|REDPATH BROWN||HISTORIES FOR THE MILLENNIUM||WHAT HAS THE SOCIETY BEEN DOING?|
|DIAMOND TERRACE SANDMINES||NORTON’S BARGE BUILDERS||CEYLON PLACE COTTAGES|
|MEETINGS, EVENTS & COURSES||LETTERS||BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS|
|VARIOUS NEWS ITEMS|
Tuesday, 12th May, 1998. East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10.
Speaker: Andrew Turner on Redpath Brown. 200 Constructive Years.
Tuesday, 7th July, 1998. East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10.
7.30 p.m. Speaker: Rod Le Gear on Underground Greenwich
SEE ELSEWHERE FOR EVENTS ORGANISED BY OTHER GROUPS
GREENWICH INDUSTRIAL HISTORY SOCIETY
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The following aims and objectives for the Society were agreed at
its second meeting:
1. To research the Industrial History of the Greenwich Area.
2. To aid the publication of this research where appropriate
3. To hold a watching brief on industrial sites in the relevant
area and to comment on any issues which might arise in the course of
redevelopment, planning applications, etc.
– a constructive industry
Redpath Brown’s Greenwich works was on the site to the south of
Riverway which is set to become the Millennium ‘Eco-Village’. It was
later nationalised as British Steel – and the factory closed in the
1970s. Some buildings from the works are said to be still in use by
Greenwich Yacht Club and the Society hopes to arrange a visit to the
site before it is taken over and demolished.
Readers of the News Shopper will have seen their story of 25th
March (1998) Draughtsman wants your help in tracing history of
Redpath. This draws attention to a history of the company which
was written a couple of years ago by Mr. Arthur Turner of Edinburgh.
He is now working with John Fry who was a draughtsman at the
Greenwich works and they are hoping to get in touch with past
colleagues. Mr. Fry has a blueprint of the whole works layout – which
hopefully we can reproduce when a clear version is available.
Our speaker on 12th May will be Arthur Turner’s son, Andrew.
Andrew has worked closely with members of the group in Greenwich, is
a member of GLIAS and lives in the London area.
If you want to know more about Redpath Brown – come and hear
Andrew on the 12th!
HISTORIES FOR THE MILLENNIUM
Greenwich historians should be more aware than most of the need to
produce ‘histories for the Millennium’. The Open University is
undertaking ‘a concerted effort to mark the historic moment’. They
have issued an invitation to – everyone – to produce a history of
their community. A leaflet about how to participate is available
Dan Weinbrein, OSFACH, Faculty of Social Sciences, Open
University, MK7 6AA (3 copies free).
Anyone interested is encouraged to telephone 0131 445 2865 or try:
They suggest a number of options:-
1953 – the new Elizabethan era
1851 The Year of the Great Exhibition
A special event in your community
Some features of the changing local landscape
Dan Weinbrein has, of course, made a very considerable contribution to Greenwich’s
Industrial History with his study on Arsenal workers in peacetime.
WHAT HAS THE SOCIETY BEEN DOING?
NORTH WOOLWICH WALK
At the first meeting of the Society it was unanimously agreed to
take in North Woolwich as part of the area which the Society’s
area of interest – as it was part of Woolwich until the setting up of
the London Boroughs in 1963.
For that reason a walk round North Woolwich was organised with
Howard Bloch as our guide. Howard has expert knowledge of the area
and a number of publications on the subject to his credit.
He took us from the old Station Museum to the riverside,
past the site of Henley’s cable works and the new London
Teleport – demonstrating only too vividly the role of
telecommunications as a continuing industry in the area. On returning
we were unexpectedly allowed into the Museum for a welcome break and
look round. We continued through the Royal Victoria Gardens,
admiring the steam hammer on the way. We walked along the riverside –
noting the sites of various ferries to Woolwich proper (or
South Woolwich as they call it over there!) and then set off for a
quick glimpse of the Royal Albert Dock and Gallions
About thirty people attended the first meeting of the Society. We
would like to thank GLIAS for help and support – in particular
Executive Committee member, Bob Carr who spoke briefly about
Greenwich’s Industrial History in a National Context. It was
agreed to set up a working party consisting of Barbara Ludlow, Mary
Mills and Jack Vaughan. Steve Daly volunteered to be Treasurer – and
everyone present made a donation towards costs. It was agreed to
cover everything relevant to the industrial history of Greenwich in
its widest context – in particular at those areas most under
development pressure, Deptford Creek, Greenwich
Peninsula and Woolwich Arsenal. We agreed to apply to join
both Docklands Forum and the Greenwich Waterfront Community
Forum and to build links with as many relevant local bodies as we
could – but to stay as closely under the wing of GLIAS as
possible. Thank you to Greenwich Labour Party for the free use of
Jack Vaughan gave an interesting talk on Woolwich Dockyard
and the many famous ships built there – launches from the Woolwich
slips were took place before vast crowds of onlookers as the ship
went down into the river with acres of flags flying from the decks.
