New book about the Peninsula


by Mary Mills

£8 plus £2 packing and postage.  by post to M.Wright, 24 Humber Road, SE37LT  or email

also available SABO Crooms Hill, SE10. or Warwick Leadlay Nelson Road SE10 (let us know if you have a shop prepared to sell it)

sales flyer



Press release for Enderby site August 2015

Members of the Enderby Group are still hard at work trying to secure ongoing recognitions of our heritage in whatever the future holds for Enderby House.   The developer is required to put the house back into a decent condition under the terms of the Planning Consent – but what then?? One group of our members has been talking to various developers and interested parties, but, as most people will be aware a lot has been going on both with proposals for the Enderby site itself and on some of its neighbours.   Much will need to be resolved before we can move forward.

Meanwhile members have been working hard on getting over the Enderby heritage message. Richard Buchanan has been talking to any local group interested in hearing about the site and its importance in the history of international communications. He is happy to take bookings – so please get in touch.

Stewart Ash has written a series of pieces on the history of the site. The whole text for these are on the Atlantic Cable Web site – this is a vast American site run by the English enthusiast, Bill Burns – and thank you Bill for doing this. The links are:

Click to access Eponymous_Enderbys.pdf

for the story of the Greenwich based Enderby family


for the story of cable making on the site.

In addition Stewart has written three pieces complementing these which are on the Ballast Quay website:

About the Enderby Wharf Jetty: ;

About the Enderby family

about Brunel’s Great Eastern and its role in laying Greenwich made cable

Stewart would be happy to communicate with anyone interested in these histories:

Mary Mills and Ian Worley have both had articles, relevant to the site, published in ‘East of Eden’ which is mainly highlighting the work of architecture students at Greenwich University – it is a weighty tome, and anyone interested should enquire through the university bookshop.

We also hope to bring out something about other industrial achievements on the Peninsula – and Mary Mills is working on this – we need to engage the interest of local people, politicians and developers that there is something special here, which is unique to the Greenwich Peninsula and in particular Enderby Wharf..



Who was Bugsby?? He was Bugby

The following information has been sent to us by Dale Bugby – he has also included an Xcell spread sheet of many Bugbys who lived in Britain – available on request.

The Bugby name dates as far back as 1401 from records I have found.  Bugby Hole was a popular anchorage on the Thames River for larger ships needing protection from storms and tides.  The oxbow of the river at Bugby Marsh (Greenwich Peninsula) created this deep hole just outside of London where ships were required to fly their colors prior to entering the city.  Numerous references to “Bugby Hole” or “Bugby Marsh”  or “Bugby Reach” exist in shipping maps and Parliamentary records prior to the 1800s when some maps started to misspell the name as “Bugsby.”  This is a common mispronunciation of our family name.   “Bugby Marsh” was slow to be developed because it was a marsh and needed to be drained.  The Dutch evidently helped to do that.  Early artwork and maps shows it as a vacant stretch of ground, where the pirates were hung in gibbets away from businesses and homes but in plain view before starting an overseas journey.  During the time of the East and West India Companies, Captain John Bugby was active in overseas shipping.  There were other Captain Bugbys including Timothy and William around 1625.  Popular use by the Bugbys being anchored in this location is what likely landed the name.  They were evidently proud of having their family name being placed on “Bugby Hole” for river maps of the Thames in the early 1600s.  The Bugby family of London had the money to invest in plantations at Montserrat, St. Croix, and South Carolina during that time.  “Bugby Hole” was used as the name for these plantations in the West Indies, (Caribbean).  Books by Daniel Defoe, the author of Moll Flanders, and his official British coastal guide, referenced “Bugby Hole.” By 1665 naval maps and even a ship diary referenced “Bugby Hole” during the London plague.  “Bugby Reach” appeared on some maps on this stretch of the river.  “Bugby Marsh” was named for the stretch of the river but no Bugby was ever a landowner there.  Later maps continued to use the misspelling of Bugsby on the marsh and on the river after 1850.  “Bugsby’s Way” in Greenwich at the O2 arena is a great tribute to the early history of the area.  Unfortunately, it should have been named Bugby’s Way.  There are hundreds of people named Bugby still living in Great Britain.  I’m sure they will appreciate the recognition.  I’ll be happy to show up for the renaming of the street!

Return to Riverway

Charles Booth Survey 1899 – a walk round the Peninsula looking at housing

Charles Booth’s Survey of the Streets of London is famous. His notebooks cover most streets and he defined the areas he saw by the amount of poverty he judged there – often also informed about areas by local police who sometimes accompanied him.  He translated this into maps which show, in colour, prosperous and poverty stricken areas.

So – what did he make of the Greenwich Peninsula. He was of course looking mainly at housing – and he investigated what is now a forgotten community living along Blackwall Lane and on side roads. Booth sent an assistant, George Arkell, to investigate on Thursday 12th October 1899 accompanied by Detective Sergeant Hardy.

Walking round the area they had already been to what was then called Christchurch Street – and noted “A few two storey houses on west side belonging to a barge builder who has a yard there”. These cottages are those still standing just at the northern end of the street. They were designated to be coloured ‘Pink – fairly comfortable, good ordinary earnings’.  He also noted “At the north end of this street is the entrance to the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Company’s works.” – now, of course, Alcatel-Lucent.

They walked down Blackwall Lane covering the side streets – Commerell Street, Conley Street and Davern Street – when they reached Azof Street.  Here they could not help but to notice “Rothbury Hall, a very pretty Congregational Mission Church, red brick with pinnacles”. Azof Street was then new and the ‘roadway and foot walks are not made up and the centre is a sea of mud, six to seven inches deep. What it is like in wet weather is difficult to imagine”.

They next looked at Mauritius Road. “This road is not made up but is in rather better condition than Azof Street. A footway has been made on the north side”.  He noted that here were housed “Men working at Maudsley’s, and the telegraph works.  These were noted as “PURPLE with a strong tendency to LIGHT BLUE’ – – this classification is “mixed” tending to “poor”

The walk continued northwards down Blackwall. Lane – on a stretch now designated at Tunnel Avenue. Throughout the history of the last century or so on the Peninsula it is a real challenge to remember which bit or road is called ‘Blackwall Lane’ and which ‘Tunnel Avenue’ and when.  Booth’s researcher, George Arkell, and PC Hardy knew this stretch as Blackwall Lane – but we don’t!

“ Market gardens on both sides, while on the west by the river are seen the shafts of the factories on the bank” They walk as far as Morden Wharf Road – a small turning most people will not now notice. It ran from Blackwall Lane to the riverside but at some stage was taken by the glucose refinery – (Tunnel Glucose, Amylum, Syrol) and became an internal road.  It is still there though.  He notes that it is “now called Sea Witch Lane” – whatever, it is now marked as Morden Wharf Road.

Before reaching Morden Wharf Road Arkell had noted “a group of 50 houses belonging to the London County Council’  Idenden Cottages. These houses “built on three sides of an open space” must have stood more or less on the site of the dark red brick block which was Amylum’s offices – and in fact a road way goes up either side of that building reminiscent of the crescent around the cottages.  Arkell noted “Look comfortable. Men employed at wood-paving works” This works, which made tarred road blocks was further down Blackwall Lane.

Before reaching Morden Wharf Road was also “ Warwick Place – tenement cottages with little gardens in front”.  This must be the area now covered with the red drainpipe art work erected by Cathedral Group developers. Arkell noted then “Poor” and guess the inhabitants as “probably cement workers” – clearly a more down market group than wood paving workers.

On the northern side of the entrance to the Lane was Sidmouth Place.” Nine houses. Gardens in front better” and clearly socially “better than Warwick Place”. Now if you look at the roadside there just past the red drain pipe things you will see that the pavement widens with the hoardings behind it in a curve, There is a line of bollards in front of about half of it and some reasonably nice pavement.  Is this the remains of Sidmouth Place and its front gardens.

Arkell and Hardy set off down Morden Wharf Road “through clouds of dust which obscure the view ahead and the most unpleasant fumes, turning sharply to left and passing under a network of pipes, one is thankful to reach the river bank and breathe the fresh air once more. Once at the river they were at the Sea Witch Pub “with an erstwhile garden in front, booth and benches down to the river. The garden, however, has been disused for some time and the whole place is covered with dirt and cement dust. The Sea Witch was sadly lost in wartime bombing – and replace by what was the lab block for the glucose refinery, which looked eerily like the pictures of the old pub.  That too is now gone, thanks to Syrol’s French demolition crews.

The researchers noted here a “house occupied by a foreman with a river view and a Servant cleaning windows” They marked that  RED – “well to do” and returned back to what they knew as Blackwall Lane.

They note “Maudsley’s Yard”  this was on what we know as Bay Wharf  and would have been roughly where the footpath emerges from the riverside path onto the Tunnel Approach. Thus a long stretch of road is not noted which covers the Brentag Works and the site of the bridge over the motorway with its spiral ramp. This obviously means there was no housing and thus not of interest. At Maudslays they noted two houses here “known as Maudslay Cottages and occupied by foremen”.

They then noted “the works of the Greenwich Inlaid Linoleum Company” – this was the first works on the left as the slip leaves the Blackwall Tunnel Approach to run up and round to the Dome – and also where lorries dragged off the entrance to the Tunnel go to meet the police.  He says “Large houses here occupied by the manager” and, obviously, no sign of those now but they are marked  RED. “well to do”

The continued “along the path which runs along the top of the river embankment until the Asbestos Works are reached ……open fields are reached”  They then crossed  back eastward to the main road. “On the east side is an open square with buildings on three sides”. This was Blakeley Cottages built in 1866 for the short lived gun foundry – the Blakeley Ordnance Works  There were seventeen houses, which by the 1890s “belong to Gas the Company and occupied by their work people. One family in each. Comfortable” They note also “the Livesey Mission Hall – where a LCM works”

Then “on the south  side is Blakeley Buildings. 4-st tenement block with gallery in front to each floor. This tenement block was also built by the Blakeley Ordnance Co but never finished and standing empty for many years.  Until recently the site was occupied by two houses which appeared to have been built in the 1950s but which were called ‘Blakeley Cottages’. As the Dome grew in the late 1990s the morphed into a ‘Motel’ and café. They have since been demolished.  Arkell found the Blakely tenement block  “Much poorer than the cottages belonging to the Gas Company”

They returned to, Blackwall Lane noting on the gas works site “two houses on the … occupied by foremen.

