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Notes and news — October 1984

In this issue:

Gazetteer of London industrial archaeology: Richmond 3

Richmond This is the first of four itineraries covering the pre-1965 Borough of Richmond. It starts and ends at Richmond station and embraces the central part of the town. The total distance is about four miles. For entries marked (P), refer to Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England — London 2: South (19B3)

483. RICHMOND STATION (P — p. 521)
The only parts of the station pre-dating the 1936-8 re-building are the bay platforms and their canopies. The oldest spans of the Lower Church Road overbridge at the east end of the platforms are formed of jack arches supported on cast-iron arched girders, marked JOSEPH BUTLER & CO, STANNINGLEY IRON WORKS, NR LEEDS, 1B58, with parapets of cast-iron flanged plates. (There is a similar bridge west of the station at TQ 177 752 Richmond signal box, beyond the bridge, is of typical Southern Rly pattern, c.1937-8 — brick, with semi-circular ends and overhanging flat concrete roof.

484. RICHMOND THEATRE, Richmond Green (P — p. 520)
Note also the Public Library next door, the first local authority library in the London area; cast-iron columns inside and gas lamp posts outside.

485. RICHMOND ELECTRIC LIGHT & POWER COMPANY'S GENERATING STATION (TQ 180 750) (View from Waterloo Place and from car park at rear).
1894. Ceased generating 1914, when its chimney was demolished (the base remains) and it became a sub-station for supplies from London.

486. FORMER MECHANICS' INSTITUTE (now the Dome Building), The Square (P — p.528)

487. FIRE BRIGADE STATION, The Square (P — p.528)
Built 1870, when the Richmond Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed. The portion to the left of the clock tower is later; it was at first the town's mortuary and subsequently enlarged as an extension to the fire station itself. Closed 1932. Now the Clock tower Boutique and a public convenience. Note the carved stone heads of firemen above the former doorways.

c.1890. Worked by the Wise's, father and son, until the 1930's. Now a printing workshop.

From medieval times this narrow lane was the route from the Town Wharf up into the town. It is laid with a stone cartway — twin tracks of granite blocks — with setts between. The ramp at the bottom of the lane allowed carts to go down onto the mud at low tide (before Richmond Weir was built), so that goods could be lowered into them over the boat sides.

The buildings at the bottom end of Water Lane, on either side, date back to the first half of the 19th century and were originally Collins' Brewery, established c.1715 and closed c.1860. In 1875-9 the five-bay x three-bay building on the corner was converted into a pumping station for the newly-established municipal waterworks. A well was sunk beneath it, extended by a bore hole to a total depth of 1,447ft. — exceptionally deep for London. The adjoining Riverside House (also part of the brewery) was converted into the engineer's house and office. The pumping station was only used as a standby after 1931. In 1967, after the HUB takeover, electrically-driven booster pumps were installed to pump water from the Hampton mains up to the Richmond Park reservoirs. Closed 1980.

The other brewery buildings on the south side of the lane became a wine and beer merchant's store (Ellis & Co), while those on the north side were first a steam dye works and later engineering workshops. The future of this group of buildings is uncertain.

491. BOAT HOUSES, below St. Helena Terrace (TQ 176 747)
c.1835. One of three groups of boat houses along this stretch of the river. Around the turn of the century some of these served as coal merchants' premises; but generally they were used for building and hiring of rowing boats — a substantial trade at Richmond until WW2.


Tunnel under the river constructed around turn of the century for the Hampton — Barn Elms 42" diam. water main. There is an identical turret on the opposite side of the river.

There is a similar, single

495. KING'S OBSERVATORY OBELISKS, Old Deer Park (P — p.520)
These were meridian markers for aligning the instruments in the observatory, obelisk due north of the observatory.

496. WELL HEADS, Old Deer Park (TQ 173 750 and TQ 170 753)
The Old Deer Park Wells Nos. 142, part of the former Richmond Waterworks, were sunk in 1927-9. They have been defunct for some years.

