Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Friends of Fordham Park SE14

It's the annual general meeting tonight (Wednesday 10th February) of the Friends of Fordham Park, from 7 pm to 8 pm in the Moonshot Centre in the park. If you want to get involved in caring for this oasis off the New Cross Road, come along.



Fordham Park is not one of those London  parks that are leftover fragments from when it was 'all fields round here'. Go back a hundred years to the 1916 Ordnance Survey map and you see not a green space but tightly packed urban streets, demolished in the post-WW2 period. Angus Street and Achilles Street are still there, at the north and south ends of the park, but in between no trace remains of Snead Street and Vance Street.


Tuesday, February 09, 2016

'The raiders left behind a black silk mask' - IRA attacks in Catford, Blackheath & Tooting 1921

During the Irish war of independence (1919-1921) there were armed attacks in London linked to the conflict, in the lead up to the truce agreed in July 1921 that paved the way for independence for most of Ireland. Here's a report of a series of attacks in May of that year in South London, from The Times (16 May 1921).

On Saturday May 14th 1921 'Between 10 o'clock and midnight', 'a series of outrages, believed by the police to be the work of Sinn Fein agents in this country, took place in Outer London. They were all the work of armed parties of men, and in the majority of cases there was proof that the incidents had a direct connexion with the troubles in Ireland..

Two masked men tried to force their way in to the residence of Mr Charles F Duffield, a double fronted house, 141 Wellmeadow Road, Catford, standing in the heart of the St Germans estate. As the result of the attack, Mr Duffield, aged 61, is in Lewisham Hospital with a bullet through both thighs, and his wife, Edith Mary Duffield, has a bullet wound through each wrist... The raiders left behind a black silk mask, a bicycle pump and a heavy revolver with four live cartridges in it'.(The Times speculates that this was a case of mistaken identity as the Duffield did not appear to have any connections to Ireland).

141 Wellmeadow Road SE6 - now the London Stage School,
scene of  a non-fatal shooting in 1921
Four armed men attempted to force their way in to a house in 'Halstow Road, Westcombe Park, Blackheath, at the house of an officer in the Royal Irish Constabulary, who is at present serving in Ireland'

'At Tooting an attack was made by a number of armed men on a house in Coverton Road, occupied by Mr William Dawner, whose son is in the RIC. The knocked at the door, and when it was opened, drew revolvers and forced their way inside. When they were inside, they produced bottles of petrol, which they poured over the floors of various rooms. They then set fire to the place'

Monday, February 08, 2016

Half Nelson - Rock'n'Roll & Wrestling at the Amersham Arms

Half Nelson is back at The Amersham Arms in New Cross this Saturday 13th February, with a night of wrestling and rock'n'roll. The last event there in October was one of the best nights I've had out locally for ages, very funny but with some serious acrobatics thrown in, and the house band in Mexican wrestling masks playing theme tunes for the fighters. This time there's additional music from Dracula Legs, plus DJ until 3am.

Advance tickets £8 or £10 on the night. Book here.


Saturday, February 06, 2016

Hilly Fields Wassail

Wassailing is an old custom of drinking to the health of  fruit trees to ensure a good harvest, most commonly associated with cider apples producing trees in the West Country. Tomorrow (Sunday 7th February) there's a Hilly Fields Wassail with music and refreshments at the orchard by the park's stone circle. It starts at 4 pm, but if you can help with orchard maintenance come along from 2 pm

Organised by the Friends of Hilly Fields with Transition Brockley.


Blur once recorded a version of The Wassailing Song and gave it away as a limited edition 7 inch single to the 500 people at a 1992 gig at the Hibernian Club in Fulham. If you have a copy they sell for around £300.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Experimental music night at Vinyl Deptford

This Saturday February 6th there's a night of experimental/improv music at Vinyl Deptford, the record shop and coffee bar at 4 Tanners Hill,London, SE8:

'a chance to to hear some rarely heard international musicians...
Bernadette Zeilinger - (AT - recorders)
Diego Mune - (AR - guitars)
+ from Berlin
Miriam Seiberstadt- (saxes)
Lisa Simpson- (sewing machine)
+
Sue Lynch (sax, flute, clarinet)
Richard Sanderson (melodeon and amplification)
Adam Bohman (amplified objects, strings and debris)
Adrian Northover (saxes)

Entry by donation'








How Does it Feel to be Loved back at Montague Arms

Indie pop/soul club How Does it Feel to be Loved? is back at the Montague Arms tomorrow night (Saturday February 6th), scene of its packed New Year's Eve party recently:

'We're doing a series of one-off nights at venues in south London for the early part of 2016, and the first of these is at the Montague Arms in Peckham on Saturday February 6th. We've had two storming New Year's Eve parties at the Monty, and we're excited to come back for a regular HDIF. The Monty was one of south east London's most characterful pubs, famed as a live venue and eccentric hostelry, until it closed in 2011 - it reopened in 2014, and has lost none of its former charm. The pub itself has a good sized stage and dancefloor in one third, and then the bar and seating takes up the rest, so there's no pesky bar queues getting in the way of the dancing. Our night on the 6th will start at 9pm and finish at 2am, with a guest DJ TBA.

How Does It Feel To Be Loved?
Saturday February 6th
The Montague Arms, 289 Queen's Rd, London SE14 2PA, map of the venue here

We play:

The Smiths * The Supremes * The Go-Betweens * Dusty Springfield * Belle & Sebastian * Love * Tammi Terrell * Aztec Camera * The Ronettes * Orange Juice * Beach Boys * The Temptations * Velvet Underground * Felt * The Shangri-Las * Primal Scream * Otis Redding * The Field Mice * Dexys Midnight Runners * Camera Obscura * The Four Tops * Melba Moore * The Orchids'

Advance tickets here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/346006 (£4 members, £6 everybody else)

Montague Arms, 31 December 2015

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

International football stickers on South London streets

Some football stickers spotted on my rounds today, mostly in vicinity of Millwall FC. Every sticker tells a story...

