Sunday, February 28, 2021

The end of the high street bank?

I took the two photos above on Wednesday afternoon at around 4pm in the Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. Barclay's Bank had only closed for good less than ninety minutes earlier, yet the fascia containing the bank sign and logo had already been taken down. The ATM units were also disconnected and no longer operating.  Barclays was the last bank to have a presence in Erith; it would seem that the high street banks are rapidly becoming an oxymoron. Lloyds is closing soon in Nuxley Road, Upper Belvedere, much to the dismay of many local residents. It would seem that most bank customers are now forced to bank online, whether they wish to or not. How businesses that handle cash will deal with this situation seems to have been overlooked. It would seem that the high street bank is very much endangered. On a more positive note, as you can see in the lower of the two photos above - click on either to see a larger version - a new store has opened in the Riverside Shopping Centre, on the site of the former Barnardo's charity shop. The chap who used to have the stall selling mobile phone accessories has now moved into the formerly vacant retail unit. It does seem rather large for his requirements, but I can only assume that he got a very good deal on the shop lease. It does seem that he is counting on a steady stream of custom to cover what must be considerably increased overheads. How many locals will replace their mobile phones and require a new case or other accessory is unclear. The roll - out and current heavy promotion of 5G technology may well be a key. There are however some issues relating to 5G that do not appear to have been given much consideration - and it is certainly nothing to do with the crackpot conspiracy theories relating to the new technology. It is to do with power consumption and electrical efficiency, and how the British high street will have to change to accommodate this, and the increasing demands for power delivery. Presently, energy costs already account for 20-25 percent of network total cost of ownership for 4G operators. It is now estimated that high-performing 5G-era mobile networks will require up to 140 percent more energy in some deployment scenarios. The good news is that while 5G base stations consume more electricity than 4G counter-parts, their energy efficiency can be about 25 times that of 4G base stations. In some busy hours, based on power consumption of 1000 watts, the 5G base station will support the transmission of 5425 GB traffic, compared with the 4G base station’s 200 GB. The problem with this is that most areas do not currently have the electricity capacity for the ongoing 5G roll out, especially as on top of 5G, electric car charging points are going to need to be massively increased in number, if the government's target of ceasing sale of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030 is to be met (don't hold your breath). This would appear to be a classic case of ambition exceeding capability. What do you think? Email me at

