Volume 1, Issue 4, October 1998


(PART 2)


13th October 1998, 7.30 pm INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY IN GREENWICH, by Prof. David Perrett (GLIAS), East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10

1st December 1998, 7.30 pm GREENWICH AND ITS INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE, by Paul Calvocoresci (English Heritage), East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10.

11th January 1999, 7.30 pm (PLEASE NOTE CHANGED DATE) STONES OF DEPTFORD by Peter Gurnett on Stone's of Deptford, Engineers. East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10

Venues of the following Meetings to be arranged:

3rd February 1999, (Wednesday) David Eve, Sites and Monuments Officer, Kent County Council - 'Industrial Archaeology and KCC'. [Remember, historically, Greenwich is part of Kent].

24th March 1999, (Wednesday) Brian Strong of the Three Mills Tidal Trust on the tide mill and the Trust's work, plus a brief word from Mary Mills on the East Greenwich Tide Mill.

20th April 1999 (Tuesday) Jack Vaughan on Woolwich Arsenal.




The Arsenal site - hidden to so many people for so long - is about to come out into the open. The 'master plan' for the site has been submitted to Greenwich Council's Planning Committee by English Partnerships. This will set the framework for future changes. Anyone who is interested in commenting should do so quickly, because a decision is likely to be made in mid-November. Copies of the plan are available in Woolwich Library, or, contact the Council's Planning Department at John Humphery's House, Stockwell Street, SE10. (0181 854 8888). Anyone who would like to comment in our next issue is more than welcome.

This Newsletter contains articles about both the past and future of the site - Part II of John Day's reminiscences, and the Royal Artillery Museum. There is also an article by Jack Vaughan about issues arising from the recent Royal Arsenal Open Day - the full version appeared in the Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society's Newsletter. It is followed by a reply from Greenwich Council - in order to make it easier to follow both articles have been edited into a format which puts Jack's point and then the Council's answer.

What do readers think of what both sides say? What can we do to improve relationships and communications between official bodies and local historians? Is this the sort of issue we should be taking up? What can we do to help?


The first speaker at the official launch of the new Greenwich Industrial History Society was Cllr. Bob Harris, Deputy Leader, London Borough of Greenwich.. Bob spoke about the vision for industrial heritage in the Borough. Great changes were taking place and the time for a Society like this had now come. He gave some details of future plans in the Borough - items on some of these will be run in the Newsletter in due course.

Denis Smith, Chair of GLIAS and President of the Newcomen Society gave the concluding address at the meeting. He congratulated the society on its first meeting, which reminded him very much of the early days of GLIAS. He drew attention to the many achievements in Greenwich - and reminded us of the early industrial and engineering innovations for which Greenwich people had been responsible. He noted many references to seventeenth century Greenwich industry in John Evelyn's Diary - had anyone analysed the Diary with this in mind? For instance, almost the first use of the word 'coke' related to Greenwich. He went on to talk about the achievements at the Royal Observatory and then the Royal Military Academy. It was clearly a scandal that the 'end result' of the manufacturing process at the Arsenal, i.e. the guns themselves, were all that were mentioned. In the late eighteenth century Woolwich and the military complex was a great forcing ground of scientific expertise and some recognition should be made of that.


Agreed to set a rate at £10 per annum


Chair, Jack Vaughan
Vice Chair, Barbara Ludlow
Secretary: Mary Mills
Treasurer: Steve Daly
Alan Parfrey co-opted for sub-committee



From Bob Score

I was very interested in reading in the Woolwich and District Family History Society Journal of the existence of the Greenwich Industrial History Society. Although, as you see from my address, I no longer live in Greenwich (Thorpe Bay), members of my family still in the area and I have kept up my interest in Greenwich and have explored the departure of industry from the district. I was for a time in the 1960s a Borough Councillor but my work as a Trade Union Official took me away from the area. My father worked from many years at the South Met. Gas Works and also worked for Redpath Brown, Johnson and Phillips, Charlton, British Ropes, Charlton, and prior to the war worked at the RAF Central Stores at Kidbrooke. Since my retirement I have taken a keen interest in Archaeology. I have also taken both GCSE and GCE certificate in Archaeology and passed much to my surprise.

From Chris Rogers

[this letter currently appears in the GLIAS Newsletter, but is likely to evoke a response from fans of the late Autostacker! If you do write to Chris about this legendary machine, please share your memories with us!]

I am currently researching the history and technology of mechanical car parking systems, such as those presently manufactured by the German company Wohr, which allows cars to be parked by machine on either flat plates which slide horizontally around a car park so as to pack more cars in, or multi-level systems which, stack cars on top of each other. London has two remaining mechanically-stacking car parks of the AutoSiloPark variety from the 1960s, whereby a tower crane carries cars unmanned, up a ten storey structure and slots them into spaces; one at Rochester Row Westminster, and one at Shoe Lane in The City. A large example in Old Burlington Street, Westminster, was demolished a year ago, and another still exists in Leeds. I wonder if I could appeal to readers for information, pictures and memories. (51 Bacon Lane, Edgeware, Middlesex, HA8 5AU)

From Ted Barr

What a feast of information in Newsletter No.3. The article about gasholders was most interesting. But I was surprised that no mention was made of the World War I incident that became known as the Silvertown Explosion. This concerned the larger and now demolished partner, considered when built as the largest in the world. The two top lifts were what were known as the ëflying liftsí as the guiding wheels rose above their guide channels when the holder filled to capacity. It was these lifts which were damaged by the blast from the explosion across the river. After initial repairs I understood the flying lifts were never used again.

The explosion itself and after effects are something I shall never forget. I do not know the exact date, after all, memory tends to deteriorate somewhat after more than 70 years but I do recollect that it was early evening and could have been late autumn or early winter 1917. The damage to buildings in Silvertown itself was said to be total and in Woolwich hardly a pane of glass remained intact. The sound was heard as far away as the Midlands. We had no damage in the part of Blackheath where my home was but it caused near panic with many people out of their homes and congregating in little groups in the streets. The damaged gasholder deflated and 12 million or so cubic feet of gas went up in flames in a matter of moments creating an enormous red glow which filled the whole sky and added to the speculation as to what it was all about.