They returned to what they called “Ordnance Road”  – which I assume is now Ordnance Crescent which now runs round from the end of ex Blackwall Lane/now Tunnel Avenue to the Dome and then used to run round back down to join the motorway, but which is now more or less inaccessible to ordinary people.  Back to 1899 when he noted that the “Ordnance Arms, has gone “ apparently scarified to the Tunnel builders.  There were houses here then “On the east side is Alpha Place cottages. Mostly labourers and wood. yard worker. One house has broken windows mended with paper”  and  ….”poor. Labouring men” and they are marked a damming DARK BLUE, PURPLE.

They turn west into “ Teddington Place” –  – now the area where the barrier stands alongside the southbound A102M along with a sign telling you that you will be fined for running out of petrol There stood two storey houses ‘with separate entrance for each’  however they too were Poor. DARK BLUE, PURPIE,

So back they went into what they see as the “main road .. at the Tunnel entrance” where they see “a large pub with a small house adjoining it” .  This, I think, must mean the Star in the East, which still stands in the form of Ranburns Electrical shop  (I once went in and asked if I could take a photo ‘because it is an old pub’   ‘no’ said the man – until I pointed out to him the Whitbread’s sign on the wall – ‘never noticed that’ he said)

They continued walking northwards on the west side of the Tunnel reaching “ Wood Paving Cottages …. with wash-house and other conveniences in front. Men work in the wood  works. Most would earn about 30/- a week but homes do not look up to this standard”. and they are marked  a dreadful PURPLE.  They note the south entrance to the Tunnel – “engineer lives in rooms in the archway”  – what goes on up there now?

They reach Wheatman Street. (which I cannot see on any map ) where there were fifteen houses and a road not made up. Again it is designated PURPLE.

Next Sigismund Street (no sign of that either) again houses with the roadway not made up. They were accosted here by a woman, who identifying them as Authority. “asks when we are going to give them a pathway”

They continued up Blackwall Lane here there was a large coffee tavern on the corner of Boord Street. We are now somewhere identifiable, and Boord Street, alongside the spiral stair to the motorway bridge is where the 108 bus off to the Tunnel. In 1899 it was !”occupied by poor working people” and there were 3 shops and a pub  – the pub of course is still there, called the Mitre in 1899 it has recently had so many name changes that it is hardly worth listing them, if I could remember them.

Greenfell Street is next which ran to the gate into East Greenwich gas works – then the South Metropolitan Gas Company Works. In the street itself were Six houses on south side… All windows have long curtains and look comfortable. The street is overshadowed by a huge gasometer”. When I moved to Greenwich in the 1960s the houses in Boord and Greenfell Streets were still there, derelict and awaiting  demolition. then the Marsh and its industries were seen by the Greater London Council as an unsuitable place for people to live.

We then come to what Arkell describes as “St Andrew’s iron church” . St Andrews was on the site of the building firm’s offices and by the time it was demolished in the 1880s was not an iron church but a rather nice stone building with a pretty iron belfry – soon stolen, I’m afraid.  Arkell does not mention the Dreadnought school, describing the church as “the only building on the south side”. Dreadnought has of course been for many years now the store for the Horniman Museum. He notes another fifteen houses – all poor.

They then went off up Marsh Lane now Blackwall Lane and end up near the Pilot. Until the road builders for the Dome got busy you could go up Blackwall Lane and the Pilot was off it on a turning called Riverway which ran to the River.  So their walk makes sense – you could do straight there. He remarks on Ceylon Place  – which was a tenement block by the Pilot – and he notes it was dated 180I.  he notes “nine back-to-back cottages Ceylon Cottages” and “east the twenty four houses called River Terrace”.  All of these apart from the pub and the remaining cottages were demolished before 1970. It was however a small and self-contained community.  He notes also “ At the river end of Marsh Lane is a large house formerly occupied by Mr Hibb, now a caretaker is there”. This was East Lodge – a big house built in conjunction with the pub and cottages.   I am almost at a loss to describe where it was in relation to what is there now.  Imagine you could walk from the Pilot to the river – it would be on the riverside to your right and, I guess, under one of the tower blocks.

He further notes “ On the north side of the Lane facing the houses are the Electric Light Company works” – the replacement power station here was demolished on the 1990s and “ The Lane terminates in a landing stage at Bugsby’s Hole” – the landing stage. and causeway into the river, along with the lane – were demolished by the New Millennium Experience Company before 2000 along with the historic access to the river from the Pilot.

Arkell and Hardy turned Back along Marsh Lane.  They noted “It is just one o’clock and we meet a succession of children – some 40 or 50 – taking dinners to the gas works and other places. Some carry two dinners.”

They left Ceylon Place from where “the Lane crosses open fields, some planted with rhubarb and crossed at intervals with ditches about….. Near Blackwall Lane is a large horse slaughterer’s place with a dwelling house occupied by the foreman” . That was where the new flats are going up on the old car wash site. And ‘Near this is a fireworks factory, with its little huts studded about the field.” that was where the motorway is at the back of Tunnel Avenue – and “Away in the fields is a piggery with a tumble-down cottage, the last of the dwellings on the Marsh”.

An interesting walk and a look at a lot of poverty.  All swept away.  And now homes are being built here again.


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Enderby Wharf – text of a talk by Richard Buchanan

The following report appeared in the newsletter of the Blackheath Scientific Society and is reproduced with permission

Enderby Wharf by Richard Buchanan on 21st November 2014

Mr Buchanan began by showing pictures of Enderby Wharf in its heyday when it was the site of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company (Telcon) in Greenwich. The company had been formed 150 years ago in 1864, and was the first to make a successful trans-Atlantic telegraph cable in 1866. It remained the principal subsea telegraph cable manufacturer in the world, despite competition, until the mid-20C.

Its site is midway along the riverfront between the Old Royal Naval College and the 02. Historically marshland, the Navy first used the site in 17C for a gunpowder store, but the people of Greenwich did not think it was sufficiently remote, and it was closed. It was eventually acquired by the Enderbys, who were a seafaring family, and used it for sail and rope making. In 1845 their works were destroyed by a fire, from which they recovered long enough to build Enderby House as we now know it, but sold afterwards to cable makers Glass-Elliot & Co – who merged in 1864 with the Gutta-Percha Co to form Telcon.

Gutta-Percha is a latex obtained from a species of tree found in Malaya. It was first brought to London in 1842, and found to be water resistant and easily worked. An early application was to insulate telegraph wires whose ducts could be flooded when it rained. Its subsea use followed – a cable was successfully laid from Dover to Calais in 1850 (but soon failed, but was followed by a better one the next year).

Cable making is a lengthy, continuous process and is done before loading the cable laying ship – so on-site storage is necessary. In the early days this was done in the open, a central drum formed of wooden posts with a ring of posts centred on it to form a reel. It was soon found that the cable degraded in these conditions, particularly in hot summer weather, and steel storage tanks were constructed in which the cable could be stored and sprayed with water. The tanks were, and are, still wood lined to avoid damage to the cable.

The 1850 cable comprised a thick copper wire core with gutta-percha insulation. The 1851 cable had the addition of armour wires, and lasted over a decade.

Not only was gutta-percha a new material, so was the steel for armour wires. Purities of materials were not then measurable as they have become in the late-20C. Suitable heat treatment for armour wires (to avoid brittleness) was not developed before the mid 1850s.

Cyrus West Field (1819-1892), an American entrepreneur, promoted a trans-Atlantic cable in 1857 – he had it made by Glass Elliott & Co. This involved several suppliers of copper and steel wires from around the country, the logistics comparable to Paxton building the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition. The cable was laid by HMS Agamemnon & USS Niagara. The cable broke during the lay – but more was produced and in 1858 the connection was made – but just for a few weeks before the cable failed. A third attempt was made in 1865. It used the Great Eastern as the cable layer – better in every way than sailing ships. This cable too broke before land was reached. The next year saw a fourth cable laid successfully – and the third cable also completed.

Transmission over the cable was by Morse Code, dots & dashes being sent; and a waggly line received. A high power signal was sent; microwatts arrived. The received signal was passed through a moving coil galvanometer with a tiny mirror attached. A beam of light was reflected onto a screen which the operator watched. The (male) operator would interpret this and use a Morse Key to repeat the message. (The received signal would include the effects of magnetic currents in the sea picked up via the cable armour wires.)

Matching the terminal equipment to the cable (equalisation) by adding electrical networks was soon found to improve the performance. In 1880s Oliver Heaviside set out the mathematical theory for this, but it is said that when it was applied to the equaliser circuits they were found to be already fully optimised.

The limiting factor for the rate of transmission was the capacitance between the copper core and the outer armour wires (though even without armouring sea water would make an effective outer). The earliest long distance cables only managed 4 words/minute. Adding inductance reduced the cable loss (up to a cut-off frequency above which the loss would be greater), and enabled transmission up to 100 words/minute.’ This became possible when the Americans developed Permalloy in 1921,followed by Telcon who developed Mumetal which was easier to use.

The next development was to make coaxial cable, where an outer conductor, usually aluminium, was added over the insulation – under the armour wires – which made it possible to define the impedance of the cable and improve the equalisation. Short distance cables could be used for telephony, several two way channels becoming possible. By 1950s repeaters were being added at intervals in long distance cables for telephony. These had amplifiers to offset the loss of the cable, power fed by a direct current sent down the cable. Development led to transoceanic systems for over 5000 telephone channels in 1970s.

Then optical fibre was developed – by Charles Kao of STC – and the first experimenta11engths made at the Greenwich site (by then a part of STC). Externally these are similar to coaxial cables. However the inner is a tube with fibres inside and round that high tensile steel segmental wires. Polythene insulation is provided, as the inner still has to carry the power feed current, and an aluminium outer sheath prevents sea life from eating the polythene. Traffic now is digital, mainly for the internet, and capacity is quoted in megabitlsec or gigabitlsec.

Branching Units enable a main cable to have a branch to a coastal town with traffic connected in either direction; or for a main cable to have alternative landing sites in case oneis lost (to terrorists).

Enderby House was an important. part of Telcon who had their board room in it, with a fine view of the Thames. Subsea cable system manufacture started there, and was joined by rival firms both locally: Henleys, Siemens, BICC, STC- and elsewhere. The Greenwich site is now host to Alcatel-Lucent (into which STC was merged) still producing terminal equipment for subsea cabie systems – all the other businesses having gone. However, the riverside half of the site, which includes Enderby House, is being redeveloped with blocks of flats. The House is Grade 2 listed and is to be refurbished, with a large annex built on the landward side. The Enderby Group has been formed to encourage use of at least a part of the House as a museum of Subsea Telecommunications.

R J Buchanan

Return to Telegraph Cables at Enderbys


The Enterprising Enderbys – Whaling for Oil

The following articles appeared in Journal of the Greenwich Historical Society Vol.3 Nos 4&5 and are reproduced with permission from Barbara Ludlow


The Rise and Fall of the ‘Enterprising Enderbys’ c 17 50-1855 (Part One)



By the time the Enderbys arrived in Greenwich they were established ship owners, oil merchants and traders. Their first known house in Greenwich was no.66, Hyde Vale. Samuel Enderby leased it in 1758 but he also had a house in Earl Street in the City of London. The Greenwich Rate Books show his wife Elizabeth as the occupier of no.66 from 1761-1764.

Between 1753 and 1762 Elizabeth had seven children, so without doubt the Hyde Vale home was seen as their country house and a good place to bring up the family. However, these babies were not christened in St.Alfege’s Church. There an: entries for all seven children in Mr.Spilsbury’s Protestant and Non-Conformist Register for London. Samuel Enderby’s will shows that he bequeathed money to Rev. H. Worthington, the Pastor of Salters’ Hall [the Hall of the Salters’ Company – ed.] and Rev. Winter, the morning preacher at Salters’ Hall. Part of the Salters’ Company Hall was let out as a chapel. Later a piece of land near the Hall, leased from the company, was used to build a new chapel which was subsequently used by the Baptists. The Enderbys were probably members of this Independent Protestant congregation, which according to Hugh Barty-King, historian of the Salters’ Company, was ‘A byword for dissent.’ The Enderbys were not, however, members of the Salters’ Company.

Seventeenth century facts about the Enderby family are scarce but there is no doubt that during that century they were owners of a tannery in Bermondsey. This information is in the Dictionary of Australian Biography and the entry also includes the fact that they were granted forfeited estates in Lismore, County Waterford, Ireland. As Protestant Dissenters the Enderbys would have been on the side of Cromwell in the Civil War, and it is well known that Irish lands were redistributed by the Parliamentarians who gave them to people they believed would further their cause. The Enderby ownership of Irish land was short lived as, just after the Restoration in 1660, they sold the estates. This money was to take them across the River Thames leaving Bermondsey’s noxious industries of animal slaughter and leather manufacture behind. Unfortunately the name Enderby does not feature in indexes in Southwark Local History Library. Samuel Enderby (1719-1797), in his will left an estate in Bermondsey and a White Lead business near Loman’s Pond, Southwark to his three sons Charles, Samuel and George. Here they were producing a white paint known as Ceruse.

One problem that arises when writing about this family is that they used the same Christian names through the centuries. Samuel Enderby and his son Daniel, 1681-1766, may well have encouraged Samuel, Daniel’s son, to take up a trade other than tanning. In about 1730 Samuel was apprenticed to an oil cooper at Trigg Stairs in the City of London. By 1750 he had his own business in Lower Thames Street but a turning point in his career came when he married Elizabeth the daughter of Charles Buxton, an oil merchant. The London Directory of 1765 has an entry for Buxtons, Sims and Enderby, Oil Merchants, Paul’s Wharf, Thames Street.

 Whaling and Exploring

By the 1740s the people of New England were trading as much with the Caribbean as they were with England and gradually American nationalist leaders began to realize that they could probably exist without the mother country. The refusal of the Westminster Parliament to repeal certain taxes such as the tax on tea enabled the rebels to rally support. By 1770 Enderby ships were registered in London and Boston. They took goods to the colonists and brought back whale oil. Tradition has it that it was an Enderby ship that sailed into Boston Harbour with a cargo of tea one day in 1773. As the tea was flung into the water Samuel Enderby and Sons were about to launch a new enterprise. They had depended on Nantucket and New England whalers for oil and they and Parliament knew that if America revolted their supply of oil would be cut off. In 1766 Samuel Enderby had moved from Hyde Vale to West Grove, Blackheath (Plate LX).

Other ships’ owners who lived around the Heath included Alexander Champion, Daniel Bennett and John St. Barb. Later there was also a small colony of ship owners and captains involved in the transportation of convicts to Australia. Samuel Enderby was motivated by the idea of ‘convicts out and whale oil   home’. However, he was the prime mover in establishing the Southern Whale Fishery in 1775. Later members of his family were accused of exaggerating his part in the enterprise. This was somewhat unfair as he was prominent in getting the backing of the Government as well as challenging the power of the East India Company

According to Lloyds Register and the Red Book [‘The New Register Book of Shipping’ compiled by the ship owners -ed.] the vast majority of whaling ships left London for the Southern Whale Fishery between 1776 and 1846. H.R.Mill in his book ‘The Siege of the Pole’ (1905) estimated that, by the year 1778, English sealers brought back from the Isle of Georgia and the Magellan Straits as many as 40,000 seal skins. By 1801 the import of oil from these regions reached 6,000 tons – worth nearly £200,000. Within about ten years whalers had brought their prey to near extinction in the South Atlantic.

Samuel Enderby, Senior died at Blackheath in 1797. The ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ stated: ‘The late Samuel Enderby … was a considerable oil merchant in Thames Street and was one of the first who undertook the Southern Whale Fishery some years ago when the Government found it advisable to encourage the trade of the southern hemisphere and by which he realized a large fortune .

‘Before his death he had taken his sons Charles, Samuel and George into partnership with him. The family firm then became known as S.Enderby and Sons. Samuel also provided for his daughter Mary who had married Nathaniel Wheatley a Nantucket sea captain. He stipulated that although he left the house in Earl Street for the use of his eldest son, Charles, he directed that Charles allow Mary to live there rent and rates free for six months. The brothers carried on the business from Paul’s Wharf but had their homes in Blackheath. They were close to each other with their families living variously in Dartmouth Hill, Dartmouth Row, Cambridge House in West Grove, Hyde Vale, Hyde Cliff ‘House and Crooms Hill. In the early years of the nineteenth century there is no mention of any of the Enderby businesses being in Greenwich. Their ships sailed out of London and occasionally Gravesend. The killing of whales and seals was a most unpleasant business and prosperous owners such as the Enderbys did not themselves go whaling. They employed seasoned sea captains who then signed on a crew. One of the most important members of a whaling ship was the harpoonist and the figure of a harpoonist was portrayed in the Enderby Coat of Arms. The oil from the whales came back in barrels to be treated on the banks of the Thames – often in the Millwall area. Seal skins, blubber and baleen could be dealt with in Bermondsey. The Enderby family lived very comfortably off the exploitation of the South Seas!

The need to find new whaling grounds became pressing. Captain Cook crossed the Antarctic Circle in 1773 and reported that the sea was full of whales and seals. Sadly, Cook was stabbed to death in Hawaii in 1779 but his voyages had proved that there was much to explore ‘at the bottom of the world.’ Now whaling captains would become explorers too – their voyages often lasting for two or three years. The owners actively encouraged them to claim new lands for the British Crown. Such new lands were often named after the owners and captains of the whaling ships. In the last decade of the eighteenth century the Enderbys had sent their whaling ship Amelia into the Pacific via Cape Horn and then in 1791 helped to arrange for whalers to carry convicts to Port Jackson in the Third Fleet. Another Enderby ship, the Britannia, became the first ship to take sperm whales off the Australian coast. In 1792 they co-operated with the Admiralty and sent the Rattler under the command of Lt. Colnett, R.N. to survey whaling grounds in the South Pacific. During this trip the Galapagos Islands were also surveyed. .

The Enderbys failed to get permanent contracts for whaling ships to take convicts to Australia, but managed to get supplies to the colony. Their ship the Greenwich arrived in Sydney in 1801 with a cargo ‘well adapted for the inhabitants’. Captain Bristow in the Enderby ship Ocean discovered a small group of islands some two hundred miles south of New Zealand. Unable to land in 1805 he returned in 1807, claimed them for the British and gave the group the name ‘Auckland’ and one of the islands he called Enderby Island. Some forty years later these islands were to have a profound effect on Charles Enderby’s life.

In 1815 the Enderbys owned five whalers whilst Daniel Bennett had thirteen. In 1981 A.E.G. Jones the author of ‘The British Southern Whale and Seal Fisheries’ wrote that ‘Clearly the sons cannot have had the commercial drive of their father. ‘They all lived at Blackheath, somewhat out of touch with daily business. In common with other family firms the sons and grandsons did not always have the same passion for the business as the founders. When business was good the down-to-earth job of dealing in whale oil, blubber and skins was acceptable but it did not equate with being a ‘Gentleman’. Charles, Samuel and George had become part of Greenwich and Blackheath Society. They were Commissioners of the Land and Assessed Taxes, and Trustees of the New Cross Turnpike Road. George was a Vice-President of the Greenwich, Lewisham and Lee Savings Bank and had social aspirations. In 1821 he bought Coombe House, Croydon, which he enlarged. His brother Charles died at Cambridge House, West Grove in 1819 and George, who died in August 1829, left his property in Croydon to his brother. Samuel. Just a few months later Samuel died. In effect the business had become Samuel’s in the last months of his life. As a result the firm passed solely to his three sons Charles, George and Henry.

