Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nonexistent Nuxley Village.

Erith has certainly had its share of press attention this week, not least on Monday, when a suspect package was discovered in Pembroke Road, adjacent to the railway line. Train services were stopped, and the Police and emergency services summoned. Eventually the package was found to not be a bomb, and the line re – opened; train disruption continued for several hours, as services were misplaced. Obviously the authorities had to err on the side of caution when dealing with the suspect package, but a few questions still need to be asked. Who found the package, and why was a bomb suspected? I lack the detailed background knowledge to fully understand the circumstances, but it does seem rather unlikely that ISIS or Al Qaeda would target Erith over a more high profile target in central London. Still it is reassuring to know that the authorities are on their toes when it comes to potential local threats.

According to the online resource the Rightmove Rental Tracker, Erith and Belvedere are the cheapest places to rent property in Greater London. Average prices for two-bedroom flats are £1,013 and £1,064 a month respectively, almost half the London average, yet direct train services reach London Bridge station within 40 minutes. Belvedere sits one stop further up the line, which also stops at Abbey Wood, Plumstead and Woolwich, an area set to gain high-speed Crossrail links from 2018. With rents rising by up to 21 per cent in some parts of the capital in the past year alone, it is no surprise that the most affordable areas also are becoming the most in-demand among renters. The Rightmove report refers to Erith as “little known”, and “North East of Bexleyheath and North West of Dartford”. It makes Erith sound like it is halfway up the Zambezi – the survey is obviously conducted by estate agents unfamiliar with the area. This is not unusual, as I have previously covered; A lot of people, some long – time local residents included, who call Nuxley Road in Upper Belvedere “Nuxley Village” – even though no such place has ever existed since the beginning of recorded time. The origin of the names of the  places in the local area, and some of the surrounding landmarks dates back to the early fifteenth century, and the name Belvedere even earlier. The area of Bedonwell gets its name from the Bedon stream, which runs through what is now known as Streamway; the Bedon is a minor tributary of the River Thames, which is now run through an underground drain for much of its length. A fifteenth century form of the name was Beton Well, meaning “praying well”. The exact origin is lost in the mists of time, though the old English word “bydan” meaning a shallow valley may have something to do with it. On the South side of the stream was a further area of open heath land, called Nuxley or Little Heath, which occupied an area around what was later Bedonwell Primary School (and is now a Doctor’s surgery and private flats). The name Nuxley was sometimes spelled Naxley, which in turn is a corruption of Knocksley, meaning a small hill. Nuxley Road was originally named Bexley Road, until March 1939 when it was renamed as Nuxley Road, which it remains to date. There is no record of Upper Belvedere ever having been named Nuxley Village, and parish records for the area date back to 1235 AD, and survived the reformation, when ownership of the parish was transferred from Lesnes Abbey to the owners of Parsonage Farm (on what is now Parsonage Manor Way). During the late 19th century, Parsonage Farm was owned by the Vinson family, who were at the time rich and powerful enough to issue their own trade tokens (a kind of informal local currency). There are records that beer houses such as the Fox, and full pubs such as the Eardley Arms took trade tokens for payment for food and drink until sometime around 1900. The farm buildings, which were  constructed in the Middle Ages (principally to provide food and drink for Abbot and Monks at Lesnes Abbey) lasted until the end of WWII, when it was used to house an auxiliary fire station. After the war the building was so derelict it was demolished. Thus, the name “Nuxley Village” is a construct – a fictional creation of local estate agents who have no knowledge of the history of the area. Upper Belvedere has been so called for at least the last 781 years, and the thoughtless action of a handful of ignorant house peddlers is not going to change facts any time soon.

