Friday 15 November 2019

Letters January 2003

Letters January  2003

From Philip Davies, Director, English  Heritage London Region
I enclose for your attention a copy of Changing London: An Historic City for a Modern World, which we are distributing widely. Changing London highlights the crucial contribution London's historic environment makes to people's quality of life and to the capital's economy. We must stop polarizing the old and the new. London's future lies in the successful integration of both into the daily lives of the 7.5 million people who live and work in this great city. The publication coincides with the release of a MORI poll commissioned by English Heritage which asks Londoners about their views on London's historic environment. It is clear that it enjoys enormous public support. People care deeply about it. English Heritage is a facilitator in enabling change. Conservation is about managing, not preventing, change. One of our key aims is to encourage a creative dialogue between conservation and developers.
We believe that the best new buildings arise from understanding and valuing the historic environment. Conservation does not inhibit good new architecture; it provides a framework within which it can flourish. This was demonstrated by the recent RIBA London Awards where 11 of the 14 award winning schemes were for new buildings in an historic context.

From Pat O’Driscoll
Some more comments on Mary Mills’ new book Greenwich and Woolwich at Work.
p. 24 – Norton’s Barge Yard – Norton’s survived into the 1960s. Dick closed it in 1966 but he continued to go down there most days. 
p 28 – the bottom picture was taken by me on 27th October 1954. It might be possible to identify the barge hulk being broken up in this picture of Garrett’s Barge Breakers.
The bottom picture on page 71 was taken by me on 22nd September 1954. The mast shown outside Enderby House on the Greenwich riverside and said to come from the Great Eastern was made of wood – it was the only one of her masts, which was wood because it was used to mount the ship’s compass above the magnetic field of the ship.  The other masts were of hollow steel and formed funnels for the ship’s auxiliaries (steam steering engine, etc.)
The picture on p. 105 was taken on 22nd May 1972.
The picture of Tower Julie on p. 15 was taken on April 3rd 1972. She was then discharging a cargo of maize and it was her very first voyage.
The pictures of old Deptford Creek Bridge are interesting. It’s the first one I’ve seen. The gang of men had to remove the rails so that the bridge could open just 14 inches (I’m told), which would just permit the passage of a ship’s mast if the ship was steered very accurately. 
P. 65 – note the solid front tyres of that lorry. These would date the picture from the early 1920s before pneumatic tyres came on the scene.
p. 35 that barge alongside Woolwich power station looks as if she is a steel one, possibly one of Goldsmith’s. She would be a river barge rather than a coasting barge because on bowsprit can be seen. Coasting barges generally had a bowsprit. I can’t think what sort of bales she would be discharging here. The crane has an iron bucket rather than a grab, which would seem to rule out coal, which one would be more likely to find being discharged at a power station. A bit of a mystery here! I’d like to show the picture to Bob Childs, who might well know the answer.
p. 102 I think the reason why no books can be seen on the shelves in Plumstead Library is that most public libraries in the early past of the 20th century were closed access ones where the books were out of signs and would be borrowers chose a book from number in a catalogue and the assistant fetched. Some libraries had a big board with details of books and a number beside each book. The libraries I used to work at (Forest Hill branch dating from 1900) only went over to open access in 1932 so that the books were on shelves as they are in today’s libraries. The branch librarian who had been in post since 1920 told me about the changeover.

From Bob Aspinall, Museum in Docklands

I am taking this opportunity to update friends and colleagues on the latest news regarding the Museum in Docklands (MiD), which is as follows:-
The Museum in Docklands ran in to financial problems earlier this year, due to the escalating cost of converting this magnificent Grade I Listed warehouse into a museum capable of accommodating the demands of 150,000 visitors a year. The only way that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) would bail us out was to bring about a merger between MiD and the Museum of London (MoL): this was based on the premise that most of the collections which would be displayed at MiD already belong to MoL, together with the contents of the Docklands Library & Archive. The MoL agreed to the merger on the understanding that a funding package could be put together to take on MiD and run it in the future. This funding package has three components:- the HLF: the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS): and the Corporation of London (CoL). At the moment, DCMS and CoL support the MoL on a 50/50 basis. All the support has to be "new money"- the MoL cannot run MiD out of its existing budget. So far, HLF has coughed up, DCMS has put in some money but not as much as was originally hoped, but the CoL has so far refused to make a  contribution. This failure has caused the announcement of the merger between the two museums to be put back twice, in November and December. It has also meant that the plans to recruit 40 new staff to run MiD have had to be suspended. The job adverts have been issued: hundreds of people have applied: shortlists have been made: but job interviews scheduled to take place in the first full week in January have been postponed.
Meanwhile, the staff here is continuing to work on getting the MiD ready for opening. As many of you will know, the displays in the galleries are about 90% complete, the lecture theatre is operational and the Library & Archive is in place. But the reluctance of the CoL to put money on the table means that the merger will be delayed at least until the next MoL Board meeting in January. Despite that, the MoL remains confident that it can still achieve the scheduled opening date of the 12th April 2003. However, if the CoL fails to commit to its share of the funding in January, the opening date will have to be put back once again. I am sure you can imagine the effect that all this is having on the MiD staff- 2002 has been a bleak year for all of us. Merger with the MoL is now the only option left open to MiD if it wants to open to the public. Let us hope that the current problems will be resolved soon and we can at long last deliver this wonderful museum. All I can say to you is, watch this space!

