Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Reviews and snippets September 2003


The latest issue  of The Crossness Engines  Record contains the usual information from our local steam museum along with news and entertaining articles. One - less usual record - is as follows:


In July 1908  a neatly penned note observed that the Main Drainage Committee's Chief Engineer approved an allowance of 1/- per head for refreshments for children from the Outfalls at Barking and Crossness during their excursion. This exciting day out was a journey on one of the new sludge vessels as no doubt it took its cargo out to the Barrow Deep, five miles off Clacton, Essex. A rudimentary calculation of  the number of children at the southern outfall  repeals that about fifty children would have been of an age to make such a trip. Assuming a similar number would be available from the northern outfall, the prospect of the Captain and crew being responsible for about one hundred little souls either running around or throwing-up, beggars belief.  The one hundred plus miles round trip can be very pleasant, but the excitement of the day, sandwiches and pop and maybe an on-shore breeze against an ebbing tide making for unwanted motion, could no doubt turn some of the )youngsters a shade of eau de nil. Whatever the weather conditions or minor discomforts, I am sure that many children would carry memories of that 'day out ' for many years to come.  The thought occurred to me - who was the first person to promote the idea of a sea-going trip for children of the work-force of the two outfalls and when did the practice cease '


A recent issue of 'Historic Gas Times' concerns the use of gaslight on ships in the 19'h century. After discussing its use by  such luminaries as lsambard Kingdom Brunel (on Great Eastern) the article turns to the Royal Navy. The experience of the Royal Navy was also unfavourable.  Following oil gas manufacturing trials at Woolwich in the early 1860s, the battleship HMS Resistance was equipped with an oil gas plant in 1862 and HMS Monarch in 1869.  It was reported that pressure waves from the firing of the ship's heavy guns extinguished the lamps and the prospect of gas air mixtures accumulating in the enclosed spaces of the ships did not encourage the adoption of the system in others


The August issue of Bygone Kent contains an article by Barbara Ludlow on 'Royalists, a Regicide, Paupers and Iron Masters. The colourful past of Highbridge, East Greenwich  -- and this is just part one.   Without revealing all it is perhaps fair to say that this first part is not strictly industrial since the Crowley family of ironmasters, although hinted at. Only take possession by the last paragraph by which time Barbara has only reached 1704.  The preceding two centuries had seen a number of colourful characters. posh houses. Executions for treason and the foundation of Trinity Hospital whose inmates were then not allowed out without permission. and had a weekly correction into those who might have broken some of the rules.


John Keyes  is s resident of the Charlton area who has just published his biography and this is of particular interests in that it is many ways a history of the post-war labour movement.  John came originally from Ireland vice Liverpool where he worked in the Camel Laird shipyard and then the LMS railway before the war.  As a labour party activists he met and acting as agent for Bill Hamling in a by election at Wavertree.  John then became a full time Labour party employee as agent for Woolwich East and took the step of moving from Liverpool to Dallin Road in Plumstead. He was soon embroiled in a by election following the death of Ernie Bevin and a couple of years later saw Bill Hamling selected as candidate for the Woolwich West constituency.  In the early 1960s John became the Labour Party’s London regional organiser and retired in 1979.  This is a book which is likely to be of great interest to anyone even those who have only a slight knowledge of local politics.  Woolwich was of course a heavily industrialised area and it is inevitable and local politics had a close interaction with local industry and trade unions.  For those with a Labour Movement background it will be exceptionally fascinating.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

LETTERS September 2003

September 2003

From Ted Barr
I am enclosing a cutting from Engineering News Tuesday, April 30h 1963 - That was the Greenwich that was (and  I knew) Weighs  90 tons - 500 ton press built in London Works
Dished and flanged ends up to 9ft in diameter will be pressed on a 500 ton down stroking press now being built and nearing completion at the Greenwich works of G. A Harvey and  Company London Ltd. The press has a stroke of 3ft 6 ins. with daylight 8ft.  With their extensive facilities for the manufacture of heavy welded structures, Harvey’s were able to fabricate, machine and erect all parts of the press in their own workshops.  Overall height of the machine, which  weighs 90 tons is 25ft 6 ins and the clearance of columns is 11ft 10 in

From Iris Bryce   
feel I must write to  let  you know that at  last a  long time dream has come true - I have seen the inside of Enderby  House. A few weeks ago I was given a tour of Alcatel, arranged by Steve Hill, Technical Director. However the highlight of the visit was for me to once again go into my old place of work in the 1940s - the Buying Department. This was in the house by the side of Enderby House - The one described in Mary Mills Greenwich Marsh book. with the Gutta Percha Leaves and cable decor above the door and windows. As a lowly filing clerk in 1942. I was not   allowed in Enderby house - that was the Dining Room for the Directors. Managers and Heads of Departments.   My son in law accompanied me on Tuesday and has taken some photos of the hexagonal room with its wonderful glass ceiling -- we were told that a compass is somewhere in the design of it but to date no one seems to have found It. Do you know anything about this? If any of the photos are suitable would you like copies? I was given two books as a memento of my day - one is by Stewart Ash 50th Anniversary, From Elekktron - E Commerce, The 50 Years of Laying Submarine Cables. And the other one is by Steve Hill and Alan Jeal Greenwich, Centre for Global Telecommunications from 1850.  I’ve worked out that my visit was almost 60 years to the day I left the Telcon in 1943 - and found myself in the A.T.S. within the next 6 weeks.   

From Angela Smith. 
I don’t know whether this enquiry will come within the scope of Industrial History. We are trying to trace the history of George Mence Smith. He owned a chain of hardware shops in London and the South East in the mid/late 1800s. He was born in 1819 in Shadwell and died 1895, leaving a considerable fortune. We have recently found that he was resident some time after his 1st marriage in 1846 in Woolwich, possibly Beresford Square, before moving to Bexleyheath. Our interest would be to find out two things firstly where he was living in Woolwich from 1846 to possibly 1860 and also if there were any of his stores in Woolwich. Would this come within your scope?

