Archive for the ‘Regional Greenwich’ Category

Greenwich Swing Bridge…

Monday, January 20th, 2014

…is finally going to happen. I was delighted to hear the news from IanVisits (if you haven’t signed up for his weekly newsletter, DO IT NOW) who keeps his eye on all sorts of interesting places, not least the PLA. And when the PLA tell ships that work is going to begin on something, you know it’s true.

There’s been all sorts of muttering over the years about whether this would actually ever happen. It was originally a Section 106 agreement which would be just brilliant for anyone who wants to use the Thames Path. No slogging it round Norway street and trudging through Creek Road, just a straight walk across the bridge.

Then a new developer took over and it was feared that the bridge might accidentally get lost along the way. And for a while there was a plan for a fixed, rather ugly and very high bridge instead. But a swing bridge has won the day (maybe Waitrose, seeing more potential business from across the water, used a bit of pressure there, who knows) and work begins on the 11th Feb and will go on for 9 months. A long while, but that area’s been a building site for yonks anyway and this is something the whole community will benefit from.

Okay – I know that’s alright for me to go on about in the East – but believe me we have our own disruption from development and it’s rarely on anything like so positive a project.

Something I did learn this morning that I didn’t know, was that that wharf is called Granophast Wharf. What a wild name – I’ve never heard it before. Must look that one up…

Angerstein Railway

Monday, October 28th, 2013

On this blusteriest of days for some time, let this photo be a little reminder that it’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.

Back in 2010, after a not-entirely-ill blast, the fence had blown down up by the Angerstein Railway and Julian Watson (whose name appears in the credits of practically every Greenwich book written in the last 20-odd years, and sometimes on the title page) decided to have a peek at what’s usually pretty hard to get to. This is literally the end of the line.

I always think it’s rather wonderful that Greenwich has its own little branch line entirley dedicated to freight. There are very, very few left; most have closed and even fewer actually directly serve the Thames (you can see iron track lines in several places round the Thames Path where other bably lines used to run.)

Over the years people have mentioned they think this one’s closed too but you only have to stand a little while in any one of several places, my favourite being the roundabout just past Sainsburys on the Peninsula, before you see the slightly surreal image of a diesel engine creeping over the bridge towards the aggregates yard at Angerstein Wharf (built by the son of John Julius Angerstein, of Monster Hunter fame…)

There’s an excellent history of the railway here so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel by repeating it here.

If you want to get a look at it, you never know, today could be a good day. On the occasions I’ve tried to get a closer peek (by taking the little offshoot on the right hand side of the footbridge over the 102(M) that leads from Westcombe Park to Charlton, the extremely severe cattlegrids served their purpose, keeping both hooved animals and Phantoms off the tracks. But after all this wind you never know, there might be a fence panel down…

Pigsty Alley

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

How fab is this? The newest sign in Greenwich is a revival of an 18th Century name for what remains of a ancient thoroughfare. David, who sent me the photo, tells me that the alley, which runs between Maidenstone Hill and Winforton Street, originally ran much further north but post-war clearances severed it.

I’ve been looking on various old maps for the alley but without luck – maybe someone has one?

David says “ironically there is no evidence as far as I can see for there being sties in the area, although the keeping of pigs and chickens in back yards would not have been uncommon in days gone by.”

Indeed – I know of at least one garden with very fancy chickens up there now…

Hooray for the council allowing themselves to be persuaded to use old names, however unflattering. I wish they had taken such an attitude when assigning titles to the tedious new streets in the ‘Heart’ of East Greenwich…

Maze Hill 1906

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

I had planned to do something else today – but after the discussion about street by street history in Greenwich the other day, when Jim was asking about Woodlands Grove, Neil Rhind has sent me the most extraordinary picture which I just had to share with you.

It’s from 1906 and given the angle and height, I’m guessing it was taken from the scaffolding around the chimneys on the power station which was being built at the time.

It shows the area around Trafalgar Road, Maze Hill station and, in the background, Vanbrugh Hill. I had to reduce the quality to make it fit online but if you click on it you should still get a decent sized image.

What surprises me is how much I just don’t recognise. I guess two world wars and the 1960s have been and gone but even so I’d have expected more landmarks from somewhere that I hadn’t thought of of as having had that much development.

The best way to orient yourself is to find the railway track and Maze Hill sation which, of course, was a much bigger deal back then. From there you can shift down the image to the area north of that towards Trafalgar Road (the pub no longer exists of course, and it looks as though Hardy’s used to be the Bricklayer’s Arms) or allow your eye to travel left along the track past the not-there-yet nurses’ home to find Vanbrugh Hill, with Dinsdale and Humber Roads clear to view.

