Volume 5, Issue 2, March 2002







12th March - Tim Smith is unfortunately unwell, so is replaced by Mary Mills speaking on George Landmann - Woolwich born engineer

16th April - Ray Fordham with Video of the Arsenal

21st May - Jack Vaughan on Woolwich - Dockyard & Arsenal - the continuing story

18th June - John King - Aviation in South London

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


One of our members, John Bowles, has dropped in a leaflet about events at the Waltham Abbey site or 01992 707370

This gives details of what can be seen.. three centuries of secret history, waiting to explode... wildlife tower... guided tours... Nature trail... fireworks exhibition... igniting ideas... Firearms exhibition... explosive films.

Open from 16th March
10-6 pm. £5.90 adults, £5.25 concessions


By Peter Bathe

Between 1910 and 1935, a special letter box was attached to the last tram each night from Bexley to Woolwich to give a later collection of letters than was then being made from the street letter boxes.

The history of the trams in the area was outlined by E. F. E. Jefferson in "Woolwich and the Trams", an article in Woolwich & District Antiquarian Society Proceedings of 1954, two years after the last London trams had run to Woolwich. In it he says that Bexley Urban District Council began to operate its own tram service in October 1903, starting at Gravel Hill and going towards Woolwich, at first terminating just inside the old LCC area at The Plume of Feathers, Plumstead, but, from 26 July 1908, running to Beresford Square, Woolwich, very near the Woolwich District Post Office, at that time in Greens End. The route from Gravel Hill was via Bexleyheath Clock Tower and Bexleyheath Broadway to Welling High Street, then at Welling Corner it turned along Upper Wickham Lane and Wickham Lane to Plumstead High Street, where it turned again towards Woolwich via the High Street and Plumstead Road to Beresford Square.

In her book "The Letter Box" (1969), Jean Farrugia says the idea of putting letter boxes on trams and buses in Britain was first mooted in 1889, after such a service had been established in the USA a few years earlier. The system was in use in Paris before 1891, but the Postmaster General did not like the idea of a similar scheme in London, although he did agree to tram and bus letter boxes being used in provincial towns. The first was in Huddersfield (20 March 1893) on its trams. By the outbreak of World War I, 20 towns and cities had tried letterboxes on corporation transport, including Bexley, which started in 1910. A lot of the schemes were short-lived, but the Bexley service survived into the 1930s.

Farrugia, who shows a Manchester Corporation tramcar post box of 1935, says: "Tramcar and omnibus letter boxes were never of any standard pattern, the majority being manufactured locally at the expense of the Post Office. Some boxes were fixed at the rear of the tram or bus; others were hung on the side, or even placed on the conductor's platform. Normally, the boxes were intended for use only after the last collection from ordinary street letter boxes had been made, and on services coming into the centre of the town from outlying parts."

Jefferson in "The Woolwich Story" (1965) says: "It was at this time [just prior to World War I] that arrangements were made for the posting of letters up to 11pm in a special box fitted on the Bexley tram arriving in Woolwich at that hour. Only the usual 1d stamp was required if the posting was done while the tram was at a stop, but persons desiring to post between stops had to pay 1d extra."

According to the Bexleyheath & District Local Handbook for 1932, the last tram then left the Market Place at 10.26pm.

The charges appear to be no different from those applied to the first tram letter boxes in Huddersfield. Farrugia says: "A special charge of one penny was levied by the Council if a would-be poster stopped the tram merely for the purpose of posting his letter - the penny being dropped into the tramcar guard's fare box."

The original Bexley tramcars produced in 1903 "... had very large copper-cased oil head lamps with parabolic reflectors which were hooked on to the dash at whichever end of the car was leading, the intention being that these would continue to give illumination even if the power supply failed," according to The Light Railway Transport League & Tramway & Light Railway Society's 1962 publication "The Tramways of Woolwich & South East London, Southeastern" (edited by G. E. Baddeley). This book continues: "Before these cars has been in service many years, certain modifications were carried out, for example, the ungainly oil head lamps were replaced by conventional electric ones set high on the dash with the car number painted beneath them...

"In 1924, the metal catches which had formerly supported the oil head lamps were refitted to a number of cars, but to the left of their former position and used to support the letter posting box carried on the last car at night. Presumably one of the open-topped cars so fitted had always to perform the last journey."

This book also has an illustration that "shows clearly...catches for the letter box". As the letter box was only put on the last tram at night, it is unlikely any photographs exist of the box in situ, although, of course, if anyone has one, the author would be very interested in a copy!

That the tram letterbox was put on the late-night car from Bexley to Woolwich when it was established in 1910 is not surprising: in 1875, Woolwich had been created the head post office of a district that included Bexley, Bexleyheath, Erith and Welling as well as Charlton, Plumstead and Eltham. That it should continue long after 1913, when Woolwich had been returned to London control, and Bexley put under Dartford, is much more interesting, especially after 1917 when a fire destroyed Dartford's trams in their depot and Bexley and Dartford started to operate their trams under a joint committee. It would have been logical then, in both postal and tram-operation terms, for the Bexley late-night letters to have gone to Dartford by tram, rather than to Woolwich.

