Volume 9, Issue 2, May 2006
OF THE THAMES GATEWAY
David was supposed to be coming to our May meeting to speak to us about the Woolwich Ferry. Unfortunately he suffered a very severe accident while in the course of school governor duties and is unable to be with us. Can we take this opportunity of sending our best wishes for his swift recovery?
Alan Pearsall - We regret to note the death of Alan Pearsall, one of our founder members. Alan had been the historian at the National Maritime Museum and had a wide knowledge of industrial and transport history. He had spoken to the Society on Thames Colliers and was supportive of many other subjects. He will be sadly missed. Members may not know that, along with Jack Vaughan, Alan was instrumental in saving the cast-iron plates of Maudslay’s tomb in Woolwich Churchyard.
Alan Turner - Alan was Chair of the Royal Arsenal Historical Society and a stalwart of the fight to preserve memories of the Arsenal. He had spoken at GIHS meetings and was a founder member.
"You could say this is what real education is about."
Richard Gray - Head Teacher Plumcroft Primary School
Andy Brockman came to talk to GIHS about the Lie of the Land Project taking place at Woodlands Farm. The following is a brief summary of some of the topics covered by him.
The Lie of the Land Project is an exciting new attempt to open up the History and Archaeology of the Shooters Hill area to the community of South East London. The objective is to bring the Heritage and Education communities together in a creative partnership with the wider community of this part of South East London as together we celebrate and explore the history of our landscape learning more about it and about ourselves. Something we regard as particularly important as we face the challenges of the 21st century, including economic regeneration and the effects of potential climate change. We are currently working with Birkbeck College and the Bexley Education Business Partnership.
As part of the Lie of the Land Project, fieldwork has been carried out at Woodlands Farm to evaluate the archaeological potential of the site. Initial work in the form of a 2m x 2m Test Pit was carried out as part of the education display at the 2005 Woodlands Farm Show. The following is an interim report on the excavation and subsequent fieldwork relating to the Shooters Hill ZAA [Anti-Aircraft Rocket] Battery, POW Camp 1020 which subsequently occupied the Battery site.
Woodlands Farm is located on the eastern slope of Shooters Hill, bordered by the A207 and straddles the London Boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley. It covers 89 acres, most of which is currently under grass and used for grazing the farm's livestock, but also includes former coppice woodland, and the site of the former Royal Arsenal Cooperative Society abattoir. It is managed by The Woodlands Farm Trust as a community farm and it lies on the undivided London Clay of the Thames Group. The original Farm buildings probably date from between 1800 and 1820, and the Farm has undergone change throughout its life, with none of the original building stock surviving.
The excavation aimed to:
1. Assess the survival of buried archaeology in the area of the former farm yard with particular reference to the 19th century farm.
2. Assess the geology of this area of the Farm.
The excavation proved that there is surviving archaeology in the area of the farm yard dating from at least the 19th century. Below the modern top soil is a layer of apparent demolition rubble containing late 19th or early 20th century London Stock Bricks with frogs and cement mortar, then a layer containing mid to late 19th and early 20th century pottery including Transfer Printed Porcelain. This may represent the ground surface prior to the dumping of the demolition rubble. A substantial, roughly finished timber lying on a north west to south east axis was found lying on top of this. The timber has no clear function, lacking nails, mortice holes or any other sign of having been part of a structure. However, its size and location suggests it may have been part of the 19th century building known to have been in the area of the excavation and shown as a piggery in a mid 20th century photograph.
The Topographic Survey was carried out by students of Birkbeck College under the Direction of Jonathon Godfrey. This demonstrated the break of slope below the Shooters Hill Golf Course caused by the change in Geology between the Gravels and Sands capping Shooters Hill and the London Clay on which the Farm lies. It was also possible to confirm that the Farm is situated at the head of a shallow valley running north east towards Abbey Wood and Erith. This probably represents the former course of the River Woghebourne. A short disused trackway was also observed running South West from the farm track towards the A207 Shooters Hill Road.
The two paddocks were the subject of a geophysical survey carried out by Birkbeck Students. A number of linear curved and circular features were observed which might hint at human activity including the sites of six World War II Huts related to the Shooters Hill ZAA Battery/POW Camp 1020.
Processing a progression of vertical RAF Air Photographs from the UK National Monuments Record collection, the Shooters Hill ZAA Battery was observed on Air Photographs dating to mid 1944. The rarity of the site was noted - there were only 51 built in the whole of the UK and the fact that, for much of its life, the site was operated by the Home Guard volunteer part-time soldiers drawn from the local community, made it worthy of further research.
A public appeal for information led to contact being made with a number of former Gunners who served on the site as well as local people who remembered the site in operation, both as an AAA rocket site and subsequently as a POW Camp.
The discovery of contemporary drawings of the site in operation as observed by one of the POW Camp inmates, prompted a campaign to evaluate any surviving archaeology of certain of the camp installations and the location and damage caused by two recorded V1 strikes in Autumn 1944 affecting the eastern edge of the camp and its immediate area on Woodlands Farm.
In past Newsletters of our Industrial Historical Society I've seen little mention of an industry that many of our forbears dabbled in, thievery. Robin Hood is, perhaps, our best known thief, but running a very close second to him must be Dick Turpin, a robber who, I shall show, was arrested for shooting a chicken and hung for the lack of sixpence.
My interest in this robber was awakened when reading about him in the 'Newgate Calendar,' the 18th century equivalent of the 'Sun' newspaper, made me remember my childhood, in East Ham. I was about eight and a gang of us kids were walking towards the High Street. Getting near the Town Hall one of the lads pointed to a pub and told us, "Dick Turpin used to keep his horse there". Us children were all suitably impressed, 'Caw', to think, Dick Turpin kept his horse there. When reading the Newgate Calendar I saw that indeed it is quite likely that he had.
