Letters November 2003
From: Cllr. Paul Tyler
Re: The RACS Archives.
I have just negotiated a swap with Julian Watson - the RACS Political Committee minutes (hardcopy) for Comradeship 1896-? We already have a microfilm copy of the minutes at the History Library. The bound copy will go to Manchester. We now have ALL the local RACS Archives in situ at Woolwich Arsenal, where they belong. Mission accomplished! There is hardly anything at Sun Yard now; we have found a home for all of the archives, and only the library is left. Most of the artefacts have been sold and the photograph collection is at Dartford. Following on from the allocation of RACS Records I have some further good news. Next year, which is the centenary of Woolwich regional government (LCC elections) a conference is being organised, which will be funded (hopefully) by the Regional Coop. One the themes of the conference will be Work, Education, and Politics 1868 - 1904. It will look at the contributions of the RACS, and the trade union and labour movement. The conference will also address the changing/developments London in the 1930s and 40s. It is hoped that not only will this conference attract Coop and Labour members, but students as well. It is being organised by Karen Froggett (Coop UK Regional Secretary), Ron Roffey, Peter Collier (RACS Archival Assistant), and myself.
From: Carolyn Howe
I'm not sure whether you may be able to help, but I thought I'd try! My husband's ancestors were Shipwrights in Deptford from 1720's through to the early 1800s. We are anxious to find out more about the Deptford Shipbuilding industry. Any help would be appreciated.
From: Angela Smith
I e-Mailed you some time ago about George Mence Smith who founded a chain of hardware stores. One of his ancestors has in her possession a book of beautifully drawn items such as plans for what appear to be castles, and more interestingly a plan for a canal to join the Thames across the loop it makes at Greenwich. It would seem that it was proposed to shorten the Thames shipping route. The plans are all dated in the 1830's and signed G Smith. We don't know anything about them and don't think they are a G Smith from the family. The drawings appear to have been produced by someone with surveying in mind. Have you ever come across any plan for a canal at Greenwich?
From: Elizabeth Howard
Many thanks to Mr. Philip Binns for alerting me to the fine History of Blackheath Village and Environs, by Neil Rhind. In Vols. 1 and 3 the Bennett family of watch and clockmakers are discussed extensively. It is clear from the illustrations of Tranquil Vale in the 1870s that the two clocks, one above and one overhanging the pavement, at Bennett's shop are from the same maker as the Tower clock at Royal Arsenal Woolwich, the movement of which is dated 1836, and the winding mechanism marked Bennett of Blackheath. I am indebted to Mr. Binns for pointing me in the right direction and to Mr. Rhind for his marvellous book detailing the history of the Bennett family. Never was a tenner better spent!
From: English Heritage
This summer has seen the publication of important consultation documents by the DCMS, both available on their website. These are: Protecting our Historic Environment - and the Historic Environment Records - (consultation on the future of Sites and Monuments Records). These, together with other changes to planning legislation, could significantly alter the ways in which the historic environment is managed. It has been described as a once in a generation opportunity to influence this aspect of government.
From: David Ramzan (Charlton supporter since 1965)
I was looking through your pages trying to find some information on the Charlton sand pits and saw a message about the Merryweather pumping machines. I was born in Greenwich and now live on Romney Marsh and being a Charlton Athletic supporter I was surprised to come across a fire engine in Lydd museum that was made by Merryweather's of Greenwich, Merryweather's were associated with Charlton Athletic in the Club's early formation. The engine has a lot of history behind it and is in excellent condition. In 1905 a group of young boys from the North Charlton area of South East London formed a football club and named it Charlton Athletic. The club played its initial matches on a piece of waste ground owned by the Siemens telegraph works near East Street. A committee was set up and the first headquarters was in the now demolished public house called The Crown. Amongst the committee members was a Joe Merryweather. Although there is no mention of his profession, a family member of the company Merryweather's was named Joe and from the records available, he was around at the same period of time. Joe Merryweather was involved with the club up until at least 1914, and was the last surviving member of this first committee until his death in 1977. A local fishmonger Arthur Bryan was also involved with the committee. Joe's son recalls that his father told him that the fishmonger supplied haddock to the players for after-match suppers. This is confirmed by cartoons from the local papers of the day, and is the origin of the club nickname 'The Addicks'. Joe Merryweather, who was also a former timekeeper for the Boxing Board of Control, kept the name going in later years by parading around the pitch holding up a board with a picture of a haddock on it.
