Volume 2, Issue 3, May 1999


(PART 6)


14th May. First meeting to set up working party on the history of the riverfront. 7.30 East Greenwich Community Centre.

15th June, (Tuesday) Wesley Harry. Films on the Royal Arsenal. East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10. 7.30 p.m.

20th June (Sunday) from 1.p.m. Riverside Study Walk from Drake's Steps, Deptford to Morden Wharf Greenwich. We hope to have contributions from everybody who takes part in this walk - come along, listen to others, and pool your knowledge. Please ring for details of how to get to Drake's Steps (0181 858 9482)

10th July (Saturday) from 11 p.m. Riverside Study Walk. Meet at the Crossness Engines Trust Open Day 12.00 at GIHS stall.

5th September (Sunday) Riverside Study Walk from Angerstein Wharf to Woolwich. Meet 12.00 noon Anchor and Hope Pub, Anchor and Hope Lane, SE7

9th November (Tuesday), Ron Roffey, on the RACS Museum in Woolwich. East Greenwich Community Centre.




There are several industrial history museums in the Greenwich area. Very near to Greenwich is a Tide Mill - the House Mill at Three Mills. Brian Strong came to our March meeting to tell us what is going on at Three Mills and something about the background to the Mill itself. He commented that there was a great need for people south of the river to know what was going on there and to come and visit the site.

Three Mills is just behind Tesco on the Northern Approach to the Blackwall Tunnel. As well as the Tide Mill there is a cafe where the old gin stills are preserved as a feature, boat trips from Bow Locks - and, of course, the TV studio.


The Project at Crossness Engines Trust is very nearly in Greenwich! Details of openings and open day are given under the 'Events' listings.

The April Crossness Engine Record gives some detail of current work at the Trust. Restoration work on the engines is proceeding well. More of the astounding decorative ironwork has been cleaned and painted.

The project has been given an Easton and Anderson Beam Engine by the Museum of London. This is the engine that once stood in the Addington Well Pumping Station near Croydon. It was made at the Erith Ironworks in Wheatley Terrace Road, Erith and was inaugurated at the Addington well by the Archbishop of Canterbury, no less, on 2nd August 1888. The engines ran at 13-15 r.p.m. and provided 1.5m gallons of fresh water for the people of Croydon every day.


This museum is in North Woolwich, now in Newham but once part of the Borough of Woolwich. The Spring issue of Newham Leisure features an article about Charlie Harris whom, as they say is the Old Station Museum. Charlie says "There is a lot of romance about railways.. the old railway engines were like people, each different and each with their own personality". Charlie has been at the Museum now for 15 years but he points out that it has been newly refurbished for the 1999 season. People are reminded that the railway industry once employed more people than any other in West Ham. On show are old station signs, model railways and their own version of Thomas the Tank Engine. They are sited in the old station itself and the new station is right alongside. Once (now?) the new Jubilee Line station is opened in Greenwich we will be able to get there with only one change, at Canning Town - from the new tube line to the older railway, and into the museum itself!


In the sixteenth century the requirements of the royal palace at Greenwich continued to be dominant in the pastoral economy of Deptford. The King's Slaughterhouse was established beside the Ravensbourne on the site of Harold Wharf to supply the Palace with meat from the cattle grazed locally. It measured 160 feet from east to west and was 50 feet wide with a wharf and a pond at the west end. The date of its foundation is unknown, but John Bagley "of the Boiling House" who bought the Hermitage Property in 1548 may have been one of its officers. The Browne family of Sayes Court oversaw operations here as Clerks of the Green Cloth in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. They grazed oxen, sheep and other animals for the royal household on their fields at Broomfield, Potmead and elsewhere, and their buildings at Sayes Court included 34 bays of ox-stalls of which eight were reserved for the kingís cattle. These structures were "somewhat decayed" in 1608 and demolished by 1649.

In the late sixteenth century the Slaughterhouse was constantly in trouble with the Sewer Commissioners for its failure to repair its riverbanks, and the wharf was collapsing in 1608. It also occasionally worked for the Navy in the seventeenth century, at times when the demand on its slaughterhouse at Tower Hill was too great.

The property was leased out in 1649 to Daniel Dunne, and later to Sir Nicholas Crispe. It was sold to John Evelyn in 1663 and assessed for four hearths in the following year. The site of the Slaughterhouse still appeared on the maps of Gwilt in 1774-5 and Duggleby in 1777, when it was a pottery. Any of its remains which still survive below the ground surface can be compared to the excavated structures of the contemporary naval victualling yard at the Royal Mint site in Tower Hamlets.

Another adjunct of Greenwich Palace in Deptford was the King's Dog Kennel on the west side of Brookmill Lane (formerly called Dog Kennel Row), where Henry VIII kept his buckhounds for hunting. A piece of medieval walling still survived here until the late nineteenth century. The Dog Kennel still housed the Royal buckhounds and was in good repair in 1608, but in 1649 it was also let to Daniel Dunne and was in a bad state. It then had nine rooms and in 1664 it was assessed for three hearths.

The corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond was established by royal charter in 1514 following a petition of 1513. Early as 1515 and later in the sixteenth century the Corporation of Trinity House owned several pieces of marshland in Deptford Marsh and Stowage Marsh. Its initial responsibilities were mainly the superintendence of the pilotage of the Thames and the maintenance of an almshouse at Deptford on the east side of St, Nicholas churchyard. In the Armada campaign of 1588 arms and armour for the land levies of the nearby villages were stored at the Trinity House in Deptford, consisting of 16 corselets, poles and other arms. They were demolished after 1895 and the site eventually passed to the power station.

In the seventeenth century a second set of almshouses was built on the east side of Church Street. They were demolished in 1877 but the hall was still standing derelict in 1881. In 1929 it was used for the manufacture and storage of canvas sacks. New wharves were built adjacent to Deptford Bridge in the sixteenth century, one of rammed chalk on the west bank between the bridge and the flood gates of the Tide mill, probably utilising a waste product from the nearby lime kilns. Another chalk wharf lay on the east bank opposite by 1522-30. Similar chalk wharves of a late sixteenth century date have been excavated on the Ratcliffe and Limehouse waterfronts. A lease of 1535 required the construction of a house on the wooden wharf on the east bank to the north of the bridge.

Deptford Bridge itself needed reconstruction several times as a result of damage sustained from flood waters coming down the Ravensbourne in 1629, 1652, 1808-09 and 1824. The floods of 1808-9 destroyed the upper part of the bridge and the eastern of its two arches. These were rebuilt and iron girders spanning the river were provided as additional support. The central pier which obstructed the water coming down the Ravensbourne and caused much of the flooding appears in a view of 1840 and still existed in 1853.

To be contined....

Creekside "Have Your Say Day"

On 20th February 1999, workshops and walkabouts were part of a day set aside in the (Deptford) Creekside area to focus on local issues.

Workshops included those on New Culture/Old Industry and On the Tourist Trail - highlighted issues (and there were many many more) which included:


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)

North Woolwich Old Station Museum
Open Friday & Sunday, 2.00-5.00pm and Saturday 10.00am-5.00pm. For details phone 0171 474 7244

THE HOUSE MILL, Three Mills Lane, Bromley By Bow
Now open every Sunday 2pm-4pm for tours, May 11th - end of October
Group visits - please ring William Hill 0181 472 2829


12th May. A Mole's Eye View of Southern England. Harry Pearman at the United Reformed Church, Addiscombe Grove, East Croydon (CNHSS) 7.45pm

13th May. Words and Songs. Anthology of the River Thames. Chris Ellmers, London Canal Museum, New Wharf Rd, N1, 7.30pm

13th May. Terry Scales, signing his new novel Bermondsey Boys, Blackheath Library, Blackheath Standard, Old Dover Road, SE3, 7.30pm

15th May. GLIAS AGM, Royal Entomological Society, 41 Queens Gate, SW7. Speaker: Ron Fitzgerald. 2.30pm.

20th May. A Celebration of Football. Members bring memorabilia. Shooters Hill LHG, Shrewsbury House, Bushmoor Crescent, SE18. 8pm

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.

22nd May. Woodlands Farm: Past, Present and Future. Dot Lawrence at Greenwich Borough Museum, 232 Plumstead High Street, SE18, 2.30-4.00 p,m. Ring for a place 0181 855 3240.

23rd May. Historic Fire Engine Rally, Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, Middx. 0181 568 4757 (will there be any Greenwich-built ones there?)

23rd May. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

27th May. Terry Scales, signing his new novel Bermondsey Boys , Eltham Library, Eltham High Street, SE9, 7.30pm.

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

5th June. GLIAS WALK, An Isleworth Industrial Idyll. Meet Isleworth Railway Station 2.30pm.

5th June. WOODLANDS FARM OPEN DAY, Shooters Hill, SE18 12.00 - 5 p.m.

8th June. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm. Tel. 0181 311 3711

16th June. GLIAS WALK, Meat Medicine and Markets. Meet Barbican Tube Station, 6.30pm.

17th June. Discussion on the local boxer, Tom Cribb, Shooters Hill LHG, Shrewsbury House, Bushmoor Crescent, SE18. 8pm

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

20th June. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

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

3th July. GLIAS WALK, Follow the Fleet. Blackfriars to King's Cross. Meet at The Water Carrier, N.E. Corner Blackfriars Bridge, 2.30pm

6th July. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

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

10th July. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

18th July. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

21st July. GLIAS WALK, King's Cross, meet outside Great Northern Hotel, west of King's Cross Main Line Station, 6.30pm

3rd August. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

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

7th August. GLIAS WALK, Way Out East. One Stepney Beyond. Stepney Green Station, 2.30pm

15th August. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

18th August. GLIAS WALK, The Left Bank, Westminster to Blackfriars, Meet South Bank Lion, South East Corner, Westminster Bridge, 6.30pm

19th August. Arts & Crafts Houses in Chislehurst. Roy Hopper. Shooters Hill LHG, Shrewsbury House, Bushmoor Crescent, SE18. 8pm

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.