However, let's start at the beginning. Dick Turpin was born in Thackstead; Essex the son of a farmer and after getting a sketchy education from the village school his father apprenticed him to a butcher. Completing his apprenticeship Dick opened his own butchers in Stratford, just across the river and married a Miss Jenny Palmer of East Ham. As a good businessman, young Dick was determined to simplify the bookkeeping system of his butcher shop, with this in mind he ended the palaver of paying for the animals he slaughtered and took to stealing them instead. This minor character blemish was eventually found out and a warrant issued for his arrest. Evading capture he fled to 'The Hundreds of Essex'. The smuggling wasn't a great success for, as the Newgate Calendar so nicely puts it, "Custom-house Officers, by one successful stroke, deprived him of all his ill-acquired gains". He next turned his hand to deer stealing in Epping Forest, but again with little success and so, he and a bunch of like-minds tried housebreaking.
Theirs was a simple plan, selecting a house, which they hoped, contained a lot of money, one of them would knock on the door and when it was opened they'd all rush in and grab whatever they could. Doing this act several times, getting, what was in the eighteenth century quite a lot of money, £400 in Loughton, £700 from a farmer at Barking, a miserly £120 from the keeper of Epping Forest.
They also carried out a house breaking escapade in this locality - may I give an account of it as printed in the Newgate Calendar. "On the 11th of January 1735, Turpin and five of his companions went to the house of Mr. Saunders, a rich farmer at Charlton at Kent, between seven and eight in the evening, and having knocked at the door, asked if Mr. Saunders was at home. Being answered in the affirmative, they rushed into the house, and found Mr. Saunders, with his wife and friends, playing at cards in the parlour. They told the company that they would remain uninjured, if they made no disturbance. Having made a prize of a silver snuff-box which lay on the table a part of the gang stood guard over the rest of the company, while the others attended Mr. Saunders going through the house, and breaking open his escritoires and closets, stole about £100, exclusive of plate. During these transactions the servant maid ran up stairs, barring the door of her room, and cried out, "Thieves!” with a view of alarming the neighbourhood; but the robbers broke open the door of her room, secured her.. Finding some minced-pies and some bottles of wine, they sat down to regale themselves; and meeting with a bottle of brandy, they compelled each of the company to drink a glass of it. Mrs. Saunders fainting through terror, they administered some drops in water to her, and recovered her to the use of her senses. Having staid in the house a considerable time, they packed up their booty and departed, having first declared, that if any of the family gave the least alarm within two hours, or advertised the marks of the stolen plate, they would return and murder them at some future date."
When I read this account I imagined a lonely farmhouse well off the beaten tracks of Charlton, perhaps in the marshes. How untrue! Checking up at the Local History Library I found that Mr. Saunders farm was on the main Blackheath to Charlton road, separated by the village green from Charlton House - the actual spot is now covered by Games House, in the Council estate there.
The gang carried out these house break-ins for three months, but the reward for members of the gang went up to £100 and two of them were caught and hanged. With these problems, Turpin decided to move out of London and on the road to Cambridge he caught up with a well-dressed man riding on a valuable horse. Now our Richard, pushed his pistol in the man's face and demanded his money. I think we can all imagine his surprise when the chap burst out laughing at this threat "What, dog eat dog is it? Come, come brother Turpin; if you don't know me, I know you and shall be glad of your company". This fellow he was attempting to rob was King, a well-known highwayman and uniting with him Dick Turpin became one himself. The two became such scourge on the roads of Essex that, as the Newgate Calendar puts it, "no public house would receive them as guests", and they made themselves a cave, in Epping Forest as their hideout.
In 1737, Turpin and King went to the Red Lion PH in Whitechapel intending to sell a horse they had stolen. The Landlord of the pub knew they were coming and saw a way of making some easy money. Hiding outside in the stables, seeing King approaching he drew his pistol and presented it to the robbers head. King, called out to Turpin behind him. "Shoot him, Dick, or we are taken." Turpin fired, missed and shot his friend, King. Now a search was underway in earnest, at one stage the 'Epping Fox Hunt' went looking for him with their bloodhounds, forcing Dick to hide in a tree. Too well known on the roads of Essex, he and his wife went to Yorkshire. Here, going by the name of John Palmer, his wife's maiden name, he lived the life of a gentleman of means.
One day he shot a chicken belonging to his landlord and followed it with - "If you just stay there while I reload my gun, I’ll shoot you as well." the neighbour told the landlord who applied for a warrant for the apprehension of Mr. Palmer. Dick wrote to his bother telling he was in prison pleading "For Heaven's sake dear brother, do not neglect me; you will know what I mean, when I say, I am Yours, John Palmer." It was sheer bad luck that a Mr. Smith, the schoolteacher that had taught Dick to write recognized the handwriting and notified the authorities who this mysterious Mr. Palmer was.
Dick Turpin was hanged at York. The crowd were so impressed by his 'going' that they took his body to 'lay in state' at the Blue Boar, Castle-Gate, York and be buried, next morning in St George's churchyard. This done, a rumour flew around town that grave robbers had ransacked Turpin's grave. A hue and cry was raised and the good people found his body with a surgeon. Regaining possession of it, the corpse was laid on a board and carried through the streets of York in a triumphant procession. Taken back to St George's Church, this time the 'mourners' filled the coffin with unslaked lime before burial. Thus ensuring the remains of the very much ex-highway man, ex-cattle rustler, ex-smuggler, ex-house breaker and all round bad egg, Dick Turpin, would not be worth digging up a second time.
Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and headed by Eastside Community Heritage and the Raphael Samuel History Centre, the Working Lives project seeks to contribute to the creation of sustainable communities in the Thames Gateway region by helping to construct the (self)-identity and worth of local cultures built upon a distinct 'sense of place'. Collaborative projects, focused for the most part on oral histories of work, will be undertaken with communities to uncover memories of shared experiences.
Working Lives is concerned with the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Greenwich and Bexley. Its focus over a five year period is on the industrial and cultural heritage of the area, to address the following themes:
- Cultures and historical experiences of diverse communities. The whole area has a profound historical debt to the Thames and the experiences of development and decline.
- Patterns of migration and settlement. Development and decline has promoted massive migrations flows across the area including movements of diverse diasporic communities, many seeking refuge from persecution
- Links with the wider world, in particular the British empire.
