If you’re planning to have a look at Richard Wilson’s Slice of Reality sculpture on the Greenwich peninsula, following my last post, you’ll find plenty else of interest along the Thames path while you’re there.
The area was once a hot-bed of industry, and there’s still plenty going on, though there’s been a spate of demolitions recently that are rather depressing for those interested in our industrial heritage.
One aspect of Greenwich’s industrial story is little-known, and even the best local historians are having trouble piecing together the details. But it seems certain that Henry Bessemer, indelibly associated with the Sheffield steel industry, built a factory on the Greenwich peninsula in the 1860s, near the site of the what became the Victoria Deep Water Terminal, just along from Wilson’s sculpture.
I wrote about Bessemer in a recent post. His eponymous converter, one of which we’ve got on show, revolutionised the steel-making industry in Sheffield, but Bessemer was a south-London chap, and lived and died in Denmark Hill, near Peckham.
Bessemer’s Greenwich factory is long gone. But if it had succeeded, perhaps Greenwich would have become known for steel as much as for ships and timekeeping. More on the waterfront industry of east London in future posts…