'No one likes us we don't care' is well known as the Millwall cry, but what about Sham Army? The latter refers to followers of punk band Sham 69, also mentioned on sticker. The band took their name in the late 1970s though from a fragment of graffiti in Surrey referring to non-league Walton & Hersham FC. Never had them down as a Millwall band, though one later version of the band (without original singer Jimmy Pursey, fronted by Tim Scargill) did do a charity CD that rewrote Sham's 'Hersham Boys' as 'Millwall Boys' ('drink up your beers and make some noise'):

Millwall Sham Army sticker, Ilderton Road SE15




Getting into the world of international football fandom, this lamp post, also on Ilderton Road, has a sticker from Millwall FC's Italian Crew (Italian Lions' fans). Above it is a Spanish sticker which says 'Bukaneros presenta La Familia Podrida'. Bukaneros are the Ultras of Rayo Vallecano de Madrid. La Familia Podrida means the corrupt family, but the initials spell out LFP: Liga de Fútbol Profesional, the Spanish football league.


On another lamp post in same road  a Millwall on Tour sticker comes above one saying 'Ultras contro el racismo' (Ultras against racism), another Spanish slogan, think this may be another Bukaneros sticker, they are famously anti-racist.


Another club whose fans are associated with militant anti-fascism is Hamburg team St Pauli. This sticker from Queens Road SE15 is from St Pauli London fans.


Of course not all European ultras are on the left of the political spectrum. This sticker, spotted in Hyson Road SE15 says FC  DK with the letters gathered around a neo-nazi symbol. I believe this refers to Ukrainian team Dynamo Kiev, some of whose fans are on the extreme right. Last year the club were sanctioned after a racist attack during a game against Chelsea


See previously

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Lucky Man at the Rivoli

Stan Lee's Lucky Man is the latest TV/film production to feature the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park as a location. For the purposes of the Sky One show, it is transformed into the Pleasure Palace pole dancing club visited by detective James Nesbitt.



The whole show foregrounds London, Nesbitt always seems to be driving across a bridge and Bermondsey Street and Southwark Park are due to feature in the series among other Transpontine settings.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Mental Health Services: cuts to CAMHS and meeting in New Cross

Interesting article in the Guardian this week on the difficulty children have getting help from NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. The focus is on Childeric Primary School in SE14: 

'In every classroom in Childeric primary school in New Cross, south-east London, there is a world map stuck to the wall. Ranged around the continents are pictures of every child in the class, with a coloured string leading to their country of origin.

Some have recently arrived in the country, others are new to the area, and during the course of a year a significant number will leave and more will arrive. Many live in temporary accommodation, sometimes entire families in a single room in a hostel, and there is a high rate of mobility at the school. The atmosphere is calm, happy and orderly, but there’s an undertow of profound need – not obvious during a brief visit – that affects a significant number of the children and their ability to learn. Their distress plays out in class, lessons are disrupted and learning stops. Ideally Childeric would be able to refer the most distressed pupils to child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs).

“We work very well with Lewisham Camhs,” says Ann Butcher, the headteacher at Childeric. “The challenge for us is there’s a very high threshold for children and families to access these services. If we are concerned about a child’s mental health we would make a referral straight to Camhs but we very often are told ‘this does not reach the threshold’. We know there are some mental health issues, and we are not always equipped to deal with it.

“At the moment we have two children attending Camhs. But there’s probably three or four children in each class [making about 60 in the school] who I think need some kind of support because of their mental health issues.”

It is a familiar story as overstretched NHS mental health services for children struggle to meet demand in the face of well-documented cutbacks that have seen thresholds for being seen by Camhs go up, waiting lists lengthen, and children turned away' (Sally Weale, Schools trying to help children shut out by mental health services, Guardian, 27 January 2016)

Mental Health Resistance Network

Children who don't get help with emerging mental health issues can grown up to have life long difficulties. At the adult service end, the Mental Health Resistance Network is a survivors group fighting against cuts in benefits and services.  They are holding an event tonight in Queens Road:

'As part of a rolling programme of MHRN events every last Friday of the month at the Field,  a homely independent community space between Peckham and New Cross, we present the screening of the film "SELL OFF" and a talk by campaigning doctor BOB GILL followed by discussion. Refreshments and convivial company provided!'

Dr Gill, a GP based in Welling, was active in the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign and has stood an election candidate for the NHS Action Party.

6 pm - 10 pm,  The  Field, 385 Queens Road, New Cross, SE14 (admission free)



Thursday, January 28, 2016

Trelawney album launch at Montague Arms

'Imagine Scott Walker fronting The Associates and then covering David Bowie’s Cat People, but straight outta  Kernow' (The West Briton)

South London's number one Cornish band Trelawney have been featured at Transpontine before - their song Beast of Blackheath is partly a reference to the crushing of the 1497 Cornish revolt which came to a bloody end in a battle at Deptford Bridge after camping out on the heath.

The band, who hail from Cornwall but now mostly live around New Cross/Brockley and surrounds, have a new album out tomorrow and will be launching it on Saturday 30th January  at the Montague Arms

The album is entitled United Downs. Ben Trelawney, speaking about the album said, “It’s named after a neighbouring village to where I grew up in Cornwall. It used to be a tin mine, or copper mine, I forget, but since I was a child it was the local rubbish dump. This for me conjures up the mood of the album, and the Cornwall that I grew up in. Remnants of its industrial heyday surround you, you can’t escape them. But it’s bleak, it’s run down, and there’s a real beauty in that.”




