In 1997 a society from the north arranged a trip round the Greenwich Peninsula to see the works on-going to remediate the site and build the Dome.  The following notes were written up after the event by one of the participants.



Notes on the project team’s presentation.

Original proposals to retrospective planning brief in 1980s

1992 Planning consent for revised masterplan after intervention by Michael Heseltine

Jubilee Line brought back south of the river by amendment of Bill in Parliament

  1. Better ground for train marshalling
  2. £25m from British Gas [Hansard]

3rd Blackwall Tunnel affirmed

1993 Reports proposing national Millennium Exhibition at Greenwich (incidence of any lottery) Greenwich eventually selected in later Millennium competition.

English Partnerships involved summer 1996

£147 ½ m of infrastructure in the next 2 years

Acquire freehold June/February 1997 from British Gas of whole Peninsula except industries on the west side. Long term renewal irrespective of Millennium Festival. (This followed British Gas’s statutory remediation. English Partnerships now to do development remediation.

Lead consultants W.S.Atkins with sub contractors including Richard Rogers master planners.

Refinements of master plan currently ignoring continued existence of the Millennium Dome.

18 separate development remediation contracts. Starting with the Dome site – first segments handed over in June. ( third of site) Piling able to start day after government announcement confirming the project.

See English Partnerships ‘The Millennium Riverbank Experience” . Some parts set back to become salt marsh/ reed bed.  Planted stepped terraces rather than vertical piling

Constraints of highways and utilities

Power supply in new tunnel from north side of the river 40MW capacity (including 10MW for the exhibition).

Gas main relocated – just started £27m

Water supply under regeneration – may include pipe jacking

A102M Northern Gateway Junction – new roundabout and four lane widening

Replacement of Horn Lane as distributor road

Outcome of Public Enquiry expected (fast track of four weeks to decision)

Question – How is the regeneration being recorded?? For use and reassurance of future developers

  1. Site investigation records
  2. Statutory remediation – including built records and test data. ‘Health and Safety’ file handed over to English Partnerships.
  3. ‘As built’ records of capping layers, etc. And records of tests etc . in development remediation.

Each contract has outturn survey and formal handover to succeeding contractor.

Not on Global Information Systems (too early)

  1. Will be similar handover to successive developer

Question – Local reactions

Pleased but worried about future traffic

Exhibition will be car free

Question – Extent of breaking out

Foundations being broken to 1m below formation to allow for services, etc.

Hot spots of contamination being dealt with, as found.

Capping layers being suited to end users

Coach park will be solid paved, so no capping.

Removal of 200,000 t in each of two phases of statutory remediation and an equivalent quantity removed subsequently.


Rail congested and trips limited

Road used for disposal to 10 different tips in the south east at contractors discretion

(?? Illegible) material via private river wharves

Exempted from land fill tax

Each consignment fully audited

Quantity of material to each tip agreed with HM Customs and Excise

Dutch guidelines about what must be taken off site based on statistical sampling of soil which is stock piled and retested.

Quantitative and qualitative risk assessment

Retesting of cleansed material.

In situ remediation taking longer period of time than available.


Statutory remediation was aimed at protecting environmental receptors only assuming no site development or public access.

All monitored by the Environment Agency and the London Borough of Greenwich who receive results of all monitoring.


No changes after tender without a Control Order

Contract is ICE 6 with client amendments to fixed price lump sum with most risks lumped onto contractors.

  • Premium found to be quite small. Contractors now experienced in the site and price has come down. (but second and third bidders are within 5%)
  • Outturn price certainly essential for this project
  • Premium at 5 – 6% without contingencies
  • Tenderers offered as much information as is available but not many take this up.
  • 4 weeks to bid and 3 weeks to award
  • Contracts £1m to £5m
  • Demolition of jetty will be £3/4m (programmed Sept –Feb 1999)

Contaminated land work £20m including capping

Statutory decontamination was also £20m.

Disposal costs of waste are the largest

£30m/3 for low grade, free of tax

£50-60m/3 for high grade waste, free of tax

Going away to Kent, Bedfordshire, etc

None came forward with river transport

Relative economies of different sites not the concern of the client


Contingencies for inflation and 10% for extras

£55m on south 1/3 of site outside the Millennium site additional to the £147 ½ m for the Millennium site.

A Charitable Trust will be endowed with a sinking fund to repair the river walls and it will levy a service charge for maintenance of open spaces, etc.

 Notes on tour of Greenwich Gasworks remediation site

The tour of the site was by vehicle with photos taken through the window

Driver/guide was working on the statutory remediation by British Gas followed by the development remediation by English Partnerships this year.

