Gun Wharf Woolwich

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HM Gun Wharf Woolwich
Seal of the Office of Ordnance.gif
Woolwich in Kingdom of England
Site information
OperatorNavy Royal
Royal Navy
Controlled byOffice of Ordnance
Board of Ordnance
Site history
In usec.1540's-1855

The Gun Wharf Woolwich or formally HM Gun Wharf Woolwich was established in 1540 on the site of the old Woolwich Dockyard that had relocated. It remained operational until 1671 when the Board of Ordnance ceased operations at the yard. The yard was responsible for the storing and supplying of naval ordnance to the Navy Royal and later Royal Navy.


Old Woolwich as viewed from the river in 1739: Bell Water Gate is in the centre and the Gun Wharf centre-left. The clock tower (left) is part of the Ropeyard. (From an engraving by S & N Buck)

As at other Royal Dockyards, the Office of Ordnance maintained a Gun Wharf at Woolwich for storage and provision of guns and ammunition for the ships based there. The Gun Wharf was sited east of Bell Water Gate (where there is now a car park next to the Waterfront Leisure Centre). It was here that Woolwich Dockyard had been founded in 1512 and the Great Harry was built in 1515; when the dockyard had moved to its new, permanent site in the 1540's, the old wharf, crane and storehouse had been given over to storage of heavy ordnance and other items. Gun carriage repair was also undertaken on site. Later, use of the Gun Wharf was shared with the nearby Royal Ropeyard, which maintained a storehouse there for hemp and other materials. The wharf and its buildings were improved and rebuilt at regular points through the 16th and 17th centuries; as late as 1664 a large new brick storehouse was provided "to lodge ships' carriages in".

The wharf was still subject to frequent flooding, however, and from the 1650's the Board of Ordnance began to make use of open land at Tower Place, to the east of the Gun Wharf, as a site for proving and storing cannons and other large guns. Known as 'The Warren', this was the beginning of what would later become the Woolwich Royal Arsenal. The Board of Ordnance withdrew from Gun Wharf in 1671, but the Ropeyard continued to make use of the wharf and its associated storehouses into the 19th century.