The M.V. Bendigo

Posted: November 16, 2014 by BTP Liam in Case Study, Various
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Less well-remembered than the Concrete Barge, another vessel involved in the Second World War marooned on Canvey Island is the M.V. Bendigo. Historian Robin Howie explains:

The M.V. Bendigo was being towed round the island to a new berth on the western side of the bridge,ironically only about a couple of hundred yards away from its existing one.This was necessary due to the new bridge being impassible.
At Hole Haven she started leaking and it was decided to tie her up to the Occidental construction jetty.
There is a photo of her on Dave Bullock’s walk around west Canvey minus superstructure,but I didn’t make the connection until my last trip to Canvey last weekend.
After much poking around and asking questions over some weeks I was at last put in touch with one
of the rare people who live on the marsh still.Following some sketchy directions over the saltings I began to think that I was on some kind of wind up having spent some minutes balancing along rickety planks and jumping ditches.
At last there was his little cabin cruiser hiding between two big wrecks.
I convinced him that I respected his privacy and that I was not from the “social”.
He told me the whole story and it was confirmrd that his word was good by some local characters.
He also told me that Bendigo was her civvy name and she would only have a number in service.
He knew this as he had owned a identical one many years before.
I’m sorry the ending is not a happy one but one plus point is that it gave me an excuse to be a mudlark again for a few minutes.

An image of an MTB firing off its deadly torpedoes. From www.worldnavalships.com

An image of an MTB firing off its deadly torpedoes. From http://www.worldnavalships.com

The M.V. Bendigo saw life as a Royal Navy Motor Torpedo Boat in the Second World War. Motor torpedo boats were fast petrol engine ship-hunting boats used for stealthy low-profile attacks on larger ships with their torpedoes during the Second World War, such as in the ‘Battle for the Atlantic’. It can be seen nearest the bridge to Benfleet on the left side in the 1956 photograph below in an impressive state. Next is it in 2004 moored at the Occidental ‘construction jetty’. The final image shows it rotting in 2011, taken by us. Quite a shame, but at least we can document the ship today.

Beyond the Landmark – V.I.P. Big Ben Tour

Posted: November 16, 2014 by BTP Joe in Event Review
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Big Ben (formally known at the Elizabeth Tower) is one of the worlds most iconic buildings, rating it as the 13th most iconic landmark in the world. Despite being one of the world’s most famous sights, overseas visitors aren’t allowed up due to security reasons as only UK residents can visit by booking the tour via your MP, months in advance. Liam and I headed into London for our tour of the tower and stopped off at the Tower of London first to see the poppies there. Wow. This was an amazing sight to see and is worth a visit. There are 888,246 poppies, one to remember each soldier who has lost their life in World War 1.
Moving on, we went to Portcullis House where we had to meet for our tour. We were joined by about 10 others and headed towards the tower via a tunnel under the road at about 2pm. The tower holds the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world and is the third-tallest free-standing clock tower. In 2012 it was renamed as Elizabeth Tower, from ‘Clock Tower’ to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee however it’s known by everyone as Big Ben, which is in fact a reference to the biggest bell at the top of the tower.

On October 16th 1834, the old Houses of Parliament were largely destroyed by a massive accidental fire. A new Parliament building was needed and was built in a neo-gothic style. Charles Barry  was the chief architect of the Palace, however he turned to Augustus Pugin for the design of the clock tower, which resembles earlier Pugin designs, including one for Scarisbrick Hall. The design for the tower was Pugin’s last design before his death, and Pugin himself apparently wrote, at the time of Barry’s last visit to him to collect the drawings: “I never worked so hard in my life for Mr Barry for tomorrow I render all the designs for finishing his bell tower & it is beautiful.” The tower is 315 feet (96.0 m) high and we climbed up the 334 steps to the top of the building stopping at 3 stops along the way.

