Blackheath Rugby to move first-team matches from Rectory Field to Well Hall, Eltham

The Rectory Field has been Blackheath FC's home since 1883

The Rectory Field has been Blackheath FC’s home since 1883

Blackheath Rugby is to move its first-team matches away from the Rectory Field on Charlton Road, and will start next season at its Well Hall ground in Eltham.

The world’s oldest rugby club, which started playing at the Rectory Field in 1883, says it needs to move to Eltham to ensure its financial stability.

Blackheath are currently second in National League One, English rugby’s third tier, and are battling for promotion to the Championship. Club bosses say if the side is to progress, it needs a ground that can be developed in the future.

But they say women’s, youth and social sides will continue to play at the Rectory Field, the club’s “spiritual home”.

The new ground on Kidbrooke Lane, known as Club@Well Hall, boasts an all-weather playing surface and newly-laid pitch.

Chairman Russell Ticehurst told members at the club’s financial annual general meeting: “There is a lot of history associated with Rectory Field and it will remain an important part of our portfolio,” he said.

“Some of the first England test matches were hosted there, you can dig out YouTube footage of the All Blacks and Springboks there in the inter-war years, and county cricket was regularly staged until around 1970.

“But therein lies the problem! Rectory Field is a shared facility with cricket, tennis and squash and the pressure of running semi-professional rugby, which continues to become increasingly competitive year-on-year, in a shared environment is too great.”

“Club@Well Hall gives us so much potential to improve the match day experience for everyone. A lot of work will go in to make sure we have the infrastructure facilities for spectators and sponsors alike, and with its close proximity to the A2 and Eltham railway and bus stations, as well as on-site parking, it has excellent transport links for people coming from all over London and Kent.”

Ticehurst said he appreciated the emotional ties many felt to the Rectory Field: “As a player myself at Blackheath the 1990s, and now in my third year as Chairman, I fully appreciate the heartache of moving our primary activity away from Rectory Field, but it will remain our spiritual home with social, youth and women’s rugby all played there.

“However, if Blackheath is to remain a leading name not just this country, but in world rugby, we need to ensure our financial stability with a venue we can develop, and Club@Well Hall gives us the potential for a bright and exciting future.”

Club members have been invited to discuss the plan at an open evening at Well Hall on 28 January.

The move means means there are seven home fixtures left to play at the Rectory Field, including matches against Rosslyn Park this Saturday and Ampthill on 30 January (3pm kick-offs, £15 entry). The match against Richmond on 5 March is a clash in the oldest club rugby fixture in the world.

Blackheath FC was founded in 1858 by old boys of the long-gone Blackheath Proprietary School and became the first open rugby club without restricted membership. To this day, fans shout for “Club!” rather than “Blackheath!”, as early matches were against the school’s side. In its first years, matches took place on the heath itself, with players changing in the Princess of Wales pub.

It was a founder member of the Football Association, before walking out within weeks over plans to outlaw “hacking”. It helped set up the Rugby Football Union eight years later.

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Local historical records ‘rediscovered’ at Charlton House

Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust have been in touch with news of a discovery in the cellar of Charlton House: 

WW1 History of Greenwich Borough uncovered as Charlton House’s Locked Vault is opened for the first time in memory.

Staff and volunteers at Charlton House in London have made an extraordinary discovery, in the cellar of the historic building.

Charlton House, part of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, has ‘rediscovered’ historical records and leather bound documents relating to the local area, and dating back more than 150 years.

Hidden deep in the basement of Charlton House, the vault containing the records has been locked since before the building was handed over to the Trust 8 years ago. Amongst the items discovered inside is the First World War Memorial Book for the Borough, containing the names of local men who served during the 1914-1918 war and a 100 year old log book for the local church – St Luke’s, which details all services and is annotated with significant events such as the Silvertown Explosion.

Tracy Stringfellow, Chief Executive of Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust explained: “We don’t know exactly how long it is since the vault was last opened, but the documents inside are very exciting and likely to be of significant interest to local historians and genealogists”

The Trust plans to display the discoveries at their forthcoming Great War exhibition, which takes place at the Greenwich Heritage Centre in February.

The documents and books will now be examined by preservation experts to ensure that their condition does not deteriorate.

There’s not been much information available on progress with Charlton House since it was quietly transferred to Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust in 2014, so we’re glad to hear that things are happening, and hope to see more video updates from the Heritage Trust. A shame, though, that their latest finds aren’t going on display in Charlton House itself.

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Weekend trains from Charlton disrupted through to Easter – get full details

A weekend train at Charlton: There'll be fewer of these over the next few months

Tried to catch a train at the weekend lately? Not easy, is it?

Services through Charlton are currently being badly affected by two huge engineering projects – the Thameslink Programme at London Bridge, and Crossrail at Abbey Wood. These are huge projects which will bring big benefits to us all.

But what’s not helping matters is a dire lack of information from private rail operator Southeastern, which this weekend was caught publishing inaccurate performance figures. It expects train users to study the small print on generic engineering works posters rather than putting any worthwhile effort into publicity or announcements.

There are no normal weekend services planned from Charlton between now and Easter, and alternative routes keep changing. The Greenwich line has been closed most weekends for a few weeks now, but services via Lewisham will soon face a temporary chop instead.

In particular, Southeastern appears to have decided that passengers on the Woolwich line can be fobbed off with trains that only run to New Cross – often just running two trains per hour there.

Because we’re nice people, we thought we’d step into the breach. Here’s a quick roundup of what train services are going where from Charlton each weekend until Easter.

Everything’s taken from the brilliant Realtime Trains, checking timetables at Charlton and Lewisham. It’s subject to change, particularly further into the future. Please check your own journeys if you’re taking an important trip, particularly early in the morning or in the late evening.

PS. There is now a petition to strip Southeastern of its franchise. There’s also growing pressure for TfL to take over south London’s rail routes – see this report from Centre for London, backed by Greenwich and other south London councils.

PPS. Greenwich councillor Aidan Smith is part of a panel quizzing Southeastern and other transport providers on their services next month. Got a question? Let him know.

Saturday 23 January (Charlton Athletic v Blackburn, 3pm)
4 trains per hour between Cannon Street and Plumstead via Greenwich
Trains to Cannon Street at 05, 25, 35, and 55 past each hour.
No trains via Lewisham from Charlton
Also no Jubilee Line Stanmore-Waterloo

Sunday 24 January
2 trains per hour between Charing Cross and Plumstead via Lewisham
Trains to Charing Cross at 04 and 34 past each hour.
No trains via Greenwich
Also no Jubilee Line Stanmore-Waterloo

Saturday 30 January
4 trains per hour between Cannon Street and Plumstead via Greenwich
Trains to Cannon Street at 05, 25, 35, and 55 past each hour.
No trains via Lewisham from Charlton

Sunday 31 January
4 trains per hour between Cannon Street and Plumstead via Greenwich
Trains to Cannon Street at 14, 29, 44, and 59 past each hour.
No trains via Lewisham from Charlton

Saturday 6 February (Charlton Athletic v Bristol City, 3pm)
4 trains per hour between Cannon Street and Plumstead via Greenwich
Trains to Cannon Street at 05, 25, 35, and 55 past each hour.
No trains via Lewisham from Charlton

Sunday 7 February
No trains at all – buses run between Lewisham and Dartford

Saturday 13 February (Charlton Athletic v Cardiff City, 3pm)
4 trains per hour between Cannon Street and Plumstead via Greenwich
Trains to Cannon Street at 05, 25, 35, and 55 past each hour.
No trains via Lewisham from Charlton

Sunday 14 February
2 trains per hour between Charing Cross and Plumstead via Lewisham
Trains to Charing Cross at 04 and 34 past each hour.
No trains via Greenwich

Saturday 20 February
4 trains per hour between Cannon Street and Plumstead via Greenwich
Trains to Cannon Street at 05, 25, 35, and 55 past each hour.
No trains via Lewisham from Charlton

