Pages 558-569

The Environs of London: Volume 4, Counties of Herts, Essex and Kent. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1796.

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THIS place in old charters is called Hulviz, Wolwiche, Wollewic, &c. I can find nothing satisfactory relating to its etymology.



Quantity of land, and how occupiéd.




Woolwich lies on the banks of the Thames, within the hundred of Blackheath, and at the distance of nine miles from London. The parish is bounded on the north by the river Thames, except in that part where it extends on the opposite side of the river into Essex, being there bounded by Barking, and Barking-creek which separates it from Eastham. On the south and west, Woolwich is bounded by Eltham and Charlton, and on the east by Plumstead. The parish of Woolwich contains about 650 acres of land (fn. 1), of which about 380 are marsh on the Essex coast (fn. 2), 50 marsh on the Kentish side of the river, about 40 acres of arable, 10 occupied by a market gardener; 50 waste, and the remainder upland pasture (fn. 3). The soil, except in the marshes, is principally gravel. At the east end of the town is a chalk-pit, which has a stratum abounding with the same extraneous fossils as that at Charlton. This parish pays the sum of 465l. 14s. 8d. which is at the rate of about 1s. 2d. in the pound.


Woolwich has a weekly market on Friday. The market-place was changed within the present century: the gunwharf formerly occupied the spot where the market is now held (fn. 4). Sir William Pritchard gave the old market-house (where the cage now is) for the use of the poor (fn. 5).


Manor of Woolwich, or Southall in Woolwich.

The whole of this parish has been decreed to be within the Royal manor of Eltham (fn. 6) : but the principal estate, which is now the property of Captain Bowater, was, at a very early period, considered as a manor, and called the manor of Wulewiche; afterwards the manor of Southall in Woolwich. It is supposed to have been that estate which is described in the record of Doomsday as the property of Haimo the sheriff (fn. 7). Henry the Second, about the year 1160, gave the manors of Woolwich and Modingham to the church of St. John the Baptist in England (fn. 8). Whether this is to be considered as the estate here described, or as that manerial right which now attaches to the manor of Eltham, I am not certain. Whichever it was, it did not long continue the property of that church. Eltham, with its appurtenances of Woolwich, &c. became vested in the Crown, and this estate passed through various lay hands. Gilbert de Ma risco held this estate, then called the Manor of Woolwich, in the early part of Edward the First's reign (fn. 9). In the year 1324, the manor of Woolwich belonged to Sabina de Windlesore, or Windfor (fn. 10). Sir John Pulteney became possessed of it before 1327 (fn. 11); the next year, Humphrey Bohun, Earl of Hereford, executed a deed, by which he conveyed to the said Sir John all his right and interest in this estate, by the name of the Manor of Southall, in Woolwich (fn. 12). Sir John Pulteney died seised of it in 1349 (fn. 13). In 1374 and 1375, Thomas de Charlton and John Revell quitted all claim in this manor to Nicholas Lovayne, Aubrey de Vere, and others (fn. 14). About the year 1400, it became the property of William Chichele, youngest brother of Archbishop Chichele (fn. 15). It was inherited by John Chichele, (son of William,) and given by him in marriage with his daughter Agnes, to John Tatterfall (fn. 16), whose daughter and coheir Anne married Sir Ralph Hastings, brother of Lord Willoughby. Sir Ralph, by his will (fn. 17), bearing date 1495, bequeathed his manor in Woolwich to his wife, to be disposed of at her will. Philipott tells us that, prior to this period, (in the reign of Edward IV.) it was sold to the Boughtons of Burwash-court: it is probable he had seen some deed in which the Boughtons were trustees. I know not what became of it immediately after Lady Hastings's death. Philipott says, that the Boughtons sold it to the Heywoods, by which, it is supposed, he meant the Heydons; who were afterwards possessed of it, though not by sale from the Boughton family. Sir Christopher Heydon was in possession of it in 1575 (fn. 18). About the latter end of Queen Elizabeth's reign, it was sold to Sir Nicholas Gilbourne (fn. 19), of whose descendants it was purchased by Richard Bowater, Esq., ancestor of Edward Bowater Esq., the present proprietor.

Manor of Jeffrys.

