East v West
George (not his real name…) asks:
“I’d love your opinion of East Greenwich. I’m moving quite soon to Greenwich and can’t figure out if East Greenwich is the most fun part of the town or is just a little bit iffy for safety at night and overall safety. All I really want is a decent cafe close by, and perfection would also have a bookshop, and anywhere that is safe at night; I’m just not sure where offers all that.
Where would you say is safest but most fun to live in the town? I’m looking at Eastney Street, Colomb Street, Mauritius Street, and also at some places in West Greenwich in the Ashburnham Triangle, which are way pricier.”
The Phantom replies:
Generally I don’t tend to make value judgements between East and West Greenwich. They are different – very different – but part of a whole. If you care to get cliched about it, the Yin and Yang of the town. Without West Greenwich, East Greenwich might be thought of as much the same as anywhere else in South East London (though when you get to know it, it’s anything but…); without East Greenwich, West Greenwich would be at serious risk of being a bit twee. Together, they make a vibrant, truly unique area of London.
Not that I won’t moan when West Greenwich gets something else cute and lovely and East Greenwich gets another bookies’, but in general, I’d just encourage people to come to Greenwich full stop.
As for which is ‘most fun’ – well – to be honest, they’re both residential areas – for ‘fun’ you’re probably looking at the centre of town.
The best concentration of good pubs is in West Greenwich – The Union, Tolly and Ashburnham Arms are just three of the goodies on offer. But that would be missing out the Vanbrugh, the newly-cool Pelton Arms and the Plume of Feathers/Cutty Sark in the East.
If you want decent cafes, you’re really looking at the West (Royal Teas is my fave) or prohibitively pricey house-wise centre (Nevada St and Red Door take a lot of beating). What the East does do well is greasy-spoon types – the best of which (and which would probably be rather miffed to be described as such) being the Trafalgar Cafe (though I have a bit of a soft spot for the GMT caff way out east in Woolwich Road – it’s the gaudy plastic seats and doorstop sandwiches that do it.) There’s also a very good, friendly cafe (as long as you don’t look at the outside of it) in East Greenwich Pleasaunce, a really great little park. An opportunity for a marvellous cafe is being disgracefully wasted on the waterfront, in between the power station and the Cutty Sark, where a new-build, waterfront venue is just being used as an INC storage container.
Bookshops – well, you’ll whistle in East Greenwich (though I get some great bargains from the Save the Children shop – there must be a book reviewer round here somewhere as a lot of the books are review copies…) West Greenwich has the Maritime Bookshop in Royal Hill and Halcyon Books, but if you want new, you’ll just have to go to Waterstones in the centre. Gone are the days of many little bookshops dotted around town.
But you were specifically asking about the area of East Greenwich around Columb St and Mauritius Road. This is easily the prettiest part of East Greenwich, with little terraced cottages, some even with picket fencing and hollyhocks. Eastney St has Hardy Cottages, historic in their own way (I keep meaning to get around to talking about them); the area around Columb St (north, not sure about the bit south of Trafalgar Road) is, if memory serves, part of the Pelton Estate. If you look at the houses down the road and they have a little iron shield on them, they’re part of the giant Morden College charity (much of Greenwich is owned by two ancient charities.)
I would be happy to live in either of those streets - and I don’t know of any trouble around there – certainly I don’t mind walking those roads at night – just exercise the sort of caution you’d use anywhere else. Occasionally Trafalgar Road can get a bit leery late at night – but heavens – so can the centre of town. Of any town. I have never been scared around there.
There’s no denying the Ashburnham Triangle is desirable. The housing stock is great, there’s a good community spirit and historians have exercised many hours researching it. I wouldn’t ever discourage someone who can afford it to buy there. But for my money, East Greenwich is gritty, honest and really rather lovable (as well as being nice and close to the river.)
IMHO, the roads around Mauritius street, such as Azof, are some of the best mid-price buys to be had around there. They’re quiet (cut off from being rat-runs with gates) nice quality (albeit with teeny tiny gardens, from what I’ve seen) and they’re close to the river. I guess there’s a little uncertainty about what will happen to some of the rather sweet Victorian warehouse/yards in the long-term future (no plans I know of as yet; they were always ring-fenced by Ken as industrial/wharf areas, but who knows now)
I can’t imagine I’ve been much help here, but other people will, I’m sure, chip in to tell you why their bit of town is best. Happy moving. Wherever of the two you end up, you won’t go far wrong.