Volume 8, Issue 3, June 2005








14th June - John Lloyd - Greenwich Power Station Strike in support of the miners.

12th July - Mary Mills - George Livesey: hero of South London gas

24th July - Memoryscape Walk from Greenwich to the Dome with Toby Butler, 7.00 pm
Please book (first 20 only) ring Mary 0208 858 9482

13th September - Frances Ward - Colonel North and Avery Hill

11th October - John Ford - Siemens Engineering Heritage and Archive

15th November - Geoffrey Belcher - The Decline and Fall of the British Motorcycle Industry (with particular reference to AMC)

13th December - Paul Sowan - Edwin Gilbert’s sand pits at Charlton, desk study and field observations

24th January AGM - Wayne Cocroft, English Heritage - An international exploration of the archaeology, architecture and technology of arms and explosives manufacture

14th February - Clive Chambers - The continuing story of Blackwall Yard

21st March 2006- John King - Croydon Airport

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


Recently Mary Mills collected from Fay Gould a huge bundle of photographs of the South Met Gas Company’s Ordnance Tar Works - where the Dome is now sited. She showed them to Lewisham-based historic gas-guru Brian Sturt who sent the following article to Historic Gas Times:

These photographs show the calibration and testing of road tar sprayers when tar from the larger gaswork's own tar-plants was a major source of the raw material needed to improve roads and fix the limestone or granite chippings to the surface. The South Met Gas Co. tanker shown;

has been fitted at the rear with a dozen or more channels to collect the spray from the vehicle. The aim was to obtain an even spread of tar and the channels have been fitted for test purposes in order to measure this by directing the run-off into collecting cans. The test equipment appears to be homemade, but no doubt quite adequate for the needs of the day. The channels feed the spray into the cans and the contents are then measured and assessed by the lab. technician, on the right, using the weighing scale. He also has a clock to record the time taken to discharge a particular volume of tar and check and adjust the essential even dispersal to the road surface. Gas works coal tar was also sold to the public who came to the works gate, with perhaps a gallon can and this could be filled for about 2/- in the 1950's. It was used for treating fences and timber garden sheds. However, it was an impure product and as demand for tar increased for the roads, local tar distillers were established and they refined the product collected from perhaps thirty or forty small gasworks, which were too small to have their own distillation facilities. The price paid to the gas companies was about one penny a gallon!

Mary has now deposited the photographs in the Greenwich Heritage Centre at Woolwich – and any more such comments on them are very welcome.


The following is extracted from The Newsletter of the British Postal Museum and Archive. Thanks to Judith Deschamps for this info.

Our new home: the latest developments

As many of our friends will be aware, the major task for The British Postal Museum &Archive is to find a new home that allows us to be a combined museum and archive service, on one site. At present the collections are divided between The Royal Mail Archive in central London, and our Museum Store on the outskirts of the capital, in Debden, Essex. Our future development plans are very much based on the archive and museum collections being equally accessible to as many people as possible. Ideally, we want a unified base from which we can branch out around the country - in partnership with other museums - to ensure our collections are truly a national resource. Following an exhaustive search, we have identified a building in the Royal Woolwich Arsenal redevelopment area, which could suit our needs. Many factors steered us towards Woolwich, but this building has the potential to be a remarkable heritage centre. The building in question is Number 19 in the Royal Arsenal complex. It is nearby to Firepower, the Royal Artillery Museum, and the London Borough of Greenwich Heritage Centre. Building 19 is a terrific space, but it needs a great deal of work before it could be used to house our collections. We have come to an agreement on cost and reconstruction with Berkeley, the Royal Arsenal developers. This gives us the information we need to make an initial bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). It must be stressed that this first bid is for funds to fully explore the practicalities of the project, by hiring architects and heritage centre designers to bring to life our plans for the building. We would then need to use these plans in applying for a far larger grant from the HLF to carry out the physical work, alongside outreach activities in the Woolwich community. As you will appreciate, developing bids of this complexity is no easy task. There is also no guarantee that our project will be preferred by the HLF over other worthy proposals. We are therefore looking at other options in order to keep our eyes on the main goal: to let more people than ever before enjoy the wealth of our collections. We hope this will be in Woolwich; outside forces may send us elsewhere! We will keep you informed of the latest news in the Newsletter and online at We will endeavour to keep the news limited to definitive steps forward. Your encouragement is very welcome.


For our May meeting we were pleased to welcome Allan Green, Research Fellow at Porthcurno Telegraph Museum who spoke to us about the manufacture of PLUTO in local factories.

Phoenix Wharf, Rainham, sheds for PLUTO

Allan has been kind enough to send us a copy of some references, which are reproduced here:

1. Searle, Adrian. PLUTO. Pipeline Under the Ocean. Excellent little book published by Shanklin Chine on the Isle of Wight, 1995 (it also contains many other references to published work).

2. National Archives at Kew. All the major files relating to all aspects of Operation PLUTO are held here. It is a great deal of paperwork, much of it relating to Departmental and inter-departmental meetings. Very good photographs and other information is included all held in ref: POWE 45/-

3. Imperial War Museum. Very interesting films which can be viewed at the museum. In particular, their film Ref: WOY314.

4. British Telecom Archives. The Post Office with its expertise in cables and submarine cable laying were an important contributor to the PLUTO programme. The archives contain papers relating to testing work on HAIS cables and these are held under Ref: POST 56/119

5. BICC Archive. This is housed at the Liverpool Maritime Museum and is in a reserve store. Access is by appointment only and at present it is closed for re-furbishment. There is however an excellent little booklet published by Bexley Council, PLUTO World War II's best-kept Secret which gives an account of the project, mainly from a Callender's Erith (later BICC) perspective. It pays particular tribute to the lead-burning skills and major contribution made by the firm of J P Stone.

6. Morgan. R. M.. Callender's 1882 - 1945. A book giving a comprehensive history of the Company and the founding family.

7. Telcon Archive. There are two significant collections; one at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich (ref: TCM) and the other at the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum (not yet fully catalogued) but neither contains anything particularly interesting about PLUTO.

