Volume 3, Issue 5, September 2000




19th September - Rodney Dobson - Part II of Early Labour Disputes on the Thames

21st September - afternoon visit to Woolwich Arsenal - to see the new heritage exhibition set up by the Council and .... to see the Woolwich kiln!!! - it has been wrapped up for 25 years and no-one knows what they will find when they open the box! The kiln (without the wrapping) is 1.75 metres high and last time it was moved it was on a low loader with a police escort! Ring 0208 858 9482 if you want to come.

17th October - Alan Pearsall on Thames Colliers

21st November - Either Jack Vaughan - Part II of Woolwich Arsenal (at the Old Bakehouse) or special opening of Labour in Greenwich exhibition at Plumstead Museum.

16th January - Annual General Meeting. Special Guest Speaker - Julian Watson, Greenwich Local History Librarian

20th February - Bob Aspinall, Museum of Docklands on Docklands Past and Present

27th March - Peter Guillery on Greenwich Power Station

All meetings will take place at The Old Bakehouse in Blackheath Village at 7.30 pm.


by Jack Vaughan

Read on...... this is not about the 'beautiful game'! We have in previous newsletters, said a few words about the giant steam hammer of 40 tons which struck its first blow in the Royal Arsenal in 1874 for the benefit of the Czar of Russia. It was not alone -although it dominated forging activities.

Walford in Vol II, of Greater London refers to 'East Forge' as having several hammers varying from 30 cwt to 60 cwt for welding iron bars together to form long bars which were coiled to form parts of heavy gun barrels.

'West Forge' held two further hammers of 12 tons and 10 tons.

Recent excavations have revealed parts of the foundations of some of the hammers. These were, of course, extremely massive and deep. The area of discovery is part of the so called 'Master Plan' which means that it is planned to put something new there and that that can't be changed. However, English Heritage recognises the importance of the hammer bases to industrial history and would like them to be preserved in situ. Once again Royal Arsenal Heritage is at risk.

Latest News:

We understand that the hammer bases might be saved and some part of them put on display.
See our next issue for more details.


In the 1980s Greenwich Council 'twinned' with Easington - then an area known for its coal mines. Much of the coal mined in County Durham had come to London and for years collier ships lay stacked on stands off the Greenwich riverside. In a world now largely forgotten Greenwich and Easington were twin towns long before such municipal celebrations were thought of. Now no coal is mined anywhere in County Durham - but, inevitably, a heritage centre is now under way. The following is an extract from material published in the Sunderland Echo on Wednesday 16th August, 2000.

A poignant reminder of an East Durham village's industrial heritage has been unveiled. It once used to plunge hundreds of miners into the dark depths of Easington Colliery, the pit cage is now perched on the crest of a hill overlooking the former pit site and coal-blackened beaches. The 30ft-high structure was restored after being rescued from the scrapheap and has been reinstated as a piece of art above the surface of its original location. But the 12-tonne pit cage is only part of a major transformation of the old colliery site. Turning The Tide, an ambitious £10m project to restore the Durham coastline after decades of colliery waste tipping, has landscaped the old pit site - and the area will be a public park.

Only seven years ago, Easington Colliery employed 1,100 man and the area is still struggling to recover from the huge job losses. The colliery was the scene of one of the worst mining tragedies the area had seen when dozens of workers perished in 1951. But despite its chequered past, community chiefs are keen to remind the close-knit community of its rich mining heritage and the cage plays a large part in this. Easington District councillor, Dennis Raine said: "This is only the first phase - we are hoping to gather pieces of mining equipment to create a kind of outdoor museum. "Eventually, we hope to lay a length of rope which will measure the depth of the shaft so people can walk along it and see just how far down we had to travel to go to work.

"We now have bairns starting school that have no memory of the colliery. We want to preserve this piece of heritage for generations to come." Coun Raine was one of dozens of people who gathered at the site to see the unveiling of the cage yesterday and said the occasion was particularly moving because he worked in the pit from the age of 14. "I used to use the very same cage when I worked in the pit," he said. "It was a bit of a shock to see it - although I had used it for years and realised it was made up of three decks - I hadn't seen it out of the shaft. "It was found in a council yard at Horden and was in a very sorry state so it was very good to see it in mint condition again." A cage which once carried pit men down to the dark dank seams of a coastal colliery has become the focal point of a project for the future. The cage at Easington Colliery carried thousands of miners to their grim place of work each day for years. But after the pit closed it stood neglected until it was decided it should be a monument to the mine. And so the large lift was packed off to Sheffield where the 12-tonne transporter was shot-blasted and painted ready for its return to the transformed pit site. Under its new guise as a 30 ft work of art, the cage has not only been given a pride of place on the hillside, but is also to be a receptacle for historical items. Every one of the pit community's 1,800 houses has been provided with a small plastic container, and residents are invited to donate an item which will help preserve the village's history. Photographs will be transferred on to CDs and all the pieces of memorabilia will be enclosed in vacuum-sealed time capsules and placed in the cage. A spokesman for the project said: "It will mean that future generations will be able to see what went on in Easington at the turn of the century. The newly-restored cage was dedicated by the Rector of Easington, the Reverend Neville Vine. Pupils from Easington Colliery Primary School led a procession up to the new landmark. The site of the colliery is undergoing a transformation into a public park as part of the Turning the Tide Project. The £3m clean-up scheme has been funded by One NorthEast, the Millenium Commission, British Coal and the EU.

LATEST NEWS - we understand that the hammer bases might be saved and some part of them put on display.

See our next issue for more details.


- more from Howard Bloch on the history of the North Woolwich Pleasure Gardens

At North Woolwich the number of visitors increased in 1870 following an agreement with the Woolwich Steam Packet Company to bring passengers there from all its piers. The most significant boost however came from the passing of Sir John Lubbock's Bank Holiday Act in 1871. On the first Bank Holiday -7th August 1871 - unprecedented numbers of people took advantage of the closure of factories and offices to enjoy a day out. Many of them travelled by railway and steamboats flooded to capacity to visit the North Woolwich Gardens.

The merrymaking was disturbed by a violent incident in the evening of 13th July 1817. A Party including Elizabeth Barnett and William Lowe visited the gardens somewhat the worse for drink. Barnett became separated from Lowe and danced and drank with several men. When he found her again he was heard to say that he would 'give her a poke in the eye and shortly afterwards took her aside then poked her in the eyes with the point of his umbrella. Realising what he had done he called for a doctor and pulled his handkerchief out and put it into the wound. Later she was taken to hospital where she died. At his trial at the Old Bailey it was said that they lived together was man and wife and that he had often ill treated her. Although acquitted of murder Lower was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to eighteen months hard labour.

Holland's genuine concern for the welfare of working people was shown by the number of benefits which he organised. On 3rd October 18171 he granted free use of the gardens to about 4,000 people, mainly engineers and their families, for a benefit in aid of the striking Newcastle engineers.

The gardens were cleared and lights turned out on the evening of 3rd September 1879 after Holland had received news of the disaster which had occurred nearby when the pleasure steamer Princess Alice collided with the collier Bywell Castle and sank with the loss of about 650 lives. A few days later he organised a benefit for the families of the victims many of whom had lived in East London.

One of Holland constant worries was the rain god 'Jupiter Pluvious; who seemed to have made a habit of ruining his outdoor events and causing him considerable financial loss. Between 1872 and 1883 London experienced some of its wettest years and it as also during this period that man of London's other pleasure gardens closed down, Soon the North Woolwich Gardens was left was "the only place of out-of-door amusement in this vast metropolis".

