Wednesday 30 September 2015

Siemens Woolwich - a brief history

Siemens Brothers was one of the most important of our local industries. Although they closed as long ago as 1968 the Engineering Society attached to the works has continued to meet until very recently.  As mentioned in an earlier post we have just received a supplementary volume to their original report published in 2009.
This supplement is packed with interesting information about the Woolwich works - but before we go on here is a copy of their front page, a brief history of the Company so that we all know where we are.

A brief history of the Company

William Siemens first conducted business in London in 1843 and in 1847 became an Agent for Siemens & Halske. This company had been established in Germany that year by his elder brother Wemer and Johann Georg Halske, a highly skilled mechanical engineer. Siemens & Halske had established a telegraph factory in Berlin, but it became clear that London needed a permanent staff, warehouse and workshop and thus in 1858 the Siemens & Halske Company was founded in London, England. William, Wemer and Halske (who apart from being a partner, was also in charge ofthe workshop) paid in £1000 each.

In 1863 with continued expansion, Siemens & Halske of London bought a piece of land on the Thames in Woolwich and built on it a cable factory, a mechanical workshop and stores. In 1865 Halske withdrew his support from the Company; largely as a consequence of William and Halske's disagreements over the risks involved in the cable business. The two remaining partners, William and Werner Siemens, took over the assets of Siemens & Halske and re-registered the business as Siemens Brothers, London. Siemens Brothers became a Limited Company in 1880 and pioneered research, development, engineering and manufacture of Electrical Cables, Telegraph, Telephone, Signalling and Measuring Apparatus, Wireless Equipment, Lamps, Lights and Batteries.

From its humble start at Woolwich, when employees averaged around 800 total, the Company grew to encompass over 20,000 employees world wide. Employees at Woolwich reached a peak in the WWII period of 9,500 total, but generally averaged around 8,000 in the post war years.          iJ

In 1958 the Company celebrated its Centenary and was honoured with a visit by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. However the period 1958-1968 heralded many changes in the manufacturing industry. Siemens Brothers became Siemens Edison Swan, a part of the Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) Group, and was then renamed AEI Telecommunications. This period was coincident with the emergence of electronics and the Company again played a pioneering role in the design, development, manufacture and installation of the first electronic telephone exchanges. AEI was in turn taken over by GEC which led to the closure of the Woolwich Works in 1968. Ironically this closure was due mainly to serious over capacity in Britain's power generation manufacturing companies at a period when the ex-Siemens telecommunications business was flourishing.
Brian Middlemiss 

Thursday 10 September 2015


LAMAS NEWSLETTER - this comes regularly and lists local history events all round London.  They seem to have removed GIHS and we need to see what we can do to remind them. Its bad enough we can't get listed in national Industrial History publications,  on account of this being an electronic newsletter. 

THE LAMAS NEWSLETTER contains an article about the Thames Discovery Programme which includes some notes about their work - the FROG Project - in Greenwich. This says:  that the foreshore outside the Old Royal Naval College has been described by Gus Milne as the "most dynamic foreshore on the Thames"  and that in 2011 the Greenwich Foreshore Recording and Observation Group was set up to monitor three main sites in the borough on a regular basis. - the key site being Greenwich Palace. The article goes on to describe visits to the foreshore and fieldwork. They found that many structures have been 'dramatically eroded' ie - 'Several previously recorded timbers from what had been interpreted as a Tudor jetty have disappeared' however 'several new features have become visible'.   Changes have allowed 'a better understanding of the jettys construction and period' and that 'the majority of the wood used is elm, including the larger timbers, and many of the timbers have been pit sawn. Damian Goodburn has suggested that this would date the structure from about 1560 to 1660'.  Furtherc 'The results of analysis support an interpretation that this structure could be the "King's Bridge" associated with Greenwich Palace, and that the
timbers currently visible may be the 1631 rebuild under Charles I'
.  and  'Further downstream, a causeway and granite platform around the Queen's Stairs is now clearly visible, and a large chalk barge bed is appearing east of the causeway'.

The latest progress report by the Greenwich FROG may be found at: 2013-14.

