Jim Hughes and Orinoco

Jim Hughes and Orinoco

Jim Hughes was a friend of mine who lived in Blackheath. I knew him as a tenant activist, a teacher, a Labour Party member, a historian but most of all as a sailing barge enthusiast and a lover of London’s river.  When it was announced that the Millennium Dome was to be built in Greenwich Jim tried his best – but in vain – to persuade the New Millennium Experience Company that they should take an interest in the many famous sailing barges built in Greenwich.   Jim died before the Dome was built but in his last weeks he contacted me and I understood that he wanted me to find the last Greenwich barge still sailing – the Orinoco.  I went to Hoo Marina and met her skipper – but she never made it to the Dome despite all our efforts.


Recently I asked  Jim’s widow, Elsie, if I could look at the books and papers he had left. ‘Yes’ she said  ‘but take them afterwards to the Docklands Museum, as Jim wanted’.  As I went through the piles of pictures, which were Jim’s lifetime collection, I found some manuscript – Jim’s notes on the Orinoco and her builders.  I felt that the best I could do was to write these notes up into a coherent article and get it published. So, this article is for Jim – and most of it is by him.

Perhaps I should start with what Jim himself had written in a letter to a friend in 1990.

‘… a few months it ago it came to my knowledge that the sailing barge ‘Orinoco’ was built at East Greenwich by a barge builder of the name of HUGHES. From the local history library I discovered that Frederick Augustus Hughes & Co, had been in business as a barge builder at Providence Wharf, River Bank, East Greenwich from 1887 until 1905.’

Jim knew, as I do, that there must have been many barge builders in Greenwich over the centuries. We tend to know about Pipers and Shrubsall – both recent and well documented. Almost all the others have vanished, without record. Their sites probably consisted of a length of foreshore – abandoned once the barge was built – and the barges themselves are long gone. To research one, hitherto otherwise unknown, barge builder was a real challenge.

Perhaps because his name was the same as theirs, Jim spent a lot of time trying to unearth Hughes the bargebuilder.

He found first of all a Frederick Augustus Hughes, a lighterman living in Florence Road, New Cross in the 1850s and born in 1811. Frederick later became a Custom House Agent and his four sons, Frederick, Augustus, Edmund and Walker all went into the lighterage trade.   It appeared that his son Frederick was  apprenticed to an Augustus Edmunds in 1863.  Edmunds lived at Carisbrooke Villa in Westcombe Hill, Blackheath, between 1864 and 1900.  He had a barge building business on the Greenwich peninsula and it must have been a large and prosperous business for him to afford such a grand house. Carisbrooke Villa was on the site of what is now Broadbridge Close near Blackheath Standard.  No doubt young Hughes was well taught.


By 1887 – F.A.Hughes was registered as a barge builder at Greenwich and ihe signed the lease for the site which seems to have been acquired from Coles Child whose interests he appears to have bought out Coles  on the Morden College owned site.   The Wharf was called Providence Wharf and was on the site downriver of what is now Piper’s Wharf with an entrance at the end of Banning Street. It is part of the complex of wharves owned by Morden College and developed by Coles Child from the 1840s – a process partly described in my recent articles on Lovell’s Wharf . Jim discovered that the site is marked as ‘Hughes Barge Builders’ on maps of the 1880s and on some deeds from Morden College.


Although the business was thus owned by the father, it seems that the sons were in fact in charge. Frederick, who had been apprenticed just down the road with Edmunds,  lived nearest to the new barge yard’s site in Greenwich  –  just round the corner in Commerel Street, SE10 – an address which could never be described as up-market. When he later  moved it was just along the road to 1 Glenister Road – another address difficult to describe as anything other than in a working class area. Also closely involved in the business was the second son, Augustus George who, in 1886, was living at ‘Garnet’ 21 Glenluce Road, Blackheath  – a much more ‘middle class’ address than that of brother Frederick. At that time, Jim reckoned, he would be about 35 years old..


