Volume 2, Issue 1, February 1999


(PART 4)



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

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

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

11th May (Tuesday). Mary Mills on Steel and Big Guns on Greenwich marsh.

15th June, (Tuesday). Wesley Harry. Films on the Royal Arsenal. East Greenwich Community Centre.


All events 7.30 p.m., Both venues are at the corner of Trafalgar Road and Christchurch Way, SE10. East Greenwich Community Centre is in Christchurch Way and is the old school building. Christchurch Forum is in the Church itself on the main road.



The extensive chalk mines to the west of Wickham Lane, Plumstead, were dug in the 19th and early 20th centuries to support brick- and tile-making operations. Eventually the land was built over and in the 1940s and 50s began to show signs of great instability resulting in many collapses and one death. In 1955 the London County Council enacted legislation to permit it to locate the mines and fill them with fly ash. The mines are largely undocumented but plans and a brief history appeared in Chelsea Spelaeological Society Records Volume 6, Caves and Tunnels in Kent in 1969.

While sorting through a bundle of old papers in the Pengelly Trust Library I came across a record of the company accounts for the brick-making enterprises. These have been abstracted and supplemented with a commentary by someone who simply signed himself 'Fred' on 11 Nov. 1977. I believe that Fred was in fact carrying out genealogical research and looking for traces of relatives who might nave worked in the mines. The notes give a glimpse of the chequered history of the enterprise and raise the hope that similar files might exist at the Public Records Office for businesses associated with other underground workings in Kent. They comprise an annotated abstract from records at the Public Records Office.

The article then goes on to give detailed notes on a number of sites -

The South Metropolitan Brick and Lime Company Ltd.

The South Metropolitan Brick and Building Estates Company Ltd

The Wickham Brickworks Ltd. Wickham Lane Brickworks, Wickham, Kent (now SE2)

The Wickham and Greenhithe Brickworks Ltd.

Details include mainly company information, but also descriptions of sites, and equipment. Please see the Kent Underground Research Group Newsletter for December 1998. (c/o 2 Parkhurst Road, Bexley, Kent, DA5 1AR)



The following building shall be added:
G 3979. River Way SE10. (south-east side) Nos. 70-84.

Row of eight cottages. Dated by painted stone tablet on no. 68, The Pilot PH (not included). CEYLON PLACE New East Greenwich 1801. Yellow stock brick with slate roofs, York stone sills to windows, The cottages of two stories, one window per floor with gauged arches. Arched door openings. Single storey extension to rear of cottages of c.1900. Interiors of cottages extensively retain original fielded wooden partition walls, wooden stairs, joinery and floorboards. Included as the earliest surviving residential development on the East Greenwich Peninsula. Constructed for works at the adjacent tidal mill and chemical works... A rare survival of late Georgian artisan housing.

Signed by authority of the Secretary of State, 28th October 1998.



- a district which depended for centuries on the Port of London and whose history reflected the life on the River Thames. Seafaring, shipbuilding, ship repairing, and cargo handling.

Price £3.50. Available from Southwark Local Studies Library (0171 403 3507) and some local bookshops.

EXPLORE - South East London's Green Chain Walk

Even better - a pack of walks on card with wonderful drawings. Some industrial sites - well, a few - mentioned.

£3.50 from local outlets or Green Chain Project Office, 0181 312 5884.



This list of meetings and events has been culled from leaflets and notices brought to our attention.

If you want your meeting listed here please contact 24 Humber Road, SE3 7LTY (0181 858 9482)

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


10th February. Michael Faraday and the lighthouse service. Frank James. Newcomen Society, Science Museum. 5.45pm

13th February. The Victorian Amateur Astronomer. £25. 10.30am-4.15pm. Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.

17th February. The Kempton Park Engines Project. John Corker GLIAS, Lecture Theatre 3, Science Block, St. Bartholomew Medical School, Charterhouse Sq. EC1. 6.30pm

18th February. Magnificent Models. £29. 10.30am-4.15pm Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.

19th February. Recent Advances in Genetic Engineering. Dr. Evans. Blackheath Scientific Society 7.45 Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, SE3.

24th February. Peter the Great by Rev. Graham Cornick. Greenwich Historical Assoc. Music Centre, Blackheath High School, Vanburgh Park Road, SE3. 8.00pm

24th February. 300 Years of Greenland Doc. Whaling Industry at Greenland Dock. Archaeological Excavations at Rainbow Quay. Time & Talents, Old Mortuary, St.Marychurch Street, SE16. 7.30pm. (RBLHG)

26th February. Memoirs of a Leader. Andy Hawkins. LLH Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13 7.45pm

27th February. Researching Local History £25. 10.30am-4.15pm. Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.

3rd March. Trinity House and Deptford Strond. Peter Gurnett, DHG, Room C, Museum of London, London Wall, EC2 6.00pm

10th March. Richard Cail. Victorian Contractor. R. Rennison. Newcomen Society, Science Museum. 5.45pm

12th-13th March. 19th & 20th Century Builder's Ship Models. £46 10.30am-4.15pm. Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.

17th/18th March. Association for Industrial Archaeology, Ironbridge Weekend. Discussion on current issues. Details from Gordon Knowles 01372 458396

17th March. The Victorian Internet. Tom Stannage. GLIAS, Lecture Theatre 3, Science Block, St. Bartholomew Medical School, Charterhouse Square, EC1. 6.30pm

19th March. Low Frequency Radiation. Dr.Jeffers. Blackheath Scientific Society 7.45pm Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, SE3.

