Woodman Parade smartening up cont.

Thanks to the sunshine, we managed to finish weeding the pavement and painting the railings at Woodman Parade, Westwood Lane on 29 April. Well done to everyone involved over the last two weeks. And thanks to the ice-cream van man and The Broken Drum for much-needed refreshments afterwards!


Smartening up nicely

At 10am on Saturday 22 April a group of volunteers met to paint the railings and weed the pavement along Woodman Parade in Westwood Lane, Blackfen. We were joined by Rt Hon. James Brokenshire, MP and Councillors Louie French, Cafer Munur and Lynn Smith. Despite the rain (how unlucky!) we carried on and it has made such a difference in just a couple of hours.

Thank you to Raw Hair Salon for the tea/coffee and biscuits! We will return soon to continue the job.

And happy 2nd birthday to The Broken Drum!


Southeastern: the future

Southeastern has published a consultation document ‘Shaping the Future’. At 46 pages long you would be forgiven for missing the lines on page 23 which say: “There would be a limit to the improvements that could be made to the timetable without also reducing the number of central London stations served from certain locations at particular times. An example might be for all Metro services on the north Kent (between Dartford and
Charlton), Greenwich and Bexleyheath lines to terminate at Cannon Street only. We believe that the simplicity of a regular service to a single London terminal throughout the day would benefit both regular and occasional passengers.”
If you travel on the Bexleyheath line to Charing Cross or Victoria you would be advised to complete the online survey as a response to this consultation. The DOCUMENT is here: https://www.gov.uk/…/south-eastern-rail-franchise-public-co…. The SURVEY is here: http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/QHQQM/

There is also an online petition https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/190894 but the important thing is to complete the survey and make your feelings known.

Blackfen Community Easter Event

Come along to Blackfen on Saturday 8th April 10am-2pm for free children’s activities and raffle.

There will be 400 Easter Eggs to give to the first 400 children (with parent/guardian) who take part in a fun word search game. Go to Blackfen Community Library between 10am and 2pm to pick up your sheet, then visit Blackfen’s shops to collect stamped letters to complete a phrase. Return to the library afterwards to collect your egg! You could also win a prize in the raffle!

There will be farm animals and local emergency services at the Co-op car park, and the George Staples pub will have a bouncy castle.

The event has been organised by Hilary Maile of Shimmer Salon. Thanks to all the traders for taking part in the game and providing raffle prizes. Thanks also to the generosity of local councillors who have contributed the full cost of all the Easter eggs.

Easter 2017

Who’s Who of Blackfen

On 18 March I’ll be giving a talk at Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre on ‘Who’s Who of Bexley’.

Talk advert

Of course I will be including some of the names from Blackfen who have been in Who’s Who.

Sir Vesey Holt, KBE, banker, lived at Queenswood, Blackfen from 1868 and later lived at Mount Mascal in North Cray. There is also Brig.-Gen. Sir Charles Martel and his son Lt-Gen. Sir Giffard Martel who both lived at Queenswood, Blackfen from 1910. Mike Rann lived in Blackfen as a child but emigrated to New Zealand and was Ambassador of Australia to the UK 2012-14. Audrey Slaughter lived in Blackfen as a child and became a writer and magazine editor. George Wallace, MP, later Lord Wallace of Coslany lived in Blackfen and it was his intervention that saved Queen Mary’s Hospital from closure in 1948. And Rev. David Silk who started his career in Blackfen went on to become Bishop of Ballarat in Australia.

To book a ticket and for more information about events at Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre, see http://www.bexley.gov.uk/archiveevents.


Is Blackfen in London or Kent?

Blackfen has for centuries been a small hamlet in the parish of Bexley in the county of Kent.

Administrative changes in 1894 meant that Blackfen became part of the new Bexley Urban District Council but in 1910 the southern half of Blackfen was transferred to Foots Cray Urban District Council, renamed Sidcup UDC in 1921 and in 1934 becoming Chislehurst and Sidcup UDC. In 1965 Blackfen was united once again into the London Borough of Bexley under the London Government Act. Ever since then, residents have argued over whether the Borough of Bexley is part of London or part of Kent.

Many, and perhaps younger generations in particular, identify more with London. If someone asks where I live, I say different things according to who has asked. Sometimes I say south-east London to avoid notions that I live in a picturesque village, but I always feel a terrible sense of disloyalty when I do this. Usually I would instinctively say Kent.

When I commute to central London each day, I do feel that I leave Kent in the morning and return to it each evening. When driving down the Maidstone Road between Ruxley and Swanley and reaching the ‘Welcome to Kent’ sign, I always protest “but I was already in Kent.”

How has this contradiction come about? Since 1965 Bexley has been a London Borough. We are eligible to vote for the London Mayor and part of our council tax goes towards funding the Greater London Authority. Bexley is under the Metropolitan Police and our regional television is London. However, Bexley does not have a London postcode.

Why does it have such great importance? After all, these are just administrative factors. A sense of belonging is a core part of our being. The Kent motto ‘Invicta’ (meaning ‘undefeated’) was adopted just after the Norman Conquest, and that motto was applied at the Battle of Britain in 1940 which was fought in the skies over Kent. The symbol of Kent, the white horse, is included in the Bexley Borough Coat of Arms.

The only reason Bexley does not have a London postcode is because the Post Office was not able to expand its London postal district after 1965 due to the prohibitive cost. If this changes, is it inevitable that one day people will forget that Bexley was once part of Kent? I hope not!

Lt-Gen. Sir Giffard Martel, KCB, KBE, DSO, MC

Giffard Le Quesne Martel, born in 1889, lived at Queenswood House, Blackfen after his family moved there in 1910. After attending the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers. He served in France from 1914 and took an active interest in the development of tanks. After the war he lived in Camberley, Surrey and he built a workshop in his garden where he built a prototype one-man tank which others later developed into the British light tank and machine-gun carrier. He also served in the Second World War in France, India, Burma and Moscow. He was described as “a remarkable officer and constitutionally fearless… a natural bruiser… with a deep hoarse laugh”.

NPG x83846; Sir Giffard Le Quesne Martel by Bassano

Lt-Gen. Sir Giffard Martel (from National Portrait Gallery)

It was when he was back in London in 1944 that he lost an eye in the bombing of the Army and Navy Club. He died in 1958: he was found dead, shot in the head, with the shotgun near the body.

His parents, Brig.-Gen. Sir Charles Martel and Lilian Martel, lived at Queenswood until 1931, when the estate was sold to the housing developer, C. R. Leech.