Saturday 30 July 2016

George Landmann - wild beasts and savages in Barking

The next chapter in George Landmann's autobiography starts with him being taken by his father to 'Exeter Change'. George had done up his foot long hair specially for this visit - by tying it into tight pigtails at night it became by day a giant 'furze bush'. He assures it that this was very fashionable for young boys in the 1790s.

On the way there they encountered the 'smoking ruins' of Richmond House and a 'dense mob' out to watch the fire.We can thus date this visit to December 1791 which is when the second Richmond House was gutted by fire.  The house had been the London residence of the Dukes of Richmond, and had been adjacent to the old royal palace of Whitehall. The original Richmond House of about 1660 had been replaced in 1733-4 by a new house  built to the designs of Lord Burlington.
They eventually reached Exeter Exchange. This had been built in 1676, on the site of the demolished Exeter House, London home of the Earls of Exeter, opposite the today's  Savoy Hotel. It originally housed small shops but George comments 'it was gloomy dirty and badly paved'.  From 1773, the upstairs  rooms were let s  a menagerie which included lions, tigers,monkeys, and other exotic species, all confined in iron cages in small rooms.  It is this that young George was keen to see. What happened next concerned George's hairstyle and a lot of commotion - read his account and wonder! (health and safety again!)

George then - briskly as ever changing subject - begins to talk about balloon flights by the famous Italian aeronaut (and publicist), Lunardi.  Lunardi took off for many of his flights from the Artillery Ground in Moorfields - and I am therefore a bit suspicious of a number of web sites which say he left from the Royal Artillery grounds in Woolwich (have they got the right bit of artillery there??). George does not mention these take offs but does say he saw Lunardi's balloon pass over Woolwich and land in Barking.  I am going to quote, more or less verbatim, what George says and you can judge for yourselves

"The people of Barking were regarded by the Woolwichers as a set of barbarians .. and it was commonly believed .. that the air of Barking was so insalubrious to women that no female could survive a year's residence there"

Lunardi was rescued from the clutches of Barking people by 'officers of the Artillery' and taken to dine in the mess.

Monday 11 July 2016

George Landmann - starting school in Greenwich and some 'well mounted' muggers

George starts school  - and sees  - well mounted gentlemen muggers.

In 1789 the Landmann family left their house at the back of the Royal Military Academy and moved to Greenwich - or, as George says, Blackheath.  This house was somewhere  in the area which is now Westgrove Lane, but which house is not clear..

George was sent to school 'of which the Rev. Dr. Egan was the master'.  James Egan had apparently taken over 'The Royal Park Academy' from his father in law, Dr. Bakewell. Egan was interested in methods of teaching languages and encouraged boys to speak either Latin or French only in school but to do so in a way that 'divests instruction of harshness'.  It should be noted that as an adult George Landmann spoke several languages fluently.

George says that the school was 'close to the new church, at the corner of King Street, and is now converted into tea gardens'  - somewhere near the park gate at the top end of King William Street. George's 'new church' being St.Mary's which stood on the site now taken by William IV's enormous statue.

Having moved to Greenwich and enrolled at school George then launches into a series of descriptions of  muggings on Blackheath - some of which he appears to have witnessed.

1.He describes walking one Sunday afternoon on Chesterfield Walk at a time when many people are having an after dinner stroll.  Suddenly everyone turns towards The Green Man - then at the top of Blackheath Hill. They point to a horseman speeding down the hill 'leading to the lime kilns' - exclaiming 'there .. there.. do you see him'. It turns out that the inhabitant of one of the big houses alongside the park had been sitting on his garden wall reading a book when a 'gentleman mounted on a handsome horse' came up to him in a friendly sort of way.  When he got close 'the gentleman' whipped out a pistol threatening 'with the unpleasant necessity of scattering his brains amongst the rose bushes'.  The victim handed over his valuable at once and the assailant galloped off.

2. A few moments later a 'post chaise with two gentlemen, a lady and a manservant' arrived to say they had been robbed 'near the Rising Sun, by four armed men on foot'.

3. A few days later Paul Sandby arrived on the Landmann's doorstep - Sandby is of course the famous artist who was drawing master at the Royal Military Academy.  He had with him his very distressed daughter and had brought her to the Landmann's house to enable her to recover quietly.  They had had their watches stolen by a robber by the corner of Greenwich Park - 'at one o'clock in the daytime'.

