I took the photos above- click on either for a larger view - last Sunday afternoon. They reflect something of the rich maritime tradition that Erith has. The photos show a small tug towing, a larger derelict tug - The Lord Waverley - in Anchor Bay on the River Thames. This is close to Erith Pier and viewable from the Thames path walkway behind Morrisons supermarket, The two men on the small tug were towing the larger tug to try and dock it at the quayside of European Metal Recycling in Manor Road. I suspect that the larger tug is due for scrapping. The River Thames was at slack tide after a high tide. Unfortunately, the two sailors on the small tag made an elementary error. They had allowed for the depth of water under the keel of their small tug, but they had not allowed for the far deeper draught of the derelict Lord Waverley, that they were towing. Understandably as they approached the shore, the larger derelict tug run aground, and stuck fast on the thick mud. Mud The two men on the smaller tug spent some time discussing what they should do. This was an error at the tide. Was at its highest at that point, and leaving a gap between then and trying to pull the derelict tug free was going to make things more difficult. They spent about 30 minutes pushing and pulling the derelict vessel with absolutely no effect whatsoever. As you'll see from the photograph below, I returned to the site later that evening when it was dark, The derelict Lord Waverley was still there. It had appeared to have been abandoned by the two men towing it. I assumed that they were going to wait for the next high tide to try again. I do not feel that historically, if this incident happened 40 years ago, The tug operators at that time would have had far more experience and knowledge of the river. I somewhat doubt that they would have made the basic error of not allowing sufficient draught over the thick mud of the river bed. Still it is nice to see that the river gets commercial use. The wrecked tug was eventually moved on the high tide on Monday afternoon - you can see a photo of it stuck on the mud on Sunday night in the photo below - click on it to see a larger version. Comments to me at email@example.com.
Whilst nowadays, the river at Erith gets comparatively little use, this was not the case in the past as well as commercial traffic. Upriver to the port of London which in Victorian and Edwardian times, in fact, as far as the 1950s was the largest and most important port in the UK. There was also commercial fishing on the river, including a local fishmonger who used to have a couple of boats to fish for shrimps and prawns. Bearing in mind, the high levels of pollution in the river up until relatively recently, eating shellfish caught in the river must have been very risky. Shellfish tend to filter water for the nutrients they need to grow. In doing this. They also pick up pollutants of many different varieties and concentrate them in their bodies. When people then cook and eat them they end up ingesting the pollutants. The Thames at Erith was frequented by heavy cargo freighters and ships that were judged as too large to navigate further upriver to the docks, or the Pool of London up until the late 1960's. The output sewage and waste oil into the river, along with leaving traces of chemicals from their anti fouling paint (which used to contain large amounts of poisonous tin or copper compounds to inhibit weed and barnacle growth on the hulls of ships). It is a wonder that anything managed to live in the Thames off Erith at all. The water nowadays is far cleaner than it has been for years – the reason it looks brown and murky is mainly due to the large levels of silt that is suspended in the water, rather than to high pollution levels. This is evidenced by the large number of seals that now inhabit the river in the local area; seals are top tier predators - they would not be in the Thames if all of the fish lower down the food chain were not present and very healthy. As I have mentioned in the past, Lemon Sole spawn in Anchor Bay and the area around Erith Pier. Dabs and Eels are also present in abundance.
