29/09/2009

Alfred Russel Wallace and Grays

Posted in Heritage, Local History at 6:55 pm by henrysgauntlet

Alfred Russel WallaceHave you ever walked along a road and wondered how it got its name?   Perhaps you’ve been in the Hathaway Road area of Grays and have noticed Russel Road and Wallace Road.

This week The Times has been rather concentrating on Alfred Russel Wallace, and under the heading “Adjoining shoulders of giants”, has been calling for his name to live on alongside that of Charles Darwin. 

In its leading article on Saturday, here, The Times said that Darwin’s contemporary should be celebrated for his discovery of natural selection.   Marking the 200th anniversary this year of Darwin’s birth, The Times goes on “But Darwin was not a solitary visionary. That his ideas appeared when they did, in the form that they did, was due to the influence of Alfred Russel Wallace, a naturalist 14 years his junior. Recognition of Wallace’s contribution to science is increasingly being urged. Sir David Attenborough described Wallace this week as one of the greatest naturalists who ever lived.”

And here’s the full story.

Today there are a couple of letters on the subject including one from one of the Verderers of Epping Forest who tells us about Wallace’s application to become Superintendent of the Forest.   His application was rejected  –  short-sighted of someone.

Anyway back to Russel Road and Wallace Road  –  the reason for their names is that Alfred Russel Wallace, who was born in 1823, lived at The Dell in Grays for a number of years.   He came to Essex because it seemed that he might obtain the directorship of a museum in the county.   He bought the lease of four acres of land at Grays, which included a former chalk pit, and set about  building a house there in concrete as there was a cement works in the vicinity and a supply of gravel on the site.   Wallace himself designed and laid out the grounds, including the long winding drive, which still exists, up to the house from what is now Dell Road.   He described the grounds as “a bit of a wilderness that can be made into a splendid imitation of a Welsh valley.”   The house, called The Dell, was completed in 1872.

In the event he was not appointed director of the proposed museum, and that, plus the death of his eldest son, made him decide to leave Grays.   So in 1876 the family moved to Surrey. 

A Thurrock Heritage Plaque has been placed on The Dell, the only house built by Wallace which still survives.

17/09/2009

Pity the Council does not take its own medicine

Posted in State of the footpaths, Thurrock Council at 6:01 pm by henrysgauntlet

So four weeks ago Henry received a letter from the Council.   It said that inspection had shown that Henry’s shrubs were overhanging the highway, or to be more exact the footpath, and it gave Henry 28 days to cut them back.

The letter invited Henry to telephone the writer to discuss further, and gave the ‘phone number.   As it happened, Henry had already arranged for some work to be done on trees in the back garden, and that was scheduled for yesterday, ie four weeks after the date of the letter, and two weeks after the deadline imposed.   So Henry decided to ‘phone the nice lady who had invited such a telephone call.

Thus began a battle with the Council’s telephone system.  Henry, “may I speak to Ms ??? please.”   Operator, “what do you want to talk to her about?”   Henry, “I’ve received a letter from her this morning, and she says I should call her to discuss it”.   Operator, “right, I’ll try to connect you”.   Pause.   Operator, “she says what do you want to speak to her about?”     And so it went on, for some considerable time.

Why do they bother to invite residents, (who are Council Tax payers and voters, and therefore their bosses), to telephone if they don’t want to speak to them, and are going to make it so amazingly difficult to do so?

Eventually we did speak, and the lady said she would note on Henry’s file that the work would be done in the week beginning 14 September.

So yesterday Henry’s two tree-cutters arrived and spent most of the day attacking the overgrown and self-sown trees at the back, and then cut the front shrubs.

Meanwhile, Henry had to make a short visit to Grays Town Centre, and, as the tree-cutters’ van was in front of the garage, Henry walked and went via Cromwell Road.   And it was there that the double standards really struck home.  

Cromwell Road at the Hathaway Road end is almost impassable.   There are two massive trees on the footpath, and the roots of both have pushed up the tarmac to a dangerous extent.   The surface really is most dangerous, so uneven and with humps and cracks.   Treacherous even for the sure of foot and unacceptably hazardous for the elderly or infirm.  

Then, to make matters worse, there are trees overhanging the footpath from the property alongside  –  and that property is Robertson House, a Council block of flats.   It is they which make the footpath impassable, they stretch for ten or twelve feet and are so low that Henry had to bend double to get through.

So it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the Council’s Housing Department to get one of those letters from the nice lady about its shrubs overhanging the footpath  –  or is it just, as we all think, one law for them and another for us!

13/09/2009

Of concrete blocks and demolished schools

Posted in Law 'n order, News at 7:23 pm by henrysgauntlet

I see Essex Police have said that anyone throwing  concrete blocks from bridges on to roads will be charged with attempted murder.   Well, trying hard not to say “you’ll have to catch them first”, good on them.   Anything thrown down from bridges towards car drivers is likely to cause an accident, either the shock when it lands on the bonnet, roof or windscreen, or a swerve when trying to avoid it.   The action is dangerous, stupid and deserves to be punished.

Meanwhile I learn that the old St Chad’s secondary school at Tilbury caught fire  –  suspected arson  –  whilst it was being demolished.   Could that be a former pupil determined to express his/her opinion of a hated place?