Sunday, July 26, 2020

Crescent Cottage.

I took the photo above early last week; the ship in the picture was heading upriver, past Erith Pier. As I have written in the past, the view from the Riverside Gardens and the Pier offer the only place in the whole of the London Borough of Bexley where you can clearly see from horizon to horizon - the "Erith Big Sky" as I term it.  Click on the photo above for a larger view.

Following my article last week concerning the number of people who are not wearing face masks whilst travelling on public transport, I have had a lot of feedback on the subject from readers. Some of the messages read as follows. Reader Richard writes:-"I've found that the rule about the wearing of face masks on public transport is largely ignored and with no attempt by drivers to enforce it. The other day, I saw one woman on the bus, not wearing a mask, who sneezed into her hand then wiped all the snot down the hand rail as she got off. If she had been carrying the virus, she could have infected any number of people throughout the day as the bus wound its way round its route. Even if she wasn't carrying the virus, it's still a pretty disgusting thing to do". Reader Alison commented:- "I don’t use the local buses very much but I had a very similar experience on the DLR recently (Woolwich Arsenal to Canning Town). People were socially distancing, but in a carriage with seven people only two of us were wearing face masks. I don’t believe all the other five were exempt. Sadly public transport needs more policing as you can’t trust people to follow the rules". Other readers made similar comments, but asked for them not to be published, which I will always respect. It would seem that the face mask requirement on public transport is being widely flouted, and little if anything is being done about it by the authorities. 

Following my piece on the history of double decker trains in the local area last week, I have had a ton of reader feedback. It would seem that the double decker trains were mostly unloved, from the reader accounts that have been sent to me. Aside from this, at least one double decker train carriage would appear to still be in existence, as can be seen in the photo above - click on it to see a larger version - more on that later in this article. Firstly the memories of some local people who travelled in the double decker carriages. Here is an account from reader Richard, who writes:- "Those double-decker trains were a horror. One used to run on the Cannon Street to Dartford route via Greenwich when I was commuting in 1967. Everyone would groan when the thing turned up on the platform. The newsreel piece you showed on last week's blog didn't mention the fact that rush hour trains also carried a large number of passengers who didn't have a seat and had to crush in anyway. It made for a genuinely unpleasant experience traveling on one. The upper deck was a real nightmare, I never knew there was supposed to be a ventilation system, it certainly didn't feel like there was". Secondly reader Alan recalls:- "Great article and film of the double decker train, which was in use when I started work on the 1st July 1968, a weekly ticket to London was 15/- (shillings), and the article bought back vivid memories, unfortunately bad! It was a long hot summer in 1968. I boarded the train at Barnehurst, everything new to me, and looking forward to the next phase of my life. I had bought myself a three piece suit, (as one did back then). Not a good idea, but one conformed. Early morning temperatures were okay, but come the journey home, on the double decker, the 16.17 out of Charing Cross, temperatures were well into the 90’s, with people fainting inside of these trains! I lasted 10 months in the rat race!" Thanks to reader and transport enthusiast Dana Wiffen who brought some extra information about the local double decker trains to my attention earlier in the week. He recalls that:- "The double-decker train. In its final years of service I often caught it normally on platform 2 or 3 of Charing Cross Station at around 6pm. I travelled on it many times between 1970 to 1971, which was its final year of service. This experimental EMU-SR Class 4DD (designed by Oliver Bullied) came into service in September 1949 running on the Dartford to Charing Cross line mainly on the Bexleyheath Line. Only two sets of 4 carriages were built and their seating capacity was 552, really a split level train the half upper deck enabled additional passengers to sit but there was only small windows upstairs that did not open, the upstairs area was not popular especially in the summer. With additional weight, height and poor cornering these handsome looking trains managed to be kept in service until 1971, sadly only 2 carriages survive today and they seem to have been left and not looked after by the owners and working Heritage Railways have been reluctant to take them for use as passenger carriages because of the additional weight and height. The ventilation of the upper deck was by constantly running electric fans, because 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 smoke on the upper deck must have been terrible, especially in summer. The other problems with this double-decker train was that the seats were cramped, hard and uncomfortable on the upper level, and the time taken to get on and off from the carriages was significantly longer than with a conventional train. The reasons the double decker trains failed on local routes - Other European countries successfully run double-decker trains, but they are fully air conditioned, there is no smoking, and comfort is considerably better; they also tend to be deployed on long distance routes, rather than suburban "start and stop" journeys. My mother who had started a job in London when this train was introduced travelled to Charing Cross on it during it first year in service, I was lucky enough to also travel on it during it's last year of service and remember it well". Long time Blog reader Jeff recalls:- "I can remember travelling on a double decker train when returning from a school trip (pretty certain it was the Cutty Sark).  It was sixty years ago give or take so my memory is a bit hazy.  However, the trains may have been generally badly received but it was ideal for us.  It was a Junior school class (West Street) so no smoking; windows didn't open so no-one throwing things out; more children in each compartment so (I think) all children were supervised - we had Mr May, the headmaster; slow loading wasn't a problem, we all charged on to get a seat 'upstairs'.  I seem to remember we spent much of the way back swinging our legs so the backs of our shoes hit what would be the wall of the lower deck. It is quite possible that the compartments were reserved - I got the impression that the trip was well organised, we certainly marched to the station.   I note that in the link it says 'Naturally, there were no gangway connections between vehicles and no internal corridors. '  At the time I don't think any of the trains on the line had internal corridors".  If anyone else has memories of the ill fated double decker trains, then please drop me a line to