Sunday 21 February
4 trains per hour between Cannon Street and Plumstead via Greenwich
Trains to Cannon Street at 14, 29, 44, and 59 past each hour.
No trains via Lewisham from Charlton

Saturday 27 February (Charlton Athletic v Reading, 3pm)
4 trains per hour between Cannon Street and Plumstead via Greenwich
Trains to Cannon Street at 05, 25, 35, and 55 past each hour.
No trains via Lewisham from Charlton

Sunday 28 February
2 trains per hour between Cannon Street and Slade Green via Greenwich
Trains to Cannon Street at 15 and 45 past each hour.
No trains via Lewisham from Charlton

Saturday 5 March
4 trains per hour between Cannon Street and Plumstead via Greenwich
Trains to Cannon Street at 05, 25, 35, and 55 past each hour.
No trains via Lewisham from Charlton

Sunday 6 March
No trains at all – buses run between Lewisham and Dartford

Saturday 12 March (Charlton Athletic v Middlesbrough, 3pm)
Special services running – Charing Cross and Cannon Street closed
2 trains per hour Victoria to Gravesend, 2 trains per hour New Cross to Dartford
Trains to Victoria at 20 and 50 past each hour.
Trains to New Cross at 05 and 35 past each hour (change at Lewisham for Blackfriars)
All trains call at Blackheath and Lewisham
No trains via Greenwich

Sunday 13 March
2 trains per hour New Cross to Plumstead
Trains to New Cross at 04 and 34 past each hour.
Change at Lewisham for Blackfriars and Victoria trains.
No trains via Greenwich

Saturday 19 March
Special services running – Charing Cross and Cannon Street closed
2 trains per hour Victoria to Gravesend, 2 trains per hour New Cross to Dartford
Trains to Victoria at 21 and 51 past each hour.
Trains to New Cross at 05 and 35 past each hour (change at Lewisham for Victoria)
All trains call at Blackheath and Lewisham
No trains via Greenwich

Sunday 20 March
2 trains per hour New Cross to Plumstead
Trains to New Cross at 04 and 34 past each hour.
Change at Lewisham for Blackfriars and Victoria trains.
No trains via Greenwich

Good Friday 25 March
4 trains per hour from New Cross to Plumstead
Trains to New Cross at 08, 23, 38 and 53 past each hour.
Change at Lewisham for Victoria and Charing Cross
No trains via Greenwich

Easter Saturday 26 March
4 trains per hour from New Cross to Plumstead
Trains to New Cross at 08, 23, 38 and 53 past each hour.
Change at Lewisham for Victoria and Charing Cross
No trains via Greenwich

Easter Sunday 27 March
2 trains per hour New Cross to Plumstead
Trains to New Cross at 04 and 34 past each hour.
Change at Lewisham for Charing Cross.
No trains via Greenwich

Easter Monday 28 March
4 trains per hour between Cannon Street and Plumstead via Greenwich
Trains to Cannon Street at 05, 25, 35, and 55 past each hour.
No trains via Lewisham from Charlton

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‘Snowflake Swim’ for Demelza at Charlton Lido

Charlton Lido hosts a charity ‘Snowflake Swim’ swim for Demelza Hospice Care for Children on Sunday 31st January, from 2pm. Maybe you’ve been inspired to give the lido a try by the new Land Rover advert, or you’re a regular who wants to raise some money from your weekend swim for a local charity – you can sign up online here. Good luck to all who take part!

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Charlton Lido lands starring role in Land Rover ad

Thought Charlton’s biggest TV event this week was Glenn Tilbrook taking the rise out of the prime minister to his face? Think again…

Hopefully the income from this car commercial will help the heated lido open for a little longer during the winter months.

(Thanks to Meirion Jones for the spot.)

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Charlton Athletic crisis: Greenwich MP asks for meeting with troubled club’s boss

The Valley

Dark days at The Valley: Rumours claim the club shop could be replaced by flats

Charlton Champion exclusive: Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has asked Charlton Athletic chief executive Katrien Meire for a meeting as the crisis surrounding the club intensified following its 5-0 defeat at Huddersfield Town last night.