Thus the Hughes family ran their barge yard at from the mid-1880s Providence Wharf, taking over Dawsons Wharf next door in September 1890. The works at  must have been larger and more diverse than is implied by barge building since it was described in a letter of 1905 as an ‘Engineering Works’. – however a feature of the site plan was a ‘Launching Way’.  Jim found a  record that in 1889 Sailing Barge Wyvenhoe was built for Hughes by Forrest.  I am assuming that that is the same Wyvenhoe which is up and down the river all the time these days. If she was originally built for Hughes it makes his company seem rather larger than it appears at first sight and that they intended to be a trading company rather than merely builders.


The founder of the works, F.A.Hughes, was around throughout the lifetime of the business and it is a surprise to find him still alive in 1905, aged 94 when he signed a lease which is still in the Morden College archives. However from that date the works seemed to fail.  By 1907, Augustus had died, the firm had closed and the wharf was in the possession of Tilbury Contracting and Dredging.


It is possible that an ‘Edmund Hughes’ continued to work at Providence Wharf. Jim quoted ‘The Lure and Lore of London River’, dated 1932, which said that a ‘small lightering business’ was carried on at Providence Wharf by a ‘freeman, Edmund Hughes’ and that he had gone into business as the first Managing Director of London and Tilbury Lighterage at ‘far larger Dreadnought Wharf’ – which London and Tilbury had acquired from the Rennies.  Pictures published in the 1920s show London and Tilbury’s vessel Tilburnia, described as fitted with a ‘Hughes rotary cutter’ – was this device perhaps developed by Edmund.


Edmund Hughes had moved by then to 1 Priory Park in Blackheath – a much more upmarket address and a house which still exists today. I don’t know who Edmund was – Jim seems to have left no record. Was he a son of Augustus – or his brother?


The family however did seem to prosper. In January 1924 an Arthur Mumford Hughes was listed by the Freemen and Apprentices of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights and described as the son of Edmund Hughes of Blackheath. In 1946 he was admitted to the Court of Assistants.  Does the middle name Mumford imply that he had some relationship – perhaps through his mother – with the owners of the flour mill in Greenwich?   His son Arthur Mumford Hughes was admitted to the Livery in 1924 – he had an even posher address at Mayfield, Chiselhurst, Kent.


Jim had therefore traced the history of a barge building family – from their origins as Deptford lightermen to an engineering/boat building business, meanwhile moving personally ever more into a middle class environment. What has happened to them? Will their family historians discover this saga and take it up? Did they in fact go on to become a much large business under another name.


Jim had started to research the Hughes because of Orinoco and he had found a bit about her. According to him, Hughes built Orinoco in 1895, commissioned by Masons cement fleet based at Waldringfield on the Deben, although she was eventually owned by Cranfield Brothers. The records day she was sunk in collision in the Thames in the 1950s and raised and bought by Tester Laurie Tester of Greenhithe Lighterage co and restored and then rerigged at Faversham. Since then she been in a number of hands as a leisure vessel.


After Jim died I went down to Hoo Marina and found Orinoco and her skipper. I understand that she has now been sold again and would be glad to know what has happened to her and if her new owners know any more about her than I do.  Research on her has suffered since Hughes has been confused with the later Greenwich barge builders, Hughan – who were, in any case, on a different site. I would also like to know more about  the Hughes family and what other craft they might have built in Greenwich.

Most of this article has been compiled from the notes left by Jim Hughes, and lent to me thanks to Elsie Hughes with some extra research by me at Morden College and at London Borough of Greenwich.

This article first appeared in Bygone Kent

In the same edition of Bygone Kent an article qppeared by Richard-Hugh Perks on ‘The Barges of Frederick Hughes of East Greenwich’

East Greenwich Gas Works – first news


It was announced some months since that plans and a description of the new East Greenwich station of the South Metropolitan Gas Company were in course of preparation for publication in the JOURNAL. We have now been favoured by Mr. G. Livesey, the Chairman and Mr. Frank Livesey, the Chief Engineer of the company with the first instalment of this valuable communication, comprising a key plan of the site and a general ground plan of the works, showing the portion actually constructed and the scheme extensions. The letterpress accompanying these drawings has also been written by these gentlemen with a view to explaining as fully as possible the reasons for the arrangement thus set forth. Readers of the Journal will appreciate the value of this full and clear exposition of the highest branch of constructive gas engineering, coming fresh from the mind of the first authority of the day. We take this opportunity of expressing our sense of the kindness thus shown by Messrs. Livesey, to whom we already owe so many contributions to our published records of contemporary gas engineering construction.