4th September. GLIAS WALK, The Far Side, Meet Limehouse DLR Station, 2.30pm

10th-16th September. Association for Industrial Archaeology Conference, Chatham.
Admissions Officer, Leicester University, Leicester LE1 7RH. Tel: 0161 252 2414.
Pre-conference seminar on current thinking in industrial archaeology.
Offers of papers to Tim Smith (01442 863 846)

14th September. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

26th September. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

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

12th October. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

21st October. War Memorials of Eltham, Tony Robin. Shooters Hill LHG, Shrewsbury House, Bushmoor Crescent, SE18. 8pm

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

9th November. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

21st November. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711

7th December. Crossness Open (by appointment) 9am-4pm Tel. 0181 311 3711


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


Greater London IA Fieldwork. Thursdays from 22nd April, 6.30 p.m.
Details Dept. Continuing Education, City University, London EC1V 0HB. 0171 477 8268.

London's Docklands
Starts 28th April, National Maritime Museum, Open Museum
Wednesdays for 8 weeks. 10.30am-12.30pm. Ring 0181 312 6747

28th April, Bob Aspinal (Docklands Past & Present)
5th May Chris Ellmers (West India Dock Co.)
12th May Mike Seabourne (Docklands Riverscape)
19th May Louise Brodie (People of Docklands)
26th May Bob Aspinall (Industrial Relations)
2nd June Eve Hostettler (Working Community on the Isle of Dogs)
9th June Peter Street (Docklands & Victory 1945)
16th June Field Trip to Shadwell


From Jack Vaughan

Back tracking through this newsletter series I came to a query on the above, put by John Day in Vol.1. Issue 3.

Looking for something else in Samuel Smiles Industrial Biography - Iron Workers and Tool Makers [reprint of the 1863 edition], on page 174 a sentence reads "Even Perkins Steam gun was an old invention revived by Leonardo da Vinci, and by him attributed to Archimedes". An accompanying reference reads Vieux Neug i 228, Inverta Nova Antiqua, 742.

This is beyond my intellectual capacity but might encourage John to further ponderings.

From Kevin Kelly (e-mail via our web site)

I have read with interest the references to the Silvertown Explosion in issues of your Society's magazine. I would like to obtain one of the publications mentioned, including the list of casualties, however I am having difficulty in contacting one of the publishers - All Points East. Could you advise if you know of any other locations that copies of the books can be located please?

Note: All Points East is no longer at the address originally advertised. Howard Bloch who wrote the book concerned is now working at Lewisham Local History Library.

From Gerry Moss (e-mail via our web site)

I am collecting information on the railway in the Royal Arsenal and its buildings, including the warehouses it serviced, to build a representative model. The scale will be 7mm to 1 foot on 9mm gauge track. Overall size will be 4 foot by 2 foot to begin with, designed to allow extensions later. I would like help with photos and drawings of both the railway and some of the buildings.

I have a couple of books already, but they are slim on any details about the buildings. I would welcome any assistance, thanks.

From E. Anne Bennett

I have written the following letter to the Lord Chancellor's Office. Could you please bring the issue to the attention of your members:

Cost of Wills Probate Registry

I have heard that on 26th April it is your intention to increase the cost of access to Wills held by the Probate Registry and that the increase is considerable; £15 for a sight of a Will at First Avenue House and £5 for a copy by post.

These prices put a huge obstacle in the way of the publicís right of access to public documents and I strongly object.

I would like to know why this increase is taking place. It is against the public good to deter people who want to examine Wills and confirm that testatorsí wishes are followed. The new cost of examining a Will is appalling and an immense burden on people concerned with a common name as it is necessary to read through many Wills to identify the relevant one.

These increased charges at the Probate Office came to my notice by accident and I believe that most people who will be affected now and in the future have no idea of your plans and therefore no chance to protest and put their case forward.

From Maj Wagstaffe

The history of Siemens (AEI) - where I first met my husband - is of great interest to us both. I well remember the excitement before Prince Philipís visit - and the command that we were not to especially tidy the labs (or paint them up) before he came round. Of course we did do so!

From Alan Palfrey

I was very interested to read Ted Barr's comments on the Greenwich Park Railway Line which ran from the site of the Ibis Hotel in Greenwich, down to Blackheath Hill and then on to join the line which runs between Lewisham and Nunhead.

I remember very well the remains of the line in Greenwich, and the tunnel under Blackheath Hill. There was still evidence of the old railway from Stockwell Street to Royal Hill in the 1960s in the form of brickwork and stone coping at the Burney Street corner with Royal Hill where the Hampshire Farm Dairy was. (Dougie Mullins at the Dairy used a hand cart and then a little red electric vehicle). There were also remains of the railway on the opposite corner of Royal Hill, the other side of the railway bridge was on the corner of Royal Hill and Peyton Place. The line must have been in a cutting running parallel to Royal Hill, going under Prior Street, where bridge brickwork and coping remained on the junction with Royal Hill and Blissett Street. This was where Fludyer's grocers shop was before they were bombed out and moved down to Burney Street.

