Earlier this month I wrote about what I referred to as the old fire station on Shrewsbury Lane.
It was then brought to my attention that referring to the station on Shrewsbury Lane as old is a mistake, because in actual fact that was the new one, and there was another one before that, by the old police station… Now I’m not going to make the same mistake again and refer to the old police station as being the one where the hill meets well hall road, just because there’s no police stationed there any more, but judging by this postcard picture viewed from lower down the hill, the old police/fire stations can be made out, well, apparently the police station replaced the gallows, and the fire station is probably the building next door with a large entrance and lots of very tall chimneys!
Anyway, I was also provided with these pictures of the old station itself, and a little bit of history – apparently it opened in 1879 for horse drawn engines, and closed in 1912 when the new station opened in a more strategic (?) hill top location. Following the move, the building was then used as a Warrant Officer’s quarters for the War Department, and presumably fell into disuse during less warlike times, and was knocked down. Looking at the second picture is quite interesting as the firemen being photographed outside their station are joined by two little boys, I wonder what they did – given the dickensian style of the picture it wouldn’t surprise me if children did work there, although they aren’t wearing uniforms… so perhaps they didn’t make much of a public showing, and their job might have been to keep the place warm when the men were out on duty. Anyway, rather than speculating, I should probably go and do some more investigation, when I can make the time.
It was a lovely sunny day yesterday and lots of dogs were out taking their people for a walk and cavorting around the woods at this time of the changing seasons. In august I remarked on the bumper crop of blackberries to be found on the hill, and it’s also been a good year for the Sweet Chestnut trees in Oxleas Woods, with their crop in full swing around about now.
In just a few prickly minutes, my pockets were full, and before long the nostalgic aroma of roasting chestnuts filled the kitchen (luckily this wasn’t joined by the sound of explosions as they had their tips cut off before going under the grill), I also saved a few to plant in pots. Italian chestnuts, which are about twice the size, are also in season, and can be bought in the run up to Christmas; and the west-end chestnut sellers will probably be setting up their little fires around this time.
I’m now looking forward to the first frost, which will be the cue to make sheperdleas sloe gin, this time of year is also a busy one for fungi, who make a strong showing in Oxleas Woods in autumn, especially on the lower, damper slopes, although I’m not really sure which ones are poisonous/hallucinogenic/inedible/edible, perhaps the rangers might be able to answer this kind of question on one of their parkland rambles.
Part x in the occasional series on maps; this one is a 2D route cutting through a 3D landscape from Ogilby’s Britannia dating from 1675, and a predecessor of the modern motoring atlas. This particular map dates from a time when the hill was traversed only by those who were prepared to run the risk of a 17th century style stop-and-search at the hands of the highwaymen most likely laying in wait behind an oak tree somewhere in the woods by the side of the road (presumably the hill was completely wooded at that time?).
Judging by Ogilvy’s map, he didn’t appear to be overly concerned by the risk of highway robbery on the London-Dover route, because he might have added an alternative route alongside the river if he was.
I’m hoping to see the original map at some point as in this reproduction it’s not possible to make out the writing above the mountainous section that portrays Shooters Hill, it looks like it says “To ***** West”, but East Wickham and Wellen (about 6 houses comprising what we now call Welling) are clearly legible here.
The site this map was copied from also included a section from a 1652 book detailing the adventures of a highwayman called James Hind, including one escapade where he conducts a hold-up on the hill as part of his robbers apprenticeship:
Now they go to Shooters-Hill[1. The most notorious spot in England for robberies on the highway], where presently they discovered a Gentleman and his servant coming towards them; and Allen bid Hind to ride alone up to them, and they would lie in an Ambush if occasion should serve; thereupon Hind rides to them (being already tutor’d to the purpose) and bids them Stand, and deliver such money as they had, otherwise he would presently be their death; The Gentleman not willing to die, presently gave him Ten pounds, which was all the Gentleman had; Hind seeing it was all he had, said, Sir, here is forty shillings for you to bear your Charges; in regard it is my Handsale[2. Handsale: handsel, hansel: gift given for luck.]; the Gentleman answered, I wish you better luck with it then I have; so Hind took his way, and came to the rest of the gang; and Allen praised him for learning his Art so quickly, saying, did you not see, How he rob’d him with a Grace.
”] Recently I welcomed two huge firemen into my place as part of the free home safety visit[1. You can also call to arrange a visit: ℡ 08000 28 44 28.] scheme, which is currently being carried out by London Fire Brigade – this includes the installation of smoke alarms. The visit itself was quite brief, and aside from setting up alarms, it includes an education in safety, also available on directgov which is organised under a series of headings:
Smoke Alarms (tested weekly)
Before Bed Routine
I was reminded that, like lots of electrical items (batteries, toys etc), smoke alarms would contaminate landfill with lead/lithium/cadmium etc, and should be disposed of at nathan way.
The other thing that happened is that I started to ask about the selling off of the fire station, the historical preservation of the doors, and where our new station is (Eltham High Street). As a result of the closure, the call out time for this area is around 3 minutes longer. This makes home safety all the more important, especially during icy winter when the hill becomes less accessible to traffic.
The behaviour of dogs and their owners was recently considered, and now it’s time to think of the cats of the hill too. Paget Rise appears to have by far the most cats, and quite a few of them are very friendly and/or elegant too, but this story is about a cat on Artillery Row, a very muddy road, which, as an aside, is where Aphrodite had his studio (he is one of the pioneers of drum and bass, in fact this whole area played an important part in the foundation of this form of music on account of how far radio waves carry from here).
Anyway, yesterday it was raining cats and dogs (groan), and so I found myself wondering how to get to the other side of the biggest, muddiest puddle of all the big muddy puddles on Artillery Row (a private road with no storm drains) and I noticed a lost cat sign, which is included here minus the contact details, as I did not, (and never do), approach sources.
If you do have any information about where this cat is hiding from the terrifying tv repair man, then either email the webmin address at the foot of the page, or add a comment, and I will contact the household, or, if you’ve got welly boots, go to Artillery Row.
Here is the message verbatim, I wonder why it’s written from the cat’s perspective?
As you can see I am an adorable young female black cat, I ran out frightened of the tv repair man and haven’t been able to get back into my home as I am lost and confused.
Please let my owners know if you see me, thank you very much.
Well, that’s it for another year of local steam train fun. Sunday was the last public running day on the Falconwood Toy Trains, and it was busier than I’ve ever seen it before – which is understandable considering that Electricité De France, the landowners, might need the land back. Unfortunately a suitable new home has not been arranged as yet, and I get the feeling it’s going to be hard finding somewhere as neatly secluded as the grounds of an electrical substation. The thought of moving must be quite a daunting one, as the track itself is twelve hundred feet long (that’s 386 metres to edf), and that’s before they begin to think about what to do with all the other accumulated steam travel paraphenalia and structures they’ve been adding to the circuit over the last x years, such as the glorious little humpback bridge that takes you over the railway as you enter the enclosure.
In my continuing efforts to present a multi-sensory hill experience I have added a recording of a ride around the track to accompany the photo, and short of coming round to your house and starting a coal fire in front of your armchair and spraying you with steam, I think it goes some way towards reflecting the moment, I deliberately didn’t use video, as sound leaves a bit more to the imagination.