Friday 15 February 2019

David Cuffley on bricks - and also come and hear him next Tuesday

GIHS Meeting on 19th - next Tuesday - we are welcoming David Cuffley who is going to speak 
about Discovering history of a house -case study Salutation Alley Woolwich

David works hard for the North West Kent Family History Society - and is a big expert on brick manufacture.  He is a big support to GIHS and has helped us with many queries about bricks and buildings over the year

Recently he was asked about bricks and Placentua Palace in Greenwich. I thought you should see his reply. (which I've edited a bit).

"Approximate locations of brickworks used to supply bricks to Placentia Palace.

You ask if ‘bricks were manufactured in East Greenwich and transported by barge and cart’.  The location East Greenwich is not one I recognise for a brickfield,. You should see John Musty’s article ‘Brick Kilns and Brick and Tile Suppliers to Hampton Court’ published in The Archaeological Journal 147, 1990, which wikll give you some help understanding the brickmaking industry in the 16th century. 

Musty refers to RICHARD RECOLVER (sometimes RECULVER) of Greenwich working on Hampton Court, Greenwich Palace and St John’s College. My interpretation of the of ‘Greenwich’ is either he was from Greenwich or that he acquired that suffix from having worked on Greenwich Palace for such a long construction period rather only a season (April to October).  My best guess that he was an itinerant brickmaker who came to projects to make bricks rather having his own kiln and transporting the bricks to the site. If Richard Reculver was an itinerant brickmaker I would expect him to be clamp burning bricks rather than have a permanent kiln structure. One small problem is the terms ‘clamp’ and ‘Kiln’ are frequently mixed/misused in old records. However clamps were widely used in this part of Kent right up to Dawson’s brickfield in the late 19th century at East Wickham. 

The Hampton Court records note some brickmakers delivered their bricks to the site and Musty says these were local brickmakers with some others as far away as Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire; 40 miles. My rule of thumb for brick transport by cart is 5 miles out loaded and then back in a day.  Part of the reason for lots of rural brickfields that are difficult to precisely locate, except by parish name.
Greenwich had one major advantage for brick transport and that’s the river. As an example Vanburgh Castle next to Greenwich Park in the 18th century used bricks from as far away as Fulham and Maidstone on the Medway. These were delivered by barge and then carted up to the site from the river. The accounts give names and details.

If you look at Nathaniel Lloyd’s ‘English Brickwork’ and his table of Brick measurements you will notice his c1520 Hampton Court –East side of clock tower were 8 7/8”-*1/2” x 41/2”-4” x 2” thick and were laid 4 courses to 10”, Deep Red in colour. He also records St Johns College- gateway tower as late 15th century 81/4”x41/2”x21/4” with 4 courses to 111/2 the authority for this he gives as Sir R Blomfield, (Hist. Renaiss. Arch. England p351). 

Two things you might like to check firstly is the brick sizes in the college you are interested in.  If Richard Reculver made the bricks at both places I would expect them to be the same size, although different clays might dictate otherwise. Secondly the quality of the brick as the wide 4 course height and bed joint thickness may indicate a more irregular brick shape. If your research shows similar quality and size bricks then perhaps Richard Reculver was the main brickmaker and this would be the type of brick you should be finding at Greenwich-Placentia Palace. 

None of the excavation reports I have managed to find since receiving your email record the bricks found. If you have any details I would love to receive them.
You also ask if Kentish Rag could have been used. If this is so then the river would have been the transport method fromt the aidstone area via easy access on the Medway. There are still Ragstone quarries at Barming, Kent providing ragstone for roads etc..  My experience in the construction industry; over 40 years; is that stone arrived on site cut and shaped with only adjustments made to ensure each section matched properly. Now stone being heavy I would expect worked sizes were easier to move but could be subject to damage especially in the pre industrial age. In large historic projects I have seen where a stone masons yard was set up adjacent to the building. Raw material was brought into the yard and shaped stone lifted into position. At one repair project I worked on in Brighton I spent a day watching the stone mason shape a new section to match the adjacent stones. A really magic piece of work and gave me a lot of respect for their trade.
To the best of my knowledge there were no Architects in this period, the designers were the builders/building contractor. The brickmaker would have undertaken to make bricks for the project and be paid per 1000 bricks made and burnt. For this he would have employed a team of moulders and labourers he paid out of his money. 

