Volume 2, Issue 4, August 1999




15th September (Sunday) - Riverside Study Walk from Angerstein Wharf to Woolwich. Meet 12.00 noon Anchor and Hope Pub, Anchor and Hope Lane, Charlton, SE7

5th October - Observations on the Thames, Over 59 slides of the working Thames shown and discussed by artist/ author and local resident Terry Scales. Don't miss viewing this unique historical collection, a record of what the Thames once was and what we must fight to preserve.

9th November (Tuesday) - Ron Roffey, on the RACS Museum in Woolwich (correction)

11th January 2000 - Annual General Meeting followed by Jack Vaughan on Woolwich Arsenal

8th February 2000 - Hugh Lyon on Greenwich and Woolwich Tunnels and Ferries

14th March 2000 - Dr.Rodney Dobson (Hon. Research Fellow Goldsmiths College) on Early Labour Troubles on the Thames

All meetings at 7.30pm East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10


This is yet another 'programme of activity' to be organised in the area by an apparently independent body. It is "an invitation to the nation's treasurers along the River Thames".

The programme lists out riverside events between Kew and Greenwich. Locally it lists Shipwright's Palace, Deptford (no details), Royal Naval College (no details), National Maritime Museum (Story of Time Exhibition, Millennium Night Event) and English Heritage (no details).

Vast amounts of detail are given for everywhere else! It also seems to be a pity they have run out of contacts east of the Naval College.

DO GO - to Christchurch Forum to see, in the foyer, the old clock miraculously restore by our Chair, Jack Vaughan. The original hands can now be seen from the street. There was an 'opening' ceremony in June - with the Deputy Mayor.


Nearly forty members crowded into East Greenwich Community Centre in June to see Wesley Harry's films of Woolwich Arsenal .. and waited .. and waited. We understand that Wesley was taken ill on the way to the meeting, was taken to hospital and was unable to contact anyone to tell us what had happened. Our apologies - and best wishes to Wesley. We hope to arrange a film evening some time next year.


In June (1999) the Newcomen Society organised a visit to the new Sewage Sludge Incinerator at Crossness.
Bruce Blissett went along: ..

For many years sewage sludge was transported from the Beckton and Crossness sewage works in specially designed ships to be dumped in the North Sea but in order to comply with EU legislation, this method of disposal had to cease by December 1998. Three alternative methods of disposal were considered and these were:

Thames Water found that incineration with energy recovery was the most acceptable and practical option although about 40% of sewage sludge is still sold for use as a soil fertilizer.

In 1994, the local authorities gave approval for incinerators to be built at the Beckton and Crossness works. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution (now the Environment Agency) authorized Thames Water to operate such incinerators and, in the same year, an AMEC-Lurgi consortium won the £125 million contract to design, construct and commission the two incinerators. The Crossness plant was opened by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh on 4th November 1998.


(i) Sludge Preparation

Raw sewage sludge is blended in the approximate ratio 70:30 with surface-activated sludge (processed sewage sludge which has been oxidised biologically and therefore has a reduced calorific value). A polymeric electrolyte is dissolved in water and added to promote flocculation and allow de-watering to a dry solids content of 4.5%. The precipitated sludge is then forced through large vertical plate filter presses where the solids are trapped and further de-watered by pressurising the filter with compressed air. The target total solids content of the sludge cake prior to incineration is about 32%.

At the end of the de-watering process, each filter plate is separated in turn allowing the cake to fall into a hopper and on to a conveyor which transfers it to the sludge cake silo from which it is fed at a controlled rate into the incinerator.

(ii) Incineration

The incinerator consists of a large diameter squat form cylinder above which a large diameter tube carries the burning cake upwards and onto the boilers.

Hot sand is contained at the bottom of the incinerator and air is forced into and drawn through the sand with a pressure drop of 90 millibars. The incinerator is maintained below atmospheric pressure by means of a fan situated downstream of the boilers. Sludge cake mixes with the hot sand which promotes combustion by heating it and increasing the surface area of the cake exposed to air.

Combustion temperatures at sand level are about 850°C rising to 950°C at the very top of the incinerator. Ideally, the cake should burn and ascend from the sand to the boiler inlet in three seconds. These conditions are necessary to ensure that any dioxins coming from the burning sludge are destroyed. It may be necessary to burn additional natural gas in the incinerator in order to maintain combustion at this temperature. If raw sewage only were incinerated, no additional fuel gas would be needed.

(iii) Steam and Electricity Generation

Following the sludge cake incineration, the combustion products pass through two boilers arranged in series; the first of these raises steam at a temperature in excess of 400°C to supply turbine driven alternators while the second boiler generates steam at 150°C for reheating the chimney stack gases.

