Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Jews of Hatcham 1272 - and some later Jewish folklore

A significant community of Jews established itself in England in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest, and faced considerable prejudice. In 1190, over a hundred Jewish people were massacred in York. In 1219 a law was passed requiring Jews to wear identifying badges. And in 1290, King Edward I issued an edict expelling Jews from the country. Prior to this, they faced punitive taxes - as Christians were formally banned from lending money with interest, Jews tended to fill the role of moneylenders, so were seen as a source of income by the King. From the 1190s and 1290 there was a special office of Exchequer of the Jews which regulated the taxes and financial transactions of Jewish communities.   One effect of the latter was that detailed records were kept of Jews in England which are a goldmine for later historians. Many of these were republished in 1902 in a volume  edited by J.M. Rigg and published by the Selden Society and the Jewish Historical Society of England as 'Select pleas, starrs, and other records from the Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews, A. D. 1220-1284'.  

This includes a record from 1272 which attests to the presence of a group of Jews in New Cross Gate, or as it was then known Hatcham:   'In the same way and on the same account the Sheriff of Surrey  and Sussex was commanded, that he cause to be levied upon the Jews of Guildford 3s., upon the Jews of Chichester 3s., upon the Jews of Arundel 3s., upon the Jews of Lewes 2s., upon the Jews of Seaford  2s., and upon the Jews of Hatcham 2s. ; so that he have those moneys before etc. on the said day, to be delivered to the said Henry. And the Sheriff sent word, that the community of the Jews paid Robert Tayllard, late Constable of Guildford, 3s., to the use of the said Henry, and the said Robert is removed from his bailiwick, and has nought in goods, and is not found in the country; and that the Jews of Chichester belong to the Liberty of Edmund, son of the King of Germany, whose bailiffs had the return, and did nought in execution thereof. And the Jews of Arundel and Lewes have nought except some empty houses, and are not found in his bailiwick. And the Jews of Seaford and Hatcham belong to the Liberty of our Lady the Queen of England, whose bailiffs had the return, and did nought in execution thereof'.

Not entirely sure of the meaning of the passage, but it suggests that taxes were levied on the 'Jews of Hatcham' and others in Surrey and Sussex, that they paid Robert Tayllard (Constable of Guildford) and the latter did a runner. Seemingly the Jews of Hatcham were under the protection of the Queen ('belong to the Liberty of our Lady the Queen of England'.

Jewish Folklore of the East End

Jews were re-admitted to England by Oliver Cromwell, one of a number of reasons why the English revolution that overthrew the monarchy was a good thing for all its failings. Another wave of Jewish migrants arrived in the country in the 19th century, fleeing anti-semitic pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe.  They settled in East London in particular, though there was a synagogue in New Cross. On Thursday November 8th, folklorist and storyteller, Del Reid, will be giving a talk on the Jewish folklore of the East End at South East London Folklore Society. The talk starts at 8 pm at the Old Kings Head in Borough High Street (£2.50/£1.50 concessions) - facebook event details here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lewisham hospital: just how bad is it doctor?

Pretty bad I'm afraid...

The Special Administrator's draft report into the future of South London Healthcare NHS Trust and the NHS in SE London  has been published today. If anybody thought campaigners were scaremongering about the threat to services at Lewisham Hospital and elsewhere, they should have a read of it. Though it might take you a while to understand what it's really saying.

You won't for instance find a clear statement that Lewisham Accident & Emergency  department is to close - rather a recommendation that 'Emergency care for the most critically unwell patients should be provided from four sites - King’s College Hospital [Camberwell], St Thomas’ Hospital [Waterloo], Queen Elizabeth Hospital [Woolwich] and Princess Royal University Hospital [Farnborough]. Alongside this, services at University Hospital Lewisham, Guy’s Hospital and Queen Mary’s Hospital Sidcup will provide urgent care for those that do not need to be admitted to hospital'.

