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Southend-on-Sea Pier

Used for pleasure and as the RNLI lifeboat station, Southend Pier is the longest in the world. Designed by James Brunlees, this 2,2158m construction consists of hardwood decking upon iron piles and was opened in 1830. The original construction, however, was first opened in 1830 after receiving Royal Assent the previous year and was of complete wooden structure. Southend was the first pier to operate a railway in Britain, which opened in the early 1890’s.


West Beach and Pier Pavilion, Southend on Sea (1900s)

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Southend Pier played a part in both World Wars. During WWI three ships were moored off the pierhead, one held German soldiers captured in France and the other two held civilians. Remarkedly, the pier remained open for recreation.

During WWII the pier was taken over by the Navy, renamed HMS Leigh and was closed to the public. In November 1939 a ninety-minute air raid was deferred by the pier’s defenders. 84,000 ships passed Southend in total, with only one casualty—SS Richard Montgomery and we have blogged about this ship already [here].

Post war, the pier flourished for several years but in 1959 a fire destroyed the pavilion which was located at the shore end. Five-hundred people were trapped and in need of rescue, which happened by boat. The pavilion was replaced by a ten-pin bowling alley and holidaying to Southend reached was reaching its heyday.

As holidaymakers turned to package holidays abroad, Southend like many other British seaside towns begun to decline and the pier run into disrepair. Several fires later and by 1980, the council announced its plans to close the pier. Protesters battled to keep it open.

Fire has destroyed parts of the pier several times, and in October 2005 it caused significant damage to the old pierhead and surrounding structures. By 1st December of the same year, it had reopened to the public once again and by 2007 had won pier of the year.

Southend seafront has seen considerable investment and regeneration over the past few years, and in our opinion is worthy of a visit!


by Donna Siggers and David Last
Postcard image credit, Elizabeth Ponder

LondonCrime (DotCoDotUK)

LondonCrime is a fantastic website owned and managed by Jim Fletcher. Operating in its third year and dedicated to Jim’s love of our city and of its criminal history he set up the promotional site in honour of his late father.

Upon the site you have access to “the best London gangster books, movies, history and more” you can “explore the history of London's crime” and “watch the best London movies”. If that’s not enough, you are also able to “read fiction and true crime books and explore the history

of London's criminal underworld”. At least if you cannot do that on the site (of which some you can) you can access the films and books through it.

If you love everything London, you will absolutely love LondonCrime! Working tirelessly into the night, reading or watching new material that Jim feels would benefit from being added (what an excuse) every book or film is scrutinised before its added. Each has to fit Jim’s criteria that the storyline is based in London—there is just once exception to this rule and its Donna that Jim has broken it for “because he can”, as the man himself says.

Who is Jim, who is the man behind LondonCrime? An engineer, Jim balances family life and work (as well as working on the website). Many might not know but as an essential worker, Jim has continued to work throughout the pandemic as his company produce essential components. He works extremely hard and he works long hours. Once home he, of course, has family responsibilities to take care of before embarking on his website duties. That might be adding new material, creating metadata and yes Donna and Jim have conversations about that) or spending time with his essential product research!

This passion spills out into all he puts his heart into and LondonCrime is included in that. Engineering (see what I did there) a team to help with promotions, Jim is our driving force, our enthusiasm and momentum.


Please visit Jim's site once you've finished reading all about the man himself!

www.londoncrime.co.uk

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Striving for the success of others is just one outstanding quality that Jim as. As one of the team members of LondonCrime, Donna knows how much dedication goes on behind the scenes and also that he is no stranger of putting his hand in his pocket to help others strive. All the promotions Jim does for others are done for the love of what he’s read or watched and that’s humbling—all is cost free for us authors and film makers.

 Given what Jim does, what might motivate him? We’ve already shared that the website was set up in memory of Jim’s father, Jim shares that he was “ a larger-than-life figure, he was a man with a heart of gold and well respected”. Jim has shared some stories that, perhaps, can be told another day but one he has mentioned recently is that “he was once cut up in town as a long-distance lorry driver, and known for having a short fuse at times he lost his patience with this caravan driver and proceeded to put a crowbar through the caravan roof!”

Poignant, was his friendship with Michael Luvaglio. Jim shares with us that his father “worked and was friends with Michael in the early 1960s.” “Luvaglio and Dennis Stafford were both convicted of murdering Angus Sibbet in January 1967.”  “Being bought up with my father firmly stating that there was no way that either Michael or Dennis would have committed this crime, and after losing my father in 2014, I persevered with trying to find out as much as possible about it, the people involved and tried to help Michaels case in proving his innocence.” Jim has worked extremely hard, on this case, including sending letters to MP’s and the CCRC which were met with repeated resistance. Jim still feels, to this day, there was a massive cover-up during the whole case. Pleased to have been able to contact Neil Jackson, another expert on this case, who was able to relay messages to Michael on his behalf, Jim hopes that his innocence will one day be proven. Unfortunately, Michael has now passed away and won’t see this day for himself.

Jim loves music and at the tender age of seven saw Bill Haley and the Comets in concert at Hammersmith Palais, which he has revealed was in 1974 (so you can do the math on that). He was also taken to see the musical stage show of ‘Grease’ long before it became a film. Having been bought up on a diet of rock and roll, he has assured us his music taste is a lot more varied now! Fascinated by the various subcultures of times past, mods, rockers, teddy boys, skinheads, punks, casuals, etc, Jim feels it's a shame these lifestyles have mostly disappeared.

Jim also promotes other causes when time permits. Beside his passion to see others succeed he hates knife crime and often runs campaigns against it—he strongly believes people can change, given the correct chances. Jim also has dreams for the future, that include LondonCrime becoming a brand and perhaps for that to included publishing true crime and fiction books (and you never know even expanding into LondonCrime films)!


by Donna Siggers and David Last

 


Coalhouse Jetty, Fort & A Queen's Speech

One of the places we like to take a walk is Tilbury as it en-route between our two homes. The history of the place is truly  and every time we visit, there are new discoveries to be made and we thought you’d like a taster of what we found out from our last visit.

Interestingly, the first defences in Tilbury were built during the late Middle Ages to defend against a French attack and there has been a timber jetty at this location since this time, often being destroyed and then rebuilt. The defences consisted of towers and earthworks. Under the reign of Henry VIII, a blockhouse was built which formed part of our costal defence scheme. This stood near the site of a radar tower that served our coast during WWII—incidentally, the radar tower still stands and was marked on maps of the time as a ‘water tower’ to distract the purpose of its use. Built in 1540, the blockhouse would have held fifteen cannons, which were updated to twenty-seven guns just seven years and had guns a range of one mile.

During the Victorian Era, a jetty was built on the same site, allowing barges to unload supplies and armaments. As you can see from the images we took, some of the wooden structures still stand from what was the railway link.


Remains of the jetty at Coalhouse

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Tilbury has an interesting history—once an important gateway to the capital for temporary visitors on liners it also received one of its most important ones back on 9th August 1588. Queen Elizabeth I sailed from London to review her forces who were in preparation to repel the Spanish Armada. Stepping ashore at Tilbury Fort, a short distance from this site, the original building of which her father—Henry VIII—had built as a defence against the French and Spanish, and that had been extended during her reign, our monarch (due to the marshy terrain) travelled up the hill to what is now the modern village of West Tilbury. Local historians have identified the location of Queen Elizabeth’s speech as having taken place in a field next door to the parish church of Chadwell St Mary.

Famously, the speech she made at this location included these words, “…I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king…”

Tilbury Fort bears little resemblance now to the structure Elizabeth I would have seen. Aware of the threat of a Dutch invasion of the capital, Charles II ordered a review of the coastal defences, and the fort was remodeled into its present pentagonal shape, with a double moat. Ironically, given the threat from the Netherlands, the architect was a Dutchman. Other forts were constructed on this vital stretch of the Thames, where the river makes two 90-degree turns. If the artillery from one failed to deter an invader, there were other opportunities to repel the attack.