- Contemporary legacy of industrial heritage. Starting with the collapse of the staple industries of inner East London and shipbuilding on the Thames from the mid-nineteenth century, continuing to the closure of the docks, major engineering firms, and partial closure of Fords in recent years. This decline has impacted massively on local communities, promoting the outward migration of indigenous populations and leaving a legacy of deprivation and neglect.
- Impact of the past on the potential for regeneration. Potential for success is predicated upon an awareness of the area's history, the creation of sustainable communities, and their full involvement in regeneration.
Earlier this year, we successful applied for £50k. This is seed funding, and has enabled us to appoint a development worker to undertake educational and outreach work.
The Centre has assumed responsibility for developing educational programmes leading to postgraduate study, putting together teaching packs for use in local schools, and establishing a more academic agenda for study of the Thames Gateway. This preparatory work will form the substance of the major bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund which we hope to complete in May/June 2006. At this stage we anticipate that the bid will be for a little under £1m.
The Centre is also planning actively to bring Eastside onto the Dockland Campus of the University of East London, March 2006.
From: English Heritage
Royal Arsenal, Woolwich (Building 49) undertaken by Oxford Archaeology
Building 49 forms the east range of the main central quadrangle of the Grand Store complex, a vast Grade II* listed range of store houses which were constructed between 1806 and 1813 as part of a major expansion at the Arsenal due to the high military demands of the Napoleonic Wars.
The east range of the Grand Store, building 49, appears to have escaped the worst of the subsidence that the rest of the complex suffered. However, whilst the other main ranges of the Grand Store buildings appear to have remained partly in use until at least the closure of the Royal Ordnance Factory in the late 1960's, Building 49 was largely abandoned in the mid-20th century. Consequently its structural condition is now the worst of all the Grand Store ranges even though it has retained a large proportion of its historic fabric.
Among the interesting surviving features which provide an indication of the use of the building are a number of elements of a former hoist at the east end of the central block. The clearest external feature is an external hoist arm adjacent to a pair of first-floor loading doors at the centre of the east wall but there are also a number of surviving internal features. Adjacent to the ground floor doorway is a largely surviving hydraulic hoist (or jigger) fixed to the wall which would have powered the external hoist as well as internal lifts to move items between floors.
At roof level above the first-floor doors is a secondary timber frame between the easternmost primary tie beam and the external wall which would probably have supported an internal hoist. The jigger was inserted as part of a refit and expansion at the Arsenal during the Crimean War.
Another interesting feature which is in the central area is an iron frame, sunken within the ground floor slab, with rail tracks running over the top of it. Directly above it there was a large hatch in a mezzanine and there would have possibly been a hoist to raise items up from a wagon, which would have been pushed onto the tracks on the frame, to the mezzanine.
Another feature of interest in the general area is the base from a former rail turntable which was aligned with and directly south from the tracks on the frame. This was also in line with the double doors to the centre of the east elevation and there would have been a set of tracks which entered through the doors. Another set of tracks are also visible at the southern end of the building immediately inside from the external doorway.
Another interesting feature is a large sump beneath the very centre of the building and a surviving section of the stone-block flooring at the north west corner of the central block.
The most impressive general feature is the internal timber frame which survives but is in poor condition. The frame is arranged with pairs of Samson posts which rise through the building with load spreading 'pillow block' heads and bases sandwiched and bolted together immediately below each floor.
There is also evidence that there would have originally been a series of small stoves in the building which would probably just have been to provide some warmth. The evidence includes small recesses at ground floor in the main internal piers with smoke-darkened flues within the piers that link to the main chimney. At first floor there are some stone hearths which would probably have supported free-standing stoves and circular holes directly above into which circular iron flues would have fed.
There are also known to have been a number of mezzanines inserted throughout the Grand Store ranges during the Crimean War and these partly survive in building 49.
Although the surviving primary structure of building 49 and the other Grand Store ranges has a monumental grandeur and is still impressive in scale today it was structurally relatively conservative when compared to other contemporary buildings and can now be seen to represent the end of a building tradition. It was constructed a decade after the first iron-framed, fire-proof textile mills were constructed and although this type of construction was yet to be widely adopted it did spread and develop in the early decades of the 19th century, particularly for large structures such as the Grand Store. In a historical context there is no doubt that the construction of the complex has much more in common with storehouses of the second half of the 18th century rather than the commercial warehouses of the first half of the 19th century which comprised cast iron columns, iron beams and brick jack arches. The contrast is even greater with the light-weight iron roof trusses and open floor spaces of various buildings at the Arsenal dating to the second half of the 19th century.
Royal Arsenal, Woolwich (Building 45) undertaken by Oxford Archaeology
Building 45 at the Royal Arsenal forms part of the Grand Store complex, a nationally important set of warehouses constructed between 1806-1813 due to the military demands of the Napoleonic Wars. The ranges of the main, central quadrangle of the Grand Store are listed grade II and are among the architectural highlights of the Arsenal. Building 45, however, is a much simpler structure and is unlisted. Building 45 forms part of the Western Quadrangle which would originally have comprised three main ranges, with the fourth side formed by Building 46. Now only the North and South ranges survive and are considerably different to their original structure. The two ranges would have originally been single storied brick structures (Flemish bond) with hipped roofs and sash windows to either side with fan lights and arcading. Despite being single-storied, documentary evidence suggests that the North and South ranges were large storehouse buildings with external walls. They would have been typical Napoleonic-period structures similar to many such buildings constructed in the Royal dockyards and military complexes in the early 19th century.
The three originally detached ranges were linked by a vast shed which filled the quadrangle and which was constructed in 1855-6 during the Crimean War. These infill ranges were pulled down in a major reconstruction undertaken in the 1890's which saw the construction of a new three storey structure which filled the footprint of the previous building and which incorporated the original single storey North and South ranges. In the current development, the central 1890's infill block is being demolished and a new west range added to return the footprint of the quadrangle closer to its original form. The North and South ranges are being retained with primary brickwork at ground floor, 1890's extension at first floor and a new structure at 2nd floor.
Building 45 is of interest because it provides a fuller understanding of the original form of the Grand Store and is the only surviving element of the two original side quadrangles. Secondly, it is of interest as a piece of building's archaeology due to its complex development which reflects a number of phases of the Arsenal's history. Thirdly, it contributes to the overall group value of the buildings at the Arsenal, which is one of the principal interests of the site.