But that amounts to saying that Lewisham will no longer provide 'Emergency care', which it does at the moment. Instead it is suggested that it would provide an 'urgent care service' only for people who don't need to be admitted to hospital. In other words a glorified minor injuries clinic only able to deal with cuts, bruises and minor infections. The report claims that this would still deal with about 77% of the people who currently use Lewisham A&E. Even by the report's own estimation at least 70 of the most seriously injured people attending each day could no longer be treated at Lewisham as it would no longer have the staff or facilities.

The report neglects the vital triage role played by Accident and Emergency departments. When people turn up with an injury at A&E they often don't know how serious it is, and nor is it always immediately apparent to staff. People may turn up with what appears to be a minor injury but then need to be admitted for emergency care - trouble is they won't be able to get it at Lewisham. Not all the most seriously injured come in via ambulances which could drive them to an alternative facility. For instance, sadly in somewhere like Lewisham there are too many people who get beaten, stabbed or even shot and find their own way to A&E. The report suggests that if somebody needs emergency care they could be transferred via ambulance - but they could be dead by the time they get from Lewisham to Woolwich, a journey time which AA Route Planner times at 22 minutes assuming normal traffic.

The report has many misleading statements - it claims that the average journey time to A&E for Lewisham residents would increase by only 11 minutes by car or 14 minutes by public transport. Of course if you live at the Blackheath end of Lewisham borough, the increase in journey time may not be as dramatic. But if you live near Lewisham Hospital it's a different story - Transport for London's journey planner suggests that the quickest public transport journey from Lewisham Hospital to Queen Elizabeth Hospital takes around 50 minutes during the day, including a 15 minute walk at the Woolwich end from the 54 bus stop.

Taking away Emergency care facilities from Lewisham will cost lives. It will also radically impact on the rest of the hospital - for instance maternity services cannot be delivered in the same way without emergency care on site, and the role of Lewisham as a teaching hospital would be undermined. I will return to look at some of the wider implications of the report when I've had time to digest it properly.
A right Jeremy Hunt - Do you really want to hurt me?
(SE London homeboy Boy George tweeted tonight:
'Lewisham Hospital A&E to shut? Look at cutting the wages at the top in the NHS
 and stop destroying a wonderful institution'
Officially the report is a draft for consultation, with the final report due to be sent in January to health secretary Jeremy Hunt for final decision. But there can be no doubt that the recommendations would never have seen the light of day without the agreement of ministers. Behind the managerial rhetoric of 'securing sustainable NHS services' there are doubtless some crude political calculations. How else to explain how a report originally prompted by problems at South London Healthcare Trust, which covers Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley, ends up recommending the most direct cuts in another area altogether - Lewisham? Surely the fact that Bexley and Bromley are Conservative boroughs, and Lewisham has hardly a Tory in sight, couldn't be a factor?


For details of the campaign to save Lewisham A&E, including a forthcoming public meeting and protest check Save Lewisham Hospital.

An online petition has also been set up here: 'We, the undersigned, note with great concern the proposals in respect of A&E and maternity services at Lewisham Hospital contained in the draft report of the Special Administrator of the South London Healthcare Trust published on 29 October 2012. We believe a full admitting A&E service and a full maternity service at Lewisham Hospital must remain'.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

London Folk and Roots Festival

The 'London Folk and Roots Festival' is on today at the Amersham Arms in New Cross, with lots of great acoustic music happening from 3 pm until late - all for £3 entry before 7 pm, and £5 thereafter.

Acts include Michele Stodart, The Magic Numbers' bassist who has recently released a solo album:

... and Keston Cobblers Club who hail from deep within the rural end of the Borough of Bromley, close to the source of the mighty River Ravensbourne.

Acts and approximate times are as follows:

HANK DOGS ...11.20



Friday, October 26, 2012

Save Lewisham Hospital - it's on!

