Thursday, 30 January 2020

Reviews and snippets March 2004


Tony Robinson (Baldrick) of the 'Time Team', officially opened Greenwich Council's Heritage Centre in early February. Collections from the local history library in Mycenae Road, Blackheath and the Borough Museum in Plumstead, are now under one roof.
The new Centre is housed in Building 41, part of the New Laboratory Square, on the Royal Arsenal - a building developed between about 1805 and 1878 as storehouses and which, by 1853, was used for making gun cartridges and later became a carpenters and painters workshop.

#The opening event was a great occasion - despite the late arrival of guests due to problems in the road outside. It was a time for old friends to meet - and for new ones to be made.
One sad event connected to the opening is the retirement of Julian Watson - Local History Librarian for more years than we care to think about, and a great support to so many local researchers. So - thanks Julian - good luck in retirement - and - are you going to join GIHS?


Woolwich Antiquarians report from Jack Vaughan that the clock on the Carriage Department, Building 10, Royal Arsenal has been damaged. It seems that vandals scaled the outside of the building and swung on the clock hands until they were broken off. Jack is discussing the clock with the Curator of Clocks at the National Maritime Museum.


The 2004 New Years Honours List included an award to Captain Peter Deeks of the Woolwich Free Ferry as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, (M.B.E.). Captain Deeks has been responsible for the Ferry for many years, starting his career as a Thames Waterman before joining the Ferry about forty years ago as a deck hand.


A sharp-eyed member spotted a write-up in the Times for 28th November 2003 on the conversion of Mumford's Mill. This is part of what the writer, Mike Mulvihill, had to say:
"You wouldn't think that I could live less than 200 yards from a large 19th-century flour mill designed by Sir Aston Webb, the architect behind the eastern facade of Buckingham Palace. But until just a couple of weeks ago, when I walked past a 50ft blue sign announcing that the building was being turned into luxury flats, I didn't even know it was there. Mumford's Mill, as I learnt from the sales brochure, was at the heart of the Greenwich community for 100 years after it opened in 1848. But it fell into decline after the Second World War and closed in the 1960s, when it was replaced by a succession of light industrial enterprises. Its days were numbered until a development company stepped in last year with some ambitious plans for the future. It looks as though SE10 is about to get its first proper loft apartments.

As I read on, my mind turned to my very own life as a Trendy Loft-Living London Professional: my girlfriend, Jo, preparing sushi in our open-plan kitchen as I sit in the window playing the saxophone; the boys coming round on a Sunday afternoon to watch football on my plasma screen; Chablis on the balcony on a warm summer's evening; stainless-steel kitchens and Philippe Starck bathrooms; surround sound, fresh coffee, olive oil, perfect hair and a smile on your face - the glossy magazine image of modern life. And here it was on my doorstep. I had to find out more.

There have already been considerable improvements lately, thanks largely to a group of people who you would be advised to follow if you want to know which area is going to be the Next Big Thing: artists. Goldsmiths College has always been a focal point for music and the arts in the area, which has recently witnessed the arrival of the state-of-the-art Laban dance centre, while painters, sculptors and potters are crawling all over the former industrial spaces of Deptford Creek, etc. etc. etc..

We receive a great many newsletters and booklets - thank you, and keep them coming - however, what is listed here are only those which have something of Greenwich interest in the current edition. Reviews of any publications of Greenwich interest are always welcome. There is, however, no publications news this issue.

'Dockland Apprentice' by David Carpenter.
This book describes the apprenticeship of a Plumstead boy working at the London Graving Dock in Poplar. It is very highly recommended as a story of work in the docks, when the docks were the docks, and the river was the river. Young Dave - replete with quiff and DA - learns his trade as a marine engineer with a variety of characters and then goes out to service the ships of the world. The first chapter sees him on the Woolwich Ferry and in the last he is steaming off down the estuary to new and foreign engineering jobs. Inevitably most of the accounts of south London are in regard to his daily river crossings through the two-way working old Blackwall tunnel on his Norton - 'flat out in 2nd gear down into the tunnel, taking the first bend at 60 mph, then into 3rd gear at 70 mph, down the straight reaching 90mph ... slow down for the bend, then flat out and out of the tunnel at 95 mph.'.
Bears Hide, 2 Bramber Avenue, Peacehaven, BN10 8LR. £15.99

July/October 2003 gives news of archaeological work.
There is information about the Study Group on Stowage, which has found 18th Century and 19th Century walls. Another article describes investigations in the Arsenal - in part this says "Oxford Archaeology carried out a field evaluation of the north-east zone on behalf of Berkeley Homes. A series of small scale, successive timber stake and wattle structures ran on an E-W alignment 55m inland from the current line of the Thames River Wall. These alignments were dated to the medieval period, the earliest AD 1020- 1280. They are considered to represent elements of former fence lines, possibly fish traps, and the possible foundations of an earthen River Wall. Two ditches, both running E-W are considered to be contemporary elements of the network of drainage ditches which enabled the reclamation of this area of the Plumstead Marshes behind the river wall to provide agricultural land. This system is apparent on maps dating to 1670, 1701, 1717, 1725 and 1749 and may have origins from the 'inning' of the marshes in the medieval period.
In 1779 this area of land was incorporated into the Arsenal having previously been outside its eastern limits. The well-preserved brick built remains of the Proof House, later to become the Proof Offices (built pre-1780) were recorded. Details of the internal division of this structure add to the basic outline detail gained from historic maps. Further brick structures comprised brick walls and surfaces, and related to an E-W orientated range labelled on historic maps as the Proofing Workshops (built 1780-1802). These was no evidence for the contemporary and parallel Convict Sheds to the north however, these may have been totally removed to make way for the north range of the Grand Stores East Quad which was constructed in the same position as the earlier Convict Sheds.
A substantial cut is interpreted as groundworks for a new River Wall commenced in 1802. These works allowed for land reclamation and a new river frontage in advance of the construction of the Grand Stores 1806-15. In the second decade of the 19th Century, the area was completely remodelled with the construction of the East Quadrangle of the Stores Department. Documentary sources reveal that this range suffered subsidence and was demolished in 1831.

