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  • hilly 5:00 pm on September 4, 2012
    Tags: olympics, ,   

    Shooters Hill Archery Then and Now 

    Henry VIII Maying at Shooters Hill

    Henry VIII Maying at Shooters Hill from W.T. Vincent’s Records of the Woolwich District

    Although the widely-held belief that Shooters Hill derives its name from its medieval use as a site for archery practice is probably erroneous, it still seems appropriate that the Paralympics Archery competition was held nearby. There is a record of a medieval archery competition on Shooters Hill, in 1516 as part of Henry VIII’s May Day trip to Shooters Hill where he met Robin Hood:

    The King and Queen [Henry VIII and Queen Katherine] accompanied with many lords and ladies rode to the high ground of Shooters Hill to take the open air; and as they passed by the way, they espied a company of tall yeoman, clothed all in green with green hoods and bows and arrows, to the number of two hundred. Then one of them, which called himself Robyn hood, came to the King, desiring him to see his men shoot, and the king was content. Then he whistled and all the two hundred archers shot and loosed at once, and then he whistled again, and they likewise shot again; their arrows whistled by craft of the head, so that the noise was strange and great, and much pleased the King and Queen and all the company. All of these archers were of the King’s guard and had thus appareled themselves to make solace to the King.

    The archery at the paralympic stadium on Woolwich Common was, of course, very different. There are probably more than 200 archers at the paralympics,  they shot their arrows individually and in silence rather than all at once and the only strange and great noise was the audience applauding the archers who hit the gold area of the target and (especially loudly) any British competitors. I must admit that I visited the stadium as much out of curiosity about the strange structures transforming  Woolwich Commmon as out of any great interest in archery and shooting, but once there I found the competition completely compelling. It was very easy to get infected with the loud and enthusiastic audience atmosphere, whether clapping and stamping along to We Will Rock You or silently willing the British competitor’s arrow into gold.

    Eric Bennet vs Oghuzan Polat in the Men's Individual Recurve

    Eric Bennet vs Oghuzan Polat in the Men’s Individual Recurve –  Standing

    It will be quite sad when the paralympics is over and London life returns to its usual routine, but I won’t be sad to see the stadium complex disappear from the Common – I don’t find it an attractive development – and I’m looking forward to the reinstatement of the Common back to its previous state or better. Apparently they will be replacing each tree that was cut down to make way for the stadium with one and a half new trees, which could be interesting. Some of the structures will be dismantled and taken to Glasgow, as one of the many volunteer Gamesmakers reports:

    After the Games the 10/50m and 25m ranges and shot net will go to Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games; the large final hall is likely to remain in Greenwich. The dramatic temporary halls have been nick named ‘Teletubby Land’ and the site will be returned to Woolwich Common once the Games are finished.

    But it’s not all gloom; a memorial of Woolwich Common’s role in the Olympics is planned by the Olympics Development Authority. They propose to place three brightly coloured teletubby window at the side of Ha-Ha Road. And no, it’s not April 1st, I checked.

    Britain’s Sharon Vennard in Women’s Individual Recurve – Standing

    Britain’s Sharon Vennard in Women’s Individual Recurve – Standing

    Britain’s Sharon Vennard in Women’s Individual Recurve – Standing

    Britain’s Sharon Vennard in Women’s Individual Recurve – Standing

     
  • hilly 4:12 pm on July 11, 2012
    Tags: , olympics, ,   

    St George’s Garrison Church Restoration 

    The dragon shown in the Victoria Cross Memorial mosaic in St George's Garrison Church

    The dragon shown in the Victoria Cross Memorial mosaic in St George’s Garrison Church

    I see work has started on the restoration of the grade II listed St George’s Garrison Church, another “Heritage at Risk” building close to the Olympics shooting and archery venue. Hopefully this will  result in more people being able to see its marvellous mosaics. The organisation responsible for the restoration, Heritage of London Trust Operations, aims to make the church suitable for use as a small scale venue for appropriate events. It “intends to run occasional events at the chapel that will cater for fifty to a hundred people” as well as to provide access for “formal and informal educational visits”. A local friends group of volunteers will be established to help co-ordinate the running of the venue.

    The first step of the work, currently underway,  is to convert two rooms near the entrance to the chapel into a kitchen and toilet, but the major change is to construct a new cover for the apse, which is where the memorial mosaics are located together with the marble tablets listing the names of Royal Artillery soldiers who were awarded the VC and the war in which they won it. APEC Architects, who prepared the planning documents, considered various options for the new canopy but the final decision was for a free-standing glulam timber-framed arch with a tensile fabric covering as envisioned in the picture below.

    APEC Architects' vision of the new apse canopy

    APEC Architects’ vision of the new apse canopy

    Restoration work will take place in slower time than the contruction, which is not surprising as it does include specialist restoration of the mosaics themselves. Another of the planning documents contains photographs and details of the proposed internal restoration work:

    Remnants of steel framed glazed roof (damaged in high winds)

    Proposal: Remove the damaged roof as it is no longer required. Repairs to brickwork at the top of the walls to be carried out as required.

    Victoria Cross memorial mosaic

    Proposal: Mosaic to be restored by appropriate specialist

    Other memorial mosaics/remnants of glazed roof structure

    Proposal: Mosaics to be fully restored by appropriate specialist. Remnants of glazed roof structure to be removed and brickwork repaired as appropriate.

    Memorial mosaics/damage to brickwork

    Proposal: Mosaics to be fully restored by appropriate specialist. Damaged brickwork to be repaired.

    Entrance gates

    Proposal:All gates to be removed for X-ray inspection. Any defects are to be repaired before the gates are reinstated.

    Undercroft access

    Proposal:The bricked up access to the undercroft space is to be opened up to provide a space for storage. A timber plank door, within a timber frame, is to be installed within the arch. Steel reinforcement is to be in place on the inside face of the timber door for security reasons.

    It doesn’t sound like it will all be done in time for the Olympics, though the initial work may be, but at least the process of  preserving the ruin and making it more accessible has started.

    Vine mosaic in St George's Garrison Church

    Vine mosaic in St George’s Garrison Church

     
  • hilly 5:42 pm on July 9, 2012
    Tags: , olympics, ,   

    Who was Major Robert John Little? 

    Major Robert John Little Memorial

    Major Robert John Little Memorial

    The restoration of parts of our urban environment prompted by the prospect of thousands of visitors is one of the positive side-effects of Greenwich being an Olympic borough. Major Robert John Little’s Memorial Obelisk was an obvious candidate for refurbishment; it is located right in front of the shooting/archery stadium on Woolwich Common, and on the recommended route from Woolwich Arsenal station to the Olympic events. Some might say that its location on the English Heritage “Buildings at Risk” list should have been reason enough to restore the memorial, but …. whatever, it has been restored.

    The description of the restoration of the memorial says that the new brass plaques installed on each face of the obelisk are “inscribed with details of Robert John Little’s Life.”  However when I visited I found that apart from the front plaque they are all blank, so I thought I’d help out by finding out something about the life Major Robert John Little. Plus I was curious about who he was and why he had a memorial on the edge of Woolwich Common.

    The English Heritage draft Survey of London on Woolwich gives some background on the creation of the obelisk, as part of an elaborate drinking fountain:

    After the formation of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association in 1858, London was peppered with drinking fountains. This one, in the form of a grey-granite obelisk, was given by Anna Victoria Little, in memory of her late husband, Maj. Robert John Little, barrack-master at the Royal Marine Barracks and formerly a resident of Adelaide Place across the road. It was designed by a civil engineer, E. Gregory, and built by William Tongue, who, ironically, was responsible for enclosing part of Plumstead Common at this time. The obelisk survives, without its faucets, basins, twenty-one encircling cannon bollards or a trough for dogs, but restored with new bollards by Greenwich Council in 2011.

    Detail of Major Little's memorial obelisk

    Detail of Major Little’s memorial obelisk

    However Major Little was much more than the Barrack Master at the Royal Marine Barracks. For a start he had a distinguished and heroic military career, summarised in Major H.G. Hart’s The New Army List 1849:

    Capt Little served in the channel fleet and at the blockade of Ferrol and Corunna in 1803-4. Appointed to the Royal Marine Artillery on the formation of that corps in 1804, and was employed in various bomb vessels on the enemy’s coast co-operating with the land forces, or on detached service. In command of the mortars in the Vesuvius bomb at the attack of Boulogne. Defence of Cadiz in 1809; and subsequently at the blockade of Rochfort, where he commanded a storming party in a successful night attack on the coast, on which occasion he received the particular thanks of the Admiralty, and was rewarded by the Patriotic Fund:- at the commencement of this attack he was severely wounded by a musket ball shattering the wrist which rendered amputation of the right hand necessary.

    The 1810 action which led to Major Little losing his right hand was part of the British blockade of the French fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. The story of the battle was recounted  in a number of historical books, for example The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV by William James and  the Historical Record of the Royal Marine Forces. Vol II. by Paul Harris Nicholas:

    On the night of the 27th of September, the boats of the 120-gun ship Caledonia and 74-gun ship Valiant, lying at anchor in   Basque roads, were detached under lieutenant A. P. Hamilton to destroy three brigs lying under the protection of a battery at Pointe du Ché ; and as the enemy had a strong detachment of troops in the adjoining village of Angoulin, a party of 130 marines under captains Thomas Sherman and Archibald McLachlan, lieutenants John Coulter and John Couche, and lieutenant Robert John Little of the marine artillery, were added to the division of seamen from the squadron.

    At about 2 h. 30 m. a. m. on the 28th the marines were landed under the Pointe du Ché, and the alarm having been given by the brigs, an ineffectual fire was opened from the enemy’s guns. Lieutenant Little, with his detachment of artillery-men, pushed forward with the bayonet to the assault, supported by captain McLachlan’s division, and by a detachment under lieutenants Coulter and Couche; and having gallantly carried the battery, spiked the guns. Lieutenant Little, in leading his men, on entering the fort received the contents of the french sentry’s musket in his right hand as he was in the act of cutting him down, and the wrist was so much shattered as to render amputation necessary. Whilst the attack was making on the fort, captain Sherman, with his division, took post on the main road by the sea side, having his front to the village, and his right protected by a launch with an eighteen-pounder carronade. A party of the enemy succeeded, under cover of the night, in bringing a field-piece to bear with some effect, but the marines instantly charged, and captured the gun. Two of the brigs were brought off, and the third destroyed ; and the marines were now re-embarked, having sustained no greater loss than lieutenant Little and one private wounded. In the defence of the battery on Pointe du Ché, the enemy had 14 men killed.

    Lieutenant Little’s battle injury didn’t end his military career, and the Navy Lists indicate that  he was promoted first to Captain  and again to Major and that he was awarded the Silver Naval Medal with one clasp. He became Barrack Master on 12th September 1829 on a salary of £183 per annum.

    Crystal Palace from the northeast from Dickinson's Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851

    Wikimedia Commons picture of Crystal Palace, home of the Great Exhibition of 1851

    In addition to his military career Major Little also seems to have been an inventor, exhibiting his improved watercock  at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in the Great Exhibition in 1851. As the Exhibition Catalogue says:

    476. LITTLE, Major ROBERT J., 4 Queen’s Terrace, Woolwich Common — Inventor.

    An improved watercock, with double plug, for connecting pipes without breaking joints, with sectional drawings of the same. Designed by the exhibitor, and manufactured by Frost, Noakes, and Vincent, 195 Brick Lane, Whitechapel.

    Was Major Little a one-hit-wonder with his watercock, or did he have a successful career as an inventor? I’d love to find out.

    Interestingly Major Little’s 1851 home in Queen’s Terrace was, according to the draft Survey of London, next to Adelaide Place where he also lived. By my reading of the 1866 OS map both  of these addresses faced onto Woolwich Common, roughly between where Jackson Street and Engineer Close are now,  just over the road from his memorial fountain.

    The citation on Major Little’s obelisk says that he “devoted himself to honour of God and to the relief of human suffering.”  One way in which he would have achieved this was through his contribution to  the Executive and Finance Committee of the Royal Patriotic Fund. The Fund was instigated by Queen Victoria’s 1854 appeal for public donations to assist the widows and orphans of military personnel who were killed in the Crimean War. The appeal was a huge success, collecting over a million pounds in its first six months, and was able to found two schools in Wandsworth as well as providing grants to military widows and orphans. The Patriotic Fund continued in one form or another until just a couple of years ago when it was merged with the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help charity.

    I suspect that Major Little was also involved in other charitable work for the Royal Marines Artillery – for two reasons. Firstly the Charity Commission website mentions a charity named “Major Robert John Little“. It gives hardly any details, other than it has been amalgamated with the Royal Marines Welfare Fund. But secondly because, after his death in 1865, his widow, Mrs. Anna Victoria Little, donated the income from £100 to Royal Marine Artillery Benevolent Fund for the “distribution of bread and coals among the wives and families of corporals, gunners, and drummers in H.M. corps of Royal Marine Artillery resident at Portsmouth”. I wonder if Major Little was also associated with the Benevolent Fund. Another topic to keep an eye out for when visiting libraries!

    Major Little died on 6th October 1861; The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical review for November 1861 simply reported:

    Oct. 6.  At his residence, Bloomfield, Old Charlton, aged 74, Robert John Little, esq., late Major and Barrackmaster of the Royal Marines, Woolwich.”

    He was buried in a family vault at St Lukes Church, Charlton. According to the Kent Archeological Society the inscription on the monument in 1908 was:

     164. LITTLE (26). Caroline, wife of Robert John LITTLE, of the Royal Marines, died January 12, 1832, aged 42 years. Richard Rosdew Little, late Captain of the Madras Horse Artillery and Commissary of Ordnance, there died August 23, 1861, aged 46 years. Robert John Little, died October 6, 1861, aged 74 years. He had served in the Corps of the Royal Marines nearly 55 years, joining the R.M.A. in early life and returning in 1837 as Major and Barrack Master of the Woolwich Division, which appointment he held for 28 years. Anna Victoria, relict of the above-named Major Little and daughter of Capt. Henry INMAN, R.N., and sometime Naval Commander at Madras, died March 5, 1866, aged 72 years.

    The plan of the churchyard indicates that Major Little’s family grave was just to the left of the church entrance; was, unfortunately, because it’s no longer there, just some remains of brick foundations showing where the grave used to be. Interesting that there is a difference in dates between the monument inscription and the Naval Lists for when Major Little became Barrack Master.

    St Lukes Charlton

    St Lukes Charlton

    So, still lots of unanswered questions about the Major, but hopefully  there is now enough to fill the remaining three brass plaques on his memorial.

     
  • hilly 5:43 pm on July 3, 2012
    Tags: olympics,   

    Oxleas Missile Deployment Confirmed 

    Rapier Missile Battery on Oxleas Meadows

    Rapier Missile Battery on Oxleas Meadows

    The Ministry of Defence has decided that a Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) System will be deployed in Oxleas Meadows, on Blackheath and 4 other sites across East London during this summer’s Olympics. The MoD announcement said that the Rapier missiles will be in put place in the middle of July.

    The announcement was made despite opposition from people living near the missile sites, including a protest march from Oxleas Wood to Blackheath and the ongoing legal action by the residents of Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone. This is due to be heard next Monday, July 9th, at the Royal Courts of Justice.

    It seems that even the power of the Corky Fruited Water Dropwort was not enough to stop the missiles.

     
    • Ian Bull 3:14 am on July 4, 2012

      Hullo everyone,

      Does anyone know how much of Oxleas Woods and Oxleas Meadows will be closed to the public during the missile deployment?

      For some years I’ve acted as a walk leader for the Green Chain Walk and Walk London. On Friday 19th / Saturday 20th I’m leading an overnight walk on the GCW from Crystal Palace to Erith. Usually I’d expect us to be at the Café at about 4.30am for a 5.00am sunrise over Shrewsbury Park. Will I have to arrange a detour? I don’t want us to get arrested on the way!

      Incidentally, may I post details of this walk here?

      Many thanks

      Ian Bull

      • hilly 8:43 am on July 4, 2012

        When the missile battery was deployed in May only a small area of Oxleas Meadows was fenced off, and, for example, the Oxleas Bluebell Walk took place with no disruption. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that a larger area will closed for the real deployment, and although that’s no guarantee I would hope local people would be informed if there is to be a change.
        Your walk sounds interesting. If you e-mail details I’d be happy to post them here.

  • hilly 8:27 am on June 13, 2012
    Tags: olympics,   

    Shooters Hill Olympics – Car Parking & Travel 

    Map extract showing Shooters Hill EDZ

    Map extract showing Shooters Hill parking restrictions area

    Plans for transport and parking changes for the Olympic Games have been finalised by Greenwich Council, TfL and LOCOG, as you may have seen by the many notices decorating lamp-posts in Shooters Hill, competing with the Jubilee bunting. As expected there will be parking restrictions in Shooters Hill during the games – we will be in an Event Day Zone, or EDZ in the Council’s acronym- laden notices – and we will need to apply for residents parking permits.

    The parking restrictions will now be in place from 27th July to 9th September, covering both the Olympic and Paralympic games and the period in between, and will operate every day between 8.30am to 7.00pm. Parking will be allowed for up to 2 hours without a permit, but for over 2 hours a residents or visitors permit will be have to be displayed. Permits will only cover us for the Shooters Hill sub-zone, labelled OC in the Council’s maps, not for any other restricted parking area.

    The boundaries of the EDZ look almost unchanged from the original proposal, apart from a slight change round the junction of Upton Road and Ennis Road on the eastern boundary, and a change south of Shooters Hill Road to add in the Royal Herbert Pavilions and the Broad Walk/Mayday Gardens area.

    We can check whether we live in a postcode where we need a permit, and apply for the permit,  through the Greenwich 2012 Parking Permits web-site – it has separate links for residential and business checks. We have  until 14th July to register. There is also a phone number for people who are not on the internet – 0300 777 2012.  I found the system a little bit unclear: it told me that my vehicle was already on its database and that I didn’t need to apply for a permit. So I assume I will just be sent a permit within 5 days, as stated on the frequently asked questions list?    When I applied for my 2 visitor permits the site says “to activate the permit when your visitor arrives, please click on the Book a visitor button, found at the top left corner of this screen” – there is no such button on the screen. Teething problems I guess.

    Ha-Ha Road closed

    Ha-Ha Road closed for Olympics test event

    There will be two sets of changes to roads – the closures within the events area at the Royal Artillery Barracks and the Olympic Route Network. The road closures will be the same as for the test events in May, as the Royal Borough of Greenwich web site says:

    In Woolwich:

    • there will be no right turn for traffic from Woolwich New Road on to Grand Depot Road during Games time
    • there will be 38 pre-bookable parking spaces for Blue Badge users on Woolwich Common
    • Repository Road and Ha Ha Road will be closed to traffic between 7 July and 19 September. However, there will still be full access for emergency vehicles

    Congestion on Shooters Hill and Shooters Hill Road increased quite a lot during the test event when Ha-Ha Road was closed; I guess it may be even worse when the games are on as there will be increased traffic and the road restrictions from the Olympic Route Network.

    Local snippet from TfL Olympic Route Network map

    Local snippet from TfL Olympic Route Network map

    Olympic Route Network sign

    Olympic Route Network sign

    The Olympic Route Network doesn’t come up as far as Shooters Hill, but does effect Charlton Park Lane and Shooters Hill Road between Greenwich and Charlton Park Lane. The main changes as far as I can tell are:

    ?    A “Games Lane” on Shooters Hill Road from Blackheath to the Sun in the Sands roundabout, and then to Eastbrook Road. Only official games vehicles are allowed in the Games lane between 6.00am and midnight.

    ?    Shooters Hill Road to become a “No stopping at any time” road up to Charlton Park Lane, with some roadside parking changed to partial footpath parking.

    ?    Temporary removal of road humps and width restrictions on Charlton Park Lane.

    ?    Changes to some parking on Charlton Park Lane and no stopping at any time along the Lane.

    The work needed to create the ORN, such as road markings and traffic light changes, is planned to start at the beginning of  July, which I imagine may also have an effect on traffic congestion, and the ORN will be operational between 25th July and a few days after the games end on 12th August, and then the Paralympic Route Network (PRN) will be in place from the 27th August until the Paralympics end on 9th September.

    Train and bus services will also be changed during the Olympics. Because of the road closures there will be similar changes to bus routes  161, 178, 291, 386, 469, 486 as there were at the test event last month, including the temporary 561 bus route from Chiselhurst to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – full details of all the diversions and dates are in the detailed TfL document starting from page 37.

    On the trains, the biggest change will be the closure of Woolwich Dockyard station from 28th July to 12th August, as shown on the snippet from the Get Ahead of the Games rail impact tool, below. In addition there will be a reduced service at Kidbrooke, Westcombe Park, Maze Hill and Deptford and it is expected that Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath, London Bridge and Waterloo will be exceptionally busy during the games –  the Get Ahead of the Games web site has details of busy times and dates. Southeastern Trains’ timetables are also changing during the Games.

    Sounds like a good time to change commuting times, or even work at home if possible.

    Snippet from Get Ahead of the Games interactive rail impact tool

    Snippet from Get Ahead of the Games interactive rail impact tool

     
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