Thursday 31 October 2019

Deptford Creek 16th and 17th centuries



In the sixteenth century the requirements of the royal palace at Greenwich continued to be dominant in the pastoral economy of Deptford. The King’s Slaughterhouse was established beside the Ravensbourne on the site of Harold Wharf to supply the Palace with meat from the cattle grazed locally.  It measured 160 feet from east to west and was 50 feet wide with a wharf and a pond at the west end. The date of its foundation is unknown, but John Bagley ‘of the Boiling House; who bought the Hermitage Property in 1548 may have been one of its officers.  The Browne family of Sayes Court oversaw operations here as Clerks of the Green Cloth in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. They grazed oxen, sheep and other animals for the royal household on their fields at Broomfield, Potmead and elsewhere, and their buildings at Sayes Court included 34 bays of ox-stalls of which eight were reserved for the king’s cattle. These structures were ‘somewhat decayed‘ in 1608 and demolished by 1649.

In the late sixteenth century the Slaughterhouse was constantly in trouble with the Sewer Commissioners for its failure to repair its riverbanks, and the wharf was collapsing in 1608. It also occasionally worked for the Navy in the seventeenth century, at times when the demand on its slaughterhouse at Tower Hill was too great.

The property was leased out in 1649 to Daniel Dunne, and later to Sir Nicholas Crispe. It was sold to John Evelyn in 1663 and assessed for four hearths in the following year. The site of the Slaughterhouse still appeared on the maps of Gwilt in 1774-5 and Duggleby in 1777, when it was a pottery. Any of its remains which still survive below the ground surface can be compared to the excavated structures of the contemporary naval victualling yard at the Royal Mint site in Tower Hamlets.

Another adjunct of Greenwich Palace in Deptford was the Kings Dog Kennel on the west side of Brookmill Lane (formerly called Dog Kennel Row), where Henry VIII kept his buckhounds for hunting. A piece of medieval walling still survived here until the late nineteenth century. The Dog Kennel still housed the Royal buckhounds and was in good repair in 1608, but in 1649 it was also let to Daniel Dunne and was in a bad state. It then had nine rooms and in 1664 it was assessed for three hearths.

The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond was established by royal charter in 1514 following a petition of 1513. Early as 1515 and later in the sixteenth century the Corporation of Trinity House owned several pieces of marshland in Deptford Marsh and Stowage Marsh. Its initial responsibilities were mainly the superintendence of the pilotage of the Thames and the maintenance of an almshouse at Deptford on the east side of St, Nicholas churchyard.  In the Armada campaign of 1588 arms and armour for the land levies of the nearby villages were stored at the Trinity House in Deptford, consisting of 16 corselets, poles and other arms. They were demolished after 1895 and the site eventually passed to the power station.

In the 17th century a second set of almshouses was built on the east side of Church Street. They were demolished in 1877 but the hall was still standing derelict in 1881. In 1929 it was used for the manufacture and storage of canvas sacks.  New wharves were built adjacent to Deptford Bridge in the sixteenth century, one of rammed chalk on the west bank between the bridge and the flood gates of the Tide mill, probably utilising a waste product from the nearby lime kilns. Another chalk wharf lay on the east bank opposite by 1522-30. Similar chalk wharves of a late sixteenth century date have been excavated on the Ratcliffe and Limehouse waterfronts. A lease of 1535 required the construction of a house on the wooden wharf on the east bank to the north of the bridge.

Deptford Bridge itself needed reconstruction several times as a result of damage sustained from flood waters coming down the Ravensbourne in 1629, 1652, 1808-09 and 1824. The floods of 1808-9 destroyed the upper part of the bridge and the eastern of its two arches. These were rebuilt and iron girders spanning the river were provided as additional support.  The central pier which obstructed the water coming down the Ravensbourne and caused much of the flooding appears in a view of 1840 and still existed in 1853.

this article was first published in the GIHS Newsletter in May 1999

Memories of a Royal Ordinance Factory apprentice . Part three

Memories of a Royal Ordinance Factory apprentice
Part three
By John Day

After the gauge shop I went to the Electrical Section. in a way it was fortuitous that I went off sick for a fortnight over the change, since during that time my father was promoted from foreman of the Electrical Shop (where I would’ve been under him) to manage the Mechanical Engineering Department-  this included everything mechanical except production.  I had three, three month, sessions in the Electrical Section; one in the Power Station; one in the DC and one on AC work
During my stint at the Power Station my main job consisted in spending the morning doing the rounds of all the meters - recording pressures, temperature flows and consumptions, changing the charts and working out how the Power Station was performing. Call usage was gauged by going down into the hoppers and estimating the average levels. For this I had to be accompanied by a mate in case I stood on a hidden void.  The rest of the day was more or less my own. Sometimes I would wander into the Boiler house and learn the art of throwing a shovelful of more or less pea size coal into the hopper of a chain stoker in a nice neat jet.

I mended a CO2 recorder but I suddenly found myself busy when it was suggested I could scrape in one of the slide valves of the Vickers Howden.  Otherwise I could sit quietly in the engineers office at the end of the switchboard and get on with Polytechnic homework.  Life in a power station is either boring or when something goes wrong – panic.   Such a life left turbine drivers to cosset their machines and heaven help anyone who dares to put a sweaty hands on a highly polished handrail without insulating it with a lump of cotton waste first.  During my time there somebody started one of the three throw high-pressure pumps without checking that the stop valve was open.  The result Barimar did a fine job in welding the two parts of the 4 inch crankshaft together again

My DC spell was under Bill Heywood although I spent a couple of weeks on armature winding. Woolwich never sent anything out for repair.  Bill was also responsible for the electrical test bed where motors could be tested the power up take etc. Power was measured with a fan brake made up of a pair of steel channels clamped round the motor shaft and carrying steel fan plates at their ends. There were several pairs of plates of different areas and calibration charts for them. If a motor had a short shaft this was no problem we just cut the corner of the plate to clear the most carcass I did not bother to adjust the calibration. The motor was bolted to the rails of the floor and the fan spun freely in an adjacent pit. There was no thought of putting a guard over the fan -we just kept out of the way. Mind you, the noise was a good reminder of what was happening

Another thing we tested was a generator for a plating plant- ‘all amps and no volts one might say. The load was supplied by bolting a couple of pieces of checker plate to a lump of wood about 9 inches thick and lowering into an old cast iron tank that happened to be outside the shop window. The plates were about a couple of feet square and they certainly made the water boil

This piece originally appeared in GIHS Newsletter for December 1998

A Railway Service on the Dome site

A Railway Service on the Dome site
Review of East Greenwich gasworks by Malcolm Millichip

Most local people know that the site of the gasworks that is now to house the Millennium Dome once had a very efficient internal railway system - and that it was connected to the outside world by the still functioning Angerstein line. It has taken an article on the East Greenwich Gas Works Railway to give us the details on this.  The article is by Malcolm Millichip who wrote an excellent book on the gasworks railways of north London and has now turned his eyes to the south. He’s been helped on the details by local expert, Brian Sturt. The article appears in the November issue of Railway Bylines.