Evidence had indicated that the eastern wall of the building had many doorways at ground floor and that this was the principal access route into and out of the building for vehicular traffic. Much of the eastern third of the interior is likely to have been for loading and unloading and the main storage would have been in the western half. The investigation has confirmed that the second floor of each of the two primary ranges was a secondary addition, shown by the subtle difference in bonding between the brickwork on the two floors, and the demolition of the 1890's block has revealed that a number of bull nose bricks used in this block were stamped to their upper face with‘Diamond Jubilee', most likely referring to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee of 1897 and as these bricks are believed to be primary to the central range this provides a good indication of the date for this building. It was previously dated to c1890.
The work has also confirmed that the water tower was a later addition, (probably Edwardian) and that it was almost certainly never a hydraulic accumulator as has previously been considered possible.
Among specific features of interest identified in the investigation have been a series of military storage bays painted on the first and second floor and a single surviving fanlight which may be original (Napoleonic).
The roof of building 45 has similarities with various roofs constructed at the Arsenal in the very late 19th and early 20th century and lacks the elegance or structural sophistication of the slightly earlier metal roofs in Arsenal Buildings of the 1870's and 1880's. Another historical pattern which the work has contributed to has been the difference in brick bonding between the buildings of the very early 19th century, which tend to be of Flemish bond and those of the later 19th century which tend to be of English bond.Understanding of the building has been enhanced by a plan which was found within the building during its clearance which details works undertaken in c1970-1 after the closure of the Arsenal when Building 45 was converted to a British Library bookstore. This identifies which windows were replaced in the works, what the layout of shelving racks for the books was, where the former staircases and lifts were located, and where former doorways had been replaced.
John King was booked to speak to the Society in March on the subject of Croydon Airport. Sadly he was unable to do this following surgery which left him with severe mobility problems. We wish him well, and hope to listen to him on this subject at some time in the future. In the meantime, Richard Buchanan has sent us the following report of a talk which John gave to the Southwark and Lambeth Archaeological Society.
Croydon was first used as an aerodrome for defence by the Royal Flying Corps in 1917, but at the end of the war they vacated the site. However, Hounslow Heath, another wartime aerodrome, reverted to cavalry use – and in 1920 Croydon came back into use for commercial aviation. It took over the RFC buildings surrounding an old farmhouse on one side of Plough Lane, a road that divided it from an Aircraft Assembly Works next door, with a railway style level crossing gate between them.
In 1920 it briefly had an airship tower – London was hosting a Dominion Leaders conference, and a demonstration flight of a new Airship was laid on – however, the tower was soon removed, as it had been built on private land. During the 1920s the Aircraft Assembly Works were used as an Engine Shop.
Pilots, from France, navigated to Croydon by following railway lines: from Ashford along the long E-W line through Kent, then north along the Brighton line. The government got the railway companies to paint the names of salient railway stations along the route on their roofs – such as Tonbridge and Banstead. After a couple of collisions it had to be decided whether planes should keep left or right of the tracks – right was agreed. Emergency landing places along the route were established – one was at Penshurst.
Many small companies were set up, one of the first being Air Transport & Travel, though few were successful. In 1924 several aviation companies were amalgamated to form Imperial Airways, with a government subsidy (this was meant to be tapered down – but grew…). The French and Dutch gave higher subsidies to their aviation industries. Imperial Airways were known for good comfort (for the times) and safety. Air travel was for first class passengers up to the time of the depression, after which a wider market was sought. The aeroplanes were piston-engined biplanes, with the pilot in an open cockpit - many of the British models were by Vickers, De Haviland and Handley Page.
Other airfields came into being at this time, with Grove Park and Eltham in SE London.
In 1928 Croydon airport was enlarged. The centre of Plough Lane was removed, uniting the whole site. The wartime buildings, with their later additions were swept away – to be replaced by the splendid terminal building, with its main hall accommodating the offices of the airlines. The Aerodrome Hotel was built next door, by the new Purley Way - one could go on its roof for 1d to see the aeroplanes. There were plans for a railway connection, with powers granted in 1929, but the depression intervened; plans were revived in 1934 but came to nothing.
There were several historic occasions at Croydon. Lindbergh flew in with his “Spirit of St Louis” after his flight from New York to Paris, and was greeted by enormous crowds – he appeared on the old wooden control tower, and spoke, ending with “all I want is a cup of tea”. In August 1931 Amy Johnson was there after her solo flight to Australia. Her aeroplane, Jason, is now in the Science Museum.
Croydon airport was not ideal. It never had a concrete runway, and the grass landing strip had a considerable dip in the middle with steeper gradients on either side than recommended. Croydon, however, as an established airport, continued to be busy. Railway Air Services Ltd used it to provide a mail service round Britain. In the Second World War the RAF moved in with a squadron of Hurricanes. After the war it continued as an airport for flying club and charter work, until 1959 when Morton Air Services flew out for the last time (to Rotterdam). The site was sold in 1963, to Guardian Royal Exchange.
In 1978 the Croydon Airport Society was founded. It has had several events particularly that of 1980, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Amy Johnson’s flight to Australia. However the main aim of the Society was to set up a Croydon Airport Museum in Airport House, the main terminal building, which is Grade 2 listed. The local Council was supportive, but a succession of new owners have had opinions ranging from supportive to dismissive. Airport House is now developed for office use, with a De Haviland Heron displayed outside (the last type of plane to fly thence), and a Tiger Moth (recalling flying club days) hung from the ceiling of the main hall. The Society now has a Visitor Centre there, and hope for the Museum is not dead.
Unfortunate commercial development at the rear is less pleasing than a view of the airfield. However, the site is still flyable. The Aerodrome Hotel is still there, but renamed – “Aerodrome” was thought to suggest aircraft noise to potential guests!
The Society has much material to display, and is still getting more: about the aerodrome itself, its staff, the aircraft which used it, and the passengers it served. A French pilot from the early years met and married a Croydon girl – recently, as his widow, she gave them over 200 photographs he had taken. More photographs were found in a Lufthansa archive at Cologne. It also has material on other airports and airfields serving London.
