Volume 5, Issue 5, September 2002







17th September - Wesley Harry - Film of the Royal Arsenal at work - in addition - Vanessa Bunton from English Heritage will talk to us about her work

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

19th November - speaker from Kew Bridge Engines Trust

18th February - Brian Sturt on Wandsworth Gas Works and the 'flat iron' colliers

18th March - John King on the Trains and Planes of Berlin

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



10th Custom and Classic Car Show

Sunday, 13th October

11-4 pm

Crown Woods School, Riefield Road, Eltham, London SE9


Ministry of Defence Materials Quality Assurance Directorate (MQAD) at The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich

by Bruce Blissett


In November 1966 I joined the General Chemicals Laboratory in MQAD as an industrial analytical chemist experienced in the quality control of a wide variety of materials and chemical products. The General Chemicals Laboratory was one of a group of laboratories on Frog Island forming the then named Directorate of Chemical Inspection. This paper gives a very brief history of the Royal Arsenal, the Directorate and an outline of just some of the work undertaken in the General Chemicals Laboratory.

The Origins of the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich

The launch of the ship Henri Grace á Dieu in October 1515, marked the beginning of the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich which was so important in the founding of King Henry VIII's navy. A rope yard serving the dockyard was built between 1573 and 1576 by the builder Thomas Allen and was situated on land adjacent to the present day Beresford Street. Thomas Allen also erected a store house close to the Thames shore and Bell Water Gate. There was also a slipway, wharf, warehouse and gunyard where ordnance from ships could be housed while awaiting reallocation.

During the conflict with the Dutch, the storehouse on the gunwharf was found to be too small and in 1671, the Crown bought an old manor house named Tower House (later named Tower Place) and its associated land in order to accommodate a store keeper and to build a powder house and store for saltpetre (potassium nitrate). The purchase of Tower Place together with 31 acres of land for use as an ordnance storage depot really marks the beginning of what was to become the Royal Arsenal. The Royal Arsenal expanded in a piecemeal fashion until in 1907 it was 3 miles long and up to 1 mile wide.

A Brief History of the Directorate

During the seventeenth century, the office of the Ordnance Chemist was established which, in the latter part of its existence, served in the Royal Arsenal until it was abolished in 1826. Following the discovery of guncotton (nitrocellulose) and nitro-glycerine in the 1840s however, the need was felt in the War Office for the expertise of a chemist and in 1854, a young man named Frederick Abel who, two years earlier had succeeded Michael Faraday as Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, was recruited into the post of Ordnance Chemist. The title Ordnance Chemist was later changed to War Department Chemist.

The War Department Chemist was responsible for the inspection of an extraordinary range of materials including gunmetal, saddlery, hay and 'energetic materials' such as gunpowder,. Frederick Abel (later Sir Frederick Abel) was noted for his major role in the development of cordite (a mixture of nitro-glycerine and nitrocellulose) as a propellant for ammunition. He devised a heat stability test for explosives which, to my knowledge, is still in use today and Abel's flash point apparatus for testing the flammability of flammable liquids such as petroleum products. Abel's flash point test using apparatus to his original design remains the reference method for testing low flash point fuels to the British IP (Institute of Petroleum) and American ASTM test methods. In 1888, Sir Frederick Abel GCVO, KCB was succeeded by Dr. W. Kellner. In 1904, a separate Chemical Research Department was created and in 1909, the War Department Chemist became part of the Armament Inspection Department under the new title Chemist, Inspection Department. At the start of the First World War, the department had only 12 staff but this number needed to be increased to more than 150 with new laboratories opening in other parts of the country. The range of materials for which the department was responsible also greatly increased due largely to the advent of chemical warfare. In 1917, the title Chemist, Inspection Department was again changed to Directorate of Chemical Inspection and was changed yet again to War Department Chemist in 1920. The rearmament programme of 1935 led to the recruitment of more staff at Woolwich and after more than 80 years service, the laboratory block (Building 20), still largely to the original design of Sir Frederick Abel was considered inadequate and new laboratories were built on Frog Island where the Arsenal canal once formed a loop. There they remained until 1971 when the buildings were evacuated to allow the land to be handed over to the Greater London Council. The laboratories were finally housed in a badly designed and cheaply built modern laboratory block.

In 1939, the department's name was changed to Chief Chemical Inspectorate and during the Second World War staff numbers exceeded 1600. 1952 saw yet another name change to Director of Chemical Inspection or Chemical Inspection Directorate (CID). Gales of laughter would often be heard at the other end of a telephone line if someone answered, "Hello, this is the CID!". The never-ending title changes continued, for in 1970, we became known as the Quality Assurance Directorate (Materials), abbreviated to QAD/Mats. This title was considered too easily confused with that of our sister department; Quality Assurance Directorate (Ordnance), abbreviated to QAD/Ord and in 1972 we were renamed Materials Quality Assurance Directorate, abbreviated to MQAD.

MQAD provided technical expertise and quality assurance of material supplies for the army, navy and air force. It had a chief director and three assistant directors. Each assistant director headed a division and these were: E (explosives), P (polymers) and G (general). Each division was sub-divided into branches so that E division had two branches covering explosives and propellants while P division had branches covering papers, rubbers, plastics materials, paints and adhesives. The General Division had branches covering metals, petrol, oils and lubricants, and general chemicals which was the branch and laboratory in which I worked. There were also the Analytical Development laboratories which assessed new analytical techniques and a Central Packaging Unit situated in Plumstead.

