Tuesday 13 October 2015


Neil Bennett has given a number of talks on Merryweathers - the Greenwich based fire engine manufacturers. He has also given information and advice to numerous enquirers and has been a great source of knowledge.    He has recently sent us a 'time line' of Merryweathers - and we give the first part of this below, together with Fire Engine America from the Merryweather catalogue.



This class of Engine is one of Messrs. Merryweather and Sons’ SINGLE CYLINDER STEAM FIRE ENTGINES specially designed and built for the Santiago, Valparaiso, Iquique, Lima, Callao, Coquimbo, Guadeloupe, and other fire departments of South America.
The general construction of the Engine is upon the well known principle peculiar to the makers, and is mounted with a Merryweather and Field Improved Boiler, capable of raising steam from cold water in eight minutes from the time of lighting-the fire.
In addition to the usual fittings supplied with the ordinary Engines, this class of Engine is fitted with a copper water tank, fixed underneath the framework of the Engine. This tank will contain enough fresh water for two hours' supply to t he boiler, it being essential to feed the boiler with fresh water when the Engine is used for pumping salt water for fire-extinguishing- purposes. This tank is fitted with a glass water gauge and a funnel for filling with brass cover, with other suitable fittings. The feed pump and injector, with both of which the Engine is furnished, derive their source of supply from this tank.
The wheels of the Engine are made with extra broad tyres to protect the wood rims, which are of tank or hickory; the hubs or locks of the wheels are of iron, polished, and fitted with gun-metal caps. Immediately over the steam cylinders is a tool box for the Engineers’~ tools, oil can, cotton waste, nozzles, etc. Two pressure gauges are fitted on front of the tool box, one indicating the steam pressure in the boiler, and the other the water pressure in the pump.
These Engines are arranged to carry only the coachman in the Front with two ”look-out" men (one at each side of the coachman).  Behind they are constructed for carrying the stoker and engineer for which purpose there is an iron foot-plate and hand rail, so that the boiler may be fired en route to its destination.
The boiler is fitted with spring-balance safety valve, and extra locked patent spring safety valve. In the Front part of the Engine is another tool box to carry the larger tools, which is surmounted by a polished bell. The Engine is fitted with a pair of polished brass lamps with the number of the company engraved on the glass. two extra lamp sockets are provided on the box, so that the lamps may moved to throw a light on the engine when in work at a fire; and in front, immediately under the driving seat , are a couple of other buckets for the general use of the engineer. Although the Engine is shown in the illustration with a pole and sway bars for attaching a pair of horses, it is sometimes supplied with an iron hand pole and drag rope for use when drawn by men.
The Engine is made in three sizes, the smallest one having a straight frame instead of the curved ones shown in the illustration.
Throughout, the Engine, in addition to its first-class finish in the working parts is handsomely appointed.
The frames are of polished angle iron or steel, or handsomely painted, -
The boiler is mounted with a highly-burnished brass lagging and chimney casing.
There are extra steam and water gauges to the boiler, so that the engineer and stoker can see their respective gauges without moving from their posts.
The wheels have polished hubs and are elaborately painted and gold-lined on their felloes and spokes.
The tool-boxes are of polished mahogany, or of mahogany painted and lined in gold.
The bell is polished, and handsomely engraved with the name, number, or arms at' the brigade.
The air-vessels are of copper, burnished; and the pumps are of gun-metal or phosphor bronze, highly finished.
The buckets are of leather, painted and lettered, and the tools are all of polished steel. The Engine throughout is of the best construction and material.
By means of "dividing breechings" each Engine will pump three or four jets of water simultaneously.
The following articles are included with each Engine:-injector with Tank complete  Pressure Gauges Feed Pump, Feed from main Pump, one Copper  Strainer, four Copper Branch Pipes (two long and two short). two supports for branch pipes, six gun metal nozzles, four handsome brass lamps with reflectors, water bags for wheels, engine hose and suction wrenches, shifting wrench, stoking irons, Oil cans, spare valve facings, and gauge glasses, and sway bars for horses, hand pole and ropes, complete without suction and delivery hoses
Printed instructions for working-and keeping Fire Engines in order are sent with each Engine.
NOTE: for use with Steam Fire Engine leather hose is preferable to either rubber, lined canvas or plain leather hose as it Iasts many years and can be easily repaired if injured at a fire. Canvas hose cannot be repaired with facility neither is it serviceable for hard and rough usage as it is quickly damaged by over rough roads, flint walls, and slate roofs.
Extra for improved Lever Brake to act on both hind wheels, £10.
Greenwich Road, S.E.; and 63, Long Acre, WC London.