East Greenwich gasworks was a large and complicated site which included two separate chemical works in addition to other specialist sections. The article outlines details of the two narrow gauge and one standard gauge railway on site. It gives a brief background to the works and its development showing how the railway was built as the works itself grew and expanded. Initially the railway system was internal only but from 1900 and it was joined by the Angerstein railway via a mile spur from the main part of the line running from the Angerstein Junction near Charlton Station. At first it was a single-track connection only but was eventually doubled. The article comments on the 'proliferation' of signaling equipment and the two signal boxes - one of which survived for many years adjacent to the recently demolished bridge over Riverway.

The article also outlines the enormous variety of locomotives used at East Greenwich - steam, petrol and diesel. It is fascinating to learn that this railway was still in operation only 30 years ago and as most locals know the track into the works survived until earlier this year

This article appeared in the December 19th 1998 edition of the GIHS newsletter

Mundy cutlers

Mundy Cutlers
Research by John West

We had been asked about a knife which appeared to have been made by Mundy Cutlers and apparently made in Greenwich. I have spent some time at Woodlands, and half an hour with the street directories and suggest the following:

1870 Monday William 5 Little Cross Street Islington
1875 Mundy, William 5 Little Cross Street, Islington and 6 Artillery Street E
1877 Mundy, William, 87 London Road, Southwark and 16 Artillery Street E
1883 as above
1886 as above
1886 Mundy Arthur, 247 Walworth Road
1893- 1939 Mundy, William Samuel 50 London Street, Greenwich
1893 Greenwich Rate book 50 London Street William Samuel Mundy House/shop rateable value £46
1907 Mundy William (Mrs.). working Cutler.
1907 Mundy William (Mrs.). Working Cutler, 3 Carter Street Walworth
1940 London Street becomes 241 Greenwich High Road. Mundy there until 1942
1940-1943 Mundy, William Samuel 162 Fenchurch Street EC4
1950-1968 Mundy and Co.Ltd. 87 London Road Southwark and 162 Fenchurch Street EC

The 1880 60inch OS for London Road, Southwark, does not indicate any workshop or small foundry. Mundy was always listed under 'Cutlers' and not 'Cutlery manufacturers'.  The 1907 entry may be significant as they describe themselves as 'Working Cutlers '.

I didn’t have the time to search earlier or later volumes but the above indicates they were long established invest successful firm but what entice them to Greenwich
John West

This article first appeared in the December 1998 GIHS Newsletter

Richard Wheen – Deptford soap manufacturer.

Richard Wheen – Deptford soap manufacturer.

By Neil Rhind

Richard Wheen (1808-1885) soap manufacturer of Deptford lived at Colonnade House, 7 South Row Blackheath 1853 -1863

Wheen was probably one of the most typical of the successful Blackheath families of his time obvious time in that he was involved in the manufacturing process of his business, clearly successful and philanthropic and able to accommodate a large family in the relatively prosperous and rural suburb of Blackheath.

Nevertheless he rode to work on his horse each day. Also his sons entered the family business and learned the technology and marketing systems which kept the business prosperous.  It flourished in Deptford from 1849 until 1955.

He had been in partnership with brother John from the 1830s with a soap factory on Ratcliffe Highway. The factory had been founded in 1769 and was eventually owned by Joseph Moate. Moate was Richard Wheens uncle and the boy married Moates daughter (also his cousin) Anna Maria eventually siring 13 children. He encouraged his brother John Frith Wheen (1816- 1903) to join the business. By 1837 they were manufacturing 645 ton of soap.  In 1838 the figure had risen to 715 tons, worth then over £10,000. But after a few years they decided it was not profitable enough to support two families and they parted company but without rancor.  Richard moved to Creek Road, Deptford, taking over a pin factory on the waters edge and once the Ravensbourne Wood Mill.  He pioneered a number of techniques of soap manufacture including the first use of soap coppers boiled by steam and not direct heat.

Before taking Colonnade House Richard Wheen had lived at York Terrace, Regents Park. The move was clearly necessary. Over the 10 years the Wheens lived in Blackheath the family grew and Richard and Maria were blessed with 11 children at Blackheath and employed no less than seven resident servants – including a butler, footman and coachman - the largest number in any house in the district even Rangers House, then occupied by HRH Prince Arthur, later Duke of Connaught.
The Wheens moved in 1863 to Hayes Place, Keston, then to Lancaster Gate. His retirement was spent enjoying sporting activities with shooting in Scotland. Mr. and Mrs. Wheen finally retired to Courtlands at Tunbridge Wells where Richard died in November 1885. He left £50,000 as well as property and a prosperous business. Marie Wheen had died in 1881 aged 63.

The business past to the control of three of his sons Richard (1838-1910) Francis (1850-1925) and CharlesWheen. It was floated as a public company in 1898 but remained with the Wheen descendants until competition from the big names led to an agreement with Lever Brothers and its closure.  from the early Deptford days and until recently the company and family had turned for legal advice to solicitor Griffiths Thomas and his descendant partners in the practice now known as Clifford Chance Thomas has resident at 6 The Paragon from 1851 to 1860

During his time at Blackheath Richard Wheen had been an active member of the Blackheath Improvement Association; the eldest son, Richard, was educated at the Blackheath Propriety School from 1852 to 1854. Children at Colonnade House were Richard, Maria, Diana, Helen, Anne, Francis, Mary, Emma, Louisa, Edward and Charles in 1861 Wheen extended and altered the house perhaps to the form it retained until 1941. The works were substantial costing nearly £1,500 and requiring the services of architect Francis Freeman Thorne then at No101 Dacre Park

This article first appeared in the GIHS newsletter for December 1998.  Copyright Neil Rhind.

Letters received in late 1998 and reprinted in the GIHS newsletter

 Letters received in late 1998 and reprinted in the GIHS newsletter

From John West
I noted an item asking about Perkins steam gun in an earlier issue. Jacob Perkins (1766- 1849) engineer, inventor and advocate of high-pressure steam techniques, designed in 1827-8 a steam gun for the French Government.  He asked John Penn & Sons, millwrights and engineers of Greenwich to make the gun for him. John Penn I (1770- 1843) and head of the firm agreed to undertake the projects and entrusted the work to his son John Penn II (1805-1878) who still in his twenties was showing all the signs of becoming a brilliant engineer like his father.