An estate in this parish, called the Manor of Jeffrys, was, in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, the property of Henry Cheney (fn. 20). This manor is not now known; but is supposed to be included within Mr. Bowater's estate.

Estates in the marshes.

An estate in the marshes, on the Essex side of the water, (but within this parish, and in the county of Kent,) consisting of about 100 acres, formerly belonged to the abbey of St. Mary de Graces, near the Tower, (being parcel of their manor of Poplar (fn. 21),) which manor had belonged to Sir John Pulteney (fn. 22). These lands, which had been leased, in the reign of Henry VIII. to John Danyell, were granted, anno 1542, to Thomas Eaglesfield (fn. 23); and again, in 1558, to Thomas Palmer and Andrew Castell (fn. 24).

The monastery of Stratford Langthorne had an estate of about 50 acres called Wyck lands, in these marshes, which was granted, in 1541, to Sir Roger Cholmley (fn. 25). The tithes of these lands belonged to the monks of Bermondsey, having been given to them by William de Eltham (fn. 26).

In 1541, King Henry VIII. granted a capital messuage, with a garden and wharf belonging to it, in Woolwich, to Sir Martin Bowes (fn. 27); who, in 1543, conveyed it to Edward Boughton (fn. 28). In 1545, it was conveyed by the latter to Sir Edward Dymock (fn. 29); in 1548, from Dymock to Thomas Stanley (fn. 30); in 1558, from Stanley to John Robinson (fn. 31); and in 1560, from the latter again to Sir Martin Bowes (fn. 32), and his heirs. By the description of this house in the last grant, it seems to have stood near the river, upon some part of the site of the present dockyard.

The parish church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen (fn. 33), is a brick building, consisting of a chancel, nave, and two aisles. At the west end is a plain square tower. The inside is fitted up in the Grecian style, having galleries on the north, south, and west sides, supported by pillars of the Ionic order. It was rebuilt between the years 1733 and 1740, pursuant to an Act of Parliament, by which it was included among the fifty new churches to be erected under the Acts of the ninth and tenth of Queen Anne, and the sum of 3000l. directed to be allowed towards the rebuilding, out of the funds raised by the said acts (fn. 34).

In the chancel are the monuments of Daniel Wiseman (fn. 35), Esq. 1739; and Mr. Joel Barnard, attorney at law, 1758. In other parts of the church are inscribed atchievements in memory of Capt. Richard Leake (fn. 36), Master-gunner of England, (father of Sir John Leake the celebrated naval officer,) 1696; Mr. Edward Alford (fn. 37), 1701; and Robert Smith, Esq. 1714 (fn. 38).

In the old church were the tombs of John Colin, 1397; and William Prene, rector, who founded a chapel and built the belfry, ob. 1464 (fn. 39).

Tombs in the church-yard.