A number of journalists visited the gardens as a result of this new claim to fame and wrote about the curious behaviour of its visitors. Marcus Fall, disguising the name of North Woolwich. said "The North Tilford is not a very aristocratic lounge although here cannot be less than three thousand to four thousand men, women and children in the grounds, there is not one whose name you can find in Debretts. The majority of the men are artisans, clerks, shops hands and small tradesman. There is no absolute rudeness but a good deal of horseplay. The humour is of the simplest order and takes the form of practical jokes. ...........A steam merry-go-round with lads and lasses on the horses and in the coaches .. the lads are gallant, hilarious and festive, the lasses timid, coy, confiding, apprehensive of display of ankles and bewitching. Into one of the coaches had got a very stout women with a very fat face and very blue ribbons in her bonnet - alas, poet disguise it how you will, but we write prose and are compelled to say that the motion has made her very green and sea-sick

The expense of engaging artists and providing the wide range of entertainments in the gardens placed Holland under a very heavy financial burden. In 1877 after he had signed a new 21 year lease with the North Woolwich Land Company he spent a considerable amount in building a new pavilion and a steam roundabout which was estimated to cost him about £1,000. Surviving papers relating to the North Woolwich land company for the late 1870s include a number of references to their unsuccessful attempts to collect debts from him. Writing in 1879 their agent commented 'the gardens rent has always been difficult to get and the disputes and actions against their tenants give me plenty of work".

Despite being in debt Holland advertised in April 1881 that he had spent several thousand pounds on improvement in the gardens. This was however to be his last season. In September after a far from successful straw hat exhibition he was declared bankrupt having liabilities of £10,176 and assets of £27. A year later he was discharged and his debt of £1,165 to the North Woolwich land company written off.



In early August Greenwich was visited by a replica of the first ship designed and captained by the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great in 1703 - based on what he had learned at Deptford Dockyard in 1698. Shtandart was built in St.Petersburg by volunteers who used the original shipbuilding techniques. She was named by Prince Andrew and Vladimir Yakovlev (Governor of St. Petersburg) and launched in September 1999.

SS Shtandart has a 220 tons displacement, 3.05 metres maximum draft, 34.5 metres from bowsprit to stern, and 7.5 metres maximum beam. She has 16 sails of 820 sq metres and a maximum mast height of 34 metres. She has a crew of 20 (half trainees) - and - oh - two 600 hp Volvo engines (did Peter the Great learn about them at Deptford?)

A second ship - Royal Transport - is now under construction. she will be a replica of the ship built in Britain in 1695 for King William III and presented by him to Tsar Peter in 1698.


In September 1998 a cargo ship, Kaptan Sukru was burnt out in Pazar (Anatolia). Was she the Sahilbent, built at East Greenwich in 1872 by Maudslay Son and Field - and supplied to Turkey as a ferry boat? More on this later - once it becomes possible to get through to the Turkish maritime history web site!

P.S. from the Web Editor:

I managed to get through to the Turkish Pilot's site and have e-Mailed them about this incident as the actual report makes no mention of the significance of this incident. I have had no reply as yet. However, another site contained the following article which I have hi-jacked locally, which seems to prove the link between the two vessels.


Peter Gurnett was clever enough to get hold of a number of copies of The Big Dip - Archaeology and the Jubilee Line Extension - produced by the Museum of London Archaeology Service and the Jubilee Line Extension Project. This glossy booklet - the sort of thing that locals rarely see - gives pictures and details of archaeological finds all the way down the new line. However, it never really seems to get to Greenwich - does this mean to say they didn't find anything at all down on the Dome site (that's not what I heard!).

Listing old industrial sites in Greenwich and Deptford

We have been approached by David Eve, Greater London Sites and Monuments Record Manager to help him strengthen the list of industrial sites on his list - which is used to alert Planning Authorities to possible archaeological and other remains on site. A letter from David explaining this can be found elsewhere in this issue. We intend to hold a special meeting with David on 12th October to set about this process. Anyone who is interested in contributing will be very welcome. Please ring 0208 858 9482 for details of the venue.


The review notes digs in Greenwich:

Royal Naval College site - discovery of 16th/17th century wall and foundations. 18th century culvert, and dump layers.

Dreadnought Hospital site - 16th century structures, perhaps the King's Barn. Traces of other buildings, dumps, walls, foundations of Helpless Ward and others, culverts and cast iron settling tanks.

Woolwich Arsenal - report of dig by MOLAS - found 4 battleship guns - they were not complete and thus unique.


You can't actually read them .... but .... thanks to Groundwork and Alcatel there are now steel information panels on Enderby's Wharf giving information about the history of industry on Greenwich Peninsula and cable making at the Alcatel/Telcom site.

We hope that Alcatel opens the jetty up soon so that the hundreds of passing tourists can read it!


A bit of Greenwich's Industrial past has now been recognised by the trendy incomers - Enderby's Restaurant has now opened on Blackheath in one of the houses reputed to be an old Enderby home.



Six months were spent in the Mechanical Engineering Department drawing office. Then I went out on my own doing installation drawings of machine tools. One installation was a large vertical slotting machine to go in the Light Gun shop, where there were already three such machines. It seemed a good idea that the new machine should be in line with the existing three - so I did the drawing accordingly. Several weeks later I was surprised to see the new slotter was two or three feet in-front of the older ones - not where I had wanted it put. The ganger told me that when they had put it where I suggested the counterweight at the back had clumped a piece of shafting so they had moved it forward. He said that he had seen my name on the drawing and, as my father was the manager of the department and the gang had had double time for moving it, it seemed silly to mention it.

An interesting bit of plant layout that came my way was the installation of an autofrettage plant. This is a process which increases the strength of a gun barrel by subjecting it, internally, to a hydraulic pressure which exceeds the elastic limit of the metal. It consisted two bed plates, one with the pressure generator and the other just a support and stopper for the other end. As there were two lengths of barrel to be processed, I did a drawing showing two sets of studs cemented into the floor so that the other bed plate could be picked up by the crane and set down over the appropriate studs. The chief draughtsman looked at my drawing and said " Fine, sooner or later somebody will trip over the spare studs, put in a suggestion, get £5 and they will be sawn off".

I was also involved in a session in the North Mill un-mothballing the gun lathes. This was a mucky job since they were coated in a thick oily varnish that had to scraped off - not one of the modern soluble coatings and it had had twenty years to harden out. At least we were beginning to get ready for WW II in 1938!

The Tinman's Shop made a change. I was setting presses for stamping out ammunition containers. The top and bottom tools had to be very accurately set, both for position and material thickness, as when the presses ran there was quite a large force involved. The presses worked with a one revolution clutch with a latch coupling the big flywheel to the crankshaft - and controlled with a pedal. When this was depressed the clutch engaged but releasing this pedal, even momentarily, meant that the flywheel did at least two revolutions for one of the crank. Unfortunately some operatives thought they were faster feeders than they actually were. This resulted in a jam - up as the second piece of metal arrived before the first had cleared. Clearing this came to me , and there was a way to rectify the tools by gently peening (hammering) the edges and then using an oil stone to restore the proper clearance.

The Tinman's Shop was also responsible for making tin ammunition boxes such as were used to keep detonators and fuses dry in humid atmospheres. These were often nearly two feet long and it was an education to watch a seam, the length of the tin, neatly made with one stroke of a soldering iron. The irons used were heavy copper with a blunt end; thin irons like the ones tending to be used for D.I.Y were known as "winkle pickers ". During my stay I made that "Brooklands" silencer from sheet steel and had it dipped in tin on the night shift for a packet of cigarettes. The neighbours of Locke King, who built the Brooklands motor racing circuit on his land, complained about the noise, so the circuit officials designed a special silencer that was obligatory for use at the track. Needless to say a Brooklands silencer was the thing to be seen on ones car or motor cycle, even if it produced more noise.



A new GLIAS Journal is now available. This contains two articles of great interest to Greenwich readers - first, a definitive article on Greenwich London Underground Power Station written by English Heritage's (and local resident) Peter Guillery. This covers the history, architecture and technical background to the power station. This building is often derided as a blot on the Greenwich riverside but the article reveals it as an important piece of architecture in its own right.

The Journal also contains a set of stunning photographs by Bob Carr taken at the closure of the great ship repair works of R.H.Green and Silley Weir Ltd. in the 1980s. This works was in North Woolwich - originally in the Borough of Woolwich. They reveal the size and scale of industry which was undertaken locally until very recently - this is very, very heavy industry!

There are also articles on milling machinery at Three Mills - only a short journey on the 108 bus from the Greenwich borders, and on Hopewell Yard in Camberwell, B.Young's Gelatin Works in Bermondsey, and the first railway station at Kings Cross.

The Journal is available at £3.90 from GLIAS Book Sales, c/o Brian Sturt, 94 Springbank Road, Hither Green, SE12.


