Archive for September, 2009

The Guildford

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

This is turning into a bit of a pubby week.

Peaches asks:

“Does anyone know any more about what’s happening at The Guildford?
The owner Mel left on Monday and the painters are at it already. Rumour has it that the folk behind Inside have taken it over. Anyone know what they’re planning to do? Do hope it’s going to stay as some kind of pub rather than become a ‘proper’ restaurant.”

I am so behind the times that I didn’t realise the owners were going. I’d have made more of an effort to get there before they left – I loved the Guildford.

So of course I have no clue what’s happening to it. I can think of worse fates than being taken over by the guys from Inside though. Any time they want to come and do up The Old Friends, while they’re about it…

If anyone knows, do tell…

The Anson Gates

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I’ve been meaning to talk about these gates for bloomin’ ever. They’re the entrance most tourists use these days (though if I was bringing someone for the first time, I’d be tempted to nip up along the five foot walk to the King’s Steps for the sheer grandeur of it all) and they look so solid, it’s almost impossible to imagine that they haven’t been there forever.

But the whole lot – the heavy rustication, the serious porters’ lodges, those giant globes – used to be a good hundred yards away. They lived just outside the King Charles Building, from when they were built in 1751 until 100 years later, after a bit more land had been begged, borrowed or just sat on by the hospital. It’s hard to imagine that they now stand on what was once a warren of grotty little medieval alleys – a bit like the ones we were talking about a couple of days ago, around the docks to the other side. Turnpin Lane is the nearest we get to what it was all like at one point.

I’m sure I have a photo somewhere of the East Gates, but my computer decided to re-order my files and now I can’t find anything. I’ll get another pic (when I get another camera) but the East Gates were built around the same time, and are very similar but aren’t nearly as cool because they don’t have splendid globes on top like the West Gates.

They’re called the ‘Anson Gates’ because they’re broadly commemorating a rather disastrous (in all respects other than for his pocket) circumnavigation of the globe by Admiral Lord George Anson. He’d originally taken six warships with him, but they just didn’t have enough kit and through storms, bad seas, disease and lack of gear, he lost five of the ships (some returned home, others were wrecked) two thirds of his crew, and he failed to make much in the way of calculations and measurements.

What he did manage though, was some harassment of the Spanish (always a plus in those days) a messy but ultimately successful regroup in Macao and that old fallback, a spot of plundering, capturing a Manila Galleon that just happened to be carrying, among other splendid things, well over a million pieces of eight.

He became massively wealthy – and First Lord of the Admiralty – and the globes on the gates trace (or at least used to trace) the voyage he took. The copper inlay was all calculated by a Richard Oliver, mathematics master at the Academy of Greenwich, who was paid fifty guineas for his pains. One was a terrestrial sphere; the other a celestial, and they were originally very detailed. Sadly the weather’s got to them and there’s only a few bands remaining, but it’s somehow fitting that Greenwich, which didn’t have the meridian running through it at the time, has a giant pair of navigational globes at her centre.

On the pillars, btw, the carvings still just about depict lots of symbols of British naval might – the Hospital and Royal coats of arms, flags, cannons, helmets and sundry trophies – though I suspect pieces of eight aren’t included in the tableau…

The little niches never had anything in them – we haven’t lost any statues – and the gates aren’t orginal. There appears to have been a mini scandal in 1858 when the gates, which, from reading the superb John Bold, were from Old Greenwich Palace, were sold at auction in 1858 for less than their scrap value, and quietly replaced with dull versions. I don’t know if they’re the same ones we have now.

I have Benedict to thank for the two good pictures on this post. Mine’s the slightly grotty-sky pic. I know I have more, including ones taken from inside the gates, but Lord only knows where they are. Life is a bit muddled just now.

Mans and Vans

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Katja asks:

“I am in a process of purchasing house in Plumstead and I am currently living in Greenwich town centre. Within few months I will need to move my stuff (some furniture, lots of books etc) to the new address in Plumstead.

Do you or anybody of the readers know good/reliable local moving company or/and man with a van that they could recommend?”

