Archive for the ‘Weird Greenwich’ Category

The Exception to Every Rule…

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

…is, apparently, this:

Photo Paul T

Paul said ‘no one is too busy to ignore a giant wooden hippo floating down the Thames’ and he was right.

And with that, I’m disappearing off the radar again.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive…

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Yesterday Conal asked about a skating tragedy from the 1840s where two small boys’ fall through the ice was ascribed to their committing the heinous crime of playing on the Sabbath. The gravestone in St Mary’s Church, Woolwich has gone and it was feared that no one had recorded its hard-hitting inscription.

And indeed they haven’t. Well, not entirely.

I am delighted to say, however, that the extraordinary Julian Watson (is there anything that guy doesn’t know about Greenwich?) has yet again come up with the goods. He tells me:

This is p.776 of ‘Records of the Woolwich District’ by William Thomas Vincent. WTV was the founder of the Woolwich Antiquarian Society and Editor of the Kentish Independent. This standard work on Woolwich history was published in parts in 1890 (if I remember right). As well as a great historical source it is rich in journalistic anecdotes like this one. Mulgrave Pond is still there tucked away behind Artillery Place. Vincent’s work was unsurpassed until the publication of Peter Guillery’s recent magnificent book on Woolwich published as part of the Survey of London.

So – here’s the gen. We were looking a good ten years too late for the article, it appears there were five casulaties not two and that the pond was not on Blackheath, which makes it all the more impressive that Julian knew where to look…

As always, click on the image to enlarge it.

Wow, on so many levels. Wow that Julian knew exactly where to find this extraordinary anecdote. Wow that those 19th Century patricians were so hard-hearted. Wow that Bell and Moseley’s big idea to check whether it was okay for them to skate was by getting a bunch of small children scrabbling around on the ice for a ha’penny. Wow that the jurors from the inquest put their hands in their pockets to pay for such a headstone, which can’t have been cheap given the amount of carving on it, but which needed to be done to warn other youngsters of the dangers of playing on the Lord’s Day. And Wowww that someone actually removed – presumably destroyed – this extraordinary memorial without even recording it properly.

Tell you what, though. I ‘ve got to see this book. The next article about the ill-winged bullet sounds just as fascinating as this one. Race you to the Heritage Centre…

The Phantom Herald

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

The inestimable IanVisits sent me this clipping from The Gazette announcing that Greenwich Hospital is to get a new Coat of Arms.

Now I have a bit of a soft spot for heraldry so I was quite keen but even my eyes glazed over as I was reading the description:

Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased by Warrant under Her Royal Signet and Sign Manual bearing date 4 November 2013 to give and grant unto Greenwich Hospital, Her Royal Licence and Authority that it may bear and use the Armorial Bearings and Supporters namely Arms of Argent on Cross Gules between four Anchors Sable a Royal Crown proper with a Crest of Issuing from a Naval Crown Or two Union Flags of the reign of King William and Queen Mary the poles headed with Ribbons flying Or and crossing in saltire proper and there tied with a Ribbon Or with Supporters of dexter a Sea Lion and Sinister a representation of Neptune both Or and Royally Crowned proper: the said Armorial Ensigns being first duly exemplified according to the Laws of Arms and recorded in Her Majesty’s College of Arms: otherwise the said Royal Licence and Permission to be void and of none effect.

And to signify Her Royal Will and Pleasure that the said Royal Concession and Declaration be recorded in Her Majesty’s College of Arms.

Gah! Could we have that in English please?

In the end I decided the only way to work out what the badge might look like would be to draw it myself, taking each element as it came and working it out as I went along.

Of course this is probably in contravention to some ancient edict outlawing the creation of arms by anyone other than Her Majesty’s Heralds. If I don’t post for a while, I’ll have been carted off to the Tower for treason involving felt tip pens and colouring pencils…

Unfortunately the only felt tip pen Phantom Towers coughed up was blue and I had a sudden attack of amnesia as to what a sea lion looks like, so it looks a bit like a dodgy school project but in general, it wasn’t as hard as I had feared:

Arms of Argent on Cross Gules… - I think this is the shield itself – argent is silver but I think it is represented by white. It doesn’t say which way the cross should go but ‘gules’ is red, if memory serves.

…between four Anchors Sable Four black anchors comin’ right up…

…a Royal Crown proper with a Crest of Issuing from a Naval Crown Or

Okay, this bit foxed me a little. I couldn’t remember what a Royal crown looks like so I just drew a Christmas cracker crown, with some sailing ships like the ones in the Old Royal Naval College on top, and coloured it yellow gold (Or).

two Union Flags of the reign of King William and Queen Mary the poles headed with Ribbons flying Or… So two union flags, without the red cross of St Patrick, with some nice flying gold ribbons.

…crossing in saltire proper and there tied with a Ribbon Or As any fule kno the Saltaire is the Scottish flag. Hmm. Either Greenwich Hospital has a crystal ball, complete faith that the Scots will vote to stay in the Union next year, or enough cash to have a quick redesign in a few months.

…Supporters of dexter a Sea Lion… So, that’s a sea lion on the right, okay…?

…and Sinister a representation of Neptune both Or and Royally Crowned proper Couldn’t work out whether the sealion needed to be gold and wear a crown as well as Neptune, but made an executive decision that a sealion in a hat was a geegaw too far…

Okay – when the offical version comes out let’s see if it bears any resemblence whatsoever to my interpretation.

I bet their sea lion isn’t as good as mine…

The Daily Screamer

Monday, November 5th, 2012

GWlocal asks:

I’ve been living in Greenwich for almost a year now and was wondering (first with annoyance and now with curiosity) about the daily screamer…I’ll explain.

Every week morning between about 8:15 – 8.45am, one very angry/frustrated/vocal biker screams his way down Trafalgar Road (towards Greenwich). His normal rant: ..’Get out of my way you bloomin’ #@$!holes’…at the top of his voice and from the gut. 

I try my best to see who this person is but he whizzes past so quickly that I can never seem to catch him. All I know is that he has one booming voice and obviously has no love for anything four-wheeled. 

Know anything about this peculiar person?

The Phantom replies:

No – though I have certainly come across some very vocal cyclists – I particularly enjoyed the chap who came screaming along the pavement shouting for people to get out of the way and the guy who yelled at me when I stopped my car (in plenty of time) to let him cross along the bottom of the road in front me – perhaps it’s the same person.

As a cyclist myself I’ve only once even felt the need to shout  - at the Vanbrugh Hill junction when I was going straight across from Traf Road to Woolwich Road and a driver coming up behind me decided on amber that he didn’t want to stop for the next set of lights, accelerated and then turned left in front of me at high speed, nearly gaining a second ghost bike there. BTW I didn’t shout – I was too shocked.I guess there are angry road users of all varieties out there.

Perhaps the fact that this cyclist is angry every morning and is going so fast that he’s almost invisible sort of cancel each other out – we can’t see him at all. In years to come he may disappear entirely as a physical entity and folklore will tell of an invisible, foul banshee-like voice on the air at a certain time every weekday morning.

Just pause for a moment, though, and think of the real losers in this tale – this man’s workmates. Can you imagine what he’s like by the time he reaches the office?

The Holy Barnacle of Failure

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Gwladys Street sent me this – it is, as you can probably see, on one of the pillars on the coal jetty at Greenwich Power Station, and not particularly unusual in itself – there’s quite a lot of ‘sticker art’ around these days. Most of it’s pretty inane – there was some under the A102M flyover recently that was so dull I actually wondered why someone had gone to the trouble of creating it.

But this one’s curious. It’s a scene from a not-even-cult-at-the-time 1970s strip by the doomed comic publisher Pearl, which appears to be enjoying a comeback among underground comic readers – and writers.

The artwork is a real blast back to the seventies but I’d never heard of this guy – or, indeed the company. Surely a
creation as splendid as the world’s crappest superhero, who was dreamed up by bored ex-beatnik cartoonist down on his luck seemed almost too meta to be true.

I found myself fascinated by the work of this guy, Jeff Lint. Clearly a misspent childhood reading comics had not been mis-spent enough, for I had failed to read…

The Caterer.

A character of such depth, such force, such mercurial energy, such sagacity, that Pearl Comics gambled their very existence on the success of his adventures, dreamed up by eccentric genius Jeff Lint.

Part Beat-visionary, part wise-man, part braindead, this guy seems to have reinvented the world of comics, flown as high as printing techniques of the seventies could take him, discovered that like Icarus he’d flown too high, and tumbling back down to earth entered into a spiral of doom not dissimilar to the fate of his own creation. A lengthy legal dispute following an episode where the Caterer runs amok in Disneyland (I believe the few copies of that particular issue – Issue 9, in case you happen to have a copy knocking around the attic – that weren’t burned by The Mouse are now fetching stupid money on certain auction websites) saw the end of Lint, his misunderstood character and Pearl Comics themselves.

It’s a tragic fable of wretched excess, misplaced ambition and human frailty dubbed by Alan ‘Watchmen’ Moore as ‘ the holy barnacle of failure,’ so it seems only right to have a reminder of it encrusted on a pillar to be washed by the Thames every high tide.

Steve Aylett – you made me look.

I might just even have to read the book and start a campaign for a screening of the documentary of Lint’s life at the Picturehouse. For as the Caterer says:

Reading time is like sticking a knife in the river.

Wise words indeed.

In The Knit Garden

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

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:

I particularly like the lamp-post cosies (the one in the background’s splendid)

- they remind me a little of a campaign I saw in Sydney once to try to get people to wear condoms:

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:


The White Dog of Crooms Hill

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Okay – so now I’ve been asked three times in as many days who the strange white dog who sits in the greenery halfway up Crooms Hill is.  I think the sudden interest is that with the St Marys Gate entrance to the park being closed just now there is a constant stream of people being forced to climb the usually quiet Crooms Hill to the next available entrance (my favourite, actually, up by the White House, via that dear little country lane.)

Annette describes her as being like an unusually coloured Alsatian/a not especially fluffy Husky, and on Sunday afternoon was sitting quietly behind the railings allowing visitors to photograph her. She doesn’t appear to be a typical guard dog.

I’ve heard of this dog before, and even vaguely remember the sign – it’s not new – but have never seen the dog – and frankly, I forgot all about her. I went up there yesterday to find evidence, but only discovered the delightfully enigmatic sign that her humans, presumably frustrated at sundry calls from the RSPCA demanding to know about the ‘poor neglected doggy’, have erected.

It’s clearly her little patch, and I’m guessing that since she’s inside the railings she doesn’t live at any of the Crooms Hill addresses at all, but at somewhere that backs onto the park, such as MaCartney House. I don’t know her name, or anything about her, but perhaps someone else does.

She must be quite a sight – everyone who’s written to me so far has intimated that seeing her affected them somehow. Perhaps it’s the unusual colouring.  Annette says it was a very strange sight going past- rather like a Victorian sideshow of a mermaid or something. Chris agrees, saying  it was quite eerie, in a silly way, though Jo points out that it’s just another one of those weird things you see in Greenwich. 

It puts me in mind of the cat who used to hang out around William IV’s statue – I think his/her humans were at Sabo’s newsagent – you know the one with the comedy small ads – if memory serves.

I did check in my nutty books about occult and supernatural stuff around here that there aren’t any ‘white dog’ ghost-type traditions round here and you’ll all heave a sigh of relief to know that I didn’t find any. The dog is most definitely real, you’re not imagining her ;-) But who is she?

A spot of crowd-sourcery needed, please…

The Incredible Edible Monarch

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Ever bought a raffle ticket without actually working out what you’d do with the prize if you won it? Yup, me too. I guess the difference between me and Sophie is that while I never did win that yacht, Sophie did win an extraordinary bust of Her Majesty the Queen – made out of cake.

I knew exactly what she was talking about when I got the email this evening, as I’d already admired it in Greenwich market today. Natasha from No Cakes Better was displaying her incredible decorating skills with this life-size bust of Her Maj – and raffling it for Cancer Research.

And it is utterly amazing – just look at the detail on the crown:

or the bust’s bust:

The entire cake is edible – the base is fruit cake and the head is rice crispie cake covered with chocolate; there is a cake stand supporting her through the centre and some wires in the tiara.

Sophie bought a ticket, more to support the charity than anything, and was delighted to win – but with the best will in the world she’s never going to work her way through all that cake even if it is a long bank holiday.

So she’s looking for a suitable home for this work of art. Perhaps as a street party centrepiece or a talking (and eating) point at a fete. Ideally she’d like someone to make a nice, generous donation to Cancer Research, but if there’s a nursing home or a shelter that could put Liz to a nice Jubilee use with the reverence she deserves, that’s fine too.

She does warn that “Whoever gives Liz a home would need to collect her from us in SE10 as she weighs a ton and we don’t have a car. She is currently in residence in a sturdy carboard box.”

If you’re interested, drop me a line and I’ll pass you straight on…

See – I said I’d only post if something extraordinary turned up…

Name That Pirate!

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Okay, okay, I know he’s supposed to be a ‘crew member’ – but this rather random chap stuck halfway up the Cutty Sark’s masts looks just like a pirate to me. I’m not sure if he’s going to get a friend or whether he’s just on his own up there, but he’s certainly odd. Feels a bit like a 1980s ‘museum-experience,’ putting mannequins around the ship, but I think I like him.

Poor guy doesn’t seem to have a name though. Any suggestions? No coming over all Captain Pugwash, now (fnaar) – keep ‘em clean, eh…

Curious Carvings in the Thames Wall

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Here’s one of those Greenwich oddities that gets my mouth watering. It was spotted by local author David Ramzan (it’s in his book ‘Royal Greenwich Through Time‘) but he knows nothing more about it and is wondering whether anyone here does.

It’s in the Thames Wall up by the power station and David says:

None of my friends or relations who know riverside Greenwich well, had any idea this inscription was on the riverside wall close to the old Power Station, and it would be interesting to find out if anyone knew any more about it. 

For example would this type of inscription have been commonly found along the riverside walls close to old historic landing places? Unfortunately like a lot of the historic Greenwich riverside architecture, these little curiosities are also gradually beginning to be lost to time. 

To me it looks like re-used stone, though from what and when it was built is a mystery. Perhaps it was built when the power station was built, between 1902 and 1910, but the stone could have come from anywhere.

It also looks as though they broke the stone – either in transport, during the build – or, how about this for a theory – actually at the stonemason’s yard, when the junior carver got a clip round the ear and a month’s wages docked for spelling ‘friends’ wrongly..? Perhaps the master mason decided to sell the stone off for scrap and it ended up here?

I wonder what the message was – all I can make out is

Neighbours and Freinds (sic) welcome ar (e?) XXXXwill strangers XXy XermiXX

Okay – let’s see who can fill in the gaps with the best phrase… (Scared of Chives, I still haven’t forgotten ‘…and gut your first octopus‘…)

In the meanwhile – does anyone know anything more about this – or, indeed, has anyone ever actually noticed this before? Do you know of any other places strange messages are carved into the river wall?