Relics of many of these ships can now be found in museums and
collections around the world. Jack pointed to the origins of the yard
as far back as the reign of Henry VII and went on to talk about the
remains which could now be found on site. The conservation of the
steam factory was particularly noted as a triumph for the Woolwich
Antiquarian Society. Thankyou to Jack’s daughter for helping with the
There was also some discussion on the Diamond Terrace sand
mines and Nick Catford offered, on behalf of the Kent Underground
Research Team, to undertake a new survey. People talked about the
problems at the Wood Wharf boat repair yard and hoped to be able to
arrange a visit there – it was the site of a Greenwich Ferry and
considerable remains are said to exist on site.
A long list of interesting sites and subjects was drawn up – the
Matchless Motor Cycle Factory, the Uplifting Corsets,
barge builders, the collier trade, Siemens, and
much, much more.
WE WOULD LIKE TO SAY A VERY BIG THANK YOU TO CHARLIE HARRIS AT THE
NORTH WOOLWICH OLD STATION MUSEUM – WHO GAVE US TIME FOR A BRIEF
UNOFFICIAL VISIT TO THE MUSEUM – SOMETHING WE HAD NOT EXPECTED.
THE SILVERTOWN EXPLOSION 1917
Howard’s most recent publication is First Hand Accounts and
Reports of this dramatic and devastating event. The explosion
affected a huge area and was felt throughout Greenwich, as elsewhere.
The No.2 gasholder at East Greenwich was ruptured through the shock
waves and the gas exploded in the air. The book is £3.50 plus
£1 postage from All Points East, 69 Frinton, London E6
NORTH WOOLWICH OLD STATION MUSEUM
If the Society considers that it covers North Woolwich – then it
must also take in the Railway Museum, now in the old Station
building. The Museum buildings are owned by a Trust while the staff
are employed by the London Borough of Newham and there was some input
from the Great Eastern Railway Society. In recent years there have
been drastic cuts in hours and staff – despite the Museum’s
popularity and booming attendance figures. It is understood that it
will be open at weekends through the summer.
MEETINGS, EVENTS & COURSES
This list of meetings and events has been culled from leaflets and
notices brought to our attention.
If you want your meeting listed here please contact 24 Humber
Road, SE3 7LTY (0181 858 9482)
From Easter. North Woolwich Railway Museum open
2nd April-27th September. Peter the Great Exhibition,
Queens House, National Maritime Museum, SE10
12th April (weekly from then) Industrial Archaeology of East
London, at North Woolwich Old Station Museum, Pier Road, E16. fee
£50. contact Fred Bishop, 39 Freshfield Drive, N14 4QW 0181 441
23rd April, East London History Society. Will Crooks by
Paul Tyler at Latimer Church Hall, Ernest Street, E1. 7.30 p.m.
25th April. South East Regional Industrial Archaeology
Conference, Princes Hall, Aldershot. Theme: Secret South
East. SAE J.D. Asteraki, 122 Reading Road, Finchamstead,
Wokingham, Bucks. RG40 3RA
26th April Crossness Engines Open. Belvedere Road, Abbey
Wood, Ring to book 0181 311 3711.
28th April, Southwark and Lambeth Archaeology Society, Steven
Humphery on Bermondsey and Rotherhithe at Hawkstone Hall,
Kennington Road, SE1, 7.30 p.m.
2nd May GLIAS Walk, Surrey Docks, meet Brunel Exhibition,
Railway Avenue, SE16, 2.30 p.m.
9th May. GLIAS AGM . Institute of Archaeology, Gower
Street, W1, Speaker: Alan Jackson on Londonís Transport. 2.00
12th May. Crossness Engines (see above)
13th May, Newcomen Society, Prof.F.T.Evans, Steam Carriages of
the 1830s and 1840s, Science Museum, 5.45 p.m.
