Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Round House.


After all of the recent controversy over whether Erith would be serviced by the Thames Clipper river ferry service, after a series of very successful trials between Gravesend and London, some questions have been asked about the practicalities of running a service from Erith Pier. As previously mentioned Erith Pier does not project straight out into the river, in the way that for example Southend Pier juts out into the Thames Estuary. Instead a majority of its length is in a "dog leg` that runs parallel to the shore line. As you can see in the upper of the two photos above, there is also a short spur that projects out to the left side of the main part of the pier - which is more clearly illustrated in the lower image above, which was taken from the air - click on either photo for a larger image. The spur in the upper photo is where I am of the opinion any free floating pontoon would need to be located. Whilst the central channel of the River Thames at Erith is more than sufficiently deep for large ocean going vessels to navigate, the sides of the river are actually rather shallow, and dry out at low tide, as can be seen in both photos, which were taken almost at low tide a couple of weeks ago. A free floating pontoon would enable a Thames clipper ferry to dock despite a low tide. It would require some extensive alterations and re - engineering of the pier spur. I know that Morrison's - who own the pier, are not keen on it being used as a ferry terminal, as they don't want commuters using their supermarket car park, but if enough pressure comes to bear from local government, Transport For London, The Mayor of London's office and our local MP, Teresa Pearce (who has backed the use of Erith Pier for a ferry service for a very long time), then things may happen. Bearing in mind the growth of Erith as a residential area, and the relative paucity of public transport links into central London that currently exist, it would seem to me that a regular ferry service to and from London is a "no brainer" - I for one would use the service if it stopped off at Canary Wharf - for me it would be a virtual "door to door" service. What do you think? Is it something you would like to see happen, or would you be concerned that the nature of the pier as a leisure destination - somewhere for a refreshing walk, or a quiet bit of fishing - might be jeopardised? Leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.

You may be aware that there was a stabbing in Lower Belvedere on Tuesday evening. A youth was attacked and stabbed in the arm outside of the Kwik Save store in Picardy Street at around 4.20pm. An eye witness to events shortly after the stabbing, who wishes to remain anonymous writes:- "When I got off the train at about 5:30pm there was an ambulance parked opposite the Hospice shop, I noticed it but didn't think much if it till I turned the corner and there were tonnes of people all hanging around by the parade of shops and in the distance by Kwik Save were a couple of police cars with the blue lights flashing. I'm not particularly mawkish when the emergency services are involved as they have a job to do and I don't need to be involved especially if there a lot of people already hanging about, anyway I took my usual shortcut up the steps to the flats in Monarch Road and as I did I noticed in the grass a brand new pickaxe or long handled sledgehammer shaft. It was in longish grass so not that obvious, I only saw it as I was cutting across the grass. I nudged it with my foot and noticed it still had the barcode sticker on it (hence I thought it was new or newish), what struck me is that it was new but used? The sticker was a bit grubby but there was no signs of the sort of wear and tear you'd expect from the sort of work it would do. I poked it with my foot and saw it didn't have a axe or sledgehammer head on it but about 8" of yellow tape or a plastic sheath that did look a little homemade and worn. Thinking it was an odd thing to find as guessing it's about £20s worth I turned the corner of Ambrook Road and there were two policemen guarding a a 20ft square area of the road that was blue taped and cordoned off. I had no idea what had happened at that point but considering the handle seemed a bit odd I told them and one of them immediately went over and got on his radio. Not much to report after that as I left and people walking from the station were quizzing the officers". You can read the News Shopper report on the stabbing by clicking here


I am not a personal fan of social media - sites such as Facebook have no interest for me, as I have outlined in the past.  You can be certain that if a site is free to use, they are making their money in another way, and in the case of social media, it is usually by selling on your personal data to third parties. I know that many readers will find social media a real benefit, but not for me. Incidentally I was sent the image above - which ironically has been posted on Facebook - but I am posting here, as the photograph is around 160 years old, and thus well out of copyright. I have digitally restored it, as the original was very yellowed and covered in dark spots. The photo, which you can see above, is what may well be the earliest surviving photograph taken in Erith. It depicts a structure that was apparently known as the Round House. There has been much discussion as to the location of the Round House, but a report from the Kentish Times, 1925 states that “Prior to the establishment of Messrs Easton and Anderson’s Engineering Works on the river bank at the bottom of what is now known as Manor Road, Erith, what was known as the Round House stood on the site”. Can you see the lady sitting on the steps? The man with the what looks like an outsized musket can be clearly seen in the foreground - the weapon is actually what is known as a punt, or duck gun. It is a muzzle loading flintlock weapon that was designed operate in a similar way to a modern 12 bore shotgun - firing a cloud of lead pellets at the intended target. The punt or duck gun was designed to be fired from the prone position, as if you were standing, the ducks and geese would see you and fly away, and also they had a fearsome recoil, likely to knock you off your feet. The usual way of operating such a weapon was to use a small boat (punt), lay down lengthwise in it, and to float out into the river or pond and then to wait until a flock of game birds landed nearby, then give the unwitting flock a broadside. Not very sporting, but that did not count for much when you were trying to bag some food for the table. 


