Volume 10, Issue 3, December 2007



22nd January – AGM plus Tim Smith. Hydraulic Power in London and Greenwich

19th February – Malcolm Tucker. South Metropolitan Co. Gasholders

18th March – Mark Smith. Firepower. The History of the Collection

15th April – John King. Railway Air Services Ltd - A Story of
Business Politics in the 1930s

20th May – Neil Bennet. Merryweathers – Fire Engine Manufacturers of Greenwich

10th June – Lindsay Collier. The Industrial Museum of the Lee Valley

15th July – Roger Owen. Early Steam Ships and the City Canal

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

Early Street Lighting in Greenwich - the LESC Building

By Richard Cheffins

There is a building in Greenwich High Road that has long intrigued me and I was reminded of it earlier this year when I was sent the appraisal document for the Ashburnham Triangle Conservation Area and invited to comment. One of the proposals was to extend the Conservation Area to take in appropriate areas on the outer sides of the boundary roads. I suggested a small further addition to take in a pair of domestic scale buildings opposite the Jubilee Almshouses, a newsagents and a pub (the White Swan, latterly renamed the Miller), sadly derelict for several years. I also suggested the inclusion of an inconspicuous industrial building next to the pub, set slightly back in the corner of the grounds of the Greenwich Pumping Station. This appears to be an electricity sub-station, a single-storey structure with the initials LESC incised strongly on its lintel. My suggestion was rejected as planning permission for redevelopment had already been granted but this now seems doubtful.

In the meantime, I was spurred to research the LESC building and discovered an interesting history of the early development of electric lighting and the brilliant work of a young engineer with strong Greenwich connections. LESC (more usually abbreviated as LESCo) stood for the London Electric Supply Corporation whose roots go back to the early 1880s. Public use of electricity goes back to 1878 when the Gaiety Theatre was lit by six electric lights. Various buildings followed suit including, famously, the Savoy Theatre entirely lit by electricity in 1880. In each case the buildings concerned were lit by their own generators. Another such in 1883 was the Grosvenor Gallery in Bond Street but with this difference: the owner, Sir Coutts Lindsay, was persuaded by neighbours to install excess capacity, lay cables to adjacent properties and sell the surplus energy. To do this Lindsay formed the Grosvenor Gallery Electric Supply Corporation and hired the 22-year old Sebastian de Ferranti as his chief engineer to promote this growing sideline. He was the son of an Italian father and a British mother, born in Liverpool and as young as thirteen he was already inventing things. Before joining Lindsay, he worked for Siemens in Charlton. He joined the Grosvenor Gallery Company in 1886 and immediately started expanding there, changing the power supply from DC to AC and planning the world’s first large-scale high-voltage power station at Deptford.

The Grosvenor company became a limited liability company in 1887 with a capital of £1million under the name of the London Electric Supply Corporation. The legal power for the enterprise was provided by the London Electric Supply Corporation Electric Lighting Order 1889, a provisional order confirmed by the Electric Lighting Orders Confirmation (No. 2) Act 1889 (52&53 Vic. cap. clxxviii) passed on 26 August 1889. This established among other things the ‘area of supply,’ mostly in the West End but also including ‘The District of Greenwich, except the superstructure of the Creek Bridge.’ (Sect. xiii of the First Schedule of the Order). The District of Greenwich meant the District of the Greenwich Board of Works, a larger area than the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich formed in 1900 though smaller than the present borough. Sect. 23 (1) of the Order required the company within two years to ‘lay down suitable and sufficient distributing mains for the purpose of general supply throughout every street or part of a street specified…’, namely, in the Greenwich District, Greenwich Road, London Street [together now forming Greenwich High Road], Nelson Street, Romney Road, Trafalgar Road, Lower Woolwich Road as far as the Union Workhouse [site of the recently demolished Greenwich District Hospital], Church Street, Stockwell Street, New Cross Road, the Broadway, Lewisham High Road and [Deptford?] High Street. The Order also provided that the company deposit detailed maps of its undertakings at a minimum scale of 1:1056 with the Board of Trade, the Postmaster General, the County Council [the LCC] and the local authority [Greenwich District Board of Works]. In theory there should be two copies of these maps at the National Archives and one each at the London Metropolitan Archives and the Greenwich Heritage Centre.

