Sunday, May 09, 2021


The Exchange had some VIP visitors to The Old Carnegie Library building in Walnut Tree Road, Erith on Monday afternoon. As you can see from the photos above - click on any one for a larger view. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, with local MP Abena Oppong-Asare, along with a number other locally elected representatives paid a visit to the historic former library, which is coming to the end of its refurbishment and transformation. The visit was hosted by The Exchange Co-Directors Sarah Batten and Peter Nutley, along with several members of The Exchange staff. The welcoming committee was originally intended to be larger, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, it had to be limited, which is understandable under the current, rather unusual circumstances. As previously mentioned, The Exchange recently successfully completed a community share offer, which raised an astonishing £150,000 to fund additional works outside of the scope of the main refurbishment project. 

Back on the 24th of January, and subsequently on the 31st of January, I wrote at some length on the history of the wartime anti Nazi campaigner Sophie Scholl, and her membership of the White Rose group. Well, I guess that someone at the BBC must have been reading the Maggot Sandwich, as the BBC News website is currently running a story on the very same subject, which you can read here.

Last week I had a conversation with a friend who asked me a question about my time with Radio Caroline back in 1989 / 1990. They asked me what the worst thing about living and working on an offshore radio station was. This was actually not a particularly difficult question to answer; in fact anyone who has been in a such a position would probably have a similar answer. My response was "doing the Gods". In the mid to late 80's radio advertising revenue was rather hard to come by for Radio Caroline. Very few advertisers wanted to promote their products on the station, due to the strict laws prohibiting organisations advertising on what was a proscribed organisation. Instead the station fell back on a revenue stream that it had relied upon for many years in the past. In my time with Caroline the music based programming ceased at 7pm until resuming again at 9pm every evening. For the two hours in between the station broadcast sponsored religious programmes from mainly U.S based evangelical churches and preachers. The shows were pre - recorded onto very cheap and poor quality audio cassettes, and the sound on the tapes was usually atrocious - the audio levels would go up and down in a very unprofessional manner. The daily two hour stint was broken up into fifteen minute sections, with preachers able to book individual slots. The most unpopular broadcasting job on Radio Caroline was baby - sitting these broadcasts to ensure that the correct cassette recording got played in the right slot,  the audio levels from the poor quality recordings was compensated, and that the daily transmission log was completed. Not every slot would have a religious broadcaster booked for it; if this was the case, the DJ would have to play suitably sombre instrumental music to fill the slot until the next broadcast was due to start. This two hour religious show was called "Viewpoint" - which Caroline staff referred to as "doing the Gods" - and we knew that the listeners hated it, and switched off in their droves during the two hour period - they wrote and told us so. They almost to a person realised they station needed to cover its not inconsiderable running costs, and taking religious programming for a limited two hour slot was a pragmatic way of doing this, however. Nowadays, if you want to listen to religious based programming in the UK, there are a multitude of alternative outlets, such as Premier Christian Radio (who I believe have their AM transmitter site on the Crayford Marsh). Back in the day these options did not exist; if you wanted to listen to religious programmes, the only option was shortwave radio, or the two hour early evening slot on Radio Caroline. During my time with Caroline, a couple of presenters outright refused to run the religious programmes; I was unusual in that I did not mind the duty. Because I had come from the supply and operations side of the organisation, I had a slightly better understanding of the logistics of the station operation. The revenue brought in by the religious broadcasts was basically keeping the station on air at that time. One bonus for the presenter "doing the Gods" was that they got their dinner brought up to them whilst they were running the tapes, along with tea