Sunday, November 12, 2006

Your Arsenal

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).


Anonymous said...

Nice pictures Neil, nice reminder too. Some years ago, and just before the re-development took hold at the Arsenal, My Eyes...My Eyes visited the site with the aim of bringing the legendary Survival Research laboratories over from the States. The visit was escorted by a civil servant who had a map to keep us clear of "stray stuff" - munitions and high explosives left behind and stashed/dumped everywhere, his map he explained couldn't be conclusive since TNT was discovered down a drain a week before our trip. We never got the SRL to join us (they're basically un-bookable in the U.K.) and we can only dream of the development continuing to discover reminders of an area that was only admitted to the A-Z a couple of years ago. Cheers now, Clive

Transpontine said...

Good to hear from you Clive. Anything doing at the minute with My Eyes? (for the unitiated, SE London DIY film and prankster crew).

Anonymous said...

Hi Neil, My Eyes...My Eyes are currently dormant, and are still in deep mourning for the Centurion! More positively, I am just setting up a new screening group with Duncan Reekie & Caroline Kennedy (Exploding Cinema) for South London film-freakery... I'd appreciate a listing (even if it's out of New X, it's only one stop away!) Cheers, Clive

Underground Cinema Club

Wednesday 29th November
the Miller of Mansfield, 96 Snowsfields, London SE1 3SS (nr. London Bridge tube/rail)
8pm membership £4/ £3 concs

FLIXATION celebrates it's initiation with a night of no-budget underground cinema, digital craft, amateur film Art, performance and music.

Featuring existential glove puppet drama in 'Paul and the Badger Part One' (Paul Tarrago 2005), lesbian vampire terror in 'Bluebirds of Peace and Destruction' (Andrew Leavold 2006) and 'Intolerance' a new performance by anti-poet Duncan Reekie. Also new work by Clive Shaw (MyEyeys...MyEyes) and Caroline Kennedy (Exploding Cinema). The compere will be the imperceptible Ray Beam with DJ Tar Baby.

Anonymous said...

Another thing Neil (feel a bit shame-faced that my mail could be seen as a selfish plug!!) here's a link I got about a PIRATE FILM SHOW in Deptford, you have to mail 'em for an invite/etc... I'll be going along cos it's intriguing and a great venue... Here's what I was emailed (it's a bit overwhelming!):


Stricly for true file-sharers & river bound culture vagabonds, YARRR!

You're invited for the peer-2-peer cinema session:

- the premiere of the film "Strategies of Sharing"

- the premiere of four shorts "Self Suficient", "Love over Gold",

"Bookmakers", "Gordon Cooper"

- and the premiere of "DOWNLOAD FINISHED"

Friday 24th of november
Screening starts 9pm

RSVP essential - places are limited - please book in advance by sending

email to !

media collective bitnik and sven koenig:


DOWNLOAD-FINISHED is an assistant to transform and re-publish films from p2p networks and online archives. found footage becomes rough material for the transformation machine, translating data structure of the films onto the surface of the screen. the original pictures dissolve into pixels and overlap into a second layer, the hidden structure gets visible. file-sharers are becoming authors through DOWNLOAD-FINISHED and re-interpret their most beloved films. it is the premiere of DOWNLOAD-FINISHED. - the art of file-sharing

WARNING, entering of the premises on your own risk: be aware that you will have to "squeeze" through the entrance gate (but we informed the police and the owners of the industrial estate, set up a sign "mindsweeper" and will set you guiding lights to the boat, so that you get there...)
how to get to the boat:
- take train/DLR to greenwich
- if you come out of the station turn right, walk greenwich high road towards deptford
- take first turn right which is norman road
- walk underneath bridge next gate with the sign minesweeper on it on your left:

Brook Marsh Industrial Estate
Norman Road, Greewich SE10

- squeeze through the gate (there is one place in the gates which is widened for people to access the estate)
- follow the minesweeper sign & the lamps to the creek and enter the boat

see also:,177250&st=4&ar=Y&mapp=newmap.srf&searchp=newsearch.srf

Unknown said...

Neil -- I think we corresponded briefly re the Cook family several years ago, and then I let it languish. Anyway, I'm still keenly interested in the family history, and have traced it back solidly as far as a John and Sarah Cook, who were christening children in Woolwich during the period 1772-1786. I have more data on various members of the family. Will be happy to correspond again if you are interested. Glad to see your post.