S.E.18: Impressions of a London Suburb
16mm film Black & White Sound 1950s-1960s 43:56
Summary: Woolwich scenes: the Queen Mother's visit; football; Woolwich Arsenal; the free ferry; shopping and gym; night life - pubs, cinema, theatre, beat club; the Royal Artillery; St Mary Magdalene Church; gambling; getting married; housing issues; parks; political life; education; commuting. Largely filmed in 1964, but also contains some earlier footage, prints and still photos.
Title number: 182
Description: Intertitle card acknowledging the film makers’ debt to the departments of Woolwich Borough Council.
9/5/1957: An excited crowd (largely women and children) stands outside the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society store on The Mound, New Eltham, some waving Union Jacks. Long shot of crowd around a small, largely empty, dais as people behind a small grandstand rush around trying to get a better view. Policemen stand in front of the crowd, near the bunting-festooned parade. On stage, the Queen Mother makes a speech welcoming the completion of a housing enterprise (the Coldharbour Estate - unstated). She is flanked by the Mayor - Alderman Mrs Ethel Newman (barely visible), Lady Steward and either the Leader of Woolwich Council - Cllr. R.B Stucke or Deputy Mayor - Alderman Major Francis Beech. Schoolboys chat behind. A large crowd stands behind a rope in front of the flats opposite, on the corner of Great Harry Drive and William Barefoot Drive.
11/4/1964: Men in suits, and the occasional woman, walk down Harvey Gardens, Charlton, past newspaper adverts and a parked Ford Consul, as a coach passes by - a Bedford SB Duple Vega. The image freezes and the film title is added. Legs of walkers in close-up. The supporters arrive at the Charlton Football Stadium turnstiles. Sequence from the Charlton Athletic v. Norwich City Division 2 League match from the back of the Charlton stands, mid-stands and closer - including Norwich City's Bill Punton dribbling the ball forwards. Crowd members (largely male, a few women and girls) clap. The narrator explains how 60 years before, Woolwich Arsenal workers would have played for the Arsenal team on a Saturday afternoon; but says today's Arsenal players care little about their origins. Still photo of the 1905-6 Woolwich Arsenal League Team.
As the narrator talks about the declining importance of Woolwich, workers leave through Woolwich Arsenal's Middle Gate on Plumstead Road - on foot, with bikes and by car (at the front is a VW Beetle). Policemen direct traffic on either side of the Royal Arsenal Gatehouse on Beresford Square. The narrator says that the arsenal may close unless men such as Frank Glasson prevail. Frank Glasson, in a suit, sits on a wooden bench at Shrewsbury Park: filmed from the front; in close- up; and from behind, looking downhill over Woolwich, with a view including Plumcroft Primary School. Closer view over the rooftops from the park, beginning at the Rockmount Estate and panning to Woolwich Power Station. Mr Glasson talks about his long service at the Arsenal, the effects of any closure, and a petition to Parliament against the decision. Views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The beginning of the petition is read out.
The narrator says that Woolwich has had to fight for its existence before - in 1906 arsenal workers, led by Will Crooks (Labour M.P for Woolwich East) presented a petition to the Prime Minister after a rally in Trafalgar Square. Still photo of that crowded rally, the brass band, the policemen and a large banner demanding "A Fair Share of the Nation's Work". Another shows the crowd at Trafalgar Square, with policemen and rally leaders - including, I believe, Ramsay MacDonald and Will Crooks (holding the petition) in the group to the side of a lion statue; and former Labour Party leader Arthur Henderson, standing in front of the lion.
The narrator says that arsenal work used to be carried out by convicts housed in rotting ships. Print of "The Southern Entrance to the Royal Laboratory in the Warren at Woolwich" c.1700, showing the gatehouse and cottages as porters wheel materials about; and porter detail. Late C17th-18th prints: inside the workshops; a busy dockside - workers (including convicts) under supervision near sheds at Woolwich Warren. Early Victorian print of three young people (one clearly a child) operating a basic machine. Drawing of "Girls Making Cartridges for Enfield Rifles at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, June 1862". Victorian prints of men at work in rows on small armament manufacturing machinery in a vast factory; foundry workers at the furnace; casting pits of molten metal; a man cleaning a large machine wheel; a man working on a large cannon barrel; soldiers preparing a cannon for firing using rammers; and an "Armstrong gun" cannon barrel being lifted by crane onto one of many similarly loaded pallets of "Woolwich Infants". The narrator says that by the 1870s, the arsenal had a dominant role in imperial and local economic growth. He talks about the expansion in size of armaments, the workforce and Woolwich. WW1 photos of working men in caps being shown a document by a uniformed soldier; women making bullets in a huge factory, with belt-driven machines in the background; and men posing by their shell-making machines (with, in one case, a wall of sandbags for safety). The narrator discusses the Arsenal's national, historical and local importance in WW1.
Still close-up of Christopher Mayhew, M.P for Woolwich East, illustrating his quote about the relative importance of the arsenal in defending the Englishman's liberty compared to "the playing fields of Eton". Still photo of artillery guns (one being loaded) outside the Royal Artillery Barracks. A young man with his tie askew drinks a glass of beer in a fenced grassy area on an out-of-focus residential street, as a lorry passes (a Commer Superpoise?). Two or three men play cricket in a park. Still photos of the contemporary Woolwich Arsenal, with large floor pipes; clean, bright facilities; electronic equipment; and gleaming vertical pipework. Mr Glasson emphasises that the arsenal is not outdated; it has been modernised, but the government has put out work to private firms. He adapts a Churchill quote "Give us the job. We've got the tools." View downhill from Shrewsbury Park, east of the previous vista, as a group of people walk by.
The narrator explains the location of North and South Woolwich, divided by the river but connected by the free ferry. The narrator and the Ferry Captain stress the difference between North and South Woolwich. Close-up of a crew member in a black cap, through an open ferry window, panning to show the South Woolwich Ferry Pontoon and riverside. The Captain says passengers came on the old open-deck paddle steamer ferries just for the trip. Still shots c.1920 or earlier of paddle steamers (at least one is the "Hutton"), with the North Side Ferry Pontoons and factories such as the Tate Sugar Refinery in the background. Side view of the John Burns Free Ferry. Close-up of the Captain, who says the new ferries are less popular. Moored small boats, including "Voracious", "Vista" and "Racia". The Captain talks about the variety of craft and conditions. The bow of a moving sailboat, the "Banka", to the east of the South Woolwich Ferry Pontoon. A small ship passes the ferry. Travelling shot including the top of the South Woolwich Ferry Pontoon and Woolwich Foot Tunnel Entrance, with cranes and vessels behind. View of the river, banks and barges over the ferry rail. The Captain talks about the influence of his family on his career choice, the pleasure it has given him, and public recognition. Shots of sunlight on river water. Hazy river scene with barges. Woolwich ferry bell, with the ferry behind laden with cars, including a Ford Anglia E494A and the back of a Morris Minor Traveller. Close-up of the Captain on the ferry, with Woolwich Power Station partly visible. The ferry docks. Passengers (all ages) get on. A car ramp lowers. At the Captain's signal, the first car (a Morris Minor Tourer) leaves, as a boy on a bicycle waits.
Aerial view of the River Thames, West Woolwich and the Greenwich Peninsula. The narrator discusses modern influences. Women, and a few men, walk or talk near a hat shop - perhaps on Powis St - including an attractive blonde in a smart sweater. Close-up of a black girl with an impressive afro-beehive, standing by a large mosaic pillar (perhaps at Woolworths, Powis St). Powis Street scene, including Garretts Department Store, with light traffic, pedestrians & building work, panning across to wedding dresses in the Ashley Ceres shop window opposite. The narrator talks about the older generation's "caution, enthusiasm ... bewilderment" at young people's affluence. Gym sequence, almost certainly at Universal-Figurama (House of Venus), 112 Powis St, above Broadmeads. Young women use resistance machines to tighten their inner thighs, bottoms and arm muscles; machines pump; one swings a pole on her shoulders; a stomach is vibrated; two do sit-ups and one lifts weights. A man does a woman's hair in a salon - mirrored. A young woman lies in a flotation tank with only her head visible. A woman with a tape measure round her neck goes through swing doors to the equipment room and advises users. The narrator mentions the cost.
