Thursday 24 May 2018

Notes and serenades

Gasholder – this cracking picture has appeared on the GMV facebook page
thanks Laiura Diggle
The latest edition of the GLIAS Journal – London’s Industrial Archaeology No. 16-  is with us. It includes a very important article by James Hulme about the Charlton Riverside.
As many of our readers will know James and how he started work on the Charlton riverside as an assessment of the site for the Council before the development began.  unusually in thse circumstances he has given us an extremely detailed industrial history of an interesting and so far undeveloped area. 
He begins with one of the oldest buildings in the area - the Anchor and Hope pub - moving on to Castle’s shipbreakers at the end of Anchor and Hope Lane. He continues with notes on other riverside sites – including Cory’s dry dock and boatyard, the Glenton and Angerstein railways and of course Siemens. From the 20th century there is United Glass, Bridon and Stones and – much else.
I’m sure people will want to see this article and  copies of the Journal .   Please email
Also in the Journal  includes an article on Great Western Railway employee hostels in London by David Thomas , the Montgomery timber merchants from Brentford by Beverley Ronalds,  Coalbrooke decorative ironwork in London, by David Perrett, and W.T.Gilbert  mathematical instrument makers of Tower Hill by  D.J.Bryden.

We’re getting a lot of requests for information about the proposed desise of the decorative footbridge across Plumstead station.  Network rail needs to install a lift for disabled access between the platforms of Plumstead and unfortunately they have been unable to this and still keep the decorative ironwork bridge. There are now many calls to have  the bridge main retained.  This is clearly a difficult and sensitive issue with rights on both sides of the argument.
Deborah O’Boyle has written  This delightful bridge was built for SE Railway, in 1892, by Joseph Westwood & Co (over in Millwall) .  Please see the GIHS facebook page for more info from Debs on this.

853 has reported on the first outings (in Gdansk!) of the new Woolwich ferries
More news about plans in Europe to create a European database of extant chimneys.  There have been entries to the competition of videos of people serenading chimneys. Apparently none have been received from the UK – but you can see the serenades at

Monday 21 May 2018

Congratulations Barbara

Congratulations to Barbara Gasometra Berger in Munich on your PhD on gasholders

(We understand there is a chapter on East Greenwich gasholder - can't wait to see it!)

Tuesday 15 May 2018

News and that

­Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter. 

They advertise their own future programmes: 2 pm for 2.15 pm on Saturday at Charlton House, in the Grand Salon.
12 May   Research & Discoveries, Pearly History & Woolwich Potteries
9 June     A further Date with Buildings
14 July    Blue Cross Kennels and Pet Cemetery, Shooters Hill Road
13 Oct     Mudlarking by the Thames
10 Nov    An Edwardian Nursery Magic Lantern Show

CROSSNESS ENGINES TRUST   Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, London, SE29AQ Tel 0208311 3711
Family Open Days - Non Steaming,Beam Engine House closed for asbestos removal.
20 May, 17 June, 15 July 10:30am- 4:00pm

18th May Discovering Earthlike Planets.  Mycenae House, 90 Mycenae Road, Blackheath, SE3 7SE

Welling and District Model Engineering Society, Falconwood, 2-5pm
20 May; 3, 17 June; 1, 15,29 July; 12,26 Aug; 9, 23 Sept; 70ct; 16 Dec,Santa Special

WADAS also reports on the Positive Plumstead Project - Their first major concern is the White Hart Road Depot and Plumstead High Street Revamp. We have often reported concerns about the Depot here and it is good to find someone else taking an interest,

