Volume 11, Issue 1, December 2008





20th January - Richard Hartree on John Penn the work of the Greenwich based engineering company and its founders

10th February - AGM and Presentation from the Working Lives of the Thames Gateway Team

17th March - John King on Lullingstone: the airport that never was

14th April - Ken McGovern on The Kent Fortress.  Royal Engineers Territorials

12th May - Paul Sowan on Gilbert’s Pit

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

SORRY!  About the lack of a newsletter over the past year – overwork is the reason, as ever. However we have been putting all sorts of stuff on a new Blog site which has complimented our Web site - so - check out for the latest news on Greenwich’s Industrial history and this site for back issues.

The Big News of the year has been the medieval Tide Mill found by archaeologists on the building site which was Granite Wharf.

The Museum of London archaeology team have found what they thought was a 13th Century Tide Mill. Tide Mills are basically water mills which work by the power of the tides, rather than by a river or stream, and they tend to be associated with busy industrial sites rather than with a bit of local corn milling. Once it is dated it may turn out to be the oldest so far discovered on the Thames. In the early mediaeval period much of Greenwich – and big chunks of Kent associated with it – were owned by St. Peter’s Abbey in Ghent. Large religious organisations at that period were very much in to exploiting the resources of the lands they owned. It could be that this mill was owned by them – and if so it implies an industrial community in the Ballast Quay area in a period when not very much is known about Greenwich. There are still a lot of ifs, and buts, and maybes - and we need to find out what it is that they have really found before we all get too excited.

Since then it has all gone very quiet and it is very unclear what will happen to the material they found – except that it has gone for conservation – or what research is being done and by who.  We have asked them to come to speak to us about it – silence on that too for the moment!


There is news of a successful Heritage Lottery bid at Crossness Engines Trust. - the 150th year since the “Great Stink” of 1858, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is delighted to announce over £1.5 million in funding to help restore the Grade 1 listed Crossness Pumping Station in Bexley - the solution and product of Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s vision to save London from what 19th Century Prime Minister Disraeli called “a Stygian pool reeking with ineffable and unbearable horror”.


The ceremony designating the John Penn engine on the Diesbar as a Historic Engineering Landmark took place on 2nd July aboard the steamer. We were also sent a copy of the booklet which was produced for the occasion - this gives lots of historical information.  The paddle steamer is one of a fleet which works on the River Elbe in Saxony and has done so since the mid-19th Century. Diesbar was built in 1884, and is the only coal-fired Dresden steamer. The Penn engine however dates from 1841 and was originally installed in the wooden paddle steamer Bohemia. A new crankshaft was fitted to the engine in 1853 by Krupp of Essen and the engine was then transferred to the Statd Meissen and then the Diesbar in 1884.  It was built at the works on Blackheath Hill. John Penn had been making marine engines since 1825 and by the 1840s, under John Penn Jnr., was the leading manufacturer supplying engines for Admiralty and Royal Mail contracts. One advance was the development of the oscillating engine of the type which is on the Diesbar. By 1878 the company had supplied 735 ships with engines and the firm continued until 1899 when it merged with Thames Ironworks, which eventually closed in 1914.

We like to recommend the book ‘John Penn and Sons of Greenwich’. It is available at the Heritage Centre and the Tourist Information Centre and at Maritime Books. Richard Hartree, is the distributor and can supply copies himself, with P&P £1.50.  His contact details is or 01295 788215 or Stables Cottage, Sibford Ferris, Banbury OX15 5RE.
John Penn and Sons will be the topic of Richard's talk to the GIHS on January 20th 2009.

Thanks to Cllr. Geoff  Brighty who has given us a pile of Harvey's house magazines. Extracts have all ready appeared on the blog.  Harvey's were a metal working business sited for most of their existence in the Woolwich Road - the new fire station is on part of their site and there are some bits of their wall left. Like most such factory house magazines most of the news is about the sports club plus endless pictures of dinners, dances and people being presented with their gold watch!

The latest newsletter from Woodlands Farm Trust has an article in it by our Treasurer, Steve Daly.
This is a history of the Clothworkers Company. Much of the area of woodland around the farm is called Clothworkers Wood - and as a City Livery Company they are much occupied with actual industry.  We are not going to quote all of Steve's article here and people who want to read it - and that IS everyone - should of course join Woodlands Farm Trust, and get the Newsletter themselves. Woodlands is Greenwich's own Farm or email and say you want to join and get the newsletter to see Steve's article.