I believe a firm called Cawoods used the space left by the line of the old railway at the junction of Blissett Street and Royal Hill. They had a solid fuel - clinker - business, and later moved down to Blackwall Lane. They used to park their lorries on the Royal Hill railway site.

At Blissett Street was the beginning of the tunnel which eventually ran through to the other side of Blackheath Hill and the next station. We sheltered in that tunnel during the war - I remember being there the night that the rocket fell on Woolworths in Lewisham (New Cross?? Web Editor). At Blackheath Hill, on the site of the station, had been was a small engineering firm called Elliotts - nothing to do with the electronics company in Lewisham. The site of the station is now a housing estate.

Has anyone else any memories of the line of the railway - and can anyone tell us what is left now?

From Jerry England (e-mail via our web site)

I just found your newsletter and will read it tonight. I have written to all sorts of agencies (gov., city, etc) to try to find some information about people who were employed at the Royal Gun and Carriage Factory. I have never gotten a good source and rarely even get a reply. Can you help me? My great-grandfather was the Supt. of the RG&CF sometime before 1917 when he retired. Adios.

North Woolwich Old Station Museum. Open Friday & Sunday 2-5 and Saturday 10-5. For details phone 0171 474 7244

Three Mills - The House Mill open every Sunday 11th May - end of October. Tours between 2-4 p.m., cost £2.

Details call William Hill 0181 472 2829.


The following items have been brought to our attention:

The Mausoleum, Devonport Building, Romney Road, SE10. - plans are to repair and restore this - the group commended the application.

Cutty Sark, Cutty Sark Gardens, SE10. Installation of 2 CCTV cameras on the hull and foremast. Group commented that the aft side hull should be painted black.

Building 5 Royal Arsenal, SE18. Provision of new sub station in the former Woodworkers Factory. The group strongly objects in that it introduces a standard Electricity Board solution into a building, which although it is not listed will have an effect on the elevational treatment of it. They feel this is of grave concern.

Building 7 Royal Arsenal, SE18. This is the same as the application above but as the drawings for this were not provided the group is waiting to comment next time.

Dreadnought Buildings, College Approach, SE10. There are new traffic proposals throughout this site. The group made the following comments: that the scheme would mean two new openings in the listed railings in Romney Road, that the scheme does not satisfy the objective that the Painted Hall and the Chapel should be open to the public, the proposal does not consider the access from the new Greenwich Promenade development.

National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, SE10. Erection of floodlit hoarding. The group strongly objects to this as being visually intrusive and in very poor taste.

Mast Pond Wharf, Woolwich Church Street, SE18. Erection of a 70 bed Travel Inn with bars and basement parking. Group was concerned that full advantage was not being taken of a prime riverside site in that the building is at right angles to the river. They also questioned the external treatments and its impact on the view of St.Maryís church.


 The April GLIAS newsletter contains several items of interest to Greenwich and Woolwich based readers. They are however, urged to join GLIAS and read the all newsletter in detail! (Membership from Sue Hayton at 32 The High Street, Farnborough, Orpington, Kent).

Brian Sturt has given some details about the refurbishment of locomotives from Woolwich Arsenal after the First World War. He refers readers to pages 80-90 of the Locomotive History of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway by D.L.Bradley, pub. RC&TS.

Brian also raises some issues about the Greenwich Railway Gasworks, referring to an article by himself in SEGAS Standard and disagreeing with Mary Mills' conclusions about the railway gasworks in the previous newsletter.


We have been sent two cuttings from Lloyds List, February 1999. The first one concerns Convoys - on the old Royal Dockyard site in Deptford. This says that three customers have left Convoys for the new Finnish Terminal at Tilbury and they expect their tonnage to be halved. Convoys, owned by News International, hope to attract new business saying that they are in a ëbrilliant positioní. They have plenty of storage capacity in a ëmixedí bag of warehousing.

The second cutting concerns the barge Seawork Solidarity at the Riverside Wharf in Charlton. This is to serve the new asphalt plant opened by Situsec Roadstone - an operation which will create many jobs and reopen a previously derelict wharf.

Members will be glad to know that East Greenwich Community Centre has now been partly renovated - an internal corridor has been built so that there is now one entrance and we don't have to go trekking round the back!

It is possible that a visit can be arranged to the Council's White Hart Road site once it is partly cleared in August. This is an extremely interesting municipal site, having been the home of one of the earliest Municipal electricity generating/rubbish burning plants in the country, and a wealth of other features. Please get in touch if you are interested in being involved, or have special knowledge of the site.

Woodlands Local History Library has on loan an album of photographs of the shipbuilder Alfred Yarrow and his family. Copies of this album were presented to all the staff when he left his Blackheath Home (today the Woodlands Library) to take his shipbuilding business to the Clyde. Woodlands is having the pictures copied and they should soon be available.


Information has been sent by the Greenwich Maritime Institute about their new;

MAs in Maritime Policy and Maritime History.