4. Then - Major and Lady Emily Macleod were crossing Woolwich Common 'along the deep ditch' - by which I assume George means the ha ha in Ha Ha Road. 'A well mounted highwayman commanded the driver to stop or have his brains blown out'. The muzzle of his pistol was thrust into Lady Emily's face.  The Major however picked up a bottle of Cologne  and pushed it into the robber's face 'declaring in a voice of thunder that he would instantly shoot him'.  The robber ran off!!

- George does comment however that although there were lots of robberies 'particularly on the Lower Road' that there were very few murders.

5. Major Patterson of the Artillery ' a very rough muscular man' found it necessary while at a review of troops on Blackheath to take himself to a quiet corner and remove one of his boots. The robber who found him was 'well dressed, also well mounted' - and having removed Major Patterson's valuables galloped to the other side of the field to mingle with the crowd, secure from detection.

6. Once a month cash was sent to the army at Woolwich,. for whatever. This could be two or three thousand pounds and came in a post chaise with a pay clerk. To cross Blackheath it was escorted by six artillery men plus a non-commissioned officer.  The officer took up the rear and the soldiers went on either side with fixed bayonets and loaded muskets.

Note - that the robbers always have very very posh horses. No doubt they could afford them.

Sunday 10 July 2016

George Landmann - his childhood story and how very important is Woolwich

George Landmann's autobiography continues to ramble on through his childhood - with memories of Woolwich in the late 18th century and many posh visitors to the Royal Military Academy (then still located on what we know as the Arsenal site).There are also some insights to research and development in the Arsenal itself  - and some thoughts, from me, that today Woolwich is never considered as having a role in the 'industrial revolution' .... but ...

He says of Woolwich around 1780 - "of the inhabitants though there were several very respectable - but only three kept carriages'

The first of the three he lists is Squire Martin, an 'opulent and independent farmer'.  I am unable to find any reference to a Squire Martin in the Woolwich area and would be keen to hear from anyone who knows who he might be - George's idea of the Woolwich boundaries tend to be a bit vague! 

He then lists 'Squire Bowater' who is much clearer, and the Bowater family are well documented and owned huge areas in the western part of Woolwich. There is also however a bit of a problem. If we take it that George's memories are of his childhood - say 1780-1790 - then the inheritor of the Bowater estate, John, was in Europe avoiding those looking to recover vast debts from him, having fled the country in 1778. There also seems to have been a certain amount of scandal attached to his marriage. Although, I suppose, young George would not have known about all this.

His final resident who he says 'kept a carriage' is a 'Mr.Whitman who built a house on the northern declivity of Shooters Hill". Mr. Whitman is also obscure - or at least he is not mentioned by Survey of Woolwich.  George adds the further information that the house was later owned by "General Cuppage" . I was very disinclined to believe that anyone of such a strange name existed but it turns out that following a distinguished career the General settled in Shooters Hill. His obtituary fails to give his given name, but he was Irish from a family with close ties to Edmund Burke and coming to England he had been educated at the Royal Military Academy.  His Shooters Hill house is said to have extended considerable hospitality to 'educated and scientific men'.  George says it was 'in front of a piece of water which owing to its peculiar position on the side of the hill appears to be out of level'. Once again I would welcome suggestions about both the house and the water.

George's account of Woolwich then drifts off to a long description of the dissolute life of a Royal Artillery Lnt Sutton.  A Captain Thomas Sutton was Assistant Firemaster at the Royal Laboratory and lived near the RMA building when George was a child - and this just might be the same person. George remembers someone with many social contacts, including with 'Lord Eardley of Belvedere'.  This is all very interesting although I would point out that Samson Gideon was not created Baron Eardley until 1789, but George's account is, of course, retrospective.

The next couple of pages concern the visit to Woolwicj of 'Madame la Princess de Lamballe' - Marie Louise de Savoy, the intimate friend of Marie Antoinette. . She was incredibly grand with - "a train full five yards long...borne by a young black page .... her hair dressed to rise very high ... a pink silk hat with many ostrich feathers'.  She received an equally impressive welcome 'nearly two thousand men of the Royal Artillery ... accoutred as troops of the line  .. to man six pieces of artillery .. a salute of nineteen guns'  - although George does admit that they had to scratch round a bit to get the two thousand together and some came from Chatham  and 'distant parts'.   Having read George's account of this grand lady it is actually really disturbing to learn of her end - raped, guillotined, mutilated, her head paraded around Paris on a pike.

