ERAQRA

Welcome to the website for Royal Artillery Quays

About RAQ

 

 

RAQ (Royal Artillery Quays) is in Thamesmead, which is part of the London Borough of Greenwich, South East London.

 

RAQ is a new development which is part of a 2000 home-building programme on undeveloped land started in the year 2000.

 

 

 

RAQ is made up of 418 apartments in eight Blocks;

 

  • Tidlock House
  • Cumberland House
  • Tideslea Tower
  • Sark Tower
  • Granary Mansions
  • Bendish Point
  • Wyatt Point
  • Albert House

Tidlock House and Albert House are part of a part buy/part let scheme run by the MOAT housing association which is based in Kent. Residents in these blocks have their own Residents Association. Bendish Point also forms part of a part buy/part let scheme but is one of the six blocks covered by ERAQRA. The remaining blocks are privately owned, and a significant proportion of apartments are sub-let.

 

RAQ was built by Barratt Homes (Barratts), and is managed by Solitaire.

 

History of the local area 

There is probably no area within the Thames gateway that generates more interest than Thamesmead, a huge development that covers 130 acres of former marshland in Greewnwich and Bexley.

Image:Medwaymegalith.jpgThe history of the area's development dates far back beyond recorded history. The area that Thamesmead now occupies was originally uninhabited marshland. However, neolithic peoples built monuments reminiscent of Stonehenge along the Medway valley. By the Bronze Age humans were active on the marshes, as evidenced by the discovery of a brushwood trackway during excavations for new roads in 1997. at the RAQ site a thriving iron age settlement was also known to exist.

Julius Caesar is known to have visited the region of Cantia (Kent) in 51 BC during his unsuccessful invasion. After the Romans, under Claudius, conquered England and founded Londinium in the first century AD, they maintained a fort near the present Woolwich Ferry to guard the navigable river that was the key to the city's prosperity. The city peaked after the visit of Hadrian in 122 AD, but a disasterous fire and outbreak of the plague spelled the beginning of the end of early London.

As Germanic tribes overran western Europe in the fourth century, severing links with the 'Eternal City', Roman power waned. Britons began electing their own leaders (kings), instead of them being appointed by the Emperor. Rome officially severed links with Britain in 410 AD, and the last Roman Emperor in the west abdicated in 476 AD.

In 449 King Vortigern invited Jutes, Angles and Saxons to Britain as mercenaries to defend his territory against the Scots. The Jutes settled in Kent, and their leaders Hengist and Horsa betrayed Vortigern, winning an important victory at Crecganford (modern Crayford). As a result of this victory London was finally abandoned by the Britons, except for the south eastern region, until Anglo-Saxons re-settled it 400 years later. However, by 597 Cantia (a Celtic word for rim or edge), was converted to Christianity and the first Archbishop of Canterbury was appointed. By 886 London was also re-established as a fortified town, known as Londonburh. Both areas were the subject of major viking raids up the Thames.

After the Norman invasion Kent was organised as a 'Palatinate', becomming a semi-autonomous region of England. This was also the time Kent gained its nickame of Invicta, or unconquored, as it resisted the Normans for over 20 years after the Battle of Hastings. The fearsome reputation of Kentish men (men from the west of Kent) from this time led to the belief in mainland Europe that people from Anglia (England) had devil's tails; men fron Kent are still nicknamed longtails in many places today!

Lesnes Abbey

Permanent habitation came only after Lesnes Abbey was founded in 1178 (its lands giving nearby Abbey Wood its name). Augustinian monks from the Abbey were the first people known to have reclaimed and drained land in the area. The Abbey had been founded by Sir Richard de Lucy, Sheriff of Essex (as penance for his part in the murder of Thomas a Beckett) on land to the south of Thamesmead. As the monks cultivated their own crops and reared domestic animals and for this they needed ever more land, and they began draining marshes in the area now occupied by Thamesmead. The River Thames originally came right up to Lesnes Abbey and it is said that the monks used to fish from the abbey walls – in fact sharks’ teeth from the time have even been excavated in Abbey Wood.