From Lionhouse. 
I can hardly believe my eyes - a treasure trove of information on your web site. WOW. Wonderful. You say we can add to it .........well! John Bennett was baptized in St Alphage Greenwich in 1786. He was the son of George Bennett. milkman and Susanna (Wicks) who were married in St Pauls Deptford in 1781. John, somehow, became a watch and clockmaker and is recorded in Baillie & Loomis Watch and Clockmakers of the World, along with his widow. His death is recorded as St Alphage. 1828 and his Hill was proved in 1829. Elizabeth Sinnock Bennett, and sons George Weldon Bennett and William Cox Bennett were working in the Greenwich, Woolwich, Blackheath and Lee areas between 1814 and 1866.  In the 1841  Census for Stockwell Road, Elizabeth Bennett, widow, and her two sons William and John are described as Goldsmiths. In 1851 and 186  they lived in 9 Osborne Place, Blackheath I hope this qualifies me, both on an industrial scale and as a descendant of Goldsmiths. To join the society and I have sent  1 0 to Steve Dale at Shooters Hill today. Anyone who can link the above to the earlier watch and clockmaker .Bennetts of Greenwich. I.e. George working 1802 -11 or George working free of the Clockmakers Company  in London in 1702 - 22 I  would love to hear from you

From Kevin Jones. 
I am an archaeologist with the New Zealand Dept of Conservation.  I have been working on the Auckland Islands (south of NZ) where the Enderbys set up a colony under the aegis of the Southem Right Whale Fishery Company. I have been working on mapping the remains of that settlement. At a later date we would be pleased to offer a note for your newsletter. In the meantime  I would be interested to make contact with y Enderby scholars and to visit and photograph some landmarks in Greenwich.

From Corin Mills. 
I have just finished reading Mary Mills book Greenwich and Woolwich at Work  which I found absorbing.  My   great great grandfather was born in Manchester. and eventually settled in Plumstead to work as an iron turner at the Royal Arsenal. On page 56 of your book is a photograph with a mystery. As an ex metalwork teacher I think I can answer some of the questions. I believe this is the area where small castings were broken out of the boxes of sand in which they were cast. You will note that the platform is raised off the ground and I think that the men are standing on a mesh so that the sand is sifted as it falls through. When the casting is clear of the sand the sprues, runners and risers  which carry the molten metal to the cavity in the sand are broken off and these are visible in small heaps. As anybody who has done metal casting will know small pieces of metal put into a large furnace will burn rather than melt so they will be put into a small crucible for melting down and reuse. There are a number of these crucibles at the extreme left edge of the photograph. In the extreme foreground is a pair of  crucible tongs for lifting these out of the furnace and one of the men is holding another pair. The molten metal would then be poured into ingot moulds and these are the four square boxes on the Floor. The ingots would then be added to the main furnace you can see some piles of these ingots. The wheeled implements, I think, might be used for transport of the crucibles from the furnace, but I can’t see the working ends. These might also be used for moving the ingot boxes around. A fining pot is defined as a vessel for refining metal. Fines are small pieces of waste metal and can go down in size to the microscopic  i.e. metal particles in suspension in old motor oil . I hope  you find this useful.   Picture on page 57: These cartridges are being produced by the method of  deep drawing . If  you follow the link you’ll find a fair description of the process. Even though it has been modernised the process uses the same principles that held in 1914. The machines that the men are working are obviously  hydraulic presses and not metal spinning machines. Metal spinning can produce the same shape as deep drawing. I don’t think the cylinders in the foreground are solid -  you can just make out striations along the length of them produced by the process of deep drawing. The closed end is slightly  flared or flanged, so keeping the cartridge casing in the breech of the gun when the shell is expelled. The flat pieces of metal that  you call blanks are, I think, too thick for drawing and might be a  red herring

From Roy  Kipp.  
I would like to research the tools and processes used by The UK to manufacture large ordnance from about 1880 . (i.e. the end of the RML era) into the early 1900s (pre WWl). Your organisation came to my attention when I located Your March 2001 newsletter on the Web, in which Nicholas Hall references an article he prepared for the Royal  Ordnance  Yearbook on Blakeley and  Vavasseur.  The shops associated with Vavasseur. et al in the 1880s would be particularly  interesting.  Could  you offer a recommendation on how I should proceed from across the pond in Texas.    

From Jackie Settle.  
In a previous issue you published an article about Wheen the soap manufacturers based in Deptford Creek. I am interested as Emma Wheen daughter of Richard married Samuel Berger. I am also a Berger descendant and I am researching the Berger family -- Berger were the paint manufacturers based in Hackney Wick.

From David Pitt. 
 Can  you please tell me where to find information regarding the lifts at either end of the Greenwich Foot Tunnels. I want to know how these are operated and whether the current method of propulsion is the same as when thee  were built in 1902. As circular lifts  do they use giant bearings all around

We asked the Greenwich Council Engineers about this and they replied. “The existing lifts were installed in 1992 and are similar to the original lift.  The wood panelling was re-used although the new lifts are slightly smaller, in keeping with the British Standard requirements. They operate in a similar fashion to the originals with new electric motors and wire ropes at the top of the lift shaft. The lifts run up guide rails and do not have circular bearings, the lift cars being restrained at three points. The only major change between new and old  lifts is the replacement of the sliding grille doors for solid doors. This was a safety  requirement.

From Tim  Geyer. 
I am seeking information on Appleby  Bros. What  we know is they had offices at 80 Cannon St, London and Works at Greenwich. Old Bessemer site. And may  have later become Jessop Appleby . We have the only  remaining Steam operated Beam Engine made by Appleby  Bros 1883, left in the southern hemisphere,  possibly wider, and are gathering information as part of the engine’s story . The engine is fully operational and still in its original pump house, on the banks of the Wollondilly River, Holbom NSW. Australia. The site is now a museum, run by  volunteers under the banner of Friends of the Waterworks Museum. Anything  you may be able to assist with would be very helpful

From Lynn Hampson. 
I have only just read Issue 1, Volume 4 in January  2001 where you printed a letter from Angela Pascoe who mentioned that she was related to Robert Simpson. Proprietor of the Ship Hotel. Greenwich.  I am too! My father. Stan Shore grew up in Greenwich (as did my mother Marguerite Longman) and my paternal grandmother was Ann  Simpson, daughter of Robert Simpson. My  parents, now mid 80s, know a lot about Greenwich and would no doubt be delighted to tell  you any of their stories

From Ken Smith. 
I am enquiring into the possibility  of finding any list that may exist of the names of Thames River Pilots during the middle to late 1800s and of any  pilots that may have drowned in the Thames.  

