Volume 1, Issue 2, June 1998










** information on National Enamels (Norman Road) ** support for restoration of Virginia Settlers site, Blackwall ** support for blue plaque scheme for Greenwich sites ** contact and information on Redpath Brown ** contact and information on Naval dockyards ** support for listing of Greenwich Power Station jetty ** information on Fuel Research Station ** information on Greenwich Foot Tunnel ** support against closure of Gas Museum ** help with stall at Crossness Open Day.


7th July 1998, 7.30pm
by Rod LeGear (Kent Underground Research Group). East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10.

11th July
Open Day Crossness Engines
GIHS has booked stall space there - help needed please ring Mary 0181 858 9482

15th September 1998 7.30 pm
East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10

13th October 1998, 7.30 pm
by Prof Dave Perrett (Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society & Association for Industrial Archaeology)
East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10

1st December 1998 7.30 pm
by Paul Calvocoressi (English Heritage)
East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10

12th January 1999
STONES OF DEPTFORD by Peter Gurnett.
Venue to be arranged.


About fifty people attended the third meeting of the Society to hear Andrew Turner speak about Redpath Brown. Numbers meant a move into the hall at East Greenwich Community Centre - apologies to those who couldn't hear, we will try and sort this problem out. Other items were:

  • have a stall at the Crossness Engines Open Day
  • circulate copies of the Greenwich Cultural Plan
  • thanks to Goldsmiths College for putting the Newsletter on their Web site
  • circulate membership and subscription forms
  • Sue Bullevant spoke on the Borough Conservation Group
  • draw up a register of research interests on a map


This list of meetings and events has been culled from leaflets and notices.
If you want your meeting listed here please contact 24 Humber Road, SE3 (0181 858 9482)


Greenwich Borough Museum,
232 Plumstead High Street, SE18.
Admission free. Mon 2-7, Tue, Thur., Fri., Sat 10-1, 2-5. 0181 855 3240

North Woolwich Railway Museum, open every weekend

House Mill, Bromley by Bow, open every Sunday 2.00pm-4.00pm, £2 admission

18th July - 31st August. Transports of Delight. Exhibition on local transport history. Hall Place, Bourne Road, Bexley

7th July Crossness Engines. Appointment only by Tel. (Tues-Sun 9am-4pm) 0181 211 3711
Adm. £2 adults, £1.50 Children

11th July Crossness Engines Open Day. Thames Water Belvedere Road, Abbey Wood (Minibus from Abbey Wood Station). £2 adults, Families £4, Concessions and under 16s £1.50. No unaccompanied children under 16. Flat shoes essential, wheel chair access, free car park. 10.30am-4 pm

11th July Tsar Peter the Great walk. Meet 10.00am or 2.00pm at Cutty Sark figurehead. Greenwich Tour Guides. £4 (concs £3) details from Gill on 0181 301 0067

11th July Southwark History Fair. Chumleigh Gardens, Burgess Park, Albany Road, SE5 10am-4pm

14th July Crossness Engines (see above)

18th July Crayford Pumping Station - flower study walk Bexley Wildlife Trust. Ring Irene Welton 0181 300 3284

25th July Tsar Peter the Great walk (see above)

20th July

Docklands Forum river trip
3.00pm Canary Wharf - Tower - Canary Wharf
5.00pm - Dome - Canary Wharf. Free.
On-board experts incl. on heritage and riverside features. Ring Mary, Docklands Forum 0171 377 1822

1st August, GLIAS walk, Little Venice & westwards, meet Warwick Avenue Station, 2.30p.m.

4th August Crossness Engines (see above)

8th August Tsar Peter the Great walk (see above)

16th August Crossness Engines (see above)

17th August

Docklands Forum afternoon trip via DLR from Tower Gateway to Island Gardens, via Canary Wharf.
Topical presentations on the way. Private reception, New Millennium Experience Visitors Centre, Greenwich, for participants.
Ring Mary, Docklands Forum 0171 377 1822

22nd August Tsar Peter the Great walk (see above)

23rd August Guided nature walk to Thamesmead and the Royal Arsenal 'last chance before it is totally decimated' Greenwich Wildlife Trust. John 0181 692 6811

4th September - 11th September. Association for Industrial Archaeology, Annual Conference at Newton Abbott. SAE David Alderton, 48 Quay Street, Halesworth, Suffolk, IP19 8EY

5th September Woolwich Dockyard event. Contact Philip MacDougall. 01705 467449

5th September Tsar Peter the Great walk (see above)

10-13th September International Early Railways Conference. St.John's College, Durham: Enquiries NEEHI (Railway Conference), Dept. History, 43 North Bailey, Durham, DH1 3EX

12th September GLIAS walk, Crystal Palace, meet Crystal Palace Station, 2.30p.m.

12th September, Woolwich Antiquarians visit to Duxford, the aviation side of the Imperial War Museum (no contact details advertised)

15th September Crossness Engines (see above)

19th September, Charlton Society, Mary Mills on IA of the Greenwich Peninsula, Charlton House, 2.30p.m.

26th September Tsar Peter the Great walk. (see above)

27th September Crossness Engines (see above)

October - Cinema and Theatre Association Visit to Woolwich. Details CTA 0181 800 8233

13th October Crossness Engines (see above)

15th October Exploring The Metropolis: New Ideas in London History. Contact Centre for Metropolitan History, Room 351, Senate House, Malet Street, WClE 7HU

25th October Crossness Engines (see above)

22nd - 25th October, Glasgow, Conference on British Shipbuilding, Newcomen Society, Science Museum, SW7

28th October Lewisham Local History Society, Peter the Great and the Russian Navy by Peter Gurnett, at The Shaftesbury Centre, Frankham Street, SE8 at 7.45p.m.

4th November. Docklands History Group, The Docklands Railway Lewisham Extension by Ian Page, at Room C, Education Department, Museum of London, EC2Y SHN 6.00p.m.

10th November Crossness Engines (see above)

22nd November Crossness Engines (see above)

8th December Crossness Engines (see above)

Wood Wharf

No 32 Wood Wharf, Pope & Bond is the site of the last traditional barge repair workshop on the Thames. Sadly the company went into voluntary liquidation during the summer of 1996 after the collapse of their refuse lighter repair contract.