Four miles along the riverbank, still on the Essex side and near the village of East Tilbury, the Victorians built Coalhouse Fort. Although by the time it was completed the threat of invasion was over, its construction was overseen by a Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon, a job he found less to his taste than his later role in Khartoum. Coalhouse Fort was extended during the First World War, and again in the Second. Extra layers were added to the structure, and large searchlights were installed upon the roof.


Coalhouse Fort WWII Tower


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After years of economic decline there are signs of regeneration, and a growing pride in the area and its heritage. A path, part historical and part wildlife trail is also being developed. When this is finalised the ‘Two Forts Way’ will provide a four-mile walk between the forts: or for those less interested in history, between the pubs next to each.

Coalhouse Fort holds open days, and if a lottery bid succeeds, there will be major renovations. There are no plans as yet to open the grand old Tilbury cruise terminal to the public, but the restaurant is being refurbished and will soon reopen as Tilbury Riverside, a local arts activity center, so there is a lot happening for the future regeneration of this wonderful place.


by Donna Siggers and David Last

St Cedd: A Look Back into Saxon Essex

Thirteen-hundred years ago the Christian faith was being spread throughout Ireland and Scotland. Patrick, in Ireland, had established many monasteries and from there Columba had come to Iona (a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland) where a monastery and other Christian centres were established. From this first Scottish monastery, a man called Aidan was sent, by invitation of King Oswald of Northumbria to set up a monastery at Lindisfarne on the north-east coast. This monastery would also become a school where Anglo-Saxon boys could be trained to become priests and missionaries. It was here that Cedd and his and his brothers Caelin, Cynebil and Chad learnt to read and write in Latin and learnt to teach the Christian faith.

Cedd, after being ordained as a priest later became a bishop. His first mission was to travel to Mercia (the midlands) by request of his ruler, King Paeda, which was a successful mission. After hearing of this success, King Sigbert of the Essex Saxons asked for a similar mission—for Cedd to travel to Essex and teach the Christian faith.

In 653, Cedd sailed down the east coast of England from Lindisfarne to Bradwell, where he found ruins of an old deserted Roman fort. It’s believed he built a small wooden church which was soon replaced by the plentiful stone from the fort, providing a much more permanent building.

The chapel still stands today.

Greatly influenced by the architecture of the churches in Egypt and Syria, Cedd modelled this church in this style. Build on what was called the River Pant (now the River Blackwater) we know that St Anthony of Egypt had built his church from the ruins of a fort on the banks of a river in the same way as Cedd.

Due to the success of Cedd’s mission to the East Saxons he was recalled to Lindisfarne and made Bishop of the East Saxons the same year. His monastery at Bradwell, although simple, would also have been a church. A community of both men and women, a hospital, a library, a school, an arts centre, a farm, a guest house and a mission base. From this base he established other Christian centres at Mersea, Tilbury, Prittlewell and Upminster.

Cedd often travelled north to visit his childhood home and in 659 was introduced to King Ethelwald, who asked him to establish a monastery in Northumbria. While at this site in 664 he caught the plague as he lay dying thirty of his monks from Bradwell came to be with him. They too caught it, with only one boy surviving who returned to Bradwell.


by Donna Siggers and David Last

The Flying Dutchman

Stepping aboard a large houseboat, as an ex-sailor, my eyebrows are raised as Dave announces, "welcome aboard the Flying Dutchman". Glancing through the windows, there's no glimmering golden mirage emerging in the distance of a ghostly ship unable to reach its harbour, nor is there a brewing storm. Instead, we’ve stepped aboard an impressive German vessel of magnificent proportions and decor. Given the history of this ship's name, we asked the owner and his daughter, Mr Smith and Michelle if we could feature The Flying Dutchman on our blog. With huge gratitude, and our utmost respect, we cannot thank them enough for agreeing.

Upon researching it became apparent there have been several boats blessed with the same name, one an international sailing champion, no less. Even a champion race and stud horse, back in the eighteen-hundreds was blessed with this name. The Flying Dutchman has featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and even in the children’s TV series, SpongeBob SquarePants. Notoriously, it’s also an opera by Wagner (1843) adapted from an episode in Heinrich Heine's satirical novel The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski (Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski) (1833), in which a character attends a theatrical performance of The Flying Dutchman in Amsterdam.

This particular boat however was built back in 1957 at the German Naval shipyard, in Suellberg, along the Elbe River in Hamberg. A steel motor yacht, the Flying Dutchman was used by German customs as a patrol vessel during the Cold War, a time that nuclear threats dominated international affairs and that tension remained between East and West Germany after WWII.

The East German border was guarded by the Border Troops, (Pogranichnyie Voiska) of the Soviet NKVD (later the KGB). In 1946, the Soviets established a locally recruited paramilitary force, the German Border Police (Deutsche Grenzpolizei or DGP), under the administration of the Interior Ministry for Security of the State Frontier (Innenministerium zum Schutz der Staatsgrenze). Both the Soviet troops and the DGP shared responsibility for patrolling the border and crossing points. By 1956, the Soviets had handed border control over to the East Germans.

West German state organisations were responsible for policing the western side of the border, they included the Bundesgrenzschutz (BGS, Federal Border Protection), the Bayerische Grenzpolizei (Bavarian Border Police) and the Bundeszollverwaltung (Federal Customs Administration). Additionally, the British Army, the British Frontier Service, the United States Constabulary, and the United States Army carried out patrols and provided backup in their respective sectors of the border. The vessel we’d stepped upon was a German customs patrol boat and given the time she had been built would have been a part of this, securing West German coast. 

At some point, possibly after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, she became a house boat and no cost was spared when she was converted. Still splendid today, it has been our great pleasure to have been aboard The Flying Dutchman and to have discovered her history. Thank you.


by Donna Siggers and David Last

Viking Invasion

Hythe Quay in Maldon, Essex has already been mentioned within our blog, but it deserves a feature of its own. Home of the sailing barge that has become part of Maldon’s living heritage, many of the lovingly restored barges are still used commercially as charter vessels today. The Hythe—as the port is known—was once a separate hamlet, its skyline dominated by the town of Maldon and the prominent tower of St Mary’s Church, which was first built by Saxon settlers and then rebuilt in the twelfth century.

Maldon is special for many more reasons and is often referred to by TV chefs because if its famous salt but its also famed for much more. It hosts the infamous mud race each year, attracting many entrants, including celebrities and raises charitable funds for varying causes.

On 11th August 991, Anglo-Saxon Men of Maldon once stood their ground. Led by Eldorman Britnorth, they formed a militia force at the causeway end of Northey Island. Vikings had settled on the island, where they’d established a temporary base having already pillaged Folkestone, Sandwich and Ipswich. They were ready to attack Maldon.

Britnorth, refusing to pay the Viking invaders to turn their ships and men around to leave instead challenged them to a battle—he even allowed them to cross the causeway between Northey Island and the mainland to do so, while they formed a human shield wall. Awaiting Viking advance, Britnorth and his militia force were pounded with arrows and, when closer, spears into their masses. Close, hand to hand bloody battle combat followed where loss on both sides was heavy. It wasn’t until the death of Britnorth himself that the battle turned in the Viking’s favour.

Why, then, has the Battle of Maldon been etched into our history when the Vikings raided England so many times? The battle itself seems insignificant in that it wasn’t the first time the Anglo-Saxons fought and lost against the Vikings. This battle, however, is referred to within medieval sources countless times, which includes an epic poem with a clear message for the Anglo-Saxon leadership. Thus, it became part of collective memory, and was the first full-scale battle during King Æthelred’s reign. It was also a signal of a troubled and complex time period.

