Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Bombe.

I took the two photos above (click on either for a larger view) on Tuesday afternoon in Walnut Tree Road, Erith. They show the freshly restored roof and iconic copper weather vane on top of the classic Carnegie Library building, which is currently being refurbished and repurposed before it opens to the public as The Exchange. The aim of The Exchange is to create a community centre and a focus for local arts, heritage and culture, and to create somewhere for local people to use as a base for learning and advancement. It will have meeting rooms, creator spaces and a cafe / bar area. There are many plans for activities to take place in the Carnegie Library building when it re - opens in the New Year, once the first phase of the refurbishment and reconstruction work is completed. Initially the lower ground floor of the building will be opened, with the ground and upper floors opening once the subsequent second refurbishment phase is completed in due course. The project is costing a considerable amount of money, which is coming from a number of funding sources, including the Mayor of London's Office and The National Lottery. In 2016, the London Borough of Bexley secured £926,600 from the Mayor’s London Regeneration Fund to repair and renew Erith’s Carnegie building. The council have also inputted over £900,000 to this first phase of works that will bring the lower ground floor of the building back into public use. The design has been led by Robin Lee Architects. The Exchange will be taking on a long-term lease for the building, and will be reopening the building in January 2019 with a host of arts, heritage and community activities and the Book Store cafĂ©. More on The Exchange and the Carnegie Library restoration next week. 

Some news about Bexley Brewery; the very successful local business, which is based on the Manford Industrial Estate at the Eastern end of Manor Road, next door to Erith Yacht Club is temporarily closing its brewery shop. The reason for this is due to their increased demand for their superb quality real ales, they need to extend the ale conditioning room, which is air conditioned and temperature controlled. The expansion will take over the area at the front of the brewery which is used for the shop, bar and off sales area. For this reason the shop will be closed whilst the building work is undertaken, and an alternative location for the shop can be built. Whilst the shop is out of commission, you can still buy ale from their brewery tap - the exceptional Bird and Barrel micro pub in Barnehurst Road, Barnehurst, close to the railway station. 

Last Monday evening I watched the first episode of a new BBC TV series entitled "Monkman's and Seagull's genius guide to Britain" which is described as "University Challenge icons and real-life best friends Eric Monkman and Bobby Seagull are on a road trip with a difference. Feeding their insatiable appetite for knowledge, they visit Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales in search of hidden gems of British scientific and technological ingenuity". This is the sort of television programme that really interests me - two interesting and knowledgable presenters travelling around the UK highlighting less well known engineering and scientific landmarks. There was a definite local theme to the first episode - not that a casual viewer of the show would necessarily have realised. The BBC description of the first episode reads:- "Their genius guide through England showcases an assortment of remarkable inventions. It begins with a trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach to experience Sir Hiram Maxim's 1904 Captive Flying Machines, the oldest amusement ride in Europe. These miniature rocket-shaped aeroplanes were designed by the eccentric inventor who created the first portable machine gun but whose ultimate goal was to achieve powered flight. A vertiginous spin on this historic ride gives Monkman the perfect opportunity to describe in detail the theory of centrifugal force". As regular readers will already be aware, I have written on several occasions in the past about Erith based local inventor and businessman Sir Hiram Maxim. The story of the captive flying machine amusement park ride is a little inaccurate. It is inferred during the programme that Maxim created the ride in 1904 in order to publicise and promote his Maxim Flyer flying machine. This is actually inaccurate - by 1904 the Wright Brothers had already performed a whole series of controlled, powered heavier than air flights. As I have previously written, Maxim's flyer predated the Wright Brothers efforts by launching his steam powered flyer in Baldwyn's Park in 1894 where it accidentally took off whilst taxying along rails. The Maxim Flyer predated the amusement park rides by some years; indeed, the first ride - the one now located on Blackpool Pleasure Beach is reputed to be constructed at least in part from materials reclaimed from The Maxim Flyer after it was scrapped.  The Maxim Flyer predated the Captive Flying Machines amusement ride by several years - something not picked up in the nonetheless excellent TV show. 