Groundwork's local programme managers and officers from the Creekside SRB Executive Team were asked to see if these unique facilities could be saved. The then owners wanted to redevelop the site but were supportive of investigations into the site's historic value and how these heritage assets could be retained as intrinsic elements of redevelopment of the whole site.

A technical and interpretative research study was undertaken by local building conservator, Steve Jones, for Groundwork. A complementary analysis of the tourism potential of the site was undertaken by Duncan Tyler and Martin Thomas of South Bank University for the Creekside Renewal SRB

An outline proposal for a heritage sensitive redevelopment of the whole site was prepared utilising the findings of both studies. It aimed to provide a positive influence on owners, developers and planners about the future of this valuable site.


In the first half of the 18th century, the time of the appearance of the first structures on or close to the site, the surrounding land was a mixture of marsh and reed beds known as Brooks Marsh. It is probable that this land had at an earlier time been farm land, meadow or pasture, but as a consequence of rising river levels and poor maintenance was no longer sufficiently well drained*. No site-specific documentary evidence detailing activity or structures prior to the end of the 19th century was discovered in the course of this study. Careful analysis of a selected sequence of maps does however provide a reliable history of the development of the site within its immediate environmental context.

Wood Wharf today (photo)No roads or structures are evident to the west of the group of buildings identified as Billingsgate on the survey map of 1695. On Rocque's map of 1746 a road or track is clearly marked running west parallel to the river bank and a new structure is evident which, allowing for the vagaries of scale, would appear to be on or about the location in which we are interested. Probably the most exciting and evocative map of all those examined is M. Searles survey map of the Medclafe Estate dated 1777. Here we encounter for the first time the name Wood Wharf identifying an isolated group of buildings directly on the river's edge and again on or very close to the study site.

More important still is a clear declaration of function and activity: 'Boat Building' The marsh behind and to the west is being drained by the means of dykes and a sluice. It would appear that the initial seed of riparian industry, commerce which within fifty years would grow to envelope all the riverside land between Greenwich Town and the River Ravensbourne, was sown in both material fabric and the practice of skilled labour at the very site under investigation. Morris' map of 1832 illustrates the rapid pace of expansion to the south and west of the group of buildings at the western end of the riverfront road. The road itself has now taken on the name Wood Wharf and the presence of a gas works on the western promontory points to the pace of technological change. The current street plan is clearly evident, Wood Wharf together with Thames Street, Bridge Street and Horseferry Road. The exact position of the site can be easily located with the buildings at number 32 displaying a similar footprint to those standing now. Of equal importance is the identification of a ferry which departed from the end of Horseferry Road. Established by an Act of Parliament in 1812, the ferry was specifically for the transport of horses and vehicles. It should be noted that at this time the Horseferry Road continued right to the river's edge across the land which is the present day site of number 28 Wood Wharf.

1869 Orndnance Survey MayThe greater detail of the Ordnance Survey Map of 1869 reveals blocks of dense residential development on either side of Thames Street and the wharves, jetties, shipyards and plethora of riverfront buildings abutting the Thames foreshore. A foundry, ironworks and two breweries are also in evidence interspersed with the residential fabric. The footprint of the cottage on the south side of the site now appears to be that of the presently extant structure ami a second storey element to No.32 can be seen to bridge the alleyway as it does today.

The Ordnance Survey map of 1895 records little change to the detail of the site of No.28 and nature of activity on the adjacent water front with the marked exception of the railed landing station and the massive concrete slipway running down to the low water mark. These two structures and their opposite parts on the northern shore were installed as part of the mechanically audacious, but commercially unsuccessful, Greenwich Steam Ferry which opened in 1888. By the time the Ordnance Survey Map of 1916 was produced a new structure has been built on the site of number 32, the exact replication of the current footprint, and the bridging first floor element confirms the arrival of the present day building. Though the last of the large shipyards to the west has now gone, the foreshore east towards the town centre is still dotted with a variety of small buildings, wharves and jetties. The current structures at numbers 30 and 28 are still not in evidence and the demise of the steam ferry at the end of the previous century, though the concrete slipway still remains, marked the end of a site significant as a ferry crossing point for the lower reaches of the Thames.


The importance of the Wood Wharf site as the location of the first post-medieval development of the Thames waterfront irnmediately to the west of Greenwich Town has been firmly established The commercial and technological imperative that drove the following expansion was that of industrialisation. It is interesting however that the earliest documented activity on this site was a pre industrial craft the skilful practice of which had exerted a powerful influence on the history of the British Isles for more than 2000 years. Searles map of 1777 clearly identifies Wood Wharf as a Boat Building yard. To what extent can we establish a continuity of this practice in and about this yard? It would indeed be unusual for a single small site to be exploited without interruption for a single purpose, despite changes in technology, design, demand and practice, over a period of more than two hundred years. Indeed, we are told that on the Laurie map of 1821 Wood Wharf is marked as a timber yard. 2

By this time all along the foreshore east of the site was being developed as wharves with jetties and associated river front buildings. Here goods were unloaded either from seagoing craft accessing the foreshore on the top of the tide, or more often, both loaded and unloaded to and from smaller craft that transported the bulk of goods and individuals up and down the Thames. By number, by far the greatest proportion of boats plying trade on the Thames would be such small craft, under 30 or 35 foot: cutters, gigs, lighters, wherries, and small fishing craft such as the Greenwich Peter boat. It has been suggested that the absence of slipways indicates that boats were not actually constructed along this stretch of the Thames during the l9th century however such an assertion cannot be sustained. Craft of this type under 35ft required no slip to be launched they are built as close to the water as possible preferably under cover and manhandled to the waters edge, just as they are in daily use for their succeeding working life. Any of the properties along Wood Wharf, the road running east to Greenwich Town, would be suitable for the fabrication of such craft and they must have been built in large numbers What is different about the original Wood Wharf site is that it is blessed with a particularly firm and shallow sloping fore shore which due to its position at the centre of the curve of the river on the outside of the bend, is the area least prone to silting. As a consequence it is an ideal place to beach a boat for maintenance and repairs. Given a choice this is the best place between Greenwich and the Ravensbourne to carry out the fabrication and maintenance of small wooden craft.