Perhaps I could comment here that it is a pity some of this energy is not going into investigating what could be the remains of the 1690s jetty at what is now Enderbys - and also the early 19th century tide mill and causeway at what used to be called Riverway, where any evidence will almost certainly be completely destroyed soon with not even a single photograph. Mary

This is the usual cheery newsletter with articles of current interest of work going on.

SUBTERRANEA BRITANNICA are advertising their Autumn Meeting on 10th October which includes items on PLUTO and on the Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe  info:

TIDELINE ART. Mudlarker Nicola White has done a very interesting piece of research and constructed a whole life from a luggage label she found on the foreshore. Please read it http:/

HISTORIC GAS TIMES - this includes an article from local gas historian Brian Sturt. It describes Gas Works Park in Seattle.  Happy to give details of what he says (might even ask him to come and speak to GIHS about it)  - Basically it is the same old story about how everywhere else in the world gas works remains are preserved ... but ... in England .....

Now - they are more interested in Gravesend in saving bits of Greenwich than we are! The following web site  is mainly interested in the riverside and cement industry sites in Northfleet. They include however a whole page about the drawdock at the end of Blackwall Lane - which they describe as 'Greenwich Peninsular O2 Arena Slipway'.   It is well worth seeing what they say 'Greenwich Council would do well to insist that any further development ....  this much needed facility can be brought  back into use'.  They also provide 'vision drawings' of what could be done  'all this slipway needs is space for cars and boat trailors to park and then it is back in business'.

Cory - now people in Spitalfields are more interested in the Charlton Riverside than we are.  I would recommend (thanks to Darryl) 'Among the Thames Lightermen' from Spitalfields Life  This is all about Corys which are still extant on the Charlton Riverside - and I think are a rather larger company than they appear and less easily picked off by developers. The article describes a voyage down river on one of their tugs which transport the city's waste (and the City's waste too) down river to where the rest of us can forget about it. (GIHS could do with a speaker on them too)

IN HACKNEY BUT - the East End Waterway Group are pointing out threats from developers to buildings in Hackney Wick.  One of these is the first building where plastic (Parksine) was made on an industrial scale. They are also still concerned about Swan Wharf and Bream Street. (hope that works)

I have been shown a copy of the Evening Standard 19th August 2015.  This refers to the area of Greenwich now apparently known as 'Telegraph Works' - which at least shows even developers listen to the Enderby Group.  However it goes on 'the site dates back to the Tudor Period when it served as a gunpowder store in Queen Elizabeth I's reign' ................... er .............. er - the gunpowder store was opened in the late 1690s which is 90 years after Elizabeth died..................... AND 'its last hurrah was as a tin foil factory which closed in 2013'.  Well hooray!! can someone please tell us more about this hitherto unknown works which only closed two years ago.  I don't rule its existence out - but Please tell us.

Comments welcomed


Tuesday 8 September 2015

The Eponymous Enderbys


The Eponymous Enderbys

by Stewart Ash

Review by Richard Buchanan

Enderby is a name commemorated in Greenwich, particularly by Enderby House at Enderby Wharf.  The name is of a family whose story Mr Ash describes in detail; one that prospered, rose to the top of London society, but then declined; a family whose fortunes took them to America and to become explorers in the southern ocean.

The Samuel Enderby
The story starts with Daniel Enderby, born at the beginning of 17th century and, in later life, rewarded by Oliver Cromwell with lands in Ireland.  His son Samuell sold these lands and set up as a tanner in Bermondsey.  Four generations of Enderbys ran the tannery, but then Samuel (spelt with one ‘l’), 1719-1797, trained as a cooper and was admitted to the Worshipful Company of Coopers.  He set up in business when barrels were commonly used to pack a range of goods.  This brought him into contact with a Mr Buxton, a merchant, whose daughter Elizabeth he married in 1752.  Over the next ten years they had seven children though one died young, the third a son they called Samuel (denoted Samuel junior in the narrative).  Samuel’s main residence was in London, but in 1758 he leased a house in Greenwich; in which Elizabeth took up residence.  Thereafter various members of the family lived in Greenwich and Blackheath, a well-to-do area not far from London, for nearly hundred years.

