Volume 6, Issue 5, September 2003







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

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

11th November - Peter Gurnett. General Steam Navigation

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

10th February - Clive Chambers on London Bridge

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


The 8th September is the 200th anniversary of an industrial accident on the Greenwich riverside - so - there were lots of those - but this one had consequences beyond the immediate ones, and it involved one of the heroes of steam technology - Richard Trevithick.


A plaque on the wall of the public house on the Peninsula (The Pilot), reads 'New East Greenwich' and that may have been what was intended in 1803 - a new development away from the main industrial town of Greenwich. Development on the Peninsula is not something new - in 1800 the developer was George Russell, the site's owner. Russell had made a fortune from soap manufacture, founding the old Barge House Soap Works on the west side of Blackfriars Bridge and he died at his home at Longlands, Sidcup in 1804. Since developments, including the landscaping of the area as part of the Dome site, it is very difficult to find the area where this incident took place. Most people will remember that the courtyard now in front of the Pilot used to extend to the riverside as Riverway. On the northern side stood the Blackwall Point Power Station - and this is roughly the site of the tide mill under construction in 1803. Ceylon Place, the cottages alongside the Pilot, were built to house the workers.

The Tide Mill

This mill was constructed by the leading millwrighting business of John Lloyd. Lloyd was based at Brewers Green in Westminster but within two years had moved to Nelson Square in Southwark as a partner in Lloyd and Ostell. The company were government contractors and were to install the equipment at Waltham Abbey Gunpowder Works and a number of other important sites. They represent a point at which water powered mill wrighting was at a peak; a few years later such a big industrial installation would have chosen steam power with little consideration of any alternative.

The mill was apparently also the work of a little known engineer, William Johnson. Johnson seems to have come from Bromley, where he gave his address as Widmore House. He had approached Morden College several times during the previous couple of years for a site where he could construct a 'water corn mill' - but exactly what his relationship was with George Russell and John Lloyd is not clear. By 1802 he had moved to Montpelier Row in Blackheath and was asking the City of London Thames Conservators for permission to open the river bank for the mill race - and following a visit from their inspector, a Mr. Hollingsworth was employed do the work. At the same time George Russell received a licence for the causeway into the river, which some people may remember was used by the Greenwich Yacht Club until riverbank reconstruction by English Partnerships.

One day in 1802 Olinthus Gregory, Professor of Mathematics at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, walked along the riverside from Woolwich, chatted to the foreman and recorded what he found on site. It is from him that we have most of the details of this important mill.

Steam power was available on site: a high-pressure engine built by Richard Trevithick was in use, apparently for building work. Trevithick had recently come to London to advertise his work - this had included the previous year the demonstrations of his locomotive on a circular track at Euston.

It had an 8-inch cylinder and worked without an expansive cock. Trevithick himself said that it was 'too light a load to do good duty' and 'of a bad construction .. the flywheel was loaded on one side, so as to divide the power of the double engine'. It was reported that the fire 'in contact with the cast iron' had heated the boiler red hot and burnt all the joints.

Eels congregated under the mill and on Thursday, 8th September 1803, an apprentice, left to look after the steam engine, went to catch them. 'Impatient to finish the work he had put a piece of timber between the top and the safety value and bent it down so that it could not rise to allow the steam to escape'. The boiler blew up, killing three men on site. At the remote riverside a wherry was called and the injured taken by river to St. Thomas's Hospital which was then at London Bridge. Despite the efforts of the surgeon, Mr. Bingham, one man, Thomas Nailor, died a few days later; his head and neck had been covered in boiling water. Interestingly Nailor had not been a Greenwich resident, but had lived north of the river, in Poplar. Another man was deafened, but the boy, the cause of the trouble, although injured, recovered.

Trevithick feared that Boulton and Watt, as rival engine manufactures, would be quick to point out the dangers involved. The Times in reporting the incident said that 'Mr. Watt's engines would not explode in this way' and that the accident 'should be a warning to engineers to construct their safety valves so that common workmen cannot stop them at their pleasure'.

It seems that there was some sort of enquiry after the accident - it is the sort of thing which ought to have happened. The only clue to this is found in a register of expenses submitted to the Court of Chancery after George Russell's death. One item concerns expenses for 'Daniel Vaux and Mr. Johnson for attending as a witness in a case respecting the steam engine in Greenwich Marsh in 1803 3 9/7/1808' - what was this case? Was it about insurance? I have been totally unable to find out and some knowledge of this case and its proceedings might throw a whole new light on the matter.

The mill lived on - it had a number of operators and became part of Frank Hills' chemical works in the 1840s and was still there in 1890. After his death some of the site was used for Blackwall Point Power Station and the rest, including the mill, became the Phoenix Chemical Works attached to the gas works. In 1927 the insurance based Goad plan for the area still shows some of the mill ponds with a causeway leading to them from the area of the tidal intake - is there anyone who still remembers those ponds? What were they used for? When were they drained? It is almost impossible now, given the landscaping undertaken by English Partnerships, to trace the site of the mill or the ponds.


By Mike Neill

A comment made to the Council's 'Arsenal' exhibition designer that 'the Arsenal built Napoleon's house on St. Helena' led the author to follow up with a brief piece of research. If true, it would provide a fascinating link between the first Napoleon, the son and heir of the third Napoleon and Woolwich.

Perhaps disappointingly, it proved to be only partly true - but demonstrated again the skill and versatility of the Royal Arsenal's workforce, whose motto could well have been 'Whatever it is, we can make it'.

The bare facts are these. Napoleon arrived at St. Helena on board HMS Northumberland on 15th October 1815, after a voyage that had started in Torbay in early August. A few days later he visited an old 2-storey stone built farmhouse, then called simply Longwood House but later called Longwood Old House. This was at the time the residence of the East India Company's Lieutenant Governor. The Northumberland's carpenter, at the direction of Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, added a timber framed salon de reception and the famous latticed verandah. In December 1815, after a two-month stay as the guest of a neighbouring landholder, Napoleon moved into this building, where he was to remain until his death in 1821.

