wharf using the skills of those who recently worked there

*** A plaque on the vent of the 'old' Blackwall Tunnel with some notes about the LCC.   

(if you can get to it - despite it being on a right of way)

*** A note about the Blakeley gun foundry at Ordnance Wharf and its interest for Americans - and a pointer to the Virginia Settlers site across the river.


Sunday 23 August 2015

Review of Stewart Ash's book on Subsea Telecommunications and Enderby House

The Story of Subsea Telecommunications and its Association with Enderby House
by Stewart Ash
Review by Richard Buchanon
The Enderby Group has commissioned a number of histories of the site - which will eventually be available. The text to two of them is on Bill Burns Atlantic Cable web site (link at the end of this posting).  Below is a review of the first of these, kindly contributed by Richard Buchanon, and hopefully a review of a work on the Enderby family will follow (that also is on Bill's web site).  Below also are links to works about the site by Stewart Ash and posted on the Ballast Quay web site. Works  by another author will probably posted here as unsuitable for anywhere else. 

Mr Ash gives a detailed description of a fascinating story.

He sets the scene by defining three eras of subsea cable communication:

1850 – 1950: the Telegraph era

1950 – 1986: the Telephone era

1986 until today, and into the future: the Optical era

Telegraph was restricted to text messages, Telephone added voice channels (for two-way conversation), and Optical carries the whole gamut of digitised communication.

In 1850 the first, British, cable was laid across the English Channel, completing a telegraph link from London to Paris.  It soon failed, but lessons were learnt, another was successfully laid the next year and soon several cables were laid on short European sea routes.

Americans wanted a link too.  Cyrus West Field initiated the project in 1857 to link the United States to Britain, using British expertise for design and manufacture.  Two manufactures each made half the Cable; one loaded onto USS Niagara, the other onto HMS Agamemnon.  The lay began but was abandoned when the cable broke.  More cable was made to replace what had been lost, and in 1858 a second lay was successful – but signals on the new link became weaker and soon ceased altogether.  Thorough investigation led to a report in 1861 which outlined a way forward.  Mr Field saw his project come to fruition in 1866.

Mr Ash then describes how cables were made at the time.

Gutta Percha, amongst many other uses, had been found to be an ideal insulant for subsea cables.  First introduced to Europe in 1842, it is prepared from the resin of trees that grow in SE Asia.  In 1845 the Gutta Percha Company was set up to manufacture gutta percha goods.  For subsea cables they supplied lengths of a core comprising a copper centre conductor coated in gutta percha.

Work on cable in 19th century Greenwich
Cable manufacturers spliced the lengths of core together, and added armour wires around the core both for strength and to resist abrasion on the seabed.  The armour wires were developed from steel wire used in ropes already being used in coal mines, and for standing rigging in ships.  One of the principal wire rope manufacturers expanded onto a site at Morden Wharf in Greenwich where they concentrated on cable manufacture.  Known from 1854 as Glass Elliot & Co, they provided half the cable for the 1857 transatlantic cable, and the extra cable needed in 1858.

Increasing business engendered further expansion.  Just upstream of Morden Wharf was Enderby Wharf, where hemp ropes and sails had been made for shipping.  However in 1845 it had a devastating fire.  Charles Enderby, then running the business, did not restore the factory but did build a dwelling house: Enderby House, still extant, though he did not live there long.  In 1857 Glass Elliot & Co bought the premises; they moved their management offices to Enderby House.

It was clearly desirable to bring the manufacturing processes together.  In 1864 the Gutta Percha Co and Glass Elliot & Co merged as the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Co (Telcon).

The next year cable for a third transatlantic system was made, by Telcon.  This was loaded onto the Great Eastern, Brunel’s passenger ship having been converted for cable laying, and big enough to take the cable for the entire system.  This cable too broke, but in 1866 the Great Eastern successfully laid a fourth cable – and then recovered the 1865 cable and completed that system too.  Global expansion followed, with cables to the far-east and Australia.  At the beginning of the 20th century the Pacific was crossed.

The traffic a cable can carry depends on how high a frequency can be transmitted.  Telcon developed a special alloy called mumetal, which they used to make a tape to wrap around the central conductor to increase the rate at which messages could be sent.  This led to more business as older cables were replaced, mainly in the inter-war period.  Two further improvements came with the development of coaxial cable, where a high conductivity sheath is put on the cable core (originally as a helically wound copper tape), under the armouring; and, beginning in 1930s, the replacement of gutta percha with polythene.

