Shooters Hill

Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Shooters Hill is one of the highest points in, and  at the outermost  edge of, London, and commands fine  views of the city to the west …

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… and of the open countryside of Kent to the east.

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It is traversed by the old Roman road to Kent now known as Watling Street, or, more prosaically, the A2.    In Medieval times, the road formed the pilgrimage route from London to the shrine of the archbishop and saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

Shrewsbury Tumulus

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On the brow of the hill, just under half a mile north of the water tower, and accessed by way of Shrewsbury Lane and Plum Lane,  is a Bronze Age burial mound known as the Shrewsbury Tumulus.  It is the only  one of a number of such tumuli discovered in the 1930s to survive.

Charlton

Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Charlton was first recorded in the “Domesday Book” of 1086 as Cerletone, from the Old English “ceorl”, meaning “churl” or peasant, and “tun”, farm-stead, estate or town.  It is likely to have been in existence considerably earlier.

Church of St Luke

The church of St Luke was originally built in stone sometime before 1086, and was under the control of Bermondsey Abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538.

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It was later bought by Sir Adam Newton  in 1607, and rebuilt in brick after his death in 1630.  There are  memorials inside  to Newton and his wife; and also to Edward Wilkinson, who was the “Yeoman of the Mouth” to Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Edward VI, and “Master Cook” to Elizabeth I.  There is also one  to Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister assassinated in the House of Commons in 1812.

Charlton House

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Charlton House was built by either Inigo Jones or John Thorpe for the aforementioned Sir Adam Newton, the tutor to King James I’s, son, Prince Henry, in 1607-12.  When Sir Adam  Newton died in 1630, it passed to his son  Sir Henry; and after he  moved to Warwickshire after the Civil War of 1642-51, it was bought by Sir William Ducie.  When Ducie died in  1679, it was  bought by Sir William Langhorne; and after he died in 1715, it passed to his cousin Margaret Maryon, and  remained owned by the  Maryon (Wilson) family until  1925.  It was then bought by Greenwich Borough Council, who converted it into a community centre and library.  The building   remains  open to the public to this day.  Much of the structure is surviving Jacobean.  Note, though, that the  north wing had to be rebuilt in the mid-twentieth century after being  destroyed  during the bombing of the Second World War.

Woolwich

The first in an occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

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Woolwich was first recorded in 918 as Uuluuich, from the Old English wull, meaning wool, and wic, probably in this context referring to a riverside trading settlement (note, though, that there is also evidence of habitation here  in the earlier – late seventh- or early eighth- century – Anglo-Saxon, Roman and even prehistoric periods).  From the tenth century to the twelfth, it was ruled by the Abbots of St Peter’s Abbey in Ghent, who were given it by Alfred the Great’s daughter Aelfryth.  Woolwich remained a comparatively small rural settlement throughout the remainder of the Medieval period, but burgeoned into an important naval and military base and industrial town in the post-Medieval. Its fortunes began to decline in the twentieth century, after the naval and military bases ceased operations, although it has been undergoing something of  a regeneration in recent years.  Nominally part of Kent throughout much of its history, it is now part of the London Borough of Greenwich.

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Woolwich Dockyard was originally founded here by Henry VIII in 1512, and remained operational  for nearly four centuries, during which time a  number of historically important ships were built here, including the “Henry Grace a Dieu” or “Great Harry” (in 1514), the “Prince Royal” (in 1610),  the “Sovereign of the Seas” (in 1637), the “Royal Charles” (in 1655), the “Dolphin” (in 1756), and the “Beagle” (in 1820).  It  was finally decommissioned  in 1869.  The oldest surviving building is the Dockyard Office, dating to 1783-4 (which it is now known as the Clock House).  Some associated structures also survive, both in Woolwich and in  the Woolwich Dockyard Estate in North Woolwich (i.e., on the north bank of the Thames).

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Woolwich Arsenal was originally founded here in 1671, and remained operational for nearly three centuries (i.e., throughout  the most important period of the growth of the British Empire, and both World Wars).  It was finally decommissioned in 1967.   The oldest surviving buildings are the Royal Brass Foundry, dating to 1716-17, and the Beresford Gate, the entrance to the Gun Machining Factory, dating to 1717-20.  The football club now known as the Arsenal was originally founded here – as   Dial Square – in 1886.  It changed its name in 1904, and relocated north of the river to Highbury in 1913.

