Sunday, October 25, 2020

Micro mobile phones.

I took the photos above during the week; they show Erith Riverside Gardens, which many local residents feel is the jewel of Erith, and are very protective of. The gardens are the only place in the whole of the London Borough of Bexley where one has access to the River Thames. The views out over the river can be absolutely spectacular. There is a support group for the gardens called FORGE, which stands for Friends Of Riverside Gardens Erith. Bexley Council have plans to improve the Riverside Gardens, which include remodelling the footpaths and providing better children's play facilities, along with adding a tree lined boulevard and generally making the place more attractive, which can only be a good thing.

Following my article last week on the Running Horses pub, opposite the Erith Riverside Gardens, I have now received confirmation that the venue has indeed changed ownership. My source informs me that it is now being run by an experienced landlord, whose former career was as a fire fighter in Poland! I wish him and his team success in turning around the pub and restaurant, which was very popular in the 80's and 90's, but in recent years has definitely been in the doldrums. I hope to pay the Running Horses a visit soon.

The forthcoming Halloween seems to be taking over as the main winter festival from Guy Fawkes Night. Halloween was originally created in pretty much its’ current form by 18th century Irish people, the word is a corruption of All Hallow’s Eve. Irish immigrants to America took the tradition there, and it was exported back across the Atlantic in the early 1980’s. Although Halloween was celebrated before this time, it was a far lower key and less involved affair. I am convinced that the increase in popularity of the Americanised version of the festival can at least partly be laid at the feet of Stephen Spielberg and his movie “ET – The Extra Terrestrial”. The film carries strong Halloween themes such as dressing up and “Trick or Treating” which prior to the opening of the film had been relatively uncommon in the UK. The massive popularity of the film exposed may children of the time to take on the American aspects of the Halloween festival; many of those children now have children of their own, and the festival thus now has an amplified resonance not previously seen. Personally I am not struck with the whole thing, which basically encourages small children to demand goods with menaces, but I am probably in a minority. The current lockdown situation may alter things this year - time will tell. The picture above this article shows the official Bexley Council / Metropolitan Police poster - you can click on it to get a larger version, then print it out and put it on your front door, or in a front window if you would rather not have trick or treaters knocking on your door. 

Quite a lot of new historical content this week, thanks to regular reader and occasional contributor Jeff, who has sent me a number of scans of a pamphlet originally produced for Education Week, June 22nd - 27th, 1925 by the Erith Education Committee (63 pages of text and pictures, plus adverts). Most is a description of provision of school provision and services in Erith. I will be publishing some pictures from the booklet over the next couple of weeks, in addition to the two above - click on either to see a larger version; coincidentally, I have also been sent a fascinating original pamphlet which lists all of the new books purchased by Erith Library back in 1949 - which I will also be featuring in the future - thanks to regular reader Christine for sending the historic booklet to me - much appreciated!

The following article was originally published back in 1925 in the Kentish Times - it was written by "Tumbler" Bell, the pioneering sportsman and union activist of late Victorian times who became a chronicler of old Erith in the pages of the then local newspaper. He wrote:- "Prior to the establishment of Messrs Easton and Anderson’s Engineering Works on the river bank at the bottom of what is now known as Manor-road, Erith, what was known as the Round House stood on the site.  A short distance away was Anchor Bay Farm, occupied by old Mr and Mrs Harry Graham, who saw the rise, decline and passing of both the engineering works and Messrs J R White and Co’s brickfields. They lived to a ripe old age, deservedly respected by all who knew them. To provide housing accommodation for the workmen, the houses in Appold-street, Wheatley-terrace, James Watt-place, and Rumford-place were built, and owned by the proprietors of the engineering works.  Houses were also built on one side of Manor-road, including the Royal Alfred public-house.  After sundown the locality was very dark, the exception being the well-lighted Royal Alfred, consequently the spot for congregation was the “New Light”, and by that name the house was generally known. The youths of the neighbourhood used to meet outside this house to discuss Rugby football, quoits, running, etc. There were English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh lads.  Many could play fifes, whistles, etc.  A fife and drum band was formed; practice was allowed in the “Shant” (a long, narrow wood building, in which Easton and Anderson’s workmen took meals).  When proficient, the band paraded the streets, and a good show it made. All went well till the day it was discovered that the side drummer’s mother had converted the drum into a cinder sieve. The band broke up as a consequence. The “New Light” was used by workmen from both the works and the brickfields.  Lively arguments took place as to who could run the faster, which usually ended with the men taking off coats, waistcoats, and boots, toeing a line in the centre of the road, and racing each other along the road, round the houses, or round the backs in the brickfield.  That soon started the running craze, and young brickmakers and foundry workers were soon finding quiet spots for practising to prepare for racing each other at a given distance. When talking to admirers or critics some of the runners boasted of remarkable running feats done.  One evening one of them visited the “New Light”.  After drinking a quantity of liquor, he began to boast, and got so speedy that those present deliberately doubted his statements. “How far is it from the ‘Light’, up Manor-road, to Beadle’s Bridge, round Crescent-road, to the bridge at Whittingham’s shop, and back to the ‘Light’, and how long would it take you to do it?”  He told them.  Challenged, he took off coat, waistcoat, and boots, and toed the line in the road. Watch in hand, the time-keeper and starter got him off, and immediately stopped the watch.  All went back into the “pub”, to wait.  After a time the runner stumbled into the bar, panting heavily. The judge showed him the watch, and said, “You’ve done it in no time.”  “If I hadn’t fallen down twice, I’d have done it much quicker,” said the runner. Amusements would be arranged to take place on the same day as major events.  A farmer’s four-wheeled waggon was stood opposite the “pub”, to be used as a platform for singing contests, bobbing for apples, eating treacled rolls, etc.  A well-greased pole with a leg of mutton tied at the top was erected for a climbing competition.  Running races and other items took place.  On these occasions Don Andrews (a local comic singer) would climb into the lamp frame at the top of the lamp standard nearby, and recite the words of a ditty, and finish each verse with “Sing, brethren, sing,” and the assembled crowd would join “Don” and sing wholeheartedly."