Elderly people on the street near Beresford Market (with stalls, barrows etc.), plainly dressed, the men often in flat caps. Background vehicles include a Mini, a VW Beetle, and a Mini Van. One old man, in close-up, appears to have left his false teeth out. An older woman talks about current affluence and past poverty. Part of a sign for Woolwich Covered Market, below which people walk past Joslin's bag stall. Budget-conscious signs. Shots of the two markets, their stalls, customers and vendors. At a dress fabric stall (perhaps "Stan's"), the stallholder attracts custom with lively patter, and his wife spreads fabric for customers. A man buys a lampshade. Older men sort through clothing. Youths mill around, one listening to music on earphones. An older man smokes. A young woman in a leather jacket eats an ice cream while browsing, using her motorcycle helmet as a carrier bag. A young girl wanders by. A couple of stall-holders arrange their wares. A vendor shows off a dress. Vendors - a florist, a sweet stall, a greengrocer's, a huckster selling baked goods - call out their wares. An older woman looks excited, and another tries on a hat headband decorated with synthetic ruffles. A smartly-dressed middle-aged man, walking through the market, seems sceptical. Children back away from a stall to let someone pass. Close-ups of a blonde with a beehive and an attractive brunette. A couple of Asian men wander through the market, one a Sikh. Another Sikh considers buying fruit. Towards the end evening is falling, there are lights on the stalls and a stall-holder says "There's nothing left". The narrator approves of the range and price of goods, but implies the quality and taste aren't always as good. He talks about different kinds of trade - bargains, family businesses and hucksters.
Night scenes. The frosted window of the Royal Mortar pub, 1 Woolwich New Rd (Beresford Sq.). Inside, customers laugh and chat behind a glass food display cabinet. A singer performs a wartime song for customers seated around the edge of the room, with a small backing group. A plump lady with beehive hair leans on the rail chatting to them after the song ends. People drink beer, or just sit. Close- ups of the till; the pumps; the barmaid and barman; the beer; the bottom of a glass as it is emptied; the customers; a man rolling a cigarette. The band starts up again, playing a jig - no singer this time. Close-ups of the instruments and players; and longer views, one with a glass of beer vibrating to the music. Still photo of the north-west side of Beresford Square - a few people wait outside the brightly lit Century cinema, near the Royal Arsenal gatehouse. Someone walks past the small queue at a fast food van. The neon signs of a betting shop and a surgical appliances shop. The lit but empty front of the Odeon Cinema, Well Hall Road, Eltham (June 1964), with a banner for "Girl With Green Eyes"; and of the Gaumont Cinema, 122 Eltham Hill. An elderly man says that people don't go out as they used to, leaving the streets dead at night. Still photo of an almost deserted street by The Elephant and Castle and Ordnance Arms pubs on Beresford Square.
An elderly lady and gentleman talk about being taken to see Sunday morning Church Parades on Woolwich Common. Late C19th or very early C20th still photos of the Royal Artillery band; the huge parade and crowds outside St George's Garrison Church on Grand Depot Road; the church itself; crowds at the Royal Artillery Barracks; and around a grandstand erected for, perhaps, a race at the Royal Military Academy. The narrator says the parades no longer take place and the church is a ruin; but that once a year the Royal Artillery are "At Home" for a rainy-day pageantry display. 5/6/64 - children run through the puddled Royal Artillery Barracks parade ground and join the back of a crowd watching the "At Home" display. The drum major and the trombone players perform, fenced off from the spectators. Close-ups of children watching, with others wandering behind and a distant parking area. Soldiers with tubas, drums and clarinets march past fenced off crowds, an unfenced VIP enclosure, and children on cannons. Still photo of the Royal Artillery Barracks, from a distance. 1860 engraving of the "Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, Kent" with a parade, a couple of soldiers, and a Turkish-looking family.
The narrator says that the growth of the Arsenal led to the establishment of the Royal Artillery Barracks and Royal Military Academy. The latter had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1873. Part of an 1873 engraving showing the firefighting/ rescue operations. Print of the Royal Artillery Barracks, with the earthwork surrounding the mortar battery position in the foreground, and distant soldiers, cannons and onlookers (c.1840?). Print of a crowded dock scene as horses are loaded onto a vessel, probably for the Napoleonic wars. Print of Royal Artillery soldiers firing a Congreve rocket during those wars, with cavalry officers, one waving a sabre. Close-up of a modern artillery gun firing. The King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery make their famous 'musical drive', part of the "At Home" display), probably on Woolwich Common, with uniformed cavalry pulling gun carriages or holding sabres as they gallop past soldiers with marker flags in front of a distant crowd. The narrator talks about the importance of the artillery. C19th print of the Royal Artillery in the heat of battle. Still photo of a Royal Artillery howitzer at the Battle of the Somme. WW2 still photo of a manned Sexton II SPG (Self-Propelled Gun). The Royal Artillery Barracks, seen past a heavy mortar (perhaps a Coehorn) and the base of a Crimean War Memorial. A couple of large cannons on iron garrison carriages; and a couple of large field cannons - in front of the Royal Artillery Barracks. Small silverware statuettes of manned cannons and cavalry officers (including, I believe, a piece presented to Sir Huw Ross on his retirement in 1858). Views of the Royal Artillery Barracks and a nearby avenue of trees. Long shot of the Royal Military Academy. Travelling shots past modern accommodation blocks: the Colenso Barracks (where a man washes a window) and Inkerman Barracks; then out through the Central Gateway. Soldiers marching inside the West Gate of the Barracks, behind the modern blocks.
The narrator talks about the early morning rehearsals of the Royal Artillery junior musicians. A young soldier plays the bassoon in an instrument storage room. Young soldiers take their instruments (French horns, a flute, a violin, cornets, a harp) downstairs and into a rehearsal room. The band rehearses with its conductor, then various sections rehearse - violins, cornets, bassoons. In the background is a drum kit, a glockenspiel, tubular bells. Cannons and an English Electric Thunderbird anti-aircraft missile are on display in front of a small crowd, probably at the Royal Artillery Barracks. Close-up of English Electric Thunderbird. The narrator wonders who will march if today's Artillery go to war. A siren wails.
Inside the CofE Parish Church, St Mary Magdalene - a small congregation (all ages, both genders, smartly dressed, largely white, with the exception of one young black man) sing a hymn as the choir comes slowly down the aisle. I am told that the congregation - in various shots - includes Charles Prior, the Church Warden; the headmistress of St Mary's School; Mr Humphrey Webb, his wife - Mrs Enid Webb, and their teenage daughter Deidre Webb; and that their son, John Webb is in the choir. A procession of altar boys and a priest in a chasuble approach the chancel, two peeling off to place candles by the altar while the priest and the cross-bearer head towards the pulpit. The Rector, the Rev. Nicolas ("Nick") Stacey, talks enthusiastically about his job, and the history and location of the church. Views of the churchyard: one across graves and the hazy River Thames; another including dockside cranes, a low industrial shed and a man on a bench. The same man from a different angle. Views of flowers on the chancel wall; the carved wooden pulpit; the stone baptismal font and metal jug. The congregation leave at the end of the service, a few stopping to talk to priests (including young priest Richard Garrard) or among themselves. One family gather around a priest with a baby on his knee. Nick Stacey expresses satisfaction that high clerical staffing levels allow in-depth work for various organisations.
