Songs on the Hill

Songs on the Hill Poster

Eaglesfield Park Neighbourhood Watch Scheme have organised a seasonal singing celebration and community get-together again this year. It will be held in the new hall at Christ Church Primary School next Thursday, 5th December at 6:30pm, with the choirs of Plumcroft and Christ Church Schools singing seasonal songs.

Their announcement of the event gives the details:

You’re invited to take part in the Eaglesfield Park Neighbourhood Watch Scheme (EPNWS) Christmas carol concert on Thursday 5 December. Please put the date in your diary.
From 6:30 to 7:30pm, you can listen to the children from Christ Church and Plumcroft Primary Schools singing a selection of modern songs and traditional hymns in the new hall at Christ Church Primary School, Shooters Hill SE18 3RS. Please note, this is a venue change from previously advised.
You’ll also have a chance to join in and put to test your carol singing abilities!
Organised by the EPNWS, the event showcases the terrific partnership work of both primary schools and the importance of promoting community spirit.
Headteachers, parents, teachers, residents and scheme members will have a chance to get into the festive spirit, enjoy mince pies and mulled wine (at a small charge) and take part in the raffle.
Year five and six children from Plumcroft Primary School are making home made goodies for young people to enjoy including cookies, fairy cakes and truffles – all under the watchful eye of class teacher Helen Goodman.
This is the second time that EPNWS has run the event, and the scheme is hoping for an even better carol concert this year.
Jenny Penn, Principal Co-ordinator of the EPNWS said: “We’ve received so much positive feedback from last years event that I am delighted Headteacher Luigi Leccacorvi from Christ Church Primary School very kindly offered us to use of their new hall. The music teachers from both schools are pulling out all the stops to make it a terrific evening. I think everyone will be impressed and have fun. Also, the EPNWS welcomes the chance to continue our partnership work with our two local primary schools.”

Christ Church School's new building and the MUGA Court
Christ Church School’s new building and the MUGA Court

For many of those at the event this will be their first chance to see the new building at Christ Church, which includes the new hall and additional space for teaching. This makes a big difference to the old cramped teaching accommodation, which was well below government size guidelines, and also means that pupils no longer have to leave the school building for lunches, PE and games

It is more than eighteen months since the public inquiry into the use of common land for a new play area for the school, following which the planning inspector approved the development. The School decamped to portacabins at the Shooters Hill Post-16 Campus while the building work took place, returning to their extended home buildings for the start of this term.

The new buildings were commissioned and the schools hall blessed on the 12th November at a service presided over by the Bishop of Woolwich, the Right Rev’d Dr Michael Ipgrave. Schoolchildren were also addressed by the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Greenwich Councillor Angela Cornforth.

Last year’s Songs in the Park organised by the EPNWS was an enjoyable evening, though it was a little crowded in the Woolwich and Plumstead Bowls Club. There should be plenty of room this year.

If you miss this opportunity to visit Christ Church School, they will be holding their Christmas Fair on Saturday 7th December at 12:00pm.

The Bishop of Woolwich at the blessing of the new school hall
The Bishop of Woolwich at the blessing of the new school hall

Save the Woolwich Grand Theatre

Proposed replacement for the Woolwich Grand from the planning application
Proposed replacement for the Woolwich Grand from the planning application

As expected a planning application has been submitted to demolish the Woolwich Grand Theatre and replace it with 46 flats and a cafe. The application description says:

13/2798/F | Demolition of existing buildings and the construction of a building comprising a lower ground level with 6 storeys providing 163sqm of A3 / A4 / D2 space on the ground floor and 46 residential units comprising 15 x 1 bed units and 31 x 2 bed units with associated disabled car parking, cycle storage and refuse storage. (REVISED DESCRIPTION) | 38 WELLINGTON STREET, WOOLWICH, LONDON, SE18 6PE

The application was submitted on behalf of a company called Secure Sleep Limited, which was incorporated just this year, on 14th January and a company called 38 Wellington Street Limited which is in administration. According to the current Title Register at the Land Registry the Grand Theatre is owned by 38 Wellington Street Limited who bought it on 13th March 2003 for £900,000. The register says that an agreement was made on 9th May 2013 to sell the property to one of the named directors of Secure Sleep Limited.