In 1819 the British Government started building a large single storey timber framed building called Longwood New House, intended to house Napoleon in one wing and a key retainer (probably Montholon) in the other. This building was barely completed before Napoleon's death, and he was never to live in it.

The evidence for the Arsenal's involvement (now in the PRO) starts around the middle of August 1815, when Napoleon was already on his way to St Helena. Col. Chapman of the Office of Ordnance wrote informally to Maj. Gen. Sir HE Bunbury KCB on 15th August;

Dear Bunbury,

I transmit herewith a plan which has been received from Lt General Mann, of a house for Napoleon Bonaparte, together with a letter from that officer containing his observations on the plans enclosed in your letter of the 8th instant, and I request you will inform me as soon as Lord Bathurst shall decide on the subject.

With respect to Barracks, will you have the goodness to acquaint me whether it will be necessary for this department to provide them for the detachment of Artillery, and also the Engineers and Sappers and Miners which have been ordered out to St Helena, or whether they will be supplied in the same manner as the troops of the line.

Yours very Faithfully,


The enclosed letter from Gen. Mann was headed from Pall Mall, 10th August 1815;


I have to observe that the plan inclosed in Sir H. Bunbury's letter, transmitted with your note of yesterday's date, does not correspond with the general idea that has been given, namely to have the building compact, with no more openings than are indispensably necessary, and to provide accommodation for Napoleon Bonaparte, three other officers, a surgeon and twelve attendants. But if this principle is not to be adhered to, then the plan inclosed in Sir H Bunbury's letter, considered merely as an accommodation for Bonaparte and one other officer with one of the wings for the attendants will answer that purpose, bating the inconvenience of the servants being placed at so great a distance. In regard to security, it must be looked for in a surrounding wall, which will probably be required whatever the form and dimension of the building. As soon as a plan is decided upon, a Table of the Scantlings of Timber may be made, together with a list of all the other materials required.

I am sir, Your most obedt servt..

By mid-September 1815, a design had evidently been agreed on, and Chapman had also evidently received a positive response to his query on whether the materials despatched by the Office of Ordnance should include those intended for their own men;

Office of Ordnance

Dear Bunbury,

I have just learnt that there will be about 2000 tons of materials for Bonaparte's house and the barracks for the Ordnance Corps - I have not yet received this information officially, but I have no doubt of the accuracy of the information.


The final piece of evidence is a letter from a Mr Slatters of the Ordnance Office to a W. Griffin Esq on the 23rd September 1815;


In reply to your letter of the 21st instance enquiring when the stores ordered for St. Helena will be ready, I beg leave to acquaint you that two thirds of the Fir timber and one third of the deals and battins have been forwarded to Woolwich and the remainder will be delivered as fast as the articles can properly be landed at the Royal Arsenal, and I have to report that 23,000 slates are now furnished and that the remaining 52,000 are expected in three weeks or thereabouts. The rest of the stores are ready except the glass, which I trust will be supplied in the course of a few days.

I am Sir Your very obedient Humble Servant…

However, this letter does not mention whether these stores are intended for Napoleon's new home, the Ordnance Corps barracks, or both. The figures for the slates, though, may give us a clue.

British slates have traditionally come in a range of sizes from the very largest (though undoubtedly politically incorrect) "wide duchesses" to the petite "narrow ladies". Most common, however, are the 20" x 10" "countesses" at around 18 to the square metre and the 18" x 9" "viscountesses" at around 23 to the square metre. 75,000 slates, using a very rough median of 20 slates per square metre, would therefore cover a roof surface of something like 3,750 m2.

Longwood New House was described in 1857 as having a floor area of about 23,000 square feet, or about 2,250 m2 . Given that roof pitches for this building, from contemporary engravings, are not hugely steep, 75,000 slates does not seem an unreasonable requirement for this building alone - but certainly not sufficient for both this building and a barracks of any size.

However, it seems certain that the materials being collected at the Arsenal in the late autumn of 1815 cannot have reached St. Helena until the early months of 1816 at the earliest. While we may be certain that Napoleon never lived his last exile except in a borrowed East India Company house, there remain some interesting questions about the Office of Ordnance materials;

If these were received during 1816, why was Longwood New House not started until 1819?

Were the original materials used to build barracks for the Artillery and Engineers rather than for Bonaparte's new house?

Were the materials shipped in their rough state, to be formed into buildings on the island under the supervision of Engineer Officers and local St Helena or ships' carpenters, or did the Arsenal create a pre-fabricated structure?

One unhelpful evidential confusion needs to be dismissed. In the summer of 1812, Mr James Wathen Esq. Of Hereford spent 'not quite 3 days' on the island of St. Helena, making thirteen rather good drawings of views around the capital, St. James, and just inland to the Governor's house. Two of these drawings were published in his "Journal of a Voyage to Madras and China" in 1814. However, in September 1821, some three or four months after Napoleon's burial, and immediately after the news had reached England of his death, perhaps in a commendable spirit of recycling, eight of the original drawings were published in a volume entitled "A Series of Views Illustrative of the Island of St Helena". Two rather crude and speculative engravings were added, to provide topicality; the first of Bonaparte's grave, and the second of Longwood House. Sadly, it was the ignorance of Mr Wathen and his publisher on the latter that has no doubt created some subsequent confusion.

Wathen provided the account below to accompany the engraving of Longwood House. Unfortunately, this garbled mix appeared with an (inaccurate) engraving of Longwood Old House - with its lattice work porch by the Northumberland's carpenter - leaving some subsequent researchers to believe that this much older farm building was 'made' by the Royal Arsenal;

Longwood House, which stands 1762 feet above the ocean, has, however, since the year 1815, been appropriated to the residence of Napoleon Buonaparte. For his reception, in the September of that year, His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, commanded Earl Bathurst to issue orders for the preparation of his dwelling and furniture. These were carried into execution upon the most splendid plan; and a complete suite of household furniture was made up, sufficient for Buonaparte and his establishment for nearly three years. Every thing was constructed of British materials, and the most delicate attention was paid that no ornament should be used in the decorations which might remind the exile of his former state. The appearance of Longwood House, will be found in Plate 7, and a more particular account of its magnificent fittings up, in the description. [Page 6] 

The late residence of Napoleon Buonaparte, where he arrived in the letter part of 1815, and at which he died on May 5th, 1821. The situation, and other particulars concerning Longwood, have already been given at Page 6; and a very brief description of the building is all that remains to be added. The present erection was formed in timber framework at Woolwich, by the Architect for the Ordnance department, to be erected at St. Helena. It is designed in the cottage style, and contains 24 rooms, the general size of which is 25 feet by 18. The length of the house in front is about 120 feet; and it contains 16 windows with an open corridore. The depth of the building is 100 feet, and the back is also ornamented with a corridore. It is two stories in height, and the right hand wing was appropriated to Buonaparte, In the centre stands the Drawing-room, coloured of various shades of green, and arabesque gold panels; with curtains of light silk taboret, of Pomona green, and velvet borders edged with gold coloured silk twist. Above them is a matted gold cornice, to conceal the rings and curtain rod, and the top of +the room is finished by a cream coloured ceiling. The carpet is of Brussels texture, of various shades of brown, olive, and amber. The furniture consists of an elegant oak centre table; pier table, inlaid with a slab of Verd Antique Mona marble; splendid pier glass, with a frame of Buhl and ebony; chairs of British oak; two Greek sofas and footstools ornamented with Or Moulu; a piano forte; and chandeliers and candelabri to light the apartment, The Dining-room is next in the suite, the fittings up for which are of a lavender tint, and the curtains of silk, with a black border and gold coloured silk lace fringe. The carpet and walls are of the same lilac hue, as well as the coverings for the chairs. The furniture consists of a fine oaken Dining-table, capable of accommodating from six to fourteen persons; a side-board, peculiarly made for holding the Imperial plate, with the wine coolers constructed of Bronze and rich wood. Adjoining the Dining-room is the Library, which is furnished in the Etruscan style, with several dwarf book-cases; a Library table with desks and drawers, and curtains of a new cotton material, having the appearance of cloth. The Sitting-room is ornamented with an ethereal blue carpet shaded with black, and several ebony cabinets inlaid with brass. In the Bed-room is a high canopy Bedstead, enclosing a silken musquito net, and hung with furniture of lilac persian edged with gold coloured fringe. The Bath is lined with marble, and made to admit hot or cold water. The other wing of Longwood House contained spacious apartments for Buonaparte's suite, with servant's offices and store-rooms in the rear. The Kitchen is a detached building, yet convenient to the Dining-room. The materials for this erection, together with the elegant furniture, table services, dresses, and plate presented to Buonaparte, by the noble munificence of the British government, amounted to 500 tons in weight, and were contained in 400 packages. A number of artists were also sent with them to fit out the Establishment.

Sadly, it seems that the rush of questionably accurate semi-biographical trivia that hits the book-stands following each notable death in our own time is nothing new to British publishing.

Two reasonably good engravings exist of Longwood New House;

Mellis (1857) describes the house thus:

A view of Longwood New House (built for Napoleon, but never occupied by him). This building is at the foot of the lawn of the Old House, about one hundred yards distant from it. It is a one-storied building, and covers an area of about 23,000 superficial feet. It contains, in all, fifty-six rooms of various sizes. The centre contains a billiard-room, library, dining-room, &c. The right wing, as seen in the view, was intended for the Emperor, and the left for Montholon and family. In the rear of these are extensive premises, provided for the accommodation of the rest of his suite. The house is pleasantly situated in the Eastern division of the Island, at an elevation above the sea of about 1760 feet, with a good carriage-road from James Town, near five miles in length.

The products, technology and craft skills of Woolwich were instrumental in securing Napoleon's final defeat; that he died within sight of a house that came from the same Arsenal is, perhaps, a fitting irony.


Views of St. Helena; llustrative of its Scenery and Historical Associations.
From Photographs by G.W. Melliss, Esq., Surveyor General of the Island. G. W. Melliss; London, 1857.

Extracts from the St. Helena Records, H. R. Janisch; St. Helena, 1885

A Series of Views illustrative of the Island of St. Helena, J. Wathen; Clay, London, 1821.

A few notes on St. Helena, B. Grant; St. Helena, 1881.

Public Record Office Files;

PRO WO 1/796 - Office of Ordnance letter book

PRO WO 78/2507 - Roll of plans containing 2 different Longwood plans amongst others

PRO CO 247/15 - St. Helena Governor's Letter book (Hudson Lowe)

PRO WO - 60/40, 60/41, 60/42 Accounts relating to the establishment at Longwood

PRO MPG 1/251 - Plan of the House and Grounds at Longwood, 1821


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

From: Jonathan Clarke

Having just discovered London's Past Online, I stumbled across an intriguing-sounding article by Mary Mills entitled 'A mystery steel works' in Bygone Kent, 20 (1999), 37-42 - about Henry Bessemer's Greenwich Steel Works. That Bessemer might have required Thames-side works in London to better serve national and international customers, away from his competitors in the north, seems entirely plausible.

Were the Appleby Bros, also on the Greenwich Peninsula, connected with Lincolnshire firm, The Appleby Iron Company, formed in 1874 (later of Appleby-Frodingham fame)? They were involved with the manufacture of Marine Boilers.

I wonder whether you might be able to help me with another great steelmaster with Greenwich connections - German-born English engineer and inventor Sir William Siemens (1823-1883). I want to know where his Kentish country house, 'Sherwood', near Tunbridge Wells, was exactly. It may be in institutional use or otherwise absorbed or altered, but do you know whether it survives in any form? According to his biography, he moved there c. 1877. The reason I'm interested is that it made very early use of steel. In 1880, following a discussion about the imminent use of steel in architecture he stated "I had at my house in the country a terrace, and under that terrace I had a billiard-room... I put steel girders over this billiard-room, which was about 20-ft. span, and by filling in between each girder with cement and tiling and lead, I was able to gain 18 in. in height, and obtained a perfectly dry room, whereas before I had considerable difficulty in keeping the water out. This simply shows how, by the use of this stronger material, advantages in convenience and even in cost may be obtained".

From: Ted Barr

I am enclosing a cutting from Engineering News, Tuesday, April 30th 1963 - That was the Greenwich that was? (and I knew)!

Weighs 90 tons - 500-ton press built in London works

DISHED and flanged ends up to 9ft in diameter will be pressed on a 500-ton down-stroking press now being built and nearing completion at the Greenwich works of G. A Harvey and Company (London) Ltd. The press has a stroke of 3ft 6in. with daylight 8ft. With their extensive facilities for the manufacture of heavy welded structures, Harveys were able to fabricate, machine and erect all parts of the press in their own workshops. Overall height of the machine, which weighs 90-tons. is 25ft 6in and the clearance of columns is 11ft l0in.

From: Iris Bryce

I feel I must write to let you know that at last a long time dream has come true - I have seen the inside of Enderby House. A few weeks ago I was given a tour of Alcatel, arranged by Steve Hill, Technical Director.

However, the highlight of the visit was for me to once again go into my old place of work in the 1940's - the Buying Department. This was in the house by the side of Enderby House - The one described in Mary Mills' Greenwich Marsh book, with the Gutta Percha Leaves and cable decor above the door and windows. As a lowly filing clerk in 1942/3 I was not allowed in Enderby House - that was the Dining Room for the Directors, Managers, and Heads of Department!

My son in law accompanied me on Tuesday and has taken some photos of the hexagonal room with its wonderful glass ceiling - we were told that a compass is somewhere in the design of it but to date no one seems to have found it. Do you know anything about this? If any of the photos are suitable would you like copies?

I was given two books as a memento of my day - one is by Stewart Ash '150th Anniversary, From Elekktron - 'E' Commerce, The 150 Years Of Laying Submarine Cables, And the other one is by Steve Hill and Alan Jeal Greenwich, Centre For Global Telecommunications From 1850 .

I've worked out that my visit was almost 60 years to the day I left the Telcon in 1943 - and found myself in the A.T.S. within the next 6 weeks!

From: Angela Smith

I don't know whether this enquiry will come within the scope of Industrial History. We are trying to trace the history of George Mence Smith. He owned a chain of hardware shops in London & the South East in the mid/late 1800's. He was born in 1819 in Shadwell and died 1895, leaving a considerable fortune. We have recently found that he was resident some time after his 1st marriage in 1846 in Woolwich, possibly Beresford Square, before moving to Bexley Heath.

Our interest would be to find out two things: firstly where he was living in Woolwich from 1846 to possibly 1860 and also if there were any of his stores in the Woolwich area. Would this come within your scope?

From: 'Lionhouse'

I can hardly believe my eyes - a treasure trove of information on your web site. WOW, wonderful. You say we can add to it .........well!!

John Bennett was baptised in St. Alphage Greenwich in 1786. He was the son of George Bennett, milkman and Susanna (Wicks) who were married in St. Paul`s Deptford in 1781. John, somehow, became a watch and clockmaker and is recorded in Baillie & Loomis Watch and Clockmakers of the World, along with his widow. His death is recorded as St. Alphage, 1828 and his will was proved in 1829. Elizabeth Sinnock Bennett, and sons George Weedon Bennett and William Cox Bennett were working in the Greenwich, Woolwich, Blackheath and Lee areas between 1814 and 1866. In the 1841 Census for Stockwell Road, Elizabeth Bennett, widow, and her two sons William and John are described as 'Goldsmiths'. In 1851 and 1861 they lived in 9 Osborne Place, Blackheath.

I hope this qualifies me, both on an industrial scale and as a descendant of Goldsmiths, to join the Society and I have sent £10 to Steve Daly at Shooters Hill today. Anyone who can link the above to the earlier watch and clockmaker Bennetts of Greenwich, i.e. George working 1802-11, or George working free of the Clockmakers Company in London in 1702 - 22 I would love to hear from you.

From: Kevin Jones

I am an archaeologist with the New Zealand Dept of Conservation (see below). I have been working on the Auckland Islands (south of NZ) where the Enderbys set up a colony under the aegis of the Southern Right Whale Fishery Company. I have been working on mapping the remains of that settlement. At a later date we would be pleased to offer a note for your newsletter. In the meantime, I would be interested to make contact with any Enderby scholars and to visit and photograph some landmarks in Greenwich.

Archaeologist, Research Portfolio Leader (People, History and Conservation) Science & Research Unit Dept. Conservation 65 Victoria S. (City Library Building) Box 10, 420 Wellington, New Zealand

(Kevin will be visiting Greenwich in early September - before most readers will be able to see this letter - but please contact him if you have information on the Enderbys)

From: Roy Kipp

I would like to research the tools and processes used by the UK to manufacture large ordnance from about 1880 (i.e. the end of the RML era) into the early 1900's (pre WWI). Your organization came to my attention when I located your March 2001 newsletter on the Web, in which Nicholas Hall references an article he prepared for the Royal Ordnance yearbook on Blakeley and Vavasseur. The shops associated with Vavasseur, et al in the 1880's would be particularly interesting. Could you offer any recommendations on how I should proceed from across the pond in Texas?