(iv) Ash, Heavy Metals and Dust Removal

Combustion products emerging from the second boiler are cooled rapidly before entering a cyclone where the ash falls to the bottom of the cylinder for disposal while the remaining gases pass on through a bed of activated lignite coke which absorbs heavy metals such as mercury and any remaining traces of dioxins. Dust remaining in the flue gases is removed by passing the gas through bag filters which are periodically emptied automatically with compressed air. The ash, spent lignite coke and dust from the bag filters are bulked and disposed of in licenced land-fill sites.

(v) Removal of Acid Vapours

Acids are removed in two chambers arranged in series. In the first chamber, which is rubber lined, acid vapours such as those of hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, oxides of nitrogen (and presumably phosphorus) are washed out by a water spray. The gases then ascend a second gas scrubbing chamber where they are scrubbed with effluent water and sodium hydroxide to maintain a pH value at the bottom of the chamber of 7.5. This second chamber removes any remaining acids including most of the sulphurous acid (sulphur dioxide).

(vi) Analysis and Dispersal of the Cleaned Flue Gases

The cleaned flue gases are reheated with a steam heat-exchanger [see (iii) above] before they are discharged to the atmosphere so that no plume from the top of the chimney stack is visible. Heating the flue gases also causes them to be carried higher into the air by convection so that they will disperse at a higher level and over a larger area.

Certain constituents of the flue gases such as hydrocarbons are continuously monitored while others, such as dioxins, are measured periodically by independent laboratories from flue gas samples. Officers from the Environment Agency are allowed free access to sample the flue gases and to inspect the plant at any time without notice.


The entire incineration plant is housed in an unusual and attractive metal clad building with an outward curving side and an S-shaped roof. The chimney at the north end has a convex curved side and although the plant was fully operational, no plume of smoke or steam could be seen coming from it. At the Crossness plant, two parallel sludge incineration lines produce 6 Mega-Watts of power which is sufficient to drive the entire sewage works but at Beckton three incinerators produce a surplus of electricity which is sold to the National Grid.

Visitors are given a short talk to explain the process before issuing them with hard protective hats for a tour of the plant. During the tour the only time the sludge cake can be seen is when it falls, after filtration, from the separated filter plates into a hopper below. At this point a man, with an implement resembling a long handled spade, dislodges any cake still clinging to the filter plates or remaining in the interconnecting holes.

Almost everything inside the plant seems to be constructed from or encased in galvanized metal. Most floors are made from an open metal mesh which allows through-floor visibility and good ventilation but which made me thankful for the protective hat.

After being shown the flue gas monitoring equipment, the tour ended in the control room from where temperatures, pressures and the general operating status of the entire plant can be monitored and controlled from computer terminals. The engineer demonstrating the computer software and who fielded in detail so many technical questions had soiling on one side of his overalls but nobody dared ask what it might be.


My grateful thanks go to Malcolm Tucker for his help in completing this account.

Bruce Bissett

Here is a flow diagram of the plant...



Dear Editor...

I understand from a previous issue that all the records relating to the Blackwall Point Power station had been destroyed. I presumed that this meant that not too much was known about the power station and therefore I decided to have a look at the literature. I could only find a few mentions of Blackwall Point and I have attempted to put some words on these facts ......


Blackwall Point Power Station was equipped with three 30 mw turbo alternators supplied by the English Electric Company. The steam conditions at the turbine stop valves were 60 psig and 850°F (454°C). Condenser cooling water was taken from the River. Steam was supplied by three coal-fired Babcock and Wilcox boilers, each of 365 klb/hr capacity and the main high pressure pipework was also manufactured by Babcock and Wilcox.

The first turbo-alternator set was commissioned in the summer of 1951, the second was due to be completed by the end of that year and the third by the spring of 1952.

Blackwall Point was originally in the London Division of the British Electricity Authority (BEA). This later became the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) to avoid confusion with the other BEA - British European Airways. A further name change to the Central Electricity Generating Board followed and Blackwall Point power station was put into its South Thames Division.

To benefit the production of turbines and generators BEA had a policy of standardising on a selected range of turbo-alternator sizes each with associated steam conditions. 30 mw was one of these sizes and was built. Blackwall Point was stated in the technical press to have an output of 90 mw (30 mw per set). However in a British power station plant performance schedule published in the Electrical Review of 1st June 1962, the installed capacity of Blackwall Point was given as 100.5 mw i.e. 33.5 mw per set. Presumably the original figure of 30 mw per set was nominal.

Incidentally, in the performance review Blackwall Point was quoted as having generated for a total of 6,567 hours in 1961 with an overall thermal efficiency of 26.66 per cent.

Keith Doyle


Keith included with his article a number of photocopies from Electrical Review with brief mentions of the power station and some of the statistics quoted above. They include a picture, in the issue of 12th July 1953, showing 'the first of three turbo-alternators .. installed at Blackwall Point Power Station which will undergo a test run in the next few weeks. The three 30 mw generators made by English Electric Co. will have a combined output equal to 120,000 hp and the one installed is hoped to be in operation before the winter. The second is expected to be completed by the end of the year and the final set by next spring. Over 2,000 gallons of lubricating oil has been pumped into the generators' storage tank by the Wakefield Co.. The illustration shows work in progress'.


