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Lovelace Green

Lovelace Green

I doubt if there are many places that have such a lyrical place name as Lovelace Green. It is a wonderful space and although it sounds as though it should be in a rural idyll it’s in Eltham, South East London. It’s one of the open spaces in the Progress Estate, stumble into this place and you are transported into the countryside.

Lovelace Green Progress Estate

It’s a village green surrounded by individually designed homes. Look up and all you see is sky and trees no high rise buildings overshadowing. This is a testament to everything Ebeneezer Howard set out to achieve in the Garden City Movement. As he sets out in Garden Cities of Tomorrow 1902:

“ ..a Garden City that, as it grows, the free gifts of Nature- fresh air, sunlight, breathing room and playing room- shall be still retained in all needed abundance”

The name of the place is intriguing.

Lovelace Green Progress Estate

The roads on the estate are named after munitions production such as Congreve and Shrapnel. Others named after managers at the Royal Arsenal; Moira, Ross and Downman. Lovelace Green, however, is named after the 17th Century poet Richard Lovelace. If you google him it is likely to say that he was born in Woolwich or Holland. However, the more authoritative biographies confirm his South East London credentials.

Lovelace Green Progress Estate

Richard Lovelace a Cavalier fought for Charles I during the English Civil War. He was imprisoned twice during this period being finally released when Charles was executed. His story is one of great personal loss. He lost his personal fortune and the love of his life Lucy Sacheverell. She was betrothed to Lovelace but believing him to be dead, during his imprisonment, married another suitor.

Lucy Sacheverell is featured in many of Lovelace’s poems and is generally identified with Althea in his poem To Althea from Prison:

When love with unconfinèd wings
Hovers within my gates;
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the grates;
When I lye tangled in her haire,
And fetter’d to her eye,
The birds, that wanton in the aire,
Know no such libertie.

When flowing cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames,
Our carelesse heads with roses bound,
Our hearts with loyal flames;
When thirsty griefe in wine we steepe,
When healths and draughts go free,
Fishes, that tipple in the deepe,
Know no such libertie.

When (like committed linnets) I
With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetnes, mercy, majesty,
And glories of my King.
When I shall voyce aloud, how good
He is, how great should be,
Inlargèd winds, that curle the flood,
Know no such libertie.

Stone walls doe not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Mindes innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedome in my love,
And in my soule am free,
Angels alone that soar above
Enjoy such libertie.

“Stone walls doe not a prison make” the much-quoted line seems a fitting ideal for a place founded on the Garden City movement.

Royal Dockyard Chapel Woolwich

Royal Dockyard Chapel Woolwich

Situated on the corner of a busy intersection of the Rochester Way and the South Circular Road in SE London is a remarkable building; St Barnabas Church. Remarkable because it was physically rebuilt brick by brick and then survived serious bomb damage in the Second World War.

2nd World War bomb damage

2nd World War bomb damage

St Barnabas started life as The Royal Woolwich Dockyard Chapel built in 1856-58 in the Early English Gothic style of red brick with black bands. Designed by George Gilbert Scott, who was one of the most prolific Victorian architects, and possibly the most unsung. He later went on to design the Albert Memorial and St Pancras Station. So, St Barnabas is a real Victorian Gothic gem in this part of London.

By the 1860 the future of the Royal Dockyard was in doubt as it didn’t have the facilities to build ironclads. The future of the church was also uncertain and it closed for a period. From 1899-1923 it was adapted and used as the Royal Arsenal’s Ordnance Chapel but from 1923 it again fell into disuse.

The Garden City Estate

The Garden City Estate

The Royal Arsenal workers who lived on the new Garden City Estate (later re-named the Progress Estate) had erected a wooden hut (1917) in Arbroath Road to use for church services. In 1932 it was decided to take the Dockyard Church building down and to re-erect it in a reduced form as the local church for the Progress Estate. An ingenious piece of recycling. It was reconsecrated as the Church of St Barnabas. During a bombing raid, March 1944, it was seriously damaged and only the walls were left standing. The church was repaired and re-dedicated in June 1957.

