Friday 22 December 2017

East Greenwich gasholder - planning application to demolish

An application to demolish the East Greenwich gasholder has been submitted to Greenwich Council. by its owners Southern Gas Networks.

(if that link doesn't work go to Greenwich Council's planning search system and type in 'Millennium Way' and it should be the first thing that comes up.

The consultation period is apparently 20th December - 11th January - which is a stunningly cynical move on the part of Southern Gas - when not only many local residents but many of the planners will be on holiday, and getting anything done nearly impossible.

The following link goes to a great picture of the holder taken the day after the IRA attack in 1979.  I have always understood that the bomb was not on the holder itself, but on an adjacent installation

Listing - people are asking - 'can't we get it listed??'  - well, no. There have been a number of applications for listing over the years - and all of them refused. BUT NOW last week the Department of the Environment granted it immunity from listing - ie. it can never be listed.

BUT it may still be possible to get it 'locally listed' - ie Greenwich can put it on a list of local buildings which they think are important. It doesn't give it very much in the way of protection but it does put up a marker for it and would give councillors confidence to keep it - although what they want can easily be overturned by the Government Planning Inspectorate.

See what Peter says below

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Rope making and the birth of the submarine cable industry

Rope making and the birth of the submarine cable industry.
by John Yeardley

In the nineteenth century a dramatic change took place in the cordage industry with the invention of wire rope. Some companies took to this revolutionary metallic raw material and a new industry was born. Much of this development was centred in London.

In the beginning. George Wright Binks, a foreman ropemaker at Woolwich Dockyard, about 1830, conceived the idea of forming a rope from twisted iron wire instead of hemp and began practical experiments to that end in the dockyard ropery.

George Binks tried unsuccessfully to interest the Admiralty in his invention but his efforts caught the attention of a Captain Harris R.N. who in 1835 put up the money to establish a small works in Great Grimsby in Lincolnshire. Binks and his two sons continued the development and in the same year produced the first true stranded wire rope. In 1838 the factory was moved from Great Grimsby to new premises in Greenwich Road, (now West Ferry Road,) Millwall.

George Wright Binks
Lewis Dunbar Brodie Gordon, a young Scotsman who had worked with Brunel on the Thames Tunnel until 1837 became interested in the possibilities of rope made from iron wire and discussed it with a boyhood friend and brilliant engineer, Robert Sterling Newall. He wrote to Newall in June 1838 and the latter, working very quickly, replied at the end of July with a drawing of a machine to produce a four strand wire rope.

In 1840 Newell took out a patent for "certain improvements in wire rope and in machinery for making such rope" In the same year Gordon and Newall, in partnership with Charles Liddell (a pupil of George Stephenson), established a factory in Gateshead trading as R.S.Newall & Co

In 1850 a submarine cable of copper wires coated with Gutta Percha was laid between Dover and Calais for the Anglo French Telegraph Company but it lasted only one day through chafing on rocks. Newall then proposed that such a cable could be improved by armouring it with a layer of wires, in effect making the cable the core of a wire rope. The contract to make such a cable was however given to Wilkins and Weatherley, rope makers ofWapping. After a legal battle over patents Newall took over their premises and the cable was successfully laid in September 185l.

Other cables soon followed including the Dover - Ostend cable in 1853 on which Newall cooperated with William Kuper.

Kuper and Company had been one of the first to manufacture wire rope with a factory on the Surrey Canal but had failed to prosper and gone bankrupt in 1849 whereupon a mining engineer called George Elliot came to the rescue by acting as their sole agent and manager. The works were moved to Morden Wharf, East Greenwich and by 1854 Elliot was so successful that he became proprietor by paying the creditors in full with interest. Kuper than retired and was replaced by Richard Glass. The company was then renamed Glass, Elliot and Co and began increasingly to go in for producing submarine cables. In 1856 they enlarged their premises by taking over what had formerly been Enderby's Hemp Rope Works.

Newall rope making machine
Samuel Enderby, born in 1717, went into partnership with an oil merchant, Charles Buxton and in 1752 he married Buxton's daughter. They owned a number of sailing ships and one of them was involved in the famous Boston Tea Party. In 1775 he took over the business and started fitting out ships for whaling. By 1790 he owned 68 whaling vessels and had estates in Lewisham, Bermondsey, Eltham and Lee and lived in Crooms Hill House. Various sons became involved in what was a very large and important business. (One of his grandsons was General Gordon of Khartoum fame). The company vessels obviously used vast quantities of rope and in 1829 they established their own rope factory in Greenwich. The enterprise was fairly short lived for the factory was destroyed by fire in 1845 putting 250 people out of work. Although the machinery was covered by insurance the factory never reopened' and was eventually sold to Glass Elliott and Co.

Sunday 26 November 2017

News items

Lots of newsletters and interesting articles

Bill Burns has an article on the links between Ireland and Canada and the Atlantic Cable in the TICCIH Bulletin 78,.   The link to the web site is  However - they won't let you read it yet, but when the next one comes out it will be archived and you can see it - or you can join TICCIH, in which case you will be sent it to read

TICCIH is The International Committee For The Conservation Of The Industrial Heritage, with a web site run by MIT in the US<  and their next conference is in Chile - so look at their web site and join them for an interesting, and international life.  The Atlantic cable would be right up their street!!!

