13/06/2008

Were we expecting a huge terrorist incident at Chafford Hundred station on Wednesday?

Posted in Law 'n order, Transport at 3:54 pm by henrysgauntlet

I had to go to London on Wednesday, and was catching a train about 3.30pm.   I’ve found that, at that time, the ticket office at Grays station is invariably shut.   There are instructions to use the ticket machine outside the station.   Big problem:-  it’s been vandalised, so that, although still working, it’s impossible to read the screen.  

So, having thought about it, I took the view that the continual throughput from Lakeside meant it was likely the ticket office at Chafford Hundred station would be manned.   So far, that has always proved to be the case, although I accept this post is likely to cause immediate withdrawal of staff!   What’s more the ticket staff are always polite, and even ask me if I need a receipt for expenses  –  I wish! 

On Wednesday, Chafford Hundred station was packed with officialdom.   In addition to a couple of c2c junior station staff, watching the barriers, there were three c2c inspectors present.   Then at the other end of the booking hall, there was a group of four senior c2c staff, suited and booted, engaged in earnest conversation.   That’s always worrying  –  one immediately wonders if plans are afoot to change the service drastically, or to cut the number of trains.

Next time we hear about trains not running because of unavailability of staff, I shall remember all these people.   Yet another case of too many chiefs, and not enough indians?

Then to cap it all, there was a police car parked prominently outside, and two community support officers walking around the booking hall.   And then another appeared, that’s three, all hatless.   Then, from the platform, a police officer appeared, and then, a few minutes later, another one.   Both with hats and loaded down with equipment strapped to various parts of their yellow vests.   So that makes five representatives of the law, all being Transport Police.

Then a train came in, and people flocked out from the platform, and approached the barriers.  I have to say, there appeared to be a good number without tickets.   They were referred to the Community Support Officers, who fished out pencils and scruffy notebooks to take down names and addresses.   Some of them didn’t give information willingly!

Soon after that the London train arrived, and I left them to it.   But I couldn’t help wondering what was going on.

Meanwhile, one has to draw the comparison with what happens if someone breaks into your house, when you won’t be able to get a police officer there for love nor money.

03/06/2008

Right Marsh Mutton

Posted in Local History at 4:27 pm by henrysgauntlet

If you travel by train from London via Tilbury to Southend nowadays, you pass large housing estates, oil refineries, industrial buildings and rubbish dumps separated by the occasional open space of marshland.   If, like me, you are interested in what this area was like two or three centuries ago, it is difficult to see what it could have been used for at that time.

But the existence of marshland all the way down to East Tilbury offers a clue.   For the marshes, which were largely owned by farmers and butchers living near to London in the middle of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, were the main grazing area for sheep destined for the London market in the autumn and early winter of each year.

These animals had been driven down from Leicestershire and Lincolnshire and then sold at Smithfield market in the autumn to these farmers and butchers.   Prices were low when the sheep were sold at Smithfield.   The animals were taken to the marshland alongside the Thames not necessarily to fatten them but rather to keep them to sell when prices rose closer to and after Christmas.

‘Right marsh mutton’ was prized because the animals had been fed on turnips and their fat turned yellow after slaughter.   They were, according to one contemporary, “by far the best of any killed for the markets”.

Next time the A13 is jammed with traffic, just think about the sheep who clogged the roads of this part of Essex every autumn and winter two hundred and fifty years ago.   They fed London and helped to make our ancestors prosperous.

Author  –  Christopher Thompson

Apologies for quiet period but another piece of local history follows

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:21 pm by henrysgauntlet

Sorry Sir Henry has been out of action for some time, but he has been deeply involved in great affairs of state!

To make up for it, another fascinating piece of local history follows.