Saturday, December 26, 2009

Building identification request

Does anyone know what the building on the north bank of the Thames made of red brick is called (or at least exactly which road it is on)? It looks as though it was copied from a lego model but was apparently built so that as many rooms as possible had a Thames view.

I haven't got a photograph of my own but the one on the right is from Wiki.

It's not through want of trying. I've searched under every key workd I can think of and did a satellite tour of the Thames on Google Earth and still wasn't able to find it. I'm up in Wales and all the books that might have been able to help are at home in London, of course. It is beginning to drive me nuts!

UPDATED: Please see Mike's comment. Not only has he identified the building for me but he gave me a brilliant way of searching for this type of information in the future. I was going to delete this post when I had the answer but I'll leave it here so that Mike's advice will be available when needed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rotherhithe Heritage #10 - 1843 - 1870

John Jenkins Thompson built boats at the Horeseferry dock from 1830. The Horseferry Dock was named for a ferry which ran between Rotherhithe and Limehouse. The dock is now completely lost but was located immediately opposite the entrance to Regent's Canal Dock. Thompson built yachts and lifeboats until the 1840s when he began to build steamers including the Ariel (1844), the Brighton, the Dieppe and the Newhaven (all in 1847 and all with mahogany hulls for the Brighton and Continental Steam Packet Co.).

As far as I can tell from contemporary maps it was in the late 1840s that part of the land occupied by the Kings Mills Wharf was sold off to allow the expansion of the docks and for a new lock to be added.

In 1844 the steamer Ariel, which was launched. from Rotherhithe where she was constructed. She was built by John Jenkins Thompson for the Woolwich Steam Packet Company and had a mahogany hull. Ariel had a passenger capacity of 600 people. The launch was reported in the Illustrated London News on the 20th April of that year on page 248. Here's the short story that accompanied the picture to the right (the italics are as in the original article).
On Tuesday last, Rotherhithe was a scene of unusual gaiety, owing to the launch of a new steamer, the Ariel, built by Mr Thompson for the Woolwich Steam Packet Company.
The main dimensions of this fine vessel are - length, 120 feet; breadth, 14 feet 6 inches; tonnage, 120; she is built with a round stern, and of diagonal planking, three thicknesses, all mahogany; she has two engines of 20 horse power each, and has been built expressly for a passage vessel between Woolwich and Hungerford; and will carry, with her coals, boilers &c, 600 persons, at a draft of 3 feet 6 inches.

The publication of such details in the ILN indicates that people in 1800s London still understood ships and took an interest in the details of newly launched ships. In 1847 Thompson apparently leased additional space at the Barnard Yard because the Banshee, commissioned by the Admiralty, was launched from there rather than the Horseferry yard. The Banshee is described by Murray in his 1852 Treatise. She was a paddle steamer designed by Oliver Lang (junior) with engines by Penn, was a particularly fast steamer and Rankin says that she was once timed at 16.3 knots. She was entirely wood-built. She cost £39,000 and was one of the last mail packets to be ordered by the Admiralty. Murray says that she provides an excellent of example of "what may be accomplished by Government builders when they are not trammelled by considerations of armament or displacement". She was employed on the Holyhead to Dublin service, a run which usually took well over four hours but she was regularly the fastest vessel on the route, completing the Holyhead to Kingston run of 55 nautical miles in three and a half hours (fastest time). The packet service was taken over by the City of Dublin Steam Packet in 1850 after which Murray says that the Banshee was sent to Malta, a trip which required the removal of half her boiler power in order to store sufficient coal for the trip, effectively reducing her speed to 12 knots. She was scrapped in 1864. Sadly I have been unable to find an illustration of her so far. In the 1850s Thompson built two Dapper class gunboats for the Crimean war, the Hind and the Jackdaw. The Jackdaw was the last Royal Navy commission to be built on Rotherhithe.

Another shipbuilder who made vessels for the Crimean war in the 1850s was Charles Lungley who built mortar floats - unpowered sea vessels each carrying a single large calibre mortar.

From 1846 there's a fascinating record from London's Central Criminal Court dating to the 26th October. A case of larceny was brought against one James Carbry, aged 29, who was indicted for stealing three copper bolts (value 1s), and four copper nuts (1s 3d), the goods of ship-broker William Philip Beech from Rotherhithe (who was connected with the Beatsons). Carbry had been employed on a vessel from which the items had gone missing. Evidence against him was given by Henry Peachey the foreman to Beech, and by Thomas Watkins (police constable K310) who arrested the prisoner in a marine store , having found the property tied in a handkerchief. Carbry said that he had been given the items by a man. He was found guilty and imprisoned for three months.

A somewhat unusual activity in the area was the building of railway locomotives. Rankin (2004) describes how the Bull Head yard which was converted to a general engineering works in 1838 by John Hague. He says that the demand for locomotives was so great in this period of massive railway construction that the big engineering works were having difficulty meeting demand, and small workshops were able to to meet some of these gaps in demand. The Thames Bank Ironworks (run by Christie, Adams and Hill) produced six locomotives between 1848 and 1849 which were built for London and South Western Railway. As with ships, each engine was assigned a name. They would have had to be removed via the river to a be offloaded at a wharf which linked directly onto the railway system. Rankin says that of the engines produced by small workshops these were amongst the better ones. The Steam Index website has this to say about them:
Bradley 1: 43: first three cost £1800; later three £1900 each. A lot of trouble was experienced with the fisrt No. 109 Rocklia, but Nos 110 Avon and 111 Test were less troublesome. Nos. 112 Trent, 113 Stour and 114 Frome were slightly larger. Bradley include a photograph of Frome (Fig. 13). They were withdrawn 1868-70.

