Tuesday 30 April 2019

More bits of news

Congratulations to Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society on the on the publication of an Occasional Paper (No. 5)  called "Sweets and Schooldays'  and is a series of reminiscences from WADS members on the sweets they ate and the schools they went to.

At the last GIHS meeting Richard Buchanan told us about street furniture in Greenwich and Woolwich.  A report of a talk  by Richard on this subject was given in a recent WADAS newsletter .

SO - the other reason for congratulating WADAS is that at last they have got a web site!!  The report of Richards talk can thus be read at https://woolwich-antiquarians.org/newsletter

On Monday night was the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels.  They seem to have got a bit bogged down in trying to get new bylaws passed  - the scheme seems to be held up in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.  One report to the meeting was about a plan for a cycle crossing at Rotherhithe this is for a bridge, but there is apparently an alternative plan for electric ferries run by the Thames Clipper people.  See http://www.pla.co.uk/assets/session302geoffsymonds.pdf.

We also understand that the Woolwich Foot Tunnel is to become end of the English Coast path. See http://www.pla.co.uk/assets/session205fracescasanchez.pdf   We also understand that Ian Blore is to lead an walk through the tunnel for the organisers of this initiative. Details soon.

There had been a bit of a kerfuffle in Westcombe Park and Charlton through the abrupt threat of closure of the Angerstein foot crossing by Network Rail.  The Angerstein railway itself can only be known to a few people in the Borough and the foot crossing itself only known by the few hundred people who use it on a daily basis.  A bridge to the crossings runs from Westcombe Park station across the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Motorway. an article about these should appear in the w
Weekender in due course. In the meantime Network Rail changes their collective mind about immediate closure plans following a petition set up by the Westcombe Society, a letter and phone calls from our MP Matt Pennycook, and a letter from the Council legal department!1

We understand or that there is plan to re-build a draw dock at Riverside Gardens (that is what people used to call Lovell's Wharf or Greenwich Wharf).   I think that was a drawdock originally set up by the Greenwich Board of Works in the 19th century. More info would be good.

We understand that archaeological work is about to start on Building 10th Southern block, Royal Arsenal.

AND ………………….

GIHS had an e-mail from someone who was concerned that gutta percha decoration around the door of Enderby House had disappeared.  But no - the leaves were a feature on the building adjacent to Enderby House which unfortunately has been demolished by the developer. Gutta Percha was the substance used successfully as an insulator on early under water cables.

Enderby House itself is supposed to be a pub opens by Youngs.  Something seems to have impeded the pub opening and we look forward to try and find out what it is and making sure that Youngs include the correct historical information when it is fitted out.

The Greenwich Archive Users Forum have published their third newsletter and this can be obtained from e.pearcey@gmail.com,

Can anyone help with this enquiry??

"I am looking for any information relating to Wakeley Brothers of Otterham Quay, Rainham,Kent nd their barges They had offices at Honduras wharf in London. 
I would like to find an image of a Wakeley barge in full sail advertising their 'Famous Hop Manure’. 

Monday 29 April 2019

Greenwich's Black 'Ole

Greenwich’s secret war time location. 
‘The Black ‘Ole’ in Tunnel Glucose.

Unless you worked at the Tunnel Glucose factory during or shortly after the Second World War you might not know what the ‘Black ‘Ole ‘was. It certainly was not a hole but it was really black as I can personally vouch. My father, who worked at Tunnel Glucose from 1935 until 1954, used to tell me anecdotes about the war time work carried out there. Even after the war finished the ‘Black ‘Ole’ continued to operate and I visited it several times with my father to see and wonder at the fantastic colours and experience the acrid smells that were being produced.

What was the ‘Black ‘Ole’ you ask. Very simple it was the location of a massive crucible that smelted down scrap metal at extremely high temperatures to produce magnesium. As this then went into the production of armour plating for armoured vehicles e.g. tanks etc. it was classified as a reserved occupation. Therefore, my father was not called up but both he and my mother became members of the Auxiliary Fire Service which helped fight the fires that resulted from bombings during and after ‘The Blitz’.

