Royal Arsenal
The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, originally known as the Woolwich Warren, carried out armaments manufacture, ammunition
Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war , but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery. The collective term for all types of ammunition is munitions...

Proof test
A proof test is a test wherein a deliberately over-pressured round is fired from a firearm in order to verify that the firearm is not defective and will not explode on firing. The firearm is inspected after the test, and if it is found to be in sound condition, then it is marked with a proof mark...

 and explosives research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

 for the British armed forces. It was sited on the south bank of the River Thames in Woolwich
Woolwich is a district in south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.Woolwich formed part of Kent until 1889 when the County of London was created...

 in south-east London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...


Early history

The Warren in Tower Place was established as an Ordnance Storage Depot in 1671 on a 31 acres (12.5 ha) site. An ammunition laboratory (the Royal Laboratory) was added in 1695, and a gun
A gun is a muzzle or breech-loaded projectile-firing weapon. There are various definitions depending on the nation and branch of service. A "gun" may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol,...

A foundry is a factory that produces metal castings. Metals are cast into shapes by melting them into a liquid, pouring the metal in a mold, and removing the mold material or casting after the metal has solidified as it cools. The most common metals processed are aluminum and cast iron...

 (the Royal Brass Foundry) was established in 1717. By 1777 it had expanded to 104 acres (0.4 km²). Shortly afterwards, convict
A convict is "a person found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court" or "a person serving a sentence in prison", sometimes referred to in slang as simply a "con". Convicts are often called prisoners or inmates. Persons convicted and sentenced to non-custodial sentences often are not termed...

 labour was used to construct a 2.5 miles (4 km) (approximately) brick
A brick is a block of ceramic material used in masonry construction, usually laid using various kinds of mortar. It has been regarded as one of the longest lasting and strongest building materials used throughout history.-History:...

 boundary wall, generally 8 feet (2.4 m) high. In 1804 this wall was raised to 20 feet (6.1 m) near the Plumstead
Plumstead is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich. Plumstead is a multi cultural area with large Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities, in similarity to local areas such as Woolwich and Thamesmead...

 road, and to 15 feet (4.6 m) in other parts. In 1814–16, convict labour was also used to dig a canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

 (the Ordnance Canal), which formed the eastern boundary.

In 1805, during the reign
A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office of monarch of a nation or of a people . In most hereditary monarchies and some elective monarchies A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office...

 of King George III
George III of the United Kingdom
George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of these two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death...

, at the King's suggestion, it became known as the Royal Arsenal. By this time, Woolwich was already a busy military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 centre, with the Woolwich Dockyard
Woolwich Dockyard
Woolwich Dockyard was an English naval dockyard founded by King Henry VIII in 1512 to build his flagship Henri Grâce à Dieu , the largest ship of its day....

 to the west of the Arsenal, the Royal Military Academy and the headquarters of the Royal Artillery
Royal Artillery
The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery , is the artillery arm of the British Army. Despite its name, it comprises a number of regiments.-History:...

 next to each other to the south. The Royal Military Academy had been originally based at the Royal Arsenal but it was moved to Woolwich Common in 1806, although some of the Cadets did not finally vacate the Arsenal until as late as 1882. The old Military Academy building then became part of the Royal Laboratory. Several buildings within the Arsenal are attributed to architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 Sir John Vanbrugh
John Vanbrugh
Sir John Vanbrugh  – 26 March 1726) was an English architect and dramatist, perhaps best known as the designer of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. He wrote two argumentative and outspoken Restoration comedies, The Relapse and The Provoked Wife , which have become enduring stage favourites...


The Arsenal was a renowned centre of excellence in mechanical engineering
Mechanical engineering
Mechanical engineering is a discipline of engineering that applies the principles of physics and materials science for analysis, design, manufacturing, and maintenance of mechanical systems. It is the branch of engineering that involves the production and usage of heat and mechanical power for the...

, with notable engineer
An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality,...

s including Samuel Bentham
Samuel Bentham
Sir Samuel Bentham was a noted English mechanical engineer and naval architect credited with numerous innovations, particularly related to naval architecture, including weapons...

