Monday, 22 January 2018

Copperas in Greenwich and Deptford Part 4, The Final Years

Part 4

COPPERAS IN DEPTFORD AND GREENWICH – THE FINAL YEARS


Elizabeth Pearson was the daughter of Charles Pearson, who owned copperas works up and down the Thames and Medway estuaries.  In the early nineteenth century, she kept a diary.  The first part of the diary runs from 1796 to 1804 when Elizabeth was in her early twenties, but, following a gap of sixteen years she took it up again in 1820.  Elizabeth's time was divided between three homes – the family haberdashery business in the City of London, the 'Castle' at Tankerton near the copperas works, and 'Ravensbourne House' in Greenwich.  Since this narrative is about the copperas industry in Greenwich and Deptford then what Elizabeth had to say about her life in Greenwich is very relevant.  At the same time the copperas industry itself was beginning to change and the 1820s was a period in which Charles Pearson himself, and his son, began to try new outlets and ideas.

By 1820 travel between Greenwich and the Kent coast had suddenly become interesting and easy.  No more of the 'nine hours in a post chaise' which the family had endured previously.  One of Elizabeth's earliest diary entries in the 1820s is with the news that 'brother has come from Ramsgate.. in the Favourite Steam yacht' and a month or so later Elizabeth herself 'returned home by the London Engineer Steam Yacht .. had a delightful voyage.. brother returned home by the Majestic Steam Yacht'. 

Steam boat services on the river had revolutionised life for many travellers, but the Pearsons with their regular journeys between Tankerton and Greenwich must have been particularly grateful.  The time keeping and speed with which these vessels accomplished a hitherto uncertain voyage was revolutionary - a traveller of 1825 noted in the Maidstone Journal that 'Captain Rule of the Eclipse Steam Packet … told many of his passengers within two minutes of the time he should arrive at his destination..'

'Favourite' was originally owned in 1817 Gravesend Steam Packet Company to operate between London, Gravesend and Sheerness.  She had been built in Blackfriars by Lafort and Sons, was 160 tons with engines by Boulton and Watt. In 1820 she was taken over by the Margate Steam Packet Company in 1820 and run until 1828. 

'London Engineer' was, if anything, more famous.  She was built by Daniel Brent of Rotherhithe and said to 'mark the first major departure from the basic design'.  She was 120 ft long with a wooden hull and a draught of 5ft.  Her engines were by Maudslay Son and Field and she had paddle wheels built to a special and novel arrangement.  Elizabeth would have sat in her comfortable saloon with its upholstered settees rather than the aft cabin with wooden benches. 

I know nothing about  'Majestic' but the family also travelled by 'Eclipse' steam packet, one of the earliest such boats run by the Margate Steam Packet Co. from 1816. 

Steam was changing the lives of everybody – and the steam packets were not only for well off people like the Pearsons.  Perhaps the last word on the atmosphere around them is best described by Robert Surtees on the occasion Mr. Jorrocks left Margate in a hoy without his trousers. Passengers at Margate jostle for the rival charms of 'Royal Adelaide, fast and splendid' and 'splendid and superb Magnet'…  everyone furiously betting on which will reach the Tower first  'for the Monday steamboat race is as great an event as the Derby'.  Once out at sea 'both firemen … boil up a tremendous gallop'….until 'Royal Adelaide manages to shoot ahead for a few minutes amid the cheers and exclamations of her crew' but 'the stiller waters of the Thames favours the Magnet and she shoots ahead….'    Was this really the atmosphere for a polite middle aged lady like Elizabeth Pearson?


In Greenwich Elizabeth had developed a local friendship with the Millington family, visiting frequently and involving herself in a number of tragedies which befell them.  The Millingtons lived in a vast and opulent Jacobean house which stood on the Greenwich riverside on the roughly the present site of the Greenwich Power Station.  This house had been built by a Gregory Clement in the seventeenth century and later bought by Ambrose Crowley.  Crowley had a large ironworks at Winlaton on the Tyne and in 1703 set up a warehouse on the Greenwich riverside – where, since the area became known as Anchor Iron Wharf, it is assumed anchors were on the main branches of his trade along with 'hatchets, iron chains, chaffing dishes, hammers, hoes', and so on and including a line in shackles for the slave trade.

By the mid-eighteenth century, the Crowley family were no longer active in the business and in 1782 an Isiah Millington, had become a partner.  Millington and his family lived at Crowley House in Greenwich and became friends of the Pearsons.  Mrs. Walsh, a descendent of the Pearsons and owner of the diary, has said in her paper on the family that Charles Pearson may originally have become interested in copperas through a relationship with Isiah Millington at City Company dinners at the George and Vulture in Fleet Street.  Be that as it may the Millington family and their industrial interests in Greenwich might be the subject of a future article, since it is their relationships with the Pearson's which is of interest here.


Mrs. Walsh also suggested that the iron necessary for copperas manufacture might have come from the Millington Iron Works – and this is perfectly possible since any scrap iron would have been suitable.  I do not think that the Millingtons had an ironworks in Greenwich adjacent to the copperas works on Creekside. The indications are that they continued with the warehousing business at Anchor Iron Wharf while also branching out into other business activities in the area. 

Elizabeth Pearson often recorded visits to the Millington family – sometimes with her sister Amelia, and with other friends, like the Mr. & Mrs. Morris she mentions in November 1820.  In May 1821 she noted the sudden, and apparently scandalous death, of John Millington 'in lodgings at Sydenham … he returned from America … leaving his wife, his child is dead … his death can be considered a benefit to his family'.  What scandal is hidden there I do not know – since I have been unable to unearth anything about John Millington, except that he is not the scientist of the same name, who also went to America in this period.

In November of the same year Elizabeth recorded the death of old Mrs. Millington at Crowley house 'in her 89th year and confined to her room two years and five months'.  Mrs. Millington had been a close friend of Elizabeth's own mother and she remembered her dearly as she saw ' our dear mother's kind old friend in her coffin'.  Mrs. Millington's son, Crowley Millington, had been away at the time of his mother's death but on his return Crowley House once more became a lively riverside home – and Elizabeth records how her sister Amelia went there regularly for music lessons.

Since her mother's death Elizabeth had acquired more domestic responsibilities.  She records a visit to Woolwich in search of a servant, and again to discuss arrangements for her new employee.  Still her evenings and many days were spent in domestic work 'cutting out new shirts' but with some opportunities for more intellectual pastimes 'writing extracts from Bishop Hershey's sermons on the Sabbath'.

When she was in her early twenties Elizabeth had recorded the birth and subsequent noisy behaviour of young Tom Tilson – a child of one of her fathers' associates.  Tom was now grown and setting out on what was to become a successful legal career.  In 1820 Elizabeth went to see him 'sworn in' and later visited the Tilson family's new house at Brixton Hill.

Much of Elizabeth's life in Greenwich, and indeed in Tankerton, had little to do with the copperas works, which provided the income for her standard of living.  In September 1820 she records a visit to the Tankerton works and again in 1821 'we all walked to the Deptford Works' but most of she records some of father and brothers' business activities and they slowly reveal a move away from the manufacture of copperas alone and towards other industries.

In 1822 she recorded that 'an accident at the gas works' had kept her brother in town.  This accident appears to be unrecorded and unknown but it is in indication of the interest in the gas industry which Charles Pearson Jnr was beginning to take.  There are a number of records about this interest from the gas industry itself – but it is not always easy to distinguish between 'Charles Pearson' father or son in what is recorded, and there is also some confusion with another and different Charles Pearson who was the City of London solicitor and who also had an interest in the early gas industry. 

