Thursday, 20 July 2017

News and stuff

Dreadnought School - the council has been consulting about the gasholder site - but also on that site is Dreadnought School which is currently in use by the Horniman Museum as a store.  The school was built by the London School Board and was probably opened in 1893.  Other information seems to be very elusive. Around London these Board Schools are being listed and are becoming very famous - the earlier ones were designed by Edward Robson and then, later, by T.J.Bailey.  We don't now who designed Dreadnought but probably neither of these two leading architects. Does anyone have any information. The schools seems to have later been called Riverway School - and we also don't know what information Horniman has and what their response to the consultation is.  We understand Horniman sometimes offer tours of the building - starting from their site in Forest Hill.


2018 will be European Cultural Year and EFAITH are planning on industrial development having a major role in this. they have already held two conferences on this and hope to:
--- have an industrial heritage theme for each month
--- feature young people and industrial heritage
----motivate and train volunteers
----help to save endangered industrial sites

EFAITH - is European Industrial and Technical Heritage volunteers and voluntary associations.
check this out at:
or email your ideas to


Tidal Thames - their newsletter features the day when two cruise liners passed each other in Blackwall Reach a month or so ago. These were Silver Wind and Silver Cloud and they passed to sounds of horns and cheering passengers.  And showed there is much more room in the river than some people think.  (I was brought up in 1950s Gravesend when we thought nothing of three or four big P&O liners all moored in the river and at Tilbury landing - people should have seen the river when we had lots of real boats up and down all the time).


Tidal Thames also celebrates the arrival of Mercury Clipper - built on the Isle of Wight - and no doubt soon to be seen on Greenwich Reach.


- and Tidal Thames is pushing For Fish's Sake which is about litter in the Thames and around the Thames. Details are available along with a video,


Note from Historic England that archaeological investigation is about to start at Greenwich Pumping Station Thames Tideway site


Naval Dockyard Society - this is a call for papers on Dockyards - the End of the First World War and interwar retrenchment.  This is for a conference to be held on 24th March 2018  at the Maritime Museum. Details from Dr Ann Coats and Richard Holme


George Burtt - have been sent a lot of info about George Burtt who was born in Greenwich in 1871. He went on to become a great railway photographer.  Any info??


We have had an email about a project which is recording oral histories of boatyards along the tidal Thames from Teddington Lock to the Barrier, They have already interviewed men from Thamescraft Dry Dock Services, Cory's and the Yacht Club.  Is there anyone else out there who would be interested.  Please get in touch with GIHS.


GIHS hopes to have a meeting on October 10th where we can discuss industrial heritage in Greenwich. We are putting together a programme of people who can put their views forward and get the ball rolling. If you have something you would like to say and can say it in five minutes please get in touch asap


The gasholder and its site.  We have so much stuff this is going to have to be a separate postings. Great response, thanks everyone!!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Pipers reference

Thanks Mary Jane for this photo a paper from Pipers barge builders - their site was on the Peninsula between Lovells (now Riverside Gardens) and Enderbys - in fact mostly the site recently vacated by Deverills boat repair business.  Pipers were famous for their spirtsail barges - and particularly those who won many races

Here is a photo of the letter signed by James R. Piper that was sent to my Grandad in 1913. My Grandad went on to be in charge of the rigging on the Cutty Sark when it was put in dry dock in Greenwich. His son became a sailmaker and was involved with the TV series called the Ondenin Line. Also his Grandson became a sailmaker as well. We are very proud of them all. I have lots of papers to do with the work he was involved with. I hope this paper is of interest to you. .

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Who's heard of Cody Dock?

Ok - Greenwich - which among you has heard of Cody Dock?? Has anyone actually been there?

Its not far away .............

Do any of you actually, ever, cross the river??

So?? -it is part of a riverside walk ..... it has preserved gas holders at either end .................  last year part of it was a finalist in a 'Grow Wild England' competition has a sculpture trail which includes some of our own riverside path fact it starts on our riverside path -with the first bit of art (which isn't a bit of art which is on our Greenwich lists) .............and you end up at the very very wonderful Three Mills (which has been open for years and years and years) having walked through lots of interesting areas including two gas works and all sorts of other industrial sites.

So???  Are you all going to tell me you have all Walked the Line?? and that it is all actually and really on piles of leaflets distributed round Greenwich,

More to come on this. Please add your comments/experiences

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Plumstead and the Origins of Dolcis Shoes

Plumstead and the Origins of Dolcis Shoes

by Barbara Holland

Plumstead does indeed have a place in the history of the Dolcis shoe company. Readers of a certain age – and I’m one of them – will remember the names of the different shoe shops which used to dominate the high street. As well as Dolcis, there was Barratts, Bata, Curtess, Freeman, Hardy & Willis, Lilley & Skinner, Ravel, Saxone, Timpsons …....and many more.

