|Plumstead Common, including Winns Common and The Slade||Greenwich|
There were once orchards in the area as the land was good for growing fruit as well as grazing and as a consequence the village of Plumstead prospered. The eastern part of Plumstead Common is locally called Winns Common, an area purportedly settled by ancient Britons. Development accelerated in the C19th and encroachments of the common land took place to the increasing concern of local people. In 1874 the Lord of the Manor gave permission to the military to use the Common and then proposed leasing it on a permanent basis. This was actively opposed and in 1877 Plumstead and Winns Commons were purchased by the MBW to preserve them for public open space. Plumstead Common was landscaped from 1903 and today is a large expanse of heathland and grassland, in addition to more formally laid out areas. Some earlier features, such as the Edwardian bandstand, no longer exist.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/07/2005
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The name Plumstead arises from the many orchards once in the area; the land was good for growing fruit as well as grazing and as a consequence the village prospered. The eastern part of Plumstead Common between King's Highway and Lakedale Road is locally called Winns Common, named after local landowner Thomas Winn, who built almshouses for poor widows on a site where the Workhouse was later built. He died in 1800 and is buried at Plumstead parish church of St Nicholas (q.v.). This area was purportedly settled by ancient Britons, and several barrows and burial mounds, as well as Roman relics, have been found. One mound remains on Winns Common, c.20m in diameter, and due to its shape and dimensions may have been Bronze Age burial mound. It is very worn down and appears to have been opened at some time in the past although there are no records of what was discovered. This mound may have been one of a cluster of 7 tumuli similar to another cluster that once existed on Shooters Hill that disappeared when the area was built over.
The land around Plumstead had belonged to the Monks of Lesnes Abbey until Henry VIII requisitioned it and from 1539 the Manor had numerous owners until 1736 when it was bequeathed to Queen's College, Oxford, but by the C19th it was badly managed. Development accelerated in the C19th with the population of Plumstead rising from 1,166 in 1801 to 24,502 in 1861. Encroachments of the common land took place to the increasing concern of the local people. In 1874 the military were granted permission to use Plumstead Common for a riding school and drill ground for soldiers at Woolwich and the College then proposed leasing it to them on a permanent basis. Winns Common was used as practice ground for horses and gun carriages. On 1 July 1876 a demonstration led by John de Morgan of the Commons Protection League was staged with a procession from Woolwich Arsenal to the common to remove fencing that had been erected; this was replaced overnight and rioting then ensued the following day and de Morgan was arrested, imprisoned for a month and fined £50 for inciting the riot. The rights of grazing, digging sand and gravel, cutting turf and fern, and 'lawful' recreation were argued, as a consequence of which in 1877 the Metropolitan Board of Works purchased Plumstead and Winns Commons for £9,000 from Queen's College in order to preserve them for public open space, the land acquired under the Plumstead Commons Act 1878.
In 1900 responsibility passed to the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich, in 1965 passing to LB Greenwich. Plumstead Common was landscaped from 1903; built features included a bandstand, since demolished, shelter, and toilets. The bandstand was much-used but eventually demolished after vandalism and an adventure playground was built around it. Near the adventure playground a war memorial was erected in the 1920s to commemorate the dead of the 8th Howitzer Brigade in WWI and since then remembrance services have been held. Near here is a small area of 0.02 hectares containing the Dog Rocks, large boulders of Harwich Formation that consist of rounded flint pebbles with a calcareous cement. In the 1920s and 1930s there were 2 bowling greens, now reduced to one green that is fenced and the site of the second used for football. A large pond or lake shown on early maps became an open-air bathing pool and boating lake from the early C20th but after WWII bomb damage it was converted to a paddling pool in the 1960s with swings and a play area. Winn's Common was the site of 100 pre-fabs after WWII to house residents who had lost their houses, but it was returned to common land c.1957. The site is crossed by various roads and is a large expanse of heathland and flat grassland with mature trees including sycamore, lime, London plane, and tree-lined avenues and roads.
The Slade, a small dell with steeply sloping sides and a pond at the bottom situated at the northern end of Plumstead Common, was acquired by the council in c.1961. The ponds were once part of a watercourse fed by springs in Shrewsbury Park (q.v.), probably culverted during building development in the 1880s when pipes were laid. In 1994 it won a Shell 'Best of Better Britain' Award.
The 1.25-hectare wooded area at the edge of the Common behind Blendon Terrace and Azile Everett House was originally part of the vicarage garden of St Mary's and is now a Nature Reserve, which has secondary woodland with sycamore, ash, a number of mature false acacia, London planes, sessile and English oaks, holly and an old black mulberry tree. Great Bartletts is a piece of woodland of 3.27 hectares running down from Winns Common, crossed by the Green Chain walk, onto which gardens of Wickham Lane back.
The Commons divide into a series of spaces of somewhat different character. To the east Winns Common is a high plateau with good views of Bostall Woods and has a sunken hedged playground with paddling pool and small pavilion on the north west side. Plumstead Common has The Slade dell, a well kept pond, then above is open grassland with playing fields, crossed by paths with perimeter trees. Near the school is a C20th pavilion, then a series of gardens with bowling green to the south and tennis courts north of a hedged path. The land then slopes down to the more wooded area with paths through the grassland, and an adventure playground.
The Plumstead Common Environmental Group was set up in 1991 and campaigns for improvements, some of which is undertaken with LB Greenwich such as cleaning of The Slade pond in the 1990s, and clearance of what had become a dumping ground near Blendon Terrace that is now a nature reserve. Today the site is largely managed as a public park with grass generally mown although The Slade and fringes of Winn's Common are left wilder, with longer grassland and woodland retaining the atmosphere of the old common's special character.
H Jordan 'Public Parks 1885-1914', AA dissertation 1992 p138; South East London's Green Chain Walk pack, 1998: Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Sue Swales, Meg Game, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Greenwich', Ecology Handbook 10 (London Ecology Unit), 1989; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); ‘Our Common Story, A Celebration of Plumstead Common’, Plumstead Common Environment Group, 2004; The Parks Agency 'Commons, Heaths and Greens in Greater London. A short report for English Heritage', 2005; Plumstead Common Conservation Area Character Appraisal, 2010