Main Births etc
Coordinates: 51°29′46″N 0°04′05″E / 51.4961, 0.0681

Greater london outline map bw
Red pog.svg

Red pog.svg Woolwich shown within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ435795
London borough Greenwich
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region 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: UK • England • London

Woolwich (play /ˈwʊlɪ/ or /ˈwʊlɪ/) 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.[1]

Woolwich formed part of Kent until 1889 when the County of London was created. It is notable as a river crossing point, having the Woolwich Ferry (and the lesser-known Woolwich foot tunnel) to North Woolwich, and as the one-time home of the Woolwich Building Society (now owned by Barclays plc).


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."[2] But it is now generally believed that the name Woolwich derives from the Anglo-Saxon name, "trading place for wool". Woolwich has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age, and a Roman fort was found in the current Riverside park.[3]

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 1471), the Royal Military Academy (1741) and the Royal Horse Artillery (1793); the town still retains an army base at the Royal Artillery Barracks (although 16RA Royal Artillery left in 2007, Woolwich Barracks still house the Royal Artillery Band and more recently Second Battalion Princess of Wales Royal Regiment and Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery), and the Royal Artillery Museum, Firepower. 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.

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 jubilee year, 2012.

Woolwich town hall 1

Woolwich town hall dates from when this was a borough in its own right. (February 2007)

Woolwich royal arsenal gatehouse 1

The original gatehouse to Woolwich Royal Arsenal. (February 2007)

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.[4] 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 the 6 July.[5]

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.

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.[6]

Woolwich once had four cinemas. Today, one, the former Granada cinema (which once hosted Buddy Holly in 1958,[7] and later Roy Orbison and The Beatles in 1963[8]), 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 used as a location for the 2006 film Children of Men.

Recent developmentEdit

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 redevelopment of the former Royal Arsenal site began, Woolwich started to enjoy a renaissance. Several High Street chains previously absent from Woolwich have opened branches, and longer-established shops have been refurbished. The new terminus of the Docklands Light Railway's London City Airport branch, Woolwich Arsenal station, opened on 10 January 2009.[9]

A large-scale redevelopment of the area around Love Lane called Woolwich Central, near the eastern end of Powis Street, commenced in 2011. The project includes demolition of several buildings including the Post Office, Crown Building, Peggy Middleton House and Thomas Spencer Halls of Residence, and the construction of new council offices called the Woolwich Centre ( opened in August 2011 ) and housing, local shops and a large branch of Tesco. Due for completion in 2012.

Local residents have been consulted about the design of the development.[10] Plans exhibited to the public originally preserved the Director General public house,[11] but in the final plans by Greenwich Council the pub was to be demolished[12]

By June 2011 the Director General had been demolished, as had one of the council buildings, the Borough Treasurer's Office. The demolition of the former University of Greenwich halls of residence Thomas Spencer House had been completed, as had another former Council building, Peggy Middleton House. A new building is nearing completion on Wellington Street. The main Square in Woolwich is currently under redevelopment and new landscaping and will include a new water feature.

A Nandos restaurant opened in June 2010, two doors down from McDonalds. Several offices have been developed above shops on Powis Street, which is part of the regeneration of the area. The old 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 in the early stages. This development includes plans to demolish the old art deco Co-op/"Scottley's" building at the west end of Powis Street.[13] These plans have now been made public and exhibitions of the plans held. Since these plans became public, scaffolding has been put on the building on the Powis Street Side. Some locals are not happy about the plans for the Woolwich Triangle. A petition has been raised to save the building.[14] 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 is not known.[15]

Art Deco Co-Op Powis Street 1

The likely to be demolished art deco Co-Op on Powis Street (Nov 2008)

Some redevelopment has begun at the Riverside end of Woolwich already, with the June 2008 demolition of the derelict Crown and Cushion pub (the last remnant of the "old" riverside) next to the Waterfront leisure centre, and the completion of a residential block on the site of the old Union Tavern, next to Riverside House. The last buildings which once stood on Beresford Street at the junction with Warren Lane have been demolished, and this site has been cleared with residential development planned. It is currently being used as a car park.

Isis Prison (a Young Offenders Institution) was opened within the perimeter wall of Belmarsh Prison in 2010.

The 2012 Summer Olympics will include Woolwich as a venue for shooting events, and building work has begun in the barracks for the location. The choice of Woolwich as the venue for the shooting has not been universally welcomed.[16]

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 riotsEdit

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.[17] 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.[18] This writing was later deemed to be graffiti, and painted over by Greenwich Council.

Notable peopleEdit


For education in Woolwich see the main Royal Borough of Greenwich article

Sport and leisureEdit

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

Transport and localeEdit

Nearest placesEdit


Inside Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Nearest railway stationsEdit

Nearest tube stationEdit

Docklands Light RailwayEdit

The DLR link to Woolwich Arsenal has proven a success. Over 15,000 passengers use the station every weekday. The line is on track to carry over 5 million users in its first 12 months - 5 per cent above projections. Since its launch in January 2009, Woolwich Arsenal station has become the seventh busiest station on the DLR network.


Woolwich is served by 18 Transport for London bus routes, including one dedicated night-only route and two 24-hour services. All routes serve the town centre;[19] some also serve the south of the town,[20] the Dockyard area[21] and/or the Woolwich Common area.[22] Three routes serve the nearby Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and another three terminate there. Some services use central Woolwich as a terminus.

The routes serving Woolwich are as follows:

These routes provide a variety of links to locations within the Royal Borough of Greenwich, nearby and neighbouring boroughs including Bexley, Lewisham and Bromley, plus links into Central London and to Bluewater which is across the London boundary in the Dartford borough of Kent. Some locations are only served directly from Woolwich by the N1 and thus not served directly during the run of daytime routes - these include Aldwych, Holborn, Waterloo and Surrey Quays.


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.


Ferry departing north terminal

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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mayor of London (February 2008). "London Plan (Consolidated with Alterations since 2004)". Greater London Authority. 
  2. ^ "Woolwich | The Environs of London: volume 4 (pp. 558-569)". 2003-06-22. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ BBC on this day: 6 July accessed 23 April 2007
  5. ^ Greenwich Guide, day by day accessed 23 April 2007
  6. ^ Interview with McDonalds UK CEO Evening Standard 16th December 1991 accessed 23 April 2007
  7. ^ "1958 Tour Dates". Buddy Holly Online. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  8. ^ "Live: Granada Cinema, Woolwich, London". Beatles Bible. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  9. ^ DLR service change from 10 January 2009, accessed 13 January 2009
  10. ^ "Local resident concerns". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  11. ^ Fancyapint Ltd (2010-04-06). "Director General public house". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  12. ^ Change of plans and indeed it was the first building to be demolished.
  13. ^ "Coop site redevelopment". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  14. ^ "Index". We Love Woolwich. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  15. ^ "Crews battle Woolwich shop fire". 2008-10-19. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  16. ^ Andrew Gilligan (2008-08-28). "Olympics minister orders rethink over 2012 plans for Greenwich park - Olympics - Evening Standard". Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  17. ^ "Pictures of the destruction on Woolwich streets following a night of violence and looting". 2011-08-09. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  18. ^ [2]
  19. ^ "Central Woolwich TfL map PDF" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  20. ^ "Woolwich (South) TfL map PDF" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  21. ^ "Woolwich Dockyard TfL map PDF" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  22. ^ "Buses from Woolwich Common until mid-September 2012" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-29. 

External linksEdit

Template:Capital Ring Walking Route

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