Monday 10 February 2020

Reviews and snippets November 2004


East Greenwich Pleasaunce is a small park in the back streets of East Greenwich - it was originally the graveyard for Greenwich’s Royal Hospital and it contains many graves of navy veterans - including at least two that fought at Trafalgar. Every year a group from the Greenwich Royal Navy Association hold a short service around a memorial in the park wall on the Saturday nearest Trafalgar Day. Next year is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and there will to be many events, nationwide, and particularly here in Greenwich.

Mary Mills - who is a Greenwich councillor for that area - noticed that the Pleasaunce and its graves did not yet feature in the programme, and decided to do something about it! GIHS members and friends can help by telling Mary anything they know about the graves in the Pleasaunce and the people who are buried in them.



In our last issue we included extracts from the Crossness Engines Record on ‘What is under the Valve House at Crossness’ - in their Autumn issue this story is followed up – and so we have followed them with another extract by DID:

“The intention of the Trust was to house their collection of "other" engines in the Valve House. The Easton & Anderson engine had a flywheel that would need a pit, below the Valve House floor, right where some vaults seemed to run! Further investigation was required. Members discovered that additional Pumping Power was called for at Crossness in 1878. The Metropolitan Board of Works planned to purchase some Great Western Railway Broad Gauge Engines to drive pumps - two were to be used at Crossness. The location of these engines on the site has always been a mystery. Not anymore. The drawings of 1878 show the western end of the Valve House with the outline of two broad gauge locomotives set over four pump chambers. More importantly the drawing shows the brick arches, that would be the same as those under the eastern end where the Easton & Anderson was to be sited.

The building alterations were contracted to Thomas Docwra & Son and the alterations to the engines was entrusted to Easton & Anderson. Part of the contract was the supply of a bucket dredger, called a Jacob's Ladder, and a small horizontal non-condensing steam engine to drive it. So far, no explanation of how the system operated has been discovered. Although this research located the Broad Gauge engines they were at the western end of the house and the Easton & Anderson, with the flywheel problem, was to be sited at the eastern end. What could be learnt from this research and applied to the eastern end?



Bob Carr, writing in the GLIAS Newsletter, has provided a good summary of current changes in our area – as follows:

“Readers will be only too aware of how housing redevelopment along the riverside has rendered much of Thameside permanently unusable for shipping activities. A campaign is being waged to prevent the Deptford Dockyard waterfront from being redeveloped in this way. Deptford and Woolwich Royal Dockyards were situated at two of the best locations on the Thames, where deep water is maintained by natural scour - not surprisingly the Crown had the pick of choice sites. It would be a great tragedy if Deptford (Convoys Wharf) is to be lost to shipping for all time. Two c.l847 shipbuilding sheds in which warships were constructed remain. A bronze statue group to commemorate Czar Peter the Great's visit to Deptford in 1698 was unveiled on 5 June 2001. and stand near the entrance to Deptford Creek and the site of Sebastian de Ferranti's pioneer power station of 1889. The figures are on a polished granite plinth made in St Petersburg. The bronze statue was cast in Deptford. Does anyone know who cast them?

The eastern peninsula at the entrance to Deptford Creek has been totally cleared and awaits redevelopment. Small ships carrying sand and gravel still use the creek and berth just above Creek Road on the east bank which means the road bridge is still in use. A Stothert & Pitt crane is used to unload cargoes. The MV James Prior was noted at the berth on 27 August 2004.

Currently, MV Balmoral and the replica Endeavour operate occasional passenger cruises from Woolwich Pier and the Woolwich waterfront is not entirely private housing, although flats are now being built on the site of Cubow's shipyard. Recent archaeological excavation at Woolwich Arsenal has unearthed an enormous treasure trove of industrial and military remains - steam hammer bases, casting floors, machine beds and building foundations have been discovered on a bewildering scale. Here archaeologists and developers are working in partnership, with recent archaeological knowledge being utilised in planning new building locations and foundation piles. In the past, the Arsenal would just bury their 'rubbish' using any convenient hole that needed filling. This has provided the 21st century with a rich legacy of historic arms and munitions for scholarly study.”