Following my lead article last week on the new development in Erith High Street - Made in Erith, and the Curiosity Cabinet, (photo above - click on it for a larger view) I had an Email from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. The reader writes:- "Following your write-up on the so-called “improvements” to Erith High Street, I have to say I disagree with your comment that the results look “impressive”. Sure, the shopfronts look better and the shops and services that are going in sound like they're much needed... but what about the actual changes to the pedestrianised street? I walked through that area just today and I was incredibly disappointed with what they have done. They’ve taken out what seemed like healthy, good-sized trees and replaced them with saplings that will probably take years to grow to anything substantial, assuming that they selected species that will thrive in a mostly shaded area. Also, unless I missed them, they've taken out the bins, seating and cycle racks. The removal of the seating is annoying, as there are already so few places to sit in the town centre that aren't the bus station or inside the shopping centre. The old cycle racks may have mostly gone unused, but in a world where we’re trying to reduce our CO2, they should probably not be removing cycle racks. Finally, that brings me to the bins. As a regular user of the recycling bins behind Paddy Power, the removal of rubbish bins makes me angry. The recycling bins are already used as makeshift rubbish bins, probably rendering much of the recycling that goes in them unusable. Taking out the bins that were on Erith High Street, and not replacing them with new, is just going to make the recycling situation, and the litter problem, even worse. Also, I think the criss-cross design, painted on the ground with what looks like road-marking paint, just looks like a cheap afterthought". What do you think? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As regular readers will be aware, I am a keen student of The Law of Unintended Consequences. I have mentioned in the past that British Telecom is currently undergoing a massive programme of replacing the copper landline connectivity which has served our telephone system for well in excess of one hundred years. The physical copper cable is being replaced with fibre optic cabling which will bring ultra fast network access, and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone calls. This will bring many advantages - internet access speeds something like ten times faster than anything currently available, and the end to itemised landline phone bills - you will pay a monthly service fee, irrespective of how many calls you make. Going to VOIP technology will also mean that the BT telephone exchanges will become redundant, and will be sold off for redevelopment. I have heard rumours that the 1930's A|rt Deco exchange on the corner of Erith Road and Brook Street may be repurposed as apartments, although this has not been confirmed. Whilst there are many advantages of VOIP technology, there is an unintended consequence which at the time of writing has yet to be addressed. Pensioners could find their emergency alarms no longer work under BTs plans to digitise landlines, Ofcom has warned. The regulator said BT’s digital phone rollout will render many of the devices useless, affecting potentially 500,000 vulnerable people. BT and other providers are replacing all traditional landline phones in Britain with new “voice over internet” phones that make calls using broadband by 2025. It means devices such as panic alarms which use analogue phone lines will cease to function. Close to half a million BT customers use the devices, which typically are strapped to a wrist or worn on a pendant around the neck in case of a fall or serious medical incident, such as a stroke or heart attack. The regulator Ofcom warned devices linked to landlines will need to be replaced or reconfigured and said it was concerned vulnerable customers were not being identified and informed their devices could stop working. It has written to the big four telecoms providers BT, Sky, Virgin and TalkTalk expressing dismay at the lack of preparedness among users of the emergency devices. It told the telecom companies their “triaging of vulnerable consumers has been inadequate, and the advice received inaccurate”. It raised concerns that many customers were unaware their phone lines were being replaced and that their devices would stop operating until a few days before their landlines were switched off. Some 1.5 million BT customers have already had their old landlines replaced with new digital systems. Around 15 percent of landlines are now accessed over broadband, up from 8pc last year, according to regulator Ofcom. Caroline Abrahams of Age UK, said in a recent interview “Public communications about the switchover have been poor to date and urgently need attention. Older people need to know from their telecoms provider, Ofcom and the Government what will happen when, and what their options are,” she added. Chris Howe of BT, who is in charge of customer service for the digital phones rollout, said in an article last week, that the firm was working with providers to prepare them for the change. However, he conceded there was a challenge in identifying all of the numerous devices that still used analogue technology and said concerned customers should get in touch and ask for help. He added BT would not cover the cost of replacing or upgrading systems that did not work with its new “digital voice” phones. Customers face upgrading to new devices that work with the new technology, or replacing them with more costly alternatives, such as alarms that use mobile sim networks to make emergency calls, rather than over the landline. A BT spokesman commented in an article on Microsoft Start News: - “We recognise the concern of our customers who use personal alarms and health pendants that run on the analogue network. Our short-term simple solution is to delay upgrades for these more vulnerable customers and we can reassure our customers that we are working to remove them from the upgrade programme for now.” Comments as always to me at the usual address - email@example.com.