Recently I have had a couple of conversations relating to Mobo Toys, and their part in the history of Erith. The following history has been compiled from a number of sources. The company had a very strong manufacturing presence in the town for many years. David Sebel had emigrated from Russia circa 1912 and set up in partnership as a Wheelwright in East London in 1921. In 1928 he moved the Company to Lant Street in Borough, London S.E.1 with the takeover of a firm, Hazeldine and Norton, of Wheelwright’s and Motor Body and Van Builders. Interestingly the house next to the premises had been the residence of Charles Dickens when his parents were in the Marshalsea Debtor’s Prison. In the 1930’s they expanded into Architectural metalwork and other engineering projects. Also producing street cleaning carts, milk churns and fronts for Cinemas. In 1931 Harry Sebel, David’s son, joined the firm starting from the bottom up. During the Second World War the Company turned over to war work and several local premises were used for their production of aircraft and tank components, bunks for air raid shelters, bailey bridge components and even a tower for an experimental radar station. In the early 1940’s Harry was looking to the future, and realised that there would be a need to expand the company and find work for the existing workforce and those which had been called up. After much research it was decided to go into metal furniture, under the Trade name Stak-a-Bye, and also into the toy business. But what to make which would be different from anyone else. Harry had the idea of a Rocking Horse which the rider could propel along themselves. Basic plans were drawn up and a full size horse mockup was made using bicycle gears. To get an idea of what the finished product would look like a Taxidermist in Piccadilly was approached for a horse hide, the only thing he had was from a Zebra so that was used. The prototype Zebra was still around at the Erith factory for several years. A Patent was taken out in 1942 for the basic mechanism. Later Charles Morewood, RA was commissioned to sculpt the clay body of what became the Mobo Bronco. The steel furniture business was set up in 1946 from the Weller Street side of the premises, a name which was used at the Erith factory to denote the furniture production building. The Lant Street premises were not going to be big enough for the toy and furniture business envisaged and so the ex Vickers Gun Works at 177, West Street, Erith were purchased in February, 1947. As the intention was to produce everything in-house from the arrival of the raw material to the finished product, the full kitting out of the factory with large presses, dip tanks, spray booths, etc. took a while. Toy production did not start at Erith until September, 1947. However, some toys had been assembled at Lant Street SE1, produced by outside contractors, to enable a display at the British Industries Fair in May, 1947. The other toys on show were Merry Go Round, Rocker Swing, Chair Desk and Roll-a-Bye Skates. The name ‘Mobo’ came from a brainstorming session when ‘Mobile Toys’ had been rejected. The clown on the decal was due to an interest in the Circus by the David Sebel. The Circus theme was used in a lot of their Exhibition Stands and advertising. A tin clown was designed but never went into production. It would have been very similar to an early Action Man! Later advertising and instruction sheets used the Mobo title as two characters ‘Mr Mo’ and ‘Miss Bo’. The most well known toy is the Bronco, the ride-on horse. It works by the rider sitting on the horse and pushing down on the stirrups, then releasing them and then the horse moves along. From 1947 to 1950 the Bronco could only be steered in a straight line, but in February, 1950 Magic Steering was introduced. This enabled the rider by pushing on either stirrup to move the horse in that direction. The Bronco was so popular that it stayed in production until 1971. The body pressings were also used for a series of other toys; the Spring Horse, Night Rider (nothing to do with the David Hasselhoff TV show from the 1980's), Prairie Prancer, Range Rider - two different types produced, Rocking Horse, and the Bronco Merry Go Round. The toy colours came from ‘market research’ with the local school children at West Street School – yellow and red being the favourite. These children were also used for photo shoots for advertising and testing the toys, as was famously covered by a 1952 Pathe Newsreel which you can see by clicking here. In 1949, the Walking Snail was introduced at the New York Toy Fair, also at the same fair the ‘Pony’ was first shown. The ‘Pony’ pressings went on to be used on several different toys. 1948 also saw the introduction of the first small remote control walking toy – the Toy - Toise. This was a great success not just for children, but also adults, as they were used for Toy-Toise races at many parties. The American Market was an amazing success for the Mobo Company. In 1948 they exported to the USA half of the total toy exports of all British Toy Companies. At this time Britain was recovering from the Second World War, and steel was rationed according to the amount of goods exported. Mobo never had any trouble obtaining supplies because of their excellent export record. A New York office had been opened in 1948 at the Breslin Building, Broadway, New York and an American subsidiary formed Sebel Products Inc. Other major markets were Australia and South Africa. A Showroom and Office had been opened at 39/41 New Oxford Street, London W.C.1 in September, 1945. Other toys produced included Prams, Bicycles, Desks, Wheelbarrows, Rockers, Swings, Scooters and, from 1956, Pedal Cars. In 1951 Harry and David emigrated to Australia and set up a factory at Bankstown, Sydney. Here they produced both Toys and Furniture. The components were shipped from Erith and assembled and painted at Bankstown. The Australian company decided in 1957 to concentrate on the furniture business and so toy production was stopped. The furniture business still goes on today as part of the GWA International Group, and they have recently opened a branch in the United Kingdom. In 1955 the Toy Boat business of Harold Flory Ltd., of Bromley, Kent was taken over. They produced the Snipe, and Swift  Motor Boats, the Sprite Yacht, and the Snort Submarine, also Toy Cars. The boats were continued in production by Mobo. Jetex, the Model Aircraft Engine business, was purchased in 1956. Besides a range of Jet propelled engines they also produced model kits for aircraft and a plastic boats and cars for the Jetex engine. The mid 1960’s saw an introduction of toys made from injection moulded plastic and the importation of a range of plastic Pedal cars from Pines of Italy. These included a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Pedal Car. A range of bicycles was also imported from Italy. By the late 1960s the British toy industry was having a difficult time due to cheap imports from the Far East. When John Bentley of Barclay Securities made an offer to purchase the Company in 1970 it was taken up. The Barclay Toy Group was formed to which Chad Valley, Charles Methuen and Tri-ang were added in 1971. Unfortunately the overheads of the Group meant that losses were still being made and a major reorganisation took place in 1972 with the Erith Works being closed and all production of all Mobo Toys ceasing. The site is now a large housing estate. Mobo toys now change hands for serious money on online auction sites like Ebay. There is also a dedicated Mobo toy sales and exchange website that you can visit by clicking here. If you have any memories that you would like to share about Mobo toys, or possibly having worked at the factory, do either leave a comment below, or Email me at  