Creekside Forum are working on the numerous regeneration initiatives on the Deptford riverside. Inevitably the focus is on several old industrial sites. Here are some (heavily edited) extracts from their recent Annual Report:

“Borthwick Wharf has been a major focus of activity. Together with its neighbour, Payne's Wharf, this fine block, designed by RIBA gold medallist Edwin Cooper, is the subject of a planning application by George Wimpey for yet another tower block. Payne's is listed but English Heritage denied protection to Borthwick. We argued that this former meat cold store should be adapted for present-day use - for example it could be a major new gallery space. Bill Ellson has researched Borthwick's overseas operations. Never a household name in Britain, they sold only to retail butchers. By 1963 in Australia and New Zealand they had five cattle stations and 11 freezing plants and tntil Britain joined the Common Market most of their product was landed at Deptford. The building thus forms part of an Australasian heritage, as well as being the last evidence of Deptford's 500-year-old meat trade.

The strength of local support was demonstrated on a guided walk held in mid-summer… the event attracted interest thanks to a fine flyer by Michele.



The current Quarterly Review gives the usual detailed accounts of archaeological investigations in the Borough. Much of it concerns peats, gravels and the like but there are some items of industrial interest extracted below.

Oxford Archaeology reported:

This is a relatively small building built in 1890 as Naval Offices. Originally two storied, a second floor was added in 1903 and it was later converted to a telephone exchange. It has polychromatic brick detailing like the Chemical Laboratory and its lightweight iron roof – had been taken down and reused when the building was raised a storey. The internal layout of the building was lost in conversion. But some sash windows survive intact plus skirtings, doors and architraves on the first floor - including two late 19th century partitions.

Pre-Construct Archaeology reported:

'Made ground' was found across the site corresponding to the process of ground raising from the 17th to 19th centuries, to make the marshland suitable for construction.

The remains of a square brick built structure were found - matching two of four bays shown on a plan of 1808 and labelled ‘Dipping Square’ - part of the Royal Laboratory. Inside were two deep square wells or tanks, and a domed brick cylinder, probably a well. Foundations included brick pier bases and brick columns for floor supports founded on timber base-plates which were pieces of gun carriages, and of great importance for research into Napoleonic-era English weapons. In the 1820's-1870's the site was used as a timber-seasoning field by the Royal Carriage Department and the remains found include timber/metal rails and small foundation pads.

Substantial remains of the 35-ton steam hammer were found construction of which began in 1872 in the South Forge. The anvil foundations comprised a series of cast iron plates beneath a cast iron frustum arranged in a stepped pyramid and these were left in situ. The anvil had been built in a large square construction cut, backfilled with concrete. Four metal plates NW and SE of the anvil may have supported above-ground machinery, possibly even the furnaces that kept the hammer in work – and an area of metal plate work and heavy burning may be testament to one of the furnaces.

On maps a Boiler House is shown to the east, to provide the hammer’s power and brick remains of pier bases and flues were found. The flues comprised metal louvre shutters to control the flow of smoke into a large N-S aligned flue beyond the site's edge.

In the NW corner of the site the lower level foundations of a large Radial Crane were exposed, probably from 1876. There were the remains of deep metal tanks around the foundations and a brick floor to the south may be a structure marked on an 1895 OS map as‘Browning Shop’. Brick flues in the south of the site served to carry fumes towards a large octagonal chimney. Other concrete pads match an unidentified structure shown on the map.

In the southern and eastern areas of the site were the remains of the South Boring Mill, built in 1882 and enlarged 1885-1912. A number of lathe beds survived, some represented by concrete footings, and others by metal beds and tracks and mechanisms revealing processes of power transmission. There were also concrete pier bases, metal stanchion bases and base-plates, brick footings and party walls, and concrete slabs many of which could not be fully explained. Outside the South Boring Mill, were remains of bogie tracks for the transport of raw materials and finished products and also cobbled surfaces. Some pieces of metalwork associated with the lathe beds were stamped with the maker's mark, and date, a Manchester-based engineering firm, Craven Bros. After 1914, South Forge became a Tender shop with concrete tanks and two concrete bases for turntables. At the southern end were two brick flues corresponding with a series of Gas Producers marked on a plan of the 1930's.