The Phantom is handing this directly over to you lot – I’ve never used a moving company (many years ago I moved student accom using a fleet of shopping trolleys, but even I admit that Greenwich to Plumstead’s a bit far for wonky wheels…)

It’s one of those interesting things to have squirrelled away though – you never know when you might need a man & van or a lady & luton (BTW – word to the wise – never use the inside lane when driving a luton through the Blackwall tunnel. Not that I’d know anything about that, no…)


Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

John asks:

“I was born in Greenwich, Ashburnham Grove, some 57yrs ago. I am now an Ex Pat living in Budapest, Hungary, I long to come back and see it before it ALL changes.

I can remember as a kid going to school (James Wolfe infants) and walking past a brewery called ‘Lovibonds’, do you know if it is still there? Is the school still there?

I intend to do a sojourn next year and see all that is. It’s funny – the older you get the more one craves for the past, personal past.”

The Phantom replies

The second part of your question is quicker to answer than your first, John. James Wolfe School goes from strength to strength. When you come on your sojourn, make sure you get yourself a copy of the school cookery book, which is called, if memory serves, The Hungry Wolfe (I think it contains children’s favourite recipes rather than classics from the school canteen – spotted dick, pink custard or solid gravy…) Last time I saw it for sale was in Buenos Aires Cafe up Royal Hill.

But onto Lovibonds. The building, or at least a good part of it, still exists, and you can get a pretty good view of it, both inside (the pub bit at least) and out.

In fact the name still exists, too, though I don’t think it has much of a connection with the original company – the present brewery, in Henley, was only begun in 2005 – though the original Lovibonds did buy a place out in Henley in 1916. As a non-beer drinker, I have no idea what it tastes like, but I’m willing to bet our very own Rod has ‘tested’ it out (in a professional capacity, of course…)

Lovibonds started out in the West Country in 1834 and moved to Greenwich in 1847. The building that’s still there today was built on surplus railway land in 1865.

The big claim to fame is by Joseph Williams Lovibond who invented the Tintometer in 1885 – a way of judging the clarity and purity of liquids by a analysing colour comparisons with a series of glass slides. Joseph invented it to test beer, of course, but today it measures everything from swimming pool water to oceanic pollution.

The company flourished in Greenwich – we were only talking yesterday about the number of pubs that dock towns encourage and Lovibonds was right there on the spot. (I’m happy to say that the trend seems to be resurfacing, with several new breweries springing up and expanding…) and they bought various other breweries, depots and stores outside the area. By 1936 they had 71 shops.

It all went pear-shaped in the War, when Greenwich was bombed to buggery, but it wasn’t doodlebugs that finally did for Lovibonds. They rebuilt and continued brewing until the giant conglomerates shoved the smaller companies out of business in the late 50s/early 60s. Lovibonds brewed its last ale in 1959, and started selling beer instead. It all went downhill from there. They were bought out in the 60s and died completely in 1969.

Davy’s wine vaults currently own much of the remaining buildings, and being over 100 years old themselves, they’ve been pretty sensitive about keeping the feel of the place.

The rest of the buildings, you can get a pretty good view of from the DLR platforms and entrance at Greenwich Station. As far as I can tell, they’re warehouses these days.

The Thames Pub

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Jenny has a curious but cool address – the old Thames Pub in Norway St. The poor old place has been dead for some time now, but I’m encouraged to hear that its owners don’t seem to have plans to demolish just at the moment. She says:

“We’re guardians for a company called Camelot which puts tenants into empty buildings to protect them from squatters. I’m rather fond of the place, and would like to find out more about it. I learnt from a taxi driver that it used to be inhabited by squatters, the last one being a prostitute who used to work the bridge over the creek… As for its earlier history, or even its age, though, I have no idea.”

I’ve discovered in my albeit paltry searches over the years that pubs are one of the hardest types of building to find anything out about. However historic they may be, they’ve always been working buildings; no one’s really had time to write histories of them. I’ve been reduced to tears on all sorts of Greenwich pubs, trying to find anything more than basics about them – and a pub called something like The Thames is a particular pig to google as you just get lists of pubs in Greenwich that are on the river.

I can’t even try to look at its old name (as engraved on the outside) The Rose & Crown – all searches are superimposed by the Rose & Crown we still have on the corner of Nevada and Stockwell Streets.

My guess, looking at it, is that it’s mid to late Victorian which would make it date back to when that particular area was very dodgy indeed. The appropriately-named ‘Dark Entry’ was exactly that – a long, dangerous conduit between two dockyards with high brick walls either side. There were any number of pubs to keep the dockers refreshed, and although there are a lot of excellent pictures of these in Julian Watson/Kit Gregory’s In the Meantime, including some marvellously murky photos of alleys like Dark Entry and Brewhouse Lane (the closest we have these days is the much-cleaned up Turnpin Lane) there’s nothing of the Thames.

I have great hopes for the pub though. When the development has finished, hopefully there will be enough people to make reopening it viable. It’s a nice-looking boozer, all it needs is a bit of TLC and a sympathetic guvnor. We could even get a Greenwich-side-of-the-creek Dog & Bell…

In Memoriam

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Tom and his partner Sarah ask:

“Sarah and I would like to plant a tree, or maybe several,to mark the passing of Sarah’s grandmother over the summer.

Wondered if you (or your readers) know of anywhere in Greenwich (where we also live) where this might be possible?”

The Phantom replies:

The most obvious is the Royal Park. They have several sponsorship schemes from just generally supporting all the trees to dedicating a personal or family tree. Greenwich Industrial History Society have just done just that recently, I see.

Sadly, it would seem you can’t put a plaque under ‘your’ tree at the moment. My suggestion for Greenwich Park would be the newly-cleared Dwarf Orchard, which I believe will be planted up with heritage fruit trees – if you could dedicate one of those it would be really rather special.

Of course there are the local parks – if Sarah’s grandmother had a favourite local park, it might be worth contacting Greenwich Council parks department. I can’t see that they have a formal scheme, but sometimes I find it hard to navigate around the council website so it’s entirely possible I’ve missed it.

Oxleas Wood would also come under Greenwich Council, I believe; I don’t know if they have any planting schemes – maybe something around Sevendroog Castle, when the restoration comes to fruition (hopefuly soon…)

I’ve been trying to find out who looks after the Thames Path. It seems to be the National Trails Office. They happily accept donations, but I can’t see any tree sponsorship schemes.

I did look at the Mayor’s Street Tree programme but I don’t think it’s for you – it appears to be somewhere where you nominate places you’d like to see a tree.

Trees For Cities have a tree dedication scheme, but the nearest project I can find to us seems to be Peckham/ Nunhead.

It’s possible local schools or museums have projects, but they’re keeping quiet about them. Maybe someone here knows a local scheme?

Further afield, the Woodland Trust are creating a Victory Wood in Hampshire – the Greenwich link is that Nelson’s body rested there on its way to London.

You’d have thought it would be easy to dedicate a tree – after all there always seem to be benches and tree-plaques wherever you go these days. It seems that the practicalities are a bit harder.

I’m pretty sure, though, that if you saw a beautiful public place you’d like to plant a tree, it would be well worth an ask…

Faded Greenwich 7

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Today’s Faded Greenwich is fading before our very eyes. Lewis Coaches, who’ve been in Greenwich since 1919, have moved – albeit down the road to Charlton, though I’m suspecting that bumpy day trips in a coach, followed by a gut-retching hovercraft from Dover to Calais in back to get a few bottles of cheap plonk are not quite so high up on the agenda these days.

Nor are there regular coaches out to the country so that mums and dads can visit their evacuated children, as there used to be in WWII. Lewis were based out in Blackwall Lane in those days, but they’ve been in Denham St for about 30 years.

They started out exactly 90 years ago, when Charles Lewis came back from the Flying Squad after World War I and bought a lorry with some benches in the back. He stuck a chalk board on the side and organised different trips every weekend, and it grew from there. It was a Lewis coach that brought the triumphant Charlton team back with the FA cup in 1947. Sadly they’ve not had that honour since…

Anyone who lives in East Greenwich or who has had to battle their way to the shops on the peninsula recently, will remember the horrendous roadworks that have only just stopped. It seems to have been a mixture of gas works and a serious water-table problem – there was a pump slooshing out water on Woolwich Road for months. Denham Street was virtually impossible to get down.

This was, apparently, the final nail in the coffin of Lewis’s here – they had to move temporarily – and it seems that Charlton’s just easier (and probably cheaper to operate from now.) The buildings are up for sale.

I daresay they’re hoping to flog it off at a hot price for yet more hutches luxury flats – though looking at the inside of the place it might make a good workshop for light industry or a car mechanics.

These pictures were not taken by me – my camera is still very broken indeed. It’s the second Fuji that has died with exactly the same problem – a zoom that gets stuck half way in/out. Dazza, who lives round there and who took the pics for me, has also had a Fuji that died the same way. Fuji have offered to mend it for me – at ten pounds less than it would cost to replace it. So much for eco-dom. One thing’s for certain – my next camera will NOT be a Fuji…

Sorry – got a bit off-top there. Happy weekend…

Rear Window (14)

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

I haven’t done a Rear Window for ages, so I’m especially pleased to bring you Hither Queen’s bedroom window view, in what, from memory, is in Frobisher Street in Maze Hill.

I love the idea that this has been part-pedestrianised, with little seats and tubs of plants – I’m guessing, though I don’t actually know, that this must make the residents feel rather village-y and quaint. It’s certainly not the rat-run that most streets in Greenwich tend to be – or at least not unless you count kiddies on skateboards…

At one end is Maze Hill, and above it, the ‘monstrous’ Seren Park, as Hither Queen calls it (though, hands up, I was expecting far worse, far uglier on that particular development. My only real gripe is that the footpath to the south of Maze Hill Station stays resolutely closed, and I begin to fear that it will now be for the exclusive use or residents, which is a real pain for people with prams or wheelchairs (or Phantoms, who are just lazy) who live on the south side but have to walk all the way round the north to get a few yards away to the south platform.)

At the other end is a charming view of one of the lesser-known Greenwich Almshouses, Hatcliffe.

I’m always interested in nosing through people’s windows, seeing Greenwich as other Greenwichians do – I’d love to peer (in a non-creepy way, natch) through yours. Keep sending ‘em in…

Tudor Barn Bar & Brasserie

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

I’ve been meaning to get over to test out the new cafe at the Tudor Barn for a long time – and my failing to get into Blackheath Golf Club on Open Day (all down to v. narrow slot of entry which, of course, I missed – but I thought I’d chance my arm anyway by having lunch at the restaurant, which I’ll SWEAR used to be open to the public – I’m SURE I saw it advertised in one of the free mags, though I guess that was when I used to actually get free mags…) gave me the perfect excuse .

I’ve been looking forward to it – it’s a fantastic building and it just needs that little something to make it really special.

I’m delighted that the little balcony that overlooks the (rather duckweedy) moat has been reopened after the refurb, and we leaped at the opportunity to sit outside – a little cooler than I’d expected but still a lovely day.

Service is friendly and I was pleased that not too many things appear on the menu – trying to do too much often leads to nothing being much cop. The basic choices are filled baguettes, jacket potatoes and hand-made burgers. The bar is new, but apart from that, all I can really see is different from the old cafe are the chairs and tables. All good so far.

I thought the prices for the food were a little optimistic – an average of £5.50 for a sandwich, a fiver for the spuds and £8 for the burgers, but the alcohol seemed quite reasonable – £3.00 and under for a (bottled) beer and a rather staggeringly cheap £2.60 per glass for the wine (one choice each of red, white and rose.)The wine, I have to say, tasted like it cost £2.60, though, of course, bottled beer is bottled beer.

I have to say that despite the lovely setting, I found this meal disappointing. When I saw how much food was piled on my plate, I thought ‘oh, that’s what I’m paying for…’ But size really isn’t everything.

My jacket potato was the size of a large hamster – the biggest spud I’d ever-bloomin’-seen, but it was largely hard as nails inside, and although it had clearly been done in the oven rather than the microwave, the skin was light brown, rather than the crispy loveliness that’s my personal favourite.

I’ll give them there was plenty of filling – tuna mayo and sweetcorn (from a choice of eleven usual-suspect toppings), and the small salad that came with it was really rather tasty, but by the time I’d removed all the hard bits from the potato I had decided that I’d have rather had a regular sized one that was properly done.

My companion’s 100% “Tudor barn” Beef Burger, on first bite, seemed much better. It was even quite nice on the second. It was clearly home-made and again, it was a good size. But it was very fatty and the bun and accompanying (again, very good) salad just didn’t make up for the grease.

In a couple of weeks’ time, a new evening venue, 1568 @ Tudor Barn will be opened. Open between 6.00pm and 10.30pm, it will be ‘serving gastro food including a daily three course specials menu.’ I’ll be testing this out, of course, but IMHO the Tudor Barn is going to have to raise its game to become a destination restaurant…

Combe Lodge

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Bing asks:

“I know its a long shot, but I live in Coombe Lodge, SE7 and I’m trying to find out whether we were the first to be called Coombe Lodge or whether 12 Charlton Road is. We contacted the council to complain when they submitted planning permission and the lady at the council never really got back to us.

When I first moved here there was a lady who was quite elderly and she remembered a farm building here in Coombe Lodge/ Warren walk. This will be going back to 1940′s or something, we thought that it was redeveloped in the 60′s and the old buildings demolished (we keep finding bricks in the gardens). But keeping its name as Coombe Lodge?

Although I do remember going down to the heritage centre and not finding a Coombe Lodge address before the 60′s (before I moved to the place)

Like I say, its a long shot, I’m not sure if you have any ideas about this? or how comprehensive the book about Combe Farm is with maps and details?”

Boundaries are, I confess, not my forte. And trying to pinpoint any part of the old Combe estate is hard at the best of times.

It seems to me that, for mere reasons of clarity, having two Combe Lodges, SE7, is a bit daft. I already can’t find either of them on the usually useful Streetmap, (I’ve located them both now) but considering I can’t find any allusions to a historical Combe Lodge in any of my books, or online, I’m guessing this isn’t a big issue.

Strange, really – ‘Combe Lodge’ sounds so likely. There were definitely large houses there that could have been called something as grand as that – but, checking out Neil Rhind’s definitive Blackheath Village & Environs (2) – criminally out of print, but occasionally available second-hand – they seem to have been called anything but Combe Lodge (I’d be very happy to be contradicted here.) Maze Hill House, Mayfield Lodge, Vanbrugh Castle, The Manor House, Westcombe House, Woodlands House and several others – if there was an antique Combe Lodge it must be too far east to be in Neil Rhind’s encyclopaedic sight.

Neither can I find it in the even rarer Combe Farm, Greenwich, by Barbara Ludlow – and for her to miss something like that out would be most out of character. There is an 1864 map in the book – this, too, doesn’t mention a Combe Lodge.

I’ve been along the row of local history books on my shelves, and can’t find any reference at all, which means, I suspect, that both names are pretty modern.

Of course, there were Combe farm buildings knocking around all over that area – in fact there are still a couple left standing, round the back of the police station at the bottom of Westcombe Hill – so it’s entirely possible that your old lady did remember buildings round your place and that the bricks you keep finding are from something Combe-farmish. As far as I can tell from not-terribly-clear maps, the actual Home Farm was slightly north-east of Westcombe Park station.

If you’ve been living at your Combe Lodge since the 60s and Number 12 has only just submitted planning permission, then it seems a bit silly, if only for reasons of not driving the local postie crazy, to have another one. But, as far as I know, there’s no copyright on names (I’ve long wondered when the Victorian house at the top of Westcombe Hill decided to promote itself to being ‘Combe Farm’ – but hey – why not – I guess it could have been connected somehow…) and if the tortuous place-naming department in the Council hasn’t picked up on it, then I can’t promise any historical precedent to promote your cause. Just common sense.