There is a curious sequel to all this in that on several occasions I have approached enquiry agencies for information but with no result, not even given acknowledgement of receipt of the enquiries, I sometimes wonder if the whole thing is still covered by DORA and the Official Secrets Acts, perhaps either readers or Society members can help.

From Iris Bryce

I was born in Greenwich and worked at Siemens factory in 1940 and two years later worked at the TELCON factory in Greenwich. My mother worked from 1928 until the 1940s at BRITISH ROPES in Charlton and my father was a barge-builder at CORY'S yard in Charlton for 35 years. My sister worked at the KORK-N-SEAL factory in Charlton in the 1930s before going to Siemens, where my brother also worked. I have written about some of this in my book REMEMBER GREENWICH and I have lectured at Plumstead Library and also for the London Historical Society.

During 1942-3 I worked at the Telegraph Construction Co. or 'The Telcon' as it we known. I was in the Buying Dept. and my boss, Mr. Leighton, was always invited to lunch on board the cable ships when they tied up outside the office - on his return it was always obvious they were very liquid lunches! I lived in Woodland Walk, so I went home for lunch. I would have loved to see inside the Staff Canteen, which was a lovely old house standing almost on the rivers edge. To my uneducated 16 year old eye it looked hundreds of years old. I was told that in the basement there were still chains on the wall which had been used to shackle convicts. Shutters or doors in the walls facing the river were left up or open. When the tide came in the cellars were flooded and the prisoners drowned. Do you know if the house still stands?

From Jack Yerkes (USA)

I have heard about the problems with development on old gas works sites and contamination. I am enclosing a copy of an article from the Hartford Courant, (Connecticut, USA), about the problems on a site on which the Phoenix Home Life intends to build a megaplex. This is thought to have come from the old Hartford City Gas Lighting Plant.

[Anyone who would like a copy of the article, please contact me. Mary Mills]

From Joan Field

In connection with the North West Kent Family History Society's Conference, Time and Tide, to be held in September 1999 we have arranged to have a Family History Centre where others will have an opportunity to have a table to display/advertise/sell their commodities. We hope you will consider joining us - please contact me at 33 Orchard Way, Shirley, Croydon, CRO 7NP (0181 777 5273) for details.

From Howard Slight

The article about Woolwich Arsenal. A distant relative of mine worked in the Arsenal both pre- and post-war. He says that references to apprentices and an engineering degree are incorrect - the writer should have said HNC or C & G Finals. He has never heard of a graduate apprentice joining the workforce - certainly not pre-war when a university education was virtually restricted to the 'upper' classes.

John Day replies -

Howard Slight's relative obviously was not at Woolwich when Sir Sidney Bacon, Malcolm Starkey, Alfred Bennett, and Robert Walker were apprentices - all have degrees in engineering i.e. B.Sc (Eng), as I have, and all are still alive and would be prepared to prove my statement. The graduate apprentices were officially termed "student apprentices" and a later bit of my memories tells a bit about one. Would he like to bet about the degrees ? I still have proof from the University of London, dated 1939. What evidence has he got ? Hearsay evidence is not accepted in law!

Pleas for help...

On behalf of the Greenwich Industrial History Society I am pursuing a spot of research into United Glass Bottle Manufacturers (Charlton) Ltd. at Anchor and Hope Lane. St..Albans' based United Glass Ltd., present-day successors to the old company, tell me that they have no knowledge of any archive material at all, but have provided a history of the financial set up from the beginning, also glossy sales literature. They are interested from the point of view of their own marketing arrangements and expansion of an internal project entitled Know Your Company.

I have already accumulated a number of items but would appreciate any comments, anecdotes, pictures etc. from any former employees like me. I worked at the factory in the early/mid 1930s I can be contacted at home.

Ted Barr, Avondale, Vivers Place, Kirkby Moorside, North Yorkshire, YO62 6EA. Tel 01751 432655.


A knife has been shown to us by Ms.McWhirter of Shooters Hill Road. It is an old fashioned bone-handled dinner knife - with a rivet through the handle. On the blade is Mundy, Cutler, Greenwich. Can anyone throw any light on this? It seems unlikely that the metal blade would have been made in Greenwich - was it perhaps assembled by Mundy from blanks made elsewhere. How can we tell what the handle is made from? Is it bone? Or a newer material like Xylonite? Any ideas welcome. Meanwhile the knife has been deposited with Plumstead Museum.




This poorly publicised but well attended (1,500) affair took place on 9th August 1998.

It was tricked out as a "fun day". From the band to the bouncy castle, by way of Punch and Judy, young visitors had a good day.

As a serious attempt to remind their seniors, ex-Arsenal workers and the sons and grandsons of Arsenal workers, it was a non-event.

A handful of guides had been hastily recruited, having varying degrees of Arsenal knowledge. They were supplied with a basic map and a very basic list of buildings to be observed (but not entered) and turned loose with parties of thirty or 50 visitors. It must be said, that they were willing to a man (or woman) to suffer sore feet and questions which some found difficult to answer.

The exact situation and proposed destiny of the site is little known to the people of Woolwich and a few observations on that scenario may be useful.

The whole site and everything in it is "owned" by "English Partnerships". What, we hear the reader say, is that? Readers should concentrate on the result of the local version, in particular with reference to the Royal Arsenal.

We have as our three elements:

The Borough Council

The Woolwich Development Agency

English Heritage

English Partnerships is free to destroy all that is interesting but not listed, a freedom which they are taking full advantage of.

 We give here most the text of Jack Vaughan's article as it appeared in the Woolwich and District Antiquarians Newsletter - and has also been sent to us. Some paragraphs have been edited out and interleaved with David McCollum's reply for Greenwich Council (on pages 4/5) David Lockyer's reply for English Partnerships follows (page 6).

The last remaining Heavy Gun Factory 100 ton crane gantry destroyed.
The Weighbridge House adjacent to Building 33 (which was formerly a rolling mill).
The house has been flattened and its instruments have disappeared (where are they?).
Building 22, better known as the Central Office.
Still standing, but subject to a persistent threat of destruction.

It must be said that English Partnerships is obeying the letter, but not the spirit, of the law relating to listed buildings. Its declared aim is to reduce them all to, in its jargon, "shell condition". This means the stripping out of interior and exterior features which, while not original, nevertheless are part of the history of the building concerned.