8. The Telcon Story. The history of the Company from 1850 to 1950.

9. W T Henley Archive. This collection is now housed at the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum in Cornwall and is currently being catalogued. Only a few indirect references to PLUTO.

10. Brooks, Colin, The History of Johnson & Philips. (“A romance of 75 years") published 1950.

11. Banks, Sir Donald, Flame Over Britain. A personal narrative of Petroleum Warfare.

12. Combined Operations is a website which also gives a lot of interesting info provided by a Royal Navy Capt. Roughton who was involved in the laying of the pipeline.

13. Clements A. J.. Operation PLUTO. An interesting short paper (unpublished?) by a researcher in South Wales. A copy of the paper is filed at the Porthcurno Museum.

14. Siemens Archives. Some information is housed at the Greenwich Heritage Centre. In particular Engineering Supplement No. 224 (Jan 1946) to the Siemens Brothers Magazine. I would expect that the main archive in Munich might also contain information.

15. Scott J. D.. Siemens Brothers 1858-1958. A book giving 100 years of Siemens history.

16. Engineering. A series of articles published in this magazine June 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29th 1945

17. Yergin, Daniel. The Prize published by Simon & Schuster 1991. A different angle on the project... don't buy the book it has only a few lines about PLUTO

18. Krammer, Arnold. Operation PLUTO: A Wartime Partnership for Petroleum. Article in the proceedings of the Society for the History of Technology 1992.

19. Reekie, Douglas, These were the Nerves. 1946. The story of the electric cable and wire industry of Great Britain during the years of war.

20. Hartley, A. C. Operation PLUTO - in The Engineer at War - A paper presented at a symposium at the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1948.

My research work on PLUTO is no longer a priority but I would be interested to hear from anyone who has additional information about the project. Any relevant information will then be added to the Porthcurno library / archive.

Allan Green, Research Fellow, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum


We have been sent some information about Royal Iris - berthed just down from the Barrier for a couple of years.

She was built in 1950 by the famous William Denny Bros, Dumbarton as a twin screw, diesel electric ship for Wallasey Corporation. She was the largest and most commodious vessel ever built for the all year round service from Liverpool to Seacombe and the summer service to New Brighton. Her gross tonnage was 1,234 tons and she was 160 ft overall in length and 48 ft in breadth. Outwardly she differed from any other ship and carried the Borough coat of arms proudly on the front of her streamlined, unusual and futuristic looking superstructure. Her hull underwater was designed to facilitate instant manoeuvring and control in the often-crowded shipping lanes of the River Mersey. She was also capable of withstanding gales, which regularly sweep the Mersey Estuary, especially during the winter months. She had a large area for dining and drinking and a spacious dance floor. A fish and chip cafe was an integral part of original design. Her passenger accommodation had room for over 2000 under cover. The Royal Iris's most distant seaward destination from Liverpool was to the Bar Lightship, 14 miles northwest and she also traversed the Manchester Ship Canal, carrying cruise passengers. In November 1991 she was sold for use as a floating nightclub in Liverpool, and later to the Thames. Today she is laid up in a neglected and derelict condition.


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

From: Mrs Betts

Thank you for sending the GIHS Newsletter, etc. to my husband. Jim enjoyed belonging to the Society and would have renewed his membership, but sadly he died in January.

From: Trisha Jaffe

50 years ago, Kidbrooke was opened as the first purpose-built comprehensive in the country. This year, we are celebrating all that comprehensive schooling has achieved in the intervening years. We are also very aware that the challenges to the principle and practice of comprehensive education get greater by the year. We are inviting you to join us in celebrating all that has been gained in education at a conference that the school has arranged. At this we will also be looking at the future of the comprehensive ideal. How do we build on the best of what has been, in order that we have schools for the 21st century that include everyone? We do hope that you will feel that this is a conference that you can both enjoy and one that can challenge thinking about the future. While you are at the conference, you will be able to enjoy a lunch, selected from the menu that has been developed by Jamie Oliver as part of his, Jamie's School Dinners programme. Along with our kitchen staff, he has transformed eating in this school, and hopefully, beyond in the LEA. I do hope that you will join us for the day on 1st July, 2005.

From: Brian Middlemiss

The Siemens Brothers Engineering Society has collected, catalogued and formally re-housed almost 1500 items donated by members and friends in an endeavour to record for posterity something about the existence of the Company in Woolwich - its history, products, pioneering design and manufacture in electrical equipment and telecommunications world wide. Importantly too, we have many items and photographs depicting the varied work and social activities engaged in, by a site employing around 7000 or so people. We are particularly anxious to bring our archive material to the notice of members of Societies, Associations and Education Departments such as yours, which nurture a continuing interest in specific aspects of times past. Much of the enthusiasm and impetus shown, by our now ageing members, for the archive project stems from thoughts that 37 years have elapsed since the works closed and thus we are among the last engineers really able to leave a knowledgeable record of how world telecommunications grew and functioned before our present day electronic environment arrived! On behalf of the Engineering Society I would therefore welcome any help which you could give by generally 'spreading the word' regarding the various locations of our Archive Catalogue and Material.

John Ford, from the Siemens Brothers Engineering Society is booked to speak to GIHS on 11th October

From: Rich Sylvester

I would like to tell you about the new Memories and Stories of East Greenwich project. The group will research and record local memories and the industrial heritage of the Greenwich Peninsula (the former South Met Gasworks - generally known as the Dome site). Stories and local history records take us back to the 1800's of Greenwich Marsh. On the same site 200 years on we are in the early phases of a major housing development around the "Dome" - and the landscape has been extensively remodeled with groundwork and remediation of the "brownfields" left by the industry of the interviewing period. By the river we can still identify the wharves and sites of industrial buildings that once thrived with local business such as whaling and rope making. The pubs and street names give us further clues, while on the pockets of foreshore still accessible to the public we can find old nails and fragments of clay pipe which are all part of the jigsaw that we will piece together to tell or remind us all of the amazing history of this area.

