Divest Greenwich

Divest Greenwich Flyer

Local group Divest Greenwich, who are campaigning for the Royal Borough of Greenwich to move £17million of their pension fund investments out of fossil fuel companies’ shares, are holding a launch event at St Alfege’s Church Hall on Thursday, 2nd July at 7.00pm.  Why should Greenwich do this? Well, if we are to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change most of the reserves that fossil fuel companies hold, which provide the basis for their share prices, must not be burnt for energy. Divestment will have the twofold advantage of protecting the pension fund from consequent drops in fossil fuel company share prices as well as making a stand against the powerful lobbyists of the petrochemical industry. Thomas Greenwood, who wrote to tell me about the event, succinctly summarised the case for divestment:

The Greenwich Pension Fund has around £17 million invested directly in fossil fuel companies and more invested indirectly. Such investments carry a high degree of risk on ethical, financial and scientific grounds and the Pension Fund’s investments therefore expose the people of Greenwich to those risks.
Already, hundreds of institutions around the globe have committed to divesting from (ending their investments in) fossil fuel companies to the tune of billions of pounds, including the Church of England and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The Royal Borough’s Pension Fund can add significantly to this movement.
The reason we consider divestment such an important issue is because if global warming is to be limited to 2°C – the threshold for irreversible climate change – up to 80% of known carbon reserves must be left in the ground. Available evidence indicates that fossil fuel companies intend to burn enough reserves to push global warming far above 2°C, as they insist on searching for further reserves, often in the globe’s most ecologically sensitive areas. Around the globe, the first five months of this year were the hottest on record. We urgently need to act.
The Pension Fund has a fiduciary responsibility to maximise returns which can be met whilst divesting. In April 2015 MSCI, the world’s leading stock market index company, found that investors who divested from fossil fuel companies would have made an average return of 13% a year since 2010, compared to the 11.8%-a-year return earned by conventional investors, including in the years before the fall in oil prices. Moreover, if decisive action is taken by governments to limit climate change and a large amount of carbon reserves are left in the ground, shares in fossil fuel companies are likely to drop significantly in value. As such, pension funds currently investing in fossil fuels risk exposure to this ‘carbon bubble’.
We believe our local government has a responsibility to divest from an industry that’s destroying our future. By remaining open to investments in fossil fuels, the Royal Borough of Greenwich is supporting the power, influence and activities of the fossil fuel industry. We would like to see the Royal Borough of Greenwich lead the way on sustainability and cease to invest in activities that are damaging for the environment and human race.
Divest Greenwich’s launch event will take place on Thursday 2 July from 7.00-8.30pm in St Alfege Church Hall.

The launch event will include a screening of the film Do the Math which is narrated by Bill McKibben, who is the author of a dozen books about the environment, including “The End of Nature” published in 1989.  He is also the founder of climate change campaigning group 350.org. Another of the directors of 350.org is Naomi Klein whose book “This Changes Everything” documents how fossil fuel companies use their money and influence to campaign against climate change, but also the successes that campaigners against fossil fuels are having around the world. As easily extractable fossil fuel reserves have been used up extraction companies have had to move into more dangerous technologies, such as deep water drilling and fracking which have larger potential impacts on wider areas of the countryside and many more people. The only good thing about this is that it has increased and broadened the number of activists campaigning against these developments.

In Greenwich the Labour councillor for Greenwich West is a supporter of the campaign and has arranged a meeting between Divest Greenwich and the leader of the council. Divest Greenwich also has a petition urging Greenwich to divest from fossil fuels.

