Lovells Wharf – Greenwich Wharf

Information on Lovells Wharf

Coles Child

Lovells Wharf   three articles by Mary Mills published in Bygone Kent November 1999, December 1999 and March 2000)

LRA report on wharves description of the wharf in a review undertaken by the London Rivers Association 1980s

Rowton and Whiteway

Cement – see articles Lovells Wharf 


THE ICE WELL AT LOVELL’S WHARF – article by Mary Mills written for Kent Underground Research Group newsletter Ashby – general note

John Waddell and Co.

Mr. Walker


Davis Morgan & Co,

Joseph Guy. Hull Co.

Norman Houliford

Yarmouth Carriers

Shaw Lovell

Removal of Cranes copy of letter from Government office re. listing

Letters re background and listing of cranes letters re. Lovells cranes0001

London and Regional Developer

 lovells developer leaflet0001  copy of developer’s newsletter lovells original brochure0001 Revised regeneration proposals by the developer Lovells developer leaflet0001 on revision of housing development plans 2012 London and Regional Properties Return to Lovells Wharf


A Breach in the sea wall


The river is an ever-present reality around the Greenwich Peninsula. Sometimes, when floods seemed likely, that reality became a threat.

The Greenwich Peninsula’s real name is ‘Greenwich Marsh’ where a network of sluices was built, probably, in the Middle Ages. Flood defences along the riverbank are always referred to as the ‘sea wall’ – a term which reflects the potential dangers of the tides. It is difficult to know when the original embankments against the sea were built – since they are mentioned in a document dating back to 1290. In 1528 they are referred to as the banks ‘which had anciently been raised’. I would be very interested if any Bygone Kent reader could tell me anything about the age of the sea wall. Clearly it is a very important structure, and, as the remainder of this article will show, requires the very best of engineering expertise. Without it much of the landscape of Thameside would not exist, as we know it.

Most of the records about the sea walls refer to times when the river had broken through. One early instance is in 1297 when there was a ‘certain breach made in the bank betwixt Greenwich and Woolwich by the violence of the tides’. The problem usually was less a question of getting the breach mended than of persuading the locals to pay for the work.

From the 1620s the marshland was managed by the ‘Marsh Court’ or ‘Court of Sewers’ consisting of landholders and other interested parties who raised the ‘Wall Scot’ (the local rate) and employed a small staff.  A very full set of minutes for this body exists from 1625, which detail the care that had to be taken to maintain the marsh properly and keep the river out. This article is about one instance of a breach in the sea wall.

In October 1825 it became clear that a section of sea wall had become very unsafe and was threatening to give way. At the time two plans were drawn but they don’t give enough detail to be able to pinpoint the spot exactly. One appears to show it on the tip of the peninsula but, since the site was said to be ‘opposite the Folly House at Blackwall’, it may well have been on the western side of the peninsula at the southern end of the old Delta Works site. . It appears that the problem was caused by a slight projection which made an irregularity in the line of the sea wall and a breach was threatened.

The Marsh Court had immediate legal problems in dealing with this because, not only was the work urgent and expensive, but members were unsure of their powers to acquire the site and have the remedial work done. Could they go ahead and buy the three acres of land, which were affected? If so how should they raise the money? Or did they need to get a private Act of Parliament first, to give them the powers to do the work? That would be the proper way to proceed but it would take time and the work was urgent. First they looked at ‘Callis’. This was Robert Callis’ ‘Reading upon the Statute of Sewers’ originally published in 1685. It had been edited and reissued as recently as 1824 – but perhaps the Greenwich Commission did not have the new edition. They found that that authority was ‘full of doubt and contradiction’ and so they sought a legal opinion. Unfortunately the barrister who they consulted also gave an opinion that the matter was not clear and he told them to get another opinion.

The Court also began negotiations with the owners of the site – because there was an issue of land reclamation they felt it was important to acquire it. It was occupied by a Mr. Newman, a butcher who used the land for grazing, and the Commission had had the impression that he was the owner. This was not so. The land was actually owned by a Mr. Powis.