A practice that continued into the 19th century was where a berth or stool of six people worked as a team and bwere paid by the brickmaker/moulder. The setting out and laying of bricks is done by the trade of Bricklayer which is not the same and should not be confused with the brickmaker. Building to a set pattern is not a surprise because that’s the tradition of timber frame buildings, i.e. Weald House. My understanding is most of the work was done by rules of thumb the sizing of piers, walls etc. were all done by trade and previous experience.  I also expect but have no proof or reference that the stone supplier for the window reveals would offer styles and sized members/elements he and is workers were familiar with and knew the stone spans could withstand.
All itinerant workers lived on site up to the early 20th century.   Sydney Twist in his book about Faversham Brickmakers talks of brickmakers living on site in hovels formed with un-mortared brick structures. There are stories in newspapers of brickmakers who found tramps in their hovels pushing the structures down on top of them, killing those inside. Brickmakers were a rough lot, of which some of my ancestors are included.
You ask if Dutch bricklayers involved. I don’t know but I do have brickmakers in the early references in my index with surnames such as ‘Flemyng’, ‘Docheman’, ‘Holland’, ‘Tiler’ and ‘Brykeman’ all 13th to pre 17th century.

Sunday 10 February 2019

Naval Dockyards in Deptford and Woolwich - Conference Report

That excellent organisation, the Naval Dockyards Society, has now produced an important report on a conference held at the National Maritime Museum in 2013 – “500 Years of Deptford and Woolwich Dockyards" - officially the Transactions of the Society (Vol 11 Jan 2019). So what’s inside it?

First paper in the report is by NDS Chair Ann Coats and gives a resume of the history of the dockyards and their subsequent existence. She looks at the current planning processes for both of them – in particular at Deptford where there is still a live planning application whereas Woolwich, as people will know, has had housing on the site for many years. She also looks at what remains from the dockyards including items like the Woolwich Dockyard church which was re-erected in Eltham, were it remains.

Next we have Philip McDougal with a paper entitled the Naval Multiplex of Kentish London - and he’s right, we do need to remember the both the Dockyards were in the County of Kent.  He describes how the establishment of the two Dockyards led to other government owned industrial units being set up in the area = including the ropery at Woolwich and the victualling yard, very much later of course, at Deptford. In Greenwich there were institutions with an emphasis on science and health in the Royal Hospital and the Observatory. He describes how over the centuries changes, not just in society and politically, but also issues like silting in the river led to changes to the Dockyards. He mentions also the importance of the Arsenal to the Navy in supply of Ordnance. This is a detailed paper – and my summary above does it little justice and leaves out much of what he raises.  It leads us to other issues about which we will hopefully hear more in future years.-

Of course the dockyards we’re not the only shipbuilders in this part of London. There were private ship construction yards of Deptford - and of course throughout the surrounding area – ships were built here not just for the Navy but for private companies. Chris Ellmers’s paper was on Deptford’s private shipyards and their relationship to the dockyards between 1790 and 1819. He points out that in the late 18th- early 19th centuries private shipyards in Deptford built not only merchant sailing ships but also warships. He looks at the Dudman’s Yard in Grove Street and Wells and also Barnard in Deptford Green pointing out that they provided one of the nation’s major concentrations of shipbuilding. He gives a great deal of information about these yards and their relationships to the dockyards and how they built large warships.  This is a fascinating paper and easily my favourite in the set. There is a great deal of detail about the ships built and he also discusses the workforce and its skill base. We should not underestimate their contribution to the labour movement. Chris reminds us in discussing workplace organisation that these large workplaces existed here at a time when large factories in other trades elsewhere in the country barely existed.  Chris talks also about ship launches, the impact of the Napoleonic wars, and much else. An important and very interesting paper.

