Thursday, 26 March 2020

Greenwich Materials Recycling Facility

By Richard Buchanan

The Blackheath Scientific Society had a visit to the Greenwich Materials Recycling Facility on 16 Jan 2007. Numbers were limited to ten. Unlike other Councils, the Greenwich philosophy is to ask people to put all dry waste in one blue top bin, and to collect it with a single lorry. They then separate it at a mixed, dry, recycling plant. 

The plant occupies a big grey building at the far end of Nathan Way, Plumstead. Mr Peter Dalley, the manager, took us round, on a first floor walkway, and showed us the various machines which are linked by rising conveyor belts. The day we went there was much rubbish on the floor under the conveyors, and paper/plastic separation did not seem as good as it might have been, though presumably acceptable.

The first process is bag splitting, so any pre-sorting one might have done is nullified. Then oversized items are removed with a Trommel Screen, to be manually sorted. This is followed by a Ballistic Separator (a large spinning drum) which does an initial sort of containers from paper. Containers are separated into iron, aluminium and glass: a Magnet (people with pacemakers are not let on the visit) takes out iron cans etc; an Eddy Current separator removes aluminium; leaving glass. Plastic bags, paper and a residue remain. An infra-red lamp detects Plastic and drives a puffer machine to separate it from paper. Paper is sorted first automatically, and then manually - it is important that no glass gets into it, though small wispy pieces of plastic are tolerated. The last piece of equipment is a Baler. Some incoming waste, such as bulk paper from a business, can go straight to the baler. 

Depending on market prices, particularly for plastics, extra manual sorting can be done. Manual Sorters work two or three to a room about 6 m (20 ft) square, for seven hour days, no shift lasting more them four hours. The plant is run with a staff of about 20 per shift.

Mr Dalley took questions afterwards and outlined future plans. He gave various prices: Paper for newsprint earns £250 per ton; Cleanaway, who take the baled waste, put up £6m towards the cost of the plant; National Land Fill permits come with a fine of £150/ton for excess; and an EU fine of F/Wday; a waste disposal lorry costs £125,000; wheelie bins for 120, 240 & 330 litre capacity cost £25, £18 & £40. 

At present 72% of residents voluntarily use blue top bins, and produce high grade waste. It is proposed to revise the use of bins so that all residents use blue-top bins for dry waste and green-top bins for kitchen and garden waste – with weekly collection for both. Other waste would be put in a bag and collected fortnightly. Biodegradble Cornstarch bags would be used for kitchen waste - fitting in a kitchen container, tied off when full and put in the green-top bin. 

It is proposed to build an anaerobic digester for green waste so that methane given off as it rots can be fed to a Combined Heat and Power plant (better than a garden compost bin venting to the atmosphere). If restaurant waste were properly sorted this too would be taken and would improve digester efficiency. Other by-products would be a good quality top soil and liquid fertiliser, both useable by the Council. In the future it might be worthwhile to adapt the digester to produce hydrogen

Reviews and Snippets from April 2007

Reviews and Snippets from April 2007

The Sustainable Historic Arsenals Regeneration Partnership (SHARP) was formed between the EU nations of England, Malta, Estonia and Spain to share lessons learned while seeking new futures for these culturally important but neglected former military sites. As lead partner in the part EU-funded project, English Heritage reviewed the story of the rescue, conservation and re-use of the former Royal Arsenal, Woolwich - an example of the contribution that heritage can make to social, economic and cultural regeneration. This was followed by investigation of the challenges and opportunities presented by comparable sites in Malta, Spain and Estonia. In Malta, the aim is to revitalise a succession of military sites adjoining the Grand Harbour; at Cadiz it is to bring back into public view the fortifications that repulsed Napoleon's army; while at Tallinn it is to help the citizens of the young Republic of Estonia to understand their complex past under Russian Imperial, Soviet and Nazi rule. Each of these projects is providing fascinating lessons and outcomes.

