I took the two photos above during the week. They show the progress of the works in Pier Square Erith, in front of the Erith Pier. As I have previously written, the work is running extremely behind schedule, and should have been finished last month due to various reasons, including a lack of staff and a change in management at the construction company. The work has been much slower than had been originally anticipated by the state of work as can be seen in the photos. It would appear that there is still much to be done. It is a pity that such a high profile project has failed so badly. I just hope that the end results justify the expenditure and the increased amount of time it has taken. It does concern me that the delays in this piece of construction may also indicate that the work that is due to start in the near future to remodel and improve Erith Riverside Gardens may suffer the same fate. Bexley Council are investing a large amount of money in regenerating Erith and the surrounding areas. It seems to me that the choice of contractor and project manager needs to be carefully made, as I doubt there can be much confidence in the contractor engaged to carry out the work at Pier Square. Time will no doubt tell.
In a further related story about Bexley Council, figures were released last week about which members of the council are the highest paid. It makes for some interesting reading. The data, which is released annually by TaxPayers' Alliance, shows how many council employees across the UK are paid more than £100,000. Jackie Belton, chief executive of Bexley, earned more than £213,000, which is nearly £52,000 more than Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who is entitled to a salary of just over £161,000 each year. Other senior Bexley Council staff members paid over £100,000 include Stuart Rowbotham, Director of adult social care: £176,087. Stephen Kitchman, Director of children's services: £169,600. Paul Thorogood, Director of finance and corporate services: £164,868. Director of public health: £136,858. Interim director of place: £135,000. Deputy director of legal and democratic services: £101,483. What do you think of this? Do you feel it is a good use of your council tax? Email me at email@example.com.
Back in September of 2020, plans were submitted to convert the Spice Master restaurant in Upper Belvedere into a block of flats, with the restaurant continuing to exist on the ground floor, but with a side extension and an additional two floors added to the building. You can see an artists impression as the lower of the three images above - click on any of them for a larger view. The uppermost photograph shows what the building used to look like in its original form, back in the 1970's. The Coffee Tavern used to be a prominent building located in Nuxley Road, Upper Belvedere (NOT Nuxley Village - no such place exists - it is a fictional construct dreamed up by out of town estate agents and has no historical relevance). The Coffee Tavern was one of the oldest buildings in the area. For the last couple of decades it as been the home of The Spice Master Indian Restaurant. The building that the restaurant is located in has a lot of history. It was originally constructed as a Victorian temperance cafe called the Belvedere Coffee Tavern and Refreshment Bar. I can dimly recall it as a “greasy spoon” type cafe when I was a child, growing up in Upper Belvedere. I never went in it, but would go past regularly. In the mid to late eighties the cafe building was extensively extended and remodelled, to the extent that the owners got into some rather hot water with Bexley Council planning department, as the original structure was a grade II listed building, and they altered it so much that it lost its’ listing. At the same time it was extended, it changed from being a rather scruffy looking cafe into a rather upmarket Italian restaurant called La Dolce Vita, which seemed to be mainly frequented by elderly Jaguar driving wide boys and their brassy wives. It was very popular at lunch times for people holding business meetings, and at weekends it was packed – especially for Sunday lunch when one would need to book in advance to stand a chance of getting a table. During the middle of this period, it was exposed by the News Shopper