From James Purtill
Your November newsletter includes a letter from Michael Cooke regarding the electric telegraph and submarine cables. I worked in the submarine cable industry for some years and I have some information which could be helpful. I have a copy of a book entitled "From Elektron to 'e' Commerce - 150 Years of Laying Submarine Cables" which was jointly produced in 2000 by Global Marine Systems Ltd. (address: 27 Duke Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1HT) and Alcatel Submarine Networks of Greenwich. It is possible that copies could be available from these companies. The book includes some information about submarine cable manufacture at Greenwich among a lot of historical detail about the development of the industry. Technical detail about telegraph cable manufacture and laying should be available from the Porthcurno telecommunications museum in Cornwall. Their website (http//www.porthcurno. museum/ mdex.html) includes details of equipment in the museum and a few relevant books. I presume Alcatel must have some old records but I am not sure.
Finally, Captain Glyn Wrench at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich will be able to assist. He spent a lifetime working on Cable & Wireless vessels and is an expert and an enthusiast on the subject. He would be delighted to hear from anybody with an interest in the industry. I hope this is helpful.

From Barbara Ludlow
My Billingsgate Dock article should be in Bygone Kent next month.  Did you hear Julian Watson (Greenwich Local History Librarian) and Eve Hostettler (Island History Project) talking about the Greenwich Foot Tunnel on ‘Making History’ this week?
More to the point – who heard Barbara herself talking about Enderby House on the same programme a couple of weeks ago?

From Malcolm Tucker
You had a query from Kay Bigsby (GIHS p.7) about an engine driver or building worker c. 1900 (presumably the father of the person on the birth certificate!).  He might have tended a portable engine for driving machinery such as a mortar mixer on a large site. But supporting it was a railway locomotive engine – I enclose a copy of an article on contractors’ railways  by Edwin Course (1992). Although these were used mainly on civil engineering works the article mentions mental hospitals, and after World War One when productivity became of greater concern to the building industry these were used on large housing contracts both public and private. The sites did not have to be connected to the mainline system, nor large in area, a recent article in another journal described the use of a standard gauge loco for constructing the water works service reservoir at Fortis Green nears Muswell Hill, N10 , in the Edwardian period.  By the nature of the construction industry a worker would need to move from site to site, so he may not have worked close to home except occasionally.
Those with past connections with the Royal Arsenal Woolwich are usually eager to point out ‘Woolwich Arsenal ‘ is the railway station – but your note from Peter Wood (GIHS 5 pp 8-9) states that some bronze memorial plaques manufactured at the Arsenal in the 1920s are marked ‘WA’ Any comments?
The article which  Malcolm sent is from the Construction History Society Newsletter No.19 April 1992. 

From Jim Arthur
I read and enjoyed Mary Mills’ book ‘Greenwich and Woolwich at Work’. I am interested in Merryweather and sons I would like to be put in touch with anyone who has a collection of pictures. I saw many photos in old bound copies of London Fireman. I regret I did not grab the opportunity of acquiring these, as some were priceless.  Just also to say that on p. 10 of the book is the ‘Woolwich Infant’ – authorities differ on this, I would say a muzzle loader had to be a smooth bore, but on p.51 a similar gun shows feint rifling marks at the muzzle !!!