Buxton & Enderby was founded ca1765, at St Paul’s Wharf in London.  They developed a successful business trading with the American colonies – shipping out British goods and bringing back whale oil and seal skins.  Americans crossed the Atlantic too, one being Nathaniel Wheatley who came to England with his adopted sister Phillis to promote her poetry; she had been taken to America to be sold as a slave but was adopted, and educated, by Nathaniel’s parents.  While in London, Nathaniel met and married Mary, Samuel Enderby’s eldest daughter; after the wedding they returned to Boston, where Nathaniel acted as the agent for the Enderbys.  This was just after the Boston Tea Party, which involved ships used by Buxton & Enderby, though it is not clear whether they were owned or leased, or to what extent it was their tea that was lost.

In 1775 Samuel founded Samuel Enderby & Sons, to hunt whales, not just transport the oil.  In 1783 Samuel junior was sent to Boston to engage Americans to crew Enderby whaling ships – they soon had 17 ships.  By then whales had been all but eliminated in the north Atlantic and they were exploiting the south Atlantic.  South Atlantic whales also became scarce.  In 1788 their ship the Emilia (described in Moby Dick as the Amelia) initiated whaling in the Pacific, despite restrictions imposed by the East India Company.  They set up base in what was to become Sydney.
Enderby Wharf from the river in the mid-19th century
(kind permission Roger Marshall)

In 1787 the Enderbys, then quite influential in London and seen as being in a respectable line of business, were granted arms featuring a ‘harpooner’.  That year Samuel junior married Mary Goodwyn, daughter of a brewer; their first two babies died at birth but nine more survived.  Their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married Henry Gordon of the Royal Artillery at the Greenwich parish church of St Alphege – one of her sons being General Gordon of Khartoum.

The family became wealthy and when Samuel (senior) died in 1797 he was able to bequeath four figure sums around the family, and ensure they could continue to live in style.

Samuel junior took the business to new heights; it peaked in 1891 with 68 ships owned or under charter.  He encouraged his ship captains to explore the southern ocean in search of new whaling and seal hunting grounds.  This resulted in the discovery of several island groups, including Auckland Islands found in1805.  Eventually they reached Antarctica.  However, no significant whaling grounds were found and decline set in – in a search for fewer and fewer whales the Enderby ships were outnumbered by American ships.  In England oil lamps had largely given way to gas lighting and other uses were declining.

Samuel junior died in 1829.  His eldest son, Samuel, had already become a professional soldier (whose fascinating story Mr Ash tells).  The business was therefore left to the next three sons: Charles, Henry and George, though Henry took no active part.  In 1830 it was renamed Messrs Enderby Brothers; they purchased a Thames-side site in Greenwich, which had first been developed as a naval gunpowder store, but which by then had a rope-walk.  They developed and modernised this and added sail making, serving their own and others’ shipping interests.  The site became known as Enderby Wharf, the name still in use today.  Then, with dwindling resources, they left their London offices and premises at St Paul’s wharf, which they moved to Poplar.

Charles and George, however, were still explorers at heart, and were founder members of the Geographical Society (to become Royal in 1859).  They organised three voyages during the 1830s, each with a pair of ships, to the southern ocean, which made notable contributions to the geography of the region; these put Charles Enderby into high regard and in1841 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

None of the three voyages had paid financially.  However their trading and rope & sail making businesses made some money, and in 1834 they commissioned a new trading ship, named the Samuel Enderby.  But in 1845 there was a devastating fire at the Enderby works.  It was not rebuilt; instead Charles built himself a house on the site – still there, known as Enderby House – and listed Grade II.  The house has an unusual and attractive ‘Octagon’ room on the top floor with a large window giving a good view of the Thames.  The Geographical Society met there at Charles’ invitation.
The Enderby rope and canvas works burns down

Despite his enthusiasm for the southern ocean, Charles had never been there.  But James Clark Ross had, and in 1840 had discovered a fine natural harbour in the Auckland Islands, which he said would be an ideal site for a whaling station.  Charles decided to go and set one up.  The Enderbys could not finance such an expedition themselves and set up the Southern Whale Fishing Company.  The British Government granted a 20 year lease of the Auckland Islands to the Company and named Charles Enderby as the Lieutenant-Governor.  He set sail on the Samuel Enderby with two other ships in August 1849, and arrived in December.  A settlement was soon built, but then things deteriorated; Charles, who proved to be ineffective, was evicted.  By 1852 the settlement was abandoned.  Charles was in Wellington vainly trying to clear his name; in 1853 he returned to London but fared no better.