Æthelred, although proving himself to be pro-active in foreign policy with great success after the Maldon battle, his own retainers undermined his every action to keep the Vikings out of England. They betrayed him to the Vikings or began fighting among themselves. On two occasions Æthelred lost a newly built navy due to his own men (992 and 1009) which caused his Viking enemies, especially Sweyn to persecute him, even sending him into exile until Sweyn’s death in 1014. It wasn’t until Æthelred’s own death, in 1016 that Anglo-Saxon England finally comes under the rule of a Scandinavian (Vi)king, Cnut the Great.


by Donna Siggers and David Last

Mistaken Identity, Near Death and True Love

Savage knife attacks happen far too often and the death rate from such events is far too high. When you hear that someone has survived it gives you a lift—a victory over crime—something to celebrate!

Then you read just how long it can take to recover, that perhaps after twenty years recovery is still on going and you begin to realise the extreme effects of survival. This is Darren Barden’s reality. This is Darren’s story—its two years since Darren published his book, so in reality we’re talking twenty-four years since this near fatal attack.

Let's Skip To The Good Bits, Darren's book is available on Amazon
CLICK HERE

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Delving a little deeper, you come to realise it’s a story of mistaken identity. A senseless attack on someone uninvolved in whatever might have been going on in whatever world he suddenly became mixed up within, when all he actually wanted was to continue with his quiet family life.

That’s unfathomable when you think about it—so we suggest you don’t try to analyse it too much.

Left for dead with his wife and baby boy (who was teething) upstairs, Darren bleeds out in the family home. Somehow, rather than calling out for his wife, Darren manages to phone the police and for an ambulance and then his parents—an act which he duly regretted.

Surviving his wounds turned out to be the easy part!

The battle that commenced against depression and PTSD would grip Darren for the years that followed—they took him to the darkest corners of his psyche and from reading his book his paranoia must have pushed his wife Wendy to her limits, but she turned out to be Darren’s rock.

Their story is also one of love and each time Darren tried to test boundaries Wendy was there to pull him in closer to her. They stood the test of time, they endured what most couples wouldn’t have handled—their love survived. Mercifully.

 

 Darren and Wendy Barden

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Imagine, if you would for a moment (and this is something Donna can relate with all too well) that you experience trauma. There is a lot of action happening around you that perhaps you’re unaware of at the time. Your loved ones are very aware of what is happening, and they witness events you don’t. Darren has, by all accounts, [eventually] recovered well from what he physically went through but still struggles with what his family have experienced. Reading his account in “Lets Skip To The Good Bits” is brutal enough but to listen to him speaking, with a broken voice, during a recent podcast (Conversation with Criminals) talking about Wendy treading through his blood that was seeping through her toes is still too much for him to comprehend; that he phoned his parents and they were there unknowing if he’d survived, still to this day, too much for him—even after twenty-four years.

The moment someone picks up a knife there is intent to cause this much devastation, or death, and the consequences that leaves behind. Donna is glad to know Darren, that he both survived and had the courage to share his story and is now venturing into helping others. January (Covid-19 dependent) sees the beginning of a new venture and the start of filming of his own podcast, The Barber Chair, where Darren will interview inspirational people, also with a story to share.


Darren sitting in The Barber's Chair, the setting for his Podcast
YouTube LINK HERE

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All that is left to say, on behalf of us both, is to wish Darren all the best for the future of his podcast and his continuing success inspiring others with his story and the shared stories of his guests.

By Donna Siggers and David Last

Cut Throat Lane

Given our enjoyment of walking and in uncovering the unusual, last weekend’s walk just had to begin an investigation into the past. Coming across a road sign, Cut-A-Thwart-Lane, had the cogs in our minds working. The obvious thought was that this might mean ‘Cut Throat Lane’ and indeed there are references to this.

Donna had heard the word thwart before and it wasn’t until she had looked it up that her canoeing days bought forward a boating link to the word. Indeed, its used to describe the wooden seat that reaches from one side of a boat to another.  A thwart cut is a fencing maneuver with swords too but deeper research revealed that an old English meaning of the phrase had been used on the River Blackwater, which is just a short distance away from this lane. When crossing the line of a ship’s path—cut-a-thwart in 15th century England meant to cross from side to side. Cut-throat, similarly, meant a short cut or to cut across, and in this case the lane was an alternative to the milestone-lined London Road that was the main route into Maldon.

Maldon had been granted a Royal Charter by Henry II in 1171 and is an ancient Anglo-Saxon burgh. From the Iron Age it has been settled in by Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans--and a blog for another day is that it’s the famous site of the famous Battle of Maldon fought between Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons in 991AD. It was, then, a high-profile town back in the day.

Interestingly, Cut-A-Thwart Lane shows geographic evidence suggesting it was once a hola-weg. The road, in places is much lower than the banks that flank its side, an indication of years of pounding by humans and animals long before modern road surfaces existed. Suggestive that this lane formed the boundary of the estates of Beeleigh Abbey and Fitzwalter’s Park the sunken result still floods to this day. Oliver Rackham (1939-2015) cited thirty-eight mentions of such hola-wegs in Anglo-Saxon charters, and this lane is one of those. Beeleigh (the meaning of which is a clearing in the trees where bee hives are kept) still has a magnificent dwelling very close to the entrance of the lane.

Fascinatingly, during the summer of 1550 Princess Mary (Mary Tudor, later Queen Mary I) was under house arrest at nearby Woodham Walter Hall. Her agents hatched a plan to smuggle her onto an imperial war ship that was moored at Maldon’s Hythe in order that she could escape to the Netherlands—it was believed she would have been somewhat safer there due to her religious beliefs. Sophisticated plans were made that would have avoided the main road into Maldon. Some kind of ‘secret passage’ was planned. Mary developed cold feet, possibly realising that if she gave up and fled, as a true daughter of Henry VIII, she would find her abdications of her royal prerogative hard to accept. Jehan Dubois, Secretary to the Ambassador met with Mary and liaised with her trusted officer Robert Rochester, who begged the imperial secretary for more time. Firm in his message to her, Dubois conveyed that now was the time to escape and that they had to leave immediately. She attempted to stall for more time but Dubois slipped away and the rowing boats left without her as he feared their plot was close to being discovered.

Three years later Mary ruled England, but was Cut-A-Thwart Lane their possible route?

We’d like to think so!


Donna Siggers and David Last

Pigs At Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle stands proudly, overlooking the River Medway, above the bridge that became an important factor in a six week siege that not only resulted in the collapse of an entire corner of the castle but one that still effects our lives today.

A castle has stood at Rochester since the Norman Conquest of 1066. However, the great tower that stands there today dates from 1127 and was built for the Archbishop of Canterbury—William of Corbeil—who shared ownership with the crown. Standing at 125 feet (30 metres) it’s the tallest keep in the British Isles, boasting two floors above the main level and basement, which is an unusual feature. Given the latrines and comfortable chambers it was a place to entertain royalty or an Archbishop but given the situation of 1215, décor was unimportant!

Civil war had broken out between King John (1199-1216)—the one portrayed in the Robin Hood story—and the barons who forced him to seal Magna Carta in June of 1215. Forcing the Pope to decline this null, King John who was based in the South and the barons who were based in London gathered soldiers.

Unwavering to King John’s demands to hand the castle over, Archbishop Stephen Langton allowed rebel Baron William de Albini and sixty to eighty knights, their retinues, archers and crossbowmen to take possession. The aforementioned bridge across the River Medway became important ground, as taking control here gave the upper hand and this became John’s priority.

