Trailblazing former kitchen maid is the starring of a brand-new expo celebrating the unsung heroes of an engineering masterpiece
When Dirk Bennett firstly gazed into the eyes of Hannah Griggs, he recalls that the mane literally stood up on the back of his arms.
In the faded photograph Griggs, a poor young lady born to an unmarried father in 1888 who likely began work as a kitchen maid in her early teens, is elegant and smilingly written. She is also the first girl known to have worked at Tower Bridge in London.
Bennett considers she must have worked for the bridge captain, a uniformed occupation which went with a handsome redbrick mansion complete with agencies. The labourers inside the bridge, nonetheless, would have fended for themselves down among the great machines: another reminiscence he has collected is of the smell of breakfast prepare on an cast-iron stave mingling with engine oil and the coke-burning steam boilers.
Griggs, who gave up her occupation when she married a railway fireman and later became mother to their daughter Elsie in 1915, would undoubtedly be stunned were told that her battered little photograph has now been blown up into a 12 -feet panel, attaining her the starring of a brand-new expo in the bridge museum.
The showings celebrate the previously unrecorded tales of people who worked on the bridge, including labourers, blacksmiths, engineers, clerks, night watchmen and engine drivers crucial members of the team who continued the lifting mechanism powered by steam until 1976. Her name is one of those on a stroll of notoriety bronze plaques freshly embedded in the pavement of the bridge itself.
The photograph was treasured by her granddaughter, Susan Belcher, one of hundreds of members of the public who have got in touch with the museum in the bridge to tell their tales. When Bennett, who is currently German with London roots his granddad was mayor of Bethnal Green arrived to work at the museum he found that the story of heroic building and engineering exultation had been told, but that the stories of the people who have continued the bridge running since 1894 remained in the shadows.
He “ve noticed that” many guests spoke of household communications as they proceeded round the showings, and encouraged the staff to urge them to get in touch and pass on their remembrances. Hundreds of calls have now been researched by Royal Holloway university, with tales still coming in: only three weeks ago he heard from a offspring of a labourer killed while working on the tremendous wharves which support the bridge one of ten fatalities out of the 800 people who worked on its construction.
Without the direct connections, the names of most would never have been known to the public, but a few became briefly famous: Leslie Priestley was the bridge captain in December 1952 when the organizations of the system for notifying traffic and closing the bridge before the center part hoisted neglected.
Albert Gunton, the driver of a No 78 ruby-red double-decker bus, realised what was happening and made a split-second decision. He accelerated instead of braking, and jump-start the bus across the 6ft and widening crack. Priestley, one newspaper registered, put on his overcoat and bowler hat and was inspecting the bridge within times.
Several bridge households ought to have exposed, especially among engineers and firemen: John Gass joined as foreman before the bridge actually opened, worked on until 1930, serving as chief technologist and eventually bridge captain, and was awarded the freedom of the city in 1901. Two of his children, brought up in the bridge captains mansion, followed him into working in the bridge.
Hannah Griggs succumbed aged simply 58, but by then she and William Howard had two daughters, and were living in a house in Hornchurch encouragingly called Cosy Nook. She really is one of our heroes, announces Bennett.