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Inside the grounds of the once secretive military arsenal at Woolwich can be found a formal gardens of a park named after the Duke of Wellington. The Royal Arsenal at Woolwich was set up in the late 17th century, and was a major supplier of armaments to the military right up to the 1960s, although the military didn’t move out until 1994.
Once a secure sealed off area, it’s now being turned into housing, with a curious mix of old buildings being converted into flats mixed with modern blocks, and old cannons dotted around the place to give it a hint of heritage.
One of the modern developments is Wellington Park, a raised formal garden. Decorated with stone paving and a number of pergolas, it’s an austere space, but that’s partly deliberate as the wide open lawn is used for public events during the summer months.
Sitting beside the park, and slightly cutting into the otherwise perfect rectangle is a grand building that’s today posh flats, but originally the entrance to the 1856 Shot and Shell Foundry. This huge complex covered the whole of what is now Wellington Park, and later expanded further to the east.
The impressive gates were removed when the foundry closed in the 1960s, but recently restored and returned.
The naming of the park is thanks to something else that was recently added.
In the middle is a statue of the Duke of Wellington. It originally stood in the Tower of London, but was moved to the Royal Arsenal in 1863 as the Duke had been the “Master General of the Ordnance” between 1818-1827. The statue was moved to its current location in 2005 and rededicated by the The Prince of Wales.
It’s looking a bit weather-worn though, as the sword and scroll of plans he originally held have long since been lost, along with some of his fingers.
As I noted, it’s a raised garden, which might seem odd in an area that is otherwise totally flat. The reason for its being a raised area is easy to spy though, as it’s actually the roof of a car park.
Around the sides are the slopes down to the storage spaces below while formal stairs lead up to the flat lawn. In fact, it’s a very clever use of the space, putting a roof over what could have otherwise been just an open air car park.
If only other car parks were so wisely, and usefully hidden.
This article first appeared on www.ianvisits.co.uk
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