Riverside - south bank, east of the Tower. Broadwater and Arsenal
Arsenal lands - some converted to housing as much as thirty years ago, some being converted with heritage buildings.
Post to the south Plumstead
Post to the north Galleons and Gallions
Post to the west Woolwich and North Woolwich
Building 50. Building by the A& Q Partnership 2003. Flats in six storeys overlooking the river. This was the area of the east range of the Grand Store built in the early 19th and demolished by 1850 because of subsidence. This was rebuilt in 1855 with an engine house and accumulator towers for the Grand Store hydraulic power system. In 1895 it was redeveloped as an electric power station, rebuilt with turbines in 1903, and oil fired boiler house in 1967. It was demolished for the current flats in 2000
Building 49. This was part of the Grand Store built from 1808 and completed in 1813. From 1855 this was the Ordnance Store Department and used for the storage of all sorts of items – tools and items for horses, primarily a nail and harness store. Internally mezzanine floors were later inserted and same jiggers and canes survive from the 1850s. The building was converted to flats from 2002.
This road has been built through an area which was a timber field but which was built up with industrial buildings in the 1870s.
Boiler house. This had 24 boilers
Rolling Mills. It was built in 1875 for iron bars which could be forged into coils to make large guns. This was finally demolished in 1998 and its cast iron frame put into store.
South Boring Mill. Built in 1882 and eventually filled all the open ground left. Locomotive parts were built her after the Great War.
South Forge. This included what was said to be the world’s most powerful steam hammer with a falling mass of 40 tons. The anvil was cast on site in 1872 and weighed 103 tons. It was decommissioned in 1914 and is now displayed on the corner of Wellington Avenue and Arsenal Way.
1o Centre. This is part of the Employment Zone and consists of plain steel sheds.
Gun Yard. This was to the east of the road and south of the riverside and included a shot and shell store.
East Laboratory Composition Establishment. This was to the east of the road. Small arms cartridges were made here.
Railway locomotive shed stood south west of the gas works
Shot and Shell Foundry. This is now Foundry House. This was needed in the 1850s to provide ammunition which could not be supplied by the private sector. It was built in 1856. It was made up of three iron framed workshops plus a moulding ground and a turning shed and a 224 foot high chimney. The ornamental gatehouse remains with iron work by Charles Bailey, an antiquarian architect specialising in the history of English ironwork. The workshops were demolished in the 1960s and the ornamental gates removed, to be returned in 1991. Some electric furnaces were installed here in the 1950s later in the 1960s there were workshops for the Royal Air Force. The replacement workshops have now themselves been replaced by flats and the gatehouse used as a sales office. Alongside are the bases of the vast steam hammers which were used here.
Gunnery House. This was building 7. These were carriage completing workshops replacing earlier seasoning sheds from the early 1860s and in 1871 a forgers shop. This was ‘the great smithery’ which aimed to be the most complete smiths shop in the world. There were sixty forges, eight steam hammers and a machine to punch holes in iron sheets. Other forgers were added and in the1960wsn it became a tool room. In 2002 it was converted into light industrial units.
Medical Centre. This is in the north and south ranges of the Royal Carriage Mews and was built in 2011. The rest of the building is in the square to the west.
Energy Centre. This dates from 2011 and replicates the former carriage storehouse which it stands next to. It has gas fired plant which provides hot water and electricity for the development.
Broadwater Green the generic name for a low rise mixed council/private estate built 1979-82. It was originally two roads, but since 1999 has become a large estate. There are no tower blocks. It covers the area of some of the buildings used for handling gunpowder with filling and press rooms.
Broadwater Green. Area of parkland adjacent to the estate. This has a play area from the late 1970s and 1990s. New natural play spaces are now being developed. This includes a carved totem pole, a wildflower maze through long grass, woodland pathways, log stepping stones, planting of a jungle garden and new trees.
Broadwaters Centre. Local shopping centre of 1982 sited by the old Arsenal canal. These shops now appear to have gone.