It would appear that there were a large number of nocturnal letter writers in the area and it is reported in the August 1929 issue of "Record", the Bexley Chamber of Commerce's journal, that a later collection had been introduced for ordinary street letter boxes. "It is thought that the later collection from pillar-boxes will reduce the posting in the tram letter box to an amount within the capacity of the box."

The Bexley letter box service ceased on 23 November 1935, when the London Passenger Transport Board, which had taken over the Bexley trams two years earlier, replaced them with trolleybuses. At the outbreak of World War II, any remaining posting boxes on buses and trams elsewhere in the UK were also withdrawn.

Peter would like all friends to know that he is now living in France.


Where addresses are not given, please contact through the Editor, c/o 24 Humber Road, London SE3

From: Sean Creighton

Agenda Services Book Clearance Sale. Why not read a book instead of watching TV?
Contact me at Agenda Services, 18 Ridge Road, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 2ET.

[Agenda Services specialise in political history - with an emphasis on local history in South London].

From: Barry Taylor & Marcelo Olmedo, English Heritage

As some of you already know the Greater London Sites and Monuments Record (GLSMR) is a database of over 70,000 sites of historic and archaeological interest across London's 33 boroughs. The last year saw some changes to the office as new staff joined the team. Barry Taylor is the new manager and Marcela Olmedo the assistant, and both are working hard towards the objectives set for this year.

It is our aim to make the GLSMR, not only a powerful tool for research and planning but also a way to encourage and develop a greater understanding of the historic environment for everyone.

Our most important goal is to make the GLSMR more accessible for our existing users and to encourage more people to make use of the information we hold. We now use email to disseminate our data. To receive information in this way please contact us at In partnership with other heritage organisations in London We have begun the first stages of a project to put our database online. We are also looking into other ways of delivering information using non-paper media such as CD-ROM. Finally we are considering distributing the entire database to a number of organisations across Greater London and would appreciate your comments on this. We are also planning to increase the both the depth and scope of the GLSMR through a rolling strategy of data enhancement projects. For this we invite you to propose areas where our data needs enhancing, from which key areas for improvement will be highlighted and subsequent projects designed. The first call for suggestions is now open and we have set a deadline of March.

We hope to have a close working relationship with your organisation and will keep you updated of all the latest changes and improvements. We will also have a new information leaflet ready by the summer. We would, therefore, be grateful for any suggestions you may have on the targeting of the GLSMR in your area and any ways in which we can improve our service to you.

If the person who deals with these matters or your address has changed then please let us know.

This will help us to keep our records up to date.

I look forward to receiving your reply and would like to thank you in advance for your co- operation. Please feel free to contact us at anytime on the number below.

We have replied pointing out that their officer met our committee some two years ago promising a scheme for us to record industrial buildings in Greenwich - he never came up with the further information and we have heard nothing since - what has happened?

From: Barry Bowdidge

Perhaps the Greenwich Industrial History Society could provide or have some information on my family who were a group of prolific carpenter/joiners in the Deptford Greenwich Borough in 1881. There were seven members who appear in the 1881 census as carpenter/joiners.

181 Church Street, Deptford - father William, and three sons Richard (21), John (16) William (23)

15 Eaton Street, Deptford - Joseph Bowdidge (30)

11 Royal Naval Place, Deptford - Walter Bowdidge (28)

70 Watergate, Deptford - John Bowdidge (30)

In addition my mother's maiden name was Brome and we are descended from Lieutenant General Joseph Brome, Royal Artillery, Woolwich. He started as a drummer boy and his career spanned from 1751-1793. He died at Woolwich in 1796.

From: Lesley Bossine (Kew Bridge Engines Trust)

Thanks to the support of a private benefactor we are currently restoring a horse gin used to lift well water on a farm near Basingstoke. The main frame of the horse gin bears the inscription 'J.Stone & Co. Engineers, Deptford' - can anyone supply any information about this company and its products, we are particularly keen to know whether the manufacture of horse gins was a speciality.

We are also calling for papers for a seminar to be held next year on Richard Trevithick.

Lesley Bossine, Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, Middx. TW8. 0EN

From: Myles Dove


I am writing about the proposed destruction of most of the buildings on the Rachel McMillan College site in Creek Road. The College was founded by Margaret McMillan as a memorial to her sister Rachel for the work they did together for the health and education of poor children in Deptford. Queen Mary, great-grandmother of Prince Charles, formally opened the college building in 1950 and it happens to have a porch with classical columns of which he might approve. The Halls of Residence added at the eastern end of the site by ILEA architects were more carefully detailed.

From: Tim Smith,

I came across this yesterday in Nicholas Owen's book 'History of the British Trolleybus, (1974). In 4th September 1897 a most intriguing reference had appeared in the Autocar to an electric omnibus supplied with current from an overhead wire. The surprising element is that the trials were apparently being made on a quarter-mile run in Greenwich, south London, but all records of such an event have disappeared;' - any ideas???

