Wednesday 24 July 2013

Diana's notes on Woolwich

This set of notes has been handed to us by Diana Rimel - and constituted the basis of her walks and talks about Woolwich

The railway came in in the late 1840s. Horse buses made the railway station their terminus, and the first Arsenal Station buildings were erected in Eton Road (now Vincent Road). It was built in 1849 on part of a sandpit known as Pattisons

By 1867 over 3,000 passengers a day travelled from the Arsenal station to London, a further 2,000 using the Dockyard station. It was also busy on Sundays with trippers bound for Gravesend. In 1905 the Arsenal station was rebuilt in New Road, and the bridge across the road widened. But it was not until 1926 that the 'Smoke Hole' was filled in in spite of local traders and public protests for nearly 80 years previously. The gap in Greens End was bridged. General Gordon Square was opened on 24 February 1928.

In the 1970s the original Arsenal station building was still standing in Vincent Road, with a causeway running down to the railway tracks. The car park for railway vehicles once held locomotive sheds and sidings. The present high-tech station was built in 1993 replacing buildings of 1905.


CALDERWOOD STREET (formerly William Street)

Small, but busy street, with Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencer and Littlewoods at the Powis Street end. The railway passes under this end. On the site of Littlewoods where once the railway bridge stood was a wooden hut, the workshop of one Frederick Handley Page, former chief electrical designer with Johnson & Phillips. He established a company to manufacture, hire and repair aeroplanes, hydroplanes, airships and balloons at 36 William Street. It was the first aircraft manufacturing company in Britain when it was registered in 1909. The aircraft was assembled in Woolwich, taken by horse drawn cart across the Thames on the Woolwich Ferry and flown in a field in Essex. Eventually the Woolwich workshop became too small and Handley Page moved to Fairlop in Essex, where his aircraft became world famous, producing some of the finest passenger planes between the wars. The first London-Paris scheduled flights were operated by Handley Page, and HP42s served Imperial Airways flying from Croydon to Europe and India.

The old Polytechnic, Town Hall, Library and Methodist Chapel still remain.

At the John Wilson street end of Calderwood Street on the right stands the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel built in 1816 for the Artillery Garrison, with its Sunday School next door. In the 1980s it became the Gurdwara Sikh temple. It has two very old cottages next door, and is one of oldest parts of Woolwich. On the wall of the chapel is a tablet to the memory of Thomas Murrell, founder of Woolwich Methodism who died in 1837.

Market Terrace- this has some attractive 18th century cottages and the very first town hall. Market Street was originally intended to take the old Woolwich Market, but traders refused and it remained at Market Head until authorities built Beresford Square in 1854

The plot of land was then used for the Town Hall which was built in 1840, but almost as soon as it was completed the Town Hall was handed over to the police and a new Town Hall was built just around the corner in Calderwood Street. The first Town Hall was sold to the Government for £1,322 to accommodate the first police force of eight constables and a police court. This had formerly been held in the Castle Inn (at the Granada end of Powis Street).

The Magistrates Court was built in 1912 and is a two-storey building in Classical style in red brick with quoins and a stone plinth. It has sets of three windows and England's coat of arms in the tympanum.


The Second Town Hall was built in 1842, and is in a modest classical style with pillars and a plain pediment. It was used as the town hall until 1906. It stands nearly opposite Sainsbury’s with its original inscription on the facade. It is a very small building by Victorian standards for a Town Hall, and shows that municipal government was in its early stages then.

The Public Library was built in 1901 with funds from the Carnegie Foundation (Scots born Canadian philanthropist) and designed by architects Church, Quick & Whincop. Central bow window below a Dutch gable. This stands on the site of the first town hall

Woolwich Baths, Bathway, built 1894 by Henry Hudson church architect to Woolwich Board of Health. It later became the student union

Original Woolwich Polytechnic Building in Calderwood Street was built 1890i91 by Henry Hudson Church, with projecting pink terracotta piers and Baroque caps. The main hall on the corner of Calderwood and Polytechnic streets was added in 1935 by J C Anderson. The Polytechnic was founded in 1890 by Quintin Hogg as The Woolwich Polytechnic Young Men's Christian Institute (see engraving on Calderwood Street buildings). It was supported by the local populace and within 12 months part-time classes had started with 504 mixed students.


Third Woolwich Town Hall . Built 1903-1906 by architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas for the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich in Edwardian Baroque. Wellington Street entrance leads to Victoria Hall and a statue of QV by Frederick Pomeroy,  long entrance hall " of amazing grandeur' (C & P). Three domes, a balustraded gallery all round, approached by a grand staircase at the far end, which divides into two below a Venetian window. Council chamber off gallery to the right. Entrance to the public hall is in Market Street. High Edwardian baroque style.  Entrance on Ionic columns above 14 larger Ionic columns.   Facing Market Street are the arms of Woolwich on a pedimented balcony held by two cherubs.  It became the town hall foe odnon Borough of Greenwich 1965


Powis Street, Woolwich known as Edward Street in 1829.

Powis street was part of Bowater Estate and a large area of land from this estate was purchased in 1783 by Powis, family of Greenwich brewers. Powis Street and the others round it, named Frances Brewer, Thomas, Eleanor, William, Charles and Richard, after the family firm and its members. It was first laid out c1800-1810.

William and Richard Powis converted Swanne House, on site of present Greenwich Market, into a brewery in 1733. It was purchased in 1831 for the building of the market. Three of the brothers held various public offices in Woolwich, and one was a captain in the army stationed at Woolwich.

Powis Street was largely rebuilt with grander buildings, 1890- 1910. The Powis Estate was sold for £5000 in the 1880s, but the family held the property until c1930? Henry Hudson Church was the managing agent of the Powis estate.

The first building in the street was the Scotch Chapel., on which site the Powis Arms was built. A harmonic hall stood on the site of the cooperative ha. The street linked the town with the military buildings on the common            

Pedestrian main shopping centre. Much late Victorian or Edwardian ranges above ground level. Cuffs etc.

12 William Shakespeare Pub 1853 r3ebut 1900. Curious façade of c 1894. Shakespeare bust and monkey on the top. Three storeys with urn finials. Scrolled side buttressed. Balustraded balcony on the side.

52 was site of the South East London Electricity Board of 1910.

68/86 former Garrets store of 1898. Gigantic emporium, fashionable comprehensive department store of 1898. Unified upper floor with the Invicta horse of Kent (means unconquered) and lots of classical embellishments

126 was site of Arsenal Supply Co founded 1868:

151 161 Old head office RACS with symmetrical brick and terracotta, F. Bethell architect. 1903 Italian Renaissance style - inscribed 'Central Stores'. Prominent clock tower, later London Borough of Greenwich offices.

Statue of Alexander Mcleod, founder and first full time secretary. Co-op motto 'Each for all and all for each'.

RACS founded by Royal Arsenal workers in 1868 as the Royal Arsenal Supply Association. Renamed Royal Arsenal Coop society 1872, first RACS shop opened on this site in 1873 (147 Powis Street). Became one of largest retail co-ops in country. RACS absorbed by Manchester based CWS (Co-operative Wholesale society) in 1985.

136-152 CWS registered office and store building art deco style, bands of cream faience, continuous windows, tall tower, and tall, narrow vertical windows. Railings of internal staircase incorporate word 'COOP'. Near the top of No 134 next door is 'Each for all and all for each', within a wreath.

J Lyons and Co teashop was distinctive there. And the Midland Bank was on the left side corner, facing RACS.

Pryce's, a long-established Woolwich firm and the biggest printer in the town. Their first floor rooms were used as a school and as the meeting rooms of the Woolwich Scientific Society during the last century. George Carter and Sons, hatters, traded at numbers 37-39 and beyond them Wood Bros, the furniture dealers offered 'easy terms'.                        

The showrooms of the Metropolitan Gas company) were also there, and the sign of H Samuel, the jeweller.

Even up to 1967 it was described as 'the finest place in the world, full of colour and excitement, with something new to see every day.' Ruby Ferguson, Jan 1967, Homes and Gardens.


End of green on which sappers drilled


laid out c 1800 by a Mr. Spray


Was Union Gardens. Traceable to old workhouse in Ropeyard Gardens


Built on site of the ropeyard

Marquis of Beresford, Master General of Arsenal 1828-30

New street formed 1740 when George II was king


Hog lane – renamed 1860, probably the oldest street in Woolwich occupied by shipwrights and ‘other decent people’ in 1835. Had a Nile Tavern at the river end


Last of a series of zoological names in the area. Widened 1883 was a cul de sac at first until united with Richard Street 1820.


Named after Bowater family.

Holy Trinity - erected 1833, closed 1930, and demolished 1962. Semi-official church of the Arsenal.


180/112 early 19th century 111/2 probably late 18th century though in poor condition

120 the Coopers Arms formerly Plaisteds. Said to be of 1720m oldest pub in Woolwich. Cellars of comparative date. Present building late 19th century appearance - well designed timber ground floor. Fine lantern along alley to side.

Hog Lane street of great poverty. Many low lodging houses in varied building styles ran parallel to Surgeon Street between high street and the river. Houses on the left side demolished 1920s. Dust hole was part of this area so criminal and even the police didn’t enter


1880 William Hatchers greengrocery shop on the corner. This stretch is now Warren Lane.  Woolwich power station meant that the street was cleared away.


Transformed from the smoke hole thanks to local traders particularly Thomas Brown, a tailor of Hope House, 3 Russell Place -which was on the north side of the square. He and his fellow traders had had enough of their foods and shops being coated with soot from the open cutting which ventilated Woolwich Arsenal Station. Mr. Brown made a model and drew a representation of what he thought the square ought to look like.  20,000 people signed a petition. When the line wad electrified in 1926.

The Cross Street side of the square housed a diversity of businesses. Murray’s car hire and Barron's ostrich feathers stood on opposite corners of Peake's Place. This was an ancient alleyway stile existing as a right of way  

By 1928 smoke hole was completely filled in and the square officially opened with much public celebration. The whole of Russell Place was redeveloped after Birts, the freeholder, sold out in 1931.  Mr. Brown's tailoring business then had to move to new premises in Thomas Street

Barclays bank is on ten site of the Duke of Connaught Coffee Tavern built to try and bring temperance to the area

Woolwich Equitable Building Society (General Gordon Square)  Progressed from a Friendly Society, founded in 1842 in the Castle Inn, Powis Street. It began in Benjamin Wates's house at 145 Powis Street. Began in a humble way, first cashbox cost 50p, and the cash was kept in Mr Wates's bedroom until a bank account was opened. William Stuart, a doctor and Woolwich's first police surgeon, was the Society's first president.

Its first public meeting was held in the Calderwood Street Town Hall in 1847 and after this the first application for a mortgage was made by Richard Bond a builder. The directors financed this out of their own pockets. In 1862, by now more financially secure, the Woolwich moved into rented premises at 153 Powis Street. In 1875 it became the Woolwich Equitable Society. The present building was built in site of Birt's designed in 1932 and completed 1935 by architects Grace and Farmer. Edwardian baroque style with mix of art deco motifs. Entrance flanked by Ionic columns.  Note the owl above the entrance in Woolwich New Road. It was opened by Sir Kingsley Wood in 1935. Branch officers were opened from 1920.  The head office moved to a new building in Bexleyheath in 1989


Woolwich Post Office built around 1892 late Victorian, three storey in part plus attic in pitched gabled roof. Note terracotta designs to gable ends. The front dormer contains a central circular window. Later addition partly c/92~~ single-storey with parapet roof. Curved facade with Portland stone plinths.

Birts and Greens End no 11 were Home and Colonial. Stephens’s hatters were next door. Birt’s sold household items including the perfect transposing piano. The wall to the right of it concealed the infamous smoke hole

South of the square were 6 public houses including the Fortune of War which became a mosque before demolition in 1981 and redevelopment. The Pullman was formerly the Royal Oak. It was here the Dial Square Football Club met who changed name to Royal Arsenal Football Club


A Gurdwara or Sikh temple in a powerful building of 1889. Classical frontage. Originally the Freemasons Hall and later became the Woolwich Town Social Club – a workingman’s club


Alan Burkitt-Gray said...

Wow about Handley Page. I worked at 30 Calderwood Street, the building opposite Littlewoods, for seven years in the 1970s -- working, among other things, on The Engineer magazine. We'd all have been fascinated to learn that we were virtually on the site of the UK's first aircraft factory.

Ingrid said...


Unknown said...

Nice! I really enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.

man with a van greenwich

Anonymous said...

I worked at Littlewoods in Woolwich as well as a ladies outfitters in the 1980's. Still remember the co-op being open - a lovely building

Unknown said...

Hi. I found an advertisement from my great grandfather's store at 6 Russell Place, Woolwich. He was a tooth puller and denture maker. John F (Foy) Jefferson. I can't find anything about him at this address though. I can send you a picture I have with the address on the picture if you like. John F Jefferson also used to pull teeth from a wagon, and travel around. He and his wife Emily also had a store where they sold trusses and dentures. I have adds from the Kentish News in 1916 I believe but could be off on the date. Just wondering if you've ever come across the name or store.
Kim Foy Ladd