Along with other gas works belonging to South Met. Gas Co. East Greenwich had a social and sports club ‘The Institute’ for the workforce. Here one of the managers, Mr. Manwaring, writes about the opening of a new building and reminisces on the building of the works in the 1880s.
THEN AND NOW’-AT EAST GREENWICH
NOW that we are nearing the completion of our handsome and commodious institute it may be interesting to recall the fact that the East Greenwich Station was probably one of the first to possess one: On my transfer from West.Greenwich, nearly twenty-five years ago, I found a fully-fledged Club in existence, called the ‘George Livesey Institute,’ and worked by a band of energetic men, not many of whom are with us to-day.
Our land at East Greenwich was, in those days, the happy dumping-ground for gipsies, and our two policemen had their energies severely taxed impounding the straying cattle. Mr. T’ysoe used to be in a constant state of warfare, trying to protect the company’s property, and on one occasion he was holding a heated argument as to the right of meum et tuum, when one of the gipsiesn who was armed with a. heavy bar of iron, raised it to strike, and, but for the presence of mind of one of our men in seizing the bar, Mr. Tysoe would in all probability have failed to take any further interest in the proceedings.
What changes have taken place during these years. Then we had not commenced to make gas; No. 1 retort house was being built, and not a ton of coal had been shot for gas-making purposes; now we carbonise in the winter 14,000 tons per week. Then we employed 77 men; now over 1,400. At first the wages paid were under £100 per week; now they are over £2,600. These figures, coupled with the fact that the other stations have not fallen off in consequence of our increase, show conclusively what gigantic strides our company has made in the make and sale of gas.
May I take this opportunity of urging all who are working at this station to join heartily in making our new Institute one of the most successful, and thus show our appreciation of the kindness of our Directors in giving us a place where we can focus the activities of our various clubs, and enjoy, we hope, many happy evenings of healthy recreation and amusement.
H. H Manwaring