The steam gun had a wrought iron rifled barrel of 3 inches calibre and during trials at the lime kilns Greenwich proved to be as efficient as Perkins had hoped. Trials were also carried out on waste ground in Westminster where it was inspected by many military men and eventually the Duke of Wellington. During the trials the 3 inch bullets were shot off at high speed and penetrated and an iron plate 100 yards off. On learning that the boiler for the gun weighed five tons the Duke saw immediately how impractical it was the transport it across country or field. Penn is said to have commented to Perkins it’s all up with us now! Perkins reaction is not recorded however Penn did take the gun to Paris and stayed about three months but the fall of the French Government in 1830 ended all interest in the project.  

Eventually the gun was returned to this country and exhibited at the Adelaide Gallery that opened in London in 1830, for the purpose of promoting science and technology. The gun was finally sold a scrap. The failure of the steam gun did Penn no harm as he later became one of the finest and most successful marine engineers of his day

From Howard Bloch
Further to the query in an earlier issue about the Silvertown explosion. A number of accounts have been written about the Silvertown explosion which occurred at Brunner Mond Works at Crescent Wharf, West Silvertown at about 6:50 PM on 19th of January 1917

The incident caused widespread damage, killing 73 people and injured several hundred.  At the time rumours spread about its cause . Cyril Demarne recalls some of these:
      The works chemist a German named Dr Angel had sabotaged a consignment of TNT. 
      It was the new type of bomb which would win the war for Germany
      A German spy had planted a bomb on the rail tracks loaded with explosives
And many more

A Court of Enquiry was held in 1917 which was unable to determine the cause of the fire which resulted in the subsequent explosion

References:  Wendy Neal. With disastrous consequences. London Disasters 1830- 1917 Hislaric Press pps 183- 201, Frank Sainsbury The Silvertown Explosion. Newham History Society. Occasional; papers No. 2 November 1988 pps 25 – 44, Winston G, Ramsey The East End then and Now. After the Battle. 197 p.90

Like an earthquake. About 7 o’clock a fire started at the factory in the East of London, near the river which was employed as refining explosives.  A few minutes after an explosion occurred which was attended by considerable loss of life

His Majesty the King has made enquiries as to the extent of the damage and loss of life and has expressed his solicitude for the victims and their families

In Sacred Memory of Victims of the Great Explosion in the East End of London on Friday evening January 1917.  May their souls rest in peace. With sincere sympathy to the friends and relatives.

Pathetic incidents. Heart rending scenes were witnessed at Poplar Hospital where casualties arrived shortly after the disaster. Women, and men too, were moved to tears as they watched the bodies, some limbless and some almost lifeless lifted from the ambulance and carried by the Red Cross into the building. Most of the poor victims were unconscious and many had passed beyond human aid by the time the hospital gates were reached

From Iris Bryce
I was interested in reading about the gasworks as my grandfather worked there just before World War I. I  remember him spending a lot of time in bed as he had had an accident at the Gas Works before I was born. My Gran always took me with her when she went to the Gas Works to collect a small pension for Grandfather. I should imagine it was something quite rare in those days and wonder just what kind of accident he had.  I certainly remember walking past the gas holder and going up the outside iron staircase of a brick building to the office where Gran was given a small brown envelope every Friday morning
Burndepts factory in Blackheath - there are several mentions of this along with the Burnham family, who owned the company, in a book called Setmakers – A History of the Radio and Television Industry. There are also photographs of the factory ,their products and the family. The book was published as a special edition and available I believe only to the trade. Publishers The British Radio and Electronic Equipment Manufacturers Association. 1991. This may be of interest to someone

I was born in Greenwich and worked at Siemens Factory in 1940 and two years later worked at the Telecom factory in Greenwich.  My mother worked from 1928 until the 1940s at British Ropes in Charlton and my father was a barge-builder at Corys Yard in Charlton for 35 years.  Mysister worked at the Kork-n-Seal factory in Charlton in the 1930s before going to Siemons, where my brother also worked.   I have written about some of this in my book Remember Greenwich and I have lectured at Plumstead Library and also for the London Historical Society.
During 1942 -3 I worked at the Telegraph Construction Company or the Telcon as it was known.  I was in the Buying Department and my boss Mr. Leighton was always invited to lunch on board the cable ships when they tied up outside the office on his return it was it was obvious they were very liquid lunches. I lived in Woodland Walk so I went home for lunch. 
I would have loved to see inside the staff canteen which was a lovely old house standing almost on the Rivers edge. To my uneducated 16-year-old eye it looked hundreds of years old. I was told in the basement there were still chains in the wall which had been used to shackle convicts. Shutters or doors in the walls facing the river were left up or open. When the tide came in the cellar was great flooded and the prisoners drowned. Do you know if the house still stands?

From Malcolm Tucker
G.W.Dresser. I’ve been doing some research on gasholders in the library of the Institution of Gas Engineers and I chanced upon the name Major Dresser in the index of the Proceedings of the British Association of Gas Managers – a predecessor of the Institution of Gas Engineers. He seems to come over from America for the annual conference and contributed to the discussions on two papers on Illuminating Power Measurement and Gas for Heating.  He was elected an Honorary Member – i.e. Captain G Warren Dresser., Editor of the American Gaslight Journal. Perhaps 'Major' was a courtesy title for a 'Captain'.  His address was given as 42 Pine Street, New York

Editor: It is understood that Malcolm is undertaking a historical assessment of gas holders in London. It is also understood from comments made by The Weasel in The Independent that the New Millennium Experience Company have now put aside plans to screen the big gas holder at the East Greenwich from the view of tourists. Has some recent press interest in it persuaded them otherwise?

From Harold Slight. The article about Woolwich Arsenal by John Day: a distant relative of mine went to the Arsenal both pre and post war. he says that references to apprentices and an engineering degree are incorrect The writer should have said HNC or C&G finals, yes - never heard of a graduate apprentice joining the workforce. Certainly not prewar when a university education was virtually restrict to the upper classes

John Day replies – Howard Slight’s relative obviously was not at Woolwich when Sir Sydney Bacon, Malcolm Starkey, Alfred Bennett and Robert Walker were apprentices - all have degrees in engineering i.e. BSC (Eng) as I have. And all are still alive and a later bit of this piece tells a bit about one. Would he like to bet about the degrees?  I still have proof from University of London dated 1939. What evidence has he got? Hearsay evidence is not accepted in law

Early Indications of Shipbuilding in the Greenwich Area

Early Indications of Shipbuilding in the Greenwich Area
By John Fox

WT Vincent in his book The records of the Woolwich District written in the 1890s, when writing about Abbey Wood, tells us that With the deep hollow close by the ruins of the old abbey, tradition has always associated it with the name The Roman Dock and although tradition alone in is a bad witness, tradition supported by collateral facts is always receivable as evidence.  It may be thought he laid more emphasis on oral tradition than actual fact. But the two ponds which are there now and shown on Ordnance Survey maps of the time Mr. Vincent was writing, indicate that here the Marsh did extend into the hills of Abbey Wood.