The serious issue of the illegal bikers has been highlighted this week; As I have been banging on for months about this major outbreak of criminality, it is only now that several Bexley Councillors have finally realised just how serious the problem has become locally. The News Shopper have interviewed Councillor Sean Newman who has admitted just how bad the problem has now become. In the interview Councillor Newman was quoted as saying:- "It's a hotspot, and it is dangerous and it is intimidating. They meet in Norman Parks Estate, and we know that there are occasions where they have come from as far as Liverpool in an adapted Transit van. It's not my patch, but I've been told it is an issue in Slade Green and in Thamesmead as well. They go into the Cory plant as well where there is a straight road. Police try and seal places off but they have been outnumbered. There have been times when 50 or 60 bikers meet, one time I think there has been 100. It is an ongoing issue that was particularly bad over the summer. Cory, councillors, the police and Peabody have all met to form a partnership to figure out an answer. The police are taking the lead. I've seen a video of one biker driving on the pavement. He looked unstable, imagine if there was a kid there. It is dangerous for themselves and for others. There is an ongoing police operation. There is a website called UK Bike Life, it used to organise bike meetings and things like that. That website has shut down the group are still active. The council are aware of the problem and we know the police are on it. it has become a particular problem over the last few months." You can read the comments posted on the News Shopper article by clicking here. As you will see, the opinions of local residents regarding the infestation of illegal scumbag thugs is widely detested - as I have mentioned in the past, I have heard people saying that if the Police don't do something soon, it is possible the vigilante action may happen. Personally I would prefer to see the Police take the gloves off, ditch the "don't chase them if they are not wearing helmets" guidance that I outlined recently, and start ramming the illegal riders off the road, as is done in other countries such as Brazil and Estonia. The bigger picture is that it is not just a bunch of kids having some harmless fun on the streets - as the illegal riders would wish you to believe, but it is actually part of a sophisticated urban organised crime gang. Only last week, three armed riders burst into the Mappin and Webb jewellery shop in Regent Street and used hammers to smash open glass cases containing high-end jewellery and watches in a three-minute raid at 7.20pm. The raid was so violent that many people who were in the area were of the opinion that a terrorist attack was taking place. Witnesses told how the gang were armed with bats, machetes and hammers threatened customers and security guards when they tried to set off the alarm. Three accomplices waited outside on revved-up scooters, holding baseball bats to keep the gang’s escape route clear. It is believed that one group was tackled by a security guard, forcing them to leave their scooter behind and flee on foot. Another pair fled in the direction of Oxford Street before their moped hit a woman causing her minor injuries. Only a day later, and less than half a mile from the Mappin and Webb raid, a second robbery with violence was undertaken by another scooter gang, only this time it did not go to plan; the West End jewellers hit by the gang had heavily armoured windows which were more than a match for the criminals. Builders working locally, and several staff from a nearby restaurant chased off a majority of the criminal gang, and were able to detain one, who they tied up with electrical cable until the Police arrived. The public spirited actions by these people can only be heartily applauded. Whilst these two incidents happened well outside of the Maggot Sandwich coverage area, I am aware that many of these robberies with violence that have been happening with disturbing regularity are undertaken by scooter criminals from the suburbs. It is entirely possible the robbers were of local origin; as has been said before, it is well known that moped and scooter crooks use the Dartford River Crossing to travel into South Essex and the Boroughs East of London such as Havering to carry out criminal acts. it would not surprise me at all to discover that their coverage area has now extended to cover Central and West London. The situation with armed moped based robbers has now got so bad that certain high end jewellery shops have been forced to hire additional security guards recruited from specialist security companies who employ highly trained former special forces soldiers. A team of sixteen of these elite guards, all of whom operate undercover, and all of whom have close protection licences, are now operating to combat the moped gangs in the West End, in conjunction with the Police. The statistics relating to moped gang based violent crime are very worrying; Metropolitan Police crime figures showed that there were more than 8,000 crimes involving mopeds and scooters in London last year. In 2014 the figure was around 1,000. One story on the subject which broke midweek does give some hope; Claude Parkinson, 18, was the leader of a teenage gang who toured the capital's streets on stolen mopeds snatching phones out of unsuspecting pedestrians' hands. Known to friends as 'Big CJ', Parkinson was likened to "the Artful Dodger" as he led one of the raids. The crime spree climaxed on May 4 when Parkinson, two boys aged 15 and 16, and a fourth accomplice who has never been caught, terrorised Oxford Street shoppers and targeting pedestrians outside BBC Television Centre. On Wednesday members of the notorious gang stood trial at Southwark Crown Court.  