Trelawney launch United Downs at the Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road, SE15  on 30 January. Doors at 7pm, tickets on the door. Support: Fake Teak


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Adventures in the Anthropecene - talk in Sydenham



Tomorrow night (Wednesday 27th January 2016, 7:30 pm), Gaia Vince - author of Adventures in the Anthropocene - is giving a reading at Sydenham's fine Kirkdale Books.  The book, which won the 2015
Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books, looks at 'Growing evidence from around the globe... that we are living in a permanently changed world; a new geological age defined by the activities and industry of our own species. Scientists call this the Anthropocene: the Age of Humans. What can we do to ensure that humanity can survive and thrive in this new age? Gaia Vince has travelled the world to see just how people at the sharp end of these changes are developing new strategies for survival. The result is a book whose message is positive – we aren’t necessarily doomed, but we need to rethink our relationship with the biosphere'.

'Gaia will be reading from the book and will be happy to sign copies after the event. (Reserve a signed copy if you can’t make it.)'.  Tickets: £3.00 (redeemable against book) should be reserved in advance via:   mail@kirkdalebookshop.com

Kirkdale Books, 272 Kirkdale, Sydenham, SE26 4RS (Tel: 020 8778 4701)

The author in Greenwich Park



Monday, January 25, 2016

Christ Stopped at Burgess Park: Arild Rosenkrantz's war memorial


By Burgess Park in Wells Way SE5, in front of St George's Church (now flats), there stands a war memorial 'to the memory of those who served 1914-1918'. It features a bronze figure of Christ holding a crown of thorns. The statue, formally unveiled in 1920, was made by the Danish artist Arild Rosenkrantz (1870-1964), an interesting character who subscribed to a mystical strand of Christianity strongly influenced by Rudolf Steiner, who he first met in 1912 and worked with closely until Steiner's death in 1925. Not sure if there's any particular esoteric symbolism in the statue, but of course the crown of thorns is traditionally seen as being placed on Christ's head in the lead up to the crucifixion. Here Christ appears to be either contemplating the crown or offering it - to suffering humanity?




Much of the artist's work dealt with religious/spiritual themes, with his paintings also infused by Steiner's theories of the importance of colour (Steiner once said: 'Colours are the soul of nature and the entire cosmos – and we become part of that soul when we live with the colours').



Tempting to wonder if his c.1930 work, Temple of Peace, referenced St George's Church in Camberwell.


Music Monday: Anarcho punk 1984 in New Cross & Old Kent Road

'Not Just Bits of Paper', edited by Tony Bull and Mickey Penguin is 'A series of recollections, memories, imagined dreams perhaps from the collective memories of those who lived through the punk and anarcho-punk years' of the 1980s (available from Situation Books). It includes lots of flyers and other 'ephemera' and I noticed these two from the Transpontine area.

The first is from November 1984 and is for a gig at the Ambulance Station on the Old Kent Road. This famous squatted venue was in what is now the home of Blue Mantle Antiques across the road from Old Kent Road Tescos - confusingly it is generally known as the old fire station; maybe it housed both emergency services in its history (see more on the squat by the Ruinist). 


The line up for this gig looks good - Antisect were an incredibly powerful, almost heavy metal, hardcore band from Northamptonshire. 

No Defences, my favourite band from that scene, were very different - kind of mutant punk funk with mesmerising deadpan vocals. They recorded an album for Crass's label but it never got released - apparently there was too much bass for Crass to handle! Former members of the band are working on putting out some of that material now, so maybe it will finally get the appreciation it deserves 30 years later.

'No Defences' banner at the Ambulance Station-
'The worst thing imaginable is happening now'
(from Graham Burnett's anarcho-punk archive)

Karma Sutra were my friends from Luton, where I was living at the time. I travelled down with them in their van to the Ambulance Station a few times, and I know I saw them play there as well as Conflict, Chumbawamba, No Defences and State Hate, but I have no memory of seeing Antisect there,  so not sure if I was at this particular gig. Exit-Stance were from Milton Keynes and Sedition from Northampton.

The fire station in its hey day (opened 1903)

Hagar the Womb

The second flyer is for a gig at the Goldsmiths Tavern (now the New Cross House) on 12 May 1984. Headliners Hagar the Womb were originally an all-woman band which was very rare in the punk scene at that time, though later they also had male members including drummer Chris Knowles - who went on to become London acid tekno DJ/producer Chris Liberator. Hagar, once described by Billy Bragg as the new Shangri- Las, reformed a few years ago. Support act State Hate  were in the Conflict hardcore punk mode.





The picture below of Hagar the Womb was from an NME interview (11 August 1984), and was apparently taken in New Cross's Fordham Park in the rain. At least one member of the band then lived in the SE14 Nettleton  Road 1980s punk nexus (lots more about this band, and indeed the whole scene at the excellent Kill Your Pet Puppy site)







Sunday, January 24, 2016

Charlton protest - Give Our Club Back

Charlton fan Simon Pirani has sent us this report of the extraordinary scenes at Charlton Athletic yesterday:

“We are not your customers”, thousands of Charlton fans sang during today’s home game against Blackburn Rovers. They called for Roland Duchatelet, the chronically out-of-touch multi-millionaire who owns the club, to sell up. After the game, a couple of thousand fans (including me and my friends) demonstrated outside the club’s main entrance.