and coffee. This was as compensation for carrying out what was regarded as an onerous duty. Nevertheless the wealthy American churches were happy to dole out their cash to Radio Caroline in order (as they saw it) to bring salvation to a bunch of heathen Europeans. It would not be stretching the truth to say that most, if not all of the broadcasters were somewhat strange - in fact most were utterly bonkers. Some of the organisations who bought airtime during the "Viewpoint" broadcasts included a group who called themselves "The Thirteenth Tribe of Israel" whose beliefs included that Britons were descended from Saint Paul, and that the UK was the 13th tribe of Israel. Another broadcaster who took up several daily slot on Caroline was Roy Masters and The Foundation of Human Understanding. Roy Masters was born in the UK as Reuben Obermeister in London in 1928 to a Jewish family of diamond cutters. As an adult, he moved to the USA and changed his name to Roy Masters. His radio programmes were syndicated to over 120 radio stations in the USA and around the world, making him at the time the second most broadcast voice in the world - more on the first most shortly. Roy Masters programmes mixed right wing conservative politics, anti feminism, misogyny, and anti conventional medicine, all combined with a presentation style of a therapeutic counsellor. Initially his broadcasts could sound quite reasonable, as he did not rant as so many evangelical preachers did, but spoke calmly and in a measured tone. It was only when you took detailed note of exactly what he was saying that you realised what a nut he actually was. In a 1984 interview with Us magazine, Roy Masters said: "I am a man without sin. ... I bring out the evil, alien force that controls people." He half jokingly called some of his more passionate followers "Roybots." Enough said. Roy Masters died on the 22nd April of this year, though his "Foundation of Human Understanding" is being carried on by his sons. The other major broadcaster on the Radio Caroline "Viewpoint" show was a man who up until a couple of months ago was still on air on medium wave and shortwave radio stations around the world - in fact if you took a shortwave radio at any time of the day or night and tuned around the bands, you were almost certain to come across his rants. His name was Brother Stair (full name Ralph Gordon Stair) of The Overcomer Ministry - the most broadcast voice in the world, up until very recently. He ran a commune / cult of followers in South Carolina, USA, where he allegedly had a great deal of control over them, going so far as to not let them have sex without his permission. Brother Stair believed in: King James Bible Only, speaking in tongues, young Earth creationism, Jesus-only baptism, New World Order conspiracy theories, rejection of modern technology/medicine (except for, obviously, radio and the internet), living in an isolated agrarian community like the Amish, rejection of the celebration of holidays like Christmas and Easter, men having to wear beards and women having to keep their hair in buns. Stair claimed to be the "Last-Day Prophet of God". He spent much of his radio broadcasts denouncing just about every other Christian minister as a false prophet. He claimed to have prophesied Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 back in the 1980s, and also did prophesy that Ronald Reagan would be removed from office and nuclear attacks would wipe out many U.S. cities by 1988. Brother Stair's ministry was noted for buying large blocks of airtime on shortwave radio stations. The joke in the shortwave listening community was that Stair was unintentionally keeping many of these stations, and shortwave radio in general, active and profitable. Stair was arrested in 2002 and plead guilty in 2004 to charges of misdemeanour assault and battery (fondling two underage members of his commune), but after serving 77 days in prison, returned to preaching as if nothing had happened. In 2007, a jury found him liable for over $700,000 in damages in a civil suit brought by former followers. On December the 18th, 2017, Stair was arrested at his compound in South Carolina and charged with sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary and sexual conduct with a minor amidst an ongoing FBI probe. He reportedly told several women the alleged sexual acts were "God's will". Stair was released on a US$750,000 bond on January 25, 2018, and shortly thereafter resumed broadcasting new "The Overcomer Ministry" radio shows. Brother Stair's broadcasting - and criminal career - was finally ended for good when he died on the 3rd of April this year.

