Housing the war workers, Woolwich 1915

21 Sep

Wars are inherently destructive. At the same, they can bring construction – army camps and airfields being the most obvious examples. Near Woolwich in 1915, though, it was housing for munitions workers that was needed – and the resulting development became known as the Progress Estate.

A street being constructed for Woolwich arsenal workers (War Illustrated, vol 3)

The Woolwich arsenal grew enormously from the start of the Great War. Housing was needed for thousands of new workers there and the Government set about building it near to Well Hall Station (now Eltham Station). The houses were built, according to the War Illustrated, with the intention that they be good quality housing for the post-war era.

The Hidden London website describes the estate

Following the outbreak of the First World War, the government acquired 96 acres of farmland on either side of Well Hall Road to build an estate for munitions workers at Woolwich. Construction workers were drafted in from all parts of London to build 1,300 homes on ‘garden city’ lines and the project was completed by December 1915. Despite the urgency, the Ministry of Works team, led by Francis Baines, achieved high archi­tectural standards, especially in terms of stylistic variation. Many of the three miles of roads curved with the contours of the land and field boundary trees were retained where possible.

Houses being constructed at Well Hall.

It was renamed the Progress estate in 1925 and the Ideal Homes website has a nice gallery of post-war photos of the area.

Sadly, the area became famous again in 1993 when 18-year-old sixth-form student Stephen Lawrence from Eltham was murdered by a racist gang on Well Hall Road.


Posted by on 21 September 2012 in Ordinary Londoners, Places


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2 responses to “Housing the war workers, Woolwich 1915

  1. Jasmine

    18 January 2014 at 9:51 am

    this is really awesome I needed it a lot to do my homework as I prepare for my test on ww1 ,ww2 .


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