London Borough of Greenwich

The name Greenwich is known all over the world because of Greenwich Mean Time and for the World Heritage Site which encompasses the beautiful baroque buildings of the Old Royal Naval College, the Queens House, The Royal Observatory, and Greenwich Park.

The view of central Greenwich and London from the hill in Greenwich Park is known and admired by tourists from all parts of the globe.

In addition, the borough is known for the important Plantaganet palace at Eltham with the magnificent Art Deco mansion which adjoins it, and the fine historic buildings of the Royal Arsenal and the Royal Artillery at Woolwich.

The present borough comprises the ancient parishes of: Greenwich, St. Nicholas Deptford, Charlton, Woolwich, Plumstead, Eltham and Kidbrooke. Their proximity to the Thames and to Roman Watling Street, which passes over Blackheath and Shooters Hill, have been important factors in local development.

Evidence of Iron Age settlements have been found at Charlton and Woolwich, and Roman sites at Greenwich, Deptford and Woolwich. Burial mounds possibly dating from the Bronze Age can be seen on Plumstead Common and Shooters Hill, and an extensive Anglo Saxon cemetery survives in Greenwich Park.

The southern part of the borough remained predominantly rural till the end of the 19th century. The communities on the riverside to the north of the borough, however, developed rapidly from the 16th century onwards. The presence of the riverside palace at Greenwich beloved by Tudor and Stuart monarchs transformed the area from a small Thameside village to a substantial and flourishing town with grand houses for royal officials in the town, in Crooms Hill, and on land adjacent to Greenwich Park and Blackheath.

The creation of royal dockyards in Deptford and Woolwich in the early sixteenth century stimulated development there. In Woolwich the building of the dockyard led to the establishment of the Royal Arsenal, and to the formation of the Royal Regiments of Artillery, and the Royal Military Academy. The Royal Arsenal was the principal factory for the production of armaments in Britain, employing, at its peak in World War I, about 80,000 workers. It ceased manufacturing armaments in 1967.

Suburban development in the nineteenth century in and around the riverside communities happened very quickly, particularly in Plumstead. In the twentieth century many private and local authority estates were built on remaining areas of farmland mainly in the south of the borough. The Greenwich district with its burgeoning businesses and population was administered in the nineteenth century by a clumsy and complex group of local government bodies: parishes, boards of works, a board of health, poor law unions, and, after 1889, London wide organizations.

In 1900 the local bodies were swept away and replaced by the Metropolitan Boroughs of Greenwich and Woolwich. In 1965 these two boroughs amalgamated to form the London Borough of Greenwich . An anomaly which survived both of these reforms was the inclusion of the ancient parish of St. Nicholas, Deptford; the greater part of Deptford now being in the Borough of Lewisham.

The borough is changing rapidly again as former industrial sites such as Deptford Creek, The Greenwich Peninsula, and the Royal Arsenal are redeveloped.