They are also asking for articles for Bulletin 79.  email,


FRIENDS OF GREENWICH PARK - advertise the following historical events

++ 1st December 11 am History Group meeting in the Wildlife Centre.  Everybody welcome.

7th March 7.30 Friends Annual Lecture. Peter Marsden, World Heritage Site organiser/  £10 - to 52 Greenwich Park Street, SE10 9LT and please enclose SAE



We have been sent the following link to a current article in The Architects’ Journal (as published in online 9 November), on the progress of the competition being run by the RIBA and National Grid plc for new uses for redundant in-ground gasholder tanks .



This has news of the launch of the Waterways Forum.    This was created to help ensure the River cariesd more passengers and goods while used for sporting and cultural events.  Speakers included representatives of Cory's, City Cruses, and Thames Clippers


The current issue contains an article about co--operatives in Woolwich  (earlier than Rochdale) and the start of the Woolwich Labour Party. (very early too).  This is available by subscription only but they can be accessed via their web site



Readers will remember articles about the Woolwich Kiln and its demise last summer. We have been pointed to a web  link for an analytical view of it - actually this is quite exciting,



Greenwich Council is hoping to bid to be the London Borough of Culture.  Some of us have been trying to persuade them that industrial heritage is one of our main cultural strengths (fingers crossed), We understand they will mention the Atlantic Cable, but - that should just be the start!  See the video



Bob Carr has an article in the current Industrial Archaeology News (183 Winter 2017).. He points out how diffficult and secret this internationally important industrial site was - and how hard it is to research. He talks aboiut its size, and also what remains and what we can find out about them.
He doesn't mention the Arsenal Canal - which is a pity because that is one of the biggest worries at the moment = info later.
The AIA website is

Friday 10 November 2017

Nothing to do but put more news items



853 has published dire warnings of the foot tunnel being full up with cyclists by 2025 (
BUT we understand that a plaque has gone  up inside the tunnel to explain and commemorate the restricted section where it was bombed in the Second World War.
(and thank you Mark Hodgson for the pictures)


They have sent a list of events - leading with a notice of their Annual Forum on 16th November which will feature our ex-MP Nick Raynsford. This is at The Crystal (?? where's that??) and you have to book
(no details given but their web site is

they also advertise Members Only Event. 15th March,. Watermen's Hall


There has been some discussion on the Plumstead People Facebook page about the fate of the railbridge at Plumstead Station which looks to be going. See the page to see local views. GIHS's expert says:

"Network Rail will want to provide access for wheelchairs at Plumstead and by the time they've dug foundations for the lifts they might just as well install a new footbridge. A shame as it's a lovely example. . Once removal has become definite, with a projected date, We should let the railway preservation Societies know about it if it's likely to be scrapped. There'd almost 
certainly be a taker if NR don't want to re-use it. They recently donated its larger sister bridge at Gravesend and I think they paid for relocation".


There has also been some discussion on the Plumstead People Facebook page about the fate of the lock remains of the Arsenal Canal . See the page to see local views. GIHS's expert says:

"The situation with the Royal Arsenal canal entrance lock and swing bridge is most unfortunate. The lock gates were either repaired or renewed in about 1953 and the bridge was given a thorough overhaul at the same time. It dates from c1905/7 and replaced an 1859 example.  The Greater London Council did much further work in 1982 including a new hydraulic drive system for the bridge. And that was that!
The gates are now heavily corroded, possibly beyond economic repair and the bridge sits on blocks, off its trunnions, yet appears to be in excellent structural condition. The lock area now belongs to Peabody who inherited it from Tilfen Land. They probably have very little interest, it's hardly their core activity. The lock, gates and  swing bridge are grade II listed

The whole issue of the Arsenal Canal is an important one and something we should look at carefully.  Can anyone help us with a history of it which we could publish to highlight its past??  What does the wider (and very very large) world of canal enthusiasts out their think about it??


They advertise
11th November Jim Marrett and Richard Buchanan on A date with buildings, and Wricklemarsh. Charlton House. 2.00


9th December. Talk on the Pearly Queen of Greenwich. Charlton Society. Charlton House. 2.30

They have a long and very interesting article on the Crossness Nature Reserve by Karen Sutton
and a History of Woodlands Farm

and news on:
Petition on Automatic Interim Protection for Buildings Proposed for Listing. which had gone to the Raynsford Review on Planning
Sun in the Sands Pub - the Council have refused permission to demolish it (twice)
Petition on the Avery Hill Conservatory - neglected by the University
Kings Arms Pub, Francis Street, objections to demolition
Crossness Engines - closure through asbestos discovery
Love Lane - and the very major campaign of objections to the Meyer Homes development at Tesco


15th November Open Meeting 7 pm Queen Anne Court, University of Greenwich
26th November Lecture on the Armada portrait of Elizabeth. You have to book through their web site.

They are selling Christmas Cards in St.Alphege Church  £5 for 10

News on the opening of the viewpoint at the Point (off Point Hill) with a plaque on a pillar with a panorama by Peter Kent.

Aluna - article on this amazing scheme for a massive lunar clock on the Peninsula by Shane Brownie.  Shane is also part of their community network. Contact him for info

Westcombe Woodlands - this is the old chalk pit above Maze Hill Station - news of their open day and their bee hives.

