GREENWICH INDUSTRIAL HISTORY

Volume 1, Issue 5, December 1998

ARTICLES

EARLY INDICATIONS OF SHIPBULDING IN THE GREENWICH AREA?
RICHARD WHEEN
SOAP MANUFACTURER, DEPTFORD
MEMOIRS OF AN ROF APPRENTICE
(PART 3)
GREENWICH WATERFRONT AUDIT
SETTING UP SIEMENS' INDUSTRIAL MUSEUM IN WOOLWICH
MUNDY CUTLERS
GREENWICH RIVERSIDE PATH
A RAILWAY SERVICE ON DOME SITE
REGISTER OF RESEARCH INTERESTS
REGULAR ITEMS
MEETINGS, EVENTS & COURSES
LETTERS
VARIOUS

Greewich Industrial History Society

SUBSCRIPTIONS

£10 per annum

OFFICERS

Chair, Jack Vaughan
Vice Chair, Barbara Ludlow
Secretary: Mary Mills
Treasurer: Steve Daly
Alan Parfrey co-opted for sub-committee


SOCIETY MEETINGS

11th January 1999, 7.30 pm (Monday) Peter Gurnett on Stone's of Deptford, Engineers.

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

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

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

ANYONE WHO WANTS TO SPEAK BRIEFLY ON A DISCUSSION ITEM AT ANY MEETING IS ENCOURAGED TO DO SO.

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


Setting Up Siemens' Industrial Museum in Woolwich

by Iain Lovell

This account describes the setting up of an industrial museum at the A.E.I. (formerly Siemens Brothers) Works in Woolwich in the late 1950s. It covers not only the exhibits displayed, but the circumstances under which it was commissioned, and the interactions of the personalities involved. It is written from a position of personal involvement.

In 1958 I was employed by A.E.I. (Woolwich) Ltd as a student apprentice on a "sandwich course" - alternating the first six months of each year at college with six months work experience, comprising six to eight week spells in various departments of the Company. A chance conversation over lunch with another student, at the company's research laboratory in Blackheath where we were both working, led to one of the most interesting assignments of my career.

Siemens Brothers, one of the earliest electrical engineering companies, had been founded at Woolwich, on the south bank of the Thames, a century earlier. There had been three Siemens brothers, who set up engineering businesses in different parts of the world. Werner Siemens stayed in Germany, and later combined with Halske. Karl Wilhelm Siemens came to England and set up at Woolwich changing his name to Charles William, and married an Englishwoman. Oskar Siemens set up in America.

The company had undergone many changes and amalgamations, being known at various stages in its history as Siemens Edison Swan, Siemens Ediswan, and latterly A.E.I. (Woolwich) Ltd, part of the giant Associated Electrical Industries group. During the nineteenth century, a museum of its products had been set up, but by the nineteen thirties had become neglected. At the start of the war, space became very scarce because of military production needs and there was bomb damage to some buildings. The exhibits were dispersed into various storerooms, pressed back into service, or lost.

A decision was taken to restore the museum, as far as possible, for the Duke of Edinburgh's visit for the company's centenary. The new museum was to be housed in the former library used by William Siemens at Woolwich. In charge of this project was Dr George Sutton, director in charge of the Research Laboratory in Blackheath. Reporting directly to him was Brian Rispoli, a student. It soon became obvious that Brian would not be able to complete the work alone within the five week deadline. Following a lunch time conversation with me he put my name forward to Dr Sutton, and I was asked to join the team. Also co-opted onto the team was Terry Card, an instrument maker, who was assigned the task of restoring the exhibits. An exhibition designer, John Arnold, was contracted through the firm of Cyprien Fox to do the display work.

We used a conference room on the lower ground floor, as an office/workshop. Four individual offices led off it. One of these was used sporadically by Dr Sutton and the other three were unoccupied. Access to the conference room was via a store room, for want of a better word, containing a huge number of books, ledgers and other documents. These dated mainly from the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, though some went back to the eighteenth century. They included an almost complete set of bound volumes of the Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (originally known as the Society of Telegraph Engineers) from its inception in about 1870 up to the 1930s. There were a number of text books, mainly on engineering, but also on biology, botany and other sciences. Many were beautifully illustrated and some were printed in German. There was also the first wages book and a letter book. I was told that this collection included the Obach Library, a private collection left to the company by a senior employee named Obach many years earlier, supposedly on condition that it was properly looked after. These books were stacked against walls, stored in cardboard boxes or left lying in piles on tables or the floor. Amongst them were the components of a number of steel shelf units, intended to store the books but never assembled.

The building had some bizarre architectural features. The position of some light switches in and around the store room bore no logical relationship to that of the fluorescent tubes they controlled; operating a switch might light a tube in a distant corridor - sometimes after a number of seconds, as the starters were not all effective. The heating was by large cast iron radiators, most of which were at floor level, as is normal. Some, however were anything from two to six feet above the ground.

The exhibits were brought to the conference room in crates and cardboard boxes. Many were damaged, scratched or dusty. The books in the storeroom were invaluable in researching the exhibits, and most of our information came from that source. Some time before we started on the project the company had lent several of the instruments for a temporary exhibition to the Science Museum, who returned them with their descriptive notices. The notices were jumbled together with the instruments, and some were inaccurate, but nevertheless made a useful starting point for research.