In his History of Kent, Edward Hasted states that in 1279 the monks of Lesnes ‘enclosed a great part of their marsh near Plumstead’. This type of small-scale cultivation and animal farming was also taken up by local people, but in general the land was too wet and marshy to justify any attempt at large-scale farming.

Image:Lesnes Abbey.JPG

During its history the abbey is noted to have been an important part of the peasant's revolt in 1324 against Richard II. The abbey was closed by Henry VIII as part of his dissolution of the monastaries in 1524 and the Abbey is now ruined, open to the public as part of a park.

The Royal Arsenal

Image:Henrygad1546.jpgThe area also had great military and naval importance. In 1515 Henry VIII ordered the building of the warship Henri Grace à Dieu as part of an effort to improve and enlarge the English Navy and to this end established a major dockyard at Woolwich, very close to the area.

It was from this point onwards that the area became an important naval and military centre. The RAQ  site was used for storing ordnance or ammunition from as early as 1565 and gradually more and more land was given over the Royal Arsenal.

This institution made and tested guns and ammunition. The land was ideal for this purpose, as there were still very few people living in the area. In addition the marshy ground deadened the impact of explosions and therefore was safer when testing ammunition. One of the weapons tested on the marshes near Plumstead was called Mallet’s Mortar. It was meant to be portable but ended up weighing 42 tons! Mallet’s Mortar was not a successful invention – on its first test firing in October 1857 a fracture appeared in the metal and the project was abandoned.

Woolwich Royal Arsenal gatehouse. (February 2007)The Royal Arsenal brought much-needed trade to the area as people employed in the munitions factories came to live in the nearby towns and villages. The area became more and more important militarily throughout the 18th and 19th centuries – England was at war with many countries, including France and Spain. The Crimean War of 1854 – 56 placed big demands on the Arsenal.

In 1886 workers at the Arsenal formed a football vlub initially known as Dial Square, after the workshops in the heart of the complex. The club entered the professional football league as Woolwich Arsenal in 1893. Today it is known only as Arsenal FC, having moved from Woolwich in 1913. 

In 1888 Woolwich was removed from Kent and formally incorporated into the new County of London.

 A rope yard followed the establishment of the royal dockyard, and in 1695 the Royal Laboratory was set up adjacent to Tower place on Woolwich Warren. The Royal Laboratory, producing explosives, fuses, and shot, was the beginning of the Royal Arsenal. Early in the following century the Brass Foundry and Dial Square were built almost at the same time as the building which was to become the Royal Military Academy, later the Model Room.

The Regiment of Artillery was formed in the Arsenal in 1716 and in 1741 the Royal Military Academy. The Royal artillery moved from the Arsenal to new barracks on the Common between 1776 and 1802 and the Academy moved to another new building also on the Common in 1808.

The presence of these great institutions had a profound effect on the development of the town creating an industrialised garrison town. The town grew very rapidly occupying all vacant land except Woolwich Common which was owned and used by the Royal Artillery. The focus of the town moved from the old town centre on the riverside to fields which lay to the south. The new town centre with its impressive range of shops grew to become the principal shopping area in South East London and North Kent.

The demand for houses greatly outstripped the amount of vacant land so, in the 19th century, Woolwich expanded into the adjacent village of Plumstead, and then in the early 20th century onto the fields of rural Eltham.

By the beginning of the First World War the Arsenal was operating at full capacity, providing employment for 73,000 people. However, partly because of isolated Zeppelin raids on the Arsenal during the First World War, officials became worried about the manufacture and testing of guns and ammunition so close to densely populated areas. The Arsenal was now surrounded by residential developments as London expanded further and further outwards. Therefore from the 1920s onwards the site was scaled down. Both the testing and manufacture of weapons were moved to more remote and secret areas.
Heinkel He 111 German bomber over the Surrey Docks, Southwark, London (German propaganda photomontage).The Second World War confirmed the need to move the Arsenal elsewhere. Its location was well known and it was easily visible, with the result that the Luftwaffe could target it for bombing raids – the accidental dropping of bombs onto residential areas near to the Arsenal (Bethnal Green and Hackney) in 1940 led to a rapid escalation on both sides into the indescriminate bombing of civilians. In London By the end of May 1941, over 43,000 civilians had been killed and more than a million houses destroyed or damaged.

