Reviews and snippets November 2003
AN APOLOGY - in our issue last June an article about the Shooters Hill abattoir was wrongly attributed to the author's helper - not to the main writer who was Steve Barr (sorry Steve).
LONDON OPEN HOUSE DAY included the opening of 'A Slice of Reality'. This sliced-through section of a ship stands in the river alongside the pathway at the back of the Dome. This is used as a studio by the originator of the piece, Richard Wilson and it was a startling and interesting experience to go aboard. Richard Wilson writes "I sometimes cycle to the 'Slice' - whatever happened to our shipbuilding heritage? I can certainly give you some info about the 'Slice'. Come aboard again if ever the gangway is down.
VALE OF GLAMORGAN RAILWAY
Howard Chard has pointed out to us the connections between this Welsh Railway and Eltham.
He quotes from Colin Chapman's The Vale of Glamorgan Railway (Oakwood 1998). It says;
'In June 1888 Colonel John Thomas North (1842-1896) acquired the Llynvi and Tondu Co. (L&T) which owned coal mines and iron works to the north of Bridgend. An engineer from Leeds, North had made a fortune out of various nitrate enterprises in Chile as a result of which he had acquired the sobriquet; the 'Nitrate King'. He lived at Avery Hill, Eltham, where his neighbour was John Joseph Smith, receiver and manager of the L&T Co. …'.
The story goes that it was at a garden party at Avery Hill that Smith and Col. North concluded a deal whereby the latter was to acquire the L&T Co, transaction being completed on 10th July, 1888, through a private syndicate called the 'Western Navigation Collieries Syndicate'. Under a further agreement, dated 29th August 1888, North undertook to transfer the contract of sale to this syndicate, which changed its name to 'North's Navigation Collieries Syndicate Ltd'. Finally on 19th January 1889 this syndicate agreed to sell its assets to 'North's Navigation Collieries (1889) (NNC) Co. Ltd.', in which Colonel North was the major shareholder. The company had a registered capital of £450,000, divided into 90,000 shares of £5 each.The property acquired by Colonel North comprised six collieries in the Bridgend valleys: Park Slip near Tondu; Wyndham and Tynewydd in the Ogmore Valley; and No. 9 Level, Maesteg Deep and Coegnant at Maesteg; together with iron works at Maesteg (which was rapidly dismantled and sold) and Tondu, along with various other related assets. Extensive holdings of steam and house coal were also acquired, and a new pit was sunk at Caerau in the Llynfi Valley
BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS
FROM GASLIGHT, SEPT 2003
"Good prose is like a window-pane." (George Orwell (1903-50).
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
The 19th January 1967 was the 50th anniversary of the Silvertown explosion and also the night when the gasholder at East Greenwich collapsed and about 7 million cubic feet of gas went up in flames. I expect there are a lot of people in South-East London who remember this night and also many of the Board's pensioners, and I am one of them. At the time I was 16 years of age and was an apprentice at J. Stones of Deptford and my father was the valve man on duty at the time the gasholder collapsed. I knew that my father would be at work and I had heard that there was a big fire at East Greenwich Gas Works so I left Deptford to make my way to Greenwich to see if my Dad was alright. As hundreds of shop windows were broken by the explosion I was lucky to get there as I was cycling at the time and there was glass everywhere but I made it. When I got to the Gas Works there were fire engines everywhere also a number of police. I told the gatekeeper who I was and why I had come so he allowed me to go and see my Dad. As I went along the yard I saw the collapsed holder screwed up like a ball of paper. I was glad to find my father was alright but badly shaken. I was about to leave for home when a gentleman came along and asked my father who I was.
My father told him I was his son and had come down to see if he was alright. So the gentleman turned to me and said," Well, my boy, your father is quite safe and you go home and tell your mother that your father will be home at his usual time", and that was the first time I met Dr. Carpenter who was Chairman of the South Metropolitan Gas Company. My father received the O.B.E. from the King for his part in helping to keep the gas flowing into the mains of the district. He also received a sum of money from the Board of Directors. I joined the South Met Gas Company in July 1919 in the fitter's shop as a fitter's turner and served nearly 43 happy years in the same shop until I retired in June 1962."
Mr. A.R.Innes, former fitter and turner recorded in the Segas Journal, February 1967.
JOURNAL OF THE GREENWICH HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The 2003 Journal contains articles on the Lodges of Greenwich Park (by Peter Guillery), The Theft of Nelson's Relics in 1900 (by Anthony Cross, and Shaftsbury House, A Place of Safety (by Harold Marchant). All good stuff, but not actually industrial.