One of our earliest tasks was to sort the useful books from the irrelevant ones, and assemble one of the dismantled bookcases to store the frequently used volumes. In doing this we risked precipitating a strike, but there was not time to wait till the millwrights arrived. When they eventually came to assemble the other cases. the Duke of Edinburgh's visit was over. Because of the short time span, John Arnold had been obliged to design the show cases and order them to be made before he knew what was to be stored in them.

Dr Sutton was a striking person of great charm. Born about 1890, a little over six feet in height, he had a tall wave of white hair, slightly yellowed like antique ivory, and large horn rimmed glasses. The most startling aspect of his appearance was the informality of his dress. At a time when a dark lounge suit was just about acceptable office wear for an executive, he would typically wear pale yellow corduroy trousers, a bright red plaid patterned open neck shirt, a houndstooth sports jacket with leather patched elbows and sandals. It was very rare for him to wear a tie. He appeared to us to be quite detached from the hurly burly of office politics. He had a profound knowledge and great interest in the history of engineering. He spoke frequently and always with the greatest fondness about his father, who had been an engineer or scientist, and I remember him saying was a member of the Horological Society. His father had a laboratory/workshop in the garden of their home where, as a boy, Dr Sutton was allowed on occasions to watch him work.

John Arnold was a completely different character. Born in 1915, he was a short stocky man, with a friendly outgoing manner, a lively sense of humour, sometimes a bit vulgar by the standards of the day, and a ready smile. He was very quick to see the potential of the exhibits, and how they could be arranged to demonstrate engineering themes, although he had virtually no technical knowledge. He also had great dynamism, and well understood the urgency of the deadlines. He had some pithy descriptions of the types of person one met in publicity work. One was the "Little Emperor", i.e. the self-important head of a section who could not understand how anyone could attach any importance to anything other than his department. Another was the "Ancient Mariner", who, as in the poem, insisted on describing his own interests at inordinate length, when you had other urgent business to attend to.

Another personality who impinged on our working lives was always ironically referred to by Dr Sutton as "Thunder & Lightning". No description could have been less appropriate. He was short, stout and very diffident. If he had not been given a specific task, he would often go into the store room and look through the old books. Sometimes he would bring one to us, wait patiently until one of us looked up from his work, and show us a picture, invariably quite unrelated to what we were doing. I remember a beautifully detailed colour print of a toadstool, protected by a leaf of tissue paper, in a nineteenth century book printed in German. He would look earnestly at us with his sad grey eyes, and say "toadstool", or "bird, or "tree" as the case might be.

The next episode will describe some of the items uncovered.

pub names - lost pubs

The South East London Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale has suddenly shown a concern about Woolwich Pubs. They are appealing for information about pubs which have gone (not just in Woolwich, anywhere locally). They want to know about the architecture, history, development and, of course, the beer.

Anyone with information should ring 0181 855 881 or send an email to SELCAMRA@aol.com. A meeting will be held at the Dog and Bell, Deptford on 14th January at 8.00 pm.



PLUMSTEAD MUSEUM
recently had - may even still have - an excellent exhibition of artist's drawings of the Dome. Check with Beverly - and if it is still open go down at once.....

There is also an exhibition from the Festival of Britain Society - who seem to be following the Dome round with pictures of the Dome of Discovery! - and many interesting memorabilia. Contact them through Mr. G. Simner, 23 Langton Avenue, East Ham, E6 4AN


 

EARLY INDICATIONS OF SHIPBULDING IN THE GREENWICH AREA?

by John Fox

W T Vincent, in his book The Records of the Woolwich District, written in the 1890s, when writing about Abbey Wood tells us that: "With the deep hollow close by the ruins of the old abbey, tradition has always associated it with the name of The Roman Dock and, although tradition alone is a bad witness, tradition supported by collateral facts is always receivable as evidence." It may be thought he laid more emphasis on oral tradition than actual fact. But the two ponds which are there now, and shown on Ordnance Survey maps of the time Mr Vincent was writing, indicate that here the marsh did extend into the hills of Abbey Wood.

On a map drawn about 1580 a considerable tidal stream or river is shown entering the Thames at a spot west of Cross Ness Point. This river flowed from its source somewhere in Eltham, around the western part of Welling, roughly following the route of the present Wickham Lane, to enter the Thames. It dried up when further enclosures of Plumstead Marshes kept out the tides. On this map a branch of the stream is shown diverging eastwards toward Lesnes Abbey. Mr Vincent suggests that in Roman times a naval station was built at the end of this branch where they constructed their ships of war and commerce. He suggests that at low tide a blockage was put across the stream, somewhere near the present road, thus making a tidal dry dock in which to build their craft.

The hollow written about is less than 100 yards west of the Abbey and I would guess it to be 20 feet deep. Mr Vincent writes "the dock is partly a natural slade and partly excavation. There are manifest signs of it having been deepened in places and the angular protuberances on the banks, which are like nothing in nature." But I'm afraid that all any present day visitor will see is a landscaped valley, all sign that its sloping sides have ever been anything other than smooth lawns have been removed. By its size it is obvious that a large stream must have flowed here once.

