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Woolwich Arsenal: Classical Splendour Meets Storage Space

The Grand Store at the Woolwich Arsenal was built between 1806 and 1813, by James and Lewis Wyatt, and as the name implies was used to house items for the Arsenal itself, and for bits of kit for the army and navy.

The Grand Store at the Woolwich Arsenal was built between 1806 and 1813, by James and Lewis Wyatt, and as the name implies was used to house items for the Arsenal itself, and for bits of kit for the army and navy. The picture shows Building 46, which was the western wing. It is built in brick, with Purbeck limestone dressings. In the middle is a triangular pediment supported on four giant pilasters. The windows are recessed and those on the ground floor are arched. The building was not made cheaply, in spite of its utilitarian purpose. This expense did not save it from suffering early structural problems, though hopefully these have been ironed out as the building has been converted into flats.

The Arsenal’s roots go back to the sixteenth century when the area was used as a store for the local dockyards at Woolwich, Deptford and Greenwich. Records show an ordnance store on the site in 1565. It became massive. In the nineteenth and for much of the twentieth century the wall enclosing it stretched for over three miles on its northern side, running along the south bank of the Thames. The Arsenal reached its apogee in the First World War when it employed 80,000 workers, many of them women.

After the war munitions production was dispersed to protect it from air raids. The Arsenal remained large though, employing around 30,000 in the Second World War, and constituting a significant target for German bombers, and V1s, and V2s. These raids killed 103 and injured 770 people.

Ian McDiarmid is a qualified City of London Tour Guide who delivers guided walks and private tours in London. View all of Ian’s walking tours.

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