One of the youngest memories I have as a child is leaving Sainsbury’s in Woolwich holding the hand of my parents begging not to go in the grotty lift directly outside the exit.
The bloody thing terrified me. It wasn’t the stench of piss so much as the shuddering, uneasy sway it gave as the damn thing ascended or descended. It was ready to give up the ghost and break down at any moment even back then We’d be trapped forever.
Dying in a Woolwich car park. Please mum, can we take the stairs?
I was so haunted that I never, ever went up there again even during the many times I’ve taken photographs of the changing town. I looked at those two lifts, shuddered and moved on.
That is, until now.
Spurred on by recent trips to Lewisham shopping centre car park to document changes for posts on this site, I gained some courage and after a second and third glance leaving Sainsbury’s I thought sod it, moved towards the lift and pressed the button.
This wasn’t pre-planned.
Nothing happened, and then the stench of piss hit me.
I held steady. Press it again. A red light glimmered!
I looked around. The time-warp nature of the car park hit before even venturing into the lift. Behold, the rusty chain.
The buttons in the lift go up to something silly like 13. There are not 13 floors. Maybe in a horror film based on the place.
I pressed all the numbers on upper echelons until one registered.
That was about floor 7. And then I exited.
This wasn’t the top floor. I wanted the top floor for the views over Woolwich.
No such luck.
Unlike Lewisham the top floor is completely closed to public access.
Lower floors it was. They’ve certainly seen better days with various patch-up work and crumbling concrete evident.
No drivers seemed confident leaving their cars here.
What else to do then but take some snaps over the town.
New-builds by the river look rather stumpy from here.
From here one can look down upon Myrtle Alley linking Pows Street, Hare Street and Sainsbury’s on Calderwood Street:
A new application has been submitted to revamp this little link. I’ll stick a post up soon showing what’s planned.
It’s a real timewarp up here. See this.
And then there’s the signs from Morgan Grampian sign promoting their investment. This was, what, 30 years ago?
I love the typeface, and it brought back memories of looking at Morgan Grampians car park from the Littlewoods and Index store. It was like another world was placed on a little corner of Woolwich.
Senior staff had expensive Jags lined up – and as reminded today on Twitter – even a Rolls Royce was out front. That was eye boggling, especially as a local kid in the early 1990s and in Woolwich.
Those improvements have long since evaporated.
It’s now in poor shape across the board.
Morgan Grampian left long ago, with their former home converted to flats:
It now looms over the town to a greater extent since a grim 2000s rebuild:
The car park is also used for resident parking at the neighbouring block linked by aerial walkway.
I neglected to take the creaky old lifts back down, and instead sought out this staircase.
Much like Lewisham shopping centre car park, the Calderwood Street site may not be long for this world.
Lewisham shopping centre owner’s have grand plans to rebuild the entire place. In Woolwich, all we have to go on is an extract from a Greenwich council document.
We should note the document above arrived three years later than scheduled riddled with basic mistakes. I covered errors in other plots relating to land ownership when it was two years late during consultation.
Nothing changed a year later when it was adopted.
But anyway, nothing looks imminent even if the Sainsbury’s below the car park also looks much the same it did in around 1990.
The whole car park is another fascinating little slice of Woolwich left long behind. There’s still plenty of them.
How long will they last? Who knows. The Elizabeth line is here and towers are rising all over, but these snippets of recent history live on for now.