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

Ballard’s Report on the Lower Thames on Nuisance

Ballard’s Report on the Lower Thames 1873

At a lower level and nearer to the shore. The description given me by the Commandant at “Woolwich, and by Dr. Gordon the Principal Medical Officer of the garrison, was altogether. The- clearest and most instructive that I received, inasmuch as at the barracks and on the barrack field, about a mile from the river and • at a considerable elevation, each variety of odour is perceptible. When the wind is in the northwest or north-north-east one- variety is perceived, and when east-northeast the other variety.

Dr. Gordon states that-when travelling down the river from Woolwich to Purfleet he has recognised the odour of the one variety when passing the manure works of Messrs. Lawes at Barking Creek, and that of the other when passing the works of Messrs. Bevington and of Messrs. Brown in Erith Marshes. The odour from the last-named works he compares to that which he- has perceived in India ‘when passing to leeward of the places in which the Hindoos consume, by an imperfect cremation, the bodies of their dead. The odour is putrid as well as sickening.

A northeast wind would bring effluvia towards the barracks from Barking Creek, distant 2 miles, while a more easterly wind would bring those from Erith Marshes, distant 4 miles. In the- village of Plumstead, also, there are two varieties of odour perceived, according as the wind is in the north or in the north-east; the one wind blowing from the direction of Barking Creek, distant 2 miles, and the other from the direction of Erith Marshes, distant 3 miles.

The Manager of the Southern Outfall Pumping station also distinguishes two varieties of offensive odour, according as the- wind is in the east, bringing effluvia, which he describes as in- tolerably offensive, from the direction of the glue and manure- works of Messrs. Brown and Messrs. Bevington, about half-a-mile lower down the river; or in the west, bringing effluvia from Barking Creek, distant about 2 miles (no factory, giving rise to- offensive effluvia, intervening.)

On the other hand, at (Charlton, it appears, from the statements of the Inspector of Nuisances, that only one variety of offensive odour is the subject of complaint, that it is of an acid and sickening character, and is perceived only when the wind is in the north-west, and, therefore, blowing from the direction of a group of factories on the north shore near the- Victoria Docks, and from some factories on the opposite or south shore and situated in Greenwich Marshes.

It thus became necessary that I should inspect the several factories between Blackwall Reach to the west, and Erith Reach to- the east. I have marked upon a map, which I append to this Report, the- situation of these factories. It will be seen, on reference to the map, that. They lie in three groups.

Group 1 is situated on and near the shores of the river at Bugsby’s Reach;
group 2 about Barking Creek, about 3 miles more to the east;
and group 3 about 2 or 3 miles still further to the east, about the bend of the river between Halfway Beach and Erith Reach.

The effluvia from group 1 alone appear to be complained of by the inhabitants of Charlton. The effluvia from groups 1, 2 and 3 appear to annoy the garrison at Woolwich; while those from groups 2 and 3 annoy the inhabitants of Plumstead village and of the little colony at the Southern Outfall Pumping Station. The total number of factories in the three groups is twenty-one. Group 1 consists of ten factories of various kinds, group 2, of four, and group 3 of seven factories. All of these factories are not – equally offensive; some give issue to effluvia only perceptible at a short distance from the works, while the effluvia from others are such as experience has shown, may be carried by the wind to the distance of several miles. The observations made in my inspection of each group of factories were specially directed to ascertain the extent of the works, the duration of their existence, the character and amount of effluvia proceeding from them, and the means in use for pre- venting the escape of offensive effluvia.

Group 1 consists of the following establishments: —
On Greenwich Marshes, on the south side of the river—
(1.) Mockford’s ” Ordnance” Manure Works (No. 1 on map). —Only established about six months. No work going on at the time of my visit. There were about 250 tons of shoddy on the premises, a considerable quantity of mineral phosphates, and over- 5,000 tons of guano. It was stated that the materials intended to be used are guano, mineral phosphates, and sulphate of ammonia. It was stated further that probably oil of vitriol would also be manufactured. The arrangements for preventing the escape of offensive effluvia are very imperfect, but, inasmuch as but little work has been carried on at these premises up to the present time, the effluvia proceeding from them have probably had little to do with the complaints
(2.) Hills Oil of Vitriol and Manure Works (No. 2 on map). —These works cover about three acres. They have been established here for thirty-eight years, but manures have only been manufactured here since 1856. There are separate works adjoining the manure works for the manufacture of nitric acid, tartaric acid, and oxalic acid. (a.) The arrangements for preventing escape of acid fumes in the manufacture of oil of vitriol appear to be efficient, except at times when the denitrating chamber is being washed out, which is only occasionally. (b) The materials used in the manufacture of manures are shoddy, waste leather, dry bones, bone ash • and the refuse from sugar bakeries, coprolites, and mineral phosphates generally. Until quite lately, no means have been in use for preventing the escape of offensive effluvia into the atmosphere during the mixing of the materials, or subsequently on their discharge from the mixer. But at the time of my visit improvements were being made under the advice of Mr. Pink, the Medical Officer of Health for Greenwich, which will probably lead to a consider- able abatement of the nuisance, which these -works could scarcely have failed to occasion.
On the north side of the river— Commencing at the entrance to the docks, and extending along the shore for a distance of about a quarter of a mile, there is a tow of six establishments.

(1.) Messrs. Gibbs’ Oil of Vitriol and Manure Works (No. 3 on map). —Established here for twelve or fifteen years, (a.) The materials burned for the manufacture of oil of vitriol are crude sulphur and pyrites. The burners have not been acting well, and the escape of sulphurous acid has been made a subject of complaint to the West Ham Sanitary Authority. Under the direction of the Medical Officer of Health, Mr. Drake, alterations have been made from time to time during the last two years, and are still being made, efficiency having not yet been secured. (6.) The materials said to be used in the manufacture of manure are dry bones, guano and mineral phosphates, sulphate of ammonia being added to some kinds of manure. The best practicable means, so far as my knowledge extends, of preventing the escape of offensive effluvia into the atmosphere from the mixer and the reception-pits are in use in this establishment.” Except accidentally, I should very much doubt the extension of effluvia from these works to any considerable distance.