Telcon merged with the subsea cable division of Siemens (hitherto a rival in Woolwich) in 1935 to form Submarine Cables Ltd (SCL).  Standard Telephones & Cables (STC) in North Woolwich entered the subsea cable business in 1950 – later, in 1970, taking over SCL.  In each case Enderby House remained at the centre of the business.  STC ceased making cable at Greenwich in 1975, in favour of their Southampton cable factory, but continued with repeater and terminal equipment manufacture.

Over short routes even a telegraph cable can carry a telephone channel, and this was done as early as the 1890s.  However telephony needs much higher transmission frequencies than telegraphy.  Even with coaxial cable in the 1940s it was necessary have an amplifier to counteract cable losses, just to cross the North Sea.  Several needs arose: a waterproof casing to house the amplifier; a means of feeding power to it over the cable; and sufficiently reliable components for the amplifier.  An amplifier is unidirectional, so to achieve two-way transmission filters are used to separate a low frequency band from a high frequency band, the bands providing go and return directions.  The amplifier and associated circuits in a casing is termed a repeater.

Crossing the Atlantic needed many repeaters: Bell Labs in America did the design work for the first such system, and successfully tested it between Havana and Key West in 1950 – the date generally accepted as marking the beginning of the Telephone era.  The first Trans-Atlantic Telephone (TAT-1) system soon followed, with American repeaters spliced into coaxial cable - mostly made by SCL.  It could carry 36 telephone channels.  Designs rapidly advanced, SCL and STC both developing their own repeaters, and installing systems worldwide, around the British Commonwealth and elsewhere.  Channel capacity increased to 160 channels in 1967 and 5680 channels by 1977.

Great Eastern in Mid-Atlantic -the broken cable found,
brought on board, spliced, and mended
Systems are laid with repeaters already spliced into the cable.  The cable cannot just be let go, but has to be retarded to match the passage of the ship over the seabed; the design of paying out equipment is a discipline in its own right.  Equipment for telegraph cables had a series of large diameter sheaves, the cable taken under one and over the next.  Mr Ash describes how a rigid repeater in the cable can be laid – using legacy equipment - then goes on to say how a modern design does the job.

Cable systems are designed for a 25 year life, but the occasional fault does occur.  There are sufficient cables round the world for traffic to be re-routed round outages, but service is slowed until faults are repaired.  Cables can be broken by geological activity on the seabed (avoided by judicious route planning), by dragging ships anchors, but mainly by fishing.  Cables are now buried where they cross fishing grounds, not only on continental shelves but down to depths of 1500m – plough design for this is another speciality described in this account.

Satellites in the 1960s provided considerable competition for 160 channel cable systems, but as the capability of cables improved this diminished – particularly with the development of optical fibre cables.  Today, satellites are regarded as complementary to optical fibre systems - in providing mobile services; though their share of total traffic is less than five percent.

Charles Kao began his career at STC, later moving to the firm’s research laboratories – here he and George Hockham developed the idea that information could be carried by light waves guided by a glass fibre.  This they published in a paper in 1966.  By 1980 fibre loss had been sufficiently reduced for a short sea trial, and further improvements in the purity of fibre materials led to the first optical fibre system from the UK to Belgium in 1986.  The cable was designed with six fibres in the centre of the cable, surrounded by a metallic tube – which protected the fibres, but also conducted power feed current to the three repeaters.  These really were repeaters: the incoming digital signal was detected, regenerated and retransmitted as a repeat of the original.  As the regenerators were unidirectional a pair was needed for two-way transmission, working over a pair of fibres.

Also in 1986, the Erbium Doped Fibre Amplifier (EDFA) was first demonstrated at Southampton University.  It comprises a length of optical fibre doped with erbium, a rare earth element; when pumped by a laser this will amplify a signal passing through it, the signal being at wavelength in a band around 1550 nanometres.  A pair of fibres is again needed for two-way transmission.  EDFA development took time, but made for a much simpler repeater.  The EDFA can simultaneously handle multiple wavelengths in the 1550 nm band (a regenerator could only handle a single wavelength).  Current systems offer transmission of a hundred data streams, each of 100 gigabits/sec on a single fibre pair (over 25,000 times the highest capacity of co-axial systems); and typically have two or four fibre pairs.

