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2016 Woolwich, Beresford Square market.jpg
Beresford Square market with Royal Arsenal Gatehouse (left) and Crossrail development in the background
Woolwich is located in Greater London
Population 84,959 (2011 Census
OS grid reference TQ435795
• Charing Cross 8.5 mi (13.7 km) WNW
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district SE18
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament
  • Greenwich and Woolwich
London Assembly
  • Greenwich and Lewisham
List of places
51°29′17″N 0°03′47″E / 51.488°N 0.063°E / 51.488; 0.063

Woolwich is a district in southeast London, England, within the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

The district's location on the River Thames led to its status as an important naval, military and industrial area; a role that was maintained throughout the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and most of the 20th century. After several decades of economic hardship and social deprivation, the area is now subject to several large-scale urban renewal projects.


Early history

Woolwich has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age. Remains of a probably Celtic oppidum, established sometime between the 3rd and 1st century BCE, in the late Roman period re-used as a fort, were found at the current Waterfront development site between Beresford Street and the Thames. According to the Survey of London (Volume 48: Woolwich), "this defensive earthwork encircled the landward sides of a riverside settlement, the only one of its kind so far located in the London area, that may have been a significant port, anterior to London". A path connected the riverside settlement with Watling Street (Shooter's Hill), perhaps also of Iron Age origin. Sandy Hill Road may be a remnant of this early path.

London-Woolwich, St Mary Magdalene, interior 5
Rectors of Woolwich from 1182

It is generally believed that the name Woolwich derives from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "trading place for wool". It is not clear whether Woolwich was a proper -wich town, since there are no traces of extensive artisanal activity from the Early Middle Ages. However, in 2015 Oxford Archaeology discovered a Saxon burial site near the riverside with 76 skeletons from the late 7th or early 8th century. The absence of grave deposits indicates that this was an early Christian settlement. The first church, which stood to the north of the present parish church, was almost certainly pre-Norman and dedicated to Saint Lawrence. It was probably rebuilt in stone around 1100.

From the 10th till the mid-12th century Woolwich was controlled by the abbots of St. Peter's Abbey in Ghent. This may have been a result of a gift of 918 from Ælfthryth, daughter of King Alfred and Countess of Flanders, in that case the first recorded grant of English lands to a foreign ecclesiastic institution. As a result of this tenure Woolwich is not mentioned in the Domesday Book; it is thought that the 63 acres listed as Hulviz refer to North Woolwich, which was uninhabited. Some of the Ghent lands passed to the royal manors of Dartford and Eltham as early as 1100; the larger part of the parish, referred to as the manor of Woolwich but in effect not a full manor, became an Eltham dependancy in the 14th century. Not included were a riverside quay held by Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate, a wharf held by St Mary's Priory, Southwark, and land around Plumstead owned by Bartholomew de Burghersh, 2nd Baron Burghersh, later referred to as the Burrage Estate. Medieval Woolwich was susceptible to flooding. In 1236 many were killed by a flood. Woolwich Ferry was first mentioned in 1308 but may be much older. Around Bell Water Gate some private shipbuilding or repair may have existed in the 15th century. A windmill was mentioned around 1450.

Military expansion

Woolwich remained a relatively small Kentish settlement until the beginning of the 16th century, when it began to develop into a maritime, military and industrial centre. In 1512 it became home to Woolwich Dockyard, originally known as "The King's Yard", founded by Henry VIII to built his flagship Henry Grace à Dieu ("The Great Harry"). Many great ships were built here, such as the Prince Royal, the Sovereign of the Seas, the Royal Charles, the Dolphin and the Beagle. The dockyard went through many ups and downs but survived for three and a half centuries, closing down in 1869.

Following the establishment of the dockyard, Martin Bowes who had gathered a fortune at the Royal Mint, bought riverside holdings in Woolwich and Plumstead in the 1530s, some of it former church land that had become available after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. His mansion was Tower Place, which was gradually closed in by a ropeyard (1570s) and warehouses with open-air storage known initially as Gun Wharf or Gun Yard, then The Warren (1651/71), later the Royal Arsenal (1805). The arsenal developed from a place of storage into a collection of military factories (Royal Ordnance Factories), playing a central role in Britain's imperial phase and its military and industrial expansion. At wartime, tens of thousands of workers found employment here. Between wars, unemployment loomed. Other military establishments that were rooted in the arsenal were the Royal Artillery (1716) and the Royal Military Academy (1741). They both moved to Woolwich Common in the late 18th century. In the 19th and 20th century several large barracks were built, as well as military schools and hospitals. To this day, the town retains an army base at the Royal Artillery Barracks and Napier Lines Barracks.