(3.) Odam’s Oil of Vitriol and Manure Works (No. 4 on map). —Established here in 1851. The premises cover a space of five or six acres. This is one of the largest manure establishments visited (a.) The materials burned for the manufacture of oil of vitriol are crude sulphur and pyrites. The burners act efficiently, but at the time of my visit the Gay Lussac condensing tower was not acting perfectly, and hence acid fumes were escaping from the shaft at an elevation of about 100 feet. But the manager stated that this was quite an accidental occurrence. The materials said to be used for manure making are shoddy, dry blood, guano, dry bones, coprolites, and mineral phosphates generally. A very powerful pungent odour pervaded the part of the works devoted to manure making, accompanied by an empyreumatic odour due to the heating of a heap of shoddy. From the character of the materials used, and from my experience of similar manufactories, I am satisfied that very pungent and offensive effluvia must be given off in the manufacture of manures into which these materials enter as ingredients. No means whatever are in use in this establishment to intercept these effluvia from the atmosphere, to which there are free openings at all parts of the premises.

(4.) Duncan’s Sugar Bakery (No 5 on map). —No suggestion was made that any offensive effluvia at any time proceeded from this establishment.

(5.) Farmer’s Oil of Vitriol and Manure Works (No. 6 on map). —Established about five years. The works are said to cover three acres, but the buildings do not appear to cover nearly • this space. The-works are not on a very extensive scale, (a.) Crude sulphur and pyrites are burned for the manufacture of the oil of vitriol. Some of the burners act badly, so far as the escape of sulphurous acid on opening the feeding doors is concerned. Others, which have been altered in a manner suggested by Mr. -Drake, the Medical Officer of Health for West Ham, act very efficiently in this respect: otherwise this part of the works appears unexceptional. Any acid fumes which may escape condensation in the Gay Lussac tower are discharged at an elevation of 110 feet. (b) The materials used for the manufacture of manure are said to be dry bones, coprolites, and mineral phosphates generally. Occasionally a little dried blood or sulphate of ammonia are added, but not in the mixer. Some means are in use to prevent the escape of effluvia into the premises from the mixer and receiving pit, but the object sought is to discharge them from the shaft at an elevation of 110 feet, from whence they may travel a long distance through the atmosphere. The best practicable means of preventing nuisance from the works have not been adopted.

(6.) Walmsley’s Malt Roasting Works (No. 7 on map). —An empyreumatic odour is said to proceed from these works occasionally, but this is only about twice a day, when the cylinders are emptied. The effluvia have never been made a subject of complaint, and probably do not extend to any considerable distance.

(7.) Shroeder and Company’s Oil of Vitriol and Manure Works (No. 8 on map). —These works have only quite recently been established, and indeed part of the buildings are still in course of construction. The only manure made here is prepared by the mixing of guano and oil of vitriol in an-open tank. The effluvia arising from this admixture are comparatively inconsiderable, but such as they are, no means have been adopted for preventing their escape freely into the atmosphere outside the sheds. Still it is not at all probable that these works have had any part in occasioning the nuisance complained of. The next works in the group are at the distance of half-a- mile to the eastward of those last mentioned.

(8.) Burt, Boulton, and Hayward’s Tar Works (No. 9 on map). —Established here three years. The works cover a space of eleven acres. The crude material dealt with is coal tar, which, as received, contains more or less admixture with it of ammoniacal liquor. The process adopted consists at first in the fractional distillation of the tar, the distillates being subsequently dealt with for the manufacture upon the premises of anthracene, carbolic acid, benzole, etc. Much care is taken to prevent the escape of offensive effluvia by the reception of the various products of the distillation while hot into covered receptacles. The only source of offensive effluvia has been the hot pitch as first run off from the stills; but means are now being adopted to prevent nuisance from this source in future; these means are of a nature which, it appears, to me are likely to be successful. It is quite possible that the vapours from the hot pitch may from time to time have reached the opposite shore of the Thames, mixed with the effluvia from manure works. But these vapours, the odour of which is peculiar, and very different from the odour proceeding from manure works, do not appear to have been distinguished by the inhabitants at Charlton.

(9.) Wood’s Oil of Vitriol Works (No. 10 on map). —-These- premises have recently changed hands, and no work was being done at the time of my visit. The Inspector of Nuisances at Charlton, however, states that. On one occasion he distinctly traced the pungent odour of sulphurous acid across the river to these works. It is intended shortly to manufacture manure here.

Group 2 consists of the following establishments, all on the Essex side, about Barking Creek.

(1.) The Beckton Gas Works (No. 11 on map). —Situated near the northern outfall sewer on the western side of the creek, not far from its mouth. They cover a space of thirty acres. The purification is effected by dry lime and by oxide of iron, and the purifiers are constructed upon the best principles. There is no; reason to believe that any effluvia from theses-works reach the places on the south side of the river where complaints have been made.

(2.) Davy’s Tar Works (No. 12 on map). —Are situated about three-quarters of a mile from the river, on the east bank of the creek. The works cover a space of two acres, and were established here in April or May, 1872. The crude material dealt with is coal tar, which, as at Burt’s works, is first subjected to fractional distillation. Crude carbolic acid and anthracene are manufactured on the premises, but the other products are sent away for rectification. The arrangements for running off the pitch are as bad as they well can be, and this part of the process is a source of nuisance to the inhabitants at Barking, -when the wind is in the direction to bring the vapours from the works. There is no reason, however, to believe that these vapours reach the places on the south side in any such manner as to occasion nuisance there.

(3.) Lawes’ Oil of Vitriol and Manure Works (No. 13 on map). —Established here eighteen or nineteen years, during which time they have undergone extension from time to time. The works cover three or four acres, and have a river frontage of continuous; buildings to the extent of 200 yards. -It is the largest manufactory of manure which I visited. Along the whole river front the pungent odour from the buildings was strongly marked, and the vapours proceeding from the sheds were irritating to the eyes as- well as offensive to the smell. The works were everywhere pervaded within by the same odour. (a.) The materials burned for the manufacture of oil of vitriol are crude sulphur, pyrites, and spent oxide from the gas works. So far as I was able to observe the burners acted well. There is no Gay Lussac tower at these- works, nor are any other means in use to intercept the waste gas passing from the leaden chambers. -These gases are discharged into a shaft which delivers them into the external atmosphere at an elevation of 110 feet. (6.) The materials used in the manufacture of manure are said to be shoddy, a little waste leather, guano, dried bones, coprolites and mineral phosphates generally, and sulphate of ammonia. Up to the present time no proper means- have been taken to prevent the escape of the irritating acid offensive effluvia given off from the mixers, reception-pits, and Accumulations of manure, into the atmosphere outside the works. But recently these works have come into the hands of a Company, and the new manager is now engaged in erecting apparatus for the prevention of nuisance. I am not satisfied, however, that the means he is adopting will prove successful. These works are much complained of by the Manager of the Beckton Gas Works, who says that on Sundays they are especially offensive. These •are the works which Dr. Gordon recognised as giving off the odours perceived at the barracks at Woolwich when the wind is northeast; nor have I any doubt that they are one of the sources •of the nuisance complained of at Plumstead village.

