Thursday, 27 April 2017

Memories of Woolwich Arsenal

Now of all the pictures in the collection of the Woolwich Arsenal this one I suppose best sums up what was done behind the high walls just beyond Beresford Square.

This is the Bullet Factory, and while others in the collection show the Brass Foundry, Machine Shops, Wood workshop and the Boring Mill here is the end bit of one of the processes.

Hence the Arsenal’s name and its importance particularly when Britain was at war.
And also to the livelihood of many in Woolwich and the surrounding area.

After all the Progress Estate in Well Hall was built to house munitions workers and so many of us who grew up in Eltham are linked to what went on in Woolwich.

I grew up on the Progress Estate as did my friend  Jean and some of her family were employed in that giant plant which at its heyday gave work to 80,000 people and covered 1285 acres.

She remembered that,


“my grandfather and grandmother met working in the Arsenal, may be around the year 1905.

My grandfather had moved down from Norfolk and was an engineer.


They lived with her family in Plumstead, and my dad, the youngest of 5 boys was born at the granny’s house.

Dad was born in 1914 and the family were one of first to move into Love Lace Green.

It’s sad but dad’s mum passed away when he was 3 yrs old in 1917.

My grandfather then met and married another Arsenal girl. 

They all lived at Love Lace Green till 1957, when grandparents died and mum and dad moved to Well Hall Road.


Before my mother went into nursing at the beginning of the Second World War she worked on MUNITIONS, as she called it at the Arsenal.
She never told me much but that when she used to open the drums of CORDITE, THE RATS USED TO RUN UP HER ARMS."

Now any one who has walked around an old textile mill dating from the 19th century will be aware of those leather belts running from the machinery to rods in the roof which in turn were connected to drives.

And here they are each machine with its own belt running off towards the roof.

Picture; the Bullet Factory, Arsenal, Woolwich from the collection of Mark Flynn, http://www.markfynn.com/london-postcards.htm

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