Letters May 2006
From: Robin Hoare
Greetings from New Zealand! I wondered if any of your members can answer a question that has been puzzling me. My great-great grandparents lived in Deptford from before 1730 to around 1800, when they moved to Bethnal Green. They are shown in the 1841 censuses as silk weavers, which is entirely consistent with the surname, Mace and with Bethnal Green but not with Deptford. Is there any history of silk weaving in the Deptford district I wonder?
From: Rob Cumming
I have for some time been collating information for possible publication on windmills in N.W. Kent before the 1888 boundary changes. I am currently researching sites in:
Blackheath (4 - Morden Hill, Holly Hedge House, Mill House, Talbot Place)
Deptford (4 - Tanners Hill, Black Horse Fields, Victualling Yard, Clayton)
Lee Green/Kidbrooke (1 - Meadowcourt Road)
Mottingham (1 - Fairy Hill)
Plumstead Common (1- ‘The Windmill')
Woolwich (2 - Mill Lane and Nightingale Lane)
Can any of your members offer any assistance?
From: Beryl Reynolds
My father's family's history is associated with the gateway to Woolwich Arsenal. The Bower family owned stone quarries near Swanage and were contracted to supply stone for the gateway to the Arsenal in Beresford Square. Two brothers, William and Edwin? came to live in Woolwich, presumably to work on the gateway, while a third brother Ambrose stayed at home in Dorset to look after the business at that end. Unfortunately some of the stone was sub-standard and the family business suffered. William returned to Dorset but the other brother, who was my grandfather remained in Woolwich. He deserted my grandmother and his children; I am hoping to trace him but so far I have not had any luck. Can anyone suggest where I might be able to get some help? Does anyone know of any records to do with the building of the Arsenal gateway and exactly when it was being constructed?
From: Pieter van der Merwe
Glad to see Friends of East Greenwich Pleasaunce has been formed. I've just been going through the Greenwich Hospital minutes of the 1850s and have run across all the detail of how they bought the ground, then being used as a fruit orchard by a Mr. William Miles as tenant of the estate of the late Sir Gregory Page Turner, purchased it at £550 an acre, bought out Miles's interest through arbitration: then had Philip Hardwick, the Greenwich Hospital Surveyor, draw up plans for the lodge, gates, boundary wall (all built by Lucas, of Lambeth) and plan the graveyard, bought a six-coffin patent hearse from Shillibeer's (with seats for mourners) and changed their burial contractor from Mrs. Shepperd of London Road, Greenwich to Richardsons, ditto, to do the burials: it all involved a delay of over a year from when they were supposed to close the old burial ground (in 1856). A Captain Drake in Deptford previously refused to sell them ground at £400, which he planned to make much more for and did not want to see used a cemetery. No doubt this is backed up with plans, correspondence etc. in supporting papers.
From: Dr. Danea Cowell
While Birkenhead is a long way from Woolwich we ask if anyone there knows where we might find information on an engineer and crane maker, James Taylor, of Birkenhead c.1840-1890. He was an important figure in the design and building of large steam cranes widely used at many major UK ports. Howe ever - some time in the late 1890's the firm and he simply disappeared. Enquiries at Birkenhead revealed little. He was connected to Hulse of Whitworths in the 1850s and design and built a seminal blocksetter for Colombo about 1870 to the specs of Sir Thomas Coode and Matthews of London. Any help about this you can give will be most appreciated.
Research Sec. The Historical Steam Crane Society. Pacific Chapter.
From: Professor Timothy Peters
I am researching the use of asphalt in the repair of the Wendover Arm of the Grand Junction Canal in 1856-60. My researches suggest that 4 miles of the Arm were lined with Coal Tar Asphalt and this confirmed by IR Spectroscopy. Initially the asphalting was successful, considerably reducing the leakage from the canal. The pitch was obtained from John Bethell of Greenwich. I have details of the price and how the pitch was transported to Wendover. I also have information on the asphalt composition, which was supervised by Sir William Cubitt. I am writing to ask if you have any information about Bethell's Works, e.g. equipment, source of coal tar, manufacture of the pitch and any details of its composition and properties. The asphalting lasted until 1870 when the Arm was again leaking badly. I am interested in the reasons for its failure. The analyses reveal that the asphalt had high free carbon content and this may have contributed to it. The free carbon is a reflection of the methods used in preparing the pitch and asphalt. From information unearthed at the Institution of Civil Engineers this appears to be a novel use of asphalt. I know of John Bethell's work with creosote but any information or possible sources about his preparation and use of coal tar would be of considerable help.
From: Denis Poole
I hope you don't think me cheeky, but I wonder if any of your members can help me. I live in Edinburgh and am currently looking for a link to a master builder in Greenwich or maybe Deptford. His name is Shorter. The dates I am looking for 1910 to 1920.
From: Foster Lovesay
I have found some information on your website regarding the South Met Gas Co. and I wonder whether you could help me. I was led to believe from a young boy that my Great Grandfather Thomas Lovesay saved some people from a gas works explosion and was presented with a gold watch in gratitude. However seeing the watch it only mentions his retirement in 1919 after 34 years employment as a foreman with them. Can you tell me if there was any explosion at this gas station and if so have you any records of anyone helping survivors?
From: Alison Dawe
I am hoping that you may be able to assist me in locating any information about my ancestor John Lewthwaite, 1816-1892. He was a brilliant inventor and I believe that he had some of his inventions exhibited at the London Industrial Exhibition of 1857. He is noted in particular for a Railway Ticket Printing Machine and a Fire Detection System.