, Marc Isambard Brunel
Marc Isambard Brunel
Sir Marc Isambard Brunel, FRS FRSE was a French-born engineer who settled in England. He preferred the name Isambard, but is generally known to history as Marc to avoid confusion with his more famous son Isambard Kingdom Brunel...

 and Henry Maudslay
Henry Maudslay
Henry Maudslay was a British machine tool innovator, tool and die maker, and inventor. He is considered a founding father of machine tool technology.-Early life:...

 employed there. Brunel was responsible for erecting the steam sawmills
A sawmill is a facility where logs are cut into boards.-Sawmill process:A sawmill's basic operation is much like those of hundreds of years ago; a log enters on one end and dimensional lumber exits on the other end....

, part of the Royal Carriage Department, Maudslay later expanded this buying more steam machinery. It also became a noted research facility, developing several key advances in armament design and manufacture.

Crimean War build-up

As part of the preparations for the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 (1854-56), Frederick Abel
Frederick Augustus Abel
-External links:...

 (later Sir Frederick Abel) was appointed the first War Department
War Department (UK)
The War Department was the United Kingdom government department responsible for the supply of equipment to the armed forces of the United Kingdom and the pursuance of military activity. In 1857 it became the War Office...

A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

 with the aim of investigating the new chemical explosives which were then being developed. He was mostly responsible for bringing Guncotton into safe use and for winning a patent dispute brought by Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel
Alfred Bernhard Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer. He is the inventor of dynamite. Nobel also owned Bofors, which he had redirected from its previous role as primarily an iron and steel producer to a major manufacturer of cannon and other armaments...

 against the British Government over the patent rights to Cordite
Cordite is a family of smokeless propellants developed and produced in the United Kingdom from 1889 to replace gunpowder as a military propellant. Like gunpowder, cordite is classified as a low explosive because of its slow burning rates and consequently low brisance...

 which Abel had jointly developed with Professor James Dewar
James Dewar
Sir James Dewar FRS was a Scottish chemist and physicist. He is probably best-known today for his invention of the Dewar flask, which he used in conjunction with extensive research into the liquefaction of gases...

. A new Chemical Laboratory was built to Abel's requirements; this was numbered Building 20. Abel was also responsible for the technical management of the Royal Gunpowder Factory. He retired from the Royal Arsenal in 1888.
1854 also saw the installation of a Retort
In a chemistry laboratory, a retort is a glassware device used for distillation or dry distillation of substances. It consists of a spherical vessel with a long downward-pointing neck. The liquid to be distilled is placed in the vessel and heated...

 house for the Royal Arsenal's Gas Works.

By the time of the Crimean War the Royal Arsenal was one of three Royal munitions Factories; the other two being the Royal Small Arms Factory
Royal Small Arms Factory
The Royal Small Arms Factory was a UK government-owned rifle factory in the London Borough of Enfield in an area generally known as the Lea Valley. The factory produced British military rifles, muskets and swords from 1816...

, Enfield
London Borough of Enfield
The London Borough of Enfield is the most northerly London borough and forms part of Outer London. It borders the London Boroughs of Barnet, Haringey and Waltham Forest...

 Lock, and the Royal Gun Powder Factory, Waltham Abbey, Essex
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Waltham Abbey is a market town of about 20,400 people in the south west of the county of Essex, in the East of England region. It is about 24 km north of London on the Greenwich Meridian and lies between the River Lea in the west and Epping Forest in the east. It takes its name from The Abbey...

. The Royal Arsenal greatly expanded its area eastwards outside its brick boundary wall onto the Plumstead Marshes.

In 1868 twenty workers at the Arsenal formed a food-buying association operating from a house in Plumstead
Plumstead is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich. Plumstead is a multi cultural area with large Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities, in similarity to local areas such as Woolwich and Thamesmead...

 and named it the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society
Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society
The Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society was a consumer co-operative based in south east London; taking its name from the royal munitions works at Woolwich....

. Over the next 115 years the enterprise grew to half a million members across London & beyond, providing services from funerals & housing to libraries & insurance.