The General Chemicals Laboratory, like Sir Frederick Abel's original laboratory, was responsible for analysing or otherwise testing an enormous range of materials. More than one thousand different items were covered including various leathers, insecticides, pesticides, insect repellents, desiccants, sealants (lutings), bleaching powder, camouflage cream, soap, detergents, disinfectants, inks, corrosion inhibitors, derusting solutions, anodizing solutions, plating solutions, solder fluxes, degreasing compounds, ullage and water finding pastes, abrasive blasting grits, shell linings, respirator filters, organic and inorganic wood preservatives, polishes, wax and edible candles, aircraft thrust augmentation fluids, runway de-icing fluids, solvents and pure chemicals. Samples for chemical analysis from the other branches of MQAD would also be tested and the laboratory provided a free analytical service for the whole of the MoD.

To be continued....


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

From: Beryl Mason

I am writing as a follow up to your article on Molassine - the red brick building 'offices' on Tunnel Avenue in fact used to be flats. I used to deliver to that building when I worked for Boots.

From: Jeremy Bacon

I am doing some quick research into the 1st Brighton Run, 14th November 1896. In the list of entries sent to the press appears:- No.54 Messrs Penn's steam-carriage. On the day only 33 cars started, and No.54 did not put in an appearance. Have you any record of Penn's steam-carriage in 1896? Possibly still extant on the 1899 takeover?


From: Geoffrey Belcher

Greenwich Development Agency have grant-aided a shopfront at Masterwe/Printing Ltd, 115 Trafalgar Road. At basement level in the rear is a brick oven about eight feet wide. It doesn't seem to me to be earlier than 19th century, but it is close to the former Royal Palace and is certainly commercial in scale. Could it have an earlier beginning? The owners are busy demolishing it but have taken photographs. They have offered any bits to those interested including the Borough Museum.

From: Nishani Kampfner

Thank you for your interest in SS Robin - now berthed in the West India Dock. There is a website - which has useful information about the volunteer group. Just thought we'd let you know a few recent developments at SS Robin - we're delighted to announce that Jim Fitzpatrick MP has agreed to become the project's Patron. We're inviting new Trustees to join the Board - do let us know if you'd be interested. We've redesigned our website at to include our team structure and new identity. Should you require any further information on SS Robin, the world's oldest remaining complete steamship, and her conversion into a photography gallery.

From: David Perrett

I have just heard that the GLIAS database, our entry for the AIA awards, has been awarded the AIA main award for this year. Congratulations to all involved - particularly to Chris Grabhame whose idea it was, and who has spent so much time on it.

(Chris is, of course, also a GIHS member and will be coming to speak about the database at our AGM)

From: Alan Glass

I am trying to research a brass plate found on a beach. The plate is oval, about 4 inches across, and marked No. 710 Henry Sykes Ltd Engineers Southwark St London Owner & Leasors. The plate was found in the mid 1950's by a very old friend who is now very old indeed. He has wondered for years what it was and I hope that you may be able to give him an answer. Thank you very much, sorry to be a nuisance but I would like to solve the riddle for old Tom.

From: Ed Feege

I live in Maryland in the USA. I stumbled across your Web site when doing research on a ship reportedly built by Charles Lungley of Deptford Green. As far as I've been able to discern, the ship, named Pevensey, was built sometime in 1864. She was charted by Stringer, Pembroke & Co. (an incarnation of Galbraith Pembroke and Co. still in existence today) to run through the Union blockade between Bermuda and Wilmington, North Carolina during the U.S. Civil War. Her luck ran out on 9 June 1864, when her crew ran her aground while being pursued by a Union warship. They also rigged her boilers to explode rather than let her fall into Union hands. Today, parts of the wreck can still be seen at low tide in the surf at Pine Knoll Shores in North Carolina. A local diving team has been surveying the wreck as their time and funds permit. I wondered whether you or any members of the Greenwich Industrial Society might know anything about Mr. Lungley's "offspring" such as Pevensey and her sister, Nutfield, which also ran the blockade. Also, would you be able to suggest a good source to provide more in-depth information on Mr. Lungley's shipyard? Any information you might have would be most appreciated.

From: Louise Mac Donald

I am looking for ANY information on a Union Jack flag I recently acquired. I'm told it is a stern jack flag from a large ship as the flag measures 9ft 8in by 21 ft long and is stamped on the end (1811 Jack). I'm not sure if you can help me but if you can't would you please send any information where I can research the history of this flag. My father spent 35 years in the Navy and was buried at sea. He also left me with a curiosity for all things pertaining to ships and history.

From: John

I know this sounds like a strange request but I'm trying to find a record of a suicide, which would have happened in Plumstead High Street between the mid-1800s to early 1900s. I know it was a girl who hanged herself & I know It happened in or around the now known as Electric Orange Pub which is near the police station. This is very important to me & if you have anything on your records I'd be grateful if you could e-mail it to . Should you find the information I need I promise I'll fill you in.

From: Brian Strong (GLIAS Secretary)

I have been contacted by William Richards, who is acting with a group of individuals concerned about the threat to demolish Pain's Wharf (John Penn, engineers and boilermakers) and Borthwick Wharf (cold storage building designed by Sir Edwin Cooper), which he described as the last two buildings of distinction on the Deptford Waterfront except the Master Shipwright's House. He has been in touch with Paul Calvocoressi at English Heritage, who was supportive of a proposal to spot-list, but a good case needs to be made. I am attaching information on the two sites which has been forwarded to me.