(4.) Crow’s Tar Works (No. 14 on map). —Established here •as a sulphate of ammonia works for sixteen years. The tar business was formerly carried on to a less extent than it is now. The tar is (as in other tar works mentioned) subjected to fractional  distillation, and no sufficient means are in use to prevent the escape into the atmosphere of offensive vapours from the distillates and from the hot pitch. Part of the ” light oil” is rectified on the premises, and anthracene is also manufactured. Otherwise all the first products are sent away from the premises in casks. It is •scarcely probable, however, that these works occasion any nuisance to the inhabitants at Plumstead. In the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia from ammoniacal liquor means are in use to prevent the escape of sulphuretted hydrogen into the atmosphere.
Group 3 consists of the following establishments: — (a.) On the south side of Erith Marshes.

(1.) Bevington’s Manure Works, (No. 15 on map). —Situated about half a mile from the Southern Outfall Pumping Station. These works are small, but have been established several years. The material used is ” scutch,” -which is the refuse matter left in “the pans in which glue is made. This material is heated in closed pans by steam, with the addition of oil of vitriol, and there is an Arrangement for condensing the vapours which proceed from the pans. Fat is first skimmed off, and the residue, after boiling about three hours, is run off into “delves” or trenches about four feet •deep dug into the earth outside the works: these ‘ delves ” are worked alternately. Up to about twelve months ago the pans •employed were open. The manure which runs as a semi-liquid material into the “delves ” solidifies in them after a time, partly by evaporation and partly by soakage of the more watery parts into the earth. When sufficiently firm the manure is dug out and dried by spreading it on heated plates, or by heaping it over semi- circular brick flues. The effluvia from these stoves or flues are very offensive indeed, and escape freely into the external atmosphere. The odour, which resembles-that of cheese when very much decomposed, pervades the works and their neighbourhood.
2.) Brown’s Glue and Manure Works (No. 16 on map) are carried on  in premises adjoining Bevington’s. These works have been established a great many years, during which they have been a constant source of nuisance to persons passing up and down the river. Two manufactures are carried on here. One is that of glue from the clippings of hides used “by tanners, horses’ hoofs, &c, These matters arrive at the works in a more or less putrid condition, and no means whatever are in use to prevent the escape of the highly offensive vapour from the pans in which they are boiled into the atmosphere outside the works. The offensiveness of the vapour would naturally vary with the degree of decomposition of .the material boiled. The “scutch,” which remains after the making of the glue, is dealt with as at Bevington’s Works, the only difference being that no means are in use here to condense the vapour proceeding from the pans in which the ” scutch ” is heated with acid. These works are the most offensive upon the river, and the putrid sickening odour from them -travels for many miles. It has been distinctly recognized by the Manager of the Beckton Gas Works at his residence, a distance of three miles, and also by Dr. Gordon at the Woolwich Barracks, a distance of about four miles.
(3.) Price’s Oil Refinery Works- (17 on map). —Established here nine years. The premises altogether cover ten acres, but ‘only a portion of this space is covered by the building’s. Various oils are refined here, such as fish oil, rape oil, Rangoon oil and American oil. The odour from these works only extends to a short distance from them. Bi-sulphide of carbon is also made here, but no offensive smell is recognizable in or about the part of the works devoted to this manufacture.

On the north side.

(4.) Miller and Johnson’s Oil of Vitriol ‘and Manure Works (No. 21 on map). —Established in March 1872. They cover an extent of one and a-half acres, (a) Pyrites alone used to burn as a source of sulphurous acid. The waste gases from the leaden chamber pass into a condensing apparatus supplied with steam. This is not the best method of condensation, (b) The materials used for the manufacture of manure are dry blood, bones, shoddy, 10 •coprolites, and mineral phosphates generally. The mixers and receiving pits are simply ventilated by a pips, which conducts the vapours through the roof into the external air. As those works extend they will certainly become a source of nuisance, are not so now, unless proper means be adopted to intercept the offensive vapours necessarily generated in the process.

(5.) Wilson’s Oil of. Vitriol and Manure Works (No. 20 on map). —Established about four years, (a) Pyrites are used as the source of sulphur. The waste gases from the leaden chamber •escape at once into the external atmosphere, no condensing apparatus whatever being in use. (V) The materials used for •manure making are fish, shoddy, guano, coprolites, and mineral phosphates generally. No means are in use to prevent the free escape of the offensive vapours generated into the external atmosphere. (6.) Newman and Company’s Candle Works (No. 19 on map). No work was going on at these premises at the time of my visit. I was informed by the Manager that the materials used are palm dl, tallow, and bone fat. Some of these fats are distilled, and the products of the distillation condensed. A strong empyreumatic odour pervaded the works, but I have no means of knowing how far it would travel-

(6.) Borell and Hagan’s Manure Works (No. 18 on map). — adjoin the works last mentioned. There was no one on the premises at the time of my visit, but from what I observed it was evident that ” scutch” manure was made, and that no means were in use to prevent the escape of offensive effluvia.

To sum up the inferences I draw from the observation made during my inspection of the above works, I may say that— (1.) It is tolerably certain that the offensive effluvia complained of by the inhabitants of Charlton and its vicinity have proceeded from the manure works upon Greenwich Marshes, and from the other manure works in group 1. Perhaps at various limes, or occasionally, other effluvia from other works than the manure works have assisted to create the nuisance complained of. Probably also the principal sources of nuisance have been Hill’s works on Greenwich Marshes, and Odam’s works on the opposite shore of the river. (2.) It is tolerably certain that the effluvia complained of as proceeding from the direction of Barking Creek, have issued mainly from the manure works of Messrs. Lawes. (3.) It is absolutely certain that the putrid sickening odour proceeding from the direction of group 3 have issued mainly from the glue and manure works of Messrs. Brown and Messrs. Bevington on Erith Marshes. Perhaps, from time to time, other effluvia have been added from the manure works on the opposite shore of the river.
With respect to the influence exerted -upon the health of the persons who have been exposed to these offensive effluvia, and who complain of them as nuisances, little can be said of a very definite nature. Neither Dr. Finch nor Dr. Wise, both of whom stated it as their opinion that the effluvia were injurious to health, could furnish me with any specific information upon this subject. I am aware of no evidence that the workmen employed in artificial manure works suffer in any way from disease referable to the nature of their occupation. Nevertheless, delicate persons, and even some healthy persons, are very susceptible to the influence of sickening odours, such as those given off from the works complained of. Such persons are “upset’ by them, made sick or nauseated, and, to such an extent as this, may be said to have their health disturbed. Dr. Gordon stated to me in conversation that, in the event of any severe epidemic occurring, evil would, in his opinion, probably result from these nuisances, on the principle that any- thing which “upsets” the nervous system predisposes an individual to suffer. This is, perhaps, as much as can be said upon the subject, except that it may be added that, during the prevalence of winds which carry foul odours with them, householders prefer to keep their doors and windows closed at the cost of insufficient ventilation of their dwellings. The Local Sanitary Authority in Greenwich Marshes is the District Board of Works of Greenwich; -which appears to have been taking proper steps to cause the abatement of the nuisances arising from the works upon the Marshes.