All this is rather fanciful and without proof. Only a respected author's hypothesis about a local place name. Without firm evidence let us examine the likelihood of shipbuilding ever having taken place here. There is no record of any savant examining the site before Mr Vincent's time. Maybe when local people began to call it The Roman Dock more evidence was to be seen. It is known that Roman activity was extensive in the area, a fort where Woolwich Power Station is, or was, burials in Wickham Lane, perhaps building the river wall around Plumstead Marshes and a road from Bostall Heath to Erith that ran close to Lesnes Abbey. Primitive boats have been dug out of the peat in the area. Whilst this doesn't prove they were built here it does indicate that the marsh might have been flooded when the vessels originally foundered.

A builder of ships must consider the nearness of the raw material for their construction. An example of this is the London shipbuilding industry of the last century going to the northern part of the country not only because of the abundance of cheap labour, but to be near the iron and steel manufacturing centres. Two thousand years before this a Roman shipbuilder would face exactly the same problems. He would need a tidal affected stretch of water near to a plentiful supply of wood with which to build his ship. Marshy areas close to the City were probably denuded of timber to provide firewood for its population by then and if he went up river the effects of the tide would lessen. Going down river, on the north bank stretched the marshes of Essex, looking at the small amount of marshland remaining today, at Barking and Rainham, one can see the marsh supports few trees suitable for the building of ships. It was the same on the south bank, until reaching Greenwich, here the hills came close to the river, but the uplands being on the infertile Blackheath Beds the material of which ships were built grew sparsely. The trees which covered Shooters Hill showed promise but it was two miles from the river. When our shipbuilder went up the river that flowed into the Thames at Cross Ness Point he would come to a branch of the river that flowed from tree covered hills. Here was everything the shipbuilder was seeking. The south bank held a plentiful supply of wood, the stream flowed through a valley that could be dammed and, with a little effort, here would be an ideal place to build wooden boats.

The Augustinian Canons, who built Lesnes Abbey in 1179 of stone, said to have been brought from Caen in Normandy, were respected for building only where the building materials could be transported to the intended building site easily. If they unloaded their stone on the banks of the River Thames the one and half miles through marsh land to the site of the Abbey would have been an almost impassable barrier - but not if they unloaded their stone onto the banks of a stream that almost reached the site of the Abbey, that had been deepened and its banks shored up by long ago shipbuilders. Then the stone laden boats could be dragged up the stream at high tide and the materials unloaded, this way the transport of building material by boat was possible.

This does not attempt to present conclusive evidence that early shipbuilding in the area took place in Roman times. After so many years I doubt if such confirmation could be found. but there are so many pointers that lead towards the conclusion that the valley just west of Lesnes Abbey would have been high on the list of possible shipbuilding sites close to London in the Roman era. Although just the mention of Vincent's name will immediately raise doubts in any local historians mind, to sum up I can do no better than to quote his final thought on the question of The Roman Dock. 'It must be conceded that the Romans, the Danes and other early shipwright's, would build their vessels somewhere near the capital, and, apart from tradition and probability, I would ask if anyone can find a situation and a confirmation so suitable and convenient for the purpose as this.' Needless to say W T Vincent was a strong advocate that here in Abbey Wood the earliest indications of shipbuilding in the Greenwich area are to be found.

LETTERS

From John West:

The Perkins Steam Gun Query - G.I.H.S. Newsletter No: 3. Aug 1998

Jacob Perkins (1766-1849) engineer, inventor and advocate of high pressure steam techniques designed in 1827-28 a steam gun for the French Government. He asked John Penn & Son, Millwrights and Engineers of Greenwich to make the gun for him. John Penn I (1770-1843) and head of the firm, agreed to undertake the project and entrusted the work to his son, John Penn II (1805-1878), who still in his twenties was showing all the signs of becoming a brilliant engineer like his father.

The steam gun had a wrought-iron rifled barrel of 3 inches calibre and during trials at the Limekilns, Greenwich proved to be as efficient as Perkins had hoped. Trials were also carried out on waste ground in Westminster, where it was inspected by many military men and eventually by the Duke of Wellington. During the trials the 3 inch bullets were shot off at high speed and penetrated an iron plate 100 yards off.

On learning that the boiler for the gun weighed 5 tons, the Duke saw immediately how impractical it was to transport it across country or field. Penn was said to have commented to Perkins "It's all up with us now". Perkins reaction is not recorded, however Penn did take the gun to Paris and stayed about three months, but the fall of the French government in 1830 ended all interest in the project.

Eventually the gun was returned to this country and exhibited at the Adelaide Gallery that opened in London in 1830 for the purpose of promoting science and technology. The gun was finally sold as scrap.

The failure of the steam gun did Penn no harm as he later became one of the finest and most successful marine engineers of his day.

From Howard Bloch:

Further to the query in your last issue about the Silvertown explosion: A number of accounts have been written about the Silvertown Explosion which occured at Brunner Mond works at Crescent Wharf, West Silvertown at about 6.50 pm on 19th January 1917 1.

The incident caused widespread damage, killed seventy-three people and injured several hundred. At the time rumours spread about its cause. Cyril Demarne recalls some of these:-

The works' chemist, a German named Dr. Angel had sabotaged a consignment of TNT.

It was a new type of bomb which would win the War for Germany.

A German spy had planted a bomb under rail trucks loaded with explosives

...... and many more.**

The Court of Inquiry which was held in 1917 was unable to determine the cause of the fire which resulted in the subsequent explosion.