Page with info on listing procedures and Planning

Historic Pillar boxes - they point out that Royal Mail have refurbished boxes in West Greenwich.

IKEA - and the razing of the nature book and death to the newts

News on Blackheath Joint Working Party - and events on Blackheath. And news of the long derelict toilet block

News on Greenwich Foodbank and its hub in Christ Church, East Greenwich

Article by Pieter Van der Merwe on the history of the border between the Queen's House and the Park. This is much much much more complicated than you could possibly believe!

Article on the Appleby Beam Engine in New South Wales - by - er - me. (and thanks Greenwich Soc. editor for publishing it)


Among lots of local items there is an article by Ann Hill of Wood burners as a source of pollution.

A feature on Gordon of Khartoum - who was a member of our local Enderby family. Some details of this article on the Enderby Group Facebook page.


Westcombe News carries an article on the Council's bid to become London's Capital of Culture. Their is currently a consultation on this run by the Greenwich and Docklands Festival and their have been local meetings. GIHS has taken part in some of these - and we hope others do to - remember that our industrial heritage is part of the Borough's culture and we need to ensure it is included in the bid.


Westcombe News highlight the retirement of Philip Binns from Chair of the Greenwich Conservation Group. This blog and its predecessor newsletter also have reason to be very grateful to Philip.  For 20 over 20 years he has co-ordinated the response on planning applications for local amenity and other societies.  He knows the system and he knows the Borough.
Blackheath Society had a party to celebrate this a few days ago - and this was attended by Mayor Peter Brooks - who told as how grateful he was for Philip's input when he was Chair of Planning and how grateful the Borough should be to him.


The planning brief for the land on which the gasholder sits is going to Cabinet for ratification on 15th November.  This is a public meeting, people can attend and can register to speak.  

The report and draft planning brief are on the council web site and can be downloaded.

This includes the results of the public consultation on the site - and an enormous number of people (I haven't counted) wrote in to say that the gas holder should be kept.  (thank you all of you).  Only one person wrote to say it should be demolished. There are also reports from various developers and local societies and national societies, as well as some statutory organisations, like Thames Water.  Of those able to comment none of them seem gasholder averse.  We are also aware that some people wrote in and for whatever reasons their input is not included. 

The planners are now recommending " structures of heritage significance, in particular the gas holder, should be retained",

This is an important site and one which could be key to the future of the peninsula in providing a focus for non-housing sites and amenity.  It does not just feature the gasholder but the old Dreadnought School now owned and used by the Horniman Museum. There is also the old pub which was recently burnt down and is being rebuilt (without the proper planning consent apparently!!).

Perhaps - finally - we should add that Lewisham Council has just agreed to locally list the two Bell Green gasholders  - BUT if you go through the Tunnel and look to your right you will see only half of the Poplar holder which is being demolished.

Friday 3 November 2017

Notes and news


Their current newsletter lists out several events which might be of interest:

11th November. speakers Jim Marrett and Richard Buchanan on 'A date with buildings' and 'Wricklemarsh'
10th March - Mike Brown on the Spanish Civil War and World War II Britain.
Both 2.15 Grand Salon, Charlton House.

December 10th. . Falconwood Miniature Railway. Santa Special. (behind the Electricity Station on Rochester Way).

The newsletter also features the following article by Richard Buchanan on Enderby House.

"Enderby House Hopes by  Richard Buchanan

Enderby House, listed Grade II,was built as a private house on the Greenwich Peninsula, but is also a major industrial heritage asset (the Gas Holder featured in the last newsletterbeing another). It is most famous as the headquarters of Telcon, the firm which made the first Transatlantic Telegraph Cable.
This cable ran from Valentia in Ireland to Heart’s Content in Newfoundland (with onward connections to London and New York respectively). The Irish Government is applying for Valentia Island to be a World Heritage Site, and encouraging Canada to follow suit for Heart’s Content – or even to form a single joint World Heritage Site.
This must surely add to the perceived importance of Enderby House, and improve the Enderby Group’s chances to have a Telegraph Cable display in it.  This has garnered general acceptance, including that of Greenwich Council.  However, the developers who own it, Barratt, despite making the odd encouraging noise, have not moved from their original proposal to use the House as a pub.
The House was built in 1846 with two floors and a basement, all above the old ground level (appropriate to a lower Thames level).  There is an octagon room on the top floor, with its main window built out at 45to the corner of the building to see ships coming up river.  From inside the octagon room the window is just in one of its sides and one is not conscious of the 45O offset, but it makes an unusual external feature.
Since then the river wall has been raised, and for some years the river path has been at first floor level, where the House has a door to give access to it.  However, the river wall has already been raised a further couple of feet with steps provided to get over it – and is to be raised again – though the river path remains at its existing level (with an ever increasing chance of being flooded).
Barratt currently have an application to raise terrace and other levels behind the new river wall to suit.  The Enderby Group are objecting to this proposal as it would spoil the setting of the House as seen from within the site.  They are also pressing for flood gates to be put in the river wall so that (when open) access between Enderby House and the river path is maintained; Barratt too would want this access for their pub."