A Mini Van travels up Church Hill, past flats, a VW Beetle and other vehicles (including perhaps a dimly seen Messerschmidt bubble car). It passes through the churchyard gates and stops by the church steps. The narrator introduces Nick Stacey, saying that he wears blue jeans under his cassock and is a good PR man. Nick Stacey gets out and strides into the church. Close-up of his lower legs and shoes (in sharply-pressed trousers under the cassock), as he goes up the aisle past the empty pews; and then a bird's-eye view of the scene. Nick Stacey explains that he sealed off galleries for community use, and opened a coffee bar which has given a new life to the church during the week. A shot pans from a record-player, past leaflets on a counter (including one for the film "Gigi"), and rises to show the coffee bar as a woman carries a couple of drinks away. A sealed gallery contains a bookcase and simple armchairs. Customers of various ages eat, drink coffee, and read newspapers at tables in the coffee bar. Nick Stacey sits at a table and chats to customers.
An older woman in a hat, coat and fake-pearl necklace sits in the church pews. Shots of the congregation, as a young woman in a flower-pot hat reads an epistle at a lectern. She returns to her seat. Altar boys process with candles and a cross. The church organ. A young choirboy looks up. After a couple of responses, a bearded priest reads the parable of the lost sheep from Luke's gospel. Nick Stacey talks about low interest in the church among riverside communities, but says he finds people friendly. Views across the river from the front of the churchyard. Hazy view of barges, ships and loading cranes on the river. Cranes move near rigging. Long shot of terraced houses on Wickham Lane, Plumstead, with the Rockmount Rd turning just visible, as a car drives towards the end of the row - a gap where a house has been demolished. Views of residential tower blocks on the Rockmount Estate: one with silver birch trees; one with a woman leaning on the balcony of her flat; and a longer shot of the same block with more residents, the camera panning to show other blocks and a hazy view downhill.
Three priests perform the Elevation of the Blessed Sacrament (the one on the right is Richard Garrard). Shots of the congregation coming down the aisle and taking communion, including mothers with babies. In the pews, people stand, including a couple of wistful-looking children; others kneel in prayer (among them the woman in the flowerpot hat); or sit, one holding a baby. A clergyman prays, his head almost resting on the books in front of him. Nick Stacey talks about the lack of recognition of the role of the church in the newly affluent society, but says people are slowly and painfully discovering that "man cannot live by bread alone". A 2-door Vauxhall Viva pulls up by a "Radio, Television, Lighting" shop on a busy street (perhaps Hare St) and a young woman gets out. Pedestrians walk past "Fine Fare" supermarket on Hare St. Notices in shop windows urge consumption and promising deals e.g.: Fine Fare's "Look! at these wine bargains .... Tomorrow may be too late. Get some today"; and another supermarket's - "Friday Night is Family Night" (for evening shopping). People mill around in a busy electrical store ("Radio, Television, Lighting"?). A Silver Cloud Rolls Royce (a Funeral Director's car, perhaps) is parked by the gate of what seems to be a graveyard, with views of a three-storey residential terraced street beyond. A young man smokes in the driving seat as his car is hand-washed. View through the water-sprayed windscreen towards a dark, hazy figure.
In a betting shop, a row of cashiers count bundles of money and stamp betting slips. Odds are shown on a betting board. Punters (almost all male and white, with the exception of a young Chinese-looking man and couple of women - one barely seen) listen to the odds and race commentary, smoke, lay bets, and read the sports pages of a newspaper. A bookie writes down the odds on a blackboard behind the cashiers. Nick Stacey expresses the hope that people will start to consider the meaning of life.
Happy newly-weds come out of Woolwich Town Hall Register Office (a mixed race couple - he is black, she is white). The groom wears a plain black suit; the bride, a striking, full-skirted knee-length white wedding dress and high veil. The couple are reflected in the wheel cap of their wedding car - a Ford Zodiac. It leaves, with an incidental view of Market Street. An older couple (probably the bride's parents) and a young bridesmaid are seen through the car window, as they wave goodbye. Nick Stacey talks about the beneficial effect of affluence on honeymoon destinations. View through the front window as the car turns into Calderwood St; and then a close-up of the bride's face, with a view out of the window at the C19th houses. The narrator talks about the problem young couples face in finding a place to live, saying that East Woolwich is unattractive, as most houses are at least 60 years old. Travelling shot of Tuam Rd, as a boy waits on his bike at the crossing with Cheriton drive. The narrator finds West Woolwich - e.g. Eltham - better, but more expensive. View of a smartly-designed new block of flats in landscaped gardens on the junction of Court Road and Tilt Yard Approach.
Former Mayor of Woolwich, D.S Ramsey stands on the roof of the new extension to Woolwich Polytechnic on Wellington Street, talking about prospects for redevelopment of the Arsenal site, and the possible creation of a new "stilt town" on marshes to the east of Woolwich (i.e Thamesmead). The Woolwich Power Station is in the background. A young man works at a modern drafting table in the Polytechnic, where he is studying architecture. He expresses doubt about the suitability of the built environment in Woolwich as an inspiration. View of houses on the Glyndon Estate, Ann St., Plumstead, with cement mixer. Tilted view of Churchill House office block on Thomas St., with part of the saloon sign opposite. Three children play on a muddy ridge in Felspar Close, with hazy views over Woolwich, the camera panning to show the tower blocks of the Rockmount Estate and parked cars (including, at the front, a Ford Anglia 100E). The student says that he quite likes these flats, but they don't blend in well; and that there are great planning opportunities in Woolwich. Further views of the Rockmount Estate tower blocks; and of a tower block and two lower blocks of flats on the Glyndon estate.
Close-up of Herbert Morrison, who says that Woolwich feels separate from London, and that "going to town" means Beresford Square to locals. View of the Royal Arsenal Gatehouse from busy Beresford market. He talks with approval of local civic pride. Five elderly men play bowls in Well Hall Pleasaunce (one of the two at the back may be Richard Roberts), with a partial view of shops on Well Hall Road over the wall. View from behind two elderly ladies sitting under an umbrella near the Tudor Barn, across the Tudor Lawn towards a band playing to a small audience on nearby benches (perhaps the Royal Artillery Quintet's regular Friday afternoon concert). Herbert Morrison sits in a garden (probably his own, on Sherard Rd, Eltham), talking about his political career in Woolwich.
D.S Ramsey stands on the Polytechnic roof, this time with the Town Hall in the background. He talks about his meetings with local youths, who complained about the lack of facilities (in particular, evening entertainment) in the town centre. This is confirmed by the architecture student, who sounds scornful of the bingo and cinema; but likes the pubs. Lit signs at night for The Bull Tavern (14 Vincent Road); Ordnance Arms (Beresford Sq.); the Odeon and Gaumont Cinemas (Eltham branches again) - the latter with deserted frontage & current programme titles. Poster for "The Fall of the Roman Empire". Daytime signs for the Ordnance Arms and The Royal Mortar (Beresford Sq.); and the Fortune of War pub (Woolwich New Road/Thomas Street). A display of erotic magazines in a shop e.g. "Frolic", "Hi-Life" and "Best for Men". Posters for local events (Screaming Lord Sutch, Brands Hatch motorbike races, and a Christmas Bazaar) and political parties (Labour, Communist and - part-seen - Conservative) on an outdoor wall.
The narrator talks about local theatres. Views of the derelict Royal Artillery Theatre. Early programmes/promotional material for performances there, as well as in the R.A Barrack Recreation Room and on the Barrack Field. The narrator says that when it was taken over by a commercial enterprise, plays were produced regularly but were unimaginative, leading to apathy and closure. Lit sign at night for the Empire Theatre on Beresford Street, and a show "Ecstasies". Promotional material for the Empire Theatre - much of it risque e.g. "Les Femmes Beautes" ("Girls, Fun and Thrills"); "Strip-Teasing You"; and "Skirts and Scanties". Lively montage of stills from such revue shows - including women in various states of undress, on stage and preparing for their shows. The narrator says that the Empire was popular with local soldiers, annoyed local clergy, got good box-office takings but did little for the cultural scene before closing, to general indifference, in 1958. Still of the demolished auditorium. Close-up stills of details from the front of a cinema (the first, at least, from the Odeon Eltham) and a bingo hall (perhaps Granada bingo at the end of Powis St.).