24th May. Crossness Engines (see above)
27th May Lewisham Local History Society, Diving Helmet
Inventors. The Deane Brothers, by Dr. J.Beavan at Shaftesbury
Centre, Frankham Street, SE8, 7.45 p.m.
27th May. Boat trip by Rotherhithe Local History Society from
Cherry Garden Pier . ‘Expert speakers’ on riverside Rotherhithe
and Deptford. Tickets £3.50 from Peter Beaumont 0171 252
30th May Saturday. Open Museum, National Maritime Museum. –
Free for All – The Story of the Woolwich Free Ferry (Julian
Watson), The Woolwich Ferries (Russell Plummer), Tour of
Ferry and Engine House. Details of how to book from National
Maritime Museum. 0181 312 6747.
6th June, GLIAS Walk, White City, meet Shepherd’s Bush
Central Line Station, 2.30 p.m.
8th June Crossness Engines (see above)
20th June, Friends of Ironbridge Gorge Museum, Walk Greenwich
to Canary Wharf. Meet Maze Hill station 2.30 p.m.
18th July – 31st August. Transports of Delight. Exhibition
on local transport history. Hall Place, Bourne Road, Bexley, Kent,
21st June Crossness Engines (see above)
4th July, GLIAS Walk, Vauxhall & Downstream, meet
Vauxhall Station, North side, 2.30 p.m.
7th July Crossness Engines (see above)
14th July Crossness Engines (see above)
1st August, GLIAS walk, Little Venice & westwards, meet
Warwick Avenue Station, 2.30 p.m.
4th August Crossness Engines (see above)
16th August Crossness Engines (see above)
4th September -11th September. Association for Industrial
Archaeology, Annual Conference at Newton Abbott. SAE David
Alderton, 48 Quay Street, Halesworth, Suffolk, IP19 8EY
12th September, GLIAS walk, Crystal Palace, meet Crystal
Palace Station, 2.30 p.m.
12th September, Woolwich Antiquarians visit to Duxford, the
aviation side of the Imperial War Museum (no contact details
19th September, Charlton Society, Mary Mills on IA of the
Greenwich Peninsula, Charlton House, 2.30 p.m.
4th November. Docklands History Group, The Docklands Railway
Lewisham Extension by Ian Page, at Room C, Education Department,
Museum of London, EC2Y 5HN, 6.00 p.m.
22nd – 25th October, Glasgow, Conference on British
shipbuilding, info. Newcomen Society, Science Museum, SW7 2DD
28th October Lewisham Local History Society, Peter the Great
and the Russian Navy by Peter Gurnett, at The Shaftesbury Centre,
Frankham Street, SE8 at 7.45 p.m.
Is it true? That Greenwich University are about to set up a new
Chair of Historical Maritime Studies?
Greenwich University has a commission to prepare for CD-ROM
the records of all the local Labour Parties together with some
interpretative material. This work is being undertaken by Fred Lindop
from the Humanities Department.
ACROSS THE RIVER
University of East London – lectures on Cultural
Industries through April-May. Details UEL Business Services, Ltd
Duncan House, High Street, E15
Raphael Samuel Centre for Metropolitan Cultural History.
Researching the Metropolis. Lecture Series – April – June.
Details Jackie Foot 0181 849 3534
East London Federation of Historical Associations was set
up early this year. Details from Ragged School Museum, Copperfield
Street, E3 or Julie Hunt, c/o Dockers Club, Boulcott Street, E1.
DIAMOND TERRACE SAND MINES
Report on the current condition of a small sand mine situated in
the rear garden of Meridian West, Diamond Terrace, Greenwich, SE10
Date of visit: 30th March 1998
Present: Nick Catford (KURG, GLIAS, Subterranea Britannica) and
Malcolm Tadd (KURG, GLIAS, Subterranea Britannica)
Following the rediscovery of sand workings in Diamond Terrace by
Per Scheibner in the 1980s the mine was surveyed by Rod Le Gear and
Harry Pearman on 18th August 1986 and this survey was published in
Volume 15 of the records of the Chelsea Spelaeological Society
In Caves and Tunnels in South-East England, Part 7 (Chelsea
Speleological Society Records Vol. 15) it was reported:
“… Per Scheibner was sufficiently inspired to start a house to
house survey around the Hyde Vale area and he ran the tunnels to
ground, wide open, in someoneís back garden. the resultant
survey is shown here.