From: Corin Mills

I have just finished reading Mary Mills' book 'Greenwich and Woolwich at Work' which I found absorbing.

My great great grandfather was born in Manchester, and eventually settled in Plumstead to work as an iron turner at the Royal Arsenal.

On page 56 of your book is a photograph with a mystery. As an ex-metalwork teacher I think I can answer some of the questions. I believe this is the area where small castings were broken out of the boxes of sand in which they were cast. You will note that the platform is raised off the ground and I think that the men are standing on a mesh so that the sand is sifted as it falls through. When the casting is clear of the sand, the sprues, runners and risers which carry the molten metal to the cavity in the sand are broken off and these are visible in small heaps.

As anybody who has done metal casting will know, small pieces of metal put into a large furnace will burn rather than melt so they will be put into a small crucible for melting down and reuse. There are a number of these crucibles at the extreme left edge of the photograph. In the extreme foreground are a pair of crucible tongs for lifting these out of the furnace and one of the men is holding another pair. The molten metal would then be poured into ingot moulds and these are the four square boxes on the floor. The ingots would then be added to the main furnace. You can see some piles of these ingots. The wheeled implements, I think, might be used for transport of the crucibles from the furnace, but I can't see the working ends. They might also be used for moving the ingot boxes around.

A fining pot is defined as a vessel for refining metal.

Fines are small pieces of waste metal and can go down in size to the microscopic i.e. metal particles in suspension in old motor oil . I hope you find this useful.

Picture on page 57: These cartridges are being produced by the method of "deep drawing". If you follow the link (www.aggrengr.corn/article_job_shop.html) you'll find a fair description of the process. Even though it has been modernised the process uses the same principles that held in 1914. The machines that the men are working are obviously hydraulic presses and not metal spinning machines.

Metal spinning can produce the same shape as deep drawing. I don't think the cylinders in the foreground are solid - you can just make out striations along the length of them; produced by the process of deep drawing. The closed end is slightly flared or flanged, so keeping the cartridge casing in the breech of the gun when the shell is expelled.

The flat pieces of metal that you call blanks are, I think, too thick for drawing and might be a "red herring".

From: Jackie Settle

In a previous issue you published an article about Wheen, the soap manufacturers, based in Deptford Creek. I am interested as Emma Wheen daughter of Richard married Samuel Berger. I am also a Berger descendant and I am researching the Berger family - Berger were the paint manufacturers based in Hackney Wick.

From: David Pitt

Can you please tell me where to find information regarding the lifts at either end of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel? I want to know how they are operated and whether the current method of propulsion is the same as when they were built in 1902. As circular lifts, do they use giant bearings all around?

We asked the Greenwich Council Engineers about this - and they replied:

The existing lifts were installed in 1992 and are similar to the original lifts.

The wood panelling was re-used although the new lifts are slightly smaller, in keeping with the British Standard requirements. They operate in a similar fashion to the originals with new electric motors and wire ropes at the top of the lift shaft. The lifts run up guide rails and do not have circular bearings, the lift cars being restrained at three points. The only major change between new and old lifts is the replacement of the sliding grille doors for solid doors. This was a safety requirement.

Jeff Horsman, Structures Manager, Greenwich Transportation

From: Lynn Hampson

I have only just read Issue 1, Volume 4 in January 2001 where you printed a letter from Angela Pascoe who mentioned that she was related to Robert Simpson, proprietor of The Ship Hotel, Greenwich.

I am too! My father, Stan Shore grew up in Greenwich (as did my mother Marguerite Longman) and my paternal grandmother was Amy Simpson, daughter of Robert Simpson. My parents, now mid 80s, know a lot about Greenwich and would no doubt be delighted to tell you any of their stories!

28 Swallow Close, Totton, Southampton, Hants S040 7JA

From: Roger Bone

I read the small article by Ted Barr in the May 2001 issue 3, volume 4 of the GIHS on the Net regarding Harrison & Barbers slaughter house in Blackwall Lane and remembered that my Great Grandfather Robert James Oak was manager at the Blackwall Lane Depot in the 1890's.

My Grandfather described to me when I was a boy, what it was like to live on the premises. I believe the house was called 'Holmedale'. My Grandfather took me to see the old place in 1960, it was a laundry then. Sadly I did not take any photos. If you have any more information I would be very interested.

From: Tim Geyer

I am seeking information on Appleby Bros.

What we know is they had offices at 80 Cannon St, London and Works at Greenwich, old Bessemer site, and may have later become Jessop Appleby.

We have the only remaining steam operated Beam Engine, made by Appleby Bros 1883, left in the southern hemisphere, possibly wider, and are gathering information as part of the engine's story. The engine is fully operational and still in its original pump house, on the banks of the Wollondilly River, Holborn NSW, Australia. The site is now a museum, run by volunteers under the banner of Friends of the Waterworks Museum. Anything you may be able to assist with would be very helpful.

From: Ken Smith

I am enquiring into the possibility of finding any list that may exist of the names of Thames River Pilots during the middle to late 1800s and of any pilots that may have drowned in the Thames.

From: Justin Dix

I have hundreds of old pictures of Woolwich rescued from a skip where my stepfather had thrown them. One example - a cinema, pencilled on the back is 'last night of the Empire Kinema in Woolwich 1st October 1960. Another is of the Woolwich Ferry in 1961. Don't know if these interest you.



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 latest issue of The Crossness Engines Record contains the usual information from our local steam museum along with news and entertaining articles. One - less usual record - is as follows:


In July, 1908, a neatly penned note observed that the Main Drainage Committee's Chief Engineer approved an allowance of 1/- per head for refreshments for children from the Outfalls at Barking and Crossness during their excursion. This exciting day out was a journey on one of the new sludge vessels as no doubt it took its cargo out to the Barrow Deep, five miles off Clacton, Essex.