After his return it became possible to wind up Messrs Enderby Brothers, duly done in 1854.  By then none of the Enderby family was still living in the Greenwich district.  George had moved to Northfleet, Kent.  When Charles died in 1876 he was a lodger in Holborn.

Enderby House today - the only listed building on the
Greenwich Peninsula it is now owned by developers.
This review briefly tells the main story of the Eponymous Enderbys – and gives only isolated glimpses of the detailed stories Mr Ash includes in his narrative of the numerous family connections; of business associates, many of whom were neighbours; and of the people connected with whaling and the sad downfall of Charles Enderby.  It is altogether a fascinating history.

The derelict Enderby Wharf site was sold in 1857 to Glass, Elliot & Co and W T Henley, to manufacture subsea telegraph cables; they used Enderby House for their management offices and boardroom.  After this the site really prospered and played a pivotal role in the development of subsea cable systems for the next 150 years.  A story told by Stewart Ash in a companion booklet:

The Story of Subsea Telecommunications and its Association with Enderby House

Sunday 6 September 2015

Greenwich Park Bandstand - Deane and Co,

GIHS was sent a query about the Greenwich Park Bandstand - this had been to a number of people and organisations - here is the response from one of our members - Barbara Holland
(and thanks Barbara. Hope this is ok.)

Greenwich Park Bandstand - Deane and Company

A question has been raised regarding why the name Deane & Co. is stamped into the columns of the bandstand in Greenwich Park when it has been generally accepted that it was made by the Coalbrookdale Company.  I have done some research into Deane & Co., and based on this have proposed two theories that might throw some light on this ‘mystery’.



The Bandstand, Greenwich Park

The lettering  - ‘DEANE & CO LONDON’ - can be seen on the base of each of the columns which join the decorative cast iron panelsand support the roof made by the Coalbrookdale Company :


Deane & Co. were a long-established business – their advertising (1868) claims they started in 1700 – manufacturing and selling a wide range of metal products:

I can find mention of them as far back as 1785 at 39 Fish Hill Street in the City of London, as a patent shot warehouse, with a George Deane (born 1745) described as a hardwareman (ironmonger).In 1799 their main business appears to be gunmaking, with the company run by George and son Edward Deane (born 1777 in Fish Street Hill).  In 1803 the company had moved to 41 Fish Hill Street at the corner of Arthur Street.  The 1819 Post Office Directory has it listed as John & George Deane, hardwaremen, and Pigot’s Directory of 1825/26 as George Deane, Birmingham and Sheffield Warehouse. 


Fish Street Hill, 1795 (Museum of London)

In 1838, the business moved again to 46 King William Street and is listed as a gun and pistol warehouse, ironmonger, cutler and jeweller.  In 1846 the gunmaking side moved to 30 King William Street. At this time, George and John Deane formed a number of partnerships that diversified into stove and range making at 86 Chiswell Street, and saddle making at 2, Arthur Street East. They were well-renowned gunmakers, appointed as gunmakers to Prince Albert in 1848, and exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851.

In 1853 the firm won a bronze medal for a fowling piece at the New York Exhibition, and in 1855 a Prize medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition ("carabines, rifles et fusils de chasse, pistolet et revolver").


King William Street c 1880 (Museum of London)

 The hardware and ironmongery side of the business continued to trade successfully from 46 King William Street until 1890, but the gunmaking part was sold in 1873. The Deane’s had sold up by 1890 to retire, and the site acquired by the City & South London Electric Railway Company for the building of the King William Street Station.  This was the northern terminus of the world’s first deep-level underground electric railway which ran from Stockwell and had 6 stations.  The station opened on 18th December 1890, closing in 1900 when the line was extended to Moorgate. 

So, what are my theories?   Is it possible that the columns on the bandstand were supplied separately, as a sub-contract maybe, by Deane & Co. and the panels, roof etc by the Coalbrookdale Company? Or, somewhat less likely, were the columns salvaged from Deane &Co’s premises when they made way for the new King William Street underground station?  The bandstand was erected in 1891, just after the company closed.

I’d be interested in hearing what other people think?

Barbara Holland