The Enderby site

The Enderby family used this section of the Greenwich riverside where they built a factory.
This covered:
Site marked K1 on Skinner and 152 and 153. It also includes the part of 151 running along the top of the plot – the ropewalk. This was leased from Morden College, who had acquired it as part of a land swap when the gunpowder magazine was built in the seventeenth century. In the 1840s it was described as a paddock and meadow. Some cottages had been built fronting on to Blackwall Lane. Their lease expired in 1854 and it was then leased to a George Smith, and then to a Mr. Keiser.
Part of site marked K2 on Skinner – and shown as 149 and part of 151 on the tithe map. This is the main section of the Enderby factory.

Section which is K3 on the Skinner plan (the area of the gunpowder depot) The tithe map shows the area (marked 265) further intersected by a pathway which appears to lead to a building which is, perhaps, Salution House. It was in use by a Calvert Clark by 1858. In 1843 the riverfront section also shows a cottage and garden.

In 2002 Groundwork said: Enderby’s Wharf  – Owned by Alcatel and open to the public during daylight hours. Historic wharf used for, rope and cable loading, in use as recently as 1979 – from here the world’s first transatlantic cable was loaded onto BruneI’s Great Eastern.
Improvements have included the provision of new perimeter railings, gates and surfacing, a refurbished and planted boat, and a timber platform for events and displays. The historic cable relay tower was refurbished and cable winding gear made safe and relocated on the wharf. Alcatel’s contemporary activities are represented by a map of their submarine networks around the world, and by the display of a repeater unit as currently manufactured at the site. Additionally one of the Industrial Heritage Interpretation panels is located here. Delivered by: Deptford Discovery Team. Date implemented: 1999-2000 (cable winding gear refurbished 2002) Funded by: Alcatel and LDA .Designed by: JCLA and Deptford Discovery Team. Contractors: Roadways and Car Parks Ltd, James Garner, Alcatel, DDT Ltd.
Ferry Steps and Slipway – Refurbishment of the steps down to the concrete slipway that served ferries to cable-loading ships moored off Enderby’s Wharf. Carved timber steps, rep-
resenting history and current activities of Alcatel, were implemented in 2001 by Greenwich Mural Workshop, funded by: Alcatel and Groundwork. Artist: Richard Lawrence Possible groyne construction to prevent the steps from being covered by river silt

Alcatel Jetty. This disused structure has been transformed into a “green jetty” following structural investigations which revealed that re-opening or public access were not feasible without reconstruction. The jetty is planted with a mixture of native stonecrops and a natural colonisation by species indigenous to the riverside is taking place. Delivered by: Deptford Discovery Team Funded by: LDA Designed by: JCLA. Structural report: Robert West Consulting Engineers Contractors: Roadways and Car Parks Ltd

Gallows”: Former Jetty Remains Decaying timber remnant of former jetty structure. Proposed as site for a water feature powered by renewable energy, by Greenwich Mural Workshop, who are carrying out a feasibility study

In 2014 everything has been swept away and the site is being developed by Barratts for housing.

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Salution House

Salution House shown on Morden College deed

Salution House is shown on a number of plans – and remains a complete mystery. It is marked on a Morden College Survey plan of c. 1800 and, while not marked, can be seen on the 1843 tithe map.  It is marked as such on a Morden College deed of 1858 and can still be seen on the 1880s Ordnance Map.

‘Salutation House’ was a common name for a public house at the time – but this building is isolated, inland with no obvious road or footpath access. Clearly the spelling is also different.

An alternative is that this is actually ‘Solution House’ and that it has some relation to the bleach works, or vitriol works which was nearby.

On plans of the 1840s – 1860s, however, a clear pathway is shown from the riverside going to the building. After 1870 as the Telegraph Works became built up the site becomes unidentifiable among a jumble of factory buildings – but an aeriel photograph of the 1951s shows a building on site with the same layout as that shown on the plan.  A building on the site has been demolished since 2010

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Petition against the powder magazine

Reason for removing the Magazine of Gunpowder at Greenwich to some more convenient place and further Distance from the said Town and the Cities of London and Westminster.

