Volume 5, Issue 3, May 2002







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

18th June - John King - Aviation in South London

9th July - Dr. Rob Allen - William Morris's Red House, Bexleyheath

17th September - Wesley Harry - Film of the Royal Arsenal at work.

15th October - Harry Pearman - 'Moles Eye View' of Underground Greenwich.

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

Greenwich Foot Tunnel's Centenary

Greenwich Foot Tunnel opened on 4th August 1902 (exactly 2 years after the late Queen Mother was born). It was not only a major engineering achievement by Alexander Binnie (later made Sir), it also provided for the first time an alternative to the expensive ferry across the river. The Foot Tunnel allowed many people from Greenwich and the isolated Isle of Dogs to cross the Thames very easily for the first time.

So, the Foot Tunnel is 100 years old on Sunday 4th August this year. Oddly, neither Greenwich nor Tower Hamlets Councils had any plans to mark the occasion, and so Greenwich Cyclists have decided to create a suitable event on the day. Tower Hamlets Wheelers are in on the plan too.

Things are evolving quickly and Greenwich Council is now becoming interested. At the very least there will be a human chain linking Cutty Sark Gardens and Island Gardens and events on both. Alcatel, the largest private sector employer in the Borough, have been invited to supply one of their submarine cables to pull through and so link the two communities. Binnie, Black and Veatch - the firm started by Alexander Binnie, is now a UK-based multi-national partnership of consulting engineers are delighted to get involved, and at the very least, want to mount an exhibition about the tunnel project in, probably, the adjacent World Heritage site interpretative area. (under Rides and Events) will be updated as the event evolves.

So, diary the date. If you're interested in helping out in any way, please contact:
Barry Mason, Co-ordinator Greenwich Cyclists, Tel: 020 7232 0444 or 07905 889005

The Great Blackheath Hole

By Rachel Smith

The Steer family can be held personally accountable for the hole in Blackheath Hill. William Steer was fined several times for his part in causing the hole - a total of £95! This was probably a great deal of money in 1666. The Blackheath Hill area was already being mined by the Steers, who were lime- workers when the Great Fire of London destroyed the City. This was the nearest area of chalk to the City and despite its poor quality, the chalk, processed into lime and used for mortar and building foundations, was in great demand. Sir Christopher Wren, how ever, refused to use it in his building works, which may explain the durability of his buildings when so little else from the time exists.

The mine workings must have been extensive because the family were still mining it in 1677 with their lime kilns situated on Greenwich South Street, formerly known as Limekiln Lane, when they fell foul of the law and William Steers was given his initial fine for "filling up, supporting and making good, safe and secure the King's Highway there against his lime kilns leading from Deptford to Blackheath which said highway he hath undermined by digging, taking and carrying from thence great quantities of chalk, whereby the said common highway is become very unsafe, and very dangerous for all the King's

Liege and over the said highway". He was fined again for the same offence and £5 for not putting up a fence against his Lime Kilns. Mining ceased around 1725 and the entrance in Maidenstone Hill was blocked up. By 1780 the mines were opened once again, and became the Blackheath Caves - a tourist attraction. A guided tour cost 6d. The main cavern was used for concerts and dances, and was a very fashionable venue to be seen at, but by the 1850s it was once again considered dangerous, and sealed.

And so to the question of "Can it happen in Westcombe Park?" - Frances Ward says no - Westcombe Park is built on the Blackheath pebble beds, while the area of Blackheath Hill is built on a remote out- crop of chalk. Our area was "open-mined" for its gravel and while small subsidences may occasionally occur, no caves exist beneath us. Engineers have recently researched the archives in the Local History Library relating to the caves to ascertain its extent. It seems eventually they will all be filled in, thus ending more than 300 years of existence.

Originally published in The Westcombe News

Latest news on 'the hole' is at

David Riddle points out to us a letter on the Google groups Web site rec.subterrenea which asks if the subsidence is really the old plague pits after which some people claim that Blackheath is named.