A report last week in the New York Times poses serious questions about the long held belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It turns out that the idea is the result of spin over the years by breakfast cereal companies and others. skipping  breakfast can allegedly lead to weight gain, a sluggish metabolism, or stress. According to a new piece in The New York Times however, our beliefs about breakfast are all based on "misinterpreted research and biased studies"–propaganda, basically. Author Aaron E. Carroll notes that almost all breakfast studies suffer from a "publication bias." There are flaws in reporting of studies that skew findings to link skipping breakfast with causing obesity. Carroll writes: "The reports improperly used causal language to describe their results. They misleadingly cited other's results. And they also improperly used causal language in citing others' results. People believe, and want you to believe, that skipping breakfast is bad. Additionally, there are usually conflicts of interest behind the studies, considering most of them are funded by the food industry. The Quaker Oats Centre of Excellence, for instance, paid for a trial that concluded eating oatmeal or frosted cornflakes reduces weight and cholesterol. People are conditioned from a young age to believe that breakfast is essential to performance. It turns out that's because most of the research geared toward kids is meant to evaluate the impact of school breakfast programmes. They don't take into consideration that 15 million children in the U.S. go hungry at home–of course they would do better in school if they eat". That isn't the same, though, as testing whether children who are already well nourished and don't want breakfast should be forced to eat it," Carroll writes. Overall, you should just go with your gut. If you're hungry in the morning, eat. If you're not, don't think you're sinning by skipping it. Finally, approach all studies skeptically – Carroll put it best: "Breakfast has no mystical powers."

Yet another serious incident on Erith Pier has caused the Gravesend Lifeboat to be called out. Even at maximum speed, the lifeboat takes quite some time to travel Westwards from Gravesend; several times when it was been called to Erith, it has been in relatively close proximity whilst on patrol. The most recent incident happened at around 4am on Sunday morning, where a man was reported to be hanging off a ladder on the far end of Erith Pier. The RNLI and Police were called, and the man was rescued. To my mind, this once again shows that we need a fully staffed lifeboat sub – station in Erith. As I have written before, Erith is approximately equidistant between Gravesend and London Bridge – the two locations of the nearest lifeboat stations, which means potentially it is the point furthest from a rescue service in the event of a river emergency. The RNLI are getting call – outs to Erith every other week at present. Thus far the recent emergencies have all reached positive conclusions, but it is only a matter of time before we have a fatality. Erith Pier already has a plaque fixed to the wall of the building at the far end. This commemorates the young man who ended his life by throwing himself into the river back in 2011. I am writing to the RNLI to see if any consideration has been given to a substation at Erith. As I have previously mentioned, the old Port of London Authority office adjacent to the wooden jetty on the river front would make an ideal substation – it has power and water, and enough space for four people to stay whilst on call. The lifeboat could be moored at the end of the jetty. What do you think? Does the level of river – related emergencies justify the expense of an RNLI substation? Another emergency happened in the outskirts of the town on Sunday. A number of ambulances and other emergency vehicles raced along Manor Road, heading in the direction of Erith Yacht Club at around half past three in the afternoon. A biker had crashed, and in the process had suffered head injuries. It turned out that he had been illegally riding on the marshes. For some unknown reason a lot of local bikers have the erroneous idea that off – road biking is permitted on Slade Green Marshes, when in fact it is specifically forbidden, and the Police have successfully prosecuted individuals for doing this in the past. Slade Green Marshes are an area of outstanding scientific interest, being the home to a number of rare and protected plants and small animals. Biking on the marshes, as well as being noisy, inconsiderate and polluting, causes erosion to the footpaths and damage to the flora adjacent to the pathways. I don’t know the specifics of the biker involved in the accident last Sunday, so I will not comment further. Slade Green Marshes were the location of a large explosion back in 1924 – here is a contemporary press account of the disaster:- February 19th: "The Slade Green Filling Factory, situated midway between Erith and Dartford on Crayford Marshes, was the scene of a terrible disaster yesterday in which eleven girls and a foreman lost their lives. Between 8.45 and 9 o'clock the girls were at their work breaking open Verey light cartridges and extracting powder. Suddenly there was a flash and in a moment that building ? of brick and corrugated iron ? was an inferno of smoke and fire. As the fire reached the cartridges they exploded, appearing like stars among the smoke. Eleven of the eighteen girls were trapped by the fire. Miss Charlotte Coshall, the forewoman and seven of the remaining girls managed to get out of the building, some with their clothes alight. The awful suddenness of the catastrophe and the smoke and fumes prevented any possible chance of rescue. The Slade Green Filling Factory was originally munition works under Government control but more recently has been used by Messrs WB. Gilbert Ltd for the breaking down of munitions. The factory consists of a number of buildings, all separate from each other and reached from Slade Green by a narrow winding road over the marshes. Close to it on the Erith side are the Thames Ammunition works. Some of those who escaped turned back at once but, finding it impossible to reach the unfortunate girls inside, rushed towards the gates of the works screaming for help. One eye witness said the foreman who died had tried to lift a girl through the window but the heat and smoke were too great and he fell back. When help eventually arrived only one girl was alive, Miss Edna Allen, and she was terribly burned. She was taken to Erith Cottage Hospital but died during the night. The inquest will be opened at Crayford tomorrow (Wednesday) and a memorial service will be planned later".