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
Open every Sunday 2pm-4pm for tours, May 11th - end of October
Group visits - please ring William Hill 0181 472 2829


15th August. Crossness Open by appointment 9-4 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.

21st August. A Trip to East India. Friends of Ironbridge Gorge Museum, meet Blackwall DLR Station 2.30pm.

23rd August. Canary Wharf Station Jubilee Line Tour, 2.30pm £10. Tickets by post from LT Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 7BB

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

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

24th August. The Site of the Millennium Dome. Mary Mills, St. Mary Cray Action Group, Vernon Hall, High Street, St, Mary Cray, 8pm

1st September. Siemens. John Ford DHG, Room C, Museum of London, London Wall, EC2 6pm

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

4th September. Kew Bridge Steam Museum Open Day. Green Dragon Lane, Brentford.

4th September. Visit to see Spectro Helioscope in Sevenoaks. Blackheath Scientific Society. Phone Bruce MacKenzie 0181 852 6117.

9th September. Percy Leeds - Lewisham Architect and Priest. Kenneth Richardson. LLHS, Colfe's School, Horn Park Lane, SE12, 7.45.

10th-16th September. Association for Industrial Archaeology Conference, University of Greenwich Medway Campus, Chatham. Details Janet Graham, 107 Haddenham Road, Leicester. Includes:

10th September. London and the Thames Estuary. University of Greenwich, Medway Campus, Chatham. 10am - 5pm. Speakers include GIHS members Peter Guillery (on The Royal Brass Foundry), Malcolm Tucker (gas holders) and Chris Grabham (GLIAS computerised database) and recent speakers at GIHS meetings David Eve (Springhead watercress) and Brian Strong (House Mill). Others will be Tim Allen (Queenborough copperas and chemicals), Gwen Jones (oast houses), Shaun Richardson (Empire Paper Mills, Greenhithe). Day ticket, £17 inc. lunch to Mary Yoward, 4 Slipper Mill, Emsworth, PO10 8XD [Help with GIHS stall at this event would be very welcome].

11th September. Railway Mystery Day. Discussion about the railway on which Eltham author Edith Nesbitt set 'The Railway Children'. North Woolwich Old Station Museum. Edith Nesbit Society. £5 Details; Margaret McCarthy, 0181 698 8907.

12th September. Woodlands Farm Open Day. 11am

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

19th September, A Walk down Deptford High Street. Leader, Diana Rimel. Meet south end of Deptford High Street, 10.30am. Lewisham Local History Council.

18th-19th September. London Open House Weekend

22nd September. Clive Aslet

26th September. Woodlands Farm AGM. 1.00pm

2nd-3rd October Festival of Steam, Kew Bridge Museum, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford.

15th October. Search for Extra Terrestrial Information. Blackheath Scientific Society. Mycenae House. 7.30pm

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

11th October. River Beat. History of London's River Police. G. Budworth, Gravesend HS, Chantry School, Ordnance Road, Gravesend, 7.00pm

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

15th November. Blackheath Scientific Society. Mycenae House. 7.30

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

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

17th December. Members Evening. Blackheath Scientific Society. Mycenae House. 7.30pm


21st January 2000, Discoveries by the Hubble. Blackheath Scientific Society. Mycenae House. 7.30

14th February 2000. Short Brothers in Kent. Jim Preston. Gravesend HS, Chantry School, Ordnance Road, Gravesend, 7.00

18th February 2000. Weather. Blackheath Scientific Society. Mycenae House. 7.30

27/28th March 2000. Association for Industrial Archaeology. Ironbridge Weekend. Discussion on current issues. Details Gordon Knowles 01372 458396



Find out more about the Greenwich Peninsula on Monday evenings from 4 October - 22 November. Lectures, 7pm - 9pm in the Museum's Lecture Theatre. Speakers include Peter Guillery (English Heritage), Nicholas Hall (Royal Armouries), Barbara Ludlow (local historian) and Dr Mary Mills (Greenwich Industrial History Society and author of 'Greenwich Marsh - The 300 Years Before the Dome'). Course fees £37.50 (concessions £26) or £6.50 per lecture, including tea, coffee and biscuits. For a free prospectus or bookings, telephone 0181 312 6747.

TOWARDS THE MILLENNIUM - WOOLWICH. Monday mornings, from 20th September for ten weeks, at Mycenae House, SE3. Tutor Diana Rimel. Contact PACE Office, Goldsmiths College, 0171 919 7200.

