Maps and plans of the tide mill

tide mill map
Plan of the mill and power station site as part of the sales pack 1890s

mill ms contents0001 – this is a scan of a list of contents of the mill in 1892

Return to Tide Mill general page

tithe map 1840s
Extract from Tithe Map 1847
plan 1842
Plan of the mill for sales pack 1842

Riverway – industrial sites

Industrial sites in Riverway

Frank Hills – Chemical Works (information on this site after 1895 as Phoenix Wharf can be found under Gasworks)

The Tide Mill and Frank Hills

Frank Hills and his business interests

The Hills Family

Ballard – Nuisance Report

Cutting from Kentish Mercury 1846 on accident at Hills’ chemical works – see post

D.C.Davies – Extracts on Hills mining interests (not yet loaded)

Bryan Hope Chapter from A Curious Place on Henry Hills (copyright not loaded)

Mary Mills THE EARLY EAST LONDON GAS INDUSTRY AND ITS WASTE PRODUCTS  (more material on the same site)

Fuel Research

Charlton Research Works Fatality

Fuel Research – brief history

Coalite Plant

Brochure on Coalite History

Redpath Brown

Redpath Brown – new pictures and more

More Pictures of Redpath Brown

A Structural Steelworks on the Greenwich Peninsula

Letters on Redpath Brown – Arthur Turner, Rick Tisdell

Letter on demolition of Redpath Brown site. Andrew Turner

Redpath Brown brochure text

Final demolition of Redpath Brown buildings on the Dome site

Bolckow Vaughan

Dorman Long

Blackwall Point Power Station

Blackwall Point Power Station – article from GIHS Newsletter

Blackwall Point Power Station – official handout

Blackwall Point Power Station – note and sources

The Fatal Boiler Explosion

Blackwall Point Power Station. Frederick Gair

New East Greenwich and the Tide Mill

ceylon place pilot plaque
Plaque on the Pilot pub

Maps and plans of the tide mill

East Greenwich Tide Mill – by Julian Watson

Damn Your Eyes Mr. Sharp – article by Mary Mills for local paper

New East Greenwich – article by Mary Mills for Bygone Kent

Olinthus Gregory’s Description of the East Greenwich Tide Mill – contemporary account 1802 from Mechanics by Gregory who was a Professor at the Royal Military Academy

Richard Trevithick and the boiler explosion

The Explosion – Article by Mary Mills for Bygone Kent

Weale on the Explosion – contempory account from J.Farey, Treatise on the Steam Engine

Richard Trevithick Letter about the Explosion – copy of letter from Trevithick’s biography

Anniversary article – article by Mary Mills for local press

Richard Trevithick in East Greenwich – article by Mary Mills for Bygone Kent

200th Anniversary of an industrial accident – article in Greenwich Industrial History Newsletter – need to scroll down a bit

Miscellaneous posters and documents on the tide mill, East Lodge and Ceylon Place

East Greenwich Tide Mill – later 19th century accounts  – from The Engineer and Mechanics Magazine


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Bugsby’s Hole – some background

Bugsby’s Hole – Some articles about the area and its originals



roundelWas there a pre-18th century building at Bugsby’s Hole?   – note by Mary Mills

Other Bugsby’s holes – note by Mary Mills

Letter from Pat O’Driscoll – please see very important comment on this posting by Dale Bugby

Who was Bugsby (cutting  from PLA Journal by Mr Green) please see very important comment on this posting by Dale Bugby

The Importance of Being Bugsby. Muriel Searle. Port of London. January 1975. (not reproduced, no copyright permission)

Bugsby is Bugby

Bugsby’s Hole. letter to the press  – Kentish Mercury 1923 An altered roadway – newspaper cutting – some recollections – Kentish Mercury 1932 Also see Return to Riverway

Redpath Brown brochure text

brochure has been prepared with the intention of giving information on the history of the Company on which our experience is based, and at the same time, to show some of our recent technical advances in the Offices, Works and Sites. I hope that all our friends and customers will not only,find the contents of interest but will discover therein an image of the largest structural engineering Company in Great Britain moving ivith the new conditions of the twentieth century and constantly seeking ways to improve its service to the client.
Managing Director.