A request from Malta from the Government Inspector of Ships for information on Cubow shipyard - active on the earliest part of the Woolwich Dockyard site, now the site for tower blocks of flats. In Malta is a fishing boat called 'Golden Dawn' built by Cubow in 1975. Malta Maritime Authority would like to know more and will pay for research. They would also like to contact Downtown Marine who were later on the site.

In Volume 3/6 of this newsletter (November 2000) Russell Martin wrote about the Bowater family and its landholdings in Woolwich, referring to a map of the Warspite Industrial Estate in his possession, and to an 1895 survey of the estate with 38 more maps. The Survey of London, currently working towards a volume on Woolwich, is piecing together a history of the Bowater Estate, and would very much like to make contact with Mr. Martin, or anyone else who might know his whereabouts. Please write to Peter Guillery at or Survey of London, English Heritage, 1 Waterhouse Square, 138-142 Holborn, London EC1N 2ST, or telephone (020) 7973 3634

We are very sorry to have to report that Clive Chambers, who Members were recently informed was due to talk to the Society in February about ‘Gun Boats of the Crimea’, very sadly passed away earlier this year. Clive had given many interesting talks in the past – and is notable for his work on Wood Wharf and the ferry there.

THAMES MARITIME SYMPOSIUM. A few years ago a group of historians began to think that more should be done to promote the study of Thames Shipbuilding - once world class! There have now been three conferences and the papers given at each one have been published. The next one will be on 28th February 2010, and includes papers from such luminaries as Professor Andrew Lambert, Chris Ellmers, and Damien Goodburn and will be chaired by Professors Andrew Lambert and Sarah Palmer. Details and booking from

News that English Heritage’s Peter Guillery is working away on the prestigious Survey of Woolwich – and some others are working with him on the project! 
We understand Jon Clarke is doing Woolwich Dockyard, and we hope to have a speaker soon about work done on the Morris Walk Estate!

Nick Catford has written more about the railway tunnel under Blackheath Hill in London Railway Record - perhaps what is most interesting about it is the use of the tunnel after the railway had closed. He thinks that in the 1930s the tunnel was used to store breeze blocks and in the Second World War was leased to the Council as an air raid shelter. After the war it was used by the Heliot Machine Tool Company and later in the 1950s by R.Taylor & Co. Machine Tools and then latterly by Maganal Plastics (Alan and Margaret Storey). He records that they made road signs for local authorities and that they were the first to standardise road signs and produce a proper catalogue. Alan Storey pioneered the use of the reflective clip which was made under Blackheath Hill - another example of innovation by a Greenwich based industry. London Railway Record is published by Connor & Butler, PO Box 9561 Colchester, Essex.

Nick also adds - The floor of the tunnel has been concreted over, presumably fairly soon after the line was abandoned since the track hadn't been lifted when this was done. The concrete was poured over the sleepers and rails and the rails can still be clearly seen in the concrete. At some time the tunnel has been fitted with fluorescent lights. Access is through a door in the back of the building on the north side of Blackheath Hill, it is at the end of a service road behind the shops in Plumbridge Street. When Robinscroft Mews was built in 1987 on the site of Blackheath Hill station the contractors excavated the infilled cutting down to the southern portal of the tunnel in order to seal it with concrete in case the new development subsided into the tunnel.


In July 2008 Greenwich Council passed the following resolution;

That this Council notes:
The Borough of Greenwich has a uniquely rich heritage, having played a role at the centre of British and world history for at least a thousand years.
Our claim to national and international significance has been reinforced over the centuries by our proud Royal, maritime, military and industrial links.
We have an outstanding Royal heritage as the birthplace of King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary I; the site of two Royal Palaces, a Royal Park and the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich, and many other such sites.
Next year, 2009, marks the 500th anniversary of King Henry VIII’s accession to the throne, and 2012 marks the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Dockyard.

This Council believes that:
Celebrating our shared heritage can do much to enhance civic pride and to bind together the many people from diverse backgrounds who call this Borough their home.
Learning about the great history on our doorstep is a huge benefit of which the Borough’s schoolchildren should be able to take full advantage.
The coming years present unique opportunities to showcase our heritage and enhance the prestige of the Borough, which we should fully grasp.