References:

1. Wendy Neal. With Disastrous Consquences. London Disasters 1830-1917. Hislarlik Press p.183-210.

Frank Sainsbury, The Silvertown Explosion. Newham History Society Occasional papers, No.2. November 1988. p. 25-44.

2. Winston G. Ramsey. The East End: Then and Now. After the Battle. 1997. p.90

Howard included a card with his letter with four sides to it.
On one side is the illustration reproduced below, and on the other three the following text:

IMAGE
LIKE AN EARTHQUAKE

About seven o'clock a fire started at a factory in the East of London, near the river, which was employed as refining explosives, a few minutes after an explosion occured which was attended by considerable loss of life.

His Majesty the King has made inquiries as to the extent of the damage and loss of life, and has expressed his solicitude for the victims and their families.

In Sacred Memory of

the

VICTIMS of the GREAT EXPLOSION

in the East End of London on Friday evening, January 19th 1917.

May their Souls Rest in Peace

With sincere sympathy to the friends and relatives.

Pathetic incidents

Heartrending scenes were witnessed at Poplar Hospital where casualties began to arrive shortly after the disaster.

Women, and men too, were moved to tears as they watched the bodies, some limbless and some almost lifeless, lifted from the ambulances and carried by the Red Cross into the building. Most of the poor victims were unconscious, and many had passed beyond human aid by the time the hospital gates were reached.


From Iris Bryce:

I was interested in reading about the Gas Works as my Grandfather worked there just before World War 1. I remember him spending a lot of time in bed as he had had an accident at the Gas Works before I was born. My Gran always took me with her when she went to the Gas Works to collect a small pension for Grandfather. I should imagine this was something quite rare in those days and wonder just what kind of accident he had had? I certainly remember walking past the gasholders and going up the outside iron staircase of a brick building to the office, where Gran was given a small brown envelope every Friday morning.

Re: Brundept's factory in Blackheath - there are several mentions of this along with the Burnham family, who owned the company, in a book called Setmakers - a history of the Radio and Television Industry. There are also photographs of the factory, their products and the family. The book was published as a special edition and available, I believe, only to the trade. Publishers: The British Radio and Electronic Equipment Manufacturers Association in 1991. ISBN 0 9517042 0 6. This may be of interest to someone.

From Malcolm Tucker:

G.W. Dresser: I've been doing some research on gasholders in the Library of the Institution of Gas Engineers and I chanced on the name of 'Major Dresser' in the index of the Proceedings of the British Association Gas Managers (a predecessor of the Institution of Gas Engineers) for 1878. He seems to have come over from America for the Annual Conference and contributed to the discussions on two papers - On Illuminating Power Measurement and Gas for Heating. On p.122 he was elected an Honorary member: viz.: Captain G. Warren Dresser, Editor of the American Gaslight Journal (perhaps Major was a courtesy title for retired army captains). His address was given as 42 Pine Street, New York. A relation of Christopher Dresser maybe? Establishing a link between No. 13 gasholder at Old Kent Road and the "father of industrial design" will certainly be interesting.

[Editorial note: It is understood that Malcolm is undertaking a historical assessement of gas holders remaining in London. It is also understood - from comments made by The Weasel in The Independent - that New Millennium Experience Co. have now dropped plans to screen the big gas holder at East Greenwich from the view of tourists. Has some recent press interest in it (and in their screening plans) persuaded them otherwise?]

PLEASE KEEP YOUR LETTERS COMING IN
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH - REQUESTS FOR HELP - OPINIONS 

Richard Wheen

by Neil Rhind

Richard Wheen (1808-1885) soap manufacturer of Deptford.
Lived at Colonnade House, No. 7 South Row, Blackheath, from 1853-1863.

Wheen was probably one of the most typical of the successful Blackheath families of his time in that he was involved in the manufacturing process of his business, clearly successful and philanthropic and able to accommodate a large family in the relatively prosperous and rural suburb of Blackheath. Nevertheless, he rode to work on his horse each day. Also his sons entered the family business and learned the technology and marketing systems, which kept the business prosperous. It flourished in Deptford from 1849 until 1955.

Wheen had been in partnership with brother John from the l830s, with a soap factory on Ratcliffe Highway, Finsbury. The factory had been founded in 1769 and was eventually owned by Joseph Moate. Moate was Richard Wheen's uncle and the boy married Moate's daughter (also his cousin) Anna-Maria, eventually siring 13 children. He encouraged his brother John Frith Wheen (1816-1903) to join the business. By 1837 they were manufacturing 645 tons of soap. In 1838 the figure had risen to 715 tons, worth then over £10,000. But, after a few years, they decided it was not profitable enough to support two families and they parted company, but without rancour. Richard moved to Creek Road, Deptford taking over a pin factory on the water's edge and once the Ravensbourne Wood Mill. He pioneered a number of techniques in soap manufacture, including the first use of soap coppers boiled by steam and not direct heat.

Before taking Colonnade House, Richard Wheen had lived at York Terrace, Regent's Park. The move was clearly necessary: Over the ten years the Wheens lived in Blackheath, the family grew and Richard and Maria Wheen were blessed with 11 children at Blackheath, and employed no less than 11 resident servants, including a butler, footman and coachman - the largest number in any house in the district - even Rangers House, then occupied by HRH Prince Arthur (later Duke of Connaught). The Wheens moved in 1863 to Hayes Place, Keston, then to Lancaster Gate. His retirement was spent enjoying sporting activities with shooting in Scotland. Mr & Mrs Wheen finally retired to Courtlands, at Tunbridge Wells, where Richard died in November 1885. He left £50,000 as well as property and a prosperous business. Maria Wheen had died in 1881, aged 63.

