With its significant number of listed buildings, transport links and Thames waterfront Woolwich should be a more attractive place than it is.  If you visit, and it is well worth it, you will see that it is in a state of transition.  If you walk through the the town centre you will see the good and the bad of British architecture.  The bad being most of the soulless box buildings so prevalent in the 1960s.  The well signposted “Rediscover Woolwich” programme points to the welcomed regeneration of the town.  The Royal Arsenal Co-operative building established in 1868 and re-built in 1903 has recently been refurbished into a Travel Lodge.

The Royal Arsenal Co-operative (RACs)was set up by 20 workers from the Royal Arsenal. A full size statute of Alexander McCleod, one of the founding fathers,  is set above the RAC’s statement of moral purpose:

“Each for all and all for each”.

The department store opposite was opened in 1938 and prospered for half a century.  It merged with the Co-operative Wholesale Society in the 1980s following a period of decline.  The actual store was abandoned some time in the new millennium.  The scale of this old store is striking.  At their peak the two buildings must have presented an impressive vision of mutualism.  Sadly, the old art deco co-operative store opposite will not survive redevelopment.

At the corner of Powis street there are two art deco cinemas.  One is now a bingo hall the other is home to the New Wine Pentecostal church.  If you walk past the New Wine Church you can enter the church yard  of St Mary Magdalene from here you get fine views across the Thames.

Hidden under the trees in the grounds is a stone lion which is the memorial to Thomas Cribb (1781-1848).  He was an English bare-knuckle boxer who became world champion.  A fitting sporting heritage for the town which hosted Olympic shooting.

The new Woolwich Centre, the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s one stop shop, is juxtaposed with the old Town Hall.  You can still see in this area the old buildings that once formed the old Woolwich Polytechnic.  A further reminder of the town’s proud industrial and technological past.

The future of Woolwich is promising.  The new Crossrail station planned at the Royal Arsenal will consolidate the good transport links to Woolwich.  The town is served by overland rail, DLR, The Clipper service on the Thames and the famous Woolwich free ferry.

Most of the shops are located on Powis street.  There are a good range of shops although they are targeted at the lower end of the market and a new TK Maxx is due to open.  Further along Powis Street you come across that other bastion of mutualism the Woolwich building society.  Sited on Beresford Square it is another fine art deco building.  It is currently partly let.  The daily market,held in Beresford Square, is lively and helps to celebrate the rich mix of cultures living now in this area.  The imposing Royal Arsenal Gatehouse looks down upon the market.  The Gatehouse is physically separated from the Royal Arsenal by the A206.  The Royal Arsenal has undergone significant refurbishment and more of this in a future posting

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