An unseen man (perhaps D.S Ramsey) says that the beat generation's "mid mod fab gear world" scarcely exists in Woolwich. A man walks along Vincent Road, the camera panning to show the entrance to "The Embers" Beat Club. Young people walk, dance, mess around, snog, laugh, smoke, talk and stand around in the crowded club. Some girls have the latest mod hairstyles; some men wear shades. A group plays. A couple of girls come out of a toilet door marked "Dolls". Older people discuss young people, fairly sympathetically. Nick Stacey talks about "their imagination, their idealism, their energy". A young man says that he was put off the club by fights. A young woman says she goes regularly and met her boyfriend there. The drummer drums.
In a rhythmic dance class at Crown Woods Comprehensive School, girls in gym shorts kneel in a circle clapping the floor and their hands. A teacher bangs a hand drum. They get up and move, running and leaping in time with the beat, then return to a kneeling position. The Headmaster, Mr M.K Ross, walks down a corridor. He explains that the school replaces various segregated institutions. Children play at the edge of a pond, with fountains and a bird-like modern statue. Mr Ross looks down from a window at groups of boys and girls in the playground. He says that the school is very large and has many departments, which (despite some initial parental reservations) they consider an advantage for children's development. Children in a classroom mould clay into largely abstract forms, using their hands and cutters. They look absorbed and contented. Excellent displays of pottery and rough plaster sculptures. Children and teenagers walk down corridors, up stairs, across playgrounds and along paths. Mr Ross says that they divide the pupils into smaller family groups; and no longer try to mould them, but let them find their own niche. Blackboards in empty classrooms: one has a maths diagram; another, by a piano, has music. A room full of empty desks. We hear children sing.
At the Woolwich Polytechnic, there is an empty room full of desks fitted with printing and rotary mechanical calculators. Students sit in the dining room. The narrator says that the Polytechnic mainly provides scientific courses, and is cosmopolitan, with students from all over the world. A student (perhaps Asian) makes notes from a book. The Principal of the Polytechnic, Dr Harold Heywood, stands on a balcony between the old and new Polytechnic buildings talking about the history of the Polytechnic. Hands twiddle a dial on scientific equipment in a lab to create light. Dr Heywood talks about the science and technology courses on offer. Close-up of a Digital Voltmeter display. Close-up of a student staring intently at some barely seen equipment; of hands pressing a lever on a board; and the complex machinery of a Stantec-Zebra Digital Computer as tape emerges. View around the Maths Department, where a student is working at the computer. A door opens to show its inner workings. Binary information is displayed on a computer screen. A black student reads at a desk. A science student makes notes and works unseen equipment, wearing goggles.
The narrator expresses concern about native-born Woolwich people leaving the area. A crowd wait on the train platform at Woolwich Arsenal Station, including three young women, two with bouffant hairstyles. Bird's-eye view of the platform as a train leaves. Exterior view of the station, with an incidental view of premises on Vincent Road; and a close-up of the station sign. Commuters - including a middle-aged man in a bowler hat (also seen in close-up) - approach the busy platform, past a small tobacconist's shop. Well-groomed and shod legs of female commuters. Smartly-dressed and coiffed female commuters walk along the platform. Larger groups of commuters await a train, many reading newspapers. The train pulls in to the station, passing commuters (including a woman with beehive hair). Various people get on the train; and it leaves, getting faster and faster until it is almost a blur. View of the front of the train, and commuters on the platform - the image freezes and credits begin. Background stills include images from throughout the film, and an additional closer view of a man on a bench.
There are appropriate ambient sounds and music (often modern jazz) on the soundtrack throughout.
Credits: Director, Writer, Producer, 2nd Unit Camera: Alan G. Bell; Director of Photography: Colin Richards; Music composer: Inigo Kilborn (who also plays the trumpet, as part of the jazz band); Editor: James Elderton; Rostrum Camera: Terry Elsey; Sound Supervision: Stanley Smart; Sound Mixer: Bruce White
Cast: Commentary by Bruce White. Also features: Frank Glasson; The Rev. Nick Stacey; D.S Ramsey; Herbert Morrison; M.K Ross; Dr Harold Heywood.
Further information: Notes:
This film aims to present a broad spectrum of life in Woolwich, including increasing racial diversity. It covers the major labour force, housing, educational, social, transport and church issues of the day - so far as possible, within a period of under 3/4 of an hour and while maintaining an upbeat tone. It also presents some of the latest technology.
Despite its title, the film is not confined to SE18. The Coldharbour Estate and Well Hall Pleasaunce are in SE9, for example, and the Charlton football ground, The Valley, is in SE7. However, it does largely concentrate on that part of the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich south of the River Thames, which was about to amalgamate with the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich. (Although The Valley was not within the borough, many of the fans would have come from Woolwich, so it has honorary Woolwich status). Elections to the new Royal Borough of Greenwich were held in 1964, and the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich ceased to exist in 1965. As it largely ignores North Woolwich, which joined the London Borough of Newham, the film might be seen less as a swan song than an attempt to reformulate, restate and preserve Woolwich's core identity as part of the new Greenwich borough. The title "S.E18: Impressions of a Suburb" is sharper-edged than it might appear. Woolwich had not previously thought of itself as a suburb, as the film makes clear. It was being suburbanised as the film was made. The film foresees a future, not as an independent borough with work within its own boundaries, but as a suburb in which both political and economic power lie elsewhere. Clearly, in this new world, "going to town" will no longer mean Beresford Square. While the film is overtly progressive in its ideals, the penultimate shot of the increasingly speeding train might be taken to indicate some unease at the sheer pace of change occurring in Woolwich at that time.
The relationship between narration and image in the film is interesting. Sometimes the image illustrates the narrator's words. Other times, it subtly undermines his authority. We hear that Nick Stacey wears blue jeans under his cassock, but see, in close-up, that he has neatly pressed trousers. We hear that "mid mod fab gear world" barely exists in Woolwich, but see a jam-packed beat club. The narrator dismisses the Empire Theatre as having no cultural worth, but the sharp, rhythmic montage of stills makes it look lively and inviting. Different speakers within the film see issues from different angles. In short, the film asks the viewer to make up their own mind.
The Greenwich Heritage Centre believe that the Director/Writer/Producer Alan G. Bell was a member of a local cine club, who may have assisted in making the film. The archive print was apparently an ‘answer print’ - a first proof print taken from the original negative, with the sound properly synced to the picture. There is no evidence of a later version, and it is not clear that the film was ever screened in public at the time. It may have been made with a local audience in mind. It does not necessarily identify key people or locations, which occasionally makes it confusing to the outside viewer (perhaps this print is slightly unfinished in that regard). Herbert Morrison is not identified when he discusses his local political career. Nor is Charlton Football Club, which, in context of discussion in the film of the foundation of Arsenal Football Club, has led some viewers to assume that it is the Arsenal ground. The fact that many Woolwich people switched their football allegiance when the Arsenal team moved to Highbury is implicit, but only locals were likely to make that connection.
Alan G. Bell went on to work for the BBC. From 1966-68, he was the Producer for a BBC series of documentaries intended to inform school leavers about working life in various trades ("Chain Stores", "The Rag Trade", "Laundries and Dry Cleaners" and "Electricity Trades"). In 1978 he was the Executive Producer for a film, "Margarita", based on a true story about a female refugee from Chile - made with Bristol University Drama department.
The Queen Mother had intended to open the Coldharbour Estate in 1952, as part of her tour of S.E London Gardens. However, that part of her tour was cancelled and instead she came in 1957 to "commemorate the completion" of the Estate. As the Kentish Independent put it "Five Year Wait For Royal Visit But It Was Well Worth It". She met several local residents, visited the laundry and library, and as the mayor said "endeared herself to everyone by her charm and sincerity and the interest she had shown in the lives of ordinary people. .... many, especially the children, will never forget this day". The Mound was well-decorated for the occasion, with shrubs and flowers planted specially (though sadly, they were returned to the nursery afterwards).