The children from Millennium and Meridian Primary schools will investigate the changing riverscape through inter-generational interviews and web-based dialogue focusing on the changes to industry and local life from 1930 to the present day. Through a series of workshops with an oral history tutor, they will record the memories of local residents, who remember the river and its historical role. The over 50's Club will attend training sessions in IT and historical data recording, assisting with web-based research; scanning images and documents from the local heritage centre. One result will be the production of 2000 heritage trail maps providing a snapshot of a rapidly disappearing cultural heritage. The project will provide a channel for local people (new residents and present) to express and explore what they know and value about the Peninsula. To this end we are pleased to hear from anyone who lives or works on or around the Peninsula as well as those who have lived or worked there in the past.

Richard Sylvester (Co-ordinator) 07833 538143

From: Felicity Harrison

I have been lent a postcard, posted in 1906, which is captioned Molassine Co's Dinner, Sturminster Newton 1906 to use a part of a series in our local magazine. I live in Sturminster and was intrigued to see this card. Having read various articles and clips about the company in your newsletters on the Web I feel that the connection must be cattle feed as, until recently, the town hosted the biggest calf market in the country and dairying was the major industry. But... according to the information the company wasn't formed until 1907 and why were they in Sturminster? Please can you shed any light on this or point me towards the right direction to further my research?

From: Anne Benney

Volunteers from the Blackheath Society clear and tidy the Station "garden" twice a year. We did it the other last Sunday and some thought "station garden" was misleading. "Wildlife garden" has been tried but doesn't quite suit either. Although there are bound to be ideas from within the Blackheath Society, I wondered if a member of the Greenwich Industrial History Soc. might have a suggestion. If you can help to give this stretch of disused rails its proper name I'd be glad to hear from you - maybe it should be called whatever was its original name (the sidings or shunting yard perhaps) - we'd like to get it right or at least arrive at a consensus.

From: Pamela White

I came across the article posted on the Internet entitled Greenwich Millennium Site, 200 Years of Innovation. The section that was of interest to me gave mention of the East Greenwich Gas Works. My great-grandfather, George Cutler, was an engineer and worked in the Samuel Cutler and Sons firm that built the two gasholders. I would be most interested to receive any information that you may have on the firm, Samuel Cutler, and on gas works in general. Am I correct to assume from the material on the Web, that one can still see the remnants of the gas holder, located on Tunnel Ave and visible from the A102(M), Blackwell Tunnel Approach? If one wished to view the gas holder, what would be the best location? I also understand that the firm owned by Samuel Cutler was located on the Isle of Dogs. Has anyone ever done an industrial history of the firm? It would appear from what I have read that the labour history as well as the engineering background of the era and the project are most fascinating.

This query has been referred to a number of gas industry historians who hopefully will report further. However, Brian Sturt says "I am not certain if the holders at East Greenwich were built by Samuel Cutler and Company. I am almost certain that the second holder was built by Clayton's". Attached is an article on Cutlers from the Gas Journal, Volume 212, October 2nd 1935, pages 37-39.

This article – more detail in a future issue – says that George and Samuel Cutler set up a factory for the manufacture of gas works plant in 1844 in the City Road, Islington. In 1858 the business had expanded and the firm moved to Providence Ironworks Millwall. The firm was particularly identified with gasholder construction – they were the largest moving metal structures in the world and Cutlers were identified with the largest. They operate 24 hours a day year-in year-out in all weathers almost unattended. (The article says some have run for half a century in this way – the East Greenwich Holder has now operated for 120 years – and others still longer).

Malcolm Tucker also confirms that the East Greenwich holder was not built by Cutlers but by Claytons.

From: Gill Selley, Woodbury Local History Society

I am researching Montague Wigzell, born in the City of London in 1831, the son of Eustace Wigzell. He was an artist and inventor. He came to Exeter in 1854 as the first headmaster of the Exeter School of Art and in 1866 became the first headmaster of the Croydon School of Art. In 1861 he formed the Patent Spiral Fluted Nail Company and manufactured this in Topsham, near Exeter. In 1866 he was declared bankrupt. In his bankruptcy examination it was stated that he had seven 'ventilators', another of his inventions, at the Greenwich works. From 1859 he had invented a gun battery, various types of nails, a double ventilator and a candle-making machine. There is evidence that he was making candles and ventilators as well as his spiral fluted nails at Topsham, but he must have had a family connection or perhaps a manufactory in Greenwich. He had a brother called Atwood who described himself as a 'practical engineer', and there was a Eustace Wigzell who was thought to be a marine engineer from Greenwich, possibly his father or brother. I would be very grateful if you have any information about Montague Wigzell in the Greenwich area. I have found that Wigzells were living in the area in the Victorian period. In 1855 a Eustace Wigzell Esq. was living in Blackheath Road and in the 1881 census a Eustace Wigzell, aged 31, described as a mechanical engineer (possibly son of the former), was living in Deptford.

From: Jeff Nicholas

I wonder whether you or some of the members of your Historical Society might be able to help me. I have the task of writing a small biography of Edward G Barnard M.P. for Greenwich between 1832 and 1847. He was from the famous Barnard shipbuilding dynasty. My task is to find out more about E.G. as there is a major street named after him here in Adelaide, South Australia. He had something to do with the South Australian Commission which was set up under act of parliament in 1834 to see through the settlement of a new colony in South Australia. Is there a painting or image of him somewhere? We know that he owned Gosfield Hall and spent a lot of money on it. Is there anyone in your society who might be interested in following him up for me?

From: Toby Butler

Thank you for your interest in Memoryscape. I am very keen to evaluate my research, so I'll be organising some walks that anyone can come to (I'll provide a CD-Walkman) and I'll give out a short questionnaire afterwards; I would also like to organise a small group discussion after the walk. If anyone wants to come on an organised walk, just tell them to get in touch. Also, if you know of a group or organisation who would like to come on a walk, please let me know and I could do one specially. It would take about two hours - I am particularly keen for people to listen to the walks actually walking, not at home or in a meeting room.