A recent conference on SHARP centred on the launch of a book Regeneration from Heritage. This glossy and lavishly illustrated publication outlines the Historical background to the sites involved in the scheme (Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, Battery Tallinin, Grand Harbour Malta and the Real Carenero Arsenal). It described a number of themes in relation to the sites – Masterplanning, Partnerships, Heritage, Tourism, Education and Sustainable Regeneration. It is published by English Heritage (no price or details given on it).

The Severndroog Castle Campaign has heard from Awards for All England that the application for funding has been successful! And they have been awarded £6,035 for their "Audience Development Project". This will pay for: a laptop and accessories (like bag/ remote for presentations / cordless mouse), software, multimedia projector, display boards, promotional materials (bookmarks/ business cards) to advertise our new website, a year's membership to Volunteering England, digital camera and web design and development training.

The Winter 2007 edition of Industrial Heritage contains an article by Mary Mills on ‘An explosion Two Hundred Years Ago’. This is about the Tide Mill which once stood near the Pilot Pub on the Greenwich Peninsula and the explosion in the boiler of a steam engine supplied by Richard Trevithick there. Industrial Heritage published by Hudson History,

The preceding issue of Industrial Heritage ran an article ‘Crossness Engines to the Rescue’ by Peter Skilton.This is about the Stewart & Co. steam engine which was at the David Evans silk works in Crayford and its subsequent rescue and removal to Crossness when Evans closed.

Woodlands Farm are about to reach their tenth anniversary and we must all congratulate them. They are appealing for any old photographs of the Farm which can be used in an anniversary exhibition. They are about to launch a sustainable food growing scheme on the 341 Shooters Hill site – the area once occupied by the Blackheath donkeys.

Crossness DVD. Crossness Engines have now produced a DVD of the first public steaming of Prince Consort on 4th April 2004. This is £8 from their shop on visitors’ days or by post (plus £1.50 p&p) from Crossness Engines Trust, The Old Works, Thames Water STW, Belvedere Road, Abbey Wood, SE2 9AQ.

Crossness are also advertising for people to help with gardening at the site – lots and lots of fresh air (and not too smelly either).

Dockyards – we have recently received both the newsletter and the Journal of the Naval Dockyards Society. Clearly our area had two of the most important of the Royal Dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich. Strange then that these two publications – once again – make no mention of either while they go on and on and on about Portsmouth and so on. Is this our fault for not sending stuff to them? Or do they really want to ignore us? Is there a nasty suspicion that the Deptford site, arguably that of the foremost of the Royal Dockyards, will be redeveloped with hardly a mention of its illustrious past?

We have been sent a copy of the latest publication by the South East London Industrial Archaeology group. Bizarrely this is about the Sherburn and South Milford Gas Company – but that shouldn’t take away from the many merits of this interesting little book. It is by SELIA’s Chris Rule and is available for £3.75 from SEILA Ltd. , 35 Grange Grove, London, N1 2NP and is worth every penny of it. Highly recommended.

Greenwich Historical Society have published their latest Journal now edited by Julian Watson. It contains articles by several people who are also members of GIHS – but in particular it is dedicated to, and contains eulogies to, the late Alan Pearsall. Alan was of course a GIHS member and gave a number of talks to us but one of his major tasks in Greenwich historical circles was as editor of GHS’s Journal. There are articles about him by Professor Roger Knight, Pieter van der Merwe (actually a poem) and Julian Watson.

Other articles are about the theft of Nelson’s replicas from the Painted Hall by Anthony Cross, and Richard Cheffins' work on Greenwich in Parliament.

Labour Party Staff. A Century of Serving 1906-2006. We have been sent a copy of this book by Labour Party Regional Organiser Terry Ashton. Woolwich was of course the home of the earliest organised Labour Party in Britain and the first mini-biography in the book is about William Barefoot. He is described as having built in Woolwich "a strong local party, a model for the whole country"… he was “the organizing genius who made it all happen”.

Swiftstone Trust. We have the latest newsletter of the Trust which cares for the Swiftstone tug and it describes work on the tug and the difficulties encountered since the redevelopment of Wood Wharf. They are hopeful for donations, so don’t disappoint them if you write.
Matchless and AMC - celebration of Woolwich-made machines at Firepower. AMC Event - Sunday 9th September 2007. In total, some 53,400 Matchless machines were contracted for supply throughout the conflict of WWII and many stayed in use during the 1950's with the final machines being disposed through public auction in the 1960's. Examples of these and many more from both the pre- and post-war models from AJS, Matchless and all those other manufacturers within or associated with the AMC Group will be on display and ridden at the event on 9th September.

