Sunday, July 19, 2020

14th birthday.

The two photos above - click on either for a larger view - show the progress of construction on the former Belvedere Police Station site, on the corner of Woolwich Road and Nuxley Road in Upper Belvedere. The development is to include a number of apartments, and the site, originally run by a commercial developer is now owned by Moat Housing Association. The formal decision to close the Police station and sell it off was started back in 2013. The document which proposed the closure of Belvedere Police Station states:- "In 2013 MOPAC carried out extensive consultation on both the draft Police and Crime Plan 2013-16 and the proposed local police estate and public access.  In respect of Bexley this highlighted that Belvedere Police Station was not suitable to be retained in the longer term as it did not meet operational requirements. The site was to be retained until alternative accommodation for both the operational teams and the contact point could be provided. Operational teams currently in Belvedere Police Station will be re-located between Pier Road in Erith and Bexleyheath Police Station. More agile working practices and an element of investment is necessary to achieve this arrangement. The Contact Point is proposed to be re-located to Asda in lower Belvedere. Upon the above re-locations the Belvedere Police Station will be disposed of. The sale of Belvedere Police Station will generate a capital receipt which will be used to support the MOPAC/MPS Capital Programme. The disposal will also generate annual revenue savings of £83,000. The investment to achieve the change is estimated at £8,000, and will be met from within existing MPS budgets. The report confirms the recommended option represents the best option that will support the delivery of a leaner estate which is lower in cost to run and is fit for purpose complying with modern standards, and will therefore assist MOPAC securing the maintenance of the Metropolitan Police Force, and ensure that it is efficient and effective, as required under Section 3(6) of the Act". In essence, Belvedere Police Station was shut and sold off to save the Metropolitan Police just £91,000 a year - only a little more than is paid to employ a single Chief Superintendent.

This Sunday marks the fourteenth anniversary of the first edition of the blog; since the Maggot Sandwich began back in July 2006. In all of the fourteen years I have never missed a single weekly publication. It has evolved quite scarily over the intervening years, and to be honest seems to have taken a life of its own. I spend a great deal of my spare time working on the Maggot Sandwich – I would estimate that an average weekly update takes around ten hours to research, write, edit and publish. One of the things that takes the longest to do is not the physical writing (I am lucky that once I have an idea,  I find the process of putting it into prose fairly straightforward), it is the embedded links that take an age to add. I am fortunate that I often have guest writers to share the work, and then I act as an editor cum content approver. Quite often I have stories for several weeks before they are published – for example I have rough outlines for the next three issues – it has become like producing an online magazine nowadays – which I suppose is what it is. I have been questioned as to why I don’t take advertising; well  the reason is simple. I am unbiased and impartial; if I took advertising I could end up with a conflict of interest between me and my advertisers. On top of that, I don’t like websites that are plastered with adverts, and I doubt that many of my readers do either.

Transport for London have issued an update on the situation with London buses under the current Covid-19 restrictions:-"All London buses are now taking payments after enhanced safety measures were installed across the fleet to protect drivers and customers from coronavirus. Customers are now required to touch in with Oyster, contactless or concessionary cards on all buses, entering through the front doors on most buses as we return to traditional front-door boarding. Temporary bus capacity limits have now been increased in line with the Government's latest social distancing guidance. Double-decker buses now carry up to 30 passengers, while single-deckers can carry either 11 or 14 passengers depending on their size. Signs on buses clearly mark these new passenger limits, and bus drivers can allow more passengers on board if they are travelling in household groups. A huge range of cleaning and hygiene measures have been introduced across the transport network to make it cleaner than ever before. This includes all regular 'touch point' areas such as poles and doors, being wiped down with strong disinfectant every day, and the use of additional hospital grade cleaning substances". Incidentally, despite the rule that all bus passengers have to wear a face mask, I have found that on both the 99 and 229 bus routes on several recent occasions, that very few people seem to take notice of the rule, and the bus drivers are most certainly not enforcing it. On Saturday morning I took a trip on the 99 bus from Erith to Upper Belvedere - of the 12 people on the bus, only one person other than myself was wearing a mask properly; a couple had masks on, but around their chin and not covering their mouth or nostrils, and the remainder had no mask on at all. I had a very similar experience on the 229 bus from Lower Belvedere to Erith later in the afternoon. Have you travelled by local bus recently? What were your experiences? Email me in confidence to