The Woolwich Ferry had only recently been converted to "Roll-On Roll-Off", in 1963.
The group at the Royal Mortar were a popular local Irish group, which I am told also often played at the long-established Woolwich Catholic Club.
The 1860 engraving of the "Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, Kent" was produced for Thomas Dugdale's "The Curiosities of Great Britain" or "England Delineated". The engraving showing the Royal Military Academy fire was published on 8/2/1873.
The Rev. Nick Stacey was a former Olympian, known in the early 1950s as "the fastest white man in the world". By 1964 he was also well-known as a priest, a social activist and a journalist. In this film, he discusses the "Woolwich Project", an attempt to re-invigorate the declining church in Woolwich by a mixture of structural reforms and attempts to engage with the broader Woolwich population. However he faced some scepticism, with one Southwark vicar famously saying "If Stacey thinks he can build the Kingdom of God by frying eggs on the altar and percolating coffee in the organ pipe he should think again". By December 1964 Nick Stacey himself was writing in the Observer about the "mission's failure", leading to a storm of criticism. However he re-structured his team, many of his clergy taking secular jobs as well as continuing with some parish duties. Quite a few of his reforms were, in time, widely adopted in the CofE. He later worked at a senior level at Oxfam and in Social Services.
There is some mystery concerning the gravestone and the location of the residential street behind. The names on the grave are Catherine and Edgar Linton. The national register of births, marriages and deaths for the nineteenth century doesn't include any death entries for an Edgar Linton, nor is there a Catherine Linton buried in a plausible location. As we have not been able to identify the people or the location, there is a possibility that this is not a graveyard but a prop in a park or similar location. The names are, perhaps co-incidentally, the names of two characters from Wuthering Heights. The inclusion of this gravestone could possibly be an in-joke concerning the speed of change in Woolwich; as "Wuthering Heights" could be defined as a high place affected by battering winds. This is uncertain, however, as the dates on the gravestone do not match those in the novel.
The Calderwood St houses, seen through the window of the bridal car, which the narrator implicitly criticises, were demolished a couple of years later. Perhaps they were already being considered for demolition, and it was seen as useful to promote the idea of the new estates as intrinsically more desirable. New housing is illustrated at this point by a luxury building in the affluent area surrounding Eltham Palace.
Churchill House on Thomas St. has since been renovated, converted from office and then educational use to homes, and renamed Maritime House.
The poster for "The Fall of the Roman Empire" may well have been used for its contemporary relevance to the fall of Woolwich.
"The Embers" had live bands playing, but only advertised them by name on the door, preferring a simple generic ad promising beat music in The London Mercury. If I have read the sign on the door correctly, the band shown could be "Blue Beat", "The Hit Parade", "The Pretty Boys" or "Beat the Blues". By 1965, "The Embers" had been revamped as "The Black Cat", in which guise it attracted some well- known bands, such as The Yardbirds.
Woolwich Polytechnic had suffered a major blow in 1956, when it was not designated a College of Advanced Technology but instead became a Regional College. The publication of the Robbins Report in 1963 gave the Governors renewed hope that it might either attain Independent Technological University status, or become a School within the University of London, and they made a statement to that effect in 1964. There is a clear attempt in this film to showcase the advanced facilities available. The British-made Stantec-Zebra Digital Computer, installed in the Woolwich Polytechnic Maths Department in 1960, is an example of this (although it had less total processing power than a 1990s programmable calculator). The Polytechnic's hopes were dashed again in 1965 by Anthony Crosland's "Woolwich speech" at a banquet to celebrate the opening of new Polytechnic buildings - there were to be no new universities after all, although it would become part of a new Polytechnic movement. Woolwich Polytechnic merged with other institutions to become Thames Polytechnic in 1970, and finally became the University of Greenwich in 1992.
Scenes of Woolwich market from this film were used in the London's Screen Archives compilation film "Seven Streets, Two Markets and a Wedding".
(comments have been moderated)
Posted on Eltham Friends of the 50s and 60s -
Peter Lyons: "I was one of the children watching the Queen Mother opening Coldharbour. I remember standing by the chemist with a Union Jack."
Bob Ulph: "I was also one of the children and was aged 5 watching the Queen Mother officially open the Coldharbour Estate. I was standing with my mother near to the butchers shop which I think was Langleys."
Posted on the Charlton Life forum -
"JohnfromNorfolk": "The Queen Mum was opening the Coldharbour estate. She came to the house next to ours for a cup of tea. We lived in Witherston Way (number 8). As you can imagine it was a big event for the street and estate. I still have a photo of the lady walking down our neighbour's path. One of my abiding memories of the day the Queen Mother came to Coldharbour apart from the good lady visiting our next door neighbours was an amusing incident involving a local character Terry. Terry was a severely disabled wheelchair-bound chap who lived on William Barefoot Drive. He spent his days sitting in his wheelchair outside his house engaging anyone who was prepared to engage him in conversation. I’m sure everyone who lived in the area knew Terry and if they had ten minutes to spare were happy to talk to Terry who had his own database stored in his brain of the local community. On the day of the Queen Mother's visit to Coldharbour, as the lady's entourage passed Terry, the Queen Mother stopped at Terry and asked “Have you had a good day”? Poor Terry who was never found wanting for a conversation was totally flummoxed. The Queen Mother smiled that sweet smile and her entourage moved on. Good days and good memories of Terry. I may have been in the Crown Woods film as I was there in 1964. The pottery room was my tutor room. I was never any good at pottery. I remember the headmaster - I think his name was Malcolm Ross."
"Dippenhall": "Most everyone would visit the Square on a Saturday. It was heaving, so if you knew anyone you would probably catch sight of them. The Embers was where you found out what was the latest piece of must-have Mod gear. May look naff now, but it was the coolest place on the planet back then."
"ken from bexley": "The demise of the Church, the rather middle class patronising social comments about the working class earlier, of pursuing the products of post war years, have unfortunately proved correct. People did abandon Woolwich as a centre, in later years. They were also helped by the local council, as the end of the film mentions. I stopped going to Woolwich as a centre about 5 years after this film was made, because it held nothing for me. Look how busy the market was, look at the covered market and how it is today. This era was an immense opportunity to break the grey, rather drab post war years. Probably not different than a lot of towns in the mid '60s. Trouble is, Woolwich suffered more than most, and lost it's soul to me. It has taken a great amount of time to realise this, although jumping into bed with developers is not the only show in town, unless it is properly planned. Great bit of social history though. I went back to work at Woolwich, three times as Morgan Grampian was there, later Miller Freeman.
I think the first time was about 76. then again in the mid 80s, and possibly early 90s for a brief time, and boy did it decline. It was never a place of beauty, but it was a vibrant town , with a culture and identity. I used to live in Charlton, and daily go to Plumstead to school during the 60s. In fact worked at Garrett's while in the 6th form doing my 'A' levels during the summer. Lugging bloody great carpets on and off lorries, and going over on the ferry to deliver them. Probably the only hard day's work I have done in my life. Far too much effort...... "
"mssomerton": "That was a blast from the past. I remember as a child walking to Woolwich with mum to go to the market and the big stores in Woolwich then. Funny thing was that 14 years after this film I had a part time job in the covered market working for Sadie's. It seemed busy to me. I then went to Thames Poly to do a degree and spent most of my social life in Woolwich including the Tramshed. Suppose I am saying Woolwich did not die in the 70s."
"EastTerrace": "Fantastic. ....of a similar age to a BFI DVD that I have including a video of approx. the same age about Queenie Watts, at the Ironbridge Tavern in Poplar, that has my Nan in it. Interesting to see a familiar landscape but seismic change in demographic in both cases. Both areas must have experienced surely a greater and quicker change from white working class to an 'immigrant' population than elsewhere in the country. Times change and the indigenous population wanted to better themselves and move out. To me though it's a shame that the culture of these white working class areas had almost totally disappeared. The stories, the pubs, the relations and the community all have dissipated."