From Roger Bone. 
I read the small article by Ted Barr in the May 2001 issue 3. Volume 4 of the GIHS on the net regarding Harrison  Barbers slaughter house in Blackwall Lane and remembered that my Great Grandfather Robert James Oak was manager at the Blackwall Lane Depot in the 1890s. My Grandfather described to me when I was a boy , what it was like to live on the premises. I believe the house was called Holmesdale . My  Grandfather took me to see the old place in 1960. It was a laundry  then. Sadly  I did not lake any photos. If you have any  more information I would be very  interested

From Justin Dix.  
I have hundreds of old pictures of Woolwich rescued from a skip where my Stepfather had thrown them. One example -- a cinema - pencilled on the back is last night of the Empire Kinema in Woolwich 1st October 1960. Another is of the Woolwich Ferry  in 1961. Don’t know if these Interest you

Monday, 25 November 2019

Royal Arsenal and Napoleon's Exile on St Helena

               The Royal Arsenal and Napoleon's exile on St Helena

By Mike Neil

A comment made to the Council's 'Arsenal ' exhibition designer that 'the Arsenal built Napoleon's house on St Helena ' led the author to follow up with a brief piece of research. If true it would provide a fascinating link between the first Napoleon the son and heir of the third Napoleon and Woolwich. Perhaps disappointingly it proved to be only partly true but demonstrated again the skill and versatility of the Royal Arsenal’s workforce. Whose motto could well have been 'Whatever it is, we can make it'.  The bare facts are these: Napoleon arrived at St Helena on board HMS Northumberland on 15th October 1815 after a voyage that had started in Torbay in early August,

A few days later he visited an old 2-storey stone built farmhouse. Then called simply 'Longwood House' but later called 'Longwood Old House'. This was at the time the residence of the East India Company's Lieutenant Governor. The Nortumberand’s carpenter, at the direction of Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, added a timber framed salon de reception and the famous latticed verandah. In December 1815 after a two-month stay as the guest of a neighbouring landholder Napoleon moved into this building, where he was to remain until his death in 1821.

In 1819 the British Government started building a large single storey timber framed building called Longwood New House, intended to house Napoleon in one wing and a key retainer (probably Montholon) in the other. This building was barely completed before Napoleon's death and he was never to live in it.

The evidence for the Arsenal’s involvement (now in the PRO) starts around the middle of August 1815, when Napoleon was already on his way to St Helena.   Col. Chapman of the Office of Ordnance wrote informally to Lt. Gen. Sir H.E. Bunbury, KCB on 15th August:  

Dear Bunbury
I transmit herewith a plan which has been received from Lt General Mann of a house for Napoleon Bonaparte. Together with a letter from that officer containing his observations on the plan enclosed in your letter of the 8th instant and I request you will inform me as soon as Lord Bathurst shall decide on the subject. With respect to Barracks will you have the goodness to ascertain whether it will be necessary for this department to provide them for the detachment of artillery and also the Engineers and sappers and miners which have been ordered out to St Helena? Or whether they will be supplied in the same manner as the troops of the line?
Faithfully, Chapman

The enclosed letter from General Mann was headed from Pall Mall 10th August 1815

I have to observe that the plan enclosed in Sir H Bunbury's letter, transmitted with your note of yesterday's date, does not correspond with the general idea that has been given, namely to have the building compact, with no more openings than are indispensably necessary, and to provide accommodation for Napoleon Bonaparte, three other officers, a surgeon and twelve attendants. But if this principle is not to be adhered to, then the plan enclosed in Sir H Bunbury's letter, considered merely as an accommodation for Bonaparte and one other officer with one of the wings for the attendants will answer that purpose, bating the Inconvenience of the servants being placed at so great a distance. In regard to security, it must be looked for in a surrounding wall which will probably be required whatever the form and dimensions of the building. As soon as a plan is decided upon a table of the scantlings of timber may be made together with a list of all the other materials required.
I am Sir.  Your most obedt servant.

By mid-September 1815 a design had evidently been agreed on and Chapman had also evidently received a positive response to his query 'on whether the materials despatched by the Office of Ordnance should include those intended for their own men’.

Office of Ordinance
Dear Bunbury
I have just learnt that there will be about 2000 tons of materials for Bonaparte's house and the barracks for the Ordinance Corps.  Have not yet received this information officially, but I have no doubt on the accuracy of the information

The final piece of evidence is a letter from a Mr Slatters of the Ordnance Office to a W. Griffin Esq. on the 23rd September 1815

In reply to your letter of the 21" instance enquiring when the stores ordered for St Helena will be ready, I beg leave to acquaint you that two thirds of the Fir timber and one  third of the deals and battins have been forwarded to Woolwich and the remainder will be delivered as fast as the articles can properly be landed at the Royal Arsenal.  I have to report that 23,000 slates are now furnished and that the remaining 52.000 are expected in three weeks or thereabouts. The rest of the slates are ready except the glass, which I trust will be supplied in the course of a few days.
I am, Sir, Your very obedient Humble Servant

However, this letter does not mention whither these stores are intended for Napoleon's new home, the Ordnance Corps barracks, or both. The figures for the slates, though, may give us a clue.

British slates have traditionally come in a range of sizes from the largest (though undoubtedly politically incorrect) "wide duchesses" to the petite "narrow ladies’. Most common however are the 20" x 10" "countesses" at around 18 to The square metre and the 18" x 9" viscountesses" at around 23 to the square metre. 75.000 slates using a very rough median of 20 slates per square metre would therefore cover a roof surface of something like 3.750 m2. Logwood New House was described in 1857 as having a floor area of about 23.000 square metres, or about 2.250 m2. Given that roof pitches for this building, from contemporary engravings are not hugely steep 75.000 slates does not seem an unreasonable requirement for this building alone - but certainly not sufficient for both this building and a barracks of any size.

However it seems certain that the materials being collected at the Arsenal in the late autumn of 1815 cannot have reached St Helena until the early months of 1816 at the earliest. While we may be certain that Napoleon never lived his last exile except in a borrowed East India Company house there remain some interesting questions about the Office of Ordnance materials

If these were received during 1816 why was Longwood New House not started until 1819? Were the original materials used to build barracks for the Artillery and Engineers rather than for Bonaparte's new house? Were the materials shipped in their rough state, to be formed into buildings on the island under the supervision of Engineer Officers and local St Helena or ships' carpenters or did the Arsenal create a pre-fabricated structure?

One unhelpful evidential confusion needs to be dismissed. In the summer of 1812 Mr James Wathen Esq. of Hereford spent 'not quite 3 days' on the island of St Helena: making thirteen rather ' good drawings of views around the capital, St James, and just inland to the Governor's house. Two of these drawings were published in his "Journal of a Voyage to Madras and China" in 1821. However, in September 1821, some three or four months alter Napoleon's burial and immediately after the news had reached England of his death. Perhaps in a commendable spirit of recycling eight of the original drawings were published in a volume entitled "A Series of Views Illustrative of the Island of St Helena". Two rather crude and speculative engravings were added to provide topicality; the first of ' Bonaparte's grave’ and the second of Longwood House. Sadly it was the ignorance of Mr. Wathen and his publisher on the latter that has no doubt created some subsequent confusion.

