I had expected that with Greenwich’s maritime heritage that the Royal Woolwich Dockyards would be celebrated. I was disappointed when I visited back in March that there were no information boards. The dockyards closed in 1869 but a remarkable number of remnants remain. Just west of the Woolwich Ferry and you can still see two slips and two docks which were used to make and repair the ships. Woolwich dockyard was opened in 1512 when work started on Henry Grace a Dieu for Henry VIII. There are several original buildings including The Clock House 1783-4, the Master Warder’s Lodging and guard house, school and police station.
I wrote to the Royal Borough of Greenwich suggesting that they should put up information boards. It wasn’t until Councillor John Fahy, who represents Woolwich Riverside ward, got involved that I have seen progress. I met with him and Leigh Pattison an officer with the council to walk the site of the dockyards. We had also picked up from Greenwich heritage Centre contemporary images of the prison hulks or floating prisons that were docked at Woolwich. Throughout the history of the dockyard convict labour was used initially for dredging the mud. In 1778 there were two ships off Woolwich with 632 convicts. The prison ships remained a presence here until the 1850s.
Two information boards will be placed along the river front to celebrate the rich heritage of the dockyard and also the Woolwich Free Ferry. Councillor Fahy said:
“It’s important that the river front is opened up and the River Thames walk is a real opportunity for people to appreciate the history. Obviously, with the tall ships coming back to the Royal Borough on a regular basis appreciation of the river and its history is important.”
At last Royal Woolwich Dockyard is getting the recognition it deserves.