In the churchyard are the tombs of Mr. Jacob Fletcher, 1661; Richard Leving, 1668; John Leving, Esq. 1672; John Leving, jun. Esq. 1734; Mary, his wife, daughter of John Watts, 1735; William Needham, Gent. 1733; Mary his wife, daughter of John Leving, Esq.; William Morland, Esq. 1755; Alice, his wife, daughter of John Leving, Esq.; Richard Morland, Esq. 1777; Mr. William Acworth, 1671; Avice, his wife, 1643; Mr. John Acworth, 1690; Mr. William Hussey, 1714; William Hussey, his son, Solicitor for the City of London, 1776; John Smith, Esq. (son of Robert), 1730; Anne, wife of Capt. John Melledge, 1741; Horatio Horsnell, Esq. 1741; Mr. John Henslow, 1742; Capt. James Cuthbert, 1742; Mr. John Legg, 1744; Mr. Adam Hume, 1745; Samuel Remnant, Esq. 1752; Sarah, his daughter, wife of Jeremiah Redwood, 1785; Jeremiah Redwood, Esq. 1776; Hon. Capt. Edward Wills, 1756; Mr. Henry Thompson, surgeon, 1759; Mary, relict of the Rev. Dr. Barker, vicar of Adderbury, Oxford, 1760; Lieut. Thomas Sanders of the Royal Artillery, 1766; Simeon Hill, Esq. 1769; Joseph Harris, Esq. master shipwright at Chatham, 1773; Sarah, wife of Lieut. Col. Hislop, 1773; Col. Hislop, 1779; George Gibson, Esq. Lieut. in the Artillery, 1775; Benjamin Allen, Esq. 1775; Andrew Schalch, Esq. 1776; William Jones, Esq. 1779; Austen Mills, Esq. 1779; John Holmes, Gent. 1780; Lieut. William Coleman of the Royal Artillery, 1780; Lieut. Gen. George Williamson (fn. 40), 1781; Captain Robert Hall, killed by an accident on board his ship the Bridgwater, 1781; Mary, wife of Lieut. William Role, 1783; Anne, wife of Captain David Vans of the Royal Artillery, 1784; Edward Taylor, surgeon, 1784; Mr. Andrew Doe, aged 96, 1784; Captain Samuel Tovey of the Royal Artillery, 1785; Elizabeth, wife of the Rev. Daniel Turner, M. A. 1786; Mary, relict of the Rev. Mr. Fletcher, 1786; Mary, wife of Lieut. Gen. Cleveland, 1788; Lieut. Joseph William Goreham of the Royal Artillery, (son of Col. Goreham, Lieut. Governor of Placentia,) 1788; George Bickerton, surgeon, 1789; Catherine, wife of William Soley, Esq. 1789; John Nelson, Esq. 1793; and C. S. Dowdeswell, Captain in the Royal Artillery, 1795.


Woolwich is a rectory, in the diocese of Rochester, and in the deanery of Dartford. Henry I. gave this church to the Bishop of Rochester, and the priory of St. Andrew at that place (fn. 41). Bishop Gundulph, when he separated his own maintenance from that of the monks, gave them this church, with the free disposal of the vicarage (fn. 42); but his successor, Gilbert de Glanville resumed it to himself (fn. 43), allowing the monks only their ancient pension of 7s. per annum (fn. 44). Since this time, the advowson has been vested in the bishops of Rochester. The rectory of Woolwich was rated, in 1287, at ten marks per annum (fn. 45); in the King's books it is rated at 7l. 12s. 6d. In 1650, it was valued at 55l. per annum (fn. 46). The glebe lands consist of about twenty acres of pasture, lying within a ring fence.

Rectors, Thomas Lindsay.

Philip Stubbs.

Thomas Lindsay, instituted to this rectory in 1692, was made Bishop of Killaloe in 1695; translated to Raphoe in 1713, and to the Primacy of Ireland the same year. He published a sermon preached at a county feast. Philip Stubbs, who succeeded him as rector of Woolwich, in 1695, published numerous single discourses. He resigned this living in 1699, and was afterwards chaplain of Greenwich Hospital, and Archdeacon of St. Alban's.

The present rector is George Andrew Thomas, M. A. who succeeded the late Sir Peter Rivers Gay (fn. 47), Bart. in 1791.


There are six meeting-houses in Woolwich, one belonging to the Presbyterians, two to the Anabaptists; two to the disciples of Mr. Whitfield, and one to those of Mr. Wesley.

Parish register.

The earliest date of the register of baptisms, burials, and marriages at Woolwich, now extant, is 1670.

Comparative state of population.

Average of Baptisms. Average of Burials.
1680–9 71½ 97½
1730–9 124 7/10 157½
1750–9 1583/5 1623/5
1760–9 1604/5 185½
1770–9 1802/5 193½
1780–9 2612/5 2844/5
1790–4 2903/5 3102/5
1795 357 390

The great increase of population, which has been in a proportion of nearly five to one within the last century, is to be attributed to the proportionate increase of the dockyard and the warren, and the augmentation of the artillery, who have their head-quarters at this place. The present number of houses in the parish of Woolwich is about 1200.

Extracts from the Register.

"Lady Judith Barkham, buried March 19, 1723–4."

John Kerr (fn. 48), son of the Rt Honble Kerr Ld Bellenden and his Lady, Elizabeth, born Aug. 22, 1751.

Mrs. Withers' school.

Mrs. Anne Withers, in 1754, founded a girls' school, and endowed it with 33l. per annum, as a salary for the mistress. Thirty children are educated in this school.

