Letters May 2003
From Malcolm Tucker
1. The article in “Heritage Today” on gasholders, that you mention on page 5 of GIH Vol.6.No.1. Was not written by me but a journalist, Jack Watkins. It takes up just a few of the themes in my “London Gasholders Survey” report of September 2000.
2. My article on a visit to the Royal Arsenal, which you ‘lifted’ from the Gunpowder and Explosives Study Group’s Newsletter, contained a curious rewording on the part of their editor. Therefore I need to explain that the Shrinking Pitts were where gun barrels, expanded by heating in furnaces, were plunged into oil to shrink them onto their liners (like the fitting of iron tyres tightly round cartwheels). This caused a more even distribution of stresses during the firing of a gun.
3. It may have something to do with my handwriting. In my note on page 7 line 5, the word ‘supporting’ should read ‘supposing’. (I disown the punctuation, however, and your citations of GIH issue numbers are confused)
From Pat O’Driscoll
Does anybody know of a firm, which existed at Erith in the 1890s named Easton Anderson & Goolden, Ltd. They may have been shipbuilders or launch builders. I have been sent a cutting from the Colchester 'Evening Gazette' of 24th February which mentions that local auctioneers are selling a large ship's wheel with this name on its brass-band around the outer rim. There is a date, l896, but no name of the vessel. There is a photo of the wheel and I see that the central boss, which covers the wheel retaining nut, is missing. This is where one generally finds a vessel's, name inscribed. The vessel in question was found, presumably derelict, beached in an African mangrove swamp, by a diver.
An intriguing story. Barry Pearce, who sent me the cutting, says that he tried to check the name of the firm in Philip Banbury's "Shipbuilders of the Thames and Medway" but it was not listed there. The cutting does not give any details of the 'ship.' Perhaps a reader in Erith knows the answer.
From Barbara Ludlow
I am looking for information about Isaac Loader, Anchor maker of Deptford in the 18th century. He formed a partnership with Sir Ambrose Crowley, ironmaster of Crowley Wharf, Highbridge, East Greenwich. If anyone has anything on him, however small, it would be very useful to me. I am also looking for details about Thomas Hall, ship owner and slaver, of the City of London – 18th century again.
From Gordon Broughton
Re. The article on MQAD in the September 2000 Newsletter. The QAD/MATS HQ building was in Griffin Manor Way and had previously been, since before 1931 the HQ of the Research Department, eventually Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment, when it moved to Fort Halstead.
Two of QAD/MATS Deputy Directors were ex-RARDE viz Dr.E.Longhurst and Ken Jones. At the outbreak of World War II the Metallurgy Branch was evacuated to a number of locations including Cardiff and Swansea Universities, ROF’s Ruddington (Notts) and Swynerton (Staffs) and Shrewsbury.
In the light of current events the following comes to mind. In 1931 when I joined the RD I noticed a considerable amount of environmental smartening up and on enquiry was told there had been a visit by the King of Afghanistan!
As a keen 16-year-old supporter of Charlton Athletic I was highly delighted and impressed to find that the Chief Storeman in the RD, that I had to deal with, was George Reeves the conductor of the Eltham Brass Band that played on the pitch at The Valley.
From Dennis Plowright
I have some comments to make about Mary Mills’ book on ‘Greenwich and Woolwich at Work’. There is a picture of workers at sports equipment manufacturer, Gradidge. I had some Gradige bats and the Imperial Driver was very good. I played club cricket for 50 seasons until I was 65.
In the pictures on cable manufacture the rubber cable in the drums to be vulcanised would have been extruded and coiled in French chalk to space and support it. Vulcanisation would have been in large ‘open cure’ vessels, steam at about 90. From 1955 to 1962 I was with the Avon India Rubber Co, finishing as Chief Mechanical Engineer. AIR Co. did not make VIR cable however it did make a lot of extrusions e.g. tubing, seals etc. by the same method.
In 1960 I had a pair of press platens 16’ x 4’ surface from Woolwich Arsenal. They did this by fitting a grinding head on to a large planing machine. I still recall the immense shops and travelling cranes. All gone now, I suppose. I would like to read more about the Woolwich Arsenal. Is there a book about it? A good meaty one with details, not a ‘Boys Book of the Woolwich Arsenal’.
From: Chris Mansfield
I wonder if you are aware that for about four or five years I have been hassling “English Heritage” in a bid to get a blue plaque erected in memory of Tom Cribb the famous pugilist. You may or may not know that he lived in Woolwich for the last ten years of his life in the property that is now occupied by my café (Readysnacks).
