Tuesday 29 August 2017

News Items


THE LENOX PROJECT  - their newsletter reminds us of Open House Day on 16th/17th September when they, and others, will be at Deptford Master Shipwright's House - with info and stalls and hoping for your support (with cakes and 'merchandise').
They are also advertising for a Volunteer Finance Officer and an Administrator. http://www.buildthelenox.org/finance-and-admin-volunteers-wanted/


Industrial Archaeology News.
The Autumn 2017 edition includes an article on the Woolwich Stoneware Kiln:
"In 1974 a group of archaeologists excavated several pottery kilns near the Riverside in Woolwich. These dated from the seventeenth century and one of the kilns discovered proved to be a stoneware kiln of particular interest. It was thought likely that this might be the first kiln of its type in Britain. In 1978 a report of the 1974 excavation by Sylvia Ptyor and Kevin Brockley was published in Post-Mediaeval Archaeology. This report describes the results of the excavation of two adjacent kilns at Woolwich, one producing earthenware and one producing stoneware. The stoneware kiln had a single stoke hole and produced Bellarmine jugs with other stoneware vessels, and is the only stoneware kiln of this period yet discovered in Britain.
It was decided that as this kiln was rather special it should be retained. The site was required for redevelopment and so in 1975 a remarkable piece of engineering took place. The whole kiln was encased in a wooden box and truncated beneath. The box containing the kiln, some twenty feet
square, has resided at various places about the Woolwich Arsenal since 1975. However, the site
where it was this year was needed and, moreover, after more than 40 years the box containing the
kiln was rotten and the structure failing. This was a crisis situation.
The solution has been to call in Oxford Archaeology to carry out a very thorough investigation of the stoneware kiln using the latest digital techniques. Once this investigation was started the kiln itself was to be destroyed so on the 28 and 29 March appropriate visitors were invited to view the kiln before its destruction. On 30 March the kiln was sliced and sectioned with a detailed digital record being kept. On Friday 31 March the demolition men came in and by the end of the week everything was cleared away."

We have been handed a brief history of Express Lifts - and note that it says that in 1903 the Easton Lift Co. was installing the first lifts in the Greenwich and Woolwich tunnels under the Thames and their faceplate controllers were not to be replaced until 1933 to the then modern camshaft systems.   These lifts had 64 brake horsepower motors rack driven on 5ft pulleys carrying 60 and 40 persons
(something wrong with their dates there, but never mind)

We have a request for info aout T.W.Thompson engineering works at 25 Deptford Bridge moving to
Endyne Works, Blisset Streeetin 1914. They made engines and dynamoes.

Wednesday 9 August 2017

--- and --- about the gasholder consultation

- so - what happened when we heard about the consultation on the gas holder site?

It is now a couple of months since Greenwich Council announced a consultation on a site on the Greenwich Peninsula  which turned out to be the one which has our iconic gas holder on it.  You wouldn't have known that from the consultation document which assumed that the holder would be gone and that the site would be developed for housing.  This post is intending to describe some of the reactions - those reactions we are aware of - to this consultation

All over the country gas holders are being demolished following a decision by the owners to decommission them.  In many areas campaigns have sprung up to save and to find a way of reusing the frame of their local gas holder.  There are already a number of interesting projects around the world where holders are used for housing, and for leisure facilities.   In the last few days we have learnt that the prestigious Architects' Journal has launched a competition for proposals for reuse of gas holder bases but not the guide frames. https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/riba-launches-contest-to-rethink-former-gasholders/10022273.article?blocktitle=News&contentID=13628

We also understand that developers have suddenly woken up to the potential of these sites and that one major company has set up a division to find interesting ways of using them.  It is ironic that this news comes from the one community which has petitioned for their holder to be pulled down, Oxted in Surrey. http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/oxteds-gas-holder-could-bulldozed-13150047

So what reaction was there in Greenwich?  We must remember that our local holder - East Greenwich No 1 - is very special.  Built in the 1890s by the South Metropolitan Gas Company it was then the largest in the world and built to revolutionary engineering and design criteria.  Very plain it is a very early modern movement industrial building - built at a  time which such design was at the cutting edge of artistic thought.  It stands dramatically on the flat marshland near the river and is an iconic landmark for much of surrounding area.

There have been several ideas put forward for our local holder in recent years. As long ago as the 1990s a local architects practice published a booklet called 'Eyesore' which was partially influenced by the light show which was then being played onto it from a local pub.  In 2013 ideas were put forward by two architects from BDP and was the result of a project by the Royal Institution of British Architects from whom it received a commendation.   Later, in 2015, Cuan Hawker exhibited a prizewinning photograph of the holder at the Royal Academy summer exhibition

But, locally, once the consultation began, one of the first things which happened was that someone set up an online petition to register people's views on retention or demolition of the holder.  A facebook page and a twitter account were also set up. We understand a massive 76% of respondents wanted the holder frame saved and reused in some way.

This was followed by tweets, facebook comments and linked in comments - from locals, and from people in the gas history, and gas enthusiast world - and copied on to all sorts of facebook sites and blogs, locally, London wide, nationally and internationally.

And also - this includes only stuff which was copied to us, there was doubtless much more - 

What the press - locally - said - 

Greenwich Visitor put the story on their front page with a picture splashed across with 'Save it'  and headed 'Symbol of Greenwich's proud past faces demolition' . Inside that issue was another story about reuse of holders around the world, with pictures and the strap line 'Beauties in the eye of the gas holder. They have followed this up with a front page note in their current issue.

The Mercury also front paged it with the heading 'Save Exceptional Gas Holder' and a detailed story.

Westcombe News included a short front page item, commenting that it was unfortunate that that consultation had been timed for the summer months

Greenwich Society Newsletter - included an item on the holder as a late news flash.

(and thank you to all of them)

There were submissions from national and London wide bodies - for example the national Association for Industrial Archaeology.  The London based Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society also made a submission.  Their expert described in detail the background to the construction of the holder and also said  'it is inexcusable that it is virtually unmentioned in the draft planning brief.... and yet it has considerable potential in place making in the new development...  the plans are remarkably lacking in vision'.  The submission also describes ways in which the frame could be used in a safe and practical way.

There was reaction from gas holder enthusiasts abroad.  Someone in Munich wrote " British engineers did pioneer work on designing and developing the gas holder and........  it was to the merits of George Livesey to invent the so called shell principle that enforce the structure of the guide framing and facilitated very tall gas holders with a large storage capacity....  with East Greenwich Livesey crowned this sublime structure with a very eyeable pattern that added a third cross. Thus the tall guide framing has a very elegant appearance". She also published a photograph of the Greenwich Visitor article.

this shows the holder in the snow
A local archaeologist wrote to say that one of the listing criteria should be that this is the last survivor of a significant local industry and reminded us of links to experiments on Shooters Hill.

An East Greenwich resident wrote " it would make such a great public space and is one of the only civic scale monuments to the industrial history of  East Greenwich.  It appears to rotate and spiral out as one drives past it on the bus'.

A correspondent from North London wrote to say how he was appalled at the 'lifeless and boring indicative development scenarios' described in the consultation documents and he also described in detail work done on the gas holders at Kings Cross

Several people have put forward ideas for reuse.  One suggested "use of the lower third as a sports arena, middle third as industrial museum and the top third as housing with huge numbers of tall trees surrounding". 

Another respondent made a detailed submission to the consultation including drawings for its use for "what could be achieved" given the vast amount of space inside it and asks if it could be used as an extension to the entertainment area at the Dome - citing several sites around the world where old holder space has been adapted in this way. He also cited its dramatic site and suggested this should be maximised as a landmark and icon for the whole area.

Finally - this blog has featured histories of the holder - scroll down the entries to find them, and also additional fantastic ideas for reuse (see the one by Jo, for instance). We are also aware that submissions have been made by important local groups - The Greenwich Society, the East Greenwich Residents Association and the borough wide Greenwich Conservation Group.  As well as lots of residents.

Listing - why isn't the holder listed??

There have been several attempts to get listed status for this holder going back many years.  We are aware of an application for spot listing as long ago as the 1990s. This, along with many other attempts, was refused.  We understand that Historic England commented earlier this year that they had little intention of listing all holders but said that this holder " remains a monumental industrial landmark in this part of London a clear marker on the skyline".

However as a result of the consultation we have heard of several people who have asked for the listing to be reconsidered - for example some members of the Enderby Group have sent in a long and detailed submission covering the history and architectural potential.  They are not alone.

And -
only one person has written to say that they think  the holder  is ugly and shall be pulled down - and they will not be alone in this view.

and also - ps - something else on the consultation site which Greenwich Council didn't mention was the old school building now used by the Horniman Museum - or some of the rumoured plans for adjacent sites.

thanks for pix to R.J.M.Carr & Rob Powell

Saturday 5 August 2017



On 10th October Greenwich Industrial History Society wants to host a discussion on the current state of Greenwich's Industrial Heritage - and what we should be trying to achieve.  If you have ideas and would like to join in - please come along (Age Exchange Bakehouse 7.30).  BUT - perhaps more importantly - if you feel strongly please volunteer to do a couple of minutes presentation on your views. Please get in touch so we can arrange the programme. indhistgreenwich@aol.com

AND NOW - what is being said and where:

The July/August issue is full of stuff about our local industrial history (even if  some of them were written by me, Mary)  there is:
** report on the Greenwich Revealed proposed works in Greenwich Park.  Not strictly industrial of course - but involve the history of works on a massive scale to create what was fundamentally a leisure complex.  **more on this below**  If you have more info on these works let us know.
**an article on the discovery of an 18th Hawksmoor drawing of St. Alfege church - again not industrial but part of a whole lot of works currently being done on the history of the church.  We would like to know more about these finds - please get in touch.
** an article by Pieter Van Der Merwe on Erebus and Terror, the Franklin Expedition's ships.  Of great interest is that the engines in Franklin's ships were recycled from Greenwich Railway locomotives.  *** more about this below***
** an article which draws attention to the 120th birthday of the Blackwall Tunnel and talks about the history of the publicly funded free river crossings in the late 19th and early 20th.
** attention is drawn to Enderby House in an article on local 'buildings at risk' and talks about the current restoration.
** a 'newsflash' about consultation on the gasholder site.

the newsletter also advertises:
** The Society's Annual Lecture on 26th November with two speakers on the Armarda Portrait of Elizabeth. Tickets £10 from meg.morris@atlas.co.uk
** meetings of the Decorative and Fine Arts Society. www.gdfas.org


Labour Heritage Newsletter.
The current edition has a long article by Stan Newens on the history of the Co-operative Party - and Greenwich has a large and active branch.  Stan points out that when, in 1927, the Labour Party tried to get Co-operative Parties to affiliate to it, only the Woolwich based Royal Arsenal Society did so. What he doesn't say is that Woolwich and the Royal Arsenal Co-op then went its own way with its Political Purposes Committee and the Greenwich Branch of the Co-op Party only dates from the demise of RACS, relatively recently.   
This needs pointing out to Labour Heritage - which also doesn't mention the Woolwich based co-ops which pre-date the Rochdale Pioneers, or Woolwich Labour Party which pre-dates the national Party by many years.
None the less this is an important article on the Co-op Party, everywhere other than Woolwich!
(Its good to be different)


The Temple of the Storms
If you walk down the Greenwich Peninsula on the west side and look across the river - and its this view which justify this item - you will see a strange Egyptianesqe building on the other side.  This is actually a storm water pumping station and it has just been listed. It was built under the London Docklands Development Corporation which generally didn't support public buildings and certainly not eccentric ones! It was designed by John Outram and is seen as the first post modern building to be listed.  Go and see it - it is totally extraordinary with many clever and esoteric features.  Really - go and look!!


Old Flames
Great to hear from a local group of ex-gasworkers. They say they are putting together a history of British Gas.  Happy to pass any info or contacts on.


The current newsletter has a long article by Malcolm Tucker about the listing of gas holders. Not too much about our great holder in Greenwich - its all, sadly, by Old  Kent Road and Vauxhall. Malcolm does say however "George Livesey and his brother Frank continued to develop gasholder design. A larger and more spectacular  version, East Greenwich No1 was constructed in 1884-8 and still stands prominently on the riverside . Like all gasholders it is now disused.  ................. the Livesey's ultimate development .. was the 'flying lift' ... in 1890-92 they built East Greenwich No.2. to an unprecedented capacity of 12 million cubic feet using six telescopic lifts of which two were flying.  That holder no longer survives.  (note - GIHS thinks the tank of no. 2 survives - can anyone confirm that??)

More about gasholders to come in a separate blog

GLIAS draws attention in an article by Bob Carr about the Ashburnham Triangle activists who have drawn attention to the first motor vehicle in Britain which was built in Greenwich.  This was Edward Butlers velocycle built by Merryweathers. 
GIHS will has asked Mick Delap to come and talk to about this and other issues in the Spring.

GLIAS advertises: 

Walk round the Arsenal site by Ian Bull 2nd September, book via walks@glias.org.uk
Walk - Did Hiram Maxim do anything for Crayford. 7th October book via walks@glias.org.uk
Talk - an Archivists Eye View of Morden College. Elizabeth Wiggans speaking to the Docklands History Group  5.30 Museum of London Docklands  www.docklandshistorygroup.org.uk



This draws attention to a project for research on the Royal Parks in the Great War. They also have a 'war garden' and some heritage veg in what is now called the Queen's Orchard (aka the Dwarf Orchard)

They are also organising a trip to the Heritage Centre to see a panorama of a trip to Greenwich in 1836. This is for members of their history group which meets for reminiscence and research in the Wildlife Centre with tea and cakes (which is more than you get from GIHS!).  Best thing if you are interested is to join the group - details on the website www.friendsofgreenwichpark.org.uk

The newsletter also gives more details of Greenwich Park Revealed. Work will include restoration of the trees  particularly the historic avenues; reinstatement work on the 'Giant Steps' escarpment; a learning centre for schools programme, a training  base and an events centre; better signage, digital media and paper-based material; a ha ha along the deer enclosure to replace fencing; improvements to the Boating Lake and the Pavilion cafe 

A long email from Elizabeth Blanchet describes current activity. As people may remember a prototype museum was set up on the historic Excalibar Estate in Catford - and was burnt down, maybe deliberately.  Elizabeth describes the work down with the Association Memoire de Soye in France and the close work undertaken with the association. However some prefabs are to be exhibited at the Museum of Rural Life in Surrey and it is hoped to house the archive there.
Locally they will hold a 'celebration' event at St.John's Community Centre  on the Isle of Dogs on 2nd December  1-5 



Historic England tells us that work is to start on:
Building 11 Royal Arsenal 
10 Orangery Lane. Eltham
(thank you Mark)



We have been shown a blog page 'The Franklin Expedition and London Bridge Station' by Patrick Sweeney.  http://www.patricksweeney.co.uk/franklin-and-london-bridge.html.  This is of course from the perspective of London Bridge Station.  It also refers to another blog by Peter Carney (no link to this ??). This apparently argues that the engines actually came from the London and Croydon Railway - which also ran to London Bridge. He also has some interesting things to say about how and why the engines were run, the plumbing arrangements on the ship and - lead poisoning.  The engines were expected to aid the passage through ice and also provide hot water for a number of applications.
We have also been referred to learned papers in Newcomen Society archives - I.J. Vol.81 No.2. 2011  by William Battersby and Peter Carney.  We also understand that it is hoped the sites can be dived for more information on these engines.

We also think there was a link to Enderby exploration in the Antarctic - again, let us know.



We are interested to know more about Dreadnought School in Blackwall Lane which, like the gasholder, is on a site recently consulted on by the Council. It is a London School Board School from around 1893 - and sadly not of a quality which suggests a design by one of their star (and very listable) architects.  It has been used as a store by the Forest Hill based Horniman Museum since 1969 and we understand they own the freehold. It has never been owned by Greenwich Council.  Please get in touch if you can tell us anything  indhistgreenwich@aol.com


A recent holiday in Broadstairs alerted us to the entry point for many undersea cables - hopefully those made in Greenwich. We were particularly interests in a little building on the cliff edge at the end of Dumpton Gap Drive corner of Western Esplanade.  We understand it has been recently sold - but - again - any info?? gratefully received.

the building at Dumpton Gap 

Sign to the rear of the building
(thanks Dick)



Rob Powell has put up a posting on his blog with some fascinating cuttings about the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. http://blogs.greenwich.co.uk/rob-powell/anniversary-of-the-opening-of-the-greenwich-foot-tunnel/
He points out that the 4th of August was the annivesary of the opening of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel in 1902.  He had found cuttings from the Coventry Free Press 'it must be seen by the eye of imagination through the lens of knowledge' and much more.



Richard Buchanon has kindly sent us a history of conservation areas - and do you know what!!  I quote:

" Now - London’s first conservation areas.  There were two, both designated on 17th January 1968 and both by the London Borough of Greenwich. ......these two covered the old Greenwich town centre and Blackheath; the area which was mainly in Crown ownership was added later."
(sorry no link for this - perhaps Richard can help with that)