A rudimentary calculation of the number of children at the southern outfall, reveals that about fifty children would have been of an age to make such a trip. Assuming a similar number would be available from the northern outfall, the prospect of the Captain and crew being responsible for about one hundred little souls either running around or throwing-up, beggars belief.

The one hundred plus miles round trip can be very pleasant, but the excitement of the day, sandwiches and pop and maybe an on-shore breeze against an ebbing tide making for unwanted motion, could no doubt turn some of the youngsters a shade of eau de nil. Whatever the weather conditions or minor discomforts, I am sure that many children would carry memories of that 'day out' for many years to come.

The thought occurred to me - who was the first person to promote the idea of a sea-going trip for children of the work-force of the two outfalls and when did the practice cease?


A recent issue of 'Historic Gas Times' concerns the use of gaslight on ships in the 19th century. After discussing its use by such luminaries as Isambard Kingdom Brunel (on Great Eastern) the article turns to the Royal Navy.

'The experience of the Royal Navy was also unfavourable. Following oil gas manufacturing trials at Woolwich in the early 1860s, the battleship HMS Resistance was equipped with an oil gas plant in 1862 and HMS Monarch in 1869. It was reported that pressure waves from the firing of the ship's heavy guns extinguished the lamps and the prospect of gas/air mixtures accumulating in the enclosed spaces of the ships did not encourage the adoption of the system in others'.


The August issue of Bygone Kent (Meresborough Books, Station Road, Rainham, Kent) contains an article by Barbara Ludlow on 'Royalists, a Regicide, Paupers and Iron Masters. The colourful past of Highbridge, East Greenwich' - and this is just part one! Without revealing all it is perhaps fair to say that this first part is not strictly industrial since the Crowley family of ironmasters, although hinted at, only take possession by the last paragraph by which time Barbara has only reached 1704. The preceding two centuries had seen a number of colourful characters, posh houses, executions for treason and the foundation of Trinity Hospital - whose inmates were then not allowed out without permission, and had a 'weekly correction' into those who might have broken some of the rules. We look forward to part II!


John Keys is a resident of the Charlton area who has just published his biography - and this is of particular interest in that it is also, in many ways, a history of the post-war Labour movement. John came originally from Ireland, via Liverpool where he worked in the Camel Laird shipyard and then the LMS Railway before the war. As a Labour Party activist he met, and acted as agent for, Bill Hamling, in a by-election in Wavertree. John then became a full time Labour Party employee as agent for Woolwich East and took the big step of moving from Liverpool to Dallin Road in Plumstead. He was soon embroiled in a by-election following the death of Ernie Bevin and a couple of years later saw Bill Hamling selected as candidate for the Woolwich West constituency. In the early 1960s John became the Labour Party's London Regional Organiser and retired in 1979.

This is a book which is likely to be of great interest to anyone - even those who have only a slight knowledge of local politics. Woolwich was, of course, a heavily industrialised area and it is inevitable that local politics had a close interaction with local industry and trade unions. For those with a Labour Movement background it will be exceptionally fascinating.

John has decided not to sell copies of his book through any normal channels. Jim Gillman, as Secretary of Greenwich and Woolwich Labour Party, is acting as distributor for him and anyone who wants one is urged to contact Jim at the Party HQ at 32 Woolwich Road, SE10. The price is £5 including post and packing and cheques should be made out to Greenwich CLP.


by Philip Binns


Building 41 Royal Arsenal. Alterations to Firepower exhibition. Group considers this to be acceptable.

LEB substation Fuchsia Street, SE2. Demolition and erection of 18 homes with parking and a transformer chamber. Group considers this to be over-development incompatible with adjacent houses.

Shooters Hill Fire Station, Eaglesfield Road, SE18. Installation of satellite dish - totally unacceptable on Grade II listed building.

Land at rear of 154a Sandy Hill Road, SE18. Demolition of workshops and erection of 7 flats. The group considers this is over development of a backland site - block is too monolithic, Object strongly.


Shooters Hill Water Tower - this application concerns details of screens. Group is concerned that they had not been given an opportunity to comment.

The Group has also written to the developers (Blue Sky Planning Ltd, Bourne House, 474 Godstone Road, Caterham, Surrey CR3 OBL) about proposals for redevelopment of the old brewery site of Davy & Co at 161-171 Greenwich High Road .

Their letter includes the following comments:

"In principle, we welcome the redevelopment involving a mix of uses and commend the high quality design involved in the extensions to both the statutory and locally listed buildings on the site, as well as the sympathetic treatment of the new-build of No. 171. However, we are greatly concerned at the proposal for the 10-storey circular residential tower and the 6/7-storey office and residential block to the rear. The impact of the circular tower, will be considerable and it is regrettable that this is excluded from the elevation drawing

We are also concerned at the loss of the warehouse building to the rear of the site which is one of the few remaining examples of its type in West Greenwich. Recent approvals for redevelopment of the former Merryweather site and the imminent approval for the redevelopment of the Perkins site will result in the loss of good examples of the area's industrial heritage and it is regrettable that no attempt appears to have been made to seek a re-use and adaptation of the warehouse as opposed to its demolition.

We would ask that reconsideration be given to the incorporation of the warehouse building into the development proposals. Central government encourages the re-use of existing buildings as one of its sustainability planks and this Greenwich Council has also signed up to. The unnecessary loss of yet another industrial heritage asset is to be deplored.