All this depended on the completion of the Deptford Power Station and four sub-stations, three in the West End and one at Deptford. The main power station, completed in 1891, was a revolution in the generation of electric power; its turbines generated 10,000w compared to the average of around 750w elsewhere at the time. The power station , later designated Deptford East, long outlasted its begetter. Ferranti died in 1930 but his power station lasted an astonishing 66 years and survived two World Wars being shut down finally in 1957 and demolished in the early 1960s. LESCo built a second power station at Deptford (Deptford West), completed in 1928, decommissioned in 1983 and finally demolished in 1992. These power stations not only outlasted Ferranti but LESCo as well. After the First World War it formed a joint-committee with nine other electrical power companies operating in the metropolis to pool resources and in 1925 the joint-committee was transformed into a holding company called the London Power Company to which the assets of the component companies were gradually transferred (the Deptford Power Stations in 1928). LESCo, the London Power Co. and numerous other companies, private and municipal, were dissolved in 1948 and their assets were vested in the London Electricity Board (LEB), since privatised.

With the destruction of both the Deptford Power Stations and the redevelopment of the site, little physically remains locally (or, I suspect, elsewhere) to remind anybody of a pioneering company in the business of generating electric power. In this context the small sub-station in Greenwich High Road has great heritage significance. My first though was that it might be the ‘Deptford’ sub-station referred to in early sources, after all the sewage pumping Station next door was known until 1986 as the Deptford Pumping Station, despite being on the Greenwich side of the Creek. But, alas, the evidence does not support this. The 1894 25” O.S. map clearly shows a continuous line of domestic-scale housing along this stretch of road with the entrance to the pumping station in Norman Road. The 1914 25” map shows these houses demolished and the entrance to the pumping station in its present location, flanked by a wall but between the gate and the pub there are no buildings, neither the LESC sub-station nor the house to its right behind the wall. These first appear on the 1930 LCC revision of the 25” O.S. map. Given that the sub-station was unlikely to have been built during the First World War and would hardly bear the designation LESC after 1925 when LESCo’s assets were being transferred to the London Power Co., it would appear to date specifically from the early 1920s. Although later than one might have hoped, it remains a rare survival from an earlier age and deserves preserving.

There was one earlier attempt to provide West Greenwich with electric street lighting that should be mentioned. The Greenwich Electric Lighting Order 1883, confirmed by the Electric Lighting Orders Confirmation (No. 1) Act 1883 (46&47 Vic. cap. ccxiii), authorised the Metropolitan (Brush) Electric Light & Power Co. to supply electricity within the Greenwich District to High Street, Broadway, Deptford Bridge, Greenwich Road, London Street and Nelson Street, mostly within two years. A search on the internet for this company produced a single entry (from the Victoria County History for Middlesex) referring to a similar Order, confirmed by the same Act, to supply electricity to parts of Chelsea. ‘Nothing came of it’ was the laconic comment and from the fact that LESCo had essentially the same remit six years later, I think we can safely say nothing came of the Greenwich scheme either.


Our article on the possible demise of the East Greenwich Gasholder has sparked some comment. – this is what the North West Gas Historical Society has to say –

The threat to the Greenwich No. 1 Gas Holder has now been followed up with the current owners, Southern Gas Networks and they have set out their position regarding the future of the gas holder at East Greenwich:-

“We can advise that no decision has yet been taken regarding the isolation of the holder and, although discussions continue with English Partnerships on this issue. Southern Gas Networks will only act to isolate the holder in the event that alternative diurnal storage provision has been secured along with appropriate funding for any works. I understand your concerns regarding the history of the site; however, Southern Gas Networks' priority must be to provide the consumer with a safe, reliable and economical gas distribution system. Such values are endorsed through the regulatory control applied by Ofgem. In that context, gas holders may only be maintained where it is safe and economic to do so. Where this is no longer the case, SGN is obliged to consider the provision of diurnal storage through line pack within the high pressure local transmission pipeline system and other more modern technologies."

