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Woolwich: A bright future for this military town
Woolwich: A bright future for this military town

Published The Times December 3 2010. Photo - Woolwich Gates circa 1890 www.oldukphotos.com


Historic Woolwich is being revamped, which is drawing buyers to this affordable neighbourhood

Once T. S. Eliot’s barges have washed “like drifting logs, down Greenwich Reach past the Isle of Dogs”, provided that they navigate the downstream Thames Barrier, they’ll come to Woolwich. This historic spot — the site of a Roman fort — is bordered by Greenwich and Blackheath.

What’s happening there?

A decade of regeneration continues. The arrival of the Docklands Light Railway last year has had a big impact, and a Crossrail station is planned.

The two main town squares, General Gordon Square and Beresford Square, are being transformed; the Royal Military Academy, a Durkan Group development, and Berkeley Homes’s 76-acre Royal Arsenal Riverside are both undergoing conversion into swanky, campus-style mixed-use enclaves.

“Woolwich is undergoing a truly dramatic transformation,” says Peter Brooks, deputy leader of Greenwich Council. “From an area that once had the highest levels of unemployment in the country, it has developed into a thriving centre.”

Who’s buying?

The young professional classes have been moving in, attracted by the new transport links and attractive prices. Some first-time buyers who may have been renting in Royal Arsenal Riverside are choosing to upgrade to ownership. “Woolwich is a mix of the really old, brand new, less expensive and really smart,” says Julia Stone, of London Stone Properties.

Any architectural gems?

Mostly the military ones, such as the barracks and the Royal Military Academy. Royal Arsenal Riverside contains a mix of Grade I and Grade II listed buildings and includes works credited to Hawksmoor and Sir John Vanbrugh.

What about schools?

The Catholic and CofE primary schools score highly. Kidbrooke is a multicultural state secondary school that Ofsted rated as “good with many outstanding features” after its 2008 inspection.

How about places to eat?

The town centre is dominated by takeaways, including the UK’s first McDonald’s. Those who like to sit down take the boat to the O2, or visit Young’s new gastropub, The Dial Arch, at Royal Arsenal Riverside.

What about shops?

There is a mix of high street chain stores in the town centre, including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Somerfield, and a huge Tesco will be opening its doors soon. More upmarket boutiques are starting to emerge and there is plenty of choice in neighbouring Greenwich and Blackheath.

What about green spaces?

Woolwich Common, Plumstead Common, Eltham Common and Oxleas Wood are all near by.

Transport?

The Docklands Light Railway’s Woolwich Arsenal terminus is two stops from London City Airport. It goes on to Canary Wharf and Bank. The Thames Clipper chugs up to the O2 in North Greenwich and then continues to Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge and other drop-offs up to the London Eye. Mainline trains take 25 minutes to reach Cannon Street. The Woolwich Ferry service has operated since the 14th century and shuttles across to the north bank. Pedestrians can also take the Woolwich Foot Tunnel.

Prices?

One-bedroom flats can be found from £80,000. Small houses start at £145,000, with the large five-bedroom houses fetching £400,000-plus.



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