One of the gang's victims was former MP and now Editor of the London Evening Standard George Osbourne,  as the criminal scumbags carried out 33 offences in the space of just 70 minutes, brandishing a hammer and a tyre iron as weapons. Southwark crown court heard the gang notched up 103 offences around Camden, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Islington between April 19th and May 4th. On Wednesday, Judge David Tomlinson sentenced Parkinson to five years and three months in custody for leading crime spree he described as "highway robbery".  The two teenage boys were each sentenced four years and two months in a young offender's institution. Let us just hope that these are just the first of many sentences against criminal gangs using scooters, mopeds and off road motorbikes for all manner of illegal and antisocial pursuits. On a more local, and somewhat less severe level, but still related to the illegal biker problem, PC Paul Sealy of Cray Meadows ward Police Safer Neighbourhood Team reports:- "The Cray Meadows ward has been plagued by anti-social behaviour on the streets and more so, on Footscray Meadows for months, if not years with off road motorbikes and scooters. When I returned to the ward as the second Dedicated Ward Officer, I saw a message we had received via Twitter a couple of months previously with a video of an off road bike on the road with a rider doing wheelies. A bike that is not legal for the road, no crash helmet, etc etc. I instantly recognised the bike that I had seen a year or so before and knew where it came from. I visited the home address of the rider and showed him a printed out still image from the video and he fully admitted it was him. Last Thursday I reported him for 4 offences as well as issuing him a S59 notice which means if we see him on any other bike within the next year acting anti-socially we will instantly seize the bike. He will most likely be losing his provisional driving licence and also receiving a fine and points. Since he knew I was looking for him after speaking to his Father, the reports of this type of ASB has reduced dramatically, in fact we haven't had any calls for weeks. I believe that this individual and his two friends were responsible for the vast majority of this behaviour. This is a great example of how officers on the ward can work with the residents and businesses to identify and deal with offenders. Thank you to the resident who sent us the video. When we receive intelligence like this, we will act on it to make Cray Meadows a better place to live, work and play". What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.


Another piece of local history that you may not be aware of; the invention of the car exhaust silencer and the firearms sound suppressor (often incorrectly referred to a silencer) were developed and manufactured locally. In 1902, the first successful, commercially available suppressor was invented by Hiram Percy Maxim. Maxim was an American inventor, graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and son of Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim - inventor of the first portable, fully automatic machine gun: The Maxim Gun, which as I have previously written, was produced in Fraser Road, Erith, and later in Crayford. Hiram Maxim senior was born in the USA, but became a naturalised Briton, and worked in the local area for much of his life. Whilst the initial work by his son on the silencer was carried out in the Maxim companies Hartford, Connecticut design studios, much of the manufacturing was carried out in the Erith factory - mainly as Maxim Senior felt that the products could be marketed to various European defence agencies - always a man with his eye on maximising a profit. The Maxim Silencer, patented in 1909, was a tubular device attached to the barrel of a firearm which significantly reduced noise and muzzle flash when fired. It was regularly advertised in sporting goods catalogues where it was available for mail order, both in the USA and here at the time. The Maxim Silencer was marketed to all sportsmen and intended to enhance the shooting experience by reducing the risk of hearing damage and noise pollution. At the same time, silencers and mufflers for internal combustion engines were being created using the same noise reduction techniques. Maxim Junior took advantage of this and founded his own company, Maxim Silencers, Inc. in 1912. While the Maxim Silencer began Maxim’s success, his company still remains, over 100 years later, as a leader in motor vehicle exhaust, heat recovery, and emissions control silencers. It now no longer has any local connections, and operates exclusively out of the USA.