The day after Lewisham NHS Choir were seen by millions on BBC, the BBC has reported tonight that Lewisham's Accident and Emergency department will next week be recommended for closure:

'A London hospital trust which ran up debts of £150m should be divided up, a report will say next week. Spiralling debts led to South London Healthcare Trust becoming the first NHS trust to be put into administration. A government-appointed administrator will say on Monday its three hospitals should be hived off to nearby trusts...Lewisham Hospital's A&E unit has been earmarked for closure in the report, six months after it reopened as part of a £12m refit...

The Princess Royal is likely to be taken over by King's Health Partners in south London, Queen Mary's would be taken over by a mix of Dartford and Gravesham and Oxleas NHS trusts and the Queen Elizabeth is expected to join up with Lewisham Hospital'.

The rationale, such as it is, seems to be that Lewisham will merge with Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich, and as the latter has an A & E they won't need two! The whole point of casualty departments though is that they are close to the communities they serve so that people can get quick access to healthcare in an emergency (clue's in the name). For most people in Lewisham the far side of Woolwich Common might as well be the moon, especially if they are in distress, don't have a car, or can't drive it (yes sometimes people who need emergency care have been drinking). Increasing the journey time to hospital will put lives at risk.
It will also lead to a downgrading of Lewisham Hospital, paving the way for further closures in the future.

The Save Lewisham A&E Campaign is now officially underway. There's a Public Meeting on Thursday, 8th November, 6-8pm in Lessoff Auditorium at the Hosptial (Speakers: Jim Dowd MP, Heidi Alexander MP, Mayor Steve Bullock, Dr Louise Irvine, local GP and BMA council member and others).

A demonstration 'Hands Around Our Hospital' is planned for Saturday 24th November: 2pm, march from Loampit Vale roundabout to Lewisham Hospital, 3pm, link hands around Lewisham Hospital. Be there.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lewisham NHS Choir

Well done Lewisham NHS Choir for their performance in the final of BBC's The Choir, broadcast tonight. Despite a fine version of Stevie Wonder's 'For Once in My Life', they didn't win, still they made it to the final three.

I am sure we haven't heard the last from them - you can follow them on twitter to keep track of what they're up to.

Let's hope they won't need to perform a 'Save Lewisham Hospital' benefit. As mentioned here recently, a report due out next week could have serious implications for Lewisham NHS Trust.  According to somebody who posted a comment at Transpontine earlier today:

'staff across the Trust have been informed that the executive will be meeting with them on Monday 29th October to update them on the Special Administrator's recommendations. Earlier briefings by the executive to Consultants have indicated:

i) The loss of a Acute Surgey
ii) Downgrading of the A&E to an Urgent Care Centre
iii) Possible loss of Maternity and Paediatric services
iv) Knock on effects on the viability of an ITU.

If Lewisham residents don't wake up to this and FAST, it will be too late'.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Goldheart Assembly

Good gig coming up tomorrow night (Thursday October 25th) at the Amersham Arms in New Cross with Goldheart Assembly for a mere £5 (£4 students). The band are about to go off supporting Band of Horses on a big European tour, and they have the big tunes and harmonies to match. Apparently they are not keen on the comparison, but if you like Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver etc. check them out - it might be one of those moments like early Bloc Party, Art Brut and Long Blondes gigs where in a few years you'll be saying 'can't believe I once saw them in a pub in New Cross'.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Leathermarket Gardens Street Art SE1

Some nice street art on hoardings at Leathermarket Gardens, a small park in Bermondsey. My personal favourite is the fox in a tube carriage by Paint my Panda

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Rotunda Radicals in SE1 (1830s)

Lots still going on at the Cuts Cafe, the temporarily occupied space in Stamford Street SE1 in the lead up to Saturday's big anti-austerity demonstration in London. I popped along last week and heard an interesting talk from someTravellers Solidarity Network activists, veterans of last year's Dale Farm eviction in Essex (incidentally they are protesting in London this Friday on the anniversary of the eviction).