The photo above dates back to 1920; it shows shrimp fishermen employed by William Gilder, the fishmonger who had a shop in Erith High Street, directly opposite the wooden jetty that is still there today. The distinguished chap in the Fedora hat the helm of the vessel is Mr. Gilder himself; I am not sure if he regularly went out on shrimping trips, or if this was a special occasion that merited a commemorative photograph. I was surprised when I came across the photo; I knew that the River Thames off Erith was a rich source of Lemon Sole, Dabs and Eels, but I did not know that it had been a historic source of shrimps. What is somewhat troubling is that back then, raw sewage was pumped into the Thames from Crossness Sewage Works. Shrimps and Prawns get their nutrients from filtering the water they swim in, and any noxious substances tend to get concentrated in their bodies as a consequence.  This would have made eating Erith caught shrimps a bit of a lottery regarding whether they would give you food poisoning or not; I guess that people’s constitutions were a bit more hardy back then; personally I would have avoided local shellfish just to be on the safe side.

Last week I featured a photograph of a local mystery house and asked readers where they thought it was located. I had a number of replies, including very surprisingly, one from the actual house owner, who turns out not only to be a regular Maggot Sandwich reader, but also an occasional contributor. They write:- "My husband and I are the current owners of the hidden gem off of Crescent Road, the aptly named Crescent Cottage. We were fortunate enough to find this unique Victorian detached home back in 2015 and have loved every minute of our time here. While we know very little definitive information about it, there are certain architectural touches and a location that give us some clues as to when and why it was built. From the cottage, which is surrounded by the gardens of Crescent Road, we can see that it looks like a road used to pass the house behind Manor Road, now blocked off by number 1 and 2 and the cottage at 1a on Crescent Road. Drawing a path through the now extended gardens off of Manor road, we can put a path directly through to where the old school would be 10 years later. Perhaps the house was related to what was there before the school? There’s a lot of unknowns, as the OS maps before about 1891 don’t show any details of the houses on the Manor Road/Crescent Road plot. We do know that the houses on Crescent Road, Stansted Cottages in particular, have the date of 1867, and the houses on Manor Road are dated 1865. We can say with some certainty that the Cottage was likely built at the same time and yet is very different to everything else of its age. Truly an interesting mystery. None of the floors are horizontal, none of the angles are 90 degrees, none of the walls are vertical, the house is the very definition of a character house. Its kitchen is pentagonal, the chimney runs through the centre of the house, and the stairs run up the back. It’s completely unique. Sitting away from the road, it’s quiet, hidden, and beautiful. And I’m so very happy we have been a part of its life. We’ve owned the Cottage for 5 years now, and have tried very hard to make it as lovely as possible, putting double glazed sash windows and a wooden stable door in, plus a contemporary country kitchen. We’re unlikely to find anything like this anywhere else, but it’s time for us to say goodbye. We’ll be going onto the market in the week ahead, and hope its new owners love the place as we have. It’s a small and hidden example of Erith’s historical houses, and I’m so very grateful for this opportunity to write about it on the blog!" Fascinating stuff - and a real piece of local hidden history. I look forward to seeing when Crescent Cottage is advertised for sale - you heard it first here. 