"Bradley" refers to the author Bradley, D.L. who wrote Locomotives of the Southern Railway. London: RCTS. 1975/6.. Volume 1.

A number of innovations were changing the ship building industry on a permanent basis. Pearsell (1986) describes some of them. New types of propulsion had been introduced including paddle steamers and screw propellers. New hull designs resulted in improved and faster forms made of multiple materials. The introduction of iron for shipping caused something of a revolution in terms of the size of vessels that could be constructed. Some ships were iron hulled and others were composites, made of a combination of wood and iron. Hulls were sheathed in metals which protected them against the sea. New iron rigging was introduced and ship designs became increasingly specialized for the purpose they were to serve. The ability to produce much larger vessels may have been the most important change that the use of iron introduced. Persell says that in 1815 the optimal size for a wooden shop was 200-250 tons. Wood, used as the principal construction material until the mid 1800s, constrained the size of ships that could be built. The largest were the East Indiamen at 1400 tons. With iron, ships could be considerably larger.

Although the increased size benefited those engaged in long distance trade, improving speed, cargo space and fuel efficiency, the larger sizes were increasingly difficult to accommodate by older shipyards and locks.

By the mid 1800s the same family who had bought King’s Mills from the Royal Navy and converted it from a victualling yard were still running the King’s Mills but it was a very different enterprise. Steam power had replaced water power for the process of milling and the mill pond was now used as a timber pond.

Also in the mid 1800s the premises of Charles Hay and Sons, a company established in 1789, was still in the hands of the Hays and the business repaired barges. Charles Hay was the son of Francis Theodore Hay whose tomb can still be seen in St Mary's churchyard.

The Nelson Dock had been split into two after 1818 but became a single shipyard again in 1850 when Thomas Bilbe (designer) and William Perry (shipmaster) took it over. The 1952 sailing ship Dame de Serk, a French navy training ship, which is located immediately adjacent to the car park of the Holiday Inn sits on a patent slip installed by Bilbe (photograph to the left). A cradle was moved up and down the slip by hydraulic rams. It had its own engine room which is currently housed in the Mills and Knight (Nelson Dock) building on Rotherhithe Street, which was then part of the shipyard. Bilbe and Perry built composite ships designed with wooden planking over iron frameworks. Hulls were sheathed in copper or Muntz metal. The ships performed well and reached high speeds. Examples are the Red Riding Hood, a composite clipper made for the Orient Line, which launched in 1857 and the Argonaut in 1866 (the last ship to be built in Nelson Dock). Rankin says that such ships were top of the market (2005, p.76):
Such vessels being used in opium running, and the intense competition to get the new season's tea back to Britain.

In 1846 another report appeared, from the Metropolitan Commission for Sewers which in 1849 reported that in Rotherhithe the King's Mills Sewer had ten years' accumulation of sewage in it, and that the Paradise Row sewer was waterlogged for at least 20 hours a day. The sewers were failing to discharge into the Thames, and were backing up into sewage ditches instead. Between 1848 and 1849 cholera outbreaks in south London were killing over 1.3 people in every 1000. This figure contrasts with the a figure of 0.37 per 1000 in the less polluted reaches of the Thames. It is probably no coincidence that the first recorded cases of typhoid were in Rotherhithe some 15 years earlier.

In 1851 Rotherhithe Gas Works opened. Up until this point in time it had been piped into Rotherhithe by the Phoenix Gas Company which had works at Deptford Creek and Bankside. Phoenix had provided the Thames Tunnel with the gas for its 100 gas lights on its opening in 1843. The new Rotherhithe works were owned by the Surrey Consumers’ Gas Company which was founded in 1849. They had to build their own wharf in order to bring in coal supplies. Gas production only ceased here in 1959.

The East Country Dock Company was purchased by the Commercial Dock Company in 1850 for £40,000.

Under the Commercial Dock Company James Walker rebuilt Greenland Dock and its entrance lock between 1851 and 1852. In 1855 a patent self-acting sluice was added, and this has been preserved in its original location. The lock gates are modern.

In the London Illustrated News a story on page 268 on Saturday April 23rd 1853 was entitled "Hales Rocket Factory at Rotherhithe and begins, promisingly, "An event of ten days since invests the barren locality, pictured on the preceding page, with extraordinary interest". Acting on information authorities searched the premises in Rotherhithe of Hale's Rocket Factory on the west bank of the Surrey Grand Canal near the Plough bridge. They discovered "a large stores of arms, ammunition, and materials of war". The stores were thought to have belonged to Mr Kossuth and his adherents. Mr Hale himself is described as a "well known inventor" who was working a perfecting a war rocket "which rotates around its axis like a rifle-ball, and carries no stick". The News concludes that the connection between the two men was due to Kossuth suggesting improvements in the manufacture of the rockets to Hale.

In 1851 the Great Exhibition was held in Hyde Park. The main exhibition hall was the Crystal Palace, vast glass structure which was dismantled after the Exhibition and was relocated and reassembled in Sydenham (south London). It burned down in 1936.

In 1854 England became involved with the Crimean war, which again increased the demand for ships.