My uncle Dick worked in the ‘Black ‘Ole ‘after the war and I used to see him labouring in the filthy, baking hot environment. In the middle of this old building was the crucible full of molten meatal which was positioned over a massive furnace. The smelted metal would be poured into waiting receptacles and at that point there were sparks everywhere lighting up the dark and dismal work area which was full of black soot. So, it became commonly known as the ‘Black ‘Ole’. We often visited my uncle and aunty who lived in Dupree Road and was used to see him bathing in a tin tub in front of the fire. He was always known to my brother and I as ‘Dirty’ Dick due to the dirty condition he came home in after work. My father used to really tell us off if we referred to my uncle as anything other than Uncle Dick. As an ex-soldier my uncle joined the Corps of Commissionaire when the smelting process closed and he subsequently got a job as a security guard on the main works gate at Tunnel Glucose.

One of the other stories my late father used to tell me was about the time he had a visit from a scrap metal merchant during the war. The person trying to sell the scrap to the works manager asked my father to give his boss a box of cigars which was a gift from the supplier. My father duly took the present into his boss but before he went in, he noticed the seal on the box was broken. Being a nosy person, my father opened the lid to find that one of the cigars was missing and in its place was a roll of banknotes the same size as a cigar. He duly closed the lid and on entering his boss’s office handed the box over and left the supplier to start the negotiations with his boss on the value of the scrap metal. My father was never sure what the quality of the scrap was and what it would have yielded for the war effort.

My father was not necessarily always an innocent party during the war as confirmed by another tale he told me of an event that happened during a fire in the East End. As mentioned previously he was in the AFS and was called out to a major fire in a bonded warehouse. On arriving at the scene, he and his crew were advised by the police on duty that if they looked in the fire hydrants when fixing their hoses, they might find something of interest. Being a bonded warehouse full of alcohol I will leave the details of their finds to your imagination. Quite a few people were seen leaving the building clutching its contents!

Very fond memories and I am sure that my father had many more tales to tell .

Graham McDougal

1 May 2019

Thursday 18 April 2019

Belated news

I'm sorry that nothing has been on here in the way of news for some time, very remiss...………...

So what have we got?
Crossness Engines.  We ought to congratulate Crossness Engines on the big party they had to celebrate Joseph Bazalgette's 200th birthday.  this was a great event with all sorts of people including the Mayor of Greenwich and Peter Bazalgette's (the great man's great grandson) and many more. The event included a ceremony to rename a locomotive ' Bazalgette' in preparation for their new railway.  More on that elsewhwere

We have been sent a copy of an excellent new book of photographs of Thamesmeand called 'The Town of Tomorrow. 50 Years of Thamesmead'. I'm not going to pretend that the book is particularly industrial but it does have pictures of building work on the site as well as pictures of the inhabitants and the houses. There is also an essay on the town and how it came to be built. Its a great local book about our area and we should all read it.

The Medieval Port of London.  This is the subject of a conference organised by the Docklands History Group to be held at the Museum of London on 18 May.  It looks like being a great events and if you haven't booked already information is on the Docklands History Group website; www.docklandhistorygroup.org.uk

GLIAS Newsletter April 2019
There is nothing about Greenwich per se in the newsletter but there are lots and lots events you can go to.
15th May GLIAS AGM. this is followed by a talk on Trinity Buoy Wharf and the proposed historic ships collection for London. This is very relevant to us as Trinity Buoy Wharf is just across the river from the Peninsula.  It is at The Gallery 75 Cowcross Street EC1 -opposite Farringdon Station and very accessible now we have trains which go to St.Pancras, 6.15.

