An eco-friendly electric van of the India Rubber and Gutta-Percha factory in Silvertown.
S. W. Silver moved his business from Greenwich to the north shore of the Thames in 1852, setting up his Rubber producing factory at the point where Ham Creek joined the River Thames. The factory and a few workmen's cottages soon became known as "Silvers Town".
From 1861 to 1901 it specialised in making and laying submarine cables and from the 1880s expanded into making other electrical products. By 1923 the factory covered 17 acres and had a workforce of more than 4,000 people. In about 1927 the business went into decline and the company was taken over and amalgamated with other firms producing similar products. The site was sold in the 1960s for redevelopment as the Thames Industrial Estate.
Gutta-Percha is obtained from a tropical evergreen tree Palaquium of which there are many varieties found in south-east Asia, northern Australasia, Taiwan and Malaya. The tree produces a sap from which latex is derived.
By 1845 it was being used in Britain for insulating telegraph wire, including early trans-Atlantic cables, because it was found to be resistant to marine plants and animals. It is a versatile and very stable material which has been use in furniture, insulation, water-proofing, dentistry, surgery, golf balls and even gym shoes.