The Metropolitan Board of Works was founded in 1855 to manage London-wide issues and projects centrally. One of their projects was the purchase of 63 acres for a community park, which eventually became Southwark Park.

The Greenland Dock North Shipyard was leased by Charles Lungley between 1854 and 1869. He built the Dane here for the Union Steam Colliers Co (renamed the Union Steamship Co in 1856). She was a 530 ton ship with an average speed of around 8-9 knots. The Dane was used first in the South Wales coal trade but was soon chartered by the French government as a transport in the Crimean war to carry materials to and from Turkey. After the war she was laid up before carrying mail and a few passengers on a line to Brazil from Liverpool. She then became the first mail steamer to run between Britain and South Africa on a contract to make passage from the UK to the Cape within 42 days. It was worth £33,000 a year. As with the Greenland Dock South Shipyard the North Shipyard was used after this date for repairs rather than ship building. She was next chartered by the British government mission to Zanzibar to suppress the slave trade. She met a sad end, being wrecked off Cape Receife (South Africa) in December 1865, albeit without loss of life.

The Lower Road workhouse built in 1728 was under the control of the Rotherhithe Vestry but between 1839 and 1869 it became the responsibility of the Rotherhithe Board of Guardians and was partly regulated by the Poor Law Board. The role of the workhouse was to provide board and lodgings in return for labour. In Rotherhithe one of the activities carried out was rope making. An infirmary with 52 beds was added in 1866. It had one full time salaried nurse but all other nursing staff were unpaid paupers. Humphrey says that of the 194 workhouse inmates in May 1866 140 were disabled, old or infirm, 19 were children and only 34 were able bodied (1997, p.59). The watercolour by Yates showing the workhouse dates to 1826.

By 1857 the Kings Mills Wharf was occupied by wharfingers Messrs R and F Mangles (who purchased the site in 1803), Messrs H. Powell and Sons who continued the building's 18th century tradition of producing sea biscuits in a factory at the site which included 8 ovens each with its own chimney, and it was also used to store tar and turpentine. The mill no longer used a mill pond (which was converted to a timber pond) and used steam instead. Part of the wharf had been sold in the 1840s for the development of the gas works and the Surrey Basin and its Thames lock.

In 1857 Bull Head Dock was still in use by shipwrights but it was in the company of two manure producers - one processing guano, the other manufacturing chemical manure.

The Kings Mill stairs were renamed the Surrey Dock Stirs from around 1860 onwards.

Iron began to be used extensively, partly because of improved vessel size and speed and fuel efficiencies and was cheaper than wood to maintain, partly because timber ships were found in the Crimean war to be very poorly equipped to deal with shells, and partly because timber was in increasingly short supply.

Stuart Rankin describes how this caused practical problems for Rotherhithe's ship builders (Rankin 2005, p.3):
The rapid increase in ship size engendered by the adoption of iron coincided with an expansion of the Rotherhithe docks, thus preventing the shipyards from expanding inland. By the 1860s, Rotherhithe shipyards were no longer able to compete at the quality end of the market for larger ships, and local costs were so high in comparison to Scotland, the Mersey or Tyne, that the building of small ships was uneconomic.

Another problem for builders of wooden ships was the shortage of timber. Even though John Evelyn had identified increasing shortages of timber as a huge problem in the 1700s replanting had not been sufficient to provide the shipbuilding industry with sufficient supplies.

The Upper Globe Dock Shipyard (where Globe Wharf stands opposite the modern Deal Porters pub) had been used as a base for ship building by by 1860 it has become a repair and maintenance yard under the General Iron Screw Collier Co.

In 1858 John Beatson died, ending a fine family tradition.

In 1860 the Surrey Entrance Lock and the Surrey Basin opened. The new dock was constructed in the area that we now know as Surrey Water, and was called Surrey Basin, and the new lock connected Surrey Basin to the Thames. Although shut off from the Thames the lock is still there, beneath the 1950s red lift bridge. The engineer responsible was George Parker Bidder (picture shown left) the former partner of Robert Stephenson. His remarkable abilities for mental arithmetic meant that he could work out logarithms in his head. The lock was 250ft long and 50ft wide and 27ft 3ins deep. For some years after the opening of the new entrance the former entrance lock to the Grand Surrey Canal into Stave Dock was still in use and this left an area of land in between the two lock entrances which formed an island which became known as the Island Yard. today it is the site of the pub the Old Salt Quay (formerly Spice Island). The remains of the older lock have survived today as an inlet around which the Thames Path is diverted.

Albion Dock opened in 1860 as an enlargement of a timber pond. Its general orientation is now marked by the Albion Channel, a shallow canal leading from the Surrey Basin (now known as Surrey Water) towards the Surrey Quays shopping centre emerging in Canada Water, the former Canada Dock. Albion Dock had been infilled but the canal was excavated during the dockland regeneration work, with the spoil used to create Stave Hill.
Between 1860 and 1887 the King and Queen Dock (formerly the King and Queen Lower Yard) was held by William Rennie who was a noted naval architect and designer of clipers but most of his designs were built elsewhere.
James Abbot McNeil Whistler completed a series of Thames etchings in the mid 1800s. His etching of Rotherhithe (right), dating to 1860, was done on the balcony of the Angel Inn looking northwest toward the City with the dome of St. Paul's is visible on the horizon at the far left.

