BALLAST QUAY - HARBOUR MASTER'S HOUSE
This article is by A.G.Linney - author of a couple of books about the port of London before the Great War. It is taken from Co-partnership Journal which was the house magazine of South Metropolitan Gas Co. - the local gas company and appeared in 1910.
A Greenwich directory for 1895 shows a Captain Bowen residing at the Harbour Master's Office, and there is definite evidence showing when he had entered the Thames Conservancy's service. I have been able to handle an old, tumbling-to-pieces handbook, which this Captain Bowen started to write in while he was Master of the steamer Edinburgh Castle on a voyage from London to Penang in 1879. His notes regarding this voyage conclude, " July 8th, 9 a.m. Anchor'd in Penang Harbour all well." At sea he ceased to use this notebook, apparently, for it switches over a page or two to this unmistakable entry: " Appointed D.H. Master under Thames Conservancy, December 19th, 1881." Quite natural, then, that Captain Bowen should be living at the Greenwich Harbour Master's Office—seemingly used as a residence, but no longer owned by the Conservancy in 1895 ; I believe that, between times, he lived for a. while at the Harbour Master's Office, Limehouse (Narrow Street), which was demolished in 1925.
Captain Defrates, formerly one of the P.L.A. Assistant Harbour Masters, who retired from the service in 1927, has recollection of the time previous to the Authority taking over from the Conservancy when there were two Harbour Masters—Captain Fitzgerald and Captain Marsden—and Captain Bowen was deputy to the first of these. The pair above named retired in 1898, and Captain Bowen then became Chief Harbour Master, with deputies at. Woolwich and Gravesend. He remained in office for about five years, retiring early in the present century. From that time to the establishment of the Port Authority, the Harbour Service work was divided into two sections, one with its office in London (Temple Pier, Old Swan Pier, and now Tower Pier) and one with its office at Gravesend. The Harbour Masters then appointed were Captain R. S. Pasley (Upper District) and Captain A. W. Wilson (Lower District).
In the 1890's—the Thames Conservancy being in charge of river responsibilities—T.C. Head Office was at 41 Trinity Square, but the Harbour Master had his quarters on the hulk Marlborough, moored, off the Tower Gardens. Then when the Conservancy moved its head office to the Thames Embankment, the Harbour Master operated from Temple Pier and the Marlborough was sent away into exile and became storeship to the T.C. Survey Department.
From a " Return of the Names and Emoluments of the Harbour Service 1851-1852 " (Corporation of the City of London) which was shown to me at the Guildhall, I am permitted to extract these details: " The Principal Superintending Harbour Master, Chief office, St. Katharine's," received, in addition to his salary, a house, £5 for a servant, £2 for candles, £l for wood, 10 tons of coal, and £25 for travelling allowance. It is in this document that the name of Captain Rowlands occurs. He and each of his deputies received also a boat cloak, minor assistants getting simply a greatcoat. Boat cloaks were served out every two years and greatcoats every three years, distribution always being in October. An assistant employed in the Greenwich Office was given " a pair of water boots," but they had to last him four years! The Clerk of Stores received quarters in what is now Port of London Wharf, occupied by Messrs. Gregson & Company, Ltd.