Where addresses are not given, please contact through the Editor, c/o 24 Humber Road, London SE3
From: Robin Hoare
Greetings from New Zealand! I wondered if any of your members can answer a question that has been puzzling me. My great-great grandparents lived in Deptford from before 1730 to around 1800, when they moved to Bethnal Green. They are shown in the 1841 censuses as silk weavers, which is entirely consistent with the surname, Mace and with Bethnal Green but not with Deptford. Is there any history of silk weaving in the Deptford district I wonder?
From: Rob Cumming
I have for some time been collating information for possible publication on windmills in N.W. Kent before the 1888 boundary changes. I am currently researching sites in:
Blackheath (4 - Morden Hill, Holly Hedge House, Mill House, Talbot Place)
Deptford (4 - Tanners Hill, Black Horse Fields, Victualling Yard, Clayton)
Lee Green/Kidbrooke (1 - Meadowcourt Road)
Mottingham (1 - Fairy Hill)
Plumstead Common (1- ‘The Windmill')
Woolwich (2 - Mill Lane and Nightingale Lane)
Can any of your members offer any assistance?
From: Beryl Reynolds
My father's family's history is associated with the gateway to Woolwich Arsenal. The Bower family owned stone quarries near Swanage and were contracted to supply stone for the gateway to the Arsenal in Beresford Square. Two brothers, William and Edwin? came to live in Woolwich, presumably to work on the gateway, while a third brother Ambrose stayed at home in Dorset to look after the business at that end. Unfortunately some of the stone was sub-standard and the family business suffered. William returned to Dorset but the other brother, who was my grandfather remained in Woolwich. He deserted my grandmother and his children; I am hoping to trace him but so far I have not had any luck. Can anyone suggest where I might be able to get some help? Does anyone know of any records to do with the building of the Arsenal gateway and exactly when it was being constructed?
From: Pieter van der Merwe
Glad to see Friends of East Greenwich Pleasaunce has been formed. I've just been going through the Greenwich Hospital minutes of the 1850s and have run across all the detail of how they bought the ground, then being used as a fruit orchard by a Mr. William Miles as tenant of the estate of the late Sir Gregory Page Turner, purchased it at £550 an acre, bought out Miles's interest through arbitration: then had Philip Hardwick, the Greenwich Hospital Surveyor, draw up plans for the lodge, gates, boundary wall (all built by Lucas, of Lambeth) and plan the graveyard, bought a six-coffin patent hearse from Shillibeer's (with seats for mourners) and changed their burial contractor from Mrs. Shepperd of London Road, Greenwich to Richardsons, ditto, to do the burials: it all involved a delay of over a year from when they were supposed to close the old burial ground (in 1856). A Captain Drake in Deptford previously refused to sell them ground at £400, which he planned to make much more for and did not want to see used a cemetery. No doubt this is backed up with plans, correspondence etc. in supporting papers.
From: Dr. Danea Cowell
While Birkenhead is a long way from Woolwich we ask if anyone there knows where we might find information on an engineer and crane maker, James Taylor, of Birkenhead c.1840-1890. He was an important figure in the design and building of large steam cranes widely used at many major UK ports. Howe ever - some time in the late 1890's the firm and he simply disappeared. Enquiries at Birkenhead revealed little. He was connected to Hulse of Whitworths in the 1850s and design and built a seminal blocksetter for Colombo about 1870 to the specs of Sir Thomas Coode and Matthews of London. Any help about this you can give will be most appreciated.
Research Sec. The Historical Steam Crane Society. Pacific Chapter.
From: Professor Timothy Peters
I am researching the use of asphalt in the repair of the Wendover Arm of the Grand Junction Canal in 1856-60. My researches suggest that 4 miles of the Arm were lined with Coal Tar Asphalt and this confirmed by IR Spectroscopy. Initially the asphalting was successful, considerably reducing the leakage from the canal. The pitch was obtained from John Bethell of Greenwich. I have details of the price and how the pitch was transported to Wendover. I also have information on the asphalt composition, which was supervised by Sir William Cubitt. I am writing to ask if you have any information about Bethell's Works, e.g. equipment, source of coal tar, manufacture of the pitch and any details of its composition and properties. The asphalting lasted until 1870 when the Arm was again leaking badly. I am interested in the reasons for its failure. The analyses reveal that the asphalt had high free carbon content and this may have contributed to it. The free carbon is a reflection of the methods used in preparing the pitch and asphalt. From information unearthed at the Institution of Civil Engineers this appears to be a novel use of asphalt. I know of John Bethell's work with creosote but any information or possible sources about his preparation and use of coal tar would be of considerable help.
From: Denis Poole
I hope you don't think me cheeky, but I wonder if any of your members can help me. I live in Edinburgh and am currently looking for a link to a master builder in Greenwich or maybe Deptford. His name is Shorter. The dates I am looking for 1910 to 1920.
From: Foster Lovesay
I have found some information on your website regarding the South Met Gas Co. and I wonder whether you could help me. I was led to believe from a young boy that my Great Grandfather Thomas Lovesay saved some people from a gas works explosion and was presented with a gold watch in gratitude. However seeing the watch it only mentions his retirement in 1919 after 34 years employment as a foreman with them. Can you tell me if there was any explosion at this gas station and if so have you any records of anyone helping survivors?
From: Alison Dawe
I am hoping that you may be able to assist me in locating any information about my ancestor John Lewthwaite, 1816-1892. He was a brilliant inventor and I believe that he had some of his inventions exhibited at the London Industrial Exhibition of 1857. He is noted in particular for a Railway Ticket Printing Machine and a Fire Detection System.
From: Allan Green
I have very much enjoyed coming along for the past 2 years to tell you something of my researches. In 2004 it was the Cables & Cableships with my friend Glyn Wrench and last year PLUTO. I hope that I might be allowed back later on to tell you something about work I have been do on W T Henley?
Mr. Henley was not a son of Greenwich, however he did have strong connections. He started his submarine cable-making business at Morden Wharf before moving downstream to North Woolwich and then (after his death) the Company moved to Gravesend. I am hoping that perhaps some GIHS members and / or visitors to the web-pages might be able to help me with a few bits of missing information?