Older Maggot Sandwich readers may be recall the giant Fraser and Chalmers factory. The company had a very long history; they started back in 1849, when two young Scottish men - David Fraser, a millwright, and Tom Chalmers, a foundry man travelled to the USA to take up careers in agriculture. Soon after their arrival in America, the California Gold Rush started, and they found it far more profitable to make mining machinery spares and equipment than to grow crops. They set up a large factory in Montana, and by 1860 they had moved to Chicago and continued expanding. By 1890 they were the largest mining equipment manufacturers in the entire USA. At this point they were approached to set up a new factory in England which was designed to supply mining machinery for the South African gold fields. The Erith works was opened in May 1891. The new factory was built on what had previously been a recreation ground. The British arm of the firm severed all connections with the American part, and by 1903 they expanded production to include steam plant, milling machinery, and general engineering products. Just after the First World War, the factory, which by this time employed four thousand workers and covered an area of thirty four acres was sold to the General Electric Company. 

Did you know that Google Street View is fourteen years old this month? The project started as research at Stanford University, and then was transferred in early prototype form into Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page’s car. Taking photos of every part of the planet so that people could virtually travel the world from the comfort of their own homes or mobile devices is the hallmark of Google’s approach to the world around it and the evolution of technology. Starting out as a camera strapped to Page’s car, Street View technology has been added to vans, cars, tripods, backpacks, bikes and even a snowmobile. It has become the eyes of all of Google’s vision for how we view the world after launching on May 25th, 2007. From Larry Page’s car, the very early Street View team, which was comprised of a few volunteers from Google staff, threw some cameras into a van with a GPS and some lasers. The lasers were to grab data so that the team could know what the distance was between the camera and the facades of the buildings. That spacial recognition is what helps Google patch all of its images together and give it that 3D feel. The camera took a lot of pictures, the devices, hooked up to a bank of computers in the back of the van, and then this very unique data set that is what makes Street View was amassed. Street View collects quite a bit of data. the Google Street View project team had to work out a way to scale these original vans to grab as much of it as possible so that they wouldn’t have to drive the same routes more than once. The team installed lasers onto the vans – four on each side – to get distance information, more GPS, collected wind velocity and everything in between.  How was this going to work outside of the original San Francisco test area though? There is now Street View data from more than 3,000 cities and 47 countries all over the world, so there was a lot of work ahead before this project ever saw the light of day. The GPS, laser and photographic data was collected by drivers who would fill up hard drives and ship them back to Google. The drivers wouldn’t send them in until they had five disks completely full. The disks would get shipped to a data centre, the information uploaded and then everything would get fed into its core database and go through a few processing steps. One of those processing steps was the blurring of people’s faces and car registration plates. These are seemingly obvious privacy issues that nobody thought of before the product existed, so Google had to invent the technology to do it systematically. Additionally, there are fifteen images taken for each finished shot and angle that you see on Google Street View today, and Google’s software takes all of these images and combines them together, adjusts the exposure for sun, shadows, colour differences and brightness. That’s the processing that goes into making “perfect” panoramic images. All the while, Google is detecting and extracting information from objects like street signs to feed back into the main Google Maps product. Google Street View launched officially in 2007 and was only available for San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Miami and Denver in the USA, and nowhere else. The cameras at that time were 5 megapixels, which is barely what most people have on mobile phones today. Now the cameras have a resolution of 75 megapixels. When you look up a street on Google Maps and click on the Street View option in future, you will have a better idea of the huge amount of work and financial investment that went into what you then are able to see and navigate around. Happy birthday Google Street View!

Now for something of a local history special, with thanks to Will Cooban of the Bexley Local Studies and Archives Centre, who provided the following account of the story of Manor Farm in Crossness. Parts of this article have previously been published on social media. 


