Sunday, November 12, 2006
Down by the River Thames at the site of Woolwich Arsenal today, many of the old buildings still standing from when it supplied guns and ammunition for the Empire, but now being turned into luxury flats.
My great great grandfather, Thomas Cook, worked there in the 19th century and his father and grandfather before him (in the 1851 Census, Thomas junior is listed as a 'laboratory boy' and his father as 'labourer, Royal Arsenal'). Later Thomas's sister Jane worked there as a teenage 'cartridge maker' while another brother, John, worked as a 'metal turner' in the Royal Laboratory.
You can only take nostalgia so far, and it is surely better that these buildings are now homes instead of factories producing lethal weapons for the British army. Still, once again I ponder the irony of riverside locations where the poor once lived and worked becoming, in the words of a brochure I picked up today, spaces for 'bespoke penthouse living'.
On another tack entirely, entering the site from Beresford Street, there is an unusual weather worn statue (above) bearing the plaque 'Deus Lunus - late Roman work, brought from Egypt'. Any ideas what a statue of a moon god is doing at Woolwich Arsenal? It stares across to a fine 1764 sundial, complete with moon and St George & Dragon imagery (below).