Past Tense remind us that 'Just over the road, on the north side of Stamford Street where it meets Blackfriars Road, once stood the Rotunda... For a few short years nearly two centuries ago, this was the most influential radical social and political meeting space of its era.. Founded as a ‘Freethought Coliseum’ and debating club, with a capacity of 1000 people, sometime in the 1780s, the Rotunda stumbled through various owners and numerous uses, until it was taken over by Richard Carlile in 1830, when it entered a brief golden age.  Carlile was a leading radical and freethinker in the 1820s and ’30s: famous/infamous, depending largely on how religious or orthodox you were politically, as a publisher and printer...

In November 1830, at the height of the Reform agitation, armed crowds met at the Rotunda, waving radical newspapers and attempted to march to Parliament:  “On Monday night (8 Nov 1830) a meeting was held at the Rotunda in Blackfriars road… an individual exposed a tricoloured flag, with "Reform" painted upon it, and a cry of "Now for the West End" was instantly raised. This seemed to serve as a signal, as one and all sallied forth in a body. They then proceeded over the bridge in numbers amounting to about 1,500 shouting, "Reform" - "Down with the police" - "No Peel" - "No Wellington." They were joined by women of the town, vociferous in declamations against the police... The mob proceeded into Downing-street, where they formed in a line… A strong body of the new police arrived from Scotland yard to prevent them going to the House of Commons. A general fight ensued...".

William Knight, one of those arrested, was found to be carrying a will bequeathing his body, in the event of his death, to the barricades in the cause of Liberty! The Duke Of Wellington considered the battle for the future of society as one of “The Establishment Vs The Rotunda.” Two days later, the military besieged the Rotunda at ten o’clock at night trying to provoke another fight; they ordered Carlile to open the doors, but he refused... After Carlile was jailed for supporting the Swing rioters, the National Union of the Working Classes (NUWC) became the co-tenant of the Rotunda, in July 1831. They held mass debates here; according to leading London reformer (and police informer!) Francis Place: “I have seen hundreds outside the doors for whom there was no room within.” ' (lots more at Cuts Cafe: We Rememeber the Rotunda)

After the departure of the Rotunda radicals (sometimes known as Rotundists), the building continued in various incarnations, including as a music hall and a warehouse, before it was finally demolished in 1958.

Inside the Rotunda

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Andy Worthington's Photographic Journey

Brockley-based writer and Guantanamo Bay campaigner Andy Worthington has set himself the task of cycling around every part of London and photographing what he comes across. He's already put up some fine images of Deptford, Blackheath, and a journey from Belmarsh to Plumstead, among others.

A tree on Hilly Fields by Andy Worthington
You can view the full sets so far on flickr.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Music Monday: Mercury Prize 2012

Last year's Mercury music prize included several South East London connections, with Peckham's Katy B and James Blake both out of Goldsmiths in New Cross, Plumstead's finest Tinie Tempah, sometime New Cross pub denizen Anna Calvi, not to mention ex-West Norwood resident Adele.

The 2012 shortlist has a few local links, though less South East than South West London. Folk singer Sam Lee is a visiting tutor at Goldsmiths:

Jessie Ware is from Brixton (born in Clapham):

Lianne La Havas grew up in Tooting and Streatham - she went to Norbury Manor sixth form:

Guess we could claim the Maccabees too even though they are from way out South West. They formed at the famous Elliott School, Putney where The XX, Hot Chip, Four Tet and Burial all went. Guitarist Felix White went to posh Dulwich private school Alleyn's, as did Jessie Ware incidentally.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Convoys Wharf from the River

The future of the Convoys Wharf/ex-Royal Dockyard site on the riverfront at Deptford continues to be the focus of various plans and visions (as documented at Deptford Is and elsewhere). Earlier this year, I got to explore the site during an archaeology tour. A few weeks ago I got a different perspective, walking along the Thames shore in front of the site.

Essentially the site presents a fenced off face to the river, though the timber structures that extended from the site into the river are accessible, used in the past to unload whatever was being brought ashore there (most recently newsprint in the 1980s when the site was owned by News International).