The Royal Arsenal Canal. This was built by Chief Engineer, Lt.Col. Pilkington in 1812, extended again by 1816 and is a half mile long, 11 feet deep and 45 feet wide. It had a dual purpose - one was to deliver materials into the heart of the Royal Arsenal military complex and the other was to create a defence boundary to the east. It does not seem that it was intended for the repairs of military vessels. It was used to bring timbers to the Royal Carriage Department and a branch went to the saw mill. Colonel Pilkington appears to have used the Isle of Dogs canal as a design. There is a lock to the river and it was eventually lined with warehouses. On the west bank were the New Army Ordnance Stores and on the east filling factory Danger buildings. The canal was also used for Torpedo testing. It was crossed by three railway swing bridges and another survives at the entrance lock. The Upper part filled in 1926 as far as the swing bridge and the rest of the canal was filled in before the Second World War. A wide slipway built by the Borough leads down from what was the Broadwater’s Centre, and a footpath runs along the east side of the canal to the Lock. . The sides have been widened and concreted. A large mooring bollard remains. These remains are part what was of the northern canal route. The southern canal route continued to what is now the junction of Whinchat Road and Goosander Way, then towards the roundabout at Broadwater and Tom Cribb Roads. This ended near the boundary with Armstrong Road partly encircling an area of the shell filling department. South of this another branch partly encircles at Timber yard with buildings off it including a percussion cap store. This was called Frog Island South of this branch was the cartridge establishment
Rocket Establishment. This was alongside the canal on the north side, and the later site of warehouses. It probably dated from 1855 and was built with hydraulic presses to manufacture Hale’s rockets. All rockets leaving here were painted red. It was relocated to a site to the east before 1914.
Broadwater Lock. This controlled the entrance to the canal and was built in 1814. The old lock gates and the swing bridge of 1876 which carried the Arsenal light railway across the entrance lock remain. The inward seaward gates have gone and the river gates are shut, cutting off the canal and the lock from the river. There is some similarity in the design of the lock and those on the Isle of Dogs Canal. The gates' curved structure is still visible.
The western part of the road covers the eastern side of a triangular and moated carriage yard in the early 18th. This later became an orchard and the moat extended into a canal on what was then the Arsenal’s eastern boundary.
Grand Store – the north side of the road runs alongside the back part of the Grand Store which fronts on to Marlborough Road,
25 Cannon House. This was the Cannon Foundry. In 1810 a proof department had been established. A store was built here in what was Proof Square in 1853. A new cannon foundry was built in 1856 to the west of what was the Lancaster shell foundry. This building survives with some railway type characteristics. The central section included 10 cast iron casting pits and two travelling cranes. Bessemer is said to have trialled the use of steel here and rifled ordnance was also developed here. A Rifled Ordnance factory was built which has since been demolished. Eventually gun manufacture was standardised and here the 35 ton ‘Woolwich Infant’ was made; the building being called ‘the infant school’. The building was also known as the Armstrong Gun Foundry and guns patented by Armstrong to Blakeley patterns were made here. In 1967 new floors were inserted and the building used by the British Library. It is now flats built by Berkeley Homes.
Buildings on the south side were part of the Shot and Shell foundry which fronts onto Arsenal Wayne
Wellington Park. This was built on the site of much of the Shot and Shell Foundry in 2004. It is a landscaped roof to an underground car park. There is a pergola and three steam hammer bases and a sandstone engine base from New Laboratory Square,
Statue of the Duke of Wellington. This is in Wellington Park. By Thomas Milnes. It was commissioned by the Board of Ordnance in 1848 and was originally in the Tower of London. It was moved to the Arsenal in 1863 and put outside the Grand Store. In 1974 it became the Wellington Memorial with ironwork from the Royal Laboratory machine shop.
Forge. This was for the radial crane of 1876 in a circular building. The crane could lift hot gun barrels up to 250 tons into oil tanks. The building was demolished in 1966.
Duke of Wellington Avenue
This was previously No.1. Avenue and renamed in 1978.
The Armouries. This was the Royal Carriage Factory. The factory remains as peripheral buildings to tall blocks of flats which replaced carriage sheds on the triangular fort section built in the late 17th. Following a fire this area was built as a quadrangle of workshops for the Royal Engineers in 1802. The Royal Carriage Department was on the site in the early 19th and built from 1803. It was a large carriage works with an engineering section laid out like ‘a model farm’. The north front had a clock and bells with a blind arch and side entrances. This was an inner quadrangle of workshops with three smitheries and twelve forges as well as carpenters, wheelwrights and so on. Steam power was first used in the Arsenal here from 1807 introduced by Henry Maud slay. To the east was a sawmill. In 1848 a scrap forge on the east side had the first Arsenal steam hammer and more steam powered machinery followed. As carriages grew larger and were less based on wood the factory was altered and enlarged. In 1937 a steel erecting shed was installed and used as an inspection facility from 1967. On the south side is a 17 bay brick range built in 1893 to store gun carriages. It has been much rebuilt including in the 20th fiord naval X-ray photography. It was joined to the main building in 1895 with fitter's and tinman's shops. Much of it was rebuilt in 2007 for Berkeley Homes with new blocks inside the original building. The clock tower was rebuilt. Much of this complex lies to the west of this square,
Sawmill. This was at the eastern end of the Royal Carriage Factory. Replacing a Martello Tower. It was originally designed by Marc Brunel and it was steam powered. It was designed to be reached by the canal.