After the Second World War the Arsenal was less and less used. By the late 1950s the London County Council (LCC) had earmarked part of the land – together with about 500 acres of virgin marshland at Erith – to form the site for a new riverside town development to help cope with the demand for housing in the London area.

 The dockyard closed in 1869, the Academy moved to Sandhurst in 1945, and the manufacturing element of the Arsenal shut down in 1967. The subsequent closure in 1968 of the great Siemens factory on the Woolwich/Charlton borders brought about a downturn in the town’s economy with serious effects on the success of Woolwich as a shopping centre.

The Need For Housing

By this time, largely due to the effects of the war, London’s housing situation was critical. Pre-fabricated houses such as the ones that stood for a time in Brook Street, Belvedere, were being put up as a temporary measure to cope with the shortage. But a long-term solution was desperately needed. Some of London’s overcrowded population might be tempted out to Harlow, Hatfield and other towns built outside the metropolis in response to the New Towns Act of 1946, but it was clear that a development within the capital was also needed.

In 1963 a report highlighted the age and condition of much of the housing in inner London and declared that 500,000 new homes were needed in the following 10 years. The Erith marshland had been mostly unused but some was given over to allotments that were cultivated by the residents of Abbey Wood. The area was inhospitable and unsuitable for housing, but the expansion of London meant that land was desperately needed.

Over the years various efforts were made to drain the land and protect it from flooding. The site originally chosen for development by the then London County Council straddled the London Boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich, which were created in the mid-1960s. However, Thamesmead was actually developed by the London County Council’s successor, the Greater London Council (GLC), in conjunction with these two boroughs. The Ministry of Defence’s decision in the early 1960s to give the LCC 1000 acres of marshland previously occupied by the Royal Arsenal gave impetus to the project.

First Residents

Thamesmead's First ResidentsThe name Thamesmead was chosen by a local resident, Anthony Walton, who won £20 for his suggestion. The first family, the Gooches, moved into their ‘luxury, three-bedroomed maisonette’ in Coralline Walk in June 1968 to much fanfare and publicity.

The building of Thamesmead was only the first part of making the town work. As residents began to arrive from the housing waiting lists of inner London, so attention turned to the incoming population.

Unlike other outlying new towns such Thamesmead benefited from its central location, which meant that people were more willing to move to it. In addition, excellent transport facilities meant it was very easy to get to and from central London. Uniquely, although Thamesmead was a ‘new town’ and built on the scale of the early post-war towns, it was a new town built within a capital city. It may seem hard to believe it today, but when Thamesmead was being built and even long after the first families had arrived, coach loads of professional visitors would descend on the area to consider the architectural and sociological aspects of the development.

Thamesmead after the GLC

A referendum was held in October 1985 to find out how local residents wanted Thamesmead to be run after the abolition of the Greater London Council in 1986. The majority of voters wanted the area to be managed by a private company run by residents, so in March 1986 Thamesmead became the first residential estate in the country to be run by a private company controlled entirely by residents. Thamesmead Town was a company limited by guarantee, it had no share capital and was non-profit distributing. The board of 12 managed not only the residential development but also the commercial areas, open spaces, recreational facilities and industrial estates.

In 2000, TTL was wound down and two new organisations were created. In broad terms, Gallions Housing Association took over the ownership and management of the housing assets whilst Tilfen, later Tilfen Land, took over the remaining undeveloped land. It was at this point that the remaining land began to be developed.

Woolwich Regeneration

This video summarises the plans for the redevelopment of Woolwich town centre, in the vicinity of RAQ. This forms part of the development of the Thames Gateway region, and includes the development of the Crossrail scheme and the extension of the Docklands Light Railway. You can find out more at our useful links section.