Charles Pearson is recorded as one of the earliest movers of the South London Gas Company, based in Bankside in the early 1820s, he was fact elected as their first auditor.  Thomas Tilson was also a member of their first board. The company had been started by a Mr. Munro and Elizabeth Pearson records that 'brother dines at Mr.Munro's in Nelson Square' in 1822.  As I have recorded in other articles about the Greenwich Gas Industry the South London Gas Company soon became the Phoenix Gas Company and began to build a works in Greenwich on the banks of the Ravensbourne – somewhat to the north of the copperas works. 

Soon the Greenwich vestry was also embroiled in a legal battle between rival companies.  In the records are thanks given to 'Mr.Pearson for his conduct in defence of Mr.Hammond' and 'Mr.Pearson' appears to represent the Greenwich vestry in negotiations with the gas company.  This might be a totally different Mr. Pearson – it seems unlikely that Charles Pearson Jnr or Snr would negotiate for the vestry in this way – however it might be noted that a still younger Charles Pearson was to embark on a legal career and eventually became a solicitor in Gravesend.  This was Charles Hill Pearson who, at fifteen in 1824 would have been too young to be the person referred to.  Once the Greenwich Works was built then the gas mains were taken through the copperas works site. 

By the early 1830s, the copperas industry was beginning to falter, overtaken by new ways of making both sulphuric acid and dyes.  Pearson was to try and diversify into a wider field in the chemical industry.  In 1833 he approached the central London based Gas Light and Coke Company with an offer on 'sal ammoniac and Prussian Blue' and later asked the prices of the gas industry waste 'ammoniacal liquor' from the north London based Imperial Gas Company.  He was sufficiently price conscious to complain about the price and the quality and was told sharply to 'try at the other works'. 

As late as 1835 it was revealed that the staircase of his Greenwich house had been treated with Mr.Kyan's very poisonous sublimate solution as an attempt to demonstrate a new method of wood preservation.  He was also clearly involved with some newcomers to Deptford –Messrs. Beneke who had come from Germany to try new ways of chemical manufacture.  Pearson was to help pay their bills with some of the London Gas Companies during 1833.

'Old' Charles Pearson died in 1828 leaving £27,000 to his children – his final days seem to have been spent in Greenwich in a new house in Maze Hill.  We know no more of what happened to Elizabeth but she would have become a wealthy woman under her fathers' will.  Young Charles set about spending the money he had been left – among other things he invested in the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway and the 'Pearson Arms' can still be found on the Whitstable seafront.  He was to die in 1870 at his daughters' home in Bloomsbury.

The Greenwich works seems to have stopped production in the 1830s but it is quite clear that chemical works continued to flourish on Deptford Creek through a number of successors – like Beneke – with whom Charles Pearson had been involved.  At around the same time a vitriol works is recorded elsewhere in Greenwich, on the Peninsula, now owned by Lewis Price and Co. it could once have been Moore's copperas works almost adjacent to a number of enterprises belonging to the Millingtons. 

By the 1840s the Greenwich works on Deptford Creek was in the hands of the 'Union Joint Stock Banking Company of Coventry' – they sound very like liquidators to me!


Sources
I would like to thank Mrs. Walsh, who originally introduced me to Elizabeth Pearson's Diary, and also Geoffrey Pike who has been kind enough to send me some photocopied extracts. Other material from archive material in the LMA and some published works including 'Royal River Highway' by Frank Dix and, of course, R.S.Surtees 'Jorrock's Jaunts and Jollities'.   I do not know the current whereabouts of any of the diary except for extracts I have in notes - enquiries at Whitstable Museum have got nowhere, and I have lost touch with Mrs. Walsh

And thanks to the inimitable Julian Watson who saw me all through these articles in 17 years ago!! and was the first person to like and share the first posting of these four articles earlier this evening.

All of them have been re-edited but the main substance appeared in Bygone Kent Vol 22. 

Greenwich & Deptford Copperas Part 3. Elizabeth Pearson as a girl

Part 3

GREENWICH AND DEPTFORD COPPERAS 
ELIZABETH PEARSON AS A GIRL


In the late eighteenth century Charles Pearson controlled several, if not all of the, copperas works along the Thames and Medway estuaries.  

Charles had a haberdashery business in Fleet Street  -  said to be at no.169 on the corner of Red Lion Court, although a drawing of 1829 shows Pearson's 'hosiery warehouse' at 475 Strand on the corner of Lancaster Court.  Despite controlling a large part of this very valuable chemical industry the haberdashery business seems to have continued. 

In "The Story of Copperas and the Castle", Geoffrey Pike has described Charles Pearson's works in Whitstable and Tankerton and the life of his family there.  Charles had four children, Charles, Clara, Amelia and Elizabeth and at Tankerton he built a 'tower' – which has evolved into the building now known as 'Tankerton Castle' - the local commmunity centre.   

The family did not live only in Tankerton – but spent part of the time in London at the Fleet Street premises, and some time in Greenwich at Ravensbourne House.  Charles, and his son Charles, were both to become closely involved in Greenwich politics, and, to some extent in other industries in the neighbourhood.

Charles Pearson seems to have owned, and lived, at Ravensbourne House from the time he married Elizabeth Radford in 1780.  We know very little about the house then except that it was said to have been 'Tudor'.  It was somewhere in Lamb Lane – today Bardslay Lane – between Greenwich Town Centre and Deptford Creek. However, there is some confusion over through some entries in a diary kept by one of Charles Pearson's children.  

Most of what we know the family and their daily life comes from a diary kept in the early nineteenth century by Charles's daughter Elizabeth.  She had been born in 1781 in Tankerton and named after her mother. She kept a diary for a couple of years in her early twenties and began it again in her early forties. In it she detailed her life as the family moved between their various homes. Geoffrey Pike quoted a number of extracts from it to illustrate her life in Tankerton and Whitstable – perhaps one day someone will do the same for the time she spent in the City of  London.  Elizabeth spent a considerable amount of her life in Greenwich – although sometimes the entries to not always make it clear exactly which of her homes she is describing. Unfortunately as a young lady she had very little to do with copperas manufacture!

The puzzle over 'Ravensbourne House' arises through one of the earliest references in Elizabeth's Diary which describes the 'old mansion at Deptford' – on the west bank of the Creek. Mrs. Walsh, who owns the Diary, assumes that this was Ravensbourne House, which was, of course, in Greenwich on the east bank.  

It is quite clear from the records that Charles Pearson owned copperas beds on both banks of the river – hence in 1813 he was rated in Deptford for 'copperas works, land , garden, wharf and mill" and in Greenwich in 1810 for 'Dwelling house, two coal houses, copperas works'.   We must assume that Elizabeth knew what she meant by 'Deptford' and 'Greenwich'.   It is, of course, possible that there were big  houses on both sides of the Creek built for the owners or managers of the two copperas  works since they had originally been in different ownership.  The 1678 plan of the Deptford works certainly seems to show a big house on there, as does the 1777 plan of the area of the Greenwich works.  Without other evidence however this may be a problem which remains unresolved.

Elizabeth says in her Diary that the 'old mansion at Deptford' was burnt down in January 1797 and that it had only been insured a few days previously with the Phoenix Fire Insurance Company, but that 'the directors very honourably paid although the policy had not been completed'.  In correspondence Mrs. Walsh has commented to me that the Phoenix Company was a 'recent diversification' for Charles Pearson, and she adds 'are we to draw any conclusions?'.    

