Wednesday 17 October 2018

Lots and lots of news here today

This posting covers a lot of ground - there is so much going on and all the newsletters come out at once.  The big stuff - the ferry - the archive - is all at the end.  Keep reading!...……………. 


Barbara has sent us this link to a meeting at Charlton House for a meeting by an organisation called Layers of London

Let’s all go along and find out what it’s all about – what they can do for of Greenwich historians – and what we can do for them

A gate has now been installed at the top of the steps which go down into the river which were used for a  ferry which accessed  the cable ships moored out in the river (see
We understand a plaque is to be installed  - does anybody know what it says? and if it makes any sense

Enderby Group -by the way - are still waiting for an invitation from Barratts to see the refurbished house.

Lots of little mentions of Greenwich in the current newsletter. 

---- a visit to see the painted hall ceiling in Greenwich 
---- our new IKEA and comments that it looks very large and will the parking be adequate?  ( editors note  - that's the least of our worries - isn't it?)
---- a short biography of Ian Willhoughby Bazalgette, the great grandson of Sir Joseph Bazalgette who built the sewers, the Greenwich pumping station, and Crossness.  Ian was a Second World War bomber pilot - a squadron leader with the DFC by the time he was 25.  He died trying to land a burning Lancaster and is buried near Beauvais
- -- a long article about Radiation New World gas cookers. (Ed - my Mum had one of those)

Their newsletter mentions real work and their new tractor!



-   the current edition includes a long article about the fates of all our gasholders starting with the two doomed holders at Bell Green - and moving on to Bromley by Bow and elsewhere. (Ed  - I’m sorry that the author has not seen fit to mention our East Greenwich holder - hmmm)
-   An article by Bob Carr which  supplements his previous article about Greenwich Town Hall.  He  points out that some of it is still in use by the Council but is currently 'under used'. He quotes local architectural commentator, Owen Hatherley, on the Town Hall and its relationship with other civic buildings of the same date.  Ray Plassard has also contributed with information about William Moss and Sons, the construction company who built Greenwich Town Hall.
-  Bob has also contributed an article about the importance of the 1803 explosion in the boiler of the Trevithick Engine, working on the  Greenwich Peninsula. He notes that a similar engine was installed at Woolwich Arsenal around the same time.  He points to how rival manufacturers Boulton and Watt used the accident it to get an advantage in publicity and thus to hold back the use of high pressure steam in London for some years.  He relates this to the development of railways and steam road vehicles.
The GLIAS committee is appealing for new members with expertise in the following area - - publicity and marketing (with  knowledge of social media)  - web site development -- planning applications - sales and recruitment (must have a car in which to transport publications)  -- the database - archiving photographs and slides.    If you can help please email Dave Perrett
We have been asked by the Friends of Mycenae Gardens for help to find them a gardener
Charlton Society and others have been putting in objections to new plans for blocks of flats (9 storeys) on Charlton riverside wharves.  One of them is on a site apparently called 'Flint Glass Wharf'.  We had never heard of this and would be interested in any information as to what this is or was?  It is NOT a reference to the United Glass bottle factory in Anchor and Hope Lane but further along the river towards Woolwich.  Flint glass????

Thanks Greenwich Visitor for publishing the first two chapters of my work on Greenwich Industry - it started off as a planned book - but publishers don't exist for local industrial history, and local bookshops refuse to talk to you or to take copies (even for free!). Thanks GV for the interest. Mary

Westcombe News have published an article by Keith and Anna Townend about what they would like to see as the future use for our East Greenwich Gas holder - using it to house an industrial museum for Greenwich. (ed - wouldn't we all like that).   For the rest of us discussions with Southern Gas have made it quite clear that they intend to continue with demolishing the holder and say they are being pushed by other bodies - Transport for London,  Ofgem and ultimately the government.  (Thanks to Cllr. Sizwe James for enabling a meeting with them)
We  understand that Hansons on the Greenwich Peninsula at what was Victoria Deep Water Wharf would welcome visitors to the site to see their new factory 

Please also note the picture we reproduced on our previous post here - and on Facebook  - about a large find on their site.

The website for their contractors is


The Society has a meeting on 19th October 7.45 at Mycenae House on 'Pharmaceuticals in the Environment from Cocaine to Seafood Cocktails'.



- under  'building conservation news' they note: that the original Royal Military Academy (Building 40) on the Arsenal site is being refurbished as part of what is now to be called the Woolwich Creative District - ……………...that  Building 41, up to now used as the heritage centre, will be refurbished as a music venue (see below for details of the row) ...…………………...  they note the proposal to demolish the Plumstead Station footbridge (more of that below too) ………………. and finally list some of the Council's proposed additions to the local list: The 'Gog and Magog' grid iron on the Thamesmead riverside, the Arsenal Danger Buildings, Gun emplacements on the Thamesmead riverside, and the clock tower on Thamesmead Town centre which was pinched from Deptford dockyard in 1981 and has been in Thamesmead ever since
- an article about erosion of the foreshore and its results

and also, more briefly -- the closure of the Woolwich Ferry (see below) - the knife arch installed at the Powis Street Macdonalds (the first Macdonalds in Britain) - and, sadly, the death of Darrel Spurgeon, a great local historian, …………



This Deptford based project to build a reproduction 17th century warship has sent us a newsletter about the Open Day event at the Shipwrights Palace and about the range of objects they have for sale to raise cash. See



The PLA (fun) Newsletter shows pictures of the Beluga Whale seen in the Thames.  (Congratulations to's Rob for taking THE pictures  of the creature - and why do all the reports describe it as 'lost' ? They don't know that it doesn't know exactly where it is. Give it credit for a bit of brain!)

