Skip to content
Bradshaw’s Guide


Of course nearly all the interest connected with Woolwich is concentrated in the government establishments, which are acknowledged to be the finest in the world. These, consisting of the Dockyard, Arsenal, and Royal Military Repository, we shall describe in the rotation generally adopted when seeing them. Coming from Shooter’s Hill and crossing Woolwich Common, the extensive range of buildings forming the barracks of the Royal Artillery first attracts attention. The principal front extends above 1,200 feet. In the eastern wing is the chapel, containing 1,000 sittings, and the other principal parts of the building are the library and reading room, plentifully supplied with newspapers and periodicals. The whole establishment affords excellent accommodation for upwards of 4,000 men. The troops, when on parade, present a very animated appearance. The “Royal Arsenal” will be observed but a short distance off, composed of several buildings, wherein the manufacture of implements of warfare is carried on upon the most extensive scale.

On entering the gateway the visitor will see the “Foundry” before him, provided with everything necessary for casting the largest pieces of ordnance, for which, as in the other branches of manufacture, steam power has been lately applied. Connected with the “Pattern Room,” adjoining, will be noticed several of the illuminations and devices used in St. James’s Park to commemorate the peace of 1814. The “Laboratory” exhibits a busy scene, for here are made the cartridges, rockets, fireworks, and other chemical contrivances for warfare, which, though full of “sound and fury,” are far from being considered amongst the enemy as “signifying nothing.” To the north are the storehouses, where are deposited outfittings for 15,000 cavalry horses, and accoutrements for service. The area of the Arsenal contains no less than 24,000 pieces of ordnance, and 3,000,000 cannon balls piled up in huge pyramids. The “Repository” and “Rotunda” are on the margin of the Common, to the south of the town, and contain models of the most celebrated fortifications in Europe, with curiosities innumerable. To the south-east of the Repository is the “Royal Military Academy,” for the education of the cadets in all the branches of artillery and engineering. The present building, partly in the Elizabethan style, was erected in 1805, and though 300 could be accommodated, the number of cadets at present does not exceed 16O. In going from the Arsenal to the Garrison there will be noticed, on the right of the road, an extensive building, forming the head quarters of the Royal Sappers and Miners. On the same side of the way is the “Field Artillery Depot,” where the guns are mounted and kept in readiness for instant action. The Hospital is to the left of the Garrison entrance, fitted up with. 700 beds, and under the superintendence of the most skillful medical officers. From the Arsenal we proceed to the Dockyard, which, commencing at the village of New Charlton on the west, extends a mile along the banks of the river to the east. There are two large dry docks for the repair of vessels, and a spacious basin for receiving vessels of the largest size. The granite docks, and the Foundry and Boiler-maker department, recently added, have been great improvements. Timber-sheds, mast-houses, storehouses, and ranges of massive anchors, give a very busy aspect to the place, which was first formed in the reign of Henry VIII., and considerably enlarged by Charles I. The new “Royal Marine Barracks,” designed by Mr. Crew, and just finished, cost £100,000. An excellent feature is the kitchen, appropriated to every forty men, so that the meals may be taken apart from the bedroom. There is also a school attached for two hundred boys and girls. The folio wing form the arrangements of admission to the above import-ant buildings:-—To the Arsenal, the Royal Repository, and the Dockyard, free; the hours being from 9 till 11 a.m., and 1 till 4 p.m. Visitors are required to leave their names at the gates. The other buildings require the escort of one of the principal officers.

Though within the last four years nearly 2,000 additional houses have been built, the town presents few inducements for a prolonged visit, and has no feature of interest in itself whatever. The old church, looks better at a distance than close, and there are a few monuments in the churchyard bearing names familiar to the eye and car. Perhaps, after his visit to the Arsenal, the visitor will feel most interest in seeing the grave of Schalch, who died in 1776, at the advanced age of 90 years, 60 of which he passed as superintendent of the foundry there. Indeed, it was to him chiefly that the establishment owed its origin, for he was the cause of its removal from Moorfields, and the improvements made in conducting the operations.

From Woolwich we have the choice of four speedy modes of transit to town:—1st. by steamer direct to London Bridge and Westminster; 2nd, by steam, ferry across to Blackwall, and so on by railway to Fenchurch-street; 3rd, by a similar conveyance to the new station of the Eastern Counties Railway, on the Essex bank of the river, which brings us to Shoreditch; and 4th, by the North Kent line. The excursionist may consult his own convenience for preference of choice. A delightful walk may be found over Shooter’s Hill to Elsham, then by Danson’s Park and Welling.

Spotted a mistake? Suggest a correction on GitHub.

Places nearby

  • Berkshire : Windsor

    The seat of her majesty the Queen, and of her ancestors from the period of the Conquest. Eton College also is within a short distance.

  • Hertfordshire : St. Albans

    This ancient town of Herts, should be visited for its venerable abbey church, and that of St. Michael’s, which contains an excellent full-length statue of Lord Bacon.

  • Kent : Maidstone

    The capital of Kent, on the Medway, and in a tract of land of great fertility, among orchards, hop grounds, and woodlands.