Borthwick Wharf

The exterior has been little altered since Edwin Cooper completed it in 1934. There are some small additions in fletton bricks and the riverside canopy has been partially removed. Borthwick Wharf is visible from the top of Greenwich Park and some distance inland and proudly and vigorously announces Deptford's industrial past.

Edwin Cooper was, a RIBA gold medallist, he succeed Lutyens as president of the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors, Treasurer of the Royal Academy, an honorary member of Lloyds and his works include the listed PLA headquarters at Tower hill, the recently restored Devonport nurses home in Greenwich and the Cooper building now occupied by Greenwich University, the Royal College of Nursing in Cavendish Square, Marylebone Town Hall, The British Red Cross memorial, The Star and Garter home in Richmond.

His obituary in The Times credited him - "his tastes being for the bolder effects of classical form, skillfully adapted to modern functional demands."


Payne's Wharf is a former marine boiler works built for John Penn and Sons in the mid-nineteenth century. It sits on the waterfront at Deptford between two other buildings of significance; the grade II listed Master Shipwrights house and Sir Edwin Cooper's building for Borthwick and Sons. As a group, these three buildings offer a panorama of three centuries of industry on the Deptford waterfront. As separate buildings each has its own distinct architectural form and integrity.

Payne's Wharf is a nineteenth century building, specially built for the world renowned J Penn and Sons, the worlds finest marine engine builders.

The riverfront is made up of six vast Italianate arches in brick with deep stucco detailing, prominent decorative keystones and, until very recently, a scrolled name panel above the arches. The scale and quality of this building is not typical of Thames wharfing, the arches being built to give access to the river for lifting boilers into ships or barges in the river. The building is largely constructed of London stock brick with cast iron windows, wooden loading bay doors to the south.

It is not known who designed the building, but one possibility is that Penn himself had a hand in it. The west and south elevations are less dramatic than the river frontage, though the south has a curious gabled roofline. The western boundary forms the walls to the ancient Upper Watergate stairs, where the ferry to the Isle of Dogs departed.

The scale of Payne's Wharf is compatible with the immediately adjacent Master Shipwright's house, both being three stories above ground.

John Penn and Sons' amalgamation with Thames Ironworks led to the construction of the worlds first "iron clad", HMS Warrior, now restored by the maritime trust in Hartlepool. This partnership also produced the early Dreadnought battleships. The building is listed by the Greenwich Industrial History Society as an "industrial highlight".

The building is currently used for document storage by Hays Information Management, and is situated in the London Borough of Greenwich.

Fast-track listing is sought because planning consent for demolition may be sought and secured.

From: Len Chapman


A couple of years ago I bought an apartment at Lockes Wharf on the Isle of Dogs. The Site Manager at that time told me the site had previously been a foundry and the propellers for the rms Queen Mary had been cast at that foundry. Coincidentally I had sailed as an Engineer Officer on the QM so my technical interest was aroused. I contacted the University of Glasgow who hold all the QM archives but they could only identify that the propellers were manufactured by Stone Manganese Bronze. The order documents did not state where the propellers were produced. I have been looking for other sources of information without success until I located your website. That makes reference to J Stones and Co Deptford as the producers of the propellers for the QM. That appears to contradict the information the University of Glasgow has, unless J Stones was part of the Stone Manganese Bronze Company. I wonder if your members have the answers to the following questions: Were the rms Queen Mary's propellers supplied by J. Stone? If so when (they may have supplied replacement propellers)? Did J. Stones have a foundry located at Lockes Wharf? I know the University of Glasgow will be interested in the answers!

Incidentally I did visit the Age Exchange Reminiscence Centre a couple of years ago. I encountered it purely by chance. I used to sail from the Royal Albert Dock in the "good old days" so the exhibits brought back many memories. I went to Poplar Technical College as an Engineer Cadet but did not get to know Greenwich until I bought the apartment. I did regularly sail past Greenwich on my way to berth alongside Butlers Wharf and Shadwell Basin at a time when Docklands meant ships and cargoes and not high-rises and people!

(Mary Mills points out that the Queen Mary's propellors were made at Stone Foundry in Charlton - see 'Wonders of World Engineering', Part 23).

From: Vanessa Bunton

Over the last year there was some correspondence between Robert Whytehead of English Heritage and some of London's local archaeological societies. Following from this English Heritage have generously offered to fund a post for one year based at the Museum of London. The purpose of the post is to support local societies and work with them to become more actively involved in London archaeology, a hoped for outcome will be a lottery bid for future projects. I have been appointed to the post. Obviously my first priority is to talk to local societies and their members to find out the sorts of things they would like to be doing and how I can help them. English Heritage and the Museum of London are committed to supporting and working with local societies and creating partnerships, which is why early and continuing contact will be key to this project. I am based in the London Archive and Archaeological Research Centre (LAARC) at Mortimer Wheeler House, Eagle Wharf Road and can be contacted there by phone on 020 7566 9310 or by email or, alternatively on my mobile on 07811411447. I look forward to hearing from you and please feel free to contact me anytime.

(Vanessa is coming to speak to our meeting on 19th September)

From: Cllr. John Fahy

Making the Most of Our Civic Heritage

English Heritage have recently produced a consultation document setting out some guiding principles for decision-makers. I believe the time is now opportune to establish an Advisory Group of interested residents who can help the Council in supporting its own heritage buildings but also to work with others in creating a stronger voice for Greenwich.