It was decided in due course that it would be simpler and quicker for all the landowners to sign an agreement allowing the commissioners to buy the land and that they would also agree for each of the landowners to pay a sum of money. It was suggested that the actual purchaser should be Morden College, the wealthy charity that already owned a great deal of land in this area.

An estimate for the work was sought from John Rennie. This is the younger Rennie whose more famous father had died four years previously. He was currently involved, among other things, in completing his father’s work on London Bridge. In the future he was to undertake many projects involving marshland reclamation in the fens but he had already been appointed as Chief Drainage Engineer for the Eau Brink so that drainage, and perhaps embankment, was already an interest of his.

Two months later Mr. Bicknell, solicitor to the Commissioners gave an update on information obtained to a meeting at the Green Man at the top of Blackheath Hill. This meeting was packed with representatives of local interests.

Rennie reported on what he thought was the cause of the problem. Rennie felt that the great variation in tides throughout the year ‘tends to carry the bank away’ and that previous remedial work – ‘a wooden framing consisting of poles and land ties’ together with ‘several hundred tons of Kentish ragstone’ was making it worse. The wall would have to be rebuilt. The Court was not impressed with the cost of Rennie’s estimate and asked if he could find an alternative, and cheaper, way to solve the problem. Rennie made a second site visit and reported a few days later. He said that the only other possible alternative scheme – to use piling would be even more expensive. He then sent in his bill for this second consultation.

Meanwhile the Court had asked if a report could be obtained from Thomas Telford. He was at, the age of seventy, nearing the end of his long career. He was the ‘undisputed head of the civil engineering profession in Britain’. He had considerable experience in the Fens and was soon to work with John Rennie Jnr. there. The meeting at the Green Man had, however, asked for the most prestigious engineer that they could.

Telford too made a site visit. He to pointed out that the exposed position of the portion of bank which had caused the problem. The river narrows slightly at this point and he also drew attention to the new West India docks and the number of vessels which were ‘frequently moored adjacent to their entrance’ constricting the flow of water. The river thus rose with ‘increased violence’ and was ‘continually grinding the soft matter from the bottom’. He felt that there was an imminent danger of a breach in the wall.

Neither engineer mentioned the Blackwall Rock which had been removed from the northern side of the river about twenty years previously.

Telford, Rennie and the members of the Court of Sewers all thought that the activities of lightermen employed by the City of London and Trinity House were not helping. It was alleged by everyone that material was being removed from the foreshore in this area for use as ballast. The Commission duly wrote to those authorities to point this out asking if this had been going on. Replies, from the Lord Mayor and the Elder Brethren, were, predictably, non-committal.

Telford was however asked to do the work. The archive includes his detailed specification. The work basically consisted of a new earth bank built in such a way as to make the line of the sea wall completely smooth. There was to be a drain at the bottom of the inner slope and the whole structure covered in turf. The work was to be supervised by the Commission’s Wall Reeve who received an enhanced salary for the job. Two contractors tendered for the work Thomas Cotsworth of Dover Road, Southwark submitted a price of £2,100 and Simmons of Bromley, Kent, who got the job, for under £900.

The work was finished by the summer of 1826, apparently without problems, Telford’s final inspection took place and his certificate of completion was issued in July. A dry dock was built in this part of the peninsula in the 1870s but otherwise it is likely that the line of the bank is much as Telford left it, although a considerable amount work must have been done to the wall itself in the intervening years.

A year later in July 1827 Telford wrote to remind the Commissioners that he still had not been paid for the job. It was around the same time that Telford, in the company of Rennie; working on the Nene outfall in the Fens was to catch a severe chill, the first sign that he was beginning to fail with age.

