Thursday, 13 February 2020

Letters May 2005

Letters May 2005

From Lorraine
I am trying to locate an Invention by Captain William Forbes Portarlington, Melbourne who in 1905 went to England to submit his invention The Distance and Course Recorder to the British Admiralty. In 1909 after much testing and discussion with the Navigation Dept of the Admiralty, Hydrographer, Admiral Field and Captain Bacon Director of Naval Ordinance the project was taken over by Elliott Bros. o f Lewisham who altered its design and manufacture. It was alien known as Forbes Patent Log. I believe this equipment was used not only by the British Navy but also by the Cunard Shipping Line.

I have tried to find the Elliot Bros. records of the time plus locate the Admiralty records given that the invention was used on a lot of navy ships. Are you able to assist me or put me in touch with the appropriate organisation? 

From P. Haney
You recently published an enquiry from me about Duresco and the Riverside Works, Charlton. I had one reply, which was extremely useful. Thank you. Could I request a further enquiry through your newsletter? Does anyone have any information on a company called "Griffiths Fletcher Berdoe" operating in the Charlton area pre 1880? Berdoe could possibly have been Walter Berdoe an industrial chemist. Is there any information on vinegar making around Charlton pre 1880? 

From Benjamin Fragner
We are honoured to invite you to the 3rd International Biennial Vestiges of Industry 2005, which will take place n Prague on September 19th - 23th, 2005. The programme of the biennial includes a conference reflecting on examples of European experiences and on the relationship between industrial heritage and culture, a number of exhibitions, excursions and cultural events in Prague and in the nearby industrial town of Kladno. The biennial and its events are organized by the Research Centre for Industrial Heritage (VCPD) at the Czech Technical University in Prague, the Technical Monuments Committee of the Czech Chamber of Certified Engineers and Technicians EKAIT, the Czech Union of Civil Engineers (ESSI) and the City of Kladno, with the direct support of the International Visegrad Fund (IVF). 
We look forward to welcoming you to the 3rd International Biennial - Vestige of Industry to share your knowledge and experience with the other participants
Research Centre for Industrial Heritage Czech Technical University in Prague