Wathen provided the account below to accompany the engraving of Longwood House. Unfortunately, this garbled mix appeared with an inaccurate engraving of Longwood Old House with its lattice work porch by the Northumberland ‘s carpenter - leading some subsequent researchers to believe that this much older farm building was 'made ' by the Royal Arsenal.

Longwood House, which stands 162.feet above the ocean has since the end of 1815 been appropriated to the residence of Napoleon Bonaparte. For his reception, in the September of that year, His Royal Highness the Prince Regent commanded Earl Bathurst to issue Orders for the preparation of his dwelling and furniture. These were carried into execution upon the most splendid plan and a complete suite of household furniture was made up sufficient for Bonaparte and his establishment for nearly three years. Everything was constructed of British materials and the most delicate attention was paid that no ornament should be used in the decoration which might remind the exile of his former state. 'The appearance of Longwood House will be found in Plate 7 And a more particular account of its magnificent fitting up in the description. [Page 6]
The late residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, where he arrived in the latter part of 1815, and where he died on May 5th, 1821.  The situation and other particulars concerning Longwood have already been given at Page 6 and a very brief description of the building is all that remains to be added. The present erection was formed in timber framework at Woolwich, by the Architect for the Ordnance Department, to be erected at St. Helena. It is designed in the cottage style and contains 24 rooms, the general size of which is 25 feet by 18. The length of the house in front is about 20.feet; and it contains 16 windows with an open corridor. The depth of the building is 100 feet and the back is also ornamented with a corridor. It is two storeys in height And the right and wing was appropriated to Bonaparte. In the centre stands the drawing room coloured of various  shades of  green and arabesque gold panels with curtains of light silk taboret of Pomona green and velvet borders edged with gold coloured silk twist. Above them is a matted gold cornice, to conceal the rings and curtain rod and the top of the room is finished by a cream coloured ceiling. The carpet is of Brussels texture of various shades of brown olive and amber.  the furniture consists of an elegant oak central table, pier table inlaid with a slab of Verd antique Mona marble: splendid pier glass with a frame of Buhl and ebony, chairs of British oak: two Greek sofas and foot stools ornamented with Or Moulu; a pianoforte; and chandeliers and candelabra to light the apartment. The Dining room is next in the suite the fitting up for which are of a lavender tint and the curtains of' silk with a black border and gold coloured silk lace fringe.  The carpet and walls are of the same lilac hue. As well as the coverings .for the chairs. The furniture consists of fine oaken Dining table. capable of accommodating from six to fourteen persons, a side board peculiarly made for holding the Imperial plate with the wine  coolers constructed of Bronze and rich wood. Adjoining the Dining-room is the Library which is furnished in the Etruscan style. With several dwarf book cases: a Library table, with desks and drawers and curtains of a new cotton material, having the appearance of cloth. The Sitting-room is ornamented with an ethereal blue carpet shaded with black. And several ebony cabinets inlaid with brass.   In the bed-room is a high canopy bedstead enclosing a silken mosquito net and hung with furniture of lilac Persian edged with gold coloured fringe. The Bath is lined with marble and made to admit hot or cold water. The other wing of Longwood House contains spacious apartments for Bonaparte’s suite with servant's offices and store-rooms in the rear. The Kitchen is a detached building, yet convenient to the dining room. The materials for this erection, together with the elegant furniture, table services, dresses, and plate presented to Bonaparte, by the noble munificence of the British government amounted to 500 tons in weight, and were contained in 400 packages. A number of artists were also sent with them too fit out the Establishment.

Sadly it seems that the rush of questionable accurate semi-biographical trivia that hits the book-stands following each notable death in our own time is nothing new to British publishing. Two reasonable good engravings exist of Longwood New House:

Mellis (1857) describes the house thus:

A view of Longwood New House (built for Napoleon, but never occupied by him). This building is at the foot of the lawn of the Old House, about one hundred yards distant from it. It is a one-storied building and covers an area of about 23,000 superficial feet. !t contains in all fifty -six rooms of various sizes. The centre contains a billiard- room, library, and dining-room. &c. The right wing, as seen in the view was intended for the Emperor and the left for Montholon and family. In the rear of these are extensive premises, provided for the accommodation of the rest of his suite. The house is pleasantly situated in the Eastern division of the island at an elevation above the sea of about 1760 feet, with a good carriage-road from James Town, near five miles in length.

The products, technology ' and craft skills of Woolwich were instrumental in securing Napoleon ' s final defeat; that he died within sight of a house that came from the same Arsenal is, perhaps, a fitting irony

Bibliography. `Views of St Helena; illustrative of its Scenery and Historical Associations. From Photographs by G.W. Melliss. Esq. Surveyor General of the Island. G.W. Melliss; London, 1857
Extracts from the St Helena Records. H. R. Janisch St Helena. 1 885
A Series of Views illustrative of the Island of St Helena. J Wathen; Clay, London. 1821
A few ' notes on St Helena. B. Grant; St. Helena, 1881
Public Record Office Files:
PRO W0 1/796 - Office of Ordnance letter book
PRO W0 78/2507 Roll of plans containing 2 different Longwood plans amongst others
PRO C0 247/15 St Helena Governor's Letter book (Hudson Lowe)
PRO WO - 60/40. 60/4], 60/42 Accounts relating to the Establishment at Longwood
PRO MPG 1/251 Plan of the House and Grounds at Longwood. 1821

This article appeared in the September 2003 GIHS Newsletter

200th anniversary of an industrial accident on the Greenwich Peninsula

200th Anniversary of an industrial accident on the Greenwich Peninsula

By Mary Mills

On 8th September 2003 is the 200th anniversary of an industrial accident on the Greenwich riverside. There were lots of those but this one had consequences beyond the immediate ones, and it involved one of the heroes of steam technology, Richard Trevithick.

