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 Council’s 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 isn’t listed.