The application makes barely a nod to comments at the consultation event in September about the importance of the Grand as a cultural hub in the Bathway Quarter of Woolwich – an area that the Woolwich Masterplan says should have “bars, galleries and artists’ studios together with other uses such as a jazz club and creative industries such as architect’s studios.” The Design and Access Statement, which contains most of the details of the application, includes the plan below purporting to show how the proposed commercial area at the front of the new building could be used to screen films. I’m surprised they bothered – it’s not very convincing.

Plan showing use of cafe area for film screening
Plan showing use of cafe area for film screening

How can we help to save the Woolwich Grand? Well firstly we can sign the petition started by Stewart Christie calling on Greenwich Council to List the Woolwich Grand Theatre as an “Asset of Community Value” under the Localism Act 2011. It’s got over 200 signatures already, in less than a week.

Secondly we can object to the planning application. This can be done very simply on-line through the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s planning pages. If the link doesn’t work then use the simple search to find 13/2798/F. Or we can object by letter, quoting reference 13/2798/F,  to:

Georgina Galley
Directorate of Regeneration, Enterprise & Skills
Woolwich Centre, 5th Floor,
35 Wellington Street,
London SE18 6HQ

Comments need to be submitted and letters arrive before 17th December.

The third way to help the Woolwich Grand survive is to go along to their events. They have a number arranged for the next month, listed below, and their Facebook page and web site are kept up to date with new ones.

“Gentlemen of Horror”
27th 28th 29th of November
7pm Red room. £7.50 plus concessions

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee defined an era of British horror, starring in Hammer Horror films together for 26 years.
When they first worked together in “The Curse of Frankenstein” and “Dracula”, Peter Cushing was one of the most famous actors in Britain, while Christopher Lee was unknown. For the next quarter of a century, these two killed each other again and again and became firm friends. As Christopher Lee became internationally famous, Peter Cushing gradually retired into a life of quiet obscurity. And yet neither quite lost their taste for blood…
In the Peter Cushing centenary year, The Gentlemen of Horror takes you backstage on Cushing and Lee’s relationship, into the dressing rooms of the films they made together. The play will be followed by a screening of Dracula A.D. 72, starring Cushing and Lee.
Actors: Simon Kane and Matthew Woodcock
Writer: James Goss
Directed by Kate Webster

Hansel and Gretel
1st December 1:30pm and 4pm

A Family Adventure packed with life-sized puppets and interactive storytelling.
Abandoned in the woods, Hansel and Gretel must escape the clutches of a hungry witch with their courage and cleverness. Follow the breadcrumb trail to the gingerbread house for interactive storytelling, live music and a set good enough to eat.
‘If you think there is nothing new to be found in traditional tales, this approach could surprise you – they’re well worth seeing’

King of Comedy night
6th of December at 7pm

Comedy again on the 6th of December at 7pm till 11pm in the red room in the form of King of comedy night.
The principle is simple 10 acts battle it out for the prize of king or queen for the night the audience decides who the winner is. This interactive principle is proving very popular among acts and audience members alike.
So come down and enjoy the show, get involved and have a laugh on us.

Roller Skating
7th December

The next roller skating event which will take place on Saturday 7th of December in the main hall. The evening will be split into two sections, from 3pm to 6pm there will be a family skating session followed by the adult session from 7pm to 11pm.

Family Skate Session:
With Skate Hire – £7.50
Without Skate Hire – £5.00
Spectator – £3.00

Roller Disco:
With Skate Hire – £10.00
Without Skate Hire – £8.00
Spectator – £3.00
Our aim is for everyone to enjoy both these fun events, see the flexible space available at The Woolwich Grand and have a great time as well as taking in other events that we’re staging at The Grand.

“A Boy who Cried Wolf”
7th/8th December
21st/22nd of December

Gem and Ren take you on a journey to a perfect town where nobody lies at all… Or do they? We need future superstars, ballerinas, firemen and teachers to help us sing, dance, shout and shimmy our way through the story of A Boy Who Cried Wolf… Or did he?
To book tickets fellow link:

I suspect it’s not going to be easy to save the Grand, but what’s the alternative – a Woolwich of flats and betting shops?

The Woolwich Grand - under threat of redevelopment
The Woolwich Grand – under threat of redevelopment

Woodlands Farm and Shrewsbury House Christmas Fairs

Woodlands Farm Christmas Fair poster

Woodlands Farm and Shrewsbury House are holding their Christmas Fairs on the same day again this year – Sunday 1st December. As only a short, scenic stroll separates them it’s easily possible to visit both and will be a good day to go shopping for some distinctive and unusual Christmas presents.

Maureen from the farm wrote with details of their Fair:

All are welcome at the Woodlands Farm Trust Christmas Fair at 331 Shooters Hill, Welling on Sunday 1 December 2013 from 11am-3pm. Visit Santa’s Grotto, sip mulled wine whilst browsing stalls of local produce and crafts for early Christmas present ideas, or relax in our cafe while the kids enjoy crafts and games. A great festive day out for all the family. Entry is free, but donations are always welcome and go towards the running of the Farm.

Volunteers at the farm have been busy recently. The farm was badly affected by the storm-force winds a few weeks ago, with a number of trees and large branches down along the footpath to Garland Road, and lots of work to clear them away. Also the farm’s new education building has been erected, remarkably quickly, and will soon be ready for the large number of schoolchildren who visit – 3,500 every year according to the farm’s web site.

Hawthorn berries at Woodlands farm
Hawthorn berries at Woodlands farm

Up the hill from the farm, the Christmas Fair at Shrewsbury House has also become a regular fixture in the calendar. Last year they hosted a wide variety of hand-made craft stalls – ceramics, jewellery, textiles and many different cakes and sweets – as well as paintings by local artist Ray Marshall and photographs from the aperture Woolwich Photographic Society.

And, of course, both fairs will have mulled wine and festive music so we can make an (early) start on getting in to the Christmas spirit.Shrewsbury House Christmas Fair poster

Pet Cemetery Clean-up on Sunday

Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park
Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park

The Friends of the Pet Cemetery in Hornfair Park have been awarded a grant from the Mayor of London’s Capital Clean-up campaign, and will be meeting on Sunday at 10.30am to celebrate and hold a short clean-up session.

Jean Patrick, the Friends’ Secretary, wrote with details:

We are pleased to tell you that the FOPC have recently been awarded a grant from the Capital Clean-Up Scheme.  This is an initiative from the Mayor of London’s office, and sponsored by McDonalds. We were successful because we demonstrated a long term commitment to the project.
To celebrate this, we are holding a short clean-up session on 24th November, 2013, from 10.30am.  This will provide you with an opportunity to see our progress so far and also, if so inclined, to help with our winter tidy up.  Please wear suitable clothing, and bring a pair of gardening gloves.
McDonald’s have requested a group photo to be taken on the day, so if you wish to be included in this photo, please ensure that you are at the cemetery by 11am.
Dogs are welcome, but please ensure that they are kept on a lead.
For those of you who have not visited the cemetery before, it is located on Shooters Hill Road, near the footbridge, and on the opposite side of the road to the Fox under the Hill pub/restaurant.
We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible.

There are some interesting memories of the pet cemetery on the Charlton Parks Reminiscence project, and information about the Blue Cross Kennels of which the pet cemetery was once part, with some old photographs, on the Thames Facing East blog.

Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park
Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park

Shrewsbury Park Celebration

Autumn Leaves in Shrewsbury Park
Autumn Leaves in Shrewsbury Park

On the 29th November the Friends of Shrewsbury Park will be celebrating completion of their park improvement project, which included resurfacing the flood-prone part of the Dothill path, and we’re all invited to go along and see the official opening by the  Mayor of the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Kathy from the Friends wrote with details:

Please come and help us celebrate the new and improved Dothill/Garland Road entrance to Shrewsbury Park at 10am on Friday, 29 November 2013.
The Mayor of the Royal Borough of Greenwich will formally inaugurate the new entrance, cutting the ribbon at 10am. We will then walk along the improved path, explaining what has been achieved. There will be a celebratory cake and a hot drink at the end of the short walk.
Whilst involved in this project, we have worked to improve the safety of the park by getting a grant to erect a kissing gate at the Garland Road entrance to Dothill. This will prevent motorcycles from accessing the park. The project has also improved drainage along the Dothill path – in past years it has sometimes been impossible to navigate Dothill because of the huge puddle across it. We have planted donated plants to improve the look of the entrance. We also have a fine new inscribed oak noticeboard, where we can display information on flora and fauna.
So please come and join us at the event. It will also be an opportunity to buy your Friends of Shrewsbury Park calendar (£5 – all proceeds to the drinking water fountain fund).
We look forward to seeing you on the 29 November.

The Friends calendar, shown below, has proven very popular and has had to be reprinted because the first print-run sold out. The pictures in the calendar were contributed by seven different local photographers or artists and all proceeds will go to the Park drinking fountain fund. If you can’t make it on the 29th you can also get a calendar by e-mailing the Friends at

Shrewsbury Park 2014 Calendar
Friends of Shrewsbury Park 2014 Calendar
Autumn colours in Shrewsbury Park
Autumn colours in Shrewsbury Park

Mayplace Lane Tidy-up Pictures

Mayplace Lane

Thanks to Lesley for the pictures and update about Mayplace Lane shown above. There was a great turnout at the get-together on the 3rd, with something like 15 to 20 people helping at different times. The Lane is looking much tidier now, and should be even better in spring when the bulbs planted are in flower.

Thanks also to the Royal Borough of Greenwich for sending a man and a truck to take away all the rubbish collected.

Nicola is hoping that we can repeat the tidy up at the end of January or early February, on a Sunday again if everyone’s happy with that. Further details will be circulated nearer the time.

Amnesty International Book Sale on 23rd November

Church of the Ascension, Dartmouth Row,
Church of the Ascension

Amnesty International Blackheath & Greenwich Group tweeted to ask me to let people know about their book sale at the Church of the Ascension in Blackheath on the 23rd November. I’m very pleased to do so, having picked up some gems there in previous sales such as a copy of Jon Snow’s “Shooting History” which  had been autographed by the author and a 119-year-old copy of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty”.

Amnesty’s press release gives the details:

Quality books at knock-down prices

Amnesty International Book Sale

10am-4pm Saturday 23 November

Church of the Ascension, Dartmouth Row, London SE10 8BF

The Blackheath and Greenwich Group of Amnesty International is holding its annual fund-raising book sale on Saturday 23 November at the Church of the Ascension, Dartmouth Row, London SE10 (10 minutes walk up Lewisham Hill from Lewisham Station, DLR & Bus Station). Doors open at 10am.

The local group has collected thousands of books from a variety of sources, including publishers and book reviewers as well as individual donors. The quality of books – many of which are brand new – is exceptionally high, and there will be plenty of bargains to be found, from second-hand paperbacks to review copies of recently-published novels. Prices start at £1 for paperbacks and £3 for hardbacks.

The group’s book sales – now in their 39th year – are established as Amnesty International’s most successful local fundraising event in the UK, raising over£200,000 over the years.

Amnesty International works worldwide for the release of prisoners of conscience, fair trials for political prisoners and an end to torture, extrajudicial executions, disappearances and the death penalty. The Blackheath and Greenwich group has done a lot of campaigning work on Human Rights in China and stopping violence against women and meets at 8pm on the second Tuesday of each month at St. Margaret’s Church, Lee Terrace, Blackheath.

To find out more information about the Amnesty Blackheath and Greenwich group visit

One thing to be aware of: if you drive to the sale and park in Dartmouth Row make sure you check the time on your pay-and-display ticket – it is calculated in an unusual way. The tariff is 35 pence for 15 minutes, but you can only buy 15 minute units, and it “accepts over-payment”. This means that if you put in £2.00 you get only an hour and a quarter instead of the nearly an hour and a half you’d expect and you donate an over-payment of 25p to Lewisham Council. The traffic wardens seem to be especially vigilant around there too!

Shoppers at the Amnesty International Book Sale
Shoppers at the Amnesty International Book Sale

The Hollies

The Beeches, one of the boys houses at the Hollies
The Beeches, one of the boys houses at the Hollies

The handsome three storey Edwardian building, pictured above, set in a secluded parkland enclave in Sidcup has been converted to flats. They are prestigious homes according to the estate agent’s blurb, but not so long ago this building was home to 50 boys, some of the 570 children from Greenwich and Deptford who lived at what was, at different times, the Greenwich & Deptford Children’s Home, Sidcup Children’s Homes, Sidcup Residential School and Lamorbey Children’s Home but was usually referred to as The Hollies – a name it was officially given in 1950.

It was also where my Dad and three of his younger brothers grew up in the 1930s.

Dad’s birth certificate says he was born in 1926 at 48 Vanbrugh Hill, which was the address for The Greenwich Union Infirmary. The infirmary was later renamed St Alfege’s Hospital, was then replaced by Greenwich District Hospital which was completely demolished to make way for the new Greenwich Square. The Greenwich Union Infirmary often wasn’t mentioned by name on birth certificates because it was originally part of the Greenwich and Deptford Union Workhouse, and there was a stigma attached to the workhouses, though it later became a more general hospital.

The Hollies
The Hollies Mansion House

It was the Board of Guardians of the Greenwich Poor Law Union who acquired the 1854 mansion house called The Hollies and its 69 acre estate and commissioned local architect Thomas Dinwiddy to design the children’s home. Dinwiddy was the architect for other south-east  London public buildings such as Laurie Grove Swimming Baths and the John Roan Girls School. The Guardians’ aim, according to Bexley’s Conservation Area Appraisal,  was to set up a “model home for orphans”, though it was also to be a home for the destitute children for whom the Guardians were responsible.  As well as four three-storey blocks for boys to live in and thirteen pairs of cottages for girls, the development was designed to be self-contained and included a laundry, gymnasium, swimming pool, bakery, boot makers and infirmary, plus a working farm and the nearby Burnt Oak Lane School. The original manor house was retained as an administration block and for staff accommodation. The home opened on 30th October 1902.

Dad lived in Blackheath until 1932 when the family became homeless. They stayed with friends or slept in church halls or lived a hop-picking life in Kent  until the brothers were taken into the Hollies in 1933.

The Hollies Children's Home
The Hollies Children’s Home

The accommodation houses and cottages at the Hollies were all named after trees, and the boys blocks were called Beeches, Firs, Limes and Oaks. Dad and his next younger brother were in Oaks and the two youngest in Firs. Each boys’ house was staffed by a house father and mother, usually a married couple, two nurses and kitchen staff. The house father and mother for Oaks were called  “Dog” and “Frog” Shenton, and the superintendent was a Mr Harper who had a goatee beard and never smiled.

Life at the Hollies seems to have been strict. The boys wore grey suits and boots, and had numbered lockers for their boots and numbered places for their tooth brushes in the washroom. They were expected to do household chores, and they also worked on the farm and in the gardens. However they did get pocket money: 1d a week up to age 10 rising to a shilling a week at age 14. They would save some of this to spend on their annual holiday, the house father recording any savings  in a book. Dad also recalled  dressing up for a Christmas party at nearby Avery Hill College and going to Blackfen School.

I recently got a copy of Jad Adams and Gerry Coll’s excellent history of the Hollies from Bexley Local Studies Centre. It provides a lot of detail about the regime at the Hollies. They were almost self-sufficient. Most clothes were made on-site; there was a tailor’s shop and needlework room, and they had a jersey-making machine and a stocking machine. Their farm provided much of the food, such as milk, eggs and vegetables. The book also includes personal accounts of life in the Hollies from former residents. More personal stories about life at the Hollies can be found on The Hollies Children’s Home Reunion Group web sites.

Although some of the personal stories about life at the Hollies are unhappy, Dad never had a bad word to say about the home and seemed to have had a positive, happy experience.

The water tower and swimming baths
The water tower and swimming baths

Dad left the Hollies in August 1943, aged 14, for a live-in job at the Bromley Court Hotel on 5s a week. The Battle of Britain was at its height, and he returned to the Hollies after the hotel was bombed. They found him another live-in job at Maples Furniture Store in Tottenham Court Road, and he also worked at the Naval and Military Club in Piccadilly. When he reached the age of 17 he volunteered for the army, 7 and 5,  and was trained in time to join the British Liberation Army in France and also served in Palestine, Hong-Kong, Germany  …  but that’s a different story. Overall, despite its difficult beginnings, Dad had a happy, good life.

Researching this story highlighted to me how lucky my generation have been compared to our parents’. Our lives haven’t been threatened and turned upside down by a world war, living in what Steven Pinker calls “the long peace”,  and we’ve benefited from the NHS, decent council housing and improvements in education that have allowed many of us to be the first generation of our families to go to university. It seems we’re now losing many of these benefits and also the social mobility that accompanied them.

The Hollies closed as a children’s home in the 1980s and most of the buildings have now been converted to housing, though the swimming pool and gym are now the Hollies Countryside Club. The estate has been designated a conservation area, described as “a good and well preserved example of a late Victorian workhouse environment”, with seven of the former children’s home buildings in the London Borough of Bexley’s local list of buildings of architectural or historic interest.

One of the cottages
One of the cottages