Wartime memories of Shooters Hill and Woolwich Common. Shooters Hill was of great strategic importance during World War Two forming part of an Anti Invasion Stop Line as well as hosting elements of the defences of London such as Anti-Aircraft Guns and Barrage Balloons. As part of a research and education project, local archaeologist Andy Brockman is recording the military archaeology of the Shooters Hill/Woolwich Common area. This includes both structures such as Pill Boxes, trenches and other sites used by the Army, RAF and Home Guard as well as buildings and sites used by the civilian services such as the Police, Fire and Ambulance Services and the ARP Service. If you or members of your family have any memories of wartime Shooters Hill or you have photographs or memorabilia such as documents please contact

A degree in Maritime History? The Greenwich Maritime Institute is right on our doorsteps on the University site. They are currently inviting applicants for September this year to their various postgraduate courses: MA in Maritime Policy, MA in Maritime History, MBA in Maritime Management. Entry needs either a good honours degree or maritime experience.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Letters sent to GIHS in April 2007

Letters sent to GIHS in April 2007

From: Len Williams
Robert Pakenham Williams was a Baptist minister and was associated with the Seamen’s Mission on Creek Street, (now Creek Road). We have a bible presented to him, which is inlaid with a message of goodwill form the members of the mission. The mission building still exists, and is now the "Up the Creek" comedy club and I have been trying to find out more about the building's history but currently have drawn a blank. The management company tell me that the building is listed, although clearly that listing doesn't go as far as stopping them painting it purple. Do you have any information relating to the history of the building, or can you point me in a direction that might solve my problem.

From: Pamela Smith
I would like to find out about some artifacts that I have; a scarlet coat, silver badge inscribed and dated 1869,back board from a boat inscribed and dated 1875, and a door knocker inscribed. “All to do with Greenwich”.

From: John Ricks
I have a pair of very large pictures (27 inches square and 23 x16 inches)taken from the Illustrated London News of the 30th. Sept. 1876 and before, showing the gun being shipped at Woolwich and being fired at Shoeburyness. If you know of anyone who might be interested in having them, please reply to my message. As I live in Tralee, Ireland it might be a little awkward to show them but I have enclosed a couple of pictures as attachments to give you a clue (they are not very high resolution but I could take proper pictures if required).

From: Keith Dawson
It is that man from down under, about the Enderby's. Can you give me the Lat & long of where Coom or Croom House used to be? George Enderby Ist's will says he was of Coome House. Sam Enderby III wrote a letter from Cooms House 18/9/1803, although they used Paul’s Wharfe as an address on other business letters till at least 1809. one authority says they did not move to Great St. Helens until the 1840's. Morden College has told me that Coome House was demolished and flats erected by the Beaver Trust in 1830's or 1930's The Australian Agricultural Company was set up in the 1830's and the first manager was a Robert Dawson, He is said to be a horse dealer from Essex. My father's ancestors came from Essex and had the same occupation. Robert got on the wrong side of the MacArthurs, he was sacked & came to live in Greenwich (at Morden College? he would fit the criteria) he is buried in Greenwich I believe St. Luke’s?

From: Bob Hawker
Is it possible to ask for information on Thomas William Cowan's activitieswith the Kent Ironworks, 1860 - 1890ish? Anything that any of your members might have on Kent Ironworks, Greenwich, would be much appreciated. For example when did the business cease trading, did it mutate into the North Kent Ironworks Ltd. ? The information I have in brief it is: -

Patents: -
Cowan. Air compressed hammer.
Cowan and Winton. High and low pressure double cylinder hammer.
Burgh and Cowan. Trunk engine.
GB809, 1861. John Grieve Winton and Cowan, both of 42 Bridge St. Blackfriars, London. Improvements in the means for actuating machine hammers, which said improvements, are also applicable to pile-driving and other such like machines and purposes. Use of compressed air to aid steam hammers.
GB2306, 1861. Cowan. Improvements in the construction of breech-loading ordnance. Revolving firing-chambers for artillery. A large six shooter!
GB2525, 1862. Cowan. Improvements in the construction of portable or fixed pumps. A double barrelled pump with four valves or pistons. The same or variation on the trunk engine above.
Yarrow and Hilditch of Barnsbury, steam carriage made by Cowan for Ex. 1862. Details of construction in "Steam on Common Roads", William Fletcher, p 161.

