Volume 6, Issue 3, May 2003






13th May - Jack Vaughan's Annual Lecture

17th June - Wesley Harry with films of the Royal Arsenal at work

15th July - Captain Glyn Wrench. History of Cable Ships

16th September - Allan Green presentation on The History of Cable

14th October - Paul Sowan on The background story of 'Hearthstone'. The humble step whitener

11th November - Peter Gurnett on General Steam Navigation

20th January - Annual General Meeting and speaker - Neil Rhind

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

Museum in Docklands

West India Quay, E14

Grand Opening Party

Saturday 24 May 2003

10am - 6pm


Historical experts, costumed actors and Museum curators will be available for interview on the day

To pre-arrange, call Mairi Allan on 020 7001 9829


by Mary Mills

For those of us who have been involved with the Museum in Dockland for so many, many years the fact that it appears to be opening - at last - is an occasion for some amazement and relief. I can't remember when I first learnt about the Museum - it must have been at some time in the early 1980s - and at that time the project was well under way. I used to go to the Docklands History Group meetings and hear about how everything was progressing. Buildings in what we used to call the Gwilt Warehouses on the West India Dock Quay had been identified - in those days they were massive, towering above the empty docks. Chris, Bob and Alex were in Cannon Workshops and soon they also had a huge warehouse up in the Victoria Dock - and it was quickly filling up with potential exhibits. As workplace after workplace closed down so a team of lads would be sent out in one of the Museum trucks to get whatever they could.

One day, sometime in the mid-1980s, I squeezed through a hole in the fence down on the old East Greenwich Gasworks site. I hid in the bushes as juggernauts thundered past. Suddenly I realised that I was beside an old wooden capstan - mounted on a block with a plaque. It had come from the old dry dock, now under the Dome, built by Stockwell and Lewis in 1871. South Metropolitan Gas Company had bought the dry dock and preserved the capstan - it had stood as a riverside feature in gas works, carefully preserved, until our generation had forgotten it and abandoned it. I rang Bob Aspinall right away and the lads and the Museum truck came over.

Then everything started to go wrong. I was working for Docklands Forum - an organisation which monitored redevelopment and regeneration in Docklands - and we kept a close watch on progress with the Museum. I can't go into a lot of detail here - if I can even remember - all the setbacks and heartaches over the next fifteen or so years. Funding bids came and went, as did potential sites. The office and archive moved to the Poplar Business Park in Prestons Road. The Victoria Dock warehouse became 'out of bounds', Chris had a heart attack, Alex got a new job within the Museum of London - and Andy Topping joined the team, to very good effect. Some exhibits were dispersed to other museums.

But after all, after all these years - and there has been doubt in the last few months - the Museum is to open. Back, as originally planned, in the warehouses on the West India Quay - now tiny buildings among giant office blocks - and everything has a different name to what it used to have in the 1980s. I went round the Museum last year - it was terrific and everyone must go, and tell their friends. Congratulations, particularly to Chris Elmers and Bob Aspinall - thanks for sticking with it.

--- and the Greenwich capstan --- it's one of the main exhibits!


Set by Jack Vaughan

Apparatus needed: one £2 coin

The Question: What technical mistake has been made in the coin design?

I discovered this early in the first issues of the coin, and I wondered if any of our members spotted it. If so don't tell me, but send the answer in to the newsletter. And - best of luck!


The Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society has written to comment on the redevelopment of Convoys Wharf. Some of the points they cover are:

1) Concern that the proposals do not address the great archaeological significance of this site and make only a very limited attempt to preserve remains.

2) A remarkable feature of this site is that very extensive remains of the Royal Dockyard are bound to exist below ground level, where they have been largely undisturbed since the dockyard's closure as long ago as 1869. This was one of the earliest Royal Dockyards, developed from the 16th century onwards. Later alterations to increase capacity were limited and at closure, its layout was generally similar to that of circa 1700. There have been no major construction works to cause more than local disturbance since closure.

3) Features below ground will include dry and wet docks, slipways, mast ponds and saw pits. To these the storehouses, offices and dwelling houses were subsidiary. These major features, dug into the ground, will originally have been revetted with timber, which is likely to have survived well in the waterlogged conditions next to the Thames. Portions were remodelled in the late 18th and 19th centuries and they are likely to be of substantial brick and stone construction. That would make them capable of being displayed within of the hard landscaping of a redeveloped site.

In the ground between these structures there are likely to be foundations, working surfaces and much artefactal evidence of the working dockyard over its long life.

4) The cultural status, long period of use, completeness and expected good quality of survival of these features makes them of quite exceptional archaeological importance. This raises major issues concerning the provision that should be made for archaeology in any redevelopment of the site, in terms of investigation and recording, preservation in situ, public display and interpretation.

5) Despite the statement in the introduction to the 'Design Statement', that "The rich heritage of the site will be incorporated and given the recognition it deserves as an integral part of the development philosophy", we are sorry to see remarkably little evidence of that in the current submission.

6) The proposed fate of most of the archaeology is dire - that it be entirely removed, except in a few locations, so as to provide basement car parking. This implies a truly massive archaeological excavation to try to recover such as can be of the evidence of three and a half centuries of shipbuilding on this nationally important site. Perhaps the developers have not appreciated the cost of that - we trust you will impose rigorous conditions for the archaeological recording of the areas that are destroyed. But such 'preservation by record' can never be fully comprehensive, especially where the scale of the project will stretch the available resources of archaeological skill. Worse, however competent the archaeological work, the extent of the proposed basements would destroy the reference base against which the recorded data could be compared. It would also prevent any further investigation of questions likely to arise from ongoing study. Such a widespread destruction of the remains is quite unacceptable.

7) The only places where archaeology is proposed to be safeguarded are the Double Dry Dock and the basement of the Great Storehouse, in the south-eastern comer of the site, and the foundations of Sayes Court. Sayes Court was not a part of the dockyard, which was extended over its site later. Although the mansion had some famous residents, that should not give its foundations a greater significance than most of the dockyard. The dry dock and storehouse, on the other hand, are very important. Yet the south-eastern comer of the site is suggested elsewhere as the site for a possible refuse transfer station. It is unlikely that the major foundation works and exclusion of access, implied by such a use, could be compatible with the archaeology.

8) The major buried structures that are ignored by the proposals include three riverside shipbuilding slipways, two further slipways within the 'Olympia' warehouse, the large Wet Dock in front of the latter and two mast ponds with their entrance canals. These were major topographical features, filled in after 1869 but awaiting re-exposure. They should be expressed in the plan and retained as features.

9) The opportunity to recreate a water feature in front of the listed 1840s shipbuilding sheds (present 'Olympia' warehouse) is taken. Yet, curiously, the street grid and illustrative scheme do not respect the plan form of the historic wet dock that remains there below ground. The raison d'etre of the preserved shipbuilding sheds, that they sheltered slipways, from which ships were launched across the dock, is then denied by the placing of an island of buildings of 'up to 3 storeys' within the new basin. We do not know if this comes from ignorance or deliberate disdain.

10) Summing it up, the site's archaeological interest is exceptional, yet the scheme places archaeology near the bottom of its priorities. Consequently the proposals are totally unacceptable.


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

From: Malcolm Tucker


1. The article in "Heritage Today" on gasholders, that you mention on page 5 of GIHS Vol.6. No.1. was not written by me but by a journalist, Jack Watkins. It takes up just a few of the themes in my "London Gasholders Survey" report of September 2000.

2. My article on a visit to the Royal Arsenal, which you 'lifted' from the Gunpowder and Explosives Study Group's Newsletter, contained a curious rewording on the part of their editor. Therefore I need to explain that the Shrinking Pitts were where gun barrels, expanded by heating in furnaces, were plunged into oil to shrink them onto their liners (like the fitting of iron tyres tightly round cartwheels). This caused a more even distribution of stresses during the firing of a gun.

3. It may have something to do with my handwriting. In my note on page 7 line 5, the word 'supporting' should read 'supposing'. (I disown the punctuation, however, and your citations of GIHS issue numbers are confused).

From: Pat O'Driscoll

Does anybody know of a firm, which existed at Erith in the 1890s named Easton Anderson & Goolden, Ltd.? They may have been shipbuilders or launch builders. I have been sent a cutting from the Colchester 'Evening Gazette' of 24th February which mentions that local auctioneers are selling a large ship's wheel with this name on its brass-band around the outer rim. There is a date, l896, but no name of the vessel. There is a photo of the wheel and I see that the central boss, which covers the wheel retaining nut, is missing. This is where one generally finds a vessel's, name inscribed. The vessel in question was found, presumably derelict, beached in an African mangrove swamp, by a diver.

An intriguing story. Barry Pearce, who sent me the cutting, says that he tried to check the name of the firm in Philip Banbury's Shipbuilders of the Thames and Medway but it was not listed there. The cutting does not give any details of the 'ship.'

Perhaps a reader in Erith knows the answer?

From: Barbara Ludlow

I am looking for information about Isaac Loader, Anchor Maker of Deptford in the 18th century. He formed a partnership with Sir Ambrose Crowley, ironmaster of Crowley Wharf, Highbridge, East Greenwich. If anyone has anything on him, however small, it would be very useful to me. I am also looking for details about Thomas Hall, ship owner and slaver, of the City of London - 18th century again. Thank you.

Contact address: 15 Demozay Close, Hawkinge, Kent CT18 7PL. Tel: 01303 893 443

From: Gordon Broughton

Re. The article on MQAD in the September 2000 Newsletter. The QAD/MATS HQ building was in Griffin Manor Way and had previously been, since before 1931 the HQ of the Research Department, eventually Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment, when it moved to Fort Halstead.

Two of QAD/MATS Deputy Directors were ex-RARDE viz Dr. E. Longhurst and Ken Jones. At the outbreak of World War II the Metallurgy Branch was evacuated to a number of locations including Cardiff and Swansea Universities, ROF's Ruddington (Notts) and Swynerton (Staffs) and Shrewsbury.

In the light of current events the following comes to mind. In 1931 when I joined the RD I noticed a considerable amount of environmental smartening up and on enquiry was told there had been a visit by the King of Afghanistan!

As a keen 16-year-old supporter of Charlton Athletic I was highly delighted and impressed to find that the Chief Storeman in the RD, that I had to deal with, was George Reeves the conductor of the Eltham Brass Band that played on the pitch at The Valley.

From: Dennis Plowright

I have some comments to make about Mary Mills' book on Greenwich and Woolwich at Work. There is a picture of workers at sports equipment manufacturer, Gradidge. I had some Gradidge bats and the Imperial Driver was very good. I played club cricket for 50 seasons until I was 65.

In the pictures on cable manufacture the rubber cable in the drums to be vulcanised would have been extruded and coiled in French chalk to space and support it. Vulcanisation would have been in large 'open cure' vessels, steam at about 90 degrees. From 1955 to 1962 I was with the Avon India Rubber Co, finishing as Chief Mechanical Engineer. AIR Co. did not make VIR cable however it did make a lot of extrusions e.g. tubing, seals etc. by the same method.

In 1960 I had a pair of press platens 16' x 4' surface from Woolwich Arsenal. They did this by fitting a grinding head on to a large planing machine. I still recall the immense shops and travelling cranes. All gone now, I suppose. I would like to read more about the Woolwich Arsenal. Is there a book about it? A good meaty one with details, not a 'Boys Book of the Woolwich Arsenal'.

From: Chris Mansfield

I wonder if you are aware that for about four or five years I have been hassling English Heritage in a bid to get a blue plaque erected in memory of Tom Cribb, the famous pugilist. You may or may not know that he lived in Woolwich for the last ten years of his life in the property that is now occupied by my café (Readysnacks).

Finally my efforts are coming to fruition (but not quite as I expected). I have been told that Tom Cribb's plaque is now definitely going ahead, but it may be erected in central London instead of Woolwich. Apparently Tom ran a pub in Piccadilly for ten years just after he retired from boxing.

I have spoken to Julian Watson about this and he agrees with me that Woolwich would be a much more suitable place, apart from the fact that Central London must be bursting at the seams with blue plaques. If you feel as I do that Woolwich is where it should be, perhaps you could find time to email Emily Cole at English Heritage and put in a good word for Woolwich

From: Adrian Lochhead

I am based at St Nicholas Church, Deptford Green where I am charged with collecting 'heritage' information on all aspects of Deptford's history. St Nick's wish to provide information to visitors and local schools. The church is usually open from 9.30am - 2pm on weekdays.

We have a few displays, pictures, etc. mostly to do with aspects of the church itself - i.e. the bomb damage during WW2, Christopher Marlowe, and the shipwrights commemorated on memorials. Trying to put some of this information into context has of course opened up massive areas of research. For example I decided to see if I could discover the names of ships built at Deptford, to date I have found around 350 ships spanning about 300 years, but they are mostly ships of the Royal dockyards, I have hardly begun to scratch the surface with regard to the private yards and the East India Co..

It is my intention to collate enough imagery and information to produce large display panels with smaller information panels attached. Subjects currently given panels are things such as the shipyards, war, industry, 'famous' people, culture and more.

I keep coming across GIHS newsletters when I Web search for Deptford references. So I thought it about time I contacted you, to tell you about what I am doing and also to enquire about membership.

Adrian Lochhead, St Nicks Church, Deptford Green

020 8692 6454

From: Philip Pearce

It was with interest that I stumbled across your website in connection with information on the Queen Mary liner of which I have a particular interest. I noticed a letter from Len Chapman, and I can possibly add something more. I will have to check my books, but I do definitely know that the original set of props for the Mary were of a poor design which gave (as you are no doubt aware) excessive vibration at the rear of the ship. Offhand I can't recall if J.Stone's supplied the modified design set, the originals, or even both! I might also have some photocopied photos of the propellers.

Here is my home address: -- Philip Pearce, 192 Silver Street, Wythall, Birmingham, B38 0EA.

From: The Maudslay Society

I should like to draw your attention to the book Henry Maudslay and the Pioneers of the Machine Age, co-edited by our member John Cantrell, who also contributed two of the chapters. The opening chapters describe the career of Henry Maudslay and give an account of the London engineering industry in his time. The remainder of the book is mainly a collection of biographies of Maudslay's most prominent pupils and associates, describing their pioneering contribution to the machine tool industry. The book concludes with the history of Maudslay's business after his death. A list of contents is attached.

The book can be obtained from the publishers, Tempus Publications Ltd, The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL5 2QG, at a discount price of £14.99 for members of the Maudslay Society. There is no charge for postage and packing.

The Annual Meeting of the Society will be held at 2.30p.m. on Wednesday, 9 July, at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Ian Langford, Secretary, 53 Senneleys Park Road, Northfield, Birmingham B31 1AE. 0121 475 2669

From: Christopher Lewis

I am the nephew of the late Charles George Lewis, founder of the Greenwich based Coach Company, Lewis Greenwich Ltd. Founded in 1919, it was first called Greenwich Belle, then, in 1923, C. G. Lewis Safety Coaches". My uncle died in 1988. What I have achieved is a complete fleet list of all the coaches ever owned by my late uncle and the family to the present day - including World War II replacements, to replace his requisitioned vehicles. I have been trying to piece together the company history, from 1919 to 1999. This has taken 15 years.

Over the past few years been trying to assemble the whole fleet in photographs, this is a formidable task, and the longer I leave it the harder they are to trace. I am hoping you may be able to assist me in this area, by pointing me in the direction of some of these missing photographs, or people or collections that are not known to myself.

I am unable to trace photographs from the late 1920s, all 1930s & late 1940s. My late uncle always had his new coaches, or I should say char-a-bancs, photographed. While I have some of these I am unable to find any trace of the vehicles he purchased in 1929 & 1930. The 1930 ones interest me most. This was the first bulk order that he placed, and was for six coaches. I have found the correspondence between my Uncle and Karrier Motors and I have some of the workshop records, but as yet I can't trace a photograph of any description of these six coaches. Have you any idea where I should try to locate them? Most of the coach bodies were built at Hendon North London, and later in Blackpool.

The company also bought out another Kent operator, Penfold & Brodie of Green St. Green Kent, in 1950. This depot was sold in 1961-1, as the motor car started to kill off the coaching trade. On the site now stands a parade of shops and a Waiterose super market. These coaches are as elusive as my late uncle's. I would regard any assistance that you could render, as a great favour, and you are most welcome to see any or all the efforts of my labours, if you so desire.




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 Spring 2003 Bulletin of the Labour Heritage Newsletter contained a report on a conference held last November, on Labour and Popular Culture. They reported on the following item of local interest;

Socialism in Woolwich and Poplar

Paul Ashton who is completing a doctorate on the links between labour in Woolwich and Poplar gave a talk on developments at the end of the 19th century. He emphasized the role of the Fabian Society in propagating ideas and of individuals such as Will Crooks. Will Crooks was active in campaigning for a tunnel under the Thames to link the two working class areas. The foot-tunnel, which opened in 1897 allowed workers to cross easily from north to south, for work and also to political and trades union meetings. The ferry, which had previously been the only way of crossing the river was often unreliable and in the event of fog, out of action. Woolwich became a focus for worker immigration as the Arsenal grew with the demand for munitions during the Boer War. Engineers moved in from all parts of the country, increasing the membership of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers in the area. Woolwich was to become a Labour seat, having previously been held by the Conservative and Unionist candidate. The Labour vote had increased by 4,000 from 1895 to the bye-election of 1903. This was dependent on the Arsenal workers, but it also depended on the socialist and labour movement links with Poplar, north of the river. There had been no Liberal tradition in Woolwich.


by Richard Cheffins

In the March 2003 issue of Greenwich Industrial History (Vol.6, No.2), it is twice stated wrongly that the Engine Works of John Penn and Sons were on Blackheath Hill (on p.9 '…the old John Penn site (Wickes site Blackheath Hill)…' and in the heading on the back page (p.12) 'Remains of Penn's Works at Blackheath Hill'). This repeats the error of Peter Trigg in the October 1999 issue (Vol.2, No.5), which I corrected in April 2000 (Vol.3, No.3). Blackheath Hill would have been far too steep to have been negotiated by horse-drawn wagons, heavy-laden with marine engines, and Blackheath Road is presumably intended. Indeed, later on p.9, reference is made to the '… marine engineering works established in Blackheath Road in 1825 by John Penn.' Even this is questionable on two counts.

(All references corrected in Web versions, May 2003, Web Editor)

The business was founded in 1799 by John Penn Snr. John Penn Jnr made his first marine engine in 1825 though it is probable that this did not become the principal work of the firm until he took over from his father in 1843. Until 1861, the Works had no entrance, indeed no frontage at all, on Blackheath Road. The Works originally occupied land at the rear of properties in Blackheath Road accessed from Bath (or Cold Bath) Street renamed John Penn Street in 1873/75. This remained the main entrance even after the Works expanded and is clearly shown on the sketch-plan reprinted on p.12. The Penns originally leased or rented the site of their Works from the Holwell (or Rand) Charity and in 1861 they purchased the whole of its estate in Greenwich for the sum of £21,500. This enabled them to expand considerably their original Works east of Ditch Alley, to acquire an even larger site west of it, and to acquire frontages on both Blackheath Road and Lewisham Road.

None of this invalidates the point made by the Greenwich Conservation Group about any surviving relics of the Penn Works. However, I think George Arthur is unwise to dismiss 10 Lewisham Road as not being part of the Penn Works. The matter is complicated. Before the expansion of the Engine Works, the Penn family occupied the corner property in Blackheath Road the garden of which ran the whole length of Lewisham Road as far as the present John Penn Street (see my article in Vol.3, No.3). At that time there were no houses at all fronting that stretch of Lewisham Road, at least not on that side of the road. The Simms (Poor Law Commissioners') map of c. 1838 shows the corner site of Blackheath Road to be vacant; the Tithe map of 1844 and the undated Holwell estate map that I referred to in my previous article both show a building on the Blackheath Road corner, the latter identifying the Penn family as occupiers. All three show a single property occupying the whole length of that stretch of Lewisham Road and show a couple of out-buildings at the rear (John Penn Street end) which the Holwell estate map identifies as 'sheds' and which occupy the site of the future No.10.

There are no further large-scale maps of the area, so far as I know, for over 20 years. By the time of the Ordnance Survey maps (25'' and 5") of 1867, the situation had changed. The corner house and its garden now occupied only 40% of its former length and the sheds had gone; the rest was taken up by five houses fronting Lewisham Road, four single-fronted houses and a double-fronted one which correspond exactly with the present Nos. 2-8, evens, and No. 10 (the present No. 2a and the so-called Studio 2a are very recent and correspond to the garden plot of the corner house). The boundaries of the Holwell estate in this area were Blackheath Road and Lewisham Road and so, whether the row of five houses (Nos. 2-10, evens, Lewisham Road) were built before or after 1861 (certainly before 1867), the properties belonged to John Penn and Sons from that date.

But belonging to the firm and being part of the Engine Works are not the same thing and one is hampered in resolving which is the case by the deficiencies of the reprinted sketch-plan. This is only that - a sketch plan, more than adequate, no doubt, for its purpose but not exactly to scale, especially along Lewisham Road. By a mixture of pacing the street and using a ruler with the 5" O.S. map, I estimate the total length of that stretch of Lewisham Road to be approximately 63 yds or 189 ft and the frontage of No.10 to be about 32 ft or a shade less (about 1/6th of the whole). However, as Mr Arthur states, No.10 is not quite on the corner. I estimate the waste ground between it and John Penn Street to be rather less than he does - perhaps 17 ft. If this and No.10 are taken together, they occupy a little over a quarter of the street front which corresponds well enough with the sketch plan. Certainly the added dotted 'site of No 10' there has been displaced too far northward, it is shown near enough in the middle of the block whereas the real No. 10 is near the corner with John Penn Street, if not actually on it.

There are further complications. What I have called the waste ground at the side of No.10 (part of the Wickes loading area) is screened from Lewisham Road by a modern wall set back somewhat and with an angle in it. This alignment has remained unchanged for at least 165 years. What is less clear is whether there was ever a building on this constricted site (because John Penn Street forms an obtuse angle with Lewisham Road, such a building would be wedge-shaped with its narrow front facing the latter). Even the largest Ordnance Survey maps are not entirely clear on this point and I had hoped to clarify the matter by reference to Goad's Insurance Plans (c.1893) for the area at a splendid 1:480 scale and indicating the number of storeys of buildings and their roofing material. Sadly though several local industries are included (the Norfolk Brewery, Holland's Distillery, Robinson's and Mumford's Mills, Trenchard's Saw mills, Corder & Haycraft's Maltings, the London Tramway Co's Granary and Fodder Mill, and Merryweather's, in Deptford Bridge and Greenwich (High) Road), Penn's Engine Works and anything in Blackheath Road are conspicuously absent.

Whether or not there was a building to the south of No.10 and, on the balance of probability, I think there was, it is reasonably clear that there was a footpath, with an entrance where the angle of the present wall is, which went down the side of No.10 (or between it and the adjacent building), behind it and then under an arch in a range of buildings at right angle to John Penn Street (fairly obviously the building marked 'O O O O' on the sketch plan in GIHS 30). The description of Robert Smiles quoted by Mr Arthur - '… from [this entrance] the natural contour of the ground dips by a rather steep incline. Passing through the outer door and down it a few steps a hall is reached, with on each side a range of well lit offices …' sounds more like a footpath than a corridor.

That leaves the question was No.10 Lewisham Road part of the offices for the Engine Works? Houses in both Blackheath Road and Lewisham Road owned by Penn but not part of the Works are not outlined but simply indicated as 'shops and houses'. The inference is that any building that is outlined is part of the Works. I interpret what is shown in the angle of John Penn Street and Lewisham Road, not as a corridor in the middle of one building, but a footpath between two, both outlined on the plan and therefore, by inference, both part of the Works and the right-hand one of which is No.10. The evidence is circumstantial and not completely conclusive (the two buildings were in reality more asymmetrical than shown and the path more crooked) but, unlike Mr Arthur, I think No.10 is a surviving part of the Penn Engine Works, though not, perhaps, part of its industrial heritage.


by Philip Binns


Thames Water Site. Deals Gateway, SE8. Application for residential, offices and live work units. This is outside the borough and advised that no objection has been raised to it.

76 Bloomfield Road, SE18. Demolition of warehouse and erection of flats. Thought to be generally unobjectionable but concern at the materials.

48-50 Artillery Place, SE18. Change of use from garage to day nursery. No objection in principle but unable to comment properly as no plans provided.


Meridian House, Royal Hill, SE10. Object to upgrading of Vodafone radio base on this listed building.

Convoys Wharf, Deptford. Application for comprehensive mixed-use building. Consider that the safeguarding of the wharf should remain in place, and that a maritime use should be the first consideration. Welcome the retention of the listed Olympia sheds but express concern at height of some of the proposed housing. Consideration should be given to reopening the network of canals and basins.

Building 17, Royal Arsenal, SE18. Erection of advertising balloon over Firepower Museum. Object to this advertising feature, which is inappropriate - why not use a barrage balloon?

Io Centre, Royal Arsenal, SE18. Construction of units for light industry or warehousing. Regret the poor quality near listed buildings. Need for more landscaping and planting.


The autumn meeting of the Historical Group of the Royal Society of Chemistry was held on Friday 8 November 2002 to commemorate the centenary of the death of Sir Frederick Abel. This was held jointly with the Gunpowder and Explosives History Group. The meeting started with the first Wheeler Lecture by Professor Sy Mauskopf (Duke University) on Long Delayed Dream: Sir Frederick Abel and the Development of Cordite. The text of this lecture has been published copies can be got from Dr Gerry Moss, Department of Chemistry, Queen Mary. University of London, Mile End Road, London El 4NS ( We hope, in any case, to publish extracts (with permission) in future newsletters.

Four other papers given at the conference have an interest to historians in Greenwich and Woolwich - these were:

The Chemical Laboratories at the Royal Arsenal Woolwich
Wesley Harry, historian of the Royal Arsenal Woolwich

Wesley talked about the Chemical Laboratories at the Royal Arsenal Woolwich. Some time after 1665 the proof of ordnance moved from Moorfields to Woolwich. By 1695 many new buildings had been erected including a laboratory originally attached to the Tilt Yard at Greenwich. Various aspects of the manufacture and testing of ordnance were concentrated onto the Woolwich site in the 18th century. Frederick Abel was a professor of chemistry at the Royal Military Academy and was appointed in 1854 Ordnance Chemist at the Royal Laboratories at Woolwich. Another notable name there was James Marsh who developed the Marsh test for arsenic. The chemical laboratories built in 1864 were the first custom built chemical laboratory at the Arsenal. The room on the west side was the full height of the two storey building. It was designed like this to disperse fumes and gases produced at the benches.

From the gallery, off which were the offices, Frederick Abel would lower a wicker basket containing samples and instructions to the Assistant Chemist. The east wing contained a photographic department and library. In addition to the ordnance work the laboratory was also concerned with forensic science.

The Chemical Archaeology of Explosives
Wayne Cocroft, English Heritage

Wayne's talk mainly concerned production at the Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey, where guncotton was first prepared in about 1846. In 1863 Frederick Abel had developed a process for its production using cotton waste that was used at Waltham Abbey. Later nitroglycerine was developed which, when combined with guncotton and a mineral jelly, were blended to form the propellant cordite; patented by Abel in 1889. Some buildings involved in these processes survive although the nitrating plant was demolished in the 1990s. Cordite needs a solvent in its production. During the First World War supplies of acetone were lost so Woolwich developed cordite production using ether.

Sir Charles Frederick (1709-1785), FRS FSA - Comptroller of the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich, 1746-1782
Brenda Buchanan

Sir Charles Frederick became Comptroller of the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich and Surveyor General to the Board of Ordnance in the mid-eighteenth century, at a time when gunpowder making was still a craft industry, and the government was reliant on private contractors. In the theoretical vacuum that then existed he had to undertake a process of self-education, serving what may be described as an apprenticeship with the learned societies of London, and presenting a dramatic 'masterpiece' in the form of the great firework display of 1749 in celebration of peace and victory, before becoming an acknowledged master of his subject Portraits of Sir Charles illustrate these three stages of his career. Plans and paintings of the Royal Laboratory also shown in the presentation of this paper raise questions about the work undertaken there. This is especially the case with the production line of workmen filling round shot of varying diameter with powder, and sealing the shell with a plug that was presumably to be replaced by a fuse before firing. Proof testing was also carried out here but this was notoriously unreliable and it seems likely that the standardization of formula and of gram size was used as a way of setting the minimum qualities required. The central pavilions of the old Royal Laboratory still survive at Woolwich, but these once fine buildings of the late seventeenth century have fallen into a sad state of dereliction. When Sir Charles retired in the early 1780s he had nudged the industry towards the more consciously scientific approach of the last decades of the eighteenth century, through his close attention to the processes of manufacture and his encouragement of experimentation. But today he is not so much underrated as unknown, perhaps because the end of his career was marked by the political difficulties associated with the loss of the American colonies and the criticisms then being voiced of the powerful and independent Board of Ordnance, and because his successors were able to benefit from insights not available to him. Historians too have not served him well, being generally more interested in weapons and campaigns than in the critical matter of the supply of gunpowder. Sir Charles's contemporaries however had no doubts about its significance, for as a distinguished military man at the Board of Ordnance wrote to him in 1757, with campaigns underway in Europe, North America, India and at sea, 'all Hope of Success. . Is Gone for nothing Without this material'. It is to Sir Charles's credit and a matter of historical record rather than triumphalism, that in the third quarter of the eighteenth century, despite difficulties of supply and a lack of understanding of the problems of internal ballistics, gunpowder was produced in Britain on a scale and of a quality that enabled the country to emerge on the world stage as a naval, colonial, and trading power.

Oswald Silberrad, superintendent of research, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, 1901-1906
Simon Coleman

The paper resulted from the speaker's work at the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists, Bath, on the archive of this little-known industrial consulting chemist and the research laboratory that he founded. The paper highlighted some of Silberrad's important contributions to munitions research at the Royal Arsenal while he was still in his early twenties. An experimenter of rare ability, Silberrad discovered a new means of detonating high explosive shells by using a substance known as 'tetryl'. He also demonstrated that TNT worked well as a high explosive shell filling, possessing advantages over the Lyddite then in use, and successfully developed and tested a 'flameless' artillery propellant for small calibre guns. The archive contains part of Silberrad's unpublished memoirs, which document this period of his career, in particular his difficult relations with the War Office, which resulted in his resignation as Superintendent of Research. The paper sought to show the value of an archival cataloguing project such as this in 'rescuing' a scientist and his work from relative obscurity. The Silberrad Papers are held by the Science Museum Library.


We have been contacted by Dr. Ian Buxton of the Department of Marine Technology at the University of Newcastle. He says that the British Shipbuilding Database covers all British built or engined vessels from the mid-19th century, plus the shipyards and engine works and has enclosed a partial print-out of marine engine builders in the Greenwich area. He asks for additions or locations of the exact sites on a map.

Appleby Bros Ltd.

East Greenwich. From 1866.
Previously at Southwark.

Humphrys and Tennant

(also Humphrys, Tennant & Co.) Deptford.
1857-c.1865. Admiralty use from c.1860
Known as Humphrys and Tennant in early years 1852-1857.

William Joyce & Co.

Greenwich Ironworks

Charles Lungley

Deptford. c.1863.

Henry 80

Maudslay Sons and Field (boiler works), East Greenwich, Tunnel Avenue. c.1870-1900.

Merryweather & Sons Ltd.

Tram Locomotive Works. 1876

John Penn

John Penn and Sons Ltd. Greenwich. c.1845-1889
Boiler works at Deptford.
Taken over by Thames Iron Works. July 1899.

G. Rennie & Co.

Deptford. Works to Humphrys Tennant c.1852.


Saturday 24 May 2003

On the day of the opening the Museum in Docklands will have free admission. Annual tickets will be available for purchase.
Adult annual ticket £5 - Concessions annual ticket £3 - Children under 16 FREE
DLR -> West India Quay - Jubilee Line -> Canary Wharf
There is a restaurant called 1802, a separate café and a shop.

The twelve galleries of the Museum in Docklands trace 2,000 years of London's river, port and people

THAMES HIGHWAY - from the Roman settlement of AD43 and the Saxon town beneath Covent Garden to the historic ports of Norman and Medieval London excavated at Billingsgate and Lower Thames Street.

TRADE EXPANSION - As London's port activities grew new trading companies like the East India Company emerged. Visitors can wander through a recreation of a Legal Quay from the 1790s and the influence of overseas visitors, including Pochohantas and Prince Lee Boo, is explored.

RHINEBECK PANORAMA -Discovered rolled-up in the attic of a house in Rhinebeck, New York, the Rhinebeck Panorama presents a balloon's eye view of the upper pool of London c.1810.

COMING OF THE DOCKS -An exploration of the Isle of Dogs (1802), Wapping (1805), Blackwall (1806) and Rotherhithe (1806/12) reveals the vast new trading dock complexes built in the early 1800s to resolve the problems of overcrowding, theft and pilferage in the old river port. Original plans, engineering drawings, pictures and artefacts uncover the engineering and entrepreneurial enterprise in detail.

CITY AND RIVER - Opened for trade in 1803, the warehouse in which the Museum now stands once stored coffee, pimentos, sugar, molasses and rum. A recreated rum vault provides a glimpse into the skills of coopers working in No 1 Warehouse under the watchful eyes of Customs Officers, and the gallery examines the story of sugar. An 1807 model of the Lord Mayor's state barge, together with the bright red livery and silver arm badges of the Waterman's Company, are seen close to engravings of the Thames during the last Frost Fair of 1814.

SAILORTOWN Set in the early evening, visitors wander along early 19th century gas-lit alleyways, past a chandler's shop window and sailor's lodging houses, glimpsing views of the murky Thames between buildings.

FIRST PORT OF EMPIRE & WAREHOUSE OF THE WORLD - The introduction of hydraulic power and the change from wooden to iron shipbuilding transformed the lives of those who worked in the docks. The struggles of organised labour is explored through the 1889 Dock Strike, and beam scales, garbling knives and tobacco presses, and contemporary film footage from the historic City of Ships (1938) shows working practices that have now vanished forever.

The capital's links with the British Empire and the cultural diversity of London's East End are shown in What in the World, a touch-screen interactive which traces commodities along trade routes and back to their country of origin.

THE RIVER THAMES GALLERY - A number of traditional Thames vessels, including an 1880s double sculling pleasure craft and a 1925 Port of London Authority Waterman's Skiff, are shown alongside displays exploring the work of sail makers, riggers, ship chandlers, leisure boat operators and divers and reveals some of the skills required for navigation, moorings and salvage operations. A major extract from City of Ships (1938) shows a lost world.

DOCKLANDS AT WAR - Introduced by the Black Saturday film, which incorporates rarely seen film from the Fire Brigade and captured Nazi extracts show the preparations made in London and Berlin for the first few days of the Blitz.

NEW PORT NEW CITY - Just 20 years ago much of Docklands was an area of decline and dereliction. Competition and containerisation signalled the end of the up-river port. As port activities moved downriver the older docks, warehouses and riverside industries closed down. Although still at the centre of world trade, the area is now unrecognisable as the former port, as new transport infrastructures, the gentrification of riverside warehousing and the architectural spectacle of Canary Wharf create a new and equally dramatic cityscape.

MUDLARKS' GALLERY In this interactive gallery specifically for under elevens.


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)



7th May, Engineering History or the History of the Engineer. Prof. David Cannadine. Newcomen Soc. Science Museum, 5.45pm

10th May, Eclipse. 10.30am £28. NMM. 020 8312 6747

11th May, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

16th May, Blackheath Scientific Soc., Mycenae House, SE3 7.45pm

16-17th May, Saving our Seas, 10.30am. £45. NMM. 020 8312 6747

17th May, Gill Cooper on Charlton House. Charlton Society, Charlton House, SE7 2.30pm.

17th May, Greater Thames Estuary Archaeology Annual Conference. Inst. Archaeology, UCL £5. Contact Jane Sidell, Inst. Arch. UCL, 31-34 Gordon Square, WC1

18th May, Woodlands Farm. Spring Show.

20th May, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

22nd May, Visit to Woodlands Farm. Charlton Society

24th May, Margaret Snook. Greenwich Heritage Centre. Greenwich Borough Museum. 2.30pm-4.00pm

25-16th May, City Safari to Lyons (details from Paul Saulter, 80 Udimore Road, Rye, Sussex TN31 7DY)

27th May, Roupells of Lambeth. Lewisham Local History Society. Methodist Hall, Albion Way, SE13 7.45pm

30th May, David Jones. A Brockley Artist and Poet, Meurig Owen, LLH. Methodist Hall, Albion Way, SE13. 7.45pm


6th June, Extraterrestrial Life. 10.30am £28, NMM. 020 8312 6747

7th June, Crossness Open Day. Come and see your local steam museum. Thames Water, Belvedere Road, SE2

7th June, GLIAS Walk along the Northern Outfall Sewer. Led by David Perrrett. Meet West Ham Underground Station, 2.30pm.

13th June, Magic and mathematics. The life and work of John Dee. 10.30am. £45, NMM. 020 8312 6747

13/14th June, GLIAS Walk - Street Furniture on the Embankment. Sue Hayton. Meet river side, Embankment Station 2.30pm

17th June, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

21st June, Greenwich Hospice Charlton Society. Charlton House, SE7 2.30pm

21st June, Railroad to Riches. Chris Foord. Borough Museum 2.30pm- 4.00pm

21st June, The impact of European Union Common Agricultural policy on structure of demand for 'Capesize' vessels. Reza Mirmuran, Greenwich Maritime Institute, Old Royal Naval College.

27th June, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

29th June, Roupells of Lambeth. Lewisham Local History Society. Methodist Hall, Albion Way, SE13 7.45pm


5th July, GLIAS Walk - Acton II Park Royal. Meet North Acton Underground. 2.30pm

13th July, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

16th July, GLIAS Walk - Surrey Docks. Meet Canada Water Station. 6.30pm

18th July, General Steam Navigation Company. Peter Gurnett LLH. Methodist Hall, Albion Way, SE13 7.45pm

19th July, Kristen Walker on the Horniman Museum. Charlton Society. Charlton House, SE7 2.30pm

22nd July, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

30th July, Visit to Crossness Pumping Station. Charlton Society.



11th May 10.30am. Planetarium. Adults £8. Children £6. NMM. 020 8312 6747


From 8th June 10.30am. Planetarium. Adults £8. Children £6. NMM. 020 8312 6747


Fieldwork course from Tues 6th May at City University, with Dr. Bob Carr.
Details 020 7040 83268,


At Creekside Education Centre, Creekside. 10.30am-12.30pm, Fridays, from 9th May. £20.
Enrolment through Goldsmith's Registry, 020 7919 7766

9/5 Secret history of the Creek (Diana Rimel and Peter Kent)
16/5 Computer work on Creek artefacts (Chris Gittner)
23/5 Wading in the Creek (Chris Gittner)
30/5 The Creek's wildlife (Nick Bertrand)
6/6 Lewisham and the Creek (Jill Goddard)
13/6 Birdlife of the Creek (Dusty Gedge).



For further information please contact;

Firepower on 020 8855 7755,, website


The Society's officers are currently 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 2002.
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