27/28th March. Association for Industrial Archaeology, Ironbridge Weekend. Discussion on current issues. Details Gordon Knowles, 01372 458396

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

7th April. The Lower Thames, Douglas Barber. DHG, Room C, Museum of London, London Wall, EC2 6.00pm

10th April. South East Regional Industrial Archaeology Conference. University of Reading. Includes Bob Carr on Docklands, Bill White on 100 year of Cinemas, Paul Sowan on the importance of geology and groundwater. etc. Details from Dennis Johnson 0118 983 2009

14th April. History of Power Semi-conductor Devices. Brian Bowers. Newcomen Society, Science Museum. 5.45pm

16th April. AGM Blackheath Scientific Society, 7.45pm Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, SE3.

21st April. Recording London's Heritage. GLIAS, Lecture Theatre 3, Science Block, St. Bartholomew Medical School, Charterhouse Square, EC1. 6.30pm

23rd April. The Story of Bermondsey, Mary Boast LLH Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13 7.45pm

29th April. The British Fighting Sailor £25. 10.30am-4.15pm. Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.

5th May. The Royals: Docks, Ships and Men. George Shaw. DHG, Room C, Museum of London, EC2 6.00pm

8th May. Model Making Techniques £25. 10.30am-4.15pm Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.

21st May. Infrared Astronomy. Dr.Emmerson, Blackheath Scientific Soc. 7.45pm. Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, SE3.

22nd May. Fear God and Dread Nought £25. 10.30am-4.15pm. Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.

2nd June. The Thames Today. Alan Bennett, DHG, Room C, Museum of London, London Wall, EC2 6.00pm

19th June. Contemporary Piracy £25. 10.30am-4.15pm. Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.

25th June. Wandsworth Museum Story. Pat Astley Cooper, LLH Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, SE13 7.45pm

7th July. Staging a Major Exhibition. London Bodies. Alex Werner, DHG, Room C, Museum of London, London Wall, EC2 6.00pm

4th August. Old and New History of Tea by the Pool. Edward Bramah. DHG, Room C, Museum of London. 6.00pm

1st September. Siemens. John Ford DHG, Room C, Museum of London, London Wall, EC2 6.00pm

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

10th-16th September. Association for Industrial Archaeology Conference, Chatham.
Admissions Officer, Leicester University, Leicester LE1 7RH 0161 252 2414.
Pre-conference seminar on current thinking in industrial archaeology.
Anyone interested in submitting a paper should get in touch with GLIAS via Tim Smith (01442 863 846).

6th October. Manuscripts at Guildhall. Stephen Freeth, DHG, Room C, Museum of London, EC2 6.00pm

3rd November. London Hydraulic Power Co. Tim Smith, DHG, Room C, Museum of London, EC2 6.00pm


Always with us - A history of the Poor in Greenwich. Single Term course, Tuesdays from 19th January. 10.30am-12.30pm. Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.

London Docklands. Single Term Course. Wednesdays 10.30am-12.30pm. £25. from 28th April Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747

London's Industrial Heritage. Bob Carr at City University. From Jan. 21st at 6.30pm.
Details: Dept. of Continuing Education. City University, Northampton Square, EC1

London Docklands. Single Term Course. Wednesdays 10.30-12.30 £25. from 28th April, Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.


by John Day

I had acquired a 1929 two-port Model 90 Sunbeam motorcycle. Going home one day, I was riding between ranks of the homeward going men when a chap rode his bicycle straight out a door, at right angles across the road, blocking it. The only choice I had was where to hit him and I chose a point just in front of his legs. He escaped with a bent bicycle and cracked false teeth and I was hauled up before the Chief Superintendent and banned from riding in the Arsenal for six months (somebody had split on that I had a habit of riding flat out on the long straight, opposite the sale ground, in the eastern end of the Arsenal).

I had a narrow escape on one job in the Tempering pits. The crane was unusual in having an hydraulic system for the hoisting function, a 25 H.P. motor drove a pump for a multi-pulley sheave jigger. This hung down the north side of the building and the hoist wire rope was threaded round the two sheaves so that, when pressure was released from the jigger, the weight of a suspended gun was sufficient to let the gun drop very rapidly into a deep tank of rape oil. Tall water-gas fired furnaces, with side opening doors were used for heating. The crane gantry was some seventy or eighty feet above ground level since the crane had to be able to lift a 15 inch barrel vertically, such a barrel being up to fifty feet long. The sides of the gantry were also the tanks for the hydraulic system.

The bolts holding the plate that clamped the commutator segments had broken, which meant taking the armature to the electrical shop for repair. The first problem was to remove the pinion from the motor shaft, which, in theory was the province of the mechanical maintenance people. However, although I was part of the electrical gang, as an engineering apprentice I was allowed, by the unions, to remove the pinion, (it being held that as we were being apprenticed to all the trades during our five years, we could practice them even though we might not have yet worked at that particular one). After the pinion was off and the armature out, the next problem was to lower the armature to the ground, this meant calling in the ìheavy gangî. Their ganger was 'Buck' Embury, a short, stocky man with thick arms and legs and having a voice that seemed to come from a couple of feet below floor level. Whenever he looked at a job, his first words were ì ëand me little tappiní ëammerî. This was a 14 lb. head on a short shaft. The rest of the gang were the thinnest and weediest men you can imagine.

To lower the armature, two snatch blocks were fixed, one on the roof girders (!) and the other to a bolt on the floor. A long wire rope was attached to the armature at one end and to a Shelvoke and Drewery electric truck (known as a dilly). When the dilly was driven into the building, the armature was lowered and vice versa. It all worked very well, but it was a job I shall never forget. Walking across the unguarded gantry, I tripped on a manhole cover and measured my length with a shoulder and arm hanging over the edge. The spanner I was holding seemed to take an age to reach the ground, and then I had to go down to fetch it. Down and up the external steel staircase taught one not to forget tools.

