Sunday, April 04, 2021

Happy Anniversary.


I took the three photos above last Tuesday afternoon on Erith Pier - click on each of them to see a larger view. The weather was excellent, and quite a few people were visiting the pier in a responsible and socially distanced manner. It still amazes me that the pier is a destination that many local people are still unaware of. It is an underused resource in my opinion. Taking a walk, or watching the world go by whilst sitting on one of the many seats on the pier is a rewarding experience when the weather is good. You can see what I call the "Erith Big Sky" - possibly the only place in the entire London Borough of Bexley when one can see from horizon to horizon. I did have one comment on the photos above; the person observed that it looked like Erith could be a holiday resort. Well in fact, for a couple of decades in the Victorian era, Erith actually was a very popular holiday resort. In 1842 a wooden pier was built on the riverfront at Erith (well, there would not be much point in building it anywhere else). Alongside the pier, a pier hotel was constructed; to add to the attraction a large formal garden, complete with an Arboretum (a tree garden) was also created. A hotel sat next to the pier, and soon Erith opened its pleasure gardens in 1845 which hosted all types of entertainment from walks, a bowling green, conservatory, maze, an archery field and more for the holidaymakers visiting the town. For a period it was a popular holiday destination, with tourists visiting via paddle steamer from London. The town’s change from pleasure town to industrial site was mainly due to the introduction of the Crossness Sewage plant in 1865. Due to unpleasant smells, caused by raw sewage drained into the river by Crossness, the pleasure town era ended for Erith and the town became dominated by industry. During the heyday of Erith as a holiday destination, a local man named James Barnard, who was a watchmaker and occasional, very bad poet; in 1855 he wrote an absolutely terrible poem about holidaying in the area, which I have published in the past. I do not intend inflicting it on anyone again. If you are exceptionally curious - or just downright masochistic, then Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com and I will send you a copy of the poem - but you have been warned... 

Last weekend in Picardy Road, Upper Belvedere there was a serious incident involving The Flying Squad and an armed Police unit. Details at the moment are somewhat sketchy, but it would appear that the son of a Picardy Road resident was wanted by the Police on firearms charges. I am told that the person involved, whilst relatively young, has an extensive history of offending. If you have any details, please let me know in complete confidence.

I don't normally feature photos of myself on the Maggot Sandwich. I feel that doing so normally would smack of ego mania, even if the shot of me above (click on it for a larger view) is now 31 years old. This week I am making an exception, This Sunday marks the 57th anniversary of the launch of the groundbreaking offshore station Radio Caroline. The station was launched on Easter Sunday 1964, and revolutionised radio broadcasting in the UK. The history of Radio Caroline is long and complex; several books have been written on the subject, with varying viewpoints on both the station and the people who worked on it. You can read the very detailed Wikipedia entry on the station by clicking here. Many people only know about the offshore radio stations in the 1960's, and don't realise that Radio Caroline ran through most of the 1970's until the ship the Mi Amigo sank in 1980; after this they returned to the air in 1983 with a huge and very impressive ship - the former side trawler and ice breaker the Ross Revenge, which between 1983 and the hurricane of 1987 boasted a three hundred foot tall antenna mast, which was the tallest free floating marine structure in the World. The Ross Revenge remained at sea until November 1991. My time on board was towards the end of the station's time based at sea. Any semi clandestine organisation tends to attract eccentric characters, and Caroline was no different. In the greater scheme of things, my involvement with Radio Caroline was relatively brief – some people from the time, such as station manager Peter Moore are still hard at it today. My own time with Radio Caroline was between 1988 and 1992; You can see a handful of photos by clicking here. I have a couple of hundred others that are not yet digitised. Initially I was involved with a group of friends who helped run the shore side of the organisation, and arranged for secret supply deliveries to be made covertly to the Radio Caroline ship, the Ross Revenge, which was anchored fifteen miles off the Kent Coast, opposite the North Foreland in an area of sea called the South Falls Head. I made several secret supply runs on a variety of vessels – invariably these would set out from places such as Strood Pier or Ramsgate Harbour at the dead of night, laden down with fresh drinking water, food, technical supplies, new records, letters from listeners and most importantly, magazines and newspapers for the crew to read. At the time I was working as a trainee quantity surveyor for a very prestigious London company. More and more of my time was being taken up with Radio Caroline activities, to the point where I realised that I was going to have to give up the day job – which was not such a big step, as I was struggling with my surveying exams, and had already realised that life on a building site was not for me. I jacked in the job, and six weeks later I found myself on board the Ross Revenge. I had a dual role. In the daytime I was to project manage the complete repainting of the ship from stem to stern (I had encountered a very wealthy Radio Caroline fan who owned a large commercial painting and decorating business West of London, who was happy to supply the organisation with roughly £10,000 worth of high quality marine paint), then at night I hosted a radio show featuring album tracks and various quirky news items. I was fortunate that this all happened in the long and glorious summer of 1990 – the weather was excellent, sea conditions for the most part were calm, and life was good. I have a host of stories from my time with the station – many of which sound decidedly far- fetched, though in those cases I have photos from the period for proof! Several people have suggested that I write a book about my experiences, and maybe sometime I will. To be honest, quite a few other Caroline staff have written books over the years, and I wonder whether I would actually contribute anything worthwhile to the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at sea on the Ross Revenge, and still keep in contact with my old boss Peter Moore from time to time (being honest, working for Radio Caroline is a bit like working for the Mafia – you never really leave). Nowadays, though the station has retained and restored the historic Ross Revenge, it broadcasts mainly online from land based studios in Strood, and from several remote locations. You can hear the station live right now by clicking here. They now have a broadcast licence, and in addition to their online streaming services, they can also be heard on DAB, and on 648 KHz Medium Wave. Happy birthday Radio Caroline – an organisation I am proud to say I worked for; I think you gave me far more than I was able to give you.