Entrance is down a long flight of steps. There are relics of
electric cables and signs of use as an air raid shelter. It is mostly
of walking height with one short hands and knees section. A few dates
and carvings on the walls. The massive roof fall which terminates
three tunnels offers the only chance of a dug extension. It occurred
when a garden hose was left running of the lawn above.”
The drawing which accompanied the above report is reproduced below
– with kind permission of Harry Pearman.
When visited in March 1998 there was no obvious deterioration in
the condition of the tunnels in the intervening years and they are
still as shown in the 1986 survey. Access is down a flight of
Yorkshire flagstone steps in the rear garden of Meridian West (built
1972). The present owner of the property has constructed a new
inclined entrance, which is kept gated. At the bottom of the steps is
a left turn shortly followed by a total roof collapse which occurred
in the 1960s after a hose was left running in the garden above.
Turning left at the bottom of the stairs there is a crossroads after
eight metres. At this point the present owner, E. Morton Wright, has
supported the roof with sandbags and timber stemples following the
appearance of a large cavity. Turning left (north) at the crossroads
the passage ends in a rounded chamber after five metres. Straight on
leads to another small rounded chamber (lying under the house) after
twelve metres. In this passage close to the crossroads are numerous
inscriptions,which appear to date from the Second World War when the
tunnels were used as air-raid shelters. There are carved portraits of
Shirley Temple and Mussolini and an intricately carved 17th century
date which is undoubtedly much more recent. South from the crossroads
the passage bends round to the west reaching a T-junction after 11
metres. North leads to the other side of the roof fall at the bottom
of the steps and south reaches a natural end after 10 metres. Close
to the junction is more graffiti from world war two shelterers with
dates from the 1940s. Having turned south at the T junction almost
immediately there is a crawl way the west with a step up of three
metres. This is a low meandering passage which opens first into a
round chamber with several trial headings and after ten metres
reaches another T junction where it is possible to stand upright
again. Turning right (NE) once again leads to the same total roof
collapse after six metres after 6 metres. Turning left (SE) at the T
Junction there is a right hand bend to the north west after size
metres (collapse or infill). Close to this second T junction is more
graffiti in soot on the roof which is difficult to decipher and on
the floor there is the skeleton of a fox cub indicating there must be
another way into the tunnels other than the gated entrance – probably
through the roof collapse. There is a lot of sand spread over the
floor at this point, it is not clear where this had come from as pick
marks are still clearly visible in the roof and on the walls. Apart
from the entrance passage and two sections close to the crossroads,
which are brick lined, the tunnels are unlined throughout with long
pick marks clearly visible throughout. It is possible to stand
upright along most of the galleries. Although the sand appears very
soft, there is little evidence of falls other than those already
mentioned. The tunnels seem remarkable stable and safe.
There is little evidence to date the workings although Mr. Morton
Wright feels that the brickwork dates from the 17th century. The
purpose of the mine is also unclear. Silver sand is often used in
glass making but the sand has been tested by Pilkingtons who say it
would not be suitable. Another major use of sand is as an abrasive
for cleaning and there is definite evidence this was one use for
Greenwich sand. One elderly resident remembers being told as a child
that a man used to come round with s wheelbarrow to collect sand
which was sold to local pubs for that purpose. It has also been
suggested that it may have been used as hourglass sands.
The future of the existing tunnels seems secure. Although there
are plans for a development on an adjacent site is it my opinion that
the existing tunnels lie wholly below the garden of Meridian West but
there may well be other tunnels yet to be discovered. Some year ago a
subsidence appeared in another part of the garden which was quickly
filled in and it has been suggested that the major roof fall could be
a four-way junction with another passage leading in the direction of
the planned development
Mr. Morton Wright is keen to preserve the tunnels. He has
installed lighting as far as the crossroads and has used the tunnels
on several occasions for cocktail parties.
It is understood that considerable research has been done on the
origins of the these tunnels and it is hoped to have more information
in the future.
Julian Watson (Greenwich Local History Library) has said:
“It would appear that the existing tunnels are the last visible
remains of an extensive network of tunnels examined by members of the
Greenwich Antiquarian Society in 1905. John Stone, who wrote
‘Greenwich: its underground passages, caverns, etc’ [Trans.