In 1861 William Philip Beech formed a partnership with Henry Castle to take advantage of the retirement of a large number of wooden warships, East Indiamen and other vessels. Castle had attempted to purchase the HMS Rainbow in 1838 from the Admiralty in order to break her up but was unsuccessful in breaking into the business until his partnership with ship broker Beech. In 1841 Castle had moved from his premises at 11 Lucas Street in Rotherhithe to the King and Queen Dry Dock at first in partnership with his brother in law but by 1845 he was the sole tenant and in 1860 had gone into busniess with his sons. Beech was based at Bulls Head Dock. The partnership between the two of them took their joint business away from Rotherhithe to Charlton.

A dry dock was added to Horseferry Dock in 1862 the whole site was turned over to repairs.
Columbia Wharf
In 1862 a swing bridge made by Henry Grisssell in 1862 was provided for the Surrey Entrance Lock on the western side of Rotherhithe. It survives but has been moved to cross Steel Yard Cut (the link between Greenland Dock and South Dock). In the same year a new lock built by the Commercial Dock Company created a connection between Lavender Lock and the Thames to provide an additional access to the dock system for small river craft (not ships).

The Holiday Inn incorporates the Columbia Wharf building. This was built in 1864-65 by the Patent Ventilating Granary Company. It was the first grain silo erected in a British port. The architect was James Edmeston. It is a very attractive building when viewed from the river, with lozenge-shaped windows in the top floor (see photo right), but it was apparently far more elaborate in the past. There is an image of it on the cover of the 1868 Godfrey edition of the Rotherhithe O/S map.

In January 1865 the Grand Surrey Dock Company and Commercial Dock Company amalgamated and became the Surrey Commercial Dock Company.

Southwark Park opened on 19th June 1869. It caused some upset in the area when it was not named Rotherhithe Park because its area was entirely located within the parish of Rotherhithe but for political reasons it was named after Southwark's parliamentary constituency. 
The Ambassador in full rigging

Ship building continued for a while in Rotherhithe. Lavender Dock Shipyard was used for ship building between 1865 and 1870 by John and William Walker who specialized in composite ships including the Mikado (1868), the Ambassador (1869) and the Lothair (1870). The last of the large ships to be built on Rotherhithe was the Lothair. She was a 825 ton (gross) ship built of wood and iron and was one of the fastest clippers ever to be built but was lost at sea in 1910.  The picture above is the 714 ton Ambassador. There were some simply amazing photographs of the surviving beached remains of the Ambassador in San Gregorio in Chile on the website). Her figurehead was rescued in the 70's and today can be seen in the Patagonian Institute in Punta Arenas (Chile). The survival of the remains is due to the fact that instead of being scrapped she was beached and abandoned. She was pillaged for parts but astonishingly the wooden parts of her frame survive. Apart from the Cutty Sark (or what remains of it since it burned due to an industrial vacuum cleaner catching fire overnight) it is, as far as I know, the only surviving composite ship.

Edward Blick was succeeded in 1867 as the Rector of St Mary's by Edward Josselyn Beck who continued to promote building projects. The 1803 rectory, next door to the former Peter Hills School in Rotherhithe village was enlarged in 1869. In 1870-2 the church of St Barnabas was constructed on Plough Way by William Butterfield. The first local authority school in Rotherhithe was established on Albion Street in 1872.

Rotherhithe LT railway station opened in 1869 on Brunel Road.

Maritime industries began to relocate either downriver or to other ports in Britain. Pearsell (1986) gives a number of possible reasons for the Nineteenth Century decline in Rotherhithe ship building including
  • Restrictions in depth and width of the Thames upstream of Deptford
  • Tides in the Lower Pool possibly hampering the manoevering of larger vesseks
  • Lack of space in Rotherhithe yards along the water front due to the inability of yeards to expand backwards into Rotherhithe
  • Specialization in wooden ship manufacture when iron was increasingly favoured for construction
  • Thames wages were higher than other areas meaning. It was cheaper to build wharves, factories and warehouses
  • Early Nineteenth Century strikes in London undermined the faith of the Royal Navy in the reliability of private yards.

There are other possible reasons too. During the 1800s the requirement for warships of the previous century had been radically reduced when the Napoleonic wars ended in 1815. The Crimean war lasted only two years. Ships were commissioned for wars underway in foreign nations but not in large numbers. Power was seated in government and the politicians of the Victorian era believed that peace was essential to stability. Instead, the emphasis was on long distance trade and the establishment of trading colonies for which postal services were also required. Ships needed, as well, to incorporate passenger accommodation. New types of shipping activity required different types of ship design.

From 1870 sailing ships lost ground permanently throughout the world. The work taking place along the Thames quays began to decline but the work within Rotherhithe at docks and ponds was very much on the increase and the character of Rotherhithe changed forever.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More photos from last week

Entrance to the Ecological Park, near Stave Hill.

Humulus lupulus L.

A bright climber with yellow flowers. Irritatingly
familiar, but yet to be identified.

Reeds in the sunlight, opposite Stave Hill pond.

This looks like something to do with the Ecological Park's occasional
events for children.

Bright autumn berries near the "waterfall" at lower Downtown pond

Honesty. Increasingly battered! Next to Waterman's Walk.

A carpet of bright moss, next to Downtown pond

Saturday, December 5, 2009

More from yesterday

Grey squirrel, holding the pose in a most obliging fashion.