I took the photo above on Thursday afternoon whilst on a trip to Bexleyheath; apologies for the reflections - the photo shows the window of a shop in the Broadway that is selling micro mobile phones, which may well soon be banned. Online retailers and trading websites are under fire for selling miniature mobile phones that are designed to evade prison security measures. The Justice Secretary wants digital retailers and shop like the one in the photo above to stop selling the gadgets, which can be as small as a cigarette lighter. Officials say the tiny phones are freely available on the internet and are designed to go undetected by the body orifice security scanners used in jails across England and Wales. The Ministry of Justice warned that they could be bought for as little as £25 by prisoners and organised crime gangs, who then smuggle them into prisons where they sell for up to £500. The phones, which can be as small as lipsticks, are popular with prison inmates due to their discreet size and lack of metal, which allows them to beat metal detectors. Mobile phones are banned in prisons, in part because they allow inmates to continue criminal activities while they are locked up. Around 20,000 phones and SIM cards were seized by prison guards in 2019, with mini mobiles making up around a third of these. Several online retailers have voluntarily ceased selling these micro mobile phones - which really have no purpose other than for covert deployment in prisons, but they are still for sale in high street stores, as my investigation proves. What do you think? Email me at the usual address -

I have been asked in the past questions about a relatively new pastime - the collecting of old computers. Like anything produced for a relatively limited period of time, old computers can become worth serious money - and others are essentially worthless. Already a lively market already exists on websites like EBay, but it is easy, as with anything collectible and potentially valuable, there are plenty of pitfalls. Like in the more traditional field of antique collection, certain rules apply. Originality is paramount - all of the correct leads, connectors and the power supply need to be present and correct, and the original box in good condition should also be there. Condition needs to be good to excellent in order to attract a premium price, and any history of the machine in question is a bonus. One of the question I was asked was “If price was no object, what three classic computers would you most like to own, and why?” After a bit of mulling, my response was:- 1) Xerox Alto – the most revolutionary computer since Colossus. More on it in a moment. 2) Xerox Star – the development of the Alto, and the first commercially available computer to use a graphical user interface. 3) NeXT Cube – the great granddaddy of all modern Unix based Apple Macs, and the platform used by Sir Tim Berners – Lee to create the World Wide Web. So why did I pick the Xerox Alto as my most desired classic computer? Well, bear in mind that the Alto was never actually available for commercial purchase, and only between fifteen hundred and two thousand Alto units were hand constructed by Xerox, mainly for internal use, though a handful made it into academia for study purposes, and one made it into the White House. The Alto was the first computer anywhere that had a GUI – a Graphical User Interface, that used the still common desktop paradigm. It had a mouse, used icons, it was able to talk to other Alto computers over an early form of Ethernet data networking. It had a "what you see is what you get" word processing program, it could send and receive Emails with attachments, it could output page set documents to a laser printer and had the world’s first high resolution bitmapped screen. All of this was available in 1973! You can see a short TV commercial for it here. It was at least fifteen years ahead of anything else in the world, but Xerox did not think there would be a market for such a computer, and eventually wound the project down. This business decision made Decca turning down the Beatles look small change in comparison. Later, the GUI computer project was restarted, and in the very early 1980’s Xerox released the Star – a high end workstation based on the earlier Alto concepts. Bexley Council had a couple of Star units in their typing pool for several years in the early 1980's, but they were never really used for anything other than word processing – with their distinctive portrait oriented display screens. Their powerful networking and graphical features were pretty much overlooked. A few years ago, before Bexley Council moved out of their old offices in Bexleyheath Broadway as they were due to be demolished, I tried to find out if any of the Xerox Star units were still being stored on site. I had heard vague rumours that at least one unit was stored in the basement nuclear fallout shelter. I had hoped to persuade the council to donate it to The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park. Unfortunately my investigation drew a blank – nobody I contacted at the council knew anything about the computers, and they were actually not very interested. Many phone messages and Emails to them went without response, to the point where I got fed up and gave in. Anyone with a Xerox Star, or even more enticingly an Alto stuck in the corner of their basement (it would not have gone in the loft – it was so heavy it would have come through the ceiling) is sitting on not only a very important piece of computer history, but is worth a small fortune. Collectors will pay substantial sums of money for rare and important computers – as was recently seen when an immaculate and completely original Apple 1 was purchased at auction for $905,0000. Personally I think this was a tad over-valued. The Apple 1 was not the first home computer by some way, it was not revolutionary and it was merely one of a number of kit type computers then available. The later fame of the brand has put quite an image boost over the machine that started it all for the Apple brand, and I will not be at all surprised if the next Apple 1 to go on auction breaks the million dollar mark. What do you think? Do you have a favourite classic computer? Email me at