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

From: Dennis Grubb

I am related to the Grubb families who ran the Cemetery Brickyard next to the Woolwich Cemetery and the Wickham Lane Brickyard and lived at Southland Road, Plumstead. I am wondering if you know of a publication, articles or source which can give me more information on the manufacturing process of bricks at the yards form about 1850 to early 1900s? My family of brickmakers were first at Crayford (Barnes Cray) then Deptford and then Plumstead, or

From: Andrew Hunt

As a Science Year Project the London Region of the Association for Science Education with support form Nuffield has set up a web site ( to tell the world in general (and teachers/students in particular) what science does for London and what London does for Science. The Web site will continue once Science Year is over. We interpret science widely to include all sorts of technologies. Entries are short (2-300 words with an image). The 'Places' section is intended to show people how science and technology have shaped the London people see in the daily lives. Contributors are credited and the credit can include a link to a Web site. Please forward this message to anyone who might be interested.

Andrew Hunt, 36 Marquis Road, NW1 9UB Tel: 020 7267 3680

From: Denise

I am trying to gather some information on the Royal Ordnance Factory in Woolwich. I need to do a local history assignment for my course work and the title I have been given is 'Cause and Effect' which I need to tie in with how the ROF came into being and what it did for Woolwich as a whole (need to base this project on a 50 year period - up to the First World War).

(If you can help please contact the Editor for Denise's details)

From: David Riddle

We seem to get a lot of Genealogy enquiries lately. A colleague of mine at Goldsmiths College, Peter Christian has kindly come up with this info and suggests that people simply look on the relevant web pages on Genuki

City of London:




These all relate to the historic counties i.e. Pre-1974.

From: China Hamilton

I am most interested in all the material I can find on Crossness Pumping Station there is no mention of the architect of the building, Charles Henry Driver. Driver was a major Victorian architect, especially in the area of railway stations, his work on the Thames Embankment and one wing of the Crystal Palace etc. You will find his design contribution to the Crossness pumping station in the listed buildings details.

From: Mark Landergan

I see you refer on your Web site to an article written by my father titled Eltham Park. The Story of A Station. Can I get a copy of this?

[Sorry Mark, the article was actually in Bygone Kent! - editor]

From: John Greig

I would like some information about Greig's Wharf on the Greenwich Peninsula. James Robert Greig, with his brother, inherited an estate in the south of Trinidad that was mainly concerned with sugar production in the early days. On various certificates he is described as a sugar merchant or retired ditto. However, those of his children who took on the estate [incorporated in Trinidad as: Greig (Cedros) Estates Limited] are variously described, with 'planter' being one designation (my grandfather was in Trinidad but died young and my father was born there).

Various family tales suggest that there was a search for alternative products and indeed, in the 1891 census James Robert is described as 'West India Merchant (Oil Miller)' whereas he had just been 'West India Merchant' in the 1881 census). At his death in 1915 he had shares in Cedros Oil Company Limited, though, since I learnt this from the inventory, I have no idea whether it referred to vegetable or mineral oils (with Trinidad, both are possible). I will be trying to trace down this Cedros Oil Company but am not at the moment able to be more specific about the nature of his trade at Greenwich. Much will depend on when he took over the lease of the wharf. I assume from the wording of the inventory that it was not necessarily at the start of the 80-year lease.

With regard to this, the start of the lease was about a fortnight before he was married to a Jessie Rodger in Belfast. Jessie's father, James, was a sea captain (as was James Robert's father) and there is a family tale, which I have not yet been able to confirm but for which there is quite good circumstantial evidence, that one of Jessie's uncles was Alexander Rodger the owner of several tea clippers including the Taeping. This may all turn out to be coincidence but I will have to keep it in mind.

(Mary Mills replied :….)

From: Dan Byrnes

I have just placed on the internet a new website book titled 'The Business of Slavery' which is actually to be a predecessor to the main production 'The Blackheath Connection' already on the net and getting a regular 370 hits on average per week.

It presents a new theory ranged around four main themes. Attention is also given to successive expressions of interest that England had, or thought it had, in what we now call Australia. I have some facts, which have not been seen in print before so I'll be glad to have any reactions people think I should have at this stage of writing.

