By Ted Barr
May I start with a word or two of appreciation for all those members and others who have either written directly about my small contributions, or commented via the newsletter. All very pleasing and make the effort worthwhile.
An aspect of the subject which I had completely overlooked was the workshops in the gas and electricity generating stations. Taking, gas first, because of the large amount of heat available from benches of retorts and processes, etc. Waste heat boilers were frequently used and all the processes requiring mechanical power were steam engine driven. Obviously all this plant needed regular maintenance and overhaul. According to my History of the South Met. Their general workshops at Grenfell Street site had about 350 skilled men covering most of the recognised branches – one of my old deceased friends was a blacksmith/welder there.
Now, electricity generating – a mix of public and private.
Old Borough of Woolwich
1. White Hart Road
2. Arsenal (help – please! Chairman Jack)
3. By the Ferry
Old Borough of Greenwich
1. The Tramway Station, Old Woolwich Road
2. South Metropolitan Electricity, Blackwall Point
3. Deptford B
4. Angerstein SECR – a ‘might have been’.
1. White Hart Road. The Chamberlain inspired Act of 1882 gave private companies and public authorities powers to design, build, and operate plant to supply local networks. It appears that Woolwich was very early in the field at White Hart Road.
2. Tramway Station – built by the former London County Council to supply the trams. The only one left and operating by gas turbines remotely controlled as a booster for peak loads.
3. Deptford B. despite its’ name, within the old Greenwich boundary. Built by Ferranti it was the first public supply station in the world and later supplied a wide area of Southern Electric through a row of heavy underground cables to the familiar red-brick sub-station outside Lewisham Junction.
4. Angerstein – ‘might have been’ had SELR pursued their electrification plans for post World War One.
All these sites would have needed back-ups. Another of my old friends was in the machine shops at Battersea all through World War Two.
5. The United Glass works at Anchor and Hope Lane were considering having their own gas works in the mid 1930s. But dropped the idea on negotiating more favourable terms from South Metropolitan Gas.
6. Public Authorities:
Baths, wash houses and laundries – Greenwich new baths, Trafalgar Road, had an engineering workshop driven by our old friends line-shafting, belts and pullies.
There was a similar shop at Tunnel Avenue Depot and in my days at the Town Hall the engineer in charge was named Jim Taylor who lived in Ruthin Road. I never knew what went on there.
South Metropolitan Gas had a generation plant at Ordnance Wharf by-products works, presumably because gas light wasn’t suitable for plant making highly volatile inflammable products. They also ran a fleet of steam powered tankers for tar-spraying activities on the roads. These obviously had to be maintained in the general workshops.
7. The Woolwich Free Ferry vessels. No electricity was available in mid-stream and those familiar with ‘Squire’, ‘Duncan’ and the rest may remember that behind the engineer in charge who stood with his controls facing the engine room telegraphs, there was a smallish generator driven by a single cylinder steam engine, running all the time the ferry was in service.
As always, corrections, comments and additions will be welcome.