The Conservation Group has also looked at the English Heritage document "Managing Local Authority Heritage Assets" and comment - 'given that the English Heritage consultation paper of June 2002 is now a formal guidance document, the Group is to pursue, with the relevant Cabinet Member, the initial initiative instigated by the then Cabinet Member for Property and Procurement in order to establish how the Council intends to manage the portfolio of heritage buildings in its ownership; this will be given added significance with the forthcoming departure of the Local History Library from Woodlands to its new home at the Royal Arsenal, shared with the Borough Museum. The future use of this Grade 2 listed building, the continuance of an art gallery facility, the on-going use but shared access community facility at the adjacent Mycenae House and the maintenance of the grounds will present testing problems for the Council to address if it is to satisfy all its co-sponsors on the site'.


By Bruce Osborne

The layout of the Merstham terminus of the Croydon Merstham & Godstone Railway has puzzled historians in the past and it was not until the 1970's that evidence started to emerge which enabled a clearer picture to be built up. Recent evidence is debated in "Early Plateways and Firestone Mining in Surrey" (see references).

In 1972 the Surrey Archaeological Society organised a rescue dig under the direction of Jim Shenton. The reason for the rescue dig was that the planned M23 motorway, now constructed, was destined to traverse the CMGR terminus site thus possibly obliterating any remaining evidence. During the rescue dig, evidence of early plateways was unearthed and this evidence is discussed in the above mentioned publication. Of particular interest was the discovery of evidence which led to the identification of a plateway at Merstham which pre-dated the CMGR by 10 or more years. This plateway, which was in the region of Quarry Dean Farm, led to underground stone workings via a stone barrel vault and cutting. The cutting can still be seen as a surface 'feature' and access to the barrel vault can be gained via a nearby cavers entrance to the underground stone workings. Quarry Dean Farm was at TQ 2982 5401. On the line of the plateway in 1972 Jim Shenton excavated a stone-lined pit. This measured approximately 4ft cube and contained a substantial plinth measuring approximately 2ft x 2ft in the centre. The reason for this pit remains unclear, but within it were discovered a number of iron objects. These were removed from the SAS dig site and remained lost until quite recently when I located them in the possession of a local resident. Details of these finds are as follows:

4 circular iron discs of varying sizes

1 iron hook, possibly a coupling pin for plateway wagons

2 plateway spikes similar to others identified as belonging to the earlier plateway

1 large weight made of cast iron

As a result of these finds the pit was interpreted as a weighing station.

It is the weight however that is particularly interesting. It weighs approximately 60 lbs. It is a traditional shape with a large ring on top. It is clearly marked Union Wharf and has a 'six' or 'nine' cast in the top. Presumably the latter identified it as a 60 lb weight.

The wording 'Union Wharf' deserved further investigation and as a result I have prepared the following speculative hypothesis as to how the weight came to be buried at Merstham. First the name - Union Wharf suggests a date in the region of 1805 when the union with Ireland took place. Further investigation identifies a Union Wharf on the River Thames, opposite the Isle of Dogs on Greenwich Reach.

John Bratby's painting "Just before they took the lighters away" illustrates the river from Union Wharf. The wharf is adjacent to the present day Cutty Sark public house at Greenwich. Apparently this public house was originally called "The Union" was built in 1805-6 together with some adjacent cottages. It assumed its present name in 1954.

There are, and were, certainly other wharves similarly named after the Union, however the Greenwich one is particularly interesting because the date of the development coincides with the dates when stone mining was active in the Quarry Dean Farm area of Merstham and also because of the associations with the Grand Surrey Canal. The Grand Surrey Canal was promoted by an Act of Parliament of 1801. Although intended to run from Rotherhithe to Mitcham it ended up as a dock business and only reached Camberwell 3.5 miles from Rotherhithe, with a much later Peckham branch in 1826. It reached Camberwell in 1810 and eventually became part of the Surrey Docks Company in 1864. Access to the Thames was at Rotherhithe via the Surrey Commercial Docks on to Limehouse Reach which was adjacent to Greenwich Reach and in the same vicinity as the Union Wharf.

Another canal given a Parliamentary Act in 1801 was the Croydon Canal. Like the Grand Surrey, Ralph Dodd was the engineer. This canal ran from Croydon for 9.5 miles to the Grand Surrey Canal at New Cross although originally intended to go to Rotherhithe. The canal closed in 1836 surviving only 27 years following its opening on October 22, 1809. The Croydon Canal linked with the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway. The Croydon Merstham and Godstone Railway history has been well covered in a variety of publications (see references). It is sufficient to say that it connected the Surrey Iron Railway and the Croydon Canal at Croydon with the stone and lime workings at Merstham. The CMGR was opened in 1805, eventually closing in 1939. We are now in a position to speculate on how the Union Wharf weight arrived in Merstham. The Union Wharf development was carried out about 1805/6 and perhaps provided trans-shipment facilities for inland waterborne traffic from the Grand Surrey Canal in its early days before the dock development took place.

The Grand Surrey Canal connected with the Croydon Canal from 1809, but the link was severed in 1836 when the Croydon Canal closed. The CMGR connected with the Croydon Canal throughout the life of the canal thus the weight could have been transported south to Merstham during the period by canal and waggonway.

The fact that the Union Wharf weight is 60 lbs is another factor which assists in establishing its age. The 120 lb hundredweight was discontinued during 1823/4 and therefore establishes that this half-hundredweight was made prior to this date. Later half hundredweights were of course 56 lbs. The Union Wharf weight however was found in conjunction with a plateway that was believed to have been constructed between 1792-5. This pre-dated the CMGR by ten or more years. The dating of the weight and its journey to Merstham lend support to the belief that this earlier plateway was still operational after 1809 in spite of the fact that the CMGR terminus had been superimposed on top of part of this earlier plateway.