GEORGE III had been on the throne for 30 of the 60 years of his reign when, in 1791, John Redpath, son of a Scottish weaver, was apprenticed to an Edinburgh ironmonger. The weaver was a poor man, and in sending his son a modest sum of money he wrote “fie as frugal as you can and ware it to the best advantage, as you know it is not easy got”. So well did young John “ware” it, that by 1802 he was able to enter into partnership with John Stevenson Brown. They opened a shop in the centre of Edinburgh, trading as ” Ironmongers, Nailmakers and Seedsmen, under the name of Redpath and Brown. George III. 1791 John Redpath apprenticed to Edinburgh ironmonger. First steamship on Hirer Thames.1802 Partnership of Redpath &. Brown formed, John Rennie builds his first iron arch bridge. Trafalgar. War with United States of America, 1812 James Marshall apprenticed to Redpath &, Brown. Waterloo. McAdam introduced his road surface. 1816 Leith Branch opened. 1817 S. Brown builds River Tweed suspension bridge, near Peebles. Formation of the Institution of Civil Engineers, First steamboat crosses Atlantic. Telford builds Menai Bridge. George IV. 1820 Formation of Redpath Brown. Company, with James Marshall. First railway, from Stockton to Darlington, by George Stephenson, First book published on “Strength of Materials and Structural Analysis” (Henri Navier). Foundation of Middlesbrough. William IV. Formation of Royal Institute of British Architects. First patent for wire rope. Brunel commences Clifton Bridge, Bristol, Queen Victoria, First electric telegraph operates. London University establishes Department of Civil Engineering. Brunel builds Hungerford Bridge, London. 1841 J. S. Brown retires. The ironmongery side of the business prospered so well that the rest was soon overshadowed, and by 1816 the partners were able to open a branch at Leith. Among their pioneering activities their records show such items as: “Grave Safety Covers, inclusive of iron screws for use with the above covers” a grim reminder of the prevalence of body-snatching for the clandestine trade with the students of surgery. Their dealings in wrought iron led J. S. Brown to concentrate on the design and construction of bridges. His earliest known example is an iron wire suspension bridge across the River Tweed below Peebles, built in 1817 and in use until 1957. Another bridge across the same river, built in 1825 and still giving service today, connects Gattonside to Melrose. At the inaugural ceremony Brown is reported to have observed, ” When I undertook the execution of this bridge, my mind was anxiously set upon doing it in such a way as would make it both useful and ornamental: so as to be a credit to myself and to give satisfaction to all connected with, or interested therein”. Brown’s engineering ability may be gauged from the fact that it was not until 1826 that the first book ever to appear on the subject of “Strength of Materials and Structural Analysis” was published by the French Engineer, Louis Navier. The Partners invited James Marshall, who had been apprenticed to them some years earlier, to join the partnership in 1820, and thereafter the business was carried on under the name of “Redpath, Brown and Company”. By the time J. S. Brown retired in 1841, the new era in engineering was well under way. The world’s first railway had been opened, and its promoters, looking for an outlet for their coal trade to the sea had chosen a site on the River Tees that was to become Middlesbrough; the Stephensons (father and son) had constructed the Liverpool and Manchester railway, and I. K. Brunei was building the Great Western railway and the “Great Western” steamship (first to cross the Atlantic). The enormous demand for engineers led London University to establish a department of civil engineering. When, five years after Brown’s retirement, John Redpath died, James Marshall became the sole partner in Redpath Brown’s. He proved to be a sound commercial administrator, attempting no new ventures, but developing the ironmongery business into a major enterprise over the next twenty-five years, During these years, when Nasmyth introduced the steam hammer for forging, and Bessemer patented his process for steel-making, the engineering feat which created the greatest public interest was the building designed by Joseph Paxton and erected in Hyde Park, London, to house the “Great Exhibition” of 1851. This huge iron-framed, glass-clad structure, soon to be christened the “Crystal Palace”, was erected in 17 weeks; an unprecedented example of “pre-fabrication”. It persuaded one young visitor, a nephew of James Marshall, that structural engineering should be his career. Joining his uncle as an apprentice, John Cowan applied himself with enthusiasm and vigour. In 1868 he became a partner. Five years later, with the retirement of Marshall, he assumed full control, and the period of quiet development for Redpath, Brown and Company was over. Cowan, whose enterprise and ability was later to earn him a knighthood, lost no time: he made the decision which virtually decided the future role of the Company. He imported from Belgium stocks of the new wrought-iron rolled beams and installed some simple plant in his stockyard for their manipulation. At this time, sections were cut to length by the “skull-cracker” method. The section was nicked all round by hammer and chisel at the point to be cut and laid across two supports; an iron ball was hoisted by crane, and a man at the jib-head “sighted” and released the ball to fall on the exact spot to break the section. The demand for ironwork in buildings grew very quickly, and under its impetus technical developments soon had supplies of the new Bessemer and Open Hearth steels available. Iron ore found in the Cleveland Hills around Middlesbrough had a high phosphorus content: Gilchrist & Thomas, at the works of steel makers Bolckow, Vaughan, demonstrated how the phosphoric content could be eliminated’ in a Bessemer converter. The first rolled sections in this new material became available in this country in 1883, when Dorman Long commenced production at their Britannia Works. The considerable economy in design of these sections, together with the greater reliability of steel, more than offset its higher cost, and the changeover from iron to steel for structural purposes became an accomplished fact. By now, Redpath Brown were executing orders in the North and Midlands of England, and had opened a branch office in Glasgow: a few years later, a small structural shop was also opened in that city. Enterprising John Cowan, finding his next-door neighbour in Edinburgh had an excess of power, promptly arranged for the drive shaft to be extended into his own shops! HS. could now (1886) offer his customers drilled and riveted compound girders. -He also gave them what was even more badly needed—authoritative information