London climate change march 21st September 2014
London climate change march 21st September 2014
London climate change march 21st September 2014
London climate change march 21st September 2014
London climate change march 21st September 2014
London climate change march 21st September 2014

Shrewsbury Park Summer Festival 2015

Shrewsbury Park Summer Festival 2015 leaflet

The Friends of Shrewsbury Park have excelled themselves with the number of attractions and events in year’s Summer Festival, which takes place on Sunday 28th June from 2-5pm. Kathy from the Friends wrote with all the details:

We hope to see you at our Summer Festival on 28 June.  The fabulous dog show will start registration at 1.30pm, and the classes are:
*  fun agility course
*  best rescue dog
*  best child handler
*  sing with your dog
*  puppy class
*  obedience class
*  fastest dog.
It costs £2 per class, and the profits go to Friends of Shrewsbury Park (to go towards our drinking fountain).
We will have the Doriel School of Dancing at 2pm, Greenwich Morris Men at 3pm, and Leo’s Kpop group at 4pm.  They will be presenting a routine, then teaching any willing participant to do a routine.
We will have the Greenwich Rock Pop Community Choir from Abbey Wood who will run a small singing workshop. They will get a bunch of passers by, give them a lyric sheet and teach them the harmonies to a song like daft punk’s – Get Lucky,  Beatles – Help, Mama/Papas – california dreamin’.
Hawk and Hood will be there with their birds of prey, and Woodlands Farm Trust will bring along some of their sheep to the event.
We will also have the Dogs Trust, Flamsteed Astronomy Society, Friends of Pet Cemetery, Friends of Bostal Heath, Guide Dogs, the Police, RSPB, Severndroog Castle, Paws and Co, Riverford Home Delivery, Season, the local Councillors, Aloe Vera alternative, Robert’s Walking Sticks, Shabby Chic, and Phoenix Cards.  The Friends of Shrewsbury Park will be providing a Tea and Cake stall, lots of goodies in the bric a brac, a children’s play area, used books and membership stall.

It’s worth going to the Shrewsbury Park Summer Festival just for the brilliant, entertaining dog show, but with all the other events and stalls too it is just unmissable.

Obedience Competition at 2013 Shrewsbury Park Summer Festival
Obedience Competition at 2013 Shrewsbury Park Summer Festival
Fastest Dog Competition at 2013 Shrewsbury Park Summer Festival
Fastest Dog Competition at 2013 Shrewsbury Park Summer Festival


St George's Chapel Restoration

Dr David Carrington and Kalypso Kampani with part of the mosaic restoration
Dr David Carrington and Kalypso Kampani with part of the mosaic restoration

Greek mosaic specialist Kalypso Kampani and her team of conservators expect to complete the current phase of mosaic restoration work at St George’s Garrison Church by the middle of July. The marvellous mosaics, which were installed by Antonio Salviati around 1870, include the Venetian glass mosaic of St George and the dragon, part of the Victoria Cross memorial. Kalypso’s team come from historic building repair and restoration specialists, Skillingtons who won the contract for the restoration of the mosaics in late 2014.

There was standing room only on 9th May in the meeting room at Woolwich Library for the presentation about St George’s Chapel. Julie Ricketts who is the Heritage Project Officer responsible for the St George’s project gave an interesting presentation. She talked about the history of the Garrison Church and showed some old pictures of the church before it was partially destroyed by a V1 flying bomb, with some I hadn’t seen before of the 1500 capacity interior. I was also unaware of the extent to which cast iron was used in the construction of the church: there were cast iron pillars and iron was also used for the roof and balconies structures. Cast iron column capitals can still be seen in the ruin today.

As well as the Heritage Lottery Fund a lot of other organisations provided funding for the project:

The Heritage of London Trust Ops. has been working on a restoration project at St. George’s, with funding and assistance from a variety of sources: Ministry of Defence, Royal Artillery, HLF, English Heritage, John Paul Getty Foundation, Community Covenant Fund, Pilgrim Trust, Cory Landfill, Lord Ashcroft, Foyle Foundation and VC and GC Associations.

Julie’s presentation also gave details of the on-going restoration work and the plans for the future of the chapel.

Mosaic restoration in progress at St George's Chapel
Mosaic restoration in progress at St George’s Chapel

There are two aspects to the first phase of work on the mosaics by Skillingtons’ team. The mortar backing on many of the smaller mosaic panels needs to be replaced. Those panels were removed from the chapel after fixing the mosaic tesserae in place by attaching muslin cloth to them using a glue made out of rabbit skin. Then the mortar between the tesserae is replaced from behind in the workshop, following which the panels are replaced in the chapel. In this phase missing parts of those mosaics are not being renewed; it is hoped this might be done in a future phase if funding is found.

