THE ‘CYCLOPEAN WALL’
From Stephen Schwarz
Stephen’s first letter:
I am interested in building materials and particularly re-used building materials. Here in Suffolk this tends to be limited to Rio and brick and stone material re-used in churches, or monastic stone reused in garden walls
My father lives in, knows Greenwich, and yesterday showed me Ballast Wharf and the extraordinary wall along the alleyway between the riverside path and Banning Street running on from Derwent Street. This wall looks more like recent demolition material than ballast. I wonder whether the wall is made of wasted material from Mowlem’s Granite Wharf or another demolition or stone working yard or wharf. N My father has also noticed other similar walls in the borough which may or may not be related – or indeed recorded.
Stephen then contacted geologist Eric Robinson via the journal Geology Today – who sent him the following letter:
I was interested to have your enquiry about the ‘Cyclopean’ wall at Greenwich, which, I know quite well. The history is unlocked by the link the name Mowlem. The contemporary firm trace their origins back to the 18th century at least, when they were directly involved in the shipping of Portland Stone and Purbeck Stone from the Dorset Coastal quarries up the Channel and into the Thames at Greenwich.
From their stockyard in Greenwich, barges took the stone upriver to wharves at Blackfriars, Westminster, and Pimlico whence the stone was carted to the sites. So rather than recycled stock, those walls are primary supply of the range of limestones from Dorset to which was added some Bath Stone and dressed granite from S.W.England for kerbs and sills.
Still more exotic are the ballasts from the tea clippers, which also found their way into the Greenwich foreshore. Some limestones hold up the cutting to Blackheath. Michael Kearney and I, - yes - 30 years ago identified some as limestone from the coast near Adelaide thanks to the boring bivalves still within their drill holes.
Do you know my Holiday Geology Series - fold card on Greenwich? BGS published my Trafalgar Square, Westminster, St.Paul’s, the Tower and finally Greenwich in 1995-96 at £1.95 each.
I hope the wall is listed Grade I.!
From: David Riddle
I went to the Firepower! event on Sunday afternoon. Good show, but not very crowded. I came to it by bike from the 'Waterfront end' and found them doing 'costume' firings of half a dozen pieces pointed out over the River towards North Woolwich. The River Path was open (at both ends) with little sign that the Royal Arsenal Gardens end was going to be closed again. There is no gate whatever at that end. Although the Thamesmead end has a decent gate on it and could, potentially, be locked up again.
Most of the Arsenal site is now 'blue-boarded' and secure, so I assume it could be left open from now on. There is certainly no way access through to Beresford Square can be prevented assuming the Path is left open.
Having arrived 'by road' from back as far as the Barrier, on returning I followed the signs, and was pleasantly surprised to find 'the Path' signed round the back of the Waterfront and the Ferry Offices, then across a new stretch of tarmac laid across Mast Pond Wharf. A bit odd this? Some expense has gone in to it, yet I thought that there was supposed to be a hotel and housing on that site. Already approved? This carried on through the Woolwich Dockyard Estate and on to the new estate next door. I carried on right to the end of this new stretch, to arrive within a stone's throw of Sergeants at the Barrier, at the eastern edge of the Westminster Industrial Estate. Any news on what is happening across the river frontage of this site? It looks like they may be making a pathway, but there is some new build going on right alongside Sergeants that could block any route at that end (unless the path goes underneath it?). I would have thought there must be something in the wind here, since all the signs say 'Interim Route' for that missing section that currently goes via the Woolwich Road.
P.S. Was in the Park yesterday PM and saw the 'Europa' leave around 4.45pm. Pretty impressive, at nearly 29,000 tons. The Barrier seems to have survived!
From Diana Rimel
The Mercury of 9th May contains a large article giving details about re-opening the path round the Dome, called Regeneration Game, and explaining why the path was shut. This is probably in response to a complaint by me on 4th April, in the Mercury, in an article The lost millennium, (which the Council replied to by letter in the Mercury following) and in which I complained about it being closed just when I had been planning to take Greenwich Society members round. I pointed out that I thought it was part of the Thames Path and therefore should legally have been open.