The rear wall of Building 40, better known as the Officers Mess, but officially Tower Place, has on it a structure (externally) surviving from a time when the upper floor had a fuze inspection role. I have little confidence in the survival of the structure.
The disappearance of fireplaces from Building 11 (Officers Quarters), the true birthplace of the Royal Regiment of Artillery.

It is, of course, most unlikely that future occupants of the listed (and other) buildings will have any inclination to respect the heritage aspects of such buildings as they lease (or purchase?). The role of English Heritage is, of course, based on "listed building" requirements in law, but it has no powers outside this, however sympathetic to some of our views on listed items it may be.

So far as is known, none of the directly involved staff of English Partnerships from St. Katherine's way down to the actual site have any past knowledge or spiritual feeling for the Royal Arsenal and its past pivotal role in the history of England and Empire. That's understandable and forgivable. What is not forgivable is the flat refusal to listen to those who do have such knowledge and feelings.

This lack of 'Arsenal feeling' came to the surface during the conducting of parties on 9th August.

Common reactions among visitors included: Why has such and such a building been destroyed?

The English Partnerships steamroller moves on regardless to an eventual sterile collection of splendid buildings. But where are the guns, the mortars, the machinery, the railway trucks full of gleaming shells?

The future stranger entering the site with no instruction will find nothing to suggest that this place was once at the heart of the defence of England and her territories overseas. Visit Chatham and Portsmouth and grieve for a great opportunity squandered by our town of Woolwich.

Greenwich Council replies to Jack Vaughan about the Arsenal site...
David McCollum, Director of Development and Leaisure Services, says:

Jack Vaughan's article is a criticism of the role of English Partnerships and the Council in the development of the Royal Arsenal. In my view it is a poor article. It is factually incorrect or ignorant in a number of instances. Perhaps even more seriously, and not a little ironically, the writer appears to have no feel for the recent history of the site and the campaign that has been led by the Council to assemble a sum of approximately £50m for decontamination of the site and works necessary to bring the buildings back into appropriate uses.

When I first began dealing with the Royal Arsenal in 1990 it was the intention of the then current owners, namely the Crown Estate and the Ministry of Defence, to dispose of the site to the highest bidder. There was to be no management plan for the site, no injection of public money to repair damaged or derelict buildings and no control over uses. The landowners then saw the most likely outcome as a series of retail warehouses. It was the Council and latterly the Woolwich Development Agency, who campaigned for major Public inward investment and the treatment of the Royal Arsenal as a national asset. The Council campaigned consistently and effectively for major investments by the Ministry of Defence and by English Partnerships and was ultimately successful to the tune of £40m. It was the Council also that secured the interest of the Royal Artillery Museum which in 1990 was destined for Wiltshire. It was the Council also that bid for SRB money to the tune of £5m for further expenditure in the Royal Arsenal. To suggest that Greenwich Council is interested only in the commercial possibilities of the site is just plain wrong. The Council's primary interest has been the opposite. It has been the successful securing of millions of pounds so that we could ensure that the development did not proceed purely on commercial lines.

Jack said: English Partnerships. What, we hear the reader say, is that? Would that there was a simple answer. English Partnerships is a country-wide Government Agency, the purpose of which is to prepare appropriate sites for sale to whoever wants them and to make profits thereon. It claims to work with local authorities, local development agencies and, in the case of listed buildings, in consultation with English Heritage

David McCullum said:. Comments relating to English Partnerships appear ill-informed. There is indeed a simple answer 'as to the role and nature of English Partnerships'. The article's definition of the role of English Partnerships does not recognise its remit to intervene in cases of derelict and contaminated sites which will not be restored to new productive uses without public subvention. This appears to me to be the complete opposite of what the article suggests.

Jack said: - one element is Woolwich Development Agency - 'Who are they? do I hear'.

David McCullom said: the reference to the Woolwich Development Agency appears unfortunate. They are after all investing approximately £35m. of Public money into Woolwich. At least £5m of that is earmarked specifically for the Royal Arsenal.

Jack said: The local council has failed to extend "Conservation Area" status to the whole site

David McCullom said: The report is critical of the Council for not extending the Conservation Area to the whole site. The Council gave this matter careful consideration. It took the view that the cleared parts of the site were unworthy of inclusion, as they had no particular architectural significance. The Conservation Area does include those parts of the site, which are occupied by buildings with the exception of that part occupied by building 33. Building 33 does have some impressive cast iron framing and English Heritage are liaising with English Partnerships to have this preserved should demolition occur. Building 33 is not considered to be worthy of statutory listing. Building 22 is within the Conservation Area.

Jack said: Appeals to the Council get no support, which emphasises the need for a fully qualified and enthusiastic Conservation Officer. The Council consistently refuses to entertain such a step, pleading perpetual poverty.

David McCollum said: The article indicates that the Council does not have a Conservation Officer. This is not true. The Council has a dedicated Conservation Officer who keeps close contact with English Heritage.

Jack said: Some surviving structural items of some importance have been rescued from the holocaust - notably, cast iron columns and trusses - and stored on site, allegedly "for re-use" possibly on site.

David McCollum said: The holocaust. The article's reference to a holocaust is clearly wrong. A holocaust means a wholesale sacrifice or destruction especially by fire. This is simply inaccurate in relation to the Royal Arsenal.

Jack said: A more likely outcome would be the gradual sale of items by the owners (guess who?).

David McCollum said: Sale of contents. The article suggests that English Partnerships will dispose of items left on the site. I can say with confidence that there was very little left on the site following the departure of the Ministry of Defence. The article asks where are the guns, the mortars, the machinery and the railway trucks? We could also have asked about the location of the aircraft that was formerly located on the site and a whole range of artefacts. The answer is that they were taken, apparently as of right by the Royal Armouries. It is a major factual omission in the article that the role of the Royal Armouries in stripping the site is clearly a matter of which the writer is ignorant. There would indeed be an interesting story to pursue in the ultimate destination of these items within the Royal Armouries storage arrangements and the terms by which they might be returned to the Royal Arsenal when appropriate.

Jack said: These remarks may also be extended to our Borough Council, which is concerned only with the commercial possibilities of the site.

