Sunday, July 14, 2019

Purple Willows.


Thanks to the eagle eyes of a reader, a mystery has been uncovered. It would appear that the redevelopment plans submitted by Bexley Council to its own planning department in respect of the scheduled improvement works to the garden and seating area at the entrance to Erith Pier have been suddenly withdrawn. The plans had included improved seating, new planters, and a children's play area, amongst other features designed to improve the public realm. The upper image above shows the current layout of the Pier Square entrance in Wharfside Close, and the lower image outlines the area that had been scheduled for improvement by the council. After some investigation by a source within Bexley Council, I was informed that:- "The current planning application for Pier Square was for outline consent and was submitted last year primarily to get early feedback on potential parking and traffic management issues. The process has been really helpful and we now have enough information to address these concerns and move forward with the project. However, the designs were only at early concept stage so the project required a further application full with detailed designs, transport statement and technical packages etc. This week, the planning officer advised we withdraw the current application to make way for a full planning application which will be made in September. The project is still very much going ahead and this was just an administrative requirement. I’ll ask Development Control if it would be possible to add a couple of lines on the planning portal to explain the application will be superseded with a full planning application in September and I will update the Comms team accordingly". Good news; the area around the entrance to Erith Pier could do with some upgrading, as it has remained almost untouched since it was created in 1999. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com


The former Cairngall Medical Centre in Erith Road, Upper Belvedere (photo above - click on it for a larger version) is to re-open as the Purple Willows children's nursery and day care centre in October of this year. The new nursery will be offering 92 places and will be split into baby suite, toddler room and Preschool class with each room designed with modern equipment and excellent resources to meet the needs of the children. The nursery will also provide a multi-sensory room to encourage children to explore their environment and increase concentration. Whether another local nursery is needed or not is currently unclear - opinion is divided. What is certain however is that opinion is in unanimous approval that the current doctors surgery is being in internally refurbished and repurposed, rather than being knocked down and being replaced by yet more flats - as is happening to the former Belvedere Police Station, diagonally opposite. 

I know that a fair number of Radio Amateurs and other radio enthusiasts regularly read the Maggot Sandwich; however not all of them are members of the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) like myself, and thus it is entirely possible that some hams may not be aware that moves are afoot to take the 2 Metre VHF amateur radio band away from Radio Amateurs. A proposal by France to make the Aeronautical Mobile Service the primary users of the 144-146 MHz (2 Metre VHF) band and demote the Amateur Radio Service to secondary users - effectively removing them from the band. The report says that this is “part of a broader consideration of the spectrum allocated to that service.” The 2M band is not, after all, one of the little-used microwave bands, it is a legally protected main amateur radio band. Not only that, for Europeans 144 – 146 MHz is their entire 2M VHF band. What was really weird about all this is why this is a French proposal and not a European-wide proposal. Apparently this is a move by the French company Thales Group to grab these frequencies for some kind of aeronautical communication system they are proposing. A campaign to prevent the loss of this primary amateur communications band - much used by RAYNET, the disaster and emergency communications service during hurricanes, floods and other disasters, when mobile phones, land lines and other forms of communication are unavailable. 2M VHF gets through when conventional communications cannot. There is now a petition which concerned individuals can sign, which states:- "The 2 Meter Amateur Radio Band (144-146MHz) is under Threat due to a proposal from France during the World Radio Conference 2019 meeting that the 2 Meter band should be allocated as a Aeronautical Band. We, the Radio Amateurs find this totally unacceptable that a harmonised worldwide primary user band for Radio Amateurs is being proposed to be used as an Aeronautical Band as it is meant to be a 'protected' band for Radio Amateurs. We want the CEPT to reconsider the proposal from France. Amateur Radio is still a strong and ongoing hobby for 100 years and we must preserve and protect our hobby". Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) RSGB President Dave Wilson, wrote to Ofcom strongly expressing the RSGB’s concerns about the proposed WRC-23 aeronautical Agenda Item that includes 144-146 MHz - the protected 2M ham band. The President’s letter started by stating that the RSGBshares the concerns of the global amateur community and views the French proposal as lacking a proper understanding of the implications of sharing an aeronautical application with weak-signal terrestrial and space communications services”. It continued by saying that “from our perspective, and in the view of the wider global amateur community, we do not foresee any realistic feasibility of a sharing scenario which does not seriously degrade or impede amateur usage of the spectrum, given the extent and complexity of current amateur services’ primary usage”. The letter stated that there seems no justification for including this band in the proposed study, and that the RSGB is not convinced that there are “any innovative sharing methods” which would not inevitably constrain both incumbent and new services. The letter went on to say that “inclusion of this spectrum in the study is likely to involve regulators in a lot of extra work, when the outcome can be sensibly predicted at this stage”. On top of this, there are millions of Radio Amateurs world wide who own 2M VHF equipment, who would lose the utility of it should the band be re-allocated to other uses. It has also effectively stopped amateurs from buying 2M equipment for the foreseeable future, hurting specialised radio retailers such as Martin Lynch and Sons, Nevada and Waters and Stanton. You can sign a Change.org petition to try and save the band for radio amateurs by clicking here. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com


