Following the signing of the lease the two brothers
seperated with George remaining in Rochester whilst William took
over the new business at Ham.
When work began at Ham the industry was quite small scale, basically
because the infrastructure did not really exist to support large
scale excavation. In the early days, the ballast was dredged by
small punts that scooped the material from the river bed and then
was raised by winch. The material was then transported by horse
drawn carts to building sites.
In the early days no permits were required so operations
at Ham begun and buildings erected where required. The exception
was the wharf on the river bank which had to be planned and built
under the supervision and agreement of the Thames Conservancy
Digging below the water level was impossible in the early days,
until the advent of a steam driven pump mounted on a concrete
pontoon that pumped the ballast through a pipe to reception bins.
As more building contracts in London were being struck the output
of The Ham River Grit Co. had to increase. Permission was obtained
from the Thames Conservancy to build a wharf and also a light
railway which went along the towpath to load the barges.
In the first few years of obtaining ballast from below water
level The Ham River Grit Co. applied for the right to clear a
cutting through the towpath in order to utilise the tidal waters
to allow barges to the pits.
The residents on the other side of the river were not overly
enthusiastic as this piece from the Surrey Comet in 1912 conveys.
"It will be remembered that at the last meeting of the
Surrey County Council certain proposals of the Earl of Dysart
for the cutting of a canal through the riverside lands at Ham
and for the construction of a dock on his estate to facilitate
the removal of gravel in barges, was referred back for further
consideration on the motion of Mr. W. Thompson. Since then the
proposal has been adversely criticised by the Richmond and Twickenham
Council and the latter authority appealed to the Middlesex County
Council for support in opposing the scheme, but as the proposed
works are in Surrey the County Council could do nothing in the
Surrey Comet 10/1/1912
The Ham and River Grit Company was expanding , but the area of
water was increasing, and the need for a lock and a dock to accommodate
the barges was applied for. After various objections Surrey County
Council gave permission for the building of the lock and the dock.
Ham Lock was constucted between 1922 and 1923 and is now part
of the Thames Young Mariners. The Thames Young Mariners is the
last remains of the quarrying that took place on the Ham Lands
and gives a glimpse of the industry that took place and how it
The Lock and the area where the barges would have arrived still
exists and the path carries you over the Lock. The quarry is now
used for sailing and kayaking and is a natural habitat for wildlife.
With the arrival of the motor lorry in the inter war years, the
pits at Ham were able to continue to expand as the newer and faster
method of transportation allowed faster delivery. A depot was
constructed on the main road to Kingston and a rail track was
constructed from the site of the works to the depot. These developments
saw the barge delivery method decline, and a road was constructed
from the pits to the main road in Ham.
The Ham River Grit Co. lorries were also a
Work continued at Ham until 1952, in which time the Ham pits
had been in operation for forty-eight years and over 200 acres
had been excavated.
It is a sign of the quality of the material produced by the Ham
River Grit Co. that the term "Ham River" or of equal
quality was the standard given when architects specified the material
to use in construction of new buildings.
Legacy of The Ham River Grit Company
The Ham River Grit Co. has a long list of important building
projects that the company contributed material.
The Bank of England, Bush House at Aldwych, Thames House at Millbank,
Westminster Cathedral, London University, Dolphin Square to name
a few, as well as other projects such as the Kingston By Pass,
The Great West Rd and the North Circular Road as well as Heathrow
Since The Ham River Grit Co. started business in 1904 the company
determined albeit unknowingly at the time the destiny of the present
Ham Lands. The Ham River Grit Co. has also contributed significantly
to the building of important landmarks in this country that can
be traced to the land of the estate of the Earl of Dysart for
their raw material.