Some of Thamesmead’s contemporary features owe their origins to the days of the Arsenal.
These were gunpowder magazines built in the area between the canal and Crossness (a tump is a hillock or a mound).
Broadwater Dock was originally part of the Ordnance Canal and Lock which was built by Napoleonic prisoners of war so that barges could load and unload the munitions alongside the factory buildings and not go through populated areas.
Many of the guns that can be seen today are originals from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which were dug up in the Broadwater Dock area in the 1970s. Two are mounted in the Town Centre, near the Clock Tower, another four on the riverside walk, two stand at the entrance to Gallions Housing Association’s offices while the remaining restored guns and anchors are laid out at the back.
The Town Centre Clock
The eighteenth century clock faces and cupola of the Town Centre Clock, which were donated to the GLC, come from the former Great Storehouse of the Deptford Royal Dockyard, which was demolished in 1981.
The GLC paid for them to be restored and later funded the construction of a supporting 100 ft high clock tower in the classical style, which was completed in 1987.
The Boiler House
During its lifetime the now-defunct Thamesmead Boiler House was the second largest community heating system in the UK. The fan assisted ducted warm air heating and hot water system was powered by six gas fired boilers, each bigger than a double-decker bus, which pushed water around seventy-two miles of pipes. 2007 saw the Boiler House pulled down – the area is being made into a housing development.
How Thamesmead Got its Name
In its early days Thamesmead was known as ‘The Woolwich-Erith Riverside Project’ but it was clear the town needed a proper name.
With the help of the local papers a ‘Name the New Town’ competition was launched in November 1966.
There were 565 entries and the name of ‘Thamesmead’ was finally chosen. The winner was Mr Anthony Walton, a London Transport supplies officer from Barnehurst who won the £20 prize.
The word ‘Thames’ featured in 53 suggestions but not all entrants stuck to the recommended guidelines. Some of the more bizarre suggestions were ‘New Wooabbeleri’, ‘Bamboo Estate’ and ‘Blumguston’.
By March 1967 the new town had been formally christened with its name of ‘Thamesmead’.