North Kent Ironworks Ltd. March 1891. Shareholders of the Co. file for voluntary liquidation following an action against the company by one of the first mortgage debenture holders on 20th Feb. 1891. There was only £3,750 for distribution to the second debenture holders. The company was finally wound up on 25th March.

There appears to have been a change in Cowan's circumstances ~ late 1889, he moved from Sussex into London, became even more active in bee-keeping and travelled extensively - cross Atlantic six times (both ways) in the next 15 years, and numerous European visits.

From: Richard Blackbourn
I have an oilpainting which has been in the family forever. It shows a gentleman sitting in an office with a large number of fishing boats visible out of the window over his shoulder.
I have now found out that the picture is of a fishing fleet, is located at Greenwich and that members of the family were fishermen in Greenwich around 1816-1870 and before that at Wandsworth.

The names were:
Thomas Blackbourn - Fisherman - Stable Yard Street, Greenwich - 1820 - 1841, 7, Church St,Greenwich – 1851.
Thomas Blackbourn - Fisherman - Hog Lane, Greenwich – 1841 Frederick St – 1851 Thames Street - 1861
William Blackbourn - Fisherman - High Bridge, Greenwich - 1841
George Blackbourn - apprentice vintner - Crown & Sceptre, High Bridge, Greenwich - 1841

I was wondering if any records existed regarding the fishing fleet. i.e. : boat owners, crews, fleet managers/owners etc. or any other records regarding fishing in Greenwich around this time.

From: Len Metzner
The Society for the Acquisition and Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. I have today learned of this organisation and its lecture rooms in Royal Hill, Greenwich. In the course of reading about this and its formation circa 1840's, and its organiser H.S. Richardson. It also mentions the 9,000 books in their collection. Wondered if you have any knowledge as to where any of these books have ended up, if the halls are still Lecture Rooms for Greenwich University, Maybe?

William Lloyd Metzner opened the first local library in his home in Stockwell Street and established and held meetings of the Literary and Scientific Institution, later to move onto a larger hall. The picture I have of the meeting of this Society has all the appearance of being the same as that shown as a meeting of the Greenwich Acquisition of Knowledge in their new hall, now known to be on Royal Hill. 

From: Iris Bryce
Does anyone remember the formation of the Local Defence Volunteers at the Telcon in the 1940's? These were the forerunners of The Home Guard. I worked in the Buying Office of the Telcon, aged 16 and along with Glenys, the filing clerk joined the LDV. We were given rather large badges made of some lightweight wood I think and painted to resemble gold. I joined three other girls and we went to learn map reading in a very cold, dirty building just outside the entrance to Blackwall Tunnel -1 think it was a Martello Tower. Glenys went to learn how to ride a MOTOR BIKE! We lasted about three weeks. I wasn't too happy to be left alone with the retired Major!! And Glenys rode the bike into a wall. The reason I'm enquiring is that over Christmas we were given a copy of the Home Guard Manual and although it mentions the LDV there is no mention of women joining up. Unfortunately I lost the badge when our house in Woodland Walk suffered blast from the time bomb in Woodland Grove and we were evacuated out of the street for two weeks or more. 

Thanks for mention of The Hill Folk. Could you let me know how to contact Mel Wright, as Owen and I are very interested to see he is lecturing on Jazz in the 40's. Owen of course was the founder member of the Geo.Webb Dixielanders in 1943 and lived in Thomas Street. We started the first Jazz Club in Woolwich in the 40's and many of the well known jazz musicians from all over England stayed at our flat in Thomas Street when they first came to make their name in London.