  1. Millennium Dome site. The north end of the Peninsula had a large tar works. Huge tar tanks 30m x 8m full of tar mixed with rubble, replaced with London clay.  Soil was remediated by 300 well points, first subjected to vacuuming to remove volatiles followed by 16 weeks of bio remediation using air blowing. 90% of volatiles removed. Handed over to Dome contractors in three stages June to August 1997.
  2. Dome masts all erected. Bigger than they look. Ventilator stack of 2nd Blackwall Tunnel will peep out of the surface of membrane. Founded on driven piles (except close to the Jubilee Line).
  3. River Wall. Renewed April – September 1997. Sheet piles and grab irons to mainly stepped ‘ecological’ profile. Will incorporate salt marsh plants.
  4. Jubilee Line Station. Curvaceous roof over transport interchange, being clad. Long slot for station box was excavated across the Peninsula just north of the gas works jetty and parallel to its railway approaches. Contiguous bored piles. Space above will be public open space.

Ground was 5m of made ground. Alluvial clays, peats and Terrace gravels. London clay and WRB, surface falling to north.

  1. Gas Works site. Had mass concrete piers to gravel/bedrock. (for walls??) and mass concrete rafts 2 – 3 m thick. (for plant?) crushed for hardcore.  Top metre removed and reclaimed. (The Millpond was deepened into a cooling pond come settling pond in the 1950s. Contained 4m of silt in thin layers, difficult to dig, contaminated with tars),  Jetty awaiting demolition.
  2. Coalite site. Large mounds of earth, largely from the Jubilee Line excavation being placed as capping layer – sandy clay being compacted in layers.   Soil washing plant about to be dismantled. Handled 70,000m 3. Conveyors, rotary washers and screens. Fine filter cake for disposal was 20 – 30% of original soil – coarse particles returned to site after stock piling and testing. There was a water plant to clean the washing water.
  3. South site. C19th to late C20th domestic rubbish
  4. Site south of Bugsby’s Way, partly playing fields. Was remediated some years ago

Return to Gas Works

Return to Dome


We are used to seeing film makers in Greenwich – but this has gone on for a long time, and in the 1980s – as SEGAS Standard said “ANYONE visiting the disused East Greenwich gas works recently could easily have thought they had inadvertently stepped into a fantasy world.sulphate house construction ad

The building where all this was happening was the only building (apart from the gasholder) which was not demolished and cleared away with the rest of the gas works.   And if you went down Riverway – opposite the Pilot “One day you might see the distinctive figure of David Bowie performing his latest single. On another it might be Dempsey and Makepeace playing with explosives and fast cars. Or the majestic figure of Sean Connery, resplendent in period costume of crimson velvet, might stride out of the  gloom“.

Well. I never saw any of them, but there was always something going on for those of us who braved the hole in the fence

SEGAS Standard went on ‘The film, TV and video industry have realised in recent months that they have a unique site right on their doorsteps which combines vast acres of space, a ready made film studio, and almost total privacy.  The part of the works most popular with the film companies is the old sulphate of ammonia building – a vast concrete barn of a structure built in the 1950s to house 10,000 tons of fertiliser, it was the biggest building of its kind in the south of England’.

And it attracted the biggest star of the day

“when Sean Connery was on location at the site a few weeks ago the interior had been transformed into a medieval castle so realistic it was not hard to imagine the castle had been built first and the parabolic ceiling added later. Connery’s film, called Highlander, also starred Christopher Lambert fresh from his role as Tarzan in Greystoke, Lord of the Jungle. It’s a swashbuckling adventure with Connery and Lambert playing immortals locked in a power struggle spanning four centuries,

sulphate house 3and also

“Another spectacular set was built by an advertising company as a backdrop for a series of promotional pictures about Chrysler’s newest high performance car, the Laser.  The music business is in on the act too with former Yazoo singer Vince Clerk following in Bowie’s footsteps for a video promo.  Fashion photographers are also attracted by the atmosphere of the site, and the photos for the Miss Selfridge Autumn Collection were shot at East Greenwich”

Not sure I’ve ever heard of the Laser

Anyway the late 1990s as the Millennium Dome was planned, and as the word ‘listing’ was mentioned in relation to the sulphate house British Gas knocked it down fast, saying it was being used for illegal raves.  So disappeared one of the most interesting and dramatic buildings in the Borough

Return to Phoenix Works

The East Greenwich Tide mill – which expensive consultants failed to notice

Sadly the consultants employed to see what sites of interest had been on the Greenwich riverside before development  failed to notice that there had once been a tide mill on the site they were being paid to look at – and thus no need for archaeologists to do anything there.  The East Greenwich Tide Mill – a site soon to be more flats and ‘landscaping’ has been the subject of a number of learned works – the first written in 1803 – and appears in many histories and accounts of tide mills and how they work. It also appears in  many histories of the steam engine, since, in a dramatic accident, the boiler of  a new design of engine by Richard Trevithick exploded – losing Trevithick his reputation and his rivals a financial advantage.