The August 2000 issue of Bygone Kent contains yet another article by Mary Mills. Entitled Two Vanished Greenwich Pubs it mainly describes the Sea Witch which stood on the Greenwich riverside on the site which is now the Amylum Company's laboratories - and explores the industrial background to the pub and its name.

Bygone Kent, £3.50 from Meresborough Books, 17 Station Road, Rainham, Kent, ME8 7RS


How to get to see the Lewisham Museum Collection - in New Cross - ring John West 020 8291 3965 for the password and the way in !

The newsletter also includes an article about Chiltonian Biscuits in Hither Green (is it true that they - heroically - invented the Chocolate Digestive?).


The September issue ...... Peter Kent outlines and illustrates maritime visitors to Greenwich. - HMS Invincible - Anastasis - Burgundy - Balmoral - Royal Clipper - and so on . It also carries the news that a blue plaque is to be unveiled at 47 Bennett Park, Blackheath - as a tribute to the use of the Blackheath Art Club at the GPO Film Unit between 1933-43. This is the place where all those wonderful Humphrey Jennings films - Night Mail and so on - were made.

The August issue ...... Contains an article by Peter Kent on the Royal Docks 'Wise Men from the East' plus his usual wonderful drawings of the docks, today and in 1906.... and .... an article by Neil Rhind discusses the life of John Gilbert who lived in Westcombe Park Road. Gilbert was the principal artist for Illustrated London News - drawing an estimated 30,000 'cuts'; for them. Every historian of the Victorian period will know that the ILN provides a vital source document of accurate pictures of industry of the period.

The July issue ...... Peter Kent writes on the 'Maritime Connection' - includes news of the riverside walk, Peter the Great's statue, Sun tugs, Suzanne Hatchling's rowing prowess, the Millennium Coat and Badge Race... etc. etc. etc..


Another sparkling edition arrived in July from the team at the Crossness Engines Trust.

In this month: report on a visit to the Wick Lane Sewers - the work of the Trust in education (school visits, student projects, etc. etc.) - News of work underway (position of the boiler, work on Prince Consort, Museums registration, security, etc.) - opening of the riverside path on 21st June by the Mayor of Bexley - repairs to engines in 1897 - and a report of the return of Isaac Newton.


From Dept. Culture, Media and Sport

Lovells Wharf Cranes

As you know a request was made for the two cranes on this wharf to be listed. English Heritage has advised that the cranes would be more suitable for consideration for scheduling under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Monuments to be scheduled are being considered in the context of the Monuments Protection Programme - but the MPP has not yet reviewed commercial dockyards and transportation systems.

In the absence of a national overview it is difficult to argue that these modern structures in isolation can be considered to be of national importance and thus merit scheduling. I am sorry to send you a disappointing reply but hope you will be assured that the case for scheduling will be considered in due course.

From David Eve, English Heritage

Sites and Monuments Record in Greenwich

I seem to remember talk of a GIHS database. Did you make any progress on that? I would be very keen to have sight of any records you might have as we really need to add on a full set of basic records to the central Sites and Monuments Record. At the moment we have just 169 Industrial Archaeology records for Greenwich and I'm pretty sure most of them are Listed Naval (rather than commercial) buildings and stuff from the Thames Foreshore Survey. The latter mostly consists of bits of timber that may have been bits of a boat or a slipway.

I have made copies of the 1916 OS 23" map series. The mapped area covers Deptford Creek and the waterfront towards Surrey Docks as well as Greenwich/Woolwich proper and much of the hinterland areas of Plumstead, Eltham, etc. It would be an immense help if sites could be noted on the maps. We are only really looking, at this stage, for an index - what was there, when and where it was - and what you and your colleagues will know about but we are also interested in industries that were founded on the same site later as well as those which preceded 1916.

Please contact GIHS - if you would like to help.

From Ian McKay

Siemens Factory in Dalston

I have read with interest Setting Up Siemens' Industrial Museum in Woolwich by Iain Lovell in your newsletter. I am researching the Siemens Factory at Tyssen Street, Dalston, E8 for a book due for publication in 2001. If anyone knows of any connection between the business carried out at the Siemens factory in Woolwich and the factory in Dalston I would be exceedingly grateful if you could let me know. The GREENWICH INDUSTRIAL HISTORY SOCIETY has done much to publicise the Siemens role in Greenwich's industrial history, but sadly there is (or seems to be) very little information available regarding the Dalston operation.

From Judith Parr


I am researching my family history and believe that my grandfather may have worked for Lovibonds. Any information and help you can give me would be great. I know that they were taken over by Courage in 1969 and that Greenwich Local History society holds files of the company. I am unsure where in Greenwich they had their brewery? My grandfather drove Drays.

From Niclas Dahlvang

Perkins Steam Gun

Hi, I am studying history at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, USA. I was wondering if you could help me find a picture of the Perkins Steam Gun? My history professor wanted to have more information about it than just the name, so we did appreciate finding your page -- it was the most useful of any search results I found.

From Bill Firth

Great Globe at Swanage

Is there proof positive that the Great Globe was made in Greenwich for shipment to Swanage? The reason I ask is that I have just come across a probably not very reliable mention of it being made in Swanage for erection in London and then never shipped there! The thought does occur to me that shipping stone to Greenwich, making the globe and shipping it back to Swanage involves double movement of stone. However ships returning to Swanage would need ballast and the globe would provide it. It's all very intriguing.

From Julie Tadman

Captain Bracegirdle - Greenwich fisherman

I have been having some success with my researches into my great-grandfather, Captain Frederick Bracegirdle. I recently found him as chief officer on board the Star of England, which arrived in Moreton Bay on the 11th June 1866 with four hundred and fifty immigrants and fifty crew. The Star of England left London on March 8th 1866, which begs me to ask the question - which wharf and area would they have departed from?

It is interesting to realise how the fishing industry changed from the early 1800's to the 1850's and 1860's with the introduction of the railways and fast transport from the coast. I do not know enough about it at that time to say with certainty that it vanished from the area, but I suspect that I am correct in assuming that any fishermen of the area who did not move to the coast would have found his trade slowly dying.

The effect on the fishing industry in the 1850's and 1860's, as I see it was a huge increase in fresh fish consumption (with chips!) and no doubt a cheaper product as well. There must have been changes in the type of fish product, with less salted fish being consumed, perhaps one should not assume this as fact although I would be interested to know if this was so. Also, did prices change for particular fish products?

Looking forward to the next issue of the GIHS journal.

From Linda Dobinson

Blackwall Tunnel

My friend and I live on the Isle of Dogs and use the Tunnel a lot and this has set us to asking questions about it. How was it kept clean if it was used by horse and cart - it must have smelt terrible? And how was it built? Nowadays we have lots of sophisticated equipment and in those days they only had horse power - or was there some sort of steam equipment?

From Frank Lockhart

Roof of the Dome of Discovery

We are fairly certain that some of the roof sections of the Dome of Discovery from the South Bank Exhibition went to Kidbrooke School. The original dome was 365 feet in diameter but the school hall is somewhat smaller. As you rightly say, the school was new in 1952. Both before and after the Festival there was outrage that raw building materials and skilled labour were, what was seen as wasted on the Festival. In an effort to reduce the possible political backlash, as much of these materials were re-used on public buildings. The main difference today is the covering. Originally it was skinned with aluminium sheeting. This, as a valuable commodity, was all re-used in other projects. An associate of mine, also very keen on local history, went to Kidbrooke School from when it was new and still lives in the area. For further information on the Festival of Britain Society, please visit or for more information about British Exhibitions in general please visit

From Anita Higginson

Francis Street, Woolwich

During the 1950's the houses, which I think were mainly local authority accommodation, were pulled down, and the residents re-housed. I would be interested to hear from any body who lived there before the demolition, and would like to know where these people were re-housed. Thanks.

From Carrie Hawkins

British Empire Medal at the Arsenal

Can you tell me where I could find information on a person who received a British Empire Medal for Arsenal workers? My great-grandfather, William Henry Pym, who lived at 22A Fairthorn Avenue, Charlton, England, received one at age 71.