The paper by Peter Cross Rudkin is on John Rennie and the Naval Dockyards 1806- 1821.  It looks at Rennie’s career generally and in particular his role in the dockyards. However, to be honest, it does not say much about Deptford or Woolwich.  it discusses issues like contractors and the context within which Rennie worked in both technical and economic terms but his work at Deptford is described as ‘minor but tricky’ and his work at Woolwich was 'limited'.  However his role as consultant engineer is seen as key in this period.

Mark Stevenson is well known locally as our contact with Historic England. In his paper he looked at the regeneration of the dockyards in a planning context. He also describes his role in the emergence of SHARP which is it an international body which co-ordinates the histories of arsenals and other major historic government military sites manufacturing sites.  He discuss in detail how the planning process has impacted on the two dockyard sites we have locally. This is interesting and extremely informative.

The paper by Duncan Hawkins discusses the archaeological investigations at Convoys Wharf and the work done there. We have of course had a recent detailed report on this work but some this is an important summary of work undertaken at Deptford by the archaeologists

Finally there is a paper by Chris Maseika. People will know Chris from the Shipyards Palace in Deptford. The paper is “Mapping the Built Environment of the former Royal Dockyard at Deptford.  I do think we must very much be grateful to Chris, and Willi, the amount of work they have done on this issue and others. He outlines the changes which have taken place since the closure of the yard but then moves on to a discussion of the architecture and provenance of some of the buildings. He gives much detail about the architectural provenance of officers accommodation and relates it to the development English domestic architecture. This is the fascinating paper which in its originality opens up whole world of possible connections and gives us new insights into the dockyards and their past history - which is not always just about building and repairing warships

This is an important collection of papers about out local Royal Dockyards and raises important issues which are not just about naval ship construction but the influence of them on the society in which we live in today.  We need to be aware that the Naval Dockyards were more than just places visited by Samuel Pepys and where Nelson’s Navy was built but that they had a long existence as workplaces, manufacturing units with a multiplicity of contacts and influences as well a national and international resonance.
Contact Ann Coats for details and copies.

Monday 4 February 2019

Newsletters, News and stuff

A few notes abour events and so on

GLIAS Newsletter 300

G|LIAS current lecture series
27th February, Mildred Cookson on Roller Flour Mills of London
20th March Tony Riley on London’s Lost Railway Termini
17th April Graham Dolan. Ripples in Time. The Building of Greenwich Power Station and the Unintended Consequences for the Royal Observatory. This is a repeat of the lecture which Graham gave to GIHS last year. It is a very important and interesting lecture and everybody who didn’t hear it in Greenwich should rush up to hear it at GLIAS
15th May AGM (6.15) plus Richard Albanese from Trinity Buoy Wharf.  Again – GIHS heard Richard talk about Trinity Buoy Wharf last month. He is a wonderful speaker on an important local; subject. Go and hear him at GLIAS!
All lectures at 6:30 in the Alan Baxter Ltd gallery 75 Cowcross Street EC1 (round the back and downstairs) See

GLIAS list many other events around London – here are some which may be of interest to Greenwich industrial historians

6th February. Old Rotherhithe. A Docklands History Group film show by Darren Knight 5.30 Museum of London Docklands
12th of February. TFL’s Rail Activities in 2018. This is at the London Underground Railway Society 7.15 Upper Room, All Souls Clubhouse, 141 Cleveland Street, W1
24th February. Low Tide Walk through Deptford creek.  11 am. Creekside Discovery Centre, 14 Creekside SE8
6th March. Riverside Archaeology and Finds. Talk by Jane Sidell. 5.30 Museum of London Docklands
29th March Joseph Bazelgette’s Birthday Party at London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road EC1. It’s free that you need to book
30th March Low Tide walk through Deptford creek 2-4 pm (as above)
31st March. Crossness. Public Steaming day 10.30 -4 Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, SE2
4th April. The Thames River Police.  London Canal Museum talk b/y Martin Wells 7:30 pm 12- 13 New Wharf Road, N1
7th April. Three Mills, House Mill guided tour. -  £4. Three Mill Lane Bromley by Bow E3 - that’s behind Tesco on the Blackwall Tunnel Approach

Elsewhere in the GLIAS Newsletter is an article asking for information about the building in Lewisham High Street which is now the Lewisham Local History Library. What was it before it became a library?