The first local article of recent years on the mill was by Julian Watson and appeared in Transactions of the Greenwich and Lewisham Antiquarian Society (Vol VII No.6 1972) and the best thing we can do is to quote some of what he wrote , below:

(If either Julian or the Greenwich Historical Association thinks I am invading their copyright, please get in touch – just trying to get a forty year old article out to a wider audience)

In a book published a few years ago on the life and work of Richard Trevithick (1771-1833)*, the Cornish pioneer of steam engines, there are one or two interesting references to Greenwich. “

It says that by the time the London steam carriage was running its trials in the spring of 1803, Trevithick’s high-pressure engines were at work in the London area, in Shropshire and in Derbyshire as well as in his native county. Some were working pumps, others driving mills or boring machines. Men marvelled that an engine so small by comparison with Watt’s great beam engines could produce so much power and so, with each new engine installed, the engineer’s fame spread. Probably Trevithick stood nearer to worldly success and riches at this moment than at any other time in his life but then, in September, he suffered a cruel stroke of ill-fortune. One of his engines was working at Greenwich, pumping water out of the foundations of a new corn mill which was being built beside the river. As his patent specification shows, Trevithick was using two different types of high-pressure boiler at this time. One was the cylindrical boiler with the internal flues such as he had used on the two steam carriages: the other consisted simply of a great hollow sphere of cast iron over an inch thick, mounted in brickwork and heated by a furnace underneath. The boiler at Greenwich was of the latter kind, and on 8th September, 1803, it exploded with tremendous violence. Hugh pieces of cast iron weighing several hundredweight hurtled through the air destroying everything in their path until they buried themselves in the ground a hundred yards or more away. Three men who were working nearby were killed instantly, while a fourth was so terribly injured that he died soon afterwards. As soon as he received the news of this disaster Trevithick hurried down to Greenwich to investigate its cause. This he might never have been able to establish but for the fact that a youth who was in charge of the boiler miraculously escaped with only minor injuries. This youth admitted to Trevithick that he had hung a heavy spanner over the arm of the safety valve before going off to fish for eels in the foundations of the new building, -‘leaving a labourer to keep an eye on his engine and boiler. This man was totally ignorant and when the youth returned from his eel fishing after an hour’s absence he saw that the engine had been stopped but that the spanner was still holding down the safety valve. Evidently the man had become alarmed by the increased speed of the engine as the pressure rose in the boiler so he had stopped it, but he had not the wit to free the safety valve, and so the pressure then mounted very rapidly. The youth claimed that he was just stretching out his arm to remove the spanner from the safety valve when the boiler exploded, so if he was speaking the truth he was indeed lucky to escape with his life …. The explosion at Greenwich taught men that Trevithick’s boilers caged a power which was not to be trifled with; which could kill a man as easily as we swat a tiresome fly. Trevithick himself realised as a result of this explosion that he must devise more precautions to protect his fellow men from the results of their own ignorance or folly when working his engines. In future he fitted all his boilers with two safety valves, one of them of the “lock-up” type which could not be tampered with. He also devised a mercurial steam gauge which would blowout before an explosion could occur even if both the safety valves failed to function. Another safety device which Trevithick thought of at this time was the lead safety plug which has been fitted to steam boilers ever since.

The “new corn mill” at which this accident occurred was the Greenwich Tide Mill which stood just to the north of where Blackwall Point Power Station now is, on the edge of the river, in what was then a very isolated position. Behind the mill was the great mill pond in which water from the river was trapped at high tide, providing power as the tide fell. Both mill and pond are clearly shown on Morris’s map of the parish of Greenwich c. 1831, and on the Tithe map of 1843. In the schedule to the latter map the mill and pond are part of Francis Hills’s chemical works. Between 1881 and 1885 the South Metropolitan Gas Co. bought the land and incorporated the mill into their works (the pond had long since been drained although its outline can clearly

 *****The Cornish Giant by L. T. C. Rolt. Lutterworth Press, 1960. Trevithick died at the Bull Hotel, Dartford in 1833 (while working with John Hall whose new engineering business afterwards became world famous) and he is buried in the graveyard of St. Edmund the Martyr there.

