Woolwich, Essex & Kent Family History Guide

Woolwich comprises of the following parishes:

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

WOOLWICH, a town and a parish in Greenwich district, Kent. The town stands on the river Thames and on the North Kent railway, 8 miles E by S of London Bridge; was anciently called Hulviz, Wlewic, Wollewic, and Wulewiche; belonged, in the time of the Confessor, to William the Fowler, at Domesday, to Haimo the sheriff; passed to Gilbert de Marisco, the Bohuns, the Pulteneys, the Gilbournes, the Bowaters, and others; was only a poor fishing-village till the time of Henry VIII.; acquired then a royal dockyard; became speedily famous for the construction of great ships of war; rose to further importance in 1716, by the establishment at it of a royal arsenal; is now the place of the "mother-dock of England,'' and of the only arsenal in the kingdom, the similar establishments elsewhere being called gun wharfs; gave birth, in 1618, to the poet Lovelace; is all included in the parliamentary borough of Greenwich; is governed by a local board of health; is a seat of county courts; publishes two weekly newspapers and a monthly one; is practically identical with the main body of W. parish, or all of it on the S side of the Thames; extends nearly 2 miles along the river, and about ½ a mile inland to the brow of Shooters hill; includes a spacious level platean called W. common, used for exercising troops; comprises a principal street running parallel to the river, and lesser streets crossing this at right angles; has undergone great recent improvement, by reconstructions, by new erections, and by drainage into the new southern metropolitan out-fall-sewer; and has post-offices under London SE, two r. stations with telegraph, a banking office, several chief inns, a police station, a town hall, a temperance lecture-hall, public baths and lecture-hall, a theatre, four churches, three public-works chapels, fifteen dissenting chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel, a royal military academy, two endowed schools with £86 and £33 a year, several other public schools, a great new military hospital, alms houses founded in 1562, general charities £54, a weekly market on Friday, and garrison races in July.

The royal dockyard extends about a mile; comprises outer and inner basins, numerous docks and slips, a mast-house, smithery, hydraulic testing-house for chain-cables and anchors, and rigging, store, and boat-houses; was recently enlarged and improved with spacious granite docks, capable of receiving the largest ships in the navy; and includes a new foundry and boiler-making department, for engines and other fittings of the largest war-steamers. The royal arsenal includes gun-factories, for casting, boring, and drilling pieces of ordnance; a carriage-department for making gun-carriages, pontoon-trains, baggage-waggons, and ambulances; a laboratory for making all kinds of ammunition; and a store department of vast extent, with an average of 28,000 pieces of ordnance, upwards of 4,000,000 of shots and shells, and a vast amount of entrenching tools, gun-carriages, ambulances, saddlery, and other articles for the service of the army and the navy. The royal artillery barracks stand on the top of the hill facing the common; present a frontage of nearly ¼ mile long; contain accommodation for nearly 4,000 men, and stabling for 1,000 horses; and include a riding school, a scientific institution, a military hospital, a small observatory, a mortar and howitzer battery for flagstaff practice, a military repository, and museum. The royal marine barracks stand on the slope of a hill, in the ascent from the dockyard to the common; are spacious and well-ventilated; and have accommodation for a battalion. The naval and marine hospital stands on an eminence contiguous to the marine barracks; was erected in 1858-9; forms a conspicuous and handsome object, as seen from the river; and consists of eight pavilions, connected by a corridor 447 feet long and 13 feet wide. The Herbert military hospital stands on Kidbrook common; was completed in 1866, at a cost of about £250,000; consists of eight pavilions, one of them standing at right angles to the rest, and serving as the entrance and the architectural front; and contains 620 beds for general patients and 28 for prisoners. The royal military academy was built in 1805; educates cadets for the artillery and the engineers; has, on the average, about 200 in attendance; and had, among its professors, Simpson, Hutton, and Gregory. St. Mary's church was rebuilt in 1740. St. John's was built in 1848, at a cost of £4,500. St. Thomas' was built in 1850. Trinity church is plain but spacious. The new garrison church was built in 1863, at a cost of about £16,000; and is in a variety of the Lombardic style.

The parish includes North Woolwich, on the N side of the Thames; and is divided into two sections or poor-law sub-districts, called W.-Dockyard and W.-Arsenal. Acres, 1,596; of which 429 are water. Real property, in 1860, £91,818; of which £2,590 were in gasworks. Pop. in 1851, 32,367; in 1861, 41,695,-of whom 6,030 were in the public institutions. Houses, 4,596. The livings of St. Mary and St. Thomas are rectories, and those of St. John and Trinity are p. curacies, in the diocese of Rochester; and that of St. Thomas is annexed to Charlton. Value of St. Mary, £740; of St. John, not reported; of Trinity, £300. Patron of St. Mary, the Bishop of Rochester; of St. John and Trinity, the Rector of Woolwich-St. Mary.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

Further Reading

Greenwich and Woolwich at Work by Mary Mills | 22 Aug 2002

The Woolwich Story by E.F.E Jefferson and Jean Primrose | 1 Jan 1970

Woolwich Through Time by Kristina Bedford | 4 Feb 2014

Greenwich and Woolwich in Old Photographs (Britain in Old Photographs) by K D Clark | 1 Nov 2010

Records of the Woolwich District Vol. I by Mr W. T. Vincent and Mr Michael Wood | 7 Mar 2015

Records of the Woolwich District Vol II by Mr W. T. Vincent and Mr Michael Wood | 11 Mar 2015

The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich (Britain in Old Photographs) by Roy Masters | 1 Nov 2010

The Royal Artillery, Woolwich: A Celebration by Ken Timbers | 1 Nov 2008

Aspects of the Arsenal: Royal Arsenal, Woolwich by Beverley Burford and Julian Watson | 1 Dec 1997

A Short History of St. Peter's Church, Woolwich by M Clifton | 1 Jan 1980

Woolwich in 1846;: An early Victorian guide-book by P. M. E Erwood | 1 Jan 1963

The Floating Prisons of Woolwich and Deptford by Reg Rigden | 1 Jan 1976

Survey of London: Woolwich: Volume 48 by Andrew Saint and Peter Guillery | 13 Nov 2012

Discover Woolwich and Its Environs: A Comprehensive Guide to Woolwich, The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Common, Plumstead, Shooters Hill and Abbey Wood by Darrell Spurgeon | 1 Feb 1996

Woolwich. Guide to the Royal Arsenal. (Reprint of "Warlike Woolwich.") Tenth thousand by William Thomas Vincent | 19 Apr 2011

Woolwich Arsenal: 1893-1915: The Club That Changed Football by Tony Attwood , Andy Kelly, et al.


RED ALERT South East London 1939-1945 . [Deptford, Greenwich, Lewisham and Woolwich] by Lewis Blake | 1 Jan 1982

The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 Hardcover – 31 Aug 2015

MY FAMILY WORKED ON THE RIVER THAMES: a guide to help you find where they worked by Robbie Cottrell | 13 Aug 2019

Woolwich Reviewed: Photographs from the Local History Library by Julian Watson | 1 May 1986

Woolwich Dockyard by Ronald Cohn Jesse Russell | 1 Jan 2012

Yours in the cause: A brief account of suffragettes in Lewisham, Greenwich and Woolwich by Iris Dove | 1 Jan 1988