Reeds in the sunshine, Stave Hill pond

Only a few leaves left, Russia Dock Woodland.

Bulrushes, Downtown Pond
Typha latifolia L.

Coloured bark, opposite Stave Hill Pond

The world's worse photo of a goldfinch,
included only to demonstrate that it was actually there!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Freezing cold but very pretty

I only passed through the edges of the Russia Dock Woodland on the way to trying to find photographs to match up with my latest Rotherhithe heritage post but there were some good things to see. The channel along Waterman's Walk is looking particularly good with lots of water. I was very glad to see that the burned out motorcyle had been removed from the woodland walkway on the otherside of the channel.

There were birds in the trees - goldfinches (of which I took probably the world's worst photo), sparrows, magpies and great tits. In the reeds opposite the Stave Hill pond I watched a very entertaining blue tit for quite a long time. Blackbirds were turning over the leaves.

The ponds are looking good. The bulrushes are looking velvety, Yellow Flag shoots are coming up and the ducks, coots and moorhens were all noisy and active. Opposite the Stave Hill pond the reeds were spectacular in the sun and the bark on the surrounding trees was instantly eye-catching. A blue tit was making a riotous din in the reeds, and leaves in the shadow were still frosty.

I only walked through the margins of the park but it was good to see so many bright red berries giving colour to the walks. The honesty is looking very ragged but it is still there in patches. The few leaves remaining on the trees looked beautiful in the sun, and the remainder, swept onto verges or bright in the water provided a multi-shaped mosaic of colour. Lovely.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rotherhithe Heritage #9 - 1825-1843

Bridge and dockhouse at Surrey Grand Canal
entrance to Thames. George Yates.
To recap briefly, the Napoleonic wars had ended in 1815. By the early 1800s, according to the first official population Census of 1801, the population had expanded massively in the southeast London area on the south of the river, and this meant that Southwark, Bermondsey and Newington were all beginning to be closely linked both with each other and with the city of London. Rotherhithe continued to remain apart from the main body of southeast London, with only a relatively small proportion of the peninsulas interior turned over to docks and ponds, but it had a massive industrial frontage onto the Thames where ships continued to be built in the shipyards that fringed the peninsula. It had a population of only 13,000 people by 1831 and was separated from the rest of the area by market gardens and drainage ditches. The above watercolour by George Yates shows the bridge and Dock House where the Surrey Grand Canal met the Thames on the west side of Rotherhithe.

In spite of its relative isolation early in the 1800s the population of Rotherhithe was growing, the shipping industry was healthy and London's infrastructure, and its connections across the Thames continued to be improved. The old London Bridge was replaced in 1831 with a new bridge designed by John Rennie senior and built by his son, John Rennie junior.

Going into the 1820s there were, as already discussed in the previous post, four dock companies operating in Rotherhithe - The Commercial Dock Company (established in 1807), the Grand Surrey Dock Company (established 1801), the East Country Dock Company (established 1807) and the Baltic Dock Company (established 1809). The map to the right shows Rotherhithe in 1828.

In 1822 the King and Queen Granary was erected downstream of the Bull Head Dock on the west of Rotherhithe. It had seven floors and was provided with its own dock for barges.

From the early 1820s it becomes difficult to keep track of the ship yards, their owners and lease holders. Not only were ship yards divided into smaller components or amalgamated into larger enterprises but they were leased out to different owners at different times and owner names changed as new family members joined the business or new partners were included. The uses of these shipyards often changed. Finally, the names of the shipyards were sometimes changed as well.

The Barnard Yard, managed by Frances Barnard since her husband died in 1805, was by now enormous, covering an area to the north of the modern New Caledonian Wharf development on Odessa Street, and was split into two parts. The lower yard was the larger of the two parts and was occupied by the partnership Frances Barnard, Son and Roberts for shipbuilding and repairs. The upper yard was occupied by F.E. and T Barnard and specialized in spar and mast making. Other ship builders leased space from the yards for projects for which their own yards were either too small or too busy.

Nelson Dock dates from before 1800 but it up until the 1820s it was known as the yard at Cuckold's point. Rankin suggests that the name change came about when the lease was taken by a shipwright named Nelson Wake. After the Randalls and Brents left the yard in 1818 it was split into two sections.

The floating dock at Rotherhithe shown above, right, dates to around 1820.

In 1825 construction of the Thames Tunnel began. I have covered the Thames Tunnel in detail on a separate post which can be found here:

Daniel Brent, sole survivor of S and D Brent had left Nelson Dock in 1815 and focused all his activities on Greenland Dock South Shipyard. The construction of the steamships The London Engineer (1818) and the Rising Star (1822) followed in 1826 by the warship Karteria (meaning perseverance). Partly funded by Lord Byron she was commissioned on a privateer basis by Captain Frank A. Hastings who had served at Trafalgar and was now working for the provisional Greek government. As a warship she was something of an innovation in many ways. She was a steam boat with two paddles but was also equipped to travel under sail. She had four 68 pound guns and her on board furnace meant that shot could be heated to the point where it had a lethal impact on opposition ships.  This had a devastating effect on the opposing Turkish ships. The ship, commanded by Hastings, became something of a legend. The success of both the Karteria together with the new type of ammunition in naval combat, eventaully led to sailing ships being abandoned by the navy, and to the adoption of armour on ships.