This Council resolves:
To embrace and celebrate our heritage as an integral part of our shared vision for the Borough and its future.
To devise specific plans to highlight our status as a significant Royal Borough, using the opportunities presented by the 500th Anniversaries of the accession of King Henry VIII, and of the founding of the Woolwich Royal Dockyard.
To seek further ways in which our maritime, industrial and local heritage can also be championed alongside such plans.
To ensure that our hosting of the Olympics in 2012 is used as an opportunity to strengthen and promote our heritage offer, and does not harm it.
To re-affirm our support for the restoration of the Cutty Sark, the iconic flagship of our Borough.
To support the Discover Greenwich project currently being undertaken by the Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College, which will help bring the history of the World Heritage Site to a wider audience


We have been sent a pre-copy of the archaeological desktop study on Maryon Park in Charlton – and clearly this is with special reference to Gilbert’s Pit. As ever with these things it’s all about archaeology not industrial archaeology – nevertheless past industry could hardly fail to get a mention here. Very early on the authors note ‘throughout history these sand and gravel deposits have been exploited. Some mineral deposits may have been quarried as early as the Roman period and after the establishment of Woolwich Dockyard in 1512 sand was used for ships ballast .. In the 18th century major digging began to obliterate the site … demand for moulding sand, glass sand ….. The lowermost layers of the Thanet sands, black-foot or strong loam, were excavated for brass casting moulds while above them beds of larger grained and less cohesive mild loam were used for iron castings. They note limekilns in Blackheath Hill and Charlton Church Lane. The study moves on to sites of prehistoric occupation and notes signs of flint workings – maybe our earliest industry! Later evidence is found of iron and copper slag and baked clay as well as loom weights from Roman times.

The authors note a sand quarry in the area mentioned by Hasted in 1797 and sand pits and quarries shown on maps of the early 19th century. In the 1830s two lime burners are listed in 1839 at New Charlton. This document has been produced in conjunction with works planned here by the Council and we look forward to more detail on this. Already the Council has held a number of meetings with residents about ‘doing up’ Maryon Park and it is also understood the Park is in a competition for money from the Mayor of London, on which residents can vote.

Paul Sowan will be speaking to the Society on Gilbert's Pit on 12th May 2009

Request for information about Siemens:

I am trying to find any information on my Great Grandfather, Frederick Barnes. The thing is, in 1929 he committed suicide at Siemens Cable worlds by hanging. He was married to Elizabeth Turpin, her father was a Foreman at Siemens, Back then, his name was George Turpin. I was wondering, since he committed suicide, maybe all his records were destroyed. Robyn Williams

Diana Rimel writes;

Further to Richard Cheffins's article on the LESC Building and lighting in Greenwich (Dec 2007), I would like to add one of the major advances in lighting made by electrical engineer, Walter Claude Johnson (1847-1928), at his house The Dignaries in Westcombe Park Road, SE3.In 1884 it became one of the first houses in the area to be lit by electricity. In 1902 (to celebrate the recovery from appendicitis of Edward VII the house and grounds were lit with thousands of electric lamps. It was likely that many of his neighbours properties were subsequently provided with electricity. The famous firm of Johnson and Phillips, in Charlton Way, also provided street lighting for St. Pancras and Newington and Generating Stations in many towns in England, also Glasgow and Hong Kong, and many well-known clubs, organisations and restaurants in London. I am sure that many other of the Charlton factories were engaged in this activity.

Also - further to Richard Buchanan article on Soil Pipes

New Cross Gate contains one of the best known London ventilating pipes for public toilets. Of 1897 vintage, and doubling as a lamppost, it was made by Macfarlane's Castings of Glasgow, and has an unusual Greek style pattern, designed by Glasgow architect Alexander Thompson. It has been restored and is now listed Grade II. Outside the New Cross Inn, 323 New Cross Road, and of similar design, is another lamppost of 1897 by the same engineer and architect, also doubling as a ventilating pipe to former public toilets. It was formerly on a road island. I am not sure if it too has been listed. I have given the design as Greek, as that was the nickname of the architect, but some books call it Egyptian. They are in Lewisham, but bordering Greenwich.
There is another vent pipe of interest at the Broadway end of Deptford Church Street, on an island in the middle of the road, not far from Giffin Street. It appears to serve Bazalgette's Greenwich Pumping Station nearby, to stop any gases building up, with the effluent probably going to Norman Road and after that underground to Crossness. It is not now in a very good state (needs refurbishing!) and is somewhat dwindled in height as compared to the slide taken for me some 20 years ago by Alan Parfrey.