Last Saturday the first Abbey Wood Village Food and Craft fair took place. Fellow local Blogger Malcolm Knight of "Bexley is Bonkers" attended the event and took a fine series of photos which you can see by clicking here. The event looks to have been a great success, and will hopefully become a regular event in the local social calendar.

In a classic example of the law of unintended consequences, Morrison's in Erith are now suffering financially after their decision to voluntarily discontinue their 5p carrier bags. As of Thursday this week all of the wire hand baskets in the shop have been fitted with wireless security tags. I understand from talking to staff that since the 5p carriers were dropped back in June, that the level of basket theft has sky rocketed; one staff member told me in confidence that at times up to forty percent of the hand baskets were missing from the supermarket. Whilst some baskets were returned to the store by the customers who had taken them home, a significant number disappeared forever. Bearing in mind the baskets cost around £15 each to replace, that is a significant loss. I am not aware as to the cost of adding RF security tags to each basket, but when hundreds of baskets for the one store are taken into account, the spend must be considerable. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

The Erith Pier Festival will be taking place next Saturday. It will be the final outing of the year for the successful Erith Kitchen gourmet food stalls pop - up village, which will be located on the pier, rather than in front of Morrison's car park, as in previous appearances. There will be live music and other entertainment, which will take place between 11am and 9pm on Erith Pier. I will be along during the day with my camera - do come over and say hello if you see me.

Families of Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin living locally are currently being targetted by thieves. The criminals are specifically looking to steal high purity gold jewellery from families of Asian origin. Chairman of Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association Dana Wiffen said:- "There is some concern that burglars are again targeting Bexley's residents with the aim of stealing Asian Gold which is known for its purity and high quality. Bexley NW can only urge all parts of the community to be alert for these slippery thieves. We know that many in areas that were affected by, or living in areas near to, where there were break-ins earlier this year have joined us and have purchased “Smart Water” security marking kits, using our member's only discount code which offers a reduced price. We can only urge you if you have not purchased this, to do so as soon as possible, and if you are aware of any friends and family that live in Bexley who were planning to join us but how have not yet, please encourage them to join us and mark their valuables. Our aim is to make it as difficult as possible to steal your valuables. Reported burglaries for the previous week were 7 with 3 attempted. We want to help keep these burglary figures low and with your help we can. Remember, anything you see that appears suspicious like cars with occupants hanging around, get the make, model, number of occupants, registration number and pass it to us with time and date and we will ensure the police get this information. If you think they are about to commit a crime phone 999". More from Neighbourhood Watch later in this update.

Just as Christmas seems to be advertised and promoted far too soon nowadays, I have already seen supermarkets and shops such as The Works running promotions for Halloween. Halloween seems to be taking over as the main winter festival from Guy Fawkes Night. Halloween was originally created in pretty much its’ current form by 18th century Irish people, the word is a corruption of All Hallow’s Eve. Irish immigrants to America took the tradition there, and it was exported back across the Atlantic in the early 1980’s. Although Halloween was celebrated before this time, it was a far lower key and less involved affair. I am convinced that the increase in popularity of the Americanised version of the festival can at least partly be laid at the feet of Steven Spielberg and his movie “ET – The Extra Terrestrial”. The film carries strong Halloween themes such as dressing up and “Trick or Treating” which prior to the opening of the film in 1982 had been relatively uncommon in the UK. The massive popularity of the film exposed may children of the time to take on the American aspects of the Halloween festival; many of those children now have children of their own, and the festival thus now has an amplified resonance not previously seen. Personally I am not struck with the whole thing, which basically encourages small children to demand goods with menaces, but I am probably in a minority.