By the second half of the 19th century iron plate and, later, steel were beginning to replace wood as the material of choice for the manufacture of large and medium sized vessels (note the Iron Shipbuilding Yards to the west of Wood Wharf on the OS maps of 1865 and 1895). In the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century a huge number of flat bottomed barges and lighters of both wood and iron or steel construction transported materials up and down the Thames and the east coast. The Wood Wharf foreshore provides an ideal location for the maintenance of such craft without the expense of cranes, slips or dry docks The occupation of the extant building at number 32 by specialist barge and lighter repair yards, can be traced back to the time of its construction just after the turn of the century; Percy Talbot, Whitehair (who specialised in the transport of grain to the flour mills in Deptford Creek), Union Lighterage and most recently Pope & Bond. The form and layout of the building suggests that it was purpose built for this activity The remarkable similarity of the preceding structure represented on the OS maps of 1895 and 1865 would support the supposition that there is a direct link to the earlier days of boat building and repair at Wood Wharf.

Only thirty five years ago there were six barge repair yards between Wood Wharf and the entrance to Greenwich foot tunnel. The unfortunate demise of Pope & Bond brought to an end the local practice of a craft which long preceded the industrial revolution, initiated the industrialisation of this section of the Greenwich riverfront and all but weathered the post industrial decline. Should Greenwich lose from its river front both the site and the skills that most poignantly demonstrates the human bridge between the inevitable cycle of social, technological and economic change and the timeless ebb and flow of the tidal Thames we will be forever impoverished. When as a society we acknowledge the true worth of river that lies at the heart of our city as an amenity for leisure and sport and sustainable transport, as we inevitably will, where will the industry that services that new demand reside if the skills and sites are no longer with us?


It has long been supposed that there have been ferries from Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs from the earliest times. The evidence for the exact sites at which different ferry services embarked and disembarked passengers on the southern shore and how and when these locations changed is a little sketchy. Potters Ferry crossing from Billingsgate to a landing point on the northern shore at the approximate location of the termination of Ferry Street is indicated on tbe 1695 survey map.


Greenwich Steam Ferry from 'The Engineer' December 2nd 1892, pp 487-488

It seems this, or another, ferry also ran from Garden Stairs. It is reported that there are legal records of transfers of ownership of these various ferries dating back to at least 1570. (6) A ferry at Greenwich that was capable, in favourable conditions, of transferring horses and carriages across the Thames is mentioned in Pepys' diary and a legal document dated 1762 grants the rights to watermen of Greenwich to provide "passage for men, horses, beasts, and all other cattle and carriages whatsoever". In 1812 an Act of Parliament was passed creating a statutory ferry for horses and vehicles and it is around this time that Horseferry Street first appears on maps. The end of Horseferry Road, which is now the site of number 28 Wood Wharf, must have run directly onto the sandy foreshore so that regardless of the state of the tide a horse and carriage could be driven onto the ferry boat. The Horseferry continued to operate from this site until it was closed by the Metropolitan Board of Works Act of 1883. This was not however the last ferry to operate across the Thames from Wood Wharf. The 13th of February 1888 saw the opening of by far the most ambitious and mechanically daring ferry operation system ever to be seen on the River Thames. The principle utilised to effect the smooth transfer of passengers, horses, carriages and even railway trucks onto a ferry steamer whatever the state of the tide had been first employed in the USA. It is a truly remarkable testament to the ambitions of the late 19th century engineer. This device is described in some detail in an article published in 2nd December 1892 edition of The Engineer. In short, a concrete slip 350ft long and 53ft wide ran from the end of Horseferry Road down the foreshore. A massive landing stage weighing 270 tons travelled up and down this slip on rails with the flood and ebb of the tide. Two travelling platforms each weighing 125 tons shuttled back and forth between the end of Horseferry Road and the landing stage transferring passengers, horses and carriages in either direction. A duplicate of this awesome construction was of course operating on the opposite shore and between these landing stages steamed two purpose-built ferries. The ferries themselves were technologically very advanced being double-ended with steam driven twin screws at each end.

Underneath the end of Horseferry Road on the site of no. 28 a large chamber housed steam engines which through a system of gearing turned drums so as to draw the landing stage and travelling platforms up and down the slip by means of 4 inch diameter steel cables. In order to reduce the work of the engines the landing stage and platforms were counterbalanced by 20 ton weights which travelled down three iron lined shafts which are sunk over 145ft into ground beneath the chamber. Despite its mechanical ingenuity the ferry was never a commercial success principally due to insufficient traffic. It closed between 1890 and 1892 and finally closed for good in about 1899 after less than ten years active life.

The history of Greenwich and of the lives of the people of Greenwich is inextricably bound to the river and the movement of people and goods up and down and across the river. The history of the Thames watermen who plied their trade in wooden boats of the type that were being made in the original boatyard at Wood Wharf is one of slow demise with the incremental emergence of two earth-bound forms the bridge and later the tunnel. By the end of the 19th century engineers had taken the science and art of both bridge and tunnel design and construction to heights never before imagined. It seems deeply ironic that in their enthusiasm to tame the eternal cycle of the tidal Thames and construct such an ingenious development of a system of transposition that was all too visibly in decline as a result of the application of those very same skills to a more efficient resolution of the problem.

Artist's impression of the section through the engine chmber. Note worm drive to the central cable drum delivering motive power to the landing stage which crept slowly up and down the foreshore with the tide.


From the river the varied form and massing of this small complex of buildings, its direct physical association with the foreshore, a sand and pebble beach revealed with the fall of the tide, all in combination present a scene once characteristic of the entire west Greenwich riverfront and the banks of many other Thames reaches. Approaching and walking across the site along Wood Wharf itself, between and under the riverfront buildings and the houses and workshops tucked in close behind, is to experience a streetscape of a character all but lost to the Thames riverside. This is the last remaining 25m of a narrow road that twisted between and beneath riverfront buildings eastward to Billingsgate Street and Greenwich town centre the first road along the west Greenwich riverfront and the seed of the street plan extending south to Bridge Street. Dreadnought, Victoria and Norway wharves and the remaining associated warehouses and workshops to the west will be lost or irrevocably changed with the proposed Greenwich Reach development and to the east Highbridge Wharf is undergoing similar change.