"Rob": "I watched this all the way through and enjoyed it. I do remember Woolwich from back then, going to the shops with my mum. It was interesting that they classified Crown Woods and Eltham as being a part of Woolwich. The thing that hit home to me was how the accents strongly marked from what area of the social spectrum you came from. Less so nowadays."
"GlassHalfFull": "Just seen the early shots of The Valley - the unmistakeable features of Bill Punton of Norwich City nail this as 11 Apr 64, CAFC 3-1 NCFC, goalscorers Len Glover 5 and that man Keith Peacock 65 and 72. Back then it was most unusual to see a bald player (oi, chrome dome !!) and Bill Punton was instantly recognisable whenever we played Norwich."
"Henry Irving" (Ben Hayes): "Great stuff. Interesting that it was 'things are changing, the areas not what it was, etc. etc.' Just like now".
"stockportaddick": "Great film, loved watching it and it brought back some great memories as a young kid growing up in the 60s. One thing that always stuck in my memory was seeing a colour t.v for the very first time in a shop window on Powis St and Thunderbirds was on. My mum had to drag me away by my ear!! Funny how strange little snippets of your childhood remain so vividly clear in your memory."
"Sevensix": "Thanks for the film - it certainly brought back old times. The year of the film, 1964, marked the end of the Borough of Woolwich and its inclusion in the new London Borough of Greenwich. It was also the year I left home at the top of Shooters Hill and went off to university after spending a lot of time in and around the town centre, including the upstairs reference department of Woolwich Library. I think that was LCC Labour luminary Herbert Morrison talking in the film about all he had done for the 'burrow' of Woolwich. So many images in the film sum up the changes that have taken place in my lifetime - the ethnic mix, and the view from Shrewsbury Park across the river to the Royal Docks with no high buildings in sight and all those wharves and ships on the river which you could watch from the ferry. Now they are all gone except for a few Thames Clippers. And the shots in the covered market and around Beresford Square. I missed a lot of buses home distracted by the patter of the guys shown in the film setting up huge piles of biscuits, sweets and chocolates and selling them for very little - I suppose they were all way past what we would now call their sell-buy dates.
Scenes of the Arsenal in the film reminded me of two holiday jobs on the Christmas Post based at the PO in General Gordon Sq. when I was assigned to a lorry which went into the Arsenal picking up parcels. That gave me a chance to satisfy my curiosity about what was behind those impenetrable walls stretching away on both sides of the Main Gate now marooned south of the new road. At that time the PO took on far too many people for the Christmas Post and there was nothing much for our lorry crew to do all day except explore all the cafes in Woolwich and Plumstead after we had done our few hours leisurely work."
"Redmidland": "I would have been 10 at the time....seeing Crown Woods my old school a year before I went there (I'm sure I remember some of that pottery!!). Was that Dr Ross the old headmaster of Crown Woods doing a bit in the film? However most interesting to me were the pieces about The Royal Arsenal, which is where my grandad (Bill) worked all his life and ended up Chief Toolmaker at the place. He was also Mayor of Greenwich ('67/68) after Woolwich was merged into London Borough of Greenwich in April '65. Yet he was inaugurated at Woolwich town hall having served as an Alderman and Councillor in Woolwich for 30 years. I remember meeting some of the politicians shown as they visited my grandad's house in New Eltham, a 2 up, 2 down terraced house where 9 of us lived!! Thanks for posting this film, it brought back so many happy memories of my time going to Woolwich market, to The Valley with my dad, and to see the old Woolwich Power station in the background where my other grandad (Charlie) worked, and then Charlie's mate who worked on the ferry and allowed Charlie and I to go on the 'bridge' with him - I can just about remember him. I'm going to show this film to my other half, and my brothers/sisters, all of who are much younger than me. It'll be interesting to see their reaction. Thanks again for the memories."
"Red_in_SE8": "Really enjoyed watching that. Especially the early frames of the match at the Valley. That Charlton strip is still my all time favourite as it is the kit they wore when I first went to see them play. It really struck me how well dressed everyone was at the match. And such good quality shoes! No jeans and white trainers. I was really surprised at how many women it showed attending the game. But isn't there a massive error in the commentary in that it seems to suggest that the crowd were at an Arsenal game?"
"fenny": "What a fantastic vid, loved it. I worked in the covered market for "Rays" baby clothes Friday night and all day Saturday. Then worked for "Jack", he was the caretaker sweeper upper, helping him to clean up after the stall holders had left. I was around 14, so about 1958, used to get ten bob off of Ray and five bob off of Jack. Wages were pretty low, but I actually liked it. And the Mortar. I actually remembered some of the faces - that woman with the funny smile lived four doors from me. I worked for Woolwich council from 1964 as a dustman and then when I was 21 a Driver, which I stayed at for 42 years. Loved all the old faces and The Valley - always imprinted on my mind from the first time I ever went around 1954. Happy days."
Posted on Plumstead People -
Susan Henesy: "Thank you so much for sharing this. I watched it through with interest as I was 9 years old at the time of filming and had lived in Woolwich since birth. So, imagine my surprise and shock to see my father appear on screen! I never knew he had been involved in the filming in St Mary's church. He died 40 years ago, 10 years after this film was made. What an absolute delight to see him again. His name was Charles Prior. He's just in the background of the church service in a couple of shots and walking up to take communion. I was watching carefully as there are many faces in the congregation I remember from my childhood. I knew I was not there as I would have remembered but I was so surprised to see my dad. I suppose he was there because he was Church Warden at St Mary's. We knew Nick Stacey and Richard Garrard (the other priest in the film.....my mum is still in touch with him). There is a priest celebrating communion, a priest with a beard and then a third....tall, quite big, no beard. That is Richard. My mum was headmistress of St Mary's school but not until a few years later. The headmistress of that time was in the congregation in the film. There's a family in the church, the Webbs. Humphrey is the tall white haired man singing in the congregation. His wife Enid is next to him. There is a teenage girl in some shots, their daughter Deirdre; and their son John is in some of the choir shots. Very fond memories."
Social media sources:
I received invaluable assistance from -
Charlton Life football supporter's forum at: https://forum.charltonlife.com/discussion/66120/se18-impressions-of-a-london-suburb-1964. With special thanks to: "Glass Half Full", "Sevensix", "Redmidland", "BDL", "John from Norfolk" Ben Hayes a.k.a "Henry Irving" & "Somerton". As you can see, their discussions not only covered the football match, but many other people and locations.
I didn't get a chance to visit the Charlton Athletic Museum, but I am told it is also a good source of info: http://www.thecharltonathleticmuseum.co.uk/Charlton_Athletic_Museum_Home.html
Facebook Groups and Pages:
Eltham Friends of the 50s and 60s - with special thanks to Pam Newton, Pat Adams, Peter Lyons & Bob Ulph. Being largely Coldharbour-based, they provided full details of the Queen Mother's visit; and identified many other locations.
Plumstead People - with special thanks to: Deborah O'Boyle, Dennis Confrey, Susan Henesy, Philip Windeatt, Anna Hubbard & Kevin Sweeney. Very helpful in identifying people at St Mary Magdalene's Church, and in finding locations, including The Embers beat club.
Woolwich (Community Page) - with special thanks to Hazel Sayers, Gina Brown and Darren Richardson, who were very helpful in identifying locations.
Growing up in Blackheath and Greenwich in the 1950s and 1960s - especially Colleen Odonaghue, Brenda Sullivan, Pamela Youle, Rose Allcock, Martin Rynds, William O'Brien, Caroline Bakaj, Sandra Inglis and Gordon Mcleod Guthrie, who made excellent comments and suggestions to help find the unidentified residential street with gravestone. Although we have not yet been able to find it, their efforts were appreciated.
