The Angerstein Railway


This article dates from 1998 at a time when the Dome was still being planned – and some transport enthusiasts were lobbying for the Angerstein Line to be used for access by the public.


Local people and transport buffs have been trying to persuade the millennium exhibition organisers that the best way to get visitors into the site would be via the heavy rail link which still goes part way there.  The Angerstein railway has never been for passenger traffic and is hardly known outside Greenwich and railway enthusiast circles.  An appeal for someone who has studied the line has gone unanswered.  I am nevertheless aware that for me to try and write a history of a railway line is probably near suicidal.

‘Angerstein’ is a name, which keeps cropping up in the East Greenwich area.  It originates with the romantic figure of John Julius Angerstein – a Russian financier with mysterious, possibly, illustrious origins. He may well have been the son of the Empress Ann of Russia and a British banker.  He spent a long working life in the City of London, regularised Lloyds of London and leaving his pictures to the nation, thus founding the national gallery.

In 1774 he had bought land in Blackheath and built the house which is now Woodlands, once Greenwich’s Local History Library.  Angerstein had numerous connections within the City of London and political circles. Greenwich Marsh was a small item in their enormous world of influence.  However, Angerstein, is one of the group of influential people who can be said to have shaped the marsh and its industries.   His country home was built to overlook the area of the marsh itself.

Angerstein first acquired the area, which roughly covers today’s Westcombe Park.  Part of Westcombe Park road may have been his carriage drive. He, and his family, went on to acquire, by 1856, the whole stretch of land between the river and the Dover Road. Combe Farm covered much of the lower part of this area with its farmhouse on the site of the new houses slightly north of Westcombe Park Station.

John Julius had one son, John, born in 1773 who lived much of the time in Greenwich.  He had a large family – the most important members in the context of this story are a younger John Julius (born 1801) and William (born 1812.  John Julius himself died in 1823.

In 1850 John Angerstein must have seen this stretch of land between Blackheath and the river as full of potential.  The North Kent railway line was being built through a tunnel, which ran from Blackheath to a point adjacent to his land.  On the other side of the river the new Victoria Dock would have an entrance almost opposite. All that would be needed was a wharf and a connecting railway and good business would be guaranteed.

The railway was planned in 1851 to run on Angerstein’s land from the North Kent Railway as it emerges from the tunnel into a chalk pit.  The Angerstein line would then go to a riverside wharf.   Built on private land there was no need for an act of Parliament except for the bridge needed to cross the Lower Turnpike Road between Greenwich and Woolwich.  This Act was applied for a passed in May 1851.

The line opened in 1852 but had already been leased to the southeastern railway for operation. It has been said that the spoil removed from the Blackheath/Charlton railway tunnel was used to build the embankment on which the railway goes on its way to the river.  It runs parallel with Lombard Wall – the Tudor flood defence and property marker.

It has been said that it was originally intended that the railway should be connected by ferry to Blackwall and perhaps also to Greenwich pier. It would thus effect the elusive connection out of Greenwich, which was prevented by the Park and the Royal observatory.  Despite these hopes the line was, and has remained, entirely a goods line.

As industry grew in East Greenwich and Charlton so the line grew and was extended.  In the 1890s the line was extended right across the peninsula to enter the gas works via a bridge across Riverway.  A connection was made with lines from the LCC tram depot built alongside the line in Woolwich Road and at some stage connections were made with other local factories.  Branches from the main Angerstein Line seem to have gone into Harvey’s and the United Bottle works to the east in Charlton.

Angerstein Wharf itself is shown on successive maps with up to fourteen branches fanning out to the riverside.  An article of 1925 gave the tonnage handled as £58,000 in 1859 rising to tenfold that in the 1920s.  The wharf then handled ‘manure, steel rails, fertiliser, coal, coke, stone, sand, flour, slates and timber.  By 1951 however it was said that the 755-foot river frontage with an upper dock ‘too small’ for ‘present day craft’ was mainly taking petroleum spirit and oil – together with Fullers Earth from Redhill, … timber flour, manure, iron and steel, waste paper.