This month marks the 55th anniversary of the launch of the Post Office’s radiophone service in London. The technology was a precursor of the smartphones we use today. Radiophones - which were effectively two-way radios - first began appearing in automobiles after the Second World War, and they were available in the UK by the end of the 1950s. A GPO radiophone service was officially launched in London in July 1965, allowing subscribers to make and receive calls from any other cars connected to the system. These "pre-cellular" wireless systems were precursors of the cellular mobile technology in use today and are sometimes referred to as "0G" telephony. In recognition of that crucial moment in mobile history, we're taking a look back at various other significant milestones in the development of mobile phones, leading up to the dawn of the smartphone. 1920: Using a large handmade aerial made from stovepipe and board, radio enthusiast W.W. Macfarlane of Philadelphia was able to talk with his wife from a moving car 500ft away. His 'mystery' transceiver enabled speech to be transmitted and received. 1946: At the beginning of 1946, radiophone services began in the United States. Motorola produced mobile "car phones," as they came to be called. The phones weighed around 80lbs and had to be installed by a professional. 1959: In October 1959, the GPO introduced its radiophone service as a trial in the north of England. The first ever UK call was made by the Postmaster General, Reginald Bevins. After a trial period in the north, the service then made its way to London in 1965 with the first call being made in the capital by Prime Minister Harold Wilson. 1973: In April 1973, Motorola engineer Martin Cooper created the first handheld mobile phone, a hefty device measuring 11 inches in length and weighing 2.5lb. 1992: The world's very first smartphone was introduced in 1992. Featuring a variety of software applications, the IBM Simon Personal Communicator (pictured above - click on the image to see a larger view) was the first personal digital assistant (PDA) to include telephony features. Its battery only lasted one hour. IBM unleashed the ‘Simon’ onto the market. Aptly named due to its simplicity and ability to do anything, the Simon had a battery which lasted an hour and only 1 megabyte of internal memory. First shown during the 1992 COMDEX trade show in Las Vegas, it sold around 50,000 handsets when it first went on sale in 1994. The phone was very advanced for its time, with email, fax and cellular capabilities all crammed into a single device. IBM crammed a 0.002Mbit/s modem inside for web duties, which must’ve been painfully slow. Various applications were available for the Simon, with an expansion slot located in the bottom for switching them up. Users could edit spreadsheets, customise their calendars, play games and even access basic mapping software. Each Simon shipped with its own charging base station which resembled a large slab of plastic, plus an additional battery and protective cover. With a hefty 16MHz processor, it was surprisingly powerful for 1995, as most desktop PC’s of that era only averaged around 50-60MHz in processing power.