Also can I take this opportunity to ask if you have any information on the history of the Charlton sand pits?
From: Andrew Hunt
From the Nuffield Foundation we run a general interest Web site to tell people about the way science and technology have shaped London. We also provide information about lots of easily accessible science places and events for the public and visitors to London. Anyone can contribute to the site and it is easy to do so. Please consider putting in a link to our site from the links section of your web site.
The Web Editor writes: We don't currently operate a links section on this site. Perhaps we should?
My Grandfather lived and worked in Greenwich all his life. For much of his working life he toiled on the 'Rubbish Barges'. He was dockside-based and loaded and levelled the loads. I would be interested to find out more about the work he did. He died last year aged 100, so I am unable to ask him now. Can anyone help?
From: Mary Paterson
I have a gold medal that belonged to my Grandfather dated 1898-9 for 'WDL Winners'. He worked in the Arsenal at that time, and despite many hours searching I cannot find out what WDL might have been. Can you suggest anything?
From: John Porter
On the river wall, at Millwall, were two marks 700 feet apart, and between them in large letters was written,' THE GREAT EASTERN BUILT HERE 1858'. The biggest ship in the world, built here in London, a size not exceeded for fifty years, and now there is nothing to show for it as the words have gone. London should be proud of Brunei's masterpiece, certainly enough to bear the cost of re-painting the wall to remind all river users of our heritage. I can think of no one better to campaign for this to be done than you.
From: Keith Furlong
My father worked man and boy at Siemens Brothers (later AEI) in Woolwich until it closed. He has often mentioned the Engineering Society he belonged to and wondered if it still existed. Have you any more recent information I could use?
From: Nicole Weller, Museum of London
This is to introduce myself as the new Portable Antiquities Liaison Officer and Community archaeologist for Greater London. I have been in post at the Museum of London since 28 July. I am looking forward to setting up a working relationship with the archaeological societies and clubs based within the Greater London area. The main purpose of my Community Archaeologist role will be to build upon the invaluable work of my predecessor Vanessa Bunton and to promote the involvement of individuals and community groups in London's archaeology and in particular by supporting local archaeological societies. At a later date perhaps I could talk to your members about the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the Treasure Act and any other related issues that your members would be
From: Chris from Downunder
I am researching the family "Hillier". The first of my ancestors (from Bishops Canning) to arrive in Australia came on board (a brig) "Neptune", sailing from Deptford to Cork, Ireland and no port of call until Sydney, Australia.
I am very interested to acquire a sketch of the port/wharf at around this time. How they would have travelled etc. to reach the port, and maybe info on the weather in October, 1843. They were assisted emigrants, so they were not wealthy. Thank you to anyone who can help me in this mammoth search.
From: Irene and Graham
My husband is trying to find details of the circumstances of the death of an ancestor of his, William Walden, born about l867 possibly Charlton Vale, Woolwich. His niece believes that William, who was a tug driver, was killed whilst on duty on the Thames Tug "Harlow" during the 2nd World War. I understand that reports of such events may not have appeared in newspaper articles at the time. Would you know where I might find details? The exact status of tug drivers, and indeed tug skippers seems to be difficult to establish. Were they qualified, and if so, by whom?
From: Iris Bryce
Just a quickie - as a child I often accompanied my father on his Sunday morning walks, which included calling at one or two his favourite pubs. One of these was the Union (now the Cutty Sark) and I would sit on one of the wide benches that were placed outside the pub on the banks of the river. Most of the barge builders preferred to sit outside and once or twice they were almost too late bringing the benches up when an extra high tide was due! They always pronounced the name as The Onion - and I heard the same name applied in the past to a public house in Woolwich, which was situated in a street at the back of Cuff's Departmental Store.
From: Gary and Stella Wenko
I read an article on the Internet from your society regarding the firm Redpath Brown. I currently work in an aircraft hangar, an "A" Type Shed built by Redpath Brown of 1931, to be exact, on RAF Station Mildenhall, and would very much like to know the original purpose of the many rooms of the hangar. Any information would be greatly appreciated.
From: Trevor Owen
I'm interested in finding detail of an engineer, Isaac Dixon, who sailed in Siemens's SS Faraday in the late 19th century. Do you know where I might be able to find records, archives, etc. which might detail Isaac's service on the ship? And photos of the officers and crew of the ship? Do you know whether Siemens have an archives department and how I can get in touch?