A plaque on the wall of the public house on the Peninsula, reads 'New East Greenwich’ and that may have been what was intended in 1803 -a new development away from the main industrial town of Greenwich. Development on the Peninsula is not something new - in 1800 the developer was George Russell, the site's owner. Russell had made a fortune from soap manufacture, founding the old Barge House Soap works on the west side of Blackfriars Bridge and he died at his home at Longlands, Sidcup,  in 1804. Since developments, including the landscaping of the area, as part of the Dome site it is very difficult to find the area where this incident took place. Most people will remember that the courtyard now in front of the Pilot used to extend to the riverside as Riverway. On the northern side stood the Blackwall Point Potter Station -- and this is roughly the site of the tide mill under construction in 1803. Ceylon Place. The cottages alongside the Pilot were built to house the workers.
This mill was constructed by the leading millwrighting business of John Lloyd. Lloyd was based at Brewers Green in Westminster but within two years had moved to Nelson Square in Southwark as a partner in Lloyd and Ostell. The company were government contractors and were to install the equipment at Waltham Abbey Gunpowder Works and a number of other important sites. They represent a point at which water powered mill wrighting was at a peak; a few years later such a big industrial installation would have chosen steam power with little consideration of any alternative
The mill was apparently also the work of a little known engineer, William Johnson. Johnson seems to have come from Bromley, where he gave his address as Widmore House. He had approached Morden College several times during the previous couple of ' years for a site where he could construct a 'water corn mill ' but exactly what his relationship was with George Russell and John Lloyd is not clear. By 1802 he had moved to Montpelier Row in Blackheath and was asking the City of London Thames Conservators for permission to open the river bank for the mill race and following a visit from their inspector a Mr. Hollingsworth was employed do the work. At the same time George Russell received a licence for the causeway into the river, which people will remember was used by the yacht club until riverbank reconstruction by English Partnerships.

One day in 1802 0linthus Gregory, Professor of Mathematics at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, he walked along the riverside from Woolwich. and chatted to the foreman and recorded what he found on site. It is from him that we have most of the details of this important mill.
 Steam power was available on site: a high-pressure engine built by Richard Trevithick was in use, apparently for building work. Trevithick had recently come to London to advertise his work -- this had included the previous bear the demonstrations of his locomotive on a circular track at Euston.
It had an 8-inch cylinder and worked without an expansive cock. Trevithick himself said that it was 'too light a load to do good dull and 'of a bad construction .. The flywheel was loaded on one side. So as to divide the power of ' The double engine '. It was reported that the fire 'in contact with the cast iron ' had heated the boiler red hot and burnt all the joints. Eels congregated under the mill and on Thursday ', 8th September 1803. an apprentice. left to look after the steam engine. went to catch them. 'Impatient to finish the work he had put a piece of Limber between the top and the safety value and bent it down so that it could not rise to allow the steam 10 escape the boiler blew- up, killing three men on site. At the remote riverside a wherry was called and the injured taken b} river to St. Thomas's Hospital which was there at London Bridge. Despite the efforts of the surgeon. N'lr. Bingham, one man. Thomas Nailor. died a few days later: his head and neck had been covered in boiling water interestingly Nailor had not been a Greenwich resident, but had lived north of the river in Poplar. Another man was deafened. but the boy who was the cause of the trouble. although injured. recovered.

Trevithick feared that Boulton and Watt, as rival engine manufactures. would be quick 10 point out the dangers involved. The Times in reporting the incident said that Mr. Walt's engines would not explode in this way ' and that the accident 'should be a warning to engineers to construct their safety valves so that common workmen cannot stop them at their pleasure. It seems that there was some sort of enquiry after the accident - it is the sort of thing which ought to have happened The only clue to this is found in a register of expenses submitted to the Court of ' Chancery after George Russell's death. One item concerns expenses to 'Daniel Vaux and Mr. Johnson for attending as a witness in a case respecting the steam engine in Greenwich' - what was this case? Was it about insurance? I have been totally ' unable to find out and some knowledge of this case and its proceedings might throw a whole new light on the matter The mill lived on -- it had a number of operators and became part of Frank Hills' chemical works in the 1840s and was still there in 1890. After his death some of the site was used for Blackmail Point Power Station and the rest, including the mill, became The Phoenix Chemical works attached to the gas works. In 1927 the insurance based Goad plan for the area still shows some of the mill ponds with a causeway leading to them from the area of the tidal intake - is there anyone who still remembers those ponds What were they used forte When were they drained? It is almost impossible now, given the landscaping undertaken by English Partnerships to trace the site of the mill or the ponds   

This appeared in the GIHS Newsletter for September 2003

Thursday, 21 November 2019

First factory - Greenwich or Woolwich


By Professor Ray Riley

There is a case for early naval dockyards to be included among some of the first factories.

What is a factory? If it is a building specifically dedicated to the production of a good, then domestic manufacture - the weaver's cottage for example - must be excluded, although some regard such premises as proto-factories. But clearly mills are factories; they contain power machinery which transforms material into a product, and their architecture is entirely functional. That these examples might have employed only a handful of workers is irrelevant - there are small factories just as there are large ones. It is the characteristics of the enterprise which is the issue.

Roger Shelley justifiably suggests that naval dockyards may be contenders for the title but advances the caveat that the fortunes of the dockyards were determined by war; this is true, but in the search for the date of establishment this is unimportant.  Despite the copious literature on foreign policy, maritime battles, the heroics of naval officers, naval strategies, warships, and to some extent on the dockyards themselves, economic historians and others seem to have focused on textile mills to provide examples of early factories. They have overlooked the dockyards as loci of production and repair of naval vessels from the sixteenth century onwards. It might be argued that a dry dock or building slip is not a factory, but both are buildings specifically dedicated to the production of a good, as I say above.  Furthermore, the docks and slips were always accompanied by adjacent storehouses, smithies, sail lofts, mast houses, seasoning sheds, and sometimes rope houses, all of which are buildings in the conventional sense.

May I offer some chapter and verse?
The first dry dock and associated facilities to be established in a naval dockyard was at Portsmouth in 1495. This was followed by yards at Woolwich in 1505, Deptford in 1515, Chatham in 1575, Harwich and Sheerness in 1665, and Plymouth in 1690. At some yards there was specialisation of the kind at Woolwich where gunfounding was added in 1557, gunpowder manufacturing in 1662 and gun carriage production in 1680. Arguably each of these activities itself constituted an individual factory. Ropehouses at Woolwich (1612), Chatham (1621), Portsmouth (1663 and 1695) and Plymouth (1690) were gigantic structures by the standards of the day and must have been the largest factories ever built in Britain. 

The scale of operations in the yards may be judged from criteria such as the number of ships launched: 18 vessels left the slips at Portsmouth between 1660 and 1674, and by the volume of repairs: no less than 98 warships were worked on at Portsmouth in 1702 alone. At Chatham 259 shipwrights and tradesmen were employed in 1611, a figure which had risen to 1,000 by 1697, when 1,271 were on the payroll at Portsmouth. At the latter yard some 2,100 were employed in 1711. The sophisticated division of labour, the organization of flow-line production, and, often forgotten, of material supplies, and the management of these huge numbers of workers all on one site (apart from material supplies the dockyards were self- sufficient), lend great weight to the proposition  that the industrial revolution began not on the rivers and coalfields, but in naval dockyards

News items July 2003


Tom Cribb — Bare knuckle Fighter.