From Brian Molony
This letter comes from the University of Hull on the banks of the Humber to Humber Road. I hope that is a good omen! I am Emeritus Professor of Italian at the University of Hull and have written two books and a number of articles on the Italian writer Italo Svevo (1861-1928). With Prof. John Gatt-Rutter, who has written a biography of Svevo, I am now preparing an edition of Svevo's letters and essays from/about London. You no doubt know the English Heritage blue plaque at 67 Church Lane, Charlton  (which for some reason omits to say that he also lived there from 1920 to 1927). Italo Svevo was the pseudonym of Ettore Schmitz, who worked for the paint firm of his parents-in law, Gioacchino and Olga Veneziani. He set up the Veneziani factory in Hope & Anchor Lane. I am now looking for information about the factory - even, ideally, a photograph of it - as well as some of Svevo's neighbours, such as Richards, the owner of the factory or workshop next door, whom Svevo mentions in his essays. I shall be very grateful if you can draw the attention of your members to our project, which I think will be of interest to them, and to our need for some help. Is there also a Charlton Local History Society you could put me in touch with? 

From Peter Solar

For some years I have been collecting information on flax, hemp, and jute spinning mills in the U.K. I wonder if you or any of the members of the Society might be able to tell me more about a mill in Greenwich. What I have found to date is summarized below:
Factory Inspectors' Statistics for flax, hemp and jute mills in Kent -  1839 1, 1850 1, 1857 0, 1862 0, 1867 0, 1871 0,
1905 1 (hemp)
In 1839 factory inspectors' statistics the mill is in Greenwich parish and has 40 hands (but no sign of it in Pigot's directory for 1840) In 1855 sale auction: twine sp & prep machinery of Hemp Works, East Greenwich, near London; 10 sp fr; 15 twisting fr (Dundee Advertiser, 24/7/55).
Enderby, C.H. & G. (38, 39) (not 24, 51) New East Greenwich and 15 Great St Helens, London Founded:1834
Closed: Product:
Notes: In Pigot's London & Provincial Directory for 1833 new entry for 1834 is Enderby Bros, rope & canvas mfrs, 15 Great St Helens. In 1837 listed in London as merchants at 15 Great St Helens. In 1839 flax spinning mills & patent rope makers. In 1845 Charles, Henry & George Enderby, rope & canvas mfrs. Spindles:
I suspect that the advertisement cited above refers to the Enderby concern. I would be interested to know whether this mill was newly constructed or converted from some other use and what became of the site after hemp spinning was stopped in the early 1850s.
Professor of Economics, Vesalius College, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels   

From Jay Edwins

Hello, I wonder if you can help me settle a friendly argument! 1 believe that the Blackwall Tunnel has major bends in it for engineering reasons. My chum, however, insists that it was built like this so horses would not bolt when they saw daylight. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

From Glyn in Tasmania

Hi everyone, I am researching the building of the Lady Nelson in Dudmans Dock in 1798 Some reports refer to Deadmans Dock. Are these the same place? Any information would be most welcome.


From Bob Forrester

General Steam Navigation Co. and its Deptford Factory:

You may recall that I contacted you some time back concerning my research at the Greenwich Maritime Institute into General Steam and, specifically, my interest in its Deptford Factory ship repair and engine building facility on the banks of Deptford Creek.

I wonder if a mention in your up-coming newsletter may yield some leads. I have visited both the Greenwich and Lewisham libraries and made contact with Peter Gurnett who produced a booklet, A History of the GSNCo., a couple of years ago. I have been thoroughly through the GSNCo. archive in the National Maritime Museum and also looked through the limited material available at the Museum in Docklands. I have also had a chat with Alan Pearsall. Any leads or information your members may be able to offer concerning the Factory or relating to the Brockelbank family which was resident in Westcombe Park will be greatly appreciated. (Thomas Brockelbank, a timber merchant, was closely involved with the company from the 1820s.)

From Tony Wright
I am researching William Harding, Gent, Merchant of Greenwich, Kent. Born in Poole, Hampshire he subsequently married into a Barbados Plantation family. He had two sons, William and John. John at some stage lived in Greenwich and inherited plantations. John died around1718. His father William died 1707. Any info. would be most welcome.

From: Dennis Grubb
Can you find someone who would be able to research News Papers about 1905 or so for information on a court case and subsequent closure of the Cemetery Brickyard in Southland Road Plumstead which was run by my ancestors at that time.Please advise what they would want me to pay
Dennis Grubb, Adelaide South Australia

From Ian Sharpe
We have updated and trust you will find many useful links to explore, do let us know what you think about our site by e-mail, or you can sign our visitor Guestbook and even link your URL there.
Best wishes for the festive season....
 Chair of LEA Heritage Community Group

From Reg, Jacqui and Lorna Barter

It appears that we are the custodians of the only Merryweather Firepumps left in Greenwich (in Massey Shaw)!
(well Reg … there’s a mysterious valve cover in Vanburgh Hill with ‘Merryweather’ written on it …. What lies beneath?)

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