Sunday, 14 May 2017

Down a narrow alley to Mortgramit Square in Woolwich in 1908

Down an alley from Woolwich High Street, 2013
Sometimes Woolwich can still send you back into that past of narrow gas lit alleys, dark corners and unsafe places.

So with a little bit of imagination as dusk draws in it is just possible to sense something of what it might have been like to wander the area at the very beginning of the last century.

We are standing at the start of the alley that runs from Woolwich High Street alongside the Plaisted Wine Bar and in the distance is the green tiled wall of the Roses which fronts Hare Street.

Back in 1908 what is now Plaisted’s was the Cooper’s Arms while away down that alley The Roses was called the Prince Albert and both were owned by E.J. Rose and Co.

The Prince Albert began as a beer shop in 1840 next door to the brewery and was bought by E.J. Rose and Co who rebuilt it in 1928.*

The square in 1908
And if that was not enough atmosphere had we walked down that alley in 1908 then as now we would have come out onto Mortgramit Square which I have to say has little to offer and I suspect even less a century ago when it was home to George Plume, cartage contractors, and Carter Patterson & Co carriers.

Now I have to confess I had never ventured down the alley and did not know of the existence of Mortgramit Square.

The square in 1872
In the 1870s the narrow street from Hare Street beside the Roses into the square was known as Dog Yard.

It ran west and then took a right angle to turn south before heading off west again down an even narrower alley into the square.

Back then this southern route was flanked on both sides by buildings as was the square.

These look to be on up one down dwelling houses, and in the fullness of time I shall crawl over the census records to find out who was there .

Like so many other towns and cities here were those courts only accessible through alleys where sunlight and fresh air struggled to make an appearance.  To live or work here was to be cut off and to occupy an almost private world.

Walk down from Hare Street today and it is possible to detect the old footprint of the buildings.

All of which I suppose pushes our imaginary trip back another 30 years, and makes me think here was a place mother would have warned me not to go.

Picture; from the collection of Colin Fitzpatrick, extract from the Post Office London County Suburbs Directory, 1908 Part 1, Street Commercial & Trade Directories and detail of  Mortgramit Square and Hare Street from the OS amp of London, 1862-72, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*Draft Chapter Four Woolwich, Enhlish Heritage, 2012

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