The Institute, part of Greenwich University, is dedicated to advancing and prompting an understanding of human maritime activity in the present, past and future at both national and international levels.

It aims:

  • to engage and facilitate scholarly research
  • to disseminate and publish research findings
  • to provide postgraduate teaching
  • to develop maritime education
  • to act as a forum for explosion of maritime issues
  • to serve as a source of expertise of business and movement
  • to provide cost effective consultancy services.

Details on the two MAs (fees £2,610 pa) from Dr. Sarah Palmer, Director, Greenwich Maritime Institute, Cooper Building, King William Walk, Greenwich, SE10. Web site at



BY THE TIME THIS COMES OUT .... it will probably be too late for visitors to see the super exhibition about Woodlands Farm at Plumstead Museum. Several members of GIHS have been involved in this and they must be congratulated on their hard work. The launch party was one of the best attended at Plumstead and the exhibition itself is excellent. We hope to hear more about them soon.


A first novel by Greenwich Artist and Society member, Terry Scales, was published in April - BERMONDSEY BOYS - narrates the adventures of a group of friends in the post war period, all of whom live in the newly established Prefab villages appearing then throughout South London. Of particular interest to members is an episode based on Terry Scalesí own experience as a young docker on the Bermondsey waterfront, when a terrible accident occurs during the unloading of a ships cargo.. After five years in Camberwell School of Art, the contrasting life style there struck him forcibly and a new book to be published in 2000 will throw new light on the working practices of the once great Pool of London.

Bermondsey Boys may be purchased by sending a cheque to Blue Anchor Press for £5.95 addressed to PO Box 26419, London SE10 8WS

Dates for Terry's book singings will be found under events.


This is a unique study of a consumer co-operative society and its involvement in South East London and grew to become one of the Co-operative Movements biggest retail businesses. At the same time it developed as distinct and remarkable political tradition which set it apart from other co-operative societies.

Faced with wide spread discrimination in the early part of this century the movement established its own political party, the Co-operative Party, which subsequently developed electoral agreements with Labour. Most co-operators supported this approach. The one notable exemption was RACS, which chose direct affiliation to the Labour Party because it believed that there should be only one main party of the left in Britain and it should be Labour. RACS held to that view wholeheartedly and maintained it consistently for the next seventy years.

This study traces how RACS came to this policy, noting how it was shaped by historical and geographic influences. It also examines the organisation and financial ramifications and, in particular how it affected Royal Arsenal relations with the Labour Party, the Co-operative Party and the wider co-operative Movement.

The author Rita Rhodes is a visiting research fellow at the Open University. The book is available at £10 each (+£2 p&p) from Holyoake Books, Co-operative Union Ltd., Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 0AS

[Rita Rhodes will be speaking about the book to a Greenwich Co-operative Party meeting on 2nd July, for details contact Mary Mills 0181 858 9482]

Deptford Creek - Surviving Regeneration - is the latest from the Deptford Forum Publishing stable. Over 20 surveys of the area's history, ecology and potential for renewal and nearly three years of debate, are brought together to tell the story of Creekside. This book aims to celebrate the unique asset we have inherited, predict the impacts of change and influence the process of regeneration wherever special places are threatened.

All profits are to go the the new Deptford Creek Educational Trustee. Copies from Deptford Forum Publishing, 441 New Cross Road, London, SE14. £20 each plus £1.60 p&p. (An order form should be enclosed with this newsletter).


Peter Tarplee's book on Abinger and the Recording of Magnetism and Time was published a couple of years ago by the Surrey Industrial History Group. It is about work carried on near Leith Hill and Abinger Bottom by the Royal Greenwich Observatory between 1924 and 1957. This site was used because of it was considered magnetically "quiet". The buildings at Abinger were an exact replica of those in Greenwich Park. The Time Department went to Abinger in 1939 and stayed there until 1957 when it moved to Herstmonceaux Castle with the services which had been in Greenwich while the Magnetic Department moved to Hartland Point. Several of the buildings at Abinger are now in private ownership but the caretaker's house is used by Surrey County Council's Countryside Rangers and called the "Old Observatory". The site of the actual observatory buildings is now covered by woodland.

Abinger and the Royal Observatory Greenwich is available from SIHG, c/o Surrey Archaeological Society, Castle Arch, Guildford, Surrey, GU13SX. Price not known.


At the Society's April Meeting Ben van Bruggen, the new Riverside Officer for the Greenwich Waterfront Development Partnership spoke about the Partnership's plans for the waterfront and current work being undertaken.

There was lively discussion afterwards at which many issues were raised - perhaps foremost among them the problems of Wood Wharf. Members expressed a generally held view that it would be desirable for the authorities to promote increased riverside industry and thus more jobs - and at the same time less lorries on the roads. There was support for the safeguarding of wharves and hope that the system could be extended. Members spoke against even more housing on the riverside placed in such a way as preventing any future change of use. Reference was made to the great body of experience which had been built up elsewhere on ways in which the riverside could be made accessible and interesting while allowing a multiplicity of interests. Greenwich should take note of mistakes made elsewhere.