Some unlucky people had this job! The clockface is cleaned every 5-7 years and costs "less than you might think"

Some unlucky people had this job! The clockface is cleaned every 5-7 years and costs “less than you might think”

The clock’s is famous for its reliability, always being within a second of the time, although when the tower was first commissioned, this was a problem. Clockmakers were very reluctant to agree to making the clock that precise, saying that they could get it to within a minute to the time although not a second, due to the hands being exposed to wind, rain, ice and snow however it was eventually settled with a new design being made which would ensure that it was within a second of the time. The designers were Edmund Beckett Denison, a company which still exist today. Construction was entrusted to clockmaker Edward John Dent however his stepson completed the work after his death in 1853. The pendulum is installed within an enclosed windproof box beneath the clockroom. It is 4 metres long, weighs 300 kg (600 pounds) and beats every 2 seconds. On top of the pendulum is a small stack of old penny coins; these are to adjust the time of the clock. Adding or removing a penny will change the clock’s speed by 0.4 seconds per day.

The main bell is known as the Great Bell or Big Ben and is the largest bell in the tower and part of the Great Clock of Westminster. It’s not known who exactly is ‘Ben’ although it’s most likely an MP or Boxer at the time however nothing officially says this. The original bell was a 16 tonne hour bell, cast on 6 August 1856 in Stockton-on-Tees and was transported to the tower on a trolley drawn by sixteen horses, with crowds cheering its progress. Unfortunately, it cracked beyond repair while being tested as a hammer was made too big and hence a replacement had to be made. This original bell was knocked down and melted into metal for the new bell.

The bell was recast on 10 April 1858 at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a 13½ tonne bell. This was pulled 200 ft (61.0 m) up to the Clock Tower’s belfry by several strong men lasting 18 hours. The bell is 2.29 m tall and 2.74 m in diameter. This new bell first chimed in July 1859 although in September it too cracked under the hammer, a mere two months after it officially went into service due to a hammer being used that was more than twice the maximum weight specified. For three years Big Ben was taken out of commission and the hours were struck on the lowest of the quarter bells until it was reinstalled. To make the repair, a square piece of metal was chipped out from the rim around the crack which can be seen today.

Moving to the present, the clock has become a symbol of the UK, particularly in TV shows or Films, with Big Ben being another name for London in addition to a red bus or black taxi passing the tower. The sound of the clock chiming has also been used this way. Big Ben is a focus of New Year celebrations with the BBC filming from London live at new year to show the spectacular firework display and in 2012, the clock tower itself was lit with fireworks that exploded at every toll of Big Ben. Similarly, on Remembrance Day, the chimes of Big Ben are broadcast to mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and the start of two minutes’ silence and if you live within a 5 mile radius of Elizabeth Tower – you’ll hear it! On 27 July 2012, Big Ben chimed 30 times, to mark the start of the Olympic games. And a final fact for you – the gold decorations at the top of the clock are real. It is genuine 23 carat gold as as fake gold would wear off more easily, so this is actually a cheaper alternative.

 

Happy Bonfire Night viewers. Before I begin I would like to inform you of a minor update to our content system. News updates once found on our Facebook page will now also be visible on the main website you are currently viewing. We will archive these in the ‘News’ section on the top  menu. This gives us the opportunity to post about the everyday side of BTP, integrating our social media content with our research here on BeyondthePoint.co.uk. This also means that all of our early posts will be logged and made easily-navigable via either the ‘News’, ‘Historic Locations’, or ‘More BTP’ sections.

2014 marks one-hundred years since the start of the First World War on the 28th of July 1914. Contrary to stereotypical imagery of the conflict; fighting abroad in Flanders Fields, it is important to remember that the Great War was also a struggle fought at home. Beyond the Point is proud to announce it will be investigating this side of the war, as a partner of the Imperial War Museum First World War Centenary Partnership. We visited the commemorative poppy display set up in the ground of the Tower of London last week to begin the coverage. Soon after we visited Rainham Marshes to investigate remains of a ruined Ministry of Defence firing range and coastal defence used in the Great War. Content is soon to follow. We plan a trip to the hopefully undisturbed site of Kynoch’s Munitions Factory, in Coryton.

