Wednesday 30 October 2019

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

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