Mrs. Wiseman's school.

Mrs. Mary Wiseman, by her will, bearing date 1758, left the sum of 1000l. O. S. S. A. now 1750l. O. S. S. A. for the purpose of educating, clothing, and putting out apprentice, six boys, sons of shipwrights who have served their apprenticeship in the dockyard at Woolwich. At first there were not found a sufficient number of boys, properly qualified, to fulfil the donor's bequest, which occasioned the legacy to be augmented as above mentioned. From the increase of the dockyard they became more numerous, and the funds being adequate to it, eight boys are now educated, clothed, and apprenticed.

This parish has a right of sending three boys to Blackheath school, founded by Abraham Colfe, vicar of Lewisham.

Sir Martin Bowes's alms-house.

Sir Martin Bowes founded an alms-house in Woolwich for five poor widows, and committed the care of it to the Goldsmiths' Company (fn. 49).

Various Benefactions.

Date. Donors Names. Nature and present Value. Use.
Sir Martin Bowes, 7s. 11½d. per annum, Poor.
1621. Rev. Richard Sims, Four tenements, Poor.
1629. Sir Adam Newton, 20l. Poor.
1638. Philip Roberts, 1l. per annum. Ten poor widows.
1656. Ab. Colfe, vicar of Lewisham, 8s. 8d. per annum, Two sweet penny loaves, weekly, for two of the poorest and godliest inhabitants.
1662. William Hawes, An acre of marsh land, now let at about 2l. 10s. per ann. and the interest of 27l. Bread.
Unkn. Sir William Pritchard, The old market-house, Poor.

The dock-yard.

It is very uncertain when the dockyard at Woolwich was first established. Bishop Gibson supposes it to have been the oldest in the kingdom, having found that the great ship called Harry, Grace de Dieu, was built there in 1512 (fn. 50). It is possible, however, that this ship might have been built, as others were before that time, by contractors, at a private dock. The Royal dock, at this place, if established in the early part of Henry VIII.'s reign, must have been of very small extent; for it appears that, in 1546, that Monarch purchased of Sir Edward Boughton, then proprietor of the manor of Southall, two parcels of land at Woolwich called Bowton's Docks, and two other parcels called Our Lady-hill and Sand-hill (fn. 51). The dockyard has since been considerably increased from time to time, by the addition of several pieces of marsh-land, held by Government under lease from the Bowater family (fn. 52), being parcel of the manor of Southall. This dockyard, which consists of a narrow strip of land, by the river-side, five surlongs and eighteen yards in length, contains two dry docks, two mast-ponds (fn. 53); a smith's shop, with several forges for making anchors; a mouldloft; storehouses of various kinds; mast-houses; sheds for timber; workshops for the different artificers; and houses for the officers of the yard. This dockyard, like that at Deptford, has no Com missioner, but is under the immediate inspection of the Navy Board. The resident officers are, a clerk of the Checque; a storekeeper; master-shipwright, and his assistants; clerk of the survey; master attendant; surgeon, &c. The number of labourers and artificers, exclusive of the ordinary and the convicts, is about 1140; the peace-establishment is somewhat less (fn. 54).

There is a ropewalk at Woolwich, about 400 yards in length, under the direction of a clerk, for making cables of all dimensions for the Navy.

The great ship called Harry, Grace de Dieu, already mentioned as having been built at Woolwich in 1512, was accidentally burnt there in 1554 (fn. 55). Some account of the celebrated ship called the Royal Sovereign, built at Woolwich in 1637 by Phineas Pett, has been already given (fn. 56). The ill-fated Royal George, lost at Portsmouth in the month of August 1782, with Admiral Kempenfelt and the greater part of her crew, was built at this dock in 1751.

The gunwharf, or warren.