AN INTRODUCTION TO BRITISH INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY. Univ. London Course, Tutor Bob Carr. Mondays 2-4 pm. Kew Bridge Steam Museum. £103. Contact Anna Colloms, 0171 631 6627 email

INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY AT CITY UNIVERSITY. Thursday evening courses. Details Extra Mural Studies, City University, Northampton Square, EC1 0HB. 0171 477 8268

RIVERSIDE COMMUNITIES. Croydon WEA. Thursday 3.30-5.30pm. Coombe Cliff Centre. Contact Trudie Goldsmith 01883 62 3955

LONDON FROM ITS BUILDINGS, Scola, (Sutton College of Liberal Arts), St. Nicholas Way, Sutton. Fridays 1.00-3.00pm. Tel. 0181 770 6901


From Patrick Hills

I have a photo of HMS Thunderer which might interest you as the last battleship built on the Thames at Bow Creek, Thames Ironworks, 1910. Have to watch your head if you were up forward when A-turret was training, and your eardrums if she loosed off a couple of rounds. Come to that, the photographer might have got a good coat of soot from B-turret! I think if I'd been the skipper I'd have wanted to join the photographer when two rounds were fired to see what its like when two great shells start right over you.

From Iain Lovell

I was interested to see that my account of the Siemens Museum has aroused quite some interest. I have received a letter from Mr.W. Ford who as you know is researching the Woolwich factory and is anxious to trace any remnants of the Obach Library. Regretfully I think that the books and documents not accounted for have probably been destroyed, which is an act of utter vandalism!

I am also planning to write up my time at AEI in 1960 as a computer programmer on the Elliott 405 there. This machine using thermionic valves, hand soldered circuit boards and oxide cinematograph film is as far removed from a modern computer as the Wright brothers biplane is from a Boeing 757.

Ed. Note. - and Elliotts were a local firm, based in Lewisham.

From Ted Barr

Durham Wharf - As the factory which it served was designed to run on coal, then I'm sure there is a connection between the coal and the name of the wharf. In the 1920s coal supplies had become uncertain so a switch was made to oil. In the 1930s the then Chancellor of the Exchequer stopped an additional £1.5s 5d. on a ton of crude oil - so it was decided to revert to coal. I saw the boiler house change over. The colliers tied up at Angerstein Wharf and the Southern Railway unloaded into United Glass 13 wagons, of which there were hundreds, and shunted round to the United Glass sidings. After the new jetty was built the colliers tied up there and the Southern lost the business.

(Ted has also sent a number of pictures and cuttings)

John Day's electrical exploits in Vol. 2. Issue 2. remind me that there is a very early 1 HP electric motor in the Museum at Plumstead Road. It ran the machine tools in a small engineering works in West Greenwich about turn of the century. I donated it to the Museum and also gave them a catalogue of the firm's products.

From Larry Button (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)

Last November I was in London on business and took a boat down to Greenwich. The whole area was very busy and I had a chance to visit St. Alphege's. and Straightsmouth where my gr- gr- grandfather lived. The people on the boat was interested in telling us about the Dome, Tidal Barrier, etc. but I was more interested in the smell in the air which told me there was a soapworks nearby! When my family left East London they settled in the east end of Hamilton, Canada's largest industrial city. They all worked at the Proctor and Gamble soap works - no mistaking that smell!

From at least 1832 - when it appears in Pigot's Directory under the name of Boyd - my family (Button) owned a glass and china shop at 9 High Street Woolwich. I recall this was poor, rather disreputable area, however from studying maps I gather glass making in the area was fairly important due to the considerable sand deposits. I have a card indicating that in about 1907 the Button glass business was sold to W. Weight and Co, wholesale medical bottle dealers of Glenville Grove, New Cross, Deptford. In any event - I'd be most appreciative of any assistance you could provide.

From Peter Marshall

You might like to look at where I've just put up the first set of pictures on a new Web site. A few pictures from Greenwich or around. Probably quite a few mistakes!

From Robert Hamilton

I have recently come across your Newsletters while searching the Web for details of a serious explosion and fire at a factory which occurred in the Greenwich/Woolwich/Erith area in the early part of the century. My great grandfather and two of his sons were involved. The incident was serious and the process in the factory involved shovelling sulphur with a rubber-covered shovel. It didn't occur during the First World War which would seem rule out the Silvertown explosion. Could your members help?

From Iris Bryce

I would dearly love to see inside Enderby House - I worked in the buying office which I think must be the Office building with the decorated cable and gutta percha lintels. Enderby House was a no-go area for the likes of me, even in 1941/2. I used to stand at my office window and watch the Management and Scientific Staff go in every lunch time. I think it must have been the Staff Dining Room - I was only on the lookout for the young white coated, blonde haired lab technician hoping he would look up and see the ravishing teenager!

I did a broadcast a week or so ago on Eastern Regional radio - it was called The Regeneration of East Greenwich.

From Andrew Lister

I wish to ask if you would be interested in joining a Family and Community Historical Research network,. At present no network exists for London and I have volunteered to try and get one started. The aim of this letter is simply to sound you out. Please feel free to get in touch.

