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Template:Other uses Template:Use British English Template:Infobox UK place Woolwich (Template:IPAc-en or Template:IPAc-en) is a district in southeast London, England, located in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.<ref name=london_plan_f08>Template:Cite web</ref> It is a river crossing point, with the Woolwich Ferry and the Woolwich foot tunnel crossing to North Woolwich. The district was the original home of the Woolwich Building Society. The ancient parish of St Mary Woolwich was within the county Kent, becoming part of the London metropolitan area in the mid 19th century, and was absorbed by the County of London in 1889.



In 1796 Daniel Lysons wrote, "this place in old charters is called Hulviz, Wolwiche, Wollewic, &c. I can find nothing satisfactory relating to its etymology." But it is now generally believed that the name Woolwich derives from the Anglo-Saxon name, "trading place for wool".

Early history

Woolwich has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age, and a Roman fort was found in the current Riverside park.

Urban development

Woolwich remained a small Kentish village until it started to become a leading military and industrial town. It was home to the Woolwich Dockyard (founded in 1512), the Royal Arsenal (dating back to 1671), the Royal Military Academy (1741) and the Royal Artillery (1716); the town still retains an army base at the Royal Artillery Barracks (although 16 Regiment Royal Artillery left in 2007, Woolwich Barracks still house the Royal Artillery Band and more recently Second Battalion Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment and King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery). Firepower – The Royal Artillery Museum (which itself dates from 1748) is within the old Royal Arsenal (the original home of the regiment). The nearby Greenwich Heritage Centre also houses exhibits relating to the Royal Arsenal.

Arsenal Football Club were founded in Woolwich in 1886 by workers at the Arsenal – the club were initially known as Dial Square, then Royal Arsenal and then became Woolwich Arsenal in 1891. They moved to Arsenal Stadium, Highbury in north London in 1913, and dropped the Woolwich prefix the following year. This is a rare example of a British football team moving from its local area, albeit relocating within the same conurbation. Royal Ordnance Factories F.C. was founded in response to Woolwich Arsenal joining the League but only lasted several years.

Woolwich Polytechnic, founded in 1892, merged with other local colleges and became Thames Polytechnic in 1970. In 1992 it was granted university status as the University of Greenwich. In 2000, the University began a relocation to the Old Royal Naval College, several miles to the west in Greenwich town centre, leaving only an administrative presence in Woolwich.

Woolwich was the start of the route of the last London tram, on 5 July 1952. A scheduled Route 40 tram, restricted to just a nominal number of fare paying passengers, was driven through enormous crowds to New Cross, finally arriving at New Cross depot around 1am on 6 July.

Woolwich is the location of the United Kingdom's first branch of McDonald's (the 3,000th in the world), which opened on 13 November 1974. Woolwich was chosen because it was considered to be a representative English town at the time. In the same year the Provisional IRA bombed the Kings Arms pub in the town, killing two.

Woolwich once had four cinemas. Today, one, the former Granada cinema (which once hosted Buddy Holly in 1958, and later Roy Orbison and The Beatles in 1963), is a bingo hall; another, the former ABC (previously Regal) is a nightclub, while the former Odeon, later Coronet, is now a Pentecostal church. The Century cinema, which faced Beresford Square, was demolished for redevelopment in the late 1960s.

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 was never actually used by the public and was demolished in 1962, after the council could not get it to work.

Local government

File:Woolwich town hall 1.jpg
Woolwich town hall dates from when Woolwich was a borough in its own right

In 1889, Woolwich became part of London, with the formation of London County Council. In 1900 Woolwich, Eltham and Plumstead became the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich until the current Borough of Greenwich came into being in April 1965 following implementation of the London Government Act 1963 and subsequently became Royal Borough in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year, 2012.


File:Art Deco Co-Op Powis Street 1.JPG
The likely to be demolished art deco Co-Op on Powis Street (Nov 2008)

Woolwich declined as a town in the late 20th century, starting with the closure of the Siemens factory in 1968 and continuing as the Royal Arsenal scaled back operations and finally closed in 1994. Without major local employers, the local economy was affected and the demographics of Woolwich changed. In the town centre, department and chain stores closed and the sprawl of the town centre shrank. The focus of shopping activity was limited mostly to Powis Street and the area around the market. By the early 1990s, the town centre had the typical appearance of a town in decline—discount retailers and charity shops using the empty stores. The local council used several properties as offices. The last cinema, the Coronet, closed and in general Woolwich seemed to have lost its previous vigour.

However, once residential redevelopment of the former Royal Arsenal site began, Woolwich started to enjoy a renaissance. Several High Street chains previously absent from Woolwich opened branches, and longer-established shops were refurbished. The new terminus of the Docklands Light Railway's London City Airport branch, Woolwich Arsenal station, opened on 10 January 2009.

A large-scale redevelopment of the area around Love Lane, near the eastern end of Powis Street, started in 2011, following local consultation which started in 2009. The project eventually involved demolition of several buildings including the Director General public house, the Post Office, Crown Building, Peggy Middleton House and Thomas Spencer Halls of Residence. New buildings included council offices (the Woolwich Centre, opened in August 2011), housing, local shops and a large branch of Tesco. Woolwich's main square (General Gordon Square) was also re-landscaped and included a new water feature. The development was largely completed in 2012.