They say “The Borough of Greenwich have £2.5m funding from the GLA to brighten up Plumstead - dividing it between the Grade II listed White Hart Road Depot and Plumstead High Street. The White Hart Road Depot is to have workspaces and community facilities such as studios, rehearsal spaces, a nursery, and a gallery. A public square and a pub are mooted.
In his book The Woolwich Story E F E Jefferson says that "In June 1901, work was commenced on a generating and refuse destruction works at White Hart Road, Plumstead, and was formally opened by the Mayor, Cllr J JMessent in October 1903. The cost was £40,000, some £2,600 being spent on direct labour- an early instance of what later became a common feature in the Borough."
The building was the Borough's electricity generating station for Woolwich and Plumstead, a combined rubbish incinerator and electricity generating station being most unusual for the time. The generating plant was closed in the 1920s following the take over and enlargement of the privately built 1895 power station of the Woolwich Electricity Company at Globe Lane. (The site of the, now demolished, power station was temporarily laid out as Arsenal Gardens, but is now being covered by tower blocks of flats by Berkeley.)  However, the incinerator carried on working into the 1970s until replaced by the SELCHP plant in Deptford. The building became a depot for general storage (some items being of significance but also for such things a spare door handles for buildings that had come and gone). The depot was closed, and the building allowed to deteriorate. Most recently Crossrail have used (and refurbished) it while building the Elizabeth line.

WADAS also report on “Industrial Conservation Areas in Charlton -  the Greenwich and Woolwich & Thamesmead Planning Committee (of councillors) were, bar one, unanimous in agreeing to designate "Bowater Road and Thames Barrier" and "Charlton Riverside" as conservation areas. This has now been ratified.
Bowater Road is home to the largely complete, albeit disused, Siemen's works. This is the last of many  telecommunication works that used to line the Thames - they supplied the world, and did pioneering work in digital transmission up to 1980s. It is the last to survive of the several major telegraph and telephony businesses in the Borough, and probably the best preserved in the UK (the rump of the Telcon works in Greenwich is still active, though most of its site has now been covered by blocks of flats).

Charlton Riverside has other industrial assets, for instance early Cory works, but also a group of high quality workers' dwellings at Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens. 



“Discussions are also starting on what we are calling Bazalgette 200 for the bicentenary of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's birthday falls on 28 March 2019. Planning and fundraising for events to celebrate the engineering genius who created Crossness is about to start. Anyone who has bright ideas about this or would otherwise like to help please do get in touch”.

A visitor from Sweden came to ask about Bessemer’s Greenwich works.  He is interested in Göran Fredrik Göransson (1819-1900).

“In 1841 (at 22) he became a partner in the business run by his mother's family, Daniel Elfstrand & Co. The company acquired an ironworks at Högbo and a blast furnace at Edske. In 1856 Göransson travelled to England to buy a steam engine for the blast furnace, but returned having bought a fifth of Bessemer's patent for steel production. With backing from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences he carried out experiments using a Bessemer converter. Initially he tried to stick to Besemer's instructions of using small air tubes (tuyeres) at the base combined with high air pressure. Eventually he ignored this and tried instead with larger tuyeres and a lower pressure and finally produced what is said to be the first ever commercial "pour" of steel using the Bessemer method in July 1858. He corresponded regularly with Bessemer reporting on his progress, but Bessemer failed to even mention him in his autobiography. He opened a steelworks in Sandviken, Sweden in 1862, which after initial difficulties became Sandviken Jernverks AB in 1868. The same company is still in business in the same place), although now only producing specialist steels

APPG Launch Industrial Heritage report

Following from the Evidence Sessions held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Industrial Heritage a report has emerged called “Report on the Challenges facing the Industrial Heritage Sector"

This was apparently launched at an event on 1st May with many attendees (but not us obviously - or even asked us what we thought!)
The report's key findings are that industrial heritage was vital in the formation of local and national identities, and is highly valuable in the UK's contemporary society as a source of economic potential. By providing an examination of the value of industrial heritage to the United Kingdom and the major social, economic and cultural issues impacting this sector, the APPG has compiled a series of conclusions and recommendations on how to face the challenges of the future.
You can read it at


Railway lifting bridge over Deptford Creek

We had been asked if the railway lift bridge over Deptford Creek was listed – as a result we have been sent lots of interesting information about it.  Here are some extracts from the report on it in 2012.

