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www plumstead-stories.com

including Woolwich & Districts

We need your help!

... with the places & buildings below

If you have anything that can help please email me.

Two houses in Roydene Road

Jane Funnell asks:

I am doing some research on a building (now two houses) in Roydene Road, Plumstead and I wondered if any of your contributors remember the building. It is about half way down Roydene on the right-hand side coming from Sladedale. It is set back from the road between the terrace of nos. 46 and 50. I believe it was most recently a car repair shop but formerly a haulage depot and before that stables.

I have had limited luck with my research and would appreciate anything anyone could contribute.

Royal Arsenal Cooperative Society

Lorna Chudasama asks if anyone has more information on the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society:

(Click on photo for larger view)

This lovely old photo is on a used postcard dated Dec 28 1906. The wording high on the Building is Royal Arsenal Co-operative Soc. Ltd and above shop fronts is the wording Butchers Department, Grocery & Provisions, Drapery & Hosiery. I haven't been able to establish precisely when it opened or its exact location in Woolwich or whether indeed the building still stands. I would suspect however, that it was the Co-operative Store where my grandmother shopped (with the disapproval of my grandfather for whatever reason I don't know but probably political) and valued the dividends.

[Dr Peter Vlachos advises:  This was in Kennard Street, off Albert Road, in E16.  The same photo is referenced in Bloch's book on Newham's docklands.
The two houses on the right remain.  Where the Coop building stood is now a row of newer houses.
Kennard Street was the 'border' between North Woolwich and Silvertown (East Ham).  According to maps, the east side of the street (footpath and houses) was in North Woolwich. (Except for the northern-most house, at which, so far as I can tell, the border ran through the property).  The street itself and the footpath on the west side are in Silvertown.]

I have learned that in 1760 co-operative corn mills were built in Woolwich by dock workers. The dock workers objected to the high prices charged by mill owners who often supplied adulterated flour. Quoting from publishers Adam Matthews:
“Woolwich features significantly in the history of co-operative action. The first Co-operative cornmill was founded there in 1760 (well before the births of Robert Owen (1771-1858) and George Holyoake (1817-1906), the founding fathers of the British Co-operative movement) and traded successfully for over 80 years. Less successful ventures included a Co-operative butcher's shop (1805-1811); the Woolwich Bakery Society (1842); a Co-operative Coal Society (1845); the Woolwich Co-operative Provident Society (1851); and the Woolwich and Plumstead Co-operative Society (1860). But these all showed that the idea of co-operative action was alive in Woolwich and paved the way for the establishment of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society [henceforth RACS] (founded in 1868 as the Royal Arsenal Supply Association, renamed as the RACS in 1872)”.

One of the links for more information surrounding the co-operative societies background is as follows:


My mother was looking at the postcard yesterday (24/4/2007) but didn’t recognise it. She told me that quite often when they were living in the Army flats, she and her sister Winnie were sent to the Co-op to do the shopping. One day, on their way back with heavy bags, three young boys followed them and calmly helped themselves to the contents of the shopping bags. My mother and her sister were too frightened to do anything. They weren't scolded for losing the groceries but they were never sent again. Presumably the Co-op where my grandmother shopped was within walking distance from Artillery Place.

Plumstead High Street - Austin's Sweet shop

I'm looking for old photo's of Plumstead High Street, c 1900, as my Great Grand Parents had a shop along there, but no one has any photo's of the area in our family. It was a sweet shop and their surname was Austin' - Helen Jones

If you can help in any way please email me.

The Four Aces

Pete Fisk wants to know if anyone can help him with this question;

“It is said that my grandfather, Joseph Charles Howard, had a cafe just outside the Woolwich Arsenal in the early 1930s (possibly earlier) called 'The Four Aces ' (or similar).

Apparently it was along the Arsenal wall somewhere. It could have been a permanent business with a proper address or, maybe, some sort of a mobile establishment, such as a caravan cafe.

I'm not familiar with the area, so if my description is sketchy it is because it is only passed-down information from my mother and I am, sadly, no longer able to update this information.”

If you can possibly help in any way please email me.

Old Woolwich House

Margaret Maclean writes:

Having logged on to the Plumstead stories site and seeing the old Woolwich House I thought you may like to share my memories of 'The House'.

My Aunt lived there until the early 1950's. I do not know the date of when she moved there, but it was before the outbreak of WW2.