The Brunel Engine House is holding a series of events to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Sir Marc Brunel. 
24th April.  Talk by Robert Hulse, the director of the Brunel Museum on the Tunnel. Brunel Engine House- just behind Rotherhithe Station. 7.45
29th May Thames Tideway Project Director of Mike Sawyer on London's Super Sewers. 7.30
26the June FOGWOFT'S Ian Blore on London's Forgotten Foot Tunnel at Woolwich. visit and walk
Details www.rbhistory.org.uk

Other talks from the GLIAS Newsletter which might be of interest to Greenwich

27th April Low tide walk through Deptford Creek. Creekside Discovery Centre 40 Creekside SE8  www.creeksidecentre.org.uk
5th May. Crossness Engines public steaming. Bazalgette Way. 10.30-4. www.crossness.org.uk
5th May House Mill guided tour £4  Three Mills Lane, Bromley by Bow E3  (behind Tesco) www.housemill.org.uk
11th May Trevithick Day at Dartford.  Dartford Central Park 10-5 www.trevithickindustrialdartford.co.uk
12th May Low Tide walk through for Deptford Creek as above
19th May House Mill to tour as above

The Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society Newsletter is packed full of information.  First some dates
11th May Woolwich Women at War by Steve Hookins. Woolwich Antiquarians Charlton House 2 pm
8th June Iron Men, Henry Maudsley by Ian Waller. Charlton House 2 pm
6th July Royal Greenwich four World War One VCs Jim Marrett. Charlton house 2 pm

27th April James Ellis, Charlton developer by Barbara Holland Charlton Society. Charlton House  2.30 www.charltonsociety.org
18th May Brigadier M Richads of Charlton. Military and industrial historian.by Peter Guillery Charlton Society. Charlton House  2.30 www.charltonsociety.org
15th June Charlton Society Summer party at Woolwich Garrison church

We are also pleased to see the announcement that the Falconwood Miniature Railway has had a stay of eviction until the autumn.  The railway will therefore then run on: 21st April, 5th & 19th May, 2nd,16th, 30th June, 14,28 July, 11th,25th August, 8,22 September, 6th October.  The railway is behind the electricity transmission station on Falconwood Way. www.wdmes.co.uk

There many other items covered by WADAS - in addition to their AGM report and Chair's Report for 2018. There is also a conservation report - most items of which will have been dealt elsewhere here.

Also and as well .................

The Prince Philip Maritime Collection Centre.  This is a bit of a mystery. There has been a store for the Maritime Museum for a long time in Kidbrook. They were in a building which dated from the Second World War - said by them to be a hospital although this seems unlikely (let's see your evidence!) This has been replaced by a grand new building but it seems very difficult to find anything out about it. You can see it from the motorway by the bend at the Kidbrooke turn off. It is said to include a Visitor Centre but its very unclear when it can be visited.  The old building was stuffed full of really really interesting items and a was very very large collection. WADAS reports one of their members having a snoop round and getting nowhere but have also had a report which says there are millions of items in the collection and all are recorded on the computer but are taking time to shift into the new building. You can't just turn up and knock on the door - you have to book. So let's see.

The Antiquarians also report on the QR (quick response) tag system. This is something which the Enderby Group has been taking up and it has been installed on the Lay Lines sculpture at Enderby House. It is a system where you can dial up on your Smart phone to get more information about the site. Enderby Group has been trying to interest the various Greenwich tourist organisations - Visit Greenwich and so on - in setting up something wider but without much success.  Chamber of Commerce are now interested. Of course there are problems which will need to be overcome - but if people work together the borough could do something, and with the help of local societies rather than expensive consultants.

Covered Market and the listing of the Lamella roof. This listing has meant the market cannot be demolished as the developer had planned (despite the consultant, Alan Baxter's, report to keep it) It also appears likely that a new conservation area will keep the frontage of shops along Plumstead Road which the developer again had wanted to demolish.

Charlton Riverside. As people the development scheme was turned down and this refusal was endorsed by the London Mayor. It is understood local residents are getting together to try ensure development is suitable for the site and local people

41 Kings Highway. This is a property with a horse and cart through passage which may have led to a stable. The owner wanted to convert it into a room. Refusal was backed by a local campaign and the local conservation officer it means that he is likely to be Listed

Greenwich Mural Workshop is bidding for funding to renew the benches around about what was the Rathmore Community Centre which are 30 years old and originally designed by them

Finally there is a  report on Richard Buchanan's street furniture talk which he gave to GIHS  and more on that to come

These days there is a lot of industrial history online - when GIHS started this was a lone voice - but now its everywhere! Always happy to give publicity if people ask - otherwise it gets quite difficult trying to keep up.