The photo above was sent to me earlier this week by Maggot Sandwich reader, and occasional contributor Alan Magin. He was responding to the request I published last week for any information regarding the very early years of Thamesmead. Alan has exceeded my expectations. Alan describes the photo thusly:- "Photo shows me sitting astride a pre-stressed beam, with another about to be sited. It was a Saturday morning, l couldn't turn down a few hours overtime! It took me 10 months of travelling into London, from June 1968, with people fainting on the train in the heat of that hot summer, to make me realise I wanted out of the Rat-Race! I applied for a job with the construction company Holland Hannen and Cubitts Ltd. I was duly employed as a Junior Engineer/Chainman on the Civil Engineering side of things, (roads, sewers & bridges). Oh, by the way this is East Bridge on Yarnton Way in the summer of 1969. The site agents name Denis Counden, he is standing next to me wearing the trilby hat. The guy on the ground is the site manager Bill Monday, he is not saluting Mr. Hitler, but guiding the crane driver. The guy half-way up the ladder is Alan Rush a Civil Engineer, he designed and built the culvert (getting a BSc in the process) that runs under Alsike Rd, taking water away from the Sedgemere, Sydney Rd Estate that so often flooded back then! I was in construction until joining The London Fire Brigade in February 1974". Fascinating stuff - thanks very much for allowing me to publish it! The lack of any form of safety equipment such as hard hats, steel toe capped work boots, safety glasses and high visibility jackets really shows that things have changed since the photograph was taken. 

A real turnaround for catering in the local area - after woeful results only a couple of years ago, the following press release was published earlier this week:- "Bexley is now of one of the highest rated places to eat in London according to the latest national figures. Over 95% of food businesses in Bexley have food hygiene ratings of 3,4 and 5, which puts Bexley as the best in London, alongside Kensington and Chelsea. Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Environment and Leisure, Cllr Peter Craske said; “The variety of restaurants and places to eat is one of the reasons Bexley is a great place to live. Unseen by residents, our food safety team do a great job, inspecting premises and ensuring people can eat out in confidence. Our figures have improved massively over recent months thanks to changes in practice, a tougher stance on non-compliant businesses and an improved visit regime. I hope this will encourage everyone to continue to support our great restaurants, pubs and cafes.” Premises are encouraged to inform customers of their food safety hygiene rating. Look for the green sticker in the window of restaurants or takeaways or ask the proprietor what rating they have. Or use the Food Safety Hygiene app before you leave home". This is a real piece of positive progress. Only two years ago Bexley was at the very bottom of the pile as far as food hygiene was concerned - this reversal is extremely welcome news indeed. 

I think that pretty much everyone has heard of smart televisions, but did you know that smart radios also exist? Indeed, I recently bought a smart radio that you can see above. The Roberts 93i smart radio is a very good piece of kit; it receives analogue FM stereo broadcasts, DAB and DAB+ broadcasts, and also wirelessly connects to your broadband / fibre optic router to bring you thousands of Internet radio stations. It can also connect to Spotify and play audio files in multiple formats from a connected memory stick, or from a local music server. The sound quality is excellent (with my usual caveats about "old style" original DAB, as used by stations such as Planet Rock, which are only available in relatively low bitrate mono). Internet, DAB+ and FM sound quality is outstanding. You can read the What Hifi? Review of the Roberts 93i here. I highly recommend this radio.