The business passed to the control of three of the sons; Richard (1838-1910), Francis (l850-1925) and Charles Wheen. It was floated as a public company in 1898 but remained with the Wheen descendants until competition from the big names led to an agreement with Lever Bros. and its closure. From the early Deptford days and until recently, the company and family had turned for legal advice to solicitor Griffith Thomas (and his descendant partners) in the practice now known as Clifford Chance. Thomas was resident at No 6, The Paragon from 1851 to 1860.

During his time at Blackheath, Richard Wheen had been an active member of the Blackheath Improvement Association; the eldest son, Richard, was educated at the Blackheath Proprietary School from 1852 to 1854. Children at Colonnade House were: Richard, Maria, Diana, Helen, Anne, Francis, Mary, Emma, Louisa, Edward, and Charles. In 1861 Wheen extended and altered the house, perhaps to the form that it retained until 1941. The works were substantial, costing nearly £1,500, and requiring the services of architect Francis Freeman Thorne, then at No. 101 Dacre Park.

Copyright Neil Rhind.

Photograph kindly provided by Wheen family 1995.

Industrial Archaeology News (produced by the National Association for Industrial Archaeology) carries a letter from someone in the north of England about returning museum items from London to their 'birthplace' - do they really mean that? These things are two way! What would we do if all the Museums in Britain sent their Penn steam engines and Merryweather fire engines back to Greenwich! Where would we put them all!

GLIAS Newsletter runs an item this month under the headline Woolwich Arsenal relics in Devon. These are relics of the old narrow gauge railway preserved at Bicton Park, East Budleigh. This is Bicton Woodland Railway, where the main locomotive is the Arsenal from Woolwich. For details phone 01395 568465.


MEMORIES OF AN ROF APPRENTICE (Part 3)

by John Day

After the Gauge Shop I went to the Electrical Section. In a way it was fortuitous that I went off sick for a fortnight over the change, since during that time my father was promoted from foreman of the Electrical Shop (were I would have been under him) to manager of the Mechanical Engineering Department - this included everything mechanical except production. I had three, three month, sessions in the Electrical Section, one in the Power Station, one on D.C. and one on A.C. work.

During my stint in the Power Station, my main job consisted in spending the morning doing the rounds of all the meters - recording pressures, temperatures flows and consumptions, changing the charts and working out how the power station was performing. Coal usage was gauged by going down into the hoppers and estimating the average levels. For this I had to be accompanied by a mate in case I stood on a hidden void. The rest of the day was more or less my own. Sometimes I would wander into the boiler house and learn the art of throwing a shovelfull of more or less pea size coal back up into the hopper of a chain stoker in a neat jet. I mended a CO2 recorder, but I suddenly found myself busy when it was suggested I could scrape in one of the slide valves of the Vickers-Howden. Otherwise I could sit quietly in the engineer's office, at the end of the switch board, and get on with Polytechnic homework. Life in a power station is either boring or - when something goes wrong - panic. Such a life leads turbine drivers to cosset their machines and - heaven help anyone who dares to put a sweaty hand on a highly polished handrail without insulating it with a lump of cotton waste first. During my time there, somebody started one of the three-throw high pressure pumps without checking that the stop valve was open! The result - Barimar did a fine job in welding the two parts of the 4 inch crankshaft together again!

My D.C. spell was under Bill Heywood, although I spent a couple of weeks on armature winding. Woolwich never sent anything out for repair. Bill was also responsible for the electrical test bed where motors could be tested for power output, etc. Power was measured with a fan brake made up of a pair of steel channels, clamped round the motor shaft, and carrying steel fan plates at their ends. There were several pairs of plates of different areas and calibration charts for them. If a motor had a short shaft, this was no problem - we just cut the corner off the plate to clear the motor carcass and did not bother to adjust the calibration. The motor was bolted to the rails in the floor and the fan spun freely in an adjacent pit. There was no thought of putting a guard over the fan - we just kept out of the way. Mind you, the noise was a good reminder of what was happening!

Another thing we tested was a generator for a plating plant - 'all amps and no volts', one might say. The load was supplied by bolting a couple of pieces of checker plate to a lump of wood about nine inches thick and lowering it into an old cast iron tank that happened to be outside the shop window. The plates were about a couple of feet square and they certainly made the water boil!

To be continued...

 

MUNDY CUTLERS

- research by John West

Reference the item in the October newsletter about Ms. McWhirter's knife made by Mundy, cutlers. I have spent some time at Woodlands. Half an hour with the street and trade directories produced the following: -

Cutlers

1870 Mundy William 5 Little Cross St. Islington

1875 Mundy William 2 Little Cross St. Islington & 16 Artillery St. E.

1877 Mundy William, 87 London Rd. Southwark & 16 Artillery St. E.

1883 as above

1886 as above

1886 Mundy Arthur, 247 Walworth Rd.

1893-1939 Mundy, William Samuel, 50 London St. Greenwich

1893 Greenwich Rate Book, 50 London St. Wm. Samuel Mundy, House/Shop Rateable Value £46

1907 Mundy, William (Mrs) Working Cutler, 87 London Rd. Southwark

1907 Mundy. William (Mrs) Working Cutler, 3 Carter St. Walworth

1940 London St. becomes 241 Greenwich High Road. Mundy there until 1942

1940-1943 Mundy Wm. Saml. 162 Fenchurch St. E.C.4

1950-1968 Mundy & Co.Ltd 87 London Rd. Southwark & 162 Fenchurch St. E.C.

