Saturday 9 November 2019

Reviews and snippets July 2002

FIREPOWER – have a Royal Salute in the Arsenal on 5th August 2002 at 12 pm.   They have tours of the Arsenal in July and August on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays 11.30 am and 2.30pm.  They advertise Paintball activities at £1 for 10 shots. On the 190th anniversary of the Battle of Salamanca, BBC Newsnight’s Mark Urban lecture will be based on his book The Man Who Broke Napoleon’s Codes: The Story of George Scovell, - Scovell cracked Napoleon’s Grande Chiffre, leading to Wellington’s finest victory in the Peninsula. Mark Urban is diplomatic editor of the BBC’s Newsnight. The lecture will be held in Firepower’s Breech Cinema 

Papers include: William Evans, shipbuilder of Rotherhithe Stuart Rankin. Thames built ships of the Orient Line & Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. - Peter Newall. The General Steam Navigation Company Yard at Deptford - Peter Gurnett. Early steamship machinery installation and repairs on the City Canal, Isle of Dogs - Roger Owen. Coastal shipping and the Thames - John Armstrong. Convicts to Australia. HMS Glatton and HMS Calcutta - Brian Swann. An aspect of warship 

Mary Mills

GLIAS has been given two photographs by Simon Bass. One of them shows what appears to be a factory yard, taken from above, the other shows a crowd of people standing in the road. In both the ground appears to be covered with something black, and shiny.  The crowd are standing in Blackwall Lane in Greenwich – since the distinctive frontage of the Inlaid Lino Works and an advertisement for them can be seen in the background. 
I have a fair idea what is being shown in the pictures – since an account of it appears in ‘A History of the United Molasses Company Ltd.’ (W.A,Meneight 1977).  3,000 tons of molasses had escaped from a tank and was making ‘its ponderous and inexorable way into Tunnel Avenue’. As Mr.Meneight pointed out this was not useful in an area where ‘trams were served by a conductor rail running in a gully between the lines’.   Try as I can in the local papers I cannot find the date of this incident which must have taken place in the late 1920s.
The molasses was used by the Molassine Company which had a riverside factory on the Greenwich peninsula on part of the site now largely covered by Hays and Amylum. In October 1999 we published an article about them in the Greenwich Industrial History Newsletter. This described how the company was founded in 1907 to exploit a Balkan secret formula for animal food – and the company made a number of well known brands including Vims which ‘all dogs love’ and a sphagnum moss and molasses based feed for horses (also used as a plaster by First World War soldiers).  The article included some memories of the works contributed by John Needs and he remembered how Vims was frequently mentioned in Norman Wisdom films and how the yard sweepings were sold as a garden fertiliser ‘RITO’. The company eventually became part of Tate and Lyle. Today there is a large red stone office block in Blackwall Lane which is said to have been built by Molassine – although I have never seen any actual details of this. Behind it are a number of large tanks. I cannot believe that these are the same tanks which stood there in the 1920s and which leaked so dramatically into Blackwall Lane and which Molassine’s publicity department described as a landmark on the river, although it might be a good story to say so.  To local people the most notable thing about the factory was the smell!

This edition is the 200th Newsletter and contains a great deal of congratulation and a number of  commissioned articles (no mention of GIHS however much we might consider ourselves a daughter organisation!) .  The issue contains news from all over London – and includes three paragraphs on the Deptford Dockyard (Convoy’s site)  by David and Olwyn Perrett giving some  details of the site’s past history – and a review of the play ‘The Gut Girls’ which has been going the rounds in Lewisham.  There is also a short mention of the Blackheath Hole.


GIHS has now signed up with the British Association for Local History and now receive ‘Local History News’ . .  No mention of Greenwich in the current issue- but that’s something we can work on!

The Vol.28 Spring 2002 edition contains an article on ‘The Porthcurno Story; this tells above the site of the Museum of Submarine Telegraphy near Lands End, in Cornwall – and a bit about the Museum set up there.  It ends by saying that next time the ‘intend to turn the pages back still further and visit Greenwich on the river Thames where it all began’ – we wait with interest!

This excellent publication – which first appeared in the 1960s – details everything you could want to know about underground research in the past year.
Nothing in Greenwich borough appears this time – but there are numerous dene holes and chalk wells in the surrounding area of  North West Kent and some fascinating World War Two sites, some of which are only ‘somewhere in England’

This twice-yearly journal features in its May 2002 edition Jonathan Clarke’s article on Mumford’s Mill in Greenwich. Members might remember when Jonathan came to lecture to us about the mill and his researches into it.  This is a most important article in a prestige journal – hopefully the start of many Greenwich based articles in such places!      

