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Book reviews - December 2002

'Greenwich and Woolwich at Work', by Mary Mills
ISBN: 0 7509 3000 4. £12.99 (hbk). Published by Sutton Publishing (, September 2002
This book records with photographs the many industries in Greenwich and Woolwich, with chapters on The Ubiquitous River, Gas and Power, Transport, The Royal Arsenal, The Home of Communication, Engineering Skills, Diverse Trades, The Workforce in a Changing World, and Building the Dome.

By the 19th and 20th centuries the emphasis in the area was on armaments, cables, shipbuilding and heavy engineering, with specialists who worked on marine steam engines and fire engines. Other smaller industries included both the largest gas works and the largest glass works in Europe. Biggest of all was the Royal Arsenal, which employed 80,000 people at its height, and was arguably the largest establishment of its kind in the world. Greenwich should also be known as 'the home of global communication' as the majority of undersea telecommunications equipment used worldwide was made here.

Mary has produced an interesting of selection of prints and photographs, many of which I have not seen before. As with other books in the series, there is no locating map which is unfortunate as we venture as far from the river front as New Eltham! By the way, the works in New Eltham, which have recently been demolished for housing, belonged to W F Stanley and not W H Stanley.

It is also unfortunate that there is no illustration or description of the Royal Dockyard, which was so important in Woolwich, although there are views of the interior of a number of the Co-op buildings on the site. I would also take issue with a few of the captions such as that for the Ferranti Power Station in Deptford which is a little confusing. It is described as the 'world's first power station in the modern sense', but we are not told what makes it the first.

Shortage of space presumably also meant that the entry on John Penn and his marine engines also had to be kept short. In fact John Penn Senior came from Bristol as a miller and a manufacturer of milling equipment rather than as an engineer manufacturing engines. The company developed into that, primarily under John Penn Junior.

However, despite a few quibbles, this is an interesting new book on the Borough of Greenwich. Sue Hayton

© GLIAS, 2002