A significant percentage of the UK population seemingly conduct their entire lives via their mobile phone. The danger of this is if the device is compromised – bank details, credit card numbers, personal photos, contactless payment keys, and pretty much everything else that forms part of your digital identity is vulnerable to theft. Physical theft is one thing – if a thief gets your phone and is able to unlock it, you may lose some information; the difference is that you will most likely be aware that you no longer have your mobile phone, and will be able to alert your network provider / bank / credit card company that your details need to be blocked and new ones issued. What is far more pernicious is the far more subtle “man in the middle” attack. This is where a third party is able to intercept and decrypt your voice and data transmissions without your knowledge. This might sound a bit like a “tin foil hat” conspiracy, but it occurs on a regular basis; American technical magazine “Popular Science” has featured an article which lifts the lid on “Interceptor towers” – fake mobile phone base stations which snoop on mobile phone traffic. They have identified a total of seventeen such towers across the USA, mostly located in close proximity to military bases and financial institutions, and other high value targets. It is unclear if the US intelligence community is behind these sites, or if they are being operated by an external intelligence organisation. If such interceptor towers exist in America, it is almost certain that they will also exist in Britain and mainland Europe. Interceptors vary widely in expense and sophistication – but in a nutshell, they are radio-equipped computers with software that can use obscure cellular telephone network protocols and defeat the onboard encryption. At the lower end of the scale, a PC loaded with a set of GSM rainbow tables and equipped with a £10 USB TV tuner could work as a crude snooping device; at the top end, a really sophisticated interceptor can cost in excess of £100,000 and only be available to governments. Whether your phone uses Android or iOS, it also has a second operating system that runs on a part of the phone called a Baseband processor. The Baseband processor functions as a communications middleman between the phone’s main operating system and the mobile phone towers and the wider phone infrastructure. Because chip manufacturers jealously guard details about the baseband O.S., it has been too challenging a target for common or garden-variety hackers. If you can control the Baseband operating system, you can control the whole phone, irrespective of the security features of the overlying Android or iOS operating system. Some interceptors are limited, only able to passively listen to either outgoing or incoming calls. But full-featured devices like the VME Dominator, available only to government agencies, can not only capture calls and texts, but even actively control the phone, sending out spoof texts, for example. Edward Snowden revealed that the N.S.A. is capable of an over-the-air attack that tells the phone to fake a shut-down while leaving the microphone running, turning the seemingly deactivated phone into a bug. Various ethical hackers have demonstrated DIY interceptor projects, using a software programmable radio and the open-source base station software package OpenBTS – this creates a basic interceptor for less than $3,000. One can sometimes tell if a mobile device is being snooped on by an interceptor, especially if the interceptor is an older, less sophisticated spying device. One may notice that a previously strong 4G / 5G signal is replaced by a 2G one – this is because the interceptor is telling your phone to switch to the older, far slower and easier to decrypt in real time technical standard, basically to make it easier for itself. More sophisticated interceptors instruct the phone to display a 4G signal, even though they have switched down to 2G. The only way to prevent intrusion is to use a special, security hardened mobile phone such as the GSMK Cryptophone range. The Cryptophone is an Android based smartphone with over 450 upgrades and changes over standard Android to radically improve device security; it also has a patented baseband processor with its own firewall, and cutting edge hardware based voice and data encryption. In a demonstration, a car containing a standard Android phone, an Apple iPhone and a GSMK Cryptophone was driven past a military base in Nevada which is known to be home to a very sophisticated interceptor tower. The iPhone and bog standard Android phone acted as if nothing had happened, but the Cryptophone lit up like a Christmas tree with warnings that attempts to compromise it were being made. The downside to using crypto phones is the cost (about £3,000 per handset) and the fact that both parties on the conversation need to be using them. For heads of industry, government officials and intelligence operatives, the cost may be a small price to pay for secure communications. Having said that, it has been widely reported in the press that another rival cryptophone system, called EncroChat, which was being primarily used by organised criminals, has been penetrated by the French security service, and several hundred serious criminals have been arrested as a direct result. It strikes me that any encrypted system can and will be cracked if national cryptographic agencies such as the NSA or GCHQ get interested in them. EncroChat was a direct example of this. What do you think? Email me at