In 1892 was published a modest volume of “Roof Designs and Tables of Safe Loads on Iron and Steel Rolled Sections”; the first edition of the Redpath Brown Handbook. Cowan had many other ideas, but his main problem now was to find the capital to implement them. He saw his opportunity in 1896, when a group of influential Midland businessmen approached him with a proposition that he should undertake the manufacture of the Stirling Water Tube Boiler. A new company—Redpath Brown and Company Limited was floated with a nominal capital of £100,000; the wholesale ironmongery was disposed of to-two employees in the department, and a new factory, with both structural and boiler shops, was built in Edinburgh. Machinery in the works was driven by electric motors. Nasmyth introduces steam hammer. First beams in iron rolled in France by Zore. J. Redpath dies. J. Marshall sole 18′ partner, Robert Stevenson builds Britannia Tubular Bridge, Menai Straits. Crystal Palace at Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. Bessemer patents his method of steel- making. Rankine publishes his first “Applied Mechanics”. John Rennie completes Saltash Bridge, River Tamar. John Cowan apprenticed to Redpath 186 Brown. First successful Atlantic cable laid. J. Cowan becomes a partner 1886 Suez Canal opened. J. Cowan assumes control from J. 187 Marshall. Gilchrist &. Thomas successfully converts Cleveland Ore. Edison produces Incandescent electric lamp. James Marshall retires. 1881 Chas. Parsons patents steam turbine. Daimler drives cycle with internal combustion engine. Glasgow office opened 1885 Machinery installed at Edinburgh 1886 warehouse. Parliament introduces free elementary education. Redpath Brown publishes first Handbook. Redpath Brown becomes a Limited 1896 Company. Diesel perfects his engine. New Factory at Edinburgh with 1897 electric power. First completely steel-framed building in British Isles by Redpath Brown. Wright brothers fly heavier-than-air machine. New factory in London commences Establishment of British Engineering Standards Association, ,’New factory in Manchester. This innovation was so far ahead of its time that the Company had, perforce, to install its own steam-driven generator. Some years later a separate company was formed to carry on manufacture of the boilers. When this was eventually disposed of, Redpath Brown was able to concentrate on its main role as Structural Steel Engineers. The turn of the century saw a period of general prosperity and industrial expansion. The Company was constantly adopting new ideas in design, construction and erection. Cowan, as an enlightened employer, increased his wage rates and shortened the working week by starting his men at 7.30 a.m. (6.30 a.m. was the generally accepted time) and introduced a Workmen’s Savings Bank. Under his medical scheme, employees and their families had the services of a doctor (with medicine supplied) for one penny a week. Later he was to pioneer the principle of paid holidays. Demand was now beginning to overtake the capacity of the industry and deliveries were becoming protracted. It was then that the Company adopted its policy of laying down large stocks, to safeguard its tradition of always honouring delivery promises. The decision, taken in 1900, to establish a branch in the London area began the expansion programme which was to ensure the Company’s lead in the field of structural steel engineering. A riverside factory was built on reclaimed land at East Greenwich: production commenced in 1903. That same year a Manchester firm, The Structural Engineering Company, was acquired; new workshops built on the Trafford Park Estate were in production by 1904. The first completely steel-framed building in the British Isles was a furniture store at Stockton-on-Tees, designed and erected by Redpath Brown & Co. Ltd. in 1900. In the next few years a number of similar structures were successfully completed (among them store buildings in Edinburgh and Belfast), and by 1911 the Company had constructed, for a Manchester office building, a framework containing over 7,000 tons of steel, the first 2,000 tons of which was erected in 8 weeks! To meet the needs of this rapidly growing business, the capital of the Company was increased to £250,000. By now, the British Engineering Standards Association had introduced a standard for rolled steel beams, channels and angles, and the Company had issued a new and enlarged edition of its Handbook based on these standardised sections. Within a few years another edition covered, in addition, the Regulations of the London County Council. Interrupted by the four years of World War I, the Company continued to expand, and in 1917 the nominal capital was increased to £600,000. Two years later, the ordinary share issue was brought up to £350,000, which, with the £175,000 preference shares, made a total issued capital of £525,000: at which figure it still stands. Turnover was now substantial, competition was very keen, and the Company was having to look further afield for its business. The export market developed so rapidly that, by 1922, a specially-built factory near Glasgow was working to capacity. It was at this point that the Directors were approached by Bolckow, Vaughan and Company, who wished to acquire the whole of the ordinary share capital of the Company. The proposal was accepted and the arrangement worked to mutual advantage for the next seven years. In 1929, Bolckow Vaughan merged with Dorman Long and Company Limited, and Redpath Brown became one of the Dorman Long Group of Companies. That same year Sir John Cowan died, after almost 70 years of unremitting service to the Company. Speech and music first transmitted bjf radio. Institution of Structural Engineers founded, Bleriot flies English Channel. George V. Capital increased to £.200,000. 1910 Ford Motor Co. produces ‘Model T in Manchester, England. Production of Munitions for World War I. Authorised capital increased to £600,000. Ordinary share capital brought up to £,31:0,000. Total capital issued to 25,000. New Factory at Glasgow, principally i921 for exports. Ordinary share capital acquired by 1922 Bolctow Vaughan &. Co. 1929 Merger with Dorman Long &. Co. Ltd. Sir John Cowan dies. Whittle patents his gas turbine for jet propulsion, British Standards Institution formed. Edward VIII. George VI. British Standards Institution issues B.S.449—structural steel design. 1939/45 Military production at all factories. Elizabeth II. 1959 Dorman Long introduces Universal sections. During the 1939/45 period all factories were heavily engaged in supplying to the Armed Forces products (such as a small fleet of tank landing craft) not normally associated with structural steelwork. The years since the war have seen a steady expansion of all branches of the organisation. Within the various Works streamlining of the production lines has been achieved with the introduction of modern plant, including automatic welding, electroslag welding, multi-spindle drilling and shot-blasting. Modern buildings require very large pieces of fabricated steel to be shop assembled prior to delivery. To meet this requirement heavy cranes have been installed at the various Works and pieces up to 50 tons in weight are handled as easily as small units. On the building sites a similar metamorphosis is in evidence, with tower cranes-supplanting the traditional scotch derricks-feeding pre-fabricated units to the site welders, working to erection programmes analysed by “critical path” methods. But probably the greatest advances have occurred in the design offices. Following the introduction of Universal sections in 1958 and high yield steel in 1962, the Company’s engineers, using new methods of design and analysis available with computer programmes, are now offering steel frame designs of greater efficiency, flexibility and economy, than ever before. Yet another edition of the Redpath Brown Handbook incorporating these latest advances, is in course of preparation. Its early publication will demonstrate the determination of the Company to remain in the fore-front of the structural steel industry; its proud history being its inspiration for the future. TODAY, as a result of its continued expan- sion, Redpath Brown is the largest structural steel fabricating company in Great Britain, having a capacity of 100,000 tons per annum. Its staff of nearly 3,000 employees is engaged in the design, fabrication and erection of steelwork for every part of the world. Exports are the life blood of the United Kingdom’s economy, and Redpath Brown plays its full part. Currently steel fabrications of all types are being sent to twenty-one overseas countries, and visits are frequently made by senior executives of the Company to our overseas agents and offices. Over the years the name Redpath Brown has become principally associated with the larger con- tracts—power stations, automobile factories and the like. In fact, the Company does obtain a considerable proportion of its trade from smaller contracts such as steelwork for shops, schools, churches, and all types of storage sheds and workshops. No job is too large for the Company to handle and no contract too small to receive individual attention and service.