I’ll readily admit that if the club was owned by a half-competent multi-millionaire – e.g. one who didn’t continuously sack managers (in some cases because he made poor appointments in the first place) and make incompetent interventions in the transfer market – there would probably be no protests. But the point about the system whereby clubs are financially dependent on Rupert Murdoch’s TV money and owned by multi-millionaires is that you’re always in danger of getting one who is a fool, and (worse) doesn’t listen.

Charlton fans, who like almost all genuine football fans are incredibly loyal, have had it up to here … most of all because Duchatelet and his hapless side-kick Katrien Meire, the “chief executive” who has no actual decision-making power, treat them with contempt.

The club’s pathetic, small-minded attitude to the fans was summed up by the use of stewards to remove a banner stating “we want our Charlton back” – a pretty mild slogan by football standards – from the North Stand today.

When poor strategy decisions earlier this season provoked protests, Meire was daft enough to dismiss them as the work of “2%” of the fans. Subsequent displays in the stadium showed that the figure was more like 50%. The black-and-white scarves adopted as a symbol of protest were much more visible than the usual red-and-white ones at today’s game. 

It was also Meire who made the elementary, and fatal, mistake of calling the fans “customers”. (Most cynical, business-minded football bosses think of fans that way but are smart enough not to say so out loud.) Anyway, that was good, because it’s a reminder of what it’s all about. 

I do think the campaign against Duchatelet is a bit reactive, rather than pro-active. And of course Charlton’s horrendous record on the pitch doesn’t help. (Today’s 1-1 draw left us second from bottom, so it just wasn’t good enough, but it was better than the two previous results, losses by 5-0 and 6-0.) What’s more, I would like to see more of a long-term strategy, at Charlton and all clubs, focused on raising the level of fan-based ownership systems that are common in Spain and Germany.

But let’s start somewhere. This is all about a part of working class culture being enclosed, bought and sold by profiteers. Let’s resist. We are not customers'.

picture from Jimmy Stone on twitter

Friday, January 22, 2016

Barbara Hicks, Honor Oak Yoga Teacher (1951-2015)

There's an obituary in The Guardian's 'Other Lives' section today for local yoga teacher Barbara Hicks (1951-2015), by her husband and colleague David Dayes. Barbara, who died last month from cancer, was a much appreciated teacher of Iyengar yoga at her and David's own Oakside Yoga Studio in Honor Oak, and at other local venues including the Telegraph Hill Centre.

'Barbara graduated from Goldsmiths College, London University, with a degree in child psychology and went on to become a primary school teacher, teaching yoga in the evenings. She was a sight to behold, with her flaming red hair and brightly coloured clothes (many she made herself), as she cycled to the next class, saddlebags full of yoga mats, children’s art work or unusual ingredients: she also ran adult education classes in wholefood cooking.

Barbara and I met in 1980 and our first son was born two years later. In 1985 the London Borough of Lewisham offered us the chance to join a self-build housing project run by the pioneering architect Walter Segal. In 1987 our home, one of 13 in Walters Way, was finished. We raised our four sons there, extending the house with a glass atrium to make a space that could accommodate the growing children and up to 25 yoga students for classes and Barbara’s yoga Sundays, for which she produced a delicious home-made lunch and tea with cake. Barbara retired from teaching at Fairlawn primary school in Honor Oak in 2012, and devoted more time to yoga'.



There's a lovely poem about her by Grace Evans, which includes these lines:

Barbara befriends
Warm hearted people,
Draws them to her:
the rebels
the seekers
the far from home
the old
the young
the sad
the happy
those with extraordinary talents
and those whose talents are hidden.
Then connects this one with that
Until it is just one large gathering
A joyful love fest...

Farewell, dear friend.
Farewell, dear guruji.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

South London Herbs - Nicholas Culpepper (1653)


The 17th century London herbalist, astrologer and radical republican Nicholas Culpepper was the author of The Complete Herbal (1653). As well as containing lots of information about herbs and their (presumed) medicinal properties, Culpepper also records places where some plants are to be found growing, including various South London locations:

Langue de Boeuf -  'It grows wild in many places of this land, and may be plentifully found near London, as between Rotherhithe and Deptford, by the ditch side.

Juniper Bush - 'They grow plentifully in divers woods in Kent, Warney Common near Brentwood in Essex, upon Finchley Common without Highgate; hard by the New-found Wells near Dulwich, upon a Common between Mitcham and Croydon, in the Highgate near Amersham in Buckinghamshire, and many other places'.

Loosestrife, 'with spiked heads of flowers':   'It is likewise called Grass-polly. It grows usually by rivers, and ditch-sides in wet ground, as about the ditches at and near Lambeth, and in many places of this land.'

Mithridate Mustard: 'They grow in sundry places in this land, as half a mile from Hatfield, by the river side, under a hedge as you go to Hatfield, and in the street of Peckham on Surrey side'.

Mallows and Marshmallows: 'The common Mallows grow in every county of this land. The common Marshmallows in most of the salt marshes, from Woolwich down to the sea, both on the Kentish and Essex shores, and in divers other places of this land...  They flower all the Summer months, even until the Winter do pull them down. Venus owns them both'.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Faircharm and the changing face of Deptford Creekside

Demolition of the Faircharm Industrial Estate on Deptford creekside is well underway, with the building on the river now just a pile of rubble. 


How it used to look (photo taken in 2011)

Until recently Faircharm was the home to around 130 artist studios and small businesses. The new scheme that will replace it, designed by Karakusevic Carson Architects, has been branded as The Faircharm Creative Quarter. It will include arts and studio space, but nothing like on the previous scale and no doubt nowhere near as affordable. It will also include 148 flats, of which only 21 have been classified as affordable (see Crosswhatfields for criticisms of the scheme raised during planning process in 2013).

