Tuesday 5 November 2019

Letters November 2000


Letters from November 2000

From Thomas Wilde
I have an ancestor who owned property in Deptford at the end of the 18th century.   John Wild (1724-1800) High Constable of Holborn who  purchased, in 1792, a freehold property known as the Tidemill Estate in Deptford. It comprised three messuages and a dock, rented at £50 a year. The title deeds commence on 25th June 1717.   After John's death, for about five years, his estate was administered by his nephew, Thomas Wilde who had an office – I believe – at Deptford Bridge. Thomas was an attorney in the City of London. I like to think of him going up and down the river like Pepys in the previous century.  After 1805 the estate was placed in the hands of Masters of Chancery who controlled it until the heirs of John Wild came of age.c.1818. Finally, the Tide Mill was sold in 1827.   


From Paul Cannon
I am looking for information on the East Greenwich Gas Works.   The reason for this is not only a genuine interest in coal manufactured gas plants, but I am doing a project on the decline of the works at Greenwich and at Beckton.  


From F.A.Gilbert-Bentley
Re.My letter in Vol.1. Issue 3. August 1999. The film at the Premier Cinema, Woolwich, in October 1940 which was interrupted by the Luftwaffe was David Livingstone – a black and white film.  For a brief moment the screen having departed in the blast, the picture flashed on to an outside wall.

Mr. Gilbert Bentley wrote to us last year to tell us how he was bombed out of a Woolwich cinema in the war.

From Pat 0'Driscoll
With regard to the short article 'Billingsgate - Greenwich's ancient harbour" in "Greenwich Industrial History, Vol. 3 No. 4. What probably drove the Greenwich smacks away to Grimsby was increasing pollution of the Thames. Many smacks were fitted with a "well" between two watertight bulkheads in which fish, caught by a hand line, could be kept alive until the vessel returned to market the catch. Holes bored in the vessel in the area of the well ensured a constant circulation of seawater. An illustration showing a well can be seen on p 87 of Harvey Benham's book 'The Codbangers' which also shows how Grimsby became a major fishing centre, helped by a rail link to London established in 1848. Four years later the Royal Dock, Grimsby, was opened and fishermen were offered attractive terms to move there.

While many smacks fished the North Sea grounds, a number went as far as Iceland after cod. The first successful steam trawler was the Zodiac of 1880-1. Hewett & Co of Barking had steam cutters from 1865 onward, designed to collect boxes of fish from craft fishing as a fleet and running them to Billingsgate Fish Market (to Shadwell Market from the mid-1880 to 1900). They were fitted with trawling gear so that they could trawl at suitable times. Because of this they escaped Thames River Dues - another reason for steam fish carriers to have a secondary role as trawlers

Unfortunately Greenwich's fishing fleet came and went with little or nothing being recorded about it.

Pat O'Driscoll is late of Fishing News – a weekly paper of British commercial fishermen since 1913.


From Vernon Broom

On reading the article 'Two Vanished Greenwich Pubs' in Bygone Kent I thought I had come across the name Star in the East somewhere before. As I am not familiar with that part of Greenwich I wondered if it was connected with my transport interests. On looking through my small collection of bus tickets I found printed on a route 108 ticket 'Tunnel Avenue Star in the East' (Route 108 ran from Crystal Palace through Blackwall Tunnel to Bromley High Street 'Seven Sisters'). These Bell Punch tickets, known as Geographical tickets had all the Fare Stages printed on them and were used until early 1952. I am not sure of the exact date of my ticket but I think it is from about this time presumably the Star in the East was still operating as a pub at this time.


From John Day
Re: letter from Niclas Dahlvang in the last issue. There is a paper on 'The Steam Gun' in Volume 11 (1999) of The Ordnance Society's Journal. This tells the story of the Perkins gun and has pictures of it. One of the illustrations comes from an article in 'The Engineer' Vol.12, p. 390, (December 27th. 1861). There is also a limited edition (200 copies) biography 'Jacob Perkins' by G. and D. Bathe, published by The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1943. How do I know - I wrote the paper, and I have Vol. 12 of 'The Engineer' and copy No. 196 of the book!