Missing parts of the St George mosaic are being replaced in situ in the chapel. Missing sections are created, as shown in the photograph above, using new tesserae which are made by a producer in Greece. As well as the mosaic the letters in the marble tablets inscribed with the names of the deceased gunners who won the Victoria Cross from the Crimean War to the middle of WWII are being restored.

The conservators are concerned about the stability of some other memorial panels in the chapel, especially the alabaster panel shown below which is to the right of the St George mosaic. There has been a request for emergency funding to ensure this panel doesn’t deteriorate further.

Alabaster panel in St. George's Chapel
Alabaster panel in St. George’s Chapel

After the presentations we all walked up the hill to the chapel where the new tensile fabric roof was being attached to the glulam timber-framed arch. The tensile roof was constructed by Fabric Architecture, with Thomas Ford and Partners as the conservation architects for the project. There’s much more detail about the project and photos of the work progressing on the Fabric Architecture website, for example:  the main vaulted roof beams each weigh around 6 tonnes and they sit atop 8 supporting columns weighing around 750kg each.

It had been expected that the roof would be in place in time for our visit, but completion was delayed by strong winds. Resisting strong winds was an important factor in the design: the structure’s foundations need to be strong enough to prevent the roof being blown away as well as supporting the glulam framework.

Some of the visitors at St George's Chapel in May
Some of the visitors at St George’s Chapel in May

What will happen to St Georges once the work is complete? Whilst the chapel will remain a consecrated place, there are plans to make the space available for community group events and school visits. Current ideas include concerts by the Royal Artillery Band, Greenwich University Big Band and Woolwich Singers and services for local veterans organisations and the Woolwich British Legion.

In the short term the chapel will be open to the public on the following dates:

Saturday 27th June – Armed Forces Day
Saturday 12th September – Ride & Stride
Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th September – Open House weekend

Julie is looking for volunteers to help for a couple of hours at the Greenwich great get together/Armed Forces Day festival on the 27th June to “greet members of the public at St. George’s Garrison Church, give out an information leaflet, ask them to sign the Visitors’ Book and shake a collection bucket!” You can sign up for this using an online calendar or by contacting Julie Ricketts by e mail: hpostgeorgeswoolwich@gmail.com or telephone 0754 6265480.

In the longer term Heritage of London are setting up a friends group to look after future events. Volunteers are sought, for the following areas: Events, Finance, Membership, Education & Outreach, Building & Gardening, Publicity, Media & Communications and Fundraising.If you’re interested contact Julie using the contact details above. St George’s chapel is also on Twitter and on Facebook.

The restoration of the Garrison Church was originally agreed before the 2012 Olympics, so it’s been a long project, but its looking like it will have been worth the wait. Great Greenwich Get Together/ Armed Forces Day leaflet

Summer Solstice Celebrations at Woodlands Farm

Woodlands Farm midsummer walk poster

They’re celebrating the summer solstice at Woodlands Farm this weekend with a barn dance on Saturday and a midsummer meander through their marvellous meadows on Sunday. Hannah from the farm wrote with details:

Midsummer events at Woodlands Farm
With the summer solstice coming up this weekend there are opportunities to celebrate at Woodlands Farm. On Saturday 20th a riotous barn dance starting 7.30pm until 11pm. The band is the famous Skinners Rats and a good tune is guaranteed. Bring your own choice of food and drink. Tickets £12 per person.
On Sunday 21st June a chance to take part in a fabulous guided walk through our stunning hay meadows. Walk starts at 2pm and finishes in time for high tea, with scones, sponge, finger sandwiches and refreshing tea, all it costs is £10 per person.
Book tickets by calling the office on 020 8319 8900 or email admin@thewoodlandsfarmtrust.org
Woodlands Farm Trust Chair, Barry Gray says ‘The events this weekend are a chance to have fun and see Woodlands Farm at its best in high summer at the time of the solstice. We are looking forward to seeing many of our friends at this event’.