The Sanitary Authority on the opposite side of the river, where the other works in group 1 are situated, is the Local Board of West Ham, which should be called upon to exercise its functions in respect of the trade nuisances pointed out in this Report. It has dealt with some of them more or less satisfactorily but not with all. The Sanitary Authority on Barking Creek is the Rural Sanitary Authority of Romford Union, which also, I believe, has jurisdiction over the trade nuisances of group 3 on the northern shore of the river. At present this Authority has taken no steps to cause the abatement of the nuisances arising from factories.

The Sanitary Authority in Erith Marshes is the Rural Sanitary Authority of Dartford Union. This Authority should be called upon to proceed -without delay to cause the abatement of the intolerable nuisances proceeding -from the works of Messrs- Brown and Bevington.
EDWARD BALLARD. Medical Department of the Local Government Board, December 8, 1873

Return to Ordnance Wharf

Return to Hills Chemical Works

Coalite brochure scan

From brochure. Coalite 1917-1992 75 Anniversary

1906 The Low Temperature Carbonisation Process patented by Thomas Parker. A sample of Coalite submitted to the City to raise money. As a result Coalite Ltd formed and a temporary supply of Coalite produced from lengths of stove pipes filled with coal and rolled through a heated furnace, while research on a form of retort for commercial production continued.

1907 Wednesfield Construction Company formed to produce castings of retorts. Foundry and machine shops built. First plant built to house equipments to deal with coal. Coalite and by-products created during the process. Plant included power house with gas engines and dynamos to make use of the gas.  British Coalite Ltd formed and purchased Wednesfield Construction Company.

1909 Plant erected at Plymouth Gas Works to use
Erection of large plant at Barking

1911 British Coalite Ltd placed into liquidation and Wednesfield Works closed.

1915 Thomas Parker dies (1843 – 1915).
Barnsley Smokeless Fuel Company formed.

1917 Low Temperature Carbonisation Ltd, the forerunner of Coalite Smokeless Fuels, formed and takes over Barnsley Smokeless Fuel Company.

1921-23 New money found and Low Temperature Construction formed to manufacture retorts etc.
Attempts made to build continuous retorts without success.

1923-25 Two batteries of Parker’s retorts built at Barugh near Barnsley and successfully run. Despite the directors’ optimism, the company again ran out of money and operations ceased.

1926 Charles Parker, Thomas Parker’s son, invited to design a plant and two batteries successfully operated
Col Whiston A Bristow appointed Managing Director.

1927 First commercial Coalite plant at Barugh completed. Output up to 70 of capacity. Sir Arthur Wheeler appointed Chairman

1928 Barugh plant in full operation

1929 Work began on building a new plant at East Greenwich, to be Operated under licence by the South Metropolitan Gas Company
The plant at Barugh equipped to distil coal oil and produce petrol
The Company won the ‘Rogers Field Medal’ form the Royal Sanitary Institute – only the third time the award made in 30 years.
Lt. Commander Colin Buist elected to the Board.

1930 Petrol successfully produced by making coal oil at the Killington refinery of Petroleum Refineries Ltd.
304 retorts now in full production at Askem

coalite plant eg
East Greenwich Coalite plant

1931 Col W A Bristow appointed Chairman and Managing Director.
Works at East Greenwich completed and handed over to South Metropolitan Gas Company.
Due to demand. Askern’s capacity increased by 50 with 72 additional retorts. Production at the three 11 smokeless fuel 225,680 tons; crude oil 26,000 tons, petrol 800,000 gallons, gas 1.20-million cubic feet.

1933 141 lb bags of Coalite introduced for flat dwellers and people with limited storage space – the first pre-pack in the UK
Terms agreed with Carless Capel & Leonard to refine and distribute coal petrol under the name ‘Carless-Coaline’. After tests the RAF’s Northolt Squadron are the first to fly on the fuel.
The Admiralty completes successful trials of Coalite fuel oil.
Agreement reached with La Societe de Carbonisation et de Distillation de Combustibles to build plants and produce Coalite at approved collieries in France under liecence. A demonstration plant built at Lens.

1934 Askern works extended by one third
All petrol produced supplied to the Royal Air force
The refining of Coalite diesel successfully completed.

The Formative Years

1935-1940 Barugh, Askem and East Greenwich now carbonizing 7,000 tons of coal a week
20 squadrons of the RAF flying on Coalite petrol
Tom Williams MP opens the first petrol pump at a filling station on the Brompton Road in London serving petrol made from coal.
IC1 now producing additional petrol from coal oil using a process called hydrogenation.

1936 New coal oil and chemical plant erected at Barugh. Commissioned in April
Bolsover Works opened – production commenced 12th November.

1937 Bolsover Works officially opened 14th April by the Duke of Kent. The largest plant of its kind in the world’.

1939 Wern Tarw Works in South Wales opened.
Due to warm weather an extensive national advertising campaign undertaken, resulting in a 46% increase in sales.
13 May – Chemical Works at Bolsover opened

The Years of Consolidation 1940 – 1970

1946 Concern over coal supplies due to nationalisation, although Government states Coalite will not be nationalised

1947 Company nationalised on Vesting Day. Works privatised the following day.

1949 Col W.A. Bristow dies. Lt. Commander Colin Buist appointed Chairman
Company renamed Coalite and Chemical Products
Wem Tarw Works closed

1950 Ten cities and towns establish smokeless zones. Coventry is the first followed by Manchester
Barugh Works, inoperative since the Second World dismantled and sold
Charles Parker retires from the board James Stephens, one of the pioneers of the company, dies after 20 years working in sales.
The London smog of December brings the issue of smokeless zones into the headlines. 4,000 people died. Deaths from bronchitis increased 9 fold and pneumonia 4 fold

