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South East Regional Industrial Archaeology Conference 2003

"The Thames: 'The Waterway of the World' "

Saturday 5 April 2003, hosted by GLIAS

The Old Royal Naval College, University of Greenwich, London SE10

                Chair Dr Denis Smith (GLlAS)
1020-1025 Welcome
1025-1105 Keynote Lecture: Maritime Metropolis: London, the Thames and the Sea - Prof Sarah Palmer
1105-1140 The Thames as a Source of Water - Ron Howes
1140-1215 The PaperMaker and the Prophetess - Prof Alan Crocker
                Chair Prof David Perrett, GLIAS
1330-1405 The History of Locks and Weirs on the Thames - Stephen Capel-Davies
1405-1440 River Crossings of the Upper Thames - Dr Denis Smith
1440-1515 Shot Towers on the Thames - Carol Machin
                Current Research Session
1540-1600 Platt's Eyot Boatyard - Andrew Weston
1600-1620 SERIAC Bursary Lecture: Lowne Instruments - Sue Hayton
1620-1625 Announcements and Closing Remarks
1630         Tour of parts of this World Heritage site led by Helen McIntosh, The Greenwich Foundation

Synopses of Lectures

Maritime Metropolis: London, the Thames & the Sea
Prof Sarah Palmer, Professor of Maritime History, University of Greenwich & Director, Greenwich Maritime Institute
This lecture explores the historical links between London and the Thames River, focusing particularly on the last two centuries. As a result of its river London became a 'maritime metropolis' with connections throughout the world, and along its banks developed not only docks, wharves and quays but also shipyards and industrial premises. The port in turn shaped London's physical geography, as also its wider economy and society, and supported settled communities of waterfront workers.
As recently as the mid 1960s London was still very much a port city, with large numbers of oceanic vessels entering its lower docks every day. Today, in 2003, the picture is very different. The Port of London continues to be a major port but the focus of activity is now at Tilbury, many miles down river. Whole new settlements, including Canary Wharf's high-rise offices, have replaced former port facilities and London is in the process of developing a whole new relationship with its river.

The Thames as a Source of Public Water Supply
Ron Howes, Kew Bridge Engines Trust
A brief review of the use of the Thames for this purpose, from Roman Londinium to the mid-16th century, is followed coverage of the events toward the end of that century leading to the establishment of waterworks at London Bridge and Broken Wharf. A brief mention of the first Waterworks Company, the New River Company, precedes coverage of the advent of the subsequent Companies that sprang up, from 1675 through to 1845, to satisfy the thirst of an ever-growing London. Problems of pollution and cholera are covered, and how they were overcome, followed by the events toward the end of the nineteenth century which led to the formation of the Metropolitan Water Board, its 70 years of progress in abstraction, storage and treatment until its takeover by Thames Water.

The Papermaker and the Prophetess: Elias Carpenter and Joanna Southcott at Neckinger Mill, Bermondsey
Prof Alan Crocker, President of the Surrey Industrial History Group
In May 1802 Joanna Southcott, who has been described as 'the greatest prophetess' left her home in Devon and came to London. She was introduced to Elias Carpenter, the wealthy papermaker at Neckinger Mill, Bermondsey, and for three years he became her most fervent disciple. In particular he held meetings twice a week at his house, adjacent to the mill, to study her writings and set up a chapel in the mill's engine-house. He also provided her with paper from which she produced 'seals' that were issued to her supporters and interpreted as confirming that the recipients would be saved at the approaching end of the world. In December 1804 a six-day public trial of her writings was held at Carpenter's house. On the last day a public meeting was attempted in the grounds of the mill but a multitude of non-believers broke in and tried to throw Joanna into a canal. Then in 1805 Carpenter opened a chapel for Joanna, called 'The House of God', at the Elephant & Castle. However, by this time Carpenter had gathered around him several zealots who were denounced by Joanna. Carpenter therefore ceased to support her.
These events will be described against the background of Neckinger Mill, established in 1795, and by 1800 the largest paper mill in Britain. It made paper by hand and had six vats. Previously the Neckinger site had been used for bleaching, which meant that the chemical expertise was available for developing methods of using new raw materials for paper manufacture. By 1800 the mill was making paper from wood and straw, and also de-inking and recycling paper. Indeed it was the first paper mill in the world to be able to carry out this work successfully and the methods used were patented by Matthias Koops in 1800 and 1801.
Koops was a soldier and surveyor from Pomerania, had married an Englishwoman in 1789 and, described as a merchant, became bankrupt in 1790. He may have been the same person as Thomas Cope, who, according to the land tax records owned the mill. In any case it seems most improbable that he could have had the expertise to develop the methods he patented. It is far more likely that Elias Carpenter, described as the superintendent of the mill, was responsible for the work. Koops is also well-known for a book on the history of paper which was published in 1800 and 1801 and printed on wood, straw and recycled paper, all made at Neckinger Mill. Also in 1800 Koops launched a company to establish a new paper mill, with 30 vats, to manufacture straw paper at Mill Bank. However Koops was still bankrupt, his creditors caught up with him and the company failed before the new mill was completed. This was in 1802, shortly after Joanna Southcott had arrived in London.
Developments after 1805 will be summarised, including the death of Joanna, who at 64 thought that she was giving birth to Shiloh (the second-coming of Christ), Carpenters own religious sect which continued to his death in 1840, the re-introduction of straw, wood and recycled paper many decades after the failure of Koops's company and the present-day Panacea Society (followers of Joanna Southcott) who hold her unopened box of prophecies and have been very helpful by giving access to documents in their possession.
Reference: A Crocker & S Humphrey. 'The papermaker and the prophetess: Elias Carpenter of Neckinger Mill. Bermondsey, supporter of Joanna Southcott'. Surrey Archaeological Collections. 89, pp 119-135. 2002.

