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History W. T. Henley was a cable/wire company that was founded in a small London-based workshop in 1837. William Thomas Henley is famous for having converted his old lathe into a wiring covering machine which was used to cover wire with silk and cotton as this was in high demand at the time for electromagnetic apparatus. It is reported that Henley’s company progressed at an impressive rate and that he pioneered the submarine cable field (laying cables on the sea bed between land-based stations to carry telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean).It was Henley’s dream that all of civilisation would eventually be linked together telegraphically. As WT Henley’s Telegraph Works continued to prosper, Henley decided to purchase a factory at North Woolwich beside the Thames in 1859 for £8,000. It is said that this development led to the laying of the Persian Gulf telegraph cable which is 1615 miles long, for the Indian Government. As a result, by the end of 1873 Henley’s Woolwich site had spread to cover some sixteen acres and his company also included three cable laying ships and a four-hundred-foot wharf to allow five-hundred-ton ships to load and unload their cargo. Sadly, Henley died in 1882; however, his company continued to grow in his absence and went on to form branches across the country. By 1906 work on a new factory in Gravesend was completed. The new factory is said to have been an impressive development and it included extensive, purpose-built, laboratories and a modern reinforced concrete air-raid shelter under London Road that could hold approximately two-thousand people. The tunnels were built into old caves within the Rosherville Gardens – an area of land located between the cable works and the cliff face. It is likely that the air-raid shelter was factory-owned but also open to the public as Henley’s company did not actually own Rosherville Gardens at the time and it featured a number of amenities and six entrances. Henley’s company continued to thrive as the Victorian era ended; however, its success can be linked directly to the Great War as it was a catalyst for technological and industrial development and change. By the Second World War, Henley’s company was publicly praised for its contribution towards King and Country – particularly its contribution to ‘Operation Pluto’ (the construction of petrol pipelines across the English Channel). Despite this success, a decision was made to close the main Henley factory at Woolwich due to the repeated damaged it suffered during the war years. A new factory was subsequently built at Birtley in the North East due to its reputation for being a ‘misty valley’ that made it difficult for the Luftwaffe to target factories, and this was completed in 1950. Sadly, a change of events occurred in 1958 when AEI acquired Henley’s company, having already taken over Siemens Bros in 1953. However, AEI is now the world’s oldest cable company and recently celebrated its one-hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary. Unfortunately, Henley’s Gravesend site was closed in 2008, though, due to it being ‘no longer viable to operate because of strong European competition’. Our Version of Events Not much by way of events for this one. It’s been a very busy few months and we ended up here to take a break after doing a spot of house viewing. Since we’d spent all day and most of the evening looking at damp, shitty rental properties that all looked as though they ought to be photographed and placed as reports on here, we arrived outside AEI in the early hours of the morning. Armed only with the essentials, our tripods, cameras and cans of Stella Artois, we made our way over the epic bog that you have to cross to find the entrance to the old shelter. We really underestimated how muddy this bit of wasteland was going to be to be honest and very nearly ended up taking a cold midnight mud bath several times. Nevertheless, we eventually made it across, with all our beers intact you’ll be happy to know. From this point onwards, getting into the old shelter was pretty straightforward. Once inside, we immediately set about taking our snaps. There was a shared feeling among us that the heavy feeling of tiredness was impending so we wanted to get the hard bit of the explore out of the way quickly. It didn’t really take long to photograph the place in the end though, once we’d worked out the general layout of the structure which is a grid-like setup. This left us with plenty of time to each pull up a chemical toilet and enjoy a few bevvies. And that’s how it ended. The tins were cracked and we sat wondering what it would have felt like to hear explosions outside and the thunder of guns shaking the paint and dirt from the ceiling. In reality, all we could really hear was a superb silence and the odd drip coming from a room to our left. What better way to finish an explore, with beers in hand and an abundance of chemical toilets at the ready. Explored with Ford Mayhem. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21:
Right this explore has been in the planning for a few days..It was a previous report that kind of got me interested in both the ww2 tunnels and the cable works.. My self and space invader decided that we should give this place a go, few text’s later and obscurity and maniac where on board and after talking to kheridr I found out troglodyte and Peach where planning the same trip same day so after a few calls we decided to all meet up . The tunnels themselves we where told on site had basically had steel doors attached to metal frames and the only one that hadn’t been sealed wasn’t The easiest of gaps,Big shout out too MR.T for his help as entry was made possible.The tunnels where all id expected and more..nice and clean un chaved and really quite large,after we’d all spent a fairwhile inside we drove to several other locations and to be honest one of the locations none of us bothered to take out cameras out as the place was uninspiring to say the least.So after some debate we headed back to AEI for a look round the cable works itself so a few pics from there to finish off with. Brief history stolen from underground Kent The company W T Henley has always been highly regarded for the manufacture of cable and electrical components and was clearly the company of choice when a system had to be devised as a countermeasure to the growing threat of German magnetic mines during the Second World War. As a result, a new site was constructed in 1939 in Gravesend for W T Henley and a complex of tunnels built underneath to provide air raid shelter for the company’s employees With at least six entrances, the air raid shelter was very clearly signed internally to ensure that there was no confusion when looking for your allocated space. Cut into chalk and lined with prefabricated concrete, the shelter tunnels were well laid out, including first aid areas and numerous latrines – in the form of Elson buckets. The tunnels themselves don’t seem to have much in the way of documented history unlike the cable works, So for those of you with the lust for info here’s a few links that may interest you! http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index ... pic=1857.0 http://kenttodayandyesterday.blogspot.c ... fleet.html On with the pics from what had to have been one of the biggest laughs ive had in ages… On to the Cable works..Just a couple be rude not too Thanks to every one on the trip it really was a class day out!