From: June Baker-Dobson


I am interested in the Thames Soap Works, Greenwich, situated on the peninsula during the 1800s and hope that you may be able to help me. My husband's father was born at the works, but we have been unable to find out anything.

From Stuart Rankin


I have been asked if anyone might have more information on the Joyce Greenwich Ironworks - can you suggest someone?

From Judy Jenkins

I am wondering if any of your members are at all knowledgeable about tenants of Charlton House in the 1970s. I understand that Charles Davies Cortoys leased part of Charlton House from the Maryon Wilson family and also leased part of Shooters Hill Road. I would be stunned if anyone can help me with information on this man.

From: Catherine Brigden

My great-grandfather Charles Brigden was from Woolwich and was a gunner with the Royal Horse Artillery, serving during the Crimean War. I have come across a reference stating that he was among several men presented with a cannon by Queen Victoria and that these cannons were placed on Woolwich Common. I am wondering if there are any remaining on the common.

From: Paul Harcombe

I am wondering if you could possibly help me. I lived in married quarters with my parents (my dad was in the Royal Artillery Motorcycle Display Team) for three years up to 1979 at which point history and military history in particular became of great interest. My dad always encouraged this especially as being in Woolwich he was really proud of being at Regimental HQ, as it were. These days I work in HM Land Registry and as a result have access to the up-to-date map of the UK and some computerised versions of old maps. The point of all this meandering is that I noted on the old maps of the Royal Artillery buildings in Woolwich, a building called the Magnetic Office, just south of the Rotunda. I couldn't find out what it was - and it has been bugging us as to what it might have been for. If you could possibly help me I would be very grateful.

From: Chris Mansfield

It's Chris, from Readysnacks cafe.... I was just having a look at your Web site and spotted the link to my own (re Tom Cribb).

The site address has now changed and fairly soon this link will not find me.

Also, if you are interested, you got his date of birth listed incorrectly.. He was born on the 2nd July 1781 and christened on the 8th. I have got copies of both his birth cert' and christening cert'. A lot of Tom Cribb devotees got this bit wrong. How goes it with your book of people at work??

Byeeee.. Chris

Check out my Web site,

All now corrected on the Web version of the relevant page. Ahh... the Wonders of the Web!! Dave.

From: David Riddle

Do you know anyone who is interested in Joseph Paxton?
Someone who contacted me about the Dome and Wellcome's proposal has just set up a Society to celebrate his bi-centennial...

Joseph Paxton (1803-1865) probably the unsung hero of the Victorian age - but in many ways he is a remarkably contemporary figure. In 1851 (the year of the Great Exhibition) he was quite well known, a reputation equivalent to that of Stephenson or Brunei. He was first and foremost a 'horticulturist' - head gardener to the 6th Duke of Devonshire. His contributions to horticulture are many, from his groundbreaking publications to the giant 'Victoria regia' lily and the 'Cavendish' banana. He was also a railway entrepreneur. He is probably best known for his pioneering work in Iron and Glass structures - the exposition buildings and greenhouses of the age. Similar techniques in steel led to skyscrapers. The Crystal Palace was widely imitated, and it was the world's first 'International Exposition' building. Sydenham was probably the World's first Theme Park. As many have observed, the 'Dome' owes part of its existence to this legacy - so marking his Bicentennial in the Dome would seem particularly apt.

A Web site for the Society is currently under construction.



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.

The Isle of Dogs: A Brief History - Volume 1: 1066-1918
by Eve Hostettler

Published by the Island History Trust, December 2000.

Available direct from the publisher at Dockland Settlement, 197 East Ferry Road, London E14 3BA, at £10 (£12.00 by post).

This book, by the Trust's curator Eve Hostettler, is based on archive research and draws extensively on the Trust's collection of reminiscence and ephemera put together by Islanders themselves over the past 20 years. It includes many photographs from the Trust's own collection and from the Museum of London PLA Collection. The story of the Isle of Dogs from medieval times to the opening of the docks is explored in the context of the expansion of London as an international port and the development of Britain's trading relationship with the rest of the world. Industrial growth on the Isle of Dogs is shown as linked to ship-building in the first six decades of the 19th century, with a new population converging on the area from all over the British Isles. This population growth continued until 1900, by which time the character of the local economy had become much more varied, with engineering and food processing as dominant activities. A settled community was developing with all its associated features of extended families and shared pursuits, only to be shattered by the impact of World War One, illustrated here through the recollections of one individual Islander who served in the trenches.