Samuel Enderby (1756-1829) was living at Hyde Cliff, Blackheath when he died. Samuel had married Mary Goodwyn. It is possible that she was connected with the Goodwyn family who lived at ‘The Hermitage’ at the top of Lewisham Hill. Samuel and Mary had eleven children, two of whom died at birth. Their eldest daughter Elizabeth married Henry Gordon. Their son Charles George was born in 1833 at Woolwich and was to make his mark in history as General Gordon of Khartoum. Charles Gordon was baptized in St.Alfege’s Church, Greenwich where his Uncle George Mathew was Vicar from 1812 to 1833. George Mathew had married Mary Enderby, named after her mother. Samuel Enderby stipulated that his widow Mary should live for another year in Hyde Cliff. A spate of deaths and a decline in Britain’s whaling industry broke up the Enderby colony on and around Blackheath. Strangely the Enderbys contribution to the exploration of the South Pacific and Antarctica would only become national news when the firm was well and truly in decline.

 ‘Messrs. Charles, George and Henry Enderby; whalers of London and rope and canvass manufacturers of East Greenwich’

Charles and George Enderby were fascinated by new places and new discoveries: scientific and geographical. They were both on the Council of the Royal Geographical Society during the 1830s and the 184Os. In 1831 and 1832 Captain John Biscoe in the Enderby ship Tula made a most valuable contribution to Antarctic exploration by confirming that a great mass of land did exist there. He called the land Enderby Land. At this point the men on the Tula were ill and Biscoe decided to strike out for New Zealand but he then altered his course and went to Hobart, where he duly arrived with only three men and a boy alive. Charles Enderby presented Biscoe with the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society for his exploration work. At this time money was short and Biscoe got no monetary reward for his enterprise. A public collection was made for him in 1842 but he died on his way back to England after another voyage. His family suffered and his children went into the London Orphan Asylum.

The Enderbys faced heavy losses because of the Biscoe voyage but in 1838 they joined with seven other ship owners to send vessels on a new expedition to Antarctica. On this trip the Balleny Islands and Kemp Land were named after two Enderby captains. At this time Charles’s interests were many, some  of which involved investing money in new projects. He became a Director of the Anti-Dry Rot Company, which sold a patent protection for timbers and sails. This product was used in the building of a new Samuel Enderby in 1834, the ship immortalized in Melville’s ‘Moby Dick.’ Charles was also interested in steam navigation and invested in the ill-fated British and American Steam Navigation Company. As a Trustee his name was on the register of the President, which sank: without trace in 1841.

It is due to the establishment of a Rope and Sail Works on the bank: of the River Thames in East Greenwich that the name ‘Enderby’ survives in the town today. In 1768 Henry Vansittart bought the old Gregory Page mansion at the foot of Maze Hill. He sold this house in 1777 but retained an interest in developments in Greenwich even though he became Governor of Bengal. In 1802 Vansittart bought the old derelict gunpowder magazine site on the western edge of the Greenwich Peninsula. Although disused since about 1770 the buildings and two jetties still existed. It-has been suggested that the Vansittarts invested in a rope works run by the Enderbys but there is no mention of such a place in Samuel Enderby’s will. However, a rope walk is clearly marked on the Greenwood map-of 1827. The Enderby works plus a house were well established by the mid-1830s

In 1832 the brothers moved their business in London from Paul’s Wharf to Great St. Helen’s in Bishopsgate. They also re-located their warehouse and wharf to Poplar. After the death of their father in 1829 the family moved away from Blackheath and Greenwich. Mary, Samuel’s widow, moved to Cliefden House, which still stands in Eltham High Street. William, Mary’s youngest son married in 1830 and his son Charles was baptized in St.Luke’s Church, Charlton. William’s abode is given as Eltham and his profession as ‘Gentleman.’ His grandson eventually emigrated to New Zealand. Mary Enderby moved from Eltham to a house in Charlton Road just east of Bramhope Lane towards the end of the 1830s and was still living there when she died in 1846.

By 1836 the Enderbys owned one whaling ship – the Samuel Enderby. The Americans and Australians were much nearer the whaling-grounds of the Southern Ocean and this contributed to the difficulties of British whalers. Whale oil and baleen were still in demand but it must have been obvious to the cosmopolitan Enderbys that gas lighting was taking over from oil lamps in the main streets of towns and cities. The brothers invested a great deal of money in their comparatively new East Greenwich works. There was an engine and boiler house over which were hemp and spinning rooms. Joiners’ workshops and loom rooms were in a factory by the riverside close to Charles Enderby’s house (Plate LXIII). The weaving looms were worked by machinery and the all-important ropewalk was a quarter of a mile long.

In the mid-1830s W.F.Cooke and Sir Charles Wheatstone were working on their invention of the electric telegraph. Wheatstone was discussing a possible telegraph for Stephenson’s London to Birmingham Railway. In a letter to Cooke he said that the Enderby Brothers of Greenwich would make a 1,500 feet long cable of four wires covered with insulated hemp. Wheatstone also wanted a cable for what he described as ‘our cross-Thames experiment.’ In 1837 two experiments were planned involving Enderby ropes.

These were to be insulated waterproof cables, which would go between Wheat- stone’s lecture room on the north side of the Thames to the south bank and from Euston Square to Camden Town. The amount of insulated rope needed had been under-estimated and another company sent cable to help with Cooke and Wheatstone’s electric telegraph. The Enderby rope was not a success as the hemp insulation broke down when wet and a railway director fell over it! It was not until the invention of gutta percha insulation that waterproof cable became viable. Ironically, it was made on the site once occupied by Enderby works.

Charles Enderby lived in his house on the western side of Greenwich Peninsula not too far from Ballast Quay. During 1839 the brothers tried to lease more land from Morden College, a charitable trust that owned a great deal of land on the Peninsula. This proved difficult, as a licence was needed from the trustees to build anything but a bleaching house. The Enderbys offered to exchange land but for that they needed Parliamentary sanction which involved unpredictable costs. They had built ten cottages for their rope makers, which stood at the end of the ropewalk by Blackwall Lane. ‘Enderby Cottages’ were demolished at the end of the nineteenth century.

There is an entry for Charles Enderby on the East Greenwich 1841 Census and his occupation is listed as ‘Merchant.’ Also living in the house was George Adamson, a rope maker and his wife Sarah who is described as Enderby’s housekeeper. The other person listed was Thomas Goodger, Charles’s groom. George and Henry are on the Charlton 1841 Census in their mother’s household. Like Charles their occupation is given as ‘Merchant’. Also in 1841 Charles Enderby was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his ‘Promotion of geo graphical discovery in the Antarctic regions. ‘

One Sunday evening at the beginning of March flames shot into the sky lighting up the west side of the Greenwich Peninsula (Plate LXIII). Without knowing it the people of Greenwich were witnessing an event which would ultimately play a large part in ruining the Enderby family. Soldiers from Woolwich, Greenwich Parish officials, workmen and neighbours tried to save the works of the Enderby Brothers. The factory facing the River Thames was totally destroyed and twelve large looms were very badly damaged, as was Charles Enderby’s house. Charles lost furniture and personal belongings. A hundred feet of the rope walk was destroyed, as was the all-important engine room. The ‘Illustrated London News’ reported that about two hundred and fifty workers were thrown out of work but that the’ loss to the worthy proprietors is well covered by insurance.’ However, it seems that the works were underinsured: an item dated 15th August 1845 in Morden College Archives concerning future leases stipulated that the fire insurance covenant should cover not only the structures     for which permission had been given, but all such other buildings which may be built on the land.

By June 1845 ‘Enderby House’ was being extensively repaired. At the same time an extension was built which incorporated the attractive ‘Octagon Room’ on the first floor. This room has a striking angled bay window which looked up and down river. In 1846 the Enderbys took out a lease on Bendish Sluice, which was then covered to make a coach road to the new house. Presumably parts of the manufactory were repaired but there is little evidence that the brothers ever resurrected their East Greenwich Works. The Rope and Canvas Factory was meant to replace their reliance on whaling. Their whaler friend George Sturge of Northfleet became very prosperous when he stopped whaling and promoted the Northfleet cement industry.

Once’ again Charles, George and Henry needed a new enterprise to rescue their business – they turned to the Southern Ocean for the answer. By April 1846 the house on the riverside was habitable again. Mary Enderby had died in Charlton in February 1846 and a notice was placed in the Woolwich Journal of June 1846 to the effect that the late Mrs. Enderby’s house at Charlton was to be let or the lease disposed of. Any business they had left was run from their office in 15, Great St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, and Enderby House in East Greenwich.

The Southern Whale Fishery Company

Charles Enderby had always found Australia and New Zealand fascinating even though he had never travelled to the Antipodes. In the 1830s he bought shares in the Western Australian Whaling Company but this investment came to nothing. Charles joined a group of London ship owners in 1837 who petitioned the Board of Trade for the annexation of New Zealand. In the same year he joined the New Zealand Association. After all, the Auckland Islands, not yet legally part of New Zealand, had been discovered by an Enderby captain who claimed them for the British Crown.

Sir James Clark Ross, the famous explorer had visited the Auckland Islands in 1840. He reported that Port Ross would be an ideal site for a whaling station.  Charles Enderby was convinced that the Islands would become a prosperous British colony, making money from whale oil and seal skins as well as being a port-or-call for other ships in the Southern Ocean.

As the Enderby business in London and Greenwich crumbled he and his brother George worked at launching a new company – an 1846 Prospectus for the Southern Whale Fishery Company stated that ‘The Auckland Islands are exceedingly healthy and have rich virgin soil. The settler will be free from aboriginals, there being none on the island’.

In 1847 the British government granted the Enderbys a concession for the -exclusive use of the Auckland Islands as a whaling station. The next two years were spent in establishing the company, forming a fleet of whaling ships and canvassing for crews and settlers skilled in various trades. Sir James C. Ross .called them ‘those truly enterprising merchants the Messrs. Enderby.’