Return to Tide Mill

Accident at Ferro Concrete, Imperial Wharf

May 1930
At Greenwich Police Court yesterday the Grays Ferro Concrete Co. Ltd. Imperial Wharf, Tunnel Avenue east Greenwich were summoned under the Factories Act for using a scaffolding pole from which the bark had not been stripped and for having a gangway over twelve feet from the ground which was not provided with a suitable handrail. The company through their solicitor pleaded guilty.
Mr R. U. Shaxby factory inspector said that on March 10th while the company were erecting a large building in Ferro Concrete at Imperial Wharf Greenwich Cecil Albert Scotter on of their employees fell from a gangway and broke two ribs

Return to Delta Wharf

Victoria Deep Wharf – the early site

Victoria Deep Water Wharf

The area before industrialisation

Blisset were a local Greenwich family of landowners, while Jeffrey rented a number of other local fields.  Lack of records – this area is largely uncovered by the Morden College archive – means that it is not clear what the pre-industrialisation field names were.
North of the first plot a narrow strip of land was owned by Morden College in the same occupation, Thomas Jeffrey.  The Morden College plans, continuously updated, describe  ownership as Calvert Clark in 1838. However field names are not clear for this part of the site either.
By 1865 the site ownership is listed as Clark and Terry.

The area now known as Victoria Deep Water Wharf is the next site to the north of Bay Wharf. Marked on the Skinner Plan as ‘B’  – for Blisset, in the occupation of Thomas Jeffrey

Return to Victoria Deep

House of Lords Enquiry into the building of East Greenwich Gas Works – dry dock submissions

HOUSE OF LORDS COMMITTEE ON SOUTH MET CO BILL 1881  – some notes on the proceedings .  This is the bill to allow East Greenwich Gas Works to be built and deals with objections.

An enormous amount of time was taken up with the Blackwall Point Dry Dock at the enquiry – although only a small proportion of the total submissions were about it.   To summarise very briefly:  The owners of the dock wanted compensation for likely damage to their work and they wanted the Gas Company to buy it.  Most of the time is taken up with legal arguments on precedents, etc. but there is a strong undercurrent of argument which suggests that the purchase of lands either side of the dock site means that it will be landlocked and they therefore want the gas company to buy it before its value falls – on the other hand the gas company
want to wait until the value does fall.

However the following are items from the cross examinations with relevance to the dry dock:-

Submission of evidence from Alfred Davis Lewis of 34 Leinster Gardens, shipbuilder and Samuel Hyam 109 Westbourne Terrace and the Biphosphated Guano Company – the petititioner Alfred
Davis Lewis is lessee of the said Samuel Hyam for a long term of years of extensive premises consisting of a ship building yard including a dry dock – at which he carries on external painting
operations and employs a large number of skilled artisans and workmen.
In his evidence he says that the dock is used for the purpose of repairing and painting and decorating ships and is used by Mr. Lewis who is a shipbuilder with large contracts existing with many companies and owners to submit vessels ranging over a long period

George Livesey says “I saw a large ship in there some time back – which had touched a rock somewhere and injured her stern post – they were taking it out and putting a new stern post in –
this is a rough kind of repair

Question to Livesey “have you ever seen delicate work being done, painting of colours, decorating a ship and supplying the upholstery?

Livesey – I have not seen it but I should suppose it would be  – it is said the supply of gas would be very injurious to work of that kind – I do not think that it would – it would only be injurious so far as the dust is concerned – the storage of gas would not do so.

Sir Edmund Beckett QC (acting for SMGC) Mr. Hyams is a gentleman of a certain persuasion as could be seen from his name and he was hoping to do a little business.

Lewis wants the Gas Company to accepts a clause in the bill which says ‘The Company shall
purchase the ship building works docks and all belonging to it reputed to belong to Samuel Hyam and Alfred Davis Lewis’.

Surveyors evidence –  Messrs. Lewis property is of about 3 acres with a 400′ long dock and workshops with a 400′ frontage on the river and Hyam owns another 800′ of frontage.  It can take ships of 2,000 or 3,000 tons.   Mr. Lewis takes contracts from lines of ships to repair them. The ship owners will need to take out more insurance if the work is done near a gas works.
They land coal at the jetty already. The prevailing wind will carry coal dust onto the ships.

Lewis gives evidence – they have a 410′ long dry dock and wall, They take Cape ships in it which have to be repaired within 24 hours – they employ 250-350 men.  They do gilding work on side of ships and if the engine room is open they will  get grit in it. They have 45 years left to run on their lease. They do gentlemen’s yachts and had W.H.Smith’s yacht in there once and the P & O company’s steamers.

The House of Lords decision was that South Met. Gas Co. must buy the dry dock and a clause to that effect should go in the Bill.

Return to Blackwall Point Dry Dock

Return to East Greenwich Gas Works