On a map drawn about 1580 a considerable tidal stream or river it shown entering the Thames at a spot west of Crossness Point.  This river flowed from its source somewhere in Eltham, around the western part of Welling, roughly following the route of the present Wickham Lane to enter the Thames. It dried up when further enclosures of Plumstead marshes kept out the tides.  On this map a branch of the stream is shown diverging eastwards towards Lesnes Abbey.  Mr. Vincent suggests that in Roman times a naval station was built at the end of this branch where they constructed their ships of war and commerce. he suggests that at low tide a blockage was put across the stream, someone near the present road, thus making a tidal dry dock in which to build their craft

The hollow written about is less than 100 yards west of the Abbey and I would guess it to be 20 feet deep. Mr. Vincent writes the dock is partly a natural slade and partly excavation.  There are manifest signs of it having been deepened in places and the angular protuberances on the banks which are like nothing in nature. But I’m afraid that all any present visitor will see is a landscaped valley, all sign that it’s sloping sides have ever been anything other than lawns have been removed.  By its size it is obvious that a large stream must have flowed here once

All this is rather fanciful without proof.  Only a respected authors hypothesis about a local place name.  Without firm evidence let us examine the likelihood of shipbuilding ever having taken place here.  there is no record are there any savant examining the site before Mr. Vincent‘s time.  Maybe when local people again to call it The Roman Dock more evidence was to be seen.  It is known that Roman activity was extensive in the area; a fort where Woolwich Power Station is, or was, burials in Wickham Lane, perhaps building the river wall around Plumstead marshes, and a road from Bostall Heath to Erith that ran close to Lesnes Abbey.
Primitive boats have been dug out of the peat in the area. Whilst this doesn’t prove they were built here it does indicate that the marsh might have been flooded when the vessels originally floundered.

A builder of ships must consider the nearness of the raw material for their construction. an example of this is the London ship building industry of the last century going to the northern part of the country not only because of the abundance of cheap labour but to be near the iron and steel manufacturing centres. Two thousand years before this a Roman shipbuilder would face exactly the same problems. He would need a tidal effected stretch of water near to a plentiful supply of wood with which to build his ship.  Marshy areas close to the City were probably denuded of timber to provide firewood for its population by then and if he went up river the effect of the tide would lessen.   Going down river on the north bank stretched the marshes of Essex, looking at the small amount of marshland remaining today at Barking and Rainham one could see the marsh supports few trees suitable for the building of ships. It was the same on the south bank until reaching Greenwich; here the hills come close to the river, bug the uplands being on the infertile Blackheath Beds the material of which ships were built grew sparsely.   The trees which covered Shooters Hill showed promise but it was two miles from the river. When our shipbuilder went up the river that flows into the Thames at Crossness Point he would come to a branch of the river that flowed from tree-covered hills.  It was everything the shipbuilder was seeking.  The south bank held a plentiful supply of wood; the stream flowed through a valley that could be dammed and with little effort, here would be an ideal place to build wooden boats

The Augustinian Canons who built Lesnes Abbey in 1179 of stone, said to have been brought from Caen in Normandy, were respected for building only where the building materials could be transported to the intended building easily.  If they had unloaded their stone on the banks of the River Thames the 1 1/2 miles through marshland to the site of the Abbey would have been an almost impassable barrier, but not if they downloaded their stone onto the banks of the stream that almost reached the site of the Abbey, that had been deepened and its banks shored up by long ago shipbuilders.  Then the stone laden boats could be dragged up the stream at high tide and the materials unloaded. This way the transport of building material by boat was possible

This does not attempt to present conclusive evidence that early ship building in the area took place in Roman times,  after so many years I doubt if such confirmation could be found.  But there are so many pointers that lead towards the conclusion that the valley just west of Lesnes Abbey would have been high on the list of possible ship building sites close to London in the Roman era.  although just the mention the Vincent‘s name will immediately raise doubts in any local historians mind, to sum up I can do no than to quote his final thoughts on the question of The Roman Dock' must be conceded that the Romans, the Danes, and other early shipwrights would build their vessels somewhere near the capital, and, apart from tradition and probability I would ask if anyone can find a situation and a confirmation so suitable and convenient for the purpose as this  needless to say W.T. Vincent was a strong advocate that here in Abbey Wood the earliest indications of ship building in the Greenwich area are to be found.

This first appeared in the GIHS newsletter for December 1998

Setting up Siemens Industrial Museum in Woolwich Part one

Setting up Siemens Industrial Museum in Woolwich 
Part one

By Iain Lovell

This account describes the setting up of an industrial museum at the AEI (formerly Siemens Brothers works in Woolwich) in the late 1950s. It covers not only the exhibits displayed but the circumstances under which it was commissioned and the interactions of the personalities involved. It is written from a position of personal involvement

In 1958 I was employed by AEI Woolwich limited as a student apprentice on a sandwich course; alternating the first six months of each year at college with six months work experience, comprising 6 to 8 weeks spells in various departments of the company. A chance conversation over lunch with another student at the company’s research laboratory in Blackheath, where we were both working, lead to one of the most interesting assignments of my career.

Siemens Brothers, one of the earliest electrical engineering companies, had been founded in Woolwich, on the south bank of the Thames a century earlier. There had been three Siemens brothers who set up engineering businesses in different parts of the world - Werner Siemens stayed in Germany and later combined with Halske; Karl Wilhelm Siemens came to England and set up in Woolwich, changing his name to Charles William and married an Englishwoman; Oskar Siemens set up in America.

The company had undergone many changes and amalgamations being known at various stages in its history as Siemens Edison Swan, Siemens Editswan, and latterly, AEI Woolwich Ltd, part of the giant Associated Electrical Industries group. During the 19th century a museum of the products had been set up but by the 1930s had become neglected. At the start of the war space became very scarce because of military production needs and there was bomb damage to some buildings. The exhibits were dispersed into various storerooms, pressed back into service or lost

A decision was taken to restore the museum as far as possible for the Duke of Edinburgh‘s visit for the companys centenary. The new museum was to be housed in a former library used by William Siemens in Woolwich. In charge of this project was Dr George Sutton, director in charge of the research laboratory in Blackheath. Reporting directly to him was Brian Rispoli, a student. It soon became obvious that Brian would not be able to complete the work alone within the five week deadline. Following a lunch time conversation with me he put my name forward to Dr Sutton urn and I was asked to join the team. Also co-opted onto the team was Terry Card, an instrument maker, who was assigned the task of restoring the exhibits. An exhibition designer John Arnold was contracted through the firm of Cyprien Fox to do the display work.