Police want to question a man after he robbed someone of their mobile phone by using an imitation hand gun. His likeness was caught on CCTV, which you can see above. The incident happened on a train between Dartford and Slade Green around 3:11pm on 29th September. The suspect got off the train at Slade Green. Please contact British transport Police on 0800 405040, Ref 420 of 29/09/20 if you have any more information.

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly, the report from Barnehurst ward:- "Good news this week for Barnehurst residents. There have been no reports of burglary and no reports relating to vehicle crime. On Sunday 18/10/2020 at 06.00 pm In Eversley Avenue, a rear window was found smashed. It’s believed the damage was caused by a metal pellet from a BB gun. Over the past week, the team have received numerous calls from residents reporting a suspicious male supposedly canvassing for BT in the vicinity of Mayplace Road East. Following another call, on Tuesday 20/10/2020 the team attended Woodside Road where the male was stopped. Checks revealed this male was canvassing on behalf of Money Saving Expert and BT therefore do not be concerned as they will be in the area over the next few days". Belvedere ward:- "The team has been made aware of two males that had attended several shops in Nuxley Road last week and were using distraction methods to confuse staff of each shop whilst using the payment card reader. One of the males would alter the amount to be paid and then ask for a refund. We are actively patrolling the area to deter these males should they return. We have also been given information relating to suspected drug dealing around the same area. Again, we are patrolling the area frequently to deal with and deter any offenders". Bexleyheath ward:- "On Thursday 15th October there was a report of burglary along St Audrey Avenue Bexleyheath. The victim is having building work completed at the address and items were taken when builders were not present. Van was spotted and suspects were confronted. This was between 1230hrs and 1245hrs. On Tuesday 13th October, a van was reported stolen with tools inside overnight along Rochester Drive. There was a report of a bag stolen from a work van whilst vehicle was stopped at Freta Road Bexleyheath between 12 and 1230 midday on Sunday 18th of October. Also, a passport was reported stolen from the victim's bag on Friday 16th October whilst shopping in the Broadway. On Saturday 17th October there was a report of a theft from a motor vehicle along Lyndhurst Road Bexleyheath, number plates were reported stolen. On Tuesday 13th October there was a report of a vehicle that was vandalised whilst parked in the ASDA car park in Bexleyheath between 11 am and 12 midday. On Friday 16th October a mobile phone was reported stolen whilst the victim was in The Wrong Un PH in Bexleyheath". Crayford ward:- "Not a good week on the crime front this week I’m really sorry to say. There have been two robberies.  On Wednesday 14th October at 18:40, the victim was walking up Lower Station Road and speaking on his Samsung Galaxy S10 mobile phone when he was shoulder barged by a male in a group of three walking towards him.  His phone was then snatched, he also had a pull-along toolbox which they tried and failed to take.  The suspects are male, aged between 20-30 years, the main suspect was dressed in black clothing, a black puffa jacket and Nike trainers.  The other robbery took place along Thames Road on Friday 16th October at 19.10.  The victim was robbed of his mobile phone, the suspects were in a vehicle and suggested they had a knife. A construction site in Watling Street had a secure lock-up broken into between 18:00 on 15th October and 6:45 on Friday 16th October.  A number of hired items were stolen.  Tools were stolen from a locked shed in Dale Road between 08:00 on Sunday 18th October and 07:00 on Monday 19th October.  It is believed that the suspect(s) came over the rear fence and smashed the door to gain entry.  A large amount of initialed tools were stolen.  Between Sunday 11th October and Sunday 18th October, a large artificial plant in a pot was stolen from the front garden of a property in Heath Road, a vehicle would have been required to move this. A black Yamaha motorcycle number plate DG67 NNO was stolen from Ridge Way between 19:00 on Monday 19th October and 08.00 on 20th October, the owner still has the keys. A white Skoda Octavia was broken in to in Woolbrook Road between 12:00 on Friday 16th October and 16.45 on Saturday 17th October, Rayban sunglasses, a torch and a phone charging kit were stolen.  