Sunday, September 07, 2008

Greenwich Heritage Centre

Last week I went to the Greenwich Heritage Centre, it's next to the Firepower museum on the old Woolwich Arsenal.

It was fantastic, for reasons I'll expand on shortly. However I will briefly get a negative issue out of the way, and then I can be all positive and glowy, which will be nice.

As I walked up to the Heritage Centre from the river path I went along the side of the building, I then came across this:

It's a memorial to those conscripted for National Service and it was put up by the Council. Which is all well and good, but isn't it in kind of an obscure place? Why not put it on the front of the building where more will see it? It just didn't strike me as very fitting.

And now back to the positive.

At the Heritage Centre there's a small but informative museum about the history of the area mainly focussed upon the Arsenal and Docks.

There was a lovely information board about a residential area called the "Dustbowl", a 1900 visitor noted that "the male inhabitants are bullies, dock and waterside labourers, costers, hawkers and tramps. The women are prostitutes."

The police only entered the area in pairs and officially it was out of bounds to the soldiers from the barracks, "the military patrol can capture and confine any solders found there. But nevertheless the low class solder goes there."

And they say this area can be rough today?

They also had some artifacts that were found that were found at the Roman Settlement west of Maryon Park, that's not far from my house. I knew that the camp and/or fort existed but it's fascinating to actually see things that your neighbours from 2000 years ago left behind.

After the museum I found the best part of the centre, the research room at the back. Basically it's a library of books, local newspapers and photos of Greenwich. Best of all the staff were amazingly helpful. I was looking for any photos of Charlton and they got me boxes of them out and then made copies of them for only 10p each. I've since seen the woman who seemed to be in charge on a documentary about ship wrecks in the Thames and she's a local historian. So it's not just workers in there, they're skilled and knowledgeable workers!

I managed to find some photos, which I believe that I can't post up because of copyright, and some old maps of the area. I actually bought all the maps they had of Charlton and then some of other areas for local friends.

I'll be posting some more soon about the maps and photos I found have to show.

I believe the Heritage Centre is connected with the Council, they certainly have a page for them on their web site. I know that I knock the Council a lot but they are doing a great job with the Heritage Centre, I would love to see it expanded!

If you're at all interested in your area then get down there and have a look around and then do talk to the staff.

1 comment:

Inspector Sands said...

It's a little gem, that library - although it doesn't seem as impressive as the old one at Woodlands in Blackheath, but that may just be me being an old grump.

Didn't know about the National Service memorial - does seem a little eccentric to hide it away.