|Repository Woods *||Greenwich|
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Land here leased by the Board of Ordnance was developed from 1804 as part of the Royal Military Repository's artillery training ground at Woolwich initially under its Superintendent William Congreve. Repository Woods was specifically landscaped for military training, but in part also as a pleasure ground, and is the earliest known purpose-built military training landscape in the UK with early C19th features surviving. Here military displays were given, attended by British and foreign dignitaries, and during the C19th Repository Woods had public access.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/03/2011
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Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
Repository Woods is to the west of Woolwich Barracks and north of Woolwich Common (q.v.), surrounded by boundary walls on the north, west and east, those along the north a remnant of the C19th brick wall; the entrance is in the north-east corner via Dell Gate. The land may have been leased from the Bayswater Estate in the mid-late 1770s although its main layout as a military training ground took place between 1804 - 1808 with further land purchased in 1809. The site's boundaries were laid out by 1811 and are little changed today, although a small portion in the north-west was taken for housing in the 1950s. The Military Academy had been established in 1741 at the Royal Arsenal (q.v.) but by the latter part of the C18th, needing more space for training purposes, acquired land at Woolwich Common (q.v.) where new barracks and the Royal Military Repository were built in the 1770s. William Congreve (1743-1814), then Superintendent of the Repository, aimed to create 'a school of methods of mounting and dismounting ordnance' for which a suitable landscape of difficult terrain was needed.
The topography of the Repository Woods land was similar to the difficult terrain that Congreve had experienced in Canada as a Captain during the Seven Years' War of 1756-63. In the late C18th military training appears to have been undertaken at Woolwich Warren, and a fire there in 1802 may have been the spur to laying out Repository Woods for training purposes. Landscaping between 1806-08 included creation of a main lake and two smaller ponds, the former enlarged in 1815, and by 1827 two further ponds, Summerhouse Pond, named for once having a summerhouse on its bank, and Lower Pond, had been created. Remaining today and fed by a diverted stream are the two latter ponds and the main lake, which has a circular island and remains of earthworks at the north end. By 1815 the landscape had a network of paths and tracks, features that represented batteries and artillery training structures such as gun emplacements, and a linear earthwork with spurs, bastions and embrasures that extended beyond the eastern and southern boundaries of the site. In 1838 the 'Saturday Magazine' described Repository Woods as 'beautifully diversified and unequal in its surface, and interspersed with several pieces of water, this condition of the ground affords excellent practice to the men in dragging the guns up steep acclivities, or lowering them down rapid descents, turning pontoon bridges to transport them over water and imitating all the operations of actual war'.
In addition to its training function, Repository Woods was also laid out as a pleasure ground to provide a showcase for the military, where displays of the skills of the modern army could be viewed by the public as well as by British and foreign dignitaries. Another attraction close to the site was The Rotunda, which was brought to Woolwich in 1819. It was originally a polygonal tent with a tall Chinese-style concave lead roof that housed a ballroom designed by John Nash and erected in St James's Park for a fete in honour of the Allied Sovereigns in 1814 during Peace Celebrations, an occasion when the Prince Regent invited the Allied Sovereigns to visit Repository Woods. When the Rotunda was erected at Woolwich the central pillar was put up and in 1822 it was converted by Nash into a military museum containing the gun collection of the Royal Artillery Museum. It was restored in 1975, although many of the exhibits are now displayed at the new Royal Artillery Museum at Firepower at Royal Arsenal. A formal planting scheme laid out between 1839 and 1860 included terraces and lines of trees such as horse chestnut, oak and sweet chestnut, and there was also a pair of croquet lawns. In the C19th the site was open to the public for informal leisure and some land was used for grazing.
Additional training features were added over the years, such as the Respirator Training Room and the Rifle Range, both built between 1916-45. In the early C20th public access was eventually restricted although military training continues to take place here.
See EH Register Bibliography: S Newsome, J Millward & W Cocroft. 'Repository woods, Woolwich, Greater London: An Archaeological Survey of the Royal Military Repository Training Grounds' EH Research Department Report Series no.14-2009; E Cole, S Skedd, J Clarke & S Newsome, 'The Woolwich Rotunda, Former Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich Common, LB Greenwich', 2009, EH Research Department Report