In 1886 workers at the Arsenal formed a football
Football (soccer)
Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball...

 club initially known as Dial Square after the workshop
A workshop is a room or building which provides both the area and tools that may be required for the manufacture or repair of manufactured goods...

s in the heart of the complex, playing their first game on 11 December (a 6-0 victory over Eastern Wanderers) in the Isle of Dogs
Isle of Dogs
The Isle of Dogs is a former island in the East End of London that is bounded on three sides by one of the largest meanders in the River Thames.-Etymology:...

. Renamed Royal Arsenal two weeks later (and also known as the 'Woolwich Reds'), the club entered the professional football league as Woolwich Arsenal in 1893. Today it is known simply as Arsenal F.C.
Arsenal F.C.
Arsenal Football Club is a professional English Premier League football club based in North London. One of the most successful clubs in English football, it has won 13 First Division and Premier League titles and 10 FA Cups...

, having moved to north London in 1913. Royal Ordnance Factories F.C.
Royal Ordnance Factories F.C.
Royal Ordnance Factories Football Club were a football club from south east London, England,that existed in the late 19th century.In 1893, the former workers' team at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, Woolwich Arsenal FC, was by now a professional side and had joined the Football League...

 were another successful team set up by the Royal Arsenal but only lasted until 1896.

World War I

At its peak, during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the Royal Arsenal extended over some 1300 acres (5.3 km²) and employed around 80,000 people. The Royal Arsenal by then had the Royal Gun Factory, the Royal Shell Filling Factory (which closed in 1940), the Research and Development Department and the Chief Chemical Inspector, Woolwich (the successor to the War Department Chemist). The expansion was such that in 1915 the Government built the 1300-home 'Well Hall Estate' at Eltham
Eltham, London
-Parks and open spaces:There is a large variety of open green space in Eltham, in the form of parkland, fields and woodland.*Avery Hill Park is large, open parkland, situated to the east of Eltham. It is most notable for its Winter Garden, a hothouse containing tropical trees and plants from around...

 to help accommodate the workforce.

In addition to both the massive expansion of the Royal Arsenal and private munitions companies, other UK Government-owned National Explosives Factories
Explosive ROF
An Explosive ROF was a UK Government-owned Royal Ordnance Factory , which specialised in manufacturing explosives during and after World War II...

 and National Filling Factories
Filling Factories
A Filling Factory was a munitions factory which specialised in filling various munitions, such as bombs, shells, cartridges, pyrotechnics, screening smokes, etc...

 were built during World War I. All the National Factories closed at the end of the War; with only the three Royal (munitions) Factories (at Woolwich, Enfield
Royal Small Arms Factory
The Royal Small Arms Factory was a UK government-owned rifle factory in the London Borough of Enfield in an area generally known as the Lea Valley. The factory produced British military rifles, muskets and swords from 1816...

 and Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills
Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills
The Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey, an Anchor Point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage, , set in of parkland and containing 21 buildings of major historical importance, mixes history, science, and attractive surroundings...

) remaining open through to World War II.

It appears likely that up to the end of World War I, the Royal Arsenal would have been guarded by the Metropolitan Police Force
Metropolitan Police Service
The Metropolitan Police Service is the territorial police force responsible for Greater London, excluding the "square mile" of the City of London which is the responsibility of the City of London Police...

, as they also guarded the Royal Navy Cordite Factory, Holton Heath
Royal Navy Cordite Factory, Holton Heath
The Royal Navy Cordite Factory, Holton Heath, , was set up at Holton Heath, Dorset in World War I to manufacture Cordite for the Royal Navy. It was reactivated in World War II to manufacture gun propellants for the Admiralty and its output was supplemented by the Royal Navy Propellant Factory,...

, in Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

 and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot
Royal Naval Armaments Depot
A Royal Naval Armament Depot was a group of armament depots dedicated to supplying the needs of the Royal Navy as well as the Royal Air Force, British Army and foreign/commonwealth governments; they were sister depots of Royal Naval Cordite Factories, Royal Naval Torpedo and Royal Naval Mine Depots...

 at Priddy's Hard
Priddy's Hard
Priddy's Hard is an area of Gosport, in Hampshire, England now being developed for housing with part of the site retained as a museum. However, for some two hundred years it was a restricted-access site; first becoming a fort and then an armaments depot for Royal Navy and British Army weapons,...