In 1829 the South Metropolitan Gas Company was founded in 1829 . It built works along side the Grand Surrey Canal on the Old Kent Rd and these were finsihed in 1833. The company's offices were added a year later.

In 1832 Rotherhithe became part of the Parliamentary Borough of Southwark. In the same year Rotherhithe was devastated by an outbreak of cholera. It extended from Rotherhithe to the rest of London. A massive 10% of the population of Bermondsey and Southwark were killed.

In 1835 a swing bridge was built over South Dock entrance, designed by James Walker. It was moved to the top of Greenland Dock in 1987, where it can still be seen and is still in use. In the same year an additional set of river stairs were added in a narrow passage next to today's Surrey Docks Farm and they named for a pub which no longer exists.

London's first railway, the London and Greenwich Railway was opened in 1836. Bermondsey Spa Road to Deptford. It was the largest brick structure anywhere in the world with 878 arches made of 19 million bricks. The viaduct was required both because of the marshy land and because the dozens of roads which it crossed. In December 1836 the railway was extended from Bermondsey to London Bridge, and the modern section of the viaduct that leads into London Bridge is original. The extension to Greenwich to the east followed 2 years later in 1838. Apparently there was a plan to enable horse drawn carriages to go up onto trains, and a ramp to enable this survives at Deptford Station but the plan was never actioned. The viaduct carried the railway over the Grand Surrey Canal and an 1845 picture of it by Smith (above left) shows St Mary's church to the left of the picture, surrounded by buildings, another church to the north (Holy Trinity) and a third right next to the railway arches on Deptford Lower Road (All Saints). The canal is clearly visible passing under the railway. Only 150 odd years ago and the traffic on the Thames is heaving with tall-masted ships.

Social work and addtional education continued to see improvement in Rotherhithe.  Edward Blick, Rector of St Mary's between 1835 and 1867, a former Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, carried out significant pastoral work on Rotherhithe, including projects to supply additional churches and to build schools. In 1836 girls ceased to be educated in the school established by Peter Hills and Robert Bell in St Marychurch Street and were instead educated at the new St Mary's School in Lower Road on land granted by Sir William Gomm to Edward Blick. Gomm was a considerable land owner with extensive land ranging over areas south of the Rotherhithe Peninsula which he had inherited in 1822. St Mary's remained a school for some 150 years. Another school, Trinity Halls, later affiliated to Holy Trinity Church, was opened in 1836 on Trinity Street (now part of Rotherhithe Street) and was amalgamated with another local school in 1875. It operated until 1910.

St Mary's Church was the only Anglican place of worship in 1838 but there was a need for more churches as the population grew and extended over a larger area. Three more were added between 1838 and 1850. Holy Trinity was built in Rotherhithe Street in 1837-8 by Sampson Kempthorne on land given by the Commercial Dock Company and was consecrated in 1839. (see picture right). The church that stands on the site now is a 1960s replacement for the original, which was destroyed by an incendiary bomb in November 1940. Christ Church was built in a simple Gothic style on the corner of Jamaica Road and Cathay Street in 1838-9 by Lewis Vulliamy on land given by Field Marshal Sir William Gomm who was buried there in 1875. There's a small photograph of it on the Diocese of Southwark website. It was declared redundant in 1964, was used as storage for the Diocese until 1974, was demolished in 1979, and the site is now occupied by the Bosco centre at the edge of King's Stairs Gardens. All Saints was built on Deptford Lower Road in 1840 was another Gothic style structure with tower and spire and cost £3000.00. It was again built by Samuel Kempthorne on land also donated by Gomm. Finally St Paul's was built in Beatson Street in 1850. None of them survive. St Mary's Church steeple was rebuilt in 1861. The north and south galleries were removed in 1876 and only the western (organ) gallery remains.

Of the non-Anglican churches those which served Rotherhithe residents in the 1800s include the Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate conception which was built on Bryan Road in 1858 and included a girls home and a convent. Two Wesleyan Methodist places of worship were established early in the 1800s - a chapel in Silver Street near Nelson Dock which opened in 1800 and lasted until 1926, and a church in Albion Street which opened in 1806. A Primitive Methodist church opened on Jamaica Road in 1856, and the Nonconformist Commercial Dock Chapel which was established in 1800 was served the dockland community.

Queen Victoria came to power in the June of 1837 following the death of her uncle William IV who died leaving no legitimate children. By now the power was very much in the hands of government, but Victoria was considered to be an important symbol of state.

Joseph Horatio Ritchie, operating out of the Greenland Dock South Shipyard where Daniel Brent also constructed ships, built the wooden-hulled paddle tug Dragon in 1838 but after this date the shipyard seems to have been turned over to repairs. The Dragon was made for the Symington Patent Paddle Towing Company.

The King and Queen shipyard to the west of where Globe Wharf stands is identifiable today by the bridge that passes over an inlet which is the remainder of the dry dock that once operated here. The upper part of the yard was taken over by William Elias Evans on the death of Peter Mestaer in 1818. The lower part remained unused for some time but Evans took that over too when his business expanded. He built steamers and carried out repairs. Rankin says that he was a poor businessman and in spite of considerable talent and skill experienced financial setbacks which forced him to give up the lower yard and occupy the upper yard exclusively. once again Rankin describes him as a pioneer who suffered impaired hearing which made him withdrawn and diffident. Between 1821 and 1835 he launched the Lightening and the Meteor (both to the right, above). Both were Post Office packet boats based at Holyhead "which proved for the first time that steamships could operate in the open sea all year round" (Rankin 2005, p.93). In 1826 he launched the Constitutionen for the Norwegian post office (picture left) - the first steamer to operate in the Norwegian fjords. He held the upper yard until his death and it continued to operate as two separate yards afterwards. The upper yard was renamed Prince's Dry Dock and the lower one became King and Queen Dock.

