Posts Tagged ‘Open Day’

Harmondsworth – A Middlesex Village

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

Harmondsworth – A Middlesex Village

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

Going back to Harmondsworth feels very much like going back to my childhood as I grew up only a few miles away and lived for years on a bicycle cycling out from Hounslow and along country lanes through villages like this on the edges of London, before the M25 and M4 chopped up the country around here and the growing airport at Heathrow produced both sprawling new housing estates and a huge increase in traffic in the area.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

From 2003 to 2009 I took part in the protests against the plans to build another huge runway for Heathrow, which now only uses two though it was built with more on its existing site. The shorter runways were abandoned partly because planes grew larger. I was very pleased when one closed as on the few days a year when there were strong cross-winds it brought planes at low heights over my current home a couple of miles away, sometimes low enough to shake the whole building. I think building Terminal 4 which opened in 1986 put an end to its use.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village
A mural across where the airport would end

We celebrated in 2009 when plans for a third runway were dropped, but the lobbyists for Heathrow expansion didn’t take no for an answer and persuaded the coalition government to set up the Davis Commission to put the plans back on the table again. The protest in Harmondsworth on Sunday 12th April 2015 was before the report came out, but its conclusion was predictable – and the one it had been set up to come to.

John Stewart of HACAN

Since then and the government’s acceptance of the case it made for expanding Heathrow, the world has changed, or at least our understanding of the future has. The case for airport expansion has disappeared and we now know that we have to have rapid decarbonisation of the economy to survive. Instead of looking forward to exponential growth we need to find ways to stabilise and reduce demand and aviation is one of the most climate-damaging sectors.

While Davis took as its basis that expansion is necessary to continue growth, it is now clear that expansion would be a disaster. At last I think that message is beginning to get through to our government, though too often it is still thinking in terms of short-term financial benefits to the pockets of its members and their friends.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

Harmondsworth is still one of the most interesting of the small villages on the fringes of London, with a fine church in its churchyard, and although its village green is a pocket handkerchief compared to many it still has a couple of pubs and some picturesque cottages along its north side. But the real gem of the village is tucked away immediately to the left, its magnificent Grade 1 listed Great Barn, built in 1426 , the largest surviving example all-timber barn which Sir John Betjeman called ‘the Cathedral of Middlesex’.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

In agricultural use until the 1980s, it was then allowed to decay until a public campaign strongly supported by the local MP John McDonnell persuaded English Heritage to take it over in 2012. They carried out a substantial restoration leading to it being re-opened to the public free of charge on selected days and it is managed by the Friends of the Great Barn at Harmondsworth. My pictures of the barn are not available for any editorial or commercial use.

On the 12th April 2015, the Datchet Border Morris were dancing inside the barn and around the village green during the day. The campaign to save the village (again!) was launched with a huge mural and speeches from all but one of the candidates standing for the area in the general election the following month. The Lib-Dem candidate also supported the campaign but had been sent the wrong date for the rally. Also present were campaigner John Stewart of HACAN, and five polar bears who had held a protest a few weeks earlier with the banner ‘Any New Runway Is Plane Stupid‘.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

The weather was fine and it was an interesting day – and warm enough for me to sit outside and eat a quick lunch in the garden of the Five Bells, before rushing to photograph the Morris performing again outside The Crown. And before leaving for home I went to take another look around the interior of the parish church, parts of which date from the 12th century.

More at Heathrow Villages fight for survival.


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Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones

Monday, March 28th, 2022

Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones – three rather different events around London on Saturday 28th March.

Jon Bigger Class War South Croydon – Purley, London

Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones
Jon Bigger

Class War had decided to stand candidates in the 2015 General Election, and among those who volunteered to stand was Jon Bigger, now Dr John Bigger and the publisher of The Journal of Anarchy “a repository of work from published articles to blog posts, videos and podcasts.”

Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones

Croydon South was probably not the most fertile ground for anarchism which was perhaps largely why it was chosen as one of the handful of seats for the party to fight. On the southern fringe of London it remains spiritually in deepest true-blue Surrey, one of the Conservatives’ safest seats in London. Though there was also a particular distaste for the Tory candidate Chris Philp who had called for benefit claimants to be forced to undertake unpaid community work, as well as calling for Purley to get a grammar school.

