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  • hilly 12:46 pm on September 13, 2015
    Tags: , garrison church, , , , woolwich   

    Open House Weekend 

    St George mosaic at St George's Garrison Church after first phase of restoration

    St George mosaic at St George’s Garrison Church after first phase of restoration

    St George’s Garrison Church will be open for London Open House weekend, despite not appearing in the Open House brochure. Between 10am and 5pm on the 19th and 20th September we’ll be able to see the marvellous mosaics after phase 1 of their restoration and the new tensile fabric roof that protects them. It is planned to have a mini-autumn festival at the church, with food and arts and craft stalls. There is no charge for stalls, if you’d like to take part contact Julie Ricketts, the Heritage Project Officer, on hpostgeorgeswoolwich@gmail.com. Also contact Julie if you’re interested in helping other Friends of St George’s to show visitors round on either of the two days.

    It’s a mystery why the restored church isn’t included in the Open House brochure, especially when an article about the restoration and the new roof appeared in the RIBA journal. The only reason I’ve heard is that they “had too many churches already”.

    New tensile roof protecting  St George's Garrison Church

    New tensile roof protecting St George’s Garrison Church

    The weekend of 19th and 20th September looks like being packed with interesting local events. As well as St George’s Garrison Church and London Open House, Shrewsbury House is hosting its own open house on the Saturday, there’s the Woolwich Carnival also on Saturday, Severndroog Castle are holding an autumn festival as part of their Open House on Sunday,  and The Walking Time Machine has a Battle of Britain Anniversary Special walk on Sunday. More about all of these below.

    Shrewsbury House‘s Open House is free and runs from 12 ’til 4 on Saturday. It includes:

    Activities & Presentations by User Groups
    Photography, Yoga, Keep Fit, Singing, Fencing, Wine Making, Short Matt Bowls, Tai Chi, Beavers, Jujitsu, Pilates, etc etc
    Children’s & Family Activities
    Toddler & Pre-School activities, Face Painting, Ballet & Street Dance.
    Live Music & Dance
    in the Princess Charlotte Room
    Bubbly & Cake on the Kent View Balcony
    A Pop Up Indulgent Cafe with a View complete with Millinery, Hand Made Jewellery & More
    Tours of the House
    with Spoken Guide by Local Historian

    There is also a “What do you want your Shooters Hill to be?” wall chart quiz which sounds interesting.


    Shrewsbury House open house poster

    Woolwich Carnival is on Saturday 19th between midday and 5.00pm. Sounds good from their description:

    Inspired by the diverse and active community groups in the Greenwich area the Woolwich Community Carnival Committee are bringing back carnival to Woolwich this summer on Saturday 19th September.
    Woolwich Carnival will be a celebration of local culture and community. There will be a parade, costumes, live music, dance, community stalls, food and crafts, steel drums and plenty of good vibes – a great way to bring neighbouring communities together for a day of collective summer festivities.
    This year’s theme is Feeling Good – all things that make us happy.

    The local highlights of London Open House for me are the Gordon Square walk and talk and the opening of the Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral (formerly Granada Cinema), both on Saturday, and the Severndroog Castle Autumn Festival on Sunday.

    The Gordon Square walk and talk is intriguingly entitled “Many Ways to Sit: The Social Dynamics of Gordon Square“.

    Meet: Sat 10.30am next to the big TV screen, General Gordon Square SE18 6HX. First come basis. N D T
    A tour and talk looking at the problems and potential of seating in public places, focusing on Gordon Square, Woolwich. A ten minute documentary film will be shown in a nearby venue, made in collaboration with users of Gordon Square.
    Gustafson Porter 2011.

    An unexpected highlight of Open House a couple of years ago was a walk and talk about the Woolwich Squares. This gave a fascinating insight into the challenges of designing and developing Gordon and Beresford Square and the solutions that were adopted, often with tricky negotiations, such as the late addition of a requirement to have the large screen in Gordon Square. The description of the project to transform the square has some fascinating snippets:

    This project aims to transform Woolwich into one of London’s best-connected, most sought-after riverside areas. Developed with the local community, the landscape masterplan draws on the town’s rich architectural and military heritage to create two multi-functional, fully-accessible spaces called ‘Garden’ and ‘Ballroom’, connected by Greens End’s revitalised streetscape.
    Gordon Square is a daytime garden which can be layered with different uses, including specialist markets and public events. A scrim of water in its lawned amphitheatre can also be transformed into an ice rink. Beresford Square is a more formal space supporting a daily market. Its east side illuminates with the setting sun and changing patterns of light encourage local residents to linger and meet against the dramatic backdrop of Arsenal Gate.