From: Neil Bennett
After leaving Greenwich, Merryweather moved to the Rassau Industrial Estate, Ebbw Vale, Gwent, S. Wales, NP3 5SD and in 1984 to Belliver Industrial Estate, Roborough, Plymouth (as TGE Merryweather - stands for Tecalemit Garage Equipment). They were also at Commercial Brow, Godley, Hyde, Manchester, Cheshire, SK14 2JN, along with the historic John Morris fire engineering company. Contrary to common belief the name still survives, although the company is (by its own admission) "A shadow of its former self". 

At Tuesnoad Grange, Bethersden, Kent they make or supply only fire extinguishers, owned and run by Mr Jeffrey J Wright. One of their clients is the Sandringham royal household. Mr Wright is interested to learn of the company's past and in particular is willing to purchase or see old Merryweather sales brochures. I am researching the company's past with a view to writing a book.

From: John Grigg
Labour Heritage. In 2005 we celebrated the 60th anniversary of Labour's 1945 election victory. 2006 was the 100th anniversary of the 1906 general election when Labour first became established in Parliament. 2007 is the 60th anniversary of Indian independence. We recently found a supply of one of Labour Heritage's early bulletins produced in 1986 by the Women’s Research Committee. The Editor, Christine Collette, is still a member of Labour Heritage and lives in France. Of particular interest is Irene Wagner's account of her early life in Germany until she left the Naziregime to come to Britain in 1938. Irene was Labour Heritage's first treasurer until she handed the job over to me in 2004 and is still a member of our National Committee.

From: David Dowd
I was pleased to see a report on a lecture given by John Ford on Siemens Brothers. This must be the very same John Ford who ran a scheme for apprenticing young hopefuls to Siemens as draughtsmen in the middle 1950s. I was one such and I owe him my subsequent lucrative career as a product designer. However, my reason for writing is that in his lecture he did not mention that, in the days when British merchant ships had British crews, Siemens trained so many wireless operators that Siemens-trained were in the majority. This was gleaned from the very readable Siemens company magazine. Another item which more closely concerned me at the time was that Siemens designed the first PCB .

From: John Bowles
Woolwich Arsenal Tramway Plates
The article in the latest GIHS Newsletter on the rescue of the Borough of Woolwich electricity junction box has reminded me that I had forgotten to let you know that we now hold at Waltham Abbey the surviving 18" gauge cast-iron tramway plates salvaged by the Oxford Archaeological Unit and held in Building 1° at Woolwich Arsenal. The plates reached us on 6th December. Basically the archaeologists had recovered an example of the various types used at Woolwich, nine in all, so we are very pleased to have them where they can be displayed and on which we can run our 18" gauge rolling stock. The main collection of the plates is at Chatham, where most are sadly currently used as ballast for WS Gannet - a matter which has not found favour with the narrow-gauge railway fraternity. I am glad that we were able to prevent them from going for scrap, as they were separate from the two plates used under the wagon returned from North Woolwich. The long-term future of the plates at Chatham is unclear, so the position there is being watched closely, as their use as ballast must be unacceptable except in the very short-term - just to get HMS Gannet afloat.
I am told that they were cast at Woolwich.

From: Mike Harnett
I am looking for any information on a firm based in the Greenwich area in the late 1800s called Moser, West and Bateman. Their business was the making of emery wheels which may have been used in the production of armaments at Woolwich Arsenal.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Merryweather 'Bottell' and W.R.Crow

We received an enquiry about a Merryweather leather pitcher which we put on our Facebook page. (

Merryweather were the Fire Engine specialist manufacturers based in Greenwich High Road .  They made lots of other things to - pumps, trams, etc etc.

We sent all the stuff off to Merryweather expert, Neil Bennett,  and here is what he says:-

"In reply to your enquiry about the Merryweather pitcher or Black Jack, ................... this is clearly a superb example of the very rare leather 'black jack' and may have come from the Merryweather museum in Greenwich Road / Greenwich High Road, London.