The confusion arising from the new HSE safety proposals may perhaps be better appreciated from the "amusing" reference, picked up by Malcolm Millichip, in the Daily Telegraph Business Section, of 25th October 2007, to a planning application in respect of the Oval Cricket Ground:-

"Surrey Cricket Club bowled a googly. ANOTHER little delay caused by those lovable ‘elf n' safety boys’. Surrey County Cricket Club has had its planning application to build a hotel at the Brit Oval blocked by Lambeth Council after objections from the Health and Safety Executive. They reckon that the £35m, 170-bedroom and 1600 seat development might be a bit close to the famous Kensington (sic) gas holder - that's been there for years. The club plans to appeal - fittingly."

What is undeniable, however, is that two adjacent London Boroughs have re-acted in a diametrically differing manner. It must make sense to someone!

and – here’s what the GLIAS newsletter had to say –

The famous giant gasholder on the Greenwich Peninsula is under threat of demolition following objections from a nearby school - it's a potential hazard - it might explode.

Constructed in 1886 it was the world's first four-lift holder, designed by George Livesey. It has survived the Silvertown explosion of 1917 and a terrorist bomb attack about 30 years ago. The holder failed to explode. Low- pressure gas storage in water-sealed holders has had an excellent safety record and this includes the bombing of the Second World War. A large mass of gas inside a gasholder cannot explode because there is no air present. You need the right gas-air mixture for a big bang. It you make a hole in the holder and light the gas the escaping gas just bums gently as it mixes with sufficient air for combustion. This is what happened at East Greenwich following the terrorist bomb. The kitchen at Ronan Point exploded because it was filled with the right mixture of gas and air.

Similarly a full petrol tank in a motor car is safe but an almost empty tank is a danger and can explode. This fact was only too well appreciated during the Second World War. In combat you tried to ensure that full tanks were hit by the enemy and not empty ones. The coal bunker on the Lusitania exploded because almost all the coal had been used during the Atlantic crossing.

That is why traditional low-pressure gas storage is safe - air is excluded. If the new school teaches children some elementary science they will appreciate this. The safe use of water-sealed gasholders has been going on for the best part of 299 years.

GIHS Chair, Sue Bullevant wrote to the Council on behalf of the Society – these are some of her points:

We would appreciate it if the historical importance of the gas holder could be taken into account - The gas holder, was the second in a series of a ground-breaking design initiated by Sir George Livesey. It is described as having "a guide frame on revolutionary cylindrical shell principles".... "of quite gigantic size".... "structural innovation".... "part of a progression of increasing size and sophistication". These holders were built deliberately without ornamentation and, in the 1880s, the design and safety of such holders was studied by Sir Benjamin Baker, an expert in the field, and he concluded that the structure was both "robust and safe".

The Mayor and the GLA has commissioned independent research on the risks associated with developments close to hazardous installations such as gas holders and the conclusion is that there is no serious risk associated with gas holders in London.

I would ask that, given its historical significance, the retention of the structure of the gas holder and its conversion to another use be favoured in preference to demolition and removal. There are examples worldwide, and closer to home in the regeneration of the Kings Cross area by Argent Group PLC, where conversion has been found to be both possible and challenging.

It is interesting to note that the triplet grouping at King's Cross has the advantage of a statutory listing and it begs the question as to why the remaining gas holder on the Greenwich Peninsula does not benefit from a similar protection.


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

From: John Sawtell

Where are the CKGB records? They must have been copious and informative. Privatisation should have called for safeguards and access. Do you have information on Blackwall Point Power Station 1952-198? architect plant installed etc?

From: Clive Chambers

I am particularly interested in the mechanics and working of gunboats because I have a special interest in what the Industrial Revolution meant to ship development. The engines have particular local interest. They were all made by the Thames-side shipbuilding companies of Penn and Maudsley as were some of the hulls. In addition, standardisation and mass production were introduced to enable the companies to meet the Government's order of nearly 200 vessels in a short period. There is also a mystery as to why so many gunboats were produced especially in 1856 when the war with Russia was over by April of that year. I have researched this and it reveals a separate intriguing story. Most excitingly I have located an original engine from a gunboat and will be seeing this at the end of the November. There is an intriguing story attached to the recovery of the engine from a wreck and the restoration of the engine and I hope to meet the archaeologists involved. Unfortunately the engine is in Australia! I have sent them an e-Mail headed, 'Can we have our engine back please?'