From: Mike Neill, Project Officer, Greenwich Heritage Centre.

The Woolwich Kiln will soon need to be moved from its present site to an area of the site adjacent to the proposed Greenwich Heritage Centre. We will need to have a look to ensure no damage has occurred, so this may be a good opportunity to see what the state of things are. On a slightly different issue, we opened up the undercroft and roof of the Charlton House summerhouse yesterday to check for condition etc. before the imminent paving works. I've posted photos and a few notes at;

Editorial Note: this really is a super Web site about the underground workings and architecture of the 'Inigo Jones public toilets' at Charlton House.

From: Jeremy Shearmur, Parks & Open Spaces Dpt,

Your Web site contains somewhere reference to the "convicts flower" or red deadnettle. Can you give any information on this as I am trying to make a botanical identification of this plant. This is part of the research for the new park, Royal Arsenal Gardens.

From: J G Walker,

My name is Jim Walker, I am a widower living in Yanakie which is at the southern-most point of Victoria, Australia. In 1943 I started work as an apprentice with a company named Robison Brothers & Company Pty Ltd of Melbourne. Robison Bros commenced business in 1854 and closed for business in 1973 and were pioneers in the engineering history of Australia. In my old age I am attempting to compile a history of this great company which may be of future use to some industrial archaeologists. At this time I am researching the following: In 1878 a contract for the supply of a steam launch between Robison Brothers & Company and The Melbourne Harbor Trust Commissioners was initiated. The launch was to be 50' long x 10'6" breadth x 5'6" deep. In general terms the launch was to be used as work boat around Melbourne's harbor facilities. Included in the specifications was for Robison Brothers to install for fire protection purposes a Merryweather & Sons Improved Patent Single Cylinder Steam Fire Engine No (b-h-6) ( Stationary engine for launch). Reference to the pump is shown in Merryweather & Sons - Book 1874 - page 11. (I hope the No ( b-h-6 ) is correct) I am hoping, Mary, that your Society or some person or organization may have a copy of the Merryweather & Sons - Book, from which a photocopy could be taken, if I could obtain a copy I would be very grateful, the added information would enhance my notes and give those that view the notes an indication of the quality of fire protection equipment that was available over 120 years ago.

From: Sue

My family are all ex-Woolwichies and my parents are currently living in a Somerset village called Woolavington. This is close to a Royal Ordnance Factory site. During recent clearance of the village hall (which was once the ROF social club) a large photo was found of some policemen posing in front of a rather grand building, It has a Woolwich photographer's stamp on the back. Woolavington have put a copy of this photo on their website and asked for help in tracing its history.

My parents think the building could be the old Town Hall but there the connection seems to end.
Can you cast any light on this please?

Many thanks for any help you can give on this, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your Web site and will join up.

I am also passing your details to a friend who owns one of the very first Merryweathers (it's in his garden shed!!), I'm sure he'll be most interested.

From: Richard Menari,

Whilst researching my family tree, I came across a reference to a public house called The Railway Tavern in Hamilton Street, Deptford. Apparently one of my ancestors namely a Mr. Duncan Jenkins was the publican of this establishment in the 1880s, I believe the pub has long since gone but was once a regular meeting place for the dockers who worked in the area. I would be grateful for any information regarding the above, would particularly like to obtain a photo of this public house if anyone has one.

From: Annerley

I am wondering if you can help me. My husband's Great Grandfather is believed to have had a timberyard/sawmill on the Thames at Deptford. His name was James Coppell/Copple (m Emma Gidley). His dates are b 1850c, married at Wandsworth 1884, d 1900c. Apparently his funeral procession went down the Thames. With these basic details I am having problems confirming where his business premises were. I was just wondering if you may have come across his name in your historical studies. I have found your site very interesting.

Best wishes.



We receive a great many newsletters and booklets - thank you, and keep them coming - however, what is listed here are only those which have something of Greenwich interest in the current edition. Reviews of any publications of Greenwich interest are always welcome.


Vol. 23, No.2. includes the second part of Mary Mills' article on Maudslay Son and Field and their Greenwich shipyard, Available from Rainham Bookshop, 17-25 Station Road, Rainham, Kent ME8 7RS. 01634 371591


This is a twenty year retrospective of this local organisation by Pam Schweitzer, the Artistic Director. Available from Age Exchange at 11 Blackheath Village, SE3 020 8318 9105,

SUBTERRANEA BRITANNICA - Secretary's Newsletter

All good stuff, but not much (if anything) about Greenwich.
Contact Malcolm Tadd 017378 23456,

SIREN - the newsletter of RSG

This is cold war bunker studies. All good stuff - and edited by our member, Nick Catford. Nothing about Greenwich - come on, Nick, put something in the next issue! Contact through Sub Brit.

INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE - the current issue, Winter 2001 contains an oddly familiar article about the Tramshed in Woolwich by a Jack Vaughan............ nice to know Yorkshire cares about Woolwich. Yorkshire History, Proctor House, Kirkgate, Settle, Yorks, BD24 9DZ.


