Monday, 12 December 2011
18th February. Symposium on Thames Shipbuilding.firstname.lastname@example.org (some input about shipbuilding on the Greenwich Peninsula included) Details now available from Docklands History Group, John Garnet, 39 Oakfield Lane, Keston, Kent, BR26BY
Programme and details will be sent with receipt of £30 booking fee
and - we have received the latest copy of Dockyards - Newsletter of the Naval Dockyards Society.
This includes a detailed account of a visit to the Deptford Dockyard site (Convoys) by members in October. Readers will be aware that this is a major riverside development site which has been subject to a series of planning applications with Lewisham Council, the subject of much local debate.
The account is obviously from a slightly different perspective from much of what we have previously published about the account - although it covers much of the same ground - and has been written by NDS's Secretary, Ann Coats, and Malcolm Tucker, of GLIAS and, of course, a GIHS member. The party was taken round the site by archaeologist Duncan Hawkins and many interesting photographs, by Malcolm, are included.
This is followed by details text of the NDS letter to Lewisham Council Planners - this is available on www.navaldockyards.org
The Society holds its Annual General Meeting in Greenwich every year - although many of its activists are Portsmouth based. Next year's meeting, held at the Maritime Museum on 17th March, will include a tour of the Deptford Dockyard site.
Details of membership can be found on their website - and they also are on Facebook Naval-Dockyards-Society and Twitter @navdocksoc
They are looking for a new membership secretary and committee members. Details Ann Coats email@example.com
Thursday, 8 December 2011
One person was the Military Commandant at Woolwich, and Dr. Gordon, the Principal Medical Officer of the Garrison. Ballard reported that their evidence was “the clearest and most instructive that I received” and pointed out that the barracks and the barrack field were “about a mile from the river and at a considerable elevation” but that nevertheless “each variety of odour is perceptible … when the wind is in the northwest or north-north-east one variety is perceived, and when east-northeast the other variety”.
Dr. Gordon told him that when he travelled on the river between Woolwich and Purfleet that he recognized the smell of Lawes Manure Works at Barking Creek as distinct from that from Bevington and Brown in Erith Marshes. That smell, said Dr. Gordon, was like that “which he has perceived in India when passing the places in which the Hindus consume, by cremation, the bodies of their dead”.
Thus they concluded “A northeast wind would bring effluvia towards the barracks from Barking Creek, distant 2 miles” and on a different day “a more easterly wind would bring those from Erith Marshes, distant 4 miles”.
To the Manager of the Southern Outfall Pumping station at Crossness complaints about smells must have been a subject of some sensitivity. He told Dr.Ballard that he could “distinguish two varieties of offensive odour”. One of these which “he describes as in tolerably offensive” was from the, previously mentions, glue and manure works of Brown and Bevington, at Erith.
However at Charlton complaints were not so bad – Ballard was told this by the local Inspector of Nuisances. There was “only one variety of offensive odour …….that is of an acid and sickening character”. That smell came from factories on the north shore of the river near the Victoria Docks, and – (oh dear) “from some factories … Greenwich Marshes”.
Ballard therefore set out to inspect “the several factories between Blackwall Reach to the west, and Erith Reach to the east”. He sorted them out into three groups:
Group 1 - on the river bank near Bugsby's Reach – and this in response to complaints from Charlton, and from the army in Woolwich. Ballard reckoned there were 10 factories here to be looked at.
Group 2 on Barking Creek. Which annoyed the army in Woolwich, the inhabitants of Plumstead village and of the “little colony at the Southern Outfall Pumping Station”. There were four factories in this group
Group 3 downriver “between Halfway Reach and Erith – which annoyed the same people as Group 2. There were seven factories here
Ballard points out “All of these factories are not equally offensive” …. “Some effluvia is only perceptible at a short distance … while the effluvia from others are such as experience has shown, may be carried by the wind to the distance of several miles”.
Forthcoming episodes will reveal which factories smelt of what ……………with exciting details of exactly what Bevington and Brown were doing …………..and which factories Ballard found it difficult to remain near, and which were completely deserted apart from the smell.
…………….More to come.
Monday, 5 December 2011
The various gas company house magazine published regular accounts from young men who had cadged a voyage on a collier - and returned to write up their experiences. The account below, from the South Metropolitan Gas's Copartnership Journal in the early 1900s. The author clearly had a pleasant trip - not always the case, the east coast could be a terrifying place!!
'I ain't no sailor bold, and I never was upon the sea' . I can no longer sing this with truth. I am one of those newspaper fellows …. who was tremendously rocked in the cradle of the deep off the Yorkshire coast.
It was nearly eleven o'clock when we got alongside Tyne dock, but still Captain Kennett had to pay his men, who were all anxious to get home to their wives and families living in or around Shields.
Friday, 2 December 2011
21st February John Yeardley on Ropemaking in London
13th March David Cufley on Bricks and brickmaking locally
17th April Peter Luck on Sugar & Soap – (site recently known as Amylum)
15th May Diana Rimel on Bazalgette
And a leaflet is enclosed for SERIAC 28th April 2012. At Newbury. Details www.biag.org.uk
SERIAC is the South East Regional Industrial Archaeology Conference – and the programme, as ever, is all rural industries with a bit of military stuff.
Eaglesfield Park, Shooters Hill – excavation of First World War anti-aircraft gun platform Deptford Green, Lower School – rice mill established around 1700 replaced by warehouse 1875
Convoys Wharf Deptford – 52 trenches excavated, identified area of c19th Great Dock. Outline of Grade II listed c19 Olympia building and area of Tudor storehouse. Other walls and surfaces.
David Dawson point to the remains of a similar structure at Woolwich just down from the ferry, known as the Woolwich barge blocks.
