Book Review: Linda Rhodes and Kathryn Abnett ~ The Romford Outrages: the murder of Inspector Thomas Simmons, 1885 (2009)

The beauty of local history is it offers a terrific opportunity for fascinating minutiae which is lost in academic writing. The Romford Outrage has rigour as well as wonderful microscopic detail. For people in Havering there’s the joy of ‘knowing’ the locality. The book opens with an incident on South Street, Romford, where Simmons shows his heroic personality.

Another aspect of local history is the opportunity for lavish illustrations, which add to the story. The authors have 61 none of which are padding. Taken together this book is irresistible.

One of those convicted of murder wrote about the causes of crime in an amazingly modern way and his preference for the death penalty,

“….he wrote that of all the terrors awaiting the convict, including the ‘cat’* and hard labour, it was the long periods of silent, solitary confinement which had filled him with most dread and had contributed most to his alienation from honest society. He asserted that the three major causes of crime were heredity, locality and the police system.” p154

I thoroughly enjoyed this well written book, which is an excellent example of local history.

* Cat of nine tails. For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_o’_nine_tails#:~:text=The%20cat%20o%27%20nine%20tails%2C%20commonly%20shortened%20to,judicial%20punishment%20in%20Britain%20and%20some%20other%20countries.

Available on Kindle for £3.99 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Romford-Outrage-Murder-Inspector-Simmons-ebook/dp/B009EE27VS/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+romford+outrage&qid=1597680573&s=books&sr=1-1

Havering’s Raphael Park and Lake Rise, Romford

Havering’s Raphael park is in an urban setting. Lying on a busy road, there are good links with central Romford with ample car parking immediately opposite. Its principal feature is a lake. The paths have a good surface with many benches, mostly in good condition. Tree cover means there’s plenty of shade. Also in the park is a Turkish restaurant with al fresco dining. A pleasant experience without being outstanding.

Sitting on a lakeside bench gives a view of houses whose gardens sweep towards the lake. I wondered what impact the public’s investment in Raphael Park had on Lake Rise’s house prices. The surveillance society meant finding out was easy.

Two houses, virtually opposite each other, were sold in the recent past. 21 and 22 Lake Rise vividly illustrate the private benefit flowing from public investment. Number 21 was sold in August, 2018 for £780,000, whilst 22 went for £850,000 in June, 2019. There are 18 photos illustrating number 22. Three show the lawn sweeping down to the lake. Raphael Park is being monetised for lake view houses. Number 22 has a 9% premium over 21 because of the view.

Maintaining parks is costly and is therefore a political decision for the Council. George Osborne’s Age of Austerity attacked Havering’s revenue base,` meaning there were many hard decisions about spending priorities. The untaxed profit made from buying and selling houses like those in Lake Rise is an anomaly which needs to be addressed.

Havering’s Thames Chase Country Park, Upminster

Havering is blessed with wonderful country parks, offering a variety of experiences. This one is in the east adjacent to the M25 ‘frontier’*. Thames Chase park was created by hard volunteer work and planning vision. The collaboration between volunteers and planners has created a masterpiece.

Although the park is multi-purpose, I only use two of them. The Forest Centre building neatly separates a wooded hillside walk of about a mile. It’s got an accessible all-weather surface, which is essential for older and less able people. 10/10 for the walking surface. There are enough benches in good condition to have a rest and enjoy the ambience.

The second of the two main walks is flatter with lush vegetation, Again there’s a good walking surface, with sufficient benches. It’s a decent walk of less than a mile. Both walks have wide paths making social distancing rules very easy to abide by.

The Forest Centre is excellent. A very good cafe with plenty of seating inside and outside with good views opposite a large field. There are 2nd hand books available and a small gift shop. The adjacent barn hosts many activities throughout the year. There’s a large cheap car park with an all-weather surface.

Warmly recommended

Note

* The M25 provides a ‘musical’ accompaniment to the Thames Chase experience

Sources

For the Forest Centre see http://www.thameschase.org.uk/visitor-centres/the-forest-centre

For photographs see http://www.thameschase.org.uk/galleries

For the volunteering group see http://www.thameschase.org.uk/get-involved/conservation-volunteers

For a series of walks see http://www.thameschase.org.uk/discover/walking

Havering Strategic Planning Committee 9th July, 2020

Selling Hall Lane Miniature Golf course was a cause celebre in 2019. Outraged residents*, in million pound houses, suddenly enthused for Miniature Golf. Too late. Romford’s Tories sold. This committee spelt out the horrors residents are facing.

