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  • hilly 5:40 pm on December 2, 2011
    Tags: maps, , ,   

    Seven Centuries of Signalling 

    Lambarde's Carde of the Beacons of Kent

    Lambarde's Carde of the Beacons of Kent. Shooters Hill is top left

    The number of communications masts around the summit of Shooters Hill are a testament to the hill’s appeal as a communication centre. However the hill’s height and prominence, which make it attractive for modern wireless communication, coupled with its position guarding the route from London to the coast, have made it appealing to communicators for centuries.

    The marvellous Colonel A.H.  Bagnold CB CMG tells a vivid and dramatic story of the hill’s role in message transmission before the advent of wireless communications. He places the start of its role as a Beacon Hill before the reign of Edward III (1312 – 1377), so about seven centuries ago. The complexity of the beacon system in Kent at the time of the Spanish Armada was plotted, on the map (or carde) shown above, by William Lambarde, who also founded the Queen Elizabeth College almshouse in Greenwich. Lambarde published the map in his book The Perambulation of Kent, credited as the first English county history, describing the reason it was drawn and how it could be used to decide the direction in which danger had been detected:

    AS in warre, celeritie availeth no lesse, than force it selfe: So the Right honorable Sir William Brooke, Lord Cobham, and Lorde Chamberlaine of hir Majesties houshold (who hath been sole Lieutenant of this shire, since the first of hir Majesties Raigne) foreseeing how necessarie it was to have the forces of the countrie speedily draw togither, for the encounter of any hostilitie: and finding, that upon the fiering of the Beacons (which are erected for that service) not only the common sort, but even men of place and honour, were ignorant which way to direct their course, & therby (through amasednesse) as likely to run from the place affected, as to make to the succour of it: caused the true places of the Beacons to be plotted in Carde, with directorie lines, so many sundrie waies, as any of them did respect the other: By which, any man, with little labour may be assured, where the danger is, and thereof informe his neighbours. For example: suppose our first Beacon, standing on Shooters hill, to be light: he that will go thither may know by the watchmen from whence they received their light, which must be either from the West neare London, or Hamstede: or else from the East, by warrant of the fiered Beacon at Stone neare Dartford, or of that which is neare to Gravesende. The like of the rest: and so much for use.

    Bagnold also describes the 1747 experiment in telegraphy using static electricity conducted on Shooters Hill by Dr Watson, bishop of Llandaff. The “observers” of the transmission stood on (insulating) amber while holding an earthed iron bar in one hand and the end of the two-mile long transmission wire in the other. A gun was fired when the transmission started and the observer timed the difference between when they heard the gun and when they received an electric shock!

    Semaphore Station - the Murray Shutter telegraph

    Semaphore Station - the Murray Shutter telegraph

    Shooters Hill was a link in the next advance in communications as well – the Semaphore line. This used a set of rectangular frames containing six 5 foot high shutters to transmit messages between London and the coast. The first to be completed was between London and Deal in January 1796, with the following chain of stations: Admiralty (London), West Square Southwark, New Cross, Shooter’s Hill, Swanscombe, Gad’s Hill, Callum Hill, Beacon Hill (Faversham, branch point), Shottenden, Barham Downs, Betteshanger, Deal. The New Cross station was situated on Telegraph Hill – the Telegraph Hill Society’s web page includes a copy of a water colour sketch of the telegraph station, with the Shooters Hill station just visible in the distance.  As can be seen in Pocock’s wood-cut below,  the Shooters Hill station was on the ridge of the hill in an area known as Telegraph Field, which is now the site of the Memorial Hospital.  (You may recognise the top of this picture because it used to form the banner picture for this blog). At its best this line could send a signal from London to Deal and back in two minutes. Perhaps this was the inspiration for the Disc World Clacks system which featured in various of Terry Pratchett’s books, such as the magical “Going Postal”, though the Ankh-Morpork system seems to have been considerably quicker than the UK Admiralty’s!

    R Pocock of Gravesend's woodcut of the Shooters Hill Gibbet  showing the Admiralty telegraph in the background (circled)

    R Pocock of Gravesend's woodcut of the Shooters Hill Gibbet showing the Admiralty telegraph in the background (circled)

    In the present day, as can be seen from the Ofcom mobile phone base station database, many of the communications masts on Shooters Hill are mobile phone or emergency service communication masts, including the Eaglesfield Road mast by the old fire station that was opposed by local residents led by SHAM.  There are even mobile phone antennae attached to

    Water Tower and Oxleas Wood Mast

    Shooters Hill Water Tower and the Oxleas Wood Mast

    the windows  of the Victorian Water Tower at the crest of the hill – also opposed by local residents. However not all the masts are for mobile telecommunications. Some are thought to be communications systems for taxis or the ambulance service. The mast that can be seen behind the dairy in Foxcroft Road has been identified as a transmission mast for FM and DAB radio, for example the Digital One multiplex which carries a number of DAB channels including Talksport, Absolute Radio and Classic FM.

    The Port of London Authority, who worryingly are advertising on their web site the availability of mast sites on Shooters Hill to telecommunications companies, have a mast just off Shooters Hill Road. This mast is a base station for the Automatic Identification System (AIS) which is used to identify and locate ships around the world, for example as shown in the map below from the Marine Traffic web site. The PLA mast also has a direct microwave link to a PLA Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) radar station at Blackwall Stairs, just across the river from the O2 dome.

    Ham Radio enthusiasts also take advantage of Shooters Hill’s prominence, for example the Cray Valley Radio Society 2010 Summit was held in the highest pub in South London, the Bull at 416.7ft. The Society will be holding a Christmas Social Evening in the Bull in a couple of weeks time on Thursday 15th December 2011.

    What next for communications in Shooters Hill? Well the 4G, or Long Term Evolution (LTE), technology is being trialled already – one trial by O2 includes the area around the Dome and Canary Wharf as well as central London. Live networks aren’t expected until 2014 beacause the frequencies won’t become available until analogue TV is switched off next year, but we can expect masts  to be upgraded beforehand. And after that …. who knows, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Shooters Hill was still a communications centre.

    Marine Traffic map of waters around South-east UK showing ship locations

    Ship locations in the Thames and round the Kent coast

     
  • hilly 10:34 pm on August 19, 2011
    Tags: maps, ,   

    pMap 1.1 

    Welcome to pMap v1.1. It’s a minor update on 1.0 which makes use of slightly neater scraping which is faster to relay; allows toggling of wards; allows re-centering of the map. It’s currently working on the previous 7 days’ planning applications registered. You can see the source code below, or fork it.

    pMap

    (More …)

     
  • hilly 11:17 pm on July 30, 2011
    Tags: maps, ,   

    pMap 

    Welcome to pMap (planningMap). It currently offers this service: take the previous 28 days’ planning applications to lbg, map those that can be geo-coded (by postcode), and list those that can’t. You can read a bit more about it and check the source code below.

    pMap

    (More …)

     
  • hilly 10:10 pm on July 14, 2011
    Tags: maps   

    Human Geography: Gender Differences 

    Over the last two years that this site has been going, some useful and/or interesting maps have been added to the archives, unfortunately the ones which are just about to be added don’t really say anything in particular about the hill, although as a follow-up from the google based maps that went up a while ago, it’s a further method for ploughing through census data which might eventually reveal something, possibly.

    Making ward maps can be done within-borough using ons and nomis, but because Shooters Hil is a frontier zone on the London Kent border, it’s worth considering similarities/differences with nearby Bexley wards too, with East Wickham being our nearest neighbour. Most out-of-the-box mapping programs don’t seem to be able to do this, concentrating instead on showing what’s happening within each Borough (presumably for strategic reasons). However, sometimes things don’t really work at the borough level, for instance although Shooters Hill regularly has the lowest crime rate in Greenwich (sometimes coming second to Coldharbour), the levels reported are roughly equivalent to, or even slightly more than those in nearby Bexley wards. So there is a reason for comparing wards in this way.

    The maps shown below highlight gender population divisions during the stages of life from the age of 0–99, without really differentiating Shooters Hill from its neighbours in any meaningful way. What the maps do show are the wider trends, such as that in the first 20 years of life there tend to be more slightly more boys than girls (especially in Eltham North), and that subsequently this difference reverses. This could mean that after 20, more girls move into this part of the world, more boys leave, or perhaps that more girls return their census forms. Above the age of 70 women seriously begin to outnumber men, and this is an indication of gender differences in longevity. Perhaps as a result of this, the overall figures show that there are slightly more women than men in this whole area, with about 3% in it (at most). Interestingly, Eltham North stands narrowly apart on this measure, and this is possibly due to the slightly greater percentage of boys in the early years.

    The colour scaling on the maps does tend to make differences appear quite strong, even when they’re not, and the gender divide is essentially the same everywhere — also the colour scaling is different on each map, making it harder to compare them to each other. By looking at correlations, the overall pattern in Shooters Hill is most like that of Kidbrooke and Hornfair, and least like that of Woolwich Common, although correlations are all very strong, and differences are negligible.

    To sum up, gender differences do not show meaningful ward differences, with the most apparent difference being that Eltham North is a tiny bit less feminine than the other wards due to its concentration of young boys. Oh well, it was worth a try, there are after all over 100 more census measures to go through, by which time the new census will have come out (next summer), and it can start all over again…not really, the site hasn’t done much with local history for a while, and some readers were promised more on the woods Vs motorway story a long time ago, so the census can wait a bit for now.

    Hover over the small maps to zoom in

     
  • hilly 7:27 pm on June 2, 2011
    Tags: census, maps   

    Mapping: Neighbouring Electoral Wards 

    Partly thanks to the bank holiday weather, various maps got made today.

    These were made from a cache of open data stored by the democratising technologists over at mysociety. Among other things, they are responsible for the theyworkforyou website, which makes it easy to find out what MPs get up to. Over the last few weeks it’s been possible to learn that Clive Efford is extremely angry about the NHS fiasco, in fact he’s made himself heard in no uncertain terms, and it wasn’t just theyworkforyou that have been syndicating his speeches, but the radio four today programme – in case you were wondering, it was him asking the Lib Dems if they were going to have a spine and vote against the health cuts… He’s also been hot on the trail of the Localism bill, in particular with regard to how it affects the provision of enough allotments at an affordable rate, something that may have come to his attention as a result of the recent price hike introduced by the Local Authority (it’s quite possible that some people have complained to him about this and he’s investigating further). The story behind the increase goes like this: LBG allotments cost £80000 to administer; 15 sites (769 plot holders) currently provide £20000 in rentals, so the near fourfold price hike will make up the shortfall. In any case, under the Localism bill, it may be that some areas end up less allotments, and some with more, who knows?

    Anyway, the mysociety people also provide a lot of mapping tools, and store all british political boundaries in digital form for free. Having got this great big national dataset, it took a bit of fiddling to extract local ward boundaries using R (also free). If you would like to do any mapping and with the local boundaries as kml or shapefiles please drop us a line.

    The general idea was to use the maps to run comparisons between Shooters Hill and neighbouring wards using 2001 census data, and when the 2011 census comes out, some historical comparisons can follow.


    View Shooters Hill Neighbouring Wards dwellings in a larger map

    The first comparison is number of dwellings (i.e. postal addresses) in 2001. In comparison to neighbouring wards, Woolwich Common has the most, presumably because of the flats, whilst East Wickham (Bexley) has the least, more than a thousand less than any other ward. It’s quite a small area, and includes farmland and open space, and so it becomes clearer that comparing areas on counts rather than proportions might be a bit inappropriate, so mapping dwellings to land might be a better comparison to make, still it’s a start. The colour scaling is also a bit problematic, as the smallest measure is translated into zero colour, which stands out a bit more than it should…


    View Shooters Hill Neighbouring Wards Population in a larger map

    This map shows the number of people in each ward, compared (using colour scaling) relatively between these wards only. The lowest number of people was in East Wickham, and the highest in Plumstead, which suggests that some of the many flats in Woolwich common are either empty or have relatively few occupants.


    View Shooters Hill Neighbouring Wards Average Age in a larger map

    This map shows the average age of the population, and East Wickham comes out top for a change, with an average age of 40, whilst areas such as Shooters Hill have a lower average age, presumably as they have more young people, which pulls the measure downwards.

    Well, that was the first attempt at doing some basic demographic mapping – and it’s not really conclusive, but it does certainly seem to show that the differences are strongest between the 6 wards in Greenwich and the 1 in Bexley, East Wickham, which has the least houses and people, and the oldest average age.

     
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