David McCollum said: Commercial interests of the Borough Council. The Council has no commercial interest in the site. Why should the writer suggest that it does? The Council owns no land within the site. The land that it holds adjacent to the site is the former power station site. This is a site earmarked for development but has been turned by the Council into a park at considerable Council expense. This is hardly the action of an agency interested only in the commercial possibilities of the Royal Arsenal.

Jack said: The proposal to demolish the Central Office was widely criticised. It gave employment and memories especially to many of the ladies - typists, clerks, tracers, etc. and of all unfeeling threats, this one is the most resented.

David McCollum said: Building 22. This is referred to in the article as the 'central office'. The Council has made it clear that it opposes its demolition. The Council gave a measure of protection to the building through urgent designation of the site as a Conservation Area.

Jack said: a particular example [of demolition] was the Shipping Sheds and all the lifting machinery therein.

David McCollum said: Demolition of Shipping Sheds. The draft article refers to the demolition of the sheds on the riverfront. These were demolished with the consent of English Heritage. The Council's Conservation Officer and English Heritage Officers monitored the demolition to ensure the salvage of historically significant elements of the structure. This demolition facilitated the development of the Riverside Walk, which has been funded by the Woolwich Development Agency. This will give early public access to the Royal Arsenal site.



English Partnerships are pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the report prepared by Jack Vaughan in respect of the Open Day held at the Royal Arsenal on 9 August 1998. Obviously many points are raised by Mr Vaughan, which unfortunately due to space restrictions, we are unable to address in as much detail as we would wish. However we would report that a meeting has recently been held with Mr Vaughan at which all the issues were discussed and hopefully English Partnerships role and aim was explained more fully.

For those who are not aware, English Partnerships are the Government's Urban Regeneration Agency, whose purpose is to work in partnership to transform areas of need into quality places for people to live and work. This is delivered through working flexibly in enabling public, private and voluntary sectors to promote, effect and deliver urban regeneration, economic development, job creation, environmental improvement and land reclamation.

There is little argument that Woolwich has suffered greatly in recent years, with high unemployment and economic deprivation. English Partnerships are investing at least £45m into the Royal Arsenal, as a catalyst to regeneration of Woolwich as a whole. Emphasis will be given to attracting the commercial sector but figures certainly underline the fact that there are no profits to gain from this investment, since the costs will far outweigh any income. However it is forecast that at least 3,000 jobs will be created, new homes built and public open space and leisure facilities provided, which will go some way to improving the image and perception of Woolwich.

English Partnerships recognise and respect the history of the Royal Arsenal and are striving to ensure that it is not allowed to fall further into dereliction but that it is brought into sustainable and beneficial use for the public. This has meant that certain buildings or parts of buildings have been demolished, However, these have been predominantly modern structures or additions, which although part of the history of the site, either detracted from the splendour of the remaining buildings or had extensive asbestos within them which meant that once removed, the buildings were not reusable.

Turning to the Open Day itself; this was a widely publicised event with 20,000 leaflets delivered to local homes and numerous advertisements placed in local papers. In fact 5,000 people attended on the day, which would suggest that the publicity was effective. The responses with respect to future proposals and the day in general from attendees were generally favourable and all comments have now been passed to the London Borough of Greenwich. With the benefit of hindsight there may be small aspects that could be improved upon in future. However internal access to buildings will not be possible until significant repairs have been undertaken, as many of the buildings are unsafe and hazardous to enter.

Obviously the Royal Arsenal has changed since many people last worked upon it, displays have been removed and buildings have deteriorated. This is lamentable and a trend which English Partnerships intend to address. We are working closely with English Heritage and many features have been salvaged which may otherwise have been destroyed if a less socially aware landowner had been involved. Changes are indeed planned for the site, but these are necessary and overdue. On-going and future works have been, and will continue to be, done through consultation with English Heritage. In addition English Partnerships have suggested to Mr. Vaughan that he be put in touch with Greenwich Borough Museum, who are to be consulted in the event of any archaeology being discovered on site once works are underway.

English Partnerships are committed to the regeneration of Woolwich, in conjunction with both London Borough of Greenwich and Woolwich Development Agency. However, this has to be delivered in partnership and must have the support of the local community. It is believed from the responses to the Masterplan that the vast majority of people support English Partnerships plans for the Royal Arsenal. English Partnerships recognise and agree that regeneration should not be at the expense of heritage and therefore hope to gain wide support to achieve a project which everyone can be proud of. It is time for Woolwich to regain the proud position which it once held and this can be attained through the sympathetic but innovative regeneration of the Royal Arsenal, so that is open for the public to enjoy and benefit from. 

The Royal Artillery Museums Project has been kind enough to send us copies of their latest leaflets - since we can't reproduce them exactly, the following are extracts of text from them. Anyone who would like a leaflet is asked to contact them direct at Old Library Office, Royal Arsenal (West) Warren Lane, SE18 6ST 0181 855 7755.

"Since 1716 the Gunners of ther Royal Regiment of Artillery have fought in every battle including the British Army. The splendour of the King's Troop, the Queen's birthday salute and the displays at the Royal Tournament all illustrate the colourful history of the Gunners. Today the Royal Arsenal still plays a vital role as part of the peace-keeping troops in areas of conflict throughout the world. Preserving and remembering the Gunners' heritage, tracing its role in creating history and looking towards the future is the inspiration behind the development of the new Royal Artillery Museum on the site of the Royal Arsenal. The history of the Royal Artillery is linked inexorably to the history of Woolwich and in particular the Royal Arsenal, which during the 18th century became the centre for the technical development and manufacture of British Artillery. The proposal therefore is to create the largest artillery museum in Europe and it is expected to cost about £26 million. Our second bid for Heritage Lottery funding was submitted on schedule at the end of May 1998. The application is for a further £10m to fund the long term display and access to the entire collections."

FIREPOWER! is the working title decided upon as a requirement of the application. Forming the basis of the submission are the plans, initially developed by Ron Lovatt, and we owe a great debt to his research. We think you will agree that the combined skills, experience and vision of the Team have produced stimulating designs which are nonetheless in keeping with the traditions and gravitas associated with the Collections. The architects' and designers' plans are displayed in the leaflet.

