Thursday 21 November 2019

Letters July 2003

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 Greenwich.
Written comments 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,

From Richard Hartree

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 Woodlands.  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:-
Deptford Victualling Yard Bakery/Biscuit factory, when was it built, what did John Penn supply?
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.
Any works 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.

From Adam Oliver
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.
Core proposal:  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.

From: Mary Gregory
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 steam car.
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
Do you 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.
From what 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'?

From Jenny Bufton
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?

From Peter Hopp
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.

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