Architect's image of new building on Faircharm
  
The latest development is another chapter in the continual reshaping of this site, which in the space of 200 years has gone from agriculture, through heavy industry and art and now on to housing. I find taking the long view tempers pessimism about supposedly irreversible change, such as the assumption that Deptford is on a one way street towards excluding anybody other than the well-off. Things do change in all kinds of unpredictable ways, positive and negative. Buildings put up for one purpose end up being used for something else - after all the previous buildings on site were never built to house art spaces. Places deemed affordable become less so, but sometimes the other way round. Many of the houses built for upper middle class residents in late 19th century in SE London ended up being converted to bedsits or even squatted by the 1980s, now the tide has reversed but who knows what the future holds? It is not architecture that determines affordability, but people's incomes. All this is a long way of saying that it is not just the intention of developers that shape what happens but wider political and social trends and forces over time. And that is all still to play for.

The detailed history of the area is covered in Lewisham Planning's very interesting Deptford Creekside Conservation Area Appraisal (2012):

'Up until the early 19th century the land to both sides of the Creek was mainly in use as meadows and market gardening. The area today covered by the Faircharm Estate and the Crossfield Housing Estate was common pasture for Deptford in 1608. This land was bought by John Addey’s charity and became known as the Gravel Pits Estate. On the 1745 Rocque Map it is marked as a ‘Gravel Pit’ with a few scattered buildings and market gardens around it...

Between the gravel pits and Church Street in the area of today’s Browne House of the Crossfield Estate, a house of correction, the Deptford Bridewell, was constructed in 1707. The Bridewell was an early form of prison, focusing on vagrants and idle paupers. It closed in 1721 and was soon afterwards converted into a workhouse known as St. Paul’s Workhouse. It was enlarged in the late 18th and early 19th century but closed in the late 1830s. 

The 19th century saw the industrialisation of the river banks of Deptford and the Creek. New privately owned shipyards and boilerworks appeared on the Thames waterfront and a variety of new industries along the Creek, many of which were unpleasant and ‘dirty’ industries: as early as 1852 The Kentish Mercury listed chemical works, breweries, bleach, dye and glue works, tar distelleries and manure manufacture, making the Creek area ‘one great stinking abomination’.

Deptford became a synonym for industry. A Guide to Greenwich and Deptford published in 1893 described the area occupied by ‘almost every industry of importance (…) and the admirable facilities it offers for manufacturing purposes causes the rents in the neighbourhood to stand abnormally high.’ In 1836, London’s first railway, the London to Greenwich Railway, reached Deptford. Much of its four mile route was elevated on a continuous 878-arch brick viaduct bridged over the Creek by a drawbridge.

On the Deptford Creekside, one of the first notable areas of intensification was in the area south of the railway line on the site of today’s Faircharm Estate. The Beneke family founded its verdigris works for the manufacture of copper sulphate here in 1814. This became the Deptford Chemical Works and passed to Frank Hills in c1840 who operated a vitriol distillery here. The Chemical Works continued in his family until the early 20th century. 

The use of the Chemical Works on the site today occupied by Faircharm ceased some time around 1945, possibly as a result of war damage. The site was subsequently cleared and redeveloped... The existing buildings date from the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s and include a variety of workshop and warehouse buildings... The warehouses were once occupied by the Lewisham based company Zenith Carburetters whose name still appears at the front'. 


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Reeves and Mortimer in New Cross/Deptford

The New Cross/Deptford early career of Vic Reeves (Jim Moir) and Bob Mortimer, is mentioned in today's profile of the pair in the Observer, ahead of the comedy duo's 25th anniversary tour:

'When Mortimer saw Moir perform at the Goldsmith Tavern [now the New Cross House] in south London he was amused and intrigued. A friendship began and they started performing together at the pub. Audiences for their bizarre variety turns grew, so they moved into Deptford’s barn-like Albany Empire and were then spotted by television producers and researchers, including Jonathan Ross. With cardboard props and a succession of surreal antics, including the now legendary guest star called Man With the Stick, the two performers aped the banal conventions of a variety show to howls of approval from the crowd'

Friday, January 15, 2016

Nunhead Reservoir: 'our secret place that apparently's not very secret'

As highlighted here before (see Whatever Happened to Nunhead Reservoir?) feelings are still running high about the closing off of the Nunhead Reservoir space, a semi-hidden green oasis overlooking London and now surrounded by a high barbed wire fence. 

There's now a Friends of Nunhead Reservoir facebook group and 1500 people have already signed a new petition, Open Nunhead Reservoir, which states:

'We want Thames Water to open Nunhead Reservoir to the public, so that everybody can enjoy the view and the open space. They can use some of the massive profit they make from their bill payers to supply bins and official entrances. Replant the trees they dug up and take down the ugly fence around the perimeter.

Nunhead Reservoir has one of the best views in South London. It has been a much loved picnicking spot, place to relax and hang out with friends for many years, and deserves to be officially opened so that everybody can enjoy it. London is being sold off piece by piece to private owners for private interests, let's not let them take this much loved green space along with it'.

It seems that the closure might be related to a Government/police initiative to secure critical infrastructure from possible terrorist attack. Though as is pointed out in the podcast the water supply is readily accessible from unguarded manhole covers all over London.

Rosanna Thompson at New Cross Commoners has posted a great podcast featuring people talking about Nunhead Reservoir, its history, future  and what it means to them - including a couple who went there on their first date.  People describe it 'our secret place that apparently's not very secret' and 'a magical place in the middle of South London'.