Bird footprints in the sand at Deptford

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Keep Lewisham Hospital A&E Open

It's difficult to tell at this stage whether there is a real threat that the Accident & Emergency department at Lewisham could be closed or scaled back (see report in News Shopper). What is certain is that health services in South East London are in crisis following the South London Healthcare Trust being put into administration in July 2012.  It seems that the administrator,  Matthew Kershaw, will be making sweeping recommendations later this month with implications for health services right across the area  - not just the hospitals run by the trust - Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, Sidcup's Queen Mary's, Bromley's Princess Royal and Orpington Hospital. Lewisham A& E is just one of many services that could be affected, though we won't know the details until his report is published on October 29th.

I have had to use Lewisham A&E a number of times with my children, and have been enormously grateful that it's there. The thought that people in Lewisham needing urgent help for injuries would have to travel to often overstretched casualty departments at Woolwich or Camberwell (Kings) is horrific.

A Save Lewisham A&E campaign is already taking shape. They say:

'In July, Tory Health Minister Andrew Lansley MP hand-picked a ‘special administrator’ to take over South London Healthcare Trust. They had immense debts caused by political mismangement- unaffordable bank loans were taken out at the same time rules were introduced to ban the NHS distributing money from profitable areas to those that were in need. So, despite excellent rates of infection and low mortality, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Queen Mary’s, Sidcup, Princess Royal, Farnborough and Orpington Hospital were deemed failures.

However, although the NHS is now structured so that individual trusts cannot receive surplus money from other areas, when it comes to savage cuts, the opposite applies. The Administrator will swing his axe throughout south London’s success stories to fund a trust’s losses- starting with Lewisham Hospital’s newly refurbished A&E.

Closing our A&E will mean only one Emergency Department in the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley, which have a combined population in excess of 750,000 people. Queen Mary’s in Bexley was recently closed to increase the numbers using Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The trick cannot be repeated ad infinitum, because there is a law of diminishing returns which will be expressed in mortality rates. But the Special Administrator wants to massively increase the number of people attending Queen Elizabeth Hospital, so that the services which he will recommend be auctioned off to private companies and neighbouring Foundation Trusts have a massive footfall.

And this is at the same time he is recommending £100 MILLION of cuts in 5 years to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. South-east London needs more than one A&E, no matter how good the ones we currently have are. Do not be fooled into thinking any of our A&Es have to close for the sake of patients, it is being done to cover up for past political failures'.

It might be a bit too early to take to the barricades, but if this proposal is seriously put forward a line will have been drawn in the sand and it will be up to people in SE London to show en masse that we will not accept such attacks on vital health services. 

Campaigners against an earlier threat to reduce hours at Lewisham A&E in 2009

Monday, October 08, 2012

Cuts Cafe opens in SE1

In the build up to the TUC-called 'A Future that Works' demonstration on October 20th, a building by the South end  of Blackfriars Bridge has been occupied as a temporary Cuts Cafe. The address was announced today as 1 Stamford Street, SE1. They say:

'The government tells us that cuts to public services and social security are needed to save an economy in crisis, but in reality the crisis is capitalism. For the two weeks leading up to the Trade Union Congress demonstration on October 20th, Cuts CafĂ© will provide a radical space in Central London to build resistance to these devastating cuts, and to explore the real alternatives to austerity.

It will be open for all of us who are affected, whether we are people with disabilities, women, migrants, workers, pensioners, students, unemployed… or anyone else not part of the privileged elite who are enriching themselves in this ‘crisis’. By sharing this reclaimed space, we hope people working in their community, local anti-cuts, student, or autonomous groups, as well as the trade unions, will be able to collectively and democratically build positive alternatives with which to challenge the ‘politics as usual’ forced upon us.

This will be an opportunity for connections to form outside of those groups that we may already be involved with, and to reinvigorate the anti-cuts movement at the grassroots level'.

Lots of events planned, including meetings, films (including a Q&A with Ken Loach) and even Cuts Against the Cuts free haircuts!