Thames Locks and Weirs
Stephen Capel-Davies, Berkshire IA Group.
The non-tidal Thames has been used as a navigable highway for many centuries but the well-ordered river of today has grown up from many uses, which often led, to conflict - especially between millers and bargemen. The talk examines how the lock and weir structures had a common beginning with flash locks and how pound locks and associated weirs developed to give a rich variety of industrial archaeology.
Remains can still be seen of some of the early structures including one of the first three pound locks dating from c 1630 which never appears to have been rebuilt since abandonment in 1790. Flash locks remained on the Upper Thames until the 1930s and some traces can still be found. Elsewhere, paddle and rymer weirs, similar to flash locks, are still in use to regulate water levels. Buck gates, lashers, radial gates, bottom hinged flap gates and other devices are all reviewed.

River Crossings of the Upper Thames
Dr Denis Smith, Panel for Historic Engineering Works and Chairman GLIAS
The means of crossing rivers include fords, ferries, weirs, bridges and tunnels. But in a brief presentation, on the upper reaches of the Thames, it is necessary to concentrate on bridges as perhaps the most interesting structures. Sir Hugh Casson said that 'everybody loves a bridge' and certainly its form and function are closely related and readily understood. Only a few can be dealt with and these will be selected from those associated with important historical events or those demonstrating technical innovation. Civil engineering, at least from the late 18th C., has involved three principal groups of people; namely, the Promoter, the Designer and the Contractor. The role of the promoter is to identify the need for a structure and provide the necessary funds. Promoters have included the Church Commissioners, Local Authorities, Railway Companies, Tontines and individuals. Over the centuries the design function has been undertaken by carpenters, masons, engineers and architects. The contractor undertakes to supply materials and site construction after having successfully submitted a carefully-prepared bid, Present bridges are rarely the first structure on the site and even relatively new bridges have often been modified.

Shot Towers on the Thames
Carol Machin, GLIAS
In the early part of the 19th century there were three shot towers within a one mile stretch along the South Bank of the Thames. These towers formed prominent and distinctive landmarks. They were a highly specialised form of industrial building for the manufacture of lead shot. Patented in 1782 by William Watts, a Bristol plumber, the process involved pouring molten lead, to which a small proportion of arsenic had been added, from the tower top through a sieve. The falling droplets solidified into spheres of shot as they fell into a vat of water at ground level. This seemingly simple method was more complex and skilful in practice. The process did not, however, inevitably produce perfectly formed spherical shot, and sorting to size through sieving, and shape by rolling down inclined planes, was necessary.
This talk looks at the Thames shot towers in their setting, and at the processes of shot production that were carried out within them, in the historical context of the origins of the lead shot industry, and of other shot towers built at Bristol, Elswick, near Newcastle upon Tyne and Chester.
In recent years legislation to protect the environment has drastically reduced the demand for lead shot and modem methods of production, have made the manufacture of lead shot by the drop process almost obsolete.

The Boatyard on Platt's Eyot Hampton Andrew Weston GLIAS
This talk will briefly outline the history of the boat building industry in the area and then deal specifically with the development of the yard from the era of electric pleasure boating started by Moritz Immisch through to its main period of production of firstly civilian and then military boats under the Thornycroft ownership for the Royal Navy in the First World War. At the start of the First World War the buildings still remaining on the island were erected with the Belfast Truss roof, which is possibly unique for a boatyard. Following the First World War boats built by the yard were involved in action in the Russian civil war and 3 Victoria Cross awards were won in 1919 by the RN officers and crew in action at the Russian Kronstadt naval base.
The talk then outlines the history of the work in the yard to the present use and condition of the buildings and plans for the future of the island.
Reference: A. Weston Diploma in Industrial Archaeology Dissertation (Birkbeck College) May 2002.

Lowne Instruments, Lewisham (SERIAC Bursary Lecture)
Sue Hayton IA Lecturer and Membership Secretary GLIAS
Sue used her SERIAC Bursary in 2002 to enhance GLlAS's work recording a small works in Lee, which had been making scientific instruments since 1863.
Robert Mann Lowne. the founder of the company, was the second son born to a Norwich medical family. His father, Benjamin Thompson Lowne, and his brother, Benjamin Thompson Lowne the Younger, as well as his uncle, after whom he was named, Robert James Mann, were medical men.
How then did Robert start on his career as inventor? Where did he and later his sons acquire the specialist skills needed to make and later manufacture specialist instruments?
During his lifetime, Robert took out more than twenty patents on a great number of subjects. The spirometer, patented in 1870 foreshadowed his later work on air meters. His later work was on electric master clocks and their associated slave dials. However the company Lowne later set up, the Lowne Electric Clock and Appliance Company, continued to patent and then manufacture a range of products until the company's recent closure in 2002.