From: Allan Green
I have very much enjoyed coming along for the past 2 years to tell you something of my researches. In 2004 it was the Cables & Cableships with my friend Glyn Wrench and last year PLUTO. I hope that I might be allowed back later on to tell you something about work I have been do on W T Henley?
Mr. Henley was not a son of Greenwich, however he did have strong connections. He started his submarine cable-making business at Morden Wharf before moving downstream to North Woolwich and then (after his death) the Company moved to Gravesend. I am hoping that perhaps some GIHS members and / or visitors to the web-pages might be able to help me with a few bits of missing information?
• Samuel Edmund Phillips (jnr) worked for some time as "electrician" for Mr. Henley but left him in 1875 (when times were financially bad for Henley) to join Claude Johnson (who left Telcon at Greenwich) and they founded the firm of Johnson & Phillips at Charlton. Does anyone have any information about S.E. Phillips's activities when he was working for Henley? Also, can anyone enlighten me as to the activities of J.E. Phillips senior who was reputed to have been involved in the telegraphy business?
• A fine portrait of Henley painted by Basil Holmes is preserved in the archives of the IEE. It was painted in 1870 when Henley was 56. I am interested to know what might have been the relationship between artist and sitter? Could they have been neighbours? It seems so unlike Henley to have commissioned a portrait of himself. Little is known of Holmes except that he painted no other known portraits and he specialised in landscapes.
• In the 19th century there was a pub called "The Henley Arms" close to the factory in North Woolwich. There is a "Henley Arms" there today but certainly not the original! Does anyone have information, or photographs perhaps of the original pub?
• Any information at all about Old Bill Henley would be gratefully received.
From: Andrew Freeman, Pepys Estate Visual History Project
I am writing on behalf of Pepys Community Forum based on the Pepys Estate in Deptford. We are planning a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the building of the Pepys Estate on the site of the Victoria victualling yards controlled by the Navy Board up till 1964 (the estate opened July 31st 1966). One of the projects we hope to do later this year is a creative history project based on some photo's taken in 1967 by the Royal Institute of British Architects when the estate was the recipient of a RIBA award. As part of the HLF funding aspiration is to provide direct education on heritage-related topics we are trying to arrange short talks for the participants from people with knowledge of the history and practices of this area. Having seen the material on your website I am hoping that you can recommend some of your members who may be able to come along and give short talks of topics of interest, this may include how recent developments are affecting the area as well as historical material about the industries that operated in the area. One of the goals of the project is to stimulate general interest in active participation in heritage issues in the area and hopefully some of the participants will want to develop their interests further. Another larger project that is still on the drawing board here and that we are looking for partners to work with, is connected with the impending development of Convoys Wharf (Kings Yard). As you may know there are three sites on the development that will be excavated under the supervision of GLAS. We would like to offer residents of the area an opportunity to be involved in some capacity and for a focus on our mostly hidden heritage to coincide with these excavations. If this is something you might be interested in then perhaps we can arrange some meeting of interested parties at a later date.
In addition as we are having a heritage-themed festival day on the last Saturday in July (29th) this year in Pepys Park you may be interested in having a stall to promote your activities?
From: Tim Sargeant
Can I refer to a letter from Jonathan Clarke in Vol 6, Issue 2, March 2003 about Sherwood, Tunbridge Wells. In case no-one else has answered this query: ‘Sherwood' at Tunbridge Wells was on the Pembury Road out of Tunbridge Wells. It was at one time a nurses' home but has recently all been re-developed. I do not know if the original house is still there. This would account for Siemens being a friend of Sir David Salomons who lived nearby, another electrical pioneer. Now I know that Siemens lived in the house I will take a closer look at it. In connection with Mr. Clarke's researches - would you have any knowledge of a three-wheeled electrically powered vehicle that was constructed by Sir David Salomons c.1878? Obviously Siemens would have had an interest or possibly even a hand in this. I am sure that somewhere there must be a picture of it. I have heard about a drawing but unfortunately this is now lost.
I am also trying to trace a chap by the name of Alex Cleghorn and noted that there was a reference to someone of this name on your site in connection with the restoration of the Massey Shaw. The Alex Cleghorn I want to trace was a motor rallyist in the 1960s and was co-driver to Don Grimshaw on the 1961 Monte Carlo Rally.
From: G Broughton
Re: GIHS Newsletter January 2006 – Recording of Chemical Department Building.
In November 1931 I joined the Research Department, Woolwich Arsenal Metallurgical Section as a Laboratory Attendant. A relative with a similar rank already worked in the Cordite Section of the RD. My recollection is that the all research work was undertaken in the RD situated in Griffin Manor Way accessed by a gate near Plumstead Station.
The RD, responsible then to The War Department, was headed by a Chief Superintendent from the Armed Services – in the 1930s a Naval Captain. It has an imposing administrative HQ Building more recently occupied by The Chemical Inspectorate following the RD move to Fort Halstead. The RD has moved through the years as A.R.E., A.R.D.E., R.A.R.D.E and now QUINETIQ!
From: Sue Bullevant
Re. the enquiry about the Woolwich Infant and Bill Shipp.
The Woolwich Infant was the popular name for the ‘Armstrong Gun’ of 35 tons. There is still a public house called ‘The Woolwich Infant’ in Plumstead Road opposite the Royal Arsenal. The Armstrong Gun was not a mortar. There is a ‘Mallett’s Mortar’ on display at Woolwich Common.
Bare Knuckle Fighter - Tom Cribb was in the 19th century the famous ‘bare knuckle champion’ of England. He retired to Woolwich and there is a lion memorial to him in Woolwich Churchyard.
Bill Shipp – unfortunately I know nothing about him or a fighter called ‘The Woolwich Infant’. Perhaps there is a web site on bare knuckle fighters?