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The church of St Mary Magdalene was built in 1727-39, on or near  the site of an earlier   church, as one of the “fifty new churches” commissioned by Act of Parliament in 1711.  The interior contains a stained-glass window commemorating the seven hundred souls lost in the sinking of the paddle steamer “Princess Alice” in a collision at Tripcock Point in nearby Thamesmead in 1878.

Lewisham

Another in the occasional series on “Far Flung Lost London”

Lewisham was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 918 as Lievesham, meaning, in Old English, homestead or hamlet of Leofsa.  That same year, the manor was given by Elfrida, the daughter or niece (sources differ) of Alfred the Great to the abbey of St Peter at Ghent.  Lewisham was to remain a semi-rural  settlement surrounded by farms and fields throughout the later Medieval and post-Medieval periods.  It only began to be more extensively developed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when a number of fashionable mansions were built among the existing  farmhouses.  (Sub)urbanisation began after the arrival of the railway in the middle part of the nineteenth century.

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The church of St Mary was originally built in or before  918, and subsequently   rebuilt between 1471-1512.  It was substantially rebuilt  again between 1774-7, and  yet again, after a fire, in 1830, and extended in 1881.   The tower of the late Medieval church still survives, and is the oldest structure in Lewisham.   The vicarage dates to 1692-3.

Rainham

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The last in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Rainham was first recorded in the “Domesday Book” of 1086 as Raineham, probably from the Old English personal name Regna and ham, meaning homestead.  It essentially remained a small village on the banks of the Thames throughout the later Medieval and post-Medieval periods, only finally becoming (sub)urbanised  in the early twentieth century (following the establishment of a  coaching link to London in the eighteenth century, and the arrival of the railway in the nineteenth).  Note, though, that there was also some boat-building industry here as long ago as the sixteenth century.  Note  also that the river-front was redeveloped in the eighteenth century, at which time muck was brought here from London for use in the fields.  Rainham Hall was built here for Captain John Harle in 1729.  Historically part of the county of Essex, Rainham  town has been  part of the London Borough of Havering since   1965.

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The church of St Helen and St Giles was originally built in the Norman period, between 1160-70, by Richard de Lucy (who was, incidentally, one of those implicated in the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170).  It was restored in 1893-1906. It is the oldest building in the Borough of Havering.

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Among the treasures in the interior are some surviving fragments of Medieval wall painting and an ancient ship graffito.

Havering-atte-Bower

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Havering-atte-Bower was first recorded in 1272, taking its name from the Old English personal name Haefer, and ingas, meaning settlement, and the Middle English bour, meaning bower, or royal residence (*).  It essentially remains to this day an isolated small village on the top of a high hill on the north-eastern edge of London, commanding fine views over  the surrounding countryside and encroaching built-up areas.  Historically part of the county of Essex, the village has been  part of the London Borough of Havering since   1965.

The village is steeped in royal history.

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In the eleventh century, Edward the Confessor  built a hunting lodge here that over the years evolved into Havering Palace, a royal residence used by a succession of kings and queens in the later Medieval to early post-Medieval periods, before being demolished in the seventeenth century (some materials salvaged from it were used in the construction of Bower House in the early eighteenth).

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The present church of St John the Evangelist was built in the nineteenth century, on the site of a previous church that had itself once been one of the chapels in Havering Palace.  The Purbeck Marble font dates back to the early Medieval period.

There was also once another royal residence, called Pyrgo Palace, a little to the east, which had been  bought by  Henry VIII in the post-Medieval period,  as a replacement for the then-declining Havering Palace, and which was eventually demolished in the eighteenth century.  Pyrgo Park occupies the site today.

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(*) Note that a significant hoard of approximately 500 Bronze Age artefacts has recently been discovered from a site in the Borough of Havering.  The “Havering Hoard” is to be the subject of a special exhibition in the Museum of London Docklands next year.

Chingford

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Chingford was first recorded as Cingefort (sic) in the Domesday Book of 1086, and as Chingeford in 1181, probably taking its name from the Old English cingel, meaning shingle, and ford, and alluding to an ancient crossing-point on the River Lea.

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What is now known as Elizabeth I’s Hunting Lodge was actually originally built by Henry VIII between  1542-43, before Elizabeth became queen, in the then heart of Epping Forest.

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It now houses a museum featuring many original fixtures and fittings as well as Tudor period artefacts.