Packet boats and ships were carriers of people, freight and post. They were designed to be stable in heavy seas and could cover either large or small distances. The requirement for transportation of freight, post and passengers to the US saw the development of routes from London and Liverpool to New York. The importance of the Liverpool route expanded shipping -related activities on the Mersey, offering challenges to other ship building and repair centres. Many European migrants to the U.S. travelled on these packet ships. The requirement for packet ships was a boost to ship builders who had the skills and facilities to meet that requirement. An 1886 article reproduced in the New York times gives a lovely description of the joys of passenger travel on a packet between Liverpool and New York in 1842;
At the period of which I speak the sailing packets which ran between London and New-York, and between Liverpool and that port, were ships of 500 to 600 tons burden. The staterooms--as the little cabins ranged on either side of the saloon were termed--were below the sea level. They were incommodious, dark and ill ventilated. In fact, the only light they enjoyed was that furnished by small pieces of ground glass inserted in the deck overhead, and from the fanlights in the doors opening to the saloon, and this was so poor that the occupants of the staterooms could not even dress themselves without making use of a lamp. The sole ventilation of them was that afforded by the removal of the saloon skylights, which , of course, could only be done in fine weather. The consequence was that the closeness of the atmosphere was in the staterooms was at all times most unpleasant; while the smell of of the bilge water was so offensive as to create nausea, independent of that arising from the motion of the vessel. In the Winter, on the other hand, the cold was frequently severe. There was, it is true, a stove in the saloon, but the heat from it scarcely made itself appreciably felt in the side cabins. In other matters there was the same absence of provision for the comfort of the passengers. The fresh water required for drinking and cooking purposes was carried in casks; and when the ship had a full cargo, many of these were placed on deck, with the result that their contents were sometimes impregnated with salt water from the waves shipped in heavy weather. At all times the water was most unpalatable, it being muddy and filled with various impurities from the old worm-eaten barrels in which it was kept. Not only was the water bad, but the supply occasionally proved inadequate and when the voyage was an unusually long one the necessity would arise of placing the passengers upon short allowance. There was always a cow on board, but there was no milk to be had than what she supplied, no way of preserving it having then been discovered. Canned fruit and vegetables were equally unknown. There was commonly a fair provision of mutton and pork, live sheep and pigs being carried; but of other fresh meat and of fish the stock was generally exhausted by the time the vessel had been a few days at sea, refrigerators at that period not having been invented.

Over the next few years other railway were built which connected London and Greenwich.

From the 1830s ship breaking began to take over from ship building. Many ships that had been built to fight in the Napoleonic Wars met their end in Rotherhithe. The end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815/16 meant that the skills of shipbuilding and repair were now much less in demand.

It becomes difficult to keep track of the ship yards, their owners and lease holders. Not only were ship yards divided into smaller components or amalgamated into larger enterprises but they were leased out to different owners at different times and owner names changed as new family members joined the business or new partners were included. The uses of these shipyards often changed. Finally, the names of the shipyards were sometimes changed as well.

Amongst the shipyards which were prominent in the first half of the nineteenth century was John Beatson’s ship yard at Bull Head Wharf (which was renamed Surrey Canal Wharf). It was located near the Youth Hostel and Spice Island/Old Salt Quay where 165 Rotherhithe Street now stands (a modern building). Beatsons purchased warships from the Admiralty for breaking up. Examples include the Treekronen (74 guns) broken up in 1825 the Grampus (5o guns) broken up in 1832 and the Salisbury (58 guns), broken up in 1837, the Charybdis (10 guns) broken in 1843 and the Admiral Rainer, an East Indiaman converted to a prison ship and renamed the Justitia, broken in 1855. They also broke up two of the most remarkable ships that saw action in naval battles: the Bellerapheron and the the Temeraire. The HMS Bellerophon had been built in 1786 and was broken up at Beatson's in 1836. A 74-gun ship, she was built at Frindsbury (River Medway) by a builder named Graves. She was engaged at the battles of The Glorious First of June, the Nile and Trafalgar and was one of the best known ships of the Napoleonic wars. She is now perhaps best know for having held Napoleon a prisoner from July 15th to August 7th 1815 before he was handed over to the HMS Northumberland which took him to exile to St Helena. She was converted to a prison ship in 1824 , when she was renamed Captivity, before being broken up in Rotherhithe in 1836.

In 1838 the three-decked 98-gun second rate ship of the line HMS Temeraire was purchased for £5530.00 broken up at their yard on Rotherhithe. Built in Chatham in 1798 she had seen action at the Battle of Trafalgar. Like the Bellerophon she had served as a prison ship, and was then used as a receiving ship before being broken up at Rotherhithe. The ship was so famous and such an enormous vessel to travel that far down the Thames that this last voyage attracted crowds of people who gathered to admire and watch her and the event was reported in the London media. She was the largest ship ever to have travelled that far upstream (the biggest ships trusted for construction to private firms were 74-gun ships). She was the subject of Turner’s famous “The Fighting Temeraire”, and even though it seems that many of the details in this painting were incorrect it is still a fabulous testament to a once great ship. Turner may or may not have seen this event, but he certainly captured all the glory and sadness that surrounded her - the unutterable sense of something so magnificent being dragged to a sorry end. I had a copy of the painting hanging on my bedroom wall from when I was sixteen years old.