In the same Article I also complained about the loss of the cranes at Lovell’s Wharf, who was responsible for their removal (edited out by the Mercury) and the amount of aggregates on the path just past the former Victoria Deep Water Terminal. The Mercury also edited out the state of the latter. I do hope GIH members will walk along there and add their voice to mine to Greenwich Council to complain a) if the aggregate firms continue to leave the path in such a state, and b) if the Dome path doesn’t reopen – in spite of all the promises.
London Borough of Greenwich says:
There has been considerable public interest in when this Riverside walkway around the Dome site will reopen following closure of the Dome on 1st January 2001. The planning condition required English Partnerships and New Millennium Experience Company to open the footpath for public access within six months and we have been pursuing English Partnerships to meet this commitment.
They have now set up a Works Programme to separate the Dome site from the Riverwalk and this should take will take around three months to complete. The works will include new fencing, lighting, remedial works to the surfacing and completion of the link to Drawdock Road.
Whilst this delay is disappointing and regrettable it is essential that the Dome site is properly secured and the Riverwalk is safe for public use.
We will be monitoring English Partnership’s progress to ensure they meet their commitment to open this essential public access.
From Bob Patterson
I am trying to ascertain a few details of the HOLBROOK Lathe Company in Stratford. I am interested to know where the factory was - does anything remain or was it all bulldozed? When did it open and when was it closed. Are there any published reminiscences of people who worked there?
From: Jane Nicholson
Could you advise me where I might find information on the theatre that was built by the gas company? My grandmother was an employee and an amateur opera singer and performed there.
From: Mark Butler
My name is Mark Butler and I am currently undergoing my final year project (2002) at Kingston University. My project is based around four parks in the Thamesmead area of which two are owned by Gallions Housing Association - Birchmere and Gallions; the remaining two are in the Borough of Bexley. I am hoping that you could assist me or help me in some way for my project. Any historical or present data of the land or ideas for the project itself. I am hoping for some kind of help even if it is just being pointed in the right direction.
From: Beth Piepenburg
My great-grandfather, Henry Mabbett, was a principal foreman of the Cartridge Factory in the Royal Arsenal (chief foreman of the cartridge-making department of the Royal Laboratory, Woolwich Arsenal). How could I find any information about the subject and about Mr. Mabbett?
From an anonymous correspondent
I would like to know more about the horse ferry at Greenwich – I wonder if you could tell me where to get information?
From Stephen Turner
I was just reading the Greenwich Industrial History Society Newsletter Issue 9 and was interested to hear that someone had a picture of HMS Thunderer, the last battleship built on the Thames at Bow Creek. I would like very much to see this as I am working on an art and heritage project about the Creek leading to an exhibition at Trinity Buoy Wharf in September.
An important part of this will be a ‘log book of the river’ recording aspects of the Creek ‘s history, geology, geography, natural history and memories of local people showing how the place has changed over time.
Indeed if you know of any more interesting source material on Bow Creek I would be most grateful to know about it.
From Richard Hodgson,
Could you point me towards someone who might know the family history of Sir Adam Newton of Charlton House?
From Dennis Grubb
I have just dug up the article mentioned in Vol.2. Issue 1 February 1999 referring to the Wickham Lane Chalk Mines, which I presume to be related to the Wickham Lane Brickyards run by my ancestors. Can anyone give me more information?
From Brian Iddenden
I wonder if you can help me. My name is Iddenden and I see there are Iddenden Cottages somewhere in Greenwich. Could you please give me some information or at least an indication as to their whereabouts? I would be very grateful. Thanks very much.
From David Bridgewater
I am researching the Vanderwall family who were Quakers and who owned property and the copperas works at Greenwich in the mid Eighteenth Century. Is there anyone who can help with further information on the family and this industry?
From Philip Peart
I do hope you do not find it an imposition to be approached by a stranger for information. Can you help with any of this?
Lucas and Aird – My main interest is the Victorian contractors and in particular client/contractor, architect, engineer interface and how contracts were managed. Lucas and Aird who by 1890 were a very large international contractor are of particular interest to me due to the way they harshly treated clients, which finally resulted in their bankruptcy and total demise, when they finally met a client tougher than them.
Lucas was originally a builder from East Anglia they built Charing Cross Station Hotel etc.