The gunwharf at Woolwich is of very ancient date; it formerly occupied what is now the site of the market-place. When removed to the warren, where it now is, it acquired thence the name by which it is now called. The warren, at Woolwich, is the grand depôt of the ordnance belonging to the Navy; the guns of most of our men of war being laid up there in time of peace: there are also mortars of all dimensions in great number, and immense stores of shells and cannon-shot. Within this warren is a foundery for brass canon; a laboratory (fn. 57) for making fireworks for the use of the Army and Navy; and a repository for military machines, both for the land and sea service (fn. 58); in which are also various models of bridges, forti fications, &c. The academy for the education of young gentlemen (fn. 59) destined for the artillery or the engineers' service, is in the warren, which is the head-quarters also of the regiment of Artillery; but, since the great increase of that regiment, the warren (which contains between fifty and sixty acres) has been found very insufficient for that purpose. A piece of ground, containing about fifty acres, was taken on lease by Government (fn. 60), of Mr. Bowater, about twenty years ago, and spacious barracks built for the accommodation of the officers and privates of the regiment of Artillery, for whom there was not room in the warren.

All ordnance, for the use of Government, as well the iron cannon made by contractors at various places, as the brass cannon cast at the foundery here, must be proved in Woolwich Warren. The chief officers of the warren are, a storekeeper (fn. 61), clerk of the Cheque, clerk of the Survey, &c. The number of artificers and labourers (exclusive of the convicts) employed in the various departments is about 1500, including 300 boys. The making of canvas bags for the use of the warren furnishes employment for a great number of poor women in the town.


Two hulks are stationed in the river at Woolwich for the reception of convicts, who are employed in the most laborious offices at the dockyard and warren, having proper persons to superintend them, and take an account of their labour.