English Heritage were asked to assess the railway lifting bridge over Deptford Creek for designation. It is understood that Network Rail are currently considering demolishing the superstructure of the bridge as it no longer functions as a lifting bridge. Deptford Creek forms the boundary between LB Lewisham to the west and LB Greenwich to the east. The eastern supports of the bridge stand on the the Grade 11 listed railway viaduct from the platforms of Greenwich Station to Deptford Creek Bridge in LB Greenwich. The western supports of the bridge stand on the unlisted pier in the centre of the creek which is in LB Lewisham. LB Lewisham is currently considering including the bridge within the proposed Deptford Creek Conservation Area and also locally listing the structure. This is somewhat complicated by the bridge falling within the two boroughs. A 2009 heritage report on Deptford Creek by Design for London noted the bridge as a significant heritage asset.

The applicant, Network Rail, Design for London and the two Local Planning Authorities concerned were consulted. LB Lewisham in their response of 13 December 2011 noted the historical context of the London-Greenwich railway line and the importance of Deptford Creek and its related industry to the growth of Deptford. Also asserted was the fact that the electrical operation of the lifting bridge was a technical achievement for its time and the design, in contrast to Kingsferry Bridge, reflected the functionality of the lifting bridge. Design for London noted in their response of 15 June 2011 that the bridge was identified as a significant heritage asset in the 2009 London Development Agency Deptford Creek regeneration heritage report.

As a specific building type, vertical lift bridges are rare nationally with probably not many more than a dozen surviving examples in England, ranging in date from the mid-C19 to 2000 and including road, railway and pedestrian use

In architectural terms the Deptford Creek lifting bridge is a purely utilitarian structure constructed of steel box girders with no attempt at architectural embellishment. The gantry containing the operating gear, for example, is crudely constructed of steel sheets. Whilst this is perhaps to be expected, with its relatively short span, it lacks the engineering grandeur of the listed Tees (Newport) Bridge. It should be stressed that we have been asked to consider the bridge itself and not the viaduct (already listed) and the pier it rests on. The pier has good quality rusticated masonry dating from its construction in the 1830s but this does not form part of the current assessment. It is perhaps surprising that it was not included in the listing of the viaduct which continues either side of it.

The vertical lift railway bridge was opened in December 1963, designed by AH Cantrell, Chief Civil Engineer, British Rail Southern Region and built by Sir William Arrol and Co of Glasgow. It was the third bridge to cross Deptford Creek along the Grade" listed railway viaduct, originally built by the London and Greenwich Railway in 1836. The first bridge, constructed c1838, was described in 1840 as ' ... a Balance-Bridge which requires the power of eight men to raise it when necessary for the purpose of allowing masted vehicles to pass above Bridge. On each side of the viaduct between the Spa Road and Deptford is a carriage and footway enclosed by a brick fence-wall'. This bridge was replaced in 1884 by a similar double drawbridge, each section winched up to a simple steel frame superstructure on either side of the bridge. The current bridge was able to lift 40 tonnes and was operated by electrical winches. It no longer functions as a vertical lift bridge having been welded closed, probably due to problems with the foundations.

The bridge comprises two spans across the dual channels of the creek at this point. The western span is fixed and is included in the listing for the viaduct between Deptford Creek and North Kent Junction. The eastern channel is bridged by the vertical lift bridge. This comprises four braced, square-section, steel columns (approximately 20m in height) containing the lifting hoists, one pair on either side of the channel, joined by a steel box-truss. The two supports are linked at their centre by a further truss (parallel with the railway line) which carries the enclosed steel-clad gantry containing the electrical operating gear. The supports rest on large concrete blocks, which in turn rest on the footings of the original bridge, encased in dressed Portland stone. The vertical lift track section is supported on large steel l-beams which bear the name of the Lanarkshire Steel Company.

So - its not listed but apparently the buttresses are

And while we are on the subject of listing. Richard Buchanan has sent us this piece from the archives about Enderby House

Municipal Offices Woolwich,
Buildings of Architectural or Historical Interest
Enderby' House, Enderby' Wharf, SE10
January 1973

When the Borough wide study of possible listed buildings was carried out by my officers last summer it did not appear from external survey that this building would attract a mention, but I was then unaware of the internal features and historical associations which you mentioned in your letter.
I understand from the Department of the Environment their investigator may have missed it altogether, and I have, therefore, asked them to let me have their observations, at the same time drawing their attention to the interior and to the history.
I have requested this to be done as soon as possible in view of the threat of demolition and which I understand, could arise from future reorganisation and redevelopment by the owners.
Borough Planning Officer 