I have a bit of an exclusive. After the abject failure back in January of 2019 of the privately run, and inaccurately named Nuxley Navigator mini bus service, that I reported in detail on here, I have it on excellent authority that the 180 double decker bus service is to have its route extended. The text explaining the changes to the bus route is here:- "As part of the Cross Rail Elizabeth Line opening, TfL are extending the current 180 bus service. As part of the route extension, a number of new stops will be introduced as well as a live stand. Three new stops will be introduced along Church Manorway (six in total – one in each direction), and a live stand will be introduced at Fraser Road, Erith. The proposed scheme will: Give Church Manorway and the businesses there connectivity to the bus network, which they do not currently and has been long requested (including a link to Crossrail at Abbey Wood) - Gives Erith Quarry residents extra capacity and additional links - Gives Bexley residents a new link to North Greenwich. More details on the route and forthcoming changes can be found by clicking this link to the TfL Technical Note for the forthcoming changes associated with the opening of the Elizabeth Line. Consultation on the changes was carried out by TfL back in 2017. It is my understanding that TfL will shortly be providing communication updates to passengers reminding them of the changes which are due to come into operation on 14th May 2022. I have attached plans of the agreed locations for the new stops / stand for information. Directly affected business will be informed of the changes in writing this week. As part of the scheme, and to ensure the safety and efficient movement of traffic along the revised route, the Council will be advertising some waiting restrictions however, these will be advertised at a later date. You will receive a consultation for any proposed waiting restrictions in due course".
This week marks another technology related obituary. It is about the creator of the TRS-80 – an early personal microcomputer sold by Tandy through its network of Radio Shack stores. Locally it was sold at the Tandy Store in Embassy Court, Welling - what is now the large Tesco supermarket. The computer was the brainchild of John Roach, who in the mid-1970s saw the growing market for personal computers sold as kits and decided a market existed for a pre-built machine. Tandy at the time were looking for a new range of products to sell, as their extensive array of CB radios was not selling as well as it did in the past - they were looking for "the next big thing".The TRS-80 Micro Computer System (TRS-80, later renamed the Model I to distinguish it from successors) is a desktop microcomputer launched in 1977 and sold by Tandy Corporation through their Radio Shack stores. The name is an abbreviation of Tandy Radio Shack, Z80 [microprocessor].It is one of the earliest mass-produced and mass-marketed retail home computers. The TRS-80 has a full-stroke QWERTY keyboard, the Zilog Z80 processor, 4 KB RAM standard memory, small size and desk footprint, floating-point Level I BASIC language interpreter in ROM, 64-character per line video monitor, and a starting price of £499 (equivalent to £2,100 in 2022). A cassette tape drive for program storage was included in the original package. While the software environment was stable, the cassette load/save process combined with keyboard bounce issues and a troublesome expansion interface contributed to the Model I's reputation as not well-suited to serious use. It lacked support for lowercase characters, which also hampered business adoption. An extensive line of upgrades and add-on hardware peripherals for the TRS-80 was developed and marketed by Tandy/Radio Shack. The basic system can be expanded with up to 48 KB of RAM (in 16 KB increments), and up to four floppy disk drives and/or hard disk drives. Tandy / Radio Shack provided full-service support including upgrade, repair, and training services in their thousands of stores worldwide. The TRS-80 brought computers into the suburbs like no other previous machine. Prior to the introduction of the BBC Micro, The Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64, it was probably the first home computer most people encountered - even if in many cases it was only by looking through the window of a Tandy store. The TRS-80 is also of enormous importance because Tandy hired a pair of chaps named Bill Gates and Paul Allen to write software for the machine. In case you haven't been paying attention, they later founded a little company you may have heard of called "Microsoft". TRS-80 creator John Roach had a long career at Tandy, becoming CEO in 1983 and holding that position until 1999. He died at the age of 83 and is survived by his wife, their two daughters, six grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.
