Tottenham lost Carpetright, and Croydon lost House of Reeves. In Woolwich, it’s the blackened shell of The Great Harry that’s the symbol of Monday night’s destruction of parts of the town centre. There’s now little left of what was a regularly packed pub. Now, thanks to the looters captured on video here, a whole heap of staff are facing an uncertain future, and Woolwich’s already-limited options for a decent night out have shrunk even further.

The attack on Woolwich was the equivalent of kicking a drunk man when he’s just staggering back to his feet again. With improvements to the town centre slowly emerging, and the Olympics coming to Woolwich Common next year, there’s the distant glimmer of light at the end of what’s been the end of a very, very long tunnel. That journey back to respectability might now be even longer.

While Woolwich still smouldered, the eyes of London’s media were elsewhere. Even the Metropolitan Police’s own briefing neglects the destruction in SE18. The citizens of Battersea turned out for the cameras to clean up Clapham Junction – but similar offers from Woolwich residents went without public acknowledgement from Greenwich Council until late tonight. Pride doesn’t come easily here, and you have to be well over 30 to remember Woolwich in better days.

That doesn’t mean people have given up hope, though. Perhaps this horror is making people rediscover their affection for Woolwich. The challenge now is channelling this into something constructive, which brings local people together and builds the real sense of community that’s been lacking for many years.

The smell of Woolwich this morning was of smoke, the sounds were of alarms going off and starlings rooting through abandoned bins. Smoke was still pouring out of the Blue Inc shop on a sealed-off Powis Street, already partly collapsed. As well as The Great Harry, the Wilkinsons store on Woolwich New Road was also severely damaged. Further down, a police car sat burned out. And everywhere, people taking pictures. “It’s like we’re full of tourists!,” shouted one young woman.

I talked to a woman who’d seen white kids robbing a jewellers, only for black kids to then mug them for their loot. As the morning wore on, more youths started to appear on the streets and people started to get jumpy. The few open shops began to close.

Through Charlton, and down to Greenwich. No riots here, although Comet on the Millennium Retail Park had been looted and a window had been kicked in at The Co-Operative Food on Trafalgar Road. But police were advising some shops to close, and others were preparing to pull down the shutters. Rumours were swirling around of youths massing in Greenwich Park. But chatting about events elsewhere inside the Italian deli, one customer said: “It feels safe here, doesn’t it?”

Inside the town centre, the market traders were packing up and shops were being boarded up. Hordes of tourists milled around bemused. I heard of someone being turfed out of the Greenwich Union pub before they could serve him his lunch. All the talk was of what was going in inside the park. Traffic was grinding to a halt as people left work early.

But nothing was happening inside the park. The only gathering of youth I saw was some kids playing football. The police weren’t taking any chances though – a line of police outside the park, and the National Maritime Museum closed. And The Greenwich Union had reopened again. Alarm over, but the rumours kept on spreading throughout the day.

As for tonight? All seems fairly quiet as of 11.15pm (reports of trouble at Eltham’s Yorkshire Grey roundabout notwithstanding). Hopefully Greenwich can take down the boards, and get back to normal.

But most importantly, hopefully Woolwich can start to rebuild. It’s been a long day, but it could be a long way back for one of London’s most troubled, and most ignored, town centres.

(I reported for on Greenwich and Woolwich, and also looked at the Charlton retail parks for the Charlton Champion. Brockley Central has been following events across south-east London. The Greenwich Phantom has more on the local lockdown, while the Deptford Dame looks at damage there.)

36 replies on “Riots: Woolwich sweeps up, Greenwich locks down”

  1. Thanks for the updates, so glad for a peaceful night but sad for ‘our friends in the north’ who have suffered. There is a strong strange odour from my balcony (maze hill) and various Greenwich folk have said similar on twitter about a burning plastics smell too – is it local or from trouble further afield tonight? Thanks

  2. Yeah I live in plumstead and I smelled something similar earlier on, it was definitely something burning. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a barbecue.

  3. Thanks for posting about Woolwich. News about the area is hard to come by.

    It is sad, as you say, that the violence has come at a time when the main square was being given a good old refurb.

  4. Thank you for a moving update on the staggering events over the last few days. Communities across London and beyond continue to wonder what this act of self destruction was all about. Walking the streets of Woolwich yesterday the self confidence of the majority was rising above the smoke filled air. Gazing at the smoking buildings there was a determination to embrace the goodwill of law abiding folk. The natural instinct to help was overwhelming. Now is the time to galvanise that community support in a posaitive way. Yes Woolwich is on the way. The regeneration of the area will continue because we share a common belief that good will overcome evil and those that tried to tear the heart out of Woolwich and elsewhere will not suceed. We have a duty to make sure that the business community will get their doors open as quickly as possible.