Finally my efforts are coming to fruition (but not quite as I expected). I have been told that Tom Cribb’s plaque is now definitely going ahead, but it may be erected in central London instead of Woolwich. Apparently Tom ran a pub in Piccadilly for ten years just after he retired from boxing.
I have spoken to Julian Watson about this and he agrees with me that Woolwich would be a much more suitable place, apart from the fact that Central London must be bursting at the seams with blue plaques. If you feel as I do that Woolwich is where it should be, perhaps you could find time to email Emily Cole at English Heritage and put in a good word for Woolwich
From Adrian Lochhead
I am based at St Nicholas Church Deptford Green where I am charged with collecting Heritage information on all aspects of Deptford's history. St Nick's wish to provide information to visitors and local schools. The church is usually open from 9.30 - 2 on weekdays.
We have a few displays, pictures etc mostly to do with aspects of the church itself i.e. the bomb damage during WW2, Christopher Marlowe, and the shipwrights commemorated on memorials. Trying to put some of this information into context has of course opened up massive areas of research. For example I decided to see if I could discover the names of ships built at Deptford, to date I have found around 350 ships spanning about 300 years, but they are mostly ships of the Royal dockyards, I have hardly begun to scratch the surface with regard to the private yards and the East India Co.
It is my intention to collate enough imagery and information to produce large display panels with smaller information panels attached. Subjects currently given panels are things such as the shipyards, war, industry, 'famous' people, culture and more.
I keep coming across GIHS newsletters when I web search for Deptford references. So I thought it about time I contacted you, to tell you about what I am doing
From Philip Pearce
It was with interest that I stumbled across your website in connection with information on the Queen Mary liner of which I have a particular interest. I noticed a letter from Len Chapman, and I can possibly add something more. I will have to check my books, but I do definitely know that the original set of props for the Mary were of a poor design which gave (as you are no doubt aware) excessive vibration at the rear of the ship. Off hand I can't recall if J.Stone's supplied the modified design set, the originals, or even both! I might also have some photocopied photos of the propellers. Here is my home address: -- Philip Pearce, 192 Silver Street, Wythall, and Birmingham, B38 0EA.
From the Maudslay Society
I should like to draw your attention to the book Henry Maudslay and the Pioneers of the Machine Age, co-edited by our member John Cantrell, who also contributed two of the chapters. The opening chapters describe the career of Henry Maudslay and give an account of the London engineering industry in his time. The remainder of the book is mainly a collection of biographies of Maudslay's most prominent pupils and associates, describing their pioneering contribution to the machine tool industry. The book concludes with the history of Maudslay's business after his death. A list of contents is attached.
From Christopher Lewis
I am the nephew of the late Charles George Lewis. Founder of the Greenwich based Coach Company. "Lewis Greenwich Ltd". Founded in 1919, and first called "Greenwich Belle", then, in 1923, "C. G. Lewis Safety coaches". My Uncle died in 1988. What I have achieved is a complete fleet list of all the coaches ever owned by my late Uncle and the family to the present day - including World War II replacements, to replace his requisitioned vehicles. I have been trying to piece together the company history, from 1919 to 1999. – this has taken 15 years.
Over the past few years been trying to assemble the whole fleet in photographs, this is a formidable task, and the longer I leave it the harder they are to trace. I am hoping you may be able to assist me in this area, by pointing me in the direction of some of these missing photographs, or people or collections that are not known to myself.
I am unable to trace photographs from the late 1920s, all 1930s & late 1940s. My late uncle always had his new coaches, or I should say Char-a-bancs, photographed. While I have some of these I am unable to find any trace of the vehicles he purchased in 1929 & 1930. The 1930 ones interest me most. This was the first bulk order that he placed, and was for six coaches. I have found the correspondence between my Uncle and Karrier Motors and I have some of the workshop records, but as yet I can't trace a photograph of any description of these six coaches. Have you any idea where I should try to locate them? Most of the coach bodies were built at Hendon North London, and later in Blackpool.
The company also bought out another Kent operator, Penfold & Brodie of Green St Green Kent, in 1950. This depot was sold in 1961-2, as the motor car started to kill off the coaching trade. On the site now stands a parade of shops and a Waiterose super market. These coaches are as elusive as my late uncle’s. I would regard any assistance that you could render, as a great favour, and you are most
welcome to see any or all the efforts of my labours, if you so desire.