Nearby regeneration of Powis Street included a Nando's restaurant, opened in June 2010, and new offices above shops. The former Woolwich Building Society building is also in use again.

Planning for further development around the "Woolwich Triangle" area at the other end of town is ongoing. It envisages demolition of the old art deco Co-op/"Scottley's" building at the west end of Powis Street, which some locals opposed, raising a petition to save the building. Earlier, in October 2008 a fire in the Woolwich Triangle area left the upper storeys of an empty Victorian shop building severely damaged, contributing to the decline of the area. The cause of the fire was not known.

Some redevelopment of the Riverside end of Woolwich has taken place. In June 2008 the derelict Crown and Cushion pub (next to the Waterfront leisure centre, and the last remnant of the "old" riverside) was demolished. A residential block on the site of the old Union Tavern, next to Riverside House, was completed. Buildings by the junction of Beresford Street and Warren Lane were demolished for residential redevelopment.

The 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics included Woolwich as a venue for shooting events, held in temporary facilities constructed in the Barracks and on Woolwich Common (though Woolwich's selection was not universally welcomed).

On Wellington Street the Woolwich Grand Theatre (formerly the ABC Regal Cinema and Flamingo's Nightclub) has recently reopened as an arts centre with a cafe. There is currently an art and craft market on Saturdays; as well as live entertainment, talks and film shows during the week.

London riots

During the 2011 England riots Woolwich, on Monday 8 August, was one of the areas affected. Several buildings were attacked, with a few being destroyed. Blue Inc. in Powis Street had to be demolished following a major fire. The Great Harry Wetherspoons' Pub was also set on fire, leaving it a burned-out shell. The Wimpy burger restaurant and Coral bookmakers were also damaged by fire. Several other shops were looted or damaged, including Nando's, Charles Dance (the oldest jewellers in Woolwich) and other shops in Powis Street and Hare Street. Many local residents felt that the destruction of Woolwich was under-reported by local and national media, and on Saturday 13 August local residents began writing their thoughts on the hoarding around the shell of the Great Harry. This writing was later deemed to be graffiti, and painted over by Greenwich Council.

Murder of Lee Rigby

Template:Further Lee Rigby, one of the British soldiers based at the barracks was murdered by two Islamic extremists on 22 May 2013.<ref name='BBC'>Template:Cite web</ref>

On 22 May 2013, two men armed with knives and meat cleavers murdered British soldier and drummer Lee Rigby, close to his base at the Royal Artillery Barracks. The men, Islamic extremists, asked bystanders to take pictures of them and made efforts to justify their actions to the crowd, making no effort to escape. When the police arrived, the attackers were still armed and were shot and wounded by police. They were then taken to two different hospitals.

On 19 December 2013, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were found guilty of the murder of Lee Rigby. The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, said that he would pass sentence after a key appeal court ruling on the use of whole life terms, in January 2014.<ref name ="verdict">Template:Cite web</ref>


Nearest places are:

  • Plumstead
  • Charlton
  • Shooters Hill
  • Eltham
  • Westcombe Park
  • East Wickham
  • Kidbrooke
  • Blackheath
  • Thamesmead
  • Welling
  • Abbey Wood
  • Greenwich


Ferry departing north terminal

Woolwich Arsenal station serves the area with services to London Charing Cross via Lewisham, London Cannon Street both via Greenwich and via Sidcup, Barnehurst, Dartford and Gravesend. Woolwich Dockyard station also serves the area. There are Docklands Light Railway services from Woolwich Arsenal station to Canning Town, Startford International and Bank. Woolwich is served by many Transport for London bus services connecting it with areas including Abbey Wood, Beckenham, Bexleyheath, Central London, Charlton, Chislehurst, Crystal Palace, Dartford, Eltham, Erith, Greenwich, Lewisham, New Cross, Orpington, Peckham, Plumstead, Sidcup, St Mary Cray, Thamesmead and Welling.

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 8pm on Weekdays. A two boat service runs on Mondays to Saturdays and Sundays only has a one boat service. 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, operated by Thames Clipper, provide a peak hour, seven days a week service to central London (Savoy Pier) from Woolwich Arsenal Pier (adjacent to the Royal Arsenal residential development). The Thames flood barrier is located a mile upstream from the tunnel and ferry.


Woolwich has two Non-League football clubs Bridon Ropes F.C. and Meridian F.C. who both play at Meridian Sports & Social Club.

Woolwich was used as a location for the 2006 film Children of Men.

See also


  • List of people from Greenwich
  • List of schools in Greenwich
  • Royal Ordnance Factory
  • Template:SS – a passenger steamer sunk off North Woolwich pier on 3 September 1878 (a memorial to those lost can be found in Woolwich Old Cemetery, Kings Highway, Plumstead)
  • The Auto Stacker
  • 2013 Woolwich attack



Further reading

External links

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