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.

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