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Subterranean Greenwich Gone Underground

The Man in the Moon Murder

The Phantom Returns…not with a bang but with a whisper

Subterranean Greenwich Gone Underground

Posted in: Underground Greenwich | Comments (6)

Hawksmoor's Conduit House in Greenwich Park, just one entrance to the network


Several people have been asking me what happened to the Subterranean Greenwich Blog, which looked at all matters underground in the area – and let’s face it, there seems to be as much going on under our feet in Greenwich one way or another as there is at ground level. The site appears to have gone, er, underground.

I started to look into it but found my work had already been done by one of my favourite bloggers, Transpontine in a post from – gulp – 2012 – which shows you just how long I’ve had my eye off the time-ball.

His tale of cyber attack and disappearing blogs was unnerving to say the least, but there was hope in the comments where Per and Dom reassured us there was a new domain and all would be well. But it’s gone again – I’ve tried all the domains the blog ever had and all the email addresses I’ve ever had for the derring-duo, with no luck.

Dom – Per – if you’re out there, let us know – sundry Phantophiles and my own spectral self are wondering where you and your marvellously comprehensive blog of all things Down Under have gone.

If the site has gone for good, we have lost the best resource there is for Underground Greenwich, or at least the best public resource – they may be documents locked in some gabinetto segreto somewhere, scratched in Name of the Rose-style poisonous ink to ward off would-be nosey-parkers but I don’t know of it.

There are many things of an underground nature I never touched on myself because I’m not one for reinventing wheels, but now I sort of wish I had. It’s certainly something authorities are not keen to explore on an official basis.

But I don’t like to leave today’s post on such a grim note, so here’s my early Easter Egg, a little missive I received a short while ago.

I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve talked about Vanbrugh Castle – there’s no point in my even giving you links – just google ‘Vanbrugh Castle tunnels’ or ‘underground’ within the blog and you’ll find dozens of things people have told me or that I’ve winkled out myself about this creepy, fascinating, nutty – and subterranean – oddity (btw WordPress has an odd way of hiding the next-page tabs so you can’t see them and think there’s just the one.)

So much has been written about the tunnels alleged to be underneath this strange building – do they or don’t they exist etc. – that I was particularly grateful to hear from Gary who attended Vanbrugh Castle when it was a school in the 1970s. He tells me:

I went to Vanburgh Castle School between 1971 and 1973. There are indeed tunnels. Just off the five-a-side concrete football pitch was a wooded area known as the Dell, which was out of bounds. The fence there was damaged and a small boy could crawl under it.

Once under the fence there was what appeared to be a tunnel/ drain? which was barred, but one bar was bent allowing access. This tunnel lead back up towards the school grounds. After a fair bit of crawling it opened into a large room type area – I believe now this was an old air raid shelter. A few of us boys would creep out of bed at night and venture off to the tunnel and spent a few hours most nights in this shelter, by torch light. God only knows what might have happened to us if there had been any flooding/collapse!! We would never have been found. Frightens the life out of me now!

Thank you Gary. Was this just an air raid shelter or do we need to link it to an older room, perhaps the tunnel between Vanbrugh Castle and Vanbrugh House or even something else – a conduit, perhaps that might have stretched across the road into the park to join up with the labyrinth underneath.

I confess I don’t know anyone who lives there now who could verify if they still exist. Maybe someone else does…

The Greenwich Phantom @ January 15, 2015

The Man in the Moon Murder

Posted in: Mostly-Accurate History, Secret Greenwich | Comments (4)

The Man in the Moon by Stephen Craven

Many moons ago we were discussing the Man in the Moon, a former pub on Old Woolwich Road now converted into flats.

Someone mentioned that there had been a murder there, but given I had no idea whether this was in Victorian times or more recently it was difficult to check it out. Not least that it’s pretty taboo – I mean – developers really don’t like to advertise unpleasant things that happened in a property’s previous existence when they’re trying to flog apartments. I confess that, like many things on this site, I let it go, and, frankly forgot about it, only remembering when I walked past.

Then I got an email from Richard, who moved into the nearby Ernest Dence Estate in the late 1970s. He confirmed there was a murder there, albeit accidental. Richard tells me that after the Man in the Moon stopped being a pub, it became a sweet shop. He says

“One evening the lady that owned the shop was robbed on the premises by a lad off the estate and he pushed her down the stairs which in turn killed her. He spent about 30 years in prison for his actions.”

So – there you have it. At some point when I get time I’ll go through all the microfiche newspapers for the period and find the whole story but for now I want to reflect on what seems to be a very hazardous profession – sweet shop propietor on corners of the Old Woolwich Road.

While I was pondering this post, I remembered another query from years ago, where Karen tells the sad story of her great-grandparents, who also owned a sweet shop there. The business was, apparently, a disaster (not least, I imagine, because it was during the war when sugar was rationed) and tragedy struck, the family believes, when Karen’s great-grandfather fell and died trying to mend the roof after bomb damage.

To add insult to injury, the Naval College forced all the residents to sell their properties to them at ridiculously low prices so they could build something grand but the plans fell through and that particular sweet shop is now somewhere under the car park at the end of Eastbury Street.

So all you would-be entrepreneurs – whatever you do, if someone offers you the East Greenwich franchise of Mr Humbug on a suspiciously empty corner of Old Woolwich Road you have been warned. Do not touch it with even the longest stick of barley sugar…

The Greenwich Phantom @ January 8, 2015

The Phantom Returns…not with a bang but with a whisper

Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments (17)

Something I've missed - Greenwich's fine tradition of water features

Folks, I realise it’s been a long, long time since I posted properly. Life has taken its toll, and continues to do so, but I have missed you all, and missed posting about my beloved Greenwich.

It’s odd to think that when I started, back in 2006, I was posting seven days a week – what on earth possessed me? Some kind of demon, I suppose. I managed five days a week for a good six years, but after issues that I won’t go into – this blog isn’t about me, it’s about Greenwich – it dwindled down until I had to stop altogether.

In the meanwhile, some great blogs, newsletters and even video stations have sprung up, and some fine publications – Greenwich Visitor, especially, is a publication after my own heart. But kind people have been telling me to start again and, at the risk of crowding the market, I’m going to attempt a little part-time phantasmagorical haunting.

It’s never going to be five days a week again – my circumstances have changed completely – but I’m figuring once a week is better than none, so let’s start with that. I won’t be updating the Parish News just yet, but do keep me in touch with what’s going on – I’m horribly out of the loop.

I’ve been collecting interesting snippets; I think we can do this. Expect the first post tomorrow…

Oh – and happy new year, all!

The Greenwich Phantom @ January 7, 2015

Christmas Tidings

Posted in: Christmas at Greenwich | Comments (17)

Christmas at ye Ice Rinke in ye olden tymes.

Merry Christmas, Folks. My very great apologies for abandoning you for much of this year – I was simply unable to post, but you have never been far away from my thoughts. Thank you for all the encouraging messages – they are much appreciated.

I hope to return to blogging soon – just as soon as circumstances allow – but for now I wish you a happy, safe and peaceful Festive Season.

The Greenwich Phantom @ December 25, 2014

The Exception to Every Rule…

Posted in: Fun stuff, Weird Greenwich | Comments (1)

…is, apparently, this:

Photo Paul T

Paul said ‘no one is too busy to ignore a giant wooden hippo floating down the Thames’ and he was right.

And with that, I’m disappearing off the radar again.

The Greenwich Phantom @ September 3, 2014

Summer Comes…and goes…

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Folks – I must throw myself on your mercy a little longer. Summer has come, bloomed and now begins to ebb towards autumnal hue yet the magical land of Phantomalia remains in turmoil.

I have every intention to returning to the blog just as soon as it is possible, but for now, all I can say is thank you for your patience, thank you for continuing to let me know of interesting things going on, subjects for debate, and some truly interesting, quirky things that I WILL share with you all when I can. I am reading all your email, ‘starring’ what I can for later, and noting what I can around town.

I leave you with two things – an interesting series of walks by Rich Sylvester round the new ‘heart of East Greenwich’:

Would you like to know more about our historical timeline and the development at Greenwich Square?
In conjunction with Richard Sylvester (the man behind the historical timeline) and Mace Construction we would like to offer you an insight about the history of Greenwich Square and the new development.
These hour long talks will explain the history of the site and give you the opportunity to view the site from the top of the marketing suite on Vanbrugh Hill.

Dates and times (maximum 10 people per visit) – if you are interested please email: to book your place.
10th September 4pm and 6pm
11th September 4pm
24th September 4pm
25th September 4pm and 6pm

And a reminder about fireworks for the tall ships festival – this Friday evening at 9.15pm

The magnificent photo is by old Phantom Lag Stevie, who is in the middle of creating a book of photographs of Greenwich that I look forward to almost as much as I look forward to posting properly again. I suspect at this rate Stevie may beat me to it.

The Greenwich Phantom @ September 1, 2014

Phantom Holding Pattern

Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments Off

Folks, I’m sorry about this extended ‘holiday’. Sadly there is an awful lot going on in Phantom Land at the moment and I am simply unable to post. I AM reading all your mail – there’s great, fascinating and shocking stuff in there. I’d love to discuss it all with you – and I will – but not now.

One thing I need to clear up. Some people have asked why comments are turned off – this is nothing to do with censorship, personal blocking or any other kind of consipiracy. It’s just to do with spam-management – comments automatically turn off after 14 days to prevent spam-bots posting random posts about mail-order brides, knock-off trainers and fake university degrees.

I will be back as soon as I am physically able to be.

The Greenwich Phantom @ August 4, 2014

Posting ‘Holiday’

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Folks, please accept my sincerest apologies for not posting recently. I’m afraid the situation demands I take a short break from haunting. Please keep an eye out – I WILL be back and as soon as possible – I have important things to discuss with you – but the next couple of weeks, perhaps longer, are not going to see much in the way of Phantom activity.

Sorry :-(

The Greenwich Phantom @ July 24, 2014

Keepers Finders

Posted in: Archaeological Greenwich, Greenwich Park | Comments (2)

Photo: Paul T

I walked past this last night and to my shame didn’t take any notice -I got so used to seeing orange tape during the Olympics I lost the urge to be curious.

Consider me severely rapped on the insubstantial knuckles as this is actually interesting. Paul tells me it’s an archeological dig, up near what’s left of Queen Elizabeth’s Oak. They’re looking for this:

The old Keepers Cottage was built around the same time as the observatory, and is shown on a map of 1695. It was surrounded by an orchard and looks to have been pretty substantial, which feels a bit odd given how empty of dwellings (other than the observatory) the centre of the park is.

There was an offical keeper which was a grace-and-favour post (I seem to remember Princess Caroline was Ranger for a while; can’t see her stomping around in boots clipping teenage scrumpers round the ear…) and the guy who did the actual clipping round the ear of small boys nicking apples. He lived in this cottage. If memory serves the ranger got something somewhat grander.

Paul tells me there was a ground survey here a couple of years ago and archeologists are now digging around four holes. He says they’re very friendly people so do go and have a chat…

Photo: Paul T

The Greenwich Phantom @ July 11, 2014

Save Greenwich Theatre

Posted in: Greenwich Theatre | Comments (7)

I guess by my own blog rules this should be going into Parish News. But rules are made to be broken, especially ones you make yourself and this event has historic precedence.

The last time Greenwich Theatre was at risk, back in the late 1960s, the whole community got together and not only saved it from demolition and rebuilt it to an extremely high standard, they made the theatre a force to be truly reckoned with. Greenwich Theatre in the 1970s and 80s was massive, attracting every big star you could imagine.

Of course that all disappeared with the cash – first losing great swathes of money in the disastrous Glory of the Garden Arts Council review, more recently with the money quietly siphoned off from the arts to support the Olympics and, as far as I know, never reinstated afterwards.

The theatre survives and it is battling back. But the building is in danger. Sadly at the time that it was rebuilt by ordinary people’s generosity and hard work, they never imagined a time when a council would be so hostile as to even consider selling it off for – god knows what – housing, I assume – so they failed to buy the place and put it under covenant, which, in retrospect, probably would have been a good idea.

Of course, they never reckoned with the council of today. Sadly although the people of Greenwich own the theatre morally, having put in hard work and love, the council owns the building. And it’s looking hungrily at the land prices around Crooms Hill.

So once again the theatre needs saving. Not because, as it was in the 1960s, it’s falling down – the building’s just fine, thank you, but because of council greed.

When the building needed support last time around they held a series of regular Music Halls to support it. ‘Kitty Kelly’s’ they called it. If memory serves, it took place in the Green Man Pub (sadly long dead) up on the heath. They’re trying the same thing again, to raise awareness (and a war chest) but this time they actually have a place to hold it – the theatre itself.

It’s on Sunday 20 July 2014 at 7.30, ‘fun, laughter and song will sweep through Greenwich Theatre with the return of Kitty Kelly’s acclaimed Music Hall.

Featuring Mr Colin Sell (of R4 I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue fame) on the pianoforte, Mr Robert Lister (founder member of Ewan Hooper’s 1969 Greenwich Theatre company) in the chair, supported by a talented cast including the inimitable Miss Colette Kelly and the irrepressible Mr Peter John.’

Back in the late 60s there was a bit of a Music Hall revival going on. I have no idea if there is now (though of course with the commmemorations of WWI going on the songs will be on every school curriculum) but I am nailing my colours to the mast now. I believe we need to save the theatre – putting it into a multi-use, mutilated Borough Hall is NOT an acceptable alternative – and I am behind the efforts to preserve the building 100%. This one is important.

The Greenwich Phantom @ July 8, 2014