From: ‘that man from Down Under’

I quote from a book called ‘Ambulator - A pocket tour round London Within the circuit’ printed 1800. “In 1780 a cavern was discovered on the side of the ascent to Blackheath in the road to Dover. It consists of 7 large rooms form 12 to 36 feet wide each way, which have communication with each other by arched avenues. Some of the apartments have large conical domes 36 feet high, supported by a column of Chalk, 43 yards in circumference. The bottom of the cavern is 50 feet from the entrance at the extremities 160 feet and it is ascended by a flight of steps. The sides and roof are rocks of chalk. The bottom is a fine dry shaft and 170 feet underground is a well of very fine water 27 feet deep’

As a old miner mainly of coal I find this fascinating. It seems as if someone was doing more than extracting chalk, if found in 1780 it was made a while before. Did you know of this and do you know what happened to it?

From: Sophie Hanmore

I went on a guided tour of Brighton's sewers yesterday. It was fascinating. The sewer was constructed in 1869 and is a masterpiece of Victorian engineering. They invented a new kind of cement-based mortar so it would never need repointing and the brickwork is perfect. Practically all of it is still original, even down to the cast iron grilles. Many of the tunnels are built in an upside-down oval shape and this, along with the fact that all the sewers are constructed at just the right incline, means that the sewers are self-cleansing. The only problem they have is with fat from fast-food restaurants which solidifies into huge blockages and has to be removed by a man on a winch with a pickaxe. About ten or twenty years ago they built one of the overflow walls up a bit amid fears of global warming, etc. All the sewage started backing up into people's homes and hotels and it turned out that the whole system - miles of it - was perfectly calibrated to work as a whole with an entire system of overflow shafts and everything, etc. So they took the new wall down again. Yet another example of how the Victorians were better than us at this sort of thing!

From: Ann

I am researching three generations of Michael Pass who were Temper and marble lime burners, first at, Nine Elms (1780's-1850's) and subsequently at Millwall. M.Pass no 3 lived at the top of Hyde Vale and his son (Michael no 4) in Calvert Road. In the late 19th C I have followed their parallel careers as Lightermen through the Watermen's Company at Guildhall in much detail. However I have come up against a (lime plastered?) blank wall as far as their temper and marble lime burning go. Each generation owned sailing barges as well as lighters, and I wonder where they obtained their raw materials, and how far they distributed their products. Are you able to direct me to a scholar or source to help in my search for the details of this branch of the Lime industry?

From: Maggie

Do you know anything about Kent County Industrial School at Park Row, Greenwich?

Contact details for any of these from the Editor – address at the end of the page, or



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.

No items this issue.


by Philip Binns

Over recent months the group has commented on the following sites of interest to industrial historians:

Land bounded by Copperas Street/Deptford Creek/Creekside. Construction of four blocks of flats.

Heritage Centre, Building 41, Arsenal site. Erection of out-building for munitions wagon. Group protest at inappropriate style of building.

Building 10 Royal Arsenal. Formation of energy centre. Considered acceptable.

Phase 2 Mast Quay, Woolwich Church Street. Scoping opinion for the second phase.

Davy 161-163 Greenwich High Road. Erection of signage. Group does not like what is proposed.

Seagar Buildings Deptford. This is a Lewisham Council proposal. Group will monitor it.

Land at Royal Arsenal, Griffin Manor Way. Proposal for a new prison. Group will discuss further.