Coles Childs - James and Alfred Augustus Glendening

I am researching the Glendening family, in particular the artist Alfred Augustus Glendening (1840-1921). Alfred Augustus's father James Glendening was, according to the 1851 census, the overseer at Coles Childs wharf, Pelton Road, Greenwich. The 1851 census notes that James Glendening was at "CC Weighbridge Pelton Road" and was at that time a weighbridge clerk. In 1851 Alfred Augustus Glendening described himself as a railway clerk and again there is another question: which of the local railways could he have been working on?

Alice Munro-Faure

The Wealden Iron Research Group is pleased to announce the publication of its on-line database of ironworking sites in the Weald of Sussex, Kent, Surrey and Hampshire. Access is via 'links' from the Group's website -  Extensively searchable, the database comprises over 800 sites, of both the direct (bloomery) and indirect (blast furnace and finery forge) processes, dating from the pre-Roman Iron Age to the early 19th century AD. Where available, bibliographic references are given, and these are also searchable. It is intended that the database will continue to be developed, with sites being added as they are discovered, and the bibliography being enhanced to become a source of reference to works about the iron industry but not necessarily related to specific sites.

John Franklin writes;

Planning consent has been granted for the preservation of the random stone wall in Cadet Place. Following the study of this wall by geologists it has been said this wall "reflects the history of the 19th century stone trade in the English Channel."

The Greenwich Society and Greenwich Conservation Group objected to the demolition of the wall - but at a site meeting with the developers’ architects in July 2007 the impractibility of preserving the wall in its original position was pointed out. We pressed the architects for certain undertakings. As a result, DP9 for the developers agreed to certain undertakings, these to include: that prior to the wall being taken down, both sides will be photographed and documented; that stones/bricks to be kept will be cleaned by a suitable method (not all the bricks, nor, maybe all the stones, can be kept due to their condition, we were told); that the material will be stored carefully and safely covered either on site (to be agreed with contractor) or suitable location off site; that the Land Use Consultants will prepare a number of design proposals for the re-use of the salvaged material to be integrated into the landscaping.

Enderby Family – the Enderby’s are also of interest and we have had correspondence as follows:

Keith Dawson is a descendent of the whaling Enderby's who has written a book on the subject. He notes that 68 of Enderby’s ships were not all whalers but were general cargo ships to America and the Baltic, Enderby's were members of the Muscovy Company - Muscovy Ducks being part of their first coat of arms. Around 1800 the Enderby's purchased the old Ammunition Wharf. Emillia Vansittart, a long term investor in Enderby enterprises, had a son Henry who eventually became an Admiral and was responsible for rebuilding/refurbishing the wharf. Charles Enderby is reputed to have experimented to no avail in insulating submarine cables with Hemp Rope. This is the cause of the interest in hemp/flax growing on Norfolk Island & why Enderby's lifelong friend P.G. King was sent there in a hurry.  

Neil Rhind comments on some issues raised by Keith Dawson elsewhere. The correct details are as follows:

Charles Enderby (1753-1819) lived at 20 Dartmouth Hill from 1799-1800, then Cambridge House (site of 15-16 West Grove) 1800-1819. His widow Elizabeth (1767-1846) was at Cambridge House until 1841 and then moved to West Grove House, West Grove Lane for the years 1842-1846
George Enderby (1762-1829) was at 22 Dartmouth Hill from 1799-1802- and then at 36 Dartmouth Row for the years 1802-1820
Mrs. Enderby (Samuel's mother) lived in a house on the site of 66 Hyde Vale from 1761-1764
Samuel Enderby (17818/20-1797) was at the Hyde Vale house from 1758-1759, then at 9 West Grove from 1766-1778, and then No 14 West Grove -1779-1797
Samuel Enderby (1756-1829) - owned a house & land south west end of Hyde Vale in 1797-1798) then lived at 68 Crooms Hill 1799-1820, and was at Hyde Cliff, south west end of Crooms Hill from 1825 to 1829. This house was demolished for the present St. Ursula's RC School for girls.
No Enderby ever lived (so far as I am aware) at Crooms Hill House which was, certainly, demolished in 1938 for a housing association scheme put up by the Beaver Housing Society in 1946.
All the above houses are a few minutes walk one from the other - Cambridge House was destroyed by fire in 1881. No 9 West Grove was demolished in 1870. The others survive. A later member of the family, William, lived at 139 Shooters Hill Road in 1843-1845 and at 16 Lee Terrace 1848-1849, also in Blackheath but not in the immediate vicinity.
I have no local (Greenwich or Blackheath) address for Charles Enderby (1798-1876)

Richard Buchanan has written that Dot Lawrence has died

She was well into her 80s and had made a major contribution to local industrial history, particularly in saving the Johnson and Phillips archive.