Urban development


Printed Map Descriptive of London Poverty. Sheet 13(?) covering Woolwich (22643234567) (cropped)
Poverty map of Woolwich, 1889. The areas in black designate the "lowest class, vicious, semi-criminals". Bright red is "middle class, well-to-do"

At the beginning of the military and naval expansion, Woolwich had just a few hundred inhabitants. By 1665, when Samuel Pepys stayed there to escape the Great Plague, that number had risen to around 1,200, of whom about 300 worked in the dockyard. Around 1720 the population was estimated at 6,500, reaching almost 10,000 in 1801. During the booming wartime decade that followed, population rose to 17,000. Woolwich expanded rapidly southward with workers' houses close to the river and officers' houses around the common and further up the hill. After a period of stagnation, building activity picked up in the 1830s. In 1841 Woolwich had a population of 27,785; in 1861 this had risen to 41,695 in 4,596 houses, after which there was little building space left in the parish. After a dip, the population in 1901 stood at the same level as 40 years earlier: 41,625. Victorian Woolwich was a rich social mix with skilled engineers along with unskilled labourers, women and children working at the arsenal and other factories, large numbers of soldiers, making up 10-15% of the population, and a small bourgeoisie consisting of military officers and the commercial and professional elite. Some areas of the town were notoriously overcrowded; the so-called 'Dusthole' near the river in the centre was considered one of London's worst slums.


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Workers at the Royal Arsenal, 1862

Throughout the 18th century the navy yard remained the town's main employer with between 500 and 1,400 men working in the docks. Due to the malarial marshlands, it was not a popular place to work and for that reason Woolwich dockyard workers were paid as much as a third more than in other naval towns. These were mainly skilled artisans, who were mostly literate, Nonconformist and well-organized. The number of artillery men grew from around 200 in 1716 to around 1,500 in 1801, but soldiers were generally held in contempt, earning about a quarter of a dockyard labourer's wages. At the height of the Napoleonic Wars, there were more soldiers (3,000) than dockyard and ropeyard workers (2,000), while the arsenal employed as many as 5,000. After the end of the wars, thousands were discharged, causing great distress. In the 1840s, a steam factory gave a new lease of life to the dockyard and the 1850s saw a huge expansion of the arsenal during and after the Crimean War.

The presence of the dockyard, the arsenal and other military institutions stimulated economic growth in other areas, notably in commercial activities and entertainment. The ropeyard was established around 1570 and survived until 1832. Throughout the 17th century two glass factories were active around Glass Yard, owned by Sir Robert Mansell from nearby Greenwich, who also managed the dockyard and the ropeyard. Some of the masters here were Huguenots from Lorraine. Continental potters probably controlled kilns where Bellarmine stoneware was produced. Other kilns produced earthenware and clay pipes. Such kilns were also active further south on the hill where clay was readily available. Near Plumstead and Charlton were sandpits; the sand was shipped from a wharf near Tower Place. In 1863, the German firm Siemens & Halske established a submarine-cable factory in former Dockyard area, which expanded quickly .


Woolwich, Hare Street, 1911 postcard
Hare Street in 1911

Woolwich market received its charter in 1618 but is certainly older. The market, which had always been in the High Street (at a location called Market Hill), had gradually moved towards the Royal Arsenal's main gatehouse, more or less at its current location. This was not approved by the authorities and a new market was set up around 1810 in the Bathway Quarter but failed to take off and is remembered only in the name of Market Street. Until 1879 the market at Beresford Square was illegal and was regularly cleared by the police. The market, with room for 136 stalls, was described as "very lively" by Italo Svevo in 1903. In 1936, a covered market opened in Plumstead Road but it never formed a threat to the Beresford Square market. The square also had the largest public houses, of which Woolwich had many. Powis Street and Hare Street, laid out in the early 19th century, developed as the main shopping streets. Some of the Vicorian shop facades, many designed by local architect Henry Hudson Church, have survived.

In 1868 the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society was established, which developed into one of the biggest consumer cooperatives in the country with two department stores in Powis Street, shops around South East London, manufacturing and food production plants, a building society, a funeral service and many other areas of entrepreneurship.