Today (1998) the wharf is a busy handling aggregate much of which comes down the old railway line,

Ten years ago the line was so under used that it was possible to walk the length of it without any interference from security men, There was much to see including the remains of much railway equipment – including a number of trucks.  That is not so any more. I hesitate to try and describe the line today because I am sure that every rail buff in the land will say I am wrong.  I doubt however that in its 158 years of existence that it has changed very much,

Anyone who wants to see it close up is advised to go to the down side of Westcombe Park Station.  There they will see a bridge arching out across the 102M motorway.  Walk across this bridge and you will find yourself on a little pathway, which crosses the line to disappear into a passage between the houses to emerge in Fairthorn Road.  It is is a scene from then 1920s, at the latest.

Just south of the foot crossing the line has left the main North Kent line in then old chalk pit.   A siding also goes south into the derelict Angerstein works – alongside which recently a young girl’s body lay for many weeks. The railway continues south to cross the Woolwich Road – is this still the original bridge from the 1850s? and goes alongside what was locally known as the ‘Airfix’ works but was in fact the LCC Tram Depot.  From the railway embankment you could see a turntable and lines down in the works – are they still there?

In the 1980s two massive bridges were built to take the line across the newly built Bugsby’s Way and the link into the gas work was cut with the opening of the river end of Horn Lane.

angerstein railway
The line south of Woolwich Road. Photo Howard Chard

Most of the line into the gasworks remained.  It continued from Horn Lane to near the site of the new Jubilee Line station on an embankment.  This embankment has been destroyed in early 1998 by contractors working on the Millennium Exhibition site.  The bridge across Riverway, removed in the 1980s, was rebuilt in order to get lorries into the Dome site but has now been removed together with its 1890s abutments.

By any standards the Angerstein railway was a big success.  Very few purpose built goods lines are still at work today, so unchanged.  It has the potential to bring thousands to the Millennium Dome by rail from anywhere in the country – and, the world via Eurostar.  More importantly to locals it could link the Jubilee line to British Rail and transform public transport in south London.  John Angerstein was more of a visionary than he knew!

Angerstein Railway enabling Act

Extract from History of Charlton

Delta Wharf – some background

Delta Wharf comprises a long area of land between and overlapping with the areas now known as Victoria Deep Water Wharf to the south and Point Wharf to the north. On the Skinner plan, at the north end of Victoria Deep is a narrow plot owned by Morden College, in the occupation of Thomas Jeffrey and north of this two plots owned by Sir William Sanderson, also in the occupation of Thomas Jeffrey.  North of this is a Morden College owned plot occupied by Peter Huck.

This northern plot is later shown in the occupation of John Bethell – the dating of this addition to the 1838 Morden College plan is not clear. At the same time the southern Morden College owned plot is in the occupationof Calvert Clark. The middle section has passed into the ownership of Mrs. Suttonstall (or Saltonstall).  On the tithe map these sections are all described as ‘marsh meadow’ or ‘foreland’.

During the early 1820s a section of sea wall in this area became unstable.

Return to Delta Wharf

Morden Wharf – a bit of background

This covers a long area of riverside – from the current Alcatel boundary to Bay Wharf at the footpath which now returns to Tunnel Avenue. Only the central section is still called Morden Wharf.
The pattern of land use is complex and the network of plots changes completely during the nineteenth century.

pk sketch
Sketch by Peter Kent of the area of Morden Wharf c.1990

In the 1890s the north east corner of the site was transversed by Tunnel Avenue as part of the building of the Blackwall Tunnel.
Pre-industrialisation the riverside strip was known as Great and Little Pits while the inland section was a series of field, including one known as Lady Marsh.

Return to Morden Wharf

Ballast Quay – a brief overview

view upriver 1662
View of Ballast Quay 1662

Ballast Quay is technically not part of the Peninsula – which begins at the corner of Pelton Road and the riverside – but it is an interesting area and one which has a strong relationship to the development of the western end of the Peninsula’s riverside as well as the streets behind it. Indeed it appears that a stile or gate marked the boundary – described in 1792 as a ‘wicket with lock and key’.  Indeed this can be seen on a seventeenth century print.

The area is owned by Morden College, and has been since the 1660s.  It has been known as ‘Ballast Quay’ since at least the 17th century, it marked as such on Travers’ map of 1695 and seems to refer to the transfer of ballast – perhaps gravel or chalk– into vessels.  Such ballast was commonly put into collier ships which was brought coal to London from North-eastern ports and needed a return load.  Although Morden College owned many such pits – both in the area of Blackheath Hill and in Chiselhurst – the date of the Travers’ plan which identifies the quay’s name is close to the time of Sir John Morden’s acquisition of the area  – and this may mean that it pre-dates him.