Francis Cantle's Memories of Johnson & Phillips

By Diana Rimel

Francis Cantle (a GIHS member) joined Johnson & Phillips [Victoria Way, Charlton] at the end of December 1929 as a Student Apprentice and worked first in the Transformer and Switchgear shops and then in the Transformer Drawing Office and Design Office, under Austin Stigant who was Head of the Department. Then after a period in the various Cable Test Departments was transferred to the Rubber Cable Workshops as liaison between the Research Department and the Manufacturing Areas. This coincided with the outbreak of the 1939-45 War and also coincided with the nervous breakdown of the foreman of the Rubber Covering Workshops so Cantle had to take over as foreman, in which capacity he stayed until the end of the War, after which he became Assistant Works Superintendent and then Superintendent. After the firm was taken over by Enfield Cables and then Delta Metal he became Manager of the Rubber and Plastics Cable Factory. Eventually it was decided by the Delta Board that there were too many cable factories in the Group which were duplicating each others activities and the Charlton work was transferred to Enfield. Cantle then being surplus to requirements he was given the job of investigating the training methods in the various factories, as a member of the Delta Training Department. He was nominally Area Training Officer for South East England, but his activities for the rest of his working life covered the various Delta Companies from Belfast to Ipswich and from Dundee to Portsmouth, with liaison to the Engineering Industry Training Board. He remained in this work until his retirement in March 1977.

J & P was a complex mix of various operations over the years involving all aspects of engineering such as:-

Power Cables up to Extra High Voltage
Transmission Transformers of all sizes up to the very largest for high voltage transmission
Switchgear for substations and power stations
Junction boxes for joining cables in Transmission lines
Water heaters for domestic and industrial use
Enamelled copper wire to supply to other Electrical Companies
An Engineering Department for the design and manufacture of machines for use in the Company and for the design and manufacture of equipment for fitting into vessels built to lay undersea cables.
A Department for the design and manufacture of electrical measuring instruments, and the manufacture of Arc Lamps
In fact, almost anything that you can name in connection with electrical manufacturing and distribution, including a Contract Department which could, and did, install electrical equipment both at home and overseas.

Walter Claude Johnson and Samuel Edmund Phillips and their carefully built up team of experts had a highly respected name in the world of electrical engineering. Any person who could say that he or she had been trained at J&P was sure of a good position anywhere in the industry. One of the last V2 rockets fired at this country landed on the Rubber Cable Works. Investigations showed that it must have landed on the chimney of the redundant Boiler House which stood adjacent to the Rubber Covering Shop and Test and Repair Shops. These buildings, of light construction, were destroyed without doing much damage to the plant in the buildings, although the adjacent Clock Tower was shattered and left hanging perilously over the railway. Out of the nightshift working at the time, only two people were killed, one being the women's Night Superintendent, Mrs Doll Scuffells, and the other, a man in the Vulcanising Shop. We soon set to work and cleared the rubble in the damaged areas and production was resumed in a week or two, working both day and night under tarpaulins while the building work went on around us. Luckily, the weather was kind to us and very little production was lost.

Harking back to the beginning of the war, it had been decided that the Cable Department would go 'all out' on cables for the armed forces. We were already making cables for each of the services and production was stepped up from about 200 core miles per week to over 1000 core miles, working seven days a week with full and part-time workers. One of the first extra jobs we got was for cable to combat magnetic mines. The first magnetic mines laid in the Thames Estuary soon caused loss of shipping, but the boffins immediately came up with the answer - wrap several turns of cable round the bulwarks of the ships and pass a large alternating electric current through the cable and thus totally confuse the magnetic field. By the end of the first week of the idea being born we had our first De-Gaussing cables made and we continued production throughout the war and after.

Small rubber cables for the Air Force had a variety of technical names which were meaningful to RAF technicians but meant nothing to the work-force, mainly mature women, part-timers. Lord Beaverbrook, who was Minister of Aircraft Production, under Winston Churchill, came up with the idea of giving the various cables names which the women could associate with actual aircraft. Instead of such names as Duflexmet4 or Duodecaflexmet7, he said why not call them Spitfire Fighter A and Blenheim Bomber B etc.. The women could relate to these names, as most of them had family members in the Forces and responded with extra enthusiasm, even though the association of a particular cable to a particular aircraft was pure chance!

When plans were being made for the opening of the Second Front in Europe, one problem which was taxing the minds of the Supreme Allied Command was how to supply millions of gallons of fuel to the vehicles which would be needed on the sweep through France towards Berlin. Lord Mountbatten spoke to Mr. A C Hartley, who was Technical Director of the Department of Petroleum Warfare, who suggested that a hollow telephone cable, which could consist of a lead pipe with protective steel wire armouring could be laid under the sea to follow the armed forces. One stumbling block was the size of the pipe and gear required to lay it under the sea. Submarine cable is no larger than a domestic garden hose and the laying gear in the existing cable ships could not accommodate the large pipe visualised.

