Monthly Archives: February 2011

Dowager’s Bottom

Having said in the previous post that I couldn’t find The Crown Pub on John Rocque’s London survey map from 1746, I’ve found it on another site:
Section from John Rocque's survey map of Blackheath

If you look just below the delightfully named “Dowager’s Bottom”, you can see a sprinkling of buildings, around the triangle that is now Tranquil Vale and the Royal Parade.

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What’s going on with The Crown Pub rebuild?

Detail from the Crown Pub Blackheath planning documents sent to Lewisham council
I’ve been a bit lax in not mentioning the redesign of The Crown Pub, as noted in the comments to an unrelated ovine-post:

I always read this excellent blog with great interest, but I can’t believe that one thing has gone without comment on these pages. I went into the village last night for a pint only to find that my regular watering hole The Crown was a building site. It looks very much as if they have ripped out the lovely bay windows (with the two big leather seats) and are replacing them with a flat wall and french doors. How can they be allowed to change the face of such an old and surely protected building so much!?
Yours,
Shocked of Charlton on the 380 bus route

Above is a detail from the planning permission documents at Lewisham Council. Interestingly the original plans for two “jumbobrellas” at the front were withdrawn after 21 complaints were made (I’ve no idea if these two events are related). See the a drawing from the original submission below:

Crown Pub planning drawing from a previous withdrawn request

The Crown Pub Blackheath in its current state

Above is a photo from today, where you can see that the bay windows have been removed to make way for wider openable doors. Which I can’t help feeling might make it feel brighter and more appealing, particularly in the summer.

Neil Rhind in his excellent book Blackheath Village and Environs Volume 1 dates it back to at least 1773 (the first record of a licensee), with a building having been present on the same site during the John Rocque survey of 1741-1746. I had a look at the map here, but couldn’t see it. If anyone with better eyes can, please send me the details! UPDATE: Found it.

Neil points out that it has undergone many renovations during its lifetime, starting out as a building “only three doors wide, with a round-headed door at the entrance”. (page 99).

It’s never been my favourite pub in the area though… Who knows, maybe the improvements will change that… If they re-instate the pole climbing competition of 1892, where a leg of mutton was attached to the top of the pub sign post, I’d definitely come along to watch!

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Gated in Blackheath

Here’s an interview with Blake Morrison (he of the library read-in the other day):
http://theguide.greatbritishlife.co.uk/article/the-great-divide-6501/

It was spotted by Kidbrooke Kite, who focused on the issue of gates around the Cator Estate, including some photos:

http://www.kidbrookekite.co.uk/2011/02/cator-estate-becoming-gated-estate.html

The full interview also mentions many great things about living in Blackheath, not just the gates. I’m not a fan of the gates… Maybe it could be renamed the Cator Compound?

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Can I graze my sheep on the heath?

Marrow with feta and mint
A friend of mine really likes feta cheese. He lives in Blackheath. As a way of reducing costs in this age of austerity, someone suggested that a way to beat the supermarkets at their own game would be to buy a sheep, graze it on the heath every day, and return it to the back garden in the evening.

Is this possible? I had no idea, so I fired off an email to both Lewisham and Greenwich councils. Lewisham council got back to me very quickly, saying that it definitely isn’t legal. Here are the relevant bits of legislation, if you’re interested:

Metropolitan Commons Act 1866
Metropolitan Commons Supplemented act 1871 [Ch Ivii]

6. “except for those persons who now by law are entitled to do so, it shall not be lawful, without the consent of the board in writing, to turn out on the heath for grazing any cattle, sheep, or other animal”.

Existing bye laws London County Council 1932

25. No person shall turn out to graze or feed or allow or suffer to stray or remain any cattle, sheep, swine, horse, ass, mule, goose, duck, fowl, or other animal in any open space without right or without the consent of the council in writing under the hand of its Clerk.

Interestingly an additional bye-law on this subject is currently being drafted between Lewisham and Greenwich councils, with the Blackheath Joint Working Party, which includes the following clause:

Draft Byelaws
London Borough of Lewisham
Blackheath Open Space, London SE13

13. No persons shall without the consent of the council turn out or permit any animal for which he is responsible to graze in the ground.