Greenwich Conservation Group

- some planning applications which the group has commented on (with thanks to Philip Binns)

Maze Hill Station - application for replacement station.

Greenwich Pier - proposed V-berth pontoon as an extension to the pier at downstream end. Welcomed as it would encourage greater use of the pier.

Royal Naval College Site - new pedestrian route between the pier and the Maritime Museum via a new pedestrian crossing in Romney Road. Group concerned about new openings in the listed railings and other worries around the 'and axis' and need for a 'mirror image' on the north side of Romney Road.

Rose Bruford College, Creek Road - demolition and erection of new building. Group regretted that consideration had not been given to refurbishment,

Building 2 Royal Arsenal - Change of use of Middle Gatehouse into HQ for Greenwich Leisure. No objections. Also building of a new car park with disabled ramp - group were concerned at provision of so much parking and wanted assurance that the elevation to Plumstead Road would not be altered.

Duke of Wellington Statue, Royal Arsenal. Temporary removal - the statue is to be broken into six sections! Some concern about care taken with it, and future plans. Also - what about the wall with antique ironwork of the old Royal Laboratory which is behind it!

Clock Tower, Plumstead Common. Installation of 3 panel antennae side and rear. Group concerned that the external appearance is not compromised.

Halfpenny Hatch Bridge. Installation of footbridge over the Ravensbourne alongside the railway line. No objection but group thinks the planned bridge is too bulky.

Greenwich Park. Erection of Millennium sundial. Some concerns about 10ft diameter analemmatic human sundials on the pathways (eh?)

115/117 Humber Road, SE3. Erection of ornamental 7m high observatory tower at the rear. Some concern about impact on adjacent buildings. (This site is part of Jools Holland's Studio complex. The tower is a copy of one of Clough Ellis's at Portmeirion and will complement other recent buildings erected on the site to similar designs. It was apparently made for the 1999 Chelsea Flower Show. The Westcombe Society's Enviorment Committee have viewed the exceptionally detailed 'day-sheet' plans for this application and have raised no objections as the site is only fully visible from the adjacent Westcombe Park Station - Web Ed.)

St.Mary's and St.Andrew's Wharves, Woolwich Road, SE18. Change of use to residential of 189 flat plus parking. Group welcomed retention of slipways but concern about the height of 8-storey blocks. Hope columns from the Museum of London store can be erected on site.

Royal Arsenal Building 7 - New electricity sub-station in the former Carriage Department. Not enough material available for comment.

Clockhouse Community Centre - new internal fit-out works. Group asked for assurance that the tile picture from the Clarence Arms will be protected.

Lovell's Wharf - The group recognises that redevelopment of some sort is necessary on the wharf and to bring back employment. They welcome retention of the two cranes. They also ask for retention of the Customs and Excise Letter Box, and the unusual clock face on the internal buildings. They are concerned about the height of the buildings in relation to the Ballast Quay conservation area. They think the details are unimaginative and the materials questionable. They would like to know the potential of bringing people to the hotel. They asked for an archaeological survey to record the ice well, sites of lime kilns and coke ovens. They think there should be some community gain for the loss of Lovell House (which is in use an an office block for Greenwich Education Office staff).

Requests for information

..are there still two concrete anchor posts on Shooters Hill for a vast great, but never built, bridge over the Thames? there an old railway tunnel under the Woolwich Road in Charlton, where mushrooms are grown?

.....if the Westcombe Park Station tunnel is replaced by a bridge - do we press for iron work there to be retained?

Call for Papers for TICCH2000. International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage, 30th August - 7th September 2000, Imperial College, London and tours.
Details: 01223 323437

A MIRACLE - when Ted Barr posted off his letter he enclosed copies of the picture postcards mentioned. Sadly, when it arrived, the envelope was empty - with a note that it had been 'damaged by machinery' (on the front was proudly emblazened the fact that Leeds is now a fully automated Post Office!). Time went by. Then, 6 weeks later, Woodlands Local History Library received an envelope from the Northern Rock Insurance Office in Newcastle. Inside it, with a compliments slip, were Ted's post cards!!

Greater London Archaeology

The annual summary of the Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service contains details of work on the following sites of interest in Greenwich:

Greenwich Reach. The Stowage: Evaluation. Roman finds and alluvial deposits. A Saxon ditch, a mediaeval ditch and alluvial deposits, post mediaeval Trinity House almshouses, waterfront structures associated with the East India Company, shipbuilding dockyard including timber revetments, two slipways and subs containing shipbuilding debris and pottery wastes.

Greenwich Marsh land between A102M/Bugsby's Way. Evaluation. Alluvial sequence overlain by Neolithic/bronze age peat overlain by further alluvial deposits.

Warren Lane. Site investigation. Post Mediaeval dumping and levelling deposits.