Service of Lieutenant R F T Foljoube With 120th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, 1910-1915 HU87114
Officers of the Royal Artillery playing polo on bicycles, ca 1910

In the 18th century, Woolwich Cricket Club, later Royal Artillery Cricket Club, were well-known cricket clubs. Cricket and other sports were mainly played by students of the Royal Military Academy and higher military personnel. Arsenal F.C. was founded in 1886 by workers at the Royal Arsenal. Initially known as Dial Square, then Royal Arsenal and then Woolwich Arsenal, they soon drew large crowds to their ground in Plumstead. In 1913 they moved to Arsenal Stadium in Highbury, North London. Royal Ordnance Factories F.C. was founded in response to Woolwich Arsenal joining the League but only lasted a few years.

Woolwich had several theaters and cinemas. The Theatre Royal at Beresford Street, dating from the 1830s, was the oldest. It was enlarged in the 1880s and 90s, eventually seating about 2,000, and renamed Empire Theatre, later Woolwich Empire. It both served as a variety theater and cinema and was demolished in 1960. Shortly after 1900, three new theaters opened with a combined capacity of 4,430. The Century cinema, which faced Beresford Square, was previously known as Premier Cinema and Royal Arsenal Cinema. It was built in 1913 with 669 seats, closed in 1961 and demolished for redevelopment in the late 1960s. The Grand Theatre in Wellington Street opened in 1900 as a variety theater with a capacity of 1,680. It became the Woolwich Hippodrome in 1908 and a full-time cinema in 1923. Rebuilt in 1955 as the Regal Cinema, it closed in 1982, was then used as a nightclub and demolished in 2015. The Granada cinema and the Odeon, later Coronet, both seating around 2,500, are both imposing buildings from the 1930s and have both been converted into Pentecostal churches.


Until the arrival of the railways the Thames was the principal artery connecting Woolwich to London. In 1834 the Woolwich Steam Packet Company greatly improved river traffic and in 1889 the Woolwich Free Ferry made it easier to live in North Woolwich and work in the Arsenal, or to live in Woolwich and work in the Docklands. The North Kent Line from London via Greenwich and Woolwich to Gillingham opened in 1849. The station building was rebuilt in 1906 and again in 1992-93. Woolwich was also on the route of two London trams of the first generation (1881-1952).

The post-war period brought massive changes to the town's fabric and infrastructure. Roads were widened and entire neighbourhoods pulled down to make room for modern housing, some of it in tower blocks. The widening of the High Street and Beresford Street left little of the old town. Woolwich was home to the experimental Auto Stacker car park. Built on the site of the Empire Theatre, it was officially opened in May 1961 by Princess Margaret. It never actually worked and was demolished in 1962. A multi-storey car park was built along Monk Street in 1971.


2016 Woolwich, Calderwood St, Polytechnic 02
Woolwich Polytechnic, 1891

Woolwich Polytechnic was founded in 1891. Throughout the 20th century it grew steadily, taking up almost an entire block in the Bathway Quarter and later spreading to other areas. In 1970 it merged with other local colleges and became Thames Polytechnic. In 1992 it was granted university status and a year later was renamed the University of Greenwich. In 2001, the University relocated to the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, leaving only a small administrative presence in Woolwich.

Woolwich was the location of the first free kindergarten in the UK. The Woolwich Mission Kindergarten opened in 1900, and began in a room provided by a Christian Socialist, vicar of Holy Trinity church in New Charlton, the Rev. Walter Wragge. It was founded by his sister, Adelaide Wragge, the Fröbel-influenced principal of Blackheath Kindergarten Training College.

Local government

Woolwich, St Mary's Gardens around 1840, postcard 1905
St Mary Magdalene around 1840

The civil parish of Woolwich, roughly the area of the present-day wards Woolwich Riverside and Woolwich Common, was formerly known as Woolwich Saint Mary. Up till 1842, when the Old Town Hall was built, the vestry met in a room in the parish church of St Mary Magdalene. Woolwich became part of the London metropolitan area in the mid 19th century, although officially still in Kent. In 1889, with the formation of London County Council, Woolwich became officially part of London. In 1900 the parishes of Woolwich, Eltham and Plumstead formed the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich. In 1906 the new Woolwich Town Hall was inaugurated. In April 1965, following implementation of the London Government Act 1963, Woolwich was merged into the London Borough of Greenwich, since 2012 the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The administrative buildings of the borough are in Woolwich.