In 1695 the grounds of a building stretched between Ballast Quay and Crowley House, with its outbuildings on the site of what is now Greenwich Power Station. In later years the area seems to have become part of the complex of warehousing owned by the Crowleys. Ambrose Crowley had bought property in Greenwich in 1704 using it as a warehouse for his iron founding business based on the Tyne.  Some of this activity doubtless moved on to the Ballast Quay area.cutty sark and houses pk

The Roque plan of 1747 shows an undeveloped river bank between Anchor Iron Wharf and the gunpowder magazine  By 1792 maps appended to deeds show Anchor Iron Wharf itself heavily built out into the river.  ‘Houses’ shown on the western side of the Quay include the Green Man public house, and ‘Green Man Yard’ is marked inland. Near the riverfront is a another – identified as ‘Thames Cottage’ and to the east of that sluices on the line of Pelton Road.   The area is shown by Morden College as being leased to ‘Millington’ – Crowley’s Manager and associate.  Further research in the Morden College archives might reveal more about the history and use of the quay before 1818.

In 1818 Morden College’s Surveyor, B.Biggs, undertook a survey and drew a plan of the Quay, which shows little more than a line of trees and some sluices. It was nevertheless the start of a great deal of work by Biggs on this area.  It was, however, not until 1829 that a proposal for ‘a new wharf and improvements’ was made  – this shows a ‘proposed new road’ and a ‘proposed terrace’ roughly on the line of the current houses.  It is however not until 1838 that another survey by Biggs shows the Union Tavern (now the Cutty Sark) marked and the distinctive line of the houses.

Julie Tadman’s ‘A Fisherman of Greenwich’ describes the subsequent history of the quay and the pier built there, as well as the fate of ‘Thames Cottage’ and the article by Mr. Linney the use of the Harbour Master’s House which replaced it.  The Union Tavern was renamed the ‘Cutty Sark’ in the early 1950s when the Cutty Sark Ship herself was berthed at Greenwich.

For detail please go to

Return to Ballast Quay

East Greenwich Gas works

coloured panarmaThe East Greenwich Gas Works was built by the South Metropolitan Gas Works from 1881. South Met. were based in the Old Kent Road and had achieved a premier position in the gas world under their charismatic chair, George Livesey.  In the 1870s inner city gas companies were encouraged to build works outside of the inner city – this was South Met’s super works.  It was built with the highest aspirations

South Metropolitan Gas Works. East Greenwich  General article on the history of the works

Notes on House of Lords Enquiry 1881 into the Bill for the Works. These notes are about the dry dock

THE MILLENIUM SITE – WHO BUILT THE GASWORKS article on the history of the works written for Bygone Kent

The Gas Works – first news from Journal of Gas Lighting article on the first plans for the works from Journal of Gas Lighting

The Gas Works on the Greenwich Peninsula article on GIHS blog reviewing article in London Journal

The Gas Workers of South London – the Co-partnership scheme article written for South London Record

Duke of Gloucester visit to the Coking Plant article on the Greenwich Industrial History blog

Life at East Greenwich Gas Works article on GIHS web site

The Gas Workers’ Strike in South London 1889 article written for South London Record

Future of the gas works site. 1980s.  speculative article on the future of the site from an unknown source

South Met Gas in the Second World War  local authority account of war time works

The Purification of Coal Gas article from Copartnership Journal

KM 1890 gasworks accident0001 – report from the Kentish Mercury 1890 of a fatality

Dedication of the Gas Works War memorial  =- article from Co-partnership Journal

Memorial Gardens. Rededication of the Gas Works Memorial  – Article from GIHS newsletter

Notes on a trip round the site before the Dome

Return to Gas Works

Angerstein Wharf and surrounding area

Angerstein Wharf shown on the 18th Skinner plan

The area of Angerstein Wharf can roughly be determined as that land to the west and north of Lombard’s Wall – the historic parish boundary between Greenwich and Charlton.   Lombard’s Wall  is (or was since it is now entirely disappeared under heavy duty lorries) an embankment constructed by the Tudor historian, William Lambarde, to prevent flooding of his property in Westcombe – referred to in 1555 as an ‘in-wall’ or a ‘man way’.  The north-west boundary to the area is Horn Lane, the line of which can still be traced running parallel to the modern Pear Tree Way. This was known in the sixteenth century as ‘Hornewall’ – another flood barrier.   However on the Skinner plan of 1746 Horn Lane does not reach as far as the river but peters out at the ‘common sewer’ coming from Marsh Lane parallel to the river, which here took a right angled turn to reach the river as ‘Kings Sluice’.  It must therefore be inferred that the drainage of this area must have taken place between 1601 and 1622, or before 15?? – and could not have been part of the schemes of the 1580s, since that was in the reign of Elizabeth

Christie & Co.