Of course, the walks can also be done on your own and I will happily send a free copy to anyone who is willing to actually do the walk and fill in a questionnaire for me! They just have to give me a call or e-mail and I'll send one off to them. If you need any more info, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Toby is arranging a walk for GIHS members on 24th July. Please ring Mary to book 0208 858 9482 - first 20 only.

From: Bob Carr

Do you know David Lloyd. Who is he? He is very interested in the Greenwich Steam Ferry.

The Greenwich and Rotherhithe Steam Ferries share David Lloyd’s web page with two railway sites from the West Country – so, no, we don’t know who David Lloyd is. David......... are you there?

The Greenwich Steam Ferry was the one that ran from Wood Wharf, Horseferry Road to the Isle of Dogs – Clive Chambers described some of the archaeology of the site in a recent talk to GIHS. David’s site describes the two original boats, Countess of Lathom and Countess of Zetland as well as the cylinders sunk in the riverside wall and the steam engines themselves. There is a lot of interest in the site – but nothing at all about the recent demolitions there.

The Webmeister reports in 2017.. David Lloyd's site is unfortunately no longer functional, but Forgotten Highway's site may be of interest regarding this particular ferry crossing.


Earlier this year Greenwich Council turned down a planning application on the site of what is now known as the Federation Day Centre. Now we understand that, if the developer gets his way, not only will flats be built on the site, but the mines below are to be filled in.

In 1968 these mines were noted by the Chelsea Spelaeological Society (I guess that was Harry Pearman). The author described how he entered the mines in 1960 ‘by crawling down a silted up adit close the road. There was a long slide down a broken down passage lying some 20ft above its original level'. Once in he found passages ‘average 15ft high and 10ft wide. The cross section is a well-formed Norman arch. Much of the floor was covered by several inches of scummy water’. Eight years later it was said that this entrance ‘lies under a transformer chamber’ and the grating to a 60ft shaft ‘is in the grounds of Federation Hall, owned by the London Borough of Greenwich’.

In 1987 Rod LeGear undertook a proper study of the Mine which appeared in the Kent Underground Research Newsletter.

What were the mines for? In Kent and East Sussex Underground Rod LeGear explains that in 1899 RACS began to build the Abbey Wood Housing estate. The mine was excavated to provide chalk for roads and lime for plasterwork. It was known as Bostall Estate Chalk Mine or Suffolk Place Mine. The 60ft shaft was sunk in January 1900 and the floor of the mine was at the water table, deliberately, so that mortar could be mixed with pumped-out water. The mine was abandoned in 1906 and building work ended in 1914.

On 1st February 2004 the Kent Underground Research Group (KURG) entered the Bostall Estates chalk mine to survey the condition of the mine. At the same time four surveyors from the London Bat Group (LBG) surveyed the mine for hibernating bats.



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.

Crossness Record

The Spring 2005 edition of Crossness Record contains to two articles, which add further to our knowledge of the site.

The Crossness Wells by D.I. Dawson describes the water requirement for Crossness in the 1860's and 70's for boiler and domestic use for which the Kent Water Works Company charged £27 per day. Sources of water existed in the Crossness area - in the Arsenal, at the Manure Manufactory to the east of the site. A report in February 1865 recommended, "the sinking of a well” at an estimated cost of £1,500. At least two wells were sunk at Crossness. One known as the Old Well eventually did produce water, but was fraught with difficulties. Suffice to say that the cost rocketed to £6,480 by 1869. Then Joseph Bazalgette reported to the Board. He said that to carry on taking water from the Thames into the settling pond would mean that the boilers would continue to suffer "on account of the salt content” and made a number of suggestions to deal with this. In February 1877 it was decided to contract with Messrs Docwra and Son to sink a new well for a sum of £5,252 15s. A year later the contract depth had been reached "without satisfactory result." but by mid-1879 a contract was issued for the "Construction of Reservoirs, Tanks, Engine and Boiler House in connection with a Water Supply". By 1879 the Old Well was also producing water. After some fourteen years of struggle and expense, water had at last been found and in quantities that were going to be useful.

A second article by Ann Fairthorne describes the Ransome and Rapier Super Mobile Mk 3 Crane owned by the Trust. This Came from Turners Asbestos Cement Limited at Erith. Despite extensive searching the trust has been unable to locate any other such cranes and so assume it is a rare example. The motors and generator are post-1936 design and from conversations with Laurence Scott & Electromotors Limited they know it was made in Manchester pre-1955 and because of the design of the tyres assume it was built post-1938/9. The quality of the castings are not up to the standard shown on other Ransomes & Rapier mobile cranes seen nor does the crane carry the traditional Ransomes & Rapier markings at the back. It carries a mixture of Bull Motor and Laurence Scott & Electromotors motors which is unusual. So why is it different? Could it have been built during World War 2, when supplies were not always easily available? Research in Ransomes & Rapier records have unearthed an order from Turners Asbestos Cement Co for a 2 ton super mobile crane in November 1940. This crane had a special jib designed for it although, there are no details. We do know that Turners Asbestos Cement Co at Erith was bombed on the night of 6th October 1940 and that three buildings and some cutting machines were destroyed. Could they also have had a crane that was destroyed? However the crane has a machine number different to the one ordered in 1940 and one which would make it much later. Did it go back to Ransomes & Rapier for modification or repair and was re-numbered at this point in time?

Bygone Kent

The April 2005 Edition carries an article by GIHS member, Patricia O'Driscoll on Norton's Barge Yard at East Greenwich.