We used a conference room on the lower ground floor as an office/workshop. Off it led four individual offices one of these was uses sporadically by Dr Sutton and the other three were unoccupied. Access to the conference room was via a store room, for want of a better word, containing a huge number of books, ledgers and other documents.  They dated mainly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries but some went back to the 18th century. They included an almost complete set of bound volumes of the Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (originally known as the Society of Telegraph Engineers) from its inception in about 1870 tot the 1930s.  There were a number of text books, mainly on engineering but also on biology, botany and other sciences. Many were beautifully illustrated and some were printed in German. There was also the first wages book and the letter book. I was told this collection included the Obach Library, a private collection left by a senior employee named Obach many years earlier supposedly on condition it was properly looked after.  These books were stacked against walls, stored in cardboard boxes or left lying in piles on the table on the floor. Amongst them were the components of a number of steel shelf units intended to store the books but never assembled

The building had some bizarre architectural features.  The position of some light switches in and around the storeroom bore no logical relationship to that of the fluorescent tubes they controlled; operating a switch might light a tube in a distant corridor, sometimes after a number of seconds, as the starters were not all affective.  The heating was by large cast-iron radiators most of which were at floor level, as is normal.  Some however were anything from 2 to 6 feet above the ground

The exhibits were brought to the conference room in crates and cardboard boxes. Many were damaged scratched or dusty.  The books in the storeroom with invaluable in researching the exhibits and most of our information came from that source. Some time before we started on the project the Company had lent several of the instruments for a temporary exhibition to the Science Museum who returned them without the descriptive notice.  The notices were jumbled together with the instruments and some were inaccurate but nevertheless made a very useful starting point for research.

One of our earliest tasks was to sort the useful books from the irrelevant once and assemble one of the dismantled bookcases to store the frequently used volumes. in doing this we risked precipitating a strike but there was not time to wait till the millwrights arrived - when they eventually came to assemble the other cases the Duke of Edinburgh‘s visit was over.  Because of the short time span John Arnold had been obliged to design a showcase and order them to be made before he knew what was to be stored in them.

Dr Sutton was a striking person of a great charm, born about 1890.  A little over 6 feet in height he had a tall wave of white hair, slightly yellowed like antique ivory and large horn rimmed glasses.  the most startling aspect of his appearance was the  informality of his dress, at a time where a dark lounge suit was just about acceptable office wear for an ex executive, he would typically wear pale yellow corduroy trousers, a bright red plaid patterned open neck shirt, a hounds tooth  sports jacket with leather patched elbows and sandals.  It was very rare for him to wear a tie.  He appeared to us to be quite detached from the hurly-burly of office politics.  He had a profound knowledge and great interest in the history of engineering. he spoke frequently and always with the greatest fondness about his father who had been an engineer or scientist and I remember him saying was a member of the Horological Society.  his father had a laboratory/ workshop in the garden of their home where as a boy Dr Sutton was allowed on occasions to watch him work

John Arnold was a completely different character, born in 1915; he was a short stocky man with a friendly outgoing manner, a lively sense of humour, sometimes a bit vulgar by the standards of the day, and a ready smile.  He was very quick to see the potential of the exhibits and how they could be arranged to demonstrate engineering themes, although he had virtually no technical knowledge.  He also had great dynamism and well understood the urgency of the deadlines. He had some pithy descriptions of the type of person one met in publicity work.  One was the little Emperor i.e. the self-important head of department who could not understand how anyone could attach any importance to anything other than his department. Another was the Ancient Mariner who, as in the poem, insists on describing his own interests at inordinate length when you had other urgent business to attend to.

Another personality who impinged on our working lives was always ironically referred to by Dr Sutton as Thunder and Lightning, no description could have been less appropriate. He was short, stout and very diffident. If you had not been given a specific task he was often go into the storeroom to look through the old books. Sometimes he would bring one to us, wait patiently until one of us looked up from his work and show us a picture invariably quite unrelated to what you were doing. I remember a beautifully detailed colour print of a toadstool protected by leaf of tissue paper in a 19th century book printed in German. he would look earnestly at us with his grey eyes and say toadstool or bird' or tree as the case may be.

This first appeared in the GIHS newsletter for December 1998

Wednesday 30 October 2019

Memories of a ROF apprentice. Part 2

Memories of a ROF apprentice. Part 2
By John Day

While I was in the New Fuze Factory I also worked on a milling machine. Right in the deep end for John, I made a set of helical milling cutters for use in the tool room, sizes ranged from half inch end mills to 4 inch slab cutters   Anyone who has done helical milling will have found that the calculated settings for the helix are not the settings for the machine, that is where experience comes in.  The chap who taught me was Fred Best the highest regarded miller in the shop who did not hold with advanced education and told me I was wasting my time as there are people with degrees sweeping the streets. One Freds jobs was making the gauges for slide ways for the new 3.7 inch gun. These were planed on his Parkinson milling machine using the fast table feed.  Freds usual work was to mill the spiral sectors on cams for the automatic lathes in next door‘s factory. I can still remember how it was done if anyone wants to know

Another engineering apprentice in the tool room at the same time - he was a year before me -was A Sherwood who became a Professor of Mathematics in Australia and achieved fame for building an 00 gauge coal-fired model steam locomotives

There was always tea making. This was done by boiling water in a conical tin tea can which had a tin cup as the lid and scraping a screw into the boiling water. A screw was a mixture of tea leaves and condensed milk screwed up in a corner of newspaper and brought from home. Overall washing was provided by one of the labourers who boiled them in soda over the shop blacksmiths forge in his lunch hour. The money he charged for this was banked with the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society to provide him with a funeral with black horses, plumes and all the trimmings. He also kept the shop supplied with cigarettes, tobacco, biscuits and sweets which he brought wholesale and sold at retail prices for the same cause.

The hours of work at Woolwich were 8 a.m. to 5:40 pm and 8 to 11 40 on Saturday with two weeks holiday. The two weeks were made up of closed week Kings Birthday (the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning before Whitson bank holiday) bean feast and the bank holidays.  Timekeeping was by Gledhill- Brooks time clocks and individual time cards.  There were two racks for the cards one each side of the clock, in and out. These were normally kept shut during working hours and opened a few minutes before clocking off time by the time clerk. It was well known that by rattling the handle the clock could be made to jump a minute sometimes and the first on the clock was expected to gain this extra minute for the rest of the queue. One minute of lateness was allowed clocking on thereafter one lost a quarter up to 15 minutes late and so on.  Nobody was allowed to start until the foreman had walked up the shop, where there was a panic to put away newspapers. I once started before as I had a stranger; or contract job for a friend on hand and received a right earful from the stop steward.

Another earful was earned when I was doing a contract job on the Brown and Sharp surface grinder. Somebody had acquired a length of stainless steel having a section similar to a flat bottomed rail and I was asked to grind the base so that he could make a spirit level.  I put the stainless steel on the magnetic chuck, switched the chuck on and brought the grinding wheel down onto the job. That was when I learnt that stainless this is not magnetic.  There was a bang, the job flew across the shop, the 6 inch diameter wheel broke and bits flew through a window across an alleyway to another window and landed in the shop next door. Questions were asked. I hadnt a guard over the wheel - nobody had guards, they slowed work down. The enquiry laid down that guards has to be refitted. They were for a week or so. There was very little guarding of moving machinery in those days compared with now. Most of the machine dated back to World War I and were driven from line shafting through open belts. There were no chuck guards on lathes, no cutter guards on milling machines and speed changing on cone pulleys was done with the lump of wood against the moving flat belt. We learnt to keep clear ourselves rather than relying on somebody else having made a machine fool proof.  I don’t suppose there has been a great reduction in industrial accidents in this mollycoddle age

This article first appeared in GIHS newsletter October 1998.