The farm’s barn dances are great fun, as you can see in their photo below. No experience is necessary as Skinners Rats call the steps as well as playing the tunes. Recent dances have seen an abundance of stetsons, gingham, denim and boots, though I did wonder if the blow up cactus and mule were taking things a bit too far at the last dance.

Barn dance at Woodlands Farm
Barn dance at Woodlands Farm

The BBC are forecasting good weather for Sunday so the farm’s meadows should be at their best. You will be able to see a wide variety of wild flowers with ancient names such as mouse ear, sheeps sorrel, goats beard, tansy, lesser trefoil, common vetch and grass vetchling. If you’re lucky I’m sure your guide will point out the Rapier missile resisting corky fruited water dropwort. Then, if you’re really interested in wild flowers, there’s a chance to help with a meadow plants survey next Wednesday 24th June, at 3.00pm.

Wild flower meadows at Woodlands Farm
Wild flower meadows at Woodlands Farm

Community Open Day at the Equestrian Centre

Equestrian Centre Community open day leaflet

Hadlow College’s Equestrian Centre on Shooters Hill is holding a community open day tomorrow, Saturday 13th June, but you’ll have to book a slot on 020 8331 3410 to be able to take a look round because the advertised on-line booking system doesn’t seem to work. Visitors will be able to see all aspects of the centre, plus riding displays and demonstrations and they will get to meet the horses. It’ll also be an opportunity to find out about the college’s courses and riding lessons.

The Equestrian Centre was built following the 2012 Olympics as an Olympic legacy project. There was some controversy over Greenwich Council’s decision to grant planning permission, not least because the centre was to be built on a site next to Woodlands Farm that had been designated as Metropolitan Open Land. One of the conditions attached to planning permission was that there should be a minimum of 82 horse-riding hours a week access to the facilities by the local community. The centre is now offering riding lessons in the evenings and at weekends to Royal Borough of Greenwich residents who are over 14 years of age, but at a price.

According to the Hadlow College leaflet you’ll have to pay for:

Membership, costing just £40.00 a year includes:
* Free initial assessment on our mechanical horse
* Discounts on courses and events run by Hadlow College
* Ability to book lessons up to 2 weeks in advance
Lesson Costs (per lesson)
30 minute private lesson £45.00
45 minute group tuition (2-4 riders) £35.00 per person
30 minute private lesson on our mechanical horse £40.00

I managed to have a look round the centre shortly before it opened, but couldn’t take any pictures. I’m hoping to be able to photograph one of the only equine baths in the south-east of the UK tomorrow.

Reception building at the Shooters Hill Equestrian Centre
Reception building at the Shooters Hill Equestrian Centre

Prisoner of War Working Company 1020 Shooters Hill

Front cover of "Zur Erinnerung an 1020" from the Greenwich Heritage Centre
Front cover of “Zur Erinnerung an 1020” from the Greenwich Heritage Centre

Zur Erinnerung an 1020 G-PWW-Coy Shooters Hill – As a Memento of German Prisoner of War Working Company 1020 Shooters Hill – is the title of an exquisite,  slim booklet from the archives of the Greenwich Heritage Centre. Its contents are a set of pen and ink drawings of the PoW camp by one of the German prisoners, Wolfram Dörge. Dated Christmas 1946, it is dedicated to the officer in charge of the camp, Major Leech, who was known to the prisoners of war as the “Father of the Camp”.

Wolfram Dörge’s pictures show the various huts that made up the camp, including the mess hut, the infirmary, the recreation room and the cobblers’ and tailor’s shop. They also include views of the inside of some of the huts, such as the billet hut shown below, the kitchen and the stage in the recreation room. It is a unique record of life for German prisoners of war in the UK after the end of the second world war.