Detail St Barnabas Church

Detail St Barnabas Church

The church’s current location, so close to the main busy road, makes it difficult to get a good view and a building designed for contemplation can be too easily overlooked. George Gilbert Scott was a devoted follower of that other Victorian architect Pugin and one of his buildings is close by, Sir Peter’s Church in Woolwich. It’s not easy to contemplate this building either as the carbuncle that is the new Tesco over-shadows it.

Frankie Howerd Community Hall

Frankie Howerd Community Hall

Next to St Barnabas is a community hall which is named after the comedian Frankie Howerd who was a former Sunday School Teacher at the Church. It’s said that the hall had a stage where he did his first performance.

A stranger arriving in Woolwich may look aghast at the brash and over sized Tesco that now dominates General Gordon Square but just over a century ago it was a different retail store, with a very different business ethic, that dominated the town. The Royal Arsenal Co-operative (RACs) was formed in 1868 and moved to the store at the end of Powis Street in 1873 rebuilt in 1903. This building and the later department store opened in 1939 are still standing. Plans have been agreed to convert the Art Deco building into flats with retail on the ground floor. The older building is now a Travel Lodge and with its proximity to London City Airport is a favourite resting place for cabin crew.

RACs Stores Powis Street

RACs Stores Powis Street

Powis Street today

Powis Street today

11 Eleanor Road home of William Rose

11 Eleanor Road home of William Rose

The society was formed by workers from the Royal Arsenal and began trading in the home of William Rose at 11 Eleanor Road (renamed Castile). By 1934 they had 275,000 members and 200 shops across South London and beyond. RAC boundary stones can still be seen in the pavements of Greenwich.

RACs Boundry Stone

RACs Boundry Stone

The shop in Powis Street became known as the Central Stores. It had a turnover of £7m of which £6m was distributed to its members. The cost of joining was 1/- ( five pence) towards a share in the capital and 6d (two and half pence) for a copy of the rule book.

RACs Charlton Branch

RACs Charlton Branch

One of its values was to sell cheap unadulterated food. In 1900 George Arnold addressed the annual conference celebrating the fact that bakeries across south London had gone out of business because they could not compete with the quality of RACs unadulterated bread.

RACs Coal supply

RACs Coal supply

RACs stores on the Dockyard

RACs stores on the Dockyard

To support its retail activities it bought Woodlands Farm on Shooters Hill. There was an abattoir on site and close by a preserving factory. The farm still exists and is now the Woodlands Farm Trust. It could teach Tesco a thing or two about provenance in the food chain. It diversified into housing, fuel supply and food production.

Dick Patching Meat & Poultry manager inspecting barley crop 1971 Woodlands Farm

Dick Patching Meat & Poultry manager inspecting barley crop 1971 Woodlands Farm

The Abattoir Woodlands Farm

The Abattoir Woodlands Farm

Woodlands Farm Trust today

Woodlands Farm Trust today

It built the Bostall Estate in Abbey Wood paying a “bonus to labour” by paying tradesmen a halfpenny an hour above the Trade Union rate. In 1925 it purchased,from the Government, the estate built for munitions workers in Eltham Well Hall and renamed it The Progress Estate. Living up to its ideals for world wide co-operation it housed Basque refugees during the Spanish Civil War.

Progress Estate Well Hall

Progress Estate Well Hall

The society had an extensive educational programme and 2.5% of its surplus went into this and social activities. Comrade Circles were available for young people 15-24 and Women’s Co-operative guilds extended to Southwark, Lewisham, Bexley, Bermondsey and Earlsfield in SW London. Student lead learning underpinned each study circle with each student selecting their own tutor with whom they would jointly plan the syllabus. In 1879 RACs opened the first library in Woolwich. It had two choirs conducted by Sir Michael Tippett. Joseph Reeves the Education Secretary 1934 said this in his introductory pamphlet for new members,

“Without co-operation no progress can be made in human affairs. Working together for the good for all is the keynote and meaning of co-operation. Mutual aid in the home, in the workshop, in the municipality and in the state will lead to world wide co-operation.”