497. ST. MARGARET'S FERRY STEPS (TQ 172 749) Closed when Twickenham Bridge was opened.

The need for the weir arose because river improvements downstream (embanking, dredging and demolition of the old London, Blackfriars and Westminster bridges) so increased the total flow, that the river became unnavigable at Richmond at low tide. Note the former toll cabin on the footbridge; tolls were charged until WW2.

Closed c.1945

500. ISLEWORTH, or CHURCH FERRY (TQ 169 760)
First recorded in reign of Henry VIII. After being closed for 20 years, it was re-opened experimentally by a group of enthusiasts at summer weekends in 1983. Planning application has been made for re-establishing it on a commercial basis; at the time of writing it is not clear whether it will operate during 1984.

501. KING'S OBSERVATORY, Old Deer Park (P — p.520)
Its royal connection ceased in 1842, but it continued in use as an observatory and scientific establishment under, successively, the British Association (until 1871), the Royal Society (until 1910) and the Meteorological office (until 1980). The building has been restored for use as offices, but it is intended to establish a small museum there also.

1883. The tramway ran from Richmond Station to Kew Bridge. It closed in 1912. The premises extend a long way back and provided stabling for 30 horses and a covered yard for six tramcars. Between 1912 and 1932 they underwent various changes of use (incl. workshops for Whitehead Aircraft Ltd, in 1918-19). From 1932 to 1963 they served as the Richmond Fire and Ambulance Station and the front was much altered. Now an annexe of Richmond Adult College.

503. MILE STONE, Kew Road / Lower Church Road Corner
VIII miles from Hyde Park Corner. One of two milestones on the Kew Road, probably erected when the road was widened at the expense of George III, to enable the former road through the royal estates to be closed, under terms of an Act of 1766.

Grahame Boyes


The search for chalk mines at Greenwich and elsewhere in SE London

Several people have kindly written to tell me that the Greenwich Hospital Estate (GLIAS Newsletter April 1984) included lead mines on Alston Moor; and Harry Pearman of the Chelsea Speleological Society has traced a copy of Locker's Report of 1823 and confirms it contains nothing about chalk mines. It was worth checking out, all the same. And the Northern Mines Research Society may find the report of interest, even though lead mines aren't my cup of tea (despite my lead-mining ancestors!).

There certainly were several chalk mines in and around a number of places in SE London. Harry Pearman's 'Caves & Tunnels in Kent' (Records Chelsea Speleological Society VI, 1973) describes and/or gives historical details of some of them, including a brief mention of workings between Greenwich and Blackheath as follows: "On 9.1.1677 William Steers a limeburner was fined forty pounds for not filling up, supporting and making good, safe and secure, the King's Highway leading from Deptford to Blackheath, which said highway he hath undermined by digging, taking and carrying from thence great quantities of chalk. Later on he was fined fifty pounds for the same offence.

The minutes of the New Cross Turnpike Trust dated 28.10.1797 show that other cavities have come to light within a few days past a great part of the earth underneath the road from Blackheath to the limekilns on the north side had given way, a passage in chalk which ran south for 35ft., then south-west for 33ft, then NNW for 47ft. It ended in a domed chamber 15 to 19ft wide and 12ft high."

Some of these mines are no doubt those mentioned by William Buckland in his paper 'Description of a series of specimens from the plastic clay near Reading' (Trans. Geological Society 4, 277-304, 18171):

... the sloping terrace that surrounds the Blackheath plain descent to some ancient subterraneous quarries in the chalk, called the caves, on the north side of the road ascending to Blackheath from Deptford.

As an illustration of the use of some of the more obscure geological literature as source material for IA studies, one or two more quotations may be of interest:

... at the Plumstead Common brick kilns clay is dug for brick tiles (mathematical tiles?) and coarse pottery. In the same field with the clay pits and on the north side of them a shaft is sunk 120 feet to the surface of the subjacent chalk, which has been extracted to the further depth of 24 feet, being the object for which the shaft is made Another shaft was begun in the same fields still nearer to the base of Shooter's Hill, but abandoned from the quantity of water that came in when they were at a depth of which the plastic clay should be found The same thing happened in an adjoining field, where the shaft for chalk was stopped by the water at the depth of 36 feet. Paul W Sowan

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© GLIAS, 1984