    I’ve never heard the water feature called a “scrim of water” before, and love the thought that it could be turned into an ice rink, though the slope might make it interesting!

    The former Granada Cinema at the end of Powis Street, which is now the Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, is a very welcome new addition to Open House this year. It will be open on Saturday between 1.00pm and 5.00pm. Its description in the Open House guide barely does it justice: “Lavish and atmospheric former cinema with interior by Theodore Komisarjevsky, converted to Bingo Hall in 1960s. Grade II* listed.” Komisarjevsky, once a stage designer for the Russian ballet, designed the interior in gothic style and used motifs from European cathedral buildings such as Amiens, Rouen and Lyons in the auditorium, so it doesn’t seem inappropriate that it is now used as a cathedral. I was allowed to have a look round the cathedral last year, some of my photos are here on Flickr, and was very impressed both by the building itself and by the care with which it had been restored. Well worth a visit.

     Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly Woolwich Granada Cinema

    Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly Woolwich Granada Cinema

    Detail of auditorium at Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly Woolwich Granada Cinema

    Detail of auditorium at Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly Woolwich Granada Cinema

    Severndroog Castle is always worth a visit, both for the building itself and the excellent views from the top. For this years Open House the volunteer team are also planning an Autumn Festival, with “singers, musicians and folk or Morris dancers. Also, local food producers, in particular fruit and vegetables or cheese.” The castle will be open on Sunday between 10.30am and 4.30pm, with tours every half hour.

    On Sunday it would easily be possible to combine a visit to St George’s Garrison Church and Severndroog Castle with an afternoon guided walk, the Walking Time Machine Battle of Britain Anniversary Special, led by local archaeologist Andy Brockman. Andy’s last guided walk was fascinating, and this one promises to be equally so. It starts at at 2.00pm at the Oxleas Wood Cafe, and is described in the History Mill Facebook group:

    To remember the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz the History Mill invites you take take part in a special guided walk to see how in the Autumn of 1940 Shooters Hill and Plumstead prepared to face the Luftwaffe and a possible German Invasion.
    Where: Meet at the Oxleas Wood Cafe
    When: 2pm Sunday 20 September 2015
    Duration: Approximately two hours ending at the Old Mill Pub, Plumstead Common.
    The Battle of Britain and the Blitz are part of the mythology of modern Britain but seventy five years ago they were all too real.
    In September 1940 the sky above London was criss crossed with the vapour trails of Luftwaffe bombers and British Spitfire and Hurricane fighters while down below the ARP Service, the Home Guard and other civilian services worked with the anti-aircraft and barrage balloon crews to help protect London and its civilian population from the German onslaught.
    At the back of everyone’s mind was the fear of a German invasion which could come at any moment and would inflict on London the damage wrought in Madrid and Warsaw.
    This special anniversary History Mill timewalk will be led by conflict archaeologist Andy Brockman and will visit the sites associated with that momentous Summer of 1940 on Shooters Hill, including some of the sites seen in the Time Team “Blitzkrieg on Shooters Hill”, and demonstrate how the local landscape was taken over by a Total War, the effects of which we are still seeing today.
    Families and well behaved dogs welcome.
    Please dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable footwear suitable for a two hour walk on pavements and through local parks.
    Free: Donations to the Plumstead Make Merry welcome.

    What a great weekend in prospect, I feel exhausted just thinking about how to get round everything. Oh, and I almost forgot that Woodlands Farm has its Autumn Equinox Walk on Sunday at 10.00am too.

    Detail of decoration at Severndroog Castle

    Detail of decoration at Severndroog Castle

  • hilly 5:19 pm on November 27, 2013
    Tags: , , woolwich   

    Save the Woolwich Grand Theatre 

    Proposed replacement for the Woolwich Grand from the planning application

    Proposed replacement for the Woolwich Grand from the planning application

    As expected a planning application has been submitted to demolish the Woolwich Grand Theatre and replace it with 46 flats and a cafe. The application description says:

    13/2798/F | Demolition of existing buildings and the construction of a building comprising a lower ground level with 6 storeys providing 163sqm of A3 / A4 / D2 space on the ground floor and 46 residential units comprising 15 x 1 bed units and 31 x 2 bed units with associated disabled car parking, cycle storage and refuse storage. (REVISED DESCRIPTION) | 38 WELLINGTON STREET, WOOLWICH, LONDON, SE18 6PE

    The application was submitted on behalf of a company called Secure Sleep Limited, which was incorporated just this year, on 14th January and a company called 38 Wellington Street Limited which is in administration. According to the current Title Register at the Land Registry the Grand Theatre is owned by 38 Wellington Street Limited who bought it on 13th March 2003 for £900,000. The register says that an agreement was made on 9th May 2013 to sell the property to one of the named directors of Secure Sleep Limited.