Outside the tall tempering pits building was a kind of open air store for large gun barrels straddled by a 100 ton crane. One day. I saw what could have been a 14 inch barrel clamped to the crane rails, with the Arsenal fire brigade pouring water through it. The breech block, something like an eight foot cube of steel. had steel girders clamped across it and it was being heated by gas jet pipes all round. The crane hook was heaving at the girders hard enough to start the gantry bending. Nothing was moving ! A breech block is screwed on to the end of the barrel, often a shrink fit, with a buttress thread and on this occasion either someone had got sums wrong on the amount of shrink available, or it had taken too long to screw the block on - it was stuck half way. What happened eventually I never found out, all I could gather was it never happened !

When I was with Bill Heywood, we worked through one closed week. The automatic machines in the New Fuze had all their wiring in slip-joint conduit (steel tubing held to junction boxes etc. with grub screws) which allowed the cutting oil to attack the wiring. We spent the week rewiring rows of machines using screwed joint conduit, it was hard and messy work but it taught me how to use a bending block.

For those who have never met a bending block, it consisted of a piece of 4" x 2" timber about four feet long having a hole near one end. The hole was slightly larger than the conduit to be bent and was heavily radiused towards the other end. To bend a piece of conduit, one fed it through the hole to the start of the bend and slipped a length of larger bore pipe, or conduit, over the conduit to be bent, up to where the bend had to be. With one foot against the block, a downward heave on the pipe would start the bend. The radius of the bend could be increased by inching the conduit through the block and bending a little each time. With practice the conduit could be bent to the exact angle, radius and position needed to fit where it was needed.

To be continued...



Iain describes the first stages in setting up the new museum - put together for a visit of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The research, as well as revealing the remarkable ingenuity of the artefacts, uncovered a number of interesting and sometimes bizarre facts and anecdotes. Not all the items we had were exhibited.

The Morse taker was a telegraph receiver which made a permanent record of messages received on paper tape. Made largely of brass, the components were fixed to a brass plate screwed to a mahogany base A clockwork motor drew the paper tape over and under several pulleys. A wheel, which acted as a pen rested in an ink well beneath the tape at the point where it ran under one of the pulleys. When a signal was received, the wheel was lifted by a solenoid to make contact with the tape, drawing a line whose length was determined by the time the solenoid was activated. John Arnold referred to this instrument as "The Beautiful Indian Princess", possibly associating "Inker" with "Inca". There was certainly nothing in its appearance to suggest the description.

We obtained some paper tape from the Teleprinter Section and found this fitted the instrument quite well. We wrote a Morse message on the tape by filling the ink well, running the motor and operating the ink wheel by hand.

The Soot Writer was an ingenious solution to the problem of detecting a very weak signal from a tong line, e.g. a transatlantic cable. Initially they attempted to overcome the problem by transmitting at very high voltages, up to 1,500 volts. This rapidly broke down the insulation of the cable. The solution lay in building a very sensitive detector A coil of very fine wire was wound on a former of aluminium (itself an innovation for the 1880's) and suspended between the arms of a large electromagnet, powered from a local battery to give a massive magnetic field. The tiny field created by the signal received from the cable, when reacting to this massive local field, was sufficient to deflect the coil, one way to indicate a dot and the other a dash Fixed to the coil was a wafer thin 'ivory' stylus, just touching a paper tape drawn past it by a clockwork motor, like the Morse Inker. Before reaching the stylus the tape was covered with soot from a smoky flame from an oil burner. A heavy brass wheel pressed againt the tape absorbed the heat to prevent it catching fire. After the stylus had scratched its mark in the soot, the tape passed through a bath of varnish, and thence through a narrow tunnel heated by a spirit lamp to harden the varnish, before being wound onto a reel

We also operated this to produce a trace on the paper tape. We found that modern varnish in the varnish bath, and methylated spirits in the drying tunnel were quite satisfactory. However neither methylated spirits nor paraffin would produce a sufficiently smoky flame. A candle also proved unsatisfactory for the same reason. I tried some petrol and oil mixture which I had drained from my two-stroke motorcycle, but found the flame was too hot and set the paper tape alight. The next day I tried again, and by this time the petrol had evaporated. The remaining lubricating oil burnt with a very satisfactory cool, smoky flame, enabling us to make a trace. The varnish crackled like frying bacon as it passed through the drying tunnel.

The Alphabetic Telegraph Machine transmitted a series of pulses of alternating current, one half wave for each letter of the alphabet, to turn the needle on a dial of the receiver. The transmitter consisted of a handle which could be turned to point at the desired letter or numeral, rather like the machines which would punch messages on strips of aluminium seen on railway stations up to about the 1950's surprisingly, the transmitter and receiver rarely got out of synchronisation, even if the handle was turned slowly. There was a reset facility which was used whenever a message was sent. The device was built into an elegant brassbound mahogany box, with mainly brass components. The transmitter, at that time about 80 years old, could still administer a nasty electric shock to the unwary.