The apparent Danger the said Magazine is exposed to, of being blown up by Treachery, lightning and other Accidents, arising from its present defenceless Situation and ruinous condition, and the extensive and scare repairable Damage with which the Explosion of perhaps 6 or 8,000 barrels of powder must be attended, cannot but cause terrible apprehensions to all who seriously consider it.

I. The Inhabitants of the Town of Greenwich, and the places adjacent must suffer inconceivably in their Lives and Properties, from the Destruction of the Royal Palace, and that superb building the Royal Hospital for Seamen, the much to be dreaded consequence of such an Explosion. And who will pretend to say how much his Majesty’s Dockyards and Storehouses both at Deptford and Woolwich, and even the Cities of London and Westminster, may be affected by it.

II .The Banks of the River, not only on the Kentish side, but also on the Essex shore, would be so demolished by the shock, as greatly to obstruct the Navigation if the River; and many ships sailing, or at anchor would in all probably be destroyed.

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Francis Peyton


Although the identity of Francis Peyton is not clear there were Peytons active in Greenwich, and in Government circles in this period.

In Greenwich in 1636, ‘Thomas Peyton of Deptford’ had been granted a patent for ‘charking sea coals’. Exactly who he was is not known but someone who knew Deptford well was Sir Thomas Peyton of Knowlton near Chillenden who also had an interest in property in the Mottingham area. He had an interest in coal supplies to London since he acquired the right to levy customs on coal for £2,000. John Evelyn knew him, and described visits by mutual friends and social visits in the early 1650s. Peyton had been involved in one of the many skirmishes of the Civil War when, following petitions raised in Canterbury, he was appointed Lt.General of a party of 6,000 horsemen and 1,000 foot soldiers. At Deptford this force met Fairfax who had four regiments of horsemen and three regiments of infantry. Battles ensued at Northfleet and Maidstone.

Thomas Peyton’s interest in coke manufacture in Greenwich has been linked to the Deptford copperas works – and it may also be of note that the site around Enderby  Wharf may also have been used for copperas manufacture.

There were other Peytons who might well have had a relative with an interest in the Greenwich riverside – In 1597 Sir John Peyton, who died in 1630, had been Governor of the Tower of London It must be a coincidence that it was from the Tower that the gunpowder depot was moved by the Government.

The Early East London Gas Industry And Its Waste Products



Wayne Cocroft has provided us with information about the Greenwich magazine, including a print (Greenwich Local History Library, Martin Collection 1182) which is thought to date from the 1730s. The history of the building of this magazine has been summarised by O.F.G.Hogg in The Royal Arsenal, vol 1, OUP, 1963 pp 106-7. In October 1694 the Ordnance Office wrote to the Treasury explaining that the Queen had been pleased because gunpowder had been removed from Greenwich house to stores at Gravesend and Tilbury which were now full so that a new powder house was needed. They estimated that it would cost £b,218 13s 9d to build a magazine, a wharf, a proof house and a dwelling house for the storekeeper. A map which magazine greenwichaccompanied a survey of the Manor of East Greenwich in 1695 shows that a “New Magazine” had already been built at the side of the Thames at NGR TQ 391788. This is the large building in the print and presumably the smaller buildings are the proof house and the dwelling house. Note also the mandatory cows (see GMSG Newsletter 18, p 16) and the nonchalant humans. In practice the presence of the magazine caused great public concern and eventually in the 1760s the gunpowder was removed to new magazines at Purfleet. Wayne suggests that the parapet on the magazine building in the print may indicate that it had a low vaulted roof covered with sand and shingle. He also notes other interesting buildings on the map including a “House for Fireworks (NGR TQ 392768), a “Mount for trying of Mortars” (NGR TQ 389 7b5) and a “Laboratory” (NGR TQ 387777), which according to Hogg was used for manufacturing fireworks, including match, but had been closed by 1694.

The gunpowder depot site

Shown on the Skinner Plan as K3. Skinner identifies the occupiers as ‘Mr. Furness and John Rand’.

Before 1745 when the plot was bought by the Government it was owned by Francis Peyton and used by ‘Robert William, lighterman’. The area purchased was alongside Bendish Sluice. The works closed in 1779. Hogg said that the site had been sold to Henry Vansittart. It has not proved possible to check his reference. In 1770 the site is shown in the occupation of a Mr. Newton.