From Michael Stretton

Jabez West

Jabez West is my Great, Great, Great-Grandfather. He was a champion in the Temperance Movement and a granite drinking fountain was erected in his honour in Southwark Park, London. He was involved in the Temperance Movement in Station Road, Bermondsey from 1875. As far as I know his father was William West from Princes Risborough, in the county of Buckinghamshire. He was a blacksmith and a strong politician who lived on Duke Street. I would be extremely grateful in anyone could assist me in further research.

From Frances Poole

Arsenal Tailor

I came across your newsletter on the Web and am wondering whether anyone can help me. My great-grandfather was Frederick Gedlich, who I understand was a military tailor at Woolwich Arsenal. I do not know when Frederick came from Germany, or why.

From A. Ward

Cubow Shipbuilders

Can you help us? We are trying to trace photographs of ships. We carried out the electrical design and installation at Cubow Shipbuilders. The ships we are interested in were built between 1972 and 1982. I believe in 1972 the Yard was called Fairmile Marine but I may be wrong. I do not know the ships' names but I do have a list of Yard numbers. Will you be able to help or point me in the right direction ?

From Stephen Hinds

Woolwich Cables

Hi. My grandfather or possibly his father was apparently a cablemaker in Woolwich in the latter part of the 1800's. Is there any way that I can find out what businesses there were and how to get hold of their archives such as a list of employees?

From Richard Haughey

Thames Ironworks road vehicles

Hi there. Just came across your very interesting Web site and was just wondering if you have any information on Thames Ironworks? I started doing some research on this company a few years ago but for various reasons did not carry on with it. I have a number of photographs of the vehicle which were made by the Thames Ironworks and can point you in the direction of the negs. Why not visit the Bedford Gathering online at THE EVENT that brings together both enthusiasts and owners of Bedford vehicles

From Laurie Carpenter

Stones of Deptford

I ran across the Greenwich Industrial History Society Web site while doing a search for Deptford, Kent.
In your online journal, Volume 1, Issue 2, June 1998, was the following reference:

12th January 1999 STONES OF DEPTFORD by Peter Gurnett. I am unsure of the meaning of "Stones" in this title. I wondered if you would know. "Stones" meaning rock or "Stones" meaning family surname? I'm asking this because this is the family line I am researching, and I have only recently learned of the family Stone being in Deptford in early 1600s. If the above is the surname could you possibly provide information on how I obtain the book or contact the author? Any help you could provide would be deeply appreciated!

From Norman Bishop

Barbara Ludlow, the researcher and lecturer, had a very interesting article Fishermen of Greenwich published in the June 1993 issue of the Woolwich & District FHS magazine; this has much more detail about the fishing community of Greenwich. We were both at school together before the war, at Invicta Road Junior School, Blackheath (near the Standard); unfortunately it was completely destroyed by a parachute mine.

One of my seafaring Bishops, Robert Reuben Bishop, was an apprentice seaman aboard the SAMUEL ENDERBY sometime during 1846 - 1850.
See him and others at





We had hoped to bring news of the heritage centre being built for Greenwich Council on the Arsenal Site. Hopefully this will be available for our next issue.

The new Heritage Centre is planned to open in the autumn of 2001 in part of New Laboratory Square. The buildings which date back to 1806 were used for cartridge and bullet making up to the First World War.

It will tell the stories of Greenwich and of the Arsenal from earliest times to the present day. In bringing together the Council's Museum and Local History Library it is planned to create a resource available to all. By using a wealth of artefacts, archives and documentary sources it is aimed to offer visitors an engaging, ejoyable and instructive experience.

The Arsenal stored or made ordnance from 1671 to 1967 and the fortunes of Woolwich have ebbed and flowed withthose of the Arsenal. An exhibition will tell a small part of that long story covering the years 1914 to 1918. This was the period when the Arsenal was at the very peak of its greatness.

We hope to organise a visit to the site - please get in touch if you are interested 0208 858 9482


by Jack Vaughan

The above was located adjacent to Plumstead Bridge and a large part now houses Belmarsh Prison. A substantial area still survives but the Prison Service is aiming to acquire it, flatten every one of the remaining buildings and substitute a young offenders prison for 600 inmates.

One of the buildings, known as E1, was the principal feature of the Department and I recall during my own apprenticeship in the 1930s it houses a giant Avery Machine for testing materials in tension and compression.

E1 has no listing, is not very old, but is described in Greenwich Council's Planning Guide for Royal Arsenal East, in February 1996 as the 'only building of interest' on the site and is Neo-Georgian in style.

Appeals have been made for its survival to the Council, to the Member of Parliament for the area and directly to the Prison Service as applicant.

Guess what? Refusal all round!

So another part of the honourable history of the Borough of Woolwich will vanish - disappearing without trace.


On a pouring wet day GIHS & GLIAS members visited Massey Shaw at Wood Wharf. A GLIAS member who went was Peter Skilton - here is some of his report from the GLIAS Newsletter:

'In spite of a drizzly cold morning we had an excellent visit to the Massey Shaw fireboat .... members of the Preservation Society welcomed us aboard, fortified us with hot drinks and biscuits and told us the fascinating history of this boat and her valiant crew. Space on board was at a premium (as on most vessels) and as we sat huddled together listening to the story of this craft's part in the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk, we could only wonder at the cramped conditions those poor wet souls endured as they were brought hack to the relative safety of England.

Such stories brought the vessel's past to life for me. There are sites and projects that I have visited and upon leaving have thought: 'That is worthwhile'. When I stepped ashore from the Massey Shaw, I felt she was a very special project and deserved as much assistance as possible. I can promote this good cause at every opportunity and recommend GLIAS members visit the Massey Shaw when visits are available'.

by Peter Skilton

BILLINGSGATE - Greenwich's ancient harbour

by Herbert Dickson

Just by the Cutty Sark and alongside the entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel are some railings overlooking the river. Tourists stand there all the time - but how many of them know that this stretch of bland riverside was the heart of old maritime Greenwich. There are no signs to tell you about the great fishing fleet which once sailed from here, or about the ancient and mysterious name which the area has - Billingsgate!

The fishing fleet which was based in this area went out into the North Sea to catch cod - no river fish for them! When things got too difficult, and steam trawlers came along, then they took themselves up to Grimsby and started the fishing industry there. We have records of Greenwich fishermen going back to the fourteenth century, and certainly they were there before that.

Today 'Billingsgate' is a place name which goes all round the world - all of them places with fishy associations. These places are all called after the famous fish market on the banks of the Thames in the City of London. Archaeologists have now found that the Romans were there - and perhaps sold fish there too. There has been endless speculation about the source of the name 'Billingsgate' ; was it a Saxon fishmonger called 'Biling'? Or was it the mysterious King of the Ancient Britons 'Belin'.

What has all this got to do with Greenwich? It is the only place called 'Billingsgate' which is just as old as the one in Central London - and it too was a fishmarket!. In 'A History of Greenwich' Beryl Platts suggested that perhaps King Belin was based here, rather than in London and that our's came first! Even stranger, as she points out, the area of the London Billingsgate was owned by the same Saxon queen who owned Greenwich in the Dark Ages. Was London's Billingsgate founded by Greenwich fishermen?

Whatever the truth is about Greenwich's Billingsgate the fact it that this part of today's Cutty Sark Gardens is the area of a very ancient port. It was here that mediaeval fishermen, boat builders and sailors jostled - it is the real heart of Maritime Greenwich. There is absolutely nothing to see and nothing to tell people about the areas exciting past. Could the History Society ask why not? It would be wonderful to turn it into a harbour again - with little boats coming and going and with a real atmosphere for tourists to enjoy.

The Changing Face of the Greenwich Riverside - A Journey into the past....

In Issue 25 of 'Archive' Pat O'Driscoll has given a vivid description of revisiting the Greenwich riverside after many years. Her article is illustrated with her riveting pictures of the 1950s - first of all SB Pretoria airing her sails outside the Cutty Sark pub - as dramatic a picture as I have ever seen! Pat compares the riverside she knew at a time when she was mate on Olive May with what she saw sometime towards the end of last year - and the riverside has changed dramatically since she did her journey.