A good history of Dolcis shoes can be found here, but there is little detail of the early days in Plumstead.  The founder of the company was John Upson, who was born in 1823 in Saxmundham, Suffolk.  In the 1841 Census he is recorded as an apprentice shoemaker to a William Gardener in Market Hill, Framlingham in Suffolk.

He married Hannah Hearn in Suffolk in 1843 and by 1851 they had moved to Newington, Surrey, which was in the centre of London’s leather industry. They lived at 20 Union Row with 3 children, and by this time John Upson was recorded in the census as a Wholesale Boot Manufacturer.

Soon after, they moved to the Bexley area where 4 of their 9 children were born between 1852 and 1857.  During this period in Bexley, John suffered 2 pieces of bad fortune. First, in 1853, his brother-in-law James Hearn(e), who was working for him as a cordwainer (shoemaker), was accused of embezzlement by John, and sent for trial. Despite a trawl through local newspapers, I haven’t been able to find out whether he was found guilty.  Second, in 1854, John was made bankrupt.  He may have moved back to Framlingham at some point after this, as one of his sons was born there in 1858, and there is a record of another insolvency involving a John Upson, a bootmaker, in Framlingham in 1859.

However, by the time of the 1861 Census, we find John Upson now aged 37, his wife and 8 children and his brother, living at 19½ Sussex Place, Plumstead Road.  His occupation is shown as a Bootmaker.  Sussex Place was the name given to a terrace of properties – mostly shops – on the south side of Plumstead Road between Maxey Road and Invermore Place.  This image of the Sussex Arms shows the western end of the terrace.  The Glyndon Estate now occupies this area.

In 1862, the Post Office Directory lists John Upson as a boot and shoe maker at 17 Burrage Road Plumstead as well as at 19½ Sussex Place.  In the 1861 Census, there is a shoemaker named Alfred B. Mitchell living at 17a Burrage Road, with the premises described as a shoe shop.It is at this time that Johnis said to be selling his wares on a stall or barrow in Woolwich Market.

In 1871, the family are recorded in the Census at 70 Plumstead Road (probably the same address as in 1861 but re-numbered), with John Upson now a boot & shoe salesman and 3 of his children employed as assistants.

The 1874 Post Office Directory lists him as a bootmaker still at 70 Plumstead Road, but with shops at 127 High Street Chatham, 15 High Street Dartford, and 5 Week Street Maidstone.

By 1881, John had clearly made enough money to have retired by the age of 58. He was living at a house named ‘Clydesdale’, Lee Road ,Kidbrooke, with one of his daughters and 2 servants.  (His wife was not listed on the census return but was lodging in Ramsgate at 7 Codrington Villas. In 1891 she was a boarder at 10 Lewisham High Street, living ‘on her own means’. Possibly she separated from her husband?  She died on 16th January 1895 in Woolwich).

The 1882 Kent Post Office Directory shows that the family now had a boot and shoe warehouse at 87 Calverley Road Tunbridge Wells, and further shops at 32 New Road Greenhithe and 3 & 4 Hare Street and 108 & 109 Powis Street in Woolwich.  By 1891, the shops were named John Upson & Co.  

The picture here  shows theWoolwich shop under the name ‘The London Boot Company’, and this one of Upson & Company from the late 1890s.  In 1902 the shop is listed at 65 & 67 Powis Street and had a manager by the name of George H. Tanner.

At some point prior to his retirement, John handed over the running of the company to his eldest son, Frederick William Upson. In 1881 Frederick was the manager of the shop in Powis Street, Woolwich with his brother Charles as an assistant.  In 1901 his occupation was recorded as a Boot Factor, employing staff.

John Upson moved again, first to Herne Hill (1891 Census) and finally to St.Leonards, Sussex (1901 Census). He died on 21st October 1909, a wealthy man, leaving over £96,000 in his will to his son Frederick William.

When John Upson moved to St. Leonards in about 1891, he built himself a grand house called Val Mascal in Hollington Park.  According to local historians, this house has a very interesting connection to the well-known socialist novel ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ by Robert Tressell, the nom de plume of the painter and decorator, Robert Noonan.  It is thought that the property which features in the story – ‘The Cave’ – is largely based on Val Mascal.  More about this can be found here.  Robert Noonan would have been working in St. Leonards for the building firm Burton & Co., who did some work on Val Mascal in 1903 and 1904, at a time when John Upson was living there.

John’s son, Frederick William, inherited Val Mascal and was living there at the time of the 1911 Census with his wife, Agnes, 3 of his 11 surviving children, a son-in law and his 2 children. They had 6 live-in servants and a gardener and coachman living in cottages.   Frederick died at the age of 80 in 1930 and left the shoe business and other assets worth over £195,000 to his son John ‘Jack’ Randolph Upson, aged 45.

John Randolph Upson was born in Camberwell in 1884. In the 1911 Census he was living at 38 Breakspeares Road in Lewisham (with 3 servants), working as a boot and shoe factor.  He attested for the Army Reserve in the First World War in 1916 and was mobilised for the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps in 1918. He then served as a Sergeant in the 5th Cavalry Reserve Regiment until the end of the war. His service papers show that he was the Managing Director of Upson  & Co by this time. Although there is no record of a marriage in this country, his service record indicates that he had a wife, with a change of address shown for her from 5 Oakcroft Road Blackheath to ‘The Cottage’ Thruxton, Hampshire.

Jack Upson, seems to have lived the high life after the war, sailing First Class to New York on a number of occasions in the 1920s and 1930s, with addresses in St. James Square W1 or at The Albany in Piccadilly. It was during this period, in 1927, that Upsons & Co. became a public company, and expanded through the 1920s to own 135 shops in London and the Home Counties. He also founded the Monseigneur Restaurant, home to some of the best music in the England, in Jermyn Street in 1930, allegedly to entertain his ‘lady friends’. It closed only a few years later in 1934, after Jack began to lose interest in the venture and amid mounting costs.

He died in a nursing home, Rushey Court, Wallington, Berkshire in 1941, leaving more than £280,000 to his married sister Queenie Norah Keliher and Graham Charles Grundy, his warehouse manager.  His will shows him as being Chairman and Managing Director of Upsons Ltd (The Dolcis Shoe Co.).

Upson’s/Dolcis was absorbed by the British Shoe Corporation in 1956.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Sir John Pender and All Saints Church, Foots Cray

Sir John Pender GCMG
And his Association with All Saints Church Foots Cray

John Pender leased the Foots Cray estate from Coleraine Robert Vansittart (1833-86), for a period of 21 years, on 16 May 1876.  For the next twenty years he divided his time between Foots Cray Place and his London residence 18 Arlington Street.  He died at Foots Cray Place on 7 July 1896.

The grave of  Sir John Pender  (1816-1896)

The Funeral of Sir John Pender took place on Friday 17 July 1896.  He was buried in the family tomb, alongside his second eldest son Henry (Harry) Denison Pender (1852-1881) and his second wife Emma (1816-1890).

Harry, who died from typhoid at Foots Cray Place on13 January 1881, was the first Pender to be buried at All Saints Graveyard.  The funeral took place on 19 January 1881 and he was laid to rest in a simple grave behind the church to the east, close to the boundary fence.  Harry was an accomplished organist and the Penders donated a hand pumped bellows organ to All Saints Church in his memory.  It was made, at a cost of £120, by Henry Jones of 135 Fulham Road in London and installed by G B Wallaston of Chislehurst.  On 13 August 1882 a service of dedication took place, attended by John and Emma.A plaque was placed above the keyboard which reads:

‘Dedicated in memory of Henry Denison Pender who died at Foots Cray Place .January 13 1881, art 28, by his parents John Pender Esq. M.P. and Emma, his wife.’

Although it has been repaired on several occasions and the bellows has been replaced by an electric pump, the organ and plaque are still there.

The Henry Denison Memorial Organ

A 16 foot (4.88m) Celtic cross was erected over Harry’s grave on 6 September 1882, witnessed by Emma Pender.

Emma Pender died at the Pender’s London home of 18 Arlington Street on 8 July 1890.  Her funeral took place at All Saints on Saturday 12 July and she was buried, as was her dying wish, alongside her eldest son and so John Pender arranged for a family vault to be excavated.The Celtic cross was mounted on a frustum and epitaphs engraved on three sides.

The first photograph above, taken at the funeral of John Pender shows,behind the tomb, the south-east boundary fenceand large trees surrounding the grave.  The OS map of 1897 makes it clear thatshortly after John Pender’s funeral, the graveyard was extended a significant distance to the east and,in so doing, the boundary fence was moved and the trees surrounding the tomb were cut down.

On 18 April 1902, Anne Denison Denison-Pender, the eldest daughter of John Pender,died at the London home of her younger brother John Denison Denison-Pender.  Her funeral took place at All Saints on Wednesday 23 April and she was buried in the family tomb.  An additional epitaph was then added to the north facing trapezoid of the frustum.

The picture below was probably taken in the 1950’s andshows the Memorial with the Celtic cross, looking back towards the Church from the extended graveyard.

The original Pender memorial

On 15-16 October 1987, the Celtic cross was toppled by an ancient Elm tree that was blown down in ‘The Great Storm’,andthe cross was broken just below the circular top.  The cost of repairing the Memorial wastoo high for the Pender family to contemplate, so nothing was done until 1992 when Cable & Wireless plc, the successor of the company that John Pender founded in 1872, agreed to pay for the cross to be repaired,to make and engrave a new frustum, replace the original engraving and add additional engraving to the skirt of the frustum as well ascreatinga new gravel garden surround to cover the tomb.  On 6 July 1993, the refurbished Memorial was re-dedicated in a short service attended by the late Baron Pender, John Willoughby Denison-Pender (1933-2016), and directors of C&W.

The refurbished Memorial in 1993

The original frustum below the Celtic cross was engraved in all four trapezoids and all these engravings have been transferred to the new frustum   The side facing away from the church is engraved ‘This Memorial was Erected by Sir John Pender K.C.M.G.’ on the opposite side facing the church is ‘In Memory of Emma the Beloved Wife of Sir John Pender K.C.M.G.  Born 19th Oct 1816 Died at Arlington St 8th July’.  On the south facing side of four is the original dedication to ‘Henry Denison Pender Born October 8th 1852 Died at Foots Cray Place January 13th 1881’.  John Pender was not knighted KCMG until 1888 and so the frustum and all this engraving was commissioned by Sir John Pender after the death of his wife Emma in 1890, when the family tomb was excavated.

When Sir John Pender died the following citation was added under Emma’s epitaph; ‘Also of Sir John Pender G.C.M.G Born 19th September 1816 Died at Foots Cray Place July 7th 1896’.
When the new frustum was made two additional epitaphs were added to the skirt.

Under Emma and John:
Sir John Denison Pender G.B.E., K.C.M.G. Born 10th October 1855, Died 6th March 1929, and his Wife Beatrice Catherine Denison Pender Married 2nd August 1879 Died 11th November 1920.  Both Interred at Slaugham, Sussex’

And below Henry:
‘Sir James Pender Baronet Born 28th September 1841, Died 20th May 1921, Interred at Dunhead Salisbury’

The Memorial Frustrum May 2017

Celtic Cross May 2017
Stewart Ash 1017

pictures of the original and refurbished memorial courtesey Telegraph Museum Porthcurno with thanks

Jo's idea for the gas holder

Jo's fabulous idea of what to do with the gas holder

Jo originally put this on her Facebook page - but we just had to copy it here. 

Other ideas very welcome. Send us your jpegs! (pdfs not ok on this system, sorry)

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Avery Hill and its wonderful winter gardens

Winter gardens

There is a hidden gem at Avery Hill, Eltham SE9.

In the late 1890’s Colonel North, the nitrate billionaire, built himself a mansion to rival Walpole’s Strawberry Hill!
The Mansion was a “Party Palace”; lit by electricity, centrally heated throughout right down to the stables!  It boasts the first ever plumbed in H & C wash basins (now grade 2 listed!)   Also listed are the portrait gallery and the ball room with their fine marble walls. Many of these fine Victorian buildings still stand; including the electricity generating engine room & tower, also the Stud stables. These stables are probably Greenwich’s last remaining unaltered agricultural buildings.

Lastly the “Jewel in the Crown”; the Winter Gardens (2nd largest in the UK after Kew

You may remember the Winter Gardens being sold by Greenwich Council for £1 to the University of Greenwich in the mid-1990s. Since then there has been a sorry decline. The central heating failed and rain water entered. A Heritage Lottery Fund bid was prepared but this was withdrawn by the University when they decided to sell the Mansion site (incl. the Winter Gardens) in 2015. They intend leaving by the end of next year

The Friends of Avery Hill Park are understandably concerned about the deterioration of the Winter Gardens and lack of progress by the University or Greenwich Council in protecting its future. I think you would all be concerned with the danger to one of Eltham’s important historical and environmental sites and wish to join the Friends in seeking to save this jewel of Eltham for permanent use and public access.

The Friends have set up a petition that you may sign at:

A hard copy petition book is at the cafĂ© in Avery Hill Park

A public meeting has been organised for Thursday 27th July at 7.30pm in Christ Church hall

and also GWAG (Greenwich Wildlife Advisory Group) AGM v13 July @ 7, Rm 4 Woolwich Town Hall
Presentation: Winter Garden

Bee Twidale