Post-war history


Woolwich declined as a town in the late 20th century, starting with the closure of the Royal Ordnance Factory in 1967 and the Siemens factory in 1968 and continuing as the Royal Arsenal scaled back operations and finally closed in 1994. Other employers like the Woolwich Building Society ("The Woolwich") and Morgan Grampian Publishers were taken over by other companies and moved away from the town. Without major employers, the local economy was affected and unemployment soared. At the same time the town's demographics changed, with initially mainly Sikhs settling down in the area, later followed by black Africans, many from Nigeria. Despite immigration, the population of the parish reached a low of 17,000 in 1971. In general, Woolwich had lost its previous vigour. In the town's shopping district, department stores and chain stores closed. By the early 1990s, the town centre had the typical appearance of a town in decline with discount retailers and charity shops using the empty stores and Greenwich Council occupying the empty office buildings. In 1974, the United Kingdom's first branch of McDonald's opened in Powis Street. Amidst the decline, Woolwich was still considered to be a representative English town at the time.

In 1974 the Provisional IRA bombed the Kings Arms pub in the town, killing two. During the 2011 England riots, Woolwich was one of the areas affected. Several buildings were attacked, with a few being destroyed. The Great Harry Wetherspoons' Pub was set on fire, leaving it a burned-out shell.

The 16th Regiment Royal Artillery left Woolwich in 2007, but the Woolwich barracks still house the Royal Artillery Band and more recently the Second Battalion Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment and the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, although the relocation of these has been announced for 2028.


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Construction sites in Woolwich (Shooter's Hill view, 2016)

Woolwich started to enjoy the beginning of a renaissance with the residential redevelopment of the former Royal Arsenal. Most historic buildings on the site have been renovated and converted into apartments. Additionally, a riverside walk, several parks, a museum, a range of shops, cafes and gastropubs, and a farmers' market have made the Royal Arsenal a desirable place to live. Several thousands of homes have been built or are under construction and thousands more are planned, mainly luxury apartments in tower blocks near the river.

Woolwich Arsenal DLR station, the terminus of the Docklands Light Railway's London City Airport branch, opened on 10 January 2009. The 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics included Woolwich as a venue for shooting events, held in temporary facilities constructed on the grounds of the Royal Artillery Barracks and on Woolwich Common. The arrival of Crossrail in 2018 is expected to further stimulate regeneration, especially in the area close to Woolwich Crossrail station.

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Love Lane development

A large-scale redevelopment of the area west of General Gordon Square started in 2011. The square was re-landscaped, including a new water feature. The so-called Love Lane project involved demolition of several buildings including the Post Office, the Crown Building, the Director General public house, Peggy Middleton House and Thomas Spencer Halls of Residence. New buildings included the Woolwich Centre along Wellington Street (public library and council offices) and a large housing development above a Tesco hypermarket. The development was largely completed in 2012, except for the southwestern section (along the South Circular Road). On the other side of General Gordon Square the 1930s Woolwich Equitable building was refurbished. Next to Woolwich Town Hall on Wellington Street, the 1950s Woolwich Grand Theatre (formerly the ABC Regal Cinema, then Flamingo's Nightclub) briefly reopened as an arts centre with a cafe but in 2015 the building was demolished to make room for apartments.

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Demolition Connaught Estate, 2015

Redevelopment around the "Woolwich Triangle" at the west end of Powis Street is partly underway. It originally envisaged demolition of the art deco RACS department store, one of two imposing Co-op buildings in this part of town. In September 2012 Greenwich Council approved a plan to convert the building into apartments and retail. Across the road, the late Victorian former RACS Central Stores building was renovated and re-opened as a hotel. Further regeneration is centred on Hare Street and the Riverside. By relocating the Waterfront Leisure Centre, it is hoped that this part of Woolwich will attract new development. Other areas for redevelopment include Trinity Walk (former Connaught Estate, part of the One Woolwich masterplan for three housing estates), several sites along Wellington Street (including the Ogilby site and the so-called Island site), the Spray Street Quarter (between the existing station and the new Crossrail station), and the Callis Yard site (former council stables).


For centuries the area between the Thames and the present-day A206 road has been dominated by docks, warehouses and factories, starting with the Royal Dockyard early in the 16th century, later eclipsed by the Royal Arsenal in scale and grandeur. In the 18th century the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Corps of Royal Engineers were established in Woolwich, followed by the Royal Military Academy. Other military institutions completed the picture of the garrison town that Woolwich had become in the early 19th century. The town also has a distinctive housing history and in the Bathway Quarter it has a distinctive civic centre. Although repeatedly rebuilt, its architectural heritage reflects its unusual and important history.

Royal Arsenal

The older parts of the Royal Arsenal constitute a conservation area. Most buildings of historic interest have been restored and given new uses. The Royal Brass Foundry (1717) is a grade I listed building, while the Dial Arch (1717–20), the Old Royal Military Academy (1720) and the Grand Store (1806-13) are Grade II* listed. Other listed buildings include the Royal Arsenal Gatehouse, Middle Gatehouse, the Main Guard House, two small guardhouses near the Thames, the Shell Foundry Gatehouse, Verbruggen House and two buildings in Laboratory Square, the oldest structures on the site (1696).

Woolwich Dockyard

At Woolwich Dockyard relatively little of historic interest remains. The main monumental building complex comprises a group of 18th-century buildings: the entrance gate, the guardhouse and the so-called Clock House (Dockyard offices). A pair of 19th-century docks remain on the site of their 16th-century predecessors. The later development of the Dockyard in the Victorian period is represented by the Steam Factory and the Dockyard chimney, a prominent landmark, and further west by a group of buildings at the site of the Siemens factory.

Between the Arsenal and the Dockyard lies an area that was once Old Woolwich, a part of the town where little of historical interest remains and that, once again, is facing redevelopment. The round entrance building of the Woolwich foot tunnel dates from 1912. Further west, the Thames Barrier is an interesting example of modern architecture and technical achievement. The Thames Path is a National Trail that connects these sights.

Other military buildings

Woolwich Royal Artillery Main Barracks
Royal Artillery Barracks

Elsewhere, monumental buildings testify of Woolwich's rich military history. Woolwich Common with its surrounding buildings has been designated a conservation area. The Neoclassical façade of the Royal Artillery Barracks (James Wyatt, 1776-1802) is the longest façade in London, stretching along the north end of the common. Across the road, Government House (1781), was the quarters of the Garrison Commandant from 1855-1995. Of the nearby Garrison Church of St George only the shell remains after it was bombed during the Second World War. Its Neo-Romanesque architecture and remnants of mosaics are still impressive. John Nash's Rotunda, a round brick building with a leaded tent roof, until 2001 housed the Royal Artillery Museum and now serves as a boxing ring for the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery in nearby Napier Lines Barracks.

The Royal Military Academy at the south end of Woolwich Common was also designed by James Wyatt and has an almost equally long façade in Mock Tudor style. Other military buildings that survive include Connaught Barracks (built as the Royal Artillery Hospital in 1780), Green Hill Military School and Royal Herbert Hospital on Shooters Hill. The Royal Engineers' HQ was moved to Chatham in 1856, but a small detachment remained in Woolwich, quartered in what is now Engineer House on Mill Hill, just off the Common. Several listed buildings were demolished in the 1970s, including the Grand Depot Barracks of the Royal Military Artificers (1803), Cambridge Barracks (1842, of which the gatehouse still stands) and Red Barracks (1858, only the boundary wall and entrance gate remain). The latter two, on Frances Street, were originally built as barracks and infirmary for the Woolwich Division of the Royal Marines, and each was considered an innovative and influential design. The Marines departed with the closure of the Dockyard, whereupon the buildings were converted into barracks accommodation for various military corps. Rushgrove House (1806) housed the Colonel Commandant of the Marine Barracks (later Cambridge Barracks) from 1855.

Woolwich Centre

Nothing is left of the old town of Woolwich which was near the ferry along the Thames. In the early 19th century the town centre moved south to its present location. Although 20th-century economic decline and infrastructural works have had their effects, there are still some interesting buildings in Woolwich town centre. The best preserved area is the Bathway Quarter with the former Public Baths, the Old and New Town Hall, the former Magistrates Court and Police Station, the Old Public Library and several historic buildings of Woolwich Polytechnic.