  5. Well done for a good article. I have been watching and enjoying the slow regeneration of Woolwich- what has to change before Woolwich becomes a ‘Clapham’ or ‘Islington’ is the wall to wall poverty which surrounds the town. The new transport links are welcomed but we need to get the residents who have taken advantage of lower house prices and the DLR to spend their money there. When I walk around Woolwich there are no bags in people’s hands indicating trade.
    I am sadden by the violence (which was black/white/young/old) it damages local prospects and ultimately hurts everybody even those who took part.

  6. Nothing untoward spotted in Eltham at 7.15 this morning. A few shops still boarded up and what looked like a six-strong ITN crew set up outside the High St MacDonalds. Good job I left the broom in my car or I would have looked pretty daft.

    Feels a bit like the Passover, let’s hope the town’s back to normal now.

  7. If people want to help then have a look at the police flickr page here and if you see anyone that you know then tell the police and get them to pay for what they did. Thats the best way to help, also if anyone offers you cheap items cloths tv’s or mobilephones then take there details and pass it on to the police. The link for the police most wanted is below, lets get them and show them whos in charge of the streets….

  8. Bit of a febrile atmosphere in Eltham yesterday, most of the shops were closed in the afternoon even as far as down in New Eltham. Meanwhile hundreds of locals were in the high street pubs onguard against any possible looters (which I thought would have been unlikely anyway). Looking at tweets and reports from Guardian etc, this wasn’t a far-right hatefest as the odious Nick Griffin claimed, mainly just ordinary locals defending their manor as the parlance would have it. However, it does seem that a small group splintered off and headed towards Lewisham, I guess for a ruck. Luckily they only got a few hundred yards (to the Yorkshire Grey) when they were stopped by police and turned back.

  9. While what has happened to the Great Harry is utterly appalling, to me it will always be Fads (Fads, F-A-D-S, Fads, as the advert went). I thought pubs only went up that dramatically in EastEnders.

    On a less flippant note, the coverage of Woolwich only emphasised your often made point about how this corner of London is neglected by the media. The BBC’s in Shepherds Bush, Sky’s at Osterley so lets meet halfway in Ealing. It didn’t even make ITV’s map. I saw the video of the rioters in Thomas Street described as Bristol in one report! My paranoid side wonders whether rioting in an actual Olympic venue is being deliberately played down.

  10. I passed a young girl on Christchurch Way in East Greenwich yesterday, boasting to her two male friends about what she had managed to loot in Woolwich and Charlton. She was really happy that she had been able to get “handsets, leads, the lot!” She was also proudly waving her feet around displaying a pair of box fresh trainers. I was so shocked to hear her openly boasting, and so cowed and fearful from the awful night spent cowering in my bed the night before, that I didn’t know what to do. Oh how I wish I had done something. Maybe followed her home and got her address. She was well dressed. In clothes freshly laundered clothes by a loving parent, no doubt. Who knows why she did what she did? All I know is that we now share the streets with people who we know without doubt would harm us for a few trifles. I have been changed by the fear of the past few days. I say that as one who has dealt with muggings and a break in while I slept in my ten years in New Cross. At least then I could tell myself that those people were a tiny minority. Now I feel surrounded and it’s a horrible feeling. When will the next spark provoke these kind of people into more acts of violence and destruction? They don’t feel like the same species as me.

  11. A great article!

    Ned, I don’t think anyone would be paranoid for thinking the same… I am utterly convinced the lack of reporting of the situation in Woolwich is due to it being a part of the “Olympic Borough of Greenwich”. Heaven help Lord Coe and his pals if any of the news reports on the severity of the riots/looting in Woolwich was to be broadcast world wide! The fact that the Olympic Committee held an emergency meeting yesterday morning speaks volumes…

  12. Hello everyone, and welcome to the blog if you’re new around here. And thank you to those who have said kind words.

    As someone who’s worked in national media, I’d suggest the lack of coverage of Woolwich (and across the water, the Royal Docks area) is through ignorance rather than cover-up. Nobody would stand for censorship. News crews have been stretched to the limit as well, but there simply aren’t enough media types with knowledge of the area. There’s enough people looking for Olympic bad news stories to highlight any trouble if it happened there, but not enough of them know their patch well enough to realise that visitors to the shooting events will be walking right past (the site of?) a building burned out in the riots.

    That burning smell – the London Fire Brigade reported no riot-related fires yesterday.