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The Gunpowder Depot

The dramatic buildings of the ‘World Heritage’ site area in Greenwich are very well known – the Queens House, the Royal Observatory and the riverside buildings of the old Royal Hospital, now Greenwich University. Very few people know that there was once another grand government building further down river – on the way to where the Millennium Dome has recently been built.

A drawing of the building was published in 1794 – although the scene it shows was probably about fifty years old. It was a very plain, very austere, building, with no windows on the outside and it faced the river. It had a flat roof and inside was a courtyard – what windows there were looked on to it. At the back of the main building were some houses and a low square building with a strange twisted spire. On the riverside stood huge ornamental gates leading onto two large jetties. What would we think of this grim seventeenth century building if it had survived to today? No doubt we would be very proud of it, but would we like it?

The whole complex was of great national importance because it handled all the gunpowder used by the navy. Many ships, and even more supply ship, had to call at the jetty to pick up barrels of explosives to be used in times of war. Before around 1700 all the gunpowder used in naval guns was stored in the Tower of London. Civil Servants of the day began to think that this was rather dangerous and so they hit upon the idea of building a special depot at Greenwich where – out on the marshes – it would be away from other buildings and where the powder could easily be transported safely on the river. The Greenwich building was very carefully constructed so to minimse any damage should an explosion take place.

Gunpowder was made by private contractors in special mills located all round the south of England. Anyone interested today can visit the Great Chart Water Mill at Faversham and see how gunpowder was made there by traditional means until the early part of the twentieth century. All of the powder made and bought by the Government was taken to Greenwich, by boat, where it was tested – the twisted spire at the back of the building was part of the safety arrangements to contain the blast should there be an accident. The was then distributed to supply ships – as time went on Greenwich powder found its way all over the world.

The men who tested the powder at Greenwich were all specially skilled and trained workmen. They had ‘proper’ jobs in the Government service with pensions when they were too old to continue. They were provided with special safety clothing – with nothing which could make a spark or pockets where matches could be hidden.

The double jetty and riverside wharf was very busy with a continuous stream of ships delivering and collecting powder. Careful records were kept by the clerks at the depot which show that Greenwich powder went to places like Nova Scotia and Antiqua as well as to all the naval garrisons around the English coast – Chatham, Portsmouth, Sheerness and so on. The gunpowder laden ships leaving Greenwich were supposed to have a special escort as they travelled down river but the need for economy meant that these escort vessels were soon abandoned. Lookouts were stationed at Erith and Gravesend and they were supposed to watch out and see when the powder boats went past – if they didn’t turn up then there must have been an explosion upstream! Happily this never seems to have happened and it would have been a major disaster had it done so. In the nineteenth century a gunpowder explosion at Erith breached the sea wall and led to a terrible race by hundreds if soldiers and workmen to rebuild it against the incoming tide.

The trouble with the Greenwich gunpowder depot was that local people were not impressed by all the safety arrangements. Although there is no record of any accident locals, understandably, didn’t want to wait for one to happen.! Over the years they sent a number of petitions to the government about it –and they pointed out that ‘the superb building the Royal Hospital for Seamen’ would not benefit from blown up by gunpowder! Eventually the government agreed and the depot was closed in the 1770s. It was rebuilt down river at Purfleet – where a great many of the original buildings can still be seen as features on a new housing estate.

The Greenwich depot was pulled down and the site sold off. In due course a rope works and then a cable factory was built there – it is now under part of the Alcatel factory in Blackwall Lane. We are so careless of our past that there is no sign or information on the Greenwich riverside to show where the great gunpowder depot once stood. You can find the site by walking down river from the Cutty Sark Pub until you get to the rather grand ‘Enderby House’ which stands behind security fencing on the riverside. On the right just a gateway in the fence starts is some sluice gear beside the path. This marks the line of the mediaeval drainage ditch –‘Bendish sluice’ which once ran along the side of the powder depot. From here you can see a great sweep of river, between Deptford and Blackwall. Imagine it two hundred and fifty years ago – busy with boats and everyone one of them laden with potential danger and death.

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