The vehicle was definitely locked and no damage was made to gain entry to it. Just one, but one too many still, catalytic converter reported stolen this week, from a Honda Jazz whilst parked at Sainsbury car park on Tuesday 20th October between 11:35 and 12:05. Between Tuesday 13th October and Wednesday 14th October two Mercedes parked in close proximity between Iron Mill Lane and Iron Mill Place had their number plates and screws removed, the mounting brackets were stolen and the number plates and screws left behind. We have received six reports of vehicles being badly scratched along Crayford Way and Barnes Cray Road.  It seems to be notably from Wednesday 14th October, the cost of repairs is high. We know people have different thoughts on the COVID 19, some people are very scared and cautious, others are blasé but the rules are in place to keep us all as safe as possible, whether we like these rules or not is irrelevant.  The police have tried to explain and encourage the public to stay within the guidelines, it is only a matter of time and police WILL be enforcing these rules and fines will be given". Erith ward:- "This week 2 thefts of motor vehicles, these do not seem related and happened in different areas and at different times. Both VIWs contacted and reassurance visits carried out, leaflet posting in the areas, also emails sent out with vehicle crime advice. Stolen vehicle recovered in Tower Road by Erith officers not related to the theft of above. Two Residential Burglaries both from HMOs TV stolen and the other had a suitcase stolen, these do not seem contacted and are in different areas, VIWs were contacted and cocooning carried out in the areas. This week we held a knife arch outside Bexley College 1 knife was recovered and a positive stop for cannabis. The community ward survey will be ready next week if you could fill this in, it will only take about 1 minute but will give us a good feedback on issues." Northumberland Heath ward:- "The team has been continuing with patrols in our ASB hotspots, including Becton Place, Brook Street, Wheelock Close, Northumberland Rec. We have had a report this week of two youths on electric scooters who have approached a young male in North Heath Rec and snatched his bag from him. Today PC Suat and PC Pezzato were at the recreation ground with Bexley council workmen who were installing the pincher gates, these gates will reduce the capability of motorbikes entering the park and slow down pedal cycles and scooters. Within the next month, the second set of pincher gates will be installed to the second entrance of the park. As Halloween approaches, the team has been advising the local shops to limit the sale of eggs and flour, posters will be supplied for them to put in their shop windows. If you are or know of any vulnerable persons who would like an A4 poster to put on their door asking children to refrain from knocking, please get in touch with the team and we will pop one round to them. There have been no burglaries on the ward this week. We have however had one theft of motor vehicle from Eastry Road". Slade Green and Northend ward:-"No burglaries in the last week. 2 stop and searches whereby drugs were found. One fine issued and one official warning was given. The team assisted the Erith team today with a knife arch operation at Bexley College. We are aware of a group causing criminal damage and ASB last Saturday evening in various parts of the ward. CCTV images are being collected and extra patrols will be ongoing in these areas". Thamesmead East ward:- "Attempted Burglary -On Saturday 17/10/20 at 2:00 pm an unknown person had tried using a key to enter a flat in Osney House, Hartslock Drive.No entry gained and no damage to the door. Remember remain vigilant, close and lock windows and doors even if you’re only going out for a short time. When the nights get longer keep burglars guessing – use timer lights. Motor Vehicle Crimes - The front and rear number plates were stolen from a vehicle parked in Surlingham Close during the early hours of Friday 16/10/20. Between the hours of 8:00pm on Sunday 18/10/20 and 5:20 am on Monday 19/10/20. Both number plates were stolen from a vehicle parked outside of Wyfold House, Wolvercote Road." West Heath ward:- "There were no reported burglaries from Wednesday 14/10/20 to Tuesday 20/10/20, but there was one reported theft of a motor vehicle for the same period.  On Saturday 17/10/20 at 2300 hours the informant’s vehicle a grey Mercedes index GF67 UCY was stolen from outside the victim’s driveway at Chessington Avenue".

The end video this week is courtesy of Erith's Carnegie Ensemble - the house band of The Exchange, based in the Andrew Carnegie gifted library in Walnut Tree Road, that is currently undergoing phase two of its restoration. You can read more about the project by clicking here. The Carnegie Ensemble can be seen playing Percy Hilder Miles Cello Quartet (1906) - Finale. All was done via Zoom and edited together. Do give it a watch, and send comments to

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