    The application makes barely a nod to comments at the consultation event in September about the importance of the Grand as a cultural hub in the Bathway Quarter of Woolwich – an area that the Woolwich Masterplan says should have “bars, galleries and artists’ studios together with other uses such as a jazz club and creative industries such as architect’s studios.” The Design and Access Statement, which contains most of the details of the application, includes the plan below purporting to show how the proposed commercial area at the front of the new building could be used to screen films. I’m surprised they bothered – it’s not very convincing.

    Plan showing use of cafe area for film screening

    Plan showing use of cafe area for film screening

    How can we help to save the Woolwich Grand? Well firstly we can sign the petition started by Stewart Christie calling on Greenwich Council to List the Woolwich Grand Theatre as an “Asset of Community Value” under the Localism Act 2011. It’s got over 200 signatures already, in less than a week.

    Secondly we can object to the planning application. This can be done very simply on-line through the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s planning pages. If the link doesn’t work then use the simple search to find 13/2798/F. Or we can object by letter, quoting reference 13/2798/F,  to:

    Georgina Galley
    Directorate of Regeneration, Enterprise & Skills
    Woolwich Centre, 5th Floor,
    35 Wellington Street,
    London SE18 6HQ

    Comments need to be submitted and letters arrive before 17th December.

    The third way to help the Woolwich Grand survive is to go along to their events. They have a number arranged for the next month, listed below, and their Facebook page and web site are kept up to date with new ones.

    “Gentlemen of Horror”
    27th 28th 29th of November
    7pm Red room. £7.50 plus concessions

    Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee defined an era of British horror, starring in Hammer Horror films together for 26 years.
    When they first worked together in “The Curse of Frankenstein” and “Dracula”, Peter Cushing was one of the most famous actors in Britain, while Christopher Lee was unknown. For the next quarter of a century, these two killed each other again and again and became firm friends. As Christopher Lee became internationally famous, Peter Cushing gradually retired into a life of quiet obscurity. And yet neither quite lost their taste for blood…
    In the Peter Cushing centenary year, The Gentlemen of Horror takes you backstage on Cushing and Lee’s relationship, into the dressing rooms of the films they made together. The play will be followed by a screening of Dracula A.D. 72, starring Cushing and Lee.
    Actors: Simon Kane and Matthew Woodcock
    Writer: James Goss
    Directed by Kate Webster

    Hansel and Gretel
    1st December 1:30pm and 4pm

    A Family Adventure packed with life-sized puppets and interactive storytelling.
    Abandoned in the woods, Hansel and Gretel must escape the clutches of a hungry witch with their courage and cleverness. Follow the breadcrumb trail to the gingerbread house for interactive storytelling, live music and a set good enough to eat.
    ‘If you think there is nothing new to be found in traditional tales, this approach could surprise you – they’re well worth seeing’

    King of Comedy night
    6th of December at 7pm

    Comedy again on the 6th of December at 7pm till 11pm in the red room in the form of King of comedy night.
    The principle is simple 10 acts battle it out for the prize of king or queen for the night the audience decides who the winner is. This interactive principle is proving very popular among acts and audience members alike.
    So come down and enjoy the show, get involved and have a laugh on us.

    Roller Skating
    7th December

    The next roller skating event which will take place on Saturday 7th of December in the main hall. The evening will be split into two sections, from 3pm to 6pm there will be a family skating session followed by the adult session from 7pm to 11pm.

    Family Skate Session:
    With Skate Hire – £7.50
    Without Skate Hire – £5.00
    Spectator – £3.00

    Roller Disco:
    With Skate Hire – £10.00
    Without Skate Hire – £8.00
    Spectator – £3.00
    Our aim is for everyone to enjoy both these fun events, see the flexible space available at The Woolwich Grand and have a great time as well as taking in other events that we’re staging at The Grand.

    “A Boy who Cried Wolf”
    7th/8th December
    21st/22nd of December

    Gem and Ren take you on a journey to a perfect town where nobody lies at all… Or do they? We need future superstars, ballerinas, firemen and teachers to help us sing, dance, shout and shimmy our way through the story of A Boy Who Cried Wolf… Or did he?
    To book tickets fellow link:  http://www.wegottickets.com/location/10449

    I suspect it’s not going to be easy to save the Grand, but what’s the alternative – a Woolwich of flats and betting shops?

