There has been much concern expressed to me by Maggot Sandwich readers over the last week regarding a story about the alleged future of Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. Fellow local Blogger John Smith of the From The Murky Depths Blog recently wrote that the shopping centre was destined to be demolished. You can read his original article by clicking here. The article is factually incorrect. I have written to John telling him this. The shopping centre is not being demolished, and I have it on impeccable authority that the empty shop units in the centre may well be occupied in the near future. I have some details of what is being planned, but at the time of writing, the information shared with me is confidential. Suffice to say that Bexley Council will be issuing a press release in due course. More on this story in the weeks to come. Comments and feedback as usual to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Belvedere Power Station was a prominent landmark on the Belvedere marshes for many years. Here is some of its long and fascinating history. Belvedere Power Station was developed by the British Electricity Authority and subsequently by the Central Electricity Authority (1955–57) and from 1958 by the Central Electricity Generating Board. It was constructed between 1954 and 1960 on a riverside site originally acquired by the West Kent Electric Company in 1919. The site was opposite the Ford plant at Dagenham. Construction was initially undertaken by the Construction Department of the BEA's London Division, then by the Southern Project Group of the CEGB. Mowlem were the building contractors. The architectural design was by Farmer & Dark. The main building was a steel framed structure with the turbine hall to the west and the taller boiler house to the east and the control room in the centre of the block. The walls were clad in corrugated aluminium. The turbine hall was lit by skylights. Two 128 metre tall precast concrete chimneys were located to the east of the boiler house. Three 14,000 tonne oil tanks were located to the south-east of the site. The first half of the station, commissioned in 1960, comprised four low-pressure boilers (John Brown Land Boilers Ltd.) each with a capacity of 550,000 lb/hr (69.3 kg/s) producing steam at 950 psi and 925 °F (65.5 bar and 496 °C) and four 60 MW turbo-alternators (English Electric Co Ltd). Advances in technology meant that the second half of the station, commissioned in 1961–2, was equipped with two high pressure boilers rated at 1,600,000 lb/hr (201.6 kg/s) producing steam at 1600 psi and 1010/1005 °F (110 kg/s and 543/541 °C). There were two high-pressure 120 MW units, also by John Brown. The station therefore had a total generating capacity of 480 MW. Cooling water was abstracted from, and returned to, the tidal river Thames. Seven pumps circulated water at a rate of 21 million gallons per hour (26.5 m3/sec). Oil was shipped from Shell Haven refinery further down the river; and was delivered to 192 metre long jetty on the river. In 1955 it was reported that four men had been overcome with fumes at the bottom of a 40 ft. manhole at Belvedere power station. Three members of the Kent fire brigade received the British Empire Medal for saving them. In 1959 a radioactive iridium isotope went missing from a lorry which was travelling from Belvedere power station to Derby. The following day it was found in West London. From 1970 to 1973 the 120 MW units at Belvedere were amongst the CEGB's 20 stations with the highest thermal efficiencies. The 120 MW units had an average thermal efficiency of 34.13 per cent. Belvedere's overall thermal efficiency in 1971 was 31.67 per cent. In 1982 two of the 60 MW turbo-alternators were decommissioned, the operational capacity then became 2 × 60 MW and 2 × 120 MW. Belvedere power station was decommissioned in 1986 and was subsequently demolished in 1993–4. A new generating station, the Belvedere Incinerator has subsequently been built to the west of the site.
Bexley Council have just made the following announcement:- "Pride Month is celebrated annually in June to honour the 1969 Stonewall riots and works to achieve equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and questioning (LGBTQ+) people. This year marks 20 years since Section 28, the law that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” in Local Authorities and schools in the UK, was repealed. It also marks the 10-year anniversary since UK legislation was passed to allow same-sex marriage in July 2013, with the law coming into force in March 2014. Pride Month helps raise awareness of issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and provides an opportunity to celebrate the culture of inclusivity. Pride is a celebration of people coming together in love and friendship, to show how far LGBTQ+ rights have come, and how in some places there's still work to be done. We celebrate Pride Month in Bexley to show our support for our LGBTQ+ colleagues, friends, and allies. The progress flag was flown outside the Civic Offices on the 1 June to mark the start of Pride Month and will fly again for London Pride weekend on 1 July. Erith Pride on The Pier - Saturday 8 July, 12 noon to 4 pm. You can also come and join Bexley’s first pride event organised by Erith Pride. This free LGBTQ+ celebration event will be family-friendly, with activities performances from the local community, and much more". You can book free tickets for this family friendly event by clicking here.