One of the disadvantages of the Maggot Sandwich only publishing once per week is that I can often miss out on any "scoop" stories. This has most definitely been the case in this edition. A story broke late on Monday night, and was to my knowledge first covered by Darryl Chamberlain of the excellent 853 Blog, which primarily covers Lewisham, Woolwich and Charlton. As regular readers will be aware, I do not cover issues relating to party politics, and endeavour to remain neutral in my reporting. I do cover issues that relate to local concerns, irrespective of the elected representative who it involves. It came as quite a shock to me that local MP Teresa Pearce has announced that she is not going to stand for re-selection as an MP at the next general election. I know that many local residents - whatever their political affiliation - think very highly of Teresa, as indeed do I. She is that rarest of things - an honest, straightforward and very hard working MP. I have to say that I do not live in her constituency (I live about 300 metres outside of it), but she has always been very helpful and friendly. She will continue as the MP for Erith and Thamesmead until the next general election, which could be as late as 2022, but in the current terrible state of parliament, and the disarray of both main parties, it could be somewhat sooner. One has to also remember that the electoral boundaries are going to be changed at some point in the future, which will effectively do away with her constituency. On top of this, she has been an MP for nine years thus far, and effectively been "on call" 24/7 for all of that time. On top of this I understand that Teresa has a couple of members of her family with serious, long term health problems. I feel that she deserves a rest. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com. 


I was recently contacted by a reader who had attended the recent record breaking charity auction of the guitar collection of David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Following his auction visit, the reader wrote to me regarding the Vox Guitar Organ that I wrote about at the time. I was able to provide him some information that I had covered on the Blog in the past. The brains behind many of the JMI / Vox musical instruments and amplifiers was a chap called Dick Denney (photo above - click for a larger view). The man who many regard as the UK’s most important guitar amplifier designer was actually deaf in one ear, but Dick Denney’s perforated eardrum may have been the making of him. As a result of his affliction, he was exempted from military service during World War Two and seconded to the Vickers munitions factory in Crayford – something that would permanently alter the trajectory of his life. During the pre-war years, Dick had become infatuated with both jazz music and radio electronics. Early experiments resulted in the inevitable destruction of the family radio, but Dick’s skills improved and his wages from the factory enabled him to buy components. His work at Vickers also meant that Dick was freed from an unwanted apprenticeship in his father’s barber shop, and perhaps most importantly of all, it introduced him to a man named Tom Jennings. During the war, amateur radio activity was prohibited so, as a guitarist, Dick turned his electronic skills to amplifier building. His goal was to develop an amplifier that was loud, but also small and light – and he had ample opportunity to test them out. Munitions factories were understandably a choice target for the Luftwaffe’s bombing attacks, and a as a result, the staff at Vickers in Crayford spent extended periods sheltering during air raids. Entertainment was in short supply down in the shelters, and so to keep up morale, Dick, Tom Jennings and a few other members of the workforce would put on musical performances – these performances with Jennings gave Dick a chance to test and refine his amplifier designs. Jennings was clearly impressed with what Dick had produced, and being of an entrepreneurial mind, discussed a joint venture with Denny where they would produce amplifiers for organs and accordions together. However, nothing ever came of the plan, and after the end of the war, the pair went their separate ways and lost contact. Dick was born in Erith, and, at an early age, became interested in the guitar and amateur radio, whose novelty attracted thousands of hobbyists in the 1930s and to this day. He was soon a leading exponent of the Hawaiian guitar, and his radio skills enabled him to listen to American shortwave radio broadcasts, which inspired his creation of instruments and amplifying equipment. His fragile health excluded him from wartime armed forces; instead, he worked at Vickers' munitions factory, in Crayford, where he first met the accordion-playing Jennings, who shared his interest in musical innovation. After the war, Dick ran a radio and sound equipment shop in Belvedere. By 1951 Jennings was running the fairly successful Jennings Organ Company, but it soon become apparent that diversification was necessary to grow the business. He also owned a music shop and would notice growing interest in guitars during the early rock ’n’ roll years. Since there were very few guitar amplifiers available in the UK, and becoming an importer for American Gibson and Fender amps was not viable due to import restrictions in austerity post war Britain, Jennings tried to adapt one of his organ amplifiers for guitar. It proved unsuccessful, and the project was shelved. Meanwhile Dick Denney had set up in business as an electronics and radio repairer, while moonlighting as a busy dance band guitarist. However, in 1952 he suffered a collapsed lung and was forced to take time off to recuperate. His idea grew from a portable amplifier-speaker unit he developed, while convalescing from  respiratory illness in 1952, for use with his Hawaiian guitar. In 1955, Dick demonstrated his system - not the first to be made in this country, but certainly the most effective - to the owner of a Dartford music shop, Tom Jennings, who proposed a joint manufacturing venture. So began Jennings Musical Industries, and their trademark, Vox, was applied to all Dick's JMI work. Indeed, the early 1960s rise of British guitar groups caused an explosion of interest that left JMI struggling to keep up with demand. Dick produced three more original designs - a 100-watt amplifier, three times the power of any previous equipment; a guitar-organ, allowing the guitarist to produce his own accompaniment; and a wireless microphone system, the forerunner of those used in today's stage musicals. This was on top of his work on his most famous creation, the Vox AC30 amplifier - the sound of the "British Invasion". Jennings sold JMI in 1968, by which time a franchise agreement had been struck with an American manufacturer for use of the Vox name. Dick left the company in 1967 to pursue a career as an independent consultant and designer, which he maintained until his death. He went on to become an instrument technician for The Beatles and local band The Rolling Stones; in an interview some years ago, Denny's grand daughter recalled that:- "He toured the world demonstrating Vox equipment’, sometimes on American TV. He also set up equipment for The Beatles and The Rolling Stones at important shows. Apparently, Dick was fond of The Beatles and enjoyed banter with John Lennon who called him ‘nanny goat’ because of his beard”. Fans once mistook him for a Beatle and tore some of his clothes. They clearly did not notice the cosy cardigan Dick habitually wore, or his trad-jazz goatee. He also came to The Beatles’ rescue at a Scarborough gig when some amplifiers on trolley stands started trundling down the sloping stage towards them. Thereafter, they were fitted with braking casters. Although he never became rich, Dick felt content that he had made a living being paid for what was essentially his hobby. He combined a working knowledge of electronics with a musician’s sensibility and great ears to achieve the sounds he liked using the technology and components of the time. That countless guitarists have appreciated Dick’s amplifiers is testament to his skill and judgment. Dick died a few months after his 80th birthday on the 6th of June 2001, leaving a son, five daughters and the most wonderful sonic legacy.