For a snip Mary has acquired a copy of Perforated Metals produced by Charlton-based G.A.Harvey & Co. Ltd. - anyone interested is welcome but they should be warned that this book consists of 185 pages of pictures of holes!
The Greenwich Mural
We have been sent (by Ron Eteson of the Croydon Natural History Society) a copy of an article from Concrete Quarterly (No.108 Jan/Mar 1976) which describes the installation and design of the mural now languishing on the wall of the semi derelict Greenwich District Hospital. The article reveals that the Hospital, built between 1962 and 1976 was the largest ever architectural project undertaken by a Government Department. The mural was designed and executed by Phillipa Threlfall on precast concrete slabs using a variety of stones, many coming from the Amey Roadstone Corporation. There has been a local campaign to ensure that the mural is found a new home when the hospital is finally demolished - it would be only too easy to wake up one day and find that it has been smashed by contractors.
We have been lent (by David Perrett) a copy of Modern Construction - The Works of Thomas and Edge Woolwich, SE18 (photocopies possible). This Woolwich based construction company built many important buildings both locally and elsewhere.
It is illustrated with many examples of their work. Local buildings on which they worked include: Fuel Research Station, Eltham Post Office, Woolwich Gun Sheds, Army Medical Reserve Stores, temporary hostels for munitions workers, additions to the Royal Herbert Hospital, various stores in the Arsenal, Woolwich factory for H. Collier and Sons, John James textile factory Wood Street, Woolwich, retail premises in Powis and Hare Streets, Aldertons factory Plumstead, Frosts Rope Factory, Anchor and Hope Lane, Harvey's factory, Greenwich, Theatre Royal Woolwich, Palace Cinema Eltham, Woolwich Public Library, Woolwich Soldiers Institution, Woolwich sewerage work, Plumstead Labour Club, Plumstead and District Working Men's Club Bostall Hill, Lloyds Bank and City and Midland Bank Woolwich, Cottage Homes Bostall Heath., St. Mark's Church Plumstead, Wesleyan Chapel The Slade, 288 council houses in Shooters Hill Road, Mr. Colliers house on Shooters Hill, The Queen Victoria Woolwich and the Carpenters Arms, Woolwich.
Founded on Iron - Thames Ironworks and the origins of West Ham United
Brian Belton (Tempus 2003).
Although concerned with a football club from North of the River this book is of interest to Greenwich readers because a section of it deals with the Deptford and Greenwich based Hills family, in particular Frank Hills. By some strange co-incidence much of the section on the Hills bears a startling similarity to material published in Mary Mills' 'The Early East London Gas Industry and its Waste Products. Sadly, there are no footnotes.
As many of our readers will know the Greenwich Local History Library moved recently from its long-term home at Woodlands in Mycenae Road for a home at the new Heritage Centre in Woolwich. So, what will happen to Woodlands? Over the past few weeks Greenwich Council has been undertaking a consultation with local people to get their views on this (this closed on 31st October). Janet Haworth, has written this short history of the House as information for those who want to make a contribution.
Woodlands and Mycenae House play a part in our local history which working people, black and white and Roman Catholic should be proud to acknowledge and celebrate.
Woodlands was built as the home of John Julius Angerstein, reputedly one of the (many!) illegitimate sons of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia.
John Julius was a wealthy insurance underwriter and one of the founders of Lloyd's of London. He made generous donations to the widows and orphans of seafarers lost at sea and set up the Patriotic Fund to make payments to sailors maimed in the Napoleonic wars. Admiral Lord Nelson received a silver dinner service and wrote to thank Angerstein. The letter and plate are in the Nelson Room at Lloyd's.
By marriage, John Julius inherited a sugar plantation in Grenada, but rather than simply accepting his role as a slave owner he joined the Committee for the Black Poor in 1786 to campaign for better conditions for the plantation workers. He also championed the cause of chimney sweeps, arguing for better pay and health and safety conditions.
A great patron of the arts, John Julius collected paintings from The British School of artists such as Joshua Reynolds, Hogarth and Thomas Lawrence, and when he died the Angerstein Collection of pictures was offered to the nation. It formed the basis of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, though two of the paintings are now at Tate Britain.
After the Angerstein family moved out, Woodlands continued as a private home for many years and then was taken over by the Little Sisters of the Assumption, whose mission is to help the sick and needy. In the days before the National Health Service, the poor of Westcombe Park and Blackheath could not afford doctors, nurses or medicines, and the Little Sisters nursed them free of charge, forbidden by their holy vows to accept so much as a glass of water in return for their services! The Sisters built Mycenae House alongside Woodlands to house their novices, and their archivist Sister Margaret Lonegan still remembers its days as a convent. The nuns left in 1967 and Woodlands became a library and art gallery and Mycenae House a community centre.