We have not seen this book but an advertisement has been sent by the publishers: Thomas Telford Publishing (Institution of Civil Engineers). Members will remember that Denis was our keynote speaker at this years' AGM. His is a new guide dealing with the works which keep a large city running. Ring Thomas Telford Ltd. 0207 665 2464


The Winter issue includes news of the David Evans Engine - which was in the now closed silk works at Crayford. It is a small Stewart (Glasgow) diagonal duplex. Crossness Engines have negotiated with David Evans for it and it will soon be at the Museum and on display.

The Record also contains an article by Leslie Tucker on the Original Crossness Building in their architectural context and the usual 'News from the Octagon' on current work and progress. Crossness Engines always require volunteer help - contact John Ridley on 01322 522 937.

Crossness Engines Trust
e-Mail: Web:
Museum Visits by arrangement: 020 8311 3711


Part III

By John Fox

It was part of the apprenticeship given by the firm that you learnt a little of other trades by working for a spell in other departments, in my case after being ten months in the brass finishers I was sent to the blacksmiths' shop. The foreman blacksmith I thought a smashing chap, named Smith if I remember right. I could never understand why the blacksmiths, after their Christmas Eve drinking spree successfully set fire to his office, maybe they held a much different opinion of him than I had. This spell in the blacksmiths' shop I look back as the highlight of my apprenticeship, for I did enjoy the four months or so spent there. It's so pleasing forming a length of red hot iron into the shape you require by knocking hell out of it, giving one a feeling of power I suppose.

After this spell I returned to the fitting shop proper to work under Ernie Hayman, he was as deaf as a post and, as can be expected, called Deafy, but never to his face. I forgot myself and did, but only once, he took me to one side and said, "If I were blind you'd give me sympathy wouldn't you, don't you think I still deserve that even though my affliction is something that is not so obvious?" Even after fifty-five years, I can still remember my embarrassment as he said this, for, of course, he was right. Old Ernie was one of the 'stars' of the fitting shop; he was a 'steam' man and rather looked down on the glorified 'motor mechanics' he had to work alongside.

He was given all the steam pumps, shuttle valves, rotary pumps, white metal bearings, etc. that came in for repair. When I say he had all the steam pumps to repair, not always, Harry Palmer, who usually spent his day fitting rings onto pistons, a very low position in the strict hierarchy of the fitting shop, was given one to overhaul once. Looking back, I am sure it was part of a deep nefarious plot laid by the charge hand, but I'm afraid Ernie took this as a mortal insult. His eyes followed poor Harry wherever he went, while his lips muttered soundless curses. Rumour spread throughout the shop that Ernie spent his evenings sticking pins into a waxen image of Harry, but I personally think this a slight exaggeration.

A big part of our work was the white metal bearings that came into the shop for re-metalling. Firstly we would take a sketch of the layout and size of the oil groves, then when the bearing had been re-metalled we'd insert pipes through the bolt holes to line both halves of the bearing, insert spacers to represent the brass shims that would be used to adjust them on site and present them to the borer. When he'd finished his part, we would chisel the oil ways, as they had been when the bearing first came in. Perhaps give the bearing a scrape on its horns to ensure that contact was only made at the butt and cap, and that would have been another job done.

Repairing steam shuttle valves, a device driven directly by linkage from the pump or engine that directed the live or exhaust steam to the correct part of the cylinder, called upon a lot of the skills of a fitter. Most of the shuttle valves we dealt with were Weir's, overhauling one would involve; marking out the port layout of the shuttle and the D-valve and when new ones had been machined marking out the position of the slide face. When that face had been cut on the shaper, chiselling in the steam ports as our original layout and then making the face between the shuttle and the D-valve perfectly flat by the use of a flat scraper.

As well as working with a fitter, us apprentices were encouraged to make their own tools, the stores held a supply of castings which they would hand out to us and if we wanted some machining done the machine shop charge hand would quite happily arrange it. Until a few years ago I still had the scribing blocks, face plates, centre square, scrapers, chisels and other tools I had made. Making chisels and scrapers was a seasonal task; the winter was the season for making these tools. For this was when the fitting shop would be heated with coke-fired oil drums and while these drums may have only kept the part of your body facing the fire, they did make a very useful furnace. The chisels we made were from valve springs, no nothing like watch spring, but ones made out of 5/8 of an inch diameter spring steel and bloody good they were too. These chisels were of a special shape needed to cut oil groves in white metal bearings; the oil groves of diesel engines were simply four arrow headed cuts at the horns to spread the oil across the whole width of the bearing. Whilst those of a steam engine were truly works of art, I am sure they were cut to any fanciful pattern that satisfied the first fitter's artistic endeavours, if he had a drink inside him when he cut the groves, why, then the sky was the limit.


by Philip Binns

Meeting of 10th January

Water Tower, Shooters Hill

Application to put up netting on the roof - while they are putting up scaffolding why don't they replace the tiles instead of putting up netting to prevent them slipping?