A Fisherman of Greenwich
by Julie Tadman

Published 2002 in Brisbane, Australia.

Those who believe that "doing family history" is

Self-indulgent and without historical merit will find that

Julie's book proves them wrong. Her interest in the history of her English ancestors was sparked off when a memorial card came to light in New Zealand. Modern technology came to Julie's aid and an e-mail asking for help in her search for details about the Bracegirdle family, Greenwich and its fishing industry appeared in a Greenwich Industrial History Society journal. I contacted Julie Tadman, not because I knew anything about William Bracegirdle of Ballast Quay "but because I knew a little about his grandson Frederick Bracegirdle. Frederick sailed to the Auckland Islands with Charles Enderby in 1849. He stayed in the Antipodes and eventually became Assistant Harbour Master in Sydney. William Bracegirdle was not born in Greenwich but he came to the town in about 1795 as a young fisherman apprentice. He became a successful master Fisherman and set himself up in Crowley Wharf and Ballast Quay.

By 1840 Greenwich fishermen were trying to compete with the new fishing ports on the East Coast and William, although still fishing, began to look for a new enterprise to secure his future. Unfortunately he became embroiled in a legal case with the trustees of Morden College. William's dream of opening a new East Greenwich Steam boat Pier, in partnership with the wealthy developer Coles Child, came to nothing. Arguments with Morden College and the court case brought against William in 1844 are the core of the book. He lost everything and by 1861 he and his wife were living in Queen Elizabeth College, West Greenwich. They both died there in 1863.

This book can be obtained in the UK from;

M. Price, Thorwood Cottage, Knoll Road, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 2EL. Price £13.75

Please make cheque payable to M. Price.

Barbara Ludlow, April 2002

A Tree in the Quad. Life in Woolwich 1940s- to 70s
by Iris Bryce

Iris Bryce's latest book of reminiscences is a fascinating read for anyone interested in Woolwich Local history and in particular with the history of British Jazz. Her husband, Owen, was one of the pioneers of the British Revivalist Movement and a member of George Webb's Dixelanders in the 1940s.

'Industrial' history is not neglected with an account of the embarrassing unveiling of the infamous Woolwich Autostacker. Iris also captures well a period of rapid change with the sharp decline in the small retail and service sector in the mid-20th century.

Most of all her writing is witty and human. Highly recommended.

(No details or price at the moment)

Alan Mills

(Editorial Note - for those less familiar with the history of British Jazz than our reviewer - basically, British Jazz was invented by George Webb and his chums at the Red Barn pub in Bexleyheath. The chums included not only Owen Bryce but also such luminaries as Humphrey Lyttleton and Woolwich's then Museum curator, Reg Rigden!)

Bygone Kent - Vol 20, No3.

Contains part 3 of Mary Mills' seminal articles on the Maudslay Son and Field shipyard on the Greenwich Peninsula.

Mary would also like to thank the anonymous person who sent her, via Bygone Kent, a list of vessels, which may have been built at the yard. These are:

Grappler - 1866 Iron, 30 hp screw for Richard Cory, Commercial Road, Lambeth, Surrey.

Tigress - 1870 Iron 30 hp screw for William Yeoman, 19 Caervarvon Road, Stratford, Essex,

Star - 1867 (registered Preston 1880). Iron screw, steam yacht. For Thomas Townley-Parker, Cuerdon Hall, Preston.

Thyra - 1876 (SGMB formerly Elsbeth, registered London 1881). Iron screw, for Delabore O, Blaine, 2 Suffolk Lane, Cannon Street, City, London.

Hebe - Steam yacht 1856, Maudslay annular piston engine 244 indicated HP.