How it used to be...
(photo from set by Luke Szubert)

Where are we now? Bowie Tribute Nights at Ivy House and Amersham Arms

Various Bowie events coming up over next few days and weeks. 

Tomorrow night - Saturday 16th January - at the Ivy House (40 Stuart Road, Nunhead SE15 3BE) there's The David Bowie Spectacular Send Off. They say:  

'Let's give our London boy the send off he deserves. It's simple: let's party to his tunes, have the Duke on the big projector screen and toast to his life and work all damn night long.

19:00: Decks up and spinning and Labrynth plus more footage on the big screen. Lovely Rob and Martine who both frequent and work at the pub will be playing their much loved records. 

21:30: Resident DJ Billy, who entertained you for New Years brilliantly, will be seeing the night out on the decks.

This is all about the love of the man so of course it is FREE ENTRY. Not strictly fancy dress but I feel like Ziggy would approve... Let's Dance XXXXXXX'

Black Star Ball at Amersham Arms

On Friday 12th February, Enola Arts theatre presents 'Where Are We Now? A celebratory tribute to David Bowie' at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. The evening of live performance and art will be in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Acts taking part  include The Featherz: 'previously featured on David Bowie's website, and attired by Mark Charles and appearing in various Boy George videos, perform glitter glam rock that will have you slipping out of your catsuits'.

Bruno Wizard ( once of 1970s punk band The Homosexuals) will be providing some punk prose and time travel to the original era. 

More live acts to be confirmed, plus DJ Jean Genie, Art, Visuals, Professional Make Up Artist, Rebecca Rowe ('will help you release your inner Stardust', Bowie Art Auction, Strut your stuff as Bowie on the FAME Catwalk and more.

Amersham Arms, 388 New Cross Road (opposite New Cross station), London SE14 6TY
£5 Advance http://www.wegottickets.com/event/347086 - £10 on the door or with concessions (NUS/NHS or Lewisham Card).

Dani Cox of The Featherz

Thursday, January 14, 2016

David Bowie's Lambeth Murder Ballad

Tonight at at South East London Folklore Society, Paul Slade (author of 'Unprepared to Die') will be giving a talk on murder ballads

'Cheerfully vulgar and revelling in gore, murder ballads are tabloid newspapers set to music, carrying word of the latest 'orrible murders to an insatiable public. Victims are bludgeoned, stabbed or shot in every verse and killers often hanged, but the songs themselves never die. Instead, they mutate – morphing to suit local place names as they criss cross the Atlantic (often beginning life in Britain) and continue to fascinate each generation’s biggest musical stars. Journalist Paul Slade traces this fascinating genre’s history via its greatest songs Slade investigates real-life murders which inspired well-known ballads and uncovers many startling new facts about them. There will be performances of the songs by George Hoyle & renowned folk musician, Dave Arthur'






I wonder whether the recently departed David Bowie will get a mention for his 1967 contribution to the genre?  Please Mr. Gravedigger is from his early career, a time of whimsical songs and novelty tunes. The track features just Bowie's voice to a background of sound effects - church bells, bird song, weather, digging. The charming child killer's lament is said in a bombed out churchyard in Lambeth. Not sure if Bowie had anywhere specific in mind.

There's a little churchyard just along the way
It used to be Lambeth's finest array
Of tombstones, epitaphs, wreaths, flowers all that jazz
Til the war come along and someone dropped a bomb on the lot

And in this little yard, there's a little old man
With a little shovel in his little bitty hand

He seems to spend all his days puffing fags and digging graves
He hates the reverend vicar and he lives all alone in his home
"Ah-choo, excuse me"
Please Mr. Gravedigger, don't feel ashamed
As you dig little holes for the dead and the maimed
Please Mr. Gravedigger, I couldn't care
If you found a golden locket full of some girl's hair

And you put it in your pocket
"God, it's pouring down"
Her mother doesn't know about your sentimental joy
She thinks it's down below with the rest of her toys
And Ma wouldn't understand, so I won't tell
So keep your golden locket all safely hid away in your pocket
Yes, Mr. GD, you see me every day
Standing in the same spot by a certain grave
Mary-Ann was only 10 and full of life and oh so gay

And I was the wicked man who took her life away
Very selfish, oh God
No, Mr. GD, you won't tell
And just to make sure that you keep it to yourself
I've started digging holes my friend
And this one here's for you...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Junior Doctors Strike in South London

There was good support across South London for today's strike by Junior Doctors against proposed new contract conditions.

Pickets at Maudsley Hospital in Camberwell photo from Unite the Resistance on twitter


Guys Hospital

St Thomas Hospital - photo by @laurafleur on twitter

Croydon University Hospital - photo from @ger_ogara on twitter

Lewisham Hospital - photo from @Allan_Katie on twitter

If you want to know more about the reasons for the strike and why doctors believe that they are not just fighting for their terms and conditions but for patient safety and for the NHS itself, check out the video from The Guardian filmed at Lewisham earlier today.





Sunday, January 03, 2016

1939 Evacuation - 2,000 children leave New Cross Gate in two hours

I'm sure many of us returning to work after the Christmas holidays are not looking forward to getting back on trains and buses. Spare a thought though for some previous travellers... On 1 September 1939, at the start of the Second World War, the mass evacuation of children from London and other cities started. As these reports show, 2,000 children left New Cross Gate station alone in less than two hours. Two still existing New Cross schools are mentioned specifically - Childeric and Waller Elementary (now Edmund Waller Primary School):

'Greatest Evacuation Has Begun - 3,000,000 persons on the move - Exodus of Bible Dwarfed - Cheerful Youngsters at London Stations

Britain today began the giant four day task of evacuating 3,000,000 children, mothers, blind and maimed. From the big cities of the land there began an exodus on a scale without precedent in human history... Nearly half of the three million are from Greater London...