The Fleming Voltmeter. Designed about 1890, comprised two coils, one suspended from a filament, whose fields acted on each other. One end of the filament was fixed to a calibrated dial, the other to the base of the instrument. One coil was circular and passed through the "eyes" of the other, which was in the form of a figure of eight. The suspended coil could move only a very short distance before coming in contact with its partner. The technique was then to twist the filament by turning the calibrated dial, usually hundreds of turns, till the suspended coil was again 'floating'. The coils were wrapped in white tape, giving the impression of being bandaged, and the instrument built into a smart mahogany box. By the standards of the day, the voltmeter was very expensive (the task of winding the interlocking coils must have been horrendous). It was also tricky to calibrate and to use. However, in the hands of a skilled operator it was accurate to within a thousandth of a volt or so, an astonishing achievement for a non-electronic instrument

The Morse Keyboard comprised a keyboard, like a typewriter but not QWERTY, which would transmit the appropriate Morse letter. Unfortunately, we learned, the device had a rather low maximum speed of operation, and operators could soon beat the machine as they became practised. The machine could not keep pace with a good manual telegraphist, and was far more expensive than a telegraph key, and so was discontinued. We did not exhibit our model.

The Siemens Water Meter which we exhibited was not a genuine historic item but a reproduction built to demonstrate the principle. Its appearance bore scant resemblance to the original. It consisted of a simple turbine connected to a mechanical revolution counter. It came with an electric pump and plastic pipes to make the connections.

To be continued...



From Dick Moy

Re. Greenwich Waterfront Audit. This is a copy of a letter sent to the Acting Waterfront Co-ordinator.

The Greenwich Industrial History Society published the outline of your Waterfront History Audit and asked for us to suggest additions direct to you. I think there are a few notable omissions, which are briefly as listed below. (I could supply you with more exact dates or you could get these from the Local History Department).

1. As you started with Woolwich Dockyard to the east why not finish with Deptford Dockyard to the west? This later became the naval victualling yard and, later still, the foreign cattle market. Parts of one of the Tudor buildings are still visible within Convoy's yard.

2. Land to the west of Deptford Creek was used as a dry dock and shipbuilding yard by both General Steam Navigation and the East India Company.

3. Deptford Creek is not mentioned. Slightly up the Creek there were several mills running on fresh water from the River Ravensbourne. Nearer to the Thames were two tide mills. As there was no bridge until you reached Deptford Broadway, there was a small ferry across the creek

4. There were two famous ferries from the stairs in Deptford and Potter's Ferry from Garden Stairs by the foot tunnel in Greenwich (which, incidentally, you haven't mentioned) These very ancient ferries all ran to the Isle of Dogs. Potter's Ferry' ran until the foot tunnel opened and was strategic for Isle of Dogs workers living south of the River. There was also, for a few years, a cable ferry running from near Wood Wharf to the north bank. The slipway can still be seen very clearly on the north side and there are some physical remains on the south side.

5. Norway Wharf adjacent to the present Norway Street, with shelter within the mouth of the creek was very significant for timber and other North European products right up to the middle of the last century

6. Wood Wharf was not a mooring. It was at the east end of Billingsgate Dock which was where the Arctic fishing fleet was based. This was the only sheltered mooring place in Greenwich after Ship Dock (by the Royal Palace) was closed.

7. You've mentioned hulks at Woolwich. The Dreadnought Seamen's' Hospital started its life in a hulk moored in the Thames, roughly opposite Billingsgate, for 40 years.

8. The Ship Hotel faced the foot tunnel and was not really on the present site of the Cutty Sark.

9. You've not mentioned the Royal Naval College or the Tudor Palace at all.

10. The crane stood at the west end of Crane Street and was there since Tudor times

11. Highbridge. This was so named because a wharf there had a bridge over the footway into further buildings to the south. This is rather like the scrapyard which, up to the 1970s, would actually move goods by crane over the public walkway from their yard, which was served by lorries, to the jetty from which they loaded the barges. I don't believe the decree from Venice was in any way concerned with this particular site.

12. Greenwich Power Station was on the site of the very decorative c1600 house lived in by the Crowley family.

13. The Greenwich Peninsula: You've listed many of the long-standing businesses here, but some of the earlier ones are not included - very particularly, the Powder Magazine. I can tell you the exact site of this if you wish to know.

14. Blackwall Point was, early in the 19th century, the site of the Blackwall Tavern. This was immortalised by Tissot's famous painting.

15. It is of course Blackwall and not Blackwell Tunnel.


From Mary Mills

This is a copy of a letter sent in response to the Waterfront Audit document:

Thank you for sending me a copy of the Greenwich Waterfront Audit Document. I am concentrating on the historical elements because I am sure other people will comment on other aspects.

1. 'Industrial Heritage Highlights'. Although this section contains some interesting material most of it is a dreadful mish-mash of popular stories and some misconceptions. Several very major sites are ignored while much of what is actually included is, frankly, trivia. I don't feel able to comment in detail - there is too much wrong with it! I am hoping to publish something about the peninsula myself soon, and I understand other people have detailed knowledge of other areas. Hopefully this information can be put together in an accurate form eventually.

2. What is needed is an audit of heritage sites on the river and there are two different aspects to this..

a. A straightforward historical assessment - something to be deposited in the library for historians to read. Someone should draw up a bibliography so that people know where to go for reference material in the future.

b. An audit of what is actually there, physically, of items which lend character to the riverside. This is so that anyone intending to change the riverside knows what they can change, and what has to be put back, or treated with respect - and the planning department should hold this list. These items do not necessarily need to be historically important but they are things that add to 'atmosphere' on the riverfront. Greenwich has very much criticised for wholesale removal of 'atmosphere' where the riverside path has been upgraded.

c. An audit of things which have gone missing which added atmosphere and interest. There are a number of heritage items, which at one time or another have been on the riverside but, which have now gone. Could an audit perhaps also look at these with a view to restoration - and better 'atmosphere'? For example - there is story that the mast of the Great Eastern was outside Enderby House until the 1960s - at Pipers Wharf there were items from the record breaking 'Giralda'. Where have they all gone?