Inevitably we have had to assess the viability of the Museum to ensure that running costs can be met. The Business Plan prepared by Deloitte Touche included market research into projected visitor numbers with very positive results, confirming previous estimates of 250 000 visitors per year. The total of £13.8m has been raised towards the opening of the Museum in 2001. However, we have to remember that if we are successful in securing the £10m requested Lottery funding, this is only the next step. We still need to increase the £8.7m we already have raised by £1.3m to match the Lottery figure. The basic vision of the museum has been agreed, but there is still a lot of work to be done. As well as the buildings, the Collections must be prepared to exhibition standard. In the case of the Library and Archives, cataloguing will facilitate researchers. Next, the detailed design of the displays must be agreed. To do this, a Development Group has been estabished, which includes existing consultants and the RA Historical Secretary, Brigadier Ken Timbers. We are positive that we have an exciting future. Join us in looking forward to hearing the outcome of the bid this Autumn.


Musings on industry in the area of Blackheath Road

Richard Cheffins

I was intrigued by a couple of letters in Issue 3 of Greenwich Industrial History and, though I cannot throw too much light on the specific query of one of them, both stimulated thoughts on the industrial history of the Blackheath Road area of Greenwich. I make no mention John Penn's Engine Works which needs a whole article, if not a series of articles, to do it justice.


I cannot identify Mr. Perkins for John Day and cannot imagine what application steam had to guns - unless in their manufacture. Two things, however militate against such an interpretation, the sense of the quotation itself and the fact that the Royal Small Arms Factory, barely a quarter of a mile from Limekilns and worked by steam as well as water power, had closed down in 1818, ten years before and moved to Enfield (as documented in Macartney and West's excellent The Lewisham Silk Mills 2nd ed. 1998).


My interest is in The Limekilns. The burning of chalk to produce lime, or quicklime, was an essential ancilliary industry to the building trade for the production of both mortar and limewash. The last outcrop of chalk in North-West Kent before London was near the foot of Blackheath Hill. On Travers' 1695 map of The Manor of East Greenwich, i.e. the modern West Greenwich, (reproduced in the Lewisham Silk Mills) The Lime Kilns are shown to the East of Blackheath Hill where Holy Trinity Church was subsequently built. On the opposite of Blackheath Hill chalk pits continued to be shown on sundry maps until the 1860s. By then, lime making had long finished and no trace now remains on the ground (though I'm not sure what one would be looking for) but the industry was in its time important enough, and lasted long enough, to give its name for a while to a neighbourhood. Rocque's map of 1746 (surveyed in 1742) shows a cluster of buildings, almost a hamlet, around the junction of the Dover Road (Blackheath Road/Hill) and the road from Greenwich to Lewisham (Greenwich South Street/Lewisham Road) which is called Limekiln. Other maps and directories continued to use the same name, usually in plural, until round the mid-nineteenth century and South Street was called Limekilns Lane, the lane to the Limekilns until the 1820s.


At the other end of Blackheath Road, Katie Jones may be interested to know that the former Kentish Mercury office is documented on the building itself. To the left of the entrance, on the corner of Deal's Gateway, is a foundation stone which reads Arthur C. Russell, LRIBA, Architect. William Mills & Sons, Builders 1925. In fact, the Kentish Mercury had occupied the site for half a century before that. In Kelly's Directory for 1872 it is located in Bexley Place, the present Greenwich High Road, between Prince of Orange Lane and the new Auctioneer pub. In the next issue (1876) it had moved to 7 Queen's Place which was renumbered 12 Blackheath Road by 1878. By 1884 it has extended to 6-12 Blackheath Road reaching to the Deal's Gateway corner.


By that date, if not sooner, the Mercury's printing works were here as well as the editorial offices. Blackheath Road still has three printing works - J.W. Brown (Printers) Ltd., Darwen Press and E.. Berryman & Sons Ltd., the last one of the oldest business in the neighbourhood. It was founded in Blackheath Road in 1846 and moved before 1871 to its present location, Bath House (at the side of Ditch Alley which led to the Cold Baths in the eighteen and early nineteenth centuries), now 84 Blackheath Road.


Deal's Gateway is an interesting example of a semi-industrial backland development. Queen's Place the former name of the adjacent piece of Blackheath Road, or an earlier terrace on the same site, is shown on Roque's map and, by the turn of the nineteen century, it extended as far as Deptford Bridge. Morris's map of 1834 and Simm's of 1838 are the first to show a gap where Deal's Gateway is with a short unnamed cul-de-sac behind. Earlier maps (and later ones that continued to show an unbroken terrace) are probably too small-scale to show the gap. The 1869 Ordnance Survey map also shows a continuous terrace but with an arched access to the yard behind, suggesting some redevelopment in the previous 30 years. So far as I can discover, it is unrecorded in directories, or in the 1841 census returns, but it appears on subsequent censuses, called indifferently Deal's Yard, Deal's Court and Deal's Gateway.

In Mason's Directory of 1852 and the Deptford Directory of 1853, 1 Queen's Place, on the the corner of Deal's Gateway, was occupied by one Edward Deal, Grocer, and Cheesemonger. In the Kelly's Directory for 1860, Joseph Deal, Coal Merchant, occupied the end premises in Deptford Bridge, possibly on the other corner of Deal's Gateway, but, more likely, on the other side of the road on the corner of Greenwich (High) Road. By 1876 he had moved to 1 Queen's Place, formerly occupied by Edward Deal, surely a relation, and Deal's Gateway, still accessed through an archway was in part a coal merchant's yard. Within ten years Joseph Deal was displaced by Kentish Mercury but he and Edward left their mark in the name of a short street that may well soon disappear.




While I was in the New Fuze Factory, I also worked on a milling machine. Right in at the deep end for John, I made a set of helical milling cutters for use in the tool room, the sizes ranged from 0.25 inch end mills to 4 inch slab cutters. Anyone who has done helical milling will have found that the calculated settings for the helix are not the settings for the machine, that is where experience comes in. The chap who taught me was Fred Best, the highest regarded miller in the shop, who did not hold with advanced education and told me I was wasting my time as there were people with degrees sweeping the streets! One of Fred's jobs was making the gauges for slide ways of the new 3.7 inch A.A. gun, these were planed on his Parkinson milling machine using the fast table feed. Fred's usual work was to mill the spiral sectors on cams for the automatic lathes in next door's factory. I can still remember how it was done if anyone wants to know.