Telford was not alone in not having been paid his services – a series of letters had already been received from Rennie. These concerned his bill for £30 in respect of the second estimate, a sum that the Commissioners refused to pay. In October 1826 Rennie had written to say that he had been in Ireland but that his brother, George, had informed him of the outstanding bill. He wrote to them that he had ‘charged only what I conceive myself entitled to’ and in April 1827 that ‘nothing annoys me more than disputes about money matters’. The Commissioners recorded that they ‘did not find it necessary to alter their first determination’.

Within the next few months the Commissioners also received claims for compensation for late payment from the original landowners. This was a Mr.Richard Powis. The original owner had been his father who had just died – Powis wanted £50 as compensation for late payment.

There is just the suspicion that this archive might have survived because of the arguments over payment. The job must have been a relatively small one for Telford and Rennie, but very important in terms of Thames flood prevention. Few visitors to Greenwich will realise how the care and maintenance by the Marsh Court, its predecessors and successors, over many centuries has kept the land safe and made development of the area today possible.

This article has been prepared from archive material in the Greenwich Commission of Sewers archive plus some material on ‘imbanking and draining’ in the possession of Woodlands Local History Library. Biographies of Telford and Rennie have also been consulted.

Primrose Wharf

In 2002 Ground work said:
Primrose Wharf Habitat Enhancements
The small inlet upstream of Primrose Jetty, and the downstream concrete apron extending in to Bay Wharf, are part of a habitat creation initative by the Deptford Discovery Team in collaboration with the Environment Agency. Terraced beds have been created and planted with reeds, to be colonised by
intertidal species. upstream of jetty was delivered in 1999 by theDeptford Discovery Team, and funded by LOA. The front face of the reedbed terrace is to be completed by installation of a timber frontage in 2002. Phase 2 was delivered and funded by the Environment Agency. Project Management: Deptford Discovery Team Designer: JCLA Contractor: Roadways and Car Parks Ltd
Future proposals: The extension of Phase 2 towards Bay Wharf is under consideration.

Primrose Wharf Jetty
Access improvements and surfacing to the jetty, with its spectacular views up and down river, were carried out in 1998, resulting in a large increase in public usage. The jetty surface and flood defence wall were adapted to enable
disabled access. Delivered by: The Greenwich Experience
Funded by: LDA Designed by: Jonathan Louth Associates and The Greenwich Experience. Subsequently an industrial heritage information panel has been installed on the parapet railings by the Deptford Discovery Team

Return to Morden Wharf

Wharf area, silos and jetties. Amylum

In 2002 Groundwork noted:
Amylum Oil Jetty. Formerly a Council jetty, now sporadically used for oil deliveries to Amylum’s plant. Current project (Groundwork): Replacement of corrugated sheeting at jetty  entrance by new railings and gates. proposals: provision of new  parapet railings to permit public access, and a habitat enhancement project  to encourage bird life.
Amylum Garden. Amylum U.K. Ud implemented the original garden alongside riverside walk  with disabled access; this was damaged by syrup spillage necessitating  remedial action. Overflow pipe installed to avoid future spillage,  2002.Delivered by: Amylum U.K.Ud/Groundwork. Funded by:  LDA. Future Proposals New disabled garden, further extended into Amylum site.

Amylum’s Silos. Currently unused, the silos are a substantial landmark on this section of the  river. RSPB Nesting boxes for peregrine falcons areto be installed by Greenwich  Council.  The Greenwich Mural Workshop have proposed a stainless steel installation  located at the base of the silos to reflect the structure above at footpath level.
Long term suggestions have included their development as riverfront facility  e.g.viewing tower. Methods of reducing the amounts of flotsam and jetsam  that collect beneath the silos are being investigated. Use of silos for projection during  Hysterical Walk event. (note: the silos were demolished by French site owners in 2010)

Morden Wharf. This historic wharf now presents a bland river frontage. Its presence would  be reinforced by reinstating the lettering on the flank wall facing the silos. At  the south side of the wharf is a tight corner on the riverside walk where flotsam and jetsam accrues; there is potential here for habitat enhancements.

