Friday 29 August 2014


This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been researching from old newspapers and magazines the last 200 years or so of the inland waterways. With particular interest in the issues of the day that were effecting the canals. The most active periods for evaluation and change, has always been just prior, during and shortly after the two world wars. It should be remembered that between the wars the ownership of some of the canals changed hands as the railway companies bought up the waterways to get reduce competition. What is not clear is the effect this early form of asset stripping had on the viability of the inland waterways. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all are some of the problems that beset the canals back then - are still prevalent today. Reading old newspapers can throw up some rather interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Caveat: Some of the articles are difficult to read and even using modern electronic  scanning and text conversion methods. The odd punctuation, word or character may have been transcribed in error. 
The Daily News
Thursday 6 September 1934


The Waterfront at Woolwich

The possibility of the removal of part of Woolwich Arsenal to an inland region calls attention to the great estate on the south bank of the River Thames which is taken up by the Royal Dock yard, the Royal Arsenal, and sundry activities housed upon that section of Plumstead Marsh coming within the barred zone. Although it has a notable ship building record of historical sort. The Royal Dockyard has long ceased to construct vessels for the Navy.  This waterfront which runs from a point on Woolwich Roach for more than three miles downstream to almost opposite Ford's motor-car factory at Dagenham is not continuous, for between the east side of the dockyard and the beginning of the Royal Arsenal there is a slice of industrial Woolwich. It,  includes a number of wharves, the south  terminal of the Free Ferry, a power station, and various old-time 'stairs named after adjacent taverns. The true Arsenal waterfront, starting at the junction of Woolwich Reach and Galleons Reach, is marked by a line of dull looking buildings and wharves several large jetties, and the entrance to a short, artificial waterway called the Arsenal Canal. A striking landmark rises high above one of these jetties, and is known popularly as 'the War Office crane.' It is capable of a 100-ton lift, was rushed in during the war, and the sole feat of any worth which is remembered about it was when it raised a nice-sized tug bodily this tug is still at work about the port.
As a rule, there is not much life and movement along the Arsenal waterfront. In contrast, immediately across Galleons Reach lie the great repair works of Harland and Wolff, the entrance lock into King George V Dock, and both entrance locks into Royal Albert Dock (Basin). Thus it is that on the north bank some of the biggest ships entering tho port are daily moving in or out of dock, while off. but hot on the south shore there is frequent movement among the colliers using Galleons Tier and Gallions Collier roads. This contrast of loneliness and activity, continues down to a small promontory, where stands the red frame lighthouse at Margaretness, or Tripcock Point. Hereabouts the river wall is blank save for a gunpowder jetty, which is the place farthest upstream at which explosives are dealt with. Beyond it from the tideway all that I can be seen is the roofs of buildings, Opposite, in Essex, is Galleons Jetty, and the upper and lower jetties of the Beckton Gasworks. These jetties are studded with tall cranes and are scenes of unceasing labour.
Beyond Margaretness the Arsenal waterfront presents to the stream merely a long expanse of stone-pitched embankment running clear down Barking Reach to Halfway Reach, one is every stone of the old Halfway House, a small tavern where on 'The Long Ferry' journey by tiltboat from Gravesend to London Bridge travellers landed for a midday meal. From the river wall you may look across Plumstead Marsh, a grassy expanse runneled by ditches, plentifully treed, and showing many isolated one storey huts or sheds. A hundred yards east of the old tavern is Crossness Point, with the second of the frame lighthouses of the Arsenal  waterfront, and some distance beyond this comes the high fence which divides the Royal Arsenal estate from that of the London County Council's southern sewage outfall. It is in this vicinity that the electricity conductor cables cross the river between their 500-foot towers.

Should the Plumstead Marsh Area of the Royal Arsenal be abandoned the district would be commercially invaluable. The Essex bank shows Barking Power Station, the works of the Coal Conversion Company, an L.C.C jetty, some of the activities of Dagenham Dock estate. MS. and then the huge factory; of the Ford Motor Company. Sip Release the Arsenal waterfront and hinterland for, development, and in a few years Barking and Halfway Reaches will be fringed with factories and lip wharves for a couple of miles the limit of East London life.

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