Now for this weeks safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly from Barnehurst ward:- "Sadly we have had two burglaries reported since the start of October. The first occurred on the 2nd when overnight unknown suspect(s) have entered a property in Woodside Road and stole the car keys to a blue BMW 316D motor vehicle registration WG63 CWR before making off with the car and victims bank cards. There were no signs of any forced entry. Please make sure that any UPVC doors are double locked, lift the handle and turn the key, if it’s not double locked then it’s NOT locked and will take a burglar just seconds to pop the door open. The second again occurred overnight on the 6th where suspects have gained entry to an unoccupied property in Watling Street by smashing the rear patio window, cash and a large quantity of gold jewellery was taken. On the 4th October at about 4pm there was a cash in transit robbery at Miller and Carter restaurant in Hall Pace. Two suspects on an orange motor bike stole a cash box from the guard as he was leaving the premises. They made off towards Crayford. The cash box was later discovered in Bourne Mead - the purple security dye had been activated. If you saw anything please contact us via e mail at Barnehurst.snt@met.police.uk or call crime stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111".  Belvedere ward;- "This week the team have taken time to visit elderly residents, shops and public buildings throughout the ward in order to give out crime prevention literature, posters and leaflets in relation to the upcoming Halloween and Bonfire nights. PC Holmes has also reported an incident of theft in the Lower Belvedere area whilst PC Green has been dealing with the issues of motor vehicle ASB in and around the ward. On Sunday the team were assisted by traffic officers to patrol Norman Road due to the ongoing issues with motorbikes. There appears to have been a spate of vehicles being damaged in the Fremantle Road area which the team have been made aware of. We will be paying particular attention to this area in the coming weeks to combat this issue. We have now also arranged to hold regular crime prevention surgeries in the Co-Op in Nuxley Road, beginning on November 1st 2017 at 12pm. Brampton ward:- "This week has not been so good for Brampton Ward re: burglaries as we have had two, one in long Lane and one in Brampton Road. One of these was linked to Asian gold. There was also a report of arson in Rydal Drive when mattresses were set alight in an alley and the fire spread to the resident’s fence. Brampton will be conducting a street briefing regarding anti-social behaviour around Halloween and Fireworks night. This will be held outside Picketts butchers in Pickford Lane at 19:00 hours on 25th October". Colyers ward:- "There was 1 reported burglary on Colyers Ward between 4th October and 11th October 17. There were also 2 reported theft from motor vehicles during the same period. The victim’s house was burgled between 5th October and 8th October 2017 in Peartree Close Erith whilst away for a few days. Unknown persons have broken into her house via the rear patio doors and smashed the double glaze window. There was glass everywhere. The suspects then went upstairs and carried out an untidy search going through everything whilst leaving the downstairs untouched. Jewellery was stolen. No suspects seen and no witnesses. Investigation is ongoing. The victim left his vehicle a silver Toyota parked outside South Road Erith locked and secured on 6th October AT 9pm.The victim discovered that on 7th October at 8:45am unknown suspects have entered the vehicle without any damage caused. An iPad was stolen. No suspect seen. The victim left his vehicle parked on Colyers Lane on 8th October 17 at 10pm and on 9th October 17 at 9am discovered that unknown suspects have stolen both wing mirrors of his red Fiat". Crayford ward:- "We held our ward panel meeting last Thursday and it was agreed our ward promises would be Engagement and Anti-Social Behaviour. Crimes of note this week have been bicycles stolen from children at the Town Hall Square by other children; interference with motor vehicles x 2, theft from motor vehicle where a handbag was stolen from an unlocked car and a car was stolen from Mill Place. There was also an attempted burglary in Heathview Avenue. We took the CCTV van out with us today and parked it in Maiden Lane, Lower Station Road and Valley Road. We spoke with several residents, giving reassurance and crime prevention advice".  