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An altered Greenwich roadway

Kentish Mercury
24th March 1932
When a lane has lost its real or imaginary association with dog roses, honeysuckle or other of nature’s frivolities it rapidly sinks in the public’s estimation and must be renamed. The change from Marsh Lane to Tunnel Avenue and Riverway was reasonable but you could hardly call the old Marsh Lane picturesque it was in spite of its dirt and ditches for more interesting than the deadly dull roads, which have replaced it.
At the top, on the left, Robert Govan a Scot, kept a grocery and a baker’s shop and made money. On the right was the Ship and Billet with the horse trough. Below this stretched some small houses inhabited, I should think, entirely by Irish. This little colony probably came into existence soon after the terrible potato famine of 1846-7 when many thousands of starving peasants came to England. Our charwoman, Betsy Bowen, was one of these. The ten million grant by the Government did not go far.
I collected the rents of two small houses on the right of the lane Mrs. Sheehan was a saintly old Catholic revered by all the lane. When she died her coffin lay in the little back room for some days. A calico catafalque had been erected over the coffin and tiny white tape crosses pinned thereon.
An Eviction.
The tenant next door was not a saint. He didn’t keep clean or sober. That would not have made mattered in those days but he did not pay his rent which was serious. I had to put his furniture save the mark, into the lane. In the front room upstairs there was a wash handstand. A newspaper covered it. I took up the job bottomless and basin also bottomless. In a corner of the room there was a little altar. It was rather pathetic. The goods stood in the gutter untouched for about a fortnight when the Vestry bundle the rubbish into their yard. Now had this rubbish been in an English street it was house disappeared in a day. But it belonged to an evicted tenant and no one; boy or man, in Marsh Lane would meddle with it.
Mention of the Vestry reminds me that a certain vestryman stated at a meeting that ‘Marsh Lane wasn’t fit for Presbyterian to go down’. Evidently Congregationalists were more sturdy for old Mr. Davies who lived at the end of the lane opposite the causeway tramped once or twice each Sunday to Maze Hill Chapel. Mr. Davies was the uncle of Sir Walford Davies whose aunt died in Blackheath some years ago over 100 years of age.
The Davies house with the trees around formed a pleasant little oasis in the Marshes. A few trees still remain. Opposite the house is Bugsby’s Hole whether the river is very deep here I don’t know, but many years ago an old pilot friend of mine, rather more alcoholic than usual fell out of his boat and was drowned.
In the wall of the Pilot you may see a stone ‘Ceylon Place, New East Greenwich 1802’ The inhabitants of this fag end of Greenwich were mostly watermen and pilots when I first knew it and in bad winter weather it was isolated. On Saturday, greatly daring, the wives went to Greenwich market. On other days they were generally content to deal with Mr. Chaney who had a grocery shop just before you reached Mr. Davies’ house. Mr. Chaney not only attended to their physical wants but over the shop there was a room where he did his best to meet their spiritual needs. I have sampled his goods but not his sermons – I fee, sure they were equally good
Hard winters
As all know the land was then all market garden, but there were certain huts in which gunpowder or fireworks were made. Every now and then there was a ‘blow up’ and sometimes a death occurred. Worse however was the low fever some ill-natured people called it ‘starvation fever’ that generally killed a few in the winter. Winter was a dreadful time among the garden workers.

April 29th 1932

It is pleasant to find that our father, Mr. Davies, is still remember in Greenwich, though it seems strange that he should then have been thought old, as he was only 72 when he removed to Dulwich. But as he had tramped ‘the lane’ for over 40 years he certainly was ‘an old inhabitant’.
His house was an interesting old place. It was originally built by a Mr. Hughes as a pleasure house for his parties and dances. The hall was paved with large square of black and white marble and its ceiling was painted by Sir James Thornhill after the style of his work in the Painted Hall (the whole canvas of this ceiling came down bodily in the night during our residence there). The house was built on piles and under it were brick arched cellars perfectly dry like those under the College.
Mr. Hughes was apparently rather a reprobate for the story goes that on Sunday evenings he sat on the window sill of the upstairs ballroom dangling his legs outside and blowing a horn to disturb the service held in the Thames Church Mission ship, the swan, which was moored just opposite the jetty. Between the garden and river was the right of way footpath to Woolwich and watermen using the jetty and footpath would lean over the hawthorn hedge gazing at the primroses which covered the grassy bank inside and call to us children’ don’t you pick those Missy, they are the prettiest things we ever see’.
The field beyond were then meadows with cows and buttercups and several in a line with the back of Wheatleys farm were full of cowslips. They were separated by hedges of pink and white hawthorn and the larks sang over them all day long. The market gardens were then only on the upper part of the Marsh, really the lower, for toward the river the ground rose several feet so the pilot.doc and Ceylon Place were free from the damp and the consequent fevers which were prevalent nearer Greenwich. The ditches had willow trees here and there on their banks and being tidal were never stagnant.
A Working Man’s Institute
Mr. F. C. Hills, owner of the chemical works of which Mr. Davies was manager fitted up a large room over Mr. Chaney’s shop as a working men’s institute with a library and weekly and monthly papers and magazines and the service held there on Sunday evenings was conducted by various friend’s (Mr. Thomas Hodges a deacon of Maze Hill Chapel was a frequent and welcome ‘supply’). Fortnightly ‘Penny Readings’, concerts, lectures etc were given here for several winter seasons beginning about 1867. Among the speakers were George MacDonald, Mr. Hale White (then door keeper at the House of Commons, the father of ‘Mark Rutherford’) W.C. Bennetts, the poet, The Rev Benjamin Waugh, and others.
Miss Anna Williams, the well-known soprano, made her debut there (and soon afterwards sang before Queen Victoria, who presented her with a gold bracelet). To this concert a gentleman famed for his love or practical joking, undertook to conduct a party of Greenwich friends. He led them by cart tracks over garden ground and across several ditches, telling them it was the only sway. So they reached the concert very late, very hot and very muddy.
The custom was for performers or speakers and their friends to adjourn afterwards to our house for coffee and sandwiches (and talk) before facing the lane again. I do not remember any of these gatherings being prevented by bad weather. In later years the Thames Church Mission, the ‘Swan’ being removed, used the Institute room.
A Great Snowstorm
In the great snowstorm of January 1881 the lane was impassable until a gang of men had dug a road through, making snow walls of 6ft or so in height and as we walked up it, that afternoon one man shouted ‘make way mates, and let the beauties of the valley pass’.
Fogs were worse obstacles then wind, rain or mud. One night we were all caught in an extra dense one and called at Mr. Tindley’s (the oilshop in Trafalgar Road) for links or torches. His stock was already sold out but he gave us huge candles rolled in brown paper and carrying these and with our own ‘bulls eye’ lantern held low to show the grass edge of ditch we walked slowly in single file and at the long last reached home safely (with a good supply of tallow on our gloves!)
But for the greater part of the year the walk down the old lane was pleasant as well as interesting and at its end our beautiful home with its gardens and trees and the ever changing panorama of the river made ample compensation for the times of difficulty.