A long standing local club has been given notice to vacate their premises with in what in practical terms is immediate effect. The shotgun shooting club, quite strangely called the Harlow Town Rifle and Pistol Club, since it does not do rifle or pistol shooting, and nor is it based in Harlow, instead it is based on the Slade Green Marshes, and has released the following statement:- "Last week we were given 14 days notice to vacate our range as the land has been sold to build a waste to energy plant. Notwithstanding that the notice period is completely unreasonable, no planning has been applied for and we see no way in which any construction could begin this year.  Despite this, our appeals to remain for this summer have been rejected. This came completely out of the blue for us, so the club now finds itself without a range, and, not surprisingly, we are unable to accept any new members at this time. The leading IPSC practical shotgun club in the country, now without a home range! We specialise in the dynamic, exciting sport of practical shotgun shooting with over 200 members. We also organise full bore rifle shoots for our members on other ranges although the emphasis is very much on practical shotgun.  We are Home Office approved and affiliated to the UKPSA. Our members include current and former champions at both national and international levels, as such, we focus on the competitive aspects of the sport. The shooting action balances speed and accuracy whilst maintaining safety and to this end, each shooter (even the champion!) is supervised on a one to one basis by a range officer. We operate different ranges which will have different courses of fire set up, usually from the last competition we hosted, so there is plenty of variety. The club formed in 1975 initially, as an air gun section. As membership grew, a small bore section was started using the Key Glass rifle range. This progressed to Full Bore Shooting which is now through our association with The London Practical Shooting Club. So you would have noted that Harlow Town Rifle and Pistol Club itself does not do rifle or pistol and nor is it based in Harlow. Otherwise it does what it says on the tin". I was not aware of any plans for a waste to energy facility on the Slade Green Marshes? What do you think? Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com

The photo above shows the old Cannon and Gaze flour mill on Erith High Street; it was taken in (I think) around 1934, as the mill was demolished shortly thereafter in 1936, and in time the Erith Riverside Gardens were constructed on the site. The mill ground flour mainly from imported American wheat, which arrived by freighter - having a river side mill made a lot of sense at the time. I don't think any part of Erith has changed more over the years. Whilst the general feeling is that the 1960's concrete town centre redevelopment was a step backwards from the Victorian old town, I think that nobody would argue that the modern Erith Riverside Gardens is a vast improvement to the heavy industrial scene in the photo above. The old flour mill was located where the open grass area in the Gardens is now. The road layout has changed slightly, and of course the row of shops to the right of the photo are no longer there.