I have been extremely encouraged with the initial response to my suggestion and I now write formally to invite you to consider this proposal and invite you to nominate a member of your Group to join this advisory group. Once I have received a response hope to convene a meeting in early September. I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

The Council owns the following listed sites:

Charlton House and Stable buildings
Woolwich Town Hall
Woolwich Old Town Hall
23/25 Woolwich New Road
Clockhouse, Woolwich Dockyard
Woodlands, Mycenae Road
Shrewsbury House
West Greenwich House
Charlton Assembly Rooms
Well Hall Pleasance - moat, bridge etc.
Tudor Barn
Severndroog Castle
Charlton Park walls
The Tarn ice well
Charlton cemetery drinking fountain
Andrew Gibb Memorial shelter
Rachel McMillan nursery
Woolwich Polytechnic School, Sandy Hill Road
Eltham Hill School, bothy and boundary wall
Wybourne School, Footscray Road
Deansfield School, Glenesk Road
Gordon School, Grangehill Road
Maze Hill School, Royal Hill
Plumstead Manor School, Old Mill Road
James Wolfe School, Randall Place
Crown Woods School
Greenslade School, The Slade
East Greenwich Library
West Greenwich Library
Woolwich Library
Eltham Library
Plumstead Library
Borough Hall
Rothbury Hall
Coronet Cinema, Well Hall road
Entrance to both foot tunnels (Greenwich & Woolwich)
Conduit Head, Southend Crescent
Callis Yard
Greenwich Theatre, Nevada Street wall.

From: Peter Mumford

I was very interested to see from your website (which I have only just discovered) that someone from English Heritage recently gave a talk on the Mumford Mill.

My name is Peter J.G. Mumford and the mill was owned by my family. I was taken around the mill just before my family sold it in the early sixties when it was an empty shell having been stripped of its contents by Rank Hovis when their lease ended. I have many old photographs of the mill and indeed some original plans (I think). I will have to dig. I lived in London for many years and often used to pass the mill but I haven't seen it for about fifteen years.

I would be very interested in knowing what info you have about the mill, and indeed if you could advise me of the current ownership. I long to see inside it again and would very much like to show my sons what their grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents achieved.

From: David Riddle

A public meeting at the Greenwich Borough Halls was informed by Transport for London last night that 'with a fair wind' the works to repair Blackheath Hill would take a further four months. There is apparently no evidence whatever of actual 'caverns' beneath the road or it's surroundings. What appears to have happened is that various chalk workings have occurred on either side of the carriageway over the past 400 years, as well as in the vicinity of the old, and reasonably well documented, Jack Cade Cavern off Maidenstone Hill. These, generally, did not pass under the 'King's Highway' which was, even 400 years ago, deemed 'illegal'. One passage has been positively identified that appears to link the workings on either side of the road. These working have been filled with a loose mixture of chalk Thanet Sand (the other main geological material in the area... there is no clay).

This material has then come under any one or more of five influences;

1. Natural settlement of the fill from its own weight. Obviously occurs. but not of a 'catastrophic nature' in itself.

2. Vibration from heavy vehicles. Deliberate 'vibratory rolling' to compact new road surfaces is limited in effect to 300-500mm, so this is considered to be relatively unlikely as a main cause.

3 Vibration from construction works. No works in progress at the time. '

4. Natural rainfall water. This caused leaching of the sand component and slippage of the fill down the chalk spine's slope. Regular.. and a likely significant contributory cause.

5. Sudden flushes of water from burst water mains (another was hit by the workmen at 1pm yesterday and was still running as the meeting concluded at 8pm!) and flash floods. Highly likely main contributor to the incident.

It is considered that 4 and 5 are the most likely causes of the incident, but the real cause "will never be known".

After extensive surveys, the final results of which are still not through, last week 'grouting' work began to inject a 'mortar' mix under pressure into the previous mining in-fill that lies on either side of a chalk 'spine' that lies beneath the centre of the carriageway.. i.e. the original Roman Road. This 'fill' varies in thickness from just a metre or so at the top to thirty metres further out. The mortar will bind the sand and chalk so that the sand is less likely to leach.

The current test grouting is taking place in the area of carriageway above the one known tunnel. Once permissions have been granted, works will then move to an area of pavement outside Glennie House where both vertical and diagonal bores under the property will be made to inject grout. As long as no structural damage is evident from this work, the procedure will be carried out over a 300m section of the Hill on either side of the carriageway.

An exhibition of photographs and diagrams of the old caves, the survey works and the plans for remedial action was held in the week following the meeting. A great deal of additional information was provided and many questions were dealt with.

I have printed copies of the MS-Powerpoint slides if anyone is interested.

From: Ray McBrindle

With forebears involved in the Arsenal and living in the district since at least the middle 1800s, I have been able to make good use of the excellent on-line Greenwich Industrial History materials on the Net. I now have an enquiry about blind workers in Greenwich.

My mother's grandfather, Charles McClellend, lived in Roan Street in the 1870s and went to live in Maidenstone Hill after marrying in 1879. Charles was recorded as being blind in the 1881 census. It took a bit of working out, but he appears to have been a ship fender-maker.

I have found a number of blind people in the Greenwich area in 1881, many of them involved in basket-making and fender-making. I have seen the letter from Beryl Mason in GIH, March 2001 which suggests that there was a blind workshop in Greenwich, including the manufacture of fenders and baskets. She mentions rope, which I had not thought of, so appears to nudge me along the track a bit more. But I would like to know of any information or sources of information that might lead to a better understanding of the likely place(s) that Charles might have worked at, and what fender-making involved. Was Greenwich a particularly good place for blind workers to be? In the mid-1880s the family moved to Harvard Road, near Hither Green, and in 1886 Charles was described as a master basket maker there. He appeared to be reasonably well paid, because he supported a family of six girls.