The site is now near the Ecology Park by the Millennium Village on the Peninsula. Pat says that three sizeable sailing barges were built at Norton's: the 50-ton Scout in 1905, later owned by Cory's; the 64-ton Scud of 1907, which went to Burley's and the much larger Serb, 75 registered tons, built in 1916. When she discovered the yard in 1954-5 the work was mostly repairs and the workforce shrank to Fred, who lived on-site. His quarters had a locker seat from a barge's foc'sle, a pipe cot from another. A coal range for heating and cooking (next door was a coal heap and a water tap, placed there for a steam crane). He had a kitchen table with a white enamelled top, on which stood an oil lamp. There was a 'phone - the one modern feature of the yard. Everything was done with hand tools. Fred was a character straight out of W.W. Jacobs. He had an old barrow, a kind of Super Soapbox on small iron wheels, which he used when sent to get paint, tar, galvanised spikes and other small items.

A barge coming on to Norton's for repairs would first lie alongside the end of Dorman Long's Jetty to wait for enough water to put her 'on the blocks'. When the tide ebbed, men could get at her bottom. The yard operated on the foreshore between Dorman Long's Jetty and Pear Tree Wharf. Pat was told how, before the war, craft were also berthed between Greenwich Yacht Club and Redpath Brown's Jetty where there was a steam crane. Dorman's had a steam crane, which moved out to the jetty along rails when needed. Dick Norton retired in 1966 but he still went down regularly to bring Fred a newspaper. It was good luck for Fred that he did; otherwise he would have been completely alone at the deserted yard. One day he had a fall, breaking a leg and had to be taken to hospital. He never returned to the riverside as, with nowhere else to go to, he was admitted to an old people's home. Now, walking along the riverbank, there is no sign that the yard ever existed.

In our last edition we highlighted an article in the Rambler’s Association Newsletter of a riverside walk from the Barrier to Erith. This has now been published jointly by Greenwich and Bexley Councils. Copies from the Tourist Information Centre, Cutty Sark Gardens, SE10

Several members have drawn attention to a local press story about a project at EastSide in Newham, to record lost industries throughout lower Thameside. This is managed by Dr. John Marriott at the University of East London and we hope John will contribute to future Newsletter and, also, attend a meeting to tell us about the Project.

In May a meeting was held at the National Maritime Museum between some of their community staff and representatives of the various local history societies – and the membership of GIHS was very well represented. Museum staff wanted to know who we saw as ‘local heroes’ and how we should be working to promote them through walks around the area. Inevitably everyone had their list – which included far more than (non-local) Nelson and Napoleon. All sorts of men and women were mentioned – including politicians like Will Crooks - the hero of Greenwich’s Mayor, Paul Tyler – as well as many inventors, community leaders and others who had contributed in many ways. The museum staff seemed totally amazed – and clearly this is not a subject which will go away. Watch this space!

In the rooms next to the Greenwich Tourist Information Shop is a small museum and café. These are not part of the Greenwich TIC but are owned and managed by the landlord, The Greenwich Foundation for the Royal Naval College. The Foundation would like to expand this section to tell the story of the World Heritage Site and the area around it. The idea is to offer something about the area, which is more detailed and aimed to encourage local people to attend – not just tourists. They intend to consult groups and societies as widely as possible to ascertain what they would like to see there.


by Philip Binns

Meeting held Tuesday, 19 April 2005

Land at Stockwell Street, SE10 - demolition and rebuilding for mixed-use development. The Group welcomes that this application, for the whole site, enables a more successful townscape resolution of the new build. They question the inappropriate siting of the ventilation shaft for the railway tracks. They urge that an early decision be made but with sufficient conditional safeguards to allow amenity groups to continue to contribute to the debate

Land bounded by Creek Road/Creekside/Copperas Street, SE10 - demolition and mixed-use re-development

43-81 Greenwich High Road, SE10 - mixed-use development to include demolition of existing buildings and provision, in 5 no. new buildings to a maximum height of seven storeys, of commercial floor space, hotel, gym and 196 no. residential flats - case file provided but insufficient time available to properly assess this new application which indicates new uses for the range of buildings proposed in the previously approved application.

Land at rear of 36/54, 52 Spray Street, SE18- application to establish use for housing - concern that, with the coming of the DLR Extension to Woolwich, noise may mean the site is inappropriate for residential use and the nursery proposed in the application. Office use may be more acceptable given that the site will be considerably reduced by the DLR to the north of Network Rail.

Thompson’s Plant and Garden Centre, 353 Shooters Hill Road, DA15 - demolition of existing buildings and erection of a single storey glasshouse - case file called for but not provided.

Universal Tyres, 87 Blackwall Lane, SE10 - despite not having commented on the original application in the summer of 2004, agreed to support the Council in contesting an appeal against the refusal of the proposal to develop this site in close proximity to Grade II listed, Rothbury Hall.

Application 04/1748/O - The Warren/Royal Arsenal Public Inquiry - copies of the Council's Statement of Case received 12.04.05 were circulated and it was agreed to contact English Heritage and CABE to ascertain the feasibility of the Group combining with them in presenting evidence to the Inspector.

Meeting held on Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Land at East Parkside, Greenwich Peninsula, SE10 - construction of football academy - changes made to the bulk and massing are unobjectionable.

Café Sol, 13 Nelson Road, SE10 - insertion of a mezzanine deck level - object strongly to this proposal for increasing the seating area; the proposed deck will be clearly visible from the street and the works will irreparably damage this fine, locally listed, former Burton's men's wear shop of 1932.

Land adjacent to Memorial, West Side, Woolwich New Road, SE18 - erection of slimline telecommunications mono-pole. Object strongly to this obtrusive installation which is considered to be unacceptable for its Woolwich Common conservation area setting; the mono-pole would detract from the Grade II listed South Africa War Memorial to the west.