The building now on the site of number 32 was erected at or around the turn of the century. It comprises two ground floor workshop spaces either side of the roadway, a third larger first floor workshop facing the river behind which is a unit sub-divided to provide locker room office and kitchen facilities. Purpose built, probably based on a pre-existing structure an archetypal form of which there are no other examples left on Greenwich waterfront. The trade practice for which it was designed and built and the activity it serviced are a testament to a pre-industrial past and the unbroken history of boat building and repair on and around this site. The material and form of its structure and utility of its external detailing are characteristic of construction practice towards the end of the great industrial age which had changed forever the once marshy land to the west and south. The rear workshop still houses a forge tools and machinery employed to cut and form metal sheet and bar necessary to maintain the most recent incarnation of working Thames cargo vessels: steel barges and lighters. This building, and if at all possible some aspects of its intended function, should be retained. The special nature of this small section of tidal foreshore, a site naturally suited to the repair and maintenance of river craft, preceded and promoted the landside development. The same characteristics of gently sloping, firm sand and minimal silt deposits were the prerequisites for a vehicular ferry. The riverside buildings and foreshore are both physically and historically interdependent The most conspicuous reminder of the final stage in the history of the site as a ferry crossing point, the concrete slip, completes the connection between the landside structures and tidal foreshore. With the demise of the ferry the slipway was immediately utilised as an additional facility for the beaching and repair of barges and lighters. Despite the passage of more than 100 years, and at least one direct hit by bomb during World War II, the slipway is still in remarkably good condition, its sturdy proportions a remarkable testament to the scale of the moving landing-stage which serviced the long past.


The large chamber beneath the buildings currently occupying the site of numbers 28 and 30 which housed the engines and counterweights for the moving landing stage and travelling platforms together with the concrete slipway is the only remaining material evidence of a great 19th century engineering edifice. Above this structure, like a camouflage net over a military bunker, is a hotchpotch of early and mid 19th century structures. The massive counterweight shafts descending nearly 50 ft into the ground below, roof beams formed from riveted steel plate and angle supporting the woodblock roadway above, and the circular chambers in the retaining walls which formed part of the boiler system, as well as the chamber itself, are all of archaeological significance. What is more, the 190m chamber which was also used as an air raid shelter during World War II, could be the ideal environment within which to recreate and recall Wood Wharf past life on the late 19th century industrial riverfront; sailing barges and barge men, lighters and lightermen, the steam ferry and its moving landing-stage; before the age of steam, ferrymen and watermen pulling on their oars against the flooding Thames in slender clinker craft the origins of which date back to vessels of the distant past, the longboats of the Norse raiders and settlers from a previous millennium.


Past and present economic development and planning strategies for this and neighbouring riparian sites as well as Strategic Planning Guidelines for the Thames, point to the retention and exploitation of these assets as an essential part of any proposal for future development. The primary economic activities in Central Greenwich are tourism, leisure and retail. A recent study has identified the 'lack of any interpretation or presentation of the history of Greenwich'. The lives of the people of Greenwich have historically been greatly influenced by, and inextricably bound to, the riverfront and its activities and businesses, traditional craft and the people who built and worked them. The ideal option combination for Wood Wharf would be:

The preservation of the existing fabric of the workshop at number 32 Wood Wharf and the associated tidal foreshore as a centre for the conservation, repair and fabrication of traditional craft.

The exploitation of the remaining elements (slipway and engine chamber) of the Great Greenwich Steam Ferry as the core around which to present a dynamic history of the riverfront at Greenwich and promote future uses of the River Thames far transport and pleasure.

Utilisation of the scenic and atmospheric potential of the location to generate further income and employment from a riverfront restaurant

A separate South Bank University study into the viability of sensitive development suggests that such a combination could be viable and would provide a missing element of the Greenwich Tourism Product.


The site is adjacent to a major proposed development (Greenwich Reach 2000), an estate regeneration project (Meridian Estate) and an environmental improvement programme (Cutty Sark Gardens). In addition a proposal to build a boardwalk across the front of the site's tidal foreshore has received outline planning permission. Preservation and untilisation could;


The historic significance of the site, both by association and in material fabric, its potential as a viable tourist attraction and the private and public aspiration to recognise and utilise these values have been clearly established. The immediate 'environment' is complex and there remains uncertainty about proposals for surrounding landholdings and the potential impact of the proposed boardwalk on future use of Wood Wharf. Given these pressures and the diversity of interests in the future of the site it will not be easy to achieve and maintain a broad consensus. Compromises will be necessary if all parties are to benefit from the redevelopment of the site and the following broad objectives are to be met:

These are realistic, particularly if the various parties, including the local authority, consider a number of potential options for land and planning deals around the site Notes.

1. G.Brown 'An Archaeological Desk Top Assessment' for Greenwich Reach Developments Ltd. Pre-Construct Archaeology, April 1994.
2. Ibid
3. Ibid
4. Woodlands Local History Library, file 'Greenwich Ferries'
5. Ibid
6. Ibid

Since this report was written, ownership of Wood Wharf has changed and, apparently, nothing has happened.
Further contributions on this subject are welcomed.

Extracts from Wood Wharf. A Life Preserver for the Working Thames. A Technical and Interpretative Study by Building Conservation Design, March 1997. by kind permission Deptford Discovery Team. Historical assessment by Steve Jones.


ASPECTS OF THE ARSENAL - the Royal Arsenal Woolwich

Edited by Beverley Burford and Julian Watson.

Aspects of the Arsenal, produced by the Greenwich Borough Museum has 10 chapters on different aspects of the history of the Royal Arsenal by different authors with particular knowledge of their subject. The aspects covered are:-

The Buildings of the Royal Arsenal
Tower Place
Paul Sandby R.A. 1731-1808 'Father of English watercolour'
'She can sew a flannel cartridge' in the Royal Arsenal Woolwich
The Royal Artillery in Woolwich -
A Brief History of the Transport System in the Royal Arsenal
The Arsenal and its Co-operative Connection
The Royal Arsenal workers and indepen dent Labour Representation
A Beacon in the Dark
Industrial relations in the Royal Arsenal.