Before dawn nearly 200 children assembled at Myrdle street School, East London. Among them was nine years-old Freda Skrzypce, who arrived with her parents from Danzig on Sunday. She has a companion in Ruth Rosenzweig, aged nine, a Jewish girl. The dexterity with which children were shepherded through arriving masses of morning workers at Waterloo Station was a perfect piece of organisation. At Myrdle school, which is in a poor part of East London, children were told to be at the premises at 5:30 am, but before the gates were opened at five, some were already waiting outside... As one little girl was leaving here mother, she asked pathetically, 'I wonder if I'll ever see you again mummy - here or anywhere else?'.

.. In less than two hours nearly 2,000 children had left New Cross Gate Station on the Southern Railway. 'The discipline of the children was astonishing' a reporter was told 'and I had not one case of a difficult child. The children behaved as though they had been prepared for this for months. I wish all our passengers were as easy to manage'.  'A triumph of co-operation' was how a London County Council official described the evacuation. Children, teachers and railway employees worked in perfect harmony.

A cripple girl of eight, who has had eleven operations, was evacuated from St Thomas Hospital. Clutching a dolly, she pointed proudly to the foot of her bed saying 'My gas mask is there'.

(Express and Echo - Exeter, Friday 1 September 1939)

'Nearly 800 children left New Cross Gate Southern Railway Station at 8:50 am. Mothers and fathers gathered in a goods yard and waved good-bye with handkerchiefs and newspapers as trains moved out. None of the children knew their destination. 'I hope it is going to be the seaside' said one boy. 'I have brought by bathing costume along with me'

(Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Friday 01 September 1939)

'Activity at New Cross Gate Station, one of the big London entraining centres in the scheme, began soon after 8 a.m., with the arrival of tiny tots from Childeric Road Infants’ School. Hand-in-hand, with the requisite belongings, including gas-masks slung over their shoulders, they followed the instructions of their teachers. These children were quite cheerful — it was apparently a great adventure. Scores of mothers, despite appeals to go no further than the schools at which the children assembled, went to the station, but were not allowed on the embarkation platforms.

The first trainload to leave was practically all infants —and 95 per cent, delighted infants. Glorious weather and a train ride into the country— perhaps to the sea. It was great. Many took precious toys with them. Two little girls left together, each hugging teddy bears. There were dolls in plenty, and the tinier the children the happier they were. Two mothers changed their minds outside the station. They had walked at the side of the procession from one of the schools, but at the last moment, as their children were approaching the barrier, they caught them up in their arms and took them home again...

A master at Waller Road Elementary Junior School, who saw pupils off to-day, gave very remarkable figures of a timing test they had had at the school for putting on gas-masks. He said that from the moment the order was given every mask was on in 31 seconds, and one infant of four years had put it on in 15 seconds. A cheery Cockney going in the direction of New Cross Gate Station with a vegetable barrow hoisted a couple of youngsters on to his potatoes and pushed them to the station. The cheerful co-operation of London workers in travelling early did much to lessen delay and congestion. About 20 children arrived in a furniture van—singing!'

(Bristol Evening Post - Friday 01 September 1939)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Death by Dancing: New Cross (1940) and Bermondsey (1903)

A couple of tragic tales of death by dancing, hopefully those going out on New Year's Eve can avoid such dangers.  The first relates to the New Cross Palais de Danse - still going today as the Venue in New Cross Road - the second occured at a Christmas party in Bermondsey.

'Witness 'jitterbugs' at inquest on girl who fell' - Manchester Evening News, Friday 24 May 1940:

Giving evidence at an inquest at Lewisham to-day, a young man stepped from the witness-box to give an exhibition of the “jitterbug dance” to the coroner, Dr. W. H. Whitehouse. A verdict of accidental death was recorded on Virginia Guidotti (19), Wickham Road, Brockley, London, who died in hospital. She had fallen while dancing the “jitterbug,” at New Cross Palais de Danse. Henry George Cox, of Park Hill Road. Deptford, said they danced the “jitterbug,” in which he explained they did “ all kinds of fantastic and funny things.” He then stepped on to the coroner’s bench and, locking his hands, went through various movements of the dance. At one stage, he said, the girl fell backwards on the floor and he fell on her.

The Coroner: It is peculiar. It sounds to me very vulgar.

Cox said that after the fall he suggested that the girl should have a glass of water and she said that she would be all right. Evidence was given that the management of the Palais de Danse had made efforts to stop the dance being performed.

'The Fatal Thirteen - Death from excessive dancing'-  South London Press, 3 January 1903:

Dr Waldo held an inquest at the Southwark Coroner's Court on Wednesday on the body of Mary Ann Cocklin, aged 35 years, the wife of a Bermondsey labourer. John Cocklin, the husband, stated that he and the deceased went to a Christmas party at the house of a relative on Christmas Day, and kept on dancing until after midnight. Deceased then lay down to rest, but awoke in a fright, screaming that three men were after her.

Dr Waldo: Had she been drinking any spirits?

Witness: No, sir, only port wine. We had nothing but port wine, any of us.

Dr Waldo: What happened when she came to herself again?

Witness: She went down stairs and resumed dancing to the music of an automated piano organ we had in the house. I next heard she was very ill, and that she had again gone to rest, but had turned giddy and fallen down the stairs.

Dr Waldo: How many?

Witness: The fatal 13.