By Janet Macdonald

In February 1809, the Victualling Board wrote to the Navy Board to inform them that they were having problems with the wall of the victualling wharf at Deptford. Water was seeping through the wall into the wine cellar, which was likely to cause the iron hoops of the casks to rot. The Inspector of repairs, Samuel Hobbs, had reported that the wall had sunk and split, leaving chasms through which the water entered at high tide and retreated at low tide, taking with it the soil behind the wall and causing the pavement above to sink. This was likely to worsen if not attended to; he recommended excavating down to the base of the wall and refilling with clay or puddle (a mixture of clay and sand) and also adding piles to secure the land ties and relieve the pressure on them.

Remarking that the wharf had already been repaired several times under the direction of the Inspector General of Naval Works, he suggested the architect at the Navy Office, Mr. Holt, should be asked to advise.

Two days later, the Victualling Board wrote again to report that Henry Garrett, the agent victualler at Deptford, who had checked at high tide, reported that the water was now damaging the boundary wall between the victualling and dock yards, this being exacerbated by rat runs to the pea store and flesh cellars and between the seasoning house and the old cooperage, the water rising over the floor sufficiently to stop the coopers working. The Navy Board's response, which did not come until two weeks later, was to the effect that the problem was caused by broken drains from the settling of the ground, and that these would have to be replaced. This presumably was done, as there is no more correspondence in the Victualling Board records until October 1811, when the Victualling Board reported to the Navy Board that the ground on the wharf between two of the cranes had 'fell in very much' and that the mudsills had been forced off the foundations, causing the wall to split. This in turn had caused cracks in the groined [sic] arches of the cellars and the party walls of the new storehouses.

A month later, they wrote again to the Navy Board to pass on the agent victualler's report that at low tide 'the ground at the back of the wall [had] sunk down with a great crash' which broke the land ties. The Inspector of Repairs urged immediate action and the Victualling Board asked for the Civil Architect and Engineer to give his opinion.

Initial attempts to solve the problem seem to have been restricted to trying to press the wall down into a more solid foundation, the Victualling Board asking the Navy Board to borrow 600 tons of iron ballast for this purpose, then returning this three months later. Another three months passed, then the Victualling Board asked for cinder ashes from the smitheries in the dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich to mix with ground lime and ballast for repair work, but none of this seems to have worked, as in March 1813 the Victualling Board asked for the Navy Board's surveyor of buildings to make an inspection and give his opinion on the necessary repairs.

Nothing seems to have been done, as in October the Victualling Board reported that the previous day's high tide had made one end of the wharf shift and settle, and requesting an inspection and recommendation that they would create temporary versions above the coffer dam.

However, in November 1817, the Victualling Board wrote once more to the Admiralty secretary, stating that the repairs needed to be extended. They said that Mr. Rennie had reported that it appears, from an examination of that part of the Old Wharf Wall which lies between the landing stairs and Eastern end of the Victualling yard, and which, including the return, is Three hundred feet [92.3 metres] in length and that the whole bottom is silt [which] having sunk away from the planking on which the Wall stands, its weight may therefore be said to be supported by the Piles only, That these piles are all driven perpendicularly, and are kept in that position by the great body of Mud, and Silt, which lies in front of them, so that if this mud was to be removed the piles would fall forward, unless the land ties by which the Wall is sustained were sufficiently strong to prevent them; that these land ties are ... very much decayed, and consequently no great dependence can be had on them; that therefore, if this Wall is to be preserved, it must undergo a considerable repair, which with the Tender Piles in front [of] the decayed brickwork will cost at least £2,000 and when done, the great Mud bank in front of it will prevent the full advantage being taken of the deep water along the new Wall, as it will check the current of the Tide and occasion a settlement of mud in front of the new Wharf, the foundation of which lies Seven feet deeper than the Old Wall; that the expense of a Wall of 300 feet in length, with the materials of the Coffer dam now in use, will be about £16,000; whereas if this Wall were to stand over to a future period, it would cost about £25,000, ... that it would not be advisable to leave it in its present state... and that [Mr. Rennie] cannot therefore help advising us that the new Wall be extended to the Eastern extremity of the Yards.'