Running Past Blog

Running Past blog has produced a really excellent walk with pictures along the line of the old Greenwich Park Railway Line. 

As the blogger points out, the line is relatively easy to follow between the site of the station - now the Ibis Hotel - and the A2. Various infill measures - the closed police station for instance - are pointed out, and include what is described as a 'ghost bridge'. 

More, apparently, to come. 



FOGWOFT (Friends of the Tunnel) have been approached by a Poppy Jackson to say that she has included Greenwich Foot Tunnel in her new book  'For the Love of London. What Makes London Great by the People who Make it Great'.  We await for more info from Poppy/FOGWOFT on this.

and - by the way - we went the other day to a consulation meeting on 'culture' in Greenwich run by the Greenwich and Docklands Festival. We were asked to write down our favourite things in Greenwich and put them up as post it notes - anonymously.   One of the first to go up was a note 'Greenwich foot tunnel'.  We don't know who in the room put it up - but clealry there are some fans.



The American Society for Industrial Archaelogy now have all editions of their Journal on line. If you search on line for this remember to use the US spelling 'Archeology'  or you won't find it. Sorry no linl anyway



Sadly this edition includes an obituary to John West. John has not lived locally for many years but he did co-author an excellent book on the Lewisham Silk Mills. This was the site of the Greenwich Armoury and is where TESCO is now - almost in Greenwich since the border runs along there!  Sad news

The Society is also asking for info on markers for the Meridian Line - and cites some in Lewisham.  They also hightlight a website   

They also mention Air Raid Shelters under Blackheath - with particular reference to the Zeppelins.  Another aeriel thing on Blackheath mentioned is model aeroplane compeitions (Blackheath v. Grove Park!).  



The Enderby Group is pleased to have the international expert on the Atlantic Cable on their committee - but he rarely comes to meetings, after all, he does  live in New York.
Bill has however written an article of great interest in the TICCIH - The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage - Bulletin (No.78 4th Quarter 2017).  The link is  but as you will see you won't be able to read it unless you join TICCIH
Basically the article is about the stations at the two ends of the cable - Heart's Content and Valentia - and Bill talks about the history of the cable, what is remains, and the current World Heritage site bid.

Bill - if you read this - can you let us have a version we could publish here????



We have had a prior sight of David Ramzan's new book 'Secret Greenwich'.  Obviously, this is about all sorts of things, but does include some industry. Perhaps one of the strengths of the book is that industry turns up under a number of subject headings, and makes it part of Greenwich and society in general. The book is good on football - which is, of course, one of David's enthusiams, and, as a member of the Enderby Group, he has added in some good pictures and stuff about the cables.  And it looks to be really good Christmas presenty material!

I am not aware what the publication details are, although I know some shops in Greenwich have had advance copies - and I await instructions from David on cost, etc. It is published by Amberley and the cover price is £14.99

Friday 20 October 2017

Mixed bag of notes - includes Appleby, Charlton and more


Bygone Kent - the latest issue includes a great article about the East Greenwich gas holder.  GIHS sent them our current press release about the holder and this has been added to with a lot of research by Francesca Baker.  It is a very very good article and Bygone Kent should be thanked for the effort which has gone into it.


- and on the same subject, thanks to Greenwich Visitor's Nelson's Column for a mention of the holder and a link to to the man at Historic England and may/may not be dealing with any listings applications.


Charlton Station - now this is amazing. London Railway Record (October 2017) has a 12 page article on Charlton Station by Peter Kay.  Clearly there is a  lot of detail - and it is railway related material, remembering that LRR caters for spotters with an educated and historical bent.  There is a lot of stuff about the traumas of having to interact with the Greenwich Line as well as the line through Blackheath Tunnel which had different left/right hand running. This led to endless discussions with various railway inspectors, many of which are given in detail. Subsequently there was a collision and that is detailed to.  There is a lot about changes to the buildings over the years - and there is also a little story of a lady who 'bought' a ticket from the porter (er - her lodger) and it turned out to be an already used one he just happened to have.
Sadly the article - being very serious about railways and written by a man - doesn't pick up on recent changes, particularly the sterling work done by the Charlton gardeners on the down side!


Night Mail - great evening recently at the Blackheath Society on the subject of the GPO Film Unit which was based in what was Blackheath Arts Club in Bennett Park in the 1930s-40s.  The famous film  'Night Mail' was made there - what you see as apparently internal shots on the mail train were actually filmed in Blackheath, with actors, swaying slightly.   The GPO film unit and its successors at Shell and elsewhere in the work of public information films provided us with a great record of industry around the time of the Second World War - with messages about innovation, dignity in work, co-operation and stuff like that.  A lot about influence from Eisenstein - patriotism, ordinary people and stuff like that, but I won't go on about it.


Crossness Record - lots of stuff in the current record.  The front page tells us that John Austin has been replaced as Chair by Bexley councillor Professor Peter Catterall (I know John hasn't lived in Greenwich for years - but when I first moved here he was a local councillor - for Charlton Ward - and later Leader of the Council) .  This issue of the record is more colourful and brighter than previous issues and the team are to be congratulated. There is a lots of stuff about the volunteers and even a picture of some Morris Dancers. There is also a long historical article on sewage treatment with a focus on work done on chemical treatment by Sir Edward Frankland in the 1870s
anyway - see


Merryweathers - were of course the fire engine manufacturers based in Greenwich High Road  This week a couple of scraps have floated into our inbox. One is from someone who has found a lot of Merryweather related material in Grandad's loft. Neil Bennett - the expert on Merryweathers - is hopefully dealing with this. Apparently some of it concerns James Compton Merryweather.