The Westcombe Woodlands is quite clear in this picture, though you can’t see Vanbrugh Castle. I particularly like the Indian teepee in the back garden of the house down the bottom right, presmumably not being played in by the little girls dotted around the roads in spotless white dresses.

I have no idea whether this image actually belongs to anyone else but I owe Neil a huge ‘thank you.’ It’s one of the most fascinating photographs I’ve ever seen of the area.

Street by Street History

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Jim asks:

I’m moving to Woodland Grove in a few months. I’ve been looking online I can find almost zero historical information on this street.

Are you aware of any street by street resources that I might be able to follow up to learn a little bit more about this place?

The Phantom replies:

What a shame you’re not just a few streets over, Jim. If you lived in SE3 rather than SE10 then the answer to this would have been ‘yes.’ Neil Rhind has written the definitive history of Blackheath, street by street, over the last years, and the final volume in the Blackheath and Environs trilogy is due to be released soon. Westcombe Park, although it is ‘our’ side of the heath, counts as Blackheath, and is covered in the (rather rare) Volume II.

Sadly for you, Jim, Maze Hill and its surroundings are very definitely ‘Greenwich’, and much as I’ve been trying to persuade Neil to venture out from SE3, I’ve had no joy yet.

But that doesn’t stop the area being interesting. Woodland Grove as a street I know very little about but it would have been very close to Sir John Vanbrugh’s back garden. Or is it front garden? I can never work out which way his wild collection of five splendid follies faced. I’ve just been looking in the sprawling Phantom archives (even I get lost in ‘em…) and I can’t find the post I could have sworn I wrote about Vanbrugh’s ‘extra guest accomodation’ so I’ll try to put together one for you. In the meanwhile if you google within the site you should find a whole bunch of stuff on Vanbrugh Castle itself…

Given that a lot of the buildings in Woodland Grove are quite modern I did have a look at Londonist’s rather interesting map that Michael sent me the other day showing the sites of V2 rockets during the war (that’s one of the main reasons for modern buildings in the middle of largely Victorian houses round here) but the only one that’s showing near you is right up at Maze Hill Station, which we know about already (though I guess there could have been some other kind of incendiary device deployed…)

Other than that, a trip to Greenwich Heritage Centre should pay dividends. They have large cardboard boxes of photos, street by street (not always accurately labelled, I discovered…) and many other resources that the Phantom library can only dream of.

Something you might like to get involved with is the group that are looking after Woodlands. Don’t know what Woodlands is? It’s that tiny little sliver of – well – woodland, actually, tucked in behind Maze Hill station. It’s pretty much all that’s left of Vanbrugh Castle’s extensive grounds and the only reason it hasn’t been turned into yet more luxury apartments is that it is locked-in behind houses one way and a ravine the other (yes, you did read that right, a ravine, albeit a baby one. It’s the remains of an old quarry…)

It’s not open to the general public much – not least because you have to get into it via someone’s back garden, but a small group of dedicated volunteers, the Friends of Westcombe Woodlands, try to keep the jungle under control and look after it without regimenting it too much and they do occasionally open it up for nosy neighbours and inquisitive Phantoms. Interestingly they don’t mention Vanbrugh Castle on their site; perhaps it didn’t stretch that far after all. I’ll try to find out just how far those grounds stretched. In the meanwhile if anyone fancies telling me more about Vanbrugh’s follies I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise I’ll just do some legwork. It’s about time I did…

As usual, I’ve digressed from the original question. The answer is ‘no’, there isn’t a street-by street guide to SE10 as a whole (though if you are lucky enough to live in the Ashburnham triangle, there is one by Diana Rimmell – you can find it in the Visitor centre) Anyone who wants to write one will be trumpeted to the rooftops of Phantom Towers.




Wendy has forwarded this information for Jim, about her family who lived in Woodland Grove:

 My Grandmother’s family lived at 11 Woodland Grove from before 1871 (can’t find them on the 1861, they were at Marsh Lane in 1851) until at least 1937 (see electoral roll on Ancestry).  My Grandmother Ellen Mabel Lewis (nee Plowman) and her father Lewis William Plowman were born there.  Her Grandfather Thomas Plowman committed suicide there in 1886 (but Jim probably would rather not know that!) when the poor law  officers refused to increase the allowance he and his wife lived on – they were getting 6/- per week (he was blind).  I have a picture of my Gt Grandfather, Lewis William Plowman when he was working on the building of the Greenwich Power Station, I believe he also worked for the General Steam Navigation Company as my Gran said he was a ‘Navvie’ and that is what their workers called themselves. My Grandmother had five brothers all born at 11 Woodland Grove and they all served in the first World War in France, Belgium and Palestine . Two of them Henry and Freddie, did not come home.  