Can you help please, or point me to someone who can? I would be very grateful.

From: John E.McLean

Thank you for forwarding the copy of your last Newsletter which included a brief history of my grandfather's clay pipe making. This short article was the result of my wife's association with Iris Bryce of many years standing. I understand that Philip Wooland contacted you about the article and he has now been to see me. I gave him grandfathers' pipe mould and he was delighted. I am so pleased to be of some help.

(We understand that Philip Wooland is planning on writing an article - which we will publish in due course - about the pipe making works of Mr.McLean's grandfather).

From: J. Martin

We are looking for any kind of information on the company Jessop & Appleby Brothers. We're doing research on an old yard crane called Titan that was built by them early in the last century, It was used to build the present Port of Las Palmas where we work. We would appreciate any information you can give us.

Two more letters have been received - details if you ring 0208 858 9482 - one wanting the first name of Deptford shipbuilder, Colston - the other wanting details of the maltings which was on the Stockwell Street site.



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.

Civil Engineering Heritage Series - London and the Thames Valley by Denis Smith. £19.95. (GIHS members will remember Denis' lecture to us last year on Henry Maudslay). Order from or call 020 7665 2464

GLIAS NEWSLETTER - the August 2002 edition includes two articles by Mary Mills (both previously reported in this newsletter) - The Molasses Incident Photos and What's Under Blackheath Hill.

BYGONE KENT - The July 2002 edition contains three articles of interest to Greenwich historians: Mary Mills' article on a geological walk around Westcombe Park, Memories of Dene Holes in NorthWest Kent by A.J.Drew - but - most importantly - Munitionettes: Women Workers in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich by Barbara Ludlow. In addition there is a review of A fisherman of Greenwich by Julie Tadman (covered in our last edition) and a letter from Mary Mills adding some ship names to her earlier article on Maudslay, Son and Field.

Crossness Engines Trust - The Crossness Record of Summer 2002 contains the usual lively selection of articles on sewage and related topics. These include - an article on toilets in China - a review of a book 'Now Wash your hands!' by Stephen Arnott - an article on roof alterations in the 1890s - and job titles at the Southern Outfall. In addition 'News from the Octagon' reports on the progress of work on site to date.

Richard Trevithick - CD-ROM of the proceedings of the recent seminar on Trevithick. Available from Kew Bridge Engines Trust, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, Middx.

Chemical Industry - CD-ROM of English Heritage Report. This is basically a consultation on any possible remains of the industry and anyone interested is urged to contact English Heritage.

A Post Excavation Assessment of Archaeological Works at Vic Industrial Park, West Street, Erith. This study was commissioned by Wimpey Homes and covers a large section of the Erith riverside - more details in due course.

GASHOLDERS - we now understand that part of Malcolm Tucker's magisterial study of London gas holders is available from Malcolm.

SOUTH EAST LONDON MERCURY - both Chairman Jack Vaughan, and Secretary Mary Mills were quoted in a recent edition of the Mercury. Mary had been asked to comment on the 100th birthday of the foot tunnel - and was unaware when she made the comment that an event had been held to mark it. Jack was asked to comment on the endangered lock on the Arsenal Canal - I think I read it that Jack wants it restored - or is it the whole Arsenal he wants restored? (or course!)

INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE - The Summer 2002 article is a bumper one for Greenwich. First of all is a wonderful article by our member, Peter Jenkins, on Webster and Horsfall. - who made the wires, which went into the cables, which went across the Atlantic on the Great Eastern……. The issue also contains another article from Mary Mills on Joshua Taylor Beale and his son John, Engineers on the Greenwich Peninsula, and a reprint of the clay pipes article in our last issue.


by Myles Dove

As forecast in the May issue of GIH there was a celebration on Sunday 4 August 2002 to mark the completion of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel exactly one hundred years earlier. It was designed for the London County Council by Sir Alexander Binnie who had been responsible for the much longer Blackwall Tunnel completed in 1897. Like the foot tunnel it is still in use and celebrated its centenary five years ago.

When Greenwich Foot Tunnel was first completed, access was only by stairway for the lifts were not in operation till January 1904. In that year 4 million people used the foot tunnel, increasing to over 6 million by 1915. Now, with the Docklands Light Railway extended to Lewisham, there is another way to cross under the river but many walkers still use the foot tunnel and, of course, most cyclists have to use it because only fold-up cycles can be taken in the DLR. On the SUSTRANS national network of cycle routes the Greenwich foot tunnel is on route 1 linking Dover with Inverness so it is especially important for cyclists that this historic landmark is kept open and the two lifts kept working - even if they have to walk through it because cycling in it is forbidden.

The idea for the foot tunnel centenary came from Greenwich Cyclists, whose co-ordinator, Barry Mason, first contacted the two London boroughs sharing the operating costs for the tunnel - Greenwich and Tower Hamlets - and the day began with an address by the Mayor of each borough in the open air near the south entrance. They were followed by an entertaining and informative talk by Chris Binnie, in tall hat and gear that might have been worn by his great-grandfather who designed the tunnel and whose name lives on in the title of the present-day consulting engineers, Binnie, Black & Veatch. It was with their support that the centenary event was staged and they have a wide-ranging practice with projects in the Americas and Australasia as well as in Europe. Some of these were on view when the event transferred from rainswept Cutty Sark Gardens to the upper level of Queen Anne's Court in the University of Greenwich, by the river.

Here, the innovative techniques used in the first Blackwall Tunnel and in Greenwich Foot Tunnel were explained by Chris Binnie, who has retired from practice as a water engineer but is still actively involved as chairman of a committee for improving water quality in the River Thames.

In both tunnels the technical problems of driving a horizontal shaft through mixed water-bearing strata had to be overcome by using compressed air to restrain water penetration and in addition this was partially slowed by a temporary sealing layer of clay on the river-bed. Construction of the foot-tunnel started with the sinking of a shaft on the north bank (known then as Poplar now Tower Hamlets) and as work went on compartments were fitted to keep up air pressure in work areas while allowing for separate movements of men and materials through the air locks. Eight-hour shifts were worked with 45 minute breaks in vacating the workings so as to avoid compression sickness. For most of the way the tunnel dig advanced 10 feet every working day decreasing to 5 ft. per day when they struck a layer of "open ballast" (pebbles near the Greenwich end. As recorded by the LCC the foot tunnel is 1217 ft in length external diameter 12'9", internal 11'0" and it was formed with cast-iron segments bolted together, lined with concrete and faced with white glazed tiles. The top of the tunnel is 33ft below low water level and there are 88 steps at the northern end on the Isle of Dogs and 100 steps at the Greenwich end. In the early years operating times for the lifts were from 5 am to 11 pm. Currently they are 7 am - 7 pm Monday - Saturday and 10 am - 5.30 pm on Sunday in the Greenwich foot tunnel (different time apply in the Woolwich foot tunnel). Both Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels are open all day and night with access by stairways when the lifts are not being opened. However it is more restful to enter the brick-clad and glass-domed enclosure (Grade II on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest) in Cutty Sark Gardens, listen for the whirr of winding gear and go in a spacious timber panelled lift, instead of struggling down or up stairways with bike or buggy. Timing was a critical factor when Greenwich Cyclists ended the event with a circular ride via Woolwich and the Royal Docks, returning through the Isle of Dogs to reach the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and sing out a birthday greeting before the lifts stopped working at 5.50 pm.

In Greenwich Local History Library at Woodlands, comparative tunnelling methods are described in a paper read at the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1902 - see: ICE minutes for 25 March 1902 pp 1-24, from which these illustrations of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel are reproduced with due acknowledgement of library staff assistance. The location plan has the original layout of the riverside, with a Ship Tavern where later the Cutty Sark was brought to rest and on the north side of the river, the Great Eastern railway lines and sheds can be seen by the footway leading to the tunnel entrance; one of the vertical sections through the shaft shows the separate tubes and air-locks for men and material.


by Philip Binns

Notes of meeting held 24th July

St.Mary's, St.Andrew's and Mast Pond Wharves

New application for 303 homes - plus commercial, leisure, riverside walk, etc. No case file provided so the Group did not discuss this.

Docklands Light Railway in Woolwich

The Group has made a visit to look at the proposals for the new Docklands Light Railway Station in Woolwich and has written expressing concern at the number of demolitions proposed - while appreciating that the Woolwich Equitable House and 18/19 Greens End are listed and will kept - they point in particular to the Lloyds TSB building at 20 Greens End - which they would like to see kept, and also 2 Woolwich New Road.

More on this to come.

Payne's Wharf and Borthwick's Wharf

Representations have been received from Deptford people about the future of Payne's and Borthwick's wharves - and the Group have written to the Department of the Environment's Listings Division to say that the Conservation Group 'wholeheartedly supports the action taken…. We would like these buildings to be retained, refurbished and re-used, if at all practical'.

They further commented 'The borough's stock of buildings associated with river-related activities is rapidly diminishing and we see no reason for the total demolition envisaged by the developer in his proposals, with a token gesture towards a heritage commitment of retaining solely the frontage structure of the Payne's Wharf building as a screen wall. Payne's Wharf in that it was originally a part of the Penn family's marine boiler works of c.1860, complementing its main engineering works in Blackheath Road and Borthwick Wharf in that it represents a building type of which there are few, if any, survivors and which as a cold store, reflected the huge trade, starting as far back as 1879, in the import of frozen meat from the Empire, Commonwealth and other meat producing countries abroad.

Here are some further notes on Payne's Wharf. A rough date of the building is c.1860 (cf "Discover Deptford and Lewisham", Darrell Spurgeon, 1997.) If this date is correct then the Deptford side of Penn's operations would appear to have started some time after the establishment, in 1825, of the main engineering works at Blackheath Road. There is a copy of a water colour drawing of 1841 in a book "Reminiscences of Old Deptford" by the marvellously named Thankfull Sturdee, published 1895; which shows the Old Pier and Flour Mill and notes that this marks the position of the engineering works of Messrs. John Penn & Sons, Limited.

"The History of Deptford" by Nathan Dews 1884. highlights that the site of the Borthwick building was previously the home of another engineering company, Messrs. Tennant, Humphreys and Co. Neither they, or Penn would have been able to build here had the scheme set out in the prospectus ever materialised. That it failed to do so has strange resonances today with the failure to implement the cruise liner terminal on the Greenwich side of Deptford Creek, with its supposed regeneration of the immediate hinterland.

Jess Steele touches on the fanciful 1830s idea for "Making and Maintaining a Pier" and, subsequently, for "Making a Branch Line from the [London and Greenwich] Railway to the Pier" in her book "Turning the Tide" (p.71 and p. 144).

