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Woolwich

Woolwich building revamp on Hare Street: Notice the “ghost sign”?

A shop unit in Woolwich formerly housing Halifax Building Society is currently seeing building work undertaken after years of neglect.

I thought it’d just revealed the Halifax sign but this old pic showed it exposed for a long time.

Former appearance

I can’t recall it being Halifax but do just about remember when BHS was located on Hare Street. The building has been in a state for as long as I can remember. Maybe that’s why I never noticed the old sign. I’m not overly keen on stonework now painted white:

Taken this year

Looking at the original application it stated the existing facade is to be refurbished and retained.

From planning document

UPDATE: This excellent page by Chris Mansfield showing pictures of Hare Street dating back 100 years shows stonework throughout.

The newest alterations are part of a four flat development which sees the rear of the building demolished.

This is another view looking down towards Waterfront before work begun:

Looking down Hare Street.

Adjacent buildings have seen stonework painted in recent years:

As it was.

Work was needed to restore stonework, but to my eyes painting it white paint looks cheap:

The stained brickwork is now cleaned. It was badly stained for years after initial refurbishment work:

Courtesy Google. Dated 2017

Despite huge projects in Woolwich much small scale stuff needs keeping an eye on. I believe there is still no town centre manager. If financial strain limits that option (though they could pay for themselves if attracting more business), then other options such as a Business Improvement District status could have been pursued. BID’s see business pay a small surcharge to improve town centres.

Despite Woolwich losing some big names it does still have large chains who could have contributed. Tesco, Sainsbury’s Lidl, Travelodge and others. Maybe all too late now anyway with the current situation. But in five years?

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20 Comments

  1. Charles Calthrop

    I may be wrong but Halifax goes back to the days of Rumbelows and the LEB showroom (where the fish shop is just before Holland and Barrett) which is late 80s or early 90s. After the army left in 89 Woolwich quickly started falling apart and Hare Street took it a lot harder – I think Boots and the Goth shop are the only two of the original lineup. For a long while it was mostly charity shops along there and the little mobile phone place where the chicken shop is now (I remember him especially as I always dreamed of but couldn’t hope to afford the polished wood effect Ericsson phone). Hadn’t even remembered Halifax , but then Hare Street was always the poor neighbour to Powis Street

  2. Graham

    Woolwich originally started to go down hill back when the Cuffs Department Store and the CO-OP Homestores closed. Then we saw a large bulk of the army also leave Woolwich. Closing Marks & Spencers on Powis Street was also another blow to Woolwich.

    Since then the area as suffered high levels of anti social behaviour which has put a lot of people coming to Woolwich which is a real shame.

    With so many new developments in and around Woolwich providing many thousands of new homes. Woolwich really can be a thriving Town Centre again.As with so many new residents moving to the area they have a huge potential customer base.

    I am hoping to also see improvements to the outside market and then the covered market once the Spray Street development is completed.

    • HK

      I agree Graham, I also think things started to go downhill when the Co-op store closed.
      I also remember going to Zodiac’s (the toy store) as a child.
      It’s so sad what it’s now become

  3. DISAPPOINTED

    Using the link its interesting to see pictures of Hare Street over the decades. Its makes your heart heavy to see the wholesale rape and destruction of the characterful buildings. If we are to restore and retain the character of the area for future generations we need the council to step up and promote conservation. However they are likely to squander their limited funds on highlighting their financial constraints (idiots). We need a council that identifies and focuses on what can be done as oppose to what can’t.

    I am not entirely blaming the current administration but they were elected to prevent the continuation of the decline. Note they have had over 30 years to do so. To have a street like Hare street represent an area of major economic activity in the RBG in 2020 only goes to show how dismal the councils efforts have been so far.

    In true style the council has missed a trick. If they had focused and invested some of their efforts on attracting businesses to the area, that would have promoted employment. Resulting in increased local taxes (council income) and a reduction in the cost of social benefits (council savings). Nothing too radical. Note a tried and tested strategy by other councils.

    I too fear that RGB has missed the boat. I am willing to bet my entire annual salary before deductions (still not a large wager) that the council leads will spend the coming years blaming the current pandemic and central government for their inability and more markedly their unwillingness to improve the situation. Therefore l see more cheap and unattractive upgrades on the horizon, if any at all.

    • HK

      Unfortunately I agree with you about the council.
      This has been a long term problem which the council have mishandled and not purely down to the pandemic.

      The problem is why would anyone invest large sums of money when the locals are on average low wage earners or unemployed. They won’t be spending lots of money on luxury goods so those type of shops won’ want to be in Woolwich.
      Then you have the low life criminals and anti-social yobs who cause trouble in the area.- a toxic mix of issues meaning many more businesses won’t want to invest in the area.