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "We are pleased to report there have been no burglaries on the ward over the past week, In fact there have been no burglaries so far this month which is great news. There's more good news around vehicle crime too, we have had no reports of any kind over the last week. Police have been patrolling areas where residents have raised concerns. Barnehurst open space/Golf Course is regularly patrolled following the Incident of a male exposing himself however there have been no further Incidents of this nature on Barnehurst. In Defoe Close we received reports of a male acting suspiciously in an alley way. The male has been seen here over the last few weeks. We advise anyone to call Police Immediately when this male is seen so we can establish why and what he is doing here. Patrols are also continuing around the rear alleys of Parkside Avenue even though the issue of vehicles driving dangerously in the area appears to have stopped. Officers on the team have carried out five stop and searches on the open space of the Golf Course over the past week. These stops have all been drug related and were dealt with accordingly". Belvedere ward:-"We have had reports of a dark coloured car pulling into Flaxman Court, Hoddesdon Road sometime between 15:00 and 18:00. The car parks and a male walks up to the car from the direction of Grosvenor Road. It is suspected that the male is buying drugs from the occupants of the car. If this is seen please contact the team with any information (descriptions of the people involved, details of the car, make, model, index) but obviously never put yourself at risk. There have also been reports of drug dealing in Roberts Road, in the afternoons. Recently a dark BMW has been seen and the occupants deal drugs while parked at the location. Seen a couple of times but also other vehicles prior to this. Any information please let us know. A nuisance male has been reported in Corals, Picardy Street. He has been banned but keeps returning and being a nuisance. We will be making contact with the staff to try and identify this male. Reports of ASB from school children on Nuxley Road. We are now aware of this issue and will patrol when able to deter this nuisance". Bexleyheath ward:- "Between Thursday 11/06/20 1200 and Monday 6/07/20 1200 Burglary Chapel Road male clothing stolen entry gained via smashed window to side of front door. Wednesday 8/07/20 1600 Theft From Person Cash Machine Outside Halifax on Broadway – Victim was distracted by suspects stating machine not working, 15 minutes later a cash withdrawal was made from the account. Thursday 9/07/20 1430 – 1530 Theft of Purse Stolen from bag whilst victim was shopping in Primark Broadway. Between Thursday 9/07/20 1730 –-and Friday 10/07/20 1315 Criminal Damage to Vehicle parked in Sevenoaks Close. Sunday 12/07/20 1430 – 1515 Theft of Motor Vehicle Long Lane. Motor bike stolen. It appears that the purse thieves and distraction thieves are back on the Broadway, please revisit personal safety with family and friends. Generally these people operate in groups and they are very quick. An over shoulder bag for a lady is safer as it can be in front of the lady to keep an eye on. Try and use cash machines inside the Banks or go with friends/family to withdraw money if you must. Try and use card payments to reduce risk when taking money out of cash machines". Crayford ward:"I am really pleased to say there have been no burglaries reported in Crayford this week. On the 8th July at 17.55 an black electric Range bike was stolen from the junction of Maiden Lane junction with Barnes Cray Road. It was distinctive as it had a chair wrapped around it in a loop. The victim had asked two youths to assist him as he had a puncture but they ran away taking the bike with them. On Saturday 11th July at 10.45 the catalytic converter was stolen from a red Honda whilst parked near the Click and Collect at Sainsburys. On the same day and also at Sainsburys a catalytic converter was stolen from a dark blue Honda CRV between 9.45 and 12.30. Between 00.01 on Saturday 11th July and 13.45 and Sunday 12th July the catalytic converter was stolen off a Vauxhall Astra whilst parked in Wolsley Close. The precious metal in catalytic converters has led to an increase in their theft. Consider asking your car dealer if they can give you any advice on locks or guards that are approved by the vehicle manufacturer. It is also possible to mark catalytic converters with a forensic marker which will make it harder for thieves to dispose of. Please visit Secured by Design for more information. Number plates WR14LKV were stolen from a black Audi A3 whilst parked at Town Hall Square between Sunday 12th and Tuesday 14th July. A male was arrested after exposing himself in Old Road on Tuesday 14th July at 13.00. The team have been out and about patrolling Crayford on every shift. We have become aware of an emerging group of youths causing issues around the town centre, on Tuesday 14th July several were stopped and searched and their details taken. There will be visits to their parents and referrals for anti-social behaviour intervention in the coming days". Erith ward:-"We have a new PC on Erith George Beakhurst who is taken over from PC Dan Young, Dan has been on Erith a number of years and before that was on Northumberland Heath. Dan is moving borough to work closer to home, Dan will be leaving mid-August. Crimes of note for the last week. No Burglaries. Saturday 13/07/2020 - Theft of motor vehicle – Church Manorway. Friday 12/07/2020 - Theft of Motor Vehicle – Riverdale Road. We have been carried out visits to a few addresses regarding neighbour disputes also working alongside Bexley community safety and Erith Councillors". Northumberland Heath ward:- "Theft of number plates stolen from a Ford Transit registration NJ14XZH on Broadoak Road. On Saturday 11/07/20 at 0334 hrs Police were called to Cookson Grove, Erith by a member of the public reporting that there were two males that had broken into a few garages . The witness was able to point out both males in the local area which resulted in both suspects being arrested. Unfortunately there was a burglary on Brook Street. Three males seen leaving at the back of the property with a bottle of vodka, a coat, I-Pad in the males hands. The suspects had gain entry through the back door. Some Positive News PC ALI SUAT is currently at Court today with a closure application for a HMO property on Northumberland Park. Update will follow next week". Slade Green and Northend ward:-"An attempted burglary took place in Hamilton Walk overnight between Saturday 11 and Sunday 12th July. Entry wasn't gained but enquiries are being made. There were many reports to us last week about off road bikes in Craydene Open Space. PC James patrolled on Friday afternoon and stopped 2 males who were just unloading their bikes off of a van. They were given strong words of advice and moved on. Since then we haven't had any further reports". Thamesmead East ward:-"On Wednesday 08/07/20 between the hours of 2:00pm and 4:20pm number plates were stolen from a vehicle parked in Lensbury Way. Overnight of Thursday 09/07/20 and Friday 10/07/20 the front and rear number plates were stolen from a vehicle parked outside Buckwheat Court Holstein Way. Seacourt Road - A van locked and secure had small holes drilled in the door and a number of tools were stolen total value approximately £8000.this incident happened between the hours of 05:00am on Friday 10/07/20 and 8:00am on Monday 13/07/20. Between the hours of 10; 40 pm and 11; 40 pm on Sunday 12/07/20 a vehicle parked in Kale Road had a window smashed and property was stolen. Tuesday 14/07/20 just after midnight the rear small driver's side window was smashed, the vehicle alarm sounded suspect/s made off. On Wednesday 15/07/20 at 2:10am, a vehicle parked in Overton Road had a window smashed and a vehicle wheel was stolen. The suspects were on a motor cycle". West Heath ward:-"There are no reported burglaries on West Heath ward from Wednesday 8/07/2020 to Monday 13/07/2020. There was however, a theft from motor vehicle on Saturday 11/07/2020. The informant parked his vehicle a grey VW Sharan on Milford Close SE2 on Friday 10/07/2020 at 1730 hours secured, but discovered that on Saturday 11/07/20 at 1200 hours, valuable items and cash including the informant's driving licence had been stolen".