Chapters are illustrated with Black and white photographs, drawings, maps and plans and there is a bibliography and an index. Aspects of the Arsenal is on sale at the price of £11.99 and is available directly from the Greenwich Borough Museum (p&p £1.50) or from W.H.Smith, Woolwich, and the University Bookshop, Woolwich.



BYGONE KENT - produced monthly by Meresborough Books of Rainham, Kent - has published so much about Greenwich and its industries that this list of articles will have to be continued later on. Here are some of the articles on Greenwich industry which have appeared up to a couple of years ago.

The Fire King of Greenwich
by Susan Pittman
Vol.2 No.3 March 1981
Merryweather's fire appliance business

The Southern Outfall Works, Crossness
by Robert Eastleigh
Vol.7 No.11 Nov 1986

Woolwich: Kent's First Royal Dockyard
by Philip MacDougall
Vol.2 No.10 Oct 1981

Erith's Tuppeny Trams. Pt 1.
by Robert L Easteigh
Vol.8 No.1 Jan 1987

Deptford: Former Royal Dockyard
by Philip MacDougall
Vol.2 No.11 Nov 1981

The Building of the Bostall Estate, Abbey Wood
by Rod LeGear
Vol.9 No.3 March 1988

Whitebait in the Thames
by Eric R. Swain
Vol.3 No.4 April 1982

The Bexley Urban District Tramways. Pt 1.
by Robert L Eastleigh
Vol.9 No.1 Jan 1988

A Place of Great Dread
by Susan E. King
Vol.3.No.6 June 1982
Shooters Hill and the turnpike

The Bexley Urban District Tramways. Pt 2.
by Robert L Eastletgh
Vol.9 No.2 Feb 1988

The Princess Alice
by Henry Green
Vol.4 No.4 April 1983
Famous shipping disaster

'As the Crow flies'
Milestones in Metropolitan Kent

by Bernard Brown
Vol.9 No.3 March 1988

A Visit to Woolwich
by Heny J. Gree
Vol.4 No.6 June 1983
A walk round central Woolwich.

The Other Woolwich Ferry
by Robert L Eastleigh
Vol.9 No.11 Nov 1988

Eltham Park.
The Story of a Station

by Jim Landergan
Vol.5 No.2 Feb 1984

Launching a Barge
by Iris Byce
Vol.13 No.1 Jan 1992
Lighter building at Cory's

The Trans Atlantic Telegraph Cables of 1865 and 1866.
by Arthur Joyce
Vol.5 No.5. May 1984

The Maritime Duties of London's Bobbies
by Bernard Brown
Vol.13 No.4 April 1992

The Royal Arsenal Woolwich
by P. Baigent
Vol.5 No.9 Sept 1984

The Deptford Turnpike Road
by Bernard Brown
Vol.13 No.5 May 1992

Shipbreaking at Woolwich
by Philip Banbury
Vol.5 No.9 Sept 1984

'Parte of Kent'.
The Development of North Woolwich
by Bernard Brown
Vol.14 No.1 Jan 1993

Castle & Sons Housing for the Woolwich Arsenal Munition Workers
by John Kennett
Vol.6 No.12 Dec. 1985

The Deptford Ferry
by Bernard Brown
Vol.14 No.8 Aug 1993

The Closure of Deptford and Woolwich Dockyards
by Philip MacDougall
Vol.7 No.4 April 1986

The Thirty-Nine Steps
by Bernard Brown
Vol.17 No.3 Jan 1996
Riverside stairs

Cable Manufacturing in Kent, Pt.1.
by Philip Banbury
Vol.7 No.7 July 1986

The Epic Story of the Effluent Vessels Pt.1
by Anthony Lane
Vol.18 No.8 Aug 1997

Cable Manufacturing in Kent. Pt.2.
by Philip Banbury
Vol.7 No.9 Sept 1986

A disaster in Blackheath Tunnel
by John Hilton
Vol.18 No.8 Aug 1997
Railway crash.

Deptford. The Remains of a Naval Base
by Philip MacDougall
Vol.7 No.9 Sept 1986

The Epic Story of the Effluent Vessels Pt.2 by Anthony Lane
Vol.18 No.9 Sept 1997


INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY NEWS is published quarterly for members of the Association for Industrial Archaeology. The Summer 1998 edition has printed in full our 'press release' announcing the setting up of the Greenwich Society. In a review of IA News in Greater London the Society is mentioned again - with particular reference to the 'Dome' and the industrial remains which it will cover. Articles in the Bulletin cover as far away as Upper Silesia and - much nearer home - an excellent article on the watercress industry at Springhead, outside Gravesend.

INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW is the journal of the AIA. The 1998 volume contains many impressive articles - although the general drift gives the impression that industry stopped somewhere short of Watford. London itself is hardly mentioned - let alone Greenwich and Woolwich. Subjects include - wooden wagonway in Sunderland - edge runners in the British gunpowder industry - Fairbairn's influence on Stephen's bridge designs - John Farey technical author - Silver End Model Village - ICI coal to oil plant - Lodz textile mills - and the water supply of Antwerp. [Details of membership from The Wharfage, Ironbridge, Telford, Shrops., TF8 7AW]

GLIAS NEWSLETTER 176 (June 1998) (unusually thin) contains just one mention of Greenwich industries. An article on the back page describes food additives as 'an important component of the London IA scene'. In this context the author describes the 'specialised tailored products made by Amylum UK'. Other articles draw attention to sites outside Greenwich - a National Inventory of War Memorials - early electric tramways at Northfleet - and docks near Heathrow Junction. [Enquiries about GLIAS membership to Sue Hayton, 31 The High Street, Farnborough Village, Orpington, BR6 7BQ ]



Sylvia Macartney &John West

Chapter One - THE EARLY SITE

"That area of land roughly triangular in shape bounded by the railway embankment to the south-west, Conington Road and Silk Mills path to the east and the small bridge over the Ravensbourne to the south, is one of the most historic sites in Lewisham. A Bronze Age axe head and bones, thought to be those of a wolf; have been unearthed and the fragments of pottery and tiles found nearby suggest that it may have been a Roman site. Here was once one of the great fields of the Manor of Lewisham called Sundermead, corrupted in modern times to Sundy Meadow or Thundery Mead, and across the river was the field known as Loots, Locks or Lock Mead. From early times it has been associated with the tools and trappings of militarism and, therefore, whether intentionally or not, has been surrounded by an air of mystery. On this site, throughout the centuries, has stood a mill whose product encompassed the romance of chivalry, the heroism of warfare, the beauty of silk and the splendour of precious metal.