From c.1912 to post 1955 part of the wharf was leased to William Christie, with, among other things, a plant to treat timber with creosote.

Some of the earliest references to land in the Marsh refer to ‘Thistlecroft’ and it may that this is the area referred to..   In 1555 the riverside area is named as ‘Abbots Howkes’. However the land was in Westcombe Manor, in a sub area known as Nethercombe, which stretched as far as the areas now known as Blackheath Standard.

The land had been part of that passed in AD 918 by Princess Aelfrida to the Abbey of Ghent and then nationalised by Henry VIII in 1537, and then annexed to the Royal Manor of Old Court, East Greenwich, and briefly owned by Anne Boleyn.  Various other tenants and lessees occupied the area, including the Tudor historian William Lambarde,  until in 1801 it was passed to John Julius Angerstein, the Russian born founder of Lloyds.

When the Skinner Plan was drawn up in 1746 the two plots between Lombard Wall and Horn Lane are marked as owned by Sir William Sanderson in the occupation of Thomas Moor. Moor was the lessee of Combe Farm (the farm was between Combedale Road and Woolwich Road). A century later the Tithe Map shows most of the area not let but under the control of John Angerstein – and he was later to construct a private railway line through the fields. This railway remains in use, although it has never carried passenger traffic.

Return to Angerstein Wharf

Lovells Wharf – some background

Lovells Wharf – originally known as Greenwich Wharf – is the first wharf on the west bank of the Peninsula once you leave Ballast Quay and East Greenwich. It is now a development site with flats and houses, built by London and Regional (Geoff Springer).

The site was developed in the early 19th century by Coles Child for Morden College. This consisted of a large parcel of land which was divided and sub-divided into wharves, frequently named for lessees and/or operators – Granite, Pipers and so on.  The development by London and Regional has re-united these elements and is building on the same area as Coles Child.

The following is a brief timeline of the site.

12th Century tide Mill
Pre-1838 Great Meadow & Dog Kennel Field
1838 – Coles Child signs a lease with Morden College
1840 – Coal wharf built on site of ‘Lovell’s – called Greenwich Wharf
1844 – Coles Child leases the rest of the land 1840-1841 to Mr. Walker, limeburner
1841 –   Coles Child.  coal wharf, coke burning and lime kilns
1852 – The Wharf is divided and Granite Wharf becomes separate. Rowton and Whiteway manage the wharf for Coles Child – cement, lime, coal
1900s  John Waddell and Co.  – coal merchant. .
1880s – Ashby,  ice merchant – builds an ice well on site.
1919 Coles Child’s lease expires pre-1900 Joseph Guy keel and lighter owners, also at 21 High Street, Hull. taken over by Shaw Lovell from 1911.
1919 192? Yarmouth Carriers – tug operators, river haulage operators, at Hull and 31 Eastcheap.
1916 Pickett, Edward Norman trading as Norman Houlford & Co
1919 Davis Morgan & Co, sub tenants of Joseph Guy 1920 C. Shaw Lovell  & Sons – metal transhipment & general wharfingers

Lovell’s House. computer centre was built on Pelton Road and – eventually passed to the GLC

Cranes remaining from Lovell’s use as metal transhipment wharf – were seen as a local feature and removed by Morden College in 2000

2002 Groundwork reported: “Lovell’s Wharf. Designated a safeguarded wharf, it has not been used for many years and its viability for, re-use as such is questionable – its development status is in abeyance. Tragically, the landmark scotch derrick cranes were removed before they could be listed, to the great detriment of the river landscape  Improvements to the riverside walk access from Ballast Quay, and to the surfacing generally along the footpath, were carried out by Greenwich Council prior to the Millennium.

Development by London and Regional proceeds

Return to Lovells Wharf

Return to main page