Meeting held February 18th

Water Tower, Shooters Hill

Installation of dish antennae. Object strongly to this use of a Grade II listed building. Inappropriate replacement of window screens. Unacceptable.

43-81 Greenwich High Road (Merryweather's site in part)

Demolition of all existing buildings and replacement with new build development of five buildings. Group would like to see displaced business return to the building. They are concerned at the loss of the station building and think the new development is too high for the area.


Building at the Rear of 9-11 Westerdale Road, SE10

As the result of a planning application for this building - and a request that it be listed - Philip Binns undertook some research into it.

'It appears to have been built between 1869-1894 in that it does not feature on the OS extract of 1869; this shows Combe Farm Road (now Westcombe Hill) as the only built form in the area at that time. Reference to the OS extract of 1894 shows Combe Farm virtually unaltered but indicates new development to the north, south and west - most importantly it clearly identifies a property at the rear of a pair of houses accessed via a passageway from Milton Road. This property shares a boundary with the western edge of the Combe Farm holding and is the building which the is the subject of the recent planning application.

The later OS extract of 1916 indicates that Combe Farm has been obliterated by new development and that the property is now accessed from Westerdale Road.

Kelly's Directories for the early part of the 19th century indicate that the premises were first numbered as 27-29 Westerdale Road and were later given their present number of 9-11. The 1916 directory indicates the occupant to be Ernest Palmer with the premises (presumably the outbuilding to the rear) being used as a laundry. Directories indicate that occupation remains with the Palmer family up to 1937 and intriguingly they show that in 1925 the laundry was joined by another business - a car-hiring agency. The building is one room deep in plan, three bays wide and extends over two storeys. With, at the front, a covered way which, from the OS information is a later addition. It shares many features with a workshop building in St. Alfege Passage in Greenwich Town Centre, which features in English Heritage's Time for Action document of March 1993 and has subsequently been successfully brought back into use as a town house.


Dedicated to the memory of Roy Bourne, IEE

Article by Mari Taylor
The story of a unique archive retrieval from a skip on Deptford Creek

During 1991 and 1992 the remaining abandoned structures on a square mile site at Deptford Creek were dynamited in a series of dramatic demolitions. Deptford West station had long since gone. What remained to be cleared were Deptford East's chimney stack, boiler house, its "Alhambran Arches" and outlying administrative offices and buildings. The Deptford power plants, which together had formed London's biggest power station, had employed thousands; played an important social and economic role locally and marked the beginning of a technological revolution that has changed for ever the nature of electrical production across the globe.

The first Deptford Power Station, later known as Deptford East, was the brain-child of electrical engineering genius Sebastian de Ferranti.

Exactly a hundred years after a defeated Ferranti had left the station (defeated by investors' nervousness and a biased government inquiry) I was making video recordings of the remaining buildings; and of the stages of their demolition. I also interviewed ex-shop-floor workers to record for posterity what life had been like at "The Light", as the power station was affectionately known locally. More extraordinarily, I found myself retrieving archive material about the running of the power station from industrial skips.

I have had this archive material, which I have been told is an important collection, and, because of difficulties placing it in the "right" place, it has been in my cellar ever since!!

I certainly knew very little about coal-powered stations when I embarked on my mission to preserve a video record of a disappearing generation of people and industry that had contributed so much to my local area. My regular hectic job schedule then included teaching video in community projects. Whatever spare time, cash and energy I had I put into getting the Power Station story down on tape. Time and resources were pressurized. Attempts to get grant aid for the undertaking were not successful. I had to beg, borrow or buy tape and equipment myself. I videoed first and did the research piecemeal as I went along. I was constantly frustrated by lack of proper resources and how much more I could achieve if I had had them. As a consequence of having to use whatever I could get hold of the recordings span three separate format - Hi-8, Super VHS and Betacam. An obvious choice now is to digitalize all, but that would incur considerable costs.

I recorded before, after and during the dynamiting of Deptford East (including the archeological dig on the East India Company and medieval site under the power station) and made fast friends with Jim Rice who was photographing the site to a similar schedule. Jim tipped me off about skips full of archive material which was about to be cleared off the site after demolition. I traced the owners and got their permission to remove some of this after I assured them nothing mentioning asbestos appeared to be there. They gave me 48 hours. I frantically tried to contact local history groups and libraries - but it was a Friday afternoon and the people I spoke to have procedures and conventions that take much longer than the required "immediate response team" would.

Which is why my friends Helen, Alison and myself did our best alone and retrieved what, in our self conscious ignorance, might be of importance. At one stage we were in the huge industrial skip shoveling "archives" with spades that the workmen had lent us. The workmen were highly amused by our efforts but they did more than laugh. They actually emptied one skip of paperwork into another to make it easier for us to shovel through !!

A small article about it in the South London Press brought retired engineer and researcher Roy Bourne to my aid. Roy was a committee member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers with a special interest in Deptford Power Station. He looked at the archive collection and was very excited about it. His efforts to help me place this material in exchange for resources to continue with my videoing work were also frustrated. Unfortunately, in 1995 I fell seriously ill for several years and when I was well enough to try and pick up the quest Roy himself had become ill. Sadly he died and I lost a valuable mentor and friend. My own continuing ill health has to date thwarted finding a satisfactory resolution to placing of the archives to my satisfaction.