Our Maintenance Dept already had in stock a set of Paying Out and Picking up Gear made for the GPO, but mothballed because of the war. This gear was modified to accept the larger pipe and installed in a cargo vessel refitted as a Pipe Layer as HMS Holdfast.

J&P, together with other cable makers with equipment for extruding lead alloy pipe of two inch internal diameter, then went ahead with manufacture with lengths of pipe for armouring. One snag as far as we were concerned was the size of the cable drums required for the job. Our limit, due to head-room, was for a 12 ft diameter drum which would only accommodate about 200 yards of pipe. Other cable companies could use larger drums and thus could make longer lengths.

The next task for J&P was to build large storage tanks in the Thamesside Docks to store the lengths of armoured pipe which were joined up by specially designed joints as they were fed from the barges which brought them from the various cable makers. The first 25 miles of HAIS pipe (Hertley, Anglo Iranian, Siemens) was laid across the Bristol Channel from a terminal near Swansea to another terminal near Ilfracombe on the North Devon Coast on the 27th December 1942. Our Mr George Whitehead was on board HMS Holdfast, which meant that he had to rush his Christmas Dinner, but no doubt he was compensated later by the award of an OBE. There were a few problems to overcome, such as warships dragging their anchors over the pipe and breaking it, but it was finally commissioned on 4th April 1943 and was regularly pumping 36,000 gallons of petrol per day across the British Channel.

It was decided that the final pipeline should have a 3 inch internal diameter and should be more heavily armoured with both steel wire and steel tape armouring, the bulk of the work being done by Siemens, Telegraph Construction and Callenders plus Standard Telephone, Pinelli at Southampton and Glovers in Lancashire. The various random lengths were joined up into 37 miles lengths in the Thamesside storage tanks and then transferred to two larger converted cargo ships equipped with J&P gear. After a beachhead had been firmly established on the other side of the English Channel, a two day high speed operation laid pipes from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg and more pipes later from Dungeness to Boulogne, there finally being seven pipes in all, backed up by some steel pipes, which had been manufactured and laid as a form of insurance.

As the war progressed, fuel was being landed at Milford Haven and Liverpool and pumped across England, across the Channel and eventually right up to the Rhine, with various pumping stations along the way, disguised as ruined houses! The plans for the whole system were passed to America for production there, but in spite of their many efforts it is doubtful if they ever succeeded in making and laying any serviceable pipe. In spite of many breakdowns of our pipe, known as Pluto, we were eventually pumping a million gallons of fuel per day across to Europe. Most of the breakdowns were due to pressure bursts, as it was found necessary to increase the pumping pressure to 1000lb per square inch, mainly due to the variations in terrain. Our lead pipe outlasted the steel pipe laid as an insurance and much of it was salvaged from the undersea section after the war in a reverse action to that of laying. I saw some of the land section still in use thirty-five years after the war when I visited the Normandy Beaches in the 1980s.

To be continued.....

SOIL PIPES (also known as Sewer Vent or Stench Pipes)

By Richard Buchanan

This article is prompted by a friend in the Borough of Lambeth who, walking along a habitual route, looked up and was impressed by a large ornate cast iron column. This he found to be a "stench pipe", eventually tracing its ownership to Thames Water - who had to be reminded they were responsible for them. They are now seeking them out and preparing a maintenance schedule, as many are of considerable age. Not everything that goes into the sewage system reaches the sewage works; gasses, either dissolved in effluent, or generated by bacteria in the sewer, are vented to the atmosphere through perforated manhole covers or, in residential streets where this is unacceptable, Soil Pipes. There are three types:

1. Domestic, attached to the house/block, being a continuation of the lavatory discharge stack upwards to above roof level. These are the responsibility of the householder.

2. Public, attached to a building for convenience, but connected to the main sewer, again rising above roof level. Building owners usually paint these when doing exterior decoration, though any maintenance will be down to the local water authority.