As to the Blackwall Tunnel, there was a paper read before the Society of Arts on May 13th. 1896, entitled "Tunnelling by Compressed Air" by E.W.Moir, who was entrusted with the design of the plant and the carrying out of the work by the contractors for the Blackwall Tunnel. This was reprinted in '' The Practical Engineer' Vol XIII pp 639-641, 661-663 and Vol. XIV pp 18-20. About half of the paper is devoted to Blackwall and has drawings of the Paterson shield, shaft No. 3, an air lock and a longitudinal section.


From Stewart Borrett

Re: Correspondence on the Swanage Globe, letter from Bill Firth which asked what proof there was that the Globe was made in Greenwich.

I discussed this matter with David Hayson the curator of the Museum at Swanage and we both think that there is no doubt that the Globe was made in Greenwich. I don't think that there is any written evidence to support this, it may have just been stated and passed down.

However, the common sense part of it would tell us that this was the case. The Purbeck stone was down in Swanage, it was shipped to London. George Burt was developing his Durlston Park Estate of which The Castle and the Globe were part. The main reason why I think it was made in Greenwich was that it would have been a skilled operation to out it together and the expertise was in Greenwich and not with the stonemasons down there who were more used to dressing building stone rather than making something of this complexity. Also George Burt could inspect it himself up there as it was being put together, he spent most of his working time in London.

I think for these reasons it was made in London. There is a photo of it being made on the front of Curiosities of Swanage, a booklet. I hope this might be of some help.


From Peter Jones

I run a small company specialising in the care and upgrading of automatic machines, we have recently converted a gun barrel lapping machine for a company called Boss & Co. They have hand built double-barrelled shotguns in London for, I believe, around 200 years. Until recently they had works in Bermondsey, they have recently moved to 'under the shop' in Mayfair and we delivered the upgraded machine last week.

The main reason for this letter is the motor fitted to the machine we rebuilt, which we have replaced. It is rated at 1 HP, is wound for 400v. ac (although it has survived on 415v ac for many years) and I would estimate it was manufactured in the 1920s-1930s although I have no way of knowing its age. It still runs perfectly. I have possession of the motor, before I send it to the scrapyard – is of interest to your group?


From Audrey Walker

Three generations of my Smith family were barge builders on the Thames and I think it possible that they worked for Stratford & Co., as I have a pencil stub with that name on it and 'Barge Owners & Repairers of ...... and Andrews Wharves, Woolwich, S.E.9. I expect the company has long since disappeared but is it likely that records still exist? Do you know the name of the wharf - that part of the pencil had been used?

From Alan Lea
Merryweathers - I suspect that this won't be the first or the last time that an enquiry has been made about the once world renowned company, having recently purchased a Hatfield trailer pump manufactured in 1935 with the view to restoration, I am now searching for any info that may help me?  


From Tim Smith

Re: your request for information about Greenwich steam engines. Merryweather products in Museums:

1. Horse drawn Fire Engine. Owned by John Player & Sons of Clydach, 6 miles north of Swansea from c. mid-19th. Last used in 1912. It is now in the Swansea Maritime Industrial Museum.

2. Steam Tram Engine. No.RSTM2 of the Rijnlandsche Stoomtramweg-Maatschappji, Built by Merryweather in 1881 (works No.110?). Weight 8.5 tons speed 25 km/h; 10kg/sq.cm boiler pressure. Standard gauge with a horizontal boiler. Preserved at the Netherlands Railway Museum in Utrecht.

I am sure there must be many more!


From John Furlong
am looking for details of the Greenwich Reach development site, for which EC Harris are Project Managers. Site clearance and demolitions will be getting under way soon at the Greenwich Reach site, prior to construction works starting next year, and I have been asked to research old businesses and their buildings on the site that have previously been demolished - in particular ones which may impact on our works schedule.

I believe we are fairly well up to speed on the Phoenix Gas Works and its gasholders, however more recent businesses seem to be less well documented. For example, I have so far failed to find details of Petwain Ltd which occupied Dreadnought Wharf or Robinsons Metals at Dowells Wharf. What buildings did they occupy and when were they demolished?.