Tony Robin reported at the last Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society council meeting that English Heritage had turned down an application from Chris Mansfield, proprietor of the Ready Snacks cafe at 111, Woolwich High Street, for a blue plaque to be placed upon his building. This would have commemorated the fact that Tom Cribb had once lived in the house, which was then a
Bakery. English Heritage considered that a plaque would be better placed upon the 'Tom Cribb' public house, in the centre of London, in which dwelling, Tom had spent a greater length of his life, and their application was favourably received. This is understandable, I suppose, because more tourists are likely to see it there. But it is a pity, considering that Tom died in Woolwich and is buried in St. Mary Magdalene's churchyard. Never mind – we still have the magnificent lion in the church gardens, and a road named after him. Tony had been to meet Chris Mansfield, in his cafe and had a cup of tea with him. He found a very pleasant man, busily cooking meals of all kinds for his many customers, but still with time to talk to me. Tony told him that WADAS regretted his failure to acquire the blue plaque, and that we had heard that he was considering having a plaque made privately. Chris told him that he had been thinking about it but that he was also considering selling his very busy cafe, and so it would not be a priority now. He is very interested in local history and had a wonderful collection of photographs of the old and new Ferryboats and of the surrounding area, upon the walls of the cafe. They are fascinating - pay a visit to Chris's cafe, look at the photographs, have a chat with him and enjoy a delicious cup of tea.
Pat Fawcett
(this item appeared in the WADAS Newsletter)

Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark is in a desperate state.  It seems that the stern of the ship will collapse in two years if nothing is done. The Cutty Sark Trust now needs to raise an estimated £10m it is hoped that £3.5m will come from the public. They are selling off every bolt, rivet, and plank. In a sponsorship programme - you can buy a rivet for a fiver, a foot of plank for £20, a bronze bolt for £25, a 'tween          deck plank for £100, a teak deck plank for £500 or one of the ship's side planks for £5,000.
In return you will receive  - A certificate from The Cutty Sark Trust. • A unique, specially commissioned supporter's pin badge • Your name published in the supporter's list in Blackheath Guide  • A twice yearly supporter's newsletter updating you on the ship's progress     a • Invitations to supporter's events, held onboard Cutty Sark • A scale drawing of Cutty Sark, showing you exactly where your plank is  • For Side Planks, your name can be engraved on the plank and you and two guests will be invited to a special naming ceremony on board   Cutty Sark
To become a supporter, contact The Cutty Sark Trust 2 Greenwich Church Street, London SE10 9BG.  020 8858 2698.          
Simon Schofield of the Cutty Sark Trust asks whether  there is anyone in the area who remembers the Cutty Sark coming to Greenwich. Can anyone help?


A unique and innovative website,, containing fascinating information about the history of six south London boroughs and their people from the 16th century to the present day, was launched at the University of Greenwich on Tuesday, 20 May.
The site explores how the south London suburbs developed and how, in a short space of time these semi-rural villages became part of the London sprawl. The general public, historians and architects will be able to access, via this website, a wealth of information on housing and public buildings in south London over the last five centuries.
Ideal Homes is a collaboration between the University of Greenwich and the south London councils of Bexley, Greenwich, Lambeth, Bromley, Lewisham and Southwark, who have spent two-and-a-half years pooling their archives and expertise to make a reality. Sue McKenzie, Head of Lambeth archive, has coordinated the project.
"The website's launch event will be both a celebration of the creation of the site and also act as an appeal for ideas and material to develop it," says Dr Jane Longmore, Head of the University of Greenwich's School of Humanities.                            "We would like to include reminiscences, personal pictures and ephemera, possibly film. We want Ideal Homes to be a resource for all, that celebrates the diversity and richness in the history of an often overlooked part of London," continued Dr Longmore.
The website will examine what caused the south London suburbs to grow and change.  The construction of bridges across the Thames, the development of rail transport, the building of Crystal Palace, and the two world wars all shaped these suburbs into what they are today.
The site is in its early stages but there are plans to take a closer look at the lives of the people who lived in, or moved to, the suburbs. At present the site has 2000 images and maps, taken from the archive and local history collections of the six boroughs. There will also be essays and studies written by local historians.
"Already, people are using the web site to delve into their past," says Dr Longmore. "I've been contacted by the delighted daughter of a 91-year-old woman who found a photograph of her mother's childhood house in Bermondsey on the site, which has brought part of her family history to life."
The web site was designed and built by Jack Cannon of the University of Greenwich Web Development Team, which will also host the site for the six London boroughs. The cost of putting together the web site has been covered by a significant grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the New Opportunities Fund.

Hanson plc has secured a relatively long term (10 year) interest in the Victoria Deepwater Terminal, Blackwall Reach, Greenwich for use by ships unloading aggregate and similar products. This maintains the future of this wharf, the last of the large upriver wharves now Convoys has closed.
• When working recently at Steve Leach's boatyard next to Thames Lock in Brentford, I came across a bollard marked 'J.Piper Greenwich,
I assume this was made by the firm of that name, whose yard still exists in Greenwich, under other ownership but still ship repairers
Peter Finch (this note first appeared in the GLIAS Newsletter)

Letters July 2003

From Mike Neill
The Greenwich Gallery at the Greenwich Heritage Centre
The Council values the opinions of all stakeholders in the planning of its facilities, and we would be very pleased to receive your comments and suggestions on possible options for the planned new permanent exhibition in the new Greenwich Heritage Centre. A funding application will be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund in the autumn; whilst there is no guarantee that this will succeed, it remains our aspiration to develop an inclusive exhibition that will be of interest to all the people of Greenwich.
Written comments and submissions are very welcome, but me and my colleagues would also be very happy to meet with you to discuss the possible options in further detail. We would like to have concluded this phase of the consultation by the end of July, when questionnaire research will begin, to be undertaken by an external Market Research company. With many thanks in advance for your interest,