3. Public, free standing in the pavement, connected to the main sewer and the responsibility of the local water authority. Type 3 are usually of cast iron, often ornamental, typically: 6 inch /150 mm diameter; 20-25 feet / 6-8 metres tall.

Once installed sewer vent pipes need minimal maintenance, apart from occasional coats of paint - Type 3 is often done by the local council while painting their lamp posts (but not if they have concrete lamp posts). This comment is pertinent to the two soil pipes on the Shrewsbury Estate, Shooters Hill, where I live. Now a Conservation Area, the estate was built by Laings in the mid-1930s. It was then provided with iron lamp posts, replaced circa 1960 with a greater number of concrete lamp posts (recently replaced again with steel). One soil pipe is in Mereworth Drive. On the base it has a cover over an inspection hole, marked: ‘A C WOODROW & CO, LONDON’. The cover has a lug on either side secured by bolts to the column. Unfortunately, the cover is loose as both lugs are broken, the broken surfaces very rusty. It was painted green, the colour of our original lamp posts - possibly painted by the Council when they last painted those lamp posts in 1950s, and seemingly not painted since. (There was no smell emanating from the inspection hole while I was there.)

Another soil pipe is in Bushmoor Crescent, of the same type as in Mereworth Drive, but as the cover is missing and so too is the name. Its vent is blocked with leaves from the tree which totally envelops it.

The same company also manufactured a nearby cast iron Manhole Cover set in the roadway at the junction with Ashridge Crescent. This is divided along a diagonal, half with the company name the other half saying: PATENT NO 257800. Also by 65 Mereworth Drive is a Drain Grating with their name on (most Drain Gratings on the estate are anonymous).

A C WOODROW & Co also made some of the cast iron Drain Gratings and Manhole Covers on the estate. A Drain Grating in Eaglesfield Road (built in early 20thC) gives their address as: 84 HIGH HOLBORN, LONDON

On one type of Manhole Cover, divided along a diagonal, half gives the company name the other half: PATENT NO 257800

Woolwich has a magnificent ornamental soil pipe at the lower junction of Grand Depot Road & Woolwich New Road which is in need of paint. It is by: FREDK BIRD & Co Ltd, ENGINEERS, REGENT ST W, LONDON.

Drain Gratings in Market Street, Woolwich (which has been proposed as part of a Conservation Area for the Town Halls, Library, Swimming Baths etc). They are of a (probably early) type with slots parallel to the road, and less massive than most (except the most modem). They are by: R GINMAN & SON, PLUMSTEAD

Within the Borough of Greenwich, I have recently seen the following (including those mentioned above) Elsewhere in the Borough the same type of Woodrow soil pipe is provided but without a vent, and therefore no cover or name: in my list these are shown A C Woodrow & Co London (?). Other soil pipes in the Borough are also anonymous, but being of different types cannot be ascribed to Woodrow.

Type 2, in SE18:

Plum Lane junction Rowton Row

Kirk Lane junction Plumstead Common Road

Type 3, Woolwich, SE18:

Grand Depot Road lower junction Woolwich New Rd.. Fredk Bird & Co Ltd/ Engineers/ Regent St W/ London

Type 3, Shooters Hill, SE18:

9 Mereworth Drive, A C Woodrow & Co / London.

36 Bushmoor Crescent, A C Woodrow & Co / London (?, vent cover missing).

51 Brinklow Crescent, A C Woodrow & Co / London (original top).

125 Ankerdine Crescent, Broad & Co Ltd / No 1 / London. 146 Moordown Adams Hydraulics, York

Constitution Rise, by Campbell Close, A C Woodrow & Co (?, no vent or cover).

Condover Crescent Fabricated steel

151 Donaldson Road, Adams Hydraulics, York

Type 3, Plumstead, SE18:

158 Eglinton Road, Adams Hydraulics, York (upper portion missing)

St. Margarets Grove jnct, St Margarets Terrace, A C Woodrow & Co (?, no vent or cover; original top)

Raglan Road opposite Glyndon Community Centre, A C Woodrow & Co (?, a blocked off base, no pipe)

Plumstead Common Road, opposite Co-Op Store. Anon

Alabama Street opposite Lucknow Street, Anon

Plumstead Common Road junction Macoma Terrace, Adams Hydraulics, York

Type 3, Charlton, SE7:

144 Canberra Road, Adams Hydraulics, York

Drain and Manhole Covers

Drain Gratings

Moordown, near Ankerdine Crescent where the soil pipe was made by BROAD & Co LTD, were also made by that company.