1955 Three new batteries installed at Bolsover Works and a £900,000 expansion of the refinery started

1956 Clean Air Act passed by Parliament
Refurbishment of Askem completed.

1959 Over 500 smoke control orders have been made since the Clean Air Act introduced.

1961 New subsidiary purchased – Duramis Fuels Ltd producing oil additives

1962 New Research Centre opened at Bolsover
Askem ‘s output increased by the addition of six new batteries. A further three three new batteries introduced at Bolsover

1965 Work commences on building a new works at Grimethorpe, near Barnsley
Excise duty on home produced motor fuel increased. making the production of Coalite petrol and diesel uneconomic

1966 October – first batteries commissioned at Grimethorpe and a new wing is added to Head Office at Bolsover.

1967 Company celebrates its Golden Jubilee.

1970 After expansion programmes Bolsover comprises 24 batteries and Grimethorpe 36 batteries
Commander Colin Buist retires and given the title of President of the company.Francis Waring appointed Chairman.


1971 Siemens Oil & Gas Oil (UK) Ltd formed of which Coalite had a 11% share holding to carry out seismic surveys and oil exploration.

1972 After a public enquiry Rossington Works opened with 20 batteries. Solid Fuel Advisory Service established.

1973 Grimethorpe’s production capacity reduced by 12 batteries.

1975 The Rt.Hon. The Viscount Ward of Witley appointed Chairman
Due to declining sales production ceased at Rossington and reduced at Grimethorpe.

1980 Ted Needham appointed Chairman.
During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the Coalite Group expanded. Businesses included builders merchants, car distributors, fuel and oil distributors, solid fuel distributors, specialist vehicle manufacturers, transport and warehousing companies, docks and shipping interests, instrument manufacturers, oil production and exploration and substantial interests in the Falkland Islands.

1981 Coalite Smokeless Fuels formed to operate Randolph Coke and Chemical Co Ltd purchased bringing high temperature carbonization into the company’s operations.

1982 All stocks of coke at Randolph sold.
First sales of Coalite to Ireland

1984 Eric Varley appointed Chairman,
Randolph Works closed due to collapse in hard coke markets resulting from a world recession in the steel industry

1986 Askem Works closed. Production transferred to Grimethorpe and Bolsover

1987 Rexeo acquired from the National Carbonising Company Ltd.

1989 Rexco Works at Ollerton closed, more than 80 of sales transferred to Coalite’s order books.
The Coalite Group Plc purchased by Anglo United PLC
Coalite Smokeless Fuels formed to operate the carbonizing works at Bolsover and Grimethorpe as as a separate trading division

1990 Burnie the Coalite dragon created
Coalite sponsor the World Matchplay Snooker Championships

1991 Coalite sponsor the world’s oldest classic horse race – The St Leger.
Blazebrite launched.


Return to Riverway

Who was Bugsby??

Who Was Bugsby?

E.W.Green From Port of London. April 1948

WHEN I find that the antiquarians of London’s River have failed to find Mr. Bugsby I am encouraged to expound my views on the origin of the name “Bugsby.” It might be conjectured that Mr. Bugsby should be sought for in the title deeds of the landowners of the district still called in Bartholomew’s Atlas of London “Bugsby Marshes, Greenwich, S.E.10.”  That is where the name originated. But I do not think they will find Mr. Bugsby there.

I once asked the late A. G. Linney who Bugsby was, and he gave me the seemingly obvious answer that he was a man, but I do not think he was right. I see that on p. 62 of “The Lure and Lore of London’s River “he suggests that he was a market gardener. I do not think that is right, either.” His marsh would be the poorest place for market gardening, and it is not shown as such on any map.

But let us get back to ancient history. I give a table of the names of the reaches in 1588 set against those of the present day. You will notice that several reaches have changed their names and Bugsby’s was then Podd’s Elmes. Podd’s Elms were a group of trees to the west of Woolwich; as they must have been well grown in 1588 they could not have lasted much longer, and it is unlikely that they survived the great storm of 1703.

I wonder if people in the 18th century used to ask ‘Who was Mr. Podd and where are his podds elms etcelms? “Now Bugsby’s Marshes is the land to the south of Blackwall Point where executed criminals were formerly hung in chains. I am going to suggest that this marsh was once called “Bugs Marsh.” This is a pure guess on my part but might be confirmed by more extensive records than I possess. This word ” bug ” is a good British (ancient Welsh) word and, therefore, a word of the common people; it is used by Shakespeare two or three times—even by a queen in one of his plays. It meant “spook”. It is the origin of “bogey” and “boggart” and is still preserved in the compound “bugbear.” Coverdale uses it in his Bible Psalm XCI-5 “eny bugge by night,” where the authorised version has “the terror by night.” The funny old litany ” From all ghostliest and bogles and things that go whoof in the night, Good Lord deliver us,” may be a forgery, but its sentiment is very real. The bogle is a diminutive of our “bug.”

The common people of the 16th century lived in a holy terror of bugs, i.e., spooks, and where were they more likely to meet them than on that bleak marsh fringed around with corpses on Blackwall Point? Therefore, I think they called it “Bugs Marsh,” but they were illiterate and were unable to write it. In the 17th century a new bug made its  appearance. It originally meant beetle, and still exists with that meaning m the compound maybug, cockchafer. It had quite a different origin than the bug meaning spook; it is generally supposed to be derived from an Anglo-Saxon word. It was used by entomologists for various insects and their larva, and nearly found its Waterloo when it was adopted as a euphemism for louse. It was banned by polite society, but those being less so continued.

In the early years of the 19th century people, other than the sailor folk and the tough fellows going to the Colonies to seek their fortune were using the lower reaches. There were ladies going to join their husbands in India and many were going only as far as the Kent Coast to spend a summer holiday.  These people would naturally be interested in the history and names of places they passed on their journey. As proof of this we have guide books and a panorama that were published at the time. I have a small sketch of Blackwall Point published in one of these guide books in 1831. The corpses have gone, but not very long since; for the gibbets are still there- and they would not last long in that sodden ground. The gibbets would naturally excite the Interest of these passengers. The map-makers were the first to realise that they could not call the marsh ‘Bugs Marsh’ so they made it into a surname by adding “by”. There are plenty of surnames which end in “by” many of them originally nicknames. I used to think that Mrs Humby, who challenged Theodore Hook to find a rhyme to her name and lost her bet, was an invention, but I found three “Humbys” in the directory. Saxby is a genuine place name. “By” was a Scandinavian farm. There are plenty of English ‘bys’ – Darby, Nobby, Libby, Bugby – all these from the directory, and many more. So why not Bugsby?  Bugsby’s Marsh first appears on any map I have from 1822. In the guide book of 1831 previously mentioned it makes its first appearance on the River as Bugsby’s Hole. Linney seems to think that Bugsby’s Hole and Bugsby’s Reach were two  different things; but they were not – thev were the same. Bugsby’s Reach does not appear before 1815.  Raife Walker’s Map of 1796 makes the reach an extension of Woolwich Reach and: several other undated maps do the same. But why Hole? I have done my full share of guessing. I leave this riddle to someone else.