I watched a live series of lectures and demonstrations which were broadcast on YouTube throughout most of Friday; as some of you will be aware, I have an interest in cryptography and code breaking, not only because of a familial connection; my late Great Uncle Horace is thought to have been one of the Post Office team led by Tommy Flowers that constructed the Colossus Mk1 and Mk2 computers which were used at Bletchley Park to establish the rotor settings for the Lorenz Cypher, which was used to encrypt messages sent from the Nazi High Command in the last few years of WWII. In the years prior to this, Bletchley Park were mainly engaged in breaking the Enigma Cipher. In a live video link-up with Poland on Friday, the reconstructed Turing-Welchman Bombe pictured above - (click for a larger view) at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park attempted to find the key of the day and break Enigma messages just as it did during the Second World War. Ruth Bourne, a wartime Bombe operator, was present to verify the process as the TNMOC (The National Museum Of Computing) Bombe Team attempt to find the key to decrypt messages that will be sent from Poland throughout the day. The challenge was part of a live video link-up with the World Computer Congress in the Poznan Supercomputing Centre, Poland. At the conference, the audience  also heard papers relating to cryptography, the Bombe and Alan Turing from presenters including Sir Dermot Turing, Dr Marek Grajek and Dr Roger Johnson. Based on the work of Polish mathematicians who first broke Enigma before war began, Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman created the Bombe - an electro mechanical analogue computer - to automate the decryption process to reveal enemy Enigma messages about their current operations. For security reasons, the Enigma key for each network in the field was changed by the enemy every day (at about midnight). Bletchley Park cryptographers and operators would try to discover that key as quickly as possible so that the day’s messages could be deciphered and invaluable intelligence obtained. The complete process including the interception of the Enigma-encrypted Morse messages from across the world, transmission to Bletchley Park, the attempt to discover each day’s wheel settings and the production of the plain text of the decrypted messages was demonstrated live to an audience both in Bletchley Park, in Poland and around the world via YouTube. The working reconstructed Bombe can be seen almost daily at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park. Thanks to private donors the Bombe moved to the Museum in spring 2018.

Now for the weekly safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association - firstly from Barnehurst ward:- "Another fantastic week across the ward with no crimes of note reported (up to 17/09/18) The team have had a busy week which has included assisting Crayford ward with a drugs warrant resulting in the discovery of a quantity of class A drugs namely cocaine and ketamine. The Safer neighbourhood teams work closely together and regularly assist each other to carry out warrants and tackle ASB issues. If you have any information regarding this or any other crime please give the team a call in strictest confidence or call Crime Stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 Please make sure that your home is secure. If you have a UPVC or multi locking door mechanism simply shutting the door will not prevent burglaries. Most use a system of hooks and latches but these only work if you lift up the handle and then turn and remove the key. Double lock the door every time you leave the house, even for a short period of time and before going to bed at night. It only takes a matter of seconds for a burglar to open a door that is not double locked. We are continuing our street a week campaign, a local initiative to visit at least one street a week and meet as many residents as possible across the ward. This week we have visited Defoe and Appledore Close Please join a member of the team at Barnehurst Golf Course on Thursday 27th September at 1pm for a chat about any local issues that may be of concern. If you cannot make our contact sessions the the team will be happy to pay you a home visit or at a location of your choice. We are always looking for additional venues to hold our meetings, if you have any suggestions please get in touch, ideally the venue will need to be on Barnehurst ward As always you can follow us on Twitter @MPSBarnehurst and Facebook Barnehurst Police for crime prevention advice and to find out what the team have been up to". Once again no report from the Belvedere ward, so we will move on to Bexleyheath ward:- "Unfortunately, we have had a report of an attempted burglary on the 17/09/2018 along Broom Mead Bexleyheath. The house alarm had been activated and neighbour discovered an attempted break in. The team are conducting daily weapon sweeps to keep offensive weapons off the streets to help reduce crime. No weapons have been found on our ward. We also assisted with a warrant on a neighbouring ward. Sunday 16/09/2018 – A criminal damage to motor vehicle was reported opposite the Meze restaurant. A side window was smashed and keys taken from within the vehicle; Saturday 15/09/2018 – Royal Oak Road Bexleyheath – Suspect was trying door handles on the street; Friday 14/09/2018 / Saturday 15/09/2018 – A theft of motor vehicle had been reported along Leysdown Avenue Bexleyheath; Sunday 16/09/2018 – Theft from motor vehicle reported at the Marriot Hotel – Number platers stolen from a motorcycle. Sunday 16/09/2018 – Victim had sold vehicle and suspect had given cash to victim and taking money out. The team are still targeting patrols around Martens Grove and Grove Road including the garages to reduce anti-social behaviour. If you do wish to pass on information to Police then please contact Crime stoppers on 0800 555111. Please do not hesitate to contact us via Twitter, Facebook, email and the ward phone. If you are after crime prevention advice, please look at the Met Police website which has lots of information that you may find useful. Remember in an emergency please dial 999 and 101 for non-urgent reporting".