At 'Mudlarks Way' she 'winced - it was wider than it used to be and surfaced with red bricks' - Pat would wince even more now because Mudlarks Way is gone, there is a wide walk way and soon the river will be out of sight behind a belt of trees!

Pat has captured a moment in time - and compared it to the past. That moment is also past now but without this record, what would we have of it?

Thanks, Pat, for your memories of the past - and the wonderful pictures. PS - yes, they did spare the Pilot, but only just.

Archive £5 from Lightmoor Press, Archive Shop, 47-49 High Street, Lydney, Glos. GL15 5DD


- by Alan Mills

I recently visited the Berlin Borough of Reinickendorf with the Town Twinning Association - it has been a twin town of Greenwich for some 35 years. Reinickendorf shares some similarities with Greenwich - leafy suburbs, water facilities and industry - past and present.

Present industry includes a large Siemens factory (does this have links with Greenwich?) and Tegel airport. Past industry includes the Borzig locomotive factory - now a shopping complex contained within the shell and proudly featuring much of the structural ironwork of the former engineering works. The water (mentioned above) is the Tegel See - a huge lake linked to Berlin's extensive canal network. The canal is used for goods transport as well as by pleasure craft. I saw two strings of canal barges loaded with coal from Poland being pushed along it.

It occured to me that it was worth exploring some contact between industrial history enthusiasts in the two boroughs and I have begun to investigate the possible existence of an organisation like GIHS in Berlin. I will report further when I have more information on this. If there are any members interested in pursuing this - or any other relevant links with the area - perhaps a visit - contact me, Alan Mills on 020 8858 9482.



by John Garner

The following article has been sent to us from Wellington, New Zealand.

Wellington, with a population of only 19,000 people, launched its steam-trams in August 1878 with the new trams that had arrived from Merryweather & Sons Limited, of Greenwich, London, England. It was claimed to be the first steam-worked street rail system in the Southern Hemisphere.

Eight locomotives had been ordered and given the names of Florence, Wellington, Hibernia, Zealandia, Victoria, Anglia, Scotia and Cambria. These locomotives cost £975 each, the last being placed in service 8 November 1879.

Fleet Number


Builder's Number

Arrived in Wellington
























8 -11-78









Specifications as built:

Track gauge: 3 feet 6 inches. Wheel arrangement: 0-4-0. Wheelbase: 4 feet 6 inches. Length over buffers: 6 feet 7 inches. Wheel diameter: 2 feet. Cylinders: 7 inches with 11-inch stroke. Firebox: 2 feet 2 inches x 2 feet area, 4.33 square-feet of grate. Firebox surface: 24.5 square-feet. 790 flue-tubes, 1.75 inches diameter outside, 3 feet 6 inches long. 126.6 square-feet of heating surface. Total heating surface: 151.1 square-feet. Water tank condensers on the roof. Diameter of barrel of boiler: 2 feet 6 inches. The engines were resplendent in claret livery and gold lining and each one pulled a four-wheel trailer.

Jibbing and restive horses soon brought the steamers into displeasure with the public. Citizens had been advised to have their grooms walk the horses quietly down to the tramline to get them accustomed to the snorting puffer. A few of the horses took little notice of the steamers but others took fright and dashed their buggies against the locomotive. Despite this the steamers continued their service, but accidents followed because drivers were unable to control the reaction of horses to the steam trams.The drivers of the horse-drawn hansom cabs, of the time, also objected to the steamers, as they no longer had control of the urban transportation business. They commenced driving two or three abreast in front of the trams, or would cut across the tracks in order to make the tram driver pull up.

Shying and bolting horses became less frequent, but the tramway's noisy cinder-spraying machines were never really accepted by Wellingtonians. After another embarrassing accident, the steam operation closed in January 1882 and the trams locomotives were sold.

By then, two locomotives, Anglia and Scotia, had been sold to the Dunedin, Peninsular & Ocean Beach Railway Company Limited in December 1880. Of the remaining six locomotives, one was retained to drive a chaffcutter for the horse trams (either Zealandia or Florence), the Hibernia was purchased by the Foxton-Sanson Tramway in 1884 who on sold it to a flaxmiller, E.S. Thynne who used the engine for driving the mill's machinery on the banks of the Rangitikei River at Parawenui, near Bulls. According to reports, the Hibernia was lost when the river flooded and is probably still buried under the river shingle. The Wellington went to a sawmill in Taranaki, the Victoria to the Tamaki Sawmilling Company in Woodville in 1886, then on sold to the Napier Harbour Board in 1896, becoming NHB No. 2, and the Cambria to the New Zealand Timber company, which became the Kauri Timber company in 1883. The Zealandia was sold to the Kauri Timber Company to haul logs (date unknown) and the Florence to the Kauri Timber Company in 1897. Florence operated until c1923, Zealandia until sometime around 1918, Cambria until 1911, Victoria sometime about 1896 and Anglia in 1915. None of these locomotives exist today.

Editorial Note

Merryweathers are of course well known as fire engine manufacturers based in Greenwich High Road. Recently we saw a fine example of a Greenwich built Merryweather engine in the Romney Marsh Museum in Lydd - how many more are there?

How many Greenwich built engines can we find - should we start a list - or a competition? Where are they and how many can you name?

We will happily publish contributions about Greenwich built engines - not just Merryweather - Penn, Appleby, Rennie, Maudslay, Humphery & Dykes, etc. etc. etc..


A couple of months ago GIHS welcomed Jonathan Clarke of English Heritage who spoke about Mumford's Mill in Greenwich High Road. At the time we promised to publish extracts from his Survey Report on the mill. We now understand that Lewisham Local History Society intend to publish the whole report - nevertheless we reproduce here the summary to the report and some highlights:

'Throughout Europe and beyond, the late 19th century witnessed a revolution in flour milling, involving a radical transformation in the technology, work organisation and location of one of the oldest of industries. This changeover from traditional stone milling to roller milling was accompanied by an increasingly ambitious approach to architecture that matched the escalating sophistication and ingenuity of the machinery within; technology and architecture were parallel mediums to be exploited in an ever fiercer commercial environment. By 1897 Mumford's Mill boasted a visually arresting and technologically sophisticated grain silo designed by Aston Webb, one of the most renowned and accomplished architects of the era and fitted by Henry Simon, the leading roller milling engineer in the country.

The site of Mumford's Mill on the south bank of Deptford Creek - the tidal stretch of the River Ravensbourne - represents over two centuries of complex accretive development. Allegedly built in 1790 as a tidal-powered, timber built flour mill, the earliest surviving components are of brick, comprising an early 19th century site office and two early 19th century three storey stone grinding flour mills, here called the East Mill and the West Mill. Documented build dates of 1802, 1817, and 1821 may relate to these three blocks. The East Mill which was originally of 11 or 12 bays length, was subsequently raised a future storey and a southern end bay partially rebuilt as a tower possibly housing a steam engine. The West Mill was also raised a further storey bringing the yard elevations in line with one another. The last of these alterations, which probably relate to the partial changeover to roller milling may tie in with Webb's first recorded involvement with the mill.

The most dramatic change to the complex came in 1897 when a huge grain silo was built to the elaborately Italianate designs of Aston Webb. Facing the creek and probably relating an earlier granary this edifice exploited advanced techniques of internal metal framing, comprising a grid of rolled steel beams supported at their intersections by cast-iron columns to produce robust 'fire-proof' structure. Although little direct evidence of the mechanical plant survives, this was equally progressive: manufactured and fitted by Henry Simon Ltd., whose firm was responsible for the greatest number of roller installations nation-wide. The construction of the silo was probably accompanied by the insertion of steel-framed doors in the East Mill for the support of heavier roller-milling machinery, and the creation of a larger wheat-cleaning wing, also internally supported by steel members. Twentieth century changes include the raising of the wheat cleaning wing, the adoption of electric power and the construction of ancillary building, including a mess room, smithy and garage.

