East Greenwich

East Greenwich, Greenwich

The historically industrial side of Greenwich, including (by many definitions) the former marshland of the Greenwich Peninsula

Gasometer and That*
Gasometer and That*

One of the first struc­tures to be built in East Greenwich was the govern­ment powder magazine. Throughout the 17th century it tested, stored and distrib­uted gunpowder, to the increasing appre­hen­sion of the growing resi­den­tial population.

The powder magazine was demol­ished in 1802 and the site later acquired by the Enderby family, Bermondsey tanners who had married into the whaling trade. One of the exploratory voyages that they funded resulted in the discovery of Antarctica’s Enderby Land, as it was named.

Around the same time, local landowner George Russell built New East Greenwich, which consisted of a large tidal mill for grinding corn, together with workers’ housing, some of which still stands, in River Way. The great mill became a chemical works in the 1840s before being replaced by a power station. In the 1850s the new tech­nology of cable-making began life at East Greenwich, and the first Atlantic cable was made here. The site is still in use by Alcatel.

In the 1880s the South Metro­pol­itan Gas Company built its East Greenwich works. The two gash­olders were the biggest in Europe; only one holder in America ever surpassed them. The smaller of the pair still stands, described by Richard Boston in The Guardian as “a very fine gasometer indeed with a visually intriguing criss-cross of girders that rather upstages the Dome.”

East Greenwich Pleasaunce
East Greenwich Pleasaunce*

Marked with a black outline on the map below and shown in the photo­graph on the right,* East Greenwich Pleas­aunce is a tree-lined garden that served as a burial ground for around 3,000 sailors who died at the Royal Hospital for Seamen. In 1926 the Admiralty sold the pleas­aunce to the borough of Greenwich, retaining the right to use part as a burial site ‘in perpe­tuity’. Nowadays, the verdant pleas­aunce is graced by Pista­chios in the Park (an eco-friendly café) and a community centre called The Bridge. A market is held here on the last Sunday of every month and an al fresco cinema occa­sion­ally pops up in summer.

Postal district: SE10
Further reading: Mary Mills, Greenwich Marsh: The 300 Years before the Dome, Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, 1999


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* The picture of the Gasometer and That on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Gareth James, and the picture of the East Greenwich Pleasaunce is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Marathon, both at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.