Riverside, south of the river and east of the Tower. Woolwich Dockyard.
A major Crown owned industrial site from the 17th - now a housing estate
This posting covers sites only on the south bank in this square.. The north bank is North Woolwich
Post to the east Woolwich
Poat to the south Woolwich West
Post to the west Charlton Riverside
The north/south stretch of the road is built roughly on the site of a rail line which went to the riverfront from the main line, via a tunnel under the dockyard wall.
The blocked granite-ashlar entrance to 3 Slip remains discernible north of the road
87 Busy Bees Day Nursery. Community and training facility
YMCA Woolwich Centre. Purpose built centre built as part of the Dockyard Estate for a long established Woolwich institution. It is on the site of the Dockyard chapel.
Dockyard Chapel. Before 1812 there was no purpose built chapel in the dockyard. In the mid-19th this was thought necessary. A chapel was built in 1856–8 to designs by George Gilbert Scott. It was built to hold the marines as well as officials and artisans. The simple interior with galleries had cast-iron columns, plain and octagonal at the base, rising to circular shafts moulded with foliage patterns, supplied by Francis Skidmore of Coventry. The chapel soon stopped being used. It was taken down in 1923 and re-erected in Rochester Way, as the church of St Barnabas.
Woolwich Dockyard Day Service. Depot for Social services and other related facilities. Within the dockyard it appears to have been an area of housing and stores.
Bowling Green Row
Before 1800 this was ‘Day’s Passage’. It is now flats built in 1968 as part of the Comprehensive Development Area.
Ship Tavern. This was opposite the Dockyard Gates and was built before 1780. It had the bowling green after which the turning was named.
Jolly Shipwright. Demolished 1950s
Golden Cross. Demolished 1950s and also called The Anchor.
The hill was lined from the 18th with old houses, often picturesque. Despite efforts to have them preserved they were demolished in the early 1950s.
RACS. The largest buyer of defunct dockyard land was the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society. It took nine acres including part of the former steam factory, with frontages to Woolwich Church Street and Warspite Road. In 1927 it held the largest national co-operative exhibition ever staged housed in four ‘bright and attractive exhibition halls’. And boosted RACS membership by 30,000. More land and a river frontage was acquired, and conversions were carried out under the supervision of the Society’s architect. Complete by 1932. The site’s south-west corner and its sheds housed the laundry and works department. There were motor vehicles repair shops and manufactures, and tailors, and boot-repairers. To the north, RACS erected new sheds and workshops. , It became an important regional distribution centre. By 1984 most of Commonwealth Buildings had been demolished.
Defiance Walk Housing. Site acquired by London Borough of Greenwich in 1973, designated for housing and redeveloped by 1980. It was designed by London Borough Greenwich Architects Department.
4 Sheltered housing
Clockhouse Community Centre. Built in 1783 as the Dockyard's Admiral-Superintendent's house and office. The Clock House is the grandest dockyard building left in Woolwich. This was an administrative headquarters, to house offices at the centre of the enlarged yard - a beacon of supervision and control. There is a central clock turret, with clock faces to all four cardinal points; and a 19th octagonal cupola. The building is brick with stone dressing. The two wooden porches either side of the central entrance step, were added in the mid-19th. Each department had its own suite of plain but well-proportioned rooms off a central staircase. After being used as an office it was largely rebuilt in 1977–8 as a community centre. On the ground floor are two ceramic tiled pictures s by W. Lambert, 1896, brought here in 1980 from the demolished Clarence Arms pub in Plumstead. One of the ‘Woolwich Infant’.
Near the Clock House, were: a hydraulically operated chain-cable proving house, a substantial guard house and surgery block, and a weigh-bridge house.
Cable shed, this was built in 1856 near the river north of the Clock House. It became a covered parade for pensioners and stood into the 1970s.
395-497 tower block of 14 storeys. Built 1965-1968 by Concrete Ltd.
Land to the west was bought doubling the size of the dockyard. This area was in use by 1750. In 1771 the younger Edward Bowater had set up as a ship- and boat-builder here with two slips, a brick wharf, cranes, sawpits and a mould loft for the East India Company. This was leased by the crown and purchased outright in 1779 and 1784.