There is to be a public meeting / consultation on Thursday 18th July commencing 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Christchurch Primary School on the redevelopment of the Hainault, Lesney Park Road, Erith. The Infant Welfare and Maternity Home was opened in 1920 by the Erith Urban District Council in a large Victorian house named 'Hainault', bought for the purpose as a cost of £1800. The Home had six beds, three of which were in the maternity ward. There was also an infant welfare centre, and antenatal, dental and school clinics were held there.  The coach house and stables were converted into an operating theatre.  The staff consisted of two midwives, a ward maid, a cook and a caretaker. The Maternity Home remained open during WW2, although it was in a danger zone.  A temporary clinic was added in 1943.  In 1944 a flying bomb exploded nearby and caused considerable damage, but the only injury was to a baby in its cot. In 1945 the building was extended and the bed number increased to 22. In 1948 the Home joined the NHS under the administration of the Woolwich Group Hospital Management Committee.  It was renamed the Hainault Maternity Hospital. In 1956 the bed numbers were increased to 24. In 1965 a delivery unit was added, which provided two first-stage rooms and a bathroom, WC and sterilising room. The Home closed in 1974 with 21 beds, a victim of the new NHS policy of placing maternity units in general hospitals. From 2009 until 2014 the Hainault became Hainault Hostel, a long-stay hostel with 12 beds for people with learning difficulties run by the MCCH Society Ltd. After 2014 it was closed, and is now being readied for demolition.