Greenwich Antiq. Vol. 1, 1914, pp. 262-277] states that the
tunnels were in or near Mr. Montmorency’s garden grounds, 23 West
Grove Lane, and says ‘I do not know the extent of these excavations
but one can wander about in what seems a perfect maze of tunnels for
a considerable distance’. John Stone & Rod Le Gear (author of the
1986 report) are certain that the tunnels were dug in order to
excavate sand, a material in great demand for many purposes including
floor sanding, mould making and glass making. The mines are a
significant part of Greenwich’s industrial heritage.”
NORTON’S BARGE BUILDERS
Barge building – once a most important trade in Greenwich – has
been in decline since the beginning of the century. It will soon be
too late to find out anything very much about it, unless people’s
memories are jogged.
One firm which survived until relatively recently was on the area
which is now to be the site of the Millennium ‘Eco-village’. Pat
O’Driscoll has sent some information about Norton’s and anyone else
who remembers the works – or any other barge builders – is urged to
get in touch. Pat says;
Dick Norton’s yard was on the foreshore between Dorman Long’s and
Pear Tree Wharf… the first jetty down-river from the end of River Way
is Redpath Brown’s , which was taken over by the Thames Barrier Yacht
Club.. there used to be a steam crane on this jetty. The next jetty
down, Dorman Long’s, no longer exists. It was in a bad state of
repair and was removed several years ago. The old clubhouse of the
Greenwich Yacht Club was a little upstream of this jetty. The club
has moved to what used to be Redpath Brown’s canteen. Norton’s did
not have a wharf as such, and operated on the foreshore, where there
was a set of barge blocks running parallel to the shore. He had a
couple of old lighters too, which were used to moor craft alongside
and sometime a craft would moor at the end of Dorman’s jetty while
awaiting a berth. There was a little wicket gate in the corrugated
iron fence at the landward end of Dorman’s jetty and here was a tap
for water for a steam crane, and a heap of coal. I understand that
Norton also let out a few moorings. The odd yacht barge also would
lie here, with people on board – Venta was one such. …Norton’s had
two sheds the other side of the corrugated iron fence. One was for
storing tools, nuts, and bolts, paint, etc. The other was Fred’s
living quarters. Fred (the watchman) was Dick’s last employee.
Photograph of barges off Norton’s with grateful thanks to Pat O’Driscoll
Journal of the Society for Sailing Barge Research had just published an
article by John Glenn, who was frequently aboard the ketch barge,
Ethel Edith, when she was laid up at Norton’s in 1934.
The Gaselee Wharf Guide of 1954
…going upstream, gives.. ‘Esso Angerstein’s (spirit and kerosene),
Peartree Wharf, owners G.J.Palmer & Sons, Barge and Tug Repairs,
Norton’s, Charlton (foreshore) barge repairers, Dorman Long (Bridge
Dept,), Dorman Jetty, Dorman Long & Co. Ltd. ‘phone GRE 0921,
bridge constructional engineers, Greenwich Yacht Club, Redpath
Brown’s Steel structural engineers (no mention of a jetty!), ‘phone
GRE 2671; Pilot’s Causeway.
The 1936 Thames Navigator’s Pocket Companion, under ‘Bugsby’s
Reach for the south shore’ shows proceeding upstream from the
Angerstein branch railway Christie’s Wharf and Jetty, British
Petroleum Wharf, Angerstein’s Wharf (Southern Railway);
Anglo-American Oil Wharf; Pear Tree Wharf, Norton’s Wharf, Dorman
Long’s Store, Wharf and Jetty, Riverside Works and Wharf, Redpath
Brown, Bugsby’s Stairs and Causeway.”
THE GEORGIAN COTTAGES
ON THE NEW MILLENNIUM EXPERIENCE SITE
When the New Millennium Experience site is finished only a few
original buildings will remain. These are The Pilot pub and
the short row of Georgian cottages, called Ceylon Place. The
pub is rightly popular and has recently been extended but, alongside
it, the small, dilapidated cottages are rarely given a second look.
They are currently in use as short life housing and their downmarket
looks barely reveal their origins as part of what was once an
exciting new development at the end of what is now Riverway.