I have written, on behalf of Greenwich Industrial History Society, as well as the Conservation Group to the Council’s Development Control Department about the proposed redevelopment of Payne and Borthwick Wharves, SE8 as follows:

“We welcome the fact that the Grade II listed Payne’s Wharf building, built to house John Penn's riverside engineering works, is, in part, to be retained and refurbished but note with great concern that, in the proposals, the adjacent Borthwick Wharf building is scheduled for demolition. This building is an important example of the Borough's rich archaeological heritage which, over the years, the Council has allowed to be gradually and perniciously lost from the records, and it is our view that every effort should be made to encourage its retention and adaptation. The building, designed by Sir Edwin Cooper in 1934 as a cold store for meat imported by Thomas Borthwick and Sons, is monumental in scale yet finely detailed and with exemplary brickwork. That buildings with an industrial pedigree can be converted for continuing use has been acknowledged by the Council's approval to the redevelopment of Sir Aston Webb's Mumford’s Mill nearby in Greenwich High Road for residential accommodation and, further upstream, by Southwark Council in its far-sighted decision to allow the conversion of the former Bankside Power Station to house Tate Modern. The Borthwick Wharf building is similar in many respects to the Bankside building and I urge that, rather than demolition, the developer, George Wimpey be encouraged to consider a redevelopment proposal which retains the building. This would be in accordance with the Mayor's London Plan Blue Ribbon Network Policy 4c.25, which states that "buildings that have historic or cultural links to the Thames should be protected".


The Oxleas NHS Trust now has the Greenwich Memorial Hospital (originally the Woolwich & District War Memorial Hospital) within its remit. After many years of minimal maintenance, money is now being spent to refurbish it, restoring many of its original features, and sympathetically inserting modern facilities. GIHS Chair, Susan Bullivant, with members Andrew Bullivant and Richard Buchanan were invited to see the Hospital on 7th April 2005 by Martin Lee, the man entrusted with the refurbishment. He showed us around the main building, pointing out many original surviving details: handsome doorways; fenestration (though some woodwork is rotting and away from the frontage there is u-PVC double glazing); good quality flooring, now under carpeting. Some 1930s features, such as asbestos lagging, are going; the plumbing needs updating; more electric sockets are wanted - for which hidden wiring is not always possible; Fire Regulations are tighter now. Lighting improvements saw the universal introduction of fluorescent tubes - though modern lamps make it possible to revert to art deco fittings more in keeping with the building. He also showed us the strong room where artifacts relating to the Hospital are stored, and spoke of the need to make an inventory of them - Susan Bullivant thought Woolwich Antiquarians. There we saw records showing that the War Memorial Hospital was often abbreviated to Memorial Hospital from its inception. The original Laundry, and many of the wards added in the grounds since its foundation, are being demolished, and two new H-shaped ward blocks are being built at the rear.


One of the ‘forgotten’ factories in Greenwich was the largest glass bottle works in the world. The following article, by R.D.Goodson, appeared in the London Electricity Board magazine in February 1961.

A bottle - who gives more than a passing thought to it other than in respect of its contents. Down in Greenwich in the South Eastern District a lot of people do. At United Glass Ltd’s Charlton factory some 2,100 employees of that organisation spend all of their working life designing, planning and making literally millions of bottles and in connection with the electricity supply, the Board's District Staff watch over its electrical well-being with an almost parental care, as may be expected a consumer who can set up a maximum demand of 4-6 MW with a high load factor is looked upon as a particular asset to the district.

The company originated under the title of Moore and Nettlefold and has carried on glass bottle manufacture on the same site as far back as 1911. It is of interest to note that even at that early date electricity played an important part in production. It is on record that the factory contracted to take an electricity supply of approximately 500 kW capacity. In those days Foreign labour, mostly drawn from East European countries, was used extensively. Production continued up to the outbreak of World War 1. Recommencing in 1920, the original plant was replaced by more modern equipment to meet the ever-increasing need for greater efficiency and economic working. Rapid development of the glass industry demanded modernisation of plant. and today the Charlton works rank high in glass-producing efficiency. "There have been changes in the Company title. Quite recently the well-known United Glass Bottle Manufacturers Ltd. (U.G.B) became United Glass Ltd. an organisation of nation wide interest and high reputation. The factory occupies an area of 37 acres, flanked by the River Thames in the vicinity of the Royal Naval College. Within the curtilage of the works is a well-planned system of internal roads, together with some 5.5 miles of railway lines, the latter constituting a veritable private marshalling yard. Goods in and out of the factory area are handled by road, rail or river, whichever is most convenient for the particular purpose. Access by river for export overseas is facilitated by a well-equipped wharf - always served by a sufficient depth of water in the Thames at that point. The buildings, apart from the production area, include an administrative block, drawing office, engineering workshops, research laboratory and storage sheds, supported by a miscellany of ancillary accommodation. The 2.100 people regularly employed include technical and administrative staff. Their shift-to-shift requirements are catered for by an efficient canteen service, which operates throughout the 24 hours in each day. Electricity is supplied at high voltage with a service capacity of 6,600 k VA delivered to two main substations known respectively as North and South.

The summated maximum demand recently recorded over the two points of supply is 4,600 kW with an annual consumption of over 30 million units. Security of supply is of paramount importance and with this in mind the Board’s engineers in designing the supply arrangements, provided a supply at 10.4 kV direct from Blackwall Point Main Substation, consisting briefly of 0.15 sq in feeder ring (unit protected) incorporating the two substations (North and South) in the United Glass works with a further injection feeder (also unit protected) from Blackwall Point main substation to the North substation. In addition to this, further security of supply is given by interconnection at three points on the Main Substation High Voltage feeder network. Glass production is a most interesting process and is carried on continuously throughout the year by means of four large oil fired furnaces with electrically driven fan cooling and electrically operated boost melting device each boost has an electrical capacity of 6500 kW. An interesting feature of glass bottle manufacture is that all scrap is remelted. It is the practice to feed this broken glass into a large hammer mill. The material when ground to a fine powder in known in the trade as ‘cullet’. Cullet is mixed with sand, soda ash and limestone. This is the raw material used in modern manufacture, of glass.