3. Surely you could have got someone to do this pre-document who knew enough to spell 'Blackwall' correctly!

I think that overall the Waterfront Team and the Borough need to think through very carefully what they want from the riverside. Things have become very polarised and 'conservation' has tended to mean some of the excesses seen in Docklands where embarrassing replicas of historical artefacts are put in inappropriate settings. On the other hand there is the sort of thing we have seen in the past in Greenwich where everything is swept away for a big clean, tidy, boring, sterile pathway. There has to be a third way!

There is an important issue of what is in 'good taste' and what needs to be preserved when, where and why.


From Iris Bryce

I have been reading through your newsletter again and saw mention of Piper's Wharf. My brother Frank Challis was apprenticed there in the early thirties but he never completed the necessary seven years, being drawn to the newer electronic manufacturing of Siemens Bros. after some four years. This was the beginning of a serious breach between father and son that continued up to and beyond our father's death. During his time at Piper's I have memories of his constant moaning about how fed up he was of only learning how to do riveting and I think the yard were building at that time the Thames Tug Boats of the SUN class. There were at that period many tug boats named SUN 2... SUN 3... SUN 4 etc. to be seen on the Thames between London and Charlton. Do hope these bits and pieces are of some use!


From John Walton, Deputy Chief Executive, Royal Artillery Museums Ltd.

Thank you for your commiseration regarding the news that the Heritage Lottery Fund decided not to award us a second grant of £10m. It is a big disappointment but it is not the end of the world. It has produced some interesting press and the Parliamentary Select Committee inquiring into the Heritage matters have shown interest which we hope will both encourage and persuade other people to support the Project. Time will tell. However we are, of course, continuing our fund raising campaign with renewed rigour.

We still intend to create a world class museum in the old Royal Arsenal using the four buildings previously identified for the purpose. With less money available we are currently refining our plan. In the immediate future we propose to use three of the buildings to create a museum telling the story of artillery, the Royal Regiment of Artillery primarily focusing on the 20th Century and the Arsenal where it impacts on the artillery matters. Part of one wing of Building 41 may he given to the Borough to create the Borough Heritage Centre.

We intend to remain the flagship project for the regeneration of the Royal Arsenal, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors thus bringing prosperity to the area and to be a major force contributing to the regeneration of Woolwich.


From Sue Parker

Johnson and Phillips. A small group of us are looking at the history of the Johnson and Philips Electrical Engineering Company of Charlton, and we would be pleased to hear from anyone who worked there, or had any interesting information about the firm. Contact Jack Vaughan (0181 855 6512) or Sue Parker (0181 854 2137).


From Pat O'Driscoll

Yes, there are omissions from the list in the Waterfront Audit which you reproduced - especially between Blackwall Point and Woolwich. I was very interested in the piece on Richard Wheen. Years ago, the late Bill Kemp told me that the soap works had been built on the site of a pin factory and how he and others who worked there had to go into the basement after a fire, or something of the kind, to recover fat which had fallen into the basement and found rusting pins galore.

Editorial Note: a catalogue for the Greenwich Industrial Exhibition gives the brand names of Wheen's soaps: Wheen's Washer, Fearless Carbolic, Refined Primrose, Gazelle Health Soap Powder, Suberb, Bath Toilet Soap, Pearly Soap Flakes, and Deuce Lawen Tennis Ball Cleaner.


From An Enquirer

I wonder if anyone could give me any information about equipment used between the wars at Harvey & Co. of Charlton. I understand that they had a lathe acquired from the German firm of Krupps? Is this so?


From Mark Bond

I am in process of searching for a 'long lost' family member. My great-grandfather, for whom I have no name, was Director of a steel making company in or near Greenwich around 1925. The company was I believe called Pressed Steel or later Rovers. Please can anyone help?


From Philip Binns

I thought I should give you some news of the Greenwich Conservation Group Meetings. The two Woolwich Arsenal applications and the Commonwealth Buildings should be noted - as should the Old Town Hall, Calderwood Street, application.

The Conservation Group minuted that they could not give a considered comment to the Arsenal application without a detailed submission. They asked why traffic movements were taking precedence over that for the pedestrian.

With reference to the Commonwealth Buildings application for change of use to a Christian community centre they did not object but asked why a listed building consent was not sought.

The Old Town Hall application is for renewal of entrance doors - the committee thought the detail was totally insufficient and regretted the proposal to scale down the height of the existing doors with a 'crude ply panel'.

Can I draw your attention to the notes about 24 Royal Hill which I understand has been looked at by the Royal Commission last year:

The Conservation Group minuted concern about proposals to extend this building and to infill the rear yard to the shop. They thought that consideration of the application should have regard to the RCHME report.

Another interesting application is the one for the corner of Royal Hill and Blisset Street:

The Conservation Group welcomed a proposal for housing on this site - the derelict site of the former Greenwich Park to Nunhead railway line (1888-1917). The Group asked the Council to ensure that all traces of railway retaining walls are incorporated into the development and recommend an archaeological survey as this is the point at where the line went into a tunnel until its emergence at the Lewisham side of Blackheath Hill.

I have been involved in the application to rebuild Greenwich Pier. This application has already been passed but I thought it possible that we might make an appeal to the developers. The plan is to demolish the existing buildings and to replace them with a new superstructure of two storeys. This will be different from the present pier - which is in effect somewhere for embarking and disembarking - in that it will consist of a retail complex with four restaurants. It will be glazed over - making it very prominent from the river - and will be open until late in the evening. I hope that GIHS will back an appeal to the developers to retain some of the distinctive buildings and features which gave character to the old pier. In particular there is a long narrow building of some interest.