, Gosport
Gosport is a town, district and borough situated on the south coast of England, within the county of Hampshire. It has approximately 80,000 permanent residents with a further 5,000-10,000 during the summer months...

 up to that time. Since then the Royal Arsenal would have been guarded, until its closure, by the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 Police Force, who became in 1971 the Ministry of Defence Police
Ministry of Defence Police
The Ministry of Defence Police is a civilian police force which is part of the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence. The force is part of the larger government agency, the Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency , together with the Ministry of Defence Guard Service...


During the quiet period after the end of World War I, the Royal Arsenal built steam
Steam is the technical term for water vapor, the gaseous phase of water, which is formed when water boils. In common language it is often used to refer to the visible mist of water droplets formed as this water vapor condenses in the presence of cooler air...

 railway locomotives. The Royal Arsenal had an extensive standard gauge
Standard gauge
The standard gauge is a widely-used track gauge . Approximately 60% of the world's existing railway lines are built to this gauge...

 internal railway system and this was connected to the North Kent Line
North Kent Line
The North Kent Line is a railway line which connects central and south east London with Dartford and Medway.-Construction:The North Kent Line was the means by which the South Eastern Railway were able to connect its system to London at London Bridge...

 just beyond Plumstead railway station
Plumstead railway station
Plumstead railway station serves the suburb of Plumstead, in the London Borough of Greenwich, east of Woolwich Arsenal. It is served by Southeastern....

. The Royal Arsenal also cast the Memorial Plaque
Memorial Plaque
The Memorial Plaque was issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of all British and Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of the war....

s given to the next-of-kin of deceased servicemen and servicewomen.

World War II

The build-up to World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 started in the late 1930s / early 1940s. Abel's old Chemical Laboratory was by now too small and new Chemical Laboratories were built in 1937 on Frog Island, on a former loop in the Ordnance Canal.

Staff from the Royal Arsenal helped design
Design as a noun informally refers to a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system while “to design” refers to making this plan...

, and in some cases managed the construction of, many of the new second World War Royal Ordnance Factories
Royal Ordnance Factory
Royal Ordnance Factories was the collective name of the UK government's munitions factories in and after World War II. Until privatisation in 1987 they were the responsibility of the Ministry of Supply and later the Ministry of Defence....

 (ROFs) and ROF Filling Factories
Filling Factories
A Filling Factory was a munitions factory which specialised in filling various munitions, such as bombs, shells, cartridges, pyrotechnics, screening smokes, etc...

. Much of its former ordnance production was moved to these new sites as the Royal Arsenal was considered vulnerable to aerial
Aerial bomb
An aerial bomb is a type of explosive weapon intended to travel through the air with predictable trajectories, usually designed to be dropped from an aircraft...

 bombing from mainland Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. The original plan was to replace the Royal Arsenal's Filling Factory
Filling Factories
A Filling Factory was a munitions factory which specialised in filling various munitions, such as bombs, shells, cartridges, pyrotechnics, screening smokes, etc...

 with one at ROF Chorley
ROF Chorley
ROF Chorley was a UK government-owned, munitions filling, Royal Ordnance Factory . It was planned as a Permanent Royal Ordnance Factory with the intention that it, unlike some other similar facilities, would remain open for production after the end of World War II; and, together with ROF Bridgend...

 and one at ROF Bridgend
ROF Bridgend
ROF Bridgend, , located in Bridgend, South Wales, was one of the largest of sixteen World War II, UK government-owned, Royal Ordnance Factory munitions Filling Factories...

. It was then realised that many more ROFs would be needed. Just over 40 ROFs were opened by the end of World War II, nearly half of them Filling Factories, together with a similar number of factories built and run by private companies, such as ICI's
Imperial Chemical Industries
Imperial Chemical Industries was a British chemical company, taken over by AkzoNobel, a Dutch conglomerate, one of the largest chemical producers in the world. In its heyday, ICI was the largest manufacturing company in the British Empire, and commonly regarded as a "bellwether of the British...