In addition - from other sources - it is now clear that the Thames Ferries, Jessie May and Pearl, were not built by Maudslay.

We are sorry to learn from the Lewisham Local History Newsletter of the death of Lewisham Archivist Jean Waite. Jean had been a supporter of GIHS from the start - but her death will be a real blow to historians in Lewisham.


The following article describes the removal of a steam engine to a new home at Crossness Engines Trust. The article appeared in the Spring 2002 edition of Crossness Engines Record and in the April 2002 edition of the GLIAS Newsletter (from which this version is scanned).

Crossness Engines has recently earned out a rescue mission on a Stewart engine from David Evans of Crayford, Kent. I doubt whether many of the staff of David Evans were aware of the existence of the small steam engine tucked away in one of their smaller print shops. When I made enquiries whilst on a conducted tour of the silk printing works some years ago, the official guide had to seek advice from an older member of staff before the engine was located and I was allowed to see it.

When members of the Crossness Engines Trust (CET) learnt of the intention of David Evans and Co. to close their works at Crayford we were of course concerned for the fate of the engine. Mike Dunmow, Executive Secretary of the Trust, wrote to 'Evans' enquiring as to the disposal of the engine and if there was no better home for it, might Crossness Engines recover it for conservation. An agreement was reached and an advance party from CET went along to the silk printing works at Bourne Road, Crayford to assess the work involved in recovery.

The team, including Colin Bowden, arrived on 15th November 2001 and photographed and measured the engine and its location within the works. Preliminary marking and engine stripping was then carried out, removing the steam and exhaust pipes and loosening various nuts in preparation for the next visit. An assessment was also made at this time as to the amount of lifting tackle and scaffolding required to safely dis-assemble the engine.

The next visit was on 23rd November 2001, when the main cam con-rods and valve con-rods were 'pop marked' and removed from the engine. It was deemed prudent to bring these items back to 'Crossness' for safekeeping. Lack of heavy transport meant that the scaffolding and lifting tackle could not be taken to the works on this visit.

On the 28th November 2001, the cylinders, valve-boxes and crosshead sliders were removed ready for collection.

With heavier transport we arrived at the now closed works on the 20th December 2001 and erected a scaffold frame and lifting tackle. It must be said that although the engine is quite small it was close to a wall and hemmed in by a rather large tentering machine. With the chain hoist securely slung and web slings attached the camshaft, flywheel and belt-wheel were lifted clear of the 'A' frame and 'tarzaned' to one end of the engine base. The engine's 'A' frame was then lifted clear of its retaining studs and loaded onto a suitable trolley and removed to the front of the building ready for collection at a later date. On this visit the smaller parts were removed to 'Crossness', leaving only the heaviest two pieces, the 'A' frame and flywheel, camshaft and belt wheel to be collected.

On 4th January 2002 the team arrived with a low truck with a HIAB and the remaining two pieces of engine were loaded and taken back to Crossness Engines Museum. It is the intention, of the Trust that the engine will eventually be cleaned, conserved and re-assembled and mounted on a mobile base to become a static display.


The engine was built by Stewart of Glasgow and is a diagonal duplex with the cylinders located one on each leg of an 'A' frame. The cam, flywheel and drive-wheel are mounted in bearings at the apex of the frame. The cylinders are five-inch diameter with a ten-inch throw, the piston-rods work through guide-blocks mounted on each leg of the 'A' frame and up to the cranks on the main shaft. The overall size of the engine is fifty-nine inches high by thirty-two inches wide; the 'A' frame is forty inches high, sixty inches long and sixteen inches wide. The flywheel is thirty-six inches diameter by four inches wide. The supplier: T Mitchell & Sons, Bolton, Lancs. Serial No. 9326.


Mike Dunmow, Alan Boakes, Harry Collinson, David Dawson, Laurie Dunmow, John Ridley, Peter J. Skilton, David Wilkinson and Martin Wilson.

