Room With A Flue

Linda is part of the estimable Ladies Who Bus, picking up where Time Out left off when the sad cancellation of  my favourite section, Big Smoke, meant the loss of several interesting long-running features, including the one where they travelled every bus route (but inexplicably keeping the tired old Lies to Tell Tourists which stopped being funny about three years ago).

But I digress. The Ladies Who Bus have reached our parts and have been enjoying riding the 177 and 180 routes.  Linda asks:

“Today we passed along the Woolwich Road twice, where London’s heritage river turns into something more workmanlike, and we noticed – see the attached photo – a chimney up for sale or rent via Hindwoods, though their site did not help. I would guess this was once part of some kind of working mill and wonder if you might have a better history for this bit of industrial heritage. Also, do you have any idea what one is meant to do with a rented chimney?”

The Phantom replies

Ah, Linda.  Long did I wonder that myself, and fantasise about what I’d do with a very odd shaped, windowless office with a million stairs. Not, of course, as much as I used to slobber over the prospect of the  Observation Tower of the old Greenwich Borough Hall, which was also ‘to let’ for many years.

Sadly, as so often turns out to be the case, the answer is much more prosaic  - it’s sundry buildings on the industrial estate that are for rent, not the actual chimney itself, much as the Observation Tower still languishes empty and unloved despite the fact that Benedict and I would have fought over it for office space (and would have opened it up on Open House day, instead of getting sent away with a flea in our ears for even suggesting it…)

To be honest I’m not sure what that particular set of industrial buildings would have been (my Charlton knowledge is shaky to say the least) though I daresay Greenwich Industrial History Society know all about it. There are quite a few chimneys left around this area, as reminders that Greenwich used to actually make stuff, and I’m really not sure which this one is, though I suspect it wasn’t anything as romantic as a mill.

While we’re on it, the estate itself has several useful little companies on it – I’ve had several grottily-painted wooden items I picked up at the auction cold-stripped by the chap just behind the chimney, and there’s a good paint shop, Brewers, there too, which a lovely Phantomite told me about when I discovered the paint store in Woolwich Road (now closed down, and I’m not surprised) sold watered-down, basic emulsion whatever you actually paid for…

So yeah, sadly the chimney itself isn’t actually for rent, but I’m sure the notice has fired many an imagination for people staring idly out of the top floor of the 177…


the attachments to this post:

Clock_crow benedict
Clock_crow benedict

chimney for sale Linda
chimney for sale Linda


5 Comments to “Room With A Flue”

  1. Benedict says:

    I would still like to think you could rent the chimney and start up a specialized business firing really tall pots.
    And Phantom, its your turn to wind up the office clocks and get the Teas in……

  2. This area is actually Woolwich rather than Charlton and is one of the remaining bits of what was known as The Commonwealth Buildings owned by the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society – or the Co-op to you and me! There used to be all manner of works going on down there including a laundry, a massive grocery warehouse and a coal yard amongst others. This chimney formed part of this complex and is a well known landmark. It even features in an old British Transport film from 1952 about London’s last trams called ‘The Elephant will never forget.’

  3. greenwichgirl says:

    The chimney briefly featured in the film “Blow Up” as well.

  4. valley_girl says:

    I believe this was the Chimney to the Steam Factory at the former Royal Dockyard, Woolwich. It was Grade II listed in 1992. (English Heritage Building ID: 398678). According to the description, it is 180 feet tall, octagonal, built of stock brick with panelled base with moulded stone cornice. A network of bracing straps have been added later.

    More mysteriously, it adds ‘Underground tunnels connecting chimney with River Thames reported’.

  5. Dominic says:

    Per and I explored the smoke tunnel at the bottom of the chimney in the late 1980s. We entered about 60+ feet of arched passageway, brick built with little or no mortar, 7 feet high, which headed in the direction of the river. IIRC it was part of the Albion sugar factory. It was a bit dusty in there, and the walls and ceiling were coated in some black sooty residue – probably highly carcinogenic. A small industrial estate now occupies the site; the fate of the tunnel is unknown.