Archive for May, 2014

What Happens When One’s Eye Drifts From The Ball…

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Photo: Philip Moore

Sad news, folks.

I only passed this sad old pub – ex-Swan, ex White Swan, ex-Millers, soon to be ex-anything – the other day thinking to myself, ‘I must see what’s happening with this.’

I was beaten to it by Philip, who tells me we’re about to lose it. Very, very imminently – i.e. the demolition gang are in there right now.

This lovely, if somewhat dilapidated example of late Victorian/Edwardian pub architecture was flagged up as important for preservation in a 2009 Heritage report for the Mayor of London’s office. And indeed, a Deptford Creek Conservation Area came into force – but only on the Lewisham side of the Ravensbourne, leaving the Swan(and the waterworks) unprotected.

We often say, when lamenting the dreadful loss of historic buildings in the 1960s and 70s ‘That would never happen these days’. We are so bloomin’ wrong. Philistines exist in every age, and philistine developers seem to get an especially macabre joy from demolishing beautiful buildings.

This one is to be razed to the ground for shops. That lovely Wedgewood-style roundel of the Swan, the stunning red brickwork, all to be ground into the dust for some soulless project that almost certainly won’t see out the century’s teens.

Cluttons got planning permission for demolition back in July 2011, and since then Philip believes the site has been sold on twice. The latest soulless Philistines are Galliford Try. Check out their website for the kind of architectural merit we can expect to see along Greenwich High Road in the future.

Philip says “I wish there was an ‘emergency heritage alarm’ you could hit!”

I agree. ┬áThere’s not much hope for doing anything about this one now, though Philip says “I have written to everyone except my MP (will do that now)”. Good luck with that one, Philip, if your MP is Nick Raynsford, Enemy of Heritage. A man whose well-documented and self-confessed loyalties to the construction industry come, if past form is to be taken as present, a long way before any kind of duty to his constituents, his surroundings or even, one might hazard to guess, his conscience.

In some respects I sort of blame myself for not banging on about it more at the time. I knew it was in a precarious position, but in my innocence, I assumed that the worst could happen to such a valuable piece of heritage would be turning it into dreary flats – that we wouldn’t actually lose the fabric of the building. I never cease to wonder at my own naivety.

But I also blame the council planning department, so quick to jump on any private resident who might want to put a double-glazed sash window in their period property but quite happy to sign off the demolition of an historic pub that has, just two years previously, been recommended for conservation. It could have been a Section 106 – for community use or – heavens – actually used as a pub when the new development went up. But no. It’s all to be flattened – within days.

The Swan is to be consigned to memories, then forgotten entirely in a day and age when we claim to give a damn about our architectural past. And perhaps us heritage lovers are partly to blame. But what is a part-time Phantom with no actual power whatsoever to do against such a deluge of ignorance? The sheer volume of historic buildings being lost just now in this construction boom is dizzying, daunting and depressing.

HMS Bulwark

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

HMS Bulwark captured by John last time around...

A quick one today folks – but a good one. Roger tells me that HMS Bulwark, the flagship of the Royal Navy, is coming to Greenwich and (providing you can prove you live in a very, very small catchment area – SE8, SE10 SE13 – sorry, Charlton, Eltham, Isle of Dogs etc. etc…) you can get free tickets to see around it on 31 May and 1st June.

Visit Eventbrite for tickets.

Harry Glassblower

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Long-term phantophiles will be sad to hear of the passing of Harry Glassborrow AKA Glassblower, a man who forty years ago made us smile today with his antics as hospital porter in the Dreadnought Hospital.

Aided and abetted by his friend and fellow porter Gerald Dodd, Harry loved to lark around, dressing up in whatever was available, messing about on bikes, pulling faces and generally entertaining everyone he met.

And those of us he didn’t meet. Some of us weren’t born when he was playing the clown in what is now part of the University of Greenwich but Gerald, a keen amateur photographer, carried his camera with him everywhere. Harry couldn’t resist the opportunity, Gerald kept the pics and we have been enjoying them ever since.

I knew that Gerald was trying to contact Harry, and when his email arrived I thought it was good news – that they’d finally managed to meet up again after losing each other for a long time – but it was instead Harry’s son (also called Harry) with the news that just as Gerald had managed to track down Harry Snr. on Facebook, his old friend passed away.

Gerald is, as am I, very sad to hear such tidings. Harry brought such innocent fun to these pages. Both Gerald and The Phantom’s thoughts are with his family in this most difficult of times. Gerald says:

Harry, just to say thank you Harry for being my friend all those years ago. R.I.P.

There are so many Harry Glassblower posts (thank you Gerald!) that the best thing to do is direct you to the Phantom Phindings page for him and you can see him for yourself. The search fuction is a blunt instrument – the posts are in no special order that I can see – but short of giving you dozens of links here, it’s my best bet.

In the meanwhile I leave you with a taster, if you have never encountered Harry the Hospital Hipster before. He was a dapper chap, but with a sense of fun more of us should aspire to, however trendy we aspire to be. Sometimes I think the 21st Century is too po-faced for its own good.

Placeholder Art

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Folks, I have to apologise for the lack of posting recently. Things are utterly crazy, both in and out of Phantom Towers – I’ve been away, horribly busy and without proper internet access in varying combinations and degrees for some time now.

Things will get back to normal soon, I hope – I have much to discuss with you – good, bad, drearily predictible, happy, sad, intriguing, beautiful – it will come I promise.

In the meanwhile I leave you with some wonderful images from long-term phantophile Stevie who says with all the amazing, changeable weather just now it’s time to get your camera out and get a few shots like these…

The Sail Loft

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Never heard of this pub? That’s because it’s not built yet. Phantom Brewer Rod tells me that it will be in New Capital Quay, operated by Fullers and opening early 2015 with the usual riverside terraces and views.

Let’s hope it has a more illustrious future than the doomed restaurant in Wood Wharf, opened to a (very) small fanfare, almost immediately turned into a noisy nightclub and now full of what looks like abandoned gym equipment; or the INC-owned shell in the new development between the power station and the Cutty Sark pub, which never opened at all and was full of abandoned chairs last I looked.

Fullers, I am told (as a non-beer drinker – sorry, Rod) is a decent brew, and there will certainly be enough residents up that end soon. It might even chivvy up the footbridge and force the opening-up of the currently-non-existant Thames Path – one of the (many) presumed reasons for the brief life of the Wood Wharf establishment.

Personally I’d like to see the refurbishment of the currently-closed Thames Pub

which although not with those riverside views that are making Fullers build new, would make a marvellous Greenwich answer to the Dog & Bell.

The other place that really needs (or will need, since we are to lose the businesses and get yet more housing up there anyway) is the Peninsula. My favourite venue for this is still Enderby House – an historic house for Greenwich, but in terrible shape

It fits the riverside setting publicans crave, would be a use for a building nobody wants to lose but can’t think of anything to do with and would add something other than relentless steel and glass towerblocks.

Personally I’d keep the businesses – it’s the last little hurrah of London’s industrial past and I love the urban wildness of that bit of Thames path pretty much more than any other part of it, but if we have to have the glass and steel, a rejuvenated Enderby House wouldn’t be too much to ask would it?