Historic Woolwich - especially Chris Mansfield, Martin Deverill, Lee Adams and Bev Castle-Barnes, who also did their best to assist in finding the mystery grave.
Charlton Mummies - with special thanks to Miranda Williams, Emma Rockman, Nicole Vicary and Karen Hennings Stockman, who made sensible suggestions.
YouTube: London's Screen Archives Channel - especially Mark Twigg and Richard Cleverley, who identified a couple of locations.
Beautiful World of Classic Transport and Destinations Old and New - Paul Wood.
The Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust - whose staff (Jonathan Partington and colleague) helped me find materials, identified Dr Heywood, checked the C19th death register for Edgar Linton, and told me all they knew of the origins and distribution of the film.
Leonard Roberts (my father) - who gave me the location of Herbert Morrison's house, and confirmed that Richard Roberts (my grandfather) could be among the bowls players - though the image is too unclear to be certain.
I hope I have not forgotten to mention anyone - if I have it is due to the sheer quantity of information I received from the people of Woolwich and surrounding areas and does not mean that your contribution was unappreciated.
Woolwich Picture Library at: http://www.chrismansfieldphotos.com/
Images from Greenwich Local Studies and Archives at: http://boroughphotos.org/greenwich/
Images from Guildhall Art Gallery and London Metropolitan Archives at: http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk/collage/app?service=page/Introduction
Draft "Survey of London" by English Heritage at: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/content/imported-docs/u-z/woolwich-chap1.pdf; https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/content/imported-docs/u-z/woolwich-chap2.pdf etc.
Museum of London online collections at: http://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/online/
Glass Half Full Blog at: http://ericbwongderivatives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/exploring-woolwich.html
Edith's Streets at:http://edithsstreets.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/railway-from-london-bridge-to-gravesend_19.html
Football match checked at: http://www.11v11.com/teams/charlton-athletic/tab/opposingTeams/opposition/Norwich%20City
Blowing Up Education in The Highlands by Paul Foot at: http://www.rfmackenzie.info/html/blowing_up_education.html
http://explore.bfi.org.uk/4ce2ba00a428d - on Alan G.Bell's career
Wikipedia entry on the Woolwich Ferry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woolwich_Ferry
Wikipedia entry on Nicolas Stacey.
http://www.kentnews.co.uk/sport/remarkable_reverend_s_career_from_ games _fame_to_the_church_1_1734728
Nicolas Stacey - Facebook Profile
I also did much searching for Woolwich locations, the Thames, 1960s cars, buses, tanks etc through Google Images, Google Maps, Wikipedia, Flickr etc.
Books and Articles:
"Five Year Wait For Royal Visit But It Was Well Worth It", The Kentish Independent 10/5/57, & general scanning of 1964 editions
"Aspects of the Arsenal" - Burford & Watson
"The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich" - Brigadier Ken Timbers
The London Mercury - Universal-Futurama advert, 20/3/64 & general scanning of 1964 editions
"The Royal Artillery, Woolwich: A Celebration" - Brigadier Ken Timbers
"An Illustrated History of the University of Greenwich" - Thomas Hinde.
Researched by: Zoe Roberts
Keywords: Housing; Urban life; Royal family; Leisure time activities; Armaments manufacturers; Army; Church; Shopping; Transport; Education; Ethnicity
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Deborah Turrell wrote on October 13, 2019:I was born at the Memorial hospital in 1958, lived on the “Shooters Hill slopes” & around the area until…I was born at the Memorial hospital in 1958, lived on the “Shooters Hill slopes” & around the area until recently. My school was Notre Dame Convent in Eglington Rd, my first Saturday job at Vogue Hairdressers on the High Pavement above Matthews the butchers. Remember the Army at Home event every summer on Woolwich Common. My how things have changed!
Robert Wilson wrote on January 26, 2019:This film was great, thank you so much. I remember Charlton's Ground just like in the film and Crown Woods…This film was great, thank you so much. I remember Charlton's Ground just like in the film and Crown Woods School I was there from 1969 to 1974 it brought back so many beautiful memories and it makes me wonder, where have all the years gone. Woolwich Market Woolwich Arsenal Station and the Pubs in Market Square, I spent so many good nights there with my friends, Just Great, Great times. Thank you so very much. Please if you can send me all the Websites of early days in the 60, 70, and 80's if you have them. Thank you.
Margaret Crawford wrote on November 12, 2018:Lovely reading about Coldharbour estate remember the Queen opening Greenacres school we lived at 19 Witherston way we moved there…Lovely reading about Coldharbour estate remember the Queen opening Greenacres school we lived at 19 Witherston way we moved there in 1947/48 Loved it there also enjoyed reading about Woolwich Beresford Square and the faces of the stall holders in 1983 worked in Woolwich and did all my shopping in the Square. I remember Terry and how he spent his time always chatting his mum I remember we called her Mrs Downs Happy memories!
Bob Davis wrote on June 15, 2018:Re: St. Mary’s Church. Correction to Dierdre’s last post – Bob Hughes was not the brother of Ted Hughes the poet.…Re: St. Mary’s Church.
Correction to Dierdre’s last post – Bob Hughes was not the brother of Ted Hughes the poet. He was the son of the author Richard Hughes (A High Wind in Jamaica; The Fox in the Attic). Bob’s father had a holiday home, a remote Welsh farmhouse in Snowdonia, up a valley from Penrhyndeudraeth and at the foot of a mountain called Cnicht. A large party of St. Mary’s youth spent a great holiday there in the summer of 1963. David Still, myself , Michael Moore, and the Rev. Bob Hughes and his wife Sheila were the advance party, and one of our major tasks was to dig the latrines in a field. I have a few slides from that holiday.
I can add to some of the names in St. Mary’s Church (some have already been identified, so sorry for any repeats). (Numbers are reasonably accurate timing from the time line at the foot of the screen).
20.18 to 20.40 - In the choir procession – the first choirboy (nearest camera) is Colin Wills. I don’t know the next two rows of small boys but the older two in the 4th row are Alan Copsey (lhs of screen) and Bernie Portis (in glasses, rhs – the younger son of Mr. Portis the organist and choirmaster). The first two female choir singers (wearing caps) are (rhs) Linda Allen (later Curtice) next to my sister (lhs) Ann Davis (later Chalk) who was also the deputy church organist.
20.40 to 20.44 - The next sequence – the procession of the altar servers etc. – leading it carrying the cross is David Still; behind him, carrying the candles, are Richard Maynard (nearest camera) and Paul Cockerill.
Behind them carrying the bible is Will Efford, the verger; the two altar servers are Rod Leighton (lhs) and Bob Davis (rhs) (me). And behind, bringing up the rear is the Rev. Bob Hughes.
20.44 to 20.49 – In the congregation we see a group of three, on the lhs of the screen is Mr. Webb and his wife Mrs Webb is on the rhs; right behind Mrs. Webb is Margaret Cooper (née Maund) and her baby – she was married to Rev. Brian Cooper, and also taught at one time at Mulgrave School. Right behind her is the Rev. Jeremy Hurst and baby. In a pew on the left side are Bernie and Kath Widdowson with 2 small children.
20.49 to 21.00 – More clearer shots of the altar servers previously named.
21.00 to 21.23 - When the film cuts back to the choir procession, standing (not moving) in the aisle, I can make out a few more faces. Right at the rear are two of the team of clerics, the Revs. Richard Garrard (lhs) and Brian Cooper (bearded, rhs). In front of them are two taller young men, Dennis Dixon (rhs) and Derrick Hodgson (lhs). In front of them are Peter Beecroft (lhs) and Graham Portis (older son of Mr. Portis).
At the end of this sequence, a man comes in from the back and takes his place next to his wife. This is Mr. Jack Maynard, one of the church wardens .