Deputy-Inspector General Richard McCormick, R.N., a man who was on Ross’s 1840 Antarctic voyage, met Charles Enderby for the first time in January 1849. He recorded the event in his’ Autobiography’ giving a rare glimpse of Charles in his East Greenwich house: ‘Thursday, January 4,1849. Having received an introduction to the Enderbys, ship owners of Great St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate Street, I called on them and met with a cordial reception. Mr. Charles Enderby, who is going out to the Auckland Islands to establish a fishery there, had a long conversation with me on these Islands.’

Charles enquired about drawings of the place and declared that McCormick would be invited to dinner. McCormick then reported: ‘On the 10th on my return from town I found Mr. George Enderby awaiting my return at my lodgings in Woolwich to ask me to come on Wednesday next to their dinner and at 6 pm on the 17th eight of us sat down, including the two brothers, at the octagon table in an octagon-shaped room. I sat next to Col. Colquhoun having Professor Airy, the Astronomer Royal, opposite to me … I left at 10pm in company with Professor Airy whose way home lay in the same direction as my own. We parted company on the Greenwich Road, I taking the lower road to Woolwich reaching my lodgings at 10.45 pm.’

‘February 14th I took my sketch of the Auckland Islands, which I made for Charles Enderby, to their office at Great St.Helen’s. He seemed much pleased with it. .’

Charles Enderby took his new friend to the Auckland Whaling Company’s office in Cornhill on March 23rd where McCormick answered questions put to him by the President and Directors of the company. There is no doubt that Charles was a brilliant salesman for the Southern Whale Fishery Company and for his own suitability as the man to set up a new colony in the far-away islands.

August 18th 1849 was the designated date of departure. Charles had been given a farewell dinner at the London Tavern on April 18th where he was spoken of as ‘one of the first citizens of London. ‘He sailed from Plymouth in the Samuel Enderby as did a young man called Frederick Bracegirdle, a grandson of a fisherman who lived at Ballast Quay in East Greenwich. Frederick was then an apprentice whaler who many years later became a Captain and Assistant Harbour Master in Sydney, Australia.

Also on the Samuel Enderby as an apprentice was Robert Reuben Bishop, born 1831 In Brewhouse Lane, Greenwich. In 1851 Charles Enderby officiated at the wedding of Robert to Hannah Towering, daughter of Chief Koro. In the late 1850s Robert Bishop came back to England but without Hannah. He settled for a time in Newcastle upon Tyne where he married again describing himself as a bachelor. Other local adventurers on the Samuel Enderby were Thomas Goodger, Charles’s groom, and Mary Gill of Greenwich (nee Munyard), and her five-year-old daughter. Thomas and Mary were married in 1849 on the voyage to the Auckland Islands. The Goodgers had a son in 1850 who they called Mateora after Chief Matioro. In 1852 they left the settlement for New Zealand but later returned to England where they kept in touch with Charles Enderby.

Making up the flotilla were the Brisk and the Fancy. The first mate on the Brisk was George Cook who acted as an interpreter for the Maori. His mother was Tiraha from the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. A photograph of George Cook indicates that his father was probably British, hence his name. Matilda Fawkes, a servant to Charles Enderby in London, married George Cook on the 22nd December 1849 thus becoming the first couple to be married on the Auckland Islands. It was also the first marriage ceremony performed by Lt. Governor Charles Enderby.

Ironically as the Samuel Enderby left Plymouth a notice appeared in the London Gazette stating that the business belonging to the Enderby brothers W IS in financial difficulties and unable to clear its debts. However, they did not declare bankruptcy as they hoped to recover when the Southern Whale Fishery Company became profitable. Charles Enderby was in receipt of a salary and expenses as the company’s Chief Commissioner. As Lt. Governor of the Auckland Islands he also received money from the Crown. The brothers also had shares in the new venture. At the same time their riverside property in East Greenwich was going on the market. In October 1849 Charles, George and Henry Enderby requested the Trustees of Morden College to take back marshland on lease to them. Morden College had no power to recover the land if but was willing to find a ‘respectable tenant’ to take their place. There was no specific mention of the house at this time. Sometime in the 1850’s George Enderby moved to Northfleet in Kent. He lived in Orme House, which was owned by Thomas Sturge, a Quaker and previously a whaling ~hip owner. George lived at Orme House until 1872 when the old house was demolished. He then moved to the Dover Road, Gravesend, where he died in 1878. Henry, also a bachelor, moved to Fulham in the 1850s where he lived with a male opera singer. He died in 1876.

At the beginning of the 1850s the Enderbys did not have the money or the inclination to resurrect their East Greenwich works. Enderby House, Enderby Wharf and various parts of the rope and canvas factories were extant but by 1854 the site was available for development. Between 1852 and 1854 William Kuper of Camberwell was making wire rope at Morden Wharf, East Greenwich. Kuper was taken over by Glass, Elliot and Company who concentrated on making submarine cables. They needed another site and the now vacant Enderby site was ideal for their expansion. After another merger in 1864 the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company Ltd came into being and became famous for making the first successful Atlantic cable. Alcatel on the same site maintains the telecommunications tradition today.

All this however was in the future when His Excellency Lt. Governor Charles Enderby sailed away in August 1849 to the other side of the world – blissfully unaware of what was to come.


The Rise and Fall of the ‘Enterprising Enderbys’ (Part Two)

Charles Enderby and the Enderby Settlement on the Auckland Islands, New Zealand, 1849-52


The collection of small Sub-Antarctic islands known as the Auckland Islands is some two hundred miles south of Stewart Island, New Zealand. In 1840 Sir James Clark Ross’s expedition to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean anchored for a brief spell in a sheltered cove in the Auckland Islands. This cove was later named Port Ross. On his return to England Ross gave glowing reports about the place. In 1847 when Charles Enderby was heavily involved in getting backing for the Southern Whale Fishery Company and its proposed new whaling station it was Sir James Ross who spoke on his behalf: ‘Those truly enterprising merchants the Messrs. Enderby would find no spot combining so completely the essential requisites for a fixed whaling station.

So it was, with great expectations that some two hundred whalers and settlers sailed out of Plymouth in August 1849 on the Samuel Enderby, the Brisk and the Fancy. Charles was on the Samuel Enderby, which was owned jointly by the Enderbys and the Southern Whale Fishery Company. This ship was the last remnant of the Enderby whaling fleet. The passengers on these ships were not escaping from religious persecution or the law. They were part of a well- ordered plan to create a new colony and had, in fact, been handpicked for their skills by Enderby and the Board of the Company. By 1849 the British had a practice of taking prefabricated buildings on their ships when establishing new settlements. The Southern Whale Fishery Company filled the three ships with ready-made buildings. There were slightly larger buildings for multi- occupancy by bachelors and small cottages for married couples and single women. Thousands of building bricks were carried in the ships as ballast. Two superior houses were to be constructed, one for the Governor on the edge of Erebus Cove and another for William Mackworth, Assistant Commissioner to Enderby. “.

Timber wharves and a large warehouse were completed by the middle of February 1850 enabling all the goods on the ships to be discharged – quite good progress as the three ships arrived between 4th December 1849 and 1st January 1850. The main settlement was at ‘Erebus Cove.’ Slightly inland a site was chosen for a town which was never built.

The idea of ‘self-sufficiency’ was very much part of the plan and three farms were established. Enderby Island also had a garden and was later designated as a holiday place for the Colony’s inhabitants possibly because of its herb- moors. Company offices, a blacksmith’s forge, cooperage and a slip for the whaling ships were necessities. A small prison was built on Shoe Island as it was anticipated that seamen would sometimes drink too much. As it happened the first prisoner was John Rodd, the Surgeon, who was taken there for drunkenness. A damp shed was all that he had for a hospital, which may just  have driven him to drink!

It was not until 1851 that a daily school for seven children began. This and Sunday’s Divine Service were left to William Mackworth, the Assistant Commissioner, to run.

The third arm of management was the Accountant responsible for paying wages to settlers, whalers and Maori inhabitants who had welcomed the arrival of the Southern Whale Fishery Company. They were a pool of labour needed in the creation of what was hopefully to be a fair copy of a British fishing port. Sadly, the climate was far from pleasant and the landscape was on the whole ‘harsh.’ Farming, both animal and arable, was to prove difficult because the soil was ‘sour.’ Just three months after his arrival in the Auckland Islands LO. Smith, the first Accountant, became ill and resigned because of heart trouble. His replacement was William Munce of Sydney. Life in the Enderby Settlement fell short of what had been promised and the situation worsened when two Special Commissioners of the Southern Whaling Fishery Company arrived from London at the end of 1851 resulting in a bitter conflict between them and Charles Enderby.

Life in the Enderby Settlement, 1849-1852 based on the Diaries of William Mackworth and William Munce

Charles Enderby’s progression to the Auckland Islands has been explained. In England he was the main driving force in setting up a new colony and whaling station in the Antipodes. William Mackworth and William Munce had no previous connection with whaling and the oil trade; their family backgrounds were totally different. Mackworth’s grandfather was Sir Digby Mackworth, 3rd Baronet and his father was Lieut. Herbert Mackworth R.N., born in 1825. William Mackworth had a public school education and, in 1844, was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge. He did not shine at Trinity and after 1845 he dropped out of the official records. However, all was not lost as at the age of twenty-four he became Enderby’s Assistant Commissioner.

William Munce, born in 1814, was the son of an owner of a wholesale cloth warehouse in Dublin. He received a good education in Ireland but, in 1831, the family sailed to Hobart with a cargo of goods for sale. Samuel Munce then took his business and family to Launceston, Australia, where he opened a store, built a house for himself and then became a builder of ‘Luxurious Houses, Furnished Throughout.’ By 1841, when he died, he was wealthy. His son William had moved to Sydney in 1836 in order to become an accountant. He was well regarded in Sydney and, in July 1850, was offered the job with the Southern Whale Fishery Company. Whereas Enderby and Mackworth were both single Munce was a widower with six children. In December 1850 three of his children and his sister-in-law, Elizabeth McKenny, arrived at Port Ross and later the same day Lieut. Governor Charles Enderby married William and Elizabeth.

Apart from some dry official reports about the activities of the Southern Whale Fishery Company written by the Directors and Charles Enderby be- tween 1850 and 1855 there would have been no detailed record of what took place in the Colony between 1850 and 1852. However, both Mackworth and Munce kept personal Diaries about daily events in the Enderby Settlement. These were discovered and studied in the late Twentieth Century allowing, amongst other things, an insight into the character of Charles Enderby. The question arises as to whether he kept a Diary too. If he did it has disappeared without trace but this is not surprising as the vast majority of Enderby family and business records have vanished into thin air.

The Samuel Enderby with Charles on board reached Port Ross on 4th December 1849. The Brisk arrived at the same place on 11th December 1849. A few weeks later the slower Fancy carrying William Mackworth sailed into Port Ross on 1st January 1850. Mackworth began his Diary immediately and with some criticism of the Chief Commissioner. Could it be that the much younger man recovered from the long journey quicker than his fifty-two year old superior? Mackworth wrote that the confusion on the ships made him anxious and that he undertook the management of affairs on shore. He appointed the Captains of the Brisk and the Samuel Enderby as magistrates and then instructed them to reduce the supply of ‘spirituous liquor.’ A week after his first diary entry Mackworth again queried Enderby’s ability to deal with the Company’s employees. On 8th January he wrote:

‘Found some of the landsmen on board the Samuel Enderby discussing some grievance this morning with the Governor and refusing to go to work. Begged His Excellency to leave the management of the men entirely to me which he stated his intention to do. They obeyed my orders:’

On the 11th February 1850, Charles Enderby placed the management of affairs in Mackworth’s hands. On 4th March he wrote about another dispute: ‘Four men on strike because Enderby would not enlarge their potato allowance.’ Notice the absence of the title ‘His Excellency’ in the entry. To add to the Chief Commissioner’s woes the Brisk arrived back from a whaling trip empty. Mackworth simply wrote    – 17th March – ‘Arrived the Brisk from the south. No Oil.’

By the end of March 1850 more new whaling ships belonging to the Southern Whale Fishery Company arrived at Port Ross. On Good Friday (29th March) Mackworth noted in his diary that the Chief Commissioner had made it a holiday but that persons were permitted to work and be paid overtime. No heavy-handed employer here but a more enlightened policy. Many of Mack- worth’s entries simply record brief details about the ships and their crews. However on 17th April 1850 Mackworth wrote: ‘His Excellency suffered last night from a violent spasmodic attack but was fortunately soon pronounced out of danger – we were much alarmed at the time.’ This in fact was the first of at least three ‘violent fits’ that Charles Enderby had whilst in the Settlement.

William Munce left Sydney for the Auckland Islands on 27th July 1850. As Munce headed for Port Ross, Charles Enderby left on 1st August for New Zealand. The purpose of his visit was to order stores and other supplies for the Settlement. He was away for six weeks during which time Munce had sailed into Port Ross.

William Munce arrived in the Settlement on 18th August and, in his Diary entry for 20th August, he reported that he was to have a room in the Governor’s house until Enderby returned from New Zealand.

Charles Enderby arrived in Wellington on 13th August 1850 and the ‘Wellington Independent’ newspaper published an optimistic report about the future of the Enderby Settlement on the Auckland Islands. The Lieut. Governor    of the Auckland Islands set out to re-assure Sir George Grey, Governor of New Zealand that the settlers were ‘in high spirits’ and that crops and farm animals’ were doing remarkably well.’ The Colony was not quite a year old and although what Charles Enderby said was not strictly true it was to be expected that there would be teething problems. Also, more importantly, it was he who had listened intently to what Sir James Ross and Robert McCormick had told him about the Islands. Luckily for them their short sojourn at Port Ross was in good weather giving the impression of a pleasant fertile place. In the early 1850s the Directors of the Southern Whale Fishery Company turned on Charles Enderby when things went wrong and accused him of lying about the Islands. Sadly he had only reported what he had been told by two renowned explorers.

However, Charles Enderby’s words about what was the real reason for the Colony were erroneous. In August 1850 he said, ‘Whales are beginning to frequent the Auckland Islands in great numbers.’ This was not so and whaling in ‘home’ waters proved impossible on the whole. Only two catches rated attention during the Company’s presence in the islands. In January 1851 a School .of pilot whales ‘chased into Laurie Harbour, yielding about fifty barrels of oil and a large whale, which was take n in the Islands in June 1852, produced sixty barrels.’ The whalers also hunted and killed seals but the sale of sealskins and seal oil from these products would not be able to sustain the Southern Whale Fishery Company and the number of oil-filled barrels was disappointingly low.

The Lieut. Governor returned to Port Ross on 14th September and took over the running of the settlement from William Mackworth. There is no doubt that ‘drink’ was a major problem – a problem which affected officers and work- men alike. Women also took to the bottle. On 17th October 1850 Hephzibah Hallett, the sister of Chief Medical Officer Hallett, tried to shoot her brother. She missed him but shot herself in the head. Fortunately, she recovered and Mackworth decided to form a Total Abstinence Society. About six inhabitants signed ‘The Pledge.’ William Mackworth visited New Zealand in late October and William Munce was appointed Magistrate in his place.

On 21st October Charles Enderby asked Dr. Hallett to resign. The following day Charles suffered another ‘spasmodic attack’ possibly due to the strain of the Hallett affair. A week later Charles Enderby agreed to keep Dr. Hallett as the Colony’s doctor on Hallett’s assurance that his sister would not behave badly again.

Sir George and Lady Grey arrived in Ross Bay on 28th November 1850. Governor Grey stepped ashore to a four-gun salute. He and his wife were invited to the First Anniversary Celebrations of the founding of the Colony. A ‘dejeuner’, food, games and dancing were planned but the ‘dejeuner’ was postponed when Miss Hallett arrived. Female guests left but, later on, there was singing and dancing. The Greys left the Auckland Islands the next day impressed by Charles’s energy. Dr. Hallett was finally dismissed on 27th December 1850 and two weeks later he and his sister sailed to Sydney on the Fancy.

The first day of January 1851 was a holiday and the year began with good weather and a fair number of barrels of oil to be sent to Sydney. By the last week in January there were eight whaling ships based at Port Ross but Mack- worth was having difficulty in recruiting crews on account of the California Gold Rush. In London the Directors of the Southern Whale Fishery Company were worried about the small profit from oil received from Port Ross and the large amount of money needed to maintain the settlement. The main problem as far as Enderby, Mackworth and Munce were concerned was the continuous high consumption of alcohol. Medical Officer Rodd nearly drowned when he  fell near the jetty – he was completely intoxicated. He was once again imprisoned Shoe Island for a day.

Far more serious was the case of John Cooper, a bricklayer, who was sentenced to three months on Shoe Island for threatening to kill Lieut. Governor Enderby. Cooper arrived at the prison on 12th February and he, with other prisoners, immediately burnt it down! William Mackworth recorded in his diary that he had a problem with Charles Enderby, who sent troublemakers and drunkards to prison and invariably set them free very, very quickly. The Assistant Commissioner was beginning to question Charles Enderby’s ability to run the Colony.

When ships of the Royal Navy sailed into Port Ross the Lieut. Governor entertained the Captain, officers and passengers. William Mackworth and William  Munce were usually invited. The Assistant Commissioner and the Accountant rarely criticized Charles Enderby in their diaries but they did not praise him much either. However on 12th May 1851, William Mackworth recorded that the whalers were ‘mutinous’ over the destruction of ‘spirituous liquor.’ He wrote: ‘The wisest step of the Chief Commissioner since his arrival had been taken today.’ The problem of drink was not solved as Mackworth later wrote: ‘General scene of intoxication afloat and on shore.’ Suddenly Charles Enderby decided to go to New Zealand, leaving the management of affairs in Mack- worth’s hands. On 4th July 1851, Charles left the settlement and did not return until 29th October 1851. He appears to have conducted some business on behalf of the Southern Whale Fishery Company in Sydney and Wellington. In Wellington he denied rumours that the settlement was breaking up. Through- out his life things had often gone wrong for Charles and this trip would add to his worries. He travelled to Auckland especially to see Bishop Selwyn about engaging a clergyman for the Auckland Islands. It was a completely wasted journey as the Bishop was far away.

When Charles Enderby did return to Port Ross, William Munce wrote in his diary: ‘October 31st, 1851 – Received the accounts from the Governor of transactions in Sydney and New Zealand – all in a mixed state which will make it difficult to enter satisfactorily.’ Back in London, the Directors of the Company were not at all happy about their far-removed enterprise and had dispatched two ‘Special Commissioners’ to the Auckland Islands with powers to alter things if necessary. George Dundas, M.P. for Linlithgow and Thomas Preston, Secretary of the Southern Whale Fishery Company, arrived on 19th December 1851 and within three days took over the management of everything

On New Year’s Eve William Munce and other officers spent the evening with Charles Enderby who promptly produced two bottles of champagne. Very quickly Dundas and Preston began to make life unpleasant for the Lieut. Governor. In order to get a crew together for whaling they acted like a ‘Press Gang’ by taking Crozier, Charles’s cook, and young boys called ‘Raw Hands.’ Munce felt their attitude to Charles Enderby was very arrogant. For some unexplained reason William Munce only made one more entry in his diary, although he did not leave the Colony until the end of July 1852. William Mackworth returned from Sydney on 20th February 1852 to find that Charles  Enderby had resigned his post as Chief Commissioner at the insistence of the Special Commissioners. The next day a black sailor named John Downs died. On 22nd February Charles Enderby, no longer Chief Commissioner but still Lieut. Governor of the Auckland Islands, claimed that Downs had died from serious neglect and that the Special Commissioners did nothing to help him. Enderby refused to bury John Downs until he had seen the cause of death on a death certificate. To counter this demand the Special Commissioners appointed William Mackworth as Acting Chief Commissioner on 23rd February and ordered him to have John Downs buried at once, an instruction which he immediately carried out. The ‘John Downs affair’ brought Charles Enderby into direct conflict with the Special Commissioners and he put up notices around the Settlement stating that he had been ‘grossly insulted.’

The next three years of Charles Enderby’s life were given over to legal action against Dundas and Preston concerning their total neglect of John Downs. The action started in New Zealand and ended in the Westminster Parliament.

 The end of the Enderby Settlement and the departure of Charles Enderby for New Zealand

On their arrival the Special Commissioners had inspected the accounts and, seeing heavy expenditure and small returns, they declared that the failure of the whaling settlement was inevitable. They accused Charles Enderby of telling lies about everything. However, they did not have the power to cancel his title of ‘Lieut. Governor of the Auckland Islands.’ No longer in the employ of the Southern Whale Fishery Company, Dundas and Preston gave instructions for Enderby’s wages to be made up. He would receive nothing for the three and a half months he had spent in New Zealand in 1851 and, rather spitefully, he was charged for the spirits he had destroyed in an effort to stop heavy drinking amongst the Company’s employees. On 25th February 1855

William Mackworth reported that Charles had told him that he would do his best to ruin the Company if its representatives went on treating him badly. The next day he was ordered to give up his official residence. Charles Enderby replied that he would not comply with the order and that he would shoot Mackworth or any other man attempting to remove him or his effects from the house. William Mackworth then decided not to talk to Charles unless he was forced to. A few days later Charles Enderby gave in and moved out of his residence and moved into some small rooms. At this point he must have felt abandoned, as he was not allowed to take post or packages to any ship in Port Ross. He was also to inform Mackworth if he wanted to visit other parts of the Auckland Islands. He was being treated like a prisoner.

The Special Commissioners informed Charles that he would have to leave and travel with them to Wellington on 8th March 1852. Enderby sent a note to them refusing to leave. As it happened Sir Everard Home had arrived on H.M.S Calliope and he informed him that he was Lieut. Governor until he received notice from Her Majesty’s Government. H.M.S. Calliope left Port Ross on 31st March leaving Enderby isolated again. The inhabitants of the Settlement were informed at the end of March that the Company was abandoning the Auckland Islands. Buildings, which belonged to the Company, would be taken to pieces and sold in Sydney or New Zealand. There was a sale by auction of goods from Charles’s rooms and he received £13.Us.3d for the same. The Special Commissioners made arrangements for the Maoris and Moriori to go to New Zealand if they wanted to. George Cook replied on their behalf that they wished to remain on the Islands. William Mackworth had hardly mentioned the Maoris in his diary but an entry for 5th April 1852 reads: ‘The  two New Zealand chiefs were offered the use of two vacant houses of the Company by the Special Commissioners. Nanterri declined, the wife of Mateoro accepted one for her husband without much appearance of thankfulness. These poor creatures do not feel, think or act as we do and it is very difficult to know how to deal with them.

The Black Dog was made ready to take passengers to New Zealand. On 11th April 1852 Charles visited Enderby Island with some of the Company’s workers. William Mackworth was annoyed because he had not been told about the ‘outing.’ Charles was still against going to New Zealand and on 12th April the Special Commissioners threatened to put him in irons unless he agreed to go with them to Wellington. He was being treated as though he had committed a crime and, because of this, Charles Enderby agreed to go with them ‘in order to refute their several charges.’

At last the Black Dog left Port Ross on 24th April 1852 and Charles Enderby’s life on the Auckland Islands was over. He arrived in Wellington on 17th May 1852 with wages owing him from 1851 and money from the sale of his goods  – altogether he had about £128. In Wellington Charles turned to Sir George Grey for support and amazingly won his sympathy with the result that Preston and Dundas were arrested! They were released on bail because Dundas was a Member of Parliament. In fact, Sir George Grey felt that the dispute was a Company matter and he did not want to interfere. And so it was that, on 24th May 1852, Lieut. Governor Charles Enderby, in full regalia, George Dundas and Thomas Preston attended the Queen’s Birthday Ball where Sir George Grey named Charles as the Guest of Honour. For a few hours Charles Enderby was able to enjoy his high rank! Behind the scenes the position of Sir George Grey was difficult. He knew that the Auckland Islands had become part of New Zealand in 1842 but lack of communication between the Colonial Office in London and New Zealand confused the issue and the Islands were wrongly named as a separate British Crown Colony in 1849. Therefore the descendant of rich whalers held his high office by default.

In June 1852 the case of Enderby versus Dundas and Preston was heard in Wellington. Lack of evidence meant there would be no trial but the Judge reprimanded the Special Commissioners for the way they had treated Charles Enderby. Costs were covered by both parties but Dundas and Preston had to pay Charles £400. A very good sum in 1852.

Whilst Enderby was engrossed in his legal battle in New Zealand, William Mackworth and William Munce were organizing the closure of the Colony. In July 1852 the Munce family left for Sydney where William became a successful businessman. He died in 1892.

On 4th August 1852 one hundred and twenty three seamen and ninety-two colonists sailed with William Mackworth to Dunedin, New Zealand. Here William married his fiancée Juliet Valpy. Mackworth wrote in his diary on 4th August: ‘At sea. Calm all night … The satisfaction I feel at this moment is be- yond description. My miserable life at Port Ross will never be forgotten.’ He made one more entry on 13th August 1852 which was about the bad weather and the difficulty of the journey his entry ended with these words: ‘Pilot and Captain both inform me that there is no cause for uneasiness on the score of the ship. Blowing a gale of wind from the North East.’

William and his wife visited England in 1853/4 and then sailed from Bristol to Melbourne. Sadly, William died of typhoid fever in Melbourne on 4th December 1855. He was thirty years old.

Charles Enderby stayed in Wellington for another year trying to win his ‘case’ against the Special Commissioners. He eventually arrived back in England towards the end of 1853 determined to take his grievance to Parliament.

The end of ‘Enderby Brothers ‘Whose interest in Antarctic exploration was such that it eventually bankrupted them’ (Fergus Fleming. Barrow’s Boys. 1998)

The failure of the business cannot be totally blamed on Charles Enderby although he had a bad press in some Twentieth Century articles on the whaling industry. It was inevitable that the invention of gas lights would eventually diminish the need for whale oil. Very early gas lighting gave off a yellow glow and a horrid smell but it was a vast improvement on crude whale oil lamps. For instance, gas lights in mills were safer than oil lamps enabling production to continue through the night. The Enderbys had contact with the new gas maker and their by-products from gas, but whether their rope works at East Greenwich was using gas is unknown. It would be ironic if their own whale oil had contributed to its destruction in the 1845 fire.

Whether Charles Enderby visited Greenwich when he came back from New Zealand is debatable. His family had left the area and the business had collapsed. Whaling, rope making and white lead manufacture were all completely finished. The firm was dissolved in 1854 but, because it was not declared bankrupt, there are no official papers and the family’s business records have mostly disappeared. Charles had left England in 1849 as His Excellency Lieut. Governor Enderby. He returned as Mr. Enderby but still obsessed with pursuing Dundas and Preston for turning him out of Government House in the Enderby Settlement and therefore ‘demoting’ him. He also had a burning com- plaint against them over Seaman John Downs and his death from ‘Salivation, scurvy and dysentery.’ Fairly or unfairly Charles was determined to prove that the two Special Commissioners had deliberately left Downs to die. This  Co.. –  was, of course, a lost cause. Parliamentary Papers of 1855 record letters from Charles Enderby: two with the Enderby’s old City address of 13, Great St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, but most of his letters to Westminster had no address at all. Two were addressed to R.Peel, Esq., M.P., Downing Street. Too late, for Sir Robert Peel had died in 1850.

On 22nd February 1858, Charles Enderby read a short paper on ‘Sabrina Land’ at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society. At the same time he presented Captain John Balleny’s ‘Journal’, written on board the Eliza Scott, to the Society. Balleny had been one of the Enderbys’ Antarctic captains. The Royal Geographical Society also has a few letters which Charles sent to the Secretary in about 1860. The correspondence concerned back issues of the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society which he wanted to be sent to Thomas Sturge.

Charles Enderby wrote to Dr. Norton Shaw, Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, in 1861 about recent Antarctic discoveries. A few sentences from his letter illustrate what he felt was the purpose of his life: ‘It is the duty of the Government to follow up the recent Antarctic discoveries not only for the object of affording large returns from prosecuting the seal fisheries but for the purpose of determining the formation of the planet we inhabit. I feel deeply interested in all that concerns the Antarctic Ocean and am very desirous of inducing some of our scientific navigation to urge on the Government the importance of equipping another expedition to those seas.’

Charles Enderby, the man who had tried to save a once prosperous family business by moving it to the other side of the world, died on 31st August 1876, aged seventy-eight. By then he was in an impecunious state and due to ill health ‘living in a back room off the Fulham Road.’

My thanks to the following for their help and forbearance:  – Conon Fraser in New Zealand; Sarah Strong, Royal Geographical Society; New Zealand High Commission, London; Julian Watson. Humphrey at Southwark Local Studies Library, Ken McGoverin in Gravesend, Dr. Mary Mills, Jenny O’Keefe at Greenwich Heritage Centre, Neil Rhind, Julian Watson, Elizabeth Wiggans at Morden College Archives and Katie George, Archivist to the Salters’ Company.

Select Bibliography

Enderby, Barbara. Enderby family tree. Ms.

Enderby, H.H. Notebook. Wanganui, N.Z. 1941.

Enderby Settlement Diaries, 1849-1852. Edited by P.Dingwall, C.Fraser, J.G.Gregory, C.J.R.Robertson. Wild Press and Wordsell Press. 1999. N.Z.

Bishop, N. Seafaring Bishops. 2006

Bowers, B. Sir Charles Wheatstone. 1975

Dakin, W.J. Whalemen adventurers. 1934

Fleming, F. Barrows Boys. 1998

Hubbard, G. Cooke and Wheatstone. 1965

Jones, A.E.G. The British Southern Whale and Seal Fisheries. 1981

Kimbell, J. An account of Legacies … 1816

McCormick, R. Voyages of Discovery in the Arctic and Antarctic Seas … 1881

Tadman, J. Captain Fred. Bracegirdle, Master Mariner, 1999

Lawford, G.L. & Nicholson, L.R. Te1con Story, 1850-1950. 1950

Transactions of the Greenwich and Lewisham Antiquarian Society


Original sources:

Greenwich and Southwark Rate Books

Census turns

Parish Registers

Poll Books


Trade Directories

Wills and Letters


Enderby Legacy in Antarctica and Sub-Antarctica

Enderby Land, Antarctica; Mount Gordon, Antarctica; Enderby Island in the Auckland Islands, Sub-Antarctica,

There has never been a permanent settlement on the islands since the colonists and the Maori left in the mid-1850s. Erebus Cove Museum is now in the castaway boatshed next to the tourist landing site. A track leads to the settlers’ cemetery. Some house sites are visible but the taking of souvenirs is forbidden. Today, Enderby Island is famous for the wild life there: Hooker Sea Lions, Yellow-Eyed Penguins, the Royal Albatross and, of course, the Herb Moors.


The Enderby Legacy in literature

The Pequod of Nantucket meets the Samuel Enderby of London: ‘Ship ahoy! Hast seen the White Whale?’ So cried Ahab.’ (Herman Melville. Moby Dick. 1851.) (concluded)


The Enderby Legacy in Greenwich:

There are reminders of the Enderby family in Greenwich today: Enderby House and Enderby Wharf on the Greenwich Peninsula and Enderby Street in East Greenwich.

A model of the Samuel Enderby whaling ship is in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

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Largest Thames Collier comes to Greenwich

From Mercury February 1st 1946



On Wednesday morning a brand new ship steamed up the Thames with her first cargo of coal from Newcastle and moored off East Greenwich. She is the ss Effra owned by the South Metropolitan Gas Company and is the first replacement of the company’s war losses.

This however is not the only distinction the ss Effra can claim. Being a   vessel of 4,050 tons, she is the largest collier to navigate the Thames having twice the cargo capacity of other vessels in the company’s fleet.

She arrived with 3.900 tons of coal on board and is scheduled to make three trips a fortnight from Newcastle to East Greenwich with coal for south – east London.

Mr. A.D. Seaton the company’s sales manager invited a Mercury representative to look over the new ship and chat to the Master, Captain Sidney H. Smith who has been with the company since 1923 when he joined ad Chief Officer.

a sturdy north countryman with a quiet pleasing voice he said that the ship completed her trials on Monday and behaved wonderfully well…“our 4,000 ton cargo can be loaded in a  day and a half and can discharge at East Greenwich in about 12 hours with four grabs working. His crew of 21 are mostly North Country men many of them Scotsmen.


The ss Effra has a silhouette that is different from other colliers, her engines and part of the crew accommodation are aft instead of amidships and here many other improvements.

She carries an echo sounding device as an aid to navigation and the operator merely turns a knob on the instrument and an automatic pencil registers on a chart the exact depth of water under the vessel. She is 304 feet long with an extreme breath of 44 feet three inches and a moulded depth of 21 feet four and half inches. Her loaded draft is 19 feet.

The Masters cabin is cream panelled with blue soft furnishings and furniture of light mahogany. Adjoining it is a comfortable sized bathroom. A soft blue carpeted staircase leads to the officers mess room and each two members of the crew share a cosy little cabin.

There is a central heating system and officer meals are cooked on an anthracite economy cooker. The crew cook their own meals on a coal burning stove and there is an ample refrigerator to keep the food in good condition.

Mr. Roy Wilson is marine superintendent to the company. His job is to supervise the company’s shipping and many of the improvements on the ss Effra are due to his suggestions following consultations with the Masters and ships officers and crews. In the navigating room Captain Smith demonstrated a modern loud speaker device by which his voice is carried to any part of the ship or other vessel.

The name Effra is derived from the old river Effra which at one time flowed though Brixton Dulwich and Herne Hill. Tributaries of this river still supply water for Dulwich Park Lake and the ponds in Brockwell Park. The old river has been diverted into a storm water sewer.

Skipper in D Day landings

Captain S.S. Smith served with the Royal Navy in both the Great War 1914-18 and the World War. He took part on the landing in Madagascar and in Sicily and is the Navy covering of the D Day landings on the Normandy beaches. He was released from active service last September with the rank of Lieut Commander RNVR.

He served aboard the first ss Effra which was purchased by the company in 1915 and was the only one of the company’s ships acquired during the 1914-18 war to be still running when the Armistice was concluded

She completed her thousandth voyage between the Tyne and the Thames in 1935 and was torpedoed and sunk on April 17 1941 when two lives were lost.

The South Metropolitan Gas Company commenced the late war with seven vessels each of some 2,000 tons capacity and of these four were lost. ss Brixton, sunk by a mine August `5 1940. ss Old Charlton dive bombed and sunk February 27th 1941, one officer dying from his injuries, ss Effra torpedoed by an E boat and sunk April 17th 1941 when  two men lost their lives; ss Catford sunk by mine May 31st 1943 when the master four of the crew lost their lives. The new fleet consists of four ships the Camberwell, Redriff, Brockley and the new Effra.

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Percival Moses Parsons – with a foundry in Banning Street

On the 1867 map Thames Foundry is marked – and directories carry advertisements for the sale of ‘white brass’ a Thames Foundry, East Greenwich, the invention of a Mr.P.M. Parsons.

Neil Rhind says of Parsons – One of the most extraordinary industrial pioneers in our area was Percival Moses Parsons, first of No 44 in 1855, then to the brand new No 136 Shooters Hill Road. He invented manganese bronze in his back garden. His obituary in the Blackheath Local Guide (November 19 1892) was full.   Young Parsons, born in London in 1819, had shown a great interest in engineering, mechanics and invention from an early age. After an education at a private boys’ school in Blackheath (name not known) he worked from the age of 15 at the Portsmouth Dockyard and later on the Eastern County Railways until 1845. While with them he  invented switches and axle boxes.  In 1851 he married Anne Jane Rexford, of Greenwich, whose mother also Jane conducted a private school for girls in Greenwich South Street, and still standing.
In 1855 he achieved what seemed to be an undoubted technical and business success by contriving a system of converting useless cast iron guns into rifled guns by boring them out and inserting steel tubes.  In 1859 he suffered another disappointment, the failure of his plan (with others) to invest in the plans for the Central London Railway, where all the new railway lines coming into London would not finish at the various London termini – King’s Cross, Euston, Waterloo, Victoria etc.
In 1871 Parsons  was appointed Engineer to the Bessemer Steel & Ordnance Company and supervised the building of the whole of the Company’s new works at East Greenwich, a task which occupied him at least two years.
During his research into the re-boring  of guns his attention was turned to study of the use of metals generally;  and his experience with machinery had demonstrated to him the importance of the arrangement of shaft-bearings and other surfaces which rubbed together and for which ordinarily “gun metal” (an alloy of copper and tin) had been used.  Parsons was convinced that he could improve on this and installed a private mechanical laboratory at his house on Shooters Hill Road.  Here he experimented with all sorts of metals and, finally produced a better compound comprised of zinc and lead which he called “white b rass”.  It was another success and came to be used widely through the rest of 19th century especially in marine engines. By his death his invention was known to every engineer in the land as white brass.
More dramatic, perhaps, was his continued quest for a material which while as strong as steel should be free from the risk of corrosion which developed with all preparations which included iron.  After many years work he produced a dramatic result a material with the strength of steel and one that would not corrode. in his back garden furnace.
Parsons hit the jackpot once more with manganese bronze, a combination of ferro-manganese with bronze and brass alloys.  There was at first some difficulty in getting it known and introduced but it was taken up by a commercial company and in due course manganese bronze was fitted to virtually every vessel driven by a propeller.  By the end of 19th century it was in considerable use for the propellers of steamers and in other cases where strength and durability were required equally.
Parsons went on to develop  screw bolts for armour plating and other fixings including a tubular armour-plated bolt that the Russian government adopted with eagerness.

It also seems very likely that he had a foundry in what is now Chester Street, on the east side and the south corner with Derwent Street

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Extract from report prepared by London Rivers Assocaition (late 1980s) on currently working river wharves

This is the largest sea dredged aggregates firm to operate on the Thames. It recently purchased the Delta Wharf site (over 4 acres) with a view to using it to land and Process Sea dredged sand and gravel. At present it has a large plant and Head Quarters at Purfleet but feels that it needs a processing plant on the south side of the Thames.

The company operates two 5,000 ton sand and gravel dredgers. If it can find processing sites it will invest in further dredging vessels. It considers that increasingly building materials such as sand and gravel will have to be obtained from the sea bed because of environmental objections to the use of land derived sources. At present the economics` are finely balanced. Marine dredged aggregates are more expensive to mine (despite the fact that no rent is paid to owners), but cheaper to transport. This gives a premium to landing these aggregates as near as possible to the end use.

The first planning application was turned down because of objections from the houses that are close by and because of a concern that the operation would not generate a significant amount of new employment.

A second planning application has been recently presented which the applicants hope will be more acceptable as it involves a smaller site within the same employment levels and will free parts of the 5 acre site for other employment generating uses.

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Victoria Deep Water Wharf

VICTORIA DEEP WATER TERM Extract from report by London Rivers Association (late 1980s) on the state of currently working wharves “This is the only wharf in the Borough that handles containers. Currently over 40,000 boxes a year passes through the 40 acre site. This is somewhat up on previous years but is nowhere near the full capacity of the site. The terminal has two modern gantry cranes and two large 279 metre berths. In the past few years the company has given up operating a two shift system undertaking groupage on site. Employment has fallen from 75 dockworkers and 60 staff four years ago to 20 and 30 respectively today. Two shipping lines account for almost all of their traffic – Bell Lines and Seacon. However both these are currently expanding and are happy with the service provided. The management are worried that by going out to attract new traffic they could alienate their long-standing customers. The company’s biggest problem is the size of their site and their rate bill (over £200,000 per annum). They are looking for a compatible tenant for part their site and are campaigning for all ports to be assessed for rates on the same basis.

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