WOODLANDS FARM - a brief history.
This five-page booklet costs 20p and is available from the Farm Trust (020 8319 8900).

The current Crossness Engines Record includes this item:
"Off to Sea"
In July, 1908, a neatly penned note observed that the Main Drainage Committee's Chief Engineer approved an allowance of 1/- per head for refreshments for children from the Outfalls at Barking and Crossness during their excursion. This exciting day out was a journey on one of the new sludge vessels as no doubt it took its cargo out to the Barrow Deep, five miles off Clacton, Essex. A rudimentary calculation of the number of children at the southern outfall, reveals that about fifty children would have been of an age to make such a trip. Assuming a similar number would be available from the northern outfall, the prospect of the Captain and crew being responsible for about one hundred little souls either running around or throwing-up, beggars belief. The one hundred plus miles round trip can be very pleasant, but the excitement of the day, sandwiches and pop and maybe an on-shore breeze against an ebbing tide making for unwanted motion, could no doubt turn some of the youngsters a shade of eau de nil. Whatever the weather conditions or minor discomforts, I am sure that many children would carry memories of that 'day out' for many years to come. The thought occurred to me - who was the first person to promote the idea of a sea- going trip for children of the workforce of the two outfalls and when did the practice cease?

This volume contains an extremely important article on Creevey's Yard, Highbridge by Nicholas Cooke and Christopher Philpotts. This gives an enormous amount of details illuminating our knowledge of the historic riverside. The following brief extract may be of particular interest:
Amongst the copper alloy objects are a group of pins. Pinners' bones from the site indicate the presence of a small-scale industry manufacturing these objects. 46 pins came from gully [with further examples from the large dumps of domestic refuse pit. Small pins, used mainly as clothes-fasteners, were made from the medieval period onwards. Two forms are present, which may reflect the distinction between pins made on site, and subsequent incidental losses. The pins from the gully have simple wire-wrapped heads and are relatively consistent in length (30-32mm). This group includes a significant number of what appear to be unsharpened 'blanks', and also two additional items: a short length of wire (46mm) and a probable needle. As far as can be ascertained, all the other pins from the site have heads formed by wire wrapped around the shaft and then shaped to a globular form. Lengths vary from 24mm to 32mm, and there are no apparent 'blanks'."


On 1st February 2004 the Kent Underground Research Group (KURG) entered the Bostall Estates chalk mine to survey the condition of the mine. At the same time four surveyors from the London Bat Group (LBG) surveyed the mine for hibernating bats. The Chalk Mine is located in Abbey Wood. The entrance shaft is approximately 18 metres deep and is located in the grounds of a former Hospice on Federation Road, approximate grid reference TQ 478 735. Construction of the mine began in 1900 in order to supply raw materials for the construction of the Bostall Estate by the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society. During the next 6 years some 610 metres of tunnels were dug some up to 6 metres high. Mining ceased in 1906. In 1914 a sloping entrance close to Federation Hall allowed access to the mine for use as a bomb shelter. This tunnel was finally filled in the early 1960's. This is the first recorded bat survey of the mine.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 all British bats and their roosts are protected on Schedule 5. This act is subject to amendments under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 implements the Council Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora. All bats are listed as 'European protected species of animals' and it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take a bat. It is also illegal to intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any place that a bat uses for shelter or protection (regardless of whether bats are actually present at the time); or to intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat.

The relatively high temperatures recorded during this survey meant that at the time of this visit it is unlikely that bats were using the site for hibernation purposes. However it remains a strong possibility that bats may still be using the mine at other times. It is known that the surrounding Abbey and Bostall Woods experience high levels of bat activity with a number of different species having been recorded in the locality. In a visit to the site in September there was unobstructed bat access via a hole in the concrete cap over the main shaft. At the time of this survey this hole had been covered with a sheet of plyboard although bat access would have still been possible. With the exception of the high temperatures, conditions within the mine were largely suitable for roosting bats. The rough-cut walls and ceiling provided enough nooks and cracks for bats to find roosting spots. At the time of the visit much of the mine floor was under up to ~60cms of water. 
This would increase humidity levels, which would be to the benefit of roosting bats.The London Bat Group strongly recommends that bat access into the mine is retained and enhanced through bat-friendly grilling. The mine entrance could also be securely fenced to reduce disturbance and improve public safety. Further advice should be taken from the London Bat Group and suitably qualified experts.

Refs: Le Gear R.F, 1987; The R.A.C.S. Chalk Mine and the Building of the Bostall Estate. Kent Underground Research

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