Which is pretty specific, although I note with interest that no consideration is given to scavenging home-made robots. Which may have to be left for a post another day.

The photo (including feta) above shows a recipe for feta and stuffed marrow, from the wonderful Smallest Kitchen blog. The marrows are from the farmer’s market, and it is highly recommended.

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Library Occupation

Fantastic account of the overnight library sit-in at New Cross Library. Why didn’t Blackheath do this?!

http://se13ure.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/new-cross-library-occupation-inside-story/

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I scream

Black Vanilla, morris minor, library protest,
Black Vanilla is the new coffee and ice-cream shop in Blackheath village. It bills itself as a boutique bakery and gelateria. The decor is modern, stark, bright, and shiny. The coffee was good. In a previous life I spent many hours taming steaming espresso machines. It’s harder than it looks. Theirs had just the right amount of foam. Having said that, so does Hand Made Food’s, whose milk tastes better, and they have much more space to sit down. But no ice cream.

The seating area feels really cramped. A huge amount of space is taken up by a pastry table that could just as easily be a shelf against a wall. The entire serving area feels as though it is intruding on the seating space by about half a metre.

The ice creams (no, I’m refusing to call them gelato) look amazing, but I haven’t tried them yet.

Sitting inside, the cost of a latte and a cappuccino came to £5.95. This seemed pretty steep, but I’m sure the rental in that location on the high street is horrendous, so they should be given the benefit of the doubt. The staff are a mixed bag – one woman – possibly the manager/owner seemed friendly and efficient. The Italian(?) man making the coffee did an excellent job. The other girl seemed a little confused as though this was her first part-time work, and she hadn’t had to deal with customers before.. Not rude at all, just a little forgetful.

On a Saturday afternoon the place was heaving with customers. It’s a great location, and right now it seems to be pitched at exactly the right level for the high street crowds. As I was leaving the library protests, there was a brilliant juxtaposition: some wealthy looking girls walking down the high street with their conspicuously-consumed tubs of ice cream in their hands, slack-jawed and gawping at the Morris Minor blaring dub reggae about the library cuts. Welcome to South London.

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Books as doves

Blackheath Village Library Read-In Protest

Neil Rhind spoke about the history of libraries in Blackheath, and then revealed that he had popped into the Blackheath Standard library recently, because he needed to check something in his book Blackheath Village and Environs Volume 2, but couldn’t find it on the shelf. A library assistant informed him that “it’s always out. It’s the most stolen book from our library, after the bible”. He seemed delighted by this!

Here’s an extract from the reading by Blake Morrison, from his book The Justification of Johann Gutenberg

One day in the forest, when he was feeding the birds, he says, “it was as if the dove that perched [on my hand] spreading its wings had become an open book. And the dove departing from me was like a book taking flight. And the grain the dove held in its beak was like a kernel of knowledge seeding itself through the world.”

A very pertinent passage, as the grain is about to be snatched from the beaks of future generations.

Both Blake Morrison and Nicholas Cranfield (the vicar from All Saints Church) emphasised the community aspects of the library. Blake Morrison described what he called “bibliotherapy” – the act of reading with others, as something of great value. He emphasised that when politicians define the needs for cuts across services, they often draw a choice between front-line healthcare services, or library services. He spoke very well about his experiences, and said that library services often actively reduce the need for healthcare, by nurturing people’s minds, reducing their reliance on other services. I guess this sort of symbiotic relationship is hard to prove on a balance sheet, but it certainly chimes with my gut feeling of how a library benefits society. Nicholas Cranfield spoke of libraries as a “civilising force”.

On the downside, there wasn’t enough space for the protest inside the library- they should have held it outside with a PA (maybe they could have borrowed the mic from the crazy morris minor sound-system, or moved the bookshelves to make space for the protestors – the shelves were on wheels, so why not make some space?!

All in all, it was an uplifting experience. I’m just not sure that Lewisham Council was paying attention.

(Photo credit: Mrs Bugle, deep undercover…)

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