Archive for October, 2010

The Phantom Clock of Greenwich Power Station

Friday, October 29th, 2010

A few months ago Peter delighted us all with his photos and more photos of Greenwich Power Station, but I held back the picture above, which he also sent, because it felt like a story for around Halloween, rather than one for the first flush of Spring.

Weirdly, I have always thought there should be a ghost story related to the Power Station – and in the absence of a real one, I made one up (see the Haunted Bag of Soot) but it would seem there really is a spook associated with the place, and my story is not a million miles off the real thing.

Frustratingly, I have very little information about the Phantom Clock of the Power Station - merely that one of the workers died in a terrible accident there ‘many years ago,’ and the clock (situated in the current turbine hall, which is a smaller section running parallel to the main hall)  stopped forever at the same time. As far as Peter could tell, it is still stopped at that fateful hour.

I can’t tell much from looking at the photo save that the clock doesn’t look as old as the power station itself. I am no horologist, so my guess at 1940s/50s is not even an educated one.

If anyone can shed any more light on the Phantom Clock of Greenwich Power Station, I would very much like to hear about it.


Friday, October 29th, 2010

Dunders asks:

“I need to get a plumber round to have a look at a leaky bathroom and I wondered if you had every covered plumbers in any of your previous posts?”

The Phantom replies:

No – weirdly enough, for such a basic thing, I never have. Phantom Towers has its own resident plumber, so I have never needed to call one myself, but I bet somewhere out in Phantoland someone has someone to recommend…

Of Dolphins and Sea Captains

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Julie asks:

What’s happened to the statue of Captain Cook and the Dolphin Sundial that used to be outside the Maritime Museum?

The Phantom replies:

Captain Cook, I am told, is safely in storage while the new Sammy Ofer wing is being built. I am hoping he’ll make a reappearance when the new entrance is opened.

The fabulous Dolphins, which have to form the prettiest modern sundial in the world, worried me for a while when they also suddenly disappeared from outside the NMM tearooms, but I am very happy to say that they’ve found an even nicer home now.

The sundial is designed by Christopher Daniel, who worked at the National Maritime Museum from 1964 until 1986, when he left to become a sundial designer, which has to be one of the most romantic jobs ever. His elegant but brief webpage proves that he doesn’t just deal in dolphins – I particularly like the stained glass dial at the Merchant Adventurers Hall in York.

The scuplture part of the dial is by Edwin Russell, and the whole was created to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

What’s so lovely about the Jubilee Dolphin sundial is the way it works. There’s a tiny gap between the dolphins’ tails and when the sun shines it gleams through the gap onto the ‘page’ below and tells the time, on wavy lines that means it’s accurate in the summer and winter.

It can now be found in the sweet, if slightly baffling, Titanic Memorial Garden at the Observatory. It’s a lovely little formal garden round the back (which now forms the entrance to the old buildings) which used to be paved over in a very dull fashion. They have finally made a feature of Flamsteed’s Well and though it’s still just a little round brick thing filled with gravel, and hasn’t been excavated (chiz) it does at least have an explanatory plaque there now. 

The garden, opened in 2009, is London’s first permanent memorial to the 1912 disaster, but why exactly it’s at the Royal Observatory, or, indeed, what dolphins have to do with the Titanic, I have no idea.

If you’re really into sundials, you might like the little Shire book that Christopher Daniel wrote, Sundials. Hell – I’m even tempted to join the British Sundial Society, so I can learn how to make my own, though I’m suspecting it won’t be quite as lovely as the dolphins…

A Curious Iron Door

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

See this, folks? The little red arrow points to a curious little iron door in the back wall of the house on Crooms Hill that has the erroneous Benjamin Waugh plaque, snapped by Stephen. Here it is close up:

The inscription is for an ironmongers in Nelson Street (as it was back in the day – we’re not quite sure when it became a ‘road’), one T.R Thame. I’ve been able to find out precious little about Mr Thame, save for the records of what looks like a lease from 1829 from a bundle of documents from the Admiralty, Greenwich Hospital and the Chatham Chest, held at the public records office in Kew. Greenwich Hospital, of course, still holds the freehold.

Stephen’s brother found a record for a Thomas William Thame, smith and general furnishing ironmonger at 23, Nelson street; I’m assuming it’s the same one as in the Greenwich Directory of 1849, and if so the guv’nor at the Kings Arms just round the corner at the time was also a Thame. I don’t know anything else about the ironmongers, so it’s possible that it had been already around for yonks – perhaps long enough to have supplied the little door when the buildings were first erected between 1791 and 1809.

But what was it for? My first thought is some kind of soot/ash hole for fireplaces – a handy place for a chimney sweep to pop his rods up the flue (ooh- er- missus) without having to bother the household. But there aren’t any chimneys in that bit of the building - though of course the circus was badly damaged in the war. Is it possible that the walls were rebuilt without the chimneys, but the little hatch was kept because it wasn’t damaged?

Or am I getting this totally wrong? Has anyone any idea what this little door was originally for?

Weather Vanes (6)

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

I had a bit of a crisis writing this as I had the horrid thought that I’d already done it some years ago, but looking back I can see I had only meant to write about it, the reason that I hadn’t being that it was during some bad weather when I couldn’t get good pics to go with it. Then, of course, I forgot all about it, only remembering when Stephen, clearly some kind of clairvoyant to my subconscious, was kind enough to send me the pictures I needed and jog my memory – and the notes I’d made three years ago.

But enough of the excuses. How old do you reckon this weather vane is? Here’s a close up, to help. Knowing that it’s Vanbrugh Castle probably won’t help much, unless you’re a scholar of the place.

Give up? I bet you probably thought I was going to tell you it’s modern, didn’t you. And it certainly looks pretty contemporary. But it’s not. Neither, however, is it antique.

It’s actually just about a hundred years old, and if you look closely, perhaps you’ll agree that it does have a certain Arts& Crafts-ness to it. It comes from a strange time in the castle’s life (and let’s face it, the place has had many strange times…) when it was owned by a an oil magnate. The duck is a pun on his name – Alexander Duckham, founder, in 1899, of Duckham’s Motor Oils in Millwall (there was a book , Duckhams: A Century of Fighting Friction produced just over ten years ago which is going for 1p on Amazon, I see.)

Alexander Duckham might have had his own firm but he was so much more than a mere businessman. He was an early aviation pioneer, close friends with none other than cross-channel aviator Louis Blériot. In fact it’s Duckham who was responsible for the stone memorial in Dover that marks the spot where Blériot landed after his famous flight. Duckham became very involved with the RAF, which directly links Vanbrugh Castle with the next moment in its unconventional history.

I’m not sure what interior upgrades the family gave the place before  it was bequeathed to the RAF Benevolent fund as the founding home for Alexander Duckham Memorial Schools. I know that quite a few ex-pupils have found their way onto this blog  from time to time and left some lovely memories there. Sadly a lot of comments were lost when the site had to move addresses, and I particularly miss those Vanbrugh Castle thoughts. Please feel free to post them again – it was an unfortunate accident, not a deliberate snub, folks!

Blackheath Fireworks

Monday, October 25th, 2010

I’ve been going to the Blackheath fireworks for years, usually with a large group of friends and family. It’s one of the highlights of the Phantom Year, but I have a horrid feeling this one may be the last for some time.

If memory serves, about 80,000 people make the trip up the hill to see the show, and one of the reasons why it has to be free is that there are just so many entrances to a public heath that, unlike many boroughs, it’s impossible to fence-off a paid-for area for people to stand in.

That’s Greenwich residents as well as Lewisham people, but you wouldn’t know it from the way Greenwich Council dumped on Lewisham a few weeks ago, pulling out of their part of the shared-costs agreement and leaving Lewisham to foot the bill.

I know things are tight and they’re frankly getting tighter, but this, to me was downright shabby of Greenwich. I could understand if, with proper notice,  they pulled out of next year’s extravaganza (though I hope against hope the fireworks can still happen) but this year? With just weeks to go and, presumably contracts all signed?

I don’t normally have the time of day for Lewisham Council, but I feel for a bunch of people left holding the sparkly baby, to honour, presumably, committments already made.

I’m sure you’ve come across the cyber-begging bowl already, but I’m mentioning it again. I enjoy those fireworks hugely and I am happy to help out on this occasion. If you feel the same, you can easily make a Paypal or similar donation here.

I truly hope this won’t be the end of the Blackheath fireworks; that local firms, like the ones who have already stepped in to help this year at short notice, will make a more long-term comitiment. I name – and thank - them here:


The Clarendon Hotel


Bella Vista

Everest Inn.

No thanks to Greenwich Council.

The Mystery of the Turnpin Lane Eagle

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Remember this, folks?

In case you can’t quite place it, it is – or at least was – in Turnpin Lane. I walked past on Saturday though, and this is what I saw:

I checked wit Paul at Greenwich Market – and it would seem that it’s not as sinister as I had feared. The eagle is merely in safekeeping while work is going on on the buildings. I am assured he will return soon.


But while we’re on the subject, I would love to know anything at all about it – I have no idea who put it there, how long it’s been there, or indeed why. I just can’t remember a time it wasn’t there – save now, of course.

Blood Sacrifice

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Some readers may find these images shocking, but I have decided to include them here because I feel the world should be made aware of the barbaric practices that are taking place under our very noses, not even a stone’s throw from Nelson Road. It is my duty to speak out, yea, though it may cost my very life…

For some time now I have been charting and recording evidence of disturbing rituals in an otherwise quiet corner of Devonport House garden, where, upon a makeshift altar of white-painted wood, various sacrificial victims are lain, naked and vulnerable, awaiting a grisly fate. It is no accident that this is a cemetery – and the sick individuals who perpetrate this assault on polite society know exactly what they are doing. Look at this poor cockatiel, for example, frozen rigid with fear, awaiting whatever diseased ‘entertainments’ its tormentors have in store.

Until now I have been unable to capture photographic evidence of this sickening practice,  horrific to decent citizens of the town, all the more so because it is a mere few steps to the gate leading onto Romney Road,  nestling into King William Walk. Tourists could see this, and yet it is something that no one mentions. It is swept under the table, the Cockatiel In The Room that no one will talk about. And I confess. I played my part too. By not revealing this to the world, admittedly through cowardice, I have been complicit in the mutilation and death of many an innocent plastic figure.

But no more. I will be the first to talk about the Brotherhood of the Parrot, whatever the cost to my own safety.

The Brotherhood of the Parrot has been growing in confidence over the past few years. Once reviled as a ‘crank cult’ it is now gaining credence beyond the gullible few and seeping its vile stench into otherwise rational society. Claiming high priests and priestesses from among Greenwich’s most respected citizens, it is tolerated even in the highest places because its members have infiltrated every rank of Greenwich society. I expect you have been wondering why such an altar, its majestic simplicity stark among the frippery of the town’s ancient artchitecture has been allowed to stay in Devonport House Garden – I can reveal that, even within the very grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, the Brotherhood has its followers.

Worshipping the ancient parrot deity ‘Joey’, the mission of these fanatics is to fill the trees of Greenwich with the Minions of Joey. I know you will have seen – and heard – these minions as they gather, in ever-increasing numbers, awaiting the Apocalypse, when Joey will take over Greenwich and the Age of the Parrots will begin. Humans will be annihilated; only by bending to Joey’s will and begging mercy now will the race survive, and even then as mere shadows of what they were. Cultists believe that when Joey reigns, they will be permitted to serve him and thus survive.

I will not describe here what will happen to this cockatiel. Children read this blog. I did not see who placed it, though a group of cloaked and hooded students have been seen hanging around the area in the small hours of the morning. Through my exhaustive research (despite the Brotherhood’s efforts to conceal their tracks, I found an ancient tome, downstairs in the ‘restricted area’ of East Greenwich Library, which discusses the rituals in detail) I discovered  these vulnerable young people are recruited upon their arrival in the town, often as early as Freshers Week, and used as ‘procurers,’ finding plastic representations of the Enemies of Joey - for example, this cockatiel, though I have seen budgerigars, macaws and even, once, a peach-faced lovebird – and preparing them for sacrifice.

I dare not say more. Even now, the Brotherhood is monitoring the action of this blog via their stranglehold on the Worldwide Web. I feel its spies closing in upon me. The cloak of anonymity cannot conceal my whereabouts for long. They are coming…

From Our Leader

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

FYI This from Chris Roberts (not sent to me, natch!)

“The quickest headline summary is set out below and reflects the two broad areas of funding as we receive it from Government (which are formula grant – for general services – and specific grants which are required to be spent on a particular matter. Most of these specific grants are allocated to children’s education and social care and on adult social care budgets).

 Current Position 2010-11 - (Formula Grant) £167m      

Projected Position 2014-15   -   £120m  

Difference                                           -£47m

Of the £80m specific grants, we have been told that £18m has been rolled into the formula grant. This means that £18m must be found from within the £120m and means the cut to Greenwich is at least £47m pure Formula Grant cut and £18m of Specific Grants which have effectively simply vanished, resulting in a combined cut of £65m .

We have yet to hear the fate of the other £62m of specific grants.”

Mystical Goings On

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Michael asks:

“Passing by the park tonight about 9.30pm I was bewildered to see ghostly coloured globes lighting floating mid air near the Observatory. From close inspection, looking through the Park Vista gates, the globes were representations of the planets – the solar system in small hot air balloons. I spoke to other passer-bys who thought they were moving in circular motions.

It was really quite magical. Is it a film or secret event ? Please can you tell me, of if not simply wildly speculate!”

The Phantom replies

I am almost sad to actually know what’s happening here, as speculation would have been more fun. But Solange already told me:

“Sky 3D are making a programme this weekend about the solar system above the Greenwich Observatory. A Notice explains that, if anyone wants to be in this historic 3D production, they should go to the site on the slope below the Observatory. “

So – nice, but not a patch on what we could have speculated between us…