Research continues about Stewarts of Glasgow and our engine in particular. If any GLIAS member feels they have something to contribute please contact either Mike Dunmow or Peter Skilton at;

Crossness Engines Trust, c/o Thames Water Sewage Treatment Works, Belvedere Road, Abbey Wood, London. SEZ 9AQ


by Philip Binns

Meeting of 19th March

Land at Stockwell Street and John Humpheries House.

Demolition and rebuilding for a mixed use development with pedestrian square, residential, etc. etc. etc. Group welcomes these proposals but there are a number of concerns on facades, roof levels, etc.. There are still two alternative proposals.

Former Rachel McMillan and Goldsmiths College, Creek Road.

Redevelopment for student accommodation, etc, etc.. Group is not happy with the scale of the building and think that the Rachel McMillan College 1930s buildings are worthy of retention in respect of their historical associations with the McMillan sisters who were pioneers in the social and educational reforms of the early part of the 20th century aimed at improving the condition of children of the poorer classes in this part of south east London.

It is understood that an application by Myles Dove for local listing has been rejected by English Heritage as the older buildings have been modified extensively internally so there is little worth preserving, and the '60s student hall of residence, although the recipient of an ILEA award, was said to be 'like many others of its era'. Web Ed.

Millennium Dome - applications for use of the dome, Unobjectionable in principle.

Water Tower, Brook Hospital, Shooters Hill. Conversion to residential use, unable to comment

Cambridge Barracks Gate House, Frances Street. Install new railings, unobjectionable.

Building 7 Royal Arsenal. Alterations for new entrance and duct work in the roof structure. Unobjectionable.

Woodrow Business Centre, 65/66 Woodrow. Installation of 3no panel antennae in replica flagpole. Unacceptable in this densely populated area, and query need to disguise the antennae as a flagpole.

Meeting held 23rd April

Maritime House, Greens End, SE18. Increase number of units, unobjectionable - but concerned about uninviting access.

Cambridge House, Cambridge Row, SE18. Demolition of industrial unit and erection of 18 homes. No drawings so can't comment.


Article by Sue Hayton

Some members may have seen the announcement in the Newsletter of the closure of Lowne Instruments in Boone Street in Lee and the sale of its machinery.

GLIAS member, George Arthur, who has worked for the company for nearly 30 years alerted the Recording Group to the closure of the works at the end of February 2002 after 147 years in business, in Finchiey, Lewisham and finally in Lee. The Recording Group, with the permission of the owner. Bob Barnard, and with the help of George, was able to make a video, shot by Dan Hayton, of the works before it closed. The video record also showed many of the machines in operation as well as later shots of a nearly empty works. Dave Perrett, ably assisted with the tape measure by his son, Martin, was able to make a measured drawing using a computer design program and in addition Chris Grabham spent two full days photographing the works. I spent some time in the Local History Library in Lewisham trying to find out any information about the two Lowne sites in the Borough. I was also able to look through what remained of the company's records from the 19th and early 20th century, a random rag-bag selection!

Robert Mann Lowne was the son of a doctor, Benjamin Thompson Lowne, who moved to London to train at Barts Medical College in 1842. He later moved to the Farringdon Dispensary in Bartletts Passage in Holborn, now New Fetter Lane. Robert was the second son, bom in 1844. His elder brother, also Benjamin Thompson Lowne, became a noted surgeon and lecturer at the Middlesex Hospital, but iittle is known about Robert's early life. His first patent, taken out in 1865, was for a spirometer, sliowing his knowledge of things medical. From then on a great number of patents were taken out by Robert Mann Lowne and from 1872 he and his family lived in East End, Finchley where he became known as an inventor and scientific instrument maker. He and his wife, Emily, had four children, two of whom, Robert James Mann Lowne and Benjamin Thomson Lowne (yes, another one!), joined him in the business.

By 1894 the family moved to Lewisharn where they occupied a large house, Ravenscroft, at 108 Bromley Road. All the work was carried out by the three family members which is quite surprising considering the volume of work undertaken by the company in the early years of the 20th century. The Lowne Electric Clock and Appliance Company was set up in 1904 as a limited company to exploit the patents for electric clocks taken out by the company. Contracts were undertaken to provide the Arsenal with an electric master clock system, with 46 slave clocks needing 6.5 miles of cabling and run from Leclanché cells, as well as one for the South Metropolitan Gas Works in the Old Kent Road.