The Reverend Simon Archer of All Saints Church, Nuxley Road, Belvedere has been in the news last week; he featured several times on the BBC London News on Monday. Simon has become something of a local celebrity, due to his interest in online gaming, as well as his calling. The BBC wrote of him:- "When lockdown forced church doors to close, the Reverend Simon Archer decided to live stream services to the congregation of All Saints Belvedere in south-east London. But after developing broadcasting skills, he decided to start streaming video games on social media too. The 46-year-old self-styled Vicarious BIG invites people to watch, play and chat during the Covid pandemic. He has conversations about any subject, but often discusses faith and offers support. He says he was “called by God” to combine his two biggest passions and create the virtual ‘Church of Chat’. You can see the BBC London news report at the end of this update.

As I have written in the past, I do rely to quite an extent on my readers. Some people - erroneously - think that I know everything that goes on in the local area, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. I rely on people telling me things, as has been evidenced during the last week, when a long - time reader informed me of something that I had not been aware of. There has recently been a successful anti fly-tipping campaign in the local area. Environment Agency officers working with London Borough Of Bexley, the Met Police, Openreach and the Joint Unit For Waste Crime seized a vehicle and issued 4 penalty notices while stopping vehicles carrying waste in Erith as part of Operation Cubo. The Environment Agency were pulling over vehicles to check they were registered as waste carriers with the Environment Agency, and that they had a required waste transfer note that shows what they were carrying, where they picked the waste up and where they were taking it to. The Environment Agency and its partners stopped 22 vehicles carrying waste, issued 4 fixed penalty notices for non-compliance and seized one vehicle. Joint investigations will continue with the Environment Agency and, if convicted as a result of legal action, those responsible could face extensive fines and even prison sentences. January 2021 saw the first anniversary of the Joint Unit for Waste Crime. The Unit was formed by the Environment Agency and partners, aiming to stop serious and organised crime in the UK waste industry. 

Criminals across London could be made to wear "sobriety tags" when they are convicted of alcohol-fuelled offences. The Ministry of Justice said it is extending the scheme throughout the capital after a pilot scheme, which was originally proposed nearly five years ago, but due to various legal and organisational challenges, only actually started last May, and is only now fully in operation. It targets those whose drinking played a part in crimes. Courts can ban offenders from consuming alcohol and fit them with an ankle bracelet which monitors their sweat. If alcohol is detected, the individual can be returned to court to face further sanctions. Courts will be able to order offenders to wear a tag for up to 120 days. The tough community sentence not only punishes offenders but aids their rehabilitation by forcing them to address the causes of their behaviour –  in turn helping to reduce alcohol-related harm. in a recent interview, Keith Hunter, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Humberside (where one of the trials was held) said:- "I welcome the use of the alcohol tags being rolled out across England and Wales. During the trial in our area they provided rehabilitation agencies a real opportunity to work with the individual and get them to recognise and change their behaviour. Undoubtedly their use will help reduce the number of victims of alcohol-related crime, many in domestic situations, and aid the rehabilitation of offenders as they become a standard feature of the Criminal Justice System". The trouble with these tags is that they are very easily evaded or fooled, making the whole scheme questionable. The Ministry of Justice said that in the pilot scheme, there was a ninety two percent compliance rate. What this actually means is that eight percent of offenders fitted with the sobriety tags were too thick to figure out how to circumvent it. A piece of plastic bag, or a cut - up rubber glove slid between the sensor on the tag and the offender's skin stops the sensor from detecting alcohol in the blood without triggering the sensor to think it has been removed (a drop in body temperature measured by the sensor). This is all very basic stuff - but it seems to have completely bypassed the Ministry of Justice in their ivory towers, eager to believe anything the private firm who will be running the project and supplying the sobriety tags tell them. What do you think? Email me at

I was very disappointed to learn that Nick Hair, the landlord and owner of The Kentish Belle micro pub has put the business up for sale, as you can see from his message above. Hopefully the business will find a suitable buyer and will continue. I wish Nick well in the future. The hospitality industry has been hit exceptionally hard during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it may take a decade to fully recover.