21.37 Congregation leaving the church – Rev. Richard Garrard; also Jack Maynard at the back.
21.42 Small group inc. Dierdre Webb and Jeremy Hurst and baby.
21.45 Close up on Brian Cooper.
22.56 Close up on Mr Webb. Then follow much clearer images of various people, especially the servers and some choir members, e.g. 23.30 to about 24.34, including 23.56 to 24.04 where we see Derrick Hodgson, Peter Beecroft and John Webb and Richard Garrard as the cross is carried through the choir stalls, and down to where Brian Cooper reads the lesson (at about 24.54 and on to 25.12).
The communion sequence (at about 25.53) opens with a close up of three priests – lhs Brian Cooper, centre Bob Hughes, and rhs Richard Garrard. There’s a clear shot of Margaret Cooper (Maund) going up for communion with her baby.
The earlier commentary on the film says “We hear that Nick Stacey wears blue jeans under his cassock, but see, in close-up, that he has neatly pressed trousers”. In fact, on hot summer days he sometimes wore nothing but his underpants – I was there once with a few other witnesses when he flashed a leg from under his cassock to prove it.
When he died in May last year (2017) I had a letter published in The Guardian in response to its obituary of 15th May. A somewhat edited version appeared in The Guardian online on 21st May: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/21/the-rev-nicolas-stacey-obituary-letter?CMP=share_btn_link and then an even shorter version in the printed paper (27th May p40). Nick’s daughter Caroline, who I remember as an infant in the Rectory in Rectory Place, contacted me and encouraged me to attend the service at Canterbury Cathedral, saying she really wanted some Woolwich people to be there, but I couldn’t make it.
At about 30.15 - the sequence of a wedding party outside the registry Office in Market Street – the car leaves and turns into Calderwood Street, and you see the William Street Wesleyan Methodist Church and at the top a short section of John Wilson Street, the street in which we lived (at the Wellington Street end).
At about 31.52. Herbert Morrison; amongst many other key political posts, in Parliament and at the LCC in the inter-war years, he was Home Secretary during Churchill’s wartime coalition government, and after that Deputy Prime Minister to Attlee in the post-war Labour government of 1945-51. He was MP for Lewisham South from 1945 to 1959. For many years he lived in Archery Road, Eltham, where there’s a blue plaque on the house; after 1960 I think he lived over near Crown Woods School. At the time this film was made he was in the House of Lords, sitting as the Rt. Hon. Lord Morrison of Lambeth. As such he was the guest of honour at the Shooters Hill Grammar School Speech Day in July 1964. A photo of him presenting me with the Upper Sixth Geography prize appeared the following week in the Kentish Independent newspaper. He is Peter Mandelson’s grandfather.
Beginning of film. The Arsenal workers demonstration of 1906 and Will Crooks. I am certain that both my great-grandfather Thomas Harry Renville Snr. and my grandfather Thomas Harry Renville Jnr., would have been present. Both were long-serving boilermakers in the Arsenal, and the latter was an active trades unionist who, for a number of years, was President of the London No.2 Branch of the Boilermakers Society.
Anon wrote on October 21, 2017:The house of venus was a hairdressers in woolwich in the 1962 onward era. can anyone who was one of…The house of venus was a hairdressers in woolwich in the 1962 onward era. can anyone who was one of the staff at that time perhaps let me know and where i can contact them
Peter A Watkins wrote on August 17, 2017:I lived in 30C Block, Artillery Place until the 2nd half of the 60's (approx 1966) when the family moved…I lived in 30C Block, Artillery Place until the 2nd half of the 60's (approx 1966) when the family moved to Yorkshire when I was 7-8 yrs old. I can remember looking out of the back window to the big house behind the wall, I still have memories of growing up there, went to St.Marys school (infants?) and going to the pictures every Saturday morning. I have looked on google and the place has changed so much but some parts I still remember what it looked like back then. plan to revisit before I pass
Hilary Kilborn wrote on March 20, 2017:Interesting to see the "old" Woolwich. I was about 15 when this film was made and knew Woolwich well…Interesting to see the "old" Woolwich. I was about 15 when this film was made and knew Woolwich well although I lived in Blackheath. I can remember lots of the areas shown and used to cycle around there quite a bit. I also played the trombone on the soundtrack!
coli lloyd wrote on February 6, 2017:the piece about lugging carpets of lorries i found intresting because you must have known my step father Fred Loten…the piece about lugging carpets of lorries i found intresting because you must have known my step father Fred Loten who was a carpet fitter at Garrets then
jacqueline Hampden,nee,Woodfall wrote on January 31, 2017:That brought back so many memories,my Dad worked at the Arsenal,he was a tool maker,he went on to Fort Halstead.Ialso…That brought back so many memories,my Dad worked at the Arsenal,he was a tool maker,he went on to Fort Halstead.Ialso remember the old ferries used to love going back and to on them. The undercover market and the open one with the old tram lines. Lived for a short while near Woolwich Dockyard ,
Julia Hodgetts wrote on March 30, 2016:My father, Paul White and two of his friends are shown in The Embers Club. He can remember the film…My father, Paul White and two of his friends are shown in The Embers Club. He can remember the film crew being there that night.
John Webb wrote on November 6, 2015:Those wanting a more detailed history of events at St Mary's Church under Nick Stacey as Rector (often referred to…Those wanting a more detailed history of events at St Mary's Church under Nick Stacey as Rector (often referred to as 'old Nick' by youth club members!) should try and find a copy of his book "Who Cares", published 1971 by Anthony Blond Ltd., London. I was eighteen at the time of the film and one of the Webb family (John) referred to by Susan Henesy and visible in the choir.
The priest celebrating is Bob Hughes, the Gospel reader was Brian Cooper, and Jeremy Hurst is seen with his baby talking with my sister Dierdre (well, that's how our father Humphrey insisted on spelling it!) and Peggy Taylor, then headmistress of St Mary's primary school. My sister and I have managed to put names to other faces as well. The film misses out, naturally, on the developments in 1967 at St Mary's, and which are worth a further film in their own right. These included the enclosure of the side aisles to form offices for the local CAB and the digging out of the then miniscule crypt to form a wonderful underground youth club.
Re the Woolwich ferry - it had not converted to the end-loading roll-on/roll-off system in 1964. The new diesel boats introduced in 1963 are seen using the old paddle-steamer side-loading ramps, which they continued to do until 20th September 1966 when the new end-loading ramps came into use. ("Free for All", J Watson and W Gregory, Greenwich Libraries, 1989, ISBN 0 904399 08 7)
Hope these comments are of some use.
Dierdre Elkin (nee Webb) wrote on November 3, 2015:Re St. Mary's Woolwich Clip: The Priest celebrating the communion service is the Rev. Bob Hughes who was also…Re St. Mary's Woolwich Clip: The Priest celebrating the communion service is the Rev. Bob Hughes who was also the first Industrial Chaplain in Woolwich and was the brother of the poet Ted Hughes! He used to visit the local factories and docks to speak with the workers. He was also instrumental in opening a branch of The Samaritans based at St Mary's Church in the Crypt, but not sure what year that happened. The dark haired bearded Curate reading the Gospel was Brian Cooper, and the other curate at that time was Jeremy Hurst seen with his baby son Benedict. Some other names I remember of people who appeared in this clip were Paul Cockerill (one of the candle bearers), John(?) Portis, Alan Copsey, & Mrs Hickmot in the choir, Trevor Gibbs in the congregation who became the Bellringing Captain in the late 60's, his mum & sister Kim, Diane Cockerill, Elizabeth Hurst, Margaret Cooper with baby, Connie Nicholls (reader), & Will Efford (Bible bearer) & Kath & Brian(?) Widdowson. I think the greengrocer stall shown on Woolwich Market may have been Albert Manchester's, who also had a greengrocer shop in Herbert Road. The shot in the film at 2.15 was taken in Shrewsbury Park at the top of Plum Lane, with the 'Terrapin' classrooms erected at Plum Lane Junior school clearly visible on the gentleman's left-hand side. These were put in place to help accommodate the rising school age population due to the post war 'baby-bulge' and were still there many years later.