Return to Glucose Works

Pipers Wharf

In 2002 Groundwork said:
“Piper’s Wharf. The foreshore, formerly used by Piper’s barge-building enterprise, is a superb example of accessible self-cleaning foreshore with ecological and archaeological interest.
Future proposals: The site, which has considerable potential as an ecological and education resource, is nevertheless a fragile asset and its unique charm and interest could be wrecked by insensitive “improvement” works. Hazardous buried cables and ropes require regular removal and Thames 21 has carried out several river clean-up exercises at the site

More on Pipers

Return to Lovell’s Wharf

Providence Wharf

Groundwork said of this wharf in 2002 “Providence Wharf. This wharf has been designated a high priority for flood defence improvement by the Environment Agency. Welding Marine have provided temporary structural support to the collapsing wharf wall. At footpath level the wharf fencing is in disrepair and requires replacement.

Hughes Bargebuilders – Tilbury Lighterage  Jim Hughes and Orinoco

In 1904 R.Lucas of Maze Hill registered a take over of the wharf from Griffith

1926  Isis Chemicals and Dyes. This company was registered in the Isle of Man and dissolved in 1933.  They appear to have originated from Gothenburg and to have made heavy chemicals associated with tanning

Return to Lovells Wharf page

Return to Lovells Wharf


Badcock Wharf

John Badcock
Badcock took over the Board of Works Yard.

This is the wharf currently (2013) occupied by Deverells boat repair business

Groundwork said in 2002 re Badcock Wharf Passage – The narrow section of walkway behind the wharf is important as it is one of the few locations where the public are in the vicinity of a working boat yard on the river; it also provides a sensation of anticipation of the vistas ahead at the end of the passage – without such sections, the walkway would be a much blander experience. Improvements and decoration to railings, lighting, drainage were implemented in 1999. Delivered/funded: Greenwich Council

Granite Wharf


General information on Granite Wharf here

Return to Lovell’s Wharf


The Tide Mill  – item on Greenwich Industrial History blog announcing the finding of the mill

Greenwich Medieval Tide Mill – item on Greenwich Industrial History blog reporting on a talk about the mill

Water power in medieval Greenwich– item on Greenwich Industrial History blog reporting on an article on the mill


John Mowlem and Granite Wharf – article by Mary Mills written for Bygone Kent

geolgal wal0001 – brochure about the a copy of the wall at Watchett Station

Brochure on relocation of the Cadet Place Wall.  lovells cadet place wall0001

Letters on the Cadet Place wall  and more letters robinson letters0001 from Geologist Eric Robinson describing the wall

Curiosities of Swanage – the Great Globe, extract from book about Swanage

George Bullock


John West



LRA Report on Wharves – London Rivers Association Report, 1980s

Wilders and Walker Moorings

(cf Shrubsall)


Factory and sheds 1850-1860

Ovenall & Nelan Ltd.

Barge and tug repairs 1950s


William, Basil ad Percy leased Granite Wharf and  Yard in 1922.  Their father had been a contractor for iron and steel – railway track  – based from 1880 at Creek Road in Deptford. In 1936 they moved to Westmoor Street, Charlton having built up a business in sewage treatment machinery.

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District Board of Works Yard


The Board of Works Yard – in effect the depot for Greenwich Council. The yard is first shown on maps of the 1880s. Board’s of Works were abolished in 1889 but it is assumed that the Depot remained on site until the Council moved it to further down Tunnel Avenue, to what became Tunnel Avenue Depot some time before 1914.

The 1880s Ordnance Map shows the yard with an entrance from Chester Street (now Banning Street) and a structure, which appears to be a ramp, leading from the centre of the yard to a jetty and wharf – was this used as a ramp for dustcarts tipping from the jetty? This ramp is shown in subsequent uses of the yard and may, in fact, still be there.

Badcock seems to have been on site from about 1914.

Return to Lovells Wharf