Musings on Industry in the area of Blackheath Road

Musings on Industry in the area of Blackheath Road

By Richard Cheffins

Richard began this article with comments on a letter from John Day on steam gun experiments by Mr. Perkins in the lime kilns at Blackheath. Richard said:

I cant identify Mr. Perkins for John Day and cannot imagine what application steam had to guns, unless in their manufacture.  Two things however might militate against such an interpretation, the sense of the quotation itself, and the fact that the Royal Small Arms Factory, barely a quarter of a mile from the lime kilns and worked by steam as well as water power had closed down in1818 and moved to Enfield as documented in McCartney and West’s excellent book Lewisham Silk Mills 1998

The Limekilns
My interest is in the lime kilns - the burning of chalk to produce lime or quicklime which was an essential ancillary industry in the building trade for the production of both mortar and lime wash. The last outcrop of chalk in North West Kent before London was near the foot of Blackheath Hill.  On Travers 1695 map of the Manor of Greenwich - i.e. the modern west Greenwich - reproduced in the Lewisham Silk Mills - the lime kilns are shown to the east of Blackheath Hill where Holy Trinity Church was subsequently built. On the opposite side of Blackheath Hill chalk pits continue to be shown on sundry maps until the 1860s. By then lime making had long finished and no trace remains on the ground – though I’m not sure what one would be looking for. The industry was in its time important enough and lasted long enough to give its name for a while to a neighbourhood.  Roque’s map of 1746,  surveyed in 1742, shows a cluster of buildings, almost a hamlet, round the junction of the Dover Road on the road from Greenwich to Lewisham -  Greenwich South Street /Lewisham, Road which is called Limekilns. Other maps and directories continue to use the same name usually in plural until round the mid 19th century South Street was called Limekilns Lane - the lane to the limekilns until the 1820s 

Kentish Mercury
At the other end of Blackheath Road the former Kentish Mercury office is documented on the building itself. To the left of the entrance on the corner of Deals Gateway is the foundation stone which reads Arthur C.Russell LRIBA, architect. William Mills and Sons, builders 1925. In fact the Kentish Mercury had occupied the site half a century before that. In Kelly’s Directory of 1872 it is located in Bexley Place, the present Greenwich High Road, between Prince of Orange Lane and the Auctioneer Pub.  In their next issue of 1876 it had moved to 7 Queen's Place which was renumbered 12 Blackheath Road by 1878. By 1884 it had extended to 6-12 Blackheath Road reaching to Deals Gateway corner

By that date, if not sooner, the Mercurys printing works were here as well as the editorial offices. Blackheath Hill still has three printing works – J.W. Brown (Printers) Ltd,  Darwen Press and E. Berryman and Sons Ltd., the last one of the oldest businesses in the neighbourhood. It was founded in Blackheath Road in 1846 and moved before 1871 to its present location, Bath House, at the side of Ditch Alley which led to the cold baths in the 18th  and early 19th  centuries and is now 84 Blackheath Road

Deals Gateway
Deals Gateway is an interesting example of a semi industrial backlands development. Queen's Place, the former name of an adjacent piece of Blackheath Road or an earlier terrace on the same site,  is shown on Roque’s map and by the turn of the 19th century it extended as far as Deptford Bridge. Morris's map of 1834 and Simm's of 1838 are the first to show a gap where Deals Gateway is with a short unnamed cul de sac behind.   Earlier maps - and later ones which continue to show an unbroken terrace - are probably on too small a scale to show the gap.  The 1869 Ordnance Survey map also shows a continuous terrace but with an arched access to the yard behind, suggesting some redevelopment in the previous 30 years.  So far as I can discover it is unrecorded in directories or in the 1841 census returns but it appears on subsequent censuses called indifferently Deals Yard, Deals Court' and Deals Gateway.

In Mason's Directory of 1852 and the Deptford Directory of 1853 1 Queen's Place on the corner of Deals Gateway was occupied by one, Edward Deal, grocer and cheesemonger.  In Kelly’s Directory for 1860 Joseph Deal, coal merchant, occupied the end premises in Deptford Bridge, possibly on the other corner of Deals Gateway but more likely on the other side of the road on the corner of Greenwich High Road. By 1876 he had moved to 1 Queen's Place formerly occupied by Edward Deal, surely a relation,  and Deals Gateway, still accessed through an archway, was in part a coal merchant's yard.  Within 10 years Joseph Deal was displaced by Kentish Mercury but he and Edward left their mark in the name of a short street that may well soon disappear

This article first appeared  in the GIHS Newsletter for October 1998

Memories of a Royal Ordinance Factory Apprentice – Part 1.

Memories of a Royal Ordinance Factory Apprentice – Part 1.
By John Day

Pre-war there were three grades of apprentices in the Royal Arsenal: Trade apprentices who, as the name suggests were training in their chosen trade such as fitter, turner, pattern maker, etc. After six months they had one option to change their choice. Student apprentices who spent a couple of years of practical work after college degrees. The third grade was the engineering apprentices who spent five years working at a number of trades and spending a fair amount of time studying for a degree.  Entry as an engineering apprentice was by examinations and interview at the age of 16.  The average intake in the 30s was about 12 from some 100 to 150 applicants. For the first two years there was compulsory attendance for two days and two evening  a week at what was then the Woolwich Polytechnic, The remaining three years were spent during term time at the Poly or, for a few, at one of the London colleges.  At the end of the five years most of the apprentices had a degree in engineering and the necessary 36 months of practical training needed for membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

From here on things get personal but they are my memories as far as they go and after something like 60 years may not be accurate. For both of these I apologise in advance. If anybody sees a mistake please let us know to be put right for future historians

I have no recollection of any examination perhaps I was exempted by having matriculated with distinction in for technical subjects.

(There is a bit missing here)

.. model engineer and had a lathe which I was allowed to use. I had made a model of two cylinder boiler fitted pump (described in Shop, Shed and Road by L.B.S.C.) and this I produced at the interview when I was asked if I knew anything about metalwork. There was a pause while the interview board thought of something else to ask me.