Fans have been alarmed by the handling of events both on and off the field this season under the ownership of Belgian electronics tycoon Roland Duchâtelet. A group – Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet – was formed today to force the businessman out of the club.

2,000 fans held a noisy protest at The Valley earlier this month, following revelations in the Voice of The Valley fanzine that Duchâtelet and Meire had rebuffed attempts by former club boss Peter Varney – who ran the side in its Premier League era – to introduce them to investors who were interested in buying the Addicks from them.

Pennycook has written to Meire – who has not made any public statements since a video emerged of her implying the clubs fans were “weird” – to seek her side of the story. He is also talking to Eltham MP and shadow sports minister Clive Efford, whose constituency includes the club’s training ground in New Eltham.

The Addicks – second from bottom of the Championship, English football’s second tier – have haemorrhaged experienced staff both on and off the pitch, with cost-saving measures including leasing out the space formerly occupied by its ticket office as an NHS call centre.

The ticket office windows are closed Wednesdays and Thursdays – making it impossible to physically buy a ticket from The Valley on those days – while it is heavily rumoured that Duchâtelet plans to demolish the club shop on Floyd Road to build flats. When asked by this website late last year, Greenwich Council said there had been no correspondence about such a proposal.

Spell it Out

Fans have been mocking Katrien Meire’s public statements on social media

An indication of what may be planned for The Valley can be found at the electronics magnate’s first club, Belgian first division side Sint-Truiden, whose Stayen ground has been redeveloped to include high street retail units, bars and a hotel.

Duchâtelet appears determined to run the Addicks at a profit – despite the fact that most Championship sides of Charlton’s size run at a loss – by relying heavily on cut-price transfers of players from other European sides he owns and stepping up the use of Charlton’s academy players, as well as slashing the numbers of administrative staff. Meire told a conference in Dublin last November that the club would sustain itself by selling younger players to Premier League sides.

Fans – who have taken to wearing black and white scarves as a display of their unhappiness – fear that Duchâtelet’s cost-cutting has sent the club into an irreversible spiral of decline which will be made worse by relegation to League One, where revenues are tiny. The man himself has not spoken to fans or the media about the situation. (Read more about the situation at The Valley.)

Charlton Athletic banner

“Kids go free”… except they don’t

One function that appears to have been badly hit has been the club’s marketing department. Banners placed in streets near The Valley boast “KIDS GO FREE” at Charlton – except children have always been charged admission fees there.

Charlton’s last spell in League One saw the team maintain healthy season ticket sales – but disgruntled fans are threatening not to renew this summer, meaning big drops in revenue not just for the club, but for other local businesses too.

Tuesday’s 5-0 hammering at Huddersfield saw “interim head coach” Karel Fraeye – a long-time associate of Duchâtelet – refuse to speak to the press, leaving clearly distraught goalkeeper Stephen Henderson to field questions.

It is reported that Nebojša Vignjević, manager of Duchâtelet’s Hungarian side Újpest, is lined up to replace Fraeye, who has lost most of his matches in charge since being appointed in October. (6pm update: Fraeye was sacked this evening without replacement, after an aborted attempt to persuade Vignjević to come to Charlton.)

Further protests are planned for Charlton’s next home match, against Blackburn on 23 January, although it is not yet clear what form they will take.

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Don’t dump your real Christmas tree – leave it out for the council

Did you splash out on a real Christmas tree? Now the festivities are over, don’t forget one of Greenwich Council’s better, under-advertised services – it’ll pick your tree up for free, from your home. Just leave it out on bin day.

If you see flytipping (or graffiti or other problems) while out and about (including when the council sweeps the streets and then leaves the bags out mouldering over New Year…), then use Fix My Street (or its Apple and Android apps) to report it. Reports go straight to the council and you can monitor what’s being done – for example, we see the witty graffiti artist in the Bramshot Avenue subway has made a comeback….

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