Crayford ward:- "This week your team have been very busy. On Saturday 15th September we successfully executed a drugs warrant in Ridge Way. We were advised that youths were riding motorcycles off road on the Braeburn Park Wildlife Reserve, officers stopped them and they were issued with Section 59 warnings. This means that if they or their vehicles are causing anti-social behaviour in this manner again, the bikes can be seized and they will have to pay a fine to get them back or they will be destroyed, usually a lesson well learnt! Four people were processed for using their mobile phones while driving. Open spaces have been patrolled as there have continued to be calls about drug use and dealing, there have been other visible patrols around the ward too. On Wednesday 12th September at approx. 12.20 a grey Vivaro van, VO65 UNP was stolen in Crayford Way. The driver had just made a delivery and was walking back to the van, the key to the vehicle was attached to a keychain on the driver's trousers. A male described as white, aged 35-40 years snatched the key, pushing the victim to the ground with the intention of stealing the van. On Thursday 13th September at about 14.45 a lady was walking along by Next in Tower Retail Park, her handbag was on her shopping trolley when she tripped over, realising then that a stocky man had run off with her handbag containing keys, purse, currency and medication. Police were called to an aggravated burglary on Friday 14th September between 21.45 and 22.15 in Ridge Way. The suspects broke in to the property, the occupants were elsewhere and came to no harm. The suspect has been named and he will be arrested for a number of offences. Our next surgery will be held on Thursday 27th September at Crayford Library between 2-3pm. We will also be attending the Age Concern coffee morning on Friday 28th September between 11.30-12.30. Would you like to join our ward panel? We meet every three months to discuss ward issues, you can help make a positive difference in your local community. Please contact us via email: if you are interested". Erith ward:- "Over the last few evenings we have focused our patrols on the West Street area we have been carrying out stop and searches and late night patrols in the area over this time the tasking team and A/PS Pete Rose and PC Marc Smith have also helped us out patrolling this area – Big thanks to them. We have also been doing daily weapon sweeps in the area on one sweep we found 3 knives in a bush, 2 of them 12inch in size. You can see images of these on our twitter page @MPSErith . Also we have joined Moat housing and carrying out home visits in James Watt Way. Other theft - 13/09/2018, Barclays Bank Plc, TOWN SQUARE; Shoplift <£200 - 13/09/2018, Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc,JAMES WATT WAY; Criminal Damage U£500 - 11/09/2018, RIVERDALE ROAD; Theft from motor vehicle - 13/09/2018, TOWER ROAD; Theft from motor vehicle -14/09/2018, MORRIS DRIVE; Theft from motor vehicle - 13/09/2018, CORRAL HEIGHTS, CHICHESTER WHARF; Shoplift £200 - 14/09/2018 Iceland Foods Plc TOWN SQUARE. Feel free to pop along and meet us for a chat at Costa Coffee Erith - Wednesday 3rd October, 12 midday". Northumberland Heath ward:- "It has been a relatively peaceful week on North Heath since our last update. There has only been one reported burglary which happened within a house of multiple occupancy. Pc Smith and PCSO Reid were busy patrolling the ward and stopped a male with cannabis in Limewood Road which resulted in the male being dealt with by way of a Community Resolution. We have been patrolling widely across the ward responding to issues raised by resident, including Walsingham Walk where the residents have reported groups of youths gathering and causing a nuisance. One group of youths that are known to us were stopped there, given advice and moved on. We have a drop-in surgery at North Heath Library on Wednesday 26th October 2018 at 2pm so please come along".  Slade Green and North End ward:- "We will start with the bad news this week, a burglary occurred in Lincoln Close between 8 and 10am last Thursday (13th Sept). Entry though the garden and a window, family gold jewellery stolen. There was also an attempted burglary in Moat Lane whereby tool marks were seen by a front window that wouldn't close properly. The incident was reported on Saturday 15th Sept but there is no actual time frame as to when this may have occurred. All victims have been spoken to by SNT officers and reassurance given along with crime prevention advice. There is good news however. PC Mark and PC James have been busy, they have had 3 positive drug stop and searches with all the necessary warnings given, 2 Section 59 warnings issued to 2 males riding off road bikes, one in Rainbow Road and one in Bridge Road (pics above) and a female was stopped after being seen selling toys from a carrier bag in Daleview. Enquiries are being made into if the toys are stolen and she is due in for an interview very soon to explain what she was up to".  