Saturday 13 April 2019

My Father’s Work Experiences at Tunnel Glucose,

My Father’s Work Experiences at Tunnel Glucose
Tunnel Avenue, East Greenwich.

My father, Percy McDougal, was born in 1908 in Siebert Road, Blackheath, the youngest of five children. He left school at the age of 14 and did a variety of jobs including shop work and painting and decorating.  In 1932 he married my mother Doris Hughes and at that time he was working as a shop assistant. By 1935 he had joined Tunnel Glucose and gradually worked his way up the ladder until he became works superintendent. This being his position when he left the company in 1954.

During the 1930’s he made several trips to the company’s parent factory in Alost, Belgium. At that time travel was limited to taking the train to Dover and then ferry to Ostend in order to catch another train to Alost. It was during one of these trips to Belgium that he fell out with management due to the toilet facilities available. The rule in the Belgium factory was that all toilets that the workers used were not fitted with doors. It was considered necessary in order for the workers to be seen taking their toilet break. There was much fear amongst local management that workers would use the toilets as an excuse to skip off to have a smoke. Smoking at the place of work was of course not allowed on hygiene grounds. My father objected strongly that he was not prepared to give up his privacy when the call of nature came. Thus, he made a stand for him to use the same toilets as the Senior Management as they had doors which could be closed when in use. I understood from him that my father won the day but totally upset the company’s Belgium managers.

Tower Julie delivering grain from Amsterdam 1970s
photo Pat O'Driscoll
By the time the second world war started my father was on the way up and in mid forties he had been appointed works foreman. This enabled our family to move from the rented upstairs flat in Chevening Road to a house at the top of Tunnel Avenue, a few doors down from the Fire Station.  My cousin told me many years after my father died that he was the first in our family to buy their own home and to have both a tv and a telephone.

The TV was great but the telephone only seemed to ring when my father was needed out of hours to deal with some kind of works emergency. He was forever being contacted to rush back on his bicycle to handle a manufacturing problem which had stopped production. As a process industry the operation was 24 hours per day and 7 days per week. Now we knew why we had a phone. My father was on 24-hour callout.

One specific incident I can recall is when he was called out one night to deal with a major problem with a tanker that had crashed in Blackwall Tunnel. This was before the additional tunnel we have today. Therefore, there was just one access through the old Victorian tunnel under the Thames.This was the only major road artery connecting north and south London.  It was a long way upstream to Tower Bridge and the Woolwich Ferry was very limited and time consuming. The Tunnel Glucose tanker in question had crashed in the tunnel and spilled its entire load across the road. Blackwall Tunnel was completely blocked and the sticky mess would take hours to clean up and let the traffic flow as normal. My father spent all night and most of the next day on the emergency which was so serious that it made the newspapers. There were no TV crews then as there are today but if there were Percy may well have been interviewed and asked to explain what was being done to resolve this massive disruption to road communications. 

Amongst my fondest memories was the times my father used to bring us home ‘sweets’. Sweets were still on ration so in very short supply. The ‘sweets’ that he brought for my younger brother and I were not bought in shops.  They were yummy slabs of solid glucose which had been produced in the company’s laboratory as part of pre-production testing. They were very hard, crunchy and probably didn’t do our teeth much good but to two young boys they were heavenly gifts of luxury.

Another great memory was my first trip in an aeroplane. In 1953 my father had to make a business trip to the factory in Alost. He decided to take an extra week in Alost as holiday so took my mother, my brother and I with him. We flew from Heathrow when I was allowed chewing gum when we took off and landed. The family stayed in the same hotel my father stayed at before the war and we had a marvellous time whilst he worked hard. Other first experiences were drinking Coca Cola and chocolate milk shake, riding in shiny black Chevrolet and Citroen cars and admiring ‘plus fours ‘which all the children wore. My father refused vigorously my request to bring a pair back to the UK. My thanks to Tunnel Glucose for this wonderful opportunity to travel abroad.