The c1880 60" 0S map for London Road, Southwark, does not indicate any workshop or small foundry. Mundy was always listed under 'Cutlers' and not 'Cutlery Manufacturers'. The 1907 entry may be significant as they describe themselves as 'Working Cutlers'

I didn't have the time to search earlier or later volumes, but the above indicates that they were a long established and very successful firm - but what enticed them to Greenwich?



Thanks to Bob Score an item about GIHS has gone into EPE - the Journal of the Engineers and Managers Association. The item is an appeal for information about Blackwall Point Power Station- so let's look forward to what turns up.


 

GREENWICH WATERFRONT AUDIT

Adam Platts of The Greenwich Waterfront Partnership has written to Greenwich Industrial History Society with a draft copy of a riverside 'audit' which they have started to set up. It covers quite a number of riverside features and they hope to expand it. They are asking for a response as soon as possible. Below is an extract which deals with Industrial Heritage Highlights. If anyone feels able to disagree with what is here, or add to it, they are urged to contact Adam Platts, Acting Waterfront Co-ordinator, Greenwich Waterfront Development Partnership, 46 Greenwich Church Street, SE10 9BL. 0181 853 4629. We would be very happy to publish your comments so please send a copy to us.

Payne's Wharf - Cast iron bollard on landside is marked John Penn and Son, Deptford who is known to have had a wharf in this area for the installation of the steam turbines in ships.

Deptford Power Station. The world's first high-pressure power station, originally 5,000 volts, later to become 10,000 volts. Built in 1889 by Sebastian de Ferranti, engineer to London Electric Supply Co.

Wood Wharf . Probably the area where the Greenwich Fishing Fleet moored. With the advent of the railways in the mid-19th century providing better and faster connection between the northern fishing ports and London, the Greenwich Fleet moved to Grimsby.

Cutty Sark - Built in 1869 at Dumbarton by Scott and Litton for John Willis (963 tons). Built especially for the China Tea Trade. Now in dry dock on a site previously occupied by the Ship Hotel.

Five-Foot Walk - The five-foot walk stretches from Greenwich Pier to Park Row and has been open to the public since the 18th century.

Trafalgar Tavern - Built in 1837 by Joseph Kay on the site of an earlier tavern; 'The George'. Ministerial whitebait dinners were held here at the end of each session of Parliament, the last being in 1883 when Gladstone's ministers came to the Trafalgar. Whitebait then were caught off Greenwich and served within the hour.

Crane Street. A crane for unloading ships stood here as least as long ago as 1730. Crane Street includes the headquarters of the Curlew Rowing Club reputedly the oldest club on the tideway.

Highbridge. The probable site of a 15th century 'bridge' for the embarkation and landing of passengers and goods, and possibly the point at Greenwich beyond which, by decree of the Venetian Senate in 1453, Venetian galleys were forbidden to proceed upstream.

Trinity Hospital. Founded in 1613 by Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, as an almshouse for 21 local men. Now administered by the Mercers' Company. A tablet set in the river wall facing the Hospital commemorates abnormally high tides recorded in 1874 and 1928.

Greenwich Power Station. Built in 1906 to provide power for the LCC tramways and now serving the underground railways. There was formally a horse tram depot on this site, and traces of the previous use are still discernible inside the building. The Greenwich Meridian passes through the power station.

Anchor Iron Wharf. Formerly the property of the Crowley family. Served Ambrose Crowley's Iron Warehouse n the 18th century.

Ballast Quay. At Ballast Quay, ships which had discharged their cargoes in London took on Blackheath gravel as ballast for the return voyage.

Harbour Masters Office. Built in 1855 to control the collier traffic between Limehouse Stairs and Bugsby's Reach.

Granite Wharf. Formerly John Mowlem's stonemasonry works between 1890-1921. Stone for many famous London buildings including Admiralty Arch in the Mall was worked here.

Pipers Wharf. J.R. Piper made iron barges here in the 1880's and lighters are still brought to be repaired.

Enderby's Wharf. The Enderby family established a ropewalk here in 1834 but it was burnt down in 1845. They went on to pioneer Antarctic whaling, and on one of their expeditions 'Enderby Land' and 'Greenwich Island' were discovered and named. Glass Eliot and Co bought the wharf in 1854, and in 1864 amalgamated with the Gutta Percha Co. to form the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Co. The first successful Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable laid by the Great Eastern in 1866 was made here, as well as, during the Second World War, PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean).

Hollick's Wharf, Tunnel Refineries Ltd. Once a cement wharf but now used by Tunnel Refineries Ltd. Their laboratory stands on the site of an old riverside pub The Seawitch which was used by companies to sign on lightermen. During the Blitz, it was destroyed and never rebuilt.

Morden Wharf. Named after John Morden, who founded Morden College in 1695 and endowed it with lands, which included much of the East Greenwich marshland.