There is a sketch of her by William Beatson at her final resting place at the yard, where she looks really very sad (at the National Maritime Museum) Some of her timbers were used to build altar rails, a communion table and two bishop's chairs which were installed in St Paul's Church off Rotherhithe Street (now destroyed). The table and chairs are in are now in St. Mary's Church, Rotherhithe where they were moved after the Second World War.

The foundations of John Beatson's house at the yard were found in excavations at the site in 2000 (Heard and Goodburn 2000, p.26). It was a Regency style house to the south-west of the wet dock with bow windows and steps leading up to a front porch, the facade of the house facing the wet dock which opened out onto the Thames to the east. Two rooms at the front were separated by stairs going to an upper storey and there were another two rooms at the back. The house had apparently been destroyed by 1894 because it does not appear on the map of that year. Adjoining the house was brick built warehouse which extended to the river. It can be seen, in part, on William Beatson's sketch of the Temeraire. It consisted of four levels each with a large door for unloading commodities. The site plan copied above is published in Heard and Goodburn 2000 (p.29) with the foundations of the house and warehouse clearly shown facing the dock.

Beatsons were also involved in ship repairs and timber imports, with a big storage building on the south side of Rotherhithe Street, opposite their Thames facing operation. In 1839 they sold 4062 sleepers to Taff Vale Railway.

In 1838 Bull Head Dock became a general engineering workshop for the Thames Bank Ironworks and in the 1840s the victualling yard was used to expand the gasworks and eventually the entire remaining site was sold to form the Surrey Entrance Lock and the Surrey Basin.

In 1840 the first postage stamp was introduced, part of a series of reforms to the postal system which standardized and simplified the formerly expensive and complex process of handling and delivering post.

A report which appeared in 1843 said that 30,000 of Southwark’s residents had no piped water. If you want to see a hair raising account of health and sanitation issues in the Southwark area at this time see Leonard Reilly’s book Southwark: In Illustrated History (1998, particularly p.56-61). Rotherhithe was one of the poorest areas at this time.

The 1843 map to the left shows the extent of the Rotherhithe docks and ponds at this time. The Grand Surrey Canal basin opened out onto the Thames at the west, and the canal had been widened at its northern end to form the Grand Surrey Inner and Outer Docks (the latter later becoming Russia Dock and now incorporated into the main thoroughfare through the Russia Dock Woodland). Greenland Dock to the south was half its present size with the Surrey Grand Canal passing across its end. The East Country Dock had been built in the early 1800s over 5.6 acres on land now covered by South Dock. The other docks, connected to Greenland Dock which had access out onto the Thames to the east of Rotherhithe are marked simply as the Commercial Docks on the map. They were, heading north, Norway Dock (today a housing development built into the shallow remains of the dock called "The Lakes"), Lady Dock, Acorn Pond and Lavender Pond.

The dockland areas of Rotherhithe were now increasingly focused on timber and grain. Timber ponds were used as part of the timber processing system. The timber, imported from Canada and the Baltic, was floated in the ponds in order to remove sap from the wood. Open sided sheds were constructed in order to store the timber. Grain also required dockside storage and granaries were built to accommodate it.

As well as ship building, maintenance and repairs around the edges of Rotherhithe and commodity handling in the centre of Rotherhithe there were numerous supporting businesses in the area. On the river front along the short section between King's Stairs to Elephant Stairs Humphrey (1997, p.41) says that there were 4 mastmakers, 1 shipmaker and 2 shop's blockmakers. Rope makers worked inland because of the space required for rope production but there are deeds in the Southwark Local Studies Library for one between Rotherhithe New Road and Southwark Park Road. A look at the 1843 map of the area shows rope walks at Bermondsey Wall East (formerly Rotherhithe Wall), to the west of Marigold Street.

Humphrey (1997) says that in 1843 the Commercial Dock Company was paying around one fifth of the parish's rates.

One of the most remarkable feats of the early 1800s in London was the design and construction of the Thames Tunnel. In 1842 the Brunel engine house was built and in 1843 the Thames Tunnel opened. The Brunel engine house, now a museum, provided a steam pump to remove water from the Thames Tunnel. It was restored in the late 1970s with a replica of the cast iron chimney added in the early 1990s. The shaft of the Thames Tunnel still survives and when work on the East London Line is completed in 2010 should be opened, once more, for visitors to view in person.

By the mid 1840s there was a clear dichotomy in the shipping activities in Rotherhithe between businesses operating on the Thames fringes of Rotherhithe and those operating in the expanding dock system within the centre of Rotherhithe. Ship builders were building a mixture of wooden, composite and iron ships but ship construction was being gradually replaced by repairs, maintenance and ship breaking. The docks mainly dealt in the handling of commodities - particularly timber and grain.

References in this post can be found in the site bibliography at:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

More from Thursday in the park

Opposite Stave Hill pond

Clover at Stave Hill pond

View towards the City from Stave Hill,
with the Michael Rizzello sculpture in the foreground

Downtown pond

Last season nest in the butterfly sanctuary

At the foot of Stave Hill