When the results were published I headed the list which comprised: Sydney Bacon, Alfred Bennett, Eddie, Hessey, Hibbert, Jarvis, Norman Lindsey, Maybe, Cyril Morris, Malcolm Starkey, and Robert Walker. Morris died of TB in his second year.  Lindsey after his discharge from R,E,M.E. as Lieut Colonel at the end of the war, Walker became a civil engineer with the Port of London authority after getting his degree at City and Guilds, Sir Sydney Bacon retired as Director General of Ordnance Factories. Starkey was one of the militia called up in 1939,being released to become manager of one of the war time ordnance factories, Fazakerley, making Sten guns and later taking a senior position with Tranco valves

I was no stranger to the Arsenal.  In the mid thirties my father became a craft engineer in the Central Power Station and on Sundays when he was on days I took in his hot lunch in a basket. Since everything was shut down such electricity as was needed coming from the Woolwich power station at Warren Lane, I had the freedom to wander where I liked within the building. At that time the western end of the Arsenal was still on direct current.  in the power  station were two Yates and Thom 1450  HP inverted triple expansion engines with Corliss valve gear,  direct coupled to DC generators some 10 to 12 feet in diameter    Alongside was a totally enclosed Vickers Howden triple with a piston valve on the high-pressure cylinder and side valves on the Intermediate and low-pressure cylinders. alternating-current at the eastern end came from a 6000 kilowatt Metropolitan Vickers turbo generator and when needed from a pair of rotary converters. As usual the switchboard ran along a gallery on the north wall and at the west end was the engineers office that I came to know even better in later years. the Boiler house was south of the engine room and contained six water tube boilers; four Thompson and two Babcock and Wilcox, all with chain grate stoking.  The Ash went down into long narrow trucks on the 18 inch gauge railway this being the last use for narrow gauge. On the north side of the power station was a pump house providing hydraulic pressure for the various machines and cranes and to the north again was the electrical repair shop

On my first day I reported to the apprentice supervisor in the Central Office and was taken to the Gauge Shop for the New Fuze Factory. Actually the shop was the Fuze pool room and the Gauge shop was the high accuracy part of the tool room. The chap I was given to as an apprentice was Jim Hands. He made the jigs and tools for Mechanical Time Fuze No 207 which was a short-term watch mechanism using a swing arm in place of the usual balance wheel. The movement was made and assembled by girls on the first floor of the adjacent building, Te New Fuse Factory.  It was a long time before I cottoned on to why it was always Jim who fixed the belts and bolts under the benches while I did all the work on top.

The first job I had was to scrape the faces of light alloy depth gauges true and square. These had to be frosted (am ornamental pattern left by a scraper) and be accurate to a couple of thousands of an inch although they were only graduated in eighths. They were in light alloy because they were for use in the Danger Buildings for measuring the depths of explosives in shells.

When I had finished that job Jim suggested I make myself some tools and started with a five x inch engineers square.  after hack sawing the shapes from gauge plate, the parts were ground on a Brown and Sharp surface grinder, riveted together and scraped and tapped to the standard demanded by the View Room i.e. less than one tenthousanth of an inch square and true in any direction, I still have a square it is true because I never dared to use it

One of the tools Jim thought up and made was a device for burnishing the pivots of the balance arm. this comprised four dead hard and highly polished discs rotated on spindles in massive cast-iron bearing blocks my part in this was machining the bearing blocks, base plate, etc on a Butler 18 in shaper, a lovely tool on  which I enjoyed working and as they say, could nearly make talk

The New Fuze was near the fourth gate (Plumstead gate) and I rode to work on my 1920 Sum beam motorcycle which I had bought for £2 and fully restored. One morning, in the crush, the inverted brake lever on the end of the handlebars caught in a man’s pocket, tore it so that his lunch fell out on the road, he was not pleased. In the evening he came to our house and was pacified with a ten shilling note and an old jacket f my fasters. By that time my father had become foreman of the Electrical Shop and he arranged for No.4. electricity substation to e specially opened morning and evening for me to garage my bike safely in the dry.

Letters from the GIHS Newsletter June 1998

Letters from the GIHS Newsletter June 1998

This is a selection –some of which have been heavily edited to make them comprehensible 20 years later!

From Alan Palfrey
I would like to flag up my interest in National Enamels which was in Norman Road. In later years it was called Vickerys. Is there any information or pictures about the site and those who worked there

From David Cuffley.
I run the Brickmakers index which lists brickfield workers and details of their families and works and much more if I can squeeze it into the database.  You can find details of Woolwich and Plumstead brick makers in the North West Kent Family History Society Journal

From John Day
I don’t know whether you are aware of the existence of large numbers of drawings of machinery made by Hick Hargreaves for Woolwich which are held at Bolton Library

From Iain Sharpe
I hope you don’t mind me writing to you from the other side of the River. Right opposite the tip of Greenwich Peninsula is a site – Brunswick Wharf – which is very important and needs some attention. The First Settlers left Blackwall in 1606 to land in what is now Virginia USA. These heroic men braved all to set up across the uncharted Seas; they founded Jamestown and started the tobacco trade which was to become the main economy of Virginia. A monument in their honour at Brunswick Wharf (the Little Mermaid) was first unveiled by the American ambassador in 1928 and again in 1953 has been neglected. It is directly opposite the Millennium Dome project and although Barratts who are building a housing complex there have offered to restore it - will they get it right?

From Michael Ward
I am writing about 113 Blackheath Park – the case for a blue plague there is striking although it is not an industrial building the arguments that apply are just the same. It is the house that the world famous philosopher John Stuart Mill lived in for some 20 years. These were the seminal years of his greatest works - on liberty, utilitarianism and the subjugation of women.  Apparently the Greater London Councils response to requests for a blue plaque there is that there was one already in London

From Rick Tisdell
Redpath Brown: I worked at Redpaths from 1960 to 1971 where I completed my apprenticeship as an electrician in the Maintenance Department. My father worked at East Greenwich all his working life (49 1/2 years) in the office where he was purchasing officer. He was made redundant when British Steel closed the works in 1977 and died in 1979. My mother also worked in the office at Greenwich and it was there she met and married my father. She was the daughter of Johnny Stewart who was for many years the Template Shop Foreman at the works. His brother also worked in the Drawing Office at Greenwich for a short time. My mother went on to work full time as secretary to the Managing Director at Duncannon Street office in the 1960s.  Her great uncle was called Dan Taylor and he was either foreman of the Roof Shop or General Foreman at around the time of the First World War.

From Philip McDougall
One of the earliest and most important industrial enterprises of the nation were the Naval Dockyards. During the 18th century the naval dockyard at Chatham had a workforce in excess of 2000. This made it the single largest employer in the south-east.  In addition there were yards variously sited at Sheerness, Deptford, Woolwich and Greenhithe

From Terry Scales
Under the coaling pier - in Greenwich we have taken our industrial heritage for granted. I remember reading a press statement by a Member of the Planning Department that the chimneys of Deptford Power Stations were important sightlines in a view across London and would be safeguarded in any future development. How things have changed.  This highlights the future of our other pier - the much loved old coaling pier by Trinity Hospital. It strides into the river on massive Doric columns and is a truly magnificent structure - many older residents remember will the constant cascade of water that dropped from the chutes above.  The Poet Laureate, C.Day Lewis, used the space under this pier as the site for a murder mystery when writing thrillers under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake. This alone should guarantee a safe future. If we do not make a concrete effort to list the coaling jetty I’m afraid we will lose it.