I am still trying to find out who Penn used for the design of his Deptford building. When he purchased Lee Grove in Belmont Hill, Lee in 1856 for himself and his family, he renamed it the Cedars and employed John Thomas to improve the appearance of the property. Thomas (1813 to 1862) was primarily a sculptor who could turn his hand to architecture; he is unlikely to have been attracted to adding a decorative front to a utilitarian works building; also his dates make him only just in the c.1860 range suggested by Darrell Spurgeon. Still anything is possible and I intend to pursue this line.


By Iris Bryce

Whilst driving to Cromford, Owen and I took a sudden decision to detour to Crich and visit the Tramway Village.

Imagine our delight on seeing a large banner at the entrance which read 'TAKE A RIDE ON THE LAST TRAM IN LONDON. CELEBRATE JULY 5th 1952. We couldn't believe our luck in visiting on July 5th 2002! We collected our two old pennies along with our maps and brochures and within a few minutes we saw a number 38 tram with the destinations GREENWICH - EMBANKMENT at the front. Eagerly we climbed aboard and off we went, however there was something that didn't seem quite right somehow and it wasn't until we came to the end of the line that I realised what it was. The conductor jumped off to move the overhead pole round in order for us to return to base! That's what was wrong - we did not have overhead poles on the trams on our routes. On the way back we had to stop when we reached a single track and wait for the tram coming the other way. The driver and the conductor came and sat down with us and gave a talk on how the Crich Tram Village had started. They asked for any questions and not one of the other four passengers had anything to say, so I mentioned that I had probably had many rides on this 38 tram as I travelled that route to school and to work for many years. I also added that in those days it did not have the electricity supplied by overhead lines. There was a brief silence, then the driver said, 'I'm glad there's only four of you here, you see you've caught us out. This tram was in fact taken out of service in 1936 as it was no longer worth repairing. For-the next thirty years it was used as a garden shed. When the Tram Village was started the lady it belonged to gave it to us and it is now actually made of two trams. The top is built up from a Leeds tram and the bottom is part of the original No. 38. Your part of London were not allowed to have overhead wires due to some kind of bye law I think, but of course we had to convert this in order to include it in the programme. He smiled and said, 'We never expected anyone like you to be here on this day of all days'

I had another query however, and said 'I always thought the last tram was a No.40. I'm sure that was the one photographed on the Kentish Independent and Kentish Mercury, and I took my 5 year old daughter to Beresford Square in Woolwich to watch the No. 40 go by'. The driver gave a sigh, 'Take a good look in the glass cases in the Exhibition Hall, you'll see that you are right again. We couldn't get that one as it is believed it ended up at the tram graveyard in Charlton.' I did look in the glass cases, and there was the newspaper cutting about the No. 40 tram from Abbey Wood to New Cross Gate.. However I did learn something. I did not know and still do not know where the Tram Graveyard was in Charlton.

I don't know if I'll be made welcome at Crich again, but I can certainly recommend it as a well worthwhile visit.



By Jack Vaughan

I have been recently trying to uncover connections between Marc Brunel - father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel - and the Royal Dockyard, Woolwich. Over the years there has been much talk and speculation about a link - but, disappointingly, I have failed to find anything. Of course there is a connection via the ships's running-blocks, thousands of which would have been used in the large wooden warships constructed at Woolwich in the early 1800s - up, in fact, until the yard was closed in 1869.

There is, of course, a 'block' connection between Marc Brunel and Henry Maudslay - who was born in Woolwich. The subjects is well covered in biographies. Marc's prolonged adventures with sawmills in 1808 at the Royal Arsenal Woolwich are also covered in biographies. I can say that Marc's original drawings of these mills are held by the PRO. I obtained a set before they moved to Kew and I hope they have survived. Some models of the block machine are in the possession of the National Maritime Museum.


Our attention has been drawn to - which lists out British-made fire engines now preserved in museums and other such institutions - it doesn't claim to be exhaustive though. The following engines on display in Museums and fire stations were made in Greenwich by Merryweather at their Greenwich High Road site:

Alresford, Hants - 1892 Merryweather steamer kept in the local fire station.

Banbury - in the fire station is an 1890 Merryweather 'Double Vertical' steamer which once served Blenheim Palace, and now wins prizes at local shows.

Beaulieu, National Motor Museum - has a Merryweather Valiant which has appeared in a number of films.

Bressingham Steam Museum - displays a Merryweather Valiant.

Bridport - the local fire station displays a preserved Merryweather 'Greenwich Gem'.

Kirkaldy - the local fire station displays a 1902 Merryweather machine.

Glasgow Transport Museum - a Merryweather 'Greenwich' is on display.

Leiston - a Greenwich Gem is on display at the Garrett Long Shop Museum.

Science Museum - has the third engine built by Merryweather - Sutherland. In 1863 it won first prize in a trial of fire engines at Crystal Palace.

Maidstone Town Museum - has a 1902 Merryweather Valiant.

Newcastle on Tyne Museum of Science and Engineering - has on display a Merryweather Metropolitan. The machine won many prizes in Europe and was later used for training.

Oxford - a Merryweather Metropolitan of 1887 is on display in the City fire station.

Redruth - displayed by the West of England Steam Engine Society is a Merryweather Double Horitzontal.

South Yorkshire Fire Museum - displays a Merryweather Valiant.

Shropshire Fire Brigade HQ, Shrewsbury -A Merryweather Valiant is displayed in front of the building.

Wolverton Museum of Industry and Rural Life has a Merryweather Greenwich Gem.

Mulhouse, France - the Musee de Sapeurs Pompiers has a 1868 Merryweather machine.

Transport Museum of Ireland - display a Merryweather machine.