Thames Foreshore at Arsenal. Watching brief. Peat horizon and post medieval modern foreshore artifacts.

Geoff Cooper has pictures of the Crossness Open Day available on

of the Time Team in Greenwich at

and buildings in the Royal Arsenal taken last year:

The 'THAMES' sold!

Congratulations to the new look GLIAS NEWSLETTER under a new editor, Robert Mason. The June 1999 edition contains an article on 'More about Deptford Gas Works' and a contribution from Bob Carr - 'Thames Sold Off and Name Changed'. This refers to the MV Thames, one of the ships which took sewage sludge from Crossness to dump in the Black Deep,and which is now redundant. Thames was the flagship and is now, says Bob, the Anastasios IV registered at So Tome Principe near Libreville in West Africa. She left London to be refitted in Greece on 28th April.


KENT UNDERGROUND RESEARCH GROUP - the current newsletter contains an appeal for wells. If anyone knows of one contact Hugh Farrer (01622 764915). He would also like to know of anyone who is an expert on dating brickwork.

LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS (no less) contained an article by Iain Sinclair - 'All Change. This Train is cancelled' - about how to get to the Dome. Iain Sinclair is a novelist known for his descriptions of east London - and he has not missed out on Greenwich and the history of the peninsula 'the inhabitants of the peninsula were feral inbreeds comfortable with the maggoty underside of history .... ammunition manufacturers, the skull hammering intoxification of the South Metropolitan (later East Greenwich) Gas Works .... the Molochs in workers cottages and burrows.. mutated as they came to terms with the by products of the gas industry; the tar; the sulphate of ammonia; the trains; the phenol; the never ending noise (grinding thumping whistling, clanking),. Smells that have mixed and mingled for generations in increasingly complex chemical combinations gift unwary tourists with stomach-churning hallucinations, flashbacks to ancient horrors, dizzying premonitions of catastrophe....'. (blimey!)

ELTHAM SOCIETY MAY 1999 NEWSLETTER contains many articles about life in Eltham - including a history of Eltham and District Motor Cycle Club - the Chairman of which was a test rider for Matchless.

BYGONE KENT Vol. 20 No.6. contains an article 'The First Greenwich Gas Works. How it fell down' together with a letter from Brian Sturt ('the GLIAS gasman') filling in some of the gaps in the first instalment of this series on Greenwich's early gas works which had been in No.5. Vol.20 No.7. contains 'Greenwich Railway Gas Works'.

WOOLWICH ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY NEWSLETTER for June featured an article ' Our trip on the Jubilee Line' which could, quite honestly, be enough to out you off it for ever and ever. 2 _ hours underground and then told to walk back along the track! Oh - it was a special practice for an emergency (still, rather them than me).

GREENWICH SOCIETY NEWSLETTER. The Society is contributing funds for a study of using the Tunnel Refineries silo as a viewing platform. The silo contains a lift and a platform but a conversion would, of course, cost money.

The Summer edition of English Partnership's Greenwich Peninsula News has fluttered through the letterbox as I write. On page 2 is the plan for the Greenwich Pavilion 'a dramatic eye catching steel and glass structure .... it will house a dedicated exhibition about development of the Dome, the history of Greenwich and the Peninsula.....!'


Still available

** Mary Mills. Greenwich Marsh. The 300 Years Before the Dome, £9.95 by post from 24 Humber Road, SE3. £8.50 if you call at the house! Cheques to M.Wright

** Jess Steele. Deptford Creek. Surviving Regeneration. from Deptford Forum Publishing, 441 New Cross Road, SE14 6TA. £20. £10 if you live in Deptford.

** Rita Rhodes. An Arsenal for Labour. £12 from Holyoake Press, Co-operative Union, Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester M60 0AS.


GIHS Member, Darrell Spurgeon has just published his latest guidebook - 'Discover Sydenham and Catford' (we can't have this Darrell!). 96 pages, £5.99. from 72 Kidbrook Grove, SE3 0LG. Cheques payable to Darrell Spurgeon.

PS. It's a very good read about a very interesting area.



The First Wages Book was very simple by comparison with its modern equivalent. The only details entered were the name, trade, and rate of pay of each worker. For each week there was a column for the hours worked, and another for the payment made, with a total. None of the many deductions, bonuses etc made today applied. Although operatives theoretically worked a 60 hour week, in fact they were paid only for the hours worked if there was insufficient work for the 60 hours. Overtime was paid at the same rate as normal pay. Rates varied from about 4/ to 24/- - a week, depending on the trade of the worker, quite good pay for the time. The only trade I remember was that of 'Mechanician'.

The Letter Book was the office record of every letter sent out. All letters were hand written, and there was no method of copying them, apart from making a hand written copy in the letter book.