Another engineering apprentice in the tool room at the same time, he was a year before me, was A.A. Sherwood who became a Professor of Mathematics in Australia and achieved fame for building OO gauge coal fired model steam locomotives.

Of course there was always tea making, this was done by boiling water in a conical tin tea can, which had a tin cup as the lid, and scraping a 'screw' into the boiling water. A 'screw ' was a mixture of tea leaves and condensed milk screwed up in a corner of newspaper and brought from home. Overall washing was provided by one of the labourers who boiled them in soda over the shop blacksmith's forge in his lunch hour. The money he charged for this was banked with the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society to provide him with a funeral with black horses, plumes and all the trimmings. He also kept the shop supplied with cigarettes, tobacco, biscuits and sweets which he bought wholesale and sold at retail prices for the same cause.

The hours of work at Woolwich were 8.00 a.m. to 5.40 p.m. and 8.00 to 11.40 on Saturday, with two weeks holiday. The two weeks were made up of 'closed week', King's birthday (the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning before Whitsun Bank Holiday), Beanfeast, and the Bank Holidays. Timekeeping was by Gledhill-Brook time clocks and individual time cards. There were two racks for the cards, one each side of the clock, In and Out. These were normally kept shut during working hours and opened a few minutes before clocking-off time by the time clerk. It was well known that by rattling the handle, the clock could be made to jump a minute sometimes and the first on the clock was expected to gain this extra minute for the rest of the queue. One minute of lateness was allowed at clocking-on, thereafter one lost a 'quarter' up till 15 minutes late and so on. Nobody was allowed to start until the foreman had walked up the shop, when there was a panic to put away newspapers. I once started before, as I had a 'stranger' or 'contract' job for a friend on hand, and received a right earfull from the shop steward.

Another earfull was earned when I was doing a 'contract' job on a Brown and Sharp surface grinder. Somebody had acquired a length of stainless steel, having a section similar to a flat bottomed rail, and I was asked to grind the base so that he could make a spirit level. I put the stainless steel on the magnetic chuck, switched the chuck on and brought the grinding wheel down onto the job. That was when I learnt that stainless is not magnetic! There was a bang, the job flew across the shop, the 6" diameter wheel broke and bits flew through a window, across an alleyway, through another window and landed in the shop next door. Questions were asked. I hadn't a guard over the wheel; nobody had guards, they slowed work down. The enquiry laid down that guards had to re-fitted. They were, for a week or so. There was very little guarding of moving machinery in those days compared with now. Most of the machines dated back to WW 1 and were driven from line-shafting through open belts. There were no chuck guards on lathes, no cutter guards on milling machines and speed changing on cone pulleys was done with a lump of wood against a moving flat belt. We learnt to keep ourselves clear, rather than relying on somebody else having made a machine foolproof. I don't suppose there has been a great reduction in industrial accidents in this mollycoddle age.

To be continued...


Wood Wharf

Philips Binns writes

In the Society's second Newsletter (June 1998) we carried an article on Wood Wharf - on the riverside between the Meridian Estate and the proposed new Greenwich Reach development to the east of Deptford Creek. The latest news on this potential area of concern is that in November this year, the new owners of 32 Wood Wharf (Pope & Bond) have no further use of the services of Reg Barter and therefore the wealth of information coming from this source could be lost.

Of equal concern is the fact that the equipment and materials left in the boat repair sheds when Pope & Bond went into voluntary liquidation will need to find a new home as it is unlikely that the new owners will have any use for them.

Both the new owners of 32 and the owner of 28/30, below which sits the engine room of the old Greenwich Steam Ferry, have, in recent months separately approached development control officers at Greenwich Planning with proposals for redevelopment of their plots. They have been told that, because the site at Wood Wharf is so small in comparison to both the Meridian Estate and the Greenwich Reach development, it would be preferable if the various owners could come together and submit a comprehensive proposal, retaining the adventure playground which lies due south of 32 Wood Wharf to the west of Horseferry Place. The Society has approached the Planning Department to ascertain whether or not a condition of any proposed development could be that the existing building fabric be retained and incorporated into any new work. The response was that Greenwich Council could not impose such a condition, as the owners will be looking to maximise the financial potential of the site. This is indeed gloomy news and let us hope that a way can be found to reconcile the position. It seems that the only way that the buildings and their contents might be saved would be if a user for the boat repair sheds could be found, even at this eleventh hour. Perhaps then an arrangement could be brokered between the various owners and an end user whereby any new development would respect the industrial heritage of the site by combining a continuation of the boat repair tradition, a museum use for the engine chamber along with tourist related activities, and small scale housing on the landward side of the site.

Negotiations are required with Len Wallis, the developer responsible for the Greenwich Reach development, to see if a bridge can be formed in the boardwalk linking his site to Cutty Sark Gardens. This would enable the slipway and foreshore to continue in use and would be an essential prerequisite for any end user wishing to continue the boat repair tradition here.

The Society has also been in touch with Peter Guillery of the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments in England (RCHME) and we are hopeful that his organisation will be able to prepare a photographic record and report before Reg Barter leaves the site. This work, which could be done under RCHME's emergency survey remit, would be invaluable, as the standards which RCHME set themselves are particularly high.

The next step is to try to bring together the various owners and a potential end user in an effort to save for posterity this remnant of the working riverfront on the Thames at Greenwich, upstream of Cutty Sark Gardens.


Siemens Brothers was one of the largest and most important firms in the Greenwich area. The following information has been sent to us by Brian Middlemiss, of the Siemens Brothers Engineering Society:-

This organisation is in fact the Engineering Society which still meets, despite various mergers, take-overs and ultimately the closure of the site some 30 years ago. We meet twice a year (April and October) at the Royal Tavern, Eltham. This is located on the A20 - at the junction with Court Road. The date of our next meeting is Thursday, 15th October 1998 at 8 pm. We have some 65-70 members on a database, of which typically, 25-30 turn up at each meeting. The meeting comprises informal chat, a buffet and an Engineering based talk. We also organise Engineering visits. Anyone interested in attending should contact me, Brian Middlemiss, at 80 Park Avenue,. Orpington, Kent or on 01689 827348.