The Hall Lane area surrounding the site is recognised for its special townscape and landscape character, with Policy DC69 requiring developments to maintain the special character of the Hall Lane Policy Area which is typified by large detached and semi-detached dwellings set in large gardens with considerable tree and shrub planting. Para 6:15 p27 (see source below)

Havering worries about people living in million pound houses.** Even people on quite decent wages – head teachers, doctors and so on – are deliberately priced out by policy DC69.

But credit where it’s due. Havering achieved 50% of Affordable housing. Affordable housing is sometimes mistaken for what used to be called council housing but is actually a mid-point for those with good incomes who’ve been priced out by inflation.

The Affordable housing, which will be built in Romford away from the Hall Lane site,*** comprises of:

…. 1 x 3 bed unit and 26 x 4 bed units (27 units in total), equivalent to 134 habitable rooms. As a comparison, 50% affordable housing, if it were to be provided on the application site, would equate to 18 units or approximately 72 habitable rooms. Para 6:23 pp28-9

Councillors might have had mixed motives for selling Hall Lane Miniature Golf course but Havering’s dire house building programme has made some progress. All we need now is social housing to complete the success.

Notes

* An astonishing 884 objections against 37 very expensive houses

** 11 The Fairway recently sold for £1.25 million

*** There has to be good planning reasons to not build on-site and on this occasion there are good reasons.

Sources

For a blog on the original decision see https://havering.blog/2019/04/28/the-sale-of-hall-lane-pitch-and-putt-conservative-revenge/

For the agenda of this meeting see https://democracy.havering.gov.uk/documents/g6652/Public%20reports%20pack%2009th-Jul-2020%2019.00%20Strategic%20Planning%20Committee.pdf?T=10

For GP wages see https://www.bma.org.uk/pay-and-contracts/pay/other-doctors-pay-scales/salaried-gps-pay-ranges

For affordable housing see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affordable_housing#:~:text=Affordable%20housing%20is%20housing%20which%20is%20deemed%20affordable,local%20government%20by%20a%20recognized%20housing%20affordability%20index.

For social housing see https://england.shelter.org.uk/support_us/campaigns/what_is_social_housing

Havering’s Council Meeting 8th July, 2020*

The show began as satire. The first five minutes were spent discovering that the priest who’d led prayers was on mute. A great opening scene for, ‘Bumbling Councillors Meet Zoom.’ The mute gag was terrific and occurred repeatedly. Each time it was used everyone seemed genuinely surprised, which added to the joy of it. ‘Are we on mute?’ a truly great catch phrase.

Casting is all important for a show. This show needed a cartoon villain, a well-meaning elderly gent, a pompous young big-head, a council officer who wanted to be somewhere else and a strong group of walk-on parts. Casting did a magnificent job.

The mute gag degenerated into farce. Spending 25 minutes discussing, ‘How to vote!’ tested the patience of the audience. Severe editing was needed. Satire transformed into farce. Those who remained in the audience and loved farce, sensed magic in the air and hung on. They were richly rewarded.

A well choreographed conflict between, ‘Cartoon Villain’ and ‘Pompous Young Big-head’ didn’t disappoint. There’s nothing like teasing abuse to provoke a Cartoon Villain. Damian White did it with flair and a well practised smirk. Now and then he stoked the flames when it looked as if the gag was flagging.

And the winner was… Damian White! Once again he evaded any accountability.

* For the webcast see https://www.bing.com/search?q=havering+council+meeting+webcast&form=ANSPH1&refig=0343091694f646b287e301508ec75146&sp=1&qs=HS&pq=ha&sk=PRES1&sc=8-2&cvid=0343091694f646b287e301508ec75146

1) The first five minutes are the opening gag, which is sort of fun. Then there is 20 minutes of ‘How do we vote?’ which is fun for those who like train-crash humour.

2) If you fast forward to 1 hour 6 minutes the next 20 minutes reveal why Havering is more-or-less dead politically speaking.