From Frank Lockhart

We have an original Festival of Britain sign at the Woolwich Ferry where I work. Fred Peskett, Chairman of the Festival of Britain Society, found two of them in Salisbury some ten years ago. He restored the other one and it looks like I shall have to make a replica of this one as it is quite badly decayed and to restore it would take away too much originality. If you would like to see it or the copy when done, please feel free to let me know. When the replica is made, can you think of a use for it, perhaps a local museum display next year?


From Russell Martin

In the latter years of the 17th century the Bowater family had extensive land holdings in Woolwich. The family home was on a hill to the south of the town called Mount Pleasant - later known Bowater House With the arrival of the army family home was acquired as the Officers Mess at the Red Barracks. 

In 1692 the Bowater Estate extended from the edge of The Warren in the east along the river bank to Charlton with a southern border just short of Woolwich Common. Towards the river the Bowater Estate owned the Sand Pits, later used for Dockyard Railway Station. On the riverside they had a boat building yard - part of which was purchased by a gentleman by the name of Samuel Pepys Esq. for the use of his Britannic Majesty's Royal Navy. In 1784 the Navy purchased a further 600 acres for The Mast Pond. 

My Great Great Grandmother was the natural daughter of John Bowater (d.1810) named of Georgina Mercote (1797-1865) . In 1815 she married Joseph Harrington, a Solicitor, of Rectory Place Woolwich. They lived at Glen Mohr Cottage, Lower Road - today the site of the school opposite Maryon Road - their garden became the Warspite Industrial Estate.

I have a map which shows the development of the Warspite Industrial Estate. Some of the documents comment on the Siemens Bothers factory - in which they wanted to make electric light bulbs - but it was thought that there would not he much demand for that type of thing! Also a Mr Slazenger rented factory land to make tennis balls. The Standard Telegraph Cable Co., was also viewed with suspicion - it was thought that nobody would ever want to talk on a thing called the telephone to America.

In 1803 after various troubles The Bowater Estate was put in Chancery and there followed a multitude of Litigations - even in those days the Lawyers tried to keep the pot boiling to ensure their constant income! In 1895 a survey was done of all the property owned by The Trust. This foolscap size book contains 70 pages and 38 maps at a scale of about 30 ins = 1 mile (but no actual scale is quoted). These maps detail of every single property in Woolwich with data as to what the premises were being used for and the rents due to The Estate - some of them as little as £8.0s 0d pa. 

I am trying to obtain a copy of Milton's Plan of Woolwich Dockyard published in 1753 and wonder if any of your members could help? I also have a photograph of 'A View of Woolwich surveyed by John Barker in 1748'. Are any of your members aware of the current whereabouts of this plan and where can I get a copy from? Also, the location of the plan shown on page 60 of Vincent's history. 

If some of your members are interested I would be prepared to come over to Blackheath one evening and show them some of the original maps and documents that I have been able to collect over the years. 

I am involved at the old gunpowder works at Waltham Abbey. Production of 'gunpowder' (cordite) ceased towards the end of the Second World War and the site was used as a research establishment for Rocket Propellants until it was finally closed down in 1989. They are now creating a Heritage Centre on the site. Perhaps some of your members would be interested in visiting the site next summer. 


From Andrew Hollings
re: Appleby Bros, steam engine manufacturers of Southwark & Greenwich. I am presently researching the origin of a large Victorian era steam capstan winch used to haul ships out of the water on a inclined marine railway called a "patent slipway". The winch was a piece of Victorian ingenuity with twin 25hp horizontal steam driven engines. Power was transferred through a massive 7 gear gearbox which allowed the slipping of 4000 ton ships onto the inclined marine railway.

I am presently trying to reconstruct the winch machine but do not have the original drawings to replicate missing parts.I wonder if you could help me locate the archives and then the drawings of the manufacturer? My winch was built circa 1860 by Appleby Brothers. Appleby Brothers formed various buisness arrangements with steam engine component manufacturers including a specialist steam bore and a crane company. They became Jessop and Appleby of london and Leicester. They then returned to the name of Applebys after about 1914. My searching to date has yielded the scantiest details. I do not have access to many searching sources in New Zealand

No comments: