Volume 6, Issue 4, July 2003


THE R.A.C.S./C.W.S. ABATTOIR 1937-1994




15th July - Jack Vaughan - Woolwich Dockyard (part 2)

16th September - Captain Glyn Wrench and Allan Green - History of Cable and Cable Ships

14th October - Paul Sowan - 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.

Who are we now?

A fascinating snapshot of our Borough today is revealed by the 2001 census. We have the highest rate of divorced and separated people in London, and single people living on their own occupy over a third of dwellings. Only 1 in 4 Greenwich households is occupied by a married couple. 18% of us were not born in the UK, and 1 in 14 of us are of Black African origin. Overall, nearly 30% of us described ourselves as other than White British.

THE R.A.C.S./C.W.S. ABATTOIR 1937-1994

by Steve Barr (assisted by Kathleen Barr)

The new R.A.C.S. Abattoir opened in 1937 replacing the old Abattoir, which was in Belvedere. The new Abattoir was state of the art for its time and the first of its type in Britain. It was based upon an American design which incorporated the idea of housing the Slaughter Hall on an upper level which gave the great advantage of using gravity instead of manpower to move such things as hides, sheepskins, gut, hooves and condemned meat - they were simply dropped down the appropriate chute into waiting bins outside or on to work surfaces in the Gut House below.


After the outbreak of World War Two the Abattoir was taken over by the Ministry of Agriculture which controlled every aspect of the day to day running of the building. At some point during the war years, probably 1943, killing was ceased and the building was used for storing and distributing foodstuffs. Killing was resumed around 1946 but the Ministry remained in full control of the Abattoir until the end of rationing in 1954. During the war years the Abattoir was in great danger from German bombs not only because of its own logistical importance but also because only a few hundred yards from it, in Garland Road, stood the "Optical Buildings" which was a Ministry of Defence research facility for improving weapon sighting and ranging. However, a battery of anti-aircraft guns, sited on what are now the Golf Links and a barrage balloon unit, sited where the houses in Highgrove now stand, protected the area. One of the Balloon teams suffered a direct hit from a German bomb and not one piece of the team was ever found. An Abattoir worker would be detailed at all times to stand on the flat roof of the building on watch for German aircraft and sound the alarm if any were spotted. One of the older staff, Bill Hills, told me that one afternoon when he was on watch he saw a Messershmit 110 fighter-bomber, which banked around the building at the same height as his position on the roof. He said he could clearly see the both the pilot and navigator and waved to them as he sounded the alarm!

THE 1950's AND 1960's

During the 1950's and 60's the Abattoir was very busy. It employed two slaughter gangs - one for beef and one for "smalls" (Sheep and Pigs). During the busiest periods, around Christmas and during the Lamb Season, killing would start at five in the morning and go on until midnight. The beef gang was known to be the quickest in Britain, being able to kill and fully dress fifteen cattle per hour.

THE 1970'S

In 1970 the "factory" (meat processing plant) was built and opened. The factory produced sausages and beef burgers for the Co-op shops and packing meat for the new "Freezer Centre" which was situated at the Co-op Links store at Plumstead Common. In 1974 another large outside cattle pen was added to the building. However, by the later 1970's work at the Abattoir was starting to slow down. This was largely a result of a decline in the fortunes of the R.A.C.S. Due to the increasing affluence of people throughout this period (and many argued due to the discontinuation of the tin cheque and the later Co-op stamps) the old working class image of the Society was failing to inspire the modern consumer. Many of the small Co-op butchers shops, such as the one on the parade in Swingate Lane, Plumstead, were closed and sold off. Due to this trend, and totally against the ethics of the CO OP at that time, the Abattoir began to take on killing for private butchers in order to keep up the "head rate" of the building. In late July 1979 the killing and distribution operations (the factory was not affected) at the Abattoir were halted for a period of two months for the building to be brought up to the new E.E.C. standard. This work included the plastic cladding of walls as tiles were no longer legal and shot blasting of the roller-rails to remove all rust. The killing was put out to Coveney's at Charing and F.M.C Canterbury and the distribution staff were re-located to the R.A.C.S. Commonwealth Buildings at Woolwich.

THE 1980'S

During the first half of the 1980's the workload of the building continued to drop off. Even though one whole day's work (Tuesdays) was largely taken up with private killing, on many Thursdays there was no kill. But the Abattoir was a status symbol for the R.A.C.S. and was kept open despite many rumours of its imminent closure. Indeed, in 1984, a hide-puller system and new trap were added to the beef kill system due to new E.E.C. regulations, which stated that cattle could no longer be flayed on the ground with the old Pritch-Plate system. However, by the mid-eighties the whole of the R.A.C.S. was in serious financial difficulties and a "merger" was negotiated with the C.W.S. The management of the Abattoir in meetings with the heads of the C.W.S. Meat Group was led to believe that the Abattoir would gain much work when the C.W.S. took control. The "merger" took place in February 1985. On March 15th 1985, on arrival for work, the Slaughtermen, Stockman and Gutmen were told that "this is the last day of killing, come in tomorrow morning at ten to collect your settlements". From then until its total closure the building was entitled the C.W.S. Meat Depot, Garland Road. Meat was delivered to the depot and then distributed to the Co-op shops. The factory continued to perform its normal function for a further three months until June 1985 when it, too, was closed down and its staff made redundant. At its busiest the Abattoir had employed about eighty plus people but now the staff numbered only around ten.

On July 9th 1987 the Abattoir made national headlines when an attempted-armed robbery of a security van, which was delivering wages to the building, was ambushed by armed police. Two of the robbers were shot dead and one was seriously wounded, but survived. Thus, the Abattoir holds the record not only for the quickest beef gang in Britain but also for the most people killed and wounded by the police on mainland Britain in a non-terrorist related gun battle. The Abattoir continued to function as a meat depot until October 1989 when the decision was taken by the bosses of the C.W.S. Meat group to close the building and put the work out to a private company which operated from a cold store at Riverhead in Kent. The building stood empty but with round-the-clock security officers until its demolition in May and June 1994. A sad end to what had once been a thriving workplace.

The story of the armed raid in 1987 will appear in a future edition.


Tom Cribb &emdash; Bare knuckle Fighter

Tony Robin reported at the last Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society council meeting that English Heritage had turned down an application from Chris Mansfield, proprietor of the Ready Snacks cafe at 111, Woolwich High Street, for a blue plaque to be placed upon his building. This would have commemorated the fact that Tom Cribb had once lived in the house, which was then a Bakery. English Heritage considered that a plaque would be better placed upon the 'Tom Cribb' public house, in the centre of London, in which dwelling, Tom had spent a greater length of his life, and their application was favourably received. This is understandable, I suppose, because more tourists are likely to see it there. But it is a pity, considering that Tom died in Woolwich and is buried in St. Mary Magdalene's churchyard. Never mind - we still have the magnificent lion in the church gardens, and a road named after him.

Tony had been to meet Chris Mansfield, in his cafe and had a cup of tea with him. He found a very pleasant man, busily cooking meals of all kinds for his many customers, but still with time to talk to me. Tony told him that WADAS regretted his failure to acquire the blue plaque, and that we had heard that he was considering having a plaque made privately. Chris told him that he had been thinking about it but that he was also considering selling his very busy cafe, and so it would not be a priority now. He is very interested in local history and had a wonderful collection of photographs of the old and new Ferryboats and of the surrounding area, upon the walls of the cafe. They are fascinating - pay a visit to Chris's cafe, look at the photographs, have a chat with him and enjoy a delicious cup of tea.

Pat Fawcett

This item appeared in the WADAS Newsletter


The Cutty Sark is in a desperate state. It seems that the stern of the ship will collapse in two years if nothing is done. The Cutty Sark Trust now needs to raise an estimated £10m it is hoped that £3.5m will come from the public. They are selling off every bolt, rivet, and plank. In a sponsorship programme - you can buy a rivet for a fiver, a foot of plank for £20, a bronze bolt for £25, a 'tween deck plank for £100, a teak deck plank for £500 or one of the ship's side planks for £5,000.

In return you will receive;

To become a supporter, contact;

The Cutty Sark Trust 2 Greenwich Church Street, London SE10 9BG. 020 8858 2698.

Simon Schofield of the Cutty Sark Trust asks whether there is anyone in the area who remembers the Cutty Sark coming to Greenwich. Can anyone help?


A unique and innovative website,, containing fascinating information about the history of six south London Boroughs and their people from the 16th century to the present day, was launched at the University of Greenwich on Tuesday, 20 May.

The site explores how the south London suburbs developed and how, in a short space of time these semi-rural villages became part of the London sprawl. The general public, historians and architects will be able to access, via this website, a wealth of information on housing and public buildings in south London over the last five centuries.

Ideal Homes is a collaboration between the University of Greenwich and the south London councils of Bexley, Greenwich, Lambeth, Bromley, Lewisham and Southwark, who have spent two-and-a-half years pooling their archives and expertise to make a reality. Sue McKenzie, Head of Lambeth archive, has coordinated the project.

"The website's launch event will be both a celebration of the creation of the site and also act as an appeal for ideas and material to develop it," says Dr Jane Longmore, Head of the University of Greenwich's School of Humanities. "We would like to include reminiscences, personal pictures and ephemera, possibly film. We want Ideal Homes to be a resource for all, that celebrates the diversity and richness in the history of an often overlooked part of London," continued Dr Longmore.

The website will examine what caused the south London suburbs to grow and change. The construction of bridges across the Thames, the development of rail transport, the building of Crystal Palace, and the two World Wars all shaped these suburbs into what they are today.

The site is in its early stages but there are plans to take a closer look at the lives of the people who lived in, or moved to, the suburbs. At present the site has 2000 images and maps, taken from the archive and local history collections of the six boroughs. There will also be essays and studies written by local historians.

"Already, people are using the web site to delve into their past," says Dr Longmore. "I've been contacted by the delighted daughter of a 91-year-old woman who found a photograph of her mother's childhood house in Bermondsey on the site, which has brought part of her family history to life."

The web site was designed and built by Jack Cannon of the University of Greenwich Web Development Team, which will also host the site for the six London boroughs. The cost of putting together the web site has been covered by a significant grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the New Opportunities Fund.


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

From: Mike Neill

The Greenwich Gallery at the Greenwich Heritage Centre

The Council values the opinions of all stakeholders in the planning of its facilities, and we would be very pleased to receive your comments and suggestions on possible options for the planned new permanent exhibition in the new Greenwich Heritage Centre. A funding application will be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund in the autumn; whilst there is no guarantee that this will succeed, it remains our aspiration to develop an inclusive exhibition that will be of interest to all the people of Greenwich.

I attach a couple of leaflets, which will also be available from libraries, community centres and other outlets. Please let me know if you would like further copies.

Written comments and submissions are very welcome, but my colleagues and I would also be very happy to meet with you to discuss the possible options in further detail. We would like to have concluded this phase of the consultation by the end of July, when questionnaire research will begin, to be undertaken by an external Market Research company.

With many thanks in advance for your interest.

From: Richard Hartree

John Penn & Son(s).

Family history started my interest in this firm. My great, great, grandfather William Hartree married Charlotte, the daughter of John Penn 1, and was a partner. My industrial management career gave me an interest in industrial history and out of this combination has come a wish to write a history of this family business. I've visited the sites in Greenwich and Deptford, the Cedars, the Almshouses, the church at Lee and Riverdale in Lewisham, also the Hartree vault in Nunhead cemetery. I've read quite extensively and followed up all Penn references in The Engineer, the Newcomen Proceedings and many books on the history of Thameside shipbuilding and marine engineering. I've also explored the Penn file at Woodlands. I've read the articles in this publication about the Penn sites in Greenwich and Deptford and know that amongst GIHS members and others locally there must be much knowledge which it would valuable to be able to include in what I'm doing. I shall give full acknowledgement for anything I use.

I'm hoping for things about the people who worked at Penn's, especially the engineers and managers who kept the firm going after John Penn 2's death and in Thames Ironworks times, also any local family or social information. Some specific points:-

Deptford Victualling Yard Bakery/Biscuit factory, when was it built, what did John Penn supply?

History of the growth of the Greenwich site.

The date of John Penn taking over the Deptford site and its development.

Date of the millwright's strike which caused John Penn1 to introduce self-acting machinery.

Any works descriptions other than Barry, Society of Engineers visit in The Engineer, The Illustrated London News and Robert Smiles "Model Establishment" piece. I'm seeking descriptions of manufacturing and management methods. [Note of another local connection. my great grandfather John Penn Hartree married Janet, daughter of Samuel Smiles.]

Relating to the Greenwich site the schedule in the agreement of sale by the partnership to the limited company in 1889 lists the Engine Factory and houses from 82 to 104 Blackheath Road as freehold, 62 and 110 Blackheath Road and 5 Lewisham Road as leasehold, this last let to Dr F R Cox. This suggests that 10 Lewisham Road was a part of the Engine Factory at that time, or it was in other ownership. I include this because I've now seen a reference to this document - found in the PRO.

My reading suggests that the story in the ICE obituary of John Penn 2 about the Steam Gun and the Duke of Wellington is apocryphal and the friendship of John Penn 1 with William Cobbett is unlikely [there was another John Penn who was a supporter of Cobbett] although his 1832 election address shows he followed Cobbett's writings. [Finding that was fun!]

I am in touch with Lady Penn in Fife and we share the aim to do something which will give John Penn 2 and the firm the recognition they deserve. Please help if you can, you will be fully acknowledged.

Tel 01295 788215, e-mail

From: Pat O'Driscoll

I was most interested in the piece about John Penn's in the current GIHS publication. In 1957 I became aware of a small ship's figurehead displayed outside No. 20 John Penn Street. I hoped to photograph it in its position but the problem was to get there when the light was on it. In fact I never did manage to get there with my camera at a suitable time. Questions to Greenwich Borough Council and the National Maritime failed failed to identify the figurehead and the circumstances in which it had found its way to 20 John Penn Street.

Eventually, on 12th June, 1966, I managed to photograph the figurehead, by then moved to a house in Blackheath. The figurehead is said to have come from vessel, which spent the last 20 years of her career delivering mail to ships at the Nore. I still do not know her name. Does anybody recognize the figurehead and can anybody tell me more about it?

I have already received one letter regarding the firm at Erith following publication of my letter in the current GIHS issue.

18 Dunoon Road, Forest Hill, SE23

From: Peter McPherson

I have been researching my family background and to date have discovered that my father's family (the McPhersons) were pewterers and bar fitters in the area in the second half of the 19th century (and also owned a few pubs!). My grandmother's side of the family (Gibbs) were kamptulicon makers (the forerunner of lino). In 1881 there were four of them employed in (I believe) Greenwich Road (now Greenwich High Road). I wondered if either of these subjects had been looked at by your Society?

From Adam Oliver

I have an old relation (who lived behind Park Row in the 1920s until the 1960s) who has asked me to find out if there is a video archive of working ships around Greenwich / Isle of Dogs. Can you help?

From Nat Bocking

I have long held that the water towers surrounding my home in Suffolk are objects of beauty as well as a vital utility. They are visually abundant in a landscape that emphasizes their form and they are icons of East Anglia as much as its horses, wherries and steeples. Without water towers the population of East Anglia (and many other areas of Britain) could not have been sustained. My research into the towers in Suffolk leads me to the conclusion that detailed information on their history and use is scarce and practically unobtainable. I have encountered many water tower enthusiasts, some with professional expertise in historic engineering, and I know of many iconic examples, but, to my knowledge, water towers in Britain have not been collectively studied or fully exploited for their cultural or commercial value. This has been done successfully in North America and Europe and I have no doubt that Britain's water towers have similar potential. An opportunity exists to exploit the educational and heritage value of this abundant and under utilized asset to create new employment and new revenue, stimulate growth in the local economy and increase the value of existing resources.

Core proposal:

I am proposing that a body be empowered to investigate the history, aesthetics, cultural significance and development potential of water towers and communicate the findings to the public, business and government. Because of the concentration of a wide range of types in my geographic region, my objective initially would be to publish a guide to towers in East Anglia, scaling up to a national undertaking later.

From: Mary Gregory

I am trying to find out about J Stone & Co (Deptford) Ltd.

I came across a letter from Jeremy Bacon about a steam car engine. Indeed this was built in about 1962 by Neil C Gregory, my late husband. He was a Mechanical Engineering Student Apprentice at J Stone & Co (Deptford) from 1958-62, was made Apprentice of the Year in 1962 and then worked for them until 1963. He and a friend, Peter Randall, had intended to build the chassis for the car and run it, but I came into Neil's life, marriage followed, and there was no spare money to finish the project, so the engine was sold. I wish I had come across your site earlier - Neil died on 3 March this year from mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos while working at J Stone. He would have been so flattered that someone was enquiring after his steam car.

Neil built three 'live' steam locomotives - the latest he finished two years ago is 7.25" gauge, quarter scale, based on a loco on the Sandy River and Maine in the USA. He ran it on a track around our croft (we retired to the Western Highlands in 1995) and was working on another loco for the grandchildren to run when he was struck down with this awful illness and died within a year aged 61.

From: David Riddle

Does anyone know what the links are between Batavia and Deptford?

Recently there was a TV program on one of the cable channels about a shipwreck in Western Australia.. the 'Batavia'. I thought I recognised the name, either from a GIHS article or from somewhere else. I then remembered that the student accommodation at Goldsmiths College that lies above the shops on New Cross Road opposite Deptford Town Hall is called Batavia Mews. The ship belonged to the Dutch East India Company, and so I don't think has any reason to be linked to Deptford.

From what I have been able to find out on the Net this morning it seems that 'Batavia' is either the old name for Java. or simply an old port in Java. Captain Cook visited there on his voyage of expedition that started in Deptford and included a call in Java before going on to chart New Zealand and Australia. Can anyone think of anything else that could possibly link Deptford and 'Batavia'?

From: Jenny Bufton

I have noted with interest the paragraph on the Lennard Tar Still in a recent Newsletter. I am researching our family history and have found that some of our ancestors lived in Deptford in the 1870/80s and worked at the tar factories so am interested in any relevant information you may have. I have read that many of the workers in this industry came from Suffolk. Our Barnes family lived in Deptford in the 1870/1880S at Edale Rd, (which I know no longer exists) next to several Tar works, and according to records worked in them. I was also interested in the name "Lennard" strangely enough for another reason. Our Barnes grandfather changed his surname by deed poll to that of Lennard and we never had any idea why he chose this name until I read your article. So since we knew they all worked at some tar works in Deptford this could be the reason and a connection?

From: Peter Hopp

I collect slide rules and have recently come across a slide rule made by G. Fowler of Millwall. I was wondering if any of your readers or other experts may have information on this Mathematical Instrument Maker who must have been working around 1850 from the style of the slide rule.

From: David Nelson

Do you have any documentation on an individual who could have labeled a brass hinge 'Y. Mathis , Greenwich' in the early 1800s? It is located on an early 19th century candlestand but I would surmise that the name is that of the metal worker and not the cabinetmaker.



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.


Hanson plc has secured a relatively long term (10 year) interest in the Victoria Deepwater Terminal, Blackwall Reach, Greenwich for use by ships unloading aggregate and similar products. This maintains the future of this wharf, the last of the large upriver wharves now that Convoys has closed.

When working recently at Steve Leach's boatyard next to Thames Lock in Brentford, I came across a bollard marked 'J.Piper Greenwich'.

I assume this was made by the firm of that name, whose yard still exists in Greenwich, under other ownership but still ship repairers.

Peter Finch (this note first appeared in the GLIAS Newsletter)


Later this year, Phase I of the new Greenwich Heritage Centre will open in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. The Council is now applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant to develop Phase II, which will replace the local history displays currently at the Borough Museum.

Options for conserving and displaying the Woolwich Stoneware Kiln are being assessed;
a purpose-built structure which would allow the greatest access to this unique object is under consideration.

The Heritage Centre is a facility for all Greenwich people; we expect about a quarter of our visitors will be school-age children, but displays and exhibits must engage equally with students and the retired, with those of varying physical, intellectual and language abilities, and with all those who may not think that Greenwich's cultural heritage has much to do with them.

There are only really two guiding principles that govern what happens in the new Greenwich Gallery; it should be focused on the Borough, and it should increase access to our rich cultural heritage (yes, Ed, industrial cultural heritage is included!).

We really value all suggestions as to how we should develop the Greenwich Gallery. Please let us have your views and ideas by the end of July 2003. These can cover anything you like to suggest; themes, storylines, treatments, interpretive approaches, aesthetics, artefacts or set building and re-creations. Ideas that don't make it into the permanent exhibition could instead form part of the temporary exhibitions programme.

We want the new gallery to reflect those things that you believe would make the Greenwich Gallery usefully interpret the past, truly relevant to the present, and a foundation on which to develop for generations yet to come. Options that come out of this process will be tested with a formal survey before the design brief for the new gallery is agreed by Councillors. Please remember that our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund may not be successful - and that it's taken us ten years to get to this stage.

How to contact us;

Mike Neill, Project Manager
Greenwich Council
Public Services, 13th Floor
Riverside House,
Woolwich SE18 6DN

Tel. 020-8921-8334
Fax 020-8921-8322

Museum 020-8855-3240

Local History Library 020-8858-4631



by Philip Binns


Greenwich Station forecourt. Redevelopment to provide through access to the station, taxi rank, coach pick-up point, drop-off and disabled parking. Big improvement.

Mumford's Mill, 23 Greenwich High Road. Revisions to scheme - new window arrangements in the long mill block abutting the silo are an improvement.

Eltham Grid Sub-Station, Rochester Way. Installation of roof top equipment. Object to this proliferation so close to Shepherdleas Woods and Falconwood Fields.

Sun Garage, Sun Lane - demolition of workshops and garages and erection of 3 x 1-bed houses and 4 x 2-bed flats. Concern at loss of employment space and object to the proposed entrance to the flats which is out of character with the rest of Sun Lane.

Local List - the Greenwich Conservation Officer has been contacted with a view to placing more items on the Local List of buildings.


Erection of a footbridge on the Arsenal site spanning the flood wall and linking the Arsenal with Thamesmead. Welcomed the interesting spiral staircase design which draws on the historical precedent of the Woolwich Foot Tunnel.

Building 25 Royal Arsenal. Installation of steel anti-vandal grilles to external openings. Group felt this was a poor reflection on the state of site security. Grilles should be set inside the windows rather than outside in order to preserve the delicacy of the window sections.

Former Greenwich District Hospital Site &endash; need to retain the original foundation stone.


by Professor Ray Riley

There is a case for early Naval Dockyards to be included among some of the first factories.

What is a factory? If it is a building specifically dedicated to the production of a good, then domestic manufacture - the weaver's cottage for example - must be excluded, although some regard such premises as proto-factories. But clearly mills are factories; they contain power machinery which transforms material into a product, and their architecture is entirely functional. That these examples might have employed only a handful of workers is irrelevant - there are small factories just as there are large ones. It is the characteristics of the enterprise which is the issue.

Roger Shelley justifiably suggests that naval dockyards may be contenders for the title but advances the caveat that the fortunes of the dockyards were determined by war; this is true, but in the search for the date of establishment this is unimportant. Despite the copious literature on foreign policy, maritime battles, the heroics of naval officers, naval strategies, warships, and to some extent on the dockyards themselves, economic historians and others seem to have focused on textile mills to provide examples of early factories. They have overlooked the dockyards as loci of production and repair of naval vessels from the sixteenth century onwards. It might be argued that a dry dock or building slip is not a factory, but both are buildings specifically dedicated to the production of a good, as I say above. Furthermore, the docks and slips were always accompanied by adjacent storehouses, smithies, sail lofts, mast houses, seasoning sheds, and sometimes rope houses, all of which are buildings in the conventional sense.

May I offer some chapter and verse?

The first dry dock and associated facilities to be established in a naval dockyard was at Portsmouth in 1495. This was followed by yards at Woolwich in 1505, Deptford in 1515, Chatham in 1575, Harwich and Sheerness in 1665, and Plymouth in 1690. At some yards there was specialisation of the kind at Woolwich where gunfounding was added in 1557, gunpowder manufacturing in 1662 and gun carriage production in 1680. Arguably each of these activities itself constituted an individual factory. Ropehouses at Woolwich (1612), Chatham (1621), Portsmouth (1663 and 1695) and Plymouth (1690) were gigantic structures by the standards of the day and must have been the largest factories ever built in Britain. The scale of operations in the yards may be judged from criteria such as the number of ships launched: 18 vessels left the slips at Portsmouth between 1660 and 1674, and by the volume of repairs: no less than 98 warships were worked on at Portsmouth in 1702 alone. At Chatham 259 shipwrights and tradesmen were employed in 1611, a figure which had risen to 1,000 by 1697, when 1,271 were on the payroll at Portsmouth. At the latter yard some 2,100 were employed in 1711. The sophisticated division of labour, the organization of flow-line production, and, often forgotten, of material supplies, and the management of these huge numbers of workers all on one site (apart from material supplies the dockyards were self-sufficient), lend great weight to the proposition that the industrial revolution began not on the rivers and coalfields, but in naval dockyards.

This is an extract from an article which appears in the Summer 2003 edition of Industrial Archaeology News


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)



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

6th July, Blood Alley to Big Business. Museum in Docklands Talk. 3 pm. 0870 444 3855

12-20th July, Endeavour at Arsenal Pier Woolwich 9am-6pm. Info 08707 458 958

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

15th July, Working Lives. Museum in Docklands 3pm. 0870 444 3855

15th July, Endeavour Evening sail. Info 08707 458 958

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

16th July, Endeavour Evening sail. Info 08707 458 958

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

19th July, The Accumulator Tower. Visit. Museum in Docklands 3pm 0870 444 3855

21st July, Greenwich and Woolwich at Work. Mary Mills at Croydon Natural History and Scientific Soc.. 7.45pm. United Reformed Church Halls, Addiscombe Grove, Croydon.

21st July, Endeavour Evening sail. Info 08707 458 958

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

22nd July, Endeavour Evening sail. Info 08707 458 958

23rd July, Endeavour Evening sail. Info 08707 458 958

23rd July, Sugar and Salvation. Museum in Docklands Walk. 3pm. 0870 444 3855

24th July, Greenwich At Work. Mary Mills at Greenwich West Community and Arts Centre AGM. 7.00pm. William Mills Room.

27th July, Sugar and Salvation. Museum in Docklands 3pm 0870 444 3855

29th July, Coming of the Docks. Museum in Docklands Walk. 3pm 0870 444 3855

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


2nd August, GLIAS walk. Clapham, Outside the Omnibus. Meet 2.30pm. Clapham North Underground.

10th August, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

19th August, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

20th August, GLIAS Walk. Eastern City. Meet Fenchurch Street Station. 6.30pm. Led by Dan Hayton

22nd-25th August, City Safari to Liverpool (details Paul Saulter, 80 Udimore Road, Rye, Sussex TN31 7DY)

23rd-30th August, National Astronomy Week.

23rd August, Astronomy event for visually impaired visitors. Royal Observatory.

24th August, Astronomy event for Deaf visitors, Royal Observatory


3rd September, Docklands History Group meeting at Museum of Docklands

6th September, GLIAS Walk. Limehouse and beyond. Meet Limehouse DLR, 2.30pm. led by Chris Grabham

11th- 14th September, City Safari to Dublin. (Details Paul Saulter, 80 Udimore Road, Rye, Sussex TN31 7DY)

14th September, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

20th September, London Open House Day

20th September, Helen Clapp on The Church Calendar. Charlton Society. Charlton House, SE7. 2.30pm

23rd September, Visit to textile and fashion museum, Bermondsey. Charlton Society

24th September, The History of Woolwich Arsenal, Jack Vaughan. RBLHS, Time and Talents, St.Marychurch Street, SE16. 7.45pm

26th September, John Evelyn and his garden. Gill Friar. LLH. Methodist Hall, Albion Way, SE13. 7.45pm.

27th September, GLIAS Treasure Hunt.

29th September, PACE Course (see below) Red House, Bexley and Danson House Bexley - Diana Rimel

30th September, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)


29th September - 1st December

Interesting Architecture in Local Boroughs and London. (see Events section above for details).
PACE, Goldsmiths College - 020 7919 7766. £40 for term, £4 weekly. To be held at Mycenae House, 10.15am-12.15pm

23rd September - 9th March

The Port of London: the Industrial Archaeology and Regeneration of a Riverscape. Tutor: Mary Mills.
Birkbeck, University of London, Accredited Course.
To be held at Museum of Docklands, West India Quay, E14. £133.00 (cc £67). Tuesdays 6.30pm. Info: 020 7631 6631



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