IN 1558                                             PRESENT DAY

The poole                                            The Pool

Ratcliffe Reache                                 Lower Pool

Limehouse Reache                            Limehouse Reach

Greenwich Reache                             Greenwich Reach

Blackwall Reache                                Blackwall Reach

Cockpull Reache

(Cockpull Reache is only the very short stretch of the River past Blackwall Point).

Podd’s Elmes Reache                           Bugsbys Reach

Woolwich Reache                                Woolwich Reach

Gallion Reache                                      Gallions Reach

Tripcott Reache                                    Barking Reach

Cross Nesse Reache                             Halfway Reach

Erithe Reache                                        Erith Reach

Erith Rands

Longe Reache                                          Long Reach

St. Clement Reache                               St. Clement Reach

Northfeete Hope                                   Northfleet Hope

Gravesend Reache                                Gravesend Reach

Tilbury Hope                                          Lower Hope

Sea Reach

• From the map of ihe Thames by Robert Adams, 1588

Return to Bugsby’s Hole some background

Letter from Pat O’Driscoll (includes description of the yard)

Forest Hill,

London, SE25  5TF.


Dear Mary,

On Monday I went down to Greenwich and walked along the river bank (I refuse to call it Mudlarks Way – ridiculous name) end took photos before Greenwich Council makes any more changes.  I took Redpath’s Jetty, a container ship passing, the Amasco Jetty, the edge of Pear Tree Wharf and the flagstaff and weather vane still remaining from when the Greenwich Yacht Club had its buildings there.  The I returned to River Way and took a photo of the Pilot and the row of cottages (now all boarded-up) but there were lots of cars there so  I fear it isn’t a good picture.  The pub still busy.  At Redpath’s several men were  making heavy weather of moving an old Cory lighter into the corner by the downstream side of the jetty.  The wind was ‘on’ but they were having a lot of difficulty pulling the craft in, so I suspected an off mooring still secured.  As usual, nobody around who knew the past of the area.  While waiting to cross Blackwall Lane on my way to the ‘bus stop I got into conversation with a middle-aged man who had just parked a small truck.  He came from the other side of the river and he said ‘do you know the woman  bushes in the bushes?’  Apparently there is a woman living rough in the waste ground just off Blackwall Lane.  He said he had seen her once.  This is the first I’ve heard, of it so I thought I’d ask you if you had heard of her, whoever she is.  while sitting on a seat near where Norton’s used to be I was looking downstream through the Barrier and saw a sailing barge alongside, just through the Barrier think she must be on Sargent’s.  Have you heard of a sailing barge there?  have yet to discover how you get at Sargent’s now that they have moved to jus below the Barrier.  There must be a way onto the river bank there but so far have not been able to find it.

I  had also heard of a pirate in connection with Bugsby’s Hole.  Bugsby is rather a mystery.  In the April 1988 issue of “P.L.A. Monthly” it says that the name  Bugsby is first seen on a map of 1822.  In an 1851 Guide, Bugsby’s Hole is listed, but Bugsby’s Reach not seen on pap until 1845. One reason why the Hole was occupied by colliers was because they could ‘ at anchor  float there, awaiting a discharging berth further upstream.  In the 19th century the river was so silted-up for lack of dredging that ships above a certain size could only move a couple of hours before High Water, so they had to come up-river in stages.  The City Corporation had jurisdiction over the river then and neglected dredging, which is why the Thames Conservancy was established  in 1856-7, so that such things were actually done and not just talked about.  City had representation on this body, together with the Board of Trade and Trinity House and (I think) the Admiralty.  The P.L.A. took over the river below Teddington from the TG in 10^8.  After 1856-7 the Lord Mayor’s Show no longer had par its procession on the Thames and the City Barge and similar barges belonging other livery companies which had taken part in the water procession were dropped, but watermen did have a part in the land procession so that the rive: link was not entirely broken.  More information available if needed.

Norton always had a barge up on the blocks and often there would be a trading barge lying off the yard in Bugsby’s Hole, so that the yard became a favourite haunt of enthusiasts who would come down to the old shed, built against Redpath’s wall, just to talk barges. The origin of Bugsby’s Hole is said to lie in a pirate of that name who was executed here in the 18th century.

I used to visit Norton’s yard often, either to chat with him and his Workmen or to take photographs of the craft. Like myself Mr Norton had been a member of the Surrey Athletic Club – in his time he was a noted athlete – so we were able to speak on common ground. He told me that his father and uncles first started the barge repair yard on this site, and that they had later built barges also: the ‘Scout’, ‘Scud’, and Serb.

I have drunk many a mug of stewed tea in the tumbledown shed-cum-office-cum-workshop where the key was always hung up on the outside! He kept a number of old photographs of himself in his running gear and other photos of launchings etc.,’ but he would never permit them to be re-photographed.

In the shed there were bins containing small pieces of ironwork – bolts, spikes and rings – and of course trunnels (treenails). Mr Norton still had his original ‘trunnel plate’ which he had used since he was a boy for making these oak pegs. He told me what he had earned banging oak sticks through to make the wooden’ nails – it was not very much per 100 nails! Blocks, leeboard hangings, chain by the fathom, iron round rod and square rod, some chaff cutter wheels in fact a good supply of items for barge repair work hunt from the walls and besides all this was his workshop tools and forge, complete with anvils and masses of tools propped up against the quenching bath and of course his wood working section which included all manner of tools – common, uncommon and peculiar to this local trade.

The shed was a wonderful little place full of atmosphere with walls which were hung with old sails to keep out the weather. Most of his bits and pieces had some story attached to them and yet Mr. Norton and old Fred seemed to know exactly where each piece had come from.