Mumford's Mill is of considerable interest for a number of reasons. In the context of industrial history, it provides a palimpsest of structures that document the impact that the late 19th century revolution in roller milling had in traditional practices,. Late 19th century flour mills are an obsolete, properly understood and fast disappearing class of building. From an architectural historical perspective the interest resides not only in relations to the formative development of Sir Aston Webb but as an example of how the field of industrial building design could attract leading architects more typically associated with 'polite' buildings. Allied to this, from a construction history view point, Mumford's Mill is illustrative of an emerging narrative which places the take-up of increasingly sophisticated techniques of internal steel framing in the late 19th century anticipating the full steel framing of the early 1900s.


by Philip Binns

Views of the Group at recent meetings

Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital, King William Walk, SE10. Erection of new pedestrian gate, doorway, etc. Grave concerns about the modern idiom of new additions - unacceptable for a key World Heritage Site building.

38 Greenwich Church Street - new chimney. Should be an example for similar installations in a conservation area.

205 Greenwich Church Street - Change of use to residential. Welcome back to original usage.

National Maritime Museum - railing mounted signs. Too large and unacceptable.

West Greenwich Library - new disabled access ramp. Accept that such a ramp is necessary but feel the design is below standard - railings should be in cast or wrought iron and ramp should be stone.

10 Feathers Place - put a kitchen in basement and a bathroom at ground level. Features should match those at present.

Angerstein Works, Bramshot Avenue. Need to preserve two brick structures on site - one a gatehouse. Should be referred to English Heritage.

Compulsory purchase of west side of Blackwall Lane. Concern at businesses being earmarked for demolition. Replacement scheme should be in place first.

125-153 Powis Street. Remove dormers - group felt these should be an exact replacement. Ask for views of English Heritage and strongly object.


In recent weeks the Conservation Group has had sight of two planning applications which relate to the Royal Arsenal site submitted by the London Development Agency (which has now succeeded English Partnerships).

The first application concerns revisions to the Master Plan for the site. This increases the amount of floor space by nearly a quarter. Of the listed buildings on site, some 21 are to be refurbished - mainly for homes but also for heritage leisure use. The group feels that the retention of these buildings is to be welcomed but fears a scant regard for retention of the many monuments, statues and artefacts which the site possesses.

There is provision across the whole of the site for parking 1,900 cars - with so much public transport available locally this is questionable. The problem is accentuated by the fact that the nature of the site does not allow for the car parking to be hidden away from view at a basement level. The result will be a sea of parked cars close to buildings which are of sufficient architectural merit to warrant having a statutory listed status masked only by a minimal amount of tree planting.

The second planning application is from Berkeley Homes for 711 new homes, some in new build and some in listed buildings. The Group welcomes that buildings such as the Grand Store range, the Chemical Laboratory and the Shell Foundry Gatehouse are to be brought back into use as flats. However, also planned are blocks of new build flats in close proximity to these listed buildings. The old buildings were industrial - have a lot of space between floor to ceiling and are deep in plan with roofs of generous proportions. The developer wants to build new flats of the space-height alongside - which means they will be six floors high. They have fussy details which diminishes the value of the old buildings - because they draw strength from robust windows and doors with deep reveals and mouldings.

The Master Plan for the Arsenal said that new buildings should 'respect the character and grain of the original buildings' as well as 'showing due sensitivity to the architectural character of the individual buildings, and to the overall character of the area'. It is the view of the Greenwich Conservation Group that the proposals by Berkeley Homes do not satisfy these criteria and that much more thought needs to be given to the design and detailing of the new blocks of flats and house - particularly the latter which are in a skimped neo-Georgian style with mean floor spaces and the incorrect solid to window relationships found in the genuine article. It would have been better to adopt a more modern treatment capable of standing its ground with that of the old refurbished buildings. The new could then have complemented the old, and vice versa. Instead, as things stand, the old is debased by the proposed new buildings.


New planning application

Following a public meeting at St.Alfege's Church a revised planning application has now been submitted to Greenwich planners for this riverside site slightly upriver of Cutty Sark.

The overall height has been reduced by one floor and the restaurant provision reduced. The planned board walk linking the Thames Path to the adjacent Greenwich Reach 2000 development is now land based and no longer projects out over the flood defence wall. The riverside path is planned to pass through an arcade on the ground floor of the new building so that the northern face of the proposed development will be effectively on the river's edge - which will cause considerable shadow on the foreshore.

A stand-alone building is now planned for the river end of Horseferry Place. It will stand on part of the underground chamber of the Greenwich Steam Ferry - of which there is no acknowledgement in current proposals. Neither is there any recognitition of the existing wharf buildings and the support services they offer to boats moored on the foreshore. There is also no longer any indication of access from the Thames Path to the foreshore - as indicated in the original application.



by Dave Ramsey

White Hart Road depot - which has featured in this Newsletter on several occasions recently - was built and designed by Frank Sumner, MICE. The following gives some details of his career:

Frank Sumner, MICE, lived at 'The Gables', Brent Road, Plumstead, 1904-1907.

Born 17th May 1865. Son of John Sumner of Coleshill nr. Birmingham (a chemist).

Education: Received a scientific training at Atherstone, and privately between 1879-1881. Pupilage under Mr. Sidney G.Gamble, Assoc. M.Inst.C.E. and under Mr. J.A.Gotch, Architect, 1881-1887. Trained as assistant to Mr.Gamble, Mr. Gotch and Mr. O.Claude Robson, 1887-1892 at Grantham.

Professional. Assoc. Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 9th August 1892, Member ICE 2nd March 1904.

Career: At Grantham - resident engineer on extension to sewage works, and laid out new roads, sewers, and water mains on the Harrowby Estate. At Kettering - Assistant Surveyor to the Local Board - extensions to sewage farm. Laid out several miles of new roads, reconstructed several miles of new sewers, and assisted with plans for an isolation hospital. Willisden - Assistant Engineer to Mr.O.Claude Robson, MICE - constructed several miles of sewers, extended the sewage farm, constructed filter beds, assisted with plans for a steel girder bridge. Bermondsey Vestry - Chief Engineer and Surveyor - work on sewers and paving, alterations to the Council Chamber, controlled 200 Men.

Career in Woolwich and Plumstead

Appointed Borough Engineer and Surveyor at Plumstead Vestry (later amalgamated with Woolwich) 10th May 1899. Left in 1905. At Woolwich he constructed 20 miles of sewers, 8 miles of streets. Prepared plans for and supervised the erection of the combined electric light station and refuse destructor at Plumstead, White Hart Road, - this cost £6,000 with a well, and hydraulic machinery for making clinker bricks and flags. He prepared plans for a new library at Plumstead and plans for public baths and wash houses at Plumstead. Later he also drew up the plans for a coroner's court and a mortuary. He planned the widening of Well Hall Road between Eltham and Shooters Hill to 60 feet and paving for the tramway at a cost of £27,000. He designed street improvements to £30,000. Certified annually general works to the cost of £80,000. Controlled 600 men and passed plans for 1,500 buildings per year.

Later Career. City Engineer to the City of London 1905-1914. Inaugurated central lighting in the City, and was responsible for the Fleet Street widening scheme.

Died 22nd December 1914



The Woolwich and Plumstead areas had a history of radical thinking, self help and questioning officialdom. The Woolwich Building Society was founded in 1847, the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS) was founded in 1868 and the Woolwich Polytechnic in 1890. It was against this background that a period of imaginative municipal construction and acquisition took place in the early 1900s.

Attempts by Queen's College Oxford in 1871 to enclose Plumstead Common, extinguish free access and grazing rights, led to the establishment of the 'Commons Protection League'. In 1876 fences on the Common were torn down in what was described as the 'Plumstead Common Riots' and the leader was imprisoned. An Act of Parliament in 1877 authorised the purchase of Plumstead Common, Bostall Heath and Shoulder of Mutton Green, by the Metropolitan Board of Works.

Workers from the Royal Arsenal set up their own buyer's co-operative in 1868, operating at first from members houses in Plumstead and then as RACS from 147 Powis Street.

There was therefore a solid record of local achievement for radical thinkers. In the election for Woolwich Council in November 1900, of the 36 Councillors, just 11 members of the Woolwich and Plumstead Progressive Association represented radical thinking on the Council. The area was thought to be a bastion of support for the Conservative Party. In July 1901 the Labour Representation Committee's candidate defeated the sitting MP in a by-election for the Borough Council, St.Mary's Ward. In another Council by-election the following year the Rev.Jenkins Jones won St.Margaret's Ward for Labour and in a Parliamentary by-election in March 1903 Will Crooks became the Labour MP for Woolwich - the fourth Labour MP to be elected. In November 1903 Labour won a majority on Woolwich Borough Council, which it held until 1906. During this period the vexed issue of a public baths for Plumstead was settled with a decision to build. During the period also Labour built the first council houses, in North Woolwich.