The use of double-decker carriages, where feasible, can resolve capacity problems on a railway, avoiding other options which have an associated infrastructure cost such as longer trains (which require longer station platforms), more trains per hour (which the signalling or safety requirements may not allow) or adding extra tracks besides the existing line. Double decker (sometimes referred to as bilevel) trains are claimed to be more energy efficient, and may have a lower operating cost per passenger. A bilevel car may carry about twice as many as a normal car, without requiring double the weight to pull or material to build. However, a bilevel train may take longer to exchange passengers at each station, since more people will enter and exit from each car, and they are accordingly most popular on long-distance routes which make few stops (and may be popular with passengers for offering a better view). It may surprise you to know that double decker trains actually ran locally for quite some time - between November 1949 and October 1971 on the Dartford via Bexleyheath to Cannon Street line. The arrangement of two levels of seating was interesting, for the existing loading gauge precluded development of a double-decker unit in its true sense. Essentially, a ‘’one-and-a-half’’ decker unit had been proposed, which featured alternating high and low seating compartments along the length of each vehicle. Each of the four coach units carried twenty two high level and twenty four low level seats, a total of 508, with additional tip up seats at the ends of the upper level. This was a total of 1,104 seats on the train, normal trains had 772 seats. Access to the upper deck was via a short staircase. Ventilation of the upper deck was by constantly running electric fans, as the windows couldn't be opened. The train was higher than other trains so care had to be taken which routes to use it on. The Dartford routes were ideal and no alteration had to be made to the  track and bridges. Bearing in mind many people smoked on trains back then, the fug on the upper deck must have been terrible, especially in summer. The other problems with the double decker train was that the seats were cramped, hard and uncomfortable, and the time taken to get on and off the double decker carriages was significantly longer than with a conventional train. The double decker train was finally taken out of service on the 1st October 1971, and was scrapped. You can learn more about the Kent double decker train by clicking here. The end video features footage of the double decker trains from when they were in service. Email me at

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