Sunday, July 18, 2021

Fifteen years of The Maggot Sandwich.

This Sunday marks the fifteenth anniversary of the first edition of Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich. You can see my very first Blog entry above. The Maggot Sandwich has been published every single Sunday over the last fifteen years, without a single miss in all of that time. I am told that most Blogs last an average of eighteen months. It all began on a hot and humid Saturday evening back in July 2006. I was bored, and was playing around with various online publication tools when I came across Blogger - at the time a pretty basic content editing and management system run by Google, that had one major advantage - it was free to use. Every Sunday afternoon for the last fifteen  years I have published my blog, and for some happily unknown reason, a large number of people, both locally and around the world have chosen to read it. The Blog is almost unrecognisable when compared to the start; it has transformed from a rather annoying and shouty rant at life, the universe and everything into what I hope is an entertaining and informative journal with a focus on local events. I must admit that I had absolutely no intention of the Maggot Sandwich turning into what I suppose could be viewed as part of the local online landscape – I suppose that this is mainly due to its longevity – throw enough stuff at the wall, and eventually something will stick. As some have suspected, I feel that I am really a frustrated amateur journalist; since I cannot do the real thing, I play at it online. Some readers have accused me of being a “proper” author, but I hold no such illusions. What amazes me is that I have readers stretching from Tokyo to Hobart, Rio de Janeiro to Melbourne, Washington DC to Ho Chi Minh City. It seems that it is not just expats that read the Maggot Sandwich; for some inexplicable reason a number of people who have never visited Kent or indeed London log in week after week to check the postings relating to possibly the least glamorous and most under reported suburb of South East London - and I have absolutely no idea why. I am glad that readers seem to like what I publish. The blog originally started as a distraction - a way of having a whinge. It has developed into a (very minor) local news and information bureau. I have had several messages from both readers and contributors regarding the fifteenth anniversary; a selection of them begin with a piece from Dana Wiffen, who has written quite a number of articles for the Maggot Sandwich in the past:- "What an achievement still going after all this time, where some Blogs lose their focus after a while “Maggot Sandwich” has gone from strength to strength. Erith and the surrounding wards a lucky to have a tool that others coverage or all area positive points, negative items as well as crime and a history item. It’s no wonder that followers have increased over the years as the editor has managed to highlight all that is good and not so good in the area that has changed considerably over the years and especially with the high concentration of home building that seems to be a norm across Bexley Borough as well as most other London Boroughs. Quite often those that make decisions about a Boroughs future do so without a long term plan meaning that one decision can have a negative impact in another area. One such decision is to build high rise flats again in some areas, this was meant to be a thing of the past when eventually it was agreed that high rise flats add to mental health problems and can often lead to an increase in crime as well. Without such superb blogs and community volunteers such as Hugh Neal the pros and cons of what is going on around us would never be highlighted. Well done and a Happy 15th Anniversary on the 18th July for  Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich long may it continue". Now a message from Richard of the excellent Thamesmead Grump Blog:- "15 years already. It seems like only yesterday that I was congratulating you on your tenth anniversary: how time flies. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to maintain enough enthusiasm to post on a regular basis and am full of admiration for your achievement. I am looking forward to reading your blog for the next fifteen years". A message from regular reader Teresa (no, not the one you may be thinking of!):- "Many congratulations! Fifteen years without fail is a tremendous achievement. I have followed the blog since we worked together at KPMG and am proud to have been an occasional contributor. I particularly appreciate your IT comments and security advice such as the perils of smart meters and the risks of on-line banking and swipe cards, My power provider is constantly trying to get me to have a smart meter installed but armed with knowledge acquired from the Blog, I constantly refuse. I similarly refuse to do on-line banking which seems to be a scammers' paradise. I also enjoy the end videos. The latest drone footage (if you can call it that these days) of Erith pier was fascinating. I look forward to many more Sunday afternoon reads". Now some words from regular reader and contributor Miles:- "Hugh and his Arthur Pewty's maggot sandwich blog have made an incredible contribution to the Erith and wider Bexley community over the last 15 years, before I moved to the local area I believe it was this very blog I came across which gave me my first taste of the history and atmosphere of the local community. Often the stories of old vanish into the ether as generations come and go. Retelling those tales and bringing them into the modern era through the blog format breathes new life into the historic and modern culture of Bexley. It’s quite incredible to see how Bexley has evolved over the last 50-100 years, Erith has a surprisingly rich history that neither I, nor I suspect most residents wouldn’t even recognise the town if they were transported back to the 1950s. By looking to the past we can compare how we’ve progressed, and what should be brought back. It’s hard to pin down one particular story that really sits with me, personally the work Hugh and the team that has been invested into The Old Library has been fascinating to follow and watch develop. I have no doubt in my mind it will serve as a true jewel in the crown for Erith. I hope the project pushes forward with their great work, if you haven’t taken the opportunity to visit or get involved I strongly suggest you pop by so you can see the amazing work they’ve done. I hope to see the blog continue to improve, encouraging local contributors to offer their opinions on local events and topics. It’d be great to focus on the occasional controversial topic which are usually more the territory of BexleyIsBonkers - shining a light on some of the less positive aspects of the area, and how we can improve it may help encourage change. So in closing, excellent work Hugh. I look forward to working with you in future, enjoy a pint of Ale on me. To the next fifteen years". Finally a piece from Peter Moore, my former boss during my time at Radio Caroline, who writes:- "Hugh and I knew each other due to a mutual connection with Radio Caroline, but that was long, long ago and for many years we lost touch. I cannot remember how or when I started to be sent his blog but interestingly, while I have never visited Bexley nor even driven though it, I started to look forward to each instalment due to the clear, informative and well researched way it was written. I am sure that his observations would be mirrored in any London borough with petty and more serious crime running rampant while the Police make fine statements and then return to seeking nebulous hate crimes. I have to remember that when Cressida Dick was appointed to a high position, she was asked her ambitions for the Met Police. One might have hoped she would have targetted drug dealing, knife attacks, moped gangs and burglary. She said that her main ambition was ' Diversity '. Indeed when Hugh, acting as an unpaid observer for the Police, photographed criminal activity he was viciously attacked and even with the clearest evidence, the Police managed to botch the investigation and the culprit, a known offender, walked away. No doubt he thinks he is untouchable and he is probably correct. Hugh also highlights bureaucracy and I may have had a direct connection with Bexley/Erith had I been able to bring my Radio Caroline pirate ship to the pier. Morrisons were willing. But at a meeting with the Port of London Authority, all was going well until a young graduate raised the objection that on one of the busiest marine thoroughfares in the world, the static presence of Radio Caroline might impact on the habitat of a tiny mud dwelling worm. No doubt the young lady was happy to have struck a blow for ecology. I took my ship elsewhere. I look forward to future instalments while saying the Hugh deserves a bigger audience". Thanks to all of my contributors; your feedback is always greatly appreciated. If you wish to contact me, please Email me at

Back in 1939, Burton’s opened a bespoke tailors shop at 82 - 84 Erith High Street, where you could get a custom made suit for 45 shillings (£2.50 equivalent). Local Historian Ken Chamberlain has memories of the place being extremely impressive, and sent me the advert quite a while back, with the very dashing looking chap in the advertisement above - click on the image for a larger view. I notice that the sharp styling is heavily influenced by American fashions of the time – wide shoulders and a narrow waist – a look that featured in many contemporary gangster movies which were very popular then. Montague Burton was the head of what became the biggest bespoke tailoring business in the world. Montague Burton was not the first to establish a successful chain of tailor’s shops throughout Britain: Joseph Hepworth and his son Norris had opened their first shops in 1884. Nevertheless, between the 1920s and the 1960s, Burton was the country’s predominant high street tailor. The company manufactured made-to-measure suits at its factories in Leeds and Worsley, dealing directly with customers through its impressive shops. In the 1920s and 1930s these ‘modern temples of commerce’ were built on a large scale in town and city centres, often with upper-floor billiard halls that attracted potential customers. When fashions changed and the demand for suits plummeted, Burton diversified into general outfitting. He was born Meshe David Osinky in the pogrom-ravaged Russian province of Kovno (now part of Lithuania) in 1885, to turn up alone in Yorkshire with only a few words of English at the age of 15. In Tsarist Russia, where Jews had been largely confined to the zone known as the Pale of Settlement and restricted there to making a hard living from trades such as tailoring, cobbling and cabinet making. Of the 150,000 to 200,000 Jews who fled to Britain between 1881 and 1914, many simply transferred their skills to the sweatshops of London; others, however, settled near the Yorkshire wool industry, where a Methodist tailor, Joseph Hepworth, had begun to sell his wares directly from his Leeds factory to the public through a chain of ready-made clothes shops.  Although he claimed to have borrowed £100 from a relative to set himself up in business in 1900, Burton evidently started out as a pedlar. By 1904, however, he was running a small outfitter’s shop at 20 Holywell Street, Chesterfield. This was followed by additional shops in Chesterfield and Mansfield, selling ready-made clothing to working men. Burton began to offer made-to-measure (‘wholesale bespoke’) suits in 1906, but contracted out their manufacture until he opened his own workshop two years later. This was reportedly located in part of ‘Progress Mills’ (known only on letterheads) before moving to Elmwood Mills in Leeds. Following his marriage to Sophia Amelia (‘Cissie’) Marks in 1909, Burton took British citizenship and moved to Sheffield where he opened a ‘Burton & Burton’ store at 101-103 The Moor. The second ‘Burton’ was probably Burton’s brother Bernard, who remained a lifelong business associate. By 1914 Burton & Burton had 14 shops, mainly occupying leased premises on high streets throughout northern England and the Midlands (including Manchester, Leicester and Stockport). Burton was excused military service during the Great War, and in 1916 won a lucrative contract to manufacture uniforms. One year later, Burton & Burton was transformed into a limited liability company called Montague Burton, The Tailor of Taste Ltd. The man himself now assumed the name Montague Maurice Burton. By 1919 he had 36 shops, of which many (including Coventry, Dudley, Swansea and Wandsworth) had opened in the course of the war. Eight branches were in Ireland. Burton’s shops enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with his factories. Customers would visit a shop, peruse catalogues, inspect fabrics, have their measurements taken, place their order and pay a deposit. Their suit was then manufactured (made to measure, to the customer’s specifications) in one of Burton’s factories. The main production facility from 1914 was Concord Street Mills, Leeds. With the pressure of war work, however, Byron Street Mills was taken on in 1917 as an auxiliary clothing factory. Other facilities were located on Woodhouse Lane, Melbourne Street and Millroyd Street. Osinky / Burton wasn’t the only trader to take the idea an important stage further by adding a bespoke alternative to the suit on the hanger. Nor was he the cheapest; by the 1920s plenty of tailors were offering suits priced in shillings – “the 30-bob suit” – and not guineas. But no rival had his dedication to organisation, salesmanship and publicity. He transformed the look of the nation. In 1960, the peak year of Burton's output, the company turned out 1,739,397 made-to-measure garments that, when jackets and trousers were put together, and omitting a few waistcoats from the picture, became roughly equivalent to 850,000 men’s suits. In terms of employment, it was among Britain’s six biggest companies. No other business in the world had a bigger chain of textile shops – Burton’s had around 600 – and few shops of any kind were as distinct in their appearance. Ranked by facades that descended in importance from Portland stone through polished granite to white terracotta, they stood out among the jumbled Victorian architecture of industrial Britain like beacons of modernity. Many are now listed buildings. One or two still house the billiard halls that the teetotal Montague Burton liked to house above his shops, in the belief that they kept young men from drinking. Burton was knighted in 1933, and his empire survived for another two or three decades after his death in 1952 and then, after diversifications into women’s wear and the merciless assault of jeans, it began to crumble. Until recently, the Topman chain was the Burton family’s last significant involvement in retail; it went into administration in 2020, when the brand was purchased by the online retailer Asos, with the deal being finalised in February of this year. The last part of the Montague Burton legacy has now gone. 