Using fire-stone throwing siege engines and master miners from the Forest of Dean, King John undermined the wall of the Bailey first, before tunnelling under the great tower. The techniques they used were rather sinister! The grease from forty slaughters pigs ‘of the kind not fit for eating’ was used as an accelerant to burn the props holding the masonry in place that had been exposed by the minors. The inferno created by the fire caused the great tower to come tumbling down and those defending Rochester Castle—the barons—to retreat. Running out of food, they had no choice but to surrender to King John who wanted each of them hung. This act of carnage was dissuaded by his own captain who wished to avoid the same fate should the tables turn.


Rochester Castle
One of our favourite places to visit and photograph

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The Importance of Magna Carta: The Magna Carta Liberation or “Great Charter of Freedoms” that’s commonly known as Magna Carta is a Royal Charter of rights agreed by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor on 15th June, 1215 and was first drafted by Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, in order to make peace between the unpopular King John and a group of rebel Barons. It promised the protection of church rights, protection against illegal imprisonment for the barons, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the crown to be implemented through a conduct of twenty-five barons. Although a lot of history has passed since 1215 and now, the Magna Carta still forms an important symbol of liberty today.


by Donna Siggers and David Last

Drug Den

Research takes us to remote locations, many of which are dependent upon tide times to enable access to, time to explore and indeed time to return safely back to the car. Given the dangers of rising tides and the risk of being caught off guard—of being swept out by the tidal flow of the river that takes you out into the North Sea—often we enter a space cut off from civilization twice each day.

Remoteness and privacy are two obvious attractions beside one particular location we’ve investigated. What we considered, initially to be an additional gem to the place we’d wanted to visit for a while turned into something else.

In order that we don’t expose what we are investigating, or indeed uncover this space for those that use it for their privacy (and our safety) we need to keep the location and type of building to ourselves. We will state, however that being able to enter this type of building is rare these days, so we were excited to find the entrance passable. It was both a slight climb and crouch to enable us to heave ourselves through the gap. Squeezing through the small doorway into the dark space, it was soon apparent we might not be alone but were committed to what we might discover as we dropped into the unknown. For all we knew this space could have been occupied, what we were unaware of was the state of awareness they might have been in. All was silent as we listened beyond the wall that was in front of us. Our next thought was there might have been an overdose.

We’d entered a drug den.

For those who require support the NHS offer that here 

Lining the floor at one end of the tilted building were bottles of liquid—we suspected the contents to be urine but didn’t inspect them. Discarded among these were several nitrous oxide canisters, along with tin cans blackened with soot and slightly crushed. We expected these had been used for taking crack cocaine. In a small clearing was a small cooker, covered in worn foil—we didn’t see any sign of used needles but at the same time we didn’t exactly search too hard!

Turning the phone torchlight to the ceiling and external walls, we noted the graffiti. The walls had blackened from the smoke and soot created from the drug taking activities. Etched into this were names and painted in darker black were images only those who had created them would be able to decipher for they had been created in a drug induced state.


A few images from our find

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Thankfully, it was only the two of us present and we expected this was due to our early morning exploration. Had we called after dark, matters may well have been different!

By Donna Siggers and David Last

Tony Turner

Introducing you to Tony Turner is our great pleasure. An amazing friend, Tony gives incredible support to a great deal of people. Running a Facebook group called Famous Gangsters and Villains From Around The World, that he started with Eileen Smith, he shares historic stories of utmost interest. Tony puts a lot of research into his posts, all of which are fascinating. Heading towards 16.5K members, this private group has strict rules and is well executed by Tony and his team of admins.

 

To join Famous Gangsters and Villains From Around The World, click this link

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Charity is close to a lot of people’s hearts and Tony Turner is one of those big-hearted people who raise a lot of money for others. Noting that Facebook had become a good placed to raise money by selling items, Tony states that he “was a member of a few groups and saw they were selling books and gangland memorabilia”. Well connected, in both author and gangland circles, Tony thought he could do the same. Instead of keeping the money he donates it to charity. Stating it’s the same with boxing too, Tony says, “I knew dealers in boxing memorabilia so I would buy stuff off them and re-auction on the group. This money came out my own pocket, but it was a way for me to give back to people who needed it.”

The Ley Community is a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation center who help break the cycle of addiction and offending. Tony says, “most of the money I have raised has been for the residential drug and alcohol rehab centre called the Ley,” and you can see him pictured below, with Chris Lambrianou, handing over a cheque for some of that money.


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Other fundraising campaigns have included money for St Michael’s Hospice, with a Charles Salvador lookalike (pictured left) and for the Change Your Life, Put Down Your Knife group (pictured right) who we featured right here on Soul2Ink on 22nd October.


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Incredibly, to date, Tony has shared with us that he has “raised over £10,000 for charity” which is a figure to be hugely proud of!

 by Donna Siggers and David Last

(Feature main image by PS Express

Lest We Forget

Within a world that appears disjointed, something as simple as the symbol of a poppy can bring us together again. Its concept, born as the result of Col John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, in which he wrote about the barren countryside of the Western Front and of the ‘flanders’ poppy he witnessed growing among the mud that remained amid the turmoil of war.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

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American academic, Mona Michael, inspired by the poem made and sold the original silk poppies to commemorate those who had died in WWI. This concept was taken on by the British Legion after they formed in 1921, when they ordered nine million poppies to sell on 11th November in support of veteran’s causes. Over £106,000 was raised and it was decided a factory should open, employing disabled ex-servicemen in order to produce poppies—which were put into full production.

Remaining our symbol of remembrance, the British Legion’s poppy appeal continues to raise millions each year for current servicemen and women across the UK.

Variations do now exist, however. For example, a purple poppy represents animals that have served during conflict. The charity, Animal Aid created the purple poppy in 2006 with the view that animals lost to war were forgotten victims—an estimated eight million horses and donkeys died during WWI which was portrayed through Michael Morpurgo’s book ‘War Horse’ (now both a movie and stage play).

Similar to our story, the French also wear a flower. The bleuet de France (or cornflower) is the symbol for, and solidarity with veterans, victims of war, widows, and orphans. They are sold both on 11th November and 8th May. Proceeds are used to finance charitable causes.

On the barren fields of the Western Front, much like the poppy, the cornflower also flourished and were often the only visible sign of life among the mud and trenches.

With war arrives propaganda and the ‘Bluets’ as they were known (very young soldiers arriving at the front line for the first time) would do so in uniforms ‘the colour of the sky’ which was symbolised embellished with cornflowers, giving war a glamorous image.

The French Bleuet de France badge itself dates back to 1916 and was created by Suzanne Lenhardt (head nurse) and Charlotte Malleterre (widow of a Col Infantry killed in 1915). Both women had been moved by the suffering endured by the war wounded and provided them with an activity by arranging workshops where cornflower badges were made from tissue paper. The money collected provided the men with a small income and the badges gradually became a symbol of rehabilitation of soldiers through labour.

Lest we forget.

by Donna Siggers and David Last

Remember, Remember

High treason was on the agenda back in 1605 when a small group of angry Catholics hatched a plan to blow King James I and his parliament to pieces. Representing the majority of English subjects, their conspiracy was detected. Guy Fawkes was discovered in the cellar ready to ignite barrels of gunpowder—and we still celebrate him today, on 5th November, as we light bonfires and send fireworks up into the sky. As we all know this story, Dave and I would like to share a little twist on events, and given our love of words, its highly appropriate.

William Shakespeare would have been familiar with the conspirators, who had deep connections with both him and his family. Shakespeare’s father, John and William Catesby (the father of head conspirator Robert Catesby) shared illegal Catholic writings that were found in John’s Stratford home.

Furthermore, Shakespeare himself frequented the Mermaid Tavern in London that was owned by his closest friend and confident. This was the meeting place of the turncoats and where they schemed to obliterate Protestants ‘once and for all’.