Now for the weekly safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association; firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "A great week on the Ward this week with absolutely no crimes of note to report. There were a couple of criminal damages and thefts from Motor vehicle but all these were domestic related with the suspect being known to the victim. Officers continue to patrol the ward and several stop and searches have been conducted in the fight against drugs. Officers also assisted housing officers in the prevention of breach of peace while an empty premises was boarded up at Hampton House. Other good news for Barnehurst residents is that the local police team is now at full strength with the arrival of PC Smith. The next community contact session is to be held at Barnehurst Golf Course on Thursday July 18th at 11am". Belvedere ward:- "There was a recent garage burglary in Mossdown Close. The team viewed CCTV of this incident which showed a white transit van travelling to and from the area on three occasions. Along with a great deal of sentimental items, an orange and black KTM motorcycle was taken from the garage which has then been seen on numerous occasions being driven throughout the north of the borough. The investigation continues – we would ask that anyone that may be able to offer information as to the whereabouts of the vehicle, please contact the team. There was also a garage burglary in Monarch Road from which an orange quad bike was stolen. This was the only item taken from the garage, which had its padlock cut to gain entry. Again, if anyone has any information in relation to this, please contact the team. During patrols of Ruskin Road on Monday night (8th July) we had reason to speak to three males at the location, each of which were searched for drugs. Cannabis was found and a Community Resolution (a warning) was issued to one of the males. We have been continuing our Street a Week initiative recently with visits to Shortlands Close and Hattersfield Close". Bexleyheath ward:- "There have been no reports of burglaries or attempted burglaries on the ward. One report of Theft of motor vehicle at the Civic car park that was reported on the Tuesday 09/07/2019. Also there has been three reports of theft from motor vehicles: Saturday 06/07/2019 - Long Lane Bexleyheath number plates stolen from vehicle; Wednesday 03/07/2019 – Bexleyheath Marriott Hotel – Catalytic converter stolen from vehicle stolen at about 1250hrs; Wednesday 03/07/2019 – Sainsbury's Car Park Broadway Bexleyheath – number plate and catalytic converter stolen from vehicle. A purse was reported stolen on Friday 05/07/2019 between 1300hrs-1415hrs. Purse was taken from victims handbag in the M and S store Bexleyheath. Also on the Saturday 06/07/2019 between 1245hrs and 1315hrs – Victim was pick pocketed along the Broadway and mobile phone was stolen. 13 youths have been stopped and searched around the ward and two have been dealt with for possession of cannabis. The team regularly conduct patrols along drug hot spot areas and ASB areas on the ward and conduct regular stops and searches where necessary". Crayford ward:- "No burglaries to report. The biggest crime generator on the ward this week has been motor vehicle crime with 5 theft from motor vehicle and 2 theft of motor vehicle. Theft from motor vehicle at Hall Place on Wednesday 3rd July; Theft from motor vehicle in Perry Street on Saturday 6th July; Theft of motor vehicle from Crayford Way on Saturday 6th July; A catalytic convertor was taken from a vehicle overnight of Friday 5th July in Tanners Close; A vehicle was stolen from Tower retail park on Sunday 7th July; Theft from motor vehicle on 8th July outside Bookers Cash and Carry in Thames Road. And finally a theft from motor vehicle on Wednesday 10th July at Hall Place, Bourne Road. Officers continue to patrol drug hot spot areas carrying out stop and searches, recently completing several positive searches. One of these after a foot chase in Marden Crescent. The same officers have also recovered two stolen mopeds over the last week. Crayford officers also assisted housing officers in preventing a breach of the peace while evicting a squatter before boarding premises".