has having the worst kitchen hygiene recorded in Bexley to that date; the place was so bad that it was featured on at least one television consumer protection programme. This had the effect of killing trade off almost overnight. They cleaned the place up, and re-launched it the next year with a new name –“The Garden”, but people had long memories, and the trade did not return. One diner of the time told me ”It was nearly always empty and almost overly friendly with the service. We knew of its health and safety problems (but that was like a year before we'd started going there so it had cleaned up its act) and we had some lovely meals. We tended to use it as a "sod-it-we-can't-be-arsed-to-cook" night as it was local, quite reasonable and they had a tolerable/well priced wine list. It was nice enough but I'm not a fan of Italian Restaurants seeing as at home we eat a lot of Italian style dishes (pasta, lasagne, meatballs, Mediterranean salad etc) so I like to have stuff a bit different when I go out. It was the height of mid-80's home decoration inside, if I remember rightly. Artex about 3ft thick and everything covered in fake Roman columns, plastic ivy and plaster statues with B and Q's finest wall-hangings and light fittings. Probably quite swish in the day but when we were there in the mid-90's it was a little tired and dated and not my type of thing at all”. Not long after this, it closed for good and lay empty and boarded up for quite a time. It was about at this time that I moved to Erith, and was less aware of the goings on in Nuxley Road than I used to be. The old restaurant building was again gutted and refurbished, this time as an Indian restaurant The Spice Master; the first competition for the venerable and long established Belvedere Tandoori, which was one of my introductions to high street curry eating back in the day. I did not try the new restaurant, now called The Spice Master for many years; I was working in the East End, and used to visit the legendary, and sadly now long closed Sweet and Spicy a couple of times a week; I would also make regular lunch time trips to the Halal Restaurant in Mark Street E1 – which has been serving up genuine Bangladeshi food since shortly before WWII, and is one of the oldest continually in service curry houses in the UK. In many ways at this time I was spoiled for choice, and “ate what the locals ate”. Consequently I did become quite sniffy about ordinary high street curry houses and the food that they cooked. I felt that it was not “authentic” and was too engineered to suit a Western palate. In essence I had become a bit of a curry snob. During this time, The Spice Master just curried on (oh the wit!) and our paths did not cross. Once I had moved on from the job based in the East End, the curry consumption drastically reduced, but I still had a degree of disdain for ordinary high street restaurants. Over the last few years I have come to realise that your high street curry is a thing on its own. It may not bear much resemblance to food you would eat in Bangalore or Karachi, but it has now been around for long enough to have created its own unique identity – it is what it is, and it is rightfully unapologetic. Most high street curry, whilst being called “Indian” is actually far closer to Bangladeshi cuisine, as most of the original restaurant owners came from Bangladesh, rather than India, but were quick to realise that in 1950’s / 1960’s Britain, most English people had not heard of Bangladesh, so a bit of inspired re - branding labelled the new food outlets as “Indian” restaurants. Back in May of 2017, the Spice Master was subject to some extreme vandalism; a group of six or seven youths tried to enter the restaurant; as it was close to closing time and the group were rowdy and very drunk, the owner refused to admit them. After some altercation the group eventually agreed to leave, but asked the owner to call them a cab. As the group were abusive, and in any case had not been customers, the owner declined. The group eventually left. I have been informed from several sources that the yobs turned up at around 2 AM, long after the restaurant had closed, and proceeded to break all of the windows. As far as I have been able to ascertain, no prosecutions resulted from this criminal act.