While the conspirators awaited their fate and duly suffered the ultimate punishment of being dismembered and beheaded in front of cheering masses, Shakespeare begun piecing together a new masterpiece that would bring together tales of different Scottish kings as he penned a propaganda machine that appeared to clear his name.

Macbeth, his mythical take on history which not only captured the character of James I but also his enjoyment at watching it worked a treat. As with all of Shakespeare’s work, Macbeth was a masterpiece—woven directly into his plot was indeed references to the gunpowder plot itself. Commemorating its discovery, King James I had a medal created picturing a snake hiding among flowers and of course Shakespeare includes this within his play too, Lady Macbeth tells her husband to look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it. Also, naming a Jesuit priest, Father Henry Garnet, who later confessed and was hanged to perjury, Shakespeare included political ‘spin’ within his work.

Politics doesn’t really change, although the way it’s delivered has—the powerful message within Shakespeare’s work does have a timeless edge to it.

By Donna Siggers and David Last

Pyramid in the Park

Situated in parkland that contains Cobham Woods, Darnley Mausoleum is a striking surprise when you’ve never seen it before. Now owned by the National Trust, this building was designed by James Wyatt for the Forth Earl of Darnley of Cobham Hall in Kent, as detailed in precise instructions of his predecessor, the Third Earl of Darnley. Surprisingly, this structure has never been used for its intended purpose of interments.

Using the architectural style of a grand classical temple of Roman Doric Order, most recognisable by the simple circular capitals at the top of the columns, this isn’t what struck me when Dave took me here recently.


Darnley Mausleum (pictured looking out from woodland)

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Symbolism emits from every part of this incredible building that stands in the middle of the countryside, and anyone that's read my novels might know that I understand it . Most notable is the pyramid (a symbol for strength a duration) atop of it which then made me look for other signs: nine steps lead up to the entrance; nine vents in the form of flowers, each with eight petals, that allow air flow through three windows.

Let’s talk numbers—Masonic numbers. The number three was celebrated among ancient sages, the sum three times three (nine) has no less celebrity. Representing each of the elements which constitutes our bodies—water, earth and fire—are thus tripled. The flowers each have eight petals: eight was esteemed by Pythagoreans as the first cube being formed by the multiplication two by two by two. It signifies friendship, prudence, council and justice. Reduplication of the first even number it was made to refer to the primitive law of nature, supposing all men to be equal. Christian numerical symbologists consider the number eight the number for resurrection—here goes—Jesus rose on the seventh day. In Greek numerals, corresponding to its Greek letters this is represented as 10, 8, 200, 70, 400, 200. These numbers added is 888, the Dominical Number. (Number source: Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry).

Unfortunately, the building was locked so it wasn’t possible to gain entry, but I’m now intrigued as to what symbolism might lay within it.

Returning home with questions as to who might have wanted this important structure built in the first place, I got to researching who the Third Duke of Darnley might have been and the family connections he had were remarkable! Esmè Stewart, 3rd Duke of Lennox (1579-30 July 1624) KG, Lord of the Manor of Cobham, Kent, a Scottish nobleman and second cousin of King James VI of Scotland and I of England was also 3rd Duke of Darnley. Interestingly, his son, the 4th Duke of Darnley, served as Lord Warden of the Clique Ports based in Dover Castle (also in Kent).

Further research has revealed that both King James VI of Scotland (later I of England and Esmè Steward were Freemasons, which explains the elaborate design of Darnley Mausoleum and the rarity of it being placed in vast wooded parkland.

James I will also feature next week as we delve into November, and plots of treason against him.



By Donna Siggers with David Last

Change Your Life Put Down Your Knife!

Starting the campaign, Change Your Life Put Down Your Knife around six months ago, Ben Spann built upon foundations for what has turned out to be the fastest growing knife campaign group in the UK. Gaining support from members and many reformed high-profile ex criminals willing to get the message out there, people like Terry Ellis (who was our first ever feature on this blog), Vinny Bradish and Chris Lambrianou have created a strong message that is here to stay.


To join the Facebook group "Change Your Life Put Down Your Knife"
PRESS HERE

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Ben says, “we are the group that represents the people: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles but most of all every child in the U.K. Our campaign values are simple Prevent, Rehabilitate and Educate.”

Fully committed to the ongoing work that’s involved, the team are aware how much work is required to get them to where they want to be. Ben conveys that with “the support from every parent and grandparent to give us the voice we need. To be able to stand up for what is right our future generations shouldn’t feel the need to have to carry a blade as a necessity like a phone or watch.”

Campaigners: Romail Essex, Vinny Bradish, Tony Turner, Ben Spann,

Chris Lambrianou, Kimberly Ann Overton, Jim Lamianou, and Terry Ellis

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Knife crime effects every part of our country and if you’re blinded to that, please take a long, hard look at your community. Unfortunately, it’s become part of culture. It’s a known fact that if you are carrying there’s a greater likelihood of you using rather than not if the opportunity arises—if you carry consider leaving it behind.

Ben speaks for the group, Change Your Life Put Down Your Knife when he says that they “do not tolerate our kids being groomed into gangs, nor will they tolerate them being the victims or the perpetrators of knife crime. Enough is enough. We are doing great things but as you can imagine there is no overnight fix.”

Ben states that working within communities is one of the important aspects of what they are about and it’s been a great pleasure to have had a close association with Leamington Amateur Boxing Club, ran by Ollie O’Neil who are doing fantastic work with our youth, as are Aces Boxing Club, ran by Harmi Singh. Now in the process of becoming the proud [main] sponsors of Coventry City Supporter’s Club, the distinctive logo for the group will soon be displayed on their new kits.

Ben Spann handing over a donation to Leamington Spa Boxing Club

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Acutely aware that not all youth are sport minded the group have also been working closely with Hills FM, a Coventry based radio station and also with the homeless and youth services and drug and alcohol rehabilitation services within the area.

As a group, Ben and his team, are looking to carry out educational talks in schools and youth facilities all over the UK, once the Covid-19 situation allows. In the meantime, they will be seeking ways in which our future generations can be occupied, since funding for youth facilities has been cut year upon year. Ben ensures us that their campaign is “enrolling new schemes on a weekly basis as well as being affiliated with many sport facilities locally and across the UK.”

He goes on the say “Thanks for the support of our members and we look forward to all new members who have the same views on this subject.”


by Donna Siggers and David Last

Sweet Misery

Looks sweet and innocent enough, doesn’t it, the jelly baby, but this unassuming treat has a dark past. What we want to know is do you have a sinister mastication to the method in which you eat them? Are you the type that goes straight in for the kill by chopping of the head, Henry VIII style? Or do you nibble off the arms and legs to leave a helpless torso? Perhaps you place the whole thing into your mouth and allow it to melt as if it’s in an acid bath! Pseudo-cannibalism may not have crossed you mind until now but allow us to take you through the history of this sweetie and all will be revealed!

Invented by an Austrian immigrant confectioner working at Fryers of Lancashire in 1864, the mold produced for what was supposed to be jelly bears looked more like new-born infants. Subsequently the sweets were given the macabre name, unclaimed babies. Unclaimed babies were part of life in Victorian Britain, with newborn babies being left on church steps regularly—Tim Richardson, author of Sweets: A History of Temptation claims that Victorian people would have found the name “amusing”.

This name was short-lived. In celebration of peace, after WWI, Bassett’s of Sheffield began producing the sweet in 1918 as Peace Babies but production was halted during WWII due to a shortage of raw materials. Once production restarted in 1953, they were relaunched as Jelly Babies and their popularity took off. They even have names as well as their individual flavour! “Brilliant” (red: strawberry); “Bubbles” (yellow: lemon); “Baby Bonny” (pink: raspberry); “Boofuls” (green: lime); “Bigheart” (purple: blackcurrant); and “Bumper” (orange).