This issue was raised at the GIHS meeting in January which agreed to back Philip's letter on this subject.

One of our members raised the issue of the Borough's use of the Sites and Monuments Record. The national Association for Industrial Archaelogy has led a push to get as many industrial sites as possible on this register - so that important sites can be made known to developers before work is undertaken. This initiative is known as IRIS and was initially run from the University of Lancaster with a full time officer.

GLIAS is currently developing a computer database of sites in London to complement this - copies of the standard form can be made available to anyone who is interested.

It has been suggested that Greenwich has not been the most enthusiastic borough in consulting the national register. The GIHS Committee wrote to London Borough of Greenwich Planning Department asking about this and asking if the sites on the Waterfront Audit would be put on the register once identified. We received the following reply:

From Fritz Henning, General Manager, Greenwich Planning

Firstly, I feel that I must clarify the situation regarding the responsibility for the Sites and Monuments Record. The responsibility for the whole of the Greater London area lies exclusively with the English Heritage archeaology (sic) service. From your letter it would appear that GLIAS has already liaised with English Heritage on the issue of recording industrial sites of archeaological (sic) importance.

As far as Greenwich Council is concerned, there is a statutory responsibility to advise developers of the archeaological (sic) significance of sites in the Borough and promote the preservation and interpretation of important finds. However the prime source of archeaological (sic) expertise in London remains with English Heritage and it is unlikely that any of the London Boroughs provide in-house archeaological (sic) advice (sic). This is certainly the case in Greenwich.

There are two conservation officers within Greenwich Planning, Steve Crow and Jon Hardy, and I would be more than happy for you to speak to either officer about your group's concerns relating to the collection of industrial archeaology (sic) data for this Borough. I would emphasise that the Council is aware of the significance of the Borough's industrial heritage and is keen to see important sites recognised, where circumstances permit. I would also point out that the Council's resources are limited and so would envisage the current arrangement where advise (sic) is obtained via English Heritage lasting for the foreseeable future.

I hope this letter provides some clarification. Please contact my conservation officer if you require any more assistance.


Members of the Docklands History Group were treated to an excellent talk earlier this month on Thames collier traffic by GIHS member, Alan Pearsall. Alan described the different sorts of colliers used in their context and unravelled for us the mysteries of Atlas and Derek. Hope to put more detail in the next issue - or, better, get Alan to come and speak to GIHS.

The colliers came down from the north-east of England - and the street names in Greenwich list the collieries in the Durham coalfield. One day last week, outside the Cutty Sark pub, was a Geordie with a load of fish for sale - asked where he came from, he said 'Pelton'. So - we swap coal for fish, these days!



There has been a continuing plea for many years that the Thames is underused regarding the carriage of passengers and freight. There is no doubt this is true and that something should be done to utilise the river to a much greater extent. Comparisons are often made with Paris and other large European cities where there appears to be much greater support for use of the river with the result than the rivers bustle with passenger and freight traffic. With the Millennium almost upon us there are signs that there will soon be some expansion in river services.


Since the demise of the Riverbus service nothing material has been effected in London regarding passenger services until recently (March 1998) when the Deputy Prime Minister announced his Thames 2000 initiative. He instigated a £2 million boost for new passenger transport services on the river to provide a lasting legacy for Londoners. John Prescott said:

New vessels, new services and new and upgraded piers will transform the capital's river by forging new links between the north and south bank communities and enhancing access to London's historical and cultural 'string of pearls' landmarks.

For millions of visitors to the Millennium Experience at Greenwich there will be express services to and from the Dome from central London and a shuttle service connecting the Dome site with historic Greenwich. As well as these Millennium services there will be hopper services criss-crossing the Thames, linking its cultural landmarks from Westminster to Canary Wharf and Rotherhithe. Our aim is to put the heart back into London's river and put the river at the heart of a modern integrated transport system for the capital in the 21st century

Nearly £15 million (half granted by the Millennium Commission) will be spent on new piers at Blackfriars and Waterloo and refurbishing Tower and Westminster piers. This will complement other new piers at Charing Cross and The Globe (Bankside) and also further piers, which are proposed for a number of other London locations including Battersea Power Station.

More than £6 million will be invested in new vessels by City Cruises PLC and White Horse Fast Ferries, who, the Deputy Prime Minister announced, had been chosen as the preferred bidders to run new passenger transport services on the Thames

City Cruises will provide a Millennium service from Waterloo and Blackfriars to the Millennium Experience and an express legacy service linking upstream and downstream piers. White Horse Fast Ferries will provide a Millennium shuttle between historic Greenwich and the Millennium Experience and a legacy hopper service between 10 central London piers from Westminster to Rotherhithe with the possibility of extending the service upstream at a later date.

London River Services Ltd (a new subsidiary set up by London Transport), who organised the competition for potential operators of the new services, will own and manage the key central London piers.

While Thames 2000 is very laudable it did not concern itself with that part of the Thames to the East of the Dome, and that is to be regretted because attention should be paid to the needs of persons who live further east and who would be interested in passenger services in order to get to the Millennium Dome and to other focal points on the Thames.

