Thursday, 24 May 2018

Notes and serenades

Gasholder – this cracking picture has appeared on the GMV facebook page
thanks Laiura Diggle
The latest edition of the GLIAS Journal – London’s Industrial Archaeology No. 16-  is with us. It includes a very important article by James Hulme about the Charlton Riverside.
As many of our readers will know James and how he started work on the Charlton riverside as an assessment of the site for the Council before the development began.  unusually in thse circumstances he has given us an extremely detailed industrial history of an interesting and so far undeveloped area. 
He begins with one of the oldest buildings in the area - the Anchor and Hope pub - moving on to Castle’s shipbreakers at the end of Anchor and Hope Lane. He continues with notes on other riverside sites – including Cory’s dry dock and boatyard, the Glenton and Angerstein railways and of course Siemens. From the 20th century there is United Glass, Bridon and Stones and – much else.
I’m sure people will want to see this article and  copies of the Journal .   Please email
Also in the Journal  includes an article on Great Western Railway employee hostels in London by David Thomas , the Montgomery timber merchants from Brentford by Beverley Ronalds,  Coalbrooke decorative ironwork in London, by David Perrett, and W.T.Gilbert  mathematical instrument makers of Tower Hill by  D.J.Bryden.

We’re getting a lot of requests for information about the proposed desise of the decorative footbridge across Plumstead station.  Network rail needs to install a lift for disabled access between the platforms of Plumstead and unfortunately they have been unable to this and still keep the decorative ironwork bridge. There are now many calls to have  the bridge main retained.  This is clearly a difficult and sensitive issue with rights on both sides of the argument.
Deborah O’Boyle has written  This delightful bridge was built for SE Railway, in 1892, by Joseph Westwood & Co (over in Millwall) .  Please see the GIHS facebook page for more info from Debs on this.

853 has reported on the first outings (in Gdansk!) of the new Woolwich ferries
More news about plans in Europe to create a European database of extant chimneys.  There have been entries to the competition of videos of people serenading chimneys. Apparently none have been received from the UK – but you can see the serenades at

Monday, 21 May 2018

Congratulations Barbara

Congratulations to Barbara Gasometra Berger in Munich on your PhD on gasholders

(We understand there is a chapter on East Greenwich gasholder - can't wait to see it!)

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

News and that

­Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter. 

They advertise their own future programmes: 2 pm for 2.15 pm on Saturday at Charlton House, in the Grand Salon.
12 May   Research & Discoveries, Pearly History & Woolwich Potteries
9 June     A further Date with Buildings
14 July    Blue Cross Kennels and Pet Cemetery, Shooters Hill Road
13 Oct     Mudlarking by the Thames
10 Nov    An Edwardian Nursery Magic Lantern Show

CROSSNESS ENGINES TRUST   Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, London, SE29AQ Tel 0208311 3711
Family Open Days - Non Steaming,Beam Engine House closed for asbestos removal.
20 May, 17 June, 15 July 10:30am- 4:00pm

18th May Discovering Earthlike Planets.  Mycenae House, 90 Mycenae Road, Blackheath, SE3 7SE

Welling and District Model Engineering Society, Falconwood, 2-5pm
20 May; 3, 17 June; 1, 15,29 July; 12,26 Aug; 9, 23 Sept; 70ct; 16 Dec,Santa Special

WADAS also reports on the Positive Plumstead Project - Their first major concern is the White Hart Road Depot and Plumstead High Street Revamp. We have often reported concerns about the Depot here and it is good to find someone else taking an interest,

They say “The Borough of Greenwich have £2.5m funding from the GLA to brighten up Plumstead - dividing it between the Grade II listed White Hart Road Depot and Plumstead High Street. The White Hart Road Depot is to have workspaces and community facilities such as studios, rehearsal spaces, a nursery, and a gallery. A public square and a pub are mooted.
In his book The Woolwich Story E F E Jefferson says that "In June 1901, work was commenced on a generating and refuse destruction works at White Hart Road, Plumstead, and was formally opened by the Mayor, Cllr J JMessent in October 1903. The cost was £40,000, some £2,600 being spent on direct labour- an early instance of what later became a common feature in the Borough."
The building was the Borough's electricity generating station for Woolwich and Plumstead, a combined rubbish incinerator and electricity generating station being most unusual for the time. The generating plant was closed in the 1920s following the take over and enlargement of the privately built 1895 power station of the Woolwich Electricity Company at Globe Lane. (The site of the, now demolished, power station was temporarily laid out as Arsenal Gardens, but is now being covered by tower blocks of flats by Berkeley.)  However, the incinerator carried on working into the 1970s until replaced by the SELCHP plant in Deptford. The building became a depot for general storage (some items being of significance but also for such things a spare door handles for buildings that had come and gone). The depot was closed, and the building allowed to deteriorate. Most recently Crossrail have used (and refurbished) it while building the Elizabeth line.

WADAS also report on “Industrial Conservation Areas in Charlton -  the Greenwich and Woolwich & Thamesmead Planning Committee (of councillors) were, bar one, unanimous in agreeing to designate "Bowater Road and Thames Barrier" and "Charlton Riverside" as conservation areas. This has now been ratified.
Bowater Road is home to the largely complete, albeit disused, Siemen's works. This is the last of many  telecommunication works that used to line the Thames - they supplied the world, and did pioneering work in digital transmission up to 1980s. It is the last to survive of the several major telegraph and telephony businesses in the Borough, and probably the best preserved in the UK (the rump of the Telcon works in Greenwich is still active, though most of its site has now been covered by blocks of flats).

Charlton Riverside has other industrial assets, for instance early Cory works, but also a group of high quality workers' dwellings at Atlas Gardens and Derrick Gardens. 



“Discussions are also starting on what we are calling Bazalgette 200 for the bicentenary of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's birthday falls on 28 March 2019. Planning and fundraising for events to celebrate the engineering genius who created Crossness is about to start. Anyone who has bright ideas about this or would otherwise like to help please do get in touch”.

A visitor from Sweden came to ask about Bessemer’s Greenwich works.  He is interested in Göran Fredrik Göransson (1819-1900).

“In 1841 (at 22) he became a partner in the business run by his mother's family, Daniel Elfstrand & Co. The company acquired an ironworks at Högbo and a blast furnace at Edske. In 1856 Göransson travelled to England to buy a steam engine for the blast furnace, but returned having bought a fifth of Bessemer's patent for steel production. With backing from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences he carried out experiments using a Bessemer converter. Initially he tried to stick to Besemer's instructions of using small air tubes (tuyeres) at the base combined with high air pressure. Eventually he ignored this and tried instead with larger tuyeres and a lower pressure and finally produced what is said to be the first ever commercial "pour" of steel using the Bessemer method in July 1858. He corresponded regularly with Bessemer reporting on his progress, but Bessemer failed to even mention him in his autobiography. He opened a steelworks in Sandviken, Sweden in 1862, which after initial difficulties became Sandviken Jernverks AB in 1868. The same company is still in business in the same place), although now only producing specialist steels

APPG Launch Industrial Heritage report

Following from the Evidence Sessions held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Industrial Heritage a report has emerged called “Report on the Challenges facing the Industrial Heritage Sector"

This was apparently launched at an event on 1st May with many attendees (but not us obviously - or even asked us what we thought!)
The report's key findings are that industrial heritage was vital in the formation of local and national identities, and is highly valuable in the UK's contemporary society as a source of economic potential. By providing an examination of the value of industrial heritage to the United Kingdom and the major social, economic and cultural issues impacting this sector, the APPG has compiled a series of conclusions and recommendations on how to face the challenges of the future.
You can read it at


Railway lifting bridge over Deptford Creek

We had been asked if the railway lift bridge over Deptford Creek was listed – as a result we have been sent lots of interesting information about it.  Here are some extracts from the report on it in 2012.

English Heritage were asked to assess the railway lifting bridge over Deptford Creek for designation. It is understood that Network Rail are currently considering demolishing the superstructure of the bridge as it no longer functions as a lifting bridge. Deptford Creek forms the boundary between LB Lewisham to the west and LB Greenwich to the east. The eastern supports of the bridge stand on the the Grade 11 listed railway viaduct from the platforms of Greenwich Station to Deptford Creek Bridge in LB Greenwich. The western supports of the bridge stand on the unlisted pier in the centre of the creek which is in LB Lewisham. LB Lewisham is currently considering including the bridge within the proposed Deptford Creek Conservation Area and also locally listing the structure. This is somewhat complicated by the bridge falling within the two boroughs. A 2009 heritage report on Deptford Creek by Design for London noted the bridge as a significant heritage asset.

The applicant, Network Rail, Design for London and the two Local Planning Authorities concerned were consulted. LB Lewisham in their response of 13 December 2011 noted the historical context of the London-Greenwich railway line and the importance of Deptford Creek and its related industry to the growth of Deptford. Also asserted was the fact that the electrical operation of the lifting bridge was a technical achievement for its time and the design, in contrast to Kingsferry Bridge, reflected the functionality of the lifting bridge. Design for London noted in their response of 15 June 2011 that the bridge was identified as a significant heritage asset in the 2009 London Development Agency Deptford Creek regeneration heritage report.

As a specific building type, vertical lift bridges are rare nationally with probably not many more than a dozen surviving examples in England, ranging in date from the mid-C19 to 2000 and including road, railway and pedestrian use

In architectural terms the Deptford Creek lifting bridge is a purely utilitarian structure constructed of steel box girders with no attempt at architectural embellishment. The gantry containing the operating gear, for example, is crudely constructed of steel sheets. Whilst this is perhaps to be expected, with its relatively short span, it lacks the engineering grandeur of the listed Tees (Newport) Bridge. It should be stressed that we have been asked to consider the bridge itself and not the viaduct (already listed) and the pier it rests on. The pier has good quality rusticated masonry dating from its construction in the 1830s but this does not form part of the current assessment. It is perhaps surprising that it was not included in the listing of the viaduct which continues either side of it.

The vertical lift railway bridge was opened in December 1963, designed by AH Cantrell, Chief Civil Engineer, British Rail Southern Region and built by Sir William Arrol and Co of Glasgow. It was the third bridge to cross Deptford Creek along the Grade" listed railway viaduct, originally built by the London and Greenwich Railway in 1836. The first bridge, constructed c1838, was described in 1840 as ' ... a Balance-Bridge which requires the power of eight men to raise it when necessary for the purpose of allowing masted vehicles to pass above Bridge. On each side of the viaduct between the Spa Road and Deptford is a carriage and footway enclosed by a brick fence-wall'. This bridge was replaced in 1884 by a similar double drawbridge, each section winched up to a simple steel frame superstructure on either side of the bridge. The current bridge was able to lift 40 tonnes and was operated by electrical winches. It no longer functions as a vertical lift bridge having been welded closed, probably due to problems with the foundations.

The bridge comprises two spans across the dual channels of the creek at this point. The western span is fixed and is included in the listing for the viaduct between Deptford Creek and North Kent Junction. The eastern channel is bridged by the vertical lift bridge. This comprises four braced, square-section, steel columns (approximately 20m in height) containing the lifting hoists, one pair on either side of the channel, joined by a steel box-truss. The two supports are linked at their centre by a further truss (parallel with the railway line) which carries the enclosed steel-clad gantry containing the electrical operating gear. The supports rest on large concrete blocks, which in turn rest on the footings of the original bridge, encased in dressed Portland stone. The vertical lift track section is supported on large steel l-beams which bear the name of the Lanarkshire Steel Company.

So - its not listed but apparently the buttresses are

And while we are on the subject of listing. Richard Buchanan has sent us this piece from the archives about Enderby House

Municipal Offices Woolwich,
Buildings of Architectural or Historical Interest
Enderby' House, Enderby' Wharf, SE10
January 1973

When the Borough wide study of possible listed buildings was carried out by my officers last summer it did not appear from external survey that this building would attract a mention, but I was then unaware of the internal features and historical associations which you mentioned in your letter.
I understand from the Department of the Environment their investigator may have missed it altogether, and I have, therefore, asked them to let me have their observations, at the same time drawing their attention to the interior and to the history.
I have requested this to be done as soon as possible in view of the threat of demolition and which I understand, could arise from future reorganisation and redevelopment by the owners.
Borough Planning Officer 

Subterranea Brittanica’s Journal for April 2018  Issue 47 contains an article on Early Thames Subways. ‘The North and South Woolwich Subway and other failed schemes for a Thames crossing at Woolwich”. by Peter Bone

He begins “ The Woolwich foot tunnel was built by the London County Council and opened in 1912 but more than a quarter of a century earlier, an attempt was made to create a foot tunnel under the Thames at Woolwich” and goes on to describe an abortive earlier scheme “n 1873 the North and South Woolwich Subway Company was formed. Plans for a pedestrian tunnel between Woolwich and North Woolwich were prepared”

This is a fascinating article and copies can be obtained through the Sub-Brit web site  Please read it!

Peter Bone also mentions the 1904 North and South Woolwich Electric Railway. This was to be a short line passing under the river, with a station at Beresford Square and at the junction of Albert Road and High Street.

And also a proposal in 1919 for a tunnelled electric monorail service between Beresford Square and North Woolwich station.
                         and there is even a picture of that!

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Sad news

Sad note this morning to say that Darrell Spurgeon has died.

Few people will know Darrell - who was well in his nineties and cut his very considerable list of activities down in the past few years.  He had a very busy life!

Of interest to local historians were his series of 'Discover' books - written as a retirement project and intended as the guide books to South London, which, as a travel agent, he knew did not exist.

'Discover' covered the Borough of Greenwich and quite a bit of Bexley, Lewisham and Southwark as well. Darrell was a meticulous researcher and covered many things of interest in the environment - including many industrial remains for which he was an enthusiast.

If you don't know the 'Discover' series rush out and get them at once - although I don't actually know where from as Darrell used to sell them himself and I guess stocks are limited.

I am sure in the next few days there will be proper obituaries and tributes to his time as a councillor and with the Co-op and things I know nothing about.


Saturday, 5 May 2018

Notes, news and, or course, the gasholder

Now - have you all signed the petition about the gasholder??

Sign it Now! The situation is that the holder received immunity from listing by the Government, meaning that the Council had to agree to its demolition.   We are asking that they revisit the Council's agreed position on the holder and its site.

The exact wording of what we are asking for is on the petition page - and I have acres and acres of print which explains the legal position, and the history of the holder in more detail.  Email us and ask if you want to know more.

The situation with the holder has been covered by local bloggers and the press and we are expecting more coverage over the next couple of weeks.
(thanks Darryl - and are people allowed to ask who the ginger kid is in the photo??

We also have had an email from Barbara in Germany

"I am really worried about the future of Livesey`s masterpiece. It represents an extraordinary structure of the guide frame. I will soon have a book/Phd ready to underline the significance of the threatened EG gasholder. I wrote an whole chapter on the guide frames (90 pages). One small chapter is only describing the frame in EG. For better understanding the whole chapter would be useful.However I still need to wait to be allowed to publish my phd. I will know after my viva...
In the meantime I can show you two important links to me and my work:

Research associate at the Technical University of Munich:
and my research:

My article "The Gasholder – Shaped by ist function" written for the int. congress on construction history, held in Chicago 2015:



The next blog post was about Enderby House

Thank you to Murky for covering this. But he/she is not quite right,.  Our understanding is that Barratts are still negotiating with an unnamed (by them) pub chain.  Hopefully more detail on this in our next posting.



We have had a note from the Council

 I am writing to notify you that the Royal Borough of Greenwich designated the Charlton Riverside Conservation Area on 21 March 2018. The Royal Borough’s Cabinet also agreed the addition of 17 buildings to our Local Heritage List.

This is all good news and basically covers Atlas and Derrick Gardens in Anchor and Hope Lane.  There is a planning application pending which will completely surround this pretty little housing estate - more news on that to come.

Why Atlas and Derrick?.  Cory - whose dry dock and tug depot is just along the riverside from the estate - had a coal transhipment system in the river in the 19th century. It was on a hulk called Atlas (there were three Atlases eventually) and it had derricks on it.  So the housing was built by Cory for their workers.

Thanks to Richard from Trinity Buouy Wharf for this nice picture of the site.  


Richard who sent the picture is now the Maritime Heritage Project Officer at Trinity Buoy Wharf - just  across the river from the Peninsula, you can see the gaggle of heritage boats there, as well as the Clipper Depot and London's only lighthouse**.  We hear great things are going on over there and hope to have a LOT more news soon.  

You can get over there very easily via the secret ferry - go to QE Pier and ask - but we think the ferry is going to be less secret soon.

** lighthouse in a traditional sense - we do have real warning lights here. The nearest one is not quite in Greenwich at Tripcock Ness


At the same time the Council also officially designated The Thames Barrier and Bowater Road Conservation Area,   We have covered this area and some of the Siemens buildings which is covered in Survey of Woolwich and also lots of stuff sent to us by the Siemens Engineering Society (thanks to Brian Middlemiss)
More on that to come too


Huguenots in Greenwich.  Huguenots were French Protestants who came here as immigrants in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and settled mainly in East London where they introduced many industries - the most famous being the Courtauld silk works.  

There was a small comunity in Greenwich based in Crooms Hills - I am told that the late Beryl Platts was instrumental in research on them.  The Huguenots of Spitalfields Group is organising a walk around Greenwich on 12th May - details (and you have to book and pay) on or ring 020737036 for something called a supporting visual.

I would like to book them for a talk at GIHS but I think we might be a bit too small and poor for them.


Factory chimneys.  I am told that the European industrial heritage group, EFAITH, have just had an  industrial theme month on factory chimneys - starting with a party in Roubaix.  They have made a video  They want everyone to perform Beethoven's Ode to Joy in front of a chimney (not at all sure that would be a good idea!)

I only mention this because in Woolwich we do have a chimney which would knock spots off anything they might have in the Europe!!  However  my correspondent on this is keen to know what other chimneys we have in Greenwich??? Please let us know?

Also see

Spray Street demolitions.  This was covered very adequately by 853    There are a lot of issues here around the demolition of a lot of historic Woolwich buildings - happy to highlight some of them here, please send info.   Much of the current discussion is around the Lamella roof of the doomed covered market (itself a bit of traditional Woolwich). The roof is described as the roof design is a “lamella” system – a lattice usually formed of steel or timber struts. These generate very strong spans that don’t require internal supports. It is rare to see this system used outside of a military context".


For a long time there has been an Industrial Heritage Support Officer based at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Telford.  There have been various post holders each of which we - and other industrial historians in London - have begged to come and speak to us about what support they can offer.  Sadly it has appeared that they find it impossible to come south of Wolverhampton for reasons we are unable to understand. 

BUT we now learn there is a wonderful new post holder - Joanna - and she is helpful and friendly.  We have already raised with her the issue of the gasholder and Enderby House, and we understand she is going to meet with the Lea Valley Heritage people - so there is hope yet.

This is just to say that I am happy to pass issues on to her from Greenwich if people contact me.


The April GIHS meeting featured the remarkable Ian Bull talking about the Royal Arsenal and the Yantlet (the Yantlet is a Creek on the Isle of Sheppey).  
Here is a version of some of what he said - reported to us thanks to Peter Luck.  

Guns were tested.

At the beginning of the Great War the navy was deeply concerned that its hit-rate was poor despite the quality of the equipment they had. They needed to improve their gunnery and the testing of long-range guns at Foulness was inadequate for the longest range guns. Taking the land at Yantlet and the marsh adjoining enabled firing across the mouth of the Thames over the shipping and up the length of the Foulness foreshore.

A dock was built and survives (more or less - and is visible from the other side of the creek). It was able to receive the heaviest guns made at Woolwich and it connected directly with a firing platform. a second firing position was a short distance away and the two had a rail connection which also connected to the Grain branch line. Forward of the firing platform were four tall masts which held suspended panels, aligned so that the shell would pass through them and the time differential between its passage through first one then the other would indicate its speed. The shell, on landing on the Foulness foreshore could be retrieved at low tide and examined for further useful info.

The development of rocketry and the guided missile in WW2 meant that the very heavy naval gun was no longer a viable weapon and the need for testing sych guns ended. The site became redundant and the masts were demolished and the railway taken up. Little remains of the second firing site but the dock is still there and so are several of the associated buildings, re-purposed. The navy has used the site for demolition of unexploded ordnance recovered from the Thames estuary as well as such as terrorist bombs etc etc. It is now wholly unused but still held by the MoD who do not wish to part with it. Access is possible only with MoD permission.

Before starting the talk Ian told me that the site is now a SSSI as there are many interesting plants colonising bomb craters and there has been no agro-chemical treatment of the land.

I am told that this will be covered in more detail on and please look at this interesting page for all sorts of stuff about the Arsenal. Also on and thank you Steve Peterson for the information.


Railway on the Peninsula.  Everyone keeps asking why there is no rail link from the Dome to the main line at Charlton/Westcombe Park.  Well - er - there was - it was destroyed in 1999 by the New Millennium Experience Company.  It ran down roughly on the line of West Parkside. 
This shows the rail bridge pre-1999 which stood on the
line of West Pakside west of the Pilot Pub

In connection with research on this we were asked if it connected to the Redpath Brown steel works which stood roughly south of the Pilot, where many new flats now stand.  Andrew Turner has sent us the following details when we asked if if the steel works was connected to the railway.

'The information that Redpath Brown was never connected to the national rail system was told to me by John Fry (Manager there during and after the Second World War).. I'm now not 100% sure if John remained there up to closure in 1977, so the comment may only be true for the time he was working there. .

Maps and site plans up to 1964 including OS 63360:1 maps dated 1961 and 1964 do not show any rail connection into the works. The 63360:1 map of 1970 (SE London) shows a connection into the former Dorman Long part of  the site only while the various sheets of the OS 1250:1 maps of 1971/72  appear to show a connection which leads into both the former Redpath Brown and Dorman Long sites. In both cases, the gas works is no longer shown as rail connected. A plan produced in 1973 suggests that only BSC's McCalls Service Centre (on the former Dorman Long site) was by then rail connected.

I note that the Industrial Railway Society states that Redpath Dorman Long (the post 1967 name) was connected to the Angerstein Branch but gives no dates. The information could well be over simplified, given the history of the sites.

Assuming that the 1971/72 OS survey is correct, it looks like the Redpath Brown site (by then part of BSC) may have been connected for a period to the Angerstein Branch after the rail link to the gas works was abandoned. The 1971/72 maps are however the only definitive evidence that I have seen showing the Redpath Brown site as rail connected to the outside world. The 1971/72 maps also show that by then the jetty was out of use, so incoming steel may have changed from water to rail.

We have a note from DimplyDebs about the 19th century overbridge at Plumstead Station.  It appears this is about to be removed and people in Plumstead are hoping a way can be found to retain it. She has written to councillors saying;

"I have become aware that Network Rail SE has just reapplied for demolition (18/1455/PA), citing recorded instances of people climbing over the parapet, as well as the necessity to demolish the bridge in order to fit lifts in.

Whilst I am all for accessibility, I am not convinced that this necessitates the destruction of the Victorian bridge, which is not only attractive but a fine example of important local industrial heritage. It looks like NR has taken a "one size fits all" approach and intends to install an ugly, overbearing structure. It will be a large blot on impending plans to improve the appearance of the station approach. 


This isn't industrial but thought you might like to go:


Tuesday, 8th of May - 7:30 pm St George's, Westcombe Park Glenluce Road SE3 7SD

A program by Dr Sam Moorhead FSA (British Museum) 
In AD 306, Constantine was acclaimed emperor at York – this was an illegal action, but it did not deter him from becoming one of the most important and influential of all Roman emperors.  This lecture will outline Constantine’s rise to power and his adoption of the Christian faith, culminating in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in AD 312.  After the Edict of Milan in 313, which ended the persecutions, we witness the growth of Christianity in the Roman Empire and in Britain.  Although written sources are sparse, the British Museum has the best collection of fourth century Christian objects north of the Alps, including the Hinton St Mary mosaic, the Water Newton treasure and the Lullingstone wall paintings. Using such objects and a range of other archaeological evidence, this lecture will outline the rich Christian heritage of late Roman Britain.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Greenwich riverside path - peninsula - information


This is written from memory and may not be entirely accurate. I would therefore ask that it is regarded as confidential and that none of it is reproduced or quoted until I can write it up from referenced sources. I will try to add to it as more reliable information becomes available.

There is a lot of the path – but  this is basically about the stretch from Ballast Quay to the Yacht Club – but there are other problems – although different ones – all the way down to Thamesmead.

The path round the Peninsula is a traditional walkway along the top of the river wall.    In the 1870s the then Greenwich Vestry obtained a judgement at the Kent Assizes to ensure that it was open to the public having been stopped up by a shipbuilding company.   I am not clear on its current status – it is a ‘right of way’ not a highway, but rights of way in London are difficult. However, when the right of way was established Greenwich was in Kent.

In the late 17th century much of this riverside was passed to the Blackheath Charity, Morden College, who still own/control a great deal of it.  Other sites were in private or charitable hands.  The Enderby site was owned by the Government in the 18th century but has been private since.  Clearly the gas company (South Met. then nationalised from 1947) owned a large estate here and bought up some other sites when they fell vacant – this whole area was vested into the New Millennium Experience Company in the 1990s and is now with the GLA.  However most of it is leased to major holding companies, in some cases there are several layers of leases.

When the gas company was opened in the 1880s they were allowed to close the path around their works and they built Ordnance Draw Dock as what we would now call ‘planning gain’.  The draw dock is a right of way.  When the Dome was opened the closed stretch was reopened and upgraded but the operators of the Dome (AEG) have never done anything to enhance their interface with the path – and, probably don’t understand that the river is even there!! 

Between 1860 and 1970s most of the sites along the path were working wharves but the path remained open despite some problems and diversions. Several wharves were safeguarded in the 1980s and some have retained this status. Some wharves were still at work in the 1990.

In the 1990s the path was declared Cycle Path No.1. by SUSTRANS and criteria for turning the path into a fast cycle track were worked out.  I am very unsure of the planning process with this but it has meant that developers have to install a double paved strip and that there is planting between the path and the river (presumably for safety).  This is not the spirit of the river wall walk!   In 1998 the Council took Hansons to court over closure of the path through their site. The way was only proved by aerial shots showing painted footprints – but the judgement upheld the right of way.

Over the past few years industry has gone and developers have moved in.  In the late 1990s Groundwork, who work independently of the local authorities, did a lot of work on the path.  They did deals with various industries to plant trees and flowers and enhance the path. Amylum (sugar refinery on Morden Wharf) were already funding the Eltham Environment Centre and were very keen. Groundwork also spent a lot of time doing up the jetties.   At Enderby Wharf an artwork was installed on the steps and commissioned by Carol Kenna. (I have details)

In 2000 was the Millennium Exhibition – and local environmentalists produced a booklet ‘Millennium Domesday’ (I have a copy).    NME did not engage with locals or local industries about the path but some art works were commissioned which remain.  They also did a considerable amount of planting around the Peninsula – some of this has remained and is maintained by a workforce. I am not sure who is now running this but I think it is the same independent organisation which now owns the ecology centre and the parks.  They do not do the riverside path on the west bank which is supposed to be cared for by the various owners and the Council has enforcement powers on this. They maintain the east bank.  The decision to appoint a non-council operator for the parks and paths was taken by the Government.

As the 2000s progressed various sites were handed to developers. Lovells , Granite and Pipers Wharf were passed to developers by Morden College  - although Granite and Pipers were still active.  Two cranes on Lovells which the Council was trying to preserve (they were not accepted for listing by EH) were removed without notice by Morden College.   The wharves were developed with housing – and on one site an early medieval tide mill was discovered. Following community action in 2013 developers were refused planning consent for higher buildings and a compromise was later reached. The boat repair yard was moved to a purpose built site at Bay Wharf as part of the planning deal on what is now called Greenwich Wharf – but delay for many years means this move is very recent.

Meanwhile Alcatel sold the riverside strip at Enderby Wharf to developers – their factory remaining at work. The developer got planning consent for housing and a cruise liner terminal (with expressions of approval from some local groups and no obvious opposition).  They then went bankrupt and the site became derelict.  The adjacent site – the sugar refinery – was sold to a French farming co-op.  One day a demolition crew arrived, with no notice or liaison with the Council or the PLA, and demolished the entire site, including three silos which were being considered for listing. They left the site empty and derelict.  The victim of this was listed Enderby House which was trashed over the next year because there was no site security.

Later as Knight Dragon became more established a golf range has been set up on Delta Wharf and plans are in place for Point Wharf – and a hotel has been built north of the draw dock. Hanson’s have a factory on their aggregate works at Victoria Deep Water (this is a wharf which PLA are unlikely to agree to de-safeguard).    More recently housing has been built at Enderby by Barratt and a row has erupted around the cruise liner terminal following the submission of a new planning application for the site.  The old sugar refinery site at Morden Wharf is now with U&I whose plans are not really clear – as Cathedral they had a reputation for sites with a lot of amenity but they are a different organisation now.

In 2014 the Enderby Group was set up to lobby to ensure Enderby House was repaired and that some way be found to recognise the telecoms heritage of the site. The developer, Barratts, are thought to be planning a pub in the house. We are no further forward with anything else!

Currently Knight Dragon have left the Shooting Star at Point Wharf – and we understand that plans for the Aluna moon clock are still viable.   A sculpture trail from Three Mills on the Lee crosses the river and takes in art works as far as Shooting Star – it would be useful to extend it.  We also understand that the ‘secret ferry’ is to become a public facility following work at Trinity Buoy Wharf (can find out more about that).  However there are also plans for the hotel to use the old Ordnance Wharf jetty for hotel boats (I don’t see PLA agreeing to that but we shall see).

So – there are a certain number of conflicts here – and are added to by various rights on the foreshore (owned by the Crown) and the role of the Environment Agency in regard to the river and the foreshore.  Several of these bodes are not likely to engage with community representatives.

I am waiting for answers to a lot of questions about liaison between various bodies, about planning agreements on the river frontages, monitoring and responsibilities for damage, reporting, signage, information (for eg developers refused to put up info on the medieval tide mill) , safeguarding wharves. Will update this when I get answers.

And then there is the gasholder  - this is an interesting site which was the subject of a planning brief last year.  It has a number of buildings on it which will have to remain which include the Horniman Museum store and that club.  It is walking distance from Enderbys and indeed from most amenity sites on the Peninsula.  Just think what could be done with it!

In 1960 the architectural commentator Ian Nairn wrote:

This unknown and unnamed riverside path is the best Thames- side 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, 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 around the back of a boat yard. Never the same for a hundred yards at once, a continuous 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 Greenwich Hospital. Not just a walk, but a stressed walk - mostly by accident. God preserve it from the prettifiers


East Greenwich Gas Holder - info sheet


This is a brief information sheet about the holder plus information on the current demolition plans.

Please support the petition  

(There are other descriptions of the holder further down the blog - but - sorry - I have managed to mess up the best one ) 

Biggest gas holder in Europe - an exceptional structure built to revolutionary principles - listing now refused - and scheduled for demolition - ideas for reuse apparently not considered


The gas industry in South London, beginning around 1820, had developed as a chaos of small competing private companies. Regulation was imposed on them by governments from the 1870s. This resulted in the area being dominated by Livesey’s South Metropolitan Company from the Old Kent Road. East Greenwich works was built in the 1880s as the out-of-town mega works which the government wanted to be built but it was also a show place for Livesey’s ideals and standards. Only perfection was good enough for South Met.!


A gas holder is like a cup turned upside down in a saucer which holds a pool of water. The cup is built in a tier of sections which can lift and fall according to the amount of gas in it. This one was built on George Livesey's revolutionary cylindrical shell principle which treats it as a single huge cylinder. There are many other revolutionary aspects to the design and materials and while the structure appears to be simple it is really very complex and different from the older, often highly decorative, holders.

It is far taller than would normally be expected. It has four ‘lifts’ which rise upwards and is the first holder ever built to this size. It rises to about 180 feet and holds 8.2 million cubic feet of gas. The great height of construction was made possible by new materials and it effected a great saving in cost which had a huge subsequent effect. It is it more efficient and lighter.  Costs of storage were also less in terms of land use and labour - and workers could be encouraged to go to church on Sundays even though Sunday dinners had to be cooked.

The holder is free of all decoration and it sets a new bench-mark for gasholder design of which it is a refinement in size and sophistication and an exploitation of the beauty of pure structural form. Ideas then being embodied in industrial and domestic design as the modern movement.


Some years ago English Heritage commissioned a report on London holders.  Very recently this report has been revisited and as a result an Old Kent Road holder has been listed and East Greenwich No.1 has not.

The holder has (April 2018) been given consent to demolition. Last year the Council drew up a planning brief for the site in which they said Proposals should respect and respond to the industrial character of the area as a means of relating new development to the local context. In particular, development should build on the heritage value of the gas holder to enhance the character and distinctiveness of the area.”  Following this an application was made for immunity to listings order – which does not get general consultation, although Greenwich Industrial History Society was aware of it and made a submission.  But the order was granted meaning that it could be demolished without a planning application

I am putting below an extract about the legal position by Matt Pennycook MP - which his consent (thank you Matt) - because it is a particularly clear and straightforward explanation

Crucially, the application SGN plc submitted was not a standard planning application but a ‘prior approval’ application. Securing prior approval allows developers to use permitted development rights i.e. the right to make changes without the need to apply for planning permission from the local planning authority. Local planning authorities have only 28 days to determine such applications (if they do not, there is a default in favour of grating permission). Local councillors who object cannot call such applications in, and, in the case of an application to demolish a structure, the local planning authority can only consider the method of demolition, not the principle of whether or not it should take place. In the case of the gasholder, our Council could scrutinise the method of demolition and they did just that, refusing SGN plc’s first prior approval application, but could not refuse the prior notification on the grounds that they would like to see some or all of the gasholder structure to be retained. It’s a frustrating situation, but one that is a world away from the impression created in some recent reports suggesting the Council has backed the demolition of the gasholder. 
As things stand, the granting of prior approval means that there is nothing that can be done to prevent the gasholder being lost should SGN plc wish to proceed with a demolition. However, the Council will continue to make efforts to reach out to SGN plc in the hope that the site owner will agree to at least begin a discussion about the heritage value of the gasholder and the range of creative proposals that could be brought forward to retain and make use of it. I very much hope they are successful
Matt Pennycook

I have also written to planners and influentual people asking them to get the planners to write more detailed letters to residents in cases like this where it is not a straightfordward planning application,. Residents who had raised objections just got a two line letter saying - the first time that it had not been given consent for demolition, and then - the second time that it had.  They deserved to be told what the actual situation was.  Would be grateful for backing for this.