Recently I was discussing local historic buildings with a reader; one I suggested gets rather overlooked, which is rather strange, as it is located in Dartford town centre. I suspect that due to its proximity to the market, it rather "hides in plain sight". I am referring to the Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel. Locally it is better known as the Bull and Vic; I explained that whilst the pub / hotel was a great looking historical building, the clientele that frequent the place were really not the type you would want to associate with. This is a real pity, as the building is one of the oldest in Dartford, and has been the location of a number of historic events. The pioneering steam engineer and mining expert Richard Trevithick died in the hotel (at that time known just as The Bull) back in April 1833. He had been lodging there for some months. Following a week's confinement in bed he died on the morning of 22 April 1833. By this stage in his life, he had been declared bankrupt; he was penniless, and no relatives or friends had attended his bedside during his illness. His colleagues at Hall's works (where he has been an engineering consultant) made a collection for his funeral expenses and acted as bearers. They also paid a night watchman to guard his grave at night to deter grave robbers, as body snatching was common at that time. Trevithick was buried in an unmarked grave in St Edmunds Burial Ground, East Hill, Dartford. The burial ground closed in 1857, with the gravestones being removed in the 1960s. A plaque marks the approximate spot believed to be the site of the grave. The plaque lies on the side of the park, near the East Hill gate, and an unlinked path. Richard Trevithick, was born in Illogan, Cornwall, in 1771. He was educated at Camborne School, but he was more interested in sport than academic learning. Trevithick was six feet two inches high and was known as the Cornish giant. He was very strong lad and by the age of eighteen he could throw sledge hammers over the tops of engine houses and write his name on a beam six feet from the floor with half a hundredweight hanging from his thumb. Trevithick also had the reputation of being one of the best wrestlers in Cornwall. Trevithick went to work with his father at Wheal Treasury mine and soon revealed an aptitude for engineering. After making improvements to the Bull Steam Engine, Trevithick was promoted to engineer of the Ding Dong mine at Penzance. While at the Ding Dong mine he developed a successful high-pressure engine that was soon in great demand in Cornwall and South Wales for raising the ore and refuse from mines. Trevithick also began experimenting with the idea of producing a steam locomotive. At first he concentrating on making a miniature locomotive and by 1796 had produced one that worked. The boiler and engine were in one piece; hot water was put into the boiler and a red hot iron was inserted into a tube underneath; thus causing steam to be raised and the engine set in motion. This was not a practical design, as without a firebox, the steam pressure could only be maintained over very short journeys. Even when this problem was solved, he encountered more issues with the rails on which his steam engine travelled - at that time the rails were made of cast iron, rather than rolled steel, and they were very brittle as a result. In the summer of 1808 Trevithick erected a circular railway in Euston Square and during the months of July and August people could ride on his locomotive on the payment of one shilling. Trevithick had plenty of volunteers for his locomotive that reached speeds of 12 mph (19 kph) but once again the rails broke and he was forced to bring the experiment to an end. Without financial backing, Richard Trevithick had to abandon his plans to develop a steam locomotive. Trevithick now found work with a company who paid him to develop a steam dredger to lift waste from the bottom of the Thames. He was paid by results, receiving sixpence for every ton lifted from the river. Trevithick found it difficult to make money from his steam dredger and in 1816 he accepted an offer to work as an engineer in a silver mine in Peru. After some early difficulties, Trevithick's steam-engines were very successful and he was able to use his profits to acquire his own silver mines. However, in 1826 war broke out and Trevithick was forced to flee and leave behind his steam-engines and silver mines. He was a good engineer, but it is generally accepted that he was an exceptionally poor businessman. Although inventors such as George Stephenson argued that Trevithick's early experiments were vital to the development of locomotives, in February 1828, the House of Commons rejected a petition suggesting that he should receive a government pension. After this, and several other misguided schemes failed, Trevithick was forced to seek paid employment at the Hall's engineering works in Dartford, where he later died. It is a great pity that no monument to the great contributor to engineering and the Industrial Revolution has no monument in Dartford, and that the Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel does not have some form of commemoration for the great man, whose last months were spent as a lodger there.
The end video this week is a short documentary on the tug The Lord Waverley - the derelict vessel featured at the start of this week's update - who says I don't plan these things? Please give the video a watch, and send any comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.