The little known Royal Arsenal “Berlin wall” divide

On many an occasion people will grumble about the divide between the Royal Arsenal site in Woolwich and the town centre.

And whilst the divide is real – the physical barrier has reduced over time and the wall being listed prevents a lot more being done in the town centre.

Yet head a little bit east and a real divide is in evidence. This is at the border between Woolwich and Thamesmead.

On either side of the wall there are new build developments constructed in recent years. There’s even a road either side of a big, impassable wall that is just begging to be joined – if not for cars then at least for pedestrians.

Woolwich side

Yet a big wall stops it. I don’t think listing can be a reason given for the wall given it’s clearly not original.

Thamesmead side

Erebus Derive is the Thamesmead side and Armstrong Road the Woolwich side.

In recent weeks a story in Oxford made the national press. A similar wall separated two areas for many years from 1934 to 1953 to separate a “slum” area from a wealthier development.

It was eventually removed in 1959 after using compulsory purchase powers.

Yet Oxford Council had just laid new tarmac on the wealthier part of the street…stopping where the boundary used to be.

I had to chuckle. In this part of the world it isn’t just tarmac but physical divides that still exist. How did this ever get through planning?

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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

5 thoughts on “The little known Royal Arsenal “Berlin wall” divide

  • Interesting. My guess would be to force all road access in the Thamesmead side to use Broadwater Road making the area a large cul de sac.Maybe there would be more traffic in the trading estate if the wall wasn’t there. Only logical reason I can think of

    • bollards would keep car traffic out, but allow people and bikes through… I wonder what the point of it is…

  • I live high up on the eastern side of building 50 overlooking this wall and have two slightly random things to say. One is that you semi-regularly see ambulances go down the cul-de-sac Thamesmead side and have to go back, which they struggle to do because it’s narrow, because (I think) sometimes satnavs confuse one side of the wall with the other – Uber drivers sometimes try to do the same thing with me, but you can just about squeeze through on foot if you go up by the river by the path. Secondly you can just see on the photos a dark line of dumpsters on the Arsenal side of the wall by the barrier at the bottom end of Armstrong Road. Most of these are padlocked all the time but are nearly always full of beds, wardrobes, sofas and other things, all the same. I have no idea how these things get in there or where they keep coming from. I agree it is slightly weird and divisive and if we lost the wall then maybe the dumpsters would also go. I don’t think I have ever seen the lagoon in all its glory before.

  • Even the pedestrian access on the thamespath to Royal Arsenal from Thamesmead is obstructed with a sign and some bushes.


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