The mystery house that I featured on the Maggot Sandwich recently, has now been put up for sale. The early Victorian Crescent Cottage, located just off Crescent Road in Erith is advertised with a guide price of £275,000. I think it is actually somewhat underpriced for what it is. You can see full details of the cottage, along with fourteen photos of the stunning interior by clicking here. I don't think this property will be on the market for very long. What to you think? Email me at

I note that acclaimed actor Maurice Roëves died last week; he appeared in a multitude of films and TV shows over his long and productive career. One of my favourite shows that he appeared in has recently been re - shown on the (usually awful) Freeview TV channel London Live. The programme that Maurice Roëves appeared in that really impressed me was the 1979 drama "Danger UXB", which was a 13-part World War Two drama series based on the true-life exploits of bomb disposal expert Major Bill Hartley, whose book, 'Unexploded Bomb', recounted his continual death-defying ordeals in the face of extreme danger, whilst carrying out one of the most hazardous tasks on 'civvy street.' Anthony Andrews starred as Lt. Brian Ash, a young officer who is assigned to the 27th Tunnelling Company, only to discover that his unit has been seconded to the Bomb Disposal Unit of the Royal Engineers. The day before Ash's arrival, his predecessor had been killed trying to disarm a bomb, and so Ash finds himself quite literally in the firing line, learning his job 'on the hoof', a particularly deadly apprenticeship in a job where one wrong mistake could be the last one you'd ever make. Fresh-faced and naive at first, Ash soon wins over the respect of the men in his unit and aided by the experienced Sgt James (Maurice Roëves), grow in confidence with each mission, which culminates in an open-ended explosive final assignment. There was to be no second series, though, and the 13 episodes made by Thames/Euston Films and shown in 1979, stand today as a perfect example of edge-of-the-seat historical drama. Bearing in mind the true-life subject matter it is hardly surprising: Although there were very few bombs dropped on Britain in the first few months of the Second World War a War Office report to the Cabinet, in May 1940, recommended steps that needed to be taken when heavy bombing began. By July Britain was suffering intense bombing raids and by the end of August 2,000 UXBs (Unexploded Bombs) remained to be dealt with. To find the necessary personnel to deal with them seven general construction companies and 4 quarrying companies of the Royal Engineers were converted. The "Bomb Disposal Section" consisted of one officer and fifteen other ranks divided into two sub-sections; one for "removal" and one for "sterilization". Training for the bomb disposal units was very scant at best as no information was available as to the types of bombs the enemy might use or of the nature of the mechanism of their fuses, and the 'disposal experts' had to largely rely on their own common sense. Once a UXB had been confirmed the unit moved in and started work. Very often considerable excavation was needed before the bomb could be reached as it could have penetrated up to sixty feet into the earth, requiring casing and timber to be used to steady it and reach the fuse. Any violent disturbance might set the bomb off, and even if it didn't there were other hazards. Once the bomb was reached, its type and probable performance had to be determined by inspection. It might be fitted with a delayed action fuse which had not run its allotted time, it might be a simple contact fuse which had not operated, or it might be that the delayed action mechanism had been put out of gear by the shock of landing, in which case any disturbance might set it in action again. Danger UXB was historically and technically accurate, and I happen to know that a boxed set of Danger UXB DVD's has pride of place in the Royal Artillery officer's mess. I would recommend the series if you ever get a chance to give it a watch.

Now for the weekly local safety and security news from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "There have been three incidents of vehicle crime over the last week. On Thursday 16/07/2020 overnight in Parkside Avenue attempts were made to hotwire a vehicle causing damage to the lock. In Elmsted Road at 02.00am on Saturday 18/07/2020 victim heard glass being smashed and on checking, the whole rear window had been smashed and the boot of the vehicle had been rifled through. On Monday 20/07/2020 in Eversley Avenue both front and rear number plates were stolen, registration number is R111TDN. In Parkside Avenue victim returned home to find a rear kitchen window smashed. This incident could have occurred anytime between 08th to 16th July 2020". Belvedere ward:- "The team had been made aware of concerns over young persons gathering in Nuxley Road, in particular around the area adjacent to the Corals bookmakers. Having visited the location we discovered that there is now an informal education centre (Breakthrough) which has been running for a few months. This is the second. The centre offers support to young people between school years 7 and 12 who may be at risk of exclusion or those who are not currently on the educational roll. The team have spoken with staff with regard to the concerns raised by residents and (once the new term begins in September) we will make this a regular place that we visit to offer support to younger Bexley residents that reside in or travel to the ward. Reports of drug dealing in Roberts Road are continuing – we have been given details and descriptions of persons vehicles thought to be responsible and are making efforts to patrol the area as much as we are able to. There have been two recent garage burglaries – the first in Woolwich Road, where three high value pedal cycles were taken and damage caused to the garage door. The second took place in Gladeswood Road, where an off road motorcycle was taken from a garage".