  • 1. Exclusive of fifty acres leased a few years ago to Government for the site of the barracks.
  • 2. Harris mentions an ancient MS. in which they are stated at 500 acres. The MS. adds, that there were a few houses there, and a chapel of ease. No mention is made of the date. In the year 1236, by a sudden rise of the Thames the marshes near Woolwich were overflowed in such a manner, that many of the inhabitants perished together with great numbers of cattle. In the reign of James the First another great inundation happened, by which many acres were laid under water, some of which have never been recovered. (Hasted's Kent, vol. i. p. 45.) All the marshes from Greenwich to Gravesend are now under the direction of a Commission of Sewers. The Thames at high-tide is nearly a mile wide at Woolwich, and the water, at the flood, salt.
  • 3. From the information of the Rev. G. A. Thomas, the rector, to whom I have been indebted for various other particulars relating to this parish.
  • 4. From the information of John Cockburn, Esq. Storekeeper of the Warren.
  • 5. Table of benefactions.
  • 6. See Hasted's History of Kent, vol. i. p. 44. A Court-leet and Court-baron are held annually by Sir John Shaw, tenant of that manor under the Crown, for the manor of Woolwich. The inhabitants of Woolwich, as tenants of the Royal manor, enjoy the same privileges as those of Eltham and Mottingham. See Pat. 21 Edw. III. pt. 2. m. 2.; and Pat. 6 Hen. IV. pt. 1. m. 8.
  • 7. The said Haimo, says that record, holds 63 acres of land in Woolwich, which William the Fowler held of King Edward. There are on this estate, 11 bordars, who pay a rent of 41 pence. The whole value is 31.
  • 8. "Angliacensis."—Cartæ Antiquæ at the Tower, X. N° 18.
  • 9. Philipott's Survey, p. 371.
  • 10. Philipott.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. Cl. 21 Edw. III. pt, 1. m. 29.
  • 13. See Cl. 48 Edw. III. m. 4, 6, 7, and 8.; and Cl. 49. Edw. III. m. 44.
  • 14. Esch. 23 Edw. III. N° 45. This estate continued in the Pulteney family as late as the year 1374. See Hasted's Kent, vol. i. p. 44.
  • 15. Philipott, p. 371.
  • 16. John Tattersall died seised of this estate (held jointly with Agnes, his wife) anno 1447. Esch. 25 Hen. VI. N° 20.
  • 17. In the Prerogative-office.
  • 18. Hasted.
  • 19. Philipott, p. 371.
  • 20. Hasted's History of Kent, vol. i.
  • 21. Minister's accounts in the Augmentation-office.
  • 22. See vol. iii. p. 424.
  • 23. Hasted.
  • 24. Ibid.
  • 25. Pat. 32 Hen. VIII. pt. 7. July 17.
  • 26. Dugdale's Monast. vol. i. p. 640.
  • 27. Pat. 31 Hen. VIII. pt. 5. April 16.
  • 28. Pat. 33 Hen. VIII. pt. 7. Oct. 29.
  • 29. Pat. 36 Hen. VIII. pt. 25. May 20.
  • 30. Pat. 2 Edw. VI. pt. 3. May 16.
  • 31. Pat. 4 and 5 P. and M. pt. 15. Sep. 10.
  • 32. Pat. 3 Eliz. pt. 3. Nov. 23.
  • 33. The church was formerly dedicated to St. Lawrence, but the feast of dedication was changed in 1429. Reg. Roff. p. 696.
  • 34. A brief had some years before been obtained, and the sum of 1141l. 3s. 11 d. collected, besides the sum of 200l. given by Dr. Lindsay, the Lord Primate of Ireland; 100l. by Mr. Benjamin Hume, and about 80l. by other persons. The intention at first was only to repair and enlarge the church, but it was found necessary entirely to rebuild it on a new site. The ground was purchased, and the foundation laid in 1726, but the inhabitants found themselves unable to proceed in the undertaking till they obtained the parliamentary aid abovementioned. After all, the work went on but slowly, for Daniel Wiseman, Esq. who died in 1739, gave by will 1000l. towards completing the church of Woolwich, then unfinished.
  • 35. Arms—S. a chevron Erm. between three cronels Arg. impaling, A. on a pale S. three crosses formeé O. a border engrailed of the second.
  • 36. Arms—A. on a saltier engrailed S. nine annulets O. impaling, quarterly Az. and O. a saltier Erm.
  • 37. Arms—G. six pears O. three and three, barways; a chief of the second, impaling, Per fesse G. and O. a pale counterchanged, three trefoils slipped of the second.
  • 38. Arms—Barry of six Erm. and G. a lion rampant S. ducally crowned O. impaling, Az. two barrulets dancetté Erm. between six fl. de lis, 3, 2, 1. Or.
  • 39. Weever's Funeral Monuments, p. 337.
  • 40. He married Jane, only daughter of Captain Robert Pedley, who, by her mother Isabel Muir, was lineally descended from Robert King of Scotland. Colonel Adam Williamson, their only son, married Anne daughter of Thomas Jones, Esq. of EastWickham.
  • 41. Text. Roff. p. 170.
  • 42. Dugdale's Monast. vol. iii. p. 1.; and Reg. Roff. p. 6.
  • 43. Reg. Roff. p. 53.
  • 44. Now paid to the Dean and Chapter of Rochester.
  • 45. Hasted, vol. i. p. 47.
  • 46. Hasted; from the Parliamentary Surveys at Lambeth.
  • 47. Sir Peter Rivers, who assumed the name of Gay in consequence of inheriting a considerable estate from a gentleman of that name, was one of the prebendaries of Winchester. He published a sermon preached on the anniversary meeting of the charity schools.
  • 48. The present Lord Bellenden, whose father married a daughter of Richard Brett, Esq. Clerk of the Cheque at Deptford.
  • 49. See a farther account of this almshouse in the Appendix.
  • 50. Gibson's additions to Camden's Britannia, edit. 1695, p. 230.
  • 51. Record in the Augmentation-office.
  • 52. To whom an annual rent of 400l. is paid by Government.
  • 53. Another of large dimensions is now making upon some additional ground (about twelve acres) taken into the dockyard about the year 1786.
  • 54. For access to the dockyard and various particulars relating to it, I am indebted to Sir A. S. Hamond, Bart. Comptroller of the Navy, and John Jeffery, Esq. Clerk of the Cheque.
  • 55. See Hasted's Kent, vol. i. p. 46, in the notes.
  • 56. See p. 375.
  • 57. The laboratory is under the direction of a comptroller, a chief firemaster, and other officers.
  • 58. Under the direction of a superintendant.
  • 59. The academy is under the direction of a governor, lieutenant governor, inspector, and various professors and masters. The pupils are called cadets.
  • 60. The rent to Mr. Bowater is 184l. per annum.
  • 61. John Cockburn, Esq. to whom I have been indebted for several particulars relating to the warren.