Orlop Street

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Scott asks:

I’m thinking of buying a little house on Orlop Street. The street looks quite quaint, but what kind of reputation does it have now? I know that the orlop deck is the lowest deck of a ship with four or more decks and wondered if that were still indicative of the area today, or whether things have gone more upmarket. The prices, although relatively cheap compared to other parts of Greenwich, would suggest the latter, which is quite ironic considering how little money the original inhabitants must have earned.

I’d also like to know more about eastern Greenwich in general, i.e. pubs, shops, people, community spirit, crime etc.

The fact that we’d be close to the river, train station and park, yet away from the touristy part has great appeal, but I’d love some reassurance that I’m doing the right thing from someone (or people in the comments) who know the area well. Coming from Finsbury Park, it feels like a massive change, and almost a different city.

The Phantom replies:

There were several streets round East Greenwich named after parts of a ship – spare a thought for the poor residents of Frigate Street who, in the 1960s had become so far removed from the concept of shipping that they thought the name was rude and campagined to have it renamed the much more genteel Feathers Place. As far as I am aware there is no Poop Street. Now there is a name I’d campaign about.

It’s true that the Orlop is the lowest deck of a ship and there was a time when this charming little one-sided back street, running parallel to Traf Road was home to some of the ‘lowest’ residents in Greenwich Society, though Charles Booth was apt to be a little kinder.

These days, like all of the Pelton Road area, it’s all got a hell of a lot more gentrified and therefore, as you’ve noticed, expensive. East Greenwich still has a long way to go before it reaches Royal Hill or Ashburnham Triangle fancyness, but I really like the rough-around the edges feel it still has and we may well start to see more shops and facilities opening when the Heart of East Greenwich development starts getting residents.

I love East Greenwich – the people are generally friendly, the pubs are good (especially the Pelton and the Vanbrugh, jury’s still out on the new-look King Billy, nearest you, the only time I ate in there the food was okay, but my pal and I were entirely alone for the entire experience and the lighting felt very harsh, but I’d be willing to try it again) as you point out you’re close to the rivier and transport.

I don’t know what the configuration is inside the houses – some of those below-street level basements have been filled in, others haven’t – no idea how it is on flooding etc, though there are basements on bloomin’ Ballast Quay, mere yards from the river; it can’t be that much of an issue.

The only thing I would want some confirmation on, preferably from someone actually living in Orlop Street or knowing someone who lives there, would be the effect of being one-sided with shops backing onto your front door, and how that would affect noise levels, commercial bin-emptying and, at night, chaps who’ve been ahem, ‘caught short’ on their way home from the pub…

So – Orlop Street experiences please, folks…

Rear Window 24

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

This Rear Window view (haven’t had one for ages; good to kickstart the series again…) relates directly to the post a couple of weeks ago about Woodland Heights and its view back in the 1920s and now.

Jim says “Keri and I live in the top middle flat you see in the postcard view, so we have the pleasure of the view through that round window (everyone’s favourite when watching Playschool, surely).”

It’s an absolutely incredible view, and the reason why I particularly like this shot is the view of the old district hospital site in the middle-ground – with the gallons of rain we’ve been getting it looks like the council decided to give up with the rubbish swimming pool plans and just turn the whole site into a lido – or perhaps some natural wetlands.

Jim was impressed with some information about the houses in Dinsdale Road and Vanbrugh Hill that Methers had supplied on the preivious post, and asked me about it. I am pretty sure that data as detailed as that about Westcombe Park can only have come from one secondary source (unless I’m maligning you, Methers and you’ve been slogging it out in Greenwich Heritage Centre ;-) ) which is the sadly out-of-print Blackheath and Environs II by Neil Rhind.

The first book in this superb series of everything you could possibly want to know about Blackheath, about the village itself, has been reprinted and I am eagerly awaiting Volume III later this year, but II is pretty rare. You may find it on Abe Books or Amazon Marketplace or alternatively all the local libraries carry it (if you can find one open…)

Jim’s also asked about other pictures of the old Greenwich & Deptford Hospital /St Alfege’s Workhouse and I found this fascinating account. Apart from a couple of nice pictures, I am especially impressed with the sheer variety of the fare served at the workhouse. These paupers got to taste EIGHT different types of food in a week. Luxury! Of course it was the same eight foods every week. It’s a really interesting, if frankly dismal read; despite the workhouse’s huge size it was seriously overcrowded and the woefully inadequate rations given to poor boys even at the time shocked one of the teachers there.