The upper photo above was sent to me on Thursday morning by local Councillor Nicola Taylor. I subsequently took the lower of the two images myself. Councillor Taylor writes:- "As you know I read your blog with interest each week. I thought I would write to you about fly tipping, probably one of the largest categories of casework I have next to Housing. A resident wrote to me in May about the state of the vacant plot at the back of the White Hart, I contacted the Waste Team and I am pleased to say that the landowner has now cleared the site. Please see attached pictures. I am sure that you are aware of the landowner and that the site is due for development as permission was given earlier this year. He is the same landowner that is developing the Leather Bottle site which could also do with a cleanup. Nonetheless I am pleased to get this result as it was unsightly, smelly and no doubt verminous. Fly tipping on private land is an issue for the council as it is the landowners responsibility but when the waste is hazardous to public health, they can intervene and reclaim costs where possible". Following my article last week regarding the Serco waste collection strike which is now under way, and the potential knock - on effects this could cause to illegal fly - tipping, I was contacted by an enforcement officer at Bexley Council, who, due to the nature of their work, must remain anonymous. The officer writes:-"I noticed in your recent post that you made reference to the penalties imposed on those found guilty of fly-tipping, and that the fines were set at £80. I just wanted to advise that this is not actually correct, currently London Borough of Bexley set our Fixed Penalty Notices at the maximum recommended amount of £400 and prosecution can lead to unlimited fines or up to 5 years in prison. There was also a comment where you mentioned that collection of fly-tipping costs £300 per load, but costs vary from job to job and costs are kept lower since the waste is disposed of at our CA sites. You are quite right that the success of our work relies upon evidence and prosecution is very difficult, but we have been working flat out throughout lock down with a particular focus on vehicle waste crime in recent months with a great deal of success. We have also had a lot of support from the Metropolitan Police in recent months which has very much supported our work". The anonymous enforcement officer went on to inform me of a joint action between several agencies which resulted in penalties for illegal waste carriers / fly tippers. Environment Agency officers working with London Borough of Bexley, the Met Police Road Traffic Unit and Openreach were out on the 23rd of June in Bexley. They were checking vehicles carrying waste or which routinely carry waste as part of their business, to make sure their paperwork was in order. The Environment Agency was inspecting vehicles to check they had a valid waste carrier’s licence, and that they had a required waste transfer note describing what waste they were carrying, where they picked it up and where they were taking it. The Environment Agency and its partners seized 2 vehicles for various vehicle defects. They also issued 12 Fixed Penalty Notices for not being registered as a waste carrier, and other duty of care offences, after they stopped 34 vehicles carrying waste. You can read a full account of the actions taken on the day by clicking here.  