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "Thursday 18/2/21 00:40 Vehicle Interference. Entry gained to vehicle nothing was taken Westfield Road. Friday 19/2/21 00:01 – 06:00 Burglary, Pushbike was stolen Swallow Close. Between Thursday 18/2/21 22:00 and Friday 19/2/21 01:30 Theft Of Motor Vehicle, Pushbike and Motorbike (Motorbike recovered) Holmesdale Close. Friday 19/2/21 between 18:00 and 19:30 Theft of Motor Vehicle, Parkside Avenue. Between Friday 19/2/21 21:00 and Saturday 20/2/21 04:40 Vehicle Interference, Parkside Avenue. Tuesday 23/2/21 between 08:35 and 08:40 Theft From Motor Vehicle, Eversley Avenue. Between Monday 22/2/21 20:00 and Tuesday 23/2/21 08:00 Other Theft, Pushbike was stolen, Hurstwood Avenue". Belvedere ward - no report this week. Bexleyheath ward:- "Thursday 18/2/21 09:45 - 09L55 Theft From Person, Broadway Bexleyheath. Thursday 18/2/21 08:20 - 08:25 Theft From Motor Vehicle, Pinnacle Hill. Friday 19/2/21 03:15 – 03:30 Attempted Burglary, Starbucks Broadway. Glass windows smashed. Friday 19/2/21 15:00 – 18:00 Theft From Motor Vehicle, Broadway. Please be aware of people nearby and when drawing cash out of the machines, keep handbags zipped up and purses/wallets secure". Crayford ward;-"A vehicle was stolen from Crayford Road on Monday 15th February between 15:15 and 15:19. A bicycle was stolen from Craymill Square on Saturday 20th February during the early hours. A bicycle was stolen from a shed in Perry Street between Wednesday 17th and Friday 19th February. Bicycles are often located or found dumped, where we have the frame number it assists with returning the item to the rightful owner.  More crime prevention advice about this can be found at A report was taken this week after a resident reported that an Amazon delivery that had been left in a safe place had been stolen. It may be worth noting that delivery of most Amazon parcels (other companies too) can be made to a local pick up point very close to the home address and may save stress in reporting a stolen item and arranging a replacement in the long run". Erith ward - no report this week. Northumberland Heath ward - no report this week. Slade Green and Northend ward:- "Items were taken from a vehicle in Sandpiper Driver overnight on Monday, February 22nd including a wallet and some loose change. A garage in Alderney Road had tools taken around 2 am on Monday, 22nd February, 2 suspects were seen on Ring Doorbell footage but the images weren’t clear enough for any ID. A motorbike was stolen from a garden in Raleigh Close in the early hours of Tuesday February 23rd. Enquiries for all 3 crimes are ongoing". Thamesmead East ward:- "Marthan Close: Thursday 18/2/21 at approximately 10 pm an informant witnessed a mixed-race male possibly in late 20's attempt the Theft of Catalytic Converter from neighbour's HONDA vehicle. The informant shouted at the male suspect who ran to an unknown vehicle with two occupants inside and drove off. Overton Road: Between Saturday 20/2/21 9 pm and Sunday 21/2/21 1:30 pm the victim noticed that the vehicle was unlocked with the rear door slightly ajar. Upon inspection of the vehicle, it was noticed the contents had been moved around. A bank card, Dell projector, loose change and small bag of tools had been removed from the vehicle without the owner’s permission. Good News - on Monday 22nd February officers from Thamesmead East, Thamesmead Moorings and Belvedere SNT were conducting proactive patrols when they encountered a male acting suspiciously in Ruskin Road Belvedere. The male who quickly became aggressive was detained and searched under Section 23 Misuse of Drugs Act, which proved negative. The male was also in possession of a large quantity of cash which was not consistent with his lifestyle, he was detained for a further search where he was found in possession of a large quantity of Class A drugs which was kept in his underwear. The substance has now been tested and proved to be cocaine. He was swiftly arrested and taken to a South London police station, further search powers were granted and a search of his home address revealed a firearm. The male was then further arrested for firearms offences. On Tuesday 23rd of February officers from Thamesmead East, Thamesmead Mooring and Belvedere conducted a traffic operation on Yarnton Way. Within minutes of officers being at the roadside, a vehicle was stopped and the driver was found in possession of a large quantity of drugs and money. The male was arrested and taken back to a South London Police station where he was found with more prohibited drugs down his underwear. This is yet another example of your local teams working in partnership to bring offenders to justice. We would like to take this opportunity to thank local residents, your reports help us to deliver a targeted approach to Policing". West Heath ward - no report this week. 

As mentioned earlier in this update, the end video this week features the BBC TV News interview with Reverend Simon Archer of All Saints Church, Nuxley Road, Belvedere. Comments and feedback to me at

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