Bearing in mind Erith is very much a maritime town, the River Thames does not really get the exposure or use one would expect. Historically Erith was an important port outside of London. Many ships which were too large to make it into the Port of London were unloaded at Erith, with their cargoes being taken further up river by Thames sailing barges. This was before the river was fully dredged and managed as it is nowadays. Today one can watch huge container and bulk carrier ships passing Erith river front on a daily basis; the best time to see ship movements is at or around the changing of the tide. Some of the small and medium sized vessels can often be seen moored on Erith Pier as well. Until 2013, there used to be an annual Thames Sailing Barge race on the River Thames. The race ended on its 150th anniversary. The race was the brainchild of a man who was nick named “The Golden Dustman”. His real name was Henry Dodd. He was born in 1801 into a very poor family; his first job was as a plough boy in arable fields that were within view of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which he did until he was in his early thirties, when he found employment as a “scavenger” – a sort of prototype recycling consultant. He soon discovered that the big money was in transporting waste, rather than actually sorting it. London was rapidly growing in size, and the population was booming. As the number of people in the capital increased, the amount of rubbish they generated went up. Dodd saw this as a very lucrative business opportunity, so instead of using slow and somewhat unreliable horses and carts to haul rubbish, he first hired, then purchased a fleet of sailing barges, which could transport far greater cargoes at a higher speed than any contemporary road solution. Most of the waste material Dodd was transporting was burned outside the capital, and the resulting ash was a vital ingredient in making bricks, which in turn were used to build the expansion of London. Never one to overlook a business opening, Dodd invested in several brick works, including a very large site on what is now Manor Road in Erith. Nowadays, this kind of end to end ownership of all stages in a manufacturing process is known as “vertical integration” and Henry Dodd was a pioneer of it. All this made Dodd incredibly wealthy; he was one of the richest commoners in England, right at the start of the then new middle class. Dodd’s money bought him a degree of respectability in Victorian society (though I am sure there were whispers behind his back – though after having been brought up in the environment he had, I somewhat doubt if this bothered him). Dodd became a very enthusiastic patron of the theatre, and through this mutual interest he became very good friends with Charles Dickens. Dickens scholars believe that Dodd was the inspiration for the character of Mr. Boffin, the millionaire dustman who appears in the novel “Our Mutual Friend”. Dodd invested a large amount of money in sailing barges, and soon discovered that there was an intense rivalry between barge skippers. Never one to miss a main chance, he decided that in 1863 he would stage a sailing barge race – for entertainment, but also as a means to improve the business. The first race was only for his own sailing barges, and was run from Erith to Canvey Island and back, with the first barge and skipper to make the round trip being awarded a generous cash purse, which was awarded under the auspices of the Prince of Wales Yacht Club. Many in society assumed that the event had Royal patronage (something that Dodd did little to discourage), but in fact it was named after an Erith pub! In 1864 the race was opened to all comers, and after a while it became such a big event the running of it was passed over to a committee of barge owners. Within ten years, specially built racing barges were being constructed purely to try and win the race. Passenger steamers would be chartered to follow the racing barges on their course, and records show that over 10,000 people watched the race from on board these steamers. Henry Dodd, the “Golden Dustman” died in 1881; he left a fund to sustain the match – an eye watering sum of £100,000, which today is equivalent to tens of millions of pounds. In the latter years of the 19th century, the event was covered by Charles’ Dickens son (who confusingly was also called Charles) in his annual gazetteer. For the Centenary Match raced in 1963, the two principle rivals in Britain’s coasting trade, F T Everard and The London and The Rochester Trading Co. lavished money on their fastest barges in an attempt to ensure success for craft which were, by that time, an anachronism in transportation terms. The 48 mile course was from Mucking to the Mouse Lightship, and then back up to Gravesend. F T Everard’s Veronica was the winner, leaving the rest far behind in her wake. The 150th Anniversary Match on Saturday 13th July 2013, had the contest finishing at Erith for the first time since 1894. Not only was this spectacle thought to be the second oldest sailing contest in the world after the America’s Cup, unlike the America’s Cup of 1851, it was still sailed in craft virtually unchanged since those times, and as such was in itself an especially important part of this nation’s maritime heritage. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the last race.