Spotlight on Woolwich
Thousands of new homes — some in handsome heritage buildings — and the Elizabeth line are pulling in young professionals. By
POISED to become one of the big winners from the arrival of the Elizabeth line, Woolwich will have its own station stop on the new service in 14 months’ time. Trains will roll in on their way from Abbey Wood to Paddington, putting this south-east London town just eight minutes from Canary Wharf, 14 minutes from Liverpool Street and 22 minutes from Bond Street.
Already a place of great historic interest with many heritage buildings, Woolwich is being transformed with thousands of new homes and a revitalised town centre. Property agent CBRE estimates that house prices close to the new station will grow 4.5 per cent a year faster than in the wider area.
The former Royal Arsenal in Woolwich was at the heart of the munitions industry for more than 200 years, cut off from public view by high walls and known only to those who worked there. During its First World War peak, it covered 1,285 riverside acres, stretching from Henry VIII’s dockyard in the west to what is now Thamesmead in the east, and employed 80,000. In 1868, its workers founded the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society which eventually owned farms, bakeries and housing estates as well as shops. A statue of one of the society’s founders, Alexander McLeod, stands above its listed Edwardian HQ in Powis Street, Woolwich, below the motto “Each for all and all for each”.
In 1886, another group of workers started a football club in Dial Square in the arsenal. The club soon adopted the name Woolwich Arsenal and even though it moved to Highbury in 1913 and long ago dropped Woolwich from its name, fans today still call Arsenal the “Gunners”
The regeneration of Woolwich began in 2003 with the residential towers of Royal Artillery Quays on the eastern edge of the town where it borders Thamesmead. This was followed by a new town centre square overlooked by a futuristic development of flats above a giant Tesco. The largest of all, though, is Royal Arsenal Riverside, the Berkeley Homes £1.2 billion development of the arsenal site which is bringing 5,000 new homes to the area, some in converted heritage buildings, others in new riverside towers.
Woolwich is 10 miles south-east of central London with the Thames to the north, Thamesmead and Abbey Wood to the east, Welling, Eltham and Blackheath to the south and Greenwich to the west. Estate agent Patricia Irwin-Brown of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward says young professionals moving to Woolwich seek value and the opportunities the Elizabeth line will bring. The area’s full potential will only become evident after the line’s arrival, she adds.
Historic: Woolwich pedestrian and vehicle free ferry links the town centre with North Woolwich and Silvertown north of the river. The Domesday Book mentions a ferry service over the Thames in this spot