The house was then rebuilt.  A year later Elizabeth recorded a visit to see the 'house at Deptford' and three years later, in 1804,  she noted that the new house was almost finished and 'the eagles and lamps have been replaced and old fashioned glass put up again, not withstanding great opposition'. Sadly, she doesn't say who the opposition came from! She adds that all the painting had been done by 'Samuel Grimwade, my fathers' manager at Deptford'.  

Mrs. Walsh, in correspondence, referred to a painting of the house in possession of some members of her family and described it, from memory as 'a Jane Austin Gothic villa' – and I am not really clear where the eagles might have been on a building of that nature.  The exact location of the house is far from clear on any of the maps and plans available but it seems to have been somewhere near the Creekside – and in an increasingly industrial setting an unlikely location for pretty Georgian villa.  

On the 1741 Roque Map two buildings are shown out on the marshland  beyond Greenwich church.  This may be in the same place as the tiny building drawn on the Metcalfe Estate Plan of 1777 and again appears on the 1832 Morris Map of Greenwich but by then it is at the end of newly built Claremont Street,  The building does not appear on the Greenwich Tithe map of the mid 1840s nor on the 1861 Ordnance Survey.  By the 1860s the road pattern which exists today had been set but the road names have changed – 'Ravensbourne Street' is now 'Norman Road' and 'Pearson Street' has come 'Haddo Street'. This seems to accord with the local directories which show that Charles Pearson had moved to Maze Hill by the mid-1830s and presmably his new Ravensbourne House fell to an incoming tide of housing and industry.

In the years before 1805 the Pearson family travelled to Greenwich from Tankerton or from London in various ways – usually by public transport. Elizabeth describes how she, her two sisters, and their mother together with a Mrs.Johnson took the stage coach to Greenwich. Brother Charles, together with 'Jane the Cook and James the Porter' walked. The unfortunate James had to walk back again to London after tea!  

A few months later Elizabeth, Clara and their mother, took the 'four o'clock Bromley Stage'. This did not go all the way to Greenwich but dropped them somewhere in Deptford from whence they walked to the Creek, and down along the Deptford bank to take the ferry. This ferry ran across the Ravensbourne in the area of today's Creek Bridge and took the family across to Greenwich.   

Coming to Greenwich from Tankerton they came by 'post chaise' … 'Father, mother, Amelia, Clara, Charles and Mr.Smith and I .. nine hours in coming .. had tea… I and Amelia to bed with headache'. 

On another occasion Elizabeth and her mother left Greenwich in order to visit friends at Stamford Hill in north London by a 'hackney coach'.  

At the same Charles Pearson, his son Charles, and Thomas Tilson went off to Walton on the Naze in Essex in a 'post chaise'.   Walton was of course another place from which copperas stones could be obtained.  Five years later in 1810 John Basley White, the cement manufacturer, recorded that he had made agreement with a 'Mr.Pearson who has a large copperas works and lives his Greenwich.. . and his steward Mr. Tilson'.   Charles Pearson had in fact also acquired the manor of Walton, in the same way that he had Tankerton – a couple of years before this he had been taken ill there 'with the ague' and been brought home 'in a chaise' by his teenage son.

The Tilson family were close to the Pearsons and were to remain so.  One of the first entries which Elizabeth made in her diary was a reference to 'Aunt Tilson' of Islington.   In 1804 she had visited young Mrs. Tilson, looking 'prettier than ever' in bed after the birth of little Tom. A year or so later they were visited by 'the maid with little Tom Tilson, who roared all the time'.  

Tom Tilson was to grow up and, like his father, provide many useful services to the growing Pearson business - and to the south London gas industry.

In these years Charles Pearson was mixing with a wide and influential body of society.  Elizabeth recorded what she could, but very much from the sidelines.  In 1801 she notes the proclamation of peace and the large party which she attended, full of people that she hardly knew – Barclays, Grevilles, Charringtons, Pepins  - many of them names to be associated with  the Whigs, with the Quakers and anti-slavery movement.  Many of them extremely wealthy families.  

One of the people present was  'a little old woman, introduced as Buonaparte's aunt from Sir William Scott's'.  Whoever the old woman might have been, Sir William Scott was a very important man – a maritime lawyer, privy councillor and brother to the Lord Chancellor – which shows the sort of society into which Charles Pearson was moving.

Much of what Elizabeth noted was however going on at some distance from her. She rubbed shoulders with  society, and with events, but mostly at second hand.  She met John Russell, RA, in Greenwich and heard him describe his pictures. On another occasion she saw Lt.Col. George Landmann, at church in Greenwich, and she noted Col.Despard's trial for High Treason.

There were family outings   - twice, in 1801 and in 1804, Elizabeth was taken with her sisters to see the newly built West India Docks.  They regularly visited Greenwich Park  and not only for their regular afternoon walks. 

In 1804 they went to see a display of 'pikemen' undertaking exercises and a few months later noted 'there has been a great deal of music in the Park all day, I think we were foolish in not going to see it'.   

On many occasions Elizabeth recorded walks around Greenwich – walks which are still easily followed today and indeed are along routes along which local people might well still take on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. On her twenty-third birthday she, together with friends and her brother and sisters, went for a  'walk.. through the Park and Vanburgh Fields and down Crooms Hill to home'.    A few months later they ventured further afield to go 'through the Park to the ruins of Sir Gregory Page's'  - that is to the ruins of the vast and opulent Wricklemarsh House which had been sold and stripped bare some twenty years earlier. It had stood on the site of today's Cator Estate in Blackheath – and a considerable walk from Elizabeth's home at Creekside.  

Nearer and more typical of her excursions was 'through the Park, Heath, Maize Hill and Hospital'.  By the Hospital she meant, of course, the buildings which were until recently the Royal Naval College and perhaps we should also note that she always spells 'Maze Hill' with an 'i' – as 'Maize Hill'. 

Such walks were of course also of a social nature. Elizabeth might describe a  'pleasant walk .. through the Hospital, up Maize Hill by Woodlands.…. met Mr. Edmeades and Mrs. Johnson'   - Woodlands most likely being the farmland and quarries covering today's Restell Close, rather than Woodlands House, further on. On another occasion 'upon the Heath went over a house late in the occupation of Lady Stewart' – which goes to show there is nothing so interesting as poking about in someone else's remains.

One day Elizabeth noted that her brother Charles had gone to London to the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce – but nothing so interesting for her. That same day she was to go to tea with 'Mr. Holmes of Westcombe Park'. I know nothing about Mr.Holmes except that for some years he was tenant of Westcombe House on the corner of what is Westcombe Park Road and Vanburgh Hill – my own home is built on what was the gardens.  

Some visitors to the house were clearly other young people. One regular visitor in 1804 was Philip Horn. Who was he? She gives no details.  Elizabeth never married,  but it would be sad to think that she never had a suitor, that there never was man in her life.  There was also a 'Mr.Platt' who came 'both Sunday and Monday' – and on other occasions to see 'Eamy' – fourteen year old sister Amelia.  Once again there are no details given,  he could as well have been the doctor on a medical visit as much as follower.  There was also a young man, Joseph Fabian, who seems to spent a suspiciously large amount of time with the girls.

Philip Horn's visits to the family however seem purely domestic and  very relaxed, almost as if he was accepted as a family.  In March 1804  they breakfasted,  he came back again 'for tea and read. .. mother ironed and pleated frills … supped'. A few days later Philip went for a walk with brother Charles ..  and then 'Philip and Charles went to see the play' . The next day a . 'very pleasant walk through the Park, Maize Hill, Hospital … worked, dined'. Philip was eventually seen off on his way to Plymouth – perhaps he was to become a sailor and left Elizabeth's life for good.  Future references were no longer to visits from Philip but from a Frances Horn and her father, clearly a friend with whom Elizabeth corresponded.

