Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Railway from London Bridge to Gravesend. Belvedere Marshes

Railway between London Bridge and Gravesend
The railway goes south eastwards
TQ 50245 80262

As companies expanded and inner London sites filled up so industries moved to marshland areas down river - and still with river access.  Several famous names came here among many many more successful works. They were served by river wharves and by a network of industrial rail lines.  One of the few London industrial buildings to be listed is here. Many of them have been replaced but it is still an area of busy workplaces.  This was once a marshland haven for wildlife, and some pockets remain - but much of it has gone, along with the travelling families who once saw this as home.

Post to the west Belvedere
Post to the south Erith
Post to the east Wennington Marshes
Post to the north Jenningtree


Anderson Way
Road presumably named for William Anderson, of Anderson and Amos, Erith steam engine manufacturers.  The road appears to be built along the line of one of the marshland dykes.
Infinity House. Vencil Resil, the UK largest producer of expanded Polystyrene insulation under the Jablote range. This company was established in 1973, at the Ocean Works in West Street, Erith and claims to be the UK's largest producer of expanded polystyrene insulation products. There are some other companies on this large site, including a recycling centre for ASDA’

Bronze Age Way
This is the Erith -Thamesmead Spine Road opened in 1997 and named Bronze Age Way after archaeological discoveries during its construction.  It is the A2016.
Footbridge from Crabtree Manor Way
Pirelli tyre works. Now closed. This was the old BICC site fronting Bronze Age Way and running as far as the Thames. The site and the landmark tower were demolished in the early 2000s.

Cables Close
This is now stopped up from Bronze Age Way

Church Manorway
Silver Quay. W. T. Henley. They design and manufacture electrical equipment for electricity distribution and supply networks by electricity supply utilities
Gyproc Trading Estate. The Erith Technical Academy is the longest serving training facility which has been here since 1966. It trains for plaster and drywall systems. It is one in a network of Saint Gobain technical academies.
British Plasterboard.  The development of plasterboard dates to the late 19th in the USA. A site was acquired at Wallasey in 1916 and the assets were sold to British Plaster Board Limited in 1917.  They built a new factory at Erith in 1934 which could manufacture the gypsum plaster and they imported gypsum rock from Canada.  BPB became the dominant force in the industry and became an international company over the next 80 years. Products were Paramount and Thistle. Since 1996 they have been involved with French Saint-Gobain, making glass fibre insulation and were eventually taken over by them. The Erith site is now a training base only
Tracks of an old rail siding to the site from the main line east of Belvedere Station crossed the road here and remained until the 1990s.
Erith Wharf. Conway Asphalt Plant. Conway is an infrastructure services company (road mending and cleaning) which started in 1961 with one lorry.
Piers of a railway bridge remain on the west side of the road, partly hidden by trees and shrubs, which were part of a siding going into Erith Oil Works.
Erith Oil Works. This became British Oil and Cake Mills and was part of Unilever.  The factory processed rapeseed oil for human consumption and for animal feed. It was the largest such works in the country.  A major feature of the site is a bank of 24 concrete cylindrical silos in four rows. These were built in 1916, and were the first major work in Britain using the reinforced concrete techniques from Denmark by Christian & Nielsen.  The architect for the factory, built in 1913-17, was Percival M. Fraser.  Linking the silos to the riverside jetty are two concrete sheds. The original office building has a plaque “1908 EOW 1914”.  The site was badly bombed in the Second World War Part of Archer Daniels Midland Ltd since 1990
War Memorial and Garden of Remembrance unveiled in 1923, to BICC employees who lost their lives in the Great War.
Lorry Park on the west side of the road belonging to ADM. There is a green and seating and what appears to be a semi-derelict electricity sub-station fenced off.
BICC - British Insulated Callenders Cables. This was dominated by a cable-cooling tower 75 metres high. Five sheds were basically cable sheds built in 1902. Callender & Sons was founded to import bitumen by William Ormiston Callender in 1877, and moved to Erith in 1880.  Manufacture of cables was at first a sideline which became the main activity. In 1896 it became the Callender Cable and Construction Co, later British Insulated Callender's Cables. They were a major national supplier of underground and sub-marine high tension electrical cables.  Power was generated on site until 1905.  They made much of the cable for PLUTO in 1944. The cable was loaded into ships from the jetty of Erith Oil Works.  By 1965 this was the principal main factory of the world's largest cable group. In 1999 the works was sold to Pirelli, who closed the works and demolished it in 2005. 
Doulton’s Sanitary Ware. This was Doulton’s Pipe Works. Royal Doulton was the Lambeth based pottery company producing art works as well as the basic artefacts made here and some of their other factories. They bought the site 1925 and made pipes, drains and conduits.  The site was purchased by Hepworth in 1970 and production ended in 1974.
BICC sports ground. Large derelict site to the north of the oil mills. Part of it was the Church Manorway Nature Area which was developed for nature conservation but which is now in a development area and lost. Much of the vegetation was planted but there was a wide range of invertebrates and breeding birds. There was a small pond, choked with reeds and grassland. There were ditches, and a section of Corinthian Dyke. There were water voles
Cedars Transport Depot. Includes Gillray Plant, and others. There is also a filling station.
Hercules Powder Co. Paper making chemicals