Neil has also sent a curious interchange - beginning with an email he sent to the Head of Bloodstock Services at a horse racing establishment.  This was a horse called Fireworks who raced in 1894  owned by a James Compton Merryweather 'owner of a successful fire engine factory'.  Well!! you can always see a company is doing well if the owner is a race horse owner!
It appears that Fireworks ran eleven times on the Flat winning twice. He won at Epsom  when he was owned by Col. North and then in Leicester when he was owned by Mr. Merryweather


APPLEBYS.  You may remember that we posted up information about the Goulburn Water Works Museum in Australia and their request for information about Appleby's Greenwich factory and any information about the equipment they have and any information about how it might have been transported to Australia.   They explained:

"Four Appleby beam engines delivered to Australia which were made in 1883 and used for pumping water in the townships of Albury, Bathurst, Goulburn and Wagga Wagga all in New South Wales Australia?

Out of the four, Goulburn has the only complete and working beam engine left, which is housed at the Goulburn Historic Waterworks Museum in its original pumphouse with the two complete boilers originally used to power it. The pumphouse and engine have been listed on the Australian Heritage Register as have National significance and is also listed with the Australian National Trust.

The web address of the Goulburn Historic Waterworks Museum is "

We passed this letter on to John Steeds - who is an Appleby descendent. He sent a huge page full of information - and below is an edited version of some of what he said to them.

- about the transport of the engines to Australia ---------------

"the date stamp on your Appleby drawings of the pumps is 7th July 1883.   I don’t know how the machinery was transported to Australia, but they may have come aboard the 'Anglo Indian'. My grandfather, PV Appleby, who had been working at the East Greenwich works, was appointed as a supernumerary engineer on the Anglo Indian for the voyage to Australia.  The Anglo Indian left the UK on 7th July 1883 (the same date as the date stamp on your drawings) and she arrived in Brisbane on 3rd October 1883.  I don’t have any details about the trip except for a press cutting which describes various ports of call and which states that when the Anglo Indian arrived at Townsville on 14th September, she commenced discharging cargo which consisted mostly of heavy machinery, boilers etc.  This, at least, suggests that they may have had the Appleby pumps on board! 

- about the pumps --
The only specific reference to the four beam pumps that I can find comes from the Application for Membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers of CJ Appleby’s son, Frank James Appleby.  This reference is repeated in his Institution of Civil Engineers Obituary. The application tells us that Frank James came out to New South Wales in 1884 to supervise the erection of the pumps.  He was also involved in the tendering and construction of various bridges and other items there, .  The  Civils Application makes reference to Sir john Fowler. indeed, several items in my possession include references to Sir John Fowler.   He was the Consulting Engineer to the Government of New South Wales

 - and the Greenwich works

Appleby Brothers took over the old Bessemer Steel Works in East Greenwich and converted them for their own use in 1878.   At the time when the Bessemer works were initially occupied by the Appleby’s, Appleby Brothers were a partnership. In 1886 Appleby Brothers became a share owned Limited company and the running and management of the Greenwich works changed.   Unfortunately the Limited company only survived for 3 years and in 1889, following a court action, the Limited company and their East Greenwich works were closed.   The old Appleby works then became the works of the Greenwich Inlaid Linoleum Company. After the closure of Appleby Brothers Limited, there was still a demand of Appleby products and CJ Appleby started a new Appleby Brothers partnership with 2 of his sons, including my grandfather, P V Appleby.
Unlike the other Appleby Works, for which I have plans and some photographs, I have much more limited information about the East Greenwich Works.  However there were at least 4 visitations to the works and descriptions of these were published in the press. They give a very good impression of the vast scope of both the products and international destinations with which Appleby Brothers involved. The first description is from the partnership period (ie. from the time of your pump) and the other three were from the Appleby Brothers Limited period.   Unfortunately these doesn’t refer to the pumps.  However they do refer to some of the bridges which were fabricated and sent out to New South Wales.

We also have a number of links listed below to British Transport Treasures sent by Stuart Rankin
Posters by Royal Academicians and other eminent Artists ...
Posters by Royal Academicians and other eminent Artists. With an appreciation by Sir Martin Conway MP. London Midland and Scottish Railway [ebook]

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Tonight's the night

Tonight (Tuesday 10th) GIHS is hosting a discussion evening on industrial heritage in Greenwich - all turn up - and lets hope the Bakehouse has enough seats for everyone - 7.30 Age Exchange Bakehouse (which is down an alleyway in Bennett Park at the back of the Age Exchange building in Blackheath Village)

In the meantime - here are some ideas from one area of the Borough - Creekside -

Unlocking Deptford Creek

An urgent call to all Creekside stakeholders* for the current Thames Tideway Tunnel Greenwich works to be used to deliver a  legacy of improved public access  and amenity.
Mick Delap, Ashburnham Triangle, West Greenwich,  April 2017

*see Section 4, below.  Plus Appendix 1 - Map; and Appendix 2 - the 19th Century Creek

 1. Introduction: unlocking the Creek.  Deptford Creek is an area of major historical and environmental interest, that is changing fast. In the nineteenth century, a variety of Creekside industrial enterprises made an extraordinary contribution to the emergence of London as a modern mega city. They showed the rest of London, and the world, what it would take to make large scale urbanization work  [see Appendix 2].  This former industrial powerhouse is now being transformed at breathtaking speed into a series of new high rise domestic communities.