Much of Elizabeth's life was spent in purely domestic tasks .. 'mended stockings' … broke sugar'. .. 'went to the butchers'. .. 'altered sleeves of black gown' .  In evenings it was 'whist with Mrs. Hines against father and mother' .. or 'whist with Mrs. Johnson against father and mother .. lost nine pence'.  

At one point she admits 'whist almost every night till I'm tired of it .. reading my only pleasure'.  Her reading was, however,  hardly any more lively 'Newton on the Prophecies' .. 'Prideaux's Connection' .. 'Grecian History'  or, at the best 'Peregrine Pickle". 

It is only to easy to reach the obvious conclusion that it was the men of the family who had all excitements. Elizabeth's life of idleness seems so boring at times that, despite her comfortable circumstances, it is easy to feel sorry for her.

When Elizabeth's diary resumed in the 1820s, although her life had not changed materially, she was clearly more independent and living in a world of exciting changes.  Her father's business in Greenwich was changing too and as the copperas industry began to lose its momentum he began to diversify. These changes were to reflect strongly on the area around Deptford Creek.  

Sources
This draws strongly on material from Elizabeth Pearson's diary. I would of course like to thank Mrs. Walsh - with whom I have now lost touch and the whereabouts of which I do not know.  A photocopy of the MS was deposited in Whitstable but can now not be found. I would like to thank both Barbara Ludlow and  Geoffrey Pike for copies of their notes taken from the MS.

Mary Mills

Copperas in Greenwich and Deptford - Part II The Eighteenth Century


Copperas in Greenwich and Deptford - Part II The Eighteenth Century


The Deptford copperas works was set up by a Royalist entrepreneur called Nicholas Crispe - he was only one of several industrial innovators in Greenwich in the seventeenth century.  

By the 1670s the Deptford copperas works, at Hounds Marsh Meade on the banks of the Ravensbourne, was in full swing. Today the area of the works lies between the Ravensbourne and Copperas Street, SE8 - that  street name is only one of many place names near the Kent and Essex coastline which reveal a connection to copperas - and the older name for the copperas stone, 'gold stone', is found in Upper-and Lower Goldstones to the west of Sandwich.  

The copperas stone was found on the seashore and on the cliffs around the estuary - they were, and are, 'a bright shining silver colour'. These stones were picked up by seafront workers and sent off to the works by contractors. In 'Bygone Kent' Vol 13  No. 7 Harold Gough described the work of the
copperas pickers in the Whitstable area in some detail. In the seventeenth century much of the stone came from land owned by Sir John Hayward's Charity at Minster in Sheppey. In 1707 an agreement was made between the Trustees and Sir John and Sir Charles Crispe. This was for the carriage of copperas stones to Deptford or Blackwall. 

Crispe's Deptford agent was a Mr Bird. Sheila Judge says in her article on the Hayward Charity in 'Bygone Kent' Vol, 11m No. 3 that this was unsuccessful and that from 1723 John Crispe had to organise his own deliveries.  

Once the stones arrived at Deptford they were put into specially made trenches to the depth of about two feet - and there they stayed for five or six years to 'ripen by the sun and the rain'. Adding water, apart from rainwater, to the stones retarded the process. More rain was all right, but it made for a weaker solution in the end.  The trenches - the 'beds' were a hundred feet long, fifteen feet wide at the top and twelve feet deep but 'shelving all the way to the bottom'. The bottom of the beds was securely rammed with 'strong clay and then with rubbish of chalk' so that the liquor would not leak but be 'conveyed into a wooden shallow trough ... into a cistern under the Boyling House'. 

The stones, remaining when the liquid had been drained, formed 'a kind of Vitriolik Earth ... (which) will swell and ferment like leavened dough'. Every four years another layer of stones would be added - and, if a new bed was dug, then part of this 'ferment' would be put in the bottom of the trench for 'the old Earth never becomes useless.'

The cistern into which the liquid ran was made of 'strong oaken boards, well joyned and chalked' and held 'seven hundred Tuns of Liquor'. The liquid itself was tested for strength by seeing if an egg would float in it, or not. These eggs would always be dissolved by the liquor within a minute or so. The liquor would also burn a hole in any fabric or leather on which a drop fell.  

From the cistern, the liquor was pumped into a 'boyler of lead' in which had been put pieces of cast iron in a carefully constructed pile. As boiling continued and the liquor evaporated so more liquor and more iron would be added - and this might take three weeks to accomplish. 

At Deptford, however, Nicholas Crispe had set up a system to boil three cisterns in a week. This was accomplished by the use of a lead 'heater' placed at the end boiler and filled with water - which meant that hot, rather than cold, water could be added to the cistern as evaporation took place. 

As can be imagined this was a foul-smelling process.  The eventual liquid was taken from the boiler into a 'cooler ... made of tarras' and here the copperas crystallised - sometimes onto twigs, although not at Deptford. The resulting copperas was bright green - its more usual name in the seventeenth century was, in fact, 'green vitriol'.  

So far this article, and its predecessor, have concentrated on Nicholas Crispe's Deptford but there is good reason for thinking that by 1700 there were also copperas works in the Greenwich area. A Greenwich property list of 1695 notes that a site has been 'lately converted to a copperas works'. This was a site owned by a Sir Samuel Thompson and was at the end of Lamb Lane in Greenwich. Lamb-Lane was roughly on the line of Bardsley Street - the road from central Greenwich to the  Ravensbourne before the building of Creek Road. 

This copperas works on the Greenwich side of the Creek would thus have been roughly in the area of today's Creek Bridge 'and opposite, and slightly down-river of, the site of the' Deptford works. I have no idea at all who Sir Samuel Thompson was - and I would -be grateful for any suggestions.  

At around the same date a passage is marked on a deed from the Greenwich Vicarage  Garden to 'The Copperas House'. This passage must have gone towards the Ravensbourne to roughly the same area .. In this area was a large house called either 'Copperas House' or 'Ravensbourne House' which has been described as 'Tudor' - but the assumption is that it dates from the time the copperas works was 
started in Greenwich, presumably post-Civil War. 

By 1718 it seems likely that the house and the works was associated with a Joseph Moore. Eighty years later the copperas works in Lamb Lane is associated with a George Moore and he may be the man who held farmlands. on the Greenwich Peninsula and was probably a relation of Thomas Moore of Coombe Farm at Westcombe. It may be that around  1800 George Moore attempted to open  another copperas works on the Peninsula in the area where the Government gunpowder works had been - today the site of the Alcatel factory.  

Although the Moore family seem to have had an interest in copperas manufacture in Greenwich throughout the eighteenth century - at Deptford Creek as much as on the Peninsula, they do not seem to have owned the Copperas House on the Ravensbourne in 1800. 

Throughout the eighteenth century the site at the end of Lamb Lane, and possibly Copperas House too, seems to have been in other ownership, or occupation. In 1695 a Mr Vanderwar is listed as living in Lamb Lane, and as late as 1743 'Vanderwall' seems to be living there in a large house. By 1761 'Samuel Vanderwall' had died, leaving a widow, Martha, who then married a John Williams of Panthowell near Carmarthen. On an estate plan of 1777 the land at the end of Lamb Lane is marked as having belonged to 'Vanderville Esq' but that it is now 'Neat Esq' and 'Neat' is shown on a slightly later plan, which also shows land at the back of the churchyard sold to Pearson. 

None of these people have been traced, or shown to have an interest in copperas elsewhere - except for Mr Pearson, of whom more later.  

Another nearby copperas works, although not in Kent, was that at East India Dock on the north bank of the river. This works seems to have been started in the seventeenth century by Thomas Middleton, an ex-Lord Mayor of London and the brother of Sir Hugh Middleton who built the New River. He was married to a sister of  Nicholas Crispe, and it was eventually inherited by the same members of the Crisp' family who owned the Deptford copperas works. From the 1760s it was managed by Ephraim Rinhold Seehl. 

Seehl wrote a number of works on copperas manufacture. The manuscript of an unpublished book, dated 1768, by Seehl on copperas manufacture describes his thirty years in the business and compares manufacturing methods in 'Germany, Sweden and Italy' with that in Britain. He clearly considered himself an expert saying that he had been offered large sums of money for his knowledge which he was now writing down for the benefit of his wife. His second book 'on the art of making the true Volatile Spirit of Sulphur' describes the chemical processes to which the copperas crystals could be put.  The manufacture of what was in effect sulphuric acid from copperas was becoming more important and chemical factories were established near to these works. 

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Moore's 1800 works on Greenwich Peninsula where the rate books list George Moore as the owner of a 'vitriol works' in 1800 and, what is presumably the same works, owned by a Lewis Price in 1832 'near Bendish Sluice'.  

To return to the Deptford Works. For the century after the second Nicholas Crispe died until 1800 they passed through a fragmented ownership. The younger Nicholas Crisp had inherited only a third share of the works. The other partners were his uncles, Thomas and John Crisp, and John Knapp, a London drysalter, or chemical merchant. When this younger Nicholas Crispe died in 1698 his portion of the copperas works passed to his sons Charles and John - and the works were usually ascribed to their ownership, although they were only in fact part-owners. 

Both Charles and John lived outside London. It appears likely that the works must have been in the care of professional managers. One interested party was a John Rice who, in the mid-1740s, seems to have tried to modernise the works - since he offered Ephraim Seehl a large amount of money in return for expertise - which was not forthcoming. Rice must have had a close - but as yet unexplained - relationship. with the remaining Crisp family members, since his son's name was 'Charles Crisp
Rice'.  

When Charles Crisp died in 1740 the estate was further split between three sisters and soon some portions of this were sold to, pay debts. By the mid-eighteenth century a substantial portion was in the ownership of a Iacob Hagen, a Quaker stave merchant from Bermondsey. He was involved in a partnership on a copperas works in Walton, Essex, together with Ephraim Seehl and a John Twyman. 

Much of this account so far has rested on the evidence of parcels of deeds, inherited by various County Record Offices. Robert H. Goodsall analysed the ownership of the various Whitstable and Tankerton works from such material in his article on the 'Whitstable Copperas Industry' published in 'Archaeologia Cantiana'. More recently, work has been done on the Queenborough copperas works by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust. 

So far as the Deptford works is concerned the evidence is very patchy - most of the material available is that which concerns that portion of the ownership held by the Hagen family.  

What is, however, clear from Robert Goodsall's article is that in the late eighteenth century all of these works were consolidated into one ownership by one, ambitious.young man. Goodsall describes how gradually the Whitstable and  Tankerton works were acquired by Charles Pearson or by a young lady called Elizabeth Radford. When Charles and Elizabeth married in 1780 Charles gave his 
address as 'Ravensbourne House, Greenwich'. 

The Hagen papers give no indication of a sale of the Deptford works to Charles Pearson. Mrs Walsh, a descendent of the Pearsons, indicated in a memorandum given to the Whitstable Museum, that he
had negotiated for the works there about four years previously.  There is no apparent reason why this young man from Northampton should have  taken an interest in copperas. He was a glover by trade with a haberdashery business in the City of London - and by setting up this business he had already
done very well. Why did he in effect take over the majority of the copperas industry on the Thames Estuary? 

It must have seemed like a new beginning for an industry which had been profitable for nearly two hundred years. It was, in fact, the beginning of the end. In the meantime, however, it is from Charles' and Elizabeth's daughter that we know most about what was happening in the Deptford copperas
works in the early nineteenth century - but her perspectives on it will have to wait for another article. 

Acknowledgements       
This article is based on material in Kent County and Surrey County archives, and in the London Borough of Greenwich.  Material in Tower Hamlets archive was also used and also the Whitstable Museum.  Some articles on the subject are noted in the text  and I would also like to thank Mrs Walsh for additional information.  

Copperas in Greenwich and Deptford Part 1

Copperas manufacture was an important industry in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the earliest works were in Greenwich and Deptford

I wrote a lot about this industry nearly 20 years ago - but I guess very few people will have seen the articles - or be able to access them now (refs later). 

So - if you want to know what copperas is, and how it was made in the 17th century - and why it was important -  read on!  This is a four part article - and this is Part I and it tells you bit about some of the posher people involved.



COPPERAS IN GREENWICH AND DEPTFORD 
NICHOLAS CRISPE


There were several copperas works along the banks of the Thames and Medway.  I am hoping in this – and following – three articles to extend that story to Greenwich – and eventually to add in cavaliers, slavery, 'moles', stately homes, young ladies and other things of that sort!

The manufacture of copperas was a major chemical industry before the industrial revolution.  It was a way of making a black dye as well as vitriol (sulphuric acid) and a number of other chemicals – but more of that later.

It was made from stones picked up from the shore along the Thames estuary and there was a concentration of works in the Whitstable area and on Sheppey.  A few years ago archaeologist have undertook digs for its remains - particularly in Whitstable and Tankerton. As a result a number of articles were written.

Copperas works were not only found at the sea side – they were to be found right up the Thames with a large group in Greenwich, Deptford and Blackwall. These works probably dated from the mid-seventeenth century, or, maybe, even earlier. The Deptford works, about which most is known, appear to have been promoted by a particularly busy Royalist entrepreneur  - a Sir Nicholas Crispe.

The Crispe family were well known in the Thanet area. In the seventeenth century a Crispe family lived at Quex House, near Birchington , and they were certainly involved in the copperas industry in Thanet. In the 1550s a Sir Henry Crispe from Quex had had an interest in a copperas works at Stonar - where the huge Pfizer chemical factory complex stood until its recent closure.

There was a later Quex based Sir Henry who had an exciting life during the Civil War when he was captured and held to ransom in Flanders. There were certainly some later links between this family and the Deptford copperas works however, but  - this is the confusing point - I do not think that the Deptford 'Sir Nicholas Crispe' had anything to do with Quex.

This other Sir Nicholas Crispe might have had Kentish relations – but he came from Gloucestershire. His family had originated in Leicestershire but Nicholas' father and co-partner, Ellis Crispe, came from Marshfield, near Bath, and was an Alderman of the City of London. He was also a member of the Worshipful Company of Salters – a City Livery Company whose original interests had been in the manufacture and distribution of salt but which had expanded to become involved in what we would describe as the chemical industry. Indeed, the Company now maintains the Salters Institute of Industrial Chemistry.

Nicholas was one of three sons – his brother Toby was a well known and controversial cleric who was an 'antionomian'. The Crispe family had not forgotten their roots in the Gloucestershire countryside and almshouses which they donated in 1612 still stand in the village of Marshfield.

At the age of 20 our Nicholas had set off for Africa and was responsible for the first permanent English settlement at Kormantin, in today's Ghana.  I am very, very sorry to say that he set this up in the 1630s as a slave depot and as a stopping place for East India Company ships. He and his partners traded on the East African coast to the exclusion of all others and in 1621 Charles I, gave him an exclusive right to trade on the Guinea Coast and he set up a trading organisation known as the Guinea Company. He made a great deal of money.