Music Monday: Smoke Fairies in a Peckham Alley

Folk/blues duo Smoke Fairies recently recorded a live version of their song 'The Three of Us' for ID magazine 'down our favourite alley in Peckham'. Not sure exactly where, no doubt someone will identify the location:

(thanks to Andrew for spotting this)

Friday, October 05, 2012

Crystal Palace Car Race 1962

The Crystal Palace car racing circuit was in use from the 1920s until the early 1970s.  This programme from June 1962 (found inevitably on Deptford market) was for a day of races including the Formula One Crystal Palace Trophy and the Formula 2 Anerely Trophy. The event was organised by the British Automobile Racing Club, with the support of London County Council Parks Department. 

From the programme, a map of the mark with the racing circuit shown going around the 'National Recreation Centre under construction'.

Here's some film of the track in use in 1964:

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

October 20th Anti-Cuts March: South London Assembly Point

Last March up to half a million people took part in the March for the Alternative anti-cuts demonstration in London. On October 20th, the TUC and others have called the 'A Future that Works' march on a similar basis. A South London feeder march is being organised, assembling at Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park by the Imperial War Museum at 10.30 am.

Further information on the South London mobilisation at Southwark Save Our Services.

On October 5th, a Cuts Cafe will open in London as 'a radical reclaimed space in London to build resistance to the cuts, and to explore real alternatives to austerity. The location will be disclosed shortly at:

Monday, October 01, 2012

Lewisham 1956: 'Rock Rock Rock!'

The 1956 release of the film Rock Around the Clock famously saw riotous scenes at cinemas around the country. The trouble at the Gaumont cinema in Lewisham has been mentioned here before.  The Observer recently reproduced an article about it by Anthony Sampson, originally published in the paper on 16 September 1956.

'Nobody in the one-and-tenpennies at the Lewisham Gaumont took much notice of the News. The pretty Teddy girl next to us, with an apple face, short tousled hair and a pony-tail, had her feet up on the seats in front and was smoking a cigarette.

She was 15, and she worked in a shoe-store at New Cross, she said. The boy on whose lap she was sitting was 18, on leave from the army. They talked to the American girl next to me. "What are American teenagers like? I bet they're hep-cats! But the Americans got no one like Diana Dors. She's gorgeous. I don't like that Marilyn girl – she's covered in make-up."

The News ended. "I'm getting in the groove," yelled a small boy unconvincingly. Some more boys – all with the same cropped hair and long dark coats – sat down in a bunch.The title appeared – Rock Around the Clock. There was a shout of "doyng" – a teenage cry. Then a loud, wild shout beat out, with a sudden throbbing, like an express train rushing through a station. One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock ROCK! Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock ROCK!

Everyone roared the words. Then, just before the music stopped, the stamping stopped. The plot – about a dance band promoter suffering from the dance band slump – took over. "I've seen it five times," said the soldier. "I'm going every night this week. You should have seen this place last night. Jiving on the stage they were, till the cops came."

There were six policemen standing around the auditorium. The plot reached the stage where the promoter was being taken to see a village dance hall. There was great tension as he approached. He pushed the door open and said: "See you later, Alligator."

The audience roared the words as jivers whirled across the screen. The stamping and finger-snapping started again. A boy in front stood up and started jiving in front of his seat. A policeman appeared at the end of the row and pointed firmly at him. The boy hesitated for a moment, looked at his friends, and then walked sullenly out with the policeman, followed by some of his friends. There was a mutter of resentment, but the stamping went on.

One of the boys came back. "They got a meat-wagon in front and put Ernie in it," he said. There was a lot of growling and then 20 of them trooped out, pulling faces at the policemen and jerking their knees towards them as they passed.They came out on the pavement, where hundreds of people were waiting expectantly. Three policemen followed them, edging them down the road in a slow march. As soon as they got ahead of the police, the ringleader of the group shouted ROCK ROCK ROCK, and two girls started jiving while everyone clapped. A police car glided up: someone shouted "The law!", and they all walked faster.

The Gaumont Palace was on Loampit Vale and later became the Lewisham Odeon. The building was demolished in 1991.