Also found were concrete pier bases, footings, brick walls and stanchion bases - matching Building A73. shown on a 1930's map. Also remains of a Tempering Shop with a series of large wrought iron vertical tanks, and a square brick tank with iron lining. Some of remains may be Oil Tanks marked on the 1895 map Immediately south was a complicated area of brick, iron and concrete from a structure marked in a 1930's map as Naval Insp (Shells). Concrete footings and stanchion bases in the south of the site is thought to be the remains of the Plant Store, shown on the 1930s map. In the SE corner of the site were remains of a structure, shown on a plan of 1960's. Internally a floor slab was found, with a small set of bogie tracks, and a set of four concrete features, possibly tanks or ordnance-testing pits. A number of shell casings were retrieved from these pits. Outside were further railway or bogie tracks, cobbled surfaces and isolated machine bases.

Oxford Archaeology reported:

Building 37 was the offices of the Ordnance Stores Department and formed part of the Grand Stores. It retains a large quantity of primary decorative features such as skirting boards. It underwent one major refurbishment in the 19th century to create on the first floor what is now called - 'The Duke of Wellington Suite'. Although the Duke of Wellington was Master General of Ordnance 1818-1827 and may have had offices here it seems unlikely that the redecoration of these rooms had any direct relationship with him despite this name.

Museum of London Archaeology Service reported:

Shows deposits of late 18th-19th century date and cellars associated with 19th century buildings fronting on to Trafalgar Road

Museum of London Archaeology Service reported::

The vast majority of this report deals with the sub-soil but reports include a note on north of the site where foreshore deposits were found, which may represent a sluice dating from the post-medieval period and linked to drains and watercourses known to have existed in this part of the peninsula.

Tarry contamination was found in the lower levels of the ground at differing thicknesses, in the western side of the site. This is likely to relate to the use of the site from the 1840's by the Improved Wood Pavement Company to make coal tar-soaked wood blocks for paving using the waste products of the gas industry. The site was incorporated into the linoleum works in the early 20th century and later taken over by the Metropolitan Storage and Trade Company, becoming a specialised wharf for handling containers in 1970.


River tunnels in Greenwich are famous – here are some more tasters from Denis Smith’s Civil Engineering Heritage of London and the Thames Valley (published/sold by Institution of Civil Engineers).


The Foot Tunnel was designed by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice for the London County Council, 1909-12. An Act was obtained in 1909, and in March 1910 a contract for the construction of the tunnel was let to Walter Scott and Middleton for £78,860. It comprises a cast-iron tube of 12ft 8 in. outside diameter connecting two vertical shafts. Construction of the north shaft began on 1 May 1910 and tunnelling began on 1 December. The length between shaft centres is 1655 ft. It was excavated by hand labour with the aid of a shield, and a fair day's progress was five rings, or 8 ft 4 in., during 24 hours, the men working three eight-hour shifts.


The first attempt to construct a road tunnel here was made by the Metropolitan Board of Works who obtained an Act in 1887. The design, for three parallel tunnels, was made by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the work was to take seven years. The Board was about to let the contract when the Government prematurely wound up the Metropolitan Board of Works in March 1889. This was the end of Bazalgette's scheme. In June 1890 the London County Council commissioned Benjamin Baker to inspect and report on the compressed air working at the Hudson River tunnel in New York, and at Sarnia in Canada. Baker reported in October, and by 20 November the London County Council Chief Engineer, Alexander R. Binnie, had produced a new single-tunnel design, under the 1887 Act. The tender of S. Pearson & Son (who were building the Hudson River tunnel), of £871,000, was accepted towards the end of 1891 and work began in 1892.

The work began by sinking four shafts in steel caissons, 58ft external diameter, which were built by the Thames Ironworks on Bow Creek. The circular tunnelling shield, weighing 250 tons, was designed by E. W. Moir, the contractor's Agent, and built by Easton & Anderson of Erith. The shield was driven forward by hydraulic rams, and excavation was by hand. As the shield working was under compressed air at 27 lbf sq. in. above atmosphere, to prevent a blowout, a layer of clay 10 ft thick and 150 ft wide was laid on the riverbed over the line of the tunnel. Six air compressors totalling 1500 hp were used. The tunnel is 6200 ft long from entrance to entrance.