Towards the end of my father’s tenure several things happened to Tunnel Glucose. One was the change of name to Tunnel Refineries and the other was being merged or taken over by a company called Glenville’s. I believe that my father was one of the few people who had stayed on and helped the skeleton staff to survive the difficult wartime. He was not called up as he worked in a protected job and had been totally committed to the company having worked there for nearly 20 years.

Management changes to operating policy was too much for my father to handle so he handed in his notice although he was asked several times to reconsider his decision. He left Tunnel Refineries in the summer of 1954.The same year the family moved to Swindon where he and my mother bought a grocer’s shop. He had returned to his earlier role when he and my mother had first met.

I visited the works on several occasions during the early 1950’s some good experiences some not so good but I will expand on these visits in other memories of Tunnel Glucose and living in Tunnel Avenue.
Tunnel Glucose as Amylum fromm the river 1990
photo Peter Luck

 Graham McDougal

5th April 2019

Friday 5 April 2019

Sir Joseph Bazalgette and Deptford Pumping Station


Photo R.J.M.Carr

28th March was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir Joseph Bazalgette.  He was the Engineer to the 19th century Metropolitan Board of Works - and is most famous for building the London sewage system (and a lot of other things).

On 28th the this year there was a big party down at Crossness Engines - where the sewage from south London all ends up.  People there got a chance to see Busy Basil renamed as Bazalgette - and bits of the new railway, and lots more.

Because of the anniversary a wrote a piece for 'Greenwich Weekender about the works which Bazalgette actually built in Greenwich - Crossness is in Bexley, but only just!

My Weekender article was in their 3rd April edition - and it is on line digitally if you hadn't seen it in print.  https://www.weekender.co.uk/digital-edition/

The main building which Bazalgette built which is actually in Greenwich is the hidden-away Deptford  pumping station in Greenwich High Road/Norman Road.  This was actually the first building in place for the system - as Mick Delap has just discovered - and has sent me a whole lot of wonderful pictures to prove it. Sadly these have come too late for the Weekender article, so I am putting them below.

I would have thought that the Greenwich High Road pumping station is something we should all be proud of.  It is an amazing and very important listed building - along with a huge decorative iron coal store.  Some of it has recently been done up by the Thames Tideway people who are on part of the site.

I never see any mention of it by the Greenwich Society, or the Council, or anyone about how it is one of our major buildings.  So - come on - lets talk about it.   The Tideway people are going to have some open days soon. So lets all go down and admire what we have,

Here are Mick Delap's pictures - and congratulations to him for a lot of hard work,

and - finally - I know this is a bit of blowing my own trumpet and stuff - but I don't know who sees the articles I've done for Weekender.  So - hope you don't mind - here's a list - all on the digital website https://www.weekender.co.uk/digital-edition/

3rd April Bazalgette and Deptford Pumping station
27th March  White Hart Depot
13th March Smells on the Peninsula
6th March Our Poor Doomed Gasholder
1st March 2019 Early copperas industry in Deptford - Nicholas Crispe
6th February 2019 William Joyce shipbuilder
10th October 2018 A world of industrial remains
5th September 2018 The accident at Blackwall Point Power Station
8th August 2018 Women gas workers
16th July 2018 The Charlton, and other, pits
13th June 2018 Sir John Pender - review of book by Stewart Ash
16th May 2018 The Greenwich Harbour Master
18th April 2018 The History of the (gas) holder
21st March 2018 The Greenwich bicycle pioneers
21st February 2018 The Man who built the railway - George Landmann
24th January 2018 The man who built the railway
6th December 2017 The tragic death of Mary Mahoney - killed on her first day at the gunpowder factory.
1st November 2017 Rope- Picking up the strands of our rich history.
3rd October 17th century Woolwich kiln. Gone but not forgotten