This is the spine road for Royal Artillery Quays
This is one of a number of roads in the Broadwater estate named after birds.
These sites are near the site of the Cannon Cartridge Factory. This was very dangerous and many special arrangements were made against explosions. Gunpowder was stored further down river in magazines and tumps
Landscaped park with grass, scrub and wetlands. There are patches of natural hawthorn and willow scrub. Planted woodland of alder and birch and lots of birds. There are water voles and water birds. The park surrounds Gallions Lake and is filled with mature trees, benches, shrub beds and hedgerows
Gallions Lake. A small lake, with a nice setting provided by the promontory of Gallions Park which overlooks it. There is a public footpath round the lake but it is a fishing lake stocked with carp.
Eastgate wall. There is a stretch here from 1870, which marked the east boundary of the Arsenal before its late 19th expansion, has been preserved and is clearly visible from the main road.
This dated from 1857 and had two holders. In the works was a space from which balloons could be launched.
Saxon remains comprising a village and burial ground found in this area during archaeological investigation,
Gateway into the Arsenal – 4th gate.
This is one of the old Manor ways into the river and is the road over Plumstead Marshes. In the late 19th it was said to be like the fen country - Deep ditches of water on either side of the roadway with Broad green grass fields divided by ditches. Horses were turned out; there was whippet racing and, pigeon shooting clubs. The Walls of the Arsenal on were on the west. It led to Arsenal football ground and the rifle butts for the Arsenal. These are in the square to the east.
In the 1970s the creation of Western Way and Pettman Crescent led to the cutting off of the eastern part of the Arsenal, which was then still functioning and it was known as Royal Arsenal East and approached via Griffin Manorway
The site between here and what is now Cornwallis Road had been a proof butt which was replaced in 1777 by weather boarded timber sheds. Called the Blue Cross Storehouses they were used to store timber and manufactured wagons.
Brunel’s saw mill was east of this in 1855
Building 5 was built in 1856 as an iron framed seasoning shed. There was also a pontoon store which later became a fitters shop and by 1867 was a woodworking area – housing wheelwrights, carpenters and so on. These were replaced by steel framed building sued for making navy guns. Demolished in 2001.
Blocks of flats and houses from 2001
Blocks of flats from 2001
The eastern end covers roughly the site of proof butts built in the late 18th. There were also shelters and vegetable plots attached to the convict ships in this area.
Grand Store. This was planned from 1802. This was designed by Lewis Wyatt with a central square and a riverside office block. The inner courtyard was finished by 1808 and the whole thing finished by 1813. Although the original plans were cut back it was built and finished to a lavish scale. There is a Grand Quadrangle of two and three storey buildings using structural timber internally. They were used to store all sorts of military equipment and some original internal wooden doors remain. There is a western pavilion which was the original offices. It has a grand central staircase inside a large open hall – which contains an original dome headed stove. Posher offices here were the ‘Duke of Wellington Suite’ and bridges originally going to the shot yard were removed or covered. On the wall is a war memorial to men of the Army Ordnance Department. From the start the buildings fire proofing arrangements were not seen as adequate and it soon began to suffer from subsidence. From 1855 it was the headquarters of the Ordnance Store Department. Originally the outer quadrangles contained workshops and sheds most of which have now gone. The quadrangle was roofed in 1855 to provide covering for shot and shells. From 1900 it was rebuilt as a carriage warehouse and this included a water tower and there were also some demolitions. From 1969 it was used by the British Library and there again some alterations. The east quadrangle fronts onto today's Argyll Road. Some parts of the western end were used as s book store by the Science Museum in 1971. Much was rebuilt again in 2004 as flats by Berkeley Homes and this included some underpinning. Some original features remain.
Cemetery – this was a collection of old guns surrounded by elm trees. There were burial grounds all around where convicts were buried in unmarked graves.