April 1932
More Recollections
No doubt, like many other old Greenwich residents I read in your last weeks issue with great interest the article by JEW under the headline, which with your permission I should like to amplify.
The baker he mentions, Robert Govan, I knew well. A somewhat portly man noted for his hot cross buns also for the very impressive gold chain he wore so tightly stretched across his figure that he used to boast no one could steal it. One day a ragged urchin entered his shop for a penny bun and asked Mr Govan to tuck it under the back of his coat as he feared the other boys outside would steal it. Mr Govan kindly leant over the counter to do this relaxing the strain on his watch chain which the boy deftly removed with the watch. To ask Mr. Govan the time was anathema for some time after this.
The members of the Irish colony mentioned by JEW were nearly on employed upon Messrs. Sheppard’s and Messsrs Roberts’ farms and market gardens, extending from the river to Westcombe Park, most of them suffered with rheumatism, ague and low fever. No doubt owing to the dampness of their dwellings and their working on the marshes. Wakes were frequent and kept up until h departed was perforce buried. My father who employed some hundred of these Irish asked one whose daughter had died some time back whether she had been buried yet to which he replied ‘Begorrah, no Surr, she’s as sweet as a nut yet’. At one wake I recall the calico catafalque caught fire, the house was burnt ands the corpse prematurely cremated.
Spratted Eels
With all their trials and vicissitudes the Irish were as usual a very humorous and cheery set. When sprats were in season an itinerant Irish vendor of this savoury fish used to perambulate Blackwall Lane calling out what sounded like ‘Spratted eels’. As a boy I could not understand what these piscatorial freaks could be but I discovered it was his method of calling his customers attention to his wares by shouting ‘Sprats, you devils’.
Mr. Davies who lived at the end of the lane was the manager of the factory adjoining his house in the riverbank and many times have I walked to Maze Hill Chapel with him, the Rev, Benjamin Waugh being the then pastor.
With regard to the huts in the marshes – these were used for manufacturing fireworks, not gunpowder and unfortunately explosions used to occur occasionally. Loss of life was however minimised as only one, or at most, two girls were employed in each hut, Mr. Dyer was the proprietor of this business and lived in a detached house opposite Napier Villas at East Greenwich, just at the rear of this house was Mr. Wheatley’s Farm. Mr. Wheatley owned the old service of horse busses running from Greenwich to London, these were superseded by the horse trams about 80 years ago.
With regard to JEW’s remarks about the administration of the land taken over by the London County Council although not always seeing eye to eye with that august body, it appears to me that it was very wise in preventing houses for the working classes being erected in the marshes which are water logged and far from being an ideal site for dwellings. I have in several cases that at high tides water rises to within two or three feet of the ground level which cannot be very sanitary

Return to Bugsby’s Hole some background

Charlton Research Works Fatality

1930 Kentish Mercury

Deptford Man Overcome by gas
Jury’s Recommendation
At the inquest at Greenwich on Tuesday on the body of George Perry (36) of 43 Broadwall Street, Deptford, a riveters mate, employed at the Government Fuel Research department’s Works at Riverway, Charlton. It was stated that while at work there on Friday morning above a water gas plant, he was overcome by carbon monoxide and fell 38 feet to his death.

The chief engineer, Captain J.F. Shaw said the accident happened in the main building where deceased was helping to erect a dust extractor over the water gas plant, in connection with which is used a coke made hot by a heavy draught. When the man fell he was standing on a temporary wooden platform with the wall behind him. In falling he must have gone through an aperture 14 inches wide and between pipe and a coke hopper. His cap was found 14 feet away from where his body was lying. Replying to questions he said the scaffolding was perfectly sound and had been in use for a fortnight. The plant was not working at the time but there was a fire in it and samples of the atmosphere, which had been taken showed traces of carbon monoxide.
A Juror: you did not think it sufficient to cause gas in dangerous quantities up there. That certainly is so. Men had been working up there for a fortnight without any accident.

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Bugsby’s Hole. letter to the press

5th January 1923

Bugsby’s Reach, about one-mile long runs from Blackwall to the beginning of Woolwich Reach. The bearing NNW ands SSE. There was and perhaps still is a spot on the river known as Bugsby’s Hole.
It seems probable that no one can now state with certainty how this reach and hole obtained their not very euphonious names, but there is an old tradition, which is interesting even if it cannot be strongly relied upon and in a book printed about hundred years ago. The legend runs:

There was a robber of that name who had a cabin there in the midst of a bed of osiers to which he used to retire after his depredations and it being apparently impervious Bugsby remained there for a length of time but being at lest discovered to escape the vengeance of the law he cast himself into the Thames. On exploring the haunt much treasure was found and the place was ever after called ‘Bugsby’s Hole’.

12th January 1923

Sir – In regard to the article in your last issue ‘Bugsby’s Hole’ by Mr. F.W.Nunn. As an old Bugsby’s Hole boy I have always been led to believe that Bugsby’s Hole took it name from the ‘Hole’ which was the best water in the reach for ships to anchor when unable to get to their discharging wharves through tide and weather. The hole is a little to the north of the landing causeway there or abreast of the Electric Works.
There are several reaches in the Thames with ‘holes’ Limehouse hole, Ropery hole – abreast of Messrs. Hollicks Cement works East Greenwich, Church Hole Erith, almost of Erith sweep, Erith reach and Aveley Hole just above Purfleet. All having the best water for anchorage of ships in those parts of the river about 70 years ago. I am sir: H.Kennard, 7 Milton Place Gravesend.
Kentish Mercury