• Samuel Edmund Phillips (jnr) worked for some time as "electrician" for Mr. Henley but left him in 1875 (when times were financially bad for Henley) to join Claude Johnson (who left Telcon at Greenwich) and they founded the firm of Johnson & Phillips at Charlton. Does anyone have any information about S.E. Phillips's activities when he was working for Henley? Also, can anyone enlighten me as to the activities of J.E. Phillips senior who was reputed to have been involved in the telegraphy business?
• A fine portrait of Henley painted by Basil Holmes is preserved in the archives of the IEE. It was painted in 1870 when Henley was 56. I am interested to know what might have been the relationship between artist and sitter? Could they have been neighbours? It seems so unlike Henley to have commissioned a portrait of himself. Little is known of Holmes except that he painted no other known portraits and he specialised in landscapes.
• In the 19th century there was a pub called "The Henley Arms" close to the factory in North Woolwich. There is a "Henley Arms" there today but certainly not the original! Does anyone have information, or photographs perhaps of the original pub?
• Any information at all about Old Bill Henley would be gratefully received.
From: Andrew Freeman, Pepys Estate Visual History Project
I am writing on behalf of Pepys Community Forum based on the Pepys Estate in Deptford. We are planning a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the building of the Pepys Estate on the site of the Victoria victualling yards controlled by the Navy Board up till 1964 (the estate opened July 31st 1966). One of the projects we hope to do later this year is a creative history project based on some photo's taken in 1967 by the Royal Institute of British Architects when the estate was the recipient of a RIBA award. As part of the HLF funding aspiration is to provide direct education on heritage-related topics we are trying to arrange short talks for the participants from people with knowledge of the history and practices of this area. Having seen the material on your website I am hoping that you can recommend some of your members who may be able to come along and give short talks of topics of interest, this may include how recent developments are affecting the area as well as historical material about the industries that operated in the area. One of the goals of the project is to stimulate general interest in active participation in heritage issues in the area and hopefully some of the participants will want to develop their interests further. Another larger project that is still on the drawing board here and that we are looking for partners to work with, is connected with the impending development of Convoys Wharf (Kings Yard). As you may know there are three sites on the development that will be excavated under the supervision of GLAS. We would like to offer residents of the area an opportunity to be involved in some capacity and for a focus on our mostly hidden heritage to coincide with these excavations. If this is something you might be interested in then perhaps we can arrange some meeting of interested parties at a later date.
In addition as we are having a heritage-themed festival day on the last Saturday in July (29th) this year in Pepys Park you may be interested in having a stall to promote your activities?
From: Tim Sargeant
Can I refer to a letter from Jonathan Clarke in Vol 6, Issue 2, March 2003 about Sherwood, Tunbridge Wells. In case no-one else has answered this query: ‘Sherwood' at Tunbridge Wells was on the Pembury Road out of Tunbridge Wells. It was at one time a nurses' home but has recently all been re-developed. I do not know if the original house is still there. This would account for Siemens being a friend of Sir David Salomons who lived nearby, another electrical pioneer. Now I know that Siemens lived in the house I will take a closer look at it. In connection with Mr. Clarke's researches - would you have any knowledge of a three-wheeled electrically powered vehicle that was constructed by Sir David Salomons c.1878? Obviously Siemens would have had an interest or possibly even a hand in this. I am sure that somewhere there must be a picture of it. I have heard about a drawing but unfortunately this is now lost.
I am also trying to trace a chap by the name of Alex Cleghorn and noted that there was a reference to someone of this name on your site in connection with the restoration of the Massey Shaw. The Alex Cleghorn I want to trace was a motor rallyist in the 1960s and was co-driver to Don Grimshaw on the 1961 Monte Carlo Rally.
tim_@permanden,cauk (error in e-Mail address given in printed edition - so not linked)
From: G Broughton
Re: GIHS Newsletter January 2006 – Recording of Chemical Department Building.
In November 1931 I joined the Research Department, Woolwich Arsenal Metallurgical Section as a Laboratory Attendant. A relative with a similar rank already worked in the Cordite Section of the RD. My recollection is that the all research work was undertaken in the RD situated in Griffin Manor Way accessed by a gate near Plumstead Station.
The RD, responsible then to The War Department, was headed by a Chief Superintendent from the Armed Services – in the 1930s a Naval Captain. It has an imposing administrative HQ Building more recently occupied by The Chemical Inspectorate following the RD move to Fort Halstead. The RD has moved through the years as A.R.E., A.R.D.E., R.A.R.D.E and now QUINETIQ!
From: Sue Bullevant
Re. the enquiry about the Woolwich Infant and Bill Shipp.
The Woolwich Infant was the popular name for the ‘Armstrong Gun’ of 35 tons. There is still a public house called ‘The Woolwich Infant’ in Plumstead Road opposite the Royal Arsenal. The Armstrong Gun was not a mortar. There is a ‘Mallett’s Mortar’ on display at Woolwich Common.
Bare Knuckle Fighter - Tom Cribb was in the 19th century the famous ‘bare knuckle champion’ of England. He retired to Woolwich and there is a lion memorial to him in Woolwich Churchyard.
Bill Shipp – unfortunately I know nothing about him or a fighter called ‘The Woolwich Infant’. Perhaps there is a web site on bare knuckle fighters?
Web-Editor's note: I have found the following interesting page on bare knuckle fighting which features Tom Cribb amongst a number of others....
We (usually!) 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.
Whatever is happening to Bygone Kent?? The February issue contained an excellent article by Barbara Ludlow on Keeping Clean about the many public baths in the Greenwich and Woolwich area. (How many can you list?). So far everything was as usual. Then came letters talking about the bankruptcy of Meresborough Books. Then in April an issue turned up – a bit garish, quite honestly – from someone in Whitstable, with no sign of long time editor (and GIHS member) Pat O’Driscoll. It was very bright and cheerful – where did all those pictures come from???
This April edition has an article by Sarah Newman about Eltham at War.