Outside the shed by the bankside lay the remains of the sailing barges ‘Royal George’ which was cut down in the River and beached and ‘Iverna‘ the Sandwich coaster, pieces of old leeboards Masts heaps of old chain, anchors and so forth. Latterly skippers used to take their barges onto the blocks and do their own minor repairs. I took some photographs of Captain Harold Smy and ‘Beatrice Maud’ here about 14 years ago. Horlicks auxiliary barge ‘Repertor’ was lying off the yard at the time.Finally in the last few years when trading barges were few and far between Norton just used to walk down more from habit than need, I think. and open the shed up

All for now,



Return to Riverway


Return to Bugsby’s Hole some background

The East Greenwich Tide Mill – Olinthus Gregory



” ….. 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, its diameter 11 feet and its number of float-boards 32. These boards do not each run on in one plane from one end of the wheel to the other, but the whole length of the wheel is divided into four equal portions and the parts of the float boards belonging to each of these portions fall gradually one lower than another, each by one fourth of the distance from one board to another, measuring on the circumference of the wheel. This contrivance, (see fig 6.) is intended to equalise the action of the 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 the sluice gates.  It is placed in the middle of the water-way leaving a passage on each side of about 6 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 the highest (which at this level is often twenty 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 rotatory motion to the water wheel in a contrary direction to that with which it moved when impelled by the rising tide: the contrivance by which the wheel is raised and depressed, and that by which the whole interior motions of the mill are preserved in the same direction, although that in which the water-wheel moves is changed, are so truly ingeniuous as to deserve a distinct description.

” Let, then, AB (fig 5) be a section of the water wheel, 1,2,3,4,5, &c. its floats, CD the first cog wheel upon the same axis as the water wheel: the vertical shaft PE carries the two equal wallower-wheels E and F, which are so situated on the shaft that one or other of them may, as occasion requires, be brought to be driven by the first wheel CD; and thus the first wheel acting upon F and E at points diametrically opposite, will, although its own motion is reversed, communicate the rotatory motion to the vertical shaft always in the same equipment tide milldirection. In the figure the wheel E is shown in gear while F is clear of the cog wheel CD: and at the turn of the tide the wheel F its let into gear, and E is thrown out: this is effected by the lever G, whose fulcrum is at H, the other end being suspended by the rack K, which has hold of the pinion L on the same axis as the wheel M; into this wheel plays the pinion N, the winch O on the other end of whose axle furnishes sufficient advantage to enable a man to elevate or depress the wallower wheels as required.

“The centre of the lever may be shown more clearly by fig. 6 where a b is a section of the lever, which is composed of two strong bars of iron, as a b: there are two steel studs or pins which work in the grooves of the grooved wheel J, this wheel being fixed on the four rods surrounding the shaft, of which three only can be shown in the figures, as c, d, e; the ends of these are screwed fast by bolts to the sockets of the wallower-wheels, and they are nicely fitted on the vertical shaft so as to slide with little friction: thus the wallowers may be raised or lowered upon the upright shaft, while the gudgeon on which it turns retains the same position. When the top wallower is in gear it rests on a shoulder that prevents it from going too far down; and when the bottom one is in gear, there is a bolt that goes through the top wheel socket and shaft, which takes the weight from the lever G, at the same time that it prevents much fiction on the studs or pins of the lever which works in the grooved wheel J.tide mill eqiuipment

” When the tide is flowing after the mill has stopped a sufficient time to gain a moderate head of water, the fluid is suffered to enter and fall upon the wheel at the sluice Q (fig. 5) and the tail water to run out at the sluice R. The hydrostatic pressure of the head of water acting against the bottom of the wheel frame, S, and at the same time acting between the folding gates TW, which are thus converted into very large hydrostatic bellows, buoys up the wheel and frame and makes them gradually to rise higher and higher so that the wheel is never, as the workmen express it, drowned in the flowing water; nor can the water escape under the wheel frame, being prevented by the folding gates, which pass from one end to the other of the wheel. In this way the wheel and frame are buoyed up by a head of 4 feet; and the mill works with a head of 5 feet.

“When the tide is ebbing, and the water from the reservoir running back again into the river, it might perhaps be expected that in consequence of the gradual subsiding of the water the water-wheel should as gradually lower: but lest any of the water confined between the wheel frame at S and the folding gates TW should prevent this, there are strong rackworks of cast iron by which the wheel frame can be either suspended at any altitude or gradually let down so as to give the water returning from the reservoir an advantageous head upon the wheel: then the sluice R is shut, and V opened as well as X, the water entering at X to act upon the wheel and flowing out at R. The upper surface of the wheel frame is quadrangular, and at each angle is a strong cast iron bar which slides up and down in a proper groove, that admits of the vertical motion, but prevents all such lateral deviation as might be occasioned by the impulsion of the stream.

“At each end of the  water-wheel there is a vertical shaft, with wallowers and a first cog wheel

as F, E, and CD; at each of these vertical shafts turns a large horizontal wheel at a suitable distance above the wallowers, while each horizontal wheel drives 4 equal pinons placed at equal or quadrantal distances on its periphery each pinon having a vertical spindle on the upper part of which the upper millstone of its respective pair is fixed. Other wheels driven by one or other of these pinons giving motion to the bolting and dressing machines, and different subordinate parts of the mill.wheel  CD …”.

     [Extract from Mechanics]

Return to New East Greenwich and the Tide Mill

Richard Trevithick – letter about Greenwich

TREVITHICK Letter about Greenwich.

Trevithick Letter l/10/1803 in quoted in F.Trevithick Life.

Written from Penydorra near Cardiff to Mr. Giddy

Richard Trevithick

“In consequence of the engine bursting at Greenwich I have been on the spot to inspect its effects.  I found it had burst in every direction.  The bottom side whole of its seating had ?? at the level of the chimney.  The boiler was cast iron about l” thick, the same ?? were equally l 1/2″, it was a round boiler 6′ diameter, the cylinder was 8″ diameter, working double.  The bucket was l8″ diameter. 21′ column, working single from which you can judge the pressure required to work this engine. The pressure it appears that the engine burst must have been very great, for there was one piece of boiler about 1″ thick and about 5 cwt there between the l25 yards and from the hole it cut in the ground where it fell it must have been nearly perpendicular and from a very great heat in the hole it cut in the ground on its fall was from l2 to l8″ deep.  Some of the bricks were thrown 200 yards, and no two bricks were left ?? to each other either in the stack or around the boiler.  It appears that the boy that had care of the engine was gone to catch eels under the foundations of the boarding and had left the care of the it to one of the labourers, this man saw the engine working much faster than usual stopped it without taking off the spanner which fastened open the steam lever and a short time after being idle it burst, killed three of the ?? and another died soon after of his injuries. The boy returned that instant and was then going to take the trig from the valve. He was hurt but is now recovering.  He had left the engine about an hour.