In the early 1630s Crispe rented a piece of land in Deptford alongside the Ravensbourne river in an area known as 'Broomfield' and this is most probably where the copperas works was built. It is the area on the Deptford side of Creek Bridge.   It was part of the estate which later belonged to John Evelyn, the diarist, however at the time when Crispe first leased the land Evelyn had no connection with Deptford and Crispe's arrangement was probably with Evelyn's father-in-law, Richard Browne, who owned the estate before the Civil War. We should note that the Evelyn family had made a fortune from the manufacture of saltpetre - for use in gunpowder!

Something else happened in Deptford which probably had some relevance to the copperas industry but which had much wider importance. The copperas liquor needs to be heated and Crispe used 'Newcastle Coals' to do this but it seems likely that a more efficient fuel was needed and tried. In 1636 Thomas Peyton 'of Deptford' was granted a patent for 'charking sea coals'. 'Sea coals' – is coal which has come from North East England and arrived up river by ship and 'charking' sounds very much like the process which would be needed to turn coal into coke and thus provide a fuel which was capable of producing a greater heat.

It is not clear exactly who Thomas Peyton was but he was someone who probably knew Deptford well. That could have been Sir Thomas Peyton of Knowlton near Chillenden who may have had an interest in property in the Mottingham area. He certainly had an interest in coal supplies to London since he acquired the right to levy customs on that for the price of £2,000.

In 1636 Peyton was in his early twenties and recently married. His wedding had taken place at St.Bride's Church in the City of London so it likely that he had a London home as well as that in Thanet.  John Evelyn knew him, and described visits by mutual friends and social visits in the early 1650s. Peyton had been involved in one of the many skirmishes of the Civil War when he was appointed Lt.General of a party of 6,000 horsemen and 1,000 foot soldiers. At Deptford this force met Fairfax who had four regiments of horsemen and three regiments of infantry. Battles ensued at Northfleet and Maidstone. 

Was this Thomas Peyton from Knowlton the man who invented coke? It was a very important step because this is the first occasion on which the preparation of something we all take from granted - coke made from coal – has been traced. Was he doing this in order to use the coke to heat the copperas liquid for Nicholas Crispe?

At the beginning of the Civil War Nicholas Crispe had made so much money that he contracted with the King for a 'customs farm' - that is he bought the right to administer the customs and make a profit from them. In 1641 he was knighted and became a Member of Parliament. He was however expelled from the House of Commons because of his monopolies – and one of the accusations made was about his manufacture of 'copperas stones'. Over the next four years he devoted himself to the Royalist cause, raising regiments, providing ships, undergoing a court martial and so on.

Eventually he was pardoned and settled in Hammersmith where he began to experiment with new ways of making bricks.  He tried to sell some of his bricks to John Evelyn and later provided the bricks for the garden of the Royal Palace at Greenwich.

In 1655 Crispe visited John Evelyn at Deptford – to make a suggestion about a 'mole to be made at Sayes Court'.  A  'mole' being some sort of breakwater or pier in the river. There are a number of letters from Crispe which Evelyn filed and kept – and they show that Crispe had really terrible hand-writing. The letters describe a number of visits which Crispe made to Sayes Court in order to discuss his 'mole' but on each occasion - Evelyn was apparently always 'out'.

By 1656 more coke was again being made in Greenwich but by a different Royalist entrepreneur. Evelyn, crossing the river by the Greenwich Ferry 'saw Sir John Winter's new project of charring sea coale'.  Winter (or Wynter) is better known in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. His grandfather was Admiral William Wynter, the associate of Sir Francis Drake, while another relation was one of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. The family had used their wealth to buy land at Lydney in Gloucestershire where they exploited the coal and timber.

In 1655 Winter was actually incarcerated in the Tower of London for his activities in Ireland in support of the King – but, although his estates had been confiscated, he seems to have been allowed out to further his business interests in Greenwich and Deptford. Through this he gained a lucrative monopoly in coke manufacture.

I know of no connection between Winter and Peyton – or between either of them and Nicholas Crispe – but, in the relatively small world of the 1600s, it is almost impossible that they did not know each other, given their devotion to two common causes – that of the King and the exploitation of natural resources.

To return to Deptford and the copperas works. In 1658 a lease on the site seems to have been reviewed and put in the names of Crispe's three sons, Ellis, Nicholas and Samuel. The document says that the site is 'part Broomfield, called Great Crane Meadow' and had been in the previous possession of Evelyn and his wife's grandfather, Thomas Prettiman. 

There is however another and very interesting name on the lease – that of 'Thomas Kilsey'.  I was unable to decipher the writing on the lease which gave Kilsey's address which was 'Lower ---- Kent". What is the missing word – Lower Halstow or even Lower Goldstones? 'Goldstones often means copperas!

In the Civil War Kelsey was a Cromwellian General whose remit in the Parliamentry forces was the whole of Kent and Surrey. He was undoubtedly a connection of the Kelsey family who lived in Greenwich and whose most famous member was Henry Kelsey, the explorer who went to America with the Hudson Bay Company in the 1680s.  Were the Kelsey family  involved in the copperas works?

Sir Nicholas Crispe remained busy in Kent, as elsewhere. In 1660 he set up  the culture of madder (a plant yielding a red dye)in Dartford and then, back in prison for non-payment of debt, he petitioned for his release - giving his promotion of the copperas works as an example of his usefulness to society.

In 1662 he was back and visiting John Evelyn, this time with a 'project for a receptacle for ships'.  This idea was also noted Samuel Pepys who discussed the project with Crispe and noted that it entailed a dock at Deptford to take '200 ships of sail'.  Evelyn also noted Crispe's 'success with distilling'.

Nicholas Crispe died in 1666 – still selling bricks at 12/- per 1,000. His heart is buried in St.Paul's Hammersmith as part of a monument to the memory of Charles I. He left three sons who seem each to have inherited a third of the copperas works. This was, as well will see, to complicate the ownership considerably as time went on. One of the sons, Ellis, died not long after  - according to Samuel Pepys the cause of Ellis' death was 'eating cucumbers.

Nicholas Crispe, another son, was also a 'customs farmer' for the Port of London, and he seems to have taken on the Deptford copperas works. As part of the new regime there seems to have been some sort of evaluation and perhaps modernisation work. A plan was made of the works in 1674 which shows that it was sited on Deptford Creek and covered the area from the Creek to slightly north of Creek Road. There were a number of buildings on the site and a small dock.

One of Crispe's friends was a Daniel Colwell, who was a member of the newly formed Royal Society. Colwell went down to Deptford copperas works and wrote an article about it for the Society. This is a very valuable document because it outlines in detail the set up and working practice of the works in the seventeenth century – and has often been used as an example when other works have been examined.

Colwall's description has recently been by archaeologists when looking at the of excavations in Whitstable – I would recommend articles about this in the Spring 1999 Industrial Archaeology News by Tim Allen, and on web pages put out by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

Copperas is made from stones picked up along the shoreline and cliff faces – and more of that later.
Colwell described how the stones were put into 'beds' - trenches of about a hundred by fifteen feet and twelve feet deep.  They were then covered with rain water and left there for several years until the liquid became concentrated enough to dissolve a boiled egg in three minutes! This liquid was then boiled to crystallisation and could be used as a black dye. Strongly heated, it produced 'oil of vitriol', leaving behind another dye, Venetian red.

Meanwhile Nicholas Crispe was consolidating his family's wealth with a fine Kentish residence.  In the early 1680s he bought Squerries Court at Westerham and the fine house which still stands there, and is open regularly to the public, was built by him. He stayed in Westerham for less than twenty years but the house remains as a living symbol of the sort of money made by a family which was prepared to take active sides in the political (and real) battles of the mid-seventeenth century while perfectly prepared to work with the opposition while there was money to be made.

the next article will follow in the next posting.

The above article is an edited and updated version of an article in Bygone Kent Vol.22 No.6

Sources - many and varied
Documents in the Kent and Surrey archives
Documents in the Greenwich local history archive
Pepys Diary
Evelyn's Diary - and the collection of his letters in the British Library
Royal Society Transactions - and some help from their archivist
(and no help from the internet in 2001!!)

Mary Mills 
                                                                                                                            

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Siemens ~Woolwich - site notes

Information from Siemens Engineering Society
Siemens Brothers & Co. Ltd., Building Identification and Site AgentslManagement 
Building Identification:
We have done our best to identify the original use of the buildings proposed for conservation.
Our information is a little patchy as virtually all the Members of the Siemens Brothers Engineering Society came from the Telephone side of the business as opposed to the Cable Business
. This was despite the Society being open to all employees.

Map Key No 1  Third Phase of Expansion to Cable Factory 1929-1948

Map Key No 2 Second Phase of Expansion 1900 - 1928Wood-Workers Building, cable drums etc.

Map Key No 3 Third Phase of Expansion 1929 - 1948. Instrument Factory and Marine Radio School

Map Key No 4 Second Phase as above. Copper Wire Factory, known as the IR Building. IR was short for India Rubber, an early form of cable insulation.

Map Key No 5 Not Siemens Brothers - Trinity Wharf 

Map Key No 13 First Phase of Expansion to the original Cable Factory 1865 - 1899, now the earliest surviving building of the Siemens Telegraph Cable Works. Cable insulation and core-testing.

Map Key No 14 First Phase of Expansion as above. Workshop extensions for dynamo shops, milling machinery, armouring and lead sheathing.




Site AgentslManagement
In March 2004 towards the end of the Archive Material Catalogue Project, the Committee decided it would be nice if some form of permanent plaque and/or memorial to Siemens Brothers could be established on the site of the old Woolwich Works. This lead us into contact with the site managing agent, who at the time was The Co-operative Insurance Society(CIS). The CIS were very keen on this idea as a part of their redevelopment and landscaping of the site. This resulted in a sculptress being hired who produced a model of a sculpture based on ideas and equipment we had provided, with an associated plinth, the wording for which had been agreed by all parties. Unfortunately, this project never came to fruition because the entire CIS Property Portfolio was taken over by AXA Real Estate.
We continued liaison with AXA, who took some time to get to grips with a huge portfolio. Although sympathetic, our project took a backseat, but AXA gave us 6 monthly updates on the progress being made on the site. This included liaison, with Greenwich Council,  refurbishment and re-use (leasing) some of the original Siemens buildings and possibly  saving the original and earliest Siemens building, as well as a residential aspect. This 'site regeneration' plan represented a significant investment, but it all depended on the success or otherwise of the AXA plans and the market demand for refurbished warehouse/workshop accommodation. Market demand we believe was low and the situation has now changed completely with the arrival of the Charlton Riverside Development.

During 2011 we were contacted by Mott MacDonald [Consultants for the Greenwich University Technical College] about the previous use of the land [part of our old site] on which the GUTC was to be built. We provided a full background and in short; the Architects were sympathetic to the original building and the wording on the formal plaque [unveiled by HRH The Duke of York] was extended to include a reference to the original factory site. We were invited to the opening and had a guided tour. Recognition for Siemens Brothers at last

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Siemens Woolwich, History



                         
Siemens Brothers had one of the largest and most important works in Woolwich - which closed as long ago as the 1960s.  A consisderable number of buildings remain on the riverside on the Charlton/Woolwich borders.  The area is now being considered for a Riverside Conservation Area and at the time time there are news of Immunity for Listing Orders coming from the Department of the Environment.  The Siemens Brothers Engineering Society have prepared a huge amount of information to support this - and we have been sent copies and now have clearance to put them on this blog.  This is the first few pages - there is a lot more to come!! (and thanks for all this to Brian Middlemiss and his colleagues)



Charlton Riverside Conservation Areas and Locally Listed Buildings Consultation
Supporting Information
The Siemens & Halske Company was founded in London in 1858 and in 1863 with continued expansion bought a piece of land on the Thames in Woolwich and built on it a cable factory,  a mechanical workshop and stores. In 1865 Halske withdrew his support for the Company  and William and Werner Siemens took over the assets and re-registered the business as Siemens Brothers, London.
Siemens Brothers became a Limited Company in 1880 and pioneered research, development, engineering and manufacture of Electrical Cables, Telegraph, Telephone, Signalling and  Measuring Apparatus, Wireless Equipment, Lamps, Lights and Batteries. The Woolwich  Works [now the Westminster Industrial Estate] was bounded by Warspite Road, the Thames, Hardens Manorway and the main Woolwich/Greenwich Road and employed an average of around 8,000 people in the post war years.
A large area of this site between Bowater Road and the main Woolwich/Greenwich Road has  already been lost to modern factory units and the new Greenwich University Technical College. It is therefore imperative that no more is lost and the remaining buildings should be conserved not only as the remaining legacy of Siemens Telegraph & Cable Works, one of the area's biggest industries and employers, which stood at the forefront of technological advancement in the international telecommunications industry, but because these remaining buildings represent a significant part of local heritage.
A book written by LD. Scott, printed in 1958 and published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson [London] provides a detailed history of 'Siemens Brothers 1858 - 1958'. This is a hardback book consisting of 279 pages and was presented to Managers as a part of the Company's centenary celebrations. and to demonstrate the significant role Siemens Brothers played in the telecommunications industry. This book has a pull-out map which details the development of the Woolwich Works, colour coded by building periods.


Cable: Siemens Brothers were one of the major cable making companies of the world between mid-Iv" C and mid-20th C, for underground and submarine use. The Company entered the submarine cable business in the early 1860's, laying cables all over the world. The Company also played a significant role in the design, development and manufacture of  the well-known PLUTO [Pipe Line Under The Ocean] cable, used as a 'pipe' to cany oil across the Channel to Normandy for use by the Allied invading forces. It was originally known as the 'HAIS' cable; H [the initial letter ofthe name of the instigator, Hartley, of
Anglo-Iranian] AI [Anglo-Iranian Oil Company] and S [Siemens Brothers]
. The Company had its own wharf on the Thames at Woolwich and operated its own cable ship, C.S. Faraday,which was purpose designed by William Siemens.

Telegraphy: Siemens Brothers started with this product in the mid-Iv'" C; it being the firstelectrical form of communication and continued well into the 20th C particularly for ships.
Cable ship Faraday

Telephony: Siemens Brothers were one of the five Telephone switching equipment manufactures in the UK to supply to the Post Office who ran the nation-wide network
. They also supplied world-wide. The UK's first electronic exchanges were designed and built by Siemens Brothers, called TXE-4 by the PO. When adopted by the PO, other manufacturers also produced these exchanges.
The Siemens Brothers Engineering Society. The Society was formed in 1897, the 50th anniversary of the founding of Siemens & HalskeIt was a formally constituted organisation and Alexander Siemens was the first President being the nephew and adoptive son of Sir William Siemens. At the time of the formal 
termination in 1968 [when Siemens Brothers closed] there were over 600 members.
The Society was re-formed in 1968 by two former officers of the original Society. 'A Society linked no longer by employment but by memories and fellowship.' The re-formed Society continued to meet regularly right up to 2013 when the age of the members dictated that closure was inevitable, this was 45 years after the closure of the Company! In 1991 the Society, realised that there was little information/archive material in existence around the local libraries about Siemens Brothers & Co. Ltd. This being somewhat alarming for a Company that had a business continuity at Woolwich for 100 + years, the Society set about accumulating its own archive.
Over the succeeding years the Society had accumulated such an immense amount of archive material, donated by Members of the Society, that it became necessary in 2001 to form a six- man Archive Project Committee. The work of this committee resulted in the publication of an Archive Material Catalogue which detailed almost 1400 items of documentation and  hardware. One hundred copies of this catalogue were printed [June 2004] and given wide circulation including six 'New Holders' of the archive material itself Some 80% of this material is held at the Greenwich Heritage Centre [GHC].
Subsequently the Society went on to produce a 'Supplement' to this catalogue, printed in October 2006, which detailed a further 300+ items, and given the same wide distribution. After this period the Society went on to produce its own history. This was printed in two parts '1897 - 2008' [October 2009] and '2009 - 2013 The Final Five Years' [July 2015], again both parts being given the same wide distribution as the archive material catalogue. .
Siemens UK Ltd. Siemens UK is the UK arm of the giant German Company Siemens AG. The former 
Siemens Brothers & Co. Ltd and Siemens UK are often confused, same family but different Companies. However the Siemens Brothers Engineering Society owe a huge debt of thanks to Siemens UK. Following a chance meeting between the Society's Archivist and the Siemens UK Archivist at the old Woolwich Local History Library; Siemens UK went on to support all of the Engineering Society's activities from 1994 to its closure in 2013. In particular this included funding the printing of all four documents detailed above. Before this chance meeting Siemens UK had been unaware that the Engineering Society still existed.
The Siemens plc., [UK] had in 1993 published a book entitled "Sir William Siemens - A Man of Vision". This was in celebration of William Siemens who had begun building Siemens in the UK 150 years previously in 1843. The Archivist dearly wished she had been aware of the Siemens Brothers Engineering Society a few years earlier as this book also covers the history of Siemens Brothers & Co. Ltd., including life at the Woolwich Works, life on board the Faraday and the Cable Business. All Members of the Engineering Society were presented with a copy of this book.

William Siemens was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1883, sadly only a few months before his death. He had provided communication to many parts of the British Empire via cable laid by the Company, enabling direct contact, for the first time


Monday, 1 January 2018

More news - not all of it depressing.

CLEARLY we are all working very hard on the probable terrible fate of our wonderful gas holder. There is lots of stuff around on many local blogs and newsheets.  Everyone is being urged to contact the Council planners and tell them what they think.  

The Council is in a very difficult position. A Certificate of Immunity from Listing has been issued by the Goverment agency.  Immediately the owners, Southern Gas Networks, have told the Council that they intend to demolish it and are asking the Council to approve their demolition plan.  They have followed the same plan with other local councils, and holders are coming down despite widespread public protests. Local listing can be done -but it has no legal force if the owners decide to go ahead and demolish anyway. That shouldn't stop us making a fuss - at the best we can buy time.

Subterranea Britannica

Their 'magazine' arrived the other day. Full of interest and some of it about Greenwich.

First - they have an item about the work done by veteran underground explorer Harry Pearman and the Chelsea Spelaelogical Society Records, and how good they are and what a collection of information.  They don't say - but some of the best work is about Greenwich - all sorts of things from the Park Conduits, Plumstead Mines and obscure bits of Blackheath can be found there. I know - but they don't say - that Harry worked for Greenwich Planning Department in the 1960s, hence all this info.   Its been a great source for everyone since.

An article by Mark Chatterton describes 'The Road Tunnels of Great Britain' which briefly describes our own Blackwall as 'in the east of London and built  to carry goods between the docks on the north and south banks of the river Thames' - eh?? where does that come from.  Anyway the Blackwall should have had much more than a brief mention - its a triumph of engineering over too much traffic!  He also mentions The Silvertown Tunnel ' it is planned to be open by 2021'. oh ho!

Another article is about the Thames Tunnel Tour in October. In this foray a group of people began on the Waterloo and City line, or at least they looked at it and then went on the Northern Line to Embankment. They then went on the Circle Line to Tower Hill and had a look at the Tower Subway (from above, you can't go down there) So they went on the DLR to Cutty Sark and then lunch, and back over to the Isle of Dogs through the Foot Tunnel. And then back on the DLR to Limehouse and then they walked back through the Rotherhithe Tunnel (aaargh!!).And then - the highlight - to the oldest tunnel of them all, Brunel''s Thames Tunnel and the East London Line. So - Greenwich was their lunch break!!!  They do mention some interesting things though.

You can get copies of this through the Sub Brit web site - http://www.subbrit.org.uk/


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Crossness Record

More news from Crossness Engines  www.crossness.org.uk

- the chimney. a  whole page article about the chimney which once stood at the works - to keep the many people who ask about it informed

- a report from Petra, their Outreach Worker.  Petra works with local schools - for example in September Charlton's Cherry Orchard School paid a visit - the trust is also now employing an Education Assistant, Calleen Everitt

-  news of RANG - and the arrival of Busy Basil from Haig Hall in Wigan

-  the formation of a wildlife pond - and the possible installation of toad ladders

- and they still need volunteers. If you want information on this get on to Greg  greg.warner@crossness.org.uk

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Call for papers on Maritime Animals.  They seem to want not so much marine wildlife but stuff like the ship's cat (and attendant rats).
The conference will be at the National Maritime Museum April 26-27th 2019. Contact K.Nagai@kent.ac.uk
They are also looking for good maritime animal stories in addition to the papers
https;//research.kent.ac.uk/kentanimalhumanitiesnetwork/maritime-animals-conference/

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TIDAL THAMES NEWS
this includes

- item on Air Quality Strategy for the Port of London as a UK Port first. A consultation paper is available from the PLA consultation ends on 23rd January. http://tidalthames.co.uk/issue19/    https://www.pla.co.uk/assets/aqsummary051217.pdf

- Thames Skills Academy - first appreentices. This is a scheme for deck apprentices and engineering appentices.

- advert for a new book on the heritage of the Tidal Thames - this is a Museum of London Archaeology book and is really about their work along the foreshore.  Its £15 and you can get it from PLA or the Museum.


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We are told by the Council conservation department that they have been told that Historic England have issued an imunity to listing document for the oldest range of Siemens buldings 18-32 Bowater Road.  They do not think that Siemens was significant enough.

I am aware that a lot of people are getting together info to challenge this - and any one interested is encouraged to contact rebecca.duncan@royalgreenwich.gov.uk.   Siemens - who closed as long ago as the 1950s - were a major international firm working mainly in telecoms and also cable. To say there were no significant is ignorant and insulting.  Please support a bid to get this overturned.

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- and while we are on about Siemens- Brian Middlemiss from the Siemens Society send all at GIHS best wishes for Christmas and the New Year

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Docklands History Group

Any post-graduate or PhD student working on a subject related to the history of the Port of London and/or the River should contact Edward Sargent for details of a working group and how papers can be contributed.

Please also look at their facebook page

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Finally  - we have a copy of a very very good book from Museum of London about the archaeology and history of Deptford Dockyard.  More on that soon