Thamesmead East ward:- "On Tuesday 11/09/18 at 07:45 am a vehicle parked outside one of the local shops in YARNTON WAY,DA18 had the driver's side window smashed and various items taken ,all this happened while the driver was carrying out a delivery. Between the dates of 01/10/17 and 15/09/18 a vehicle which had been notified off road and was to be sold was stolen from THAMESBANK PLACE, SE28. Local Event - There is a new community event every Wednesday for the over 50s between 12noon – 3:00pm at THE ATRIUM, TEESWATER COURT MIDDLE WAY, THAMESMEAD, DA18 4DG. iPhone launch - With the launch of Apple's new phone ,you may see an increase in crime ,as criminals try to obtain the latest phones. Don't text while you're walking you won't notice potential thieves approaching Keep away from road-sides if your mobile is in your hand. Use the security features on your phone, such as keyboard locks and remote data wiping . Make sure they are all activated to stop thieves accessing your phone and personal data. Know how to identify your phone if its stolen. Find your IMEI number by dialling *#06# from your phone and keep a written note of it. If the phone is stolen, report it to the police and your mobile provider to stop it being used. Register your phone on Police recover more than 2,500 items registered to the website on average every month. GOOD NEWS - Good partnership working with Peabody Housing Association resulted in a stolen motor bike being found, the owner contacted, who stated that his insurance company were now the owners. They in turn contacted to collect the motor cycle from the housing association premises. PCSO Buckley came across a 27 year old female ,who stated that she was homeless and had slept in a stairwell for a couple of nights. The female was taken into the Thamesmead East police base in limestone walk, made comfortable with hot food and tea. After making further enquiries, PC Pruden was able to make contact with a relative, who confirmed the female's details which amounted to the female having mental health issues. The female was accompanied to Queen Elizabeth hospital with PC Pruden and the relative to be assessed. Police Surgery - Friday 28/09/18 between the hours of 1:00 pm and 2:00pm at THE LAKESIDE MEDICAL CENTRE YARNTON WAY. An opportunity for members of the community who prefer face- to – face contact to speak with a Dedicated Ward Officer". West Heath ward:- "There was one reported burglary and two attempted burglary on West Heath Ward between Wednesday 12/09/18 and Tuesday 18/09/18. There was also one reported theft from motor vehicle during the same period. The property was last secured about 1800 on Thursday 13/09/2018. On Friday 14/09/2018 a member of public has called police after he noticed that the front door was open. Police have attended, and the front door was indeed open. It is suspected that the door was kicked open. Entry was gained and untidy search took place. The victim stated that there was some loose change missing. The venue is a dog grooming salon in the Pantiles. There was an attempted burglary in Selsey Crescent Welling on Wednesday 12/09/2018 at 12:37pm. Two males in a van and on pushbikes were taking scrap metal out of a skip and a person was seen leaving a house. Nothing was taken. There was an attempted burglary on Pembury Road Welling at about 14:20 pm on Tuesday 18/09/2018. Two young black males seen running at the door trying to kick the door open. The door was damaged. There was a theft from motor vehicle in New Road London SE2 0PN between 0830am on 10/09/18 and 0115 am on 11/09/18. The vehicle was parked in the street and suspect unknown smashing drivers window entering vehicle taking the vehicle battery then decamping by means of a vehicle and in direction unknown".

The end video this week features a chap exploring the former Soviet Foxtrot class submarine that has been moored off Strood Pier on the River Medway for many years. The boat, (not ship - submarines are always referred to as boats) was thought to be abandoned, but this would appear to be incorrect - restoration work is now being undertaken on the cold war relic. The chap in the video is very enthusiastic, but pretty clueless; nevertheless it makes for entertaining and instructional viewing. I would very much like to visit the submarine when and if it re - opens to the general public. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

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