You need faith, however, as Woolwich is not yet a thing of beauty. Even Tesco architects had problems finding much to inspire them — delivering a store that was quickly dubbed Britain’s ugliest new building last year.
But rejuvenation is a wonderful thing. In recent years, 2,000 new homes have been built in Woolwich’s key development zone, branded Royal Arsenal Riverside, with 3,000 more to come.
AREA GUIDE: TAKE A TOUR OF WOOLWICH
Property area guide to Woolwich: everything you need to know
Property area guide to Woolwich: everything you need to know
1/13 The lowdown: Woolwich
Journey times from Woolwich to Canary Wharf will be eight minutes when Crossrail arrives and the council plans to redevelop three of its rundown estates - it's no wonder that commuters and investors are finding this Thames-side town increasingly appealing....
Images: Daniel Lynch
2/13 Average house prices in Woolwich
One-bedroom flat: £235,000
Two-bedroom flat: £280,000
Two-bedroom house: £291,000
Three-bedroom house: £315,000
Four-bedroom house: £357,000
3/13 Average rental prices in Woolwich
One-bedroom flat: £1,152 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £1,376 a month
Two-bedroom house: £1,334 a month
Three-bedroom house: £1,515 a month
Four-bedroom house: £1,628 a month
Woolwich has a number of primary schools and two local comprehensive schools that are judged to be “outstanding” by Ofsted. See our full list here.
Although there is a popular new town square with a giant Tesco, Woolwich town centre is still dominated by budget stores. The town has a busy market and there are branches of TK Maxx and Primark along the main shopping street, Powis Street and the surrounding streets.
Woolwich is served by the DLR, National Rail and a Thames Clippers service. With Crossrail, the journey times will be eight minutes to Canary Wharf, 14 minutes to Liverpool Street and 22 minutes to Bond Street. Woolwich Arsenal is in Zone 4 and an annual Travelcard costs £1,844, while Woolwich Dockyard is in Zone 3 and an annual Travelcard costs £1,508.
There is a gastro pub, Dial Arch, and a popular café, Cornerstone Café, in Royal Arsenal Riverside. Blue Nile in Woolwich New Road is a popular Eritrean/Italian restaurant.
8/13 Leisure and the arts
There are two museums in the Royal Arsenal while the Woolwich Grand Theatre, which operated an arts centre and cinema, has now closed to make way for flats. The nearest council-owned swimming pool is the Waterfront Leisure Centre and Shooters Hill Golf Club has an 18-hole course with views over to Kent. See our full list here.
9/13 Open spaces
The Thames Path runs through Royal Arsenal Riverside. Woolwich Common is owned by the Ministry of Defence but the section south of Ha-Ha Road is open to the public. Maryon Park, Gilbert’s Pit and Maryon Wilson Park are local nature reserves while, on the Plumstead side, Shrewsbury Park has a football pitch.
10/13 For sale...
£275,000: close to the amenities of Woolwich, this split-level flat has an open-plan reception room and a spiral staircase that leads to the bedroom.
11/13 For sale...
£649,995: this two-bedroom first-floor apartment is arranged over two floors, with a ladder to a third mezzanine-level. There's secure off-street parking too.
12/13 For sale...
£949,950: spread over four floors and including a basement flat, this seven-bedroom period house has a large reception room with two Juliette balconies.
13/13 For sale...
£1,350,000: this three-bedroom penthouse apartment is in the Nouvel I residence at the Royal Arsenal Riverside. With a resident's spa and treatment rooms, this home offers a combination of luxury and modern family living.
And, while prices for private homes beside the Thames have reached almost £2 million, the 75 one- and two-bedroom flats at Drummond House from Notting Hill Housing are reserved for low-income buyers priced off the private housing ladder.
A 25 per cent share of a one-bedroom flat will cost from £83,750, with a full market price of £335,000, while a quarter share of a two-bedroom home starts at £99,375, with a full market price of £397,500.
Priority will be given to people already living in Greenwich or its neighbouring boroughs, and the flats will be ready to move into early next year.
Reaching its potential
There are few areas of London with a history as rich as Woolwich or a future more promising. The problem is what it is like right now.
Its history began when King Henry VIII visited more than 600 years ago and decided it would be the ideal place to build warships. Later it became home to the Royal Arsenal, where munitions were made to supply British soldiers for more than two centuries — and where workers formed what later became Arsenal football club.
Its 21st-century story is one of a new neighbourhood for London — and one with the crucial benefit of excellent transport links. Woolwich Arsenal DLR station is less than half a mile from Drummond House, and services from Woolwich Dockyard railway station to Cannon Street take 24 minutes.
The area will also be served by Crossrail, which means that from 2018 there will be direct services to Canary Wharf, the West End and Heathrow.
“This new express route is going to make Woolwich a real transport hub,” says Hopkin Man, head of sales at Notting Hill Housing.
“It is going to create demand for the area and turn it from what is really a forgotten corner of London into a new riverside community.”
But the magic of Crossrail is a few years away and, while a lot of work has already gone into Royal Arsenal, the town is still yet to fulfil its potential.
While new residents move in every week, there is not a huge amount for them to do locally other than to walk over to Greenwich. “There are shops, cafés and restaurants, but it is all quite new so it has not got that mix of independents and bigger firms that people really like,” says Man.
In the future, however, there are plans for a new cultural quarter with art galleries, theatres and museums, many more shops, a hotel, a town square, and new pedestrian walkways linking Royal Arsenal to Woolwich town centre.
Right now, while there are smart new homes plus some magnificent Victorian buildings — relics of the heyday of the Royal Arsenal — to admire, the area also has eyesores. Those who buy into the area are going to need patience.