I was with Team William & Zoë at the weekend. A walk in Woolwich seemed a fine Sunday outing.
Woolwich is firmly a part of London now. But it wasn’t when it was omitted from the Domesday book in 1086, on the grounds that it was part of Saint Peter’s Abbey in Ghent.
It wasn’t when Henry VIII founded a dockyard here in 1513 to build his royal ship Henri Grace à Dieu. It remained a royal dockyard till 1869. Then a Royal Laboratory, producing explosives, then a Royal Arsenal. By 1741, it had a Royal Military Academy too. Woolwich was a fine industrialised garrison town.
Until it wasn’t. The dockyard closed first. The Academy moved to Sandhurst in 1945. The Arsenal closed in 1967, though during WWI it had employed over 70,000 workers Woolwich fell on hard times. Even though, or perhaps because it became home, in 1975, to Britain’s very first McDonald’s.
It’s beginning to recover. Those fine military buildings are finding new uses as housing. With improved transport links, Woolwich is being touted as south London’s ‘next big thing’.
We did explore. That military architecture really is pretty fine. It forms the backdrop here to Peter Burke’s Assembly, 18 cast iron figures which speak of Woolwich’s busy industrial past.
And I love a gritty urban riverscape too. We planned to walk on, to the Thames Barrier.
But it was cold. It was raw. We wanted to enjoy our exploration. So we will come back another day, when the sun is shining. And we’ll return to Vib too. The bao at this wonderful Vietnamese café are certainly worth exploring.
Walked on Sunday, published on Tuesday, this is a candidate for https://restlessjo.me/jos-monday-walk/