The House was named Cambridge House, No: 23, Plumstead Road, S.E.18. The house was owned by Dr.Wise and his daughter who was Dr. Eileen Wise. No: 23 was their Practice. Both doctors were highly respected and well liked.

My Aunt was the Housekeeper and responsible for keeping the Consulting Room, the Waiting room and the Dispensary in good order. The rest of the house was my Aunt and Uncle's residence, and very nice too!

The garden was as impressive as the house. My Father used to take my brother and me on Saturday mornings to do the gardening work for my Aunt.

The doubled fronted house had a very large hall and the staircase had quality covering. Each tread had a brass edging which was highly polished. The floor had Victorian tiles. The rooms seemed very large.

Around the 1950's to the 1970's the house was an Estate Agent's then a Dental Technician's. I am not sure if the Estate Agent's Clarke and Esplin were before or after the Dental Technician's.

I feel sad that the house has been so neglected. I doubt whether it could be restored.

I am pleased to share my happy memories of 'No: 23' as it was affectionately known to our family.


Does any one have any idea of what the attached building is/was? And any story behind it? Its on Beresford St. (I think) and is in Woolwich area.

Paul Talling (www.derelictlondon.com)

If you can possibly help in any way please email  me.

Clisby's General Store

Photo: Janet Gardner (nee Clisby)

My Dad Cyril Clisby and his brother Tom, taken outside the shop their parents owned in Plumstead in the 1920's,
I am not sure of the name of the road it was in, but Villiers Place comes to mind. All I can remember is if you went down Vicarage Park, you seem to be continually walking down hill until you came to a parade of shops.'

If anyone recognizes the shop and can remember where it was situated could they please let me know.


Janet Gardner (nee Clisby) asks;

Barnfield Gardens

Our family, (Cyril Clisby was my Dad) moved into Cowan House, Barnfield Gardens, when it had just been completed in 1947, our family then moved to Slough in 1958.

I would be really interested to see if anybody remembers living there at Cowan House over the period we lived there.
My two brothers and my two sisters, between us we can remember a lot of the families that lived in Cowan House over that span of years between 1947 and 1958.

If anyone has any recollections please contact me.

Oliver Pell Control Factory

My family were mainly East Wickham (notably Graves coal merchants) but my mother worked at a factory which I am told made among other things motors for hair dryers in Plumstead in the 1960s and I think it was called Oliver Pell Control. I cannot however find any trace of it but wondered if you knew of it?'

Gyll King
Deptford, London.

P.S. Harry Lane says, OLIVER PELL CONTROL were situated at both Cambridge Row and Frederick Place in S.E.18.

It is also mentioned as being in Burrage Road in a story on my web site, called. 'Alfred James Boon, 1910-1998 - His early life in Plumstead.'

- New info 23 Apr 2022 from Gordon Dawson (many thanks)

The “English Varley Duplex Magnet Company Ltd” was formed on 22nd May 1897 in Derby.

It was started by my great, great uncle, Benjamin Varley who was the chairman (there were a number of other investors).

Benjamin Varley, born in Gargrave, Yorkshire, was a Mason and also Traffic Manager for the Midland Railways, based in Derby.

The family story has it that Varley Magnets introduced a machine which wound multiple electrical coils, at the same time, which gave it a lead in the markets.

My grandfather, Willie Varley, Benjamin’s nephew, was born near Keighley in Yorkshire and had studied engineering at local trade colleges.

Around 1898 Benjamin must have persuaded Willie to join him at Derby, presumably to handle the engineering side of the business.

Oliver Pell had, meanwhile, started an arc lamp manufacturing business in Finsbury in 1898. In 1900 Oliver transferred the business to premises at Burrage Road/Cambridge Terrace, Woolwich and was joined by Mr W.M.D Pell This became Oliver-Pell Electrical and Manufacturing Company.

Sometime between 1903 and 1907 Oliver Pell seems to have bought the Varley Magnet Company (VMC), and name, and moved it from Derby to Burrage Road, Plumstead.

I don’t know any details but my grandfather, his wife and two daughters (one was my mother) moved to Plumstead so that he could continue working for VMC.

In 1917 Oliver created “Oliver Pell Control” and took over the original Oliver-Pell Electrical in 1922.

Willie Varley continued to work, as Foreman, at the Plumstead factory until he died in 1934. His daughters joined the factory as coil winders (Lillian continued until she retired in the 1960s and Violet, my mother, until she married in 1938 and moved to Oxford).