Regular Maggot Sandwich contributor Miles has a very interesting take on the food poverty situation that many in the UK are currently suffering from. Miles writes:- "The last twelve months has been hard on everyone, with wallets tightening we need to do everything we can to be a savvy shopper. Small changes such as changing the time you shop, which brands you buy and scoping the yellow sticker section can save a much needed amount of money. I've always been a bargain hunter, as a student working every hour I worked earned me just enough to pay for the weekly shop. This meant hunting around for the cheapest essentials that would put food on my table. After a while I enjoyed nosing around in the bargain sections, taking advantage of my employers £1 frozen bags and pretty much anything in between. Earlier this week something re - inspired me, the often overlooked 37 Pence loaf I spotted at Morrison's. Apparently people are either too "posh" to buy this little bargain, or simply were not aware. Your average branded loaf is 100 - 150 percent more expensive, I highly doubt most people would accept that if it were a bottle of Ale or Wine. This had me thinking, what else have we overlooked? Here in Bexley I have found some excellent bargains by exploring the discount sections, 1.5kg of assorted meats for a pound (Morrisons) etc, all ready to divide up and throw in the freezer. I was on such a roll I started sending pictures to my friend up north, who'd reply "how do you keep doing this?". It's certainly worth scoping out the various marked-down sections - oh and stuff your pride down your socks! Typically you should give them a quick look over during the early morning, mid afternoon and evening periods - late nights are also absolute gold for a bargain. I will however say this, do not hang around staff members like a scavenger. This makes the staff uncomfortable, and vastly less likely to help you. If you don't mind cooking up a nice stew, "Wonky" food boxes are incredible value for money and are now sold at most major supermarkets. They are usually sold as a mixture of random fruit and veg in a box for a few pounds - after a good simmering that could be boxed up and frozen for a week's grub. Meal prep is a great way of stretching your food budget over the week, you'd be surprised what you can cook with simple staples such as Pasta, Tomatoes and a bit of seasoning. Over the last few years a number of high street names are trying to reduce waste by offering up end of day leftovers (but perfectly good) through a number of 'apps'. "Too Good to Go" (no affiliation) comes to mind. With a few token pounds to hand they offer the unsold goods to app patreons (think bread, vegetables etc). There are actually a number slightly further afield you may want to explore including Karma. The bargain fallacy is a marketing technique used by many shops, they build their brand around no frills goods when in reality they are often more expensive than their high street peers. Whilst you can grab some great bargains, Iceland's recent frozen Gammon etc comes to mind, many of these 'deals' hide behind the brand or misleading packaging. Hugh mentioned to me often many frozen home meals come with either tiny portions and/or very poor quality ingredients which whilst apparently cheap, are still more expensive than their store brand equivalents. A little known tip is to scope your local Polish, Africans and Indian shops - they often sell goods in bulk far cheaper than the big four. Everything I've written is a luxury for those who've suffered in the pandemic, when money has dried up, those boundaries of your life can quickly tighten. Everything can start to look very dark. If you're in that position, I'd like to point you towards the Slade Green Food bank, they offer no questions asked about food bags which you can take away without offering any details. If needs can't be met for whatever reason, I would highly suggest you have a quiet word with the team". Thought provoking stuff, indeed.

The photo above was kindly sent to me some years ago by local history expert Ken Chamberlain; it is my current favourite shot of old Erith, as it shows so much life and activity, and is not a posed photograph. It shows the view looking Northwards along the High Street, towards the River Thames. Unfortunately it is impossible to take a modern equivalent photograph from the same location as the historic one, as the Erith Riverside Shopping Centre is now in the way, and the road layouts in and around the centre of Erith have drastically changed in the intervening years. The one thing we do know for certain is that the photograph was taken in 1910. By the looks of it, the shot was taken late on a Saturday morning in Spring or Summer - there are a lot of adult men in the photo, most of whom would be at work if the photo was taken during the week; secondly the shadows are very short, indicating the photo was taken around midday. Quite why so many people are standing around in the street is unclear. There are no apparent indications of preparations for a parade or other festival; it just appears to be a very busy street scene. I do gather that men were encouraged to stay out of the house during the day if they were not at work. The one building that is still readily recognisable in modern Erith is the Cross Keys pub, which is shown in the distance in the old photograph. Nowadays it has been renovated and converted into offices and meeting rooms for management consultancy the Aleff Group. They take the preservation of the historic building very seriously,