In the Domesday Survey of 1080-1086, England's first ever-public record, about 5,600 mills are listed Eleven of these were in Lewisham, on the Ravensbourne, and one was on the site which, many centuries later, would be occupied by the Royal Armoury Mill and the Lewisham Silk Mills.

The River Ravensbourne rises at Caesar's Well on Keston Common and after being joined at Catford by the Pool river and then by the Quaggy at Lewisham, it winds on until it reaches the Thames at Depford Creek a total distance of nearly eleven miles.

The earliest mills on the Ravensbourne would have been somewhat primitive structures, built around a timberframe, with walls of wattle and daub and a roof of thatch. One simple type of mill, known as the Greek mill, dates from about 85 B.C, and derived its power from a horizontal waterwheel which, fixed to a vertical shaft, turned the millstones.

A second, more efftcient type of mill was inspired by a Roman architect and engineer, Vitravius, in the latter part of the first century B.C. His mill had a vertical waterwheel attached to a horizontal shaft, and power was now transmitted via gearing. This was the type that became common on the Ravensbourne. Working parts were made from wood, and since iron was scarce and therefore expensive, the bearings for the main drive shaft connected to the waterwheel would have been of stone, prepared by a local stonemason. The lower section of the wheel was immersed in the stream, and the force of water against flat wooden paddles fixed at intervals around its circumference, caused it to rotate. Almost certainly, corn mills of this basic type would only have worked a single pair of millstones......................"

How to read on ------ In 1979 the Lewisham Local History Society published a 26 page A5 booklet written by two of its members, and titled 'The Lewisham Silk Mills'. That booklet has been out-of-print for some years but now, following nineteen more years of meticulous research on the part of the authors, we are proud to have been entrusted with the task of publication, in association with GLIAS, of a greatly enlarged Second Edition. This new edition contains iv + 113 pages, with 24 illustrations, in 9.5" x 6.5" (242 mm x 165 mm) format, burst bound in a heavy gauge gloss-laminated card cover with fold-in back.

Contents - The Early Site - The Royal Armoury Mill - Swords And Muskets - The Royal Small Arms Factory - Robert Arnold Silk Thowster - The First Stantons - Gold and Silver Wyre-Drawing - The Second Stantons- into the Twentieth Century - Workers at the Royal Small Arms Factory - Trades at the Mill - Mill Employees - Stanton Family Pedigree

Lewisham Local History Society can offer you copies at the very competitive price of £6.45 (p&p included). For quantities of ten or more we can offer trade discount. Cheques should be made payable to Lewisham Local History Society, and sent to LLHS Publications, 2 Bennett Park, Blackheath Village, London SE3 9RB. For more information, phone Tom at 0181 852 0219



From Alan Palfrey

I have been thinking very seriously about the direction which the Society should be taking. Should we just have meetings with talks, or should we actively go out and find sites and industries to research? Should it be left to individuals to do their own research, or should the Society offer support - or perhaps take on projects to be done jointly? Can we share information about our interests and what can we do to help each other? I would like to see us setting up a register of members interests and, perhaps, flagging this up on a big map on the wall. It was a good idea to pass a book round at the last meeting but we need something people can see. Perhaps at each meeting we could have an 'Open Forum' session where people can talk about what they are doing and ask for help.

I would like to flag up my own interest in National Enamels which was in Norman Road - in later years it was Vickery's. Has anyone any information or pictures about this site and those who worked there?


From Michael Dunmow, Crossness Engines Trust

Many thanks for the 1st issue - it looks very promising. I'm sure you'll resolve the pictures problem. Best wishes.


From David Cuflley, North West Kent Family History Society

Thank you for your letter telling us about the founding of GIHS. Please convey NWK FHS's congratulations to your members. Most people do not realise that Family Historians cover not only the details of their families but also the social and occupational information associated with them. As an example of this Jean Strike one of our Vice Presidents runs an index of Papermakers and is very knowledgeable on this industry. I run the Brickmakers Index which lists brickfield workers and details of their families, works and as much more as I can squeeze into the database. At this moment there are 11,060 entries. Articles regularly appear in our Journal about the industrial aspects of our research. You will find details of the Woolwich & Plumstead Brickmakers in articles by me in both NWK FHS Journal and Woolwich & District FHS Journal. Regards.


From John Day

Very belated thanks for the copy of your newsletter. It speaks well for the future. I don't know whether you are aware of the existence of a large number of drawings of machinery made by Nick Hargreaves for Woolwich are held at Bolton Library. [Ed. note. Anyone who wants to contact John about this, please ring me 0181 858 9482]. Thanks for the note about the 'Aspects of the Arsenal' book. I persuaded a friend to get it for me as a 'birthday present'.


From Ian Sharpe

I hope you don't mind me writing to you from the other side of the river. Right opposite the tip of Greenwich Peninsula is a site - Brunswick Wharf - which is very important and needs some attention. The 'First Settlers' left Blackwall in 1606 to land in what is now Virginia USA. These heroic Men braved all to set up across the uncharted Seas, they founded Jamestown, and started the Tobacco trade which was to become the main economy of Virginia, yet a Monument in their honour at Brunswick Wharf (the Little Mermaid) first unveiled by the American Ambassador in 1928 and again in 1953, has been neglected. It is directly opposite the Millennium Dome project, and although Barratts who are building a housing complex there have offered to restore it, will they get it right? It must have access and facilities for the many visitors that are bound to come. The people planning the Millennium should look beyond Greenwich - and across the river.