 Nobels Explosives (although these explosive factories were not called ROFs). Even so, some 30,000 people worked at the Royal Arsenal during World War II.

The Royal Arsenal was caught up in The Blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

; the staff of the Chemical Inspectorate, working with explosives, were evacuated in early September 1940. Shortly afterwards one of the Frog Island buildings was destroyed by bombing and another damaged. The Laboratories were partially re-occupied in 1945 and fully re-occupied by 1949. Masters (1995) reports 103 people killed and 770 injured, during many raids, by bombs, V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets.

During the quiet period after the end of World War II, the Royal Arsenal built railway wagons for export
The term export is derived from the conceptual meaning as to ship the goods and services out of the port of a country. The seller of such goods and services is referred to as an "exporter" who is based in the country of export whereas the overseas based buyer is referred to as an "importer"...

. Armament production then increased during the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...


The final run-down

The Woolwich Royal Ordnance Factories closed in 1967 and a large part of the eastern end was sold to the Greater London Council
Greater London Council
The Greater London Council was the top-tier local government administrative body for Greater London from 1965 to 1986. It replaced the earlier London County Council which had covered a much smaller area...

. Much of it was used to build the new town
New town
A new town is a specific type of a planned community, or planned city, that was carefully planned from its inception and is typically constructed in a previously undeveloped area. This contrasts with settlements that evolve in a more ad hoc fashion. Land use conflicts are uncommon in new...

; Thamesmead
Thamesmead is a district of south-east London, England, located in the London Boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley. It is situated east of Charing Cross....

. A part, around what is now Griffin Manor Way, was used for an industrial estate; the Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The automaker was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. In addition to the Ford and Lincoln brands, Ford also owns a small stake in Mazda in Japan and Aston Martin in the UK...

 being its first tenant
Leasehold estate
A leasehold estate is an ownership of a temporary right to land or property in which a lessee or a tenant holds rights of real property by some form of title from a lessor or landlord....

 in 1955. Two of the roads on this estate Nathan Way and Kellner Road appear to have links with people connected with the Royal Arsenal: a Col. Nathan, at the Royal Gunpowder Factory; and, W. Kellner being the second War Office Chemist
A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...


Shortly after the closure of the Woolwich Royal Ordnance Factories the Frog Island chemical laboratories were moved into a new building erected in 1971, in what was to become the Royal Arsenal East. The old Frog Island area was then sold off and a relocated Plumstead Bus Garage was built on part of this site. This action separated what remained of the Royal Arsenal, some 76 acres (307,561.4 m²), into two sites: Royal Arsenal West, at Woolwich; and, Royal Arsenal East, at Plumstead, approached via Griffin Manor Way. It also led to breaking down of parts of the 1804 brick boundary wall. Part of it near Plumstead Bus station was replaced by iron railings and chain link fencing; later the public roadway (now the A206) was also changed at the Woolwich market area and the Royal Arsenal's boundary was moved inwards so that the Beresford Gate became detached from the site by the A206.

The Royal Arsenal site retained its links to ordnance production for almost another thirty years as a number of the Ministry of Defence Procurement Executive's, Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance
Quality assurance, or QA for short, is the systematic monitoring and evaluation of the various aspects of a project, service or facility to maximize the probability that minimum standards of quality are being attained by the production process...

 Directorates had their headquarters offices located there. These included the Materials Quality Assurance Directorate (MQAD), which looked after materiel
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....

, including explosives and pyrotechnics
Pyrotechnics is the science of using materials capable of undergoing self-contained and self-sustained exothermic chemical reactions for the production of heat, light, gas, smoke and/or sound...

; and the Quality Assurance Directorate (Ordnance), (QAD (Ord)), which looked after ordnance for the Army. MQAD being the successor of the old War Department Chemist and the Chemical Inspectorate. There was a separate Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 Ordnance Inspection Department that looked after the Royal Navy's interests.

QAD (Ord) was based at Royal Arsenal West together with a Ministry of Defence Publication
To publish is to make content available to the public. While specific use of the term may vary among countries, it is usually applied to text, images, or other audio-visual content on any medium, including paper or electronic publishing forms such as websites, e-books, Compact Discs and MP3s...

s section and part of the British Library
British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...