Corinthian Dyke
One of a number of waterways in the area – these are drainage ditches and probably not natural. It has several branches and is a complex system. There are some white willows on some sections of this dyke and some other unusual plants, along with frogs and weasels.

Crabtree Manor Way
The road consists of a series of industrial sites and trading estates with numerous businesses.
Euro Trade Centre. Concorde Metal Recycling – a family firm of scrap dealers based in Sittingbourne.
Crabtree Farm. This was on the west side of the road north of what is now Anderson way.
Football Ground. This was one of several football grounds in Crabtree Manor Way before the Second World War. This was opposite Crabtree Farm, there was another south of Claytonville Terrace and others near the railway.
Oyo Business Park.  This is on the site of what was the Helio Mirror Co. OYO stands for ‘Own Your Own’.  This is now divided into trading units.
Helio Mirror Co. The site has now been cleared following a takeover of the company by Thales. Some sheds on the site were built by BICC sheds in 1917 to produce field telephone cable for trench warfare in the Great War.
79 Crabtree Tavern. This was demolished for road widening in 1970 In 1913 the landlord was a Thomas Clayton, however it appears to have been rebuilt since photographs show two very different buildings. The brewer was Kidd and Sons.
Houses. This had a plaque on which says “Claytonville Terrace. 1857”.  Presumably this has some relationship to the landlord of the Crabtree Arms in 1913 – Thomas Clayton
Burgess Cottages. These cottages were south of Claytonville Cottages and were there before the Second World War
Footbridge over Bronze Age Way
Durable House. Offices and trading area Durable Contracts
North Kent Indoor Bowls Centre
Croda Chemicals and Resins. This was previously Plastanol Ltd. They made Phthalic Anhydride and synthetic resins - products for the manufacture of paints and inks. They still make a range of chemicals and paints and sealants.
Cleveland Cable. Cable distribution company with international branches and links
Pura. Manufacture of edible oils and part of the ADM group.
Maybrey Reliance. Die and Sand Casting Foundry. The foundry goes back to the 1850's. George England were engineers based in New Cross, South London, producing railway locomotives, and machine tools at the Hatcham Iron Works.  Reliance Foundry was a major supplier to them and they merged in the 1930's as Reliance Foundry Ltd and General Engineering & Boiler Co. in 1986 they were bought by Hills Diecasting Ltd and later by F.W.Birkett of Yorkshire. The name of Reliance Foundry was kept as part of the Caro Group

Jenningtree Way
Housing for gypsy families. Up to the 1940s in the winter months up to 1,700 Gypsies would congregate on the marshes. Erith Borough Council tried over 20 years, to remove them. In the 1953 floods many sites were washed away the site and many families were housed by the council. The 1956 700 people were removed from the marshes but Norman Dodds, the local Labour MP campaigned for their rights and his successor James Wellbeloved took up the campaign and in 1968 the Caravans Sites Act was passed which placed a duty on all local authorities to provide sites. The Cob horse statue on Picardy Manorway is a reminder of the old horse drawn carts.