I received the following press release from Orbit Housing Association earlier in the week. It reads as follows:- "Orbit has contributed £6,000 towards an intergenerational project, that has delivered an uplifting magazine made by children, to its Independent Living scheme residents in Bexley. School children from Belleville, Chalk Ridge, Christ Church Erith, Holmleigh, Lessness Heath, Park View, St Mary Cray, St Winifred’s, St Paul’s Slade Green, and Walnut Tree Walk have created a magazine for older people in their community, entitled ‘The Children’s Press: A magazine for our older neighbours’. The magazine includes messages from the eight-year-old contributors, as well as drawings, stories, and puzzles. The theme of the issue was ‘looking ahead’ and features the children’s personal goals for 2022 and considers wider social issues such as racism, climate change and coronavirus. The children who have contributed to the magazine are part of a programme run by InCommon, a social enterprise which bridges generational divides. Under normal circumstances, their programmes take children into Orbit Independent Living schemes to learn from and build friendships with other older neighbours. 134 copies of ‘The Children’s Press’ were delivered to Orbit residents at Hayley House, Flaxman Court, Bushey Court, Lambert Court and Sherwood House. Rosie Ward, Placemaking and Partnerships Manager at Orbit, said: “It’s really important to us that our independent living schemes are an integral part of their wider communities. The pandemic and its restrictions have made this more challenging so the InCommon magazine has been a great way to bring together different generations in a new way and support the wellbeing of the older people living in our schemes. This project is just one of the many ways that Orbit invests in our communities.” Co-founder of InCommon, Laura Macartney, added: "The past few months have been a challenging time to stay connected across the generations as rates hit an all-time peak, and we wanted to start 2022 with something fun and joyful for all the younger and older people we work with. It's been fantastic to see the thought and effort the children have put into creating something special for their older neighbours - it's a real sign that those intergenerational relationships have remained strong from a distance. Reading through ‘The Children's Press’ has filled us with hope for the year to come, we're really looking forward to resuming our in person activities again soon and seeing those make a positive impact after such a tough winter for everyone." During the pandemic, InCommon continued to deliver their activities remotely, facilitating phone and video calls between the children and residents, as well as postal exchanges and creating challenges. In September, Orbit Independent Living scheme residents also participated in the ‘Generations Swap Cookbook’ and contributed recipes which they wanted to share with future generations. The unique cookbook, created by InCommon, gave people of all ages the chance to share the food they love to make".
The illegally fly - tipped settee that I featured in last week's Blog update has finally been removed from Appold Street in Erith, nearly a week after it was reported to Bexley Council. The name of the street seems somewhat unusual - it got me thinking - who was the Appold behind the name of Appold Street? I did some research and found out quite a lot. It turns out that the name Appold comes from Victorian engineer and inventor John George Appold, who you can see in the photo above - click on it for a larger view. John George Appold was born in 1800 and died of cancer in 1865, as a very wealthy man. As a boy he showed considerable talent for calculation and a decided aptitude for mechanical pursuits, which he was enabled to gratify by introducing improvements in the processes in use in his father’s business - that of a fur skin-dyer, to which he eventually succeeded; and which, by his ingenuity and scientific improvements, he made very profitable. In the early part of his career there were but rare opportunities for improvement by mixing with contemporary scientists; but, as soon as it was practicable, Mr. Appold became a Member of the London Institution, where he enjoyed the advantages of the use of the Library, and of attending the evening meetings. In 1834 he was named one of the Auditors, and in 1844 he was elected one of the Managers; and henceforth he took great interest in the welfare of that Society. He devised many ingenious mechanical contrivances which he incorporated in his home. His major invention was a form of centrifugal pump used for drainage in the fens, which he demonstrated at The Great Exhibition of 1851, which won a gold medal. He also invented a brake for use in lowering telegraph cables into the sea, a system used when laying the first transatlantic cable in 1857. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1853. He was regarded as quite eccentric, and created many groundbreaking domestic implements, such as automatically opening and closing doors, an early form of air conditioning. Even the gates of his stable yard opened of themselves as he drove through, and closed again without slamming. His name will probably be most universally connected with the Appold Centrifugal Rotary Pump, which was so prominent a feature in the International Exhibitions of 1851 and 1862. He took great and unceasing interest in the laying of the Submarine Telegraph Cable to America, and the paying-out apparatus employed in the early attempts was mainly of his invention. He had amassed a large fortune by the end of his life in 1865, which, by his will, was very judiciously disposed of among his relatives and friends, he not having any family. All his workmen and servants were well remembered, and several bequests were made to scientific societies. Among others, he bequeathed one thousand pounds to the Institution of Civil Engineers, 'for the general use and benefit of the Society.' His connection with Erith, and the area around what is now Appold Street is down to the engineering company Easton and Amos, which was located in the buildings which now form part of Abbey Car Breakers, and also in buildings in Manor Road from 1865 until 1903. They produced and sold Appold designed pumps for industry, which were exported all over the world. John Appold is little remembered nowadays, but in Victorian times he was regarded as a very important person, hence how a road in the vicinity of the pump factory was later named after him.