From Richard Hartree

John Penn & Son(s). Family history started my interest in this firm.  My great, great, grandfather William Hartree married Charlotte, the daughter of John Penn1, and was a partner.  My industrial management career gave me an interest in industrial history and out of this combination has come a wish to write a history of this family business.  I’ve visited the sites in Greenwich and Deptford, the Cedars, the Almshouses, the church at Lee and Riverdale in Lewisham, also the Hartree vault in Nunhead cemetery.  I’ve read quite extensively and followed up all Penn references in The Engineer, the Newcomen Proceedings and many books on the history of Thameside shipbuilding and marine engineering.  I’ve also explored the Penn file at Woodlands.  I’ve read the articles in this publication about the Penn sites in Greenwich and Deptford and know that amongst GIHS members and others locally there must be much knowledge which it would valuable to be able to include in what I’m doing. I shall give full acknowledgement for anything I use.
I’m hoping for things about the people who worked at Penn’s, especially the engineers and managers who kept the firm going after John Penn 2’s death and in Thames Ironworks times, also any local family or social information. Some specific points:-
Deptford Victualling Yard Bakery/Biscuit factory, when was it built, what did John Penn supply?
History of the growth of the Greenwich site.
The date of John Penn taking over the Deptford site and its development.
Date of the millwright’s strike which caused John Penn1 to introduce self-acting machinery.
Any works descriptions other than Barry, Society of Engineers visit in The Engineer, The Illustrated London News and Robert Smiles “Model Establishment” piece.  I’m seeking descriptions of manufacturing and management methods.  [Note of another local connection. my great grandfather John Penn Hartree married Janet, daughter of Samuel Smiles.]
Relating to the Greenwich site the schedule in the agreement of sale by the partnership to the limited company in 1889 lists the Engine Factory and houses from 82 to 104 Blackheath Road as freehold, 62 and 110 Blackheath Road and 5 Lewisham Road as leasehold, this last let to Dr F R Cox.  This suggests that 10 Lewisham Road was a part of the Engine Factory at that time, or it was in other ownership.  I include this because I’ve now seen a reference to this document - found in the PRO.
My reading suggests that the story in the ICE obituary of John Penn 2 about the Steam Gun and the Duke of Wellington is apocryphal and the friendship of John Penn 1 with William Cobbett is unlikely [there was another John Penn who was a supporter of Cobbett] although his 1832 election address shows he followed Cobbett’s writings. [Finding that was fun!]
I am in touch with Lady Penn in Fife and we share the aim to do something which will give John Penn 2 and the firm the recognition they deserve.  Please help if you can, you will be fully acknowledged.

From Pat O’Driscoll
I was most interested in the piece about John Penn's in the current GIHS publication. In 1957 I became aware of a small ship's figurehead displayed outside No. 20 John Penn Street. I hoped to photograph it in its position but the problem was to get there when the light was on it. In fact I never did manage to get there with my camera at a suitable time. Questions to Greenwich Borough Council and the National Maritime failed failed to identify the figurehead and the circumstances in which it had found its way to 20 John Penn Street.
Eventually, on 12th June, 1966, I managed to photograph the figurehead, by then moved to a house in Blackheath. The figurehead is said to have come from vessel, which spent the last 20 years of her career delivering mail to ships at the Nore. I still do not know her name. Does anybody recognize the figurehead and can anybody tell me more about it?

From Peter McPherson
I have been researching my family background and to date have discovered that my father's family (the McPhersons) were pewterers and bar fitters in the area in the second half of the 19th century (and also owned a few pubs!). My grandmother’s side of the family (Gibbs) were kamptulicon makers (the forerunner of lino). In 1881 there were four of them employed in (I believe) Greenwich Road (now Greenwich High Road). I wondered if either of these subjects had been looked at by your Society.

From Adam Oliver
I have an old relation (who lived behind Park Row in the 1920s until the 1960s) who has asked me to find out if there is a video archive of working ships around Greenwich / Isle of Dogs. Can you help?

From Nat Bocking
I have long held that the water towers surrounding my home in Suffolk are objects of beauty as well as vital utility. They are visually abundant in a landscape that emphasizes their form and they are icons of East Anglia as much as its horses, wherries and steeples. Without water towers the population of East Anglia (and many other areas of Britain) could not have been sustained. My research into the towers in Suffolk leads me to the conclusion that detailed information on their history and use is scarce and practically unobtainable. I have encountered many water tower enthusiasts, some with professional expertise in historic engineering, and I know of many iconic examples, but, to my knowledge, water towers in Britain have not been collectively studied or fully exploited for their cultural or commercial value. This has been done successfully in North America and Europe and I have no doubt that Britain's water towers have similar potential. An opportunity exists to exploit the educational and heritage value of this abundant and under utilized asset to create new employment and new revenue, stimulate growth in the local economy and increase the value of existing resources.
Core proposal:  I am proposing that a body be empowered to investigate the history, aesthetics, cultural significance and development potential of water towers and communicate the findings to the public, business and government. Because of the concentration of a wide range of types in my geographic region, my objective initially would be to publish a guide to towers in East Anglia, scaling up to a national undertaking later.

From: Mary Gregory
I am trying to find out about J Stone & Co (Deptford) Ltd: I came across a letter from Jeremy Bacon about a steam car engine. Indeed this was built in about 1962 by Neil C Gregory, my late husband. He was a Mechanical Engineering Student Apprentice at J Stone & Co (Deptford) from 1958-62, was made Apprentice of the Year in 1962 and then worked for them until 1963. He and a friend, Peter Randall, had intended to build the chassis for the car and run it, but I came into Neil's life, marriage followed, and there was no spare money to finish the project, so the engine was sold. I wish I had come across your site earlier - Neil died on 3 March this year from mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos while working at J Stone. He would have been so flattered that someone was enquiring after his steam car.
Neil built live three steam locomotives - the latest he finished two years ago is 7.25" gauge, quarter scale, based on a loco on the Sandy River and Maine in the USA. He ran it on a track around our croft (we retired to the Western Highlands in 1995) and was working on another loco for the grandchildren to run when he was struck down with this awful illness and died within a year aged 61.

From David Riddle
Do you know what the links are between Batavia and Deptford? Recently there was a TV program on one of the cable channels about a shipwreck in Western Australia.. the 'Batavia'. I thought I recognised the name, either from a GIHS article or from somewhere else. I then remembered that the student accommodation at Goldsmiths College that lies above the shops on New Cross Road opposite Deptford Town Hall is called Batavia Mews. The ship belonged to the Dutch East India Company, and so I don't think has any reason to be linked to Deptford.
From what I have been able to find out on the Net this morning it seems that 'Batavia' is either the old name for Java. or simply an old port in Java. Captain Cook visited there on his voyage of expedition that started in Deptford and included a call in Java before going on to chart New Zealand and Australia. Can anyone think of anything else that could possibly link Deptford and 'Batavia'?