Another radio - related discovery is the web based shortwave receiver - screen capture above. You can access this software defined interactive radio by clicking on the link here. The radio is simultaneously usable by several hundred people at a time - all listening to different frequencies. Give it a try - instructions are on the website. If you have never seen a waterfall display before, drag the on screen pointer to the areas with the white lines - that is where the strongest signals are. The online radio picks up all sorts of H.F signals - amateur radio operators, ships at sea, airliners on long distance journeys, military and clandestine numbers stations, and international shortwave broadcast stations - not to mention quite a few pirate broadcasters. Give the site a try and see what you think. Feel free to leave a comment below, or Email me at

I discovered an interesting historical fact this week. The huge, 219 metre (719 feet) tall antenna tower at Crystal Palace, that supplies TV and radio signals for a large part of London and the South East was designed and built by Erith based company British Insulated Callender's Construction Co Ltd (later known as BICC) with steelwork fabrication by Painter Brothers Ltd, Hereford, back in 1955. Much of the tower’s construction was prefabricated and test erected in sections in the Callender’s Erith works before it was pulled apart and transported to site for final erection. When completed in 1956, the tower was the tallest structure in Greater London, a title it held until the completion of the One Canada Square Tower in Canary Wharf back in 1991. The first transmission from Crystal Palace took place on 28 March 1956, when it succeeded the transmitter at Alexandra Palace where the BBC had started the world's first scheduled television service in November 1936. In November 1956 the first colour test transmissions began from Crystal Palace relaying live pictures from the studios at Alexandra Palace after BBC TV had closed down for the night. In May 1958 the first experimental Band V 625-line transmissions started from Crystal Palace. The transmitter tower holds another record, one that cannot be beaten. On 18 July 1986, with the First Night of the Proms on BBC2, the transmitter became the first in the world to transmit stereophonic sound using the NICAM digital sound system. On 2 December 2009, the site entered service as one of the first DVB-T2 transmitters in the world, carrying a variant of the BBC's Multiplex B broadcasting high-definition TV services. All of the analogue television services transmitted from the Crystal Palace tower were discontinued back in 2012; all TV signals are now from a digital multiplex. The only analogue output of the tower is now FM radio (BBC radios 1,2,3,and 4) a couple of independent local stations, along with some legacy services on Medium Wave. The historical connection that Callender’s had with the BBC back in the day was wider than merely being the constructor of the Crystal Palace transmitter tower. Callender’s had This was an amateur band, called The Callender’s Cableworks Band, which was active between 1898 and 1961, of which all members were employees of Callender's at Erith. They rehearsed and performed in their leisure time, while the company in its role of patron lent its name and supplied uniforms and instruments. The band broadcast prolifically on BBC Radio in the 1920s and 1930s. The Band was started in the 1890s as a Salvation Army brass band, but because they felt limited as to the types of music which they were permitted to play, they formed their own temperance band. However this caused difficulties in purchasing their own uniforms and instruments, so their employer, Callender's, stepped in as patron. From then on they were Callender's Cableworks Band under various forms of that name. They were always an amateur band, rehearsing and performing in their leisure time. The Senior Band had a high reputation, and in 1932 were described as the finest in the south of England. In 1929 Jim Thompson joined the band; later in 1939 he was to found the Belvedere Male Voice Choir. In 1932 the band consisted of all brass instruments, plus four saxophones. At the time they were the only brass band with saxophones. In competitions over the years they had 25 wins, 11 second places and 3 third places. By the end of 1932 the band had performed on radio a total of eighty times – something unprecedented at the time. The band finally disbanded in 1961 as members retired and few young volunteers could be found.

The end video this week was created by Maggot Sandwich reader and local Councillor Abena Oppong - Asare. It is a compilation of images from the "Our Erith" art exhibition that was held at Christ Church Erith on the weekend of the 13th - 15th May. See what you think, and either leave a comment below, or Email me at

No comments:

Post a Comment