There are echoes of the RACs in abundance in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. They helped the co-operative movement to develop in the South of England. Last year was the United Nation’s Year of the co-operatives confirming the lasting legacy of the movement.

More about the department store in my next post.

The Academy Royal Aresnal

The Academy Royal Aresnal

During the First World War munitions workers would travel home on the 44 tram from The Royal Arsenal to The Progress Estate in Eltham. Some fifteen years earlier on 22nd March 1900 Queen Victoria visited the Royal Arsenal and then went on to see soldiers wounded in the Boer War at The Herbert Hospital, Shooter’s Hill. Following this visit she granted the hospital her royal patronage. This walk will take you along these routes and covers the main historic sites on the way.

Equitable House General Gordon Square

Equitable House General Gordon Square

Start at Royal Arsenal and head south towards the market and town centre. Information about the Royal Arsenal can be found on a separate post on this blog or in the Heritage Centre. You will cross Beresford and General Gordon Squares. You will not fail to see the Tesco Extra in General Gordon Square. The scale of this building is too big and with its brash colours now dominates and is unsympathetic to the many historic buildings in the town including its neighbour Equitable House. Take Woolwich New Road to the left of Tesco. You will pass St Peter’s Church 1843 designed by A. W. N. Pugin. Restoration of the south entrance was promoted by English Heritage, Spike Milligan and local parishioners. During the Second World War Spike Milligan was an unskilled labourer at the Royal Arsenal. About 100 metres along the road there are some stone steps on the right that will take you to Garrison Church of St George built in 1863. This was destroyed by a flying bomb in 1944. A temporary roof has been put in place to protect mosaics including one commemorating members of the Royal Artillery awarded the Victoria Cross.

St Peter's Church Woolwich

St Peter’s Church Woolwich

Cross the road to the Royal Artillery and take the path that runs along its front. The Royal Artillery was built between 1776 to1802. It has the longest continuous facade of any building in the UK and is one fifth of a mile long. The parade square is also the largest in the UK. There is a bronze figure of Victory in the parade square which is cast out of canon captured in the Crimean War. The 16 Regiment Royal Artillery had been based in this building from 1716 but re-located to St George’s Barracks in Rutland in 2007. The King’s Royal Horse Artillery moved into Woolwich in February 2012.

The Rotunda

The Rotunda

There is a left turning on the path that will take you towards Woolwich Common. On your right you will see the distinctive rooftop of the Rotunda. In the summer months this may be obscured when the trees are in leaf. The Rotunda is a 24-side polygon, single storey building designed by John Nash. It was first erected in the grounds in St James’ Park in 1814 for a fete to honour the Allied Sovereigns during Peace Celebrations after the Napoleonic Wars. It has a distinctive concave lead roof. It moved to Woolwich in 1819 and converted into a military museum containing the gun collection of the Royal Artillery. This is now housed at Firepower museum on The Royal Arsenal.

The Royal Artillary

The Royal Artillary


Take the left path before you reach the T junction. You will pass over a small bridge across the ha ha (sunken road) which separates the Royal Artillery Barrack Field from Woolwich Common. This long and deep example of a ha-ha installed in 1774 was to prevent sheep and cattle wandering on to the gunnery range. Woolwich Common was used as a resting place for farmers taking their cattle to the London meat markets. Cross over to the Common and you will see the distinctive corner towers of the Royal Military Academy. There is normally a route via Circular Way but works to restore the common following the Olympics has resulted in some areas being cordoned off and you may need to walk around. Walk towards the Royal Military Academy.
Royal Military Academy

Royal Military Academy

The Royal Military Academy Woolwich was founded in 1741and its first home was on The Royal Arsenal site. This larger building was designed by James Wyatt and built between 1796 and 1805. Many notable academics taught here: Michael Faraday, Olinthus Gregory, Peter Barlow and Henry Young Darracott Scott. General Gordon was resident at the Academy from 1848. It closed in 1939. During the Second World War the buildings were used to house the Coast Defence and an Anti Aircraft Wing of the Royal Artillery Depot. In 2006 Durkan estates purchased the site for conversion into apartments.