Over the years,  successive plans, at London, and Lewisham and Royal Greenwich Borough level, have highlighted the opportunities for combining the wave of new housing with improved public access to the Creek's environmental and historical riches. But little has been done to give established West Greenwich neighbourhoods, like my own Ashburnham Triangle, and these thousands of Creekside newcomers the kind of public open space and cultural amenities they were promised.

Now the Thames Tideway Tunnel works along the Creek at Thames Water's Greenwich Pumping Station offer a golden opportunity, at little additional cost, to leave a significantly improved public legacy for the Creek's new inhabitants.

2.  The current situation:  no trespassing.  At present (and for the foreseeable future, unless post Tideway Tunnel reconstruction plans can be improved), the Creek's environmental, cultural and amenity assets and potential are locked away. Apart from the brief views of the Creek from the Halfpenny Hatch bridge on the east-west pedestrian and cycle pathway, there is no public access.

The nearby Creekside Discovery Centre, on the Creek's west (Lewisham) bank is a valiant pioneer in drawing attention to the Creek's unique environment,  but lacks resources and support. The situation on the east (Greenwich) bank is even more discouraging.  Royal Greenwich Planning has proposed using Section 106 agreements to provide access to the Creek on two developments upstream from the Halfpenny Hatch bridge.  The Galliard development of the Skillion/Merryweather site required the developer to provide public access to the Creek. A pathway has been built, but, in defiance of Section 106 requirements, it remains locked.  The new Booker development, further upstream, will also have Section 106 requirements for public access to the Creek.  But even if these are honoured, neither the Galliard nor the Booker Creekside paths offer any significant improvement in public amenity.  They go nowhere, and are not long enough to attract walkers or cyclists.

3. A new Creekside pathway.  What would transform meaningful public access to a significant stretch of the Creek, and at a blow unlock its historical, heritage and environmental riches, would be if the isolated Creekside pathway plans for the Galliard and Booker sites were linked to a new section of Creekside  pathway running south from the Halfpenny Hatch Bridge on the east (Greenwich)  bank of the Creek, along the edge of the Thames Water Pumping Station site.  With careful attention to ensuring the security of the working Pumping Station site, this new north - south pathway could finally open up the Creek and give the newly emerging Creekside community the kind of public amenity it has long been promised.  It could also be linked to Brookmill Park, making the Halfpenny Hatch bridge the northern starting point of the Ravensbourne Trail.

And what makes all this feasible is the Thames Tideway Tunnel work along this stretch of the Creek,  as the Greenwich element of the project is built over the next two years.  This exact section of Creekside is being taken apart as we speak by the Tideway works.  After which, the site will be restored.  The planning agreements already reached  between Tideway and Royal Greenwich do not call for any planning gain.  If they go ahead as planned, the Creek will be returned to its present shut off state.  There will be no improvements to public access, no unlocking of the Creek's historical and environmental treasures, no significant legacy for the Creekside community.

 The alternative is to use this golden opportunity to amend the post-construction plans to open up the key section of a new north-south pathway.  And to use the pathway to provide the public with properly interpreted access to the history and environment of the Creek (perhaps finally finding a use for at least part of the Grade 1 listed Coal Sheds, the hidden gems on the Thames Water site).  Given the vast scale of the Tideway project, the additional costs would be minimal.  Planning agreements have been reached, and the opportunity to enforce Section 106 requirements has passed.  But if all the interested parties could, on a voluntary basis, agree an alternative legacy plan  - not as a planning requirement, but as a significant public good - then the Tideway Tunnel could still leave the Creek, and the wider Greenwich and Lewisham communities,  with an impressive legacy.

 4.  Moving forward - but how?.  Funding will need to be found.  But for once the real challenge is finding a way to bring the very disparate group of potential stakeholders together.  Central to realising the dream of a new north-south Creekside pathway are Tideway and Thames Tunnel East, as contractors, and Thames Water, as owners and operators of the Greenwich Pumping Station site. For Thames Water, safeguarding  security will be a key issue. Royal Greenwich are the planning authority for the east bank of the Creek, as Lewisham are for much of the west bank.  There is potential for the proposed opening up of the Creek to link productively with existing Greenwich and Lewisham Green Space and tourism initiatives (especially the Historic Greenwich World Heritage Site, and the Ravensbourne Trail).  The Creekside Discovery Centre and Creekside Educational Trust already play a key role in developing public awareness of Creekside environment, history and amenities. They have approached some existing and new developers of Creekside sites. The current owners of the Skillion /  Merryweather,  and the Booker sites are obviously important here.   