The outside diameter of the cast-iron lining is 27 ft, providing a roadway 16 ft wide with a footway on either side. 800 men were employed on the work. The tunnel was lit by three rows of incandescent electric lamps in the roof. It was ceremonially opened by HRH the Prince of Wales on Saturday 22 May 1897. It was one of the first contracts of the LCC and the new tunnel was one of its last.

By the 1930s the old tunnel was becoming inadequate and the LCC obtained an Act in the 1930s for a new tunnel. However, war intervened and construction work did not begin until 1958 with the northern approach. The new tunnel is about 700 ft to the west of the earlier tunnel and is 3,852 ft from portal to portal, with an internal diameter of 28 ft 2 in. The consulting engineers for the bored section of the tunnel itself were Mott, Hay & Anderson, and for the open approaches Mr. H. Iroys Hughes. Architect Terry Farrell designed the two ventilation buildings, that on the south side is incorporated in the Millennium Dome. The new tunnel was opened in 1967 and carries southbound traffic only - the northbound traffic uses the old tunnel.


Built from Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs to the Greenwich waterfront, the tunnel was built to replace a ferry. Two vertical shafts, each of 43 ft external diameter, give access to the tunnel by spiral staircase or lift. The tunnel is 1217 yd long between shaft centres and is made of cast-iron rings of 12 ft 9 in. external diameter. It was built for the London County Council under their Engineer Sir Alexander Binnie, the resident engineer was W. C. Copperthwaite and the contractors were J. Cochrane and Sons. Opened in 1902, it is still in use.


In their September Newsletter, the Kent Underground Research Group report on a Guardian article, as follows:


The following is from the Guardian of Saturday April 10th written by Paul Brown, Environment Correspondent:

A massive tunnel, nine metres across and 22 miles long, is planned through London, underneath the riverbed of the Thames, to relieve the capital's overloaded sewage system. The daunting engineering project, costing £2bn and adding £12 a year to the average water bill, is necessary to prevent an environmental disaster in the Thames, which could seriously damage its thriving wildlife. It will be the biggest sewage project in the capital since Joseph Bazalgette built the interceptor sewers that relieved London of the "Great Stink". London is facing a crisis because its 140-year-old sewage system cannot cope. Up to 60 storm overflows are still directed into the river and have to be brought into use so often that they are in breach of European directives designed to save rivers from being starved of oxygen and the wildlife wiped out. Since the 1980s, after a 20-year cleanup of a multitude of remaining discharges into the Thames, London has been held up as an example to the world on how to clean up a "dead" river through a major city. However, changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change and urban development have meant that many times a year London's sewers have been unable to cope with the combined flow from the city's sewage and storm water system. As a result, the Thames has received a vast load of effluent mixed with storm water and rubbish washed from the city's streets.

The Thames Tideway Strategic study, is due to report this year but has concluded that a tunnel is the best option. This will have to be very deep, up to 100 metres below the Thames to avoid tube lines and all the other infrastructure under the river. It will also gradually run downhill in order to carry the storm water to the twin sewage works either side of the river. The optimal solution is to build a tunnel under the river from Twickenham in the west to the Beckton and Crossness sewage works in the east. Construction would take six years and was unlikely to begin before 2010.

St. Mary’s Church Lewisham - Julian Watson

Julian has marked his retirement initially with an excellent book about his local church. Although, naturally, this is not primarily concerned with local industry it does show some interesting insights into the building trade locally over the past 600 years or so. This is a great little book and highly recommended.

GASLIGHT – produced by the North West Gas Historical Association is now serialising W.F.D.Garton’s ‘History of the South Metropolitan Gas Company. This definitive history of our local gas works was serialised in the professional gas press in the 1950s and has never been published elsewhere until now. Highly recommended.

Iris Bryce has brought out a new edition of her Canals are my Home - the story of the adventures of the Woolwich based Bryces on the waterways of England. 

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