Monday, 4 November 2019

Arsenal Steam Hammers and Research Dept

                                                            by Jack Vaughan

Read on...... this is not about the ‘beautiful game’! We have in previous newsletters, said a few words about the giant steam hammer of 40 tons which struck its first blow in the Royal Arsenal in 1874 for the benefit of the Czar of Russia. It was not alone -although it dominated forging activities.
Walford in Vol II, of Greater London refers to ‘East Forge’ as having several hammers varying from 30 cwt to 60 cwt for welding iron bars together to form long bars which were coiled to form parts of heavy gun barrels.

‘West Forge’ held two further hammers of 12 tons and 10 tons.

Recent excavations have revealed parts of the foundations of some of the hammers. These were, of course, extremely massive and deep. The area of discovery is part of the so called ‘Master Plan’ which means that it is planned to put something new there and that that can’t be changed. However, English Heritage recognises the importance of the hammer bases to industrial history and would like them to be preserved in situ. Once again Royal Arsenal heritage is at risk!

ROYAL ARSENAL EX-RESEARCH DEPARTMENT                                                                              
 by Jack Vaughan

The above was located  adjacent to Plumstead Bridge and a large part now houses Belmarsh Prison.   A substantial area still survives but the Prison Service is aiming to acquire it, flatten every one of the remaining buildings and substitute a young offenders prison for 600 inmates.

One of the buildings, known as E1, was the principal feature of the Department and I recall during my own apprenticeship in the 1930s it houses a giant Avery Machine for testing  materials in tension and compression.

E1 has no listing, is not very old, but is described in Greenwich Council’s Planning Guide for Royal Arsenal East, in February 1996 as the ‘only building of interest’ on the site and is Neo-Georgian in style. 

Appeals have been made for its survival to the Council, to the Member of Parliament for the area and directly to the Prison Service as applicant.

Guess what? Refusal all round!

So another part of the honourable history of the Borough of Woolwich will vanish - disappearing without trace.

These articles appeared in the September 2000 GIHS Newsletter

No comments: