Mycenae House, Mycenae Rd, SE3

Moving on from Westcombe Park, today of all days feels right to talk about Mycenae House. I will explain later.

Mycenae House, a large old Victorian mansion, is now a community centre which houses pretty much all of the events in the local area and seems to have classes going on in its various rooms most days of the week. It has extensive gardens and is a friendly, spacious and not outrageously expensive place to hire from time to time.

Next door is the famous Woodlands – a sad story indeed. This gracious building, originally erected in 1774 by John Julius Angerstein (After whom the Angerstein Pub on Woolwich Road is named though I am not sure he would be delighted to have the scruffy trading estate across the road also named for him.) Angerstein founded Lloyd’s of London from humble-ish beginnings. Widely believed to have been the illegitimate son of the Empress of Russia (who was in her turn the illegitimate daughter of Peter the Great,) he was sent to London at 14 to make his fortune.

After putting Lloyd’s on a firm footing, being commended by Nelson and contributing to the National Gallery (the gallery’s first donor,) he built Woodlands as a retreat from his Pall Mall town house. He wined and dined George III and was friends with the notorious Princess Caroline, who attended parties there.

But it was all downhill after that for this poor old building, still quietly resplendent with its doorway mosaics and beautiful stained glass windows. Nuns took over the building for a long while, and then it was designated a local history centre and art gallery for some time. But the poor old girl was damp – very damp by now, and the artefacts were mouldering in their boxes.

When the brand new Heritage Centre at Woolwich Arsenal was built, Woodlands was denuded of its status and a flood put paid to its life as an art gallery. It currently faces an uncertain future. Most residents want to see it put back to community use – whether this will happen is in the laps of the gods – if you can call the local council gods… The latest thinking is that the Steiner School will take it over – but there are arguments about just how many luxury flats will have to be built in the curretly lovely grounds to pay for it.


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