    The Woolwich Grand - under threat of redevelopment

    The Woolwich Grand – under threat of redevelopment

  • hilly 3:03 pm on September 30, 2013
    Tags: , , woolwich   

    Grand Plan 

    bptw partnership and whiteroom architecture Proposed Scheme for 38 Wellington Street

    bptw partnership and whiteroom architecture Proposed Scheme for 38 Wellington Street

    The Woolwich Grand Theatre will be demolished and replaced with a six storey block of flats with room for a café at the front if current proposals are implemented. There will be 46 one- and two-bedroom flats of which 20% will be “affordable” according to the consultants from bptw partnership and whiteroom architecture at the consultation event last week.

    Their original plan was for a seven storey building, but this was reduced to six following discussion with council planners. The design of the proposed red-brick building aims to harmonise with the adjacent Town Hall, with strong verticals and horizontal lines which continue the Town Hall’s. The flat’s are arranged around a central courtyard which also mirrors a space in the Town Hall.

    The consultants said that the “commercial space” at the front of the building could be used as a café, and that it could be let to the Grand’s impresario Adrian at favourable rates to continue as a cultural space. They also said that it is larger than the current Red Room café at the Grand, and that it could be arranged to show films to people sitting at café-style tables. This seemed to be stretching things to me, and there is no getting round the huge reduction in space available for performance compared to the Woolwich Grand as it is now.

    The developers had wanted to hold the consultation event at the Town Hall but were refused permission, and their time at Gunnery House was limited. There had not been a huge number of visitors, and I was the only person there with the consultants when I dropped in. They sent out a pdf containing the consultation displays today, and indicated that I could communicate them to people who could not attend. The two images in this post are taken from their pdf.

    Planning permission will be applied for in a few weeks; we’ll get another chance to say what we think then.

    bptw partnership and whiteroom architecture Lower Ground Floor Plan for 38 Wellington Street

    Lower Ground Floor Plan for 38 Wellington Street from bptw partnership and whiteroom architecture

  • hilly 5:28 pm on September 20, 2013
    Tags: , , woolwich   

    Woolwich Grand Under Threat? 

    The Woolwich Grand - under threat of redevelopment?

    The Woolwich Grand – under threat of redevelopment?

    Is the Woolwich Grand Theatre under threat of redevelopment? Yes, it is, if the leaflet sent to people living nearby is true. It is an invitation to a consultation event about  a proposal to redevelop the site. The leaflet I saw said:


    Proposals for 38 Wellington Street

    You are invited to view and comment on proposals for the site of the former Grand Theatre and Regal Cinema at 38 Wellington Street for a mixed use development incorporating commercial on ground floor with residential uses

    Event details:

    Thursday 26th September 2013 from 2pm to 5.30pm at 9-11 Gunnery Terrace, Room 22 Gunnery House, Woolwich Arsenal, London SE18 6SW

    The leaflet I saw had no indication who had produced it or who was running the consultation event. I couldn’t find any application for planning permission for the redevelopment of the site, so I guess this must be an early stage consultation before permission is applied for.

    What a set-back for Woolwich town centre this would be – removing one of the few places where cultural activities such as  film, music and other events can and do take place. And how discouraging for the people who have worked hard to bring such cultural activities to the town.

    Also it doesn’t seem consistent with the Woolwich Master Plan which states that the cultural use should be promoted in the Bathway Quarter where the Grand is located. It also says:

    The protection of the town centre’s important heritage value should continue. This will be enhanced by the refurbishment and bringing back into use of historic buildings within the Bathway Quarter. This area should also be given additional heritage protection to conserve its distinct character, as should Powis Street and Hare Street.

    I wonder what happened to that additional protection, and the proposal to designate the Bathway Quarter and Powis and Hare Street as Conservation Areas?

    It’s a shame that the consultation event is during office hours, but I hope that won’t stop people going along to support the Woolwich Grand.

    • Penny 11:58 pm on September 21, 2013

      O no, not more commercial development ,at the expense of the local community,

    • Deborah O'Boyle 6:29 pm on September 23, 2013

      I posted a question on the Woolwich Grand Facebook page and received a reply today. I hope the transcript of the thread below makes sense.

      Deborah O’Boyle

      I have heard that there is to be a public consultation regarding redevelopment of the building. Is this so?

      Like · · 21 September at 23:29

      The Woolwich Grand Theatre Hi Deborah,

      It is with great regret that our plans to redevelop the building is as yet only plans, and those responsible have not submitted to the council yet. For diplomatic reasons we are unable discuss this in depth.

      If you support the Woolwich Grand Theatre and want to show your continued support, get your tickets for We Love Woolwich Festival, this Friday-Sunday (27th-29th) We’ll provide the funny and tunes, you provide the laughs and claps. Tickets available online at http://www.wegottickets.com/festivals/f/6686 or come say ‘Hiya!’ at our box office at 38 Wellington Street.

      Festival Tickets from WeGotTickets – Your Online Box Office – WE LOVE WOOLWICH FESTIVAL
      Discover the best festivals taking place in the UK and beyond – buy your tickets here.

      6 hours ago · Like..

      Deborah O’Boyle Thank you for this. I’ll pass it on.

  • hilly 7:07 pm on July 24, 2013
    Tags: , , woolwich   

    Mayor to decide Woolwich Fire Station closure 

    Woolwich Fire Station – London’s oldest operational fire station

    Woolwich Fire Station – London’s oldest operational fire station

    After all the months of consultation, 24 public meetings with 1,330 attendees, 23 council and scrutiny meetings, 13 petitions with a total of 21,770 signatures, 2,323 questionnaire responses at a cost of at least £172,377,  the decision on whether to close 10 London fire stations, including Woolwich, comes down to one individual: Boris Johnson.

    The consultation did result in some changes to the London Safety Plan: Clapham and New Cross fire stations would remain open, East Greenwich fire station would gain an additional fire engine and Chelsea fire station would keep its two fire engines. I couldn’t find anything in the consultation report and revised safety plan that mentioned the commitment made at the Greenwich consultation meeting to reconsider the closure of Woolwich Fire Station in light of the expected massive increase in the population of Woolwich Riverside. Coincidentally the day after the report was published I received a letter from the Royal Borough of Greenwich informing me that they had given planning permission for a further 2,032 homes in the Arsenal site – this is the plan for a series of blocks of flats up to 22 storeys high along the river front. That’s 2032 homes on top of the thousands already being built in the Arsenal site, just down the road from the fire station.

    It seems from the consultation report that public opposition to the closure of Woolwich Fire Station wasn’t as strong as for others in the capital. Only 156 people signed the petition to save Woolwich Fire Station, compared to over 8,000 for the 3 petitions  to keep Bow Fire Station and over 6,500 for those to save Clapham. Also no-one specifically mentioned Woolwich in their response to the questionnaire: other fire stations were named by respondents opposing their closure. The consultation meeting back in May was dominated by politicians, it was even commented during the meeting that very few “ordinary citizens” asked questions, though this may have been influenced by holding the meeting in Greenwich rather than Woolwich.

    The YouGov analysis of the responses to the consultation questionnaire showed that an overwhelming 94% of respondents opposed any fire station cuts, graphically illustrated in the snippet from the report below.

    Snippet from Appendix F of Fifth London Fire Safety Plan Report

    Snippet from Appendix F of Fifth London Fire Safety Plan Report

    Despite the opposition the Fire Commissioner presented the new plan, but the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) voted by 9 to 8 to reject the proposed cuts. Their e-mail on the subject said:

    A majority of LFEPA Members (by 9 votes to 8) approved the following amendments – That:

    1.       The Authority instructs the Commissioner to delete from the Fifth London Safety Plan, supporting documents and appendices all references to station closures, appliance reductions and consequential operational post reductions, including reductions in Fire and Rescue Units, reductions in crewing levels of Fire and Rescue Units, alternative crewing of specialist units and reductions in officer numbers, and to make the subsequent changes that are necessary.

    and also:

    7.       This Authority recognises and respects the single clearest issue raised during the consultation process: that Londoners do not want to see local fire stations closed. The Authority notes that the 1.2% Council Tax cut implemented by the Mayor came at a cost of £9.4million and that the Mayor’s plan to cut it by 10% over his four-year term will cost a further £70million making some £80million in total. Consequently the Authority calls on the Mayor to reconsider his policy of a 10% council tax cut and instead work with officers and members of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority to develop an approach that preserves London’s fire cover, saves London’s fire stations and balances the budget into the longer term.

    The decision now rests with the Mayor of London, though a tweet from the London Fire Brigade Union yesterday reported that he is “minded” to overturn the LFEPA decision and close the fire stations.

    I’m not sure exactly what politicians mean when they are “minded” to do something. Have they just not quite made up their minds? Have they decided but are trying to avoid the criticism that a bad decision will attract? Whatever …  it is starting to seem likely that Woolwich Fire Station will close after a hundred and twenty six years of operation.

    Woolwich Fire Station – five-storey, round tower on an octagonal base

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