From Neil Bennett
Congratulations on a brilliant web site.  My interest is in the Merryweather Company which, as well as featuring among my childhood toys and models, l worked for in South Wales after it left Greenwich. I have worn out my printer downloading the Merryweather items from your Newsletter. Didn't know there was so much to Greenwich! I am part of what may or may not be a growing Merryweather nostalgia industry, and I'm researching for a book initiated by Paul Pearson(a fire vehicle restorer) and contributed to by Tony Armstrong (MW chief engineer early 1980s, South Wales) and myself (draughtsman same period). The book is intended to relate the post-W.W.2 history of the company but I collect information on the whole 3+ centuries. I would offer some snippets as follows:
The company left Greenwich apparently because its workforce was aging and perhaps the building was aging although it and the land were worth a vast sum, making mechanical engineering production there unrealistic. Taken over by the Siebe Gorman Group, grants were sought from the Welsh Development Agency and other sources and a modem factory unit taken in Rassau, pronounced Rassa, near Ebbw Vale. South Wales. It did not seem to be very successful and is reported to have had a succession of managing directors. On Friday 13th April 1984 it did a moonlight flit to the Tecalemit Garage Equipment factory in Plymouth. The chairman of Siebe Gorman was interviewed by Roger Cook on Radio 4. The company became T.G.E. Merryweather, where it only produced fire extinguishers. Sometime later Siebe Gorman merged it with a historic but little-known company, John Morris & Sons Ltd to become Morris Merryweather in Hyde near Manchester. have a sales brochure of its fire-fighting products including the Merryweather extinguishers. This company was later reported to have gone into receivership. Recently the Merryweather & Sons Ltd name survived, the name having possibly been taken on by its last managing director in South Wales, Paul Abbot. An address for the company is found in Ashford, Kent or alternatively in Croydon, supplying fire alarms etc.
These facts are however subject to confirmation and further research
I was very interested in the proposition that Eduard Butler built the first British petrol engined car in the Merryweather Greenwich factory. Was there any feedback on this? The website won't come up on my computer, and normally I'd be wary of internet claims unless backed up by evidence. However there does seem to be some evidence as the authors of a book published in 1901 by the Merryweather Company, "A Record of Two Centuries" does refer to a 'petro cycle ' being made (the last in a list of non-fire-related products). At that time apparently nobody saw the potential (or potential threat) of the invention, and it is ranked somewhere after 'tanks for camel transport ' which must have been useful to someone.
In one newsletter Neil Means enquires about fire boats. If they have not yet made contact, l suggest he gets in touch with D.O. Pat Cox at the Fire Service College, Morton in Marsh. He is said to be the authority on fire boats although I have yet to contact him.
Hope some of the above is interesting. Some points I am wondering: is the Greenwich factory building still standing / listed / demolished / would it be described as Art Deco or what architectural style? (I don't live in the area). Was Edward Butler of petrocycle fame continued as a London resident? Interested in MW's wartime products including turntable ladders mounted on amphibious vehicles for the D-Day landings, (mentioned in 'Engineering ' journal 1 1.1. 1 963), and extending ladder vehicle for artillery spotting. Any other interesting stuff about the company or its products, for which I would be grateful or would swap some of my own material.
I am seeking to further enlarge my collection of information on Merryweather. In exchange for new pictures, information etc, I could offer similar, or sincere thanks/modest payment. In Vol I Issue 4 the 'Flexible Metallic Tubing Co ' is mentioned. Around 1980 I worked for Ransomes & Rapier Ltd, Ipswich. They made the NCK Rapier cranes which can still be seen working, mobile (wheeled) cranes, giant walking dragline excavators and among other things the turntable 6or the revolving restaurant in the Post Office Tower. While there my drawings included a piece of flexible exhaust pipe (3 or 4 inches diameter) for a diesel-engined crawler-crane which came from the United Flexible Metallic Tubing Company. lts address was probably not given as Greenwich or l would have remembered it as a neighbour of MW&SL. If it is the same company the addition of the name 'United ' might suggest that it merged with another company at some point and may have moved. Later (1983) I looked them up and they had become T.I. Flexible Tubes, but apparently I did not note their address. The Tube Investments group now has a web-site featuring T.I. Automotive, Their products don't look at all similar, but anyone keen to know more might enquire there. Keen to support industrial heritage but on a tight budget, and unlikely to make it to many of the meetings...but please give some details of what the society offers. 

From Iris Bryce
With reference to last newsletter and the piece on War Memorial Hospital,   'artefacts relating to the Hospital are stored '.. I wonder whether they still include the Roman remains mentioned in THE ROMANS IN THE GREENWICH DISTRICT by Reg Rigden 1974. He mentions finds from the site of the Memorial Hospital, Shooters Hill giving evidence of occupation during the 1st century. The finds included pottery, flint, animal bones and possibly a piece from a thatched roofed hut. The book was published by the Borough of Greenwich. Reg Rigden was a very oId friend. Owen and Reg first met when they were founder members of the first Revival New Orleans Band in England in 1943. Reg became curator of Plumstead Museum. I'm still trying to find a publisher interested in my collection of essays on life in Wrotham, Kent from the early 50's. Any ideas?