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
In the early 1970s there was an attempt to set up a Workers Educational Association Branch in Greenwich - as, then fashionable, History Workshop. To be honest the entire membership was Mary Mills, Deborah Thom, and Iris Dove. The result of our work was a booklet - Woolwich in
the General Strike. Deborah got the by-line and Mary did the typing. The entire project then sunk without trace - except, that here is the text we produced. Iris is now acting in various interesting
projects, Mary is still doing the typing - and Deborah?? Deborah if you are out there, and reading this - hope this scan is ok, and hope it was a worth while project for you.
So - this is what we published in a very very dodgy typescript.
(and there are several places I should have put "sic")
WOOLWICH in 1926 was, as its Medical Officer of Health said 'one of the suburban working class metropolitan boroughs'. It had then a population of 146,000 which was unevenly distributed throughout its three main areas; Woolwich with thirty-two people to the acre; Plumstead with
twenty-two and Eltham with only eight - this compared to a London average of sixty-two. It was, however, a relatively prosperous borough for a working-class one and those in work earnt good wages. The Arsenal, although no longer the central force in borough life which it had been, was still the biggest employer. But, despite an extensive campaign for alternative peace-time work - which had produced a few railway engines and milk churns – the workforce had been cut to around 8,000. Other engineering works in the Charlton area employed large numbers and Siemens in particular had 6,339 workers. Unions in the Arsenal were well organised with the Engineers Union, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Workers Union and the breakaway Government Workers Union. Other engineering works were not so well organised as they were to become in the thirties. Public service workers, and particularly transport workers, were also unionised.
WOOLWICH had a Labour Party that was unusually well organised at the local level since 1903 when they elected their first M.P, Will Crooks. Since 1919 they had controlled the Borough Council and had an MP, Henry Snell, after 1923. The strength of this local organisation is partly attributable to the local Labour paper, The Pioneer, which had ceased publication in 1922. What happened in Woolwich in May 1926 was to be a reflection of the stronghold that Labour's political ideas had on the Borough.
The STRIKE was called for May 3rd 1926 by the General Council of the TUC in support of the miners, who had refused to accept a payment which the employers wanted to make after the withdrawal of government subsidy. The General Council called out certain categories of workers only - transport .. printing ... iron and steel .. metals and chemicals ... building (except in hospitals and housing) .. electricity and gas (except lighting) and Central Union offices were to direct the strike.
This left a gap which in many areas was filled by Trades Councils or ad hoc councils of action, to connect strikers across union boundaries at a local level.
In WOOLWICH and ELTHAM Dick Croy records that some people had tried to set up Councils of Action but that the Labour Party would not let them "anywhere near what was going on". There was no strike bulletin, such as Greenwich and Deptford organised through their Council of Action - at least we have found no evidence of one.
The Borough Council immediately set up local machinery. The Emergency Committee under the Mayor, William Barefoot, met on 4th May to discuss the withdrawal of labour from the Power Station. They persuaded the power workers to continue to supply hospitals, street lighting,
bakeries and laundries after three days discussion. Other municipal employees were also persuaded to stay at work - the sweepers, the scavengers, the sanitary and health officers and the Public Baths
employees. Initially they had all come out and the street lights in Woolwich stayed on for two days as a result - making the streets very bright. There was no sense of urgency in their deliberations. They
took time to discuss moving the statue of Queen Victoria at a cost of £150.
They were preoccupied at this time in fighting the District Auditors’ attempt to penalise Council representatives for paying wages at 10% higher than the National Agreement - this could have resulted in each member paying a £9,000 fine – but they did eventually win.
Mayor, William Barefoot, was a founding member and leading light of the Woolwich Labour Party. He had edited the Woolwich Pioneer throughout its existence. He saw the General Strike as a potential threat to public order and feared what he saw as Communist attempts to subvert peace. He arranged twice daily band concerts to 'keep people off the street'. The local Labour theatrical troupe, the Thespians, put on plays. Ethel Brooks remembers .... "we used to put these things on with
the young Labour entertainers every afternoon at the Town Hall, about three evenings a week as well to give the men something to do. They brought their wives and families and so every afternoon we were full up"
Woolwich was physically dominated by two major building complexes - the Arsenal in the North on the River, and the barracks on the hill. As with the Arsenal some of the importance as an Army centre had been lost to Woolwich, but there were still 5,000 soldiers in the barracks. During the strike though, these solders were not used much locally - The Welsh Guards were sent to Silvertown to guard the Docks.
One local resident was sent with an artillery detachment to the Rhondda. The experience put him off politics for life and when he saw the homes of the Welsh miners he felt that politicians had done that
and he wanted no more truck with them.
Mr. Crosling, who was eleven years old ....... "can remember seeing the trams and buses with a policeman or a soldier manning the tram or bus along with the driver. They was also on the horsedrawn vans, lorries and the steam Fodon wagons."
Mr. Coleman, who was distributing strike pay got caught in convoy ...."We was in this convoy of troops carrying guns. Up came an officer and he said 'Get out' we said 'you - get us out'. We was in the middle of the convoy with TUC-NUR on the front. He didn't like that but he was more worried than we were."
Locally the troops were confined to barracks – possibly because there were worries about them striking too. Authority appears to have been more interested in volunteers but again many of these were not used.
Jock Offord was offered 'a few shillings' to enrol as a volunteer through his London University Officers' Training Corps but he spent the whole period of the strike sitting in Holly Hedge House on Blackheath playing cards and listening to the horrifying tales told by the other volunteers - many of whom were ex-Black and Tans.