Looking further afield, Greenwich University have ongoing programmes which build on the past, present and future of their immediate neighbourhood.  Local amenity groups such as the Greenwich Society, the Greenwich Industrial History Society and the Ashburnham Triangle Association have also regularly engaged with the Creek's past, present and future. There will be potentially interested development agencies. And individual elected representatives have roles to play, from Greenwich and Lewisham MP's to local councillors.  In particular, Greenwich Councillor Mehboob Khan is already involved as chair of the Community Liaison Working Group for Tideway East's Greenwich and Deptford projects.  One local body with a proven record of unlocking heritage sites is the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust. 

5. Conclusion. The current Tideway Thames Tunnel works on the Thames Water Pumping Station site over the next two years represent a golden opportunity for dramatically improving Creekside amenities. Given the complex web of stakeholders, what is lacking is an obvious individual or body to take overall responsibility for seizing  this opportunity.  Creative Process's 2009 Creekside Charrette is one model.  I hope this paper will re-start a process that ends by finally  unlocking the Creek to the public.

Mick Delap,
Ashburnham Triangle, Greenwich, April 2017

Saturday 7 October 2017

and more news today

NEXT MEETING - 10th Tuesday

Our next meeting is a discussion meeting on Industrial Heritage in Greenwich - we hope you will come along and put your views forward.
We have asked Danny Hayton to come along to Chair it - he is a prominent figure in industrial history and industrial archaeology in London. We hope to have short introductions from - Ian Bull (Royal Arsenal), Andrew Bullevant (GIHS,Woolwich Antiquarians and Shooters Hill Local History Group), Peter Luck (Chair Enderby Group), Mari Tay (Deptford Power, Deptford Working Histories), Elizabeth Pearcey (Archaeologist London Museum of Water and Steam)

and -in that context - we have been sent a copy of a posting about Greenwich in The Pipeline  -

This three page article by Andy Brockman analyses the Council's draft plans for the East Greenwich gasholder site and put it into a context of industrial heritage, visitor and development issues, and the consultation by Historic England.  Read it.


Pumps in Australia -made in Greenwich

Appleby pumps - Goulburn Waterworks Museum, Australia.   In the last post we mentioned a request for information from the Museum and that we were getting an answer together. We have now been copied into a long and detailed reply which has been put together for them. It is too long and detailed to be listed here as a news item and I hope that, with the author's consent, it can be a separate item.  The Museum is at


We have also been sent a link to This is a posting about the oldest Thames Tug Brittania and her imminent demise having been sold for scrap.  Brittania is the re-named T.BHeathorn and she was originally built for the South Metropolitan Gas Co. - and was probably based at East Greenwich gas works, and would in all certainly have worked from the jetties there. She was named for Thomas Bridges Heathorn, on of the company directors - and himself the son of Joseph Lidwell Heathorn one of the founders off the Company.



The October 2017 GLIAS newsletter contains notices of the following events which may be of interest in Greenwich.

15th October - Crossness. Prince Consort in steam.
15th November. GLIAS Pub Evening. Kings Arms, Newcomen Street, SE1. from 6.30. general chat and cheer plus some presentations. Anyone who wants to do a presentation contact
29th November. Crossness Open Day. No Steam.

The Newsletter contains an article about the Woolwich stoneware kiln by Bob Carr - who came down to see its last few days in March
Docklands History Group - the speaker at their September meeting was Elizabeth Wiggans, the archivist at Morden College.  Elizabeth has been very helpful to many Greenwich historians and the Morden College archive is one of the most unknown but amazing assets in Greenwich and Blackheath.  The College has owned large chunks of Greenwich since the late 17th century and, much of the older housing we see in both West and East Greenwich was built by them. In the case of its holdings on the Peninsula they ran what can only be described as an industrial development programme there on the west bank in the late 19th century. Elizabeth's talk was about the history of the College from the 17th century and the work done today to house the elderly and to manage their extensive estates.


The Last Gasometer in Poplar
We have been directed to The Gentle Author 

This is an article about the demolition over the last week or so of one of the gas holders on the Poplar Levan Road site - this is on your right immediately as you come out of the Blackwall Tunnel on the other side.   It was built by the Commercial Gas Company - (which was effectively controlled by our own South Met.Co. but don't tell the people north of the river that I said that!). 
Basically - the demolition crews are getting nearer and nearer.


Slightly sad endnote  - it is with some regret that we have noticed that the original GIHS web site has now been removed from the Goldsmith's server and is no longer with us.  This was set up in 1998 and included all our original newsletters - but we lost control of it many years ago when our member there retired and were unable to correct basic things on it, like out of date email addresses and so on.  We have a backup of the entire site and are wondering what to do with it - there are several options. Wait and see!!

PS - hope you all saw the article about the Woolwich Stoneware Kiln in Greenwich Weekender!

Tuesday 26 September 2017

and even more news

Yet another news page - please someone send me an article!!!


