Walking in Woolwich

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.

Royal Arsenal

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/

24 thoughts on “Walking in Woolwich”

  1. What a distinction! Britain’s first McDonalds 🙂 🙂 Think I’ll eat at Vib if it’s all the same to you? Thanks, Margaret! Looks like a great day for a brisk walk. 🙂 I dimly remember Woolwich from my London days. Glad it’s on the up! Hillwalking today and, shock! horror! we have clouds 😦 It’s all that Becky’s fault, wishing for rain.

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  2. You always find such interesting things when you explore. The figures are very reminiscent of Anthony Gormley which I’ve seen in various places particularly the roof of the de la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill 2 or 3 summers ago.

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  3. I love your posts about South London particularly those wilds east of Southwark. I am surprised even today especially with the DLR how some people still believe no humans live south of the river. 😉

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    1. Yes, I do know the song, and I also understand why Woolwich isn’t somewhere you know much about. The truth is that despite its significant place in British military and naval history, neither do most of us in the UK.

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  4. I enjoyed revisiting Woolwich with you, Margaret. I rather like the Assembly; it fits in nicely there. How bright and cheerful it looks compared to when I used to rehearse there each autumn Sunday afternoon in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I belonged to the London Youth Band whose founder and conductor had been an army bandsman and we used the Woolwich Arsenal facilities. I am always reminded, when Woolwich is mentioned, of that poor young bandsman murdered there a few years ago.

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