There is a little more to their cute faces than meets the eye too—have you ever looked at them? Their faces illustrate sin and the darkness of the human heart. So here is the list for you to wrap your head around:- Pink: This one is an actual baby—awww! Red: Displaying a large B, representing blood sacrifice; Green: This baby is crying indicating human misery.

Doctor Who ate them, he pretended they were weapons against an enemy too in the popular cult TV show. Rowan Atkinson carried them in Johnny English Strikes Again, as disguised explosives. The Beatles were pelted with jelly babies, but most importantly Basil Brush considered them his favourite sweetie snack—and who could argue with a sitcom puppet fox?

by Donna Siggers and David Last

Rising to Become a Warrior: Levi Perry

Medication is supposed to help you mend from illness but for Levi Perry a prescription of antibiotics left her fighting for her life. Now with a floxed body, the painful and long-lasting side effects she now lives with have held her music career back for long enough. With renewed vigour she returned to the music scene with her album “The Power of Music” which won many music awards. Honoured to have befriended this beautiful soul online she trusted me, among others, to listen to her new album before its release but prior to discussing the music and lyrics themselves here’s a little background on the production side of matters. Levi is hugely talented and writes from her heart about events that have affected her life. Within her new album, “Warrior” she shares aspects of love, loss, illness, contentment, and various other emotions. With regards to the music itself, this is produced via a complex method of how she feels the tempo and pitch of notes need to sound in comparison to her voice with the help of a third party actually on the instruments. Levi is very much in control of the whole production process herself from writing the words to producing the finished product and this is a process she completes without financial backing. Moreover, her new album was produced during lockdown under the added pressures of a worldwide pandemic and she is reflective of this in her final track.


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Vocally, there is a uniqueness about Ms Perri that captures the very essence of who she is. Not only does her pain emit through the words but so does her beauty and ability to glow. Feeding from emotions and using creativity at its best, Levi has produced what I consider to be another winning album that will lift your heart and soul that begins with “You’re Gonna Rise”, with upbeat lyrics that raise you ‘like a phoenix’ in readiness to rock out to her second song. “Warrior”, the third track, I believe was the first of Levi’s songs I ever heard—which was some months ago now—conveying the fighter within her, the inner strength that she has needed to fight back from her illness. Ultimately, my favourite track is number seven, mainly due to the fact that the vocals made the hairs on the back of my neck tingle the first time I heard them. Incidentally, they have done this each time I’ve listened since (and I’ve listened to the track several times over the past few weeks). Having the ability to fight back from such extreme circumstances is one thing but to do so with the determination to succeed in an industry where money talks [without any backing] is quite something. Levi, my amazingly talented and beautiful friend, I commend this determination of yours and wish you every success with “Warrior” for you
deserve to rise.

Vocally, there is a uniqueness about Ms Perri that captures the very essence of who she is. Not only does her pain emit through the words but so does her beauty and ability to glow. Feeding from emotions and using creativity at its best, Levi has produced what I consider to be another winning album that will lift your heart and soul that begins with “You’re Gonna Rise”, with upbeat lyrics that raise you ‘like a phoenix’ in readiness to rock out to her second song. “Warrior”, the third track, I believe was the first of Levi’s songs I ever heard—which was some months ago now—conveying the fighter within her, the inner strength that she has needed to fight back from her illness. Ultimately, my favourite track is number seven, mainly due to the fact that the vocals made the hairs on the back of my neck tingle the first time I heard them. Incidentally, they have done this each time I’ve listened since (and I’ve listened to the track several times over the past few weeks). Having the ability to fight back from such extreme circumstances is one thing but to do so with the determination to succeed in an industry where money talks [without any backing] is quite something. Levi, my amazingly talented and beautiful friend, I commend this determination of yours and wish you every success with “Warrior” for you
deserve to rise.

by Donna Siggers

Abandoned Addictions

Abandoned buildings became a healthy addiction approximately five years ago, seeing me trawl google earth at every given opportunity. A visit to the Isle of Anglesey, gave me the perfect opportunity to visit some relics in the North East but nothing as interesting what I would stumble across.

After an hour’s map search this, find wasn’t an if but a when. Luckily, I found information that assisted me on google regarding a visit from a fellow explorer—he’d been chased from the park by a member of the Bulkeley family who lives nearby. From here I learnt the Baron Hill Estate had been owned by and had been the family seat to the influential Bulkeley family, explained his annoyance as the family lost their fortunes to death duties.

Undeterred, I arrive in Beaumaris and given on-line reports of former angry encounters left a digital footprint of my whereabouts before setting out on my adventure towards the gate house. I have to admit, adrenaline was pumping but there was no alternative but to volt a four foot wall in order for me to be out of view—I’m not sure who was more startled, myself or the pheasant I disturbed!

Making my way I was in awe at the view of the south of the island and the Beaumaris Castle coming into view, an amazing sight, but I was soon bought back into reality as a tractor came towards me. On high alert once more, I quickened my pace and made my way back into the wooded area for coverage. After all, I was trespassing.

After a few more steps through undergrowth I stumbled upon what I was looking for—an incredible sight, decaying among the trees that was difficult to photograph. The true scale of the building impossible to capture due to the density of the plants growing around and withing it. Floors had given way, and stairways were impassable, but it was still possible to gauge the enormity and grandeur existence.


Baron Hill Mansion: Abandoned After Polish Soldiers moved out in WWII

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HISTORY

The Baron Hill Estate was stablished in 1618 with the original mansion being built the same year by Sir Richard Bulkeley. During the English Civil War, Richard Bulkeley’s successor Colonel Thomas Bulkeley was said to invite King Charles I to take possession of the house in order to set up his court there. In the early eighteenth century the house was the seat of Richard Bulkeley 4th Viscount Bulkeley who maintained Jacobite sympathies.


King Edward VII enjoying tea in the garden of Baron Hill Estate
(Seated fourth at table--with the Bulkeley family)

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In 1776 the house was reconstructed by architect Samuel Wyatt to a much similar design that is still evident in its ruined state today. In the nineteenth century the Bulkeleys remained the most dominant land owners on the island and other parts of Wales. During WWI the death duties had wiped the family’s fortunes and they were unable to maintain the estate. During the war Royal Engineers were stationed at the house. In 1939 when WWII broke out the mansion was taken over by the government and used as temporary housing for Polish soldiers, who in protest to the cold conditions, started a fire and destroyed much of the interior so they would be moved to new housing accommodation. The mansion was abandoned and still is to this day.

The park is a designated site of special scientific interest due to the large area that has been undisturbed for many years. I believe the building itself is now listed and there was a planning application in 2008 to restore and convert into flats.

by David Last

Jamming Since 1965!

Looking back through some old newspapers in Dave’s personal collection, a headline grabbed our attention. Nothing, it seems, changes although the vastness of the volume of traffic has obviously increased over the years. That dreaded stretch of road was as bad back in 1965 as it is today!

Reporting in the Daily Sketch on Tuesday, April 20, 1965 John Hunt reports:

“Road deaths top 90 after another black day”

“200 MILES OF JAMS ON TREK HOME”

Given the era, a staggering 50K cars made their way towards London during what Hunt describes as the “worst holiday trek home of all time on Britain’s roads”. He goes on to report that the Easter weekend death toll tops the previous year by twenty-three at the time of print. Totalling 8M vehicles on a road network, which was much less in terms of both quality and space, Hunt claims everyone appeared to return home simultaneously and clearly states that Yorkshire, Lancashire, Wales and Scotland were at a standstill before going on to give Kent and London special attention.