The cottages date from about 1801. They were built in the lane
behind a ‘big’ house and a huge corn mill which stood on the on the
riverfront. In the eighteenth century the site was owned by George
Russell, a London soap manufacturer whose works were near Blackfriars
Bridge but who lived at Longlands House near Sidcup. In 1801 he was
approached by a William Johnson, from Bromley, Kent, who had patented
a new design of tide mill. A tide mill is a watermill worked by the
power of the tides – a good example can be seen today at Three Mills,
behind the Tesco store off the northern Blackwall Tunnel approach.
Russell agreed to the project and construction went ahead on the mill
– the cottages and the house were included as the start of ‘New East
Greenwich’. At the same time Russell got a licence from the City of
London to build a causeway down into the river at what was then
‘Bugsby’s Hole’. This causeway is still in use today (unfortunately,
no longer so. See A Walk in the ‘new’ Park, WebMaster, February 2000).
The site – and perhaps George Russell – had some unexplained
connections with national politics. In 1801 some of the site was
leased to a group of out of office politicians – William Pitt, the
recently resigned Prime Minister, his elder brother, the Earl of
Chatham, and their associates the Hon. Edward Crags and the Hon. John
Eliot. Their role in the development is not clear but it might
explain the name of the pub. ‘The Pilot’ is almost certainly named
after William Pitt who was described in a contemporary song as ‘The
Pilot who weathered the storm’. Ceylon, after which the cottages were
named, had recently come under the protection of the British
Two hundred years ago the site must have looked marvellous and
romantic. The big mill moving slowly, the big house with gardens
going down to the river. Behind it were the cottages and pub
overlooking some six acres of millponds with meadows beyond. Nearby
was a thatched barn and all around were grazing cows and sheep.
Around 1900, when the cottages were a century old, someone built
extensions on the backs of them – making them marginally bigger but
eating in to what had been pretty gardens. The ‘big house’, East
Lodge, was demolished then and its site is now used by the Yacht
Club. What happened to the summerhouse lookout over the river? Are
any of the trees those planted by the Davies sisters who lived there
in the nineteenth century?
The little cottages have gone on for almost two hundred years
serving as housing for local workers – fishermen, mill workers and
barge builders. All around, things have changed. The great mill
became a chemical works and was replaced by a power station. On the
fields behind a steel works was built and soon more cottages, a
mission room and a café were built in Riverway. All of this
has now gone, leaving the old cottages and the pub. The only thing
not to have changed seems to be the supply of thirsty workers who
drink in The Pilot!
These cottages were part of an industrial site and they should not
be treated as quaint and countrified. Let us hope that English
Partnerships and the New Millennium Experience treat them kindly –
and take due regard to their age and context.
The Pilot pub and cottages in Ceylon Place pre-1996
The Pilot pub and cottages in Ceylon Place
after English Partnerships MEX works, 1999
Plan of Ceylon Place from a sales document of the early 1840s (redacted)
Reproduced from Docklands Forum Mailing Pack
BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS
GREENWICH INDUSTRIAL HISTORY IN PRINT
There are many publications which throw some light on Greenwich’s
industrial past. One of these is The London Railway Record – a
‘small’ journal still only 3 years old. Since then it has published
the following articles about Greenwich:
Editorial on North Woolwich Old Station Museum, April 1996, p.1
The Greenwich Park Branch by J.E. Connor, part 1, April 1996, pp 23-32
The Greenwich Park Branch by J.E. Connor, part 2, July 1996, pp 14-18
DLR Lewisham Extension, January 1997, p.36
Tracing the Greenwich Park Branch by Ian Baker, April 1997 pp 9-12
Work at Greenwich (DLR) October 1997, p.35
London Railway Record obtainable from Connor & Butler, 69
Guildford Road, Colchester, Essex, C01 2RZ.
ASPECTS OF THE ARSENAL: The Royal Arsenal Woolwich
This new book has been published by Greenwich Borough Museum.