Merryweather and Sons Time-line


Merryweather - the early days of the firm before they arrived in Greenwich
1666 onwards - (Great Fire of London: After slow recovery and reconstruction, the town gives increased attention to fire precautions; virtually nothing had been done for five hundred years)

c. 1690 or 1692 - Nathaniel Hadley. ‘Cross Street’ London. Manufacture of small manual pumps, leather fire buckets etc.

1738 – fire engine factory built, corner of Bow Street and Long Acre. 63 Long Acre and Nathaniel Hadley moved in

1750– Adam Nuttall started a company in Long Acre building manual fire pumps.

1765 - Adam Neuttall’s widow Elizabeth, in Long Acre, advertised as fire engine maker to the King and Navy.

1799 – by this time predecessors of Merryweather supplied black jacks (leather tankard ‘bottels’) and coal buckets to the Greenwich Hospital.

1807 - Moses M apprenticed to fire applicance maker Hadley.

1823 – Hadley & Simpkin at 63 Long Acre listed as Engine Makers.
1829 Braithwaite & Ericsson make the first steam fire engine, but it was not adopted for public use. Parts of their engines probably used to make the Novelty for the Rainhill Trials. Moses Merryweather  is described as Managing Clerk to Hadley & Co, Long Acre.

1834 - Moses Merryweather assisted at a fire at the Houses of Parliament, An experimental Braithwaite & Ericsson engine worked well at this fire.
1836 - Moses Merryweather took control of the firm and renamed it.
1838 - Moses Merryweather assisted at a fire in Inner Temple, London. A fire in the engine room of I.K. Brunel’s ship the Great Western was doused by a Merryweather fire engine/auxiliary pump.  


Friday 9 October 2015

Siemens Woolwich site - what is happening now!

Thanks to the Siemens Engineering Society we have an update - extracted from their new booklet - about what is happening on their old Woolwich site from the perspective of the Society.  Thanks to Brian Middlemiss who wrote and published the following piece (very slightly edited). Copies of the original are deposited at the Greenwich Heritage Centre

"Our old Woolwich Works is now known as The Westminster Industrial Estate.
Members of the Siemens Engineering Society wanted a memorial  to Siemens Brothers on the site of the old Woolwich Works. The site was owned and managed by The Co-operative Insurance Society and an industrial sculpture was suggested to link the past and the present. A sculptress produced a model based on a Motor Uniselector mounted on two cable drums". 
Brian Middlemiss continues with what happened next:

"The project went into a six month delay due to the popularity of the Sculptress following her London exhibition. However we were shocked to learn in October 2005 that the CIS had sold its entire Property Portfolio to AXA Real Estate  ....our project became a watching brief with updates every six months.
AXA slowly developed their own plans for the site and put an architect's scheme in place which involved liaison with Greenwich Council, refurbishment and re-use (leasing) some of the original Siemens buildings and a residential aspect. This was a significant investment, interest had been expressed in the historical aspects of the site, but everything depended on the success of the AXA plans and the market demand for refurbished warehouse/workshop accommodation.
The economic downturn in 2008 resulted in little progress being made. AXA confmned in April 2009 that a feasibility study for buildings 64 and 61 C (the old IR Building) had been completed with a projected expenditure of £3 .5m to refurbish them. However due the economic climate  and little demand the refurbishment project was mothballed. AtOctober 2009 there was no  meaningful progress, the plans still not being viable. AXA continued to manage the existing  tenants in the Victorian buildings and had been able to do some smalllettings in the buildings,  but in their existing condition. There was some progress on the more traditional warehouse  buildings, they had substantially refurbished four warehouse units along Warspite Road.
Again there was little progress over the next six months to April 2010. However one avenue of  interest was received from film companies who wanted to use the buildings and surrounds for  filming adverts, pop videos and movies. It was hoped this may provide some short term income  and an agreement was signed with a location company. As a point of interest the film "Blow  Up" was partly filmed in Maryon Park opposite the Woolwich Works.
There were no major changes on the estate, with no redevelopment or refurbishment plans for the multi-story warehouse buildings to report in October 2010. AXA had however just completed a major refurbishment of 150 Yate1y Street, which included full redecoration and a new roof and had let this unit to an importer of electricity generators from China. This area was where our staff canteen once stood. There had also been numerous film and stills photography enquiries and a couple of shoots had taken place; a pop video and a magazine shoot.
A significant change had taken place by April 2011. The London Borough (LB) of Greenwich had announced the potential for expansion of residential development along the Thames frontage over a 20 year time frame.
In early September 2011 I received an enquiry from Andrew Williamson of Mott MacDonald. The LB of Greenwich now planned to build a University Technical College (UTC) on our old site ana Mott MacDonald were the Project Managers. They needed to know more about the Siemens works and in particular the south western corner marked up on a map provided. With Bill Philpott's help we put together a quite detailed reply which provided some background; the nature of the business conducted on the site and specifically on the south western corner, known to ,us  as the Auto-Rack Wiring Shop G53.
I had also mentioned in my reply that we kept a watching brief on the site in the long term hope that one day some sort of memorial or plaque would be put in place on the site to reflect the 100+ years occupancy by Siemens Brothers. Mr Williamson much appreciated our detailed and fascinating overview of the Siemens works which was very helpful to him, he was also especially fascinated by the industrial history. The proposed UTC would have specialisms in engineering and construction and was linked to industrial sponsors. He suggested that this link , may be of interest to the UTC and he forwarded our comments to the College. I seized the opportunity and sent another email which detailed the very close links and long association  between Siemens Brothers, the Engineering Society and Lewisham College [the old SELTEC] now a part of the University of Greenwich, one of the sponsors of the new UTC. As events later transpired, this proved to be a significant piece of information.
By Oct 2011 the proposal that the LB of Greenwich planned to build a UTC on our old site had been formally announced. In February 2012 the LB of Greenwich produced their long term strategy report for "Charlton Riverside" all 54 pages of it, which I made available to members at our April 2012 meeting. The proposal to build a UTC on our old site had been agreed and the south western corner of the site had been sold to the LB of Greenwich. They had also purchased the former Victorian school, next to our old site, at the time this school was known as Holborn College.
By October 2012 the Holborn College building had been restored as a primary school and had reopened in September 2012. The land on the south western corner of our site, sold to the LB of'Greenwich, was now being redeveloped for use as a UTC and it was intended that it would open in September 2013. So after many years it was all happening on our old site, with the exception that the situation regarding the old Victorian multi-storey buildings remained unchanged.
At our April 2013 meeting I was able to report that the UTC development was progressing on schedule with the planned opening in September 2013. Events had also moved forward with regard to the older multi-storey buildings. AXA were carrying out an exercise of cleaning the vacant buildings including the removal of asbestos and de-contamination further to pigeon infestation. Increased interest was being received (predominately from house builders and developers) in the buildings due to the longer term plans for the Charlton Riverside area. AXA had also now sold 50 Bowater Road to the adjoining owner, who was planning to refurbish the  building and expand their business of letting small suites to artists and small creative businesses. At our final meeting in October 2013 I reported that the Greenwich UTC was virtually complete and that the College was enrolling its first students. The building was to be formally opened on
24 October 2013, this proved to be a significant event for the Society - more later. The multi- storey buildings were still undergoing the cleaning and asbestos removal process which was due to be completed in January 2014
. There was still interest in the multi-storey buildings for residential use, however, Greenwich Council were now unsure as to whether they want to allow this use on the estate and it may be that they allocate the area as strategic industrial land in the next local plan. This would fix the use for the next 15 years. AXA, not surprisingly, were trying to resist this as the buildings were not really a viable commercial proposition in the current use as not many modem occupiers want to be located above ground floor.
There is clearly a sense of irony that our old site could be allocated as strategic industrial land, back where it all started well over 100 years ago.