As Roy was an authority on electrical engineering I quote his description in a letter to Colin Hampstead of the Institute of Electrical Engineering regarding placing my archive.

Extracts of letter from Roy Bourne to Colin Hampstead of the Institute of Electrical Engineers 1st July 1998

"Mari Taylor had achieved a remarkable rescue of a selection from the whole of Deptford power station documentation which was on the point of being dumped and lost for ever. Any decision made about the documents needs to be an informed one and I believe that I am the only engineer to have looked at them. We will be harshly judged by our successors if we make the wrong decision....... There seem to be two issues to be resolved relating to the documents. One is the importance of Deptford power station post-Ferranti and the other is the historic value of the documents themselves. On the first issue we would all agree that anybody following Ferranti was bound to be somewhat overshadowed in the popular view, but from the informed technical view Deptford was fortunate in having outstanding engineers and their actual achievements provided some historic landmarks..... Ferranti's immediate successor was D'Alton who had the job of making the plant run efficiently to supply the load then on offer. He installed smaller direct-coupled triple-expansion engine/alternator sets for the day-time load and got the whole of the condensing plant in use.

D'Alton's successor was G.W. Partridge, acknowledged to be one of the outstanding engineers of the day. He ended his career as technical director of the London Power Company (LPC). The pioneering work on switching surges was done at Deptford by Partridge and continued by Duddell. Partridge was widely consulted on switchgear and switching problems. He remained at Deptford until the LPC was formed when Leonard Pearce took over as engineer-in-chief to the new company which acquired the power stations of the ten constituent companies.

Pearce's first design for the LPC was Deptford West power station which first sent out power in 1929. It was designed to supply the whole of central London (in parallel with selected local stations) so Ferranti's plan for Deptford was fulfilled within his lifetime by Pearce. More plant was added until 1936, by which time flue-gas desulphurisation plant had been installed. From then onwards Deptford (East and West together) became London's largest power station (despite the popular view that Battersea held this position).

Some of the notable historic achievements were: continuous generation on one site for 94 years; simultaneous generation and dispatch of power at three different frequencies; use of the largest frequency changer and the largest single-phase machines in the country; the first power station to supply the LCC tramways (in 1904); the first power station to supply a main-line railway in southern England (the LB&SCR in 1909); the first (1920) and subsequently principal power source of the SE&CR railway electrification which expanded to become the largest suburban electric railway system.

On the issue of the importance of the documents themselves and how they compare with the existing IEE archive, particularly Croydon, the following points should be made. One obvious difference is that the Croydon archive relates to post-nationalisation while the Deptford archive relates to pre-nationalisation.

The material in the two archives is completely different. The Croydon collection contains some control-room log books but mainly comprises manufacturers' manuals for the plant they supplied. The dates of these documents are such that their contents are familiar to power-station engineers of my generation, hence they are unlikely to be looked at for another generation.

The Deptford archive is a mixture of technical, social and economic material. Employee records and stores purchases would be of interest to the social and economic historian............. There is a random selection of log-books of readings which would have been taken on the turbine-room and boiler-house floors by hand (before the days of automatic data logging). By good fortune one of the years preserved is 1947 when the industry went through its greatest crisis in its whole history. This crisis has not been adequately covered by any historian and I myself am keen to study these logs for London's largest power station with the prospect of writing a paper. I have looked at all power-station documents I could find in any archives in the country and have never found any like these Deptford documents showing the actual performance of the plant...............

On the historic value of videos of power station employees it is relevant that when Bill Aspray visited this country the S7 committee was enthusiastic about making sound recordings of eminent retired electrical engineers. I believe this is very important work but you may not get the information you expect from a chief engineer......................

I believe that video recordings of shop floor personnel who actually ran the plant can be as significant as anything the chief engineer might say. Your own investigation into retired engineers' careers showed that shop-floor experience was valuable.......................

It is almost certain that the Deptford videos are unique..............................

Further details of Mari's story of Deptford Power Station in a future issue.


Friends of Age Exchange

Age Exchange Theatre Trust has set up a Friends Organisation. For details, contact Suzanne Lockett on 020 8318 9105. Age Exchange was founded in 1983 by Pam Schweitzer. It began as a reminiscence theatre company mounting original productions based on people's memories. The Centre in Blackheath Village is visited by 30,000 people a year and is the base for national and European networks of reminiscence practitioners. The centre also produces valuable advice and a service to carers of elderly and people with dementia. GIHS is very grateful to Age Exchange for use of their meeting facilities. The friends organisation will help ensure the future of the organisation and also provide a focus for those interested in the work undertaken by the organisation but not able to participate in it.