VMC/Oliver Pell was particularly buoyant during WWII thanks to many Admiralty contracts but after the war a lack of military contracts caused the business to become less successful. The company also patented a large number of electrical products over the years.

In late 1976 Thorn Electrical bought out the Oliver Pell shares and moved the business to one of their own sites, I believe it was a Morphy Richards site.

At its peak, in the early 1960s, the Varley Magnet Company was employing 600 people.

Sheppey Gazzette Nov 11th 2011.

Finally, the island's Job Centre was appealing for help from employers in finding work for those at the Thorn Electrical factory, which was to close its doors.

Trading in the town as Oliver Pell Control, most of its workforce of 108 were women. The Sheppey Gazette reported the town's growing concern at so many women being made redundant given the – very precise – figures that showed 287 women were already out of work on the island.

The “Varley Magnet Company” name and logo were no longer used after 23/10/1963.

Keyswitch Varley acquired the well established Oliver Pell Ltd in 1979 and later went on to merge with Clifford & Snell relays which, in 1980, became the Control product division of Signature Industries.

Genesta Road/Wrottesly Road

Paul Cavender asks:

Regarding the aerial view of Genesta Road / Wrottesly Road showing the destruction caused by four V.1s. Does anyone know what the tall monument type building in the middle of the road is. It appears to have windows in. See attached photo. (Click on photo for a much larger view)

Any information please email me.

Gallions Mount School class photos 1958-65 wanted

Sue Thynne asks:

I am true Plumstead born and bread. I was born in 1953 and went to school at Gallions Mount Primary School, in Purrett Road.

My partner was also at this school as well, we had a very good 50th reunion, with 12 of our class friends.

We all recognised each other, even after so many years.

We had a few pictures of each other, but we are trying to find a class picture from the time we were there, from 1958 to 1965, but with no avail.

We also have spoken to one of the teachers who came on the school journey with us to Broadstaires in Kent. He took a video of us all, but this was lent to a parent and never returned. We are desperate

for some help to locate these pictures and the video.

If anyone can help in locating any photo(s) and or the video, please email me.

Messent & Sons - Funeral Directors

Jill Freeman asks if anyone has any information in regards to two inquiries about her great uncle Matthew Freeman.

I'm researching my family tree. When a great great uncle of
mine was buried, the undertakers used was a firm called Messent and Sons.
I am wanting any information in regards to this firm.

If anyone can help in locating any information, please email me.

Montague House

Sandra Hempel (Author of 'The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera and the Mystery of the Broad Street Pump (Granta) paperback now out, £7.99)

Sandra asks:

I am currently researching a new book ("The Inheritor's Powder" to be published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson next year) based around the murder of George Bodle in Plumstead in 1833. I've done a lot of research already into the village as it was then and the people involved but wondered if any one might have or know of any useful contacts who had/have any specialist knowledge of Plumstead at that time? I am particularly interested in a farmhouse which later became known as Montague House. I think it might have been called Poles Farm in the 18th century.

Please email me.

Greenwich, Bloomfield, & Lewisham Rugby Club

I would like information about Greenwich Rugby club, located on Plumstead Common and was formed in 1986 from an amalgamation of two previous clubs - Bloomfield and Lewisham rugby clubs. I would like to hear from former members of all these clubs, also any pictures of the teams and any pictures of the common outside the club or of the club pavilion from any year.

We know that before Bloomfield rugby club took on the building in the seventies. It was used for cricket. We are after any pictures of the field before we were there; of any sporting activities and if any one has pictures of the rugby club or players from the last 40 years or before, or of the buildings history.

Please contact Nick, Greenwich RFC. tel London: 078960 609796 or please  email me.

School Badges and Mottoes


I am wanting pictures/descriptions of the school badges and mottoes of all the schools in and around the Woolwich/Plumstead and districts, both past and present schools.

Any photo of, and or drawing of, and any description of, would be most welcome, along with any school motto.

Please email me.

Spitfire crash in WWII

Geoff Nutkins

Geoff Nutkins, curator at Shoreham Aircraft Museum wants any information about a Spitfire that crashed during WWII in the Plumstead area.

'As I understand it, the Spitfire crashed by the side of the road further towards Bostall Hill on the opposite side to the Maybloom Club. I think it was maybe 1942 or 43? Details are very sketchy to say the least! so any help would be lovely.'

Please email me if you can help.

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