The 99 bus service has recently celebrated its 105th anniversary, making it one of the oldest serving bus routes in the whole of Greater London. The upper of the two photos above - click on either for a larger view - shows the inaugural run of the 99 from its original starting point outside of the Prince of Wales Hotel, in what was then Avenue Road in Erith. It took place on the 22nd May 1916. In more recent years, the pub (which was locally listed at the time) was mysteriously burned down at Easter 1992 in a fire which had two separate sources, according to fire investigators. The perpetrator of the suspected arson attack was never apprehended. The road is now called James Watt Way, and the pub is now the site of Erith McDonald's Drive Through. The lower photograph shows the current 99 bus service, as it called at a stop adjacent to All Saint's Church in Upper Belvedere.  

Following my article last week about breakfast not being as important a meal as had been widely publicised, I had a fascinating response from a local retired soldier, who is  a regular Blog reader. The person, who prefers to remain anonymous writes:- "I was interested in your topic about missing breakfast. Firstly, as a type 2 diabetic, I am encouraged to eat regularly at least 3 times a day otherwise medication prescribed for the condition may not be effective. 3 meals a day, particularly in the early morning are important for those suffering from diabetes, whether 1 or 2, because not having the right intake at regular intervals can lead to high or low levels of blood sugar both of which are dangerous and can lead to the suffering of a "Hypo" or worse. I should add that my diabetes isn't a consequence of over eating, but is a genetic condition suffered by many family members, the normal onset starting in early middle age.  Family medical history investigations point to this susceptibility.  My father died as a result of complications arising from diabetes, and six of his siblings also suffered and died before the age of 70, with diabetes shown to be part of the cause.  My older sister was diagnosed as diabetic in her forties and my younger one in their fifties.  She died at the age of 62 of a combination of diabetes and vascular dementia. I wasn't diagnosed until just after my 67th Birthday, which I attribute to a life where I was very active physically well into my late fifties and maintained an exercise regime into my early sixties, when knee problems emerged which prevented my continuing to run. In my service days, particularly when in basic training, you needed a full nutritious diet as you were exercising most of the time during training from early morning PT, to hours of drill and weapon training and field training. You were marched to breakfast and it was an offence not to consume enough of the food, provided free in those days that you were unable to maintain the energy to meet the demands of training on you.  It was a practical way of ensuring that young recruits (I was only 17) take enough nutrition to meet the demands placed upon them. So, life long, since the age of 17 I have regularly eaten breakfast. As times changed, and evidence for healthy eating emerged, I varied my diet as did the military vary what was provided to service people.  My spouse was trained as a Military Chef and she can recount the education elements they had to meet to meet menu planning to ensure a healthy and nutritious diet was provided for the troops she catered for. I am not the holier than thou foodie, but I do stick to that routine learned so early on, and I can count on 1 hand the number of times I have not had breakfast over the  later part of  the 70 odd years of my life. Just as info I have attached a military (unclassified instruction and directive tri-service) which lays down the need for regular and nutritious diets to maintain energy, fitness and health and well being to keep the forces fit and ready for task. I am sure there are loads of diets out there. I now maintain a low carb-high protein veggie diet which suits my condition and keeps it under control.  So far, anyway".  

The mainstream press has had a lot of coverage of the death of former BDO World Darts Champion Andy Fordham who succumbed to multiple organ failure last week, after a very long history of ill health. What is less well known is that Andy Fordham was local; for many years he was the landlord of The Rose pub in Overy Street, Dartford. I used to occasionally see him driving around in his black Bentley Continental GT, which he sometimes used to park outside of Morrison's in Erith whist he went food shopping. He was only 59 when he died.

As previously mentioned, the level of incident reporting by the various Police Safer Neighbourhood Teams to Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association has dramatically reduced. Here is the little information that has been supplied covering the last week. Barnehurst ward:-"On Sunday 11th July evening a male was arrested in Birling Road for assault on an emergency worker and racially aggravated public order (both towards a police officer). The officer had been called to the area after a male had been seen jumping on cars. The investigation is ongoing". 

Erith ward:- "At approximately 03.56 hours on Tuesday 13th July, this man was seen shining a torch through the windows of vehicles parked in the new development at Erith Quarry.  He was seen to try the door handles of numerous vehicles.  If you live on the development and have had something stolen from your vehicle, please report it to the police using the Metropolitan Police website and clicking on the report crime link.  Please ensure you lock your vehicle and do not leave anything on display.  Thieves have been known to break into vehicles to steal one cigarette or some loose change!" Thamesmead East ward:- "Extremely long shift Friday into Saturday morning, two males arrested for Possession with intent to supply cannabis, Bazalgette Way, further search at home address revealed cannabis plants being grown. Investigation continues".

You may recall the end video from last week' Blog update. It featured the remarkable automated Ocado warehouse in Erith, which was / is the most sophisticated of its kind in the world. In a cruel twist of fate, the very same warehouse was the subject of a serious fire this week. It is said (though not yet confirmed) that the fire was caused by the collision of three warehouse robots. Contributor Miles Emailed me recently with the comment "Erith is very flammable". He was not wrong! This week's end video is some amateur footage of the emergency services attending the Erith Ocado warehouse fire. Comments and feedback to me as always -

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