Lewisham Local History Society have sent us their current program
22th February. Mike Brown on the Blitz on Crofton Park
29th March AGM followed by a presentation from Voluntary Auction Lewisham
26th April. Mike Guilfoyle. Some of Lewisham’s Chosen Few - which about people buried in Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery.
31st May Bethelem Royal Hospital in Beckenham
28 June John King on Grove Park in the Great War
All talk to the Methodist Church Hall Albion Way SE 13 7.45

We also have a copy of Lewisham Local History Society Journal No 26 for 2018.  It doesn’t have any articles directly about Greenwich but there is one by Julian Watson on Abraham Colfe. Lewisham benefactor.   Also Carol Harris, Brockley Green to Crofton Park and Diana Beamish on A Teacher, a Carpenter and my family.

Sadly the Lewisham newsletter has on the front page an obituary to John Kennedy Melling.  GIHS members may remember a very memorable talk by him on the Noakesoscope. - a projection system made in Greenwich.


Bromley Local History society meetings

5th February. Pam Preedy on Homes for Heroes – Bromley Garden City
5th March Chris Burton on early and quirky Brixton
2nd April. Elizabeth Haynes. Researching the murder of Harriett Monkton
All meetings 7.45 at Trinity United Reform Church, Freelands Road, Bromley


Greenwich Society Newsletter 2019

We are very pleased to see that the Greenwich Society has published an article by Richard Buchanan on Enderby Wharf and Enderby house in which he ices some of the background and history of the house along with details of the current situation on its refurbishment and the Lay Lines sculpture

Some other articles –
There are some details from Wendy Foreman of the current projects at St Alfege's Church including work in the crypt
They advertise a fundraising event for the Cutty Sark for its 150th Anniversary.  This is on the is on the 2nd of April, costs £65, and included two course meal and entertainments,
There is an article by Pieter Van der Merwe about the gibbets which he says were on Greenwich waterside sites and give some grisly pictures of corpses hanging near North Greenwich. She notes the Lay Lines sculpture and the now abandoned cruise liner sites. She continues to Morden Wharf and notes plans for development there and the proposed loss of Primrose Pier. She also covers Victoria Deep Water Wharf, the golf driving range and work which is about to start on a new music and events venue to called magazine nearer to the Dome
The newsletter also comments on the derelict toilet block on Blackheath


We have news from the Docklands History Group of their conference on the medieval port of London on the 18th of May at the Museum of London

Gustav Milne – The Medieval Port of London - an overview
Professor Vanessa Harding – City and Port - merchants and overseas trade
Dr. Damian Goodburn – Ships and boats of the medieval port
Dr. John Schofield – Medieval waterfront buildings
Alderman Alison Gowman - The Hanseatic Steelyard
Dr. Laura Wright – Language and London Bridge
John Clark – The Medieval Thames: rubbish tip, accident black spot, or sacred river?
Nathalie Cohen – The Fishful Thames: the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods
For further information on the Conference and how to book a place, please visit our website at


We would also remind people of the South East Region Industrial Archaeology Conference this year hosted by Kent Archaeological Society and to be held at Dartford Grammar school on the 13 April book through Mike Clinch mike@, 


We understand there is interest in the old barrage balloon site at Kidbrooke. If anyone has memories or something else about the sire, please get in touch


500 Years of Deptford and Woolwich Royal Dockyards. We have a copy of a special edition of the Transactions of the Naval Dockyards Society. There are some very important papers here and hey demand a thorough review - this will be on this site soon.