Boulton and Watt have sent a letter to the gentlemen of this place who is about to erect some of these engines – the engine had ?? 14m with a bushel of coal – was only a 8″ cylinder and working was the engine cock and in too light a load for its duties.  Also of a bad construction was the fly wheel so loaded to one side so as to ?? the boiler double engine and ???

Return to New East Greenwich and the Tide Mill

Blackwall Point Power Station – notes and sources



Summary Report

The first Blackwall Point Power Station was built in 1900 and extended in 1906 for the South Metropolitan Electric Light and Power Company Ltd. The site adjoined to the south the South Metropolitan Gas Company’s East Greenwich Gasworks. The power station was blackwall point power station sales planevidently a small facility generating at 3000 volts alternating current. It was replaced in 1947-52, the work planned and commenced by the South Metropolitan Company, but completed after nationalization under the British Electricity Authority. The site was cleared c1987.

powernstation derelict gatge
Derelict remains in the 1990s of an entrance gate to the power station

The later station was a small and compact power station on a 3.5-acre site. Its main buildings were steel framed with brick and glass cladding. There was a tall box-like boiler house with a low engine room on its south side, a switch house to the west, and a single tall reinforced-concrete chimney. Architecturally it was an early if pedestrian manifestation of an anti-monumental functionalist approach whereby the layout of plant dictated the external form of the building. There were three pulverised-coal fired boilers and three 30 MW turbo- altemators made by English Electric.


D K Cross, ‘London Power Stations, 1979’, Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society Newsletter, no. 67, 1979.

Greater London Record Office, LCC/MIN/12,701, London County Council Special Committee on Electricity Supply, Committee Papers, 1912.

National Power Picture Library, photographs 1952-1985.

H V Pugh, ‘The Generation of Electricity in the London Area’, Proceedings of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, cv, 1957, pp. 484-502.

Report by Peter Guillery

May 1995


September 1995

Crown Copyright

National Monuments Record Centre, Kemble Drive, Swindon SN2 2GZ

Tel: 01793 414700 fax: 01793 414707

Return to Blackwall Point Power Station

Blackwall Point Power Station – official handout



last buildings
The last buildings remaining standing of the power station in the late 1990s

The use of the site for a generating station dates back to 1900 when a supply was commenced by the Blackheath and Greenwich District Electric Light Company Limited.

The original station went through many stages of development until its demolition as time-expired plant in l947.  At the time of closing down the old station housed some l5,0000 KW of generating plant.

The new station, built on the existing site, is of 90,000 KW capacity.  Demolition of the old station commenced on the lst April l947, and the first unit ( l x 30 MW turbo-alternator and l x 365 K.lb/hr. boiler) was commissioned on the 28th June,l95l.

An indication of the advance in design of generating plant may be given from the records of the old station for l904, which show that 7.6 lbs., of coal were consumed to generate l unit, whilst the corresponding figure for the new station in l952 was l.ll4 lbs.


The general layout of the station was very largely influenced by the restricted site available (3.47 acres). The turbo-alternators are placed longitudinally in the tune house, and the boilers arranged in a single row parallel to the machines, with no dividing wall between turbine and boiler house. The electrostatic precipitators and fans are stationed on the boiler house roof.

The canteen and stores building is in line with the turbine and boiler houses, and the administrative block – including main switchgear and control room – is situated on the opposite side of River Way with an interconnecting bridge to the turbine house.


The remains of the jetty still extant in 2013

All coal is sea-borne to the station, the jetty being designed to accommodate ships up to 3,000 tons at the outer berth. Provision is made at the inner berth for discharge of ash and dust to barges. Two jetty cranes, each capable of handling up to 200 tons per hour,. are installed for discharging ships

Official publicity handout 1960s.

Return to Blackwall Point Power Station

Evidence for a a pre-18th century building at Bugsby’s Hole

Why do we think there might have been something worth investigating on the riverside at Bugsby’s Hole?

1. 1802  – House on site.

A house existed on the site from c.1802.  It is assumed that this is part of the estate built with the Tide Mill, Ceylon Place and The Pilot.

These buildings are all included in a Chancery property assessment of 1807.  Note. This assessment implies that there may have been another house – i.e. ambivalent at one point whether ‘house’ means pub or not.   The assessment gives no construction date but it is known the Tide Mill and cottages were on site by 1801-3.


before that –

The estate was owned by George Russell. There is a 1796 newspaper report, which describes a robbery at Mr. Russell’s house in which the thieves escaped by boat.

Russell’s workforce had been digging brick earth on the site and nearby for some years before 1800.

The Bugsby’s Hole causeway was licensed to Russell in 1801.

Or was there another building?

east lodge drawing
East Lodge – the riverside house which once stood at the end of Riverway (now under CPL – the Bellway block). The drawing probably dates from c.1890 the work of one of the Davies sisters.

It is also worth noting that this is the area in which pirates were said to have been gibbeted.  There were often attempts to recover gibbeted bodies – would these have therefore been guarded?  There are reports of the military guard from the gunpowder depot ‘tramping about all over the place’.

Was there an older house – and the one which was later pictured was built in the 1840s.?

The house is said to have been let to a Mr. Hewes (or Hughes) who acted very strangely. There is both contemporary and reminiscence evidence for this.  The house was later said to have been built by him as a ‘pleasure house’.  Therefore  it is  possible that the house in the 1802 assessment was older and that there was some rebuilding later.

The style of the house in pictures is more 1840s than 1800s

Why is it called ‘East Lodge’ – i.e. was there a West Lodge?

2. After the 1840s

The whole estate was bought for Frank Hills in the early 1840s.  In due course his manager, Thomas Davies, moved into the house with his family.   There are some Davies family reminiscences in the form of a contemporary family newsletter and later newspaper interviews.

In the 1880s  Davies’ daughters described: … ‘the little hillock at the further end (of the garden) from which one could see all up and down the river.’.. ‘the little hillock of which George Macdonald said that it was an ideal place to write a story. The summer house… the old kitchen with its arched window .. ‘ the big square hall.. The staircase leading to the upper hall.. The massive front door’

In  1932 one of the sisters recalled:

“The hall was paved with large squares of black and white marble ands its ceiling was painted by Sir James Thornhill (he whole canvas of this ceiling came down bodily.) The house was built on piles, and under it were brick arched cellars perfectly dry like those in the College’


Return to Bugsby’s Hole some background