The Siemens Brothers Engineering Society was originally formed in October 1897 - this being the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Company in October 1847. The founding date referred to is ironically the founding of Siemens and Halske in Berlin, not the founding of Siemens Brothers in Charlton. The first President was Alexander Siemens. The Society had formal rules and held regular programmes of lectures and visits each year.

We currently have a lot of historical documents, records and equipment which are held by our archivist Ben/John Ford. I understand Ben is due to give a talk to the Docklands History Group in November 1999.


Ex-members of the Sports Club also still meet in the original company club house in Charlton Park Avenue. This club is now called The Meridian and is now in other hands. Ex-Siemens employees have their own space at the Meridian and hold re-union functions at the club.


Recently photographs have been taken of archive material held at Greenwich Library. - commissioned by Siemens and are for the Company archives (that is Siemens UK at Bracknell). No book is planned though. However Rosemary Etherden (Communications Manager at Bracknell) recently sent me a copy of a book entitled Remember Greenwich by Iris Byrce. This is a personalised book of her memories, it is a good read and contains some old pictures of Greenwich - including Siemens Brothers.


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 7LTY (0181 858 9482)

THE HOUSE MILL, Three Mills Lane, Bromley By Bow
Now open every Sunday 2pm-4pm, May-October, 1st Sunday in the month from March-December. Groups visits - please ring William Hill 0181 472 2829

Appointment only. Tel: 0181 211 3711 on Tues - Sun 9am-4 pm. Adm: £2 adults, £1.50 children.

15th October. SIEMENS BROS, ENGINEERING SOCIETY ( see article)

6.30pm. Devonshire Arms, Devonshire St, W1 (RCHS)

20th October. TRANSPORT TUNNELS IN KENT. Paul Sowan. Croydon NHSS, East Croydon United 7.45 pm. Reformed Church Hall, Addiscombe Grove, Croydon.

6.30pm. St Bartholomew's Medical School

22nd - 25th October. Conference on BRITISH SHIPBUILDING, Glasgow.
More information from the Newcomen Society, Science Museum, SW7


CINEMA THEATRE ASSOCIATION Visit to Woolwich cinemas - Granada, Odeon, Regal, Empire Kinema, & Odeon Erith. Open to CTA members and associates. Info from Ken Roe 0181 800 8233.

2.30pm Wallington Methodist Church, Beddington Gardens, Wallington.
Including speaker from Wandle Industrial Museum, & Brian Sturt on Wandsworth Gas Collier Fleet. 10.30am Carshalton walk from Honeywood Heritage Centre.

7.45 pm. Shaftesbury Centre, Frankham St., SE8 Lewisham Local History Society (LLHS).

8.00pm. Music Room, Blackheath High School, Vanbrugh Park, SE3. Greenwich History Society, (GHS)

7.30pm. Time and Talents, Old Mortuary, St. Marychurch Street, SE16. (RBLHG)

Meet 10.30am Hamilton Hall Pub, Liverpool Street Station.

9.30am - 5.00pm. National Maritime Museum. £30.00. Tel: 0181 312 6716.

6.00pm. Room C, Education Dept., Museum of London, EC2. (DHG)


7.00pm. Conference Room, Baden Powell House, South Kensington. (LURS)

Open Museum £25.00. Tel: 0181 312 6747

6.30pm Devonshire Arms, Devonshire St, W1 (RCHS)

7.00pm. Ragged School, Copperfield Rd, E3.

6.30pm. GLIAS, St Bartholomew's Medical School


7.00pm. SLAS, Hawkestone Hall, Kennington Road, SE1,

7.30pm. Time & Talents, Old Mortuary, St.Marychurch St., SE16. (RBLHG)

8.00pm. GHS, Music Room, Blackheath High School, Vanbrugh Park, SE3 7AG.

6.30 pm. All welcome. Kirkaldy Testing House Museum (rear door, Prices Street, SE1)



6.30pm. GLIAS, St Bartholomew's Medical School

7.30pm. Time & Talents, Old Mortuary, St.Marychurch Street, SE16. (RBLHG)

31st March. CUTTY SARK, Roger McKenna.
7.30pm. Time & Talents, Old Mortuary, St.Marychurch Street SE16, (RBLHG)

3rd-5th September. TIME & TIDE CONFERENCE
NW Kent Family History Society to be held at Avery Hill Campus, University of Greenwich.

10th-16th September Association for Industrial Archaeology CONFERENCE, Chatham.
Admissions Officer, Leicester University, Leicester LE1 7RH 0161 252 2414.
Pre-conference seminar on current thinking in industrial archaeology.
Anyone interested should get in touch with GLIAS.



by Barbara Ludlow, in what used to be the Old Photographs series, has now been reprinted. The series has been renamed The Archive Photographs Series by Tempus Publications and stocked by all good bookshops locally. If you haven't bought it yet - rush out right away. ISBN 075240052.

Cinema Theatre Association are advertising a new publication The Granada Theatres by Allen Eyles - including information on Woolwich Granada 'a cathedral of the movies'. The book is £20.99 from Jeremy Buck, CTA Sales Officer, 34 Pelham Road, Wood Green, N22 6LN. Cheques to Cinema Theatre Association.


Remember Greenwich

by Iris Bryce (Joint Winner of the National Life Story Award).

Iris Bryce's book portraying her childhood in Greenwich has been praised by many notable authors including Penelope Lively and Melvyn Bragg. 'Iris Bryce has had distinctive experiences of her own which she chronicles beautifully. She also has the rarer gift, however of discerning common experience in a highly distinctive way .... her book is a valuable contribution to both literature and social history'. It deserves to be widely read.

ISBN 1 874678 10 3 £11.95. Includes 35 photographs.
Greenwich Community College Press, Corelli Road, London, SE3 8EP
Tel: 0181 319 8088
Fax: 0181 319 8040


Greenwich Society have produced a trail round the Greenwich Peninsula - written by Diana Rimel and illustrated by Peter Kent. Available at £1.00 from The Greenwich Society, 48 Hopedale Road, SE7 7JJ - please enclose SAE.

This walk was followed on Open House day with tours led by Diana Rimel, Mary Mills and Barbara Ludlow. Any organisation which would like a guided, industrial, walk along the riverside to nearby the Dome site and beyond should contact Mary Mills on 0181 858 9482. It is understood that the part of the walk at the end of Riverway will close before Christmas - so get in quick!