Of course now I want to know more about the accommodation for ‘bad women’…

Then and Now (6) Part Two

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Dear Mother and Dad

Things are still going well in East Greenwich. On some nights you’d even believe it’s a normal hospital. The girls in the nurses’ home are such a hoot. Joan and I staked four vamps last full moon; it was exciting but Joan snagged her stocking and nylons are so hard to come by with all this rationing. Thank you for the garlic, so sorry to hear about Fluffy. You might want to cremate him, it’s not worth taking chances. Love to you both and tell George not to worry, 


‘Fraid this postcard was unwritten too, it’s not surprising since I got it and yesterday’s card as a pair. I assume they were bought as a memento by a nurse who lived at the old Nurses’ Home (now Woodland Heights).

Of the two I find this the most interesting card because there’s just so much of old East Greenwich to see. The dark, satanic castle-like place in the middle of the background isn’t Vanbrugh Castle, but the old Greenwich and Deptford Hospital – the old Union Workhouse/Asylum. It was demolished to build the short-lived 1970s monstrosity Greenwich District Hospital which, in its turn was demolished to build – well, as yet, bugger-all.

I can’t tell whether there are two gas holders in the deep background, or just the one and a cloud. Just beyond the (treeless) turning circle, you can just see the top of the Vanbrugh Tavern and bits of Humber and Dinsdale roads.

It’s almost impossible to get the exact same angle for a shot today, because the area around the car park (in which I once, on a very, very cold night, saw a cab doing scary ice-dancing) has a whole bunch of trees and shrubs, so I had to try to get a photo from the road.

Gone is the old hospital, but the not-quite finished cable car is, I think, rather a nice touch.

I have one more pic for you, that by rights, should have its own ‘Rear Window’ post – but hey, it fits in so well with today’s  piece that I’m including it here. It’s from Thomas’s kitchen window, up in Woodland Heights:

Thomas tells me he never tires of it. I believe him.

Then and Now (6) – Part One

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Dear Mother and Dad

Settling in well at the hospital, though still missing you and George. This is the nurses’ home, just up the hill from work. It’s quite a walk home after a late shift! The other nurses are all very friendly, and there is a cinema just down the hill. Joan and I go when the vampires aren’t too restless. We’re getting through a lot of stakes, I can tell you!  Hope you are all well, kiss Fluffy for me, love Ethel.

It’s nice to find unusual postcards of Greenwich, but they’re often unwritten, so I’m forced to invent correspondence that might have been written and it sometimes gets surreal.

The real downside to postcards being unsent is that I have no way of knowing how old this one is. I’m guessing maybe 1930s -50s, mainly from the quality of the photo and the paper. The old nurses’ home up Vanbrugh Hill (now Woodland Heights) was built just after 1927 when Woodlands, a large Victorian mansion was demolished – its lodge still stands, next door.

The nurses’ home wasn’t built on the site of the house itself, but its gardens; there’s a tiny bit of woodland left just behind Maze Hill station (over which many a battle has been fought over the years.) It’s been private flats for some time now but as you will see from my photo (it was impossible to get the exact shot as there’s been so much building since) the exterior hasn’t changed a huge amount. I had assumed the top level was a modern addition, but it’s not.

Since I never went inside either before or after the conversion I can’t tell you how much it’s changed, but I bet there’s one hell of a view…

Talking of views, tune in tomorrow folks, for Part Two…

The Long Good Friday

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Every time I walk around whatever part of the Thames Path is available on the Peninsula at any one time (precious little at the moment) I’m reminds of The Long Good Friday, the movie that catapulted Bob Hoskins from adult literacy info-dramas to megastar.  Perhaps less so now that the satanic old factories, warehouses and wharves are being razed to erect bland steel and glass apartments whose clones already adorn one-building’s depth along most of the Thames Path between Waterloo and Putney, but there are still one or two creepy places that bring John McKenzie’s terrifying 1980 East End gangster movie to the edge of my teeth.

I always thought it was just a feeling I got – that South East London dockside was much the same as North East London dockside and that it was coincidence that it reminded me of it so much.

But then I discovered something. Guess where Barrie Keeffe, the movie’s scriptwriter, was living when he wrote it? East Greenwich, that’s where. Admittedly, in a Guardian article he says he was a journalist in the ‘real’ East End, where he met a load of gangsters, and that from his place in Greenwich he could watch the new developments at Docklands, but surely no one could live that close to the docks in the Peninsula and not be just a tiny bit influenced by them?

He doesn’t mention in the article which pub he met the Irish Republican who gave him the idea for the terrorism-meets-mob story, but it could well have been any of the East Greenwich pubs, most of which have gone now, just as much as it could have been an East-End pub.

I’m not sure how cool it is to claim the Greenwich could have been the grubby inspiration for a film as gruesome as The Long Good Friday, but hey. I’ve just done it.

I don’t know exactly which house or street that Keeffe lived in, but it’s been done up since, as this article from the Guide last year explains.