We recruited the help of a local newspaper to invite suggestions for new names for street names and apartment blocks in Phase 1. The new names, which all have roots in local history, are Beadle Place; Gunning Place; Butler Drive; Downton Mews; Starkey Place; Talbot Place; and Callender Road. Discover more about the history behind the names below:
Charles (pictured below) and Francis Beadle were both born in Erith. They founded a coal merchant firm in Erith in 1852, and with the introduction of North Kent Line coming through the town, they were able to grow and became a very successful business. They were the first company to introduce steamers instead of sail vessels for their Kent trade, and eventually amalgamated the business with W. Cory and Son in 1896.
Charles (1834–1925) married Ellen Hide in 1860 and had five children. He was key in establishing the Royal Commission which resulted in the present arrangement for purification of the Thames from sewage. As well as being a keen yachtsman, Charles was a Justice of the Peace and was involved in local school boards.
Francis, better known as Frank, (1843–1920) married Rosa Clayton in 1864 and had eight children. Frank Beadle donated land to the council where Franks Park (pictured below) is now, and both Beadles donated money to help build the first Erith Cottage Hospital.
George’s company G H Gunning and Sons built many public buildings in and around Erith, including Erith Public Library (pictured below), St Augustine’s Church at Slade Green, The Erith Picture House, the Central School in Picardy Road, a Drill Hall at Erith and Swanley, and the mobilisation sheds at Woolwich for the War Office. The company did works to wharfs and also built private houses in Erith for sale and rent, including Thanet Road to the north of Erith Park.
George (1853- 1927) was born in Fulham and moved to Erith with his family in the 1860s. His grandfather could see George’s potential at a young age, and he didn’t disappoint by going on to become a builder.
He married Phillis Miles in 1873 and they had five children. Within 10 years they were living on Arthur Street.
It was from this time that George’s career as a Master Builder really took off. He managed to acquire some land and built two cottages which he later sold and invested the money in his business. He also obtained valuable business from Maxim Works (now Vickers) in Erith. This gave him a great reputation for excellent workmanship and he became well known and respected in the area.
George, a man of faith, was also known for his kind and courteous acts. In the 1920s he donated a large piece of land to construct a new Erith Cottage Hospital (pictured above) as the old one had become inadequate for the needs of the people of Erith. In doing so, he added a clause that the land must always be used as a hospital. It was opened in 1924, in honour of his wife Phillis, and still stands to this day.
The Butler Petrol Cycle is accepted by many as the very first British motor car, although as it never actually went into production, others believe Henry Knight’s 3-wheeler to be the first. And while Karl Benz is recognised as the inventor of the modern motor car, Erith–born Edward Butler (pictured below, left aboard his Butler Petrol cycle) exhibited plans for a 3-wheeled vehicle in 1884, two years earlier than Benz, at the Stanley Cycle Show in London, with the first design being shown at the 1885 London Inventions Exhibition.
Butler however did not patent his vehicle until 1887 due to British laws on experiments. In 1890 Butler finished his design for ‘a vehicle powered by an engine that used mineral hydro-carbons’, and later refined the vehicle further by using a four stroke water cooled engine that achieved 600 rpm. He is credited with being the first to use the word ‘petrol’, as well as inventing the spark plug, magneto, coil ignition and spray jet carburettor. Butler found problems with his invention, however, due to government restrictions and in December 1890, wrote the following in the English Mechanic journal: “the authorities do not countenance its use on the roads, and I have abandoned in consequence any further development of it.”
At the time the maximum speed was 2 mph in the city and 4 mph in the country side. In addition each vehicle had to be attended by three people, of which one had to walk in front of the vehicle waving a red flag to warn other road users and help control horses – an act that was put in place as a result of the growing number of steam powered vehicles.
You can see how restrictive this speed limit was for Butler from an article on the Butler Petrol Cycle in the 14 February 1891 edition of the Scientific American, which stated that one gallon of petroleum or benzolene was enough to “furnish sufficient power” to achieve a journey of forty miles at a speed ranging from 3 -10 mph.
Due to the lack of interest, Butler broke his Petrol Cycle up for scrap in 1896 whereupon the patent rights were sold to H.J. Lawson and the engine continued to be produced for motor boats. Shortly afterwards the Locomotive on Highways Act of 1896 was passed that allowed speeds of up to 14 mph. This resulted in an immense change that saw new factories being established and motoring within the UK moving on rapidly.
Edward Butler (1862–1940) married Kate Gildersleeves, better known as Kitty, in 1886, and they had one son, Eric (pictured above, right with his wife Kitty and their son Eric). Kitty is thought to be the world’s first female motorcyclist.
John (1906–1991) was an Erith-born artist, philosopher, musician, and poet.