As I write this I have been emailed that the Poplar Gasholders are currently being demolished. These are the holders to the east of the Blackwall Tunnel Approach almost immediately before the Tunnel. They were built by the Commercial Gas Company.  There has been a long campaign to keep them which has been run by a local Stepney and Poplar history group - who have already failed to keep the dramatically sited Bethnal Green holder. (The ones further north which you see from the Tunnel Approach near Tesco are listed)

LANNION Cite des Telcoms

Thanks to Ben Page for this report:

The Cite des Telecoms at Pleumeur-Bodou near Lannion is a large museum of communications sponsored by Orange. We stumbled across it while on holiday and spent a whole day there. There is a gallery within the museum devoted to the history of sub-sea cables, which includes a display of repeaters, one of which is a Telcon one that I guessed might have come from Greenwich, which is why I thought it might interest the group. The central exhibit of the whole museum is the Radome, which is the European end of the first trans-Atlantic TV transmission (now a UNESCO world Heritage site) dating from 1962. For 20 minutes a day (around midnight) the French could watch American TV via the Telstar satellite should they so wish. It takes the form of giant ear trumpet 65 m long and 35m high but precision engineered to the mm. It was protected from the weather by a very elegant, very thin dome which is inflated to retain its spherical shape. There is a ‘son et lumiere’ inside the Radome in English and French which tells its history and explains its engineering.

One of the things that interested me is how the story of communication is told differently in different places by different museums drawing attention to different innovations at different moments. So, the way I tell the story of Enderby Wharf to my undergraduate geography students (as a way of getting them to think about the materials and infrastructure that underpin the history of globalization) works for me because I can localize it for them by bringing them to Greenwich. Yet from the perspective of the curators who tell the story in Lannion there is a rather different ‘centre’ to the story even though some of the elements (the Great Eastern for example) are shared. Lannion is still the site where one of the main fibre-optic cables that crosses the Atlantic comes onshore in Fra


On page 3 of the latest issue they are asking what your favourite things are in Greenwich - email - dare you all to write in and say it is the gasholder (or something similar).

BUT what the Newsletter does include is a really really cracking article about Greenwich Power Station.  This is about the 1906 row which erupted between the power station and the Royal Observatory. 'the finger of blame was largely directed towards the London County Council' and there was a Parliamentary enquiry.  The author advises us to look at the full story which is on the Royal Observatory web site - but it would be good to get someone to come and speak to GIHS on it.


This is a European based industrial heritage organisation (not a web based religion!!). Currently they have an industrial heritage weekend in Barcelona 20-22 October which is the start of their 
campaign for European Cultural Heritage Year.   They are still looking for themes for this and suggest you look at  They want to know what we are planning to do to celebrate next year!



The September 2017 issue of Sub Brit's wonderful Journal has just arrived. Only one Greenwich Borough item in it though. "World War II Air-raid Shelter recorded at Eltham".  This is apparently under a school playground and they refer to an article in Post Medieval Archaeology 50 (3) 459-460.



They are looking for a volunteer administrator  - please look at their website  -
Also on their web site are details and pictures of their Open House Day event at the Shipwrights Palace


Appleby Brothers were an engineering firm based on the Greenwich Peninsula. We recently had an email from a waterworks in New Zealand  We have put them in touch with an Appleby Brothers specialist and hope to be able to report back soon. Meanwhile have a look at their website - and the pictures of what they have been able to preserve!! 



The Plumstead People Facebook page has been running a feature on Civic House - this stood at the top of Woolwich New Road and was apparently built as a NUPE Headquarters around 1980. It has now been demolished. Some of us have remembered that it was previously the site of the Woolwich Bus Museum. It is our understanding that this is now the Brooklands Bus Museum - is this so - what do people know about it in its incarnation of Woolwich and how it got to - ugh - West London???



Crossness Creative Afternoon - creativity and cake with artist Lily German. You have to book through evenbrite but know no more details except it is 6th October  13.00-17.00



We have invited Lindsay Collier - the brains behind this project and the Walthamstow Pump House Museum to come and tell us about this initiative to bring together several East London industrial heritage projects.
In the short term we are very very impressed  with their leaflet 'Discover the Industrial Heritage of London's Lea Valley'. A lot of this is based on sites in the Lea Valley Park - which is a  very wonderful institution looking after many beautiful sites of many sorts, as well as sports facilities and much else. Greenwich residents will not realise that they partly pay for this as there is a precept on all London Boroughs to fund the Park. So - go over the river and enjoy it - and see this beautiful beautiful leaflet.
And read all of Jim Lewis's series of books which show how everything electrical and electronic and much else (market gardening too) was invented and emerged from the Lea Valley.


Chris Mansfield has put on his Facebook page a wonderful old picture of Woolwich.  He says it is  "Approx' 1870s - 1880s taken from a magic lantern slide this view looks like it was taken from the top of St Marys church .. There is no sign of the free ferry terminals so I think this is probably the oldest photo I have seen of Woolwich".  I also understand he is trying to get an enhanced print.  I am not going to reproduce it here until we see if he can improve it.   I have some interesting comments on it waiting



We have been sent a copy of Ron Roffey's CD with lots and lots of information about the RACS and other local south east co-ops.  It is very amazing and I think we should do a review of it as a separate page.   It points out that the first recorded co-ops were in Woolwich - the author of one article says "There's too much talk of Rochdale and Eighteen Forty Four. The honour belongs to Woolwich ..the Century before"  - quite - we all ought to talk Woolwich up a bit!!  And the mighty Royal Arsenal Co-op is a good place to start.

- I bet there weren't any other consumer co-ops which had their own mine

- and - our info is that Ron is in hospital today (26h Sept) can we wish him well