Return to Bugsby’s Hole some background

The Fatal Boiler Explosion at East Greenwich


On Tuesday Mr. Coroner Oswald conducted his enquiry in reference to the deaths of William Wilson Shaw aged 45 of 26 Quarry Road, Wandsworth and James Peter Coombes, aged 45 of 8 River terrace, Blackwall Lane, east Greenwich, whom, as reported in the Kentish Mercury of December 21st were killed on the previous day as the result of a boiler explosion at the generating station of the South Metropolitan Electric Light and Power Company at Blackwall Point. Both Mr. Shaw who was an inspector in the employ of the National Boiler and General Insurance Company Limited of London and Manchester and Coombs who was a foreman fitter employed at the Electric Light Company were practically blown to pieces and considerable difficulty was experienced in the process of identification. At the time of the explosion Mr. Shaw, assisted by Coombes was endearing to locate a leak in the drum of the boiler – Mr. George Whale, solicitor of Woolwich, represented the Electric Company, Mr S. Row, solicitor, appeared for Mr. Shaw’s family and Mr. G. Michael Williams for the boiler company.
The Coroner said that since the enquiry was adjourned he had been informed that the Board of Trade were making an exhaustive enquiry into the cause of the explosion and trying to find out all they could. So far as he was concerned it was his duty to establish a prima facie case to enable the jury to return an intelligent verdict. In the jury being sworn the Coroner called attention to the absence through illness of one of their number (Mr Percy Rolls who was chosen foreman on the former occasion) and to that of another who he pointed out was liable to called upon to pay £20 the amount of his recognisance’s. The latter however attended before the taking of evidence commenced and his explanation was accepted as satisfactory. Mr. T..J. Jenkins was chosen as foreman in Mr. Rolls absence and he formally protested against the jury being required to investigate other cases than this of the explosion (they were required to go into the facts of the deaths of two children) the coroner however pointed out that under the terms of his warrant for summoning the jury they could be called upon to investigate any case that might arise.
Mr. John Archibald Constable electrical engineer to the company at Blackwall Point residing at No.8 The Circus, Greenwich was recalled and replying to the Coroner said that the leakage about which he spoke at the first hearing was first discovered in the damaged drain of the boiler on Wednesday, December 19th. It was known there was a slight leakage on the previous Monday, but that was not an uncommon occurrence. A leakage would be remedied by calking.
The Coroner: What was the leakage discovered on the Wednesday?
Witness: It was in the end of the drum, on the extreme right. The leakage was so narrow that it could hardly be discerned and it was only visible on account of the emission of steam. Replying to Mr. Row witness said that before the accident the thought the defect was in the joints and not in the plate of the drum.
Mr. Richard A. McLaren M.I.M.E. works manager for Messsrs. Babcock and Wilcox, Water tube and steam boiler makers of Cannon Street EC and St. Ann’s Square, Manchester, stated that the firm had constructed thermal storage drums for the company. Witness explained the construction of the boilers, drums and connecting pipes, plates of which he produced. He said that the damaged drum was made in 1905 and the accessories in 1902. The drums were 22ft 6 ins long and were manufactured of the best mild steel. All the steel which was purchased by the company from a Glasgow firm, underwent a severe test before being used, having to bear a pressure of 24 to 28 tons to the square inch, the steel was also subjected to a stretching test: a piece of steel two inches in length having to stretch 25 per cent before it could break. These tests were carried out before the steel left the Glasgow works. The drums used by the company were constructed his supervision at the works in Renfrew and before being delivered they were hydraulically tested to a pressure of 240lbs per square inch. The working pressure would be 240 bs per square inch. After being erected at the electric Company’s works they were again tested and nothing was found to be wrong.
The Coroner: when were they tested to 240 lbs? Witness: in July last year. The Coroner: How many storage drums similar to the one in question did your firm make last year. Witness: about 4,000. The Coroner: How many did you find defective? Witness: about twenty were rejected. Replying to the foreman of the jury witness said that the drums were not subjected to a test by the Board of Trade. No doubt the Boiler Insurance Company would be represented at the test after the drums were erected. About nine months elapsed between the making and testing of the damaged drums, but there would be no deterioration. There was not yet a great demand for storage drums, which were only invented eight years ago. The Coroner: Has their been a previous explosion with any to your knowledge? Witness: not to my knowledge. Answering further questions from the foreman witness said that the steel used in the construction of the drums was tested three times before they were used. He could if required produce a certificate that the drum in question was tested at the firm’s works before it was erected. The Board of Trade were not represented at tests. The Coroner: as an expert in steel have you formed an idea as to how the explosion occurred? Witness: It would he impossible I think to form a theory until there had been an examination of the steel. There must be an analysis both microscopically and chemically. The Coroner: it has been said that the steel was brittle. Witness: it may have been. Of course the analysis of the steel would show that.
Dr. William Thompson of London Street, Greenwich, said that he was called to the Company’s works at about five o’clock on 20th December. He described the shockingly mutilated condition in which he had found Mr. Shaw’s body. On the 24th ult he examined the remains of Coombs at the mortuary. The body was almost entirely mangled the remains consisting only of the skull which was smashed beyond recognition and portions of the scalp and face. The trunk and limbs were terribly torn and mutilated.
Mr. Edward George Hillier, BSc M.I.C.E. , M.I.Mech.E., chief engineer in the employ of the National Boiler and General Insurance Company said that he had examined the drum in question and found that both ends were blown out of shape. The detailed how he had found the drum in the Gas Company’s chemical works and that as the result of his examination of the fracture he had formed the opinion that some portion of it existed before the explosion occurred. From the evidence that had been given by Mr. Constable he should say that it was in that portion of the drum where the leakage was describe as being noticed. The coroner: your opinion is that the fracture was a continuation of the crack where the leakage was found. Witness: Yes. The leakage must have come from a fracture. Replying to further questions Mr. Mr. Hillier expressed the opinion that there was an old crack before the explosion and that it extended nearly through the plate going round abut two thirds of the circumference of the drum leaving a third of solid plate. The crack would not be visible from the outside but only when steam was emitted. Asked by the Coroner what he thought was the cause of the explosion, Mr. Hillier, said that the water was kept in the thermal drum at a temperature of 380 degrees and when it had reached the height it could explode – that was to say when the vessel containing it was ruptured. Part of the water might then flash into steam and burst with a tremendous volume of force. Further questioned witness said that when the explosion occurred Mr. Shaw was endeavouring to ascertain whether the crack was in the joint or in the stool itself. Although witness did not see the crack his opinion was that it wad due to some defect in the original plate, or in its treatment in the manufacture. It was possible that either a hard place was formed in the ore of the flange, or a fine crack was there before the vessel was worked. This was the first explosion that had occurred in a thermal storage drum – therefore it was unique. Police Sergeant Jackson, 21 R And Police Constable Moore 140 R having deposed to removing the remains of the two men to the mortuary, Mr. Constable was again recalled at the request of the foreman of the jury. He reiterated that he himself discovered the leak of the 17th ult and the crack two days after, he communicated by telephone with the boiler Insurance Company on the morning of the day the explosion happened. Coombes had reported to witness that there was something wrong the drum. He was engaged when Mr. Shaw arrived in the afternoon to examine the drum. There had been leakage before but the fires were not drawn. The leakage under notice was never regarded as serious or dangerous, but it was unusual because it was in the plate of the drum and not at the joints. Ion answer to Mr. Whale Mr. Constable said he agree with Mr. Hillier that it would have been difficult to have discovered that there was anything wrong until a short time before the explosion.
The Coroner in the course of summing up referred to the unprecedented nature of the accident. Which he said reminded him of the terrible lyddite explosion at Woolwich Arsenal upwards of three years ago when, after considerable difficulty, the remains of the sixteen victims were identified. In the enquiry similar circumstances arose, especially in the case of Coombes, who was recognised by his clothing. The jury after deliberating in private for some minutes returned a verdict to the effect that the two men die from shock as the result of an accidental explosion of a thermal storage boiler. They expressed deepest sympathy with the relatives in their bereavement. The Coroner said he desired to associate himself with the jury’s expression of sympathy and to say how sorry he was that such a catastrophe had occurred.

