Archive for the ‘Ask The Phantom’ Category

The Fox and Hounds Union…

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Photo: Alex Brooks

This post started with a question from Alex, who passed the Greenwich Union as it was having a refurb, revealing the Charrington’s sign below. It made him wonder how long ago that was, and what the pub was before it was the Union.

I confess I’m a lazy Phantom. Why bother reinventing the wheel when there’s a Phantophile on brew-tap who knows all about these things? I did what any self-respecting idle Phantom would do – I contacted Phantom brewmaster Rod. And since there was such a fine reaction to Raymond’s glorious Wood Wharf memories, I decided to be even lazier and give this to you straight from the Rod’s mouth…

My recollection of the Union (and precursors) dates back only to the late 70′s, when I first came to Greenwich.

Earlier history is hard to find, but this link gives a little bit

When I first darkened the doors, the pub was called the Fox and Hounds, and still had some Charringtons’ signage, although I’m fairly sure it was a free house by then. It was run by an Irish couple, as a proper local pub – good atmosphere, proper Sunday roasts, days out at the races, etc etc. There was folk music from time to time. All seemed well.

However, one day the pub stayed locked and remained that way for a long time. The Royal Hill rumour was that the Irish couple had, literally, done a moonlight flit. Dark stories of huge gambling debts circulated…

After, I don’t know exactly, a year or so, serious work began on the old Fox. Lots of skips full of wood and rubble got filled and taken away. Work would be erratic – activity stopping and starting seemingly at random (although money presumably had something to do with it, as ever…..).

Eventually, after being closed for, I would think, at least 18 months, it re-opened as the Observatory. On the opening launch night, le tout de Greenwich was there to see what it was like.
Unfortunately that was the busiest night the Observatory ever had, as most of the people who came to have a look didn’t much like what they saw…

Some of what had been done was good – the current conservatory replaced the never-very-pristine Gents bog. Fine, but some of the other improvements were less successful. The stone floor, which still remains was (arguably) better that the previous patterned carpet.

The building is (still) an inherently cold one, and painting the walls a frigid dove/oyster grey exacerbated this badly. The heavy, carved teak furniture would perhaps have looked better in a Thai restaurant. The 18th Century engraving of the Thames, which bizarrely didn’t feature any of the Greenwich riverfront, didn’t really go with anything else. Certainly not the furniture.

One beautiful Summer Saturday afternoon, when the Richard I was chocker, my wife and I had an admittedly very nice lunch in the Observatory. We had the place entirely to ourselves, and ate to the strains of a James Last-type orchestral recording of arrangements of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Greatest Hits. Not cool.

The Observatory closed within a year, if memory serves and Meantime snapped it up. It re-opened about a week later, and I walked in the first day, to find *no* big brand beers at all – just Meantime. Some proper German-styles, a Wheat beer, a Raspberry beer etc etc.

I liked it so much I joined the company.


So  there you have it, Alex. All the news on the Fox & Hounds that’s fit to print. Rather less exciting news, however, for its next door neighbour. I understand the Tolly’s having a ‘refurb’ and from what I’ve been hearing it’s of the most ghastly kind imaginable.

Honestly – don’t the owners get why people go to the Richard I? It’s precisely for all the things they’re about to obliterate. Sigh.

Short Lets

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

By rights, this should be in the Parish News, but since it’s a bit on the urgent side, just this once I’m putting it here:

Capability Bowes’s freeholders are having to move him out temporarily while they do some major repair works, meaning he has to move out for around six weeks.

The relocation agents keep suggesting properties well above the price range the loss adjusters have agreed to, and also unfurnished ones when his furniture collection is minimal…

Does anyone have place to let? All rent and expenses will be met by the Freeholders’ insurance and although he’s only going to be away for six weeks or so, up to six months rent will be covered. It has to be furnished, it has to be relatively local to Eltham/Greenwich and it has to be soon!

Two bedrooms would be nice, but one sufficient.


Charlton Prefabs

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Carol over at Charlton Parks Reminiscence Project has a problem. She says:

We know that at one time there were prefabs built in Charlton Park along Canberra Road. I am now chasing this up, spurred on by a previous resident who lived in the prefabs as a boy, who has asked if we have any photographs of these buildings.

During the project we couldn’t track any down, can you or your readers help please? We would also like to add a photo, if any can be found, to the website as this was a frequently recollection by many participating in the project.

I guess the issue is that there aren’t too many people who take pictures of prefabs. In retrospect, yes; at the time, when film was expensive and not many people had cameras anyway, less likely.

But maybe someone here has something?

Give Us This Day…

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Stephan asks:

I was baking with my significant other last weekend with some fresh yeast we’d brought over from Scandinavia. Does anyone know of anywhere in Greenwich where you might get fresh yeast over the counter? A bakery, a supermarket, somewhere where it doesn’t cost ridiculous money?

The Phantom replies:

Last time I made bread you were able to just go into a baker’s, ask nicely and they’d let you have some yeast for free. Of course, that was before the Ark, and your problem these days is actually finding a bakery where they make bread on the premises. Greggs obviously don’t, I don’t think Hursts do and Rhodes don’t. BUT they do bake all their bread (including for the branch in Notting Hill Gate I saw the other day…) in their factory in Lassell St – you might give them a call – I can’t see they would be so insecure in their empire that the odd Phantophile wanting to make the odd loaf of bread is going to topple them. They might sell it to you – on the other hand they might just let you have a bit…

Those Lazy, Crazy, Hazy Days of Love…

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Okay, as anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will know, I’m a pushover for a love story and, given the time of year, I have a little poser for you to help a young romantic swain. Let’s call him Romeo, to preserve his anonymity in case Juliet just happens to be reading…

Romeo says:

I’m thinking about proposing (only thinking of it, R? Might want to make sure, eh…) and would like it to involve a couple of deck chairs (long story relating to an in-joke) Now, although I’m an Engineer, I don’t exactly have the best ‘hands on’ skills. I would however, ideally like to make the deck chairs myself, with a custom design etc.

Do you know of any small furniture or other artisan workshops in the area? The dream being that I could make friends and perhaps in return for weekend work or indeed a small fee, I’d have storage space and access to tools and perhaps some friendly advice on making the deckchairs. The other option I have considered would be buying some existing ones and customising them. I believe the Greenwich Adult Community college runs a Furniture restoration course which might be appropriate.

I like this idea, and it’s probably a good idea to be as vague as possible to give yourself the most options here, Romeo.

It’s possible there’s a friendly carpenter reads this blog, who might be up for taking a romantic rookie under their wing. I don’t know of any specifically.

You might try Stewart John, who restore antique furniture and make pieces to order. They used to have a store in the market place which always had a fabulous display of vintage chandeliers hanging from every inch of the shop – before they were driven out by the ridiculous rent hikes, yet another example of the quirky old places being given the boot by Greenwich Hospital, but I do remember once visiting their extensive workshops in one of those old buildings in Charlton/Woolwich. You could try giving them a call.

You’ve just missed the start of the Furniture restoriation course for beginners at Greenwich Community College but you might be able to join it late if you call them now.

You could see if there’s anyone at Cockpit Arts in Deptford who might be prepared to work with you – try the designer directory on the website.

Or there may be a Phantophile with a better suggestion. I’m always impressed with what people come up with here.

If you’re going to customise one, I wish there were some proper indie hardware stores round here that would sell basic deckchairs for you to customise, but the only sort you’ll get round here are of the designer-variety, which isn’t what you need if you’re going to rip it to pieces and gussy it up. There’s Gumtree or Ebay, of course but you might not want to look too cheap…

There’s one at Argos for £29.99 or, even better in Homebase for the same price – I say ‘even better’ because the Homebase in Kidbrooke has the friendliest, most helpful staff I’ve come across in any of the big sheds in the area, whereas everyone always seems depressed in Argos. Having said that I don’t know if they have any in-store – but at least they’ll be nice to you if you call them. The chairs are nice, plain ones that you could even just paint a message on if you’re not into all the woodwork stuff?

If all else fails and you just want a Greenwich-related one, there are some (frankly rather expensive) special editions for sale on the Royal Parks website, designed by Greenwich and Bromley pensioners, inspired by Greenwich Park last year.

Ah, young love…

Historic Wrath of God

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Conal from Australia asks an odd question:

In St. Mary’s Churchyard (Woolwich) used to be a headstone telling of the death by drowning of 2 (?) young boys who had taken their new skates to a frozen pond on Blackheath (I don’t know which one). It draws the moral that this was divine retribution for skating on a holy day. I was taken to St Mary’s on occasion by my father, I remember it well, not least for his appalled reaction to such a homily. It has been removed, cleared, and unlike the earlier clearance in the 19th century, the headstones were not recorded.

Do you know anything of this, or where I might check it out further?

I confess I’ve never heard of this incident. Normally I’d suggest Conal check out Greenwich Heritage Centre, but they, apparently, have no record of either the accident or the headstone.

My next thought was, of course, Neil Rhind’s history of the Heath, which is pretty much definitive. But apart from my nicking this rather wonderful picture of skating on Prince of Wales pond in 1904 (which is from Greenwich Heritage centre – sorry chaps…) – from a good sixty-odd years after Conal’s two little boys killed by the wrath of God – there is little about skating in my version of The Heath other than noting that skating rarely happens these days as the winters aren’t so severe.

Of course I only have the first edition, something I always mean to rectify then forget about until the next time someone asks something like this, so apologies to Neil if the incident is mentioned in there.

I can’t imagine that the newly-renamed Kentish Mercury (The Greenwich, Woolwich and Deptford Gazette, and West Kent Advertiser were turned into the Kentish Mercury in 1838) would have missed a juicy story like this though. If there isn’t a copy in the Heritage Centre it will probably be in the National Newspaper Archive. I confess a cursory online search of the millions of pages they’ve scanned for online search so far didn’t bring much up for me and I don’t have the hours in the day for a trudge up to Boston Spa (though actually, the Phantom Webmaster points out that the current transfer of all the Newspaper archives from Colindale to Yorkshire has a five-month embargo on research via their services anyway).

Has anyone else anything on this? Do you remember the headstone? Anything more on it?

Mad Road Signage at the Odeon

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Alex asks:
I was traveling to the Odean cinema this evening and by mistake I drove into a “bus lane only”.I would like to find out if there is any cameras there and do I have to worry about being giving a ticket ??? 

There’s certainly a very odd piece of road management for car drivers coming from the direction of the O2 and wanting to turn right to go to B&Q /Sainsburys/Comet/ Odeon, where the ‘obvious’ place to turn is actually a bus-only lane; drivers are required to take the one immediately left of that. It is marked with No Entry signs, but isn’t clear if you’re seeing the junction for the first time. 

The Phantom replies:

I don’t think there are any cameras on the road itself, but if you were in front of a bus, or there was one coming towards you, they may have snapped you with an on-board camera – it happened to me once in Croydon while they were doing the tram network and the road was a dog’s dinner of signage. Croydon council must have made a fortune out of confused Phantoms. They certainly didn’t spend it on signs…

But yes, that junction is a total mess. It’s dangerous, too – there have been a number of accidents with buses recently, but  it ISN’T clear where cars have to go if they are turning right into the Odeon/ B&Q / Sainsburys (and soon to be Matalan) estate.

The ‘main’ road is a bus lane, and there are two ‘no entry’ signs, one either side, that seem to imply there is no entry allowed whatsoever. Even if you know where you’re going you really have to think twice. The driver is forced to go to the extreme left, which just feels wrong, especially if you know that when you get round the corner you’re not going to be allowed into the little service road that runs along the shops. Then the little entrance into the car park is surrounded by hedges (very nice but…) that again, look like they’re not the main entrance.

I’ve not actually committed this particular sin, but my brain has been tempted to – it takes serious concentration every time to get it right. From the other end it’s much clearer -people who go up the service road from that end generally know exactly what they’re doing (and always seem to be the arrogant, swanky-vehicle brigade who don’t give a damn about bus cameras anyway…) but  from the north, Alex, yes, it’s a real issue. You are not alone.

This junction really needs to be looked at – and not just for motorists. The bus accidents a year or so ago created a little frisson of tutting, but I’m not convinced that if anything at all was done about it, it’s made any difference. I can’t see that if IKEA come to the peninsula it’s going to get anything other than a lot worse.

Sorry there are no pics – I meant to go out and snap some but haven’t had a moment.

Out with the Old, In with the New (annoying jobs around the house…)

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Around this time of year, people’s minds turn to practicalities after all the frivolity of the festive season

I always get a load of asks re. cleaners, repairers and stuff to do with going away in January and today is no different – this morning I got one about cleaners (see FAQs), three related to house repairs and one to do with going away – a pretty typical postbag for the first ‘real’ day back (though I’ve been ‘back’ for some time, chiz…)

Firstly Debra asks about burglar alarm engineers. A guess a burglar alarm going wrong is one of those pesky things that unless it’s actually causing a nuisance gets put off. I have no idea of any specialist electricians, so I’m asking here for recommendations.

In fact I don’t have any suggestions for any of these today – they’re all quite specific.

Like Jerry’s TV aerial, which, being the wrong side of the hill for Crystal Palace is very tall indeed. It’s swivelled round so it can’t get half the channels any more, but understandably IMHO he doesn’t fancy clambering onto the roof to try to fix it. He needs an engineer who can turn it to the right angle as he’s apparently missing the Channel Four News.

The felt on Maria’s shed roof blew off in the last storm. Once again, she doesn’t fancy climbing up to fix it but thinks it might be a bit too small a job to bother companies with. I disagree – it’s a job that needs doing, someone will do it – but how do you find someone good? Suggestions, please.

Finally, Dave needs to go into hospital for an operation but is worrying about his furry Best Friend while he’s in there. He doesn’t just want any kennels – he wants a Phantophile Recommended kennels. I have never had a dog, so I can’t help but I know a bunch of you will have ideas of a classy establishment Fido can visit…


Jim Four Photography

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Dear Phantom

All I want for Christmas is for you to ask your people who Jim Four was and why his shop ‘Jim Four Photography’ is a frozen time capsule.
from David
Jim Four’s old photography shop has been on Woolwich Road for yonks. For many years it had a large black and white photograph of Judi Dench with a cup of coffee, but now, David’s right – it’s not changed in what’s got to be six years.
Not much is revealed internet-wise – looks as though Jim Four is/was something important in Greenwich Yacht Club, but frankly, I don’t know anything more about him, though if he was taking chummy shots of celebrities I guess he is/was something important in the photography world too.
But since I rarely ask and fail to receive, I am sure there’s a Phantophile out there who can play Santa Claus for David…

Secret Sundial

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Cathy from the A Storm Is Blowing blog is curious about this sadly-now-gone home made sundial in Vanbrugh Park.

It takes a moment to realise it’s there – someone has taken the time to work out where the numbers should be and painted them on the pavement. But who? Does anyone know who created this lovely, ephemeral moment in time?

It’s sadly not there any more, the paint has worn away, which somehow says something poignant…