In nearby Powis Street and Hare Street some late Victorian shop façades have been preserved, notably by local architect Henry Hudson Church. The western end of Powis Street is dominated by two former Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS) department stores, one late Victorian, the other one in Art Deco style. Nearer to the river are two large cinemas, both built in 1937 and both in use as Pentecostal church halls. The former Odeon Cinema (now occupied by the New Wine Church) is a fine example of an Art Deco theatre; the former Granada Cinema has lavish interior decorations.

Of the grand houses that once stretched along Woolwich Common and dotted the northern slopes of Shooter's Hill, little remains. Rushgrove House, Shrewsbury House and Woodhill Court survive but have lost their spaceous gardens. Woolwich parish church, St Mary Magdalen is a plain brick 1730s building with a spireless tower. Other religious buildings of interest include the Roman Catholic St Peter's Church (by Pugin), and two Sikh gurdwaras, one a former Methodist church, the other a former Masonic hall.


Woolwich is situated 13.7 km from Charing Cross. It has a 2.5 km long frontage to the south bank of the Thames river. From the riverside it rises up quickly along the northern slopes of Shooter's Hill towards the common (60 m) and the ancient London-Dover Road (132 m). The ancient parish of Woolwich, more or less the present-day wards Woolwich Riverside and Woolwich Common, comprises 297 ha (735 acres). This included North Woolwich, which is now part of the London Borough of Newham. The ancient parishes of Plumstead and Eltham became part of the civil parish of Woolwich in 1930. Parts of the wards Glyndon and Shooter's Hill are often referred to as Woolwich, although not accepted by all. The nearest areas are Abbey Wood, Blackheath, Charlton, Eltham, Greenwich, Kidbrooke, Lewisham, North Woolwich, Plumstead, Shooter's Hill, Thamesmead and Welling.


Census data is collected by borough and ward so identifying the population of Woolwich is not straightforward. If the area is taken to approximate to the Woolwich Common, Woolwich Riverside and Glyndon Wards, then the population was 54,790 at the time of the 2011 census.

If it is also taken to include the Plumstead and Shooters Hill Wards then it rises to 84,959 at the 2011 census.


National Rail

The nearest stations are Woolwich Arsenal and Woolwich Dockyard for Southeastern services towards Barnehurst, Dartford, Gravesend, London Cannon Street and London Charing Cross.

Docklands Light Railway

The nearest station is Woolwich Arsenal for Docklands Light Railway services towards London City Airport, Bank and Stratford International.


The new Woolwich Crossrail Station is scheduled to open in 2021 for Elizabeth line services towards Abbey Wood, Canary Wharf, central London and Heathrow Airport. This will provide the area with faster, more frequent and more direct rail services.


Woolwich is served by many bus services all provided by Transport for London. These connect Woolwich with areas including Bexleyheath, Bluewater, Catford, Central London, Chislehurst, Crystal Palace, Dartford, Elephant & Castle, Eltham, Erith, Greenwich, Lewisham, North Greenwich, Orpington, Peckham, Sidcup, Thamesmead and Welling.

Woolwich Ferry

The free Woolwich Ferry service operates across the River Thames to North Woolwich in the London Borough of Newham carrying trucks, cars, cyclists and pedestrians during the day until 20:00 on Weekdays. A two boat service runs on Mondays to Fridays with weekends being served by a one boat service. The Woolwich foot tunnel is also available for use by pedestrians (and cyclists pushing their cycles) at any time. It is served by lifts during traditional shopping hours.

London River Services

London River Services, operated by Thames Clippers, provide a peak hour, seven days a week service to central London (Embankment Pier) from Woolwich Arsenal Pier (adjacent to the Royal Arsenal residential development). The Thames Barrier is located 1 mile (1.6 km) upstream from the tunnel and ferry.


Parks in central Woolwich are generally small. St Mary's Gardens has been laid out as a park in Romantic style on the grounds of the former churchyard of the parish church of St Mary Magdalen. Some historic grave markers have been placed against the peripheral wall. Tom Cribb's memorial, a lioness resting her paw on an urn, stands near the northeast entrance. The park features a belvedere which offers views of the river Thames. At the Royal Arsenal, several new parks and gardens have been landscaped but some can only be accessed by residents.

Shrewsbury Park, Plumstead Common, Woolwich Common and Oxleas Wood are situated higher up the hill and are all part of the South East London Green Chain. Repository Woods is a forested part of Woolwich Common. The area around the lake is a military training ground that is not open to the public. The same applies to Mulgrave Pond and Shooters Hill Golfcourse.

