Letters March 2005
From: A resident of the Ashburnham Triangle
I am writing because there is a new planning application in for a development on the site of the old Merryweather Fire Engine Factory in Greenwich High Road. I feel too much is being knocked down, of great historical and aesthetic value. I am concerned that the application fails to recognise the value of the Deptford Creek area for Maritime Greenwich's industrial heritage, and will result in the destruction the Station House, the last direct link with Greenwich's nineteenth century engineering industry anywhere up or down the Creek. In me 19th century, Greenwich became for a brief but glorious period a world leader in maritime engineering, and a pioneer in a number of key 19th century technologies. Within the area that runs from Mumfords Mill down towards Greenwich DLR Station, bounded by Greenwich High Road; the Creek to the new Halfpenny Hatch Bridge, and thence along the railway line to Greenwich Station. There are key survivors of the glory days of Industrial Greenwich - the world's most powerful maritime steam engines were built here, one of the world's first steam navigation companies had its origins here, London's first commuter railway crossed the Creek here to its still surviving Greenwich terminus The Creek is the site of the key pumping station in Bazelgette's pioneering - and still-operating - sewage system for London (another world first). Not to mention the remarkable shift from marine into general engineering that the former Merryweather fire engine works represents. Plus the role the 19' Creekside area played in provisioning London - from Mumfords Mill itself, via Davey's wine cellars, to the old Lovibonds Brewery. The Creekside Triangle encapsulates Greenwich's neglected 19th Century industrial heritage - and what is being proposed for the 43 - 81 Greenwich High Rd. site totally fails to respect that heritage.
We should be working to incorporate key buildings like this in modem developments. We should go further, and make the Creekside Triangle a Conservation Area in its own right, to rescue Maritime Greenwich's industrial past from neglect.
Why not a Creekside Conservation Area to honour Greenwich's remarkable nineteenth century industrial heritage?
From: Jeanette Hardy
I am searching for information on the Eltham Brass Band. A Mr. Frederick Charles Weeks 1877-1957 was in the band and I cannot find out anything about him. Does anyone remember him?
From: Emma Clark
The National Maritime Museum, would like to host a forum to discuss local research that has already been conducted, with particular reference to notable local figures and characters who played a part in the community. Also to explore avenues of potential for building relationships with local historians and local history groups and societies for future collaboration.
Local historians might also be interested in Understanding Slavery, an initiative between the National Maritime Museum, The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, National Museums Liverpool, Bristol's Museums, Galleries and Archives, Hull Museums and Art Gallery and the London Regional Hub. It is funded by the DCMS and Dfes, as part of the Strategic Commissioning National/Regional Partnerships programme. The Understanding Slavery Initiative is a major, innovative museums' research and development programme. It seeks to redress the balance in the teaching of the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in Museums and classrooms at key stage 2 and 3, within the History and Citizenship curricula. The next stages of the programme will seek to evaluate and modify the new schools resources, establish training support for teachers and build new and further links with community education networks to extend the use of the resources beyond museums and classrooms.
National Maritime Museum
From: Mike Wignall
I'm on the committee that organises the longest standing annual race for the Thames sailing barges in the UK - on the River Thames [est. 1863]. I’m writing a pocket book for the general public which will cover many aspects of Thames barge activity. Its purpose is to raise the awareness of the public to the remaining seaworthy barges [about 35 now survive - out of a population of about 3,000 at the end of the 19th. century] and so get them to join preservation societies or charter barges. Both activities will help this example of "living industrial archaeology" survive longer! One topic I will be including is tide mills I've therefore been searching for information - particularly old photographs/prints of tide mills with sailing barges alongside.
From: Andy Pepper
Do Easton & Anderson still exist in any shape or form? My interest comes from some research I have been doing into William Bicheno. He was a waterworks engineer and I have just come across a letter from him referring to work he did on the Antwerp waterworks. I know E&A held the contract for water supply to the City of Antwerp up until about 1930. I want to find out if he worked for them or was contracted to them etc.
From: John Burr
I am trying to find information about William White who had a boat yards in Greenwich and Dagenham. I have lived in Greenwich for 39 years and am interested to know where the Greenwich Boat Yard was situated. I knew that my father’s family, the Whites, had been ship, barge and lifeboat builders in the past and that they had yards in Kent, Essex and Southampton. The NMM library has some information on the Southampton Whites, J. Samuel White, who built destroyers. Can you help at all?
From: Vic Croft
Benjamin Croft lived at No.1 Pumping Station Houses in Deptford. He was born at Stanningley (York's) in 1837 and was an engineer. He later retired to Walworth in London on a Country Pension.
From: Dave Slocombe
As a resident of the former Rachel McMillan Hall at Creek Road Deptford in the early 1980s I have fond memories of the area’s industrial heritage including of the power station buildings and the Creek Side works. I have revisited twice and observed the remarkable scale of re-development and having learnt of the construction of the new student village I guess the area, whilst having moved forward in any ways, is likely to be almost entirely unrecognisable o me. I have found some 1982 pictures on the London Industrial Heritage website but if our readers have any interesting 20th century pictures of the Creek Road area that could be e-mailed or any information including about the former college and halls I would be most grateful
I lived in Blackheath (almost Greenwich!) "before the war" (with Germany!) in a house said to be used by spies in the earlier war (The Great War!) - which was full of secrets and hidden cupboards. There was also a domed brick well hidden deep below the garden with steps and a secret passage to its dry base. My father removed enough bricks to allow him to tunnel into pure sand. This was excellent for his own building works in our garden but he told us he was actually tunnelling a short cut to Blackheath station from where he commuted daily to the BBC. I think we half believed him - and I had visions of startled commuters jumping to one side as he emerged on the platform.