Bits & Pieces

The River Thames Society have sent us a copy of their latest Thames Guardian which contains an article on The Great Steam Ferry at Greenwich by Clive Chambers.

The article gives some of the background to ferries between Millwall and Greenwich and goes on to describe the steam ferry in some detail. He describes his own attempts to 'dive down one of the shafts' and an interview with an 'old dock worker' who said that a diver had been killed trying to make repairs.

Thames Guardian is published by Piton Publishing, 79-81 High Street, Godalming, GU7 1AW

LEWISHAM LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY NEWSLETTER - has revealed that the Master Shipwright's House at Deptford Dockyard (1705) has now been acquired by William Richards and Chris Mazeika who intend to restore it as a private residence. It is possible to see inside over the next couple of weeks- please ring (0181 692 5836)


This imposing late Victorian factory, with deep water river frontage, two chimneys, rail access and extensive buildings, claims to be the Greenwich works of the Flexible Metallic Tubing Co.. Does anyone have any idea who they were, and where they were? They had connections with both Siemens and the Greenwich Linoleum Works.

Fortean Times (where else) has run a piece on gas manager, George Livesey's, ghost on the Dome site - called Haunted Dome it quotes Daily Telegraph and the News Shopper. The Ghost also made it - more predictably - onto the front page of the Historic Gas Times - where an article by Brian Sturt gives some of the background to Livesey's life and the reported haunting. Brian continues with this theme in GLIAS Newsletter. (Brian, wizened curmudgeons have their efficiency enhanced by mobile phones).

The Guardian on 22nd of August continued Richard Boston's series on the Thames - he had by then reached Greenwich and the Barrier. He devoted two whole columns to the Barrier itself and explained a bit of how it works - it is 'an engineering wonder of the modern world' he says. More surprisingly he is the first journalist on record to say something nice about the East Greenwich gasholder. 'It is a very fine gasometer indeed with a visually intriguing criss-cross of girders that rather upstages the Dome - the gasholder no longer holds gas (not true, Richard) - another magnificently useless geometrical shape.'

Under the headline Greens plead for Blue Belt to save the Thames The Independent on Sunday outlined the thoughts of the Greenwich based London Rivers Association. They are pushing for the Thames to be designated as a 'blue belt' - much like the 'green belt'. They highlight the many office blocks, 'luxury' flats and private leisure complexes built and under construction along the riverside, saying that too little consideration is given to views of the river - not from the river. Special consideration should apply. The Thames is a vibrant eco-system and needs to be respected so that the whole city benefits'. They highlight building developments in some parts of Greenwich.


The following people have registered research interests with us -

John Penn site, Blackheath Hill - John West

Greenwich Peninusla sites - Mary Mills

Market Gardens on Millennium Village site - Diana Rimel

We have also received the following requests for help:

Chimneys - GLIAS ( Vol.1. No.3. p.10)

Copperas - Derek Bayliss ( Vol.1. No.1. p.7)

Fuel Research Station - Brian Sturt ( Vol.1. No.2. p.12)

Greenwich Foot Tunnel - Myles Dove ( Vol.1. No.2. p.12)

Iron Shipbuilding - Prof. Arnold ( Vol.1. No.1. p.7)

Mercury Building - Katie Jones ( Vol.1. No.3. p.7)

National Enamels - Alan Parfey ( Vol.1. No.4. p.3)

Perkins' Steam Gun - John Day ( Vol.1. No.3. p.7 ))

Royal Docks - Malcolm Shirley ( Vol.1. No.3. p.6)

Weighbridges - Jack Vaughan ( Vol.1. No.1. p.7)

Wheen's soap works - Pat O'Driscoll ( Vol.1. No.3. p.6)

Please let us know if you want to be added to either list...

Greenwich Industrial History Society's Committee would like to try and set up a list of all Greenwich industrial sites. Volunteers are wanted to work on this project - which at the moment will be purely clerical. Please get in touch - supervision will be given if wanted.

KENT BRANCH OF THE COUNCIL FOR BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGY recently held a successful day's conference in Tonbridge. One paper of particular local interest was about a dig on the Greenwich riverside by David Divers of Pre-Construct Archaeology. It is understood that an article on this will be published soon and we hope to be able to review this - and hear more from David about his work.

Tim Allen gave a paper on the copperas industry of Whitstable and it is understood he intends to publish a book. Copperas was a big industry in Greenwich and there were many links.


Over the past months the Council has been working towards implementing changes to the riverside - in particular with regard to the SUSTRANS through cycle path, which will follow the riverside although not always on it. To this end considerable works are in hand, some of which have already been done, and the riverside as it has always been known will be completely changed. It is understood that an 'audit' of the riverside has been started - and that a prelimary version of this will be available for consultation very shortly - although the number of 'heritage' items included in it will probably be limited. Anyone interested should contact the Greenwich Waterfront Development Office.

Newsletter 3. -An apology

There were a number of problems with Newsletter 3 - mostly because, for a number of reasons, I had to put the print date forward.

First - can I generally apologise for the quality of the printed version and hope this will be improved.

Second : apologies to John Day, whose name I managed to omit in his article Memories of an ROF apprentice.

Third: apologies to Edward Hill to whom I forgot to credit the picture of the gas holder on page 4.

In this (printed) edition there have, once again, been problems with photo reproduction - if anyone can teach me how to get a picture from scanner to printer in good shape I would be very grateful.

Mary Mills

Newsletter 4 - Web Version - An apology!


At present we are missing a scanned image of;

East Greenwich No.2. Gasholder (now demolished) showing its flying lift.

This will be included as soon as possible.

David Riddle, WebMaster, Goldsmiths College, London.


The next issue of this Newsletter will contain articles on Richard Wheen and Early Indications of Shipbuilding in the Greenwich area.

This newsletter is produced by Mary Mills for the Greenwich Industrial History Society and printed (thanks) to Docklands Forum, 192 Hanbury Street, E14. Opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of individual authors or the editor and not those of the society as a whole.




The Web version has been created by;

.... David Riddle, Goldsmiths College

Space courtesy of Goldsmiths College, University of London