Archive for September, 2012
Anyone know what’s going to happen here? Jeremy and I have been wondering what’s going to happen to the old bail hostel in Creek Road for some time now. It’s not the prettiest building ever but all breeze-blocked up it’s frankly a bit grim.
Usually when a sign outside a property says ‘acquired’ it means luxury flats – but does anyone have any further news? I’ve had a look through the council planning site and can’t find anything. I don’t have an agenda here – anything old and lovely (or otherwise, though there certainly were some incredible Georgian shops there not so long ago) clearly disappeared a long while ago – I’m just curious.
So I finally know a little more about the little parklet we were wondering about a few weeks ago, starting with its name – yes, I didn’t even know that.
It’s called The Dell and in case you don’t know where it is, here’s a map. It’s just at the bottom of the gardens at Mycenae House and Woodlands, but isn’t connected to either – any more. I love it because, apart from, perhaps, the odd grass-cut, it doesn’t appear to be ‘managed’ – the gates are just left ajar for anyone who wants a little peace and quiet.
I guess the fact that I didn’t know the name of the baby parklet contributed to my not finding it in Neil Rhind’s Blackheath Village and Environs II, so thanks are due to local fountain of knowledge Julian Watson who was able to pinpoint it for me.
And yes, of course the land used to be part of John Julius Angerstein’s Woodlands and remained so fairly late – it wasn’t until the mid-1920s that the Little Sisters of the Assumption, who’d taken over Woodlands sold it off, something for which I can only forgive them because they built a grotto in the bit of back garden they kept. I’ve always found it somewhat harder to forgive Greenwich Council for knocking said folly down. Aw, c’mon – demolishing a grotto is the architectural equivalent of kicking a puppy.
As an aside – it’s very easy to digress when you’re reading Blackheath Village and Environs – I note that around the turn of the 20th Century a chap called Felix Bell tried to build a hotel on the junction of Beaconsfield, Mycenae and Humber Roads. A petition was drafted, which 515 out of the 538 residents signed. The hotel was eventually not built because someone pointed out that Westcombe Park is a dry estate – not an alcoholic drink to be got anywhere (shhh – don’t tell the two Indian restaurants…) and that if Mr Bell built his hotel his guests wouldn’t be able to enjoy a drink.
But back to the Dell. That particular bit of Woodlands was used for the garden of Fairfax House, on Beaconsfield Road (where the flats are now.) It was a large Tudor-style building, built in the 1880s, that enjoyed a succession of curious owners, including a Mayor of Greenwich, Ernest Dence, who evidently snapped up the land the cash-strapped Little Sisters were flogging to fund their novitiate house.
Dence installed a boating lake and throughout the 20s and 30s used the garden for charity garden parties, ‘private theatricals’ and a craze that swept Greenwich during that time, pageants where everyone wore fancy dress (one was Tudor themed to reflect the no-doubt accurate architecture of the house.) It appears to have been compulsory for at least one wag to fall in the lake at every event.
For anyone knowing the history of the area, it’s not going to be too difficult to guess what happened next. Fairfax House was, as is traditional round here, bombed to buggery and in 1952 the flats that are there now were begun.
The Dell, perhaps surprisingly, escaped development, and became what it is today – sans boating lake, sans fundraising toffs and, save for small children on October 31, sans fancy dress. According to Neil Rhind, nothing actually remains that was planted that time – all the trees, save one, the old oak, are younger – and the oak itself is probably older even than the house. But I’m happy for it to stay as a little secret garden that everyone can enjoy, look for the marks where the lake was, and dream a little of nutty 1920s pageants…
I admit it – I got up today in a very grumpy mood – not least because of the gloomy weather outside. It’s like someone’s flicked the ‘Autumn’ switch since Saturday and suddenly I’m all fed up.
But then I opened an email sent to me by Joe, telling me about his blog, Greenwich Wildlife, and suddenly, for a few moments on a grey, wet, Monday morning, it was Summer again in Phantom Towers. It’s a photography blog, which makes the Phantom’s own Greenwich Wildlife section somewhat redundant and if it slips off-topic very occasionally, I’m not going to moan. It’s nice to be able to put names to butterflies or birds I’ve seen around but known nothing about.
Joe has the great humility to tell me that it’s an ‘amateur’ blog.
Joe – I’ve got news for you – we’re all amateurs. The number of people that can make actual money on blogs is teeny – and that’s usually only if a) it’s a saucy read that sends a sensitive Phantom all hot under the tricorn or b) you write an actual proper, paper book based on it. Now – Joe’s plumped for the latter (though given the history of Greenwich Birds I’m sure there’s room for the former too…), and has co-authored the publication pictured at the top of the post – but he’s fallen down on the whole ‘making money’ bit.
The Birds of Greenwich Park 1996-2011 is FREE.
It’s “an annotated checklist of the birds known to have been recorded in the Park during those years“, and the idea is “to raise awareness amongst local people and officialdom of the wildlife around them and hopefully this will encourage them to then take some steps towards helping it, however small those steps might be.” Joe points out that sometimes things are lost simply because people didn’t realise they were there.
It’s published by Royal Parks and you can get your sweaty mitts on a copy, free, gratis, for nothing and at no extra charge, at the Park Office next to the police station.
It might be fun to use it like an ‘I-Spy’ book – see how many you can spot on a walk round the park…
Thank you Joe. My mood has turned from Autumnal glum to crisp anticipation of hot pumpkin soup, brisk park walks, strange fairy toadstools, roasted Greenwich chestnuts and ghost stories round a roaring fire…
No – not that sort – though Flying Duck Ents. might be gone, they still exist online and rent their Creek Road shop out to others.
No – the sort I’m talking about are the ones that fly up the walls of post-ironic vintage-lovers like me and Capability Bowes, both of whom, I discover today, have the same issue. In fact I have a theory that everyone who owns a set of antique flying ducks has the same issue – neck-snap.
I’ve no idea how my middle duck’s neck broke, though in Mr Bowes’s case it’s rather clearer - his granny literally didn’t give a flying duck where his granddad had been and threw one of hers at the poor old codger.
Both of us now have anything-but-rare brown-ring-necked ducks, where they’ve been badly repaired, and CB asks – does anyone know a local (or indeed otherwise) specialist china repair service? His may well be more of a restoration job than a repair – his birds (a set of five, mine’s only three) are also missing a wing or two – but hell – they belonged to his gran – and she was clearly one feisty lady…
It’s what all the best-dressed developers’ hordings are wearing this season – jolly crocheted flowers in gay seasonal shades. For several hundred yards round the west side of the Peninsula on the Thames Path it’s a veritable catwalk of what’s in for the urban runway this fall.
Take this delightful tree-snood, for example – perfect for keeping out those autumn chills, or for when the winter winds really whistle round the lower trunk region, the all-in-one:
but being an uniformed Phantom I don’t know who the designer is. Is it part of British Fashion Week? (Is it me or does it always seem to be British Fashion Week, whatever the time of year?)
Jamie, who took these pictures, hasn’t got a clue, either. Will someone put us out of our misery? The Pelton Knitting Group, perhaps? In the meanwhile, thank you to whoever it is who’s been busy with the needles.
It’s people like you that make Greenwich unique and give us a new perspective on things that up to now have had a rather less positive image:
Blimey – if this comes about Galleon Theatre will have fallen on their feet and no mistake. If you recall, they were booted out of their old home, the Playhouse, last spring by a landlord who told the newspapers he was going to put on shows himself then, as everyone had suspected, just filled it full of bunk beds to cash in on the Olympics.
Well, the pic at the top of this post is the plan for a new, purpose-built, 110-seater studio theatre in Greenwich. Apparently there are already ‘advanced discussions with a nationwide builder’ going on, as part of a Section 106 agreement.
The Gallion guys don’t say where it’s going to be though they do say “within a few minutes walking distance on Greenwich High Road”, so I’m assuming it will be up the other end, nearer Deptford Bridge DLR, where all the demolition’s going on just now.
I’m told they need two things for this to happen – for Greenwich Council to approve this as a suitable 106 project, and to raise about £250,000 towards the cost (though I thought that was what 106s were all about…) Nick Raynsford (who, as we all know, is Mr Building Trade) thinks it’s doable through one-off capital cost applications. I’m not entirely sure what that is – I’m guessing it’s those things the government tried to tax a couple of months ago and had to U-turn on.
The details are sketchy at the moment – but if it comes off, I think this sounds exciting (and if it’s purpose-built it will be hard to turn into dormitories later…)
I don’t know – first a recital hall in Vanbrugh Hill, now a studio theatre – whatever next – an opera house in Millennium Village? A corps de ballet in Traf Road? Un salon de philosophie at Phantom Towers?
PS. If you lodged a complaint about Beds & Bars turning the Playhouse into a dormitory and your name isn’t here please let Galleon know: firstname.lastname@example.org