The firm also had longstanding premises in Long Acre (Covent Garden) among others. The inscription 'Merryweather Fecit' most likely refers to Moses Merryweather, although there were other members of his family already in Long Acre when Moses came down from Yorkshire in 1807. (One was a carriage-maker whose work included leather items).

A major customer of Merryweather black jacks was the Greenwich hospital for the Royal Navy, founded in 1694. Some information on black jacks is in a chapter from my book. (we have a copy of this if anyone is interested)

If you are reading the inscription "...ngton" correctly, this would be
Richard Edwin Stubington L I Fire E, A I Fire E, ACA, FCA, RE (TA)
He was  (born 1893, chairman of Merryweathers from 1943, retired from work 1966). So this gives a wide possibility of dates for the gift.

As far as W R Crow and Son are concerned, I cannot find any further evidence as to why they received the black-jack from Merryweather's. Your mother may be right that Crow's provided storage and accommodation after one of MW's bombings (5 Nov 1940 and 24/25 Jun 1944), or for some other favour. Merryweather were always a considerable user of timber in their products and patterns etc, so Crow's may have been a dependable supplier or may have helped out in special circumstances.

I have found the following about W & R Crow & Son Ltd:1885 - see attachment
1891 - still at 6-8 Benjamin Street/Cowcross Street, EC. timber and mahogany merchants and importers of joinery.
In 1943 moved from Greenwich? to Crow's Wharf, Crabtree Manorway, Belvedere, nr Erith, Dartford, Bexley. Had a 300ft quay.
          1948 - Aerial photos - see internet. Jenningtree Point, Erith.
1954 - still at Crabtree Manorway
In 1961 at 6-8 Benjamin Street, London EC1 (registered office), Faringdon/Islington/Clerkenwell.
In 1961 the company was liquidated, apparently on a voluntary basis, by Redford Crosfield Harris FCA
1967 - Crow's (apparently still extant) presented a petition for the winding up of Ridgebild Ltd.
1970s - appears to have morphed into a timber protection company with several addresses - see attachments.
I don't know if the 1945 cutting is relevant.
 The following books and newspaper articles are about black-jacks and Merryweather:
Oliver Baker: Black Jacks and Leather Bottells, 1924, esp. p.116-117 and p.188
Isle of Wight Observer 15 Apr 1916 p.6
Millom Gazette 17 Jan 1902 p.6
'Nor-Rider' (fire brigade magazine) Jun 1955 p.28-29

Monday, 23 March 2020

Street furniture - old Greenwich Borough sites


In an issue of  2006 Richard Buchanan and Susan Bullevant described how they and other members of GIHS/Woolwich Antiquarians rescued an old Borough of Woolwich Electricity Junction box. Richard later wrote expanding on the subject. 

Are these features still there - comments?? please??

The junction box with the Woolwich Arms is presumably the earliest type they used (and the only one of this type I have seen in recent years). I have seen three other types of electricity distribution box in the Borough of Woolwich; two made by Siemens, and one by Henleys. These are somewhat bigger - it is never easy to dress the cabling in the confines of a junction box - and are fitted with a door that is hinged at the very edge of the box for maximum accessibility. Woolwich boxes have double sided access, being designed to be put near the edge of the pavement, with a door or removable panel facing the road; and a door facing the pavement. (Modern BT and CATV distribution boxes are single sided and usually set at the inner side of the pavement, backing onto the adjacent property). Overall Height of the distribution boxes described below is above an integral plinth at ground level; below ground they extend about another foot. A rounded height is given, as there is variability in how the box is set in the ground, particularly where the ground is not level. I list below boxes I have seen at the end of 2006. There are probably more.

Woolwich Junction Box with the Woolwich Arms on Shooters Hill: removed from Eaglesfield Road opposite the end of Cleanthus Road. It has a door on either side, hinged on the right with a key operated lock on the left. Overall dimensions: Height: 52 in, Width: 19.5 n, Depth: 14 in. Weight: assuming an average thickness of 1 cm, this junction box works out at 250 kg (1/4 tonne). It is unusual in having a round cap fitted over the centre of the top, suggesting that it was designed to mount a lamp (or alarm?) standard.