Edited jointly by Beverley Burford and Julian Watson, it includes
chapters on the Arsenal by several well-known authors:
The Buildings of the Royal Arsenal – by Darrell Spurgeon
Tower Place – by Winifred Cutler
Paul Sandby RA 1731-1809. Father of English Watercolour –
by David Brighton
She Can Sew a Flannel Cartridge in the Royal Arsenal,
Woolwich – by Barbara Ludlow
The Royal Artillery in Woolwich – by Brigadier K.A. Timbers
A Brief History of the Transport System in the Royal Arsenal,
Woolwich – by J. Fisher
From Domestic to Danger Building: Women Workers in the Royal
Arsenal – by Bernadette Gillow
The Arsenal and its Co-op Connection – by Ron Roffey
The Royal Arsenal workers and Independent Labour
Representation. A Beacon in the Dark – by Paul Tyler
Industrial Relations in the Royal Arsenal – by William Pearce
Copies are available from Greenwich libraries and Museum [prices on application].
WILDLIFE LONDON – LOOKS AT GREENWICH
The Winter edition of Wildlife London asks – What’s so
special about London? and looks at derelict industrial sites and nature.
It says; the old MOD Kidbrooke Depot, Kidbrooke
supports great-crested newts, slow worms and wall lizards and that
there is “a flora of dazzling spectra” at Woolwich Arsenal which will
“disappear under bricks, mortar, asphalt and an insult of tidy rye grass lawns”.
They say; Greenwich Reach is a particular
problem because a “hundred species of wildflowers’ and ‘exotica'”
support invertebrates which feed two breeding pairs of black
redstarts “an extremely rare bird”. They draw attention to the
planned casino, cinema and hotel.
Wildlife London, London Wildlife Trust, Harling House,
47-51 Great Suffolk Street, SE1
From Angela Simco
I have been commissioned by English Heritage to prepare the Step
One report for the Clay Industries as part of the Monuments
Protection Programme survey of industrial monuments. I would like to
know of anyone who has undertaken a survey or recording of clay pits
or ceramic production sites. 13 Green Lane, Clapham, Bedford, MK41 6EP
From Prof. Tony Arnold
I am currently carrying out research into the history of iron
shipbuilding on the Thames. I would very much appreciate the names of
any sources I could follow up. Univ. Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 35Q
From Derek Bayliss
We have set up a copperas study group and are very interested in
the works around Deptford Creek. It is remarkable how the old
Thames-side works and the tiny Pennine ones for that matter, kept
going in the late 18th and early 19th centuries beside the large
Tyneside and Scottish works – something to do with local raw
materials and markets, I imagine. We haven’t quite worked out the
story of copperas as a source of sulphuric acid. Why go to all the
bother of copperas beds when other firms were using the ‘Ward’
process or the lead chamber process (Sheffield)?
From Mrs. Wright
My maternal grandfather worked for one local gas company as an
engineer all his life and some inventions of his were put into use
(no payment in those days!). We do have a photo of him when he was a
foreman, in his bowler hat, with two other workers. He died from
cancer in 1951. SE3
From Bill Brown
I used to live in Meridian House, a block of flats in Blackwall
Lane and went to school at the Dreadnought and buy coke from the
gasworks at 6d. for 28 lbs then sell it to other tenants in the flats
for 6d. a bag. I would wheel the pram loaded with bags of coke along
Tunnel Avenue and pick up lumps of Coalite that had fallen off the
lorry because of the rough cobbled road – but it was also rough for
the pram as well and I got through a number of them. SE10
VARIOUS NEWS ITEMS
…… soon to be available is the long awaited Lewisham Silk Mills.
The History of an Ancient Site. The Story of Armour, Small Arms,
Silk and Gold and Silver Wire Drawing by Sylvia Macartney and John
West. This is to be published by Lewisham Local History Society in
association with the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society.
The sales price is not yet known but it will be under £12. Copies will be
available from Lewisham Local History Society bookstall (info. from Tom
Sheppard, 0181 852 0219) or through Greenwich and Lewisham Local
History Departments. Please note, however, that GLIAS members will
each get a copy free. [GLIAS membership details from Sue Hayton,
31 The High Street, Farnborough Village, Orpington, Kent, BR6 7BQ].
There are a number of weighbridges in the Borough, several of
which are under threat from development. Woolwich Antiquarian Society
are particularly concerned about three in the Woolwich area – on the
Arsenal site, the old Woolwich Power Station and White Hart Road
Depot. There are probably several more. Anyone with expertise on
weighbridges or who has knowledge of other sites are asked to get in
It seems likely that Greenwich Council will review some of its
maintenance sites and depots – and these should be recorded before
they are passed into other hands. In Woolwich the White Hart Road
depot housed a very early municipal power station which generated
electricity from rubbish and there were a number of other interesting
features. Tunnel Avenue Depot also seems likely to be under threat
from the Dome and the old jetty from which Greenwich rubbish was
barged away until the 1960s still stands derelict – who owns it now?