He drew well from an early age, and at fifteen he won the youth silver medal of the Royal Drawing Society. He was educated at Queens' College, Cambridge (1925–1928), achieving a first in English and then in Art History, before training as a painter at the Slade.
He also played the played the violin throughout his his life, always performing at the fortnight-long Grittleton Summer School of Music in Malvern, Worcestershire. But it is his paintings for which he is now chiefly remembered.
His main subject was young girlhood, rendered in the manner of the Italian old masters and with the tempera technique that had been revived by the Birmingham Group. Both his subject matter and his techniques were deeply unfashionable during most of his adult life, and he ceased to exhibit after the start of the Second World War.
He never married, and lived mostly in Cambridge. On his death, all his work passed to The Downton Trust, which now funds an annual John Downton Award for Young Artists, given to those attending secondary schools in the county of Kent.
His three main masterpieces are: The Battle (1935, now in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery); Portrait of a Girl (1938, now in The Tate, pictured below, right); and Nora Russell (1935, location unknown, pictured below, left). He also wrote books, such as The Death of Art (1937) and Craftsmanship, Art and Criticism (1993, which was published after his death).
Robert (1853-1927) (pictured below, left) was born in Westminster, London and worked there as an assistant stationer before moving to Erith in 1902, where he lived at 44 Pier Road. In 1902 he acquired a stationary and fancy goods business in Randal Street (now Pier Road), Erith (pictured below right). He married Eva Grace Watts in 1903 and they had six children. In the early 1920s the business became the Randal Press with himself and Eva, and their sons, Henry and Hubert as directors.
Starkey was a talented singer and actor, and in 1911 he was one of the four founders of the Erith Dramatic & Operatic Society, which continued for 25 years. He was also a founding member of the Erith Rotary Club of which he was president in 1932-33.
The former ballast wharf (picture below) was the first step in Erith's journey from riverside village to industrial town. The fine loam which lay under the ballast was in great demand for moulding sand for the foundries of Tyneside, and in 1832 a special wharf was built further upstream, with the 48" gauge railway from the pit to the wharf most likely being laid at the same time. By the 1870s the workings extended nearly half a mile inland, and at the height of the pit's prosperity, queues of schooners are said to have lain in the river waiting to load.
In 1932, the pit was sold by John Parish to Talbot Estates. Although Talbot began phasing out steam trains almost at once, they went on running the 4'0" gauge railway until 1957. The lorries which replaced it were not licensed for road use and continued to cross West Street by the old level crossing.
Callender Cables, a bitumen telegraph and waterproof company, was founded in April 1882 by Mr William Ormiston Callender (1827–1908 ), who was born in Scotland and had moved to London with his wife Jean Marshall, and their ten children (five boys and five girls).
Mr Callender started his business career in the road construction industry and introduced asphalt, a roadbuilding material from Europe, to the UK. It became popular in the City of London and his company had a reputation for building good quality roads.
Bitumen could be used for road making, damp courses and other waterproofing building purposes, and Mr Callender bought out the Trinidad Bitumen company, which relocated from Millwall to Erith, where Callender Cables would later be started.
Three of the Callender sons, Thomas, William Marshall and James, were involved in the company and helped develop it. Thomas, the eldest, had a great business mind and realised that it would be more cost effective if they extracted the Bitumen in Trinidad rather than shipping the raw material to Britain with water and other waste materials that used up space.
Thomas came to an agreement with James Irvine & Co of Liverpool to take their elasticon material (a waste product for them) to see if he could find a use for it.
William also experimented, and created a cheaper product to substitute for Indian rubber or gutta percha. As well as being waterproof, it was a great insulant for both telegraph cables and arc lamp electric wiring, putting the Callender Cables back at the forefront of the industry.
To make best use of their new product, the company employed skilled engineers who had been part of the transatlantic telegraph cable project, and in 1882 Callender Cables was involved in the wiring of Hatfield House, one of the first country houses to install electric lighting.
The company played an important role in both World Wars when they were asked to provide field telephone cables for the trenches, as well as a fuel pipe for the DD landing in the World War II. This was first started in 1942 with a pipe from Southampton to the Isle of Wight. Operation Pluto was top secret and most people working at Callender Cables were unaware of the importance of what they were making.
However, employees of Callender Cables were always very proud to be part of this Erith firm. The Callender Brass Band started in 1898 (forming from players of the Belvedere Baptist Mission Band), and they became one the most famous brass bands in England, winning the London and Southern Counties championship 34 times, coming second 14 times and third place four times. The band practised in their own time and the company paid for the band’s uniforms and instruments.
Between 1884 and 1944, Callender Cables’ income increased from £13,707 to £2,939,194, and the company’s success continued after its amalgamation with British Insulted Cables in 1945.