      • ‘why would anyone invest large sums of money when the locals are on average low wage earners or unemployed. They won’t be spending lots of money on luxury goods so those type of shops won’ want to be in Woolwich.’

        Precisely. People need to understand this and stop calling for pie in the sky. In the face of mouldering shops that have stood empty for years, there needs to be a shift away from aborted attempts to regenerate the high street and a move to residential. If Greenwich council had any vision, it would buy up the freeholds and convert them into pockets of dwellings.

  4. JR

    The council needs a town manager like other boroughs. Of course they may not agree with them and their ‘masterplan’ and take credit for any improvements, so can’t have that.

  5. Chris L

    Greenwich Council have a great plan to finally kill off Hare Street. The road will be blocked and the bus services removed.

    Eric is the Star Grill deserves credit for sticking with it. Worth a visit when he is allowed to open again.

  6. CDT

    Yep the area needs a Town Centre Manager, but one that truely believes in the area and has real vision on our the Town Centre can be improved.

    I think Hare Street and Town Centres need to become more mixed retail/housing developments with homes above the shops and cafes etc. As the new homes will provide much needed potential customers.

    I also agree that Woolwich does not need really high end expensive retailers has lthe majority of local residents are on low to modest incomes or sadly unemployed so tend to have tight budgets to spend.

    • Chris L

      Not sure if you know the area well. Until recently a property company engaged in getting tenants in flats above the shops. This didn’t help the shops. Woolwich must be one of few places where a Starbucks closed.

      Loads of homes have been built behind the shops with a lot more to come.

      Woolwich needs sensible planning. All the blocks going up at the moment seem to have retail units at ground level. Few takers.

  7. CDT

    ** How the Town Centre can be improved. **

  8. CDT

    I know the area very well. I have lived in theBorough all my life and seen Woolwich left neglected to go down hill. Retailers and other business owners are not taking up the commercial units as Woolwich as such a poor reputation.

    Largely due to the anti social behaviour which occurs making it a no go area for many. This is why we need to change this so Woolwich gets a much better reputation in the future than it as got at present.

    Personally they are better finding tenants for exisiting commerical premises before keep building more.

    • Chris L

      The buildings in pictures at the top of the page have already had the upper floors let to tenants.

      The same is true with many of the smaller shops in Powis Street.

      The real problems stem from the council’s use of the old RACS buildings as offices for many years until Tesco built the civic centre. The large Tesco also wiped out many of the shops. There must be a fair chance that the Sainsburys will close as it is too small for their current retail strategy.

  9. CDT

    Thanks for the update Chris L. You are right with rergard to the Council using the RACS Buildings and Tesco’s.

    I could be wrong but I believe I remember reading that there was talk of knocking down the multi storey car park and the current Sainsbury’s Store and building a new a bigger Sainsbury’s on the site with housing above.

  10. CDT

    You are not wrong CDT. I think it is time for the dirty smelly multi storey car park to be demolished to make way for a much bigger and better sainsbury;s store and housing which I hope will have social housing included in the development.

  11. Michael

    That unit was indeed a Halifax Building Society. I went there with a mate in 1986 during my sixth form at Blackheath Bluecoats School as we had a little project to do about mortgages. We spoke to one of the counter staff and she explained it all. We all had a little laugh as my mate kept getting tongue-tied pronouncing the word ‘mortgage’…

  12. CDT

    With regard to Town Centres like Woolwich and others around London in less affulent areas. I am surprised Tesco’s have not opened any of there discount supermarkets trading under thte name of Jack;s.

    With stores like Aldi and Lidl both doing so exceptionally well in these areas I am surprised that Tesco’s have not opened any of the Jack’s discount stores in London and the South East along side there main Tesco’s stores which still remain popular and have been offering the best on line shopping home delivery dates during the cornavirus

    All Jack’s stores seem to be located outside London and mainly up North, When I checked for local stores the nearest was 67.7 miles away,

  13. I had a look at Chris Mansfield’s photos and was reminded of the Woolwich town centre I knew in the early 70’s. It’s current state is so sad.

  14. CDT

    I totally and utterly agree with you anonymous201481.

  15. Kevin

    I have heard a rumour today that the Woolwich Branch of Santander Bank is to close Permanently.However, I do not know if this is true or not yet.

    However, sadly if this is the case and it does turn out to be true hope that another bank like Metro Bank for example may be able to take over the premises rather than the premises being left empty to fall in to a state of disrepair.

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