The southern loops in the Riyal Arsenal canal was known as Frog Island. In 1937 new Chemical Laboratories were built here. After the closure of the Woolwich Royal Ordnance Factories in 1971 they moved into a new building in what was to become the Royal Arsenal East approached via Griffin Manor Way.
Plumstead Bus Garage a relocated Plumstead Bus Garage was built on part of the site of Frog Island. The garage was built in 1981 by the London Transport Department of Architecture and Design, Chief Architect Hardy. It has a space-frame roof over the parking area; diverse elevations of red brick- staff quarters with conservatory and roof gardens. It is now owned by Stagecoach
Wall the relocation of the garage led to breaking down of parts of the 1804 Arsenal brick boundary wall. Part of it near Plumstead Bus station was replaced by iron railings and chain link fencing.
Gallions View. Nursing home.
Princess Alice Way
The Princess Alice was a major riverboat disaster in 1878 when 650 died. It was nearby off Tripcock Point so it is clearly thought appropriate to name a road after it.
The earliest railway in the Arsenal ran as a tram way between the storehouses to the shot piles. It grew into a vast system connecting every part of the complex and was the main means of transport. From 1859 the railway system proper were constructed to standard gauge to regularise the ad hoc arrangement of individual plateways built by each department who did not work together in anyway. This had begun in 1824. They later came under the control` of the Royal Engineers. From 1871 onwards some of the track was constructed at 18 inch gauge making up 50 to 60 miles of track five new narrow gauge locomotives were bought in the Second World War and the final one in 1954. The remaining narrow gauge lines finally closed in 1966. Parts of the 18 in gauge track were built as dual gauge track, Some 120 miles of either this or standard gauge track existed by 1918
The riverside area was reshaped from 1803. This included reclaimed land and a quay of 2,440 feet. To the east was a recessed area shaped for a dock. The construction partly used convict labour and a steam engine; Cranes were installed along the length of it. In 1820 the ground level behind it was raised 9 feet. It was refronted in granite in 1855 and refaced in 1906, 1920 and 1960 – which included new flood defences.
Convict Wharf. This dated from the late 18th and was made of timber.
Pier. This was built in 1869 and extended in 1875 with an 80 ton crane. It was to tranship ship heavy guns. It was later reconstructed to take a 200 ton crane which was eventually sold to Antwerp. The pier remains with some mixed gauge railway track
Coaling pier built of concrete in 1915. This had an overhead delivery system and coal was partly delivered for the Arsenal Gas Works.
Pier near the Grand Store. This was a T pier built in the 1850s and demolished in 1900. It was built by Royal Engineers of timbers from St. Katharine’s Dock and opened by Queen Victoria. Its T branches were each 100 ft long and it went 150ft into the river. Shipping which used these piers were known as the Woolwich Navy and the headquarters were on the Arsenal site. War Department vessels and Royal Engineers were in charge of mining defence work since the Navy did not think it was something they should do. War Department vessels had their own special crews and there were a number of sea going vessels as well as barges and smaller boats.
Boat House marked on the 1850s map
Mallets Mortar. This was displayed near the T pier but is now at Fort Nelson. This was a very large, but ultimately unsuccessful, mortar weighing 32 tons. This was one of the prototypes from 1857,
Spiral of steel. a blue footbridge over the flood wall, put up for Sustrans by Gerry Judah, sculptor, n 2004.
The former entrance to the Royal Arsenal canal, now concreted off from the Thames. The only indication of the canal is one of the capstans used to assist vessels into the lock chamber.
Royal Artillery Quays
A riverside housing development which is part of a 2000 home-building programme on undeveloped land started in the year 2000 by Barratt. This is on part of the Royal Arsenal site south and west of the canal entrance and on the riverside north of the Arsenal gas works. There were a number of buildings on this site.
Main road into Thamesmead
Heronsgate School. Th4 School opened in 1982 when you could see all the way from the school across the marshland to Erith. In 2011 the school opened a new site on Burrage Grove near the Royal Arsenal development although children attend only one of the sites
Heronsgate Health Centre
Bird. Geography of the Port of London
Cocroft. Dangerous Energy
Heronsgate School. Web site
London Borough of Greenwich. Web site
London Canals. Web site
Masters. The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich.
Spurgeon. Discover Greenwich and Charlton
Spurgeon. Discover Erith and Crayford
Survey of London, Woolwich
Trees for Cities, Web site
Trust Thamesmead. Web site
Vincent. Warlike Woolwich