Other volunteers were organised through the Organisation for the Maintenance of supplies. The Masonic Hall was thrown open to them - the paper said there were 3,000 in Woolwich. The local Labour Council had got food and fuel distribution so well organised that it seems unlikely they had much to do. The Woolwich librarian was attacked for giving two special constables a lift in his car, an indication of the unanimity of support for the strike.
Transport workers came out almost unanimously. There were very few trams or buses. Some witnesses say that there were none. Mrs. Ivy Sumner was on holiday in Torquay and had an epic journey home on one of the few trains to get through, driven by two students. She then got a
tube to Lambeth North ........ and then she had to make her way with her cases on foot. "I left my friend on Canal Bridge as she lived in Bermondsey; then I walked all the way back to Humber Road".
Mrs. Nelson's sister walked every day to the BBC at Bush House from Plumstead. Others were luckier - Mrs. Selfe travelled on a furniture van which took a small group to the City regularly.
Newspapers give conflicting accounts of the availability of public transport but most commuters certainly walked to work.
The Free Ferry which never closed except for fog or when the river froze over struck this time. It was closed for two weeks because the crews continued to strike when the two skippers were demoted to make and only went back when their jobs were returned to them. This left only the two foot tunnels for the many who crossed the river.
The trains virtually stopped. The Plumstead NUR branch was the biggest in the Woolwich area, George Coleman was the Chairman .........we had a big meeting. We're going to finish at 12.0 midnight I said, and we did. Course we had a few stragglers ... four union members, I think, two
signalmen, 1 shunter and 1 clerk in the goods department. We didn't worry too much about then because we knew they could not run the railway - they couldn’t drive the engine. Some got through, you had these volunteers who used to go on the engine on the Bexleyheath line from Dartford, you’re like this (steep) going up the line. No more steam. They had to wait half an hour for steam." Some of these trains ran out completely and got stuck blocking the line.
Volunteers faced other hazards if they managed to get a train through. Mrs. Attenborough described women in Charlton attacking the drivers ....... they were.....throwing onions and potatoes and carrots and parsnips anything they could lay their hands on in the way of vegetables, at every train that passed through the crossing. "
A few trains did get through and those who had worked on them used to leave the line and sneak out to avoid the pickets. The stations were picketed daily and sucessfully. The railway men held meetings at the Radical Club, not their usual place which was the Lord Derby. ASLEF (the driver's union) and the Railway Clerks Association were solid too.
Engineering workers were not called out to start with. The problem for union branches in the Woolwich area was that the definition of who should come out was unclear. There was a genuine problem in interpreting who was and who was not a metal worker, for example. At Siemens the electricians stayed in, but others came out. The Kentish Mercury reported that strikers came in to the shops and 'persuaded some of the youngsters, girls in the shops to come out.
Mr. Selfe remembers ........ " the industrial people were out but the staff used to meet at the top of the hill road that leads to Siemens and were conducted down by the police and military and let into the
building at the bottom".
Eventually the shortage of power and supplies meant that Siemens closed and Mr. Dormer for example was locked out. At Johnson & Phillips, which was quite well organised the Convener called the workers in and out three times, in the end they stayed out but there was confusion.
The Arsenal was the problem for unionists. There were regular meetings of strikers in Beresford Square, just outside the main gates. This had always been the area for public meetings and every Saturday night various speakers, religious, political and commercial would hold forth there. The white collar workers stayed in at the Arsenal, although many of them were organised in unions, particularly the National Union of Clerks but they were not called out, and Mr. Selfe says .... the particular establishment system which penalised a worker both in pension and in job security if he went
out, and ensured that people were not prepared to come out unofficially.
On 5th May the engineers and those in the Workers Union came out. Ethel Brooks remembers ....... "Few people went in, of course, I went on picket duty at the Arsenal. People thought I was mad but I did it. My husband worked in the Arsenal and he was out on strike."
Dick Croy and others travelled around the Arsenal exhorting all the workers to come out. Some did not several witnesses reported that the Arsenal worked all through but most did. The Arsenal authorities played it very coolly at first, circulating the offices asking for volunteer drivers and then in collusion with Pilbrown Workers Union Official, they wielded the big stick.
On Tuesday, May 11th, they posted a notice from Walter Citrine which came from the TUC Electricity Advisory Committee ordering them to resume work" these men do not come within the category of the first order issued on May 1st (declaring who should strike) and took the step
without consultation with their unions, any resumption must rest with the Trade Union to which they belong". "Therefore all Workers Union government workers are to resume work tomorrow morning May 12th."
On the Saturday May 9th the CSOF (in control of the Arsenal) had said .. "Men who have remained at work and who return to work by Wednesday May 12th will be given preference for employment." Essentially the Trade Union was to accept this reward for strike breaking .... The Shop Stewards Committee told the men 'stand firm be loyal to the miners, be loyal to the working class".
On the Wednesday, 13th May when the strike was anyway called off, the Arsenal workers went back in large numbers. There was to be great bitterness aroused by the strike inside the Arsenal, partly due to the attempts by Arsenal managers to victimise strikers, partly by the lack of unity between unions.
The Printers came out. Most local papers were not published, leaving gossip as the main source of information.
SOCIAL EFFECTS OF THE STRIKE
The relieving committees didn't meet during the strike except in Charlton so no cash was handed out - only food. However, they did relieve the wives and children of strikers in the week ending May 7th
1,324 were relieved, the next week 3,412. Mr. Dormer argued that he was locked out at Siemens and got relief for his wife and child..... "Look, I'm not on strike, I said, I got locked out, machines shut, just like that. I got locked out and I want relief for my wife and child. After a big battle I got some, but just for the wife and child, they didn't pay me anything. " He also reported that he bought the British Worker, the TUC paper, which appears to have been quite a common experience. The paper was obviously sold wherever large crowds could be found rather than in a systematic way through
union branches. Others bought it in Beresford Square for example.
There were no shortages of food but prices rose. Milk went up 2d. a pint and meat prices rose too. The Council Emergency Committee gave vouchers for the distribution of coal - 1 cwt per household per week. Mrs. Longhurst remembers " I was just a child then, my father had his own coal round in Plumstead and they were very hard times. Coal then was 1s, 2d. per cwt. My brother and I used to go to the Plumstead Town Hall and collect 100 permits, one for each household, each month, no permit, no coal.
The permit system continued because the miners went on strike for another six cruel months.
There was little breakdown of public order too. One truck driver was arrested and fined for chalking
WORKERS ARE ON STRIKE
There was a big battle in Blackwall Lane because strikers marched on the Medway Oil and Storage Company where 200,000 gallons of petrol and kerosene were stored. They stoned the twenty-five policemen sent out to dispose them, were baton charged and fought back for twenty minutes. Two men were given five months with hard labour. The newspaper report says that they planned to fire the fuel, this seems unlikely in extreme.
Ugly scenes were reported at Johnson & Phillips between pickets and blacklegs but the pickets won the day and no damage was done to persons or property.
Two men in Charlton were given a six months prison sentence for trying to stop a bus in Charlton.
In Woolwich itself although the police patrolled Beresford Square but did not intervene. Dick Croy who had often been arrested for unemployment agitation was quite surprised that he was able to speak
freely on this question,
The TUC General Council called off the strike on 11th May. In Woolwich the Arsenal had already begun to return to work. The CSOF tried to stop the pay of 1,000 men on the grounds that that they had discharged themselves without notice but eventually he restored some of them but not all and some militants found themselves permanently outside the Gates. Siemens and Johnson & Phillips both went back and the events of the strike proved a spur to greater organisation inside the factory.
Transport workers resumed work fairly speedily except in the NUR.
Conflicting instructions came from Unity House eventually they were called out again for three days and George Coleman and two others who had been told not to come back were re-instated. In other cases the railway companies successfully victimised their strikers, but not in this one. The miners were still on strike and the Woolwich labour movement preoccupied itself with supporting them, particularly the women.
"I've always been active in the Labour Party since I joined. It was also organised all over the country to sell little brass miners lamps at a shilling a time. It as very difficult to sell them as a shilling
was a lot of money and I had the job of organising the sale and visiting managers of cinemas to get permission to take collections. We raised quite a bit of money but it wasn’t as much as we would have
liked to have done."
The RACS based on Woolwich and covering all of South-East London had supported the strike from the first. Dick Croy argued for a donation of £10,000 from RACS to the miners and won his case. Lily Paine, who was a strong supporter of the Women's Co-operative Guild said ......... "During the 1926 strike we went out with our collecting boxes. Our Co-op nationally provided the necessities of life for the Miners' families. we were given permission to sell miners' lamps outside the local branches and, in some cases, children of miners were taken in until the strike was over."
Winifred Foley in her book "A Child in the Forest" records how she was taken to Plumstead from the Forest of Dean because her father was on strike, she put on weight and was given clothes, and in general treated very kindly. Plumstead seemed very prosperous to her.
The General Strike was fairly general in Woolwich. It was also fairly peaceful and such bitterness as was aroused was between unions rather than between classes. Labour had held the people from the borough together and ensured that the tiny Communist party had little effect on the strike. Sympathy for the miners was manifest in everyone we spoke to although two people were not convinced that the General Strike helped them very much. The labour organisations locally threw themselves perhaps more wholeheartedly into the support of the miners than they did into creating alternative working class organisations to run the strike.
This outline account was prepared by Greenwich Workers Educational Association. It was written up by Deborah Thom, typed by Mary Mills and printed by her and Iris Dove.
We hope to interview more people and reproduced this as a book with all the normal academic details.
Information comes from:-
Cole & Postgate The Common People, 1746-1946
Report of Woolwich in Medical Officer of Health's Report 1926.
Blackheath Local Guide
O.F. Hogg A History of the Royal Arsenal Vol. II
R. Hyman The Worker's Union.
S. Jeffries A History of the Engineers.
We would like to thank the following people who wrote to us, gave interviews or helped in some way : -
Mr. & Mrs. C. Selfe
Mrs. Grace Attenborough
Mrs. M. Nelson
Mr. G. Offord
Mr. G. Crosling
Mr. & Mrs. George Coleman
Mrs. Ivy Sumner
Alice & Jack Loveman
Mrs. Lily Paine
Mrs. Ethel Brookes.
Will Fancy (for the loan of his interview with Dick Croy)
and the staff of the Local History Library at Woodlands, Mycenae Road, Blackheath.
We are aware that we have not stuck strictly to Woolwich but strayed over into neighbouring Greenwich since so many people lived in one and worked in the other we hope this is forgiven.
We are well aware that there are probably many errors and certain many omissions in this draft - if you can help us deal with any of them please contact: Greenwich WEA c/o Kidbrooke House or Deborah Thom,BA
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Angerstein Wharf. Southern Railway Magazine Dec 1925 & Nov. 1951.
“Industrial Railways and Locomotives of the County of London” (Industrial Railway Society 2008 compiled by Robin Waywell and Frank Jux)
Pix to come - sorry I am not so silly as to reproduce the OS extract, interesting though it is
Monday, 28 November 2011
Not at all sure that this is industrial history - but anyway - the Woolwich Antiquarian's Newsletter is reminding us that 2012 is important as the bicentennial of the Assassination of Spencer Percival, Prime Minister, who is buried in St.Luke's Church, Charlton.
Spencer Perceval is the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated while in office. He was shot dead on 11 May 1812 in the lobby of the House of Commons by John Bellingham. Bellingham was a business man who blamed him for some failings in government compensation incurred in Russia. Bellingham had worked in Russia for some years and had just returned to England a day or so before - and went to carry out this murder before he had even travelled to be reunited with his family. He was tried and executed within a couple of days.
A detailed account of all this can be found in Mollie Gillen's book "Assassination of the Prime Minister. The Shocking Death of Spencer Percival" (Sidgewick and Jackson 1972)
Percival seems to have been buried in St.Luke's through his wife who was a member of the Maryon -Wilson family of Charlton House and Percival is in the family vault. There is also a bust of him in the church.
We understand that St Luke's is planning to mark the bicentenary with a civic service in May next year to be followed with pageant in Charlton Park (and we wait to see what that will involve)
Friday, 25 November 2011
What has happened to Sir George Livesey’s Statue?
I didn’t ought to go on about George Livesey at length – although I could do so since he was the subject of my M.Phil and I might be a bit obsessive.
George Livesey was a local gas works manager –and in Greenwich he founded and largely designed the world class East Greenwich Gas Works. He also revolutionised the 19th century gas industry and was a great man generally– he was also a national figure in the temperance movement.
He was also more than a bit of a trouble maker …. he wasn’t particularly posh, had no formal education, and was very, very clever. He has become known as a strike breaker (true) but he also had a lot of ideas about society and property ownership which were unusual, to say the least, for a Victorian industrialist. He was a very long way from the top hatted Victorian capitalist he became in so many 1980s agitprop plays.
His statue stood outside his beloved Old Kent Road gas works – and a couple of years ago was craned over the road to the Livesey Museum – which has now closed – and since then everything has gone very, very quiet.
The Livesey Museum was originally a library which George gave to the people of Camberwell. Southwark Council closed the Library some years ago and turned it into a children’s museum, which they recently stopped funding. It turns out that our George had foreseen possible sales of property and library closures when he gave it to the council 110 years ago, so he tangled up the ownership in such a way that Southwark don’t actually own it. A users campaign was started about the museum closure - but they have proved difficult to talk to, to put it mildly.
So – about the statue.
|The statue is unveiled at Old Kent Road|
It was cast at the foundry of J.W. Singer and Sons at Thames Ditton –and there is lots of information about them around. They were also pretty important.
George stands on a granite pedestal and it says
On the front: GEORGE LIVESEY 1834-1908
On the rear:-
|Statue in situ|
Both this photo and the
one above by R.J.M.Carr
SIR GEORGE THOMAS LIVESEY. M.l.C.E. ENTERED THE SOUTH METROPOLITAN GAS COMPANY 1848. BECAME ENGINEER, BECAME DIRECTOR 1882 AND IN 1885 CHAIRMAN, A POSITION HE OCCUPIED UNTIL HIS DEATH. HE ENRICHED THE GAS INDUSTRY BY MANY INVENTIONS, WAS A STRENUOUS ADVOCATE OF THE SLIDING SCALE, AND IN 1889 FOUNDED THE CO-PARTNERSHIP OF THE COMPANY. THIS MONUMENT WAS ERECTED TO HIS MEMORY BY THE SHAREHOLDERS, OFFICERS AND WORKMEN, 1909.
Signed and dated, P. W. POMEROY. A.R.A.SC1- 1909
Unveiled: Friday 8 December 1911, by Earl Grey
Exhibited: 1910, London, Royal Academy of Arts
I am very happy to explain stuff from that inscription – the sliding scale, co-partnership and also Earl Grey, In fact I would be delighted to do so. Also please note that George started work in Old Kent Road Gas Works at the age of 14.
|The unveiling at Old Kent Road|
I feel very strongly that we need to keep making a fuss about this. Livesey was a great man – albeit one with a besmirched record. He spent most of his life in the Old Kent Road – moving there when he was 5 and working there for the rest of his life. However – he doesn’t just belong to Southwark - he was born in Islington – and he created an industrial empire for all of South London.
Built on the Greenwich Peninsula his revolutionary East Greenwich gas works is now much derided – ‘polluted, nasty’- but, if we stand back more objectively, we should realise it was also a great achievement in terms of technology, management planning, public service and workforce involvement. In its day it was a major showpiece – something to aspire to. We have here the largest remaining of his monumental and revolutionary gasholders – but there is no mention anywhere on the Peninsula of George and his work.
When the Dome was first built there were lots of stories around about it being haunted by Livesey's ghost - fanned, I am sorry to say, by various people and some press officers. I did a number of TV and radio interviews about him at the time.
So – what has London Borough of Southwark done with George Livesey’s Statue – and (if it still exists) what do they intend to do with it?
PS - By the way – I am more than happy to give talks on George Livesey, his work, his ideas – and the strike breaking. I have lots of pictures and much other stuff –including cut out and build paper gasholders. I deposited a lot of papers –including a half written biography – at Southwark’s John Harvard Library some years ago.
Thursday, 24 November 2011
This was the second part of a story the first half of which appeared in 2009 and which described how the ‘sludge fleet’ developed under the London County Council and its history until the mid-1950s. It told how the Victorian Metropolitan Boardof Works decided how to the sludge left over from sewage treatment process should be disposed of – they took it down river into the estuary and dumped in the Barrow Deep.
The vessels they used – were a fine sight – and kept up to standards expected of a major public authority. The original boats –described in the first article were steam powered but they were followed by a generation which was diesel powered and of larger capacity - 2,000 tons instead of 1,500. The old original vessel, suitably named "Bazalgette", was scrapped in 1934 after 46 years in service.
A new "Bazalgette" was launched in 1963 and was the first of the diesel powered boats. It remained in service until 1985 when it was sold to an Irish buyer. Crossness Record says that this new "Bazalgette", “heralded the arrival of the modem fleet of sludge vessels”.
|Sir Joseph Rawlinson post collison|
The GreaterLondon Council was formed and took over the functions of the London County Council in 1964 and a new vessel "Sir Joseph Rawlinson" was brought into service. The name is that of the then chairman of the Fire Brigade and Main Drainage Committee. Sadly, a year later, it was in a collision and sank. The boat was raised but the cost of repair was prohibitive and a new vessel was ordered.
Two vessels were already under construction by the Caledon Shipbuilding & EngineeringCompany of Dundee and a thus a third was added. The three vessels were the "Bexley", in service 1965, "Newham" in service 1966 and "Hounslow” in service 1968. They were diesels of 2,300 ton capacity. In 1977 a fourth vessel was added to the fleet- "Thames" in 1977. By then ThamesWater had taken over the responsibility for sewage disposal. “Thames” was built by Ferguson Bros, of Paisley and was 2,700 tons.
Crossness Record doesn’t say so – but the sludgeboats did a dirty job while maintaining high standards of public service –and they were something to be proud of - real proper boats.
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Over the past week or so GIHS has had several enquiries from Greenwich University students who saythey are researching the background and architecture of Greenwich Power Station.
First of all I always ask ‘do you mean the one on Crowley’s Wharf’ which is still in use?? But –poor things – they are unlikely to know anything about Blackwall Point power station on the Peninsula or the great series of power stations at Deptford – and to the first power station of allto which there is, scandalously, no memorial. Not to mention those in Woolwich – including – the still standing depot at White Hart Road.
Anyway – I refer them to Peter Guillery’s seminal article “Greenwich Generating Station” in London’sIndustrial Archaeology No.7. (and take pains to point out what an important architectural historian Peter is). I refer them to the GLIAS website http://www.glias.org.uk/ but I am aware that it doesn’t have a link for book sales – and I will get on to the editor myself and try and sort that out. I can, I suppose, provide a photocopy – and –as I actually edited that edition of the journal I might have a digital copy of it somewhere on an old CD.
|Drawing of Greenwich Power Station taken|
from the booklet produced by LCC on its opening
The other question we need answered about Greenwich Power Station is “is it the oldest power station left fulfilling its original function?? It opened in 1906 to supply power for the London County Council tramways – and still performs the same function, albei tto the London Underground..
Anyway – this note is also to introduce items from another book which has recently come our way. “Industrial Railways and Locomotives of the County of London” (Industrial Railway Society 2008 compiled by Robin Waywell and Frank Jux)
This is an exhaustive list of all the industrial locomotives which ran at some time or other in London. I haven’t done any counting but it is my guess that Greenwich and Woolwich easily top the list of boroughs as far as numbers are concerned – and also as far as sites where locomotives ran. There is hardly a page where a Greenwich industrial site isn’t mentioned – and the two largest sites are ours (the Arsenal with 8 pages, and William Jones with 10 pages). It includes some remarkably obscure firms –and it is a gold mine for us and we should be able to feature many of the companies in the future.
|Locos on the power station jetty|
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
In a recent edition of the Woolwich Antiquarians newsletter Richard Buchanan has looked at Eltham Road. He takes as his starting point an old Ordnance Survey map of Blackheath and comments that it which shows what we know as 'Hare& Billet Road' marked as "Eltham Road".
Of course, as he points out, what we know today as Eltham Road runs from the Old Tiger's Head Pub at Lee Green to Eltham Green and then up a road called Eltham Hill into Eltham itself. Thus he points that changes in modern road patterns have disguised the medieval direct route from the Dover Road at the top of Blackheath Hill to Eltham.
He says "Using present road names, the route diverges from the Dover Road at Dartmouth Hill then runs to Hare & Billet Road, Tranquil Vale, Blackheath Village, Lee Road, Eltham Road and Eltham Hill".
"The medieval Eltham Road is just under four miles long" and on its route had to cross the Kid Brook "which it did where the railway bridge in Blackheath Village is now" and it also had to cross the River Quaggy "which is bridged in Lee Road just before the Old Tiger's Head Pub".
Eltham Road begins at the point at which the road from Greenwich coming via Croom's Hill meets the Dover Road. He notes that "There were, ofcourse Royal Palaces at both Greenwich and Eltham and domestic supplies normally went by road between them and the Tower of London, as the Court progressed from one to another".
Royal necessities could have course come from London by river via Greenwich, or "possibly with smaller boats along the Ravensbourne &. Quaggy to Lee" and in all cases "needing the Eltham Road for the last stretch to Eltham" and "ordinary trade to London would have followed the same route." Post also used the Eltham Road since "postal services developed from Royal message carrying arrangements" and "the Eltham Road continued to be used in the 17th century as an early route for theRoyal Mail.
Richard finishes with an note about how changes in the functions of an area change the sort of routes we need. "Nowadays to go to Eltham from Blackheath Hill one would take theShooters Hill Road across the Heath before turning right, perhaps not until reaching the South Circular road from Woolwich" and concludes that "The Woolwich connection became the main one as industry developed" - and of course, although he does not say so, the demise of Eltham Palace as a place of Royal importance
A local gas works tar spraying vehicle on Blackheath at the junction of Eltham Road in the 1950s
(Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society. October 2011 Editor Richard Buchanan)
Monday, 21 November 2011
anyway - the October newsletter has another article "WOOLWICH FREE FERRY - MEMORIES OF THE PADDLE BOATS"
The author begins by telling us his memories of the old paddle steamers which were replaced by the current boats in 1963. He says that from 1958 he lived in Woolwich and worked in the Royal Docks "so had many free rides with or without bicycle on the ferry".
He describes the boats as doing the "300 metre river crossing in a strange semi-circular course during which the boat seemed to spend quite bit of the time going sideways or backwards."(they still do that - don't they? I guess there is a good reason for it)
He then comments (something we all know!) that "compared to today the river was busy with commercial activity from all sorts of ships and from barges and lighters and the ferry's crossing would often be delayed awaiting the passage of a vessel going fast with a strong tide. So coupled with poor visibility from fog the crossing appeared, at times, fraught with danger".
He goes on: "The paddlers were coke-fired so perhaps the London County Council" who ran the ferry, were setting an example to their citizens on the importance of smokeless fuels if pea soupers were to be eliminated". ...... and ...."Normally, the ferries were berthed at the pontoons with the bow into the current, but when the tide changed the ferry had to be docked at the end of one crossing the other way round causing confusion on the vehicle deck as the cars had to leave the way they came aboard rather than being able to drive through. At busy times three paddlers were in use requiring a mid-stream dawdle until the berth cleared.
But - as he says"for an observer with an engineering bent" it was the engines which were the main attraction. "The paddlers had two independent engines, single expansion I think, twin-cylinder arranged as an inverted 'V driving, big ends side by side, onto a single crank which was coupled to one of the paddles. This meant that in theory at least, the ship could rotate about a central vertical axis if equal power was applied in opposite directions. On most paddle steamers it suffices to have a single engine with the paddle wheels permanently coupled to opposite ends of the crankshaft but the ferry duties in Woolwich Reach demanded greater manoeuvrability.
And, interestingly, he says: "each engine required its own driver who took his instructions by way of the traditional chain-operated telegraph from the bridge. Every command was accompanied by a bell code and was displayed on a heavily built brass indicator with last-forever vitreous enamel face on it. The order had to be acknowledged to the bridge by the driver (more bells') so there was always a certain theatrical excitement in the voyage.
And - of course "Added to this was the sort of smell only present in the engine rooms of steam ships, a pleasant warmth and an aroma of hot oil and damp steam - the most relaxing feature was the lack of noise with only minor hissing and muffled thumping as the engines got to work pushing the boat against the strong tides.
A view of the old and new ferries together
(and is that the autostaker in the background???)
So far so good - however he then goes on, more politically - "The future of the Woolwich Ferry is interesting to contemplate ....................with the demands of motor traffic now being what they are the ferry is an anachronism ....pedestrians have the fool tunnel available (unpleasant as it is) and since the DLR was opened to the centre of Woolwich rapid and frequent access to the southern side of the now commercially silent Royal Docks ......................Further, this redundant and expensive to run mode is sponsored by the taxpayer .............and the main traffic that needs to use it are lorries .... Meanwhile the existing three, now elderly, ferries must continue to demand heavy repair bills as they rust away and wear out ...................there seems to be little justification for a ferry with its limited capacity especially as it is paid for by the taxpayer rather than the user.
Oh dear!! What do we think about that then??!!
Thursday, 27 October 2011
On 8 October 2011, I was able to join a site visit to see some of the archaeological excavations that Museum of London Archaeology have been undertaking since August at Convoys Wharf. I was accompanying Ann Coats, the Secretary of the Naval Dockyards Society. With a party of local people, we were conducted round by Duncan Hawkins of the consultant archaeologists CgMs. The site has been cleared of most standing buildings and there was a large mound of excavated soil which will be filled back into the excavations, and a not quite so large pile of crushed concrete from the ground slabs and modern building foundations that had overlain them. The excavations we saw open were very impressive.
At the southeast edge of the site, trenches had been dug at the inner end of the Great Dock, which was rebuilt at some time before 1808. One trench had extended right across the dock while some pits were more localised, but all had been filled in again. We learnt that the masonry walls in this part of the dry dock had been truncated for the foundations of a large cold store to a depth of 4 metres below ground. This is most disappointing, considering the almost intact masonry walls found in the 2010 evaluation trench at the river end of the dock. The intervening length, including the location of the gates that (unusually for such a date) divided this dock into two, is under a standing warehouse so may not be explored for some time.
North west of that, the site of the Storehouse, part Tudor and part early eighteenth century and scheduled as an Ancient Monument, had been almost completely laid bare, excavated down to natural soil (mostly gravel) beneath the basement floors, but leaving the structures upstanding. The result was an expanse of more than 1 1/2 acres of red brick walls, all truncated to about 1 metre below ground level in the mid 20th century. Some silt-filled depressions marked the sites of earlier small creeks.
Beyond there, near the riverside, two slipways rebuilt in the19th century had been excavated, revealing yellow stock brick walls and planked floors of reused ships' timbers. In No. 5 Slip, the walls had a brick facing backed by lime concrete, and brick counterforts projecting behind. The stumps of the posts for the wooden roof could be seen. The local researcher Chris Mazeika has found this slipway was rebuilt circa 1855. Following disuse as slipways, presumably after the Dockyard closed in 1869, level timber floors had been inserted for other use, for which the supporting timber piles remained.
A large trench had exposed a section of the wall of the Dockyard Basin, about midway along its eastern side. Its nineteenth-century rebuilding was revealed as a substantial stock-brick wall, as I had expected. Chris Mazeika has found that the engineer John Rennie was involved in this from 1814 onwards. The wall had been truncated about 2 metres below ground, at which level it was perhaps 1.2 metres thick. The depth of the Basin and its walls will be proved by further digging. Behind the 19th-century basin wall, the tie-back timbers of earlier basin walls had been found and taken away for dendro dating. Descriptions in earlier archaeological appraisals, based on very limited evaluation trenches, had suggested a 'lining', in poor condition, which is not borne out, but this excavation well demonstrated the considerable truncation of the remains, at a level that matched the underside of a reinforced-concrete foundation beam from a recent warehouse.
The area of the entrance to the Basin has yet to be excavated. We must await news shortly of whether walls survive to near ground level there, as at the entrance to the Great Dock, although I fear the destructive warehouse extended over the site of Rennie's caisson gate of 1814.
We visited the interior of the 'Olympia' building, the grade-2-listed 1840s shipbuilding shed where the evaluation in 2010 of Slipways 2 and 3 had found them largely intact (now backfilled).
We finished on the site of Sayes Court, where recent excavations (now backfilled) had revealed the foundations of the post-mediaeval manor house. The 'archaeological update' issued by the intending developer, Hutchison Whampoa, following the 2010 evaluation had implied they no longer existed.
These large-scale excavations have revealed much more than the restricted evaluation trenches had previously done. They ought to dispel the impression given in the 2010 'archaeological update' that the archaeological remains were limited. There is some further info. on the MOLA website at http://www.museumoflondonarchaeology.org.uk/News/ConvoysWharf.htm
We may note that the Scheme of Archaeological Resource Management, which has been agreed between Hutchison Whampoa, English Heritage and the London Borough of Lewisham, contains sensible measures to protect the archaeology of this exceptional site – I have copied an extract from Section 7.0, entitled 'Preliminary advice on avoiding archaeological impacts through design' :-
7.1.1 It is proposed that the position and extent of the archaeological remains will be fixed through supplementary evaluation (following appropriate Scheduled Monument Consent), followed by mapping/surveying to both archaeological and engineering standards.
7.1.2 As the supplementary evaluation proceeds the significance of the archaeological remains encountered should be kept under review by the LBL, EH, consultant and clients representative.
7.1.3 Where significant archaeological remains have been identified on the preliminary evaluation or are identified in the supplementary evaluation, a design review will then be undertaken of the proposed development layout and design. Preservation in situ will be achieved by the reuse of modern foundations, or by utilising areas of partial archaeological absence (through truncation) for new foundation locations.
7.1.4 Where isolated (or highly fragmentary) and low value archaeological remains are identified there may be arguments for preserving such remains by record rather than in situ. Such preservation by record will be agreed in advance between the LBL, EH, consultant and clients representative.
7.1.5 Where archaeological remains are identified to be wholly absent, a review of the supplementary evaluation results will be implemented and the need for further archaeological mitigation or otherwise agreed between the LBL, EH, consultant and clients representative.
7.1.6 The objective will be to use historic assets to inform the design process and preserve in situ the archaeological remains.
7.1.7 At this stage a number of measures to avoid archaeological impacts can be identified.
The supplementary evaluation comprises the programme of excavations now in progress and others which will take place in the future. Undertaking these excavations is a significant investment on the part of the developer. The measures recommended to avoid archaeological impacts include the 'encapsulation' of remains underlying buildings wherever possible. 'The possibility should not be excluded that certain remains may be encountered that are of such quality and significance as to justify display within the context of the new development', but dependent on their suitability in terms of condition.
New basements and undercrofts should be wholly avoided except where archaeological remains are found to be absent. Other measures include the designing of pile positions to avoid remains, the raising of ground levels to provide space for services and footings and the use of existing service runs and areas of disturbed ground for the routing of services. The full recommendations are to be found at
9 October 2011, rev. 26 Oct 2011
Appendix of Heritage Assests
(with thanks to Chris Mazeika
Heritage Assets of the former King’s Yard, the Royal Naval Dockyard 1513-1869, the Metropolitan Foreign Cattle Market 1871-1914, His Majesty’s Supply Reserve Depot 1914-1950 and Convoy’s Wharf 1922-2002
Officers’ Residence and Offices
Master Shipwright’s House
Dockyard Officers’ Offices
Office of the Timber Master
Office Clerk of the Survey
Offices for drawing
Model making rooms
Master Shipwright’s Repository
Master Shipwright’s office for drawing
Officers’ Gardens fountains/paths/parterres c.1774
Great Georgian Dry Dock
Stone built Head dock and timber gates c.1800
Capstan and penstock housings
Timber built Stern dock and timber gates c. 1780
Stone built entrance to dry docks c.1800
Four light Tudor mullioned window with original iron work
Tudor Foundation stone and flame headed gothic arch 1513, bearing Henry VIII cypher
Undercroft Tudor Store House
Undercroft 1720 storehouse complex
Landing Place and Lookout stairs and Causeway c.1720
Ariadne Slipway No.5 c1420-1855
Two further slipways No.4/No.1
Basin Slipway Covers George Baker & Sons 1846 (Olympia Building)
Basin Slipways c.1845 Capt. Sir Willliam Denison R.E.
Basin c.1517-1814 John Rennie includes inverted stone arch, caisson gate groove, Basin entrance and river walls
Basin walls with coping stones removed
Basin gate c.1720
Capstan housings/penstocks/Saw Pits
Pepys Era Mast Pond
Mast Pond c.1650 and mast pond gates to river
Greater Mast Pond
Mast Pond c.1756
Mast Pond Canal By George Ledwell Taylor
Infrastructure for two swing bridges
River wall demonstrates the final series of openings into the dockyard which are known to have been commenced as early as 1420. The openings to the dry dock, slipways, basin and mast ponds are extant. There is evidence on the foreshore of timber slipways and stone causeway.
Sayes Court House and Garden Complex
Remains of Sayes Court House
Remains of Sayes Court Alms Houses and Emigration Depot
Sayes Court Garden c.1600-1890
ps - pictures attached to Malcolm's article are on their way when I get the technology sorted out.