The Princess's visit to Woolwich apparently ended with a visit to the Landmann's where she spoke, in French, to George's father Isaac, and ate lunch prepared by his mother. George and his sister were presented to her and she gave him her 'bonbonniere'.  This seems to me remarkable - why did she not get dinner from the top officers at Woolwich? It raises again the question of who exactly Isaac Landmann was, what was his past in France? Why had he come to England?

George then moved on to the more workaday aspects of life in the RMA and devotes a couple of pages to the work of Sergeant Bell concentrating on the Sergeant's suggestions for raising the Royal George wrecked at Portsmouth. John Bell was indeed based at Woolwich - and had actually witnessed the wreck of the Royal George. His ideas for raising the ship were demonstrated - as George Landmann relates - in front of a distinguished audience but were not carried out. The Royal George was eventually raised in 1839, using the method suggested by John Bell, by the distinguished Royal Engineer, Pasley.  Landmann describes other devices invented by Bell, as does Bell's entry in DNB.  He is one of the many people in this period who developed new methods of working - but not one of the ones which will get mentioned in accounts of 'great inventors' or the 'industrial revolution'.

It might be interesting to note the bigwigs who came to see Bell's underwater explosive experiments -

The Duke of Richmond (Master General of the Ordinance - Charles Lennox, distinguished soldier and politician. Ambassador and Privy Councillor - as a sideline he developed Goodwood racecourse),

General Sir W. Green (Chief Royal Engineer. William Green distinguished military innovator, particularly in Gibralter - who later lived in Plumstead)

Col.Morse (Royal Engineer - Robert Morse, who succeeded Green as Chief Royal Engineer)

Major Blomfield, (Thomas Blomfield, Inspector of Artillery, innovator, administrator and much else)

Captain Fage (Royal Artillery - Edward Fage eventually Major General "in his Majesty's Army of Greenwich')

Dr. Masculine (Astronomer Royal)

I am only listing these down because they were the people who came to watch experiments carried out by a non-commissioned officer in Woolwich in the late 18th century. They all have important titles but also all of them were innovators aware of the technical advances being made around them and working on how they could be exploited. An important title sometimes hides a relatively humble background. In the same way technical advances among the military may be transferred to civilian industries but this is rarely noted. Keep in mind that work in Woolwich among these early engineers and artillerymen is a key part of industrial expansion in the 18th and early 19th century.  When people talk about the 'industrial revolution' they won't even think about the military input, and they certainly won't even consider Woolwich - perhaps they need to be informed.

Thanks to George Landmann then - and next he goes to school in Greenwich

English Heritage. Survey of Woolwich,.
Landmann, Adventures and Recollections
United Service Journal. Web site
Wikipedia. As appropriate.

Friday 1 July 2016

Some important new news - FOGWOFT - CHANGE IN WOOLWICH - STERLING CASTLE and more

Sorry about the time lapse again - down in Ramsgate and then a whole week transfixed by Twitter 
below are various requests for comments and help. Reply if you want to

-any way - are you free Tuesday lunchtime??