Reopening Havering’s Schools: Governors Will Decide

Good government requires ministers and civil servants who pay meticulous attention to detail. Reopening Havering’s schools needs careful judgement not prejudiced, hand-wringing bluster. They were shut because of the government’s public health strategy in March, 2020. Public health is a government responsibility but health and safety in schools is devolved to school governors and Academy Trust management teams.

The Covid-19 pandemic hit Britain in February, 2020, becoming severe during March when the government declared a public health emergency. Public health legislation is a sledgehammer closing every school regardless of local conditions.

It’s seductively simple closing schools but reopening them is complex. Schools aren’t managed by the government. Havering’s schools will open when their governors are satisfied that the health and safety of staff and pupils is guaranteed. Health and safety is a responsibility of governors or the Academy Trusts. Government can advise but can’t instruct. The indicated date of June 1st has been challenged across the country because of local circumstances.

Havering’s schools will reopen when governors are satisfied it’s safe to do so for staff and children. The arrangements will reflect the geography of their school buildings. Local knowledge is crucial here and will be used to keep Havering’s staff and children safe.

Sources

For school closures see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/schools-colleges-and-early-years-settings-to-close

For the responsibility of school governors see https://schoolgovernors.thekeysupport.com/finance-and-premises/health-and-safety/

For the reopening of Havering’s schools see https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/may/10/boris-johnson-coronavirus-lockdown-shops-schools-june-reopening

Alan Gorsuch: Love and Fear 1939-40

War broke out to the sound of air raid sirens. Alan’s parents believed war meant bombing and gas attacks. When a safe haven in Oxfordshire was offered for Alan they were thankful. Alan’s brother, Brian, was evacuated with his school elsewhere, so their family was broken up. Unselfishly they were certain it was the right thing to do putting him above their emotional needs.

Alan was five in 1939 and hadn’t been out of London. Alan’s interminable journey involved crossing London and two hours on a coach to Headington. His new home was Downside Road, on an estate built for Oxford’s motor industry just like Dagenham.

Alan wasn’t welcomed in his new school. Oxford was insular and he was ‘alien’. Alan’s first experience of school included consistent bullying. Although ‘Auntie Hilda’ was lovely he had severe challenges each day, which he had to cope with. Being five he wasn’t always successful especially during the night. Almost unimaginably Alan was completely cut-off from his family. There was no phone and being five he couldn’t communicate his feelings to his mother by letter.

Alan returned to Dagenham in 1940. The eight month ‘Phony War’ was ending but they didn’t know that then. Unsurprisingly Alan’s parents took the view they’d been suffering unnecessarily. He returned as the Blitz began. His mum kept him in the house till the war ended. Love conquered fear.

Once home in Becontree Avenue Alan thrived. He went to Stevens Road school. Like most people in Dagenham he spent considerable periods of time in Anderson shelters between 1940 and 1943 and, after the war, in 1946, he entered Ilford County High School.

Source
Alan and I have sat next to each other at Dagenham & Redbridge FC for quite a few years. He is absolutely impressive and I’m delighted to have written this biographical fragment, which has been done with his help.
Other Sources
For memories of Headington see http://www.headington.org.uk/history/reminiscences/index.htm
For a general history http://www.headington.org.uk/history/timeline_briefhistory/briefhistory.htm
For the phony war September 1939-March 1940 see https://www.britannica.com/event/Phony-War
For Chadwell Heath’s history see https://www.francisfrith.com/chadwell-heath/memories

Damian White and the Covid-19 Challenge

The government is sending mixed messages but they’re at least sending a message. Matt Hancock knows he’s mouthing words, whilst Dominic Raab has the rigid steely eyed look of someone mainlining on class A drugs, ready for an ordeal. Here in Havering Damian is bunkered down. It’s difficult to know why. All he has to answer are simple technical questions and here are a few.

Havering’s finances have taken a tremendous hit: but how big a hit? Damian’s infamous 2019 car parking charge increases were ‘essential’ and now that’s all disappeared. How much per month has gone over the Covid-19 cliff face? What’s the nature of the contract with those enforcing car parking? Are there break-clauses and if there aren’t, has the workforce been furloughed? Sunak, the chancellor, has made large with taxpayers’ money, so why can’t we have some to fill gaps in our finances?*

Obviously the council finances need to be strengthened after Covid-19. Is the Freedom Pass part of Damian’s calculations? It costs £7 million and would repair some damage. If that’s too toxic for the Harold Wood 3, does Damian have any viable suggestions?