Then no more until a May/June Emergency Issue showed up. Still a bit garish. Asking for another lot of subscriptions or the magazine would fold. There was nothing at all in it about Metropolitan Kent – so we don’t know what is going on. What do other people think???
Woolwich Antiquarian Society
The Socoiety has just published its 2005 Occasional Paper No.4. This is entirely about Shopping in Woolwich - taken from an idea by the late Tony Robin and contains articles by some 30 members plus many pictures and advertisements from the past.
Iris Bryce books
The following books, signed by author, Iris Bryce, are available from;
Canals Are My Home - Adventures in a Narrow Boat £12.99.
Remember Greenwich - £5
A Tree in the Quad - Life in Woolwich 1940s-70s. £4
by Philip Binns
Payne's and Borthwick's Wharves. Demolition of Borthwick Wharf for flats, commercial space, etc. The group supports the position taken by the Creekside Forum. Regret the loss of Borthwick’s Wharf. New build will present a bland face to the river.
147-151 Powis Street. Change of old Co-op store to offices. No objection to change of use but note the existing adverse impact on the upper parts of this listed store.
Bay Wharf, Tunnel Avenue. Development of new boat yard with floating dry docks, slip ways, cranes etc., Welcome this replacement for the facility at Lovell’s Wharf. Concern at utilitarian appearance.
Greenwich Pier. Demolition of ticket office and other buildings and erection of new ones. The group was very concerned about the siting of this and its relationship to other buildings in Cutty Sark Gardens. They were also concerned about seating and toilet provision.
Woolwich Dockyard Gatehouse, SE18. Conversion and refurbishment into flats. The group considered this to be an improvement but also note that this is a listed building.
Coronet Cinema, Eltham Well Hall. Restoration work to provide employment and community uses. Welcome the 1930s style for the new shop fronts. Needs to relate to the Progress Estate.
British Library Building, 25 Royal Arsenal West. Erection of high railings – group wondered why a less intrusive security system had not been chosen. Think that mesh should be a Victorian pattern and advise consultation with English Heritage.
19 Greenwich Church Street. Erection of an extension, etc. The group expressed grave concern at proposed internal alterations, in particular the removal of a chimney stack, a significant feature of the plan form of 18th century London. Recommend that bodies such at the Georgian Group are made aware of this.
55/57 Invicta Road. Demolition of coach garage and erection of blocks of flats.
Greenwich Conservation Group has been in correspondence with some of the luminaries of Greenwich Planning Department on the issue of the ‘Local List’. This is a list of buildings considered to be of architectural and/or historic interest which are not ‘listable’ by English Heritage but which should be taken note of in the planning process. The Greenwich list has not been updated since slightly before the year dot and it is of concern – particularly to industrial historians – that no new additions have been made to it for so long. Letters have been written on behalf of a group of local amenity societies pressing for a review – please watch this space.
Plans for the restoration of Severndroog Castle have taken a step forward thanks to the award of a Project Planning grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The £19,200 grant plus £15,000 from English Heritage will enable the Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust to carry out detailed plans for development.
Severndroog Castle is one of London’s hidden treasures, and is a much-loved local building. It has been closed to the public for over twenty years and has fallen into disrepair. Local residents formed the Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust (SCBPT), and have successfully negotiated an alternative plan for the full restoration of the Castle to return it to public use.
The Webmeister reports (2017 edit) these efforts came to a successful conclusion with its formal re-opening on July 20th, 2014.
Visit their website for the latest details and opening hours:severndroogcastle.org.uk/
Gasworks to Dome is a combination of a local history (and particularly oral history) project and a new technology project, focusing on East Greenwich (including the Peninsula) within living memory. We have made – and continue to make – a number of oral history recordings of local residents, and have also collected many images of the area, both old and recent. In addition we have taken many brand new photos, for comparison, and we’ve been holding Adobe Photoshop workshops. Then we have created a website – gasworkstodome.org.uk (please note this link no longer works and has been re-directed to another, relevant, site about Peninsula history created by Mary Mills) and loaded up all the images and interviews (there is more to come). More interestingly, we have been using the latest technology to tag clips of the interviews onto topics – streets, a landmarks, industries, activities – and we have put the photos into those categories as well. The result is a web of photos and sound clips, organized not in a hierarchy but in a variety of different ways. Do take a look at the site if you like, though bear in mind that it is still under construction. Or, if you would like to join in, on the oral history side, the photographic side, the technological side, or a bit of all three, either turn up at Independent Photography, Mauritius Road, East Greenwich, at 7.30pm on a Wednesday night (sessions are free) or give Rib Davis a ring on 07947 523756.
The Webmeister further notes that as a consequence of the Web pages created for this project no longer being accessible, the invaluable oral history recordings are currently unavailable. As there are copies of the recorded material as well as some transcripts, the Society is looking at ways of making these recordings available once again.
This list of meetings and events has been culled from leaflets and notices brought to our attention.
3rd June, GLIAS Walk. South Kensington Exhibitions. To book c/o 84a Kingston Road, Luton.email@example.com.
3rd June, Steaming up at Crossness Engines. Heritage Day. 10.30 am-5.00 pm. Tickets £4, Children under 16 FREE. Car park, refreshments, museum shop.
4th June, Guided tours of Charlton House. £2. To book 020 8856 3951
6th June, Crossness Engines. Non-steaming guided tours. Book 020 8311 3711 on Tues or Sunday between 9.30 and 4.00
10th June, The Peopling of Greenwich. Frances Ward. Heritage Centre 2 pm. £3 book 020 8854 2452
10th June, The Way We Were. Drop in Day at the Museum in Docklands. 10.30-5.30. includes Tom Wareham on A difficult and dangerous world. Investigating the hidden side of dock work 1890-1920. Book 0870 444 3855 £2.50
17th June, Inigo Jones. 10.30-16.15 Nat Maritime Museum. 020 8312 6522
18th June, Crossness Engines. Non-steaming guided tours. Book as above.
28th June, Rotherhithe & Bermondsey History Group visit to the Lavender Pond Pump House Museum, Rotherhithe. 7.30pm - meet at the Museum. 381 or 225 bus – get off at Lavender Pond.