From Jenny Bufton
I have noted with interest the paragraph on the Lennard Tar Still in a recent newsletter. I am researching our family history and have found that some of our ancestors lived In Deptford in the 1870/80s and worked at the tar factories so am interested in any relevant information you may have. I have read that many of the workers in this industry came from Suffolk.  Our Barnes family lived in Deptford in the 1870/1880S at Edale Rd, (which I know no longer exists) next to several Tar works, and according to records worked in them. I was also interested in the name "Lennard" strangely enough for another reason. Our Barnes grandfather changed his surname by deed poll to that of Lennard and we never had any idea why he chose this name until I read your article. So since we knew they all worked at some tar works in Deptford this could be the reason and a connection?

From Peter Hopp
I collect slide rules and have recently come across a slide rule made by G.Fowler of Millwall. I was wondering if any of your readers or other experts may have information on this Mathematical Instrument Maker who must have been working around 1850 from the style of the slide rule.

From David Nelson
Do you have any documentation on an individual who could have labeled a brass hinge ‘Y.Mathis , Greenwich’ in the early 1800s?  It is located on an early 19th century candlestand but I would surmise that the name is that of the metal worker and not the cabinetmaker.

RACS Abbatoir

THE R.A.C.S./C.W.S. ABATTOIR 1937-1994

By Kathleen Barr

The new R.A.C.S. Abattoir opened in 1937 replacing the old Abattoir, which was in Belvedere.  The new Abattoir was state of the art for its time and the first of its type in Britain. It was based upon an American design which incorporated the idea of housing the Slaughter Hall on an upper level which gave the great advantage of using gravity instead of manpower to move such things as hides, sheepskins, gut, hooves and condemned meat - they were simply dropped down the appropriate chute into waiting bins outside or on to work surfaces in the Gut House below.


After the outbreak of World War Two the Abattoir was taken over by the Ministry of Agriculture which controlled every aspect of the day to day running of the building. At some point during the war years, probably 1943, killing was ceased and the building was used for storing and distributing foodstuffs. Killing was resumed around 1946 but the Ministry remained in full control of the Abattoir until the end of rationing in 1954. During the war years the Abattoir was in great danger from German bombs not only because of its own logistical importance but also because only a few hundred yards from it, in Garland Road, stood the "Optical Buildings" which was a Ministry of Defence research facility for improving weapon sighting and ranging. However, a battery of anti-aircraft guns, sited on what are now the Golf Links and a barrage balloon unit, sited where the houses in Highgrove now stand, protected the area. One of the Balloon teams suffered a direct hit from a German bomb and not one piece of the team was ever found. An Abattoir worker would be detailed at all times to stand on the flat roof of the building on watch for German aircraft and sound the alarm if any were spotted. One of the older staff, Bill Hills, told me that one afternoon when he was on watch he saw a Messershmit 110 fighter-bomber, which banked around the building at the same height as his position on the roof. He said he could clearly see the both the pilot and navigator and waved to them as he sounded the alarm!

THE 1950's AND 1960's

During the 1950's and 60's the Abattoir was very busy. It employed two slaughter gangs - one for beef and one for "smalls" (Sheep and Pigs). During the busiest periods, around Christmas and during the Lamb Season, killing would start at five in the morning and go on until midnight. The beef gang was known to be the quickest in Britain, being able to kill and fully dress fifteen cattle per hour.

THE 1970'S

In 1970 the "factory" (meat processing plant) was built and opened. The factory produced sausages and beef burgers for the Co-op shops and packing meat for the new "Freezer Centre" which was situated at the Co-op Links store at Plumstead Common. In 1974 another large outside cattle pen was added to the building. However, by the later 1970's work at the Abattoir was starting to slow down. This was largely a result of a decline in the fortunes of the R.A.C.S. Due to the increasing affluence of people throughout this period (and many argued due to the discontinuation of the tin cheque and the later Co-op stamps) the old working class image of the Society was failing to inspire the modern consumer. Many of the small Co-op butchers shops, such as the one on the parade in Swingate Lane, Plumstead, were closed and sold off. Due to this trend, and totally against the ethics of the CO OP at that time, the Abattoir began to take on killing for private butchers in order to keep up the "head rate" of the building. In late July 1979 the killing and distribution operations (the factory was not affected) at the Abattoir were halted for a period of two months for the building to be brought up to the new E.E.C. standard. This work included the plastic cladding of walls as tiles were no longer legal and shot blasting of the roller-rails to remove all rust. The killing was put out to Coveney's at Charing and F.M.C Canterbury and the distribution staff were re-located to the R.A.C.S. Commonwealth Buildings at Woolwich.

THE 1980'S
During the first half of the 1980's the workload of the building continued to drop off. Even though one whole day's work (Tuesdays) was largely taken up with private killing on many Thursdays there was no kill. But the Abattoir was a status symbol for the R.A.C.S. and was kept open despite many rumours of its imminent closure. Indeed, in 1984, a hide-puller system and new trap were added to the beef kill system due to new E.E.C. regulations,  which stated that cattle could no longer be flayed on the ground with the old Pritch-Plate system. However, by the mid-eighties the whole of the R.A.C.S. was in serious financial difficulties and a "merger" was negotiated with the C.W.S. The management of the Abattoir in meetings with the heads of the C.W.S. Meat Group was led to believe that the Abattoir would gain much work when the C.W.S. took control. The "merger" took place in February 1985. On March 15th 1985, on arrival for work, the Slaughtermen, Stockman and Gutmen were told that "this is the last day of killing, come in tomorrow morning at ten to collect your settlements".    From then until its total closure the building was entitled the C.W.S. Meat Depot, Garland Road. Meat was delivered to the depot and then distributed to the Co-op shops. The factory continued to perform its normal function for a further three months until June 1985 when it too was closed down and its staff made redundant. At its busiest the Abattoir had employed about eighty plus people but now the staff numbered only around ten.

On July 9th 1987 the Abattoir made national headlines when an attempted-armed robbery of a security van, which was delivering wages to the building, was ambushed by armed police. Two of the robbers were shot dead and one was seriously wounded but survived. Thus, the Abattoir holds the record not only for the quickest beef gang in Britain but also for the most people killed and wounded by the police on mainland Britain in a non-terrorist related gun battle. The Abattoir continued to function as a meat depot until October 1989 when the decision was taken by the bosses of the C.W.S. Meat group to close the building and put the work out to a private company which operated from a cold store at Riverhead in Kent. The building stood empty but with round-the-clock security officers until its demolition in May and June 1994. A sad end to what had once been a thriving workplace. 

this article appeared in the July 2003 GIHS Newsletter