Ballast Quay – a brief overview

view upriver 1662
View of Ballast Quay 1662

Ballast Quay is technically not part of the Peninsula – which begins at the corner of Pelton Road and the riverside – but it is an interesting area and one which has a strong relationship to the development of the western end of the Peninsula’s riverside as well as the streets behind it. Indeed it appears that a stile or gate marked the boundary – described in 1792 as a ‘wicket with lock and key’.  Indeed this can be seen on a seventeenth century print.

The area is owned by Morden College, and has been since the 1660s.  It has been known as ‘Ballast Quay’ since at least the 17th century, it marked as such on Travers’ map of 1695 and seems to refer to the transfer of ballast – perhaps gravel or chalk– into vessels.  Such ballast was commonly put into collier ships which was brought coal to London from North-eastern ports and needed a return load.  Although Morden College owned many such pits – both in the area of Blackheath Hill and in Chiselhurst – the date of the Travers’ plan which identifies the quay’s name is close to the time of Sir John Morden’s acquisition of the area  – and this may mean that it pre-dates him.

In 1695 the grounds of a building stretched between Ballast Quay and Crowley House, with its outbuildings on the site of what is now Greenwich Power Station. In later years the area seems to have become part of the complex of warehousing owned by the Crowleys. Ambrose Crowley had bought property in Greenwich in 1704 using it as a warehouse for his iron founding business based on the Tyne.  Some of this activity doubtless moved on to the Ballast Quay area.cutty sark and houses pk

The Roque plan of 1747 shows an undeveloped river bank between Anchor Iron Wharf and the gunpowder magazine  By 1792 maps appended to deeds show Anchor Iron Wharf itself heavily built out into the river.  ‘Houses’ shown on the western side of the Quay include the Green Man public house, and ‘Green Man Yard’ is marked inland. Near the riverfront is a another – identified as ‘Thames Cottage’ and to the east of that sluices on the line of Pelton Road.   The area is shown by Morden College as being leased to ‘Millington’ – Crowley’s Manager and associate.  Further research in the Morden College archives might reveal more about the history and use of the quay before 1818.

In 1818 Morden College’s Surveyor, B.Biggs, undertook a survey and drew a plan of the Quay, which shows little more than a line of trees and some sluices. It was nevertheless the start of a great deal of work by Biggs on this area.  It was, however, not until 1829 that a proposal for ‘a new wharf and improvements’ was made  – this shows a ‘proposed new road’ and a ‘proposed terrace’ roughly on the line of the current houses.  It is however not until 1838 that another survey by Biggs shows the Union Tavern (now the Cutty Sark) marked and the distinctive line of the houses.

Julie Tadman’s ‘A Fisherman of Greenwich’ describes the subsequent history of the quay and the pier built there, as well as the fate of ‘Thames Cottage’ and the article by Mr. Linney the use of the Harbour Master’s House which replaced it.  The Union Tavern was renamed the ‘Cutty Sark’ in the early 1950s when the Cutty Sark Ship herself was berthed at Greenwich.

For detail please go to

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East Greenwich Gas works

coloured panarmaThe East Greenwich Gas Works was built by the South Metropolitan Gas Works from 1881. South Met. were based in the Old Kent Road and had achieved a premier position in the gas world under their charismatic chair, George Livesey.  In the 1870s inner city gas companies were encouraged to build works outside of the inner city – this was South Met’s super works.  It was built with the highest aspirations

South Metropolitan Gas Works. East Greenwich  General article on the history of the works

Notes on House of Lords Enquiry 1881 into the Bill for the Works. These notes are about the dry dock

THE MILLENIUM SITE – WHO BUILT THE GASWORKS article on the history of the works written for Bygone Kent

The Gas Works – first news from Journal of Gas Lighting article on the first plans for the works from Journal of Gas Lighting

The Gas Works on the Greenwich Peninsula article on GIHS blog reviewing article in London Journal

The Gas Workers of South London – the Co-partnership scheme article written for South London Record

Duke of Gloucester visit to the Coking Plant article on the Greenwich Industrial History blog

Life at East Greenwich Gas Works article on GIHS web site

The Gas Workers’ Strike in South London 1889 article written for South London Record

Future of the gas works site. 1980s.  speculative article on the future of the site from an unknown source

South Met Gas in the Second World War  local authority account of war time works

The Purification of Coal Gas article from Copartnership Journal

KM 1890 gasworks accident0001 – report from the Kentish Mercury 1890 of a fatality

Dedication of the Gas Works War memorial  =- article from Co-partnership Journal

Memorial Gardens. Rededication of the Gas Works Memorial  – Article from GIHS newsletter

Notes on a trip round the site before the Dome

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Angerstein Wharf and surrounding area

Angerstein Wharf shown on the 18th Skinner plan

The area of Angerstein Wharf can roughly be determined as that land to the west and north of Lombard’s Wall – the historic parish boundary between Greenwich and Charlton.   Lombard’s Wall  is (or was since it is now entirely disappeared under heavy duty lorries) an embankment constructed by the Tudor historian, William Lambarde, to prevent flooding of his property in Westcombe – referred to in 1555 as an ‘in-wall’ or a ‘man way’.  The north-west boundary to the area is Horn Lane, the line of which can still be traced running parallel to the modern Pear Tree Way. This was known in the sixteenth century as ‘Hornewall’ – another flood barrier.   However on the Skinner plan of 1746 Horn Lane does not reach as far as the river but peters out at the ‘common sewer’ coming from Marsh Lane parallel to the river, which here took a right angled turn to reach the river as ‘Kings Sluice’.  It must therefore be inferred that the drainage of this area must have taken place between 1601 and 1622, or before 15?? – and could not have been part of the schemes of the 1580s, since that was in the reign of Elizabeth

Christie & Co.

From c.1912 to post 1955 part of the wharf was leased to William Christie, with, among other things, a plant to treat timber with creosote.

Some of the earliest references to land in the Marsh refer to ‘Thistlecroft’ and it may that this is the area referred to..   In 1555 the riverside area is named as ‘Abbots Howkes’. However the land was in Westcombe Manor, in a sub area known as Nethercombe, which stretched as far as the areas now known as Blackheath Standard.

The land had been part of that passed in AD 918 by Princess Aelfrida to the Abbey of Ghent and then nationalised by Henry VIII in 1537, and then annexed to the Royal Manor of Old Court, East Greenwich, and briefly owned by Anne Boleyn.  Various other tenants and lessees occupied the area, including the Tudor historian William Lambarde,  until in 1801 it was passed to John Julius Angerstein, the Russian born founder of Lloyds.

When the Skinner Plan was drawn up in 1746 the two plots between Lombard Wall and Horn Lane are marked as owned by Sir William Sanderson in the occupation of Thomas Moor. Moor was the lessee of Combe Farm (the farm was between Combedale Road and Woolwich Road). A century later the Tithe Map shows most of the area not let but under the control of John Angerstein – and he was later to construct a private railway line through the fields. This railway remains in use, although it has never carried passenger traffic.

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Lovells Wharf – some background

Lovells Wharf – originally known as Greenwich Wharf – is the first wharf on the west bank of the Peninsula once you leave Ballast Quay and East Greenwich. It is now a development site with flats and houses, built by London and Regional (Geoff Springer).

The site was developed in the early 19th century by Coles Child for Morden College. This consisted of a large parcel of land which was divided and sub-divided into wharves, frequently named for lessees and/or operators – Granite, Pipers and so on.  The development by London and Regional has re-united these elements and is building on the same area as Coles Child.

The following is a brief timeline of the site.

12th Century tide Mill
Pre-1838 Great Meadow & Dog Kennel Field
1838 – Coles Child signs a lease with Morden College
1840 – Coal wharf built on site of ‘Lovell’s – called Greenwich Wharf
1844 – Coles Child leases the rest of the land 1840-1841 to Mr. Walker, limeburner
1841 –   Coles Child.  coal wharf, coke burning and lime kilns
1852 – The Wharf is divided and Granite Wharf becomes separate. Rowton and Whiteway manage the wharf for Coles Child – cement, lime, coal
1900s  John Waddell and Co.  – coal merchant. .
1880s – Ashby,  ice merchant – builds an ice well on site.
1919 Coles Child’s lease expires pre-1900 Joseph Guy keel and lighter owners, also at 21 High Street, Hull. taken over by Shaw Lovell from 1911.
1919 192? Yarmouth Carriers – tug operators, river haulage operators, at Hull and 31 Eastcheap.
1916 Pickett, Edward Norman trading as Norman Houlford & Co
1919 Davis Morgan & Co, sub tenants of Joseph Guy 1920 C. Shaw Lovell  & Sons – metal transhipment & general wharfingers

Lovell’s House. computer centre was built on Pelton Road and – eventually passed to the GLC

Cranes remaining from Lovell’s use as metal transhipment wharf – were seen as a local feature and removed by Morden College in 2000

2002 Groundwork reported: “Lovell’s Wharf. Designated a safeguarded wharf, it has not been used for many years and its viability for, re-use as such is questionable – its development status is in abeyance. Tragically, the landmark scotch derrick cranes were removed before they could be listed, to the great detriment of the river landscape  Improvements to the riverside walk access from Ballast Quay, and to the surfacing generally along the footpath, were carried out by Greenwich Council prior to the Millennium.

Development by London and Regional proceeds

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