Colour variations are obtained by the introduction of chemicals to the mixture. In the Charlton factory white flint, green and amber bottles are produced. Raw materials stored in silos are always available for immediate transference to an electrically driven "batch" car. This vehicle is, in effect, a mobile hopper with a built-in weighing machine. The driver halts the vehicle under each silo in turn until the correct quantity of material required for the particular process, is collected. The contents, known as the "batch", are eventually tipped into a drum mixer, similar in design to a large concrete-mixer. Bucket elevators move the "batch" into hoppers above the furnaces, from where the material is gravity fed into them. The quantity of feed is carefully regulated by electronic control. Due to modern development of refractories and to electric boost melting, the output of the furnaces, which have been in existence for some while, has been increased from 180 tons per day to 440 tons per day. The electric boost melting applied to each furnace enables the manufacturers to obtain an additional 30 tons output per day per furnace. With the regenerative type of furnace installed in the factory, boost melting is achieved by passing an electric charge through the molten glass in the furnace. The old type of furnace used in 1911, it is of interest to note, had an output of approximately 30 tons per day. Electricity is continuously required by the present day furnaces for oil atomization and cooling. The molten glass is normally held at a temperature of 1,500 degrees C. and it needs little imagination to realise the importance of continually cooling the exterior of the furnace. In the early days of glass manufacture, production was hampered by the comparatively short life of the furnaces, not more than 6-8 months. Modern design however, provides a furnace life of 3 to 4 years. The process is continuous. Once ignited, a furnace is producing molten glass until rebuilding is necessary. At the end of its useful life the furnace is "tapped" and the remaining molten glass drawn off. This is an important part of the life operation for if the glass is allowed to cool in the furnace the solid mass would present an almost impossible task to break out. The drawing-off in molten state enables the glass to be used over again as "cullet” when the renewed furnace is again commissioned. At Charlton, the process known in the trade as "tank furnace" practice operates with fascinating continuity. The quantity of molten glass in the tank is controlled with infinite care, a depth of 42 inches being maintained throughout with a maximum tolerance of one-tenth of an inch. Approximately 110,000 tons of batch material are used in the four furnaces each year. An apparently never-ending flow of glass passes on its fiery way like lava from an erupting volcano. Continuously channelled into the insatiable maws of the bottle-forming machines. The visitor will inevitably experience an illusion of Dante's Inferno. This, however, is quickly dispelled by the well-ordered stream of perfect bottles, which emerge and move, inexhaustibly, towards completion stage. Two types of bottle-making machines are used. One operates on a flow principle, while the other incorporates a suction method. The difference briefly, is that the former is gravity fed by molten glass, while the latter sucks the material from a revolving pot furnace. With each type of machine a small quantity of glass known as the "gob", having a consistency of treacle, is passed into a preliminary mould known as a "blank" or "parison". It is at this stage that the first shape is formed by injecting a small quantity of compressed air into the "gob". The "parison" is important as it plays a major part in determining the thickness of the glass and strength of the finished product. The first stage complete, the "parison” is transferred mechanically to the finishing mould, where compressed air is again introduced to blow the glass to its final shape. The bottle still red hot is moved by conveyor belt on its next stage to an annealing oven or Lehr. Careful control of cooling is essential. The bottles are annealed by slow baking in the Lehr in gradually diminishing heat. The bottles, cool by now, are handled for the first.. and only time, when they are inspected for Haws. Periodic sample tests for quality, size, shape and liquid capacity ensure that the finished article is to specification. Bottles are then cartoned and despatched by road and rail or exported by ship direct from the Company's wharf.

United Glass Ltd. is proud of their product and use only the finest quality material. Their product has an ever expanding market both at home and abroad. Their exports at present represent approximately 10 per cent of their production and are marketed principally in Holland and the Scandinavian countries. At home, the firm supply bottles to milk, pharmaceutical, brewery and other similar trades. It is their proud claim that the customer has only to state the shape of the bottle, the quantity and the order will be satisfied. This they do to the tune of six to seven million bottles a week. How important the glass industry is to our modern way of life! Just imagine a world without bottles, windows, mirrors, drinking glasses, and television tubes!


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)



4th June, GLIAS walk. All walks pre-booked only. Write: c/o 84a Kingston Road, Luton, Beds. LU2 7SA or

4th June, Crossness Engines Public Steaming Day. £4. 10.30am. 020 8311 3711 on Tues or Sun daytime for bookings.

5th June, London Green Lifestyle Show. Greenwich Park. Free day of fun and celebration for all the family. 11am – 7pm.

5th June, Coal Gas and Chemicals in East London. Mary Mills at Ragged School Museum. 5.00 pm.£4 entry. All welcome.

7th June, Crossness Engines. Guided Tours. 020 8311 3711 on Tues or Sun daytime for bookings.

11-12th June. Greenwich Open Studios - Frances Treanor 020 8692 3239, Frances Ottaway 010 8692 5866, Basia Burrough 020 8691 6761, Mary Bennett & Miranda Beavis 020 8692 6836, Gerda Rubinstein 020 8852 2958, Colin Boothman 020 8689 2045, Colin & Emma Fifield 020 8244 3459, Carol Kenna 020 8355 6715, Felicity Moss 020 8859 3850

11th June, Women and the Sea. NMM. Ring 020 8312 6648. Greenwich Maritime Festival Event.

15th June, GLIAS walk. See above.

17th June, Time and Space. Discussion on redevelopment of the Royal Observatory site. 2.00pm. To book: 020 8312 8575

18-19th June, Greenwich Open Studios - Terry Scales 020 8853 3730, John Bangs 020 8692 7385, Frances Treanor 020 8692 3239, Elaine Marshall 020 8692 7970, Frances Ottaway 010 8692 5866, Penny Matheson 020 8692 5824, Gerda Rubinstein 020 8852 2958, Sarah Perry (pottery) 020 8858 2663, Colin Boothman 020 8689 2045, Colin & Emma Fifield 020 8244 3459, Felicity Moss 020 8859 3850

18th June, Artists at Sea. NMM. Ring 020 8312 6648. Greenwich Maritime Festival Event.

16-19th June, City Safari to Turin. More info

19th June, Richard Wilson on Slicing Ships. 2.00pm. NMM. Ring 020 8312 6648 (Richard Wilson is the man who owns Slice of Reality on the riverside at the Dome).

