Above: The whole mural – on the wall of one of the platforms at Woolwich Arsenal Station.
Mounted on part of the wall of the south (up) platform of Woolwich Arsenal Station is a remarkable terracotta relief mural. It was funded by British Rail’s Community Unit with the University of Greenwich and Greenwich Council. It was designed by Martin Williams and completed in 1993.
The unusual mural depicts the work in the Woolwich Arsenal, after which the station was named. In earlier times many thousands of workers would have arrived at this station, travelling to and from their work. Woolwich Arsenal, technically known as ‘the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich’, extended over an enormous site beside the Thames. It had started in 1671 as an Ordnance Storage Depot. The site was enlarged and ammunition started to be manufactured there. At its peak, during the First World War, the Royal Arsenal extended over some 1,300 acres (530 ha) and employed around 80,000 people. It was in use throughout both World Wars, closing as a factory in 1967. It ceased to be a military establishment in 1994.
Above: Detail from the right-hand end of the mural.
The mural on the railway station has suffered from not being cleaned for several years and also from numerous pigeons who have ‘left their mark’ on the central parts of the public art. Towards the right hand end several pieces of the mural seem to have been replaced because they are of a different colour to the rest of the work. Any attempt to photograph the whole thing is not very satisfactory because the final picture shows up the blemishes which, if the work were to be cleaned up, would not be so obvious.
Nevertheless the mural is very unusual and is a fine tribute to the thousands of workers who contributed to the important work in the Royal Arsenal.