Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Danny Baker – a Crossfields baby

Danny Baker (back row, second left) in the 3rd Year First XI at West Greenwich Secondary School. Front, second right, is his later punk cohort, Mark Perry, with whom he started the legendary punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue.

If you listen to Radio London during the day, you'll know that veteran DJ Danny Baker has recently departed his 3 o'clock slot (but can still be heard on Radio 5)*. Just a month before in October, he also brought out his autobiography, Going To Sea In A Sieve.

Danny grew up in Deptford and now lives in Blackheath. His early years were spent on the Silwood Estate in Rotherhithe in the now demolished Gillam House. But he was born on Crossfields in Congers House, and describes this on page 9 of his book...

"...After years of struggling to make any kind of progress with their lives, they [Baker's family] crossed the Thames – a huge upheaval in itself – to take up residence in a poky flat on the third floor of a pre-war block in downbeat Deptford called Congers House. It was here, in number 51, at 9am on Saturday 22 June 1957, that I was born. I was delivered by Nurse Walkerdene and my dad had to be summoned back from the pub as he was about to set off on a docker's beano – a boozy coach trip to Margate...
"At this point they had three children crammed into one bedroom. Consequently, when I was still a baby – indeed, because I was a very small baby – they were allocated a brand-new three-bedroom council flat on the ground floor of the Silwood Estate with a bathroom and a garden. They simply couldn't believe their luck..."

That's it for any more mention of Congers House, except on page 10 where he recalls that the family lived next door to a man called Jumbo Dray, who everyone called 'Jumb'. Congers House was subsequently refurbished.

Publisher's synopsis (provided by Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

"Born in 1957 in Deptford, south London, Danny's first job after dropping out of school at the age of 15 was in One Stop Records, a small record shop in London's West End, frequented by Elton John and Mick Jagger, a store rather like the one in High Fidelity. His career in print journalism began in 1976 when he co-founded the fanzine Sniffin' Glue leading to an offer from the New Musical Express, where his first job was as a receptionist. Soon after, Baker was contributing regular astute articles, reviews and later interviews to the publication.

"Danny then began making 30-minute documentaries at LWT for the cult series 20th Century Box, and appeared in two television commercials: Daz washing powder and Mars bar chocolate. His stellar career on the radio began on BBC GLR in 1989, then moved to BBC Radio 5 where he presented sports shows including the groundbreaking 6-0-6, which still influences the media's approach to criticism of players, managers and referees. He also worked on BBC Radio 1, back to BBC GLR, Talk Radio and later on Virgin Radio."

Baker joined BBC London 94.9 in 2001 presenting a Saturday show, then later the breakfast show. In 2005 he took over the weekday 3-5pm slot, featuring phone-ins and discussions with his on-air team regarding music and entertainment of the 1960s and 1970s*, and a Saturday morning show on Radio 5. "In May 2012, Danny won 'Sony Radio Personality of the Year' and appeared on Desert Island Discs. Six months earlier he had gone public on his cancer and chemotherapy treatment. This book charts Danny's showbiz career, the highs and lows, and everything in between, including the accusation that he killed Bob Marley..."

*The programme was axed in November 2012 as part of a programme of cuts at the station. Although due to continue its run until the end of the year, Baker announced on air on the day of the announcement that that day's show would be his last, branding his BBC London employers as "pinheaded weasels" for the way in which they cancelled the programme. (wikipedia.org)


  1. Sounds like a great opportunity for Deptford Lounge to have a reading in the big hall and try and get some old people there who remember?

  2. Congers House was subsequently refurbished.

    And Finch House and they got lifts. The rest of us are still living in poky land...

  3. Who remembers the early 80s when some Crossfields folk filmed a pilot of a new quiz show in the Duke?

    We tried to sell the idea with Danny Baker as the quiz master (we had various 'ins' through the people we knew). Baker was a regular in the Duke then. We visited his house in Scawen Road several times in our efforts to get him involved. He knew where we lived but never mentioned he was born on Crossfields. A few months later an almost identical quiz format came on TV with Angela Rippon in the chair. Rip off or co-incidence?

  4. This is the first time I've heard that Congers was not refurbished until after 1957 or so. I had been told that Finch and Congers were severely bombed and rebuilt in the forties to be as they stand today. Farrer was completely destroyed and rebuilt around the same time or so I was told years ago.
    How about trying to get some definitive information on this? You could start by posting an appeal. I do know the original estate opened in 1938 which makes it a year older than me !!

    1. JP, did you read the Draft consultation for the Creekside Conservation Area? See our post http://crossfields.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/consultation-1-creekside-conservation.html for a quite detailed appraisal of Crossfields.

      Holden, Wilshaw, Cremer, Castell and Browne were, as you say, constructed between 1937 and 1939 (195 units to house 941 residents!!!). Finch and Congers were built in the late 1940s and Farrer House was last to be built in 1949. Frankham was also built in the post-war period...Originally there were 12 blocks. Owen House (west of Congers) and Bates House (other side of road) were demolished in the 70s when they widened the road. Bevil House (near Frankham) was also demolished 'for unknown reasons'.

      Unfortunately, the report does not explain how Finch and Congers were modernised – eg two flats were combined into one to make much bigger spaces, and lifts were installed. Lifts were not a feature of the original LCC flats! Maybe you'd care to do the legwork on this research!

    2. Sorry JP, I meant you can download the appraisal from a link in that post.

  5. Re that football team photo – notice anything funny? They're all white! A couple of years later that school produced a brilliant team that included the Wallace brothers (black) who later played for Southampton and Man United. I know this because I was teaching at SE London Boys school and we 'took over' West Greenwich when they closed in 1979. Some other Crossfields people also taught at West Greenwich in the early seventies.