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly some information regarding automotive catalytic converter thefts:- "There has been a surge in the number of catalytic converters being stolen in London, with thieves becoming increasingly violent, police say. The Met's motor vehicle crime unit investigated nearly 15,000 reports of such thefts in 2020, compared to 9,500 over the previous year. The devices, which reduce the emission of pollutants, contain precious metals. More than 300 officers took part in raids on Tuesday across East London, Kent and Essex. They also intercepted a shipping container, believed to contain stolen metal and car parts, which was due to be transported to the Ivory Coast to be processed and refined. Two men were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit theft and a third on suspicion of theft. Catalytic converter thefts in England and Wales rise sixfold. A large number of catalytic converters and vehicles were seized by police, who also discovered cash, drugs and tools, including a smelting machine. Det. Ch. Insp. James Stanyer, the Met's lead officer for motor vehicle crime, said: "The criminals involved in stealing catalytic converters often commit their offences in full view of the owners of the vehicle and other members of the public, leaving them shocked and terrorised. "With more people at home because of lockdown restrictions, owners of cars parked on driveways are feeling increasingly vulnerable. "People are feeling less safe, because of the way they're willing to use violence if necessary if uncovered or disturbed," Det. Ch. Insp. Stanyer told BBC London. It is believed a rise in prices of metals such as palladium and rhodium, commonly found in converters, triggered the increase in thefts. Dedicated gangs are able to remove a converter from beneath a car in a matter of moments, leaving victims with a huge repair bill. One victim, Mo Talukder from Islington in north London, must pay out £2,000 after four men targeted her car, with the theft witnessed by neighbours. "They cut wires at the front of the car. When they were challenged, they threatened to ram anyone who spoke to them," she said". As previously mentioned, the format of the weekly ward reports from the Police has now been agreed, and the reports are now starting to return, though this week some are still missing. I am led to understand that service as usual should be resumed by next week. Barnehurst ward:- "There have not been any burglaries over the past week. In Beverley Road overnight on Wednesday 24/02/2021 up to 07.00 am on Thursday 25/03/2021 a Ford Transit was stolen". Belvedere ward:- "Non–residential Burglary at 00.55 am on Wednesday 24th March, 2021 on Picardy Road, Belvedere. Padlock damaged in order to gain access to garage (part of a stand-alone garage block). A motorcycle was stolen from within the garage, which had been fitted with a tracker. Police were in attendance and with assistance from the vehicle owner, were able to track the vehicle to another nearby garage block. The motorcycle was recovered and restored to its owner.  Good news - The team have been patrolling areas of the ward in which we have received regular reports of drug use and dealing. These patrols have resulted in 75 stop and searches by local officers. From this, we have made 15 arrests and issued 14 community resolutions to people continuing to frequent the areas concerned. Other news - PCSO Worrall recently attended Lesness Heath primary school to speak to year 6 pupils on a number of topics – including online safety, social media use/bullying and personal responsibility/safety. This was an engaging conversation with young people that are soon to start secondary school. The team also carried out an arrest enquiry in Lower Belvedere recently. Upon calling at the address a male was seen to run from the property and was quickly detained. When the team entered the property it was found to be a cannabis factory. The male was subsequently arrested". Bexleyheath ward - no report this week. Crayford ward:- "No burglaries this week we are really pleased to say.  But please don’t be complacent, with the warmer weather coming, don’t let burglars take advantage of open windows or doors. Two vehicles have been stolen and reported to police this last week. The first was a black VW Golf which was loaded on a tow truck in Halcot Avenue on Tuesday 23rd March at approx. 12.30. The other was a blue Vauxhall Astra stolen from close to St Paulinus Churchyard on Friday 26th March, it was reported at 13.05 and had last been seen at 10.00 on that day, locked and secured. A weapons sweep in London Road turned up two sets of number plates, a crowbar and a baseball bat. Officers also collected a black-handled kitchen knife with a 7” blade from Perry Street which had been found in bushes in a front garden.  Two males were seen going door to door selling items from large bags in Heath Road and were searched.  One had cannabis and was issued a fixed penalty notice." Erith ward - no report this week. Northumberland Heath ward - no report this week. Slade Green and Northend ward - no report this week. Thamesmead East ward:- "No burglaries this week. Between midnight Saturday 27/03/21 and 6:00 am Monday 29/03/21 in Redbourne Drive the front and rear number plates were stolen. Between 11:00 am and 2:10 pm on Tuesday 30/03/21 in Hartslock Drive high-value tools were stolen from a van after the thieves drilled holes into doors. The victim subsequently was unable to open the doors. Good news - 75 stop and searches positive outcome, 16 arrests, 14 community resolutions. Other news - Officers from Thamesmead & Belvedere SNT have today busted yet another cannabis factory. On the 25th of March at approximately 1400 hours officers attended an address in West Thamesmead to try and arrest a wanted male. Officers managed to gain entry to the address to find approximately 30 large cannabis plants. Three people have been arrested for the production of cannabis and have been taken to a south London Police Station. As warned previously if you are taking up this type of business venture it will only be a matter of time before we come knocking on your door". West Heath ward:- "Between Friday 26/03/2021, 16.05 and Saturday 27/03/2021, 14:00 in Budleigh Crescent there was a theft from a motor vehicle, an untidy search of the vehicle. A bag of coins and a pair of sunglasses were stolen from within the vehicle".

The end video this week is a bit of a historic record; it shows what the Port of London was like back in 1959, when it was by far the largest port in the UK, and one of the largest in the world. The film shows how busy it was prior to the introduction of containerisation and the move to Tilbury and elsewhere. You can also see what London looked like when many warehouses still stood - now long replaced with office buildings and very expensive apartments. Comments to me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.

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