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Author Topic: The Thames Ammunition Works  (Read 2240 times)
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John
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« on: July 17, 2012, 16:18:27 PM »

The Thames Ammunition Works, founded in 1879, covered a site of about 40 acres on the spit of land between the Thames and the Darenth rivers, where the latter joined the main stream at Dartford Creek. The Thames formed the northern boundary, and, by means of a pier, material was shipped directly to and from the factory into barges for transport to Woolwich. A narrow gauge railway track connected the pier with all buildings in the enclosure. On the land side, the Works was also approached by rail from Erith or Slades Green stations on the South-Eastern Railway through Slades Green Village, and thence by a private road across the marsh.

The factory was divided into two portions by a main road, carefully fenced in on either side. All persons entering had to pass along this road, and couldn't reach the danger areas without passing through one of the "changing rooms," where having donned the proper clothes, they were allowed to proceed on platforms leading to the ammunition sheds. The enclosures were intersected by dykes, which would hopefully have served to diminish the results of any accidental detonation of the munitions on site.

As far as I am aware, Thames Ammunition Works remained in use up to and including WWII, but I have no idea when it was closed. I also assume that there must be many traces left on the ground today? Two pictures attached show the site viewed from the air during the floods of February 1953..

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PNK
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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2012, 20:43:21 PM »

It looks like the site didn't appear on OS maps until the late 1890's. The most recent map it appears intact on is the 1963 1:2500 scale but it's gone by he late 1970's or early 1980's. As with most OS maps the dates are by no means accurate and may only define the decade, if that. I have found no sign that the tramway was joined to the rail netwok so presumably all stock was shipped by barge. The sit is now an industrial estate of some sort and this explains why it was located in such a remote area.
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Craggs
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« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2017, 07:34:39 AM »

The "London History Group"website states that the ammunition factory closed in 1962.  I have found these two newspaper articles from a few years earlier - both 1956.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Saturday 18 February 1956

POWDER EXPLOSION.

The explosion of waste ammunition powder as it was being wheeled to a dump injured three men, one seriously, at Erith (Kent) today.  It happened at the Thames ammunition works of Vickers-Armstrong Ltd, in Marsh Lane, Slades Green.

Foreman George Cately, of Erith, and Thomas Pritchard, of Dartford, were pushing a trolley across a yard on a light railway track when the powder went off as the trolley went over some points.  Catley received serious head injuries. Pritchard suffered shock.  Henry Shepherd, of Dartford, was struck in the face by flying debris as he pushed another trolly along an adjoining track.  Cately and Shepherd were taken to West Hill Hospital, Dartford, where Cately was detained.

Three fire-pumps were sent to the works after a 999 call, and sand was used to put out a small outbreak.



and two months later ...........

Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 19 April 1956

AMMUNITION BLAST : TWO INJURED.

Two women were injured when fire seriously damaged a shed at the Thames ammunition works, Slades Green-road, Erith, Kent to-day, after a gunpowder explosion.

Mrs. Mabel Clifton, aged 38, of Crayford-way, Crayford, and Miss Florence Dawn of Ashen-drive, Dartford, were taken to West Hill Hospital, Dartford with burns and were later stated to be seriously ill.   Three fire brigades went to the works, on riverside marshes, abuout two miles east of Erith.

The police were later investigating the explosion.

Mrs. Clifton and Miss Dann were working in the shed, cutting polythene discs impregnated with gunpowder which are used in the manufacture of explosive marker floats.
________________________________________________

The newspaper article stated both "Miss Dawn" and "Miss Dann".  I don't know which is correct.
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Craggs
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« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2017, 09:17:10 AM »

The Derelict London website states that this site was very close to the site of the WWI Joyce Green Aerodrome.

I've looked at the photographs on both topics on our Forum bit can't work out if this is the same place.  Could quite possibly be.

There aren't any old photographs on the Derelict London website - lots of pictures taken recently, but no old ones.
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Longpockets
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« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2017, 09:18:06 AM »

Found a bit more here The Port of London Study Group

In the westerly angle between the Darenth and the Thames aerial photographs from 1953 show a more-or-less orderly scatter of small, well-spaced buildings typical of works making or handling explosives. The Thames Ammunition Works had been opened here in 1879, one of several firms operating in the Erith area concerned with armaments. Vickers were in Erith, later in Crayford, and the local industrialist Sir William Anderson, co-founder of the firm Easton and Anderson, initially concerned with hydraulics, moved into ordnance and became Government Director of Ordnance Factories.  Thames Ammunition Works took advantage of its being quite near Woolwich and having a location on the river which enabled it to bypass risky road transport. In WW1 it was taken under government control and after the war passed to W.B. Gilbert Ltd who broke munitions there. Taking apart munitions is every bit as dangerous as putting them together and an explosion in 1924 killed twelve women workers. Very briefly, during WW1 the works had a rail link known as the Trench Warfare Light Railway. Nothing of it survived beyond the end of the war and it seems never to have appeared on an OS map. The works themselves remained until the 1970s since when the sheds and yards of an industrial estate have taken over the ground.

It would appear a Trench Warfare Filling Factory was located nearby - Erith - Crayfordness, Slade Green

Construction started: 21 August 1915. Opened: 9 October 1915. Area: 14 acres. Management: Thames Ammunition Works. Munitions: filling 2in and 6in mortar shells. Notes: built close to the Thames Ammunition Works.

Source Graces Guide

There was a fatal explosion there FEBRUARY 18TH 1924 Public monuments and sculpture association
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PNK
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« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2017, 09:50:37 AM »

The fireworks factory on the marshes may have been part of it originally. I have never seen a plan of all the works around Crayford, Erith and Dartford during WW1 as they must have been vast.

Regarding the 1924 explosion, if it is the same one I read about years ago, I found it very distressing as the girls were not killed by a blast but burnt alive in the inferno that resulted.
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John
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« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2017, 12:59:37 PM »

The 1924 explosion is covered in the following topic:

The Slade Green disaster, February 1924
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