Bay Wharf. Formerly Fishers Barge Building and Repair Yard. First trawlers and then barges were built for the invasion of France in WW2.

Ordnance Wharf. Formerly the Blakeley Ordnance Company, makers of guns and rifles in 1865 and founded by Colonel Blakeley

Blackwell Point (sic). The spot in the 18th century where the bodies of pirates were hung in chains above the high water mark.

Blackwell Tunnel (sic) - Designed by Sir Alexander Binnie and built by S. Pearson and Son for the L.C.C. It was opened in 1897 at a cost of £1.4 million and was the largest in the world at that time.

Angerstein Wharf. The branch railway line from this wharf which connected to the Southern Railway near Charlton Station was built in 1852.

Anchor and Hope P.H. The name of the pub derived from the days when sailing barges and brigs came to Charlton to load goods for shipment. Adverse weather meant that the skipper could spend days waiting for the right wind so that they would 'anchor and hope'.

Thames Barrier. Constructed 1974-1982. Designed by Rendal, Palmer and Tritton for GLC. Final cost believed to be in the region of £400 million.

Thames Barrier East. This part of the river was where the notorious prison hulks were moored; convicts were kept on them in conditions where many died and bodies were left on hatchways for dissection by medical school students. Eventually, they would be buried in unmarked graves on Plumstead Marshes where a red nettle known as the 'convicts flower' would blossom only on turned earth.

Woolwich Dockyard. Built in 1514 one year after the Deptford Yard and closed in 1869. The yard originally built by Henry VIII for the construction of his famous ship 'Harry Grace a Dieu'. The last ship to be built in this yard was H.M.S. Thalia.

The above is taken directly from the report - and although the closing date for comments is 4th December - anyone who has comments are urged to send them in.

FORTHCOMING EVENTS

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

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

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

2nd December. Steampipes. Railway films, cartoons, organ, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, WC2 7pm

2nd December. GLIAS Recording Group. All welcome. Kirkaldy Testing House Museum (rear door, Prices Street, SE1) 6.30p.m.

8th December. Crossness Engines. Appointment only. Tel: 0181 211 3711 on Tues-Sun. 9am - 4pm. Admission: £2 adults, £1.50 children.

9th December. Deptford's Community Boatyard Public Meeting. Armada Hall, 21 McMillan Street, SE8 6.30pm

10th December (starting). Exhibition on Puppets and Toy Theatres. Greenwich Borough Museum, Plumstead Library, Plumstead High Street, SE18.

18th December. Members Evening and Conversazione. Blackheath Scientific Society. 7.45pm. Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, SE3.

1999

6th January. Steam Colliers Alan Pearsall, Museum of London Education Dept. Room C. 6.00pm

14th January. Polar Exploration. £29. 10.30-4.15 Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.

14th January. Lost Pubs. SE Campaign for Real Ale. Dog and Bell, Deptford, SE8. 8pm

15th January. Prof. Galea, Emergency Evacuation of Aircraft. Blackheath Scientific Society 7.45pm Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, SE3.

16th January.Whaling. 10.30am-4.15pm. 25. Open Museum. Ring 0181 312 6747.

16th January. Pathfinder Rail Tours, The Kentish Container - leaves Crewe 06.00, Victoria 12.30 then to Angerstein Wharf and Thamesport (Isle of Grain). Pathfinder Tours, Stag House, Gydynap Lane, Inchbrook, Woodchester, Glos. 01453 835414

20th January. Industrial Archaeology in Poland. Prof. Ray Riley, GLIAS 6.30pm. St Bartholomew's Medical School

27th January. The First Millennium of Greenwich History. Julian Watson, Greenwich Historical Society, Music Centre, Blackheath High School, Vanburgh Park Road, SE3. 8-9pm

27th January. South Metropolitan Gas Co. Brian Sturt. Old Mortuary, St, Marychurch Street, SE16. 7.30pm

29th January. IA in Poland. Prof Ray Riley. GLIAS, Lecture Theatre 3, Science Block,St. Bartholomew Medical School, Charterhouse Square, EC1. 6.30pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COURSES

Certificate in Industrial Archaeology. A new first year of this course has already started but anyone interested in joining should contact 0171 631 6633. Course held at Centre for Extra Mural Studies, Birkbeck College, 26 Russell Square, WC1B 5DQ

History: Greenwich - The Town Behind the Millennium. Mary Mills. 2 term year course, Coombe Cliff Centre, Coombe Road, Croydon. 3.00pm-5.30pm. Thursdays. 01883 623955

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

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

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

A RAILWAY SERVICE ON THE DOME SITE

Review of East Greenwich Gas Works by Malcolm Millichip

Most local people know that the site of the gas works that is now to house the Millennium Dome once had a very efficient internal railway system - and that it was connected to the outside world by way of the still functioning Angerstein Line. It has taken an article on the East Greenwich gas works railway to give us the details on this. The article is by Malcolm Millichip - who wrote an excellent book on the gas works railways of north London and has now turned his eyes to the south. He has been helped on the details by our local expert, Brian Sturt. The article appears in the November issue of Railway Bylines.

East Greenwich Gas Works was a large and complicated site which included two separate chemical works in addition to other specialist sections. The article outlines details of the two narrow gauge and one standard gauge railway on site. It gives a brief background to the works and its development showing how the railway was built as the works itself grew and expanded.