At Greenwich Town Hall on Wednesday, Mr. A.A. Hudson, barrister and Mr. J.H.Hallet, consulting engineer, resumed the investigation on behalf of the Board of Trade into the cause of the fatal boiler explosion which took place at the generating station of the South Metropolitan Electric Power and Light Co, Blackwall Point, East Greenwich on December 20th 1906. The case for the Board of Trade was put forward by Mr. George C. Vaux one of the Board’s solicitors. Mr. E.C. Hills represented Messrs. W. Beardmore and Co. who supplied the steel for the drums, Mr. P.G.Nicholls the boiler makers, Messrs. Babcock and Wilcox and Mr. George Whale the electric light company.
The examination was proceeded with of Mr. Andrew McClaren works manager at the Renfrew Works of Messrs. Babcock and Wilcox. The witness said that he had come to the conclusion that the plate where the explosion occurred was brittle. It was not brittle all over but he assumed it was brittle where the fracture was first observed – the place from which, it was said, steam was issuing. He attributed the crack to brittleness thinking that it started where the steam was seen to be issuing and ran two-thirds of the way round. There was no complaint as to these particular plates – there had been complaints as to others, but Messrs. Beardmore’s plates were not worse than those of anybody else. Cracks existed where the indentations existed and they were caused, in his opinion, by a combination of brittle plate and indentation. In a good plate the indentations ought not to have cause the weakness shown in the tests. They ought to be able to indent a plate seven eighths of an inch thick to the extent of an eighth of an inch or more without doing it any damage. Examined by Mr. Hill witness said that when the plates were received they were, as far as he knew, of the best material for the work for which they were wanted. They had frequently sent out drums with indentations as deep as those in the drum in question – no one had attached any importance to them before the accident. He had, however, since discussed the matter with his managing director and they had agreed that for the future it would be better to avoid the indentations. He had heard that one boiler company objected to them. The results of the examination of the plate, wherever there were indentations, were bad, but there were other places where the results were bad too. Distortion of the metal by denting would not decrease the ductility of a good plate. In reply to Mr. Nichollas witness said that they had 42 inspectors at the works several of them engaged on this special work. Severe treatment might cause a crack in the plate if it were brittle but indentations would have no effect on a normal plate. The results of the tests which had been made confirmed him in his view as to its brittleness. He himself had made experiments with a plate taken from another drumhead. Objection was taken as to giving evidence as to the result of these experiments as no notice of the intention to make them had been given to the other parties concerned. Mr. Hudson said that such notice should certainly have been given but witnesses’s evidence was taken. He said that the pieces of this plate were indented much deeper than an eighth of an inch and the conclusion he arrived at as the result of them was that you could indent a good plate as violently as you liked – if it did not stand the dent it was brittle. Mr. Vaux explained that Mr. Carlton who had conducted the tests on the plate for the purpose of the enquiry had been told of the experiments made by the last witness before he conducted his own.
R.H.L.Fernie Inspector of New Work for Messrs. Babcock and Wilcox at the time of the explosion said that he had been inspecting new work for ten years and had examined the drum at the Renfrew works. He saw the indentations but they did not strike him as anything unusual. as he was in the habit of seeing similar indentations. He could not say whether similar indentations occurred in the knuckles of the flange heads of the other thermo-drums sent out by the firm. The indentations did not strike him as being detrimental to the job. He did not think the indentations had anything to do with the crack. He did not know that he would pass the plate now, knowing what had happened. Indentations an eighth of an inch thick would not hurt a plate seven-eighths of an inch thick but he could not say if it would hurt a plate to indent it a little more. If he saw one severely indented he would call the attention of a superior to it if he thought there was anything dangerous in it. The indentations were there because the flange of the shell-plate had come down too far – the plate was too low. Mr. Hudson: Then it was not your duty to call the attention of some one too it. Witness: No Sir. Mr. Hudson: When a plate is too low then it is out of position, is it not? Witness: Yes, but no-one had ever taken exception to it. Mr. Hudson: at what stage would you have taken notice of the indentations? Witness: If I had seen the plate had been stretched in any way or if I had considered there was anything against the plate.
Mr. John Ritchie, steelworks manager to Messrs. Beardmore and Co. a trained steel manager and metallurgist said that there had been no complaints as to other plates made from the same charge as that which failed. He had had a portion of the plate that had failed supplied to him and examined under the microscope there was great evidence of distortion due to the indentations. The cause of the failure was the crack due to the distribution of the metal due to the indentations. He produced a photograph,. magnified to 114 times of a piece of the metal cut through one of the indentations. Witness said that it showed that the metal had been crushed out of its normal condition. Mr. Nicholls complained that no notice had been given that the plate would be tested in this way and at this stage the enquiry was adjourned.
Yesterday morning the examination of Mr. Ritchie was resumed. In reply to the Chairman he said that he accounted for the drums standing a test pressure of 240 lb by the difference in a ‘dead’ load of the test and a ‘live’ working load. He thought the crack began almost immediately the plate ………