There were a number of periodicals from around the turn of the century, many printed in German. A title I remember was "The Tramcar and Street Railway World". Another, printed in German in 1898/9, consisted entirety of advertisements for rubber products (Gummiwaren). Of these, about 25% were for rubber insulated power and communications cables. The remainder were, rather surprisingly for the time, for contraceptives. It was lavishly illustrated throughout.

Unwisely as it turned out, I brought in a slim paperback biography of Joseph Swan which had been given to me as a boy, and contained quite a lot of useful information. Dr. Sutton seized on this with great enthusiasm, and wanted a copy Enquiries revealed that it was out of print. Meanwhile, he said, he had told Dr. Aldington (the Managing Director) about it, and he also was very keen to borrow and read it. Although reluctant I felt it unwise to refuse to lend it. Although I clearly wrote my name and address on the title page it was never returned.

In the course of research we also came across a number of bizarre anecdotes. Werner Siemens, in his autobiographical notes, described how he was arrested and imprisoned for acting as a second in a duel (socially this was considered a perfectly respectable, indeed honourable activity, but in law was treated as complicity in murder). The conditions were not too harsh, for he was allowed to conduct experiments on electro-deposition of gold in prison. The governor took a keen interest in this, and saw the potential for making money. Without his permission, he campaigned for Siemens' early release, with the intention of acquiring his apparatus and laboratory notes when they were abandoned in the prison. Siemens was put in the strange position of campaigning for his own continued detention until he could get his work removed. In this he was successful, and set up the electro-plating business on his release.

We also learned that the first floodlit football match in history was played on Clapham Common in the l880's. There was an arc lamp behind each goal, one powered by a Bunsen battery, the other by a steam powered Siemens W40 magneto electric machine.

Another anecdote, which particularly intrigued Dr. Sutton, was that of the Implacable. Soon after the invention of the incandescent electric lamp, the Government decided to commission a new warship. Siemens Brothers saw the opportunity to sell electric lighting, and a salesman was invited to the Admiralty, where he demonstrated several bulbs to a group of senior naval officers, including Admiral Fisher. At the end of the demonstration he was asked what would happen if the bulb were broken by enemy bombardment. Surely fragments of the white hot filament would detonate any explosives if they came into contact? The salesman replied that as soon as the carbon filament met the air it would instantly vaporise harmlessly. He added that in that respect it would be far safer than gas or oil lighting, since there was no question of fuel escaping and igniting. Then, at a pre~arranged signal, a sailor entered the room carrying a tea tray, on which was a pile of gun cotton, liberally garnished with gunpowder, and a hammer. As the officers all moved away till their backs were to the walls of the room, the salesman was invited to hold a lit bulb six inches above the explosive mixture and shatter it with the hammer. This he did with no apparent sign of fear, and there was no explosion. After a tense silence of about twenty seconds, Admiral Fisher said, quietly but resolutely, "we shall have this lighting aboard the Implacable".

To be continued...


Last year the Council produced a 'Riverside Audit' - GIHS and other bodies were very critical of this document. As a result, when Ben van Bruggen was appointed by the Waterfront Development Partnership we asked him to come and speak - and subsequently have arranged a series of walks to look at the riverside for ourselves. A small sub-committee was set up and - as a result - three members: Mary Mills, Sue Bullevant and Hugh Lyon have been 'brainstorming' a new audit with Ben.

We would be very grateful to hear from anyone who feels that they have particular knowledge of any one - or more - riverside sites. We need to be able to draw up a database of who has particular information or where it could be obtained from. Please get in touch.

Such a database of information is likely to be very useful - since it would be made available to Planners who would be then obliged to refer to the experts on any particular site in the future.

Its not too late - even now - to salvage something of our historic waterfront.

Riverside Wharves

The following article from our Chair, Jack Vaughan, was destined for the last Newsletter - but was received too late to be included. It refers to an article detailed in that issue about the Greenwich Society's stand on riverside wharves:

Last month's extract from the Greenwich Society's Newsletter was not only astonishing, but highly revealing. This society reminds me of a submarine working in deep waters, occasionally firing off a missile, invariably at the wrong target. When a cause for concern appears, they are nowhere to be seen. Such was the case when our beautiful and much loved Neo-Paxton red telephone boxes were rooted out and sold to America. It is worth noting that other societies in South London conservation areas managed to preserve their boxes, suitably updated within as part of the indigenous streetscape.

On the issue of the Greenwich Waterfront they have really 'come out'. Their policy statement is no less than a declaration of war on those surviving wharves and boatyards who have gritted their teeth through the recession only to be kicked in the teeth by those who should take pride in our maritime trading links.

The Greenwich Society cites the new estate by Fairview Homes as 'the way forward'. Really? They also point out the excess of dogs droppings on the river path as part of the case for redevelopment. Which streets would they nominate in Greenwich that are magically free of this nuisance.

Is their vision of the waterfront a sea of houses built with facades to resemble pseudo wharves punctuated occasionally by very expensive and highly pretentious sculpture.