For a century, between 1860 and 1960, three generations of the SHOWLER family lived at Crossness. Their story is the story of Manor Farm. Thomas SHOWLER (my 2x Great Grandfather) the youngest son of a Lincolnshire farmer Robert Showler, was born in 1819. In 1846 he married Ann, a daughter of a farmer and by 1851 Thomas was himself a tenant farmer with 56 acres. In 1856 Thomas and Ann’s 7th child died aged only 4 months. Soon afterwards Thomas and Ann left Lincolnshire with their 6 children to start a new life. Thomas took a job as “Horse keeper” with a Lincolnshire builder, William Webster. Thomas and Ann and their growing family moved with Mr Webster’s company, stopping at Cambridge and then Hitchin. In 1860 they arrived in London where Mr Webster had been awarded contracts for the building of the Crossness Southern Outfall Sewer, Abbey Mills Pumping Station and the Western Pumping Station. In 1861 Thomas and Ann were living in a cottage owned by London County Council on “Thames Wall” at Crossness. Thomas was still “a Horse keeper” with Mr Webster’s company who were building the Works and the Crossness Cottages. After the Southern Outfall Works was opened on 4 April 1865 Mr Webster moved on to London to complete the Albert and Chelsea Embankments. With 12 children it was no longer practical for the Showler family to move. Thomas and his wife were destined to remain at Crossness for the rest of their lives. Thomas took employment working at the Penstocks in the new Works. By 1867 he had been promoted to Foreman and his 14 years old son George was also employed at the Works, as a messenger. Thomas and Ann’s 14 th and last child was born at Crossness in 1868. By the time the Census was taken in 1871 Thomas and Ann and 8 of their children were living at number 10 Crossness Cottages. Thomas’ occupation was “Labourer Sewage Works” although in 1881 he was again recorded as being Penstock Foreman. Thomas died 2 April 1884 aged 64. Son George (my Great Grandfather) had progressed to being a labourer by 1871. George met his wife at a dance at the Crossness Social Club, marrying Mary Ann in 1876. In total George and Mary Ann had 12 children born between 1876 and 1897. In the 1871 and 1881 Census George is recorded as being a Labourer. Sidney (my Grandfather) was their 9 th child, born in 1889. By 1892 George was employed as Penstock Foreman. In 1901 and 1911 George and his wife were living at 11 Crossness Cottages with their children. George continued to be an employee at the Works. Around 1911 George had taken the tenancy of land adjacent to the Works from the London County Council. Sons Fred, Leonard, Percy and Sidney were all recorded in the Census as “Market gardener”. They traded as “F and P Showler; Market gardeners, Manor Farm, Crossness, Belvedere, Kent”. In 1915 the whole family moved from Crossness Cottages to a house in Belvedere. They would walk down Picardy Road, crossing the railway at Belvedere Station and continue to the farm each day to work. Sidney and his brothers grew various crops including seasonal vegetables such as asparagus, kale and rhubarb for sale. They had a regular stall in London at Borough Market. Potatoes were grown, harvested and stored in “clamps” to provide a supply all year. In the 1930s one London news agency reported “10,000 bushels of potatoes were grown on 40 acres”. Cereals and hay were grown as bedding and fodder for livestock. The haystacks were easily visible standing proud on the flat marshland. Straw was used to protect the potatoes in the clamps. The farm had one lorry, a 1928 Dennis that was later replaced by an Austin. The lorry was used to transport produce to market. Shire horses were used on the farm to pull the ploughs etc. There were dairy cattle providing milk. One of the younger Showlers would deliver milk and eggs to the Crossness cottages before going to school. Milk would be taken in a bucket straight from the cowshed and ladled into jugs left out in the porches of the cottages. There were also stock cattle. Pigs were kept, thriving on scraps from the table and milk from the dairy. Rabbits were reared for the table. Poultry included chickens, geese and a few turkeys which were sold in Dartford market at Christmas time. Prizes were won by entries in various classes at the Dartford Fat Stock Show and the Dartford Market Christmas shows during the 1930s to 1950s. Sidney married Florence (Flo) in 1923 and they began their married life in 3 Manor Cottages, Manor Farm. Their first child, James born 1925, died at only 16 months old. Their second child, Betty SHOWLER (my Mother) was born in 1928. Sidney would host regular shooting parties on the farm. These were an opportunity to discuss farming practice with friends. More often gunshot heard across the fields would be the removal of a fox or a rabbit that was threatening the livestock or the crops. During the 1939-45 war land was requisitioned by the MOD for bomb disposal. Tragically on 12 th May 1941 the 20th Earl of Suffolk, leading a research team was killed by a 550lb (250kg) bomb. The bomb had been dropped six months earlier during the Blitz in London and moved to the so called “bomb cemetery” on the marshes to await detonation in a controlled explosion. The Earl and his team had successfully disarmed 34 bombs but while he was trying to recover the two fuses the bomb exploded. It was thought the bomb was booby trapped. In all 15 people died including the Earl and his 2 “team mates”, his secretary Eileen Morden and his chauffer Fred Hards. The northern boundary of the farm was alongside the tidal stretch of the River Thames. On 31 st January 1953 a particularly high surge tide caused the river to breach its banks. Manor Farm was flooded. Sidney and his wife and daughter retreated upstairs as the flood water engulfed the downstairs rooms. A few days later Jeffrey COURSE, a crane driver, at Crossness was asked to visit Manor Farm to see if there was any assistance they could offer. Betty, leaning out of an upstairs window, was not impressed by his opening question “are you alright?” while there was water 2 feet deep around her piano in the living room below. The salty flood water caused damage to crops and also affected the structure of the soil. To limit the effect 276 tons of gypsum was provided by the Ministry of Agriculture to spread on the 138 acres that had been affected. Despite a poor start, Betty and Jeff became the best of friends and married on 30 October 1954. Jeff continued to work at Crossness, becoming a Shift Foreman in the new Works, until his retirement. He was a founder member of the Crossness Engines Trust. Jeff died in 1995 and Betty in 2008. Manor Farm continued in existence until the London County Council requisitioned the land for the proposed construction of the new Works. Originally Notice to Quit was given on 19th December 1950 and a second notice was issued in December 1954. Sidney obviously did not expect any changes to happen soon as he purchased a new bull in October 1955. There were negotiations with LCC regarding alternative land being made available. When this failed, compensation was paid by LCC for loss of land and crops, including the clearance of rhubarb growing on more than 3 acres. On 28 November 1957 the entire farm stock was auctioned at Manor Farm. The catalogue lists everything moveable from cart wheels and fence posts, rabbit hutches and poultry sheds, implements and tractors, livestock including cows and poultry, to stacks of meadow hay (to be cleared by 28 February 1958). The Manor Cottages were subsequently demolished and the building of the new Works began. Sidney and Flo retired to a bungalow in Wilmington, near Dartford. They continued to grow fruit and vegetables including rhubarb and asparagus, potatoes and kale in their large garden. Rhubarb was also used to make a very pink and potent wine. Sidney died on 14 January 1968 and Flo in 1972". Thanks again to Will Cooban of the Bexley Local Studies and Archives Centre for supplying this fascinating piece of local history. Please send any comments to me at