   If you are subscribed to our Facebook Page or YouTube Channel, you will know that on the Halloween we released the prequel to our ‘Canvey Island Monster Returns’ spoof which we made exactly three years ago when we set up Beyond the Point. It makes for a tongue-in-cheek change to our usual local history-based content. Enjoy this Halloween short film above, or read about the actual  ‘Canvey Island Monster’ that washed up on the beach in 1953 here: http://beyondthepoint.co.uk/historic-locations/canvey-island/canvey-island-monster-1950s/. We filmed the production using our professional-grade equipment, that we usually use for our historic documentaries, over three filming sessions. Below you can see some of the ‘beyond the scenes’ photographs that I took during filming. You may also notice us sporting our new BTP fleeces which we recently had printed with community funding, as well as some polo shirts. We will be wearing these in future videos and photographs to add to the professionalism and uniformity of BTP.

Upcoming Events

Posted: September 26, 2014 by BTP Joe in News, Up-Coming Event, Website Update
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Hello everyone! We have a couple of upcoming events that we would like to invite you do. We will be there showcasing Beyond the Point and showing what local history remains there are.

BTP Liam at our stall last year

BTP Liam at our stall last year

 

Saturday 27th September 2014 – From 10:30 until 4PM, we will be at the War Memorial Hall on Canvey Island. This event has been organised by the Canvey Community Archive (link on the left) and has lots going on including a storyteller, Punch and Judy and stalls from other organisations including The Bay Museum, Transport Museum, Dutch Flood Museum and many more.

Sunday 12th October 2014 - From 10 until 4:30PM, we will be holding our stall at the Canvey Island Transport Museum. The Canvey Archive will be attending and you will have a fantastic opportunity to learn about the history of Canvey Island and see many old buses that were once used by many people to get around.

These are the up-coming public events that we have planned. One exclusive visit that we have at the end of October is a tour of one of the world’s most famous landmarks – Big Ben. Security is extremely high there although we have been booked in by the Castle Point MP, meaning that we will be going behind the big clock face and seeing how it all works. October also means Halloween and you know what that means…!

Jewel Tower is an overlooked treasure English Heritage holds directly opposite from The Houses of Parliament. It was built from 1365-66 to house the personal treasures of King Edward III – like a giant safe. Then in the early 17th Century the House of Lords used it as a records office, holding valuable documents. It survived a large fire in 1834 which destroyed much of the ‘Old Palace’ (the original Houses of Parliament dating back to the medieval era. From 1869 to 1936 the tower was used by the ‘Board’s Standards Department’ for the standardisation of measurement. Currency, weight, and lengths, were all standardised here – the definition of ‘one inch’, all the way to ‘how heavy should an ounce be?’, was all decided in this historic building.

This photograph, courtesy of English Heritage, shows the tower cramped among many more modern buildings in September 1950. The tower was exposed when these buildings were demolished shortly after.

This photograph, courtesy of English Heritage, shows the tower cramped among many more modern buildings in September 1950. The tower was exposed when these buildings were demolished shortly after.

   The structure is of quite an impressive size considering its publicity for tourists, and is of a rough ‘L’ shape, constructed with Kentish Ragstone, and designed by Henry Yevele. It features a large defensive moat around it still visible today (an artificial body of water surrounding it to prevent enemies entering) which was also used for transportation of the King’s goods. The tower was built in the corner of the Royal Gardens, and its ‘L’ shape is said to be due to King Edward ordering that it didn’t take up any of his garden space.

 

   On the bottom floor it features a fascinating set of ceiling bosses in the Royal Presentation Room, where the King would have been presented with valuable gifts, and meet individuals. Bosses are the meeting points between the ceiling ribs made of a kind of clay which does not fully dry hard – they are still flexible to this day. This acts as a shock-proof way of fixing the ceiling to allow it to move as the foundations move over time. This rare set holds some intricate carvings, making them an incredibly important archaeological artefact.