From Veronica Hampton
I ran an internet search on "the Old Sheer Hulk" and Jack Vaughan's article 'The Old Sheer Nonsense ' came up Mr. Vaughan, quoted a booklet on 'Woolwich, Plumstead and Neighbourhood ' and reproduced some of the info on the pub in your newsletter. I am interested in any further information contained in this booklet on The Old Sheer Hulk. My interest is family history, and a cousin by marriage was the publican at the Old Sheer Hulk from 3 1 July 1952. I am in the process of transcribing oId Ietters written during his term of tenancy at the pub. To date the letters have been only mostly about family matters and the 'new life indoors' at the pub. It was a Watney's   establishment in 1952 "The trade here is not too bad, but not fortune to be made. I can sum it up by saying I work harder and get about the same money, but can't get out to spend as much. This place is not small. Large public and Saloon Bar, kitchen, scullery, sitting room and 5 bedrooms. I employed a batman at first but found trade hardly merited it and he could only do mornings and not weekends. We have two cleaners. Overheads are pretty heavy but trade is about second best along here. I find things a bit awkward because my predecessor did not leave me any figures as a guide. Still we are managing and now preparing for the Christmas orders. I can't say I'm entirely struck on this trade because you've no time off and you never know whether it’s going to be a busy night or not, but as Tom says, I'll get used to it in time. H.J. STEED, Sunday Nov 2nd 1952"
Now for the pub, it’s quite homely and the people not too bad, but they don't stay long, they go 6 pm one to the other, you see there is about 4 Houses within five minutes walk. L STEED, Sunday Nov 2nd 1952"

From Museum of London
The Postcodes Project website is a new resource aimed adults with an interest in local history. It showcases a wide variety of objects from the Museum's collections, highlighting one for each London postcode area. In addition there are numerous links to local museums, libraries, archives and adult education centres to encourage people to get more involved in local heritage. The really exciting aspect of the site is a system that enables individuals and members o f community groups to submit their own stories about an area. These will gradually build up to create a website which is as rich and diverse as the city it portrays. You are welcome to visit the site online, and submit a story of your own, at

From Bill Sanman
It seems very little information has been preserved on London shipbuilding. In particular I am looking for any information about the ships built in the following yards:
Ditchburn & Mare,
Blackwall John & William Dudgeon, Millwall, London
Green. Blackwall
Thames Ironworks,  Blackwall
Wigram, Blackwall
I have seen no citations whatsoever for Ditchburn & Mare, John & William Dudgeon and Wigram. There is a very limited amount of information about Green and Thames Ironworks. Perhaps you, or some of your colleagues within the society, know of sources relating to these yards. There may be a local or regional library that contains files in their facial collections. Or there may be a local expert who knows of these shipyards. I am interested in a number of ships that later served in the Confederate, Spanish and Japanese navies. I am trying to locate any information that may be available, such as contracts, specifications, and plans: drawings, sketches or other images. They may have all been launched from the same port but they later found themselves in the thick of maritime history around the world.

From contact at the AIA
 What a contrast we are with the Swiss Transport Museum at Lucerne. It has just announced that the paddle steamer Rigi, which has been on display there since 1958, is to be completely refurbished and put back into steam on the lake by 2009. Rigi is about Reliant’s size and, ironically, was built at Greenwich in 1848. So all credit to the Swiss for showing what can be done in a positive way to preserve maritime heritage for future generations.
If anyone could provide a good translation of this German language site -- we would be happy to use it as a future article here

From Richard Budd
I am interested in researching my family tree and my Grandfather, Harold Charles Cleall Budd (1892-1968). He was a long-term  (49years) employee of Messrs Siemens Brothers & Co in Woolwich, Kent, England. I was wondering if you had any information on Siemens and if there any chance that Archive material could be held concerning W J Graham and the work that he performed for the company?   I understand that he had extensive experience in the Power Cables Department. In the 1920s he managed a cable laying expedition in the West Indies on the cable ship CS Faraday.

From Nick Banks
I work for a not-for-profit energy agency based in Southwark. We are interested in the idea of converting old mills and waterwheels on London's rivers to generate electricity. You may have seen that there have been some similar schemes in Devon and Cornwall recently. We would also be particularly interested in getting hold of any maps showing waterwheels and mills in the Greater London Area.

From Rob Fantinatto
Scribble Media is proud to announce the release today of Echoes of Forgotten Places", a DVD about Urban Exploration, Industrial Archaeology and the Aesthetics of Decay.

From Camilla Way
I am trying to find information on the mines and caves under Greenwich

 From Maxine
I understand that there is a picture of Sutherland Champion in the Town Hall at Woolwich. Does anyone know anything about this?

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