Monday 5 October 2015

Very small amount of stuff in the post

A few newsletters and stuff have turned up over the past fortnight, not much, to be honest.

Lewisham Local History Newsletter.  Really this edition is all about Forest Hill, and like places in Lewisham which even I can't argue are really in Greenwich! There is a note about a Heritage Exhibition on 10-17th October at St.Mary's Church, which will cover some of the joint history when in 918 lands in Greenwich and Lewisham were left to St.Peter's Abbey in Ghent. There is also an appeal for speakers on local history items at Manor House Library  on Wednesday mornings (info Robert.Tamplin@Lewisham.gov.uk)

GLIAS Newsletter - This includes an article by Peter Butt on Millennium Mills - its not in Greenwich but you can see it from Greenwich!  Otherwise - they list the following meetings which might be of interest:
17th February. GLIAS lecture. Father Thames, Still alive and kicking. The Changing Role of Thames Wharves.  David Hilling. Swedenborg Hall, Barter Street, WC1 6.30
18th May. GLIAS AGM  The Gallery, Cowcross Street, EC1
4th November. Trinity Buoy Wharf  by Eric Reynolds. Docklands History Group, Museum in Docklands 5.30 (well, again, you can see it from Greenwich)
- and also - Danny Hayton and Andrew Turner's Greenwich Peninsula walk last Saturday seemed to go very well.  I understand it took over three hours to get round - and that they were advised by Elizabeth Pearcey at Enderby Wharf with piles of Enderby Group leaflets.  On the walk was a visitor from Germany  - Barbara Gasometra Berger - here to look at our gasholders, and hot on the heels of a previous visitor with similar intentions from Finland.  So, welcome, to Barbara, and glad she described our massive East Greenwich No.1. holder as 'adorable'.

Beale of East Greenwich - Elizabeth Pearcey has shared with us an article from Newcomen Society Links (which is on a members only website).  This is by Bob Carr and talks about the rotary engine patented by Joshua Beale who had a works on part of the site  of Enderby Wharf in the early 19th century.  It is illustrated with a copy of part of his patent.  Rotary engines are an interesting subject and Bob is hoping to put forward the view that they were a more common and more long lasting design than has previously been thought.  More about the Beales in due course.
Links also a note about the Enderby Group, its work and links to recent publications by Stewart Ash.

English Heritage have sent us notes of some archaeological work about to start:
Phase 7/8 Riverside, Woolwich (LAG/011/387)
and PLOT M0401, OLD SCHOOL CLOSE, GREENWICH PENINSULA: 14/3601/F (LAG/011/271) - archaeology (this includes a full site briefing - happy to share if someone emails marymillsmmmmm@aol.com)

and - hope you have all been down to see Bullet from a Shooting Star.  It is on Point Wharf, by the way, not the gas works or any part of the gas works site.  It claims to be reminiscent of industry on the Peninsula - do we think that is so?  And do we have any thoughts on what is clearly a triumph of structural engineering??

and - for thoughts on the 19th century telecoms revolution - try http://www.scrambledmessages.ac.uk/