One of the reasons for the implementation of Thames 2000 was the cogency and effectiveness of the Cross River Partnership which was established in 1995 as a strong alliance of eleven key public and private sector organisations in London (including the Corporation of London, Lambeth, Westminster and Southwark Councils, London Transport, PLA, Railtrack, etc.). There is no doubt that the Partnership was instrumental in satisfying one of its strategic objectives (to create a network of river crossings providing links between key areas on the north and south banks of the River Thames) by putting pressure to bring about the Thames 2000 initiative. Boroughs to the East of the Dome should perhaps attempt to set up a similar partnership in order to make an appropriate approach to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Strategic Planning Guidance for the River Thames exhorts local authorities to adopt policies in their development plans to encourage the use of the river for passenger transport and to facilitate the provision of new piers and supporting facilities or the upgrading of existing piers at focal points of activity along the River. The recent White Paper on the Future of Transport, when considering the River Thames and passenger services emphasises the Thames 2000 initiative. It says that the River Thames is a greatly underused asset in London and with that in mind local authorities to the East of the Dome should take advantage of the White Paper in addition to implementing the Strategic Plan for the river.

One of the problems spotlighted by the recent London Rivers Association report on Thames Passenger Services is that there is no one agency which has a statutory duty for public transport provision on the Thames and that there should be such an agency to plan strategically for passenger services. Hopefully, the new established Greater London Authority will solve this problem, but this is some time ahead.


Turning to the carriage of freight on the Thames, the White Paper, under a section on making better use of coastal shipping and inland waterways, states that there may be potential to divert about 3.5% of the UK's road freight traffic to water, split between ships rerouting to ports nearer to the origins and destination of their loads and the potential for bulk and unit loads to shift to coastal traffic. It is intended to bring forward legislation to extend the application of the freight grant regime to include coastal and short sea shipping, reflecting a recommendation of the Shipping Working Group. The government will also encourage greater use of inland waterways, where that is a practical and economical option, and will re-examine the rules of the freight grant regime with a view to encouraging more applications for inland waterways projects. Further, revised planning guidance will encourage more freight to be carried by water and local authorities and their development plans will be expected to consider opportunities for new developments, which are served by waterways.

Regarding the Thames in particular, Strategic Planning Guidance for the River Thames states that river local planning authorities should adopt policies in their development plans to encourage the use of the river for the transport of freight - including waste, aggregates and other goods and should identify sites suitable for the loading and unloading of water borne freight in furtherance of the policies and adopt policies to protect those sites against permanent development which could jeopardise their future use for such purposes. In parallel with the Guidance the Secretary of State gave directions under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, to safeguard 32 wharves between the districts of Hammersmith and Newham forcing them to refer any proposals for alternative development of the sites to central government. In addition the Port of London Authority (PLA) is trying to encourage the further use of the river for freight and is also attempting to safeguard wharves, not only the 32 safeguarded under the Secretary of State's directions but a great deal many more. In its 1998 Development Strategy for Cargo Handling in the Port of London it forecasts the likely increases in cargoes to the year 2020 and lists, in total, 68 terminals for safeguarding in the Thames area for port use.


At last there are signs that there may soon be some rejuvenation of the river regarding the carriage of passengers and freight, particularly the former. The approaching Millennium provides a great opportunity to kick-start the expansion of passenger river transport, which, hopefully, will provide a legacy for the future. The Thames 2000 initiative is invaluable in this context but one hopes that the initiative will be extended to cover that part of the 'Thames to the East of the Dome. Unfortunately, time is running short for that area since the Millennium is almost upon us and it looks, at the moment, as if the Millennium will not kick-start, sufficiently, an expansion of passenger traffic to the East of the Dome so as to provide a legacy for those parts of the Thames unless, in the very near future the involved boat authorities get their act together by way of intra-borough co ordination and a concerted approach to the Deputy Prime Minister who might release some monies for the cash-strapped authorities. Looking to the longer term it will be necessary for the new GLA, which will have a strategic transport role, to develop the potential for passenger services. Any increase in freight is likely to be relatively slow and will not be materially affected by the Millennium. The building blocks for expansion are in position, or are being put in position, so it is hoped that there will be more utilisation of the Thames for freight which should have the effect of reducing road congestion in and around London. In this sphere the new GLA will also have an important role to play in order to see that expectations are realised.

October 1998

Donald Davies is a leading marine arbitrator (Barrister and Master Mariner). He is Vice-Chair for both Docklands Forum and the London Rivers Association.



The December meeting of GIHS featured Paul Calvocoresci of English Heritage - a figure well known to many local historians. Paul concentrated strongly on buildings in the Arsenal in order not to duplicate the presentation given by Dave Perrett a month earlier. Taken together the two talks covered a very wide range of industrial structrures in the Borough and should leave members in no doubt of where and what to look at.

The January meeting featured Peter Gurnett on Stone's of Deptford. Peter speaks locally on a wide range of subjects but always returns to Stone's. Those who missed the talk are referred to his article in Lewisham Local History Society Transactions, 1986/7 Stone's of Deptford. A History of a Great Engineering Company.

By the time this edition is available the old Redpath Brown factory will have been completely demolished. Good Luck to Andrew Turner who has been trying to record it for his history of Redpath's.

With it has gone Kenny Hilbrown and the Thames Barrier Yacht Club - despite extensive media coverage in the Times and Evening Standard about how he was "too scruffy for the Millennium".

In December the Indpendent carried a story about an orchard with 40 varieties of apples planted 'on an old military playing field in Woolwich'. The article said the owners were called Mr & Mrs. Haws and that they used the fruit to make jams and jellies for posh shops in London under the brand name of Academy. Any ideas where this orchard is?