The Events

Local Government in the Metropolis was to be reorganised. Eltham, Plumstead and Woolwich were to be amalgamated into the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich, Civic Pride would have dictated that Plumstead vestry would have wanted to hand over an administration with good civic amenity.

The problems of disposing of urban waste were difficult and getting worse as urban building continued apace. Gas street lighting was expensive to run and out of the control of the Vestry, as the gas had to be bought from a private gas company. Civic buildings needed bricks and paviours were needed for highway work.

It was in this context that Plumstead Vestry investigated the possibilities of building its own power station to supply electricity. Visits were organised to electricity station in Leyton, Shoreditch, St.Pancras and Brighton. It was decided to proceed with a Station at Plumstead.

It was felt that the most important action to be taken was the appointment of really able professional staff. It was decided to appoint an Engineer-Surveyor and an Electrical Engineer. These staff could advise on issues of best practice from around the country. The Committee wanted to investigate the benefits of building a combined refuse destructor and electricity station. Professor Robson recommended that the waste heat from the burning of rubbish could be used to supplement that produced by the coal burning electricity station. Frank Sumner was appointed Engineer-Surveyor and Arthur Wright, Surveyor-Electrical Engineer.

In May 1900 the Committee looked at Sumner's draft plans. Technical details were discussed as was the need to cater for future expansion in demands. In late May of that years four other stations were visited, two at Liverpool, one at St. Helens and one at Darwen. The Committee thanked Sumner for his careful planning of the visit. The main conclusion was that the combined station was as good idea as they wanted to maximise the energy capture,. To this end it was decided to load the refuse boiler manually, rather than the cheaper top loading by tipping. This method was more labour intensive and slightly m,ore costly, but gave much better rates of burn efficiency. All of the boilers were to be of a compatible type.

Once the plans had been adopted specifications were to be printed so that the tendering progress could begin. Plumstead Vestry Rules insisted that a 'schedule of hours of labour and rates of wages' should be included in all tender documents. The new Woolwich Borough council moved diligently to give effect to the plans it inherited from Plumstead.

We hope to continue with Dave Ramsay's study of the White Hart Road depot in a future issue.


- Karen Day discovered that her family were Greenwich boat builders - here she describes her search for them ....

First, I tried the Kent County Archive at Maidstone. They said that, as they hold the wills of Greenwich inhabitants within the time I was interested in (1700s- 1800s), if I could find the death of Workman Hoskins then they could search for a will for me. This might reveal some important details about his business. Unfortunately this was easier said than done! After painstaking searches through burial registers and indexes, Workman appears to have slipped away.

However, I did find out that he had attempted to do a waterman's apprenticeship first, in his late teens, and had lied about his age by seven years. Needless to say he didn't finish his apprenticeship - perhaps because his master found out. This information came from the indexed watermans' records by Rob Cottrell. Workman next appears on record in 1799, baptising three sons at St. Alphege - and stating his occupation as a boat builder.

I have since found out through baptism and marriage registers at the same church, that Workman's elder brother, Samuel Hoskins (born 1746) was a qualified shipwright. Samuel had done his apprenticeship with a man called Tarry, at Greenwich from 1760- to 1786 - an extremely long apprenticeship. He paid quarterage fees from 1789 until 1798 and during this time he apprenticed his own two sons, Samuel David and Workman (a popular Christian name in my family).

The shipwrights' apprenticeship information was given to me over the phone by a librarian at the Docklands Museum. It was taken from a book called 'Records of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights and their Apprentices' by C.H.Ridge and A.C.Knight in two volumes. These books are obviously out of print now but the Guildhall Library also holds copies of them - and also the actual shipwrights' records. The Docklands Librarian was extremely knowledgeable and interested in early boat building. He thought that my family would have worked from the foreshore and possibly made waterman's skiffs and barges - however he did reprimand me for not taking more information from the rate books that I had looked at!

From the burial registers at St.Alphege I was surprised to see that Samuel had died in the workhouse in 1813. Although I went through the Poor House Minutes I couldn't find out why he had been admitted. I can only presume that he had a long term disability or was in debt.

Also from the burial registers I noted that all the descendants of Samuel, Samuel David and Workman died at Wood Wharf, while all the descendants from 'my' Workman died at Ballast Quay and Marlborough Street, 'My' Workman's youngest son, George James Hoskins appears to have run the business from Ballast Quay from the 1820s until 1852.

I looked through the rate books for Ballast Quay to try and pinpoint the dates when either George or his father started there. I could not believe how elusive they were! George only appeared once in the rate books - in 1825 when he paid '£10.00 a quarter for house and shop'. A librarian at Greenwich Local History Library thought that George probably had an 'arrangement' with someone - which is a disadvantage for me - and of course I didn't take a note of who he paid the money to on that rare occasion. However, in the Census returns, George is down as a boat builder at Ballast Quay until 1851 and is also in Pigot's Directories until 1852 at Union Wharf.

Another little interesting thing I noticed was that whilst looking through the marriage resisters, I saw a John Hoskins (Waterman) who married an Ann Corbett in 1765. I noted that the Corbetts were also boat builders, so I wondered whether boat builders and watermen did indeed have many advantageous 'arrangements'.

I am descended from Workman's eldest son, Thomas, who was a waterman in Marlborough Street. The last person to work on the river in my family was my grandfather, who was a lighterman at Erith.

Karen Day

....... and then of course there's Hoskins Street.



In our last issue we featured the historic fire boat - Massey Shaw.

Here is John Furlonger's description of her historic trip to Dunkirk in May 2000.

When in May 1940 the Admiralty asked for a fireboat to be sent to Dunkirk, the London Fire Brigade was overwhelmed by the volunteers who came forward. And so it was also with the Thames small boat owners - rudely interrupted as they were by the summary requisitioning of their beloved weekend pleasure craft, the snatching away of their cabin cruisers. Some boats taken were even smaller, hardly ships at all - these 'Little Ships of Dunkirk. They too came forward, not as would-be heroes but as ordinary people in whom this Dunkirk Spirit had long since earlier already taken up residence. This was to the the people themselves, hands-on, bringing the boys back home to fight another, ultimately victorious, day.

Over 800 'Little Ships' took part in 'Operation Dynamo' as the Dunkirk evacuation came to be known. Not all came from the Thames, not all were small. The London Fireboat Massey Shaw was 78ft long with a beam of 13ft 6inches. She had draft of only 3ft 9ins being specially designed for the London River and to be able to manoeuvre under all the Thames bridges and to navigate all the innumerable creeks, backwaters and gullies at all states of the tide. She had only every been to sea once before, on her delivery in 1934 from her makers at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Fortunately the Great God of the Sky and Deep looked kindly down upon the 'Little Ships', in early June 1940. In flat calm seas Massey Shaw took off some 600 soldiers from the Dunkirk beaches to larger vessels lying offshore. She returned directly to England with a further 102 souls on board.

60 years later the spirit is still manifest in ordinary people. Over the first weekend in June this year, more than 55 'Dunkirk Little Ships', including Massey Shaw, took part in a commemorative pilgrimage back to the beaches of Dunkirk. The last remaining member of the 1940 volunteer crew of Massey Shaw, R.J.W. 'Dick' Helyer, BEM, was feted, rightly so, at a send off for the fireboat from the London Fire Brigade River Station Pontoon at Lambeth. The return coincided for the very last time with the old solders reunion, the Dunkirk Veterans Association, on the beaches of Dunkirk. Royalty saw fit to attend. Grown men, including the fireboat crew, wept.

Although the Old Solders Association will no longer return to Dunkirk, the Little Ships intend to do so, again and again. After all Trafalgar Night is still celebrated! Despite both Neptune and the Great God of the Sky and the Deep doing their very best to deter the fireboat and the other 'Little Ships' from ever reaching Dunkirk this year, the proud guardian of Massey Shaw, The Massey Shaw Preservation Society, are determined to be on the next pilgrimage, probably in 2005.