The Royal Borough of Greenwich will unveil a new interpretive plaque outside the Greenwich Foot Tunnel at 12 noon, Tuesday, 5 July.  Deputy Leader Cllr. Danny Thorpe will lead the short ceremony.
The plaque will tell some of the history of the tunnel and will hopefully explain to tourists what the entrance in front of it actually is (lots of them apparently think it is the Royal Observatory!!) .  The unveiling follows several years of successful working together on various m issues between the Council and the Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels. All are welcome and we hope to see you on the day.
So - all turn up and cheer! Couple or three points
1. Yes there should be a plaque on the Woolwich Foot Tunnel too. Please lobby the Council!!
2. South London has as lot of early under river tunnels - and we need to join with the Brunel Tunnel project at Rotherhithe for the first underwater tunnel in the world.   FOGWOFT is in touch with the great-grandson of the designer of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, Alexander Binnie - again the tunnel was revolutionary in design. But Binnie had previously designed the Blackwall - now, we all hate the Blackwall but it does stand up pretty well to a daily bashing and we ought to be proud of it really - it has a BIG anniversary next year - we need to join with others to celebrate the provision of FREE cross river services over all this years.  Info - about your ideas and projects welcome.
3. Don't want to frighten off all the local people campaigning about the proposed Silvertown Tunnel. Look forward to your input too
WOOLWICH - we are very aware that the Spray Street proposals affect many historic buildings in Woolwich - which is already reeling from demolitions due to the DLR.  There are also still all these rumours about the Arsenal Canal on Thamesmead.  Please get in touch with your thoughts on this. GIHS has resources and contacts.  Don't do it alone.
- and - while on the subject of Woolwich and the Arsenal - GIHS listened to one of the best talks it has ever had last month - Ian Bull on the Arsenal site.  Really really urge people who want to know about this amazing site - probably the largest and most innovative and important works site that the world has ever seen - listen to what Ian has to say and look at the evolving web site. Happy to send details on request.
THE STIRLING CASTLE.  Visiting Ramsgate I was told about the Stirling Castle - this is a 18th century wreck on the Goodwin Sands which, rather strangely, is owned by a small Thanet based archaeological society.  There is also a rather important gun which has been the subject of an Ordnance Society Journal (No.20) article although it is not clear where it now is. 
Why should Greenwich be interested in this?  Well, Stirling Castle was built at Deptford in 1677 and, although I don't think the gun was cast at Woolwich, more info would be interesting. We also understand that Historic England has been conserving some items from her - what have they got to say?
So - we do intend to give more details about all this in due course - but in the meantime would be very interested to hear from people who we hope are our readers with any thought or info on Sterling Castle - National Maritime Museum?? Lenox Project? Deptford Dockyard groups?? Arsenal history?? - Between us we should be able to put something together
Some interesting stuff in their report - including that the Museum in Docklands is opening an exhibition on warehousing and the museum building.  They have also sent out a long long report of a talk by Edward Sargeant on construction in the Port and the Great War.  I could ask them if they would mind it being reproduced here - or, if anyone is interested, could pass on the reference to it (there isn't a digital link).
RADICAL HOUSING IN TOWER HAMLETS - only just over the river after all
Exhibition at the Raphael Samuel History Centre, Queen Mary College (and for all of you who never cross the River, that's in the Mile End Road).  Opens 7th July with a launch 6-7pm with speaker Mike Tyrrell of Tower Hamlets Community Housing
26th July Walk round Social Housing in Poplar 7-9 booking essential (and, as those of you who follow the current campaigns on the Balfron block, and Robin Hood Gardens - that should be - well - interesting!!)  (Sorry, no obvious web address)
6th August East End immigrants and the battle for housing.  2-3. this is about housing help for Jewish and Bengali people.1930s-1970s
18th August - Setting the Record Straight - housing policies and archives
20th August - Walk round housing in Bethnal Green
17th September - film on Goodbye Longfellow Road.
(You know - sometimes I really, really miss the East End).
So - we also have a newsletter from the East End Waterway Group.  This is about trying to preserve industrial buildings in Hackney Wick now developers and trendies have discovered it, post Olympics. 
One such is Algha Works - this is an old print works and a very interesting and amazing building. There is apparently a planning application to change it.
Also - Swan Wharf - which is at the Old Ford Locks which are on the Lea. This is a 1906 stable block which is set to be demolished. There is also a wharf through which, until the 1970s, all the exotic substances you have never heard of were imported to the Shellac and other factories locally. There was also a very interesting chimney which has gone already.
Hackney Wick was a very very important industrial area (the first plastics in the world were made there) and there were many characterful buildings.
(sorry the group has no email or web site - they don't seem to believe in them over there!!)
ENDERBY GROUP - is plugging on with a footfall survey along the riverside and continued lobbying. We have a new leaflet out - happy to send to anyone interested, in bulk or otherwise
All at Charlton House 2.15  contact Jim Marrett
17th September - Julie Ricketts on St.George's Garrison Church, Woolwich
8th October  Mike Jones on Crossness
11th March - Stuart Robinson on Whitechapel 1888
8th April - AGM
13th May - Jim Marrett on The Abbey at Lesnes
10th June - Charlotte Matthews - London Pubs.
(they haven't got a web site either - is this the world of the future?? )
DEPTFORD WORKING HISTORIES - tell us they are working on the 50th anniversary event of a Lewisham council estate  - and we wait to hear more.

More news on the new book about Brian Donkin and the East Greenwich tide mill to come
All news gratefully received.