Both systems are sadly no longer in existence. A new workshop in the garden was built in 1905 to be able to fulfil these orders. Sadly the company did not prosper and was, for a while, taken over in the 1920s by the Magneta Company. whose Head Office was in Carterel Street. The Lownes continued to work at home for Magneta, until 1926 when the company reverted to the Lowne family. New premises had to be found as Ravenscroft had been sold to the Magneta Company and the site had been redeveloped.

The company moved to Boones Street off Lee High Road, where a former wheelwright's premises was to be their home until 2002. Robert Mann Lowne died in 1928 and his two sons with RJM Lowne's son, Frederick James Mann Lowne, continuing the business. With the advent of the National Grid, mains clocks were possible and so the Lownes made synchronous clocks both for the home and for industry. Daniel remembers a large Lowne clock near the Angel in the 1970s - does anyone else know of one?

After the difficulties of the 1930s, perhaps their most profitable years were in the 1940s when War work kept them occupied, despite the damage caused in 1942 by a nearby bomb. After the retirement of his father and uncle, 'Mr Fred' ran the works and developed new products, in particular, air meters, needed in particular in mines. In turn Fred's step son. Bob Barnard, took over until the decision was made to close.

Sadly Bob died at the beginning of February, only a few days after the sale of the machinery. We were much indebted to him and his family for allowing GLIAS so much access for recording. We were particularly delighted to have the chance of finding more records, including the Minute Books and some accounts, in the office and even in the garage! Lewisham Local History Museum has had a number of items donated to it including synchronous clocks, stools and work benches, as well as advertising material. We look forward to a Lowne exhibition from them in due course. Many original photographs and glass negatives have been rescued along with advertisements from the early days and the original Minute Books. The family again has been generous in allowing me to look through them to compile both this article as well as a fuller record for the Recording Group. Who knows where Lowne instruments are to be found? I know of several in the Science Museum, master and slave clocks as well as spirometers. Are there any others, particularly air meters, in other collections? Finally, does anyone have a Lowne electric clock at home? Apparently they are collectable now!

P.S. The works in Boone Street are to be demolished and a new housing development, 'Lowne Court' will replace it. Apparently no one objected to the demolition of the old building, perhaps because it really has outlived its usefulness.


John Humphries House and the LEO W computer

By Harry Pearman

John Humphries House in Stockwell Street was the first purpose-built computer centre in Greenwich and the site of a remarkable initiative by local government.

An early UK computer with an electronic stored memory was the EDSAC machine developed at Cambridge University in 1949. I caught the attention of J. Lyons & Co., who were the managers of a highly successful teashop chain. They were also innovators of management systems and found that the paperwork of stock control in all of their branches greatly inhibited efficiency. Lyons therefore set about building the first UK computer for business use. It was dubbed the LEO 1 machine; LEO standing for Lyons Electronic Office. It utilised mercury delay lines for memory storage, and ran the world's first regular office job for stock control in 1951. An offshoot company, LEO Computers Ltd., was formed in 1954 to market the technology and LE0 2 machines were installed in many British offices, including Ford Motor Company, British Oxygen Company and the Ministry of Pensions at Newcastle.

This success led to the invention of the LE0 3 machine. This machine used panels of magnetic washers to store programs and data. Memory size was limited, and programmers had to show great ingenuity in the direct manipulation of memory in order to contain data. Files were stored on magnetic tape reels and data was entered by completing batches of forms, which were punched onto paper tape. Programs were written in a wholly numeric language called Intercede, and the primitive operating system required a great deal of operator intervention. LEO's principal benefit was the ability to print forms and tabulations at speeds of up to 1,000 lines a minute.