From Michael Ward

Historic Greenwich 'Blue' Plaques

Following our talk about 113 Blackheath Park I am writing to ask you to press for a much better marking of the wonderful properties that are to be found all over the Borough. The case of 113 Blackheath Park is striking - and although it is not an industrial building the arguments that apply to it are just the same. It is the house that the world famous philosopher John Stuart Mill inhabited for some 20 years. These were the seminal years of his greatest writings - on Liberty, Utilitarianism and the Subjugation of Women. Apparently the London County Council and Greater London Council response to requests for a blue plaque were to say that there was one somewhere in London already. Greenwich should seize the initiative now, ready for the flood of Millennium tourists, by commissioning cast and ceramic plaques for a fair number of sites. I would also mention the Conduit building and a commemoration of the first English golf course on Blackheath.

You and your industrial historian colleagues will have many more to suggest throughout the Borough. The cost is not great - about £1000 for a specially made round plaque with crafted lettering - rather less than for a metal or metal simulated plastic plaque.

From Arthur Turner, Edinburgh

It really was a wonderful experience to be present at your meet ing to hear Andrew's talk and to meet up with so many of your members and ex-employees of Redpath Brown.

We had previously spent some time down at the site seeing the old Canteen building and the possible former sheds now re sheeted as part of the Industrial Estate (Unit 19): also the former Works Jetty - slightly modified I suspect from its original shape. My only regret was the lack of time to speak to people after the talk.


Arthur Turner would be happy to distribute more copies of his his tory of Redpath Brown - but he needs several orders before it would be worthwhile to reprint it. Anyone who would like a copy are asked to contact him at 31 Duddingston Park South, Edinburgh

From Rick Tisdell

Re: Redpath Brown. I have managed to unearth some information from a file I discovered at my sister's house. I worked at Redpath's from 1960 to 1971 where I completed my apprenticeship as an Electrician in the Maintenance Department. My father worked at East Greenwich all his working life (49.5 years) in the office where he was the purchasing officer. He was made redundant when British Steel closed the works in 1977. He died in 1979. My mother also worked in the office at Greenwich and it was there that she met and married my father. She was the daughter of Johnny Stewart who was for many years the Template Shop Foreman at the works. His brother also worked in the Drawing Office at Greenwich for a short time. My mother went on to work full time as Secretary to the Managing Director at Duncannon Street Head Offlce in the 1960s. Her great uncle was called Dan Taylor and he was ei ther Foreman of the Roof Shop or General Foreman at around the time of the First World War.


From Philip MacDougall

One of the earliest and most important industrial enterprises in the nation were the Naval Dockyards. During the eighteenth century, for instance, the Naval Dockvard at Chatham had a workforce in excess of 2,000.. This made it the single largest employer in the south east. In addition there were yards variously sited at Sheerness, Deptford, Woolwich and Greenhithe. Undoubtedly there must be a number of local historians either working on the history of these yards or who would like to know more about them. For this reason the Naval Dockyards Society was established. Our next meeting will be at Woolwich (5th September 1998) where we will be exploring the site of the old Dockyard. GHIS members are welcome to contact me. [10 Harold Road, Hayling Malden, Hampshire, PO11 9LT. Tel: 01795 467449


From Terry Scales

Under the Coaling Pier

In Greenwich we have in the past taken our industrial heritage tor granted. I remember the warm glow of satistaction when reading a press statement by a member of the Planning Department that 'The chimney's of Deptford Powerhouse are important site-lines in the view across London and will be safeguarded in any future development'. That was in the mid-1980s. How things have changed since then and doesn't it just illustrate the danger of sitting cosily by whilst the waterfront of Greenwich is slowly leeched of its trading character and converted into a Croydon-on-Sea. At least the intention of the Deptford development is, I understand, to renovate the large pier and continue with its maritime use in some way.

This highlights the future of our other pier, the much loved 'old coaling pier' by Trinity Hospital. Striding into the river on massive Doric cast-iron columns it is a truly magnificent structure. Many older residents will remember the constant cascade of water that dropped from the chutes above. It is the third element in a trio of contrasts, The Trinity Hospital and the Powerhouse itself making for a dramatic visual surprise as the pedestrian comes upon them quite suddenly.

The Poet Laureate, C.Day Lewis, used the space under the pier as the site of a murder mystery when writing thrillers under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake and surely it is an absolute must for film mak ers (relevant Council Department, please note). This alone should guarantee it a safe future, but so strange and romantic is this edifice that in the next two years it will almost certainly come under the beady eye of the 'rationalisers' and fall victim to their rage for tidiness. My own interest is not historical, it is in fact a relatively recent structure, of 1906 but a purely visual one. As a landscape artist l find it an invaluable focal point in adjacent Riverside subjects. Looking either east or west it dramatises the sense of space. This is particularly so from Pipers Wharf where the elegance of the Royal Naval College is set off superbly by the Blue/Grey columns rising from dun green waters. If we do not make a concrete effort to list the coaling pier, l am afraid we will lose it by default. I urge this Society to lose no time in taking the necessary steps to do so.


Environment Week events included tours of the London Transport Greenwich Power Station. Mary and I visited the station, which is on the river-side almost on the Meridian Line, on 6th June in the company of about twelve other people. We were fortunate in having an expert guide, Mike Burgess, a retired LT electrical engineer who had worked at Greenwich.

The building is huge and, to me the most visually impressive aspect is the interior of the now disused boiler house - like some of our bigger railway station structures. At the other end of the scale there are some fascinating details such as the ribbed walls in specially-shaped glazed tiles, which provided channels for cabling. Views from the top of the jetty are breathtaking.

The first interesting question, discussed by Mr. Burgess, was - 'why a dedicated power station'? The answer is that electrical transport predated the general electricity supply system at a time when electrical supply was very locally based.