It wasn’t a very successful visit as although we went to what was considered to be the centre of Purley there were very few people about, and Bigger’s campaign speech was delivered to the small group of Class War supporters and one rather confused elderly gentleman at the Conservative Party Office. We found only a few more outside a nearby supermarket, where most customers seemed to be in two much of a hurry to get back into large cars to hear anything political.

As I wrote:

“Probably all of Purley was by this time slaughtered at home in front of the TV as the sun was definitely over the yard arm. Wherever they were it wasn’t where we were on Brighton Road, except for a few desperate souls at the bus stops on each side of the road trying to escape. But Class War made the best of it, handing out their election flyer to the police posse still devotedly following their progress (though mainly sitting in their van enjoying the overtime), the occasional local youth and elderly demented.” Perhaps some of them were among the 65 who voted for Jonathan Bigger, but somehow 31,448 came out of the woods to vote for the Tory.

Jon Bigger Class War South Croydon


Murdoch on Trial – Guilty as charged – News International, London Bridge

I arrived rather late back from Purley for the People’s Trial of Rupert Murdoch being conducted by activists on the sixth day of Occupy Rupert Murdoch week outside the News International building at London Bridge, just in time to hear the last witnesses before the jury gave its guilty verdict and Judge Donnachadh McCarthy pronounced the sentence.

But though the sentence was to remove his power base and treat him with love there seemed little chance of it being carried out for real, and his organisation continues to spread its disinformation and messages of hate.

Max Keiser then spoke about the economic fraud and the basis of our economic system, with London at its centre, the world’s largest tax haven. The system, which allows the rich to borrow on the basis that they have borrowed before is rather like the Emperor’s New Clothes, and it began to fail in 2008. Whether the StartCOIN scratch cards he handed out with free money on them (“The currency of the revolution”) will prove more stable I can’t say as I lost mine.

I was told that more would happen later, but I was getting tired and decided to leave, missing the rush to occupy News International at around 7pm. As I wrote, “The rush past security proved successful and the occupiers managed to stay in the building for around 20 hours, although there was surprisingly little coverage in even the non-Murdoch news media. Those 5 billionaires obviously stick together and the BBC always seeks to marginalise any UK protest. Probably there was some important news about a minor celebrity hiccoughing.”

Murdoch on Trial – Guilty as charged


Cross Bones Open Day – Cross Bones Graveyard, Redcross Way

Two well-dressed men with Southwark poet and playwright John Constable in the Crossbones Graveyard

I’d seen one of the men on the left of the picture earlier opposite News International and talked briefly with him and he had told me he was waiting for a friend to go to the Open Day at the Cross Bones Graveyard and I decide to call in their on my way home. Here’s what I wrote in 2015, along with some pictures.

I’d been to the graveyard before, the first time years ago when I’d wandered in and the whole site was in a complete mess, with loads of rubbish and rubble. I’d read about its use for hundreds of years as a place where outcasts, particularly the ‘Winchester Geese’, prostitutes who were licenced to carry out their trade on the south bank on the Thames, in Bankside surrounding Winchester Palace, formalised by the Lord Bishop of Winchester in 1142, and providing a considerable income for the clergy through taxes and fines for several hundreds of years thereafter.

These ‘single women’ and their children, along with paupers and miscreants were buried in this patch of ground until some time before it was formally closed in 1853 as too overcrowded to continue. Plans to build over it were stopped in the 1880s by the e Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884, and it remained largely unused and forgotten until disturbed by the Jubilee Line extension in 1990, when the Museum of London made some excavations. Their survey of the site suggested that up to 15,000 had been buried there, half of them children.

I’d walked past it earlier and assumed like some other areas of waste ground that it was a bombsite, but then became aware that ribbons and other tokens were being tied to the railings. Later I read about the site in various places.

Apart from the mysterious phantom gardener, the other figure responsible for increasing interest in Crossbones was local writer John Constable who revived the story of Cross Bones through his cycle of poems and mystery plays, ‘The Southwark Mysteries’. Various events began to be organised around Crossbones, and although I never got to them, the ribbons on the fences multiplied.

My London Diary

I was pleased to be able to give the appeal for the creation of a new public garden by the Bankside Open Spaces Trust a little publicity.

Cross Bones Open Day


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