Steam yard. This was built on the site of a complex of basins and ponds. The planning of a new steam yard behind this frontage began in 1825. Here boilers and engines could be fitted to the largest ships afloat as steamships gained recognition from the Admiralty.
Steam-factory, the project began in 1838 with a long range south of the mast-pond, which housed fitting and erecting shops, a foundry and boiler shops. He also designed it to allow overhead travelling cranes and introduced communication between the various workshops.
An engine-house was built in 1838 and a smithery nears the yard’s western margin. This was soon extended to house smiths’ shops for engine-making, a punching and shearing shop, a coppersmiths’ shop and a boiler smiths’ shop.
Steam-boiler factory extended south of the engine-house on a large L-plan.
Offices. There was an office block and another two-storey range with additional offices and engineers’ stores.
Outer Basin. This was the enlargement of the outer mast-pond to form a substantial enclosed steam basin of almost four acres from 181. It was infilled around 1930.
Mast pond. This dated from the late 18th later enlarged into an inner basin off the south-east corner of the outer basin. This mean that two steamships could to lie alongside the factory to engines and boilers fitted. The inner basin was infilled during the First World War and the area was used for stores, offices and a dining-room for the women now working on the site.
1 Dock Dry dock – in the place of the western dock, a granite-lined dry dock was built in 1843 off the outer basin’s south side. This was designed by James Walker in consultation Oliver Laing. It was larger than any other yet made. Infilled around 1960. Ruston Road is also on part of this site
Rolling mills were established in 1850, and an armour-plate shop was enlarged as late as 1863.
Albion Sugar. In 1850–1 in the dockyard substantial buildings were erected around the mast-house as a rigging house and an engine store. In 1856 they were linked with a range of workshops for riggers and sailmakers. This had a cast-iron framed structure and was an innovative trial of rigid framing via bolted connections. It eventually became a factory for making invert- or brewers’-sugar and glucose for Gillman and Spencer, Bermondsey cereal millers who formed the Albion Sugar Company. A large maize silo was added in 1962, and it became the Cargill-Albion Glucose Works. It closed in 1979 and the riverside buildings were cleared.
Kingside Industrial Estate
This consists of two large sheds of lettable units were erected in 2002 on the old steam-factory area. Also covered under Ruston and Harlinger Roads,
Chimney. This is a 208fh high octagonal shaft standing on the boundary and built by a specialist chimney engineer. It was to vent all the yard’s flues and is sparingly detailed. It has been reduced in height to about 180ft
Built up in the 1950s as part of the St.Mary’s redevelopment scheme. The name of Kingsman is a conflation of King Street and Coleman Street.
North Kent Sawmills. On the east side in the 19th
Nelson Inn. On the east side in the 19th
Shops built in the 1950s as part of the St.Mary’s redevelopment scheme
Subway. This runs from Kingsman Parade under Woolwich Church Street and pierces the dockyard wall to emerge in Leda Road. This north portal is decorated with plagues and there are decorative features in the tunnel.
Mural. This was unveiled by Nick Raynsford MP in 2000. It is on the entrance to the underpass connecting Kingsman Road and the Woolwich Dockyard Estate. It was created by the Greenwich Mural Workshop with pupils of Cardwell Primary School and from the Woolwich YMCA and GD Youth Project. It shows the launching of HMS Trafalgar at Woolwich by Queen Victoria in 1841.
This area – and the roads between it and the river is on one of the oldest parts of the dockyard
A tile kiln was set up to the south of the docks. This was eventually replaced with timber shed and in 1656 storehouses
Docks. There were originally two docks on an unlevelled but probably previously quarried area of Thanet sand. The water line before the embankment was built may have been 200ft further south than now. These two docks were probably mud-cut, timber-lined, troughs with gates. Ships could be floated in and propped up for repair. in 1608 ‘Woolwich Dock’ was provided with new gates and The western dock was enlarged to take two ships This ‘galley dock’ was for a long time the state’s only double dry dock suitable for ‘great ships’. The important Sovereign of the Seas, was built here in 1634–7. The single dock was rebuilt in 1720 and the the mast-house and slip of the 1660s were replaced by another slip. The double dock was also remodelled by 1728.
Land. After the docks were built the surrounding land was levelled. This resulted in a flat area which stretched 500ft from the river and reaching to rough cliffs. In 1625, a brick wall began to be built. Inside the wall the flat area became filed with buildings. There were houses for the Master Builder and Clerk of the Cheque, storehouses, saw-houses, cranes, timber yards, saw-yards and a smith’s forge.
Ballast Quay. This had been to the west of the docks and in 1663 the yard across it and houses were built there for senior officers.
Mast-house. This was put up in 1667 behind the officers houses.
Clock House. Thus was built in the 1670s (not the building which still exists) in order to provide a timing keeping discipline. It included a mould loft where plans could be drawn up. Replaced in the 19th by a boiler house.
Great Storehouse. This was built 1693 near the southwest perimeter and demolished in the 20th
Mast-pond. This was a major undertaking and was a rectangular body of water with a double-gated lock entrance from the river. On its west side there were slips and timber-built mast-houses. By 1810 this was used for boat building
Sheds north of the mast pond were for making small boats
Slips. The eastern slip was lengthened in 1753. The slip which replaced the earlier mast-house was enlarged in 1764,
Smiths shop and pay office – these were near the southern perimeter.
A brick rigging house built in 1740. This had three storeys and was on the anchor wharf on the mast-pond’s north side.
Sail and mould loft, east of the Great Storehouse, this was like an outsized market hall
A boiler house and detached chimney built in the early 19th near the perimeter wall.
Submarine-telegraph store. Built in 1904, south of 4 Slip in ferro-concrete using the Hennebique system. This has gone.
Lord Warwick Street
Laid out in the 1950s as part of the St, Mary’s redevelopment scheme
Mast Quay and Mast Pond Wharf.
This was part of the dockyard. But in 1872 the easternmost area was sold.
Royal Dockyard Wharf was the largest plot which included in 5 and 6 Slips (see under riverside above) G. E. Arnold & Co., timber and slate merchants, used it in 1873 and built steam sawmills. Parts of the site were let to other tenants by 1900 and called as St Andrew’s Wharf and St Mary’s Wharf. They were used for stone, manure, slate yards, and a van and bus yard, with a series of long low sheds.
Thomas & Edge, the leading local building firm. They had their works here here from 1915 until 1968,
Stratford & Sons, barge builders. They were on this site in the 1930s.
R. Cunis Ltd, dredger, tug and barge owners, had part of the site from 1919.
Compass laboratory on the roadside.
Parish Wharf. This was used by the Woolwich Local Board of Health in 1872. The Board cleared the wharf and Admiralty House and made it a rubbish depot. In 1891 they added a six-cell dust destructor and a 130ft tall chimney which was demolished in 1932.
Mast Pond Wharf. This was a slate wharf, and from 1905, a depot for United Carlo Gatti, ice merchants – and this lay over the mast-pond overbuilt.
Cawood, Wharton & Co. Had in the 1930s, with plain roadside offices.
Admiralty House. Adjacent in the 1860s the 18th stables south of the mast-pond was a ragged school, dispensary and soup kitchen. In the 1920s, this was replaced by an ambulance station.
W. R. Cunis Ltd took over in 1968 all the wharves and slips on this site for the building and repairing of tugs, trawlers and coasters. They were taken over in 1971 by Cubow Ltd. And new vessels were built here. Shipbuilding stopped around 1982, but there was a last brief revival of repair work here in the early 1990s.
Housing. In the 1990s plans were made for a residential complex here. The Comer Homes Group, as Mast Quay Developments Ltd, built a ‘luxury’ housing project. The first phase was Mast Quay in 2004–6 designed by Nigel Upchurch Associates. The blocks stand on blue stilts above car parking, as a precaution against flooding. Nose 5 and 6 Slips are left open, crossed by the extended riverside walkway
Maud Cashmore Way
Built to the east of the dry docks in 1989. Maud Cashmore was one of the founders of the Home for Mothers and Babies. It has timber-framed houses in small terraces, developed by Walter Llewellyn & Sons Ltd
River Wall. The western section of the dockyard’s river wharf wall was taken down after a partial collapse and rebuilt in 1817–19. This stretch of brick wall has been refaced in late 20th
River Wall. Rebuilding central sections of the river wall to help scour the mud began in 1834. Gravel from the centre of the river made concrete poured between rows of timber sheet piling for the wall’s back parts; precast concrete blocks were fixed to the front. There were however problems and it was refaced. There was some rebuilding in the 1950s, but parts remain behind the brick,
1 and 2 Slips were replaced around 1900 with metal framed buildings with hydraulic lifts, goods chutes and Temperley Transporter Company electric conveyors. Later RACS used these as butter, pharmacy and tea stores, and on the adjacent quayside range a grocery warehouse
Slip 3. The blocked granite-ashlar entrance to 3 Slip can be seen north of Antelope Road.
Slip 4. This had the second iron-framed slip cover built in 1847–8. This was a new design wider in span, more robust and about double the price. It had a central clear span of 84ft. Similar structures were used for major long-span roofs in railway stations. Under the Army Supply Depot it was used to store telegraph cables. This slip cover was relocated to Chatham, in 1876, where it became a boiler shop. It has recently been adapted to house a shopping mall, the Dockside Outlet Centre.
Dry docks – new docks were built in the 19th on the site of where the original dock yard had begun. These are the extant dry docks associated with the steam navy. After the dockyard closed they became bathing ponds, for Royal Artillery soldiers. Modern steel caissons seal both docks, which are permanently flooded, and have been used for fishing and recreation as the South-East London Aquatic Centre.
The South-East London Aquatic Centre opened in 1979. New perimeter walls were built around the flooded dry docks, and, between them, a clubhouse used for the storage of canoes. Thereby are now plans to replace it.
Slip covers. After the Napoleonic Wars slip covers began to be built. The first roofs over the Woolwich dry docks appear to have been of a wide-span sub-type. Those over the three western slips were erected in the late 1820s.
2 Dry Dock - Western dry dock - (the one-time double dock, see Leda Road) was rebuilt in 1838–41 when the new river wall reached it. The new dock was built as a mass-concrete dry dock larger in scale. The solid bedrock here allowed a flat base. It was fitted with an iron caisson because of the problems with mud made by Ditchburn and Mare of Blackwall.
No 3 dock, the eastern dry dock was rebuilt in 1844–6 of conventional granite-faced mass concrete. This was the largest dry dock of all. Woolwich could take three first-rate ships for repair plus three. There is a crane base to the south-east
6 Slip - the easternmost slip was lengthened, straightened and granite-lined. This had the first iron framed slip cover with a wide-span roof erected in 1844–5. The structure was moved in 1880 to Chatham Dockyard, where it was adapted as 8 Machine Shop; it still stands. This slip was used for shipbuilding in the 1970s and is now preserved among new housing at Mast Quay.
5 Slip. This single slip replaced a pair in 1855–6. It is granite-paved with stone-coped brick side walls. This had an iron-framed slip cover built in 1856–8. It was later moved to Chatham, where it was adapted as a factory, and subsequently demolished. This slip was used for shipbuilding in the 1970s and is now preserved among new housing at Mast Quay.
Chimney. This was circular, built near 5 Slip, and demolished in 1974.
Gun battery. This was built in 1847 at the central landing place. It is brick and granite and fitted with gun carriages and platforms made in the Royal Arsenal. . Replacement wrought-iron gun carriages, for resited guns, were made by John Slough in 2005.
Mosaics. The riverside walk was decorated with mosaics in 1984–6 in a project led by the National Elfrida Rathbone Society and the Clock House Community Centre. This included a Mosaic set into a seat showing the world and the months of the year; also a mural portraying a variety of fish set into the pavement.
Bridge. A bridge was built over the floodwall at the north-east corner of the estate to continue the riverside walk. This was a sculptural white-coated steel footbridge, ‘linkbridge 2000’, funded by the Millennium Commission Lottery project. It was commissioned by Sustrans,
Riverside Promenade. A "'riverside promenade laid out in 1980 runs the length of the housing estate,
Like Harlinger Road this was part of the steam factory with basins and a dry dock.
Steam factory buildings remain of stock brick with sandstone dressings facing the road.
Remains of the steam factory in Sections of the fire-resisting cast-iron frame of some buildings are said to be in a clearing west of the entrance to the Woolwich Dockyard Industrial Estate. They include plates cast with ‘VR 1843’.
Anchor forge or smithery, steam powered was erected in 1814–17 to replace the old smithery. This was designed by John Rennie and equipped to make the largest anchors and other ironwork. It was the first machine-driven facility of its kind in England. The building was of plain brick, but without timber and had a cast-iron frame, with two rows of cast-iron columns in arcades. Boulton & Watt supplied the engines – two in 1814 to power two forge hammers for anchors, a drilling and boring machine, and a lathe, and for blowing forty-two fires, and another in 1815 as a second forge engine. This smithery was taken down in 1973–4 and re-erected at the Blists Hill site of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Shropshire
New Housing by Fairview Homes.
Sheds and trading estate between here and Warspite Road, built in 1999–2000; and from 2010 part used by a Metropolitan Police patrol base.
First part built of the current housing scheme. Industrial buildings in the riverside were cleared of industry and warehousing in 1996–9 and Fairview Estates (Housing) Ltd, laid out the area and adjacent road, This is on a U-plan block River hope Mansions plus six smaller blocks and 136 houses, these are housing-association dwellings
This was called Trinity Street until 1937. Named for the Warspite which was old battle ship used for training boys for seamanship.
Clancy’s Pub, This was the Lord Horwick Hotel.
Trinity Stairs. These were built near the site of the defunct ferry. Public river stairs and a stone sett causeway remain built at the same time as the river wall. There are two sets of stairs here –Upper Trinity Stairs and Lower Trinity Stairs.
Long’s Wharf. This was at the end of Trinity Street and was taken over by the Dockyard, in 1831–7. A bank was removed and, a new granite river wall built.
Charlton Pier, 1849. A Floating Pier built when the Dockyard was extended westwards. Built by a consortium of watermen on Trinity Stairs and removed when the steamboat trade and ferry ended. This is where the Warspite training ship was moored.
Wall. A brick boundary wall was built in 1833 along Trinity Street along the dockyard’s west side. This remains.
Ferry. Set up by Sarah Blight as The Woolwich Ferry Company in 1811. There was ferry house which was also the Marquis of Wellington pub. It was wound up in 1844
Hardin or Trinity Wharf. This was between Trinity Street and the ferry. The wharf handed coal in the 19th. In 1902 J. Watt Torrance & Co., of Glasgow, established sawmills here. A large brick shed still stands, to which offices were added in 1914–16. The sawmills continued through the 1950s. Until 2009, it was occupied by Pisani Ltd, marble suppliers.
General Post Office Cable Depot. In the early 1880s a coal store in the north-west corner of the dockyard, was passed to the General Post Office for a submarine cable depot. The telegraph system had been nationalised in 1870, a brick shed was built in 1882–3 covering four circular cast-iron tanks which remain behind a brick arcaded wall at the end of the street., They were designed by Edward George Rivers for the Office of Works.. State owned ships loaded cable from here and a causeway and stairs were built on the wharf. Since the 1970s this has been a trading estate called Cable Depot.
9 St. Clair’s. This was the Derby Arms pub rebuilt in 1938–9 for Truman, Hanbury and Co. It was also called the Westminster Arms and later Fortys.
Houses. These were slum cleared in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Woolwich Church Street
This was previously called Albion Road
Fast food restaurant on the corner
West Gate. This was built for the steam factory. It included a police station, police barracks and inspector’s house controlled this from its east side. The accommodation block is a dignified yellow-brick building with twin entrance porches and bridged chimneys. It became the entry to Commonwealth Buildings and RACS installed new ironwork.
The Woolwich Dockyard School for Apprentices. This dates from 1848–9 and is west side of the steam-factory gate, facing the police station. It survives as built in yellow brick with stone dressings. After the closure of the dockyard it served as offices, as did the former police station, before coming into co-operative society use in the 1920s. In 1961 it was enlarged with a roadside showroom and large sheds. It later took over the police barracks and remains the Co-op funeral department.
Woolwich dockyard industrial estate. This was set up in the 1970s. It consists of the Entrance and a three-storey warehouse, built in 1914 using a reinforced-concrete system within brick walls. A wall crane survives. Also single-storey sheds.
Boundary walls to the dockyard extend along the street. These are brick with stone dressings. To the east of the main entrance it stands above a sheer drop into the dockyard. The wall has been reni8lt in the 1840s and cut down in height in the 20th.
Old Sheet Hulk. This was a pub opposite the gatehouse
Entrance gates to the Dockyard. A new main entrance was opened in 1639 and later relocated to a bend in the road. The current gates stand roughly opposite the end of Francis Street. They probably date from 1784 and there are Portland stone piers with reliefs of anchors.
Guard House. This is inside the entrance gate built in 1788 and is a single-storey building with a loggia. It was possibly designed S. P. Cockerell, the Admiralty’s Inspector of Repairs from 1785. In 1981 along with the lodgings this was opened as public house, ‘The Gatehouse’. Following numerous scandals they were used as flats by Gallions Housing Association from 2007–8. The guard house was given an upper storey and a rear extension
Master Warder’s lodgings. This is inside the entrance gate built in 1788. It follows local house-building practice in having chimney stacks between the front and back rooms. There is an entrance and staircase of about 1840,
Farmhouse. This stood near the dockyard entrance in the early 19th. It belonged to Samuel Hardin who died in 1803. By the 1820s it was a pub and then a house and offices for the dockyard’s Commodore Superintendent. It was demolished around 1970.
Retaining wall. Above this is where the medieval Woolwich church stood.
26 Greyhound pub
Albion Pub. The pub also has hostel dormitory accommodation which it lets out.
Subway. A pedestrian tunnel from the dockyard to Prospect Vale. This was formerly a tunnel for a rail siding - opened probably c1860 - from the nearby North Kent Line, and still has something of the atmosphere of a railway tunnel.
Adventure playgroundShip Tavern Corner – this was the area of the dock gates
Naval shipbuilding began in Woolwich in 1512 and settled in the 1530s. Land was purchased in 1546 and there may already have had docks here operated by the Boughton family. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars it extended as far as Warspite Road. The yard closed in 1869 and was used for military storage, and in the 1920s western parts were sold to the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society. In the 1960s, Greenwich Council bought the rest for housing; and the Woolwich Dockyard Estate was built in the 1970s. Speculative housing followed on the remainder.
There was a cast-iron-plate tram-road network built in the 1840s, to take heavy loads round the factory on trucks driven by steam-traction engines.
After the dockyard closed The War Office adapted it as a military stores depot with headquarters at the Royal Arsenal. The west end, consisting of the outer basin and dry dock, plus the area behind the main gate, the chapel and the Commodore-Superintendent’s house, became as a supply reserve depot.
Railways – when 3 Slip was infilled the long wharf frontage was used as part of a railway network under the military stores depot. A branch line passed through a new tunnel under the road to link to the North Kent line, and the Arsenal. The railway was begun in 1873 and some parts were on a narrow gauge,
The War Office decided to wind up the depot in 1924 and land wads put up auction in 1926. They failed to attract a single buyer, so it was sold off gradually and some property remained in War Office use until the 1960s. this consisted of all the land between Mast Quay and Antelope Road plus the site of the Woolwich Dockyard Industrial Estate. The Arsenal closure was announced in 1963 and a year later the Ministry of Defence allowed the property ton e sold. Twenty-three acres were sold to Greenwich Council in 1969 with the south-west section set aside for industrial and commercial use.
Woolwich Dockyard Estate. Some buildings and the dry docks were listed and the site cleared. There were however hold ups through housing demand and also plans for the Thames Barrier. In 1972 the Council’s Chief Architect, prepared a ‘master scheme’ in 1972 for the site. This now consists of a twelve-storey block, St Domingo House, with smaller blocks, Plantagenet House and Sovereign House, and some houses. There are also community buildings and sheltered housing and the new streets and buildings were named after ships built at the dockyard.
Sappers’ tunnels. It is alleged there are tunnels built by Sappers around
Banbury. Shipbuilders of the Thames and Medway
Chelsea Speleological Society. Newsletter
Clunn. The Face of London,
Field. London Place Names
Glencross. Buildings of Greenwich
London Mural Preservation Society, Web site.
Port of London Magazine.
Smith. History of Charlton,
Spurgeon. Discover Woolwich,
Survey of Woolwich
Woolwich Archaeological Trail
As ever – this page has relied so much on the Survey of Woolwich that Edith is ashamed. Please read the Survey itself rather than Edith’s meagre attempts.