Members spoke with some concern about the river frontage through the Arsenal site - and the continuation of the walkway from Woolwich and on to Crossness.

Also of interest were current plans for the Greenwich Riverside Path - being undertaken both through the Council and by a number of independent agencies which were working with wharf owners and employers to put a programme of environmental improvements in hand. By working with current wharf owners changes could be made which would take their future needs for the sites into account.

A number of members spoke of their experience in increased river traffic over the last few months and how several, apparently derelict wharves, were now in constant use. They paid tribute to the council staff who work to keep the path clean, against great odds, and the work of the PLA in cleaning up the river. A voluntary sector agency specialising in keeping the foreshore clean - Thames 21 - has now become involved. Amylum (ex Tunnel Refineries) in particular had done some sterling work in planting trees and shrubs along the path.

The SOUTH EASTERN RAMBLER draws attention to the Access battle in Greenwich. This concerns the 500 yard stretch of potential Thames Path route round the Greenwich Peninsula. The site was blocked in 1981 by the crane workings at Victoria Deep Water Terminal and the site's new owners now dispute that there has ever been a right of way. The Council now wants to open the path again for the walk to the Dome and the strategic cycle path.

Inner London Ramblers Association also comment that they have now been consulted on the plans for a 6 metre wide pedestrian and cycle way right round the riverside (that's more than we have!) and they have raised no objection to a diversion round the (new location of Greenwich) Yacht club. They however commented on the 6m wide multi-use highway and say that the needs of cyclists and walkers are very different. Pedestrians would enjoy more variety and interest, and features which they could enjoy, free of cycle traffic.


People who regularly walk along the Greenwich riverside path will have seen the improvements undertaken by Groundwork on Primrose Pier - the last jetty before the path turns off towards Tunnel Approach. The jetty has been resurfaced, seats installed and it is hoped to put up some signage. By working in partnership with jetty and factory owners - as well as the various statutory agencies - it is hoped to revitalise the path without losing its unique atmosphere and without hampering the daily business of those who use it as a workplace.

It is also understood that plans are in hand by another agency for the installation of a number of pieces of art along the path.


The current Greenwich Society Newsletter gives a report of that Society's views on the Greenwich Riverside Path. It says that there are seven wharves safeguarded along the path and that two are empty, one is used for boat building and two have no river related usage, and one is used - "for aggregates!". They say this leads to a 'sorry sight of seediness, dereliction and decay'. They point to the 'vitality and regeneration' of other areas of riverside, the Fairview Homes site, Deptford Creek, the new Greenwich pier "with all the trimmings", and so on. The Greenwich path shows a "lack of will, imagination and lack of civic pride". They point to dogs fouling the path, graffiti, rubbish dumping, fly tipping and a "couldn't care less attitude". They say industrial companies are not interested in wharves because of difficulties in getting to sites through "Victorian streets".

Greenwich Society members recently attended a meeting of the Council's Regeneration Committee to say that wharfage is not practical and that safeguarding must be lifted. They say the council must be more flexible with planning applications which should be considered in a more imaginative way, looking to the future and not to the industrial past. They were most encouraged by the Council's response. Councillors welcomed what they said and resolved to promote and support the regeneration of the river through the development of river-related business and mix of uses which will allow for review of the status of safeguarded wharves. The Greenwich Society will monitor progress closely and endorse any urgent action.

At the GIHS meeting with Ben van Bruggen there was a general consensus for a plan to set up a historical advisory panel on the waterfront which would would work with Ben and advise both the council and the various agencies currently working on the riverside environment.

Anyone who wants to become involved is asked to contact us soon as possible on 0181 858 9482. A series of Riverside Study Walks are planned throughout the summer. Everyone is welcome, but please ring if you feel you would like to contribute something in advance or have something special to say.



- more from John Day's memories of his time in the Arsenal.

Crossness Pier was the pier from which explosives were shipped. It was serviced by two Transporter-type cranes that took their power through cables reeling onto drums on the crane structure. These were a constant source of trouble with dirt on the slip rings taking the current from the drums. An excitable Maltese voice from the ganger, whose name was Cordelli, meant a trip out to the end of the Arsenal, often in the wet. Andy would keep Cordelli talking while I, surreptitiously, moved the offending drum slightly. Then Andy would go up to the offending crane, wave his arms about and shout strange words whereupon the crane would begin to work again - Cordelli was convinced Andy was practising some kind of magic !

I had a near miss on that pier. A three-phase electric capstan was being installed and I had the job of wiring it up to itís starter which, for the time being, was hung on the rear of a small wooden hut. I sensed something was wrong and looked round the hut to see a couple of railway trucks heading straight for the hut which straddled the rail tracks. The chap moving the trucks, with a rope round an hydraulic capstan, had thrown the second loop of the rope onto the capstan drum upside down forming a clove hitch which, of course, was self tightening. The inevitable happened, the trucks hit the hut which toppled over onto the starter and everyone on the land side of the pier thought I was underneath. Fortunately I had nipped out of the way on the river side but it smashed the starter.