28th June, TS Mercury The story of a training ship and its maritime collections. 10.30-13.00 National Maritime Museum. 020 8312 6522
21st June, GLIAS Walk Recording Walk in the Lea Valley Olympic Area. Book as above.
4th July, Crossness Engines. Non-steaming guided tours. Book as above.
16th July, Crossness Engines. Non-steaming guided tours. Book as above.
22-23 July, Guided tour of the Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey. A GLIAS visit. Talk by Wayne Cocroft ‘The Royal Gunpowder Mills Foreign rivals’. Advance booking is necessary. Royal Gunpowder Mills, Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1JY. 01992 707370
29th July, Heritage Themed Festival. Pepys Park. Estate Visual History Project.
30th July, Crossness Engines Trust second summer steam day with the focus on the families associated with the site and during World War II. www.crossness.org.uk
2nd August, Defending London’s River. Victor Smith. Docklands History Group. Jack Petchey Room, Museum in Docklands. 5.30 for 6 pm
8th August, Crossness Engines. Non-steaming guided tours. Book as above
20th August, Crossness Engines. Non-steaming guided tours. Book as above
5th September, Crossness Engines. Non-steaming guided tours. Book as above
16-17th September, Open House Day
17th September, Crossness Engines. Public Steaming Day.
27th September, Evelyn’s Gardens in Deptford and Surrey. Gill Friar. Rotherhithe and Bermondsey HG. 7.45pm. Old Mortuary, St. Marychurch Street, SE16.
3rd Ocober, Crossness Engines. Non-steaming guided tours. Book as above.
15th Ocober, Crossness Engines. Non-steaming guided tours. Book as above.
20th Ocober, From Plates to Pixels. Forensic Photography. Mr. N. Bishop, Police Photographer. Blackheath Scientific Society. 7.45pm.Mycenae House
25th Ocober, Bankside by Len Reilly. RBHG as above.
29th Ocober, Crossness Engines. Public Steaming Day
Faculty of Continuing Education – Birkbeck College
The Industrial Archaeology of East London
From Wednesday, 20th September 2006. 2.00 pm - 4.00 pm for 12 meetings including visits.
For a prospectus, please ring 0845 601 0174 or e-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Sponsor a tile at Crossness
One of the Crossness Engine Trust's objectives is to return the Beam Engine House to its original 1865 condition. To this end, they have been actively looking at the possibility of replacing an area of missing floor tiles in front of the north facing windows on the Beam floor. They feel that this colourful display of Victorian tiling would add to visitors’ enjoyment of the Engine House. It is laid with tiles of varying shape and colour (red, black and harvest blue) to form a geometric pattern. They have located a company at Burslam, Stoke on Trent, which still makes an exact match of the original tiles, in both size and colour.
The Trust is seeking help from those who would like to contribute to this restoration project. This will take the form of sponsorship and you can sponsor as few or as many tiles as you wish, up to a maximum of the 900 required, at a cost of £l per tile.
If you are interested, please make your cheque payable to the Crossness Engines Trust , The Old Works, Thames Water S.T.W., Belevedere Road, Abbey Wood, SE2 9AQ.
Shooters Hill Local History Group. Congratulations on their 13th anniversary exhibition and yummy anniversary dinner.
Third Symposium on Shipbuilding and Ships on the Thames
This took place in February at Greenwich University. Clearly all the papers had a great deal of local interest.
One directly local paper was given by Richard Hartree on John Penn and Sons - members will remember that Richard spoke on this subject to our 2005 AGM.
A summary of Richard’s paper is as follows:
The business was started by the author's great, great, great grandfather, John Penn in 1799, as a millwright's and agricultural engineering firm. Within twenty years it was one of the major engineering businesses in London.
John Penn II the only son, was born in 1805. In 1818 he entered the firm as an apprentice In the 1825 the firm took on its first marine engineering contract for engines for Ipswich and the Suffolk. In 1837, under John Penn II's guidance, they introduced a very successful design of oscillating engine for paddle steamers; which was still being made in the 1890s. In the 1840s they introduced their patented trunk engine for naval steam screw auxiliaries; it was manufactured into the 1870s.
The Russian (Crimean) War showed the firm's ability as an organiser of subcontractors in the manufacture of 75 gunboat engines. Screw propulsion was plagued by a serious technical problem with the stern bearing of the propeller shaft. In 1855 John Penn II patented a wood bearing. This overcame the problems and allowed screw propulsion to become practical; a major development. John Penn II died in 1878 and was succeeded by his son John Penn III and his brother William.
Most of the firm's orders came from the Admiralty and Thameside shipbuilders. In the 1870s and 80s business fell drastically. The site location and layout led to high costs. Technological developments favoured firms better placed to serve the growing cargo ship market. John Penn & Sons collapsed in 1899 and was bought by Thames Ironworks The Greenwich and Deptford works continued to operate until 1911.
There were also a number of queries raised:
British Shipbuilding Database – maintained by Dr. Ian Buxton, University of Newcastle. He is interested in lists of shipbuilding launches on the Thames.
Rif Winfield is looking for information on the design of Thames built naval sloops of the early 1740s (he notes Deptford built Swallow – John Buxton, 1743, Jamaica – Deptford Dockyard, 1732, Trial – Deptford Dockyard 1743, Speedwell – John Buxton 1744) email@example.com
Knut who wants to know about the copper bottoming of Naval Cutter, Alert, built Deptford Dockyard 1777.
Stuart Rankin would like information on Peter Kier. firstname.lastname@example.org
Unfortunately this mage is currently unavailable on-line.
The late Alan Pearsall (second left back) with the retrieved plate from the Maudslay tomb.
Unfortunately this mage is also currently unavailable on-line.
Alan Parfrey has sent us this picture of his great grandfather – a fireman. Any comments about the background are welcome. Is it a gasworks?
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.
ANY NEWSLETTER IS ONLY AS GOOD AS ITS CONTENTS.
IF YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO TO CONTRIBUTE - ARTICLES, REPORTS, LETTERS - ANYTHING.
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
DON'T FORGET TO ASK US FOR A MEMBERSHIP FORM!
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