Notorious, even back then the Dartford Tunnel gets a mention. The stretch of road known as the A2 in Kent couldn’t cope and as a result the Northbound lanes of the tunnel were closed to allow the congestion of the Southbound traffic a little relief. Thankfully these days we also have the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge which takes all Southbound traffic. Even so, the stretch of road remains notorious for congestion. London, its reported by Hunt, was just as congested with five mile tail backs on the Great North Road.


One of the four tunnels at the Dartford Crossing

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Tom Fraser, Transport Minister called for a ‘How could it happen’ inquiry but it was Dr R J Smeed of the Road Research Labortory who stated that deaths could be reduced by half on our roads if all motor cyclists wore crash helmets; if all motorists wore seatbelts; if roads were properly surfaced, designed and lit; if there were more traffic police; and if more speed limits were in place. He suggested that “if society is willing to make some sacrifices, accidents could be drastically reduced”.

Consequently, seatbelts were installed by car manufacturers in the same year, but startlingly it took the UK until 1991for the law to be changed and for it to became compulsory for us to wear them. Classic cars manufactured predating 1965 are exempt, by law, from having seatbelts fitted and thus those driving or being a passenger within them do not therefore have a legal obligation to wear a seatbelt in such a vehicle.

Again, there was substantial delays before the wearing of crash helmets became law and it wasn’t until 1973 that the law was changed in the UK making it offence to ride a motorbike without one. This also applies to quad bikes on our roads. Helmets must meet with British standards and carry the BSI kitemark. Again, there is an exception within our law—a sikh who routinely wears a turban as an expression of their religious beliefs cannot be charged for motoring offences for failing to wear a helmet while riding their motor bike.

Presently there is no law stating that bicycle riders should wear protective head gear although it does state in the highway code they are recommended while riding on our roads and currently the law states that children (but not adults) should wear safety crash helmets while riding horses or ponies on the road. Again the helmets worn by horse riders carry BSI kitemarks.

Be safe out there!

by Donna Siggers and David Last

Ticking Time Bomb

SS Richard Montgomery, a US Liberty Ship, rests on a sandbank running east from the Isle of Grain approximately 250 metres north of the Medway Approach Channel in the Thames estuary and has done so since it ran aground on 20th August 1944.

 Its an eerie sight, even on the brightest of days.

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Built in 1943 by the St John’s River Shipbuilding Company, Jacksonville, she was one of in excess of 2,700 mass-produced vessels built for the WWII effort. Setting sail containing cargo of 7,000 tonnes of munitions she was directed to anchor in the Great Nore anchorage off Sheerness, to await formation of a convoy before heading to Cherbourg. Running aground in shallow waters just North of the Medway Approach Channel. Efforts to unload her cargo were intensive but a crack appeared in the hull by the next day and unfortunately the forward end begun to flood. Salvage continued until 25th September when she flooded completely and was abandoned. Remaining on the sandbank where she sank, her masts clearly visible above the water, there is something sinister about this ship.

Protected under Section Two of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, there is a no entry exclusion zone around her. Marked on the relevant Admiralty Charts and defined by coordinates—the physical site is marked by buoys in the water that act as a warning other ships in the area. There are also warning signs attached to the masts.


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Why so much protection?

Approximately 1,400 tonnes of explosives remain aboard the forward holds and although water is a good mitigator (allegedly) the issue is the actual wreck around the explosives is decaying. Experts believe the decaying vessel could cause enough energy to detonate the bombs and if this occurred Sheerness could be flattened. The wave and subsequent momentum that would occur from the explosion would, it’s thought, travel the Thames flattening buildings along the way. Of course, there is a lot of speculation of how these explosives may behave after being submerged for such a long time but who needs to be taking such huge chances? 

Another worry is the masts could be struck by a passing vessel and there have been many near misses over the years. Despite the exclusion zone being clearly marked, storms can be difficult to navigate and some of the larger ships, once set on their path are hugely difficult to turn. There are even internet photographs of a paddle boarder entering the exclusion zone and touching a mast. Those images are on google if you’re interested to view them—irresponsibility seems to be high on some people’s agenda. 

Responding to decay and potential danger the plan is to remove the masts from this incredible ghost that sits within our estuary. A silent ticking time-bomb that will be costing £5M in danger money to preserve live and land. Its an incredible story and we are glad we got to view the Montgomery together before her masts disappear. 

We were taken out from Southend-on-Sea by jetstreamtours.com who are based in Rochester, Kent. Their boat, Jacob Marley, has been kitted out in line within Covid-19 guidelines. Each table is divided with plastic divides and numbers are limited on each tour. Hand sanitiser is available and numbers are limited out on deck, with plenty of time for everyone to have their turn taking photographs at each of the sites visited. History of the area is shared by the captain who is very knowledgeable--not just on the sites you have paid to visit but on other hidden gems too. 

by Donna Siggers and David Last

A Blazing Movie Deal!

David P Perlmutter has a few true crime stories under his belt and he tells them in a way that makes you feel as if you’ve been magically transported into an off the hip documentary. Taking you back in time, to his younger years, you are locked into a passionate embrace one minute and then thrown into extreme panic the next. His stories are raw and authentic—they are dramatic. The first words I ever read of Dave’s were “Let go of my fucking hair”, words that both resonated with me and that have stuck in my head—they were the opening lines of 'Five Weeks'.

Drama is most definitely at the forefront of Dave’s mind these days at a very different level, for production of his first movie is beginning to take shape. 'Wrong Place Wrong Time' has become a worldwide bestseller on Amazon and is now a Book To Movie project with Golden Mile Productions and No Reservations Entertainment. And with the recently added Bafta winner, executive Producer Mark Foligno from movies such as Moon and The King’s Speech this movie is definitely one to be looking out for!


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Letting you in a little on this story, it unfolds as Dave, an estate agent from London, finds himself on the wrong side of the law in England’s capital and so he runs away to Spain rather than facing the shame he’d bought upon his family because he’d lost his job, and his driving licence. In hindsight what occurred on home soil was a far simpler matter than the night over in Marbella that the book is essentially about. Dave (it seems odd calling him that, as to me he’s DPP) stumbled upon a burning building and entered it, not giving a thought to his own safety. I’m not going to give anything further away as it’s a compelling story that I know you’d enjoy for yourself but I'll say this--despite all the help he gave that night, there may have been a little misdemeanour in the mix, and he was arrested and charged for far more than he’d carried out.

Cups and Oranges is one of my favourite chapters—it portrays the harshness of the situation Dave finds himself in, both physically and emotionally. Isolated in a foreign country, he finds a simple way to connect with his family in a way that’s truly moving and this chapter may have bought a little moisture to my eyes.

Dave has written more true crime books (pictured below) than the two I’ve mentioned, they can all be found through his author page each of which are stand alone stories and as compelling as one another. I began with 'Five Weeks' but with the movie looming my ultimate recommendation has to be 'Wrong Place Wrong Time'. There is much more to DPP's writing than his true stories and I will share some more of his work at a later date.


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On a personal note, I’d like to say a huge thank you to DPP, an author who gives to others through promotion of their work. I often try to find an advert on Facebook to share for Dave’s own books and cannot because they are buried beneath everything else. For your utter kindness to all of us, thank you!
by Donna Siggers

When Romans Invaded Herne Bay

Reculver Towers and Roman Fort is mostly a ruin. Still, this site takes your breath away as you approach it. The dominant towers of the twelfth-century former monastic church stand out against the skyline and act as a navigational marker for shipping. Unfortunately, much of the site has been lost to coastal erosion but you can still gain a sense of how grand it must have been from what remains. 