Wolfram Dörge's picture of the Officers' Mess at Camp 1020
Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the Officers’ Mess at Camp 1020
Wolfram Dörge's picture of the inside of a hut at Camp 1020
Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the inside of a hut at Camp 1020
Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the recreation ground at Camp 1020
Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the recreation ground at Camp 1020

The camp was situated in the area now taken up by the southernmost 9 holes of Shooters Hill Golf Club, the part nearest Shooters Hill, plus the westernmost fields of Woodlands Farm. The Shooters Hill Golf Club history page  summarises the use of this part of the course during the war years:

In 1939, the southernmost 9 holes of the course were requisitioned for the establishment of an anti-aircraft battery and part of the Clubhouse became the headquarters of the Home Guard, and in the latter years part of the course also became a Prisoner of War camp for some 1000 German and Italian prisoners. The camp was surrounded by a 7ft high wire fence, and the cookhouse situated by the 17th green. The remaining 9 holes continued to be played even though the course sustained considerable damage from bombing.

The 17th Green at Shooters Hill Golf Club
The 17th Green at Shooters Hill Golf Club

The anti-aircraft battery was an unusual one – it was a Z Battery, which used 3-inch rockets to defend against enemy air attacks. In 2005 a community archaeological research programme called the “Lie of the Land project” led by local archaeologist Andy Brockman investigated the Shooters Hill ZAA Battery and the findings are documented in chapter 14 of Images of Conflict: Military Aerial Photography and Archaeology. An aerial photograph of the golf course from August 1944 shows the 64 twin-barrelled rocket projectors of the battery arranged in an 8 by 8 grid across the eastern-facing slopes. The battery was initially manned by personnel from the Royal Artillery, but later the Home Guard took over and it was fully manned by the Home Guard from the end of July 1943.

Even at the time it seems there was some doubt about the effectiveness of such unguided rockets against enemy aircraft, and it was suggested that they were there as much for civilian morale as for usefulness in defence. After the battery was stood down it is reported that the Mayor of Bexley sent a message to the stand down dinner which included the comment: “Thank God you are standing down because you have caused more damage to property in Bexleyheath than the enemy has”.

The Z Battery was on the golf course between August 1942 and November 1944, according to David Lloyd Bathe’s “Steeped in History”, which also mentions that an American tented camp was there before the PoW camp. Another aerial photograph from Images of Conflict, from October 1945, shows rows of military Bell tents which were no longer there in the autumn of 1946 – presumably this was the American camp – though when the PoW camp was first set up some of the prisoners were billeted in tents.

"Loading Z battery Merseyside 1942 IWM H 21135" by Taylor (Lt), War Office official photographer - This is photograph H 21135 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 4700-37). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Loading_Z_battery_Merseyside_1942_IWM_H_21135.jpg#/media/File:Loading_Z_battery_Merseyside_1942_IWM_H_21135.jpg
“Loading Z battery Merseyside 1942 IWM H 21135” by Taylor (Lt), War Office official photographer – This is photograph H 21135 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 4700-37). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Camp 1020 was formed on 26th June 1946 according to a fascinating document from the National Archive which was referred to by Andy Brockman in his talk about the camp to Shooters Hill Local History Group last  September. Andy thanked SE9 Magazine who passed on the document which is a report on an inspection visit to the camp and gives details of the PoWs and their educational and cultural activities in the camp, including the work to “denazify” the prisoners .

At the time of the report there were 533 German prisoners in the camp. They had all been transferred from Camp 197 at Chepstow, but before that 75% had been in the USA and the remainder in Belgium. Initially morale was low, as the report says:

Morale at first was low, owing to the disappointment of Ps.W. ex USA, who had been assured by American officers that they were being repatriated, and discontentment of Ps.W. ex Belgium who alleged they had been badly fed and roughly treated in Belgium. Good treatment, attention to welfare and educational activities on the part of the British staff and better food has now raised morale considerably. Many Ps.W. ex Belgium have gained up to 40 lbs in weight and the camp can now be regarded as content and happy.

