Greenwich Marsh book – referenced text.


Mary Mills

Chapter 1 Greenwich Marsh

Chapter 2 Early Industry on the Marsh

Chapter 3 The East Bank

Chapter 4 The Enderby family and Enderby Wharf

Chapter 5 The Atlantic Cable

Chapter 6 Coles Child and Coal

Chapter 7 19th Century developers

Chapter 8 An Engineering Interlude

Chapter 9 British Carbolic

Chapter 10 Bricks and Mortar

Chapter 11 Hard Steel and Big Guns

Chapter 12 Small Guns and Ammunition

Chapter 13 Small Industries

Chapter 14 Ships and Shipbuilding

Chapter 15 Sailing Barges

Chapter 16 Railways and Docks

Chapter 17 Coal and Chemicals

Chapter 18 Coal Fired Power

Chapter 19 End of the Century

Chapter 20 A New Century

Chapter 21. The Great War

Chapter 22 The rest of the Twentieth Century

(The book was written in 1998 – and references, footnotes, and additional information are in italics thoughout the text – sorry can’t work out how to do footnotes on wordpress.  References to items at the Greenwich Heritage Centre refer to the filing system which was used at Woodlands Local History Library and reference needs to be made to staff for the current location of this material)


This is a history of the industries of the Greenwich Peninsula  –   where the Millennium Dome will stand.  Industrial history is not boring – it is, after all, about ingenuity and achievement – sometimes it is about criminal and/or eccentric behaviour and, of course, it is about making money.  Frequently the events described here have touched everyone’s lives.

This book is about the innovators and inventors who brought their processes to East Greenwich usually in order to manufacture things and to prosper by them.  The contribution of generations of ordinary workers and residents is very important because without them the money (which they saw very little of) would not have been made – but it needs another book, or books, to do them justice.

The following chapters make up a very brief resume of activity on the Peninsula. A great deal of detail has had to be omitted in order to make the finished work of a reasonable size.  Fuller accounts of many individual subjects have appeared as journal articles elsewhere – and are listed in the bibliography. Some very important items have been left out for the same reason – in particular the Blackwall Tunnel, the trams and the A102M road as well as two local authority depots.  There is no mention of housing schemes and community buildings – apart from three pubs of particular interest.

Greenwich marsh has been owned mainly by charities since the seventeenth century.  It is valuable land and has been exploited for commerce.  These charities saw the investment potential of sites near the capital city and with excellent access to the River and trade routes.

From around 1800 riverside areas of the marsh were developed and industry moved in at a rapidly increasing pace until around the time of the Overend Gurney banking crash of 1866. From the 1870s the pace began to slacken and in the twentieth century there was a long slide into service industries which themselves collapsed as the upriver docks closed in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1990s we have the Millennium Dome.

The Dome may well mark a change in the fortunes of the area – while, at the same time, it is part


Nothing exists in a void, even the future.  If we accept that time exists then we have to see how each thing develops after the next or it makes no sense to us.

This book has been an attempt to show how the Greenwich Peninsula developed and to suggest here that the Dome is almost the logical next step.  It is after all an industry providing entertainment and information for those who want to buy it.  It is different to the other industries only in so far as people have to call and get what they are buying on site – previously things were delivered!

The past remains with us, whatever we do.  The popular view in the late 1990s has insisted that pollution is, almost the only,  the legacy of past industry. Sorry, but pollution really isn’t the point.  The actual legacy is complex and much more relevant to the present than that.  Going on about pollution – and nothing else – is in fact an insult to those who worked hard to leave us the whole world that we live in now.

Greenwich is full of sites which pull the tourists in. Its working areas have been disregarded as mundane.  Even Iain Sinclair has ignored the marsh.

Nothing is old and romantic, but we live among the accretions of the past and we owe it some respect.



A lot of was left out of the book – this included, for instance, oil wharves and much warehousing (as boring). Some I thought it politic to keep quiet about –  Bells Asbestos Works – I removed information about this important company because I felt that there had been too much written already about pollution!  My research on the company continues and will be written up. The Coalite Plant – also was a big polluter and I thought it best to keep quiet about this one too.  I have since been sent a lot of information about the plant.

Much more I have only learnt about in the 13 years since the book was written. Bracegridle – he was one of several boat builders and fishing families to be active in the area. I am in touch with a number of family historians who are working on research in this area – some of them from Australia .He is one of the more important.  North Pole ice works…… and many many more…….  It would be nice to start again with all the stuff missed out!

And since then of course we have had the Dome, the cable car, the new underground station and mega mega housing blocks.  I am just trying to keep up.



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