Erith ward:- "Police seized a vehicle for being driven with no insurance, residents complained about the noise it was making and the poor manner of driving so we took action. We attended a Recruitment day in Erith town centre on Wednesday hopefully there will be more of these (See image above) Dates for your Dairies: Erith community fun day St Fidelis Road Saturday 20th July 11am/3pm. CCS Costa Coffee Erith Wednesday 17th 4pm". Northumberland Heath ward - no report received this week. Slade Green and Northend ward:- "This week is a good news weekly update as there are no significant crimes to report on our ward. On Monday 08/07/2019 PCSO Mark and PCSO Adam from Erith SNT attended Erith Sports Centre, where Peareswood School and the other schools in the Woodland Academy held a “Race for Life” event in aid of Cancer UK. All year groups from years 3 to 6 from all 3 schools did one and a half laps (600m) of the track and everyone should be commended for their efforts on the day. On Tuesday 09/07/2019 PCSO Mark attended St Pauls school to speak with years 5 and 6 about behaviour in and out of school. From September the school will have regular visits from Mark to carry on engagement with the pupils (this is already happening at Peareswood School). After attending the school, Mark then attended the “Welcome Café” at St Augustines Church for tea and cake with local residents, Vicar Jim Bennett and church staff. The café is open to all from 11am until 2pm every Tuesday with lunch served from 1230. On Wednesday 10/07/2019 Mark was asked by PCSO Lorraine from Northumberland Heath SNT to join her at Jacqueline's Gems nursery in Stelling Road on Northumberland Heath ward to have a chat with all the pre school children about our role in the community. A great time was had by all with the children posing for pictures wearing our hats and pretending to use our radios. Proactive patrols are regularly taking place across the ward with PC's Mark and James regularly seen out and about on their pushbikes. We are aware of several cars that are driving in an anti social manner in recent weeks with “drifting” and wheel spins reported across our ward and Erith Town Centre. 3 vehicles are being investigated with one already seized by Erith SNT. If you do see anything relating to this or any other local issue, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our next CCS is on Saturday 20/07/2019 from 1000 hours in Forest Road café". Thamesmead East ward:- "Burglary - Sydney Road Saturday 6/7/19 between 10am – 10:30pm Victim reported unknown suspect/s have forced entry to bedroom door, no damage seen. A tidy search with draws being disturbed and items taken from within. Vehicle crime - Lensbury Way Wednesday 3/7/19 Victim tried to unlocked van and noticed the lock had been tampered with. Victim was unable to unlock the vehicle with the key. On Sunday 7/7/19 suspect stated the vehicle would not drive over 15mph. A mechanic informed the victim suspect/s have cut 3 inches of a sensor lead from underneath the vehicle. Sydney Road Thursday 4/7/19 between 3:30 – 10:30am 5/7/19 Victim reported unknown suspect/s have approached the vehicle and removed the catalytic convertor without permission or knowledge. Lensbury Way Saturday 6/7/19 between 9am – 5pm 7/7/19 Victim left vehicle locked in a parking bay. The vehicle was not drivable as needed a new engine. When victim returned to vehicle at 5pm on Sunday 7/7/19 at 5pm it was no longer parked at the location. No evidence of broken glass and victim is still in possession of the keys. A neighbour told the victim that they had seen a low loader truck near the vehicle but the time is unknown. However the neighbour did not see any suspect/s and did not see the vehicle being placed on the truck. Southmere Drive Saturday 6/7/19 between 6pm – 11am 7/7/19 Victims vehicle windscreen has been smashed by suspect/s unknown, unsure at present if anything removed. Kale Road Sunday 7/7/19 between midnight – 4am Monday morning Victim reports vehicle's exhaust and Catalytic Converter had been cut out from underneath car. Leatherbottle Green Sunday 7/7/19 between 10:30pm – 5:37am Sunday Victim's vehicle broken into. Ipad in Gucci case and loose change taken by suspect/s unknown. Yarnton Way Sunday 7/7/19 between 7pm – 8:35 Monday victim reported vehicle broken into Satnav and loose change removed by suspect/s unknown. Hinksey Path Monday 8/7/19 between 8pm – 5am Tuesday 9/7/19 victim reports front passenger side window smashed, seems suspect/s have leant inside vehicle. Tavy Bridge Wednesday 10/7/19 between 4pm - 8:30am 11/7/19 Victim reported that unknown suspect/s have gained entry to vehicle and stolen property from within, no signs of forced entry. Vehicle was parked in the resident's car park that has a security gate. Victim is concerned as suspect/s now have a fob for the gate. Good News: A Street A Week was held in Sydney Road and we were happy to see several residents come along. Any issues were discussed and some residents were interested in our Weekly Crime Update. If you are interested please email the team and ask to be added to our list". West Heath ward:- "One theft from motor vehicle in Pembury Road. The victim discovered his car ransacked on Tuesday July 2nd. This is the second incident of this nature in Pembury Road over the last week. PCSO Reid held at street briefing last Saturday in Pembury Road and spoke to a number of residents regarding their concerns. A moped was stolen from Bedonwell Road on Sunday July 7th between 06.30 – 07.30. The vehicle was later found near Streamway but had sustained damage. On Monday July 8th a vehicle was stolen from an address in Glenview. The suspect made off with the vehicle having taken it for a test drive. The vehicle was later found in Ramsden Road Erith. It is not known at this stage if the vehicle was damaged when found. A blue Yamaha bike was stolen from the driveway of a property in Lansdowne Avenue on Tuesday July 9th between 00.30 – 0035am. The vehicle had a disc lock on it and it is not known how the lock was cut off. Several males were seen on the victim's driveway at the time of the incident. The team, along with our colleagues from Crook log, arrested a Male last Thursday in Darenth Road for possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and for being in possession of a machete".

The end video this week comes from American firearms historian Ian McCollum, who examines the rather chequered history of a Maxim machine gun that was manufactured in Hiram Maxim's factory in Fraser Road Erith, and was then sold to the Russians, only for it to be captured by the Germans during the First World War, and subsequently modified for their own use. Leave a comment below, or alternatively you can Email me with comments to hugh.neal@gmail.com