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
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,
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
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:-
Victualling Yard Bakery/Biscuit factory, when was it built, what did John Penn
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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'?
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?
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.