Sports and leisure

Arsenal F.C. is originally from Woolwich; Charlton Athletic's stadium, The Valley, is approximately 2 km west of Woolwich. The area also has two Non-League football clubs: Bridon Ropes F.C. and Meridian F.C., who both play at Meridian Sports & Social Club.

Barrack Field at the Royal Artillery Barracks was a famous cricket ground in the 18th century but is now merely used for recreational sports. Royal Arsenal Rugby Club plays rugby here.

Greenwich Council has plans to demolish the 1980s Waterfront Leisure Centre next to the Woolwich Ferry and build a new leisure centre in Wilmount Street. There is an indoor climbing wall in the Docklands area.

Education and culture

Woolwich, public art collage
Public art works in Woolwich

The University of Greenwich's dramatic arts department is based in the historic Bathway Quarter in the centre of Woolwich. The old Grand Theatre, which briefly reopened in the 2010s, closed in 2015. The Tramshed, until 1953 an electricity sub-station for the borough's tramways, is a music and entertainment venue run by the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Woolwich currently has no movie theatres. Cinemas are included in the plans for Spray Street quarter and the Island site. The town was used as a location for the 2006 film Children of Men.

Woolwich has one museum, the Greenwich Heritage Centre at the Royal Arsenal (Firepower – The Royal Artillery Museum closed in 2016 after having been based in Woolwich for almost two centuries). Second Floor Studios in the Woolwich Dockyard area is one of London's largest concentrations of artists' studios. The town has a number of public sculptures: one of Roman origin, several statues and reliefs from the 19th and early 20th century, and a number of modern sculptures. One of the Woolwich Arsenal DLR station entrances features a large mural in tiles by Michael Craig-Martin.

Notable people

  • Garry Bushell (born 1955), journalist and political activist, born in Woolwich.
  • Tom Cribb, 19th-century bare-knuckle boxer, born in Bristol but resided and died aged 66 in Woolwich in 1848, he was buried in St. Mary's cemetery. A road in Woolwich is named after him.
  • Stella Duffy, novelist and playwright, born in Woolwich later moved to Eltham.
  • Bernardine Evaristo, writer, raised in Woolwich.
  • Boy George, songwriter and lead singer for the band Culture Club, raised in Woolwich
  • Jeremy Healy, DJ and member of Haysi Fantayzee, born in Woolwich
  • Charles George Gordon (1833–1885), general, born in Woolwich.
  • Charles Hutton Gregory (1817–1888), civil engineer, born in Woolwich.
  • Olinthus Gregory (1774–1841), mathematician (and father of Charles Hutton Gregory), lived and died in Woolwich.
  • Joseph Grimaldi (1778–1837), pantomime clown, lived in Woolwich during the early 1830s before moving to Islington.
  • Charles Hutton (1737–1823), mathematician, lived and died in Woolwich.
  • George Thomas Landmann (1779–1854), military and civil engineer, born and raised in Woolwich.
  • Richard Lovelace (1618–1657), poet, born in Woolwich.
  • Jonathan Guy Lewis (born 1963), actor, born in Woolwich.
  • William Livingstone Robe (1791–1815), army officer, born in Woolwich.
  • Forbes Macbean FRS (1725–1800), army officer, lived and died in Woolwich.
  • Carlo Martelli, (born 1935) has lived in Woolwich since the early 1960s.
  • Scott Maslen (born 1971), actor and model, born in Woolwich.
  • Keith Milow (born in 1945), painter and sculptor, lives in Woolwich.
  • Glenn Morris (1983), footballer, born in Woolwich.
  • Noizy (born 1986), Albanian musician and actor, lived in Woolwich.
  • William Ranwell (1797–1861), artist, lived and died in Woolwich.
  • Ray Richardson (born 1964), painter, born and lives in Woolwich.
  • Frederick Robe (1801–1871), Governor of South Australia, born in Woolwich.
  • William Robe (1765–1820), army officer and architect, born and died in Woolwich.
  • Glenn Tilbrook (born 1957), guitarist, born in Woolwich.
  • Neil Vartan (1962–1994), cricketer, born in Woolwich.
  • Lesley Vickerage (born 1961), actress, born in Woolwich.
  • George Whale (1849–1925), solicitor and bibliophile, Mayor of Woolwich, founded the Samuel Pepys Club In 1903.
  • Ian Wright (born 1963), former professional footballer, born in Woolwich.

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See also

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