19th June, Crossness Engines. Guided Tours. 020 8311 3711 on Tues or Sun daytime for bookings.

21st June, East Greenwich History Group. Forum@Greenwich. 3.00pm. Led by Mary Mills. This is for Forum members only – but anyone is welcome to join (details of Forum membership and the group from Simone, 0208 853 5212).

22nd June, Victory and the Road to Trafalgar, University of Greenwich at Medway ticketed event ring 01634883154

23rd June, Visit to River Quaggy at Sutcliffe Park. 6.30 pm at Eltham Road entrance. Blackheath Scientific Society

24th/26th June, Maritime Mysteries. Greenwich and Docklands Festival. Giant puppets etc. etc. Old Royal Naval College. Evening. Free.

25th June, Greenwich People. NMM, ring 020 8312 6648. Greenwich Maritime Festival Event.

25th June, Visit to Gilbert’s Pit, Charlton Station. 2.00pm. Croydon Natural History Society. Call: 020 8688 4539

25-26th June, Greenwich Open Studios – Terry Scales 020 8853 3730, John Bangs 020 8692 7385, Frances Treanor 020 8692 3239, Frances Ottaway 010 8692 5866, Gerda Rubinstein 020 8852 2958, Colin Boothman 020 8689 2045, Paul Canney (pottery) 020 8854 8932, Steve Lobb 020 8355 6715, Felicity Moss 020 8859 3850

26th June, Guided Walk on Nelson’s Greenwich. See above.

27th June, Nelson and British Intelligence – plus launch of his new biography of Nelson. Prof Roger Knight. 6pm. Room 080 Queen Anne Court. Details 020 8331 7688.

29th June, Walk. Industrial Southwark. Hops to Hats. Meet London Bridge Underground, 7.15pm.


1st July, The Comprehensive Ideal. Taking it beyond the individual school. Conference to celebrate 50 years of Kidbrooke Comprehensive School. Information 020 8516 7977 ext 165 or email nationalconference. kidbrooke.

2nd July, GLIAS walk. See above.

5th July, Crossness Engines. Guided Tours. 020 8311 3711 on Tues or Sun daytime for bookings.

13th July, History Afloat. 10.00am-3.00pm. Starts Westminster Pier. Unique boat tour with experts from various museums. Ring to book 020 8312 8575

15th July, Ethnicity and Nelson’s Navy. Brian Lavery. Ring: 020 8312 6648

17th July, Crossness Engines. Guided Tours. 020 8311 3711 on Tues or Sun daytime for bookings.

20th July, GLIAS walk. See above.

23rd July, Caricature. Study on political cartoons in the Napoleonic era. National Maritime Museum. 020 8312 8575

27th July, Walk. Surrey Docks to Rotherhithe. The long way round. Meet Surrey Docks Bus Station. RBLHG, 19.15

31st July, Crossness Engines Public Steaming Day. £4. 10.30am. 020 8311 3711 on Tues or Sun daytime for bookings.

30th July, Guided Walk on Nelson’s Greenwich. 11.00am. Meet Cutty Sark figurehead. Greenwich Maritime Festival Event


6th August, GLIAS walk. See above.

9th August, Crossness Engines. Guided Tours. 020 8311 3711 on Tues or Sun daytime for bookings.

17th August, GLIAS walk. See above.

21st August, Crossness Engines. Guided Tours. 020 8311 3711 on Tues or Sun daytime for bookings.

27th August, Nelson and Trafalgar Cruise. Kingswear Castle. Ring 01634 827648


None to report.



For further information please contact Firepower on 020 8855 7755,, website

Londoners at Work

A photographic Essay
Museum in Docklands, Tel: 0870 444 3855 for details.


An exhibition of work by Johannes Phokela on illusions of aesthetic purity and cultural certainty
1st - 29th July, Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich Maritime Campus, 10am-5pm. Free.

Late News

Deptford Dockyard (Convoys) goes to Lewisham Planning Committee

Lewisham Strategic Planning Committee resolved in late May to approve the current application for the site of the Royal Naval Dockyard at Deptford by 7 votes to 2. They did so despite eloquent representations by William Richards, Julian Kingston and Bill Ellson - local activists concerned at the fate of this most important of local historic sites.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has 14 days from the date of the Committee meeting in which to direct refusal of the proposal. It is unlikely he will do this. He has already indicated he will not oppose the scheme, even though breaches his own London Plan by eliminating most of the safeguarded wharf.

The ultimate guardian of the wharf's protected status is Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. His approval is required for any "reconfiguration" (to use the planners' euphemism). Given his recent support for a new publicly-funded cruise liner terminal in Liverpool we are hopeful we can persuade him to "call in" the Convoys application. It will then be the subject of a public planning enquiry.

Meanwhile the sale of Convoys to a joint venture between two Hong Kong companies, Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa, is presumably going ahead, though it's not clear at what point the sale will be finalised. Both companies are owned by billionaire Li Ka-shing.

Last night's vote was not the end of the matter, just the end of the beginning. With thanks for your interest and support.



The Society's officers are currently as follows:

Emeritus President - Jack Vaughan

Chair - Sue Bullevant

Vice-Chair and Committee - Ray Fordham - Andrew Bullevant, Alan Parfrey, David Riddle

Secretary - Mary Mills

Treasurer - Steve Daly

Auditor - Juliet Cairns

Members are reminded that subscription renewals fell due in October 2006. 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 the Greenwich Industrial History Society.
Chair, Sue Bullevant, 11 Riverview Heights, Shooters Hill, SE18. Views expressed in it are those of the authors and not of the Society.

Contributions are always welcome. If possible, please send on disk 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.
Members and visitors are strongly advised not to try and park in the yard at the Old Bakehouse itself.

Mary Mills now has a limited stock of Greenwich and Woolwich at Work available at £8 each plus £2 postage from 24 Humber Road, London, SE3 7LT, 020 8858 9482

Mary Mills


This Web site is managed by David Riddle

David Riddle

Web space courtesy of David Riddle