Aird, I understand, was brought up in Greenwich after his father died while constructing the Regents Canal. He was apprenticed to a Greenwich gas works and I believe by the 1840s was chief engineer. He then set up his own building gas works and associated distribution systems. By the 1850s he was doing the same in Paris, Berlin, Budapest and possibly Moscow.
Renishaw Iron Company. I rescued a large amount of documents relating to this company. It was a typical ironworks and foundry on the north Derbyshire Sheffield boundary formed in 1783 and in production until 1968ish.
The main owners were the Appleby family. There was in their papers one reference (a catalogue) that they had a London Company. Appleby Bros. who in 1867 were in Southwark manufacturing cranes and other dockside equipment. They moved to Greenwich to the premises of Bessemer. They left before 1889 and went into partnership with a firm, Jessops of Leicester. I am interested in when they broke away from the Renishaw Iron Co. Can you give any information?
From Matt Weston
I have recently moved into Deptford High Street into a 200-year-old house and I am trying to research its history. I would be grateful if you could recommend a resource.
From Michelle Tonkin
I am interested as my Grandfathers’ father; Arthur Edward Knight, was Inspector of Munitions at the Woolwich Arsenal from 1890 onwards. The only information I have is as follows: He lived in married quarters in Hythe. 1890 presentation from sergeants of the 4th Volunteer Battalion Surrey Regiment leaving for Woolwich Arsenal. He was Inspector of Munitions after returning from America at Woolwich Arsenal. Probably he had left the army by then. He also went to Coventry and Waltham Abbey. I am trying to find out if he only served in the 4th Volunteer Battalion Surrey Regiment or if he served in another regiment also.
From Roger Hough
We went on a trip from Tower Bridge last Sunday on Balmoral and after popping into Southend we went out into the Estuary and looked at the Thames Forts. I had never heard of them, the author of a booklet about them was on board and gave a commentary about their installation, use during and after the war and as a pirate radio station, hippies etc. The author is Frank Turner and he lists booklets about Gravesend Airport and the forts built at various places along the Thames, Dam Buster trials at Reculver and many similar subjects.
From Iris Bryce
With reference to the smaller engineering firms of the borough, listed by Ted Barr. I don’t think he has mentioned KORKN’SEAL (hope I’ve spelt it right!) that was in Anchor and Hope Lane, Charlton. My sister worked there from 1930 until she went to Siemens in 1935 – as far as a know the factory made bottle tops of various kinds, especially crown caps. My mother worked full time as a rope maker at British Ropes from 1928 until she retired through illness in 1938 - her stomach muscles collapsed through the strenuous hauling of the heavy ropes – not too much machinery round in those days.
News of the boat trips on the River Lea brings back memories of my life living aboard my narrow boat and we cruised the Rivers Lee and Stort many times. On one occasion entering the Lee from the Thames at Bow Locks – quite an adventure for a nitro boat. I have many photos and transparencies of the area and would be pleased to show then at some time if of interest to members.
I have just discovered a 1915 Merryweather fire pump made in Greenwich. It is part of a Bygones Museum. Claydon, Banbury - a note of interest is that they advertise it as a ‘Merry Weather fire pump’.
The Museum has several traction engines and steam engines and they are in steam on the first Sunday of the month and Bank Holiday Sundays and Mondays April-Sept. they take parties at discounted prices and are open Tuesday-Sunday 10 am to 5 pm.
** There is also a Merryweather valve cover plate in the pavement outside the nurses homes in Vanburgh Hill – this site is due to be redeveloped any minute and it may not be there long. Does anyone know what was the use of a pavement installation like this? **
From Lorna Barter
Well .. things are really moving for the Swiftstone Trust now. After what seemed like waiting forever – talking, meeting, negotiating, waiting, paperwork and more waiting - at last, the Swiftstone officially belongs to the Trust and we have ‘hand-on’ her to begin the preservation work – Wonderful!
Sadly we weren’t able to get a full qualified crew together at relatively short notice to assist on Barge Race Day but we have plans to be actively involved in the Sponsored Barge Driving (in aid of the Dreadnought Unit) on August 4th and 5th from Erith to Gravesend.
Swiftstone is now sitting on the foreshore at the (still doomed by not yet lost) Wood Wharf.