   Today the tower stands as an excellent English Heritage museum. We explored all the levels, learning about the building and its use whilst taking photographs for this article, and video footage for the video seen at the beginning. We would like to thank the man from English Heritage running the museum at the time, who was based at the downstairs desk. We were very grateful for his information on the ceiling bosses and use of the bottom floor. To add to this, not only did he allow us to film in the building, but he even closed the museum for ten minutes for us to gain some video footage – many thanks sir!

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When we visited the Houses of Parliament last year for the launch of the campaign ‘Archive Awareness’ we were fortunate to meet Clem Brohier who works for the National Archives. Clem invited us for an exclusive tour of the National Archives, and now that we have both finished college for the summer, we headed up to Kew to visit the site. The security on site is very tight (which makes it even more exciting!) so we were unable to take photos of the behind the scene areas so stock images from the National Archives website have been used. (We wouldn’t want to be caught taking photos either!)

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The National Archives are the official archive for the UK Government, holding thousands of documents owned by England and Wales, some documents dating back to over 1,000 years! Over 1 million historical government and public records are held there making it one of the largest archives in the world. From the Domesday Book to modern government papers and digital files, the collects holds many papers, maps, photos, posters, drawings and more. Documents are only made public after 30 years although now it’s becoming closer to 20 years with some released earlier under Freedom of Information requests. Some documents can’t be published immediately as they hold sensitive information about international relations or weaponry, whereas other documents are not as sensitive such as educational bills. Documents from the secret services are not held here, as they are not released at all.

We travelled there by train, travelling through 20 tube stations followed by a short walk to the Archives from Kew Tube Station. The building was opened in 1977 as an additional home for the public records, which were held in a building on Chancery Lane. The site was originally a World War I hospital, which was later used by several government departments. There is also an additional record storage facility (DeepStore) in the worked-out parts of Winsford Rock Salt Mine, Winsford, Cheshire. We were told whilst visiting that this location was secret from the public (we wasn’t told and the tour guides hadn’t even been there) although Wikipedia reveals the location as Winsford and describes the salt mines as:

The United Kingdom’s largest rock salt (halite) mine is at Winsford. Rock salt is quarried from a depth of more than 150 metres below ground with the mine producing 1 million tonnes of rock salt annually, and has a network of 135 miles (217 km) of tunnels over several square miles underneath the area between Winsford and Northwich. A worked-out part of the mine is operated by DeepStore Ltd., a records management company offering a secure storage facility. Confidential government files, hospital patient records, historic archives belonging to The National Archives, and business data are stored in the mine, where the dry and stable atmosphere provides ideal conditions for long-term document storage. Source.

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Digital Storage at the National Archives, london

The National Archives was created in 2003 by combining the Public Record Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission and is both a non-ministerial government department in its own right and an executive agency reporting to the Secretary of State for Justice. The archive works in preservation rather than restoration, like the Essex Records Office. With roughly 200km worth of shelving at the NA, security is high, including that of damage by fire. They don’t use sprinkler systems as this would damage the documents more, even though most are stored in cardboard boxes – (it was in the news a few years ago about a fire at at art gallery in Scotland where records were damaged by fire and water) so the archive use a special compressed gas system which involves Argon being pumped into the air to remove the oxygen, stopping the fire.

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Clem had kindly organised a selection of documents for us to look at, ranging from local maps and plans to documents signed by a King! We will be covering these soon and we also hope to return to the National Archives at some point as there is so much there – we only saw a very small percentage and the documents there will help to compliment our work in the future. There is also a lot more to Beyond the Point than articles like this, including our Online Shop, Interactive Map and more! A video covering our visit will be published on Beyond the Point TV in the next couple of weeks however the photos from our visit can be seen at our Facebook page (link on the left).