Siemens Junction Box I Shooters Hill, Laing Estate (built 1935-6).
I have counted the following on the Laing Estate: Ashridge Crescent: 4, Bushmoor Crescent: Kinlet Road: 2 Plumstead: one in Timbercroft Lane at the junction with The Slade. Overall dimensions: Height: 56 in. Width: 24 in Depth: 15.5 in. 
These boxes have a door hinged at the right hand edge of the side facing the pavement, with pintles held in the base and top; on the left is a key operated lock. Below the door, on the base is cast “SIEMENS”. The roadside face has a removable panel held by six screws. On each side there is a 4 inch square plaque stating: REGISTERED No 750202/29. PATENT No 336752

Siemens Junction Box II - Shooters Hill, Wimpey Estate, one in Condover Crescent. “Siemens” is not visible, the base being sunk in the pavement, but the box has the same plaque on its sides. It is wider than Box I, with full width doors of the same type, on both sides: Overall dimensions: Height: 56 in Width: 30 in Depth: 15.5 in

Henley Junction Box - Plumstead, one in each of Pegwell Street and Lucknow Street by Timbercroft Lane. Overall dimensions: Height: 60 in, Width: 20 in, Depth: 16 in. These boxes have a door on the side facing the pavement, hinged, for maximum accessibility, on the left hand edge. The door has two key holes on the right, at top and bottom. The roadside face has a removable panel held on eight studs by nuts. On the base, below the panel, is cast “HENLEY”.

Woolwich Junction Box with the Woolwich Arms. Further to the one taken from Shooters Hill to the Greenwich Heritage Centre, I have now seen three more. Plumstead: one, at the junction of Burrage Place and Burrage Road; two, diagonally opposite, at the junction of Frederick Place and Bloomfield Road. They have a door on either side, hinged on the right with a key operated lock on the left. The door on the side facing the road is not the full width of the cabinet, while the one on the pavement side is the full width of the cabinet. Both doors bear the Arms of the Borough of Woolwich. These boxes are of a regular pattern, and do not have a cap fitted on top as the one taken from Shooters Hill did.

We have had a number of other details sent in about historic street furniture around the Borough

From a Greenwich Transportation Engineer about an old traffic light pad in Farmdale Road. This dates from when Farmdale was at the end of Westcombe Hill before the construction of the motorway. Recent road works by the Water Board may be in the process of destroying it.

From Mike Neill: The lamp column and base at White Hart Lane Depot have recently been removed – within the last few months - presumably as part of Tilfen's site clearance. It used to stand in the space between the gate pier and the weighbridge office. The weighbridge still survives however, as does an ornate thing that I think was a sign holder - not a light as the old column was right behind it.

There is a Council Tramways cover just beside the bus stop o/s Dreadnaught House on the Woolwich Road

The last surviving wood block paving that I know of in the Borough - maybe from the works featured in the GIHS? - curiously enough in Powis Street, Woolwich.

There is also an old tram telephone box near the Blackwall Tunnel entrance in Blackwall Lane – almost alongside ‘Ranburn’.
(this was cleared during Olympic tidying up)

In Vanburgh Hill outside the nurses homes, now converted to flats, is a metal plate marked ‘Merryweather & Co.’ – was this part of some sort of integrated fire extinguisher system within the building?

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Dunkirk and the General Steam Navigation Company

Dunkirk and the General Steam Navigation Company

By Tom Mogg

The General Steam Navigation Company was founded in 1824. At the start of the 1939-45 war they had about 45 ships, of which 10 were pleasure boats. These were ideal as they could carry up to 2000 passengers at up to 21 knots. These, and some of the Company's cargo boats, saved around 10% of all those rescued from the French beaches. This is the full story of those ships.