Subterranea Brittanica’s Journal for April 2018  Issue 47 contains an article on Early Thames Subways. ‘The North and South Woolwich Subway and other failed schemes for a Thames crossing at Woolwich”. by Peter Bone

He begins “ The Woolwich foot tunnel was built by the London County Council and opened in 1912 but more than a quarter of a century earlier, an attempt was made to create a foot tunnel under the Thames at Woolwich” and goes on to describe an abortive earlier scheme “n 1873 the North and South Woolwich Subway Company was formed. Plans for a pedestrian tunnel between Woolwich and North Woolwich were prepared”

This is a fascinating article and copies can be obtained through the Sub-Brit web site  Please read it!

Peter Bone also mentions the 1904 North and South Woolwich Electric Railway. This was to be a short line passing under the river, with a station at Beresford Square and at the junction of Albert Road and High Street.

And also a proposal in 1919 for a tunnelled electric monorail service between Beresford Square and North Woolwich station.
                         and there is even a picture of that!

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Sad news

Sad note this morning to say that Darrell Spurgeon has died.

Few people will know Darrell - who was well in his nineties and cut his very considerable list of activities down in the past few years.  He had a very busy life!

Of interest to local historians were his series of 'Discover' books - written as a retirement project and intended as the guide books to South London, which, as a travel agent, he knew did not exist.

'Discover' covered the Borough of Greenwich and quite a bit of Bexley, Lewisham and Southwark as well. Darrell was a meticulous researcher and covered many things of interest in the environment - including many industrial remains for which he was an enthusiast.

If you don't know the 'Discover' series rush out and get them at once - although I don't actually know where from as Darrell used to sell them himself and I guess stocks are limited.

I am sure in the next few days there will be proper obituaries and tributes to his time as a councillor and with the Co-op and things I know nothing about.


Saturday 5 May 2018

Notes, news and, or course, the gasholder

Now - have you all signed the petition about the gasholder??

Sign it Now! The situation is that the holder received immunity from listing by the Government, meaning that the Council had to agree to its demolition.   We are asking that they revisit the Council's agreed position on the holder and its site.

The exact wording of what we are asking for is on the petition page - and I have acres and acres of print which explains the legal position, and the history of the holder in more detail.  Email us and ask if you want to know more.

The situation with the holder has been covered by local bloggers and the press and we are expecting more coverage over the next couple of weeks.
(thanks Darryl - and are people allowed to ask who the ginger kid is in the photo??

We also have had an email from Barbara in Germany

"I am really worried about the future of Livesey`s masterpiece. It represents an extraordinary structure of the guide frame. I will soon have a book/Phd ready to underline the significance of the threatened EG gasholder. I wrote an whole chapter on the guide frames (90 pages). One small chapter is only describing the frame in EG. For better understanding the whole chapter would be useful.However I still need to wait to be allowed to publish my phd. I will know after my viva...
In the meantime I can show you two important links to me and my work:

Research associate at the Technical University of Munich:
and my research:

My article "The Gasholder – Shaped by ist function" written for the int. congress on construction history, held in Chicago 2015:



The next blog post was about Enderby House

Thank you to Murky for covering this. But he/she is not quite right,.  Our understanding is that Barratts are still negotiating with an unnamed (by them) pub chain.  Hopefully more detail on this in our next posting.



We have had a note from the Council

 I am writing to notify you that the Royal Borough of Greenwich designated the Charlton Riverside Conservation Area on 21 March 2018. The Royal Borough’s Cabinet also agreed the addition of 17 buildings to our Local Heritage List.

This is all good news and basically covers Atlas and Derrick Gardens in Anchor and Hope Lane.  There is a planning application pending which will completely surround this pretty little housing estate - more news on that to come.

Why Atlas and Derrick?.  Cory - whose dry dock and tug depot is just along the riverside from the estate - had a coal transhipment system in the river in the 19th century. It was on a hulk called Atlas (there were three Atlases eventually) and it had derricks on it.  So the housing was built by Cory for their workers.

Thanks to Richard from Trinity Buouy Wharf for this nice picture of the site.  


Richard who sent the picture is now the Maritime Heritage Project Officer at Trinity Buoy Wharf - just  across the river from the Peninsula, you can see the gaggle of heritage boats there, as well as the Clipper Depot and London's only lighthouse**.  We hear great things are going on over there and hope to have a LOT more news soon.  

You can get over there very easily via the secret ferry - go to QE Pier and ask - but we think the ferry is going to be less secret soon.

** lighthouse in a traditional sense - we do have real warning lights here. The nearest one is not quite in Greenwich at Tripcock Ness


At the same time the Council also officially designated The Thames Barrier and Bowater Road Conservation Area,   We have covered this area and some of the Siemens buildings which is covered in Survey of Woolwich and also lots of stuff sent to us by the Siemens Engineering Society (thanks to Brian Middlemiss)
More on that to come too


Huguenots in Greenwich.  Huguenots were French Protestants who came here as immigrants in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and settled mainly in East London where they introduced many industries - the most famous being the Courtauld silk works.  

There was a small comunity in Greenwich based in Crooms Hills - I am told that the late Beryl Platts was instrumental in research on them.  The Huguenots of Spitalfields Group is organising a walk around Greenwich on 12th May - details (and you have to book and pay) on or ring 020737036 for something called a supporting visual.

I would like to book them for a talk at GIHS but I think we might be a bit too small and poor for them.


Factory chimneys.  I am told that the European industrial heritage group, EFAITH, have just had an  industrial theme month on factory chimneys - starting with a party in Roubaix.  They have made a video  They want everyone to perform Beethoven's Ode to Joy in front of a chimney (not at all sure that would be a good idea!)

I only mention this because in Woolwich we do have a chimney which would knock spots off anything they might have in the Europe!!  However  my correspondent on this is keen to know what other chimneys we have in Greenwich??? Please let us know?

Also see

Spray Street demolitions.  This was covered very adequately by 853    There are a lot of issues here around the demolition of a lot of historic Woolwich buildings - happy to highlight some of them here, please send info.   Much of the current discussion is around the Lamella roof of the doomed covered market (itself a bit of traditional Woolwich). The roof is described as the roof design is a “lamella” system – a lattice usually formed of steel or timber struts. These generate very strong spans that don’t require internal supports. It is rare to see this system used outside of a military context".


For a long time there has been an Industrial Heritage Support Officer based at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Telford.  There have been various post holders each of which we - and other industrial historians in London - have begged to come and speak to us about what support they can offer.  Sadly it has appeared that they find it impossible to come south of Wolverhampton for reasons we are unable to understand. 

BUT we now learn there is a wonderful new post holder - Joanna - and she is helpful and friendly.  We have already raised with her the issue of the gasholder and Enderby House, and we understand she is going to meet with the Lea Valley Heritage people - so there is hope yet.

This is just to say that I am happy to pass issues on to her from Greenwich if people contact me.


The April GIHS meeting featured the remarkable Ian Bull talking about the Royal Arsenal and the Yantlet (the Yantlet is a Creek on the Isle of Sheppey).  
Here is a version of some of what he said - reported to us thanks to Peter Luck.  

Guns were tested.

At the beginning of the Great War the navy was deeply concerned that its hit-rate was poor despite the quality of the equipment they had. They needed to improve their gunnery and the testing of long-range guns at Foulness was inadequate for the longest range guns. Taking the land at Yantlet and the marsh adjoining enabled firing across the mouth of the Thames over the shipping and up the length of the Foulness foreshore.

A dock was built and survives (more or less - and is visible from the other side of the creek). It was able to receive the heaviest guns made at Woolwich and it connected directly with a firing platform. a second firing position was a short distance away and the two had a rail connection which also connected to the Grain branch line. Forward of the firing platform were four tall masts which held suspended panels, aligned so that the shell would pass through them and the time differential between its passage through first one then the other would indicate its speed. The shell, on landing on the Foulness foreshore could be retrieved at low tide and examined for further useful info.

