Greenwich since 2000

Joseph asks:

I am in Year three at St Josephs primary school, Greenwich and i have been asked to do a project on how Greenwich has changed.I went on the tourist office walk with my mum today.We’ll also be going to the Heritage centre next week, but I wondered if you could help me. I was born in 2000, and would like to know about any changes since then to the present day. I have a brilliant picture of lovell wharf coming down.

The Phantom replies:

You know Joseph, in the years just before 2000 and from then onwards, Greenwich has probably seen as much sudden change as it would have done around the 18th Century (when Greenwich Hospital was built) the 1830s, (when the centre of Greenwich was redeveloped) the turn of the 20th century (massive amounts of Victorian expansion) and World War II (lots of bombings…)

Much of this latest change has to do with the coming of new forms of transport to Greenwich. Although we had the railway since 1836 and river travel has been with us since – well, forever, really, Greenwich was always comparatively cut-off from the rest of London until we got the Docklands Light Railway and The Jubilee Line, connecting us to the underground network.

This has brought a huge amount of new people into the area, because they can commute to The City – and, of course, to the newly-built Canary Wharf – once the docks of London, now a mainly service-sector area. There’s a vibrancy -not least because of the numer of young people here – from the University and Trinity Music College, which came when the Navy moved out of the Old Royal Navla College and it was opened up to the public as a museum.

Greenwich’s industrial life has diminished as the ‘cleaning-up’ has spread. The peninsula, where once a gigantic gas works filled the area, is now ‘cleaned up’ and awaiting more development, industry being confined to the west side by the river (if you want to see some of Greenwich’s industrial world, take a walk along The Thames Path) and driven further out – to Charlton, Woolwich and beyond.

2000, of course, was the ‘big’ year for Greenwich – the ill-fated Millennium Dome was opened – and shut again – it’s only recently been reopened, and is, at last, a success.

In the town centre, Greenwich is changing too. As more people come, so do companies with cash. Where there used to be a lot of independent retailers, chain stores are taking over. Not everyone sees this as a bad thing – it is, at least, proof that Greenwich is getting richer. But I mourn for the quirky, individual shops and services that are being forced to close through higher rents.

So what else is good? Well – the Picturehouse, reopened, is a joy, and the spruced-up museums and town centre are nice. But it’s up to us to make sure that Greenwich gets better rather than worse. We cannot leave it to other people – or worse still, big businesses – to decide on our fate…

I’m not sure that’s what you asked. Sorry – I got a bit carried away there…

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