Reviews and snippets March 2003
BLACKHEATH SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY
At a recent meeting of the Blackheath Scientific Society, Mr. Cantle brought a piece of Pluto pipeline used in World War Two, and spoke briefly about it. The sample was of 3" bore lead pipe, with double steel tape round it, armoured with galvanised steel wire, and covered in tar impregnated hessian tape. This was designed at Siemens in Woolwich, and derived from lead sheathed power cable without the cable. With the assistance of other cable companies, it was manufactured in lengths of 35 miles for laying between Dungeness and the Pas de Calais (11 pipelines) and 70 miles for laying between the Isle of Wight and Cherbourg (2 pipelines), using specially adapted merchant ships. After the war the pipelines were recovered, because of their hazard and for their scrap value.
THE GREAT STINK.
Channel 5 recently showed a programme, The Great Stink, which featured Crossness Sewage Works – and the Crossness Engines Trust. Here’s what the Winter 2002 edition of Crossness Record, had to say about it:
The 'Great Stink', made for Channel 5 and presented by Peter Bazalgette, the Trust Chainman, was very informative to the layman but 'bread and butter' to the volunteer Trust member, who has a weekly opportunity to become re-acquainted with the consumption of the previous day. It told the story of London's sewage disposal or principally its transportation from one sensitive location to the great Cathedral of sewage - Crossness.
An interesting programme which involves every member of the public, full of facts and well presented . . .although the presenter, after wading in sewage, manure and visiting cess-pits, latrines and public conveniences, complete with illustrations on the wall, managed to keep his shoes so clean. However, he found it necessary to don protective clothing, safety harness and breathing apparatus in order to descend into a main northern sewer, which was large enough to accommodate a single-decker bus, and enthuse over its construction and brick-work built with Portland cement. This must have dulled the olfactory sense as he seemed unaffected by the odour and the sensation of cold, wet sewage flowing past his knees with the fear that his boots would not be high enough to prevent the flow going over the top.
Unfortunately, although Crossness was mentioned it was not a programme which could give credit to Crossness Engines Trust. This would require a separate programme, featuring the original construction by William Webster and the recent restoration, supported by the Trust members. This would be an epic narrative of intrigue, expert knowledge and wonderful workmanship, together with the daily lives of the management and workers: the muscular artisans in their tight moleskin breeches, swigging the velvet brew in the Halfway House, attended by camp followers and buxom wenches from the surrounding hamlets: what was the purpose of the pulley at the top of the column ? Why the bath, large enough for two in the condenser chamber ? Who attended, and took advantage of being screened from the public eye, a riotous party in the candle-lit reservoir ? What was really kept under the stove pipe hats ? All this, including the secret formula for obtaining 90° proof spirit from Brasso …and more can be revealed. GJO
The Docklands Light Railway.
We welcome the Docklands Light Railway coming to Woolwich, but unfortunately many listed buildings will be demolished during its construction. All the buildings between the Woolwich Equitable Buildings and the "Elephant and Castle" public house, including the Lloyds Bank building will be demolished, at Greens End; and in Woolwich New Road all the buildings from the Station to the corner of Spray Street, including the baker's on the corner will go.
The "Pullman" pub, formerly the "Royal Oak", was of course, where in October 1886 the Dial Square Football team changed its name to "Woolwich Arsenal". This is the team that in 1913 moved to North London and dropped the name of Woolwich. (We believe they still play somewhere in North London!) Ironically the public inquiry into the Docklands Light Railway proposals will be held in the Directors suite at Charlton Football Stadium at the Valley SE7. This started on the 28th January, 2003, and anyone may attend.
(Writing in the Newsletter of the Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society as the Secretary of their Conservation sub-committee)
The latest issue of Bygone Kent (Vol. 24 No.2.) contains an article by Barbara Ludlow on Billingsgate Dock, Greenwich, the Story of an old Draw Dock. This is a very important and interesting article.
In October GIHS Chair, Jack Vaughan, went to talk to Rotherhithe and Bermondsey Local History Group on the:- The Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. Here is what their newsletter, Redriffe Chronicle, reported:
“The history of Woolwich Arsenal as a facility dates back over 300 years, though records show the presence of ordnance facilities as early as 1565. Jack commenced with a map showing the initial area size of the establishment, then known as the Warren, a name which still persists in the town centre of Woolwich today, only changing its name to the Arsenal at the insistence of George the third in 1805. During WW1, at its peak, 80,000 were employed within its extensive boundaries, appropriately described as a Secret City, walled, guarded and self-sufficient, with its own railway system, both narrow and standard gauges, power generation plants, with over 1000 buildings of various sizes, wharves, canals, ships and housing for employees. Over the centuries it evolved and adapted while possessing the capability to research, manufacture and prove a vast range of armaments ranging from earliest forms of cannon and shot, through to massive WW2 naval gunnery and field and tank weaponry. The key feature of Jack’s talk centred on the Verbruggens, Dutch Master Founders of the 1700s . A serious accident while casting barrels from captured French weapons in the year 1716 at a private foundry of Moorfields in North London caused the death of 17 workers. This unfortunate event, lead to the establishment of the Woolwich Arsenal Royal Brass Foundry. By a remarkable coincidence, the Verbruggens were not only Masters of armament, but also accomplished artists, basing his talk on reproductions of the Verbruggens’ water-colours, Jack ran through the manufacturing process of 18th century cannon, from the initial wooden pattern models, the sand moulding, casting in metal then boring, heat treating and final proving (test firing) of the cannon. The Royal Ordnance factory closed in 1967 and the Ministry of Defence scaled down it presence over 12 years ago. A group known as The Royal Arsenal Museum Advisory Group (RAMAG) has worked with the Woolwich local authorities to establish heritage facilities on the site. Jack presented a number of slides showing some of notable buildings such as Dial Square and New Laboratory Square. By the end of the evening. Jack had only reached the end of the 18th century, so we will obviously have to invite him back!
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