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Two thousand years ago the geographical layout of the area was hugely different—the Wantsum, a sea channel, cut off the Isle of Thanet from the mainland (this area has since silted up and is now dry land). The Roman Fort once stood on what was a peninsula at the north end of the channel where it joined the Thames estuary.

The Romans conquered England under Claudius in AD 43 thus their armies landed unopposed under Aulus Plautius. There has always been debate as to the location this occurred—Reculver and Richborough (at nearby Sandwich) are locations where fortifications of the Claudian period have been found: given these early findings its plausible the Wantsum channel could be the site where Romans first landed in England.


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It’s believed the Roman settlement was build during the 1st and 2nd centuries around a harbour and that the fort was erected during the 3rd century. Almost square, with rounded corners and measuring 180m x 175m it was built on Saxon Shore against Saxon raids.

The religious aspect of the site wasn’t erected until the 5th century, by which time the Romans had abandoned it. The Anglo-Saxon monastery was founded in 669 which made good use of the existing fortifications. The monastery was in use for five centuries.

Another wonderful visit that has prompted a little research into England’s heritage and flared our imagination as to what life might have been like living in a place like this centuries ago.

by Donna Siggers and David Last



Mutiny at St Mary's Convict Prison, Chatham

Walking has always prompted a stream of thinking, but this week was different. We took a walk around St Mary’s Island, Chatham and paused to read an information board which prompted some research. Both of us are interested in Britain’s criminal past, and so we’ve stepped back to the 1860s and to a time St Mary’s Prison held one thousand convicts, but our research took us back a little further in order to understand the full impact of what we were reading.

Prison hulks had been present on the River Medway since the early nineteenth century, when Chatham became a permanent hulk station.  By the end of the French wars in 1815, in excess of 70,000 prisoners of war were being held in these hulks moored at Chatham Reaches, Gillingham and Sheerness. Disease was rife and punishment harsh. 


 Prison Hulk

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When, in 1818, the announcement that Chatham Dockyard would be expanded it was the convicts from the hulks who provided the labour for the work—this included the reclamation of St Mary’s creek.  Over time the hulks deteriorated but the authorities, wanting to keep the labour, begun the construction of a brick convict prison on St Mary’s Island, which opened to receive hulk convicts from Chatham and Woolwich in 1856.


St Mary's Convict Prison, St Mary's Island, Chatham

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According to The Times, (January 1861) “A considerable degree of uneasiness, almost amounting to alarm, has been occasioned to the officials of the convict prison of St Mary’s Island… in consequence of the disaffection and mutinous conduct of the convicts confined in that establishment.” So, what might this be about? Continuing the article, we learnt that convict Peters had acquired a skeleton key and during a mass gathering in the hall where he and fellow convicts were awaiting a medical examination, he took the opportunity to escape. Making his way across the parade grounds he attempted to release a man named Bennett, incarcerated for burglaries in London, but was recaptured by a warder.

Revolt followed. Although, in comparison with today’s standards of retaliation against authority their response might be considered somewhat mild. The prisoners protested by disturbing the minister during his chapel service. No violence was displayed, instead marks of disapproval such as hooting, yelling and cheering were used. Considered a prelude to something that might manifest into a larger event, the ringleaders were rounded up by order of the governor and his deputy—Captain Powell and Mr Measor respectively. Now safely confined to the punishment cells they assumed it would be easy to contain the remaining convicts. The following days would see 150 warders on duty, all heavily armed, but they made no difference. Mutiny continued within the cells. Windows were smashed and furniture broken, alongside the vocal disturbances that continued.

Official action was deemed necessary and upon request of the Home Secretary--Sir George Cornewall Lewis—the inspector-general, Captain Gambier, of the convict establishments commenced an investigation but this wouldn’t be the end of the matter. Despite prison food being far superior to that of any union workhouse dinners, a dockyard work party begun a protest regarding the quality of their food. At a pre-arranged signal fifty convicts threatened to massacre their keepers, stole their cell keys and begun to release fellow convicts. Pandemonium ensued and damages amounting to £1,500 (approx. £35.5K in today’s money) was caused.

Military intervention was deemed necessary. Four-hundred Royal Marines, stationed nearby, charged the rioters with muskets—the Warders following in close quarters with their truncheons. Order was resumed. Warders lost their jobs—staff at the prison had been made up from two hulk ships and it had been reported there was jealousy between the two sets of staff that resulted in bad management of the convicts. A number of Warders were transferred from Pentonville prison to replace them.

It seems the ‘blame culture’ has been around some time!


The River Medway today, from St Mary's Island

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by Donna Siggers and Dave Last

Mindset Changed Perception Giving New Meaning To 'Life' For Terry Ellis

Terry Ellis has taken social media by storm with his story. Podcasts are gaining thousands of views within hours of airing and although each interview shares the same subject matter they delve into a different depth of Terry’s past. His debut book “Living Amongst The Beasts” is an Amazon bestseller, so what sparks international interest in a man born to humble beginnings in London’s East End?

Although I’ve not met Terry we network on various platforms and in within groups. Before I delve into his past, I’d like to share a little of what he’s involved in now—and it seems that anything that this man puts his mind and energy into succeeds. During lockdown Terry and a small team decided to arrange for food parcels to be delivered to vulnerable members of his community and what started out as a small gesture ended up as a mammoth undertaking of enormous effort. Donations kept arriving and parcels were delivered for the duration of lockdown.

Terry continues to give back to society. He helps run a Facebook group “Change your life, put down your knife!” This group brings together both victims and perpetrators of knife crime. A non-judgmental group the aim is to educate, raise awareness and to help others at a community level. Again, there are no half measures with politicians and celebrities involved giving Terry and the other organisers the momentum required to make this a successful endeavour.

I could continue!

Its great to see Terry’s positivity shining so brightly when I know, through reading his book “Living Amongst The Beasts” and from listening to the podcasts, how he used to live out his life. Although I could go into details, I’d rather you read it for yourself but I will share this much: having risen to earn himself the notoriety of one of Britain’s top underworld armed robbers, Terry was the mastermind behind the 2007 $4M heist at Verizon Business Centre in Kings Cross, London. Resulting from this he spent time at Britain’s only full therapeutic prison—HMP Grendon—where he describes living amongst the beasts: rapists, child killers and paedophiles with whom he would sit alongside in therapy. For the first time in his life, violence couldn’t be his response and instead he learnt to discover the positives in fellow humans, whatever crime they had committed. Something I personally find humbling. In changing his own mindset, he was able to break the cycle that allowed therapy to work for him. Adjusting his behaviour and thus his quality of life has meant returning to society and a crime-free way of life.

Living Amongst The Beasts” isn’t just about Terry’s own journey. He’s written it in a way that will flair your own emotions in a way that will spark a self-discovery journey of your own if you allow it to, as you begin to look inwards at yourself. It truly is an inspirational and encouraging book and suitable for anyone seeking to change.

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Terry has a second book that’s newly released, that he’s co-authored with Christopher Alston. “HMP Help Me Prepare: A guide to prison for first timers and their families”. The blurb reads as follows: Help me prepare is a guide to prison for anyone facing a custodial sentence in the UK, their families or anyone with an interest in how the UK prison system works.

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The guide is designed to give people first-hand accounts of what to expect and offers advice on how to navigate your way through the system and the challenges everyone faces.

The guide has been written by people with first-hand experience of the prison system totalling over sixty years and includes sections from former inmates and prison officers. There is also a health and wellbeing section written by an external holistic health and wellness coach which details ways in which inmates can practice a more mindful approach to their sentence.

The guide takes you from the courtroom through to the end of the sentence with detailed descriptions of each step along the way and a comprehensive resource guide to assist you.

 

To follow Terry on social media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TerryEllis992 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/555616178346718/

#Change Your Live, Put Down Your Knife!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/668677394003375/