The development of rocketry and the guided missile in WW2 meant that the very heavy naval gun was no longer a viable weapon and the need for testing sych guns ended. The site became redundant and the masts were demolished and the railway taken up. Little remains of the second firing site but the dock is still there and so are several of the associated buildings, re-purposed. The navy has used the site for demolition of unexploded ordnance recovered from the Thames estuary as well as such as terrorist bombs etc etc. It is now wholly unused but still held by the MoD who do not wish to part with it. Access is possible only with MoD permission.

Before starting the talk Ian told me that the site is now a SSSI as there are many interesting plants colonising bomb craters and there has been no agro-chemical treatment of the land.

I am told that this will be covered in more detail on and please look at this interesting page for all sorts of stuff about the Arsenal. Also on and thank you Steve Peterson for the information.


Railway on the Peninsula.  Everyone keeps asking why there is no rail link from the Dome to the main line at Charlton/Westcombe Park.  Well - er - there was - it was destroyed in 1999 by the New Millennium Experience Company.  It ran down roughly on the line of West Parkside. 
This shows the rail bridge pre-1999 which stood on the
line of West Pakside west of the Pilot Pub

In connection with research on this we were asked if it connected to the Redpath Brown steel works which stood roughly south of the Pilot, where many new flats now stand.  Andrew Turner has sent us the following details when we asked if if the steel works was connected to the railway.

'The information that Redpath Brown was never connected to the national rail system was told to me by John Fry (Manager there during and after the Second World War).. I'm now not 100% sure if John remained there up to closure in 1977, so the comment may only be true for the time he was working there. .

Maps and site plans up to 1964 including OS 63360:1 maps dated 1961 and 1964 do not show any rail connection into the works. The 63360:1 map of 1970 (SE London) shows a connection into the former Dorman Long part of  the site only while the various sheets of the OS 1250:1 maps of 1971/72  appear to show a connection which leads into both the former Redpath Brown and Dorman Long sites. In both cases, the gas works is no longer shown as rail connected. A plan produced in 1973 suggests that only BSC's McCalls Service Centre (on the former Dorman Long site) was by then rail connected.

I note that the Industrial Railway Society states that Redpath Dorman Long (the post 1967 name) was connected to the Angerstein Branch but gives no dates. The information could well be over simplified, given the history of the sites.

Assuming that the 1971/72 OS survey is correct, it looks like the Redpath Brown site (by then part of BSC) may have been connected for a period to the Angerstein Branch after the rail link to the gas works was abandoned. The 1971/72 maps are however the only definitive evidence that I have seen showing the Redpath Brown site as rail connected to the outside world. The 1971/72 maps also show that by then the jetty was out of use, so incoming steel may have changed from water to rail.

We have a note from DimplyDebs about the 19th century overbridge at Plumstead Station.  It appears this is about to be removed and people in Plumstead are hoping a way can be found to retain it. She has written to councillors saying;

"I have become aware that Network Rail SE has just reapplied for demolition (18/1455/PA), citing recorded instances of people climbing over the parapet, as well as the necessity to demolish the bridge in order to fit lifts in.

Whilst I am all for accessibility, I am not convinced that this necessitates the destruction of the Victorian bridge, which is not only attractive but a fine example of important local industrial heritage. It looks like NR has taken a "one size fits all" approach and intends to install an ugly, overbearing structure. It will be a large blot on impending plans to improve the appearance of the station approach. 


This isn't industrial but thought you might like to go:


Tuesday, 8th of May - 7:30 pm St George's, Westcombe Park Glenluce Road SE3 7SD

A program by Dr Sam Moorhead FSA (British Museum) 
In AD 306, Constantine was acclaimed emperor at York – this was an illegal action, but it did not deter him from becoming one of the most important and influential of all Roman emperors.  This lecture will outline Constantine’s rise to power and his adoption of the Christian faith, culminating in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in AD 312.  After the Edict of Milan in 313, which ended the persecutions, we witness the growth of Christianity in the Roman Empire and in Britain.  Although written sources are sparse, the British Museum has the best collection of fourth century Christian objects north of the Alps, including the Hinton St Mary mosaic, the Water Newton treasure and the Lullingstone wall paintings. Using such objects and a range of other archaeological evidence, this lecture will outline the rich Christian heritage of late Roman Britain.