The Woolwich Ferry, not noted for being inclined to give way, actually stopped in both directions when Massey Shaw, returning from the Dunkirk commemoration to her home at Wood Wharf hard by c.s.Cutty Sark, hove into view. A tremendous salute followed as Massey Shaw glided between both stopped ferries - not only from their horns but also from the massed ranks of vehicles lined up on the decks. People Spirit.


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 7LR (020 8858 9482)


2nd September, GLIAS Walk, Southall, meet Southall Station, 2.45 pm. Leader Geoff Donald.

5th September, Crossness Open Day. Guided visits from 1.30 pm. Book 020 8311 3711 or

6th September, DHG visit to Docklands Library and Archive. Space limited so ring 020 7515 1162 if you want to go.

10th September, Woodlands Farm Summer Open Day

10th September, Crossness, Engines Trust AGM

16th September, Crossness Engines at Thamesmead Show

17th September, Woodlands Farm Mammal Training Day. 9.30-16.00. Ring Iain on 020 8691 8979 or the office on 020 8319 8900.

19/21st September, Engineering in the Millennium, Newcomen Society, Science Museum, SW7 - contact the Society for info.


23rd September, London Open House Day (a local selection)

Royal Military Academy, Red Lion Lane. Wyatt 1806. 10 am -1 pm. Only 30 at any time.

Woolwich Town Hall, Wellington Street. 10 am - 1 pm. Florid baroque.


24th September, London Open House Day (a further local selection)

85 Genesta Road. Lubetkin's first project in England. Terraced house. Open 1 pm - 5 pm. Only 20 at any one time.

Blackheath Halls. 10 am - 5 pm. Concert Hall by William Webster

East Greenwich Pleasaunce, Chevening Road. 11 am - 3 pm - Cemetery for the inmates of the Royal Hospital.

Gala Club, 186 Powis Street. Granada Cinema decorated by Komisarjevky. 10 am - 11.30 am. Only 20 at any one time.


24th September, Crossness Open Day. Guided visits from 1.30 pm. Book 020 8311 3711 or

25th September, Pluto and After - the UK Pipelands Network. Roger Morgan. Croydon NHSS. Methodist Hall, Addison Road, Croydon. 7.45 pm.

25th September, PS Waverley at Millennium Dome Pier, 12.30 pm

26th September, New Troy and Londinium by John Clark, SLAS 7.30 pm. Hawkstone Hall, Kennington Road, SE1

27th September, The Aerial Man of Greenwich, Anthony Cross. Greenwich Hist.Soc. Blackheath High School, Vanbrugh Park, SE3. 7.15 pm for 7.30 pm.

27th September, Stones and Co. of Deptford. Peter Gurnett. Time & Talents, St.Marychurch Street, Rotherhithe. 7.30 pm. £1 donation.

29th September, Julian Watson on Place names in the Hundred of Blackheath. LLHS, 7.45 pm, Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13


3rd October, Bromley Postal Services before 1840 by Mike English. Methodist Church Hall, North St., Bromley. 7.45. £1 entry.

4th October, DHG visit to LT Museum

7th October, Ceremony on the Thames. National Maritime Museum, 10-30 am - 4.15 pm. £28. Info. 020 8312 6747.

24th October, The Spitalfields Excavation, Chris Thomas, SLAS, 7.30 pm, Hawkstone Hall, Kennington Road, SE1

25th October - Ghosts of Greenwich by Geraldine Charles. Greenwich Historical Society, 7.15 Music Centre at Blackheath High School, Vanbrugh Park, SE3. £2.

27th October, New Cross and other Kentish Turnpikes, Dr. Shirley Black, LLHS, 7.45pm, Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13

30th October, Docklands Treasure Hunt around the Surrey Docks - Friends of Ironbridge Gorge Museum. Details Chris Grabham 01582 546759


1st November, Paul Calvocressi on English Heritage's Role in Docklands, DHG, Room C, Museum of London Educ. Dept., London Wall, EC2, 6.00 pm

24th November, Does Lewisham have a Future? Bob Dunn, LLHS, 7.45 pm, Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13

28th November, Shoemaking in Shakespearean Southwark, Rosemary Weinstein SLAS, 7.30 pm, Hawkstone Hall, Kennington Road, SE1


6th Dec, Christmas Quiz DHG, Room C, Museum of London Educ. Dept., London Wall, EC2, 6.00 pm



4 & 5th January, The Man Who Divided the World. Life and Times of George Biddell Airey. 10.30 am - 4.15 pm. National Maritime Museum. Information on 020 8312 6747.


24th February, Seapower Ashore. 10.30 am - 4.15 pm. National Maritime Museum.Info. 020 8312 6747.

27th March, The History of Croydon Airport, SLAS, 7.30 pm, Hawkstone Hall, Kennington Road, SE1


24th March, Finding Time.The role of Greenwich in the measurement of Time. 10.30 am - 4.15 pm. National Maritime Museum.Info. 020 8312 6747


5th May, Thames People. 10.30 am - 4.15 pm. National Maritime Museum. Info. 020 8312 6747.

13th May, Woodlands Farm Summer Open Day.

22nd May, Commercial Ice Wells and Ice Works. Malcolm Tucker. SLAS, 7.30 pm, Hawkstone Hall, Kennington Road, SE1

1/3 June Managing the Thames Estuary. 10.30 am - 4.15 pm. National Maritime Museum. Info. 020 8312 6747.



Historic Architecture in London and Local Boroughs - 25th September - 4th December. 10.30 am - 12.15 pm. at Mycenae House. Goldsmiths Course. Ring 020 7919 7200

Industrial History of Southwark - Tues 31st Oct - 28th Nov. 2.30 pm - 4.30 pm John Harvard Library, 211 Borough High Street, SE1. Goldsmiths Course. 020 7919 7200

The Hidden Struggle. Admiralty Intelligence. Tuesdays, 10.30 am - 12.30 pm from 10th Oct. National Maritime Museum. Info. 020 8312 6747.

Thames & Trade. Wednesdays, 10.30 am - 12.30 pm from 11th October 2000. National Maritime Museum. Info. 020 8312 6747.

Vanishing Sail. Film Series. Wednesdays, 2.00 pm - 4.30 pm from 11th October 2000. National Maritime Museum. Info. 020 8312 6747.

Royal Dockyards. Tuesdays 10.30 am - 12.30 pm. from 30th January 2001. National Maritime Museum. Info. 020 8312 6747.


On the River - Age Exchange, 11 Blackheath Village, SE3. Mon-Fri 10 am - 5 pm. Free. Memories of the Thames & Docks. Until November 2000.


For those who want to do an action re-creation of actual traditional work - Woodlands Farm can give you a farming experience any Sunday morning! Or any day, really. Heavy horses - hay making - mending fences - pulling ragwort - all the fun of real work with none of the wages!

Call Iain on 020 691 8979 or the Office on 020 8319 8900.


Officers and Committee are:

Chair - Jack Vaughan

Secretary - Mary Mills

Vice-Chair - Hugh Lyon

Treasurer - Steve Daly

Committee Member - Alan Parfrey

Auditor - Juliet Cairns

Subscription renewals will fall due in October 2000.
Subscriptions are £10 and should be sent to:

Steve Daly, 5 Pankhurst House, Garrison Close, Shooters Hill, SE18 4JE

This newsletter was produced for Greenwich Industrial History Society
Views expressed in it are those of the authors and not of the Society.

Contributions (within reason) are always welcome, send to Mary Mills (address below).



Meetings as advertised at the head of this newsletter will be held at;

The Old Bakehouse, (at back of the) Age Exchange Reminiscence Centre, 11 Blackheath Village, London, SE23 9LA.

Do not go to the Reminiscence Centre itself - The Old Bakehouse is at the back, in Bennett Park. Walk into Bennett Park and turn left into a yard. The Old Bakehouse is the building on your right. The entrance is straight ahead. By the way - there is an urn and cups - have we a volunteer who could make tea/coffee for members?



The Web version has been created by;

.... David Riddle, Goldsmiths College

Space courtesy of Goldsmiths College, University of London