Bexleyheath ward:- "Detectives investigating a suspected attempted kidnap incident in Bexley have released an image of a man they are working to trace in connection with the incident. Between 22:30hrs and 22:40hrs on Friday, 25 June, the victim, a 16-year-old girl, was in the proximity of Upton Road, Bexleyheath DA6. She was approached from behind without warning by a man unknown to her, who then grabbed hold of her. The victim screamed and the suspect made off on foot towards the Broadway, Bexleyheath. As part of their investigation, detectives from the South East Command Unit have released an image of a man they would like to speak to. The suspect is a described as a white male, wearing black bottoms, a beige jumper, with a face mask pulled down to his chin. Detective Constable Tristan Hunter, investigating, said: “Though the victim was not physically injured, she was left incredibly shaken by this frightening incident. “I urge anyone who may recognise this man to contact us immediately.” Anyone with information that could assist police is asked to call 101 ref CAD 9818/25JUN20. Alternatively, tweet @MetCC, or to remain 100% anonymous, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111". Crayford ward:-"There has only been one crime of note this week for Crayford. Between 21.00 on Wednesday 15th July and 8.45 on Thursday 16th July a black Audi A5 was keyed on all panels in Station Road causing about £3000 worth of damage". Erith ward:-"We have been out this week on daily weapon sweeps in a lot of areas across Erith, This involves searching bushes and other areas for hidden weapons. Friday 17/07/2020 Theft from Motor Vehicle - ST Fidelis Road – Tools taken. No burglaries or any other crimes of note". Northumberland Heath ward:- "Northumberland Health Local Policing Team , Bexley Council and PC Welsh completed a closure on Northumberland Park last week. This was the first HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) property within Bexleyheath. The residents at the property were causing the community hell by having regular house parties, causing anti-social behaviour, drug dealing , targeting the resident by egging the neighbours vehicles. Police were being called weekly regarding residents within the HMO property fighting with one another . The property was also in a terrible condition. There wasn't even correct fire alarms within the property which resulted in the Local Policing Team arranging for the LFB crew and the licencing team to take immediate action by installing temporary fire alarms before the closure . The local residents are so overwhelmed with police action and can now rest within their own homes. This has been placed on twitter and over 8,000 people have engaged with the tweet in some way – opened the image, read the tweet, liked it or shared it etc. On Monday 6/07/20 Officers completed a successful foot chase through Northumberland Recreation Park where a male was then tasered and detained on Swanton Road. The male was in possession of equipment used for the theft of keyless motor vehicles .The male was arrested for going equipped and taken to custody to be interviewed". Slade Green and Northend ward:-"No burglaries or any other crimes of note this week. PC Mark stopped and searched a male in Hazel Road who was found in possession of drugs. The relevant warning forms were issued. We have had some reports recently of drones been seen above residents gardens. Please be aware that all drones must be registered and there are laws around privacy and where drones can be flown etc. Please ensure that if you have a drone you are not flying it over private gardens. All details can be found here on the Civil Aviation Authority website" Thamesmead East ward:- "No residential burglaries this week, however continue to remain vigilant at all times, close and lock windows and doors. Non - residential burglary. Between the hours of 7:00pm on Wednesday 15/07/20 and 12:00pm Thursday 16/07/20, 2 garages belonging to residents in Lanridge Road had padlocks cut off and items removed".

The end video this week features Howbury Moat in Slade Green, a site of considerable historic interest. Shortly after the Norman Conquest, it was home to Bishop Odo of Bayeux, the half brother of William the Conqueror, and in his time, by far the richest man in England. Email me at

No comments:

Post a Comment