The twin-screw motor vessel Royal Daffodil, built in 1939, could carry 2073 passengers at 21 knots. She started the war by helping to evacuate school children from London to the east coast ports of Lowestoft, Felixstowe and Yarmouth. She made seven trips to Dunkirk and saved over 8500 troops. On her final voyage she was dive bombed and hit on the starboard side. The bomb passed through three decks, through the engine room, just missing the main fuel tank on that side, and exploded astern of the ship. This caused the engine room to flood. The Master ordered all on board to move over to the port side, causing the ship to list sufficiently to lift the hole out of the water; enabling the second engineer and the donkey man to crawl in and block the hole with mattresses and timber. She then returned to Ramsgate, disembarked her troops, and had temporary repairs. From there she travelled round the coast, into the Thames and on to the Company's repair yard at Deptford for full repairs. The upper structure was riddled with bullet holes, one of the lifeboats having 187 holes, all of which had to be filled.

Her sister ship, the Queen of the Channel, managed only one trip to Dunkirk, taking off some 950 troops, but after leaving she was attacked by Stukas and straddled with a stick of bombs. This lifted her out of the water and broke her back. While every effort was made to save the ship she had to transfer her troops to a coaster and then sank.

The twin-screw motor vessel Royal Sovereign made six trips, four to Dunkirk and two to La Panne, rescuing some 12,000 troops. Later that year she struck a mine in the Bristol Channel and was a total loss.

The paddle steamer Royal Eagle, (built 1932) made two trips to La Panne, saving at least 2000 troops. She was one of the last to leave Dunkirk on 2'"1 June, with a number of wounded on board.

The paddle steamer Golden Eagle made three trips, but on the first visit she found the PS Waverly sinking so she rescued the crew and troops and took them back to Margate. On returning to near the east pier at Dunkirk her lifeboats managed to take men off the beaches; in two trips a total of 3200 were saved.

Another paddle steamer involved was the Medway Queen, bringing back a fall complement of 800 troops each time.

The paddle steamer Crested Eagle arrived at 1400 hrs on 29th May and berthed on the east pier along with a trawler, a cross Channel ferry, and a destroyer. The Germans made a sustained attack, destroying each in turn, troops and crews transferring from one ship to the next, until they were all on the Crested Eagle. But as she left she too was bombed and had to beach farther down the coast, and became a total loss.

A further 4000 troops were rescued by the PS Queen of Thanet, which included 2000 taken off the SS Prague which had been disabled. All of those rescued were taken over to Margate jetty. Fortunately the SS Prague was able to limp back into Dover.

Some of the Company's cargo boats also took part in the rescue. The motor vessel Bullfinch was ordered to stand off the beach at La Panne, but as the troops were unable to reach the ship she was instructed to run ashore. She dropped her anchor and ran up onto the beach, but the anchor did not hold and she swung broadside on and was firmly aground. Quickly 1500 troops piled on board, but she could not pull herself off. While she was stranded the Germans attacked with bombs and strafing. All the troops were below in the holds and 'tween decks. The Bullfinch struggled to get free. A Sergeant Head, one of the troops on board, asked if he could man one of the ship's two Bren guns. When three dive bombers next attacked the Sergeant shot down one, and again with the next attack. 
The GSNC later recommended him for an award. While still struggling to get free the Royal Sovereign came along and soon pulled the Bullfinch off.

All along the French coast right down to Bordeaux GSNC ships rescued refugees and others wanting to leave France, as well as their own staff and agents. Exact numbers are not always known, but the following ships took part: MV Goldfinch saved some 500 from St Valery, where about 2400 waited on the beach. MVs Drake and Crane went to other N French ports and on down into the Bay. The SS Falcon brought back 60 refugees including 24 officers and men of the RAOC from Bordeaux. While the SS Woodlark saved not only the GSNC staff but also 73 members of Lever Brothers who had fled down the coast from port to port hoping to find transport before it was too late.

Other GSNC ships which participated were the SS Groningen, the SS Cormorant and the MV Stork; exact details of their efforts are not recorded though they would have collected GSNC staff from the other agencies in France together with others wishing to escape. Undoubtedly GSNC ships must have rescued at least 35 000 people, perhaps more.

Acknowledgement: "Semper Fidelis ", GSNC's official history from 1924 - 1948.

Tom Mogg served a 5 year apprenticeship at the GSNC's Deptford yard, later serving on 14 of the Company's ships, from 1945 to 1957.

This article appeared in the GIHS Newsletter of April 2007 and had previously appeared I a Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter