East Greenwich tide mill – later 19th century accounts

Below are two accounts of the East Greenwich Tidemill – which stood on the east bank of the Peninsula roughly wear the jetty is which had very recently got a theatre group on it.   It dated from 1802 but the following pieces are written in retrospect as part of wider works on tide mills.  We understand that chapters about the mill are to be included in two forthcoming books.

Recently we were shown an assessment of the site prepared by archaeologists for English Heritage/Greenwich Council/developer.  To our surprise the site was described by the highly paid consultant with no reference to the tide mill at all.

By following links it should be possible to find a great deal more information on the tide mill on this site – and sorry about any errors in a document which was far from easy to scan.

Extract from The Engineers and Mechanics Encyclopaedia of Machinery 1836

A tide mill was erected at East Greenwich on the right bank of the Thames under the direction of Mr. John Lloyd, an engineer of Westminster, of which the following will convey an idea: the details are given by Dr. Gregory in his mechanics vol.11

This mill is intended to grin corn and works eight pair of stones. the side of the mill parallel to the course of the river, measures 40 feet within; and as the whole of this may be opened to the river by sluice gates which are carried down to the low water mark in the river, there is a 40 feet waterway to the mill. Through the water way the water presses during the rising tide into a larger reservoir which occupies about four acres of land. beyond this reservoir is a smaller one in which water is kept for the purpose of being let out occasionally at low water to cleanse the whole works from mud and sediment which would otherwise in time clog the machinery

The water wheel has its axle in a position parallel to the side of the river, that is parallel to the sluice gates which admit water from the river. The length of this wheel is 26 feet in diameter, 11 feet, and the number of float boards 32.  These board do not each run on in one plane from one end of the wheel to other but the whole length of the wheel is divided into four equal portions and the parts of these, belonging to each of these portions fall gradually lower than another, each by one fourth of the distance from one board to another, ensuring on the circumference of the wheel.

This contrivance is intended to equalise the action of water upon the wheel and prevent its moving by jerks. The wheel with its incumbent apparatus weighs about 20 tons the whole of which is raised by the impulse of the flowing tide, when admitted through sluice-gates. It is placed in the middle of the water way leaving a passage on each side of about six feet for the water to flow into the reservoir, besides that which in its motion turns the wheel round. soon after the tide has risen to highest (which at this mill is often 29 feet above the low water mark) the water is permitted to run back again from the reservoir into the river, and by this means it gives a rotary motion to the water wheel in a contrary direction to that with which it moved when impelled by the rising tide

Extract from The Engineer 12 VII 1901


The largest and most, complete tide mill we have   account of was erected on the bank of the Thames at Greenwich about midway between the spot now occupied by the Blackwall Tunnel and Woolwich.  It was designed by John Lloyd an engineer of Westminster, and was intended to obviate the disadvantage caused by the   gradual diminution of power as the river and reservoir got nearly full or empty. The mills were intended to grind corn for the London Company for the Manufacture of Flour.  the mill house was parallel to the bank of the river, and had a 40ft waterway, Within which was a wheel 26ft long 11ft  in diameter and carrying thirty-two floats on its circumference. To lessen the shock of the water these floats were not continuous but divided into four sections breaking joints with each other.  The wheel with the whole of its apparatus weighed about 20 tons. The side spaces of 6ft. or 7ft. were to allow the water to get freely in or out of the reservoir. But apparently could have been occupied by a larger wheel or additional small ones.  The wheel revolved in a. stout wooden framework which rose and fell with the tide by the action of what were virtually bellows. Planking hinged to the floor of the frame and to the base of the beams or posts which served as guides to the framework, projected backwards towards the inner pond. The tide could not get through this – whereby it would have diminished the power  available for the wheel  – but gradually forced It up as it rose, thus keeping the wheel at a suitable level. The reverse action of course took place when the reservoir was emptying maintaining the wheel again at a good working level.  on each end of the drum or water wheel was a ring of cogs engaging by bevel gear with the base of upright shafts rising  into the mill to turn the machinery. There were two bevel wheels on each shaft a lever being provided for changing from one to the other when the motion of the wheel was reversed after the necessary stoppage at the change of tide.  A system of counterweighted gates was employed regulate the flow of water to the wheels. A patent no 2411, for tide mills constructed in this manner was granted  on June 10th 1800 to William Johnson of Bromley, Kent, gentleman. In a long advertisement published six months later he anticipated the construction of the East Greenwich mills and describes the merits of his plan in a glowing style not unusual with inventors. It required a smaller reservoir than usual as the water ran over the top of the gates down upon the wheel. and acted by its weight Instead of by Impulse as on the undershot method. He estimated that where tide rose 15 ft., a basin 125 yards square and 21ft deep would hold enough Water to grind and dress 468 bushels of wheat every twenty-four hours, or every twenty working hours four being allowed for stopping to let the tide get a good start. A large Part of the pond attached to these mills is still traceable though a good deal has been filled up with cinders and the works of the Blackheath and Greenwich District Electric Company occupy nearly the site of the old tide mill.  As a bank 8ft or 10ft high surrounds the pond it was evidently able to hold water up to the top level of the tide. Though now choked with mud the bottom of the pond must have been lower at one time. This Rapid filling with mud was ono of the drawbacks of the system

One of, the earliest of Richard Trevithick’s high pressure engines was employed pumping at East Greenwich tide mills:  while the basin was excavating. It had cast iron boiler 6ft. In diameter and from l in. to l 1/2 in. thick in different places, according to Trevithick himself. This boiler blew up in September, 1803, killing -three men and injuring others:

The boy in charge had gone off to catch eels in the-basement of the mill, and a labourer had stopped the engine because it was going too fast. This is a characteristic specimen of the happy-go lucky enginemanship of those days. A boiler of the same kind may be foun at the south Kensington Museum

Return to New East Greenwich and the Tide Mill



Ransome’s artificial stone works

Ransome’s artificial stone works – this is one of the more obscure industries on the Greenwich Peninsula. However Ransome eventually went to America and became famous – the following are some of the notes gathered about the works, and there will be more to come.

The following is an extract from a directory of stone works – it is copied from a photocopy of a single page and I do not know the name of the book or the author
If you are the author – please let me know and I will either remove it, if you request that, or better please give me details of who you are, what the book is and I will happily credit you.

Ransome’s Patent Stone Works

These works I were established at lpswich in 1844 and removed to Greenwich in January 1866. Frederick  Ransome, the inventor of a process for produc- ing an artificial stoneware capable of being moulded – a member of the well-known Ipswich family – was in early life connected with the Orwell Works firm of Ransomes & Sims. It was while there, and noticing a workman engaged in dressing a millstone, that he conceived the idea  of producing artificial stone capable of being moulded to any form, and to be a perfect imitation, both in appearance and substance, of the blocks taken from our best quarries. For ten years, the difficulties he had to encounter were very great; but he at length succeeded in making not only perfectly equable and homogeneous grindstones, with keen cutting powers and that needed no dressing, but also the decorative stonework which, among other places, was introduced in the Brighton Aquarium, London Docks, Albert Bridge, Whitehall and St. Thomas’s Hospital. The demand for this artificial stone becoming much extended, the inventions were taken up by a company in 1871 and extensive works were erected at East Greenwich, to which the business was transferred. They were carried on by A. H. Bate- man & Co. Ltd. The material was, to all intents and purposes, a pure sandstone whose silicious particles were bound together by a cement of silicate of lime-a mineral substance well-known to be of the most indestructible nature. It could be moulded to any form while in a plastic state.

Some more local details about Ransome:

Ernest Lewis Ransome, a stone mason, was living at 13 Royal Place, Royal Hill in 1870

Ransome’s Patent Stone Co. Ltd. Arthur Pye Smith, Manager. grind and architectural stone manufacturers East Greenwich 1878.

Frederick Ransome – some of James Ransome of Ipswich. agricultural implement makers. Born Rushmore near Ipswich 1818.  He invented an artificial sandstone the silicious particiles of which were bound together by a cement of silicate of lime in 1848 and used in buildings in Great Britain and the colonies and for emery wheels and grindstones, made cement for blast furnaces slag and lime equal to Portland Cement at half the cost.  Died at 42 Melbourne Grove, Dulwicj  19th April 1893. (Proceedings of Institute of Civil Engineers)

Ransome’s artificial stone is prepared by mixing sodium silicate with sand, moulding the mixture to shape and then immersing the product in a solution of calcium chloride.  A cement of calcium silicate is thus produced and the sodium, chloride is removed (though not completely) by prolonged washing with water.  Samples of this stone have attained a crushing strength of 2 tons per square inch. This process owning to the expense of the skilled labour required has been discontinued.  (Martin. Industrial and Manufacturing Chemistry)

Return to Ransome

Angerstein Wharf 1970s

The following article appeared in The Railway Magazine during the 1970s. It is reproduced with their kind permission – and with my apologies to them, the author and the readers for any mistakes from in a scan from a very smudgy photocopy




INSIDE the Royal Exchange in the City of London are paintings or memorials to most of the founders of the famous institutions, many of whom are also commemorated by the names of neighbouring streets or buildings. An exception, John Julius Angerstein, is more familiar to Southern railwaymen than City gentlemen by virtue of the rail connection with the Thames-side wharf which bears his name. Angerstein was a Russian refugee who enjoyed a remarkable business career in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries during which he persuaded the early marine under- writers to leave Edward Lloyd’s coffee house and establish themselves in the Royal Exchange. A philanthropist and art collector, his pictures formed the nucleus of the National Gallery after his death in 1823 at Blackheath.

Angerstein Wharf was constructed by a grandson of the “Father” of Lloyds and is well sited on the south bank of the Thames near Greenwich opposite the Royal Group of Docks, having a river frontage of 755 ft. In May, 1851 Angerstein obtained powers for the construction of a single-track railway, 79 chains long, from a junction with the South Eastern Railway between Blackheath and Charlton (opened July 30, 1949) to the Wharf. This was a rare, if not unique, instance of a private individual obtaining an Act of Parliament for railway construction, necessitated by the bridge over Woolwich Road. Opened in August 1852 the branch was leased to and worked by the SER from the out- set. The lease was renewed in 1853 and 1879 and the South Eastern finally purchased the freehold in 1898. The line was later doubled from a point just north of the Woolwich Road bridge and served various private sidings including a spur to the large South Metropolitan Gas Works. For years the SER signal works was situated near the junction north of Blackheath Tunnel: the Greenwich to Charlton line opened on January 9, 1873, passed nearby on bridge and embankment. A fine view of the branch stretching north across the Greenwich Marshes is obtained from this line just east of Westcombe Park Station where the southern approach motorway to the Blackwall Tunnel is also now crossed.

The tonnage handled at the wharf has varied over the years, reaching a peak by 1914. The quay is 400 ft. long and can accommodate six river barges, most traffic formerly being barged to and from vessels in the various docks. For years after the Second World War a big tonnage of Fullers Earth was exported via Angerstein Wharf involving regular freight trains from Redhill, worked through by “N” class Moguls via Tonbridge, Maidstone West and Gravesend. Imports included waste paper, timber, flour and  packed manure. In its November 1952 issue The Railway Magazine described an exceptional out-of-gauge’ load which had traversed the branch a few weeks previously. A catalyst storage drum 60 ft. long, 16 ft. 6 in. diameter and weighing 38 tons was conveyed from Charlton to the wharf on “Flatrol” wagon and floated thence down the Thames to the oil refinery at Grain. When loaded the overall height of the drum was 21 ft. 4 1/2 in and other rolling stock was dwarfed. A Port of London Authority “Leviathan” floating crane lifted the drum into the river.

There has never been a passenger service and it is possible that the only passengers to travel the line did so on the London River Railtour of the Railway Correspondence & Travel Society on March 29, 1958. A two-coach exLSWR push-pull set (No (657) hauled by ex SECR “H” class 0-4-4 tank No. 31518 made the journey. However in 1971 the Greater London Council investigated the possibility of an orbital or outer-circle suburban service and if this project ever reaches fruition trains would use part of the branch on their approach to a new tunnel under the Thames which would link up with the Eastern Region at Canning Town.

The last decade has seen several changes. Many of the private sidings have closed and Angerstein Wharf itself has been leased to the Thames Metal Company since 1964. Scrap metal, mostly for export 10 Bilbao in Northern Spain, is brought by the trainload from Hither Green Sidings via the Dartford Loop and Crayford Spur, much of it emanating from Southall, Wandsworth Road or the Ford Motor Co. Ltd. at Dagenham. The latter reaches the Southern Region via Temple Mills, Gospel Oak and the West London Line. The track lay out in the immediate vicinity of the wharf, formerly most inconvenient, has recently been redesigned and only one through line runs to the riverside. British Railways locomotives, usually class “33” diesel electrics, shunt the branch for about an hour each day in contrast to former years when an “01” or “C’ class 0-6-0 from Bricklayers Arms Shed was on pilot duty round the clock. The wagons of scrap are now handed over to Thames’ Metal’s private 0-4-0 diesel engines some quarter of a mile from the wharf. There are two active locomotives, one of 11 tons, by Motor Rail, the other of 20 tons by F. C. Hibberd & Co. The branch was electrified in 1959.

Two private sidings remain. Rcdpath Brown- Dorman Long receives constructional steel from Scunthorpe and Teesside and it was thought that some 8.000 tons were handled in 1972. Although the future of this traffic is in doubt, Murphy Aggregates forward sea-dredged ballast by rail in l00-ton bogie wagons and it is hoped that some 500.000 tons will be dealt with in 1973. Thus, unlike many other short riverside branches, including that to Deptford Wharf a couple of miles upstream which is but a memory-it is pleasant to record that Angerstein Wharf is still very much in business and likely to remain so for many years to come. In conclusion

I should like to express my gratitude to the Public Relations & Publicity Officer of the Southern Region for his kind help in preparation of this article

Bosphorus ferries built by Maudslay

Azimet built 1870 out of service 1915
Rahat built 1880 out of service 1911
Selamet built 1870 out of service 1915

Suhulet built 1871 out of service 1961 (definitely built in Greenwich)

Sahilbent built 1871 out of service 1961 (definitely built in Greenwich)
The vessel continued as a cargo vessel Kapitan Sucru and was burnt out on the Anatolian Coast in the late 1990s. The fate of her hulk not known – would be glad of info – she may be afloat and in use still!!

bosphorus ferries

Return to Maudslay Son and Field