In 1960 these innovations caught the attention of a Greenwich Councillor named John Humphries. He was instrumental in the creation of a Joint Committee formed from the then Metropolitan Boroughs of Greenwich, Woolwich, Deptford, Southwark, Bermondsey and Camberwell, and this in turn set about the creation of a computer centre, with the result that John Humphries house was built and officially opened. The development of systems was placed in the hands of the Metropolitan Boroughs Organisation & Methods Committee, another Joint Organisation serving the needs of 28 Metropolitan Boroughs and managed by John Dive. They created a computer division and it was based at John Humphries. The first application was Rate Accounting and this was followed by Payroll, General Ledger Accounting, Job Costing, Stock Control, Creditor Payments, Miscellaneous Debtors, Transport, Housing Rents, Electoral Registration, Library Cataloguing and Land Use Registration. Subsequently The Forest and Bexley Hospitals and the Bloodstock Agency also used the services of the site.

A major change took place in 1965 when London Government was re-organised and the centre then serviced the data processing needs of the London Boroughs of Bexley, Greenwich and Southwark. As computing developed it became financially viable for each local authority to create its own computer installation. The need for a joint installation ceased and the use of John Humphries House was discontinued. LEO Computers Ltd merged with the computer interests of English Electric in 1963 to form English Electric LEO, and later, English Electric Leo Marconi (EELM). Subsequent mergers eventually found LEO incorporated into SCL in 1968. And the ICL machine range took over new production.


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



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.

24-26th May, 2nd World War Concert Party at Firepower Museum, Royal Arsenal. Free.

25th May, Woolwich and the Arsenal. Friends of Ironbridge Gorge Walk. 2,30 from Woolwich arsenal Station. Led by Chris Grabham.

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

Wednesdays beginning 24th April 2002 2.00 - 4.00pm (12 meetings in total) Late start is possible.
Lecturer: Dr. Mary Mills. Fee: £55 / £28 concessions.
North Woolwich Old Station Museum, Pier Road North, Woolwich, London, E16

This course will explore, in a popular fashion, the fascinating history of the Port and industries of East and South East London What's gone? What's left? We shall look at the recent past and the redevelopment of the area over the last twenty years as well as covering the period back to the eighteenth century and before. There will be walks and visits, and the lectures are illustrated by slides. Students will be encouraged to produce written work and pursue individual study interests.

To book a place please contact Mr D. De Carle, 35 Torrington Park, London N12 9TB Tel: 020 8445 5081

Second Symposium, Shipbuilding on the Thames and Thames-built Ships
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich - Saturday, 15 February 2003

This will be the successor to the first symposium, which was held at Nelson Dock House, Rotherhithe, in September 2000. Papers offered to date include:

William Evans, shipbuilder of Rotherhithe and his steamships - Stuart Rankin
Thames built ships of the Orient Line and the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company - Peter Newall
The General Steam Navigation Company Yard at Deptford - Peter Gurnett
Early steamship machinery installation and repairs on the City Canal, Isle of Dogs - Roger Owen
Coastal shipping and the Thames - John Armstrong
Convicts to Australia. The story of HMS Glatton and her sister ship HMS Calcutta, former East Indiamen, 1802-3 - Brian Swann
An aspect of warship building on the Thames - Rif Winfield

Further offers of papers are invited, to Dr. Roger Owen, the Organising Secretary, by 30 September 2002.
Dr. J.R. Owen, 8, The Drive, West Wickham, Kent, BR4 OEP,
Tel: 020 8777 7013, e-Mail:-

Professors Sarah Palmer and Andrew Lambert will co-chair the Symposium.
The fee will be £10. Further details will be issued towards the end of the year.


Dockland Settlement, 197 East Ferry Road, E14 3BA - walk there from Greenwich!

On open display, 5,000 photographs of the Isle of Dogs 1870-1970 schools, families, workplaces, streets, pubs churches.
For more information contact Eve on 020 7987 6041

MAKING MEMORIES MATTER - will be the title of the June exhibition at the Age Exchange Theatre Trust at 11 Blackheath Village.
For details ring 020 8318 9105

FIREPOWER - have Royal Salutes in the Arsenal on 3rd, 10th, 15th June, and 5th August at 12 pm. They have tours of the Arsenal in July and August in Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays 11.30 am and 2.30pm. They also advertise Paintball activities at £1 for 10 shots.


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