History of the Royal Arsenal
Ordnance stores were first set up at the dockyard at Woolwich in the 16th century under a directive of Henry VIII.
1545 – The first recorded building on the present Royal Arsenal site was a mansion called Tower House, built within an area known as The Warren. Gun manufacturing and proofing had taken place within the City of London but a more isolated area was desirable.
1650s – Guns were tested at The Warren. This was also the site of a 60-gun stockaded fort, built by Prince Rupert to deter attacks from the Dutch in the mid-17th century.
1671 – Tower Place and 31 acres were bought by the Crown for use as ordnance stores.
1696 – The new Royal Laboratories were built.
1715-1717 – The Royal Brass Foundry was established after an explosion at the private foundry in Moorfields. By that time The Warren was the largest gun repository in the country.
26 May 1716 – The first two permanent companies of The Royal Artillery were formed by Royal Warrant, Tower Place became their headquarters.
1720 – The military academy established.
1741 – Royal Warrant obtained and the building is now known as the Old Royal Military Academy.
May 1778 – The Royal Military Repository, the forerunner to the Royal Artillery Museum, was formally established on the Royal Arsenal site by a Royal Warrant issued to Captain William Congreve RA by King George III.
1802 – The original Museum building was burnt out and the surviving artefacts housed in the Old Royal Military Academy.
1805 – George III visited The Warren and gave it the title of the Royal Arsenal, marking its prime significance in ordnance manufacturing.
1820 – The main collection was moved to the Rotunda on Woolwich Common.
1967 – The Royal Ordnance Factory closed with the loss of thousands of jobs.
April 2001 saw the return of much of the collection to the Royal Arsenal, at the start of Firepower, The Royal Artillery Museum development.
May 2001 – The Royal Artillery Museum opens to the public occupying buildings once part of the Royal Laboratory Department, which controlled the manufacturer of ammunition, from design, testing and administration. The development of the Royal Artillery Museum in these historic buildings has served as the catalyst to the regeneration of The Royal Arsenal.
Formerly a mysterious white space on the A-Z maps, the Royal Arsenal is gradually being transformed from a secret place into a thriving community with diverse leisure, commercial and residential facilities.
The entire site is owned and managed by the London Development Agency. Alongside Firepower is the Greenwich Borough Heritage Centre (operated by the London Borough of Greenwich) telling the history of the area from earliest times and the industrial background of the Royal Arsenal buildings.
The new Riverside Pier is situated between the two Guardhouses which are proving very popular with commuters travelling into London – this service is run by Thames Clippers.
Other relevant websites you may like to visit