These letters are all over 20 years old, thought I should do a where are they now section.

Alan Parfrey – no longer lives in Greenwich – Alan, if you read this did you ever find out about National Enamels?

David Cuffley – still runs the Brick maker’s index, and very good it is too

John Day – is no longer with us, but left a legacy of information about the Arsenal – watch this blog for some of his work.

Iain Sharpe – Barratts did do the monument up and had a grand opening (but Iain was not invited).  The little mermaid herself turned up in a Chingford rockery

Michael Ward – also no longer with us and there is still no plaque on John Stewart Mills' house

Rick Tisdell – also no longer with us, but information from his family on Redpaths still comes through other members

Philip Macdougal – is still writing about and promoting Royal Dockyards

Terry Scales  - has spoken at GIHS meetings. But the Deptford power station chimneys are long gone and I am pretty sure the coaling jetty isnt listed.

Letters received for the GIHS Newsletter in April 1998

A selection of letters received for the GIHS Newsletter 
in April 1998

(Some of these have been edited to remove irrelevances and make them comprehensible to an audience 20 years later!)

From Ted Barr

Sand Mines.  I had never heard the term before seeing it here – thinking that sand was quarried. There are quite a few quarries in Greenwich – best known of course, those was on the Heath where materials were obtained for ballasting ships.  In his book The Last Grain Race Eric Newby gives an account of shovelling out hundreds of tons of ballast on reaching Australia. Quite a few old quarries are marked on old maps but they need to be sorted out and listed.   One, a bit more modern, is the Charlton Pit run by United Glass in the 1920s and 30s. Charlton sand had high iron content so it was good for white flint glass but it was also used for amber bottles. The pit was in Maryon Park at the bottom of Sand Street by the railway level crossing. As children we used to go hunting for fossils there until chased out by the staff.  At United Glass they used preprinted invoice forms listing the various products: chalk and ballast are obvious but sand was subdivided into various grades such as mild loam, ‘strong loam and strong black foot and were much sought after by foundries.  Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company were regular customers and material was taken by lorry to the Charlton Station sidings, loaded into open trucks and goods trained to their works in Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Wheens Soap Works. Another brand name was Wheen's Olwin Toilet Soap. It was advertised in the 1940s on the back of No. 48 buses. There used to be an apocryphal story going round in that part of Deptford that the soap works bred its own variety of big blowflies - they tolerated local folk but woe betide strangers who would be attacked in swarms

Greenwich Park Branch Railway line - on the Greenwich side of Blackheath Hill Station the railway was in  an open cutting which extended up the opposite side of Blackheath Hill. You could see the rusty disused lines back in the 1920s from the top of old top-heavy LGO B type old Bill buses on the 48 route. A map shows the Blisset Street structure as a tunnel but it is only 4 chains long and the one under Blackheath Hill less than 2 chains using standard railway measurements. For many years before the wars Blackheath Hill Station was occupied by the Elliot Machine Company, a light engineering outfit engaged in war and similar activities. In more recent rimes an advertising sign makers were in occupation with an address in Sparta Street. Throughout World War II the arch and the roadway and presumably what was left of the tunnel was used as a public air raid shelter.

Dead Dog Bay  was a small almost square inlet about 100 foot by 100 foot opposite the river end of Cadet Place. At low tide it was an area of the usual mud and stones but there was also a collection of flotsam and jetsam, often including the carcasses of domestic animals and sometimes sheep washed down river from the upper reaches.

A wharf which I would hope to see included is Durham Wharf where United Glass unloaded heavy oil for boiler and glass furnace heating

From Jess Steele

The only pre-19th century survivor within (Deptford) dockyard is the Shipwrights Palace or Master Shipwrights House built in 1705-8 by Joseph Allin.  The last Tudor survivor was Henry VIII store house (expanded in the 18th century) which was demolished in 1981 to make room for more Convoys warehousing.

English Heritage confirms Priors crane designed by Stothard and Pitt is the oldest working Thames crane.

A telephone call has been received from Priors who own the Stothard and Pitt crane at Deptford Creek. They say they have no plans to get rid of the crane and are in fact very proud of it. They are however likely to acquire another more modern crane in the near future

From Andrew Turner

Greenwich Yacht Club (then based on the old Redpath Brown works site) expect to remain there until August (2000). The only building left is the former Redpath Brown canteen and kitchens. The buildings closer to the River have  been demolished. It looks like some of the Thames Barrier Yacht Club boats and the crane is the east end of the Greenwich Yacht Club site.   A new dinghy area has been created in what was the main Redpath Brown entrance.  Work on the Blackwall Point Power Station jetty might be refurbishment rather than demolition.   Along Mudlarks Way (now Olympian Way) at Angerstein Wharf the footpath has a wire fence either side with steel section supports.  The steel appears to have come from at least seven different rolling mills so presumably are second hand or offcuts (mainly pre nationalisation and probably not from Redpath Brown) round the corner in Lombard Wall most of the supports are stamped BSC and therefore later

From Peter Wright

I have recently become interested in researching my family history. Both my grandfather and great-grandfather were employed at the Arsenal

Edward Eric Wright 1918- 1992 served his apprenticeship and became a tool maker, departing the Arsenal in the war to move to the ROF site in Blackburn Lancashire where he worked until retirement. He received the Imperial Service Medal for his long service

George Edward Wright 1878- 1938 worked as a tool hardener at the Arsenal and lived in Woolwich his entire life

My great great grandfather Charles John Wright (1839) in the 1881 census was the Inspector of Gasworks living in Woolwich

From Simon Payne.

My great grandfather was Charles Stanley Allsopp. The only record I have of him is the entry on my grandfather’s birth certificate which records his occupation as an Arsenal Labourer.  On my grandfather‘s marriage certificate he is listed as a deceased seaman. The family also owned a general store in Woolwich High Street next to the bus depot - I was wondering if there is any way to check to see if financing of the shop may have come from the Woolwich Co-op

These letters are over 20 years old and perhaps I shold do an update

Ted Barr - wrote extensively for GIHS - will reproduce a lot of his stuff here in due course.  He later moved to Yorkshire 

Jess Steele - did amazing research on Deptford but no longer lives locally.  An enormous amount of work has been done at Deptford Dockyard - not least by Chris and Willi who bought the Shipwrights Palace

Priors - the old crane was removed and taken, we understood, to Prior's depot at Fingringhoe. Last year I went to Fingringhoe - to find Priors are no longer on the site and no one has ever heard about the old crane.