The London County Council had been set up in 1889 and took over the horse-drawn tramway companies. The Greenwich Power Station was designed by the LCC Architect's Department to supply the electric tram system and was opened in two stages - in 1906 and 1910. An elegant rain water hopper dated '1903 AD' is on the rear of the building. It is interesting to note that according theThe Greenwich and Dartford Tramways by Robert J, Hurley that a brand new electric tramway was opened from the King William the Fourth pub in Trafalgar Road to central London in 1904 - where did the power come from for that?

At around the same time the underground and tube railways were being electrified (1st January 1905 for Baker Street to Uxbridge, 1st luly 1905 the first stage of the Inner Circle). But Greenwich Power Station did not begin to supply the railway operations until 1933 when the LCC Tramways were absorbed into the London Transport Passenger Board. It was then planned to generate at Greenwich the power for the railway extensions in North East London and for the trolley buses which were to replace the trams in south and east London. Greenwich supplied both systems until 1961 when the trolley buses were scrapped. Linkages to Mile End and Mansell Street are identified on the control panels.

Greenwich's main function todav is to supplement the output of the Lots Road, Chelsea, power station at times of peak demand and to provide a standby facility.

Power StationThe original installation comprised a coal-fired boiler house with four chimneys and an engine room housing four vertical horizontal compound reciprocating steam engines driving flywheel-type alternators at 6,600 volts, 25 Hz. By 1910 the superiority of steam turbines had been realised and four steam turbine alternators were installed for phase two of the building programme. Coal was landed from colliers which came from North-East England, onto the jetty and then to a large system of bunkers. The original reciprocating engines were replaced by steam turbines in 1922. The next major change came in the mid-1960s when the steam plant was replaced by gas turbine generators Rolls Royce 'Avon' engines similar to those used in jet aircraft.

Originally powered solely by gas oil the plant was later converted for dual-fuel operation (oil, or natural gas the latter is now the main source of power). Start-up of the generators is powered by a large bank of batteries. Output from the generation is 11,000 volts and the use of transformers boosts this to 22,000.

The jetty is now no longer used. The relatively small quantity of oil used comes by road tanker and gas and oil do not generate the ash, which - when coal was used - was removed via the jetty.

The building is of some architectural interest. The chimneys for Phase I were 250 feet high but, following objections from the Royal Observatory, those for Phase 2 were only 182 feet. A handout was provided with facts and figures, as well as a simplified plant diagram and a site plan. Altogether, a fascinating visit.

Alan Mills


There are many overlapping points between Community History and Industrial History (see letter from NW Kent FHS). A new Family and Community Historical Research Society has been set up by the Open University, aiming to 'promote and communicate research in family and community history within a scholarly framework'. They aim to publish a journal with a first issue planned for November 1 1998. Details from Prof. Ruth Finnegan, OSFACH, Open University, Gardiner 2, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA


Consultation papers on the Greenwich Cultural Plan have been sent out. They include all sorts of worthy bodies but there is no mention of any sort of historical research. The document points out that the Millennium provides an 'unprecedented opportunity for Greenwich'. Forty-five people (none of them historians) were consulted. The Council hopes for a range of activities throughout the Borough with as wide as possible coverage; performing and visual arts, commercial creative activities, sport and gardens and build on the existing cultural strength of Greenwich. In order to measure success initiatives should - 'create a dialog, (with the American spelling!), harness economic benefit, redress intra-borough inequities, create a legacy, and maximise leveraged funding'. All of this is detailed. A Cultural Plan Coordinator is to be appointed who will ask for project proposals from the community and assist with submissions. Funds, they say, are limited. Time, they say, is running out. So, get your bids in!

Because of current interest in the site of the proposed Millennium Village - Brian Sturt began to look at the Fuel Research Station which was nearby. Anyone with information on the site is asked to contact Brian on 0181 698 1466.

THE WESTCOMBE SOCIETY are looking for someone to help them with
information/ research on the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

Contact Myles Dove via Mary Mills



'Gaslight' The Newsletter of the North West Gas Historical Society is revealing all about sightings of George Livesey's ghost in East Greenwich Gas works - they quote the following letter from Brian Sturt:

The gas industry over the years engendered its own share of folk law and legend. An enduring phenomenon is that of George Livesey's Ghost, which it is claimed, haunted the office building of East Greenwich Gasworks, the creation of the former South Metropolitan Gas Company and now the site of the Millennium Dome. The story, as I first heard it some thirty years ago, was that while the works were under construction from 1883 onwards, George lived on-site in a flat at the top of the office building. After his death in 1908 he was supposed to have returned to haunt the building. During the last war the offices were extensively damaged and the top storey and the clock tower were destroyed. This did not stop the haunting, footsteps were still to be heard in the roof space. The offices have been demolished for a number of yeas and consequently George is an apparition of no fixed abode. However it seems that while the offices have gone, George has not, and, as reported in the Daily Telegraph his ghost seemingly made a number of appearances recently.

Brian Sturt



The Bromley by Bow-based London Gas Museum is likely to be packed up and sent to a warehouse in the Midlands for no better reason than that the gas industry says that it cannot support it, it must move off its site, and has never had a chance to become self supporting.

Details: Michael Hills at the Museum (0171 538 4982) or Brian Sturt (0181 698 1466) or Mary (0181 858 9482)




This is an independent Group, although approved by Greenwich Council, which meets approximately morthly in the Town Hall at Woolwich. Membership consists of Local Societies which are also concerned with current planning issues, and is regularly attended by members from the Greenwich Society, Blackheath Society, the Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society, the Shooters Hill Society, the Victorian Society and, recently, by the Waterfront Community Forum.

Individually, Societies look at the weekly list of planning applications and then, through the Chairman of the Group, request the plans of ones they are interested in commenting on. The plans are then looked at by the whole Group at its meetings, and joint comments are submitted to Greenwich Council via the Planning Officers.

Of interest to GIHS are waterfront proposals and in particular, recently, the fate of Ceylon Terrace, and the extension to the Pilot public house - a group of locally listed buildings of riverside importance.

Proposals concerning putting industrial buildings to new uses - e.g. Mumford's Mill - are GIHS interests and any member who has prior knowledge of such schemes should keep GIHS informed of proposals which can be commented on.

Susan Parker

This newsletter is produced by Mary Mills, 24 Humber Road, SE3 (Tel: 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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