Visits to both these sites can be arranged if there is sufficient interest.
WOOLWICH ANTIQUARIANS VISIT THE ARSENAL SITE
In February, 36 Woolwich Antiquarians visited the Arsenal site
under the leadership of Jack Vaughan – and ably reported in their
newsletter by Tony Fawcett. They were accompanied by John Usmar,
Deputy Chairman pf the Royal Arsenal Woolwich, Historical Society.
Members saw the ‘dilapidated’ buildings of the original Royal
Laboratory – perhaps the oldest industrial buildings in London. Then
to New Laboratory Square where the new museum of Artillery is to be
sited. They passed the New Cartridge Factory, the riverside
Guardhouses and the site of the now demolished Shipping Sheds.
John Usmar took the group into the Grand Storehouses where they
saw the chimneyless cast iron stove. In the Chemical Department they
were shown a veranda over which Frederick Abel, the chemist, is said
to have lowered samples in a basket. They continued to see many of
the famous buildings – the Central Office, the remains of the Shell
Foundry, the New Carriage Store which includes a clock – wound up
weekly by Jack! The group also saw the “magnificently restored” Brass
Foundry and then the buildings around Dial Square with the Main
Guardhouse and Verbruggen’s House.
A GHOST IN THE WORKS!
George Livesey was the charismatic (but strike breaking) Chair of
the South Metropolitan Gas Works and the man responsible for the
Greenwich Gas Works – the ‘Dome’ site. Mary Mills was recently amazed
to see herself quoted in the Guardian newspaper about his ghost which
is supposed to haunt the works!
Livesey was a deeply religious man with strong beliefs about
society – he was also a national figure in the temperance movement.
He would have loved the Dome on ‘his’ works site. Neither of these
aspects seem to be of interest to the ghost-hunters.
The story has been taken up by a correspondent to West Country
editions of the Daily Mail – and looks likely to run and run! Watch
The new owners of Wood Wharf, on Thames Street in Greenwich, are
expected to put in a planning application shortly. Wood Wharf was the
site of Pope and Bond’s boat repair business – which floundered when
Westminster stopped barging rubbish down river. The site was once
that of a mechanised ferry to the Isle of Dogs – and it is said that
considerable remains of this – probably unique – ferry remain on site.
Despite the desperate need for boat repair facilities on the
Thames it will probably be for housing. The two reports which made
recommendations on the feasibility of a working/heritage site here
are now gathering dust. A small group – led by Reg Barter – have
tried hard to keep what remains together in the hope that something
can be salvaged.
Contributions – information – gratefully received.
The Webmeister notes;
Some members may recall that this site was not long ago earmarked as the site of a large Planetarium, so this idea appears to have died. I actually attended the Local Area Planning Committee at which this proposal was discussed. The Council opposed the application on a number of grounds, not least of which was that the vessel concerned was said to resemble ‘a prison hulk’! However, complications are likely to arise, since the application was made some time ago, and the Council have delayed giving their judgement or presenting it to the Planning Committee. As a consequence, it is possible that the applicant may appeal against the Council’s rejection of the application. As Mary has said in the previous item.. watch this space!
Recently Siemens’ have commissioned photographs of archive
material about the company held in Greenwich – leading to speculation
that a book is planned. An active organisation exists for ex-workers
at this Charlton based engineering factory – more information welcome.
Jess Steele and Richard Walker are to be congratulated on both
their press coverage and their achievements! An article in a current
Meridian Line has detailed their role with Groundwork in
Deptford but also how they hope to interpret the environment and
heritage in relation to the Amylum jetty on the . By doing
this they are demonstrating that research into the past can have a
practical use – and enhance – the present.
In plans for the Millennium Experience and other regeneration
initiatives in Greenwich there has been – almost – no talk of how the
industrial past can be interpreted, or even mentioned. Is it going to
be all Royal Greenwich and nothing about how people lived and worked
This newsletter is produced by Mary Mills, 24 Humber Road, SE3 (0181
858 9482) for the Greenwich Industrial History Society.
The printed version is thanks to Docklands Forum, 192 Hanbury Street, E14.
Opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of individual
authors or the editor and not those of the society as a whole.
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