Skip to content

By David Rooney on


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.

Greenwich peninsula, near old Victoria Deep Water Terminal (David Rooney)

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 converter on show at the Science Museum (Science Museum / Science & Society)

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…

2 comments on “Sheffield-on-Thames?

  1. Yes – thanks for putting the link through to the blog. I wrote this all up for the Newcomen Society some years ago. Bessemer in Greenwich is an aspect that few of his biographers seem to have noticed.

  2. That stretch of the Thames Path is an incredible survival, though admittedly rather grim in places. A great post which has diverted me onto lots of the linked pages.

Comments are closed.