The Guide
The May edition of the Blackheath based freebie magazine ‘The Guide’ featured an article on The Shipwrights Palace in Deptford. This important house – in Lewisham, but right on the boundary and in the bit that used to be in Greenwich – has been extensively renovated over the past few years.  This was the office block and Shipwrights’ house for Deptford Dockyard – on the riverside ands worth a fortune. However two Deptford residents – Chris persuaded Convoys to sell it to them and have begun to restore it.  

John McLean

My grandfather, William Luckett, lived in Palmerston Road, now a crescent, in a terraced house. This had a side entrance to the back garden where he had a ramshackle workshop from which he ran a one-man business manufacturing clay pipes. These were predominantly for the beer industry and later for tobacconists.
I was told that the pipes were given to customers who bought a pint of ‘porter’ in the pubs.  Granddad received four pence a gross for his pipes – from which you will understand that he was unlikely to be a rich man.  He ran the business totally on his own and I can remember seeing rack after rack of pipes of varying shapes and sizes in the roof space above his workshop. 
There was an all pervading smell in the workshop, not at all unpleasant. Presumably this came from the china clay, which he procured from Cornwall and was delivered by rail to Woolwich Arsenal Station.  How on earth he managed to transport such heavy loads I don’t know – I believe he had a pony and trap at one stage but in my time he used ‘shank’s pony’.
As far as I can recall – and  I apologise for my lack of memory – the process involved a mixing system to acquire the correct consistency, a moulding process using cast moulds (iron) with inserts for forming the bowl and a needle to form the airway. Incidentally, I have one of granddad’s moulds with ‘Merry Christmas’ embossed on it.  Whether he had multiple moulds I cannot say, but as a production engineer I would have thought it an obvious way to go.
The final process after ‘fettling;’ or cleaning up the clay that exuded through the joints in the mould, was to fire them in a high temperature open furnace.  Granddad had built this himself and it was a bit like Dante’s Inferno. It had a chain lifted cast iron bucket full of pipes which was lowered into a coke fire. But it all worked and beautiful little and large clay pipes emerged. The chimney of the furnace was incredible. Granddad used anything available to construct it – bricks, bits of glass, rock, porcelain, - you name it, Granddad used it.  How it ever resisted the ravages of nature I do not know but it did.  The only mementoes I have is the mould and two small pots made from 'Arsenal clay’ and ‘Plumstead' clay,
Granddad’s brother, Fred Luckett, was financially much more successful and he became a well known builder in the Plumstead area living in Griffin Road and having a works close to Plumstead High Street. I believe there is a garage in the High Street with the Luckett name above it to this day

By Jack Vaughan

There was a recent planning application for changes to the water tower of the ex-Brook Hospital at Shooters Hill Road plus a possible threat to an adjacent stone building known as Headway House, which fronts onto the road.  Study of Ordnance maps for 1869 and 1890 show the building to be the former ‘Kent Water Company’ pumping station.
The base of the tower itself has coupled with it a massive collection of hydraulic apparatus, probably connected to Headway House, although the tower post-dates the maps mentioned.
We are trying to determine if the House is threatened. We are also taking an interest in the hydraulic arrangements mentioned above. The applicants have refused to leave this apparatus in situ but will offer no objection to them being removed and taken away for possible restoration and exhibition elsewhere.
The pumping station supplied water to the Barracks, the Royal Arsenal, both Royal Dockyards (Woolwich and Deptford) and the Royal Military Academy and is therefore a very significant industrial monument in Woolwich history ….
…… more of this later.


Mike Neill is extremely keen that all members look – and approve or criticise his work on the Royal Arsenal which will be used as part of the display in the new Greenwich Heritage Centre. At the moment this is in the shape of a web site and members are urged to look at it. Mike also says that he will try and produce this as a CDRom for this who do not have web access – or contact him via Greenwich Council.

NO NEWS – we still have no news of the event to mark the centenary of Greenwich Foot Tunnel – last mention from Barry Mason was a note – saying ‘I took today off work and went down to  Redhill to see Binnie, Black and Veatch. The firm founded by the FT engineer, Alexander Binnie. Now a multi-national.  The company is excited about the FT 100th birthday on Sunday 4 August and today confirmed their budget of around £5,000 on the event. Our meeting laid down the ground-rules and outlined who does what. We meet again, on site, in about 1.5 weeks. If you've got time to help with all this, please let me know direct. If, for example, you work at Canary Wharf and tunnel commute, can you firm help too? Tower Hamlets. Are you in? More soon.

WHAT A PITY – there is to be no celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Last LCC Tram which was driven to the Tramatorium in the Woolwich Road, by Alf Jago, Mayor of Woolwich – amongst scenes of great distress from the general public.  David Riddle points out that Lewisham are to celebrate their ‘last tram’ (but Greenwich’s really was the very last one).

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