Lowne Instruments Ltd - Visit to a closing family business

Sue Hayton writes:

Members of the GLIAS Recording Group had been surveying and recording the small factory unit of Lowne Instruments Ltd, Boone Street near the junction with Lee High Road for some weeks. John West, Sylvia MacCartney. and I were grateful to Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society (GLIAS) - and in particular to David Perrett - for an invitation to join a small group on a visit to this industrial premises in Boone Street, Lee. The visit was on Saturday, 8 December, a matter of weeks before the business was due to close down.

An industrial activity in Boone Street? We think this will surprise many members and it certainly did. It was fortuitous that one of the staff, George Arthur. is also a GLIAS member - George may be known to some members as he has from time to time attended our meetings.

The business has been essentially a family one. It was founded by Robert Mann Lowne in Finchley. In about 1894 he transferred operations to Ravenscroft, Bromley Road, Catford. The firm became known as the Lowne Electric Clock and Appliance Company in about 1910. It moved to Lee in 1927. Over the years it produced a small range of specialist equipment, which in recent times has focussed almost exclusively on anemometers, which are used for measuring airflow in mines and air conditioning. The customers have been various and have included the National Coal Board, British Rail Engineering, Casella, Sainsbury, the Public Health Laboratory Service, and Griffith & George.

During the last war there were about forty staff, but by 1973 there were fifteen, and at the time of our visit there were only three. We understand that the business closes at the end of January.

As a result of our interest, a Lowne synchronous electric clock made at the beginning of the 1950s in Boone Street was presented to GLIAS for the museum collection. There are already examples of the Lowne slave clock and master at work in the Science Museum, as well as examples of the Lowne patent barometer and spirometer.

This article is taken from the Lewisham Local History Society Newsletter.


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)

Every Sunday

People required to do real work at Woodlands Farm.
Hot drinks provided. Ring Iain 020 8691 8979 or the Office 020 8319 8900



5th March, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)

6th March, Edward Sargent on the West India Dock up to 1830, DHG

13th March, Prof. Ian Inkster. Patents as indicators of technological change and innovation. A historical analysis of the data c. 1830-1941. Newcomen Society. Fellows Room, Science Museum, SW1. 5.45pm.

11th March, Charts and Globes. 10.30-16.15 National Maritime Museum

15/16th March, Maritime London. 10.30-16.15 National Maritime Museum

17th March, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)

20th March, Don Clow. The Streets of London. GLIAS, Lecture Theatre 2, Medical School, Barts, Charterhouse Square, E1. 6.30pm.

22nd March, AGM and Commercial Vehicles in Lee. Gus White. Lewisham Local History Society, Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13. 7.45pm. £1 donation

23rd March, SERIAC. Conference of IA in South East England. Cranbrook School, Kent.
Contact: Bob Barnes, 3 Vespers Cottages, Cage Lane, South Marden, Ashford. TN27 8QD. 01233 770355

26th March, Recent local archaeological work. SLAS, Hawkstone Hall, SE1. 7.30pm

27th March, Anthony Cross on The disappearance from Greenwich of Nelson artefacts, Greenwich Historical Society, Blackheath High School. 7.30pm


2nd April, Crossness Visitor Day. (book 020 8311 3711)

3rd April, Dennis Fink, British Waterways Board, The Changing Face of Docklands. DHG, Museum of London, EC1 6.00pm

6-7th April, AIA Ironbridge Weekend. The Modification of Port Structures.
Information: Ray Riley, 8 Queens Keep, Clarence Parade, Southsea, Hants. PO5 3NX

6th April, Subterranea Britannica Spring Day Conference - all underground stuff. Royal School of Mines. Contact Gerald Tagg, 30 Bedford Place, WC1B 5JH

10th April, M.C.Duffy. Thermodynamics and Powerhouse Design, Newcomen Society. Fellows Room, Science Museum, SW1 5.45pm

17th April, Norman Paul. The Royal Gunpowder Mills. GLIAS, see above for details

21st April, Crossness Visitor Day. (book 020 8311 3711)

24th April, Paul Stigant of University of Greenwich telling the story of the University, Greenwich Historical Association. Blackheath High School. 7.30pm

26th April, "Put that Light Out!" Civil Defence in SE London. Mike Brown Lewisham Local History Society, see above for details.

27th April, History and Transformation of Somerset House. National Maritime Museum, but held at Somerset House.


1st May, CTRL 20/20 Hindsight by Bernard Gambrill of Union Railways. DHG, (see above)

4th May, Royal Greenwich. National Maritime Museum

7th May, Crossness Visitor Day (book 020 8311 3711)

8th May, R.A.Otter. The Construction of Dry Docks. Some Nineteenth Century Perspectives. Newcomen Society. See above.

9th May, The architecture of the Queens House. 13.30-16.15. National Maritime Museum

13th May, Visit to Abbey Mills and Wick Lane Depot - sewers.
Places limited to send large SAE to Michael Stevens, 23 Haldon Road, SW18 1QG.
Send your phone number with it. You must be fit and healthy or they won't let you go!