Investigation of the Butterley Furnace ledgers throws up one further clue regarding the origin of the Union Wharf weight. The materials for the CMGR were produced by the Butterley Company of Derbyshire and the furnace ledgers still survive in the Matlock Record Offices. Inspection reveals the following entries:

November 12, 1805 (CMGR account) - Weighing Machine complete

March 15, 1805 - Cast iron weights for own wharf (Anderson & Eades account)

Bearing in mind the volume of business that the Butterley Company were doing at this time with the Surrey Iron Railway and the CMGR, could it be that these references were to the mechanism for the stone-lined pit at Merstham and for the Union Wharf weight for Anderson & Fades, contractors to the CMGR? We shall probably never know for sure. However speculating as the history of this weight provides a fascinating insight into the history of early industrial transport in Surrey.


Early Plateways & Firestone Mining in Surrey by B.E. Osborne, Proceedings Vol. 7, Part 3, February 1982, Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society.

Official Handbook .of the Port of London Authority 1961.

Canal & River Navigations, Edward Paget Tomlinson 1977

Retracing the First Public Railway. Derek A. Baylis 1981

(this article first appeared in the GLIAS Newsletter 80 June 1982)


Greenwich Borough Museum and Greenwich Local History Library on the move

The Greenwich Borough Museum was founded in Plumstead in 1919 and the Greenwich Local History Library has been at Woodlands in Blackheath since 1970. The two services are now coming together to form the Greenwich Heritage Centre at the Royal Arsenal site in Woolwich.

The collections from both the Museum and Local History Library will be moving to the Greenwich Heritage Centre, which will open on 21st October 2003. The large collection of family history resources, census returns, General Register Office indexes, directories and registers of electors will be available from 21st October. Similarly, researchers will be able to consult again the full range of historical sources, including books, and pamphlets, maps, drawings, paintings, prints, manuscripts and social history objects, as well as the Borough's archaeological archive and natural history specimens. There will be exhibitions on the history of the Royal Arsenal and the history of the Borough of Greenwich.

The new location and opening hours are detailed below:

Greenwich Heritage Centre
Building 41
Royal Arsenal
London SE18 6SP

Tel: 020 8854 2452 (from 21 October 2003)
Fax: 020 8854 2490 (from 21 October 2003)

Opening times:

Tuesday - Saturday 9am-5pm
Closed: Sunday, Monday and Public Holidays

The Inside the Arsenal exhibition will cover the history of the Royal Arsenal, including the Dockyard, the Royal Military Academy, working in the Arsenal, women workers, Woolwich and the lives people led and more. There will also be a temporary exhibition on the history of the Borough, but in the first instance not specifically on the Peninsula. In Phase 2 the Greenwich Gallery will cover the story of the Borough in more detail.


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)



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

6th September, GLIAS Walk. Limehouse and beyond. Meet Limehouse DLR 14.30 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)

14th September, Woodlands Farm Autumn Show

20th September, London Open House Day

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

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. 7.45

24th September, Celia Moreton Pritchard: The Greenwich Pageant 1933. Greenwich Historical Assoc. Music Room, Blackheath High School, Vanburgh Park, 7.15pm

25th September, Visit to Shepherd Neame Brewery and the Brogdale Horticultural Trust. Blackheath Scientific Society. £15 - contact Peter Trigg, 37 Merriman Road, SE3 8RT

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

28th September, Woodlands Farm AGM

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)


6th October, PACE Course (see below). Developing Dulwich 967AD onwards - Brian Green

11th October, Vincent Memorial Lecture. Tony Robin WADAS, Charlton House, SE7. 2.00pm.

12th October, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

13th October, PACE Course (see below). Famous and forgotten statues in London. Sue Jenkinson

16th-19th October, City Safari to Lille. (Details Paul Saulter, 80 Udimore Road, Rye, Sussex TN31 7DY)

18th October, Fuel Wood for Africa. Dr. Jalid Prior. Blackheath Scientific Soc, Mycenae House, SE3. 7.45pm.

20th October, PACE Course (see below). The Macmillan Sisters and their legacy - Jess Steele

21st October, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

22nd October, Ralph Hyde. Roque Bros. Pictorial Publishing Business. Greenwich Historical Assoc. (see above)

24th October, Anatomy of an air raid. The bombing of Sandhurst Road School. Gordon Dennington. LLH. Methodist Hall, Albion Way, SE13. 7.45pm.

29th October, Alan Thornton, The East London Line. RBLH Time and Talents

29th October, Britain and the Slave Trade. 10.30-16.15. National Maritime Museum. £29 Bookings 020 8312 6747.


3rd November, PACE Course (see below). Plum Picking, a history of Plumstead - Mary Corr.

8th November, TransAtlantic Slave Trade. Emma Clarke of NMM - WADAS Charlton House. 2.00

8th November, Maritime Frontiers, 10.30-16.30 National Maritime Museum. £29 Bookings 020 8312 6747.

9th November, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

10th November, PACE Course (see below). Elephant and Castle. Stephen Humphery

17th November, PACE Course (see below). Pepys Hereabouts. John Swindell and Lesley Veach

18th November, Crossness visitor day (Ring 020 8311 3711)

21st November, Lowne. A family business in Lewisham and Lee. Sue Hayton. LLH. Methodist Hall, Albion Way, SE13 7.45

24th November, PACE Course (see below) Water in East London. Mary Mills

26th November, Margaret Makepiece. East India Property Companies in London. RBLH Time and Talents

26th November, Past, Present and Doubtful Future of the Cutty Sark. Greenwich Historical Assoc. (see above)


29th September - 1st December, Interesting Architecture in Local Boroughs and London (see Events list 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 6.30. Info 020 7631 6631

7th Jan - 16th March, A History of Maritime Greenwich. Tuesdays, National Maritime Museum. £40 Bookings 020 8312 6747.

29th Jan - 18th March, The Lion and the Bear - from the Crimea to the Cold War. Thursdays, National Maritime Museum. £29 Bookings 020 8312 6747.

22nd April - 10th June, The Stuart Age. Thursdays, National Maritime Museum. £29 Bookings 020 8312 6747.



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