Public meetings are planned to launch the MILLENNIUM COMMUNITY PLAY, to be performed in Greenwich Park in July 2000. Supported by Greenwich and Lewisham Councils, Greenwich Historical Society, Patrons include local MPs Nick Raynsford, Britgett Prentice, Joan Ruddock and the Bishop of Woolwich. We want volunteers of all sorts for ideas, research, administration, fundraising, acting, singing, etc. etc. .A Director will be appointed by the end of March. Workshops in research/ideas have already begun. Writing skills workshops with local writer Paddy Gormley begin Sat, Jan 30th at 11am at Charlton House. Details from John Turnbull, 0181-852-8293. Dates are: The Albany Theatre, DEPTFORD, Thurs Feb 4th; The Bob Hope Theatre, Wythfields Rd. ELTHAM, Tues Feb 16th; Lewisham Theatre, CATFORD, Thurs Feb 25th and the Town Hall, WOOLWICH, Rooms 4-6, Mon March1st, all at 7.30pm.

In January we braved a trainload of spotters for a rail enthusiasts tour to go down the Angerstein line. We went all round Kent, it got darker and darker - but we hung on to our cameras and hoped. Then - inches from the line - the anouncement came that there was a broken rail and we couldn't go. I think I'd seen a train down there earlier that day - 16th January - did anyone else see it?




Recently I read a book written by Captain Andrew Shewan who, when he died in 1917, was the last surviving tea clipper captain. In a chapter comparing the sailing abilities of the two renowned tea clippers, Thermopylae and Cutty Sark, to the latter's detriment, I'm afraid, Maudslay's shipbuilding yard at Greenwich is mentioned.

John Willis, the younger, wanted three clippers built on the same lines of another he owned, Tweed. Closely following the footsteps of his father, in more ways than one, of course he wanted them built cheaply. The method of economising on a vessel's construction then was having cheap and shoddy gear fitted, for the size and number of beams, dimension of hull planking, etc. could not be altered if one wanted a Lloyds insurance. If, after a couple of successful trips bringing tea from China, a tidy profit had been made, then some of the money would be diverted into improving the ships gear.

Messrs Maudslay, Son and Field, the famous engineering firm, had opened their shipbuilding yard just down river from where the 'Cutty Sark' P.H is today. In their eagerness to obtain work they contracted with Willis to build two of the three clippers, Blackadder and Hallowe'en, at an exceptionally low price for the Thames. Perhaps Maudslay's were overeager to economise, as neither of these vessels was a great success. Blackadder was dismasted six weeks into her maiden voyage from London, whilst Willis's refusal to accept the Hallowe'en as being fit to sail eventually led to a costly lawsuit.

The third of the trio was built on the Clyde, its first builders went bankrupt and the firm who finished her did so in a hurry by cutting corners and skimping her ironwork. All this was much to the disgust of her first captain, a Mr Moodie. Needless to say this third clipper was Cutty Sark.

If it is of interest to readers of this article that this economical method of building and running sailing craft by British shipowners was so universal that, by the small rope blocks they carried, the crews of other countries' ships could recognise at a glance a British sailing ship. Where other ships used a nine-inch block, on British ships a six inch would be fitted. This resulted in a considerable saving on the money needed to run a British sailing ship, no matter that due to the reduced purchase of a six inch pulley compared to a nine inch, it also resulted in a considerable increase in the work needed by the crew. Which led to British ships being known throughout the maritime world as "workhouses".

Captain Shewan was born into a seafaring family, his father was also a renowned tea clipper captain. His book, The Great Day's of Sail, can be recommended for its interesting chapters of his childhood in Stepney and the colourful sights and scenes he witnessed of the crowded sailing craft off Blackwall Pier.



In the pub - after our last meeting - Paul Calvocoresci, our speaker, mentioned that he thought it possible that the crane at Prior's wharf at Deptford Creek was the oldest crane still at work in east London. Since this site is subject to a planning application for a Carribean Heritage Centre we wondered what would happen to the crane if and when Prior's moved. .. so we wrote to ask. We have had a nice reply from David Taylor, Managing Director of Greenwich Development Agency (and thank you for all the kind words, David).. but no reply from either Prior's themselves or from any of the Deptford and Creekside activists.


Crossness Engines Record - Vol. 6. No.1, Jan 1999. contains notes on current work on the engines and decorative ironwork. There is also a long poem from "PJSí" in the style of Stanley Holloway. It draws attention to the new incinerator at Crossness and the ending of the sludge boat service - can anyone at Crossness write and enlighten us about the fate of the sludge boats, now, apparently, moored there awaiting a buyer. (c/o 8 Yorkland Avenue, Welling, Kent DA16, 2LF)

Bygone Kent - Vol. 20, No. 1. contains an article by Mary Mills A mystery steel works - about Bessemer's steel works on Greenwich's Victoria Wharf.
Complete system of railways for Kent continues John Hilton's description of plans for through rail services from London to Kent. (Rainham Bookshop, 17-25 Station Road, Rainham, Kent. ME8 7RS)

Lewisham History Journal - No. 6, 1998. contains a long and detailed article by Stuart Rankin on the Changing Face of Rotherhithe with particular reference to dock building in the area. (Tom Shepperd, 2 Bennett Park, SE3)

Newcomen Bulletin - No. 172, Dec 1998. Note from Mary Mills drawing attention to her research on Bessemer in Greenwich and asking for comments from historians of engineering. Another note from Mary (sorry about this) draws attention to Greenwich streets named after places in the Durham coalfield and asks for further information. (Newcomen Society, Science Museum, SW7 2DD)


This newsletter is produced by Mary Mills for the Greenwich Industrial History Society. Opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of individual authors or the editor and not those of the Society as a whole.

MUCH CRITICISM and lack of effective technology and/or skill has led to a withdrawal of illustrations from this publication. Anyone who is good at getting images from scanner to paper - please let me know.




The Web version has been created by;

.... David Riddle, Goldsmiths College

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