Initially the railway system was internal only, but from about 1903 it was joined by the Angerstein railway via a mile spur from the main part of the line running from the Angerstein Junction near Charlton Station. At first it was a single track connection only but was eventually doubled. The article comments on the 'proliferation' of signalling equipment and the two signal boxes - one of which survived for many years adjacent to the recently demolished bridge over Riverway.

The article also outlines the enormous variety of locomotives used at East Greenwich - steam, petrol and diesel. It is fascinating to learn that this railway was still in operation only 30 years ago and - as most locals know - the track into the works survived until earlier this year.

In trying to review this article we have found that Railway Bylines is not easy to get unless you are at a main line railway station on the day it comes out! The address is Irwell Press, Owen Eyles Magazines, 91 High Street, Berkhampstead, Herts (0181 363 5285). £3.20 each.


GREENWICH RIVERSIDE PATH

We feel very strongly that whatever changes are made to the riverside path through Greenwich that it must be done in such a way that the romantic and traditional atmosphere of the path is preserved. For many years there have been threats to the path and changes to riverside working patterns have meant that some of its character has altered - but a natural process of change is not objectionable. We now see a number of threats to it - many of them from those who want to make it neat and tidy, pave it, clean it up and remove its romantic atmosphere.

We believe that the many artefacts - remains of barge stands, dolphins, old notices, etc, even some flotsam - which litter the foreshore and the path are part of the river's character and should be retained. We would urge the London Borough of Greenwich to do any upgrading only in a way that preserves the path as a traditional riverside walk. We would point out that;

a) it is cheaper to do it like that and that

b) tourists come to see local atmosphere, not somewhere which is just the same as everywhere else.

Steve Daly, Barbara Ludlow, Mary Mills,. Alan Parfrey, Jack Vaughan
(GIHS Committee writing together in a personal capacity)

This unknown and unnamed riverside path is the best Thamesside walk in London. It beats all of the embankments and water gardens hollow. Best in this direction because then the walk has a climax: the domes of Greenwich Hospital beckoning round the bend of the river and a splendidly unselfconscious free house, the Cutty Sark. The entrance certainly takes some finding: to get there, fork left facing the southern entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel with its pretty art nouveau gatehouse. About two hundred yards along it on the left a passage leads down beside the Delta Metal Co. It zigs and it zags but it doesn't give up and eventually comes out at the river. The start is now a sizeable Belvedere but the path soon takes on much more exciting forms between walls, or unfenced above a slide down to the water, or wandering past timber wharves, under cranes and in one case nipping round the back of a boatyard. Never the same for a hundred yards at once, a conscious flirtation with the slow flowing river, choked with working boats. The first houses come in at the Cutty Sark (Union Wharf): then there is a final exciting stretch past Greenwich Power station and the astonishing contrast with the Trinity almshouses next door, another good riverside pub (The Yacht) and the climax of the footpath in front of the Greenwich Hospital. Not just a walk but a stressed walk - mostly by accident. God preserve it from the prettifiers - or the blind. 'They' are trying to close it. Walk it as you would a country path till they are sick to the guts.

Ian Nairn. Nairn's London Penguin 1966

REQUESTS FOR HELP AND REGISTER OF RESEARCH

This is a repeat list (Web version only) of requests received for help regarding industrial site:

The following people have registered research interests with us -

John Penn site, Blackheath Hill - John West

Greenwich Peninusla sites - Mary Mills

Market Gardens on Millennium Village site - Diana Rimel

We have also received the following requests for help:

Chimneys - GLIAS (Vol.1. No.3.)

Copperas - Derek Bayliss (Vol.1. No.1.)

Fuel Research Station - Brian Sturt (Vol.1. No.2.)

Greenwich Foot Tunnel - Myles Dove (Vol.1. No.2.)

Greenwich Peninusla sites - Mary Mills (Vol.1. No.4.)

Iron Shipbuilding - Prof. Arnold (Vol.1. No.1.)

John Penn site, Blackheath Hill - John West (Vol.1. No.4.)

Market Gardens on Millennium Village site - Diana Rimel (Vol.4. No.4.)

Mercury Building - Katie Jones (Vol.1. No.3.)

National Enamels - Alan Parfey (Vol.1. No.4.)

Perkins' Steam Gun - John Day (Vol.1. No.3.)

Royal Docks - Malcolm Shirley (Vol.1. No.3.)

Weighbridges - Jack Vaughan (Vol.1. No.1.)

Wheen's soap works - Pat O'Driscoll (Vol.1. No.3.)

Please let us know if you want to be added to either list...


This newsletter is produced by Mary Mills for the Greenwich Industrial History Society and printed (thanks) to Docklands Forum, 192 Hanbury Street, E14. Opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of individual authors or the editor and not those of the society as a whole.

ANY NEWSLETTER IS ONLY AS GOOD AS IT'S CONTENTS MAKE IT.
IF YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO TO CONTRIBUTE - ARTICLES, REPORTS, LETTERS - ANYTHING:

.... OR PLEASE CONTACT MARY MILLS, 24 HUMBER ROAD, SE3 7LR. 0181 858 9482

And......  DON'T FORGET TO ASK US FOR A MEMBERSHIP FORM



The Web version has been created by;

.... David Riddle, Goldsmiths College

Space courtesy of Goldsmiths College, University of London