A C WOODROW & CO, LONDON, not only manufactured the soil pipe in Mereworth Drive, but Drain Gratings, and a cast iron Manhole Cover set in the roadway. This is divided along a diagonal, half with the company name the other half saying: Patent No 257800. (Most drain gratings on the estate are anonymous.)

Much of the Borough remains to be covered. Please let me know of any Soil Pipe you are aware of (they are often rather self effacing) and whether it is in poor condition.


This list of meetings and events has been culled from leaflets and notices brought to our attention. If you would like your meeting listed here please contact Mary Mills, 24 Humber Road, SE3 7LR (020 8858 9482)



5th January, Mary Deering. A Year at Chartwell. Woolwich Antiq. Charlton House. 2pm

7th January, Ian Bevan. Georgian London. Mycenae House Group, 10.15am.
Details:, 020 8858 1006, £20 per term. £5 single meetings

8th January, Len Reilley on Octavia Hill in Lambeth and Southwark. SLAAS, Housing Co-op Hall, 106 The Cut, SE1. 7.30pm. £1

14th January, Chris Foord. Glenton Railroad (Mycenae)

16th January, GLIAS Lecture. No subject given. Robin Brook Centre, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. 6.30pm

18th January, Prof. Gabriel Aeppill. Introduction to Nanotechnology. Blackheath Scientific Soc. Mycenae House, 7.45pm

21st January, Malcolm Bacchus. Hatcham & Telegraph Hill. (Mycenae)

25th January, John King. Downham and the failure of joint action. Lewisham Local History Soc. (LLHS) Methodist Church Hall. Albion Way, SE13, 7.45pm. £1

28th January, Ian Mills. Victorian Church Craftsmen. (Mycenae)


4th February, Wendy Matthews. Florence Nightingale. (Mycenae)

7th February, Derek Morris. Maritime Mile End. Docklands History Group (DHG), Museum in Docklands, 5.30pm

9th February, Roger Hodge. Cutty Sark Restoration after the Fire. Woolwich Antiq. (see above)

11th February, Chris Plato. Jokers Jousts and Jaguars. (Mycenae)

12th February, Recent Archaeology in Southwark. SLAAS (see above)

15th February, Deborah Marchese. Training Guide Dogs for the Blind. Blackheath Scientific Soc. (see above)

18th February, Andy Brockman. Battlefield that Never Was. (Mycenae)

20th February, GLIAS Lecture – as above

25th February, Sandra Winter. Magic of Handbells. (Mycenae)

29th February, Neil Lloyd. A Kentish Conflict. (LLHS see above)


3rd March, Ian Currie. Frosts Freezes and Fairs. (Mycenae)

6th March, Sandra Soder. Princess Pochohontus, DHG (see above)

8th March, AGM + ‘In Greenwich Park’, Woolwich Antiq (see above

10th March, Richard Gray Magic Lantern to Multiplex. (Mycenae)

11th March, Dee Cook Society of Apothecaries. SLAAS (see above)

14th March, Bob Dean. Investigation of Engineering Failures. Blackheath Scientific Soc. (see above)

17th March, Brian Bloise Lost Country Houses of South London. (Mycenae)

19th March, GLIAS Lecture – as above.

28th March, Lewisham Heritage Strategy plus AGM, LLHS, Civic Suite, Lewisham Town Hall.


18th April, Andrew Mawson. Induction Furnaces. Sintering. Blackheath Scientific Soc. (see above)

19th April, South East Region Industrial Archaeology Conference. To be held at the University of East London.


16th May, Steve East. Thames Defences. Blackheath Scientific Soc.. (see above)



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

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 £1 per tile.

If you are interested, please make your cheque payable to:

Crossness Engines Trust, The Old Works, Thames Water S.T.W. , Belevedere Road, Abbey Wood, SE2 9AQ


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