To be continued...



- Ian Lovell finds a ship in the collection!

The SS Faraday was the first ship in the world to be designed specifically for cable laying. It had unusual features, including a rudder at each end for increased manoeuvrability, and two funnels abreast. Launched in 1870 it was in use for just over half a century, being scrapped in 1922. Messages were transmitted along the cable to ship as it was being laid to check that there had not been a failure. When laying of a cable in 1896 a message was sent to Alexander Siemens' (son of William Siemens) who was on board, that Prince George, (the future George VI) had been born. He replied with a telegram congratulating the royal couple.

When the SS Faraday was scrapped, we replaced it with the Faraday II, launched in 1923. This was in service till about 1941 when it was attacked and sunk in the English Channel by a single German bomber. It succeeded in shooting down the bomber with an anti-aircraft gun with which it has been armed, and most of the crew escaped in lifeboats and were rescued. They also managed to save the flag which had three bullet holes from the machine gun attack. The company board room was being re-furbished at the same time as the museum was being prepared and the flag from the Faraday II was put in a gas case mounted on the wall. I had the opportunity to handle the flag before it was put in its case and very gently pushed my little finger through one of the bullet holes. The Faraday II sank on the Faraday Hills, a range of submarine hills originally surveyed by the Faraday I.

To be continued...

4247 Rail Knowledge Challenge

So you think you know all about Railways? You are invited to try answering some of these brain teasers from the Second 4247 Railway Prize Quiz Book and become the Rail Brain of 1999. The book has been compiled by Roger Backhouse - who will be known to some of our members - and funds raised will go to restore a GWR tank engine to be used on the Icknield Line. Prizes will include £50, a share in the tank engine and a fine art print.

To enter, buy a copy of the quiz book from 4247 Quiz, 47 Jordan Hill, Oxford, OX2 8EU. Cost is £3.95 and cheques should be made payable to 4247 Preservation Society.

LAURIE GROVE BATHS - Tom Sheppard reports;

At the 11th March 1999 meeting of the Lewisham Borough Conservation Advisory Panel the application by Goldsmiths College to carry out "internal alterations" to this listed building was considered. By this it was thought they meant the clearance of the basement by disposal of all the 19th century laundry equipment. At the request of the Conservation Officer and the members of the Panel I offered to ensure that GLIAS were aware of the application, in the belief that they might wish to obtain permission to record the equipment, if they had not already done so. I understand that the Planning Department's opinion is that at least a representative selection of the equipment should be retained.


Discussions have been going on in Deptford for some time over the use of timber to enhance the river wall. A supply of timber is being investigated from a number of sites - some of it from the dismantled Power Station jetty in Battersea. Other timber supplied by the Port of London Authority has been craned from lighters and is now in the Copperas Street Depot. They have also had free timber from the Thames Barrier Site left over from the Dome frontage work.


Extract from Supply of Explosives during the war and the Early History of Billingham by H.A. Humphrey

Gas Journal Vol. 227. 1939 p.452. Reproduced thanks to Brian Sturt

At the outbreak of the Great War the desire of the British Government to assist the French led to the decision that as much of our production of lyddite as could be spared should be sent to France and that for our own service requirements we should develop and extend the use of amatol. This latter explosive is a mixture of ammonium nitrate and TNT. For most purposes it was standardised as an 80:20 mixture so that the bulk ingredient of the high explosives used by our Army was ammonium nitrate

Crude TNT was being imported from America and was also being made at several works in England and Scotland. Later a large factory was erected in Scotland for greatly increasing the output. The crude TNT from different sources differed in crystalline structures in melting point and impurities. The necessity for bringing it all up to a standard specification was most pressing. And it happened to be the first task that Lord Moulton asked me to undertake. Investigation showed that the pre-war purification plant having the greatest output and yielding the most pure material was using benzoic in the process and the extreme care needed to operate such a process without accidents rendered it useless as a war time proposition when only rough unskilled labour was available, moreover the time for purification was pressing. I applied to Messrs Brunner Mond & Co. for help, and they kindly lent me the services of Captain (later Major) F A Freeth and Mr. L A Munro to work out a better process adaptable to war needs. In this they quickly achieved success. and I was instructed to extend a factory at Rainham to operate the process. I designed the plant placed the contracts, and erected the works. It was a success from the start and it is indicative of the state of affairs at that time that when the purified TNT was passed to the Service for use I received a peremptory message to attend before an elderly general at Whitehall who roundly upbraided me for having built a factory without first obtaining financial sanction and incidentally for having installed too many WCs for the number of men employed.