Damian is thin skinned and believes any criticism is hostile, but he’s going to have to mature. Covid-19’s a unique situation and he needs to carry the borough with him. Sunak’s solution is virtually communist. He’s currently employing 50%+ of the British population, albeit for a limited period. Damian should listen to constructive criticism. Some of us have the well being of Havering at heart.

* The token gesture he made to the council is pitiful in relation to the savaging that has been handed out during the years of austerity.

Nine International Airmen Buried in Hornchurch


Russell Norris Langley, Canadian and A Spitfire pilot from Czechoslovakia

Hornchurch airfield was crucial in the defences of London during the Second World War. Many airmen sacrificed their lives and these foreign volunteers are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves section of the Hornchurch cemetery. They fought and died fighting for freedom with the RAF.

After Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Nazis in 1939, many Czech pilots escaped with their aircraft to France. After France fell in spring 1940, they came to Britain and joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve. There were about 88 airmen in the RAF, two of whom are buried in the Hornchurch Cemetery War Graves section.

Blazej Konvalina was aged 23 when he died in January, 1942 in a flying accident at Purfleet.
Josef Valenta died during take-off at Hornchurch in January, 1942.

The Czechs wanted to continue the war against Hitler but New Zealanders fought because Britain was the Mother Country. They felt British and so our war was their war. New Zealand contributed seven squadrons to the RAF as well as 135 airmen. They have three men in Hornchurch cemetery.

Samuel David Earwalker was aged 26. His Spitfire plunged to the ground at Chelmsford in January, 1943.
Erl Joseph Kean was aged 33. He was shot down near Maidstone in April, 1941 by a Bf109 whilst on patrol.
Francis MacKay Laing was aged 29. After combat, he was returning to base and crashed near Hawkinge in July, 1941.

Like the New Zealanders, Canada was also motivated by being part of the Empire. They became the fourth largest air force in the war. Canadians suffered tremendous losses in bombing raids over Germany and they contributed to every aspect of the air campaign. There is one Canadian buried in Hornchurch cemetery.

Russell Norris Langley was aged 24. He died in a crash but I couldn’t find out where, though the date is February, 1942.

The sole South African buried in Hornchurch had lived in England for an extended period of time. He was a university student of mining, which is appropriate as he came from the Transvaal, the South African centre of gold mining. He was a member of what Churchill called The Few. Volunteers from RAF Hornchurch tend the graves of The Few.
Claude Waller Goldsmith was aged 23. He was shot down by a German Me 109 over Maidstone in October, 1940.

Another man with a connexion to Britain, even though having a different nationality, was an Argentinian. He had British parents and was born in Rosario.

Thomas Wilton Smith was aged 24. He came to Britain in 1940 and died of his injuries in Chelmsford in December, 1943.

The American, Raimund Sanders Draper, joined the RAF via Canada. It isn’t illegal for Americans to fight for foreign countries as long as they don’t fight against the USA, but it shows tremendous commitment.

Raimund Sanders Draper was aged 29. He died when his Spitfire had catastrophic engine failure on take-off. He saved the lives of children at Suttons Senior school,
“At 10.45 am an aircraft crashed on the playing field, the main parts being ricocheted onto the drive, fragments breaking a total of 9 windows in three classrooms. Splinters from the ‘plane scored the wall and injured the playing field and shrubbery. Richard Burton received a cut on the leg from flying glass needing medical attention and five boys were treated from primary shock. The boy with the injured leg was conveyed to his home by ambulance, under Dr. Heath’s orders. School was evacuated to shelter for 15 minutes owing to probability of danger from fire and exploding ammunition. By 11.15 am the school had resumed normal work.”*
* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raimund_Sanders_Draper