They also note that two new clippers will join the fleet of passenger boats which run the fast service on the river - and they note also that Clippers now claim to have served four million passengers (I guess that's passenger journeys not actual individual passengers)

Finally they report on the Great River Race - a 21 mile heavy duty row from Woolwich to Ham.


Greenwich Heritage Trust has done a lot of work on the Charlton House summerhouse/toilets. People may remember an earlier web site on this interesting building.  They have sent me some info on something called the Summerhouse blog (but I can't work out how to put a link through to this here. It just boots up as a Word page with no strap line).

Anyway its all been done up and the toilets removed and Charlton House management can arrange tours and information.  Not at all clear what it is to be used for though.


We understand that a planning application is in for this Greenwich Peninsula site.  We had hoped that U&I, the developers, might be going to give us a break from the relentless march of poky flats - but apparently not.  It will also mean the demolition of Thames Bank House. We are aware that a lot of research has been done on the industrial history of this site - and hope that some of this can be published.  Details of the application is on the Council planning web site


This is a tangled saga -basically how to keep a pretty old footbridge which is a funny design and provide wheelchair access.  It went to Planning Committee again last night with a planning application from the railway for removal. Debs has reported, on Facebook  that the planners decided a  "four week delay to consider alternatives. Positive Plumstead Project will be invited to a site visit to demonstrate alternative ideas"


The death has been reported in the national press of Sir Charles Kao, Nobel prize winner. Charles Kao came to Woolwich from Shanghai in the 1960s to study electrical engineering at what was then Woolwich Polytechnic. Following a career which was with what was then Standard Telephones and Cables he was develop optical fibre transmission and thus 'transformed the world and provided a backbone for the internet'.   The Nobel prize came in 2006.

(they deport immigrants like that today)


One of the biggest events locally has been the ending of the lives of the three 1960s Woolwich ferries.  You could do worse than to read Darryl on this
The ferry will be closed while modifications are made to the ramps for two new boats being built in Poland (so much for British shipbuilding!).  In a departure from tradition - where ferries have been named after Woolwich politicians and scientists - they are to be named after the poor lad who was killed on the ferry a year or so back, and a sentimental singer from Essex.
We had been told that John Burns would be towed to Holland to be broken up a week before the others, but in the end the three went off together, sadly followed down the river by  boats and some shore based residents  (although where were the hoots and blasts that would once have come from every vessel until they were clear of the Nore?  Also where was Greenwich Council, Newham Council, TfL and the London Mayor.   Come on, this is the Free Ferry, its important!)
(confidentially, the only thing that makes me cry these days is the sound of a ships's hooter).


The protests about the sudden and disgraceful closure of our local archive are ongoing - with discussions, questions and much else. Things are moving so fast its difficult to say anything.  I am going to quote here what Richard has put in the Woolwich Antiquarians newsletter (hope that's ok Richard) and just say 'keep in touch for the latest.  Richard begins by describing 'The Creative District' - apparently archives and heritage don't count as 'creative'.

"The Woolwich Creative District

The Creative District is a creature of the Royal Greenwich Council, who are acting as the developer.  It is to be located in the Royal Arsenal in a group of listed buildings either side of No.1 Street beyond the new blocks of flats.  Going down from the Brass Foundry are: on the left, set back across Artillery Square, Building 40 (B40), the original Military Academy; next comes B41, of four wings, the Heritage Centre lingering in the west wing.  On the right are B19, latterly used as a store by Berkeley Homes; and B17 & B18, latterly used by FirePower.

B40 already houses a dance company; B41 is to be a music venue with rehearsal and performance space; B19 & B17 are to be theatrical, as is B18 for an initial (5 year?) period.

PunchDrunk, a theatre company, are interested in running the B19, 17 & 18 complex.  The Council wants them to entice people to come to the Creative District, but doubts that they would bring in much revenue.  However, the music venue is deemed to be more profitable, hence the desire to evict the Heritage Centre from B41.  When PunchDrunk leave B18 the Heritage Centre could set up a museum there, paying for any necessary adaption.  B18 would have space for a museum, but not for the Archive as well.

Closure of the Greenwich Heritage Centre – The Borough Archive

The Heritage Centre, in the west wing of B41, was closed on 21st July 2018, with very little notice and no consultation with societies such as WADAS.  It holds the Archive of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, which is of interest not just locally but internationally to historical researchers and to relations of ancestors who lived and worked here.  This is now the only London Borough without an open Archive.

This was to allow the Museum ‘collection’ to be packed up ready to go to a warehouse at Charlton riverside for up to six years, when it could be returned to furnish a Museum in Arsenal Building 18.
Neither the Council nor the RGHT (Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust) realised that archive material in the 'collection' was the Borough Archive!  Nor had they realised that Borough Archives and Museum collections are distinct entities with different legal requirements for their management.  Borough Archives belong in law to the Council, who have to keep them open, and in a good environment.  The RGHT manage the Archive on behalf of the Council.  Although some council departments use the Archive, the Creative District planners had never heard of it.
Concerned users formed the Greenwich Archive Users Forum (GAUF), who have persuaded both the Council and RGHT to talk to them and heed their advice.
At present the Heritage Centre is still in its home in Arsenal Building 41, perhaps also in Building 18 where items lately stored in the old Plumstead Museum were temporarily housed (some being Archive items).
A proposal to keep the Archive where it was, and still is, in the west wing of Building 41 until there is a new permanent home for it, is being actively promoted by GAUF.  Archives, with valuable and often fragile items, should be moved as little as possible.  And they should be stored in a safe place (even where they are in Building 41 is 2m below the river wall - and Building 18 is at the same level).  The situation is still fluid."

and ps - as I finish this - quick look at the morning's  post - and here's Darryl  - on the latest on Spray Street

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