There is a staggering arrogance about their presumptions.I well remember when the Ashburnham Triangle Association was formed in the early 1970s, how it was censoriously condemned by the Greenwich Society for usurping their powers.

We in the industrial history society must put the counter view to the Regeneration Committee of the Council. Our deep water berths are a golden asset and to allow them to fall into the hands of the developers would be unforgivable. The PLA Annual Report shows an increase in river freight and all good planning must take the long term view.

Our wharves were rightly given protected status, and we must ensure that this protection continues by fighting the propaganda of the Greenwich Society tooth and nail. To lose our working waterfront would make a mockery of the title 'Maritime Greenwich'.

Jack Vaughan

Jack also reviewed the talk given by Ben Van Bruggen to GIHS this spring on new initiatives on the Greenwich riverside:

Representing the Greenwich Waterfront Development Partnership, Ben van Bruggen outlined briefly the structure and aims of this not very well known organisation. As it came over to myself the main thread indicated the negation of industry in the future of the Borough in favour of the heavenly twins of Tourism and Business. At the Woolwich end the only reference made was the the Royal Arsenal, It has to be said that the take up of the much heralded 'business opportunities' on that site is not promising.

There was considerable support from members in favour of some reinstatement of industry to utilise the hard-won technical skills of the local population. The principal industrial type of activity at the Greenwich end seems to be the handling of aggregates, etc.

There seems to be little reference at Council level at the disappearance of 'real' industry or moves regarding restoration of the same. Regeneration seems to rest on riverside walks, pedestrianisation, street furniture, restaurants, entertainments, etc. There is a reliance on various financial handouts but no sort of underpinning to get a return to a sustainable industry-based economy,.

Lovell's Wharf

The news broke some weeks ago about a planning application for Lovell's Wharf. This wharf is at the end of Pelton Road - the first site on the final section of the Greenwich Riverside Walk before the Dome. It is a 'protected' wharf, declared so by the last Government as the folly of turning every riverside site over to housing became painfully apparent. The wharf was used until the 1980s by Shaw Lovell as part of their metal transhipment operation and since has been used occasionally for storage and transhipment of large items. Two cranes remain on site and, although once a common sight, they have now become a major feature of the Greenwich riverside. Historically the site has dealt with coal, lime, metal and gravel for the past 150 years. There is probably an ice house on site built for a commercial ice company at the turn of the century.

The plan is for a 274 bed hotel, 143 holiday apartments, and 530 feet of commercial space - shops, offices, pub and car parking. Although it is a largish site this still feels like a lot of things to fit on it.

Since the application has become public many of our members have rung to urge the Society to oppose this scheme. Some of them are in touch with a wide range of other bodies in the hope that they will oppose it - the London Rivers Association, the Council, the Port of London Authority, the Government Office for London, and others. All say that they think it is the thin end of the wedge. It is also clear that many local people in Pelton Road and the surrounding area oppose the scheme.

On the other side the scheme is 'broadly welcomed' by the Greenwich Society who see it as regenerating a vacant site and providing jobs.

It is likely that the planning application will be determined before the next GIHS meeting but the committee would be prepared to make a submission if the feelings of enough members are made known to us (in writing if possible).

It appears that the two cranes are to be retained as part of the planning application - although of course they will no be able to work. They are relatively modern although exhaustive enquiries have not led to the discovery of any hard evidence on their age. One of them - the 'big' one downriver - was extensively rebuilt only in the mid-1980s. Although it is unusual for machinery like this to get statutory protection the GIHS Committee hope that our members will agree to the decision to try to get these cranes listed. At one time the London riverfront was full of cranes like these and they were a very common sight. We understand that such 'Scotch Derricks' still stand at Commercial Pier Wharf in Rotherhithe and at Diespeker Wharf on the Regent's Canal - two where there were once many hundred.

Over the past months an attempt has been made to research the background to these cranes - with very little luck! We have had the support and help of a number of people who worked on the wharf and members of Lovell's management. A number of crane manufacturers and professionals have been extremely helpful. Despite all this help we have very little hard evidence on the their age and typology. It is known that one of them was brought to London from Dublin where it had been used on Custom House Quay. We are still very anxious to trace the company who renovated the cranes in 1987 in the hope that they might have retained some records. Also of great help would be anybody who made safety, or other, inspections of the cranes.

The site itself dates from around 1840 when there were limekilns and coal delivery apparatus there. We are urging that any site investigation is done by someone with knowledge of industrial structures rather an archaeologist and/or a soil analyst.

See also the views of Greenwich Conservation Group.

A very short booklet on the LOVELL'S WHARF site and its background can be made available at cost.
Please ring Mary on 0181 858 9482.

A number of 'serials' have had to be held over in this issue for lack of space - this includes John Day's Arsenal Memories and the History of Deptford. They will continue to be featured in forthcoming issues.

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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.... David Riddle, Goldsmiths College

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