Lower Road
Entrance to Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple
165 Halfway House Pub

Marshland
Belvedere Marshes extend to the Thames. The Romans probably built the original river walls and the monks at Lesnes Abbey kept them repaired drained the marshes. Sometimes the river has broken through and flooded the marshes – in 1230, and again in 1527, when the land was not reclaimed for 60 years. In 1928 there was serious flooding and when the whole marsh area was water the railway line was cut.


Mitchell Road
31 Guru Nanak Durbar (Sikh Temple)
Queensland Stores. Shop said to be next door to the Queensland Cinema which had doors from the Empire Exhibition at Wembley, depicting Queensland in Australia
Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church. The Belvedere Electric Theatre or the Cinematographic Picture Palace opened in 1913 in what had been an auction room, converted to the plans of W. Roberts of Erith. After 1924, it was re-named Queensland Cinema, as it was next door to the Queensland Stores. The Cinema was operated closed in 1929. It was later converted into a skating rink, and then became the Pentecostal Baptist Church
Belvedere Community Centre.  The Centre dates from the 1970s and shares grounds with the Belvedere Infants and Junior Schools.
Belvedere Junior School

Mulberry Way
Named because some of the Mulberry Harbours made there in the Second World War. This is now a trading and industrial area with many units and companies
Conway Asphalt offices and material testing laboratory
Denton’s Wharf – many units and companies
Crawley Parker. Timber and fencing company.  This is made up two older names in the timber trade. Crawley originates from the Burt Boulton Timber Group and the Parker name from the Parker Timber Group, two of the largest timber importers in the UK.  Belvedere was the historic London base for the two original companies who were fierce competitors

Riverside Path
RMC Erith/Gyroc/British Plasterboard jetty.  This was built and extended in 1928.  It is a T plan timber jetty extending 200m into the river and had two cranes and a conveyor system for access. It is a safeguarded wharf which has previously handled waterborne aggregates but it is understood it is being re-designed and reconstructed for general cargoes as well as in association with a new concrete batching plant.
Conway’s jetty. This is a new jetty built in 2011 alongside the old Plasterboard jetty, celebrates 50 years with a new Thames-side Jetty. This is in association with their new Asphalt Plant which is said to be the busiest in the UK.
Jetty – disused timber jetty used by Doulton’s earthenware works. This dated from 1928 and was equipped with two travelling Butters cranes which ran on electric current run in a conduit along the jetty.  There was a large loading hopper made of concrete half way along with a conveyor to the shore. The main incoming cargo was the clay used in the works.
Albion Wharf Erith Oil Works Jetty. This is a T plan concrete jetty.    It supports a 4 floor concrete cargo handling building which was partially renewed 1951.  It was used for loading and unloading Pluto pipework .  It is a safeguarded wharf.
Albion Wharf. This is a second jetty built in 1909 to a T plan with a section parallel to the river.
Pioneer Wharf. This is an aggregates wharf used by United Maine aggregates. It is a safeguarded wharf used by self discharging dredgers

Viking Way
Stone Vickers Warrior Works. This was the sole surviving Vickers site in the area. Now closed.
Telecommunications tower and associated switching station.


Sources
ADM Web site
Baldwin. The River and the Marsh
Ballard. Nuisance
Belvedere Community Centre. Web site
Belvedere Junior School. Web site
Bexley Civic Society. Walk
BICC. History
BPB Web site
Bygone Kent
Cara. Web site
Cinema Treasures. Web site
Conway. Web site
Jablite. Web site
London Assembly. Web site
London Borough of Bexley. Web site
Pevsner. West Kent
Pevsner and Cherry. South London
Port of London Authority. Web site,
Port of London Magazine
Pritchard. Belvedere
South East London Industrial Archaeology
Spurgeon. Discover Erith and Crayford
W.T. Henley. Web site

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