scan0024In planning these works; there were, as is probably always the case, certain conditions or restrictions;some being imposed by Act of Parliament, others pertaining to the position of the land in relation to the river and other means of communication, and others again being due to the nature of the soil. The Act of Parliament required the purifying plant to be placed on the northern half of the land; in order that it might be as far from inhabited houses as possible; the position of the retort-houses was governed mainly by that of the jetty for unloading coals; and the site of the gasholders (confined as it was to the south) was ultimately chosen by boring to ascertain where the strata were most suitable for the construction of the tanks.

The land, as shown by the accompanying key plan, is situated in Greenwich Marshes. It is enclosed within a sharp bend of the river, opposite Blackwall; the northern end of it being known as Blackwall Point. The total area (including a large dry dock which Parliament compelled the Company to purchase, and Ordnance Wharf,, adjoining, now let for a tar works) is 127 acres

From Journal of Gas Lighting


Return to East Greenwich Gas Works

Property records in 17th and 18th century Greenwich, notes on Boreman’s Will


The following set of notes comes from a file in the Greenwich Local History collection which relate to property ownerships in the 17th and 18th partly on Greenwich Peninsula, compiled by a researcher working in the 1950s  The K figures and Royal Plan mentioned are obtainable from Greenwich Heritage Centre. The numbers – 0 0 0 refer to rods, poles and perches – i.e. the size of the land involved.

Sir William Boreman -Summary of his will dated 3 February 1684 extracted from copy in possession of the Drapers’ Company.

To be buried in vault in Greenwich churchyard. lack gowns etc. to be provided.

To wife Margaret in lieu and bar of her dower moiety and title of dower Breach Farme in parishes of Earith and Leane in the County of Kent, and 30 acres marsh land in the said parishes, Redland(?reedland) or foreland in the said parishes etc.  To wife

1 tenement late in tenure of Richard Bignell.

1 tenement now or late in occupation of Colonel Wilbys.

messuage or tenement now or late in occupation of John Bartlett.

1 tenement now or late in occupation of Jonathan Ireland.

1 tenement——————————John Moore.

3 tenements and their appurtenances which I am now building between the King’s Arms Inn and Mrs. Fister’s house.

Tenement and appurtenances in occupation of John Turner.

——————————————-            Edward King.

All which tenements are situate etc. in East Lane in Greenwich aforesaid.

All my 5 tenements in Boreman’s Court in parish of East Greenwich now occupied by Bartholomew Wood , John Searle, John Turner , John Price and the widow Tymar.

All that upland and marsh land ‘in East Greenwich which I bought of Sir Lancelot Lake now or late. In the tenure or occupation of Thomas Patmour together with all those several parcels of land in Greenwich Marsh now occupied by Thomas Smith, John Worrell, John Heath, John Everis, Roger Raby, and Thomas Collins.

Inn or tenement commonly called the King’s Arms in East Lane together with the marsh land now in the occupation of Roger Raby of the Pike Gardens with the ponds and tenements belonging with the rent of 5 payable out of the cofferer’s office by the Office of H.M. Green Cloth for his fishmonger’s use of the said ponds.

The mansion house in Greenwich aforesaid with furniture etc. for life

To wife for life : Full half part of my sister’s plate etc.

To Draper’s Company

The school and schoolhouse together with the White House next there- unto adjoining in the tenure and occupation of Henry Frank, schoolmaster, and also the brick house now called the Lyon House in the tenure and occupation of Bowles, gent. with the outhouses, yards, gardens, and appurtenances lying in the said Parish of East Greenwich.


Portion of Greenwich which was built-up at that time, which formed the subject of a similar address in 1937. Some dependent evidence was cited from a thereto unknown ‘particular’ of property of the Boreman family dated 1734 and a recently discovered history, dated 1816 of the Roper Trust for the poor of the parishes of Farningham , Eynsford and Horton Kirby, the endowment of which was derived from lands in Greenwich Marsh.