Erith ward:- "Spent some time on Tuesday 10/10/17 with the Erith Library Stitch and Sew group Surgery at Erith Library on Thursday 12/10/17. Patrolling key hot spots in Erith which include Compton Place and Riverside Road. We had a meeting with Erith Riverside Security and there new manager on ways we can move forward in controlling the issues with youths causing Anti Social Behaviour in the town centre, This is going to include among many other things, having meetings with their parents. A lot have been identified by CCTV". Lesnes Abbey ward:- "Good News - No Burglary Dwellings, No Burglary Non Dwelling. Home crime prevention - Check you have closed and locked all your doors and windows before leaving your property. If you have UPVC doors and windows double lock them with keys to secure them properly. Leave some lights on if it will be dark before you get home. Install low wattage ‘ dusk to dawn ‘ outside lighting. If you have a burglar alarm remember to activate it. No Motor Vehicle Crimes to report this week. Check your car security - Have you locked your doors and windows? Did you know that your vehicle is like a shop window ? If you can see ANY property left on view then so can a thief. Take it with you. More good news - PC’s Telfer and Quarshie – Awuah arrested a male in Wilton Road for the possession of cannabis". An observation from a member of the public in Lesnes Abbey ward:- "I just want to raise concerns about the speed and dangerous manner people ride their push bikes on public paths. Today at approximately 3:30 p.m on the way back from school my son aged 5 got hit from behind in the back and sent flying to the ground by a man riding at speed on the foot bridge that goes over Fendyke Road from Thamesmead. The man in question went over his own handlebars. I don’t know if this is a matter for the police but maybe there should be an awareness campaign". North End ward:- "Last week we spent an hour walking around the ward with David Evenett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford (North End is part of his constituency). He thanked us for the work that we do in the ward and it was interesting to see that he seemed to know as many locals as we do. Crime numbers have been very low in the past week with most crimes reported being of a domestic nature. We had a Crime Prevention stand at the Shell garage on North End Road last Friday and Saturday. Many petrol customers came to see us and were pleased with the literature and advice that we gave them. Proceedings were brought to a slightly earlier halt than planned on Saturday due to the deteriorating weather conditions but we will be looking at repeating this again sometime soon. If anyone has a suggestion for a location for us to set up this sort of thing again in the ward, please let us know. We have a surgery on Tuesday 17 October in Slade Green library from 12midday, please come along and say hello". Northumberland Heath ward:- "We are pleased to announce that there have been no burglaries again this week in North Heath. There were only seven crimes recorded throughout the whole week with two of those being theft of motor vehicle from different areas on the ward. We are also happy that reports of Anti Social Behaviour on the ward remain at minimal levels, though patrols still continue in the hotspot areas that residents have made us aware of. The team have been out and about at the end of the school day to work with staff from Erith School to ensure that the pupils make their way home safely and without incident". Thamesmead East ward:- "Good News, no burglary reported this week, however please see below regarding motor vehicle crime. Tuesday 03/10/17 - St Andrew's Close. Victim states that she has noticed that the rear windscreen of the vehicle has been smashed between 0001- 0945hrs. Victim does not believe that suspects have entered her vehicle and nothing has been taken from within; Monday 09/10/17 - Aspen Green - Informant reporting the theft of scooter that was locked between 17:10-23:00hrs; Monday 09/10/17 - Tylehurst Point 1320-1440hrs. The victim stated that the front offside tyre has been punctured and there was a blade stuck in the tyre wall; Sunday 08/10/17 Wilton Road. 11.55 hrs Male arrested by Lesnes and Thamesmead officers for possession of cannabis; Monday 09/10/17 Hartslock Drive 2154 hrs Suspect was stopped and searched by officers found cannabis within his vehicle in the form of herbal, the suspect admitted it was his, the amount was consistent with personal use".  

The ending video is some footage taken in and around the local area fairly recently. It probably won't have a great deal of interest to many right now, but in a hundred or so years time it will make for a great piece of social history. Give it a watch and see what you think. Leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com