The story ends with a look at the present situation, and possibilities for the future of Enderby House.  STC has, through industry mergers, become part of Alcatel-Lucent; they make still make repeaters and terminal equipment, but not needing the whole site to do so, have sold the riverside part – including Enderby House - to a housing developer, who is currently surrounding it with large blocks of flats.  Mainly because of its historical significance, Enderby House has a Grade II listing; obliging the developer to refurbish the house.  There is also a proposal to build a cruise liner terminal next to Enderby House.

The Enderby Group has recently been formed to promote Enderby House as a centre for telling the story of its history and heritage – both local and industrial.  It was in at the beginning of international communications, soon becoming the centre of them, and is the sole remaining site in the UK still active today.

The Story of Subsea Telecommunications and its Association with Enderby House

There are currently two articles on the Ballast Quay website that link to this page.  They can be found @

Thursday 20 August 2015


so - what is in the GIHS In-tray??

Kent Underground Research Group - their admirable newsletter turns up regularly, sadly nothing much about Greenwich recently.  They have been very involved with a big site at Dover - Fan Bay Deep Shelter.  For those interested in all this subterranean we would very much recommend them at  They say they are interested in all things underground in Kent - and remember, from their point of view Greenwich is in Kent up the historic boundary at the Ravensbourne.  They would welcome articles - info to
Their AGM is on 11th October at New Tavern Fort in Gravesend

KURG also advertise:
Kent Miners Festival. 31st August  at Community Park in Betteshanger. details  When the Kent mines were still active Greenwich had many links with these mining communities - and the festivals are another world. Go down a country lane and into a pit village community.  They had Denis Skinner last year - don't miss it.

also Drop Redoubt. 12th-13th September - this is the opening of Napoleonic defence structures at Dover  It includes an opening of the Grand Shaft - something which I will guarantee you will never see the like of again!!


Steve Hunnisett of Blitz Walkers has been kind enough to send a list of bombs dropped in the Second World War on the Redpath Brown site (this was a structural steel works behind and between the river to the Pilot PuB).   He has promised to send more bombings of industrial sites - these Redpath Brown ones will go to Andrew Turner who has been researching the site for many years, and hopefully will come and talk to GIHS about it soon.


People will have seen Rich Sylvester's story boards outside the old health centre on hoardings. Rich is going to speak about the history of the site at Greenwich Square Library  6.30pm 7th October


This project to rebuild a historic ship at Deptford are to be at the Tall Ships Festival on 29th August. They have a restored cannon and will be selling tee shirts.  They also say they have a film about the ship on their web site.


English Heritage have emailed to say that archaeological work will soon begin on sites in Deptford   
Land Bounded by Deptford Creek, Copperas Street and Creek Road, (Creekside East): 14/3795/F (LAG/011/503) CLO14224 
This is about the pumping station on Shooters Hill. We have been asked about
the supply of 2 Cornish Boilers K22 and K23  by Harvey & Co.These were used in conjunction with a pair of horizontal engines (By Cowan and Gardiner & Mackintosh respectively). Together these machines were used to pump water in Shooters Hill, London. (they were apparently scrapped in 1925).   The Cowan engine was probably a Burgh and Cowan horizontal engine supplied by TW Cowan, Kent Iron Works, Greenwich in 1862-4       
Does anyone at the Society have any further information about these boilers or engines?       
---------------------------------------- l
Crossness Engines Record
Thanks Crossness for your wonderful newsletter. Everything in it is local -so I am just going to list out the contents:- 
Peter Connolly and the boiler house doors - (a nice paint job, thanks Pete)
The Crossness Beam Engine /Flywheels - details and a sketch
Royal Arsenal Narrow Gauge Railway Progress Report - we all want to know more about the new railway in the Borough, don't we?? Read about it here!
A history of  music recorded at Crossness - yes, really
Spotlight on a volunteer - (thanks Mike)
A Crossness Swan song (poorly swan on site)
- and - Sir Joseph has had a make over.
Steaming days - 23rd August   and 11th October (with local history special).  10.30-5 .00 and it says you have to wear trousers and flat shoes. (oooeer)
Now the next thing - can anyone tell us/ have they heard of the Greenwich Declaration..  We understand this is about industrial heritage in Europe.
How come we missed it?? But what is it??
Tell us more.
(contact for info or whatever