Susan Poore, a neighbour, stated that she heard the deceased fall. She was taken to Guys Hospital, where she died the same day. The medical evidence showed that death was due to fracture of the thigh caused by the fall, which was the result of giddiness produced by dancing. A verdict was returned accordingly'.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Deptford Town Hall: commoning and history

I enjoyed the New Cross Commoners event at Deptford Town Hall last month (14 November) as part of the Being Human Festival. The aim was to host an  'an evening of open reading and discussions on the possibilities of commoning in New Cross, organised around the preparation and eating of food' with 'Bread and spreads... prepared and eaten by community groups, historians, academics and local people to explore the politics of access, place and eating together'.


The format was very simple - there was lots of delicious food cooked at the Field in Queens Road, or donated by sympathetic bakers, and people just sat around at tables eating, chatting and taking turns in saying a few words from the front.  People talked about commoning, plans for a New Cross food co-op, community energy, and about living as local residents in the streets around Goldsmiths. It was the night after the terror attacks in Paris, and a speaker from Kenya (a country no stranger to Islamist terror) pondered on how the simple fact of people from different backgrounds eating and sharing together represented the 'opposite of terror'.



I gave a quick overview of the history of Deptford Town Hall; here's my notes:

- The Metropolitan Borough of Deptford was formed in 1900 - the area having formerly been divided between the old counties of Kent and Surrey (a boundary marker survives on the green at the back of Goldsmiths).


- The Town Hall for the new Council was built between 1903 and 1905, and for much of the 20th century was at the centre of local political and social life. The building housed the Council Chamber where the Council met to make decisions, as well as offices where people would have gone to sort out housing and other issues. Many of the great and terrible events of the century echoed through this building.

- In the First World War, the Town Hall was used as an enlistment centre. In a one week period in 1915, 750 men joined up there, forming a Deptford  Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery that established its HQ at a disused Thames Ironworks site in Blackheath Road. Many of these men never came home from the war.

'From Deptford, Brockley and New Cross they came : recruits of an excellent stamp : mechanics, shopmen, clerks and labourers' - Lt.-Col. H. W. Wiebkin (1923),  Short History of the 39th (Deptford) Divisional Artillery: 1915-1918/


 - During the mass unemployment of the 1930s, the Town Hall (then with a Labour Council) welcomed marches of the unemployed. In 1932 two thousand unemployed workers met at  Woolwich, and marched with band playing to Deptford Town Hall. The marchers ‘all wearing red rosettes in their caps’ were put up at the Borough Hall, Laurie Grove, being given dinner, a mattress for the night and free use of the public baths. 

- On 29 November 1944 the Town Hall was damaged in the V2 rocket attack which killed 168 people on the site of the Woolworths store opposite.

- As migrants from the Carribean settled in the area from the 1950s they faced racist bans from some local pubs. The Anglo-Carribean Association was established to organise inclusive social evenings and they held events in Deptford Town Hall and elsewhere.

- Deptford Council was merged with Lewisham Council in 1965, so the building was no longer used as the Council HQ although it continued to be used for Lewisham Council offices and for various events. For instance, Lewisham Irish in Britain Representation Group held events there in the 1980s, such as a meeting in October 1987 where Annie Maguire spoke, a couple of years before her nephew Gerry Conlon and the rest of the ‘Guildford Four’ had their convictions quashed.

- Alex James from Blur recalls that on his 21st birthday in 1989, when he and other band members were squatting in a semi-derelict flat at 302A New Cross Road,  Damon Albarn 'climbed on to the roof of Deptford Town Hall next door and changed the time on the big clock, which stayed at the wrong time for several years' (Bit of a Blur: the Autobiography, 2010).

- The Town Hall came under Goldsmiths management from 1998. Of course, its history didn't stop at that point - since then it has hosted many interesting conferences, meetings and cultural events as well as being periodically occupied by students.

- In 2007, on the 200th anniversary of the slavery Abolition Act, Paul Hendrich initiated a discussion on the links between Deptford and slavery as embodied in the Town Hall building – statues outside include Francis Drake (who accompanied John Hawkins in 1568 to ‘obtain’ between 400-500 West Africans and sell them in the West Indies), Robert Blake (the head of Cromwell’s navy) and Nelson (who opposed the abolition of slavery). An event at the Town Hall in June 2007 on 'Repairing the Trauma of History: What does an apology of substance look like?' featured a group of people on the Sankofa Reconciliation Walk wearing yokes and chains attempting to make reparation for the acts of the seamen carved in stone on the front of the building.

I was pleased to see that on each of the tables at the New Cross Commoners event there was a Menu with a quote from my late friend Paul Hendrich, who wrote about the history of Deptford Town Hall and the relationship of Goldsmiths to New Cross in his article 'Charting a New Course for Deptford Town Hall' (Anthropology Matters, 2008).  Today (28 December) would have been Paul's 44th birthday, but sadly he was killed while riding his bike to Goldsmiths in January 2008. Paul called for us 'to overwrite the building with a new set of memories and meanings' and it felt like the New Cross Commoners were continuing that project.

'The work we need to do, then, is to overwrite the building with a new set of memories and meanings. The Town Hall retains its original jingoistic overtones, but these serve only for us to reject the imperialist nostalgia and to create a better-informed relationship with the building. The work of generating new meanings is already being done. One local resident, who wished to remain anonymous, supplied me with an alternative narrative for the figures on the front of Deptford Town Hall that plays on the legacy of sadness and regret. The resident said that, as penance for their past misdeeds, the souls of these noble seamen are trapped for eternity inside the statues. They are forced to watch the multi-culturalisation of New Cross and rue their past actions' (Paul Hendrich, 2008)