Sources
For foreign airmen in the RAF see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-British_personnel_in_the_RAF_during_the_Battle_of_Britain
For the Royal Canadian Air Force see https://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/chrono/1931rcaf_e.html
For the Royal New Zealand Air Force see http://www.airforce.mil.nz/about-us/who-we-are/history/wwii.htm
For a very interesting review of the Czech Air Force in WW2 see https://fcafa.com/2014/09/18/a-short-history-of-the-czechoslovak-air-force-in-ww2-and-the-post-war-period/
http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/122_wwII.html

Sources for local history
For a very good overview see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:RAF_Hornchurch
and http://www.beyondthepoint.co.uk/property/raf-hornchurch/#1511813767070-0eecaf5b-59db
For the inter-war era see https://www.rafhornchurch.com/history/inter-war-years/
and for the conservation status of the area see https://www.havering.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/1970/lbhlp47_raf_hornchurch_conservation_area_appraisal.pdf pp8-9
For photographs see https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=raf+hornchurch+photos&sa=X&biw=1460&bih=761&sxsrf=ALeKk000RTv9AmmxjMcUJwRGdMPmJqBmuQ:1586451685367&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=Tywuxcbje7vdsM%253A%252CPpSGvSfmqAI2zM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kRLF1tKIM4sickAQk945tMdVramwA&ved=2ahUKEwjVlKOJ6dvoAhXKasAKHRJ2BMoQ9QEwBHoECAoQHw#imgrc=Tywuxcbje7vdsM:
For a brilliant interactive map see http://www.rafhornchurch.thehumanjourney.net/map.htm
After the war the site was used for gravel winning see https://www.rafhornchurch.com/history/life-after-the-airfield/

Special thanks to Tony Philpot, chair of HAHT for his kind assistance
.

Sanders School, Hornchurch: renamed in an act of disrespect

Introduction

Raimund Sanders Draper was an American volunteer who flew Spitfires in the Second World War and on the 24th March, 1943 he crashed landed. His plane developed catastrophic engine failure immediately after take-off. In his direct flight path were two schools with hundreds of children in them. He made an instantaneous decision to sacrifice his life and save theirs. In 1973, Suttons Secondary School was renamed Sanders Draper School to honour his memory. Forty years later the school was renamed Sanders school. This was deeply resented in the community as an act of disrespect.

Discussion
Sanders Draper was an under-performing school in 2013. Headteacher, John McEachern, decided that renaming the school would improve achievement. He believed the name ‘Sanders Draper’ was synonymous with failure. It’s difficult to understand his reasoning. To lift achievement by a name change seems unlikely at best. It might work for soap powder but educational achievement is complex and multi-faceted. Yet he did believe it and he persuaded the governors to change the name despite voracious opposition. The outcome?

John McEachern’s leadership led to a reduction of achievement based on expectations from primary school evidence. (see Addendum: 1 and 2) The adjacent Suttons primary school is rated ‘good’ by OFSTED, which further highlights his disappointing leadership.

John McEachern and the governors had a tragic lack of self-awareness. They were blind to their failure, which caused mediocre achievement. Instead, they engineered a puerile quick fix and a pointless provocation to a community proud of their history. They were replaced in 2017.

Conclusion
Sanders school is now part of SFAET, an academy trust.

Addendum: OFSTED reports
(1) “Students join the school with attainment which is broadly average. The group of students who took their examinations in 2013 unusually had above average attainment on entry. Although the proportion achieving five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and mathematics improved and was above the national average, the progress made by these students was less than average.” 2014 OFSTED Report p6

(2) “Pupils attained standards at least in line with the overall national averages in GCSE examinations. However, variations between groups of pupils, including the most able, the most able disadvantaged and disadvantaged boys, and between subjects, meant that overall improvements in outcomes were modest.”* 2017 OFSTED Report p6
* ‘modest’ means non-existent.
Sources
For the name change see https://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/education/anger-at-disrespectful-name-change-of-hornchurch-school-named-after-hero-pilot-sanders-draper-1-3545992 See also https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2603118/Anger-school-named-heroic-Spitfire-pilot-sacrificed-save-hundreds-pupils-changes-name.html
For the 2013 OFSTED Report see https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/2193029
For the 2014 OFSTED Report see https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/2430137 especially p6
For the 2017 OFSTED Report see https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/2676415 especially p6
For the current government performance analysis see https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/school/146309/sanders-school/secondary
For the first OFSTED Report (2018) after the resignation of John McEachern see https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/2772447