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. I note that the number and length of some of this weeks ward reports have still not returned to their pre - hiatus levels. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "In the last week, there have been no reports of theft from or theft of motor vehicles. There have also been no reports of burglary or robbery. The team has been focusing on patrolling the ward. We have had intelligence of drug dealing recently and so obtained a warrant at court to search an address in Barnehurst, off Colyers Lane and we expected the warrant over the weekend. We also assisted with a warrant in Erith today (Wednesday 28/04/21) where we seized a large amount of cash and a quantity of drugs. Officers have been carrying out patrols in the local area which resulted in a couple of positive stop and searches and tickets for possession of cannabis". Belvedere ward:- "Thursday 28th Apr: As part of Operation Sceptre week, Thamesmead and Belvedere have been targeting violent offenders in the Borough. On the 26th of April, officers tracked down and arrested a  male in his 20s following a serious assault in Thamesmead last week. The victim has been sustained serious injuries which also included stab wounds. The male was taken to a South London Police station where the investigation continues. So far it has been a very productive week with dispersal zones put in place North of the Borough which we believe has reduced the risk of violent offenders. Friday 29th April. The team are out on the ward again today, patrolling our areas of concern. Stop/ searches have been conducted around the Picardy Street and Dylan Road area". Bexleyheath ward:- "Between Thursday 29/4/21 and Friday 30/4/21 Criminal Damage in North Street - Pushbike found in the street BRUMMELL CLOSE thank you to NHW Co-Ordinator for collecting it. Beware Rogue Traders are operating again, please check credentials and get recommendations from friends and families". Crayford ward:- "We’re pleased to say that there were no burglaries in the Crayford ward this last week. On Friday 30th April the wing mirror was stolen from a vehicle parked at Craymill Square. Tools and work materials were stolen from a van parked in Medway Road overnight Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd May. As ever, please remain vigilant and see for further crime prevention advice". Erith ward - no report this week. Northumberland Heath ward - no report this week. 

Slade Green and Northend ward:- "We've just found and recovered this moped which was stolen from the Erith area recently. Victim updated and very happy to be getting there bike back!" Thamesmead East ward:- "Theft of Motor Vehicle in Mangold Way on Thursday 29/4/21 between 2:30 am and 10:55 am. Theft of Motor Vehicle in Birkdale Close on Friday 30/4/21 between 11 pm and 9 am. Criminal Damage in Holstein Way on Saturday 1/5/21 between 8 am and 4:30 pm" West Heath ward:- "No burglaries have been reported to us over the last week. Criminal damage to a motor vehicle in Canberra Road between Thursday 29/04/2021 15:00 and Friday 30/04/2021 11:30. Theft from a motor vehicle In Bedonwell Road on Tuesday 04/05/2021 between 03:37 and 03:41. Theft from a motor vehicle in Brampton Road on Tuesday 04/05/2021 between 00:50 and 01:05. We held an online Ward Panel Meeting via Microsoft Teams last Thursday evening and we have decided our priorities for the next three months will be motor vehicle crime in and around Canberra Road, ASB (Anti- Social Behaviour) Motorbikes Longleigh Lane / Bostall Woods and ASB in Stevens Park".

Now for the end video. It features a short history of Bexley Open Air Swimming Pool, which used to be located in Danson Park. I can recall the pool when I was a child. It had been drained and temporarily turned into a skateboard park, prior to its demolition. Comments to me at

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