Thursday, 9 December 2010

From Woolwich to Tripcock Point

The following account about the riverside path downriver from the Arsenal comes from the latest edition of the Woolwich Antiquarians newsletter. This is a fascinating piece of riverside whose history has been very much neglected.

Andy Brockman will be with Greenwich Industrial History Society as a speaker again on 18th January (at the Old Bakehouse m 7.30) talking about : The First Blitz: The Eaglesfield Park Anti Aircraft Gun Site and the defence of Woolwich Arsenal in WW1

however - back to the river and what the Antiquarians had to say ........... on "Thames-side Arsenal - a walk led by Andy Brockman"

The walk was along the riverside footpath from Woolwich. The footpath, is now about 10ft higher than it was when the Arsenal was at its peak so most remains l are now covered. In the 19th the Arsenal authorities had themselves raised the river bank, and much of their work is still visible in revetted stone.

At a curve in the riverbank is the Gridiron which was built as a roll-on dock for 100 ton guns to be loaded onto special 'Gog or Magog' barges After manufacture in the Arsenal the gun would be put on a railway wagon, taken to the dock, and rolled (wagon and all) directly onto one of the barges for transport to Shoeburyness or wherever. Although this dock is now overgrown it is in reasonable condition and it is hoped to restore it.

At the next curve the indentation was probably the result of a breach in the river wall. The land was boggy and had been used for a magazine; and latterly for a latrine, with an outfall drain. It was felt by the authorities that there was a need here for revetting, and thus four old boats loaded with stone were gronded here in a line with more stone piled behind. These boats are now accessible at neap tides. The southernmost of them being the only known example of a ballast barge. It had a very basic hull, for local work in calm river waters, with a large hopper in the centre and a crane to dredge ballast from the riverbed. Thames Discovery are investigating it as well as the best preserved of the other three boats.

The third indentation is an ancient breech. Arsenal closed it off with a stretch of riverwall

There are two Second World War Pill Boxes along the path, neither of a usual type. The southernmost is of rough concrete but stands well above ground level. The northern one is of fine concrete, and has a small enclosed yard at the back, open to the sky, with a pedestal base in the centre. The base is set low down but is not big enough to mount any sort of gun - was it a listening post, for a searchlight or what??

Tripcock Point is where the Princess Alice sank and nearby is a descriptive plaque pointing out the site. There is also a modern signpost giving the walking distance to Dartford and Dover eastwards; and Aberdeen westwards...

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