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Woolwich Dockyard, Nicholas Pocock, 1790, National Maritime Museum

Woolwich Dockyard Chimney

Woolwich Dockyard was an English naval dockyard founded by King Henry VIII in 1512 to build his flagship Henri Grâce à Dieu (Great Harry), the largest ship of its day.[1]

Like its counterpart Deptford Dockyard, it was probably chosen for its position - on the south bank of the tidal River Thames conveniently close to Henry's palace at Greenwich.

Its facilities ultimately included two large dry docks, a substantial basin (now used by local anglers), masting sheers, numerous storehouses, a gatehouse and clockhouse, gun bastions, and, in later years, a large metal-working factory used to produce anchors and other iron items used in shipbuilding. Engineer Samuel Bentham was an apprentice shipwright at the dockyard during the 1770s.

As ships grew bigger and the Thames began to silt up, the dockyard eventually closed in 1869.[2] In 1926 the western part of the site was sold to the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society; the Co-Op still occupies a number of buildings on the site. Other surviving buildings on Woolwich Church Street include the old Steam Factory with its prominent chimney (1838–44). Further to the east, the former office and house of the Dockyard Admiral-Superintendent now serves as the Clockhouse Community Centre; it dates from 1778-1784. Nearby, a late 18th-century police office stands alongside the former dockyard gates.[3] Closer to the river, a couple of closed off docks have been preserved as a reminder of the area's historic significance. Less than half a mile to the south there is a railway station called Woolwich Dockyard.

Notable ships launched at the dockyard

Former Dockyard Superintendent's House & Office (1778-84)


  1. Woolwich, Encyclopædia Britannica Online Library Edition, 2010
  2. "The Royal Dockyards of Deptford and Woolwich". Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  3. Pevsner, The Buildings of England - London: South. Yale, 1983 & 2002.

Coordinates: 51°29′40″N 0°3′22″E / 51.49444°N 0.05611°E / 51.49444; 0.05611 (Woolwich Dockyard)

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