Copy of document in Library of the Draper’s Company , the lands referred to are not, and never have been, in the possession of the Company, as Trustees for the Boreman Charity or otherwise, but apparently are the lands of the Trust created by Sir William Boreman’ s will for the benefit of his family.

A Particular of lands late of Sir William Boreman lying in the Parish of East Greenwich in the county of Kent taken by Survey and admeasurement of the same in February 1734 being as followeth:-

£26 Wm.Willoughby of East Greenwich aforesaid holdeth a piece of Marsh Land called the Pond Meadow abutting East on the Manorway , South West and North on the lands of the late Sir Edwd. Betenson containing 2. 3 15. (Note: This is the K19 of the Royal Survey. K17 K18  are marked Foster’s Hole on the plan)

The said Wm holdeth two pieces more called. Hawk’s Marshes abutting east on Wickers Lane and South on the highway leading from Greenwich to Woolwich contingent 11 0. 30  (Note: These are the 4 plots west  of Vicar’s Lane)

£5 10s Richard Meads of Greenwich holdeth one piece of marsh land called Foster’s Hole. the lands of Morden College West and North, the manorway East and the late Sir Edwd Betenson South contingent. 2. 1. 37  (Note: these are the lands K17 and K18 of the Survey.

£3 John Land of do. butcher, holdeth one piece of marsh land with a foreland of reed, the river of Thames West, Morden College land. North, Blackwall Lane east and the late Sir Edwd . Betenson’ s Lands South, containing 1 3 10. (Note: this land is south of K 14)

£9 Thomas Moor at Coombe Farm holdeth a piece of marsh land by Arnold’ s Sluice, the Thames wall north-east and east, more of the said land south, and the late Sir Edwd Betenson’s lands south-west and west, contingent . 6 3 8. (Note Arnold ‘ s Sluice was at the north east extremity of the Marsh. This land lay north of Arnold ‘ s Sluice and of K11 of the Survey, and consisted of two plots 6 0 25 and 0 2 23 areas)

£40b Thos. Jefferys of Greenwich, butcher, holdeth several piece s of marsh land, to wit one long piece adjoining East to the Thames wall, South on Mr. Craggs’ heirs, west on a marsh called The Twelve Acres, and North-west on the land last above mentioned, containing. 13 0 0 (Note: this is K 11 except the 2 roods 23 poles at the north east. corner. The Twelve Acres is K 10 plus two strips on the south side) The said Thos. holdeth part of the aforesaid  Twelve Acres 6 2 0 (Note: The eastern part of K 10) The said Thos. holdeth one piece called the Pound Marsh adjoining North-west to the said Twelve Acres, Eastward to Mr. Craggs’ heirs, and west to more of the said land in the occupation of Davage 4 2 6 (Note Pound Marsh is K8). The said Thos. holdeth a piece of manorway enclosed leading to said Pound Marsh etc. containing 0 1 3 (Note: South of K 8 and East of K 7.)

£4 Thos. Moor of Greenwich, carpenter, holdeth one piece of marsh land near the last mentioned adjoining south-west and North-west to the manorway and South east to Morden College land called Balsop containing. 2 1 26 (Note: South of K 7 and North of K 5)

£19 Daniel Davage of Greenwich, butcher, holdeth several pieces of the said land, to wit one piece adjoining East to the aforementioned Pound Marsh and South-east to the manorway containing. 3 3 18 (This is the K7 of the Survey) The said Daniel holdeth two pieces abutting North west on the manorway near to Blackwall Lane end, a little piece of Mr. Frankling’s lying between them, adjoining to the Lady Harvey’ s land north-east and to Mr .Craggs’ heirs on the South-east containing , 4 .0 20 (Note: two plots one south of K4 1 3 30 next plot but one to South 2 0 30   together  4 0 20. The said Daniel holdeth one other piece abutting south to Horn Lane , west to Mr. Craggs’ heirs  and north to Morden College land called Goose Pool containing 4 ‘3 3 (Note: South of K3.)

  1. Wm Smith of Greenwich holdeth a little piece of marsh 1ying at the North side of Horn Lane and adjoining west to the last mentioned , containing 1 1 31

Total Marsh Lands 66 0 7

The said Mr. Wm Smith and Mr. Blake hold a pull of upland lying on the south side of the highway leading from Greenwich to Woolwich and  bounded on the west with Conduit Lane . Called by the name of Catts Brains, containing  5 2 21  (Note – east of Vanburgh Hill and south of Woolwich Road. Opposite to K25)

TOTAL 71.2.28


Morden College Estate survey  1771

By M. Searles Sen and Jun

Plan no. 1

A The Eighteen Acres                                   18  3 10                 K 12

B Common                                                       2  0 27                 K13

C Marsh                                                             3  0 10

D The Howse Marsh                                        6  3 19                 K9

E A piece of marsh land                                   2  2  0                 K 14

F In the twelve Acres                                         9  0  0                Part of K 10

G .Further Pitts                                                   8  2  0               North end of K 15

H Great Pitts                                                       6  3  2               Remainder of K 15

I Great Pitts                                                         5 0 25                          “

J LittlePitts                                                            2  2 22

K A piece of marsh land                                   3  0  0                 K 6

L Balsops Marsh                                                                                                                6 0 22                                     K 5

M Goose Poole                                                                                                                 5 1 30                                     K3

N Lady Marsh                                                                                                                    3 1 0                                       K 16

0 By the Vicar’s Acre                                                                                                       1 0 0                                       K 1

P Bendish .Marsh                                                                                                             4 0 11                                     K 20

Q                                                                                                                                             6 0 29

R The Great Meadow                                                                                                     10 1 37                  K 23

S                                                                                                                                              4 2 7

a In the Four Acres –                                                                                                        2 0

a Reeds                                                                                                                                5 0 0                                       foreshore of K 12

b do.                                                                                                                                      1 1 12                                     do.K. 14

c do                                                                                                                                        2 1 ,29                                   do. K 23

d do.                                                                                                                                      4 2 8                                       do. K 15

Plan No.2.

e                                                                                                                                             4 3 20

f Dog Kennel Meadow                                                                                                   3 0 20                                     K24

T                                                                                                                                              6 2 26

U Part of the Ballast Pit                                                                                  7 3 0                                       between K27 and Maze

V Gravel Pit Field                                                                                                              6 0 0                                       ? K26 and K27

OE Conduit t Field                                                                                                            1 3 20                                     South of U

AE East side Ballast Pit                                                                                                    1 2 5                                       in K27

g A Close                                                                                                                              4 3 0                                       east of Payn’s Fields

h Improved Land.                                                                                                            3 38

i do.                                                                                                                                        2 4

j do.                                                                                                                                       3 2 38

k Pains Field                                                                                                                       2 0 0                                       S12

l An Anchor Wharf                                                                                                            1 22                                      At end of Ballast Quay

m Land built on                                                                                                                 4 0 8                                       K31

Plan No 3

n Land built on                                                                                                   3 9                                        Not in Royal Survey

o do                                                                                                                                          24                                       includes the O of the Royal Survey                              but extended to turn of Lamb Lane

p do                                                                                                                                       1 5                                        K38

1 A wharf                                                                                                                                22

Plan.No. 4.

& Maidenstone Hill                                                                                                         13 2 18

q Land built on                                                                                                  1 1 2

Plan no.5.

W Gravell Pit Close                                                                                                          3 2 3                                       K33

X Mill Field                                                                                                                          4 3 24                                     K35

Y do.                                                                                                                                      6 0 11                                     do

z                                                                                                                                              3 0 20

r Limekiln Fields                                                                                                                 2 18                                      K36 and K37

s                                                                                                                                              3 1 4

t Little Stones                                                                                                                    7 1 0

u Sheep Gate Field                                                                                                          2 3 10                                     K30

v The Shindles                                                                                                   1 10                                      South side of Blackheath Hill

w Land built upon                                                                                                             3 17

x do.                                                                                                                                       2 7

s do.                                                                                                                                       1 37

z do.                                                                                                                                      1 39

V Kuther’s Close                                                                                                               2 1 32