    Ned – I have that old Fads jingle as an earworm now…

  13. I remember Woolwich from its better days when it had 2 cinemas, cuffs, the co-op, boots, m&s, bhs, woolworth’s, Cyril Henry nursery school and some pride. It saddened me some years ago whilst visiting from abroad that there was not a white face to be seen in Beresford Square. But then I saw the DLR was being extended and I thought wey-hey – now some city folk are going to move in and gentrify the place. That wish for Woolwich pretty much went up in smoke this week sadly 🙁

    I hope the lowlives that did this get what they deserve!

  14. Victoria
    I urge you to give the police a description of the toerag you overheard.
    Help get her off the street so she can boast about her exploits in a prison cell.

  15. Suresh – it’s worth remembering that the looters were racially mixed, indeed one of the alleged thieves at Currys in Charlton was the daughter of a company director from Orpington.

  16. “Now I feel surrounded and it’s a horrible feeling”
    I know that the Monday events were horrible but let’s keep calm. I doubt if even 1% of young people in affected areas were involved and a lot of those who were were doing for it a buzz rather than because they are hard core criminals.

    About Woolwich, I was amused to pick up a Standard on Tuesday that had a map of “flashpoints”. It went only as east as about Depford/Greenwich border, no mention of Woolwich.

  17. The media are not reporting on Woolwich riots it is not on the publicised maps it is a cover up to try to keep the spotlight off in the run up to the olympics

  18. Victoria,

    Her newly-looted phones will soon, if not done already, be remotely zapped into uselessness by the manufacturer.

    Apparently, many kids now being arrested are quickly naming others as either the instigator or just so they don’t go down alone. Her day may still come.

    Curious how her parents haven’t noticed her shiny new pair of 100 pound-plus trainers….

  19. Good article. The irony of the very tools and building blocks of our town centre regeneration being used to smash it back to hell is a heavy one.
    My concern; will the chain businesses reopen or give up on Woolwich as so many other have.

    The problem remains with these youths. No respect, no remorse, no soul. Posted on twitter yesterday…

    ”  politicalmoses
    I was laughing in front of weather spoons or what ever its called in woolwich and some woman try say why am I laughing. She is so lucky”

    The threat of casual violence is an ever present in this town, I read reports that the police stood by and watched on Monday, someone tell me; what were they supposed to do? Is Woolwich really worth dying for? These short sighted fools will never understand that their actions do nothing but drag Woolwich deeper into the mire. Their idea that they somehow deserve their loot because the “government” doesn’t hand out enough free money to allow them a “normal” lifestyle smacks of a basic lack of understanding that their actions tear the area further from the possibility of Woolwich reestablishing itself as a centre for business with the abilty to generate income, legally, for all.

    Another nail in the coffin of my area, I believe.

  20. This idea that some people seem to have that the media didn’t cover Woolwich because of some sort of Olympics conspiracy is pretty depressing for all kinds of reasons.

  21.   Simon Emmett
     6 people in Burrage Rd had their houses raided this morning. Locals were applauding the police as they took them away!

    That’s Burrage Road…Woolwich.

  22. The problem with bringing people into the community in Woolwich is that it has communities but no “Community”. I walked Plumstead High Street on Tuesday afternoon (admidst rumour that Plumstead had been targeted as “next”) and sensed a real feeling of community.

    As for “old Woolwich”, yes it was a nice place. The closure of the Woolwich Arsenal has a lot to answer for I feel. It employed thousands of people for many years. Three generations of my family, myself included, worked there. Woolwich was downright  prosperous back then. 🙂 

    But we can’t live in the past and revel in long gone glory days. Woolwich is damaged both physically and mentally. Urgent repairs are required on both fronts..

  23. This probably belongs on another story but regarding the community meeting tonight and the councils boycott. All I’ve been hearing the last week is  of alienation, a lack of social responsibilily and other such factors being responsible for events in Woolwich and across the country last week. That the solution is to bring people into the community, forgive and move forward.

     In Woolwich, one young man has done more to get the town heard, recognised, acknowledged than anyone else then is outed by Greenwich council for a past digression. Wheres the forgive and move on attitude toward Danny Mercer? Heres someone who’s own circumstances haven’t led him down the path of the idiotic, mindless thugs we saw in Woolwich on 8th August but has channeled himself into doing something positive when all the council speak at the time was basically of revenge.

    Good on you Danny, keep up the good work, I hope those who’ve so vocally backed you for your efforts don’t slip away into the night. Thats another problem with Woolwich, those at the top will smash and grab as suits them as surely as those at the bottom will.

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