's secure storage accommodation.


MQAD was based, until closure of the site at Royal Arsenal East; and all the buildings on this site were given E numbers, such as E135. Belmarsh
Belmarsh (HM Prison)
HM Prison Belmarsh is a Category A men's prison, located in the Thamesmead area of the London Borough of Greenwich, in south-east London, England. Belmarsh Prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service...

 high-security prison was built on part of Royal Arsenal East, becoming operational in 1991.

The Royal Arsenal ceased to be a military establishment in 1994. The sprawling Arsenal site is now one of the focal points for redevelopment in the Thames Gateway
Thames Gateway
The Thames Gateway is an area of land stretching east from inner east London on both sides of the River Thames and the Thames Estuary. The area, which includes much brownfield land, has been designated a national priority for urban regeneration, taking advantage of the development opportunities...

 zone, but the links to its historic past are not lost. Many notable buildings in the historic original (West) site are being retained in the redevelopment; the site includes Firepower - The Royal Artillery Museum
Firepower - The Royal Artillery Museum
Firepower: The Royal Artillery Museum is a military museum in Woolwich in south-east London, England, which tells the story of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and of the Royal Arsenal.-History:...

 telling the story of the Royal Artillery, and Greenwich Heritage Centre which tells the story of Woolwich, including the Royal Arsenal.

The Royal Arsenal now

Parts of the Royal Arsenal have been used to build residential and commercial buildings. One of the earliest developments was Royal Artillery Quays, a series of glass towers rising along the riverside built by Barratt Homes in 2003.

The western part of the Royal Arsenal has now been transformed into a mixed use development by Berkeley Homes. It comprises one of the biggest concentrations of Grade I and Grade II listed buildings converted for residential use, with over 3,000 residents already living on site. The first phase of homes current for sale at Royal Arsenal is called "The Armouries" consisting 455 new-build apartments set in a six-storey building. The latest phase of homes is called "The Warehouse, No.1 Street" is the latest phase at the landmark Royal Arsenal Riverside development, which is a collection of new apartments and penthouses combining a stylish warehouse feel with all of the convenience and comforts of a new build home. The development has a residents-only gym, the Couture Food Hall, a Thames Clipper-stop on site, a Streetcar-run car club and a 24-hour concierge facility for residents. Wellington Park provides open space and there is a Young's Pub, the Dial Arch ( which opened in June 2010.

Plans have now been submitted for a new masterplan encompassing further land along the river. Over 1,700 homes already exist at Royal Arsenal Riverside, with an additional 3,700 new homes planned, along with 270000 sq ft (25,083.8 m²) of commercial, retail, leisure space and a 120-bedroom hotel by Holiday-Inn Express. Also included in the plans is the new Woolwich
Woolwich railway station
Woolwich railway station is a planned new station of the Crossrail rail project in London, UK. The station, which would serve the Woolwich area, was not initially proposed as part of the route but was added after a House of Commons Select Committee suggested its inclusion and after additional...

Crossrail is a project to build a major new railway link under central London. The name refers to the first of two routes which are the responsibility of Crossrail Ltd. It is based on an entirely new east-west tunnel with a central section from to Liverpool Street station...

 station, which has been part-funded by Berkeley Homes.

See also

  • Broadwater Green
    Broadwater Green
    Broadwater Green is a mixed council/private estate in Thamesmead, London. It was originally only two long roads, but since 1999 has grown into a very large estate. Unlike many council estates, there are no towerblocks in Broadwater Green. It has been commonly referred to as "The Yellow Brick...

  • Firepower – The Royal Artillery Museum
  • Royal Arsenal Railway
    Royal Arsenal Railway
    The Royal Arsenal Railway was a private military railway. It ran inside the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, south east London.The earliest parts of this railway system proper were constructed to standard gauge from 1859 onwards as a to replace an ad hoc arrangement of individual plateways...

  • Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills
    Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills
    The Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey, an Anchor Point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage, , set in of parkland and containing 21 buildings of major historical importance, mixes history, science, and attractive surroundings...

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