Many of the activities organised for the prisoners were aimed towards political re-education, or denazification. One of the first steps was to classify how strongly each prisoner adhered to the Nazi ideology. A report on a project about another PoW camp, at Butcher Hill in Horsforth, explains the classification scheme:

White patches (‘A’ ‘A-‘) were for prisoners with no loyalty or affiliation to the Nazis. A grey patch (‘B+’ ‘B’ ‘B-‘) meant that the prisoner, although not an ardent Nazi, had no strong feelings either way (mitläufer). Hard-core Nazis and almost all Waffen SS and U-Boat crews wore a black patch (‘C’ or ‘C+’).

It isn’t clear whether the black/grey/white patch system was used at Camp 1020, but the camp was classified overall as grey and the A/B/C  method of classifying prisoners was used. The vast majority of Shooters Hill prisoners were classified as A and B with just 31 Cs and 1 C+.

There were a wide range of re-education activities, including lectures on “Public Life in England” and “Germany yesterday, today and tomorrow” which were attended by between 100 and 150 prisoners and were followed by “lively discussions”. A press review was held three times a week attended by 150-200 men. Press items were selected and translated beforehand for the review. “Mr. Churchill’s speech at Conservative Conference was given in full and caused much discussion”. The radio was popular, with about 200 men listening to the BBC news in German on the “good quality wireless” in the recreation room. The YMCA Film Unit visited every Tuesday.

There were beginner, intermediate and advanced classes in English and classes in French and Spanish. The number of classes was limited by lack of accommodation, according to the report. It also recommended that the library of 103 books in German and 100 in English be augmented with more German novels. In addition the supply of newspapers needed to be increased. They received copies of the Daily Express, Daily Herald, Daily Mail, the Times and the News of the World, and also of a UK government produced newspaper in German called Wochenpost. The 50 copies of the latter were deemed totally inadequate for a camp of 530 men.

Westernmost fields of Woodlands Farm looking towards golf course
Westernmost fields of Woodlands Farm looking towards golf course

Why were prisoners of war still held in 1946, when the war in Europe had ended over a year earlier? They were kept as workers to help in reconstruction work at a time when many British workers were still overseas in the armed forces. Under the Geneva Convention PoWs couldn’t be forced to work, but most of them volunteered to as a way of passing the time. At its peak in September 1946 there were 402,200 prisoners of war in the UK, in hundreds of camps, of which 84.9% were working. It has been estimated that 25% of the workforce in the UK was such PoW labour.

“Steeped in History” records that the prisoners in Camp 1020 worked mainly in the warehouses of the North Woolwich dockyards and in the public utilities of military and civilian facilities. A few helped with farm work, for example harvesting potatoes at Woodlands Farm where the Western field was given over entirely to growing potatoes. They also worked on the groundworks for the Cherry Orchard Estate in Charlton and on snow clearance in the harsh winter of 1946/47. David Lloyd Bathe tells the story of how they saved a Charlton football match:

In the very severe winter of 1946/47, PoWs volunteered to clear the snow from the First Division Charlton Athletic’s football ground so that a regular weekend game could be played. About 300 PoW volunteers were “guests of honour! at the game.
“When our part in saving the game was acknowledged over the loudspeakers, there was much cheering and backslapping, and many cigarettes came our way!”

Prisoners at the camp were allowed quite a lot of freedom. When they weren’t working they could move freely within 5 miles of the camp in daylight hours. On Sundays a party of about 70 protestants went to a service in Welling Church. Catholics initially had a religious service at the camp led by a German speaking priest, but later they attended a mass arranged by Fr. Nevatt at St. Stephen’s RC Church in Welling. This became known to parishioners as the German Mass and hymns were sung in German.

According to David Lloyd Bathe the prisoners at Working Camp 1020 were discharged from the camp in the spring of 1947. Now, nearly 70 years later, almost all trace of the war-time uses of the golf course and farm has disappeared. Apart from some anomalies in archaeological geophysical surveys at Woodlands Farm all that remains is a couple of ramps leading from Shooters Hill towards the golf course.

Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course
Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course
Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course
Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course