24th January 1908
The Board of Trade Enquiry into the cause o the fatal boiler explosion at the generating station of the South Metropolitan Electric Light and Power Company, Blackwall Point East Greenwich, on December 20th 1906 was continued at Greenwich Town Hall on Friday. Several witnesses were recalled and Mr. W.Rosentheim, BA, a metallurgical expert gave the results of his examination of the fractured plate the steel of which he said had been considerably deformed adjacent to the indentations. The material was not quite homogenous but no less so than a large number of other boilerplates, which he had examined – a tendency to segregation existed in most commercial boilerplates. Mr. J.L. Milton chief engineer to Lloyds said that after the accident he had been called in by Messrs. Babcock and Wilcox the makers of the boiler and examined the drum and as soon as possible after the accident the seven other drum end pieces. All were marked with indentations and in all of them the deepest indentations were equally deep with the deepest on of those on the exploded end. He had made study of the fracture of steel boilerplates a special study and there had been numerous cases of the cracking of such plates in the last few years, which had not been satisfactorily explained. In his view the plate in this case was not a normal plate – if it had been he did not think this indentation would have caused the crack. In his opinion the percentage of phosperous in the plate was high.
In the afternoon the Board of Trade Commissioners inspected the scene of the accident.
On Monday the arguments of the three legal representatives of the various parties concerned were heard and on Wednesday morning Mr. A.A. Heard who with Mr. J.H.Hallett as consulting engineer constituted the Commission of the Board of Trade gave the findings of the Commission. Reviewing the circumstances at length he said that they were satisfied that Mr. Shermer inspector of outside work to Messrs., Babcock and Wilcox expressed when he was called in any doubt as to the safety of the drum to Mr. Constable the electric light company’s resident engineer. Mr. Constable would have reported the fact to Mr. Bowden, the company’s chief engineer. It did not appear that the pressure was at the time above the proper pressure of 160 lbs. The works were short of boiler power and Mr. Bowden had told them it would have been inconvenient to shut down the boiler but also that the electricity could have been supplied from the Sydenham station, as it was done in fact, within half An hour of the explosion. It was apparent that both Mr. Howden and Mr. Constable, who Nr. Hudson remarked, gave their evidence straightforwardly never anticipated any danger. The indentations in the plate that gave way were caused by fitting the end plate of the shell of the drum by a hydraulic rivetter exerting a pressure of 160 lbs to the square inch the ‘snaphead’ of which had come partly into contact with the inside of the plate at the’ knuckle’ the end plate having been brought down too low. The Commissioners had no doubt that the indentations showed bad workmanship, which was primarily the cause of the explosion although, as it was stated, the other workmanship in the drum was of the highest class. The indentations were not regarded as of any importance by the boilermakers and if other drums were with end plates in the condition of the end plate in this case they must be now a source of danger. As to the quality of the plate supplied by Messrs Beardmore and Co. The tests had shown that that was of good normal quality the fracture being in no way due to bad material. The plate was satisfactory, the fracture being in no way due to defects in the metal.
Mr. Hudson went on to say that what that Messrs. Babcock and Wilcox supplied a drum with a defectively constructed end plate, injured by rough handling due to bad workmanship. They were therefore primarily responsible for the explosion and had moreover wasted some days of the enquiry in the endeavour to show that the defect was due to bad metal. Mr R.A.McClaren, Messrs. Babcock and Wilcox’s manager was responsible for sending out bad plate. The firm had, however since the explosion, altered their methods of manufacture. Mr. Shermer, Superintendent of Erections, for Messrs. Babcock and Wilcox might have misled Mr. Constable as to his knowledge of boilers, in connection with the opinion he gave as to the leak which was noticed before the accident, but as he was not consulted as to the safety of the boiler he could be held responsible. No one had suggested responsibility against the Electric Light Co. As regards Mr.H.W.Bowden, the chief engineer of the South Metropolitan Electric Light Co., he was a highly qualified electrical engineer but as engineer-in-chief he was also responsible for the boilers and ought to have known there was a danger of explosion in continuing to work the drum. The Commissioners were sorry to have to hold him responsible but it seemed desirable that arrangements should be made in such cases that the engineer responsible for the safe working of the boiler should be someone having good acquaintance with the working of boilers. As to Mr. Constable the resident engineer, he neglected to report the state of the leak to Mr. Bowden directly he discovered it and, when he did report it, informed that it was unimportant. The Commissioners believe that he was acting to the best of his ability at the time he made the report, but thought he must have realised that the drum was in a serious condition and therefore held him responsible. They thought he existence of the indentations should been reported by Mr. Muter the insurance company’s inspector to his company. In fixing the amounts to be made to the Board of Trade towards the cost of the investigation the commissioner had had regard not only to the responsibility of the parties, but in the case of Messsrs. Babcock and Wilcox to the time which had been wasted in enquiring into the condition of the metal plate – their action was unaccountable. Messsrs. Babcock and Wilcox would therefore pay £400, Mr. C. Mclaren, their manager £50, Mr Bowden £50 and Mr. Constable £30 towards the costs of the enquiry. To remove any false impression it should be stated that nothing had occurred to throw doubt upon thermo-storage drums, but if they were badly constructed and not worked in a safe condition accident would happen, as in the case of other boilers under such conditions.

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