Feuerwehr Museum, Salem, Germany - have an 1888 Merryweather engine.

Museum of Fire, Sydney - has a Merryweather Valiant.

Power House Museum, Australia - another Merryweather on display.

Fire Service Historical Society, New Zealand - another Merryweather.

Southward Car Museum, New Zealand - an 1888 Merryweather.

Museo "Jose Luis Claro Cruz", Santiago, Chile - has an 1869 Merryweather machine and an 1872 machine.

Tokyo Fire Museum - another Merryweather exhibit.


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



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

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

7th September, Great River Race. Begins 3.30pm at Ham and ends Greenwich Pier 6.45pm.

7th September, GLIAS walk. Acton. 2.30pm. Turnham Green Station.

7th September, Film Show of the Queen's visit to Greenwich in 1975. Adult Lecture, Borough Museum. 2.30pm. Ring 020 8855 3240

14th September, Festival of Time. Replica Harrison clock taken from Kew Observatory to Greenwich Observatory.

14-15th September, 2002 Mayor's Thames Festival

19th September, Murder on the Thames. Crime and Punishment in Greenwich. Frances Ward, East Greenwich Library 7.15pm.

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. 7.30pm. Hawkstone Hall Kennington Rd, SE1 SLAS

25th September, Greenwich Quiz by Frances Ward. Greenwich Historical Society. 7.15pm, Music Centre, Blackheath High School, Vanburgh Park, SE3.

26th September, Chris Foord on Highwaymen. Blackheath :Library. 7.00pm. Ring 020 8855 3240

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

28th September, Prison Hulks. Adult Lecture, Borough Museum. 2.30pm. Ring 020 8855 3240

28th September, Greenwich Treasure Hunt. Organised by the Friends of Ironbridge Gorge. 2.30pm. Cutty Sark Station. Free.


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)

3-18th October, Between Cultures. Exhibition Stephen Lawrence Gallery. 020 8858 2835 (Black History Month Event)

10th October, What's Race Got to Do with It. Yasmin Alibai-Brown. Stephen Lawrence Building. 020 8331 8899. Free. (Black History Month Event)

13th September, 19 Days Hath September. Family Learning Day. 1.30pm. £5 (children £4) National Maritime Museum. 020 8312 6747,

13th October, FESTIVAL OF NATIONS and 10th Custom and Classic Car Show. 11am-4pm. Crown Woods School.

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

16th October, The Trafalgar Tavern. Neil Rhind. Greenwich Historical Society. 7.15pm. Music Centre, Blackheath High School, Vanburgh Park, SE3.

19th October, Flying Boats. 10.30-16.15, £45. National Maritime Museum. 020 8312 6747

20th October, Traditional Story Telling. Jane Grell. Bob Hope Theatre 020 8467 9183. (Black History Month Event)

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

26th October, Lewisham's Black History Month Debate. Deptford Old Town Hall, Goldsmiths College. 020 8297 8521. (Black History Month Event)

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

30th October, GLIAS Recording Group. Kirkaldy Testing Museum, Prices Street Entrance, SE1. 6.30pm. All welcome.



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)

27th November, Mile End Old Town. Derek Morris. Greenwich Historical Society. 7.15pm. Music Centre, Blackheath High School, Vanburgh Park, SE3.


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.


5th April. SERIAC to be held in the University of Greenwich, Romney Road, SE10.


Goldsmiths' College Course, Autumn 2002. Mondays 10.15am-12.15pm, Mycenae House.
Starts 30th September 2002 - includes Deptford Creek & Museum in Docklands. Ring PACE, 020 7919 7200

GCSE ASTRONOMY. Wednesday evenings from 9th October 2002. or Saturday afternoons from 5th October, 30 weeks, £110 National Maritime Museum. 020 8312 6747

HISTORIC WRECKS. Mondays 10.30 from 14th October NMM. 020 8312 6747 £39

LOCAL HISTORY: CHURCHES. Tuesdays 10.30 from 15th October NMM. 020 8312 6747 £39

CONVOY. THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC. Tues. 10.30 from 28th January. £39 NMM. 020 8312 6747

OUTPOSTS OF EMPIRE. Wednesdays 10.30 from 29th January. £39 NMM. 020 8312 6747

ELIZABETH. Tuesdays from 29th April 10.30. £39. NMM. 020 8312 6747

AN INTRODUCTION TO ASTRONOMY. Thursdays 7 pm. £90, NMM. 020 8312 6747.

A SEA OF ISLANDS. A MARITIME HISTORY OF THE CARIBBEAN. Wednesdays from 30th April. 10.30 £39. NMM.

THE RED PLANET. Sundays from 12th January. 10.30. Planetarium and Discovery Room. Adults £8. Children £6. NMM. 020 8312 6747.

THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE. Sundays from 11th May 10.30. Planetarium and Discovery Room. Adults £8. Children £6. NMM. 020 8312 6747

EXPLORING THE PLANETS. Sundays from 8th June 10.30. Planetarium and Discovery Room. Adults £8. Children £6. NMM. 020 8312 6747


Shows daily 2.00 pm and 3.30 pm (except 19/20th Sept & 24, 25, 26th Dec.). £4 (children £2).

Special shows first Sunday in each month 11.30 - 12.30, include - Messier objects, retrograde motion of the planets, skies of the Arctic and Antarctic, skies of Africa, solar eclipse.


October 2002 - includes a number of local exhibitions and events.
Including - photographic exhibition 'Between Cultures' at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, 020 8858 2825.

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.



For further information please contact;

Firepower on 020 8855 7755,, website


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