17th/18th May, Drawing on the Thames. 10.30-16.15, National Maritime Museum

19th May, Crossness Visitor Day. (book 020 8311 3711)

23rd May, Chronometers, Clocks and Timepieces. 10.30-16.15, National Maritime Museum

24th May, An evening with T.W.Sanders, The Great Gardener. David Cropp. Lewisham Local History Society, see above.

28th May, Harvey Sheldon on the Roman Site in Greenwich - working with the Time Team. 7.30pm Hawkstone Hall, see above.


1st June, Visit to Solar House, Rogate by Blackheath Scientific Society. Contact Peter Trigg for details.

1st-3rd June, Firepower Extravaganza with sunset ceremony at 6.00pm on 3rd. re-enactments, firings, music, paintballs and vehicles.

4th June, Crossness Visitor Day. (book on 020 8311 3711)

5th June, Geoff Ennals, PLA, Ramblings. DHG, (see above)

8th June, GLIAS walk Bermondsey, Meet Jubilee Line Station, 2.30pm.

14th/15th June, Exploring the Solar System. 10.30-16.15 National Maritime Museum

21st June, The Cold Blow Estate, David Rabson. Lewisham Local History Society, see above.

23rd June, Crossness Visitor Day. (book on 020 8311 3711)


3rd July, David Allen. A Waterman to the Queen. DHG, (see above)

6th July, Crossness Open Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)

16th July, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)

19th July, Eltham Palace. Judith Habgood Everett. Lewisham Local History Society, Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13 7.45 £1 donation

20th July, Marlburian Artillery Day, at Firepower. Re-enactments and displays from the time of the Duke of Marlborough,.

28th July, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)


6th August, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)

25th August, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)


3rd September, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)

4th September, Visit to All Hallows by the Tower. DHG, (see above)

22nd September, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)

21st and 22nd September, London Open House W/E

24th September, Paul Sowan on the Archaeology of Reigate Stone. 7.30 Hawkstone Hall Kennington Rd, SE1 SLAS

27th September, Elliott Bros, of Lewisham. Ron Bristow, Lewisham Local History Society, Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13. 7.45pm £1 donation


1st October, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)

2nd October, Victor T. C. Smith. The Defences of the Thames. DHG, (see above)

13th October, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)

25th October, The Woolwich Story. Tony Robin. Lewisham Local History Society, Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13. 7.45pm £1 donation

30th October, The Royal Arsenal Woolwich. By Jack Vaughan at RB, Time and Talents, 7.45pm


6th November, Tony Rolfe, HM Customs and Excise work. DHG, (see above)

12th November, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)

22nd November, Henry Williamson's Lewisham Brian Fullagar, Lewisham Local History Society, Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13. 7.45pm. £1 donation

24th November, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)


4th December, Seasonal Delights. DHG, (see above)

6th December, The Roland Moyle Papers. Roland Moyle. Lewisham Local History Society, Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13. 7.45pm £1 donation

10th December, Crossness Visitor Day. (You must book on 020 8311 3711)



29th January, One Hundred Years of an Eltham Street. Gaynor Wingham. RBLS Time and Talents, 7.45pm.


The Industrial Archaeology of East London. Birkbeck Course, Wednesday pm at Old Station Museum, North Woolwich. The course will be taught by Dr. Mary Mills in 2002 (but Bob Carr - who has taught the class for 15 years - will do some guest lectures). Start date will be late April/mid May. Please ring Mary for details 020 8858 9482.

IA Fieldwork at City University - a programme of industrial archaeology fieldwork led by Dr. Robert Carr. From Tuesday 23rd April. Courses for Adults, City University, EC1V 9HB 020 7477 8268,

A History of the Royal Navy. Tuesdays 8 weeks from 23rd April. 10.30-12.30. National Maritime Museum

The Beach - history of its role in the seaside. Wednesdays 10.30-12.30. 8 weeks from 24th April. National Maritime Museum


Following the seminar at Kew Bridge Engines Trust on Maudslay and the successful launch of the CD-ROM by Kew Bridge, we have been contacted by the Maudslay Society. They have given us a list of the inventory of the Society's Property - anyone who wants a copy please ring Mary 020 8858 9482. The following items might be of particular interest to Greenwich:

18. Folder including items on.. Maudslay's tomb, centenary service at Woolwich, etc..

39. Letters from Edw Troughton of the Greenwich Observatory.

45. Letters including some to Royal Arsenal.

80. Papers - includes address at centenary service in Woolwich.

.................. and much, much more.


The Society's officers are curently as follows:

Chair - Jack Vaughan

Vice-Chair - Sue Bullevent

Secretary - Mary Mills

Treasurer - Steve Daly

Committee - Alan Parfrey, Andrew Bullevant

Auditor - Juliet Cairns

Members are reminded that subscription renewals fell due in October 2001.
Subscriptions remain at £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, Chair, Jack Vaughan, 35 Eaglesfield Road, SE18. Views expressed in it are those of the authors and not of the Society.

Contributions (within reason) are always welcome.


Please 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.



The Web version has been created by;

.... David Riddle, Goldsmiths College

Space courtesy of Goldsmiths College, University of London