The slideshow of images present a brief visual history of this site, including its early days as Siemens Brothers Telegraph Works factory in 1863, through to the present day as the largest single-site studio holder in the UK. These were first presented in a talk about the history of the site by Rob Detenon, General Manager, Emafyl, at Thames-Side Studios Education Space on 10 October 2018.
Thames-Side Studios is part of Emafyl (Robobond Ltd). Emafyl has been on this site in Woolwich, south-east London, previously the site of the old Siemens factory, for more than 30 years, and has been providing affordable, sustainable and secure, long-term studio-space here since 2010. It is now the largest single-site community of artists, craft-makers and designer-makers in the UK. And we are committed to the continuing development of this provision. Founded in 1983 by Howard Simons, Emafyl (Robobond Ltd) manufactured picture-frame mouldings, architectural and caravan mouldings in Woolwich, winning the Queen's Award for Export Achievement in 1996. However, with the decline in the manufacturing sector in Europe and further afield, the company developed other opportunities for the site and set about developing a centre of excellence with over 500 studios, exhibition spaces, a photographic room, education space, kilning, a yard, spray shop, cafes, and classroom. Parent company, D & J Simons and Sons Ltd is a long-established family business. Founded in 1903 by David Simons, the company was first established as a manufacturer of wood turnery and a supplier to the reproduction furniture industry. Succeeded by his son Jack and later by Jack’s three sons, Stephen, Howard and Brian, the business was developed into the new millennium. The fourth generation, Daniel, Anthony, Robert and Amanda, provides family continuity and commitment well into the future.
The location of Thames-Side Studios has held a common thread of making and creativity ever since Tudor times when Henry VIII founded Woolwich Dockyard in 1512 to build his flagship Henry Grace à Dieu (The Great Harry). This is a truly unique site, where since the mid-1800’s tens of thousands of people have earnt a living as factory workers, engineers, craft workers, makers, designers and innovators, all who would have trodden the same paths that we tread today. Life was tough. It was common for children to go to work from an early age and work all their lives, and when they passed away their children would take on their jobs. To put this period into perspective, and to show how technologically advanced the United Kingdom was, at the same time that the new Siemens Brothers Telegraph factory laid their first Atlantic Cable in 1873-4 and in 1897 Queen Victoria was opening the newly built Blackwall Tunnel, in the United States Jesse James was robbing banks and gun fighting, and General Custer fought his last stand at Little Big Horn against Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
Emafyl began its production of extruded polystyrene making ready-made picture-frames in the 1980's led by Howard Simons. Their growth was so successful that in 1996 they received the Queen's Award for Export Achievement. In 2000 China and South Korea entered the market for ready-made frames and Emafyl,unable to compete, began a gradual decline. Between 1986-2007 Emafyl purchased Units 1, 3, and 4 followed by three derelict buildings 5, 6 and 7. They also built Units 9 to 15 on the other side of Warspite Road. Trinity Wharf and Unit 8 (The Blount Building, formerly known as Telegraph Building) were purchased and renovated in 2013. The site and the studios are now owned by Emafyl (Robobond Ltd) who, since 1983, operated a highly successful business producing picture-frames. Emafyl still have production facilities on site, now mainly producing architectural caravan mouldings. The studios themselves started here in 2010 from an idea by Howard Simons, the owner of Emafyl, and Rob Detenon, the General Manager. Providing affordable, sustainable and secure, long-term studio-space, initially they worked with an external company until 2016 when Howard decided to take on the running of the studios themselves. In 2016 Thames-Side Studios was set up as a limited company as the site had become such large investment that the site owner Howard Simons decided that it was in the best interests of all to manage the site directly. Thames-Side Studios is now listed as a site of historic interest and home to one of the most densely occupied studio sites in Europe, with 500 studios containing makers, craft workers, artists, designers, designers and innovators, and facilities including exhibition spaces, a photographic room, kilning, a yard, spray shop, cafes, and classroom. Thames-Side Studios are committed to the continuing development of this provision. ** Text courtesy of a talk given by Rob Detenon, General Manager, Emafyl. Thames-Side Studios Talks, Education Space, 10 October 2018. www.thames-sidestudios.co.uk/talks-history-of-the-site-with-rob-detenon-10-oct-2018
Siemens' interest in electricity began with while laying telegraph lines for the Prussian army. In 1847, he set up the firm of Siemens Brothers in partnership with brother Wilhelm, who went to England to represent the firm and work on his own inventions. In 1851, Siemens Brothers laid a deep-sea telegraph cable from England to France, the first international connection. Many other cables were laid down, and the firm also developed high electric tensions for long-distance telegraph lines.Siemens saw the potential for producing equipment geared toward the new electrical industry. Later, Siemens Brothers joined with Johann Halske to create the electrical firm of Siemens & Halske. In 1965 the company is renamed Siemens Brothers.