This letter is endorsed as approving the work as detailed. The final letter in the sequence, in May 1821, reports that the work had been completed 'in a manner which we conceive [is] highly creditable to the professional skill and ability of Mr. Rennie... assisted by the unremitting attention and indefatigability of Mr. Hobbs, our inspector of Works...' and goes on to recommend what appears to be a bonus for Hobbs ('such remuneration for his services as [their lordships] may appear to meet').

No record of the final cost of this work has been found. It should come as no surprise to those familiar with the workings of the Admiralty and its subordinate boards that this saga should have gone on for so long, but it is if not surprising, intriguing, that there is no record of the Navy Board having responded to most the Victualling Board's pleas for help in this matter. Perhaps, in due course, the Navy Board Letters Project will turn up the other side of this story.

The October meeting of GIHS featured a very  popular talk by Janet Macdonald on the diet provided to the 18th century Navy with particular reference to the Deptford Victualling Yard.


By Neil Bennet

The May meeting of GIHS featured Neil Bennet on the Greenwich High Road-based fire engine manufacturer. Here is a report on his talk:

Neil Bennett has been interested in the Merryweather Company since his childhood ownership of toy and model Merryweather fire engines. At University he explored ancient bound journals of ENGINEERING journal and found that the company goes back to the year 1692 and has a diverse and rich engineering heritage. He was looking for work in 1983 and finding that Merryweather had moved to South Wales, he got a position as Draughtsperson with the company - which he kept until the 'moonlight flit' of the company on Friday, 13th April 1984.

The company had started about 25 years after the Fire of London, on the corner of Bow Street and Long Acre. In 1738 a Nathaniel Hadley joined, followed by Simpkin who was a master plumber. Henry Lott joined in 1791. Fire squirts, like large hypodermic needles were made, along with leather buckets and more ambitious pumps. Henry Lott and Braidwood of the London Fire Engine Establishment did not see eye to eye, perhaps having backgrounds from different ends of the social spectrum. Lott was the son of a rich landowner, Braidwood was a 'man of the people'. Moses Merryweather was taken on as an apprentice in 1807 and in 1836 he married Lott's daughter. They had three sons, Richard Merryweather, James Compton Merryweather and Henry Merryweather. Edward Field was a consulting engineer who designed the boiler used in most Merryweather pumps and tram engines.

The Merryweather Sutherland large steam-powered horse-drawn fire engine won first prize at an international fire engine competition at Crystal Palace in 1836. It can be seen at the London Science Museum. James Compton Merryweather was head of the firm from 1871. In 1873 the Long Acre factory was burnt down, to be replaced. The company manufactured such a range of products that it might not even be appropriate to call them a fire equipment company. Products included all kinds of water supply equipment, ice boats, safety rafts, tanks for camel transport, dye extractors, steam dredging apparatus, compressors, an electric clock and a petrol-cycle. The petrol cycle was described by Neil as the first British car and arguably the world's first car. It was designed by Edward Butler and initially built in the Greenwich High Road factory. Neil requested help in regard to 'tanks for camel transport' - were these something the camel carried on its back, or did you put the camel inside it? A letter to London Zoo had produced no enlightenment.

The steam tram engines, like the petrol cycle, were hampered by the Locomotive Acts. The trams were quite sophisticated, requiring to condense their own smoke and steam and being forbidden to produce noise or visibly moving parts or to exceed a strict speed limit.

The company took Limited Liability status from 1892 (Merryweather & Sons LIMITED). Mr. C J W Jakeman was a director, and his name appears along with 'Merryweather' cast into some of the company's boilers. He was the manager of the Greenwich factory when it opened in 1876. A factory in York Street, Lambeth had opened in 1862. Charles Dickens refers to the fire engine makers in Long Acre in his book The Uncommercial Traveller.

Mr. Bennett recalled a storeman named Mitchell, described in a book by James Merryweather. Mitchell would give out cash to local residents when the factory's testing of water jets and smoky machinery had spoilt the ladies' washing as the washing was hung out to dry. This was quite evocative and paints a clear picture of the times, which in some ways haven't changed much.

Neil described the fitting of 100-foot ladders to DUKW vehicles for scaling the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc in the D-Day landings. He also recalled some of the later events when the company, under its parent company Siebe Gorman, disappeared overnight from Ebbw Vale to Plymouth. The name Stuart Le Gassic comes up in reference to the Company's recent history, but today it is run for the import of hand fire extinguishers by Jeff Wright at Tuesnoad Grange, Bethersden, Kent. I think Mr. Wright would be interested to learn of new aspects of the company's past, or to buy old Merryweather catalogues, but he probably cannot help much with historical research or with spare parts for old machinery!

Neil made some useful contacts and will be working on his book Sustained by Extinction on the history of Merryweather.
Sadly, the Merryweather factory in Greenwich High Road has now been demolished. However it remains the subject about which we receive the most correspondence.

Neal has since written that his most recent Merryweather & Sons interest is in the Electric Clock claimed to have been built by, or associated with the company, before 1901. Another Blog ( suggested this could be one of a network of 'master' and 'slave' electric clocks made by Charles Shepherd of 53 Leadenhall Street for the Royal Greenwich Observatory and elsewhere, or could even be the Gate Clock fixed outside the gate of the nearby Royal Observatory in 1852, in which case it is a very important clock indeed. In today's world a company manufacturing an electric clock does not exactly raise an eyebrow, but it was changing the world then!

He would be grateful to anyone who can confirm a link between Merryweather and Shepherd, the Greenwich Observatory or the then Astronomer Royal, George Airy, or indeed what the Merryweather electric clock really was.

Neil is also making progress finding out about such obscure Merryweather products as the Dulier smoke absorption system and John Gordon's electric tram system, but 'Tanks for camel transport' still draws a blank!

Anyone interested in the firm's history can find some excellent information on a Greenwich-made steam fire engine exported to Australia, and on the company, at;

Neil says ....Industrial history is the new rock 'n' roll...(?)

Neil’s contribution has sparked a reply from Richard Wiltshire, Senior Archivist for Business Archives at the London Metropolitan Archives:

“You may be interested to know that I am currently producing a catalogue list for 2 volumes of the above company which were gifted to us in 2006. Please find our accession description below:

Accession: B06/061
Day Account book giving detailed information on supplies to clients in London (1830 - 1835) with draft letters (1842 - 1844). Photograph album of fire equipment annotated with the client they were supplied to (1920 – 1921). [2 volumes]

These volumes were saved from a skip at a factory store, Aber (Ebbw? Web Ed.) Vale, Wales owned by Siebe Gorman, firm which had absorbed Merryweather. They are available by prior appointment until the listing is completed."

Other contributors on Merryweather:

Martin M: A great-uncle of mine, Gerard Lee Tuppen, is understood to have had the task of delivering Merryweather equipment to the Rangoon Municipal Fire Brigade - but I have no further information, although I have a photograph of the handing-over, in Rangoon, of a mixed consignment of vehicles to that City in 1925, in which he appears, and which has his signature on the reverse, together with that of the City Health Officer. I also have a newspaper cutting, undated and unexplained, recording the funeral of one Edward Field, for many years a foreman painter with the Company. It includes the names of 11 principal foremen. Some direct contact to discuss this might be interesting?

AnonymousJulie said...  I used to work for Siebe which owned Merryweather in later years. I have a booklet of the history of the company which may interest you.


The list of meetings and events takes a considerable amount of time to compile. Unfortunately there has not been the time this issue! Apologies!



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

Sponsor a tile at Crossness

One of the Crossness Engine Trust's objectives is to return the Beam Engine House to its original 1865 condition. To this end, they have been actively looking at the possibility of replacing an area of missing floor tiles in front of the north facing windows on the Beam floor. They feel that this colourful display of Victorian tiling would add to visitors’ enjoyment of the Engine House. It is laid with tiles of varying shape and colour (red, black and harvest blue) to form a geometric pattern. They have located a company at Burslam, Stoke on Trent, which still makes an exact match of the original tiles, in both size and colour.

The Trust is seeking help from those who would like to contribute to this restoration project. This will take the form of sponsorship and you can sponsor as few or as many tiles as you wish, up to a maximum of the 900 required, at a cost of £1 per tile.

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

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



Jack Vaughan - first Chair of Greenwich Industrial History Society - died on Monday 14th July 2008 at the age of 91.
He had three sons and two daughters by Florence his first wife; she died in 1973. He married again but was again left bereft when Jean died.

This obituary is about his life in the world of Greenwich's local history - but he had many, many other interests. At his funeral we heard about his record in the Army in the Second World War, how he fought at El Alamein and met Field Marshall Montgomery. We also heard about his lifetime’s enthusiasm for Charlton Football Club.

At a first meeting he could seem rather gruff, but one soon found how kind a man he was – there was no one who did not like Jack, even if they did not fully share his views.
He had been an apprentice at the Arsenal (writing about his experiences in Woolwich Antiquarian Proceedings Vol. XLII) then worked there until he retired - again we heard at his funeral how he was respected for his engineering ability and knowledge and how he later went on to teach his skills at Woolwich Polytechnic School.
From this arose a love of clocks and his ability to repair them. The future of the clock on Building 10 at the Arsenal particularly worried him – Berkeley Homes say they will restore it. He always championed the Arsenal, giving talks on its history. He was also well versed in the Woolwich Dockyard, and a connoisseur of local pubs…

Many societies benefited from his energy: on Shooters Hill, where he lived for 54 years, he was Chairman of the Shooters Hill Society; he wrote articles for the Shooters Hill Local History Group, published in its series of ‘Aspects’. He was the inaugural chairman of the Greenwich Industrial History Society eventually becoming Honorary President. He was also involved in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, history group. But his longest association was with the Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society; for many years on its council, latterly as a Vice President; he was chairman of the Conservation Sub-Committee.

Jack was a fierce defender of Woolwich’s heritage in his dealings with the Borough’s Planners, particularly in respect of his beloved Arsenal. He was a frequent attendee at Planning Committees and made sure they heard his views. However, they listened to him with more respect than he would ever acknowledge and changes were often made. One locally famous exploit was his saving the tomb of the world famous engineer, Henry Maudslay, when the Council cleared St Mary’s Churchyard – all but one of its cast iron plates were retrieved, and taken to the Maritime Museum store in the Brass Foundry - they are now in the care of the Greenwich Heritage Centre. Jack was well known and respected by the London-wide community of industrial archaeologists, particularly in the Greater London Industrial Archaeological Society. In 2001 a special seminar on Maudslay was held at Kew Bridge Engines Trust - special mention was made of Jack’s role in rescuing the plaque and a small ceremony was held.

Eventually he became frail and although he went into a well-run nursing home, he was only his old self with visitors who shared his interests. Six weeks before he died he had a fall, requiring two operations.

His funeral was at Eltham Crematorium, Falconwood at on Wednesday 23rd July at 2.45pm. This was followed by a do at the Red Lion Pub on Shooters Hill - one of his favourite locals.
Donations in his memory may be made to one of two charities: Cancer Research or The Alzheimer's Society. Jack was a one off - to quote a friend - 'well Jack - Jack's Jack, isn't he!’


The Society's officers are currently as follows:

Past Emeritus President - Jack Vaughan

Chair - Sue Bullevant

Vice-Chair and Committee - Ray Fordham - Andrew Bullevant, Alan Parfrey, David Riddle

Secretary - Mary Mills

Treasurer - Steve Daly

Auditor - Juliet Cairns

Members are reminded that subscription renewals fell due in October 2006. Subscriptions remain at £10 and should be sent to:

Steve Daly, 5 Pankhurst House, Garrison Close, Shooters Hill, SE18 4JE

This newsletter was produced for Greenwich Industrial History Society,
Chair, Sue Bullevant, 11 Riverview Heights, Shooters Hill, SE18. Views expressed in it are those of the authors and not of the Society.

Contributions are always welcome. If possible, please send, on disk to Mary Mills (address below).

Mary Mills now has a limited stock of Greenwich and Woolwich at Work available at £8 each plus £2 postage. 24 Humber Road, London, SE3 7LT, 020 8858 9482


Meetings as advertised at the head of this newsletter will be held at;
The Old Bakehouse, (at back of the) Age Exchange Reminiscence Centre, 11 Blackheath Village, London, SE23 9LA

Do not go to the Reminiscence Centre itself - The Old Bakehouse is at the back, in Bennett Park. Walk into Bennett Park and turn left into a yard. The Old Bakehouse is the building on your right. The entrance is straight ahead. Members and visitors are strongly advised not to park at the Old Bakehouse.


The Web version has been created by;

David Riddle, Goldsmiths University of London

Logo and page end design are by Peter Kent – with thanks

Space courtesy of Goldsmiths University of London