Having proved the value of the new process, we were confronted with the problem of extending it on a large scale. The officials of Messrs Brunner Mond & Co. were called to a conference on June 5, 1915, and they agreed to convert their soda crystal plant at Silvertown into a crude TNT purification plant, in spite of the loss of trade such a step involved. The necessary alterations to the plant were completed, and the plant was put into operation in September of that year. After preliminary difficulties had been overcome the plant was successful. and the period for purification was reduced to four hours. The continued researches of B.M. & Co. brought about a still better process, and after Lord Moulton had carefully investigated it we came to the conclusion that it was again essential to seek the co-operation of B.M. & Co, and ask them to provide designs and staff for erecting and operating a central purification plant to which the crude TNT from all producing works could be sent for purification. I was instructed to see the B.M. & Co. officials and if possible to arrange for this scheme to be carried out. In spite of their directors and staff being already overworked, for reasons, which will appear later, B.M. & Co. did agree. A central works was designed and the work commenced at Gadbrook early in November 1915. 1t was deemed essential that this plant should be as free from combustible material as possible and it was therefore, constructed in steel and concrete and for safety it was spread out along a frontage of a quarter of a mile. The first unit started output in February 1918.

It was most unfortunate that a fire which started in the roof of one of the sheds at Silvertown caused an explosion which completely destroyed the works caused loss of life, and wrecked much surrounding property. It was subsequently proved that the fire was due to the formation of a little known self-igniting chemical formed as dust under the roof



Woodlands Local History Library has recently acquired pictures of the Lennard Tar Still donated by Mrs. Gale, whose late husband had studied the still and collected the pictures. The still was sited on the Ordnance Wharf tar works - now partly under the Millennium Dome. During the 1870s the site had been used by a chemical company known as Forbes Abbott and Lennard. Forbes Abbott had previously operated from Iceland Wharf at Old Ford in Hackney Wick and were primarily ammonia specialists. In the 1880s the site was compulsorily purchased by the South Metropolitan Gas Company as part of the larger gas works site - and they seem to have also taken over Mr. Lennard and his tar stills.

Does anyone know anything about this still - or about Mr. Lennard? Is he the same Mr. Lennard who was a partner in Carless Capel and Lennard (who also had a factory at Hackney Wick, but since the 1980s have operated from Harwich)?

This is in important collection of pictures of a fairly obscure branch of technology!
Any information would be gratefully received.


In 1982 Peter Trigg gave a talk to a local Society on the subject of local industry.
The following article is taken from some of his notes on Shipbuilding.....

Ships were built on the Thames from very early times and the Royal Dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich were established in the Tudor period to build warships. Some private shipyards also built ships for the Royal Navy and a tradition of high quality assured these yards regular orders from shipowners such as the East India Company.

A hundred and twenty five years ago the Thames had the largest collection of shipyards and associated industries in the world and was producing vessels of all types, the majority not being of iron. Many yards specialised in fast, high quality vessels such as cross channel packets, warships, liners and yachts and the best naval architects, such as Oliver Young were commissioned to design them.

A large number of ships were also sold abroad until the foreign countries concerned were able to set up their own facilities. Most of the Worlds' navies were supplied, even Germany being a customer.

The largest ships to be built on the Thames, indeed the largest in the world for another forty years, was Brunel's Great Eastern constructed at John Scott Russell's yard in Millwall on the Isle of Dogs. She was considered to be the greatest engineering achievement of the time, and, although never a financial success was much ahead of contemporary vessels in design. Another well known ship, HMS Warrior, launched in 1860 from Bow Creek and her Clyde built sister HMS Black Prince were the first warships to be built entirely in iron and their success finally convinced the Admiralty that the 'wooden wall' was obsolete. Warrior has survived and has now been restored to her original condition (at Portsmouth).

The following organisations had their premises in the Deptford, Greenwich and Woolwich areas, many being well established by the 1850s.


This yard was noteworthy for being one of the first to use a dry dock. Most of the ships were fairly small but of high quality as was his repair work. Marine engines were also built but in spite of this diversity the yard closed as early as 1866.


This firm built marine engines and small steamers at Lambeth but between 1866 and 1873 a number of larger vessels were constructed at east Greenwich. Henry Maudslay is regarded as the pioneer of machine tools and he was responsible for the earliest screw-cutting lathe. An interesting item, built in 1833, and still in use, is the time ball at the Greenwich Observatory.


Situated beside Charles Lungley's yard they built high class marine engines many being for warships. The P&O Company was a major customer and in the 1860s some of the earliest compound engines were supplied by them. The firm lasted until 1908 their final order being a set of turbines totalling 44,000 HP for HMS Invincible. One of the earliest Dreadnought warships and the most powerful vessel built on the Thames.


Established by John and George, the sons of the famous civil engineer John Rennie, this concern operated from the Albion Ironworks in Blackfriars and a shipyard at Norman Road, Greenwich. As well as ships and marine engines they built a wide range of equipment and cast iron structures such as the bridge over the Serpentine. Most of the engines they built were quite small and a very ingenious disc type was developed as early as 1842 for powering small craft such as naval pinnaces. Screw propulsion was one of their first developments and the success of the screw engine they fitted in the Archimedes in 1838 persuaded I.K.Brunel to adopt this in the Great Britain.


The Lady Derby launched from Maudslay's shipyard at East Greenwich (Bay Wharf site)

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.




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