Victoria House Shooter's Hill

Victoria House Shooter’s Hill

Once past the Royal Academy cross over the road and continue towards Shooter’s Hill. On the corner of Academy Road and Shooter’s Hill Road there is an empty building Victoria House. It was formerly the headquarters and living quarters for members of the Queen Alexander Royal Nursing Corps who worked across the road in the Royal Herbert Hospital when that was still in use by the military. Cross over to The Royal Herbert Hospital.
The hospital was originally in a 19 acre site and almost half of this space was given over to parkland so that soldiers could convalesce in the open air. It was the first hospital of its kind for two reasons: it was a specially designed for the military and the first to use the pavillion design advocated by Florence Nightingale. This comprised six parallel ward blocks connected by a central corridor. It was named after Lord Sidney Herbert who was Secretary of State for war and opened in 1865. It closed in 1977 and was saved from demolition by being listed and incorporated into the Woolwich Common Conservation area. In 1990 a specialist developer converted it into private apartments. Continue the walk along Well Hall Road.

Royal Herbert Hospital

Royal Herbert Hospital

The Welcome Inn,which is now demolished, was located on the corner of Well Hall and Westmount Road. There is a plaque on one of the new houses, that has taken its place, commemorating Status Quo’s first gig in 1967. Further along Well Hall Road you will enter The Progress Estate.

Cottage style house on the Progress Estate

Cottage style house on the Progress Estate

The estate was built in 1915 to house the additional workers required at the Royal Arsenal. It was constructed in just 10 months. It is a fine example of a Garden Suburb built by the Government during the First World War, and was granted Conservation Area status in 1975. Many of the roads are named after aspects of weapon production, for example, Shrapnel, Arsenal and Congreve. Notable people who lived on the Estate include actor Sylvia Sym and politician Herbert Morrison. Well Hall Road was the scene of the murder of Stephen Lawrence and there is memorial plaque on the road.

Detail St Barnabas Church

Detail St Barnabas Church

At the Well Hall roundabout take the first right to see St Barnabas Church which was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott who designed St Pancras station. It was built between 1857 and 1859 but originally located on Woolwich Dockyard. In 1932/33 the church was taken down and re-built on to its current site. It was damaged in the Second World War and restored in 1956.
Turn back towards the roundabout and the former Coronet Cinema built in 1936. The site has been re-developed but the original facade maintained. Sadly, few of the retail opportunities have been let. Continue along Well Hall until you reach Well Hall Pleasaunce and Tudor Barn.

Tudor Barn

Tudor Barn

With the aid of Heritage Lottery funding Well Hall Pleasaunce was renovated in 2003. Its history dates back to the 13th century. It originally contained a manor house in Tudor times. The 16th century Tudor Barn was originally built by William Roper and his wife Margaret who was the daughter of Sir Thomas More. It is now a restaurant serving evening meals and light lunches.
In 1899 Edith Nesbit and her family moved to Well Hall, Eltham. The three-storey house, which was demolished, was in Well Hall Pleasaunce and surrounded by orchards and farmland adjacent to the Tudor barn and was their home for 22 years. Its proximity to the railway line must have been the inspiration for her novel “The Railway Children”.
The train and bus station is directly opposite Well Hall Plesaunce. From the Pleasaunce it is a short walk to Eltham Palace. However, at the time of writing the Palace was not open. It opens 28th March at which point I will continue this final stage of the walk.

http://www.tudorbarneltham.com

http://www.wellhall.org.uk

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/eltham-palace-and-gardens/

http://www.firepower.org.uk

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